Father’s Day 2013

FATHERS DAY 2013

Father’s day sure got here quick. It has almost been 9 months since sweet Maura was here and gone.  Man does time go by fast. It is amazing how it seems so long ago and like yesterday all at the same time.

 

I am happy to still be here. I didn’t think I would be able to make it through almost 9 months ago. I thought I would never laugh, never smile, never feel like living again. Most days I do all three. I still though, every day, think of my sweet Maura Lynn. There are a lot of days where I feel like I don’t think of her enough. It’s a scary feeling some days like I am a bad daddy for not thinking of her every second all day long. I know that’s not reality, but still doesn’t change the fact of how I feel.

 

Between worrying about Maura’s mommy, work, friends, anxiety attacks, infertility, the future…..I wonder what the future shall bring us. Will I be able to provide for my wife, for Maura’s Mission, for myself, mentally and emotionally?  All I can say is…thank God there is a God.

 

I really never anticipated this new reality, nor should I have. Some days this NEW normal just seems so damn unfair. Why did our daughter die? Why do we have to live with this feeling? Are we ever going to be able have another child? Am I ever going feel normal again? Where did all the people in my life go?

 

I have come to find out that we are not alone in this journey.  We have joined the exclusive club that nobody wants to join, of bereaved parents. The friends and bonds are amazing. Without these friends I don’t think I could have made it through. Without organizations like:

 Still Project, OC Walk To Remember, Still Standing,  Return To Zero,  KV  BIJOU, Maurasmission.com,  Giving Dads: To The Brink and Back, Farley-Kluger Initiative, this is to just name a few. Without organizations like these there would be a whole bunch more people suffering without any hope and knowledge of child loss.

 

Sincerely,

Ryan Shafer

Maura’s Daddy

Why KrowdKidz?

Why KrowdKidz?

Why KrowdKidz?

Because IVF is stupid expensive. Adoption is stupid expensive. Surrogacy is stupid expensive.

I recently shared that since we lost Maura, Ryan and I have tried two IVF cycles and both failed. I shared about our struggles but I did not share in detail about the financial burden of it.

As I stated before, IVF is stupid expensive. While I will not openly share with the world what we’ve spent to date, I will say that it’s in the tens of thousands. We wiped out our savings, cashed out my IRA and used credit cards. And we’re not done….

Our financial story is not an uncommon one in the infertility community. For years, infertile couples have wiped out savings accounts, wiped out retirement accounts, borrowed money, maxed out credit cards and sold their homes with no guarantee they will ever have a child in their home.

Today a friend was sharing all their family vacation photos on Facebook. While looking at the photos I actually did a little mental math estimating how much they may be spending on this vacation and how many meds that money would get us for our next IVF cycle. I couldn’t help but laugh once I realized what I was doing. That is just how an infertile mind works.

KrowdKidz helps couples like Ryan and I raise funds for IVF, surrogacy and adoption. I personally think these couples are very brave. Not only are they sharing their struggles with the world, but they have humbled themselves enough to ask for help. Asking for help is extremely difficult, especially financial help.

The minimum donation is $10.00, less than three cups of coffee from Starbucks. Please visit KrowdKidz at: http://krowdkidz.com and read about their current couples. Donate and/ or share their site if you feel so inclined, these couple would greatly appreciate any and all support.

Bravo KrowdKidz staff for helping us raise funds to build our families. Bravo KrowdKidz couples for being brave enough to share your stories and humble yourself enough to ask for help.

http://krowdkidz.com/
https://www.facebook.com/KrowdKidz
Twitter: @KrowdKidz

Sincerely,
Kelly Shafer

Struggles with fertility

One year ago today my Facebook status read:

“This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. I would like to thank Giuliana and Bill Rancic for sharing their struggles with fertility and IVF with the world. They are two extremely brave souls.
Ryan and I like the Rancic’s and millions of others suffer from infertility. We underwent one round of IVF and were fortunate enough that it took. We are expecting our first child October 23.
If there is anyone out there experiencing infertility I do hope you reach out and get help. This is a very lonely road and not often discussed…. Should anyone have any questions please message me or Ryan. We want to be as open about the process as possible.
http://www.resolve.org/national-infertility-awareness-week/home-page.html”

Today I should have a 7 month old baby at home. Instead I have an urn on my mantle and a hole in my heart.

