Welcome John Case Hoagland

On February 27, 2012, we welcomed John Case Hoagland into our family.  He was 8lbs 1oz and 19.5 inches long.  JD, James, and I were all overwhelmed with joy to finally have him here and get to hold him in our arms.  Like a true Hoagland he hit the ground running.  Before he was 3 weeks hold he had already spent two nights in a hotel for a wedding and a week at the bayhouse with lots of family for Spring Break.  It is so hard to believe that he is already 3 months old.  My grandmother suggested we consider the name John right after we found out we were having a little boy because John was James’ brother in the Bible.  Then, when I looked up the meaning of John, JD and I felt it was perfect.  John means “God is Gracious, Merciful,” and that is what I feel as I look at our little miracle who we got to welcome into the world just a year and twelve days after we had to tell our sweet Addie goodbye.  We are so thankful for each or our boys.


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Blessing #16: The Six Days We Got to Spend with Addie

As I look back I now realize that I had no idea how precious the time we had with Addie was in the midst of our time with her.  We thought she was going to make it, so I spent the first few days harboring what I would assume is the normal worry of a mother with a baby in the NICU.  I anguished over what the future might look like for our daughter and struggled with feeling disconnected from her since I couldn’t really hold her. 

Then, a friend of my sister-in-law that also worked in Children’s came to visit us.  It was a small gesture really, but for some reason it made something click inside of me.  She gave me a small gift card for the cafeteria at the hospital and for Starbucks, then she told me something I really needed to hear.  She just kept telling me to enjoy every minute of it and to love on our baby girl.  She said some other things too, but more than once she told me just to enjoy her.  She couldn’t have known that I needed to hear that, we had never even met before, but those words caused a change in me.  That day I went back to our room at Ronald McDonald House and got a box full of Addie’s things to bring up to the NICU to decorate her space.  We put a cozy blanket under her and placed a little stuffed animal in her bed.  Then we took a bunch more pictures, and I really just started to enjoy Addie. 

It was only a day or so later that her stats began to drop, but I am so thankful for those pictures that we took that day.  We didn’t know at the time that we weren’t going to have many more days to take pictures and enjoy our little girl.  I love the pictures that were taken for us as she passed away, but the pictures we took of her are different.  She is still pink and not in distress.  They aren’t the same quality, but they help me to remember what she looked like then too.

In the six days that Addie spent with us she got to meet almost all of her cousins, aunts, uncles, many friends, and of course, her family.  I know that the time we had with Addie was not very long, but I also know that it is so much more than so many people get.  People who also had to say goodbye to their little ones too soon.  I know that those days were a gift.  A gift I will treasure for the rest of my life.  I wish I would have realized it sooner, but I am so glad that I did before it was too late.  Now I try to let Addie continually remind me that each day really is a gift.  A gift from God.  An opportunity to let Him work in our lives.  An opportunity to love the people we come into contact with each day.  I hope that her story might also do the same for you.

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You Blessing #15: An Amazing NICU Team

Weeks before Addie was born JD and I were given a tour of the NICU she would be in if she was transferred to Children’s.  As we walked down the hallway and listened to the nurse explain the logistics of having a baby in the NICU we tried to prepare ourselves.  We looked at the sick little babies and thought of our Addie, we looked at their parents as they talked with doctors or looked over their children and tried to prepare ourselves for what was to come.

After Addie was born they let JD and I look at her and then immediately took her back to the NICU, at the hospital where I delivered, to begin running tests on her.  After assessing her they decided to send her to Children’s.  JD and I knew this was a good thing, if they didn’t send her it pretty much ment they did not think she was going to be able to survive.  Instead of spending the night with me in the hospital, JD spent the night at children’s with Addie.  I wanted him to be there with her, and I wanted to be there with them so bad that it hurt.  Instead I looked at her little picture taped to my bed and immediately started pumping in order to build a milk supply.  It was all that I could do.  I was thrilled when first thing the next morning, the day after my c-section surgery, my doctor’s assistant came by to discharge me.  I had a friend who was visiting me at the time take me straight over to Children’s.  I was so happy to finally see her and really get to take in her features.

In the week that followed JD and I were continually impressed by the NICU team at Children’s Medical Center.  The nurses, nurse practitioners, and doctors were all so amazing.  Every morning they did something that they called rounds, where the main doctors of the NICU we were in sat around a table and case conferenced each child in Addie’s wing.  Parents and all staff that worked with each child were asked to come in when that child’s round came up.  They always took time to explain to us what their concerns were and what they felt was going on.  They explained any changes they wanted to make to in Addie’s care and why.  They all discussed the changes they wanted to make and tried to come up with a “best” solution.  At the beginning it felt like they were speaking a foreign language, but gradually JD and I began to catch on to Addie’s particular problems.  It left us feeling so secure that Addie really was getting the best care possible.  They even let JD take a picture of them one day.

