Thursday, December 30, 2010

Loud & Clear

As I was coming home from running a few errands yesterday, I found myself listening to John Mayer in the car. I hadn't listened to him in awhile but thanks to Tiffany and Kristin, I tuned him in on my ipod.  The song, "Say" came on.  This song has always brought tears to my eyes, especially after I saw The Bucket List (it is played at the end).  Yesterday was no different.  Here are the lyrics.

Take all of your wasted honor

Every little past frustration
Take all of your so-called problems,
Better put 'em in quotations

Say what you need to say [x8]

Walking like a one man army
Fighting with the shadows in your head
Living out the same old moment
Knowing you'd be better off instead,
If you could only . . .

Say what you need to say [x8]

Have no fear for giving in
Have no fear for giving over
You'd better know that in the end
Its better to say too much
Then never say what you need to say again

Even if your hands are shaking
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closing
Do it with a heart wide open

Say what you need to say [x24]

So, there I am driving down the road listening to John Mayer and boo who-ing.  All I could think about were all of the things I wish I would have said to Harper when she was still in my tummy -- especially that last week we were together.  How I wish I could go back and tell her all about her family and how much we love her.  Had I known this is where our fate was going to take us, I probably would have talked to her non stop for the six months we had together.  Then, of course, I got to thinking about all of the things I will never get to tell her and all of the things she will never get to tell me.  Basically,  feeling sorry for myself in the usual fashion.  

My tearfest continued as I drove into our subdivision.  My thoughts shifted to the future and wondering if we will ever get another chance to be parents.  Wondering if my body will fail us again.  Somedays I really don't know if it will ever happen for us.  I am not sure why I was feeling so negative but with all that we have been through this year, sometimes my brain just goes there.  Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness wash over me.  

{Before I finish this, let me give you a little background.  The spot that I pull into in our garage has a tennis ball hanging by some fishing line so I know how far I need to pull in.  I drive a Tahoe and I am pretty short, so I have trouble gauging the area in front of me sometimes.}

As I pull into the garage and my windshield hits the tennis ball I notice something that in five years of pulling into this spot I have never noticed before. Never. There is a message on the tennis ball.  

Hope.  How could I have missed this?  Especially in the last six months.  Isn't funny how something that has literally been right in front of my nose for five years and has never caught my attention before, catches it when I needed the reminder most?  I think my baby girl was sending me a message, at least I hope so.  

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I, stupidly, just opened a story on Yahoo! about the crazy celebrity baby names of 2010.  The story starts out with all of the wacky baby names that celebrities come up with.  Mentioning names like Apple and Pilot Inspektor.  Then they rank the more classic choices in celebrity baby names and there it is, ranking in at #2 for favorite baby names of 2010 is Harper Grace, the daughter of Neil Patrick Harris (AKA Doogie Houser) and his partner, David Burtka.  They welcomed twins (a boy and a girl) this fall via surrogate.  HUMPH! Doogie & Co. stole our name.  I guess I can't blame them since it is a pretty darn good name. But seriously, couldn't they have stolen someone else's name??

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Six Months & Christmas Day

Six months ago today our beautiful daughter, Harper Grace, was born at 4:39 pm.  By 4:50 she had passed away and was being snuggled in the warmth of her Mommy's arms for the first and last time.  Six months.  Somedays it feels like it was just yesterday since I last held her and others it feels like a lifetime has passed since I saw her sweet face for the first time.

It is amazing that on this Christmas day the amount of time that we were blessed with her in our lives is the same exact amount of time that she has been gone.  Six months...26 weeks and 1 day...183 days since she was still safe and so much alive inside her warm and cozy home that was my womb. 183 days of despair, heartache and feeling so empty and lost without her. 183 days that I have kept breathing even though I felt sure that I wouldn't be able to go on without her.

This is not the Christmas I had imagined last January when we found out we were expecting our miracle baby.  I had dreams of another stocking to hang on the mantle, baby's first Christmas onesies & ornaments and the pure delight of spending our very first Christmas as a happy little family of three.  I had visions of everyone oohing & aahing over how much of a cutie pie Harper would be in her green and red smocked Christmas dress.  By now she would be smiling at us and be totally enamoured with the glowing Christmas lights.

Unfortunately that is not how our Christmas has turned out.  This year Christmas is marked with sadness of a life that was never to be, yet happiness that we were blessed to have her in our lives -- even if it was only for a little while.   Harper was supposed to be here with us and even though she is not, it is still her first Christmas and my heart is so full with love for her.  It is the first of many Christmas' that we will remember, honor and celebrate her life.

Tomorrow the calendar will start marking time that she has been gone longer than she was here.  That thought makes my heart want to burst.  Time will march on without her and I can't stand it.  I am so scared that people will start to forget her or forget that she was and will always be a huge part of our life's story.  She will always be our first born, our little Harpsichord.

So, as anxious as I am for the holidays to end and for a new year to begin, I am also saddened by another passed milestone.  2010 will forever be the year defined by the birth and death of Harper.  It will go down as the worst but also the best year of my life; it was the year that our daughter was born.  Even though she did not have the life that we hoped for her, she did have life and for that I am so thankful.  In that precious little life she gave us the greatest gift of all; the gift of love, joy and hope.  She allowed us to witness a miracle.  We are her parents now and forever.  She will always be missed here on earth but she will live on in our hearts, always.

Happy six months in heaven, baby girl.  I miss you more than words could ever do justice.  You are my heart and soul forever.  You will always live on -- right here, inside of me.  I love you, my sweet girl.  

Monday, December 20, 2010


Tear jerker.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


I just finished watching Oprah's interview with Dr. William Petit.  His wife and two daughters were tortured and killed in their Connecticut home in 2007.  You can read their story here and see part of his interview here.  There are no words.  What a horrific tragedy.  To lose his wife and two daughters -- his whole family.  His whole life.  It is heartbreaking to even think about how he his coping and still managing to put one foot in front of the other.  I am not sure that I could.

