Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Unsettled and Nostalgic

I woke up to the sounds of rainfall and a chill in the air. Something felt ominous. I couldn't remember exactly what I'd dreamed, but I felt unsettled and nostalgic. Later in the morning, Paxton asked to watch Cars. It was the first movie he really watched that he'd wanted to watch over and over (and over and over) when he was smaller. Hearing the familiar movie soundtrack only strengthened my strange emotions and I found myself just wanting to scoop him up and hold him close to me.

Thankfully, he was a willing recipient of cuddles this morning and was cheerful as he snuggled back against me, smiling.

He's getting so big. It seems as if he's grown several inches just in the past week or more. He talks nonstop and uses a vocabulary that is much bigger than his age. He's witty and entertaining. He's growing up so fast, along with "his" baby, who will be a year old this month.

Where does time go?

After a while, it dawned on me. October is six months after their birthday. That first October after Paxton and Carys were born saw me at my lowest. I'd resigned from my supervisor position and transferred to a different position that didn't feel like a good fit. I had significant work-related anxiety and I was having difficulty coping with it. It seemed like everyone else was moving on before I was ready to do the same, and though no one said it, I got the impression that others were no longer as interested in hearing me talk about Carys and our story. I was still functioning from within the grief fog.

It felt like I was kicking and screaming trying to hold on to a time when my baby girl still felt near, while the progression of time kept pulling me farther and farther away.

Three and a half years.

So many things have changed in three years. I now work from home, being a full-time mommy, working for the non-profit, working in direct sales, and various other projects so I can be with our boys. I generally feel happier and more at peace than I have in a long time - but I still miss her. My arms ache to hold her. I long for pigtails and pretty little dresses. I long to feel her little arms wrapped around my neck and to hear her giggle while playing with her brothers.

I don't often allow myself to go there. It hurts to play the "what would it be like if..." game. Some days, it just still hits hard, and I find myself longing for Heaven even more than normal.

Heaven is going to be so wonderful. I can't wait to feel those little arms around me and kiss those sweet little cheeks again.

Revelation 21:4New International Version (NIV)

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[a] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Coping with Infertility, Miscarriage, and Neonatal Loss

