One year ago….

I was sitting at my mother’s bedside. She had been admitted to Hospice two days before and they said it wouldn’t be long. It was Monday morning and I sat there watching HGTV because what exactly are you supposed to do at a bedside of someone who is lingering between heaven and earth? I felt like I should pray or something but after hours and hours of praying and talking to her, I just needed to take a mental break. I was sitting there alone at about 9am and wondering where everyone was. I wondered where my friends and family were and I wondered how long it would be before mom passed over. There is nothing quite like sitting at a deathbed. There are no rules and time seems to drag on forever and the world outside keeps going while your world has stopped. Around 10 my pastor came in. He talked with me and prayed with me and for mom. He said he felt like it wouldn’t be long, and I figured he knew more about these things than me having been at many deathbeds before. The nurse came in to give her a bath and then the doctor came. They kept asking me if there was anything else she would have wanted because no one could figure out why she was lingering. I turned off the HGTV and turned on Classical music, she loved music. She was in the choir at church and loved classical church music. She made it widely known her feelings of disdain for the new, loud, church songs of the last 20 years or so. Give her Handles Messiah or hymns and she was happy. She seem to settle some after I turned on the music. It amazes me what music can do, even for those you think might not hear it. It’s truly one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. Around 11 my cousin came in and my friend Kim. We sat around and talked and ate some lunch and shortly after that Mom’s breathing changed and we knew it was close to the end. We gathered at her bedside. We prayed and read scripture and she passed into glory. It was an experience I will never forget. It was both beautiful and traumatic. I cried and also felt relief that it was over. I hadn’t really expected to be there when she passed, to be honest. I figured she would pass during the night when I was gone. I didn’t have any idea what it would be like to watch her pass. It was hard. There was something in me that just knew it was not how it was meant to be. We are supposed to live forever, we were never supposed to die and our souls know. I thought if I was there I would probably be alone. That morning I felt sorry for myself because I was alone and wondered where everyone was. Little did I know God had the perfect time. He sent the perfect people I would need to be with me as she passed. They loved and consoled and helped me through it. They were people my mom loved dearly and we were all three like her children. They were there with me at most of the happiest and saddest times of my life and how fitting they would be there for this as well. I cannot say thank you enough to them for being there.

There is so much about that day I wanted to remember and so much I’d rather forget. I still can’t wrap my mind around the idea that she is gone. I think I will see her or she will call. But she won’t. I didn’t realize how much not having parents on this earth would effect me. It’s a really odd feeling. It feels like you have lost your past. Shortly after she passed I found a photo of myself and my parents on vacation and I wondered where we were. I realized that I have no one to ask anymore. It’s unsettling, but at the same time I am so thankful for the memories of her. That I had a wonderful mother and because of that I have a huge hole in my life that she left there. I have read that you don’t even fully process that a loss has occurred until a year later, and I think that’s true. I’m just now coming to terms with it I think. I used to dream of her. In every dream I had she would be there, but she’s not anymore.

It’s an odd club to be in, the no parents club. Most people in this club are much older than me. I feel cheated in some ways, having to deal with this so young, but in others I think it’s a gift. I’m still raising my kids and I think losing a parent when you are still raising young kids makes you a better parent. You see the long game and don’t get so wrapped up in the little messes. This year has been challenging on the parenting front. My special kids have been in crisis and my infant had a traumatic delivery and then now is dealing with food allergies. While all this is difficult, I know that in the end it means nothing. All these challenges will pass and my kids will grow up and leave the house, at least I hope so lol. They will become adults and I hope they will remember we loved them and always tried our best to give them what they needed. I hope they know we are proud of them no matter what, no matter their ability or not. I hope they will remember they had a grandmother who loved them and instilled in them a love for God and a love for hard work and determination. She has left a legacy of faith and love.

We’ve made it a year without her. I wasn’t sure I would. There were some dark days, but we kept moving forward, as time does. Today, mom, we remember. We will eat pizza and pecan pie in your honor and remember how much we loved you and how much you loved us.

Advertisements

Ready, Aim, Fire!

Recently my oldest son turned 15. We started talking to him seriously about his goals in life and what he wants to be when he grows up. We have talked about this before, but now we are taking steps toward his goals and that is a sobering thought to me. It’s not the 8 year old saying he wants to be a astronaut and you say ‘Nice honey’ and move on. These goals are forming the trajectory of his life. I have been doing a lot of praying about how to help him with this. I very intimidated about helping someone plan what they will do in their life. It’s a big deal! As I was praying this vision came to me.

Psalm 127:4 “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.”

Our children are our arrows and we have the job of launching them in the right direction. There are stages to that process: ready, aim, fire!

