Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Six months later



My sweet Harper,

It has been 6 months since I held you for the first and last time. It was the most difficult day of my life, to go through the pain of child birth, knowing there would be no prize at the end. No screaming baby, just silence. Your tiny body was so fragile, I could not bear to hold you for long, fearing I may break you. Instead, the nurse dressed you in a beautiful Threads of Love gown and placed you in a tiny basket. Daddy and I held you for hours in the basket, kissed your cheeks and forehead, studied your perfect hands and feet.

I hate that we are separated from you, and from God. I hate that we live in this fallen world, with pain, sickness, hurt, violence, hatred, war, and poverty. But, I rejoice that you will never know any of these things. That the only thing you will ever know is love and joy. I rejoice that you are safe in the arms of Jesus, and that we will all be together again someday.

Tomorrow we celebrate the birth of Jesus. An event that changed this world forever. I am so thankful that Jesus chose to humble himself and become man, to suffer and die for all of us, that all who believe in him would not die, but have eternal life in paradise. I rejoice that God knows my pain, the pain of death, but that the death that we know is not the end. It is the beginning. I can't even begin to wrap my head around what Jesus endured, and how much God loved us, to sacrifice his son for us,  for Jesus to take our punishment for us on the cross.

I rejoice that even though I can never be "good enough" to get into heaven, I am saved by the grace of God. The sacrifice of Jesus, and my belief in my savior and his sacrifice means that even though I am a horrible, wretched sinner, I will see him, and you, my daughter, someday.

I am thankful for the word of God and for his promises. God told me when I was pregnant with your brother that I would have a son and should name him Joseph. And we did. I was completely unaware of the meaning of your brother's name at the time, and did not learn it until much later. Joseph was the first-born son of Jacob and Rachel. Rachel was infertile, and saw Jacob's other wives have many children. When the time was right, God blessed Rachel with a son, whom she named Joseph, which means "May he add" (Genesis 30:24).

I trust that God will bless us with more children someday, children that will live here with us on earth. I believe that was what he promised us when he told us to name your brother Joseph. We have been reading passages from the Bible all month, one for each day. When we read Luke 1:45, I was again reassured of that promise: And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.

I read stories of women who became pregnant again soon after they lost a baby, and hoped that would be me. But it is not. We are still waiting. As painful and heartbreaking as it is, I know that the plans of the Lord are always a million times better than anything that I can think of. Your daddy is a testament to that. I went through many years of loneliness, heartache, and sadness before God blessed me with him. It was worth every single second of waiting. And I know this season of waiting will be worth it, too. Whether we are blessed with children that are born from my body or grown in our hearts, it will be so much more awesome than anything we can imagine.

Harper Pauline, you have blessed us in so many ways, even though you never took a breath on this earth. Friendships have been made, others have been served, ministries have been started, compassion and empathy have grown. I trust that this is only the beginning of your legacy. We love you so much, and can't wait to meet you in heaven.

Love,

Mommy

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Holidays

With this being our first Christmas since Harper went to heaven, and the first Christmas that Joey is starting to understand what Christmas is about, we are trying to create some family traditions.

One of the things I most enjoyed during the month of December as a child was our Advent calendar. It was simple, made of fabric and felt, and had a little mouse that we moved every day. While I don't have the calendar (I think my sister actually does), I wanted to re-create that for Joey. We did a short 12 day devotional for Thanksgiving, and he really loved "doing numbers" each day. I found this calendar at Dillard's,


(Joey takes the ornaments out of the pockets, and points to where he wants them to hang on the tree)

and we read a short Bible passage each day.  



For our Christmas card, we bought a Christmas outfit for our Harper bear at Build-a-Bear, and took her picture and Joey's picture, and tried to get one of them together. One of the decisions we had to make was how to sign the card. Do we sign everyone's name individually? If so, do we include Harper? I hate having to make these decisions. In the end, we signed it, "The Cottrell Family" and left it at that.


Harper bear in my childhood rocking chair.


How I wish this was him hugging his 4 month old sister, and not a bear.

My sister made ornaments for both kids, and I love them! My sweet friend also bought a special butterfly ornament for Harper.


I'm sure we will add more things as time goes on.

 One of the other things I agonized over was decorations for the cemetery. I hate going to the cemetery. Before today, I had only been twice. Once to see her marker, and once to put decorations up. I was at Hobby Lobby earlier this week, and thought maybe I should try and find something for her. I spent way too long wandering around, but I found some flowers and a wreath and a bow. We went to put them out this morning, and am so glad I decided to do it. It is a beautiful, sunny day, and you can see her grave when you drive up. We were pleasantly surprised that all of her things from the summer were still there and looked great. We replaced the summer-y flowers and moved her angel and wind chimes to make room for the wreath. Joey ran right up to her grave. He knew exactly which one it was, which makes me both happy and sad. 


Joey is playing with her wind chimes, and couldn't be bothered with looking up! The bow is actually purple, but looks kind of blue in the picture.

Christmas eve will be 6 months since her body and mine were separated. This Sunday will be 6 months since she went to heaven. We are planning to do a Happy Birthday Jesus and Harper cake on Christmas eve. I am glad that my parents will be here with us, but missing my sister and my nieces in New York terribly. It's just not the same without all of us together.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thankful

It's been a few weeks since my last post. I think I've been ignoring my grief. I was so immersed in it during October with the capture your grief posts, that I needed a break. However, now that the holidays are upon us, I can no longer hide from it.

We started decorating the house for Christmas yesterday. This is the first house we have ever spent a second Christmas in as a family, so the decorations are still a work in progress. The most challenging part, thus far, has been to figure out how to include Harper in our celebration of the birth of our Savior, when she is with Him, and not with us. I bought an "H" ornament, and a Christmas outfit at Build-a-Bear for Harper bear. I hate that I have to buy an outfit for a bear instead of an outfit for my would-be 3 month old daughter, but it can't be changed, and I refuse to pretend that she didn't exist. I am going to attempt to take a Christmas card picture of Joey and Harper bear, and go from there.

Now that Joey is 2, we are trying to create some family traditions. This year, we did a thankful tree. There were 30 leaves, 1 for each day of November, and Steve and I took turns writing things we were thankful for. Our hope is that this is something simple that we can do every year, and Joey will be able to help with in future years.


In no particular order, here is what was written on our 30 leaves:
God's love
Doctors
Paramedics
God-given talents
God's promise keeping
Church
Naps
Military
Technology
Grace
Jesus
Clean water
Warm beds
Clothes
Police
Freedom
Div-dog
Dada's work
Forgiveness
Shoes
Food
Safe cars
Electricity
Safety
Family
Health
Heat/AC
Friends
Neighbors
Firefighters

There are so many more things that we are thankful for, I am sure we could do 1 leaf for every day of the year, and still not cover it all. We are so blessed and want to teach Joey to be thankful in all circumstances.

