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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sean's Expected Earthly Arrival

November 30th didn't feel any different than November 29th. I'm not sure why I expected it to. I guess the anticipation of this day set me up to believe it would feel differently.

See, November 30th was the day that we expected to meet and hold our sweet baby we lost back in April.

We named him Sean.

Feel free to read more about our journey here and here.
We started off the day by taking our girls to the zoo. Here are some pictures of us hanging out!

I love my family!
These girls light up my life and keep me laughing all day

Roger took the day off, to which I was very thankful. We wanted the day to be a celebration.  Later that evening, Roger and I spent some time alone. We had Knotty Pine BBQ for dinner, which was fantastic! Later, we went to Garden Ridge.

I know.

      We sound really old.

Garden Ridge seems to be part of every date night, for some reason!  Anyone else love that place?!
Hmmm....Anyway, we actually went in with a mission this time. We wanted to find a stocking for Sean. Our mantle just didn't seem complete without a stocking for him.  We searched up and down the aisle trying to find the perfect one.  Finally, we found it.

I held it close to my heart and walked through the store with it over my shoulder.  About 15 minutes later, I went ahead and laid it down in the buggy.  I just wished it could be him I was snuggling instead.  

We also picked out an ornament for him.

After Garden Ridge, we went to Starbucks ...mmmm...can I get an Amen? While we sipped our coffee, we took a stroll through Kohl's. While we were there, we picked out the girls' Christmas dresses,  an Advent Gingerbread House(we've wanted one since Mckyla was born), and 3 little two-foot trees. A purple one for Mckyla, a pink one for Abby, and a silver one for Sean. Here is Mckyla with their trees. Abby was far too busy to take a picture.  Yes, much too busy.

And here is Sean's tree.  It sits at our fireplace and I love looking at it.

Though some may find it depressing to constantly be reminded of the loss, I find it incredibly healing.

Sean is my child. 

He may not live with me, but he will always be my child. His days were written in God's book before one of them came to be. Those days were all spent in my womb, and I am honored that I got to carry him...that God chose me to be his mommy.

So, where am I now?  Emotionally?  With my thoughts?
I am in a pretty good place. Since I lost Sean, I started going to M.E.N.D.(Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death) meetings. It is an incredible ministry.  We meet monthly and encourage one another through our losses. There are women there from all stages of loss. Some babies lived a couple of months, days, hours, minutes, some babies were stillborn, and some were lost as a result of miscarriage.  Notice, I classified the different types of loss? This does not happen at MEND. Can I tell you, I have never had my loss minimized by these women. In fact, it is a guideline that is read before each meeting.

How can that be?? As women, we compare everything, don't we?  But, I am so for real! The reason this group works is because..... no one makes anyone feel like their loss wasn't significant or important.  We are all mommies who lost our babies. Period.
Go check them out:

I have also begun to work on my self -talk. I struggle with extremely negative self-talk.  You know that mean-girl voice inside your head?  That one is really mean to me. A work in progress, is how I would describe myself.

Thank you to everyone who remembers Sean and acknowledges him as our child. His life is worth acknowledging!
I will leave you with this. I have had this Max Lucado daily calendar for about 5 or 6 years. It was a Christmas gift from my Grandma and Grandpa. I wept as I read it, shaking my head in complete awe of how creative God is. This is what it said on November 30th:

Here is what stood out to me, "Those who went unknown on earth will be known in Heaven.  The forgotten will be remembered. "

God is so good.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sean celebrates 6 months in Heaven

It's hard to believe that it has been six months since our sweet baby went to live in his eternal home.  Wow...six months. Sometimes it feels just like yesterday. I can replay every single detail in my mind.  I called my mom and niece to wish them a happy birthday.  We had just bought a new tv, and Roger's dad was headed over to our house to help Roger mount it above our fireplace.  I made pork tenderloin for dinner, complete with tabouli, hummus, and whole wheat pita pouches.

Isn't that strange that I remember what we had for dinner?

