Hello Grief

Grief is sneaky like Poor Me and Discouragement.

She shows up unexpectedly and sometimes with no warning at all.  All of a sudden, there she is and the sight of her knocks the wind out of you.

Grief and I have unfinished business-Ashermy Paw, my old church.  I have processing to do on each one and most days, I’d rather pretend that I don’t.

But there she is.  Grief.  She waves to me with a small smile and her face says that our meeting is inevitable.

The difference between Grief and Poor Me and Discouragement is that Grief is a healthy friend.  She means me good and not harm.  She knows I need her to get through the valley.  Those other two…they want to hold me back.  But not Grief.

So, even though spending time with her hurts…I know it’s for the greater good.

And so I start with Asher.

I have not forgotten that Nora is supposed to have her twin with her.

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I have not forgotten those two little hearts beating.  I have not forgotten the day that I found out that Baby B’s little heart stopped beating.  I have not forgotten that he waits for us in heaven.

And sometimes I stare at Nora in awe and my heart breaks a little…because while she is my miracle baby and I am so, so grateful…I really also just want her twin too.

I’ve thought about Baby B, about Asher a lot lately.  As Nora grows and the scary preemie nicu days fade away and she is just such a treausre, I wonder what Asher would’ve looked like.  My heart aches remembering that she is one of two.  What would he have looked like?  Would he have been the warrior that she is?  Would he have been snuggly and sweet like she is?

 

And I  know, I know, I know…Asher’s passing gave Nora a bigger chance at survival, at thriving.  I know that having two in the NICU and having two newborns at home while I still so slowly recover from my own version of Nora’s birthday would’ve been so much harder…but knowing that it would’ve been harder and scarier and all of that doesn’t mean I didn’t want them both.

I did.  I wanted them both.

And now I won’t have any more babies.  I am mostly okay with this, especially in my logical, sensible (you have six, you crazy woman!) part of my brain.  But there is a pang.  Because seven is a good number.  And we almost had seven.

All I have to remember kid #7 is a few ultrasound photos.

So I pour Grief a cup of coffee and we sit together and we think about Baby B.  And tears fall and I hold Nora and am so grateful for her.  Thankful that I only have to grieve one of them because my other one is here safe.

I know I’ll see Grief again.  I know she’ll be back by.  She comes and she goes.  Grief is not finite.  But she brings with her hope.  Because, if I let Him, God is present with Grief and God counts our tears as precious.  And God brings joy in the morning.

When’s Your Due Date?

“When’s your due date?”

It’s the most oft asked question of pregnancy.  You answer it every time you call the obstetrician’s office. You answer it every time you stand in line at the grocery store.  You answer it for friends, relative, acquaintances and strangers.

January 31st was my most recent answer.

And yet.  She came on November 18 and I almost left this world on November 19th.

It still seems surreal to be sitting here in my pre-pregnancy jeans, looking across the room at a feisty miracle baby sleeping deep in her swing.  She is unaware of how special she is, of the circumstances of her birth. She just knows that she is here and that she is loved.

It’s been a wild ride.

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At first, there were two.  Two little lives that we loved and longed for.  Nora is on the left and Asher is on the right.  In spite of weeks and weeks of bleeding, those two hung in there.  Little hearts beating with every ultrasound.

I was on bedrest and it was hard but the prize made it worth it.

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But then at twelve weeks, Baby B was gone and we were shrouded in grief but so hopeful for Baby A.  For Nora.

The summer ended, bed rest ended and it seemed like we’d turned a corner.

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At 28 weeks, my water broke and I began what I thought was going to be a marathon of patience and endurance.  I was admitted to the hospital and there I stayed for eight days and that’s when everything changed.

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On November 18, I began to hemorrhage.  I had a panic attack, I was so afraid.  Afraid for Nora, mostly.  I was so worried about how my twenty nine week little girl would do.

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But she did fine.  She had apgars of 8 and 9.  She only needed oxygen by cannula, did not need to be intubated.  She was 2lb. 14oz. of spitfire and determination.

IMG_1337And while she was doing so well, I was doing just as poorly.  My bleeding would not stop.

The family gathered in the waiting room…unsure of what would happen next.  My three oldest were awakened and given the news.
“Mommy has lost a lot of blood and we don’t know if she’ll make it.”

My husband and my sister who are…there aren’t words to describe what these two are to me…rallied the body of Christ.  They texted, they called, they put it on Facebook.  They called the saints to war on my behalf.

