Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Answers (Part 2)

First off, I want to say a very heartfelt thank you for all the prayers regarding yesterday's appointment. They of course were answered. The perinatologist answered ALL of our questions; most before we even got the chance to ask them. The answers were not all exactly want we wanted however.

She immediately started the appointment by saying, "this is why your daughter died." While this may sound strange we desperately wanted and needed that information to go forward so a gigantic weight was lifted immediately. I feel so sad for some many who will not get an answer.

The following information was not as easy to hear. Basically, three things can happen to babies of diabetic mothers with high blood sugars. One they can pee off that blood sugar to adapt and cause what is called polyhydramnios (high amniotic fluid). This is dangerous and can cause preterm labor if it gets out of control. I had it very badly with Henry and some with Amelie. A lot of people have questioned why we have had two healthy pregnancies and then this. The fact is I have yet to have a healthy pregnancy.

The second is an increase in blood sugar will cause a fluid accumulation in the belly causing ascites and a fatty liver. This is when we see a super large belly on a diabetic baby. Big babies run in this family, so how do you know if that is caused by the diabetes?  Basically, a big baby that is just big cuz well mommy has big babies is big everywhere (head, legs, stomach). A diabetic big baby will often have an averaged sized head and a very large belly. In other words, the proportions are off in a baby with maternal diabetes.

The third thing that can happen is that fluid can form around the heart and continue to put pressure on the heart until the heart enlarges and goes into failure, very similar to what happens to congestive heart failure patients. This is what Claudette had. The body will compensate by putting massive fluid in all two or more compartments (hydrops fetalis), hence her ascites (fluid in the belly) and pleural effusions (fluid in the lungs). This process probably happened within minutes to hours. That is why even though I had an ultrasound with a day or so of her death no one detected it. The heart  however was getting enlarged most likely around 30-36 weeks of gestation and could have been detected by a perinatologist but not usually in a biophysical profile (BPP) like I was having done.  Here is the really hard part: if interventions were immediately performed when seen, the baby would most likely have lived since the cardiomegaly would have resolved quickly after delivery. This is hard information. Claudette's death could have been prevented.

At this point I was very upset. Basically, my daughter's enlarged heart was caused by my diabetes and not only that my uncontrolled diabetes. So I asked how with this information can we possibly in good conscience conceived another child. I did not expect her answer, "you absolutely can but many things have to happen first." First, I have to see if I can get my blood sugars in control. While I realize this seems like an easy task to many, it has caused me 22 years of struggles. I have a horrible time with control, but Dustin and I are committed fully to giving it our best shot. (And NO it is not as simple as eating less carbs.)  In a way I see this as a real blessing because there is nothing that will drive a woman into a healthy lifestyle more than the goal of having a child. Frankly, I needed this push whether or not we have more children. So Dustin and I are very committed to making this happen.

We also have to change our level of screening in the next pregnancy. I will not only have twice a week BPP but I also would have CSTs twice a week wherein they would stimulate contractions to make sure the placenta is staying healthy. In other words, I would be watched VERY closely more than I already have been.

The last thing that would have to happen is the hardest: I would have to be okay with loosing another child. No of course, no one is "okay" with loosing a child, but not go into the loony bin okay. This one is a hard one not just for me but for all of my family and friends who have suffered this loss with me. In some ways I think it would actually be the least hard on me because my heart can't be broken again in the way it already was been. The chances of loosing a baby like this again will be very little because of the interventions, but having another miscarriage or the like is a real possibility. So
as Dustin and I continue on this long journey to improved health (mentally and physically), please pray that we may glorify God in this process and seek His wisdom and not our selfish desires.

Oh and HAPPY TWO MONTHS today Claudette Elyse. They say babies smile "for real" at two months old so I hope you are smiling for real at how mommy is handling life without you.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Questions? (Part 1)

So tomorrow we go to the perinatalogist to discuss the results of the autopsy. I am super nervous to put it mildly. The report was sent to the doctor a couple of weeks ago for her to look over and then discuss with us, but I feel like my nerves are because she will most likely give us "standard" answers and not the depth in which we desire.

If you recall from my previous post the autopsy said: "cardiomegaly (enlarged heart) resulting in hydrops fetalis (massive fluid overload usually resulting in death) caused by maternal diabetes." After further research we question the results of this for several reasons. First off, my diabetes was in better control than non-diabetics at the beginning of pregnancy and in better control than any of the other pregnancies. Second, I had a horrible cough/cold for the last month of pregnancy (still really hasn't gone away) and viruses are the #1 cause of hydrops. Third, the baby had a extensive fetal echo at 24 weeks which showed and I quote the pediatric cardiologist "a very strong heart which is a testament to good diabetic control." Fourth, I had weekly biophysicals which showed nothing even up to the day she might of died. For those of you who don't know, a biophysical is like a high level ultrasound and a non-stress test in one. This one gets me. You think something would have showed up. These conditions should not just happen overnight. And fifth I was showing obvious signs of something amiss. The baby weighed over nine pounds and I was HUGE at 36weeks. Here is a picture taken around the time of that ultrasound:

So based on these facts we have a list of written questions and need thoughtful answers to each for many reasons.

#1. We need answers. Simple as that. Our child died and we want to know why.

#2.  We want to know whether her death may or may not have been preventable.  This is not to place blame on anyone. We just need to know so another child doesn't die needlessly.