Just before Roger's dad, John, arrived, I discovered something very wrong.  I had been feeling crummy all day, but was still hopeful.  We knew this was a possibility. Still, nothing could have ever prepared me for the panic and despair I felt in that moment.  I was bleeding....a lot.  It was obvious something was wrong.  I immediately called my doctor.  The doctor on call was kind and told me that I was likely miscarrying, to call the office in the morning, and that she was very sorry that this was happening to me.

I went to bed that night knowing my baby no longer lived inside of the protection of my womb.  I called my doctor first thing that morning.  My friend, Stephanie, kept my girls for me while Roger and I went to the doctor. At this point, no one knew except John and Stephanie.  I couldn't even tell my mom because it all happened on her birthday.

We got to the doctor and our worst fear was confirmed.  There was no baby, only the sac he lived in.  Our hearts sank. We left and started letting family and friends know what was going on.  I picked up the girls from Steph's house and went home to start my new life without our baby being part of it.  Little did I know just how much his life would still be intricately woven into ours.  I went into what was going to be his nursery and just cried, knowing he would never sleep in that crib, or wake us up at night to be changed and nursed. It took a good long while before we named him.  You see, it was too early to tell what gender our baby was.  We felt from the beginning that it was a little boy.  Maybe that was because we had 2 little girls already...who knows?!  We finally decided to name him Sean.

Sean Isaac Howell

His name means, "God is gracious" and "He will laugh".  I find this amazing because we picked out this boy name in case Mckyla or Abby were little boys.  We just weren't sure if we wanted to choose a different name that was more fitting for how short his life was.  But, you know, his name means something pretty significant.  God was and is gracious for allowing Sean to be part of our lives, no matter how short his life was.  I think about Abraham and Isaac in the Bible.  Isaac was the promised son of Abraham and Sarah.  They were very old and well past child-bearing years to our standard.  When they found out Sarah was pregnant, she laughed because she thought her pregnancy window was closed!  I probably would too!  But, what is important about this part of the story is Abraham trusted God and dedicated his son Isaac to God's service.  God provided a ram, and Abraham did not have to literally sacrifice Isaac. The most significant thing is that he dedicated his son's life to the Lord.  We dedicated Sean's life to the Lord as soon as we found out I was pregnant with him.  It is no accident that Isaac was in his name.  We dedicate our lives to bring God glory.

Even when I see his name I long for him to just be in my arms.  If he made it to my scheduled c-section date, he would be here on November 30th of this year. one month, I would be holding a healthy baby (boy) in my arms.  But, God had different plans, and while I don't like this part of His plan, and while I wish I could hold him, I trust His plan.  I can already see countless ways Sean's life has influenced other's lives.  His days here counted and mattered.

I found this song today at my friend's blog.  It is called, "Home", by Nicol Sponberg.  It sums up my song for Baby Sean.  Mommy will see you soon, sweet baby.


More videos on infant loss I love are...

Selah's, "I Will Carry You."

Watermark's, "Glory Baby"

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Abby Grace

Today, I celebrate Abby. She is my spunky and quite sassy 3 year old!  Here is a picture of her that captures her essence....
See what I mean?
 She was born on August 28, 2009. 3 years ago today!!  I was scheduled for a c-section the following Monday, but she decided she was ready early.  So, early and unexpected it was! I delivered a healthy baby girl...6 lbs 10oz, 19 inches long. I soaked her in.  Her newness was intoxicating.  
It's quite blurry... but....special, nonetheless

Sweet husband and sisters.  Abby is the small one. ;) Her big sister is Mckyla, only 15 months old at the time.

As I reflect on that day, many things come to mind.  I remember nursing her, cuddling her, getting to know her.  While I am extremely grateful for her precious life, and the life of my Mckyla Beth, I can't help but think....

What would it have been like to deliver baby #3 in November?

How can I not think about him on a day like today?   Reliving my daughter's birthday.  The memories are so vivid. At almost 4 months out, some have encouraged me, sometimes rather forcefully, to "move on".  I didn't imagine I would be thinking about baby #3 so much today.  

But...I was wrong.

I still think about him.  What would his weight have been?  How long would he be?  What color would his eyes be? His hair?  Would he have my fingers or Roger's toes? Would he respond to my voice, my touch?  Would Roger cry as he held his newest baby?

