Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Up, Up, and Away

For my 30th birthday I decided it would be fun and exciting to do something crazy to commemorate my milestone. I chose skydiving. Unfortunately, my jump was canceled due to weather. I rescheduled and again it was canceled. And again. And again. That entire summer, every time I rescheduled it was canceled due to weather issues. I  was really disappointed, but the more I thought about it- the more I thought...was this a 'sign' that I wasn't supposed to jump? Thoughts began swirling around in my head. Was God saying "No" because He knew I was going to die and wanted to protect me? I ended up not going and losing my deposit.

Fast forward two years later. My 32nd birthday was rushing towards me like a Japanese bullet train and I was dreading it. Never in a million years did I imagine I would become a bereaved parent at 32. Ava was due June 19th and my birthday was June 7th. I didn't want to celebrate my 'birth' day. How could I when my own daughter wouldn't be? My belly should have been bulging with the life of our daughter and instead I was grieving what never was to come. Our family would never experience her kisses, her giggles, her smiles, her tears,  her coos,  her snuggles, her birthdays, her milestones, etc...everything a parent hopes for, dreams for, and longs for.

The weekend of my 32nd birthday, I came home from running errands and discovered a note from my husband informing me that he was whisking me away for a surprise birthday getaway. He took me to one of my favorite vacation spots - Cannon Beach, Oregon. That next morning he woke me up really early and announced we were going for a drive and to dress comfortably.....

 I soon learned that he had scheduled a surprise skydive for me.

The weather was perfect. Soaring and flying above the clouds at 14,000 feet was breathtaking. It was the closest I had been to Ava since she died and it will probably be the closest I will ever be again until I meet her in heaven. Those moments floating were so meaningful and a huge healing process in my grief. I got to be as close as I humanly could to her - on my birthday. As we began to descend, my instructor asked if I wanted to hang out in a cloud for a bit. "Not many people can say that they've hung out in a cloud!" he remarked. Of course I took him up on the opportunity. He had me take over steering the parachute and directed me to a huge cloud. We circled around, inside several times. Those moments in that cloud were indescribable. It reminded me of the beautiful Precious Moments piece that David gave me for Mothers Day. I felt connected to Ava in a way I had never felt before.

I realize now that two years ago, God wasn't saying "No, don't jump." Instead, He was saying, "Wait Sarah. Wait for MY perfect timing because your skydive is going to be more meaningful than you will ever imagine."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Big Sister

In April, David surprised me with news that he was taking me to Cannon Beach, Oregon for Mother's Day weekend. Throughout my life Cannon Beach has been a place of refuge and renewal for my heart, so I was very excited to arrive. I couldn't wait to have a long talk on the beach with God. 

That Mother's Day weekend, I let it all out... I cried and angrily told God how mad I was that He could have healed Ava, but He didn't. He could have saved her, but He didn't. He didn't answer my prayers...

or so I thought... 

It was there, on the beach in front of Haystack Rock, that He gently reminded me that He had answered my prayers, just not in the way I had planned or wanted.

I had prayed for a daughter and He had given me one to live inside me for 18 weeks. I held her in my womb every second of her life. 

As I reflected on that, I felt Him speak to me -  "You will get pregnant again and you will have a son." 

I shook my head dismissively and didn't think much of it until June 9th. I was a few days late and decided to take a pregnancy test. To my surprise, the pregnancy test was positive! 

Life was and has been a roller coaster of emotions from that moment as I have been processing the fact that I have a new life growing inside me and that Ava is a Big Sister in heaven. 

Our 6 week appointment showed a heartbeat and a tiny life beginning to take form.

We really wanted both Gideon and Ava to be part of the pregnancy announcement and I was struggling on how to incorporate Ava. I recently joined a Pregnancy After Loss Support Group online via FB and a group of mothers shared their "Announcement-after-loss" ideas with me. All of the ideas were beautiful, but one stuck out to me in particular.

I went to Etsy and contacted Lisa from CustomInkSpirations and ordered pink angel wings to use for Ava's presence in the announcement. Lisa was wonderful to work with and shipped the beautiful handmade wings quickly. We then posted this Facebook announcement and picture.

