A non-creative title.

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A non-creative title.

Its been a few weeks since I’ve gotten the chance to sit and write. Our days have been filled lots of house projects, doctor appointments and Shrek rehearsals. Its been non-stop. Sometimes I like the “go” pace of our life and then once something smacks me in the face, I eventually slow down. Here’s a recap of some bigger things going on right now.

When a family experiences a traumatic loss like we did, the months after take on a whole different shape. We’ve had had to address things within our immediate family that have been hard. A few weeks after Macklin died, the option to increase my current anti-depressant came up. I turned it down because I thought I would be fine. It took one ugly emotional breakdown to realize that I might need a little more help in that area. So, I relented and accepted the extra dosage. It has helped immensely and I’m thankful for the creation of medicine to help me view my life in a less chaotic way. I’ve struggled with depression since I had Brynna. I’ve been able to manage it well the past 3 years on a minimal amount of medicine. Not sure if I will continue but for now, I’m at a good point. Along with me on my journey of medicinal emotional management, Chris also came to a point where he realized he need some help. I was shocked when he told me he was considering it. He’s a pretty emotionally stable guy and not one to ask for help. Burying a child changes you so deeply that its hard to acknowledge it until you can’t ignore it anymore. I’m proud of him for taking that step and asking for help. He deals with so much and being the leader of our crazy family is a whole lot of work. He does it with such grace and compassion that I couldn’t let him secretly struggle alone.

About 2 weeks ago, we had another family member join us. Not one I would have expected but I’m glad we acknowledged the difficulty. Isaiah has had a rough year or two and we chalked it up to being a strong-willed, emotional, active boy. All of which he definitely is. He has lots of ups and downs and we have been able to help him manage those emotions as much as we can. The past two months have brought in a host of different emotions from all parties in our house and Isaiah has been not immune to that. As we started homeschooling a little bit this summer, I noticed some things I hadn’t before. His inability to focus on his work and getting easily frustrated with any sort mental effort; despite the fact that he is incredibly intelligent for six) lead me to explore what could be going on. He had also started getting somewhat violent and impulsive with his siblings, having some VERY intense anxiety about little things, and tantrums that would often scare me. His frustration with me and my ability to help him through that had come to a road block. We were both angry with each other most of the day and it started hurting our relationship. After his multiple explosions throughout the day, the almost constant yelling and having both of us in tears on a regular basis, I knew it was time to get some help. I had no idea what was happening but knew I needed to bring it up to our doctor. I made an appointment and the possibility ADD came up. I had a hunch that could be what was happening but I didn’t want to jump to that right away. I didn’t know a lot about it so I wanted to get some more information and a second opinion. We were referred to a psychologist and that next week the doctor gave us the answer that, yes, Isaiah has ADD. I was somewhat relieved to hear that because I now had an idea of what was happening inside my boy’s head. When Carsten got diagnosed with ASD last year, we worked through that and have been successful in helping him manage that. ADD just became another diagnosis that we had live our lives around and find a way to help our son. With already dealing with ASD, ADD was a little less scary. So, we explored what options would be best for him. We made the “controversial” decision to start him on a low dose of Concerta as well as getting him an OT evaluation. We’ve been doing OT with Carsten and know the magical effects it can have on kids who need help to regulate their bodies and emotions. I am also being aware more of his diet and trying to keep out as much food dye as possible and helping him make better food choices. Its going to be another challenge but we will always do what is best for our kiddos.

In the midst of our chaos at home, I’ve had the chance to get out of house and get with some awesome people at River City Theatre Company. This show has literally given me a breath of fresh air and new passion for doing theatre again. I’m loving the amazing and talented cast I get to work with. Going into this show and not really knowing anybody, It gave me a chance to enter an environment where no one knew my story. No one knew that just weeks before auditions that I had buried my child. At first, I hated the fact that no one knew. I felt like they should. But unless the topic came up, I haven’t said much. A few of the adult cast members have figured it out after becoming facebook friends, but I would say a majority of them don’t know. I’m okay with that. It has helped me kind of “get away” from death. We don’t talk about, no one asks me questions, its good. I’m looking forward to the final touches on the show and seeing all of the hours of hard work come together next month.

My other big project is slowly taking shape. The 5K is starting to take off and its been cool to see the community jump on board in support. Its a HUGE project that is going to need more than just a few people to pull off so I’m praying I have an army step up here in the next few weeks, otherwise this could be an epic flop. I have three hospitals who need these cots and I have pretty much promised them that they will have them by the end of the year. This NEEDS to happen. I keep getting emails from people who know someone who recently lost a baby and who could benefit from a Cuddle Cot. I wish I had a stock pile of them to just give to each hospital in the Twin Cities but I don’t right now. And I never will if I can’t get this to be a successful event. There are so many moving parts to planning this thing and I can’t do it by myself. I want this not only to be a fundraiser but a memorial event where people can have their lost babies acknowledged and honored in our community. This is for families. This is for anyone that has felt that sting of loss. Its to bring hope and joy to people that have lived through their worst nightmare.This NEEDS to happen.

Every so often, I remember that Macklin’s death not only affected me but the kids as well. I forget that. Its still fresh in their memories even when we don’t talk about it. This morning, Brynna came and snuggled in bed with. We talked about what she did the night before while I was at rehearsal. Chris had sent me a couple of pictures of her pretending to have a baby in her tummy and then another of her sweetly holding her newborn baby doll. It was incredibly sweet. I asked her what she thought about mommy having another baby. She emphatically agreed (once again) that she needed a baby sister. All of the kids have asked for that too. I asked her what she would name her sister and what she would do with a new baby.

“Probably play with her” She said.

“What else?” I asked

“But mom, will she be alive or dead?”

I froze.

I had no words.

How was I supposed to answer that. My first reaction was to say “of course she would be alive.” But I couldn’t. I can’t make that promise anymore. And the fact that that is even something she has to ask me, is heartbreaking. Death is a very real thing to a three year old, and it shouldn’t be. She shouldn’t have to ask me if anymore of her siblings are going to die. She shouldn’t have to ask me if mommy will have a dead baby. It was gut wrenching to hear her say that.

Within minutes of me not answering her, she moved on in her normal three year old life and asked for breakfast. It stuck with me. I choked back tears as I realized that again, that things are different now. There will always be that question. Always. And there is nothing I can do to change the answer to that question. Not one thing. But I still hold on to hope. Because hope remains. When I don’t have the answers, hope remains.

Last week, after another fiery and frustrating morning at home, I left and went over to the cemetery. I sat a Macklin’s grave like I had every other time, and wept. I wept out of sadness, frustration, anger and confusion. I wept because I’m honestly still in shock. I still can’t believe it happened. After my time with Macklin, I decided to walk around the cemetery for a bit. It was a gorgeous day and I just needed silence. Not a much better place to get it. I walked and looked the headstones of families and folks that had lived a long time. In the place where Macklin in buried is considered the “baby section” of the cemetery. There are 3 or 4 other little ones along with a boy that passed around 9 years old. I visit them and sing to them too. Not sure if they get visitors. So, as I walked through the cemetery, I never had the thought that there were more children buried there. I guess I figured they were all over in that special part of the cemetery. I was surprisingly wrong. The Watertown Community cemetery is very old, started in the mid 1800’s it seemed. As I walked though, I was saddened at the amount of children buried there. Many of them babies and few that never reached ten years old. Some of them had names, others just with “Baby” and their last name. Some of them were buried alone, some with family. I thought back to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s when these babies died. I don’t know how they died. Disease is a very real possibility and lack of medical care back then may have contributed to their death. But as I stood over the grave of the dozens of children, I realized something. I was not alone. I was not the only person to ever experience this. Yes, I had always known that, but in my mind, I suppose I though the death of babies was a “new” thing. But I realized that over a hundred years ago, another mother stood in that exact place and wept over her child, just like I have. My heart hurt for those mamas too. I believe a mother’s heart transcends time. The grief I feel sitting at the grave of my baby is no different than the grief a mother, one hundred or even a thousand years before me had felt. I have felt a profound connection between mothers I know now that have lost a baby. There is an unspoken relation that we have. We just know. We know how each other feel. We know the awful thing we have in common. And I felt it as I stood at the graves of those children. I felt their mother’s pain and sorrow. I understood it. It was a connection beyond the grave that I had with those mothers. I’m also hopeful in knowing that those mamas are with their babies in heaven. And one day I will get to experience that incredible reunion. So while I felt and understood their sadness, I had joy also that mother and baby were together.

