Avery Kate

Avery Kate was a healthy ten week old baby girl who went to sleep for a nap and woke up in Heaven. We miss her every second of every day. SIDS became a reality in our family and we will never forget our beautiful baby girl.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Let it pour!

And so the sickness begins!! I started getting sick on Wednesday and it's just getting worse every day. I knew it was coming so I'm not at all surprised. On the bright side, it lets me know that this little pea in here is alive and healthy. I went to my first real doctor's appointment today. He did an ultrasound and we saw the tiniest little heartbeat. He is also doing more ultrasounds and letting us see a high risk specialist just to keep my sanity. The more we can rule out the better. I am already nervous as can be so all these extra treatments will just help ease my mind.
On the other hand, this sickness makes me grieve Avery Kate even more! I now remember all these same feelings I had when I was pregnant with her. It's just so weird that I'm pregnant with another baby and it's not Avery Kate. It makes me miss her more and realize that she is never coming home.
I'm also kind of freaking out! My two pregnancies were totally different. This one mirrors Avery Kate's though. So you know I'm thinking, well since this one is just like hers, then the same thing will happen to this baby. I know it's highly unlikely, but I can't help or control the thoughts that go through my head.
Brandon and Hallie have been real troopers. Hallie is the sweetest little nurse. She's been waiting on me hand and foot. She is just so sweet! I look at her and remember why I'm doing all of this. And thank goodness for a wonderful husband! My poor house would be falling apart if it weren't for him. I really am blessed in so many ways.
This is only the beginning! I'm only 7 weeks along. The storm has only just begun. I can see that beautiful rainbow at the end of the tunnel though. So I say, "Bring it on!" I know this is all worth it in so many ways. I look forward... Way forward... To that moment when I can hold our baby in our arms and feel happiness. Bring on the rain, God! I'm ready!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What do you say? Part 2

And so the question pops up again, "What do you say?" We haven't told Hallie about the baby yet because we are just at a loss for words. What do we tell her? I had poked my belly out one day while looking in the mirror and she asked me why Avery Kate was back in there. She will not understand that this is a different baby. She is really smart, but even I have trouble understanding all of this and I don't expect her to comprehend it either. We are going to talk with Fr. Keith and see what he thinks. I know he will have the right words to say.
Hallie has also been asking a lot of questions lately. She keeps asking for us to go and get Avery Kate. When I explain to her that we can't she always says, "OK, Mom. Maybe tomorrow we can go get her." Then I have to tell her again, "No, Hallie. We can't go get her." "Yea, Momma! We can! Maybe next time OK?" I have run out of things to say to her. I try to explain Heaven and Jesus. I try to explain the graveyard, etc. She's two years old. How can I expect her to get this?
She has put a few things together that also make it harder for me to explain. She knew Paw Paw was sick, and that's why he went to Heaven. Well the other day, completely out of the blue, she said, "Mom, Avery Kate feels good." "Yea? OK baby, she did. You're right. She felt great," I answered. "Then why she went to Heaven Mom? She feels good?" What do you say?
I took Hallie to the graveyard the other day, and as we went to leave I asked her if she would like to go and tell Avery Kate good-bye. "Stay right here, Mom," she said. I didn't move. I watched as she walked over to her grave. I saw her mouth moving, but I couldn't make out the words she spoke. She then shook her head up and down, blew her a kiss, and waved good-bye to her sister. "I ready, Mom," she said. I hurried and slipped the sunglasses over my eyes to hide the tears that had filled my eyes. I put her in the car and drove away in silence and complete amazement of my child. She inspires me. She is an amazing big sister and always will be. I wanted to tell her that, but I have learned in moments like these, I don't have to say anything at all. Sometimes silence just says it all.

