September 29, 2011

Some New Insights

It's hard for me to refer to my children as a number. Cale was our first, Finley our second, but it's still a little hard to answer the question "how many kids do you have?" That implies how many kids do you have living. I've been in a course this week where we've had several people come speak to us about various programs and resources available in the Army for Soldiers and their families. One of the speakers today said, "please raise your hand if you have kids." So I did. And then she asked us to hold up the number of kids we had (so she knew how many of these silly magnetic picture frames to hand out). So I just held one finger up, but it felt wrong. I think things like that will always just sting a little. Similarly, if people ask me how many kids we want, I don't just say a number. Because that's a complicated question when you factor in a dead baby. I usually say we want at least one more and leave it at that. Because if I said I wanted two kids, I'd feel the need to say two living children, but shouldn't that go without saying? And if we are fortunate enough to have another, I don't want that baby viewed as baby #2. Because hopefully they'll be living baby #2, but no matter what they would always be baby #3. Anywhoo. . .just some thoughts that were bouncing around my head today.

But the reason I wanted to write a new post was to share some comments I received from a very dear person. After Cale died there were some people who really just showed their true colors (both good and bad) and Megan was one of those people, who despite never experiencing stillbirth, has just reached out and been the most compassionate and wonderful friend I never even asked for, thus making her that much more special to me. Recently I asked her if it'd be alright if I shared Cale's pictures with her. It's nice to share my little boy with people and I knew it'd make me feel good to do so. I told her that he was a little bruised and really wasn't expecting much in return - it was more so for me to get to share him. But her response was so beautiful and really resonated with me. I don't expect everyone to have the same viewpoints and as she says, our relationship with God is personal, but what she shared with me really gave me a new insight on Cale's life and the impact it has on my life so I wanted to share.

Caroline -
Cale is absolutely beautiful. The sketch just does not do him justice. Yes, he may have a little bruising, but these pictures are not unlike my first memories of Marie in the first few hours...I remember the doctors saying how badly bruised her face was, but honestly I could not see what the doctors were talking about. All I could see was perfection. And I see the same thing in these pictures of your beautiful son--absolute perfection. My reaction in my heart of hearts as I looked at him last night was that I wanted to just pick him up and hold him close. I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been when you had to stop holding him, and I am so very, very sorry that you didn't ever get the chance to see him open his eyes or grasp your finger or hear him make a sound. I've wanted to give you a real hug so many times and I wish I could do that now.
When looking at these pictures something very faith-based came to mind that I felt compelled to share, so I hope you don't mind me doing so. Many people know that my faith is important to me, but I feel that someone's beliefs are something that are between them and God, so I usually don't talk about things in a way that could come across as pushing my beliefs on someone else. But I feel like I should share something I believe very strongly in since it relates so much to Cale. Forgive me if I have trouble verbalizing it.
I fully believe in a concept that Catholics call the Communion of Saints. Most people think this means that we're just putting some crusty and pious old legend who lived a perfect life up on a pedestal (though many saints led pretty colorful lives!), but what it really means is that there is a very real connection between those of us on earth and those in heaven.That everyone in heaven, including Cale, really and and truly still exists as a living, eternal soul, and not only that, those eternal souls are able to pray for us humans still living our imperfect lives on earth.
Just as we can talk to God in prayer, those in heaven can talk/pray (even more directly) to God...they're no longer blinded by this world or bound by human limitations; instead they are now surrounded by absolute glory and perfection, so their prayers are much more effective than ours. This is why people talk about "praying to" saints or Mary (though this isn't really true since worshipping/praying to anyone but God is idolatry, which is a sin). But it means that we can ALWAYS ask those in heaven with a 'direct line' to God to pray for us, just like I can ask you to pray for me. (It's called intercession). And who better is there to pray for us than Jesus's own mom who watched her own son die, or a saint who figured out how to live a holy life in this messed up world, or our loved ones who have died, especially your very own son, Cale, who owes his entire life to God and you and Miles, because he was created out of your love.  What a powerful thing to know that Cale is capable of this.
And that's the line I love most in the poem I sent--the one talking about how a child in heaven stands before God with the image of his parents' face imprinted on his own as their personal intercessor. So I fully believe with every confidence in me that Cale is with God right now, alive, hearing you talk about him, loving you and praying for you, knowing that he was created out of your love, and on his very face reflecting a beautiful combination of Caroline and Miles to God every single second for the rest of eternity. You are his wonderful advocate on earth. But Cale is your personal advocate before God in heaven. I really cannot imagine a more meaningful relationship than that between a mother and son.
I think this directly tied to another concept that is extremely important---that each soul God creates has absolute worth, and no matter what we on earth might think, significance is not determined by age, lifespan, or earthly accomplishments. We are significant because God chose to create us, and from the very  moment we came to be in human form, our souls--which will literally exist forever--also came to be, carrying more worth than we can ever comprehend. We matter so incredibly much to God, regardless if our life in our earthly bodies lasts only a day, nine months like Cale, several years like you and me, or to a ripe old elderly age. God created us all with the same ever-lasting significance. So even if no one ever spoke Cale's name again on this earth, even if you were not doing all the amazing things you are as his mother to preserve his earthly memory, it would not change the fact that his life--both here on earth and in eternity--has absolute significance, absolute worth. There has never been another eternal soul created to be Cale Harrison Hidalgo, and there never will be another.  He still lives. He still matters. He will always matter. Because God created him to matter. And nothing anyone does or says here on this earth can ever minimize his true significance. The same goes for the children who Peter and I never met, for Daren, for all our other loved ones who aren't here anymore. They still exist, they still matter, they still hear us when we call their names, and they are amazingly powerful advocates for us here on earth once they are with God in heaven.
At any rate, I'm sorry that this is so long-winded (as usual) and full of theological ramblings. And I hope I wasn't too forward with my thoughts. But I think you should know as his mother why Cale is so important to me, and that his importance to us is nothing compared to his true worth in God's eyes. So thank you again--so much--for sharing him with me, and allowing me to understand more about the amazing, beautiful soul he is. 
. . . . . . . . . . . . .

