Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Grief's ugly side

For several years, more than I like to remember, I have had a problem with anger. Actually the problem wasn't so much anger, but how I handled the anger. Been so angry you could just scream? Well, that would be less harmful than the way I handled it. I threw things, broke things, slammed doors, drove my car too aggressively, and probably spanked the dog a little too hard. I have had to replace way too many cordless phones. I am thankful that iphones cost to much to replace, so I have yet to throw mine.

I knew handling my anger this way was not healthy for my soul or my relationship with God. I knew we, God and I, because we are in this together, had to find a new way. Lots of prayer, lots of deep breathing and becoming a mom changed the way I handled my anger. Although my hormones kept things interesting and heated at times (with myself), carrying a baby in my womb changed my perspective on anger and things that caused me to get angry.

The grieving process has several stages; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. One does not necessarily go through the stages in any particular order nor does one go through all of the stages. Now that I am going through the grieving process I am challenged with the stage of anger. I don't want to feel angry. I have worked really hard to control my anger and to change my perspective on the things that I got angry about. So being told that it's ok to be angry at God is just troubling for me. There have been days when I have questioned the fairness of it all, and asked, "Why me?" I have yet to be really angry. Honestly, I hope I never get there.

I sort of think of the situation as that with my spouse. Sure, he might do something that frustrates me, but when I think of all that he does for me, I feel so blessed that I can't be angry with him. I feel the same way with God. I struggled for years with infertility and God blessed me with a top notch doctor to remedy the issue. God then blessed us with a child. She's now in heaven and not in my arms. As hard as that is, I think of all the people that are closer to God because of Reagan. I remember a priest who would end Mass by saying, "Let us do all for the greater honor and glory of God." That was Reagan's life, for the glory of God.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Time is tricky

Every Tuesday since Reagan was born, I was very aware of when the time was 10:03 AM. Today was the first exception. It's been six weeks since my little Reagan was born. I spent the morning walking with a friend and on the way home I noticed it was a little after nine. Ah, I was in labor six weeks ago I thought. I remembered being anxious and excited. The same kind of feeling as when the roller coaster cart starts edging forward on the track. Away we go, no turning back, and no matter how hard you scream, laugh or cry the ride won't stop and yet, it will always come to an end.

When I realized that 10:03 AM had past I was a bit disappointed that I had missed it. I missed not being able to mark the moment and say a prayer or look at a photo of my little girl. I was also thankful, thankful that for once on a Tuesday at 10:03 AM, I didn't feel like my heart was being ripped out.

Time is tricky. On one hand I want time to go slow so I can easily remember each detail of Reagan's birth and the time she was with us. On the other hand I want time to pass quickly because I know the further down the road I travel, the pain won't feel so fresh. Then again there are days when the pain feels like it all just happened yesterday, not six weeks ago.

I think about how my day would play out if Reagan was here. Running errands wouldn't be as simple or as quick. It takes time to get your little one in and out of a car, so I've heard, not actually experienced. I would be running out of diapers and wipes, instead of tissues. I would be writing out thank you notes for baby gifts, not acknowledgments for attending my daughter's funeral. I would be tired from getting up and feeding Reagan during the middle of the night, not because I can't fall asleep or stay asleep, because the thoughts of losing Reagan won't leave my mind. I would have no time to check Facebook or other emails, instead of having plenty of time to read blogs about other mom's losing their children and how they are handling it. My evenings would be scheduled with dinner, bath, and bedtime for Reagan instead of dinner and a trip to the cemetery. If Reagan was here, I wouldn't be asked when I was going to try to have another child. Who would even think of asking a new mom when she was going to have another child when she has a six week old on her hip? If Reagan were here, I would take her with me to Hallmark to pick out a Father's Day card for her daddy. Instead I will be making him one all by myself.

If Reagan were here she wouldn't be in the loving arms of Jesus. Knowing that Reagan is in His loving arms makes my heart not ache so much.

I'll Be There

"Daddy please don't look so sad, momma please don't cry.
Cause I'm in the arms of Jesus, and he sings me lullabies.
Please try not to question God, don't think he is unkind.
Don't think he sent me to you and then changed his mind.

