Monday, December 31, 2007

Goodbye 2007

As this year comes to a close, I am reminded of all my blessings. 2007 was a difficult year for my family but we experienced many unforgettable moments that changed our lives. Thank you for sharing in this journey with us and for praying for our family. May you be richly blessed in this New Year.

Brian and Mandy

Monday, December 24, 2007

Our Christmas Letter

“For unto us, a child is born.” Isaiah 9:6

Dear Friends and Family,
As I reflect on the year 2007, I must say it was a year filled with emotion and love. For our family, it was a year of great joy and sorrow, one we will not ever forget and one that forever changed us in a way we never expected.
Most of you know we learned we were expecting a baby last fall. What an unexpected surprise to say the least! (We thought our family was complete after the triplets were born.) After the shock set in, we really were excited that our baby would be a little girl. Even Maxwell was looking forward to a little sister in our house of boys. But January 2007 brought with it the heartbreak that our precious baby had a chromosomal disorder known as Trisomy 18. Tests revealed our daughter would not live long, if at all, and we prepared ourselves for the worst each day. My doctor was gracious enough to allow us to have as many ultrasounds as we wanted in order to see Madeline and get to enjoy her while she was safe in my body. Those days, peeking into her little world, kept us going and brought us such happiness just knowing she was doing okay at that moment. We prayed continuously and asked God for a miracle, to spare our child and heal her completely.
Madeline, as we all know now, was quite a fighter. She continued to grow and thrive in the womb until her birth at 37 ½ weeks, when we finally got to meet her in person. June 27th was Madeline's birthday!!! She was a tiny 3 pounds, 12 ounces with a head full of black hair, looking lots like our Harry! Though her time here on earth was very short, those were the most joyous 12 hours of our lives. Madeline was able to breathe on her own and we got to hold and kiss her, bathe her, and try to fit in a lifetime of memories in a few short hours. Madeline left this world in our presence and we are comforted knowing she is in a much better place. Madeline taught us how to pray and that God really hears our prayers and answers them. We prayed for a miracle and got just that. Madeline Grace Hopkins was our miracle and we feel so blessed that God allowed us to be her parents. We have a huge investment in Heaven and look forward to the day when we get to see Madeline again.
As for the rest of the family……….Maxwell has grown in so many ways during the last year. He will soon be nine years old and is a third grader with lots of friends. It is hard to believe that our “baby” is growing up so fast. Maxwell is a sweet boy with a very sensitive heart. It has been a blessing to see God working in his little life as we suffered through the loss of Madeline. He is my little “prayer warrior” and continues to ask God to watch over Madeline until we see her again. Maxwell loves school and is our creative child. Right now, Maxwell wants to be an artist or inventor when he grows up. He will sit and draw for hours at a time and loves to write stories as well. He even wrote and got his first book published this year. He has already planned all the other volumes he is going to write too. If you have not read his book, Animals, Animals, Animals (Volume 1) you have really missed out. It should be fun to see what his future holds. I know God has some great things in store for Maxwell! He is happiest when he is playing with his brothers or wrestling with Brian. Maxwell loves to read, sing, watch movies and be ‘in charge” of his little brothers. I think he is finally able to enjoy having so many brothers, although they do a great job aggravating him sometimes. Maxwell constantly keeps us laughing at all his funny little comments. One of my favorite sounds is to hear him really laugh when something is funny. Maxwell started a family tradition of telling one good and one bad thing that happened in our day as we all eat dinner together each night. He is very serious about this “share” time---typical Maxwell!!!
Harrison, Grayson and Ashton turned 4 this summer and keep us very busy. They are quite the trio, filling our house with lots of noise. Harrison is the “oldest” and wants to be just like Maxwell. Harry loves trucks and anything you can ride on or race. Brian is sure he has a racecar driver in Harry! Harrison gives the best kisses and hugs and reminds us of Madeline with his dark hair and plump little lips. Grayson is our “middle” triplet and is pure mischief. He is always being silly and loves to keep trouble brewing between his brothers. Grayson has a twinkle in his eyes and the cutest little smile you have ever seen. He is very artistic and likes to draw and color. Ashton loves to say he is the “youngest, tallest” and is the most affectionate of our children. He loves shoes and clothes and would change every 30 minutes if we would let him. Ashton is our guitar-player and music lover. He remembers the words very quickly to all his favorite songs. The triplets are in Pre-K and are learning so much at school. We are amazed at all they are doing like writing their names and beginning to know sounds and letters. It seems like only yesterday that we were trying to figure out how to feed three hungry little ones at the same time and now they are big boys.
Brian is the busiest man I know and manages to be a super daddy and husband in the process. I have learned so much from him in the last few months about trusting in God’s timing and purpose. I am so thankful to have him as my husband and friend. Brian stays busy with his used car lot, Sweet Water Auto, and a full-time job as an accountant for his uncle’s firm in Forsyth. He has plans to go back to school and take the CPA exam to get certified once tax season is over. This past summer he coached Maxwell’s baseball team and led them to a second place win for the season. Somehow he even finds time when he is not working to spend time with our boys and do all the fun things boys enjoying doing like hunting and riding four-wheelers. He is our hero and we love seeing him walk in the door at the end of each day.
I am still teaching first grade at Midway for my 11th year. I am fortunate enough to work beside one of my dearest friends in the world each day. Jill and I keep each other motivated and laughing at all the funny things our students do and say. School is never dull when you work with 21 six year olds. Needless to say, I stay busy with the boys and can usually be found refereeing them as they play. I began a blog while I was expecting Madeline as a way to journal and I still use it to write sometimes. It has been neat “meeting” people from all over the country who have prayed for our family or who share similar experiences with us.
Thank you all for your friendship and love and your constant prayer and support during this past year. 2007 held some of our best and worst times but with God’s grace, we look ahead with hope. We look forward to what the new year will bring and pray that each of you has a joyous holiday. God Bless.
Mandy, Brian, and Boys

