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.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I'm going to be okay

"Don't ever lose hope and give up, everything turns out okay and the good guys always win." ~Anonymous

Last Friday I was sitting on the beach by myself. I had pulled my beach chair down to the water so that as the waves were coming in they would splash up my legs and cool me off. It was just me, my book and the waves (and a few dozen others who's condos were near ours). I was enjoying the sound of the waves, the sunshine, the kids who were boogie boarding near me, the sand in between my toes, and my book. Every couple of pages I would look up at the ocean and take it all in - the smell of salt water in the air, the way the sky mixes with the ocean out on the horizon, the peacefulness that comes with being close to water. This was our last day and I wanted to enjoy every second I had left. It was then, on that Friday, alone on the beach, that I finally realized - I'm going to be okay.

Since I lost Stella, so many people have told me that I was eventually going to be okay. My counselor has even made me say it out loud a few times during therapy. I never believed it. I continued on, tried to muddle through my life knowing that I had to keep living but never believing that I would ever feel alive again. If, even for a second, the thought of being okay crossed my mind I would quickly remind myself that Stella, my daughter, my only child had died in my arms. How could I ever be okay after that?

I spent a lot of time crying the week that we were at the beach. We decided to bring Stella's ashes with us - just looking at and holding her urn brings me great comfort. I cried on our way to North Carolina in the car, I cried when I set her urn next to the bed in the condo, I cried at the beach, in bed, in the shower and while laying on the couch. Of course I had fun - I enjoyed being with family, eating the amazing food that Chris prepared for us, and riding jet skis. But I missed my Stella! I don't know what changed on Friday - I don't know why God chose that day, that minute... But what I do know is that it has been 8 days later and I still know with all of my heart that I am going to be okay. For the first time in 6 months I feel optimistic. I know that the pain that I feel today will never go away but the severity will lessen. I know that Stella will be with me in my heart until the day that I die and I get to finally see her again. I want her to be an active part of my life, but in a joyful way and not a sorrowful way.

On Friday evening John and I took Stella down to the beach. I always feel a little closer to God while I'm standing in the sand beside the ocean - and I felt a little closer to Stella then too. We both took a pinch of her ashes and as a wave was returning to sea we sent a little piece of Stella to sea as well. John and I hugged and cried - we talked to Stella - we promised each other that we were going to get through this. As we were standing there a beautiful seashell washed up between our feet. John picked it up, turned around and wrote Stella's name in the sand. As he was writing none of the waves rolled in far enough to even touch our feet. When he finished we just stood there, holding each other, looking at our daughter's name... just as we were taking a step away from her name and the ocean a large wave rolled in and washed the writing away. I felt as if that wave took a tremendous amount of my pain with it as it retreated back to the sea.

Since coming back from the beach John and I have been busy getting ready for the upcoming school year. I went back to work on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for our professional development days. John had a lot of work to do for his online class and some research he has been working on. We have both been looking forward to the future. We know that with everyday that passes we are getting a little bit stronger. That is why we have decided that we are ready to expand our family.... John and I are going to adopt!

This week has been sort of a whirl wind of information seeking, paperwork and immediate excitement.
Monday - I contacted Catholic Charities of Owensboro, KY and spoke to a women about our interest in adoption and our wanting to go through their agency. (We had already done the research before leaving for the beach.) She had her assistant send us out the paperwork that day.
Tuesday - We received the paperwork in the mail and I immediately filled it out. When John came home from bingo at the Knight of Columbus he signed on the dotted lines.
Wednesday - The paperwork was back in the mail on it's way to Owensboro.
Friday - We received a letter in the mail inviting us to the adoption workshop for August 20 and 21. Basically we bypassed the waiting period and we were accepted as an adoptive family right away. As soon as the workshop is over Catholic Charities will begin our Home Study - a lengthy process meant to determine if John and I are stable individuals capable of raising a child.... I think we just may pass ;)

After our Home Study is complete it may be a few months before a birth mother chooses us as her child's adoptive parents. However, Catholic Charities does not have workshops if they do not have birth mothers to match up with those invited to the workshop. So from what we understand the process should not take years but hopefully only a few months, a year at the most.

We can hardly contain our excitement. We finally feel like there is something to look forward to and something to get out of bed for. Four months ago - hell, even one month ago I was not ready to be anyone but Stella's mom. Today I know I'm ready to be the mom of an angel and a mom to a little one right here on Earth.
Please pray for us - we will need God's guidance as we take one this tremendous undertaking... adoption.

Not flesh of my flesh, Nor bone of my bone,
But still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute,
You didn't grow under my heart - but in it
--- Fleur Conkling Heylinger

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What I've learned

Yesterday was the five month Angelversary of my beautiful daughter Stella. Somewhere around 7:00pm on February 5, 2011 Stella's Doctor, Dr. Cohan, looked up at me - looked right into my eyes and said "Shanna she is not going to survive this." That event was preceded by about an hour of chaos... beeping machines, doctors and nurses running in and out of her room, etc. When all is quiet and dark in the middle of the night my brain goes back to that exact moment... "Shanna she is not going to survive this...Shanna she is not going to survive this... Shanna she is not going to survive this." plays over and over in my head like a broken record. Right now if I close my eyes, I can still see Dr. Cohen clear as day: he is in jeans and an old sweatshirt (because he was called in when her stats began to fall), with a little scruff like he hadn't shaved since yesterday, but with his honest and kind eyes looking right into mine. At the same time as he was saying those words to me I was remembering the night I checked into the hospital almost three weeks before. He looked at me then with those same honest and kind eyes when he promised that he would do everything he could to save Stella. He also promised that he would always tell me the truth about her condition and if/when all hope was lost he would tell me straight out and allow me the honor of holding her as she passed.