Sunday, November 5, 2017

November 5, 2017 - Happy 5th Birthday Kassidy!

It's always a strange feeling when November 5th comes around. I am joyful to celebrate Kassidy's short life and how much meaning she had to us. I am sorrowful that we didn't get a chance to truly know the person she is. With it being her 5th birthday, I imagine she would be an energetic preschooler running around with her three younger siblings.

Grief certainly stays around. Most of the time it hides, but sometimes it appears and hurts just as bad as the day I held her. Life moves on, and as a mother you are stretched between two realities. I am both stuck in a place where I am still grieving my daughter - yet I am also happy and raising my three other children.

Carrying Kassidy in 2012 after her anencephaly diagnosis was uncommon, controversial and rewarding. In a world where life is often viewed as a mistake after an abnormality is discovered, especially one where abortion is pushed since she wouldn't have a chance to live anyways....I am glad I gave her the longest life possible.

Today at 4:16pm, the time she was born, we will do our annual balloon release at the cemetery.
We love and miss you Kassidy! How did 5 years go by so fast?

Here are some updated photos of our family for my followers:
Steven is now 4 years old, Beau is 2.5 and Paige turned 1 last week!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

November 5, 2016 - Happy Birthday Kassidy, Welcome Baby Paige!

Happy 4th Birthday to our daughter, Kassidy! It's hard to believe that it has been four years since we held you in our arms. November 5th will always be a bittersweet day for us as parents. It was the most difficult year of my life and it had such a profound effect on me as a person and a mother. I knew when we decided to carry an anencephaly baby to term that it wouldn't be easy. Every day would be both a blessing and a hardship. Not knowing when you'd be born, if you'd live a short time, or if I'd have time to tell you how much I love you. When you did arrive at 4:16pm on November 5th, 6 weeks early, the absence of your cries told me that you'd already joined God. I was overcome with relief- for you were home, safe, and healed. Every day since your passing I have thought of you and who you might have been. Can you imagine us now? We'd have a 4 year old, a 3 year old, a 1 year old and a newborn. You'd have a little sister to play with...

Which brings me to introduce our newest rainbow baby: Paige Blakely Johnston. She was born just 1 week ago on October 29, 2016. At a surprising 9lbs 9oz and 20 inches, she has stolen our hearts! I've always said that the death of a daughter has made me ache for one even more. I am feeling blessed! She is here, she is healthy, she is a gift. The boys adore her! I know Kassidy has watched over us and rejoiced with us as each rainbow baby has arrived.

Steven is now a wild 3 year old, and Beau is 20 months!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

August 21, 2016 - Healthy Baby GIRL

I can't believe it has taken me this long to sit down and update my blog that we are expecting a healthy baby girl! On June 2nd, our 5th wedding anniversary, we found out that we have been blessed with not only a healthy baby again, but a GIRL! I burst into happy tears at the appointment when we were told the news. We are naming her Paige Blakely. To go from losing a girl to having 2 boys in a row, a girl is just a dream come true.

Here she is, our precious chubby Paige. She is due October 27th. We are hoping to have her here by Kassidy's 4th birthday on November 5th so we can all celebrate together.

The boys are doing great. Steven is about to turn 3 years old, and Beau is almost 18 months. 

Steven is still obsessed with dinosaurs. He loves watching Jurassic Park and Jurassic World and playing with dinos everywhere we go (he carries them with him). Beau loves cars, dogs and trains. He is talking more and more each day. We are getting ready to go on our annual beach trip to San Diego and visit Legoland. It'll be a nice way to relax before Paige makes her debut. Going from 2 to 3 kids will be interesting!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

May 7, 2016 - When I Became a Mother

My first baby was a gift from God. Blessed with beautiful hands, perfect kissable lips, chubby cheeks…Kassidy was my lesson on life and even death, while trusting in His plan.

