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January 31, 2011

Home Sweet Home...

1/20/11

We flew home that night very late. I was a little concerned because a huge snow storm had come in and we were nervous of them delaying our plane. We made it on and took off. The plane left on time.

I had a knot in my stomach the whole way home. It's like I knew the inevitable was coming. We were headed back home, back to our house, back to our life. A life that no longer would have Madeline present. A life that was not at all what I thought it would be. The distractions were gone. No more Disney magic. No more vacation. This was it, back to my real life, my new normal. I didn't even know what that was...

As the plane took off, I took a gulp. How would I be able to do this. I didn't want to do this. I didn't want to live a life without my girl. I didn't want to go home and see all her things around the house, completely untouched, never used. It was like I was still in a dream and this whole thing never happened. I just didn't want to face it.

But, I had to.

As we got closer to landing, the ride was bumpy. I remember not even being scared but just thinking to myself, if something were to happen, I'm ready. I'm ready to go see my Lord. I'm ready to hold my girl.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this because I want to die. I don't. I want to live and love life with my family and enjoy many years to come.

It's just been so fresh on my mind that we DO NOT KNOW when our last breath will be. We DO NOT KNOW if we have a tomorrow.(James 4:14) I never imagined that my precious perfect girl would have left this world just 2 days after entering this world. How could I have? Who would've thought that?

So, what I mean was, if it was the Lord's timing on that plane ride, it just was. I wasn't scared. I know where I am going and I hope that each of you know too. It's a hard thing to understand that we do have "an appointment with death" and to be completely honest I hate that thought. I miss Madeline so very much. I cry for her everyday of my life, but God wanted her and it was her time, as short of a time as she had, it just was. Now I know that and understand.

As we walked off the plane, I was glad. We made it! Through crying babies and little girl screaming "Daddy" the last 10 minutes of the flight, we made it. I've never seen Rick so relieved to step off a plane and I was too. My cheeks were completely stained from crying and Rick was completely overwhelmed with the events leading up to our landing. Finally, almost home.

We gathered our luggage, packed the car and started driving. Rick and his Dad talked of our trip and I sat in the back and watched Noah and Eli fall asleep. They were exhausted from a week of complete joy. I was so thrilled for them.

Once we pulled in at home, Rick carried the boys to their beds and we headed for ours. It was around midnight at this time and we were exhausted. Rick had laid a pile of letters on the bed and we slowly started to read them. Card after card, we cried. At one point I told him maybe doing this before we went to sleep was a bad idea. He reminded me that these cards had not been sent to upset us and make us cry, Rather they were sent to us to let us know how much we were loved. He was right. We are loved. So very loved.

I've never experienced such an outpouring of love like this before. Everyone cared for us, hurt with us and was completely heartbroken too.
We still are receiving letters, every day. I'm so very thankful for that.

So I reached down and picked a card up and began to open it. I couldn't believe what I saw next...

The card had a picture of Maddie Grace looking up at me. It was the one taken right after they placed her in my arms. Her eyes were bright with new life and she was looking right at me.

Oh, I loved that moment. <3 I have taken myself back there so many times.

Madeline's name and birth stats were on the bottom of the card and a little blue bird. I began to read...

"Held only a moment in our arms...But forever in our hearts!"

"Oh it's hard to lose a loved one to the grave,
but we have the blessed hope that Jesus gave.
God's gonna wipe all the tears from our eyes,
when we meet him beyond the skies.
Heaven's sounding sweeter all the time.
Seems like lately it's always on my mind.
Someday I'll leave this world behind,
Heaven's sounding sweeter all the time.

I held the card in my hand and just wept. What a beautiful thought. What a beautiful card. I was so very thankful for Amy sending it, and so thankful that I knew... Rick held me that night and we both cried out to God thanking him that Maddie was home.

She wasn't in our home that we had prepared for her, but instead in her Heavenly home with the Lord... She was home.


Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. Psalm 73:25-26

January 29, 2011

His eye is on the sparrow...

1/19/11

The sun was shining and the sky was bright blue on this particular day. Rick and I had decided not to make any plans and just see where the day would take us. We had 2 more days in Florida before we returned home. I wanted to enjoy them, I wasn't ready to go back home yet. To be honest, I didn't know if I ever would be... I was tired and we decided instead of purchasing more Disney day passes to just rest and enjoy the resort.

The weather had gotten up to 80 degrees and I was thrilled. I wanted to sit by the pool and enjoy some of that sun. So we packed up and headed out into the sunshine.

There is something about the sunshine that just makes it hard to be in a bad mood. I put Eli's floaties on him and sent him and Noah into the pool with Rick. I was watching them swim and laugh and giggle. It was like everything was perfect in their worlds. I watched Rick with them. How he played and threw them into the air. How he caught them as they came down the waterslide. They trusted him. He was their hero. I felt my mind wandering and I closed my eyes. I began thinking of Madeline...

The moment she was born. The way that she had her eyes wide open and was looking right at me. I was holding her and she felt so wonderful in my arms. Then my mind moved to our "perfect day" in the hospital. January the 7th. I was holding her and watching the snow fall down. I felt completely at ease and had not a care in the world. I was enjoying being a mom again to a perfect little baby girl. I loved that moment.

I began to cry as I thought of this. I think I take myself back to these brief moments so I can feel her again. Hold her again. Help fill the empty arms of mine that ache for her.

I then opened my eyes. And I asked the Lord again for strength. I wanted to cry out and bawl like a baby. My heart was in complete pieces.

I couldn't.

I couldn't because there were people all around. I couldn't because the boys were just a few feet from me. I just couldn't.

Then the Lord gave me something very, very special.

There had been music playing at the pool since we had arrived... We were staying at the Port Orleans, french quarter resort. All the music was a Louisiana style of music and there were no words, just music...

When I heard the song come on at first I thought, "Am I really hearing this?" I called out to Rick and said "Do you hear this?" He quieted the boys and he listened.

Then he smiled at me. He knew.

God had played that song just for me. For my little girl. For me to know that he was still with me...

And I knew He was.

I asked Him to kiss sweet Maddie Grace's cheeks and I sat back and listened.

"Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely? And long for heaven and home.
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He.
His eye is on the Sparrow. And I know He watches me.

When ever I am tempted. When ever clouds arise.
When song gives place to sighing. When hope within me dies.
I draw the closer to Him. From care He sets me free.
His eye is on the sparrow. And I know he watches me.

His eye is on the sparrow. And I know he watches me..."