#3. We need to know if having more biological children is a possibility. This really gets me. It will direct my path of grief.  If indeed the death was caused by my diabetes then it makes for a real soul searching on my part to not go down a path of guilt. If it was just a biased assumption than we need to look for other causes and decide whether or not we could handle the possibility of another tragedy. Even though the conclusions of the autopsy results were based on incomplete facts, we know we may never truly the ultimate cause.

We have about 15 or so more in depth questions with which I will not bore you with.

We are human, so we want answers. Heck, if I google "hydrops fetalis" one more time, I think my browser might explode. But ultimately any conclusion I know I should not fear because God is in control. But I would be lying if I didn't say I need more peace with all of this. So please pray for wisdom for the doctor tomorrow am but more importantly a sense of peace for us no matter what the outcome so that God's may ultimately be glorified through all of this.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Birth Story

To think where I was mentally and physically eight weeks ago sends chills down my back. About this time my nurse Maggie was prepping my belly for delivery. As I said my tearful goodbyes to family, I knew mentally there was no turning back at this point, but emotionally I was not about to accept this reality.

A comment from my endocrinologist's nurse kept repeating itself in my mind, "maybe they were wrong. Maybe she did have a heartbeat." I said a the same desperate prayer over and over as we wheeled down the hallway, "Help them to be wrong! Lord, help them to be wrong!"

My husband was at my side as they pulled her out. I heard a CRY! I heard a CRY! "Dustin did you hear that? She CRIED," I whispered to him. "No hunny, there was no cry," he responded flatly.

"11:30" Was called out. I got excited. I started thinking that about the other kids time of birth. They all were born right about lunch time (always ready for a meal my kids). Wait...was that her time of birth or death?

Dustin rushed to her side at the scale. All I remember was seeing her perfect fat leg and foot straight up in the air as they weighed her. "11 lbs, 13 oz". Wow!! No wonder I could barely walk or stand for that matter. They told me a lot of that was her fluid overload.

Dustin picked her up and brought her to me. At this point I had no intention of even holding her. I looked at her and immediately thought back to nursing school. My first experience in pediatrics was with a mother who had found out her 3 week old had a massive brain tumor and wouldn't make it. I was the one who gave this little boy his bath and dressed him for his baptism. I was the one who held him as he was dying. I remember not understanding why the mom just rocked in the corner and wouldn't hold or touch him. I understood now.  But her story was not my story. "Give me her!" I practically yelled at Dustin.

It is a moment I can't explain. She was THERE. I had dealt with many deaths in my years as a nurse, the soul always leaves almost immediately with the last heartbeat. You can feel it, see it, sense it. This is NOT what happened with Claudie. She was as there as a screaming baby. I felt it, saw it, sensed it. I thought I was loosing my mind but everyone commented on her presence.

There is NOTHING in this world I have experienced like holding her. It was amazing. It was as close to God I have ever felt. We went on to spend the next several hours with her. My sisters held her. My dad and in-laws held her. My aunts held her. My sweet friends held her. No one was left untouched after holding her.
A picture of Aunt Candy (who incidentally looks the most like my mom) holding our Claudette.

For some reason at this moment I thought what I suppose any mother at this point would think. What will her siblings think of her? We had discussed it was too much their little 4 and 3 year old minds, so had decided against it. Something was pulling at my heart strings though. I kept hearing a little hazel eyed four year old excitedly expressing his wish to hold his sister. We talked about it almost everyday for the last 8 months. "I want Henry to hold her!" I blurted out.  "No sweetheart it is too much." At the exact moment my sister walked in, "Henry won't stop asking to come in here." Thank you Lord for answering the question for me. Dustin was hiding in the corner with Claudie so as not to scare him when he first walked in (her skin was sluffing by now). I pulled Henry to my side. I said, "you know your baby sister is not going home with us right?" "Yes". "Well she is here now Henry. Would you like to see her?" "Yes". Dustin turns around and the rest was beauty revealed. He took his little hand and rubbed her little head (something frankly I was afraid to do) and kissed it. "You're pretty," he said so matter of factly that it shocked me. "Do you want to hold her?" "Yes". So he did and looked at her the same as he looked at little sister Amelie when she was born. He saw her no differently. Then he said, "I want to go play with my legos now." PERFECTION.  He loved her as only a four year proud brother could.

My dear bereavement nurse, Tricia, who hadn't left my side at this point asked how we wanted it to go from here. I knew what she meant, but how was I to answer? Do I want hours more? Do I want days more? What I wanted was a lifetime more! But my nursing instincts took over my desires as a mommy. I told them to come get her at 5pm so they could take her to Children's Mercy for the autopsy.  Dustin chimed in, "can we make 5:30?" I told them to come get her at 5:30pm, no questions asked. I told them to ignore what would be said and just take her. Mommy instincts were kicking in now. I knew that I would never actually be able to say goodbye.

We asked for a moment to just be with her. So Dustin, myself and our precious baby girl attempted to do what most do after a long birthing day, nap. We did not nap. But we did not speak either. I held her curled up in my left arm. Dustin held my right hand. We just sat there. We didn't cry for fear we would waste valuable time with our daughter weeping. 
Dustin took this of me holding her as we sat quietly.

