Transitions 2

I rarely go back and read what I have written on this blog. When I do, it’s often because I’m looking for something specific that I wrote and because I can’t remember when I wrote it, I do a simple keyword search. Today’s search turned up this post, Transitions.

I do not remember writing this at all, but it could not have turned up on a more perfect day.

There have been a lot of changes around our house over the past few weeks. I feel like we are entering Transitions Part 2. The original post talks about our oldest son starting kindergarten. He is now in Second Grade and our youngest son started Kindergarten this year. The school year started off just as I described it would two years ago … “Before we know it, our youngest boy will be walking through the doors of elementary school with his older brother showing him to his classroom.” And that’s exactly what happened.

Back to School ~ 2015

Back to School ~ 2015

The other reason this post could not have turned up on a more perfect day is because today is the day Kyleigh would have started preschool. I knew this day was coming, I’ve just chosen to block it out of my mind. Until today. Until I see the back to school pictures of children the same age as Kyleigh, some of which she probably would have been in the same class with. It’s a bittersweet experience. I have a lot of friends with children who are three years old and while I don’t think much about it from day to day, it’s days like today when it hits me hard. I tend to not say anything about it, until I publish it to a blog post…oops!, because I don’t want to make people feel sad or even feel sorry for me. That’s not what it’s about. I’m happy for all of the three year old’s starting preschool today and couldn’t be happier that some of them are experiencing this new adventure at the same place that my boys went to preschool. But I’m also sad that I wasn’t taking pictures this morning and fighting for a parking spot among all of the other moms out there.

That’s the thing about pregnancy and infant loss, and losing a child of any age … there are always going to be “firsts” that we miss out on. When a baby dies, there are more missing “firsts” than with an older child, but I believe they all sting just the same. They come and go like waves. When Kyleigh died, we got a card from someone who had walked this journey before us. They mentioned that their daughter would have turned 18 that year and would have graduated from high school. At the time of Kyleigh’s death, we couldn’t think past the moment, let alone think ahead 18 years. The milestones are always there. The “firsts” are always missed. But it showed us that they are never forgotten.

The beginning of the school year has always been difficult for me since Kyleigh passed away. The emptiness of the house was always deafening. Nothing is worse than a quiet house when there is supposed to be a baby crying or the sound of little feet learning to walk across the floor. This year was not as hard. The boys were very excited to start school and I have someone to keep me company at home now.

Kyleigh's little sister

Kyleigh’s little sister

For everyone missing someone this school year, I wish you comfort and peace, even as you think about the “firsts” that you will never have with your loved one. For everyone sending little (or big) feet off to school this year, I wish you a year full of success and happiness as you experience the “firsts” with your loved one.

This entry was posted on September 8, 2015. 1 Comment

Why I Say Her Name

It happened again. Someone I just met asked me how many children I have. I hate it when this happens. Not because I’m afraid to speak her name. Because the response is always so unpredictable. But is it? Don’t most people either stare in silence, not knowing what to say, or mutter, “I’m sorry,” and then turn away or change the subject? Very few times will this new acquaintance engage in a conversation about her. In fact, most often, the person will not even engage in conversation about my living children once I have mentioned her name. Even when they are asking other people around me about their children. It’s almost as if I fall off the map, out of their radar, once I mention her name. 

But you see, I have to include her. I have to say her name. Not just because she’s my child. Not just because I love her. Because she is making a difference. Her name is embroidered on SleepSacks. Her name is the title of a 5K. Her name was written about in a recent newspaper article. Her name means something. Why would I keep her name quiet?

For me not to say her name, not to include her alongside her siblings, would almost be hypocritical. I created a fund in her name, but I’m afraid to tell people about her? I admit, in the early days, weeks, months and even the first year, it was hard to speak her name to new people. I was too sensitive to the reaction from others. Unfortunately, I’m growing accustomed to people’s reactions and I’m the one caught off guard when they respond with interest. It was easier to not say her name and forgive myself later, than to speak her name and fall apart emotionally. Something in me has changed. I want to speak her name. I want to tell people about her and all the wonderful things her name is doing.

I know it makes people uncomfortable. I know it catches people off guard. Someday, our society will move past the uncomfortableness of death. Someday, I will speak her name to someone new and they will say, “Tell me about Kyleigh.” 

