I write a blog about sadness. I have written less this last year, and you know what? I have been less sad. Not, not sad, but less. It will forever just be less. I will never get to a place of not being sad at some part of my core. I can laugh, feel the wind in my hair, smell the sunshine on my boys blonde hair, and feel peace, calm, and happy, but a single instant later hear a wind chime and be reminded Koen and have tears well up in my eyes. Grief, guttural grief, does not go away. You can find your happy, be happy, feel happy, but the sadness remains.
I love Facebook, I do. It has logged so many memories of our life and I love it especially for that. This week though is a tough one. Four years ago this week, we saw our healthy baby on an ultrasound. Our healthy baby who was growing perfect, my pregnancy without complications. His measurements at our 20 week ultrasound - perfection. Four years ago we learned that Koen, was Koen Wayne Soper, our second boy. We left that appointment, went out for lunch while Hackett was at school. Kevin and I were giddy, texting and calling, and smiling without end. Our excitement was bubbling over. It had been six years since we had Hackett, it felt all new again. On that day, I bought Koen his first outfit, the one I would bury him in. My goodness I loved him. I loved on Koen during pregnancy more than I did Hackett or Tobin. When I was pregnant with Hackett it was as if my maternal instincts didn't kick in until I saw him, that's when my heart exploded. I remember trying to talk to Hackett while I was pregnant, and thought "well that's weird". But with Koen, I knew. I knew how crazy in love I would be with him, and I loved him more from the beginning. Hackett was at school during my pregnancy and it was just me and Koen all day at home. I rocked him in his room, sang to him, talked to him. Loved on him, and told him I loved him all the time. Maybe that is typical with your second, or maybe God gave me that as a gift. Koen and I had time together, peaceful, happy time, even if it was brief. I literally floated on clouds during my second trimester with Koen, life felt perfect. And then it wasn't perfect anymore. It was the farthest thing from perfect. I stayed floating in the clouds though, as I watched the world race by as time stood still for me.
I tried to be less sad, tried to move on. We got pregnant with Tobin, and while he has put my heart back together in so many ways, my pregnancy with him shattered it further. Three years ago I was admitted to the hospital at 24 weeks gestation with our Toby V. It was hard to get too attached to my growing belly while doctors are giving you survival rate statistics that lead you to believe you may possibly bury your second baby in less than a year. I had Tobin's funeral planned in my head, I wanted to be ready the second time. I wasn't ready to bury Koen and had so many regrets, I didn't want to make the same mistakes twice. Our faith was strong, but his outlook was not promising. As my Facebook memories continue to pop up this week and read my blog updates from three years ago, my knees grow weak. Tobin was not supposed to make it to term based on all predictions medically. He is a miracle. Tonight my miracle is calling me "Jackie". "I love you, Jackie. Follow me, Jackie. Jackie, lets read a book." He can talk, run through puddles, and he tells me he's happy almost every day. "I so happy, momma." Does he know? Does he know what a gift his life is? I cry this week, for the loss of Koen, for the pain I felt as I fought for Tobin's life, for the little miracle who leads a happy life. I will forever be sad, but my boys - all four of them (I'm counting the biggest one too) - make me less sad when I realize how surrounded I am by their love.
Jesus has wrapped me in His love my whole life, but He brought me in even closer the last four years. Tears fell from my eyes as we sang this song on Palm Sunday this week, realizing how far we have come. I will forever praise him for carrying me, giving me Koen, and safely bringing Hackett and Tobin to me on earth.
After Koen died, I lived in a fog. A complete haze at times. I was present, but not there. I remember thinking "this is it, this is how it will always be". I didn't think I would ever escape the dense fog I was residing in. It didn't just last a week or two, but months. And even after the fog lifted and there were sunny moments, sometimes even days, it returned often. My pregnancy with Tobin brought another wave of fog. For over a year of my life I gripped tightly to the side of a mountain, clinging, reaching, and barely hanging on. I am sure the only way I kept my grasp is that Jesus had his hand under my feet, keeping me from plummeting down even further. Then we had Tobin. He was safe, we were relieved, we felt joy, and a new normal began for us. It felt good to breathe again, it felt good to pull myself from off of that ledge. You have read my journey as I processed my grief, so you know I did not ignore it, but at some point you make a decision to climb back on the train of life, instead of watching it race pass you. It seems that time heals, and in some ways it does, but truly time just allows you to grow accustomed to living with a shattered heart. I am not all better, even after almost 4 years, I am just better at living with a constant dull ache in my chest. Better at swallowing tears.