Gosh, I feel like I hit every possible thought and experience the past few weeks. Lots of ups and downs. Lots of thoughts and feelings. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

Okay, so now for some highlights…

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Hope Remains,

Ashley

A Whole New World

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A Whole New World

I searched through my closet looking for something. A dress maybe or nice pants. I shuffled through the hanging clothes wanting to find something just right. Its hot out but it could be cool inside. I don’t like being cold.

Ah, perfect. As simple summer dress. I could throw a light sweater over it to keep warm. Now, shoes. A beige pair of heels I haven’t worn in 9 months. They weren’t very comfortable but I was dying to feel pretty. The heels would do it. Minutes later, I greeted the babysitter, kissed the kids goodbye and headed out to the city with Chris. We had unexpectedly gotten tickets to see The Music Man from a friend of ours who played in the pit orchestra. We looked forward to a night out together to see a show, a musical, something we both had a passion for. Good theater. We sat and drank expensive adult beverages while listening to voices of talented actors and singers joyfully belting “Shi-poopi” in a 1950’s world that played out on a gorgeous stage at the Guthrie. As intermission came, the thought hit me again. Like it had multiple times the past 8 weeks weeks.

I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t be doing this.”

After the show, our friend Adam gave us the backstage tour of the Guthrie. We walked backstage through the secret doors and rooms and soon ended up in the center of the stage where we had just watched a number of men, women and children dance and sing their hearts out. It was silent in the theater, the actors had left the building and we were the only ones there. My heart leaped with excited to even be standing on that stage. Not something I would ever get to do again. My dreams of being on a stage even that prestigious had gone out the door after marrying and having a few kids. Not many know I had big dreams of Broadway. I saw a glimpse of it in my years after high school, but God had different plans. I was okay with that. My heart still longed to feel the warmth of blinding stage lights and leaving all I had out on a stage before a standing,applauding audience. I missed it. Then I remembered that just days before I got the call that gave me that chance again. I was cast in our local community’s theater company production of Shrek The Musical. It was happening again. The excitement flowed through my veins knowing I would soon be back to doing something I truly loved. But there was a sadness among it too.

I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t be doing this”

A common phrase that I’ve heard is “we make our plans and God laughs.” Essentially meaning, you can plan all you want but at the end of the day, God already has planned your life. There’s nothing you can do about it. And while I have experienced that obvious chuckling of my creator as my life played out differently than I had planned, I recently feel like that chuckle has turned into a gentle hand on my shoulder. Not a mocking laugh of my failed plans and dreams but a force helping me to step into a reality that was beyond anything I could have fathomed. He is grabbing my hand and saying “hang on, I’ve got you. Lets do this together. I know this isn’t what you had in mind but keep going.”

So, I do. I’ve kept going. Living out this strange new world. A world that was shaken to the core.  A world I wasn’t supposed to be in. Doing things and going places that I wasn’t supposed to do….because I was supposed to have a baby. I supposed to be at home, with a newborn. I was supposed to be exhausted from being up all night and staying home all day and trying to find a semblance of normalcy with a new baby in the house. I’m not supposed to be planning a 5K race, having garage sales to raise money, doing theater and scheduling speaking engagements to share my story. I’m not supposed to have a story to share. I’m not supposed to be doing this.

To add to the new reality of my world, a new thing arises. Fear. Intense, heart racing, panicky, over the top, fear.

Things have changed. My naivety no longer exists. In my mind, ANYTHING could happen. And I’m not saying that in a “inspirational poster in a classroom” kind of way. I live in a world where I’m pretty certain that anyone at anytime could be taken from me. A  tragedy could literally be around the corner. Where I fear for the life of my children and my husband more than ever. Why? Because when you live through your worst fear, the one that you told yourself was irrational and likely impossible, you expect it to happen again. I have invisioned myself burying another child. Godly willing, I hope I never have to again, but the thought crossed my mind and I held back many tears. What if this happened again? What if another one of our children tragically died? I will never get to experience a perfect, anxiety free pregnancy. There will never be a “safe point” for me. Not 12 weeks, not 20, not 40. Until I have a screaming baby in my arms, I can take a breathe of relief. But even then, I can’t brush off my irrational fears about my kids. I can’t let my children play outside by themselves, because in my world, my babies die. I may not have been able to do anything to save Macklin, but I surely will do everything in my power to protect the babies I have now.

You’re are probably thinking at this point “What happened to her? She was so hopeful and positive….” Don’t worry, I’m still hopeful and positive. I’ve heard so many times about “how well I’ve handled everything.” But sometimes, I don’t. I’m not one to mourn and grieve in the presence of people. I can’t. I literally get embarrassed. There are a handful of people the past few months that I have felt comfortable crying in front of, but I can’t walk around like a hot mess 24/7. I have my moments. When I least expect it. Like last week, I decided to have a garage sale to start raising money to purchase the Cuddle Cots. I spent days going though our stuff that wasn’t being used, shuffling around the pile of unused baby items staring me in the face and seeing what I can make some money selling. I organized, I cleaned, I did all the necessary stuff to put together what I hoped would be a successful little fundraiser. So, I sat. For three days, in the heat, neglecting the kids, just waiting. Some people came. Some people donated. And I sat, doing what most people do, I scrolled though facebook trying to pass the time. I scrolled though hundreds of pictures of newborn babies. Babies that were supposed to be born after Macklin. That was supposed to be me. Taking newborn pictures in the hospital, settling into our first days at home. Instead, I sat and cried. Cried because my due date came and went. He should have been here. I should have had cute pictures of him at 4th of July parade, pictures of him at Carsten’s birthday, pictures of him with his siblings. That was the plan. Thats everyone’s plan when they have a baby. Most people don’t think of the awful “what ifs.” But it happened. I still can’t even believe it actually happened. I look at the pictures that we do have. I see us. I see the faces and emotions but I still can’t even believe that was us. Did we really just go through that?

I can’t replace him. I can’t call my insurance company and file a claim to get him back. I can’t get something better or newer. He’s gone.Thats it.

Now, we try to move on in our new reality. We think about what our next steps will be. A couple months of rehearsals and performances. Trying to find more much needed income. Discussing the option of having another baby. Planning a 5K. We have no idea what will happen anymore. I almost feel like its pointless to make plans anymore because I have no control over it. But we keep going. One day at a time, continuing to trust God with everything. There seems to be a long, winding, difficult road ahead of us. But at the end of the day, we have no idea. God knows. He always has, so we rest in that. I leave my anxiety and fears to Him. No one said that following Jesus meant that there wasn’t ever going to be pain. I knew that before, but I’ve experienced it now. And through it, He was and still is good.

Some things that weren’t supposed to happen, but I’m glad they did 🙂

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Hope Remains,

Ashley

Dear Macklin,

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Dear Macklin,

I’m missing you today.

I spent the early parts of the morning replaying the day you were born and wishing I had done things differently. I wish I would have given you a bath. I wish I would have dressed you in the clothes I bought you. I wish we had more time with you.

I feel like today would have been the day you were supposed to be born. As the days inch closer to my actual due date, my heart starts to ache. I would think about that day while you were still in my belly. The excitement and joy you brought to our family made every day we had to wait to meet you that much more difficult. I would think about my labor and how awesome it would be experience it again. I thought about the tears of joy I would cry when I first saw your face, pink and wrinkled. I thought about your cries. I never did get to hear them. I thought about how excited your siblings would be to meet you and bring you home. I thought about the hours I would spend nursing and snuggling your warm little body. I thought about our first trip as a family of seven. I thought about when we would take you to the park and when we would go on long walks in the evening with the other kids. I thought about how daddy would stay up late with you so that mommy could get a few hours of sleep. I thought about watching you grow; learning to crawl, and walk. I thought about the hours we would spend together at night, when I would gently lay you beside me and watch you sleep. Listening to your grunts and groans through the night. I thought about your first Christmas and the excitement to have you with us to celebrate for the first time. I thought about how you would laugh at your brothers and sister when they tried to play with you. How they would watch after you and share their toys with you. I thought about your birthdays, graduations and hopefully one day a wedding.

There so much we didn’t get to do. So many dreams we had for you. You were apart of our family from the second we knew you existed. We loved you from that very moment.

I miss you so much, sweet boy. I miss the joy you brought to our family. I miss the excitement your life brought to our home.

Mommy loves you.

The story continues…

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The story continues…

Its been a month plus a few days and I can say that things have gotten better. The crying has lessened, the sleeping is better, and we are settling into our new life. While not much has changed day to day around the house, we are in a new reality. A reality where there is a resounding silence in the midst of the chaos. A reality where our family pictures that cover our home have stinging reminders of the one who is missing. The baby clothes have been packed away and I’m working up to getting the rest of the baby gear out of the garage and back into the house to be stored for future use 😉 The meals have stopped coming, the cards and gifts have found their way into secret places and the flowers have all made their way out. Soccer and dance class have filled our evenings. I went back to work at church. School is out. Summer fun has begun. Life resumes.