The way the hospital is angled makes for incredible views of sunsets. We learned this the week with spent with mom before she died. November 29, 2012 was no exception. We had a large labor room with a large window. The sunset hit her face in the most angelic way. I felt her body grow heavy and cold. I felt her spirit leave. It was 4:50pm. I looked at Dustin and whispered, "she's gone." He said, "I know." I gave her to Dustin and never held her again. We continued to spend the rest of time with her and gave everyone one last chance to come in and kiss her goodbye.
You can see the sun hitting her face as she laid in my arms.
5:30pm on the nose. The nurse came in with a Moses basket and took her from Dustin's hands as he screamed, "no". There were lots of screams and cries. I don't know from who or what was being said. I only remember me watching my dad and husband embracing and crying so loudly that it startled me. I lay there shaking from the hormone shifts looking around like a deer caught in headlights. I didn't know what to do. I still don't.
What is strange is it was such a beautiful day yet filled with such devastation. Tricia told me that someone told her to write down her memories of the day she lost her sweet Drew and throw it away. She told them no, because it was all she had. It was his birthday after all. So here we are eight weeks later, which according to all the grief literature is the worse time in terms of realization of the loss and yet I remember that day with all it's tragedy as beautiful.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"It's Our Right"

It's our right to bear arms. It's our right to smoke. It's our right as women to have an abortion.

All these statements presume among other things that "our right" does not affect others. This could not be further from the truth. A man using his right to shot off a celebratory gunshot into the air on the 4th of July accidentally killed a young girl in a neighboring home playing in the yard with her family. This shot went quite a distance over trees and across a pond so far that the man didn't realize "his right" had even injured anyone until watching the evening news days later. Second hand smoke is an obvious infringement on others. But for some reason the most obvious one to me seems to not be so clear to so many, abortion.

My dear friend Trisha explains in her blog post how the actions of one affect so many, including me, because it wasn't for the choices of others I would never had the opportunity to be blessed by Trisha in my time of grief.

Here is her blog post:

On Survivor Guilt

 January 22 always hits me right between the eyes. I see it coming on the calendar weeks ahead of time and I make plans—happy plans that involve doing things with my family—things that I hope will distract me from the sober reality of the day. But then the day arrives, and inevitably I find myself hugging a box of Kleenex.
The truth is, I should have been aborted.
Okay, okay. I know I shouldn’t have been aborted because I wasn’t, but statistically, I should have been discarded the day my birth mom learned of my existence. She met all the acceptable criteria for an abortion.
Bottom line: She was unprepared and I was unwanted.
And yet here I am.
It’s almost 7pm and I am hoping the waterworks stop before my Kleenex run out, otherwise it’s going to get ugly.
Here’s the thing. We talk about children all the time in this country. Politicians use children as props to promote their causes (gun control, education, national debt). But you’ll notice that when a politician wants to discuss abortion, he puts a woman on stage and not a child.
You’ll never find children on the stage of a pro-abortion discussion. It’s a whole lot harder to talk about abortion when you’re looking at children instead of statistics.
So here it goes.
I am no statistic. I am a human being. I am the product of a relationship that didn’t last. I was not planned and likewise unwanted by those who would have been my family. My birth mother was unprepared for motherhood, didn’t have a place to live, had an ultimatum from a boyfriend, and barely had money in her pocket. But—with the help of those who saw my birth mother as a person instead of a problem—she found the courage to do the hard thing. As a result, I was adopted. I have adopted. I will adopt again.
Next time you hear people couching abortion as a “woman’s right,” consider the fact that women-to-be are aborted every single day. The only women whose rights get honored are the ones who were given life in the first place.
Today is a dark day in this country. January 22, 1973, was stamped on death certificates for millions who were not yet conceived.
That it wasn’t stamped on mine is something I pray I will never take for granted.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Nursery

Hey little Miss!
I got super down and sad tonight thinking about the love and thought that went into the your nursery and yet you never got to see it. You was never able to enjoy the pretty little details that I prepared just for you. It also depressed me to think that I couldn't show it off to others without pity looks and "so sad" statements. So I decided to stop pouting and show it off. Here are some of the highlights of your nursery:

Your nursery!
When I first envisioned a look I thought modern. Chevron is close as mommy gets to modern I guess. I found the lamp and pink "C" sitting in corner of grandma's and I favorite store, TJ Maxx the first time I went shopping after she died. I was so excited I texted a picture of it out right there in the store.

LOVE these vintage finds I have discovered over the years.
Sorry baby, mommy has a flair for the dramatic. But seriously someone would be crazy to pass up this vintage $25 craigslist find!

Most comfortable rocking chair EVER. All ready to read our favorite book "You are My Sunshine".

The crib has been passed down through each of your older siblings. It was picked out with much love by daddy and mommy. Oh if only you knew the drama that went into this bedding. The moment mommy saw it at PB kids she had to have it!! I was saving (and selling at Rhea Lana) to pay for it. Grandma said enough is enough and decided to just buy it outright for your birth gift. Turns out the darn thing was on back order not to arrive til late November at the earliest. Long story short it arrived just in time.  I was sooo excited when it arrived. That was the night before we found out you were never to see it firsthand.

The beautiful jewelry box grandma gave me sits on your nightstand.

 As close to crafty as I get...

 I decided on an elephant theme for your nursery. They have always been my favorite animal and it seems fitting since grey was one the colors I chose for your nursery. Now every time I see an elephant I feel you saying "hi". Love the Bible your Great Aunt Sherry gave you.

