Kylie May

Kylie May

Layla Faith

Layla Faith

Zoey Noelle

Zoey Noelle


Our baby boy, due March 16th.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

One Month - A Heavy Heart

I feel like I should post something to recognize that it's been one month since Layla Faith was born. It's weird to say that because it's also been one month since she passed. I don't have a purpose for my post, necessarily. I feel like everyone should know and everyone should remember that it's been a month. However, I'm probably the only one who's been thinking of it all day long. I woke up thinking about it & remembering everything about the day one month ago. Today, I realized what it means to have a heavy heart. My heart was heavy today. I wasn't overly emotional or sappy, but my heart was just sad.

I'm glad I'm home right now and I find it ironically perfect that Bryan is home tonight. I thought of her at 4:29 when she was born. I got home at 5:11 and I remembered, Layla passed away at 5:18. She left the hospital with our funeral director around 8:50. I wonder how long I'll think of her when I look at the clock at those times.

For those of you who were with us at the hospital, thank you and I'm so glad that you can share in the memories and the time we had with Layla. For those of you who lifted us up in prayer and supported us the weeks leading up to and after her birth, Thank You.

...and now that I'm crying from rereading my to get Kylie to bed!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Love Song for Layla

I am a creator. Hence, the blog and everything else in my life. This blog has been therepudic for me. It fills my need to create and surprisingly has been a word of encouragment to so many people. I create videos all the time. Mostly for weddings & work. But, I've only written one song before. My friend and I wrote it for our youth pastor when he left our church. (Also the pastor who married us and was with us when Layla was born.) Anyway, I want to create something for Layla. I don't know where to begin. I've made this blog into a book, which is neat to have. I could make a video or write a song. I could make a website for people in a situation like mine. I don't even know where to begin.

I remember in high school, filling out a questionaire. One of the questions was, "What do you do to relax?". Now, I guess I would add "If you had time for yourself, what would you do to relax?". My answer then, and still: I would blast some excellent music in my room and sing my heart out. :) And take time…and think and pray and read my Bible. I loved doing that in high school. I had time to do that in high school.

If I did that today, I would start with this song. It takes me back to the moments that I had with Layla. The second I hear it, I can't keep in the tears. It is such a gorgeous song and her voice is so passionate. I know it's a love song, written for a wedding. But for me it's a love song for Layla. I was brave. I cherished evey minute with her in my belly & while I held her in my arms. I have loved her and I will love her for a thousand more years.

Time stands still
Beauty in all she is
I will be brave
I will not let anything take away
What's standing in front of me
Every breath
Every hour has come to this

I have died everyday waiting for you
Darling don't be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I love you for a thousand more

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I Had A Baby

The age of a baby. It's probably the most common question that people ask you as a mom, "How old is he/she?". Have you noticed that it gradually changes from hours to weeks to months to years? I had a baby four weeks ago today. I'm still in the 'week' stages. Soon, I'm sure I'll move on to months and eventually years.

I want people to know I just had a baby. Like the lady who did my nails or the bank teller or cashier at the grocery store. I want to have my tiny 4 week old with me and get the "awwww, how old is she?" question. Not just that, but I feel like I need to explain why I'm still wearing maternity clothes or why I try not to pick up heavy things. Oh well. I want to show off my Layla!

The only thing that does that for me, or opens up the conversation to talk about her is this necklace. 

I've worn it everyday since I picked it up. We had Layla cremated and a small amount of her ashes are in this heart necklace. My favorite things about it:

- it's close to my heart
- it gets warm. I know it sounds silly, but I remember holding Layla and thinking how warm she was. I touch this necklace throughout the day when I think of her, and it's warm.
- Kylie knows it's 'from Layla'. She woke up the other night and came to cuddle with me on the couch. With her eyes closed, she reached for my necklace and held onto it as she fell asleep. I know she probably doesn't really get it, but it made me happy.

I always miss Layla, but I thought of her a lot this weekend. It was Christmas, after all. On Christmas Eve, I just kept thinking of wanting her with us. Sitting around the tree opening presents. I wanted her in my arms. I wanted her to get passed around or interrupt me to eat. I almost felt like it was boring without her. I think moms can relate to what I mean. It takes time to be ready for another baby, and I was ready. So, as I've said before, I guess I'm kind of ancy for that. In due time.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Christmas is the season of giving. It began early for us, when we had Layla. Thank you, for giving. Bryan, Kylie and I have been truly blessed to be on the receiving end of all of your generous gifts. It has made this season brighter. It means so much to have such support. We are in love with our 'church'. And, if you read this post, you know I'm talking about you.

