Hopes

It is night time on December 2nd, 2013 — only a few hours away from December 3rd — the day Branch Lionheart Murdock will be born. I spent today in a fairly ordinary fashion, which is how I wanted to spend it. I made myself eggs and an english muffin. I showered. I met my Mom and two of my sisters for lunch at the mall. Glenn is picking up Chipotle and bringing it back here for dinner. The only “out of the ordinary” thing I did was get myself a swanky manicure/pedicure at an up-scale nail salon I have only been to twice. It was pretty awesome. I figured if there was a day to do it, today was the day.

I have to stop eating by midnight tonight. I spoke with the anesthesiologist on the phone today and she said I am allowed to have gatorade and water until 8am, which made me super excited, because I had anticipated not being able to even have any water after midnight.

I hope I don’t throw up tomorrow. I REALLY hate throwing up. The anesthesiologist is now aware of this fact, and said she will do everything in her power to make it so I don’t get nauseous.

I hope Glenn doesn’t pass out. He has a “thing” where he passes out more than the average human. It’s been several years now since he has had an “episode”, but large needles going into my spine, and being in the same room as me as I’m being sliced open aren’t really going to help matters.

I hope Branch is born alive. His chances are good of being born alive, but it isn’t guaranteed.

I hope God’s shield continues to surround me, and that I can be present for every second of Branch’s life.

I hope I don’t lose it — and I mean REALLY lose it, like shaking uncontrollably and not being able to even get one word out and hysterical crying that is in no way consolable — during my time at the hospital. This isn’t really in my history, but if it were to happen, I would rather it not be while I’m stuck in the hospital.

I hope Branch’s hats and clothes fit. Our friend Jenna made him two hats specifically for anencephalic babies. They are so small and sweet. They are perfect.

I hope he knows how much we love him. That he can feel it now, and that he will feel it in every minute he spends with us tomorrow. I hope God tells him how perfect he is. How many people cared. How he changed us forever and made our lives better.

I hope people remember Branch. When the tragedy of our story fades away. When we have more kids. When everything seems ok but my heart is still hurting.

I hope part of Branch’s legacy is encouraging someone else to carry their baby. If there were anything I would hope, out of this entire experience, it would be that our lives would point to God above all else, and that someone would be encouraged to CARRY their baby.  God is always good. Always. It is always worth carrying your baby. Always.

Love to you all,

Kristin

ps. I probably won’t be updating Facebook or the blog until later in the week. Thank you so much for your encouragement and prayers! I LOVE you all.

Baby Murdock Fund

My Mom’s Blog

A Shower for Branch {and Me!}

Today I plan {key word PLAN — sometimes these things don’t actually happen…} to write two blog posts. This one, about the fabulous party my sisters threw for Branch and me, and another, acknowledging that tomorrow we meet our sweet baby boy. First things first: the shower!!

It was exactly one month ago, November 2nd, 2013. My sisters had sent out the cutest invitations to lots of my lady friends to come celebrate Branch’s life and encourage me in my last month of pregnancy. The shower was ABSOLUTE PERFECTION! I loved every minute, and Branch did, too. That could have been because his favorite foods were there: Bread & Cie croissants, iced tea, sparking juice, and cured meats. Yum.

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My sisters told me to invite anyone and everyone, and so I did just that. I was kind of worried that people would think it was weird to have a baby shower for a baby that was going to die shortly after birth, but the more I talked to people about it, the more I realized they wanted a reason to celebrate Branch and encourage me, too. It was seriously awesome. SO many lovely women came. I was blown away! My best friend was even able to be there — all the way from Connecticut!

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The most exciting moment of the shower happened right after I got there. I walked in, saw my aunt and cousin who had driven in all the way from Scottsdale {started crying immediately}, then saw my mother-in-law {started crying again}, and then was told there was a gift for me in one of the rooms. I walked back, expecting some sort of flowers or cupcakes or something, and my MOTHER was there!!! She and my sisters had conspired against me and totally surprised me by having her fly out! It was so cool! I was *slightly* hysterical for a few minutes, but managed to re-gain composure and then just be excited my Mom was there to celebrate with us. I still can’t believe they pulled the surprise off — my Mom is usually terrible at keeping a secret!