Diaper Drive ~ Remembering Kyleigh on her 3rd Birthday

In honor of Kyleigh’s 3rd Birthday, we are hosting a Diaper Drive to benefit HappyBottoms.org. The diaper drive begins today and will end on Sunday, April 5, Kyleigh’s 3rd birthday.

One in five Kansas City area kids lives in poverty. Diapers remain an area of need for those struggling to provide for their children. Help us collect diapers of all sizes, from newborn to Pull-Ups! All diapers will be donated to Happy Bottoms, a local diaper bank.

How can you donate? Here are two ways:

1) Drop off diapers at our house. If we are not home, please leave them on the front porch with a note telling us who they are from. If you do not know where we live, please refer to option #2.

2) Order diapers from the Kyleighs Gift Amazon Wish List. Diapers will be shipped directly to our house when you choose the Kyleigh’s Gift shipping address. You can access the wish list here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/?ie=UTF8&cid=A3FCVKXC08OWGR

Thank you for helping us remember our baby girl on her 3rd Birthday!

Learn more:
Happy Bottoms: http://www.happybottoms.org/
Kyleigh’s Gift

**Please note that this is not an actual event that you attend. The dates of the event denote the days that we are collecting diapers and you may donate at any time during those dates.

**This is a stand alone event sponsored by our family and is not connected to the Kyleigh’s Gift Fund through the Liberty Hospital Foundation.

This entry was posted on March 12, 2015. 2 Comments

Kyleigh’s Gift 5K/3K Run/Walk

On June 30, 2013, I wrote about our decision to create an event to raise money for Kyleigh’s fund at the Liberty Hospital Foundation. We had already launched the sleep sack project, and while the cost is very affordable at $7 per blanket, when the volume of births is factored in, we knew that our limited resources would not be enough to continue past the initial purchase. There would need to be something, some way by which we could engage the community to continue to provide this valuable service to all newborns at the hospital. We took the initial steps to start the project by depleting all available money from the fund for a 6-month commitment to the program. I recall wishing that we had the money for a full year, but that wasn’t the case and rather than inaction, we felt it was better to get started and trust that someday, by some other means, there would be enough resources to continue the program. Following the trend of other charitable organizations, we decided that a 5K run/walk was the answer.

The fund’s purpose is to educate parents and provide them with tools to do as much as we can to prevent this shadow of grief from falling on other families, while at the same time to remember and honor Kyleigh. The blog compliments this by giving us a venue to express ourselves in a way that glorifies God, and allows us to record our actions and emotions for remembrance and retrospect. Someday our children will ask how we managed ourselves, and I hope this will give them a piece of understanding.

In two weeks’ time we will hold the first annual run/walk for the fund in conjunction with the National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day of October 15, and to celebrate 25 years of the Birthing Center on the grounds at Liberty Hospital. You can read more about the event and register to participate here. In our initial meetings, we hoped to raise another 6-months operating expense for the sleep sack program, or about $4000. The response has been overwhelming. One of my favorite gifts so far is the $404 raised by a local church during their summer VBS program. With two weeks to go, over 100 participants have registered. Rain or shine, it’s going to be a beautiful evening.

We are seeing something miraculous happening because of Kyleigh in our home and in our community. Life is full of choices. Choose life and be amazed at the possibilities.

~Rodg

Twilight at the Treehouse

On Friday, June 13, 2014, we had the honor of speaking at the Sixth Annual Twilight at the Treehouse, which benefits the Liberty Hospital Foundation. Each year, one program or service within the Foundation is highlighted. This year, the Kyleigh’s Gift Fund was selected. The event took place outside on the hospital grounds and included a wine toss game, photo booth, basket raffle and a delicious BBQ buffet. We really had no idea what to expect, as we had never been to the event before, so we were quite blown away at the 300+ people in attendance. It is by far the largest audience that we have ever had in sharing Kyleigh’s story. The event raised over $50,000 for programs and services within the Liberty Hospital Foundation, with $1,300 going directly to the Kyleigh’s Gift Fund courtesy of the wine toss proceeds! That is enough to fund 185 sleep sacks … and give us a jump start on the 1st Annual Kyleigh’s Gift 5K/3K!!