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Poppy Joy

As I write this, another family I have met via the Internet and through blogging, has lost their precious baby girl to Trisomy 18. I am so saddened for them and ask that you pray for their family. You may go to their blog and read the details of Poppy Joy and her life at

As I have thought of Poppy's family tonight and prayed for them, I have cried and remembered.....remembered holding Madeline that last moment before I had to give her away forever, the emptiness of a hospital room on a maternity floor with no baby to hold that first night, the sad look in the eyes of all the nurses who can't make it better, the grief counselor that can't really help you. The memories go on, all of them difficult. Each time I hear about some other family who loses a baby, my heart just breaks and it is like I relive losing Madeline all over again. My heart is heavy tonight and this sad news is painful for mothers like me who have been there. I wish I were able to do something for Poppy's family but all I can do is pray. Please join me in lifting them up right now.


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Better late, than never

It has been so long since I sat down to write my feelings. I have thought about it often but for many reasons, I do not write. One of them is my lack of ability to express my feelings lately. I have really been in a state of feeling emotionless..if that is really something you can feel. As I read and talk to other people who have experienced grief like only a parent can, this is just part of it. I am glad to know that I am not weird or unloving, but just at a place where I feel numb and can not for the life of me describe it. Maybe it is part of the healing.

It has been exactly five months since Madeline was born and then left us. There were times when I thought I would never make it here, but life has a way of pushing you along even when you refuse to move. Not a single hour goes by that I don't think of her or miss her, but I can now smile when I think of what a special baby she was and how blessed I feel that I was chosen to be her mother.

My own mother and sister still have difficulty talking about Madeline without lots of tears and I know they both wonder about me sometimes, when I am the only one not crying (I credit some really great meds too!) but I have come to a conclusion that has helped me to cope with losing Madeline. When I found out on January 8th that Madeline had this terminal diagnosis, I began the grief process then. The idea I had of a healthy baby, a healthy daughter that would be my soft spot in my world of boys, was crushed. I felt like all my hopes and dreams were lost. But what I did not realize then, but know for sure now, is that Madeline would not be who she was intended by God to be if she had been exactly as I had planned her. It really is a blessing that we are not in control of our lives because I never would have written mine with this outcome. God knew how badly I wanted a little girl and He could not have given me a more perfect one than Madeline Grace Hopkins. And even though she is not the child I had planned or dreamed about, she is even better. I knew early on that Madeline would not be "normal" and that I probably would never parent her like I have our other children. I was able to grieve the loss of that dream and it is only recently that I knew that as badly as I missed her and wanted her here to share in our life, Madeline would not be herself if she were able to do that. She was exactly as God intended her and I would not trade her for a healthy daughter anyday because that would mean changing her. Madeline was perfect in all ways, in our eyes and God's.

We still have moments when sadness looms and feels like it is taking hold and I think that it seems like just yesterday that we buried Madeline. I drive by the cemetary and sometimes can't stop. I guess denial makes it a little easier too. It all seems unreal that we have lost a child, one we hardly had a chance to know and love. We miss her and the boys still talk about Madeline and pray for her. Maxwell always thanks God for taking care of her for us and Harry commented just yesterday that he didn't ever get to meet Madeline. They will always "know" her because we will never stop talking about her or sharing all the blessings she brought into our lives.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Love's Embrace

The following poem was written by a teacher at my school who was gracious enough to let me share it here with you. She attended Madeline's funeral and reflects on all the sights and sounds of that moment in time. What is so beautiful about this sweet gift is that this was her first attempt at writing of any kind, but you would never know it by reading her eloquent words. It is something I will always deeply treasure, as it is a reminder to me the impact a tiny baby had on so many. Thank you so much Mrs. Mc for these beautiful words. I am honored that you were inspired to write them.

Love’s Embrace

Twilight’s subtle hues –
above, horizons kiss.

A solitary portrait of mother and child –
held in an infinite moment –
capturing love’s embrace.

The inner circle’s bonds steadfast -
as hearts unite as one –
mother to daughter –
generations connected.

Heads bent in prayer –
as somber silence surrounds the cherub who slumbers.

Evenings voices chafing –
heaviness of hearts – barren, displaced.

Whispers of God’s presence rippled –
through boughs of sweet pine –
the symphony from his creatures –
both great and small, bring comfort to all.

While strength from the outermost –
buttressed, with encouragement and compassion.

Balloons float adrift from the hand of a brother –
setting soul and spirit towards –
Love’s Embrace.

By Jenny McMahan

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

praying for Copeland

Please join me and pray for the Farley family from Tennessee. Boothe delivered a little girl named Copeland today. She weighed 4 pounds and is breathing on her own. Copeland has Trisomy 18, like Madeline. This sweet family needs our prayers so much right now. Please pray that they will get lots of precious time with their new little girl.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

balloons for Madeline

It has now been three months since Madeline went to heaven and while there are days that I have such a peace about it, I still find it really difficult not to try to relive those 12 hours we had with her and wonder if I should have done things differently. I question if we did the right thing by letting Madeline go to the NICU or should we have just kept her in our arms until she took her last breath. I know you can't live your life in regret or wondering about all the "what if's" but it is really hard not to. I have thought over and over about how I spent each minute of that precious time with her and how it just wasn't enough. I sometimes don't know whether to smile or cry when I think of her because I still miss her so.

