This was our second day in Florida and we got a late start to the parks. Neither Rick or I had slept that night. It was rough.
We had planned on spending the day at Hollywood Studios.
Toy story and Playhouse Disney. Need I say more? =)
I remember walking in and seeing the big Mickey hat. The boys were thrilled! I had decided to walk that day and I was excited to have more mobility. I was not feeling the best but I pushed forward for my boys.
We made our way over to pizza planet for lunch. It looked just like the one on the movie. The boys were so excited about this. I had to pretty much bribe them to eat because they were so excited about playing the games downstairs. Their enthusiasm encouraged me.
It wasn't but a few moments later that I began to really struggle. I had noticed a newborn baby a few tables down from ours. I tried not to look but It was very difficult not to... It was a little girl too, which made me want to look even more. The family had been eating lunch together and the Mom and Dad must have gone to the restroom for a minute. I saw who I think was the big sister sitting by the stroller. The baby had started to cry. She picked the baby up and was trying to hush her by giving her a bottle. The baby cried louder. She tried to bounce the baby, rock the baby. Do everything a mom would've probably done. The only problem was this girl was only like 7 or 8 years old and wasn't quite sure how to comfort her sister. I sat there and watched for a good 5 minutes or more. I couldn't help but watch. In this moment I found myself getting upset and a little mad. I wanted to run over and calm that child. I wanted to hold her and help her stop crying. I couldn't take the crying. It was killing me! I thought, what was taking the mom so long? Why did she just walk away from her new baby? I couldn't stand it!
Rick was starting to get upset too and as time went on I saw him getting agitated. Then it hit me... Disney World was going to be harder on me than I thought. I excused myself to the bathroom while Rick took the boys downstairs to play games. I sat in the bathroom and cried.
I wanted Madeline and I needed her. I would have held her and soothed her and loved her with everything I had. I just cried. Not because that Mom had her baby. Not because I was mad at God. I never did get mad at God. I just wanted my daughter. I missed her. I wanted to hold her and help her stop crying. I wanted to bounce her and rock her and feed her... I just missed her, so very much.
It was a huge wake up call to me, I was starting to come out of the daze of what had happened and it was like I realized it all over again. It was tough.
When I finally got my strength up and left the bathroom, the family was gone.
I took a deep breath and when down to my boys. I wore a fake smile that day. I couldn't help it. I felt like part of me was missing and it was. Maddie was missing. Her, and my happiness.
We went to all the attractions and rides we could. The boys loved it.
At one point I asked if we could go to the Little Mermaid show. Rick gave me a puzzled look but he took my hand and said "yes." I mean it's not everyday you go to "The Little Mermaid" with your husband and two sons. Rick knew I needed something girlie and he told the boys that they were doing it for me.
I remember watching the show and crying. It made everything much worse. "The Little Mermaid" was my favorite of the Disney movies growing up and I remember watching it over and over and over again as a little girl. My mind started to wonder and I thought of Maddie. I thought of how I wouldn't know if she liked it too. It killed me. I started to cry again. It was a tough day.
I remember walking out of the theater and thinking, How am I going to get through this? Everything reminds me of her. Everything. I was weak.
I asked God for strength in that moment and He did give it to me. I just needed to ask Him, that was all. He never left me. There was just moments I had to completely lean on Him and seek His face, this was one of those moments.
We spent the the rest of our day among Mickey, Pooh, Handy Manny and the Little Einstein's. I cheered up and made some amazing memories with my boys. I was hoping it would just continue to get a little easier each day...
My nights were getting harder. I didn't sleep at all anymore. I had cried all through the night and Rick just held me. He prayed with me. We had starting doing devotions every night with the boys and that helped so much. Then Rick would write and I would read a little. We finished the night by reading Psalms together and praying. During those moments I felt so close to God and to Rick. I loved it.
When the lights would go out though, I struggled. I would try to pray myself to sleep and that didn't always work. I would find myself in the bathroom just looking at Madeline's picture and crying and crying. I was going through such a hard time. I remember just waiting and waiting for morning to come. I hated the nights.
That morning we left early and headed to Animal Kingdom for a Character Breakfast. I remember feeling instantly cheered up. Who couldn't while eating breakfast with Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy? =) The day got easier and I enjoyed it with my boys. They loved the safari and all the rides. They loved the parades and the Finding Nemo show.
