Forever Footprints - Nurturing to Remember & OC Walk to Remember
On November 4, 2011 we landed in Ontario, California from Pordenone, Italy - we had made it through one of the most trying times in our lives - 1 birth + 1 Ectopic Pregnancy + 1 miscarriage + 1 other birth + the death of my hospital roommate in addition to 12 -14 hour shifts 6 to 7 days a week, all in the span of 3 years. When we had each of our girls there was a community that surrounded us to help us with a newborn. When we lost though, there wasn't support - the military's idea of support after loss is to "just move on" or seeing a psychologist, there wasn't or isn't community and sometimes there isn't understanding in your loss either. That is why I spent so many nights after my first ectopic searching for anyone or anything to help me know I wasn't alone. When we landed in California I had this deep prayer that I prayed over and over and that was for God to teach me something in the mess the called me to after our time in Italy. For awhile I felt that it was an unanswered prayer - or I was just "missing" it. But as time went on our family continued to heal, after that time in Italy, but we also struggled with all that we went through and the aftermath of emotions that were left from our in time Italy.
In August of 2013 after being here a year and a half I was pregnant with the baby we call Samson. I was excited, but also worried - even though we had our "rainbow" baby, I knew that we've lost two already and nothing is guaranteed. I went a few weeks knowing I was pregnant before I went in to the Doctor to get the proper medical paperwork started to generate an OB referral. Part of me did not want to sit through the two hour appointment that set forth all of the dates such as your 20 week appointment date and your due date, something in me just didn't want to do it just yet, but I did and that weekend after that appointment, I found myself making excuses and resisting the thoughts that I was truly in sheer pain, but after dialog with my husband we finally went to the Antelope Valley Emergency Room. There in the hallway of the waiting room after a plethora of test and blood work we stood in front of other emergency room guests and found out I had another ectopic pregnancy. My heart was broken and broke in front of those guests, my children and my friends. There wasn't any lead time (as I'd like to call it) to collect myself before facing all of those people, they saw the raw emotions and the heartbreak of a mother who so desperately wanted her child and did not want to hear those dreadful words of "it is another ectopic pregnancy". As you read in Samson's heaven date story - our room was two sheets and chaos was going around us and by chaos I mean women handcuffed to beds screaming profanity type of chaos. I did what I could to guard my heart from the pain that I felt during that night - because ultimately, as I lay there in that bed that night I was loosing a baby that was growing perfectly, just in the wrong spot along and also loosing a dream of what mountains that child would move in the future, for the third time. When they wheeled me out of recovery from a 4 hour surgery, it was a "thank you have a great day" moment, there were no resources on how to cope after a loss and there was no one from our church or the military installation contacting us to let us know what resources were available from their end either, we were alone in this walk of loss, again.
After a few months of pouring my heart out on this blog and counseling through my church, my friend mentioned Forever Footprints to me (at the time it was the OC Walk to Remember) and I knew that night when I went to their Fan Page that I would be doing this walk, hands down no matter how far it was from us. There was something in me that was just called to walk for the three that we have lost. After I spent some time on their fan page I privately messaged them asking "is this place, a place for Moms who've lost through ectopic and miscarriage" and of course their reply was yes, I felt this relief in my heart that I wasn't alone and that there was something bigger than me in this community. I had never been in a place with a resource like this - I mean they offer training for medical professionals, they offer help for families and they host this walk to remember our sweet babies.
