Thursday, January 12, 2017

Something in the Water


A month ago we baptized our baby girl.

We baptized our son in a hospital room. We believe he had already entered the kingdom of Heaven but we wanted the memory of being able to baptize him together as a family. It took place in the early hours of the morning with the pastor who married us. He came to the hospital, my family members and our nurse gathered around the bed in a circle, Max and I held one another while holding Hudson. The holy water was in a styrofoam cup. It was tragically beautiful. There wasn't a special outfit or family traditions, it was the best we could do at the time. For the very limited amount of time we had with him.


Before Hadley was born, we started planning her baptism. We had wanted to baptize her as an infant for various reasons, but the time of year was also really important to us. The holidays were so brutal for us a year ago when they should be a time of joy and celebration. We clung to one another as we "celebrated" our wedding anniversary and everything that had made up our marriage to that point with the devastating elephant in the room that we had become parents but didn't have a child anymore. We hurt. We were broken. We had experienced a time of for better and for worse early in our marriage. Coming up on this fourth anniversary we had talked about how special it would be for us to make that weekend about Hadley and to baptize her in the same setting that we were married in. To have that healing from the year prior. The baptismal gown that my great grandmother made was worn by my mom, her sisters and their female cousins. It was worn by me and my cousins. Now we had a third generation to wear it and needed to do so before she outgrew it. I wore that gown at 8 weeks old and so did she.


The church altar was covered in poinsettias the way it was when we stood up there together last. This time, two of the poinsettias were donated in memory of Hudson and in honor of Hadley. This time, we stood up there with our baby girl and our son was represented right there with us. The baptism took place at the beginning of the service and we stood at the altar together, surrounded by our family and some of our best friends, like we were four years ago for our wedding. This time the words we echoed back were an I Do to raise her in the church and nurture her through faith in Christ our Lord. She was baptized and we all laid our hands on her and prayed. The Reverend walked her down the aisle to introduce her to the congregation. The sermon was about brokenness and I found myself clinging to every word as my husband held our sweet girl and she squeezed my finger. Christmas carols were sung by the choir and congregation, then at the very end we happened to sing one verse of Silent Night, my Christmas lullaby to Hudson.


At the conclusion of the service, we walked together as a family to visit him at the church's columbarium, taking Hadley for the first time. Emotions poured over as Max held Hadley, tears in both of our eyes, and he kissed her little hand to then put on Hudson's niche. Our extended family members joined us and for some, it was the first time to see his resting place. A baptism was one of the only memories of something we had done with our son, and here we were with his sister on her baptism day, yet he was there too.


We celebrated her back at our house and we continue to make precious memories with her each day. I can't believe she will be three months old in just a few days. The time has flown by so fast and I know it will only continue. I remember a friend telling me that her babies' baptisms were two of the most special days. The way both my babies' baptisms have occurred, though very different, I have to agree. Thank you to our families, our church family and the special friends who were there to take part in this very special day for us!


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Comfort and Joy


I started writing this in early December. Writing has been a huge part of my grief expression and sometimes the words just flow and it's an immediate release of my emotions. Other times I have to hit pause and come back over and over again because I need to process what is in my heart. In December, I had a lot going on internally that I needed to process. This time, I needed to hit the pause button a few times.

This holiday season was beautiful. A complete 180 from the year before. However, my grief changed that month. Instead of dealing with it the way I have over the past 19 months - 19 months, he would be 19 months right now - I put my grief on the proverbial shelf. In a closet. Locked on the other side from where I wanted to deal with it. I extended myself to others in their grief and was able to be a solid structure, there to provide support like those who did for me for those walking their first holiday season without the baby they thought they would have, but this year I wouldn't let myself go to my place of grief. I would feel it start to come on but then felt guilty for that sadness because of what we had this year, our daughter, so I wouldn't let myself go there. I had felt it stirring when we put up the tree hung his ornaments, when I got new stockings because I didn't have enough and needed him to still have one, when we took Hadley to visit Santa. When I went to buy gifts for the Angel Tree little boy in honor of Hudson and I stood there in the aisle of Target in a catatonic state, numb and frozen, looking at the things that should fill our home because of the little boy we would have, had the terrible thing not happened. I longingly thought of how the family traditions we were starting should be in their second year, not the first.

After we opened our Christmas Eve family package of pajamas, a book to read together, and a dish set for Santa's Cookies and Milk, I sat by the tree with our little blessing in my arms. What I haven't followed up with here is what we found out about my placenta abnormality. At our 6 week post-partum check up at the beginning of December, my doctor told me that it was actually a blood clot. A blood clot that wasn't detected in the 20+ sonograms we had and was the likely cause of the cord high blood pressure, not the marginal cord insertion, and that it could have been fatal to her and detrimental to me. Our doctor told us she needs to look into this more because I didn't present with any of the usual causes for this such as placental abruption, and my blood work wasn't consistent with a blood clotting disorder, gestational diabetes or a deficiency of some sort. She said we will discuss it more when I come back for a follow up at 8 months postpartum. She said let's enjoy Hadley right now because she is our little miracle. That most likely the clot was a fluke, but it is concerning to have two flukes with both pregnancies.

So I held this baby, the baby we longed for, knowing she could have not made it as well, but she did. I held her with just the light of the tree illuminating the room. Everything that had been building inside of me since around Thanksgiving just came out. I sobbed into her as she slept on my shoulder and Max came over to the couch to hold me. I couldn't verbalize everything in my heart out loud but I simply was able to say that I am so thankful for her and I wish Hudson were here too. I wanted to have our family in its entirety. The days leading up to Christmas, I kept thinking about last year. We did what we could do to try to enjoy the most wonderful time of year, but we did what we needed to survive it.

Surviving Christmas. That was our grief reality last year. That's what many people's realities are when they are missing a loved one for an important holiday. Outside of his due date, this was the beginning of the milestone round of firsts to conquer and they were wrapped up in the holiday season, the most family-centric time of year. We had made the month of December all about baby the year before as we spent the month slowly sharing with family and friends that we were expecting and dreamed of the following Christmas with a third member of our family. A year later that little one only existed in our hearts. He wasn't with us, it was a time of joy to the outside world around us while we were stuck in deep sadness.