As much as we appreciated the NICU, at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, while Addie was doing well, it was how they handled things after she started to decline that left a truly lasting impression on us.  Everything is such a blur when remembering back to when Addie’s stats began to drop, but in the fog of it all there are many things I can still see.  I can still see the warmth and the compassion in the doctors and nurse practitioners eyes that came by to talk to us about Addie and what they felt we should try.  I can remember how it felt like they really were hurting with us, and how much we appreciated it, even though I probably did not recognize that at the time.  I remember how when JD and I were already beginning to thing recovery looked hopeless, that the doctors continued to hold on to hope.  They still had one more thing they wanted to try, they really thought it might work.  We agreed to it, and were hopeful when for a short while it seemed it might.  Then I remember when the doctor came in and said how truly sorry he was but he did not feel there was anything else they could.  He was so kind, he handled an unbelievably hard situation so well.

From that point on everyone in the NICU did everything they could to make our last hours with Addie as good as possible.  We had chaplains that came in and checked on us regularly and a child life specialist who helped us make molds or her little feet and ink prints of her hands and feet.  They did things like suggest we cut a lock of her hair, and gave us a box to keep all her special things from the NICU in.  Things I would have never thought about it my grief.  Things I am so grateful that I have now.  Then, when Addie took her last breath, we took our last picture, and said our last goodbye, the chaplain came in and escorted us out of the hospital to our car.  We were aching as we left without our little girl, but even in those moments, we were so thankful for the care we received.  In the months since Addie passed away, I have become even more thankful for the NICU at Children’s.  Now that I have entered the world of infant loss, I have heard many other people’s stories and I am so thankful that I can say that I left feeling completely cared for by the hospital and having no complaints.  In the moments of the most intense grief I have ever felt in my life, God used the people there to minister to us, and I know that is such a blessing.

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Summer Fun and Changes

Wow!  The summer flew by in our household.  It was filled with lots of busyness, fun, blessings, and change.  I spent the first week of June and the last week of June in Victoria helping my mom with the riding camps that she puts on over the summer for her riding school.  Both camps were full of campers and we all had a blast.  We had both overnight and day campers, so needless to say, at the end of the week we were all pretty worn out.  During the day James went to his cousins house for his “camp” and then came back and joined us for the evening activities.  He thought he was VERY big and had a blast!

After the shaving cream fight.

The Wednesday before James and I left to go help with the second riding camp is the day I found out I am pregnant with our third child.  I cannot even attempt to put into words the joy and excitement that JD and I both had at finding out this news.  We have become so much more aware over the last year of how much of a miracle each child is.  We just feel so blessed and I thank God every day not only for this child but for the fact that I am growing.  I never thought I would say this after James, but I really can’t wait to get BIG pregnant.

At the end of June we finished up the last horse camp of the summer and JD finished his last semester of college!  I am so proud of him and what he has accomplished.  Through his undergraduate experience we had our first child, started a business, and went through the loss of our second child.  Through it all he pushed through and never slacked off on hours (since Baylor charges a flat rate, we had to get everything out of it we could).  I know it wasn’t easy and I am so proud of him.

JD finished his last class on Friday and came down to meet James and I as we finished up the second horse camp, and then we all left to go to the bay house to celebrate the Fourth of July.  We had a great time with family and went to go see a fireworks show over the water.  James LOVED to jump off the pier into the water at the bay.  It was so much fun to watch him down there this summer, he never wants to leave.

Big Jump!

We were only back home for a week before it was time to go back down to Victoria the next weekend for James monthly rodeo.  He rides in the leadline figure 8 barrels, cloverleaf barrels, and goat slapping.  He and 10 of his cousins all participate in the rodeo and they all have a blast.  At the end of the series all of the leadline kids win a belt buckle.

Getting warmed up for the rodeo.

