Thursday, August 2, 2012

One year later

Today is Kyson's birthday. I can't believe it's been a year. I know it's been a while since I've posted, I've hesitated to post anything over the last 8 months, I'm not sure exactly why. But today I have a good reason to, and I have some feelings worth sharing.

Most of my friends and family who read this blog already know that I'm pregnant again. Today I am 34 1/7 weeks pregnant with Brynlee Sophia. Due Sept 12th. We are so blessed that everything with this pregnancy has been healthy. I have been fortunate in that I haven't been anxious or worried. I know that is because of prayer. "Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you." -1 Peter 5:7. I could list several more scriptures that I have leaned on in this time, but this one's my favorite.

This evening, we are doing maternity photos. One of my co-workers Karla asked me to be the subject of a maternity photo she wants to display at the Family Birthing Center. I am honored! She wants a photo just like the one we did while I was pregnant with Kyson of our silhouettes in front of the sunset. The photographer and I just happened to both be available today, and I figured what a wonderful way to remember and honor Kyson! Hopefully I won't be a tearful mess. It's not that I'm afraid of crying, I suppose it doesn't matter. It will just be our silhouettes so you won't be able to see my red face anyway. We are also going to make a birthday cake today, something I hope will be a yearly family tradition.

I've reflected a lot over the last week about what happened a year ago. Not to say I don't think of Kyson a lot anyway. I wept a few days ago when I asked Adam what are some of his fears or worries of being a parent. I told him one of my fears is after I give birth to Brynlee, I wonder if it will bring back the physical sorrow of an empty womb that I had after I gave birth to Kyson. One of my strongest, most tactile memories of that experience was how empty and flat my stomach felt. I remember trying to pack for my brother's wedding that we were flying out for the next day, trying to decide what to wear. I had planned on wearing a maternity dress that my friend Julie let me borrow, and it was so cute with a little pregnant belly. My mom held it up to my flat stomach and said, "you could still wear this dress if you want." I broke down and wept, saying, "no I can't, it was so cute on me with a belly, I would feel empty wearing it." I know that this time, I will have Brynlee to hold in my arms, but I still wonder if the empty feeling in my abdomen will bring back some sorrow. I'm sure it will, but my tears will be mostly happy ones.

Ever since my belly has been showing, a lot of people ask me, "Is this your first baby?" I always answer this question by including Kyson. I don't consider Brynlee my first baby. Sometimes I say, "No, my first baby is in heaven," or "well, my first was stillborn, so I consider this my second," which is always quickly responded to with an "Aw, I'm sorry." I am happy to answer this question, and I'm not sorry. I know it would be simpler to just say "yes, it's my first," but I would feel bad saying that. Kyson will always be our first child. He has a special place in our hearts. It's not painful to answer that question. It didn't take very long before it didn't make me sad to talk about him. I appreciate when people ask me what happened, I enjoy talking about him. It's a great way to remember him. I imagine it's a lot like when people reminisce about their grandparents who have passed away, talking about their fond memories with them. After a short period of time, it's not painful to do that, it's good to remember them. Thankfully I haven't lost a grandparent yet, so I can't speak about this from experience.

There was one time where I made the mistake of calling Brynlee the first. A few months ago, my mom and I were talking about my in-laws coming for the delivery, and I said, "I'm sure they will try to be here for the birth of their first grandchild," and my mom quickly corrected me, "Kyson is their first grandchild." I don't know why I said that. I hadn't forgot about Kyson. I guess since they weren't here for his birth, I was thinking of them being here for the first birth they could possibly be here for. I immediately regretted saying that. My mom and I cried about it together and reminisced about him. 

In the last year, I have known or met a handful of families that have lost their babies. Interestingly, most of the more recent graves next to Kyson's are families I know. This gives me a strong sense of community. Whenever I go to Kyson's grave, I pray for the families of the nearby babies. At the candlelight memorial service our hospital held last December, I heard some of the names on the graves that are older than Kyson's. I wish I had the opportunity to meet those families. I couldn't tell who they were because there seemed to be a delay in announcing the name to when they'd walk up to the Christmas tree to place the ornament with their child's name.

