Oh God.

I have been dreading this post the most. More than once I have called the observation room “my dark place”. It’s a place that’s difficult for me to go. It’s where Keller died.

We got checked in and they sent us to an observation room. I got into my nightgown, laid down, and waited. This was when I first remember getting nervous. He still wasn’t moving. The nurse came in and attached a fetal monitor. The mood was light. We all fully expected the monitor to pick up a tiny heartbeat within seconds. We’d all breath sigh of relief and head home.  She moved the monitor all over my stomach. It couldn’t pick up any movement or heartbeat. Silence. Our hearts started to beat a bit faster.  The nurse decided to bring in an ultrasound machine. She searched. Something in her face changed. Silence. She quietly got up and left. She decided to defer to the resident on staff. He came in. He smiled gently, but there was nervousness in his voice. He prodded the wand in every direction. The room filled with tension. More silence. He didn’t want to say the words. He didn’t want to tell us. Truth was starting to settle on top of all of us. His eyes said that our worst fears were likely.

Our hearts were beating out of our chests. We sat there blankly. We stared straight ahead and didn’t say anything to each other. Last chance. They sent in another resident. They assured us that she was the best at navigating ultrasounds. She came in. She had a kind face and warm demeanor. She had hope in her eyes. Our minds pleaded with God for her to find something moving.  Even the slightest heartbeat. Even a little twitch. Anything. She searched and searched. She looked in every possible direction. And then – she stopped looking. Silence. Oh God. She just looked at us and said, “I’m so sorry.” Oh God. She moved the wand to show us where his tiny heart was. That little beating heart that we had seen and heard many times over the previous seven months was no longer moving. Nothing was moving. He was perfectly and completely still.

“Oh God.”

“Oh GOD!”

These were the only words I could say. I continued to cry out, “Oh God!” We both broke. Instantly.

“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.”

Panic set in. When you are met with sudden, tragic, and final news it takes a really long time for your brain to process it. I think our brains are still processing it in a lot of ways. Our heads were spinning, but also fully aware that our lives were never going to be the same.

The doctors kindly gave us all the time we needed to be alone. I didn’t really want them to leave right at first. I was scared of sitting alone with the fact that our son had just died.

As soon as they left, Nathan just shattered. We sobbed. We cried out to God. We shook with sorrow. We held each other and all I could say was “I’m sorry. I’m just so sorry. I’m so sorry Nathan. I’m so sorry you don’t get to have your son. I’m so so sorry.” I felt sick. Nothing could undo this. He was dead. It was final. Nothing could make his heart beat again. It was infuriating. You want to crawl out of your skin and scream. There was no re-do button. We thought about Mary never getting to meet her brother and absolutely collapsed in grief. We had to tell our daughter that her baby brother was dead. He wasn’t going to come live with us. She wouldn’t get to hold him in the hospital.

Oh God!

We cried in each others arms for nearly an hour. So many questions run through your mind. So many fears chase after you. It is a dark place. Death is darkness. It’s a heavy, thick, almost tangible darkness.

“We’re going to Hawaii.”

This was one of the first things I said when we were alone. I think I just wanted to get as far away from this horrible truth as possible. I wanted to jump in an ocean and cry out to God. Shout out to the Lord in the deep waters. Sudden death just rattles you to your core.

“Jesus wept.”

John 11:35

Death breaks Jesus’ heart too. Jesus saw the destruction death leaves, and He met it with compassion. He wept. He wept with compassion and love for his friends. My Jesus wept.

Taking time to think about Jesus as filled to the brim with compassion is comforting. Compassion means He sees our sorrows. He knows each grief plaguing our hearts. He intimately knows me and is filled with compassion just for me.

I cannot sort out all of eternity and the spiritual realm. I cannot make out a map detailing the end of times or the inner workings of the Godhead. I cannot explain the intricacies of God’s providence and intervention. I can only rest in what I do know. I do know that the Lord has compassion for me. I do know that Jesus saw our broken state and had absolute and perfect compassion. He held us tight and said, “Peace. Be still.” The storm raged violently all around us. We were blinded by roaring waves. Jesus in His perfect love, held us in His arms through the storm.

“And Moses said to the people,“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today…The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Exodus 14:13-14

To Him who divided the Red Sea asunder,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
And made Israel pass through the midst of it,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting;”

Psalm 136:13-14

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A walk to remember.

