On February 10, 2011 we lost our sweet baby girl, Reese Holland, to Sudden Unexplained Infant Death (SIDS). She was 4 months and 21 days old. I started this blog to chronicle my journey towards healing, and learning to live without my baby girl.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Time Sure Does Fly!

Boy, it's been a while since I've posted. Having Isla in our lives has added a certain degree of chaos!  She is a bit like her big brother, in that she is a little demanding! :)  I never have more than one hand free for typing, which makes posting a challenge.

We celebrated Reese's 2nd birthday on September 20th by taking her a cake and some presents, and we had a gathering with family afterwards. It was a beautiful day!  We had Reese's Run a few days later, which wasn't quite as successful this year.  I blame myself for the lack of advertisement.  I don't remember most of August and September, as I was so completely sleep deprived during that time!

Isla is just over 3 months old now, and is maybe 10 pounds. She is a tiny little thing...so much tinier than either Josh OR Reese at this age.  We absolutely love having her here, but the past 3 months have been a struggle.  We are all on edge. Even Josh asks often if Isla is to the age Reese was when she died.  I never thought that would be something HE worried about.  We are looking forward to December 20th, when Isla will be 4 months 21 days old.

Josh just adores her.  He thinks she is the cutest, most precious baby in the world.  He really doesn't ever leave her alone.  He tells everyone, "God sure surprised us with this baby...she had hair!"  Thankfully he has decided he now likes babies with hair, because he really wanted a bald baby.

I am still on leave. I was diagnosed with PTSD when Isla was about 6 weeks old.  My fears and anxiety over leaving her were out of control.  I still worry about everything, all the time, but having her in my arms lessens my anxiety.  I became like a first time parent again.  I've probably called my doctor a million times about a million different things.  I was worried about having Isla sleep on my chest because she was on her stomach, but my doctor assured me that my chest was a safe place for her.  I worried that since I let Reese slept that way, maybe THAT is why she rolled that day at daycare, and maybe she would be alive if she hadn't rolled, and perhaps it was my fault because she was used to being on her tummy. I worried after her 2 month vaccines when she spent the evening bawling, because Reese had her 4 month shots just a few weeks before she died, and though I know in my heart they didn't cause her death, some people pushed that on me after I lost Reese, and those memories came flooding back.  Things that I never imagined would trigger fear in me have reduced me to tears, and I send up prayers to God to let me keep this baby girl.

Loving somebody this much is so scary...but it is worth it.  She lights up our world.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Our Early Arrival

Our little bundle of happiness arrived a little bit early.  3 weeks early.  Actually, she was born at 9:41 pm on July 29, about 2 hours and 19 minutes before she would be considered full-term.  Since she was technically "late-term premature"  we had to subject her to extra testing.  While I hated having her poked and prodded, it was reassuring to have her getting the extra attention.

The day she was born, we definitely felt Reese with us.  There are about 40 birthing rooms at the hospital, yet we were put in the exact same room where we had given birth to Reese nearly 2 years earlier.  Room 321.  The room overlooks the ER entrance.  AJ kept looking down at the curb where he sat the day we lost Reese.  He told me that that day he sat on the curb and stared up at this window, remembering when Reese was born.  And now it had come full-circle, as he sat in the birthing room window looking down at the curb where he sat on the worst day of our lives.

Also, Isla was due on the 20th, but was born on the 29th.  Reese was due on the 29th but born on the 20th.  Such strange little coincidences, but it made us feel like she was right there with us.

Isla definitely resembles Reese. Sometimes she looks exactly like Reese..but with a full head of dark hair.  Josh is on one end of the spectrum with blond hair and blue eyes, and Isla has brown hair and darker skin.  Reese is definitely a mix of both kids.  The one common trait they all have is the mouth/chin area.

We are so incredibly happy to have Isla, but it is not without some sadness. Today it has been 18 months since we lost Reese.  It is the strangest feeling to be so happy and so sad at the same time.  We are all terrified of losing Isla...even Josh told me he was so scared now that we had brought her home, and he wanted to know how we could make sure she doesn't stop breathing.  It is heartbreaking that he carries that fear with him.  AJ has been a big ball of stress. He is definitely having a harder time coping than I am. Perhaps because I'm busy just "doing"...taking care of Isla, trying to keep things in order, etc.

