Sunday, September 15, 2013

Bows, bracelets, and boots...oh my!

I know that some people think I have a bow obsession.  I have so many bows that I filled up one bow holder and had to go on to a second bow holder for holidays and special bows.

And perhaps you are correct.  I won't even try to defend myself.  I like bows.  It makes me happy when Irelynn wears them.  It makes my heart melt to watch her play with bracelets and wear my necklaces and step into my high heels.  I think just about every Mom enjoys this to some degree.  But for just a few of us, it has an even deeper meaning.  Let me tell you why.

When I was pregnant with Jeremy, people would ask me, what do you want to have and I would always reply, "A boy!"  Perhaps it was because I grew up with all sisters and perhaps it was wanting something I didn't have or not wanting to deal with the drama or wanting to have that special mother-son relationship or wanting to be a soccer mom.  Who knows?  But I got my wish.  Jeremy is very much a boy!  When he was little, I made friends with other moms of little girls, and I started to see the green grass on the other side.  Having a little girl became very appealing.  Not because of the bows and dresses and girly things, but because I became very aware of the strong relationship that I yearned for that perhaps I didn't always have with my Mom.  I think I have it now, but I didn't always have it growing up.  I became pregnant again with Savannah.

We learned early on that she would likely have Down Syndrome.  I knew what that was but I didn't really know about it.  What I did know is that people would look at her funny and that infuriated me.  Even if people looked at her because she appeared different, I knew if she was dressed cute and had a bow in her hair, then perhaps no one would say anything to her or make her feel different.  I worried about her self-esteem growing up or if she would become aware of the fact that people looked at her differently.  As a Mom, I thought about these things.  I worried about bringing her to Church or Target or wherever and how well-meaning people would look happily into my baby carrier and then watching their smiles drop as they realize this was not a "normal" baby I had.  This was what kept me awake at night - worrying about how people might judge Savannah.  But no matter what, if she had a bow, at least that would make someone smile.

I had no idea what was ahead, but bow shopping made me happy and gave me something to look forward to as I prepared for my precious daughter to arrive.  If she couldn't be a dancer, I imagined us sitting together watching the Richmond ballet or the Nutcracker together, creating memories together, with yes - a pretty bow in her hair.  I know it is petty and insignificant.  I know there are starving children in Africa that could benefit from the money I have spent on bows.  But it's not about the bows.  It's about the memories I had envisioned in my head of Savannah and I together.

When all of that was taken away from me, clearly, we were devastated.  There is no other way to described it.  When we struggled with infertility and went on to suffer 4 more miscarriages, it was even more devastating.

When Irelynn came along, I felt like I was given a second chance.  Let me be clear.  Irelynn is not and will never be a replacement child.  There is no replacing Savannah.  I think about every day how I should be buying matching outfits for Savannah and Irelynn and how Irelynn really shouldn't be getting all new things because she should be having hand-me downs and re-runs just like Nicholas is getting.  But she's not.  Because Savannah isn't here.  And she is getting some of Savannah's things, only Savannah never got the chance to wear them.  And I can't buy matching things.  At least not now and not for Savannah and Irelynn.

When I put bows in Irelynn's hair and watch her play with dolls and bracelets and paint her toenails, I realize how silly all those things are.  But to me, I'm getting another opportunity to experience those Mother-Daughter things that I didn't get with Savannah.  I'll never get to do those things with Savannah.  Those opportunities are gone forever.  But I am getting another opportunity to build a new Mother-Daughter relationship and create new memories with Irelynn.  And when she leans her head towards me to put her bow in, I can't tell you how that warms my heart.  Or when she looks at her toes and says "Pretty feet!" with a big smile, what that means to me.  It's a memory and an experience between a Mother and a Daughter that I have wished and dreamed about for 5 years.  It doesn't replace the one that was taken from me with Savannah, but it's a new one - a bonus one!