September 21, 2011

Baby Mommas

This past weekend I had a lunch date with two very special friends and their very special babies. This was the first time that Priscilla, Rhiannon and I got together with our babies. . . not in utero that is. It was (is) just so wonderful to sit back and think how far we've come. Having the support of these wonderful gals was so helpful throughout my pregnancy.  It really is hard to believe that we made it and I'm just thankful beyond words that these cute little babies are here with us now.

 June 2011

September 2011

Something I'm also really thankful for is that we were able to not only share or fears and worries during our pregnancies, but were also able to openly and often talk about the babies who we carry in our hearts. Those babies are the reason we met which is yet another reason to be grateful for them and the huge impact they left on all of us. Friendships like these will make it hard to move away, but the bond we share will hopefully keep us close a lifetime.

September 19, 2011

Missing Cale

I think about Cale all the time. But especially in the car. I don't know why, but anytime I'm driving anywhere, I re-live June 28th over and over. I think about what it was like waiting for the terrible news I knew was coming after the failed attempts to find his heartbeat. I think about how foreign it was to see so many tears in Miles eyes after I caught my breath and looked up at him. About how that made me cry even more. I think about how I rubbed my belly and talked to Cale when, for a brief moment, no one was in the room but us. I think about how scared I was to deliver him. How I still expected him to cry once he was born. I think about saying "hi Cale" when I first held him. How seeing his little hand under the blanket made me cry even more. I think about his wavy dark hair and his cute little lips. They were such a deep red. He was perfect and real. But not alive. It's been almost 15 months. I know Cale's not coming back. But I still have a hard time wrapping my head around it sometimes. My baby is dead. It's a hard pill to swallow.

These couple of months post the one year mark have been hard for me. I'm not sure if it's just because grief is a sneaky bastard and will catch you off guard or if it's because the couple of months leading up to the year mark were also counting down to Finn's arrival. So maybe some of these emotions that would have oozed out earlier are now creeping to the surface now. I'm not sure. I don't think there is a timeline on grief and I am never bothered by getting upset and missing him. I don't feel like that's a sign of weakness or an unwillingness to "move on," but rather a sign of how much I love him. It doesn't bother me to grieve. It bothers me that I have a reason to do so.

