Folks We Love with Andi Calhoun
Tell us a little bit about your journey and how you’ve come to arrive here.
I was born in Mesa, AZ. I grew up in Arizona most of my life, into adulthood.
I was married, had a child and separated all within a year. Life took an unexpected turn during my separation and my daughter got sick. I was living in and out of homes in 2006 when I finally found myself at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Mila, my daughter was diagnosed with a brain stem glioma and was given 2-6 months to live. I moved back home and cared for her with my family as my divorce finalized. In 2007, my daughter passed away. I had started a MySpace Page for Mila and build a wonderful network of friends, most in Canada. After she passed I decided to quit my job and travel to meet them. Everything I thought, I was completely changed and I had to re-start life. I returned home and worked for an OBGYN. I don’t know how or why I did that, but being around babies was actually healing for me.
In 2008, I was love struck by a handsome man I met at church. It really was love at first sight! I was leaving for Canada as we started talking but we talked every day for hours until I came home. It took 3 days to say “I love you” and 25 days to get engaged. When you know….you just know. I married him for eternity on December 20, 2008. We lived in UT for almost 2 years and then Alaska for almost 6. I’d follow him anywhere.
I forced the thought of babies on him right away, but we struggled for almost 5 years with infertility. It was the hardest thing in our marriage, and I know it was what made us stronger at the same time. It took 6 months of infertility treatments before we got pregnant with our miracle boy, Liam. We thought that was it! I was ready, my body was ready and my heart was ready to try again. We gave into the idea of treatments again knowing how hard it would be financially and emotionally. Surprise! A month before we planned to start infertility a second time, I was pregnant with Declan.
I am a stay at home mom and that’s exactly what I want to do right now. If I have a chance to make someone smile or laugh, I take it.
Who’s in your family? Ages? Names?
Mila (August 17, 2004-June 18, 2007)
How did you choose your kids names?
Mila, was a name I loved. Later in life after she passed I was told it meant miracle in Russian. She was a miracle, so that was fitting to me.
Liam was hard. Blake and I went over and over names and finally we picked Liam because of Liam Neeson. Sounds silly, but Liam Neeson is really cool. We also wanted an Irish/Scottish name because of Blake’s family line. Liam means “the protector” and we felt he was that in our family. The crazy thing… when you take M-I-L-A and rearrange it, it spells Liam. We did not plan this. We actually were visiting my brother years later and he mentioned in conversation that it was cool we named Liam and Mila using the same letters. We both looked at each other shocked! Isn’t that neat? I love little signs.
James Declan. Declan was all me. I wanted that name for years. After we had Liam, I made my husband promise me that if we ever had a second boy that I could name him. It means “man of prayer” and boy did we pray for him to come to us! Declan’s first name is James after my husband’s Hero, his Dad and my father-in-law. He passed away and we wanted Declan to carry his name. My husband is James Blake, and goes by Blake. So we did the same with Declan.
Stay at home Mama
What’s on your manifest board?
Bucketlist places to visit. Ireland, Scotland, Australia and The Wonderful World of Harry Potter. Also, anything that brings relaxation. Sunsets or sunrises. They remind me of Mila. Home improvement DIY projects. We bought a house and it’s been fun doing things with my husband to make it our home. Quotes, I love quotes.
Tell us some of your most loved ways to spend the day with your clan?
We love family walks. It’s chilly out right now, but in the summer we go exploring and find rocks and sticks. They always manage to come back home. Legos, being a mom of boys I’ve learned that legos are life. Dance parties and flashlight tag.
What are some silly/fun things that the kids do or say?
Liam doesn’t speak much. He was diagnosed with Phonological Process Delay. He is in school and will be starting speech therapy this year. He is the most tender, sweetest little boy I’ve ever known. He makes sure to take me to bed with him, and tells Dada to go to his own room. We sing “You are my sunshine” and point up at the moon declaring our love “to the moon and back.” He will keep pushing my head to his pillow if I try to leave. I will miss this one day. So, I enjoy it all now.
