Category Archives: Mending Hearts

Changing my Perspective…

 

Changing my perspective….

My husband, Tyler, and I have two (2) amazing boys. When my youngest was nearly three (3), I wanted to try for one more….which really surprised me because I am one of three kids, and I swore I would never have an odd number of children because one kid always seemed to be left out.   I just loved being a mom and regardless of having an odd number of kiddos, I wanted more to have more.  So, we tried for another and got pregnant!

A few months into my pregnancy, we found out we were having twins!  I was shocked!  My first thought was “God knew what he was doing, again – I was worried about an odd number of kids and it was never even in the cards for me.” 

Tyler and I were not only shocked we were having twins, we found out they were identical twins! So we were either going to have four (4) boys or two (2) boys and two (2) girls. I was happy either way; but, was pulling for girls because we have seven (7) nephews and zero (0) nieces. I knew a lot of our family would be hoping for girls, too, but we planned to wait until they were born to find out their gender!

My pregnancy was good, other than a little nausea. I felt the babies move. I picked out names. I was nervous, but ready.

When I was about 20 weeks pregnant, I went to a specialist for a routine appointment. During the ultrasound, she asked if I wanted to know the sex of the babies and I said no.  I even looked over to the side of the room so I would not accidentally see any parts (that is what happened with my 2nd boy!). After a few moments, the doctor got quiet. I eventually looked at her and she was crying. That’s when I knew. Everything changed. Forever.

I was broken and didn’t know how I was going to move forward. They had Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome. The next day, I was in the hospital getting pumped full of Pitocin and various drugs to induce labor. Everyone kept pushing me to have an epidural so I would be more comfortable. I didn’t want an epidural and told them no.  I didn’t want it and they still kept asking. I was mad.  What they didn’t understand was that, this was the last time I would ever feel my babies. I wanted to feel them even if it was painful. I only had a short time with them and I was going to hold on to every second.

After nearly two (2) days, I delivered identical twin girls. This was my dream. This was NOT how it was supposed to happen though!  To make things worse, I hemorrhaged after delivery because my placenta would not detach. So, instead of holding my girls after delivery, I was in surgery.

I remember waking up from surgery and my doctors asking me if I could sit up.  I quickly sat up and, also, tried to get up out of the bed because I wanted my babies. They caught me and put me back in the hospital bed. I went back to my room and held my baby girls.  The nurses had done their best to wrap up my girls with ripped up blankets.  The pastor from my church came and did a naming ceremony for the girls and prayed over us all. 

I kept thinking, this was not how I was supposed to meet my baby girls. After a little time, I was expected to just give my babies over to the funeral home employees and lay in the hospital to recover. I got mad. I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to go home. I cried and yelled. After only about three and a half (3 ½) hours after surgery, the hospital let me leave. I know they probably shouldn’t have, but I think they felt sorry for me and wanted to help however they could – and I was grateful.

The next five (5) months were dark. I didn’t do much. I felt empty. I didn’t want to talk about it. I listened to music a lot (specifically Broken Hallelujah by the Afters and Touch the Sky by Hillsong United) to feel close to God because I just couldn’t pray. I was lost. My husband was worried and got me an appointment with a therapist. I didn’t want to go, but I did because I had a family still…. and I couldn’t just quit. Therapy helped but I still felt something missing. I went to a few MEND (Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death) meetings, and again, it helped some, but it wasn’t what I was needing.

After some time, I met another mom who had lost her son and she told me about Holy Sews. She was the first one to receive a layette in the DFW area. I thought about Holy Sews and the layettes they provided to hospitals and thought, “Wow, now that is something that would have been amazing to have that day.”

I went with her to a workday at Holy Sews at the DFW Chapter and just took it all in. Something in me changed that day. Now, I could feel myself thinking about the future and the thought of my girls wasn’t quite as painful, because now something good could come out of all of it. God led me to Holy Sews to change my perspective from being an angry statistic to someone who could make a choice. With a lot of nudging from God, I consciously decided to make the choice to use my experience of devastating loss to help others and to teach my boys that life isn’t always perfect or fair.  These hard life lessons about trials and tribulations do not determine the course in our lives. For me, it was a choice and I chose to honor my girls and to never let them be forgotten. Holland & Hayden are making a difference in this world – through us.

In honor and sweet memory of Holland Rylee & Hayden Brynlee,

 

Mommy. Such a powerful word…

“Mommy.  Such a powerful word…”
By: Jennifer in Arkansas

 

Children are God’s love-gift; they are heaven’s generous reward. Psalm 127:3

Mommy. Such a powerful word. Most little girl’s childhood dream is to grow up and become a Mommy themselves. To have a little God-gift baby to love and cherish. This was my dream as well. I grew up, got married, and was so excited to live out my fairytale childhood dreams.

Except sometimes our fairytales don’t have a “Happily Ever After.” Sometimes the story is hard and painful. I hope you will let me share a little of my story with you. The pain is there, yes, but that isn’t the end. You see, there’s a second act to my story!

My husband and I had our first son and were over the moon excited. He was the most beautiful baby and we absolutely loved being his parents. It wasn’t always easy, but I was finally a Mommy. That little boy had my whole heart from the first moment, and I thank God every day for the gift that he is.

A few years later we decided to try for another baby. We got pregnant easily, but were devastated when the pregnancy ended with a miscarriage a month later.