What a blessing. I cherished that moment. I felt like God was sitting right with me with His arms around me. The same arms that had been holding my little birdie since the moment she left mine....

Thank you Lord. <3

The magic of Disney World...

1/14/11
Hollywood Studios

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...

1/15/11
Animal Kingdom

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.

1/16/11
Epcot

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.

1/17/11

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!

1/18/11
Magic Kingdom

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

January 27, 2011

Flying through the clouds...

1/12/11

The day after the funeral was tough. I didn't know what day it was or what time it was. I felt like my life had become a continuous running clock. No rest. No break.

Rick and I tried to keep our minds busy. We had decided that we were going to get away for a while. Even though I was still very much trying to recuperate from the delivery, I decided I had enough strength to go. I needed to go. Get away from it all.

All I knew is that I couldn't take any more of the house and our room and the memories. The ones we had. The ones that never would take place. I needed to go. I needed to get away with my boys and just breathe. So I could try not to cry so much and take a minute to laugh, to smile. It seemed so impossible to do but I didn't want my children to constantly see their Mommy crying. I didn't want to constantly hear them ask Why I was so sad.

So we went.

Rick had won an all expense paid vacation for the sales performance the previous year. We were planning to take the kids(all three of them) to Disney World this coming summer.

Rick's boss had mentioned maybe we could take the trip now and I am so very thankful for that. We headed out early that next morning. We planned to be gone for a week.

1/13/11

That next morning, well more like the middle of the night, we packed up and headed out. The boys were over the moon excited. I tried to be excited with them. They needed it!

We boarded the plane and headed to Florida. I got sepparated from them on the 2nd flight but I was just one seat ahead. I told Rick that this would give me an opportunity to read. My sweet sister in law had gone and picked up for me the book "I will carry you" by Angie Smith. I was so ready to read it. I knew Angie's story. I had been reading her blog for 2 years. I knew the story of their sweet daughter Audrey and had thought of this family and prayed for them many times. I remember thinking her faith and strength in the Lord was so amazing. I just knew I had to read her book. I couldn't put it down and I had almost the whole thing read before we got to Florida. Wow, what a story. What a life. What a family. I hoped for strength like hers.

I then put the book down. I remember looking over at the plane window and seeing the sun starting to come up. I remember it's warmth. I remember how bright it was. I closed my eyes and let it warm my face and I prayed. I asked God to kiss my sweet girl for me and give her my love. I'm so thankful for prayer. In that moment I felt so very close to Madeline. I remember feeling like she was there with me. We were flying though the clouds together. It was so amazing.

I didn't want to open my eyes. I was so close to my girl. I just sat there, eyes closed in peace. It was a special moment and I'm thankful for it.

I was then startled by pounding on the back of my seat. Don't worry people, it was my own kid. =) Elijah was getting restless and eager to get to Disney World.

I was thankful for that sweet moment with Maddie but I was reminded that I still had 2 children here on this earth who needed me. They needed their mom. I was ready. I prayed God would give me such strength in the week ahead if for no one else, definitely for them.

He did.

We landed and headed to our resort. It was so nice. I thought maybe we would get in and take a nap and start our Disney adventure the next day.

Nope.

Our boys were eager to go. They wanted to see Disney World.

You see, my boys think Disney World is the Castle. It's quite funny actually. They think Disney World only consists of Magic Kingdom because that's where the castle is. The castle they had seen at the beginning of so many movies and on t.v. I tried to explain it, but they didn't really care. They just wanted to go. =) This was not their first trip either. This was Noah's 4th trip and Eli's 3rd and they are 5 and 3.

Okay, okay. Yes, we are spoilers. I know. =)

We loaded up on the bus and headed to Magic Kingdom. My sweet husband got me a wheelchair because he knew I was still weak and not recovered enough to walk around Disney World all day. I was glad.

I placed one boy on each knee and we headed in the park.

The moment the boys saw the castle, they screamed with excitement "Disney World!" How cute is that? We headed toward the castle and over to Fantasyland. Oh what fun. I watched my boys laugh and giggle and I saw their eyes light up in excitement. I was so glad we came. So glad.

Later that evening we headed over to the Crystal Palace for a character dinner. The boys would get to eat with the Characters! They were thrilled.

As we waited outside of the restaurant for them to call our names we had a perfect view of the castle. I couldn't help but think of Madeline. I couldn't help but think how my sweet princess was there just last summer in my tummy. I was about 8 weeks along.

One of the things that made me sad about this trip was that she wasn't coming with us. But seeing the castle reminded me that she had. She was right there. All 5 of us were, just 7 months ago.

Noah saw me staring over at the castle and he asked why I was crying. I began to tell him that I was missing Baby Maddie and that the castle reminded me of her because she was my princess.

I then told him that Baby Maddie was in a castle. "She is?" he replied. I told him that I thought her mansion in heaven probably looked a lot like that. I told him about how she was happy and living there in heaven. It was a sweet moment between us. I'm so glad he understands Heaven. We talked of Maddie for another moment and it had started getting dark. That's when it happened.

The entire castle lit up pink. PINK!

I smiled... I knew it was another little reminder from the Lord. And as I thought of her again I couldn't help but feel her sweetness with us. I held my little locket in my hand, I had kept it open that day.

Just like that moment in the clouds earlier that morning. I had another special moment with her. She was with me...

I had carried her around that park the summer before in my tummy, but this time she came with me in my heart. <3

January 26, 2011

Remembering Maddie Grace...

1/11/11

The day finally broke and I knew it would be one of the hardest ones I had to face. This would be the day we would put our Maddie Grace to rest.

In my heart and mind I knew she had been with Jesus ever since that Saturday morning when she left my arms. This was a comfort that I continually cling to because of my faith in God and His Word.

This was just going through the motions, what is supposed to come next in this grieving process.

This was her memorial. The day that we would remember our girl.

As I tried to focus on the day ahead I was distracted. We were in the middle of a snow storm and I could hear a bird chirping outside my window. I thought I might have dreamed it but I hadn't slept so this couldn't be. God had let me hear that bird singing to help me that day. And it did. Wow, God is good.

I spent the day in prayer. I was praying for strength. Praying for grace. Praying for my family and my boys. I was praying for what I would say at the funeral. How do I put into words the greatest loss of my existence? I was unsure, confused and completely broken.

I remember sitting at my computer desk and trying to write some things down. The boys were laughing and giggling in the house and being very noisy. I kept getting distracted with their happiness, but I knew they didn't understand what I was going through; that the other part of my heart and their sister was no longer with me. It was tough.

