Dancing in the Rain
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A Trisomy 18 Journey

Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain. -- Vivian Greene

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Trisomy 18 Awareness

Trisomy 18 has been in the news a lot lately because of a special 3 year old little girl named Bella who has Trisomy 18. Bella happens to be the daughter of Presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Bella was admitted to a local hospital over the weekend for pneumonia, which caused Mr. Santorum to cancel some of his campaign appearances. Bella is doing much better today and her dad is campaigning again. News organizations have been featuring stories about Bella and Trisomy 18. This is a tremendous opportunity to raise awareness for Trisomy 18 and to give good information about what this chromosomal disorder is and is not. We in the Trisomy community are interested in having the public know that
1. Our children are children first...children who have a condition known as Trisomy 18.
2. Children with Trisomy 18 can live for months and years. Their life expectancy cannot be predicted at birth.
3. Children with Trisomy 18 do not live lives full of suffering. The idea that these children suffer is commonly cited by neonatologists and obstetricians although it this is not supported by medical literature or anecdotal experiences from the MANY Trisomy families out there.
4. Children with Trisomy 18 can indeed have a good quality of life.

For more information please see the following links:

http://www.trisomy18.org/site/PageServer?pagename=whatisT18_whatis

http://www.trisomyhelp.org/WHAT-IS-TRISOMY-.html


To view some of the current news coverage centering on Bella Santorum and/or Trisomy 18 see the following links:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/01/31/feeding-tubes-nicu-one-on-one-care-susan-hatfield-talks-about-living-with-his-trisomy18-baby.html -- this article was written by the mom of a 5 year old boy with T18.

http://bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/health-wellness/2012/02/01/bella-santorum-and-trisomy-care-has-shifted-for-genetic-disorder/k5ZH7Zxoi0q5hkJRsphs6M/story.html

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2012/02/santorums-daughter-recovering-nicely-but-from-what.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57368121-10391704/trisomy-18-in-spotlight-after-rick-santorums-daughter-bella-hospitalized/?tag=mncol;lst;1

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/01/29/what-is-trisomy-18/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-checkup/post/bella-santorum-has-trisomy-18-what-is-that/2010/12/20/gIQAxrOVcQ_blog.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/30/trisomy-18-bella-santorum_n_1241671.html


To learn more about children with trisomy 18 and their families see the links under "My Blog List."



Monday, January 30, 2012

14 Months

Today is Julia's 14 month birthday.  Every month on the 30th we celebrated Julia's birthday, and I think we will continue to do that. Julia, I imagine you today doing all of the things a 14 month old should do -- saying "Mama" and "Dada", standing, walking, running, trying to climb the stairs, and wanting to play outside.  We miss you dearest one!

Here are some photos from one year ago on Julia's two month birthday. We celebrated that day with cupcakes, and our cousins were here to join in! The big kids enjoyed a day in the snow while we kept Julia warm and snuggly inside. And apparently we changed her clothes a lot that day...






Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Do Over


Julia 1/25/2011

I would really like a do over.  All of Julia's 382 days. The good and the hard. The days spent feeding and holding her.  The nights awake with her. Dressing her. Singing to her. Taking pictures of her. Watching Sydney and Isaac with her. Celebrating birthdays every month with her.  Making memories with her.

It's not that I would want to make a lot of changes. I just want the time back.  I would also like to go back to the time of her birth and tell myself a few things...

1. Julia will surprise you.
2. Doctors cannot predict the future.
3. 5-10% of trisomy 18 babies make it to one year, and Julia could be one of them. See #1 and 2.
4. Julia can and will eat with a bottle.
5. The colic will not last long.
6. Julia's smile will be the most beautiful thing you have ever seen.
7. Leave the cameras out and use them. (We did pretty well with this one!)
8. You are not alone.  There is a whole t18 community out there.
9. Don't be afraid to hope.
10. You are her mom. Trust your instincts.
11. Celebrate every single day.
12. Julia's life will be beautiful.

I have often wondered if I would have wanted to know exactly how long Julia would have with us. It would have been very helpful and comforting in the beginning.  Those days and weeks we spent thinking we could lose her any day were so hard. I am so thankful that for most of Julia's time with us, we were not thinking that.  We were so used to her being with us and beating the odds that we thought that would contine for a long while.  That kind of thinking - the hopeful kind - allowed us to enjoy our life with her. I would not change that.

