Saturday, July 26, 2008

"That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10
It's almost that day again...the 27th of the month...the day, almost 4 months ago, that Annabelle earned her wings. It's also the last day that I would ever hold her on this earth and the last day that I would hear her precious little laugh. It's a hard day every month. I recount the morning's events and wonder if I could have done anything differently that would have kept her here with me longer. I have been told time and time again that it was "her time" and there was nothing that medicine or science could have done to change that. The devil still works and grates on my insecurities...knowing that is his way of operating, we chose to have an autopsy done to know for sure and to put our doubts to rest. We also strongly believe in research for HLHS and wanted for the pediatric cardiologists to be able to use our daugther's heart to help other precious children. Have you ever seen just what God is capable of when you give everything to Him?
It wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that we learned the final results of Annabelle's pathology report. We had been graciously given updates throughout the process. The pathologist with our local hospital had not seen such a "unique" case in his time there. I assured him that Annabelle was never "ordinary" and at the very least "unique". After consulting with other pathologists locally, they decided to send her heart to Mayo Clinic and another hospital in New York that has one of the country's leading HLHS researchers there. We knew from that phone call that we had done the right thing...our daughter would continue to make an impact on others.
Just recently, we learned that her heart had been returned to the local pathologist and would now be sent to MUSC for Dr. Bradley, her surgeon, and another pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon from Europe to examine. I had such peace when I knew that the amazing man, who through God's help, gave us 8 more weeks with her would now hold her heart again. I couldn't possibly understand all that they have been able to learn from Annabelle's heart but I know that it will make a difference to others and that is all that matters to us.
What we learned is that our daugther's Norwood surgery looked outstanding and that her heart function should have been good for half a heart. Her lungs were clear and she did not aspirate or suffer at all. Wyatt and I simply saw her go to sleep. The pathologist couldn't tell me specifically what caused my daugther's passing and I found immense peace in his and other experts not knowing. There is speculation that her ventricular tachycardia may have been to blame, but no one will ever know for sure. I like not knowing and, instead, knowing without a doubt that it was God's plan for her precious life.
All I need to know is that He is God and His ways are higher than our ways.
God had chosen the path for Annabelle's life and knew the awesome things that her brief time on earth would bring about. He knew that in less than 4 months after our tremendous loss, we would put smiles on over 100 families throughout the country by blessing them with Annabelle Baskets. He knew that Scott and my faith would grow substantially and our marriage would be all the more stronger because of our suffering. He knew that you would read the words that God places on my heart and be encouraged and strengthened in your faith in Him. He knew that the tears that I cry longing for my daughter and the grief that is too deep for tears would draw me closer to Him every single day. He also knew that holding my son and kissing my husband would mean more to me now than they ever have. He's given me a heart for heart babies and their families and blessed me with amazing Christian friends along the way.
"For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Did I delight in facing a pregnancy knowing that my daughter will face open heart surgery within the first week and that her life would be a miracle every day? Not initally...I hurt for her and wanted to save her from everything she would face. God was bigger than my fear and gave me strength to enjoy carrying my daugther and fall in love with her. (After all, you have seen my obsession with bows now!)
Did I delight in living in the hospital with her for 5 weeks and sleeping on a tiny vinyl couch? Oh yes, I loved every second that I spent with Annabelle in the hospital. I did get a little stressed on some of the rounds when she continued to protest food and I knew we were looking at another surgery. God gave me the strength to function and care for her as I was healing, too.
Did I delight in coming home to 13 medication dosings and g-tube feedings that lasted over an hour every 3 hours on top of all the regular newborn baby stuff and having a 3 1/2 year old son adjusting to not being the only little rotten? I absolutely loved Annabelle pinning me to the couch during her feeds. This was some of the most precious time we spent together and Scott will surely agree on this one. Wyatt is in love with his sister and relished in the duty of "big brother". I was just so happy to have both of my children home and to love on them at the same time! This was the best time the four of us had together...until heaven. God gave us the strength to handle what probably should have required a home nurse and we couldn't have been happier.
Did I delight in losing my daugther so soon? Do I find delight in missing her now? Honestly, no. I wish all of this were different and that I wasn't even having to answer these questions. I wish she were still pinning me to the couch and I was praying she would keep her food down. I wish I knew what her little personality was really like and just how pretty she would look in the dresses that I spent months preparing to doll her up in. I wish they didn't still have tags hanging on them and that her diapers in her changing table were used. I wish that my home was full of baby gear with a swing in the middle of the den and her playmat on the floor. I wish I didn't have to sleep with her "lovey" to feel her close to me. I wish I didn't have to open a ziploc bag of her clothes to smell her and that her medicine schedule that is still taped to the inside of my cabinet were being used.
BUT, what I do delight in is knowing that Annabelle is perfectly healed and will never face another surgery again. I delight in knowing that my loving and merciful Lord holds my daughter daily and has shared with her bedtime stories that far outweigh "Cinderella". I delight in knowing that my mother is enjoying her granddaugther and taking care of her for of the two things that she shared she would love to have been able to experience. I delight in putting together every single Annabelle Basket just as if I were doing them for my own daughter and, in a way, I am. I delight in living every day knowing that I am one day closer to seeing her precious face again...even the 27th of every month.
"For when I am weak, then I am strong."


Our Family said...