100 days

This weekend marked 100 days that we've been without Avery Kate. Imagine being without someone you love for 100 days. Imagine growing something inside of you from the size of a little sesame seed, feeling every movement and kick, feeling every hiccup. Imagine watching those first breaths in the real world, watching those first looks into your eyes, hearing that first cry, that first laugh. Imagine melting at a first smile. Imagine spending every moment with someone and then never seeing them again. Imagine never holding those little hands again, never hearing those cries, those laughs, those hiccups. Imagine never being able to look into those eyes again.
I don't have to imagine any of this, I'm living it. I've spent 100 days and 100 nights without the little baby that I created, grew, and brought into this world. I've also spent 100 days and nights without a piece of my heart that I know I will never get back. People say, "Time heals all wounds." Well not these wounds. It is getting harder and harder each day. My arms continue to ache for my baby girl. I pulled out her "Threads of Love" from the hospital. I smelled her outfit and immediately felt her with me. It's so sad to see it cut down the middle, it's like it brings my mind back to that day when I saw her lying on the table. I looked at her little wisp of hair and at her footprint. She was just so perfect, and I guess that's why God had to take her. Some days it is comforting knowing that she is in Heaven, but other days, not so much. It doesn't make me miss her any less.
We went to the Lake Charles Mardi Gras parade on Sunday. Hallie rode in it with Mrs. Christy and we all went to watch her. That entire morning I just felt so sad and upset and I thought it was maybe because another holiday was approaching that Avery Kate would not be a part of. As we drove down Ryan Street and passed in front of Mr. Gatti's I suddenly realized why I was upset. When I took Hallie and Avery Kate to the McNeese Homecoming Parade, that's where we stood. I held Avery Kate in my arms and helped Hallie get beads and candy. Well that explains the big lump in my throat. We had such a good time at that parade and I knew if Avery Kate were there, she'd be enjoying the beautiful weather and the parade too. But she wasn't there. My family and I stood there watching the parade and waiting to see Hallie on her float. We all felt so "naked." It was so strange to stand there with no kids. It's like when you forget to wear your wedding ring, you keep feeling for it all day, but it's not there. But then Hallie finally came rolling down the street. She was absolutely adorable. She was so happy! Just smiling and throwing her beads. It definitely made my day! That's what keeps me going. Every time I'm upset or sad, it's Hallie to the rescue! She can turn my smile upside down any day, any time. I love that little girl!
We also took Hallie to spend the night at Lauberge since we were all off for the Mardi Gras holiday. She had so much fun that she thought it was her birthday! We ate supper there, played in the arcade, got ice cream, and best of all, jumped on the bed! She had a blast. Her little voice and expressions made me remember what it was like to actually have fun again. We can really learn a lot from children. They don't judge, hold grudges, and can always have fun no matter where they are.
On another note, with this new baby on the way, I've had so many mixed emotions. Happiness, guilt, nervousness, anxiety, fear, excitement. I am just so happy that God has answered my prayers, and so quickly at that! But now the reality is hitting me. I will have to clean out Avery Kate's room. I will have to take the clothes from her hamper and wash them, I will have to take her clothes out of her closet, I will have to put away all of her blankets and towels. How will I do that? Brandon doesn't want to reuse her swing because it is just too hard for him. But what do I do with it? I don't want to reuse her car seat because it still smells like her. I go in there and sniff it from time to time and it brings me comfort. What do I do with that? I guess I will figure it all out with time. After all, I do have all the way until October to decide these things. I think part of my anxiety is just the unknown. But you know, even though we plan everything out, we still don't actually know what life will bring. Only the Man upstairs knows that, and he still never gave me a copy of his plan! I guess He truly knows best and I need to trust in Him. He has never let me down and I don't think he plans to either. I know these 100 days are so small compared to the eternity we will spend in Heaven. It's just hard to wrap my head around that though. I now embrace the 100 days that have passed and welcome the next 100 days to come. I know they will bring happiness and joy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Change is a good thing... I hope!

After a wonderful weekend sharing our news with our family and friends, it was time to for Sunday mass. This wasn't our normal Sunday mass though, it would be our last church service in our church. Our new church had been built and we would never again celebrate mass here. I had such a mixed feeling of emotions. The music was beautiful and everything was just so "homey" in our little church. This is the church where Hallie and Avery Kate both had been baptized and the church where we held Avery Kate's funeral. It was really sad thinking that our new baby wouldn't be able to be baptized here too like his/her sisters. I know it's silly but I'm sentimental like that. I also thought about how neat it was that this little "sesame seed" in my tummy would be able to be at this mass for our last church service. It was just neat to think of the timing of everything.
On Monday Brandon and I stood outside the new church waiting to enter for the first time. It was the blessing and dedication of the new church. I looked at the beautiful doors and thought, "I bet Hallie will get married here." It brought the biggest smile to my face to think that we were witnessing history! Suddenly I was saddened when I remembered that Avery Kate would not be able to get married in this church; she'd never even get to attend this church. I know she is always with us in spirit, but sometimes even knowing that does not comfort me. I want her physically here.
I'm not sure if it's the passing of time that makes me miss her even more, the nervous jitters I'm getting about being in a new church, or the thought of me being pregnant with another baby that's making me so down in the dumps lately, but I'm not liking it. I used to be able to smile and laugh all day, every day. I used to be able to have fun no matter where I was and no matter what I was doing. I was always so laid back. I didn't worry or stress about things. I just lived by the motto, "I'll get to it when I get to it." And that always worked for me. Now I'm a little different, and I can't snap out of it. I am always worried about everyone! When my parents are on the interstate to come visit, I worry non-stop about them getting into an accident. I am constantly worrying that Hallie will suddenly stop breathing and it's only a matter of time before Mrs. Kathy calls to tell me. I worry that Brandon will stop breathing in his sleep and I will roll over to a cold, lifeless husband. I worry that Sadie (our dog) will pass away during the day and I'll be the one to find her lying in her bed when I get home. I am constantly worrying about a miscarriage, and even worse.... how I will be when that day comes and I have to take our baby home. I'm freaking out!! I know Avery Kate's death is still fresh, and this pregnancy is new. I'll relax soon, I hope! There are just a lot of major changes right now.
I'm also a little...OK a lot....nervous to find out the sex of this baby. I know I have to wait until May, but it just has my mind going crazy! When I was pregnant for Avery Kate, I wished she would be a boy. I called her Hayden Michael up until the day that we found out she was a girl. I always wanted a little boy and a little girl. Once she was born I just loved every minute of having two girls. I loved dressing them and putting little bows in their hair. I loved Hallie having a sister. She was so good at it, and I know she will be great again. Now if this baby ends up being a boy, I will feel so guilty. I know this baby would not even exist if it weren't for Avery Kate's passing, so I just feel like I shouldn't have a boy. And EVERYONE keeps telling me it's a boy and it really upsets me. Now if it's a girl, there is no way she will be able to wear Avery Kate's hand-me-downs. Well, most of them have her name on them (love the monogramming!) but those that don't are just so special to me. I wouldn't want people to think I'm trying to replace my baby girl. I can never replace Avery Kate. She was unique and special. No matter what I have next, boy or girl, that baby will also be unique and special. We will just wait until May and go from there.
Anyways, these have just been my thoughts these past few days. I actually feel so much better just by writing this. So maybe I will be a little less stressed for the rest of this week. With this roller coaster of emotions that's been going on lately, it would be nice to feel stress free for a while, especially since I can't have my glass of wine anymore!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

With every death, there is new life.

