A 10 week blessing

So as of yesterday, we officially made it 10 weeks longer in this pregnancy than we did with Lauren.  34 weeks 2 days was a huge accomplishment for us!  So thankful for every second I’m still pregnant with this sweet girl.  And I must say, we are also so thankful for all of the doctors and nurses we’ve encountered on this journey thus far.  They have all been so compassionate about our loss. They congratulate us on making it this far and never forget about our precious first born who is no longer with us. 

Here’s a pregnancy update.  The 34 week 2 day ultrasound estimated our girl weighing 5 lbs 4 oz, she has cute chubby cheeks, and long legs!  She’s incredibly active in my belly, constantly assuring me that she’s still growing, getting ready to meet us. While it has been a mostly uneventful pregnancy, we had a scare last week. I was in my OB’s office for a regularly scheduled non stress test.  My BP was 150/100.  Of course I immediately stared crying and thinking, ‘here we go again’.  The doctor sent me over to labor and delivery for tests and monitoring.  Thankfully, all the blood work related to pre eclampsia/HELLP testing came back negative.  And within a couple of hours my blood pressure returned to almost normal.  I got to come home the same night with orders to keep a close eye on my blood pressure and to limit activity.  So far so good.  I’m still waiting on the results of a 24 hour urine test I did after leaving the hospital.  The specialist told us yesterday that 30% of women who are preeclamptic will have no BP issues and the rapid results of the urine dip test will be negative for protein, with the protein showing up in the 24 hour collection.  Still holding our breath on those results but staying hopeful and thankful for the health I’ve had this far!

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Growing a little (rainbow) sister

I can’t believe it has been almost a month since I’ve blogged.  So much going on in preparation for the baby.  But I also have so much on my mind that I’m not even sure where to begin.

First of all…a quick pregnancy update for those of you who are following along.  I’m 31 weeks 3 days today. Lauren’s little sister is measuring 4 pounds 1 ounce, has very long legs, and a little bit of hair can be seen on the ultrasound.  As for me, no signs of pre-eclampsia or HELLP and other than typical 3rd trimester fatigue I’m feeling great.  My c-section is scheduled for Monday, March 3rd, at which time I’ll be 37 weeks 2 days. Keep those prayers coming. 

We recently had our baby shower, which was beautiful. We received so many great gifts.  But I’d be telling a lie if I told you I wasn’t worried the whole time.  In the back of my mind I just kept thinking, “I really hope we get to use all of this stuff”.  Yes, I’m at a gestation that birth would be premature and our daughter would spend some time in the NICU, but statistically speaking, she’d survive. But once you’ve lost a child, you can never really get rid of that fear.  I know people who’ve had perfectly healthy pregnancies only to have to say goodbye to their baby at the very end, for reasons that still remain a mystery.  I’m not being little in faith, I’m living in the real world.  The same world I was living in when our first daughter died.  The world in which bad things happen to good people.

I get those same anxious feelings and have those same thoughts as each additional piece of our nursery comes together.  I want to relax and enjoy the last 6 weeks of my pregnancy, which I think I’m doing for the most part, I just can’t completely get rid of those thoughts.

As excited as we are to meet our newest addition, it brings back so many of the raw emotions we associate with losing Lauren.  Every time we’ve reached a milestone past 24 weeks (when we lost her) I think to myself and my husband and I talk about how we never got to do those things with/for her.  A lot of tears have been shed, feeling happy and sad at the same time. Happy that the baby and I are doing so well and we’ve made it this far, but sad that we missed out on so much with our sweet Lauren. 

I feel that some people are forgetting Lauren.  They focus so much on the joys of this pregnancy and seem to forget that we are already parents to one beautiful angel in Heaven.  No, we never changed her diapers, brought her home, or countless other things, but she’s still our daughter and we’re still her parents.  I feel that they aren’t only forgetting her, but forgetting the pain that we live with everyday. The joy and happiness of this pregnancy and this baby doesn’t erase anything from the past. That being said, there are some people who I am convinced will never forget her. Her name is never far from the lips of my parents and we talk about her often. Also, we received a great gift bag full of baby stuff from a friend from my husbands work.  Among those gifts was an outfit for the baby that says “little sister”.  It melted my heart and brought tears to my eyes to know that someone remembers and acknowledges Lauren 17 months after her death even amidst all of the excitement about the new baby coming.  

 

 

An untruth

Most of us see funny/cute e-cards or quotations and such posting on various social media websites multiple times a day.  Some of them can be pretty entertaining.  But recently I keep seeing one that just makes me sad and mad.  It goes like this,

“Until you’ve….Counted little fingers, counted little toes, held a little hand, kissed a little nose, soothed a little tummy, read to little ears, powdered a little booty, wiped away the tears, You haven’t known love”

I hate that.  I am a mother.  My husband is a father.  We counted fingers and toes, held her hand, and kissed her nose.  But it seems to society that we haven’t met all of the requirements to know the ‘real love’ that a parent feels because we never had the opportunity to sooth her upset tummy, read to her, powder her booty, or wipe away her tears. But I can tell you, we know love just as much as any other parent who gets the privilege of doing all of those things with their child.  I’m tired of being regarded as a ‘non parent’.  Kind of like the statement people make to us all the time now that we’re expecting again, “You’re going to be great parents.”  We are already parents thank you very much!  Just because our child died, that doesn’t mean we weren’t and aren’t her mommy and daddy.  I’m sure no one would ever say something like that to a parent who got to spend several years with their child who passed away.  I’ve also heard it said like this, “If your grandmother dies it doesn’t mean she was never your grandmother and that you’re no longer a grandchild.”  

Walk to Remeber

Over the weekend we attended our second Atlanta Walk to Remember.  This year we were asked to speak and share Lauren’s story.  We did just that and tried to give some encouraging words to other families that are going through this nightmare that began for us 14 months ago.  The event was beautiful!  A few other people shared their stories, all just as emotional and touching.  There was some great music. We walked around the part in memory of the babies represented there.  At the end of the loop everyone had the opportunity to take a few rose petals and walk down to the Chattahoochee River and toss the petals in, reflecting on the oh so short lives of the babies we all miss with every breath. It was so special.  After that there was a beautiful dove release.  Also very touching.  Through out the event people had the opportunity to post messages on a wall for their baby or babies.  And along the paved trail people could use sidewalk chalk to write the names or messages to babies.  We were blessed to have 14 of our family members attend in memory of Lauren and support us.  Among those family members was one of my 10 year old nieces.  Today she shared with me the message she sent to her cousin, Lauren.  She told me it was OK to share her beautiful words here.  Here’s what she said, (tissue alert!!)

“Lauren, 

I never did get to meet you but I know you are beautiful and I will see you one day.  I’m sure you are really happy up there cause you get to see your mommy every day but in a different way and she is beautiful like you. She is a great aunt and she would be a great mommy too.  She is pregnant with your sissy now and she will be just as beautiful as you are and mommy loves now and forever and so do I.  I love you baby girl, Love your cousin Hannah”

How sweet and beautiful is that?!  We are so blessed to have a family that remembers and loves our firstborn.  

 

 

Justified fear

Everyone keeps saying they know I’ll be so relieved to make it out of my first trimester.  Well, of course I will, but getting past the first trimester wasn’t an issue last time.  I’ll be relieved when I make it past 24 weeks because that’s when we lost Lauren, not a first trimester miscarriage.  And people also keep saying how happy they are for me that I’m pregnant because they just knew things were going to work out for us.  Well, I hate to sound so blunt, but I haven’t had the baby yet, and getting pregnant was never the problem.  I hate that people assume we had fertility issues simply because we didn’t get pregnant for the first time until about 8 years after we got married.  That was a decision we made, not a fertility issue.  And it also bothers me when people tell me that I shouldn’t be scared because God is in control.  I know that to be true 100%.  God was also in control when Lauren was born at 24 weeks and died.  It’s not that I don’t have faith.  It’s that I know God’s plan for this baby might not be the same plans that we have for this baby, same as with Lauren. People also say God will take care of us. I know that, too.  He took care of us when Lauren died.  If not for our faith and strength from him we wouldn’t be here today.  So yeah, God will take care of us but that doesn’t guarantee that this baby will be born healthy.  The fact that we’re scared doesn’t mean we don’t trust God, don’t have faith, or don’t believe he’ll take care of us.  We know that.  But we’re human. We know the Bible says, “fear not”.  But the Bible also says don’t judge others, love thy neighbor, teaches us not to gossip, and speaks against gluttony.  My point is, we’re all human and no one is perfect.  If one of my imperfections is the fear that my child will die, because that’s all I know, then I’m pretty sure that’s justified.  The only comparison I can think of is this:  You take a child to the doctor. The child gets a shot and hates it.  The next time you take that child to the doctor you tell them it’s just a check up, everything will be fine.  But the doctor gives the child a shot again.  And every time the child goes to the doctor, it gets a shot.  Would you expect that child to be unafraid of doctor visits.  Absolutely not!  You’d understand because every doctors visit is associated with something unpleasant.  That’s kind of how it is with us.  We know that people get pregnant and have healthy babies.  But that’s never happened to us.  All we know about pregnancy is sickness and death.  That’s what we automatically associate.  That being said, we appreciate your prayers and faith that this pregnancy will end differently.  Keep them coming!  But please stop telling us that it isn’t OK to be scared. 

Worse than preeclampsia?

It’s been quite a while since I’ve blogged.  So much going on that I haven’t taken time to do something I love. 

I found out last week that preeclampsia wasn’t the only cause of the tragic ending to our pregnancy with Lauren.  Last week we went to our new specialist for the pregnancy.  He was asking questions about the lat pregnancy and between that conversation and looking at my information on the chart, he told us that I didn’t just have preeclampsia.  I had HELLP syndrome.  HELLP syndrome is a potentially fatal condition that occurs in pregnancy or postpartum, a variant of preelcampsia.  The following was taken from the preelcampsia foundation website:

“H (hemolysis, which is the breaking down of red blood cells),
EL (elevated liver enzymes) and 
LP (low platelet count).

A suspicion of HELLP syndrome can be frustrating to the physician when all requirements for its certain diagnosis are not apparent. In some patients who are developing HELLP syndrome the primary preeclampsia indicators of high blood pressure and protein in the urine may not be present, and its symptoms can be mistaken for gastritis, flu, acute hepatitis, gall bladder disease, or other conditions. While some of these other conditions may also be present, there is no evidence they are related.”  

WOW!  That was completely me.  Even 3 days before our emergency c-section I had great blood pressure and no protein in my urine.  It’s amazing to me that the specialist we were using with our last pregnancy (the same people who were keeping me in and monitoring me in the hospital for 9 days after delivery) either didn’t diagnose it or just didn’t bother mentioning it to me!  I could go on about how awful that group was.  But I won’t.  

So all that being said, here’s an update on this pregnancy.  I am seeing a different specialist group.  (I should add that I’m seeing the same regular OB that I saw with Lauren, I can’t say enough positive things about them)  The specialist I am seeing this time is phenomenal! They make me feel like I’m receiving the best care possible.  They are so sympathetic about our loss and so attentive to every detail.  They’ve put me on a baby aspirin in hopes that it’ll ward off the HELLP and preeclampsia.  The good news is that there is a less than 5% chance of developing HELLP in subsequent pregnancies.  They are very optimistic that this pregnancy will have a different outcome.  So far we’ve had 2 ultrasounds and things look great.  Baby’s heart rate has been in the mid to high 160’s both times.  We’re remaining very optimistic and always cautious.  

Questions

So today at church the pastor talked about questions, particularly questions to God.  I have always heard that we should never question God or what happens in our lives.  But today the pastor used some scripture to point out that that might not be true.  Here’s a summary of his message. Matthew chapter 11:3 tells us that John the Baptist sends his disciples to ask Jesus “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus could have simply said “yes, I am”, or told John not to question him.  But instead his reply in Matthew 11:4-6 is “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”  And the pastor went on to tell us to ask our questions when they arise, lean into them.  That being said, I have some questions.  I’m sure you know what my number one question is.  Why did my daughter have to die?  Here’s another one.  My husband and I waited almost 9 years after we were married before trying to conceive. We prayed that if it was right, that God would let us get pregnant.  Well we conceived Lauren the first time we tried.  The question is this; if our daughter wasn’t going to live, why did he allow us to get pregnant in the first place? 

The list goes on:

Why are people who won’t work and live off the government able to have children as easily as I’m able to blink my eyes?

Why do people who abuse their kids get blessed with more kids?

How is it fair that single, teenage girls can have 2 healthy babies before age 20, with 2 different men?

Why did the people who were supposed to care most about me and my husband abandon us at the time in our lives when we needed them the most?

The list goes on and on.  I’ve taken these questions to God.  Maybe I’ll never get answers.  What I am praying I’ll get is peace. 

A letter to my enemy-preeclampsia

Preeclampsia,

 A little over a year ago I’d never heard much about you.  But now, you are a term that pops into my mind more times in a day than I can count.  There is no way to prevent you and no way to treat you.  On August 4th of 2012, we found out that you were the cause of all of the pain and swelling.  And on that day you changed my life forever.  You tried to kill me, but you failed.  But you took so many other precious things from me.  You took my only child.  She didn’t have a change against you.  You also took my plans away.  I’d planned on having natural birth.  But because I was so sick, I had to have a c-section.  And because of the emergency you caused, I will have to have a c-section if I ever get pregnant again.  You also took away most of the fun that most women get to have while they are pregnant.  Of course if I ever get pregnant again I’ll be very happy.  I’ll have a lot to look forward to.  But then there you are.  I’ll be terrified of you the whole time, wondering if you’ll show your ugly face again.  Every pregnancy symptom will be faced with caution and fear.  I’ll wonder if you’re silently wreaking havoc inside my body and with my baby.  You’ll always be on my mind.  Not because I’m letting you or fear rule me, but because you’ve sentenced all future pregnancies to extreme caution and monitoring.  And what really stinks about that is that even with the extreme caution and monitoring, there are no guarantees that I will stay healthy or get to have a live or healthy baby.  It breaks my heart and comforts me at the same time that I’m not alone in hating you.  I know there are women reading this that understand how I feel, but I hate that they have to know, because that means they’ve been through some similar nightmare.  And it also means that they spend their days, like me, missing their baby and wondering where you came from.  Well I don’t know where you came from but I know where you can go; straight to the pits of hell.  I really do hope that someday in the future people are saying, “remember that awful thing that pregnant women used to get, preeclampsia, I’m sure glad they found a cure for it”.  Until then, stay away from me! 

Powerful words

Change of pace today. I’ve often written about the horrible, hurtful things that people say to you after your child dies. Those things continue to haunt us and we hear new ones constantly.  But lately I’ve been blessed with some wonderful words from people.  For example, I got a random message today from a woman I haven’t seen in over ten years.  She told me that I was in her thoughts,t hat I’m an inspiration to many people, and that on days that she is frustrated with her kids she thinks of me and is thankful for her children. She said she has even reminded her friends how lucky they are to have children and that they shouldn’t speak poorly of them.  This is just one example.  People tell me that I’m strong and brave, I teach them about love and parenting, and that I am an example to follow.  Just so you know, I don’t feel that I’m any of the above.  It really touches my heart that people reach out to me just to speak so kindly.  These messages and compliments always seem to come at times that I’m struggling so hard to just make it through another day.  So I guess our little angel is watching over her mommy’s heart and sending earthly angels to lift me up when I need it.  So to those of you who speak so sweetly to me, I thank you!

Something bad?

A couple of days ago I had to take a trip to the ER for some mystery hives/allergic reaction.  (I’m ok).  Before we even left the house to go to the hospital my anxiety level rose pretty quickly, because we haven’t been back to the hospital since we went there the day we delivered and lost our baby.  As our luck would have it, we got put in the same triage room as the one we had the day Lauren was delivered.  As I was describing my symptoms and answering health questions, the nurse asked if I had had any surgery in the last 12 months.  I told her a c-section.  The conversation went on, us telling her that we delivered at 24 weeks due to preeclampsia.  Then she asked the question everyone asks when they hear we delivered so early, “how is your baby doing now?”  To which I quickly replied, “oh she died that day.”  As it turns out she too lost a baby at 21 weeks to an unknown cause.  I felt blessed that I had told my story to someone who could understand my pain.  She was so nice telling me that she understood how I felt and that she was so sorry it happened to us too.  As a parent who has gone through pregnancy/infant loss, you expect that you’ll hear much of your own feelings and opinions coming from their mouth.  And we mostly did, until she said, “You just have to take comfort that this happened because something really bad was probably going to happen to your baby.”  I just sat there, speechless.  All I could think was, “my baby is dead, something really bad DID happen to her!”  Death is really bad, and it happened to our baby. So I cannot understand why/how people can take comfort in this logic.  Something bad DID happen!  But don’t get me wrong this woman was very gentle and she was truly sorry for our loss, I guess people just find comfort in totally different lines of thought.  

Gone

You joined our family, making us three
then so suddenly, we had to set you free.

They say it was what God had planned
but no part of my aching heart can understand.

In our lives we wanted a happily ever after
but instead we wrote a dark, sad chapter.

We were counting the days until you’d arrive
now we are stuck, wondering how we’ll survive.  

So here we are, the two of us alone
reminded every day that you’re gone.

Written by Keshia Murray

A broken heart

We had our monthly support group meeting last night.  I can’t imagine a time when we won’t go to this group.  It is so cleansing and healing.  At the group we met a lady who lost her son the day before she was scheduled for a c-section.  When we got home from the group I had a message in my inbox from a girl I went to school with.  She told me about a friend of hers who lost her baby that morning, and wanted to know if I’d reach out to her.  My heart breaks all over again with each loss I hear about.  

I think my friend said it best last night at group.  She said that it kills her to know that as we are doing everyday tasks, someone somewhere is experiencing the pain of losing their baby.  That same pain that we experienced.  So as I sat down at my computer to send a message to this woman who lost her baby yesterday, I just cried.  I cried for my pain and loss, and for the fact that I knew exactly how she was feeling.  At that moment it all came back to me.  And although I’ve never met her, I wanted to go to her and hug her and be able to somehow erase her pain.  It is pain that cannot be described and no one should have to face it.  It hurts my heart that it happens so frequently.  And more than that, it hurts my heart that I know how alone these people feel, and the challenges they will face that they may not even know are coming.  There is so much more to losing a baby than just losing your baby.  As anyone who has experienced it or read my blog may know.  And in the time that it took me to type this, more hearts were broken, because more mommies and daddies are now with empty arms.  I just don’t know any other way to say it than to say my heart is broken in to pieces that all ache and long for a way to help these people. 

Our story

On August 4, 2012 I had an emergency c-section at 24 weeks.  I had a wonderful pregnancy.  Around 22 weeks gestation the doctor told us that our baby girl was measuring a little small.  I had several tests done and everything appeared to be fine.  The doctor told us that she would probably catch up, and scheduled us for another growth scan 3 weeks out.  On Wednesday, August 1, my husband took me to see my midwife.  I was feeling like my heart was racing and also having a tough time catching my breath.  I was checked out and everything was fine.  Baby’s heart rate, my heart rate, my BP, and I had no signs of anything going wrong.  By Saturday, August 4, I was feeling horrible.  After speaking to my midwife, she recommended that I go into the ER to be checked out.  My main symptom was a feeling of not being able to catch my breath.  She thought I might be developing a respiratory infection or something of that nature.  Upon arriving at the ER, my blood pressure was 160/110.  I was shocked to say the least.  I had never had any blood pressure issues in my life.  I was taken back for observation, given medications to lower my BP and prevent seizures.  Soon, I was transferred to the Labor and Delivery department.  At this point, the staff was keeping a close eye on our baby, and still, she was very active and her heart rate was perfect.  After more medications and more observations, the attempt to lower (or control) my BP was unsuccessful and I was starting to get fluid in my lungs.  My doctor told us we had no choice other than to deliver via c-section.  We were transferred via ambulance to another campus of our hospital.  Our daughter, Lauren, was born at 8:08 PM.  The NICU team wasn’t able to do much for her, seeing how she only weighed 12 oz.  The head NICU doctor handed our precious, beautiful daughter to my husband.  He held her by my head (I was still on the OR table) and we marveled over her beauty.  We we amazed how perfectly formed she was, and how she looked like a healthy baby, aside from her small size.  She struggled to get air, and moved little.  But she was there with us, alive.  22 minutes later, at 8:30 PM, our perfect little angel died in her daddy’s arms.