You formed my innermost being, shaping my delicate inside and my intricate outside, and you wove them all together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13

Soon thereafter, we were pregnant again, believing that the worst was behind us. Looking forward to this new little life, we eagerly anticipated each doctor’s appointment and the gift that this baby would be to our family. At our eighteen-week doctor’s appointment, we were told that our baby, our most precious gift from God, had a fatal congenital heart defect. With much prayer, we turned our baby and her healing over to God, knowing that there was nothing the doctors could do for her. The next few weeks were a gift of time. We were able to live, love, and enjoy the time we had with our baby, to do the things we would not get to do later. Each moment is a treasured memory of love.

I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow- not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below- indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Two weeks later, our little girl, our Gracie Lynne, was gone from this earth, but healed to walk forever with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The pain of that time in my life is palpable, heavy, consuming, suffocating. And yet… Through it all, in it all, because of it all, God was and is there. God never ever left or forsake us. His love was greater than all the pain and the heartache and the utter emptiness. He showed us over and over again His unending love and mercy, even when we cried out in anger or despair.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

When our children died, my biggest fear was that they would be forgotten. I wanted people to remember them. I wanted their lives to have meaning and purpose. My children dying was not “good.” It was and is horrible. However, I have chosen to see the beauty in the ashes and to choose to allow God to use the bad for good. The glimpses of God at work in the eight years since her death are some of the most beautiful parts of my life. God has opened the doors for me in new friendships, in ministry, in heart-healing glimpses of the glory that will be when I get to Heaven.

Holy Sews clothed my Gracie Lynne on the day she was delivered. They were the hands and feet of Jesus to our family when we were in the utmost need. It has been a blessing and a gift to serve others and show love much in the same way that it was shown to us. God brought Holy Sews into my life as a way for me to keep the memory of my children alive, to give their life a purpose on this Earth by glorifying our Father in Heaven with my work through this ministry. It has been a truly humbling experience to walk alongside other people, some friends and some strangers, in their time of loss and grief since my children have died. I would have never known this pain so intimately, or have been in a position to help others without the experiences and pain in my own life.

Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. Psalm 126:5

I miss my children every single day. I think about how old they would be, what they would like, what our family would be like, how it would sound to have them call me Mommy. The truth is, though, that death was not the end for my children. Their story is still being written. I will continue to plant seeds of God’s love and hope in this life, sharing our story and God’s love with every person that I can. I will allow God to use me to help others and to tell people of His great, unending love for each of us. Then, when I get to Heaven, I can tell my children about how God used their life here on this Earth, no matter how short it was, to help other people know about Jesus and just how very much He loves each of us. I yearn for Heaven in a way that I never did before. There is a smile on my face imagining the day those two little precious gifts from God run to me in Heaven and we glorify God together, forever.

Healing Comes through Tears…

Healing Comes through Tears… 

Mother’s Day was an emotional time for me when thinking about the baby we lost…it is now a time where I reflect on the fact that God entrusted me to be the mother of a very special young man.  

When I found out we were expecting another child, I was super excited and scared. How could I possibly love another child like the one I had given birth to 3 years earlier?  Those were the thoughts going through my mind, not ones about pregnancy loss and emotional chaos. My first doctor’s visit was one of sheer joy. I was able to hear our baby’s heartbeat and how healthy and wonderful everything seemed to be regarding the pregnancy. I thanked the Lord almost daily for allowing me the opportunity to have another child. We told my son, and he seemed to understand in his own three-year-old mind. We talked about the future and the possibility of the baby being a boy. We had already chosen a girl’s name, so I knew that having another boy would be difficult when it came to choosing a name. I was teaching at the time, and every name that even remotely sounded like a “problem” child was eliminated.  

A couple of months went by quickly, and it was time for another doctor’s visit. I was headed to the doctor by myself, when my husband decided he should go with me. When we arrived at the doctor, I signed in as usual and waited for my name to be called. My thoughts were on our growing baby and how blessed we were to be parents again. When my name was called, I had no idea of the news we were about to receive. 

When our doctor came in, she talked to us and immediately put the Doppler fetal monitor on my abdomen to hear the baby’s heartbeat. She moved it around several times, commenting that it was sometimes difficult to find the heartbeat if the baby was very active. I wasn’t worried at that point, just a little nervous. Finally, after trying to find the baby’s heartbeat, she suggested an ultrasound. I remember her trying to reassure us that everything was probably just fine, these babies can just be stubborn at times… 

She hooked everything up and squirted that gel on my abdomen before proceeding to view the baby. When she got the wand in position and saw the baby, she instantly started saying she was sorry. There was no heartbeat…   In that moment, I felt as if the earth had stopped spinning. I just looked at her and then my husband, with tears in his eyes, and asked questions. I wanted to know what I had done wrong. She told me it was not my fault, that it was probably something neurological. That wasn’t a good enough answer for me, I wanted to know the why!! Why my baby?  I was perfectly capable of taking care of another one, and what would I say when asked about this baby that just had a perfect little heartbeat about eight weeks earlier?  

She left the room and went to contact someone else. When she returned, she told us the second set of bad news. It was later in the day, on a Friday, so the second ultrasound would have to be performed on Monday…that was almost three days away. How could I go home carrying a child that was no longer alive?  What would happen to the baby? Would my body try to deliver the small underdeveloped child? How would I handle that emotionally? 

