I am a wife and mother. I married Travis the summer of 2007 and life really took off. We welcomed our first born, Adrian Reese, June of 2009. We welcomed our second born, Ainslee Ryan, October of 2010 and had a short time with her. She was taken from us in February 2011, just 3 months and 10 days old, from the silent killer called SIDS. 6 months after she passed away, we found out we were expecting our 3rd, due in April of 2012. Our rainbow baby is a girl, sweet Hadlee Hope. We're slowly picking up the pieces and learning how to fit grief and happiness into this crazy thing called life.
So today Adrian and I have been planning to go see Santa. I have been a bit under the weather with what seems to be a cold. I didn't get much sleep last night due to too much coughing and so when I woke up today, I immediately felt emotional. I knew today was going to be one of those days.
Adrian and I set off with my mother in law to head to a place where every child longs to be...Santa's lap. I decided I would take along an 8X10 picture of Ainslee so that I didn't feel like she wasn't included. It was important to me to make sure she was in the picture because it just doesn't feel complete anymore taking pictures without her in them. It will never feel complete.
We parked and started our walk to Santa's line. As we took our place in line, waiting for Santa to show up, I couldn't help but notice a mother with her baby girl in tow, and the grandmother as well. I heard them say it was a little girl and she was 3 1/2 months old. I thought to myself, "of course she is." The woman behind them asked if it was her first baby, and the mother politely said yes. "There's nothing like a first born." replied the woman in line.
I placed my Ainslee picture next to where I was standing and watched as my mother in law and Adrian ran around checking out the Christmas tree, the fountains, and the lights. 10 minutes of waiting seemed a lot longer at the time.
All of a sudden, I hear my sweet little boy's voice screaming "Mommy, Mommy....SANTA!!!!" He was walking next to Santa as he was heading our way. It was a moment of pure joy for Adrian. The emotions that accompanied me seeing this excitement in him were by far overwhelming. I didn't expect them, and they took control of me. He was running towards me and I was just sobbing. In a split second, I realized a lot of things. I realized firstly how incredibly much I love Adrian. I love seeing his excitement and I love that he brings joy to my life. I immediately realize that our sweet 1 year old daughter should be there to share in our family fun. I got so overwhelmed by the fact that she was never going to see Santa again. I would never get her picture with Santa. She would never be in our family pictures again. I was consumed with grief.
As I tried to collect myself, I heard another woman behind us saying how beautiful my baby was. She was talking about Ainslee's picture, so I said thank you. Of course the questions arise and I say that our daugther passed away in February of this year and I was taking her picture to see Santa with my sweet boy. She of course turned around....literally. Some people just can't handle it, and honestly have no idea what to say. I've seen that a lot amongst family, friends, strangers.
The proud grandmother of the 3 1/2 month old girl behind me came around their stroller and car seat and wrapped her arms around me. And I lost it. I cried so hard in this stranger's arms. Not concerned with how I appeared, not concerned with the absurd sounds you make when you wail, not concerned that I had no idea who she was. She simply said, "I understand."
She proceeded to tell me that her daughter that was there, the mother of the 3 1/2 month old, lost twin boys 8 years ago when she was 7 months pregnant. This wasn't her first child, this was her 3rd. That showed me that you have no idea of anyone else's story, as glamorous as it may seem. We all shared stories, we laughed, we cried. And slowly....we made our way up to see Santa.
As we approached Santa's sleigh, I handed Santa Ainslee's picture and asked if he would please hold it for our picture. I explained she had passed away earlier this year and I'd like her to be in our Santa picture. His eyes grew a gray sadness, his old lips turned down, and he touched my shoulder. "I understand." Santa lost his 21 year old great granddaughter to an unknown cause, they found her lifeless at home. I could see his sadness and as I sat next to Santa with my little boy on my lap, my Hadlee wiggling around in my tummy, I thought, everyone has their sadnesses. Everyone has a story. He said that it is completely unnatural for a mother/father/grandparent to bury their child/grandchild. Gosh, he understood. And this sweet St. Nick told me that this Christmas he would pray for me. That's all I wanted to ask Santa for, for Christmas. To please just bring me joy and let me grow old with my children.