February 8, 2012. Since the day Avery Kate passed, Brandon and I knew that we'd have more children. My arms just felt so empty! I loved Hallie having a sister and someone to "play with." I knew there would be no way possible to ever replace Avery Kate, but I knew I wanted another baby to bring some more love and happiness into our lives.
Well let's face it, my body was really out of whack! I had been through so much in two months and there is just no getting pregnant when your body is this stressed. I called my doctor the week before and told him my body was acting crazy and I needed him to fix it! I went in for my appointment that Wednesday at 9:30. I had someone cover my class, because I knew I'd be right back after my appointment. Brandon came with me. We sat and talked to the doctor for a little over an hour. He wanted to reassure us that we did nothing wrong with Avery Kate and we were great parents. He gave me a recipe for getting pregnant which included exercising, relaxing, clearing my mind, etc. Anything to get me to be stress free. I just wanted a pill! I wanted him to snap his fingers and make me pregnant! He said it didn't work like that. I have to admit, I was mad!

Now normally I take a pregnancy test two days before my period is due. I can't wait! For Avery Kate I knew I was pregnant at three and half weeks! But this time, I didn't take a test. I knew I wasn't pregnant this time. I wasn't going to disappoint myself by taking a test just to see a big fat negative. Well my doctor had all these tests written up to check all my levels to be sure I was OK to get pregnant now. Then he said, "Would you mind if I ran a quick urine pregnancy test here just to rule that out?" Sure, why not? I knew it was going to be negative. He took forever! I mean, I realize he has other patients, but I felt like I was the only one in the office that day. In the back of my mind I kept picturing him walking back into the room and screaming, "You're pregnant!" But then I'd snap myself back to reality. I knew deep down that I wasn't and I didn't want to get my hopes up. When he came back into the room, he had this strange look on his face. I thought he was going to try to make me feel better for getting a negative result. Then he said, "We ran it twice just to be sure, and they both came back positive." I couldn't believe it! I started to cry. I wasn't sure if they were happy tears, scared tears, guilty tears, or thankful tears. They may have been a mixture of them all! Brandon and I just looked at each other in disbelief. I couldn't go back to school. I was just too full of emotions! I knew this had to happen for us soon now that we had Avery Kate and Paw Paw routing for us up there! I just never thought it would be now.
The doctor wanted to be sure everything was OK, so I did blood work that I'd have to repeat in 48 hours, and got a RhoGAM shot.
The first person I told was Avery Kate. I know she already knew, but I went straight to her grave and thanked her for her part in this miracle. Then Brandon and I picked up lunch and went to share our news with Honey and Pops. They were so excited for us and can't wait to keep this baby too!
We still weren't sure that everything was OK, so we didn't share our news with the "world" until Friday. I did more blood work, and got word from the doctor that everything looked good.
I know God has blessed us with a true miracle. I am so thankful!!!
I know this all happened the way it did for a reason. In the past, any time I'd have a moment of silence, I would replay that awful moment when the doctor told me about Avery Kate. It didn't replay it in the horrible way that  it really happened, but it still replayed in my mind every single day. Now when I have a moment of silence, I replay that happy moment when my wonderful doctor gave the news of our new miracle baby. Thank you Jesus!
When a baby is born following the death of a previous child or miscarriage, that baby is called a rainbow baby. We know we will never replace sweet Avery Kate, but we welcome happiness into our lives.

Divine Intervention

One Friday afternoon I left school at 3:00 and went to pick up Hallie just as I always do. When I put her in the car I had a random thought that we go to visit Honey and Pops. I didn't call, but just drove straight there. When I drove up Hallie got so excited, "We going get A-vey Kate!" Poor baby just didn't understand and I was the one who had to break the news to her again. When I got to the door Honey was there waiting. She hugged me and didn't want to let go. "How did you know?" she kept asking. I had no clue what she was talking about. She told me that she had a rough week and needed a hug. She went to get her phone to text me asking if I was busy and if I minded stopping by her house for a while. Right as she grabbed for her phone, I drove up.
We stayed and visited for a while. I love the way God works. He is truly amazing. I believe he does these "divine interventions" a lot and people fail to recognize them. So now when I get caught up in traffic, held up at school, or even when I am running late I don't get mad. I stop and thank God. There may have been a car accident or some other sort of mishap that he is stopping us from being a part of. I vow to be patient and let God lead the way.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Heaven is for Real

