Hey Jude — It’s Over

This is something I struggled to write one month after we had our last baby, Lucia, on 12/21/17. I couldn’t put my heart into words because I hadn’t arrived at the right understanding, and it’s possible that I still haven’t. Along the way, there have been many events that have forced me to reflect on my situation.

First, a little background. On 12/26/14, we lost our son Jude at 33 weeks. Jude’s heart stopped while he was on the monitor in the hospital. We don’t know what happened. After years of reading and investigation, I speculate that had Jude been delivered and cared for in the NICU, he might have lived; however, this is pure speculation, and I will literally never know. My burden to bear, right?

After Jude physically came into my life (i.e., was born sleeping), he did everything I’d hoped he would. As it turns out, life has a way of getting you down, of making you hard, and of making you bitter (worse than Alanis’ jagged little pill). I wasn’t in a happy place when I was expecting Jude (I will always wonder if my stress / discontentment didn’t contribute to his loss). Jude was my first choice for Jude’s name, and when I really listened to the lyrics of “Hey Jude” during a Beatles Tribute concert, all I could think about was how much I wanted the baby inside of me to help me feel and to be brazen, emotional, passionate…all of the things that I felt so distant from at that time. I felt like an emotional stone, and I didn’t like it, but I had no idea how to get back to feeling. And then, I lost my son.  I came out of anesthesia following an emergency C-section in which the baby could not be saved, and I started to feel again. And it hurt.  Jude brought me to life and took me to places I never knew were possible. I understood the depth of grief.  I looked over the precipice of the abyss of absolute devastation, and I—thankfully—didn’t topple over, but I could feel what it felt like to go in. It was wondrous and terrifying.

Just like that, Jude gave me the gift of empathy. Since then, he’s made me more compassionate.  I’ve cried for people I’ll never meet. His life has influenced mine so positively that it’s a little sad that I can’t hug him and tell him thank you.  Likewise, if not for Jude, his siblings wouldn’t be alive.

When we had our first “rainbow”—the baby after him, she was born via unscheduled Cesarean delivery because I was having contractions that I couldn’t feel and because I was dilated. I was almost 37 weeks—technically, she was preterm at the time. When they delivered they said I had a ‘window’, which meant two of the three layers of tissue that make up the uterus were ripped away; they could see the baby through the “window” in the thinned area of the lining. Had those phantom contractions continued and had we not had extra monitoring, it’s doubtful I would’ve made it to 39 weeks without rupturing, something likely fatal to the baby and potentially fatal to me. Instead, on January 27, 2016, I delivered my biggest baby, Eilie, at 7 lbs and 7 ½ ounces, and above all other consideration, she was alive and healthy.

Even before Eilie, we’d always talked about “one more”. We never tried for a boy (I’m not sure how you do that…do you do it standing up or eating beer cheese because I honestly don’t know); we just wanted one more. Actually, we were planning to wait a couple of more months when we found out we were pregnant with baby four, i.e., last baby.  I was beyond ready to end the anxiety of pregnancy. At Sean’s request, we chose to not find out the gender of baby four.  The baby, dubbed Mystery Baby, was scheduled for delivery at 37 weeks, which happened to be on a Saturday (12/23), and because no one does that kind of thing on a Saturday (hello, last minute gift shopping, people), we were scheduled for a Thursday delivery (ultimately) on 12/21.  The “window” from Eilie’s delivery was the reason for the preterm decision.

For the better part of eight months, I knew in my mom bones that Mystery Baby was a boy. The baby carried low. The baby’s heart rate during NSTs was in the 130s / 140s. I had these awful migraines like I did with Jude. Everyone in the City of Mobile except for one weird girl at the park was 100% convinced it was a boy. I waddled onto the elevator after one checkup to stand next to a venerable African-American woman who asked about the baby.  After she realized I didn’t know the gender, she said as confident as an ultrasound, “Oh, it’s a boy.  I can feel it it’s a boy,” as I made to assure her we’d be happy no matter what, she cut in, “That baby is a boy.”  Yes ma’am, I thought, smiling at her enthusiasm.  People are nuts, but yeah…I kind of think it’s a boy, too.

And then, there we were…the day of 12/21.

It was 5:00 a.m., and I hadn’t slept. No one sleeps when they know they’re going to have a baby the next day.  It’s impossible.  It’s like saying, “Just so you know, tomorrow, when you wake up, your life will change for ever. Get some rest.”

