How I Found My Village

How I Found My VillageI never expected my life to take a dramatic turn. Bad things didn’t happen to me. I was happily married with a successful career…life was good. But, it only takes an instant for your life to turn upside down. That happened to me in 2013, when two of my triplets died within two months of their birth.

Grieving the death of a child is a surreal experience. You are not supposed to outlive your child. Yet, just one week after giving birth I was sitting next to my husband at a funeral home, ordering our daughter’s urn. Nearly two months later, we were in the same exact seats, picking out a matching urn for our son.

Honoring Parker and AbbyIn the early days of my losses, I felt alone. It wasn’t that people didn’t reach out to offer support. Instead, I shut myself off from the world. I didn’t want to explain the traumatic events that unfolded and I didn’t want to talk about my children. I felt like a failure. I did everything by the book when it came to my pregnancy. But in the end, two of my three children had died, their premature bodies simply born too early to survive. The guilt overwhelmed me, while my sadness consumed me.

As my surviving triplet grew stronger, so did my inner strength. I couldn’t dwell on the past and live my life wondering, “why me?” My bubbly, positive personality had been hidden long enough. It was time to figure out how to live life after loss. I poured through my voicemail, emails and other messages and found a support system that spanned the globe. What surprised me the most was the number of people who, like me, experienced a loss. Strangers shared their experience of having to bury a child. Childhood friends reached out to me to share their devastating losses from miscarriage and stillbirth. I quickly realized, I am not alone.

There is an entire community of parents forced to balance the grief of losing a child with the challenge of moving forward in life. It’s a club no parent ever wants to be a part of, but it’s a resource that I am forever grateful to have. It’s because of these fellow child loss parents that I am able to find happiness after the most difficult days of my life. These parents reached out to me, sharing their heartache, each story unique and one of a kind. Yet, we all carry this common bond: we each lost a child. Knowing other stories helped me realize that my grief was natural and normal.

TripletsAs the years pass by, my grief has changed and matured over time. It will never go away, but the pain and heartache has become less difficult. These days I find myself in a good place; full of happiness and love as I look at my beautiful daughter, while finding ways to honor and remember her brother and sister who passed. My life is completely different from what I pictured a decade ago, but in a way, it’s better than I ever could have imagined. Through my losses, I have found new purpose in life. Much like those people who helped me through my devastation, I am able to lend a shoulder for newly bereaved parents to lean on.

There is no loss that is the same, yet we are all connected through our grief. Because of this club that no parent wants to be part of, new friendships have formed and old friendships have blossomed. This common bond goes much deeper than the surface. We get each other. We understand each other in a way that only someone who has experienced the gut-wrenching, earth-shattering loss of a child can truly understand. I would give anything to have my two children here with me today, to watch my triplets play together as I always pictured in mind. But, rather than spend my days in a dark hole of sadness, I choose to live life to the fullest. It’s takes a village to raise a child and an even larger village to get through the loss of one. We are joined together under difficult circumstances, but the child loss community is one of the positive things to come out of tragic chapter of my life.

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How A Yellow Butterfly Changed My Life

How A Yellow Butterfly Changed My LifeThe summer months are difficult for me, they always will be. Each day, the constant reminders of three years ago dance through my head. The beautiful moment of giving birth to my triplets is met with the tragic and painful memory of losing two of my children. As the years go by, life moves forward. I find myself consumed with raising my beautiful miracle child, and most times, the happiness outweighs the sorrow. But this summer was different. My surviving triplet graduated from every therapy, she no longer needed a handful of specialists, and she was about to start preschool. With so many milestones, I was a mess. The watery eyes became a daily occurrence; sweet and happy tears, riddled with heartbreak. But, as the summer slowly comes to an end, a smile spreads across my face as I remember a beautiful sign from above. It’s amazing to think that a single butterfly had the power to ease my grief.

I first saw this butterfly shortly after my daughter turned three. It was the end of June, a month that is always filled with many emotions. It’s tough being a mom to children both here on earth and in heaven. I need to be strong for my survivor and celebrate her special day, yet the pain inside is unbearable, knowing her brother and sister should be joining in on the birthday celebration. I sat outside watching my daughter play on her swing with tears trickling down my face. It was a moment of sadness as I pictured my triplets giggling together, something that will never be possible. Just then, as I looked across the yard at my daughter, a beautiful yellow butterfly fluttered nearby.

How A Yellow Butterfly Changed My LifeMany people experience a sign from their loved one in heaven and butterflies are often considered to be a symbol from beyond the grave. I’ve experienced that special sign twice thanks to butterflies, so it’s not unusual for me to look at the insect and ask, “Are you Parker or Abby?” As I watched this butterfly, the thought did cross my mind, but it was a fleeting memory as it quickly flew away.

A few weeks later, I was reminiscing over my son’s short life; his wild blonde hair a stark contrast to his gentle personality. As I looked out the kitchen window, a beautiful yellow butterfly flew by. I instantly thought back to that day when I first saw that yellow beauty. As the summer weeks flew by, the yellow butterfly continued to appear. Sometimes I was outside with Peyton and my husband, other times I was walking to the mailbox or driving down the street, but each time that yellow butterfly made its presence known. And every time I saw that bright flutter in the distance, I thought of Abby and Parker, my two children in heaven.

