Thursday, April 19, 2012

Art Journal Entries

I drew this sketch a few weeks after baby Marc died. I just recently incorporated the drawing into this finished journal entry.

I tore words that defined how I was feeling when I drew the picture out of an old dictionary.

This is half finished because I need to create something on the page behind this so that the opening shows something beautiful. I saw this quote and it just stuck with me so I had to incorporate it into my journal.

A Letter To My Rainbow Jack @ 23 Weeks

I am 23 weeks pregnant with my rainbow baby Jack. I am so looking forward to meeting him and getting the chance to care for a newborn and experience all the things I was cheated out of with Baby Marc. Around this time in my pregnancy with Baby Marc I wrote him a letter and posted it to Facebook. I thought it would be appropriate to write a letter to little Jack at this point in my pregnancy as well.

To my sweet baby Jack Alan,

You are my second baby but from the moment you are born every experience in caring for you will be my first. You have a big brother named Marcus who you will see pictures of and hear stories about but you will not get to play with him because he died the day he was born. You will be arriving just one month after the first anniversary of his birth and death.  We like to call you our rainbow baby because you are bringing beauty back to our lives after a terrible storm.  You are already so very much loved, your daddy can already feel you move and he waits patiently with his hand on my tummy but you like to wait until he moves his hand to kick.
I have started reading to you. I like to read the book Guess How Much I Love You, the baby books say that you can hear us pretty well now so daddy talks to you too. We the nursery all finished in anticipation of your brothers arrival and when he did not get to come home the room that we loved became kind of a sad place for your daddy and I to go. When we found out that you were coming we knew that you would have Marc's room and I wanted to make it a happy place again. I wanted to make it a place that was yours. I added a rainbow to the mural I painted in the room when I was pregnant with your big brother and I also added your name in big letters. Your room is slowly becoming a place I like to be again, I sat in the rocking chair in your room and sang to you the other day.

I worry about you a lot because you like to move at night mostly and during the day I try to make you move so I know your doing alright. I think that you like to sleep too much and sometimes you won't budge even if I drink three glasses of orange juice to try make you hyper. We are still very sad that your big brother died, we miss him very much and because he died the day he was born it makes thinking about your birthday a little scary. We love you so much and we know how hard it is to lose a child and we are scared that we might lose you so it makes it hard to imagine getting to hold you and look into your eyes. But your mommy is an artist and imagination gets the best of me even when it is hard. I can see the doctor placing you in my arms, I can see the tears of joy on your daddy's face that you have arrived safely. What a beautiful day it will be, your birthday. There is no question that you will be intensely loved. We can thank your big brother Marc for showing us how precious life is and how we should never take any second we have to spend together for granted. We will take you to baseball games and your daddy will take you to watch the airplanes take off and land. I am excited to take you to the zoo even though you will be tiny and you probably will not care I will take you this year anyway. We will get to do all the things we did not get to do with your big brother and they will be even more special because we know how sad it is to miss out on those things.
Everyone is looking forward to meeting you and even though you don't get to play with your big brother you will get to play with you big cousin Kaden who will make his entrance into the world just 8 weeks before you. I know you two will be great friends, you will probably be more like brothers than cousins. You will be the third grand baby for your grandparents and the second nephew for your aunts and uncles.
You have a pretty great daddy who helps your mommy stay calm and not stress and worry too much. It's not good for you to have a stressed mommy and your daddy makes sure to listen and help as much as he can. He makes sure that I am feeding you enough and rubs my feet when they hurt from carrying you around in my belly all day. He comes to all your doctors appointments and we are both very excited to see you on the big screen in 3d in just four more weeks!
I hope that you will live a very long life. I hope that we can teach you how important it is to be kind and loving to those around you and to have an appreciation for how beautiful life can be even when there are times of despair. I hope that you will read this one day and know that in a sense you have saved our lives, we will always be sad for your brother and we will always miss him but your life has restored our purpose and hope. We can't wait to meet you! Just 17 more weeks until your due date but if you want to make come a few weeks early I won't complain.
My sweet baby boy I love you with all of my heart, Mama
Jack Alan Johnson

Here is the letter I wrote to Baby Marc when I was 21 weeks pregnant with him. I imagined myself reading it to him when he was grown and having children of his own. It is painful to read these words again but when I am having a good day sometimes I try to get through it and remember how happy he made me during the ten short months that I had the chance to carry him. 

