Friday, August 30, 2013

Birthday Wishes

Today I turn 25. I never imagined that I would be where I am today, but here I am and I want to take advantage of my birthday platform. You get wishes on your birthday, one technically, but I am going to tell you a couple of mine. Some are completely unrealistic, some totally possible.

First let's get the unrealistic ones out of the way. If I had one wish it would be that for a little while no one would be pregnant or have a newborn. I know how impossible this is but it is a wish nonetheless. It can be excruciating to realize that people have normal pregnancies and get that beautiful breathing, heart-beating newborn. My life is shadowed by a dark reality of life that most (thankfully) will never have to experience and sometimes it seems like a cruel joke when someone announces a pregnancy or cuddles their baby. Obviously they have nothing against me, it's just the mourning and grief talking but still it seems as if almost everywhere I look, everyone I know is sunk down deep in happy baby bliss. I just don't want to deal with it for a little while.

Another completely unreasonable wish...can someone just send me to Hawaii for a week? No explanation needed really for that one.

Now for the real stuff. If I could ask one wish it would be that everyone would be the good in the world. Seek for it, be it, spread it. There is so much sadness and heartache and affliction naturally. If you can help it, which you can, don't help that awfulness spread by holding grudges, neglecting what is truly important, or procrastinating true happiness in your life. Take the good risks, the ones that scare the crap out of you. Pursue the opportunities for growth in your life. Sometimes those opportunities are hidden behind negative opinions of world or sometimes the growth aspect seems incredibly difficult, in fact it might seems so difficult you are avoiding it at all costs. Don't. Grow, build yourself up into a more beautiful, stronger, kinder person.

I hope and pray especially that the world will come to truly know who God is and how much He loves each and every one of us. There is so much possible when we see ourselves through His eyes. Believe that your worth is infinite and that you have value and purpose to this world. Because you do.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Moving Past Denial

We had to select an outfit for James to be buried in and while doing that I also wanted to find a stuffed animal for Max to pick out to be placed in his casket as well. I liked the thought that there was something in there with him, something soft and fluffy. We bought one and had Max give it endless kisses and hugs waiting for the day when we would no longer see the soft blue stuffed dog. Well the thought of parting with it got harder and harder and I decided to just buy another one. One for James and one for Max. So now one rests with James' body and one rests with Max as he sleeps. 

Max will give the dog kisses and hugs but mostly it's for me. I stroke it and for a moment I feel a bit more connected to James. 

His passing is like a fleeting dream. I have woken up in this alternate reality where we were waiting for a change to our normal only to be forced back into our old normal, but really it's a new normal. Did that make any sense? It is thoughts like those that clog my mind all day long. My mind is congested with what if's, mental images of those few days where I was living out a nightmare. It still feels unreal and my mind psychologically cannot wrap around the fact that there once was a baby inside me that died and I was a walking coffin. The thoughts horrify me and I try to fill my mind with light and laughter. I have stacks of books, books on losing a baby, on grieving, bestsellers that are easy to read, and a comedy book about parenting. I want to fill my mind with words that are not my own, words that bring insight, clarity, any ounce of understanding quenches my thirst for a moment.

I have found that when we grieve, when we have pain, when we are sad or angry or frustrated and we are grappling for understanding, Satan attempts to become a very present part of our life. He has tried to fill me with guilt towards myself, with envy at the happiness of others, with anger towards God but most especially he tries to bring doubt to my faith in Christ. To make me think that there is no hope, no joy to this world. He truly wants us to be miserable like himself and he is very good at creeping in and feeding your spirit lies about who you are, about who you can become. 

I know that this will be hard for a very long time, I cannot deny any longer the very real pain that this encompasses but that does not mean that I need to suffer unnecessarily. My faith in Christ has carried me this far, His grace has wrapped around me and lifted me higher and in that height I get glimpses of God's perspective. Those glimpses are enough, enough to push away the doubt and guilt and the anger and when those are removed, then I can be filled. Filled with His peace. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I cry at night

I wake up and reality washes over me all over again. I could lay in bed and never get out which seems like a realistic option sometimes but I know that to give up, to do nothing is to let hopelessness win and I am not without hope.

My days ebb and flow with revelation, numbness, inspiration, and aching. I get out of the house, I read books, I read my scriptures, I try my best to play with Max, and I visit with people. I tell them that it all seems like a dream or that I am living someone else's life. To be honest, when I look in the mirror I do not recognize this new girl in front of me. She seems much older, and sorrow flicks behind her eyes.

