Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Facebook Official!

Well, on this day 5 YEARS AGO,  Matt and I became "Facebook Official!" and changed our status' to "in a relationship"  This blog is going to be about how much Matt has meant to me over the last few months.  I'll try to spare you a ton of the mushy stuff!

The chorus of this Martina McBride song illustrates exactly what Matt has been to me through this...

"He took her in his arms and said "That's what my love is for"
When you're weak, I'll be strong
When you let go, I'll hold on
When you need to cry, I swear that I'll be there to dry your eyes
When you feel lost and scared to death,
Like you can't take one more step
Just take my hand, together we can do it
I'm gonna love you through it.
And when this road gets too long
I'll be the rock you lean on
Just take my hand, together we can do it
I'm gonna love you through it."

I could not have asked for a better partner in life. Sometimes I wonder how I got so lucky.  I honestly don't know where I would be in this journey without him.  He has helped me in my healing process more than he knows.  (I guess he will know now :) )  On Halloween night when we discovered McKinley no longer had a heartbeat, I was devastated.  After her delivery and over the course of the next 2 weeks, I cried daily, and most days many times.  Each time different things would trigger the tears.  Going into the closet to get dressed and all I saw were maternity clothes, thinking that I felt her move but knowing it couldn't be because she was no longer there, looking at her ultrasound picture that is still on our refrig, walking into the room that was suppose to be her nursery, seeing the blanket that my grandmother knitted for her.   Matt took the week off that she was born and then he worked from home the next week.  It was good to just have him here with me.  Anytime Matt saw the tears start to fill my eyes, he would completely stop what he was doing and come to my side.  After I calmed down, he always asked me what triggered the tears. We just sat there and talked about exactly what made me cry (which was different most times.)  Even though sometimes, I just didn't want to talk about it, I still did.  I believe this has helped tremendously in my grieving and healing process.   Talking and communication with each other through this has also brought us closer in our marriage. 

I would like to say thank you to my wonderful husband, Matt who has been my soft place to land during the hardest time in my entire life.   Thank you for always being there for me.  I love you with my whole heart.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"The Finer Things"

DISCLAIMER:  You may think I am absolutely crazy after reading this post!  :)

Close to the end of my pregnancy, I decided that I needed to expose McKinley to the "Finer Things" in life.  What might this include, you ask?  None other than the BIG MAC!  Well...let's just say, that's where it began.  I figured that since the reality was that McKinley would never be able to experience such things, we could share these things together!!  Note: This could very well be me in complete denial and that this was only an excuse to eat these things myself....but who cares!!  When I was a kid and before America realized how bad McDonald's was for you, I loved Big Macs!  Of course I could never eat a whole one, I would always split it with my mom.  Well, one night, I didn't feel like cooking, so I asked Matt to stop and grab dinner on his way home.  I decided it was time.  I could not let my daughter go her entire life without tasting the "special sauce."  Before this, I hadn't had a Big Mac in years.  Matt laughed when I told him what I wanted because I don't think he has ever seen me eat one!  So, that night, I sent my mom a text and said, "McKinley and I just split a Big Mac!"  Such a special mother-daughter moment.  :)  Side note: I, of course, am not naive enough to think she could actually taste these things, its just the principal. Hopefully you used your imagination for this post.  :)

The other thing that I was so excited to "share" with McKinley was the "Limited Time" (for the holidays)  Peppermint Chocolate Chip Milkshake at Chickfila.  If you have never had one of these....just say no, and you will never know what you are missing!  After my first one last year(knowing the nutritional facts are horrendous) , I even tried to make a "lower" fat version at home....TOTAL FAILURE and complete letdown!  So, I was waiting for that glorious day when I saw the sign on the Chickfila billboard say, "Its back!" as it did last year.  Well, I am sad to say that I did see that sign, but it was the week after we lost her.  So I have decided that after Thanksgiving, I will have my first (and most likely only, since pregnancy is not my excuse for gaining weight now, haha) Peppermint Chocolate Chip Milkshake with Matt on a blanket by her graveside.  It was just something that I was so excited to share with her and didn't get to.  I feel that this is the closest thing to sharing it with her.