Brandon and I started reading the book, Heaven is for Real. It was the most unbelievable story about a young boy's trip to Heaven and back. I couldn't get enough. I kept wanting to know more about the place that my baby was now living. After reading it, I felt at such peace about where she was. She was the lucky one and I couldn't wait to get there to be with her! That book really comforted me in every way possible. The way the little boy explained heaven reminded me of those two dreams I had with Avery Kate and Paw Paw.
Then an amazing thing happened. A good friend of mine, who is now living in another country, called me to let me in on some information he had researched about Heaven. He told me everything in Heaven is done through thought. So if I'm thinking about Avery Kate, then she's with me. When she got to Heaven, all her relatives greeted her there and she was never alone. She will continue to grow up in Heaven and when I get there, she won't be a baby any more. He also said that in Heaven you are in  your most prime age.
All of this made so much sense to me. It confirmed everything I read in the book, and more so confirmed my dreams. The "everything is done through thought" thing really stuck with me. I remembered my dream with Avery Kate when she told me she loved me. I never saw her mouth move! I never saw God, but I knew I was talking to him. I thought back to my dream about Paw Paw, his mouth never moved either! It all made perfect sense! I smile now every time I think about either one of them, because I know that they are with me.
I asked my friend if he had ever heard of Heaven is for Real, and he hadn't. He got the book, read it the next day, and emailed me. He couldn't believe how all the research he had done was backed up in this book. I felt so much better after talking to him, because it confirmed all of my thoughts and helped me to believe that everything does happen for a reason, and I have some pretty awesome angels on my side.

What do you say?

It's amazing how throughout the past two months some people did not hear the news about Avery Kate. An old friend at Lauberge asked, "Where's the little one? With a babysitter?" A parent of a former student saw me at the post office and asked, "How's the baby?" The guy at my nail place asked, "How that baby doing?" An old friend at a cheerleading competition said, "Well you already have your two girls, so you've got half a cheer squad already." What do you say? Besides the numbness that runs through my body every time I am asked this question, I just try to give them the benefit of the doubt. "You mean Hallie?" Then I get the, "No! your baby! You just had a baby. We just saw her a couple of weeks ago." Then I have to explain. "We lost her to SIDS in November. She went down for her nap and woke up and the most beautiful imaginable." I'd honestly rather run in the opposite direction as fast as possible, but that's not realistic. I know it's not over. I know I'll get more questions like this, but it doesn't seem to be getting easier to answer.
Then there's the question, "How many kids do you have?" Well, the first time I was asked this, I said I had two girls, and then scurried off to the restroom to avoid any more questions. I don't want to leave out Avery Kate or pretend she never existed. But then again I don't want to open up a can of worms with a complete stranger either. Everyone doesn't have to know my story. I decided that I would just say that I have one daughter here and one in Heaven. I don't really know that there is a right or wrong way to answer that question, but I do know that I never want to exclude Avery Kate.

Another Glimpse

The weekend after Paw Paw died I was blessed with another dream. I can't even call it a dream, because I know it was another glimpse into Heaven. I was once again in a white place. There were many people there that I didn't recognize when I noticed Paw Paw from a distance. He was glowing! His shirt had the brightest colors I had ever seen. I can't even describe these colors because they were that vibrant. Imagine watching your favorite colors on an HD TV...these colors I saw were better! Not only that, but Paw Paw looked so fresh, happy, energetic, and young! He came to me and all he said was, "You OK?" I nodded, "I'm OK Paw Paw." And that was it. He was worried about me, and wanted to be sure I was alright. At the time, I really wasn't OK, but after seeing him so happy and pain free, I was OK.
I feel so lucky and blessed to have seen such remarkable sights in such a short period of time. Most people go through their entire lives just wondering what Heaven is like. I know that if what I saw is only a piece of it, then I can't wait to get there and see the rest.

Not Again!

January 6, 2012. I had a great day at school that day. I was packing up my bags to go home that afternoon when Brandon called me. "Your mom called me and said that your Paw Paw wasn't doing good and you need to go there." I couldn't and wouldn't believe it. He was fine yesterday! He couldn't have gone downhill this fast. I packed up my clothes and Hallie's (took a pregnancy test before I left which was negative of course! Why would anything good happen to me?) and headed to New Iberia. I just thought I'd go and visit with Paw Paw, tell him goodbye, and come back the next day. I knew he wasn't going to die, and I just wanted to do this by myself. Brandon isn't good with death and I didn't want him to have to come and be strong for me this time. I had Hallie as my ray of sunshine.
I got there and was absolutely shocked to see my Paw Paw almost unconscious. He was OK yesterday....how did this happen?? I knew right away that I was not leaving his side. Maw Maw, my mom, Corey, Mona, Debra, Hallie and me were there with Paw Paw the entire night. I held his hand and asked him to take care of Avery Kate for me when he got to Heaven. he squeezed my hand, and I knew that meant that he would. The Hospice nurse came in at around maybe 2:30 AM. She began to tell us about the death process and things we needed to look for. Then she told us how the coroner would come...... I had to leave. I went and sat in Paw Paw's chair in the living room. I just cried and cried. I had just been through this; I had just talked to a coroner, made funeral arrangements, and buried my child. I have to do this again - with Paw Paw? Noooooo!! My mom came and comforted me and I pulled myself together to go back to Paw Paw's room. Maw Maw told me how the night before she heard Paw Paw talking in his sleep. He kept saying, "Hey Boo Boo!" which is what he always said to kids when he saw them. She said she asked him who he was talking to when he woke up, and all he said was, "It wasn't a grown up." I knew he had seen a piece of Heaven and Avery Kate was helping to call him home.
At 5:25 AM we all stood around his bed, holding his hands. He sat up, opened his eyes just a little bit and looked at Hallie and me. We were standing by his feet and were in his view. I just said, "It's OK Paw Paw, we're all here." He took his last breath, and was gone. I thought I would just crumble at a moment like that, but I didn't. I felt stronger. I took Hallie into the kitchen and got her some yogurt. I called Brandon to tell him the news. He was already awake. He said he had been awake for a few minutes just talking to Avery Kate. It was like she was telling him her Paw Paw was there with her. When the man from the funeral home arrived I took it upon myself to take care of writing the obituary. I don't know how I was that strong to be able to do that, but I just felt like I needed to do it and help my family out as much as possible. The hardest part of it all was to put the words, "Preceded in death by great granddaughter Avery Kate Soileau." That is just not the way life is supposed to work. I found the perfect picture of Paw Paw and sent it to the funeral home. He had the happiest smile and looked so healthy! I miss seeing him like that.
Paw Paw's funeral was that Tuesday. Maw Maw asked me to say a few words, I remember seeing a quote on facebook, "Grief. It's the price we pay for love." I just reminded me of Paw Paw. Grief is such a small price to pay for the love of such a wonderful man. I shared this quote with everyone along with a few short memories of Paw Paw. I ended with words of truth, "This is not goodbye, but until we meet again. I love you Paw Paw."
I know he's holding her now :)

