So I am emotional this week. Usually I am able to keep a lid on it, hold myself together, but not this week. As I remember Koen and mourn the loss of him, I find myself grieving other losses as well. Tobin has started to walk this week, with the use of his little old man walker. When I snuggle him, he wiggles to get down, so excited to move. He's growing up, beginning to break away before he is even a year. He is my last baby, so I find myself slowly saying goodbye to these stages, knowing they will not return to our home.
And because those tears weren't enough. I decided I needed to examine in photographs, the rapid growth, and years gone, with my Hackett.
This sad morning started peacefully with snuggles from all three guys in my house. While my heart hurts, these sweet faces help to mend it.
After drop off this morning Tobin and I went to pick out Koen's birthday present, flowers for his grave. They are beautiful, but who buys their two-year-old boy flowers? Oh, how I wish I could have watched him pedal a new tricycle today, seen his face glow with delight. I told Tobin all about the big brother he doesn't know today, what fun they would have had together.
I had trouble leaving the cemetery today, so hard to leave him alone on his birthday. So Tobin and I walked the cemetery, and gave thanks to the many servicemen and women whose flags were proudly flying. We walked by the little chapel where Koen's funeral took place, and the sign that marks Koen earthly resting place. It is so beautifully heartwrenching there.
Koen has taught me that life is for living, no matter how difficult the circumstances may be, each day is a gift. Koen doesn't need me to stay curled up in a ball crying on his grave, those tears and feelings of abandonment are for my wounded heart. He gets to dance and color with Jesus, who knows, maybe he even has a tricycle up there too. So even on days like to today, when my heart aches, I choose life. I choose to smile and laugh with these two gifts that I get the honor of living life with - even if it is in between the tears.
We celebrate Koen's life, even if it was never outside my womb, he remains a living part of our family and always will. Happy Birthday, my birthday boy, I love you and miss you more than I can even begin to describe. I missed your coloring tonight at sunset, I was busy living. Maybe I will see your beautiful picture tomorrow night. Rest well in Jesus' arms my sweet boy.
I am laying in the camper listening to the rain fall while a sleeping Tobin is in his crib beside me. All weekend we have been surrounded by so much of our family - making memories, laughing, living life, but my heart and my mind have often been elsewhere. Especially when I see our sweet baby girl cousin who will soon be two. Tomorrow is Memorial Day, while it isn't May 27th, it is the day that I will always relive Koen's death and his birth. He would have been 2.
After he died I thought, Memorial Day was ruined for us. Thinking we would always be silent and huddle ourselves close to home every year. I have come very far, realizing now that life must be lived, celebrated. Hackett has a pile of memories from these few days and that is a gift. I want our family to live, but it can be a challenge when I am often thinking of death. I feel alone on my island of grief at times. Rarely is it talked about out loud. Only a few ever even speak Koen's name or ask. Most assume all has returned to a normal, or maybe just feel like enough is enough and I should get over it. It's okay, I get it, I really do, but it feels very isolating. You see I miss him. I wonder about his face, so much. So much so, that I contacted an artist hoping to get a painting done just so I could see what he might look like now - even if it was someone else's interpretation. I also feel the heavy weight of the guilt and shame of his death, somehow feeling responsible. My body failed him, I buried him, have a new baby, life has moved on, and as a result I feel like I have betrayed him. I realize that these are not rational feelings, but grief is irrational.
I have been reliving the play by play in my head all weekend. Koen had already died now, although I didn't really know it. I had felt decreased movement and was worried, pushing often on my stomach attempting to make him move. The contractions started during the night, but I just didn't believe it and waited until morning. Never did I think this was possible. Tomorrow the moments will haunt me on a loop. All while I maintain life as normal, helping my family to live.
This past Saturday I went to my first ever Mother/Son event with Hackett's school. I missed the one in kindergarten. I missed the one in first grade. Sweet special moments, gone. I just read a blog about how quick time passes with our kids, we get 18 summers, and then they fly out of our nest. In many ways I feel like I lost two years, I missed so much, between our loss of Koen and my bedrest with Tobin. Maybe that's why I am so stinking excited to begin our family camping adventures, it's because I get to be an active participant in summer with my family for the first time in years.
The Mother/Son night each year is a minor league baseball game at the stadium in town. I had purchased tickets for Hackett and I to go his kindergarten year, but on the day of the game, we buried Koen. The tragedy of that overwhelms me. In first grade I sent him off with a sweet friend and her son as I lay in my hospital bed in the living room, so amazing of her to share her night with Hackett, but so sad to watch him go without me. I grieve the time I lost with Hackett, not that we would have spent much time together because the nights highlights include the boys playing with their friends, and the moms gabbing with one another. But I wanted to be there for it.
This year I made it, but it was not without a few tears. As I sat down in the stadium my eyes welled up. I had not been there since May 25, 2013 - just two days before I delivered Tobin. I felt strange that night at the game, physically not right, but chalked it up to pregnancy. Looking back at symptoms and decreases in Koen's movement - I think he died that night, at the game. The memories, the regret, are haunting for me. My dear friend was by my side and aware before I even shared. I conquered a giant this Saturday by walking through those gates, and once again being an active participant in life.
Hackett spent just enough time with me to snap this pic with his cotton candy face, and what joy I had watching him love every minute of the night.
One year ago today our dear friends baby, Isaiah, was taken from this earth at just 8 months old. This morning I was praying about what I could say to Isaiah's precious mommy. My words cannot heal or repair the horror that is replaying in her head today. I turned to the Word, praying that God may use his words to comfort her on this day. As Jesus does, he met me in His word. I felt his nudge to write here, as it ministered to my heart, and maybe it will to yours too.
