Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How Can I Help?

 I get that question a lot. In times of need when people are mourning with you, for you, they want to be put to work. They want concrete ideas and often times they are just as stunned as we are in knowing how to handle the situation. What to say? What to do? I thought it might be helpful for those who want to help us in particular or perhaps help someone else going through a similar trial to list some things people have done that have made all the difference in helping us feel as if we are being carried.

1.Messages of love. We have received Facebook messages, texts, notes, and cards that express beautiful words of sympathy and love. I love when they remind us that someone is thinking about us, about James. It reminds me that someone hasn't forgotten. For the first week they were numerous and lovely and I know they will taper off because they already have but it never ceases to ease my heart when I get that surprise message.

2.Flowers and care packages. We have received beautiful flowers, art, books, and care packages. One of the care packages was so perfectly timed I knew there had been some divine guidance in its arrival. We had just come back from the funeral home, making arrangements and my heart was heavy. Coming home to a care package full of things that just brightened the horizon for a moment. It had some beautiful necklaces, nail polish, lotion, etc. I am not beneath saying that a necklace can brighten my spirits. It can. It might help someone else too :)

3. Food. Our church support system is amazing and quickly after the news broke we had meals lined up for us. When you are grieving it can be hard to fix a meal, even to remember to eat so having food at the ready (especially when you have to feed a toddler) is a wonderful blessing. Beyond delicious dinners, friends have brought over snack food and fed me lunch. I especially love when the food is healthy. Emotionally and mentally we are hurting and our spirits and minds are trying to heal, it is important to remember that comfort food is good but don't forget nutritious food. We have been lucky to receive delicious salads and fruits that keep our physical bodies feeling great so that we don't have to worry about that along with everything else.

4. Say James' name. This might not be for everyone but for me at least, I like when people say James' name. It can be hard for me to hear at times but it reminds me that he was a real person and that the rest of the world views him that way. Ultimately, I love it. Having a stillborn can be hard but add onto it the fact that very few people saw your baby and it just feels like a bad dream. When people ask questions about him and say his name themselves my heart swells with mama pride. It feels good.

5. Financial assistance. Being grad students our ability to cover funeral costs was a scary thought that luckily didn't cross our minds for long. We have wonderful people around us who were immediately willing to pitch in and it has eased our minds greatly. We, personally, have no more need for financial assistance but if you have a friend going through a trial similar to this and you are able to help financially, try to.It doesn't have to be a lot, the smallest amount helps with things like flowers and something nice for them to wear to the funeral if they are having one.

6. Hugs. Now I am not a natural hugger. It was just not something we did in my family growing up but I have grown fairly used to them. For me personally, I like meaningful hugs that are not drawn out. Some people might like the tight, long hugs but they can be very hard for me. Usually they just bring everything to the surface and while I need that sometimes, I usually know when I want it all to come out. So, give a hug but don't drag it out so long that it feels like you are planting all of your sadness for them on top of them. Hug them with all the love you have for them, hearts connected. True love is not stifling and clingy, it is pure and delicate and intuitive. Gauge what they need and give accordingly.

7.Playdates and get togethers. I like getting out of the house and my son needs it especially. Unfortunately all of our usually places we go I am not ready to return to because of all the questions about my non-pregnant state that I will receive. We have been so blessed to have friends who text and call to see if we want to get out of the house. My answer is always yes, unless it is during Max's nap, Kyle is home, or I am having a hard day. Having people reach out to me and scheduling playdates is ideal, it can be hard to ask for help when you are grieving even when you know people are willing to give it. Along with playdates, having people who want to visit us or have dinner with us is also great. The focus is largely on me currently but when people reach out to our entire family my heart is eased tenfold. Sometimes it is for games, a BBQ, dinner, just to chat but we are usually very willing for a welcome distraction.

8. Don't forget the husband. The focus is largely on me and I keep telling people, as long as Kyle is ok then I am ok. But if he is not doing well, you can bet I won't be doing well either. When people remember him in their thoughts and how hard this is for him as well, it means a great deal to us both. It can be hard for guys to express grief and having people reaching out to Kyle has been huge for him. It might be to go fishing or to go play basketball or go on a hike, but just don't forget the husband.