 I cried and cried…. the tears were uncontrollable and my heart was hurting in a way I had never felt before. I felt as if our world had come crashing down, and I could do nothing to change the outcome. The hardest part about leaving the doctor’s office was not letting any of the other women waiting on their appointments see me crying uncontrollably. I just kept thinking…we should be happy, we should be planning this sweet baby’s birth, we should be telling everyone that all is well and everything looks fine and that the most important thing is a healthy baby!! I wanted to scream why, and believe me when I say I asked that question A LOT over the next several months. God knows how we feel…He lost his ONLY son…He feels our pain…He carries us when we cannot go on another step.  

I had so many visitors, calls, cards, etc. over the weekend that felt like an eternity. I honestly couldn’t believe the number of women who reached out to me about miscarriage. There were so many…     

I tried to be thankful for all the many people that reached out to me, but I kept questioning why this was even happening…why me?  I came to realize much later on that each person that reached out to me was in fact a blessing from God.  

When we went back on Monday for another ultrasound and doctor’s appointment, I shut down. Emotionally, I wasn’t even there. I just went through the motions of it all and nodded my head…God was there, but I wasn’t.  

At first, my doctor thought I was going to have to deliver. I couldn’t even process that thought at all.  Then, when measured, our baby appeared to have passed away around week 13, give or take. So, the baby stopped growing at that point, causing the final decision to be a DNC. I cannot even begin to tell you what a blessing that was as well…sounds weird, maybe, to say it that way, but I couldn’t even imagine delivering a close to 20-week old child. God knew I was not mentally capable of dealing with that kind of delivery.  

The day of the DNC was scary and sad…I was really not mentally ready, but I knew this was the necessary procedure needed to begin the road to healing and recovering. I cannot even begin to tell you the “angels” that were my nurses during that time. Talk about putting your situation into perspective. The first nurse I had was a gem…she seemed to understand exactly what I was going through. The second nurse just held me while I cried and told me the story of her own son getting murdered. Wow…what a woman! Here I was crying over a child I had never met, and someone else took her son’s life. Who does that remind me of now?   Jesus. Think on that…God continues to use my miscarriage even to this day, even as I am typing this now.  

Don’t think that after all this happened, I went on my merry way and all was fine and well. I continued to look at that first ultrasound picture, cry and definitely wonder why yet again. I don’t have to know the why, just trust that God had a plan and there are no coincidences in life.  

I still think and talk about that child (never knew if it was a boy or girl) to this day. I have had two children. One that lived and is 17 years of age now and one that passed away before birth. I will always wonder about the gender, what the child would have looked like, how the child would have acted compared to my passive boy, how they would have loved each other and fought like cats and dogs at other times…I could go on and on. It’s really best not to dwell on the what ifs, but no one’s mind can stop the thoughts completely.  

I have to tell about one more thing…   I had a good friend at the school I was teaching at that found out, not long after my miscarriage, that her daughter had cancer at three years of age. She came to see me and express her condolences. At the time, I was really upset about myself and didn’t fully grasp the news of her daughter’s cancer. It wasn’t until she asked me to walk with her and her family to take her daughter to the room where she would receive her first chemo treatment that I realized how selfish I had been. I was so focused on myself, and from that point, I started praying for them and her daughter. She asked ME to walk with them…why me?   Who was I? I couldn’t even focus on anything but myself, but she wanted ME to walk those steps of healing with them. What an honor…what a responsibility…what a humbling opportunity I had been given. I honestly can say that I didn’t fully grasp that at the time but what a profound impact it has had on my life when the realization hit me.  

Do we ever really “get over” these experiences?  I don’t think we do, I think we learn how to deal with them, and I can tell you that God is the ONLY way to deal… I will ALWAYS remember certain things about the time I lost a child but gained a new understanding of life and how truly precious it is and how each circumstance can shape us and mold us into a completely different person than we were before. How else would we learn to truly TRUST the one who made us?  

 

Ryan’s Story…

Friday, April 27, 2007, was the longest day of my life.  Kevin, Torrie and I had gone to our OB appointment to see an ultrasound of our baby. After a tense and quiet moment, I forced the news out of the tech, our baby boy had no heartbeat.  For me, time stopped.

I understood at that moment what the phrase, “My blood ran cold,” meant.  I felt a rush of cold flow from my head to my toes. I was in shock.  I went numb.

I’ve never been so numb in my whole life.

In fact, I built a mental bubble around me and stayed inside of it.  It was a self-defense mechanism, a coping strategy, a desperate attempt to hold on to sanity. I was admitted to the hospital the next morning—a Saturday. Several full-term pregnant women were being admitted as well.  “You don’t look like you’re big enough to have a baby!” The desk attendant happily exclaimed.” I just cried. She figured out what she had said a few seconds too late. It seemed like an eternity before I made it safely to my own room. For two days, I laid there, in my own little world, waiting for the medicine to start labor. Protecting and distancing myself in my bubble –in spite of the fact that family, friends and nurses were coming and going. Their life was still normal. While mine was shattered.

I’ve never been so distant in my whole life.

