Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A New Year Already?

2014. Is it really almost 2014? 

Many people probably thing I am ready to give 2013 the boot and move in to a 'better year', but that isn't necessarily how I feel. 2013 was undoubtedly the worst and the best year of my life. So many expectations that never came to fruition, and so many unexpected blessings. 

This year, 2013, is the only year that Sawyer knew and the only year he will have ever known. His whole entire, though it short, life was lived in 2013. Moving on to 2014 scares me in a sense. I am not ready for it to be a different year. I am not ready for it to be a year Sawyer was never a part of. I don't want to start saying that my baby died "last year". Although 2013 was literally a living hell, I am not ready to see it go. 2013 is Sawyer's year, and it always will be to me. The year started out, literally within a few days in to January, on the emotional roller coaster we are still currently on today. January 3 was the day we received the news that something was wrong, and it never got better from there. 

While it is easy to see all of the bad, because let's face it, there was a lot - I want to focus on the things that this year has given me and be thankful for those. I am going in to 2014 with no expectations, because to be honest I am tired of being disappointed. 


1. Sawyer - I could go on and on about Sawyer, but I don't have to do that. Just know anything and everything about this little boy is the best thing that happened this year, and losing him was the worst.

2. My relationship with Christ has taken a positive turn. While it isn't always great, and I still struggle with bitterness, my relationship with Him has given me a new sense of strength and peace. 

3. My wonderful husband, Josh. We have experienced more this year together than most will in a lifetime. Our relationship is stronger than most, and for that I am thankful. When God brought us together six years ago, He definitely knew what He was doing. 

4. Our new house - it is crazy to think we are actually homeowners. When did I become old enough for this?! I love our house and all the crazy animals that fill it up. 

5. My new job as a teacher. This job is a blessing for my heart. The students and other teachers have been such an encouragement to my spirit and I love my job!

6. My family - this year has brought my closer to my immediate family, and Josh's as well, closer than I really thought was ever possible. They haven't made us "forget", instead they help us remember. 

7. Friendships - people come and go, and I am thankful for the friends that have stuck it out with us through this year and also the new ones we have made through this journey. 

8. My support group - wow, what a blessing. I hate our circumstances but I am so glad to know them all. It is nice to be able to go to a group and just let all your feelings out with no judgment, because they totally understand.

9. GA Christian Mom Group - yet another blessing. Wow, what a great group of ladies! They have surrounded me with love and support and prayers throughout this whole year and I couldn't be more thankful. They all mean more to me than I have probably ever told them. 

10. Our (second) dog, Boone! When we got married we adopted our first dog, Dixie. She is a Australian Shepherd/Husky mix and crazy as ever! When Sawyer passed away we went to the shelter to just "look" and saw a brindle colored Shepherd/Lab mix that was almost out of time. He was so sweet we just couldn't leave without him - and he is the most well-behaved dog! 

11. Charleston - this place has brought us more peace, comfort, and relaxation than we ever thought possible. We went to Charleston after Sawyer passed away, and are ringing in the New Year there as well. 

12. Church family - our church family has been a support and we couldn't be more thankful for that. 

13. Children's Healthcare of Atlanta - the doctors and nurses here fought just as hard as we could have wanted them to in order to save Sawyer's life. I am thankful for all of them and their dedication to not only Sawyer, but all of the babies and children at the hospital.

14. Doctors - all of them; My doctors and Sawyers doctors. Dr. Pohl, Dr. Videlfsky, the doctors at Maternal-Fetal specialists, the surgeons; Dr. Alsoufi, Dr. Kanter, and Dr. Kogan, the nurses that took care of my and Sawyer at any point, the doctors in Cincinnati. Without them we probably wouldn't have had 18 days with Sawyer. 

15. Health Insurance- because no one can afford over 1 million in bills. Literally 18 days in the hospital and the bills topped 1 million and more. 

16. Neighbors - Josh and I have been blessed with the best neighbors anyone could ask for in their life. From the neighbor that helped us get a better home loan, to the neighbors that call and check on us when our car hasn't moved from the driveway in a couple of days. 