Below are the words that we spoke that evening, along with a few pictures …

“When Rodger and I created the Kyleigh’s Gift fund just over two years ago, I had people ask me why we named it ‘Kyleigh’s Gift.’ At the time, I honestly did not know. We wanted to use her name without it sounding too formal, but needed another word to go along with ‘Kyleigh.’ We were receiving gifts from many people in the form of food, cards and flowers, so when I thought of the word ‘gift,’ it just fit.

A gift is something that is freely given to you, or something that you give to someone else. Our daughter, Kyleigh Elizabeth Weller, passed away at birth on April 5, 2012. She is by far one of our greatest gifts. Kyleigh teaches Rodger and I, along with her older brothers, about love and loss on a daily basis. Our marriage was made stronger, when some told us it would fall apart, because of our daughter. Our boys, Oliver and Garrison, learned a hard lesson of life when their sister died. Lessons of love, loss and hope have made them strong in character and will stay with them their entire lives. Kyleigh is a gift to our family that we carry in our hearts, always.

Kyleigh gave the gift of life. Through the help of the Midwest Transplant Network, two of Kyleigh’s heart valves were donated. While we do not know for certain if her heart valves have given new life to someone else, we feel confident that they were a gift to someone either through donation or research. Kyleigh’s giving of a part of her body has taught us to be more aware of organ and tissue donation. I am still amazed to this day that my baby girl was given the opportunity to possibly save someone else’s life when she never took a breath herself.

Three months ago, Kyleigh started giving the gift of SleepSacks to all newborns at the Birthing Center here at Liberty Hospital. They truly are a gift from Kyleigh, as each SleepSack bears her name. A sleep sack is a wearable blanket whose purpose is to replace loose blankets in the crib. They encourage safe sleep practices for newborns and raise awareness regarding SIDS and infant death. Just a few weeks ago, Rodger and I received a message via social media from a new Dad. These are his words, “My wife and I would like to thank you for the gracious gift of the sleep sack. Our daughter slept very well our first night home. It’s an amazing thing that you all are doing.” Attached to the message was a picture of his daughter, all warm and snug in her Kyleigh’s Gift sleep sack. I was surprised to receive the message, especially since I do not know this family. Then I was speechless and brought to tears. The reality set in that this is really happening. Real families are receiving a gift of comfort, warmth and peace because of my baby girl. I was touched to receive this message of thanks and realized that others are being touched by receiving the gift of a sleep sack.

When we began the Kyleigh’s Gift fund, we knew that we wanted something tangible to come out of it. We had no idea that in just two short years, the fund would grow to what it is today. Our hope is to be able to continue the SleepSack project for many years to come. We would also like to find a way in the near future to provide support to families who go home with empty arms, just as we did. The first annual Kyleigh’s Gift 5K/3K to be held on October 11 of this year is one way that we can keep those hopes and dreams alive. The run/walk will benefit the SleepSack program and a candlelight service to recognize National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day will conclude the evening.

Another way to describe a gift is through a special ability or unique talent that one might have. Some of us refer to this as a spiritual gift given to us by God. At our church, we are often given the opportunity to take a survey that helps us identify our Spiritual Gifts and then we are directed into an area of ministry where those gifts can be used. We have been told by some that they went to church for the first time because of Kyleigh. Others began to dig deeper into their faith and reached beyond themselves to bring others into their faith because of Kyleigh. Rodger and I believe that Kyleigh played a vital role in reconciling members of our extended family. She has made relationships stronger, both inside and outside of our family. Friendships have formed that never would have because she was given to us. We have a bond with our doctor, Mary Clare Reardon, and one of our nurses, Laurie, which is so special that honestly, it is hard to describe. Because of Kyleigh, we have been given the opportunity to minister to other couples in our community who have lost a child. From these examples, I would say that Kyleigh possesses many Spiritual Gifts that have and continue to touch the lives of many, both near and far.

By now, I’m sure you can see why we chose to name this fund, Kyleigh’s Gift. It might not have been clear to us in those first days of grief, but it becomes clearer and clearer to us, and hopefully to you, as each day passes.” ~Leann

“So why the Foundation then? Memorial funds are often times established in banks or are self-managed. It’s a good question to ask why we made the choice to setup Kyleigh’s Fund with the Liberty Hospital Foundation versus some other route. By doing so, we knew that there would be boundaries around how the resources of the fund would be managed. We knew that the money that we and others gave would need approval by one or more people when the time came for the money to be dispersed, but quite frankly, we knew nothing of the Foundation. For a very good reason, in our darkest hour, we decided it best to trust someone. And that first person was Mark.