Today after eating out for lunch, the boys all got balloons when we left the restaurant. They, of course, wanted to let them go and watch them as they drifted up to heaven and out of sight. Maxwell mentioned that he hoped Madeline got one of those balloons to play with today, which led Grayson to ask how she got to heaven. I told him Jesus came to get her and he wanted to know if Jesus could fly and if Madeline rode on his back to heaven. I smiled as we talked about Madeline and am thankful the boys still ask about her. Their innocence and trust is so precious and it brings me comfort to know that they have a better understanding of Jesus and what He can do because of their sweet little sister that they will meet in heaven one day.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I have learned a lot about myself in the last year. I think I am strong and do a pretty good job convincing myself that I am, but today I realized I am not doing as good as I want to believe. It has been almost three months since Madeline died and it has gotten easier in many ways. Each day is so busy with school, the boys, and just life that I am often too preoccupied to allow myself the time to just think. To think of how badly I miss her, to look at her pictures, to try to remember all the little details. Maybe it is just easier on the heart not to remember.

There is not an hour that goes by that I do not think of Madeline and the impact she has had on my life. But I realized last night that I have not really allowed myself to grieve for my child. As long as I do not dwell on Madeline and push her to the back of my mind, I am okay. Life goes on and I can pretend the hurt is not there. I guess it is easier sometimes to just forget all of this ever happened. Not to disregard Madeline's precious little life in any way, but to protect my heart. As I walked past her box in my room with all of her belongings last night, I stopped and thought about her little gown that I used to smell that had her sweet scent. I wondered if it still smelled of her, but would not allow myself to continue to think about it because the pain is too great. I just pushed the thought away and went to bed. Maybe this is a normal part of grief, to just act as if all is well and not get caught up in remembering. If I don't think about it, maybe I can make my heart believe this never happened and is all just a bad dream.

Lately, as I read what other mothers who are expecting babies like Madeline write, I am reminded that it was so much easier to be faithful and positive before Madeline was born. During the pregnancy I had no choice but to BELIEVE and stay strong in my faith, but now I find that I question God. Why? What is the reason behind all of this? I recently finished a book about heaven, hoping for some comfort, maybe even some answers to my many questions. I do believe but I just have to remind myself sometimes that this is not all there is to life. That I will see Madeline again one day and when I do, all this will be forgotten and not matter.

There is an abundance of evidence in my life that God is good and is indeed real. I really don't have to look hard to see it. I just have to remind myself that He is in control and it is okay for me not be.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Glory Baby by Watermark - Rhapsody Player

This song speaks our hearts. Brian and I are left here on earth and miss Madeline so much each day. We know Madeline is in Heaven and one day we will hold her and love her again. Until then we have to cherish our memories of our short time with her and believe in eternity when we can have Madeline with us forever. This song says all that we feel so perfectly.


Saturday, August 18, 2007


The following poem was written by Heather, a fellow blogger, who is battling a brain tumor. When I read it on her blog, I so identified with her thoughts. These words spoke to my heart and express where I am right now. You can visit Heather at She is an amazing woman who never fails to inspire.


It is best not to say anything at all.
To be still in the moment.
Let the emotions rush over you like a raging river.
Get up and brush yourself off.
And start over again.

Things can’t be put back together.
They can't go back to the way they once were.
But you can be better because of the experience.
Despite the experience.

You have to let things go.
You have to let things be.
You have to let go and let God.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

I am not sure what to say tonight as I attempt to write this, but I have people tell me that they check my blog to stay in touch and see how we are doing. Honestly, I feel so lost much of the time. We are all back in school and I am busy with our normal routine now, but I still feel an overwhelming loss and emptiness, even in the midst of my everyday life. I feel so numb at times when I think of the last year and all that we have experienced. It is hard to wrap my head around losing Madeline and I guess I just find it difficult to know what I should feel as life goes on around me. Brian is right when he says it will always be a part of our day, a part of us and our family.

We visited the cemetary today. As usual, while I am there, I have a strong desire to hold Madeline again. Sometimes, looking down at the dirt that is still so fresh, not even covered with grass yet, I can not believe that she is gone. It all happened so fast and seems unreal to me at times. It is with such sadness still that I visit her there. I know one day it may not hurt quite as much, as time passes. Until then, we will go through the motions of our grief and pray that God gives us the peace to not question His plan. Lately, I have tried to make sense of this but I can not. Like so many things in this cruel world, losing a child is beyond our understanding. Only God knows why. Please pray for our strength and healing as we face each new day and miss our sweet baby girl.


Thursday, August 2, 2007

The triplets are in Pre-K!

Boy, how time flies when you are having fun.......Harrison, Grayson, and Ashton started pre-Kindergarten this week and are enjoying it so much. They think they are in "big" school like Maxwell and are enjoying learning all the rules at school, although following them is a different story. Our dinner conversations are always interesting as they share stories about their day and who did what. There are no secrets when you have three little boys who love to tattle on each other.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

back to school

Our family is getting ready to go back to school and that means I am back teaching first grade too. Maxwell starts third grade next week and the triplets are in Pre-K. I can not believe how quickly time passes. I was just thinking the other day (as I held Maxwell and loved him a little)that I would do it all over again, relive the last 8 years all over and have the kids back as babies if I could. Even knowing what I do now, even with all the heartbreak. The joys in my life far outweigh the sadness.
It is always tough going back to school after being home for the summer but this year it is especially difficult for me. As I worked in my classroom this week, I realized that going back to school for me means I am not on my planned maternity leave. I imagined when I left in May that I would be home with Madeline in July when school started back. I imagined that she would still be with us and I really thought we would get that time. I really did not think I would be visiting her at the cemetary instead. But God had other plans and I suppose I needed to believe that Madeline would be with me to get through it at the time.
As life gets back on schedule for our family, please pray that we continue to adjust to all the changes. God continues to reveal Himself to us through Madeline's short life. I will share more on this later. Thank you for checking in on us.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

One Step Forward, 2 Steps Back

I think I am doing great and then I am just knocked down all over again. Grieving is like that I guess. Fortunately I do not have much experience with it so this is all pretty new to me.