 I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Amy Wenzel while she was presenting a training session I attended in Lexington, Kentucky. The focus of the training was treating maternal depression and anxiety. During a break, I asked Dr. Wenzel about research relevant to the lasting impact of poor social and professional support on a mother's mental health following pregnancy and infant loss, as it is a topic I have plans to research through our non-profit, The Carys Rainn Foundation, Inc. (www.carysrainn.org). This prompted further discussion regarding my experience with infant loss, Dr. Wenzel's own pregnancy loss and the contents of this book, which was in the process of being written at the time. I was so excited to learn this book would be an available resource in the near future!
     Throughout our experience, I have spoken with so many people who have faced pregnancy and infant loss with limited or no support. What I have found to be most unsettling about the many stories that have been shared with me are the stories from those who seem to have never really given themselves permission to grieve and work through their loss because it seemed to be so easily dismissed by others.
     Pregnancy and Infant loss, as well as struggles with infertility, can be very difficult topics to approach. They can be uncomfortable to discuss and difficult to understand for those who have not experienced the impact. Even for those who have experienced reproductive struggles, no two experiences are exactly the same, but all have the potential to be devastating. I am very thankful this book is being made available to help validate that infertility and pregnancy and infant loss are significant, life-changing events, and to help its readers find effective ways to cope with the struggles that may result.
     I was personally introduced to the world of pregnancy and infant loss when one of our twins was given a fatal diagnosis in December of 2010, at about 16 weeks gestation. We learned at that time that our daughter had a Neural Tube Defect called Anencephaly, in which the head portion of the neural tube does not close. As a result, the baby's skull is left open and the remaining brain tissue is left exposed. It is always fatal, though some infants with this condition live longer than others. Most are stillborn or die shortly after birth if the pregnancy is carried to term. Our daughter lived about 7 hours after birth. Unlike many experiences with pregnancy and infant loss, our grief journey began several months before the birth of our babies and death of our daughter.
     In a way, I was forced into behavioral activation because of the nature of our loss. Due to work demands and the extended period of time leading up to my maternity leave, I had little choice but to resume my daily activities, though I was also able to find other outlets on which to focus. As a method of keeping friends and family updated, I began a web journal at caringbridge.com. After the babies were born, this turned into an ongoing blog (www.aftertherainn.com), as I enjoy writing and looking for ways to offer encouragement to others. I also turned attention to another favorite hobby and started a photography club through my church. Obviously, I could not avoid the pain of our loss, but somehow managed to keep moving forward through the remainder of the pregnancy, the births of our babies, and loss of our daughter by using the same valuable concepts and practical advice you will discover in this book.
     As a therapist, I was teaching parenting classes for clients referred by Social Services in addition to my regular caseload. I quickly realized the value of finding "balanced" thoughts to counter the unhelpful automatic thoughts that naturally came to visit. Specifically, I found myself relying heavily on my spiritual belief system and concepts I believe to be true from scripture, such as that scripture says that God is Love, He has plans for us, and that love is not selfish. From these passages, I frequently reminded myself, "God loves me and He isn't selfish, so I know He's not toying with me for His own amusement. He has a plan- even if I don't understand it yet." This belief helped me through many difficult days and continues to do so.
     Above all, I found myself seeking to find some kind of purpose through our loss, as finding meaning in loss seems to be a key to finding peace. Relying heavily on my own spiritual beliefs, I looked for ways to reach out to others experiencing reproductive trauma, which has led to the establishment of our nonprofit. Granted, our specific response will not be the appropriate response for all experiencing loss, but I encourage you to consider the advice given in this book with the confidence that it can help you find peace with your reproductive experience in time. Even for those who "cope well" with a loss, it is not realistic to think you will quickly "get over it," even though well meaning loved ones may make unintentionally hurtful comments about their expectations of your recovery. In my experience, even though I believe I was coping well with all we were going through, it was a little more than a year after our daughter's death before I felt like the "grief fog" seemed to lift. I share that merely to encourage others to give themselves time to recover. The process will vary from person to person, but it is important to recognize that emotional healing does take time, and like physical healing, scars will likely remain.
     I can honestly say I have peace with our loss. I am thankful to have found what I consider to be purpose in both her life and death. As strange as it may sound, I can think of many ways the brief life of my baby girl has had a positive impact on others, and I am comforted by focusing on ways to ensure that continues to happen. The Carys Rainn Foundation, Inc. is still very new and in the beginning stages of our mission, but I am confident in believing that through the foundation, we can minister to others suffering similar losses, in an attempt to help them find hope and healing as well. Resources such as this book are sure to help!

     As I read through Dr. Wenzel's manuscript, I found myself applying her words to experiences my clients have shared with me, and also to my own experience. I am so sorry if you have a reason to be reading this book, but I highly recommend it! I hope you are able to find the hope and healing you need most!

*yes, it is an affiliate link, but I will only recommend books or products if I believe them to be good/helpful!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Carys' First 5K

Last weekend, we had the first annual Carys Rainn Memorial Ready... Set... Glo 5K. In a record-breaking turnout, we had 282 participants, not counting volunteers! Incredible. 

 Our race planner, Alan Osuch posted,
"*** Thanks to everyone who came out to support the Carys Rainn Foundation by participating in the Ready... Set... Glo 5K in Ashland, KY! We had 282 registered! We lit up the KYOVA Mall!*** We gave out 35 medals for 1st time 5k runners/walkers! It was a great run, great weather... but our runners were up to the challenge!*** Congratulations to overall male winner John Sloan at 19:33 and overall female winner Susan Sanders at 21:21! In the Amy For Africa Big Boy Classic Challenge Scott Walter defeated Mark Maynard.*** Special thanks goes out to Heather Pick of Team Christian and Wyatt and Amy Compston of Amy For Africa. Their enthusiasm and support added to the success of the event!"

And Paxton and his Papaw were the first stroller team to cross the finish line :) He was so excited!