I frequently go on walks at sunset with Buster, our dog, and usually with Adam. We are fortunate to live a block from a farm field to the west, which makes for an unobstructed sunset view. I sing a lullaby I wrote for Brynlee as I walk and watch the sunset. As I posted previously in this blog, the colors in life are so much brighter when you go through a tragedy like we did last year. At least that's how I feel. The colors are brighter in life. I appreciate the beauty of a sunset in a much deeper way than I ever did before. I sometimes count all the different shades of pinks, purples, blues, peaches, grays, oranges, reds, yellows that display when the sun sets. I think of Kyson up there, and seeing him one day in heaven. Sometimes I miss him so much, I wouldn't mind being up there sooner rather than later. Not to say I want to die, by any means. I'm just not afraid of death. I know where I will go, thanks to what Jesus did for me on the cross. 

 Brynlee's 24 week ultrasound

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Christmas season: blessed with joy

It's been a while since I've posted. I just finished writing a speech for the Infant and Child Bereavement Candlelight Memorial Service next week, which I am speaking at to talk about how the Infant Bereavement Program at our hospital helped me. The committee I'm on held a fundraiser for it. It felt good to write down what I've been feeling again. I couldn't sleep, and I have to work tomorrow at 7am. Oh well.

The holidays are here, and Kyson's due date is approaching. It was December 14th. Back when I figured out my due date would be near Christmas, I dreamt of breastfeeding in the light of the Christmas tree. A few weeks ago when the holiday commercials started dominating the TV, I broke down and wept. My hopes and dreams from earlier this year aren't going to happen this Christmas. We put the Christmas tree up this past weekend. I dreaded it to some extent, because I didn't know if it would be a sad reminder of what I don't have this Christmas. But God blessed me so much because it was a joyful experience. Adam and I had some Disney tunes blasting on surround sound, and we sang and danced as we put the ornaments on. "OH I JUUUUST CAN'T WAIT TO BE KING!" and "UNDER THE SEA! UNDER THE SEA! DARLING IT'S BETTER, DOWN WHERE IT'S WETTER, TAKE IT FROM ME!" Buster was barking away, because that's what he always does when we dance. Toby of course loves playing with the ornaments because they resemble cat toys.

I am praying that I will be joyful in December. Thankfully my dad and sister are visiting me for Christmas. I am also praying for patience for the next child that God will bless us with. I pray that I will completely trust God and not worry. "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7. I pray that God will equip Adam and I to raise our future children to have Jesus in their hearts.

I visit Kyson's gravesite often. I sometimes leave notes for him. I plan on visiting on his due date. I work night shifts that week. The night before and the night of. I forgot to sign up for my schedule at work a couple weeks ago and so a co-worker called me and reminded me to do that. I told her I think the reason I never wrote it on my calandar was because I thought I'd be on maternity leave for the timeframe we are signing up for. In the rush to get the schedule put in over the phone, I forgot about trying not to work on his due date. I was thinking more in terms of "Mon Tues Wed" instead of "12th 13th and 14th" as Christine signed me up over the phone. After I realized this, I felt horrible. Then I wondered if I'd want to be at work regardless. Going to work during the week that I had just found out about the cystic hygroma was more comforting than staying at home alone while Adam was at work. I wonder if that same support will be what I'd want on what I expect to be a sad day. I still don't know what I want to do. I will go to his gravesite at some point that day, whether in the morning after I get off work, or maybe I'll wake up early in the evening before it gets dark. I figured out landmarkings to find the grave marker in case it is covered with snow.

I'm still wearing the little ring on a necklace. I haven't taken it off since the day after he was born. I don't sleep with the Sarah bear anymore, but I put it on top of the pillows after I make the bed in the morning. I made a little shadow box of keepsakes that hangs in the office that would have been his nursery. I made a scrapbook about him. We got a silver maple tree from our friends to plant in his memory, which we planted in our back yard. Erin (my labor nurse) won the DAISY award which I nominated her for. Here is the link:

I think of Kyson every time I see a sunrise or sunset. I never realized before how many colors there are. Purple, blue, light blue, deep blue, a few different shades of gray, white, orange, pink, red, peach. I so much appreciate seeing those now. I have hope and joy when I think of seeing him up there one day in heaven.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

In the arms of Jesus

Peace. A wave of peace. That was the feeling God washed over me as I drove away from the cemetery yesterday after Kyson's burial service. I can't describe it in any other way than I knew it was a gift from God. His presence was palpable. 

I knew the day would be tough. I woke up much earlier than I wanted to...8:30 am...crazy, right? I know for some of you with children you are blessed to be able to take care of that this doesn't sound that early, but for me, on a day off, I rarely wake before 9:30 or 10. I awoke not because of poor sleep, nightmares, or grief, but because my dog Buster puked all over the bed. Didn't really wanna go back to sleep in that. I'm pretty sure I know why he puked. The day before, Adam and I took him on a walk to the park close to our house, which we often do, letting him off the leash to play fetch. There had obviously been a food fight and/or child tornado, because there was a smorgasbord of junk food on the ground by the picnic tables. Needless to say, Buster partook of leftovers. 

