Monday, 7 July 2014

One Final Word

412.  It was within days of Hope's death that Shawn informed me she had lived for 412 days.  I smiled to myself as I had calculated it as well.  I soon discovered my mom had done the same.  For some reason, we all needed to know how many days we'd been able to hold her in our arms.  Today is our 412th day without Hope.  I have now lived as many days without her, as I was blessed to live with her.

For 412 days I would sit alone in the living room in the middle of the night and write my updates.  When sleep wouldn't come and my heart was heavy, I wrote.  Now 412 days later, sleep feels far away tonight and it only seemed right to begin writing my final entry.

Right now in the city of Calgary, a family is longing to know that their 5 year old son is safe.  I find the entire story and situation very disturbing.  It has caused me to lose sleep and over-think a lot of my own life.  Tonight as I tried to fall asleep I thought of them again and the absolute torture they currently feel. Sadie came and gently touched my arm after a bad dream.  I lifted her into the bed and curled in behind her.  I held my little girl and prayed for her safety, for wisdom, as her mom, and for the evil of this world to stay far away from her.  I also realized in that moment that for 412 days, I have never worried about Hope's safety.  Never wondered if she was in pain, feared that she was unhappy or questioned how to care for her.  She is my one child that will always be safe.  She is the only one I won't pray protection over late into the night as the years go on.  She is safe forever.

Losing a child still feels wrong, unfair and difficult to understand.  That is unlikely to ever change.  I am able to feel the comfort of knowing she's in heaven and safe in the arms of Jesus.  That feels right, more than fair and yet still so difficult to understand.

Many people have questioned my desire to stop writing.  To be completely honest, I don't feel right writing about Sadie and Stella as they grow up.  It was different with Hope, we were calling an army of people to pray for her and there was a great reward for writing.  If I told people what was happening, they could pray.  I believe we needed that support and that Hope benefited from the knees that were bent around the world.  As for Sadie and Stella, I don't want to make that choice for them.  I don't want every birthday, Christmas and special event in their lives to be available to anyone that desires to take a look.  I find Facebook to be public enough with those we choose to accept and want to limit their exposure.  I do feel badly that many people have come to deeply care for our family and will feel like we've "dropped" them and for that I apologize.  We so appreciated you joining us on our journey with Hope and we valued your commitment to pray.  Please know how deeply grateful we feel that you cared.

As for our little family of 4…
We will always feel one person short.  Every time I use the words, family photo, a part of me cringes.  I find it difficult to think about the fact that Sadie will more than likely forget most of her time with Hope.  I'm sure she'll remember the stories we repeat and recognize the photos she sees often, but memories she made at 2 years of age will slowly fade.  I'm sad to know that Stella has a sister she's never met.  I wonder if she'll ever feel left out.  I often wonder how it will feel when I replace a photo of Hope in our home with someone or something else.  She will always remain, but may not dominate the walls forever.  412 days later, I can see so many of the beautiful things that God created through the ashes.  It doesn't make it all less painful, but it certainly makes it easier to accept.  I can truly say that I still believe God is good, loves me deeply and longs for the day that we can all be forever safe in his arms.  On that day, our family will no longer be one person short, our hearts will no longer be broken and our minds will finally understand.

Each person that came on this journey with us, played a part in helping me see purpose for our pain.  Hope's reach was great, her impact profound and I am able to know that from the responses her story has received.  Thank you for caring, thank you for loving us and thank you most of all for choosing to love a little girl that we all knew could one day be taken from us and leave us brokenhearted.