Instead, I woke up shortly after 2, finished some work, and then wrote a letter to Jude that really did need to be written. I’ll call it the ‘before’ because in it I had the conviction of a woman who was going to have a son and of who was getting her tubes tied and that was the absolute thing she wanted.

On the way to the hospital, I talked about how much I loved the name Maxim, the name I’d name my son.  Maxim Emil.  I was so excited to tell the story to the world about his name.  For one, I’d have a baby named after a literary character, Maxim DeWinter from Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, one of my favorite novels and movies of all time. (It was Hitchcock’s first film.) Maxim was also in honor of the great grandfather I never met, a man named Maximillian who lived in Germany during WWII and who was put into a camp for being outspoken against Hitler, refusing to salute Nazi generals, and for inciting a riot.  I said, “I want my son to have that kind of legacy…to have the courage to stand up against wrong regardless of consequence.”

We arrived at the hospital at 5:30, right on schedule.  I was vacillating between exhilarated awaked-ness and total and utter exhaustion.  I wanted to fall asleep, but then I couldn’t even as I settled into our room to await the start of the scheduled delivery–the first time we’d ever scheduled a delivery and it had gone according to plan.  My rest was disrupted by the disappointment Sean and I had after getting into a room was the realization that we weren’t going to be in the big rooms. Springhill Memorial Hospital has a fantastic maternity ward with glorious postpartum suites; however, C-sections, like me, were in super small rooms (though, the beds were fantastic, and it’s a shame my insurance wouldn’t let me take it home with me).  Sean was crushed.  He’d been gushing to our families about the big rooms and the USB plugins in the maternity wards for months. At least our toilet seat was heated.  That was pretty swanky.

Cut to…the moment before the big cut.  Sean was had to clear the room while they did the spinal tap. I had a great moment where I got to clapback on the anesthesiologist who told me that my spinal headache after I’d had Eilie was “not really a thing”.  My throbbing brain from circa two years earlier begged to differ.

So, as he was going in to do the spinal tap, he said, “You’ve got a nice, thin back. I like a thin back,” and I quipped, “Hey, everybody’s got a thing,” which caused the OR staff and my OB to giggle.  I’m not sure if people laughing is the best for major surgery prep, but there we were…a room full of adults giggling over bony-back fetishes. (Note, he didn’t puncture my spine resulting in a spinal headache, so many thanks to him.)

Surgery was about to begin, and Sean came in.  He stood next to me behind a partition. I felt pushes and pulls.  It was announced that there was another window, or rather, the same window that had been there with Eilie was still there; it never healed.

“Thank God we decided to deliver early,” someone –probably my doctor—said. Push. Pull. Nudge.  Tug.  I felt a familiar wrenching, and then Sean said, “It’s a little girl.”

He didn’t say another, but in my mind, I feel like the word is there.  The partition dropped.  There it was, a baby body. She looked just like Eilie, arched, covered in white goo, and screaming.  Fwip. The partition was back up.  My body below the partition was tugged and pulled and vroooom, vacuumed. A baby wailed in the background.

At my encouragement, Sean rushed over to see the baby.  Our new baby girl.  I laid there alone with my mind, everything below the chest numb. Numbness trickled into my mind.  It’s overIt’s a girl.  It’s over. It’s a girl.  I cried. I shook as the doctor maneuvered. I felt nudges through the anesthesia.  It’s over.  It was over.  I wanted to scream, “Stop! Wait!” because I wasn’t ready for it to be over.  I’d been pregnant since September 2012. I was stopping something that had come so naturally to me, getting pregnant (something I never once took for granted). And it was over.  I cried.  Not crocodile tears…but dry, quaking sobs that come from the depths of being so fatigued and overwhelmed and so damn confused that the only recourse is ludicrous sobbing.

The baby, who we named Lucia Susanne, was 6lbs 7oz and perfect.  Thank God.

After we came home from the hospital, I looked around the corner and stole my only glimpse into postpartum depression.  I was in our bedroom and holding the baby.  The room spun.  Whose baby is this? This isn’t my baby. I haven’t had my baby yet.  I’m supposed to have a boy.  It’s all wrong. This is not my baby. Logical brain intervened. This is your baby. You had a little girl. You will never have a little boy.