So in order to try to comfort our hearts, we escaped to try to find joy. We went somewhere that the magic and message of Christmas still existed but we escaped the version that made us sad. We needed to be vacation us.

Vacation us is carefree.
Vacation us says yes to adventure and opportunities.
Vacation us wants to experience everything we can.
Vacation us is whoever we want to be.
Vacation us is a happy couple who were not surrounded by the every day reality that their son died and all the grief that accompanied it.
Vacation us is not sad.

So we were vacation us, escaping Christmas memories and of what we had already imagined, for something new and different when our hearts couldn't take the reality of the season. However, it did make me sad, I didn't want to have to skip Christmas, but trying to do it the way we always did hurt more. Escaping was the lesser of two evils.

I didn't write about it last year because it was laced with dark humor. The nutshell version is that when we tried to escape our grief, we ended up lost in a cemetery on Christmas Day.

Here's the full version. We woke up on Christmas Day in Montreal and it felt blah. We had attended a breathtakingly beautiful Christmas Eve Mass at the Notre Dame Basilica and the experience was too much for words. I described it some in my seven month letter to Hudson but even reading back through it with tears in my eyes, it still didn't do it justice. It was emotionally draining but at the same time, a highlight of our trip.

Waking up on Christmas Day we had sweet messages from friends and family who were thinking of us and wishing us peace. When I plan trips, I plan a day full of things to do. Going into that trip, I didn't know what to plan for Christmas Day. I didn't know how we would feel, what we'd be up for, if we'd order room service and just lay in bed all day allowing waves of emotions to consume us, or if we'd need distraction. So I looked into what was open and had created a list just in case. I made a spa reservation and a dinner reservation but the rest of the day was up in the air with ideas if we needed them. There was an emotional hangover that morning and we decided on distraction. Out of all the things, we had read that Montreal was known for its bagels and there are two spots that compete to be the best bagel. So we decided to go check out the dueling bagel shops. We asked our uber driver on the way there about Mont Royal. We read it was filled with park space and tourist opportunities, it boasted the best views of the city from a scenic hike and a chalet at the top. We had our bagels - which were completely unimpressive if you were wondering - then went into a coffee shop to actually eat them since both locations were line only. The owner of the shop elaborated on the reviews and told me Max would propose there. I told him we were already married. He then said he will propose again because it was so romantic. He told us it was walkable and gave us the scenic route but that it would take 45 minutes. We used the GPS on our phones to come up with what we thought was an alternate route and quicker, since we had massage appointments later that afternoon and had about 2 hours to spend before we needed to get to the spa.

Taking "short cuts" we followed French signage to Mont Royal but what no one told us was that the lovely oversized hill/small mountain was 85% cemetery. No exaggeration, I found that percentage AFTER the fact when we got back to the hotel. So we had taken this vacation to get away from our holiday sadness due to the fact that our baby had died and wasn't with us, but here we were lost in a cemetery. The dark humor in us found it rather comical at first. But after 30 minutes of trying to find our way out because headstone after headstone finally became enough, coupled with my own guilt that I was stuck in a Jewish Orthodox cemetery of strangers rather than visiting my own baby's final resting place on Christmas, it reached a breaking point of get us the $%!& out of here.

We followed a chain linked fence up a steep hill, trying to catch a view of what was below us. Max then spotted an opening in it and we decided that was our shot. We had already walked so far into it, this seemed like the fastest option out. I was sweating at this point and had taken off my coat, scarf and mittens in the 34 degree weather. Holding all of this, I followed Max as he crawled through the hole in the fence. We saw a road with human life form and the famed lookout points below us. Once we got through the fence, we found ourselves on a slope we had to get down carefully and then onto a bit of a landing patch before another slope down to civilization. From the top of the fence hole, this looked pretty simple. However, as we were doing it, we realized it was much more steep than we thought.

We carefully sidestepped our way down the first incline reaching the landing where, to our right there was an easy way, a gradual decline to the sidewalk. However, I kid you not, a fox was sitting in the middle of it staring at us. Have you ever seen a fox in person? I had never seen a fox in person. They are smaller than I thought and actually really cute. If I wasn't so angry at that point in time, I think I would have liked to cuddle it and it's beady little eyes taunting us. Instead, I was ready to throw something at it (calm down PETA, not hit it of course) to startle and move him out of the way. Max told me if I wanted to be attacked and get rabies, that was a solid plan. To our left was our other option - a very steep, about 8 foot drop off. There were some tree roots we could see through the leaves and Max used those almost like a ladder to get down. When it was my turn, I threw down my purse, my coat, gloves and scarf and used the excellent traction of my Ugg boots (heavy sarcasm here if you can't tell) to scale down. My legs were too short to scale it the way Max did. So another small detail was that it had rained heavily the day before. Under the leaves we could see was a ton of mud we couldn't see. My foot slipped out from under me and I went down the incline on my rear, using my hands to try to slow the fall. I reached the bottom on my butt, hands covered in thick mud, Max looking at me wide-eyed and trying to gauge an appropriate reaction. There were two college-aged girls with luggage at the tour bus stop right at the base of this opening who turned around and looked at us in horror. I looked up at them and simply said we got lost. The mud was caking onto my hands and I asked Max to dig through my purse to get the kleenex packet from the church service the night before. We were now in the tourist area of Mont Royal, there were people, and lookout points but I was so over it. Max found one spot and we ventured out onto the rocks as far as we could for that incredible view. I was still wiping mud off my hands and my sweet husband lightened the mood and asked, so do you like, want to get married or something?

We finally found the chalet and went inside to warm up a bit and I had a chance to wash the remaining mud off my hands. Then it came time to heading back down. We could take the road or there were steps built into the "mountainside" and we did a combination of the two. The massage appointments we had immediately following at the Scandinave Les Bain Vieux were more appreciated than we could have imagined. That evening we sat by candlelight and enjoyed dinner at a popular Jazz bar in the Old Town of Montreal. I remember eating that dinner thinking it's almost over, we've almost finished escaping Christmas. We went to bed that night exhausted and the same thought echoed through my mind that had for every holiday since Hudson died - surely, just surely, we will have a baby in our arms at this time next year.