My husband and I were at my scheduled 12 week appointment at my OB, when they couldn’t find our baby’s heartbeat with a Doppler. An ultrasound a few minutes later showed a little heart beating away, but also indications that something wasn’t right. I broke down into tears when we were told that our baby had an omphalocele, and that we were being referred to a specialist. Our first baby’s organs were growing in a sac on the outside of her body. It was a severe case. I struggled to eat and sleep awaiting my specialist appointment 3 days later. We arrived, sat for a long and tedious ultrasound and waited in a quiet room for an hour before the doctor emerged with news that was even worse than we could have ever imagined.

“Your baby’s omphalocele is close to the size of the baby itself.” I couldn’t breathe. It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. The doctor continued, “That is the least of your worries. Your baby has anencephaly.” She explained that our baby’s skull did not develop. Her brain was exposed, she had no chance of life outside of the womb, and that my amniotic fluid would slowly damage her brain. I felt so confused. How could this be happening? This kind of stuff didn’t happen to people I knew, let alone me. What were my options? The doctor said it was up to me. 90%+ cases of anencephaly were aborted, but carrying the baby wouldn’t cause any health concerns to me. There were no treatment options, just comfort care. I was told I’d most likely miscarry.

I prayed, cried, prayed and cried. I knew every life is precious and God’s plan. There was a reason this was happening to me. I was chosen to be this baby’s mother. We told my OB that we were carrying this baby to term. The following months consisted of doctor’s appointments, loss of sleep, anger even, and planning for my daughter’s death. I began to focus on memory making. Scheduling a photographer to come to the hospital after her birth, choosing her one and only dress, journaling my emotions and reaching out to mothers of anencephaly angels consumed me. Then, I began to feel her kicking. She didn’t do it very often, but when she did, I felt complete unconditional love for the little girl I had been given. I looked forward to seeing her face.

At about 28 weeks along, we met a local neonatologist that had experience with anencephalic babies. We were told that after seeing my ultrasounds that our baby had less than 30% of her brain, which typically would indicate that if our baby were born alive, she wouldn’t be able to see, hear, feel any pain, or feel anything at all. To this day, I can’t decide if that information made me feel better or worse.

On Halloween 2012, I was sitting in my driveway handing out candy to all of the trick-or-treaters. I thought about Kassidy and how she would never get the chance to trick or treat. I was having contractions all evening, and thought it may be because of my emotions and that maybe I needed to drink more water. It was clear by mid-morning on November 1st that I needed to go to the hospital. I was having painful back labor and dehydration. I wasn’t admitted until November 2nd, and labored for several days while being monitored for infection since my water was leaking. I was given Pitocin and an epidural, and Kassidy was born on November 5th.

 At about 2:30pm, the nurses told me that it was time to begin pushing. I asked for one last heartbeat check on Kassidy, then they found her heart beating strong. That was the last time I heard her heartbeat. I pushed an exhausting 2 hours, since she didn’t have a skull, there was no pressure on my cervix. At 4:16pm, Kassidy was born sleeping. She was only 2lbs 11oz and 12.5 inches long. My husband baptized her, and a photographer came in and took our first and only family photos with her. Our families visited, took turns holding her, and our Priest also visited and prayed with us. I felt relief for the first time since her initial diagnosis. I knew she was safe and with God. Her entire time on earth was with me. She knew my love, she was never cold, never hungry, never alone. I was a MOTHER.

Kassidy wore a gown and a hat the whole time we held her, and she looked like a typical premature baby girl. She was wrapped in blankets and held her grandfather’s rosary in her hand. We left the hospital the next day, and immediately made funeral arrangements. It was very difficult to leave the hospital empty handed.

On November 10th, we laid Kassidy to rest. It rained that morning, but it was a beautiful and peaceful day. I had a feeling of…”what now?” when I arrived at home later that evening. Grief presented itself in unexpected ways the days, weeks and months that followed. I felt guilty when I would smile or laugh, as I didn’t feel it was right to do so when my daughter wasn’t there. It dawned on me one day that Kassidy would want me to be happy. I knew she was watching over us all the time, even when were surprised with another pregnancy just 10 weeks later.