412 days without Hope have passed, I'm not sure how many more will, but each day that passes makes me a little bit older and a little bit closer to Heaven.  A place always sweet, but made sweeter to me by her presence.  I can only hope that each person who followed her story came to understand their own need for Jesus and will be there with me one day.  I remember sitting at the Ronald McDonald House one night and writing, that if one person came to Christ through Hope's life and death, it would have purpose.  I still feel that way and pray that anyone who hasn't accepted Christ, but desires to, would make that decision today and give purpose to her pain.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

One Year

A full year has now gone by.  It's hard to believe we've been without Hope for a year, yet it often feels like much longer.  I remember so many details of May 21st, 2013.  I know that when I walked into her room that morning, she was wearing a pink sleeper with a ballerina on it.  She was awake, but didn't respond at all to seeing me.  This never happened and I knew something was very wrong.  I remember who my last visitor at the hospital was, and that we ate veggie burgers in the cafeteria for lunch while Hope had an echo.  I remember coming back from lunch and seeing 3 cardiologists walking towards me.  I instantly knew that they were arriving with bad news.  They told me that Hope wasn't doing well and would need to go to Edmonton to see if we could put in an artificial heart to keep her alive until a new heart arrived.  It wasn't long before they returned to say they were going to intubate her as well.  I remember calling Shawn and asking him to come to the hospital.  I remember the person in the parking lot that honked at me for waiting for Shawn, I was totally NOT in this man's way!

I will always remember and regret the fight that Shawn and I had driving back to the house so I could grab my clothes.  Hope had already been loaded up to start her transfer and I needed to get up to Edmonton to meet her.  I had so much anxiety about how she was doing and took it out on the wrong person, something I will forever regret.  I remember arriving home, a friend was already there packing my things.  I remember what I ate for dinner and who dropped it off.  I threw it in a tupperware, jumped in the car and ate it as I drove.  I didn't stop the entire way and was just driving into Edmonton when the Cardiologist called to say she was crashing and I may not make it in time.

I remember running into the hospital and being so frustrated that even in trauma, my lungs were still really crappy at running.  I had to take the elevator up to ICU because I was out of breath.  I ran down the hall as fast as I could when the doors opened and the doctor was waiting for me in the hallway.  The staff were so sensitive and loving, but there was nothing they could do.  I went numb instantly and was in shock.

I remember each person arriving after she was gone.  My friends Graeme, Carissa and Katie walking into the room to sit with me as she took her final breaths.  My mom arriving an hour later, Shawn and James rushing in 2 hours after.  I still remember the looks on each one of their faces, heartbreak.  I remember walking Hope to the morgue as Shawn held her, the security guard was walking so fast.

One year later we  wanted to create new memories, happy ones.  Our girls don't know how difficult May 21st is.  Sadie was so excited to be on vacation, she was so happy.  Shawn and I struggled to fall asleep on Tuesday night.  Stella was up at 2am to eat, not her regular routine.  As I crawled back into bed, Shawn curled up behind me.  I knew he was struggling just as I was.  Sadie ran up to our bed at 6:20am to announce that it was awake time.  We informed her that it was still night time (at least in our house!) and she crawled in beside Shawn and went back to sleep.  Stella didn't get the memo and woke up shortly after to begin the day.  May 21st was going to be a long day, our girls were deciding that for us.

We had decided to spend the 21st at Three Valley Gap in BC.  We enjoy being there and there are so many things to do with your kids.  After breakfast we took Sadie to the Enchanted Forest.  It was an incredible time and Sadie had a blast.  Stella was not quite so excited, but she's more fond of crying than smiling these days.  After a couple of hours there, we went into Revelstoke, BC to have lunch and walk around.  It was a beautiful day and we ate outside in the sun.  After lunch we began the drive back to Calgary.  We stopped to see Emerald Lake and eat dinner in Canmore.  It was a nice day with our little family and although Stella screamed for the last hour of the drive, we made some good memories.

This weekend I spent time with friends baking heart cookies and then decorating them.  I plan to deliver these to the staff and families at the Children's Hospital.  We wanted to make an annual tradition of something we would do to remember Hope.  It was enjoyable and I look forward to continuing the tradition.

Missing Hope is difficult.  The pain of losing her is still very real and can be overwhelming at times.  One year later, I can honestly say that we have joy and laughter in our lives.  We have peace in knowing that she is whole and healthy in Heaven.  We are deeply looking forward to the day we'll be together again in Heaven, but choosing to not miss out on loving her sisters that are still here on earth until then.  If I let the sorrow overcome me, I'll miss out on Sadie and Stella.  That is something I know I would deeply regret.