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It was around 4 a.m. when we left for the hospital. There isn’t much happening in Bay Area suburbia at 4 a.m. The roads were dark and quiet. It probably only took 5 minutes to get to the hospital.

We parked in the garage. I told Nathan to go ahead and grab our overnight bags. He said he could come back and get them if we needed to, but a 9 month pregnant woman would not be denied, so he grabbed the bags and we walked.

We walked through the parking garage and parking lots to the front door of the E.R. We calmly and lightheartedly told the front desk that we were just heading up to labor and delivery. We got on the elevator and went up to the 3rd floor.

I have distinct memories of walking the long hallways towards check-in. I was having some Braxton hicks, but Keller was still not moving. I remember laughing as we walked down the hall. I remember truly believing, “Worst case scenario, I have an emergency C-section. We’ll get to hold him tonight and Mary can finally meet her baby brother.” I think I was even a touch excited. I think I was just excited at the chance that we could hold our son in just a few hours. Excited at the chance that the next time walked down that hallway, we’d be going home with our son.

There is such a vivid snapshot in my mind of Nathan and I walking that long hallway. It was the calm before the storm. It was eerie stillness before the tornado hits. All was quiet. It was just Nathan, and I, and our son.

Hand in hand with my husband and the father of our children, we walked. We laughed. We prayed. We arrived at the check-in desk. I explained that I was the one who had called a few minutes earlier. Both the nurse and I were not too worried, but we agreed,  it’s good just to check really quickly.

I’m thankful for this walk. I’m thankful for the moment of total stillness Nathan and I got to experience before everything shattered. It was a glimmer of light before everything went dark for a while.

There isn’t much else to say. I don’t really have a large spiritual take-away for this one. I just have this memory so deeply imprinted on my heart, and I wanted to share it with you.

Thank you for holding my hand as we walked down that hallway Babe. Thank you for holding my hand when there are glimmers of light. Thank you for holding my hand when everything goes dark. You have a good hand. I like it.

 

The day before.

September 14, 2015.

I try to stretch my brain to remember every little detail about the last day Keller moved inside of me. It was the last day that Keller’s heart pumped life.

I’m fairly certain my neighbor and forever friend Christine came over that morning.  We sat and watched our kids play together. We were both pregnant, and we both had toddlers. We loved motherhood and watching our kids become neat little people. We loved just sitting together with heaps of toys around us. We would smile like idiots because we knew our lives were pretty magical at that moment. We would also eat lots of cheese and Costco hotdogs (like I said, she’s a forever friend).

That afternoon my friend Lydia came by. We were both vastly pregnant. It’s nice having a friend right in the very same life spot you are in. We were both expecting boys any day now! We spend the afternoon painting with Mary and talking about pregnancy and motherhood. I remember Lydia asking if Keller still moved a lot. It was the first time I noticed he hadn’t been as wriggly that day. I still felt little twists, but the movements were a bit different from the flips, stretches, and kicks. Hyper aware of my tendency to worry, I decided this was due to the fact that Keller was indeed due TOMORROW and he had much less space to somersault. I also remember I drank a can of green tea. I felt really guilty about that dumb green tea for a long time. It was the only thing I did differently that day. I had never had that type of green tea before. My mind blamed that dumb green tea for a while. I don’t blame that dumb green tea now, but I don’t think I’ll ever want to drink it again.

Lydia left. Nathan made dinner. He put Mary to bed and I worked on my OCD therapy and took a bath. In the bath I couldn’t get him to move. I scratched all over my belly. Keller was so ticklish – this always worked. It didn’t work. I moved side to side. I poked and prodded. My mind always goes directly to panic and worst case scenario. “No,” I told myself. “This is normal. He’s a big boy and due any moment. He doesn’t have as much space. Everything you read tells you movements slow down. Pray and leave it.” And so that’s just what I did. Nathan and I then went through all the clothing I had purchased for Keller. We organized it by size and commented on how excited we were to have a our little boy here with us. We both prayed and went to bed. (I slept in the bed and Nathan on the couch. At this point I was too big and used far too many pillows to fit two humans in a Queen sized bed.) Looking back, I feel like I would/should regret not being more of an alarmist over Keller’s lack of movement, but oddly I’m at peace. Everything I did I still believe was the right course of action. Knowing what I know now, nothing could have been done regardless of my timeliness.