"The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed." - Proverbs 11:25

Be refreshed this holiday season. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

"It's a Process"

We had a perfect party for Layla on Saturday afternoon. It was an open house with desserts and coffee. (I'll post pics soon.) A lot of our family, friends, and people we hadn't met yet came to Celebrate Layla Faith. I smiled and laughed and bragged about my little angel. And cried just a little bit. 

I got a lot of comments about my blog. A lot of "Thank You"s and "Don't stop writing" comments. I was kind of surprised by that. I don't feel like you should be thanking me. Someone said that my sharing is such a selfless act. I don't feel like it is. In fact, sometimes I think it's selfish of me, to think you all care to know my thoughts. But, a lot of you told me not to stop, so I won't. Everyday, I have so much that I could share. So many emotions, so many revelations. Things that I'm thinking about or even just cute things that Kylie says. (On the way to school today, I wasn't talking to her as much as usual. She said, "Mom, are you sad because you miss Layla?" I responded with, "No. Well...not really right now." Kylie said, "Oh, you're sad. Just not crying?" Oh man, my sweet 3 year old knows me better than I do sometimes.)

Something I realized from a couple long days, is that I can physically work for 8 hours, but not emotionally. I know I say those two words a lot. It's the only way I can differentiate between the two. When I'm at work, I'm doing fine. I have things to occupy my mind. Plenty of things to do. But then, when I get a minute to think about myself and Layla, it's hard. Then I get home with Kylie at 5:30 and Bryan is at work, I just don't have any energy left. I don't have any patience. I practically don't even have energy to talk to her and listen to her and enjoy her. Please don't get me wrong, I love her to pieces. I love being home with her. I just don't feel like I can give her what she needs after working all day. Thankfully, this only happens a couple days a week, and it's just a busy season right now. I know that it will ease up a lot after Christmas and especially after New Years. 

It was hard, to carry Layla. Knowing that she wouldn't make it. I knew that there would be this period of grieving, but I had no idea what to expect. It's hard. Yes, I feel strong. I feel good. But, that doesn't mean it's not hard and different. I feel like I should be able to take some Tylenol and feel better. Like I'm in pain and it should just go away in a little bit. Like I should be able to look at the calendar and say, well, everything will be normal after the new year. But, I don't think it's going to be that easy. 

"It's a process.", you know, all the counselors tell you that. And "everyone grieves differently". Blah blah. People can say that all they want. But until you're in the situation, you don't get it. You don't get how it will effect your relationships with people. People you've never met and people you've known forever. I am grateful that I know a few people (through the magnificent internet) who have been in this exact situation. I rely on them sometimes to validate my feelings. To say they remember the feelings. To convince me that I am "normal" even though I don't feel it. 

I think this is going to be a long road. Thank you for thinking of me and Layla and the rest of my family. Thank you for your continued prayers and support. God has been good to us. We're trusting God to comfort us and help us understand things. We're still 'going through' a lot. "It's a process." :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Layla's Impact

I have written so many posts in the last couple days. I decided to condense a few.

1 - Nobody should get sympathy cards and Christmas cards at the same time. That stinks.

2 - My brother-in-law and his fiance are teachers at a school in Milwaukee. The teachers there had teddy bears donated to the Children's Hospital of Milwaukee in Layla's name! It made me so happy to know that Layla is still making an impact in other people's lives.

3 - My mom's Aunt & Uncle sent a card and a note saying they sent a donation to Faith's Lodge in Layla's name. Come to find out, Faith's Lodge is a place for people who are coping with the death of a child. It's located in Danbury, WI and it's the only place like it in the country! What a unique gift that will help the healing process for someone who is going through this situation.

4 - Kylie was telling me a story the other night. "Once upon a time, there was an angel named Layla. She had a little big heart." It made my heart smile. I always talk to Kylie about Layla. I want her to remember her little sister.

5 - I received a pretty cool gift the other day from the MOPS group at our church. It's a piece of wall art that says, "Faith shines brightest in the dark".

Matthew 4:16 - "the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined."

Thank you, ladies. I know you have been thinking and praying for me and my family so much. I love this gift as a great reminder of the blessings that have come from this journey.

Your gift has also trigged a few more thoughts that I'll blog about soon. :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

All Grown Up (cont.)

I'm all grown up...and I'm proud of it. I don't want the old me. I've learned a lot about myself.
- I've grown, a lot, in my faith. 
- I appreciate the little things. 
- I love my family, even more than I did before. 
- I know that my friends support me, no matter what.
- I got to carry my daughter for 34 weeks. 
- I showed Dr's that my baby was a baby, even at 18 weeks. 
- I got to hold her tiny little body, while her heart beat for an hour. 
- I have my very own angel. 
- I have a great story. 
- I feel like I could do anything, because I've done this. 