Adrian mentioned to Santa he'd like a choo-choo train. :) Our picture was about as perfect as it can get. This Santa was by far the sweetest Santa I've ever met and his kind heart was easily able to be seen.
Today showed me that we are not the only family going through a difficult loss. That other strange faces on the street may look like normal faces to you, may look like a person that has their life together. But in actuality, we have no idea what's on the other end. Today was a reminder that we're not alone in this grief battle. Today was a reminder that the jollyest of souls goes home tonight and has hurt. It was another reminder that God sent me people to show me that we can do this and that he's sent us Adrian and Hadlee to help us through. When the grief does get heavy and I feel like it's crashing down, I remind myself that I am so thankful to be Ainslee's mother. I would never want her to be anyone else's child so I didn't have to feel this pain. I would feel this pain as fresh as the day it happened, day in and day out, for the rest of my life for those short 3 months with her. And so what if I had a Santa line breakdown....it's all part of the healing process. Or so I'm told.
I think I've been in a much needed Hadlee update. So, we went and saw my OB this past Wednesday for a sono with my sonographer and my "20" week with my Dr.
Today marks me being 22 weeks-18 weeks to go until I have her in my arms. I can't even wait! So, leading up to the sono this past Wednesday, I was pretty anxious. I didn't know what we'd see, if she would be healthy, or if there would be something else to report. It seems sonograms can be so wonderful, yet so daunting. They immediately looked at her brain to see her cavum septum pellucidum. It was present, and it looked perfect. I was thrilled. Next part, the heart. She looked at her outflow tracts and saw both of them, functioning the way they are supposed to. Again, thrilled. I felt myself becoming elated. We saw her toes too, and they were perfect.
She was of course moving around everywhere. She had her knees up to her face, toes over her head, hands up and down, flipping and moving constantly. She was busy. We saw her upper lip which was fully formed along with her palate. Hadlee was measuring right on, 21 weeks and 3 days.
On top of the wonderful news about Hadlee, my subchorionic bleed is gone which takes a huge weight off my shoulders. Getting this news about Hadlee's health and my health was wonderful.
My next appt is the first week in January where I will do my initial glucose test. I always fail that test and have to do the 3 hour which is so not fun. With Adrian, I had gestational diabetes. With Ainslee, the tests showed I didn't have it, but she was a big baby so I feel I was probably borderline. So, we'll see what this pregnancy brings.
Hadlee's name: So, when we were talking about names, prior to knowing the gender, I called the baby "Hope." I felt this baby was the hope we needed to continue on and add to our family. This baby would bring us new memories and we were hopeful we would grow old with him/her. I knew when I was deciding on a girl name that I wanted it to go with Ainslee since they would be sisters. I didn't want another "A" name, I didn't do that on purpose with Adrian and Ainslee.
Through this grief, I've met some amazing people and one person I honestly can't imagine my life without. I met her through my MEND group and feel that there is a connection that can't be had with anyone else. She is wonderful. She lost her little girl February 28th of this year, 20 days after I lost Ainslee. She ended up going to high school with Travis, goes to my same OB, and has a first born that is a week older than Adrian. Her little girl she lost was Hadley. Hadley was born at 21 weeks, 5 days. She is also buried at Bluebonnet where Ainslee is. I fell in love with the name Hadley and so I wanted to ask my dear friend how she'd feel if we named our little girl after her Hadley, but incorporated Ainslee's spelling to it to get our very own Hadlee. It was a very personal conversation, and I knew that it would be just fine if she said no. But, she was in tears about it, so happy to have her daughter's name live on. I know that if someone I was close with named their daughter Ainslee or incorporated it somehow, that I would feel it was so sweet to honor our daughter in that way. I know everyone is different, and has various feelings, but I was so glad to know we felt the same way. We named her middle name Hope for obvious reasons.
