Sunday, February 23, 2014

I just don't know

I'm able to start wearing makeup again. For over a week it wasn't even a question.. there was no point. Now for the most part I can get through a day without breaking down and losing it. My eyes may swell with tears and a couple may even leak over but there are less and less moments that take me by surprise. Instead I tend to cry when I do really talk about it and when unexpected things hit (seeing cute baby clothes that I contemplated purchasing).

Many people say that they are surprised I am doing so well. I don't know what they expect. I don't even know what to expect myself. I'm grateful for Sophia... She is our motivation and it is hard to be sad for long with her. She'll come up with something that melts my heart or make me laugh.

This grief thing is hard. We didn't bring Naomi home. I never got to smell the sweet baby smell, look into her eyes or hear her cry. I never saw her in my bedroom, never rocked her in the chair or put her in the bassinet. She was never wrapped in the blankets made for her, dressed so sweetly in the outfits bought just for her, or bathed and dried in the towels given to her. I just never had these things. Different than a parent who loses a child that lived in their home my grief is all about the loss of the dreams, of the hopes, of the beginning of a new life.

I only gained a few pounds with Naomi and can already fit in my pre-pregnancy clothes. I'm actually less weight than when I got pregnant. Sophia was the one that stretched out my stomach so I didn't get stretch marks from Naomi. My milk has dried up and my stitches are dissolved. I have nothing tangible from Naomi other than her footprints, lock of hair and her ashes.  Everything is almost like it is was before we got pregnant. Except everything changed.

Things aren't what they should be... Today, when I should have been picking out birth announcements, I'm trying to finagle some christening invitations into working for our celebration of life service for my daughter in Heaven. We have conversations about how not to forget our daughter. I start the day out great and then realize things like it been two weeks since our little one was last in my arms, that Sophia pulled out a knitted blanket made just for Naomi and was sleeping with it or that the baby girl clearance section that I loved to peruse is no longer necessary.

I can keep it all together and almost talk like it doesn't affect me until I think about the emotions captured in the few pictures from the hospital, how the outfits bought for the girls to match will never be used jointly or how it kills me to feel like I am unchanged although I carried and gave birth to Naomi. I feel guilty when I feel happy sometimes and not laying in bed and crying my eyes out... Our emotions are on a whirlwind and we never know what the next moment may be.

I don't know what is next. This anomaly of a thing to happen has now changed our life forever. Now I'll be explaining to acquaintances -that last saw me pregnant- that my baby is in heaven. I'll be catching myself saying "my girls" in a conversation because I won't want to explain to someone who doesn't know and make it sound like I'm on pity parade...

Before I've stated that God didn't give us Naomi to hurt us and I truly believe that. It doesn't remove the hurt though or the "I miss her" thoughts that constantly surround my heart and head. I know that God is going to use her death in some way; I just don't know what my role in it is going to be.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


How often do we really know what that word means?  How often do we really practice what it means? According to the dictionary it means "a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering." I think its fair enough to say most of us can and would practice this if we knew the other person was " stricken by misfortune." We've received a ton of this. With one phone call placed to our Adult Bible Fellowship (ABF) leader the Calvary -so to speak- was called in. Our pastor and several women from our church were present within an hour. Joe had encouragement from our pastor and these women were early salves to my soul. Two of the women had also lost full term babes and one of which had just picked up several other women from the airport who were on their way to an annual Hope Mommies retreat. The other women sat outside and prayed while the two women from our church came in and gave me lots of love. They brought literature which is helping me and Joe and giving us a wide perspective. I was also provided information that no mom ever thinks she may need to know such as what to do when your milk comes in and that even though you're walking out of the hospital without a baby- you still had one and your body needs to rest. That piece of advice was especially good for me because it is so against my tendencies and when you don't have a wee one in your arms it can be easy to forget and its something you sometimes want to forget.

