Sunday, August 23, 2015
I delivered our sweet baby girl, Adelyne Cecelia, on 21 August. During a routine OB visit, we discovered that her little heart had stopped beating. Her precious spirit was called to be with Jesus.
Life felt like it had come to a stop on Friday. The world was moving quickly around me, but I felt such a heavy veil of pain covering my face. My 4 year old cried in a heap on the floor, begging me to at least bring home a picture of her sister. Heavy. Joseph and I had to check into labor and delivery, walk down the halls as we heard newborn babies coming into the world, and get into a hospital bed to prepare for labor. I was numb. Labor took seven hours . . .and in that quiet time we cried, prayed, clung to each other, and prepared. Halfway through the evening, a beautiful bouquet of flowers was brought in by a nurse. The card was full of beautiful words, personal in nature, along with Psalm 34:18 . . "The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit". It was sent by an organization called "Reagan's Garden". A mom here in Charlotte, who lost her daughter, Reagan, in utero at the same exact gestation (21 1/2 weeks), chose to take her pain and suffering and turn it into something beautiful. She has flowers delivered to families who are going through the same difficult loss, so that they have something "tangible" and beautiful to bring home. I was so touched, and brought to tears. Again, on the edge of darkness, Gods light sees us through. He takes our pain and heavy burdens, and leads us to make light of them. To cling to Him, but to reflect from Him. To humble ourselves, and turn our pain into goodness, to help others.
I will never underestimate the pain a mother feels at the loss of a child . . .even before they were due to enter the world. When we received Luke's diagnoses of DS, many were apologizing to us, as if it were a tragedy. We never viewed his life or diagnosis as a tragedy. And pure joy and purpose have proven themselves by his very existence here. In contrast, not being able to bring our little Adelyne home was the most difficult thing we've experienced. True loss. She so resembled her older siblings, and we all envisioned her in our family, chasing her brothers and sisters around. I imagined her being spicy, as her 4 year sister has proven to be. Her crib was carefully set up and waiting for her, and our holiday plans were made around the timing of her due date. But her life was not meant to be on this earth. And I know that she's shouting down from heaven "I'm okay mommy! I will meet you some day!".
For now, we move forward. I know it will get easier with time, though never completely heal. I know that we will make good of this, and some day, be reunited in a beautiful place. I love you sweet Adelyne.
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Tree huggers....how many do you have in your life? There's never enough of them in my opinion. We currently have 6 that happen to be very skilled as far as huggers go. Truthfully, I'd almost label them as "advanced" in their practice, as huggers. I have found that even if they don't emphatically agree with their "tree's" advice, or decision, they will still end their day with a hug . . .given or taken. The tree of course, is us, the parents. And there are a wide variety of trees, as you have quickly realized when you plunged into the world of parenting. This becomes even more evident as the children become toddlers, and even more apparent in the teenage years!
We as trees are all trying to do our very best, with our own natural strengths and weaknesses . . .to stand tall, and sturdy, firm, and yet lovingly. The most difficult part of being a tree for myself is the consistency part . . .my bark is rather diverse and I carry leaves of all different hues. It's sometimes difficult to stand tall and hold onto my branches when the big winds blow (gale force at times). And it's difficult to remember at times, that I don't need to resemble the trees growing next to me.
As parents, it is so easy to become a part of this world . . .and if we do, eventually our parenting will reflect it. As Christians, we are called to do exactly the opposite. We should be in that constant struggle of teaching our children what life is all about, what our choices should reflect, what true selfless love is (agape), and that focusing on the right things will not always get you the popularity seat (and that's okay). It's okay to teach your girls not to dress provocatively, regardless of modern trends. . .teaching them that our bodies are sacred and beautiful, in the long run, will benefit them more, and will even influence who they allow into their lives when dating. It's okay to discourage your teenagers from watching everything that comes out on the big screen (or small screen), and perhaps modeling this can be even more powerful. The list can go on and on, but really it comes down to taking parenting seriously. It is THE most important job that God has given us. The responsibility is not just to keep them alive until they turn 18. Parenting children today needs to be so intentional in practice. And though each of our children has their own mind, thoughts, opinions, and choices . . .and even though they will fall at times, it is still our job to teach them right from wrong, confidently. Modeling is so powerful. They watch us everyday in our choices . . .how we spend our time and money, who we surround ourselves with, what we prioritize, and who we turn to for help or gratitude. Parents, find your support system and stand tall!
