Bridal Poll

blurry wedding

New York Magazine recently conducted an interesting bridal poll which got me thinking of the parts of my own wedding that are most memorable. Before Clark and I got married, we had so many couples tell us that they barely remember their own wedding day. “It’s all a blur”, they would say. We got married so fast {and with little to no money, I might add}, so there wasn’t much time for us to mull over choices like seating charts, flowers, or cake frosting flavor. Six weeks before our wedding date, I had a dress and a groom. That’s it. Not one invitation, brides maid, or place card… we didn’t even have a location! I was so stressed out at the thought of planning an event for 75+ people to come see my dress and my groom, that I was paralyzed with anxiety.

So we pulled the plug.

We invited our parents, grandparents, and a few lifelong friends to the mountains for three days where we ate, and hiked, and talked, and exchanged memories. By the morning of day three, we had drank in our loved ones so much that when it was time for us to take our vows, it was as if we were the only two people on the mountain– full and present, relaxed and undistracted, and not the least bit “blurry”. My only regret is that we didn’t pull the plug sooner!

What part of your wedding is the most memorable?

{Image via Nate & Jaclyn}

{Guest Post} with Ashleigh from Ungrind

Noah card

I asked my friend Ashleigh to share some thoughts on a rather personal and painful topic. Having never lived through the pain of experiencing a miscarriage myself, I have only been able to sympathize with many of my friends who have endured such a tragic ordeal. I have read this story many times in preparation to share it with you, yet I am still struck by the honesty, the courage, and the vulnerability of my dear friend who has allowed us a glimpse into her family’s past and how they have grieved in the wake of great loss. It is through tears that I invite you to relive the memory with her.

Colorado Springs. It’s the place I birthed two of my five babies and buried one.

The one we buried, we named her Noah.

News of her death came at my 10-week OB appointment. I woke up that fateful Wednesday to the thought, “Today your life is going to change.” Two hours later, it did. A doppler failed to detect a heartbeat; an ultrasound revealed a body much smaller than my due date required. The doctor estimated she had stopped growing at five weeks gestation.

For five weeks — 35 days — I was unaware that I was a walking tomb. I avoided caffeine, exercised with care, and jotted down lists of potential baby names, not knowing her tiny body had ceased to grow within mine.

A week after my D&C, a friend asked my husband Ted, “How’s Ashleigh doing? Is she getting over it?”

I wasn’t.

Life felt as if it played out in a bad dream; a nightmare from which I longed to wake up. I wept, paced, and had to force myself to climb out of bed and to eat. At times, anger overwhelmed me.

And then I hit resigned.

Resigned was worse than numbness; worse than a pillow wet with tears. It was the acceptance that this was just the way it was and there was nothing I could do to change it. It was realizing that we wouldn’t have a baby on or near my husband Ted’s birthday, and that when Christmas came, one smiling kid would be missing from our card. It was a place where the comfort of weeping came to me less often.

Less than a year after, we packed our belongings into a long, yellow truck. We buckled our kids into their car seats and said goodbye to Colorado.

But today, I find myself back to visit family. To be – if only for a couple weeks — in the place I lived and joyed and mourned. And there’s one spot I find myself reluctant to venture: the cemetery.

Noah's grave

Many babies who die through miscarriage aren’t given a physical resting place on earth. We were fortunate that the hospital I had my D&C at holds firmly to the sanctity of life. As a result, we were given options on what would happen to Noah’s body after my D&C. We chose to have her tiny frame buried in a community memorial alongside other preborn babies who have died. This service was offered to us at no charge; a gift from a local Catholic diocese.

I’ve never been one to run from grief. But three years later, I feel the want – or perhaps even the need — to avoid it. Not to engage the pain that sometimes still feels so fresh.

Perhaps my first visits haunt me more than I realize.

It was marked by deep sorrow, tears, and the longing to lay my body prostrate on the fresh dirt and weep. I mourned the physical body I’d never get to nurture.

balloon sisters 1

It was a surreal experience. One that left me reluctant then to leave. As a mom I’d been taught to never leave my babies alone. I felt like I was abandoning her, in the ground, unprotected and left to the elements. It went against everything my mother’s heart felt was right. Ted had to remind me, “She’s not really there, Ashleigh. She’s not there. It’s OK to leave.”

Yet as I remind myself that I’ll regret not visiting once I’m back in Hotlanta, I think back to my second visit. I determined it would be different.

As the sun emerged and the grayness of the day lifted, we approached the grave marker. There, Ted read Psalm 34. We both cried as he spoke aloud the words in verse 8, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Through my tears, I whispered, “Yes, Lord, You are good.”

Balloon sisters 2

My tears of sorrow intermingled with exclamations of praise to the One who promises that, though memory of Noah may fade for many, He will never forget. Her spirit is alive and well in the presence of a strong, tender, compassionate Savior. While my arms may not hold her, His do.

Colorado Springs. It’s the place I birthed two of my five babies and buried one.

The one we buried, we named her Noah.

Ashleigh image

You can connect with Ashleigh on her blog or at Ungrind. You can also follow her on Twitter @ashslater.

A Family Yearbook

Do you keep up with the baby books?

I feel a twinge of guilt whenever I am folding laundry, and I look up at the shelf above utility sink at the two baby books that I started before each of my children were born. The blue one is bursting with first haircuts, ticket stubs, sticky notes of funny sayings, and napkins from first birthday parties. The pink one looks like the binding has never been broken. I started this blog when Mia was a month old, and it has become more of a daily life and inspiration journal of her early years than perhaps a traditional baby book might have been. At least that’s what I tell myself to make myself feel better.

My friend Shelly is not only a talented interior designer and photographer, but she is an inspiring wife and mother. She creates an annual “Family Yearbook” for her party of three that has inspired me to do the same.

They even sign it like an actual yearbook!

My photos and videos tend to get stuck in Digital Purgatory. Call me “old-fashioned”, but sometimes I just feel like cozying up with my memories page by timeless page rather than scrolling through them at stop lights or waiting in line at the bank. Thank you, Shelly, for turning my page-flipping fantasy into a keepsake reality. Be sure to check out Shelly’s blog for tips on how to make your own Family Yearbook.

How do you preserve and enjoy your family memories?