Ready:

Most of your child’s life is spent in the “ready” phase. This is from birth till about high school. It’s when you are training them and molding them into the person they will be. This is when you are teaching them to tie their shoes and how to be a good friend. You teach them values and morals. This is like crafting the perfect arrow. If one little thing is off in an arrow it will not fly and hit it’s target. Now before you freak out, it’s not all about you! As a young parent you think that the success and failures of your children fall solely at your feet. If your baby doesn’t sit up on time or eat his vegetables, it’s all your fault. If your child doesn’t make good grades or isn’t popular in school, it’s your fault. As you grow as a parent you realize it’s not solely up to you. You are a good part of who they turn out to be but it’s also a matter of God given traits and their own choices that decide who they are. You are not responsible for those things. That should take some pressure off. Each child is his own person and make his own choices.

Aim:

This stage starts at around high school. The hard work of parenting is over, (Hahaha) Everyone in this stage will attest that the hard work has just begun. Granted you aren’t changing diapers and doing midnight feedings anymore, but the worry and stress of the teenage years is real. You can’t really understand it till you have one. This is when you are aiming your child in the direction that is right for them.

Proverbs 22:6 “Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

If you read this flat you would think that it’s saying that if you are a good parent and do it all perfectly that your child will turn out good and if you mess it up, well then it’s all your fault if your child is a disaster. That’s not it. If you look at the original words on this verse you will see that it’s an individual thing. It’s saying you have to find the right path for each child and that looks different for each child. You have to help them find their path, not your path, or the path you think they need, but their path. This is where I find myself with my 15 year old. Helping him discover what his path is is an awesome responsibility that I don’t take lightly. I am trying to be so careful not to project my ideas of who I think  he is onto him. All parents have dreams for their child but this is where they get in the way. If your dream for your child is to be a doctor but that child wants to be a mechanic someone is going to be disappointed and frustrated. I want Sam to find what he wants in life no matter what that is. I am trying to listen to his interests and help him explore those without judgement or influence. I’m trying to give good advice without influencing his direction, but also not pointing him into some unrealistic. The options are limitless and helping him choose his path is a huge responsibility.

Fire!:

This is where we will be soon enough when our arrow leaves our hands and is heading toward his goal. I used to think this was one moment in time, but I don’t think it is now. I used to think it happened the moment he moved out from under our roof but I think it’s a gradual letting go. Last week we went to the DMV for him to get his learner’s permit. He was about to do the eye exam and the lady told him to get a alcohol swab and clean the machine before he used it. He had a hard time opening it and it took all my will power not to help. I realized that he was at the DMV to take a test to become a driver. The DMV was going to let him drive because they felt he was ready and he didn’t need his mommy to help him open the alcohol swab. He needed to do that himself. It’s a tiny example but it’s a bigger thing. Trying to not step in and allow your child to make their own decisions and stretch their wings is important. You don’t want them to get out on their own and fail because you have done it all for them and they can’t take care of things for themselves. Baby chickens will die after they hatch if you help them get out of the egg shell because they need to struggle and do that for themselves to develop the strength for the next part of life…living outside the shell. Our kids are the same.

Parenting is such an awesome task. God has given us these precious souls to guide into the path He has for them. I pray we are all up to the task and with God’s help we will be successful.

The Room

Three years ago we moved into our current house. Before we moved in, it belonged to my husband’s grandmother and we bought it after she passed away. She had built the house in the 80’s and lived in it until three years ago. This week I moved my youngest son into the back bedroom. I sat in there nursing him during the night because apparently he is allergic to sleep. As I sat there, I began to have memories of that room over the years.

When Glenn’s grandmother owned the house it was her guest room. Almost twenty years ago now, I was in college and Glenn and I were engaged. In May of the year we got married, I finished the semester and I was living in the dorm, but of course, had to move out. We were getting married in July and I needed a place to stay for a couple of months, so his grandmother allowed me to live with her and I stayed in that room. It was pink with flowered wallpaper then, but I have so many memories of living in that room and planning our wedding.

Then after we bought the house, four of our boys moved into that room. I have memories of the first night we slept here and we had wall to wall mattresses for the boys in that room.

Then three of the boys moved into another room and my youngest child at the time, Luke, slept in that room. I remember being up with him one time when he was sick and rocking him all night, it felt like. Then shortly after that just before he turned 2, I was 21 weeks pregnant and had just found out that our baby was stillborn. I was putting Luke to bed and preparing to go to the hospital to be induced and deliver this baby in what I knew would be one of the hardest moments of my life. I sat in the dark singing to Luke and I couldn’t get through the song because I was crying so hard.

We moved Luke out into the room with his brothers in summer of 2017. We didn’t have a need for the room to be empty but I just felt it was time for Luke to move. A month later my mom got sick and needed to move in with us on short notice. I saw then that God had worked it all out ahead of time so we would have an empty room for her. She moved in and lived with us for nine months. As I open the closet in that room I see her stuff that I can’t bear to get rid of. I see the blanket that was lovingly made by some church ladies and donated to Hospice House and was laid on her after she passed and given to me to remember her. It reminds me of hard days and happy days that we had while she lived in that room. Days of helping her get the room all set up and pretty, and days of having to call the fire department because she had fallen.