Monday evening came, my labor suddenly progressed. Things started happening. I mentally left my body. I couldn’t be there. I vividly imagined what Jesus had felt like, what his mother had felt like. I heard the voices mocking/cheering me on as if I was to be happy about being finished with labor. “One more push, and you’ll have a baby!” The nurse exclaimed. Sure, I had an epidural, but I could still feel the pain, emotionally and physically.  It came time to deliver my precious Ryan, I wanted so badly to be numb, but I wasn’t. At shortly after 7:00 PM, I felt him leave my body. It was finished.

I have never felt so empty in my whole life.

I really thought the worst was over. I wanted to see my baby, but I was exhausted and willing to wait. I was on all kinds of medication, and I couldn’t feel anything, and I simply just couldn’t care anymore. So I slept.

I don’t know how long it was before he was brought to me. He was naked and wrapped in a blanket.  He was not the beautiful baby that I had seen by ultrasound, but I still very much loved him. He was a perfectly formed little creature, with red skin that was thin and moist with his blood.  He was 7 inches long, weighed 3 ounces–limp and lifeless.  The nurse handed him to us, and his tiny little head folded over, as there was nothing to support him. It was almost too much for me to take.

I had never felt so horrified in my whole life.

The details are lost to me as I had lost a great deal of blood. I had to have an emergency D and C to prevent me from bleeding to death. My body just couldn’t do any more, and as I said earlier, I just really didn’t care.

I never felt so weak and helpless in my whole life.

Many things happened to me while I was in the hospital. I was on enough medication to mentally return to my self-preservation bubble. I just wanted to get through the hell that I was living.  Babies were being born in the next room.  Shrieks of joy were coming from the walls and halls.  My husband was with me, but I was there alone in my room.

I’ve never felt so alone in my whole life.

The last time I saw my baby, he was brought to me, dressed in a beautiful blue smocked gown.  The only problem was that this gown would be the perfect size for a baby that was maybe 10 weeks further along than my Ryan.  I truly appreciate the love and concern that went into preparing my baby for his last visit with his family, but I was so broken hearted and disappointed.  All mommies want so much more for their babies–I was no exception.  My mother was there and she mentioned in passing you know, maybe that’s something that the Extension Homemakers club can do! 

Staying in my bubble, I thought to myself.  “Ok, yea, right.  You just go ahead and do that.” I really didn’t think she was serious, and I was so grief-stricken that I simply couldn’t care.

I’ve never felt such despair in my whole life.

As the days, weeks, then months passed, I did everything possible to simply preserve my sanity, while at the same time trying to figure out exactly what happened to my baby. What could have caused this horrible thing to happen to ME?  What about the family that I’ve always wanted?  I set unreasonable goals for myself–including that I was going to figure out what the problem was and fix it in time for me to be pregnant by Ryan’s due date in October. I couldn’t bear the thought of putting another baby into the ground. I was desperate for an answer.

I’ve never felt so desperate in my whole life.

October came and I had few answers. My mother and her friends were making the progress, so I decided that it was time I went to visit and sew with them on Ryan’s due date. They had made all kinds of beautiful things. These wonderful ladies had designed and cut out patterns for little baby gowns. Several were stitched and ready to go, but there was one major problem.  They were all too big.

It occurred to me that this was much easier said than done. I took our completed items and gave them to local hospitals, knowing that they were too big.  I felt like people thought I was just a crazy mom who wouldn’t go away.  I was even told by one bereavement nurse that I was “coming on too strong.”

I had never been so discouraged in my whole life.

But during this time, something in me shifted.  I felt an uncontrollable drive to get it right. Just so I could show that it could be done.  I asked a lot of questions, and got a lot of vague answers, but I just couldn’t let myself give up, even though it seemed like the world was against me, and that I had almost no one interested in helping me.  Someone even told me that those babies are too small to dress and alluded to the fact that I was just wasting my time. It just can’t be done.

Anyone who knows me, knows that the best way to get me to get something done, is to tell me that it can’t be done. GAME ON.

I’ve never been so determined in my whole life.

I worked diligently to design the perfect baby gown, and every time I visited a hospital I would get feedback which was often candy-coated negativity.  This series of events and repeated disappointments made it clear to me that the current plan was not working. I had to get help. The tug in my soul was so intense that I couldn’t just let it go. I decided to find someone else to do it. It seemed only logical that I change directions and ask for help at my church. This led me to a conference with the Parish Life Coordinator at Our Lady of the Holy Souls Catholic Church.  She told me that If I really wanted to do this, the church would do all it can do to support me.

I was encouraged and hopeful again.  We had our first brainstorming meeting in June of 2008.  I was so scared and nervous.  I really didn’t have a plan of any kind.  I just knew that I wanted to dress these babies and that I needed help doing it.

We had monthly meetings and things worked out one by one. We decided a name– Holy Sews. Since we were a ministry of Holy Souls church, it seemed like a perfect fit. A logo was designed, created and trademarked. A blanket/wrap and fleece blanket was designed and created, a tiny teddy bear was found, a prayer card was designed and printed, tiny golf-ball sized caps were crocheted and knitted.  But, something was missing– a gown or a tunic. We tried several different ideas but we still couldn’t find the perfect thing for these babies to wear.  I had a vision in my head, but I couldn’t convey it accurately to anyone. I had to make it work.

I had some baby blue fabric at home, along with some lace trim. I created and recreated over a few weeks.