I always enjoy reading your posts. They are written so beautifully and the truths behind your words are so amazing. You are inspiring and I know that your Annabelle Baskets are making such a difference in heart babies' lives. Thank you for sharing your feelings--it makes e know that I am not alone in mine. Like you said on Luke's site, I am sure our angels are playing together and praying for us up in heaven. I will be thinking about you guys as I know that your 27th is like our 18th...a very difficult day. God bless you guys!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your heart. Your strength amazes me, and I love to hear how God is working in you & through you during such a hardship. Thank your for being so real & honest in your blog. Anytime you are in Charleston, I would love to see you. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know your family during your stay in PCICU. Thanks for all you are doing for the heart moms, families, & children.
Sarah Leech, RN

Lindsay Dean said...

Oh Rebecca!
I didn't get the honor of getting to hold, touch, smell, or kiss your precious baby, but I too miss her!!! You are absolutely unbelievable and an even better pen pal. Because of you, I find strength to soak up every minute of every day that I have with Lindsay and cherish them as if they were my last. I awoke last night about every 15 minutes to make sure she was breathing and then gave her a kiss. A parent can never be too exhausted to do that! May you find peace in your findings from Annabelle's autopsy and may the doctors learn even more about our precious heart babies because of you and your brave daughter. You are in our hearts always!
Love, Suzie

The Hands said...

Thanks for your honest thoughts and sharing of your tears. I was just feeling sorry for myself because my life with my "heart baby" hadn't been "normal" and am convicted of my selfishness. I still have her and she is doing good. Thank you for re-arranging my thoughts on God's Plan as it is so easy to always think about our own.
This is my first time to your site. Saw you gave a basket to Maddie and wanted to see what it was all about. God bless you for turning your grief into blessings for others!
Angie Hand

The Simmons Family said...

You are AMAZING! Your spirit, your strength, your courage... it's all amazing. I love the way you choose to celebrate Annabelle's life. I love that you shared her heart with the Dr.'s. I would also find peace in not knowing what caused her to return to heaven, only that she was called home.

All of these heart babies are here for a purpose and I have learned more in Owen's six months than I ever did in 8 years with Kamryn.

Every month I celebrate Owen's birthday, I can't help but think of Annabelle and how she was born on that very same day, with the very same condition. I think of her reaching ALL the same milestones as Owen only in another place.

That sweet little angel has touched many lives!!! What a little miracle that you were chosen to be her family!


Patience Leino said...

You'll make it through this. Our little ones are most blessed to now be on the other side of heaven. What a treasure we now have in the memory of them til we hold them once again. You remain in my prayers as we are but a few months ahead of you in the journey....praying for peace, comfort, & joy in the midst.

Jessica said...

Thank you for the beautiful post, Rebecca. You are an amazing picture of a life lived through faith in God's perfect plan! Thank you for showing us this!

Anonymous said...

Hi Rebecca,

I am a good friend to Suzie Dean and I have read your posts a couple of times. They are so inspiring and bring tears to my eyes. My heart hurts for you and your family. I have 2 children of my own and can not even begin to imagine everything you have gone through. You are so strong and it is so great that you are making Annabelle baskets to make a difference in other families lives. You truly are an inspiration to so many families out there. Thanks for sharing and I will be praying for you and your family.
God Bless you always.....
Dawn Groves (Suzie/Lindsay Dean's friend)

Katie said...

Your words inspire me so and make me refocus on the big picture with raising a child with a special heart. I pray that today won't be so difficult for you and the precious memories of Annabelle get you through it. We will forever cherish our basket and someday Maddie will hear the beautiful story of her heart sister, Annabelle.

~Sara~ said...

Thank you for once again sharing your heart with me, and reminding me just how precious even the "bad" moments are.

HUGS to you my sis in Christ,


Lindsay Dean said...

Thinking of you today.....
Love, Suzie

Avery said...

We have been thinking and praying for your family on this day. I hope you have felt your daughter near and feel of her happiness.
We received your package yesterday and it brought tears to my eyes...Everything you sent was so thoughtful and so beautiful...We will cherish it all. I am so impressed by you and how you are carrying on your Annabelle's legacy. Thank you thank you.
I wasn't thinking at the time and didn't note down your adress from the box before I threw it out... would you send it to me?
Thank you again,
Avery and Bela

The Gandy Family said...

This was such a touching message it brought tears to my eyes. What you and Scott are going through is one of life's greatest hurts - loosing a child. I can not imagine it and pray that I will not. But, God has laid such blessing in front of you with Annabelle's life. I enjoyed picking up the teddy bears and bows and bringing them to you for the baskets.
I have learned through your experience to hold my kids more, love them more, and listen to them. Not to get too frustrated. Although they are 7 and 2, I still listen to them breathe and make sure they are ok. I am also thankful to God for bringing Jason and I to Riverland Hills almost 3 years ago to be blessed at this time in our life by Miss Annabelle and your family's faith through out this journey.
I am so glad that God is using that precious heart of hers to help the Doctor's and researchers for HLHS. May God bless you all each day, even through the toughest days.

Linda said...

Just wanted you to know that I am still keeping up with your blog, and am always touched by your posts.Every time I pass a major mile stone in my life (Andrew just got married) I miss your mom and desire to share my thoughts with her. Reading your blog makes me makes me feel somewhat closer to her.
Love you bunches and bunches,
Linda Green

KC said...


I find myself at a loss for words. I check your blog all the time and I am always so moved and inspired. The same thing goes through my mind each and every time I read your words. I have shared with you on many occassions on how much you have inspired me spiritually, as a wife, and as a mother.
May God bless you and your family and we will continue to think about all of you. I will tell you this, we have been spending more time in our backyard before we move to our new home and I see butterflies all the time. I just stop and smile and think about you and your precious Annabelle!

In Christ love,