Thursday, September 25, 2014

Million to One

a good family friend once asked my husband and i for some advice on how to support a co-worker of hers who experienced a loss. she explained that it seemed like the woman didn't want to talk about it, but wasn't really sure.

i thought about it for a moment and then answered, she may not want to talk about it because it reminds her that it actually happened.

this conversation happened only a couple weeks after the loss of our baby isaac. and i knew i was speaking about myself.

those first few days of january are like a haze. an incredibly bad nightmare that sometimes i have to remind myself is true.

everything happened so quickly. we were "home study ready" to adopt in september, heard about the adoption situation at the end of december, spoke with the birth mother the next day, and a few hours later were picked to raise her baby. only days after that we got the call that he was born and we were on a plane to louisiana that day.

*to read more about his story go here and here.

i remember discussing names on the plane ride and feeling such anticipation. i was nervous about so much. would the adoption go through? would we be able to take him home in a timely manner? what would the birth mother be like? but, oddly enough, i don't remember being nervous about his health. because he had to be healthy.

it's hard to explain in a way that honors both isaac's life and our role in it, while also being honest. but in the weeks and months after losing this precious baby we had so much hope for, i found myself almost not letting my mind even "go there" and remember. it was just so, so painful and traumatic. the thought that this actually happened to us again. lightening struck again. i actually have held two dead babies that were supposed to be mine. i don't know. there was something in my brain that had to shut it off in order to survive.

because i was pregnant with miles. and if it could happen twice. it could happen three times. you don't play odds anymore when you've been on the one side of "million to one." twice.

i've heard people say, i have two healthy babies. should i push my luck and try for a third?

i'm not sure what that means. like, do we all have these "tragedy jars" and they can only get so full before life doesn't suck anymore? on the other hand, if nothing "bad" has ever happened to you,'re due.

i fell into this way of thinking while we were trying to get pregnant with noah. i figured losing my dad to cancer at 8 years old sort of gave me a pass from future hardship. so getting pregnant would be easy, right? it's a weird thing to think, because we all know life doesn't work like that. at all.

why does it seem that some people breeze through life with not a hint of tough stuff, while others just seem to get more pain than their fair share?

i don't know. but what i do know is that it's not our fault when tragedy like this strikes, it's just bad luck. nor did we do anything to deserve any of the goodness-es we receive. that's plain grace.

there's so much more i want to say about all of this, but i'll leave it there for now.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Congrats, Your Baby Died

i meant to blog about this while i was pregnant with miles,
but i never got around to it.

i noticed, while i was pregnant with miles, that apparently in our culture being pregnant is a light and easy conversation topic.

oh, you're pregnant! congratulations!

how far along are you?

is this your first?

i noticed this starkly as i wandered target one day and upon seeing my pregnant belly a complete stranger exclaimed, congrats!!

now i don't mean to sound ungrateful or just plain grumpy, because it was very sweet of her to say, but i couldn't help but wonder why this was hard for me to hear. while i was pregnant the first time with noah, i ate up these congrats and questions about the baby. why was it now rubbing me the wrong way?

but my experience with noah and baby isaac radically changed my view of pregnancy.

most pregnant women are carrying a healthy baby. most. but what about the woman who just went to the doctor to discover her 28 week old baby no longer has a heartbeat? this pregnant woman will continue to carry her child for possibly days or weeks before they induce labor. how would a congrats from a stranger feel to her? congrats on what? congrats, your baby died?

most pregnant women are carrying a baby who they will raise themselves. most. but what about the woman who has decided to make an adoption plan for her child? how difficult that must be to field questions about a baby who you may never get to know, but only have dreams for.

most pregnant women are carrying a baby who lands in a specific, straight forward sibling order. most. but for some of us, there is a gaping hole in our family. i had the hardest time answering the, is this your first baby question. because if i said, no, there would be difficult follow up questions and comments that i usually didn't have the emotional bandwidth to manage. oh, fun! how many? how old are they? you'll have your hands full with 3 boys!

but if i answered, yes, that would be a lie.

side note:  i'm so jealous of moms who can, with ease and seemingly no thought at all, answer the question, how many kids do you have?

oh, madeline is 8 and then i have emily who is 6 and little nicholas is 3. 

if only the general population knew how much time we spend in my support group stressing and discussing how to answer that simple little question, and how much guilt is associated with it. it's remarkable and something i never, ever even had to think about 16 months ago.

in closing, i'm not saying we should never engage in conversation with a pregnant woman, or to just mind our own business. but let's just not assume anything. and let's always lead with sensitivity and grace.

that's all.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Butler Brothers

my birth experience with noah was pretty near perfect, and i wanted our experience with miles to be perfect too. but perfection, in its essence, cannot be made better or duplicated, right? it's perfect. done. so i wondered how it could possibly "measure up."

however, i also wanted the story of miles coming into the world to be unique and different, just as miles is unique and different. a story just his own, yet still perfect.

amazingly, that happened.

a few weeks before miles was born i told his auntie amy that i thought he was going to arrive "fast and furious." and that, he did. even four days late. i sort of half-expected miles to come early because noah did. (noah was due on june 10th and arrived june 5th.) so when miles' due date (june 11th) came and went, the anticipation nearly broke me. i know people go past their due dates all the time, and it's hard. but i can't help but think that my anticipation held much more weight.

i had been pregnant for nearly two years and we had been trying to get pregnant about a year before that. the nursery had been set, then redone, then tweaked, then fussed with, about a million times.