This year, his little sister was in our arms. Grief still existed, though I tried to escape that this December instead. I wish my son was learning how to be a big brother to his sister. I wish they both were in the picture of visiting Santa. I wish we had Christmas gifts for both of them under the tree. I wish he was the toddler he would be, more engaged in the holiday than he should have been the year before. He will always be missing, I'll always picture him there with our family, among the cousins, next to her. Last year at that midnight mass I cried my eyes out to Silent Night, a song that now had an entirely different meaning to me. Sleep in Heavenly peace. It is hauntingly beautiful to me. This year, I couldn't hear that song without crying still. I don't think I ever will.

We all find our comfort and joy in different ways. As a parent of loss, I will seek the comfort needed to experience the joy there is.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Cornbread Chili Bake



We were in an Eatzi's a few weeks after Hadley was born when I saw a chili and cornbread bake and my mind was blown. Sure they go together like peanut butter and jelly but I had never thought to combine the two into one dish. You guys, this was revolutionary. Don't just serve your cornbread with chili, serve it IN your chili. The next day when shopping at the grocery store, I found what I needed and in three easy steps, I had a really tasty meal in under 30 minutes. 

This has been a great meal to easily make and take to others, to serve a group, and we have loved it just for the two of us to have then reheat for nearly a week of leftovers. You can make your own chili and use that, or you can do what I did below! 

Ingredients:
(Yields 8-10 servings)
  • Cookwell & Company two step Chili mix (I've also had their green chili mix and highly recommend it)
  • A honey cornbread mix, I use the Central Market Honey Cornbread and whatever ingredients the cornbread needs according to the box. 
  • 1-1.5 lb ground meat (I've used both ground beef and ground turkey)
  • Garlic granules, to taste
  • Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed (optional, I like to add for additional protein, iron and fiber)
  • Shredded cheese (flavor of choice, I do a mild Cheddar or Monterrey Jack)
  • Green Onion (optional)
  • Sour Cream (optional)
1.) Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees or whatever your cornbread mix says. While oven heats, brown your meat in a skillet and season with garlic granules. 
2.) While the meat cooks, grease a large casserole dish. Mix your cornbread in a bowl then pour the mix in and spread to even it. Cook for 10 minutes. 
3.) Once meat is cooked through, add to chili mix in a bowl and kidney beans if you opted to include. Spread on top of the half-cooked cornbread, top with cheese and pop in the oven for 10 more minutes. 

Remove when timer goes off and serve, garnishing with green onion and/or sour cream! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanks in a time of Grieving


Last night, our little family sat on the couch. Tired after a long day/night, we enjoyed the quiet moments together. George was nuzzled between us, Hadley was asleep on my shoulder post-feeding. Max and I were trying to figure out the best way to move her into her Dock a Tot without waking her up. Suddenly his face lit up and he mouthed "she's smiling!" Then a series of coos and squeaks began. In those moments of sheer joy, memories flooded back of last year at this time. I was in such a dark place. I was grasping frantically for something to fill the void, but was missing it altogether. I wanted our Hudson so very badly, a life with him was all I could think about. I was lost, deeply sad at all times, and very broken. A year ago I didn't see hope. I didn't see happy again. I was just submerged in the sadness. I felt so isolated and alone most of the time. I can only imagine how hard I was to be around because I started to give up on camouflaging it with others. I had found my rock bottom of grief at this exact time last year.

Last night I had this precious baby girl on my chest with her sweet noises and sleep smiles. All of it filled me with emotion and I cried. Max thought I was tired and exhausted, he hugged me and told me to go get some sleep, he was going to take night duty. I looked at him and just said that I was emotional because of where I was a year ago, depressed and so unhappy, but now here we are, with her. Last year I struggled to find thankful, to be grateful. I found thanks that Hudson was ours, though not the way that we would have wanted, because we were without him. This year I'm not emotional because of what feels empty, I'm emotional because how full we feel. I have become accustomed to the piece of us that despite the fullness, feels like there is someone who will always be missing.

Last week the One Wing Foundation held its final fundraising event of the year, our Wine & Dine dinner. At that event, we had a representative from the Grief and Loss Center of North Texas speak. She did a beautiful job presenting on a difficult topic, grief. One thing that struck me is that the most common misinterpretation of grief is that the first year and its milestones are the hardest. As a grieving person, I knew we would grieve Hudson as long as we lived but I didn't think that it could be more difficult outside of that first year. What she's found is that the second year can be just as if not even more difficult. It hit me hard because for us, our second year has not been more difficult. As we prepared for Hadley, of course there were intense emotions and a wish that we would be introducing him to his little sister, however, we've found a healing and peace in this second year without our son. I know that's because of Hadley and what she has not only restored to our life but also the new pieces of life she's brought us. Not everyone has that. However, what I take from her talk was that people - both grievers and non-grievers alike - underestimate grief as a whole. We had a very hard first year but grief is never ending. It will be difficult at different times, for different people. Though this second year hasn't been as hard or harder for us, for others it very much may be. Though we aren't experiencing it right now, that doesn't mean we won't as time goes on. The grief is always looming and it may become more difficult at another time. When I went to bed last night, I was thinking about this and I found myself crying for Hudson and my wish to have both my son and daughter here with us this holiday season, a time of year that is centered around family. The looming grief found a vulnerable time to invade my heart and mind.

This morning as I was having time with Hadley, I thought about how two years ago we were pregnant with Hudson and we were trying to hide it from family on Thanksgiving. Next week when I go in to see my doctor for my six week check up, I thought how it will be the same week we went in for our first sonogram with him. We will celebrate our four year anniversary weekend this year by baptizing our sweet baby girl, when last year we were mourning not having our baby boy with us. I feel there are so many things that have come full circle throughout the last two years.

I had a conversation via text yesterday with a friend who is in a season of grief herself. We were discussing this holiday season and went back and forth about the platitudes offered and how most people cannot simply exist with another person in their grief. It is our nature to try to fix when most of the time, a grieving person wants someone to justify their feelings or have someone to just sit with them in it. We live in a grief illiterate society, but people do mean well and there are ways to "help fix" that are better than others.

