We are the Spinda family (John, Shanna & Stella Mae) from Murray, KY... on February 1, 2011 at 10:27am our beautiful baby girl, Stella Mae Spinda, was born at 26 weeks gestation. She weighed 12.34 oz and was 9 in long - Stella suffered from Intrauterin Growth Restriction (IUGR) which caused both her extremely small size and her being born premature. Stella spent five days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Norton/Kosair Hospital in Louisville, KY. She passed away late on February 5, 2011 from complications of her extremely small size. This blog was started when she was 23 gestational weeks old and we discovered her condition. It's original purpose was to keep family and friends updated on Stella's journey - we now hope to use this blog as a way to continue Stella's journey by honoring her memory and also as a way to support others who are struggling with infertility or have lost a pregnancy or baby.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Nine years ago almost to the day my Big Shannon (big sister in the sorority) and I were laying around the sorority house bored out of our minds. She had been wanting to get a dog for a while so she had the bright idea to head to the Humane Society of Clarion County to see if there were any puppies that caught her eye. I very reluctantly went with her - I had never been to a Humane Society because I didn't feel like I could leave and not take a dog with me. I was nervous but a little excited at the possibility of her getting a dog. We went in and right over to the "puppy" section. All the dogs were barking so loud and it echos in there so it sounded like they were all right next to me. I was very overwhelmed by the noise and all the dogs jumping at their cage doors. We sort of skimmed the cages ... just looking. I don't remember which one of us noticed her but before I knew it we were pulling this beautiful Chow/Shepard mix out of the back of her cage and hooking a leash up to her collar. Her tail was tucked tightly between her legs, she was shaking, and her large ears were pressed back against her head. We sort of dragged her outside to the small grassy patch that the shelter had for the dogs. We sat down on a bench and watched her tentatively sniff around. She never really came over to us - we had to reach out to pet her as she would turn away, afraid of human contact. It broke my heart to put her back into the cage and watch her backup and attempt to shrink into a tiny ball. She never barked, never jumped at her door, never made any attempt to get our attention after we put her back in there. We left the Humane Society with one goal: getting our landlords to give their consent for us to take that pretty girl home.

The next day we went back to the Humane Society, proclaimed that she was going to be "our" dog, and took that frightened pup back to the sorority house. The adoption papers had a spot for the name of the dog. We had not even thought about what to name her. I looked at Shannon and all we could say was that she was so very Precious. So I wrote Precious under her name and off we went. Now Precious didn't trot out the Humane Society sure that she was about to go to an awesome home. I believe that Shannon held the leash while I picked her up and sort of drug her out the door and to Shannon's car. She then took over and picked her up and put her in the backseat. I sat back there with her while we drove back to the sorority house.

It took Precious a few days to come out of the corner of the living room, about a week to bark, and months to show anyone but Shannon and I any love. She was scared out of her mind about everything... the tv, a loud car outside, if you moved suddenly, and especially men! Days turned into weeks and weeks into months and before we knew it Precious and I had formed a bond that could not be broken. Neither Shannon or I ever discussed it... it was sort of obvious - Precious had become my dog.

Fast forward nine years... throughout that whole time my girl was with me as I graduated from college and moved into an apartment, fell in love with John and she insisted on living with him instead of me and then moved to Akron with John. She was there to mother the two tiny kittens we found (Sammie and Magellan) and she took to Zeppelin right away as if she knew that he needed a good home. She helped to show him the "dog" ropes and what it took to be apart of the Spinda family. May of 2009 I reached my goal of one day getting a huge yard for Precious to run, play, and just hang out in. I can't describe what it feels like to watch her and Zeppelin run and play or for Prec to just lay in her yard and watch the neighborhood. Precious became a "mom" for the forth time when we adopted a week old kitten and bottle fed her until she became the terror that she is today, Pumpkin. Precious sat gaurd of Pumpkin's cage while she slept, she growled at anyone (person or animal) who attempted to go near the cage, and sat closely to watch over John and I as we were feeding her. We recently added babies six and seven to Precious's broad with Tony and Carmella (the bunnies). She is the matriarch of the Spinda's clan... it is amazing to watch the cats rub up against her, it is so funny when Zepp follows her around the backyard, and so touching when she goes in and licks Carmella's head/ears.