Coincidence? I think not!

January 5, 2012. I went to school that Thursday just like any other day. I was finally doing better. (I had accidentally driven to Honey and Pops house one morning and just went in and gave her the biggest hug. I felt so much better after that, and never cried on my way to school again! Funny how that was all I needed.) Anyways, The butterflies had finally settled and I was enjoying my day at school. Brandon called me and told me that an ambulance bill had gone to Honey and Pops house so Pops brought it to Brandon at work. "I'm so glad you didn't have to see this, Brandi," he said. "Why? How much was it?" I asked. "It's not the money, it's the fact that they itemized every single thing they used on Avery Kate that day," he explained. Thank goodness I didn't have to see that. It's bad enough that I can't get that day out of my head, that would have added to it in the worst way. Then Brandon told me that Pops let him know that it was Honey's birthday. I sent her a text telling her happy birthday, but in the back of my mind I couldn't help but wonder why that date seemed so familiar. Then, it hit me! This was the day that I found out I was pregnant for Avery Kate!! What a very special day for the two of them to share.
On another note, it also made a year that my Paw Paw found out he had cancer. I called to check on him, and my mom told me they had decided to put him on Hospice. He was at home and doing good, but it was just better this way. It really upset me, but I knew he was doing good, and a part of me felt like he had been hanging on for this long because he knew I couldn't handle any more upset at this point. So on this day, I remembered the good moments in my pregnancy, and the good moments I had with Avery Kate and Paw Paw. It was a good day. I sure did need a good day in my life. And some people may think all of this was just a coincidence.... but I think not! :)

Tis the Season

It was December and I knew I had to get in Christmas spirit. Our awesome neighbor, Amy and her friends came over to my house while we were all at school and work and decorated for Christmas. It looked amazing and it really made me get excited about Christmas. I really have been blessed with some pretty amazing friends! Brandon ordered a swing set for Hallie's big Christmas gift and I shopped for some other little things to get her. It was so tough not to buy little things for Avery Kate. I still got her stocking monogrammed though (cried my eyes out at the counter in Threadworks) but I needed to see it hanging on our mantle. Right before Christmas I went to get Hallie a little baby swing to hang on the swing set. I grabbed a pink one and thought, oh perfect! Avery Kate can use this one when she gets a little older too. It wasn't until I got to the register that I realized that Avery Kate wouldn't be able to swing with Hallie - ever. It really upset me. I just kept thinking how Avery Kate should be with us for Christmas, wearing her little red Kicky Pants dress from Pink & Blue. I wanted Hallie to be able to teach her how to swing, and how to climb up on the slide. But I knew she'd never get to do that.
The next morning Brandon's cousin, Candace, texted me telling me that she had a dream that their Paw Paw (Who died the day after Hallie was born) was pushing Avery Kate on a swing. She said they were both so happy and smiling. OK, so Avery Kate is enjoying that swing set after all. That was just so out of the blue, and certainly not a coincidence.
We celebrated Christmas with all of our families. Poor Paw Paw spent Christmas in the ER. That didn't stop us from going there and seeing him though. We all knew it would be his last Christmas, and I didn't care where he was, I was going to spend it with him, and I did. There many tears for Christmas, but I think the smiles and laughter outweighed the tears by far. I did feel like I had a lump in my throat the whole time, but it was more like me fighting back my tears. I didn't want to "ruin" a happy time for everyone else. But even as we would drive through our neighborhood, I could see families so happy and spending Christmas with their kids. I have to admit, I was so jealous! I just wanted Avery Kate there with us to celebrate it all. But who better to celebrate Christmas with than Jesus? She got to spend Christmas with the "Reason for the Season."
Our Christmas card picture 2011.

