Sunday, August 29, 2010

Be Still My Soul

The picture above hangs in our room just parallel to our bed. The one I found on the internet doesn't really do it justice because it's more square instead of rectangle, so much smaller and some people are cut off the sides, but I guess it will do. Before it was in my room, it was in parent's home and when my mom offered it to me, I was so excited to bring it into my own home. It's always been one of my favorites and brought so many moments of reflection on the plan of salvation throughout my life. I remember growing up and gazing at that picture for hours. I'd try to pick out all of the members of my family in the picture, hoping that all of my loved ones would make it to the side of peace and light, where the Savior was, and that we were all together. I even remember the one time I ever heard my dad swear and praying earnestly that somehow he'd be forgiven and still make it to Christ. It's kind of funny to think that now because my amazing dad is definitely going to be there, even with that one minor infraction. Anyway, all of these years, I've had myself picked out in that picture. Hopefully I'm not being presumptuous in thinking, hoping, I'd be on the side of the picture basking in Christ's light, but I've always pictured myself as the woman right there in the center, with the baby in my arms.

In the last couple of weeks, when I wake up in the morning crying or when I can't seem to get myself out of bed, having that picture right in my sight has brought me some peace and comfort once again. I don't know exactly how it will be when that time comes but I have faith and hope that I'll get to hold Baby Gabriel in my arms again. Joseph F. Smith, on the matter, said: ‘You will have the joy, the pleasure and satisfaction of nurturing this child, after its resurrection, until it reaches the full stature of its spirit.’

All I've ever wanted to do was to be a mother and I feel so blessed that I've been given the opportunity to do that in this life. I've often said that I wished I could always have a baby because they are just so sweet, so precious, so loving. They gaze at you with such love and are so thankful for everything you do for them and every moment serving a tiny baby is pure joy to me. Although I would never wish this for this to be the way for me to have a forever baby, the idea of someday having a baby in my arms again to raise is awesome. Now, it just comes down to being patient for that day to come and treasuring every moment I have with my sweet babies here on earth, which I don't think if I've been doing enough of. Thank you to all of you that have given them the love they need when I haven't had the energy.

Today I went to our church for the first time since Gabriel was born. Last week we were in Idaho so we went then, but this was the first time in my ward....and I've honestly dreaded it. This week has been absolutely the hardest I've had so far and part of that was facing people again. I know people love me and my family but like I've said before, I hate for people to not see me happy. I hate for people to see me cry and holding my tears back is near impossible right now. I am thankful for such an amazing ward. We really do have the best. I was told by a friend that the RS president told people not to love me too much and I'm so thankful for that-what truly inspired words. We've been loved and helped greatly but I'm also thankful that we have been given the space we've needed. I've been so thankful for those who have been inspired, I think, at the exact moment I've needed them, to offer a meal or babysitting or even a text or e-mail just sending love. I've literally had answers to my prayers within seconds of thinking I couldn't go on another minute without help.

Today was a mission farewell for two missionaries from our ward. I knew this and thought it was actually really good because there'd be so many people there that I could sneak in and sneak out. Plus I was sure the topic wouldn't be on overcoming grief or some other subject that would have me crying the entire time. It was good and the missionaries that spoke are going to be great ones. One thing that I loved was when one of the missionaries said that he brought his hymn book instead of his scriptures because the hymns testify truth to him. I loved that because I'm the same. I can't sing worth a lick and couldn't sing more than a few words today but the hymns chosen did speak to me. I felt the comfort that I needed today and I'm so thankful that I went. One of the hymns was "Be Still My Soul". I can honestly say that until today, I've never been so impacted by the words of that hymn, and I've never needed them so much. The last verse especially hit me:

Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

I feel so thankful for a loving Heavenly Father and my Savior, Jesus Christ, who know me and knew that I needed to have my soul comforted today. I can't wait for the day when we will meet again, and for the day that I can have my precious Baby Gabriel in my arms to cuddle and love-to have love's purest joy restored. It seems like it can't come soon enough.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Too many goodbyes