24“ ‘ “The LORD bless you
and keep you;
25the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
26the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” ’
27“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
This seems like such a happy passage, doesn't it? When not looked at in context, it seems that God will shine down on us and we will only know rainbows and butterflies - pure happiness and peace. As you know, my sweet friend, more than most who walk this earth, this is not God's intended meaning. God's chosen people - those that he shined on - lived as slaves in Eygpt for more than 200 years. I can't begin to imagine what that life must have been like, the heartache and pain they must have endured. Then God used Moses to deliver them from their bondage. As they left Eygpt I bet they were dreaming of walking into paradise, but God then sent them to a dessert for 40 years. How angry they must have been, how betrayed they must have felt, how they must have questioned God in those moments - just as we have done. During their time of slavery many had turned from God and he used the time in the dessert to humble his people and draw them back to him. It is important to remember that this is Old Testament God, before Jesus came to deliver us. I do not believe that God purposely puts us in the dessert, but he uses the valleys we find ourselves in, in this imperfect world, to bring us closer to him. This scripture passage was given to God's people while they were in the dessert, while they were battered, tired, worn, and so desperately longing for hope. This scripture passage does not promise a perfect life in an imperfect world, but rather that God will hold you, shine on you, bless you, keep you in his arms, and give you peace - even when you find yourself in the dessert. My sweet friend, I pray you rest in those promises today as your heart hurts and aches. I love you so. Isaiah is shining down on you today as Jesus holds you both in his arms.
I could almost feel the weight on my heart as this month approached, but it took me a few weeks to realize why my emotions were so elevated. May is hard. It is a heartbreaking month for me, with many reminders. It was the last month I spent with Koen, we had fully embraced the knowledge of him being a boy and I was thrilled. I had his closet ready, new outfits bought, and I was just SO excited to meet him. I literally felt giddy, more so than my other two pregnancies. With Hackett I was really excited, but also nervous of motherhood, so many unknowns. After Hackett I knew how a baby could literally make your heart explode, in the very best way possible, so with Koen I knew what was coming and could not contain my happy. We had waited so long for our second, all that anticipation was building. I was also an at home momma this pregnancy, with my Hackett in kindergarten. I had the time to think, embrace, enjoy, and feel the excitement. What a gift that was. With Tobin my worry and fight outweighed all other emotions, the innocence of pregnancy had been lost.
I had 27 days with my big baby boy in May. I felt his intense kicks, as my little guy liked to keep me up late, and wake me up early. He spent Mother's Day with me in 2013, our only one together. Like so many other moments, on Mother's Day, my emotions are interwoven. This year I will celebrate being the mommy of three beautiful boys, but will celebrate with one of them missing from my lap. It is my honor to be their mother. Oh how I wish Koen were here with us, but I would never take away the 27 weeks we spent together, even knowing the outcome. He is mine and I am is, and his short life was a gift.
This past Sunday was Bereaved Mother's Day, a day that recognizes mothers like myself, who have experienced loss. Not something that I celebrate, but rather a day I recognize inside my own head. I, unlike so many others, have children that walk this earth and live in my home. I can not imagine the magnitude of the pain and loss if that was not the case. This past Sunday the weather was perfect by my standards, and we spent it with our extended family. We celebrated life, the birth of the newest member in our family, and the life of our brother who is braving battling what someone his age should not have to. Such perspective in all of that, it was hard to feel sad, being surrounded with so much life and love.
On May 27th it will be two years since Koen's birth and death. May 31st was the day of his burial. I feel a bit like Forrest Gump, because today "That's all I have to say about that". Maybe I will be able to go there in a few weeks, but I'm not ready today. It's too hard.
Two years ago my belly was getting bigger and bigger. I have real, tangible moments where I remember Koen being alive and growing inside me. Last weekend was Opening Day of Little League for Hackett. Two years ago I stood on the side of the road by myself, waiting for the parade. I vividly remember soaking in the moment, rubbing my pregnant belly, thinking about having another little Soper boy to wear muddy baseball cleats. Another adorable boy who would walk in the parade, who would beam and wave with delight and pride at his momma with his ball cap on top of his curly hair. I didn't know. I didn't know that it would Koen's first and only Opening Day parade. I didn't know that a year later, I would miss Opening Day because I would be laying in a hospital fighting to not lose my second baby in one year. As I stood there last week, pushing the stroller with a healthy Tobin inside, and being able to see Hackett play ball for the first time in two years, I felt the heaviness and joy all interwoven together. It's hard to fully understand the magnitude of what Hackett has endured, that alone is enough to break my heart. To see him be able to play, pitch, hit the ball so hard he can get a double - he grew up when I wasn't able to watch. I missed a year of it as I lay in the hospital or on a bed in our living room. It makes me so grateful to participate. To be. And to be able to do that with a healthy baby, who doesn't stop smiling in my arms, is literally overwhelming. My heart could burst with love and joy. Then I remember, and the heartbreak swoops in. I have to make a conscious decision at times to live and not let the heartache overshadow the joy. Koen would want me to live, he inspires me to live and embrace the happy, and he makes me want to love even more fiercly. Even when I am not a puddle of tears, but bubbling over with joy, it is because his life, and death, are interwoven to my very core.
Here he is in 2013, one tooth missing, and Koen in my belly.
In 2014, as I lay in the hospital, my guys carried on with life. My sweet, precious friend, Sandy, made sure I didn't miss these moments in photographs the entire season. I am forever grateful for that.
Look at the JOY in that face this year. I love him and his sleepy little, parade watching, brother more than words can ever describe.
I am Jackie.