You may have read this touching history of Precious and I and then asked yourself: what does this story have to do with "Stella's Journey?" I can't talk about Precious without talking about Stella... I feel... no, I know that Precious knew when I was pregnant. She started barking more at things that were outside (cars, people, etc), she was a little more territorial, and she was very lovey with me. Throughout John and I's fertility struggles we would always mention "we have to have a baby while we have Prec, she will be so good with him/her!" We could not contain our excitement to bring Stella home and watch Precious's motherly instinct kick in. Our only fear was that she would get a little too protective and not let anyone but us hold her. :)

When I was in the hospital with Stella Precious went to stay with my mom. My mom sent pictures daily of Precious laying on the couch with her, playing in the snow, and looking sad missing her mama and daddy. It was very difficult to be in the hospital, as I have expressed before, so far away from friends and family. However it was even more difficult to be away from Precious. I was so used to Prec cuddling up with me when I was sick or sad. The days leading up to my admittance into the hospital, Precious stuck close to my side. She laid on the bed or couch with me while I was on bedrest at home and made me feel so loved and comforted.

After Stella passed away she stayed with my mom until we came up to PA for Stella's Memorial Service. We had Zeppelin back from the kennel and Sammie, Magellan, and Pumpkin were here the whole time, but something felt wrong... we didn't have our main lady - Precious! When we showed up at my mom's house a few days before the service Precious must have heard us outside as we walked to the door. She ran down the stairs so fast and hard that she pulled a muscle in her front leg. Our poor girl limped around for a few days all because she had missed her mama and daddy so so much! Once she was home and we had the gang all together we felt like we could begin to put the pieces of our lives back in place. Having pets after you lose your child can be so therapeutic... the dogs forced us to get up and out of bed and the cats came up and cuddled with us when we were crying. When we just need to sit in Stella's room and look through her things, Precious is always there to sit beside us and show us support in the only way she knows how... to love on us.

I'm writing this blog post while my Precious girl is getting her tooth removed... she had a full physical (with bloodwork) about a week ago. She is a very healthy ten year old pup but I'm still nervous! Save for a months that I was "homeless" after college (when she stayed in the care of her wonderful Aunt Sarah) Precious has been the only constant in my life, everyday, every moment living with me for nine years! John and I haven't even been together that long. After the horrific six months that we have just been through, losing our Queen our Angel Babe our Ronie Girl (pronounced with a long O) would probably completely break us... not like losing a child doesn't break you, but to have such a tremendous loss and to be right in the middle of attempting to find your new normal and then to lose such an amazing pup... ugh I can't even explain what that would do to us!

So while my girl is currently in surgery, taking it like a champ (I pray), I am sitting here on the recliner. I am unable to do anything else but write about my Precious babe and I know that that is okay. I wait anxiously by the phone for her Dr. to call me and let me know everything is okay and I pray that I can bring my babe home tonight and take care of her like she has taken care of me for so many years!

Friday, June 17, 2011

What I Want

God never asked me what I wanted. If he had, I would have told Him to fix her, to make her all better so that I can bring her home and love her more than anything in this world. God never asks us what we want. We learn that the world just doesn't work that way, that He just doesn't work that way. I know there is a plan... I know that God doesn't "do" things to us - He does them for us. And when the things that are done hurt us, He is there to cry with us. This doesn't stop me from thinking about all the things that I want.

I have never been the kind of person who could ask for things. I am the one to meet others' needs and if mine get met in the mean time - great, if not - I muddle through. Lately I have been really struggling. (I laugh as I type that) That phrase is about the best way that I can express myself to anyone. My way of reaching out is to say "I have been struggling lately." Not a very direct way of reaching out, huh? Maybe it is because I'm not used to reaching out. Maybe it is because I don't want to be a bother. I think that part of the reason that I don't want to reach out is because I am afraid that I will be rejected. Not asking hurts much less than asking and being rejected. I guess writing my feelings in this blog and then hoping that people read it is about as indirect as saying "I have been struggling lately." (I laugh again at myself) Although I know that I'm being very indirect, that writing in Stella's blog is not the same as actually calling someone and telling them what I need - I feel that this will get a lot of things off my mind. I haven't written in a long time. I've let Mother's Day come and go, Stella's Due Date come and go, and all of the very bad and very good moments in between come and go without writing. I hope to write a special post for the love of my life on Father's Day, but today's post is just about me. My needs... what I want!