February of this year Ryan and I decided to try for another baby. We have since had two failed IVF attempts. Each failed attempt robs you of your hope, makes you feel incredibly defeated and empties your bank account. It breaks you!

Getting two fails right after losing Maura has been especially difficult. Each one was like another loss. Each fail is one step closer to living childfree. This thought keeps me up at night.

I know another pregnancy will not heal me, it will not take away my grief and it will not replace my daughter. What it will do is give me a reason to live. It will give me a reason to get out of bed each day. It will make my husband smile again.

1 in 8 couples struggle with fertility. 1 in 8!

For those of you who do not struggle with fertility please use a bit of compassion with those who do. Maybe hold off on sending out that birth announcement, especially if they just had a loss. No, you can’t know how we feel but surely you can have some empathy.

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Will Ryan and I try again? I don’t know. I’d like to think so, but I just don’t know. Some days I think I’m strong enough to spend thousands more dollars, stick multiple needles in me every day for weeks, choke down a pile of pills every day for weeks, deal with all the side effects from these meds, have several ultrasounds and blood tests a week, have 2 procedures, spend several days on bed rest and suffer through a two week wait for the results. Other days I think I’m done. I just can’t handle another negative pregnancy test.

giving up

If you are the 1 in 8 please stay strong! There IS hope. Maura is proof. I conceived a beautiful baby girl on my first IVF attempt and carried her to term. No, she did not survive but that had nothing to do with our fertility struggle nor the IVF procedure.

Most importantly, be kind to yourself and your partner. Surround yourself with positive people. And love with all your might.

There is a fantastic organization for people like us called Resolve, National Infertility Association. Visit their website at resolve.org.

Love & Light,
Kelly
“The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you.”

Maura’s Story

Baby_Maura__6Baby_Maura__22

After trying for 2 years, Ryan and I found out we were infertile in June 2010.  After tons of tests and getting several opinions we decided IVF was our best option.

January 2012 we did our first round of IVF and found out we were pregnant on February 15. We couldn’t believe it! It actually worked the first time!

Like most women, I suffered from morning sickness and exhaustion. That was a fun little treat. At about 11 weeks we had a scare.  I immediately left work for the day and headed to the ER. After a long exam and lots of waiting we had a sonogram that showed a nice strong heartbeat. Thanks be to God! Ryan and I both cried from relief. Turns out I had a subchorionic hematoma. I was put on bed rest for a few days then told to take it easy.

After that little scare everything went pretty smoothly with the pregnancy. All appointments were great, she was perfect!

June 3rd we found out that we were having a baby girl. My Mom and I had gone to my normal OB visit on May 16th and little Miss was being stubborn that day so we couldn’t tell her gender. We went to Before the Stork 4D on June 1st and she cooperated. We had the technician put the results in an envelope for a gender reveal party which was scheduled for June 3rd. With family and friends we cut in to a beautiful cake and found out that we had a baby girl on the way. Simply amazing!

Let the dress shopping begin!

I spent the next few months buying cute little dresses, decorating her nursery and planning her entire life.

On August 28th I was a little nervous that my kick count was down for the past two nights. So we went into the Labor and Delivery for a checkup; everything was fine. They ran the stress test and during the stress test Maura kicked so hard it knocked the monitor right off my stomach. We were incredibly relieved. The next day was our scheduled OB visit and same as the night before, ultrasound and heartbeat were excellent.

September 18th Ryan and I attended a parenting class at Kaiser in Irvine and packed my bag and baby’s bag for the hospital. Her due date was fast approaching.

September 19th was a normal day. Ryan was off work and we spent the morning prepping for Maura Lynn’s arrival. Ryan was putting together her cradle for our room and I was washing her sheets and clothes. Right before we left the house for our regular appointment, I threw a load of her onsies in the wash.

Little did I know I’d never get the chance to finish her laundry.

I knew something was wrong when the look on my doctors face turned serious with a hint of panic. He told us he couldn’t find a heartbeat. He tried for several minutes, the panic increasing with every passing second.

She was gone. Our daughter was gone.

They left us alone in the room as we wailed in disbelief.

