Sunday, January 27, 2013

"An angel in the book of life wrote down our baby's birth, and whispered as she closed the book, 
"Too beautiful for Earth."

We buried Jonah this past Friday. I wish I could tell you how beautiful it was. Giving birth to Jonah was beautiful, burring him was not.

As the pastor read scriptures and the undertaker stood by with a pile of dirt, I glanced around at the other headstones of babies whose birthdays were the same as the day of their deaths. As I read the names I thought how sad it was, then I realized that was the reality I was living.

The church itself was beautiful. About 10 years ago when Brian and I were searching for a spot to get married we found ourselves at little Catholic church on the outskirts of Boulder in a pasture surrounded by the foothills. The pink stucco exterior and quaint setting was perfect and we could not think of a more beautiful setting to say, “ I do." Naively we assumed we could get married anywhere we chose but learned that nuptuials at the church were reserved for confirmed Catholics.  While I did consider converting we eventually choose another spot ½ mile up the road that also overlooked this beautiful spot.

Ten years later we learned that this church had a special place for babies like ours. A baby garden for children who were released to heaven before their births. We went back and forth on whether or not we should have him cremated or buried somewhere where we could also be buried someday (yes, they give you pamphlets of area mortuaries while you are waiting to give birth) but in the end we found comfort knowing that he would be with other babies in a church that reminded us of happier times.

We read scriptures, listened to songs, and Brian and I each read letters we had written to our son. Brian painted a beautiful blue box with white puffy clouds with Jonah’s name written in yellow for him to lay in. On the outside of the box he wrote the scripture “fearfuly and wonderfully made” and on the inside Matthew 19:14, “Let the children come to me..for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.”

The day before we went to the craft store and bought “little boy” stickers that are usually reserved for scrapbooking your child’s life, not for being put on their casket. The stickers read, “Our little angel,” “you are my sunshine, “perfect prince” and “our little boy.” We also stuck on stickers of teddy bears, bottles, and bats and gloves. Earthly childhood toys our baby would never know. He was buried with a tiny blue bible, a little stuffed lamb, and some cards that said, “I love you” as well as the letters we wrote to him.

We each shoveled some soil over his plot (a sound that will forever haunt me) and watched as he was lowered into the ground. No, nothing about that moment was beautiful.

Brian and I had picked out four white balloons for with blue ribbon to be released into the sky. They were to signify each of us, but Brian said they also could represent the four children we have called our own. We were planning on releasing them individually but could not untie the knot. Untangling it became frustrating and it occurred to us that perhaps it would be more meaningful if they went up together as even in death we cannot be separated.

After the service we went to go get smoothies. While I will never know if Jonah would like his crusts cut off of his PB&J or if he preferred pepperoni or just cheese on his pizza, I did know that he loved smoothies and wanted one every single day he was with me. So that’s what we did, we drank smoothies in honor of him. A week ago when I came home from the hospital looking at all the foods that Brian had stocked in our fridge to satisfy my  “cravings” were unbearable to look at. A week later as hard as it is I want those things because they are my connection to him.

As we sat there drinking our smoothies we looked at the pictures from the service. Blinded by the sun’s light when we released the balloons we were just aiming the camera and shooting, hoping that some would turn out. When we viewed the photos of the balloons we immediately saw a sign from God.

Now I will admit I am the girl who thinks she sees images in her grilled cheese. A few months ago I was certain that Darth Vader had appeared on my toast. A few weeks ago Brian tried to play joke on me by using butter to make the shape of the Lombardi trophy on the grilled cheese he was making knowing that I would take it as a sign about the Broncos' super bowl aspirations (neither the grilled Lombardi or the Broncos hopes came to fruition) but what we saw in the clouds was more than our emotions trying to concoct an image for comfort… no, we saw a dove, in fact we saw several doves….

If you look closely you can see the balloons by the dove's nose (but there are only three visible, at this point one of the balloons disappeared and instead we see a dove.)
Outline of dove

Belly of a dove (the balloons floating by the wings)

Yes, I am sure if you look at the clouds long enough you can see just about anything so call it what you will, but we are going to choose to believe that this was a little boy saying, “it’s going to be alright mommy & daddy- I am home now and I am free.”