We've started the progression of incorporating Hadlee's things into Ainslee's room. For the most part, it's staying the same. I've taken the guest bed out of there that I would sleep in the last 2 weeks when we tried to transition Ainslee over to her room. It really made the room bigger, it's already a good sized room. On one wall, we have a tree painted with two owls on it, and on it reads "Ainslee Ryan". I decided I couldn't take off her name so I will add Adrian Reese and Hadlee Hope to the wall, and add an extra little owl. In the last few weeks I have felt so strongly about getting owl things for Hadlee. So, I have quite the favorite list on etsy right now. I figure after Christmas, we'll really start getting ready for her.
I was able to go through Ainslee's things in her room and get together all of the things she wore, or things that were Ainslee specific. Along with all the autopsy reports, ambulance reports, funeral paperwork, etc and I put them neatly into my grandmother's old trunk at the foot of our bed. I felt emotionally ready to do this and so I knew I needed to just get it done. I did, and to be honest, it felt okay. Maybe because I didn't have to entirely paint or change her room. But, I felt such a peace with getting started on getting ready for Hadlee and felt mentally wonderful to free up some space in there. I still just love their nursery and I'm looking forward to adding to it with the added names to the owl wall, and a couple cute pieces of furniture to get ready for our Hadlee.
Hadlee's stocking should be in the mail and will be hanging next to her big sister's. I can't believe Ainslee will be a big sister, because in my mind, she's still 3 months old. That's all I know her at is 3 months and 10 days old. Oh how I miss that sweet girl. And yet so looking forward to having Hadlee in my arms. 2 very different journeys with very different feelings yet I am thankful to be a mother to 3 beautiful children.
Today marks 10 months-10 months she's been with Jesus, 10 months since I've held her sweet body in my arms, 10 months since our lives were shattered. 10 months is so close to a year and I just can not begin to wrap my head around her being gone for a year. A year used to seem like a significant period of time, it used to take forever. Prior to losing Ainslee, I thought a year would give us plenty of time to heal. As we approach the 1 year mark, I see where we are in our grief...still unpredictable, still consumed with grief, still missing her. Although I will say that there are joyous moments that have been restored. Adrian and Hadlee help to restore that joy. Our lives changed 10 months ago, and essentially, they continue to change. We're preparing for Hadlee, we're mending broken hearts one day at a time, we're clinging together as a family.
As the Christmas season is upon us, and it's a time of caring, sharing, and giving....I am finally going to reach out and ask for help. I haven't asked for much help on my own since I've lost Ainslee. But, I think with asking for those of you willing to help our family this holiday, that it will make it brighter.
Ainslee would be a year and 2 months old this Christmas. She'd start to enjoy opening presents, seeing the lights, watching her brother light up from the smile on her face. This would be her second Christmas, our first without her. I am so so grateful to have had her first Christmas to hold her and love on her. If only I would have known how short our time would be. So, this year, I am ready to make new memories. And it's up to you to help.
I am asking you to help me fill Ainslee’s stocking with one of two things, or both should you be willing to do so. We would greatly appreciate it if you would 1) write her a letter. It could be about anything. Maybe what you remember about her, what you imagine she would be like, or how she has impacted your life. OR 2) I would like to challenge you to do one random act of kindness for someone between now and Christmas in honor of Ainslee. It can be small, it can be big, just as long as it is something that is kind and as long as you are doing it, you are thinking of our baby girl Ainslee. Once you have completed your random act of kindness, please write a description of what it was. When you have this or just a regular letter completed, please email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org . In the subject line, please write MERRY CHRISTMAS AINSLEE! I will not be opening these until Christmas morning. Travis and I will go through them and read them together. I will know that it is a gift for Ainslee by the subject line you email me, and I will then print it out without reading it.
There are not any guidelines with what you write, or what you do for your act of kindness. It is simply to keep Ainslee's memory alive, especially now. Don't worry about writing the "right" thing, we appreciate any thoughts big and small. Again, we appreciate the continued support and I look forward to seeing our loving friends and family come together once again to make this season brighter.
Merry Christmas to all and especially to my angel....Ainslee Ryan.