As Leann mentioned in the days following Kyleigh’s death, people wanted to help. They sent cards, gave food and provided condolences. Sometimes when people don’t know what to do they just send money. We are not in the position to need money, so instead we decided to create a placeholder to do some eventual good with these gifts. I placed one phone call to Mark over the following days and he took the time to listen to a grieving father and understand what we wanted, and more importantly, he knew exactly what to do. He gave us the time and space for the initial pain to pass while listening and working with others at the hospital in our absence to find a way to make use of the funds in a way that would both honor Kyleigh and bring us joy. The scar of loss will never heal, but seeing Kyleigh’s name on printed material brings a measure of satisfaction that is very hard to explain.

Leann and I are missions minded people. We believe this is part of our calling. Kyleigh’s fund is a mission based fund managed by the Foundation, but it’s certainly not the only one they manage. We are here tonight because people before us had a vision to create an organization that would align the willingness to act, with community need, and the skills and talents required to change the world … right here in Liberty. We are here because of people like yourselves that gave in support of this vision. For years, Leann and I have given to mission organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, World Vision, various disaster relief efforts managed by UMCOR and certainly the work of our local church. What I never saw until Kyleigh showed me was the apparent need right here in my community.

The people at the Foundation are gifted people that are doing a great work and are always ready to make a difference. Leann and I are blessed to know and to work with them. They have our full support and partnership now and over the years to come. Thank you for your time and thank you for supporting the Foundation.” ~Rodger

There Will Never Be Another You

Our first pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 11 weeks gestation. The due date was December 15, 2006. By the time my due date came, I was almost 12 weeks pregnant. I remember going out to lunch with my mom on that day. It was a bittersweet day as we prepared for Christmas, were excited for a new baby and still sad over the one we had lost. My nerves were especially on edge as I neared the 12 week mark in that pregnancy. I was right around the same point where I had miscarried and I thought if I could just get past 12 weeks, everything would be okay. I carried this baby to term and he just turned seven last week. In the early years of his life, I often thought about how if I had not miscarried, I would not have my baby boy.

In December of 2008, I found out I was pregnant just a few weeks before Christmas. This was my third pregnancy. Just a week later on December 18, 2008, I miscarried at 5-6 weeks gestation. We never did have a definite due date, but this baby would have been due mid-August 2009. When August 2009 came, I was almost four months pregnant with my fourth pregnancy. Once again, I was pregnant after a miscarriage and before the due date of the baby I lost. This pregnancy resulted in a healthy baby boy born in the early months of 2010. He is almost 4 ½.

At this point, I had been pregnant four times, resulting in 2 healthy boys and 2 miscarriages. To me, there was a clear pattern: miscarriage, live birth, miscarriage, live birth. Like I said, both of my boys were conceived before the due date of the babies I miscarried. If I had not miscarried either of those babies, I would not have the boys I have today. This by no means says that I am glad I miscarried. There is no emotion in this knowledge, just fact. You cannot get pregnant with a new baby while you are 5-6 months pregnant with another. Emotionally, I have two babies that died within weeks of me finding out I was pregnant. Emotionally, I have two babies in heaven that I never got to meet, never got to name and do not even know if they were boys or girls. Someday, I believe I will meet them and know the answers to these questions. This becomes a sticky subject with some and is hard to really describe in words. I think about it all the time and it makes sense in my mind. But let me make one thing clear: My living boys did not replace the babies I lost. They did not replace them at birth and they do not replace them now. Up until this point in my life, I had four children.

In August of 2011, I found out I was pregnant for the 5th time. Our oldest son had just turned four and our youngest son was 18 months old. We wanted another child, but our plan was to wait at least six more months before getting pregnant. Things don’t always follow our timeline and we found out we were expecting just a few days after we sold our house. You can read more about that here, The Nudge. I expected to lose this baby to miscarriage. That may sound crazy to some, but I honestly did. Like I said above, I had a pattern of miscarrying before having a healthy, living baby. I had asked my doctor after my second miscarriage if we could do any testing to find out what was happening. Due to my age at the time, they wouldn’t check for any abnormalities until I had miscarried three consecutive times. Once I hit the 12 week mark without any problems, I figured I had reached the ‘safe zone’ with this new pregnancy. As we soon learned, there is no ‘safe zone’ when talking about pregnancy. Anything can happen at any point. This pregnancy was Kyleigh, my 5th child.