As September approached, I was faced with a range of emotions. I was so proud of Peyton as she was about to begin preschool. It’s a milestone we were unsure would ever be possible for our 22 weeker, one pound child. And while I watched my child overcome so many obstacles, I was also heartbroken, knowing that I should be buying three little backpacks, not just one. On that first day of school, I held it together, a lump in my throat hidden from the world. I walked hand in hand with my daughter to her classroom and gave her a kiss when I left the room. As I walked outside, the lump in my throat multiplied in an instant. My eyes became glassy and I sped up my stride, quickly walking to avoid other parents in the parking lot. Safely in my car, I let out a giant exhale, not realizing I had been holding my breath unconsciously. The tears turned to sobs as the weight of the morning sank in. I took a deep breath and wiped the tears away. As I looked up, there it was right in front of me: that beautiful yellow butterfly fluttered just outside of my car.

How A Yellow Butterfly Changed My LifeThe tears once again tumbled down my face, but this time they were full of happiness. As I drove home alone, a sense of peace came over me. It turns out, Abby and Parker were with me throughout the summer, guiding me through the trechearous waters of grief. I arrived home and made a cup of coffee, unsure of what to do with my few hours of freedom. As I sat at our table, I glanced outside at the serene September morning. And just like that, a beautiful yellow butterfly appeared out my window; a special sign from above, letting me know life will be OK.

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Achieving The Impossible

Peyton at 3 years oldMy daughter surprises me every single day. Sometimes it’s a funny saying that shoots out her mouth. Other times, it’s a sweet gesture, surprising me with her gentle heart. But more often than not, it’s her fierce fight in everything she faces; a “never give up” attitude that has surprised so many people throughout her journey in life. Every single day, Peyton is achieving the impossible.

Achieving the impossibleThree years ago, Peyton was in the Nicu, hooked up to several machines that were keeping her alive. My husband and I were reeling from the loss of two of our children, while trying to stay strong for our lone triplet. With few babies ever surviving at 22 weeks gestation, we had no idea what Peyton’s future would entail. We knew she would face challenges and possible delays and disabilities, but we were ready to tackle anything that came our way.

Little did we know that our miracle child would shock every doctor, specialist and therapist she met. Nothing was going to stop her. Peyton’s powerful determination was on display over the years. For every hurdle that approached, she jumped even higher. Three years later, you would never know that our surviving triplet was only one pound at birth. You would never know that she was given less than a 10% chance at surviving and that doctors didn’t know if she would lead a healthy life. Yet here we are today. Peyton is happy and healthy and doing things that other 3-year-old would typically do.

Achieving the impossibleThis week Peyton started preschool. She walked right into her classroom and began playing with the toys. She gave me a quick kiss and didn’t flinch as I walked out the door. On our way home from school, she enthusiastically told me about her day. And when I asked her what she learned, she responded with, “I learned to listen.” A simple lesson that we are hoping resonates with her at home! As we put her down for nap time, her excitement proved to be too much. She quickly bounced up, jumping in her crib as she recited, “I’m ready to go to school again!!!”

Preschool was a success and I know that Peyton will find some type of success in everything she tackles in life. Peyton’s future is looking bright and this special milestone is only the beginning.

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Why I’ll Be Crying On My Daughter’s First Day Of School

While I'll Be Crying On My Daughter's First Day Of SchoolIt’s a milestone for so many families – dropping your child off for their first day of preschool. Some kids may cry as their parent drives away; others won’t notice their absence, too busy exploring an exciting new place. As for parents, many moms will shed tears as they watch their child toting an over-sized backpack into the classroom. I will be that mom next week. My surviving triplet begins her educational journey, embarking on her first year of school. I’ll be that mom crying as my child goes off to preschool, but my tears are for a different reason.

Over this summer, I’ve had many conversations with my 3-year-old about starting school. We picked out crayons and other school supplies and daydreamed about her new classmates. I even tried using it as a tool to help potty train her. But, as I watched my child try on her new fall clothes, it hit me: only one of my children is going off to school.

I gave birth to triplets in 2013, yet only one baby eventually came home with us from the hospital. During my pregnancy, I envisioned our future as a family of five: controlled chaos with three children ruling our house. I pictured Peyton and her identical sister playing together, harassing their brother as he tried to partake in the fun. I pictured family dinners around the table, sharing our trials and tribulations of the day, and I pictured the first day of school with three little children, each one holding up a sign announcing they were entering a new grade.

Why I'll Be Crying On My Daughter's First Day of SchoolBut life threw my family a curveball, forcing us to navigate through a dark road after two of our children died. The loss of a child changes your life forever. While not always visible, I carry the loss of my children deep inside me, as if it’s tattooed on my heart. As the start of the school year approaches, I have spent many nights lying awake, my mind racing with a mix of emotions. I have caught myself bursting into tears at the thought of this major milestone. The first day of school will always be bittersweet. Instead of lining up three little backpacks, only one will be sitting by the front door. And as I say goodbye to my daughter at the drop off, I’ll always wonder what could have been. My heart aches as I think about my two children in heaven. They should be here. My daughter should have her siblings by her side.