I love the new 26. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I'm stronger than ever.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

All Grown Up

In the span of four months, I grew up really fast. We found out about Layla's diagnosis in August and it's now December. Those four months went by pretty fast. In the beginning, I couldn't wait for what I have now. But, now, I want to go back about a month & know what to expect, know what to cherish, know what to do. I remember writing in a post, "How do things change when your baby doesn't come home?". I don't know how to explain the feeling of how things have changed, but they have. 

I remember reading a blog post that I found online a couple weeks after we had that 'life-changing' ultrasound. It read:

There is no word for this. There is no word for this beautifully excruciating state of being, in which a parent has been separated from her child by death. There is no term to express the existence of a parent on earth while her child lives in Heaven. Why is that?
            A person who has lost a spouse is a widow or widower. A child who has lost her parents is an orphan. They have terms to describe the change that took place in that moment of loss. They have terms to label their “new normal.”
            I don’t.

When I look at my life before August, I feel like I was young. My life was easy. Our Pastor's message today was titled, "God Trusts Young People". Mary, is thought to have been only 13 years old when she had Jesus. I guess, my question to that is, why? Is it because we still have childlike faith? Is it because He knows that since we're young, it will grow and stretch us like crazy? Is it because He wants us to learn to trust Him early in our lives? 

I'm only 26. But, I'm a different 26 now than I was before Layla. Different than I was before I had to pick up my baby's things from the funeral home. Her ashes, her beautiful white angel dress, her knit hat from her auntie, her pink blankie, and the wristband she wore at the hospital. I walked in the chilly air, down the sidewalk of a busy street, with a black bag of my baby's things. That was the moment that I realized, I'm all grown up.  

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Celebrating Layla's Life

We will not be having a funeral for Layla. Instead, we've decided to celebrate her short life that has made an impact in so many lives. (You are all invited.)

Monday, December 05, 2011

Layla's Story

It was the typical Tuesday for us. An ultrasound appointment after we dropped off Kylie at school. My sister had an appointment with our Dr., and we had a couple questions for her. So, we stopped in and got our answers. We talked with Sarah & Chad for a little while. Then Mom, Bryan and I headed to our ultrasound. We should have known something was up from the very beginning. We had these ultrasounds every three weeks and always had the same routine. 

We went in a different door, had a different nurse, different room, different ultrasound tech, etc. It really irritated me. If you know me well, I like consistency. The ultrasound was very uncomfortable. We couldn't really get a good view of Layla (I blamed it on the different technician). Then we went in to see Dr. Hayes.  I didn't pull out my notebook for mom, because after making it to 34 weeks, I figured it would be the same as usual. When we got into the Dr.'s office, he started by saying, "This is why we've been having ultrasounds every few weeks.". So, I immediately pulled out my notebook an gave it to mom. 

All I heard was "You should deliver in the next week. The sooner, the better". Then I started crying and stopped listening. Mom's notes say that Layla's chest pressure was elevated and there was significantly not enough blood. I remember he kept saying that her demise would be in the next week or two. What an awful word, demise. 

We went to my Dr.'s office to schedule the c-section. Sarah & Chad came back to be with us. Our initial thought was to wait until Wednesday so we could spend the day with Kylie. I couldn't stop thinking about her. I just wanted to see her. Then we changed our minds to later on Tuesday evening. Chad made a good point. He said, "We know her heart is beating now. Why wait?". It was 12:15, we had to be back at 2 for the surgery at 4. A friend picked up Kylie from school & kept her for the day. The more normal, the better for Kylie. We all went home, packed up our bags, emailed work, posted a blog, made phone calls & went back to the hospital. 

Mom & Dad Gruse were there when we got there. We spent the next hour and a half prepping. Pastor Ross got there at 3:20, my Dad, Adam & Staci a little later. I made everyone wear a Layla ribbon & laid out all of her clothes for when we got back. Chad had worked with the anesthesiologist in the past. He explained our situation & asked if my mom & sister could come in the OR with us. He okay'd it and mom, Sarah and Bryan got in their scrubs. Just before we left, Pastor Ross prayed for us. 

Right after the Dr. pulled Layla out, they showed her to me. Finally, I got to see my baby! They wrapped her up and I held her up close to my left shoulder. I could feel her wiggling under my left hand. I knew her heart was beating. Her beautiful lips were open and she moved her mouth. She didn't open her eyes. Every couple minutes I could feel her try to take a breath. She did it four times. Bryan had his hand on her, too, and could feel her. Sarah & Mom had to stay in their seats, but got up a few times to come & see her. 

Just before we left the OR, I asked them to clean her up a little & put the hat from Sarah on. They bundled her up & gave her back to me for heading back to the room. Her heart was still beating. I remember being rolled down the hallway and seeing one person after another who was there for us. So much love. (I'd like to mention that the only person missing was my sister, Emily. She lives in Jacksonville, FL & obviously couldn't make it. She was there in spirit.)