And there it was. The thing that I really did come to terms with when we were expecting Eilie, the possibility that we might not ever have a son to raise on Earth.  Of course, when it’s a reality, it’s a whole different experience.

Jude turned three on 12/26/17, five days after we had Lucia.  I went into Hobby Lobby to get silk flowers for Jude’s gravesite. I’m buying flowers for my son’s third birthday instead of planning a party, I thought, selecting the hydrangeas. On the way to the register, I picked up a little stuffed turtle with big, shining brown eyes.  “How are you doing?” asked the cashier.  I shook my head and then I cried at Hobby Lobby.

Sean was waiting next to the truck when I got to the parking lot. I buried my head in his shoulder as he hugged me.  I wept.  “It just doesn’t get any easier.”

When we placed Jude’s flowers in his vase at the cemetery, Sean carefully put Jude’s turtle in the middle of the arrangement.  He looked into the eyes of the turtle and no doubt pictured the eyes of his son and the sweetness and excitement they would hold if we were giving him that turtle as a gift on this third birthday, and for the first time in almost three years that I’m aware of, he cried because it doesn’t get any easier.

Regarding my husband, there is something that I will never fully understand because I have daughters to raise. I have little girls, little people who are my gender, to share the things that are uniquely female with.  Respectfully, I’ve always said I wanted boys like Jo March in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, but I have girls, and I’m very thankful for them.  Sean, though, when we had Lucia and when my tubes were tied, lost something that cannot be replaced.  While he loves his little girl –all of his girls—there is a loss in realizing that he will never fulfill his boyhood dreams of teaching his son how to change the oil in a car or how to properly treat women.  The loss is something undefinable.  When you’ve envisioned the thing your entire life because that’s how things are supposed to be, it’s devastating.  I felt his pain.  One day, when we were getting ready and he was tying his tie, I started crying because I understood.  He will never teach his son to tie a tie.

The pain of this aspect of loss frustrated me because none of my babies were relegated to a gender.  I truly had always wanted boys. I’m not sorry I have girls. I wasn’t trying for a boy when we got pregnant with Lucia. We just wanted three babies. I don’t want to untie my tubes to have “another baby”.  Even if I’d had two boys after we lost Jude, I’d still feel the pain of his loss. I disliked feeling so confused.

I’ve finally reconciled that the immense pain. I felt was simply the agony of grief.  It was stronger than it had been in the past two years, and I wasn’t prepared.  It was also a period of massive change.  I had postpartum hormones at the time my only son would’ve turned three, and I’d made the (appropriate) decision to medically ensure I couldn’t have any more children. With two windows, this was the smartest and safest thing I could do. I don’t know how many times a woman’s body can endure pregnancy with a “window” and not experience a tragedy, but I think I was right to cash in my chips when I did. Also, I think I’d have been kind of a nut if I’d had more than the number of babies that I have.

After all, I love writing, and I love the idea of growing and moving forward with life—life post-pregnancy years.  I want to spend time with my career, that thing I’m so passionate about it sometimes takes my breath away. I want to have the ability to focus on my marriage, that thing I look at like a weird little pet as I try to understand all of its messes and wonders.  I want to be able to start making really fun memories with my children as we all experience things together—vacations, camping trips, summers, marathons, and whatever else we can get into.  For ages, we put the brakes on things like camping or just doing more because I was pregnant, or we had an infant. I’m sure that wasn’t necessary, but we did it.

At any rate, now, here we are. It’s over…and it’s also just beginning.

 

Dear Jude,

I’ll never not wonder ‘what if’. I’ll always miss you.  I’ll always think about what could’ve, should’ve, would’ve. I’ll always appreciate what you do for me, and I’ll always be open to the ebb and flow of grief no matter how difficult it is.  This year was so hard, but I’m glad it was hard because it reminds me of how much I love you.  I hope heaven is lovely this time of year. You’ll have to tell me all about it someday.

 I love you forever,

your adoring mommy,

Me

 

 

Advertisements

Hey Jude — Changing Seasons

My dear, sweet boy,

In less than two hours, I’ll take your sisters to your Emie & Daddy Joe’s house and will drop them off and will head to the hospital to have your last little sibling who we still only know as Mystery Baby.

Today is December 21, 2017.  It’s the first day of winter.  It’s the start of a new season.  In 2012, I began my stumbling (and somewhat unsteady and unwilling, at least at first) foray into motherhood.  For the past five-and-a-half years, spare five months, I have been keeping another person alive with my own body; after today, I’ll have another year to go, God-willing.