As we move further away from Koen's death, Kevin and I are learning that his death not only had a profound impact on our lives then, but also still today. The trauma lingers. We pushed things down out of survival. It changed us, both as individuals and as a couple. Both wanting to protect one another, we went to our own corners in sorrow. I share this knowing others can relate who have also gone through grief, but also to shed light on the fact that there is no time limits on grief and the trauma that someone endures. It gets wrapped up in the very fibers of your heart, your personality, how you are relationally, who you are at the core. You cannot expect others to be who they were in their "before" state, that person - their carefree nature and innocence is forever changed, not gone, but different. I flashback still. Not as often as I once did, but it happens. Some days I am off, impacted by the movie reel my mind plays for me. But my normal daily life is happy, filled with joy and parenthood frustrations, laughter and laundry. Some days or hours are hard though, traumatic even as you reluce memories. Extend grace to those you come in contact, you never know what trauma is lingering in their lives on the day you cross paths with them. Be kind..
I haven't blogged in months, I think after my last post, I needed a break. Needed to be alone with my own thoughts and feelings. But today, I feel like I have been swallowing tears all week, and much of what I am feeling I believe is universal.
Hackett and Tobin are 7.5 years apart. It has given me such a unique perspective as Tobin hits stages that have been gone from our house for so long that I have almost forgotten them completely. Our house is once again filled with the sweet sounds of pretend play. This morning as we woke up Tobin told me about the owl, flamingo, and polar bear who were climbing up the mountain outside our window. All in great detail, even though the blinds were still closed and we live in one of the flattest areas of the state. Its beautiful to watch him find joy, delight, and excitement, from literally nothing but his own precious mind. I am not sure the last time I saw Hackett escape in to his own world, its been years. He lives in the real world now all the time. This world is hard, it can be very scary, and there are so many unknowns. As you grow it becomes increasingly harder to find that escape, to breathe easy, to fall asleep without worries of tomorrow.
This week Tobin has been battling a virus. I can't take away his runny nose, but a cuddle can bring the comfort he needs. Today as I had music playing, he walked over and wanted to slow dance. He just snuggled in for 10 minutes as we danced around the kitchen, nuzzling his nose on my cheek and giving me kisses. Hackett still likes to cuddle his mom, but on his terms and his time. When life is hard, often his first response is not to come for me for comfort any more, but find his own quiet place first. There is so much that I cannot fix. So much beyond my ability to make better now for him. He no longer fills my arms, but more my daily thoughts. I wonder if he is okay at school, am I making sure he is healthy enough, did he pick up those flu germs going around school, is he happy, does he think I am nagging him all the time, have we taught him enough, do we set a good example for Jesus, will we have to move again and will he be able to endure that yet one more time, why did I lose my patience last night with him, what time is his practice, he needs to eat lunch before his game, does he have pants clean for school, does he feel accepted in this environment, is he rushing through his school work, am I being a the mom he needs, did he wear his coat, why won't his teammates pass the ball to the new kid, does he still enjoy learning, how is the bump on the back of his head. And while this - and more - swirls in my head, much of it I cannot speak out loud. I can't, and don't want to, fix everything for him. His age is very real to me, I know in order to worry about him less, I must trust him more. I must allow him to stumble and trip on his own, to fall and get up without help, to triumph and win on his own too. He needs that confidence, that feeling of responsibility and ownership. I have stepped back, and I don't get to step closer again. I have to keep releasing him. Allowing him to grow up and mature. And I will keep walking the tight rope along the fine line of being there to catch and support him when needed, but allow him to balance on his own. To stand. To be strong. To be a man.
I feel like this is a universal challenge, but I had to let go of Koen. I walked away from the hospital, from his gravesite, and the town where he is buried. It wasn't slow with him. He was ripped from me. But I had Hackett, and clung tight to him. As I am healing and he is growing, I have to let go of him too.
A snuggle and a coloring page are sure easier. And before I know it I will have to begin letting go of Tobin too.
Motherhood is the most beautiful heartbreakingly wonderful challenging experience.