I know I am ridiculous at times, but it makes me happy.  And for now, it appears to make Irelynn happy.  If one day it doesn't make Irelynn happy, I'll stop BUT I'll have all these photos to look back upon.  But at least for now, Irelynn and I are on the same page.  This little girl is an absolute miracle (as are Jeremy and Nicholas), but Irelynn just has something really special about her.  I know she has a big part of her big sister inside of her and it just radiates through that smile.

Welcome to the world, Nicholas James!

Our newest precious addition was born safely on July 10, 2013 at 8:02pm.  He was 6 pounds 15 ounces and 19 inches long.  He is truly a miracle and we are so blessed to have him join our family!


This shirt says it all ~ "Such a big Miracle in such a little boy"


I suck at blogging! BIG Catch up!

I cannot believe it has been nearly a year since I have blogged!  Life has been busy, but then again, whose life hasn't?  Well, let's see if I can quickly catch you up.

Jeremy started (and finished) Kindergarten.  He had a great year at school and has really grown!

For Christmas, we decided to travel to California to spend time with my parents.  They don't get to see our children often and it's become more and more important to us that we make more of an effort for them to see the kids every other year or so.  It was super fun!!

Happy New Year!  This next picture was taken at midnight in the baggage claim on January 1, 2013 at 12:00am.  Us and the kids are a hot mess from traveling ALL DAY but we are home (sort of)!!

Irelynn turned 1 year old!  Can you believe it??

We celebrated Savannah's 4th Birthday in Heaven.

As tradition in the past, we go out for lunch at Olive Garden.  I'm sure Savannah would have enjoyed it just as much as her brother and sister do.


And last, but not least, to catch you up, this past summer, on July 10th, we joyfully welcomed our second rainbow to our family, Nicholas James Renfro.  He is precious!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

New sisters for the summer!

We were so excited to get a new placement of foster sisters for the entire summer.  They were such a mixed blessing and challenge for our family.  They were age 9 and 14 (turned 15 while with us) and were so much fun!  The placement was only temporary while the girls met several potential adoptive placements, so while they were with us, we wanted to take the pressue off of so much seriousness and make sure they had lots and lots of fun.  We went to the water park, gymnastics classes, martial arts classes, babysitter certification, parties and BBQs, Church and various functions, and involved them in every aspect of our family life.  We wanted to be sure they got an idea of what being part of a healthy family was life so when meeting different types of families, they could figure out what they liked and didn't like.  These girls came from a rough background and had been through some very rough times.  They needed lots of love and nurturing, but most of all FUN!  Our children got along well with them, and although there were some challenges along the way, we did our best and hoped for the best when their time came to leave us for a family that had intentions to adopt them.  We continue to pray and wish the best for them.

One of my fondest memories of the girls was doing their hair.  They were were African American and Puerto Rican, so their hair texture was very different than anything I was used to.  Thank goodness for a blog and FB page called "Chocolate Hair Vanilla Care" because those ladies taught me all the tricks!  In no time, I was braiding and doing cornrows with the best of them.  Yarn extensions was my next project but we didn't quite have enough time to fully tackle that.  Should the girls come back to visit, I promised them them I would do it!

Because of privacy and Social Services laws, I am not allowed to show their faces, but here is a photo of one of our Saturday hair days.  It was such precious time and I always thanked the girls for letting me do their hair.  They have no idea what it meant to me and how special it was, but I hope their new adoptive Mom tells them the same things.  It was sooooo much fun!

Another thing I really enjoyed was getting to spend time with the older one and teaching her all the things a young lady needs to know before entering high school.  We talked about boys, etiquette,she got her hair done, for her 15th Birthday, I took her to get her makeup done perfessionally and appropriately, and taught her how to act her age.  She really blossomed into a wonderful young lady who was ready for High School.  I was so excited to hear about what the future held for her.