I wrote out an outline for what I thought I would say that night praying that God would help me through it. Before I knew it, it was time to get ready.

I remember washing my hair and just bawling. I kept thinking how I would never wash hers, never put it in pigtails. I would never french braid it. How could this be? It was something I had dreamed of for so long...

I continued getting ready and I cried and cried. I think I put my makeup on 3 times before we even walked out the door. I wasn't ready for this. I just wasn't strong enough.

I wore a black maternity dress. I couldn't fit into any of my clothes yet. It hadn't even been 5 days since her birth. I put on my pink earrings and my locket. I wore the same pink headband in my hair that I wore the day I had her. I wanted to honor her. =) Then I took her pink headband and put it around my wrist. You see, I never found a bracelet and I thought that her headband would be the perfect thing to keep with me that day.

I gathered up some pictures, her blankets, and her diaper bag. I just wanted to have some of her "things" there. I brought the little bird from her nursery and an angel that my cousin had given me.

When I walked into my Church, I saw all the beautiful flowers. It smelled so good. I saw the offering table up front that was covered in a white runner. That's where it will go. The casket. It wasn't there yet, and to be honest, I was never ready to see it arrive.

I placed Madeline's "things" all around the Church among the flowers. I got out her baby book(barely written in) and her footprints. I laid out her newborn outfit and hat along with her blanket. It was hard. I kept messing with everything and moving it. I wanted it to be just right.

People started coming in and I remember speaking to a few of them. I began talking to my wonderful photographer. The one who had taken my beautiful maternity pictures. =) She's the best. She was going to take some pictures for me that night. As I spoke with her I remember seeing the casket being brought in. It only took one person. It was so tiny.

I had to excuse myself for the worry that I might pass out. I was a mess.
I know that Sweet Madeline was not in that box. I knew that. I knew that she was in the arms of Jesus in Heaven. I just couldn't stand the thought that her sweet little body was there. The cheeks I kissed over and over. The hair I brushed. I hated it. I asked God to put good thoughts in my head of my sweet girl and he did.

Just before the service as Rick and I were waiting in his Dad's office, I was completely surprised. I hadn't looked out to see who was there. If the building was empty or full. I didn't know. I didn't care. A huge snow storm had come in and I honestly didn't know if anyone would be there.

Boy, was I wrong.

My Mom had come to tell me some out of town friends arrived and they wanted to see me. As the door swung open I was in shock! I was completely surprised at who was coming through the door and the number of people being the door. The building was completely full. And some of my best friends had just arrived to be there for my husband and I.

My sweet friend Lois gave me a locket that had a picture of my girl inside and the words, "I will always be in your heart, Maddie Grace" inside. Bethany had given me money to buy a tree to plant in her honor. So precious. I hugged them and cried on them. Then some more great friends walked in. I was astonished. I couldn't believe they came so far. Just for us.

My sweet friend Kelsey had made it in. I can't tell you what a relief this was to me. She had been in contact with me since it happened and I knew how much she wanted to be there. She was. She came. I grabbed her so tight and we held each other. You see, Kelsey has a similar story. She lost her sweet little girl, Belle, about 7 years ago.

Kelsey knew my pain. She got it. I could feel both of our hearts breaking all over again as we held each other. For it wasn't that long ago that we were at her precious daughter's funeral. It didn't seem real or right to be going through this again...

Her sweet husband, Tim, asked if he could pray before the service. And hand in hand Rick and I and some of our very best of friends prayed. It was precious.

A few moments later, it was time. Everyone was waiting for us to begin the service. When Rick and I walked through that door I felt like everyone was staring at us. And they were.

We took our seats and the service began. My sweet Father in Law and Preacher led us in prayer and the service began. At first I was a little distracted. Both my boys were in the auditorium and I really didn't want either in there. I was later informed that they wouldn't stay out and begged to be there. I was worried for them.

I don't remember everything about the funeral. I was so full of grief. I remember holding onto Rick and just crying.

Rick spoke before me. He had written the most beautiful words to our little girl. He talked about the song he sang to her. He talked about her. He was weeping and I remember wanting to run up there to him and say this is all a mistake. We haven't lost her. This isn't real.

It was...

Next he had a beautiful song played for her. "I will find you again." Everyone was crying.

Then my Mom and Dad got up. Broken hearted, they stood up for their girl. My mom read a beautiful poem and I wept. They wept.

Then Kelsey got up to read her sweet poem for Maddie Grace. I pictured myself back at Belle's funeral. I pictured both of our girls. Oh how they were missed.

Then I played the song "I will carry you" by Selah. A song that spoke volumes. A song written by a grieving Mommy and Daddy for the loss of their precious girl, Audrey Caroline.

I don't think there was a dry eye in the building.

And then, it was my turn.

I stood up and walked up to the pulpit.

I was weak.

I was physically and mentally sore, completely exhausted. But I stood, For Maddie. For the Lord.

The moment I lifted my head and looked around, I was amazed. I scanned the tremendous crowd and I saw faces from every walk of my life. My childhood, my youth, and my young adulthood. Family, friends and Church members. I was in awe. I could see that every seat was filled and people were standing everywhere.

I was in awe.

I thought, I am loved. She was loved. Wow.

I had jotted down an outline of what I wanted to say... I guess that's the teacher in me. =) You always have to be prepared.

I stood there and this is what I said...

I just want to take a moment to talk about my little girl. My sweet Maddie Grace. I won't have the opportunity to talk about her at graduations or her wedding. You see I won't have the opportunity to experience any of those moments. Although the 2 days of moments I did experience I want to share. I want to talk to you about my girl.

I went on to tell them about Madeline's Beauty.
Her gorgeous eyes and chubby cheeks. Her cute dimpled butt chin(inherited from Mommy and Noah =) and her gorgeous hair. I told them how I loved feeling it under my chin and on my cheek. I talked about her eyes and how alert she was. How she never took her eyes off of her Daddy and how I knew why. <3 I talked about her loud cry and how she would've for sure been a Cheerleader. I just talked about her. Her Beauty.

Then I wanted to talk about her life.
Her short, less than 2 day, tiny, precious, perfect life.

I talked all about my pregnancy and how I loved every moment of it. I talked about how I knew her by her kicks and hiccups. I talked about how the day I found out I was pregnant, I gave this baby to God. She truly always was His.

Then I talked out the birds. The statue, the earrings. Just the birds.
I told them about the text I received from Kelsey the day before about the little red robin that came onto her porch in the middle of the snow storm. How Kelsey told me that it was a peace that our girls were both happy and playing up in Heaven together. I talked about the bird chirping that morning. Maddie was my little bird. I thought the signs meant she would be a singer one day. I wish I could hear her now. Maddie's wings took her back into the arms of Jesus. I'm so thankful for that.