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left to right: Lauren {cousin}, Corrie {sister}, me, Kimberly {sister}, Mom, Corrine {aunt}

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This is me with my Mom and Mother-in-Law Janice. So glad they were both able to be there!!

My sisters did a great job selecting a venue, planning the party, and making things low-key but celebratory. They rented out the penthouse suite at The Palomar San Diego which was absolutely incredible! There was plenty of space and gorgeous views of downtown for everyone to enjoy!

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Since I wouldn’t be needing baby clothes or gifts, my sisters had the brilliant idea of telling people who wanted to bring a gift to bring a gift card for me to use come January. I think my friend Erin put it best: “A gift card may seem trite considering the circumstances, but never underestimate the power of a cute outfit on improving your mood.” I really couldn’t agree more. It was so sweet of my sisters to think of me and what I would want to do/ways to encourage me to get out of the house after the big events are over and Branch is gone. It was also REALLY nice of the ladies in attendance to bring me such sweet gifts. Once again, I was blown away by the generosity of my loved ones.

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There were also a couple of fun games, like this one where there were pictures of “famous” babies and everyone had to guess who was who. My sisters chose my favorite celebrities and used either photos of them as babies, or photos of their babies: Giuliana & Bill Rancic, Sandra Bullock, Hugh Jackman, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush. They know me all too well. It was both hilarious and amazing, plus the little baby pictures were so cute!

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I really can’t think of a way to thank my sisters and the friends who helped them throw the shower, our family who has already sacrificed so much for us and continue to sacrifice more, and all of the lovely, lovely ladies who took time out of their lives to come celebrate Branch. So THANK YOU. It was one of my favorite days in life, and the love you all showed me and Branch encourages me regularly.

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Much love, and talk to you all tonight.

Kristin

Baby Murdock Fund

My Mom’s Blog

Kindness

In one week, we meet little Branch. I am nervous and excited and sad and afraid and all sorts of other things all at once. I will attempt to write about those things at some point this week, but today I want to focus on kindness.

The Kindness of Strangers

The ultrasound tech who gently told us about our baby’s condition, instead of leaving us alone in that dark room and making someone else do the dirty work. The salespeople at Nordstrom Horton Plaza who have, time and time again, gone above and beyond to show me grace, love, and dignity — whether or not I buy anything, and never knowing my story. My pastor’s assistant, whom I have only briefly met, who cried with me today as I stopped by the office.

The Kindness of the Medical Community

My doctor, who showed her faith without crossing any doctor/patient boundaries, and values my son’s life when many in her field do not. The staff at Scripps Mercy in Hillcrest, who called Branch by name, told us we were amazing, and are arranging things to be as good as they can be for us next Tuesday.

The Kindness of Generosity

Gifts, gift cards, photo shoots, encouraging notes, haircuts, meals, e-mails, parties, and donations to the Baby Murdock Fund. I am blown away — BLOWN AWAY — by the kindness and generosity I have been the recipient of.  This may seem a bit dramatic, but I truly feel like people are being the hands and feet of Jesus with each act of generosity I see. It is a tangible representation of how much He is taking care of us in the midst of our grief. I can not thank you enough for being kind and generous to us. I pray I am this generous to others.

The Kindness of The King

Throughout my time carrying Branch, God has been so immensely good to me. I can not think of His kindness without my eyes welling up with tears. He has spoken words of love, compassion, and mercy to my spirit. He has told me He is proud of me. He has affirmed my son’s name, Branch Lionheart, in astounding ways. He has provided a trustworthy mentor who guides and walks alongside me even when the days are dark. He has promised He will never forget or dismiss me. He has told me that I matter, that my baby’s life matters, and that He knows what it is like to lose a Son. He has promised to walk with me through the coming days, weeks, months, and years. He is so kind, and He is worthy of my praise.

Lamentations 3:22-23

“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning: great is Your faithfulness.”