I held her for a long time before letting anyone else hold her. Adam was in charge of my camera. I just wanted so many pictures. Bryan told him to "just keep snapping". After we got 'settled' in the room, Pastor Ross prayed over her. Bryan held her. Our nurse, Ann, from Dr. Hayes's office & our geneticist, Amy, came in to visit. Sarah was the first to hold her, other than me and Bryan. As far as we know, her heart was still beating. After Sarah held her, we unwrapped her blankets so we could see the rest of her tiny body. We admired it for a minute, and then Dr. Winburn came to check her heartbeat. There was none.

We continued to pass her around. Staci, my mom and Bryan's mom all held her. By this time, Kylie was on her way to visit. So, I wanted Layla to have a bath & be in her dress before Kylie got there. The nurses bathed her, so sweetly. They washed her cute dark brown hair with baby shampoo. We all watched as they got her dressed. Her angel dress was too big, but the nurses taped it in the back so you could see her little arms peeking out. 

I held her again. She smelled just like any other newborn who just had a bath. I gave her so many kisses and held her tight. Kylie May got there just after her bath. Bryan met her in the hallway to explain what was going on. She smiled so big when she saw me & Layla. She sat next to me, touched Layla's cheek & looked around at all the people in the room watching us. Kylie was only there for 15 minutes, but it was perfect. I'm so happy we decided to have her come. It was so good to see her with her little sister. 

The hospital has a photographer that volunteers her time to do pictures. She came in and did pictures of Layla. I haven't seen them yet, but I'm sure they'll be treasured. After pictures, they brought the x-ray machine up so Layla didn't have to leave the room. They took two x-rays for the research. 

Everybody was out of the room for the x-rays. My dad came in & held Layla. Then Bryan's dad came in and held her. We talked with Pastor Ross for a while before he left for the night. He had called our funeral director for us to arrange everything. He held Layla and we had a nice talk & prayer. 

The nurses did hand & footprints while people were leaving. When they were done, I held Layla. Bryan and I cut a piece of her short hair to save. She was still in her pretty white dress & pink blankie. We put her hat back on and waited for the funeral director to come at 9. Mom & Sarah were the only ones left. They gave us a few minutes to say good-bye. 

The day was so long. I was exhausted, both physically & emotionally. Sarah and Bryan left around 10:15. We wanted Bryan to get a good night's sleep. Mom stayed with me for the night. I remember saying, "I want to write a few things down so I don't forget." It turned in to me telling mom things to write in my notebook every five minutes while I dozed off to sleep. Those notes and the pictures are what I used to write this. I don't want to forget. I'm sure I never will. 

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Home, Sweet Home

I've missed you! I feel like it's been so long since I've written. This is such a nice outlet for me. I've been thinking about writing a nice long post about Layla's Story for a couple days but haven't had time. Maybe after Kylie goes back to school, I'll have some time to think & write.

We're home. We came home on Thursday afternoon, just shy of my 48 hour mark. I'm pleased to say that I recover very quickly from this (I did with Kylie, too). So, as I've said before, I'm doing good physically. Being home has been a dramatic switch from being in the nice quiet hospital room. I don't remember it being this way with Kylie, but obviously this is different. My first day home, yesterday, was really rough. My best friend, Crimson was here & helped make my house look nice while I sat on the couch. Adam & Staci were great, too. They cleaned, did laundry & dishes, and watched Kylie. It was so perfect to have them here.

I've emotionally been on this roller coaster. I'll be okay for a while, then something just triggers the tears. When Layla was in my tummy, every night before bed, Kylie would pull my shirt up and talk to Baby Layla. On Thursday night, she was sitting by me and said, "I want to say hi to Baby Layla" and pulled up my shirt. Through the tears, I had to remind her that Layla was in heaven with Jesus. She asked why I was crying and I told her I miss Layla. Then she snuggled with me & said she missed her too.

Two kinds of sad. I don't know if this makes sense. But when I think about holding, smelling, and kissing her, I am sad and brought to tears. But, when I think her as my sweet little angel in heaven with Jesus, I'm sad but in a different way. I received a blog from a dear friend a couple days ago. It has given me the perspective that I need and helped me to acknowledge that Layla's tiny body was just her shell here on earth.  I am comforted by the fact that Layla's soul is in heaven and we will see her again. A loss here on earth is not final, it's temporary. As Christians, we have hope and we will be reunited in heaven.

I would love to respond to every single one of your messages. I have read and probably re-read all of them. We are so blessed to have such a great support system. We know we can lean on you for anything we need. Thank you for the food, gift cards, Celebrating Layla Faith donations and prayers. We feel so incredibly blessed. We can't say thank you enough.