You see I'm a special child, I am needed up above.
I'm the special gift you gave Him, a product of your love.
I'll always be there with you, so watch the sky at night.
Look for the brightest star and know that's my halo's brilliant light.

You'll see me in the morning frost that mists your window pane.
That's me in the summer showers, I'll be dancing in the rain.
When you feel a gentle breeze from a gentle wind that blows.
Know that it's me planting a kiss upon your nose.

When you see a child playing and your heart feels a tug,
Don't be sad mommy, that's just me giving your heart a hug.
So daddy don't looks so sad and momma please don't cry.
I'm in the arms of Jesus and he sings me lullabies!

~Claudette T. Allen

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Reagan's Birth Story-May 4, 2010

Imagine a love so strong that saying hello and goodbye in the same day is worth the sorrow. -Anonymous

We, mostly women, spend a lot time worrying about things we don't need to worry about: the dreaded "what ifs". Statistics show that 89% of what we worry about doesn't even come true.

When Bob and I got back from our "baby moon" in April, the pressure to have decisions made about Reagan's birth plan just seemed to take hold on me. It was eleven weeks until my due date. Eleven weeks to: attend a private child birth class; call Hospice; read and study upon other Trisomy 18 cases; find micro-preemie clothing for Reagan; pick out a plot at the cemetery; talk with the hospital regarding insurance; write our birth plan, and yet; hold on to hope that God might heal her.

I struggled with the "what ifs":
If Reagan comes early what do we do medically?
If Reagan comes to term then what medical decision do we make?
If we have the doctors go to extreme measures, at what point do we stop?
If we put Reagan on a ventilator, then for how long?
If we get to bring her home, what things will we need?
If this, then what?
If that, then what?
If, if, if, if, if.

God had this answer to all those questions. Early Tuesday morning, May 4, I woke up around 1:00 am to use the bathroom, not an unusual occurrence. I figured it would be one of those nights when I was up a couple of times. I just seemed to keep going. I know I drink a lot of water, I carry it wherever I go, but this much was ridiculous! Ever feel like you might fill up the toilet? Or that you could go to sleep while waiting to finish? Well, it was starting to feel like that. After finally finishing and crawling back into bed, it seemed like Reagan moved a bit and perhaps stepped on my bladder. However, that was not the case nor was it my lack of bladder control. My water had broken.

That was the starting point of my denial that I was going into labor. I walked around the house, thinking, This is NOT happening. Please God no. I am not ready. Reagan is not ready. I am not ready to have to say goodbye. I am supposed to have nine more weeks! Nine more weeks for her lungs to develop, nine more weeks for her to get stronger, nine more weeks for her not to belong to the 95% of Trisomy 18 babies that are miscarried or stillborn.

After 20 minutes, my contractions started and my denial quickly turned into acceptance. I woke Bob up, who went straight into "amazing husband" role. He comforted me and suggested that we call the doctor. I am surprised how a simple task could escape my mind. We started timing the contractions; an average of 45 seconds long, every three minutes. Because the contractions, although short, were happening pretty quickly, we decided to get to the hospital. I never packed so fast in my life, especially with a towel between my legs. (For those who don't know, once your water breaks the water doesn't stop coming out).

We quickly drove to Northside Hospital, checked in and proceeded to our room. After changing into the lovely cotton/poly blend, green and blue gown, that accented my eyes, I slid into the soft 500 thread count sheets. Actually, I was in so much pain that I didn't notice how soft or harsh the sheets were or what color the gown was. I just knew that I wanted to be wearing whatever was easier for the nurses to give me a shot of pain killer. You learn things very quickly about yourself when you are in pain. I don't like to be sitting or lying down and I feel much better if my feet aren't covered up by a sheet (too constricting). My birth coach, Barbara Negelow, mentioned that my contractions shouldn't be any more painful than my worst menstrual cramps. Considering those are pretty bad, I already knew I may not be able to handle contractions without pain medication. I didn't want too much though. We were concerned about the side effects of medications. I wanted to be alert when Reagan was born so I could spend every possible moment with her.