So today is the first day of school. The kids are all gone, except for Alexis, who is sleeping. My house is so quiet and it's nice. I need this. I usually really hate this day because I love being around my kids and doing fun things with them. But the last two weeks haven't been fun and it has taken every ounce of energy I have to do anything. I haven't been fun and they're kids and they need fun. I hope they are all having a great day. This year is a big one for all of them. Skylar is in the big 3rd grade, meaning she's almost a big kid. Next year she moves onto the upper grades so this is the last year I get to call her a little kid, I guess. Nick is in 1st grade. He gets to stay at school all day and eat lunch there, which is so awesome in his mind. Skylar and Nick could hardly contain their excitement today and started off to school 25 minutes early...without even saying goodbye. Good thing we live close so I could yell at them to come back for pictures and hugs. Then, there's Kade. Kade started preschool today. We're going to do preschool and Joy school this year because Kade is the kind of kid that needs to be doing something all of the time. He's so excited. He had his backpack on, ready to go, when Skylar and Nick left even though he didn't start until much later. He could hardly make it through lunch he was bouncing in his seat (resulting in needing a new clean shirt before he had to go) and looking out the window to see if his friend he gets to go with was there to pick him up. I don't know if he even knows what preschool is all about, except that it means he's big now. Alexis was just as excited as Kade, even though she didn't have anywhere to go but down for a nap, but the excitement of the day hit her and she was so ecstatic to put on her backpack too. It's so hard to see my babies growing too quickly into these little people and say goodbye to their babyhood.Last night all of the kids lined up for father's blessings from Ben. After Kade and Nick received beautiful blessings, sweet little Alexis scooted into their spot. She folded her arms and closed her eyes, ready for her turn. It melted my heart. I feel so blessed to have these sweet little spirits in my home. After Alexis's blessing where she was so reverent and still, it was Skylar's turn and then mine. I really needed it. This grieving thing is so much harder than I could have ever imagined it could be and the thought of a new school year for my kids is overwhelming. I feel so blessed to have a husband who honors his priesthood and is able to bless us with the strength and comfort to get through this new life of ours.

This last weekend we spent up in Island Park, ID, near Yellowstone at the condo that I've grown up going to. This last summer adventure has been planned all summer and has been on the top of our kids' list of things to do so we really felt like we should go. Island Park has always been a huge part of my life. Ben and I went on our honeymoon there and we've been almost every year since we've been married. I've spent probably half of my birthdays there and have so many memories of fun family vacations. I've taken so many friends there-my parents were nice enough to let me always bring one and sometimes even a few. It's kind of like a home away from home. This trip was bittersweet, not only because of what we're going through, but because this was our last trip to that condo. My dad sold it last week. Ben and I wished we could've been the ones to buy it but that just wasn't possible. It won't be our last time to Island Park, of course. We still have a family cabin there (full of spiders and bats-so not Ben's favorite) and my dad and mom have generously given us a part of their time share at a condo a few down from the one they owned but it's not the one I grew up with and so it will be different. It was hard to know it was the last time we'd be there and I tried to soak up every detail of the condo I've always been lucky enough to get to go to.

It was nice to get away. Our friends, the Coxes, came with us. We had talked about them coming for a few months but didn't even solidify that we were going until the night before so it was good they could pick up everything and come still. It was good for me to have someone else there so that I would do something besides stay in bed. It helped me to know that it's good to be around friends. I tried my best to put on a good face and enjoy it. I know my kids most certainly had fun. They probably love the Cox kids a little too much and were definitely spoiled with good food and shoulder rides the entire time. We had a good time-we went to Yellowstone for two days, went to the Wolf and Grizzly Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, and went canoeing on the Snake River. Someday maybe I'll have the energy to load some more pictures up and blog about it. It was nice to be away from home a bit in such a beautiful place where I really feel comfortable. It was so hard to come back home because everything is different now. Life is altered and I know it will never be the same.