While I was doing this, my husband and I were having difficulties that I couldn’t handle. We were on such different pages with our grief.  I was tackling it head on and he chose to totally avoid it.  This transferred into a lot of anger and resentment for both of us.

I’ve never been so angry in my whole life.

He was my husband.  We were supposed to comfort each other, but instead he criticized me for going over my hurt so many times saying, “I can’t stub my toe over and over, especially if I know it’s going to hurt every time I do it.”

It also seemed that pretty much everyone else in the world had gone on with their lives and tried to ignore that I was badly hurting.  Someone very close to me told another friend of mine that he thought I was mentally ill.

Another friend told me to just get over it.

I had never felt so betrayed in all my life.

I was still determined, and the betrayal intensified my desire to succeed.  In the evenings, I would sit quietly in my room. I would cut and sew, design and redesign. I put my heart and soul into my work along with a lot of tears. I was determined to work through this, not just get over it.  I eventually created a beautiful baby blue tunic trimmed with lace, and a matching quilted hooded wrap, complete with a pearl button to hold it all together. I decided that I had finally found it, the standard that I was looking for, and my group of Holy Sews volunteers whole heartedly agreed.

The holidays were approaching, and I was really not looking forward to it. On the spur of the moment, I made the decision that I needed to take this idea out to hospitals outside of Little Rock.  I needed new, unbiased opinions.  I knew this was my crossroads. Am I in or am I out?  Thanksgiving weekend (2008) was coming and I was already going out of town, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

We gathered up all of the sets that we had, even though they all weren’t the exact standard that we had settled on.  We carefully placed them in boxes.  We took them to the church and carefully laid them out for a brief blessing ceremony.

I have never been so anxious and nervous in my whole life.

It was the day after Thanksgiving 2008. Most folks were Christmas shopping and I couldn’t care any less about Christmas or any other holiday for that matter. I was joined by my friend, Heather who had been my friend for years. She had experienced 4 pregnancy losses of her own, so she very well knew my pain. Our only plan was that we would go as far north in Arkansas as we could and work our way back to Fort Smith.

As we drove in the misty cold rain, we were busy talking and catching up as girlfriends do. Before we knew it we were past Fayetteville, Springdale. I said, “Hey! Where are we? Have you seen a sign?”  Almost immediately, we noticed an exit for a hospital. On a whim, we pulled in and soon realized that we were in Rogers, Arkansas at Mercy Health System. A Catholic hospital seems like a good place to start!

Our FIRST STOP, we were excited. We carefully selected boxes that represent the different types of layettes that we had. We headed to the labor and delivery unit. I specially picked my favorite blue set that I mentioned earlier. I told my friend, “I want to show this to all the hospitals today.” She agreed that this special layette would be the prototype, and we would show it to everyone me met.

We found a nurse, wandering the hall. We introduced ourselves and asked if we could speak to someone about perinatal bereavement as we would like to provide our service to them.  I handed her our letter to read. She read it, and responded, “Really?” I said yes. She responded, “We have a mother in labor at 20 weeks. The baby will not survive. I was going to find something for them to use.”

I cried.

Heather cried.

I thought, “Dear God, at this moment? REALLY? OUR FIRST STOP?!?!?”  The nurse didn’t yet know the sex of the baby. When she called, I looked at Heather and said, “If it’s a boy, they are getting the blue one.”

Indeed, the baby was a boy. It was easy to know that I was supposed to give the nurse my favorite blue set to give to this woman on her true darkest of Black Fridays. This was so powerful. I’ve referred to this moment as a lightning bolt from Heaven.

I’ve never felt such a feeling of liberation in my whole life.

The despair that had fallen over me from head to toe in a cold rush on April 27, 2007 was completely lifted from my body at that very moment.  It was a beautiful warmth, which started in my feet and moved upward to the heavens. Instant liberation. The weight on my shoulders was lifted to the heavens.

We cried. Tears of grief, tears of joy tears of realization. Every struggle, every failure, every tear that I had cried, was perfectly planned by a higher power to lead me to that hospital on that day, at that moment. I’m not sure why I was chosen, but with a sign that powerful, I’d be a fool to not listen.

Dear God, here I am, I am your servant. Let’s DO THIS!

I’ve never been so certain of anything in my whole life.

Everett Jones…

Please watch the following video post on “The Hebert House” Vlog on YouTube.  Kevin & Lelia Hebert recently lost their tiny son, Everett Jones, at 22 weeks.  They are sharing baby Everett’s Birth Story and providing hope and encouragement as they travel through the hardest of times.

Please watch their Vlog post and subscribe to their channel.  Their story is beautiful and I pray you will find peace and encouragement through the Hebert’s story.