Joe's family pulled in together and rallied around us. Joe is one of 6 siblings and all but one are married. His uncle and wife live a little over an hour away and is a general contractor. They all pitched in and loved on us in tangible ways. I receive texts every morning from both of his sisters with encouragement and love and willingness to serve us. They knew we had several projects we had started and were likely to not get finished anytime soon. One of the projects -our shower- had not been touched in two years. We now have our new laminate flooring complete, our shower is tiled only needing a little touch up with grout and our yard has been picked up and a bench and beautiful olive tree provided in Naomi's honor.

Our church and Mops group has assembled a care calendar filled with meals for each evening for almost the next full month. Many people have offered to help in many tangible ways that really have touched my heart. On Tuesday we have some women from my MOPS group coming to clean our house. Several people have mentioned working on a memory garden for Naomi. My sisters in law have picked up Sophia and given us a break. One of them took me shopping as most of my clothes were maternity or used during pregnancy and I wanted to feel pretty again. I received text messages on Friday to encourage me on the first week anniversary of Naomi's heavenly arrival. Many people are lined up to provide play dates and crafting times and whatever alleviates my grief as soon as everyone goes. Needless to say, we have fully felt the deep sympathy and the strong desire as well as actions to alleviate our suffering.

Earlier this last week, my dad and I took Sophia to target to grab some things while some work got finished in the house. Sophia had a difficult time listening and I was definitely on repeat "Sophia, come here!", "Sophia, listen and obey please!", "Sophia sit your bottom down".... So on and so forth. I had many people looking at me and giving me "those looks". I felt like scum. I was trying so hard as a mama but I was emotionally exhausted and she was emotionally confused (too much uncertainty with what was going on). When I got home I really got to thinking about compassion. We've received so much of it from those that know about what was going on but from those that have no clue why I may look like I'm in a daze and trying in futile to control my daughter I receive those disgusted looks. I really took a look within and thought about how often I might do that. Do I have compassion for those around me when their child is acting out or the person is in la la land? Do I remind myself about the fact that maybe they're going through something and just need a little leeway? It's too easy to jump to conclusions but so often we really don't know whats going on behind the scenes. I don't have a sign that says "I lost a baby last week" and nobody else has one for their suffering either. 

This really has convicted me. We need to step outside of our self and share compassion with everyone around us regardless of whatever we know about their suffering.

Some verses to consider:

Ephesians 4:32 

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Galatians 6:2 

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

1 Peter 4:10

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Naomi Joan. 2-7-14

I recall a conversation I had with several of my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) moms about how early its possible to know you're pregnant. You see, I knew I had conceived within a week. At 6 weeks we had it confirmed and my love for my new little one grew. It took us almost a year to get pregnant with our first baby and only a month to get pregnant with our second. God had richly blessed us with this wee one.

The early months were harder this time. I was way more nauseous and become well acquainted with porcelain. Knowing though that typically this means your HCG levels are higher and you're more likely to get into the "safe" zone was what sometimes what got me through day to day as I chased a busy toddler.

I never would have thought or guessed that the safe zone for me didn't apply.

My beautiful little baby grew and grew. We talked about names and when we found out that we were going to have another girl, we quickly decided her name would be Naomi Joan. It was and is the perfect name for her: beautiful and pleasant gift from God. It didn't take me long to hop on the "I get to dress two girls" bandwagon. I quickly got crafty and started making matching hair bows. I started to buy matching outfits with as much frill and fuss as I wanted. I have fully embraced the southern way of dressing girls... and I love it.

I embraced my pregnant body more now than the first time. It is absolutely amazing what your body can do and I enjoyed it. I took many photos along the way and so many people rejoiced with me as I shared.

Naomi received two beautiful showers of which I was enormously blessed. The excitement for this baby was beyond just me. It reached all those around our family and the celebration was big. James 1:17 says : "Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down  from the Father of the Heavenly lights,  who does not change like shifting shadows".