I remember sometime during the Nemo show seeing a little girl in a wheelchair not to far from us. She had Down's Syndrome. I remember watching her mom with her and how precious she was to her. And that even though she was a little more challenged than some of the other children in that room, she was loved so very much... It reminded me that everyone had trials and struggles. Everyone has something on their plate.
I looked over at my two healthy boys. I couldn't help but smile. I really was blessed, even during such a time of grieving, I was blessed. No one at that park knew what I was going through. No one knew that just days before I had given birth to and lost the most precious gift a Mom could imagine.
That's when it hit me.
Everyone was there for the same reason.
To try to soak up some of that Disney Magic in our own lives. To escape from the "real world" for just a little while. To leave our heartaches and heartbreaks outside the Disney gates and just live in the moment.
So, I did.
It had turned out to be an amazing day! I kept my charm necklace open that day. I felt happy. I was enjoying the boys and our day, finally. It was like I wanted her to know. Although, I know she knew. She was in my heart. She's never truly left me.
The next morning we went to Epcot and it was a little hard. I had another rough night and was very tired. It was pouring rain and I considered maybe just calling it a day. The boys wouldn't have it and so we ventured out into the rain, the pouring dreary rain. Rick and I both mentioned that the weather seemed to mimic our moods that day. We felt the same way on the inside.
We stepped off the bus and at the gate I prayed as we walked through. I asked God to give me strength. He did.
I knew eventually we wold go back home and face the real world and new lives but I need a little more distraction. I needed to breathe.
At Disney World, no one has a bad day.
No, seriously, I don't know where they find their employee's. They are way too happy they almost don't seem real. Although in a way, I was thankful for that.
On this day, I really got into it. Epcot is very "hands on" and the boys were really loving it. They loved the space and Nemo ride. They loved the Sorin' ride. They loved everything. We walked through all the countries and I remember thinking I was distracted from everything else. I was just there in that ehand in hand with my amazing boys.
We made it all way around the lake and through the countries. Rick and I loved Italy. It was romantic. We stopped and had the boys portraits made for both our parents. It turned out to be an amazing day. And as the fireworks went off that night and my husband leaned over and gave me a kiss, I thought. Okay, Natalie, one day at a time. You've got this, one day at a time.
The next day was Sunday, and I was glad. We were going to Church. A few of our wonderful friends that we went to Crown with had contacted us to see if we needed a ride to Church. I was so happy to see them. Michelle and I had been roommates in college and had stayed friends through the years. She came and picked us up and we headed to Church. The song service was amazing! They sang the song "In Christ alone and I bawled like a baby. Such a true song. So good! When I heard the verse "From life's first cry to final breath, here in the power of Christ I stand" I lost it. What a song, but wow, it meant so much more to me now. I cried through the rest of the service. The Preacher did an amazing job and I just felt so close to the Lord. I was emotional but I was so thankful for the things I had heard that morning.
We spent the rest of the day with the Schatz family and they treated us to lunch and invited us over for the day. We headed back to Church that night, what a blessing. I remember thinking throughout the day how lucky we were to have so many people who loved us. How lucky we were to have gone to Crown College and made so many lifelong friends.
I went to bed that night missing my girl like crazy but feeling a little bit better. I actually slept a little too. Praise the Lord!
On Monday we headed back to Magic Kingdom. It was the boys favorite park out of all of them and mine too. I remember feeling close to Madeline at this park. I didn't exactly know why but I was glad. Any little piece of her I could get, hold on to, I took it.
We watched the show at the castle and I thought of her. As we rode the teacups and were spinning around and around, I thought of her. As we ate lunch outside at a little cafe where birds were hopping all about, I thought of her. She was there in the sunshine kissing my cheek, she was there.
I remember thinking that day that I just wanted to soak up every moment with Rick, Noah and Elijah and make lots of memories. Memories that I could carry with me the rest of my life.
I had told the boys before we left for our trip that it wasn't just "a vacation." It was a trip in Madeline's memory. I called it the "Maddie's memory trip." The boys liked that. I tried to talk about her and make sure they knew we were there because of her. It was sweet. Anytime I hear my boys mention her name I can't help but smile. I didn't want them to forget her because she is still a part of our family, even though she is no longer with us.
As we left the park that night I had a feeling that things were going to be okay. I don't know exactly what it was, but I think it had something to do with that Disney magic. That and the grace the Lord and Madeline had been sending down to us every single day...
For the Lord God is the a sun and shield: The Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withold from them that walk uprightly. Psalm 84:11