This holiday season, you may know people in your life experiencing a Thanksgrieving or a Blue Christmas. If they have lost someone close to them whether it's been a few months or a few years, the holidays will be difficult. I challenge you that if you do have someone close to you in a season of grief, let them know you are there. Don't tell them things will get better, don't tell them anything that equates to what has happened is God's will or everything happens for a reason. Justify where they are with their emotions instead. Tell them this sucks. Tell them you hurt with them. Say their loved ones name. Share a memory of their loved one with them. Sit with them in their grief. It makes them feel like they are understood and someone else recognizes their pain. This can be more uplifting than any platitude or well wish.

As you prepare to send your holiday cards, if you know someone who has lost a loved one in the past year or seem very raw in their grief, don't send them the card everyone else will receive of your beaming family. It intensifies their pain and is like a fluorescent blinking arrow of what is missing in their life: a husband, a wife, a child, a mother, a father, a brother, a sister. Instead, when you are at the store, pick up a thinking of you card and send that instead. It's heartfelt, it's personal to them, it is so appreciated. For those who may be more removed from grief, that may not be necessary but I would definitely stay away from it if you can sense they pain is raw.

For the grieving family members, find a way to incorporate the loved one's memory into your holiday traditions. Maybe it is a stocking with their name, a family tree ornament representative of them in some way, a tradition surrounding the one who isn't there, or setting a place at the table to show they aren't forgotten. Maybe talk to those grieving hard - if they are parents of loss, a sibling of loss, a child of loss or spouse of loss - to ask them how they would like their loved one's memory portrayed in the family celebrations so you can know what they need.

To those grieving, create a plan for your holiday season. Know that you are not alone. Know that though it's hard sometimes, there is thanks and giving to be found and that there can be joy amidst pain. Do what you need to do to make it through this next month of watching the world go on around you when yours may feel halted. Practice self-care and whatever that means for you right now, during this season of grief.

For us personally, we needed different. Last year we had to host Thanksgiving to keep ourselves busy. It needed to be a different setting than what we did each year because I had already envisioned that setting with our son and it was too hard to do it without him. We needed a change up. Christmas was especially difficult, it was the time we had told our families the year before that we were expecting. Those memories were too glaring and the pain without him was too raw. I couldn't be around expecting family members while we were struggling to get pregnant after experiencing the death of our baby. It was too hard to be around other parents experiencing Christmas with their little ones. So we escaped. Travel is something that is special to us, it connects us on a deeper level being able to see and experience new things together. My husband needed snow because that represented the holidays to him, so we chose a Winter Wonderland in Montreal and Quebec City. It was what we needed to get through not having our son for Christmas.

We've all heard of the 5 love languages and you may or may not know your personal language style of giving and receiving love. If you don't, try this. Here are some ideas of ways to express that based on your personal love language.

  • If your love language is through gifts, send them a thoughtful way to include their loved one in the holiday, like an ornament for their tree. Last year it meant so much to me to receive ornaments in Hudson's memory. Our Christmas tree tells our family story and now Hudson was able to be included in that. Etsy makes some wonderful remembrance ornaments, Pier One has these beautiful angel wings, LaurelBox makes these ornaments for grieving loss. If they do not celebrate Christmas or you would like to do something else meaningful, consider a donation in memory of their loved one to an organization that may mean something special to them. That simple gift helps a grieving person feel like their loved one lives on or has left a legacy, no matter how big or small.  
  • If your love language is through words, send them a text, an email, a card or call them. When people are deep in grief, many times they do not want to talk on the phone, but they will appreciate your attempt even if they don't answer or return the call. A text or email may illicit a response they are more comfortable with, but if they don't respond, know they are grateful to hear from you. You can say you wish (loved one's name) was here with them, too. You can simply say you wish them comfort today. It doesn't have to be profound or a novel. Sometimes the more simple the better. 
  • If your love language is through service, take them a meal, mow their lawn, offer to help them around the house, or grab them some essentials from the grocery store just because you were thinking about them. Many times, help is offered but a grieving person may not be able to or know how to accept help. Sometimes you just need to show up and do it, or proactively stay on top of them to say today I'm coming over to do x, y or z. 
  • If your love language is through time, like with service, stay on top of them and arrange time to spend together. Offer to take them to visit the resting place of their loved one with them, to go on a walk or another fitness activity they may be too inhibited by grief to try to do on their own, go to coffee or lunch, or have a movie marathon at their home. 
  • If your love language is through touch, never underestimate the power of a hug. 

As a grieving person, you can also use the 5 love languages to express your grief in a way that honors your loved one.

  • If your love language is through gifts, if your heart is ready, adopt an Angel from an Angel Tree who would be the same age as your loved one or hold a baking day with friends or family and take those baked goods to people as a gift. Last year I found a snowflake poem that made me think of Hudson. I found snowflake ornaments and gave those to others in Hudson's memory. This year we will adopt a 1 year old boy from the Angel Tree and as a family, we will honor Hudson by giving another little boy a special Christmas in Hudson's name.
  • If your love language is through words, use writing as a form of expression. Write them a letter, story or narrative. You can scrapbook special things that makes you think of them. Connect with others on your path and go to coffee with them to talk about how you are feeling or text them when hurting most. I found myself writing and meeting with other loss moms a lot during the holidays last year and it was a great band aid for my heart to use my writing and conversation to help heal. 
  • If your love language is through service, use a volunteer opportunity to serve those in need at a food kitchen on Thanksgiving or Christmas. Create bags of food for families who can't afford to feed the mouths around the table. Organize toys at a local hospital or shelter for kids who don't have anything can bring healing to your heart. Maybe it is connecting with others walking your path through a support group care package or ornament exchange. 
  • If your love language is through timesurround yourself with family or special friends who make you happy. Plan out activities to fill your time when you think you may be sad. Spend time at a nursing home talking with someone who may not have anyone to visit them. 
  • If your love language is through touch, don't be afraid to ask for a hug or someone to hold your hand when you need it. Another way to fulfill that is to go to an animal shelter and cuddle those animals who don't have owners to love them yet. 
Most importantly, know that you are not alone. Know there is a community ready to embrace you if you are in need. Seek out your tribe and find the support you need to get through this difficult season. If you can't make a list of what you are thankful for this year, that's okay. Maybe you can find thankfulness it in the one you wish were here. A thanks that you had them at all, even if just for a little while. Sending you love, comfort and peace during this season. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Chronicles of Parenting a Living Child After Loss, Edition I



The moment she was placed in my arms, everything changed.