My pregnancy with Naomi couldn't have been more textbook. I lost weight at first and only gained 9 lbs past my pre-pregnancy weight. They were slightly concerned about her growth rate but she quickly proved them wrong as she went from 12th percentile one week to 50th the next.

She was an active little one. She loved to stick her booty out and her feet in another direction. She thought the most comfortable place to stick her feet was in between my ribs wasn't concerned that this wasn't so comfortable. It made me smile though and I thought about how she must be longer than her sister. Joe felt his wiggly worm this time whereas he said he really couldn't with Soph.  I loved seeing his face light up when he felt her move or stick her booty out.

Each week passed without any issues and soon I found myself at 38 weeks. I had some Braxton Hicks but no hint of an early arrival. My 39 week appointment showed my cervix to still be posterior and I realized our sweet baby had a stubborn streak. She was going to come when she was good and ready. 40 weeks came and went and I started having contractions off and on. I woke up before 5 am with a really sore back and some contractions on the 7th and I just knew that was going to be her day.

I tracked the contractions all morning and when they got about 7 min apart I called Joe home from work. We were all so excited and off to the hospital we went around 12:15 pm. This was the day we were going to meet our beautiful gift from God. 40 weeks and 2 days into pregnancy and were going to finally meet our little girl.

We arrived at the hospital with a little pep in our step. I refused a wheelchair and was so excited to walk into Labor and Delivery. There were several contraction breaks along the way as my contractions were now about 3 minutes apart. One of the nurses and a nursing student came into the triage room to get all the hookups on. I was 5 cm dilated and 80% effaced. The nursing student started hooking up the heart monitors on my belly. She kept searching for it and before long my belly was completely covered in gel. She settled on a spot and we all thought she had caught Naomi's heartbeat at 120. When they tried to hook up the second they couldn't find the 120 again and started searching. Now nurse Tammy got involved and she called for another nurse. By the time a third nurse came in with the hand held heart monitor Joe and I both started to get concerned. They kept asking questions like, is your placenta in front (pulling up the ultrasound showed negative) and is she breech (she turned around 32 weeks in)...  At this point Joe sent a text to my mom and told her that she should be here. Our hearts absolutely dropped when they called in the doctor on call to do an ultrasound. We were able to see the picture and both were praying for a miracle even though we couldn't see a heart beat. The doctor turned and told us that there wasn't a heart beat and our baby was gone.

There is no grief like there is when you find out your baby girl who was just kicking you and pushing her sweet booty out now wasn't breathing and there is nothing you can do. We both just cried out to God and bawled. I kept saying God please, Jesus please make a miracle. My mom arrived and we all just started the deep bottom of your heart sobs. I told Joe he needed to call his parents, which he did. He didn't tell them anything but to come. Our doctor came in to do a second opinion and he kept looking and looking. We could tell that his heart broke right along with ours. He let us know that he couldn't see a reason for her passing and it looked to be recent.

In the midst of grieving I had to hear our options for delivering our sweet girl. If you haven't heard or known my position yet, look back in my blog posts. I was able to deliver Sophia naturally and wanted to for multiple reasons but the biggest ones are for her health and my health. The doctors offered pitocin to speed along labor and I denied it knowing that already being 5 cm would probably mean that I would have her quickly. They offered an epidural and I also denied that. Sometimes I don't know why I feel strongly about a subject until later but right there and then I knew and voiced that Naomi deserved no less. Just because my baby girl wasn't going to be affected by those drugs didn't mean that she deserved less than I would have given her than if they had. I wanted to honor her this way.

Joe's mom offered to call anyone if need be and I asked her to call our Sunday School teachers. They in turn called our pastor and before we knew it he was there and ready to pray for and support us.