17. Gwinnett Memorial Gardens - this is where Sawyer is buried. The people who own the Memorial Gardens are great and so nice. I usually stop in to say hello when I go to visit Sawyer. 

18. Memories - this year gave me a lot of them and for that I am thankful. 2013 is a year I most certainly won't forget both in a good way and a bad way. 

[Any one catch what I did there with the number 18?]

I enter 2014 with a cautious heart, cherishing all the moments and working toward fully trusting the plan The Lord has already written in my "book". I don't know what this new year holds, but I do know what it will be missing. I can't say it will be a better year, but good grief certainly it is only up from the living hell this last year has been. I will be honest though, I don't really view this New Year as a "fresh start" because it isn't. What happened this year isn't something that will go away when we start writing 2014 on our checks instead of 2013, it something that we will live with forever and we will forever be different people. 

Wishing you a Happy New Year where you can rest in the fact that God is in control and He does have a plan for your life even though it may not be clear currently. It isn't easy facing struggles, but you don't have to enter this new year alone. 

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9 

Until next year,


Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas 2013

I survived! I made it through the first Christmas without my baby.

The biggest part of my survival through these 'firsts' holidays have been my friends and family. They continually remind me of the strength (of which I sometimes don't even see) I have been displaying through these months. I know I owe much of my strength to Christ because the truth is I wouldn't be where I am today without His love and strength to hold me up when I have felt at my weakest. 

I woke up Christmas morning not really knowing what to expect. I didn't know how I was going to feel, or really how I should feel about the day. The truth of the matter is - there are no guidelines on grief and I have to work through it on my own. I can't be afraid of what people may think or how others might do it because in all reality until someone has walked in my shoes, they have NO idea. I think through the holidays and trying to focus my energy on getting through, I have actually come out of some rut I was stuck in. 

I only cried a few times on Christmas, which is much better than I was expecting. I really thought I would be a hot mess all day. I teared up reading through the RACK emails, cried when I woke up, and cried about halfway through our Christmas run-around. I realized that no matter how sad I was and no matter how much my heart longed to have Sawyer with us, Christmas was just not going to be what I had planned for last Christmas. I chose to spend time with family and be thankful for my large, close-knit family.

Here are a few pictures from the day for you to enjoy (and also for me to have as a part of the blog book I will print at the end of the year!).

Our tree (and some of my favorite ornaments)

Sawyer's stocking is the monkey riding the giraffe, I love it!

Our day started with the RACK cards!

Over 50 cards (and each had more than one RACK!)

Josh and I were blown away by the participation in this and really want to make it an annual event every Christmas! It will be so special to be able to share in this with our future children :)

Here is a video where I read some of the RACK's and I am working on the final RACK post that includes all of the RACK's!

Christmas Morning RACK Video! 

We continued our day by spending time with family, the thing I love the most about Christmas. We just wish all of our family was with us.

Snuggles with Luke

Mimi and Emma reading to Sawyer Bear :)

Annual cousin picture, where no one looks the right way!

Ended the night with Sawyer.

I love this picture :)

Sawyer's Aunt Dana got him a present!

Love this book :)

I received a lot of gifts this year that revolved around Sawyer. I love them all, and this one really touched my heart. My cousin asked me for a profile picture of Sawyer, and this is what I opened on Christmas Eve at my grandmothers house!

We also made these ornaments for our family. We had a mold of Sawyer's foot made the night he passed away and I had this idea while trying to think of something special for our families.

 To finish off our Christmas, here is a picture of our family. It isn't the picture I wanted to take this Christmas, but this is my family this Christmas. I am thankful for my friends and family who walked along side Josh and I through the days leading up to Christmas. I wish Sawyer was here physically, but I know he lives on through Josh and I in our daily lives.


Until next time,

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

I can't say I have been looking forward to Christmas Eve, because the truth is I would have liked to just skip these last few weeks. 

I have, however, been doing okay. As we get ready to participate in all of the family gatherings that are a tradition, I know I will have my share of tears, and that is okay. I have a wonderful family who will support us and cry with us. There isn't a member of our family who doesn't miss Sawyer through these holidays. 