I was in Wal-Mart today with Maxwell and saw one of my former students who is now 16 years old. She had a little boy a few days before I had Madeline and wanted to show me his picture. I had seen her during my pregnancy so we knew that our children were expected around the same time. Of course, I dreaded the question about how my baby was and she remembered to ask. I told her that we had lost our little girl and she said she was really sorry. It was an awkward moment and I almost started crying in front of her but held it together. Maxwell and I walked away, saying nothing to each other, just feeling bad. I felt such sadness and disbelief that this young, immature 16 year old has a healthy child and I lost mine. Where is the fairness in that? I know life is not always fair and was reminded of that today.

I am struggling with my grief and still have days that I have to "fake" it. I have to put on a smiley face and have a good attitude for my children and stay positive even though I am feeling all but happy. What I really want is for the world to just stop for awhile and let me decide where I am in all of this. Life is getting back to normal and I guess that is what has me concerned. I feel like I am not ready to be "normal" again and by doing so, it will somehow lessen Madeline's significance. The world is moving on and people have a way of expecting you to move on too but I am resisting still. I know time plays a big part in healing and in some ways, it is getting easier. But it is still there and will be for a long time. Even in the midst of joy and laughter, the sadness creeps in and reminds me that the hurt is still so real and fresh..........One step forward, two steps back, but moving ahead nonetheless.

I continue to pray for our peace and happiness. There is so much to be thankful for and I will not overlook those things. Thank you for remembering us in your thoughts and prayers. We have had so many cards, emails, calls, meals and gifts and are so appreciative of each one.

Monday, July 9, 2007

a Prayer Request

I have recently been introduced to a lady named Boothe who lives in Nashville, TN. She and her husband are the proud parents of a precious little girl and they are expecting another little girl they are naming Copeland. Please pray for this sweet family as they have recently found out that Copeland has Trisomy 18, just like our Madeline. We know their heartache all too well and are praying for this family. I ask that each of you put them on your prayer list too. Boothe also has a blog if you would like to visit. It is

Thank you for lifting them up in your prayers.


Sunday, July 8, 2007

My Favorite Picture of Madeline

I just love this picture of Madeline and wanted to post it for those of you who haven't seen it. She is just a few minutes old and I think it is so cute how she has her little leg propped up and is just sprawled out in all her glory. We didn't know at the time that God would only let her live with us for 12 hours but what a joyous 12 hours we had with Madeline!!! We will always remember her as the beautiful, sweet baby that she was. I sure hope she stays that way in heaven. I like to think that when I get there, Madeline will be just like she was when I last saw her here.
Thank you for continuing to lift us up in prayer.


Monday, July 2, 2007

Missing Madeline

I am up late and thinking of Madeline...................

The boys had a great birthday and I am a little saddened that they will soon be in pre-K and are now 4, going on 14. It is always bittersweet when your children get another year older and you feel like you are losing your baby, or in my case, babies. But as Brian reminded me tonight, there are so many more great times ahead for our family.

Which brings me to another thought. The good times will always be tinged with sadness since losing Madeline. We realized this on June 27th when the boys turned 4. We had hoped that Madeline would get to spend their birthday with us but she did not. We realized this again when we watched the fireworks with the boys and thought about how we wished Madeline was with us. I know there will be lots of wonderful times ahead with our family and friends but when I think of these times, a certain dread comes over me because I know little Madeline will never be there to share in this fun with us. A part of our family is missing and can not be replaced. They say time heals everything but no amount of time will totally dimish our loss.

I feel that loss each night (like now) when I am up because I can't sleep and think how nice it would be to be rocking Madeline or feeding her or changing her. I have "empty arms" and long to hold her little body. When I get really lonely for her, I have the little gown she wore and it still smells of her. I have it in a ziplock bag to "save" the smell and get it out occasionally to remember Madeline.

I recently did some organizing and decided to put up the changing table that has been in our room since the triplets were born. On this changing table held all of Madeline's things....her clothes, blankets that friends have made or given me, stuffed animals, books, all pink and hers. Some were things from the hospital like the blankets she last layed on and a box with a lock of her hair and her footprints. It was very hard putting her things away, harder than I imagined. My mama and sister helped me and we all had a good cry. Brian made me a beautiful box out of poplar to keep all of Madeline's things so whenever I need to look at them, I can.

Happy Fourth of July to all of you. Keep praying for us as we heal.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Triplets turn 4!

On June 27th, 2003, the Hopkins family expanded by3! We were blessed to have Harrison, Grayson and Ashton all weighing in at over 5 pounds each. (I was certainly releaved to get them on the outside of my body!) Our family has certainly changed since Maxwell was our only child and we lived in a little tiny 2 bedroom house. We never imagined we would be the parents of triplets but are so glad God blessed us with these three wonderful boys four years ago today. Each of them is so unique and his own little person.

Harrison is the oldest and is most like Maxwell in his looks. He is brown-haired and eyed and has the fullest, most-kissable lips. He has the cutest laugh you have ever heard. Harrison's hero is Maxwell and he wants to do everything his big brother does. Harry is bossy and doesn't mind taking matters into his own hands when it comes to straightening out his brothers. He usually gets in the most trouble for hitting Ashton or Grayson when they disagree. Harrison is a loving child and likes to snuggle up with you for some one on one time when he needs it. He is very inquisitive and doesn't miss a thing when adults are talking.