Losing Harper has been like a tornado running rampant through my life.  It has shaken me to the core and continues to rattle my world.  But thankfully, I have had the love and support of my dear, dear husband to help me navigate my way through this mess.  He has been there every step of the way helping me to put the pieces back up on the shelf even when they bounce right back off.  He has been my rock.  We are grieving for our daughter together.  I am certain that I would not be where I am today had it not been for him.  Dr. Petit has no wife to grieve the loss of their children with and no children to live for as they grieve the loss of their mother and his wife.  Sure, he has a family that is very supportive but they are grieving differently; for a neice or a grand daughter.  He is grieving for the loss of his *whole* world -- his whole family unit.

The pain and heartbreak was just seeping from him as he spoke.  It was evident how hard it was for him to talk about his beloved family but he handled it with such grace and poise.  The utter sadness in his eyes as he talked about all of the dreams and hopes he had for his daughters, Haley and Michaela, was heartbreaking. They will never know true love, never go to college, never get married...etc.   As the interview progressed Dr. Petit said this, "Children whose parents die are called orphans. Someone whose spouse dies is called a widow or widower.  But what do you call a Mother or Father whose child or children dies? There isn't a word for it."  He is right.  There isn't a word.  Oprah then adds that there isn't a word because no parent should ever have to bury their child; that it isn't natural.  Exactly, it most certainly isn't.  He said that children are the "jewels of our lives".  They are our riches, our life's work...what do we have without them?

As I continued to watch this interview I gained so much perspective.  I felt like I could empathize so much with this man's pain but obviously not on the same scale.  I don't have Harper.  I know that no matter how many little ones we may be blessed with in the future (please let us be blessed again), it will never be her.  I struggle with that a lot.  I want *her* back but I know that it isn't possible.  BUT, I still have my husband, my love, the father to hopefully a sibling(s) for Harper.  I still have the ability to bring another child into the world (as far as I know).  I have so much to be thankful for and so much to hope for.

As the interview closed, Dr. Petit said that he hopes to feel truly happy again but he will never be the person he was before that tragic day. "There's a jagged hole in your heart, there's a jagged hole in your soul. Over time, the waves of goodness going back and forth maybe smooth the jagged edges a little bit, but the hole remains. I don't think you fill it in."  I can certainly identify with this statement.  I know I will never be the person that I was in June 2010.  My heart will always be broken for the life my family should have had and I will always grieve for the little person who is missing.  My hope is to find true joy in my life again.  That's all any of us can do, just hope.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday House Guest

I have been joking around with Chris about putting a big Grinch in the front yard to display the fact that we are not in the holiday mood this year for anyone who may have forgotten.  Much to my surprise, this little guy showed up yesterday afternoon and told us he will be sticking around though the holidays.  Even though he has already provided some much needed comic relief we are really hoping that we don't have to invite him back next year!

Update in pictures...

I am long overdue in posting an update to Harper's Tree.  Here are a few pictures that were taken a few weeks ago.  Almost all of the leaves have fallen now -- there are just a few left at the top.

Harper's rock.

A precious dragonfly stake given to us by a friend at work. :)

I also wanted to post a picture of the blanket that my Mom made for us.  I really love it -- it is such a precious way to remember.  

A gift from my Dad and Michelle; she gives a special Christmas ornament every year.  They have a matching one on their tree that will hang every year in remembrance of our girl.


A candle my Mom made for us to light on Harper's 6 month angelversary.  I love it so much, I couldn't wait!  I am sure that I can sweet talk her into making us another ;)

I love anything dragonfly...another un-Christmas gift from Mom :)

 A sweet little remembrance from Katrina (my brother's GF).  It says, "Harper Grace...Our sweet angel"

It warms my heart to no end that our families are remembering and missing Harper everyday.  It was so good to go home and feel all of the love for her and for us.  There were toasts made in Harper's honor by my Dad and my Brother and she was brought up in conversation many times.  Katrina said, "Mother to Mother I just want you to know that she will always be remembered and loved." Mother to one has ever said that to me before -- my heart is so full.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Meeting Noah

I finally got to meet little Noah this weekend.  It was bittersweet.  To be around such a healthy, cute little guy simply amazes me.  I guess my perspective on how many healthy, living babies there actually are in the world is a little skewed.  How could it not be?

He is six weeks old with big blue eyes and just a cutie pie.  A sweet little miracle.

I am not going to lie, seeing him was hard, not as hard as I had anticipated but hard just the same.  Even still, I survived.  I actually laughed and had a good time.  I held him, looked into his eyes, kissed his head and smelled his sweet baby smell.  How I wish I could do those things with Harper -- I will always yearn for that and for her.  

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I am feeling so weepy tonight.  I am not sure what is different but I have seriously been crying all day.  I decided to go out shopping this afternoon, which apparently was a mistake.  Every time I turned a corner I saw a "baby's first Christmas this" or a "baby's first Christmas that".  I went into Hallmark to buy my nephew a Christmas ornament...not a baby's first Christmas ornament but I found a cute Noah's Ark ornament (his name is Noah).  I want so badly to be a good Aunt to him but I feel so broken.  I am trying my best.  There was a sweet Grandma in Hallmark buying out their supply of Baby ornaments.  *sigh* I wish Harper's Grandparents could do that this year.  I strolled by the Willow Tree figurines and there was a Guardian Angel figurine that was a red haired angel (Harper) helping a little boy (Noah) take his first steps and that did it --  there I was, boo who-ing in Hallmark.  The lady checking me out didn't seem too bothered by my wet eyes -- well, she does work at Hallmark, maybe she is used to women crying in her store.  I tried to cheer myself up by stopping at Starbucks for a chai tea latte.  Yes, it was tasty but I still bawled all the way home, seriously, it was like the early days when I used to cry and scream in my car.  I didn't scream in my car today but you get what I mean.

When I got home, I was greeted by a FedEx package at my door.  My sweet Mom sent me a beautiful memorial blanket for Harper.  It has her pictures on it and all of the sayings from her Abiding Hope Collage.