I look back over the last few weeks and thank God for allowing me to bless and be blessed. Through my church I was able to plan a dinner and child sponsorship for Christmas gifts. I met with the moms before giving them the gifts our church family had purchased to try and give them some ray of hope. Until this year, I never realized that people could hurt this bad through the holidays. I told these moms we know they are hurting, but so does God. Just as He has never left my side, He hasn't left theirs either. I know everyone involved with this dinner and child sponsorship left that night with a full heart and a reminder God is good! 

I have also done my fair share of "Random Acts of Christmas Kindness". I'm always nervous walking up to random people, but I never leave feeling as if I have made a mistake. I leave with a smile on my face, as do they, and a full heart. I can't wait to share what people have done and what I was able to do with you. I really think God, no I KNOW that God used this as a way to bring me some joy through these extremely tiring, emotionally draining, and just painful days. 

I have also been reminded that Sawyer has not been forgotten. I see him everywhere in everything, but the way others have reached out through these holidays is a blessing to my heart. I have received gifts from people because they reminded them of Sawyer and it gets me every time!

This time of year has always been exciting for me. I have never had anything to rock my world, until now. Everyone is excited about who is getting what and making their Christmas lists. Unfortunately the one thing I want this a Christmas is something I can't have. Another unfortunate thing - this is the case for a lot more people than you may be aware of right now. My support group met last night and I was just reminded that I am not alone in this pain through he holidays. I wish I was. I wish no one else had to experience this, but they do. I hate the circumstances under which I have met these ladies, but I am oh so thankful for them. 

One of them said something to me last night that really helped me through the struggle of "how to survive Christmas" (there is no handbook, trust me I have looked). Her words spoke so much truth. When Jesus was born, he was born in a manger in a dirty stinky barn with animals. When we were born, most of us were welcome in to a nice clean hospital. This was not the case for our Savior, the One who came to save us all. Mary and Joseph couldn't even get a room at a hotel. Through His birth in a dirty barn, His life of a perfect example for us, and His death of being beaten and nailed to a cross, we are given the reassurance of eternal life. Through His birth and His death, I have the comfort that Sawyer was welcomed to Heaven with open arms and that I, too, will be reunited with my Savior and my baby again. Thank you God for sending your son, to a dirty barn and to die on a cross, to save me from my sins and so that both my son and I will have eternal life with You!

"Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" Matthew 28:20

As you go throughout your day, remember those who are hurting for a numerous amount of reasons. If you are hurting today, know you aren't alone. Your life may not be perfect right now, but through Christ's birth, and death, there is a perfect eternity waiting for you! If nothing else, thank God for the birth of the Savior who came to save us all - the real meaning of this Christmas season. Through my tears, I will be thankful. 

Until next time,

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sawyer's Story


I am sure you have stumbled upon my blog because you were a recipient of a "Random Act of Christmas Kindness" in memory of my sweet baby, Sawyer and this makes my heart happy! 

After some thought about how to 'survive' this first Christmas without our son, my husband and I decided we wanted to do something to benefit the community and share Sawyer's story and how the Lord has really been working through our lives. I wish I could take credit for the idea of RACK, but it has been around for quite some time. I am, though, VERY excited at the potentially large amount of people that will be blessed in memory of Sawyer. I am not sure what you may be facing this Christmas season, but I can assure you that God has not forgotten you in your time of struggle or even your time of gratitude. He has been and will be with you every step of the way, just as He has been with us.

My name is Ashlyn and my husband is Josh. We have been married almost two years and have one child, Sawyer. Unfortunately Sawyer was born with a congenital heart defect and was only with us for 18 days before he went to be with his Heavenly Father. Here is Sawyer's story.

