Carrying Cullen

A Journey of Life, Love, and Daily Blessings with Our Baby Boy

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Holiday Grief

I haven't posted in a month... Every time I sit down to write, I can't.  Every time I try to find the words, they just don't come...  I feel like the devil has really been getting me down with leaving me speechless these last several weeks.  

Sorting through emotions during the holidays and going back to work has been slightly overwhelming.  These past two weeks I have prayed for strength, guidance and direction.  And I then learned of three families facing a diagnosis of anencephaly for their sweet babies and my heart broke into a million pieces for them...  It took me back to that place.  Then through sharing these families stories with Joe, I realized that maybe their stories were brought into my life as an answer to my prayer for direction... to write, to continue to share our story with Cullen, to speak the silent words and emotions we feel, but do not share everyday, and to try to help these families and the women who are carrying their precious little ones knowing the probable outcome. 

With that realization, with the direction the Lord gave me, the words began to flow... the words and the emotions I haven't been able to voice the last month "out loud" came to me and I have the strength to write them...


Rewinding back to December... 

We know it's healthy to get up everyday, put one foot in front of the other, and work through our days one step at a time.  But how do you handle the holidays after such a loss?  Do you continue with your regular traditions?  Do you change it completely?  Do you not celebrate at all?  I believe there is no right or wrong answer, you do what's best for you. 

Joe and I decided we would still do Christmas this year, but just keep it small.  I love giving to others, especially at Christmastime and have fun shopping for just the right gift.  This year was no different, but I could tell I was struggling.  I just didn't have the same enthusiasm as usual.  It really didn't hit me though until I was standing in the check out line at Target one day with Joe's sister-in-law and I heard a baby crying.  I looked over to see a mom consoling her baby boy in the front of her shopping cart.  I realized I would never have my baby boy in the front of a shopping cart, to push around in the store, to shop for, to shop with... and silly as it sounds, to hear him cry because he was tired, hungry or had enough Christmas shopping with mommy.  I had to walk away and excuse myself to the restroom.  Emotions caught up with me, and I was ready to break down... but I took a deep breath and I prayed, standing, hiding in a bathroom stall from the world, that He would lift me up.  He carried me out of that Target store, into the remaining weeks and before we knew it Christmas had arrived. 


Christmas Eve was a ball of emotions.  It's always one of my favorite nights and one of my favorite church services; the beautiful Christmas hymns, poinsettias brightening up the church, joining together after the service with family to eat, open gifts, and spend quality time with one another.... But again, this year, it just wasn't quite as joyful.  There was a feeling of emptiness and sadness; something was missing.  Joe actually looked at me while getting ready for the church service and said, "Do we have to go?"  With him typically being the 'stronger' one and not often the one to be quite as overwhelmed with emotion, it took me back a second... and I said, "No, we don't have to go..."  But with some thought, we both decided it was healthier and better for us to attend Christmas Eve service and celebrate our Saviour's birth with our families, as opposed to sitting at home in sadness with one another. 

Standing in the pew, the hymns seemed to drown in the background of my thoughts and emotions...  The parts I heard of the sermon were a great message, but I couldn't quite seem to truly focus... and Silent Night brought tears to my eyes as I heard those words ".... mother and child....  sleep in heavenly peace...."  I was filled with a mountain of emotions.  I cried because this mother did not have her child there with her, to hold, to sing to, to hug tightly... and I cried because I was so grateful for the birth of Jesus and thought of the overwhelming emotions Mary must have felt to give birth to God's son.


Waking Christmas morning the first thing I thought of was Cullen.  Our baby boy was truly the only thing I wanted for Christmas, but I know God had other plans...  It was especially hard not to have him with us that day, but we maintained our regular Christmas day routine, driving to visit our families and spend quality time with everyone. 

Our first stop this year though was Cullen's grave.  We took our coffee and hot chocolate, laid down a blanket, and had Christmas morning with him as best we could.  We lit candles and set them next to his grave and sang Silent Night as the sun rose.  We each opened a present, and a gift a friend had given us for Cullen, as well.  It was a "Baby Boy's First Christmas" ornament.  Coming from another family who had lost their little girl so many years ago, we knew they could truly sympathize and understand.  It was Cullen's first Christmas with us, just in a different way.  And even though I missed him terribly... it made me smile to think of him celebrating Jesus' birthday right by his side in Heaven.  What a celebration it must have been! 


It wasn't until the end of the day that Joe and I both were emotionally and physically drained after driving to see all of our families and partake in the regular festivities... as we were in bed and asleep by 8:00.  Smiling, hugging, putting on a "pretty face" like we were "okay"... it was exhausting.  Please don't get me wrong, it was a blessing to be with our families and we did enjoy it, but I think we both realized it was maybe just a little too much.  We reminded ourselves to focus on all of the positive things we had while I was pregnant with Cullen, after he was born, the time we had with him, and the family we still had to celebrate Christmas with, but some days it just doesn't take away the hurt and heartache.  


(This was the amazing Christmas sunset we were able to enjoy driving home.  Looking to the sky, it made me smile and I thought of "God's Winks".   I can't see a sunset without thinking of Cullen... and He was winking at us, reminding us Cullen was looking down on us and he was with us all day.)


Christmas came and went, and New Years crept in.  (I feel like December never existed.)  We planned to celebrate New Years Eve with a large group of friends, but when it came time, just couldn't bring ourselves to go.  You would think spending time with friends would help, but for some reason New Years was even harder than Christmas.  My heart was heavy and weighed down for my best friend and what she was facing, for family members, for church family, and for the emotional battle we continue to face everyday.  We didn't want to ruin anyone's fun evening, so we decided being with a small group of family was a little less overwhelming and might be best. 

Ringing in the New Year without Cullen in our arms?...  It was tough.  We really didn't feel much like celebrating...  Although, we kept reminding ourselves of all the blessings the Lord gave us in 2013 and the precious time we did have with Cullen, and that we will carry him with us in our hearts everyday of 2014 and the rest of our lives.


One of my favorite bible verses that I have shared many times, Jeremiah 29:11 says, "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."  We know the Lord will keep His hands upon us, continuing to blanket us with His mercy and His sustaining grace, like only He can.  We know He will continue to meet our every need emotionally and lift us up with His strength.  We know in 2014 He will carry us, and keep us, just as He did in the last year.  He is so good, so true, and so faithful.   


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Holly & Joe - I am so proud of what an amazing couple you both continue to be in the face of what has been the most challenging year of your lives. I can only hope that 2014 blesses you both with amazing memories and moments together, and with your Cullen on your minds. The "firsts" without your loved one are often hard, but know so many of us are thinking of you and lifting you up!