Pregnancy and Parenting After Loss

I’ve mentioned before that ever since Tori went to Heaven I’ve felt quiet, as though I have nothing to say. And so I’ve stayed quiet, not wanting to force the words just for the sake of writing.

Well, I finally feel as though I have something about which I can write.

Pregnancy and Parenting After Loss.

As the date for our embryo transfer draws nearer, I have so many thoughts and feelings running through my mind and heart. We will be pregnant soon! I honestly feel like I’m already “nesting” even though I’m not even pregnant yet. Brennan can attest to this, haha. Granted, that’s partially because we still haven’t really moved into our house yet and I’m ready to be SETTLED. But I digress. My heart longs to be pregnant, to have the hope of future children.

I just want to be a mother again, to hold and care for these precious babies who are currently frozen. 

But there’s a lingering fear that I can’t quite chase away – a fear that one or even both of the embryos won’t attach. That I will miscarry. That we will have two or three children in Heaven and not just one. There’s little reason to think this will happen, says my doctor. I’m healthy, fertile, and have no reason to believe that the embryos won’t attach. We’ve seen how God has moved mountains to make this even possible. So why are these fears so present?

I have a feeling that parenting any child after losing Tori is going to be a greater blessing than we can imagine and yet contain the potential for greater fear than we’ve ever had before. Any symptom that reminds me of Krabbe. If they have reflux like we thought Tori did. If they have any developmental delays. Anything like that will have the potential to throw me back into the pre-diagnosis days with Tori, wondering if the genetic testing was wrong. Wondering if they do have Krabbe. I have a feeling this will be a challenge to overcome.

I’m not one to be fearful, really ever. I trust the Lord and I believe that He has me in His hands. I believe that He is in control and that He knows exactly what will become of these precious frozen embryos. So I must surrender, moment by moment, any fear or doubts that creep into my mind, because I know that they aren’t from Him. 

I will continue to process my thoughts and emotions about all of this as we progress though pregnancy and parenthood after losing Tori. I pray that my transparency is a blessing to others and that the Lord will continue to work in and through our lives.

Please pray for our embryos – our son and our daughter: pray that they will survive the thaw, that they will attach to my uterus quickly, and that they will develop into healthy, thriving babies. September 1 is quickly approaching! 

 

Hunter’s Hope Symposium 2017 – Day One

Symposium time is here!

It's the one time each year we are surrounded by people from all over the world who understand exactly what we have been through. It's the week where we can let our guard down and enjoy these precious moments with our Leukodystrophy family knowing that we fit in here, that we are "normal" here.

None of us would have chosen to be in this position, to be in this "family" of such suffering and grief, but we cherish the relationships and the joy that have come out of everything we have endured.

If grief and pain were measurable, the weight of it just from these precious families here would be astronomical in size; every family here has lost – or will lose – a beloved child (or two), something which has been called the most painful thing a human can endure; and yet, all we see are smiles, joy, friendships, authenticity, and an appreciation for each and every moment. We see hope. And it's amazing.

This is our third year at the Symposium and it's the first one I have been slightly hesitant to attend, for reasons I am still deciphering.

Perhaps it's this: Tori was with us for the first one and she was cherished by all; last year she had gone to Heaven a mere four months earlier and everyone remembered her; will she be remembered this year?

Perhaps this: we now seem to fall into the category of parents who lost their children "a while ago" and it's strange. It's a different feeling being here now, a year after she went to Heaven…not a bad feeling, of course, just different.

I watch the parents with their living children and am amazed at how distant that feels. The suction machines, the feeding pumps – sounds so familiar and yet such a distant memory because I haven't heard them or thought about them in a year. Something that was once part of my daily life now feels like a lifetime away.

I'm not caring for Tori constantly now, and I'm not necessarily grieving anymore (though it will never fully be over), so it's a strange place to be. It's just Brennan and me now.

Perhaps it's strange to be here because it's a time when we're forced to remember that this was our life for fourteen months, and that we did lose our precious daughter. In daily life it's easier to move on because of distractions and tasks. Even though we talk about Tori daily and think of her all the time, it's different somehow to be here surrounded by other families going through the same thing we did.

Despite my emotions through which I am sorting (thanks for letting me process above), I am so happy that we are able to be here again. We're praying that next year we will have a new baby with us ❤️

As always, I will blog about the new research findings and everything else we learn throughout the week. So thankful for Hunter's Hope and all that they do to support Leukodystrophy families.

It's going to be a great week!

It Is Well

I have served as the worship leader at Transcend Church for a little over three months now. While I have led worship almost continually over the past 22 years in some capacity, this is the first time I have been “the leader” of a worship team instead of me just playing guitar and singing. This has certainly been a growing experience for me and I am so thankful for the members of the worship team and their talents and hearts for worship.

Few are aware of what goes into choosing a worship set – it’s far more than just picking songs you like. I typically read the Scripture for the upcoming sermon and prayerfully choose songs that go along with the sermon. Yet, sometimes it’s honestly just following the Holy Spirit’s guidance and how I “feel” about a particular song fitting in with the set.