We drove from the doctors office in San Juan Capistrano to the hospital in Irvine. The longest, most horrific drive of my life.

I immediately called my mother at work. I simply told her “you need to get to the hospital now.”

Less than 5 minutes later my sister Kerry called Ryan to ask what was going on. He told her there was no heartbeat and that she should come down now.  Minutes after that my Father called and I told him the same.  The terrible news spread like wild fire.

The rest of the day is a blur. Family showed up at the hospital to be with us, phone calls were made to all the women who were to attend my shower that Sunday, a priest came to bless us and many tears were shed.

I was induced around 3 that afternoon.

At 6:45 the morning of September 20, 2012 Maura Lynn Shafer silently entered this world. The only sounds in the room were the sobs from her Mother, Father and Granny Lene.

Once she was here Daddy and Granny ran over to see her, convinced the doctors were wrong. But she was gone. Our sweet little girl lay silently in the nurses arms.

She was beautiful and perfect!

Regrettably, I don’t remember the first time I held her. My mind was clouded from morphine at this point. I was unable to get an epidural because of a possible allergy so all they could give me was morphine for the delivery. Morphine didn’t do much for the pain but it helped block out some of the trauma. Unfortunately, now I can’t remember the first time I held my daughter.

October 30 we had a date set to have Maura’s newborn pictures taken with Richelle Dante, an amazing photographer in Orange County. My sister Kerry called her to cancel the appointment. This was the first call like this Richelle had ever received. She offered to come to the hospital and take Maura’s photos for us. Because of this we have some of the most beautiful photos of Maura and our family. In these photos you feel every ounce of pain and every ounce of love:

http://www.richelledantephotography.com/2013/01/maura-lynn-september-20-2012/

I thank God I have these photos. That day went by so quickly and was such an emotional blur that I struggle to remember most parts of it. I often find myself going back to look at the pictures to remember the greatest day of my life. The only day I ever got to see my daughter.

Baby_Maura__19

At 8:30 that night Ryan and I said our final goodbyes to Maura. The most difficult thing I ever had to do was hand my daughter off to nurse Kelly knowing I would never see her again. I wanted to die. I simply wanted to die.

The next morning I awoke with no baby in my belly and no baby in arms. It was the first day without my child. I couldn’t see the point in going on.

At some point an Irish priest mistakenly came into my room. He blessed me and was so kind and comforting. The woman with him sat on my bed and told me she had lost her son many years before.

They finally discharged me around noon. As they wheeled me through the hospital panic started setting in. I was leaving the hospital without my baby. I was leaving her behind with strangers who would not, could not love her and care for her like I could.

I walked in with a baby and walked out with a broken and battered soul.

We don’t know why Maura left us. Her autopsy results showed she was perfectly healthy and all my test results came back clear. Not knowing can almost drive you insane. I am always trying to figure out what I did that caused her to die. I can be in the middle of doing the dishes and I’ll holler out “it was the cookie dough! I took a bite of cookie dough while baking,” or something else that could have done it. My doctor assures me it was nothing I did but that does not help ease my mind. If I didn’t do anything wrong then why is she dead?

The following week all the women in my family and the “Wrecking Crew” rallied together and planned my daughters funeral leaving little for Ryan and I to do. If it were left to us, I don’t know that anything would have been done.

I remember thinking what a cruel joke it was, I went from planning her baptism to planning her funeral. My mother and sisters went from planning her shower to planning her funeral.

When we met with the Pastor of the church a few days before the funeral, he showed us around as we had never been to this particular church before. As we walked down the aisle I was overcome with grief when I realized Ryan would never get to walk his daughter down an aisle and give her away.

My cousin Mary wrote a song for Maura, “Maura’s Song.”  I’ve only heard it twice; the first time in my living room just two days after saying goodbye to my sweet girl and the second time at her funeral. It’s a beautiful song and devastatingly sad. I can’t bring myself to listen to it again but one day I hope to have the strength to hear this beautiful song written for my child.

It’s been six months today since I said hello and goodbye to my baby girl and it has not gotten any easier. The pain and anguish isn’t as raw as it was in the beginning but it’s still there every moment of every day. If one could die from a broken heart I’d already be dead.