Then, in closing, I talked about Her Grace.

I told them why we named our children the way we did.
Sweet Noah's name means comfort, and God's promises.
My Elijah's name means God is my God.
And Maddie, well I guess you know by now meant God's gift.

My sweet Gift of Grace. She lived up to that name in every way imaginable. She still does. Oh I love her name.

As I said all of these things I had tears in my eyes and a crack in my voice. It was the words I said next that I really want you to hear.

I said "But how can I stand up here and tell you all about my precious gift of a daughter, and not tell you about the one and only perfect gift, God's precious Son."

I didn't even realize what I had said until later that evening. God gave me those words. He even shocked me...

I then went on and talked of the gift of Salvation and the only way to receive it and go to Heaven was through God's perfect son, Jesus Christ.  John 3:16

I told them that I had the peace of Salvation settled in my life and I knew without a doubt I would see Madeline Grace again.

I then reminded them I would never forget sweet Maddie Grace for her memory would be carried out in our lives always...

I am making this my life's goal. To speak of Madeline and the Grace of God. It's all I can do.

After I spoke my amazing Pastor got up and preached such an amazing message about the Lord. I remember him saying at one point "The God that was good on Thursday was still good on Saturday!" He gave such a strong message from the Word of God all while mourning the loss of his precious granddaughter. I'm truly honored to have him as a Pastor. What a man of God. He was right though, The God of Thursday was just as good as the God of Saturday.

So true, to God be the Glory. Amen.

The next mourning...

1/9/11

I didn't sleep at all that night. How could I? I cried out, all night long, I cried out. I cried out to God. I cried out in pain. I just cried. Rick didn't sleep either and both of us were very sick. We were sick with a grief that we didn't know existed. A feeling of pain that made it hard to breathe. It was another day now but to me it was like time had not even passed.

I remember helping Rick make the bed as we both had heavy eyes and hearts. Our pillows were wet with tears from a night of pain. We just had to get up and face another day. Rick pushed back the curtain to let some light into our room. I saw that more snow had fallen through the night. That was when it happened...

I saw a shadow go by the window. What was it? Rick asked if I saw it and I replied "yes." There was a little bird flying around outside our window, back in forth, back and forth. It was playing.

In that moment, I felt such peace, such calmness. God had sent us a sign that He was with us. He had not forgotten us. He sent us a little birdie, a little Maddie birdie to remind us of our girl. To remind us that she was in heaven with the Lord. What a moment. And though it still hurt so much, I knew it would be okay. I didn't know how really, but I knew God would get us through this.

We went downstairs and saw the boys. They were eating donut's and watching t.v... I sighed. They seemed to be in their normal routine and I was very thankful for that. I wondered if they had heard us crying the night before. They didn't mention it.

Our Church and family had been bringing meals in to us. Our fridge was full of wonderful heartfelt meals. It was like no one knew what to say so they just cooked. And even though we had no apetite, I was so thankful for the food.

I remember my sweet Mother in Law (and Pastors wife) coming by to help us. She sat and held me while I cried like a baby. I know she was praying for me as she held me. She is one of the most amazing Women of God I have ever met. She is a prayer warrior. Rick always said it when he talked of his childhood. She would pray and pray. I didn't want to be anywhere else in that moment but with her while she held me. She is my other Mom and I love her so very much.

My Mom and Dad came by too. I couldn't barely look at them without crying.
I was heartbroken for them too. We all lost her. There is something about a Daddy's arms that just feels so safe. As my Dad held me, so many things went through my head. I thought about Rick and how he wasn't going to get the opportunity to hold his girl like this when she was hurting. I thought about how much I wanted him to have this bond. There was nothing like it. I then thought about how wonderful these arms felt around me and that my Heavenly Father had his arms around me as well. He was holding me up. He was holding Rick up, and I was so thankful for that.

The rest of the day is a complete blur... I know that the doorbell rang all day long. I talked with everyone, but I can't really recal what I said. Everyone understood and just let me cry.

Rick had to go that night to the funeral home and pick out the casket. I couldn't go. He said it was the worst experience of his life. I was so glad that his dad and mine went with him. I didn't ask the details, they were all over his face. The funeral had been set for January 11th at 6:30 pm. I couldn't believe it.

1/11/11 was a day I had wrote and spoke over and over and over. It was Madeline's due date.

Now this day would have a complete different meaning to me. It would be the day of my daughters funeral. A day of such grief and pain. I wondered if I could even go.

That night we didn't sleep again and just like the night before, we cried out to God all night long. I knew that my nights would just get harder. I was like a child again, afraid of the dark. Afraid of the unknown.

It was that night that I truly understood the meaning of God's will.

I guess to a degree I thought that I had my life figured out. I had it all planned. I will never again plan my life out. It is totally, completely and absolutely up to God. I surrendered to Him again. He was all I had.

1/10/11
I watched the sun come up again. Another day, I thought.

What do I do today? Where do I go. I got up feeling pretty bad. I really was feeling the after pains of the delivery. I guess in all this I had forgotten that it had only been 3 going on 4 days since I had delivered. I was tired and sore. Since I had started nursing, now I had to deal with all the things that came with that. It was just another reminder. I had a baby, but I had no baby with me. I felt hopeless.

Rick helped me through the day as we prayed and asked God's continue strength and grace. I decided I needed to get out of the house for a little while. We went to pick up some pictures at Walgreens. They were the hospital pictures of Madeline. They were gorgeous. For some reason, these helped me. I guess I was seeing her in the way I wanted to remember her. She was beautiful and full of life. Simply gorgeous. I'm so thankful for Bella Baby Photography and for these pictures.

We met up with my parents and my Mom had given me the most precious gift. It was a gold locket with the picture of a Mom holding her baby on the front.
I put it on even though it didn't carry her picture yet. I loved it.

I told Rick that we needed to go get the boys some outfits for the funeral. So, we went to Kohl's and bought them new suits and ties. Rick had said he wanted to pick out something pink to wear and so he went to the mens department. I told him I would be in the jewelry department looking for a bracelet.

I walked through that department over and over. I couldn't find anything "good enough." I noticed the lady who worked there watching me.
I was trying to stay strong. She asked if she could help me find anything and I told her I wanted a pink bracelet. She looked and looked and we couldn't find one. She asked if I wanted a necklace or earings instead and I started to tear up. I remembered the beautiful pink earings Rick gave me the day of Maddie's birth. I remembered the locket my mom had just given me. I touched my ears and then my neck. I told her no, I already had some.