Mary woke up around 3 am and Nathan went in her room to get her back to sleep. I decided to stay up for an hour to see if I could get our little boy to wiggle just once. Nathan came in to tell me Mary was back down and I told him I planned on staying up for a bit to check in on Keller. He went back to the couch and prayed Keller would wiggle a bit for me. I scratched. I drank ice water. I walked around. I laid down. I drank orange juice. Nothing. For a whole hour I felt no movement. I called Labor and Delivery at the hospital to get their read on this situation. Contrary to nearly everything in my character, I really wasn’t worried throughout all of this. “He’s fine. I know he’s fine. Even if he is in some sort of distress, I’ll go to the hospital and have a  C-section and get to hold him sooner.” The nurse told me to come on in and we’d get hooked up to the fetal monitor just to make double sure. Neither of us were worried. I told Nathan and just incase I grabbed our hospital bags. Our neighbor Christine came upstairs and crashed on our couch. We’d just be gone for an hour or two.

It’s bizarre mentally going back to that day. I tend to push that day out of my mind. I feel a little dizzy. It’s filled with hazy memories. It’s filled with memories that seem almost unreal, dream-like. The day before your world stops is a weird day. It’s a weird day because there is usually nothing that weird about it. It’s so normal. There is no foreboding music like in the movies that lets you know something ominous is around the corner. There’s no cliff hangers cluing the reader in that something major and catastrophic is about to happen.

I think I’m glad that there isn’t. Living presently is a gift of God. When you are young, you foolishly wish you could peek into the future and see what your life will be like. I’m so thankful God did not give us crystal balls. Right now is all we need. Right now is the moment we are in and the only moment that matters. I think about Heaven a lot this way. “No yesterday. No ‘morrow, but one eternal day.” I think of Heaven as an eternal moment. No past to feel guilt and shame over. No future to worry and fret over. Just an eternal, glorious, joy-filled moment with our Lord. That is Heaven for me. So thank you Lord for not giving us a musical score to forewarn us of events to come. Thank you Lord for the gift of being present. In being present, we have a tiny taste of Heaven.

Today I had a tiny taste. A “Heaven moment”, if you will. Mary and I sat outside on our patio eating popsicles. She stood next to me with her arm resting on my shoulder and we both just silently and contently ate our pink lemonade popsicles. It was a brief moment, but it was a “Heaven moment”. It was joy and communion with our God and His loved ones.

One day Keller, there won’t be any “day befores”. There will just be one day. You, your dad, your sister, myself, and our God can sit in perfect joy and communion in that eternal moment.

Oh Glorious Day!

 

Ready!

A moment of praise:

I am overwhelmed with thanksgiving. The response received from yesterday’s post brings me to my knees. God is mighty. I’m at a loss. Only God can make something as terrifying as OCD and anxiety a chance to knit souls together as we fight in the trenches toward light. I am praying over all who reached out, and I pray I can encourage you in your battle. I love you all, and I praise God for you and your bravery. Oh God may I humbly serve your children and bring glory to your name. 


32 weeks. We were now committed to being in California for the birth of Keller. Now I would be able to unleash all of my nesting instincts, and get everything perfect for Keller’s arrival. I think the day I was 32 weeks I set up his crib. I was both excited and anxious to focus my anxiety ridden mine on profitable efforts. It was such good therapy focusing in and creating a safe home for Keller.


I cleared out three of my dresser drawers for Keller. I put all of his tiny onesies and pants in a drawer. I put all of his tiny diapers, wipes, and pacis in another. I filled the last with toys, baby carriers, bottles, and nursing gear.


My hospital bag was packed. Mary’s bag was packed. Nathan’s bag was packed. I had a 2 page information and reference sheet – basically a trouble shooting guide- to caring for Mary written out for our friends that would watch her when Keller was ready to come. Suffice it to say, even down to the smallest minutiae, we were so ready for you Keller. Your mommy had thought of everything. The week before Keller’s birth – I had exhausted every possible item on the to do list. Mary and I then took to making artwork anticipating baby brother’s arrival. We were just ready. So ready.

