Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Olivia month is here!

No matter how much you prepare yourself it's never an easy day when the anniversary of a loved ones death comes around. I've tried so hard to keep myself busy this week and pretend like it's insignificant, but I can't avoid it anymore. I keep remembering what my life was like a year ago; I had refinanced my car and was excited for my new interest rate, Mike and I had decided to move in together, and we were planning our first family photo session for the coming weekend. I can't stop thinking about how easy life was then, and I keep coming back to this video I took of Olivia the night before she passed away. I wish so badly that I could go back to that day and change everything.
I get sad, but then I see how happy she was. She felt no pain, had no worries, and she knew how much she was loved. She had an amazing 11 months and it helps to know that she touched so many lives in such a short time. I'm so incredibly lucky to have been her Mom.
So on a happier note, we've declared March 14th - April 15th (Livvy's Bday) Olivia Month! In a previous post I explained why I have chosen to keep fresh flowers in my home in her memory, and we are also participating in Spring for SIDS month.
We will be raising money in Olivia's name. All proceeds go to The American SIDS Institue, which is dedicated to the prevention of sudden infant death syndrome and the promotion of infant health through research, education and family support.
For those of you in Oregon who would like to participate, we will be holding an event for her Birthday on Saturday, April 13th. I will send an invite out for that soon :)
For those out of State who would like to participate, you can make a donation at our
Thank you so much for all of your support. It's been a tough year to say the least, but with the love and support of all of my family and friends, it was bearable. Olivia was lucky to have all of you!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Co-sleeping and SIDS

I've waited a while to write a post on co-sleeping and SIDS risks because there are so many different opinions on whether or not co-sleeping actually leads to SIDS. After doing A TON of research, I've determined that co-sleeping can actually be great for your baby if certain precautions are used. THIS study monitored 40 infants ages 0-6 months who had been sleeping in their parents beds and compared their sleeping habits to 40 infants who had been sleeping alone in their crib. The study found that while the co-sleeping infants were more easily exposed to re-breathing, they were able to respond effectively and remain safe. Mothers also woke up and removed any bedding that was close to, or covering the infants face. I would recommend that every mother read this article because it's so informative on how babies respond to dangers while sleeping, but if you're just looking for the precautions of co-sleeping, here they are:

  • Sleep in a king sized bed if possible, to give everyone enough room 
  • Be sure there are no wide crevices between the mattress and the bed rail that your infants head could slip into
  • Never allow infants to sleep in the same bed as caregivers or children. They might not have the same awareness of a baby's presence that parents do.
  • Don't fall asleep with your baby on a surface that isn't firm such as a couch or a bean bag. They could suffocate by getting caught inside the crevices.

A great way to resolve co-sleeping worries is by having your infant sleep in a bedside co-sleeper. These attach to the parents bed making night time feedings and provides the comfort of having your baby close to you. I hope that this article post has calmed your fears of co-sleeping, and that if you do continue to have your infant sleep with in your bed, you will practice it safely.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


This one is going to be a hard post to write because I'm still in the process of grieving. Days after Olivia passed away I was googleing (not a word?) grief and moving on and loss of a child, but I couldn't find any of the answers I was looking for. I wanted to know how long it was going to hurt, when I would move on, if I would ever want another baby, and what I should do with her things. The truth is that nobody knows the answers to these questions and the grieving process really is different for everyone. Here are a few of the things I went through:

Questioning my beliefs. Losing a child is a different kind of grief. There are so many things you will want answers to that you never cared about with other deaths. The biggest thing I found myself questioning was my religion, and everything I had grown up believing or I guess I should say questioning. I had never really believed 100% in my religion. I grew up with a million questions and I was really skeptical of some of the things that were taught. I loved the values and the morals and the community but that was really it. While I was pregnant with Olivia, I was so worried for her because I didn't know what I believed, but I felt that she just HAD to be brought up in some sort of church, so I started going back to church with her. I quickly realized that it still wasn't quite for me. When Olivia passed away everyone told me that she was in a better place, she was too perfect to be on Earth, and God needed her back. None of that helped me, it just made me more upset. I was angry at a God that would take my Baby girl, how could she be in a better place if it wasn't with her Mother? How could a God who loved me take the most precious thing away from me? I didn't care if she was in a better place, if that place even existed... I wanted her here with me. I also starting thinking that if there is a God, and this is a part of his plan, do I really believe in a God that would take my baby girl away and only let me see her again if we were sealed? I've always believed that as long as I did the best I could and was a good person who helped others and had Christ in my life, that it would be enough, and I would see my family again. I still believe that. I've finally realized that there's no evidence, no knowing for sure where Olivia is and that me worrying about it is only holding me back. It will end for me eventually and then I will know the truth.