8 weeks
"Our family is excited to announce that we are expecting a 'Rainbow' Baby, due February 2015. A Rainbow Baby is a child conceived after the death of a previous child. The term refers to the understanding that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravage of the storm. When a rainbow appears, it doesn't mean the storm never happened or that the family is not still dealing with its aftermath of the previous child's death. It is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds as a sign of hope and joy for the future."

When Ava died, my eyes were forcefully opened to how fragile life truly is and how it can be gone at any moment. I am overjoyed knowing that we are expecting our third child and that Gideon and Ava are a Big Brother and a Big Sister to this new baby. 

It's also absolutely terrifying. 

I miss the innocence and naivety I once had. I now know from experience, how plans, lives and dreams can change in a nanosecond. 

I am scared the past will repeat itself. It is a daily struggle, but by the grace of God, I am learning to let go of my fears and worries and replace them with joy and hope.

I know Ava would would want me to love her little brother or sister just as much as I love her. I want to remember and cherish every moment of this pregnancy.

Ava would want it that way.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

In Her Honor

Last Thursday was Ava's due date. Instead of celebrating her birth and holding her in our arms, we grieved her death and our arms were empty. While we are absolutely devastated by her death, we wanted to attempt to experience some form of "beauty from ashes" and honor her. After talking it over, David and I decided to ask our friends, family, and coworkers to do a random act of kindness in her honor, on her due date. Buy a neighbor flowers or a stranger coffee, pick up garbage in a neighborhood, or send an encouraging note, etc. etc.
We then asked them to share what they did via text message, Facebook, or email. Later that evening after we wrote letters to Ava and then released our 19 pink balloons into the sky, we came home and read all the ways people showed kindness and honored her that day. 

Knowing that Ava's life impacted people across the world on her due date in the form of random acts of kindness, is a balm to our grieving hearts while paying tribute to her beautiful, short life here on earth. We would like to thank each person and every family who participated. You are each a blessing to us. Below is a list of beautiful acts of kindness that people did in remembrance of our sweet angel, Ava Grace Hoffman.

  • Made care packages filled with food, hygiene supplies, and resource information for the homeless and passed them out 
  • Paid for someone else's gas
  • Bought a young woman's grocery items that were not covered by her EBT
  • Baked goodies and shared them with coworkers
  • Donated girl clothes to a mommy in need.
  • Baked bread for an elderly neighbor. 
  • Baked cookies to share with a shut in neighbor
  • Purchased coffee(s) for a person(s) in line
  • Bought movie tickets for a couple in line at the movie theater
  • Watched a friends kids unexpectedly
  • Picked up trash in the neighborhood
  • Sent an encouraging note
  • Donated to a charity in Ava's name
  • Paid for a friend's coffee
  • Shared freshly picked cherries from an orchard with a neighbor
  • Purchased a bouquet of flowers for a shut in neighbor
  • Paid for someone else's parking
  • Gave a homeless girl  bus tickets.
  • Spontaneously took care of grandkids for three days
  • Donated money to Compassion International's fund for maternity and infant care in third world countries in Ava's name
  • Donated a quilt in her honor
  • Tipped a waitress extra
  • Saved a seat on the bus for an elderly lady
  • Ordered two hoodies from the crossfit gym and gifted one to my roommate 
  • Sent money to a friend who is fighting cancer, to help with medical bills
  • Left flowers for a shut in neighbor
  • At work and wanted to love on the kids and volunteers today. We had 69 kids and 6 volunteers today, so I made sure they all knew how special and loved they were
  • Showed kindness to my husband after he annoyed me
  • Helped take care of a dog who had extensive oral surgery
  • Helped two teachers pack up their classroom
  • Purchased a stranger's daughter her first pair of tap shoes and also bought her brother a toy
  • Showed extra love, care, grace, and patience to my girls
  • I let an older woman go ahead of me at the store
  • Made bracelets to pass out to friends
  • There is a little boy in my neighborhood who comes from a very poor family. I saw him the other day when he was playing outside and he was wearing broken shoes that were at least a size too small. I have been planning on going to a store and buying him a pair of shoes for days now. What better day to do it and what better reason than to celebrate your amazing strength in Ava's honor?
  • Donation in Ava's name to March of Dimes. While this is a small gesture I hope it reinforces that no life is without meaning and worth
  • Donated to the Thinking of Nikki Foundation in Ava's honor. The foundation helps families and children in Pennsylvania dealing with pediatric cancer
  • Asked someone to dinner
  • Wrote an apology letter to an old friend
  • Helped a homeless family

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

June 19

June 19th, 2014. Last October I couldn't wait for that day to arrive. It was Ava' s due date. From the moment I found out I was pregnant with her, I began dreaming and imagining all the fun things we would do together and as a family. Little did I know that on January 14th, 2014 I would be staring at her motionless body on the ultrasound screen and hearing the words,

 "I'm sorry, but I can't find a heartbeat."