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The past couple of weeks have held some sad but precious moments. I’ve had the honor of donating my breast milk to my friend Jen and her beautiful boy Easton. He’s been thriving on my milk and his mama has been grateful to have a supply for when she’s away photographing other mamas and their precious little ones. I even had the opportunity while she was away to care for Easton and actually nurse him myself. Not something I would have ever thought I would do, but oddly, I had a healing and peaceful feeling come over me when I was able to nurse a baby again, even if my heart ached for my own little boy. My milk has since dried up but I’m so thankful to have been able to give that blessing to another family.

Many joyful moments have come from my time with my closest friends. Those that have literally walked through the fire with me this past month. The presence of these people brings me so much joy. Their support has been astounding. Their sacrifice has been limitless. From being with us in the hospital, planning the funeral, allowing for hours of tears and laughter, and just letting me grieve in their presence no matter how messy it got. My heart is so blessed by these people. I am so thankful for their grace to accept me as I am and walk beside me in the hardest season of my life. They know me. They know my flaws. They know when to hand me a glass of wine. They know when to let me cry and when to laugh at my inappropriate comments. They know my kids, love my kids, care for my kids and know when I need to get away from my kids. They have stepped in in my weakest moments and taken over. They have fed me, hugged me, prayed for me, cried with me and have been my rock. The strong community that has surrounded us the past month has been crucial to our mental health. The love and support has been incredible and I will forever be blessed.

A few highlights with some of my amazing friends.

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Amidst the moments of joy there have been many moments of deep sorrow. There have been days when I literally didn’t leave my bed. Moments when my pain, sadness and frustration have taken over and I have had to abandon my world. When the physical ache has made me wonder how I will ever keep going. I’m so thankful for my amazing husband who has dropped everything to come to my rescue and assured me that I’m not crazy or abnormal. Grief is a weird thing. I can have days that are wonderful and feel like I’m back to normal but then something triggers me and I can fall into a deep pit of despair and sadness. As a friend had put it ” Grief is like a tornado, it comes out of no where, rips everything apart and sometimes leaves as fast as it came on.”

Psalm 34:17-20

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

19 The righteous person may have many troubles,
    but the Lord delivers him from them all;
20 he protects all his bones,
    not one of them will be broken.

As Macklin’s one month “birthday” came around, I received some devastating news that a friend of mine, pregnant with her 5th baby, was told at her 20 week appointment that her baby boy no longer had a heartbeat. One month to the day that I also got that horrifying news. My heart broke. I lay awake in my bed, yelling at God. Asking why, what was the point in all of this? Please, God, just stop this already. This isn’t supposed to happen. How many more mother’s will have to experience this unimaginable pain? It wasn’t long before I got my answer when a friend said, “death is the reminder that this isn’t how the world was intended to be.” She was right. God didn’t allow for this to happen. When mankind turned away from God in the Garden of Eden, it allowed pain, death, and sadness to enter our world. God’s heart breaks too. But again, my hope remains that God has a plan and will make all things new.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in Goda]”>[a]; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” John 14:1-4

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The past few weeks, I have been doing a lot of research on stillbirth. I’ve learned that there are 71 stillborn babies born every day. EVERY DAY! I was shocked. That is 26,000 in the US every year and 4 MILLION worldwide.One in 160 American pregnancies ends in stillbirth. Almost 50 percent of these deaths occur at or near full term and often seem to be otherwise healthy babies.The majority of stillbirths (85%) occur before delivery with 15% occurring during labor and delivery. This is a common problem. While the reasons for stillbirth vary, the fact is that WAY too many families are facing this tragedy every day. In most cases, a stillbirth or death shortly after birth is not predictable. It can happen in a moment, leaving the family shocked and confused. They are soon holding their precious child. And the clock starts ticking. They may have only hours with their child they have waited months, maybe years to meet. As the body’s natural process after death begins, their baby takes on a form that is hard to see. Peeling skin, bruising and other physical attributes that follow death, quickly start to appear. It can leave families without time on their side and force them to say goodbye sooner than desired. But what if we can change that? What if families can have days instead of hours to be with their baby. It is possible. As I researched I came upon a special piece of medical equipment that can make that possible. Its called a “Cuddle Cot” and can greatly change the experience a family has when saying hello and goodbye so quickly. Here’s a video explaining the Cuddle Cot.

The gift of time. Time to kiss sweet cheeks. Time to count fingers and toes. Time to snuggle and cuddle. Time to say goodbye. Right now, these cots are in most hospitals over seas. There is an initiative done by the organization S.O.B.B.S (stories of babies born still) to get a Cuddle Cot in every hospital in the US.

And so, that is my plan. I want to purchase THREE cuddle cots for local hospitals in our area, Ridgeview Hospital, Hutchinson Hospital and Buffalo Hospital. To do this, we will be hosting the “Hope Remains 5K” in October to raise $10,000 to purchase these cots. We will partner with S.O.B.B.S. and hopefully have these cots in the hospitals by 2016. This is a BIG project but I am confident in our friends, family and community to pull this off. There are still a lot of details before we pull the trigger so stick around to hear about our progress.

I am so excited to do something tangible in honor of Macklin. We realize our story has touched so many people and we are so blessed to hear how much hope we have brought. I want to continue to grow this opportunity that God has given us to make a horrible situation a little easier for other families going through the heartbreak of losing their baby. Please pray about supporting our efforts and I will have more info about how to donate soon.

Hope Remains,

Ashley

A New Normal: Life after Death

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A New Normal: Life after Death

They have all died. All of them. The hundreds of flowers that have covered my table and counter tops for the past two weeks have all died. Slowly they wilted and became brown. Despite my need for them to stay healthy and beautiful, they died. Nothing I could do about it.

Life as we know it has altered. But, if you were to walk into my house without any idea of what the past two weeks have held, you wouldn’t know the difference. Family has left and there aren’t dozens of cars parked in the my driveway anymore. The kids are still having tantrums, attitudes and bad behavior on occasion throughout the day. I’m still puttering around the house in my yoga pants dishing out snacks and cleaning up messes. Piles of laundry still sit in random corners. Chris leaves for work every morning. The world has kept spinning.  Life is back to normal. Not much has changed around here. And I hate it.

While I know that at some point this was going to have to happen, there is some anger in my soul that longs for the world to stop spinning with me. I wake up every morning, and its the first thing I think about. I go about my day, walking a little easier, moving around a little smoother, and somewhat enjoying the feeling of relief that comes after a long, difficult pregnancy ends. But, in my case, I have nothing to show for it. There is no snuggling a warm, sweet smelling newborn in the early hours of the morning. There isn’t planned visits from family and friends to see our new addition. There aren’t blankets and swings and burp cloths and bouncy seats and tiny little onsies. Its all been packed away. There is a pile of baby gear in my garage that I can’t look at. The Target bags still filled with new, unopened clothes and blankets that sat on my bed the day I found out, now sit in our garage, awaiting their destiny, whatever it may be. Instead, I have new pictures that are scattered through our house. Pictures of my son. My son that should be here. Pictures that guests will ask about and the kids will tell their friends about. Pictures that are that constant reminder that something, someone, is missing.

The past two weeks have brought a whole host of emotions. From joy, thankfulness and hope, to downright anger, resentment, depression, and despair. Sometimes all experienced within a day. As last week unfolded back into our normal routine, I had to force myself to keep from acknowledging it every minute. My attitude towards my kids was anything but patient and loving. Their requests for snacks and toys and attention was a bit offensive to me. Didn’t they understand? How could they want Cheerios at a time like this? Don’t they know how sad I am? Why are they crying about not watching their favorite show when not a tear was shed when their brother died? Why aren’t they sad too? Don’t know how much pain I’m feeling right now? Nope….no they don’t. And that sucked. Their acknowledgement of Macklin was random questions about where he was and when mommy was going to have another baby…..over and over again. Salt, meet wound.

And that thought….what if this all happens again, has been a constant thought in the back of my head. My heart desires more children, but I can’t do this again. Another nine months of pregnancy after this would be terrifying. Knowing now, that no test, no ultrasound, no vitamin, nothing….nothing could prevent this from happening again. How am I supposed to ever become pregnant again without the constant fear of burying another one of my children. How? And yet, my heart longs….As frustrating and horrible this whole process has been, my heart longs. So, we will wait. Wait and see what God has planned.