The week my went into Hospice my cousin Travis and his wife and son came to stay with us and help out as mom passed and with funeral arrangements. They stayed in that room. They were such a comfort to me during those hard days.

After my mom passed last summer we quickly cleaned out the room and painted it for my oldest son to move in. I needed a change. I couldn’t bear to walk past that room as it was after mom left it. Sam lived in that room until just a week ago. I have memories of my husband painting it with him just the right shade of blue that Sam painstakingly picked out. He was so excited to have his own room, if even for a short time.

And now I sit in that room at night and nurse Will. I know there will be many more memories made in that room with Will as he grows, but what a legacy of memories there is in that room.

Dear mom,

I have written this letter so many times in my mind. There are so many things I wanted to say but never go the chance before you passed away. In the movies, there is always a long drawn out moment before people pass that everyone gets to say how they feel, but I have found this rarely happens in real life. Even though I think we both knew for some time that your time was drawing close, we never wanted to say it out loud. Even in hospice care, I just couldn’t bring it up and you were not totally coherent at that point. I told you I loved you and that you were a good mom, and I think you heard me. I am sorry you didn’t get to talk to the kids. I know you wanted to, and I brought them, but we couldn’t wake you up by that time. Each one touched you and said they loved you and I thought you squeezed my hand. I think you knew. Honestly, as a mom, I was a bit relieved that they didn’t have to say goodbye because I couldn’t bring myself to do it and I can’t imagine them having the ability to. You and I weren’t always good at the tough conversations.

I just went a few weeks ago to visit your graveside. I hadn’t been back since the service in June. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’m not a grave visitor. But Glenn says it’s ok because there are no rules for grieving and we as the survivors just do what we feel is good for us and not what some expectations are. Your headstone turned out really nicely. It’s made from rock from the NC mountains that I know you loved so much. It has an inscription about being with the Lord and dogwood flowers on it, which I know were your favorite. Glenn chose a great spot for you, close to Miss Janet. God’s hand was in that because those plots were not supposed to be sold as singles, but someone had just accidentally sold one in a set of four and so we were able to get one for you. Now there are three older ladies buried on either side of you. I think you would smile to see that. It makes me happy to know you aren’t alone there. Not that you are there, because I know you aren’t, but it makes me happy just the same.

Baby William arrived October 15, 2018 and his delivery was difficult as I imagined it would be. The whole time I was reminded of you and missing you. Glenn said he came and showed you his picture at your graveside just after he was born. You would love him, of course. It comforts me to see that Glenn is missing you so much more than I expected he might, and that I am not alone in my grief. It saddens me to think that only Sam and Jordan will really have memories of you. Josh and Elijah will likely have some vague ones but Luke will not remember at all I don’t think. I wish that were different. I wish they could know you as I did. I am thankful though that you had 82 years. So many people don’t get that chance and to think you could have died when I was a teenager and you had your first heart attack. God was gracious to allow us more time.

Christmas was hard. I knew it would be. It’s was more the time leading up to it than the actual day. The Sunday before, I stayed home and cried most of the day. I knew everyone would be all “Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays” and I just couldn’t do it. But grief is like that. It comes up at the most unexpected times and you just have to allow yourself space to feel it all and roll with it. Your birthday wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be. We had a dinner you would like and made you a cake and ice cream.

In some ways it feels like it’s been forever since you passed and then again no time at all. I don’t think I have fully accepted you are really gone. I feel like sometimes I will see you somewhere or you will call me, but then I realize the truth. I struggle with not feeling alone. I told my counselor that it feels like I have no anchor anymore and I’m just drifting alone. This is when I really wish I had siblings, although I do have Travis, which I am so thankful for. I think being adopted and having your parents divorce at a young age just leaves scars of fear of being alone that you never get over. I find myself having to fight an irrational fear that something will happen to Glenn and then I will really be alone. Again, I know that isn’t true, but it’s how I feel. I can’t imagine being a single parent and raising kids like you did. You did a great job of moving past some impossible situations and making the best of them. I inherited my strength and stubbornness from you.

I know the last year we had was difficult. I know you were in such a difficult situation of having to live with us and being sick most of the time. I know you never wanted that and I didn’t want it for you. I feel like we got through it pretty well most of the time. I’m sorry for not always being kind and patient. I know you felt bad for being difficult at times. Overall, as I said to you once, I was so glad I could have that opportunity to leave it all on the table and care for you so that you would have no doubt that I loved you. I am so glad we had that season in our lives. The memories of having you here are priceless and I’m glad the kids got the chance to spent those months with you so closely too.