I want my daughter back! I want to hold Stella. I want to sing to Stella. I want to read to Stella. I want to give Stella a bath and dress her in a pretty dress. I want to wake up at 3am because Stella is screaming and hungry. I want to sit in Stella's room and feed her until she falls asleep. I want my daughter back. I want her to go to preschool and kindergarten. I want her to make her First Holy Communion. I want Stella to go to school and I want to help her with her homework. I want to watch my daughter grow up. I want Stella to graduate from High School and go off to college. I want her to come home on the weekends and ask me to do her laundry. I want to watch Stella fall in love, succeed at her career, and start a family. I want Stella to be a mother. I just want Stella back in this world!

I want my pregnancy back! I want to travel back in time, back to December 21, 2010 8:00am - the exact time that we were first told that something was wrong with our baby girl. I want to go back to that day in the ultrasound room. I want Stella to be the exact size that she was supposed to be. I want to finish out the next 20 weeks of my pregnancy without complications. I want to have a baby shower, to paint her room, to wash her clothes, to put her crib together. I never had a baby shower - instead I had a memorial service and a lunch at the restaurant where my shower was booked. We didn't get a chance to paint her room - we wanted to wait until after Christmas. I never had a chance to wash her clothes - I took all the tags off and put them in a laundry basket, but I didn't have any baby laundry detergent yet. Her clothes are still in the laundry basket waiting to be washed. We never had a chance to put her crib together - John was going to do that the week before he went back from Christmas break. We were in Louisville already during that week. He crib now sits in the box, in her closet. I want to have heartburn, swollen feet, and no energy again. I want to sing in the car at the top of my lungs and feel Stella kicking me again.

I want to feel something other than deep, painful sadness. Even when I'm smiling I can still feel such horrible pain. I want someone to come sit with me when I'm sad and crying. I want someone to hold my hand. I want someone to reach out to John and help him through this difficult time so that he doesn't have to be so strong for me. I want people to understand that I'm not "over it", I'm not "better now", and I never will be. I want people to understand that four months is NOT a very long time. I often wake up and think that it has only been a few days since I lost Stella.

I want people to know what this is like without actually having to lose a child. I have nightmares every single night. Every night! I haven't been able to actually fall asleep on my own (without medication) since I went into the hospital in January. I have to have at least one TV on, sometimes two, at all times. If the room gets silent I start to hear my screams from the night that she passed away. I replay the last few hours of Stella's death in my head at random times - while I'm watching tv, driving in the car, or even when I'm grocery shopping. I have to remember exactly what nurses where in the room, who was doing what, and what they said to me. If I can't remember I start to panic. "Grief comes in waves" - that's the quote that everyone uses to describe grief. My waves knock me over, punch me in the eye, and leave me for dead... if it wasn't for my wonderful husband, I may just lie there and let those waves kill me. I ask God to take me at least once a day. I try to bargain with Him - He can take me if He gives John Stella, or sometimes I just ask if He can take me so that I can be with Stella up there. I often just yell out "I don't want to be alive" or "I can't live without her" I feel that these statements are true. Please note: I do not have any plans on killing myself. I just do not feel like I can live without Stella. I do not have the ability to deal with anything emotional. I can't process and reason. Things get jumbled up in my brain and I can't get them sorted out. I can barely talk on the phone, I can't read books, I spend most of my time playing Farmville on FB because it distracts me, I watch the same cop shows over and over again and sometimes they are the only things that keep me calm. I want everyone to know that I am not nor will I ever be the same person.

I want people to know that I need help! NOT medical or mental help... I'm going to counseling, I've talked with my priest, and I'm pretty open about my feelings with John. But I need help! I need someone to help me take care of things. I need someone to just sit with me. I need someone to help me get back to working out. I need someone to tell me that sleeping till 3pm and then watching tv the rest of the day is okay and normal. I just need help!

I wrote at the beginning of this post that I am not able to reach out. My counselor suggested to me this week that I begin to reach out to "safe" people. I find writing a blog to be safe. This is about as much reaching out as I can do...