Then I wonder if I would want a do over of her last week.  Right now, the answer would be yes.  I do not know if there is anything I could have done to change things that week, but I would like to try.  A friend recently said to me that it was just her time to go.  I want to believe that.  I have to.  But I would still like a do over.

Love you forever, Julia.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I Don't Want to be Normal


Julia one year ago today, 1/19/2011.
She slept a lot back then!


Julia changed us in so many ways. We experienced new things, we adapted to new ideas, and we learned to love in deeper ways than we could ever have imagined. My days were filled with caring for Julia and keeping her doctor and therapy appointments. Caring for a child with special needs is consuming but in a fulfilling and inspiring way. We worked hard on typical things like learning to eat from a bottle, strengthening neck muscles and core muscles, and practicing playing with toys. Results took so much effort. Every new skill, no matter how tiny, was celebrated like a major milestone. I am forever grateful to Julia's therapists for helping me to recognize the progress Julia made and to rejoice with me in each accomplishment.

We also met new people and joined an online community of parents of children with special needs, and more precisely parents of children with trisomy 18/13. It took me a few months after Julia was born to find this community but they have been unbelievably supportive and helpful. There are members of this community with living children with t18 and some with angels who were stillborn or who were blessed to live with their families for a weeks, months, or years. All are included and supported. It is a group of people who "get it" without explanation and without judgment. I continue to keep up with this online support group even though it is sadder to do so without Julia. I realize, though, that Julia's story can still encourage and inspire other new parents and I want to offer that. Each child with trisomy 18 has their own unique set of challenges and each parent's perspective is valuable. On average, a baby born with trisomy 18 lives 5-15 days, and Julia lived 12.5 months. Hers is an amazing story, and I can't lose sight of that in the midst of my sadness.

I dearly miss my not-normal days with Julia. However, I know that I will never be "normal" again, and I am so thankful for that. It is part of Julia's lasting and immeasurable impact on my life. I love you, my special girl!

Monday, January 16, 2012

One Month


Today it has been one month since we lost Julia. I have no words to adequately describe life without her. However, I found this piece on grief that seems significant to me.

Profound grief is like being in a stage play wherein suddenly the stagehands push a huge grand piano into the middle of the set. The piano paralyzes the play. It dominates the stage. No matter where you move, it impedes your sight lines, your blocking, your ability to interact with the other players. You keep banging into it, surprised each time that it's still there. It takes all your concentration to work around it, this at a time when you have little ability or desire to concentrate on anything.

The piano changes everything. The entire play must be rewritten around it.

But over time the piano is pushed to stage left. Then to upper stage left. You are the playwright, and slowly, surely, you begin to find the impetus and wherewithal to stop reacting to the intrusive piano. Instead, you engage it. Instead of writing every scene around the piano, you begin to write the piano into each scene, into the story of your life.

You learn to play that piano. You're surprised to find that you want to play, that it's meaningful, even peaceful to play it. At first your songs are filled with pain, bitterness, even despair. But later you find your songs contain beauty, peace, a greater capacity for love and compassion. You and grief -- together -- begin to compose hope. Who'da thought?

Your grief becomes an intimate treasure, though the spaces between the grief lengthen. You no longer need to play the piano every day, or even every month. But later, when you're 84, staring out your kitchen window on a random Tuesday morning, you welcome the sigh, the tears, the wistful pain that moves through your heart and reminds you that your child's life mattered.

You wipe the dust off the piano and sit down to play.

By Steven Kalas

One month down. A lifetime of months to go. I miss you, Julia, with every heart beat.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

December 11

A month ago today we had the best day. We celebrated birthdays and enjoyed all being together. Love you and miss you, Julia.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Making Room

