Ever since Tori went to Heaven I have held the belief that, if you are going to lose a child, we had it the “better” way because we had time … Continue reading Unexpected Loss – Kailee Seal
I often see moms post about how sad they are that their babies are not newborns and tiny anymore, or sad that another year has gone by, and perhaps I could have related to that feeling a few years ago.
But, I just can’t relate to it now. I realize that my perspective is different than most, which is why I feel like I need to share it, especially this month.
I’m not sad that our boys are bigger, or that they are continually learning and doing new things. I doubt that I will ever look back with tears and want to go back to those newborn days.
I’m thrilled and delighted that they are ABLE to get bigger. That they are ABLE to grow and learn. Why am I delighted?
Because Tori wasn’t given that opportunity. Because Krabbe robbed her, and us, of a normal childhood. She stayed little, like a newborn, for her entire existence. She never learned to talk, walk, laugh, play.
We would do anything, anything, to have her here today, in full five-year-old glory.
And it is with that perspective and passion that I write, parent, and live.
I am truly overwhelmed with gratitude, amazement, and joy with every new milestone reached, and I don’t look back at their newborn pictures with sadness (disbelief that they were ever that small, amazement at how far they’ve come, but not sadness). Part of that is because newborn twins are seriously challenging and I don’t want to go back to that phase, but it’s mostly because of Tori, our precious baby girl who was taken from us too soon. I LOVE watching them learn and grow as healthy little men.
What makes me sad is that there are babies born each year with a treatable condition but that their ZIP code determines whether they have a chance to live or not.
What makes me sad is that families like ours, families with so much love for their children, have to say “see you later” to their child and be separated from them until we get to Heaven.
I fight for Newborn Screening for Krabbe because I don’t want anyone else to go through what we’ve experienced. I want babies born with Krabbe to have the same opportunity for life as any healthy baby. I want their parents to be able to see their children achieve typical milestones. I want their children to grow up.
I know motherhood is challenging and it’s easy to be frustrated. I get it. I have my moments like anyone else. However, in those moments I remember that not every child gets to grow up, like my Tori, and I remind myself that I have so much for which to be thankful.
I pray that you can do the same. ❤
(Hover over – or tap on – each state to see how many diseases are included on their NBS tests)
September is Newborn Screening Awareness month so we will be providing information throughout the month about Newborn Screening (NBS).
Here’s a brief introduction:
Newborn Screening is a crucial component of ensuring the health of all newborns, yet many parents have no idea what is being done when the test happens.
Newborn Screening (NBS) happens between 24-48 hours of birth and it involves the pricking of the baby’s heel in order to apply blood to special paper (filter paper). The blood is used to test for treatable conditions – conditions for which timing is everything.
Did you know that each state screens for a different number of diseases?
I created the interactive map above to visually demonstrate the discrepancy from state to state, or you can see the chart below. I obtained all of this data from babysfirsttest.org on August 31, 2019.
|State Name||Number of Diseases Screened|
|District of Columbia||62|
According to BabysFirstTest.org there are 80 treatable conditions that could be screened for at birth, but no state screens for all 80. Visit their site to learn more about what diseases are included on your state’s NBS.
This means that your ZIP code determines life or death if you are born with one of these screenable/treatable diseases.
Where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die. – U2
There is a national panel called the Recommended Uniform Screening Panel, or the RUSP, and there are currently 35 diseases on the RUSP. Many states screen for all of these diseases but not all.
As you can see, there’s a lot of work to be done in the realm of Newborn Screening to ensure that every child is screened equally for all diseases, including Krabbe. One thing you can do is contact your legislators to ask them to take NBS seriously and work on increasing your state’s screening panel.
Comment below with any questions, comments, etc. Do you remember when your child was screened? Did you know what was happening?
It’s amazing that it has already been three years since our precious Tori entered the arms of Jesus.