Dear Baby Marc,

My sweet baby, I want you to know how much you are loved. We found out about you just five short months ago and from that moment I have loved you more that anything I have ever loved in my life. Just five weeks after we found out your daddy and I ran a half marathon and you got to come along for the ride. Thank you for waiting until the next week to make your mommy sick.

What an awesome responsibility I have been given to be your mother! I can already feel you exploring your little temporary home, but right now your little body is not strong enough to kick me too hard. Sometimes I will lay on the couch and wait for you to move, I love to feel your little kicks and I tell your daddy every time. You better get strong fast because he is starting to get a little jealous that he cannot feel yet.

Your daddy and I have already made up your room for you, sometimes we just sit in your room and talk. Your daddy and I talk about how much fun your are going to be. You are going to love playing with Enzo and Bently! We imagine you climbing on them and laughing. We are so excited about all the fun things we are going to do with you as you get older. I can't wait to take you to the zoo and show you the monkeys like the ones I painted on your wall. Daddy is excited to take you to your first baseball game. He is also excited to take you to watch the airplanes take off and land, his daddy used to take him when he was little. I like to look at pictures of your daddy when he was a baby, I tell him you are going to look just like him. Which is good because he is very handsome. We already have lots of pictures of you and a few videos because my friend does sonograms for you all the time. You might as well get used to it because your daddy loves to take pictures.

You will be living proof of the love that your daddy and I have. I am so happy that you will be able to grow up and see how much we love each other. I am happy you have such a good man in your life. You have the best daddy ever! He makes sure that mommy eats foods that are good for you, he rubs mommy's back almost every night since having you growing inside is making it hurt, and he listens to mommy read books about birth and babies all the time! Yep, you are one lucky baby.

Your aunts and uncles are excited to meet you too! You will be their first nephew! You will also be your grandma(s) and grandpa(s) first grand baby. You need to know that you are so wanted. You have so many people who already love you so much!

Just 19 more weeks and you will make your entrance in the comfort of our home, peacefully and safely on your own time. Your daddy and I cannot wait to meet you and get to know you. You will have your daddy's name but I know you are going to be your own little man. Although I hope you will inherit his good nature, sense of humor and enormous capacity to love.

With my whole heart, Mama
Marcus Alan Johnson Jr. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Retail Therapy? Putting An End To Emotional Shopping

Retail therapy is shopping with the primary purpose of improving the buyer's mood or disposition. Often seen in people during periods of depression or transition, it is normally a short-lived habit. Items purchased during periods of retail therapy are sometimes referred to as "comfort buys".

Retail therapy was first used as a term in the 1980s with the first reference being this sentence in the Chicago Tribune of Christmas Eve 1986: "We've become a nation measuring out our lives in shopping bags and nursing our psychic ills through retail therapy." [Schmich, Mary T. (1986). A Stopwatch On Shopping. Chicago Tribune, December 24, 1986

Emotional spending simply means you buy things when you feel a particular emotion very strongly. It could happen when you’re stressed, happy, upset, hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Usually when we try to avoid feeling something, we end up acting out in some way and for me (and maybe you, too!) it means spending money.
No one says to themselves, Gee, I’m feeling awfully upset right now. Now I feel the urge to buy a new pair of shoes in an effort to ignore my emotions! If it was that easy to recognize, none of us would do it. Ask yourself these questions to figure out if you are an emotional spender:
  • Do I reward myself with food, clothes, or other tangible items after a long day?
  • Do I spend time justifying purchases in my head?
  • Do I hide the evidence (remove tags, throw away receipts, etc.)?
  • Do I find things around the house that I forgot I even had?
  • Do I find myself wishing I hadn’t bought a certain item because it keeps me from doing something else?
  • Is there something bothering me that I don’t have time to deal with right now?
Sure enough I can answer yes to most of these questions and I am choosing to put an end to it! 