We are asked often about our experiences as Foster Parents.  I don't want to paint this picture that everything is rosy all the time.  There are definetely challenges that go along with this choice.  But we have to believe that we are making a difference in the lives of these young people who didn't have a choice to end up where they are today, and for that, we volunteer to do this job.  Some of their stories and life circumstances are horrific to put it mildly, but they still deserve love and someone to believe in them.  Sometimes, the best gift we can give a child is the gift of time and love.  So if you are curious, call your local Social Services and make an appointment to find out more.  I promise they won't handcuff you and force you into anything you don't want to do.  But we do love having a full house!

Catching up on blogging!

It seems to me that it has been forever since I have blogged and after logging in just now, I see that the last time I have blogged or even logged in was July 6th, so it really has been forever - at least in the blogging world!  I know I owe my readers about a hundred blogs - or at least it seems that way.  I will do my best to catch you all up on what has been going on and there has been sooooo much!  So thank you for your patience and your prayers.  It has been about 6 months of ups and downs, adventures and trials, like anyone else.  But I am continuing on my journey of life, and there is more work to be done.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Our little Republicans!

It's no secret that I am a Conservative when it comes to politics and for many reasons, but mostly on issues, specifically Right to Life.  While one of my favorite things on being an American is living in a country where we all have the right to choose whom we vote for, I am proud to educated on the many of the issues that important to me and I take the time to visit my elected officals and lobby for those issues that are most important to me and my family.  This year, this election is so important.  I volunteered my time in many ways, but mostly, we did a lot of things as a family, as we did 4 years ago.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

International SIDS & Stillbirth Conference in Baltimore

In October, I bravely left my family for the first time, and traveled to Baltimore (about 3.5 hours away) for 4 days to attend the 2012 International Conference on SIDS, Stillbirth, and Infant Survival.  One of the organizations that I serve on the Board of Directors for, The Star Legacy Foundation (, was part of the conference.  It was so inspiring to go and meet these interenational researchers and doctors who are making such amazing strides in all the different aspects of the various preventable causes of stillbirth.  I also met some amazing parents, who, like me, are trying to make a difference in their own small way. 

At the Remembrance Ceremony Friday night, I even had one parent and grandparent recognize me from this blog.  I was a little concerned because sometimes, I can be very honest, blunt, and uncensored with my feelings.  But she explained to me that it was helpful for her to read those parts and it helped her find ways to help her own daughter as she was hurting.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Irelynn is 9 months old!

Irelynn just makes me smile all the time.  She is such a happy baby.  But there is also a bittersweetness to this happiness.  I still think about her big sister.  I wonder what she would be doing right now.  I wonder why I am not dressing Irelynn in Savannah's hand-me-downs instead of purchasing everything new for Irelynn.  I think about the unsuspecting comments we get about having another baby and how "isn't it great that we have one of each?"  I know better.  I know people don't mean anything by this.  But it still hurts, even just a little.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Chance Meeting with Baby Bode

Yesterday, as I quickly ran into my neighborhood grocery store to pick up some cookie dough to bake cookies with my family, I ran past a mom shopping.  She has a beautiful little girl who looked about 4 and she was actually 4 as she later told me.  Her mom was a beautiful lady with long curly brown hair and a kind smile.  In her shopping cart, was a baby carrier with a nice chunky little boy in it.  At first, I smiled at how well behaved the young girl was while her mom grocery shopped.  When I would go out with Jeremy, he acted like that maybe 1 time for every 4 or five times, which is why I mostly grocery shopped alone.  As I grabbed what I came in for, I turned down the aisle and headed up towards the checkout lanes.  I walked past the lady pushing her cart again and I got a good look at the little boy.  He had Down Syndrome.

I remarked to the Mom was a beautiful little boy he was and she was very nice and smiled but I'm sure she was curious why I would pay such special attention to her son who clearly had special needs and not to her normal daughter who was just cute as a button and eager for my attention.  She told me both of their names and ages and while I wanted to talk more, my eyes and attention just kept going back to Bode.  He was 10 months old and as tears filled my eyes, Bode's face went into a huge smile at me.

