Minnesotan Mom Blog

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The Truth about Pain

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I’ve experienced loss on various levels throughout my lifetime, but nothing compares to the heartache I feel from losing my daughter Audrina. It’s a pain that would swallow me whole if I tried to process it all at once. It can only be absorbed in little fragments . . . .piece by piece overtime . . . . and maybe never fully.

I have to constantly build myself up to a state of grace, just to survive the inevitable slip back into denial. . . anger. . . then sadness . . . and despair. The cycle repeats itself and grief feels like a never-ending sting. Every time I think of her my heart throbs in pain as I’m forever reaching for a piece of me that will never return. It’s the kind of throbbing that shoots out from your heart wildly running through every vein, and aching on every bone.

My Audrina, she had the most precious chubby hands and adorable round cherub face. . . little button nose and perfect tiny toes. I can remember just staring at her for hours trying to memorize every detail of my beautiful baby. Part of me will forever stay frozen in time just holding her in my arms and cradling her against my chest. I’m right there in the moment kissing her cold sweet cheeks and feeling her soft skin. That memory is all I have.

I carry her in my heart now and as painful as it is to think of her; I do it anyway every day. When I do, the tears just come pouring out. EVERY . . . TIME. Each morning when I wake up; I look at her memorial and I can feel her presence. I talk to her, tell her I love her and how much I miss her. My heart just burns and cries out in anger. Since she cannot be here with me, part of me is forever gone. It will always be somewhere else with her.

I now understand why denial is a part of grief. Our brain simply cannot process the amount of pain all at once so it sort of shuts down. I spent the first week unable to even acknowledge that I lost her. I almost lost my own life so there were other layers of trauma as well. The month after was a whirlwind of emotions. I was grateful for Gods grace in giving me my life, but angry at him for taking Audrina’s. It hit me in waves and sometimes I had to just hang on and ride out the storm. The next couple months I really tried to accept that she is gone and God took her. I think I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that she isn’t coming back.

What scares me the most about my future is accepting the fact that this pain might not ever go away. It’s just something I will have to live with every day, like having a lost limb. I’ll have to learn how to live life without it. It doesn’t seem fair that I should have to spend the rest of my life bearing this burden, but I can accept it easier knowing she exists. Even through the darkest of my days, the depth of my pain will never come close to the amount of love I have for her. I thank God for allowing me to carry her even if it was for a short time. Nothing will ever take away the fact that she is mine and I am hers forever.

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Life in the Present Moment – Choosing Joy

Audrina's FlowerThere was a time in my life where I lived completely in my past. Every day I contemplated little failures, unfulfilled wishes and the pain I couldn’t push past. Other days were spent dwelling on my future happiness. I often questioned when I would reach my ultimate state of joy. . . . . Then one day, I stumbled across Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now. I thank God for guiding me to this because it has seriously transformed my life.

I don’t know if I would be able to process the pain of losing Audrina without this knowledge. It’s a constant reminder to live in the present moment and allow gratitude and grace fill my heart. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the day to day functions and lose site on what really matters. Back then, I never knew I was in control of my brain. I didn’t know that I had the power to make a conscious decision to choose happiness. In fact, I was so consumed by painful thoughts that my brain was almost addicted to it. At first, it was hard to reprogram my negative thoughts into positive ones, but I did it by focusing on what little joy I did have.

I’ll never forget the feeling that came over me when I learned that Joy could only be experienced in the moment. It was pure enlightenment. I felt elated to know the true power of the moment. . . . .right here, right now. You can’t physically go back into your past and you can’t control the future. You can only make a choice in the present moment. That’s the power of now. If you want to feel more Joy, start by thinking about all the things your thankful for.

It’s a good reminder not to take life for granted either. The here and now is a gift and we shouldn’t have expectations for our future. If I spent my entire life believing I would reach my ultimate future happiness when I achieve A,B and C. . . . . . I would reach my destination unfulfilled.

Life will be full of disappointments. Trust me, I’ve been dealt my fair share. It would be so easy to focus on my pain but I choose grace and gratitude. If I keep trusting God and his plans then I don’t need to worry about how my life unfolds. All I can do is focus on this present moment and fill my heart with joy and gratitude for the things I do have.

Lastly, don’t confuse the ego’s needs and desires for false joy. The ego will always crave money, power or pride in hopes of seeking approval from others. True joy comes from loving something so passionately that it makes your heart sing. It should excite and inspire you at your core then awaken the God like qualities within you. If you want to feel JOY, start by counting your blessings. If you want to feel LOVED, start by loving others. If you want to feel PASSION, start by doing what sets your heart on fire.