I was drawing on a sidewalk with chalk, something I think I may have made into a tradition last time we went to the park. It was the day after the initial ultrasound, when we found out about Kyson's cystic hygroma. We walked Buster to the park, and there was some chalk left behind on the sidewalk. I picked it up, sat down, and wrote the phrase I had said to Kyson multiple times..."I love you, my little baby. (heart) mommy." So when I returned to the park a couple days ago for the first time since then, I brought some chalk with. I sat down and wrote the same thing with an angel next to it as my tears dripped down onto the drawing. As I was finishing the angel, a few children came over to us to play with Buster. They were impressed that he would sit before Adam would throw the ball. Adam showed them the hand signal we use to tell him to sit. They emulated. I wanted to show them his coolest tricks, high five and "pow" (roll over). Buster was too excited to listen to these more complicated commands, so I grabbed a chip off the ground (which he had already had several of, so what's one more crumb, right?) to entice him to follow the command. Hence the emetic awakening yesterday.

The morning was fine. After putting the sheets in the washer, I napped on the couch for an uninterrupted 3 hours. I awoke at noon and showered. It was at about 2pm some flowers were delivered and Toby, my cat, decided he wanted to jump onto my shoulders to greet the visitor and possibly catch an escape route out the front door. The problem was he jumped on my back, not my shoulders, as I was standing upright, not anticipating his attack. His back claws dug deep into my back as he slid down. Ouch. 

This was enough to make me mad, but what made me lose it was figuring out this kind of flower that was just delivered was poisonous to the very cat who just tried to kill me via back stabbing. Toby will sometimes chew on flowers or plants, so we put them in the bathroom and shut the door when we leave or at night so he can't get them. The collection of bouquets and house plants gathering in my bathroom has quickly become more than the little counter has room for. I wasn't coping with this problem well. 

I threw Toby off my back and sobbed. I clung to the Sarah Bear (the teddy bear I got from the bereavement program at the hospital). I laid on the couch and called Adam to see if he could come home. I was planning on picking him up from work at 3pm anyways to go to the hospital together to pick up Kyson in his box. He came home early and we laid on the couch together. 

We went to the hospital and met up with Toni, the hospital chaplain. We ran into Dr Wildey in the hall. We exchanged a few words, a hug, and I cried. He speaks very empathetically. He told me today that the chromosome test was inconclusive. They weren't able to grow the chromosomes from the fascia sample they collected. So we won't know what caused the cystic hygroma. I'm ok with that. 

We went to the hospital chapel while Toni went to go get Kyson's box. I like the box. It's nicer looking than a casket. Toni prayed for us, and we left. It was weird walking out of the front door of the hospital in the middle of the day holding my son in a box. Oh how I wish it could have been in a carseat carrier. I wondered if anyone could tell what the box was. My face probably revealed what it was. Plus Adam was carrying the Sarah bear, and I had some pale yellow/cream colored lilies I'd grabbed out of a bouquet we got from our church laying on top of the box. The day before, Toni gave me a bracelet that had a matching baby bracelet. We sent the baby sized bracelet to be placed in the box with him. They pinned it to his garment. Toni also gave me a pair of matching wooden crosses, and I had one placed in the box with him, and I kept one. They sealed the box that morning before we picked him up.

We then stopped by a flower shop to pick up some flowers I ordered to place on top of his box. They were 3 roses in a hand tied bouquet, the color of roses I had in my wedding bouquet. I think they are called leonidas roses. They are a yellowish cream with reddish orange tips. My favorite kind of roses. I brought the box into the flower shop with me, which seems odd, but I wasn't going to leave him in the car. The florist looked at it strangely. I don't care. 

We got to the cemetery about half an hour early. We sat down on a bench, which was also someone's gravestone. We debated whether to sit there, but ultimately decided that this was the reason this person's family chose to make his grave marker a bench. It was a peaceful place to sit in the shade, under a wind chime. I was grateful to this person and/or their family for creating a beautiful oasis of peace for others to mourn their loved ones. 

I took pictures of Kyson's box with the 3 rose bouquet on top, next to a tree and the Sarah bear. I put the lilies I pulled from the bouquet from my church in the arms of the Sarah bear. They are beautiful pictures. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I loved the shadows the roses cast on the box in the late afternoon sun.