It was so nice to come home to that.  I called Mom to thank her and she said that her thought process behind sending us the blanket was that we could take Harper with us wherever we go.  Today Harper's blanket dried her Mommy's tears.

I have been an emotional wreck today...I hope tomorrow is a little easier.

Harper's Garden

We went over to my In-laws for a yummy lasagna dinner last night.  As we pulled up in their drive way we saw a beautiful project that they have been working on -- Harper's garden.   It is a huge garden with apparently over 100 bulbs planted and ready to bloom to the high heavens this spring.  The sweetest part was the plaque that read: 

Harper's Garden 
In Loving Memory 
Harper Grace Johnson
June 25, 2010
You will play with your Grandad and Grammie in heaven!

The tears were rolling before I even hit the door.  What a sweet and thoughtful way for them to remember our Harper.  My cup runneth over...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Blog Makeover! :)

I am so, so excited!  My blog makeover is complete.  Thanks to Franchesca over at Small Bird Studio, I now have a beautiful place to write about and remember my sweet Harper Grace.  Franchesca was so nice and so easy to work with, even with all of the times I kept changing my mind about stuff. :)  I wanted this space to be perfect and now it is -- it is exactly what I wanted -- so much that I cried the first time I saw the design.

It feels so good to be able to do something for Harper, especially knowing that she doesn't need me in the way that I need her.  Whether this doing something is making over her blog, planting a tree in her honor, or going to a memorial ceremony -- it is my way of mothering her.  I miss my baby girl so much.



I found this at Target yesterday as I was in the Christmas aisle buying something for work.  It is an angel playing a harp.  Harper means 'harp player' or 'harp maker' and of course, our Harper is an angel.

Even though I am not decorating this year, I bought four!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I have been feeling a bit awkward and isolated lately, especially around certain people and in certain situations.  I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb and like some are constantly walking on egg shells around me not knowing what to say -- so they say nothing which makes me feel even more like I don't belong.  I just feel like the big (baby-less) elephant in the room at times.

On the other hand, I feel that others seem to have forgotten about what happened to Harper - or even that she ever existed at all.  I have told people that we are boycotting the holidays this year and I can tell that they just don't understand why by the look on their faces.  So of course I feel the need to explain myself by saying, "well, you know...we just aren't really feeling the holiday spirit this year."  Which is usually followed by a look as if to say, "oh, you mean you aren't over that yet?"  It's so uncomfortable.

I am sure that I am just being really sensitive and over analyzing things.  I am great at over analyzing and being too sensitive.  The holidays have been hard and there is still more to come.  I would just like to crawl into a hole and camp out until December is over.  I really hate feeling this way...this used to be my favorite time of the year.  

I am not really sure what I was trying to accomplish with this post.  Reading it back, I am coming across as pretty whiney but I guess I just needed to vent.  There are, of course, a lot of people who do their best to try and understand and support us...I love you and don't know what I would do without you. :)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Message

Received this from my Mother In Law this morning.  Beautiful message in an unlikely place.  Sending much love to all of my BLMs, family and friends this Thanksgiving morning.  I am so very thankful for all of your love and support.  

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Resentful & Thankful

As many of my friends who read this in real life know, I have just returned from two amazing weekend trips.  Chris went on his annual hunting trip out west, so I made plans to get away, too.  As you know from my last post, the first weekend I went to NYC with my Mom.  This past weekend, I went to visit a good friend in Chicago who is no stranger to grief as her mother just passed away last year from a rare cancer.  It was so therapeutic to be around my Mom and a good friend, both who seem to understand my grief.  Good to be with people who I feel totally comfortable talking about Harper with.  I am not worried that speaking her name will make them uncomfortable and I am not embarrassed to cry in front of them.  It was healing to grieve with them.

The timing turned out to be just right because I really don't think that I would have done very well being away from my husband, dogs, and home for so long before now.  Surprisingly, I didn't cry as much as I normally do and it was nice to have other things to focus on besides me.  As nice as the distractions were, after not seeing my husband for 10 days, I was so READY to be home with him -- back to our safe place.  Back home with each other and our girl.

So, here we are -- the day before Thanksgiving and the day before Harper's 5 month angelversary.  Needless to say, I as much as I try, I am not feeling very thankful.  I know I have so many things to be thankful for but nonetheless, I am feeling resentful and sad today.

I resent the ugly turn my life has taken.  I know we all talk about being changed from our loss experience and trying to live a better life.  And I do.  I really try to stay positive.  But still, I am resentful.  I resent my body for rejecting my baby and I resent that damned infection.  I resent that my innocence and naivety have been taken away from me for any future pregnancies.  I resent that I don't have a newborn to care for.  I resent that I have a nursery that she will never come home to and a nursery that I can't bear the thought of taking apart.  I resent the people who tell me "it was God's plan" or that "everything happens for a reason"-- those who say stupid things and have no idea in hell what it's like to live with the pain of losing a child.  I resent the anguish that is so unrelenting at times that it can knock you sideways.  I resent the people who seem to have it so easy.  I resent that my daughter is dead and that no matter what happens in my life, no matter what happy things may come, she will never be coming back to me.  I resent that I will never know Harper in this lifetime.  I resent the wounds on my heart that will never fully heal and the part of my soul that will be forever missing because she isn't here with me.

I am trying to accept this new life but it is so hard to let go and just accept.  I am still stuck on "how unfair my life is" and "why did this happened to us" or "why did their baby live and mind didn't".  I saw baby with red hair and big blue eyes who made eye contact with me in the grocery store the other day and just lost it, right there in the middle of the soup isle.  Babies with red hair have been my biggest trigger lately and maybe they always will be.  Acceptance is not coming very easily and I am not sure if I will ever fully accept this new life without her.

Of all the things that I mentioned above that I resent, I am not in any way resentful of my pregnancy with Harper or do I resent her.  I would go through all of the pain again if I had to; if this is the only way I was meant to be her Mother.  I am not resentful of the six glorious months that we had together before her life ended on that tragic day.  Those were the best six months of our lives -- so happy and so full of hope for our little one.  I couldn't wait to meet her face to face and when I did, it surely wasn't as I had planned it but I am thankful to have been blessed with her in my life.

