Thursday, December 31, 2009

Totally unexpected, and a picture of what life would be like.

My dad is not the type of person to really dwell on things he can't change.  He's the type that deals with a problem until it's fixed or if it can't be, to just move on with his life.  For the most part I am too.

But not about Cora.

I understand that my dad loves me, and I love him too, but sometimes I have been a little hurt by his way of being helpful.  He's never meant it in a mean way, but I can't forget about Cora and that's what it feels like he is telling me to do.

Anyway, we spend Christmas with my family and it was so wonderful.  Nobody commented when I put out Cora's stocking, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world.

After all the presents were opened, my dad said "oh wait, here's another one."  ((my dad frequently has a "surprise" gift that he "forgets" about)).  He handed me a small box.  It looked like he had wrapped it himself (which is rare for him).  He said "I want you to open this, but it needs to stay here."

The tag said "for Cora."  Tears sprang to my eyes and my hands were shaking so that I could barely open it myself.

Inside was this:

I don't know if he truly understands how much it means to me that he did that.  I talked to my mom...he did it on his own, without prompting from her.  And it almost means more to me that he is keeping it with his other special trinkets, instead of giving it to me to bring home with me.  It's something he bought for him to see and remember her.  It helps to know that my family misses her too.

And then the next day I went to visit my best friend and her kids, so that I could meet her youngest and she could meet mine.  Her oldest, Katy, I have mentioned before.  She is 2 months younger than Cora would be.  She also has red curly hair.  It was kind of bittersweet to see her playing with my children and to see what my life should have been.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A story I wrote for Cora

So, while I was visiting my parents, I took on the project of organizing all the recipes my mother had printed out and stacked on top of the refrigerator.  Unbeknownst to me, she had printed out a short essay that I had written shortly after Cora was born (that followed some impressions I had that I felt were in answer to prayers), and it was among the stack of papers.  It was totally unexpected to stumble upon it, and reading it brought me to tears.  But the good kind of tears.  And I felt that it needed to be shared here.

This story assumes the understanding of some points of doctrine from my church that may be a little different for some, so if you have any questions feel free to ask.  Anyway, here it is:

We were sitting on the grass, not speaking really. It was almost my time to go, and very little could be said. We missed each other already, but neither of us wanted to cry. Me, because I was excited to go, and her, because she was excited for me. But inside she did want to cry and I knew it. She wasn’t going to get the experience I was going to, because she didn’t need it. In a way, I was jealous. Everyone was. She wasn’t going to have to have all the trials that the rest of us knew that we were going to. She didn’t need to, she just needed her body. But she was increasingly uncomfortable when people expressed to her that they were jealous.
“You should go, you know, you’re late,” she murmured. “Your mother is waiting anxiously for you.” Her voice was wistful, even sad, and I could tell something was wrong. I knew she was right, but I couldn’t just leave her in this state. I sort of knew what was wrong, but she never really spoke about it.
“You’re lucky, you know,” she said again, just as quietly. “You found out early who your parents were going to be. And they’re so excited to be getting you.” It was true that she didn’t know who her parents were going to be yet. She just knew that she wouldn’t be staying with them long. I wondered to myself what made it so some people knew early who their parents on Earth were going to be and some, like her, didn’t find out until right before they were supposed to leave.
“Your parents will be excited to be getting you!” I said indignantly. “At least, they’d better be!”
“But I’m not going to stay!” she said, seeming to shrink in on herself, but also seeming to finally be saying what had been bothering her. “I’m going to hurt them so much! How can I do that? How can they love me when they won’t even get to know me?”
“They will love you, even though you won’t stay long,” I said soothingly.
“Everyone here already knows you and loves you! So how can they not when they get there and get you?”
“But they won’t remember,” she said definitively. “It will be like we’ve never met. And even then, I don’t want to hurt my mother like that! I watch the others like me, the ones who come home quickly. I watch their families. I see their pain. I don’t want to cause that!”
“I’ll be your mother,” I said suddenly, quickly making up my mind.
“I’ll be your mother,” I repeated. “I love you so much that I don’t want you to worry about that! So, I’m choosing to do it so it won’t be such a shock to your mother.”
“But I don’t want you to hurt!”
“I love you, don’t worry about it!” I said. “I would gladly do that for you! You need a body. I’ll give you one. It’s the best way I can think of to thank you for being my friend. And it won’t hurt as much because I volunteered to do it.”
“But you won’t remember,” she said.
“Then it’s your job to remind me, isn’t it?” She didn’t say anything. She just threw her arms around me and we collapsed into tearful laughter.
“Okay, we just need to tell Him.” Just then, my sister walked up. My big sister, who had also come home early.
“There you are!” she proclaimed, half joyfully and half sternly. “You need to go! You’re late! Mother’s waiting for you!”
“Okay, okay, I’m coming!”
“What were you two doing anyway?”
Cora, my dearest friend, said, bursting into a radiant smile, “Brittanie’s going to be my mother! She told me she would!”
“Oh good,” Bethany said with a grin of her own. “He was hoping you would. Let’s go tell Him quickly before you go.”
“But I’m late!” I protested.
“It’s okay,” Bethany said as we rushed away. “You won’t be long, and Mother’s not going anywhere. This is important.”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What's in a name?