My first rainbow baby, born just 10 months and 9 days after Kassidy, was a little healthy boy named Steven. He is a miracle. He healed me of the pains of being a mother with no baby on earth. He is now an energetic 2.5 year old toddler that loves dinosaurs and counting to ten. My second healthy rainbow boy, Beau, is now a 14 month old chunk of snuggly love who loves music. My third rainbow is due in October. I feel immensely blessed and thankful for each one of my four children.

Kassidy made me a mother, she made me stronger in my faith and taught me to value and protect all life, no matter any diagnosis. Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers. Those who have children on earth or children in heaven, and even to women who have mothers on earth and mothers in heaven. Being a mother is not easy, but it is worth it a million times over. Being a mother is the true definition of unconditional love.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

April 27, 2016 - Healthy NT Scan for new Baby

Our new baby received a clean bill of healthy at my NT Scan almost 2 weeks ago. Baby is measuring right on track with a heartrate of 173. We were a bit surprised to be told they are 80% sure this baby is a girl. I feel so overwhelmed with emotion at the thought of a girl. We are so used to being boy parents and a baby girl would be such a blessing! We will find out for sure at my anatomy scan on June 2nd. We scheduled the scan to be on our 5th wedding anniversary.

Our growing family is doing well! Steven is quite talkative nowadays and Beau follows every move his big brother makes. It is wild have a 1 year old and a 2 years old, I always remind myself that if Kassidy were here that we would also have a 3 year old! Oh my!

Here I am visiting Kassidy on Easter:

Friday, March 25, 2016

March 25, 2016 - Rainbow Baby #3!!!

This isn't a trick, but rather a treat!
Check out our little pumpkin that we can't wait to meet!
Due October 2016

We are thrilled to announce that we are expecting our 3rd rainbow baby! So far the ultrasound shows baby measuring right on track, I have an appointment in 3 weeks to check for anencephaly and other defects.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

February 4, 2016 - I choose happiness.

Hello Friends,

Life is good, God is good, and here we are at the beginning of 2016 looking to celebrate Beau's first birthday at the end of February! I can't believe that he is already walking and talking.

Kassidy has been on my mind, mostly because of the holiday season and my mind wanders to imagine what things would be like with one more toddler in the mix. Her existence only enhances my appreciation for our healthy family and friends. Watching the boys open presents on Christmas morning and eat French toast, watching Steven run around with a noisemaker on New Year's Eve, and seeing Beau take his first steps on January 24th have been constant reminders that she is our guardian angel. I remember that during my pregnancy with Kassidy and the time after she was born thinking, "I may never get through this. I want to go with her." I wish I would have known the happiness that was just around the corner. I attribute this feeling to God and that if I hadn't kept my faith in His plan, that I may not have gotten to this point.

I also had to dip down into these emotions on December 18, 2015. December 18th by itself is the anniversary of Kassidy's due date. It also happens to now be the day I miscarried our most recent pregnancy. It happened so fast, and without much time to build excitement or celebration of another life. I found out I was pregnant on December 13th...and was told the next day by a nurse practitioner that only 1 of 3 pregnancy tests at the doctor's office showed positive. That was a sign my pregnancy hormone wasn't very high. I had a gut feeling that something wasn't right. 2 blood tests that week revealed that I would miscarry. I felt angry. Hadn't I dealt with enough? I had a miscarriage in 2011, a few months before I got pregnancy with Kassidy. So this would be my 3rd loss overall. My doctor and I noticed a trend in low progesterone with 4 of my 5 now I am on a progesterone supplement. I just felt...mad. empty. upset.
It took a few weeks, but then I realized - God is in control, I shouldn't worry, I should just trust Him. I let go of the negative feelings and viewed 2016 as a clean slate.

Steven: 2.5 years old, strong-willed, loves Dinosaurs more than life itself, and is an animal person.
Beau: 11 months old, lovey dovey, wants to cuddle and be held all the time, copies big brother and is my mini-me.

Today, I choose happiness. I choose my family and God.