That is just how my brain has always worked. Prepare for every possible scenario. If you properly and fully prepare, you are then protected. You are protected from any curve balls that are thrown at you, because you not only anticipated those curve balls, you planned for them. You are ready. You did all the work. Nothing can scare you now. You have worried enough about each and every potential circumstance that your heart and mind are fully prepared. You are now prepared to trust God because you have “figured out” just how you will trust him in any given scenario. This is a lie. Only God can guide you through the eye of the storm. No amount of thinking ahead will prepare you and/or lessen the blow. In fact, worrying over worst case scenarios only robs you of the goodness God is placing right in front of you.

We were so ready for Keller. We were ready to welcome him into his world with all the love and dedication we could muster up. We were not ready to give birth to our stillborn child. We had not anticipated Keller dying inside of me. Nothing could have ever made us ready. And you know what? There is SUCH beauty in that. There is beauty in the fact that God indeed has the whole world in His hands and we DO NOT NEED to be ready. He is ready. It’s in his hands. He’s going to fight for us. I promise you. He has done all the fighting. We need only be still.

More curve balls are coming our way. We are certain of this. They may be small and manageable or colossal, sudden, and earth shattering. This fact is constantly present in my mind. It is especially present as we work through decisions regarding future children. There is a lot of  fear and a lot of unknown. Strangely, or rather, Divinely, losing Keller has granted us peace. This world knows death. We know the Overcomer. This is the Overcomer who has held our hand and is guiding us through the storm of losing our son. This is the Overcomer who will deliver us again and again and again.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; who shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” 

Psalm 127:1

“In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33b


**Note**

OCD and Anxiety disorders are not the same as worry. I have the utmost recognition and respect for this differentiation. 

Battling Demons. 


This is a tender and raw topic. It’s a topic I’m passionate to the point of being fiery about. I have alluded to the fact that I battled anxiety throughout pregnancy. Battle doesn’t seem strong enough language. I locked horns with anxiety. Anxiety is a struggle that I constantly face, but the hormones in pregnancy take it to another level. There is so much I want and need to say on this topic. 

Firstly, this post is not meant to in any way victimize myself. Many, MANY people struggle with anxiety. Many suffer with crippling fear worse than I have ever imagined. I really mean for this post to both educate, and to offer all the empathy and love that I can to those in the pit. You are not alone. You are not crazy. You are not the only one. The other reason I need to write about this is to encourage others to get help. There is no shame, only strength, giant strength, in seeking the proper help. 

Throughout my pregnancy with Keller, OCD symptoms haunted me. Before losing our son I would quickly tell anyone that facing this OCD was easily the hardest thing I have ever done. In some ways, it still is. I was plagued with unrelenting and unrealistic fears. The fears were absolutely disabling. These nonsensical fears would fester and grow in my mind. The more the fears would scare me, the stronger they would become. The stronger they would become, the more I believed them to be likely. The more I believed them to be likely, the more they became impending. Any thoughts given to these fears would feed them. When I say unrealistic and nonsensical, I truly mean it. Contrastly, when I say the fears became very real and very powerful, I truly mean it. If you have been in this fight, I pray my words offer comforting solidarity. If you have not, I pray these words both educate you on the legitimacy and difficult of those battling mental demons, as well as fill you with empathy. 

The Lord provides. I know this as absolute truth. However, telling someone in full on war with anxiety to just lean harder on the Lord, can often make them feel both inadequate, and make them doubt if they indeed have faith at all. Leaning into Jesus and trusting in his perfect power has been the biggest player in breaking out from the darkness into the light. BUT – as I said before, the Lord provides. The Lord provided me with an incredible licensed psychologist. She has devoted her life to helping guide others through the murky black waters of mental illness. Thank you Lord for providing this lifeboat. The Lord provides with medication that helps balance a brain in imbalance and distress. Thank you Lord for providing this lifeboat. The Lord provided in books written by those who have dedicated their life’s work to learning about our brain. Thank you Lord for this lifeboat. The Lord provided in science based meditation and mindfulness exercises that train your mind to stay in the present rather than diving down the tormenting rabbithole of anxiety. Thank you Lord for this lifeboat. The Lord provided through family and friends who had once been drowning in the waves of suffocating OCD and offered a promise of light. Thank you Lord for this lifeboat. The Lord provided through a husband who stood fast by my side while his wife was dealing with bizarre and terrifying fears and said,”I’m not going anywhere. I’m here.” Thank you Lord for this lifeboat. The Lord provided through friends who would quite literally just sit with me for the whole day when I felt to scared to be alone. (Oh praise the Lord for those who served me in this way. Praise God for you!) Thank you Lord for this lifeboat. The Lord provided by placing scripture and hymns in my heart shouting, “Greater is the one living inside of me, than he who is living in the world.” Thank you Lord for this lifeboat. The Lord provided by revealing Truth. Truth is that He is absolutely greater. Truth is I can TRUST that my fears are indeed not real and no amount of me trying to sort them out will help. Thank you Lord for this lifeboat. 