 

Neriah Grace & Bradford William…

 

Photography credit to:  Heather Bohm-Tallman

Wow… Where to begin this long story of the most terrible grief and the most healing love.  This journey started in August of 2014 when we found out we were expecting our “bonus baby.”  Our first two children, Annelie and Tripp, were difficult to conceive but Neriah Grace just happened. While surprised, I was in love from the beginning.  From the start her pregnancy wasn’t like the other two… There were complications from 10 weeks on and a general sense of caution and unease.  I knew had to enjoy every moment I had with sweet Neriah, I had to just love.  Love was all I could give her.  In November of 2014 my symptoms seemed to get worse and the weekend before Thanksgiving I felt quite ill.  That Monday, November 24th, I went into labor at 17 weeks and 3 days.  I begged and pleaded with the doctors to do something, but there was nothing to be done.  Neriah Grace was born alive, in caul, kicking.  We had all of two minutes with her before the Lord carried her home. Those two minutes changed our lives forever.  The nurse brought in a pink and rosette Holy Sews Layette to dress Neriah. That also changed my life.  Here was an outward sign that Neriah did exist… That she did matter…That because she had died, meant she had lived.  It was something we could see and hold, on a day we felt we had lost it all.

After her funeral, I had reached out to Holy Sews to see how I could help and that’s how I met Regina.  Her story of grief, love, and triumph was a big part of the glue that would hold me together over the next two years.  She knew the road I we were on…

The following spring, we decided to try again.  I wanted to end this season of my life on a positive note – not at a funeral.  After all, lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same spot, right?  Wrong… In July, we were thrilled to find out we were expecting again.  The joy, hope, and love came flooding back.  Like with Neriah I had another anterior placenta.  It was always hard to find this baby’s heartbeat but this time there weren’t any complications. We made it to our 20 week ultrasound on November 2, 2015, almost a year after losing Neriah.  By this point, I had enough ultrasounds to read the tech’s face and see her fear.  Our brains weren’t prepared for what we heard next.  Our sweet son, Bradford William was measuring 2 weeks behind, without fluid, and had calcification in his abdomen.  We were broken.  The prognosis was bleak but we tried to hold onto a little hope.  We lost a lot of that hope two days later during the amnio.  We could see his sweet heart was slowing down, his tiny body was tiring.  That evening our midwife came over with a Doppler and confirmed what we knew was coming.  He was gone. Blindsided with grief and knocked to the ground we went into the doctor the following day and shortly thereafter the hospital for induction.  I wanted to experience his labor – he existed too – he deserved it.  Bradford William was born perfect and sleeping at 20 weeks 3 days on November 5, 2015, less than a year after his sister.  He was blonde and looked just like his older brother, Tripp.

By now I had been helping Holy Sews distribute layettes to NY area hospitals and was able to choose Bradford’s layette before going into the hospital – it was surreal.  With Neriah we had a private, parents-only, funeral at our church but with Bradford we invited friends and family over to our house.  It was surreal to sit there, for a second time, while our Pastor Lee and Brother Paul conducted the funeral for our baby we would never have. 

By now, we were at the bottom of the barrel, grief stricken and angry.  People handle this is many different ways, I guess.  Many would give up and throw in the towel – my husband sure was ready to (I don’t blame him). Not me.  The Lord had put some fight in me and I channeled it into my own research of multiple late losses and subsequent successful pregnancies.  I visited with an optimistic Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist and a skeptical, but supportive, Reproductive Endocrinologist.  There was a spirit inside me that still burned, and now I realize it was the soul of our rainbow baby, Kirsi. It was like she was telling me, “Hold on Mommy, I’m coming!” With a team of doctors we threw everything we could medically at this last shot of a pregnancy. Around Brad’s due date we conceived Kirsi.  It was the most terrifying 9 months of my entire life.  Enter again Regina… She had known my road of grief-in-loss and also knew my road of terror and anxiety with this pregnancy.  She was a lifeline with a beautiful Southern accent.

 After a relatively uneventful pregnancy, I woke up on November 28th and knew something was wrong.  The Doppler a friend had loaned me showed a racing heart and later the same day, she was barely moving on ultrasound.  Turns out I had developed an extremely rare intrauterine infection and with a few more hours delay we would have had another unspeakable tragedy on our hands. Kirsi came via emergency c-section two weeks early on November 28, 2016. We both spent a week in the hospital together while they dosed her with potent anti-biotics and then the day came they told us we could take her home. I couldn’t believe those words.  It was the most surreal car ride ever.  I felt victorious and triumphant. I will never forget the grief that came with loosing Neriah and Brad however, that night I felt like love had won. Now, as I write this, I have a healthy 16 month baby biting my toes and making a mess. Kirsi Hannah smiles all of the time.  I am convinced God had a conversation with her, before sending her Earth-side, and told her to just to smile. 

I never share my story to obtain any attention or pity… I simply share it to bring hope to another family that might be on the road we once were.  It’s my hope that the our story of love, grief, and loss with Neriah and Brad and subsequent hope, love, and triumph with Kirsi may provide a little bit of light in a place I know can be so dark and lonely.

 

My Paisley May…

“My Paisley May…”

Excited doesn’t even begin to describe our initial reactions to being pregnant with our third child.  We were so happy, elated and eager to see what life would bring to our family with this new addition.  Everything was going great from my first appointment through our 20 week anatomy scan when we found out that our baby was a girl and was so active – I couldn’t feel her movements because I had an anterior placenta but I could see her sucking her thumb and kicking her little legs on the screen. 

Our oldest son was so excited to have a sister – he had told us all along he wanted a sister this time, seeing as he has a younger brother already.  In the coming weeks we celebrated Christmas – New Years and just had a good time – although I felt that something was off.  I was still unable to feel Paisley moving. 