Until then, I will go on about life. With a constant, physical ache in my chest, I will continue. Continue loving my children, continue remembering my son, and continue praising God for the work that is undoubtedly and clearly being done through Macklin’s life. As the messages and phone calls come about how our story has effected so many, I can’t help but be thankful for this time. Thankful that our story has given HOPE. Our story has been shared hundreds of times the past two weeks and I can’t help but think of the the things God is doing that we don’t even know about. Our message of Hope Remains is spreading. Keep it going.

#hoperemains

Love,

Ashley

Hope Remains A Mother’s Story: Part Two

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Hope Remains   A Mother’s Story: Part Two

So, there we sat. Empty arms, empty hearts. We said hello and goodbye in a matter of hours to our son we had waited months to meet. Now what?

We had decided to stay the night at the hospital to give us one night of processing, mourning and sleeping. I had asked the nurses for something to help me sleep that night because I knew there was no way I was going to be able to rest. Ambien to the rescue.

We woke the next morning still in disbelief. What just happened? How can this be real? This is the kind of stuff you hear about on the news or read on Facebook. You see others from a distance deal with this kind of stuff. How could this now be us?

We were greeted with coffee and bagels by Emily that morning. We sat and talked about the next few days. We had a funeral to plan. This was not something we were familiar with. I had watched my parents go through this process with family members that had passed but this wasn’t something anyone taught us how to do. We had decided on a Friday funeral. We had to get through Thursday when Isaiah had his kindergarten play that he had a big part in. We couldn’t miss that. Our goal was to try to keep everything as normal as possible for the kids at home. We knew the weekend would be enough to rattle them a little so we were insistent to keep things running as smoothly as we could. Isaiah and Carsten headed off to school that morning and Brynna and Judson hung at home with Grandma. I called the school to see if a counselor could check up on Isaiah throughout the day and maybe talk with him about his feelings. I was relieved to know he would be taken care and that our friend Katie who is the Dean of Students at the school, would keep a close watch on him today. We have amazing teachers for our kiddos and there was no doubt in my mind that our boys were going to have a great day despite our awful weekend.

We knew it was time to head home that day and try to start getting things in order for Friday. As the hours passed, the paperwork was signed and I was soon discharged from the hospital. Then there was that moment. As we walked out of the hospital without our baby. I chatted with our nurse and tried to not lose it. I avoided eye contact with just about everyone, knowing that the staff on the L&D floor knew what had happened. We got in the car and started for home.

We got home to family around our dining room table and looks of sadness on everyone’s face. Carsten was minutes from getting on the bus and I wanted to take him out to it like I do everyday. As the bus pulled up, I wondered if his driver knew. Would he notice I wasn’t toting a giant belly anymore? Would he ask about the baby? How was I going to tell him? Thankfully, he didn’t say anything, but I soon learned that the bus driver that brought him home had asked if I had the baby when he saw Chris come out to get him off the bus. I was glad I didn’t have to answer those questions. Chris has been so strong and able to speak for me when I don’t have the words. He has been my rock through this whole thing.

We sat in the dining room and started discussing funeral details. Chris and I both agreed that we needed this to be a celebration. We weren’t going to get to plan birthday parties, graduations or weddings for Macklin, so this needed to be special. I knew I wanted color. Color everywhere. Yes, this was sad and people were going to be sad attending the funeral for baby, but I couldn’t allow people to feel depressed leaving the one celebration my son would get to have. We decided that gerbera daisies needed to flood the church. Gerbers were our wedding flower and brought joy our hearts when we saw them. We wanted balloons and the beautiful pictures of Macklin that our dear friend Jen had taken to be everywhere. I wanted people to see him. I wanted them to remember his face. He was our son and we were going to show him off just as we would have if were alive.

Tuesday came and we had to meet with the funeral home to go over all of the details of the funeral. It felt good to start the ball rolling on things. It kept my mind off of everything a little bit and I liked being able to immerse my mind in planning this celebration for my boy. As the discussion with friends and family went on and my hopes for the funeral slowly started to take shape, I felt a sense of peace. Things were falling into place and I knew this would be a blessing to whomever could attend. The only thing I wanted was for people to leave feeling hopeful. Not depressed and drained. We wanted worship and a message that centered around the hope and strength of Christ that we were greatly clinging to. Chris had decided that he wanted to give that message. What better person for it come from but from the father who tragically lost his son. People were certain to be attentive to his words and we prayed that someone, anyone, would walk away feeling that same hope that we had. We had no idea….

After our meeting with the funeral home, Chris, Emily and I headed out to start purchasing clothes for us and the kids. I had a color scheme in mind for the kids. They would wear the same color as the daisy tattoo on my foot that symbolized each of them. Isaiah in blue, Carsten in green, Brynna in pink and Judson in yellow. The color theme would continue throughout the funeral. The day was good. Lots of laughter and fun moments. We were continually reminded throughout the day of the support and prayers that were pouring in every hour. All Chris and I kept saying was how amazing people were and we wished we could hug every single person sending us their love. It was a very humbling day.

By Tuesday afternoon, an all familiar feeling was starting to take place. My chest was sore and I could feel that my milk would come in any time now. The plan was to dry it up as fast as possible. Binding and cabbage leaves were apparently my only option. I have nursed all of my babies from anywhere from 3 months to a year. I never had to intentionally dry up my milk so I was nervous about how painful it was going to be. That night I went to bed unsure of how I would feel in the morning. Emotionally I knew I couldn’t handle it, but I got a sense of peace when I woke up that morning. “You need to give it to someone” I heard in my head. As the pain increased by the minute, I decided to grab my pump for some relief. I sat there, watching the milk flow that should have been nourishing my baby. I was sad but knew I couldn’t let it go to waste. Maybe this was another opportunity to bless someone. So, with that, I sent out some feelers via social media to see if someone needed milk. Immediately, the vultures came out. People messaging me left and right. “When can I pick it up? How much do you have? Gimme your milk!” No. this didn’t feel right anymore. These people had no idea what this milk represents for me. I needed to know where it was going and not to just some random person.While I’m sure there was a need for so many people, I was needed to be picky about this decision. Within a few hours, I received a message from Jen, our photographer who had been taking all of the pictures from the time Macklin was born and would be taking photos at the funeral as well. She sweetly asked if I would be willing to donate some milk to her and her newborn son, Easton.  She was having trouble with her supply and wasn’t able to leave the house as much and always got nervous because she wasn’t able to have a frozen stash. She’s a birth photographer and so being able to leave in a moments notice was crucial to her business but also making sure her son had milk was top priority. My heart skipped a beat! Yes! Of course! How amazing that I could give back to this woman that has blessed my family with priceless pictures of our baby. And so, my freezer is filling with Macklin’s milk that will nourish another little boy that I get to see whenever I want and know that Macklin and I get to play a part in the well-being of another mama’s little baby.

Friday came faster than I expected and we were that much closer to saying goodbye to Macklin for the final time. I woke up feeling ready for the day, tired from being up late the night before, but still energized. I was excited to get to church and see how things had unfolded. We got to church and I felt such joy walking through the door. After the first initial hugs from family and friends, Chris and I made our way into the sanctuary to see Macklin. I was a little nervous because of what Todd had said about how quickly his body had been deteriorating. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like what I was about to see. Because of how small he was, there wasn’t any body preservation that could have been done.

What we saw was nothing short of a small miracle. Macklin looked amazing. He was pink and beautifully laid in the tiniest casket I had ever seen. With his blanket gently laid on him, his little hat I had sent him off with and a peaceful, sleepy face. He was perfect. It was the image I wanted in my head of my little boy. We brought the kids over to see him and soon everyone joined to admire this tiny little human. There were tears of course, but I felt an amazing sense of pride in my boy. I was SO proud of him. I wanted to show him to everyone, like I would have if he were alive. He was my baby. Perfect and whole.

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As family and friends arrived we hung out in the family room as long as possible. I was nervous but looking forward to how God would move in the next hour as people from all over the country arrived to bid farewell to Macklin. We were live-streaming the service on the internet so I knew there were many more people out there watching that needed to hear our message.

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As the service started, I prayed that God would speak to someone. I prayed for my husband and his incredible message he was about to deliver to hundreds of people all over the country. I prayed for myself, that I could hold it together. Moments after the first worship song started, I felt a light pressure on my left shoulder. My first thought was Oh, someone sitting behind me is being comforting. How nice. I wanted to turn around to see who it was but I was focused on the front. I thought that the ushers possibly had to move more people up a few rows into the family section. I was fine with that because it was just Chris, the kids and I in the front row. There were at least three rows behind us that were empty. Surely they would use those seats if they needed. I later found out that those rows were never filled and that there wasn’t anyone sitting behind me. Confirmation that I wasn’t alone in that moment.