The service was intimate. It was just Adam and I, and our pastor from Cottonwood Community Church, Bob. It was a beautiful and serene service. Bob always has just the right words to say. His words were very comforting. He read several scriptures. I will have to get those from him, they were very soothing and reassuring. 

I clung to Kyson's box with Adam's arm around me as Bob spoke. The tears I cried softly were a beautiful release, an expression of my deepest love for my son. My tears dripped onto his box. Bob asked if we wanted to say anything. I said, "I love you, my little baby," as I wept. I placed the box on the frame over the green carpet that covers the hole in the ground. Adam gave me the Sarah bear to hold. I plucked a lily off the stem and placed it in the bouquet of roses. I took the other 2 lilies home to hang them upside down to dry. As we drove home, a peace that I've never felt before overcame my soul. All is good. Kyson is in a wonderful place. In the arms of Jesus. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Life is good

Yesterday I had to make some phone calls that were very difficult to make. I googled the local funeral home/granite store to find a marker for Kyson’s gravesite. Ugh. I don’t like my son’s name next to that word. Resting place? Kyson’s resting place. That’s weird too.
As I search, I try to muster up the courage to place the call. Meanwhile, my grandma is cooking up lunch, and the mood in the house with my uncle, aunts, and cousins is jovial. It just doesn’t seem like the right time to make a call like that. It’s an excuse to put it off even longer. I shut the laptop and go to the bedroom to wipe away a few tears before I end up sobering up the mood in the house.  At that point, it had been 5 days since he was born and I felt the need to get this ordered soon. I put it off til that afternoon.
They said it would take 1-2 weeks to get the marker customized. Not something that would be ready in time for the funeral anyways. So I guess it doesn’t matter how soon I get it ordered. We’ll have the funeral on Wed after we get back from my brother’s wedding. Adam and I have decided that it will just be me and him with our pastor there. It would just feel odd having our friends and co-workers there without any family. All our family would have to fly up for it, and we don’t expect that. It’s been good to be around family this week. Plus my mom and sister came quickly for the delivery, and that was more important to me than being there for the funeral.
I do feel bad for Adam. I left him to go to Texas to visit my family. It was a vacation I had planned before any of this happened. It turned out to be ok timing for me to still go on this trip a couple days after the delivery. But now he’s home by himself. He says he’s ok, and I’m sure he’s getting by, but it's still just not a good time for us to be apart. Hopefully Buster and Toby (our dog and cat) are keeping him company.  I know our friends are too. We’ve had some friends bring by a couple meals, which is really helpful. Thanks, guys! The food, gifts, kind words, posts, texts, calls and cards from everyone have been very uplifting. It’s encouraging to look on facebook and see the comments and status posts about the loss of a baby, or posting the link to my blog. I can’t thank you all enough.
There is one good thing that has come out of all of this so far. The love that I've felt for Adam has never been stronger. Our connection is so much deeper. Having a part of him growing inside me was such an amazing feeling, as I’m sure any mothers out there reading this have experienced. It’s even stronger after going through this together.
I have to admit, as silly as it sounds, I’ve been sleeping with a teddy bear. At our birthing center, mothers who have lost their babies get the Sarah Bear. I think the story behind it is someone lost their baby and wanted to give moms something to hold as they leave the hospital since they aren’t leaving with their baby. I have clung to that fuzzy little bear every night since Kyson and I parted. I hope it’s a phase I grow out of, but for now, it’s comforting. The necklace with the ring on it (the one I got from the hospital that Erin took his pictures with) has also been around my neck since my mom got the chain for me. I hope to get his name engraved on it if it’s possible. I’ll take it to a jewelry store to see if they can do that.
Do you ever associate a song that was popular on the radio with a specific time in your life? A song I really like that's been on repeat in my head is Good Life by OneRepublic, both before and after receiving the news about Kyson’s prognosis. The lyrics don’t have much to do with what I’m going through, but the words in the chorus are a general perspective I’m maintaining, despite all the grief and sadness. “This has gotta be a good life, this has gotta be a good life, this could really be a good life, a good, good life.” The melody is soothing. Life is still good. The colors of life are sharper when you go through something heart-wrenching and come out of it a better person. The highs are higher. The good is better. The sweet is sweeter.
Interestingly, another OneRepublic song, Apologize, is what I associate with the first time I lost a baby in the NICU. Lyrics unrelated, the emotion of the melody is cathartic. The death of a few babies that I’ve cared for and loved in the NICU has helped me prepare for this grief. Obviously losing my own child is much more heartbreaking, but at least the process of grief is a road I've walked before.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Kyson Alexander Chambers

I didn't know it would happen so soon. All the worries went through my head, like "What if the baby is born with issues that will be a lifetime of suffering?" or "How do we decide how to invasively to intervene?" and "What if the delivery happens while I'm in Texas or New Orleans in the next couple weeks?"