Stories of people waking out of nowhere to pray, stories of people praying like never before, stories of friends staying up to contend for hours.

And I came back from the brink.

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After a few days in ICU, I was finally strong enough to see my baby.  To hold her.

IMG_1386What a wonder she was and what a wonder she is.

I went home without her about a week later.

10 Days Old

 

Every day that first week, we came to see her.  I ignored how I was feeling and we went to Norfolk, we did Kangaroo Care, we loved on our tiny miracle.

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Then I started to feel sick again.  Fevers, vomiting, pain.  Back in the hospital I went where I was treated for seven days for, it turns out, a terrible UTI.  It was a hard, hard week.  I still shudder to remember it.  I couldn’t see Nora the first five days because I was too ill.  We were reunited and I wept.  This was such a hard journey.

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Home I went again and for a while, I could only visit Nora every other day.  I was weak and I was afraid of getting sick again.  But, her daddy was there every day.

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Slowly, I began to feel better and have a little more stamina.  And for a while, I took myself to the hospital every day to see my sweet girl.  Those were precious hours, she was growing bigger and stronger.

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And then, it was January 14th and it was time to bring our sweet girl home.  Eight weeks old!  It was bittersweet, saying good bye to the NICU and the nurses and all that place and those people had meant to us.

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But oh how sweet to have her home.  I sat in my wonderful recliner that my beloved friends had gotten me to recover in.  The chair that symbolizes so much of our journey- its presence is a testimony of how people rallied together to help is.  It’s big and soft and comfy like a hug, like the love that’s been poured out on us.  It’s solid and dependable, the perfect place to get well.  I sat in that chair that means so much to me and I held my little daughter and just breathed that moment in.

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And now, here we are.  Her due date.  I feel like we’ve “done it”.  We survived a hard thing.  We are together.  We are well.  She is beautiful.  She is fearfully and wondefully made.  And while I feel a pang of grief for Asher today…and while I still shake my head in dismay at all that has happened…I can’t shake off this grateful heart.  It overwhelms.  I am so thankful to be here with Nora, with Claire, with Lila, with Chase, with Aubrey, with Julia.  I am so glad to be part of John’s every day.  To be part of my sister and her family’s lives.  To still be here with my parents and my inlaws and my cousins and aunts and uncles and all of my sweet friends.  To still be an alive and living piece of the Body of Christ.

Nora and I have a story to tell.  A story of His faithfulness and a story of how He hears our prayers.

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Thank you, Readers.  Thank you Family.  Thank you Friends.  Thank you Strangers.  Thank you to every single one of you who prayed for us.  Thank you to every one who cooked, cleaned, raked, babysat, listened, called, texted, emailed, face booked.  Thank you all.

Thank you, Jesus.

 

 

Asher

When I was a little girl, before years and stages of renovations, Paw’s house was one of my favorite places.  (It still is.)  It was a pieced together, rag tag place full of character. It seemed to have been built from leftover supplies by a visionary who thought, “This’ll work.” and who wasn’t a stickler for details.  Around the back, off the kitchen there was a back porch with a porch swing…three steps leading to the yard that had not been very well planned for. They were very short and it seemed like one or two were missing. You had to be careful…that first step was a doozy.  For all its asymmetry, it was a good and happy place.  I can still see the Phlox growing in the cracks and between the stairs and in the flower beds beside the porch.

This is what I was thinking about last night. Paw and me and sister and cousins snuggled on that porch swing, drinking Tang made with well water and listening to our Paw sing…

“Oh Jolly Playmate
Come out and play with me
And bring your dollies three
Climb up my apple tree
Yell down my rain barrel
Slide down my cellar door
And we’ll be jolly friends
Forevermore.”

Last night, while I was missing Baby B…I was thinking about my Paw and how loved and secure I felt snuggled against her as we rocked in that old porch swing.  Purple phlox poking up through the cracks.

I closed my eyes and told God of my sorrow and in my heart I could see Paw…bare feet pushing that old swing back and forth, holding our baby B.  Baby B gripping a handful of purple flowers.  Laughing with Paw, happy.

Yesterday, I found out that Baby B wouldn’t be part of our Earthly life, but that he had gone on to heaven…where there are siblings, friends, and our beloved Paw.  Where there is Jesus and love and joy and where his eternal significance will be played out with no sorrow, no tears and never any pain.