So that's another thing to say goodbye to-the life we had and planned on having. It was a good one and it still is, but it's different. I read somewhere about how it's like something has been shattered and pieces are lost so it will never be put back just right and that's exactly how it feels. I know this whole grief thing will ease in time but the fact that Gabriel isn't with us will never change. Whenever we took a family picture in Yellowstone it hit me. He's missing. He's still a part of our family but he won't be here on Earth and I miss him so much. All of our plans for the rest of this life included him and it's so disappointing to think of all of this without him. So while I know that this is not goodbye to our sweet Gabriel, who will always be a part of our eternal family, it is goodbye to the dream of all he was going to be and do here. I've never been good at goodbyes and I hate this.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

One Week

So it's been a week since Baby Gabe was born. Ben and I kind of have a tradition of watching for the very moment our baby turns a week old and then we just sit in awe of them. It's always amazing to us that even after a week they've completely changed our lives and we can't imagine it without them in it. Baby Gabe's first week hasn't been the same as the rest of our babies' but at the same time I can't imagine our life without him. I miss him so, so very much.

I've tried to think of the blessings of having to go through this trial and as overwhelming as the grief part of this has been, I know I've seen some already. I keep thinking of the timing of all of this. Being further along with Gabe meant some really awful physical pain along with the emotional pain but I am thankful for the extra time as well. I'm thankful that I was able to carry him long enough to be able to feel him move. I read a quote by Brigham Young that talked about the timing of when a spirit enters a baby's body and how when you see the baby moving it testifies that it's spirit is in that little body. I never got to see Gabriel moving because he was already gone when we had the ultrasound but I felt him often before that and I'm so grateful for those few weeks where I could lie down and rest and wait to feel him move. Nothing brought more happiness to my day than feeling his little nudges. Since he's been gone that's been one of the hardest things for me. When I lay down, I feel nothing. I feel empty. The two worst times of the day for me are trying to sleep without little Gabe fluttering around and when I wake up in the morning and realize this is all so real.

I also think that the timing of this was a blessing to my children. We actually took them with us to the Dr. to hear the heartbeat when I was about 14 weeks along. They were so excited and it was awesome to see that. Then Gabriel died around 16-17 weeks. They didn't go with me to my 18 week appointment where the Dr. couldn't find his heartbeat and I'm glad because it was the scariest moment of my life. I'm thankful for dear friends that took the kids at a moment's notice so that they didn't have to go to the ultrasound with Ben and I where we found out that the baby was gone for sure. I'm also thankful that we found out then. My next appointment at 20 weeks was supposed to be the big ultrasound and we would've taken the kids to that as well. Even though the loss of their baby brother has been a blow to them, I'm so glad that they didn't have to experience finding out in a Dr.'s office instead of in our home where we could really talk to and comfort them in privacy.

I've been so amazed at the amount of love we've felt. I'm so thankful for those that have mourned with us and the support they've given us. I'm so thankful for modern technology and as dumb as I felt putting this whole thing on my blog and on Facebook, I was amazed how much more simple that really made it for me. I don't have to tell my story a thousand times now because of the internet and really, that's a huge blessing because I haven't felt up to talking to too many people face to face. There's a few that I have felt okay doing that with and it has meant the world to me to have their hugs and support this week. I'm thankful for those who have respected my desire to be alone with my family. I'm thankful for the family and friends that have loved my kids enough to take them for the entire day. I'm thankful for all of the friends who have gone through something similar that have given me strength through their stories. I'm also thankful for those that haven't and haven't tried to pretend they know what I'm going through but have just sent their love our way. I'm thankful for the food that has been brought by because cooking, even eating, has been the last thing on my mind. My kids have absolutely loved having all the baked goods show up-what a treat-especially since I'm not a treat kind of mom. I'm thankful for a friend that brought me a book about infant loss and the gospel that has given me great comfort. I'm thankful for flowers that have brightened our home. I'm thankful for a dear friend that brought each of my kids a Webkinz that they could love and find some comfort with. Thank you, thank you everyone for your thoughts, prayers, and especially your love.