I’m not complaining. God knows I’d give anything to have been able to be part of the group of women who–rightfully deserve to–complain about the challenges of motherhood and womanhood as they nurse, feed, love, cradle, coddle, and fret over their cherubic, growing babies.  I’d give anything to not know what it was like to have to say goodbye before I said hello.

But, here we are–there you are in heaven; here I am on Earth.  Losing you nearly three years ago (how are you only five days away from being three?) initiated a season within a season, one in which pregnancy and childbirth were characterized by fear and anxiety, but also one in which I–as a person and a woman, grew up immeasurably.  I didn’t realize how young I was until I lost you.  I also didn’t realize how much I didn’t know about peace and faith or myself.  I would rather have you here and have learned those lessons the hard way, but my goodness, you’ve done more for me than anyone has, and you do it unceasingly.

I’m a 34-year-old woman, getting ready to have her last C-section, her last baby.  I’m about to bid my childbearing years goodbye and to look ahead toward the future, a future in which I am a mother to four children, no matter whether I can only relate to them spiritually and emotionally or physically as well.  Today truly ends and begins a season of my life.

I only came to the realization of the parallel between the actually day–December 21–and the symbolism last night, but before that, something else that represents the way life comes full circle happened.

We’d walked to your Emie & Daddy Joe’s house yesterday evening. We stood at the end of the long driveway, and I asked my dad if I could take one of his oranges.  He grows a huge variety of citrus in the front and back yards. He consented and led me toward the backyard.  I followed, surprised and a little confused that he didn’t want to give me one of the sweet oranges that were hanging on the tree nearest to us.

As I waddled down the driveway, I thought about December 2014.  I thought about Dad’s grapefruits. He has a mammoth and prolific tree in his backyard that for years has produced hundreds–hundreds–of grapefruit.  After I lost you, when I was numb and had no taste or zest for life whatsoever, Dad kept bringing me grapefruit from his tree. He brought grapefruits to me in the hospital.  Other people brought food, and usually, by the time a visitor left or I’d stopped crying, the food was spoiled, and so when I could and would eat, I would peel into a grapefruit and eat the juicy, tart-sweet spoils.  It was like comfort food from God.

Of course, in 2015, as I wrote about here, the tree sustained trauma due to a bitterly cold frost that early winter.  The tree barely produced.  It was a metaphor for me…for what I’d gone through, for what I was going through.

The following season, the tree produced again; though, its nature had changed.  This year, I couldn’t recall if the tree was producing a single fruit.  A downed branch earlier in the summer and some other issues led me to believe that the special tree might not live much longer…let along produce fruit.

Dad opened the metal gate leading to the pool area behind which stands the tree.  He reached into the tree and pulled a large, low-hanging grapefruit from the branches.  “Oh wow, Dad. This means so much,” I said, hugging him.

“I grew that one especially for you.  I thought that one’s for my Amy,” he replied as we turned to go.

I don’t believe in luck or charming one’s fate with rituals, but the simplicity behind my dad’s thoughtfulness and the timing of the situation, could not have been more profound for me in that moment or more comforting.  I realized, too, that my dad’s gesture symbolized something else, the ability to overcome a past.

Growing up, Dad and I weren’t particularly close. Too similar, we clashed. I was emotional and high strung; he was pragmatic yet high strung in his own ways. Both of us were intense and clever and determinedly right.  It was really stressful for both of us.  In my teens and 20s, I was bothered by the reality that if something were to happen to my dad, he’d have been a person I loved but never knew.

After I grew up some more, got married, and learned a thing or two about life, Dad and I started talking more and more and more.  I don’t know his whole story; he still surprises me with aspects of his past that I am intrigued and entertained by.  I do know, though, the story he and I share, and the fact that we have that shows me how much it’s possible to grow and to blossom even after the hardest of seasons.

My darling Jude.  I should probably go start getting ready.  It’s almost time.  No matter what happens today, you, your sisters, and this last little baby are all my darlings.  I’m thankful for the past five-and-a-half years.  They made me who I am, but I’m also thankful to turn the page and to look toward a future shaped by my past but not ruled by it.

 

As always, I love you forever, I like you for always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.