The timing was perfect.

I was emotionally tortured on Fri with some mild cramping...the kind that you normally think, oh, it's just gas. But every little pain is concerning when you are pretty sure you will have a fetal demise. Is it time yet? 

Friday evening after the mild cramping, I went into the OB nurse's station to my co-workers to borrow a doppler for my trip to Texas the following week. I had asked my boss if I could borrow one for a little while, knowing that it could provide some reassurance for my anxiety about every little cramp. So I took the doppler home to try to hear the heartbeat. I couldn't hear it, but I didn't panic, since it was probably my technique or because the placenta is in the way. I went back to OB and they tried to find it.They couldn't find it. At this point, I was like, ok, if it's time, that is ok. I wasn't panicking.

They grabbed the ultrasound machine, and after some searching, they found the heartbeat. The quality of this machine wasn't quite that of the one at the office, but the nurses convinced me the heartbeat was there. I didn't see what they saw, but I trusted them, they do this all the time.  

The next morning, I had a small amount of bleeding. I got a little panicked.  I told Adam to get ready to go to the hospital, and I took a quick shower. I called in sick for transport call, which I do every 3rd weekend...I am on call for emergencies in the NICU or if we get a transport to pick up a baby from another hospital. 

Having gone in last night, I knew I couldn't go in every night for an ultrasound from my co-workers. I would drive myself nuts (and them too) going in for everything, for who knows how long. So I called the doctor on call (who, by the way, is brand new at our hospital...that wasn't reassuring, when you are used to being able to talk to doctors you work with...I am spoiled to that). She said to wait and see if the bleeding increases, and then come in. I was thinking this too...that if it was really time, then I would bleed more.

While I was in the shower, I had a mini panic attack. I said, "this is ok, if it's time, that's ok, it's ok." Then I lost it. I sobbed, "Little baby, it's ok if you wanna go meet Jesus, it's ok." Looking back, I am wondering if this is when it started. 

Once I got out of the shower, I was talking to my mother-in-law, and I was certain I felt a couple movements. This is the last time that I was certain that what I felt was movement and not my digestion. 

Sunday was uneventful. I was relaxed. We went to church. I knew that the worship songs at church would be hard to listen to, so I just listened and didn't sing. I managed to get through those with only a couple tears. 

That evening, we met with Steph to do some maternity photos. I am sooooo glad we got these photos taken when we did. The timing for this was crucial. 

The next morning, we left for Sioux Falls to see the Maternal/Fetal Specialist. I was very anxious for the drive there. Our car kept loosing traction every time we'd hit a bump. Plus we knew we were about to drive into rain. I was getting very panicky, imagining us flying off the road, being in the hospital, thinking, "If I'm unconscious from a car accident, how would the paramedics know that I'm pregnant? Would they notice that I'm wearing maternity clothes?" All these stupid, exaggerated anxious thoughts were crawling around in my head. I finally called my mom just to talk to someone to get my mind off these anxious thoughts. 

So we get to the clinic early. We sat in the waiting room for a while. I remember thinking, "Are all the moms here with anomalies and problems, or is this the normal prenatal checkup place?" After sitting in the waiting room for about 45 min and watching the moms come and go, I realized this was the normal prenatal office too. 

The genetic counselor spoke with us first. He talked about the possibilties of what could cause a cystic hygroma, the most likely being Turner's syndrome (if it is indeed from a chromosomal cause, which it may not be). This is where there is only one sex chormosome, the X. So they are female. Most people with Turner's walk around and you'd never know they have it except they are poor in math, and they can't have children. I'm thinking, we can deal with this. That would be more than manageable. He also tried to give us a little more hope, saying that 1 out of 4 times people are referred here for some problem, they don't even see the problem on their equipment, or it has already resolved. I didn't like hearing that. It was like he was disregarding the grief and acceptance we had already gone through. I completely trusted the doctors here that know what they saw. It was pretty obvious. 

So then we go into the ultrasound. I was thinking it would be a 3D ultrasound, but it wasn't. She placed the wand on my abdomen. She looked at the baby for a couple minutes to be sure. "I'm so sorry, the heart isn't beating."

I wept as Adam and I embraced on the exam table. "It's ok, it's ok, my baby is in Jesus' arms," I sobbed. "It's ok."

I suspected this immediately when she first put the wand on, because at the ultrasound last Tues, the heartbeat was so obvious, and with this one, it wasn't. I thought about asking her when she first put the wand on my abdomen if the heart was beating, but then I waited, because I knew she was making sure and I knew she would tell us once she got the images she needed.  

The doctor came in to confirm. He said the baby would have died from the fluid overload on the heart, in medical terms, congestive heart failure.

The 5 hour drive home was hard. We made all the phone calls to family. Needless to say, the tears were on and off and on again. We talked about burial. So many questions. Never had to think about gravestones and caskets. I hate the word casket. Caskets are so ugly. Even the word is ugly. I don't want a casket. I want a nice box. A beautiful box.

I was very anxious driving into Grand Forks. I narrowly avoided a panic attack. We get home and pack a few things. I was very eager to get to the hospital quickly, but Adam just needed some time to absorb it all. 

I arrived at the hospital at about 10pm to be induced. They gave me a double dose of cytotec, a medicine that makes me dilate and contract. The night was ok, I was able to sleep for a few hrs. My sister Kassie arrived at 4 am after driving all night from Milwaukee. The pain really started getting stong in the morning. There were a couple hours of really strong contractions, then once we got my morphine PCA up to the right dose, I was feeling better.

My water broke around 1pm...the time is fuzzy after the morphine. My mom arrived shortly after that, flying in from Houston. I am so glad she and my sister were there. 

I felt something when I got up to the bathroom, so Erin let Dr Wildey know. By the way, Erin, the co-worker who I saw in the ultrasound waiting room after initially getting the news of the cystic hygroma last week, came in to work just for me. I am so grateful for that. I had been in a delivery with her a couple years ago, and she did such an awesome job at calming this mom down when she had to labor with her premature baby without any pain meds. I told her that day, "I want you to be my labor nurse when I have kids." She said, "Honey, I'd come in on my day off." She probably doesn't remember saying that back then, but she held up to it. She came in just for me. Dr Wildey also came in that last night when he wasn't on call. You couldn't ask for better care. Like family.

Dr Wildey arrived, and it was time to push. Baby's foot was out. I pushed for about 20 min. 

My little baby arrived at 2:13pm. Kyson Alexander Chambers. 7.7oz/220g. 8 inches long.

His hands are perfect. His fingernails are perfectly formed. His umbilical cord is tiny, thinner than a shoestring. His feet and toes are tiny, not as detailed as his hands. His mouth is open and completely formed and tiny. His lips and mouth look like Adam. I absolutely love and treasure that.  His mouth is shaped the way Adam's is shaped when he is sleeping with his mouth open. I will always remember Kyson when I see Adam sleeping with his mouth open.

I love touching his little hands, feet, and face. I will always treasure the moments I got with him, and the photos Erin took. I love the photos with the little ring. My mom got me a chain that I can wear the ring on as a necklace. We went to a jewelry store in the mall today and picked it out. The first chain I tried on with the ring on it, I broke down and bawled into her arms. I absolutely love it. 

The whole birthing experience was better than I thought it would be. Both emotionally and physically. The day was harder for Adam than last week was. For me, it was easier than last week was. I think that's because I mentally prepared myself for a stillbirth, visuallizing it and mourning about it then. God carried me through, giving me the strength to do what I needed to do. I can't thank Erin and Dr Wildey enough. Their support and comforting manner were exactly what I needed to get through this. 

I slept well last night. I think the morphine was still in me a little. Today was tolerable. I had a few breakdown moments. I am so glad my mom is here with me. I miss him in my womb. I miss my pregnant belly, watching it change week by week. I miss feeling his flutters. He is in Jesus' arms now. It's comforting knowing he hasn't had to face the pain of this world. He has only known love and heaven.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

My little baby

So I've never done a blog before. But why not. I want to journal all of this, and nowadays, writing with a pen is tiring after about 5 minutes. 