Material Items. A couple of weeks before Olivia passed away, Mike and I had talked about moving in together and saving for a house. I was SO excited to start this new phase with him and Olivia; we would be a family. When it was obvious that I couldn't go back to my apartment where everything reminded me of Olivia, Mike's Mom took over my lease and Mike and I found a condo to rent. It was really hard for me. Here I was 4 months pregnant, engaged, and moving in with my fiance. I should have been the happiest girl in the world, but it was different for me. While I was so excited to start a new life and a new family, I couldn't help but be disappointed that Olivia was missing. This wasn't how it was supposed to be. I never packed Olivia's things. My parents did before I could do anything; instead I came home to her room in boxes. At the time I was upset about it, but now I'm glad that I got to go through it when I was ready. I had put her toy box in Jet's room for him to use and everything else went in the garage. It was hard to see her things in his room but I thought that it would get easier as time went on. It wasn't. Finally, after talking to my counselor I decided to pull the boxes out of the garage and go through every item. It was the most healing thing I had done. Mike and I cried a lot, but they were happy tears. Everything we pulled out reminded us of a good time, and those are the things we need to celebrate when a loved one passes. I realized then that I am thankful for the fun times we had with her, for knowing her and her sweet spirit, and for everything she taught me. I went through the toys that were in Jet's room, put the ones that Livvy played with the most in the boxes for the garage and left the rest. Now when I look at her things, it doesn't hurt.

Grief is a process. As I mentioned previously, I was so determined to get over the grief and to move on as fast as I could. Everyone had given me pamphlets with information on SIDS grief groups but after looking at the letters and testimonials online it seemed more like a group of people who wanted to keep grieving and didn't want to move on. All the books you can read on grief talk about life after death, but who really knows for sure what life is like after death? I found myself thinking about Olivia I would switch thoughts. When I heard an ambulance go down the street I would turn up the radio, and if a sad song came on, I would find a pop station. I thought I was dealing with it, but I was really ignoring it. I just wanted to be better, for my heart to heal, and to be able to be excited about life and I could only do that if I moved on. But then if I moved on, was I forgetting her? One of my biggest fears is forgetting her. Again, my counselor was the best at helping me deal with the grief. She told me to cry, to be mad, to talk about it and not to worry about other people or what they think. Other people? It's true, I had worried so much about what other people thought. Everyone had been telling me how strong I was and if I cried, I wouldn't be strong. If I cried, people would worry about me and think I was depressed. I didn't want people to think I was depressed. She was SO right! She explained that grief is like a pump inside of you. After someone passes away it fills up really fast and overflows really fast, but after a while it fills up slowly and you don't realize it. Then one day you'll see something that reminds you of that person and it will overflow and it's okay. It's okay to take that moment to cry and remember the great moments you had with that person. She was right. I used to never go a day without thinking of Olivia and I don't know if I go a day without thinking of her now, but I do know that when I do it's not sad. I don't cry as much as I used to and if I do they're happy tears.

Holidays. People who know me know that I'm a happy person. I don't like to be around people who bring me down and I don't waste time on drama. Holidays without Olivia are no exception. I want them to be happy times where we can remember without making it a sad day. Mike and I met with my counselor and discussed ways that we can celebrate Olivia during the holidays. This is what we came up with.

Olivia month - the date between her death day and birthday (exactly one month) - We are going to have fresh flowers in the house. I love this idea even more now than I did when we decided on it. I was talking to Mike's Grandma a couple of weeks ago and she told me something that someone had told her when she had  lost a baby. Some people are like flowers- they are sent to us to make us happy and to embrace us with their beauty for a short time.