Sydney, Isaac, and Julia 12/1/2010


Life without Julia just isn't the same. There is a huge hole in my days and nights. My arms are missing that extra 10 pounds of cuteness. Julia changed so much about our family life. I was on bedrest beginning with week 30 of my pregnancy with Julia. Then when she was born, Marc and I decided to hold her pretty much around the clock. Early on we thought she would only live a few days and we wanted someone (one of us) with her and holding her at all times so she would not be alone. As the days and weeks and months passed we continued to hold her nearly all the time. It was comforting to her and to us. And she was so cute! When those big brown eyes would gaze up at us and later when she would smile up at us and then even later when she would reach her hand up to us-- well, we just couldn't put her down! While one of us was holding Julia, the other could focus more attention on Syd and Isaac. I realize, though, how they also made room for Julia in their everyday lives. Before Julia was born, Isaac always wanted to sit with me and he would frequently come into our room at 4 or 5 AM and sleep the last few hours with us. Soon after Julia was born Isaac caught a cold. We had a talk with him about germs and washing hands and not coming into our room at night with Julia in there. He took this to heart and stopped coming into our room at night. Then we bought a bassinet for Julia to keep in our room, which she probably slept in for a portion of only about 7 nights. I remember Isaac asked if we bought that bassinet so he could start coming into our room at night again. :) He actually has been sleeping very well in his bed for the last year. After we lost Julia, Isaac started wanting to be near me and sit in my lap again. Part of it is probably him sensing my sadness and part his own sadness. Either way, it is very sweet. It is as if he gave that spot to Julia while she was with us and then decided to claim it again. He made room. So did Sydney. She was used to having a lot of my attention. I would often volunteer in her class, I would walk her to the bus stop every morning, I would do her homework with her, and take her to and from her activities. When Julia was born she had to become a lot more independent. I couldn't volunteer in her class much or walk her to the bus (she would walk with our neighbor to the bus stop which was only 2 houses away). We had to carpool more for activities, and she had to do more homework on her own. She did not complain, and she has excelled at school. Sydney loved to talk about Julia to her friends and to show her off. She was and is such a proud big sister. Every little thing Julia did was cause for celebration to Sydney, just like it was for me. Now I am able to do more with her again and be there for all of the little things like bus stops and homework. Since we lost Julia, Sydney has been so attentive to me, especially when I am sad. They made room, and now they are trying their best to help fill the hole. They are the best kids ever.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Julia Slideshow



Here is the slideshow from Julia's memorial service.  Just to let you know -- it is eleven minutes long. :) The original was much longer, and it was an accomplishment to trim it to 11 minutes.  There is a soundtrack included as well in case your audio is turned down or off (like mine usually is).  We hope our love for her and our joy in being her family comes through loud and clear!

We love you, Julia!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Quotes




The following is a sample of quotes I collected over the last year. Authors range from fictional characters to First Ladies and from bloggers to theologians. They speak truth to the journey I am on and give words to feelings I cannot always describe. Some express hope. Some express grief. All express love. These quotes resonate with me in some way and I hope they will with you, too.

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do." Eleanor Roosevelt

"Hope is the ability to hear the music of the future. Faith is having the courage to dance to it today." Peter Kuzmic

"Sunday will come. After the Fridays of ur lives, Sunday always comes." From the blog of Rebekah Peterson (mom to 18 month old Aaron with trisomy 18)

"I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love." Mother Teresa

"Time does not heal all wounds. Love does. And there is a lot of love in my life." From the blog of Tanis Miller (mom of four, one of whom passed away suddenly at the age of 5)

"Has God brought you to a place of nothingness? Be still and know that He is really God. When this happens, your nothingness will be turned into something you will value for the rest of your life." Mother Teresa

"Sometimes the littlest things take up the most room in your heart." Winnie the Pooh

"Faith is risking what is for what is yet to be. It is taking small steps knowing they lead to bigger ones. Faith is holding on when you want to let go. It is letting go when you want to hold on. Faith is saying yes when everything else says no. It is believing all things are possible in the midst of impossibilities. Faith is looking beyond what is and trusting for what will be. It is the presence of God in all." author unknown

"There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love." Washington Irving

"For what we need to know, of course, is not just that God exists, but that there is a God right here in the thick of our day-to-day lives. Who in one way or another is trying to get messages through our blindness as we move around down here knee-deep in the fragrant muck mad misery and marvel of the world." Frederick Buechner

"What we have once, we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us." Helen Keller

"They say that time in heaven is compared to the blink of an eye for us on earth. Sometimes it helps me to think of my child running ahead of me through a beautiful field of wildflowers and butterflies; so happy and completely caught up in what she is doing that when she looks behind her, I'll already be there." author unknown

"Why did I suffer sharp pains of inward grief? It must have been the fresh wound caused by the break in the habit formed by our living together, a very affectionate and precious bond suddenly torn apart...Now that I had lost the immense support she gave, my soul was wounded, and my life as it were torn to pieces, since my life and hers had become a single thing." Augustine (Thanks to Jamey for this one.)

I love and miss you, Sweet Pea...so much.