Mommy LOVES Craigslist. $20 changing table find!

 Another elephant themed thing I found in Boulder. Couldn't pass it up.

My $10 Rhea Lana find. Matches nicely huh?

Some clothes to add to your collection despite the hundreds you already had from big sis:
Dramatic little shoes from who else? Aunt Ally

 I love these pjs because Henry and Amelie have matching striped ones. So looking forward to a photo op with these.

 Going home outfit...of course vintage Ralph Lauren.

I mean seriously? The leggings. Need I say more.

 I LOVED this frame also purchased in Boulder. I thought a going home picture would be perfect in it. It is one of the hardest things in the room to look at for mommy because it is empty.

The precious baby book your Aunt Audra got for you. It turned out to be your guest book at your funeral and has all kinds of sweet sentiments written to you.

Amelie has had every pair of girlie shoes that exist, but for some reason I thought you needed a pair of chux!

 Daddy almost had a cow when he realized how much these muslin "swaddlers" cost. Only the best for you my love.

 Seriously, we were R.E.A.D.Y. Down to the diaper pail liners.

 Mr. Elephant


 The gorgeous blanket made with love by my sweet friend Nicole and pink teddy from your Aunties.


Your going home outfit and keepsakes the sweet nurses made for us to remember you by.

 Another great find at my fave TJ Maxx. Your brother and sister are always stealing it from your room so they can reach things around the house.

 Geoffrey the Giraffe watched out over the crib for both Henry and Amelie and was in place to do the same for you. (Sorry Geoff for the pink tutu.)

Big sister's picture is in your room. Random I know...but honestly it won't fit anywhere else. New parent mistake: buying big pics of your kids.

 This pic was given to mommy by your Great Grandma on her 13th coming of age trip. I actually remember saying, "it's so beautiful I will pass it down to my girls."

We are still not sure what exactly to do with all the lovely things we purchased with you in mind. Perhaps, someday your little brother or sister will sleep in your bed, wear your clothes, or bounce in your bouncy. Perhaps, we will donate a lot of it to charity. But for now we are going to touch a thing!
This is the view from the door. Daddy always leaves the light on for you every night and I always wish you a "goodnight" on my way to bed. So "goodnight" sweet Claudette Elyse.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Words/Phrases that Drive Me Nuts

Angel baby  The idea is amazing. I mean it implies your child has angels wings and is watching out for us. Cool, right? Yes, there is some comfort hearing this, but for some reason from the first time I heard when I lost the twins it immediately took away their humanity. It took away my ability to be their mom. I am not the mom of cherub. I am the mom of chubby baby. Angels don't wear cute little clothes and spit up all over them. Angels don't cry from 3-5pm because they are gassy. Babies do.

"God needed another angel." See above. And might I add this one really adds zero comfort.

Miscarriage  The prefix "mis" is what throws me off I think. Like I carried the baby wrong or "missed" the mark or something. It almost implies wrong doing on the mother's part.

Stillborn In a way I like this term cause it actually says they were "still" born, meaning they actually existed on this earth. In a different vein I hate it because it implies they are "still" or stiff. It congers imagines of rigor mortis. I HATE it for that reason. Probably the worse reason I don't like this term is because I think a lot of people don't really understand what it means. By the way it means a loss of pregnancy after 20 weeks.

Rainbow baby This is a new one to me. I had to google it because I kept hearing it. Basically it is the term for having another baby after loosing one. I am sorry but it just sounds dumb. I get the sentiment that like a rainbow after a storm there is hope. But not only does it sound silly in my opinion it also kind makes it sound like all is well if you just have another baby. It probably also hurts because technically my rainbow baby died.

"It happened a reason" Ok,  thanks so did my morning BM.

"It was for the best" How is my baby dying for the best? How is my mom dying for the best? Yes, yes I get it; their suffering ended. But wouldn't the best be them not suffering and living a great life with us? I don't completely mind this one though because I know it ultimately is for the best because heaven is the way better than a life here.

"You have two beautiful children." What I hear: "At least you have other kids."  Kids aren't interchangeable. I think before I had kids my desire was just to simply be a mom and didn't realize the specialness of each individual child and pregnancy and therefore the unique connection that was made at each time I saw a pink line.

"You will have another child someday." What I hear: "Someone will replace Claudette." Seriously, if you lost your mom no one would say you will have another mom someday.

"Maybe your life was spared for hers?" My personal favorite (or least favorite). I mean seriously, does any mother want to choose their life over their child's? To me it also takes away the importance of her life. I don't think anyone would say that to a parent who lost a five year old.

You are probably thinking by now, "Geesh, we are just trying to help! I am never going to talk to her again." Honestly, everything I said above (well except that comment about your life being spared for hers) is ok to say to me. The fact is I used to use and still use some of these terms and phrases. It comes from a good place when people are telling me my baby is an angel. I know this. There real reason that all this causes me pain is well because death is painful. I want my mom's life to be more important than "for a reason". I want to remember my daughters ten fingers and ten toes she did have not the angel wings she didn't. 

Ok, I feel better.

Addendum 3 months later...
Probably the words that drive me MOST nuts are:
"Can't think of anything that has been more painful that NO WORDS! Say something for crying out loud! SAY SOMETHING! You are afraid your words will be hurtful, there is nothing more hurtful than  SILENCE! I will give you too words you can say, "I'm here."