Then she asked the question "Well what is the occasion you would like it for?" My heart sank. I looked up at her, tears streaming down my face. "It is for my daughters funeral." She looked at me in such dismay. And she stood there with me in the middle of Kohls, and cried. I couldn't believe those words had come out of my mouth. I couldn't belive I had to say it.

I went on to explain to her that my not even 2 day old daughter had passed away and I wanted to honor her by wearing pink everywhere I could. She went on to explain to me that "she too" had lost a baby shortly after birth. We wept with each other knowing that we could feel each others pain. Then she told me that it will get easier, one day at a time. I had heard it before, but for some reason, hearing her say it helped. She knew.

We went back home and tried to settle in for the night. We had many more visitors stop by. At one point our young adults were telling stories and making Rick and I laugh.

I almost felt guilty.

Although, I knew that they didn't know what else to say or do. It helped. It really did. As everyone left, I knew the inevitable was approaching. Another night.

Psalm 6:6 I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with tears. (I just noticed that this verse God gave me was 6:6. My baby girl was born on the 6th at 6pm. Isn't God amazing!)

For it is in the nights that I hurt. I still do. Last night was one of the worst nights I've had. I will share about that experience in a later post. But for now I just need to write. I need to read my Bible and pray and write...

I wondered how I would get through the next day.

Again, God put his arms around me and told me He would help me.

Psalm 18:30;32 As for God, his way is perfect:
It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.

In the moments after...

1/8/11

After Rick and I left the hospital we wanted to get our boys... We wanted to hold them and love on them and never let go. As we drove to where they were, we were in shock. We were in a daze, still in a dream. Had this terrible tragedy really happened? And had this really happened to us, to our lives? It seemed so unreal. It still does.

I don't remember much else of what happened other than the fact that when we pulled up to get them at the house, I ran to them. I hadn't thought about it but they had no idea of what was going on. They had spent the night with their grandma and the last they knew was that they were coming home in the morning to see us and see Maddie Grace.

So, what was the first thing they asked when they saw us?

Where's baby Maddie? I thought I would hit the floor. I remember gasping for breath and grabbing them. This wasn't fair... How do I tell my 5 and barely 3 year old that Baby Maddie had passed away. A sister that they had been looking so forward to for months. A sister that they had just held the day before... It just wasn't fair.

I don't know how he did it, but Rick had enough strength to get the 3 of us into the bedroom so we could talk. The boys continued to ask the whole way there. "Where's Baby Maddie?" "Where is she?" I thought I would die as I saw Noah's eyes fill up with tears and as Rick said "We need to talk to you boys about Baby Maddie." It was like Noah already knew. He was forcing back his tears as Rick explained that Baby Maddie had a hard time breathing and went to Heaven to be with Jesus. I looked into my boys faces and I was crushed. I couldn't understand why? Why our family? We loved Madeline. We wanted Madeline. We needed Madeline.

Elijah didn't quite understand much of it but I remember him looking so sad. He knows what Heaven is though, and he did repeat back to us that she was there after having it explained to him. The four of us sat on the bed and we cried. Rick held me and we cried. Then I saw Rick do something that still amazes me to this day...

He reached into his pocket and pulled out Madeline's pacifier. The one that she had sucked on for the last day and a half. He handed it to Noah and told Noah that Baby Maddie wanted him to have something special.

Then he said "Do you remember when Baby Maddie was getting her bath and she kept crying?" Noah answered, "Yes" in a weak little voice. Then Rick replied, "Well, Baby Maddie loved that you calmed her down and made her stop crying. You soothed her, Noah. Just like this pacifier soothed her. She wants you to have it." I watched as my precious son reached his tiny hand out and took the precious pacifier from his daddy. He held it tight in his hand and told us he would always keep it, always.

After talking with the boys, they were taken out of the room. Rick and I held each other and sobbed. Our hearts were broken, for the loss of our daughter and for the heartbreak of our boys...

After a little while I told Rick I wanted to take the boys home. To do what? I wasn't sure. I cried the whole way home and I've never felt so weak. It was a feeling that I didn't know I would still be feeling 2 1/2 weeks later, to the same degree. It's like my heart has been removed.

When I walked in the house I went upstairs to our room. I went to the place that we had just spent an amazing first night at home with our little girl.
I saw her blanket laying on the bed. The bassinet was still right there, her hat was laying inside. I fell on the bed and wept. How was this happening? This can't be my life. I kept pitching myself, truly trying to wake up. I thought I would look over and see Maddie in her bassinet sleeping away. It was all a dream. It had to be. It wasn't.

Rick had to come in and pick me up off the floor. He wanted to take me from the room. Take me from the place that I had my last moment on earth with my little girl. I just couldn't leave. I was a complete mess. We both were.

I clung onto her blanket and put it to my face. I just held it. There was still a diaper on the night stand. Rick took it out. He made the bed and cleaned up the room. All the while I sat there, so empty, so broken. I knew it was how he coped and I understood.

People had started arriving to the house. I was numb. Everyone wanted to know the same thing. What happened? She was the picture of health. I wanted to know too. God wanted her. He just wanted her. This was what Rick and I kept telling each other. We didn't know what else to do. I remember never getting mad. Just feeling like she had been taken from me, way, way too soon.

Our friends and family just sat and listened to us talk and cry and they held us. They prayed for us.

I don't even remember much more of the day. I remember people telling me I needed to eat and sleep. I couldn't do either. Rick and I went up to our room at one point to try to sleep. We couldn't. We both had the events of the day so fresh on our mind. I kept picturing Maddie's face in that moment of panic knowing something was wrong. What could I have changed? What else could I have done? Rick reassured me over and over, it wasn't your fault. But I just felt like something had to be the blame. What was it? It was one of those unexplained moments in life that you would die for an answer to.

I layed there and he held me and we cried. I remembered holding her after they told me she was gone. Putting her face to mine and trying to cherish the last moments of her in my arms for there would be no more. I wasn't going to watch her grow up. I wasn't going to see her again, ever in this life. How could this be...

I remember Rick praying and praying as we cried out. Praying for help and strength and comfort. Praying that God would help us. I'm so thankful He was there. In the darkest moment of my life... He was still there holding Rick and I up.

As the day came to an end and everyone was gone and the boys were asleep, I soon realized that my life would never be the same. A part of me had gone to Heaven. A part of me was no longer here anymore. There was a hole in my heart, there still is. How will I thought "How will I get through this night?"