 And that is beautiful.

Jen & CO. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

It’s been a while, I know. Every month or so it occurs to me that I need to write an update, and that all of you who have been following our journey and praying for Faith deserve that. 

Today I am updating because I need to for me. I have yet to be able to really talk about what has happened to us over the course of the past week, but I can do what I did to get me through those first few rocky years of Faith’s life, and that is to write.

I really have two stories to tell.  One, for those of you who know us just through this blog and the other for everyone who has shared this journey with us.

I will begin where we left off. 

A few years ago we knew it was time to add to our family. Faith was becoming more and more stable and we knew we she was ready for a sibling. Even before we had Faith we had a heart for adoption. We looked into several different avenues to adopt and it became apparent that we did not have the financial means to proceed with international or domestic private adoption. So we decided to foster to adopt, knowing well ahead the risks that we might get attached to a child that we would have to give it back. Somehow I believed that scenario was not going to apply to us. We had paid our dues with Faith and we were going to be given a child to call our own.

We received our first placement in August 2011. I will never forget how excited, nervous, and terrified I was that day. I learned a lot about myself and grew as so much parent in those first few months. Having two children made me feel whole- we felt like a real family. I will never forget the day we found out he would be leaving us. I cried for hours and hours, and giving him back was extremely devastating. Although he had only been with us for four months it felt like he had always been- he was our future.

We took a few months off between losing Jeremiah before we were ready to open our home and hearts to another child. It was early January when we received another call- they had another boy! (We were open to girls too it was just coincidence that the calls we took were always for boys.) This little guy was the same age as our last, 18 months. I called him my soul mate but over the course of the next few months it was evident that he was Faith’s. Faith LOVED having a brother. They played, laughed, and fought just like any siblings would. We weaned him off of bottles and baby food and taught him to eat solids, his first words were “momma,” and Brian rocked him to sleep every night. He was ours. Seven months later, he was not. Once again we learned the pain of fostering to adopt as he was reunited with his family. We were happy to see him be able to live with his father, but once again we felt the loss of a dream.

It was the same time we said goodbye that our foster care license had expired. We could choose to renew or not. We both knew that we could not take another loss at the time, not like this. Meanwhile an idea was stirring in both our hearts. A few months before we said goodbye to Noah I felt the Lord urging me to do something I thought I would never do again- carry a child. The idea seemed absurd. My pregnancy with Faith was extremely traumatic, why would we put ourselves through that again? Little did I know that the same crazy idea was being planting in Brian’s heart as well. We prayed about, discussed the pros and cons with our perinatologist (a OBGYN who specializes in high risk pregnancies)  and decided that we were going to try again. The nuisances of pregnancy seemed nothing compared to pain of getting attached to a child and having to say goodbye. THIS pregnancy was going to be different. And it was.

We learned that we was expecting in October 2012. We were elated. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The baby would be due in June. We would both be off work and have the whole summer to get to know our little one.

 I loved every minute of being pregnant. This time around was nothing like the tumultuous time I carried Faith which was plagued with emergency room visits, bed rests, and what seemed like one crises after another. 

This pregnancy was a stark contrast, everything about it seemed easy, and everything was going right. I did not take a single minute for granted. While I would joke that I was “getting so fat” I secretly rejoiced with every pound gained and every curved changed because it meant that I had a baby growing inside me.

 I was monitored very closely and had doctor visits every 2-3 weeks. Every ultra sound and Doppler check looked great. My OB was so pleased that this was a successful pregnancy. “You deserve this,” she said. We did not share the news with everyone until we felt like we were “out of the woods.” 98% of miscarriages occur during the first 12 weeks. I remember hitting that second trimester and celebrating- we had made it. Our dream of adding to our family was finally here.  I was most happy for Faith. She was going to be a sister again and she did not have to say goodbye to this one. 

