I am blessed. In the days following Keller’s death, Exodus 14 was placed in my heart. We were (are) surrounded on every side, walking on dry ground by the grace of God.
Two weeks postpartum, we met with our doctor. In our consultation she asked if we had support. We both audibly laughed. Support doesn’t even seem adequate. Is there a word for unbelievable, incredible, overflowing, unwavering support?
Even before he entered this world, Keller was supported and celebrated. Our church family showered him with gifts and threw a party in anticipation of his arrival. “You are my Sunshine” was the theme. It’s a bit ironic. The day he was born was the darkest day of our lives. Sudden death and our world turned dark. Black. The moment the news reached them, our family in Christ reacted with His light.
You are sunshine brothers and sisters. You are the sun that shines in the darkest moments. You are light because He is light. Be the light. Rejoice and celebrate with those who are in the midst of joy. Hunker down and weep with those in the pit. You don’t have to create your own light. Jesus already is the light. Just shine Him, and do so actively and tirelessly.
Our Doctor was amazed by what we told her. She said it is extremely rare to be so supported in the wake of stillbirth. So for those of you who are alone, those who are pining and aching for any sort of support at all – message, email, call me. Let me hunker down beside you. He is light. He is the sun breaking through the storm. Let me shine Him.
In 2015, Keller was the 1,175th most popular boy name in America. So, you know, we clearly like to keep up with the times.
I am just obsessed with our boy’s name. Keller Norman Bartlett. We kept Mary’s name top secret. No one knew her name until she entered this world. I was so giddy about Keller’s name. Nathan agreed that if someone asked, I could share his name. I just wanted the world to know. I still want the world to know his name. I want to tell everyone I meet, “Her name is Mary and his name is Keller. They are just about two years apart.” Is it prideful to think you did a really good job picking out your own children’s names? Probably. I just love them both so so very much.
We enjoy most every aspect of cooking. It’s our hobby that we allow ourselves to get a touch “nerdy” about. We buy cookbooks, watch cooking shows, read cooking blogs, and subscribe to cooking magazines. Thomas Keller is a famous American chef. Now, let’s be clear, we did NOT name our child after Thomas Keller. But did we see the name and it inspire our decision? Maybe. Now you all know our dorky secret.
Everyone copes differently. My tendency is to quickly over share. I’d really prefer to tell my cashier, “Yes this is Mary. And we had a stillbirth in September. Our son’s name is Keller Norman Bartlett and we love him very much. I love you too. That’s why I felt you needed to know this intimate detail of my life. Can we meet up for coffee and cry together?”. However, you know, this strategy doesn’t work that well all the time. Even when I wish it would.
I remember when Mary was born, hospital administrators came in to ask Mary’s name so they could send the information into the county for her official birth certificate. There was such pride in writing out her name. I loved sharing this new human’s name with all who would listen.
They didn’t come in and ask Keller’s name. I kept waiting for them to come in and they didn’t. This broke me. His hospital bracelet said “Male Bartlett”. We had wonderful doctors and nurses who all gently asked his name. I just wanted to fill out a birth certificate. I wanted validation that Keller Norman Bartlett was indeed his name and he absolutely lived.
Jesus knows Keller’s name. Jesus knows all the beautiful things about Keller’s soul. And you know Keller’s name too. Thank you for validating that Keller Norman Bartlett is indeed his name and he absolutely lived.
There is a lot we never got to learn about Keller. We don’t know if he preferred rocking or bouncing. We don’t know if he was cuddly or liked his space. We don’t know if he was silly and giggly, or a serious observer like his sister. We don’t know his favorite book, toy, TV show, color, animal, blanket, song…anything really. It’s odd having a son you don’t know. I guess “odd” is a more polite way of describing something that is often “infuriating”. He’s our boy, and we want to know him. We want to know every little thing about him. We want to take that knowledge and provide a beautiful and safe life for him.
While there is a whole world of things we do not know about Keller, sometimes though, it’s a good practice to focus on the facts that I can and do know. I DO know that Keller liked to move. I felt him move for the first time the morning of March 13, 2015. I know because I text Nathan QUITE excited. It’s the best part of pregnancy. If you are a hopeful mother praying you can one day feel a tiny baby moving inside of you, I am praying for you. They are the movements of creation and they are spectacular.
He wiggled always. If he was still for more than 3-5 minutes, I’d get worried. And so I’d check on him. I’d scratch all over my belly, and he was SO ticklish. He would go crazy every single time I scratched my belly. It’s special knowing that despite all we don’t know, I know Keller was very VERY ticklish. I got to experience tickling my little boy and feeling him moving all over to get away from my tickling fingers. I’d really love to feel that again.