I am left wondering....

And that's ok for me to do that.  It's ok for me to long for the baby I never held in my arms. I will never be the same.  I will never think the same.  I am forever changed.  I will move forward, because he is in my future.  I get to see him again. It just may not be on the timeline some think it should be. 

For those of you praying for us, please don't cease!  We need it now more than ever.  

In the meantime, I choose to be incredibly grateful for what I do have.  I choose to allow God to continue healing me in His time.  I choose to celebrate Abby's life as I think about her birthday in a whole new way.   Thank you Father for loving me so much and for showing me how precious life is.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Life Worth Acknowledging

I was all geared up Monday, April 23rd, to meet our little secret 7 week old baby. Only some family and a few friends knew about me being pregnant.

This is how I told Roger he was a daddy to 3. The sausage roll bag says,
 "If I'm going to get fat, so are you. Congrats Dad to THREE!"
The girls were equally excited...they celebrated with donuts.

We planned to announce that week that we were having a new addition to the Howell home.  Childcare did not work out for our girls, so we just brought them with us to my appointment.  How fun to see their baby brother or sister on TV! We made the most of it.  They called my name and we headed back for the room.  The sonographer asked me the normal questions..."When was the first day of your last period?  How far along do you think you are?" I answered all of her questions.  She began the ultrasound and looked a little puzzled.  She said, "Are you sure about your calculations?" I said, "Yes, I'm positive."

You see, we were actually planning for this baby, so I knew all of the dates like the back of my hand! I had been through pregnancy twice before and was experiencing the exact same symptoms as my previous pregnancies. She then said, "Well, maybe your calculations are off.  Your baby is only measuring at 5 weeks." "Gestational?" I said.

There is a difference.

For those unfamiliar with that term, gestational, it counts your cycle before the baby is actually conceived. Most doctors go by that protocol, though not all do. My thought was, if it's not gestational, then I'm good....the baby is technically only 5 weeks old, so everything is ok.

She answered quietly, "Yes."

My mind immediately started worrying.  I knew without a doubt I was  7 weeks gestationally. There should be no reason the baby wasn't measuring right, if everything was ok.  I told myself to chill out and just wait for the heartbeat.  Our sonographer said, "Now, don't worry, if the baby is truly 5 weeks, this heartbeat is normal."  So, I watched my baby's heart beat very slowly.  I asked her, "What is the heart rate?" "70.", she said. I looked over at Roger and he continued staring at the screen.

Then, I heard its little heart beating.

It was not the quick, healthy sounding heartbeat I was expecting.
It was slower than mine.  My heart broke.

I still remained hopeful...well, let's see what Dr. Beal says about this.  He will just tell me that my baby is petite and has some catching up to do.  Nothing could really be wrong with my baby.  The whole family took the elevator up to the 8th floor to my doctor's office.  I was called back and then explained everything to my nurse, Sylvia. She couldn't even take a reading on my blood pressure because I was literally falling apart as I told her something could be wrong with our baby.  She said, "We'll worry about taking your blood pressure later.  I'll go get Dr. Beal."

I sat and waited....




Roger looked at me and said, "You are no good to yourself or the baby if you don't calm down."

He was right.

Meanwhile, he was managing our then, wild acting kids. It was obvious they sensed we weren't in good spirits.  Mckyla came over to me and asked me what was wrong.  I just said, "Mommy will be ok. I'm just sad right now." She stepped up on the exam table step and just leaned into me so that she could hug and comfort me.  Of course,
I cried some more...
About that time, Dr. Beal knocked on the door.  He came in with a somber face...usually, he is grinning ear to ear.  He came right to me and gave me a big hug and said, "You're having a rough day, aren't ya, girl?" He gave Roger a hug as well.  He stood across from me and started explaining what the plan was and what we could expect.  He said, "I want you to come back next week to do another ultrasound.  By next week, that heart rate should definitely be at least 100. Let's just assume your calculations are off, ok, if that's the case, we will just adjust your due date."

"And if it's under 100?" I asked.

"Then, you will likely miscarry."