While next week will be polluted by grief, it will also be filled with hope and joy. A year ago, the thought of my daughter starting school had not even crossed my mind. Born more than 17 weeks premature, no one expected Peyton to lead a healthy life. Science and statistics were against us. During the early days in the Nicu, my husband and I hoped for the best, but we braced for the worst. Yet, time and time again, our micro-preemie shocked her doctors. A year ago, our house was a walk-in clinic; several therapists making weekly visits to help boost our daughter’s development. Peyton continued to make strides, eventually graduating from every therapist and specialist. Earlier this summer, doctors shared in the excitement as our miracle child officially caught up.

Why I"ll Be Crying On My Daughter's First Day Of SchoolA week from today, my daughter heads off to pre-school. It’s guaranteed that many tears will be shed; some happy and some sad. As I watch her walk into the classroom, a sense of pride will mask the grief. This little girl who was once attached to oxygen tubes and wires, is now breaking free; her independence symbolic of all that she has overcome in her short life. As I pull away from the school for the very first time, tears of happiness will be pouring down my face. My strong-willed child has achieved something no one thought possible, becoming an inspiration to everyone who crosses her path. As I leave my daughter that first day of school, I will be beaming with pride. I’m grateful for my beautiful and ambitious child and I’m proud of the mother she has helped me become.

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The Story Behind Our Charity

The Story Behind Our CharityI might be crazy. I’m a busy mom to a toddler, I work a full time job, I blog and I volunteer. When do I have time to run a non-profit??? It’s been a dream of mine for a long time, so here’s the story behind our charity.

It started shortly after Abby and Parker died in 2013. I spent the months following their losses concentrating on Peyton, our lone survivor. My grief was on hold as I spent all of my time caring for our higher needs child, who was attached to an oxygen tank and required several appointments each week. As the months passed by, my husband and I began to grieve. We missed our two babies and often talked about what life would have been like if all three babies came home with us. As the first anniversary of their deaths approached, we wanted to do something to honor and remember them. We asked friends and family to send children’s books if they wished and we would pass them out to new families in the Nicu. That year, we received more than 250 books.

The Story Behind Our Charity

Our First Donation In 2014

As the second year approached, we shared with friends and family how we planned to honor Parker and Abby. Once again, we were showered with love and support. We had more than 200 books to donate to our local Nicu. During the early days of our four month Nicu stay, we couldn’t hold our children. Peyton and Parker were only one pound each and critically ill. In the first week of the roller coaster experience, one of their nurses suggested bringing books in to read to them. Research shows that reading to a preemie can help stimulate their brain and it also serves as a good way for the parents to bond with their child.

This year, I wanted to take it to the next level. While I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions, I did tell my husband my one goal for 2016: to start a charity in honor of our children. We tossed around the idea for months, with a goal of launching in time for Parker’s Angelversary on August 16th. First up, we needed the perfect name. We knew we wanted to incorporate all three of our triplets in the name. That’s how Triple Heart Foundation was born.

The Story Behind Our CharityThanks to one of Ryan’s best friends, we have a wonderful lawyer who has helped our plan come to fruition. It takes a lot of time to get a charity up and running! Between the legal aspect, the planning and the finances, it’s a very consuming task. Earlier this month, our paperwork was sent off to register Triple Heart Foundation as a 501c3 non-profit charity. While our application is pending, donations may be retroactively tax deductible.

In less than two weeks of launching our charity, we’ve received well over 100 books and monetary donations! We’ve been blown away by the support of so many people across the country. Every time I receive an email from a family who has received one of our books, I tear up. It’s a simple and inexpensive gift that means so much to these families. And thanks to the monetary donations, we’re able to create special labels and bookmarks to go inside each book.

The Story Behind Our CharitySo what are our plans for the future of our charity? We have plenty of ideas, but we want to take our time as we get our feet wet in this new endeavor. In the coming months, we plan to make several donations to St. John’s Children’s Hospital in Springfield. We would like to do special donations centered around holidays and special dates, like “Prematurity Awareness Month” in November. We plan to apply for grants and be able to help the Nicu in other ways, not just by donating books. We also want people to be able to contact us and have the resources to send a children’s book to a Nicu family in any hospital across the country.

And we want to hear your ideas for us. This is just the beginning. I know that big things are ahead for Triple Heart Foundation and I can’t wait to see how our charity unfolds. I see my daughter so full of life and thrilled to help others at such a young age…and that warms my heart. I am proud of all that Peyton has overcome in just three years and I feel blessed to be able to honor her, as well as Parker and Abby, by helping spread some joy to other families going through the Nicu experience.

Triple Heart FoundationPlease take a moment to check out our new website! You can find out how to make donations, as well as see a list of recommended books for Nicu families and learn more about our mission. Plus, we’ll be in need of volunteers in the near future as our charity grows. We’d love to hold book drives and fundraisers across the country, with the help of volunteers. Feel free to contact us through the website if you’d like to help in some way.

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