I battled hard throughout pregnancy. I battled even harder in the days of raging postpartum hormones coupled with losing our son. Panic attacks plagued me, and fear quite literally made my skin feel electric. Living life in absolute terror is a living hell. I mean that so sincerely. I still battle, but the Lord’s light has broken through the darkness. Some days are darker than others. I have settled into the fact that that is ok. The Lord is still there and truths He has given me are indeed still true. 

If you are gasping for air as anxiety and fear suffocate you, please, let the Lord send you a lifeboat, and get help. If you don’t know where to get started, contact me and I will work with you to find the help you need. Please know that you are not “crazy”, and you are very much not alone. 

If you know someone gasping for air as fear and anxiety suffocate them, love them. Even when you cannot relate at all, listen to them, and please do not minimize their struggle. Lead them towards those who do understand. Storm Heaven’s gates praying for them. Sit with them for a whole day(s) when they are too scared to be alone. Above all, love them with the loyal and sacrificial love of Jesus. 

Here is a song the Lord placed in our hearts in the days leading up to Keller’s birth. This song has brought us immense comfort. I pray it does the same for you. 

Greater

Bring your tired

And bring your shame

Bring your guilt

And bring your pain

Don’t you know that’s not your name

You will always be much more to me


Every day I wrestle with the voices

That keep telling me I’m not right

But that’s alright


‘Cause I hear a voice and He calls me redeemed

When others say I’ll never be enough

And greater is the One living inside of me

Than he who is living in the world

In the world

In the world

And greater is the One living inside of me

Than he who is living in the world


Bring your doubts

And bring your fears

Bring your hurt

And bring your tears

There’ll be no condemnation here

You are holy, righteous and redeemed


Every time I fall

There’ll be those who will call me

A mistake

Well that’s okay


‘Cause I hear a voice and He calls me redeemed

When others say I’ll never be enough

And greater is the One living inside of me

Than he who is living in the world

In the world

In the world

And greater is the One living inside of me

Than he who is living in the world


There’ll be days I lose the battle

Grace says that it doesn’t matter

‘Cause the cross already won the war

He’s Greater, He’s Greater


I am learning to run freely

Understanding just how He sees me

And it makes me love Him more and more

He’s Greater, He’s Greater

(Lyrics by MercyMe)

Resources that helped me battle OCD and Anxiety:

The Worry Cure by Tim L. Leahy

Brain Lock by Jeffrey M. Schwartz

Headspace App (Mindfulness training)

So, when are you moving?

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If you remember from the second post, Nathan was offered a new job across the country in August 2014. The job required a few things to take place before we moved. Which basically meant that someone somewhere had to process a bunch of paperwork, and when they were done, someone else would give us the green light. But neither us, nor anyone else knew when this would be. So we waited for the call. A call meant that we could have as little as three weeks to plan, corrdinate, and move across the country.

Fortunately Nathan’s new supervisors were more than willing to accommodate for the birth of our son. I think our “ok we are staying here even if we get the call” date was at around 32 weeks. And up until 32 weeks (and beyond), I think we got asked weekly, daily, maybe hourly, “So, when are you moving?” or “Have you heard anything yet?”. Nathan especially LOVED these questions ;). It was hard work trusting in the Lord’s timing of our move. We were so conflicted on what we even wanted to happen. Would we be moving and delivering a baby in a new place away from family and friends? Would we be moving with a newborn? We didn’t know. We had to actively and constantly renew our trust that God would provide no matter the time. Many people, our parents included, even doubted that we really did get the job and that we really would be moving. We are so thankful for the MANY people in our lives that loved and cared enough to check in and ask about our life. But, sometimes the questions would cause doubt to creep in our hearts. Satan can be tricky that way. Good thing God is Bigger.