Monday, January 14, 2013

Harder Than I Thought

I knew the this was going to be difficult. I knew it was going to be take my breathe away with the pain sometimes. I knew it was going to be impossible to feel like I could go on at times. I knew the days would grow dark and sad. With all that it is still harder. I am sitting here in a messy house surrounded by Kleenex and cranky kids and I all I can do is sob. I don't know what to do.
Have you been there? So sad and overwhelmed you don't know the next step to take. That is where I am at.

Friday is what started the downward spin. I woke up to someone being offended by my blog. Hard because when I write it I am in another world of sorts. I get it all out and then often read it back through with the rest of you. It often feels like I have just had a great workout after I am done, exhausted but feeling better. I don't write to hurt others. The exact opposite really. I feel like if I am having these thoughts others must too.  I hesitated to even continue with the blog, but Dustin convinced me to continue.

Then mid-morning I had my six week post op check up. This was my first appointment without Dustin since it happened. The receptionist forgot to let my nurse know that  I was there immediately, so I had to wait a bit with a bunch of ladies about to pop and a couple of cute newborns. As much as it hurts, I do love seeing babies so  I was fine. Afterward, I picked up my hungry kids and went home. Let's just say they were less than perfect. By 3:30 I needed a margarita! Bad!

As soon as I sat down the phone rang. Dr. Mitchell. Maybe, I left something at the office? Nope. It was him calling me the autopsy results which ironically had been dropped on his desk during our appointment earlier that day. He offered us to come in. I said no and I wanted to hear them then. I grabbed the pen and pad we normally use for the grocery list. The results hit me like a ton of bricks. I wasn't expecting us to have any answers really especially that early. I knew they could be back as early as 4 weeks but when we didn't have them back at the 6 week appointment I thought it would be months before we would get the results. I heard the doctor state lots of big words. Some words I understood from my medical experience, some I did not. The words I understood: macrosomia (a big baby), ascites (fluid in the abdomen), cardiomegaly (enlarged heart). Then a word I didn't: hydrops fetalis. It basically means severe edema in babies that is often fatal. Liver had been dead for 4-7 days. Other organs showed a time of death of a week previous. So she died most likely on Thanksgiving or very close to. And then he read the a part of the summary that devastated me more than anything I have ever heard in my life...most likely caused from maternal diabetes.

I continued to talk but I collapsed mentally right there. I could handle if I went blind or lost a limb because of this stupid disease but NO not the death of my child!! It is more than I can handle. I have had diabetes for 22 years and really not a single complication and this has to be the fate of this horrible disease?!

The guilt consumes me. I haven't slept more than an hour since I found out. Logically, I understand that I didn't do anything intentionally to hurt her, but it still doesn't change that fact that if I didn't have diabetes she would most likely be alive. And YES I know God was ultimately in control and the guilt is the devil's way of seeping in. And NO I don't want to hear, maybe she would be worse off if she lived or that my life was spared for hers. I will find a way to deal with all this I am sure someday but for now it is just harder than I thought.
We spend Saturday afternoon placing flowers on Claudette Elyse's grave. It is all so surreal.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Real Men Cry

I have been thinking a lot today about how grief effects men, namely the men in my life. I have had to lean on the men in life so much of late, all of them even the little guy who is pretending to be Fireman Sam right now.

Henry is my very thoughtful and pensive little four year old. He told us there were two babies in my belly well before we learned of the twins. He told us that Claudette was girl before I had the first ultrasound. He has always been super perceptive and with that has comes sensitivity. He much more than my daughter I have found needs hugging and reassurance. It has been really hard to see him deal with the disappointment and grief of loosing his sister. He asked me a couple of nights ago with tears in his eyes, "why do babies die before they live?" He is always asking questions like this. His sadness seems to always be at the surface.  I love his sensitivity however, because it also results in great compassion and truth be told what every mom really loves, more cuddle time with mommy. But what will happen when he is say a 32 year man?

Well if  the apple doesn't fall from the tree, then I lucked out, cause the 32 year old version of Mr. Henry is a thoughtful, kind and yes even sensitive man. No, that doesn't mean Dustin doesn't enjoy football as much as the next guy, but it does mean he isn't afraid to dare I say it...cry. For those of you who say real mean don't cry, then they haven't met my husband, because he is the real deal. I have never thought he was more manly when he was holding our precious little girl and crying, and not just tear in the corner of the eye but really bawling. I don't think I have ever loved my husband so much as that moment.

As my husband was overcome with tears, my tearful dad came over and embraced Dustin. While I joked that my support system was falling apart, I was actually so touched at the open emotions the men in my life show. They didn't try to stay strong for me and keep it all inside. In actuality it was more helpful that they didn't bottle up their emotions. I loved that they cried and cried and didn't care who saw or heard them.

But in reality men do not cry and vocalize their emotions as much as women. This often leaves the large portion of well wishes and good thoughts directed toward the women. It makes me sad for Dustin. While I have such a huge support system, Dustin has close family that haven't acknowledged the death of our daughter. About two weeks after we lost her, someone actually asked him, "so are things back to normal now?" He took it in stride as he does everything, but it would be ignorant of me to not know that it hurts him as much as it would me.