The Dream

December 2, 2012. I had really been having a hard time sleeping, and I just couldn't help but start to wonder what Avery Kate would have looked like when she grew up. Would she look like Hallie? What would she have looked like on her wedding day? What college would she have gone to? Would she have been best friends with Hallie?  I thought about back when I was pregnant, I had been shopping on facebook when I came across this little girl in a shirt that said "Avery." Now it didn't say Avery Kate, but she looked so much like Hallie that even Hallie pointed to the picture and said, "Mom, what I doing right there?" So I saved it on my phone to compare it once Avery Kate got older. Now I wonder if that is really what she would have looked like, OK so I might be convinced that God sent me that to comfort me. So I pretend that she would look exactly like that when she got a little older.
Even though these "what ifs" really bothered me, and most probably always will be in the back of my head for my entire life, I couldn't help but be upset with the fact that I never got to hear her call me, "mamma." When people in my life had died, I always had the comfort of closing my eyes and remembering their voices. I didn't have that with Avery Kate. She was barely learning how to "coo." it really hurt my heart that I didn't have that voice of her burned into my brain.
That Friday night I had the most amazing dream. I was in a white place; it was either white, or everything else was blocked from my view. Avery Kate was sitting on a table. She was soooo happy. She was giggling laughs like I've never heard. I have never seen someone more happy than she was... ever! I didn't see the person I was talking to, but I knew I had to bury Avery Kate the following day (in this dream) and I just kept saying, "She's fine. Look at her! She's OK. I'm taking her home with me." And the person (I'm assuming it was God) kept saying, "This is how it's supposed to be. You can't take her home with you." I just didn't understand. I kept arguing, "No, you don't understand, she's OK. I'm taking her!" It was then that Avery Kate turned and looked at me and said, "I love you Mamma." Then I woke up. I thought about everything in the dream. It made me realize that it wasn't a dream at all. I have never seen anyone so happy in my entire life. And trust me, I know happy. I worked cheerleading camps for over ten years....there are some happy girls there! Avery Kate was just gleaming!!! I knew then that she was OK and God was going to take care of her up there, and continue to take care of me down here. It's very hard for me to talk about this dream because it was like a small glimpse into Heaven for me. If she was that happy and Heaven is really that amazing, then how can I be so upset that she's there? I know I'm human and it's OK to be upset and to miss her. But knowing she is OK took a huge burden from me. Someone once told me, "Being a good parent means getting your children to Heaven." Well I feel like even though I only had ten weeks with Avery Kate, we loved her and got her baptized. She's in Heaven and that makes me know without a doubt that I was a good parent to her.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Back to School

November 28. The week I planned to go back to school had already been planned out months before. I think it was God's way of planning ahead to make sure I would be ok. I had to leave at noon on Monday to go to a technology conference in New Orleans. I would be there through Wednesday, teach on Thursday, and then be out on Friday for a leadership conference. Now you know God had that planned all along to help me transition back slowly right? Not only that but he made my first day (even though it was only half a day) the hardest day possible. He did this just to rip off the bandaid. I know he wanted me to experience all of the heartaches in one day so I wouldn't have to keep wondering what it would be like when.....
So I woke up that Monday morning already nervous as could be. I went to dress Hallie like I always did when I realized that she was wearing the same exact jammies as she wore that last morning we had with Avery Kate. Heather texted me asking if I wanted Starbucks, yes please. I then cried the entire way to school and accidentally turned down the road to go to Honey and Pops. And the tears kept coming. I parked at school, dried my face, and walked in. I was greeted with lots of hugs and smiles. Then I heard the words from a student, "Sorry your baby died Mrs. Soileau!" Of course they didn't mean anything but to be sweet by saying that but it was like a knife to the gut for me. I smiled and kept walking. I could hear the kids whispering about me, but I kept walking down that long hallway to my classroom. Everyone had to go to the library, so we did. We did OK the rest of that morning, but around 10:00 I realized that we had art for enrichment. Really? Does it all have to be the same!! I brought the kids to art, phone in hand. Then the butterflies really sunk in. You know that feeling when you're speeding and you suddenly see a cop and you wonder if he saw you or not? You keep looking in the rearview mirror just praying that he won't turn on his lights? Well that's the feeling I had that entire morning, more like every day since she passed, but that morning was the worst. When it was time to pick them up from art, I started to cry. I just couldn't help but think that it was that moment that Avery Kate took her last breath. Then we all went to the classroom to put away our art folders and line up for computer lab. Seriously?? We only go twice a week and this is the day we go? Let's just make an exact carbon copy of the worst day of my life, and replay it. It was soooo hard! But at least I got to leave for New Orleans at noon. I was with the best bunch of girls for three days. It was just what I needed. I got to see the best technology practices and even presented at the conference. Heather and I were given Saints ticketsfrom some wonderful friends for Monday Night Football. I'm telling you, I let loose and had a great time!
Then, back to school again Thursday. I really don't remember how that day went, but I'm guessing it was just fine, leaving out the fact that I cried the entire way to school of course. Then I had the Leadership Day Friday. It was very therapeutic. There was only one part of that day that bothered me. There was a quote that said, "Life doesn't give you what you need. It gives you what you deserve." Ummm... no. Absolutely not! I do not agree with that statement whatsoever. I don't think I deserved to lose my child one bit. I loved her, I cared for her, and I would have given my own life in her place. I didn't deserve that at all. And what about those parents who abuse their kids, put drugs in their bottles, deprive them of food and nutrition? They deserve to keep their kids and keep enduring them in misery? I realize I'm not God, and I would never wish for anyone, good person or not, to have to go through the pain of losing a child. I'm not saying that at all. But I am saying that I didn't deserve it. I guess it's just the way of life, and I'll never know God's plan. I do pray that I will one day understand His plan. And if anyone out there ever gets a copy of it, please share it with me, and if not, I know when I get to the Pearly Gates myself, I will understand it all.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Thanksgiving 2011