I did get hit with a huge dose of reality last Saturday night at church. It had been about 105 degrees that day, and the church has POOR ventilation. About halfway through mass she pooped, so I took her in the back to change her. There was a table set up on the side in the back, so I laid her out on it. She was totally content laying there in the cool, looking around. I was digging in her diaper bag, and it suddenly hit me. That was the exact same spot where I had last seen Reese's face. During the rosary, we had a viewing, and her casket was right there in that corner. I remember that night, Feb. 16, 2011, staring at Reese's beautiful face, knowing once we closed that lid I would never see her again. I just sat there next to Isla laying so content on that table, and bawled. Man, it was hard. I'm sure that's the first of many moments that are going to hit me like that.

Night time is the hardest because I know I can't supervise her.  I've always co-slept. I know my babies are safe, but now I doubt myself.  I question everything. Is she too warm?  Is her face tilted toward my body too much?  I lost Reese during the day, during a nap at daycare where she was alone in a pack-n-play, yet I'm completely terrified that it will happen again...and it will happen with her in my arms.  Part of me wants to lay her down in the co-sleeper, but I just can't seem to let go of her.  So, I don't.  I say my prayers every night as I snuggle her to sleep that I get to keep her.

Here are a few pictures of our sweet little Isla.

Happy Angelversary Reesey.  We miss you like crazy, baby girl.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Even though Isla is a girl, and will be using the room that was Reese’s, I decided to re-do it completely.  Pink and yellow are the colors I chose for REESE’S room, not Isla’s.  So, last month, I re-did her room.  It was definitely a difficult thing to do…to paint over Reese’s yellow walls, and turn it in to a completely different room.  It was hard to box up her things and put them away.  Everything had stayed the same since we lost her...until now.  I put some things of hers in a bin in my bedroom for now. At some point I want to get a nice hope chest to store them in, so that I don’t feel like I’ve put her away completely.  Joshy was my big helper, taping and painting the room, and I honestly couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. 

I ordered the tree from Etsy, and my girlfriend made her name in vinyl, along with the adorable owl picture that has my 3 little owls on it.  The stripes were easier than I anticipated…but putting up that darn tree was a challenge!  The room looks so completely different now.  It doesn’t feel like Reese’s Room anymore…it is Isla’s Room.  Even AJ, who has only been in Reese’s room a few times since she passed away, is able to go in there now.  Making a space for Isla has made me that much more excited for her arrival.  I can’t believe that in 8 weeks (or less!) I’ll be meeting my beautiful new daughter.
And…Joshy got a new big boy room. He wanted spiderman!  I somehow volunteered to freehand a ginormous spiderweb on his bedroom wall, and then bought a spiderman decal to put in the middle of it.  It was crazy hard, but the look on Josh’s face when he saw it made it all worthwhileJ

We went and had a 3D ultrasound done a few weeks ago.  She was breech, which made it difficult to get good pictures, but we were still able to get a few.  It looks like she may have the same mouth/chin as Josh and Reese…we call it the Verboort chin.  All I know is that I can’t wait to smooch those cheeks right off her little face!

A few weeks ago we had our priest over for dinner. He is absolutely wonderful.  He told me that I need to be sure to call him once Isla is born and he will come to the hospital to meet her.  Nothing could make my heart happier than to have my baby girl blessed in the hospital shortly after birth.  We definitely plan to have her baptized as soon as we possibly can, too.
Josh is doing much better these days.  He doesn’t seem to focus so much on being afraid that Isla will die, and he hasn’t cried for Reese in quite a while.  He still has questions and concerns, but he is just so excited for Isla to be here.  We all are.  And how lucky our little Isla will be to have her big sister as a guardian angel, watching over her all the days of her life.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Isla Felicity

What a busy and exhausting few months it has been!  At 14 weeks, I experienced some bleeding and was diagnosed with an SCH.  I was told that SCH’s don’t “usually” lead to second trimester losses, which didn’t really ease my mind at all, because babies don’t “usually” die of SIDS.  It was a very scary few weeks, but eventually the bleeding stopped, and the SCH seems to have cleared up.  I did get a few extra ultrasounds out of it, which was awesome!

At 17 weeks, I found out that we are being blessed with another daughter.  I’m not going to lie, that was a tough pill to swallow.  It was difficult to imagine bringing another baby girl in to this house…but I was also ecstatic at the thought of having a daughter to raise.  With the other babies, I was buying things as soon as I found out the gender, but not this time…this time it took me a while to settle in to the idea.  I am almost 25 weeks, and have the new nursery in progress.  I couldn’t see leaving it pink and yellow…that was Reese’s room.  It is amazing what a new coat of paint can do to change a room!  AJ, who hasn’t gone in Reese’s room more than a handful of times since she died, is now able to come in the room and work with me.  I saved some of Reese’s items to store in a chest, and spent time going through her old baby clothes.  It was emotional to go through all the things she wore and outgrew, expecting to just give them away to friends later on down the line.  I chose a handful of my favorite outfits of hers, or outfits I remember her wearing a lot, and I sent them to a friend’s mom, who is making a quilt out of them.  I can’t wait to see how amazingly beautiful it turns out. 