Keller’s life holds so few memories. I hold so tightly to what we do know. Each memory is precious and cherished. I guess this is a call to work and live as presently as you can. Soak in the moments. Drink them up. Again – redeem joy! Redeem joy in the mundane things. Redeem joy in a fetus kicking you in the ribs. Redeem joy in a toddler asking “why why why WHY???”. Redeem joy in piles of laundry and dirty dishes. Redeem joy in difficult days on the job. This isn’t easy. Joy is often in the “unglamorous”. In the moment, it may not even be joyous, but hindsight will want to hug those memories so tight and relive them again and again. Especially if and when the mundane is snatched away or threathened. You won’t always succeed at this. I don’t – even now. But when you catch a quick glimpse of just how tiny your whining toddler’s face is – breathe it in and thank God for tiny faces. Give all the thanks and shout Hallelujah!
This video isn’t much. Just my pregnant belly morphing and jutting out in odd places. But if you can, watch it. Because I’m a proud mommy. Because it’s a video of our son alive and moving. It’s what we know of Keller and I want you to know him too.
It was such a rush finding out his gender. “CRAZY!” was all we could say. Having a boy? Wild!!
Isn’t he handsome? Look at that nose. He had my nose. And those toes? Stop it.
Again – this was fun news to share. Fun conversations to have, phone calls to make, texts to send. Shared joy is awesome.
Watching Mary begin to grow into her role as big sister to a baby brother was soul warming. We talked about Baby Brother Keller constantly. She kissed my belly and chatted with him. Let me just say that one of the hardest things in all of this is Mary not having her baby brother. I hate it. We all hate it.
We went out the next day to pick out an outfit for Keller. We had fun looking through all the little boy clothes. We decided to go with a robot onesie and navy pants. Solid newborn fashion choice.
We still talk about “baby brother” all the time. It’s always difficult, but beautiful, innocent, and tender. It’s hard to have a baby brother you can’t see. It confuses a poor toddler’s heart. It confuses her mommy’s heart too.
We got to share our good news with the world – Baby #2 is coming September 2015!
It’s fun to tell a big joyous secret with those you love most. It was fun telling Mary. We waited until the day we went public to tell her, because there was a high likelihood of her pointing to my belly and saying baby.
I started showing at about 6 weeks with Keller. I mean OBVIOUSLY showing. We told everyone when I was 8 weeks – mostly because there was no possible way I could keep it a secret any longer. When I am pregnant, my body very quickly proclaims it to the world.
It maybe be silly, but getting a flood of “notifications” of others sharing in your happiness is really really fun. Every time you check your phone another person has congratulated you on the new life growing inside of you – SO fun.
It is such a blessing to rally around joy. It is such a blessing to have a community of loved ones celebrating a new soul. New life is incredible. It is creation. It deserves awe and gratitude. It is to be cherished and protected.
So thank you. Thank you for recognizing and sharing in our great joy that day.
And please – redeem joy. Darkness will come. In the seasons of joy, live presently and drink it up.
There he is! That little dot is really him. It’s really Keller. And you could really see his little heart beating. Really truly our son. Really very much alive.
Our first appointment was filled with illusions of grandeur. I envisioned an ethereal moment. Nathan and Mary would be snuggled up on the chair. I would get teary eyed as we saw his tiny heart thumping. Nathan would gently smile. Mary would point and say “Baby!”. Our first tender moment – all 4 of us.
We had to wake Mary up from her nap in order to get to our appointment. This was followed by 15-20 minutes of screams. Books and a few fruit snacks later and we were composed enough to make it into the doctors office. This didn’t last very long. Poor 18 month old daughter must have thought the blood pressure cuff was somehow torturous to Mommy because she went bizerk. Nathan had to take her out to the car. Poor Daddy didn’t even get to come into the room.
But I still got teary eyed when I saw his tiny heart thumping. Butterflies fluttered up inside my throat. “It’s incredible isn’t it?”, my doctor said. Absolutely.
I text Nathan to let him know I was finishing up and would be outside soon. “Ok. Just don’t judge me.” That was his response…..
I went out to the car (keep in mind the date – January – pretty cold) and Mary was stripped down to her diaper still sniffling. Apparently after trying countless methods to calm her, he asked, “Are you hot?” Calms down. Head nod. “Do you me to take off your jacket?” Head nod. And so on and so forth. But hey. It worked.