This week was definitely a “feel” week as the passage did not easily lend itself to songs. While I was doing all of this, I considered that this Sunday was Mother’s Day but didn’t give it much thought.

As I leafed through my (gigantic) binder of music, a few jumped out at me, unrelated in theme at first glance – “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” would start the morning as a great reminder that God is trustworthy, merciful, and faithful. We’d do “Even Unto Death” and “Give Me Faith” to remind ourselves that the God we serve is worthy to be followed and trusted, no matter what. I chose a few other songs to fill in the set and thought I was done.

I grabbed my guitar and began playing through the set but it still didn’t feel complete. Later that afternoon the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” – one of my favorites – came into my head and I knew that was what was missing. In addition, I decided to add Bethel’s song “It Is Well” to the end.

If you aren’t aware, the back story to the song “It Is Well” is one of the most powerful I’ve ever heard. Mr. Spafford lost his four daughters in a shipwreck, all at once. Four daughters. And yet, he penned the words to this poem (now song) and declared that it was well with his soul.

How can that be?

I contend that…

It can be well with your soul despite your grief. 

It can be well with your soul despite your circumstances. 

It can be well with your soul despite your questions and uncertainties of God’s actions. 

This can all be true because it isn’t dependent on you – it’s dependent on God. When you believe the truth of who God is (faithful, loving, merciful, kind, generous, good), when you believe His Word and His promises (there IS life after death for those who trust in Jesus!), and when you trust Him fully, there is peace within your soul that surpasses understanding (Phil. 4:7). We’ve lived it. We know this is true.

img_6662

We have a beautiful sign in our home that quotes this hymn, and it has been a great reminder to us as we’ve learned to live without Tori here on earth. We’ve truly learned that “whatever our lot” we can be at peace when we are trusting the Lord and following Him.


As I led worship this morning, the emotion of missing Tori began to well up inside as we sang the final verse of the hymn:

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul!

The emotion was two-fold: first, remembering the tragic circumstances that brought this song into this world and how deep the pain is when you lose a child; second, I long for this day – the day when Jesus returns and we are reunited with our precious Tori (and other loved ones who have gone before us). I cannot wait for that day and for the eternity with her that will follow.

I got through the song, but as the sermon began my eyes were teary as I pondered the joyous reunion that awaits us.


As the Bethel song by the same name says,

Through it all, through it all, my eyes are on you.
Through it all, through it all, it is well.
So let go, my soul, and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name.

The same Jesus who calmed the storm that threatened to wreck the ship He and His disciples were on is the same Jesus who lives today and loves us deeply. He is still in control, even when we can’t feel it.

Being well in your soul doesn’t mean that things are perfect, or that you pretend to not be in pain. It simply means that you trust Jesus more than you fear your circumstances.

Yes, my Tori is gone. Yes, my heart longs for her. Even so, it is well with my soul. 

img_6988-1


I don’t know why I was led to put the songs on the set list today that I did, but I know that, if nothing else, my own heart was encouraged by the words of these songs. Hopefully the Lord used them to speak to others, as well.

One Year…


Time is a funny thing. 

Our Tori has been a resident of Heaven for one year as of tomorrow (March 27). It’s surreal, to say the least, to think that we have lived one year without her in our arms. One year without watching her breathe, sleep, and struggle as Krabbe overtook her fragile body. One year since she was healed completely and made whole once again.

Why is it that today, the day before the one year anniversary of Tori’s Heaven-going, my heart feels so heavy? She was gone yesterday, she was gone two months ago; nothing has changed, but for some reason this milestone brings back emotion. This is a rhetorical question, of course. Time is strange in that it heals but it also reminds you of what you once had more strongly as it passes.

We’ve pondered how to spend March 27 for months now, and we came up with an idea last week to return to the Philly Zoo to feed giraffes. However, we won’t be able to do that until April 17, so tomorrow we will celebrate her Heaven-going anniversary by eating fried apples at Cracker Barrel (her favorite!) and remembering her with joy. 

We refuse to sit at home and be sad – that isn’t how we lived life with her and that will not be how we live life without her. We taught her to embrace life and choose to be joyful, and that’s what we will do tomorrow. We remember God’s faithfulness and perfect guidance the ten days before He called her home and are filled with gratitude. 

We miss our baby girl every moment of every day and we anxiously await our someday reunion in Heaven. But, for now, we will continue to live life with passion and joy, just like we did with her here. ❤

One Step at a Time

The hill from the employee parking lot to the building where I work is gigantic. It is long, steep, and, especially when it’s cold outside, the prospect of walking up to work is daunting. Most days I am spoiled because Brennan drops me off at the entrance and then goes to park the van; but, on days when our schedules do not match, I am left to climb the mountain. And I don’t want to do it most days.

The challenge is half psychological and half physical. I’m not in great shape – yet – so that’s part of it. But, when I look at the hill I also have to convince my brain that I can do it because it feels like I will never make it, like I will fail.

What I have found is this: if I focus on my feet and on taking one step at a time instead of looking up to the top of the hill, it is far less challenging. If I take it one step at a time, it’s not that bad! I make it to the top of the hill, a little out of breath, but I can do it. I succeed.