Today could be a devastating, sad day. We could choose to dwell on what we “lost” that day, how our world changed, and that would be an acceptable way to spend the day given the circumstances. I mean, we did lose a child. The world would understand. But, as always, we choose to place our focus on where she is and how she is doing, as well as the fact that we will see her again someday and will never have to say goodbye.
Instead of the worldly form of grief, we choose peace.
Instead of blaming God, we choose faith.
Instead of tears, we choose joy.
We decided two years ago that we would always spend Tori’s Resurrection Day (also called Tori’s Day of Triumph) doing something fun as a family. The activities may vary from year to year, depending on the age of her siblings and their interests, but we want to always celebrate her life and her current/forever place of residence.
So, today we had breakfast at Cracker Barrel and had some fried apples (something she LOVED) together:
We went to see Tori’s tree at the Hershey Gardens for our second annual family photo in front of the tree:
We read “I Can Only Imagine: A Friendship with Jesus Now and Forever” to the boys – something we will do each year as we teach them about Tori, Heaven, and faith in Jesus.
But most importantly, we enjoyed our time as a family:
I promise we aren’t perfect Christians, nor are we perfect people. We sought out the biblical examples of living after a loved one’s death, and we believe that this is how we are to live. The New Testament, especially, is FILLED with verses about death of fellow believers and how Christians should respond, and it’s always referenced with joy. With peace.
We trust that the God who created the universe can be trusted with every detail of our lives, even when we don’t understand the reasons.
One of the questions I ask in Even So, Joy is this: If we (as followers of Jesus) truly believe God and His promises, if we truly believe that Heaven is where we belong and where we will spend eternity, then why do we follow the world’s example and allow sorrow and grief to overcome us? It doesn’t have to be this way.
Would anyone CHOOSE to lose a child? Absolutely not. And yet, we CAN choose our reaction and how we live our lives afterward. We see the example of David losing a child (albeit to very different circumstances) in 2 Samuel 12 and his response:
19 When David saw them whispering, he realized what had happened. “Is the child dead?” he asked.
“Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”
20 Then David got up from the ground, washed himself, put on lotions,[b]and changed his clothes. He went to the Tabernacle and worshiped the Lord. After that, he returned to the palace and was served food and ate.
21 His advisers were amazed. “We don’t understand you,” they told him. “While the child was still living, you wept and refused to eat. But now that the child is dead, you have stopped your mourning and are eating again.”
22 David replied, “I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, ‘Perhaps the Lord will be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But why should I fast when he is dead? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me.”
David got up. He worshiped the sovereign God he knew and trusted. He knew he would see his son again someday and chose to live life.
I think about it this way: If it were me that had died, I would NOT want my parents to stop living life. I would not want them to visit my grave (or, as we call it, Resurrection Site). I would want them to remember that the separation is not forever, that I am where we all, as Believers, are supposed to be. That I am finally HOME.
Brennan and I chose then – and we choose now – to focus on Tori and how amazingly she is doing now. Tori can SMILE. Walk. Talk. Breathe. Play. Be with Jesus. How incredible is that?! Our precious baby girl was so broken here on earth; now she is healed and WHOLE. That is more than enough reason to rejoice!
Brennan and I know and believe that Heaven is real, that she is having an amazing time, and that we will join her someday. Every day is one day closer to that reunion!
You may not be in a situation like ours, but we all have our own challenges and life struggles. No matter what our circumstances, we each have a daily decision to make, a choice for how we view our journey; we have the opportunity to choose for it to be well with our souls and to focus on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2).
Every day, we each have a decision to make: where is your focus?
In our culture of Google bringing instant gratification to our curious minds, not knowing the answer or what is going to happen in life typically makes us feel anxious, unsettled. … Continue reading The Joy of Not Knowing
Not long ago I opened the calendar app on my phone and counted the number of weeks between Tori’s birth and the onset of Krabbe. I was surprised to find that she became fully symptomatic at exactly twenty-three weeks. To the day.
That’s how old the boys are today.