I'm absolutely loving my time with Finn and I do feel that I love him so much more deeply because of everything we've been through. I kiss him all the time, hold him whenever I can. I physically cannot leave him in his crib at night or at daycare without telling him how much I love him and giving him a kiss. But gosh, I miss my first son so very much. I miss everything I dreamt we'd have with him - the life he never got to have. Seeing Miles with Finley is so touching - he's such a good dad. I love seeing them interact. But I wish he got to have all those experiences with Cale. When he was holding Cale he was wearing this big navy blue sweatshirt that Daren had brought him (along with a few other things as it was cold in the hospital room, but Miles never left to go home). The sweatshirt was relatively new and had that really soft feel to it. He held Cale so gently and Cale just fit in his arms, in that comfy sweatshirt, so perfectly - the way a new baby should in a father's arms. So when I look at Miles holding his second son or playing with him, I soak in the moment and treasure it because it's something he never got with his first, but should have.

I know I will always miss Cale and I know that I can be {and still am} happy. It's just that my grief for him will be intertwined in every thought, action, and event that takes place in our life. And I don't think that's a bad thing. Sometimes it makes the experience more wonderful. Sometimes it makes things harder, yes, but my grief and Cale's short life have put a perspective on my own life that I am thankful for. But some days, some moments, I just miss my baby. Plain and simple. I just miss him. I ache for him and I love him so, so much.

September 16, 2011

My Teeth Bite!

I have the taste buds of your average 12 year old. Especially when it comes to sweets. Things like red vines, sour patch kids, any Haribo gummi product. . . I love all of them. Even a I type this I'm patiently waiting for my Fat Boy to melt a little so that it's a soft, delicious gooey dessert. So I'm not surprised that I've had cavities. But I do take care of my teeth. I brush 2-3 times a day (I have a toothbrush at work so I can brush mid-day), I floss (although not as much as I should I'm sure), and I generally make sure that I have good dental hygiene. I have to. And not because of my love for crap food, although that certainly is a large factor, but because I inherited some pretty terrible dental genes. I've had THREE root canals. I'm not even 30. My sister has had two (which makes me feel better about myself). We just come from a family with crap teeth. Good thing we are not British. Then we'd have crap, crooked teeth.

I have one tooth in particular that has been a pain (sometimes literally) for about four years now. Good ole tooth #20 was one of my root canal chompers. I had the root canal back in 2006. And in 2007 the tooth, which had a previous filling, chipped. I got another filling, but was told that I'd eventually need a crown on that tooth. This happened while I was at Fort Jackson, SC for school. Then I moved to Fort Campbell. I went to get my tooth taken care of but was told the tooth looked good and to just get the crown upon return from deployment. Well, less than a month after returning from Afghanistan I moved back to South Carolina. So in I went to the dentist to get my crown. But only to be told that because I'm not stationed at Fort Jackson long enough, I'll have to wait to get my crown at my next duty station, Fort Benning.

And then I get to Fort Benning. And am pregnant pretty much a day later. And one of the fun (and by fun I mean annoying) things about pregnancy is that it makes your teeth (and gums) more susceptible to issues. In my case this was a deteriorating filling. But all I could do was continue to get more fillings as the dentist did not want to do the crown until after my pregnancy. So I waited. And got more fillings.

About a month after Cale was born, before returning to work, I went back to the dentist. Knowing I wanted to be pregnant again, I wanted to get my tooth taken care of as soon as possible. But by this point I had enough fillings and work done on that poor tooth that they couldn't do a normal crowning procedure. So eventually they decided to basically drill out the majority of what remained of the tooth and basically put a temporary tooth in its place until I had a "crown lengthening procedure" in which they cut your gums, find enough real tooth to attached a crown to, and slap that puppy on.

Only I got pregnant again. And then I was back to square one and temporary solutions as the procedure I need requires sedation. And during this time (my pregnancy with Finn), my temporary tooth kept falling out. After about the third time I just told the dentist I'd rather leave it out until I could just get the tooth fixed once and for all. And he was fine with that. So I was left with a tiny nub of a tooth. Thank goodness it's in the back of my mouth.