January 25, 2011

A new beginning...

January 25, 2011

One thing that I've always loved to do is write.
When I was happy, I wrote. When I was sad, I wrote.
I think I used it in place of expressing my feelings because I didn't know where else to take them.

About 12 years ago, I stopped writing.

I wasn't exactly sure why. Then I realized that I didn't feel the need to have an outlet anymore, because I had found the one and only who knew my thoughts and feelings. I found the one and only who knew my heart before I put it on paper. I found the Lord!

As a 16 year old girl I was invited to Church and heard the Gospel preached in such a way that I knew I needed Him in my life! I didn't know I could just ask and be saved and have eternal life in Heaven with the Lord. I'm so thankful He made it that easy. On that beautiful August day, the love of my life (my boyfriend, now husband) led me to the love of my life.... The Lord.

I was forever changed and have never been the same since. I had a purpose in life never like before. I was now God's child. I'm so thankful for that.

I wasn't exactly sure what God had planned for me. I knew whatever it was, He would show the way. Rick (my precious Rick) and I got married in 2003. We were attending Crown College at the time and entering our Junior year. We had been dating for about 4 years and were so ready to be married. We wanted to be together always. The one thing you have to understand about Rick and I is this.... We are both the babies. We are both very passionate about everything we do in life. So, both of these things reflect in our relationship always. We have basically grown up together. We have been through it all, so to speak. We have loved and we have lived... We are definitely soul mates. God just knew I needed him. And that I needed Him. Oh where would I be without Rick.... Okay, back to what I was saying (I tend to ramble:)

We got married after two years of Bible college. Then continued on into our junior year. Being newlyweds, in another state and without family around, while attending college could definitely be tough at times. We definitely lived and loved and enjoyed it. We felt God had a great plan for us and we couldn't wait to see where we would be taken.

In December of 2004, we were blessed with a special gift. I was expecting a son. Oh what a joy it was. I have a history of Endometriosis and was told I probably would never have children. So, after much treatment and a couple of surgeries, my OB Dr. Vick advised us to try for a baby. We were young and still attending School but I thought, well, why not. To my surprise, I found out I was expecting! It was right around Thanksgiving. We really had a lot to be thankful for and by Christmas we had told our families. We told them over the phone because we couldn't even wait to go home. =) Sweet Noah Riley was born August the 19th of 2005. He came three months after I graduated college. We had moved home and bought our first house. Rick was working full time in the Church and my world was. Well, pretty much perfect. We had a new life, a new baby, and a new beginning. I was so blessed.

About a year and a half later, we had been encouraged by my new Dr. in Ohio, to try again if we were thinking of having another baby. We would have a sibling for Noah. I wasn't really sure about this yet. Noah seemed so little still but we tried again for fear that the Endometriosis could cause problems in conceiving again.

The Lord blessed us again. I thank the Lord for that. He blessed us with my sweet, sweet double portion. Elijah Braden was born on December 12th of 2007. What a joy! We had another baby to love and cherish, how wonderful. By this point I had decided my life's purpose. The one that I had left up to God was for me to be a mother. I couldn't think of a better occupation. So what if I didn't get an income. So what if I didn't have an amazing resume. I was a Mom. I was needed and there was no greater feeling to me. I went to school to teach. I teach these boys everyday. And most days, they teach me.


So, my story is pretty sweet so far. Right? Read on.... God had some other things in store for us.

Life was wonderful. We were living and loving life. I mean, we had the occasional problems with finances, loses and everyday life. We felt we were right where we needed to be. We were right in the middle of God's will which by the way is always the best place to be! I thought our family had been complete at this time. Rick wasn't really crazy about having more than 2 kids. Although, in my heart, I always wanted another baby. And I was hoping... It would be a girl.

So guess what? =) I found out I was expecting again right before Christmas in 2009. I took a test on Christmas eve and when we told our families and everyone said the same thing.... "Maybe this will be your girl!"... I had hoped they were right!

Unfortunately I never got to find out. When I was 11 weeks I went in for a routine checkup and during an ultrasound was told that there was no heartbeat. I already knew, I'd seen ultrasounds. I knew how big a baby that age should look and I knew I should be seeing that jumping bean move and that heartbeat fluttering. Rick was not with me at the time because I wasn't supposed to have an ultrasound. I was alone. Or so I thought. God was with me, holding my hand through the whole thing. I remember leaving the hospital heartbroken. Once you've experienced the joy of parenthood, you know how heartbreaking it is to suffer a miscarriage. It was like God was telling me He had something greater for me. And did he ever...

After my D&C. I left the hospital feeling empty. If you've ever had one, you know. It causes such pain, such loss and all you get to keep in return is a bill, a debt, nothing else. But I decided to start over, to use this trial in my life for God's Glory. I remember posting on facebook that God was still good. And I've used this experience in life over and over in my SS lessons and in my own testimony. I remember people saying to me I hope I can have that kind of strength and grace from God if I face something like this in my life. And honestly I thought... What can I go through that is harder than this? I thought this was my huge heartache in life that I would always carry with me. I didn't want to try again right away but I still wanted another baby. Even more now...

Rick and I took a Caribbean Cruise that following month and it was wonderful. Even more wonderful that it was completely paid for due to his hard work and dedication to his job. He had started working another job shortly after Eli was born for an amazing company. He is still with them today and I can't express to you how amazing of a job it is. They take such good care of him. We love it. After I returned from the Cruise it was Easter time and I remember telling Rick I felt like I was ready for another baby. He was very apprehensive. He had a hard time dealing with the miscarriage. I can't blame him. It was awful.

I waited a long time to tell everyone I was expecting again because of my late miscarriage prior to this pregnancy. I was about 11 weeks when we finally broke the news to most of our friends and family. There is something so fun about announcing a pregnancy. No mater how many you've had! And that was it! Our new beginning...

My pregnancy had been going amazing. I wasn't sick or tired. I felt great! I had talked my Dr. into doing and ultrasound earlier on and at 17 weeks.

With a room and I mean a room full of people, my dream came true. We were having a GIRL!!! A GIRL!!! I'm still so excited about this. Can you tell? Rick and I were thrilled. I felt unbelievably lucky. I felt like I was going to have the perfect little family. And the boys were so happy to getting a little sister and I was so happy to be getting a little girl...