9. Pray. Remember us in your prayers and pray to be guided in how you can help. I have a HUGE testimony of prayer now. It never ceases to quell my anguish and bring so much peace and I know that as people have prayed on our behalf we have received peace and comfort in our hearts when it gets really hard.

10. Be careful. Be careful with your words, your actions, your intentions. Make sure they are pure and filled with love. I have read so much about people who are hurt during their trial by well meaning words and acts but for some reason or another were received the wrong way and it seemingly intensifies their hurt. I feel lucky that this has not been the case with us. People have said the right things at the right moments and have laughed and cried with us. They are tender and gentle when we talk of James' and laugh and share their joys with us.

11. Live your life with compassion, intention, and joy. The thing that bugs me most are negligent parents, whiny teens/adults, and people who I know are waiting to take that opportunity that is scary and requires a whole lotta faith. One of the greatest ways to honor James' memory is to live a good life. Don't fill it with useless, meaningless trinkets and ideas. Put your family first and love them, hug them, kiss your babies and hold them when they cry. Don't delay the love in your life.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

This is Going to Take Time

The shock is wearing off and the stoicism is fading. The reality sets in that the bassinet is empty, the diapers go unused, the blankets unswaddled, my arms are empty and my heart is floods over with the sadness of it.

But I look out my window and the sun decides to rise anyway and my toddler still needs breakfast and stories read and it just seems unfair that life has to move on.

Each morning, light floods my window and Kyle greets me with a morning kiss. He is a routine man and sticking with the routine is working for him right now but our routine has changed a bit. After he kisses me, he opens his scriptures and reads the same passage:

7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son [and my daughter], that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?
9 Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.
-Doctrine and Covenants 122
The spirit descends upon my heart as he reads them and I am comforted. There is peace in all of this, but I have to seek it, to search and ask and sometimes beg for it. 
It is hard to think about James to be honest. My memories of him are largely of my pregnancy. The fact that his presence in my body caused my legs to ache and carrying him exhausted me, especially walking up stairs. His kicks were forceful and dramatic and he would make my belly ripple over and over and over. With those memories I combine the memorizing of his body. I never saw his body and his spirit mutually coexist and that is possibly the hardest part to deal with. That I have to connect the pieces in my mind. To imagine those tiny feet as the ones who kicked me inside, to bring life to his memory. 
So needless to say, this is hard. People ask how I am doing and honestly...I have no idea. I don't know what to say, my mind goes blank every single time and so I just mumble, "good, considering." I leave it at that and save the real emotional work for when it really comes and hits me.  
Sometimes I wonder if people are freaked out that I am not crying more, but the thing is, crying is so exhausting. It is so much work and sometimes I just don't feel like crying anymore, sometimes I don't feel like opening my heart up to every single person who asks. I save it because my heart is tender and this is going to take time.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A beautiful heart

When we had our 20 week ultrasound, the technician was amazed at our baby's heart. She expressed multiple times, "This heart is perfect, it is the most beautiful heart I have seen." I remember thinking that her words were prophetic, that our precious baby really did have a beautiful heart physically and in every sense that you can't measure.

I waited and prepared for months and I was so close to the end when we received the worst news you can imagine when pregnant, let alone two days away from 39 weeks. I realized at the end of Thursday evening I couldn't remember the last time the baby kicked. I scoured my mind and started pushing and prodding the body within me, nothing. I expressed concern to Kyle and when he suggested we call the hospital I started crying. I knew this couldn't be good and I certainly didn't want it to be real. We were told to come and after trying to call friends to watch Max, decided to just bring him with us. The ride down felt oddly peaceful and I thought maybe that was a good sign.

It was a sign of what was to come. Overwhelming peace and calm a midst a worst possible scenario.

There was no heartbeat and no sign as to why our baby's heart stopped. Kyle and I locked eyes before the words were spoken and we knew, we knew that this precious beautiful heart we waited to meet was gone. Our eyes welled with tears and we hugged each other and we hugged Max. It was late at night and Max had every right to be wiggly and misbehave, but he was perfect. We needed him there with us, to hug us and to comfort us and to remind us why we became parents in the first place.