Much love to you who read along,

~Kristin

Baby Murdock Fund

My Mom’s Blog

Parenting

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Today marks two weeks until we will meet our sweet Branch in person. As our time with him in my belly draws to a close, it is time to finally start some of the preparations for his arrival into our arms, and then ultimately into God’s arms. At first I kind of wanted to avoid some of these tasks as they seemed too sad, even for me as Branch’s mom. Glenn then reminded me of something we had read in A Gift of Time {the best book, in my opinion, about carrying a baby whose life is expected to be brief} — these hard things are our opportunity to parent Branch. We won’t have much time to parent him here on earth, but we can serve and parent him while he is still with us by preparing for his time here. Who better to do this than us, his parents?

And so, with a new attitude, we embarked on several difficult but important tasks to prepare for Branch’s arrival.

We met with a few people at the hospital where we will be giving birth to Branch. They were so kind, and on our way out we noticed a large piece of art on the wall of the hospital — a tree with gold branches called The Tree of Life {pictured above}.

We met with Elizabeth Hospice, who have specific experience with perinatal hospice care.

We started our birth plan which will hopefully outline our priorities for our time with Branch.

We picked out a couple of little outfits for Branch to wear. Mara was a great help to me in this, as she told me what she had done for her little girl Julia — two outfits to wear during our time together and for photographs, one going-away outfit. I had a minor crisis at Nordstrom as I found a sweet little footed onesie I thought would be good for his going-away outfit, and wondered if $25 was too much to spend on something that would ultimately be buried. I decided that no, indeed, Branch deserved to be buried in a $25 onesie. And as my son, it is only fitting the last thing he wears be from Nordstrom.

We met with our pastor, who has been part of our lives since high school, and came up with the beginnings of a plan for a dedication on Branch’s birthday, a graveside service, and a memorial/celebration of life service. We are so grateful to have a pastor who knows us, loves us, and has walked with us through so many life stages.

I bought a dress to wear to the burial/graveside service. It’s black and covered in lace and pretty.

We met with our doctor, as it seems we now do ALL THE TIME {luckily we love her!!} and selected a delivery method and date. If all goes according to plan, Branch Lionheart Murdock will be born via scheduled c-section on Tuesday, December 3rd. We are  praying that all goes perfectly with the surgery, and that Branch is born alive.

Though I wish I didn’t have to take these steps or make these plans, I would choose to do them again in a heartbeat if it meant I could have spent the last 8 1/2 months with Branch.

God is good. In the pain, in the joy, in the plans. He goes before me. May my heart always follow Him.

Jeremiah 29:11-13

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Much love,

~Kristin

Baby Murdock Fund

My Mom’s Blog

 

Eight Months

I am currently in the eighth month of pregnancy. Yowza! Only about three weeks to go until we meet Branch in person… I almost can’t believe it. Here I am with Kimberly yesterday, for those of you who like to see what women look like who are eight months pregnant — although I will say this doesn’t make my belly look huge, but it’s the only shot I have of the WHOLE belly, so I’m going with it. We are doing “selfie face” with Branch. He’s pretty hip.

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As I was organizing and updating my calendars the other day,  I realized that I had purchased a little customizable desk calendar eight months ago. When I bought the calendar, I decided I would add a verse to it each month, and attempt some sort of artwork that went with the verse or month.  For some reason it just struck me that I had bought the calendar right before I found out I was pregnant on April 1st, so the only months I have a verse and drawing for are months I have been carrying Branch.  I found it interesting to look over the verses I had chosen for each month, and maybe you will, too.

April

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May

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June   *the 27th of June was the day we received Branch’s diagnosis*

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July

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August

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September

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October

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November

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I don’t know what December will hold, or what verse God will put on my heart for that month, but hopefully I will remember and share that with you all, too.

May you each have an evening filled with good things.

~Kristin

 

Failure — Day Three

I technically didn’t complete the challenge Glenn issued me — because I didn’t blog yesterday. Instead, I am blogging today, and will also publicly humiliate my spouse by posting a picture of him when he was a little boy.

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I am sure I will be mandated to remove that photo sometime in the very near future, so if you get to see it, consider yourself among the privileged few.

Today I will answer the question that everyone asks, and I never know how to answer :: How are you?

As the months have gone by, I am a little less fragile and taken aback when people ask this question, or any variation of it {How are you feeling? How are you today? How have you been this week? Etc.}, because there really is NO OTHER WAY to ask what they are asking. The problem here is ME. I have no idea how to answer. I really like talking about Branch, about my pregnancy, about anencephaly, about grief. It’s therapeutic and makes me feel like people care. I just don’t know how far to go, or what EXACTLY the person asking wants to know in the moment when they ask “How are you?”