Today I am thankful for my sweet girl, the little one who made me her Mommy.  My sweet Harper who has taught me so much about unconditional love and a bond that transcends the boundary of life and death.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I ((heart)) New York!

I just returned from a fabulous trip to New York City with my Mom.  We crammed a lot into 3 days but had a blast!  We did and saw so much.  

Ground Zero was first on our list.  Seeing the aftermath of 9/11 was a surreal experience; it reminded me that there is so much tragedy and sadness in the world.  There are so many people who are mourning the loss of someone.  I tend to live in my own grief bubble sometimes.  I get so consumed with own grief and it is easy to forget  that I am not the only one who has suffered and lost so much.

After the solemn visit to Ground Zero it was on to more upbeat things.  Macy's was next on the list and what an experience that was!  It was like walking into a party as we crossed the threshold; the music was pumping and people were all a buzz.  Just walking into that store would make anyone smile...I think my Mom and I both danced through the doors :)  We stopped at FAO Schwartz and a few street side markets; took a stroll in central park; ate fabulous food; went to the Top of The Rock (Rockefeller Center); visited the Today Show; witnessed the magic of The Radio City Rockettes and the talents of Broadway; and ate more great food!   It was truly a weekend of a lifetime and I felt so lucky to be experiencing that with my Mom.  I felt great all weekend - like I had taken a drink from the cup of life and had snuck away from my old companion, grief.  I had a few sad moments here and there but for the most part, I was up.

New York wouldn't be New York without Broadway and we were lucky enough to see two shows;   Promises, Promises and Wicked. 

Both of the shows were amazing!!

The song For Good from Wicked has been mentioned on many other BLM blogs and now I know why. It comes at the end of the performance and as I listened to it the tears just rolled down my face.  Here are the particular lyrics that stuck out for me.  

"...It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me 
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine..." 


...Who can say if I've been 
Changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better
And because I knew you...
I have been changed for good."

Pretty powerful lyrics, if you ask me. I have been truly changed because of my sweet girl and she will always be with me "like a handprint on my heart".  I love that line because it is exactly how I feel.  She lives on within me - safe, loved and remembered.  I have been forever changed because I knew her.  I see life differently now.  I don't want to take anything for granted because I know how things can change before you even have a chance to blink.  I understand all too well the frailty of life, it is a precious gift. 

The trip away was just what I needed.  It was nice to get away from my reality and to be thrust into such a lively environment with so much distraction.  It was another step in a positive direction, another step in the healing process.  I realize that tomorrow I may be pulled back under water but for now I am up and loving New York!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Harper's Cousin, Noah...

I have been a little MIA from blog land lately.  I have just had a lot to process and have been feeling very overwhelmed as of late.  I want to start by announcing that I have won my very first giveaway from the lovely Vera Kate at My Insides, Out. She will be making a beautiful lap quilt with Harper's name on it with the color scheme of my choosing.  I can't wait to see it as I know it will be gorgeous!  She's a talented one, that VK.

Another announcement:  My little brother and his girlfriend welcomed their son, Noah Ryland, on November 2nd... an election day baby!  He made quite the entrance into the world being that he was in the "sunny side up" presentation (face up) making his mama push for 2.5 hours with no progression.  They decided to section her and Noah finally arrived and everyone is doing well :)

As I have learned, in the land of the baby lost, it is one step forward and two steps back.  I knew Noah's birthday was coming and I knew it would be hard but I had no idea how hard.  The wind has been knocked out of me once again and I wish all it took was a portable oxygen tank to re-inflate my lungs.  Don't get me wrong and I guess this is where blogging can get hairy.  I don't want to censor myself here.  This blog is my outlet to express my feelings out in the open as a way for me to deal with them.  It is never my intention to hurt anyone's feelings.

With that being said, I am happy for them, truly.  But as happy as I am for them and our families, I am still sad for me and Chris.  I am jealous, yes, jealous.  I am back at why?  Why did this happen to us?  What did we do to deserve this fate?  I know the simple answer: life isn't fair and that there was nothing we could've done, but still I wonder.   I wanted that to be us welcoming Harper.  I wanted the happy celebration as our our longed for, sweet one made her way into the world.  We didn't get to enjoy all of the festivities-all of the visits, the passing the baby around and the congratulations.   I am heartbroken that we don't get to experience the things that they are experiencing right now with Noah-first smiles, feedings, sweet snuggles...the precious beginnings of a life.

All of my struggling is not because I don't love Noah or because I am not happy he is here.  I do and I am but it's bittersweet for me.  Noah's due date was exactly four weeks after Harper's which is what makes this all so much harder.  I know that every milestone from him taking his first steps to high school graduation will remind me of what she would have been doing.  I hope that in time this will get easier but for now it's heartrending.   Harper and her cousin, Noah, were supposed to grow up together but instead she will be watching over him as she watches over all of us.

I miss my baby girl so much and I wish she were here to meet her new cousin. <3

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Infant Loss On The Today Show

I stumbled across this you tube clip at Jessica's blog. It is from an episode of the Today show in Australia-kudos to them for showing a segment on infant loss. They talk about Lily Allen's stillborn son and also the process of grief and surviving infant loss. Both women interviewed have experienced the loss of a baby and have beautifully articulated the overwhelming feelings that a woman experiences when she loses her son or daughter.

Monday, November 1, 2010


It's finally here, November.  I am not usually one to wish time away, actually quite the contrary.  But the latter half of this year has sucked - plain and simple - and I am just really ready to keep flipping the months on the calendar until 2011 gets here.  I realize that as more days pass the further away I get from the day I last held Harper and that is hard on my heart.  It is hard accepting that I will never hold her again physically.  It is hard accepting that all of my wishing and praying and crying won't bring my sweet baby back.  But like I said a few posts ago, I have to quit letting these thoughts consume and define me.  So, as time marches on and I feel saddened by the distance of time since her birth, I am also feeling a lot better.  And let me tell ya, after the last four months, feeling better feels good.  Notice I use the word better, it's not great but hey, it is a start.