Love,

Mommy

FullSizeRender-23

Hey Jude – Why the Truth Matters

Dear Jude,

In one month, you’ll turn three. Three-years-old. I remember Lillianne’s third birthday party. It was at the park, on the playground. Eilie was only just four-months-old and just hung on to whoever was holding her like a sweet little koala nugget. Lillianne was so cute. She wore a blue dress with white polka dots and her little yellow “heeled” sandals. We set up tables and even though it was 9:00 that June morning, it was swelteringly hot. Lillianne laughed and ran around, sliding and swinging. She didn’t even care that her friends weren’t there yet; if you’d have been there, you’d have been a year and a half and no doubt, hot on her heels, sliding and swinging a few steps behind her with shouts of, “Yee-yan,” because you couldn’t say Lillianne.

By now, those wobbly steps and funny baby talks would’ve turned into running at full tilt and chattering in full sentences…we’d know what your favorite foods and colors and characters are. We’d have fussed at you for rule-breaking, worried if we were raising you “okay”, thought about your future…all of the things parents do. I’d be planning your birthday party, of course, and, of course, complaining about how “hard” it is to do things during the holidays.

 

The reality is that I’m doing none of those things. I’m expecting your baby brother or sister to be delivered at 36 weeks and 5 days in three weeks and three days (but who’s counting?) on December 21. I’m anxiously anticipating the arrival of your last sibling five days before your birthday.

The day before yesterday, Mystery Baby turned 33 weeks; for you, 33 weeks was the last day of your life with us. We only had you with us for 33 weeks. If I’d known I had to form a lifetime of memories in 33 weeks, I wonder how much I’d have done differently?

 

Yesterday, you’d have been 35 months. We went to Atlanta over the holiday weekend to get Mystery Baby’s little animal from the Georgia Aquarium, an accidental tradition that now means so much. Your Jude Whale, by the way, is much loved and is passed around by your sisters. We got your last little sibling a Harbor Seal. I meant to get a sea lion, but oh well. It’s a cute and soft little thing, and I think Mystery Baby will like it. You’d have loved Jude Whale. It’s kind of ironic that your little whale was pure white, completely innocent and angelic, like you. I always think of you when I see the belugas now. They’re so docile and gentle and ethereal, like you.

I digress. Saturday night, I had a hard time going to sleep. I felt unwell. It was probably fatigue or just un-actualized anxiety. Thirty-three weeks. I had a few cramps and mentally plotted exactly what we’d do if I went into labor or if there was an emergency. Thankfully, there wasn’t.

I woke up at 4 a.m. and thought about the night we lost you. I thought about the things that happened and about how recently, I’ve read about other moms whose babies were having decels and other issues like you were. Those babies were delivered, and those babies lived. Your dad and I have assuaged our grief over and over by telling ourselves that something else might have been wrong. I’ve consoled myself with the idea that you at least were in a safe, warm place full of love when your life left this Earth. But I do wonder…and wonder…and wonder…time and time again, for nearly three years now, what if. If they’d have delivered you, would you have lived? There are plenty of pre-term babies born every day who are sustained in NICUs and who live as perfectly healthy and happy children.

Being the skeptic that I am, I wonder and continue to wonder if someone really knows what happened or who has an idea of what happened, and they’re not saying because they’d rather protect people within the institution (Providence Hospital in Mobile, AL) or the institution itself. The thing is, I’m well outside the statute of limitations for any legal action, and honestly, I don’t want anyone’s money. There is on amount of money on this Earth that can possibly make up for you not being here.

The reality is that I just want to know everything. I want to know why if there’s a why. I want to know how if someone knows how. I want to know if someone made a mistake. I want to hear, “I’m sorry,” if they did. I want to know that because of you, someone has changed everything about the way they practice medicine and has made the right decision and has saved so many baby’s lives. I’d like to know that. I just want to know the truth, whatever it is, because I’d like to think it would take some of the burden from my grief.

 

Yesterday, one month before you turned three, we drove home from Atlanta. Having slept poorly, I was tired and uncharacteristically emotional. Irrationally, I engaged your dad in a lengthy conversation about past pains that really don’t impact our marriage now. After all, when better to trap someone in an emotional argument about the past than on a four-and-a-half hour car ride.