We didn’t have a name chosen for either sex when I found out she was a girl, so Josh started calling her Baby Gaga and Seussical the Musical.  I decided it was time to nail down a name…and then it would feel more “real”, too.  I gave Josh a short list of names I had been mulling over, and he chose Isla (pronounced ‘eye-luh’).  Luckily, that had been MY first choice as well. We cleared it with AJ, who thought it was beautiful, so that is her name. Isla Felicity.  Felicity seemed appropriate as the middle name since it means “happiness”.  We have been looking for our happy for a while now!

Since we’ve found out that Isla is a girl, though, Josh seems to have started going through a new phase.  Shortly after Reese passed away, he quit drawing her when he would draw our family pictures.  A few weeks ago, he started coming home from school with pictures of himself, AJ, and I…and two babies.  Reese always has wings, and she is at the top of the page…and Isla is down near us.  He usually adds Peanut in as well.  He often draws us surrounded by crosses, depicting the cemetery.  It completely broke my heart the first time he showed me the picture…but it also made me smile.  We are all smiling in the picture, we are happy.  This is just how he is working though it.

He also asks a lot about this baby dying.  We’ve had a wall collage of photos in our stairwell for about a year now…about 30-40 pictures from when we were a family of 4. Last week he paused going up the stairs, and had the saddest look on his face. I asked him which photo he was looking at, and he pointed to a picture of him holding two-week-old Reese.  He said, “We didn’t see her for a long time, and now we never get to see her again.  And I miss her so much.” I picked him up and held him, telling him I missed her too.  He then said “I’m glad we are getting a new baby, but I sure hope she doesn’t die too.” 

And just this morning, I was blow-drying my hair. When I turned the blow-dryer off, I heard Josh bawling hysterically. I looked back and saw him laying on my bed.  I assumed he was hurt and rushed to him and asked what was wrong.  He just sobbed, “I miss Reese. I want her to come back down right now.  And I don’t want Isla to die.”  I just sat there and held him…and cried with him, until I was able to speak.  After we were both done crying, we talked about how Reese is watching over us, and we will pray to her and to Jesus and God to protect Isla, and keep her safe here with us.

It is just like a dagger through your heart to hear those words coming out of the mouth of your 5 year old son.  How unfair that THAT is what my little guy has to worry about.

I spoke to the pediatrician about the risk of recurring SIDS deaths in families, and he said that they are leaning towards it being something genetic, and that our risk DOES increase slightly because we lost Reese.  That information is definitely difficult to process.  We weren’t at as high of a risk and we lost Reese…and now, we have a higher chance of losing Isla?  I can not imagine living through this again. I can’t imagine JOSH living through this again. 

I wonder how I’ll ever sleep or put Isla down. I wonder how I will leave her to go to work.  I don’t imagine I will be a very sane person that first year of her life.

Josh is ecstatic about having another sister though…and boy does this kid like to shop.  Every time we go in a store that has baby clothes, he INSISTS on picking out things for Isla.  Every. Single. Time.  The saleswomen are all smitten with him, and totally impressed that he seems to enjoy shopping so much!  And how can I say no to him wanting to buy things for his new sister?  :)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Reese's 1st Angelversary

I did it!  I survived my first year without Reese.  Yesterday, we celebrated the first Angelversary of the little girl who brought so much love and happiness in to our home.  I remember every detail of our last morning together so clearly, I don’t even need to go back and re-read my original blog posts. 
Taken at daycare, just hours before she passed away

I always pumped in the morning, and I fed her a bottle of breastmilk in her little rocker while I pumped. I talked to her and held her bottle while I pumped for her next feeding. But that morning I had propped it up for a second, she wiggled and lost the nipple, and the milk from the bottle dribbled all over her neck and clothes. She was pretty wet, so I had to change her again.  I don’t remember dressing her the first time that morning…but that second time, where I had to pick out another outfit for her, I remember having a difficult time.  I grabbed one outfit from the 6-9 month clothes I had just washed. She was just outgrowing the 3-6 month ones, and was fitting in to some of the 6-9, but as I grabbed it I thought, “Oh no rush, she’ll have plenty of time to wear this one.” And I grabbed her pink sweatpants outfit with an elephant on the jacket.  When I pulled off her outfit, I kissed her little tummy, and she giggled and pulled at my face.  I remember that open-mouthed grin, the one where her eyes got so squinty they almost disappeared…that meant she was SO happy!  I sang to her, and she giggled and smiled some more. 