my anticipation was also loaded with fear. would miles be okay? not only were we not 100% sure that miles didn't have the same condition that took noah's life, but i was also heavy with worry about anything else that could go wrong. stillbirth. heart defect. acd. i worried about it all.

so those days leading up to his birth were very, very long. i also wasn't working full time and hadn't been for about a month. my to-do list had long been completed. and then completed about five more times again. i was ready. way more than ready.

beginning about two weeks before miles was born, i kept thinking "it" was happening. my water broke before labor began with noah, so i didn't really know what early labor felt like. however, i knew i was having contractions with miles for these two weeks, they just weren't getting stronger. i would get so excited... then disappointed when they'd trail off. it was maddening.

we even went into the hospital thinking "it" was time. on the evening of saturday, june 14th at about 7pm. and after a couple hours of monitoring, we were devastatingly sent home after still being only 3cm. (absolutely no progress since my doctor's appointment the previous tuesday.)

i went to bed around 10pm that night and got a few hours sleep when i woke up to go to the bathroom. i noticed some blood and just about had a heart attack. shaking, i woke up john and we called the doctor. she said it's perfectly normal and could be that his arrival was approaching. to be safe, she suggested drinking a large glass of ice water and lying down to make sure i could feel him moving. well, it took a very long half an hour as we waited to feel those crazy, miles kicks. with a sense of relief that all was well, john went back to sleep and i tried too, but my contractions were coming stronger. i stayed awake on the couch until about 5am.

my mind was playing tricks on me. was it really time this time? if we went to the hospital, would i be embarrassingly sent home again?

finally i woke john up with an "it's happening."

we sort of non-urgently got ready, showered and were about to get in the car when john suggested we "labor at home" for awhile. i said, "okay."

about two contractions later, and all of four minutes, john said, "i think we better go."

we arrived to the hospital around 7am and i was taken into the "pre-admittance room." my progress was immediately checked.

8 cm.

john and i looked at each other in disbelief. 8 cm!! we were hoping for at least 5 cm. or just something that indicated we had made some progress. but 8 cm. i was 80% done with labor!

things happened very quickly after that. they rushed me into a room. my amazing mid-wife arrived. john called our parents. contractions kept getting stronger and stronger.

at almost 9am i was checked again. 10 cm. we were ready. but my water hadn't broken yet. our mid-wife said she could break it, to speed up the process, or we could wait and it would eventually break on its own. we opted for her to break it.

what i didn't know, was that "speeding up the process" basically meant, after the water was broken, you're going to have the most intense, painful contraction you've ever had, and it's not going to stop until the baby is born.

i was screaming like a monster. clutching the side of the bed. i was officially panicked.

it was at this point my mom raced in.

i don't think the mid-wife and nurses were entirely ready for me to push yet. (she was just getting her gown garb on.) but i remember yelling, "i'm pushing!!!!"

about three-ish pushes later, at 9:04am, he was born.

it was unbelievably intense.

i wasn't really aware when they broke my water, but apparently they noticed meconium in the amniotic fluid. (miles had a poop.) this meant that they had to have nicu nurses there to help with his breathing right out the gate, so i couldn't immediately hold him or see him. so my first look at him he was very, very gray and very silent. but i couldn't really see him behind the group of nurses.

more panicking.

i remembering crying, "i don't hear him crying!!" but the mid-wife assured me they didn't want him to cry just yet, until they knew he didn't breathe in meconium into his lungs. but as john was going back and forth between me and him, he reported back - "he has a heartbeat!"

i don't know how long miles was over on the table, couldn't have been more than ten minutes, maybe? but it felt like an absolute eternity.

then finally, i got to meet the little man that i had been waiting a lifetime for.

though he gave us some scares, he came into the world perfectly, just like his brother noah.

as i anticipated the arrival of miles, the perfection of noah loomed over my head. how could another boy steal my heart the way noah had? everything about noah, and his entrance into the world, was perfect. his dark hairline, his curled lips, his peaceful presence.

but of course, my sweet blondie-boy miles paved a new way to perfection. and though i adore that there are similarities between these two brothers, i'm so thankful they have their very own uniqueness. noah is noah. miles is very much miles.

each of my boys are wildly different, yet divinely perfect.

as is my love for them.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Morbid Thoughts

last night, as i was holding miles and getting him ready for bed, he looked up at me with his charming, toothless grin, and i found myself thinking, what if this is the last memory i have of him? 

it's a little morbid, but every so often, i have these types of thoughts and it scares the sh*t out of me. 

you would think after losing two children that i would "cherish every moment" like nobody's business. but instead, i prepare myself for the worst, which looks less like "cherishing" and more like "obsessing," causing panic and fear. two emotions that are the perfect fuel for a raging "i love my life" fire. (sarcasm.)

i guess it's completely understandable why i'd feel this way. my daily reality, and the only thing i have known up until now, has been living with merely a handful of precious noah and baby isaac memories.

a handful. that was all i got. 

not anywhere near enough. and i grip onto them like, at any second, they could slip through my fingers.

so i put unbearable amounts of pressure on myself to enjoy miles 24/7 and remember every single sweet, and not-so-sweet moment, i'm given with him. 

then i feel crazy-making guilt because i don't do it. (because it's physically impossible to do.)

yet, there's always grace. and i choose to receive it, again, today. 

because i know, i can love without the presence of enjoyment. and i can be grateful even while wishing circumstances were different.

that's life.