If you follow me on social media, or know me personally, then you know that the event known as “back-to-school” is marked as a holiday at our house. As a teacher myself, from a long line of teachers too, the school calendar very obviously impacts our calendar and the way our family operates. Therefore, after having Abigail and deciding to continue teaching I decided that every year we would celebrate this time as a family. So we’ve returned to school, we’ve celebrated for a week, and we find ourselves very content to be home this weekend. But while in my classroom this week my new (and precious) students and I had a conversation about how everyone has their own unique story. Furthermore, we reflected on how other people’s stories, both friends and strangers, can impact us too.
Laura McCarty has impacted my life and became one of my heroes of the faith a couple of years ago, even before my own grief, though I don’t know her too personally. She’s a home town girl in Birmingham, and we have many mutual friends. But, how interesting that in 2018 you can watch or hear someone’s story from a far, namely through social media, and be moved in such an impactful way. That’s part of what God impressed upon me though when I started this little blog in the midst of my own grief. While trying to pick up the pieces of my broken heart I was reminded of a few mamas, Laura being one of them, and so I’m glad to share her motherhood story with you here now.
How would you describe your family?
I feel like we are just your average family. Mark and I met a long time ago, but reconnected after we both graduated from college. We fell in love fast. We began dating, were engaged, and married all in a years time. We are the exact same and the exact opposite in so many ways. We have two fur babies, Lily and Coast, that make us vacuum every day of the week. We have two beautiful girls, Sullivan and Miller. Sullivan went to be with Jesus in October of 2016. Miller joined us in March of 2018, and has brought us such joy. Sullivan and Miller are 16.5 months apart and the light of our lives.
What is unique about your motherhood journey?
Mark and I got pregnant with our first little girl, Sullivan, in January of 2016. My pregnancy was easy and uneventful. I honestly enjoyed every minute of it. On October 16th, we welcomed Sullivan Yates to the world. As soon as she came out, we knew something wasn’t right. With one push of the button, the entire NICU staff was in our room just minutes after she was born.
I’ll never forget that day in the hospital. It was the best and worst day of our lives. Sullivan was born with an incredibly rare cancer. It is so rare, in fact, that they have never seen it it before. Her case was so unique that it was a topic of discussion at the National Pediatric Convention this year.
Losing Sullivan was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face. The loss of a child is unfathomable. My husband and I often say that there are no words that truly describe how it feels. It leaves you breathless, in a foggy haze that is all consuming. It is truly an unexplainable kind of grief. For months we wrestled with every emotion under the sun. We both struggled with a lot of anger and bitterness. And let’s be real, if you’re not careful, you can get really stuck in feeling sorry for yourself.
For a long time, I was under the impression that motherhood was something that I could control. I thought you chose when you were ready to have babies, that pregnancy came easy, deliveries weren’t too scary, and that healthy babies were a given. Oh, how I was wrong! If you had told me that it would be such a journey to bring a healthy baby into this world and to have the honor of bringing that baby home I never would have believed you.
I’m always met with sadness when I tell people Sullivan’s story. I get it, it is sad. It will always be sad to a degree. BUT there is so much more to her story. Her story isn’t rooted in pain and heartache, it is rooted in JOY. Sullivan was here! We heard her cry, her eyes met ours, every bit of her was real. She was our first and greatest blessing. I think I’ll always have tears in my eyes when I think about our girl, but hear me when I say they are happy tears!
My journey to motherhood isn’t what I pictured it would be, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I can’t imagine what my life would look like without Sullivan. She changed me from the inside out. She rocked my world in a way that just trying to explain it doesn’t do it justice. Praise Jesus for the life of Sullivan Yates.
Sixteen and a half months later we welcomed Sulley’s little sister Miller. She came quickly, like 3 hours from beginning to end kind of quickly, on the morning of March 2nd of this year. She’s sweet and content, and our second greatest blessing.
What is something that you’ve learned from your children that has made you stronger in Christ?
Let me tell you something about Sullivan’s story, YES, it was hard. YES, it was heartbreaking, but Jesus was here the whole time. He has moved me and molded me with His gift of Sullivan. I wouldn’t be who I am today without her.
You see, after we lost her, I took every ounce of my anger to Jesus. I’m not saying I took it to Him nicely, I’m just saying I took every emotion I had straight to Him. I screamed and begged for Him to tell me why He let this happen to us. I wanted to know why He didn’t care. Why He abandoned us when we need Him most. Why He took our girl from us.
After months of refusing to listen to His voice, I finally remained quiet enough to hear Him. He reminded me that He was there, and that He did understand our pain. He understood it so well because He had experienced it before Himself.
He told me that He had willingly given up His only son, so that I would never have to be forever separated from mine. Does that make sense? Despite my anger, and my blaming Him for it being His fault, He still chose to give up His only son, Jesus, so that I could be together again with my child one day.
He sacrificed his child to pave the way for my reunion with Sullivan. He let Jesus die, so that the sting of death wouldn’t last forever. The story of Jesus dying on the cross has never meant more to me than it does now.
You see, I would never give up Sullivan, not for anyone, and I definitely wouldn’t give her up for a bunch of crappy sinners. If someone asked me to give her up, I would think they were completely crazy. But that’s exactly what God did. Death isn’t the end, because God chose to give up His child for us.
My point is, no matter what you’re facing, God isn’t the bad guy. Sometimes it’s irritating that we can’t see the whole picture, but I know without a shadow of doubt that His plan for me is good. His plan for Sullivan is good.
He continues to teach me and show me His goodness through Sullivan’s legacy and the life of our sweet Miller.
How did your children’s clothing line Sullivan Yates begin and what’s your vision for it in the future?
The Lord laid the idea of Sullivan Yates Clothes on my heart a few months after we lost Sulley. It was kind of out of the blue, and honest, terrified the crap out of me. I couldn’t believe this new path that He seemed to be guiding me down. After months and months of confirmation, I dove head first into it.
To say the response has been good is an understatement. I’m blown away every single day about how this little idea has turned into a big dream and then boom… reality. Thank you, Jesus.
I have some really big dreams and goals for Sullivan Yates, but I think my husband’s are even bigger than mine. He has been my biggest support and my greatest cheerleader. He is constantly pushing me to dream past what I think is feasible. So without giving too much away, I’m going to let the Lord steer this ship. He dreamed it up, and has brought every ounce of it fruition. Sullivan Yates will become whatever He wants it to be, and I’m just going to be a willing vessel.
It has easily been my most exciting and rewarding undertaking. It’s a blessing to have a business in honor of my child. It’s an honor to be her Mama and tell her story.
What makes Sullivan Yates different than other children’s clothing lines?
Sullivan Yates is all about the joy and life that children bring.That’s what these clothes are all about. Not only are all of our clothes made by hand, but proceeds from each sale go towards St. Jude’s. Besides their high quality, we hope they are a daily reminder of what a blessing our children are. Life with children is so beautifully chaotic. Your child is unique and unlike any other child. They were made to stand out, not blend in.
These clothes are made for everyday life. They are to be worn outside in the dirt, with drippy popsicles. They are to beused on a daily basis, not just for special occasions. We hope that when people visit our site and read Sullivan’s story a smile is brought to their face.