The other week I went back to the dentist to get my tooth looked at and hopefully fixed. But surprise, surprise I have a filling they need to take care of first. So I get the filling and come to find out that they can't fix my tooth just yet. Why? Well because I've had basically no tooth for long enough that my root canal has been exposed. And they have to re-do it. Yup, root canal #4. Sweet. Now am waiting for my next appointment before the appointment in which I will hopefully get my damn tooth fixed. Four years later.

Enjoy not having any teeth Finn. Because once you do, you're screwed.

September 12, 2011

What's in a Name (Part III)

My last post reminded me about my short "What's in a Name" series that I never finished. I only had a Part I and Part II. Part III was going to be the final one - where I revealed Finley's name. But two days after I wrote Part II, Daren was killed. And that changed our plans for Finley's name and for announcing his name. You see, Finley was going to be Finley Sears Hidalgo. Sears is a really old family name on my mom's side of the family. My grandma took a lot of pride in her lineage and traced our family tree back generations upon generations. Sears, which used to be Sayers, can be traced back to the 15th century to William Sayers who lived in England. When the Sayers relocated to America, the name was changed to Sears.

After Daren was killed we knew there was a good chance we'd want to include his name when naming our son. And once we decided on Finley Daren, we were tentative to "announce" it. I wanted to ensure that Finley first arrived in this world alive. If something happened and he didn't make it, we probably would have named him Finley Sears for it would have been too hard to give him the middle name Daren. But that's a pretty depressing thought and hard to explain to people, so we just kept quite for a bit longer and only shared Finley's first name with people.

You might wonder why I even felt compelled to share this now. Well recently I was blog-stalking Brooke. I've been reading her blog since the spring when Molly shared this great post that I in turn shared on my blog. But the other day, while super busy at work (insert sarcasm), I went back to read some of Brooke's older posts that I hadn't read. (Creepy? Egh, whatever - read a few of her posts and you'll be equally engulfed by her way with words). And I stumbled upon this post which I fell in love with and had a lot of "yeah me too!" moments while reading. I remember shortly after learning Cale did not have a heartbeat I said to Miles, "but I really loved the name Cale." I was disappointed that a name that I loved for the son I planned to raise would be just another part of what we lost. But alive or not - he was already Cale. It's one of the things that makes him so special. When talking about her daughter Eliza's name, Brooke put it beautifully when she says "It's my most favorite name and since there was so little I was able to give her, I'm glad I could give her that." 

I'm glad we were able to give Cale a beautiful, strong name. And while I wish Daren was here with us, I'm glad that we could give Finley such a meaningful name. I'm glad both my boys have unique names and I love that their daddy thought of both of them. I love the nickname Finn (yes, we spell Finley with one 'n' and Finn with two), and I hope we get the opportunity (although not any time soon) to come up with another unique and meaningful name for a baby.

What about you? How did you come up with your baby(ies) names? Or how did your name come about? I'd love to hear your "what's in a name" story as I'm sure it's so much more than just a name. . .

September 10, 2011

More Than A Name

I went for a run during lunch the other day where I passed by Johnson Field. A lot of the training grounds on Fort Benning are named after someone who was a Medal of Honor recipient. This particular one was named after PVT Elden H. Johnson. Other than his name, and the fact that he earned the Medal of Honor, I knew nothing about him. And it made a part of me really, really sad. Because this man is so much more than just a name. And of course I thought about my loved ones and how they are so much more than just names. So after I got back from my run, huffing and puffing, and horribly out of shape, I looked up PVT Johnson on the good ole world wide web. This is the citation for the Medal of Honor he was posthumously awarded:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. Pvt. Johnson elected to sacrifice his life in order that his comrades might extricate themselves from an ambush. Braving the massed fire of about 60 riflemen, 3 machine guns, and 3 tanks from positions only 25 yards distant, he stood erect and signaled his patrol leader to withdraw. The whole area was brightly illuminated by enemy flares. Then, despite 20mm. machine guns, machine pistol, and rifle fire directed at him, Pvt. Johnson advanced beyond the enemy in a slow deliberate walk. Firing his automatic rifle from the hip, he succeeded in distracting the enemy and enabled his 12 comrades to escape. Advancing to within 5 yards of a machine gun, emptying his weapon, Pvt. Johnson killed its crew. Standing in full view of the enemy he reloaded and turned on the riflemen to the left, firing directly into their positions. He either killed or wounded 4 of them. A burst of machine gun fire tore into Pvt. Johnson and he dropped to his knees. Fighting to the very last, he steadied himself on his knees and sent a final burst of fire crashing into another German. With that he slumped forward dead. Pvt. Johnson had willingly given his life in order that his comrades might live. These acts on the part of Pvt. Johnson were an inspiration to the entire command and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the armed forces.