I'm especially thankful for the gospel and my testimony of it. I don't know how someone could go through this without the plan of salvation, without knowing that someday they could see their loved ones again. I'm thankful to have grown up having a sister in Heaven who I've always felt a strong bond with and have known I'd see again. I feel Mary Gwen is watching over my little Gabriel for me and I can't wait to see them again someday. I'm thankful that in the last year especially, my testimony of the plan of salvation has strengthened tenfold through the trials of my sweet friends who have shown me their strength in their losses. They have shown me so much support and love this week. I'm so glad you've had my back.

I am so thankful for the man I married. I don't know how I ever got so lucky. What an example of a true follower of Christ he is to me. He hasn't spent one moment thinking of himself this week. He's even worried that he hasn't been helping others as much as he should. Isn't he great? My kids are also amazing. Skylar, at age 8, has taken over mom duty this week, getting the kids fed and dressed for me. Nick has done everything I've asked without a second thought and always gives me quick hugs right when I need them. Today Kade just lay with me and patted my arm when I was having a really tough moment. Alexis has made me smile through the pain with her sweet spirit and fun personality. Even though I ache for Gabriel, I feel so very, very lucky.

Don't get me wrong. I am not some kind of super human who isn't aching with every breath. This is hard, so incredibly hard. I've questioned why so many times this week. I've wondered why I would have ever agreed to this and why me? I don't think I've made it through an hour without crying. I've spent hours on the couch watching nothing on TV because I've been too consumed with sadness to move. I've wondered how I'm going to get out of bed in the morning and face another day without all of my children in my arms. I still wonder how I'm going to do this every day until I see my precious baby again. At the same time I've come to realize that I will be able to do this by leaning on my family, my friends, and especially my Savior. I've made it a week. I can do hard things. What a blessing it is to know that.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Our Little Baby Boy, Gabriel

Yesterday was the hardest day of my life. It was so difficult to have to go through hours and hours of painful labor knowing what the end result was going to be. Our precious little baby boy, Gabriel, was born at 11:20 pm. He was so very tiny-just 2 oz. and 5.5 inches long-about the length of my open hand, but he was perfect. It was amazing to see how he was just this little person with eyes, ears, nose, mouth, high cheek bones just like Ben's, 10 fingers with little fingernails, and 10 toes...all perfectly formed. It really humbled me to know how truly amazing life and creation is.

From the beginning, I knew that he was going to be a boy. We had decided not to find out what the baby's gender was until he was born but it didn't matter because I knew. I also knew that he would be my Baby Gabe. Ben and I never choose a name for our babies until we see them and then still it takes us days to really decide. Gabriel has always been on our list and when I got pregnant, I just felt that was his name. Ben was upset that we didn't have a long time to name him-he takes months preparing for naming our babies-but when I showed him a list I had made a month or so ago and Gabriel was on the very top, he agreed with me that it was his name. The name Gabriel means God is my Strength, which I feel is so appropriate now as we are having to depend on Him to get us through this.

In the end, it was a blessing to have to actually deliver him. Besides getting to see him and hold him, we also found out what went wrong. Our baby's umbilical cord was very twisted and thin near the insertion into his belly. The Dr. said that it is a called a cord accident when this happens and accounts for 90% of second trimester miscarriages. He said it's a wonder it doesn't happen more as babies move around and twist around the cord all of the time. He said the baby had been dead about a week. I've been trying so hard to remember the last time I felt him move. Since it's been so early and sporadic, I haven't been keeping track yet. Ben and I thought we both felt him move the night before our ultrasound, but I guess we didn't, so I don't know. I already miss feeling him so very much and ache to know I won't feel him again. However, it was a relief to me to know that there wasn't anything I could have done to help the baby and it made me feel more assurance that this was God's plan for our family.