My comparisons from this time and last time ceased once I heard her cries. At that moment, it was a new and different experience. There was a lot of strength and optimism from the time we entered the hospital around 3:00 PM on Friday, October 14. That optimism continued on into the evening and through the hours of the early morning of October 15, but throughout it all there was still a tiny bit of insurmountable fear in the back of my mind. That fear took over during delivery and at one point I remember thinking that she's been in the birth canal too long (she hadn't at all) and I ignored nurse Shirley's half-push prompts because I felt like I needed to push harder to just get her out already, something could still happen (it didn't). The feeling of sweet relief and sheer joy spread throughout us once she was in our arms, safe and sound.

However, her birth story didn't tell the side of grief that was experienced once she arrived. About two hours after she was born, it was noticed that the little noises she was making wasn't her learning to cry and make sounds. It was termed grunting, which indicated that she was having trouble pulling oxygen into her lungs. She was taken from us and they were able to remove the excess amniotic fluid. As mentioned in her birth story, it was a busy night for Labor and Delivery. When it came time to move us to postpartum floor, there were not any rooms available. We were temporarily placed in a room on the antepartum floor - which is where we were taken following our delivery with Hudson until we were ready to go home. These rooms are primarily used for women who are pregnant and need to be hospitalized. Now we were back in the same kind of room we were in when we said goodbye to our son, which took me right back to last time.

Shortly after settling into this tiny temporary room, we realized she was still grunting. The nurse came in and Hadley was taken from us again. It hit me so hard to be back in that room, watching a stranger take my baby from me and wheel them away, door closing behind them. In the back of my mind I knew she was coming back, I knew it wasn't goodbye, I knew it wasn't like last time but in that moment the emotions and my grief got the best of me. This is where my personal version of post traumatic stress started.

About an hour later, the nurse and pediatrician came to see us. They told us that the grunting was still persisting and that we had a few options. They said it could be that there is just a little bit of fluid in there and it would resolve itself within a few hours, it could be pneumonia or another infection, it could be some kind of internal problem that they will need to start running tests for. She recommended that we wait a few hours and keep her in the NICU for observation to see how she does and then if it isn't getting better, we would do x-rays of her chest and start running tests. Now that we had this long awaited child, I hated having to be apart from her. 

We tried to sleep and get some rest as we waited, but my heart was overwhelmed. A few hours later, we were led to the NICU nursery to see her and to work with a lactation consultant. They said she had a posterior tongue tie and that it would be challenging for her to adequately latch, so we also learned how to syringe feed. The pediatrician came by and checked her over again, saying she was doing great and her lungs just needed a little time but that the grunting had stopped so they let her come back to our room with us and to work on obtaining a good latch to nurse her.

By 4:30 PM we were finally moved and settled into a postpartum room, now in a new environment and I could get over that hump, get back to the new and different of this time again. We were nursing her, family came to visit and to meet her, we tried to get our own rest in between.  As we moved into Sunday and throughout that day, we thought we were on the up and up. Except that her bilirubin levels were going up slightly each time checked which indicated jaundice, but we were still in the safe zone. No big deal, I had jaundice, a ton of babies have jaundice. Max held her in the window where the sunbeams came in and the two of them napped together throughout the day, bathing in the sunlight to help that jaundice dissipate.

We were supposed to be discharged on Monday, but early that morning the pediatrician came in to talk to us again. Her first 24 hours, she lost 1% of her birth weight which was normal. But that second 24 hours, she was down an additional 10% of her body weight which was a lot at once and concerning. We thought she was latching better and feeding well, but apparently she was not. The pediatrician on call said she wanted the lactation consultant to come check for a good latch and we'd wait for the blood test results for her jaundice before she will discharge us. After working with the LC for about 20 minutes, they said they just weren't comfortable sending us home yet. We then learned she was now above the seventy-fifth percentile and had moved into the high-risk classification with her jaundice. I had a tearful conversation with the pediatrician and she was aware of our previous birth and loss of Hudson. The team decided to discharge us, but keep Hadley as a patient. While I wasn't their patient anymore, we were to stay together in that room with her as if I were because they weren't going to send us home without our baby again, as long as they could help it. That, I am truly thankful for.

That Monday was a hard day. Aside from already being a sleepy newborn, the jaundice made her even more sleepy. It was nearly impossible to wake her up to try to feed on the schedule they wanted us to have so that she didn't lose anymore weight. However, to help the jaundice, she needed to eat. Throughout the rest of that day, I was broken down so badly. I would have episode after episode of staring at this precious newborn baby, wanting her so badly to open her eyes. It took me right back to last time with Hudson and trying to will him with my mind to wake up. Holding this tiny baby, tears running down my face please wake up, please open your eyes, it absolutely broke me. While I knew she would be fine, this wave of grief and de ja vu consumed me. We worked hard throughout that day to feed her and get her in that indirect sunlight so that they wouldn't have to take her from us to be under lights and receive supplemental formula to gain weight. We were trying to breastfeed and get a good latch, but also cup feeding and syringe feeding to make sure she had enough in her belly. By Tuesday afternoon, her BR levels had lowered, she seemed to be feeding better, and she hadn't lost any additional weight overnight so we were able to take her home.

Finally we were at that moment of being wheeled out of the postpartum floor, holding our living child. As they pushed me down the hallways of Labor and Delivery and to that front door, I clutched Hadley in her little going home outfit that was too big for her though it was a preemie size. I know I had the goofiest smile on my face while at the same time trying to fight back tears. I've been on that wheelchair ride before, but without my baby, a look of horror and disbelief on my face, passing people in the hallway, trying not to look at them and see their face when they looked at me. I clutched this little girl and listened as people gave their congratulations, commented on her big pink bow or how tiny she was or how beautiful she looked. I had tears of joy and pride, tinged with a little bit of sadness because of the memories that flooded back. Because I didn't get to do this part last time.