June 19th is two days away. Instead of welcoming our baby girl into this world, we are grieving all of the tomorrows that will never be.

There is no foot too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world.

7-19-14 will come and go without you, my little love, but you will always be in our hearts.

You are loved.

You are missed.

You will always be remembered.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Rocked by Rocky

Yesterday at the gym, I found myself wiping away tears and attempting to hold back the sobs that were engulfing my body. Moments earlier I had ran into an acquaintance who had known I was pregnant, but didn't know Ava had died. She approached me excitedly and asked, " Where's your baby?!"

 I told her the news.

She cried with me, hugged me, and told me how sorry she was for my loss. By the time we parted, I was late to my spin class. I was half tempted to skip it altogether, but felt an urge to go in anyway. I jumped on a bike, buried my head down and pedaled with all my strength. As I cycled, I angrily thought.

It is the month of June.

My belly should be bulging with life.

I should be feeling Ava's adamant kicks, communicating to me that she is running out of space in my womb.

I should be waddling like a penguin.

I should be finishing up the touches of Ava's owl themed nursery.

 David should be installing our second car seat.


I am grieving.

My womb is empty.

My baby weight is gone.

Ava's nursery is boxed up and in storage.

Her car seat has been donated.

June 19th is speeding toward me and I am dreading it. What should be a marvelous, joyous day of bringing Ava into this world will be replaced with mourning what will never be. My internal thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a voice. A man's voice. I recognized it instantly - Sylvester Stallone. Startled, I looked up and around but he was no where to be seen.

"Let me tell you something you already know.The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!"

Chills went down my spine as it ended. Hearing Rocky's speech played out on my instructor's iPod rocked my broken, scarred heart. For the remainder of spin class, I mentally processed what he had said. When I left my class, my perspective on life was a little different.

I will still be mourning Ava's death on her due date, but I don't want her legacy to be that her death permanently broke me. Instead, her life and my love for her will help sustain my survival.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Baby Shoes

I had a feeling when I got pregnant for the second time that I was having a little girl. I purchased a  little pair of black dress shoes and dreamed excitedly of when she would wear them.

 I took a picture of her little black dress shoes along with all the beautiful flowers, blanket, and cards that we received after her death. Her little shoes are stored in her memory box. Today, I like to imagine Ava playing on a beach somewhere with no need for shoes, the sand tickling her precious little toes and feet.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Missing You

Cannon Beach, OR.

I wrote your name into the sand, but the waves washed it away.
I wrote your name in my heart and forever it will stay.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Precious Moments

One of the things that has helped my grieving heart has been perusing Pinterest for miscarriage blogs and quotes. Knowing I'm not the only Mommy grieving the death of my child has helped me not feel so alone in this horrific journey. I started a Pinterest Board called: Empty Arms -Miscarriage and one night during a search, I stumbled across this Precious Moments figurine picture that someone had pinned.

Mommy's Love Goes With You

I was immediately drawn to this Precious Moments figurine as it depicted so much meaning and emotion.  I showed it to my husband and mentioned that I would love it for Mother's Day. David tried buying it, but it was completely sold out. I was really disappointed. 

However, on Mother's Day David surprised me with a box. When I unwrapped it, I discovered this Precious Moments figurine with Ava Grace inscribed on the cloud:

"Forever Embraced In God's Warm Love"

Oh, how the tears flowed! It was beautiful and I was so touched that he had it personalized. It was one of the best Mother's Day gifts a grieving Mother could hope for. I will cherish it forever.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Memorial Tattoos

 When our son Gideon was born four years ago, David and I chose to have his name tattooed on our right arms.  This past weekend was Mother's Day. It was bittersweet as I celebrated being a Mother to a son on earth and a daughter who is in heaven. To honor and remember our precious angel Ava, David and I went to 9 Lives Tattoo in Seaside, OR. and had her name tattooed on our left arms as a memorial.

inside of my left wrist

David's left arm

I couldn't keep from tearing up when Josh finished my piece. For me, the wrist is a particularly perfect spot as the artery there connects to the heart, and that's where our children will always dwell. There is something so beautiful about seeing  my daughter's name in ink - an expression and tribute to her short life here on earth.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Family of Four

This past weekend, someone very aware of our recent miscarriage asked my husband if and when we were going to try for our second child. He replied, “We’re thinking and praying about trying for our third child soon.” They responded confused and asked, “Third?” David said, “Yes, our third,” at which point they realized what he meant and nodded in acknowledgement. 