Some days I consider it a success to just get out of bed each day. I don’t function at the same capacity I once did and I’m definitely not the same person. You’ll often hear fathers of loss say their wife died right along with their child. It’s true. Every woman I’ve met through our common bond is a completely different person than she was before her child died. How could one not be?

Writing Maura’s story was very difficult to do. My husband Ryan wrote the first part for me to get me started. He has been my rock and I thank God every day for him. He is a wonderful husband and an amazing Father.

People often ask us where we got the name Maura Lynn. We wanted something classic, Irish and beautiful so we picked Maura, a variant of Mary. We named her Lynn after my best friend Kadra Lynn.

Since losing Maura we’ve learned that her name actually means sorrow. Sorrow now defines my life.

My heart is broken, my heart is full. Maura Lynn completed my life.

Ryan and Kelly Shafer

kelly_shafer@maurasmission.com

ryan@maurasmission.com

 

Still Standing

Still Standing

On March 14th, it will be five months since we lost Ligaya. Five months breaks down into something like this:

• 13,132,800 seconds
• 218,880 minutes
• 3,648 hours

I can’t believe it. Sometimes it feels like only yesterday. Sometimes it feels like a million years ago. Sometimes it feels like someone else’s story – not mine. And sometimes it feels like I’m the only one in the world who has lost so much. It’s all part of the grieving process, I know. Life moves on while we’re stuck in this weird time warp where a passing minute can feel like an hour and an hour gone by can suddenly feel like a lost second. I know it was 5 months ago. I know it’s my story and that it’s just one in a sea of thousands – thousands upon thousands upon thousands of stories, all with different circumstances but with the end result being the same. Loss.

5 months ago I lost my daughter and here I am still standing – how?

Faith. Love. Hope. An incredible support system. Strength I never knew I had. The overwhelming desire to live a life that honors her. Allowing myself to feel the pain without squashing it all the way down to my toes. Seeking peace wherever I can find it, even if it involves spending time in the darkness…

Nate and I often don’t get to visit Ligaya until he gets off work well after 5pm. By the time we get to the cemetery, it’s pitch dark save for the few solar lights that line the graves of the baby section. A lot of people may find visiting a cemetery at night to be spooky, but it really isn’t. The cut of the glass on Ligaya’s light casts a rainbow-like pattern across the grass. The angel that stands at the head of her grave is magnificent under the moonlight. It is truly beautiful when only stars light our way. We are usually the only ones there at that time and we like it like that. It is silent. It is still. At times, I swear that I can breathe in the scent of her and feel the whisper of her kisses upon my face. And while I do not believe that my daughter actually resides in a cemetery, it is the final resting place for the vessel that held her mighty spirit. It is just one of the many places that we honor her. It brings us peace, and God knows we need it.

So wherever you find your peace, go there and go often. Let yourself cry there, laugh, be silent, still, or scream if you want. Just let yourself FEEL. Be aware of the difference between owning your feelings and pressing the mute button on them. There are so many places and things that make it easy for you to numb the pain. Don’t take that route. It may seem like an escape, but it’s only a temporary reprieve. Find the places that bring you peace, that bring you closer to the one you love and miss with all of your heart. Honor these sacred spaces. Go there and go often.

Five months later I still feel the pain and red hot anger at times. I still “Why us? Why me? Why her?” on a seemingly minute to minute basis, but there are also moments of great clarity and peace…joy, even. It’s one hell of a ride, that’s for damn sure. I am so thankful to the people who continue to walk beside me and hold my hand along this journey. Without them, I wouldn’t be standing here – wouldn’t even be breathing – five months later.

Miss you so much Little Bird.

Christine Harrison

STILL Project. #SayItOutLoud

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How did I feel after watching the first official trailer of STILL?

Devastated. Exhausted. Heartbroken. Honored. Relieved.

The first official trailer was released Wednesday, February 13, 2013.

This wasn’t just any Wednesday, it was Ash Wednesday. I waited all day for Ryan to get home so we could watch it together before Church and softball.

At 5 p.m. we pulled up the video on youtube and hit play.

Within seconds I was sobbing. Not a few tears streaming down my face, but the deep, heavy loud sobs that racked my whole body. I’m struggling right now as I write this…

The video opens up on the face of a beautiful 6 year old boy named Quinn. His Mother goes on to explain that had his sister Avery not come before him, this dear little boy would not be here.