The timing of the move was inspired. God loves us. God loves the Bartlett family. And that is just really cool. Incredibly cool. Awesome. We moved three months after Keller was born into Heaven. We had a tight knit huddle around us in the wake of loosing our son. Our church, family, and friends came together and served us with His perfect love. We needed them. We needed God to work through those people we love so dearly. I am just on my knees thankful we were in California during our darkest hour. Thank you Lord for Your love and providence.

In the fifteen months between Nathan getting offered the job, and him getting the final offer, we did a lot of planning. We played out a million scenerios in our minds. In all the planning, we never could have imagined the scenerio that played out. We knew 2015 would be a big year for us, but it didn’t look anything like how we had imagined it. A lot of times this would make us angry. However, there was so much about the move that was healing. December was the perfect time to start our new life. A new fresh year in a new fresh place.  It’s difficult for me to perfectly describe how it was healing. I think I still need to meditate on that some more. I think for now I can just say,

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Eccl. 3:11 

Fetal Perfection.

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Keller was fetal perfection ;). His heartbeat was strong  and visible even as early as seven weeks. For a brief moment, the Doctor believed she may have seen a “vanishing twin” (she didn’t). He was just over eight weeks then. We had to be admitted into the hospital so the “super ultra sound machine” could get a closer look. The tech said, “This baby sure is an active little thing!” Just 8 weeks old and our Keller was a mover and a shaker. He still is a mover and shaker. I like that. Every appointment thereafter was nothing but good news and reports of perfect health. Our Doctor was fantastic. Praise God for modern medicine and those who devote their lives in service of the health 0f others. Praise God for those who fill the role of Doctor with not only professionalism and intellect, but compassion. Our Doctor revered the creation occurring in our bodies. She would would often remark that life growing inside of you was “amazing”, “incredible”, and “blessed”.

It’s such fun going to prenatal visits for a healthy child. I loved hearing his strong, swishy water-muffled heartbeat. I loved seeing him wriggle on the ultrasound monitor. I loved his big visible kicks when the doctor would check my belly. Mary even loved our visits because our fabulous doctor would give her a juice box, graham crackers, and a sticker before each appointment. Spoiled little thing ;).

I’m just so thankful for the time I had with our healthy Keller. There are many things I am still working through, and there are many questions I still have not, and likely will not, ever answer.  There is still anger that fogs up my brain. His death makes me mad, but taking time to “focus in” on the incredible health Keller had for nine whole months makes me thankful. Nine months of a beautiful human growing and thriving inside of me. I never had reason to worry for Keller. There were never any “scares”. There was never a bad report. There was never a cause the be fearful of the health of our boy. It was all good. I had a beautiful nine months with Keller.

Even my own health was drastically better in this pregnancy than it was in my first. I had pre-eclampsia with Mary. I was so very swollen a good bulk of the time. I had a bizarre facial rash that basically made me look like I had a red goatee. In my pregnancy with Keller, my ankles were, well, gorgeous, the whole nine months. My skin was more clear than it had ever been. I gained half the amount of weight than I did with Mary. There was just so much goodness in my pregnancy with Keller. He was just perfection. God created a perfect little boy in my womb. He knit him all up. At my last doctor appointment prior to giving birth, we could see him “practice breathing” on the monitor. His little lungs moving in and out, in and out. My doctor called this “the picture of fetal health”.

There could be (and often is) a lot of frustration, anger, and sadness that comes with the fact that Keller was just so healthy. Especially at first, this just would infuriate me. It does now too. But maybe I’m just more settled in to the fact that even though it angers me so much that Keller was PERFECT, I can also praise the Lord for his perfection. I can see it as gift. I can see those nine months and joyful doctors visits as little presents. Joyous memories that I can look back on and unwrap. Memories that provide me with moments to remember my boy and I being happy.

Maybe I’m just saying, if you have incredibly conflicting emotions, that’s ok. God gave us emotion. Emotions are difficult to grapple with. It’s hard to feel so strongly in opposite directions. Be patient with your emotions and trust the Lord to guide you through them.

Happy Birthday Mary!

Happy 3rd Birthday Mary Elizabeth Bartlett! We love you baby bear.