Right before baby Marc was born we had no credit card debt and while we did not have a lot but we had some money in savings.  After he died we received generous financial help from friends and family that I am so thankful for. People always talk about how having a new baby is so expensive the first year but when someone has a baby die it can get pretty expensive. Marc only spent a few hours in the NICU and I went to the ER for a few hours and in that time we racked up nearly 20k in expenses when all was said and done. So thankful that we have insurance and only have to pay a portion of that because I know a lot of people in my situation do not. Still we will be paying on these hospital bills for a while. The funeral expenses and unplanned extended time off from work for Marc helped add to the problem and finally a really big part of the problem was/is my emotional shopping.
It started just a few weeks after baby Marc died. Mom was trying to get me out of the house so we got the idea to create a memory garden on my patio. We went to Hobby Lobby to shop for decorations and pots. I remember that trip vividly because there was this beautiful little boy who was talking in the sweetest baby voice to his mom and I broke down right there in the middle of the Hobby Lobby. I composed myself and focused my attention on shopping for the garden. By the time the garden shopping was finished I had probably spent about $400.00, maybe more. All I knew is that for those few hours I felt a little better. 

Over the next few months I found that shopping gave me a way to get out of the house and away from all the things I should be doing at home with my baby. I started getting the mentality that because I was hurting so much that I deserved to indulge in other desires for a while.

It's about wanting that instant gratification, for me it's a small high to get a good deal or buy something that you don't really need but want. The thing with emotional shopping is that the instant high lasts for a very short time and over the months it started to not feel as good anymore. 

“Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping.”
- Bo Derek

The realization came that no matter how many shopping trips I took the hole that was created in my life by Marc's death could not be filled with things. Of course I knew this in the beginning but shopping was sort of an escape into a world where the only thing that you needed to do was decided if you wanted the dress in pink or red. 

The emotional shopping has decreased but I have formed a habit and a way of coping that is not easily broken. I still find myself overspending everywhere even at the grocery store. Last week I had a horrible week and what did I do...I bought more plants and pots for my garden, more than I really needed to have a really nice garden but I was depressed and it made me happy so I did it. 

The problem is while it makes me happy for that short time later I feel bad that I spent the money and that I should have saved it to pay bills or pay down the credit card. 

“I always say shopping is cheaper than a psychiatrist.”
- Tammy Faye Bakker

Is it really though? Window shopping maybe! I am using six free sessions with my counselor through my employee assistance program and after that it's around $30 for a one hour session with my insurance. If I go twice a month that is only $60 a month for two hours of substantial and lasting help whereas I could easily spend more than that at Hobby Lobby in two hours of emotional shopping.  Not to mention the stress cost of retail therapy! I don’t ever feel guilty after talking to the counselor but I do feel guilt after and emotional shopping trip. 

I have finally decided that I will consciously put an end to my emotional shopping and overspending. I have recognized this issue for a while and in passing said that I need to stop but this time I am very serious and I am making a plan. 

I am going to take it one day and track my progress. Here is my plan!

·         When I am depressed and I get the urge to shop I am going to choose to do something else to occupy my time. 

o   I have tons of crafts and art projects just waiting to be created or finished.  
o   I can spend time in my garden reading the have many unread books on my shelf.
o   If I need to get out of the house I have a 24 hour gym membership and exercise is a definite mood lifter that I can do with no remorse.
o   I could take the dogs for a walk or play with them outside.
o   I can spend time learning a new recipe in the kitchen, as long as I don’t have to go spend a lot of money on exotic ingredients.
o   I have Netflix and Hulu which offers hours of entertainment and escape.
o   I could take a bath and relax

With those things alone there is no way I would run out of things to do instead of shop. 