The service continued and my husband got up to give his message. I was nervous for him and prayed he could keep it together. He had important stuff to say and the world was watching. The spirit filled his lips and he spoke words that were clearly from God. Many may not know, but Chris went to school to be a pastor and his dream is to one day preach on weekly basis. It was watching him preach that I instantly fell in love with him. There are times when a pastor preaches that you can tell it was mainly a message from themselves. It happens. But the words coming from my husbands mouth were not his own. They may have been written down but they came straight from the heart of God. Following Chris’ message was our pastor and friend BJ, who had been with us at the hospital. He followed up Chris’ message perfectly, bringing home the message of hope we so deeply wanted shared. After the scriptures were read and the messages preached, it was time to say goodbye. We brought each of our children up to see Macklin one last time (with the exception of Judson who was loudly snoring in Grandpa’s lap) and gave them each a white daisy with a coordinating color ribbon that matched their clothes. We put the daisies on Macklin’s casket and then each received a teddy bear with their colored ribbon to take home. A gift from their baby brother.

As the service ended and we got up to leave, I avoided making eye contact with anyone. I wasn’t sure the reaction or faces I would see and didn’t want it to change the joy in my heart I was feeling. I prayed that the message was heard. That the beautiful daisies everyone would leave with would be a constant reminder of the purpose and of my son’s life that was clearly shown to us. HOPE REMAINS.

Hope remains when I have no answers to why my son was so quickly whisked to heaven. Hope remains when I weep at his grave and I long for the dreams I had for him to take shape. Hope remains when life is too much to handle.  Hope remains when the grief overtakes me and shakes me to my core. Hope remains when I sit in the darkest of moments, when nothing seems to matter and my soul aches with this unspeakable tragedy that no parent should have to live through. Hope remains when I wake every morning wishing to see my sleeping baby next to me. Hope remains when I long to smell him, hold him, kiss him and nurse him. Hope remains because I know without a doubt, to depth of my being that he is with Christ. No, not because thats how I want to feel; because it makes me feel better. No. I know because I have lived through the worse possible thing a mother can go through and by some miracle, I am still standing. I know this because my God is stronger than me and I cling so tightly to Him. He is the only possible way I can run and not grow weary, and I can walk and not faint.  He is my rock and strength. My hope when I have none. I trust my God because he has never left me or forsaken me, even in the darkest moments of my life. His promises to me are good and I WILL TRUST HIM because HE. IS. GOOD.

Macklin was never meant to take a breath. God knew that. Yet, He still chose to give him to us. Why? Why would a God who says he loves us intentionally put us through the most heart breaking thing a person can experience? How is that good? How can I just be okay with that? Honestly, I can’t give a good reason why God does what He does. I’m not God. His ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. And while that is probably the hardest to comprehend, it brings me peace too. God knows what is best for me but it is NOT God’s job to make me happy all of time. He never said it was. Our world is fallen and sin is a very real thing. This world is destined for pain and heartbreak. But I have hope that one day it will all be restored. That Jesus’ death on the cross was the final act in reuniting us into a perfect relationship with our creator. This life is not about me. Its about Him. Its about doing whatever it takes to show others His incredible love and grace that He openly gives to whomever comes to Him. Thats what its about.

As Christian parents, we desire to see our children live fully in God’s perfect plan for them. It may be painful and hard at times but we trust Him with our children. We desire our children to go into the world and show people the love of Christ, to build His kingdom. We teach them, guide them and give them examples of how to do that. They don’t always get it right but we know there is grace for them. In the past week, Macklin has done that without ever drawing a breath. His life has brought people to Jesus. His life and death has shown others that despite the pain and heartbreak that we have felt, hope remains. Its remains in Christ. Our strength and our hope are in Him.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:5-8 NIV)

We packed up and headed toward the cemetery which was just blocks from our house. I love that it is so close and that we can walk to visit Macklin whenever we want.

The sun was shining and a warm breeze met us as we walked to Macklin’s final resting place. Isaiah ran as quick as he could over to the casket, loudly shouting “I FOUND HIM!” The first and only game of hide and seek my boys would play together. It was a beautiful spot amongst other little babies buried there. BJ gave the final words as my children gleefully started to pick every dandelion, alive and dead, in our vicinity and place it at Macklin’s casket. It was the sweetest thing I had ever seen. At the end, our family and friends placed their daisies next to Macklin’s casket. We gave each of the kids a balloon with their name on it to send up to Macklin in heaven. We watched as they slowly made their way through the clouds. We then gave the kids handfuls of daisies to lay on the graves of the other babies. This soon became every grave within 100 yards. Daisies littered our corner of the cemetery and Macklin’s message of hope was spreading even further.

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We left that day after laying our little one to rest with a sense that this message of hope was going to go beyond what we imagined. And we were right. We have received messages from so many people sharing how they watched the service and heard our message and are now healing and finding hope in their own lives. Mother’s who have also felt the pain of loosing a child have been given a peace in their hearts for the first time.

The kind words and messages we have received have been overwhelming and we can’t even begin to show our appreciation to everyone who has blessed us this week. Know what we are incredibly thankful and are blessed by your words, actions and donations.

I will end with this.

I am heartbroken and deeply grieving the loss of our son.

But if Macklin’s only purpose was to bring hope to others and lead God’s people to a relationship with Christ, it was all worth it.

Hope Remains.

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With love,

Ashley

Psalm 16:8

Hope Remains A Mother’s Story: Part One

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Hope Remains            A Mother’s Story: Part One

Its been one week. Almost to the hour. One week. How much can change. How life can be completely altered. But the story doesn’t begin one week ago. Our story has been set out longer than we were ever aware. Before conception. God had a plan. Unknown to us. A perfect plan. A plan that altered our life as we know it but ultimately brought glory to Him. God had us in the palm of His hand every second and it wasn’t until one week ago, that we realized it.

Here is our story….
Conception. I don’t need to go into detail, but it happened. A life. A life that had a purpose beyond what we could fathom in our own heads. We dream, we plan, we expect. But there was another plan. A good one. A difficult one. One that even now, if I knew the whole plan from the beginning, I would still allow to happen. Probably not something a grieving mother would normally say or think but His plan was SO much better than ours.

With any story, there is an introduction. Our introduction began when we learned we were unexpectedly pregnant last September. Five kids….five. How were we going to do this? This changed a lot. While the shock never seemed to settle, we were excited. Our children were thrilled. We were soon introduced to our new son. We decided on a name. Macklin August. He was perfect. He grew and grew and the weeks went by with much excitement. The kids prayed for him every night by name and had many kisses and “I love you, Macklins” for my belly daily. Our plans had begun. Plans for a new vehicle, plans to repurchase everything we had previously given away, plans to bring our new little man home to his brothers and sister who couldn’t wait to meet him. There were nights of feeling baby kicks and hiccups, watching mommy’s belly grow bigger and bigger and the joy from the latest ultrasound picture where we got a little glimpse of this little life growing so beautifully. Things were perfect. While my body was clearly exhausted from having now, 5 babies in 6 years, I pushed through. I pushed through the constant pain of carrying my boy. My body was not feeling the greatest, but it was doing its job. He was healthy and growing, so I kept on, telling myself that every ache, pain and early contraction would all be worth it. I knew it would. I’ve done this before. There was nothing different about this pregnancy than the others. Every test and ultrasound revealed perfection. And so we planned some more.

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God’s plan, I now see, started to reveal itself about two weeks ago. Just after I hit the 30 week mark, I started getting this feeling that I needed to be ready. I needed to get my home ready, my supplies ready. I searched for all of the “stuff” we still needed, started organizing, started cleaning and preparing my home. There was a small chance that my body may begin labor sooner than full term so I wanted to be ready if that came. I washed baby clothes. I unpacked diapers. I prepared my nest. I wasn’t expecting to go into labor anytime soon, but I was ready if I did. I was coming up on 32 weeks when things got concerning. After lots of early contractions, I had a test come back saying that it was possible I could go into labor in the next two weeks. After a fetal monitoring test and a quick ultrasound on Tuesday, we were relieved that everything was fine and nothing was concerning. I got a quick glimpse of Macklin’s face during the ultrasound and was thrilled to see his chubby little face. He was SO cute. As cute as you could look immersed in fluid, but still adorable. My heart filled and my excitement grew to meet him. My friend and doula Emily awaited good news that baby would stay put a little longer. She was headed to Phoenix for the weekend and I jokingly promised that I wouldn’t have a baby while she was gone.