One of the hardest parts (if not the hardest part) of loosing Keller was Mary loosing her baby brother. I get so angry she doesn’t have her brother to cuddle, annoy, play with, and love. Especially in the days after loosing Keller, I would rage about the fact that it was just Mary and I and that “nothing had changed”. Our life in many ways looked the exact same, and I hated that. She needed her brother so badly.

During labor, every time Nathan and I would think of Mary we would collapse with sorrow and a very real and physical pain. Our hearts sank to our toes knowing we would have to explain to our very excited two year old that Keller wasn’t going to come home with us. We had throughly prepped Mary for Keller’s arrival. Every night we would sing a [made up] song about how she would stay with our best friends, mommy and daddy would go to the hospital, Keller would come out, she would get to come meet him, and we would all come home and live together. She would remind me if I left any part out. We truly talked about Keller all the time and her tiny heart already loved him so much.

She came to the hospital ready to meet Keller. We planned on having her come to the hospital to meet him following the stillbirth. After Keller was delivered, we decided it would be too heavy, difficult, and confusing for her two year old heart.

“Mommy!”

“Hey baby. You know how Keller was supposed to come out of my tummy and you would get to hug him and meet him? Well baby brother got hurt. And he died. Which means he can’t live here anymore. You know who God and Jesus live in Heaven? Well that’s where Keller went to live. And he can’t be with us. But one day when we die we can go to Heaven and live with Keller and you can hug and kiss him!”

She took a thoughtful and heavy pause. She looked around.

“But I want to see him. I love him. I miss him……….I want a snack.”

We cried, cuddled, watched Veggie Tales, and ate a lollipop.

In the days that followed, she provided us with many things to laugh and smile about. She has continued to be sunshine in darkness. We still talk about Keller often. She still asks questions. I try my best to honestly and tenderly answer them. We look at his pictures and talk about how cute he is and how good it will be to hug him in heaven.

Once we were discussing Keller and where he lives and how one day we will go there too. Mary paused.

“Mama. When you go there, bring your pump.”

You never know – Keller may need a bottle!

We used to plug our noses and in robot voices say,

“Daddy. Mommy. Mary. Baby brother Keller”. {Every family does weird things, right?}

We still do this all the time. She never leaves out “Baby brother Keller”.

Recently, I was planning out our blog posts and taping post-its to the wall with the different topics.

“What’s that?”

“Daddy and I are going to write some things about Keller and how much we miss him. These are the different things I’m going to write about. His birthday is coming up. It’s just a little bit after yours.”

Another thoughtful pause and then:

“Are we going to go to heaven for his birthday?”

Tears.

“No baby. We can’t. We go to heaven when we die. But one day we can go and see him.”

“But how will he get his birthday cake?”

More tears.

Mary. I love you. I love your love for baby brother so much. Thank you for becoming my tiny companion this past year. Thank you for your pure love. Let’s keep talking about Keller. He will always be your brother, even if we can’t seem him. Happy birthday to our girl. Keep spreading your sunshine.

Focus in.

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Second pregnancies are very different from first pregnancies. First pregnancies are much more focused. There is very little to distract you from the fact that you have a tiny human growing inside you. Second pregnancies often have a tiny toddler running around to keep you plenty distracted. We had a tiny toddler, a pending move, and a head on battle with anxiety to keep us quite distracted from our tiny son growing inside of me.

Every now and then, when I had been especially distracted, I would escape and go spend time with my boy. I would sneak out to the thrift store and shop for some Keller clothes. I know girl clothes get all the attention, but man, I love boy clothes. Little plaid button downs?! Add a bald baby head, and he’ll look like a darling tiny old man – which I mean – CUTE. I bought a lot more clothing for Keller in my pregnancy than I did for Mary. It was just my time I could focus in and bond with my baby boy. He probably has a year’s worth of clothing. I also made this tiny little hat for him. I loved spending time dedicated to hand making something for our son. This hat is the only thing Keller ever wore. Want to know something really neat? It fit him absolutely perfectly. Like it was made for his little head. And it was!

Even in all the aftermath of loosing Keller, I have difficulty focusing in on our son. Life doesn’t stop just because your world stops. There is such frustration and beauty in that fact. In order to simply function, I often have to push the ever present thoughts and hurt of losing Keller to the periphery. And so, this blog is my chance to focus back in and spend some time with our boy. It’s my chance to love him up and reflect on his impact on our lives.