 

 

 

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Letting Go and Letting God

I dedicate this blog post on Mothers Day to every mom facing loss. To the mom that’s been dealing with infertility problems. To the mom that felt overjoyed when she saw two pink lines on a stick and then a couple weeks later cried with devastation when she felt it slip away. To the mom that said hello and goodbye all in one day to her stillborn baby. To the mom that went to wake up her infant to find her life suddenly shattered from SIDS. To the mom that bonded her heart to her child and then had both ripped away from the moment they died. . . . .

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It’s been 6 weeks since we lost our daughter Audrina. The grieving process isn’t as black and white as I thought it would be. I have mostly good days with some moments of anger and sadness. I start each morning with gratitude and ambition to lay the groundwork for the day and that seems to keep me moving forward. I’ve had some time to contemplate my future purpose and set goals to create a new vision for my life.

I’ve had to re-wire my brain to accept my life as it is. I’m a mother to an angel baby. I can bear this easier knowing in my heart she is in God’s hands and I will meet her again someday. I continually remind myself of how blessed I am regardless of the situation I face. I know that no matter what challenges life throws at me – it’s up to me to decide how I handle it. I’ve been fortunate enough to have received God’s grace in this time of need and he helps me cope with my loss.

As for my future, the hardest part is accepting the unknown. . . this is the part I can’t control. When I was young, I believed I was in complete control of my life. It’s sort of funny to look back at now. . . I thought. . . someday I would have 3 kids: 1 boy and maybe two girls. I thought it would be nice to conceive in the fall and then have some summer babies. First I would have a boy, then I’d wait a few years and hopefully have a couple girls. It’s really sick to think about now. The truth is, we are hardly in control at all. Especially when it comes to creating a human being.

That’s where God comes in. I’ve come to learn through my hardship, this is what makes conception miraculously wonderful. It’s truly a gift from God. It’s not up to us to decide whether a new life is placed in our care and it’s not up to us to decide how long we have with them. The joy of being a mother is both terrifying and beautiful. This is because our soul happiness now rests on the life of one tiny human and depends on their continued well being and safety. From the moment we are entrusted with this gift, we worry about them. Questions of uncertainty linger . . . Will I lose them at 12 weeks, will they be born healthy, when they do come out . . can I wrap them in bubble? Or in my case. . . . Will I be able to conceive at all?

After countless discussions with my doctor, we are left unsure as to whether or not we will be able to safety carry another baby. Doctors were able to successfully save my uterus. . . even in the midst of saving my life, however we are unsure of how it will function in the future. This leaves me with much uncertainty and apprehension as to whether or not we should expect to have more children. It will depend largely on how the uterus heals which is why they recommended waiting at least two years before even trying. Only time will tell.

I’m left having to trust in God. I’m not allowing myself to have expectations. I’ve decided to let go of the outcome and let God. I remind myself, it’s his will and not mine. I have to be willingly to accept Gods plan even if it doesn’t entail what I have in mind. I completely surrender my hopes and dreams to him and allow his vision to take reign over mine.

I’ve come to realize and appreciate how amazing it really is to carry new life to this earth. It’s not something we can plan for and execute. We don’t control when it happens, the gender or how many. We can’t even control how long we have with them. When they come to us, we can only be grateful and know in our hearts. . . . it’s truly a gift from God. Not something we should ever take for granted. If you should ever be so lucky to be entrusted with this gift you should know. . . you are blessed beyond measure.

To all mothers facing loss on this Mothers Day. . . . I want you to know that I understand your pain and you’re not alone. Just because you don’t have your baby in your arms, doesn’t mean you aren’t a mother. It doesn’t matter how far along your baby was or even if they were just a glimmer in your eye, a loss is a loss. The fact that you survived the loss makes you the strongest mother of all. So over this Mothers Day. . . I pray you find the strength to surrender to God’s will. I pray you find peace in his plans and I pray that he blesses you beyond measure.

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Trusting God

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There are a few times in life where I have seriously questioned God’s purpose and plan. Losing Audrina made it to the top of the list. We will never understand why he chose us to become parents to a baby destined to die at birth. What I do know to be true is that out of each suffering endured; I’ve obtained a great deal of strength and become even closer God. Life certainly didn’t go according to our plans, but we are trusting God that everything happens for a reason and maybe our pain will serve a greater purpose.