January 16th was a date that I had circled on all of my calendars, had a count down marked on my phone as it was the day we were eagerly anticipating-  my 18th week appointment and the day we were going to find out whether I was carrying a girl or a boy. We really did not have a preference- I kept going back and forth thinking of what I would rather have, but in the end it didn’t matter we just wanted a baby. Everyone around me thought it was going to be a boy. Maybe that’s why I began to think of how nice it would be for Brian to have a son again. While he loves having a girl, plays princess with her every night, I saw a different side of him when he was a father to Jeremiah and Noah. Having a son filled a need in him he didn’t know he had. Faith certainly had a preference. When we asked her if she wanted a baby sister or a brother she signed, “brother” and said “no-nos” (the name she called her foster brother, Noah).

We had a girl name picked out, but finding a name for a boy seemed like a daunting task and nothing seemed right. Two days before our appointment a boy name came to me. I decided not to seriously consider it until we new for sure what it was.

The morning of January 16th I immediately shot up out of bed- the day was finally here! We would find out whether we would have another daughter or a son. As I drove to work that day the song, “Walk by Faith” by Jeremy Camp came on the radio. I became teary eyed while listening to it- it was the song that we clung to during the first few tumultuous months of Faith’s life, I reflected on the lines “I will walk by Faith even when I cannot see, because this broken road prepares your will me.” I have heard that song hundreds of times in the past six years but listening to those lines that morning really resonated with me. I brushed off my tears as crazy pregnancy hormones but thanked God for the reminder of bringing us through the difficult journey.

The day as work seemed to go by soooo slowly. I was counting down the hours until 4:00. I told everyone and anyone willing to hear that today was the day! Just the day before I had shared the news with my students. I wasn’t going to tell them, but they asked. They noticed my baby bump and I was proud to share the news with them. “I just thought you were gaining weight” a third grade student of mine joked. It made me so happy that I had good news to share. I told them I would know Wednesday afternoon what it would be. They all made their predictions.

I was so excited to not only find out what the baby was going to be but for Brian to be able to see our baby. He was not able to attend the earlier ultrasounds (I told him there was no need to, that he would have plenty of opportunities to attend more important appointments). He had gone with me two weeks prior but they did not do an ultrasound, instead we got to listen to our baby’s precious heart beat. ‘It’s beating strong,” our doctor commented, “155 bpm- if you believe the old wives tales, that could mean a boy.” We smiled. 

Four O’clock finally arrived. We greeted the doctor and he asked since we were his last patient of the day if we had the time to allow a resident medical student to perform the ultrasound. We didn’t care who did it, we just wanted to see our baby. The familiar feel of the cold jelly hit my belly and the resident placed the instrument on my stomach. She did not even move it around for more than 5 seconds before the doctor shot out of his chair from across the room and grabbed the sonogram tool “Let me take over…sometimes these machines act up…” I did not think anything of this. It was less then 30 seconds later that I heard the words that have been haunting me ever since. “Jennifer…there is a problem with the baby. I am so sorry. This baby is not alive.”  

There are no words in the human language to describe the devastation and despair that those words brought. At first I thought it was a cruel joke. This could not be true. We had heard the heartbeat just 10 days ago..everything was going so well. The baby measured at 17 weeks, 1 day. I was 18 weeks along. 

The following hours were a blur. As I began to intercept texts from family and friends, “boy or girl? What is it?” the doctors gave us our options on how to proceed. We could have a D&E (dilation and evacuation, a surgery to remove the remains) or I could give birth. At the time I did not know the difference- I couldn’t’ think past the thought of not having a baby anymore.  The D&E was scheduled for Friday. I would be knocked out and they would remove my baby. 

The next few hours were pure hell. I was inconsolable. I did not sleep a wink that night. I couldn’t stop thinking about this baby that was no longer growing inside me. We still didn’t know if it was boy or a girl…. All I knew is we would never be able to take them to soccer practice or see their first steps…I couldn’t stop thinking about the dreams we had for this baby that would never be. It was then I realized what I needed to do. This child that grew inside me was a person and needed to be honored as one. While it was going to be painful, I knew I needed to see this baby, to name it, and to hold it. I needed to give birth.