That whole morning seems so surreal now.  But I am so, so happy, that one year later I am still able to look back and be thankful for the moments that I had with her.  I can honestly say that though I miss her immensely, and would do anything to have her in my arms again, I don’t let the “what could have been” moments consume my days.  I am thankful that God allowed me to have that little angel in my life, even if she couldn’t stay for my entire life as I had dreamed she would. I wouldn’t trade those 4 months and 21 days for anything, even if it meant I never had to know pain like this. 

And I still think that her 4am wake-up calls that whole week were just to give me extra moments with her.  I think she knew she wasn’t staying.  I know that probably sounds crazy to some, but to those who have experienced having an angel in their lives, I think they will understand me perfectly.

One of the most difficult things is that I don’t have a physical scar.  When people look at me, they can’t tell that I’m in pain.  Not like if I had lost an arm or a leg.  On the outside, I look just fine.  If I’m having a bad day, people make their comments or look at me sideways.  And I wish, for just TEN SECONDS they could feel what I’m feeling.  I wouldn’t wish it on them their whole life, no one should have to carry this pain around with them…but just for a few seconds, just so they understand that just because someone “appears” to have this wonderful life, it doesn’t mean they do. It just means they are making the most out of what they have.

And, while I’m making wishes…I wish that everyone who  lost a baby to SIDS got to take a year off after their next child is born.  That seems fair.  If only that were possible, but sadly, in our case it is not.

We actually got Josh a puppy a few weeks ago. His name is Peanut.  Honestly, Peanut has been a blessing for us.  I was completely opposed to getting a dog, especially a small dog, but I fell in love. I had to have him.  Hearing Josh call himself “big brother” again, brings tears to my eyes.  I seriously should’ve done this shortly after losing Reese, I think it would’ve helped him quite a bit.  But, better late than never!
Josh and Peanut
At this time of sadness and despair, our family also has a little bit of happiness. We are celebrating life. A new life, to be exact.  I am 12 weeks pregnant with our 3rd baby.  I took Josh to the ultrasound on Monday, and he was mesmerized (well, for a whole 5 minutes!) with that tiny little baby on the screen, with its hands up by its mouth.  It is strange to feel so much happiness and so much sadness at the same time.  But I know that Reese is watching us.  I think she already knows this baby, and this baby will have a connection to her that none of us could even dream of.
I want to thank all of my friends and family who supported me over the last year.  And thanks for the beautiful flowers, cards, and gifts we received this week.  The love and support is overwhelming. 
AJ and I visiting Reese on her First Angelversary

In the words of Josh, who at the age of 4 ½, is wiser than most adults I know, “It will be sad when we die, but it will be so wonderful to see Reesey again.”  Truer words were never spoken.  Until I see you again, sweet baby girl, Happy First Angelversary! And one of these days, I hope your wings bring you down here for one more smooch for Mama!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Merry Christmas to all!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

I love this time of year. Everything about it.  I love the sights and smells of the season.  Nevermind the fact that I've had a cold-turned-sinus-infection for the last 3 weeks, so I haven't smelled or tasted one thing!  I assume our beautiful tree smells like a tree, and that my morning eggnogs have actually tasted like eggnog.  You'd think I could've taken the opportunity to cut back and drop a few pounds, but it's CHRISTMAS..I can't cut back. It does only come once a year, after all!