Thank you for continuing to pray for our family.  One last update to come before I finish blogging about our journey.  Another sign that life continues, and we are moving forward, but never moving on. We will always love Hope, always miss her, and are never able to forget that.

Monday, 21 April 2014

21 x 11

Today was my 11th 21st without Hope.  In a lot of ways it made Easter difficult.  I spent much of Easter remembering last Easter.  As Sadie went on her egg hunt, I pictured the egg hunt she'd gone on the year before.  Soon after she found all her eggs, I went to the hospital to pick up Hope for her day pass.  We brought Hope to Shawn's parents house and as I sat there this year, I wished I had her with me once again.  I also spent Easter dreading today.  I knew that on the 20th I was celebrating Jesus rising from the dead, and the next morning I would be remembering Hope's death.  I did find comfort in knowing that had Jesus not died and risen again, Hope would not be with him in Heaven today.

Once again I kept myself busy to make the 21st end quickly.  I tried not to think about it and therefore avoided talking to anyone that might bring it up.  It's not that I don't want to talk about it, I just felt so weak today and knew that I couldn't care for Sadie and Stella if I didn't try to think about something else.  I still haven't figured out why some 21st are more difficult than others.

One of the hardest things about today, was knowing that in one month it will have been a full year without Hope.  I dread that day the most.  It just feels like such a long time, too long to go without holding her.  I'm not sure how I'll walk through that day, I guess we'll battle through it when it arrives.

Life with Stella has been a good distraction in many ways.  I love to see Sadie with a sister again.  I often find her in Stella's room with one of her dolls mimicking the things I do for Stella.  She feeds her dolls, puts them down for naps, talks to them like I would talk to Stella and carries them around in a carseat.  There are more hugs for Stella than she needs, kisses galore and a lot of talking from her big sister.  I dread the days when Stella won't be able to focus on eating because Sadie won't be able to leave her alone for 20 minutes!

Although I love having Stella and find great joy in both her and Sadie, life has been busy and also emotionally exhausting the last 7 weeks.  A few people close to us have been through a lot and that weighs heavy on our hearts.  I often feel overwhelmed and exhausted.  I'm trying to take care of myself and find a balance of being able to love those around me, the way I enjoy, and not overload myself at the same time.  I find such joy in serving others and it's hard for me to balance caring for my own family and caring for others.  Many times it's more fulfilling to pour into others, but in the end my family needs me as well.  I have to remind myself that I still have a newborn that isn't sleeping through the night.

I do not regret getting a lot of new things for Stella.  It can be nice to pull out something of Hope's and relive all of the memories, but most days it's too difficult.  Today I put Stella in a pair of Hope's socks.  As I slid her tiny feet into them, I thought about how the same socks were on Hope's feet when she was 6 months old.  I pictured her wearing them in ICE in Edmonton and longed to touch her precious feet again.  Other things I pull out of Stella's drawer and realize that I had hardly used them for Hope as they were too difficult to put on with all of her tubes.  I feel a sense of loss for all the normal things I missed out on with Hope.

Nursing Stella has been difficult.  I had the same issues with Sadie and some with Hope as well.  Today I finished my third round of medication to help with the issue and have not found it's been successful.  With Sadie I only had to do two rounds before I found relief.  I am not able to do any further rounds as my blood pressure would get much too low.  I'm still plugging away and trying to give Stella the free food my body carries as long as possible.  I think a lot of the desire is not from a cost savings perspective, but more from the fact that I wasn't able to nurse Hope.  I pumped for Hope, but never got to actually breastfeed her.  Having that privilege, although painful, with Stella is hard to walk away from.

On April 4th we celebrated Hope's life.  It would have been her 2nd birthday and Shawn and I had decided to celebrate the day she was given life, instead of the day it was taken from her.  We had some people over that had been vital in her life and together watched a video that had been made of all the cell phone clips we had of her.  It was wonderful to see her "alive" again and to watch it with a room full of people that also loved her.  It was also a distraction to have people in our home and that made the day easier.  I had spent some of the morning sobbing in Stella's nursery and knew that without something to plan for that evening, it would have been an even more difficult day.