282+ people heard Paxton and Carys' story and an inspirational sermonette by Amy for Africa. 282+ people know Carys' name and acknowledging pregnancy and infant loss became a little more "socially acceptable." 282+ people heard about how God can work for good, even through our pain.

I'm feeling very blessed and thankful. 

 Just because Carys wasn't here long doesn't mean she didn't have a purpose. God ALWAYS has a plan.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Opportunities to Share Her Legacy

I was recently blessed with an opportunity to share a bit about our story and the foundation on a (somewhat) local radio station. I always appreciate the chance to share how God has worked and is working through our experience!!

After listening, if anyone is interested in participating in any of our upcoming events, visit the website at www.carysrainn.org or www.facebook.com/carysrainn. We're currently seeking item donations for the auction in July, and registration for the 5K can be submitted online at www.tristateracer.com.

Feeling blessed!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

3rd Birthday "Pictures" and Rubber Duckies

The past week has been filled with coughing, breathing treatments, tissues, and cranky attitudes. A certain little fella in this household had the experience of spending more than 3 hours at the doctor's office on his birthday, complete with breathing treatments and a chest xray (his lungs looked good, thankfully). Not the 3rd birthday pictures I had in mind (but yes, I did request copies haha).
On the way home, we stopped and picked up his baby brother and Mamaw and went to the cemetery. 
This time, we added Paxton-approved flowers. 

After Paxton told me last time that he didn't want the flowers I had put together for Carys, we discussed it and decided that a little family of duckies to represent each of us would be appropriate. So, we went through his duck collection and found a little family of 5 ducks. A mommy duck, daddy duck, and three baby ducks. He played with them a while, then would remind me that we were going to take them to Carys' grave. I added the ducks to some flowers the babies' Mamaw had found (the grass filler has butterflies in it too) and took them to the cemetery. Their Grannie and Papaw had already been there, too, and left a ducky filled with flowers.

Paxton agreed that these flowers were much better. :)

Once we got home, I gave Paxton his antibiotic... and he promptly gagged and threw up. I'd barely been able to get him to eat or drink anything, let alone the medicine, and I was worried he'd get dehydrated and have to go to the hospital. I got him cleaned up and in the bath tub and was trying again... and somehow when I tried to stand up again, somehow I caught my pinky toe on the floor.... and broke it (seriously??? who DOES that?! Who breaks their toe by standing up?!)

Needless to say, that was a breaking point (no pun intended... ha!). 

I was obviously missing my girl, tired from being up throughout the night to give breathing treatments or feed the baby, worn down, and hurting. I remembered how I felt the Good Friday after the day the twins were born. "Your spirit is willing but your flesh is weak"

But, you know what? We're still okay. The evening eventually settled down, and even though the week to follow wasn't fun (and even now, I keep pausing for coughing fits that make me feel like I'm going to cough out a lung), the storm is calming.... and we're still okay. I still miss my girl and am homesick for Heaven while finding joy on earth in this house full of boys. I still feel loved by a Heavenly Father, and I still have peace..... and an inhaler. But more importantly, peace. :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Storms of all kinds...

I was recently asked to share something with you all. April 1-7 was Asbestos Awareness Week.  Though I didn't get the message before that week, I still wanted to take a moment to share. Heather, who contacted me, wrote:

"At age 36, I was diagnosed with mesothelioma just 3 ½ months after my first and only child, Lily, was born. I was given just 15 months to live unless I underwent a drastic surgery to remove my left lung. Miraculously, I beat the odds and I’m still here eight years later.
Asbestos is not banned in the US, yet it’s the only known cause of mesothelioma. I was exposed to asbestos through my fathers work jacket when I was just a little girl; my diagnosis came about 30 years later. Once diagnosed, most patients die within 2 years. I am one of few survivors who openly share their story and work to spread awareness regarding the dangers of asbestos."
I share this now not simply because I was asked to do so, but also to acknowledge that storms come in many forms. Make an effort to prevent the ones you can, but also know that it's not possible to prevent every storm from coming. Even if we are doing everything we believe is "right," sometimes storms happen. How you respond to them make a world of difference. Heather chose to reach out to others in an attempt to prevent them from going through the same traumatic experiences she has faced. Check out her awareness page, then consider the storms in your own life.