I cried three times yesterday. Once was in a Hardee’s bathroom (we’ll call this a “low point”), once at home while I was unpacking. We’ll call this a “revelation moment” because it was when I took my Jude Bear (the one I got at the hospital nearly three years ago when I lost you) out of my suitcase that I started crying all over again. It’s also when it became clear that the real reason I was upset was because of you. It’s because I miss you. I love you so much, and I miss you, and I really just want some kind of closure. I just want to know the truth about what happened. I realize no one can assure me that your outcome would or wouldn’t have been different had the doctor read the ultrasound correctly; had she decided to deliver; had they rushed us straight to the Children’s & Women’s hospital with the NICU, etc. However, I feel someone can tell us if—in hindsight, they made a mistake. They made a bad call. They weren’t as attentive as they should have been. I have no idea. Did they do everything correctly?

I don’t want someone to blame because that won’t change anything. I just want closure. Is that too much to ask? There’s that line that goes, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!” I can handle the truth. I don’t think it’s fair for me to have anything but the truth.

I think that’s true for all moms who’ve suffered a loss. We deserve the truth. After all, I had a healthy pregnancy with Lillianne. I had a healthy pregnancy with Eilie. Mystery Baby is thus far very healthy. In these final three and a half weeks of me ever being pregnant again, I’m absolutely gripped with anxiety and paranoia because I don’t know what happened or if your passing was ultimately the result of human error (i.e., the choice of inaction) or if it was truly something completely mysterious. Is it normal for babies with decelerations, severe tachycardia and bradycardia to not be delivered immediately? Or rather, more importantly, how much of the heartbeats being read were mine, and how many were yours? What happened?

 

Most days, I’m not a crazy person. Most days, I don’t cry. Most days, I don’t rehash painful topics with your father. Yesterday just wasn’t most days. I’m sorry for days like that, that I have to have days like that. I’m sorry that I hate being pregnant because of the constant anxiety. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I was never a fan of being pregnant, but after losing to “causes unknown”, pregnancy is terrorizing. I’ve visited the hospital three times during this pregnancy for legitimate concerns (of course, everything is fine; everything is always fine) for $125 a pop (shout out to my sponsor, Visa). I’m more afraid of getting a steroid shot and of Mystery Baby needing NICU time than I am excited to meet Mystery Baby in three weeks. Your dad cannot stand when I’m pregnant because I’m so high strung. It’s truly unfortunate. I feel so alone so often because being the one who’s pregnant, I’m literally the only one who can determine if there’s a problem or whatever. I’ve spent six months wondering if this weird little pain in my leg is a blood clot; it’s been checked twice. It’s not. It keeps getting worse, like the anxiety.

 

I wish above all things that I could hug you and tell you in your sweet ear the story about what happened. Instead, I’ll spend the rest of my life wishing. Wishing I knew. Wishing I could hug you. Wishing that I didn’t have two potential realities: the one where you live and the one where we have Eilie because I know that had life not taken the course it did, we wouldn’t have Eilie. The little seeds that made her wouldn’t have been there when and if we ever made baby three. It would be different seeds, a different life. A different kid. A different everything.

But, alas, that’s not this reality. In this reality, you are with me in spirit. I cannot hug you or hold you. We have Eilie, who is so sweet and fun and funny, and we have Mystery Baby, who I hope we get to raise on Earth. I guess we’ll see. As the weeks, days, and hours crawl by, I become more and more anxious and despondent. I lessen my grip on hope just in case it happens again. I do this because I don’t know what happened. That’s the price of not knowing the whole and absolute truth.

I love you and miss you, sweet boy. In my heart, I’m always hugging you and smiling at your laughing eyes. 

Love,

Mommy

Hey Jude — Ending a Chapter

Today, Jude is two years and 10 months old. In exactly eight weeks, we’ll (okay, I’ll because let’s be honest about who’s doing the ‘heavy lifting’ here) hopefully deliver our fourth and final baby via scheduled C-section on December 21 at approximately 37 weeks.

I don’t know if it’s the sleep deprivation that’s –this time—come from excess work or the reality that this is it, but I’ve been so much more emotional in the past few months than I have been in the past year when I think about and talk about my Jude.

If you’ve ever lost someone, first, I’m very sorry. Second, you know that most of the time…you’re okay. You mourn privately and usually on anniversary days, perhaps their birthday or the day they passed away, but otherwise, you don’t walk around with your emotions bubbling below the surface (that’s not to say you’re not always thinking about your that you don’t still love the person you lost, of course).