In my experience, I feel that God usually communicates with us during the most trialing of times. Maybe because it’s when we need him the most, or maybe it’s because we reach out to him for his guidance. Nothing felt truer than when I checked into the hospital Wednesday night. That’s when we started cervical ripening in hopes of inducing labor. Somewhere in the middle of the night I fell asleep with my headphones on. I had my Pandora station tuned into my favorite channel… Brian Crain, a composer of classical music. During my sleep, I suddenly woke up to the song “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”. I remember feeling as if it came straight from God. It was comforting and almost reassuring during that stressful time.

The song had such an impact that I stayed up that night researching it on Google to find answers. I couldn’t remember the name of the artist and didn’t know the name of the song. I kept searching to find it so I could digest the words and figure out his message. I thought it was strange that the song played on my Brian Crain station. I listened to that station about a thousand times and never heard it play in the past. Since it was a hymn it almost felt out of place for a classical music station. I told Aaron about my angelic experience and he helped me find the song. This would be the first time of three that I heard it while staying at the hospital.

The next day we started a second round of cervical ripening. The plan was to get me to dilate enough to start Pitocin and hopefully induce labor. To kill time, I searched Netflix to find the movie Heaven is Real. I wanted to watch this because it felt comforting to know it was based on a true story and that the little boy met his sister up in heaven who died before birth. I was determined to find it, but had many troubleshooting problems and couldn’t get it to work. We watched a couple other movies instead and had some family come to visit.

Later that night, I started to dilate more. I started getting really excited to finally meet my sweet Audrina. By 3:00am I was dilated to 8 and getting ready to push. At some point my epidural wore off and I started feeling all my contractions. I was now breathing hard through each one and my natural endorphins took over to combat the pain. As my dilation peaked to 9, the doctor insisted I start trying to push. After almost 20 unsuccessful pushes I turned to one side and felt an excruciating pain. It was different than contractions. I think this might have been when my uterus tore. Doctors would later find this during an emergency C-section. Contractions had came to a complete stop and I became too weak to push. At some point Aaron handed me my headphones to play music. That’s when the song came on. “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”. It was there, in my weakest moment that I heard him speak to me. Honestly, my first thought was Aaron had purposefully played the song to me. I asked him about it later and he told me he didn’t. This really confirmed my feeling that the message came from God. The chances of it playing twice in the same session were slim and the song was completely out of place for the station.

Without having contractions, I was unable to successfully push so we were forced to move to plan B….C-Section. I don’t know why but I felt uneasy about the operation and anxiety built as each minute passed. I remember feeling on edge and even yelling at the doctors to get moving so I could get to C-section. Each one came in one by one telling me legal information about the operation and explained procedures. It felt too slow for me and I sensed some doom and gloom the entire time as they prepped. I cried, “Something is seriously wrong, you need to get me into surgery”.

As I was laying there on the surgical table I felt terrified because I knew deep in my heart something had gone wrong. They took one cut and I could tell from their voices that I was indeed right. I heard them mention blood transfusion, hysterectomy cart and saving the uterus as a last priority. The sound of suctioning blood and feeling of doctors tugging forcefully from every angle with speed had me in a panic. Doctors flooded the room and worked with a sense of urgency. My mind started to race a million times per second. I thought, “This is really it” … . . “This might really be the ending of my story”. I felt powerless and the only thing I could do was TRUST GOD. I looked at Aaron and told him I loved him. He tried distracting me by telling me I was about to meet my daughter. I couldn’t even focus on anything because my brain was foggy and filled with fear. They handed her over to me and I kissed her sweet forehead about 5 times before they placed the gas mask on me. My last thought before being put under was, “Have faith and trust God”.

I woke up in another room profusely shaking. I kept thinking, “Stay alive, focus, you are awake now so there must be more”. The anesthesiologist reassured me that everything would be ok and slowly over time the shaking would stop. Once things had settled down I felt more certain I would survive but my whole body was in shock from the experience. They wheeled my precious baby into the room. There she was, silent and still. My heart was broken. I was thankful to be alive but just devastated that she had gone. I never got to see her open her eyes, nor hear one beautiful sigh or cry. The entire experience left me asking why. . . . . .

I couldn’t understand why. . . . . after all I endured . . . would God have place even more burden on my heart. Isn’t it enough that I had to lose her? Then to add all this other life altering madness to the equation. I spent the rest of the night trying to analyze it and try to make little sense of what happened. I started researching uterus tear and found out the chances of it actually happening are really slim. Even more rare for me to experience it because I’ve had no prior C-sections or surgeries that would place me at risk for it. I felt as though I had literally been struck by lightning twice.