The holiday season is officially here.  Halloween has come and gone and now the Christmas festivities will be in full swing.  I have always loved the fun and merriment of the season but this year I have pretty much decided to boycott all of the superfluous nonsense that comes along with the real reason we celebrate Christmas.  I will not be making a list and checking it twice and I won't be decorating our home.  If you take a look in our attic you will see that I am quite the holiday decorator so this is a pretty big deal for me.  I have always loved this time of year and I couldn't wait to have children to make the season magical for.  Since Harper died I feel there is no point.  If anyone asks me what I want for Christmas I will tell them to make a donation to the March of Dimes in Harper's name.  That would make me happy.  I guess I feel a little a bit like a scrooge but that's ok.  In my minds eye Christmas was supposed to look a lot different this year.

Christmas will come and go as it always does and our new year will come.  I really hope that 2011 will be a good year, full of hope and happy times, we definitely are in need of one.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Appreciation Tea

Well, my speech at the Appreciation Tea went well on Friday.  They had a nice turn out with about 50+ in attendance including the hospital CEO.  We brought one of our framed pictures of Harper with us and sat it on our table and got to show her off a bit. :)  I loved being able to talk about her even though I was in tears before I even began.   It felt great to be able to thank the people who volunteer their time and services to make memory boxes for people like me who expect to leave the hospital with a baby but don't.  Those boxes give us something to hold onto.

As I walked back to my chair after speaking I noticed most of the room in tears, wiping their eyes.  It filled me with such pride to know that Harper's story touched their hearts.  It felt wonderful to do good in her name.  I received a lot of hugs and thanks for being there and having the courage to speak.  One woman told me how brave I was and that she wouldn't have been able to stand up there and speak as I did.  I told her that it is easy to talk about someone you love so much.  Honestly, I wasn't really nervous (maybe a little)...just emotional.  I did it for my daughter.  I don't get to do much for her so I try and parent her in anyway I can.  I have to be her voice.  Harper has made me a stronger person even though I don't feel so strong at times.  I feel her pushing me.  I strive to be the person that she would want me to be - to honor her memory the best way that I can.

Here is my speech...

Good afternoon.  My name is Rhiannon Johnson and I wanted to speak today to share a little bit of the story of my loss and to take this opportunity to pay a very special thank you to the volunteers who provide their time and donations for the bereavement services at the Medical Center.  

I was admitted to the Medical Center in pre-term labor on my birthday. I was 6 months into my blissfully naive and uneventful pregnancy with my first child.  I had no idea that I would be getting discharged 9 days later without my daughter in my arms but instead with a broken heart, shattered dreams and a very special box that has turned out to be one of my most treasured possessions. 

My daughter, Harper, was born on June 25th at 4:39 in the afternoon. She was 1 lb 15 oz, 14 inches long and beautiful.  She had a head of red hair, big hands and her daddy's nose.  Harper was perfect and healthy in every way but she was born too soon.  

I did not come to the hospital that night prepared for what lay ahead of me.  Giving birth to my daughter, holding her in my arms and leaving the hospital without her was an incomprehensible thought.  It never occurred to me that she might die.  She was a strong girl, a fighter.  I just knew that if she came early that she would be one of the miracles. But we didn't get our miracle, she died and our world came crashing down.   I was in shock and very unprepared to say the least.  

I didn't bring any keepsakes with me to the hospital.  No receiving blankets to wrap my baby girl in, no pretty dress for her pictures, no camera.  I didn't know how much all of these things would come to mean to me in the coming days, weeks and months.  Thankfully, you all did.  

Thanks to your generous and heartfelt donations I have a box full of tangible memories of Harper's short life.  I have something to hold, something that she touched.  Keepsakes that are so dear to my heart and that have gotten me through a lot of dark days when I was so thankful to have something that was hers.  Something that acknowledged her short but meaningful life. 

The pain of losing her and all of the dreams we had for her has been unbearable and suffocating at times.  The grief can be paralyzing.  Your kind donations have meant more to me and my husband than I could ever put into words and my road to healing has started in part because of your kindness.  She had a moment in our arms, but will live on in our hearts for a lifetime.  Thank you.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

BLM Therapy

Well, yesterday was so good for my heart.  I got to meet Priscilla, another BLM (baby loss mama) in real life!  When cyber space meets real life it is so cool.  Her and her hubby (and Oba!) just got stationed here, thanks to the Army, and I am so happy to have them :)

We had a wonderful lunch date....just two angel Moms hanging out.  I must say that it was good for my soul to be around someone who is like me, yet different.  I felt understood and accepted.  I loved that we were able to talk about our babies and everything else and it just seemed normal.  I am looking forward to getting the rest of our families together, doggies included, sometime soon.  

As a lot of you know from a previous post I am going to be doing a little public speaking tomorrow at an appreciation luncheon.  It is in honor of the volunteers who put together the memory boxes for my hospital.  I have been a  procrastinator my whole academic life.  My excuse has always been that I perform better under pressure and I guess this is no different since I just finished up my speech tonight.  Since it's about Harper, it is not surprising that it just flowed out of me.  Now I need to rehearse even though I have a feeling that as soon as I stand up there I will just be ad-libbing quite a bit.  Here's to kleenex and water proof mascara.  

I am not really nervous...yet.  I am actually excited to be able to talk about Harper with a room full of women who will most likely 'get it'.  Chances are they have been in my shoes at some point in their life.  So, please send prayers, good karma, and happy thoughts my way tomorrow as I hope to do good by Harper and honor my daughters sweet name.  

Monday, October 25, 2010

Heaven & Signs

Heaven...I think that the idea of Heaven is individual.  Everyone probably has different dreams about what they hope Heaven to be like.  I don't think anyone's vision of Heaven is right or wrong, just personal.  For me, I have never quite been on board with the idea of St. Peter in a white flowing robe standing at the pearly gates with streets of gold behind him letting the forgiven have passage and striking the sinners down to Lucifer in the fiery pits of hell.