Thank you to everyone that continues to remember and to pray for our family.  I have learned that time does not necessarily heal the wounds, it just gets easier to accept that they happened.  I am thankful for the 412 days that I was able to spend with Hope and wouldn't give them back.  I will always wish I'd had more though.  Until we get to heaven and are able to spend eternity with Hope, pain free and whole hearted, I will hold her in my heart and remind her sisters of how God used her short life to touch ours.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

409 - Our Beautiful Rainbow

Stella's birth was by far my most painful delivery.  It was emotionally difficult, but physically difficult as well.  My water was broken at 4pm and the induction drugs were started.  For many hours I felt great, I was simply chatting with Shawn and my mom and waiting for the real contractions to arrive.  Eventually they came with full force and began to run into one another without a break.  Stella was face up and needed to turn.  As a result, I was labouring on all fours in an effort to get her turned around.  Once the contractions were on top of one another and I didn't have a break in between, I began to think of Hope often and was emotionally overwhelmed.  At 5 cms I asked for an epidural and could barely stand the pain as I waited for the doctor to arrive.  The epidural went in easily and as I finally started to feel a little bit of relief, I felt intense pressure and wanted to push.  The epidural had only been in for 10 minutes when I asked the doctor to check me again.  He was surprised to find that I was now 10 cms and ready to push.  

Unfortunately, my labouring on all fours had not done it's job completely.  Stella had turned, but only half way.  She was coming out sideways, shoulders stacked on top of one another!  As a result, she was quite stuck and pushing her out was slow and extremely painful.  Unlike the other two deliveries, I screamed with each push and begged the doctors to hurry up and get her out.  It was about 30 minutes before she finally arrived and was placed on my stomach.  I was instantly aware of how much she looked like Sadie.  She doesn't look like Hope at all, it was Sadie's twin!  Although I'll always wonder what Hope would have looked like as she grew up, I'm thankful that Stella looks like Sadie. 

Before Stella was born, I began grief counselling to prepare for the emotions that would come with her arrival.  When Stella was handed to me in the delivery room, I sobbed.  After arriving home with Stella just 12 hours after she was born, she went 6 hours without eating and would not wake up enough to eat.  We ended up taking her into the children's hospital to make sure she was ok.  As we made the all too familiar drive, again I sobbed.  Stella was perfectly healthy, just extremely exhausted from her delivery.  Since then, my face has been full of smiles and it reflects the feelings in my heart.  Although I feared I would be on an emotional roller coaster after Stella's birth, I was wrong.

Stella has now been home with us for two weeks and we are so thankful for her.  Sadie is absolutely enthralled with her sister and is asking to hold her constantly.  She is always willing to help out with her little sister and is so excited to introduce her to others.  We are proud of Sadie and the way she has adjusted so far to Stella being home with us.  Stella is an extremely easy going baby.  She rarely cries, unless she's hungry or you're changing her diaper while she's hungry.  She sleeps well during the day and is starting to sleep more at night.  She eats a LOT and is sure to grow with the amount she consumes in a day.  

I feel such gratitude for her healthy life and after all we went through with Hope, I realize what a blessing her health is.  Getting up to nurse her in the night is a privilege, not a burden.  I remember what it felt like to get up and mix feeds, pump, run a tube feed and then sterilize all the equipment with Hope.  That was not easy in the night and we were exhausted.  Getting up to cuddle in a chair with a sleepy baby nursing is a completely different experience.  Sleeping in my own bed, instead of a rock hard mattress in the hospital is incredible.  We spent so much time at the hospital with Hope, our time at home with her was so brief it's hard to even remember how it felt.  Each day at home with Stella is a gift.  I hope the gratitude never fades as I enjoy the blessing of having both my girls at home.  I'll always know that a third little girl is missing from each family photo, but I'll continue to find comfort in the knowledge that Hope is pain free in Heaven.  