November 24, 2011. We had plans to go to Denam Springs with my dad's family for Thanksgiving. It's a family reunion at my grandma's brother's house and just an all around good time. Well being the person that I am, I had Hallie and Avery Kate's outfits all planned out. I knew where we would take their pictures that day. I knew where we'd take our family picture.... I had the entire day planned out in my head. I knew there was no way that I could carry out that day in the same fashion without Avery Kate. No way. So Brandon and I decided to stay in Lake Charles. We woke up that morning and slowly got dressed. I dressed Hallie in her turkey dress and we all got in Brandon's truck to go down the road to Beth's house. The tears started coming. This was not the day I had planned. This was not at all how it was supposed to be. It was one of the hardest days yet. Once again, my arms just felt empty the whole day. Brandon's whole family was there, Hallie got to play with all of her cousins, but Avery Kate was not there. She'd never have a Thanksgiving with us, she'd never get to play with all of her cousins. How is any of this fair?
Mrs. Christy and Jenny rode with Brandon, Hallie, and I to Grant, LA to pick out our Christmas tree from the tree farm. Once again, a once cheerful occassion upset me. I couldn't wait for Avery Kate's first Christmas! I just didn't even feel like celebrating Christmas this year. Did we really have to? Then I remembered the reason for the season. Jesus. God's child that he gave to us. I knew I couldn't steal that joy from Hallie. We picked out THE perfect tree, and drove back to Lake Charles. Once Brandon had the tree up in the house, I wondered how I was going to pull out the decorations and make our home happy. I just put it off and thought I would get to it one day. It felt like the longest day, and the night wasn't any easier. But I thought of what Avery Kate would have wanted on that day.... She would have wanted me to be happy and give thanks. So as I went to sleep that night, I thanked God for the ten weeks I had with her, for my wonderful family and friends, and for the strength he had given me to make it through that day.

Back to Reality

The funeral was over and it was time for us to get back to reality. I still believe in many ways that I was still in absolute shock. I stayed really busy during the days that next week. We went to New Iberia to visit with Paw Paw since he wasn't able to make it to the funeral. He had just buried his best friend and now his great granddaughter. I could see the pain in his eyes. We celebrated my dad's birthday with the entire family in Youngsville. We came back to Lake Charles and I decided to donate her formula to the women's shelter and her already opened formula to the animal shelter. Terri and Auntie Pat came with me and then took me to bring Honey and Pops a plant from the funeral. Driving up there was just so tough. It was even harder knowing that I was going there empty handed and would also leave empty handed. We sat there and visited with her for a while. I have absolutely no clue what we talked about. I just sat there looking around and trying my best to fight the tears. I did really well. I also did some retail therapy that week, which did nothing for me at all. I found myself looking at baby clothes, making plans for Avery Kate to wear those adorable outfits only to remember that I couldn't buy those. My body was just naturally drawn to those cute little girlie outfits. I made a few visits to my school. The second grade was practicing for their Thanksgiving performance. I made it to the performance and even spoke to all the parents. I wanted to be sure that they knew how special their children were and to hug them tightly every chance they had. I got a massage with my mom that week, ended up being a father of one of my students, but I'm pretty sure I relaxed somewhere in there and he relieved some of my stress. Mia came to visit because she said Avery Kate made her realize that life was short and none of us are promised tomorrow.
I still had the doctor's words burned into my brain though. "Well, she's gone." I couldn't let go of those words, and it killed me to think of that moment. But for some reason I kept replaying that moment over and over again. I hated that doctor. His words were just so "Matter of Factual." So Brandon and my dad hopped in the car and went on a secret mission. I had no clue where they were going. When they came back Brandon told me that they had gone to the hospital to talk to that doctor. I don't know how he walked in that hospital! The doctor was on vacation, but the nurse called him and gave him my phone number. He called me within the hour. I told him how I felt like he was heartless and just dropped a bomb on me. He said that Avery Kate's earrings caught his eye first and he knew right away that she was a loved baby, She had a family that cared for her, and a family that was in the waiting room with plans for her first Christmas in their heads. Yep, I already had her Christmas dress hanging in her closet. He said he had it all planned out as to how he would tell us, but when I started asking a million questions, it threw him off guard. He said those words just came out. He said he will always remember that princess with the earrings. He told me he probably won't remember her name, but he will never forget that princess who was lying on his table that day. That made me feel better to know that he actually did have a heart. He even asked me what he could do differently if he is ever faced with that situation again. I told him it was the word, "well." It just made it so casual. He apologized wholeheartedly. I also asked him a few questions about when the paramedics got to her, etc. He said that Avery Kate's jaw was already stiffened when they got to her which meant she was already gone. The blood had begun to pool in her body and made little red marks all over skin, which I remember seeing. He said these were all signs that she was already gone and nothing could have been done to save her. I thanked him because talking with him just made me feel so much better. It's funny how a person's mind works, because I closed my eyes and thought of that moment very differently. Even now when I think of that moment I hear the words, "She's gone." in a loving, caring voice.
Overall, I stayed pretty strong during that week, but the night times were beginning to get tough. I would sit in my chair at night just longing for my baby girl. My arms were empty. I was broken. My heart was broken, and I knew this because I could actually feel it hurting. I would never wish this pain and emptiness on anyone. No one deserves that pain. But God chose me to bear it, and I knew he would lift me up and carry me through it.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