Sometimes I worry if I am grieving correctly. I know that there is no one "right" way to grieve, but there is certainly a best way for yourself and sometimes I wonder if I am doing what is best for me. You see, I only really cry at night. Every now and then it will hit me during the day, but never in front of others. I have this thing about crying in front of people and it seems to have stuck even during this trial I face. So sometimes I wonder when people are asking me questions about how I am doing if they are secretly wondering why I am not sobbing before them.

I was trying to figure out why I cry at night. Why is it when Max is asleep and Kyle is in bed waiting for me to join him that it really hits me and I sob, sometimes to him and sometimes by myself, praying as the tears fall. Then I realized. I realized that when I last held James was around ten o'clock at night and that is when my arms truly ache to hold him again, to feel the weight of his body and to stroke his face. I miss him, I miss all the possibilities I had imagined for him. At night is also when I feel the most safe with my emotions, I can cry without interruption, I can pray for as long as possible. I can grasp for myself how I am really doing.

I don't know how to respond when people ask "how are you doing?" and luckily someone read to me a blog post of another mother who is going through the same exact situation and her words perfectly described how I feel about that question, click here to read it yourself. Read this while you are at it.

A midst all of this heartache and sadness I feel blessed to say that there truly are happy moments each day. I have an immense appreciation for all those who reach out to me and serve me in big and small ways. Everything adds up and means a whole lot to me and to my family. My love for Max and Kyle has grown infinitely and it has brought me so much joy to feel so much more love for them. Like I predicted, James is impacting my life in a great way and helping me to grow so much more than I could have ever imagined. It does not take the pain of his loss away but to know that I am making something of this loss is what gets me out of bed in the morning, it is what comforts my soul when I cry at night.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Father's Perspective: Part 3

As contractions came with force I was given the strength to push firmly in counter pressure just how she needed it. We got into the tub, and soon it was time to get out and push.

 The last 15 minutes of labor allowed me to glimpse in a new way the large amount of strength hidden within Gina’s small frame.  She was asked if she wanted some pain meds right before pushing that could ease the pain and even allow her a slight mental escape or “wooziness”.  Then in the face of current crippling pain, and knowing that a 13 on a scale of 10 was coming she said, “no, I don’t want it”.

My heart beamed for her.  As she pushed she never faltered.  She never lost focus. She never gave up. She screamed with power and strength from deep within.  The kind that makes the Polynesian Hakka, look like a nursery rhyme song.  And then James was born.

With tenderness and reverent awe, she held James’ small quiet body against hers with a love that can only be described as a mother’s.  My love for him filled my heart.  Simultaneously my heart felt much too small as it was filled with sadness and grief as well, and I thought that it might implode. I couldn’t stop the tears. 
He was perfect. He was still. He looked so peaceful, just like Max looks when he is sleeping.

I held him too. My boy, my son, my James. I could physically feel his 8 lb body, But could not hear him cry. So I did.

I could feel my soul reaching for him.  My very self was stretching out and being expanded.  It was deeply painful.  My spiritual core throbbed and ached. 

Yet in that moment there was no despair. There wasn’t a sense of unfairness, or that I’d been robbed.  My balm was love from Gina, and my mind was quieted by words of truth from within that could only come from the purest heavenly source.  My stretched soul was eased by the Spirit of God.  And we were accompanied by James’ spirit too.  It all let us know that though this was a sad day of parting, a day of grief, and a day to mourn the loss of an earth-life unlived with us; it was certainly not a tragic day of death.

Some truths came to my mind during that time:

 His perfect and innocent spirit, it was to be untainted by the dirtiness of this world, his perfect little heart, to be without the pain and the sorrow that comes to each of us who travel on this tough earth.  Really, everything you want for your child, to protect them from harm, to keep them from sin, to get them back to our Heavenly Father; it was all done.  And it was done because Christ had already gone through the pain of every living soul upon earth. He had felt what I was feeling and more.  He loves James.  He makes James whole. He can make me whole, and He can ease my pain.

Because of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, James will one day receive a perfect body. One where the heart will never stop. A resurrected temple that his precious and pure spirit will never leave.  A body that I can one day, with my own perfected and glorified body, hold.  I will one day again feel the weight of James, but that time I will hear his voice, see his smile, and know him for all that he truly is. That day will be SO SWEET, because I haven’t had a portion of it yet. Because my heart longs for it, it will be a day of eternal joy, for eternal is God’s name and His joy.  I know that every tear I shed now will be blessed and weaved by the author of salvation into happiness that will spring forth as blinding white rays of the sun’s light. 