Three years ago today we learned that we were pregnant with Tobin, and announced it to the world, in desperate need of prayers and support. I didn't feel ready (but wondered if I ever would), it had been less than 6 months since I had given birth to Koen. As I thought about the possibility of being pregnant earlier that month while I was getting ready for work, I was so overcome with emotion. I struggled to catch my breath, I was sweating, and literally fell to my knees. The fear of just "what if" was too much. So much so that I was prescribed a medication for anxiety, that I never took. I wanted to too, but feared anythings impact of our "what if" baby. Once I knew I was pregnant with Tobin, fear remained, but in a much more manageable way. I knew I needed to seek peace, remain calm. I couldn't let fear be my demise, and his. I thought our road with Tobin would be smoother. After so much testing, it seemed the infection that killed my Koen had been a fluke, unexplainable. The pregnancy with Tobin was not easy, in many ways I have similar trauma from the 9 months I carried him, so many moments I thought we would lose him too. We didn't. He's here, he's healthy. He exhausts me many days. It's not rainbows and sunshine and miracles raining down from heaven everyday. Yesterday he told me he loved me for the first time and it was beautiful. He's smart, his body and mind formed perfectly. He could have been born at 21 weeks, that is what the doctors were preparing for. But my tough little boy fought, that strong spirit that tests my patience on days, gave him the strength to stay put for 16 more miraculous weeks. After two close calls just this week, and they really ar not that close, but they scare me more than I should, I can't lose another baby. I had told Hackett I was still worried about one of Tobin's wild man incidences, and Hackett told me wisely told me "mom, you can't worry about the past." And then quickly added, "But you can worry about the present!" (That's more boy through and through!) I needed Hackett's reminder and the realization that Tobin's fearless nature is what got him safely to us. I need to let him be him, push the limits, test the waters, and learn through it all. What will he be some day? So grateful to sit on the sidelines and be able to watch. So grateful he's here. Three years ago I didn't know if I could say that.
I started to write a blog a few weeks ago, but couldn't find the words. I have no interest in getting in to a political debate, just share my feelings, so I struggled to choose my words carefully. This election year, these candidates, the state of this country, the vote tomorrow and the outcome - no matter which - has been making my stomach hurt. I have been praying all week, pondering, thinking, discussing with those I love and trust. Tomorrow, while I disagree with the candidate on so many things, most of them how he conducts himself personally, I will be casting my vote for Koen. For the sanctity of his life that only occurred in utero, for others like him. I held his 27 week gestation dead body in my arms and he was a baby, a whole perfect baby, flawlessly formed and beautiful. His life mattered.
There seems to be no right choice, no perfect candidate this election year. Both are flawed, my choice is without a doubt. There are so many issues, so many reasons to choose your candidate. This just happens to be mine. What makes this country amazing is that you get to choose, you get to choose what is important to you, you get to cast your vote. And I hope you do just that tomorrow.
So tonight as I am listening to Christmas music, and reflecting on Jesus coming to earth. From the day of his birth he was not accepted by government, his stance was not popular while he was on earth, and he came to save us. He endured all of that because of his love for us.
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him." John 3:16-17
My prayer is that you feel his love tonight, find peace in it, and in the coming week, not feel the judgement of others during this time of such uncertainty. And rest assured that God is bigger than this election.
“I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27
It's often a little trigger, last week I was watching something on TV and they went for a sonogram. I held my breath while I was watching. I fear for others, afraid that they may face the heartache that we did. That trigger launches me back to May 27, 2013. I relive every moment, some are beautiful and to be cherished. Others traumatic at a level beyond description
I miss my Koen. One of the hardest things about moving for me was the feeling of abandoning him, walking away. It is a four hour round trip now, so I sought refuge at a nearby cemetery. Cemeteries used to make me uneasy, not a place I was interested in lingering. But now, I see peace and love, and heartache, and comfort. I thought I only felt that where Koen is laid to rest, but last week as I walked amongst the graves of strangers I felt that same peace and comfort. I only took about 10 steps before I saw this grave stone.
Not exactly Koen, and pronounced much different, but seeing it took my breath away. He's with me all the time. As we strolled and read the tombstones, some dating over a 150 years ago, I saw so many babies. I tended to the grave of a momma who lost her infant son in the 1800s. And cried for her. This ache I feel is something that mothers have felt since the beginning of time, I am sadly not alone in my heartache. Medical advances have helped to minimize those impacted by loss, but some deaths cannot be avoided. I "what if" often, but there was nothing that I could have done to save Koen.
Moving is hard. So hard. But in our travels I have been given the most amazing friends. Ever. My friends worked together this weekend, visited Koen for me, and gave him mums at his grave just like his mommy always did. My gratitude is beyond all words. He's not alone, not abandoned. So many of you have poured out so much love of the years. Thank you for loving me, loving Koen.