I know I am just writing this letter for myself mostly, although I do believe that the vial between here and heaven is much thinner than we think and that you might be able to see this and what goes on here. If so, know that I loved you and you are missed so greatly. But as I told you right before you passed, I will be ok. I am finding my way to being ok. Not that I will ever get passed this or over it, but through it to find my new normal.

How to move forward

I realized recently that one of the things my mom taught me was something she didn’t even realize. She taught me how to move forward after losing her. This past summer she went to be with Jesus and now I am facing my first Christmas and her birthday all in the same week without her. But I realized that she left me with all the tools I need to get through this and move forward, because I watched her do it when she lost her mom many years ago. I was 10 years old when my grandma died. It wasn’t unexpected, she had been sick with cancer for a year or so, but you can never really prepare for the day you get the call that someone has passed away. I remember the phone ringing and I just knew she had passed. My grandma and I were very close. I was the only granddaughter and much younger than my cousins. She and I were also close because we were both adopted. I loved her dearly and looked up to her because she was a strong woman of faith. She was widowed with three young kids and put herself through nursing school by taking in other people’s laundry and ironing. She also rented out the bedrooms in her house while she and her three kids slept in one small room together. They were very poor but she got her nursing training and worked to make a good life for herself and her kids. She told me stories of how God provided in those years for her and it increased my faith.

The day my mom got the call, she came to tell me what I already knew, that grandma had passed. We hugged each other and cried. She taught me it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to not be okay when someone you love passes away. A few weeks earlier I saw her out in the backyard crying and screaming at God. Begging Him to take my grandma so she wouldn’t suffer any longer. I had the same experience with my mother’s passing and I knew it was okay because I saw her do it with my grandma. It’s okay to be angry and sad at the same time. It’s okay to have a fierce conversation with God about your circumstances. God can handle it.

We traveled to Miami where my mom was from for my grandma’s funeral. Mom walked through the drama of picking out all the things necessary for a funeral all the while I watched her be strong, and I knew she was going to be okay. She was sad and would be sad for a while, but with time she would be okay.

Years later she told me that she still had the urge to call her mom each time she came home from a trip, which she did while my grandmother was alive. She told me she missed her mom every day, even though she had been gone for years. She taught me it was okay to miss her and that grief is not something you get passed, but something you learn to live with for the rest of your life. She taught me I would always miss her, and that was okay.

So, today as I work through my first Christmas and I don’t feel all that Merry, I know that it’s okay to be sad and happy at the same time. It’s okay to miss her, and I will always miss her. It’s okay to not be okay today, but eventually it will get better. I know I will get through this as she did because I come from a long line of strong women, whose faith in God sustains them. I am forever grateful that she taught me these things and I know that today, and in the days to come, I am teaching my kids how to move forward when I am called to glory someday.

A lack of faith

Today we graduated from Lactation support. My newest baby, Will and I have had some trouble nursing and we had to see lactation weekly since his birth four weeks ago. He has gradually improved and now they said we can stop supplementing with bottles. I am thankful for that but I left there feeling less than confident about feeding my baby, the most basic of mothering duties. It got me thinking about why I feel nervous about feeding him. I think it comes down to a lack of trust in myself and my mother’s intuition. With my other babies they nursed and gained weight and that was the end of it. I never thought one minute about how much milk they got an one feeding or anything like that, I never doubted if we could be successful in nursing or whether I’d need to use formula. There is nothing wrong with formula, for the record, but what my issue is here is that when Will didn’t gain weight, in fact he spent weeks loosing weight, my faith in my body to produce what he needs was shaken. In fact I have spent years having my faith in myself as a mom shaken by well meaning doctor’s, nurses and the general good conscious of the public.

I feel like as a society we have been subtly attacking mom’s intuition to know what is best for their babies for decades now. Let’s take SIDS for example. That is something I think most moms worry about quit a bit. Every year they come out with new ways to prevent SIDS and new things we shouldn’t do. Fourteen years ago when I had my first son he had colic. He slept very poorly in a drop side crib with bumper pads. Then when that didn’t work well, they gave him reflux medicine and told me to let him sleep in his carseat so that he could be sitting up. GASP! All those things have since been declared unsafe and that they may cause SIDS. It was not that long ago that parents slept with their kids and now there is a long list of things you must not do to keep your child safe. And if your sleep deprived self happens to give in at 2am and sleep with the kid on your chest or something you are putting their life at risk and should be arrested for being a bad parent. It’s all based on fear and guilt. I am not saying we shouldn’t do what we can to keep our kids as safe as possible and all that, but I think all this hoopla is making parents scared to do anything and doubt themselves at every turn.