I’ll admit that I thought I was past the point of spontaneous tears, but it seems I’m not. Because we don’t know the gender of this “mystery baby”, I ordered a very cute “Baby’s First Christmas” outfit in the newborn size. As soon as I did, I thought about the what ifs…a great thing for when I’m writing fiction; not so much for when I’m thinking about what could happen between now and December 21 and even afterward (I’m very anxious about delivering at 37ish weeks and about possibly having to have a steroid shot to develop the baby’s lungs prior to; I’m also anxious about the baby having medical complications due to being delivered so early.).

But, the what ifs…they come whether you want them to or not. Before I could hit stop and eject on the thought process, my mind was at Jude’s funeral, and I was standing in front of that little teeny satin box, and his teeny body was in it and dressed in his little blue outfit, and he was there, but he wasn’t, and …just thinking about it, it makes me cry. I miss him so much. I’m so afraid of going through that again. The thing is, it’s okay that no one can say anything to make it ‘okay’ because it’s just not okay.

There are some things, some circumstances in life that are too complicated for words to make right. I think about my friend who brought coffee the next day at like, 6:00 in the morning before her shift at the hospital. It was coffee. That stuff most of us drink every day so our facial muscles function properly (I might be over-sharing here.) But, you know, it was so much more than coffee. It was just…showing up and wanting to help and bringing that one little comfort that I couldn’t get. It was her tact in not trying to say the “right” thing because there really is no right thing you can say.

I’ve observed more and more people put their foot in it trying to say the right thing instead of just keeping their mouth shut. I’m still a member of the Pregnancy after Loss group, and what some of these women endure is surreal. One pregnant “friend” asked a mom two months after her loss if she could buy or have her baby things since she wouldn’t need them. Other times, people suggest that the women can always have more babies, or they suggest that if they already have one child, “At least you have (first child / children).” They don’t understand why the women don’t celebrate when and if they can / do get pregnant again.

I know I’m not as sensitive to some stimuli as other PALs, but I get being pregnant again not necessarily being a cause to celebrate. It’s like walking across one of those broken wooden rope bridges in an Indiana Jones film. Maybe you’ve made it once, maybe you haven’t, but there was that one time where the board beneath your feet broke and you fell. You almost died, and it took every ounce of hope and humanity that you possessed to get up and to climb back to the top of the cliff and to start walking again. The walk is never the same. Every step, every board looks nefarious. It doesn’t matter that a team of engineers are encouraging you and assuring you that everything looks great with this bridge. There’s no reason for you to not make it to the other side. You want to believe them. You want to enjoy the scenery on the walk, but there’s no foregoing the trauma from “the fall.”

Eight weeks, especially the last eight weeks are the most treacherous part of my pregnancy journey. I’m trying really hard to hold it together as I cross the bridge, but I’m scared of heights, and I don’t like pain if I can avoid it.

I don’t want to fall again. I want to make it to the other side just one more time because this is the last time. No matter what happens on this journey, this is it. It’s not that I couldn’t try “one more time” if the unthinkable what if happens. It’s just…I don’t want to. It’s too much on me and on Sean and on our family. Being able to have children is and has been a blessing to us, but the emotional and physical burden isn’t healthy.

At the same time, closing this door somehow causes me to feel like I’ll lose a little piece of Jude. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt kicks or had headaches or experienced some other nuance that reminded me of Jude’s pregnancy. I’m going to miss that. I don’t want to let go of feelings that make me feel more connected to him, even if those are the same feelings that make me cry uncontrollably when I hear about someone else’s trauma or when I think about the “what ifs”.

Like all endings, this will be bittersweet. Right now, the hope of just having a healthy baby in eight weeks fully overshadows the gravity of this life transition, but I know that once it sinks in, I’ll (hopefully) be complete in a sense and can celebrate starting a new chapter while reflecting more meaningfully on the one that I’m about to turn the page on.