Now, we have six. Yes, you read that correctly … SIX children! I am just days away from entering my sixth month of pregnancy. Our oldest son just turned seven, our youngest son is almost 4 ½ and Kyleigh would have been just over 2 years old. There is no overlap with this baby. I was not even allowed to get pregnant within the first year after Kyleigh’s death. When I was pregnant with Kyleigh, we had decided she would be our last. We went back and forth for a while, but going into labor & delivery, we were 99% sure that this was it. I say 99%, because in the back of my mind I knew I could convince Rodger to have just one more. The baby that I am carrying now is that baby. If Kyleigh had lived, I would still be expecting her younger sibling. I know this because of what my faith teaches me … “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb,” Psalm 139:13. It is my belief that all children are created by God in His time. God has known far longer than we have that we would be pregnant with this child.

So you may be asking yourself why I am announcing our new baby this way and with these words. Here is why …

As I made clear above, my boys did not replace the babies I lost to miscarriage. Let me make another thing clear: The baby that we are expecting does not replace Kyleigh. To think or suggest otherwise is disrespectful to Kyleigh. She is part of our family and always will be. Our new baby is not a consolation prize that God has given us because Kyleigh died.

Some of you are reading this and thinking, “I never would have even thought that!” I never did either. Until someone mentioned it to me when I told them I was pregnant. I was so speechless I’m not sure I even responded. My hope is that this person will read this and realize that children are not replaceable. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings … HUMANS are not replaceable. We replace our fish when they die. We may get a new puppy a few months after a dog dies. We do not have more babies to replace the ones who die. At least not in my family! It was actually suggested to me after Kyleigh passed away to just have another baby, then everything will be okay. I have to be honest, comments like these really show how little some people value human life.

We have kept this pregnancy quiet from the beginning for personal reasons. We have told people a few at a time, as we were ready to. Recent comments by some who have found out made me ready to share with a broader audience. The comments were upsetting at first. So much to the point that I was done telling anyone our good news and thought everyone else could just wait until this baby is born. After I had some time to think about it, I decided that now is the time to share our news and educate everyone a little in the process. It’s not your typical ‘baby reveal,’ but those nauseate me anyway.

Some of you may be wondering about the details of this pregnancy, such as, when this baby is due, etc. Right now, we ask for your patience as we keep these details to ourselves. However, we welcome your thoughts and prayers as we continue on this journey. Pregnancy after loss is a lonely and sometimes difficult place to be. We are excited for what is to come, but also know all too well what can happen. We are trusting God to lead us through this and have faith that He will not leave our side. He has given us the blessing of six perfect babies! If you feel led, we would love for you to walk alongside us by supporting us with your love and prayers.

There will never be another Weller Baby #1, Oliver, Weller Baby #3, Garrison, Kyleigh or New Baby!

Kyleigh's Bear ~ Big Sister

Kyleigh’s Bear ~ Big Sister

This entry was posted on July 11, 2014. 1 Comment

2 Years

Saturday marked two years since Kyleigh was born and died. It’s hard to fathom that it has been two years, although at times, it seems much longer than that. I realize how long ago two years was when I look at my boys and see how much they have grown up. Our youngest boy was barely 2 years old himself when Kyleigh was born. He asks a lot of questions about her and what happened because he simply does not remember most of the details. Our oldest boy is almost 7, and that just about knocks my socks off! How is it that he is going to be seven years old?! It makes me start to question if I am doing everything I can to provide him what he needs to grow into a young man. It makes me wonder if these last two years have been healthy and positive for him, or if he feels like his life has been turned upside down and will never be the same.

I do not write much anymore. There is always plenty to say. There is not always the time, or the right words to say them in. When I sit down to write, I often find my thoughts turning towards the negative and I don’t want this space to turn into my rant of the things that frustrate and disappoint me when it comes to living this life without Kyleigh. So I avoid the blank page and wait until I forget what I was going to write about, or something better comes along. I think Kyleigh’s 2nd birthday is something better and worth writing about.