One more thing that I am especially thankful for is a friend of my sister. She is a professional photographer, and took a few of the not-so-professional photos that we had of Harper, and edited them for free. She has a family of her own, with little ones, and took a big chunk of time away from them to help someone she has never met. I now have a couple of photos of my baby girl that are gorgeous, and do not look like a picture of a dead baby, but of a sleeping newborn. She made her look so beautiful that I may actually share them someday.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Waiting

Today I received my Harper bear from Molly Bears. Molly Bears was started by a family that lost their little girl in the same way we did - a cord accident. They make bears for parents who have lost a child to miscarriage/stillbirth/infant death. The bears are weighted, so Harper bear weighs 3lbs 14oz, just like my Harper did.



The waiting list for a Molly Bear is very long, as is the wait time (currently 16-20 MONTHS). I was able to get my bear in just over 3 months by making a donation that bumped me up the list. When you order a bear, you are able to share any details you would like represented in the bear - I specified purple and butterflies. I am so so grateful to Ms. Susan, who made my bear, and sent a sweet note with her. It is so comforting to have something to hold that weighs what my Harper weighed (When I took her out of the box, I thought she seemed too heavy, but I took her upstairs and put her on Joey's baby scale, and she weighed exactly what she should).

I am definitely in a season of waiting. Waiting for the bear, waiting for the weighted heart that we requested from another organization, waiting for a keychain for Steve, wondering if we will ever receive any more pictures of Harper other than the 8 that we have, and waiting for God to tell us what is next. We are 100% sure that He has promised us more children that live with us here on Earth, but we are not sure about the when or the how. We are praying that we will have an answer to that question soon, but until then, we wait.

Waiting has never been one of the things that I am good at. I want to know everything yesterday. I want to have a plan. If I could just know when and how things will happen, I would be OK with the waiting for it to happen. But that is not how God works.

Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:22-26

On another note, I did not finish the capture your grief project. It was really stressing me out, trying to figure out what to take a picture of for every day, and I know that was not the purpose of it, so I stopped. Maybe I will try again next year. I was, however, deeply saddened to learn that the Facebook event page for the project was deleted because people reported a picture of an angel baby. Is it hard to look at pictures of dead babies? Yes, but that doesn't mean people don't have the right to share those pictures. Sometimes I look at them, and sometimes, it just hurts too much. I commend any parent that is brave enough to share their pictures with the world. I am just not that brave.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Capture your grief Day 17: Time


Capture your grief Day 16: Seasons


Steve was so sweet to do a load of laundry while I was out last night, and fold it. It's time to start swapping out Joey's shorts for pants, something that I will never ever do for my daughter. 


Monday, October 14, 2013

Capture your grief Day 14: Family



I hate that 2 separate pictures are needed to represent our family. These were both taken on the same day.

Capture your grief Day 13: Book



My sweet sister-in-law gave me this book when she came for the funeral. It was wrapped in a pretty green organza bow and had a card with it. It ended up in a bag from the funeral home with the rest of the cards and things that one gets from the funeral home. I didn't pull it out to even read the card right away, it was just too much.

Several days later, I finally got up the courage to at least open the card, and then look at the book. Once I started reading, I could not put it down. I read and sobbed and read and sobbed. It was very difficult to read, because I knew the pain, and because it was so fresh. But it was wonderful to read, too. Because there was hope. Not the hope that comes from reading about a family that is a year or more out from losing their child, but the hope of Jesus.

I tried reading another book that they hand out at the support group that I went to a couple times, but I could not get beyond the first few pages. Why? Because there was no Jesus there. There was no hope. 

The sermon at church on Sunday was on this exact subject, and Hans did such an awesome job. If you have a hard time understanding the purpose, or the reason these horrible, awful things happen, you can listen  here.

The verses that stick out the most to me are Romans 8:18 "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." and 2 Corinthians 4:17 "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." AMEN!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Capture your grief Day 12: Article

I had read this article before, but didn't realize it was written by the man behind the Return to Zero movie.

I write and talk about how I am feeling often, but there is another person who lost a child, and his voice and feelings deserve to be heard, too. Steve always holds it together for me. He grieves in private, when he's alone, and is strong for me when I am weak. I love him so much.

I found this poem online somewhere, and wanted to share:


A Father's Grief 

It must be very difficult 
To be a man in grief, 
Since "men don't cry" 
and "men are strong" 
No tears can bring relief. 



It must be very difficult 
To stand up to the test, 
And field the calls and visitors 
So she can get some rest. 



They always ask if she's all right 
And what she's going through. 
But seldom take his hand and ask, 
"My friend, but how are you?" 



He hears her crying in the night 
And thinks his heart will break. 
He dries her tears and comforts her, 
But "stays strong" for her sake. 



It must be very difficult 
To start each day anew. 
And try to be so very brave- 
He lost his baby too. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Capture your grief Day 11: Emotional triggers


I was certainly guilty of this before. Now, when I hear or see complaining, it just hurts. I would give anything to be "suffering" through pregnancy. If God chooses to bless us with another biological child, I will cherish every second of it, no matter how uncomfortable it is. We never know how long our children will be with us. Make every moment count.

Capture your grief Day 10: Beliefs


Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."



For God so loved the world that he gave up his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.





Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Capture your grief Day 9: Music


                                                                 "Gone Too Soon"

Today could have been the day,
That you blow out your candles,
Make a wish as you close your eyes.

Today could have been the day,
Everybody was laughing,
Instead I just sit here and cry,

Who would you be?
What would you look like,
When you looked at me for the very first time?
Today could have been the next day of the rest of your life.

Not a day goes by,
That I don't think of you,
I'm always asking why this crazy world had to lose,
Such a ray of light we never knew,
Gone too soon, yeah.

Would you have been president
Or a painter, an author, or sing like your mother?
One thing is evident,
Would've given all I had,
Would've loved you like no other.

Who would you be,
What would you look like,
Would you have my smile and her eyes?
Today could have been the next day of the rest of your life.

Not a day goes by,
That I don't think of you,
I'm always asking why this crazy world had to lose,
Such a ray of light we never knew,
Gone too soon, yeah.

Not a day goes by,
Oh
I'm always asking why.

Not a day goes by,
That I don't think of you,
I'm always asking why this crazy world had to lose,
Such a beautiful light we never knew,
Gone too soon,
You were gone too soon
Yeah.

Not a day goes by,
That I don't think of you.