I am 20 3/7 weeks pregnant today. On Tues, when I was 19 6/7 wks, I had my routine ultrasound, planning to find out if it is a boy or a girl. I said all the silly things people probably say when they don't suspect anything is wrong. "I hope the baby cooperates so we can see what it is!" "I hope the due date stays the same, I really wanna have this baby before Christmas!" My due date is Dec 14. Being a Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse, I know more of the possibilities of things that can go wrong, so it can be easier to be anxious about a pregnancy. So I made a conscious decision not to worry, since I'm not in control. I did however wake up that morning thinking, ok, something could go wrong, so reserve some of this excitement. But I didn't really believe it could happen to me. 

So I drink all the water they tell you to drink and have to pee like 10 min after I finish drinking it. 1 hour to go. I thought this would be the worst part of the day, having to hold it. So I was pacing around the house, and I decided to leave and do something distracting since the porcelain throne was calling my name. It has been my most frequent companion for the last few months, and knows my booty better than my husband. I go to Sertoma Park to see if there are any cute baby duckies swimming with their mommies. Of course there are 2 families of duckies swimming along... aaaawwwww. So then I go to pick up Adam from work, peeking into Julie's office, exclaiming as I rub my belly, "We're gonna go find out what it issssss!"

We get into the ultrasound room, and watch in excitement as we see our little baby's head, spine, legs, ribs, heartbeat, and little human form move around. I eagerly tell the tech, "So tell me what this kiddo is." He says that the baby's butt is in my pelvis, so we may not be able to tell. Throughout the whole ultrasound, he gives no indication that there is anything wrong. Adam says he remembers him making a comment under his breath like "oh" but I didn't pick up on anything like that. At the end of the ultrasound, he tries to get the wand low enough to peek between the legs, but says it's still to vague. I am only measuring 17 4/7 weeks, which would put my due date on Dec 30. I am disappointed because I want to have this kid before Christmas! 

Disappointment has a new meaning.

We go up to the doctors office, and check in with the receptionist. She asks, "Didn't you get a picture and a CD?" I said, "No, but I'd like one." She calls down to ultrasound to find out why. She says, "The doctor will give that to you." I am thinking I have something like a placenta previa, and the doctor has to talk to me before I see the pictures. Oh how I would rejoice if that was the problem. I see a co-worker in the waiting room, and say, "I'm measuring smaller, the due date got pushed back to Dec 30th." She says, "Aw, that's exciting." I'm like, "No it's not, I wanna have this kid before Christmas!" Now I feel so stupid for saying something like that. We get called into the exam room, and the nurse says the same thing: "You didn't get a picture and a CD?" "No, I guess Dr Wildey will get that for us." "Oh."

So then Dr Wildey walks in. Dr Wildey is normally a very chipper, smiley person, as I know from working with him in the birthing center. As soon as he walks in, I can see it on his face. Something is terribly wrong. Not as simple as a placenta previa. My heart is pounding. His words are fuzzy in my memory, but three words stand out: LARGE CYSTIC HYGROMA. What's that? (As a NICU nurse, I should know about everything that can go wrong, right? no.) Gulp. The tears come. It's a growth on the neck, originating from the lymph system.  Sometimes these resolve when they are caught early on (earlier than I am) and they are small. But what usually happens is the baby dies in utero and I would have a stillbirth. Sometimes it can be associated with other anomalies with the heart and brain, but they couldn't see any problems with those today. Sometimes it is associated with a syndrome or chromosomal defect, but sometimes it just happens for no apparent reason. It's nothing you can prevent and nothing you would have done wrong.

I am too bewildered to think of questions. This is where Adam, the strong man that he is, thinks to ask the questions. I don't remember what he asked. Wildey says he's made an appointment for us in 1 month with the maternal/fetal specialist in Fargo. He leaves us in the office until we are ready to come out. Adam and I hug, I continue weeping. I still want a picture of my little baby. I want to be able to look at his or her little human form, a profile of bones. I ask the nurse if we can still get a picture. I guess we have to go back down to ultrasound to get a printout, for some reason they can't print from the images they have saved.

We get back down to the ultrasound waiting room. I think of who I want to call to talk about this as I weep in the waiting room in front of strangers. I think of one of my co-workers Erin who has had 2 children where she got bad news on ultrasounds and things got better, and now they are both healthy children. I decide I will call her later today to talk about this experience. I decide to call Dr Panda now, the neonatologist I work with, to ask him what he knows about cystic hygromas. I get on the phone with him and I can't even choke out what I want to say around the clamp on my throat. He says, "Where are you? I'll be right there." He is there lightning fast. "What's wrong?" I ask, "What do you know about large cystic hygromas?" His face is somber. "Not good." 