Another example is birth. When I had my oldest son years ago I wanted to do a natural, non-medicated birth. I told them that when I got to the hospital and they laughed at me. They said I couldn’t do it and I should just take what modern medicine had offered, pain relief. I ended up giving in. Years later I decided to do an birth center birth so that I could prove to myself that I could birth medication free and I did. That was four years ago with my fourth child. After that I had a stillbirth and everything changed. My faith in myself and my body was shaken. They couldn’t figure out why I lost Andrew, and therefore couldn’t tell me how to keep that from happening in the future. I felt broken, physically and mentally. So, when I got pregnant this last time with Will I was terrified. I didn’t trust my body at all not to mess it up again and lose this baby too. I went to a regular OB where they labeled me advanced maternal age and high risk and sent me to a specialist. That didn’t help my mental state. By the end of it I had developed cholestasis and they said I needed to be induced at 37 weeks or I was risking the babies life, so I did. It was the right call, but it left me feeling as though I couldn’t trust my body at all. So, when the time for birth came I just didn’t feel empowered or like I could trust the process as I had with my birth center birth because everyone told me my body was not to be trusted. My instincts were not to be trusted. Then Will was born and we ended up with the breastfeeding issues and again my body didn’t measure up.

So, many women feel this way. So many women are told subtly and not so subtly that they don’t know how to be a mom, they don’t know what’s best and they cannot trust themselves. The doctor’s tell you every single thing about how to care for a baby, when years ago mom’s learned this from other moms. They didn’t doubt themselves. They knew their babies and they did what was best for them. Now we have tons of opinions and regulations about how we should parent. We don’t trust ourselves anymore and we have lost our ability to parent well.

We need to take back our power and confidence as moms. We need to not live in fear and guilt, if possible. We need to trust ourselves more and everyone else less. You got this mama, have faith in yourself.

Dogs, guilt and the really important stuff

I have major doggy guilt. We have a 1.5 year old lab/mix who is literally crazy. Like on medication crazy. She is very hyper, so much so that we cannot have her inside unless she is in her crate or tethered to the wall, otherwise she will just run like crazy all around the house jumping on furniture and people. So, she stays outside most of the time. I feel really guilty about this. She is a really sweet dog but no one can stand to be around her for more than like 15 minutes because of how hyper she is. We all try to spend some time with her everyday, but it’s hard. I see all these Facebook posts of other people and their sweet well behaved dogs and I wish we had that, but we don’t. I wish I had more time to spend with her, and I wish she would magically be calmer, especially now that the weather is getting colder. I realize that I am doing the best I can with the time I don’t have right now, but I still feel guilty about it. It’s my own self making me feel this way. Why do I do that?

I have now birthed and nursed five babies. Little William is 2 weeks old and you know what? We haven’t got this nursing thing worked out yet. I have never had any issues with nursing my babies, but this one is different. He had a tongue tie which we got fixed over a week ago, but he’s still struggling. He just doesn’t nurse well or at all, and so I have been forced to pump and give him bottles. This really breaks my heart to be honest. First off it’s just hard. It’s a 1.5 hour process of trying to get him to nurse unsuccessfully, feeding him the bottle and then pumping for the next feeding and hoping I have enough milk for him. Now, before everyone starts telling me to just give up and give the baby formula, realize I am doing this because I want to. It’s hard, but it’s what I want to do. Do I have formula on hand in case I can’t do it? Yes. But I want to try. I am seeing a lactation consultant tomorrow and hopefully she can figure out what the issue is so we can fix it. In the meantime, I am trying not to travel in mommy guilt. Your mind says you somehow failed as a mom if you can’t breastfeed. To be honest I never really understood this until now. Sometimes there are circumstances where you can’t breastfeed and that’s ok. I think we put alot of pressure on moms as a society to do things a certain way as a mom and sometimes it’s just not possible.  I was reading this mommy blog about a mom in a similar circumstance to mine who ended up pumping exclusively and never did get the nursing worked out. She said something that struck me and applies to all areas where we place unneeded guilt on ourselves for something we cannot control. She said, “Jesus will not ask you when you get to heaven whether you breast or bottle fed”. Amen! It just doesn’t matter in the long run. Jesus will not ask me what school my kids went to or what grades they made. He will not ask me if my house was clean and the laundry was done. He will not ask me if we ate organic whole foods or McDonald’s every night. This stuff seems so important but really in the long run it’s not. Jesus knows I am doing the best I can at the moment with what I have. As are most of you. Don’t allow yourself to give yourself a guilt trip over stuff that just doesn’t really matter. If you start to travel down the road of guilt ask yourself if this will matter in five years. If not, then let it go. Give yourself some breathing space and do what you can with what you have in the moment. If it isn’t turning out like you planned or wanted, just let it go. Pat yourself on the back for trying and move on.