Matt and I go to her site often and have talked about having picnics there when it gets warmer because her plot sits under a pretty tree.  It just our way of feeling close to her and spending time with her even though we know she is in heaven.      

Sunday, November 20, 2011


As stated in my last blog, last Sundays sermon was about "Suffering," and this Sundays sermon was about "Healing."  The series was about the Supernatural: When Prayer Invades the Natural.  I wanted to share some notes that I took today that I found very helpful.

The sermon was split up into 3 parts:  The "Do Know," The "Don't Know," and The "Who Knows."

1.  The "Do Know"

-God is not the source of sickness, sin is.  Even though we or someone we love probably doesn't get sick based on our sins directly, we live in a world of sin.  No one is sin-free.
-God does supernaturally heal.
-All healing is temporary.  We will all die at some point.
-God invites us to be a part of healing through prayer.

2. The "Don't Know"

-Why God does not heal some.  God does not heal everyone, every time.
-We don't know what God sees.  His ways and thoughts are much higher than ours.

(The pastor told us a story of him and his youngest son.  They were in the car driving while his son was in the back seat playing legos.  All of the sudden, Kevin (our pastor) slams on his brakes and the legos go everywhere.  His son gets really angry with him because now his legos are everywhere and he has to clean them up.  All his son knew was that this ruined what he was building with his legos.  Later, Kevin sits his son down and says, "What you don't know about the car ride is that a deer ran out in front of our car and I slammed on brakes to keep you safe from harm and possibly save your life." )

His son didn't know what he saw.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

3.  The "Who Knows"

(This is hope-filled)
-God might be gracious!

**The ultimate healing is eternal life, and he offers that to everyone who is willing to accept it.**

I hope that whatever you may be going through that these notes were helpful to you like they were for me!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Anger into Thankfulness

When we began to see the specialist, and especially after we got McKinley's diagnosis, an anger started to grow inside of me.  I grew angry with God.  Why would God let this happen to 2 people who want to be parents so badly?  I wondered, “Is God punishing me?”  What did I do wrong to deserve this? Was it because we skipped church that time to do yard work?  Is there a lesson you want to teach me?

I am sad to say that we stopped going to church for about 2 months because of my anger towards God.  How could I go to church every Sunday and praise the One who is about to take my daughter from me?  We go to a pretty big church, so, what do you get with a really big church?.....Yes, a bunch of kids!  I would see kids running around, perfectly normal and healthy.  Why did MY daughter have this fate?  I knew that I would never get to see her running around having fun with other kids like this.  It was just too much to grasp.

It was only a couple weeks before she was born that I felt like I was getting into a place of comfort. This is the "okay" feeling that I refer to in McKinley's Story post.   I was coming to terms with what my future would hold.  Maybe I will never know why, but God trusted Matt and I enough to be McKinley's parents. 

Almost immediately after she was born, I had a turning point. No matter how angry I was with God for letting my daughter die and no matter how much church I missed because of this anger towards him, I still knew that McKinley was in Heaven with Him.  There was never a doubt in my mind where she would be after she left us. What better way to be close to my daughter than being close to the One who is holding her?  Insert turning point.

This past Sunday was our first Sunday backto church in a couple months.  It was really good to be back and I had missed it.  So...our first Sunday back and the sermon was about "Suffering..."  It really hit home for Matt and I.  He followed it up by telling us this weeks sermon will be about "Healing..."  Okay, God, I can hear you loud and clear!!  You have my attention!  This was an example to me of how God's timing is perfect.  This was no coincidence. 

I took some time off work after McKinley's birth.  I read "Heaven is for Real," which was given to me a few weeks back.  I cannot tell you how much that book opened my eyes to where my daughter is.  I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone. 

Now, a couple weeks after our daughter came into our lives and our hearts forever, I am in a much better place.  She changed us.  I thank God for bringing her into our lives.  Wait, now I am thanking the God I was so angry at?  Yes, I am.  I am thankful to have the privilege to always be McKinley's mom.  He knew this precious child needed to be loved unconditionally,  he gave her to Matt and I because he knew we would do just that.