Focus is such a blessing. Life often has a decent level of chaos. We need to take time to stop. Stop. Sit. Focus in. Focus in on the creation God is forming inside of you. Focus in on the spouse who vowed to be by your side. Focus in on the friend whose loyalty is unmatched. Focus in on the God who breathed life into your soul and is forever unchanging. Stop, settle in, and dedicate time to focusing in, celebrating, and growing these relationships. It is such a luxury to be able to set aside the doldrums of life and focus in on our relationships. So take hold of this blessing and focus in.

My Wendy.

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This is a difficult post. There is so much I want to say. There is so much love and thankfulness I want to convey.

Wendy is a dear soul sister of mine. She is awesome. If you are blessed to know her, you know her zealous, big love. She and her daughter are doulas. A doula is essentially a professional supporter and servant. She supports women during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and the postpartum weeks.

If you don’t have a Wendy in your life, I recommend you find one.

We chose Wendy as our doula about 3/4 of the way through pregnancy. Anxiety haunts me. Anxiety especially haunts me when pregnancy hormones course through my veins. Hiring Wendy calmed my heart and allowed me to loosen my anxieties about labor and delivery. Nathan was hesitant to invite someone into our sacred space. Sharing moments as vulnerable as those shared in an L&D room made him uneasy.

Nathan: “I was hesitant at first because I am very private, but I am very thankful for her. [So many] women suffer silently with pre and postpartum issues.* We should never be so ‘private’ that we don’t allow others to help.”

I enjoyed my time better learning her intentional and earnest heart. I learned from her example and sought her advice. Like I said, if you don’t have a Wendy, you really should get one. Wendy’s are great.

She was one of the first people we called after we learned Keller’s tiny heart stopped beating. This was not the call she was expecting. This is a hard to call to make and a hard call to receive. She prayed over us when we couldn’t speak. She laughed with us when we needed a break from the heaviness. She cried with us when the waves of despair crashed over us. She asked and answered questions we couldn’t ask or answer. She kept our community up to date. She labored with us for over 24 hours. She gave me foot massages and made sure Nathan had water and food. Praise the Lord for our Wendy.

God’s ways are mysterious and I am working to trust in God, and meditating on how He intervenes. There is so little I know. But, I can say – thank you Lord for your love and leading us to Wendy. Thank you Lord for giving me this soul sister to serve us during our darkest hour. Thank you Lord for her tender, constant, and compassionate hand. Thank you for her prayers to You on our behalf.  (I’m not certain I have ever thanked God for someone else’s prayers to Him – but I think I should more often.) Thank you for her selfless servitude. Thank you for giving us a witness to the birth of Keller and Your presence in that delivery room. Thank you for her validation and love of Keller.

Thank you Wendy. I love you so much my heart may burst a bit. Thank you for the ever present and whole hearted support – even a year later – and what I am certain will be many, many years to come.

We are forever bonded Wendy – there is no shaking us. You will be receiving texts (holograms?) from me when I’m 57.

Wendy, filled with a talent for being present and empathetic, wrote down a few quotes from the delivery room and shared them with me. I want to share them with you. Here is a glimpse of our sacred space.

“Ground zero.”
“We’ll be there for each other, ok?”
“I just want to take care of him”
“I’m feeling a lot of peace knowing he’s ok”
“I feel still. It’s like the calm before the storm”
“We’ve become completely different people in about 12 hours”
“No matter how simple or trite people think their messages are, they all matter. All they have to say is I love you and I’m sorry and it just means so much.”
“Sometimes I need to say it out loud and then I’m not so scared.”
“I’m just so grateful for: Nurse, doc, ice, Popsicle, paper towel holder, texts, pictures, kisses, airplanes, that we came in, that we didn’t move yet, MARY, FaceTime”
“I need to be ok”
“Thank you for taking care of me. I’m going to have to say I love you because I love you.”
“You look so nice”
Telling dad he’s “not that fat”

I love how somber and comical these quotes are. I mostly love how for just a minute they can take me back to that space.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and you are looking for a doula, please visit http://www.handsoflovedoula.com

*Doulas are an incredible blessing even if you have no anxiety whatsoever.