I love getting to watch Sadie enjoy her sister on a daily basis.  I love that I can care for Stella's needs and still be a mom to Sadie at the same time.  Caring for Hope often involved not being able to care for Sadie, that was never easy.  Newborns are a lot of work, but after the journey we had with Hope, it feels like a much easier road than the one previously travelled.  

Thank you to everyone that prayed for us through my pregnancy and the arrival of Stella.  Your prayers have clearly made an impact as I find such peace in caring for Stella and welcoming her into our family.  

Many people have asked me if I will continue to blog.  This blog was started to share Hope's story and her story has already been written.  I have decided that since Hope was with us for 412 days on this earth, I'll write 412 entries onto this blog.  After that I'll enjoy my girls at home and no longer write about the ins and outs of our daily lives.  This entry is number 409, that leaves 3 entries before I'll finish, likely just in time for the one year anniversary of Hope's death.  Thank you to everyone that has journeyed with our family.  It has been a long road and was full of a lot of ups and downs, we don't even want to imagine how it would have felt to walk through that without all the support we've been given from you all.  

Friday, 14 March 2014

The "Rainbow" has arrived!

On March 10th at 11:19 pm, we welcomed Stella Hope Koslowski into the world.  She weighed 6 lbs., 6 oz. and was 21 inches long.  She is the spitting image of her older sister, Sadie.  She is perfectly healthy and we are rejoicing in the safe delivery of our rainbow baby!  I have intended to write about her entrance into our lives several times since Monday, but right now Stella likes to party all night and I am finding it hard to stay awake long enough to blog!  Stay tuned and I will write more when the fog clears. : )  Thank you so much for all your prayers for our little family!  We are in love.


Monday, 10 March 2014

The Night Before...

I've been told I'll get a call that tells me what time to come to the hospital tomorrow.  I have no idea when that will happen and can only hope it truly happens tomorrow.  There is always the chance that every other woman in Calgary will decide to deliver tomorrow and I'll be postponed.  I am trusting that God will have control over the timing and praying that I get a call earlier in the day and not later.  The baby is fine, I'm simply overwhelmed emotionally and my body appears to be trying to go into labour, but failing.  I've been induced with all of my deliveries.  My body will break my water or begin contractions but never makes it far enough on it's own and I end up with an induction anyway.  I feel confident that this is the right decision.

This little girl, this upcoming delivery and this pregnancy have been an experience I was not fully prepared for.  We were obviously shocked to find out we were pregnant so quickly after losing Hope, but were excited and knew that we had many months to adjust to the idea.  I spent the majority of those months in denial and focused on the fact that I was pregnant, but not the fact that I would be having a baby.  Thanks to a lot of help from a grief counsellor, I've been able to dig into my pain and allow myself to bond with this new little girl and not allow my fears to hold me back.

This does not mean the fears simply go away.  After losing a child, you are no longer free to assume that everything will be fine.  It doesn't matter that the echo looked great of this baby's heart, the list of complications that can happen is still quite long.  I fear a lot of things that will likely never become reality, but until I hold my healthy baby girl in my arms, my heart is not truly at rest.

In reading through materials for parents about to have a child after the loss of another, I have learned that I am not alone in my feelings.  Any pregnant woman struggles at the end of pregnancy with the patience of waiting to meet their baby and to finish being pregnant!  The intensity of all that when you've lost a child is just so much greater.  I was comforted to know that this is normal and that often woman begin to lose their minds much earlier than I have.  At this point, although I feel my daughter move within me, I need to see her breathe in front of me.  I long to see her breathing and alive.  Sadie will always be my baby girl, but Hope was truly still a baby and the last time I held her she was no longer alive.  My arms ache for the feel of a warm baby's body, a rising chest and eyes full of life that look up at me.  This is not filled by any baby, it is a feeling that I believe will only go away when I hold a baby belonging to Shawn and me.