 He continued on by saying how sorry he was and how much it sucked.  Yes, my doctor said, "It sucks."

I like him.

He assured me that he was available to me if I needed him, told me what to look out for over the next week, and told us we could go.  He gave Roger and I another hug and left.
I got ready and composed myself...really, I looked like a wreck.  Red, splotchy face, and a bright red nose like my momma when we cry.
The receptionist was so sweet.  She could obviously tell I was upset.  She encouraged me by saying she would pray for me.  She said, "You have 2 beautiful girls, and I know you will have more.  You hang in there, sweetheart."  Well, you all know me...I'm quite "leaky", and let's just say I leaked some more.

The walk from the receptionist to the door took forever.  I had to walk through a room of happy pregnant women with absolute despair on my face.  We made calls and sent texts to those who knew and asked for prayer.  I remained pretty much hopeless the rest of the day.  I was mourning the life that hadn't even been lost.  The next few days got better.  I still remained realistic, but was incredibly hopeful.  I began praying over my baby so earnestly, asking God to please heal my baby, to make its little heart beat faster, and to miraculously make my baby grow.  I learned a lot those few days.

Looking back now, I'm very glad our girls were with us at the appointment, because that was the most they would see their baby brother or sister in this life.

We didn't make it to our next appointment.

April 30th, our sweet baby went from my womb, straight into the arms of Jesus. Sort of ironic, considering our baby was already in His Hands as He was knitting our child together.
God does not make any knitting mistakes. The moment the baby was taken to heaven, it received a new body. Psalm 139 says that all of our days are ordained for us before one of them came to be....even those inside the womb.

Don't make any mistakes...God did heal our baby.  He just chose to heal him in His the perfection of Heaven.

Roger and I felt from the beginning that we were having a baby boy. So, when we refer to the baby, we do so as, 'he, him, his, etc'.

Here is the only picture we have of him.
I cherish it.

My baby never breathed fresh air, he breathed Jesus instead.

My baby never felt me hold him in my arms, he went to Jesus' arms instead.

My baby never heard my voice, the first one he heard was Jesus' voice instead.

My baby remained unnamed, yet he received a name the moment he entered God's prescence instead.

My baby didn't get to meet his momma, daddy, or his sisters here, instead, he met our family already in Heaven.
-His Nana, his cousins, his aunts, his uncles, his great grandpa's and his great grandma's.

We plan to name him here, though he already has his Heaven name. We have not decided on one yet. Just wait...we'll get to Heaven and lo and behold, there will be a cute girl there waiting to greet us after we went through our life believing she was a boy!  ;)
One night, I went to turn off my Scentsy, and noticed something incredible.
My pregnant figurine has remained.
Then, notice the figurine holding the baby.
(This figurine is actually called, "Grandmother").
Next, notice the picture of Roger with his momma...
Do you see the beautiful picture God allowed me to see?
Keta now holds my baby in Heaven.

So, here we are now in June, and I am finally physically better. My body took a long time...over 6 weeks... to realize it wasn't pregnant anymore. My pregnancy hormone levels are coming back down, though they are not completely gone. Emotionally, I am still dealing with the loss of our baby. I felt I was doing better, but as it turns out, I'm really not. My girls are suffering the consequences of this. I am physically there for them, providing them shelter, food, love, protection, though I have emotionally checked out. I am trying desperately to check back in, because they need me for more than physical needs. They need my attention...they need their mom back. No other time have I felt like a failure as a mom, than right now. I know, I know....I am not a failure. I am a good mom. I won't listen to the lies of the enemy. It's just my temporary circumstances have me so invested, that it is hard to think about much else. But, I cling to My Father and His Word.

 A big thank you to my friends and family who have prayed for us, called and checked on us, loved on us, held us when we cried, listened when we didn't make sense, made us meals, invited us into your homes, sent cards, helped out with our girls, helped me clean my house...the list goes on.  Your service to our family has not gone un-noticed and I am forever grateful.

Though the ache will never go away and I will be forever changed, I will be more normal one day.

It's just not today.