Declan cracks us up daily. He has this personality that matches his red hair. He loves to dance. Sitting or standing, that kid can cut a rug. He also clinches his fists and makes this hilarious face. I’ve captured that numerous times in pictures and laugh every time I see it.
When you were a teenager what did you dream of? Do things look different?
When I was a teenager I wanted to go to Hollywood and do hair. I won a scholarship in High School after I told them all about my dream. I ended up working and never did get the chance to go to school for it. There still is time and think I might consider it when the boys are in school. It would be a fun thing to do out of my home so I can be around them more as they grow.
What are some things you really believe in?
Love, Faith, God, and loyalty. No amount of time or distance can come between real Friendships and Families are Forever.
Where do your passions lie?
My passions are my children. If I am not with them I worry about them constantly. They fill my arms and make me whole. I am very organized. I love cleaning a house and am slightly OCD. Labels and bins get me. Also, photography. I love taking pictures. It became very important to me with Mila. Back then I didn’t have the convenience of an iphone. I would like to take classes and learn about cameras and how they work. Pictures freeze time. They capture a moment and it helps keep that memory alive.
Has your relationship with your other half changed since having kids?
Yes. 100%, it has changed. But, for the better. We used to sleep the days away and just live day to day. Now, we live for the moment. We do things together as a family and that is first priority. We keep hearing as the kids get older, we will find a honeymoon stage again….we are still waiting for that. But this life, it is a blast!
What are some of your favorite life lessons you’ve grown to love? (even if learning them at the time was hard)
Losing a child was the biggest challenge of my life. We recently started watching “This Is Us” and it has taken years to have someone write something that fully explains my grief and how I have to try and deal with it. In the series, a Doctor is talking about his loss to the father who just lost his child.
“I have spent five decades delivering babies, more babies than I can count, but there is not a single day that goes by that I don’t think of the child I lost and I’m an old man now. I like to think that because of the child I lost, because of the path that he sent me on, that I have saved countless other babies. I like to think that maybe one day you’ll be an old man like me, talking another man’s ear off explaining to him how you took the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade. If you can do that, you will still be taking three babies home from this hospital, maybe not the way you had planned.” — Dr. K (Gerald McRaney) on “This Is Us”
It is so true. Nothing can prepare you for this pain. I know I try daily to do it with grace when I want to scream the F-word in frustration. Not all days are wonderful. Some days I cry more than once. It comes in waves some small and calm and others that knock me down. I can’t give advice on this because this is personal. People have a right to grieve how they do. I have met many strangers on this journey that I have decided to open up to about Mila. It wouldn’t be planned but something that would strike me as important to do at that moment. And, during many of those conversations I have found other mother’s who are in this battle. Who have buried children for different reasons and who know exactly what I feel. Those women are my warriors. I physically ache for mothers and fathers who lose a child. It isn’t natural. We are meant to create life. I don’t believe our hearts understand losing the life that we created.
I miss my daughter every single day. But, I try to make some sort of lemonade with this trial. I love my babies harder. I lean on my husband more. I pray with an open heart. She was truly my star. Her light is still present in my life. I am grateful for that time I had with her and I look forward to seeing her again.
What do you wish you could’ve told yourself when you were a teenager?
Be yourself. YOU are amazing. YOU are enough. Don’t be what others think you should be.
What do you find most challenging about being somebody’s parent?
Failure. I am so afraid of failing my children. Am I doing it right? Am I too much of a helicopter parent? It’s hard to have been through what I have and not be scared. I feel that changed me as a mother. It’s hard to not let go.
What do you want your kids to learn about the world?
Compassion. For all people. Humility. We don’t need everything we want, we just need enough.
What are 4 things you can’t live without as a parent?
Dancing-any time, anywhere.
Kisses-for boo boo’s and just because.
Snuggles-because watching my babies sleep next to me completes the day.
Singing-it was my thing with Mila and now with Liam and Delcan.