And it is the source of that love and light, My Father in Heaven and His Son, that I have come to love, have faith in, and know more.  Through this pain, and through this sorrow, I have been more able to see and most especially feel, through the increased, even stark contrast, the arm of the Lord around me each day. I have been able to recognize His love because my soul and heart are reaching for it.  I have needed it.  I have been praying for it. And when it comes, and it always does, I am comforted. Because I need the comfort I can feel it more readily when it arrives.

You notice the sweet flavor of cold water when you feel like you might die of thirst the best.  Your favorite hamburger is the one you have after a week at summer camp where calories were hard to come by.  Your wife’s kiss is sweetest after hours, or days of being apart, and God’s love is ever more potent, when we recognize how badly we need it to sustain us.

The thing is about our life on earth, is that we are more often than not spiritually starving.  We need God’s love in our life every single day, but our physical body is so well taken care of that we hardly stop to notice the aching inner spirit within us. That spirit, that used to dwell with God and loved ones, is so frequently overshadowed by the much louder noises of the body and cares we face each day. Our poor heart is unnoticed when we are looking for a job. Our hungry conscience cannot be heard over a rumbling stomach.  It is the balance of body, mind, and spirit that the Gospel of Jesus Christ measures out to us. It keeps us humble and teachable in times of prosperity, and comforted and loved in times of adversity.  It teaches and bolsters us to lift others, and to answer the unique call each of us have been given to live.

I hope I can answer this call, and that the Lord will make me equal to it.

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Father's Perspective: Part 2

Gina’s mom and Norm came that morning to be with us.  We spent some time that morning just cuddling Max and letting close people to us know. I didn’t get calls from those I called the night before until 7 in the morning, which was also odd, since they couldn’t believe they hadn’t noticed the late night calls at all. It proved to be the Lord’s will though, that we had Max with us and only connected with Bishop to come.  Already prayers were coming our way.

I called my Mom and she was very very sad. We said goodbye kind of abruptly and I realized I hadn’t asked to talk to Dad or anything.  I kind of figured he was at work. I got a call from him not too much later and he said he was already in Spokane and would come see us if we wanted.  Of course we did. Another tender mercy, Dad had come to Spokane to get his custom work boots fitted by prescription from his doctor. It just so happened that his appointment had ended just as we were calling others to tell them the news.  We were able to hug him and tell him everything in person. It was just a sign to us that Heavenly Father was going to be very involved in helping us through this experience and was already orchestrating little miracles so that we will never doubt his comfort and hand in it all.

Another mercy, or “divine signature” as I like to call it thanks to beginning a book by G. Lund just a week before our sad news, is beginning that book itself. It is immensely helpful.  I got through the first 3-5 chapters before that fateful Thursday, and had made various notes about “divine signatures” in my life, or experiences that I’ve had that were so well orchestrated that only God could have them happen and I recognized it that way. Remembering the ways that the Lord has helped me, helps me continuously know that he is real and loving.  My faith was growing reading this book, yet I didn’t have much to write after reading the chapter about divine signatures in times of extremity. How quickly that was to change.

We are both so, so grateful for the words of prophets and inspired people who have been able to grow in faith and testimony through the most challenging times of life. Sadness comes to us in waves, but in between those moments we are VERY comforted and hugged by the prayers and spiritual understanding we receive moment by moment.  We can literally feel the love of others in the air around us each moment of every day right now.

So, Friday was a day just us MV and Norm. We talked, ate, and went to spend some time at Bowl and Pitcher in Riverside state park.  We wanted to get out in nature kind of away from others and it was the perfect place to go spend an afternoon that could have been just full of dread and sorrow.  Max was super stoked being outside and able to throw rocks in the river.

Getting home food was brought to us by a group of friends, (3 couples) and another couple came over just to visit and see how we were doing.  Other people stopped by throughout the day as well, bringing flowers, cards and other things. It was nice to see that we are loved and thought about.

We felt very loved, though at the end of the day we knew it was time to just be sad together and get ready for the unknown day ahead of us on the morrow. It seemed unreal that we would start labor in the morning without the hope of a beautiful child at the end of it. Grieving, we mercifully fell asleep quickly and didn’t wake till morning.