I like this story. It shows love and beauty and family in the less than picture perfect moments. And I really love that I got to see Keller’s tiny heart thumping.
Thank you so much Lord for this baby. So quickly my heart is filled with such huge love, joy, thankfulness, and infatuation. You are so good. Lord my prayer is that you hold this baby in your almighty and protective hand. That you keep my child alive and healthy. May you grant our baby a beautiful life. A life filled with deep love and care. A life surrounded by your love. A life where Jesus is spoken of so often because His love and goodness is in all of our hearts and overflowing. I love you Lord. I love this baby. May our child find our home to be a place of solace and joy always. Lord, I just want to shout my thanks and praise to you. May the joy you have granted me not waiver. May I trust in you throughout this pregnancy, delivery, and years to come. I plea with you to protect our baby in my womb and grant them a wonderful, healthy, and service filled life out in the world. Make our baby to know that you are good all the time. I love you.
In Jesus name,
“Lord my prayer is that you hold this baby in your almighty and protective hand.”
“A life where Jesus is spoken of so often because His love and goodness is in all of our hearts and overflowing.”
“May I trust in you throughout this pregnancy, delivery, and years to come.”
“Make our baby to know that you are good all the time.”
And so, we trusted. January 7, 2015 we discovered our tiny child was growing inside of me. I called Nathan the very second I found out. I felt immediately connected. I was protective and overjoyed instantly. I went out to the grocery store to buy eggs, berries, avocado, and tomatoes because I had another baby I needed to feed and feed well. I think I just felt absolutely twitterpated. From that moment on, we were parents of two. We made certain each of our babies were cared for and loved up. My heart feels achey writing this post. I wish I could say more. I wish I had a million memories to share of this day. Keller’s life was so short, but it was very much a life. A big, powerful, love filled life. A life that we were told about on January 7, 2015. From that moment on, boy you have rocked our world. You are loved son. You began and ended knowing nothing but love. And that love has spread and crossed rivers and states and seas – all because you lived. And because He lives – I can – even when doubt rises up to my chin – face tomorrow.
December 31, 2014. This is our first picture as a family of four, and we didn’t even know it. I love the joy growing with a family brings.
I set a mantra for myself for 2015: “You are stronger than you know”.
I sat down intending to write about the poetry of choosing this mantra without realizing it would be the most difficult year of my life. I thought I would write how God has indeed proved I am stronger than I ever knew. And then I listened to Stronger (Zoe Group).
There is Love
That came for us
Humbled to a sinner’s cross
You broke my shame and sinfulness
You rose again victorious
Faithfulness none can deny Through the storm And through the fire There is truth that sets me free Jesus Christ who lives in me
You are stronger You are stronger
Sin is broken You have saved me
It is written
Christ is risen
Jesus You are Lord of all
No beginning and no end You’re my hope and my defense
You came to seek and save the lost
You paid it all upon the cross
(Lyrics by Hillsong)
We played this song during Keller’s memorial service. It comforted me throughout my pregnancy, our labor, and in the wake of losing Keller. Thank you Lord for placing this hymn in my heart.
And now, as I sit here almost a year after losing Keller, this song brings comfort to me in a completely new way. God was not showing me that I am somehow stronger than others, or even than my own perception of myself. God was showing me that He is stronger. He is stronger than death. He is stronger than anxiety. He is stronger than OCD. He is stronger than depression. He is stronger than fear. He is stronger than panic. He is stronger than chaos. He is strong than this world. More than I have ever known or ever will know.
I love the simplicity of this picture. It was taken August 4, 2014.
Nathan had just been informed that he had gotten a job that would move us across the country to Northern Virginia. This began Round 1 of “interval training” in trusting in the Lord and His timing. I confess that I did not trust God prior to 2014. I feigned trusting God. I even sometimes believed I trusted God. However, I only trusted God as far as I could make perfect sense of everything around me. I only trusted in what I could sort out in my own mind (which was typically proceeded by hours, days, maybe months of crippling worry).
We wanted to have another child. We knew we would be moving. We had no idea when that move would be. It could be 5 months. It could be 18 months (it was).
We decided to trust. The Lord would provide. He would provide regardless of the timing, the location, the season – all we had to do was trust in this truth. Throw our trust up to God and know for certain that He’s got this. This trust is some of the hardest work I have ever done.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,for those who are called according to his purpose.*
Romans 8:28 ESV
(*Some would say that things did not “work together for good”. It did. That’s why Jesus is awesome.)
This was Round 1, and the Lord has been training us in trust over and over and over the past two years.