But before I looked him up I did a lot of thinking about how important it is to preserve our history and our people. I think the military in general does a pretty good job about this - seeing as though there are dedications and memorials scattered throughout every military installation.

Cale was cremated. He resides in this little urn in our bedroom.

We went this route (cremation) as Fort Benning (Columbus), GA is not home for us. I don't want my son buried here. I may not ever know where to bury him, so for now he will stay with his parents. But someday, maybe not until my day comes, I want him to have a spot where his name is displayed. Where someone can pass it and read "Cale Harrison Hidalgo" and know that he existed. But I want him to be more than a name. He was a son, a brother, nephew, grandson, and cousin. He is a part of me that I want to preserve for as long as I can.

Miles' parents recently launched a website to preserve Daren's memory. With Daren, there's almost 25 years of memories to celebrate, remember, and honor. Please take a few minutes and check it out. I especially want to share this video they had made which is also on the website, but can be viewed here:

It's an incredibly well done compilation of the memorials, funeral service and burial for Daren. I hope that many, many years from now we, Daren's family and friends, will have done a good enough job preserving his memory that others know about him and that when they see the name Daren Miguel Hidalgo, they know how much more he was than a name - a son, brother, grandson, uncle, nephew, friend & hero.

September 5, 2011

This Weekend

A week ago I blogged about baby Norah joining the Johnson Family and I 'm so happy that this week I get to share more happy news - Mr. Maddux Creighton Hope was born, healthy and perfect, on September 1st to our good friends Lauren and Greg. Maddux's brother John will celebrate his first birthday in Heaven later this month so their family will be on our minds and hearts during the next few weeks. It'll surely be a emotional time - both happy and sad, but I'm just so thankful that baby Maddux is here. As I said before, I'm especially antsy/anxious/excited/worried for all of those families who have already lost a baby. I wish I could rest assured that if something so terrible and tragic happens in your life then at least you'd be spared any future pain. But unfortunately, we just know that's not the case. There's no statute of limitations on tragedy, but oh how I wish there was.

This weekend was a pretty relaxing and relatively uneventful weekend. I love long weekends. But it does make it harder to go back to work. But let's be honest, I never want to go to work.

But my weekend started off on a great note when I picked up all the beautiful images our incredibly talented photographer Neely captured during the month of June. She had taken all my maternity pictures with Cale and I knew I'd want her to do the same with Finn. She recently wrote the kindest blog that I'd love to share with all you. I do want you to know, before reading and looking at the pictures, that these are also of Finley's birth - and I realize that this could be somewhat of a trigger for my baby lost friends. Before I got pregnant with Finley, a good friend of mine had shared with me the pictures of the delivery of her rainbow baby. And it gave me such hope for the future. So I hope that these do the same and do not cause any sadness or pain to any of you who have already suffered so much. 

Without further ado . . . Finley's Journey.

September 4, 2011

Last Weekend

As I mentioned earlier, we spent last weekend in Destin, Florida - our first vacation as a little family. The weather was perfect and although I wish I got more of a tan, at least I didn't get burned. We really enjoyed the beach and while Finley slept most of the time under an umbrella and there was a nice breeze we still didn't stay too long so as to give him a break in the air conditioned hotel.

I love trips as a family and look forward to our next one - wherever that may be.