Until Harper died, I had never given a ton of thought to what Heaven would look like for me.  I just knew that I as long as it included loved ones who were happy and healthy that was enough.  Maybe it included pearly gates and maybe it didn't.  I don't think any of us will know that for sure until we get there.  Now, I think about it a lot.  I want to know of the place where my baby girl now resides.  Her Heavenly home where she will spend eternity.

Recently, I was reading Life Touches Life by Lorraine Ash.  It is a great book about a Mother's journey to healing after her first and only child is stillborn.  For me, it was a very inspirational read.  As she touched on this topic of Heaven and eternal life, I felt a wave of comfort come over me.  I will share an excerpt from her book that she actually took from John O'Donohue's Anam Cara, a book of Celtic wisdom.

"The dead are our nearest neighbors; they are all around us.  Meister Eckhart was once asked, Where does the soul of a person go when the person dies?  He said, no place.  Where else would the soul be going?  Where else is the eternal world?  It can be nowhere other than here.  We have falsely spatialized the eternal world.  We have driven the eternal world out into some kind of distant galaxy.  Yet the eternal world does not seem to be a place but rather a state of being.  The soul of the person goes no place because there is no place to go.  This suggests that the dead are here with us, in the air that we are moving through all the time. The only difference between us and the dead is that they are now in invisible form.  You cannot see them with the human eye.  But you can sense the presence of those you love who have died.  With refinement of your soul, you can sense them.  You feel that they are near."

I have always felt that souls are all around us in a way but didn't know how to articulate it properly.  I think that this passage does so perfectly.  They are in the wind, the stars, the trees, the ocean.  I truly believe that our loved ones are with us even in death sending us signs showing us that they are never far from us.  I believe it because I have witnessed it.  I do feel Harper with me and maybe that is her Heaven, to be here with her parents who love her and miss her so deeply.

On the day that Harper was born we received a beautiful gift and sign from her.  It was in the photos taken by the hospital photographer.

The photographer assured us over and over that she did not pose Harper's hand.  Chris being an orthopaedic surgeon said that there aren't any ligaments in the hand that would involuntarily make the "i love you" sign.  That this must be some divine intervention.

It gets even more special.  Through out my pregnancy with Harper, Chris would make that sign with his hand and put it on my belly at night before bed or when we were just hanging out on the couch.  That has always been our 'thing', even before I was pregnant.  When ever we would bid each other farewell, we would hold up our hand to give off one last silent "I love you".  It turns out that Harper knew her Mommy and Daddy well.  I think that would make even a skeptic believe in signs...

I posted this quote a couple of posts ago but felt it was very relevant to this post also...

"And if I go while you’re still here…
know that I live on, vibrating to a
different measure behind a thin
veil you cannot see through. You
will not see me so you must have
faith. I wait the time when we can
soar again, both aware of each
other. Until then, live your life to
its fullest, and when you need me
just whisper my name in your
heart…I will be there."
-Author Unknown

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Defining Moments

So, I feel that in the last couple of days I have turned a corner.  Anyone who has experienced grief knows it comes in waves, so I am hoping that I won't be making a U-turn anytime soon.   I have felt a little more peace in my heart as of late and I am not really sure what the turning point was -- or if it was even a true turning point.  It could have been just a string of good days.

Grief is consuming and I have definitely been letting mine consume me.  I feel like I have been stumbling around in the dark without a lantern, fumbling through my days.  Lost.  My anger, my sadness, my bitterness -- my spirit and my heart have been shattered and I have just been trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces.  I have been wallowing in the pits of despair, the hopeless, miserable pits for almost four months.  Wow, it will be four months on Monday.  I truly never thought I would or could survive this long without her.  It's not that I am letting go of my grief, that isn't possible....I will always grieve for her.  I will always miss her.  Seeing newborn babies makes me sad and probably will for some time.  A piece of me will always be missing.  She will always be missing and with every ounce of every fiber in my body I wish she were here with us.  My heart will always be scarred and bruised.  With every laugh or piece of happiness that I feel there will always be sadness lurking close to the surface.  Grief will always be present.  I just need to learn to navigate through it.  To live with it.  To Live.

I have been letting my grief define me.  I have let myself go and it is time to get off my miserable rear and try to walk forward.  Even if it only one step at a time.  I know I will take steps backward from time to time and I will fall down but I will stand back up.  I can't keep letting my grief keep me down.  I have so many reasons to keep living.  I have been blessed with a husband who I surely don't deserve, he is my  Prince Charming...always has been and always will be.  I have a family (in-laws included:) who love and support us no matter what...who have been here for us, every step of the way.  I have sweet friends who check on us often and let us know that Harper is not forgotten.  Zeus and Luna, who's unconditional puppy love warm my heart on even my saddest days.  And of course, my most precious blessing, my Harper, the sweet little girl who made me a Mommy -- a tiny baby who taught me so much more about love and devotion than I ever could have understood.  A little girl who will always hold the most special place in my heart and will always remind me how fragile and precious life is and how important it is to embrace it despite all of the bumps in the road.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”  ~Anais Nin

"Motherhood is a state of both the mind and the heart, a sacred place that is yours no matter the distance between you and your child. Not even Death can take it away." ~ Dr. Joanne Cacciatore

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Loss Not Forgotten

On October 15th we went to A Loss Not Forgotten, a remembrance ceremony hosted by the hospital where Harper was born.  It was put on by the Parent's Advisory Council and they did a very nice job.  My Mom joined us and we met Chris's parents there.  We all walked in together and signed in.  The receptionist asked me if I was 'Mom'?  Are you Mom?  That's not something that I get asked very often, not ever actually.  I like being called 'Mom'.  That's when the tears started and they didn't stop until the program was over.  I answered, "yes" and signed in.  She handed me a program and a bookmark and told me to take a rose of the appropriate color once inside the reception area.  