Yesterday I came across a blog of a lady who lost her 6 day old baby at the beginning of December to an undiagnosed congenital heart defect.

The baby's name was Cora.

This is the 4th girl named Cora (counting mine) that has died that I've come across.  But I don't know anyone in real life - or online either - who has a daughter named Cora who has lived.  No, I don't think the name is cursed, but it is really frustrating to me.  And it's got me thinking a lot about Cora's named and why we named her what we did.

I was on the phone with Matt one evening, several months before we got engaged (though we HAD talked about getting married).  We were discussing genealogy.  Since my family has been LDS for what seems like forever (I have ancestors who were very early converts, and several who were pioneers), my recorded family history is extensive.  However, Matt's parents are converts, so it hasn't been something his family has been doing for a long time.  So he was telling me what he knew about his family, and told me about his great-grandmother Cora Phipps Cannady.

It was electric.  I said "Oh, that name is so pretty, I love it."
To which he responded "Well, maybe that's what we'll have to name our first girl."  Which made me smile because it meant that he was at least seriously thinking about marrying me.  lol  But I decided that yes, we did need to name our first girl Cora.  And, being me, I did a little research on the name.

Cora means "filled heart."

And then I went on the lookout for a middle name.  It's a family tradition in my family to have middle names start with R.  I was searching on this baby name website, when I stumbled upon Rei.  It's a Japanese name, meaning "gratitude" and it was perfect

Cora Rei means "heart full of gratitude."

I don't think I can really explain how excited I was when we confirmed she was a girl, and I realized I was going to get my Cora Rei.  I was so excited to be able to introduce her "and this is Cora," to sign her name on things, and teach her to write her name.  To call her in to dinner from the back yard.

In many ways, I mourn the loss of the name as much as I mourn the loss of my daughter.

I meant her name to teach her something, to be a reminder to her throughout her life.  I don't think I ever considered the impact that it would have on me.  I am forever grateful for my sweet angel girl, all that she taught me, and all that she still is teaching me.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I never expected it.

Not counting the plethora of miscarriages (not saying that miscarrying isn't tragic in its own right, it's just a bit different), there are still several angels in my family.  There are five I can name readily, whose parents are still living (going back to great-grandparents there are a whole lot more).

My cousin Josh lost one of his twin boys to SIDS last year at 6 months.
Cora was stillborn.
My mother's brother and wife lost a baby (early 3rd trimester?) shortly after birth
My parents' first was stillborn in the second trimester.
My father's parents lost a little girl shortly before her 3rd birthday.
My mother's parents' first little boy was stillborn

But I never even fathomed that it could have happened to me.  Even with a family history of loss, I just never imagined that it would have happened.  I expected to miscarry (as crazy as that sounds), but once I got to the big ultrasound and everything was perfect, I just assumed I'd get a baby out of it.  After all, stillbirths didn't happen any more unless there was something wrong with the baby right?

I mean, Lynn (my mother's brother) was the only other angel in my history (Josh's baby doesn't count, he died after I lost Cora) that there wasn't some sort of physical problem involved and that was nearly 60 years ago.  I truly thought that modern medicine had gotten to the point where babies didn't die before they were born anymore, unless they were sick.  And Cora wasn't sick.

Of course, I know better now.  I look down the list of Cora's angel friends and very many of them both mother and baby were perfectly healthy.  It makes me sick almost, to think that it's still so very common.

Friday, December 11, 2009

heart crushing

I was watching the latest episode of Bones on today.  It's the Christmas episode.  Earlier in the episode, Dr. Brennan is told that when you are alone on Christmas it means that nobody loves you.

Later, she and Agent Booth are discussing the man that died, how it was only him and his mother, and she was burying him on Christmas morning, by herself.

Brennan said, "Isn't that heartbreaking?"
Booth said, "When I say that, you tell me that the heart is a muscle and therefore can't be broken, it can only be crushed."
So then she said "Fine, then, isn't that heart crushing?"

I love that phrase.  It just fits so well.  My heart was crushed and in a way still is.  I miss my little girl so much.  I don't know what it is about Christmas but it is still hard.  Don't get me wrong I love Erin and Patrick and I am so excited to get to teach them why I love Christmas and why we celebrate and to pass on traditions.

But then I look at the unused stocking on the wall.  The one that gets filled with a gift for the family and a letter to a baby I can't hold.  It should have candy and toys.

I know I'll get to hold her again someday and I am looking forward to that day SO MUCH.  But here and now, my arms still ache.  They are so full, but they still ache.

The human heart is a resilient thing.  Nothing else can keep working like it does after being so thoroughly crushed.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wait for me

So I love pandora.  It gives me a way to broaden my musical experience (wish I had a pandora for books...), and I have found so many Cora songs from just letting it play.