Friday, November 18, 2011

McKinley's Story

After our 13th week visit, our doctor sent us to a Maternal Fetal Specialist because of something he saw on our ultrasound. After the visit to the Specialist, we received the news that there was a strong possibility of a chromosomal abnormality. The specialist informed us that a few of the more rare abnormalities were considered “incompatible with life” and because of that, we decided to have further testing to get an absolute diagnosis to prepare us for what our future held.

On September 26th, at 18 weeks gestation, our lives were flipped upside down when we found out that our baby girl was 1 in 10,000 and the diagnosis was Trisomy 13. McKinley had an extra chromosome #13 and this would affect the development of her entire body. We were informed the devastating news that if she survived to full term, our time would be limited to hours, maybe days.  The doctor gave us the option of termination in which we were surprised to find out was the decision most couples make. This was never an option for us, period. Our minds were put at ease when we were told that she was in absolutely no pain. She is our precious daughter and as parents we wanted her to live the longest life possible. We prayed that we would see the day when we would be able to hold her in our arms and have her beautiful eyes look up at us.

We were relieved to find out that the process in which she received the extra chromosome was not hereditary; therefore there was no need for genetic testing before trying to conceive again. This was a very random occurrence that happened at conception. We were told that there is less than a 1% chance this would happen to us again.

In the weeks to follow, we were thrilled to see that our little girl was a fighter and had a strong heartbeat. At one of the ultrasounds, we got to see her “dancing,” in the words of the technician. Six weeks after the diagnosis, we still had our “bad” days but we could finally say, “We’re okay.” God chose us to be McKinley’s parents and we would love her unconditionally.

On Monday, October 31, 2011, at our 6 month checkup, we found out that our angel had gone to heaven. We arrived at the hospital on Tuesday morning at 7 a.m. to be induced, and delivered McKinley on Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 6:34 a.m. She was 9.5 inches long and 8 oz.

She was baptized in a sweet ceremony in our room with family and we were able to spend the day with her, holding and cherishing every moment. We are so thankful for the kindness of the doctors and nurses at the hospital. Along with the hospital staff, the thoughtful mothers who have struggled with the loss of a baby themselves, who take the time to make the very small dresses and hats and donate them to the hospital for parents in this situation.

On Wednesday afternoon, we visited a beautiful cemetery and picked out the most perfect spot for her under a tree. We will forever be grateful to the staff at the funeral home who took such special care of our sweet angel. They did an amazing job dressing her and wrapping her in the white blanket given to us by the hospital. On November 3rd, we had a private Graveside Memorial Service for her with our family. At her grave site, we’ve placed a shepherd’s hook from our wedding with flowers and we plan to hang a wind chime so she can listen to her lullabies.

Through this process, our love for each other has grown stronger and stronger. We will always be McKinley’s parents and we will always love her and never forget her. Our families have been an amazing support system for us as well as our close friends. They’ve loved McKinley from the time we told them the wonderful news that we were pregnant.

We will miss McKinley dearly but will forever be grateful that God sent her into our lives even for such a short amount of time. She has taught us so many things and our lives will be changed forever because of her sweet face.

Our beautiful angel, McKinley Grace Howard, was born into heaven on November 2, 2011. Mommy and Daddy love you more than you know. Not a day will go by without you in our thoughts. Our comfort is knowing that God is holding you in His loving arms and one day we will see you again.

Kalee and Matt

Chosen by Matt and I for McKinley's Memorial Service.
Psalm 139:13-15

13 For you formed my inward parts;
... you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

The reason for my blog..

Hey everyone.  I have decided to start a blog!  This blog is in memory of our daughter, McKinley Grace Howard (her story is to come).  I will share things about her as well as about the Howard family in general! 

When we got McKinley's diagnosis, I started searching everything I could find about her condition.  Then, I was given Katie's blog by a friend.  Her daughter, Hallie, was also diagnosed with Trisomy 13.  I found such comfort in reading her blog and I found her blog very "real," which was so helpful for me.  From her blog,  I then found Kara and Miranda, whom I have been speaking with over email as well!  Hi girls!!!  You 3 are such wonderful women and mothers and I am so glad to have come in contact with you!   You have inspired me to create this blog!  It is my hope that another mother finds my blog one day and finds comfort in the fact that "You are not alone."  This is the comfort I've felt from reading the blogs by these 3 women.