Inside the program was a list of the different types of loss and the color of rose to take.  For me: Miscarriage...Coral Rose & Preemie born between 23-34 weeks...Lavender Rose.  I had two roses and my heart was just broken.  Two roses. Two losses.  They started with a nice introduction and guest speaker.  I don't remember much of what the guest speaker even talked about but he closed with a lovely poem about the living with the loss of a child.  I can't even remember much of the poem but I do remember it saying that our children live on through us and they will always live on in our hearts.  I really felt comforted by his words.  

Then the rose ceremony.  The social workers stood up and started reading a description of each type of loss and when they were finished reading we all repeated the words, "We Remember".  And then the Moms and Dads of the babies in that particular category walked to the front of the room and put their rose in the vase.  They read narratives for Miscarriage, Stillbirth, Preemie born before 23 weeks, Preemie born between 24-34 weeks, Full term birth, and SIDS/infant death.  The narratives were just beautiful.  I could tell that the women reading them had either experienced that type of loss or had spent a lot of time with someone who had.  There were so many mommies & daddies with roses.  So many babies taken too soon.  So much loss.  So many tears.  As we put our rose in the vases, we were given a yellow rose, a HOPE rose.  

Then the slide show of names.  All of the sweet names of our babies.  The tears were drying up a bit until Harper's name came on the screen...

Harper Grace Johnson  
June 25, 2010 

There it was, our sweet girls name.  It was like a knife in my chest, it hurt so bad.  I just put my head on Chris's shoulder and sobbed and I saw that he had tears in his eyes, too.  He misses her so much, too.  I loved seeing her name up there though.  I always love seeing her name.  I just stared at the screen, I didn't want to miss seeing her for even a second.  She is our baby and very much with us, if only in our hearts.  

There are so many other babies that were not listed on that slide show that were being remembered that night also.  Babies of all the sweet mamas I have come to know here.  Jacob, Kai, Drew, Charlotte, Peyton, Riley, Lily, Bailey, Laken, Kennedy, Josey, Oliver, Stevie, Mikayla, Audrey, Aidan, Stella, Olivia, Kenny, Liam....the list goes on.  So many heartbroken parents that are missing their children every minute of every day. 

I was so sad thinking that we, as parents to angels, don't get to do normal parent things.  No soccer games, no dance recitals, no PTA meetings, no play dates, no volunteering to be the 'homeroom mom'.  We get to attend memorial ceremonies, butterfly releases, balloon releases, memorial gardens, and walks in honor of our children.  Our children may be gone but they will live on through us, we honor them by living our lives and by doing all of the things that they will never get to do.  We will speak their names, we will remember them, we will honor their memories in any way that we can.   We wanted so much for our children but this is all we have....Love.

"And if I go while you’re still here…
know that I live on, vibrating to a
different measure behind a thin
veil you cannot see through. You
will not see me so you must have
faith. I wait the time when we can
soar again, both aware of each
other. Until then, live your life to
its fullest, and when you need me
just whisper my name in your
heart…I will be there."
-Author Unknown

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Field of Dreams

I had a dream about Harper last night.  I rarely dream about her.

I was walking by myself along a path in a field surrounded by a thick forest of trees.  As I was walking, I heard the voice of a little girl yell out, "Mooooommmmyyy".  I started to looked around for someone else...some other mommy.  Then I realized it was her, my sweet angel.  A ginger haired little girl of about 4 or 5 came running out of the woods as fast as she could toward me, her mommy.  She had her curly hair pulled back in two barrettes and she was wearing a white dress to her knees.  I scooped her up and hugged her so tightly and I swung her around and around.

Then I woke up.  I tried so hard to go back to sleep.  Tried and tried.  I wanted more.  More dream that included me and Harper together.  Of course because I was trying so hard it just woke me up more.  I just lay in bed sobbing.  I miss her so much.

I have relived that dream in my head so many times today.  Feeling happy and sad.  Happy because Harper was paying her Mama a visit and I got to see her, hear her voice, hug her.  Sad because the only way we will ever be able to visit with each other is in my dreams.  It has me wondering if I will ever be called 'Mommy' in real life.  Will I ever hear the sweet sound of a child's voice call out for me?

Trust in dreams, for in them is the hidden gate to eternity.  
Kahlil Gibran

Friday, October 15, 2010

Today & Always...

Please take a moment today to light a candle, say a prayer, and remember Harper and all of the sweet babies that were taken way too soon.  We remember them today and always...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pity Party

I feel like I have been having a major pity party for the last three months.  Feeling sorry for myself and wanting the one thing in life that I don't have.  I feel like I am in limbo or purgatory, even.  Just waiting to find out if I am going to heaven or hell.

I don't do much.  I hang out with my wonderful husband who doesn't ask much of me because he knows that I am not really up for too much.  And if it weren't for him I am not sure I would have even survived this far.  He is a wonderful, understanding, loving man. I play with my dogs, all they expect is a walk or some fetch in the backyard and they are happy.  I work part time.  I don't really love to go out in public because of all the triggers that present themselves.

I spend hours on my laptop.  Blogging, reading blogs of others, googling stuff.  Actually, if I had to make a list of my hobbies, 'googling' would probably be right at the top of the list.  I have been thinking about something lately.  What am I trying to find?  What answer?  An answer to why my life has taken this turn?  An answer to why my daughter died?  An answer to why so many people that seem so undeserving of parenthood get it handed to them with no problems?  I don't know what I am looking for.  Maybe I am hoping to find something online that will tell me it's not my fault.  Something that reads, "you will have a happy ending one day." Or maybe, something that says, "go look in the back of your closet, a hooded woman crept in during the night and decided to give Harper back to you."  Who knows what I am looking for.  Maybe a little peace.

Last month I was actually feeling better.  I had a reason to.  Or so I thought.  With a blighted ovum something happens during cell division and the embryo aborts very early on.  Does that mean there was never even a baby? Was all that 'feeling better' in vain?  I have been knocked back down; so hard that I am having a hard time finding the strength to even make it to my knees.