After the rodeo we got to return home for about four days before it was time to leave again, this time for Disney World!  James and many of his cousins had been anticipating this trip since Christmas.  His Nana and Papa gave any of their kids who wanted a trip to Disney World for Chirstmas.  We stayed in the cabins in Ft. Wilderness and enjoyed every minute of it.  The kids rarely got a nap and were up until midnight or later almost every night.  We are definitely the type of family that has to fit in all possible fun.  Since I’m pregnant I spent alot of time with the little kids while people were going on the “big” rides.  It was pretty fun to watch them.  They were constantly on sensory overload.  Our last day at the park we watched the light parade at Magic Kingdom for the second time and on the way home on the boat that took us back to Ft. Wilderness I explained to James that we were leaving the next day.  BAD IDEA!  He became hysterical and cried the entire way to the cabin and into his bed that he did not want to leave.  Through the fun there were also some bittersweet moments for JD and I.  When we started planning the trip in November we all thought that we would have a 5 month old in tow.  As it turned out we didn’t get to take Addie to Disney World, but we are so thankful for the time that we did get to have with her.

We spent one night in Destin on the way down. The sand was so white James kept calling it snow!

James loved all the characters.

We got back from Victoria a week and a half later and then had one week to pack up our entire apartment and move to Victoria.  It was pretty much crazy.  JD’s mom came down to help and we were so thankful for her.  At that point in the pregnancy I was still dealing with so much fatigue and then to top that off I was coming off a trip where there wasn’t really any rest time built in.  We worked steady all week and had everything ready to be packed up when people showed up to help us on Saturday.  We had lived in Waco for all four years of our married life and I had been there 7 years prior to that.  We were sad to say goodbye to Waco and all of our great friends there, but we were also glad to move to a place with so much family around.

A couple weeks after we moved to Victoria it was time to head back to Waco for JD’s graduation.  His parents came down again to see him graduate.  We were so thankful that they got to come.  After watching his daddy graduate James kept telling us how he was going to do that one day.  It made us all pretty proud.  He also kept asking us when the basketball game was going to start because the graduation ceremony is held in the same place as the Baylor basketball games.  We would tell him that there wasn’t a game to day and he would look at us and say, “they’re just going to say more names?”

James and JD with his parents after graduation.

Visiting the Baylor bears before heading off to lunch.

Since JD’s graduation we have gotten settled and at this point Victoria is starting to feel more like home.  Last weekend we went to watch some of mom’s riding students at the Jr. High rodeo and then went from there to James’ first rodeo banquet.  When he got called up on stage to receive his buckle he literally ran he was so excited.  That boy is not shy at all!  This weekend we are going to have a house-full of teenagers for Lifeshare weekend with our church, so as always we tend to stay pretty busy.  But, as things are actually beginning to settle down a little bit, I am looking forward to beginning to blog again.  It is my goal to finish my stories about Addie before this next baby comes.  Hope you are all enjoying the beginnings of fall.  Thank you all for your care and concern for our family.

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Blessing #14: All of Our Family that Lives in Dallas and All of Our Visitors

Before I left for Dallas, I had my “weeks of waiting” all planned out.  I was going to be out-of-town and was not going to know anyone, so I planned on having a lot of alone time.  I was looking forward to some time to be still and quiet before the uncertainty began to play  out.  Life had been so busy  and I knew I needed some time to be alone and prepare myself to meet out daughter.  But, I was also a little nervous.  I know that too much alone time can some times be a bad thing.  Your mind can start to do crazy things and depression can begin to set in if you are not intentional to spend it wisely.  In the end, I really don’t know what I was thinking.  I never sat down to add up all of our family in Dallas, and never put together quite how much family we had there until I started on my trip up.  I began getting calls on my way up to move into RMHD and by the time I got there already had lunch planned for the next day with my sister-in-law and cousin.  That weekend JD and I went to my aunt and uncles house for dinner.  We had so much fun and one of my cousins and his wife even drove up with their family and newborn little girl and eat dinner with us.  For the Super Bowl we were at my brother’s house.  JD’s parents had arrived by then so they came with us.  Another night I got to go help celebrate my cousin’s birthday with her in-laws that also live in Dallas.  Still another night, my cousin and I went to go see a movie together at the mall. 

Then, along with all of the family we had in Dallas we had so many wonderful visitors.  One of my friends at RMHD even commented to me on the number of visitors we had one day.  Seldom a day went by that I did not have company.  I even had a friend that came up to see me in Dallas from Waco the day after one of the big snow storms, with her new baby.  I was so impressed she made the trip and was really grateful to have someone to visit with for the afternoon.  Another cousin-in-law stopped in to see me while she was in Dallas on business.  We visited for a long time and had such a great time.  Another friend brought James up to see me one day and stayed for the whole day and worked from RMHD so that James could get some mommy time.