Our healthy, strong, Krabbe-free identical twin boys are the same age today as Tori was when a horrific disease began to steal everything from her – her smile, her laugh, her ability to swallow, and eventually her life.
As I was typing this, I momentarily thought “I wish I would have known that she’d never smile again so I could have treasured it.” But my next thought was, “Hmmm…would I really want to know?”
So often we say that we would, but is it ever a good idea when it’s something we can’t change? I think in most instances we’d end up worrying so much about what was about to happen that we would be unable to be fully present. Instead, I will treasure the smiles she did have as well as the smiles from her brothers each day.
I have been asked many times if I think I have some degree of PTSD, and after considering the question, I can honestly answer no. Sure, there are things that will never be the same about me – or my parenting – after Tori (for instance, I definitely check to make sure the twins are breathing far more than I expected to do), but I most certainly do not have PTSD. Brennan would tell you the same. We are living in joy and peace.
And that leads me to wonder why.
Why are we okay when so many who’ve walked in our shoes aren’t okay?
I had a conversation with my chiropractor during my most recent visit and it helped me in unexpected ways.
She remarked that she has loved seeing how Brennan and I have walked through this journey with grace and joy (we take no credit for that), and she loves how we’ve chosen to live out our faith. Her encouraging words (and great adjustment) would have been enough, but the Lord chose to continue to speak through her.
I told her that I often wonder why Brennan and I seem to be set apart from so many who have lost children, how we seem to be handling it so differently than most, even than other believers.
It’s not that we never think or talk about Tori (quite the opposite). She’s very much a part of our home and we will make sure the boys know everything about their big sister. It’s not that we’ve “gotten over it” because you really don’t ever “get over it” when you’ve lost a child.
(Side note: who defines what that actually looks like? Who makes the rules? Not getting over it doesn’t have to mean crying all the time or living your life depressed. It simply means that you are never the same, but it has such an unnecessarily negative connotation. We will never “be over” losing Tori but we also choose to live the life we think she’d want us to live – she’s in Heaven, happy as can be, so why wouldn’t she want us to live in joy?)
I expressed to her that I feel sorry (not pity, but genuine sadness) for those who can’t move on, who cry daily, who can’t seem to find joy in their lives after a tragedy like child loss. I mentioned my blog post about not visiting Tori’s grave. That we’re different but I can’t figure out why. That I wonder if we’re “doing it wrong” because we’re genuinely doing well and so many around us aren’t.
And then she said this: “it’s because you don’t let it define you. It’s because you find your identity in something (someone!) greater.”
In that moment, it clicked. She is totally right.
It’s not my identity. I’m not a victim, and I’m not a martyr.
Yes, I lost a child. Yes, it was terrible.
And yet, losing Tori doesn’t define me.
Did it impact me? Of course. But that’s not what defines me. The love of God (and my love for Him) defines me and my life. His mercy and grace overwhelm me and fill me with abundant gratitude. His faithfulness reminds me that we will see Tori again in Heaven for an ETERNITY. In a perfect place. With perfect bodies. No Krabbe. Forever.
I could elaborate more, but I already did in Even So, Joy 😉
We all have to choose what defines us, and I choose to NOT be defined by child loss. ❤
As I watch Tori’s brothers today, I am amazed at their strength, at their smiles, at their health. They are doing things that Tori was never physically able to do – before or after Krabbe – and each new achievement is worthy of celebration. Every milestone reached fills us with awe.
That’s why I wanted to count the weeks.
That’s why I wrote a note on the calendar to pay attention to their development at twenty-three weeks.
Not because of PTSD. Not because of grief.
But because I am so indescribably thankful for God’s blessings to us. For his faithfulness. For His love. For every smile that these precious boys display. Everything. I don’t deserve this abundant life He has given to me, but I will embrace it and praise Him for it.
Even so, it is well with my soul. ❤
We’ve never written about this before, but I think it’s important. Let me preface with this: we know many people do things differently than we do so there’s no judgment … Continue reading Why We Don’t Visit Tori’s Grave