The day I found out I was expecting this child I gave this baby to God. I usually dedicated them to God at their first Sunday at Church but not this time. She was His from the beginning. He gave her to me and I gave Her back to Him. I still wouldn't have had it any other way. She was His. I prayed for her up until delivery. I prayed God would use her in a mighty way. I prayed for her. I loved her. I wanted her. So very much.

I knew there was something special about her early on. I just had this peace. I had been praying throughout the pregnancy that God would show me that she would be okay. That she was safe. And let me tell you. Dr. appt after Dr. appt. God did just that. How? You may think? Well, he used the birds. My first appt. he brought to sight the most beautiful statue outside our hospital a little girl holding a bird up to heaven. I don't know what it was about it but I knew. She would be okay. And yes, I said she. I didn't tell many people but I knew she was a girl all along. On other appointments he sent little birds hopping in front of my car at stop signs. Flying above my car on the drive home. And even through a pair of earrings my mom had given me tucked in with a baby gift. It was so special. I never really gave a whole lot of thought to the birds until now. Every time I saw one. I smiled. Every time I heard them sing... I knew. She was going to be okay.

Madeline Grace.

That was going to be her name. Rick picked it and even though I had debated the spelling and other middle names. That was her beautiful name. I still love the way it sounds when I say it. My little Maddie Grace. I love her name.

Preparing for Maddie was amazing... I shopped and I decorated. And shopped some more. =)
What? A girl after 2 boys. You would've too. =)

Rick and I prepared the most beautiful nursery that I have ever seen. I still love the room. All this while enjoying the kicks and hiccups that she blessed me with on a daily basis. I was so in tune to her. At one of my appointments my Dr. told me that her heartbeat was beating exactly in beat with mine. It was amazing. I enjoyed carrying her. Every day, I loved it. She made me smile. Even when she kicked so hard it hurt, it just reminded me that this little girl had a lot to say! I knew she was going to do something amazing in life. And she did.

January 6, 2011
This was the day my life was changed forever. This was the day I met my sweet Madeline Grace.

She entered this world with a set of lungs. Man did she wail. And she had more hair than I've ever seen on a baby. She was beautiful.

First I asked if she really was a girl... she was. =) Then I remember repeating over and over again. "Is she really ours Rick, is she really ours?" Maybe that seems like a silly question to you, but she was almost too good to be true. She was beautiful and perfect in every way. Almost too perfect for this world. And she was tiny. So so tiny. After having 8 + lb boys that were both 22 inches in length. A 6 lb 12 oz girl who was 20 inches long, sure seemed tiny to me. By the way she was born 6 pm on 1/6. She liked 6's. She was also the 6th granddaughter on the Ross side. Cool huh?

Well it was official. She was here and we were in love, and so was everyone else. The moment they gave her to me I remember her looking right at me. Eyes wide open, and I know it sounds crazy but she smiled at me. She really smiled. I was her Mommy and she was my Maddie. Of course I placed a huge pink headband on her head and I just sat and held her... Everyone joked she was born with it. She might as well have been. She was snuggled up on my chest and I held her. Everyone was in and out of the room but honestly, I don't remember much of it. I felt like her and I were alone in the room for a while. I just looked at her. Her face. Her hair. Her eyes that were focused directly on mine. The way she kept puckering her lips and smacking them together. Her chubby cheeks that were almost impossible to stop kissing over and over again. She was flushed with the sweetness of new life. She was alive. She was here in my arms moving and living and breathing. I will never forget that moment. ever...

The boys came in to meet their new sister as I kept her warm under my gown. We took pictures of our new family. I was complete. Never in my life had I felt so complete. This was the moment I was waiting for...

My Doctor had told me during the delivery to just look around and soak up the moment. I did. I remember everything so vividly. The look on every ones faces. What they said about her. Watching them hold her. Her first bath. Watching her hair get washed. Everything. I didn't miss any of it. I was so present in that moment, thank God for that. She loved to have her hair brushed (so my daughter :) the nurse kept giggling because she was screaming through her whole bath until she started combing her hair. All that beautiful long hair. Rick got a chance to comb it too. I remember him telling me how she was just looking right at him. She couldn't keep her eyes off of him. And
I know why. She loved him with everything she was. And so do I.

She started fussing again while they were getting her all clean. Noah taking on the big brother role decided to go to her and calm her down. As I watched his sweet Aunt hold him up to her and watching him speak to her, she stopped again. He soothed her and made her stop crying. This totally made sense to me because my whole pregnancy he talked to her and kissed her. Over and over again. He loved her, even in my belly. I did too.

Once her bath was over she got to meet everyone. Her grandparents, and aunts and uncles. Friends and loved ones. She was lucky to be born into such a wonderful family. Everyone loved her so very much. I didn't mind giving her up for a little while but I was definitely ready to have her all to myself. =) So as our visitors left and Rick and I were moved into our postpartum room I was glad. We did it. We made it through the birth and now were a family again. I had the opportunity to feed her and just love on her. No interruptions. No distractions. Just us. Rick and I and our new little girl. We were so blessed and we talked about it over and over again. Our sweet Maddie Grace had already changed our lives!

That first night in hospital was great. We didn't sleep much and I was tired but neither Rick or I minded that she was keeping us up. Even with the lights off and all room being quiet, I could see her little eyes peering right up at me. Still continuing to take it all in. I fed her and changed her and just sat and held her. The nurses didn't bother us and we were just at peace. We laughed because they had asked us to track her diapers on a dry erase board. It seemed like every hour she had a dirty diaper. I had never seen anything like it in a newborn. She kept us busy. I loved every minute of it!!!

By morning, she was finally starting to get sleepy. Most likely because she had been up all night. =) The pediatrician came in to look at her and said she was perfect. She passed her hearing test and got her first shot. She was perfect. Everyone kept saying it over and over. The nurses, the doctors and the pediatrician. Rick and I already knew that but it was sweet that everyone one else thought so too. Finally the nurses and doctors were done with their checkups and we had decided to try to get some rest. Even though it was morning now, we still hadn't slept and so we shut the lights off and Madeline fell asleep. So did Rick. And I was almost there when all the sudden...(knock, knock) Someone was at the door. It was the hospital photographer.

Rick gave me the look like "get rid of her" we were so exhausted, but I just thought, well we should let her take pics. I explained to her that we hadn't slept yet and Maddie Grace was asleep but she was excited and informed me that newborn pictures are actually better when they are sleeping. So we went ahead.

I combed her hair and put her in the sweetest newborn outfit. It was white with tiny pink roses and it had a blankie and hat to match. It was the only newborn outfit I brought. We never imagined that she would be so little.