·         Strategies for saving money to pay down bills faster

o   Make a shopping list before going to the store and actually stick to it! If I cannot think of it at home with my recipe books I shouldn’t buy it when I get there.
o   If I have to go shopping for something specific take cash and only what I plan to spend and leave my debit/credit card at home.
o   Block emails that I get from my favorite stores trying to tempt me with sales and free online shipping!
o   Resist the urge to eat out, it adds up fast and I can usually make a better meal at home for less. Also gives me less time to shop if I have to be home cooking.
o   If I am tempted to buy something make sure to ask myself why I am buying the item. What will happen if I just put it back? Will I really be missing much? Probably not. 

On that note I have to post an excerpt from a blog I found while searching for tips online. Great advice here, this woman also has a lot of other interesting blogs on her struggles with saving money and paying off debt.
Choosing the Questions: Prioritizing
To select the questions I would ask myself before buying something, I had to learn how to prioritize. I wrote out a list of “good” and “bad” reasons to buy something. Then I picked the most relevant ones and ranked them in order of importance. This is the list I came up with:
Do I need it to live? This puts food, clothing, etc. at the top of the list.

Do I already own something that will meet the same need? This prevents me from buying McDonald’s when I have food at home, or buying a new coat when I already have 10 of them.

Will it solve or prevent a real problem? I don’t need toothpaste to live, but it prevents cavities and bad breath so I’m going to buy it. I may think that boredom requires a new DVD, but that’s not a real problem so it doesn’t pass the test.

Will it provide SOME kind of value? Sometimes things aren’t necessary, but we want them anyway. For example, I bought an Apple TV last year. It allows me to stream Netflix, which made it possible to cut off my cable. So even though I don’t need an Apple TV to live and it doesn’t necessarily solve a real problem, I still decided it was worth buying.

Can I afford this item without going into debt? If I have to go into debt for something I must have to live, I can deal with that (though I’d rather not). But if it’s not a need and I’ve still decided to buy it, I have to make sure I can do it without pulling out a credit card or incurring overdraft fees.

Will someone be angry if I buy this? Will I have to hide it or hide the receipt? Now that I’m divorced, I don’t have to picture the wrath of a spouse. But when I was married I used to pull the tags off new clothes and sneak them into my closet all the time. (Hint: This is probably a sign I shouldn’t have bought said clothes.) These days, I pretend that Suze Orman will be going through my shopping bags when I get home.

Could my money be better spent elsewhere? Can I really justify buying a pair of shoes if I know my car needs an oil change? What if I need to buy a birthday gift for a friend next week?

Is the “something else” really important? Am I spending money that needs to go toward bills? If so, not buying. If the money is just earmarked for a competing “want,” I’ll have to make a choice.

Do I still want the item after all this? If none of these questions made me give up, I’m probably buying it. For something silly like nail polish, I probably would have given up a long time ago.
Wish me luck! I will keep you updated on my progress. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Baby Marc's 1st Birthday -Name Gallery

Marc and I had discussed many boy and girl names when we found out we were pregnant with our first baby. We had it narrowed down to Olivia for a girl or Marc Jr, Jack and Noah for our top three boy names. When we found out that Marc was a little boy at 16 weeks along we decided that our first born should be named after his daddy. I love Marc's name and I felt proud to have a little boy with his name. We started referring to Marc Jr. as baby Marc to distinguish who were talking about and the name stuck. If baby Marc would have had the chance to grow up I can pretty much guarantee that I would still be calling him baby Marc well into his teens maybe later.