Olivia's Birthday - Last year we had a party at my house and then met at her grave to release balloons with letters. It was really fun! I would like to do something like that again, but this year I am also wanting to participate in 'Spring for SIDS' which will raise money for SIDS research in Olivia's name.

Christmas - I have always liked the tradition of each child receiving an ornament every year that symbolizes something they did or achieved. We are still going to include Olivia in this tradition. We also have a little tree that we can decorate and place at her grave, and we would like to adopt an Angel from the Angel tree every year and spend what we would have spent on Livvy on a child who is in need.

Of course we always think of Olivia on every Holiday and I usually decorate her grave with each one, but these are just a few of the ways we are planning on celebrating the big ones.

There is SO much more that goes into this process... I could go on for days. A few of them I will break into smaller posts at another time. I just really wanted to let people know that there isn't a way to just get over it and that grief takes time. There's no right way or wrong way to grieve and it's important to do it however you feel comfortable. If you know someone who is grieving, the best thing you can do is listen. Don't tell them to get over it or that it's time to move on. Share memories and let them know that they're not alone in their thoughts. If they are mad, let them be mad. The number one thing that got me through this was the support of my family and friends. The people who supported me when I would post things to Facebook on sad days, and who would listen when I told them stories about Olivia and laugh with me instead of being sad. What's done is done, I can't change what happened no matter how many times I go back and change it in my head. All I can do is cherish the memories that I had, and keep living for the people who are still here. It's what Olivia would want.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Infant Life Insurance

Right now Mike and I are in the process of searching for a Life Insurance policy for Jet. When I was pregnant with Olivia I got a ton of mailers for Gerber Life Insurance and thought it was morbid and bad luck to even consider it, so I didn't. I'm sure a lot of parents feel the same way, and Insurance Companies know that, so they've come up with a lot of great policies that turn into savings accounts once the child reaches a certain age.

Life Insurance is SO important, I can't stress it enough. Had it not been for her Dad being in the ARMY, Olivia wouldn't have been covered and funerals are expensive! I was still left with a few bills since he had spent the rest of the money before everything had been paid, but at least $5000 was put toward her burial and viewing. That $5000 included a discount due to her being an infant, the plot, half of the headstone, the casket, the viewing, and the burial. I still had to purchase the flowers for her casket, the other half of the headstone, and had to pay for the medical bills once they started rolling in. I know it's scary to purchase a policy and imagine your little one leaving you, but it's worth it.

Here are the two policies that we're looking at now (These are estimates. Please contact your insurance company or the companies below to get more information):

American Family Insurance:
$25000.00 policy is $20.29 a month for 10 years.
The premium never increases
At the 10 year mark the policy is paid in full and $2150 can be cashed out, or you can leave it with American Family and it will continue to accrue interest.

Gerber Life Insurance:
$25000.00 policy is $15.30 a month. (They have other coverage and premium options though if you would like less coverage)
The premium never increases
At age 21 your child becomes the owner of the policy
At age 25 your child can receive the amount of premiums you paid

Again, these are estimates. The reason we are looking at American Family is because they are our primary insurance company. I really think that Gerber sounds like a great plan though, so that's why we're considering them instead. I still have to ask them a few more questions and will post my findings in the comment section of this post, and if you know of any other insurance plans for children please let us know! :)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My Story: The Funeral

On Thursday my Dad, Sisters, Jamel, and his girlfriend met Mike and I at the funeral home. I was wearing a pair of Mike's sweatpants and tennis shoes, I had no make-up on, and my hair was in a messy ponytail. I didn't care what I looked like, it took all the energy I had to even take a shower that morning. The funeral director led us into a small room with an oval table that not all of us could fit around so some of us had to tuck away in corners of the room. He told us that Olivia would be arriving anytime, but I still hadn't heard from the medical examiner.

The first thing he wanted us to do was pick out the plot. He pulled out a map of the cemetery and explained the cost of each area, the benefits, and the availability. I just remember being amazed at all of the different options and prices. This was the money I thought I would be spending on Olivia's schooling or wedding, not her grave site. I kept telling him that I didn't want anything fancy, I didn't want a funeral, I didn't want this to be sad, and that I just wanted close family to say goodbye and be done with it. I mean, how do you have a funeral for an 11 month old who's biggest accomplishment was patty cake? I knew inside that I was being ridiculous, but it was how I felt. No one should have to plan a funeral after something so traumatic... you're just not in your right mind.