She was the perfect little poser. I watched as the photographer very carefully and gently moved her into little poses and snapped hundreds of pictures. She kept speaking to her in the softest voice and telling her she wished all the babies were as good as her... She went on and on about how beautiful she was and how she loved all her hair. I was proud. In that moment I thought, wow, my daughter has made me so proud already. It was special. She got to wear the adorable tutu I made her. It was so big on her, but we made it work. I'm so happy she got to wear it. I was so thankful at that point that I was having these pictures done. And I'm even more thankful now.
After she left, we decided to get ready for the day and we knew our visitors would start arriving shortly. Maddie Grace slept through it all... It was now her bedtime.=)

Even though it was now day. She got held, and sang too. She was showered with gifts and visitors all day long and Rick and I loved showing her off. What a blessing she was. It had been snowing and it seemed like it was just the perfect day. I held her and fed her and watch the snow fall. I remember having an overwhelming feeling of God's grace on my life. I just was so in love with life, with my husband, with my boys and with my daughter.

Later that evening we wanted to go home. We had been at the hospital for 2 nights now because we had gone in the night before the induction so they could administer the cervadil. And still having had no sleep we wanted our house and our beds. They said it would be okay as long as we waited for the doctor and pediatrician to okay it. By now our visitors had started to leave and we began to pack up. Madeline had so much stuff already. We couldn't even fit it all on the cart and Rick had to make two trips to the car. It was quite funny.

Finally, it was time. I watched the nurse cut off her security device and we joked about how long her fingernails were. The poor thing kept scratching herself but her little mittens were too big and kept falling off. I watched as Rick put her little tiny self into the car seat and bundled her up. I got into the wheelchair and Rick placed her car seat on my lap. The nurse wheeled us down to the dismissal area and joked with Rick the whole way about the squeaky cart. I had her take a picture of us and got a little sad thinking this was the last time I would take a baby home from the hospital. We thought we were done having children. We loaded Madeline up and we were off. Headed home with our new baby girl.

On the ride home I was a little worried. It had been snowing the last two days and the roads weren't that great. Maddie must have loved the snow, it always snowed from the time she was born. I kept thinking what it would be like to have her home and was wondering what we would do the next day. Oh if I would have known. We brought her inside and of course like the last day I was snapping pictures like crazy. Rick was used to it. He loved it. My dad was there shoveling off our sidewalk and he came in to see his little Maddie. She started to cry as soon as Rick set her down and he ran back to her in an instant to get her out. It was so precious. She already had him wrapped around her little finger and I was loving it! We were home. I talked with my dad for a few minutes before he left and we settled in for the night. It was around 10 pm by this point. We talked about how amazing her birth was and he shared with me that after so much loss of losing his parents and brother she had started to help fill that void. I agreed that she was making our family feel so whole. And that I had never felt so complete before. We both teared up and hugged goodbye. He gave Maddie one more kiss and then left.

Rick and I took our little girl downstairs for a little while to wind down and I rocked her in my new recliner. A place where I planned rocking her for the next year. Holding her close to me. Loving on her. Then a short while later we headed for bed. I had a bassinet set up upstairs for her to be in while she was sleeping and a little changing area to change her diapers. I fed her and hoped to get some sleep. She was wide awake at this point and I began to think I was never going to sleep again. =) Although, I didn't care and Rick and I were enjoying her. At one point he took her and I could hear him singing to her and soothing her. I was trying to get a few minutes of sleep but I didn't. I was enjoying listening to a precious moment between Maddie and Daddy. I had told him I wanted to wait until the next day to show her the room. I wanted it to be light out and I wanted to get pictures of her in there. Of course.=) Rick snuck her in there and gave her a sneak peek anyway. I thought that was cute.

And at one point in the night instead of sitting up in bed, I took her in her nursery to feed her. I got to rock her in her cute pink glider. What a moment. She still hadn't slept and the sun was starting to come up. I knew soon, she would be ready for bed. I was too. But I'm so thankful for that moment of watching the sunshine peek in on my daughters face. What love I felt in that moment. A little while later I got her to sleep finally. And what came next was something I will never forget. The most heartbreaking moment of my life. The moment that has changed me forever.

I looked down and saw that she didn't look quite right. I was holding her but her mouth was open. I touched her face and she didn't move. My sweet girl wasn't breathing. I yelled to Rick that something was wrong with Madeline. In an instant he laid her on the bed and started doing CPR. I took over on the floor as he called 911. I just kept thinking what was wrong with her. What was wrong. I thought I was in a nightmare. After getting off the phone, Rick took over again. He thought he heard her take a breath. I could hear the sirens coming and I ran to open the door. The medics ran upstairs to our room and took Madeline from Rick. We were screaming and crying. We were in a complete state of shock. What was happening and why??? The police officers told us to put on our shoes and go. Go where? I was so confused. They told us to go to the urgent care hospital because she was already on her way. I kept asking the same question over and over again. Is she gonna be okay? Is she okay? No one knew. No one could give me an answer.

The drive there was awful. It seemed like an eternity. We were so sleep deprived, so confused. We just didn't understand how in a moment, she wasn't breathing. In a moment all this had happened. When we arrived at the hospital I didn't know what to expect. We were crying and praying and begging God to let her be okay. They worked on her for a long time and we thought she is going to pull through. My pastor was there praying and we were watching as they tried to put life back into our little girl. But there was none. She was gone. My sweet girl was in the arms of Jesus. It was too short. It wasn't enough time. I didn't understand.

We left the hospital that day empty. Completely empty. The kind of empty you know you can't recover from. I remember my Dad and Rick carrying me to the car. I couldn't walk. I couldn't breathe.

In that moment I knew my life had changed forever. I would never be the same. God had a different plan than I had. He took Madeline home. He wanted her more. And the truth of the matter is, She was His to take. I gave her to Him. She was His...

I have poured out my heart here today. I have shared such intimate moments of my life that have made me who I am in this moment right now. I am weak but God is my strength. I am tired but God is giving me rest. I am nothing. He is everything. It is because of this moment in my life that I am writing this today. And I will be writing from this moment to come. I now have a story to tell. Madeline has a story to tell. This is why I'm writing again, for my daughter. It is for her and the honor of her life. It is so God can get the glory for everything I do. It is because He gave me a gift. A gift of grace.

My sweet Maddie's name means "God's gift." She has been God's gift of Grace on my life.

Will you read along? Will you pray? Will you listen to me pour out my heart here so I can heal? So I can show others what only God's grace can do.

That is why I am writing again. For my daughter. For my Lord...