Soon it was time to go into the hospital and for Addie to be induced.  While we waited we had many friends and family members drive up to come see us in the hospital.  One of my dear friends gave us a prayer blanket that she had put together by collecting prayers from people we knew using the baby shower list I had sent her just a few days before we found out Addie had a problem.  The baby shower never happened but the list did come in handy.  Below is a picture of Addie with the blanket the day before her stats began to drop.  As it turned out, we did not wait alone.  Our community surrounded us.  After Addie came we had so many friends come up to see her.  I am so glad to know there are so many people who got to meet our little girl before she passed away.  We thought she was going to live then, now it just makes my heart happy to know they met her. 

Addie with her prayer blanket.

Addie with her prayer blanket.

Then, there was all of our out-of-town family.  Only three of our siblings did not get to meet Addie before she passed away.  Everyone that could make the trip got there.  She got to have her picture taken with almost all of her cousins.  I remember one of my little nieces saying how she looked like a baby doll.  I don’t know why that stuck in my head, but she really did.  She was not much bigger than a real life doll.  She was precious.

As I write this my heart is literally filled to tears.  I cannot put into words how grateful we were for all of the love people showered on us.  As it turns out, I did get a lot of good alone time, but instead of too much, it was just enough.  I was able to get out of my cave an into reality and connect with people on a daily basis, which helped keep me grounded.  It feels so good to feel so much love.  We are so thankful and blessed by all of the wonderful people in our lives.  Thank you to our community.

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Blessing #13: A Business that Allows Us to Work From Wherever We Are

There were many times after we found out about Addie’s condition that I was sure our business was a curse rather than a blessing.  I desperately wanted to get away from everything and while owning a business offers you a lot of flexibility one of the down sides is that you can’t ever REALLY get away.  It seems there is always something that has to get done.  It was extremely difficult to keep answering the phone and continue to take business calls through each step of our journey.  I remember getting home from very difficult doctor’s appointments and just having to turn off and go into work mode.  I would feel sorry for myself and think things like “what if I had a ‘normal’ job?”  If I did I could take leave and get away.  JD would always tell me I was looking at it all from the wrong angle and as much as I HATE to admit it, I know he was right.

Even though there were really hard things about having to keep up with our business while we were going back and forth to doctors and trying to wrap our heads around the possibility that we may never get to bring Addie home, I know that our business was a blessing.  JD and I work with home health companies to provide their social work services for them.  One really nice thing about our line of work is that our office can be pretty mobile.  We didn’t have to worry about taking off work so we could go to doctors and so that I could move up to Dallas.  It was easy, we just worked as we went.  Even though I liked the idea of having a different job where I could just take off and get away, I know it would not have been that simple.  If I had a different job that would have been our sole income so JD could be in school full-time, and I know I would have used up my time off with pay before it was all over.  If we didn’t have our business I really don’t know how we would have made it through without getting deeper into debt.  I also know that there is no way I could have taken the time to reflect, be still, and slow down at work in the weeks after Addie passed away without our business.

I still look back and think not being able to get away from work as we went through this hardest time in our life was extremely difficult, but I know that God was taking care of us.  Now I am more thankful for our business than I have ever been.  I know as we walk through trials it is easy to imagine what could make it easier or better, but I also know that in the end what we imagine is nothing more than a dream.  It doesn’t take into consideration all the things that may be hard if that dream was the reality and it takes us to a place where we feel that our way would be better than Gods.  This leads us to a place where we start to trust more in ourselves and in our ways than His.  We are thankful for the business that God has blessed us with.

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Blessing #12: Piper

Last summer, JD and I decided to put James on the waitlist at Piper Child Development Center, because I was just getting too busy.  One of the reasons we started our business was so that I could stay home with James, but the more we seemed to grow the more I seemed to get strained for time.  JD didn’t have class in the summer, so we were able to juggle a lot, but we didn’t know how we were going to manage when his classes started back up for the Fall.  We also knew Piper wasn’t really a realistic solution because baby number two was on the way and one way or another I was going to have to slow down.  Even so, we knew we loved Piper, and if James was going to go into full-time childcare that is where we wanted him to be.  So, I called and put him on the list.  When we put him on the waitlist we were way down the list and it became obvious Piper was not going to be the solution to our problem.  We didn’t take James off the list, but we did figure out how to get me slowed down enough that his Parents Day Out would continue to work for what we needed. 