The director drove Jamel, Mike, Chelsea, and I around the cemetery so we could physically see the spots and I chose a plot halfway up the hill next to a tree. It would be an easy spot for people to remember when they came to visit. Then we went went back inside the room to discuss headstones and I chose one that had a baby rocking in a tree. The medical examiner called during the process and told us that she didn't find anything, that it would more than likely be ruled as SIDS, and that the detective would call me once the case was closed and everything was finalized. The last thing we needed to decide on was the casket. They had two options. The first casket made everyone break into tears. It was shaped like a regular casket and when you opened it, it was covered in bright pink silk. I don't know who would be able to bury their child in something like that. I chose a more simple rectangular casket that looked more like a bassinet. We were there for over 8 hours so I had plenty of time to think, and by the end of the day I had decided that Olivia deserved a proper service and burial. 

After everything was planned and we were free to go, I thought it would be a good idea to stop by my place real quick to grab some things since we were so close. Mike went in first and removed everything that was hers. Her highchair, rocking chair, books, photos, clothes, anything that I would see that would make me think of her, and put it in her room. It was as hard as I had thought it would be going into that house so I grabbed what I could see, fed the cat, and got out as fast as I could. We were hungry so we went out for dinner. It was the worst experience of my life. Everyone around us was happy and going on with life like nothing had happened. Families were playing and feeding their little ones, and I just wanted to go up to them and tell them how lucky they were and to appreciate every moment with their kids. Mike and I felt like we were in a dream.

The morning of the funeral was an okay day. I was actually excited to see Olivia one last time. I had made a beautiful video of her for the viewing, and had watched it enough times that it shouldn't make me cry anymore. My friends and my family had come from Utah and that had helped, and I wanted to dress up. It was the most normal I had felt in a while.

The funeral home did a great job at making her look beautiful. She was wearing the dress I had bought her for Easter and the turquoise cardigan I had bought the night before she passed away. She had a pink bow in her hair, and was holding her favorite doll (her bath time baby). She was surrounded by a few of her favorite toys and some of my favorite pictures of her. The DVD was playing in the background. So many people came. People who I had just met, people who I had known for a while, and people who had come from other states. I can't even explain how much the support meant to me and helped me get through that moment. The hardest part was closing the casket. I couldn't breath, my knees wouldn't hold up, and I just remember my Dad holding me up and crying in his arms. My Baby. Jamel and I rode together in the backseat of the car. Olivia was in between us. The bishop said a few words and then my Dad dedicated the grave.

As we were leaving, I felt relieved. That past few days had been horrible. We had been reuniting with friends and family, having dinners, and going about life while Olivia was in a room somewhere with someone doing who knows what. I finally knew where she was, what was happening to her, and that I could visit anytime I wanted. I could finally leave town without feeling like we were leaving her alone.

Someone had mentioned in a conspiracy theory about the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting that one of the parents wasn't acting like someone who lost a child should be acting. He said that he was caught smiling on camera and that there was just no way a parent would smile after losing their child. It made me really annoyed. No one knows how they would act in that situation until it happens. Before Olivia passed away I had thought about what I would do if something ever happened to her. I thought that I would kill myself, never get out of bed, or cry until I died. That's not real life. When something like this happens, especially unexpected like this, you do the opposite. At first you're in shock, then disbelief and denial, then the friends come around to distract you and keep you happy. The first week after Olivia passed away was all business... I was going through the motions entertaining family and planning a funeral. It was after the family and friends had left and Mike had gone back to work that I actually realized what had happened. That's when the grieving really began.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

My Story: Day Two

After leaving the hospital, My family and I headed to Mikes house. There was no way I could go home and I honestly thought I would never be able to step into my house again. Mike ran to the store for some food, his Mom came by, and everyone just sat around not sure what to say or what to do. No one could really eat either. There were a few phone calls that I knew I had to make, the hardest would be the phone call to my younger brother Skyler; he lived with us from September to February to watch Olivia for me and she just adored him. I knew he would be heartbroken, and I wasn't ready to say those words. It was so weird, but I didn't want anyone to know... I don't know if it was the questions I would get, or the attention, or because I didn't want people to have to go through the pain.