As Ben and I sat with our baby and said goodbye to him I really wasn't as devastated as I thought I would be. It was extremely difficult but I knew that his lifeless body was not our little Gabriel's spirit which was already gone, but only his body, and I was grateful to be entrusted to help provide that for him. I know that he is one of our Heavenly Father's children and he needed a body to complete his own little plan. For whatever reason, he was just too perfect to need to stay on Earth, with all of the pains and sorrows we face, and I feel honored to be the mother of such a special spirit. I feel blessed to know that he is back in our Heavenly Father's arms, surrounded by so many who have gone before him, including other sweet babies who only had a short time here like my sister, Mary Gwen and nephew, Kye....along with little Sarah and Spencer, and so many more of these precious little spirits.

I am so thankful for my loving Ben, who held my hand through the entire thing, and helped to remind me of the big picture and plan for our family. He was so, so strong and helpful and supportive, even though he was aching through the whole thing too. We never expected to have to go through something like this but I am grateful that we have each other. I'm grateful for my kids who have done nothing but shower me with hugs and kisses and love since I've been home. Even little Alexis has noticed when I'm needing a hug. Although I am severely missing the baby I don't get to have in my arms, I feel so blessed that my arms are still full.

I am also grateful for the wonderful doctors, nurses, social worker, and bereavement specialist that came to help. At first I hated every minute of having them see me so vulnerable but they really were so helpful. The nurse that helped me deliver Gabriel looked, acted, and sounded so much like my cousin, Kristilynn, that I took many double takes when she would come into the room. I truly believe it was a tender mercy to have someone I could feel so comfortable with and she was so wonderful and supportive. Although the Dr. hasn't always been my favorite, he was so sensitive and helpful and has really won my heart over. He was able to reassure me and help me to understand our Heavenly Father's plan for our Baby Gabe. I feel grateful that he has the same beliefs as we do about this. He knew exactly what to do and say to make me feel better. I was also thankful for the bereavement specialist, who was called in the middle of the night to come in and take little handprints, footprints, and molds of our baby's tiny hands and feet and to wrap our baby in a beautiful little blue afghan. It was so wonderful to come home with those little momentos so that our kids feel a part of this whole thing. I know that it will give us comfort to have them when we don't have our little Gabriel to hold.

Thanks to Ben's mom, Cammi, and my parents, who both stayed with our kids while we were at the hospital. It's such a blessing to have them close and to have them love and care for our kids so much. I also appreciate their sympathy as they have all had baby losses of their own, and know that they will miss Gabriel too.

Lastly, thank you to all of my dear family and friends who have left kind comments (especially those who have suffered their own losses), left voicemails, sent texts and e-mails, or dropped by our house with food, cards, and offers of help to show you care. We have truly felt so loved during this difficult time. I'm completely exhausted from the long week and difficult night we've had and still not being able to rest my brain enough to sleep. I'm also mentally exhausted from having nothing else on my mind and I'm still not up to seeing or talking to anybody. I'm just taking it minute by minute right now-okay at some times but breaking down most of the time. Please don't be offended if I don't answer your call or come to the door. It's just still too much for me. Just know that I feel your love and appreciate it so very much.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

How do I do this?

On Monday I went to a routine Dr.'s appt. I was 18 weeks and 3 days. The Dr. measured me and said I was measuring right on and then he listened for the baby's heartbeat only to not find it. My placenta sounded really good and he seemed positive that the baby was just lying towards the back of my uterus. But just in case, and so I could sleep, he sent me to the hospital for an ultrasound. I called Ben and we dropped the kids off at our friends and headed to the hospital. Even though the Dr. had been reassuring, I knew what we'd find.

The ultrasound technician was just so quiet. I knew that he couldn't find the heartbeat but he still did measurements for awhile and said nothing. Ben held my hand and watched the screen. I never even looked at it, although Ben was able to get some pictures from the hospital I've now seen of my precious baby. The tech confirmed that the baby did not have a heartbeat and wasn't moving. He said that the baby was measuring at 15-16 weeks so that means that it had been dead for a week or two already. I wish my body had known it. I wish I didn't have to know it now.