I felt I needed to say something to this Mom, so I carefully explained that we had a daughter with DS who had passed away.  She said she was sorry and I smiled at her and told her she was very blessed.

There are many times that I miss Savannah, but right here and right now, I was faced with what would have been my worst fear - having a child with special needs and being judged by the community around me.  When I was pregnant and test after test seemed to indicate that Savannah had DS, I grew unsure of myself.  Was I strong enough to be the Mom of a child with special needs?  How could I protect her from ignorant people?  How could I watch her struggle as a child not being able to do things that her brother could do?  What was going to happen after Eric and I were gone?  Who would take care of her?  What would her life as an adult be like?  Would she ever find true love, get married, and be able to have children?

As I looked down at the beautiful bright blue eyes of Baby Bode and his face lit up into a huge smile at me, I was face to face with something that for the  last 3 years I have dreamed about and at times, would have bitten off my own arm to experience.  All I saw in Bode's eyes was unconditional love and hope and a life full of possibility.  The Mom looked relaxed and happy to be shopping on a Thursday night with her children. 

Whether or not Savannah was born with DS was irrelevant.  We had accepted that she would have it and planned for her to have it.  We loved her because of it.  When Savannah was stillborn, it was devastating.  Whether she did or didn't have DS didn't matter.  But throughout our experience, Savannah opened our hearts and minds to children and people with special needs, especially Down Syndrome.  We were ready.  We were prepared.  We would have been good parents to her, especially if she had Down Syndrome.  No one wants to have a baby with challenges and struggles.  But I didn't see Savannah's life that way.  I saw her a life full of possibilities and hope.  I saw the opportunity to educate others and do something wonderful.  But I was never given that chance.  She was never given that chance.

Even now, three years later, I miss Savannah deeply.  I miss the lifetime of memories that we didn't get.  I wonder all the time what she would be like as a 3 year old.  Would she be in dance class?  Would she have liked preschool?  Would she have let me paint her nails or teach her dance or gymnastics? Would she still tolerate me with my hair bow obsession?  I still cope and deal with all that we lost that day.  Tears still fill my eyes and my pillow when I think about what could have been...what SHOULD have been our family right now.

And I know many of you are thinking to yourself, "But you have another daughter, a new baby that you can have those experiences with.  Get over it."  But I can't.  It's impossible.  I can't forget or get over Savannah.  She is ingrained in my heart and in my thoughts.  She was my daughter, my oldest daughter and her life ended far too soon.  It ended before it even began.  As I looked up at Bode, I saw the love in his eyes and his smile warmed my heart.  Those were the things that I miss the most about Savannah - those are the little things I would have given anything to enjoy and savor.

So to anyone who thinks that I am not grieving correctly or I need to move on, live my life and feel my feelings and you will never say that to anyone ever again.  You simply cannot understand that pain and hurt and the deep sorrow a Mother feels when her child is not here.  I absolutely adore Jeremy and Irelynn and I cherish every single second with them.  But there is a bright eyed little girl missing from our family and a lifetime of experiences that were stolen from us that we can never get back.  I was ready to be the Mom of a child of special needs.  God made me ready.  But I wasn't given the chance.  I was never allowed the opportunity to show my capabilities in times of challenge.  Why?  We loved Savannah unconditionally.  I would have given my own life in a second to take her place.  I would give my life today for her or for any of my children.

To Bode's Mom, God Bless You!  God Bless You for choosing life for baby Bode.  I'm sure you were encouraged many times, as I was, to terminate your pregnancy because he had Down Syndrome.  God Bless You for putting your baby's life above your own, accepting and loving him, and being the best Mommy to him.  And God Bless You for running into me and allowing me the privilege of experiencing Bode's smile.  It made my heart warm in a way that I couldn't have imagined.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Irelynn turned 6 months old!

Can you believe that Irelynn turned 6 months old already?  What an amazing blessing she is to our family and friends!!