Dear Lord Jesus, please grant me the grace to follow your beautiful example when you walked on this earth. Strengthen my trunk and deepen my roots so that they may grow deep in rich soil, and my branches can produce beautiful fruit. Help me to stand tall in big winds, and be an example for trees around me. And please continue to surround me with a host of strong trees that will offer support when I need it most. Thank you Lord for your mercy. Amen.
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
The Sweet Moments!
We are definitely living in a time of rapid medical advances, with a well-funded quest to extend and "improve" lives, and provide significantly more detailed genetic information on an individual, even long before they are due to be born. Incredible! These tests can pick up the more common chromosomal trisomies, such as T13, T18, and T21, and the less common ones, such as Chromosomes 22, 16, along with select chromosomal regions, including 22q, 15q, 11q, 8q, 5p, 4p, and 1p. Since Luke was born, I've had several pregnant friends ask me if I would recommend genetic testing for their pregnancy. We ourselves did not choose genetic testing, and his markers were found via ultrasound. As much as we loved to be prepared, I tell parents to tread carefully, and do not consider unless they feel completely grounded in their faith. Yes, it is so nice to prepare for changes in life, but when faced with a decision on whether one wants to open their life to that change, particularly while receiving negative pressure from some of the medical community, it puts young (and more seasoned) parents in a very difficult position.
As we just rounded the corner from world down syndrome day on March 21st, and our sweet baby boy is approaching one year of age, I've been reflecting on how our lives have changed since that ultrasound at my 18th week of pregnancy. My conclusion is this: #1 you can become very educated about the third copy of a particular chromosome, or any genetic diagnosis for that matter, in a very short matter of time. #2. You can educate yourself with every fact under the sun, read every trisomy blog and every possible real-life scenario, but in the end, God is going to allow our/their life to play out as God intends it. #3. If you follow His lead, Love and support is going to come from every direction, if your eyes are open to it, and if your heart allows it. #4. The positive test results that a doctor gives you account for only a minuscule portion of your child. Those test results cannot show you the amazing personality your child will have, the uniqueness of his or her physical characteristics (Luke's amazing baby blue eyes and silky soft skin), all of his or her sweet little idiosyncrasies that you will start to learn within their first month of life, and all of the amazing memories that you are going to make together. If only those tests came with a short film strip of what your future with that child would look like. But Ultrasounds and genetic tests cannot show you how beautiful and bright your future will be with your child, regardless of the child's diagnosis. They can only break it down in medical terms how your child is not going to be "typically" complete. This is a fact. This is a fact that is more important than the facts that the scientists will give you regarding your child's chromosomal makeup.
It just has to be a journey of trust until you hold your sweet baby in your arms for the first time. And isn't that true for our own daily lives? We ourselves are on a journey of trust, where we often falsely think we have so much control over our life. None of us have any idea as to when God will call us home, or what our obstacles will be. God is constantly pruning us, his branches, to seek his ways. We just have to sit back and enjoy this journey, follow his lead, and trust. And that is my prayer today, for myself, my husband, our children, and all those around us. That we can completely surrender to Him every living day that we are here. That we can completely trust in His plan, and die to ourselves and our own will. And if that means that we need to crumple up our hand-drawn and methodically planned out road of our journey for life, and instead dial into His GPS, than so be it! The journey will be beautiful! I promise!