I also have watched my dad take things in stride with some supernatural strength.  They both inspire me so much in my own journey. I have gone to them for wisdom on so many matters and how to navigate this difficult time. They are always there for me and I realize their sadness is just as close to the surface as little Henry's. I don't pretend to understand the differences between men and women, nor do I wish to, but I do know this: we both feel the same amount of sadness and loss.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


My mom would be so disappointed in me.  I am sitting here looking at dozens and dozens of thank yous I have yet to write. She always taught us to be very grateful for anything given to us and do so with a thank you card. I have more people than I can name that need thank yous.  Over the course of the last five weeks we have inundated with cards, meals, grief books, hugs, childcare, even an oil change when we were in the hospital. Last night we feasted on a delish meatloaf. A friend brought the kids and I lunch today. I just received a text to check on me as I am writing this. All these thoughtful acts of kindness have left me feeling overwhelmed with gratitude. Truth be told a simple "thank you" is not sufficient. I can't put my gratitude into words, so I was very relieved when Sunday's sermon did it for me.

Perhaps, I am just overly emotional right now, but it was the "bring you to tears" type of sermon that changes you. I have heard the sermon on the John 13:1-17 many times throughout my Christian upbringing. I mean what Christian hasn't heard the sermon on Jesus washing the disciples feet? But the Pastor brought something out that I had really thought of (or lived) before now. What is love? Love we always think of as an emotion, but emotions are not reliable and change from day to day (or second to second as in my case). Furthermore, Christ never shows us love as an emotion but as an act. We find that act in the sacraments. We also find in the act of humility and kindness toward another. Christ as the Messiah washed feet. Gross, dirty, stinky feet! In that time it was seen as the most lowly of task. Most slaves wouldn't even be caught dead washing feet.  It is really powerful if you really think about it. I mean we like to sing songs from K-Love and go to our beautiful churches on Sunday, but how many of us wash feet?

Literally, I have washed feet hundreds of times; I am a nurse after all, but figuratively I am horrible at this. I never really truly knew what it meant. Blessed are those who have "washed my feet" because it opened my eyes. Washing feet is sending a text out the blue to check on someone, making a dinner when someone is too distracted to think about cooking, a hug and no words, offering to take down your Christmas decorations, an oil change when an oil change is the last thing on your mind, dragging bulky play equipment a block so your neighbors can enjoy it when you move. YOU all have washed my feet. I am blessed by YOU. Now, I must go on and show the love Christ wants me to and wash others feet...and yes mom I will finish writing some thank yous too.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

We have FIVE kids?!

About 90 minutes into our first date, Dustin asked me how many kids I wanted. I remember the moment so vividly mainly because it was a shocking question. I was standing right in front of Restoration Hardware on the Plaza. I looked at my shy date like he was crazy, but truth be told I think I realized I was in love with him right then and there. I was so excited to have kids and a whole LOT of them, so being asked that question was incredible. I told Dustin I wanted 8 of course. It was all I knew and I loved everything about being a part of a big family. Dustin said he wanted 5. As the years went on I decided five was perfect...8 was too many, 4 wasn't quite enough, 5 it would be.

Throughout the course of our marriage, we loved dreaming of our five children (Don't tell Dustin, but I secretly had them all named and renamed a bizzion times). We liked the idea of conceiving three and adopting two.

Henry was born and we were over the moon. Then his little Irish twin, Amelie,  was born 14 months and 1 day later. Thanks for the fertility gene mom!

My health was not great, so I was focusing on getting things "in control" before we conceived again. I think God giggled at that "in control" idea and much to my shock I was pregnant again. I'm not sure who was more excited me or my mom when she found out we were having twins. She was a twin herself and her twin sister's daughter was expecting twins as well. It was an incredible time!

This is what 6 weeks looks like with twins after you just had two over ten pounders:

Later we found out they shared the same sac and same amniotic fluid making them identical twins, which is not a result of heredity, but rather just a "chance" happening. This was even more shocking because our families combined make for seven sets of fraternal twins, which are highly hereditary. And then it dawned on my we would have 4 children under 3!!! YIKES!!! Things just kept getting more exciting!

By 10 weeks, I had several ultrasounds to rule out what is called MOMO twins. Basically, it means there is no divider between the babies and it often results in the cord entanglement. It requires hospital bedrest and monitoring sometimes as soon as 20 weeks. Despite hearing that I can honestly say I NEVER thought for a moment we would loss either of them. I can still see the ultrasound screen when the perinatologist told us neither of them had a heartbeat any longer. The babies were holding each other. It was heart-breaking.

I told myself that they would always be remembered. I told the kids they each had a guardian angel watching over them. I cried and cried and cried for weeks. It changed me. It devastated our family.

Something in us clicked and Dustin and I felt we needed to try to get pregnant again as soon as possible. So when we found out about little Claudie we were back on track for our 3 conceived babies and 2 adopted. I was assured a thousand times from everyone lightening doesn't strike twice. "No the last miscarriage wasn't a predictor of another." "Yes, this pregnancy was going fine." By 38 1/2 weeks I was convinced. You all know what happens next.

So when someone asked me yesterday how many kids did we had, I didn't know how to answer it. I mean how do you answer that question? I answered two. I felt so guilty, but I didn't want to make them feel bad about asking and answer two with an angel baby. Or do I answer two, with an angel baby and two other smaller angel babies?!

I don't know and quite frankly I can't stand  saying "angel" baby when it comes to Claudette. I feel like perhaps the twins are angel babies because they went from my womb to God's arms directly. But with Claudette she went from my womb to my arms. She was a child. It takes away her humanity some how. It is just another one of those terms that really bothers me, like stillborn. OK, that is a topic for another day.