A lot of very positive things are happening in Kyleigh’s name and there has been great progress just within the last month. Knowing that we set up a fund in Kyleigh’s name through the Liberty Hospital Foundation is not news to most of you. Over the last year, the Kyleigh’s Gift Fund has been working on getting the Sleep Sack project off the ground. Originally, the sleep sacks were to be shipped and ready to start passing out to newborns at the first of this year. Weather and holidays caused some delays and it was the beginning of March before the sleep sacks arrived at the hospital. The Foundation invited us to come and check out the sleep sacks before they started to hand them out. We decided to make it a family affair and took the boys with us. When we walked into the Foundation office, they surprised us with the first Kyleigh’s Gift sleep sack. They had it placed in a shadow box, ready for us to display at home. We are excited to get it hung up for all who enter our home to see.

The second surprise of the afternoon was the news that they wanted to hold a reception to kick-off the sleep sack project. A few weeks later, family, friends, Liberty Hospital and Liberty Hospital Foundation board members, doctors, nurses and community members came together to see the fruits of the labor of many people. To see the faces of those we know come together to celebrate and remember Kyleigh is one thing, but to see so many new faces from the community learn about Kyleigh, left us speechless. We were so touched by the presence of everyone there.

Just a few nights before the reception, the first committee meeting was held for the Kyleigh’s Gift Fund. It was decided by the Foundation to form a committee to start planning and making decisions for the fund. This was great news for us because that means that the fund is growing and gaining momentum. Our first project is to plan a run/walk fundraiser for October 11, 2014. Save the date!

There is a lot more going on behind the scenes. We have been interviewed by the hospital for an upcoming publication and could possibly be speaking at a LH Foundation event this summer. When we started the Kyleigh’s Gift fund two years ago, we never imagined it would reach this stage in just two short years. There is something special about seeing Kyleigh’s name in print … on each sleep sack that goes home with new families … on the card that explains the meaning behind the sleep sacks … on newsletters distributed by the Foundation. There is no way that we could have done this on our own and we are so grateful for the Liberty Hospital Foundation and all of the work that they have done and continue to do to help us share Kyleigh with others.

But here’s the thing. All of this does not take away the pain. Walking into a patient’s room at the Liberty Hospital Birthing Center and seeing a Kyleigh’s Gift Sleep Sack sitting on the table waiting for the next mom and baby to arrive does not take the pain away. It creates a very bittersweet moment. It creates a moment of excitement that we did this! Kyleigh did this! But wait. Kyleigh isn’t here to witness it. We are doing this because Kyleigh is gone. There would have been no reason to start a fund in her name had she lived. The emotions that all of this creates at one time is simply overwhelming.

Having the Kyleigh’s Gift Fund has helped us in our grief. It gives us something to focus on that is specific to Kyleigh. This is how we parent her, if you will. We want to honor, celebrate and remember Kyleigh the best that we can. This is how we are choosing to do just that. But the grief is still there. We miss her and we always will. I think there is a misconception among most people that when you turn a tragedy into something good (like I think we are doing), then the tragedy slowly fades … disappears. People assume that since you have something to focus on, you are no longer sad. People assume that you have moved on because your mind has shifted to planning events in memory of your loved one instead of focusing on the tragic event itself. People assume that there are no more tears because they see you smiling and laughing.

We still have days of sadness. We will never move on. We still cry. Our hearts are lifted when a friend brings us dinner the week of Kyleigh’s birthday. We smile when children make Kyleigh birthday cards. We cry happy tears when a dear friend writes a note telling us how she will never forget Kyleigh. We feel blessed when loved ones join us to celebrate, whether it is the unveiling of the sleep sacks or at the park for Kyleigh’s birthday. We feel loved when people acknowledge not only our daughter, but also our pain.

We spent Saturday morning watching the boys play soccer. They were excited from the moment they woke up because it was Kyleigh’s birthday. I think this gave them a little extra motivation during their game. Afterwards, we met family and friends at a local park to enjoy lunch and birthday cake. It was very laid back, as we even asked everyone to bring their own lunch. We knew those that we invited would not be offended. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I know Kyleigh was shining down on us as we sang ‘Happy Birthday!’ After three and a half hours at the park, we were tired, so we headed home for some rest. That evening, the four of us went to my parent’s house for dinner, where we just simply relaxed. It’s so nice to have a place to go where we can just ‘be’ and there are no expectations. After church on Sunday, we took the boys to the cemetery to lay some fresh flowers and release two balloons.