This analogy is a perfect one for our lives right now: we’re nearing the one year anniversary of Tori’s heaven-going; some days it seems like our hearts will never fully heal, that it will be forever before we are reunited with her again. We long to hold our baby girl and gaze into her beautiful eyes once more, and that time (and heaven) seems so far away.

But, when we take the journey one step at a time, focusing on the Lord and on one task at a time, it’s so much easier and we feel refreshed. We don’t feel overwhelmed or tired. We feel at peace and we know that we can take the next step. Why is it so hard to remember to do this?


Whatever your mountain might be today, focus on the next step, not on the entire climb. Allow the Lord to guide you and sustain you; He is faithful and will lead you well.

Give your burdens to the Lordand he will take care of you.
He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. – Psalm 55:22 (NLT)

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. – 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)

Stillness 

Perhaps it’s because I wrote furiously throughout the summer in order to finish my manuscript. Perhaps it’s because I now work outside the home and am forced to speak with guests continually throughout the day, using up my “daily word count” quickly. Perhaps it’s because, with Tori gone, my purpose for writing has changed and I still haven’t quite figured out what’s next.

Whatever the reason, I’ve been struggling to write lately. I haven’t felt inspired.

I want to write, I want to process life with my writing as I have always done. But, I’m simply unable to do so right now. It feels forced.

I rarely comment or post statuses on social media. I rarely blog. I think all the time and am constantly processing things; the difference is that I’ve been keeping it to myself instead of adding my words to a world in need of less noise.

I haven’t been doing this intentionally, but it has happened and I’ve been trying to figure out why. 

Perhaps it’s been my way of creating some stillness and peace in a world and a life so busy and chaotic.

Perhaps it’s simply a reflection of the peace my heart feels most days. 

Whatever the cause, I’m still here. We’re still here. Life is busy, mostly with good things, and we have some exciting things on the horizon. 

We’re preparing to move to downtown Hershey within the next month (!!) which will change so much about our lives – a drastically shortened commute time, becoming landlords, being part of a community that we’ve wanted to join for years, and being able to walk almost everywhere we need to go.

My friend, Jenn, and I are waiting for the official call that will start our LuLaRoe business and cannot wait to see what this venture brings! Brennan and I hope that this will help us fully fund our IVF and adoption expenses. You can check out our page here

Speaking of that, we hope to begin the IVF process (again) in the next month or so. We need $10,000 up front to start and we have raised $8,000! Praise the Lord! We cannot wait to be parents again. 

I am hoping that March will be the month for pitching my manuscript to publishers. 

We’re quickly approaching the one year anniversary of Tori’s heaven-going and aren’t sure how we will spend that day (March 27), but I’m pretty sure giraffes will be involved.

I’m hoping to find my voice once more and to write about life and seeing God work again. But, for now, I am being still (Psalm 46:10) and doing what I can to focus on the Lord and where He is leading. ❤ Good things are in store.

Saying Goodbye to 2016

Tori was physically part of our lives for parts of four years: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.

2017 will be the first year we will experience her absence, the first year we will have to say that she passed away “last year” and not this year.

We cannot stop time, nor would we want to do so. Every day that passes is a day closer to seeing our girl again in Heaven. Yet, at the same time, my heart aches as we enter a year she will never know, a year we are forced to experience without her.


2016 was a bittersweet year filled with transitions for us. To name a few:

  • Bitter: Tori went to Heaven;
    Sweet: She was healed from Krabbe.
  • Bitter: We sold our first home, the home Tori knew as her own;
    Sweet: We paid off Brennan’s student loan.
  • Bitter: I was left without a “job” as a mom, a role I treasured;
    Sweet: Finding a new position where I see Brennan and other friends daily.

While it is difficult to say goodbye to 2016, we are hopeful about 2017 and all that is on the horizon.

In 2017, we hope to:

  • Buy a house in Hershey (March) – can’t wait to tell THAT story!
  • Pay off the rest of Lesa’s student loan and be DEBT FREE
  • Publish my book (will pitch to publishers in Spring)
  • Save/raise enough money to do a round of IVF
  • Begin the adoption process
  • Host an encouraging event for those who have lost children
  • See PA make Newborn Screening for Krabbe mandatory for ALL babies
  • Succeed in raising funds for Hunter’s Hope through a pilot program
  • Plus many other smaller goals

Brennan and I both feel encouraged and we feel hopeful for 2017. The Lord has already opened doors that excite us (ones that we couldn’t even have dreamed up) and we know that He has great things in store for us.

Years will continue to pass without Tori here with us, so while this first one is the hardest, we recognize that the heartache will never fully go away. Instead of dwelling on what we cannot change, we choose joy and hope. We choose to continue to fight for Newborn Screening so that others will never know the pain we have known. We continue to be grateful for all the Lord has done in and through us, knowing that He isn’t finished yet.

As we enter 2017, we pray that the Lord will continue to guide us and show us the path He wants us to take. And we pray that for all of you, as well.