Here is my list of potential answers. Depending on my relationship with the asker, the circumstances or location in which they are asking me the question, and how volatile I may be feeling at the moment, any of these answers could come out.  It should also be noted that these are the answers that I would give to someone who knows me/Glenn or at least knows about our current pregnancy and diagnosis. If it’s a stranger, I smile and say “Great!”

“HOW ARE YOU?”

1. Halfway authentic smile. “Good. I mean, yea… pretty good.”

2. Halfway authentic smile. “I am ok, thanks. Riding the waves of grief. Taking things as they come.”

3. Halfway authentic smile. “Ummm… it’s interesting.”

4. Halfway authentic smile. “We’re kind of a mess.”

5. Attempt at smile through tears. “Pretty rough. This is really hard, and I don’t know how to not be sad.”

The truth is, at every moment I am feeling all of these things. I am really good, especially considering our current circumstances. I am riding the waves of grief — and boy is it an interesting ride. I am a big flipping disaster, and very well may have had a breakdown ten minutes before you asked how I was doing. This process is really hard. So hard that I wonder if I will ever experience a time that I am NOT sad again.

I think it’s ok to be feeling all of these things. The mental-health/grief professionals say everything is healthy as long as there is movement and you’re not stuck in one area for a long time. They also say that time heals. It doesn’t make it all go away. It won’t make me forget Branch, or pretend like this never happened, or be “ok” with his death…but it will make the waves I am riding less drastic, and make it so that sadness isn’t the primary emotion I feel every day.

I feel good things, too. Especially this week. In two days, my best friend is flying in to spend time with us. This coming weekend, my sisters are throwing me and Branch a shower and I am really really really excited about it! There are big rain clouds headed my direction, and the cool breeze is making it possible for me to sit here in a cashmere wrap I have had for ten years and still look forward to snuggling up in. My grief candle flickers, reminding me of God’s presence. He is always good.

Matthew 28:20b {ESV}

“Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Much love, and thank you for reading along.

~Kristin

Baby Murdock Fund {THANK YOU to those who have donated! You really have no idea how your kindness and generosity has impacted us!}

My Mom’s Blog

Challenge — Day One

At some point in the past twelve hours, I am not exactly sure when, Glenn challenged me to write blog posts a few days in a row. He said he thought it would be healthy, and interesting, to see the ups and downs of a few days. I am choosing today as day one, and have no idea what I am going to write about so this may turn into some sort of To-Do list.

 

It’s Friday. The last Friday in October. I remember at the beginning of July, when Branch’s diagnosis was so new and every day felt like it was covered in a thick fog, how I wished for the months to fly by. For December to already be here. The waiting seemed like the hardest part, and I prayed every day that God would make it go quickly.

Now, with November only a few days away, I don’t even know what I wish for. Every day seems to zoom past me, like I’m on a train with no stops, headed toward a cliff and ravine that leads to even more unknown. Will I make it through the ride? What will the drop feel like? Is this part the hardest, or is the worst yet to come? Is the ravine filled with flowers and hummingbirds and butterflies? Will I live there forever? Who will still care, after the drop?

Grief. It’s still not fun.

We saw Branch last night for the last time until his birthday. He was all snuggled up inside of me — as he has been almost every time. He seems to be quite cozy in there, and covers his sweet face with his hands every time we see him.  He has a strong heart, every internal organ he would ever need, excellent blood-flow, and his little fingers and toes are perfect. He has long legs. I hope our future children have long legs, too. I will tell them they are just like their brother in Heaven.  The only thing Branch is missing is his full brain and skull, and so he can’t live. In some ways I wonder if it would be easier if there were something else wrong. If it weren’t just that ONE little neural tube issue that happened at week six, before anyone except for us knew I was pregnant.  I am sure it would not be easier at all, but sometimes I just wonder.

It was just Glenn and I who went to see him last night, and the ultrasound tech was so sweet. She has been our tech for our last three ultrasounds, so she has gotten to know us and Branch a little bit. She gave us hugs when we left, and told us she knew she would see us again in the future. We left with smiles on our faces, and burst into tears in the parking lot.