May 9th, 2015. That Saturday will forever be seared in my mind. I woke that morning to the kids in my room asking for the usual breakfast items and tv shows turned on. Chris had left early that morning for church. He was due back around 9. I made it through the morning and was anxiously awaiting my husband’s arrival so that our day could begin. He walked in the door that morning with a beautiful bouquet of brightly colored daisies. My favorite. Along with a beautiful card that professed his love and appreciation for me as the mother of his children. Mother’s Day was tomorrow. An early surprise was appreciated and loved. We started the day. Daddy headed outside to mow the lawn. I headed to the back yard with the kids to play. Midway through the morning I received a text from a friend. Ironically, I hadn’t saved this number in my phone so I was little embarrassed to ask the person who they were. It was Mandy. Ah yes, Mandy, the lovely soul whom we had met the day Chris and I got married. Who made me so beautiful the day I married my love. She was my hair stylist. I still blame her for my husband’s desire to see me with long, curled blonde hair. Mandy has been my friend since. I knew her story. One of heartache and pain when she lost two babies over the years, one full term. My heart adores her and her strength. Most of the time, when I talk with Mandy, its over Facebook messenger. I have never actually had her number. Once I confirmed her identity and saved her number, she had asked me if we wanted her adorable little yellow playhouse for our kiddos. We accepted and soon brought this cute thing into our back yard. The kids loved it. My heart was full watching them play. In the playhouse there is a little flower box. Mandy had a few artificial gerber daisies that could fill it, adding to its cuteness. She didn’t know that gerber daisies were kind of my thing. Its was a beautiful addition to our yard. My neighbor and her two boys came over to play and we laughed because we were starting to look like a daycare. How amazing this will be when all five of my babies can run and play back here. My heart was full. Soon after, we decided to head to Target for some groceries. We packed up the kids and went. I was feeling good. Oddly, good. We walked Target and got to the baby section. Perfect, I had a few more things to purchase to be officially ready for baby. A few more onesies, some swaddling blankets and all of the supplies I needed for breastfeeding. We walked the aisles and I told the kids to pick out a blanket for Macklin. It would be the first one he would use the hospital. A gift from his siblings. They were excited and picked an adorable, soft blanket littered with animals. We soon headed home with a large haul of groceries and baby supplies. The fridge and cabinets filled with food. My room with the rest of the essentials to bring home my little boy. We were ready. I was 32 weeks today. Our goal was to make it to 34 weeks without my sporadic contractions becoming regular. We were doing okay.

Around 5:30, I decided it was time for me to eat dinner. I was pretty tired, so I grabbed some food and headed to my room to put my feet up. Macklin had been unusually quiet today. He was normally always moving and squirming. His kicks were strong and purposeful. I figured he was quiet because I had been up and moving all day. Being busy on other things and not really noticing any movement. I wasn’t worried. I knew I needed to get off my feet, eat some food and surely within minutes his usual activity would return. I facetimed with my mom for a bit and told her all about the stuff we got at Target and how I was officially ready for Macklin to come. The shopping bags sat next me on my bed. I got off the phone with my mother and threw on Netflix for a bit. I ate and watched my show. After about 30 minutes Macklin still had not moved. Chris had come in and I told him I was concerned that he was so still. He brushed it off saying that he was probably sleeping. I supposed that was an acceptable reason. I asked for a big glass of juice and proceeded to do all of the tricks I knew to get him to move. Laid on each side, even physically pushing on my belly to get him to react. He was a strong boy and very rarely would allow me to push on him without giving me a good, strong kick back. This time was different. I could feel where his little butt was and gave my belly a good push. I literally felt him float to the other side of my stomach. No kicks, no reaction. I continued to push on my belly for a few minutes. Something wasn’t right. The stillness continued. My heart started to beat faster and a began to sweat. I called for Chris and told him I was paging one of the midwives. Within minutes, Shawn, my midwife called me back. I explained the situation. I told her I did everything I knew how to do. Being a doula and knowledgeable on birth, she trusted me when I told her that something wasn’t right. She told me to head to labor and delivery and she would be on standby to hear what was going on. I hopped out of bed, told Chris I was leaving and grabbed my keys. He was on the phone trying to get someone to the house to be with the kids. I was in a panic and ended up leaving him at home knowing he would only be a few minutes behind. I couldn’t wait. I needed to go NOW. I sped out of town, my heart racing. I called Emily, who was joyfully laying by the pool in Arizona and not expecting a call from me. She picked up and answered with an already concerned tone. I choked out as many words as I could to explain what was happening. I hung up with her and just started to pray. “Please Lord, let this be nothing. Let me be wrong.” After a few minutes, I knew I couldn’t walk into the hospital alone. I didn’t know how far behind me Chris was, so I called my friend Katie. She lived just minutes from the hospital and I knew she would be able to pick up and leave if I needed her. I told her what was happening. She was a about a half hour from the hospital but turned around and told me she was on her way. I started to feel stupid. I’m getting my friends and family in a panic about this and its probably nothing. As I drove, I continued to poke and prod at my belly hoping for one kick and then I could turn around and call all of this nonsense off. I pulled up to the ER entrance and power walked my way through the halls and up to L&D. I got the front desk where two nurses were waiting for me. Shawn had called them and they were expecting me. The two nurses were friendly and kind but I received some concerning looks from the other nurses behind the desk. I tried really hard not to say something to them. They weren’t making my anxiety any better. As we got into the triage room and the pleasant nurses started making small talk. I calmed down a little. I laid on the bed and then began the interrogation of the necessary questions. Necessary, yet in this moment, very annoying. I starred at the heart monitor and inside my head I was yelling at her to shut up and put the damn thing on my stomach already. She soon grabbed the monitor and placed in on my stomach. I knew it may take a minute to determine where he was. I made her job easier and pointed to where he was. I could feel him. She put the monitor in the place I directed her to. Silence. The seconds went by. She moved it around. No, I told her. HE IS RIGHT HERE. I showed her again. Silence. Seconds passed. I looked at up her and was ready to ask for the stupid monitor myself. She must have been doing something wrong. She handed off the monitor to the other nurse. More silence. They told me he was possibly in bad position to find his heartbeat. They would do a quick ultrasound to be sure.

No. No. No. What is happening?

One of the nurses brought in an ultrasound machine. She tried to warn me that she wasn’t an ultrasound tech and she may not be able to see anything. The first thing to pop on the screen was his face. I was oddly comforted by the image. He still has a face. He must be fine. Okay, now find his heart. The images were moving quickly as if she was trying to avoid me seeing something. She turned to me and said she couldn’t see much because his arms were in front of his chest. Okay, now, I’m not stupid. I’ve had dozens of ultrasounds and could probably tell you just as much as you could tell me about what to look for. I wanted to call her out right then and there but I couldn’t speak. She said she was going to page the OB on call and have him come and take a look. My chest got heavy. The tears started. I was waiting to wake up from the awful nightmare unfolding before my eyes. I grabbed my phone and called Chris. “WHERE ARE YOU?!” He was right down the road and could see the hospital. “YOU NEED TO GET UP HERE NOW!” “I’m coming. Seven minutes.”

The OB walked in, a sweet man, thin with harry potter-type glasses. I looked to him for some sort of confirmation. Maybe the nurses were just wrong. He would find the heartbeat. That’s his job right now. I asked to wait until my husband got in the room. I knew this was the time we got an answer. Chris walked in two minutes later. His eyes met mine. Tear-filled and panicked. All I could do was shake my head. I was able to choke out “They can’t find his heartbeat.” A minute later, Kate walked in. She stood next to me and we waited.

The doctor came over and started to look. It didn’t take long. He put the image of Macklin’s heart on the screen. It didn’t move. Nothing. Silence.

I started to shake. I got hot.

No. What is happening? No. Oh. My. God.

I looked around the room and everyone was crying.

This really just happened.

This is not in my head.

I am not dreaming.

Oh. My. God.

I’m not sure there is even a word for what I felt in that moment. Somewhere between shattered, shocked and destroyed. I kept waiting to wake up. Because that’s what is supposed to happen. You always wake up before the worst part of the dream, before you hit the ground. I wasn’t waking up. Dammit, why won’t I wake up?

It took about 20 minutes for me to breathe normally. After expressing their condolences the nurses and doctor left. Chris and I sat there in utter disbelief. Kate walked out to call Emily. I grabbed my phone and knew we had to start making some very difficult phone calls. I can’t even speak how I am supposed to repeat the phrase “the baby died” to multiple people. The first person I called was my mom, who I had just spoken to no more than an hour ago. She picked up with her usual tone and the second she heard me speak she asked in a panicked voice what had happened. “Mom, something happened. I’m at the hospital and the baby isn’t alive.” Wait, did I just say that? After that, all I remember was hearing screaming on the other line and I set my phone down on the bed and walked out of the room. Chris needed to handle that because I couldn’t. Outside I saw Kate. I didn’t even know what to say. “I can’t do this” I think I said.

The next half hour or so was a blur. The nurses said they would take us to a room to settle in for a bit. Chris was still on the phone and Kate had to make some calls as well. The nurse walked me to my room. A similar room to the ones I had delivered two of my other babies. I looked around at the beautiful room, the birthing tub I had my daughter in, the familiar decor and smells. Memories came rushing back. But this time was different. I feel to my knees beside the bed and wept. What. Just. Happened.

Within a few minutes, people started coming into the room. Kate, followed by her husband and our good friend, BJ, who I was so glad was there. Chris needed him. Our pastor came and prayed. My midwife Shawn had arrived with tears in her eyes. The nurses came back in also looking like they were trying to keep it together. And then the conversation started. Actually, it was more just everyone sitting in silence staring at me. I didn’t know what to say. How was I supposed to be reacting right now? The tears came in waves with moments where the only thing I could say was “what happened??? He was fine. I was just here 4 days ago and HE WAS FINE. WHAT HAPPENED???” No one could give me an answer. The doctor wasn’t able to see anything obvious on the ultrasound so it was a mystery at this point. I kept questioning that it MUST have been something I did wrong. Did I not drink enough water? Did I roll over on my stomach when I slept? Will we even find out the answer? They explained that its possible that after delivery it may be possible to see right away otherwise an autopsy could be done.

Did they just say autopsy? An autopsy on my child…what the hell is going on?

Okay, so now what? I have to have this baby. I have to deliver my dead baby. I have to tell my children that their brother is dead. I’m going to hold my dead child.

All everyone kept telling us that we didn’t need to make a decision right now.

Decision? What decision? I had to make decisions now? What was there to decide?!?!? He’s dead. There’s nothing I can do. The decision has already been made.

As we sat and talked with Shawn and the nurses, I was given options about what do now. I could go home. No, I’m not going home. I could stay. Yes, I need to stay. I can deliver tonight. Or tomorrow.

The OB had informed us that the baby had flipped and was sideways. A part of me was relieved to hear that because my instant thought was to get a C-section. I was terrified. I cannot go into labor and deliver this baby. They told me that a breech delivery was fine to do vaginally. He was small and things would probably move quicker. I may regret a C-section in the days to come. I didn’t care. I needed to get through this part as fast as possible. I didn’t know what to do. There were so many options that I just wanted to take the easiest one. I needed some guidance. Someone to tell me what to do. No one here was going to do that. Mandy. I need to call Mandy. She will know what to do. She’s done this before. And in a moment I knew that was the reason that after months of having not talked to Mandy or even having her number, that today just happened to be the day I had already connected with her and had her number saved on my phone. Thank you, Jesus. I grabbed my phone and called her, asking where she was and if she could come help me. “I’m on my way” she said and some relief came over me. Mandy could answer my questions. The minutes past and the shock and disbelief were still burning my insides. We continued talking about options and how we would handle this next step. Mandy came in and hugged me tighter than I’ve ever been hugged. I buried my face into her chest and sobbed. “I don’t know what to do, what am I supposed to do?” I cried. She told me I didn’t have to decide anything right now and that we can do whatever we wanted. Can I go back to yesterday? Is that an option? Can I feel my baby kick? Can I wake up now?

The OB came back in and discussed the C-section option that I had originally said that I wanted. Again, he agreed, a vaginal delivery would be best. He wanted to do one more ultrasound to confirm the baby’s position and then we could make the decision from there. He explained that if baby was breech or sideways, there was a possibility of moving him back into the head-down position. I agreed and they wheeled the machine in again and he sat and looked. Baby was sideways. The next five minutes were horrible. His hands pushed deeply into my swollen belly, feeling for my lifeless child. He pushed and shoved and I felt pain that I had never imagined. It wasn’t labor pain. It was the kind of pain that your aren’t supposed to feel when you are pregnant. As the minutes when by, I tried not to scream, and the doctor confirmed that the baby was back in position and we could go ahead with a vaginal delivery. Again, I was a little disappointed. I just wanted a C-section. I CANNOT DO THIS. I couldn’t intentionally put myself in a situation where I felt like I would just be adding fuel to this burning fire in my heart. I reluctantly agreed to start the induction process. I would be given Cytotec, a medicine placed in my cervix to soften it and hopefully initiate labor. It was getting late into the night, probably around 10:30. I was told to try to sleep. Let the medicine do its job.

By this point, Chris’ mom had arrived, and Kate, BJ and Mandy were all ready to hunker down for the night with us. As I started to process what was happening, my tears slowed, my heartbeat returned to normal and I was ready to do this. I was going to have this baby. I kept thinking about how weird it was to have all of these people just sitting around my room, waiting for me to have a baby. If  he were alive, this wouldn’t be the case. We just sat. We talked. BJ provided some much need comic relief to break the tension. After a few hours, everyone’s eyes started to get heavy. I watched them start to fade but never once did they complain. They sat and prayed and waited. Contractions had started a little and I needed to get out of bed and do something. I asked for the birthing tub to be filled. I got in, my husband by my side, dim lights, lavender oil diffusing. Normally, this would have been the perfect birthing environment but today, we talked about the impending birth of our deceased son. The questions still lingered. What happened? Did I do something wrong? I was consistently met with answers. No, you didn’t do anything. We don’t know what happened. We just had to wait. We will know eventually.

We both admitted that we were praying a miracle would take place and that he would come out crying.

The hours passed and eyes got heavier. Contractions never increased so around 2:30am another round of cytotec was placed. I was only a couple of centimeters dilated. Frustrated. Tired. The nurses made up a couple of rooms for everyone to get some sleep. This wasn’t happening as fast as we had thought so we knew everyone needed to sleep for a bit. Everyone went to their sleeping areas or back to their house for a few hours. I tried to sleep. Maybe dozed off for 20 minutes. My mind was racing. What was going to happen? What would he look like? How was I going to hold a dead baby? MY dead baby. I can’t do this….

A few hours later, everyone returned, a little rested but ready to stand by us. It was Sunday. Mother’s Day. I felt guilty. Here were all of these mothers. In my room, taking care of me when they should be home getting breakfast in bed and getting love from their children. Instead, they were here, with a mother about to face her worst fear. I was thankful. SO thankful.

By the morning, I was checked again. Not much progress. I decided to just get this over with. Lets get some Pitocin and an epidural. If I was going to deliver this baby, I didn’t want to feel it. I didn’t want the pain to distract me from being in the moment. The worst possible moment that I knew I needed to face. The pitocin was started, the epidural put in. Then we waited some more. I felt relief that my body was working and I could rest a little. Shawn broke my water and was a little concerned about how much fluid was there. It was a lot. Not really normal. Possibly a clue. There were a couple of times of “false alarms” when I felt like something was happening but really wasn’t. I was tired. Time seemed to stand still.

11am. The contractions were getting stronger. Shawn had told me that I didn’t need to dilate all the way to 10 because of how small he was. We were shooting for 8. A few minutes later she checked me. 6 ½. She looked me in the eyes and said, if you want to try and push, he may come down. Crap….this was it.

I gave a little push and she confirmed that he was coming down. At that point, I knew that this moment just needed to be Chris and I together. Everyone left and there we were. Facing it all. The contractions got harder. I got upset because I was feeling everything. I asked that the epidural get turned up but after a few minutes, it never took. I was angry. No, I didn’t want to feel this. Make it stop. Shawn and Tammy the nurse encouraged me to just hang on a little bit longer. It would be over soon. I started to “doula” myself in my head. Breathe. The pain is good. My baby will be here soon. Push through the pain. And so I did. Between sobs I pushed with everything I had. I looked up into Shawn’s eyes as they filled with tears.

I felt his tiny little head leave my body….then shoulders and finally feet.

11:41am. Mother’s Day. Macklin August was born into the arms of Jesus.

“We have our answer” Shawn said.

I looked down to see his cord wrapped so tightly around his neck three times and a true knot. His cord was uncommonly long. The nurse said she hadn’t seen anything like it twenty years.

Now we know.

There was nothing that could have been done. Nothing I did wrong. A random accident.

She unwrapped the cord and held him up. I looked at my perfect son. Dark black hair, ten fingers, ten toes, an adorable little noise and a perfect little face that I had just seen days prior. She placed him on my chest. I sobbed. Chris sobbed. It was finished. Chris tearfully cut his cord and this little boy was no longer a part of my body. I had birthed him the same way I had birthed his brothers and sister. I felt the same pain I would have felt if he was alive. He was brought into this world no differently. He was a stillborn, but he was still born.

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We held his little body, still warm from my womb. We kissed him. We snuggled him. Chris walked out to let the others in the hallway know he was here. I later found out that in the moment he told them that Macklin was here, the heavens opened up and it started to downpour outside. Heaven was weeping for our child.

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Everyone slowly entered the room and came over to see our precious boy. We passed him around the room and allowed everyone to hold him.

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He was SO loved. Not just by his parents, but by so many others. Love was all he knew. From conception to death.

Soon, it was time for Macklin to meet his brothers and sister. This was the part I was dreading. What would they say? What would they do? Do they even understand what just happened? Chris left the hospital and went home to get the kids. He explained to them what happened and that baby Macklin was born but wasn’t alive. They would get to see him but he wouldn’t be coming home with us. My heart broke as my children entered the room and laid eyes on their small, silent baby brother. They had somber faces and asked a few questions about his appearance. Isaiah was quick to ask if he could hold him and spent a lot of time examining his hands, feet, and mouth. He had no fear. This was his brother. He treated him the same way he had with all of the other babies he came to visit at the hospital. It was heartbreaking to watch and I’m still not sure if they totally comprehend it all. Isaiah and Carsten get it. They know he is gone. They know he is in heaven and they tell me every day that they miss him.

I do too, sweetheart. I do too.

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As the hours passed, people came and went.Grandmas and Grandpas held their grandson and cried tears of sorrow for their children.Tears were shed and powerful prayers were prayed. I cried. I wept. I smiled. I laughed. I went through every emotion possible in the matter of hours. Macklin stayed in someones arms every minute.

As night arrived, we were told that the people from the funeral home would be coming by to discuss the next step. And now we need to plan a funeral…how I am supposed to do this? Todd from our local funeral home came. He knew our family. He had buried our loved ones before. He let us know that we were in no rush, that Macklin could even stay the night with us. The only concern was the the quality of Macklin’s little body was quickly deteriorating. We were welcome to keep him but his body would continue to peel skin and may not look the same in the morning. My heart ached. How was I going to say goodbye already? We had spent roughly seven hours with our baby and it was time to let him go. Chris and I agreed that, while difficult, we were okay with letting Todd take him to the funeral home that evening.

Soon, the room cleared and there we sat. Just the three of us. The pain became more real in that moment. Hello and goodbye was happening all in one day. We were shattered, broken and feeling the worst possible pain one can have. We told him how much we loved him and the phrase “I’m so sorry, buddy” was whispered many times. We were sorry. We felt like in some way, we had failed him. All of our dreams and plans for his life were gone. He wouldn’t get to experience the love and joy that awaited him in our home with his siblings. Every second was precious. I tried to soak in every part of him. His eyes, his nose, his toes, his nose. I didn’t want to forget. We said our goodbyes between breathless sobs and kissed his sweet cheeks. We sent him off. We let him go. And instantly, a forever hole in my heart was carved. A physical ache came over my body. One that would be there forever. Our lives would never be the same. Things had changed forever. We sent him off. We let him go.

To be continued….

Things you need to know before you come over for a playdate.

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Oh! Hey, friend! Whats that? We should get together for a play date? Yes, lets do that. Park? No. Your house? No. My house?!?! ummm….okay. Yeah, lets plan on that. Tomorrow? NO. How about next month. Awesome. Yeah, so I’m super excited that you are bringing your kids over to play, but before we set a date, let me just run some stuff by you so that you know what you are in for.

Here’s what you can expect when you come over for a play date.

1. I will NOT cook for you.

Okay, I might. But sorry, there will not be cute little scones or muffins upon your arrival. I will not have made finger sandwiches or prepared a beautifully healthy meal for you and your kids. Not happening. Girlfriend, I love you, but I barely get to eat a meal myself most days and I would hope that your expectations of any snacks at my house wouldn’t go beyond goldfish crackers, pop tarts and maybe a glass of ice tea. We are in 24/7 kid food mode and there is likely nothing organic, gluten free, yadadada, in my house. If I’m feeling generous, I’ll order a pizza and call it a day. Cool? Okay…moving on.

2. My house WILL be messy.

Let me just clarify….a dirty coffee mug and lone sock on the floor is not messy. If you consider that messy, lets not be friends. Nope, I’m talking piles of laundry every 10 feet or so, potentially a stashed pull-up from the 4yr old, pee on the toilet, unmade beds, toys EVERYWHERE, and basically a disorganized chaotic environment. Is it always like this? Eh, most days, unless we have planned company at least a month in advance, you can expect it to be messy. You might think I’m lazy or just don’t know how to clean, but I assure you, I grew up with THE cleanest, tidiest, white glove kind of mother who taught me well the importance of a clean and organized home. But there’s a difference. We have FOUR kids who are constantly moving, constantly doing things that make a mess. And my husband and I do not have the consistent energy to spend hours cleaning everyday. I just can’t. If you are lucky, I will have the bathroom cleaned, but beyond that would likely be impossible. NOTE: If you do in fact come to my home and it is “clean” you better give me a hug and a high five because you don’t even know….

3. I probably haven’t showered.

Sorry. My yoga pants and t-shirt are just going to have to work. There’s a good chance I may also have pee, poop, boogers or puke on me. If its bad, you can ask me change, but showering will come after children are in bed.

4. There will be nakedness.

Yeah, sorry if your little girl hasn’t seen a naked little boy, but hey! Here’s a good learning opportunity. They will all be dressed when you come but there’s a good chance you will see some naked little behinds running around at some point.

5. We will have fun.

Seriously though, I’m a fun person. The kids will have a blast and I will make enough coffee to get you till nap time. I have some funny stories and I don’t care if your kids make a mess. I’m not the kind of person to pretend to be something I’m not. I’m fully aware of the crazy, chaotic nature of my life and I love it. So, sure, lets have a play date. Wear your yoga pants and I’ll wear mine and we’ll have a grand ol’ time.

Sweet Cheeks and Superheros

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Sweet Cheeks and Superheros

In house full of many children, I find myself saying things that I would have never imagined coming out of my mouth. Phrases that make you stop and go “wait, did I really just say that?” While this is a usual thought day to day, this one gave me a chuckle.

Yesterday, our oldest kiddo turned six. (YIKES!) This was a big day. The other kiddos enjoy each others birthdays just as much as their own. Of course, with birthdays in our home, come gifts. Being a full blown boy obsessed with boy things, Isaiah received a Lego set from Grandma Dawn. One that he had picked out a month ago. The one he wanted the most (that day). The set above all sets. The Lego Batmobile and Riddler Car. As expected, the precious, ahem, I mean, Legos were gleefully opened and painstakingly put together by joint efforts of three people. Isaiah, the hubs, and I spent a total of about 2 hours putting together The Batmobile and The Riddler Car. Along with this set, came another super hero, Flash. Now, I can’t say I even know what his “super power” is, at least not until after today. Before leaving for school, Isaiah put his precious on top of the fridge in order to keep it away from the crazies, um, littles. He has graciously allowed his younger brother, who also enjoys his love of Legos, to participate with the Lego building process but only on strict supervision by himself. So, off he went, with the knowledge that his newest, bestest gift was safe….on the fridge….in plain sight of the littles….who know how to use stools.

As you can expect, it wasn’t long before a glimpse of the precious was spotted by Carsten, our 4yr old. Carsten is our little sweetheart of the family who is usually predictable and out-of-the-box. Recently and not surprisingly, Carsten with diagnosed with sensory processing disorder as well as high functioning autism. We have come to realize that his sensory issues will mostly control his day, his attitude and ability to function. So, while we are home, Carsten spends about 90% of his life without clothes. Something we have gotten used to, but that has also caused some challenges. Any clothes that he may wear that day will promptly be removed within minutes of arriving home. Its comfortable and keeps him happy in his body. At this age, we are okay with this.

Okay, so, the precious has been spotted, unbeknownst to me, and has been carefully removed from its “safe” home on the fridge. Thankfully, the only thing Carsten had his eye on, was Flash. I’m not sure how long he had it but at some point he walks his naked self over to me and says “look mom!”

“Ummmmm….WHAT IS THAT?!?!?!” As I lean over his naked little tush and see a little red plastic figure lodged between his cheeks.

“CARSTEN, WHY IS FLASH IN YOUR BUTT?!??!”

“Because…”

An acceptable answer, I suppose.

I gently dis-lodged Flash from his “trap” and made sure Carsten understood that we don’t put toys in our butt. (cue giggle). After an obligatory “hashtag” text to my husband about this adorbable incident (#thingsincarstensbutt) my snarky husband replied that it was probably placed there because he just wanted to run fast. *face palm*

And thats how I learned about Flash’s superpowers.