Some people assume that because our daughter is dead, that she can't be counted as part of our family. That is the furthest thing from the truth. As Lori Ennis writes, "It’s not inappropriate to count them as family members.  Their hearts stopped beating.  When mine stops, I’ll still be remembered as Lori…wife…mother.   Hearts no longer beating do not negate family memberships."

It adds to our grief when people close to us forget the reality that we have a second child. We understand that it was not their dreams that were shattered in an instant, however Ava is still a part of us and will always be a part of our family. 

Ava Grace is in our hearts and will forever be in our memories.

I am a Mother of two. We are a family of four.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Big Brother Grief

When I found out that I was pregnant with our second child, the first person I told was our 3.5 year old son. He was so excited to find out that he was going to be a Big Brother. We talked and dreamed out loud about the fun things we were going to do as a family of four. From the very moment that he learned he was going to be a Big Brother, Gideon kissed my tummy, hugged it, sang, and talked to his baby sister growing inside my belly




until Tuesday, January 14th, 2014.

There is no instruction manual on how to convey and express life and death to a child and I'm not sure there is a 'perfect' way to talk to a child about losing a sibling. How we expressed Ava's death to Gideon was unique to us and to our beliefs. David and I were advised to be truthful with Gideon about Ava's death, but express it in a way he would understand. We avoided using the words she's 'gone to sleep' or ' she was sick.' as using those words could become confusing in his mind. Sickness is usually a temporary condition that is treatable and majority of the time reversible. Additionally, all of us have been sick at one point or another and if we said Ava was sick and then died, then the possibility of one of us dying when we were sick could become real and very scary in his mind. Also, if we told him that she went to sleep and didn't wake up we were concerned he would be legitimately frightened that the same thing could happen to him or us. So we sat down with our son and told him that his little sister had died and was in heaven with Jesus now.

We didn't know what to expect when we expressed the devastating news to Gideon. In some ways, I hoped that he would take it with a grain of salt. How he responded surprised us both. His reaction was instantaneous. His face held shock and anger and pain and disappointment and sadness, all within seconds of each other. He got up and half-stomped/half-ran into his bedroom, slammed his door, and cried. It was absolutely gut wrenching.

Shattered hopes and dreams.

Over the first couple weeks Gideon's only comments about Ava were, "I'm not sad, I'm mad." and "I'm mad at Jesus for taking Ava away!" We reassured him that it was OK to be mad and even sad. Those feelings and emotions are a normal part of the grieving process. While it doesn't take the pain away from missing her, David and I continue to reiterate to Gideon that Ava is in Heaven with Jesus and He is taking good care of her. We read him the book, Born to Fly: An Infants Journey to God by Cindy Claussen as a comfort.

Right after Ava died, a sweet friend gave me a beautiful baby blanket. She explained to me that it was for when my arms are aching to hold my sweet daughter - I have something tangible to hug and cry into. Gideon has been very vocal about missing Ava and has been asking to sleep with her blanket during nap time and bedtime. I recently found him curled up in bed, fast asleep with it.

Last month we were decorating a friends birthday box and he told me he wanted his friend to know that the birthday gifts were from Ava too."I am drawing a big smile for Ava, Mommy!"

Gideon still talks about Ava, but in different ways. Instead of kissing and talking to my belly, he now picks her flowers so she can see them from heaven and draws pictures of her.

"This is my family"

"Ava is  eating worms with a friend"

"If Ava was with me, I would share my toys with her"

"Ava is playing with an airplane in heaven"

We talk about Ava openly and lovingly. Gideon often says, "I miss Ava, but I'm glad that Jesus is taking care of her!" She may not be with us physically, but she is in our hearts. She is our daughter and Gideon's little sister.