Three years ago today I had planned to be admitted to the hospital, one week prior to my due date, to have a cesarean. We had planned to welcome a healthy and breathing Koen in to this world. Three. My goodness. Hackett is a talker, Tobin is well on his way - talking constantly even though we aren't real sure what he is talking about the majority of the time. What words would Koen have had for us? I think age three is one of the most adorable stages, and I'm missing it with him. Tobin grabs my leg and squeezes, pats my back and arm while we snuggle, runs his fingers through my hair. He loves me, needs me, and shows it. Sure he had a stage four meltdown yesterday, but when he is sweet, he is the sweetest. I see what is coming in the stage ahead with Tobin, as I cherished those special years with Hackett. But I don't get them with Koen. He won't be starting preschool with his tight blonde curls and backpack this year. Kevin has some amazing dimples - Hackett and Tobin did not get that adorable trait. I wonder if Koen did? We never got to see him smile. Three. He would have been three.
School starts for Hackett in a few weeks. He will be in fourth grade. I'm nervous for him. It's all new. New school, new kids, new routines. New is hard for me, but somehow its become the norm for our family. We don't ever get too comfortable. I hate when summer ends - as a kid, college student, a teacher, and now as a parent. I like having Hackett with me, I love lazy days together, and the slower pace of life. This year is even more difficult for me. I want to protect him from the new, rescue him from the unknown and scary. I want to continue to pretend that we are just on a glorified vacation at the beach. But I have to let him go. I have to watch him walk through the doors of a new building, surrounded by new kids, and I will stand and look at the sea of parents ... and they too will all be new. I know that he will be fine, do well, but it doesn't help on that initial day. It's like taking a dip in the cool waters of Lake Huron. Once you get used to the water it feels good, but the slow walk in is hard. It makes you shudder and want to get out. I feel like we are only knee deep in our new town, and its comfortable enough, but we have to plunge all the way in to the water in a few weeks. And I don't want to. I want to get out and lay in the sun a bit longer.
I've also realized we are at the halfway point with Hackett. He's nine, and in nine years we will be leaving him at a college dorm and pulling away without him in the car. I'm sitting in our sunroom, crying, and watching the clouds move quickly by. Just like time, it seems to be moving by at a quicker speed than I realize in our daily lives. But it is going so quick. Too quick. I want to reach out with both hands and slow it down. When I was pregnant with Hackett I heard all sorts of advice, mostly surrounding his infant years. A few would say "it goes too fast", but at 26 I just couldn't conceptualize what that truly meant. No one told me "get ready to let go". For me that is what motherhood is about, and its the hardest part. It takes 18 years to slowly rip off the band aid. The crazy dichotomy is that it can be so rewarding to let go. When I let go, and watch him soar, so does my heart. I want him to fly, and soar, and do great things. Yes, yes, I do joke with him about calling me every day when he grows up. But the reality is, I don't want him to. I want him to stand on his own two feet and be strong and capable. I want him to love his wife with his whole heart and give his extra energy and time to his own babies. I want him to touch hearts and shine bright for Jesus. I want him to have compassion for the hurting and stand firm in his beliefs and convictions. I want him to be a man. Right now he's my boy, but I see those days quickly slipping through my fingers. I'm excited for him, so excited to see what he will become and do. But my goodness how will my heart not shatter in to pieces from missing him in my home.
I think these feelings are normal and natural - right? I sometimes wonder if the letting go is more complicated in my already broken heart. I had to let Koen go. I had no time. He was ripped from my grasp. It wasn't a goodbye that lasted 18 years, just a few hours. No one tells you that motherhood is far more painful that childbirth. That you have to give your heart away and watch it walk out your door, or your womb.
This guy joined me right as a finished typing and posting earlier today. I slyly wiped my tears away and he brought me some joy, he always does.
We are settled in our new home, and are happy here, so happy. There are no boxes in the house (but the shed is overflowing), and our days have taken on a normal rhythm, after months of chaos, and it feels so good. The big guys are off at a movie, I just tucked Big T in, and in the quiet I planned to write. Give you all an update. But my heart is sidetracked, feeling the weight and strain of others hurt, pain, and suffering.