Sawyer was born May 9, 2013 at 12:09 AM. I was in labor for 24 hours before it was decided I would need a c-section. He was an even 8 pounds and 21 3/4 inches long! We knew throughout the pregnancy that Sawyer would need to be evaluated immediately after birth, so unfortunately I was unable to hold him after he was born. During the pregnancy we were told that there was a chance he would be able to come home before needing surgery, but unfortunately this was not the case. He was taken directly to the NICU and was intubated in order to breath better. Our pediatric cardiologist did an ECHO and found that the condition discovered during pregnancy was very severe. Within twelve hours of Sawyer being born he was transferred to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. Luckily I was able to hold him before he was whisked away to another hospital. The next 36 hours were a struggle because I wanted to be with my baby, but I was stuck in a hospital bed recovering from the c-section. 

Sawyer's heart condition is known as Tetralogy of Fallot with Absent Pulmonary Valve Syndrome. It is basically five different defects all combined in to one. The defect caused his pulmonary artery to be enlarged and press on his lungs. You can read more about the condition here.

Once I was released from the hospital my husband and I traveled to Atlanta so I could see my baby! My grandparents graciously paid for a hotel room for us in Atlanta so that we would be closer to the hospital. I hated leaving him at night, but I was so thankful we were so close. For the first week the doctors tried to extubate him and allow him to breath on his own but unfortunately he was not able to because of how his pulmonary artery was pressing on his lungs. They knew that he would require surgery and it was finally decided that at 13 days old on May 22, he would have surgery to close the hole in his heart and also reduce the size of that pulmonary artery. He was scheduled for surgery that morning and it was going to be a 4-5 hour surgery. The surgeon came to get Josh and I after the surgery was over to let us know how things had gone. During the surgery Sawyer had struggled and the surgeon was worried. They finally got him stable and planned to move him back to the ICU, where he had been since day 1. We wouldn't be able to see him for an hour or two and we had not really eaten all day so we left to grab a bite to eat 5 minutes up the road. We had not made it to a parking space before they were calling us and telling us to come back, QUICK.

Once we arrived back at the hospital (after running almost every red light it feels like), we were told that Sawyer had coded for about 4 minutes and was being put on ECMO (life support). I crumbled when I heard the news because usually the prognosis for babies on ECMO is not good, at least from what I had seen through our time at the hospital. Through the next five days Sawyer fought hard and so did we. Our families surrounded us with love and support and prayers for whatever the outcome would be. On May 27, 2013 Sawyer had been on ECMO for 5 days. He had started having seizures, his blood loss through his chest tubes was increasing, and he had a blood infection. They were weary that giving him a coagulant would clog the ECMO machine and we would have no choice but to stop the machine so they waited until the last minute. Once giving him this medicine they saw he was using it to stay alive and it was doing nothing to stop the bleeding. We knew it was time to make the terrible decision to let our baby slip in to the arms of Jesus.

Losing Sawyer and these months that have followed have been the hardest days that Josh and I have gone through. No parents should ever have to bury their baby, ever. I have to be honest and say that it was hard to trust God's plan through all of this. Little by little and day by day I have seen parts of His plan revealed and the way Sawyer's story is touching people that I do not even know, and probably never will. My heartache is still very real, especially through the holiday season, but the strength and love of my Savior is even more real. 

Christmas is a time when everyone is upbeat and bright and excited about Christmas morning with their children. I want to be excited about that, but it is obvious to see why Christmas is such a devastating time for our family. When everyone is asking us what we really want for Christmas, the honest answer is something that no one can give us. We really just want Sawyer here with us.

I had to take a step back from my sadness and try to think of something that would really share the love of Christ this Christmas. Because in all reality, Jesus Christ IS the reason for this season. We are celebrating His birth and without Jesus there is no Christmas. Without the birth of our Savior we wouldn't have the promise that we will one day see Sawyer again. Through our journey, though we feel weak, we know that our strength is from Christ alone. He has held us up and shown us His love in our darkest days. Christmas is not easy for everyone, whether they have lost a loved one, lost their job, or some other tragic event. My Random Acts of Christmas Kindness was designed to share Sawyer's story and how Christ has really been working through it and us to show love to those around us. Sawyer wouldn't want us to mope around, especially when the reason for the season is the One who healed our precious boy and is caring for him until we are reunited again! 

