The entire time we have known about Annie’s condition we knew we would have to make plans and decisions about things that we never would or should have dreamed of. Instead of planning the perfect nursery, we were thinking about the perfect memorial service. Instead of thinking where she would go to daycare, we were thinking of where we should bury her or scatter her ashes. This is just so surreal, and now that we are only 2 weeks away we are actually having to make some concrete decisions. We have been putting these decisions off for some time because actually making plans makes this whole thing just feel too real.
First of all, if you are my Facebook friend or follow me on Instagram, you are aware of how obsessed I am with my children. I am constantly posting pictures just so no one will miss out on all of the adorable (and hilarious) things that they do on a daily basis. I love love love pictures, especially of my babies. Our dear friend Sarah has been our family photographer in the past, and as soon as she heard our story she offered her services to us. She did our beautiful maternity/family photo shoot out at Lake Hefner, and she has offered to take pictures of Annie’s birthday as well. The family pictures were so much fun to take and the girls were a hilarious distraction of why were were taking them. Harper refused to smile unless we used the “don’t smile Harper! Don’t you dare smile!!!” trick. Dylan was so sweet and loving, Robert was ruggedly handsome, and you can visibly see the love in all of the group family pictures. In the pictures she took of just me, however, the loving and fun distractions were gone. I was standing alone in the beautiful sunlight, holding my belly, and thinking of why we were doing this. Several times I couldn’t contain my grief. One of the things I love about Sarah is that she is very real. Her personality, her photos, her emotions are all real. I wept and Sarah wept with me. The amazing thing is that she still managed to capture the images through her tears. I trust this woman with everything I have to photograph all of the precious moments we are going to have with Annie. We got permission from our doctor for her to come into the operating room with us, because I want to remember it all. I want to remember the joy, the pain, and the love. Even the pictures she took of me crying alone in a field are so beautiful to me because she captured all of the emotion in that moment. I don’t want to look back at this time and these pictures and only see bright smiles and happy faces, because that’s not the whole truth. The whole truth is that along side the smiles and happiness, we are also feeling extreme pain. I want these memories to stay as pure and genuine as possible because they are molding who I am with each passing day.
Sarah, I cannot thank you enough for your sacrifice and the beautiful gift you have given us. These photos are something I will cherish for years to come. I am forever grateful for your bravery. You know what you are walking into and you know how difficult it’s going to be, however you are still willing to do it for us. I admire your selflessness in this, and I love you.
If you would like to see more pictures from our family shoot, here is the link to Sarah’s blog.
I have knitted a little grey hat and booties with yellow flowers and pearls just for Annie. They are the perfect accents to her beautiful white dress. I have everything that belongs to Annie tucked away in a little wooden box chosen just for her. Robert and I were at Hobby Lobby last weekend picking it out, and when we decided on the perfect box I placed it in the cart. As soon as I put it down I was hit in the chest with what felt like a giant wave of sadness. I realized that I had just picked out a box that would hold my little girl’s entire life. If you or I were to pick a box that would hold our lives, it would have to be huge. Most people use a trunk or a cedar chest. This tiny box was the perfect size and a visible symbol of how small her life on this earth would be. I hunched over in the middle of the aisle and wept aloud. Robert held me, Dylan hugged my leg and I heard her whisper to Harper, “come here sis, we need to hug Momma.” I can’t express to you enough how much support I get from my husband and our two little girls. Those tiny arms know when they need to hug their momma, and Robert knows when there is nothing he can say and just needs to hold me. We have put anything and everything of Annie’s in that box. I love it and I hate it.
My sisters and I got together a few months ago for a long overdue project. My grandmother passed away about 12 years ago, and she was an avid quilter. The 3 of us enjoy quilting (when we can find the time) and someone in our family had given us a box full of her quilts that she had started and never finished. I have had that box in my possession for years, but we had never gotten together to admire them and divvy them up. We had finally decided to do so and to choose a special one for Annie. As we went through all of her beautiful quilts we came across a gorgeous one with yellow, grey, and white designs. It was the exact color scheme I had chosen for Annie. This is so perfect because I have no doubt that Grandma will be waiting to see my little girl as soon as she gets to heaven. I have recently read Heaven is for Real (an amazing book about a 4 year old boy’s journey to heaven and back, if you haven’t read it) and I believe with my whole heart that she will be taken care of by the very people who took care of me when they were here. Some of my happiest childhood memories are with my Grandma and also with my Daddy Pete, and it makes my heart so happy that Annie is going to be with them until I get to her.