Capture your grief Day 8: Color

There isn't one color in particular that reminds me of Harper, but there are color schemes that remind me of her. This is the crib set that I picked out for her so many months ago, in the room that would have been hers.


And this one is the quilt that Aunt Shelley made for her. She didn't know what the crib set looked like when she made it, but it has the same birds, and same lime green accent. I am just amazed how she made the three birds at the top to represent Steve, Joey, and me, and the one representing Harper was separate. It's just so perfect.



Capture your grief Day 7: You now

I don't have a picture for Day 7. I think that's why I am behind on my posts. I wracked my brain trying to come up with something that would symbolize where I am now, photographically. Alas, I am not that artsy.

I don't cry every day, or even every week. I miss my daughter, but I have accepted that she is in heaven, and I will see her when I go there. There are certain situations, however, that I have a difficult time handling. Being around pregnant people who are talking about their pregnancy, blissfully unaware of what has happened to me, and tens of thousands of other women, is one of them. It happened this week at music class. I somehow found myself in a conversation with 2 pregnant women who were asking each other all kinds of questions about their pregnancies. I thought about saying something about my latest pregnancy, then realized they would not want to hear about it, due to the outcome. I felt alone. I felt sad. I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could. I walked away, but didn't leave. As I looked for someone else to go and talk to, there was no one that wasn't with someone else who was pregnant. So I stood with Joey. We stayed for the class, but left immediately after. I cried all the way home.

I am trying to give myself a break, but get back to really being a mom who is present with Joey and who is taking care of all my responsibilities at home. Some days I succeed, some days I don't, but the successful days are starting to outnumber the unsuccessful ones.

I struggle with how or when to say I have 2 children. We go to a parenting class on Sunday morning at church, and someone always asks us, "How old are your kids"? I say, "Joey is 2", and that's all. And I hate it, but I don't think people really do care. They don't want to be uncomfortable. They don't know what to say. When I go to mom's group during the week, we have "conversation tables" with some of the other ladies at church who are in a different study. We always go around and say something about ourselves, and it always involves how many kids we have. I say Joey is 2 and Harper lives in heaven. And there is never any reaction. But, no one really comments on anyone else's introduction, either, so maybe I shouldn't expect anyone to comment on mine.

All in all, I know this: I am forever changed. I will never be the same. The "old Wendy" is gone. More importantly, I am loved by an almighty God who has carried me through the most horrible thing that can ever happen to a parent. I was blessed with a supernatural peace when having to go through laboring and delivering my dead baby. I still don't know how I did it, and did it so calmly. All glory goes to Him.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Capture your grief Day 6: Ritual


Since it has only been just over 3 months, we do not have any special rituals that we do on certain days. What I do try to do, however, is have some quiet time every day, while Joey is napping. I find that if I don't, it makes the day much more difficult. Whether it is reading my Bible, a devotional, a book, or writing in my journal and praying, time alone with God is what I need to get through.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Capture your grief Day 5: Memory

This is a happy memory, from back in April. We were on the news talking about homebirth, and the reporter captured a picture of Joey helping listen to your heart. It was always so strong. I wish I would have recorded it....


Capture your grief Day 4: Legacy

It has been just over 3 months since we said hello and goodbye. The full extent of your legacy is not known, yet, but these are some words that represent what is and will be your legacy. Love you, my sweet girl.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Capture your grief Day 3: Myth

Myth - an idea or story that is believed by many people but is not true.


Truth:



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Capture your grief Day 2: Identity


Harper Pauline Cottrell

She is named for her Nannah, Dianne Harper Cottrell, and her great-grandmother Pauline Egli.

We named her on the day we found out she was a girl, while we were in the waiting area at the doctor's office.

She was born on June 24, 2013 at 6:00 am, weighing 3 lbs 14 oz.

She looked just like her big brother, Joey.

She is a daughter, little sister, granddaughter, niece and cousin. She is loved.

You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. Psalm 139:15-16



Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Capture your grief Day 1: Sunrise

For the month of October, I am participating in the Capture your grief project. You can read more about it here. I will try to do a post for every day, but can't promise I will make all 31 days. Sometimes being a mom of a 2 year old is challenging!
Here is my sunrise picture:
Capturing the sunrise in my backyard is extremely difficult because of our huge oak and pecan trees, and since Joey was still sleeping, it was my only option. But I like how this came out. The brightness is still shining through, and trees can never full obscure the Louisiana sun. Much like grief cannot obscure my God. I very much want to have scripture accompany my pictures this month, as my faith and my God are what has carried me, along with my amazing support system. Psalm 19: 1-6 really spoke to me:

1 The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. 2 Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. 3 They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. 4 Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. 5 It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race. 6 The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Nothing can hide from its heat.

So much to meditate on in these 6 verses.

In honor of October being pregnancy and infant loss awareness month, I would also like to invite any other mamas or dads of angel babies to share their story here if you do not have your own space to do so. I have found so much support and healing through expressing my grief in writing and making it public. Please send me a message if you would like to share your story. I would be honored to share it.

Monday, September 30, 2013

God is so good

I love baptisms. Not the ones where tiny babies are baptized, but the ones where kids or adults make a conscious decision out of obedience to declare their faith in Jesus in a public way. Every time I witness one in person, I cry. It is just such a beautiful expression of how we die and are re-born. Yesterday, the pastor of the church we attended in Buffalo had the privilege of baptizing his father. Oh, how I wished I could have been there to see it in person. You see, Pastor Dan is an extremely important part of mine and Steve's story.

Steve and I fell for each other very quickly. We had our first date in December 2009, and he asked me to marry him five months later. I happily accepted, and then the discussions of when would I be moving in began. I knew in my heart that it wasn't right to live together before marriage, but we were just so impatient, and listened to our flesh instead of our spirits. By June, I had sold all of my stuff, and had moved in with Steve.

We started looking for a church to attend shortly after that. We were convinced that we wanted to attend a "big" church, so we tried all of those, but none of them felt quite right. Then, we decided to try Restoration. It was a small church plant, and it didn't even have its own building. They met in a school cafeteria. Steve had been to a service there, as his brother's church was helping with financial support, and went with him when his brother was visiting. We both really liked it, and decided that this was the place we wanted to be.

We went up and said hello to Dan before or after service one Sunday, and he invited us to come to his house for community group. There, we met the couple that were the leaders of the community group we ended up joining. We attended services on Sunday morning, and met with our community group one night a week. We never officially said that we were living together, but we did not try to hide it, either.