Grayson is the "middle" triplet and the smallest of the three. Grayson is blonde-headed and has beautiful blue eyes. He is constantly making us laugh because he is either being super silly or very serious. Grayson is quite the individual and is the most independent of the three. He likes things just so and doesn't mind letting you know his likes and dislikes. He prefers playing by himself and loves to "fix" things. Nothing interests him more than figuring out how things work. He will sit for a long time and take the tires on and off his trucks. Grayson doesn't meet a stranger and asks lots of questions when he meets someone new.

Ashton is our "baby" and will tell you quickly that he is the "youngest tallest"! He is a big boy and loves being a little bigger than his brothers. Ashton is silly and likes to laugh. He is the most musical of the three and loves to sing. He has a gift for remembering the words to any song he hears and will request that you play his favorite tunes over and over. He has been dancing since he could barely stand up and likes music videos. Ashton should get a job in the entertainment industry someday since he is happiest when he has all the attention. He is also very conscious of what he wears and loves to change clothes and shoes throughout the day. Ashton likes to play ball and loves those Georgia Bulldogs.

As I think of our four children, I am reminded of how good God is and how blessed we are to be the parents of four healthy boys. We miss Madeline more than words can express and will always feel like a part of us is missing. The boys ask about her often. Harrison just asked me the other day when Madeline was going to come and live with us. Grayson and Ashton reminded him that she was living with Jesus and was in our hearts. I could not have said it better myself.

Monday, June 18, 2007

pictures of Madeline

We were fortunate enough to have a wonderful photographer present at Madeline's birth and he did a remarkable job capturing our time with her. He is a member of an organization called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep and uses his talents as a ministry to others. I can not tell you how having these pictures is helping me to cope with losing Madeline. It is so good to be able to see her anytime I need to. Thank you Steve for being a part of our memories of our sweet Madeline Grace.

You may go to and view these precious pictures of our daughter. There you can see why we loved her so much.

Mandy and Brian

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Happy Father's Day!

This Father's Day will no doubt be a hard one for Brian but he assures me that he has never felt more like a father than he does right now. We both are struggling with our grief and how to grieve with a house full of little boys. If I cry too much, it is upsetting to Maxwell and he cries too. Harrison, Grayson, and Ashton are full of questions and like to look at Madeline's pictures but they can not make much sense of her not being in my tummy anymore. They know Madeline is with Jesus but want to know how she got there so quickly. To say the least, it is a difficult time for this family but we are carrying on with our daily routines and will find a way for things to become a "new" normal. It will take time and prayer to mend our broken hearts.

I want to express what a wonderful father my sweet husband is. (He is going to wish I hadn't posted this I am sure but he never has been able to make me behave so here goes......) Brian is the most unselfish person I know and he loves me and his children unconditionally. There is no question where his priorities lay and anyone who knows Brian can attest to that. He is the kind of daddy that coaches baseball and loves every minute. He wipes noses and heinees and kisses boo-boos. He is a great entertainer and makes the children laugh with lots of tickles. He gets "beat up" on purpose when four little boys all wrestle him at one time. He is the kind of daddy who gives the best kisses in the world and will just about hurt you with his squeezes. He sings and dances and drives a real "Monster" truck. He traps wild hogs and lets the boys help him at the farm. He says prayers and doesn't forget anyone important. He laughs at silly jokes and silly boys and makes them each feel special. He works hard and always has lots of little shadows following. He drives a four-wheeler and always lets the boys ride. He fixes broken toys and broken hearts. He listens to stories and doesn't complain that he has heard them before. He watches cartoons even when something else is on that he would like to see. He races up the stairs to bed each night and always lets the kids win. He is a teeth-brusher and a bedtime enforcer. Brian is all of these things and so many more. He is at his best when he is being a daddy and it is always so fun to watch him with his children.

When I think of the last week and all the joy and pain it brought, I am reminded of how special Brian and Madeline were together. It was not me who bathed or dressed Madeline for the first and last time. It was her daddy. Brian was so insistent that Madeline be clean and he made sure everything was just perfect. I just watched in amazement as this tiny little girl changed her daddy's life forever. I had never known Brian to be more protective of any of our children. He carefully studied each tiny part of Madeline's body and made sure she was taken care of. He watched all of the monitors and could explain to me what each number meant.

Brian bonded with Madeline way before she was born. He never missed a chance to go with me to the doctor to see her on the sonogram. He always said that was the best way to start his day was by seeing Madeline on the sonogram screen. Most men would not have been able to bond with a baby that they knew might not live but not Brian. He always talked to Madeline while I was carrying her and even put my Ipod on my tummy to let her listen to music. He prayed unselfishly that God's will be done when all I could pray for was my own will. He was a good example of how to handle life when your world is falling apart. Brian loved Madeline from the beginning and he always will.

There is no question that Brian is a good father and that he deserves the best Father's Day any man could have. We love him so much!!!!


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Keeping Madeline's Memory Alive

Brian and I have talked and talked about ways to keep Madeline's memory alive and we have lots of great ideas. Some include helping other parents who find themselves in similar situations or giving to aid in genetic research. Our list of ideas goes on and on and we plan to really concentrate our efforts on this project very soon. Please pray that we are led to do the right thing that will benefit others the most.

If you would like to give, you may do so by making a donation to the Madeline Grace Fund at Exchange Bank in Milledgeville, GA. We appreciate your help in keeping Madeline's legacy alive!

Thank you,
Mandy and Brian

Lessons from Madeline

We feel so blessed that God chose us to be Madeline's parents. As much as we prayed for a miracle and wanted her to be "cured", God gave us a miracle in our daughter anyway. It was not what we had originally prayed for but it was a miracle indeed. He blessed us with a healthy pregnancy and allowed Madeline to grow and live inside of me for 37 weeks. God answered our prayer to meet Madeline alive at birth and get to spend some time with her. It was not as much as we wanted but it was such good quality time and we will never forget the joy we felt as we loved our little girl.