July 20th.  Saturday.
We woke up pretty early since our induction appointment was to be at 8 am. Max was up and playing with his Gma and Gpa Norm already, and our hearts were heavy as we packed the car and headed out.
Paperwork and things took forever and Gina didn’t take a Misoprostol until 10 am.  We were very blessed though to have the perfect midwife and nurse there with us.  They were perfectly appropriate at all times and truly helped us through everything.

The stress of the day and all was getting to me quite a bit, and my stomach became a tense nauseous knot of pain. Nothing I seemed to do helped. After an hour or so my legs would ache when we would walk and I would even feel feverish.  I was silently praying for relief to be able to devote my whole attention to Gina who was about to go through pain and anguish many times greater than I.  I tried moving around quickly and drinking water to divert my attention from it all, but that only led to me vomiting more than I ever have before, or at least it seemed that way. I felt better and thought that my trouble was over, but then the pain, discomfort, and sickness returned worse than before. Now, I knew this was rough, but nothing compared to what Gina was currently and would be facing at an ever increasing level soon. Nevertheless, she took some time, while having mild contractions, to rub my back and help me too.

 It was a sweet moment I will always look fondly on and it truly is a symbol of how James will make us stronger as husband and wife.  Even if we are in intense pain, trial, anguish, or uncertainty, we can still look outside ourselves and rest a loving and caring hand upon the equally burdened back of our amazing spouse. Only a heart full of Christ-like love could do such a thing, and be granted the power to do it with so much grace.

Grace is the word to describe what attended us as we prepared to birth James.  MV came and brought some more things for us and offered the suggestion that I breathe through a straw to calm my insides down. It was exactly what I needed coupled with prayer to have my full strength and clarity of mind return just as contractions became more intense for Gina.  Now I could have just started to feel a little better by coincidence, though the stress or the proximate cause of my symptoms was actually increasing, the miracle was in the timing, because right when Gina began to need my full mental and physical attention, I was able to give it. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Father's Perspective: Part One

My wonderful husband Kyle has written from his perspective of our experience having James. I feel it helpful to have his perspective to paint a full picture of what we have gone through. 

How it Happened:
Wednesday was a special day.  It was Max’s 2nd Bday. I got up early as usual, but instead of reading while eating oatmeal, I decided to make French toast since it is Max’s favorite food ever pretty much. That was how the day went for him.  I had to go to school, but Gina took him to the fire station for a tour, they played at the park, ate good food, and he got presents once I got home.  He got a toy motorcycle, a hot wheels jump ramp, and ice-cream.  It was a busy and special day.  I remember thinking when going to bed how much joy I had because of Max and our little family.  I thought about how when you fall in love with your sweetheart that your chest is so full and feels like it might burst.  When you marry her you feel like you’ve won every victory available to you and your heart is full.  But the fullness just gets more full with a child.  It feels like your chest is maxed out, and that the warm filling goes down into your stomach too.  Just a deep and full love and gratitude. I remember thinking how amazing it would feel to have 2 children.  I might just burst with joy.

Thursday was a very busy day, especially for Gina who was already tired from the day before and being almost 39 weeks pregnant.  We were planning a birthday party for Max with everyone we wanted there at Manito park for Friday evening. Gina would call me at school a couple times each day, and each time I would think (baby time?), but it would always be for something about the party.  Just happy things.
That evening we put Max down, got more errands done around the house and watched some Leverage together.  As I was finishing cleaning up the living room and things after our show Gina called to me from the bedroom, “baby isn’t moving”.  This was quite unusual since night time was baby’s favorite time to jump and prod Gina.  She said she couldn’t remember the last time she felt baby move specifically. It was such a common thing, but nothing we did could make baby respond. Our hearts sunk and so we prayed two times to know what to do while waiting for an answer.  I felt very calm and peaceful about going to the hospital, and Gina, though very scared and already tears in her eyes felt good about it too.

We literally couldn’t get ahold of anybody we called right away to watch Max for us while we went in, so we took him with us.  Once at Deaconess they took us to a room and tried to find a heart beat on the Doppler.  It usually took about 2 seconds before the fast and strong beating of our precious baby would be heard.  Our ultrasound tech at 20 weeks told us he had a “beautiful heart” more clear than she’d actually ever seen, and her and the other tech took a full 5 minutes just to admire it. We beamed at the little heart and talked proudly of it for weeks afterwards. 