Max arrived in the circular drive with the car and he put her in the car seat for the first time. I let her grip my finger the whole way home and in exchange, she allowed me to stare at her in awe, with those tears streaming down my face. I held my breath walking in the front door. Max carried the car seat in. We took her out and walked into the nursery. We stood there together, the three of us, in that room. In the room that from the first time we first entered the house with the realtor, we identified it as the nursery. The room we had waited to bring a baby home to. The room we started to create for a little boy. The room we fell to the floor sobbing in when we got home after saying goodbye to that little boy, our first baby. The room that brought us joy again to create the perfect space for her. Now she was here, we had our baby in that room. I held her and just cried because that day had finally come. Afterwards, Max walked her around and introduced her to each space in her house, huge smile on both our faces. 

Throughout these first few weeks at home, both of us would just hold her or stare at her and cry - happy tears, tears because we couldn't believe that she was actually here, that we were finally having these moments together as a little family. I wasn't prepared for all of these overwhelming emotions. At the end of our first week with her, I learned that my placenta had an abnormality discovered once delivered and had been sent off to pathology. I also learned that her umbilical cord was short and had a marginal insertion which meant instead of a normal cord placement in the middle of the placenta, it was on the side. Both of these things can cause a number of risk factors, including a cause for stillbirth. One of the risk factors of a marginal insertion is restricted blood flow to the baby, which would explain the umbilical cord blood pressure issue we had. Between the unknown placenta abnormality and the marginal cord insertion, I felt even more so like she was a miracle. I was so thankful she came when she did and we didn't have to wait another few days for her to arrive. It makes me fearful in thinking about what it could mean for future pregnancies seeing that my uterus seems to create a risky environment for my babies and why neither of these factors were discovered in one of the 20+ sonograms we had. We will discuss pathology report and our questions with our doctor at the 6 week check up but for now, I concentrate on the fact that Hadley is healthy and perfectly fine despite the way things could have turned out.

At every 2 am diaper change and feeding, I rock her in her room. Sometimes I hold her and as I look at her, I cry. I whisper her lullaby songs to her and allow myself the chance for that emotional release of my grief and my joy tangled together. Smelling that sweet baby smell, feeling the weight of her in my arms, hearing her breaths and sighs, seeing her little facial expressions as she sleeps with the occasional raised cheek smile. I wasn't prepared for all the emotions this "fourth trimester" brings, but they are coupled with those of a mother's heart who is parenting one child in her arms and one she longs to hold again.

After losing Hudson, I'll admit, I would get really angry anytime I heard a mom complain about motherhood. I would bite my tongue but always in the back of my mind I thought I'd give anything to have that, you don't know how lucky you are to have your child. Because of that, I have immense guilt when I feel like this is really hard. But it is very hard, for any mother. I have guilt for the times I feel defeated or stressed when we have trouble with feeding, or I am so incredibly tired, or I just don't know what else to do to soothe her. I think that guilt is normal for a mother of loss to feel. I know this is just the beginning of all those feelings. I am tremendously grateful to have this sweet girl with us, to be her mother, to raise her and to love her. I'll take the hard times, all of them with the happy, whatever it may be, just to be able to have them with her at all.  


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Welcome to the World, Hadley Jane


My Precious Girl,

Today is November 3. If we were not a high risk pregnancy, this would be the due date we would have been anticipating and counting down toward. Today you would be 40 weeks, instead you are 19 days old! As I write this, you sleep in the Rock and Play next to me. They say when you sleep, we should sleep. I'm exhausted but I can't stop staring at you and I am feeling nostalgic about three weeks ago tomorrow when you decided it was time. I want to remember everything about this, which is why I am writing. I want to remember all of these moments, all of these emotions, every feeling of exhaustion, pride, sadness, joy, fear, triumph - all of it rolled into one.

The morning of October 14 I woke up around 5:00 am, your typical time every day to say good morning mama! You were kicking and moving, but I was also feeling contractions. I had been feeling them since the Sunday before when we went to the hospital to be monitored when your heart rate was elevated. The contractions had not increased in intensity and were still very irregular throughout the week but Friday morning, they were feeling a little stronger. At our 37 week appointment the day before, I had moved from 1.5 cm dilated on Sunday to 4 cm dilated on Thursday. We talked with our doctor about how Tuesday morning would go when we'd arrive to induce labor. My doctor felt like we would probably make it to then, but she said she wouldn't be surprised if you came on your own before.

I took my time getting ready that Friday morning. It was my last day of work before maternity leave started. We had a busy weekend and I planned to spend that upcoming Monday at my final appointment, followed by a prenatal massage, then doing any last minute errands before your Daddy and I had one final date night at one of our favorite restaurants. That morning I took my 37 week photo which was the last bump shot with you!


I got to work and felt a little off. I was trying to wrap up everything but in the back of my mind, kept wondering if these contractions were really feeling a little more real, or if it was just in my head? I finished my to-do list around noon and said my goodbyes to the team. On my way out, both my boss and another team member predicted you would come sometime that day or over the weekend because of the full moon.

I got home around 12:30 and felt the need to feel close to Hudson. I held his lamb, sat in his rocker and wrote him a letter. I was feeling very nostalgic about his birth and very emotional. After about an hour, I realized that contractions had become much more regular - in fact, incredibly regular. I decided to start timing them just for fun. I didn't think we would get to time contractions so I was somewhat excited to do that. After about 30 minutes had passed, I noticed a pattern, that they were every 4 minutes for exactly 1:05 or 1:15 min. After an hour of doing this, and checking your heartbeat on the fetal monitor, I let your Daddy know that we may be heading to the hospital. He said he was on his way home! I called my doctor's nurse and she told me to head to the hospital and check in for observation in Labor and Delivery because it sounded like we could be in labor. Daddy got home around 2:30, we grabbed the hospital bag that I had packed, kissed Georgie pup goodbye and had our moment of could this be it?! after all. Leaving the house we were about 40/60 that the next time we came home, it would be with you in tow.