Overall, it was a nice weekend and we are happy with how we chose to celebrate Kyleigh’s birthday this year. One thing that we have agreed on is that we will celebrate her birthday every year. We don’t know how or when it will happen each year. All we know is that our daughter deserves to be remembered … especially on her birthday.

Sleep Tomorrow

“I’ll sleep tomorrow,” I told myself and others, in the days immediately following Kyleigh’s birth. The classic advice given to all new parents (get your sleep now) certainly applied to me too, but little did I realize that my new found perspective would continue for another 24 months. As it continues still today.

When we were in the hospital, I stayed by Leann’s side. We were going to share in the experience as best we could, and I felt the best way for me to begin to understand her grief was to be with her continually. I wanted to hear everything the nurses and doctors said. Every time they checked her vitals, for every round, every consultation I was there, and I was awake. I didn’t sleep in the night and rarely did I nap during the day. The hospital staff took notice, and it was discussed several times. I told them that I understood their concern, but without fail my response was always the same, “I’ll sleep tomorrow.”

Tomorrow took the form of planning Kyleigh’s celebration of life, caring for family at home and hardest yet was living with my own grief. We slept at night of course, but there is a very real toll that grief takes on the body, and we were tired. I piled onto this my decision to be more assertive at work, which took up more time and energy. But at the time that was ok, because I could always sleep tomorrow.

We built a new technology which required a deeper understanding of my profession and I was behind. I had worked for the same employer for six years, but I still needed to know more. During the project, I took time to learn, ask questions and understand the principal of how the systems work. I wanted to know more, do more, and understand fuller. There weren’t enough of us on the project, so in order to do all those things I had to give up something else. My choice was sleep but not to worry, I would sleep tomorrow.

Projects come and go and time passes. While the pain of grief subsides, the wound of loss never heals. It takes effort to find ways to channel the energy associated with loss into something positive and that cost isn’t free. While I love the fact that the Sleep Sack initiative is well underway, one thing clear to me today is that l can’t do it all and I’m grateful for the support that we have found in our friends and family and the dedicated staff at the hospital.

At work I have now become the subject matter expert for our technology. I also manage the development programs. There are also sales efforts and customer presentations. While I enjoy the challenge, something clear to me over these last few months is that I simply cannot do it all. The weight of “knowing it all” is simply too much. It’s not healthy for me or the organization and certainly not helpful to the people that I’m entrusted to manage.

I’ve also not felt all that well for the last few months. I love helping to coach the boys’ soccer team, but it’s hard to do when you have nearly lost your voice. I’m tired in the evenings more than I ever thought possible, and that says a bit because we do have two wonderful growing boys and I’ve “been there” when it comes to being up half the night with newborns.

The ironic thing about all of this is that there was a three month window during these 24 months when I was actually feeling really well. We purchased a treadmill last spring, and when I used it regularly, I was resting well and I felt great. Then I stopped. I know my travel schedule has been rough for the last six months and while that was a contributing factor, I just didn’t give it the time. The truth is I was lazy, and I’m tired of not feeling well.

So we’re planning a walk/run to celebrate the Liberty Hospital Birthing Center and raise funds for Kyleigh’s Gift while recognizing the National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day for October 11th this year. I hope there will be a 5k run, and I want to run. I want to feel better because I know that when I do, I’m a better father and husband to my amazing bride. So today, on Kyleigh’s second birthday, I’m going to start training for the October 11th event, and I will look forward to the amazing things that God will do.

~Rodg

Eye’s Openend

Few things happen in life that opens your eyes to the incredible possibility of how things could be rather than simply how they are. I saw something last night that was both remarkable and transformational. The Scriptures speak of the future Kingdom of God, but we caught a glimpse of that when 40+ people gathered to celebrate the launch of the first major initiative for Kyleigh’s Gift. All babies born at Liberty Hospital will now receive a Halo sleep sack to promote safe sleeping habits. This is a product created by an engineer who likewise lost an infant. He designed a product to help babies stay on their backs, and we have partnered with a community to put this tool into the hands of all families leaving the hospital. This is a great way to remember and celebrate Kyleigh as her second birthday approaches, but it’s also so much more than that.