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
This post is specifically dedicated for the purpose of enlightenment, as to the fact that the Cofer household is not always peaceful, as so many friends always tell me they envision it as. The hour: 5 o'clock. The scene: dinner preparation in the kitchen. And then we jump straight to the climax. I just finished getting all the ingredients on the cooktop, and the baby starts crying after waking from a short slumber. Now might I add that it is very rare that little man cries at all, so usually someone will jump in to rescue if my hands are full. Olivia flies in to help him, quickly picking him up. He is still crying, when more whales of screaming come from upstairs. Before the screams get any closer, my six year old jets on the scene. He's trying to tell me in his sweet little voice that his little toddler sister called him the "S word" (aka stupid-a big off limits word in our house). Eventually little sister happens upon the scene herself, falling over in fits of tears upon realizing that big brother had beaten her to the chase, and had already tattled on her fresh little mouth. Meanwhile, older teenage sister is pleading that all of the little ones that are making noise need to go upstairs, as they are getting on her nerves, and teenage brother is frantically going through the pantry after soccer practice, complaining about not having enough snacks. Obviously not phased by the noise, he is sooooo hungry. And nine-year-old sister is still bouncing the crying baby, informing me that he has gas bubbles. Ah yes, the calm Cofer house. This is what I call commotion in the ocean. I know that all you empty, or almost-empty-nesters are drooling with envy! Remember these days? Now I have learned that we cannot control these moments. They are going to explode, when they explode. Perhaps I could have had more snacks in the cupboard, or my toddlers in a planned activity at the table, but on more days than not, I am running on fly by the seat of my pants mode. Hence the explosions. Although I do not have control over the occurrence of the scene, I do have control over how I respond. And it must have been the concoction of just enough sleep last night, topped with a little late afternoon caffeine, and most importantly, remembering who God wants me to be as a parent, that resulted in my calm today. Maybe I had a different result yesterday, but today I was able to stay calm. And so today is what I focus on.
As a Roman Catholic celebrating this beautiful season of Lent, there is much self reflection, and yearning to draw closer to Him. There's an emphasis on repentance, sacrificial fasting, prayer, and giving, all in a traditional and beautifully orchestrated plan that draws us to live in His will. To surrender to his will, and die in ourselves. To produce fruit. Today my fruit was calmness.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Adoration of the Christ child. Artist: Follower of Jan Joest of Kalkar. circa 1515. What is interesting about this painting, is that in the mid 1800s, there was talk in the medical world that down syndrome was more of a modern phenomenon. But then this painting was discovered a decade ago. Notice the date on it. And of special importance, notice that the angel and shepherd were depicted as having down syndrome.
The big day is approaching! March 21, which lends itself to be down syndrome awareness day merely because of numbers. 3–21. Trisomy 21. That gorgeous combination of chromosomes that includes an extra copy of number 21. In my eyes, it was part of God's perfect creation balance. Shortly after Luke was born, I signed up to be a part of the Mayo clinics DS research group, which entailed having parents of individuals with DS, answer a number of questions via a survey. The results would direct their time and money, as far as research goes, with the overall goal being to improve the life of those with Down syndrome. I was thinking, great! What perfect timing! This could impact Luke's future! As I scrolled through the survey, taking my time to put much thought into each question, I was quickly thrown off guard. Not only by the questions, but by my answers. They were questions asking if I as a parent, would choose to increase his intelligence. And by how much. And if I as a parent, would change some of the physical features of my child with DS. Question after question was pertaining to removing part of who Luke is. I sat there and stared at the screen, profoundly realizing that Luke is how he was made. Could I rank what we would want different? Could we prioritize what exactly we would change? And to what degree from 1 to 5? By the end, I felt so honestly annoyed by this survey. As we get more into genetics, will we be sending out surveys asking parents if they would choose the more easy-going personality in a child, to avoid the tantrums in the toddler years? I myself was a spicy little girl, so where would that have left me in the future?! And I for sure would've been tweaked in someway with my genetically severe myopia, and early cataracts at the age of 39. And let's not forget the time in my life when I struggled with fear and anxiety! I truly am a mess. Why do we in our simple human form, constantly strive to take adversity, difference, and hardship out of this world. This is the underlying question that I was left with. And I look at my sweet Luke, and all of our children, and see such beauty and perfection, even in their imperfections. I cannot tell you how in love I am with Luke's little thumbs, as much as his squeals of delight when his daddy pretends to eat his tummy! And as far as health conditions go with DS, they give the rest of us a chance to not take life for granted, enjoy each healthy day, and turn to Him for love and support. Open heart surgery is for sure a test of faith! But he survived, as was God's will. And we survived! And we are all the stronger for it. I have yet to meet a parent of an individual with DS, who would have things any other way. They accept them and their family, just like they would any child, regardless of the ability or disability. I know that one of the biggest messages that the DS community likes to get out is that these children are more alike us than different. But I also want to emphasize, it's okay to, if they are different. Truly, we are all different. Truly we will all face adversity in our lifetime. And most likely we all will have different challenges, to varying degrees. It's all part of this life. Part of His master plan...creator and artist.