Latin: Warlike
Latin: Warlike; hammer; defender
Popularity Rank 2011: #150

I have been thinking of what to do for Marc's first birthday. We will probably get together with friends and family to do a balloon release, I will make a cake for him and we can spend the day remembering the time we had with him. Still I was a little sad because I should be planning a big party for his first birthday and I felt I wanted to do something more to honor him on his birthday.

So I need your help to start a name gallery for him. What is a name gallery?

Well the idea is word art. You think of creative, fun, or artistic ways of “writing” out Marc’s name. For example, spelling MARC out in M&M’s, Scrabble tiles, or even a photograph collage. Then you take a digital picture of your creation and send it back to us. We will be collecting these pictures and will order a bound photo book to forever cherish!
You can be as crazy or creative as you want as long as his name is in the photo it works. You can submit one or several photos including Marc's name. You can use any version of his name:

Marcus Alan Johnson Jr
Baby Marc
Marcus Alan Johnson Jr

Anything goes as long as it is his name. I cannot wait to see what you all come up with! Feel free to have others you know share in the fun too – we would be honored to know that everyone, even those that don’t know us personally, are also thinking of our baby Marc. Plus, the more pictures we receive the more we get to see our son’s name written! We’ll want to unveil his gallery book on his 1st birthday so we’re putting a deadline on submissions of June 5th.
So, start those creative juices flowing!

Please send your creations (high-resolution photo, or link to photo) in an email @

If you need examples here is a fellow baby loss mom's name gallery for her son Jason.

Another baby loss mom's name gallery for her daughter Hadley.

Moments of Clarity

April 5th my sweet Marcus would be 9 months old. It is hard to believe but in just three short months he would be one year old. It has been hard seeing all the pictures of peoples sweet babies in the Texas bluebonnets or the pictures of them playing in kiddie pools in the backyard. Feeling such mixed emotions as I am so happy to be expecting Jack in August and still so sad that I am missing out on all those things with Marc.

I am still trying to fully accept that this is my life now. Living without Marc is never going to get easier because I am always going to be seeing a child that would be his age and thinking about what we would be doing if things had been different. However, slowly the pain is getting easier to carry. Sometimes I actually like to see those pictures of peoples babies that are close to how old Marc would be. It is a strange wistful feeling, longing for a glimpse of what he would be like right now. How big would he be, what kinds of things would he be learning right now? I guess in that way he continues to live on in my daydreams.

One thing I still struggle with is something that is really hard to explain but I will try. Sometimes, mostly in the middle of the night or early morning when I just wake up or get up for whatever reason I have this awful moment of clarity. Sometimes it hits me during the day too though, it can happen at work or driving somewhere. Usually it happens when I have a moment where I am not thinking of anything else.

This moment of clarity and a true understanding of the finality of my situation. It's like I feel intensely for just a few moments exactly the same weight of pain and stabbing heartache that I felt the moment the doctor told me Marc was brain dead and I would not be taking him home.

In those moments it is like I live in a fog all the other times. The other times when I seem fine or happy are times when I am pushing the horrible facts of what happened and why it happened to me. This unclouded view that my baby died and the realization that this is now the life I have to live.

I did not really want to admit this but those times right before those moments of clarity are usually a moment of major confusion. When I wake up in the middle of the night, usually to go pee because Jack is pushing on my bladder, I have to actually think about whether this was all a dream....or horrible nightmare. I mean I wake up and I am pregnant and going to the bathroom...did I dream that Marc died? Am I still pregnant with Marc? In that moment I really feel like a crazy person. No this is a different child, yes Marc is dead. Then the clearness. Then the pain and guilt. Pain for Marc and guilt for Jack because of the split second I thought I was still pregnant with Marc. I am reading this as I type and realizing again how crazy it sounds. I know Jack is my second child, I know he is not Marc and he is a separate person with his own personality. Having Jack does not replace Marc.
Still, I fear that I will feel like he is Marc when he is here. Does that even make any sense? Someone please tell me it does and that they even remotely understand what I am trying to explain.