You don't become a parent for the end prize of a beautiful child in your arms, you become a parent because that child that enters your life forever changes you. That child fills your life with joy, whether you have the opportunity to hug them everyday or think of them watching over you from heaven. You become a parent because family is foundation for happiness in this life and you take the good with the hard. You accept that sorrow will be a part of the journey, though certainly you hope it will be few and far between.

We had the choice to get started with labor right away or to wait and try to process everything a little bit. Since it was late at night and I felt like I needed a good night's sleep we decided to wait. Our induction was scheduled for 8am on Saturday and so we had all of Friday to wait for my mom to come and to go down to the river and stick our feet in the water and skip rocks and talk about how much this sucked. Because it really, really sucked.

Saturday was a special day, a sacred day that will be imprinted in my mind forever. It was a day where Kyle and I took care of each other, I rubbed his back and he massaged mine. We listened to beautiful, peaceful music as they started me on misoprostol to start contractions. Besides the misoprostol, I was able to labor completely naturally which proved to me my strength. I knew I could do it and I did it. I had every reason to receive pain medication, to not feel what was happening to my body but through a priesthood blessing offered by a loving bishop I felt inspired to continue with my plan and all the preparation my husband and I had put forth for a natural childbirth. We labored together and when I pushed out our beautiful baby boy James, I screamed. Not a sad scream, but a power scream. I was able to channel all the anger and hurt that I was feeling and I was able to accept it and really and truly feel it. I was able to feel it and let it out and when James was placed on my chest I cried and felt that rush of hormones and that rush of love and I held and clung to the beautiful child who was perfect in every way. I cried, I cried a lot. I kissed and hugged his precious body and felt the weight of him. He was real, this was real. I had just delivered a stillborn child.

I held him for a long time and eventually I stopped crying and was just in awe with how perfect he was. Why did his heart stop beating? We are not positive and are waiting autopsy result to rule anything else out but there was a pretty large blood clot in his umbilical cord, a complete abnormality, a total fluke accident. Nothing to prevent it, nothing to say it will ever happen again. I wished it hadn't happened though. I wished I was antsy and demanded an induction a few days earlier, if I had he would be alive in my arms. But that is not what happened, and that isn't what was supposed to happen.

A memory that will forever stand in my mind was when I handed James to Kyle. Kyle's tears will be imprinted in my mind for all eternity. He is such a wonderful father and he is so full of love for his children. He is so good and he felt the pain of this labor just as much as I did. His touch during it all was my constant. His voice whispering how strong and how amazing I was got me through it all. I love him so much and I appreciate having him in my life now more than ever. He is my rock, my love. His is everything to me.

The hospital was so wonderful, my midwife and my nurse were perfect and gave us full reign over the situation to make it as perfect and special an experience as possible. They laughed with us, cried with us, and shared so much love.

James was 8lbs 2oz and 21 1/2 inches. He had golden brown hair (not much, but more than Max had). I held his body and felt so much peace and love for him, it was his body that I held but his spirit was in the room with us. He was there and I felt it so strongly. I wasn't sad for long, because I still had this child. This child who some day I will get to hug and embrace again. I will get to hear his voice and see his smile. I will get to see a glimmer in his eyes as we reunite.

His beautiful heart has impacted this world already. I have felt the power of his life in this world as my family has come together, as my friends from church have joined in solidarity to support us, as I turn to my husband and to my beautiful child and embrace them in sheer love and appreciation for all that I have. His beautiful heart is teaching me already to be a better mother, to be a better daughter, a better wife, a better friend, a better person. He is making me better already and I love him so dearly for that.

The grief comes in waves and at times the sadness and shock of our situation feels overwhelming. It has caused me to turn to my Heavenly Father in prayer and to rely upon the arm of my Savior and his atoning sacrifice for relief. I turn to the words of prophets and the scriptures for understanding and messages of peace. I read the words of friends and family and am overwhelmed by how many people are thinking of us and praying for us. We feel your prayers and your good thoughts and they have helped immensely.

For now we are taking it moment by moment and hugging Max a lot. He is our joy during all of this and we are so grateful for him.