Today's was "Wait For Me" by John David Webster

In my desperation,
with my arms open wide
I lift my hands to the sky.
Can you hear me calling?
Are you there at all?
Are you right beside me?
I just need to know you are.

In my heart, in my dreams
I see you standing there.
With my eyes, you know
I'll see you again.
Down deep in my soul,
In the silence of who I am.
In my heart.........
You wait for me.

Oh the stars are falling
across the world tonight.
My heart is breaking,
no nothing's right.
Was it a burst of glory?
Did your spirit fly?
Only wish I had
one more chance to say goodbye.

Cause in my heart, in my dreams,
I see you standing there.
And with my eyes, you know
I'll see you again.
And down deep in my soul,
In the silence of who I am.
In my heart.........
You wait for me.

So hold me tonight
until the pain and the fear subside.
I know love will never die.
Cause this is more than I can bear.
And I know that you're still there.
Waiting, waiting.

Cause in my heart, in my dreams
I see you standing there
And with my eyes, you know
I'll see you again.
And down deep in my soul
In the silence of who I am.
In my heart,
I'll see you again.

Someday, Someday
I'll see you again.
I believe,
I know one day I'll see you.
I believe, I know,
you wait for me.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Jenny Lake

Yesterday was my cousin's first anniversary and it got me thinking about  my own.  We were a month and a half "into" our loss (Cora was stillborn May 2, our anniversary is June 17), so it was still very raw.  We chose that weekend to go camping in Grand Teton National Park and spread Cora's ashes on Jenny Lake.  Why our anniversary?  Well, it was just the weekend that fit the best for everyone, as my sister and Matt's sister wanted to come with us.  It was really nice to have family support.

I didn't realize until I was wishing my cousin a happy anniversary how robbed I feel of the anniversary I should have had.  I've thought endlessly of  all those parenting experiences I lost, but it never occurred to me that I also lost my first anniversary.

It should have been me finding a babysitter and going to dinner somewhere nice and worrying about my baby the entire time, and then rushing home to put her to bed and watch a movie at home with my husband.  That's what it should have been.

I did get some gorgeous pictures though.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

She cried first

I met Telima when I was 16 and my family moved to Las Vegas.  She told me once that she felt lonely in the church Young Women group, and needed a friend, and had decided I would be that friend.  It makes me smile thinking about that.  It took us a few months but soon we were best friends.

We made lots of plans about our future.  We planned on being each others' maids of honor in our weddings, and then being pregnant together and our children being best friends.

And it looked like those dreams would all come true.  We got engaged a day apart, and we got married 5 weeks apart.  We were each others' maids of honor.  So I was ecstatic when she became pregnant 2 months after I got pregnant with Cora.  And when they both turned out to be girls, it couldn't have been more perfect.

And it all fell apart in a second.

I felt so robbed, and I very much envied Telima.  Grief is a very selfish thing though, and I saw everything in reference to me.

When Telima called me to tell me that Katy was born, I was surprisingly okay at first.  Maybe I had just turned myself off, I don't know.  But then Katy woke up, and started to fuss a little, and Telima said "ooooh, shhhh baby girl."  In that moment the sheer reality of what I had lost hit me.  And not only that, but I and lost that friend that I had always done everything with.  Suddenly she was on a different plane.  She was doing something I wasn't able to do, and didn't really understand.  And it hurt so badly.

She was so sweet.  Even though Katy was crying, she wanted to stay on the phone to make sure I was okay.

So then on July 2, on Cora's 2 month birthday, we went through Utah on our way to Las Vegas and decided to stop in to visit Telima and newborn Katy.  I was terrified.  I wanted so much just to be happy for my best friend and her new little baby, but I didn't know what it would be like.  It just hurt so much.

I remember sitting on the couch, holding this teeny little baby in my arms (who was ALSO a redhead!  How adorable would that have been to have two little curly haired redheaded girls running around???).  Emotions raged in my head but I held it all in.  I just wanted to be happy for her.

And then I looked at Telima and she had tears running down her face.  As I crumpled and the tears just started flowing, I realized something: it wasn't just my loss.  I realized then just how many other people it had affected.  Yes, Telima still had her daughter, but she had also had those dreams that we had shared of our daughters being best friends torn from her.

I know she doesn't think about it as often as I do.  I know she doesn't feel that gaping hole that I do.  But I do know that she occasionally wonders what it would have been like, and it's good to know I'm not alone in that.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Merry Christmas from Heaven

I still hear the songs.
I still see the lights.
I still feel your love
on cold wintery nights.

I still share your hopes
and all of your cares.
I'll even remind you
to please say your prayers.

I just want to tell you
you still make me so proud.
You stand head and shoulders
above all the crowd.

Keep trying each moment
to stay in His grace.
I came here before you
to help set your place.

You don't have to be
perfect all of the time,
He forgives the slip
if you continue the climb.

To my family and friends
please be thankful today,
I'm still close beside you
in a new special way.

I love you all dearly,
now don't shed a tear
'cause I'm spending my Christmas
with Jesus this year.