After a few months, Dan had reached out to Steve and said he wanted to meet with us. He did not tell us exactly why, but I think we both had a feeling what it was about. I was unable to attend, I think because of a work commitment, so Steve went alone. It was exactly what I thought - Dan was calling us out. Telling us what we already knew - that living together outside of marriage was wrong, and we needed to do something about it. He suggested that we should either live apart until we got married, or get married now. As my condo was now empty, I really did not have anywhere else to live. Also, we did not really have a good reason to not get married right away. Yes, we were planning a wedding in Arkansas, but we could still do that, and get married in Buffalo. So that's what we did. We threw together a wedding in less than a week and in front of a few friends and family, made a covenant with God to become husband and wife.

I cannot express how thankful we both are for Dan. How thankful we are that God placed us in that church, with Dan as the pastor. If we had been at a "big" church, our living situation would probably never have come to light, we never would have married in September, and would not have gotten pregnant with Joey in October. Praise God for an obedient and courageous pastor, who knows the truth, and loved us enough to show us a way out of our sin. Praise God that we were not prideful, but humble and repentant. And Praise God for Dan being able to baptize his father, something I'm sure he prayed for for a very long time. God is so good. Please watch this video - Dan is baptizing his father at the end. I promise it's worth the 4 minutes of your time!


Baptism 92913 from Restoration Church on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The truth is


  • I'm not okay. I am hurting. Most of the time I feel okay, and then, out of nowhere I am sobbing.
  • I am afraid to hold a baby. I don't know how I will react. What if I cry? What if I don't cry?
  • I am deeply hurt that there are people that I consider close friends or family that still, almost 3 months later, have never acknowledged the loss of my baby.
  • My empty arms ache.
  • I don't want people to feel sorry for me when they read this. I am blessed beyond measure, but I still miss my baby.
  • I wonder what people think of me when I tell them my daughter is in heaven. It is my truth. I cannot deny her, nor can I deny my Savior. My baby girl is safe in the arms of Jesus Christ. But I am still sad.
  • I miss a very dear friend. I miss her phone calls, her sarcasm, her genuineness, her laugh. I miss our adventures together.
  • I am blessed to have a new friend that I can be truly honest with and not worry about being judged.
  • I don't know how I would survive if I didn't have Joey. I hate that he has to see me sad some days, and he has to ask, What's the matter, mommy?
  • I don't like going to the cemetery. My little girl is not there. Her body is, but she is not.
  • I am afraid to share anything at my mom's group, because I don't want to cry. The tears are always so close to the surface.
  • I am loved by an almighty God, who is big enough to handle this, who has something wonderfully amazing in store for me.
  • I am angry sometimes. But it is not a righteous anger, it is an anger over things I cannot control, so I pray to not feel this way.
  • I am doing the best I can. Some days I can cook and clean and paint my house. Other days all I can do is sit on the couch.
To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 61:3

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A life is a life, no matter how small

Before we lost Harper, I knew very little about baby loss. I had family members and friends that had lost babies, but no one really talked about it. The medical world likes to classify it as a miscarriage or a stillbirth, depending on how far along in the pregnancy one is, and I think that carries over to the rest of us, too. Somehow, a miscarriage is supposed to be not a big deal. The baby could not have survived outside the womb, so you should just get over it and move on.

I have to admit that I had thoughts like that, too. It's ugly, and I'm not proud of it, but I'm being honest. But, God has given me a heart to understand through this experience. All babies, no matter how long they lived, they all matter. They lived. God knew them. If you were his/her mommy, even if it was too early to know whether you were carrying a boy or girl, you are still their mommy, and they matter.

I sometimes think I had it easier because Harper was born at 33 weeks. I delivered her in the hospital. I was treated like any other mother in labor. Offered comfort measures, allowed to labor in the water when I needed to. I held my baby. I kissed her cheek. I touched her little hands and toes. I had pictures taken of her. We were able to keep her with us the entire time we were there. I know this is not the case at all hospitals, but I am so grateful that we were in a place with compassionate people who got it.

My heart just hurts for moms who don't have that acknowledgement. Who choose to have a D&C or D&E because they can't bear the thought of going through the physical pain. Who choose to have their miscarriage at home, whether using medication, or waiting for it to happen naturally. They are alone, in pain, physically and emotionally, and there is no acknowledgement. They birth their tiny babies and are then left to decide what to do. Many of them have to go right back to work, if they work outside the home. Their families can be unsympathetic, or their families may not even know that there was a baby to begin with. I cannot imagine the sorrow of trying to pretend, of not being able to talk about my child, of having to go back to work the next day. Just know that my heart aches for you, and you are just as much a mother as anyone with living children.

I am sad to say that this happens within the baby loss community as well. Moms who have had babies that were still born expressing anger for a mom who had a miscarriage trying to tell them they understand. Psalm 139:13 says, "You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb". Jeremiah 1:5 says, "I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb". God knew them. He loved them. They matter. They matter just as much as the babies that are here on earth.

October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. There are "walks to remember" taking place all over the world and this country during the month of October. In Baton Rouge, the walk will be on October 5th at Forest Community Park. You can register for the walk by going here. If you have not experienced a loss, we would be honored if you would walk in memory of Harper. If you have had a loss, I encourage you to walk in memory of your baby.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Storms

Moving to Louisiana has been quite an adjustment as far as weather goes. It doesn't snow here, like at home, and summers are sauna-like. All day, every day. Every time someone from home asks how the weather is, my reply is always "like a sauna". It hasn't rained much this summer. There are pop-up thunder storms in the afternoons, but they are very spotty, and most of the time, it's not raining at our house. Once in a while, however, we get a really good storm. It pours and pours and pours. Thunder and lightning, power flickers on and off. Diva is trying to climb into my lap or running around and crying.

This pattern of storms is parallel to my grief at this point. It has been 9 weeks since we found out Harper was gone. I don't cry every day anymore. Sometimes I go a week or more without crying, and then the storm comes. Yesterday was a stormy day.

It started out like normal, hanging out playing with Joey. We didn't have any plans, so we were home playing trains and cars and crashing things, like boys do. Then the phone rang. It was an 800 number, so I already knew it was either a computer or someone I didn't want to talk to, but I answered anyway. It was someone calling from our insurance company's pregnancy program. She wanted to check on the birth of my baby. I felt like I had been punched in the gut. In a not so nice tone, I stated that my baby was stillborn in June. She said she was sorry for my loss, but that I needed to answer some questions about the pregnancy and birth, to ensure that they didn't call me again. I answered them all in an angry tone, just dumbfounded that they were actually really asking me these things. After 20 questions was over, she told me she was sorry for my loss and to have a good day.