I googled (I should not have googled) all the things that could go wrong with an anterior placenta – reasons why I couldn’t feel her movements – things to do to make her move.  Nothing worked or eased the lingering feeling of something being wrong.  I would lay on a hard tile floor for long periods of time and think I felt her move when in reality I hadn’t.  Finally, my 24 week appointment came along on January 19th and I was so ready, I wanted to ease my anxious heart and hear that sweet heartbeat to make sure everything was still okay and I was just imagining things. 

My boys and I went in for my appointment – my doctor had a hard time finding her heartbeat but thought she had finally tracked it down, but to double check she pulled in the portable ultrasound machine – there was no flicker – there was no sound – there was no movement.  She could see my heart breaking and told me to go get a proper sonogram to be certain.

I was in tears and slowly falling apart at this moment but trying to hold it together because I had my sons with me and didn’t want to scare them.  The boys and I waited what felt like an eternity to get my sonogram and there she was lifeless, not moving, heart not beating and measuring far smaller than she should have been. 

She had passed away, our baby girl had died.  My heart cracked into a million pieces!!  I couldn’t hold it together any longer, I started bawling my boys all the time not understanding what has happened just yet but trying to console their momma.  I still recall this moment like it was yesterday and it breaks my heart all over again.  Having to go to the truck and call my husband and mom and let them know what had happened.  I was hysterical and we live an hour and a half away from my doctors office so I sat in the parking lot crying, crying so hard I couldn’t breathe well.  My oldest knew at this time what had happened to his baby sister and he was so upset as well.  It was the hardest day of all our lives thus far.  I pulled myself together and got my boys and I home safely.  I was told to come back in on the 22nd to get blood work and see what we should do. 

Going home knowing my baby girl was no longer living inside me hurt so badly, having to wait to deliver her and think about what I should have done, should I have gone in sooner – could they have done something for her, all those horrible thoughts we have when something has gone wrong in life. I initially hated the thought of going home with Paisley lifeless inside my womb but it turned out to be a blessing – there were community members who had lost babies that came and talked to me – we had a close friend make a beautiful blanket for Paisley – I contacted the labor and delivery nurses who put in me in touch with a bereavement counselor and she helped me so much and has continued to help me through this journey – and it gave us time to talk to the funeral home about Paisley’s arrangements.  The thought of planning her burial while she was still inside me hurt- oh how it hurt. 

My husband and I left our house while our boys were still sleeping that Monday morning – got to the doctors office, got the bloodwork done and waited.  Finally, my doctor saw me again and told me to go home and have her, and we both said NO and I was admitted by 11am that morning.  They induced me that morning and it crept at such a slow pace, going all that day – overnight and into the next morning when I had had enough and talked to a nurse who got another doctor to come up and place the foley bulb and gave me extra medicine to get things moving more aggressively. 

At 3:30 pm on the 23rd of January the bulb had fallen out and labor officially began.  Our sweet, tiny angel was born at 3:50 pm in her sac.  She was so beautiful.  We could tell what happened instantly – the cord was tightly constricted around her neck twice and her left arm once.  My bereavement counselor, who just so happened to also delivery our sweet Paisley, described her best – as a teeny tiny ballerina fairy that just wanted to dance.   

Summer took her to the nursery to bath, dress & photograph her.  Soon she brought Paisley back to us and we held her – hugged her – kissed her – cried about her – admired her, so many emotions all at once.  Our sweet baby girl was with the Lord now, she was beautiful, sweet, quiet, precious – so many words could be used to describe her but none do her justice. 

We left the hospital that night and got home to our boys – our oldest was sad and confused and had so many questions and our youngest was oblivious to what had just happened.  Honestly, I don’t know how mothers that experience this loss without other children are able to go home to cope – they have been my shining light through my darkest time and without them I don’t believe I would be in the place I am today on my grieving journey. 

We had Paisley’s graveside services on January 27th at 11 am.  Our oldest son picked a cute stuffy to give his baby sister and our youngest held onto me tightly all day.  It was so hard to say goodbye again, but we know she is with our Lord and watching over her brothers, her father, and me, her mother, from heaven.  Through this terrible loss, our family has drawn closer to God and that has calmed my soul. 

“There are no footprints to small too leave an imprint on this world.”

 

Paisley’s Big Brothers

 

 

My Samuel…

I knew from the moment I learned I was pregnant that something was wrong.  Nothing indicated that something was wrong, but I just knew.  I cried and begged my husband, Brent, not to announce it to our friends and family yet, because I was just sure that I was going to have a miscarriage. I had miscarried a few years earlier, so I just knew that something was going to go wrong with this pregnancy too.

Brent and I made it to 12 weeks and everything seemed to be progressing completely normal; however, we waited until I hit 16 weeks before we told family and friends.  So, at 16 weeks the announcement was made and everyone was so excited.  All of us were so happy and knew that in four short weeks we would find out if it was a boy or a girl. 

Our next appointment was at 20 weeks and we couldn’t wait to find out the gender; however, during the exam, Brent and I were told that there was a massive issue with our baby.  Due to the lack of amniotic fluid, we had to wait to find out the gender of our sweet one.  After our blood work came back, we found out that our baby was a little boy, and we decided to name him, Samuel David.