The last few days have been a blur. I've pretty much been crying since the tech told me. I haven't been able to sleep much and I've just been trying to make it through until I could get this next part over. I've tried so hard to be brave for the kids but I know it's okay for them to see me cry about losing this baby. This baby was meant to be ours. Even before I decided that I was okay with having a fifth child, I knew I was supposed to. I felt that longing and feeling that I was to be a mother again. We were so excited that everything was working out. Our kids were so excited. When we told them the baby had died and gone to heaven it was so confusing for them, I'm sure. Skylar understood and started to cry and was really weepy for the first two days. Nick understood but just got really quiet. He still hasn't talked much about it and I know he doesn't know how to act. He has been the most excited for the baby, even before we got pregnant so I know he is grieving. Kade is so confused. We've told him that the baby is in heaven and he knows that if we ask him. At the same time, he just told me yesterday that the baby will just come later. Alexis probably has no clue, but has been very affectionate with my tummy for the last month or so and babbles to and hugs the baby but she hasn't done it much the last week or so and not at all since we told the kids. Maybe she knows somehow.

I've had plenty of little trials but never one big one that hurt so very much. I know that Heavenly Father has a plan for me and for my family and although this is so hard now, I know that someday it will all make sense. I know that this baby will be mine to hold and raise later. I have total faith in that but it just hurts so much to know that I don't get to do that now. I am heartbroken and confused and devastated.

The hardest part for me is that I have to tell people. Ben and I have been so careful in the past to not really tell anyone about our pregnancies until I'm out of the first trimester, just in case. I knew that if anything ever happened, we'd tell close family and friends but just to be safe we'd kept it to ourselves until the risk of miscarriage went down. So here I am at close to 19 weeks and practically everyone knows that I'm pregnant. I can't even begin to trace my steps back to who doesn't know. My whole family, my whole ward, anyone who reads this blog, all of my friends on Facebook, even casual acquaintances like the moms I talk to at Skylar's dance or the boys' gymnastics. How am I supposed to tell all of those people about this? I can't even talk to my family or my friends about it yet. I'm not one to be totally out there with my feelings and I really don't like people to know when I'm upset. I try to stay positive and look for the best but it's hard to see that right now. So I just don't want to talk to anyone besides Ben and my kids. Ben has been the strong one and has told some people, although he's grieving too and not wanting to have to tell anyone either. I haven't talked to anyone except my parents and Ben's mom who have come to help with the kids. I just can't yet. I'm sorry. Somehow blogging about it seems easier because I won't have to say the words to anyone.

This pregnancy has been difficult, I'm not going to lie. I have felt awful and nauseous and exhausted the whole time. I've dealt with high blood pressure, which I've never before had, and that made me feel even worse and more scared. I've tried not to complain too much but it just hasn't been good. But I loved feeling our little one make little jabs and nudges in my belly. I loved dreaming of our baby and the excitement of wondering what he/she would be like, look like. I loved having my other babies touch my tummy in excitement and seeing the anticipation in their eyes. I loved talking about names for the baby and being excited that we weren't going to find out until the delivery if the baby is a boy or a girl. And as much of a pain as it has been, I've loved helping the kiddos switch rooms in the last couple of weeks so we could make room for this baby in our house. The girls moved to the boys' room and the boys moved to the girls' room where we could get them a bunkbed and still have room for the crib. It was going to be crowded and crazy but it was going to be so fun with our little party of five. I made Ben take the crib down last night. I just didn't want to come home to it being empty and knowing it won't be filled any time soon.

So here I am, in the hospital, being induced. This is a late miscarriage so the baby is too big to have a normal D & C. I have to actually labor with it and deliver it. It's going to be a really long day and maybe go even into the night. I've had doctors, nurses, and social workers in asking how I'm doing. I don't know how I'm doing. I can't imagine how I'm going to do this. I really just want it to be over and to be back at home where I don't have to cry in front of complete strangers and answer any more questions. The Dr. does say that maybe this is for the best because they might be able to find out what went wrong with the baby because it is big enough to examine. All I know is that the baby is dead and I'm not even sure if I want to know why. The baby is going to be so tiny but we will also be able to hold the baby and say goodbye to it but I don't know how to do that either. I don't know how to do any of this.