My excitement had grown by the day as we prepared every week by going to Bradley classes and things.  Once we had the bag packed for the hospital I was ready to go!  It was like waiting for Christmas morning, but not knowing exactly when it would come.

Well, an ultrasound machine was brought in and a midwife came in too and looked for a long time. We could see nothing moving.  She finally told us, though we had already locked eyes and began mourning together, that there was just no heart beat. Sadness was overwhelming.  All we could do was sob and clutch Max to us.  He was perfect.  By now it was well past midnight and he should have been crabby being in an unfamiliar place, but he was just calm and hugged us. 

We called our Bishop right away, because that is the first person Gina wanted there for sure. He was just called to be Bishop on Sunday and he is a surgeon at Deaconess.  We are actually close to his family and knowing that we could call on him was a tender mercy of the Lord. He came and was very comforting and gave Gina one of the most inspired and helpful blessings we have ever heard. It continues to guide our choices and thoughts throughout this experience, as I’m sure it will throughout our life. Our Bishop’s wife came too and offered hugs and kind words. She offered to take Max, but we couldn’t imagine not having him there with us to calm our hearts.

We really didn’t know what was next, but it was that Gina was to face the pain and sorrow of labor in the face of this horrible turn of events.  My heart just ached for her and couldn’t really imagine what dread filled her at the news of this daunting task ahead.  The rest of Friday was to be full, but we knew that starting labor at 2 in the morning wouldn’t be a good idea, so we went home and thankfully found rest quickly.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Nothing says funeral like rain

We planned James' burial for Friday August 2nd. We invited our immediate families and few friends. Let me just say that planning a funeral for your baby is pretty much depressing, but it managed to be a beautiful affair, despite the rain.

It has not rained here in over a month and so I couldn't imagine that the weather report was correct in predicting scattered thunderstorms for the day of James' funeral. I asked for others to pray for good weather, all I wanted was a little sunshine to make the day seem less sad. I couldn't sleep the night before focusing all my thoughts on the rain outside my window. Really?!? I thought. Maybe it is getting it all out now at 3am so that it will just be overcast for our 9am service. But the rain didn't stop and Max woke up early and luckily we didn't have to entertain anyone and could just focus on getting ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually ready.

I also stressed the week before trying to find a dress for the funeral. I don't like the color black, I never have really and I certainly did not want to wear it to James' funeral. I searched and searched and stressed and eventually told Kyle that maybe I would just go naked. But I found a dress that fit how I was feeling perfectly and things started falling into place.

The night before the funeral though I told Kyle that I wasn't going. I couldn't do it. I couldn't face the reality that all the real outward manifestations of James' life were coming to a close. This would be the last thing and would people expect that after we buried him that all the sorrow and pain would just float away and our lives could get back to normal. I realize that this might seem ridiculous to think and I know that no one really expects us to move on quickly or that the pain of this trial doesn't linger  but sometimes I look around and wonder if anyone really gets it.

So we go to the cemetery and there are tents and luckily there was a still a fuzzy blanket in the back of my car so that I can keep warm and we sing Nearer My God To Thee and our family friend/old institute teacher speaks and says exactly what Kyle and I need to hear. He said that God would right all the wrongs of this world and our joy would be so immense when that day comes. It softened my heart. Then I spoke, I spoke of James' influence and the impact that I hope he would have on all those who knew him. I hope that people live good lives for his sake. To make good choices, to choose the right when it isn't easy, to be a kind person. Then Kyle spoke and said things that he says often to me, reminding me of God's love of his infinite wisdom and the growth that is already taking place in our marriage, our family, ourselves.

He then dedicated James' grave. That it would be a holy place, a safe place and that we would see James again.

Then we sang I know That My Redeemer Lives and we took some photos beside James' casket and Kyle looked at me and asked, "Are we supposed to smile?" It was a legitimate question and now I look at these pictures and see that my smile is forced a bit, but just a bit. Because in all reality during the hardest, most real moments of facing this trial there has been such a peace and such a comfort that I have been able to truly smile amidst it. I know that James is not lost and that he will forever be mine and so even though funerals for babies are kinda the worst, I can still smile and remember the blessings promised to me and my family and yes, we can smile.

Ultimately the rain was fitting, I reminded myself of what rain does. It washes and cleanses and gives nourishment to the earth and it could do the same for us. We are starting a new normal now and a rain shower was a good start.