I threw down the phone and the tears just flowed like Louisiana rain. I was sobbing and sobbing and didn't know if or when it would stop. I was trying to be quiet, so as not to alarm Joey, but I couldn't. Joey kept asking me what was wrong, and I told him, "Mommy is sad". He replied just like any man does, trying to fix it, pulling me by the hand and telling me to come "have fun". I just couldn't right then. I had to let it storm.

I finally managed to compose myself 20 or so minutes later, and we went on with our day. Then, Steve came home from work and told me that Harper's headstone was done and we could go see it. So, we piled in the car, and drove over to the cemetery. The whole way there, I just felt like I was in the twilight zone. Who does this? Who goes to the cemetery with their 2 year old to see the grave of their stillborn child? It's just surreal.

We knew that she was the first baby in the new section of the angel garden, but when we got there, she already had another little boy buried next to her, and there was another hole waiting for a tiny casket. There's a sense of comfort that her body is not alone, but sorrow that other families are experiencing this pain and are members of the club that no one wants to be a part of. I took a couple of pictures, ran my fingers over her name, and we left.

For those of you from Rochester, the cemetery where Harper is buried is very much like White Haven. There are not huge headstones, the markers are flush with the ground, and most of them have vases to put flowers in. After we left, we went to try and find some decorations for her grave, but having a 2 year-old with you isn't exactly conducive to shopping thoughtfully. We gave up and decided I could try again after Joey went to bed.

I went to a different store later that evening, when I could take my time, and found beautiful things that were just right. Some purple, yellow, and white flowers, a purple angel, and small wind chimes with a yellow butterfly. The girl at the checkout commented how cute everything was. I didn't tell her what they were for. I was excited that I found things that I really liked, but just so sad that I even have to do it. I should have a 2 week old newborn, and be completely sleep deprived, not shopping for things to decorate her grave.

Through it all, God is still here. He still hears my cries, He still loves me, and He still carries me when I don't have the strength to go on. I bend, but I do not break. The storms come, but they don't consume me. I am knocked down, but I get up. Praise be to God!


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Dear Harper

Dear Harper,

Today is your due date. Instead of anxiously awaiting your arrival into the world, we are anxiously waiting for the pictures of you. We took your big brother to see his first movie at the movie theater today, in hopes of creating some happy memories on what is now a sad day. I am so happy that you are in heaven with Jesus, but I am so sad that I didn't get to be your mommy here for more time than I did.

When Daddy and I found out I was pregnant with you, we were a little scared. Two babies? Your big brother keeps us really busy, how would we do with adding another baby? You were very much wanted and planned, but it took us one month longer than we hoped to get pregnant. Daddy, Joey, and I all have July birthdays, and we wanted you to have one, too, but God gave you a different month. You made your presence known right away, even when you were too small for me to feel your kicks. Nausea, heartburn, and fatigue were my constant companions for the first 12 weeks or so, but I knew the end result would be worth it.

When we had our first doctor appointment, they couldn't find your heartbeat, but said it was still early to hear it with the doppler, so they sent us for a quick check with the ultrasound. Your heartbeat was perfect and strong, and you were exactly the size that you should be. From then on, we had our monthly appointments at home with the midwife. Joey always liked to help her take my blood pressure, and when it was time to listen to your heartbeat, Daddy and Joey would do a little dance to the rhythm of your beating heart. Grandma and Auntie Kay Kay also got to hear that most special sound when they came to visit.

When it was time to find out if you were a boy or a girl, I was nervous. Everyone told me they thought you were a girl, but I wasn't sure. God told me right away that your brother was a boy and that I should name him Joseph, but I hadn't heard anything from God about you. I was so used to being a mommy to Joey that I was nervous whether I would be a good mom to a girl or not. They did the 20-week ultrasound, and said you were a girl, and sent us back to the waiting room to speak with the doctor.

While we were waiting, Daddy and I talked about names. We wanted your name to honor your Nannah, and also to honor my side of the family as well. I suggested Harper Pauline. Daddy said, "That's it! I love it!" Harper was your Nannah's last name before she married your Papaw Larry. Pauline was my Grandma's first name. Paul was my Grandpa's first name and your Grandpa's middle name, so it was a way to honor all three of them.

As the weeks went on, I got excited about buying things for you. The walls in your bedroom are lime green, and I was too tired to paint them, so I decided to make that color work. We bought lavender curtains, a purple rug, and your crib bedding had a white background with lime green, purple, and lavender accents. Grandma was so excited about you, it seemed like she was always sending us packages of clothes in the mail. Aunt Shelley made you a special quilt with your name on it, and Granny Ann bought you a pretty pink dress. Auntie Kay Kay bought you an LSU dress, an essential for any little Tigers fan.

At the end of May, Daddy took Joey's crib apart so that we could use it for you. Your big brother did great switching to a big boy bed. The first night was interesting, but he has done great ever since. He is such a sweet, loving, smart boy. I knew he would love you so much and be the best big brother. He does not understand what happened yet, but I promise I will explain it to him when he is old enough to understand. He will always know that he has a little sister in heaven that can't wait to meet him.

Mommy is trying so hard to not be sad, because I know you are not sad. You never had to endure anything difficult in this life, you were safe in my tummy while you were here. I wondered if you would have curly hair like me or straight hair like Daddy and Joey. We already knew you would have blue eyes, just like the rest of us, and no booty, just like the rest of us!

I was so looking forward to having you here with us - rocking you, cuddling you, watching you sleep, seeing all of your firsts - smiles, rolling over, sitting up, crawling, walking, talking. What would your first word be? Would you be as obsessed with dolls and princesses as your brother is with trains and trucks? Would you be a tom-boy or a girly girl? Or somewhere in between? I dreamed of doing girly things together when you were older - shopping, pedicures, tea parties. Would you want to wear dresses and skirts all the time? A tutu? (Even though I had no intention of buying any).

I will never know the answer to any of these questions. What I do know is that you are in heaven, and I will see you someday. I will get to be your mommy for eternity someday. I hope you know how much you are loved. Mommy misses you every second of every day. My heart hurts and it will never go away until I can see you again. You will never be forgotten. I love you, my sweet baby girl.

Love,
Mommy


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Forever changed

I am forever changed. There are many events in one's life that can be described by this statement, but none more so than losing a child. I get up everyday and do the "normal" mom stuff - making breakfast, playing with Joey, cleaning, playing, shopping, making dinner. All the while, feeling like I am in the twilight zone. Everyone is going about their day, and will never even come close to knowing what this feels like. To be happy and sad. To be laughing one minute and crying the next. To be laughing about the silly things that husbands do for their wives, and then remember the silly things we did to my dad when we were little, then to sobbing because Steve will never know what it's like. He will never know what it's like to have a tea party with his daughter, or for her to want to paint his nails, or wear funny hats, or dance with her. Yes, maybe someday we will have another daughter, but he will never have any of these memories with Harper. The only thing we have are kicks, hiccups, heartbeats.