My sisters and I got together again last week and pieced together the 12+ year old front with a brand new back and got to work. We like to call our little sewing sessions our Stitch & Bitch time, and we did just that. We sat around and quilted for hours, we took turns wrangling all of the kids, breaking up their fights and changing diapers, and we talked about how much this time in our lives just really sucks. It is a difficult season in life for more than just Robert & I, there are other members of our family really struggling right now. It is a sad and heavy time for many of us, but I know that we are all so blessed to have each other to lean on.
I have 2 lists going in a notebook I keep with me at all times. One is labeled “Annie’s Birthday” and the other is labeled “Annie’s Day.” I am so scatterbrained these days I never know when something is going to come to mind that I don’t want to forget. For Annie’s birthday I have listed several things I want to take to the hospital. Her memory box which holds her hat, booties, and dress. We bought modeling clay to take imprints of her precious fingers and toes. Cake is on the list, which I put Dylan in charge of. She spoke to my friend Krysten who makes beautiful cakes on the phone last night and relayed her vision of purple and yellow flowers with green grass, blue sky, sunshine, and the birthday message she wants written on her sister’s birthday cake. Robert teases me about some things on the list. For instance, I have written in all caps, NO LIPSTICK. I want all of our family to be able to love and kiss my baby however much they want to, but I don’t want the evidence all over her face. Silly, I know, but these are the things I am thinking of.
The list for Annie’s day includes all of our ideas for her memorial. We have decided to make it a comfortable and informal celebration and forego a funeral home. I don’t want to worry about keeping children quiet, and I want it to be as relaxed as possible. Robert has carved out a beautiful area in the trees out here at our land, and we are going to have it here. We have decided to cremate her, as that’s what we both want for ourselves. Robert bought some cedar and is making a box to hold her ashes. We are unsure if we want to keep them or scatter them in a special place, but we can decide that much later. We have a song we want played. We have a loose schedule we want for the day. We decided we want someone who has walked with us through this journey to lead the service, and we have a good friend in mind. This man is a Godly and loving man, a great husband and father, and a wonderful friend. He is one of the most joyful people I know, and that is the feel I want for my little girl’s celebration. I know Robert has a few things he wants to say. I plan on writing Annie a letter, but there is no way I’ll be able to read it. We really want anyone close to us who has something they want to read or say to have that opportunity. I’m really hoping my little brother decides to sing a song or something… 😉
I also want to point out that all of these plans are TENTATIVE. I have no problem cancelling them and burning these stupid lists if God heals my baby. I had a tearful late night conversation with my sister in law, Laura, the other night. I told her how all of my prayers seem hollow and faithless because as I’m asking God to heal Annie, I’m actively making plans for if He doesn’t. I told her I feel like I have nothing left. I’m just going through the motions of life. If you don’t know Laura, she is a beautiful woman of God, and she is someone I’m proud to call my sister. She reminded me that I said I had nothing left months ago, and I’m still going. She also reminded me of the story of Jesus and the paralytic. In the story Jesus sees the faith of all of the man’s FRIENDS, and He heals him. I am so incredibly thankful that our friends and family have not let us go a day without prayer. We are surrounded by so many believers, there is no lack of faith even when I feel the most lacking. Thank you Laura, for your wisdom and your love, and thank you all for your faith and prayers.
Our doctor scheduled Annie to be born on June 21. I wrote “Happy Birthday Annie” on that day in the calender, looked up at Robert and said “that’s the first day of summer.” He replied, “that’s right, that’s the summer solstice. The longest day of the year.” I cannot think of a more perfect day for our baby to be born. It will likely be the longest day of our lives. I ask you to pray for us on that day. Pray for the enemy to be absent. Pray for fear to be far from us. Pray for joy to be ever present. Pray for healing. Pray for peace. Pray for Annie. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
If you would like to donate in Annie’s name to unite our friends with their child, please do so here: