We lost Eli at 18 weeks of pregnancy and there are few days that pass without missing him. Some days I feel it stronger than others but no matter what he has left a hole in my heart that I see God successfully filling over and over again with His healing Love and Grace and Hope.
I didn't write this to seek pity or sympathy but instead to encourage others and because I feel that God wants me to talk about my story. If the days of my son were known from the beginning of time (Psalm 139:16) then I want to be sure his existence was not in vain. I cannot keep this to myself.
If you find yourself in a place needing to talk about your experiences or thoughts or feelings about events like these, I would love to talk to you. Don't hesitate for a moment. I want to talk to you.
The Shape of the MoldIn our lives we have stories....moments or things that have happened to us that form who we are as a person. We share these at a party or a casual gathering- something funny or embarrassing to yourself or the family member sitting nearest to you (if you are a part of my family. (And, if you read my blog, you probably are.)) These are the round, smooth edges of who we are. The extra bit of dimple in our cheeks or even the slope of our belly that laughs and our hips that dance.
But there are also stories that really form the sharp edges and corners of who we are as we walk on the earth. These are the stories that we tell one-on-one, over coffee with a friend, during an intimate dinner with our closest friends or a counselor if the moments are too hard to work through on your own. As a Christian, we call these our testimony. Part of the story of our lives that God has allowed to happen and has walked alongside us for a journey that is painful, unrelenting and always memorable.
My family went through that very thing about a month ago.
It began Saturday, September, 25 and came to a climax on Monday, September 27.
I will be taking the next few days to write out our story. Because it has changed my life. And because I can't be quiet. I have to talk about the things God has done for David and me.
I hope you will find the time to read it.
Psalm 34:18It was mid July when we found out that we were expecting...again. And it was a surprise to us....again. And as I wrestled with the direction that God was taking our family, I really honestly did have faith that He knew what was going on. Because I have been through a number of things in my life that have been a roller coaster of events and God has never, EVER let me down in the midst of pain and confusion and a slew of other emotions and experiences. So I was ready...well, mostly ready. Okay, kinda ready.
By August, after I had survived crazy weekends, crazy hormones and Vacation Bible School, I really WAS ready. My tummy was popping out a little bit. I was puking all the time. This was the real deal baby! Ohhhh, baby. A Zab baby. Yes. I love those Zab babies. I love my Zab Mister. This is good.
At least, that's how I felt most of the time. Other times, I wished I wasn't pregnant. The pregnancy was bringing some insane complications into my life and making it VERY difficult to function. I wrestled with depression, anger, and a little bit of bitterness. However, I never felt alone. God was there. My amazing friends were SO there. And my husband...oh he is the best. So onward we went.
Saturday, September 25, I awoke with some spotting. Nothing that was a big deal. But enough to puzzlingly tilt my head at. At a split moment of panic, collecting all the struggles I'd had with this pregnancy and adding them up to equal a whole lot of "Mom Guilt" I said to David, "I really really need everything to be okay right now." David and I decided a trip to the ER might be a good idea. Kids were easily squared away (thank you God!) and we were off. David even brought the camera for when we were done thinking it would be fun to wander around downtown and take pictures of stuff.
The ER wasn't crowded (thank you God!-keep track of these) and we were shown to our bed right away. And moments later, we were whisked away to Ultrasound. "Maybe we will get to see if it's a boy or a girl today!" When the tech pulled up our images, I saw the baby. Our baby! This was David's first time getting to see our little Peanut. But the baby was really really still. And I didn't see anything in the baby's middle that looked like a heartbeat. I dismissed it. But that gut feeling spread all over when the tech quickly jumped to take pictures of ovaries and then got up to consult with the radiologist.
The radiologist came in and asked me some questions regarding baby movement, other complications during pregnancy and the like. She then told us that from what she could see, the baby was no longer alive.
I think I blinked at her a whole lot and wondered whose life I had wandered into because THIS was not happening to ME. Remember, I had called for everything to be okay just that morning. Remember? The next 30 minutes contained a lot of crying and holding each other and staring and more crying. I was shocked how quickly my tummy could go from feeling full with life to empty and void.
The rest of the day at the hospital had us seeing more doctors, being told of all the decisions we would have to make and many many heartbreaking texts and phone calls to our friends and family. I prayed Jesus would come back. I prayed that somehow I would never have to leave the hospital room I was in. I prayed that these doctors were wrong and by the POWER of CHRIST may my baby be ALIVE.
None of those things happened. Instead I found myself surrounded by caring doctors and nurses offering their condolences. Treating me kindly as a human being (thank you God!) and treating our baby as a human being as well. (Thank you God!) We checked out of the hospital feeling "crushed in spirit" and unsure what life looked like on this side of a great loss. The headache I had been nursing all day long was pounding all kinds of thoughts in and out of my head and finally beat me so badly that David had to pull the car over so I could be sick on the side of the road.
We drove to my mom's house where she and her husband Tim, my sister Kristy and her husband Kris had been wrangling kids all day. There were a lot of hugs and tears and some bits and pieces of normal conversation. And the time came to talk to Nathan and Lucy about what had happened. Ella was napping so we all gathered around in the living room. As we told the kids, Nathan began crying. At 7 years old, he understands death and loss on a greater level than Lucy. We told the kids that our baby was in heaven with Jesus. Joked that the baby was possibly riding around on Grandma Great's walker like Nathan used to do when he was little and how our baby was now living with no pain or sadness. Nathan, who was sitting on my lap, looked at me and said, "You mean like the pain and sadness we are feeling right now?" I told him he was exactly right. My family then prayed over us. We were lifted up to the Father to be cared for. We sat there empty and shocked and grieving. David broke down in a way I have never seen in 15 years together. That prompted Lucy to also start crying. I held my daughter in one arm and my strong husband in another. This whole situation feeling so foreign and ill-fitting to me as Kris poured beautiful words of healing over our wounds, lifting us up in prayer.
When we were done, Lucy looked up at me and looked deep into my eyes. "Does this mean we won't get to go swimming at Grandma Sisi's?" And when she was told we wouldn't be swimming, a whole new batch of tears began. My mom, recognizing the need David and I had to be with our kids but also needing a bit of a break (and also her own need to have a freckled five year old to squeeze) offered to keep Lucy overnight. (Thank you God!) We bundled everyone else up, went home and tucked them into bed.
Our Saturday was over. We survived the worst day of our lives.
We fell asleep holding one another, crying and praying for strength.
But this was not the end of our story.....
Psalm 139:13You can Read Part One of our story here
*This part of our story includes medical information that may make some people uncomfortable. I will, of course, aim to be as tasteful and modest as possible. But I also wanted to give fair warning before we continue.*
I woke up the next day-Sunday-morning and heard David taking a shower. Ella was talking and playing in her bed and Nate was probably off reading a Calvin and Hobbes comic book somewhere. I needeed to get up becasue we had decided to take Nate to his baseball game. But first I just laid there with my eyes shut. I forced myself to feel everything Iw as feeling. I told myself, "This is what it feels like to wake up in the morning knowing your child is dead." And then I began crying.
I sobbed into my pillow. I cried for my loss, the loss of my children of their sibling. I cried knowing that this was a child who had the potential to be one of the most fantastic people on the face of the earth--but no more. I would never know this child. I hadn't even felt this baby move.
I felt safe to cry because David was in the shower. He needed a break. He needed to go a few minutes without having to hold me and mop up after me. But I forgot about Nathan who has some sort of radar built in to come and find me when i am crying. I felt him climb into bed with me and wrap his arms around me and beg me to tell him what was wrong. I heard the panic in his voice and I pulled myself together enough to tell him, "I miss our baby." I cried some more and Nathan didn't let go. He held me and said he understood.My wise 7 year old just let me cry some more and then offered encouragement, "You know Mommy, in 20, 30 or 40 years, you will get to see the baby again in heaven." I wanted to slug him (20 years? I will only be 53!) and smooch him all at the same time. (Thank you God for Nathan!) (Remember, you are keeping track of all of these.) When David came out of the shower, I felt better for the moment and we gathered ourselves off to baseball.
The rest of the day was a blur. There were a lot of tears. I didn't talk on the phone a whole lot but texted a few people. My Mom kept Lucy who was really doing well and loving her one-on-one time with Grandma Sisi. that evening, our next door neighbor who just started teaching AWANA at our church took all of the kids with her to AWANA so David and I could be alone. (Thank you God!)
We had some hard conversations. We had to talk about the practical side of things. My child was still inside and was going to have to come out one way or another. But what was right? Go to a hospital, do things clinically, cleanly, with experts around us and risk that we'd be in a room of people who would not regard our child as a being with a soul? Or do we opt or fight to have the process occur naturally at home and run the medical risk plus the emotions of associating a room in our home with losing our baby? We were overwhelmed. We handed the decision to God. Begged Him to make it clear what would be best for the two of us. And then we talked out both scenarios so we would be prepared when the time came. I had a doctor's appointment Monday evening but a friend who had been sharing her wisdom and experience with me guessed that Nature would take it's course before then. My gut agreed. The same gut that was feeling crampy all evening.
I cried myself to sleep that night. I had survived another day.
I still did not feel alone. I still felt some peace, bits and pieces of it. But I still didn't feel like anything that was happening was real, either.
Monday morning we all got up and got the big kids ready for school. David got to see the crazy process and go through the steps I take every day as one of those moms who stands on the campus watching her kids walk to class till there isn't anything left to watch. while talking to some girlfriends who knew about Saturday, the cramps I had been feeling began to grow stronger.
When we got home, I sat next to Ella in her high chair and watched her eat breakfast. the "cramps" were beginning to feel familiar-more like contractions. David called the clinic and wondered what to do when suddenly I had the feeling of my water breaking. We had already discussed that I would go to our upstairs bathroom and we met up there. By the time I had removed my pants and another gush of blood came, I was pushing. It was a very strange mix of both the totally familiar but completely unreal.
I knew when the baby had come out and-as we had discussed-David looked the baby over to see if it was intact. This was something I had been warned about and had decided I only wanted to see if the baby was whole. It was. (Thank you, thank you, thank you God!) I looked down at my....son. Yes, no doubt it was a boy. Just as I had suspected. He had tiny little ear flaps and dark black little eyes, he had a miniature button nose and a sweet mouth turned downward. One hand was on his chest and the other was laying to his side with his palm open and David saw all 5 fingers. He looked like a baby. This was our son.
David and I sat and held each other again just like we had been doing for the last 2 days but this time we were thankful, joyful even, and yet grieving. We cried and prayed and just looked at him. We knew that our prayers had been answered and as we sat there totally alone, with Ella perfectly happy in her high chair eating breakfast downstairs. (Thank You God!) We were so thankful that this morning had been put together to fit exactly what we needed. We needed to do this in private, we needed to have time with our son. What a gift this moment was.
We hadn't discussed what to put the baby in but made a decision and I insisted that he be wrapped in a baby blanket. David was not sure where to look for one and with my organizational skills, knew it might not be easy to find. However, just the night before I walked into the kitchen to find a baby blanket on the kitchen floor. I don't know why it was there. Ella or Lucy probably dragged it downstairs to play with. I'd picked it up and tossed it on the counter. I gave David specific directions and we had our blanket. (Thank You God!) I found out later that there were TWO baby blankets on the counter. David got to pick which one to wrap our boy in! Just explain that to me...I can by saying: Thank You God!
We needed to go to the doctor so I made a few phone calls while David attended to the baby. Michelle was coming for Ella and my mom had amazingly offered to clean up our bathroom while we were gone. (Thank You God!) David helped me out of the tub and suddenly I felt dizzy. I was sure it would pass and I lowered myself back down. The tunnel vision began and I kept saying, "I'm fine! I'm fine! Don't call 911, I'm fine!" Apparently those words turned into something more of an "ImfiiineI'mfinefinefine." The last thing I remember is hearing David, "That's it." and the sound of his phone dialing 911.
I had dreams....dreams of throwing up, (ewww!) dreams of a taalll man in dark blue standing over me and not feeling afraid (the paramedic standing on my bathtub while getting me out) and a mustache with kind eyes asking me what day it was and panicking because I actually didn't know-not because I had brain damage. On the way out of my house, I saw Michelle who had been called to come over when everything was fine and met the paramedics at my door. I couldn't stop apologizing to her because I knew my body's actions were making her face look so worried. On our way out, David handed our wrapped up baby to the paramedics. I was told later that as he did, he said firmly to the men, "Don't do anything distasteful in front of my wife."
I can't tell that part of the story without crying. When I heard those words I was struck and overcome with the amount of selflessness my husband was displaying in that moment. We both lost a son. We both had seen him and felt the pain. There wasn't one grieving more than the other. But he knew how important it was to me for our baby to be treated with dignity. I have an amazing husband (but that is a whole other blog for a whole other time.)
I spent the rest of the day in the hospital. My amazing amazing school mom friends took my big kids from school to Chuck E Cheese. My mom, sister, sister's husband, and bestie Michelle cleaned my downstairs and kitchen. Folded and washed a ton of laundry and I still can't find the little pan I cook my eggs in. And then they fed, cleaned, jammied and loved my 3 kids while I was gone. My pastor came up and visited with book in hand to read out loud. And the text messages and phone calls and e-mails poured in. The love, support, kindness--all overwhelming. It was impossible to overlook as anything but a blessing. Thank You God! (And thank you to all our friends!)
When I was young, my mom had a book called "A Child is Born" that had amazing pictures of real babies while they were still in the womb. I was delighted to find my own copy of the same version of that book right after I got married. And then only a few years ago, I found an updated copy. the pictures are stunning, moving (sometimes distrubing and not fit for the young children in your house) but all of it is an amazing display of the details that God has put into the making of a human. A week or two ago, I wnated to see if there was a photo that represented where our son was in the development process. The kids were interested and I knewmy family would want to see but mostly so I could have an additional image in my head of what he looked like. I wasn't sure if I would find one that was exact but I looked through every single page.
And, I am thankful and pleased to be able to share this picture with you. Because this is what my son looked like....
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
My dad called for an update while I was in the hospital and since I was stable, we got to talk. He was grieved and I could hear the pain in his voice as I told him everything that had happened. He said to me, "I can only imagine that this is the worst day of your life."
I paused and told him, "No. Saturday was the worst day of my life. On Saturday, my baby was dead. But today? Today I got to meet my son."
Having a Baby After Losing a Baby
November 30, 2011
Today is the final NaBloPoMo post and the final of my sometimes series on Confessions. And this one is kind of a big one.
I have been trying to figure out if I wanted to write about this or not and ultimately decided that I am going to write, not really re-read and do my best to not delete. I just want to get my thoughts and answers out there despite the jumbled, exhausted, twitchy, insomnia'd person who is doing the typing. (That person is me.)
We are 27 weeks pregnant now.
I have passed the one year mark of when I delivered Elijah and I was pregnant on that day. We have long passed the 16/18 week mark of Elijah's gestational age with this child. And, I am not carrying a boy.
Confession: I miss my son. Achingly so, on some days. It is possible to find me crying over our loss while driving and listening to any number of songs about Heaven. Or while looking at drawings of "Our Family" done by my children with Elijah included and hanging out in the clouds.
When we told people we were expecting this baby I am carrying now, I saw in many eyes, in the very background after expressing their joy, the question: Are you okay with this?
Most days: Yes.
Very few days: NO.
But how can I express the grab bag of feelings that comes with knowing that if Elijah had survived, this little girl currently being knit together would not exist? How do I express joy over my new sweet life when it only is possible because of the expiration of another soul?
Simply stated, I cannot.
There is no way to accurately document, report, communicate the myriad of sorrow and joy.
In September, my sister delivered her first child. It was only the second childbirth I got to watch and it was the most amazing thing to see her accomplish. Joshua Jordan gets his middle name from me just as my own Lucy Joy gets her middle name from my sister. And when they settled on that name, it was overwhelming to know that there was a being on the earth who was my namesake. I told Kristy that it is almost too much pressure to put on a person!
It was a few hours before I got to hold Joshua. Kristy and her hubby Kris were in their recovery room getting all settled in, all the grandmas had their snuggles and it was my turn. Kris's mother placed Joshua in my arms, the first newborn I had held in a very long time, and I choked on my emotions. I cried at his beauty, I cried at the amazing man I can already tell he will one day become. I cried because I was holding proof of God granting second chances.
And I cried because he wasn't MY newborn son.
I turned away, so very aware of all the eyes in the room on me. My sister knew-she always knows, even moments after giving birth-what I was struggling with. I wanted to take the baby and run out the door. Spend some time with him all alone and cry and cry and cry. But that was not an option. Instead, I swallowed the feelings as best I could so I wouldn't make a spectacle of myself and handed Joshua over to the next person in line.
That night, in my hotel room, I cried for hours. It was the sad, bitter, pity cry you have for yourself. It felt selfish and did not contain emotions I felt I could express in the daytime. I was feeling very sorry for myself and then angry at myself for being so selfish and then the sorry would wash all my chastising away and I would return to my pity.
I wrote a long e-mail to David, tried to convey everything I was feeling and that helped me to calm down.
I spoke to God in long run-on sentences that may or may not have made sense and were punctuated with the closing of my tired eyes.
And I slept.
When I woke up, I found the pity had diminished. I was thankful to go and visit my nephew. when I held him I felt that sense of completeness that comes with a newborn. I held him as if my arms had been longing for this little nephew all of my life.
God heard me. Saw me. Cared for me.
So as I continue on with this pregnancy, it is not unusual for my sister to get a text saying, "I think I might actually have this baby!" Not in a crass way but in a surprising way. My experiences with Elijah have left me raw but they also left me knowing to appreciate every moment. Even the current ones filled with exhaustion but no sleep and kicking and rolling and stretching. Each movement of this little girl is exactly what I am supposed to be feeling and I enjoy it knowing that at any moment, it could be lost.
If my pregnancy, dear reader, has caused you to wonder how I am handling another pregnancy so close to come after losing Elijah, then I would like to give you the "Yes I am fine/No, I am not fine" answer which is fairly unsatisfactory as far as an answer goes.
Instead, I will answer any question with honesty and I will be sure to add on that
God is Good. He has taken care of me in the time of my greatest need and I can trust Him with the life of this girl. Not because I "know" everything will be okay "because God wouldn't allow me to lose 2 kids in a row...." but because I know God loves me. He has proved it time and time again.
And a God who loves me will never hang me out to dry.