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.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What to say....

It's been 17 days since baby Harper was born still, and 19 days since we found out she no longer had a heartbeat.  I miss my baby girl every single day.  I cry every single day, multiple times a day, but I laugh every day, too.  My 2 year old little boy and my husband are my reasons for getting up, and for trying to keep going.

The hardest part of life, thus far, has been interacting with other people.  Most everyone just doesn't know what to say.  I get it, I don't really know what to say, either.  My least favorite question, and the one that people seem to ask most frequently, is "How are you doing"?  My child is dead.  How do you think I'm doing?  I usually say I'm doing ok, and try to change the subject.  However, the most hurtful thing has been the people who say nothing at all.  The people that know that we've lost our precious baby girl, that was just 7 weeks away from her due date, and have said NOTHING.  No acknowledgement of the life that was lost. It hurts me deeply.

Then there are the people that completely surprise me.  The people that don't really even know me, but feel so deeply for me, and cry with me, pray with me, have a heavy heart with me.  People that have made me feel like she mattered, and she did.

My life will never be the same.  My family will not be whole again until we are all reunited in heaven.  I find solace in knowing that we will be together someday, and I will be able to know the sweet baby that I carried for 8 months, that Joey will be able to meet his baby sister, and we won't have to cry anymore.