We got to the hospital and checked in with Labor and Delivery Observation. They hooked me up to monitor your heartbeat and the contractions for 30 minutes. During this time, we had a very special person who set the tone for our experience, Nurse Jill. My doctor's nurse, Stephanie, had already called down to them and prepped her for us. She knew all about us and was ready for us. She was so wonderful and I felt she was a special angel placed to be there for us on that day and just what we needed to begin this experience. During that first thirty minutes, Daddy and I sat in our triage-like, curtained off room and overheard a scenario I recognized all too well. A woman had come in and she was in a panic. In tears she was frantically asking if her baby was okay. We listened as they tried to calm her and look for a heartbeat. Tears fell down my cheeks as I heard the sound of a fetal heart monitor searching for a heartbeat and her scared stifled sobs. Your Daddy reached for my hand. It took a bit, but they did find a heartbeat and I could breath again, but it really rattled me. When Nurse Jill came back into our area, it's like she knew. She talked to us about Hudson, she said his name, she said we had a special angel watching over us. She told us that we were going to get you here safe and sound.

At the conclusion of that first 30 minutes, she had tracked the same contraction pattern I had at home but they were now every 3 minutes. I was 5 cm dilated so she told us we were going to walk this baby out. We were instructed to briskly walk around for 30 minutes and then come back, that we would do this three times and after each 30 minute set of walking, we would check your heart rate and my contractions. Throughout our walks, I definitely had stronger and closer together contractions. We walked all around that hospital and the exterior in those 30 minute increments with brief check ins.


After the last walk, we went back in and I was 7 cm dilated. Jill called the doctor on-call for my doctor's practice. She came back in to give us the option of going home and seeing how things continue to progress on their own, that I'd probably be back within 24 hours. Or, if it was okay with me, she recommended we go ahead and have this baby. We chose the latter, though it meant that Dr. Kurian, who we felt so close to throughout this whole experience, would not be the one able to deliver you. The doctor who was on-call, Dr. Myears, was someone we had seen once when our doctor was sick. She was very caring and compassionate, and she knew our history. Having met her before set us at ease and we were comfortable that she would be delivering you. Jill looked at us and said, let's go have your rainbow baby, she's ready to meet you. Shift change had started but Jill stayed an extra hour to make sure that we were transitioned well and that everyone who was going to be working with us through the delivery process was in the know of what the plan would be. On the Monday morning following your arrival, Jill came up to check in on us, gave us big hugs and had the chance to meet you!


Remember Nurse Katie from Hudson's labor and delivery? She was planning to be there on October 18 as our doula and photographer - the "doulagrapher" as she called it. Since you moved up the timeline, I immediately sent her a message to let her know that plans had changed and I was in labor now. With three kids, a nursing career and photography business, I fully didn't expect that she would be able to be there, but the amazing person she is made it happen. She met us at the hospital with camera in hand, smile on face and there with us through the nearly 12 hours of labor, again. My doctor's nurse, Stephanie, had also been a huge support throughout this process and she came up to be part of "Team Hadley" as well.

With Nurse Stephanie after you arrived
We were settled into our delivery room by 6:45 and shortly thereafter, there was a knock on the door. A familiar face popped into our room and I nearly burst into tears. For anyone who has read Hudson's birth story, you may remember that the first person to enter the delivery room after I had been hooked up to the IV was the sister of a friend of mine. She was the resident on the floor and was coming in to check my vitals and Hudson's positioning via sonogram. It made me immediately comforted to have a familiar face there in my darkest hours. This time, Mallory was doing rounds on another floor but saw our name on the board and came to say hello. I haven't seen her since Hudson's delivery and to have her pop her head in was really special. We exchanged big hugs this time and smiles as we caught up. 

Our main nurse for the labor and delivery experience was Nurse Shirley. She was a very different personality type than I thought I would need for this, but it turned out to be exactly what we needed. Shirley's big personality kept us on our toes, kept us laughing, and kept us distracted.


My family arrived by 9 PM and kept us company well into the early morning. The plan that Jill and Dr. Myears had was to start a pitocin drip to help progress labor, to get the epidural and then break my water. However, Shirley felt like my body was doing this on its own and she wanted it to keep doing that as long as we could. We took more walks, used the medicine balls and then around 10 pm, it was decided to go ahead and break my water. Contractions really picked up then, fast and furious. It was apparently a very busy night, maybe there really is something to the full moon and women going into labor after all, but it took almost an hour for the anesthesiologist to arrive in our room after requesting the epidural.  That gave me quite the taste of true labor pains and your Daddy and Katie helped me get through them. The anesthesiologist who gave me my epidural with Hudson came in the room and was part of this birth story too. This time, it worked correctly on the first try and I was comfortable throughout the remaining hours of labor without needing to increase it or have a new one.



Midnight was nearing and we all started to take bets on when you would arrive. With Hudson, once my water broke, delivery came quickly after. I thought it would be similar with you. I thought you'd come before 2 am, your Daddy said 3 am. Nurse Shirley said you were your own baby, she thinks you'll come after 4 am. I sat on medicine balls, I had a "peanut" ball positioned under my legs as I laid down to help you progress. We all slept a little on and off as each hour went by. Finally, around 4:15 am, they said I was completely dilated and effaced, it was time to call Dr. Myears. This time I wasn't scared. I didn't want to keep you where you were to stay part of me as long as possible. I couldn't wait to have you in my arms. I was ready to meet you and start this life as your mama. There were smiles and words of beautiful promise. She's almost here, they said to me. Let's get our girl, I said to them.

By 4:30 am, the room was full with "Team Hadley" and as everyone took position, I had to focus because it started to become all too familiar. I needed Daddy by me, I needed his hand in mine and at my side so we could receive you together. I felt overwhelmed with emotion and Shirley talked me through this. She said this time would be different, it may take longer, to listen to her cues. She instructed me on full pushes and half pushes. They had an oxygen mask this time, I needed that to get big breaths.