Saturday, January 31, 2015
"Once upon a time in a faraway land, there lived a beautiful fairy princess who loved to dance. She was a very good dancer, but she did not feel comfortable dancing in front of other people. She was very shy. Well one day, the people of this beautiful kingdom heard about her beautiful talent, and they were eager to see her dance. At first the beautiful fairy princess refused to dance for the people, because she was so shy. Until that is, she looked up and saw all of their smiling faces. She knew she had to be brave and share her talent with them. And she did. And she danced beautifully."
This is the story that I overheard our 13-year-old son telling his little three-year-old sister, when she was tucked in for bed tonight. And of course in the middle he included her name specifically, which caused her to beam from ear to ear, and with sparkling eyes, respond "that's me!!". And of course my own eyes were grinning and heart was weeping as I witnessed this from across the room. What an amazing big brother! And what an amazing story!
And how fitting, considering it's been the topic of the week for me. Living out our God given purpose with our God-given talents, by pushing away any obstacles that may lie before us. Personal obstacles such as shyness, pride, ambition (driven)....or perhaps external forces...the material world, people, chaos. With a modern world that does not allow for very much quiet, the constant chaos itself can so easily distract us from not only seeking our purpose to serve Him, but from having any kind of personal relationship with Him in the first place. A daily dialogue. I have just started a new study with a group of ladies in my neighborhood. The study is called "restless". And as women, so many of us do feel restless, and that we need to be doing more. Are we living out the purpose God has given us? Are we using all of our natural talents, or letting obstacles get in the way? Just a century ago, the majority of women were spending their days cooking, gathering food, tending to the children, cleaning without the modern conveniences, and praying. Praying together as a family was a natural part of daily life. And although things were so much simpler without the level of chaos and busyness that there is now, most of their day was spent on necessity. I feel like it's a stark contrast to where we live now. The material world alone consumes so much of our time, even though all the modern appliances get so much done for us. We have so much stuff, which takes time to organize, clean, sort through, donate, collect, organize again, and clean!
My nine-year-old daughter and I are a tad bit romantically attached to the Little House on the Prairie series right now. This utterly simple way of living, though hardships were ever so present, is so appealing. All of the little things stood out as the best things... the best moments. A simple dessert was the highlight of a Christmas celebration, verses a room full of expensive gifts. Now everything is bigger, bigger, better, better, and the thrill factor has been overdone. It's hard to know when we will hit the ceiling! We continue to seek bigger and better as a culture, yet we are really just seeking Him. Simple. And as for taking that restlessness, and doing something with it, I do recognize that it will be an intentional daily calling. Living radically in this country means living counter culturally. It means going back to simple. It means not having attachment to the material. It means parenting intentionally. It demands praying daily for His will to be done, and for us to gracefully accept His will. And as in the beautiful fairytale story, hopefully someday, we will see His smiling face looking down at us. And we too will be grinning back at Him, knowing that we gave our best for Him.
Monday, January 19, 2015
When you hear the term "value" when residing in a capital-driven consumeristic society, our minds instantly jump to "a good deal", "bargain", whether pertaining to a real estate venture, vehicle, new pair of jeans, or service. And I will be the first to admit that I get a little rush when I come across a Lilly Pulitzer dress for one of my girls, while browsing through the isles of Salvation Army. What a value! But truly as a culture, I pray that we can unite on the importance of putting more value on human life itself. Regardless of religion, race, ability. To recognize how valuable life is in the weak, the sick, the disfigured, the poor.... the unborn without a voice. And so rarely is this talked about in our politically correct culture. We don't want to offend anyone. How did we get to a place where we are comfortable with this though? How many of us are really comfortable with this? If we are not, perhaps we need to be a voice, or the hand of change. One of my greatest role models next to my mom, is Mother Teresa. The amount of love and service that she showed to complete strangers, is such the perfect example of what we are called to do. She held no prejudice, fear, nor synicism towards anyone she came in contact with. She spoke and acted only out of love. If you have not had the pleasure of learning more about this incredible woman, I encourage you to do so. We can all be inspired.
"People who love each other fully and truly are the happiest people in the world. They may have little, they may have nothing, but they are happy people. Everything depends on how we love one another."-Mother Teresa