I hold a lot of fears about the hospital.  The experience is too familiar and it's a struggle for Shawn to be there as well.  I'm not sure how I'll feel about the IV's, the doctors coming in and out, the nurses, the smell of hospital laundry, the sounds around the ward or the experience all together.  I'm not sure how I'll feel emotionally as I go through the pain of bringing this life into the world.  I'm truly overwhelmed tonight as I think about it and can only pray that sleep comes quickly and deeply so tonight will be over soon.  I'm praying that our daughter and myself will go through labour without complications and that when I tell the doctors I'd really like to stay in the hospital for the shortest amount of time possible, that they understand and let us come home.

Thank you for holding our family up in prayer tomorrow, as I should be receiving that phone call to go and begin our induction.  I'll be sure to post an update, and a picture, as soon as I can get home and back on the computer.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Baby Girl 3.0

I am now 36.5 weeks pregnant and ready to deliver yesterday.  This little lady dropped into the birth canal at 33 weeks and has stayed there ever since.  The pressure from this change has been less than enjoyable and caused these weeks to feel long.  I am thankful that she avoided coming during the time that would have required a NICU stay, but I am happy to evict her now!

A few weeks ago I finally found the right fit for me in grief counselling.  Some times it takes trying 4 people before you find the right person.  She has been a great blessing in this final trimester as she prepares me for the emotions of welcoming this new life and also forcing me to see areas that I am avoiding.  It wasn't until I began meeting with her that I finally realized I was unintentionally avoiding bonding with baby girl 3.0 as we call her.  The fear of losing another precious life makes us protect ourselves, sometimes subconsciously.  It has been good to force my heart open once again and risk pain in order to find the pleasure of deeply loving the life inside.

This little girl is our third daughter.  Not a new Hope, not a replacement for Hope and will never be expected to fill the life we lost in Hope.  In understanding that and desiring to separate the two experiences, I've been taking steps toward making this little girl a new experience.  We have re-decorated the nursery for the first time since Sadie was born.  It is no longer pink, brown and white.  It now has bursts of colour and a 'few' extra hearts around.  When I walk into the room, I find it refreshing and it no longer feels like Hope's room.  We also finally decided on a name for the baby and have begun referring to her by name.  I have even allowed myself to purchase new things for her.  Yes, I have a lot of sleepers and clothes in pink, but they all bring back memories and I need some fresh memories as well.

My bag for the hospital is packed, the baby's bag is packed and we are now in the waiting stage.  The doctors are surprised my body has held out this long.  I could go tonight, or I may have to wait another 3 weeks.  I guess that's the beauty of the human body, we can only guess, but will never know for sure.  Truly I desire this little girl to arrive in the next two weeks.  I would like for her birth to be in no way associated with Hope's death.  The 21st is really hard on me and although some feel that delivering on that day would be healing, I feel it would be too much for me.  I want to celebrate this new life and not have deep sorrow creeping into the day.  It will already be emotional with all the memories that will come.  If you'd like a specific prayer, a delivery well before the 21st would be ideal!

Sadie is very excited for the arrival of her new baby sister.  She talks about her often and plays in her room with her dolls.  I think she'll be a wonderful helper for me and fall in love easily.  I'm hardly sleeping currently, perhaps this is in preparation for the lack of sleep to come.  I could really use some good sleep to get through the next little while.  Each night I have contractions, pain and discomfort that keep me from sleeping.  The constant movement is keeping Shawn up in the night and we both look forward to me sleeping better one day.

This year Shawn and I decided to be intentional about seeking the Lord in our lives.  We started to read through the Bible and have really enjoyed the routine of being in the word each day.  It has created more of a hunger for me to dig in on my own and brought my prayer life more passion as well.  I would appreciate prayer to maintain this discipline as life will be much busier with a new baby in the home.  My walk with God through our journey with Hope was intimate in a way I've never experienced.  I learned so much through it and look forward to our girls being older and having more time to share this experience with others.  The desperation for God is not as strong in my current walk, but I know my need is the same and I try to make him a priority in my everyday life.

Hopefully my next post will be to introduce baby girl 3.0 to you all.  I often try to picture what she will look like, and look forward to finally seeing her face and having the pleasure of being her mom.  Thank you for continuing to pray for us.  We know that this next stage will come with blessings and difficulty and we covet your prayers.