The journey after our 20 week appointment turned into one big appointment after another trying to determine if there was anything we could do to save little Samuel.  I immediately went into typical mom mode.  I prayed, begged, and grieved with God; however, somehow I just knew.  I went and sat through every high-risk appointment; however, somehow I just already knew.  God gave me strength and I felt He gave me the task of guiding my family through this deep, dark valley full of tremendous grief.

I was told that I probably wouldn’t be able to carry Samuel for more than 27 weeks, but I was given the privilege to carry him close to my heart for 39 weeks and 5 days.  God gave me extra time with Samuel and I was given the opportunity to get to know my child and carry him to full term.  Sadly, I woke up on that Saturday morning and realized my cord had prolapsed.  Brent rushed us to the hospital and once they confirmed that there was no heartbeat, I knew Samuel was safely in the arms of Jesus.  During my delivery, we had so many complications including him being breach, that the doctors decided to go old school and knock me out.  I woke up just in time to push his perfect sweet head out and to hold my darling baby.

I wrapped sweet Samuel in the blanket that my mother-in-law made for him.  The blanket was made from old shirts from my husband and father-in-law.  The peace of God was so obvious in the room that I knew it was all going to be ok.  I slept the whole night with my child in my arms. 

The next day the funeral home came to the hospital to get Samuel, and I could not hand him over.  I had to ask everyone to leave the room and have Brent take Samuel from me.  I watched Brent take Samuel out the door to them.  Looking down at my empty arms, the realization that I would never be able to hold my child again on this earth sunk in, and I simply wept. 

Our funeral home had the memorial service all set up for us to do a final blessing, like the one in the book, Little Women.  It was the perfect way to say goodbye to our sweet boy.  Even now, my heart continues to hurt every day, but God is teaching me ways to cope.  He has blessed me with so many opportunities to see His’ glory throughout all of this.  I do not believe we ever really heal from this, but I do believe we grow from this.  It is through the hardest and darkest of times that we see where our faith lies in Him. 

 

Brent, Kelley, & Samuel David – 4-9-16

Testimonial

The Baby Birds

 Our story is somewhat long and has been a little complicated at times.  This journey involves years of doctors’ visits, tests, and medications; a previous miscarriage at 12 weeks of a baby girl with Down syndrome; several pregnancy attempts afterwards; and even going out of state for further fertility treatment.  So needless to say, after all of this, my husband (John) and I were pleasantly surprised to learn last November that we were expecting identical twins.  We were guarded at first, but very excited (as well as many family members and friends), to prepare for the future arrival of “the Baby Birds!”  Although it was a high-risk pregnancy and we were told to watch out for possible complications, everything was progressing well.  However, at a doctor’s appointment on February 7, it was discovered that one feared condition had indeed developed—and twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome was diagnosed.  Later that same night, preterm premature rupture of membranes occurred (water broke) while eating dinner in a restaurant.  It was a totally unexpected and traumatic event, because in those frantic moments I realized that the fragile lives inside of me would not be able to survive this distress.  We rushed to the hospital and I was admitted overnight for observation.  The following day, an underlying infection (chorioamnionitis) became apparent.  Delivery of non-viable infants became necessary to prevent potential life-threatening complications for me.  Our baby boys passed away at only 18 weeks gestation on Wednesday night, February 8, 2017, at 9:28 and 9:38 PM, at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock.

Despite our initial shock and devastation, we found comfort when we were shown our tiny babies in such delicate outfits.  Our experience with the entire UAMS bereavement program (Love Lives) was absolutely amazing.  This program is led by a compassionate nurse coordinator who assembles many donated keepsakes from various individuals and groups them into an irreplaceable memory box.  Your organization’s contributions go above and beyond, as these intricate little bundles of handiwork are very moving.  It is definitely much more than just cotton and yarn, stitches and ribbons . . . it is love.  Love for those parents who are desperately hurting.  Love for the cherished babies who are God’s gift, who should really be considered a gain, and not a loss, as someone shared with me in the initial days following our heartbreak.  Our twin sons and their big sister are precious angels in heaven.  They are forever with us, and although our arms are empty here on earth, we will always be parents.

John and I would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to all of the hard-working, dedicated volunteers of the Holy Sews ministry.  Thank you, Regina, for starting such a wonderful organization.  We are grateful that your idea to properly dress micro preemies has made its way all across Arkansas and beyond.  Thanks to all of the bereavement programs in the many medical centers that pass on your items to grieving families.  We are truly honored that our dearly loved little boys, Johnathan Bobby and Jackson Levi, were dressed in your thoughtfully made attire.  We have been blessed and deeply touched by your organization. 

 

An unbelievable six months have already passed since that fateful night.  Although the majority of this testimonial was written within the first couple weeks after our loss, I don’t know why it has taken me until now to finally share our story.  I suppose it is like sealing an envelope and putting a stamp on it, so to say.  This is just one more step, one more thing to mark off my list, in this whole process of trying to move forward.  Perhaps my hesitation is because in doing so, it signals the end of something… the end of a painful chapter and the need to begin a new one.  The painful reality felt on what would have been the babies’ due date (July 9) was another symbol of finality to me.  However, with each passing day and each milestone along the way, healing and grace continues.

 

Once again, please accept our most sincere and heartfelt gratitude to you all for the impact that you have left on our lives.  This mark on our hearts will never be forgotten.

 

 

~ Amy Bird

August 8, 2017