It is difficult to not feel completely alone. Joey and I go to play dates. The kids play, the moms talk. I just feel alone. None of them can understand, and I don't want them to. I don't want anyone to be a member of this horrible, awful "club". I have been to a support group for pregnancy/infant loss, and while I know these women understand my pain, I still don't feel connected to any of them. We tell our stories, we talk about where we are now, and I walk out of the building alone.

I want to talk about my baby, about what we are doing to remember her. I want to show people her pictures, but I know they don't want to see pictures of a dead baby. I even hesitate to show them to my family. Her nose was a little smooshed on one side, and her skin was a little blotchy, just like any newborn baby's is. But it is just a shell, there is no life. Her spirit is in heaven.

I know my God is with me. I know I am not really alone, even though I feel like I am sometimes. He is still on His throne. He sees all my tears. Psalm 56:8 says, "You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book".

I know my Jesus is with me and He feels my sorrow. In John 11, Jesus came to the tomb of Lazarus, and He wept (v.35). Even though He knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead, He still felt the sorrow of death. I know I will see my baby girl again, because of the death and resurrection of Christ, and until then, she is safe in His arms.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Disappointments and blessings

Harper's due date was August 10th. With it being just around the corner, I feel such strong feelings of disappointment. We will never hear her cry, see her smile, laugh, take her first steps, hear her first words. I have so many friends that will be welcoming new babies in the next month, and while I am happy for them, I am so disappointed that I will not be sharing this experience with them. I am not angry, or jealous, I am disappointed.

Thinking about these feelings takes me back to the time in my life before I met Steve. I had such a desire to be married, to be a wife and maybe, someday, a mother. I dated here and there, but nothing was ever serious. I saw so much potential, and was always hopeful, but nothing ever worked out. If only x, y or z, this person would be perfect, why would it never work out? I prayed and prayed for God to send me a husband. I prayed for this man that I had yet to meet, but was confident that I would. Someday. Then, in December, 2009, my prayers were finally answered.

Steve is the most caring, patient, loving, smart, easy-going man I have ever met. Before Steve, when I thought of the perfect guy, my dreams could not even come close to how wonderful he is. I've never been afraid, emotionally, with him. He makes me feel safe. All the time. Even now, almost four years later, I still have a hard time believing that I am so lucky. God had the perfect husband for me, and He brought us together at the perfect time. Even during this horrible time in our lives, I know that I am blessed beyond measure.

I went through years and years of disappointment, of wondering why, of feeling sorry for myself, and now I know why. What I thought was so awful at the time, was really a great blessing. Being without my baby girl is probably the biggest disappointment I will ever face, but I trust Him. I trust that He has a plan, and my husband does, too. We know that we will be blessed with more children. God promised us more than just Joey, and I believe Him. We don't know when or how this blessing will come, but we know that it will. Someday.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I am still standing

Our summer women's Bible study at church is on Your Beautiful Purpose by Susie Larson. I missed the first 2 weeks, first due to Steve being out of town, and second, because I had just had Harper the day before. I was excited about doing a summer study, as most activities that we attend during the school year are on break for summer. I wasn't sure what the format of the study would be, but I decided to go for the third session. It was not easy. I tried to hold it together during worship, but the tears just streamed down my face. Although I don't play an instrument and definitely have not been blessed with a singing voice, singing is when I feel closest to God.

I only saw a couple of familiar faces that night, none of my friends were there. I was sitting by myself in the sanctuary, waiting for the study to begin, and a woman sat down next to me and said hello. I was grateful to not be sitting by myself anymore, but terrified of having to say anything. Luckily, the small talk did not involve children, and the study began. We sang a couple of songs, and then it was time for the speaker of the week. We then watched a video on the part of the book we would be discussing, and broke up into small groups. I went with my new friend to a table, and sat down next to more unfamiliar faces. Then, it was time to go around the table and tell a little about yourself. I knew I would have to tell what had happened, and I was going to cry in front of these strangers. I managed to say very little and explained that I may not be able to share much because we had lost our daughter a couple of weeks ago.

Everyone was very understanding, and compassionate, and they prayed for me before we started our discussion. There were a few times where I could've contributed to the conversation, but did not, because I didn't want to cry again. I did manage to say something at the end, but nothing worth noting. There was more prayer at the end, and then it was time to go.

The next week, I thought I was doing better. I completed all the homework questions ahead of time, I had not cried all day that day, and got through worship without crying (it would not be unusual for me to get teary eyed during worship before this happened, but the reason for it now made it uncomfortable for me). My friend from last week and another lady from our table were sitting with me, and we headed over to the table we sat at last week. There was a table nearby that only had a few people, so the leader and the other ladies came to our table. Great. More unfamiliar faces. I decided not to mention anything about Harper this time, as most of the women knew. I talked about how I was from upstate New York, and it was my son's 2nd birthday tomorrow. Discussion started, and I just didn't have anything to contribute. The leader from the other table asked if I had anything I wanted to share. I said "not tonight". I immediately looked down, my face turned bright red, and I was trying so hard to keep it together, but I couldn't. I was sobbing.

The grief and sorrow comes in waves, and without warning. As quickly as it starts, it can stop, or it can go on for hours, or the entire day. As I was trying to read the chapters for the next week, I was very distracted, thinking I cannot relate to this book right now. I am not in a place in my life where I'm trying to discover my purpose. But God can speak to us in moments where we don't think He has anything for us.

Yesterday, as we watched the video for this week's discussion, the author of the book said several times, "I am still standing". There were more new faces at my table this week, and I was able to say that I had a 2 year old son and had lost a daughter last month without crying. One of our discussion questions was, "what stood out to us in the video"? I blurted out, "I am still standing"! And I am, but only through the grace of God. It is not from my own personal strength. It is from God holding me up when I can't stand. It is from the prayers of people who don't even know me and those that love me. It is from the texts, emails, and phone calls. I am so grateful for everyone that has read my blog and sent me a message or a comment about it. I know that I have a purpose, and that Harper's death will not be for nothing. My greatest wish is that God would be glorified through my life and that my baby girl will not be forgotten.

I want everyone to know that all of your thoughts, prayers, and messages mean so much to me. I may not be able to respond in a timely fashion, or at all, other than to say thank you. Please know that thank you doesn't even begin to cover it. This is an emotionally draining time, and quite honestly, I am exhausted, and sometimes just don't know what to say. I have all of these thoughts in my head, but just can't always find the energy to say or write them. I find it easier to get some of my thoughts out in this format, but I will get better with responding to you with time. Just be patient with me.