Sorrow mixed with joy.

We are making basic burial plans, and arranging meetings with the hospital and social workers. I looked at black fascinator  veils on Etsy. I want the burial to be fairly small and private, and I want it to embody mourning as much as it can. I know we have hope, and that we would choose to do this again if it meant we got to spend this time with Branch, but I just want to be sad, sad, and nothing more than sad, for one day. For all in attendance to wear black. For there to be a moment where we stand together, knowing our sweet little boy is in Heaven and healed, but weeping for the losses we experience while here on Earth.

Darkness comes before the Light.

I have a new candle. I call it my grief candle. It is beautiful, and makes my whole house smell warm. It is gold and flickers for hours on end, reminding me of the changing seasons, of the beauty that is to come, of the kindness we receive. My Mom wrote a really lovely post on trees and seasons last week. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, I would highly recommend it. It reminded me that although winter is going to be dark and scary, spring will always come.

Thank you for reading along. For caring about me, Glenn, and Branch. For letting me have a place where I can just write and feel and be whatever it is I may be today. What I know for sure, through all of the grieving, is that we are not meant to walk this road alone. So thank you.

Until tomorrow,

Kristin

My Mom’s Blog

Baby Murdock Fund

 

Livin’ the Life

In the past month we have had lots of fun and adventure as Branch continues to grow grow grow. I think my womb must be offering karate classes, because he has turned into quite the little maniac in there. I have heard that it is sad for some Mom’s who are carrying babies with a fatal diagnosis to feel the baby kicking, but it has been pretty fun for me so far. This is my first pregnancy, so everything surrounding it is new and kind of exciting, even though the grief is still there every day.  In just a couple of months I know I may have moments where I miss feeling his little kicks, so I am trying to enjoy them now — even if he is destroying my insides with his long legs.

On to the Murdock Adventures! Our first, and biggest, adventure was a trip to Kaua’i — one of our favorite places, and an island we have had the great privilege of visiting multiple times. We stayed on the North Shore, a part of the island we had only taken day trips to on previous visits. It is the most lush and rainy part of Kaua’i, and therefore absolutely stunning. I am sure tourists who come from other parts of the country are irritated with the daily tropical storms of the North Shore, but we absolutely loved them. Rain, to Southern Californians, is like manna from Heaven.  I could post about 200 pictures from this trip, but I will spare you the details and just put up some highlights.  {BIG thank-you’s to the Brett & Becca Murdock’s for letting us borrow their timeshare, and to Delta Airlines for offering flights for miles instead of cash. You made this awesome trip possible! Yay!!}

We “hiked” {have you ever taken a woman who is 7 months pregnant on a HIKE?!?!} and walked around Waimea Canyon. It rained on us and we were not prepared, but it was still fun.
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We treated ourselves to shave ice with mac-nut ice cream on the bottom. A must.
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We lounged in the hammock.
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We went to the beach………Glenn carried everything.
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We went to a local hot spot and had Loco Moco for breakfast. Looks horriffic, I know, but it was seriously soooooooo good.
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We celebrated our last night on the island with a fancy dinner out at my favorite restaurant on Kaua’i – The Beach House. Here we are on the lawn in front of the restaurant, right before sunset. A stranger, who had evidently never used a camera before, took several pictures of us. Blurry but it works!
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And finally, we flew home separately {we booked our tickets with miles, remember?} which gave Glenn a few hours alone on the island. He was a stud and hiked down a waterfall.
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I was planning on updating you on ALL the interesting things this past month brought, but this post is getting kind of long already, so I will wait until next time to do that.

Hope you are having a lovely day!

~Kristin

Promises and Baby Names

The other day, while heading home from a day full of appointments, lunches, and meetings, God gave me this sunset.

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Every day He reminds me of His deep love.

Every day He shows me that His heart breaks over great loss.

Every day His promises are new and real and true. For me, for you, for our baby boy Branch Lionheart Murdock.

Isaiah 65: 17 and 20a
“Behold, I will create a new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. … Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years.”

Isaiah 4:2
“In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel.”

Much love to you all today,

Kristin

P.S. Yes his middle name really is Lionheart. Roar!