But we are surely feeling pain.

All along we’ve said that we’re surrendering this whole thing to God.  The whole thing.  The bleeding, the babies, our future…We laid it down over and over.  And all along we’ve said that no matter the outcome, God is still God and God is always Good.  He can’t change who He is.  And we felt so much peace about Baby A and the smaller Baby B.  I think we assumed that peace meant that we were going to get the outcome that we wanted.  Two whole, healthy babies born on schedule.

And now I know that we were wrong about that, because we lost Baby B…That peace did not mean we were going to get what we want.  No, what that peace meant and means is that God is still God.  He is still good.  He is still with us and in this.  He still brings peace.  I still feel peace…even in the midst of my grief.  I am so disappointed, so sad, so longing for a do-over…but still…peace.

About two weeks ago, I had a really big bleed and then began to bleed bright red again.  It was different than it had been before and it was discouraging.  On Friday, I went to the doctor for cramping and she saw and I saw two healthy, beautiful beating hearts.  On Friday.

Yesterday, I went to Maternal Fetal Medicine for a consult about my issues- my thyroid and my age and the twins and the bleed.  I waited for two and a half hours.  I finally saw a doctor and it was really closing time by then.  She hurriedly talked about my thyroid, said it was no big deal and was sending me on my way.  I was almost about to check out when they called me back.

“Let’s at least try to get heart beats.”

I wasn’t worried.

They couldn’t get them with their doppler, and I still wasn’t worried.  They did an abdominal ultrasound and got Baby A, but not Baby B.  I still wasn’t worried, but I could see the doctor was.

We switched to the Other Kind of Ultrasound (sparing you details) and again, Baby A looked perfect…but Baby B was so still.  I could see his little heart and could see it wasn’t beating.  They tried for about twenty minutes.  And they tried every button and bell and whistle on that fancy machine and they were grimly silent while they did so.  Nothing.

Baby B was gone.

I cried as she told me what I already knew. I cried as we discussed the risks to Baby A.  Apparently I have a whole extra bleed that either popped up along the way or was never diagnosed.  (The machines at MFM are a million times more sensitive and they are trained to look for complications in a way that regular OB/Gyns are not.)  I cried as the doctor explained that the hemorrhage is a huge threat to Baby A and that Baby A only has a 50/50 chance.  I cried as she explained that the babies didn’t actually attach very well, that Baby B in particular was not attached very well.  That his placenta was pulled away from the wall.  I cried as she apologized and offered condolences in that awkward, medical way that the doctors at MFM have.  Bless their hearts.  I appreciate their expertise, but at that moment, I longed to be at my usual doctor’s office where, no doubt, there would’ve been prayers and hugs and tears.

“This is not your fault.”  the doctor said as she handed me a box of tissues.  “There’s not a damn thing you could’ve done to prevent this.  It’s just one of those things.”

I nodded and I knew it already because I know something she may not know.  That God is the one who numbers our days.  Not mommies, not daddies, not doctors.

“Are you by yourself?  Are you okay to drive?”  the doctor asked.

Through tears I said that I was…I hadn’t brought John because I’d known it was going to be way too long an appointment.  I hadn’t expected this.  And I just wanted to get out of there.

I cried through check out and I told the lady I didn’t really care when my next appointment was scheduled for.  I cried in the elevator and as I walked across the parking lot and broke down and cried harder in my very hot car.  Through tears I texted John and gave him awful news in an awful way because I couldn’t speak.  I texted my sister.  I started the car.  I calmed down, took a deep breath and drove home.

And then I walked through telling my kids and seeing their tears and seeing their grief.  Seeing my husband’s sadness and disappointment because we really love Baby B a lot and we were in love with the idea of having twins.  Our hearts were all in.  We had names for two boys or two girls or a girl and a boy.  We had nursery ideas and we’d talked and laughed about how tired we’d be.  We are so disappointed.  We wanted this a lot.

I am heavy hearted.  I am grieving.  I am filled with sorrow.

I’m not really questioning why because I just feel like that won’t get me anywhere.  Whys aren’t going to change anything.  I will not understand why anyway…because I can’t see the end of the story.  I’m asking God for healing and miracles but I’m still saying…

God is God and God is good…even when we don’t get what we want.  We have to accept this truth either way.  When it’s raining and when the sun is shining.  When life is good and when life is awful.  It’s His plan we trust.  It’s His plan that we know is good.