Anyway, I just stood there like a deer in headlights not even knowing how to answer how many children I have. I have thought about that question so many times since her death. I know in our hearts and minds we have five child. No, it was not how we dreamed. No we don't have a table full of kids right now as we often discussed. But God has fulfilled our dream. How crazy does that sound? I watched a video last night of a woman who had two miscarriages back to back and when pregnant with her third she told God he could have this baby too. I had an epiphany. These five children that I thought I planned, were planned by God. They are His and I am His. So despite my sadness I am grateful my dream came true and that we have five kids.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

January 3rd

Sorry for those of you have a birthday or anniversary or the like today. But what a depressing date: January 3. The 2nd you still have the holiday high and are kinda happy to be back in the swing of things. The third reality hits. You must get up every morning in the freezing cold and continue on until the next holiday, Valentine's Day, rolls around. (Yes, I love that hallmark holiday.) Now you just have to continue back to the grind of work, school, life. I know, I know, I sound very depressing.

But today was especially hard for me for the above listed reasons and that I received some "unedited" photos of her birth. For those of you have had a baby that died in the womb you know what I mean by unedited. Yes, I will treasure those pictures dearly in time and do already in a way. I am also deeply grateful to my dear friend and nurse for taking them for us.  However, for now I would be lying if I said they didn't hurt to see her that way. The most difficult aspect to see how my husband and I look. I was in shock for the first week I think, so I didn't realize what was happening most of the time. Seeing the look on our faces as we held our gorgeous daughter is alarming. Let's just put it this way, it is not the look you are supposed to have when you first lay eyes on your baby. Grief and shock fills our faces. But it is most beautiful to also see how much love was in our eyes the moment we saw her.  I never connected with my other children the first time I held them. She was different. I connected immediately. In fact, I felt I knew her personality before she was born and I knew I was right the moment I held her.

So when my husband arrived home from his work day, he found me in bed and sobbing. I hate to admit it, but it is true. I also started a new medication that makes me very nauseated and I struggled with blood sugars issues all day and stir crazy children so I was done by the time 5:30 rolled around.
My sweet hubby looked at the pictures, took his turn to grieve for a few moments, then looked at me and said, "I will get the kids ready. You look great. Let's get out of this house." Looked great?! Ya right! Concealer has become my best friend lately and I still have permanent dark circles and puffy eyes.

Going out was momentarily set back by seeing a darling little girl that looked like Claudie in the same carseat that she had, which is weird because I searched high and low for that color and make of carseat. And it didn't help that we saw the same dress we buried her in on clearance. But despite all that my wise husband was right. Sharing a salad, a little retail therapy and a redbox helped a bit.

So now I will snuggle up next to him and watch a movie and prepare myself for January 4- the first day back to preK for the little man.

An edited picture of the day...

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

When Glory Meets My Suffering

Saturday night we had a delightful dinner with friends. You know as grown-ups. No children menus. No trying to decide if mac n cheese or grilled cheese is more nutritious for your kid. It was so nice...and rare! Both of us realized neither couple had gone out with other couples in YEARS, like before we had kids years.

They are going through a loss as well and it nice to encourage each other in faith and frankly just vent and relax. They also have a scrumptious little 6 month old that crawled all over me and chewed my face. I now love getting my hands on a baby, especially newborns. I swear I almost stole a baby when I was in labor and delivery, unfortunately none in hospital were as cute as my Claudie so I went home empty handed.  I have heard it is called "empty arms syndrome". I hate to admit it but I sleep with a Claudette's elephant stuffed animal. At first as a way to splint the incisional pain, now as way to keep my arms from feeling empty. I need a bigger stuffed animal though. It doesn't feel like her since it doesn't come close to twelve pounds.

After about FOUR hours of chatting away, our friends needed to get their little one down and go home to their other children. We however, had Dustin's mom watching our kiddos overnight and despite wanting to crawl in bed ourselves, we decide to take advantage of the rareness of the occasion with a late-night cocktail.  We went to our favorite place for such a treat, McCormick and Schmidt's, not only for their AMAZING fresh drinks, but also because it overlooks the beautiful Plaza lights. So as I sipped my white sangria and Dustin his Bailey's and coffee we reflected.

White Sangria and Bailey's and Coffee...oh ya and dark chocolate espresso cake.

It was Dec 29th. Claudette was born and died on Nov 29th. One month had gone by. How differently we saw this month as going. My dear friend that went out with us to dinner gave us a card. Basically, it was a congrats card that we had made it through one month. That we were where we never thought we would be, but we had none the less arrived and God had seen us through and would continue to do so. It meant so much to me, not only had someone noticed the month of our daughter's birth, but someone had also acknowledged the struggle the last four weeks truly had been.

Then it hit me. She wrote that card so beautifully, because she had been there. She had traumatic events in her life that changed her similar to my change. No it wasn't the loss in the same form as mine, but it was loss and with the loss came grief and sadness all the same. After mom died immediately you know who has been there. You recognize it in their tone, their words and in their silent demeanor. It is club you don't want to join, but you have no choice. So you cling to others that have been there too. It is like it is your first day as a freshman in high school after being home schooled (I say this b/c I can related to that one) and you are looking for another person in the same boat. All of a sudden you see someone else with fear in their eyes and bam you are best friends.