Will’s Birth Story

I wanted to share Will’s birth story. It’s a practice in faith and healing. I guess I should start before we found out we were pregnant. Two years ago we decided we would like to have one more baby. We spent 6 months trying to get pregnant and finally did, but then at 21 weeks we lost the baby. We went through a stillbirth, which forever changed us, and we will never forget our little Andrew. We went through some testing after that and the doctor’s didn’t have good news. They told us they didn’t know why we lost Andrew but they were doubtful we would ever be able to get pregnant again due to our test results and if we did we likely wouldn’t carry the baby to term. I accepted that, after some time, and were moving on with life. We had 6 wonderful kids and we were thankful. My mom had just moved in with us and was requiring constant care, so I saw God’s hand in the timing of it all. Then, in February, I started having some symptoms that suggested I might be pregnant. I was in denial about it but decided after a few weeks to take a test, which turned positive. I was shocked to say the least. I decided I wouldn’t tell anyone just yet because honestly I didn’t really believe it myself. A few days later my mom went into the hospital for the fourth time in 6 months and I started bleeding. At that point I just accepted it was another miscarriage and was thankful it hadn’t lasted long enough for me to get too attached or have to suffer another stillbirth. I know that sounds jaded but when you have lost four pregnancies you get to this place. I went to the doctor to confirm what I thought was the case only to have them tell me that everything with the baby was fine but I had a hemorrhage in my uterus that was causing the bleeding and could cause a miscarriage. So, I went home to wait and see what would happen. They didn’t give us much hope given our history. Weeks went by and the bleeding continued and everyday I wondered if it was the end, but the pregnancy continued. Around 9 weeks I prayed for healing one Sunday and the bleeding got worse. The next day I went to the doctor for an ultrasound and they said the hemorrhage had healed itself and the baby was just fine. We were cautiously optimistic at this point, because we had lost two babies in the second trimester before so we never feel “safe”. Around that time, my mom got sicker and had to be put into a nursing facility. I was stressed to say the least and my legs started itching. I went to the doctor and they ran blood tests and determined it was anxiety. Great.

Fast forward to 18 weeks pregnant. On a Monday in June my mom was ushered into the presence of the Lord. On Tuesday morning we had another ultrasound and found out we were having a boy. This did not surprise me. A few weeks before I found out I was pregnant I had a dream where I was talking to our Pastor’s father who was very sick and on his deathbed. I told him I was pregnant and it was a boy and we would name the baby after him and Glenn’s grandfather and also my cousin, the baby’s name would be William Travis. We were overjoyed after the ultrasound that the baby was healthy and they went to plan mom’s funeral. The ups and downs of this season have been immense.

Fast forward again to 36 weeks pregnant. They had done many many ultrasounds and tests up to this point because of my history and so far all was well but this whole time I continued to itch and it was increasing. Finally they did a blood test and determined I had Cholestasis of Pregnancy. It’s a rare liver disorder that affects pregnant woman where your liver just doesn’t work right and causes lots of serious problems but also itching. Due to the seriousness of the condition for myself and baby Will, they told me I would need to be induced at 37 weeks, that was in just one week. Given what I had been through, this stressed me out to say the least. I was nervous when we went into the hospital on Sunday October 14 for my induction. I had never been induced before and then my experiences in hospitals of late have been traumatic with Andrew’s birth and then my mom’s passing. This was complicated emotionally for me.

We arrived for the induction and I was already contracting. I thought that was great news, but it wasn’t. They couldn’t use the regular medication they would like to use to begin an induction because of my contractions so we had to go a different route which might be slower and hopefully would not effect Will negatively. I began the medication around 9pm on Sunday and had contractions every 2 minutes until around 2pm Monday afternoon at which time I asked for an epidural because they were going to break my water which I knew from experience makes the pain much worse. I was exhausted at that point and just needed some sleep. I was also not progressing very fast and knew it could be hours before he was born. At around 6pm Will’s heart rate began to drop with every contraction. They were very concerned. They started trying to turn me different directions and see if it would help but it didn’t. So, they decided to do a procedure where they put the amniotic fluid back around the baby to see if that would help. If it didn’t they would need to do an emergency C-section. I was quietly freaking out. Those of you who know me know I don’t make a big scene if I am stressed but you can see it in my eyes. My blood pressure sky rocketed and I knew I needed to get myself under control before I made this situation even worse. I prayed and took lots of deep breaths and it stabilized but Will was still in distress. The doctor told me we needed to deliver this baby as soon as we could, but I was only 6cm at this point. I prayed and prayed and an hour later I asked them to check me again. The nurse thought I was crazy because there was no way I was ready to deliver in just an hour, but she was shocked to discover I was. I began pushing and within six pushes he was delivered. That is what a lot of prayer and determination will do of a mama who is terrified.