November 11....The day I had been waiting for. The day where I planned to be at home with my babies, and just enjoy the day doing absolutely nothing but loving and cuddling them. I woke up that morning still in disbelief. Am I really going to the funeral home to see my baby in a casket? Chauntel picked up Hallie that morning and took her to play so that Brandon and I could go in by ourselves and not feel like we had to be strong and put on a happy face for Hallie. I didn't want her to think that what happened to Avery Kate was a bad thing, because honestly, it's not. Now what happened to us...to be left with out our child unexpectedly...horrible. But Hallie was a child and was lucky to not have to feel the pain we were feeling.
Once we were all ready to go, I grabbed THE blanket, and we all got in the car to leave. I just think it's ironic that I wanted that blanket so badly, and it had now become the blanket that she was put in the minute she born as well as the blanket she was swaddled in when she took her last breath.
 The man at the funeral home pulled Brandon and me into a private room to talk with him right when we got there. He said the doctor performing the autopsy had sent off for more tests so it was most likely that the cause of death would be SIDS. There was no heart trouble, no pneumonia, no choking on spit up....NOTHING. And to me, SIDS is not an answer at all. It's a fancy way to say, "We have no clue what happened."
He took us through a back entrance so we could go and see Avery Kate. She was beautiful! She had on her white gown with her name monogrammed in pink and her big pink bow. Her lips did look a little funny, but other than that, she looked like she was sound asleep. I kept trying to hold her cold hands to warm them. It was hard to get close to her because the smell of embalming fluid was really overwhelming. I looked up and saw all the flowers pouring in. They were beautiful! I noticed the arrangement right next to her said, "From Keith and Girls." That just killed me. That's what I called Hallie and Avery Kate...The Girls, My girls. I realized I would never be able to refer to them as that again. It crushed me. The rest of our close family came in. It was just so sad to see such a tiny coffin and a perfectly healthy baby inside of it. Our slide show was playing on the TV..all 96 pictures were on there. It still was so hard to swallow. They ended up moving us to the bigger room because so many people came to pay their respects. I even had some students and former students show up. They were just so young to have to see something like this, but they came and supported me. Hallie kept asking to go see Avery Kate, so we would take her. "Why her lips do like this mom?" I knew she would notice that. She never misses a thing. I just kept trying to explain that Avery Kate was going to go to Heaven to be with Jesus. She was just so little and didn't understand. She wanted me to go get her and take her home with us. Honestly, so did I!
It was a very long day, but we made it. I held her blanket tightly by side the entire day. Then it was time to finally say goodbye to our baby for the last time. Everyone said their goodbyes first and Brandon and I were last. We held each others hands tightly and walked up to her. We took the blanket that was in her coffin and tucked her in just the way she liked to be tucked in at home. We kissed her and didn't want to let go.
We finally walked out to Brandon's truck and made the slow ride to the church. The other cars on the road seemed to all be pulling over to pay their respects for her. A lady was jogging on side of the road. She stopped and bowed her head in reverence. It was all one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. I literally felt like the entire town on Lake Charles had stopped their lives for just a moment in respect for Avery Kate.
Once we were all at the church Father Keith started the mass. Everything was perfect. Denine and Heather read the readings. Jessica and Jenny carried up the gifts. And our brothers, Jacob, Eric, Kyle, and Cody were the pallbearers. Brandon even gave a speech about his beautiful daughter. He was amazing up there. The music was absolutely beautiful! I just kept thinking that only two short weeks before this, we were all standing in this very spot baptising her into the Catholic faith, and now here we are celebrating her short life and her going home to Jesus. I must say, I didn't think of it as a celebration though. Then, the mass was over and we headed to the graveyard. There was a chapel there, and we held a little ceremony there for her. When the crowd had all gathered in the chapel, Father Keith belted out Amazing Grace. Tears fell from his eyes and slowly dripped down his cheeks. He never wiped them nor did he miss a beat. It was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. Then we took her to her final resting place, Baby Land. The plot was so deep. They asked if I wanted to see her go into the ground, and I absolutely did. I wanted to be sure that her body was in there, so that when I visited in the future, I would never have to wonder anything. Well our poor brothers were the ones who had to put her in there. I had just assumed that there was a machine of some sort to lower the casket into the ground. Nope! I still remember the look on those boys' faces as they placed their precious niece into the ground. I felt terrible that they had to do that!
Then we all went back to Mr. Keith's house. I'm pretty sure I sat at his table without getting up for a couple hours. I visited with all my New Iberia friends. It was nice to have all my friends and family all there, just sad that death always has a way of bringing everyone together. When we got home that night, we noticed a tree planted in our back yard. It was a dog wood tree. Brandon's friends had come and planted the tree in her memory. There was a little story to go along with it and everything. It was aboslutely amazing! We really do have the best support system. I remember lying in bed that night with Avery Kate's blanket and feeling calm, relaxed, and peaceful. The blanket still smelled like her, so I just closed my eyes and pretended she was there with me. I know in my heart that she was.