Shortly after telling my mother I was pregnant she told me she had a dream that I gave birth to a baby. At the time I told her that was crazy because since I had a C-section with Faith my doctors were adamant that I needed a C-section  this go around and a VBAC was out of the question. At the time this news did not bother me, as a C-section was all I knew and seemed preferable to all of the screaming and pushing that comes with giving birth.

Thursday morning I “woke” (as if I was ever really sleeping) and there was no greater desire in me then to give birth to this baby. It was the one last thing I could do as a mother for my child. 

I could write an entire novel on the hours that followed. Getting checked into the hospital, being given meds to induce labor, and waiting to give birth to my baby who had died.  Brian and I have never cried so much in our lives. The labor was very painful but I did not care any amount of physical pain was nothing compared the amount of emotional depravity we were going through. 

Brian was everything I could have asked for and more in a partner. Through the labor he never let go of my hand, never stopped repeating how brave I was, that he was honored to have me carry his child, but in reality it is I who am so fortunate to have him as the father of my mine.

I never got the chance to hold or even see Faith when she was born. This was an experience I had felt deprived of as a mother and was looking forward to doing so with this child. And this time I did. 

At 8:17pm our precious baby was brought into the world. It was a boy. In what was the most beautiful experience I have ever had in my life, I was able to hold my baby. We kissed him, marveled at his little fingers, his precious nose (which resembled Faith’s). We had such peace. A peace that can only come from God. Some people only dream of angels, we held one in our arms. 

We named him Jonah Gregory. Jonah was the name that came to me a few days before, and Gregory was Brian’s father’s name, who is also in heaven. A friend of mine had sent me an encouraging text while I was in labor earlier that day, citing that the life of Jonah was filled with trials and tribulations and yet in the end he remained faithful to God. The name Jonah also meant “peace” and “dove.” After learning this we knew there could be no other name, our baby was born to fly. 

The following day we were able to see him again. My mother came to the hospital and got to say hello and goodbye to her grandson. The staff at the hospital were amazing. They treated me like a mother who had a baby (which I did) and him as a newborn and took part in all of the rituals that encompasses that. They took measurements, took pictures of him dressed and beside a little bear. They gave me a bracelet with a lock and him a matching one with the key that he now wears around his ankle. 

Leaving the hospital and going home without a baby was not an unfamiliar experience for us. But this time there was no baby in the NICU, while his body lay in the hospital morgue, his soul was set free in heaven. 

There are no words to describe the emptiness I feel. There is the emotional disparity of losing a child, losing a dream of what was meant to be, and then there is the physical aspect of the emptiness in my belly. The baby I had so much joy carrying those few short months is not there. The little kicks I has just began to feel are gone. I am clinging to every memento we have that signified his life. The pictures we took, the blanket he was wrapped in, and the little brown bear that was nestled beside him are now the only physical evidence we have that we had a son. It was such an honor to be his mother and to be able to bring him into this world even if he wasn’t able to physically see it, I know he felt our love.

In the beginning I was mourning the pregnancy, but after meeting him I am now grieving the loss of a son.

I have yet to come to grips with why this happened, we have been through so much it seems like it’s now a sick-rhetorical question. I read a quote the other day that said, “If you ask God,  “why me?”  in the hard times you must also ask Him the same question in the good times.”  We have certainly had our share of those as well. We are blessed with a beautiful girl and now can say we’ve been blessed 3 times by sons. 

Thank you all for your encouragement and kind words. I read and reread every single one of them. I know you don’t know what to say nor do we expect you to. What we want more than anything is for all of you to know our son’s story. To affirm that he was a person and he will be missed.

Thank you for reading about our Jonah. In the coming days ahead I know I will need to write again as it is my way of healing. Thank you for taking this walk with us as we learn once again learn to  “walk by faith even when we cannot see, because this broken road prepares your will for me.”

Jen & CO.