I can do all things through Him who give me strength - Philippians 4:13

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Ramblings, results, and "just be"

It has been 4 weeks since she left. Harper left us sometime on Saturday, but the hardest day of the week seems to be Friday. Friday she was still alive. Kicking away like she always did. Moving when she always did. On Friday, I was still naive, thinking about how I would handle having 2 children. When would the nursery be done, would we have everything ready, would we have her at home like we planned? All of the planning was for nothing, God had different plans. We are not promised anything, so we have to make every moment count. Worry, fear, and anxiety about what's to come will not change anything, and will just rob us of the joy that can be today.

Back in February, I was worrying a lot. I wrote down all of my pregnant fears. At the top of the list was miscarriage or stillbirth. My worst fear came true. What do I do with that? If I think about what my worst fear is right now, it is that Steve or Joey will be taken away, too. I can let this fear rule my life and steal my joy, or I can give it to God and love my husband and my son and cherish every second that I have with them. I choose the latter.

In the last week or so, I have been doing a little research about cord accidents. I came across a blog by a mama who also lost her child to a cord accident, and she mentioned Dr. Jason Collins. I googled him, and found that he was in New Roads, only about an hour from where we live. Dr. Collins is one of the few doctors in the country that researches cord accidents. I found the website for his non-profit, the Pregnancy Institute, and it had his e-mail address, so I e-mailed him, not knowing if I would ever get any response. To my surprise, he responded. We were able to speak on the phone this week, and his advice for any future pregnancies is to have ultrasounds every 2 weeks starting at 28 weeks, to check for any possible cord problems.

Yesterday, I had my follow-up appointment at the OB. I was nervous all day, because I was fairly certain that the office people would have no clue that I wasn't pregnant anymore, and didn't want to have to go through telling them. Luckily, both my HB midwife and my husband called ahead to let them know. The OB told us that the official cause of death was a "true knot" in the cord. She said that the knot was very tight, and would have cut off her blood supply. We did not have an autopsy or any testing done on Harper, because we felt that it doesn't change the end result. The hospital also took 12 tubes of blood from me while I was in labor, to test for various other problems, and all of those tests came back normal.

OB also told us that if we were to get pregnant again, I would be labeled as high risk, and would receive weekly ultrasounds and BPP's (biophysical profile - test to see how baby is doing) starting at 30 weeks. She said we can try again as soon as we are ready, and that I am healing well physically. I'm not sure what to do with that. I fully expected her to tell us we had to wait 6 months. Now I feel like it's all on me - if we had to wait for my body to heal, or because the doctor said so, it would almost be easier.

I do want to be clear about one thing. I do not blame myself, or anyone else that this happened. If I had been under the care of an OB instead of my HB midwife, the outcome would have been the same. I would not have received any additional ultrasounds during the pregnancy, because I was low risk, and because I hated them (they always made me nervous when I was pregnant with Joey). My HB midwife was wonderful, and went above and beyond to stay with me and drive me to the hospital and just sit with me and talk.

When I went to Bible study at church this week, one of the women told me that God told her to tell me to "just be". That is good advice. I need to stop obsessing about the future and just be in the moment and be OK with where I am.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

3 weeks, part two

I've been putting off finishing this part of the story.  Like, if I don't finish, it somehow didn't happen.  But it did. June 23, 2013

I didn't get much sleep, maybe an hour. My son is up at his usual 6:30ish time. We get him dressed and ready to go. Waiting for the neighbor to come get him seems like an eternity. I am anxious to get to the hospital and get things going. My midwife wakes up and goes home to shower and says she will meet us at the hospital. Neighbor comes to get Joey, we give her nap and bedtime and dog feeding instructions, just in case (good thing we did). We are on our way to the hospital.

Trying to hold it together at check in for L&D. Wondering if they know that my baby is dead. I sign some papers and they buzz us in, and take us to a room. It's hot, the AC isn't working properly. I get changed into the hospital gown and wait for the nurse.  Nurse comes, she asks all the standard questions, she is nice, but I'm still apprehensive about being in the hospital. Hospital midwife comes in, sits with me, hugs me, lets me cry for a few minutes. I'm so grateful for that. She explains that we will start the induction with cytotec, to help ripen my cervix, and then switch over to pitocin. I say ok, but I am not excited about the pitocin. I had it with my son, and don't want to do it again.

I get my first dose of cytotec at 10 am. It causes some contractions, but nothing really painful. Nurse is in and out to check on me. People from church are coming in to pray with us and visit throughout the day. These people don't really know us. We have only lived here for 8 months, and it is a fairly large church. We are so grateful for these wonderful people, to come and spend time with us, to text, e-mail, and call us, to take time away from their families and lives to serve us. It helps pass the time and keep our minds off of the sorrow of the situation.

I received my 4th dose of cytotec at 11pm. I am exhausted. Nurse gives me a shot of morphine to help me rest and says she won't bother us again until 6 am, but to call if we need her. My home birth midwife goes home to rest for a few hours. At 3 am, I am starting to get uncomfortable, and tell my husband it may be time to switch to the tub room (there are only 2, and were not available when I first got there). Steve alerts the nurses and my HB midwife. Shortly after that, my water breaks. I am 5 cm dilated and we move into the tub room. I get into the tub around 3:30 am. The water is the temperature of a hot tub, which is making me sweat. HB midwife puts cold washcloths on my neck and forehead. We all watch TV and talk in between contractions. When things start to get more intense, I ask my husband to turn off the lights and put David Crowder music on. The contractions get to a point where I am starting to vocalize, and I ask my husband to turn the music off.

I am still so calm, and have been through the entire process. Only through the grace of God. When I think back about it, I cannot even fathom how I got through it. Praise God for His grace. Now I am starting to feel constant pressure. My HB midwife knows I am in active labor, but didn't realize how close I was to pushing. Then, I feel PAIN and the urge to push. I start freaking out and screaming and pushing. HB midwife runs out of the room to get the nurse and hospital midwife. People are telling me I have to get out of the tub and get in the bed. I tell them I cannot. This goes on for what seems like forever. Then my HB midwife tells me I have to stand up. I say I can't, but I do. She give me simple instructions about HOW to get out of the tub and get over to the bed, and with the help of my husband, I am able. Harper is breech, and coming out feet first. After half an hour of pushing, she is out. It is silent. No baby crying. I am numb emotionally, but in pain physically.

When she is delivered, we know right away why she died. Her cord was wrapped around her neck 4 times, around her arms and knotted. My poor baby. I wonder if she suffered, if she was in pain. They ask if I want to see her. Steve says she doesn't look bad. I just can't do it yet. The nurse gives me percocet for my pain after the placenta is delivered. I wait a little while to calm down, then I say I am ready to hold her.