I have thought a lot of how the parents of Sandy Hook first graders must feel. Logistically, their small little town was overwhelmed with death, so much that they had schedule their funerals two at a time. I imagine how they can't find solace in social media like I did, because instead of hearing only uplifting messages there were gun debates going on almost as violent as shooting itself.  I felt horrible for them...still do. I imagine they did as I did.  I imagine they looked around for that person that understands. I see them all clinging desperately to each other, saying little, crying a lot.

So as Dustin and I sipped on our cocktail we realized we are now people that others will search for during a tragic time. I felt the strong need to do something with this unwanted responsibility. I thought about writing a book, but let's be real, nothing I write would be published. (Heck, I have questioned comma placement 32 times in this post alone.)  So I thought about what I need. I want something real, tangible and daily that I could go to whenever I wanted to vent and read and interact. Thus, I have decided to start a grief blog. It may help no one but me, but I pray others will find it helpful on their journey to read about mine.

Here is an example of how we help each other in grief. As I was posting this blog. This song was sent to me from a new friend that found me in my time of grief, because her dear son was taken from her arms as well. I have heard the song a dozen times, but it has never meant as much as it does now.
Listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxqfDs-64I0


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy 2013

Today I read two books. I haven't done that, well, since I was competing for a free Pizza Hut personal pan pizza from Mid-Continent Public Library. Normally, I would be thrilled to have the time to do so...two toddlers leave little time for books other than Max and Ruby. But today it leaves me sad. Today, I should be consumed by diapers and nursing and chasing after her brother and sister. I shouldn't be cuddled up in bed reading grief books all day, while my husband keeps the kids at a distance. I shouldn't have time to read or sleep or eat. But I do, and too much of the latter.  I should be the mother of three kids not two.

It is officially the first day of 2013. A day I have longed for since the first few minutes of 2012, when I was cleaning up after a three year old sick little boy with the stomach flu. Boy, I had no idea what 2012 really had in store for me at that point.

Later on in January, I had to have gallbladder surgery. Again, at the time I thought horrible.

February kidney stones that resulted in my blockage of my right kidney and therefore a 3 day hospital stay.
By March I was done. We had been trying to recover from the miscarriage of identical twins the July before and were desperately trying to conceive. Another failed pregnancy test! I threw in the towel.

Then April hit and my period didn't. PRAISE GOD! Things were turning around. 

Then May and BAM! My mom whom had seemed to be doing better from an autoimmune disease and was finally an official candidate for a kidney transplant, took a horrible turn for the worse on Mother's Day.  A week later she was gone. Mother's Day was the day I was to announce publicly  I was pregnant. Instead, it was a day spent holding the phone to mom's ear so she could say "goodbye" to her other 6 children out of town.

June I started bleeding...bad. I had never had a bleed like that before and Dustin and I were sure our little button nose was gone. Thankfully, it was a fairly common issue in pregnant women and only resulted in bed rest for a few weeks. I laugh every time I hear that word "bedrest". As if it is possible with toddlers.

The following months of the summer were riddled with various "bumps".  Not the least of which was a massive outbreak of lice which traveled amongst the grandkids who all slumbered together for mom's funeral. But we tried to remain strong and overall were doing pretty good despite the huge hole my mom left with her absence.

By August it was decided it was best to stop working long 12 (actually 13) hour night shifts. Financially-strained is nice way of putting it.  

Fall things seemed better. I LOVE fall. We did all the usual things that a 7/8month preggo can do. October we celebrated the Amelie's birthday then our anniversary two weeks later.

Then November. Once my favorite month. My birthday on the 16th was spent at the funeral of my husband's beloved grandma. Dustin tried desperately to make the day special for me but at this point there just seemed to be too much grief (we also lost a great uncle, 2nd cousin, and dear family friend) and the first birthday without my mom was just too much. I was sick of explaining death to my kids. Thanksgiving came and we were ready to RELAX. Relax we did and plenty of it. We had a lovely day and spent the whole weekend taking the kids to Santa, putting up a tree and having a blast. I was SO happy. I was to delivered in 6 days!!! I had no clue my little button nose had died sometime between turkey and putting up Christmas lights. So now November marks death of our daughter.

December marks her funeral. A funeral that my father was forced to miss because he had to have immediate open heart surgery.

I write all this not to depress you (and me) but to outline why I am so done with 2012. But now it is 2013 and nothing magical happened at midnight. I didn't call my mom today and tell her Henry vomited again this year too. I don't get to snuggle with my daughter and feed her. Instead, I read two books. I watched the kids sled outside sad that I couldn't because I was still healing from the physical scars.  I listened to Dustin tell me about how our final working bathroom no longer works because of a huge plumbing issue. And I would be lying if I didn't say I am sad and overwhelmed already this year. But I also realized something: this earth is temporary, so we must take every second to live in the moment and use it for the greater GLORY! Who knows 2013 could be worse than 2012 and maybe 2014 will be the worst yet in terms of our earthly pain and suffering. Despite all the pain 2012 gave, it taught me intangible lessons about myself. Lessons one does not learn when blinding going through life.  One day SOON we will be re-united with our lost loves and that gives me great hope, but for now I am on this beautiful earth with my beautiful loved ones for a reason... So HAPPY 2013!

 Henry and Amelie ringing in the New Year