Madeline was a strong baby and we believe she fought to allow us the time to show her we loved her. Her little life could not have been an easy one but God gave her the strength to live each day. Madeline has changed the way we view life and the world. She has had a profound inpact on us and others as well. She taught us that life is so precious and God is indeed in control. We learned to value each day that we are given and be thankful for all the little things in life that we often take for granted. We learned that God really does listen to our hearts and really does answer prayers. Madeline has brought us closer to our families and closer to God and for that we are grateful. It is astounding that a tiny baby who lived only a short time could be loved so fiercely and teach us so much. We will never forget all the good that Madeline did in our lives.

Today will be a hard day as we lay our only daughter to rest. We know that her little spirit is in Heaven and there she is perfect. Brian just asked me last night what I thought Madeline was doing and we imagine that she is watching us and praying that we don't hurt. We miss her so much and long to hold her tiny body next to ours and kiss her all over. I would give anything to have just another moment with her but in heaven we can catch up on all our lost time. I am reminded often that this life here on earth is just a glimpse of our eternal life in Heaven. I have never been more excited about getting to heaven than I am now.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Our Miracle!

As many of you know, Madeline was born on Thursday, June 7th 8:26 PM. At my doctor's appointment that day we realized Madeline's heart was under stress and my doctor decided we needed to deliver immediately. It was the scariest time of our lives but we just clung to the hope and prayer that we would get to meet Madeline alive.

Indeed, we did! She was born at 8:26 Thursday night and was just beautiful. Brian got to immediately be with her while I was recovering from surgery. He followed her into the NICUnit where they assessed Madeline and started her on oxygen and monitored her heart. She was doing very well and we were so thankful that Madeline even made two tiny little cries. I got to give her a quick kiss before they got her stabilized.

Brian stayed with Madeline while checking in on me and giving me reports of her condition. Everything was looking good and I finally got to see her around 11:00 that night. She was breathing on her own with a little oxygen in her nose and it was so amazing to finally meet this little life that I had known for so long. Madeline was just beautiful and looked so much like Harrison, with a head full of almost-black hair and the fullest lips you can imagine. She had the most perfect little feet and to be as tiny as she was (3 lbs 12.6 ounces and 15 3/4 inches) Her feet were long and skinny, just like her Daddy's.

Brian and I got to spend some really good time with Madeline until the wee hours of the morning. Brian gave her a good bath and we dressed her in a little gown and hat. She made the sweetest little noises but never cried or fussed. I think she really enjoyed her bath best. I then was able to hold her while she took her formula and she slept peacefully. It was so amazing to know that she was here and feel the incredible love we had for her. Some of my family and close friends got to visit Madeline in the NICUnit too. We were all prayful and ever so thankful that this baby we had prayed and hoped for was living and breathing. You could even see her little tiny heart as it beat inside her chest. What a relief it was for me to see each beat of her heart and the rise and fall of her chest.

By 8:00 the next morning, Madeline's little body was getting tired and her heartrate began to drop. Brian and I got to be with her at the very end of her beautiful, short life and spent the day holding and kissing her. We got to really study her and shared some more sweet time with our daughter. All of our family and some close friends were there as well as we said our goodbyes to Madeline. Maxwell even got to hold and love her too. It was the saddest experience of our lives and one we had prayed would not be too soon. We know that God was with us through it all and He had answered our prayers of getting to meet Madeline alive. He even gave us some special time with her that we will never forget.

Brian and I are trying to cope with this incredible loss and need your prayers so much. We knew the day would come when we might lose Madeline but were not prepared for it so suddenly since she was doing so well initially. She surprised a lot of people, even her doctors and nurses.

We are planning to have a graveside service on Wednesday evening at 7:30 at Heritage Memorial Park on Log Cabin Road. We chose this time because it is our favorite time of day. Thank you all for your prayers, calls, cards and emails. It has been comforting to have your support. We know that God will see us through our grief and heartbreak. We love Madeline with all of our hearts and miss her so much. I just wish I could kiss those full little lips one more time. But I'll have to wait to do that in heaven.


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

2 weeks away!

We are scheduled for delivery on June 20th, only 2 weeks away. I am getting increasingly anxious about all of the unknowns. I wake up all through the night and just pray when I am having trouble sleeping that Madeline will get through the delivery and we can have precious time with her. Please pray specifically for her heart, lungs, kidneys, and brain. All that we know for sure now is that she has a large VSD or hole in her heart but she could have other organ issues too. We will know more when she is born.

Brian recently wrote our birthplan for Madeline and it includes all of our wishes on her care at the time she is born. It was so hard for me to read it and try to relate it to our child. I never imagined that we would have to make these kind of decisions or think about such details as we are being faced with. It is just the hardest thing and is really heartbreaking for us but we are still believing that only God knows what lies ahead and we can only prepare ourselves and wait.

I woke up several mornings ago and imagined all of my family and friends in the waiting room as I delivered Madeline and just thought about how great it will be if everyone is praying for us during that time. I know that is what will get us through this. Thank you for your continued prayer and support.


Friday, May 25, 2007

3 weeks to go!

I had a doctor's appointment yesterday and we set a tenative date for delivery on June 19th unless things progress quicker than expected. I will be going to the doctor weekly from here on so we can monitor Madeline closely until birth. I had a stress test done to see how she is doing and her heartrate was very consistent and did not show any signs of stress even when I would have a contraction. We also got to see Madeline on the sonogram and she has almost reached the 4 pound mark. She looks so "big" and was really moving around a lot during the ultrasound. She is in the breech position with her little legs around her head. It was so great seeing her and watching her move.

I am officially out of school and it is a great feeling to know that I can rest and spend some time with the boys. They are all so excited about the summer and all the fun that brings. The triplets turn four on June 27th so we will be planning a birthday party soon.