We don't understand this experience fully but the gospel has brought so much peace and clarity already. I know that Heavenly Father loves me and my family and that this is part of his plan for us. I expect that I will be writing a lot on this blog for therapeutic reasons and to just have my voice be heard. To know that my child did exist, I really did carry him and I felt his kicks and rolls. I love him immensely and think joyfully of the day where I will get to see him again for I know that day will come.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Happy Birthday My Prince

Every night after a wet, heavy on the bottom-lip kiss from my now 2-year-old, I turn off the light and say, "Good night my prince." I shut the door and think over the day. The highs and lows of chasing after a toddler. 

With Max, my days are filled with interpreting. I have become a master of Max's language and as he mumbles a sentence with one or two understandable words, I can easily pick up one what he is getting at. Sometimes I have to interpret for others but usually Max just requests that I repeat back whatever he said to me, just to make sure that I was really listening. It can get frustrating because although I consider myself fluent in Maxese, I still don't always understand. Puddles and bubbles sound so similar and sometimes get's mad when I don't get him right away. I get it though, we all want to be heard, to be understood.

Besides interpreting Max all day long, we dance, we read, we look out the window when we hear the siren of the firetruck (we happen to live across the street from a fire station so this happens often). This morning after a rousing early morning wake up and after Daddy had left for school, he played his little piano. We had recently rediscovered the microphone attachment and he squealed with sheer delight at hearing his own voice. 

It overwhelmed me to be honest. Each time he made a squawk and heard himself he was so giddy he couldn't contain it. His hands would rush to his cheeks and his eyes would twinkle. They twinkle all day long though.

They twinkle when he sees an ant or when we sing the teddy bear song. They twinkle when I praise him for making a good choice or when he discovers that he gets a special treat whether it be hummus or ice cream. They twinkle when he asks to be my baby. I cradle him in my arms and smother him with kisses all over his face and he asks for it again and again and again. 

He will always be my baby, my first little prince. The one who surprised me with how tough and challenging motherhood would be but also surprised me with how much sheer joy it would bring. So much that I just want to squeal and let my hands rush to my cheeks in awe of it all. 

It truly amazes me that I have been able to watch him grow for two straight years. There has not been a single day I have not seen him. It's not that I wouldn't like a grown-up trip or something, but by luck (or the poverty of grad school) we haven't ever really been separated.  He has grown so much since that first moment when they placed him into my arms and my instinct was to sing, "I am a child of God" to him and all the shock of entering this Earth  flitted away. I knew he recognized my voice and that moment will stick with me for the rest of my life because this boy has changed my voice, slowly my voice is becoming more patient, more tolerant, more aware of it's effect. 

It's effect being largely that I will be molding his voice. When he thinks of his value, his worth I hope his voice tells him how loved he is, how kind he must be to the world, and ultimately how he is a prince. A little prince that will grow up to be a good, kind king. 

I love you my prince, happy birthday.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The last leg of pregnancy

Currently all I want to do all day long is eat green grapes and lay on the couch reading a good book or watching an entertaining movie/show. But when you have a toddler, you don't have the real luxury to lay about. You can try your darndest but that toddler will make it incredibly difficult.

When I was pregnant with Max, I remember my last month well. I truly had no real responsibilities. We were living at my mom's and Kyle worked long hours most days. I would occasionally run carpool or to the store but I mostly watched a lot of HGTV, got incredibly good at minesweeper, and plowed through a few books. It was self-indulgent and looking back on it all, pretty selfish.

I was reading in the Old Testament this morning, Genesis 13, where Lot and Abraham are having issues living so close together. So Abraham being the peacemaker he is, says in general, "Lot, we are going to have to split up here and I am going to let you take first pick on the land." So Lot looks around and sees the plains of Jordan and they look perfect. They are well watered and seem even like the Garden of Eden. I can imagine him thinking, Alright...I am set here. I will be comfortable and life will be pretty good. But the problem is that he was only thinking of himself. Abraham gave him first choice because Abraham was kind, and Lot totally took advantage of the situation and thought only of himself. It doesn't say he took half of the plains of Jordan, he took it ALL. Then he pitched his tent toward Sodom, which was an exciting, wicked city. and well things don't end well for Lot. But Abraham because of kindness, his goodness is blessed immensely.