As I was trying to figure how exactly I would go down there (meaning mapping it out from Palmdale) I saw this event on their Newsfeed called Nurturing to Remember, I kept debating in my head if I truly qualified to be nurtured because of my losses and if I truly "deserved it". Yes, my losses were real, but I felt like they were so small in comparison to those who've birthed and experienced the death of their baby. I found every excuse to not attend from "I couldn't get off of work to I wouldn't be able to make it back in time before the daycare closed" whatever the excuse was...I found it. Then about three days before their Nurturing to Remember event, it popped up showing that they had spots still open and at the very last moment I clicked yes, I will be there and I made arrangements with a few friends to cover me if I didn't make it back in time. As I drove there, I truly battled in my head about turning the car around - this was the first time I would meet other mothers like me and I wondered if they would just think that my losses were so small in comparison also. But as I got there and watched the high tide of Laguna Beach I knew that this was for me and it would be okay. At the beginning of the event they read this poem:
As the day went on I was glad that I went, not because I got nurtured, but because I met women around me that had been in these same shoes of loss as I had been. I got to talk about my losses without shame or someone looking at me as if I was crazy - I was allowed to remember them in all that my babies were for me, my 2nd, 3rd, and 5th baby that I carried with me for their short amount of time and most of all I was allowed to heal while sharing their story and there is no other place I would have rather been one year later after loosing Samson.
Below are the photos I took that day, enjoy!
After that event, I felt an unending fire that kept me up at night to continue to get something started in the Air Force in regards to bereavement support for those who've lost. I've tried and tried and sometimes, depending on who I am talking to I tended to get road blocked because the Air Force does not have the budget or the person doesn't think it's important enough, but recently there have been listening ears and moving hands to help start something. Knowing that I had open ears at the Medical Group and women who've recently lost in our community I got the flyers posted and I posted on a Facebook Group for Edwards Air Force Base. When I posted I had no expectations that anyone would listen or want to join because, well, what the community knows me as is the Public Relations box for the local retail facility on Edwards Air Force Base, they didn't know the personal side of me and what we've walked and that is because we learned from the first two losses that some in the Military Community do not take well to loss - we've heard hurtful things and experienced vast gossip so we've learned to keep it very private. But something in me decided to post it and step out of hiding. I got a few questions about it and I got someone who signed up - someone I didn't know - someone who I didn't even think would show up to walk. So, I booked our hotel there in Tustin (by the way, if you ever decide to head down that way for this walk, click that link and use them! They were so sweet and helpful) and as I drove down after an exhausting week at work with both of the girls I felt this amount of overwhelming healing and redemption mile by mile knowing that I was going to put footsteps that they never walked to their sweet name.
When I woke up that morning I felt peace and as I prepared my mind that morning I knew there would be a possibility of being a hotmess because I had never done anything like this before - I had never heard their names called aloud - almost as if they were there to walk those steps. As I drove just a few miles to get there, there wasn't a question that this was for me - this was for me to remember that their sweet lives have so vastly impacted my life. After checking and getting the girls in their shirts we got our three blue balloons and our stickers to say who we were walking for then we walked over to the Memorial Wall to see their names among the many others who left this world too soon. Thankfully there was someone there to take our photo - and unlike others I was there alone with our two girls and it started to truly sink into my head how much this effected Jeremy and I - and how far we'd come since October 13, 2009 in our healing. As I stood there awaiting the Memorial Ceremony to start it was like God knew I wasn't meant to walk these footsteps alone as I got a Facebook Message from the person who signed up from that Facebook Group post- who I never met before. She made the drive from Edwards Air Force Base that morning and she was there to walk with me. I was so humbled that she had come to remember my three losses with me. Her hilarity, her presence, her willingness and companionship - you could truly tell that she was heaven sent. She even made sure that she got the right photos that were of importance without me even asking and she made sure I was going up there to receive a rose for them - it's like she knew all that she needed to know without even asking what I would like.
As we walked we laughed about the randomness of the Air Force and the Navy and I shared my experience of three losses at two different Air Bases and how I have been trying to get something started for bereavement. Having her there and having this walk to remember truly helped me in healing the brokenness that still lingers and it helped flame the fire that is in my heart to get something started for bereavement in the Air Force and to bridge the relationship between Forever Footprints and the Air Force so that they can expand and help bring healing to those families like ours. I am forever thankful for Norissa who walked with me & Forever Footprints and as long as we are stateside we will walk this walk, no matter where we are at.