We were moved out of triage to a room and the nurses were so great about giving us our space to grieve and labor. I was only hooked up temporarily to the blood pressure cuff.  The contractions continued and were getting so quick together they were almost on top of each other. During one while I was vocalizing low I remember saying "This one just won't stoooooooop." Shortly after I called nurse Tammy in to do a check because I felt like I almost needed to push. She confirmed that I was 100% dilated and effaced and that she couldn't feel my cervix. In came carts and all the prep for this delivery. I was thankfully still with all my wits about me and told them I wanted the bar up so I could squat. Joe crawled up on the bed behind me to support me and Joe's dad left the room. I let Joe's mom that she could stay if she wanted and it just felt right to have all these people there that loved and will continue to love this little girl.

The doctor broke my water to help encourage pressure and within minutes I was ready to push. She only needed two pushes to come see us.  We saw our sweet girl for the first time at 3:35 pm. God was so merciful. This was the beginning of many of what I've been calling rainbows in the midst of the storm. My labor could have been long and miserable and I could have pushed and pushed but instead it was short and the pain was manageable.

Naomi Joan was placed on my chest with a blanket and I stared at our sweet girl's face. She looked just like Sophia. The relation was undeniable and made it so much harder and easier at the same time. Joe was next to hold her then the grandparents. We all got our chance to grieve and love this little blessing. They took her to the nursery where they got her weight and length, took a snippet of her hair and did foot prints. Our sweet little girl weighed in at 6lb 8 oz and 20.5 inches long.

While I was laboring the waiting room was filling up with many people who came to pray and support us. A good friend of my parents who just happened to be in town came. Along with some of my friends came some people from my church who had also lost full term babies. Another situation came to light that showed again God's timing and grace. One of the gals was on the way to a retreat with several ladies she had picked up from the airport. They were all part of a group of women that had lost babies in the last several years. These women sat and prayed for me and our family. The ladies from my church were able to pray for me and love on me and give me some very practical advice like what helps when your milk comes in or that when you go home to remember that you DID labor and deliver and your body needs to rest.

Our nursing staff was incredible and so supportive but gave us plenty of space. They were genuinely warm and loving without being too morose and disheartening. We were told we could go home that evening after about 6 hours.

One of the hardest parts of the whole situation is having to make decisions when your heart is so broken. We had to decide on a funeral home and generally what our plan was in terms of arrangements. We had to answer many questions so they could fill out the death certificate.

My mom picked up Sophia from playing with her cousin (I have yet to mention that Naomi shares a birthday with her big boy cousin) and we were able to have a small heart reprieve by loving on her for a little bit before she went home and got to have a "normal" night with grandma. Joe's sister Beth came and spent over an hour talking with us while we waited to be discharged and that small talk was so nice. It was less for us to have to think about and filled the void.

Sleep that night was rough even being in our own bed. I slept hard till 3 am but woke up and couldn't sleep anymore. Night so far is the hardest. It is filled with quiet for our thoughts and reminders of what we do not have.

We were so prepared to bring home our sweet little girl. We had bought new outfits for her, set up the bassinet and rocking chair in our room and had prepared our hearts. We were ready for sleepless nights, newborn noises and many dirty diapers. I was ready to nurse again and snuggle this little one. I was ready for little free time and to make no plans for the near future as it was quite possibly going to be chaotic. Waking up in the middle of the night to silence and no baby to cuddle or feed, no noises to hear and no chaos to calm has been so very difficult but so necessary to grieve.

We do not know the reason why Naomi was only with us for 40 weeks and 2 days but we know that God did NOT give her to us to hurt us. He blessed us with her even though it was short. The memories that we have with her are priceless and we wouldn't give them up for anything. Of course we want her here with all of us. These continue to be my cries in the middle of the night but I'm thankful for every moment that I did have. I'm thankful for our beautiful and pleasant gift from God. We will see her again in Heaven and I cannot wait to rock my sweet baby and look into her beautiful eyes. Until then, dear Jesus, I pray that you hold her tightly for me, love on her, give her all the kisses I would and let her know how very loved she is still down on the earth.

We love you Naomi Joan, always and forever.