February 12th, 2016.
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
February 12th, two years ago, we dressed Mila in her most beautiful outfit. It was a delicate pink color and had a big beautiful rose on it. This outfit hung on the crib long before Mila was even born. It was going to be her going home outfit. Although, in my prayers it was going to be our home, not her heavenly home.
I combed her silky dark hair and ever so gently placed a white flower bow in her curls. Part of me wanted to scoop her up but there was also something in me that knew it wouldn’t bring the same comfort it used to.
At the church we setup the picture boards, blankets, outfits and her favorite hair accessories. We chose a delicate white basket for her to be placed in. Pastor Rob and Pastor Steven led a beautiful celebration of life service. Annie sang Mila’s song and we celebrated our baby’s 4.5 months of life and rejoiced that Mila was with our heavenly Father in paradise. We shared Boston memories and then we welcomed our family and friends to meet our precious baby and say their goodbyes all in the same moments.
After everyone had their time with Mila, Matt and I joined the funeral home director as he wheeled Mila out to the car. Matt and I gave her one last kiss and spoke our final words over her. This was it. Finality. We closed the car door and in that moment began life without our Mila Rose.
February 12th, 2018.
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
I listen to the steady breathing of our newborn baby boy as he sleeps. Nolan Matthew entered the world on November 16th, 2017 at 2:29pm weighing 7lb11oz. I had my third natural birth and Dr. Lipscomb who cared for me so well during Mila’s pregnancy delivered Nolan. Our baby is heart healthy and looks just like his sisters. He is perfect in every way and we are smitten. Thank you to everyone who prayed for him before he was even a twinkle in my eye.
This birth experience this time was different. The labor felt more intense and the pain more significant. My husband would argue this was the easiest labor thus far but I think a part of me was reliving my labor with Mila and the pain that came with each contraction was a physical reminder that she was no longer with us.
We spent the first few days in the hospital bonding as a family. It was my one wish that we not have visitors. The first few days with Nolan felt sacred. I needed to breath in his newborn smell and feel the steady rhythm of his heart. I needed quiet and I needed space to both rejoice and grieve. I needed it to be just our family. I have no regrets about our time in the hospital.
Brenna’s first visit was less than an hour after Nolan was born. He was born at 2:29pm and school let out at 3pm. It was perfect. She got to hold him and kiss him. Seeing the two of them together was witnessing answered prayers. I know Mila was looking down from heaven and smiling. I cherish those first hospital days of holding and snuggling our son.
After a short hospital stay, we were ready to go home. As I stood watching my family walk ahead of me down the hospital corridor, I realized how many times I had been in this scene but under very different circumstances. I saw this same picture when they left Boston- only they were walking away from me, leaving with bags packed to get on a plane and fly hundreds of miles back home. We weren’t leaving as a family. Daddy wasn’t carrying a baby in a car seat. I remember Brenna would walk with suitcase in hand, turn around for one last “I love you, mama!” and smile as she walked away. But this time, I joined my family. I didn’t have to make the lonely walk back up to the CICU on 8S. This time we took a baby with us and this time we didn’t have to say “see you later”. It amazes me how the same picture can entirely change meaning over time. Two years separate extreme pain and intense joy.
We arrived home and started our new chapter. I want to be transparent, the birth of a rainbow baby brings joy you didn’t know was possible, but it also stirs up pain in places you didn’t know existed. The what-ifs and what could-have-beens resurface. The longing for all of our children to be together will never go away. I have found myself seeing Mila in Nolan’s face. I have also wished Mila was here to dote on her baby brother as Brenna is doing. There is a tangible void felt in our family as a result of Mila’s absence.
The first few weeks of Nolan’s life I battled with strong emotions of anxiety, sadness, and a constant feeling of being overwhelmed. My fuse was very short. I assumed this was all normal but after these feelings didn’t lift my best friend encouraged me to contact my OB. I talked with my midwife and after discussing my symptoms with her I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. I never had it with my previous pregnancies but as soon as I started the recommended medication (progesterone and eventually an anti-anxiety medication), I felt a weight lifted. I no longer wanted to remain isolated. I woke up with joy instead of anxiety.. Honestly, I did everything I could to avoid medication, but for now it’s helping me be a better wife and mom which to me is worth it.
I love, love, love the newborn phase and treasure each and every little thing. I have a newfound perspective that makes the ordinary feel like a gift. Holding my baby freely, giving him baths, letting him sleep on me, even changing his diapers. These are all things I now treasure. Nolan is a champion nurser and is covered in delicious baby rolls. His smile lights up a room and his giggle melts hearts. Once again I am in awe that God picked me to be this child’s mama.
On Sunday, February 4th we had the privilege of dedicating Nolan in front of our church family. I looked at Matt in the car on the way and exclaimed how happy I was. It was one of the few times since Mila’s passing that I have felt complete joy. Pastor Rob dedicated Mila to the Lord’s care nearly two years prior, almost to the day. It was a dream come true to stand alongside Pastor Rob and hear him dedicate Nolan as well as our family and to have him include Mila in his dedication speech:
Pastor Rob, “It was about two years ago this last week that we lost Mila Rose. Today is a special day in this family’s life because looking over the banister of heaven I do believe based on Hebrews Chapter 12, it tells us we are being cheered on by those who have already made their heavenward journey. I believe she can be a part of this today as she looks at the beautiful thing God is doing. She understands fully, she sees the Lord fully and she rejoices in Nolan coming to the alter of the Lord today, so on this special day for us as a church family we not only share in the sorrow but in the rejoicing of the dedication of a child.”
Pastor Rob prayed Nolan would live out his name, “Noble Gift from God”. I was so proud in that moment standing next to Matt and Brenna, holding Nolan and feeling Mila’s presence with us. To God be the glory!
It’s also fitting that not only was Nolan dedicated nearly two years to the day that Mila was but our church decided to feature my story this month. Matt encouraged me for months to write my whole story and submit it. I finally did it. I’ve shared bits and pieces throughout my blogs but this is my story in its entirety, dating back to when I was an orphan in Colombia.
Please visit http://calvarynow.com to read my story, ” Little Miracle, A Story of Big Faith”.
From saying goodbye to Mila to saying hello to Nolan… two years have carried us from sorrow to joy. Two years have led us to another chapter of the Lord’s plan for our family. I am grateful. I am hopeful. I am proud. Proud to know Mila’s name is spoken freely and often. Proud to have three beautiful children and a husband who provides for us and loves us. Proud to have a God who writes the best stories despite the difficult chapters.
I wake up each day thankful for the blessings God has poured upon us. While grief is a never ending process, there is more space now for peace and laughter. and acceptance. The hard days still come, often out of nowhere. But I’m finding there are the sweetest Mila reminders if I just stop to look. Much to my surprise I still meet people to this day that prayed for us. People that recognize me, not as Lisa, but as Mila’s mom. I love those days. I’m encouraged when friends send cards on her heaven day and say her name. I am encouraged when our church chooses to print my story during Heart Month and Mila’s Heaven Month. It’s in these gestures that I’m reminded that we are still held.
Life is messy. Life is hard. Life is unpredictable. Life is beautiful. If anything I’ve ever written has helped, encouraged or just touched you, please let me know. I’d love to connect with you.
Photos: Party of 5 and a brand new Nolan Matthew