Then, the week before we found out Addie had problems I received a voicemail from Piper saying they had an opening for James.  They received a grant to start a new multi-age class, so they would be doing enrollment for that class in January allowing for multiple openings in James’ age group all at once.  I didn’t even bother calling them back because at that time we didn’t think we needed them.  It wasn’t until about three weeks later when JD and I started trying to figure out how we were going to run our business, deliver a baby in Dallas (that could be in the NICU for months), and keep JD in school full-time, that Piper came back to mind.  We were discussing the logistics on our way up to Dallas for a doctor’s appointment one day and during the discussion I remembered the phone call from Piper saying there was an opening from James. 

It seemed Piper might be the perfect solution.  I wasn’t going to be able to keep James in Dallas with me all the time because it didn’t make since for me to have him up there by myself while I was waiting to deliver and he wouldn’t be allowed in the NICU once Addie arrived.  If he was going to need to be in Waco with JD he would have to be in school because JD would be taking 18-hours at Baylor and would still need to keep our business going.  I remember talking with JD about it, saying how we wouldn’t really need Piper if Addie didn’t survive.  He countered by saying that he was sure we would need the extra time it would allow us if she didn’t make it.  I tried to call Piper but they were out for Christmas break, so I called a friend who also had a child there to see if she knew if they still had an opening in the new class.  My friend emailed the director for me explaining our situation and inquiring about the opening.  I quickly got a response back from the director and JD and I were able to go meet with her about James attending their school.  She was so kind to us and gave us until the middle of January to make our decision.  We wanted to make sure we felt that James going to school was right for our family, and we had to figure out how on earth we were going to afford it.  See more on that on the post: Blessing #7: God’s Financial Provision.

JD and I left our meeting with information about Piper and the paperwork that would need to be filled out if we decided to enroll James.  From there we went home to pack and leave for Victoria to celebrate Christmas.  I remember sitting up in the night and reading through it all.  I knew he needed to go to Piper but for some reason it made me feel like a failure.  I don’t have anything against people sending their children to school, but I had worked so hard to keep him home with me and I was about to have to make a decision to do exactly what I worked our lives around trying to avoid.  I had also practically never spent time away from James and now I was going to be away from him…alot.  I wondered how things would look once Addie arrived.  I wondered what all James was about to have to give up for his little sister. 

By the time the beginning of January rolled around JD and I had decided to deliver in Dallas for sure and we felt confident sending James to Piper was the right choice.  I felt even better about our decision when we took him to try it out and he cried when it was time to leave.  So much for thinking he was going to be sad about going to school!  He loved it and I cannot tell you how great that made me feel as a parent.  Piper calls themselves the Piper Family and as we got into full swing with them we discovered the truth behind that statement.  They were such an amazing support to our entire family.  It seemed that every staff in the entire building knew my son by name.  Any time they saw him as we would walk down the hall they would tell him hello, by name.  I could tell that he felt very loved.  JD never had to feel bad about dropping him off while I was in Dallas because he was always so happy to go.  In fact one day when he was in Dallas with me at RMDH he got together his things and told me he was going to school for a little bit. 

When we returned home they had already heard about Addie.  I went to pay our bill for the month, but they only charged us for half the month since we were gone so much.  When I protested they responded by telling me this is something that they can do.  They also signed up to bring us a meal in the weeks after Addie passed away.  As it turned out I did not need James’ school so that I could spend months in the NICU with my sick baby, but I did need them for other reasons.  Having Piper when we returned home was so healing to me.  I needed some time to slow down, and James loved to go so much I didn’t have to feel guilty for sending him so that I could have some time for myself.  I needed some time alone with God to journal, read my Bible, and pray.  I needed a lot of time.  At first it was so hard just to get myself out of bed.  There were many mornings that I would get up, take James to school, and got to the coffee-house until noon to take the time I needed.  Then I would come home and do what still needed to be done for our business.  I moved through life really slow at first.  Everything I did seemed like it took so much effort, but as the days and weeks went by it got easier to get into my routine.  We told Piper in March that April 15 would be James’ last day.

I was really sad to tell our Piper family goodbye.  I feared how I would make it through the days without it, but it turns out I am okay.  We still miss Piper, but I am enjoying my extra time with James.  For now Piper is a found memory and a reminder of how God was faithful to us through our entire pregnancy with Addie.  When I randomly put James’ name on the list last summer I had no idea what we would be facing in the months ahead.  I still thought I had a healthy little baby on the way.  But, if we had not put James’ name on that list and Piper had not gotten that grant for a new class, we never would have had that support.  We are so thankful to God for Piper.

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