Another major concern for me was that some sweet nurse would be-bop into our room all giddy about us having a baby, not realizing Reagan's diagnosis and likely outcome. All that worry, a waste of time. It never happened. The staff at Northside was truly amazing and a blessing, especially considering what we were going through.

Soon after getting settled into our room, I was hooked up to an IV, received pain medication, and was able to relax somewhat. How can you really relax though, when you know that in a few hours you will meet your baby and you just hope she will be alive.

Reagan was hooked up to the heart monitor, and her heart rate had been fairly steady throughout the past several hours. Trisomy 18 babies can have a challenging time during delivery due to heart issues. A couple of hours into labor, her heart rate started to fluctuate, going from 150 bmpm to 60 to 120 and back to 150. I felt so helpless after Reagan's diagnosis and now watching my daughter's heart rate change so rapidly was heartbreaking. As a mom, you want to help your children whether they are in your arms or in your womb. There was nothing I could do but pray. And now, I felt like I was pleading with God. Please don't let my daughter suffer or feel any pain, and please Lord, let us be able to spend some time with her alive. Please God, don't let her die before we meet her.

God answered our prayer. He answered with 21 minutes. After a few pushes, Reagan Marie was born at 10:03am on May 4, 2010. She made a few little sounds-- sounds that I can't put into words, sounds I will never forget hearing, and would love to hear again. The doctor put Reagan on my chest where we were able to warm and comfort her in her new temporary world. She was so beautiful and although tiny she seemed bigger than I thought she would be. I held her and told her how much we loved her over and over and over. So much joy and love we felt. What an incredible gift from God. We were in awe.

Bob asked the doctor, "How long to do think we have?" He said, "I'm not sure, minutes, hours maybe."

After I held Reagan for several minutes, I wanted Bob to hold her. The nurse cleaned Reagan up a bit, swaddled her, and gave her to her daddy. How precious to me are the memories of seeing Bob hold his daughter for the very first time, so gentle, yet so secure.
While Bob was holding her one of the nurses came in to check Reagan's heart rate. She pulled away the baby blanket swaddled around Reagan and put the stethoscope on her chest.

She said, "I don't hear a heart beat". She then looked at the clock and gave the time of death, 10:24 am.

As she left the room, Bob stood and brought Reagan to me and at that same time, in my mind, I saw a picture of Jesus kneeling with arms open wide. Jesus's expression was one of longing for Reagan to come to Him, for His child to come home and be with Him in the heavenly kingdom. That picture was a gift from God that He didn't have to give me. The comfort that the picture of Jesus waiting for Reagan brought me was overwhelming. Jesus was now taking care of our little Reagan.

The 21 minutes that she was with us, all she knew was the warmth and love we gave her. She got to hear our voices outside of the womb, to hear her mommy and daddy tell her over and over how much we loved her and how beautiful she was. It hasn't been until now, nearly four weeks later, that I have actually thought about the fact that our little girl died right in our arms. The morning was so peaceful, her transitioning from my womb into this world and our arms, and then into the heavenly kingdom. I am so thankful for what God had for her on earth: meeting us, with no suffering, no pain, only love.

We wanted to have her measurements taken and to give Reagan a bath. Reagan measured 13 1/2" long, 1lb 12 oz. Her daddy lovingly gave Reagan her first and only bath. He took such care of his little girl.

Our nurse brought in an outfit that had been donated to the perinatal loss office. It was the cutest multicolored hand-knit dress and hat. The dress fit Reagan perfectly, which I shouldn't have been surprised. For weeks I had looked online to purchase some outfits for Reagan and couldn't decide which ones. God once again answered another prayer by having the perfect outfit for Reagan.

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all He has done. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

We wish God had healed Reagan and that she could be here with us on earth for a longer period of time. Instead she is healed and in heaven rejoicing. What a beautiful picture, our little girl with so many other loved ones in heaven worshiping and praising God.

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." Rev 4:8

The rest of our day was blessed with visitors, which I will write about in another post, "Our day with Reagan."