The next morning, I woke up wanting to feel comfort and closer to Audrina. So I asked my mom to pick up the movie Heaven is Real. I would finally watch the movie that I had been longing for all weekend. I put the movie in and the next thing I heard gave me goosebumps. There was that song. . . . Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. It played nearly 5 times throughout the entire movie and confirmed my feelings that the message was from God each time.

I’m not really sure if I will ever understand why I lost Audrina or how I almost lost my own life. I’m still trying to make some sense of the chaos but trying to trust God at the same time. Trust him that there’s a plan. Trust him that better days lay ahead. Trust myself that God is with me during my weakest moments. This life experience has been truly devastating, but I’ve been through too much in my life to give up now. I’m still kicking, and stronger than ever before. I’m staying thankful for what I do have and grateful for my second chance at life.

Audrina was born to eternity and I’ll carry her in my heart until the day I die. Living life without her has shown me a pain I never knew existed. But then again, just the mere thought of her existence can only leave me grateful. And if you asked me if I would do it all over again just so she would exist, I would reply . . . “In a heartbeat”.

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Baby Beau and Belle – A Beautiful Blessing

As I prepared for Audrina’s arrival and departure, a lot of emotion and careful thought went into every detail of her birth. At times, it was very difficult to even make a decision. I felt intense pressure to make sure everything was perfect as we welcomed our daughter into the world. Especially because our time with her would be so short. Selecting certain items were especially emotional because I would only be able to choose just one. This was true for the first and only dress Audrina would ever wear.

There’s hundreds of beautiful dresses in the world, but I would only have the opportunity to dress her in one so it had to be absolutely perfect. I thought about every color and style I could imagine and came to the conclusion that it had to be white because my Audrina would be pure and innocent. I visualized the dress….. a white, lace baptismal gown with a baby bonnet. To me, this was perfection, but if you ask Aaron he would say camouflage was better fitting lol. He didn’t argue the subject too much when I stumbled across the perfect white baptism gown at babybeauandbelle.com.

Oh… how my heart burned in desire for this dress. I knew it would be out of reach because funds were simply too tight. I tried to find simpler versions that might cost less, but none could speak to me the way that gown did. I waited months to choose and nothing could compare.

One night, in desperation…. I reached out to the company baby beau and belle. I told them my story about Audrina and asked them if they would consider letting me borrow a dress that I would return upon her passing. It only took a few minutes before the company responded to my prayer. . . .

BabyBeauandBelle:

Hi Trista,

We are so very sorry to hear about your little one, and we would like to send you a Lola dress and bonnet for her. We just recently got in size 0-3 months in the Lola dress and bonnet, would you like this size in these pieces? I will just need the name and address you would like for us to send to and we can get everything pressed and ready to send to you tomorrow.

Everyone here at Baby Beau & Belle will be keeping you and your family in our prayers.

Tears flew from my eyes as I read this message from the company. I couldn’t believe how generous they were to give me this selfless gift. I don’t think anyone will ever know how deeply this act of kindness has healed my heart. To Baby Beau and Belle, “you are a beautiful blessing”.

Although I will never truly feel prepared to welcome Audrina into the world, I will be able to dress her in a gown as perfect as she is and wrap her in my loving arms. I will tell her how much I love her and that there is not a person in this world that wanted her more than me.

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Attitude for Gratitude

c360_2017-01-22-18-42-59-857.jpgI woke up this morning feeling inspired to chat about a topic that always seems to put life into perspective. It REALLY doesn’t matter what you have, who you know, or places you’ve been. What matters…. is your perception of it. Your appreciation for life is where your power lies and you control your happiness each day by the thoughts you feed yourself. It’s even more important to focus your beliefs on what you know is true and not what others tell you they believe to be true. Once you base your happiness on what others believe, you give your power away. I won’t get too deep though. I’ll save that for another day.

I wanted to share this with you today because there was a time in my life where I really struggled to find happiness and it wasn’t until I really grasped this philosophy that my life turned around. This might seem like common sense to some people, but I thought maybe…. just maybe I could help one person, or at least this could just be a good reminder to others.

A large part of my unhappiness at that time was due to my lack of appreciation for things in my life. At the time, I believed that I would only become happy when reaching a destination of perfection. I thought. . . Once I have a better job, reach my ultimate weight, own two cars and a house on the river with a white picket fence, then I’ll be happy.

It took 3 devastating hardships, 5 self-help books and 8 years of spiritual practice to finally get it right. Even now, as I write this…. I still need a reset somedays when I am feeling down. The best recipe for this is to simply just list 10 things you are thankful for each morning.

Learning this has really helped me in life, because even now . . . going through what most people have labeled as unimaginable, I still manage to find happiness in the “little things” and keep moving forward with appreciation for life. If you want to know more about my current hardship, you can read about our love and loss – Audrina’s story.