I cried and cried after he was born, it had been such a long journey of loss to bring us to this point. When I got to the hospital and into the room where we would deliver I noticed the little baby warmer in the corner. When we had delivered Andrew there was no warmer, because there was no need. Over the next few days of being in the hospital I had many little moments of remembering Andrew and my mom. I ate an Italian ice that was the last thing I ever fed my mom. Just a million tiny moments of loss. Loss changes you. I will never be the same person I was before all this, but I hope I can honor their legacy by moving forward bravely and raising this beautiful child God has given us. William means “strong warrior”, this child is a fighter and he is strong with the strength God has given him. Loss makes you realize what you have. We do not take for granted the kids God has allowed us to raise. We also do not take for granted our typically developing children and the loss of raising a child with special needs.

I was listening to a sermon on anxiety. I will not pretend this last year has been one that was free from anxiety. In fact had I not been pregnant I would be on anti anxiety meds for sure. It’s been a year. But this pastor said that we have anxiety because we confuse our responsibility with God’s sovereignty. God has given us the responsibility to raise our children but ultimately we are not in control of what happens to them, that is His sovereignty. I am not in control of their lives, that is God’s job. I get anxious by thinking I am in control when I am not. That is the biggest thing I am learning through all this. Let it go. God has got this whether I like the outcome or not, He has got it. And should the worst happen, He will see me through, because I will tell you sometimes the worst will happen. We have lived some of that worst, but we made it through because God gave us the strength to do so. And now we have a joyous moment in the midst of tears, because God has allowed it and we are thankful.

 

2 years ago

Two years ago today we were at the hospital giving birth to our stillborn son, Andrew. It was by far the hardest day of my life, even more difficult than loosing my mom this past summer. My mom’s passing has brought up the grief of loosing Andrew all over again, and also the fact that in just four more weeks we will meet our newest little addition to the family, William. People have asked me if being pregnant and having this new baby very soon will help with the grief of loosing Andrew. It will be a nice distraction for sure, but William will never be a replacement for Andrew. I will always have a son that I lost and nothing will change that. I will always grieve for him and I will always remember each September 29, his short little life. We have had four pregnancy looses but Andrew’s by far was the hardest. There is nothing as traumatic, that I have experienced, like being induced and delivering a stillborn baby. I will never forget leaving the hospital that day, sitting in a wheelchair and waiting for Glenn to bring the car around. I sat there as I had four times before that waiting for Glenn with a baby in my arms, but this time, my arms were empty and so was my heart.

The months after his birth were a blur really, of just trying to get out of bed each morning, having cried most of the night and putting one foot in front of the other because I had to. I had to keep going for my other kids who needed me, but I was a shell of a person during that time. We went to counseling and that helped, but time was really what helped the most. Then a year went by, and I couldn’t believe it. One year after Andrew’s birth, I found myself in the same hospital with my mom who was very sick and then started a journey of her decline and ultimately her passing away and here we are again, another year later. I pray this will not be another year of loss, like the past two have been. I pray we will soon meet little William and all will be well with him and his birth. It’s been very difficult to believe that all is well with him. The doctor’s are watching me very closely with weekly non stress tests and ultrasounds to make sure he is doing well. We never got answers as to why we lost Andrew and that’s so difficult. Everyone is hopeful that since we are now 35 weeks with William that all will be well, but having been through so much loss lately, I have to fight the voices in my mind that say it will not turn out as I hope. I have battled anxiety this pregnancy like never before and it has manifest itself in physical symptoms and I work hard to keep under control. I will put one foot in front of the other and not give into fear these last few weeks until I hold my little William. It’s all I can do.

Loss changes you. We are not the same people we were before we lost Andrew and not even the same people we were before we lost my mom. I’m glad we aren’t. God is teaching us empathy for people who are in this situations. Everyone will loose someone special to them at some point and for most people they will loose multiple people. They loose a parent, or spouse, or a child. Each of those losses are different and yet the same as well. We know now how to allow someone to grieve in their own way and in their own time. There is no timeline on grief and there is no right way to grieve. The fact is though that we all must grieve, if we don’t it will come up later. So, today we remember our sweet boy, Andrew. We thank God for his life and all it has taught us and we look forward to seeing him again someday. IMG_4107

What Happened? (Part 2)

When I went home Thursday night I knew I needed to talk with Hospice, but I just wasn’t sure how to go about it. I knew I needed help and at that point I knew it probably wouldn’t be long before she passed on, but no one had said that to me, they were still hopeful for recovery at that point. When I walked into the hospital Friday morning there was a lady there from Hospice. God, again, had worked things out. We talked and I cried, in the middle of intensive care. I don’t like crying in front of people, especially not a ton of strangers at the hospital. She said she felt Hospice was the best next step as they didn’t think there was anything else they could do for her. At that point I was going to try to bring her home and then have some nurses come in to help. I talked to the hospice lady on the phone at length about finances, which were a huge concern, and about the nursing care at home. She said nurses only came twice a week. I knew I couldn’t care for her in her current state the rest of the time by myself. By this point I was 18 weeks pregnant, with a surprise baby anmed had 6 other kids at home to care for. But I knew mom had said to  over and over again she didn’t want to die in a nursing home. It was so difficult. The other issue was that she had never signed a DNR. A DNR means Do Not Resuscitate. So, if you were to go into cardiac arrest they would not try to save you. It’s a way for people who are terminally ill to die peacefully. She had never signed one. In order to go into Hospice you have to sign one. She had given me Healthcare Power of Attorney, so I had to make the very difficult decision to declare her mentally unfit and sign the DNR against her wishes. I grew up in a hurry during this time. It was SO difficult!