My husband and I are praying for your family, whatever you may be facing this Christmas. We hope that this RACK you received brightened your day, and made this season a little bit easier. Know that you are not alone. The verse that has sustained us through this time has been Joshua 1:9 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you may go." He IS with you, WHEREVER you go!

May you have a blessed Christmas!

(Sawyer's Momma)

You can read through the rest of my posts over on the right side!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Random Acts of Christmas Kindness

It is no surprise I have been struggling with the holidays and how to handle them emotionally. When asked how Thanksgiving was this year, I generally replied with "I survived." Because in all honesty, that is the truth. Now November is behind us and December has started full swing, whether I am ready or not. Truth be told, again, I am not ready. I am not ready for Christmas music, decorating, or the hustle and bustle of shopping for Christmas presents. 

With all of that being said, I have an idea that may make Christmas a little easier to handle without Sawyer here. I know that nothing will change the fact that we will be waking up on Christmas morning to the sound of silence , but I am hoping this lifts the burden of pain a little bit. 

My idea: Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, in memory of Sawyer.

I have done a lot of research on how to survive the first year after losing a baby. I ran across a blog in which a mother encouraged other moms who have lost babies to share how they 'survived' Christmas, in hopes of encouraging others who are just at a loss, like me. One of the stories came from a mother who lost her son, Noah when he was 5 1/2 months old. The first Christmas they didn't do anything but try to make it through, but the second Christmas she came up with the Random Acts of Christmas Kindness (RACK) idea. She encouraged her friends and family to do things in her son's memory and then email them to her. She promised not to read them, and simply printed them out and placed them in his stocking to read Christmas morning. 

I think this is a great idea! People will be sharing Sawyer's story (and the way God has been working) and we will wake up to a stocking FULL, hopefully, of envelopes to open on Christmas morning. It won't change the fact that I really wish I had Sawyer here this coming Christmas morning, but it will help my hurting heart that people have been making the world a little bit brighter in his memory! Some people may say that this isn't random since people know it is in memory of Sawyer, but I think it is. These people will be random strangers and will totally be surprised!

So, here is the plan for all willing to participate:

1. I have created this 'card' for you to give to whoever you decide to randomly bless. You can print this out and take them with you when you go out and about.

2. Once you have "RACK'ed" someone, send an email to rememberingSawyer@gmail.com. I am going to have my mom print these off and seal them in envelopes, that way we won't know what has been done until Christmas morning!

3. Check back the week after Christmas for the stories of how God is working through the Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, I am sure there will be lots!

I am working on making mine cute :)

Need ideas? (Make sure to hand out the card!)
 - Pay for the person behind you in the drive-thru line.
 - Tape quarters to a vending machine.
 - Take breakfast to your local firehouse.
 - Donate canned goods to a local food bank.
 - Donate food/newspaper/towels to your local animal shelter.
 - Take your neighbors trash can back up their driveway.
 - Give an 'extra' tip at the restaurant.
 - Buy a co-worker their favorite cup of coffee.
 - Leave treats on your neighbors porches.
 - Leave flowers on someone's car in the parking lot.
 - Take the 'mall Santa' a Starbuck's gift card.
 - Leave a gas gift-card on a car.
 - Send a gift to your child's teacher.
 - Leave money in a book at the library.
 - Donate to your local children's hospital.
 - Leave dollars in the kids section at the dollar store.
 - Leave a free promo code on a redbox machine.
 - Make a cup of hot chocolate for your mailman.

Do you have some ideas? Be sure to leave them in the comments for others!

I have given a list of 18 ideas to represent the 18 days we had with Sawyer. You can do one, or all of them, however you feel led. I am hoping that the response to this will be overwhelming and Sawyer's stocking will be overflowing Christmas morning. Things like this always make my heart happy, and I know it is a blessing to the recipient. 

I have some printed out and ready to go! If you have any questions, or need some printed for you PLEASE let me know! Don't forget to share and email us :) Take a picture if you can! I am also working on a blog post detailing Sawyer's story so that those who visit our blog will be able to read it in one post.

Josh and I are SO excited about this and I know God is going to be working through us and all of you these next few weeks. I cannot wait for my blog post after Christmas!

With love,