This world can be so dark, so painful, so broken. Trauma is felt by the large majority of us before we leave this earthly life. It seems inescapable. It comes in all different shapes and sizes, not all of us will experience the same heartache. But we will all feel broken, that knot in our throats, and ache in our stomachs at some moment in our lives. Some hurt so big, that a hug or funny joke, won't shake it. A hurt that lasts for days, weeks, months, or for some years. It's awful. Daunting. Overwhelming. I am an extremely sensitive person, and have been my entire life and I struggle watching others feel and experience the pain that is felt in this fallen world. If you are hurting today, I'm so sorry. If your heart is broken today, I'm so sorry. If the state of this country and world is scaring you, I'm so sorry. I feel all of this too, but the hope of Jesus saves me. I know a savior who is bigger than all of the pain and fear. Who is waiting with His arms open wide, ready to wrap you in his comfort and his unconditional love, even if you feel unworthy, I promise you are not. He loves you, battered and broken, he loves you. He is a God who will give you peace in a storm, the peace that surpasses all understanding. This earth is filled with darkness and sorrow, but it is not our home, heaven awaits. And Jesus will walk by your side and carry you through the storms of this earth until you meet him some day face to face.
He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
2 Corinthians 4:18
So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
I am always here to pray for you or to tell you more about my Jesus who I love and adore. My Jesus who makes it possible to wake each morning and not feel defeated. My Jesus who has carried me when it was not possible to stand on my own. My Jesus can't wait to be your Jesus too.
We move in just a few days. I have been longing and dreading this week. I hate living in limbo, its so uncomfortable for me. Change is hard, and anticipating the change, even harder. I have been telling Kevin for over a month that I just want to hit the fast forward button, we're exhausted, and ready to live a "normal" life again. Today was what I was dreading. We said goodbye to our people. And it broke my heart.
When we moved here from California my heart was broken too. I had told Kevin I didn't plan on making new friends, I already had them. My heart hurt so much that I closed the door. What I learned is that there was space for more. I hear from my California Crazy Love girls almost on a daily basis. We are in constant contact, I know what is going on in their lives, and them mine. They are my biggest cheerleaders and prayer partners. But God knew that I needed a crew here too. I would need people to pick me up at my darkest moments, he knew Hackett needed kids in his life. One by one he brought me my people. Their entire families have woven themselves into ours. They have become our family. Their kids like my own. Hackett who was an only child for so long, was able to not feel that loneliness because of these precious kids. These same kids don't stop doting on Tobin. I am afraid he will believe his whole life that he should be the center of attention because of them. They are our people and now we are leaving. Once again, we are leaving people who have given us so much of themselves,
I don't think it was possible to pack in more memories this week. We did it all, and it filled our hearts. Today was our last planned adventure with our kids, and my fellow momma's and I decided, we wouldn't say goodbye, because it wasn't. But as I put my boys in our car, I saw the panic on Hackett's face. He knew it was the end, and it hurt him more to not say goodbye. Out of the car we piled and my brave boy gave these special kiddos and their momma's one last hug with tears streaming down his face. We will see them again, often, because I can't fathom not. But the easiness is now gone. We said goodbye to the impromptu that we excel at. The hour here and there. The you take that kid, and I'll take this one. The come over for dinner tonight because you need a break. The soccer games. The summer filled with constant giggles, I will miss you and your kids more than words can describe. Thank you for holding us up when we could not stand. I love you my people, so much.
This memory popped up today. I didn't post until a little after midnight about Koen's sudden and shocking arrival. Kevin was laying on a cot, after not being able to eat or drink all day I was eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and sipping on a slurpee that my nurse went out to get for me after I requested one during delivery. As I sat in my hospital bed I had to focus on chewing, consciously moving my jar up and down. I was in such a state of shock. My baby who I thought was safe that morning, was now at the funeral home cold and alone. My time with Koen was gone, it slipped through my fingers in just a day. We had given word to some friends and family via text, but I wanted inform our world of friends and family. I didn't want his life to disappear, I wanted his tragically brief life to be acknowledged and remembered.
This weekend we are camping with friends, because even though I am on the verge of tears during this week, life goes on, as it should. While Kevin is off with the big kids I am watching this angel, gift, and miracle sleep.
Yesterday, before we left, we went to pick out balloons to send to Koen for his birthday. Tobin picked an owl that said "look who's graduating", Hackett a balloon covered with sports balls, and from mom and dad a white heart. We went to his gravesite where his tiny little body is laid to rest and let them go, and they floated up to the heavens just as quickly as Koen did three years ago.
I am away from home, good wifi and my laptop, and am having trouble uploading pictures to my blog that I reference, so I will add them in the comments below and fix in a few days.
The memory is my announcement of Koen's birth and death.
I am Jackie.