This eye-opening experience is what it’s about today. For a Christian, this happens at the time of re-birth. I think it also happens when the Spirit illuminates and moves us to see the world differently. Much like putting glasses on, things become clearer, or as if focus on a single goal or objective is achieved and the pathway becomes bright. It’s the opposite of walking through a lush forest with barley a clearing to lead you the next 10 feet, but glowing step stones that lead you safely across the river. So it was for me last night looking out at the faces of people that gathered to celebrate the launch of a community initiative…all bearing Kyleigh’s name.

This is remarkable because we have never celebrated a member of the family as we have and do for Kyleigh. She has proved so be quite the catalyst. The need was there and the community was willing, we all just needed something to mobilize everyone to act. She provides that motivation, and that makes her a change agent. Nearly two years have passed, but more people know her story now and all families at Liberty Hospital will now receive a card with their sleep sacks introducing her to their families as well. People are better off today than they were before she was born, and they will be better still in the years ahead as the momentum continues. God only knows what the future holds, but it’s certainly true that with him all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

So once again I find myself in the wake of an eye-opening experience. I have seen both friendly and unfamiliar faces unite under Kyleigh’s name to make their world a better place. I have seen the Church (even if it didn’t know that it was the Church), combine to focus and achieve a goal. For certain, there is still much work to do to make the effort succeed, but I have no doubt that it will. We are a blessed family. More so today than we were yesterday and we will continue to be as we honor Kyleigh and glorify our God.

~Rodg

The following is the outline for the words that Leann and I shared at the event last evening:

First we need to say thank you to everyone in attendance tonight. I know that for many people, this is quite a drive and we’re thankful that everyone took the time to come out and celebrate with us. There are a few other people that Leann and I would like to recognize that have helped us over these past two years that without which, we simply wouldn’t be here.

The Liberty Hospital Foundation continues to help in so many ways and it’s truly remarkable. We have said to ourselves many times that having an organization like this to partner with to manage resources, logistics and provide insight has been a real blessing.

We need to recognize Cathy Bonderer for providing the idea to send a sleep sack home with every newborn, and for working with Halo to bring sleep sacks bearing Kyleigh’s name to the birthing center. We learned of the concept almost a year ago just one week before her first birthday and starting tomorrow, every parent leaving this building will be equipped with one more tool to help them care for their babies while they sleep. For us, that’s a powerful way to honor and remember Kyleigh especially now that we’re just weeks away from her second birthday.

There’s an account in 2nd Kings Chapter 6 of a man of God [Elisha] and his servant surrounded by an army of horses and chariots that had enveloped them during the night. They awoke in the morning to find themselves facing insurmountable odds and his servant was afraid. Almost two years ago we felt like that too. We know what’s it’s like to wake up in the valley of the shadow of death as do many others in this room.

But Elisha, he had friends that nobody else saw: not the surrounding army and not his servant. The text continues with Elisha saying:

“Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

We look around this room and see people with big hearts. We see people that are unwilling to leave the world just as they find it, but rather those that are committed to using their time and resources to make a difference. These sleep sacks are one very real and tangible way for us to do just that. Every child now gets a sleep sack and if just one family is saved by these efforts, then it’s all worth it. And the best part is, we will never know.

Lastly we need to thank everyone for the lesson this helps us teach our boys, Kyleigh’s brothers. There’s power in multiples that is often times very difficult to teach. Sports is one attempt, but the pursuit of perfection and the pressure of competition diminishes the lesson of working together as a team. Every one of you is helping us to raise our boys to show them the purpose of life is not self-centeredness, but it’s what we do for others that makes a lasting impact.

Thank you and God bless you all.

March for Babies 2014

March 2

On May 4, we will be walking in the March of Dimes~March for Babies. The mission of March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Our goals for participating in the March for Babies are to remember Kyleigh and to raise pregnancy and infant loss awareness within the community. We can achieve both of these goals by joining together with family and friends to March for Babies!

Will you join our March for Babies~Kyleigh’s Gift Team by walking, donating and/or praying?

For more information, go to our March for Babies page, located here on this site.

Thank you all for your continued love and support.