I called Skyler first, then my Mom, Aunt Charlotte, and sent out some texts to my closest friends and other family. I may have had Mike make some phone calls too, I'm not sure. Posting to Facebook was the hardest, it took me two days to say anything, but people were starting to find out and I knew I needed to say something. The love and support was immediate and overwhelming, SO overwhelming that I just got to reading some of the last emails and comments a few months ago! The words of encouragement and friendship meant so much, even though most were hundreds of miles away. My family left and then it was just Mike and I. I didn't want to sleep because I was afraid that I would see her face and then wake up to find that she was really gone, but I was so exhausted. I remember laying on the couch in Mike's arms and just crying myself to sleep, and I left the TV on all night just in case I woke up... it would distract me from any bad thoughts and I would be able to go back to sleep.

The next morning I woke up and went downstairs. This was usually when I would feed Olivia on the couch, just the two of us, while the rest of the world slept. I couldn't help but wonder where she was. When my Grandparents passed away it was really hard, they had raised me, but I knew they were in Heaven and it was their time to go. Losing a child is not that easy, faith wasn't easy. I needed to know for sure that she was okay and I needed to know where she was. I found myself questioning everything that I had ever known. What I knew for sure was that her body was with the medical examiner and that they would be performing the autopsy today. Would they find something? Would we get answers? Do I want answers? What if it was something I had done? Was it something she ate? Was it her ear infection medicine? I could never live with myself if I knew that I could have prevented it. I played the week over and over in my head looking for symptoms or signs that something was wrong... something I didn't see, but there was nothing.

I needed a distraction so I found the pamphlets I had gotten from the hospital and started searching for funeral homes. Did I want one to be close where I could visit her often but would pass frequently or far away, out of sight out of mind, unless I chose to think about it. I settled on a funeral home on a hill near my home, and made an appointment for the next morning. I knew I would have regretted not having her near me.

That's all I remember about that day. I'm sure that Mike and I lounged around the house, and I remember getting a lot of flowers. I asked my family to meet us at the funeral home, and invited Jamel. I still couldn't stand the thought of going home so I asked my sister to pack some of her things for me to borrow. I called the medical examiner a few times, but had no answer, they kept postponing the autopsy. There was nothing I could do but wait... for answers, for this to be over, and for my heart to stop hurting.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Story: The initial shock

I'm going to start my story with the night before Olivia passed away. It seems like the date that I always remember is March 13th, the night before, not the day she passed away. I picked her up after work and went to Target to find her an outfit for our family pictures that we had scheduled for the upcoming weekend. She was tired and the last thing she wanted to do was go shopping so I quickly found a cute white shirt, some jeans, and a turquoise cardigan. As I pulled into my complex Mike called, but I asked if I could call him back since we had just gotten home and I wanted some cuddle time with Livvy before I put her down for bed. I tried kissing and cuddling her, but she was so independent and wanted to play instead. I sang our little goodnight song and put her to bed.

The next morning was like any other morning. I tried to get ready while she tried to get my attention. We were running late and things were crazy like always. On the way to work I heard the song 'You're gonna miss this' on the radio and posted it to my Facebook page. It was a cute little song about living in the moment and enjoying the craziness, and I thought it was fitting for our morning. I met her Father in the mall parking lot, our usual meet-up place, handed her over quickly,  blew her a kiss and headed to work. I went to McDonald's for lunch and got a kids meal so I could get Olivia one of the My Little Pony toys and was so excited to see what her reaction would be when I gave it to her. As I pulled back into the parking lot at work my phone rang, it was Jamel. I almost didn't answer it since I needed to get back to work but as a Mom, had no choice.