Does God want to use your storms for some purpose that is not yet being realized?

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sweet boys, toys, and projects

This is the longest I've gone without posting since starting this blog. As always, it's not that I have nothing to say, just that I have so many other things holding my attention. Like those two sweet boys of mine. This week, I'd taken some pictures of the boys and when I was looking back through them, one picture of the littlest guy made me catch my breath. His cheek, jaw, and mouth... it was like I was looking at Carys. It made me smile (a bittersweet smile, as always).

I've had Carys (and Heaven) on my mind frequently lately as Easter and their birthday approaches. 3 years. How has it been that long already? I'm thankful, though, to say that Carys continues to be very well remembered and frequently mentioned. As I recently shared with some dear friends in the baby loss world, "most moms take their kids to the park to get out.... i take mine to the cemetery. (sharing because I know you all understand) so... Pax asked me today where Heaven was, if it was way up high in the "fye." I said, "That's where we imagine it to be; we can't really see it." he said, "I want you to wift me up high so I can see it!"  Then, he said something about Carys' flowers. I told him they were pink and yellow flowers for her, and he got his pouty look on his face and said "but i didn't want dohs fowers." so I asked him what flowers he wanted to get for her instead, he said "nofing. Toys." I asked what kind of toys, he told me he wanted a mommy toy, a baby brover toy, a daddy toy, and a Paxton toys." I know what Carys needs for her birthday (well, what we need to get her for Paxton).

The Carys Rainn Foundation is doing well and I'm excited about the events we have coming up. June 27th, we will be hosting the Ready... Set... Glo 5K (a nighttime glow race). The second weekend of July will be our Online Auction, and we will be hosting a professional training August first at KDMC for medical and mental health professionals. Exciting stuff!

Since last time I posted, I resigned my position in community mental health to stay home with my boys. While I am very much at peace with that decision and thankful to have this time with them (even on the rough days!), I'm also still working at my own projects to contribute to the household income. I started www.kerikitchen.info to keep them all straight. (ha!) So, Prayers appreciated. :)

But now, I actually have both boys napping and a billion things on my to do list... so God bless and have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Heaven Dove Down

Not long after the twins were born, I found a deal for a free mini book. So on a Sunday afternoon, I rushed to put together a story book of the babies' story for Pax. It's just a short little tiny book.

I read it to him tonight (and didn't cry as much as I thought I would).

He didn't say much about it, but I could tell he was really paying attention. As I was getting him ready for bed, he was just jabbering. He asked me what I've been dreaming about and talked about the Bible stories we read. He told me the 10 commandments (with some prompting of course). I thoroughly enjoyed just talking to him. What an amazing little boy he is.

The conversation led to him asking me where God and Jesus live. I told him God lives in our hearts and asked if He lived in his (he said yes). He then asked where Carys lives, which led to him asking where Heaven is. It's a little difficult to explain to a 2 year old where Heaven is. I told him it was a little hard to explain, but we could picture it being way up high. He seemed satisfied with this answer.  But then, I commented that I believe we felt Heaven the day he and his sister were born.

Of course, this prompted more questions. "Did He come down?" "Did Jesus dive down from the ceiling?"

"Did Heaven dive down?"

"Something like that, buddy."

Heaven did dive down when they were born. It dove down and totally encompassed us with overwhelming peace and love. It's not REALLY "way up high"... it's closer to us than we even realize. It has to be - we've touched it. It wasn't the first time Heaven dove down to earth... and it won't be the last.

So thankful that Heaven dives down when we need it most - and leaves us with the promise of more.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


The last few years, we have chosen to participate in My One Word in lieu of New Year's Resolutions.

2012, my word was Joy

2013, my word was Action

For 2014, I am ANTICIPATING what God has in store.

I am excited about the possibilities in front of us and know that God is continuing to work in a big way. I'm anticipating progress in my personal life, professional life, the Foundation... I'm anticipating seeing pieces falling into place this coming year.

I know God has a plan!


Jeremiah 29:11-13
New International Version (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.