I continue to be amazed at the generosity and concern of people. I don't think I can remember another time in my life that I felt as much love and compassion as I have lately. My coworkers, friends and family have been great and never cease to amaze me with their gifts, kind words, and hope for our future. Thank you all for being so supportive as we go through the hardest time of our life. We are reminded daily through many of you that Madeline has already touched your life and the lives of others. We are so grateful when we hear of stories on how our unborn baby has impacted other people. What a gift from God!

Keep praying for our strength and for Madeline's health. We will keep you informed of what is to come.

Mandy and Brian

Thursday, May 17, 2007

anxiously awaiting

Today we will meet with the neonatologist that will be present at Madeline's birth and hopefully, get some feedback from him. Brian and I have loads of questions to ask and many tough decisions to make in the next few weeks. I am getting more and more anxious the closer it gets to delivery. I often think that it would be nice if I could just stay pregnant. I feel like Madeline is pretty happy in the womb and seems like she is better off inside of me than when she has to depend on her own little body after birth.

Brian and I continue to ask God to heal Madeline and give us time with her. We have talked at length about all the possibilities at her birth and all the "what if's". But we can only imagine. God is the only one with the answers and we are praying that He continues to bless us.

I am getting more and more uncomfortable with each passing week but I try not to complain since the alternative would to not still be pregnant. I am so thankful to get through each day with Madeline still moving around. I can't wait to see what she has gained since my last sonogram.

Thank you for praying for us. You will never know how much your prayers, calls, cards, and words have comforted us through all of this. We have really learned how gracious and good people are.

We will keep you posted and hopefully have a delivery date to share with you soon. Keep praying!!!!


Saturday, May 5, 2007

We thank you!!!

Mandy is working on a more informative blog about our latest visit to the doctors yesterday. She is so much better explaining the details. She has learned so much about Madeline's medical situation and often times I think she has a better understanding of the FULL picture than the doctors.

But I wanted to again thank you for your thoughts, concerns and prayers. I can tell you we feel them in the Hopkins house and I KNOW Madeline has to as well. Keep lifting her up as we are. Please continue to pray for us as well. We have so many decisions to make very soon and want to do what is right with no second guessing. I have no doubt that we could not have made this journey this far with Madeline without your prayers. She continues to bless our life everyday as do your prayers. Thank you and Thank God.


Friday, May 4, 2007

against the odds

Today we visited the cardiologist again for another echocardiogram and also saw our regular OB. It was another day filled with lots of emotion but with even more hope. Madeline's echo of her little heart shows the VSD or hole like it did a month ago, but we were informed that IF she doesn't have other organ problems, a surgeon from Egleston at Emory can operate to repair the hole. This is typically done at 6 to 8 weeks after birth and it would prolong her life. Of course, we will not know if this is an option until Madeline is born and we can get a better understanding of other medical issues. Brian and I both feel good that we may have some options and it has given us a little hope to hold on to, even though we are very aware of the reality. The cardiologist said something to us today that really brought us a lot of comfort. He said, "As you know 90% of Trisomy 18 babies do not make it to their first birthday, but 10% do and I don't know any reason why you won't be one of those in the 10%"! We love his positive attitude and chose to believe in the miracle that God has already given us.

After reading an email from a family friend and getting a very touching card from a co-worker, we just know that God is working. We know that statistically, Madeline should not even be alive right now but because of all of the prayers, we feel like God continues to bless us. I remember about 2 months ago my doctor commenting that he was surprised that I was still pregnant and here we are at almost 33 weeks! God is good and we count each day as a blessing.

Please continue to pray that Madeline grows (She is about 3 pounds now!) and that we get to spend a lot of time with her. We also need prayer about all of the many decisions we will have to make in the future regarding her life. We are praying for God's direction and guidance. Please pray too!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

All in God's time

I received a sweet card from a friend of our family and wanted to share the wonderful words of encouragement. The following was written by Andrew Murray and really applies to our life right now. I know you will find some wisdom in it too.

In Times of Crisis I Will Remember:
First, God brought me here; it is by His will I am in this difficult that I will rest.
Second, God will keep me here in His love, and give me grace in this trial to behave as His child.
Third, God will make this trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.
Fourth, in God's good time He can bring me out and when He knows.
So......I am here by God's appointment, in His keeping, under His training, for His time.
Continue to pray for our family and Madeline.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I think of all of you

Well.... after several attempts I have finally learned how to post one of these.

And now I find myself not knowing what to type or say. I guess my desire to post was initially driven by the overwhelming emotion that comes from CARE from others. We have been so blessed by your emails, your comments, your calls and your prayers. Often, when I am thinking of Madeline, I think of all of you. I think of what this all means. What does this all mean? I do believe that my God can cure my little girl if that is in His plan. But, if it is not, then... I do believe her life has a purpose. That purpose is "what" I ask.... "What does this all mean?" How will her life make a difference? I WANT her life to make a difference. And.... She already has!!! She has made you pause in your busy life to care for another. Her life has brought you to your knees to pray for another. And for some of you, it has been for someone that you have never met. This is a compassion that can can only come from God. This makes our God smile. And I cannot tell you what this means to our family. Thank you for you support and prayers and for keeping Madeline's life meaningful. Keep us in your prayers as we continue this journey. I look forward to our next visit to the doctor so I can see her on the sonogram.

Mandy texted me today.... "Madeline just kicked to remind me to tell you she loves you" I can't wait to tell her in person how much she is loved by all of you.... and her Daddy!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Life with boys!!!