Though, this is the hardest thing I have ever gone through in my life, I know God is carrying me through every step. It is undeniable!  When people ask me how many children I have, I will no longer answer, "Two."  I will answer, "Three.  Two live with me, and one lives with Jesus." Maybe you have lost a baby.  I encourage you to mourn in your own way.  I don't fault you for not telling others if you don't want to. Life begins at conception, which means you are a momma at conception.  You are a daddy at conception.  You are a momma and daddy, even if you never got to give birth to, or hold your precious baby. Don't let anyone tell you differently.  I decided before I ever lost this baby that this is a life worth acknowledging.

Bless each of you who has lost a child, whether inside the womb, or out.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Facebook Break

For over 2 weeks, I have fasted from Facebook.  Well, to put it more bluntly, I deactivated my FB for an undetermined amount of time.  There are lots of reasons people temporarily deactivate.  Sickness, Tragedy, Unforeseen Circumstances, Job Interviews, Embarrassment, Fasting.... Well, the reason I stepped away for a bit is not from anything listed above.  It was because it was becoming toxic to my well-being.  Like poison.  No, I'm not exaggerating, even though I tend to do that. ;) This is the real deal!  There are a lot of things I need want to say, but I choose not to throw it out on FB, simply because if it doesn't edify and encourage others, it's pointless and useless and does more harm than good.

Now, hold on a minute...

I am NOT for fake...never has any problems...everything is perfect either! Life is brutal!! Just want to be clear. :) It can encourage others when you go through a hard time by how you get through it.

Currently, there is quite a bit of stress in several areas of my life.  Can anyone relate?!

Our church is going through some changes and with a husband on staff at church, that affects us two-fold.  One- It is my husband's occupation, therefore contributing to "work stress".  Two- This is our  church family.  We love these people! Some of our dearest friends are in the trenches with us.  It hurts us when they hurt.

Tragedies: Since January 2011, we have had 6 deaths of those close to us.  5 of which were family members, and 1 was one of our former students.  With each death, there is a whole new grieving process.  Disbelief and Isolation, Anger, Bargaining(If we had done this differently, then this wouldn't have happened), Depression, and ultimately, Acceptance.

Family stress: I hesitate to say anything in the chance I may offend some. But, in order to deal with a problem, you have to face it head on.  Simply put, there is some stress from every angle of our families, Roger's side included. My side has lost 3 family members within 2 years, and learning how to do things without them has been difficult.  Roger's side has lost 3 in less than a year. Not to mention cancer and sickness on both sides. Family members that are fighting for their life, right now.  Just rough. Then add in the affect it has on all of us.  I'm watching people I love make choices they know will harm them. I'm also watching myself struggling through it and wondering how I will handle it each day.  Trust me, it's different every day.  It's much like the grieving process listed above.  There are days when I'm angry. Days I'm depressed. Days I am bargaining-"Maybe if I had been a better wife, sister, daughter, mom, friend, etc...these things would not be happening..."(my inner dialogue)

Then, there are those stresses we all deal with from time to, friendships, disappointing those we love and care about, personal stuggles/addictions.

What was happening with Facebook, is I would see a passive aggressive status or comment, and I would just be infuriated.  If you have to choose whether you want to be passive aggressive, or just plain aggressive, I aggresive. B-E aggressive!  Whoa...that takes me back to my old cheerleading days! ;) But, seriously, why not handle it the way God says to?  I'm sure He didn't have in mind that we should throw verses back and forth at one another in order to win an arguement or prove a point, just for OUR own satisfaction of hurting someone.  For His children to be slinging hateful comments back and forth or saying things you wouldn't dare say to the person's face.  I don't think that's what He had in mind. God says to handle conflict by going to the person directly(Matthew 18:15).

Yes, I know it's much easier to make a case against someone and get them on your side, than handling it directly with the person you have the issue with.  Trust me, I've been there! But, the place that offers more peace is where I want to be. The way to do this, is to go to that person.  You can't control how they react to it, only how you react.

Very wordy post, I know...but if I can't be candid and honest with you and myself, what's the point?