She is perfect. 3 lbs 14 oz of perfection. My precious baby girl. I am sobbing. I hold her for a long time, kiss her face, and cry. Steve holds her for a little while after that, then the nurse puts her back in the bassinet. One of my HB midwife's students is coming to take pictures for us, as she is also a photographer. It sounds morbid, to take pictures of your dead baby, but when it's happening to you, I assure you, it is not. It is the only thing we will have to remember her by. The nurse dresses her in a beautiful little white gown with purple ribbon (made by the wonderful ladies from Threads of Love) and places her in a beautiful basket with a white pillow and white lace all around it. Photographer is taking a few pictures, then they leave us alone with her. I see her perfect little hands and feet. She has the stretchy hospital hat on her head, so I can't tell if she has any hair or what color it is. Photographer comes back and take more pictures. She is so sweet and gentle with us and our baby. After pictures are over, we are left alone to be with our baby again.

I am informed that I have to pee 3 times before I can be discharged. I am anxious to get home to my son, and am feeling pretty good physically. We are discharged at 2 pm, go to the drugstore for Aleve, Advil, and Benadryl, and head home.

The next few days are a blur. Thankfully, my amazing husband handled all the funeral arrangements, mostly while we were still at the hospital. Family starts arriving the next day. It is a welcome distraction. The funeral is on Thursday, June 28th. We decide to have it at the funeral home, so that we don't think of Harper's funeral every time we go to church. On Wednesday night, we go to the funeral home so that we can see her. All of our family goes with us. I am grateful that they get to see how beautiful she is. She looks like a perfect little doll in a box. It is so sad. No one should have to bury their baby. I know it helped with their grieving process, though, to be able to see her.

People from church are bringing food over every night. We are so blessed. Thursday comes. Trying to figure out what to wear to your baby's funeral is cruel. Steve's brother does the funeral. He is a pastor, and does a wonderful job. God has blessed him with such a gift, and it meant so much for someone who knows us and loves us to do her service. The worship leader from our church is able to rearrange his schedule and play 3 songs at the service for us. He does not know us, but he is a familiar face and voice, and we are forever grateful that he could play and sing for us. Worship music is extremely important to both of us.

I decided that seeing her be buried would just be too much for me, so we go home. All of our family has gone home by Sunday morning. Steve works from home the following week, and then the new reality begins.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

3 Weeks, part one

It's been 3 weeks since my baby girl went to be with Jesus.  Saturday, June 22, 2013 is the day my life changed forever.

I don't remember if I felt her move that morning.  I do remember that my 2 year old slept until 8 am, which was much later than normal.  We did our typical Saturday things - lawn mowing for my husband, breakfast, showers, watching cartoons, then we went for a drive, to nowhere in particular, just to get out of the house. Again, I cannot recall if she moved during the morning or not.  It's probably best that way.

We had lunch, put Joey down for his nap.  When baby did not move after lunch, I was a little concerned, but not panicked.  I went to lay down and take a nap.  (It was the only rest I would get for a couple of days). When I woke up, I still had not felt any movement.  I ate a cookie, laid on my side, waited 30 minutes. Nothing.  I drank a glass of juice, waited 30 minutes.  Nothing.  I texted my midwife, recapping what happened.  She did not respond right away.  After 30 minutes, I called her and got her voice mail.  I called her home number and got voice mail again.  She called back a minute or so later, and said she was on her way to my house.  Now I'm starting to panic, but not thinking the worst.

My midwife tries to find Harper's heartbeat.  She can't find it.  I am 33 weeks pregnant.  This isn't good. She tells me we need to go to the hospital.  I start crying.  We have no family anywhere near us, and we can't bring Joey to the hospital.  My husband stays with Joey and my midwife drives me to the hospital.  The ride there is agonizingly long.  It's hot in the car, I don't know if the air conditioning was working, but I don't care to ask.  I'm praying, begging God to let my baby be ok, to not let her be dead.  L&D is expecting us, as my midwife called ahead while I was saying goodbye to my little boy and my husband.

We walk into the hospital and ride the elevator to the 4th floor.  We get buzzed into the L&D unit.  They bring us to a room.  The nurse tries to find a heartbeat, she cannot.  The midwife on duty does an ultrasound. There is no heartbeat.  My world is crumbling around me.  I cannot believe what I'm being told.  The hospital midwife is sobbing with me.  I think this may have happened to her, too, but I don't ask.  They tell me they will bring up the radiologist to confirm, but that she will not be telling me anything different.  I have to tell my husband that our baby is dead.

I know that Joey hasn't gone to bed yet, so I wait.  The hospital midwife is telling me things, and I'm not really listening.  I'm crying and crying and crying.  I don't understand why this is happening, why my little girl, how can this be?  It's finally past bedtime.  I call my husband.  I say she's gone.  He wants to come to the hospital and is trying to figure out how to make it happen.  I tell him no.  I'm coming home.  I was told that nothing had to happen right then.  That I could go home and come back in a couple of days.  I don't say anything.  Or, I could come back in the morning for an induction.  They tell me there is no way to know how long my body will take to realize that she's dead.  They tell me that the longer I wait, the worse the condition of her body will be when I deliver her.  I decide to go home and come back in the morning.  We need to arrange care for my son.

I call my mom.  She and my dad are driving in the car.  I tell her the baby is dead.  Hysteria.  I'm trying to remain calm, and calm her down.  I tell her what the plan is for tomorrow, and tell her that I need to call my sister.  I have to talk more with the hospital people.  I don't call my sister right away.  By the time I do, my mom has already told her.  More sobbing.  The nurse brings my discharge papers, tells me to come back tomorrow morning.

My midwife drives me home.  Steve comes out to meet me.  We hug and cry.  He never blamed me.  I kept telling him how sorry I was.  He tells me it's not my fault.  It's no one's fault.  We go inside, and I try and get some things ready for the morning.  Steve goes next door to tell the neighbors what has happened and ask if they can watch Joey.  They agree.

We try to go to sleep. I pray and pray and pray for God to help us through this. It takes me forever, but I finally fall asleep.  After an hour, I wake up to contractions. They aren't terribly strong, but they are close together.  I don't know what to do.  I am exhausted and not thinking straight.  Steve calls my midwife, she says she's coming over and bringing her husband, in case we need to go back to the hospital right away.

Midwife checks me, I am only about a centimeter dilated, so she thinks it's fine to wait until morning, but decides to stay with us for the night.  We make up the spare bed for her and try and go back to sleep.