I know this.  I’ve seen it.  When my friend Jen lost her son Carter, I saw it.  When my friend Jen’s son Silas became critically ill and remained ill, I saw it.  When I got divorced, I saw it.  When I miscarried last summer, I saw it.  In countless other difficult circumstances…I have seen it.

So, I am asking for prayer.  For miracles.  God can do miracles.  The Bible says so.  I’ve seen Him do them.  I am asking specifically for strength for baby A to pull through.  I am asking for healing from the subchorionic hemorrhage and for the bleeding to cease.  Quickly.  I am asking that the Lord would protect Baby A and the placenta from the hemorrhage.  That the two would have nothing to do with each other.  I am asking for God to soothe our broken hearts.

Please pray.

God gave me a picture of a little boy last night.  A little boy with blonde hair whose name is Asher.  Asher, happy and blessed.

Happy and blessed and present with God.

No Sulking Here

I am decidedly NOT sulking.

It’s a conscious choice.

I’m also NOT stressing.

It’s another conscious choice.

I’m not worried about Thing One and Thing Two.  They looked so good on Thursday and the hemorrhage is not actually a huge threat to them…if I follow these bed rest rules.  The things that threaten me with worry are these:
-Is the house going to fall to ruin?
-Is this just too much work for John? Is HE going to be stressed out?
-Is Aubrey going to have a crappy summer?
-Are the little girls too bored?
-Will I ever come up with a second boy name? (I think the answer to this one is probably no.)

These are the things that I think about while I rest in my bed.  Claire seems unfazed.  She brings me books to read and climbs all over me like it’s not the least bit unusual that I’m still in bed.  Lila brings in boxes of plastic animals and sets up villages on the floor.  Aubrey, Julia and Deanna visit me daily, sitting on the edge of my bed and telling me all about their days.  Everyone is coping Just Fine.

John is doing an admirable job managing the house and the little kids, though he’s said more than once, “I don’t know how you do this.”  But he’s doing it!

We’ve been blessed by community.  Friends to bring meals to feed my sheep and me and to take a little bit of the work load from John.  Mom, Dad, Sister and Nieces all came to see me yesterday and the rest of the week promises more visitors.

Apart from a  brief respite on Sunday that resulted in a relapse of bleeding…I’ve been in bed since Thursday last week.  That’s six days, with ten to go.  I am praying that the SBH is healing and will be completely gone by the time I go in on the 29th.  Praying and praying.  I want to do all the fun things we planned to do this summer.

In the meantime, I keep my eyes on the goal.  I read through the name book.  I pray.  I watch Netflix and check Facebook to see what people who are NOT on bed rest are doing.  I try to imagine what it’ll be like to have twins.  I don’t sleep because it’s impossible to sleep for long when you’re just in the bed all the time.

I’ve finished “Arrested Development” and need a new series to watch.  I tend towards the fun and light hearted and away from the serious or stressful.  Any suggestions?

 

Happy Wedding Day, Kristin…from my couch

Today, for the sake of the new, tiny, growing babies, I must stay home and rest…just like I’ve been doing for the past couple of days.

I’m getting a little stir crazy and a lot bored and I’m working hard at remembering thankfulness and contentment.  I’ve gotten a restraining order against Poor Me and Discouragement.  I can do this.

I’ve done bed rest before.  When I was pregnant with Julia, almost two decades ago…bed rest for three weeks towards the end.  I survived!  When I was pregnant with Lila, five years ago, bed rest for almost two months, when you added it all up.  It began around 19 weeks and came on with a vengeance at 29 weeks.

This is just for a few days and will be totally worth it.  Luckily there are still like twenty episodes of “Arrested Devolopment” for me to watch.

But the sad thing about today is…I’m missing Kristin’s wedding.  My family will go on without me and they will take pictures for me but it’s just not the same.  I mean, I love “Arrested Development”  but I love Kristin a lot more!

So, from my couch and from my bed, I give thanks to the Lord for Kristin and Drew and for what I am sure will be a glorious wedding.  I give thanks for my family, who will be in attendance.  I give thanks for the pictures I’ll have to see later.

I thank the Lord for my two new babies and thank Him for the healing work He is doing.

There’s more to be thankful for than to be sad about, really.  And of course, there will be a video for me to see!

Kristin, I love you! And I know today will be a beautiful day!  I’m so happy for you and Drew!!!