What a crazy life we live with four little boys. There is never a dull moment that is for sure. This week included Grayson being rushed to the orthopedic surgeon after having his wrist slammed in Brian's truck door. He is fine but Brian still feels terrible about it. Grayson has no broken bones because there is only cartiledge in a three year old's wrist. He loved getting his first x-ray and he even got a little brace to wear. He thought it was a cast and we didn't tell him any different.

Brian is coaching Maxwell's baseball team and we live at the ballpark. It is so much fun watching the triplets' excitement for sports. They can't wait to play next year when they are 4 and be just like Maxwell.

Madeline is busy as well. She continues to offer me peace of mind with all her little movements. Sometimes it feels like she is playing ball herself in there! Each time I feel her little rolls and kicks, I am thankful that she continues to live despite everything. I know God is in control and I remind myself to be thankful for each day he gives us with her, even though she is not even in the world yet. Maxwell and the boys are getting excited about meeting her and ask daily, "How much longer?" Please continue to pray for Madeline's healing and for time with her. I am constantly thinking about what her birth will be like and what God will reveal to us through this tiny baby.

We appreciate you checking on us and keeping us encouraged! Keep praying!!!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Easter blessings

We had a great day celebrating Easter with our family. It was so nice to have four generations all together. We took lots of pictures and ate way too much. Maxwell, Harrison, Grayson, Ashton and their little cousin, Gabrielle, enjoyed a big egg hunt.

I was reminded today of how nice it is to have such a great and loving family. I know the next few months will be difficult as we prepare to meet Madeline. My family and friends hurt with us as we go through this trying time. Through their prayers and support, Brian and I are able to make it through all of the emotions a typical day brings. We have so many hopes for Madeline. We hope to get to love her, hope the boys will get to know her and love her too, hope that she will be healed, hope to enjoy having a baby in our house once again. Brian said tonight that we were never going to put Madeline down. We want to hold her her whole life, no matter how long or short.

Please keep praying that Madeline is healed and that we get lots of time with her. We know that God has special plans for us. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Friday, April 6, 2007

sonogram pics of Madeline

Here are some sonogram images from our appointment today. Madeline now weighs about 2 pounds. You can see she has the cutest little feet.

We'll take it!

Today turned out to be a really good Good Friday for us. Brian and I had an appointment this morning with a cardiologist that performed an echocardiogram on Madeline. We are happy to say that we feel like we got some positive, good news. Madeline does have a VSD or a hole in her heart but it could be a lot worse we learned. The doctor explainded that all of the other parts of the heart looked "normal" and were in the right place, doing the right thing. It was so strange hearing a doctor refer to Madeline as "normal", words we were so happy to hear. We also learned that her heart should allow her to live for 6 to 8 weeks without problems. After that time, she may begin to have other "system" problems related to her VSD. Only time will tell.
Brian and I are so happy to know that we might get to have her for 6 to 8 weeks. We calculated the days and wondered out loud how great it could be to share that much time with Madeline. Brian has a lot to show her and we feel like we have to get a lifetime worth of love in such a short amount of time, but we'll take it.
As we were leaving the doctor's office today, we were smiling through tears at our "good" news. I thought that we might be the only patients happy to know that our daughter had a VSD. I know it may seem like horrible news to most parents but "we'll take it". Those have been our words through this whole pregnancy when we can see a little bit of hope through all of the saddness. It could always be worse and we are thankful for the little bit of hope we got today.
Thank you for supporting us through this. It is a humbling experience and I know we are truly blessed to have this little baby in our life.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

home alone

The boys are with Brian's parents for a few days so we can get some rest and spend Friday at the doctor. The house is soooooo quiet when Maxwell, Harrison, Grayson and Ashton are gone. I am reminded that I really don't know what Brian and I did before we had children. It is strange being home without the sounds of children and all the chaos that is our home. We will really enjoy recharging our batteries but will be glad to get the boys back in time for Easter.

We are also seeing a photographer in Macon on Friday to arrange for him to be with us at the hospital when Madeline is born. He is a part of an organization called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep and will photograph Madeline so that we can focus all of our attention on her without having to worry about capturing each moment. I am looking forward to meeting with him so that we will be comfortable with each other before the big day.

Keep praying!!!!

April 4, 2007

I have decided to start a blog so that I can journal my feelings as we prepare for Madeline's arrival. Several people have suggested keeping a journal and after reading the blog that Eliot's parents have, I was inspired to write my own. Maybe this will help me as we go through the next few months.

I am now 28 weeks into my pregnancy with Madeline and am getting uncomfortable; however, I am able to get a good night's sleep. Sleep is really great for the mind and body. I guess it is the only time when I don't have Madeline's health on my mind, although I have begun dreaming of her and what her birth will be like.

This whole experience has been so overwhelming and unfamiliar to Brian and me. I have already learned so much. I remember when I went to the dr. for the first time after finding out I was pregnant and seeing the heartbeat and immediately feeling such a sense of relief. I, so naively, thought that because we had a heartbeat, all would be okay. I guess we take so much for granted, like having healthy children. I know it never occured to me that something could be wrong with our baby since we already had 4 perfect boys. It was not until the 12th week checkup that Dr. Boddy saw "soft markers" on the ultrasound that caused concern. Since that day, it seems our life has been a mess. But a mess with lots of hope. I won't give up on hope and prayer! I am still believing in miracles or at least a chance to get to know Madeline and let her know how much she is loved.

I am so anxious about seeing Dr. Hamm on Friday when he will do an echocardiogram on Madeline's heart. I am scared of all that could be wrong but I am praying that God will give me peace about what is to come. Please pray with us as we find out more information about Madeline's condition. I was just reading a post on the Trisomy website that another mother wrote about the significance of Friday. It all made sense and made me feel better. This Friday, the day of my doctor's appointment, is Good Friday and is symbolic of the day Jesus was crucified. I am comforted knowing that God knows the pain we are in because of his own Son's death.