This was all Friday morning. While I was at the hospital I went into her room to visit her. She was in and out of consciousness and very combative and honestly, mean. It was by far the most difficult day so far. That afternoon I was sitting outside waiting on my kids to get home from school and just crying. It had been a horrible day. The hospice nurse called me and said they had evaluated her and she would qualify for Hospice house. It’s a place run by hospice where you can go if you have a week or less to live, usually. Not only did she qualify, which meant it would be free, but they had a bed at one near my house and she would be transported there the next day. God saw my situation and worked it all out ahead of time. I was terrified of taking care of her and of our financial situation as nursing care can be very expensive and God worked it all out. The next day, on Saturday, she was transferred to Hospice and my husband, and cousin and his wife were able to be there when she arrived. We got her settled in and she was coherent and peaceful, so much better than she had been the day before. We were able to talk with her and pray with her and she said, she loved us all.

On Sunday, we all arrived early at Hospice. We brought our kids, because she had been asking to see them and they hadn’t been allowed to visit her in the hospital. By the time we got there we were unable to wake her. She was unconscious. The doctor told me she had a day or so left, maybe. Someone was with her all day on Sunday and then I came early Monday morning to sit with her again. My pastor came to pray with me and she was still resting peacefully, but her breathing was a bit shallow. They told me it would be that day sometime. My friend Kim arrived at around 10 and my cousin came as well. We talked and prayed  and just sat. By 1pm my friend realized I hadn’t eaten all day and went to get me some food. Just as she came back we realized mom’s breathing was not the same. We knew it was the end. So, we all gathered around and my cousin read scripture and we prayed and cried. Finally she was quiet. I put my hand on her chest and realized she was gone. I was so glad to have two of the most important people in my life with me in that moment. I was relieved that she was finally without pain. Earlier that day I realized she was having some pain and the doctor came in and gave her pain medication. They asked me if she had seen everyone she wanted to and they couldn’t figure out why she was hanging on. They told me to tell her she could let go. So, I did. I won’t even pretend that was easy. I begged her to let go. It was very very difficult. But finally around 2pm she let go and ran to Jesus.

We waited for the funeral home to come, which took a couple hours. So, I ate a frosty. I think she would find it hilarious that I was sitting in the room with her waiting on the funeral home eating Wendy’s but I needed to eat for the baby’s sake, even though I didn’t want to. There are no rules about grief. You do what you feel you need to at the time and don’t worry about what other people think. The funeral home came and we all processed behind her as they put her in the car and we said goodbye. You cannot understand what it’s like to watch someone die unless you have done it. I feel like I am apart of this club I never asked to be in. I realized my own mother had never watched someone die, how strange to have done something she never did. Some people say they wish they could have the chance to say goodbye to a loved one, but I’m not sure everyone realizes that to be able to say goodbye you must be there while they are dying. That is extremely difficult. It’s not at all like the movies, where it’s short and sweet and all that. It’s long and drawn out and honestly shocking. It’s not what is supposed to happen. We were never meant to die. It’s just unnatural. Apart of me feels like I have PTSD from it or something. It was very difficult and I won’t pretend otherwise.

The next day Glenn and I had an appointment for our big ultrasound. We found out we were having a boy and he was doing just fine. Then we went to the funeral home with my cousins to plan the funeral. That was a day of extremes to say that least and I won’t pretend I didn’t have a panic attack at the funeral home. I did. It was hard. And funerals are way more expensive then I realized and have way too many decisions. The funeral was on Saturday and I actually did pretty well through it. I wasn’t sure how I would hold up, but God had grace and I survived.

Since that time I have been seeing  grief counselor with Hospice and that has helped. Life has been busy and now we are 6 weeks away from the delivery of our baby boy. And just a few days away from the one year anniversary of my mom’s first hospital visit. What a crazy year. What an emotional year. I still deal with anxiety and panic attacks at times. Grief is crazy how it sneaks up on you at the oddest times. I know there will be hard days ahead, but God is with me and has sent me so many people to hold me up through this journey and I am grateful. My mom lived a long and full life and she is greatly missed but I rejoice that she’s in heaven and I will see her again one day.