I plan on returning later this week to FB.  I have dealt with some things I needed to deal with and I think I'll be a lot better off.  I have learned through this that life is more than what I want to post to FB!  I have started using my time in other ways. I got back to more quality time with My Savior and my family, blogging, texting or actually calling people, and, wait for it....listening to people when they talk to me rather than having the compulsion to check FB while the person is talking.  True story. :)  I highly recommend time away...time away where you can't get on and see what's going on! Time to live your life!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough's healthy.

Oh my goodness, y'all...  

Is your mouth watering yet? I don't know about you, but when I make cookies, my favorite part is eating the cookie dough! Well, I was in luck when I found this recipe on a great healthy dessert blog.  She has so many recipes I want to try! I absolutely have a sweet tooth, but I've been making healthier food choices and have started running again.  Yes.  It's true.  So, when I found this, you have to understand how very excited I was!  I can make healthy choices and still get to have some yummy sweets?  The answer was, "Yes.  Yes, I can."  Here was my experience in making this cookie dough dip!

Most importantly, I included my girls in the fun:

"Momma, can we please get started???"
Yes..I'm aware that her flower doesn't match her shirt... ;),
but a good helper, nonetheless.

 Loves helpin' Momma.

Here's what you'll need:
  • 1 1/2 cups chickpeas (1 can, drained) (250g)- (WHAT??? Are you kidding me?)
  • 1/8 tsp plus 1/16 tsp salt
  • tiny bit over 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup nut butter (You can get away with using only 3 T. If you use peanut butter, it’ll have a very-slight “pb cookie dough” taste, so if you don’t want this, you can sub oil.)
  • up to 1/4 cup milk of choice (Start with 1 T, and add more as needed)
  • Sweetener-2/3 cup brown sugar(you can easily get away with using less. I did!)
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 to 3 T oats (or flaxmeal) (You can omit, but also omit the milk if you do)
So, are you freaking out that there are beans in your cookie dough?  It's ok, I did to.  I promise you though, this stuff tastes wonderful! Plus, it's very high in protein and fiber.  You can dip fruit or graham crackers in it, or just eat it by the spoonful, like me! 

 Add all ingredients (except for chocolate chips) to a good 
food processor, and blend until very, very smooth. 

Then, mix in the chocolate chips.

 Delish!  Seriously, it's kid tested and approved, you can't fake that! 

~~~Funny story:  I actually bought my chickpeas in the bag, and made this while they were still hot from cooking. I simply could not wait! :) I added the chocolate chips too early and they melted!  So, it turned out looking very chocolatey... like pictured above. Well, I gave it another shot and was patient this time!  Here's what it's "supposed" to look like:
more like cookie dough, right?
Either way, they both tasted incredible!

So, who's making some "cookie dough" this week? Not your thing?  Well, Katie has tons of other choices on her page.  You should check it out!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Homemade Dishwashing Soap

If you're like me, you're always looking for ways to keep a little more money in the bank to be used more efficiently.  For the past year, I have made my own laundry soap and "dryer sheets" and have saved my family hundreds of dollars! I have been hesitant to make my own dishwasher soap because I dread the thought of having to re-wash loads for fear of the yucky white residue.  Can anybody relate? So, I finally found one that works, is easy to make, and, BONUS, is economical!  Oh, can I also add that it took less than 5 minutes to make??? That's a commercial break!

Here's what I used:
Borax, Washing Soda(not baking soda), salt, and citric acid

1 cup of Borax

1 cup of Washing Soda

1/2 cup of citric acid...use more for very hard water 
(I've seen people use Kool-Aide packets of lemonade for the 
same citric acid, the smell would be great!)

1/2 cup of salt
(It called for coarse Kosher salt, but I used what I had)

Stir/Shake together in an old container, and it's ready to go!

It only takes 1 Tablespoon, which will yield about 48 loads!  
I also put about 1/2 TB in my pre-wash, but it's not necessary, unless your dishes are like mine...dirty!! ;) 
Avoid using too much as it will result in white coated dishes!

As usual, I use vinegar as my rinsing agent instead of Jet Dry.  
It works, you've got's CHEAP!!

Here's to shiny, clean dishes without breaking the bank!