If I waited until I had a perfect life, then I would never truly be happy; because my perception of a perfect life would be having Audrina here with us for a lifetime. That’s out of my control. We can’t control all of the events that happen in our life. We can only dictate how we allow those experiences to shape us. When I found out about Audrina’s fatal condition I knew I had two options and they were both in my control.  . . . I could either sink or swim. Thankfully, all of the other awful life experiences I endured helped me gain the enlightenment for that moment to choose “swim”.

I have to make a conscious decision each day. When I wake up, I tell myself. . . “ I’m going to choose to swim today and here is a list of things that will help me accomplish this”. Of course, at the top of my list …. COFFEE. . . . and boy am I thankful for it! Then I pick 9 other things that I can focus my attention on that bring me great joy and passion. The more gratitude and appreciation you have for life will magnify the positive people, circumstances and situations that mirror the joy you feel. One day, you will wake up and be so thankful just to be alive and in that moment, you will realize you’ve reached true happiness. This is because true happiness can only be experienced in the moment.

Life will always be unpredictable. Sometimes it’s nice to find comfort in security, but the truth is. . . it’s just an illusion. Nothing is guaranteed and it’s best practice to never take life for granted. Unfortunately, sometimes the only way we realize this is by enduring unbearable heartache. It’s through this suffering that we come to understand and truly appreciate the fragility of life.

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Our Love and Loss – Audrina’s Story

UnknownOn November 24th, 2017 I found out my ultimate dream was coming true. In April, Aaron and I would welcome a daughter into our family. I can’t describe in words the joy I felt in that moment the ultrasound tech told me it was a girl. A thousand dreams flooded my mind…. little girl dresses, tea time and tiaras, tutu’s, pig tails, ponies, ballet slippers, mother daughter excursions like baking or going to the craft fair the list just goes on. The next day which happened to be Thanksgiving, I woke up feeling extra blessed. We were so excited to share the amazing news with our family on such a fitting day. The next week or so we spent living on cloud nine while imagining how our lives would soon change as we welcomed our daughter, Audrina Marie Rakow into the world.

Monday, December 4th it all came crashing down on us. My level two ultrasound revealed a few markers for skeletal dysplasia. The ultrasound tech said, “it looks like a lethal type of dwarfism”. I jumped out of my skin and into shock. This can’t be real, I’m in a nightmare and I just need to wake up. I can’t even process the information. Doctors refer us to specialists at Abbott Northwest to get a second opinion. We stayed hopeful for two days and then our hearts dropped after meeting with specialists in the cities. Doctors seemed to confirm what St. Cloud had found and suggested we do an amniocentesis. We moved forward quickly hoping to get some answers.

The next month was an emotional roller-coaster from hell. We remained hopeful that Audrina would prove the Doctors wrong. We prayed, oh god did we ever pray. I tried to keep the faith and imagine her with us despite what the experts were saying. Our faith train fizzled out after receving the most heartbreaking news with the genetic councilor at Abbott Northwest. The results from our amniocentesis came back positive identifying the FGFR3 genetic mutation code consistent with the diagnosis for Thanophoric Dysplasia. Our worst night mare.

The condition would mean our baby girl would likely die of respiratory failure at birth. Even now after months of processing and grieving, I still cry at the thought of meeting her and feeling so helpless knowing I have to let her go. I know the next few months are going to be tough, and even harder after we have to say goodbye. Right now, all I can do is enjoy her kicking inside me, and love her while she is here with me. Inside there, she is safe, loved and free of all harm. She is a blessing regardless of the situation I face. Even though it would be so easy to be angry with God, I can only thank him for giving me a daughter. Audrina Marie Rakow, my angel baby. My dream really did come true, just in a different way. We will still love her for a lifetime. Even though her time here on earth will be short, our love for her will be eternal.

 

Kids Stuff

Mini Happy Mat

 

C360_2017-07-10-11-38-20-503I just love this little happy mat so much that I wanted to share this with all the busy mamma’s out there. This new mini mat style comes in a shape that fits most highchairs. It’s also great for stuffing in the diaper bag and using for meal time on the go. It has a nice suction cup to the bottom so it stays in place. I can’t tell you how many times that has saved me dining at the restaurants. It also comes in a little resealable pouch for easy clean up. I take it out when I get home and pop it in my dishwasher. Looking to get one of your own? I got mine from Baby’s on Broadway in Little Falls, MN.

Let’s give a grand “hurray” for no more clanking bowls on the ground!