Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Pregnancy & Infant Loss - Light The Night With Love

October was National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month.  I highlighted several stories on this subject throughout the month as it is something that is very near and dear to my heart, having had a stillborn son in 2001 and an early miscarriage in 2003.  October may be over, but I have one more story that I would very much love to share with you.  Please let me introduce to you Amanda, who so generously agreed to share her story as well as an amazing event that she is part of which honors loss families and their children gone too soon.

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Thank you, Sarah, for your heart.  I cannot imagine having lost three children and reaching out to others in the generous way that you do.  Your love for Peyton, Jeffrey and Baby Fontenot is palpable.  Thank you for asking me to be a part of this loving blog you call home.

Thank you for the opportunity - I'd like to highlight a few things that I'm involved in within the loss community.  In 2012, inspired by the scene in the movie "Tangled", Franchesca Cox wanted to release sky lanterns up to Heaven to honor her precious Jenna Belle who went to Heaven in 2009.  While chatting one day in July, she asked if I'd be interested in helping her organize an event for Baby Loss Moms everywhere.  With about 5 weeks to prepare, we organized an event neither of us could fathom would ever be as far-reaching and beneficial lost families as it is.

So was born, Light The Night With Love.  On September 15, 2012 at 7pm, Baby Loss Moms, their families and friends gathered at Mary Jo Peckham Park in Katy, TX to release sky lanterns up to Heaven to remember the babies gone too soon.

The event was so far-reaching, so well received and so inspiring for Fran and I.  We released over 200 sky lanterns in memory of over 350 angels from all over the world.  Over 100 grieving the loss of little ones joined us that day (in real life) as so many hundreds more joined us in spirit.  We were beyond blessed to have received over 80 sky lanterns that were donated for the event.  We swear that Baby Loss Moms are the most generous people out there!

We SO wished that all loss families could join us in real life, but since it was impossible we took tons of pictures and video.

The night of the event, after saying our goodbyes to new and old friends, Fran and I knew in our hearts that we had to have an event like this again - annually!

This year, we reserved the pavilion at the same park and released sky lanterns to Heaven on September 14, 2013 in the evening.  Although there were some hiccups, we honored 806 babies that evening and had over 115 in attendance.  Three local loss moms (including myself) spoke about loss, love and hope.  The message we wanted other loss families to learn by hosting this event is that there are others out there who care, remember your child, and want to honor your child who has gone before you.  We wanted those who attended (and those who will watch the event on video later) to feel welcome and know that this day was created with all of our children in mind - and the visual you can get if you picture all of our babies in Heaven watching us release sky lanterns in their memory - is priceless.

I lost a child early on in pregnancy in March of 2008, so I've been involved in the loss community for the past 5 years.  We tried to conceive for 13 months a few years after my first child was born and finally ended up pregnant.  What a glorious day it was to finally see that positive pregnancy test!  After a high risk and tumultuous pregnancy the first time and having given birth to a perfectly healthy girl 41 weeks later, we never once thought that I could lose this child.  Nine and a half weeks into the pregnancy, though, I did lose the baby.  Talk about devastating.  I don't know how I made it through those early months, but after reading a book that suggested that I name my baby in order to help me grieve the loss of the real child that I carried, my soul directed me to name my child Noah Joel, which means "rest, peace" and "The Lord is God."  My heart bleeds for other families enduring loss - at all stages of life - but especially when it's a child.  Knowing how badly my heart has been broken after losing my second child to early miscarriage and the sadness my firstborn has endured knowing that she lost a sibling drives me to be there for others in their darkest hour.  I want others going through the loss of a child to know that they are not alone.  I try to encourage those enduring heartbreak and have found a sort of ministry in that, by making graphics (along with my sweet friend Melanie Yvette Rodriguez who lost her first child, Nehemiah, to miscarriage just 4 days before I did in 2008) for loss families in memory of their children gone too soon, over at BabiiLove Graphicz.

Making graphics using photos I've taken (or graphics "donated" to us from friends and family) by adding a quote, verse or personalized saying along with an angel baby's name makes my heart heal just a bit more.  Knowing that I'm using my creativity and soul to bring an angel baby's name to "life" is truly an inspiring and blessed event for me.  I am so honored to remember (I keep a daily calendar of birthdays, angelversaries and due dates and commemorate each baby on their date(s)) and produce such an item that for some loss parents is the only way they will ever see their baby's name written.

Joining Fran in co-hosting this lantern release each year has allowed my heart even more healing.  Knowing that I'm helping to organize an event to honor other families who have lost in memory of Noah Joel and Jenna Belle in Heaven brings me great comfort and peace.

Over the past year, we have been sent many messages of encouragement and thankfulness for the Light The Night With Love event.  Finding out for the first time how instrumental the event was to some families' healing over the loss of their child floored Fran and myself.  We had no idea that we were truly presenting a light in the darkness for some.

We've heard specifically from two mamas that the event was actually a turning point in their grief process.  Talk about tears.  Reading this blog from our friend Kessi (who lost her precious son Jacob in April of 2012) and receiving an email from another mom (who lost her sweet son Abel in November 2012) stating that after seeing pictures and videos from last year's event she "immediately felt Love and Hope.  Instead of the sorrow of death, I felt the Joy of a Life." pushed both Fran and I to tears.  We strive each day to let other loss families know that we care and to hear that at least two grief journeys have been helped through this event...Wow.  We really are speechless.

All in all, we want families to know that our goal is to honor your children's memories.  In doing so, Fran, Melanie and I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of the community no one would ever want to be in.  We love you all and are honored to be a part of your lives.

If someone reading this would like their baby (or babies) to be remembered next year at our event by having a sky lantern released to Heaven, please send us an email to lightthenightwithlove@gmail.com.  If you are local to the Katy/Houston, Texas area, we would love to have you join us for the event next year.  Date, time and place are still in the planning stages.  If you'd like to sign up to have graphics made for your angel babies, please add us as a friend on Facebook and feel free to request graphics in either Amanda's Open Offers Album or Melanie's Open Offers Album.

Thank you again for having me on your blog, sweet Sarah.

Thank you so much, Amanda, for sharing your story as well as information about the Light The Night With Love event.  I have to say that I am especially touched by this event because we used to live in Katy, TX until we moved here in 2008.  My daughters were born in Houston.  Our son was born still in Houston.  Our miscarriage happened in Houston.  One day I hope that I can be a part of this event!  Thank you, also, for the beautiful graphics you created to honor my children.  I love them!

Amanda Hoyt lost her only son, Noah Joel, to an early miscarriage in 2008 and refuses to lose her faith.  She is a working wife and mom to two little girls on Earth.  She dedicates her free time to loving on other loss families and encouraging them in their darkest hours.  You can read more about Amanda's Journey by visiting her blog, The Hoyt Family.

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