This season has definitely had it's ups and downs.  I miss Reese so much. I sit here next to our Christmas tree and remember that last year, I spent so much time right here in this chair with her snuggled in my arms.  We have done what we can to honor her this Christmas Season.  I went Black Friday shopping with my mom (last year, Reese came with us...she was such a good sport!).  I was at Toys R Us picking up a few things, and I walked past some awesome sales. You know they kind, where you say "Man, I wish I had someone to buy THAT for!"  And then I realized, I did have someone to buy it for...so many kids who don't get the kind of Christmas that my kids get.   So I picked up some cool toys, and Josh and I took them to the Fire Dept. later that day for the Toys for Tots drive.  I figured that since I can't buy for my baby, I can buy in her memory, and she can be the reason for the smile on another kid's face.  Kohl's also had some contest, so I entered. It was about who inspires me. The winner would get a gift certificate to Kohl's, and get a donation made in their name to Toys for Tots.  I got an email saying I won one of about 600 prizes...and a donation is being made in Reese's name. I didn't enter to win the gift card (which is appreciated), but I want people to know her.  I want them to love her the way I do. I want her to be the reason for the smiles on Christmas Day.  She is definitely one of my reasons for smiling.
I also made a small donation to St. Jude's.  The kid's in those commercials break my heart.  No kid should have to endure pain and sickness.  My baby might be gone but I am SO THANKFUL that she never felt pain; she never suffered. I can not imagine watching my child in such excruciating pain. So, I've done some small things that have helped me get through the season, and feel like maybe we are doing some good in Reese's honor.  I'd like to do something bigger next year, organize something to encourage others to give, too...though I'm not sure how to even go about that!

Joshy is missing his sister a lot, too.  I think his memories are being triggered with the holidays here. The other day I found him sitting on the stairs, looking at a collage of photos I made from when we were a family of four. When I asked him what he was doing, he said "I'm just looking at Reesey."  Then he asked if I missed her, and he talked about how much he missed her.  We talked for a while, then he changed the subject, jumped up, and ran downstairs.  I'm glad those moments don't last long for him, but man, they knock me down.

Even with the pockets of sadness, this really has been a wonderful Christmas season.  We've gone to ZooLights, spent time with friends, seen some movies, and done lots of shopping.  The shopping brings back memories, because last year she and I spent so much time at the mall.  As I shop for presents for my friend's new baby girl, it is like deja vu, because I was buying baby girl things for Reese last year. I didn't for one second she wouldn't be here with us this year. But, I would've done it all over again, even if I had known that I would have to endure this kind of pain for my whole life.  She was worth it. 

Merry Christmas, Reese!

Friday, November 11, 2011

9 Months Without My Baby...Almost 2 Lifetimes

Our Family Photo - Christmas 2010

My loves!
So, I had this idea in my head, that her 1st birthday would be the most difficult thing that I would have to make it through. I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.  These last 6 weeks have been some of the most difficult since I lost her.  This time last year is when she was with me.  This is the time of year that I spent with her snuggled in my arms.  It was 9 months ago yesterday that I lost her, and a good portion of those 9 months it has felt like she was almost a dream. Like she was here, and a split second later she was gone, and it hardly feels real.  And since she was only with me 4 months and 21 days, I have been without her almost twice as long as I had her.
Now, the seasons are changing, the weather is getting cooler, the sights and sounds of Christmas are here, and the memories are hitting fast and furious. I love to remember her, I love to think about her, but at the same time it hurts.  It hurts to remember snuggling with her by the fire, as I sit alone this year. Every single thing that I think about leads me back to her.  I can’t get her off my mind, though I am not sure that I want to, either. Last year I was on maternity leave, but was scheduled to be back at work on Dec. 13.  I wanted to enjoy Christmas as long as I could, so I decorated my house on November 1.  I loved it, and decided it should become my new tradition. Last weekend I did all the decorating. It broke my heart when I opened a box of Christmas decorations and pulled out our stockings.  In all my life, I’ve never put names on our stockings, but last year I did. So, now they hang…all four in a row…Reese, Mom, Dad, and Josh.  As soon as I hung them up, Josh rubbed his face on hers.  I heard him whispering “I love you Reesey,” and I just cried. I can not believe that this year our baby girl won’t be with us for Christmas.  This is my favorite time of the year. I love everything about it.  And now it is overshadowed with sadness.  I guess, though, that I am happy that I got to spend last Christmas season with her; I am glad she got to experience it.  Even though she didn’t have a clue what was going on…or maybe she did.  Maybe she knew more about her purpose that I ever will. And the joy of the Christmas season helps to make the sadness not quite so overwhelming. At least that is what I keep telling myself.
Yesterday, I made the decision to be thankful for the last holiday season that I spent with her, instead of focusing on what I lost.  Easier said than done, but I am trying!

November 2010 - My favorite Christmas outfit!

Thanksgiving 2010

Sleeping Beauty

December 2010

The babies by our tree!

12/12/10 - 4 Generations - Ningy, Mommy, Reese and Grandma-Great
Smooching by the tree
The bests gifts I could ever receive!
Me and Reese...Christmas Eve before Mass
Reese and Daddy

Ningy and Reese

Christmas Morning...in matching PJs :)