It still takes my breath away when I think of that call. All I heard was sirens and Jamel crying. He couldn't tell me what was going on and I just remember screaming 'What's going on? Where's Olivia?' Finally he spoke the words that 'She isn't breathing, he checked up on her during a nap and she wasn't breathing, they were on the way to the hospital.' I remember dropping my phone to my side and pacing, I couldn't believe this was happening. I knew that I shouldn't drive, and I was at least 30 minutes away. She was going to be okay though, she was on the way to the hospital, they paramedics were with her, there was no way she wasn't going to make it. I put the phone back to my ear and asked him where they were taking her. He told me and I told him to call me as soon as they knew anything, I was on my way. I ran inside my building hysterical. My boss was on a phone call in the lobby and I told her that my baby wasn't breathing and I had to go. I ran back outside and called Mike to come get me.

While I was waiting in my car crying, my boss came outside and asked me if I needed a ride to the hospital. I told her that Mike was on his way. She took me back inside the building, got me some water, and assured me that everything would be okay. I felt like I was in a nightmare. I tried having a conversation with her and tried taking my mind off of what was going on, but I couldn't focus. I knew how serious this was and I had heard of SIDS, there was no way she was going to be okay. Mike picked me up after about 15 minutes and I knew she was gone. No one had called me, it had to be bad news. I called Jamel but there was no answer so I called again. When he answered, all I heard was crying and I just started screaming at him to tell me, tell me she's gone, tell me she's okay, tell me anything! Then a man got on the phone. He introduced himself as the doctor and told me that he was sorry. They had tried everything, she was warm when she got there, but there was nothing they could do, she was already gone. I asked him 'How? How? She's a healthy 11 month old, this doesn't happen to healthy babies and she had reached 6 months!' All he could tell me is that sometimes this happens to healthy babies and he was sorry.

I hung up the phone, closed my eyes, and bawled. There was no way this was happening to me... it was a dream and I was going to wake up. Mike was crying and I was worried that we weren't going to make it to the hospital okay, and I really didn't care. If I died I wouldn't care, I would be with my baby. I called my Dad and asked him to meet us at the hospital. 

When we pulled up I was numb. I got out of the car and couldn't walk, I dropped to my knees and Mike and I cried in the parking lot for a few minutes. When we finally pulled it together enough to get to the ER I was in shock... I looked around at all the people. No one knew the kind of pain I was in, everyone else was going about their day just the way I had that morning with no worries, and they would go home and see there kids. Why was this happening to me? It couldn't be. I still kept thinking that I was going to walk through those doors and Olivia was going to be there. Maybe they had found some way on our drive there to bring her back.

We were met by an older woman. She gave me her condolences and I knew that Livvy was really gone. I told her that I didn't want to see Jamel. I was so angry at him and I didn't know what I would do if I saw him. He was with Olivia, so she took us to a small family room in the back and then went to get the doctor. I remember sitting there shaking, I couldn't cry anymore, and my shock had turned to pure anger. I remember seeing the doctor, but I can't remember anything he said, just that they tried. Someone else came into the room to talk to us, but I can't remember who that was either. They brought us a platter of food and some water but I had no appetite. Then the paramedic came in. He had explained that they got there and she was warm, explained some things that they tried (I can't remember any of them), and then he asked if I wanted to see her. I had thought about it up to this point, but if I saw her it would be real. I was so scared. I was afraid that she would be hooked up to machines and I didn't want that to be my last image of her. I was afraid that she would be cold and hard and wouldn't feel like my baby. I was still in so much shock that I really couldn't think. I asked him if she looked and felt like my baby, and that I wasn't sure, but him and Mike told me that I would regret it later if I didn't see her, and he told me that they would wrap her up in a blanket for me.

The police and detectives took Jamel into another room for questioning, so the paramedic led Mike and I into the room where Olivia was. Livvy was swaddled in a blanket on the table. She looked so tiny. I picked her up and held her for a minute, and they were right, I would have regretted it if I hadn't. It was so impersonal though, the detective and paramedic stayed in the room with us and after a few minutes I was very uncomfortable and asked to leave the room. When we stepped outside my family was there, and we all went back into the small room. I don't think I stopped shaking for hours. They wouldn't let us leave until we had met with the detectives, I was questioned by myself about every detail of Olivia's life, and then given pamphlets about planning a funeral and how to cope. Funeral? I just wanted to go home, sleep, and wake up from this nightmare.