I’ll let that sink in a moment….

Not long after Maura passed a woman I’ve known for a couple years called me to offer her condolences. During this phone call she told me she was a “Rainbow Baby.” I didn’t quite get the significance at first as my brain did not … nay… does not function at the same capacity it once did. Then she said, “Had my brother not died, I wouldn’t be here.” Her brother was to be her parent’s last child, but because he was born still they had another baby. That baby is Jennifer and she is the mother of 3 beautiful children. 3 children who would not exist if her brother had not come before her.

Does this make the loss of Maura, or Avery or Jennifer’s brother any easier? Absolutely not!!! But it offers a different kind of comfort; a kind of hope and beauty. Just take a look at Quinn’s face. You’ll see it there.

“They’re here. They’re in our family. We should forget them not.”

People often call a bereaved parent “brave.” This always bothers me. I’m not brave. I did not become a bereaved parent willingly. In fact it was the complete opposite. I fought it, kicking and screaming the whole time. Until Maura silently entered this world and I knew my battle was lost.

brave

What Jonathan and Carrie Pascual are doing in their daughter Elena’s name is brave. What they are doing for our community is brave. They are giving our babies a voice. They refuse to stay quite. They #SayItOutLoud.

So, how did I feel after watching the first official trailer for STILL?

Devastated. Exhausted. Heartbroken. Honored. Relieved.

Devastated.       My daughter is gone. This kills me. I feel everyone’s pain in the trailer as if it were my own.
Exhausted.        From all the emotion. From having to feel.
Heartbroken.     For every person in this film. For the Pascuals. For Ryan and myself.
Honored.           That God blessed me to be Maura’s mother.
Relieved.           That there are people brave enough to take on this huge task of giving our babies a voice.
By telling our stories to the world.

After watching the trailer Ryan and I sat on the couch holding each other while we cried. We then got up, washed our faces and headed to Church. We both cried through the entire mass for a multitude of reasons. It was the most beautiful service I have ever attended (aside from my daughter’s funeral). After Church we went straight to the softball fields and I watched Ryan play old man ball for the first time since I was pregnant with little miss. But that’s another story…..

Thank you STILL Project for being brave enough to #SayItOutLoud.

How did YOU feel after watching the first official trailer of STILL?

http://stillproject.org/
https://www.facebook.com/MaurasBabylossMemorialBlocks?ref=hl#!/StillProject?fref=ts

With love and gratitude,
Kelly Shafer
Maura’s Mission
Kelly_shafer@mauralynn@maurasmission.com

Helpful Books

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These books have been read by a handful of women and men from our small group. If you have any questions regarding these books, feel free to contact us.

 

Empty Cradle, Broken Heart by Deborah L. Davis

 

Unspeakable losses: Healing from Miscarriage, Abortion, and Other Pregnancy Loss by Kim Kluger-Bell

 

Grieving the Child I Never Knew by Kathe Wunneberg

 

Life Touches Life: A Mother’s Stillbirth and Healing by Lorraine Ash

 

They Were Still Born by Janel Atlas

 

Still: A Collection of Honest Artwork And Writings From The Heart of A Grieving Mother by Stephanie Paige Cole

 

I Will Carry You: The Scared Dance of Grief and Joy by Angie Smith

 

Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittler

 

Grief Observed by CS Lewis

 

A Silent Sorrow: Pregnancy Loss –Guidance and Support for You and Your Family by Ingrid Kohn

 

Pregnancy After a Loss: A Guide to Pregnancy after a Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Dealth by Carol Cirulli Lanham

 

Trying Again: A Guide to Pregnancy After Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Infant Loss by Ann Douglas

 

Back to Life: Your Personal Guidebook to Grief Recovery by Jennie Wright, RN, GC-C.

 

A Guide For Fathers: When A Baby Dies by Tim Nelson

 

Noah’s Rainbow: A Father’s Emotional Journey from the Death of His Son to the Birth of His Daughter by David Fleming

 

Grieving Fathers: To the Brink and Back by Kelly Farley

 

If you have any recommendations for our Maura’s Mission group please let us know. We will update this list after each book we read that we think will be helpful.