Sometimes, I feel a little like Lot. Ok, sometimes I feel a lot like Lot. Is it so bad to want to be comfortable, to want the best and to be set and not have to worry about drought (figurative drought) in your life. But the problem is that when we seek after the comfort of ourselves or only our family, somebody else or somebody else's family gets the short end of the stick. Not only that, but we also lose the opportunity to build our faith. If we seek to always be perpetually comfortable, we never have the opportunity to get out of our comfort zone and actually grow.

To tie this all together, I have been feeling pretty selfish lately. In trying to make it through this last month, plan our upcoming birth, plan our adventure year of internships, I just want everything sorted out and comfortable. I don't want it to be hard, I want everything to magically fall together without me even thinking about it. But I know that if that were to be the case, I would never gain the opportunity to stretch myself. To realize my potential, the power that I possess as a wife, a mother, a woman. So as much as I would love an entire month of  unlimited HGTV and minesweeper, I know that if I continue devoting myself to being a  mother, a friend, and loving wife I can continue in becoming the person that I want to be.

Because to me, I would rather turn into the person that God imagines me to be than live the life that the world tries to convince will make me happy. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Pregnancy Comparison

This is a pic taken a month ago at a family gathering, my beautiful sister-in-law and I are just a month apart. Her baby should come any day.

I am not referring to comparing the pregnancy of my sister-in-law to myself. This is just the only recent pregnancy picture that I have of myself.

I get asked a lot how this pregnancy compares to when I was pregnant with Max and each time they ask me, I fumble for an interesting response. In the grand scheme of things, both of my pregnancies have been extremely easy and without complications. I know I am lucky. 

I am not sure what people are looking for in a response but I have dwelt upon this idea of comparing pregnancies and come up with a few things that I feel are worth noting. 

First, with Max my placenta was planted right on the other side of my belly button, so he was nestled into my back and with that when he moved, I didn't feel it as much. Also having a baby nestled near your back relieves some of the pain that comes with weight hanging from you. Also, because of this placenta placement it was the main reason for the awful back labor I experienced. Unfortunately you cannot control where that placenta decides to grow but knowing it's placement has helped me understand Max's pregnancy more. 

On the flip side, baby #2 has it's placenta attached right against my spine. So while I don't predict awful back labor (although it's totally possible), I definitely feel this baby a whole lot more. I can feel it's feet more prominently and it's knees and it's butt, cute huh? I also feel the weight of this baby more. Overall this pregnancy feel a whole lot more conscious, but I don't think that is just due to placenta placement.

With Max, I worried much of the time that somehow I would miscarry again. It took away much of the wonder that pregnancy can bring. Of course there was still wonder and awe but I think in general you can prepare (and you should prepare) for your first child but when they come and you look back on it all you will realize how utterly clueless you were. At least that was the case for me.

After giving birth to Max, I had a lot of regret towards his birth. It's not that I wasn't happy to have a child in my arms it is just that I had imagined it going differently and I still felt like it could have. That is why this time around I chose to prepare again, I threw out most "knowledge" I felt I had about pregnancy and childbirth and signed Kyle and I up for Bradley Classes. Oh how I have loved these classes. Our last one is tomorrow night and I will miss our weekly date to learn and understand more about the miracle inside of me and how much influence we do have over our pregnancies, our labor, and our birth. 

That is the main difference I feel this time around, I feel so much more aware and confident in myself. 

Alongside taking these classes I read the book The Gift of Giving Life. I cannot recommend it enough for anyone who is pregnant. It is an LDS nonfiction book about how pregnancy and childbirth are extremely spiritual and each chapter is dedicated to an aspect of giving life and draws gospel comparisons. It has made me truly realize how spiritual this act is that I am partaking in. The weight of my responsibility, the sacrifice I will make, etc. It is a hefty book, but I highly recommend it to anyone LDS or not. 

I was hesitant to go through the journey of pregnancy once the nausea began again and with it brought all the hardships that a woman carries during pregnancy. The frequent bathroom breaks, the leg pain, the list could go on and on but taking the time to remember that each pregnancy is a miracle and a privilege has sobered my thoughts and redirected them towards a better understanding of myself and of God. I know it is through Him that I am able to experience the gift of giving life and I know that it is through His son, Jesus Christ that I will be carried through. As I seek out that divine guidance and help, I feel angels near and I feel peace and joy at the thought of inviting a new life into our family.