This miscarriage is just a harsh reminder of why I was even able to get pregnant in the first place.  Because my daughter was born three months early and died.  It is a slap in the face telling me I am no closer to having a baby in my arms now than I was before.   It all goes back to Harper.  She is supposed to be here now, keeping her parents up at night and filling us with so much joy that we just about burst.

I don't mean to be such a "Debbie downer".  I know I have so many blessings in my life.  I have so many things to be thankful for.  Maybe I am selfish but I want more.  Just this one last thing and maybe, just maybe I will be satisfied.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I have some news to share but let me start from the beginning.  We went out of town for Labor day weekend and I was expecting AF (aunt flo) to show up that weekend.  When she didn't I started thinking maybe I was...and I tested to see if I was...pregnant.  Much to my surprise it was positive!  I didn't believe it though.  Of course, I immediately started crying.  I felt like I was betraying Harper.  I was still supposed to be pregnant with her.  Not peeing on a stick to see if I was pregnant again.  I took about 4 more tests just to make sure.

I just couldn't believe that a couple who struggled for over two years to get pregnant, who were two weeks away from starting fertility medicine for IVF when they found out they were pregnant for the first time could possibly get pregnant the first month out of the gates.  Of course I was happy but I was a worried, too.  I was worried that it was too soon.  I called Dr. I that day crying, needing some reassurance that it would be OK.  And of course, she was there with lots of it.

I knew that any subsequent pregnancy after Harper wouldn't be easy.  And it was so soon, it had only been a little over two months since Harper died.  I was scared to death.  Petrified.  Apprehensive.  What if it didn't work out again?  What if I had to bring home another memory box instead of a baby? Another urn.  The dark questions were never ending.

After about a week, I calmed down.  I wasn't as scared.  I felt peaceful and happy.  We had a plan in place and I was feeling good about this baby, this new life that was making a home inside my womb.  I was excited.  I had hope again.  Hope for a rainbow after the ugly, dark storm that we have been living.  I knew Harper was happy too; happy to see her Mommy and Daddy smiling more and feeling hopeful for the future once again.  Maybe this is just what we needed, maybe it was a blessing sent down from our Harper.

Five Tuesdays ago, our life was changed again as soon as we saw that positive test result.  For the good this time.  We were thrilled!  Maybe we would have our happy ending after all.

Then, this past Tuesday our happy news turned to devastation.  We went to the doctor for what was to be my first OB appt, I was 8weeks and 1 day pregnant.  We went in for an ultrasound and all of the initial stuff.

I was crying before I even got on the table for my ultrasound.  I felt like I was having a panic attack, my limbs were heavy and I was scared.  My mind raced back to all of my ultrasounds with Harper.  I missed seeing her dance around on that screen.

I was so scared for this baby.  I really had no reason to worry, my first trimester with Harper had been flawless.  But still, I worried.  I always worry.  What if we didn't get good news?  What if there was no heartbeat?  I have read so many stories of mommas that have been given the devastating news that their little one has no heartbeat on the ultrasound.

I slid down the table to get in good position for the ultrasound and she started to look around.  I could see on the screen for myself.  A big empty sac.  No baby inside of it.  I was measuring 5 days behind my dates.  She kept looking around and then she said it..."I am sorry, sweetie but there is NO baby."  What?  No baby?  How could this be?  I have been tired, sick, hormonal.  There had to be someone in there causing all of these wonderful symptoms.  My hcg levels had been doubling appropriately.  There had to be some mistake.

The ultrasound tech went out to get my doctor.  When the Dr. I came in she gave me a hug, told me how sorry she was and told me this is what's called a blighted ovum.  Something else I have never heard of.   I have learned about more bad things involving pregnancy in the last few months than anyone should ever have to know about in their lifetime.  Dead babies being #1 and now a blighted ovum pretty high on the list.

Basically something happens after implantation during cell division and the baby aborts spontaneously.  Most likely due to some chromosomal abnormality.  The baby aborted but, apparently, my brain didn't get the memo.  It still kept doing what it was supposed to do to sustain a pregnancy.  Making a placenta that wasn't nourishing anything except my morning sickness.

What a cruel, evil uterus I have.  To evict another tenant.  To keep all of her stuff so it seems like someone is home, but in actuality, she moved out weeks ago.  I have been walking around thinking I was pregnant, my body acting pregnant, thinking up more dreams for the future and now I have had the rug pulled out from under me again.  Another loss.  Another baby gone.  Two losses within four months of each other.

My body had no signs of a miscarriage. No cramps, no heavy bleeding.  Dr. I said it could take my body weeks to "expel" the uterine contents on it's own.  We opted for medicine to get the miscarriage process started before an infection sets in or I get too far along that I need a D&C.

I am now what is referred to in the medical world as a Gravida: 2; Para: 0.  That means two pregnancies, no living children.  That sounds terrible.  What is wrong with me?  I feel defective.  I feel like I will never have any living children.  I feel like people are looking at me and wondering why I am having trouble keeping my babies alive.  This is just another reminder of how unfair and unexpected life can be.  Like I really needed another reminder.  I wonder if I will ever have my happy track record isn't looking so good.


A dear friend of mine, J, sent me an excerpt from this mommy's blog.  I wanted to share it because I think it is the perfect description of what grieving a child feels like.  To me, anyway.  

"grieving any loss, really is not a black and white matter; it's not either/or, but both/and. I can trust that he's in heaven and rejoice in that, and I can acknowledge that we will be feeling the loss of him acutely for a long time -- probably our whole lives. I can rejoice in the truth that he is not suffering anymore, and weep bitterly over the reality that he isn't with us, that we did not get nearly enough time with him. I can be happy that he doesn't have to be sliced or poked or taped or stitched ever again, and desperately ache for him to be back here with us. One reality doesn't cancel out the other. We hold them in tension, with all the uncomfortable complexity and unfathomable mystery that such nuances create."

I have had conflicting thoughts like this so many times.  I know Harper is in heaven and never suffered a day of her life.  I know that all she ever felt was love in her little lifetime.  These things do give me peace when I think about them.  I also know that I miss her more than I could ever put into words.  That I  would do anything to hold my baby again.  That I wish she was here.