He goes with another ultrasound tech to look at my images. Adam and I wait in the dark ultrasound room. He comes in and tells me he's never seen one this big. He uses the word "severe." We've gone from "large" to "severe." It's so big, it extends down to the chest and abdomen. Again, if it's caught earlier and it's smaller, there's a chance it can resolve, but very unlikely in this case. He talks about experimental fetal surgery (EXIT procedure), and he has worked with doctors who have done this. He has worked with some of the most renowned neonatologists in the world. He talks about seeing a maternal/fetal specialist sooner than a month so we can make a decision. One option is termination, which we could never do, so that is not discussed. "Are you willing to drive?" Of course. We'll go to Sioux Falls, SD. His words are sympathetic. You couldn't ask for a better bedside manner in a doctor. I wouldn't even call it bedside manner. He is talking to me like I'm his own family. 

So we walk out to the waiting room and who is sitting there but ERIN. WOW. She is there waiting for an xray for her daughter who broke her clavicle. This is one of her children she had bad news on ultrasounds. "What's the matter, honey?" "MY BABY HAS A BAD ANOMALYYYYYY," I whale into her shoulder as we embrace. I tell her how amazing it is that she is there because I was just thinking of her and what she went through with 2 of her 3 children, and I was going to call her today. God is amazing. It's no coincidence that she was there. This goes on in front of the entire waiting room. I don't care. I hope they are thankful that whatever they are there for isn't as bad as getting news that your baby has such a severe defect that it probably won't live much longer. I feel like I would rather go through cancer and die. That would hurt less. Anyone would wish they could be ill in place of their child.

That night was the hardest night of my life. I wept in bed for hours. The kind of sobbing that is so raw and visceral, I cried out to God. I kept repeating myself through gasps, "My little baby, my little baby" and "GOD GOD GOD." I think a lot of people would cry out, "Why me." I don't ask that. There are all those cliche sayings people tell you when you go through a loss or grief. You know them. You've heard them. People have said them to you, and you have said them to people. Some are comforting, some are no-nos, depending on the person's beliefs. 

I am here to say that I know there is a reason for this. As hard as it is, there is a reason. I may not know that reason, and I may never know the reason. But I have an idea. 

You see, I know that God is carrying me through this. If you are reading this and you don't believe in God, you may ask, "What kind of loving God puts his creation through something painful like this?" That is one of the most deceptive statements as to why people choose not to follow God. Choose. People have a choice. AKA, free will. I know that there is an eternity in which we choose where we want to be. Eternity is a concept that is difficult to fathom for us earthlings. This life is but a vapor in the universe. The most important decision you can possibly make is where you want to spend eternity. 

In the perspective of eternity, tragedy such as this is but a vapor. Now this is difficult to grasp when you are in the throes of it, but hear me out. What is the most important thing to accomplish when eternity is in front of you, and life is but a vapor? 

You are going to think I am crazy. INSANE. Even Christians will probably think this when they read the next sentence. I PRAYED FOR THIS. Wait. What? Tiffany, you wanted this to happen? That doesn't make sense. 

I have said this prayer a few times. Not a lot, but probably a few. I told God I would give anything so that those I love would accept Jesus Christ into their hearts so that I would see them in heaven. I have told him to use me in any way to accomplish this. I thought of all the things I would give for them to accept Jesus. I thought of losing all my possessions. I thought of Adam dying an early, tragic death. I thought of dying myself- an early, tragic death. I don't remember if I thought of losing a child, I probably did, but it was a while ago. I told God anything. I would give up anything.

I have always been the kind of Christian that is very very afraid of approaching people to preach the gospel to their faces. Like walking around a mall and asking strangers, "Do you know where you will go when you die?" or, "Can I pray for you about something?" There are some in my church who convict the congregation to evangelize this way. I have prayed that God would give me more courage to be able to share the gospel with both strangers and people I know. I have never found it easier than now. I still don't think I could go up to someone in the mall, but this is probably ok by God.

So my strongest prayer through this tragedy is this: that God would use me to be a light for him. If even just 1 person came to accept Jesus through all the horrible stuff I'm going through, it would be worth it. Even if it was a stranger, someone I never met, and they never told me they opened their heart to him because of what I type. 

Because I have an eternal perspective. This life is but a vapor. A mist. I know I will see my little baby in heaven soon. There is something so much more important, and that is where you will spend eternity. I will know one day whose lives were changed because of what I'm going through. It may not be in this life, but in the next. My prayer is that the ones changed are those I love who have shut their hearts out to Jesus.