To those who might say that we shouldn't have told Gideon that his sister died... I think Jessica Watson's reply says it best:  "Denying my children’s right to know about a part of their life, a part of their family, might spare me a few tearful conversations right now but it will not erase the reality of what happened to all of us."

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Daddies grieve too.

"Husbands grieve in ways we don't give them credit for. A lot of times it makes me sad how they're almost ignored during times like these. They weren't pregnant, that's true. But they were attached to and loving that baby the day they found out their wife was expecting. The baby is half of us and half of our husbands. Its good to remember they deal with all these things too, it just often looks different on them." -Stefanie Arnold

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

An Act of Kindness

I pinned this quote a couple weeks ago to my Pondering Thoughts board on Pinterest. Little did I know how soon this quote would become personal. 

Last week, an act of kindness by a librarian at our local library left me stunned. I had gone to the library to pay for a children's CD that had disappeared after Ava died. The librarian offered to put the CD on hold for 6 weeks so that I could try and find it before the replacement fee was due. I mentioned that I had lost my daughter and the CD probably got lost in transit when my son was being shuttled to peoples homes during that time. I told her I'd rather just pay the replacement fee then try to keep looking for it. 

"You lost your daughter?" she asked. "I miscarried her" I replied. Her eyes immediately filled with tears. She reached across the desk, grabbed my hand, held it for a few moments and then squeezed it. "I am so so sorry." she said. "Don't you worry about replacing the CD. I'm going to cover the costs for you. You go home and take care of yourself and your family. You don't need to be thinking about a CD right now." 

I stood there speechless hand in hand with a librarian, tears cascading down our cheeks. 

Mother Theresa once said, "Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless." 

I'm learning how true that quote is through my pain and grief. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Born to fly

Last night after Gideon was in bed, he started calling my name. I went to his room to check on him and he requested a big hug and kiss. Afterwards, he looked at me and said, " Mommy, I miss baby Ava. Would you please tell me a story about baby Ava so I'm not sad and cry about her?"

His question took my breath away.....A story about Ava? I was speechless...

In that moment I prayed that God would give me the words to say. Immediately, He reminded me of a powerful yet simple message book called Born to fly that a friend of a friend had sent me in the mail after Ava died. It is a story of an infant's journey to God.

Born To Fly - An Infant's Journey to God

Grabbing the small book from Ava's memorial box, I inserted Ava's name into the text as I read. He smiled from ear to ear as I talked about his sister's journey to God.

I am so grateful to the author Cindy Claussen for using her heartache to be someone else's hope. Her book is an emotional balm for those who grieve: mommies, daddies, and even (little) big brothers.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Grief Attacks

 I avoided the baby girl section of department stores like a plague after Ava died - knowing I would never see her wear all those cute frilly pink and purple outfits. It was just too painful. I avoided the baby girl aisle that is, until last week. I was having a 'good day' and thought I would attempt to try. My friends daughter's one year birthday party was that weekend and I was determined to get her an outfit.  I brought my 3.5 year old son with me to the store and I began to scour  the baby girl section. I picked out a cute pajama set and thought proudly to myself - I didn't cry!

At that moment, I looked down at my son Gideon and he had vanished. I called out to him. No answer. Sheer panic rippled through my body. Where was my son? "Gideon!" I called out louder. No answer. "GIDEON!" my voice cracked and trembled. And then I heard his sweet, innocent voice. " I'm right here Mommy!" I scoured the clothing area and then I saw him. He was holding onto a red cart of another woman and was trying to reach into her cart and stroke the cheek of her baby girl. "Mommy, look!" he said excitedly. "She is just like baby Ava!".

Silly girl. I should have known better.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Remembrance Jewelry

God has been using His people to minister and pour out His love to us during this difficult time. One of the many sweet and thoughtful gestures has been the gifts of remembrance jewelry. Remembrance jewelry is a wonderful way to acknowledge the loss of a friend or family's child while creating a special keepsake that they will treasure forever. I have been blessed with such caring friends and each package I have received, I have cried tears of joy and happiness.  Each morning I have the opportunity to switch between the necklaces. Additionally, I recently had a friend send me an Etsy gift card so I could chose something special on my own. I ordered a cuff bracelet this past weekend with footprints and the words hand stamped: Forever in my heart. I am so excited to receive it. I wear one of these necklaces every day.

memorial necklace

memorial necklace