At 5:08 am on October 15, you arrived. Of course you did, I should have known. That 5:00 am window was always your time of day. You were 7 lb, 3 oz and 20 inches of pure perfection. I watched as you were lifted and I could see you in plain view, waiting for your scream. I saw you before I could hear you and before I could finish my thought of why isn't she crying, there it was. The most beautiful sound I have ever heard. You screamed and you cried. As soon as I heard it I laughed. I wanted a river of tears to flow but laughter was how my emotions were expressed instead. They laid you on my chest and your Daddy buried himself in us. Nothing was like the last time anymore, it was now its own experience. You were here, you were breathing, we looked into your eyes, your arms and legs moving as you were laid on my chest. In those moments, time stood still for just a little while.



I watched through tear-blurred eyes as eventually they handed you to your Daddy and he walked you to the other side of the room where the nurses weighed you, measured you, did your APGAR tests and gave you a sponge bath. I watched as your he protectively looked on, with your hand clasped around his finger.


He put your first diaper on you and he continues to do that as often as he can - I listen as he talks to you, he says it's your bonding time together and it started in that delivery room with your first diaper.


They lifted you into his arms again and he walked back across that room to me and we spent time together, just the three of us, as a little family before we introduced you to your grandparents who were patiently waiting in the waiting room.


While we were in the hospital, you met two of your uncles, three of your great grandparents, two great aunts and a great uncle. You met some of Mommy and Daddy's special friends who love you beyond measure. And now here we are. You are perfect in every way. You and your brother resemble each other slightly but that's maybe because I want you to. Every now and then I'll catch a glimpse of him in you, but you are your own little lady with your own features and characteristics that we will be able to watch grow and change. You have the biggest cheeks and a dimpled chin. Your Daddy's eyes and the softest skin. Your hair is lighter than Hudson's and without any curl. You have the longest fingers attached to the most precious chubby little hands. I count your toes and rub your feet. Your nose continues to look more and more like mine, and like Hudson's. I rub our noses together and cry to be able to do nosies with you the way I did with him. You have the sweetest yawns and sounds.


I will never forget the moment that I realized you knew me. It was our first full day in the hospital. You were wailing and then quieted at the sound of my voice. You gripped my finger and were instantly calmed while the nurses poked at you. I knew I loved you from the time I found out about you. I bonded with you throughout my pregnancy and loved you more by the day. Seeing you for the first time and feeling you on my chest was one of the most beautiful moments I've ever experienced. But watching you as you recognized me and knew I was yours, that was a moment I didn't know to expect or how to prepare for and one that takes my breath away every time it happens. I watch you with your Daddy and how you both adore one another. You snuggle up to him and do not fuss when he holds you. You know him as yours too.


You came on your own time and on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. A day that the year prior had brought us pain as we remember Hudson in our raw emotional state. But this year on October 15, you restored our hope by bringing us the greatest joy and a redeeming love to show that beauty can rise from the ashes.


Hadley, you are our miracle. We are so thankful to have you and that you are ours. I will not say that all the pain we endured on this road to getting you was worth it, that you were worth the wait. No, because that diminishes your brother and is not a fair representation of either one of you. However, it is because of what we went through that makes you that much more special and wonderful and incredible. Our promise to you is that we will love you unconditionally, we will teach you, grow you, support you, and provide you with everything we can to enrich your life with love. Welcome to the world baby girl, I can't wait to do this life together and see where your story takes you.
Nosies,

Mommy

Friday, October 14, 2016

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Your big brother gift to Hadley, your hospital blanket made into a special snuggle bunny, 
with the initials you share.


Sweet Hudson,

I'm writing you today because my heart is consumed with you right now. Today I felt a strong urge to need this time for you. I'm sitting in your chair, your lamb in my lap, trying to feel as close to you as I can. While October is the month of its awareness, tomorrow is the special remembrance day for Pregnancy and Infant Loss. I have your Our Bud Hud candle ready for the Wave of Light at 7 pm and it's by the hospital bag, just in case.

I know other mamas cherish the last few days with their first babies, they do something special with them before life changes for everyone with the addition of a brother or sister. If you were here we would be doing that. Maybe your Daddy would have made you pancakes today and we'd go to the park together. Maybe we'd curl up and read to you, enjoying sweet cuddles. We'd give you a bath and hold you until you fell asleep, soaking in these last moments of you as an only child before you were officially a big brother. You've watched over us, and you've watched over her. I've had rough moments throughout this pregnancy, but when I come back to you as my center, it brought me peace and comfort throughout this time because I've felt you in my heart.

We've planned to make you apart of this experience in special ways. If Hadley comes when she should, we plan to have Nurse Katie, who helped deliver you, there as our doula throughout the labor and delivery process. Just like she took your pictures, she will take Hadley's as well as she comes into the world and we can capture those first moments together as a family. We have the most special gift to give Hadley from you, one that will be passed down to each of your siblings when they are born from their guardian angel brother. Your hospital blanket was made into a stuffed bunny, then inscribed on the foot are the initials you all will share. Around its wrist is a special bracelet with your name. It is to let them know that some bunny very special loves them and is always with them.

You and Hadley will be 16 months apart and it would have been so fun to watch the two of you grow up together. My heart aches because that's not the case. I know the course of our lives changed the day you died, but I also have to tell myself that we very well could be here right now with you and with her. It is absolutely possible. My heart can't choose between the wish of having you here and the reality of Hadley or any other future babes we are fortunate to have some day.

In this world of loss, your sister is referred to as a rainbow baby. I want you to know that you were never the storm, it was the aftermath of losing you that was the greatest personal storm we could face. You were the brightest light there was, but that light went dim for a little while as we tried to wade through the waters of our grief and sadness. Eventually we found a new path to head down, one that honored you the best we could and continued to give your life meaning. Your sister brought light again of new life into the darkness that was losing you. We have two babies who are the lights of our lives and you both shine so beautifully and differently. I am so thankful for you, what you've taught me and what you've done to my heart.

I think of what you would look like now and who you would be growing up to become, your little personality and characteristics. I wonder if I'll see you in her when I look at her, or how different you two may look. I hope you are the reason she smiles in her sleep, the extra twinkle we see in her eye, and the joy she finds in her heart - always.

I love you with everything I have. My first born. My precious son.

Mommy