***

Dear Jude,

I don’t know what to say other than I love you, and I miss you. I wish I could remember you better. A PAL was asking if other moms looked at their baby’s tummy or patted their little bottoms, the kinds of things that moms do when their baby is alive. I’m sorry that I never saw what color eyes you had or changed your little diaper or gave you a bath. I remember your feet and hands; I love your feet and hands. I love the way it kind of felt like you held our hands. There’s a part of me that’s not in this world because you’re not here. I appreciate that you make me a stronger, better person in so many ways. I wouldn’t be who or where I am if not for you, and that’s not something I can necessarily say to your sisters or to mystery baby, so you’re very special to me. I just miss you, and there’s a selfish part of me who wishes she could have you here. I wish I was planning a little third birthday party right now and perhaps complaining about how hard it is to plan a birthday party at Christmas time and just be completely unaware of how nice it is to have that problem. I don’t mean that people who have that take their precious babies for granted because I know that they don’t, but I just wish…that was the most of my problems.

Anyway, I love you so much my beautiful boy. I’ll see you one day –sooner than later in the grand scheme of things.

You’re in my heart.

Love,
Mommy

Hey Jude — The Hardest 500 Words

We lost Jude on December 26, 2014, and I never went back to “work”. I really couldn’t bear it. I couldn’t stand the idea of going back to that office where –when I last left, I was pregnant—and sit at that desk again and sit at that lovely dual monitor computer screen and do my job. I didn’t want to endure that for another month or two or three or however long it was before I ultimately couldn’t do it anymore, so instead, I quit.

For the year and a half prior to that moment, I’d slowly been establishing myself as a freelance writer and editor, so I wasn’t quitting to the detriment of my family; I had a good side income. No, I was quitting because it seemed absurd to stick around and to sit in that spot and think about my sweet boy and how much he used to kick me when that would have been emotional flagellation. So, while I had a sense of how to take care of myself in one regard, I still had much to learn in areas of faith.

As it turns out, grief and loss don’t come with instruction manuals. One of the worst and hardest things about losing our Jude was telling people what happened. In some cases, I couldn’t do it. It seemed like way too much to e-mail my editor in Arizona and tell him that I had been pregnant but that I was at the hospital and that I’d lost my son and could he please find someone else to write the article?

Instead, I was –still—very afraid of not having the work. I worried that by letting my editors down, they wouldn’t hire me. I also just couldn’t find the right words for what happened; I was so close to the grief spiral’s abyss. Instead I said, “There’s been a family emergency; can I get an extension?” or something to that effect. He added a few days to the deadline, so it was due on December 29. I went home from the hospital on December 28; Jude’s funeral was December 31.

I remember sitting in bed late the night of December 29 trying to understand what I was supposed to write about. The client was an app developer, and I was supposed to write 500 words about app development services or trends in app development or something; I couldn’t focus. I may as well have had to write the article in alien French, too, while I was at it.

Thankfully, the assignment was in English, and it was by the grace of God the assignment was only 500 words instead of the usual 900 or 1,200. I wouldn’t have made it if it was any longer. So, there I was, along in my bleary-eyed wakefulness as Sean and Lillianne slept beside me. I didn’t understand a word I was writing, but I pushed and grinded and slogged my way through a passable article on app development (or trends or whatever). I gave it a quick proofread and sent it in three days after Jude was born still.

That night, I was not ready to come back to life; I was not ready to fully embrace my new world. I regret not having the nerve to explain what happened to my editor and to accept that if that company didn’t want to hire me again, God would somehow have it all worked out.

I did learn to put my faith in God more, though, thanks to Jude. As a freelancer, I’ve had many ups and downs, but God has always shown up. I’ve learned to stop worrying.

The most poignant example of this happened in early spring of 2015. Someone I was bringing home about $1000+ a month from decided to move my work in-house. That was a huge pay cut; however, that kind of thing happens all of the time. I responded to the e-mail that I understood and was genuinely grateful for everything this person had done for me. Three hours later, while I was running with Lillianne, my phone rang and from out of the blue, an editor (who I’d never met) for a company I did some travel writing with (Compass Media) wanted to see if I’d be interested in driving to their office and meeting. We ended up negotiating a contract that lasted for about a year, and I wrote three travel guides (two for the City of Mobile and one for Gulf Shores and Orange Beach). It was a huge lesson in faith, one that I started learning during Jude’s funeral.

On December 31, Sean and I seemingly simultaneously found peace after losing Jude. I cannot explain the peace that I felt, but I know Sean and I both talked about feeling it that day. At some point, there was a moment for both of us during Jude’s funeral where we felt…serenity and clarity. It was like the combined love, energy, spirit, and prayers of everyone who came to Jude’s funeral came together as a force of invisible nature. God literally answered the hearts of everyone who was there for us and for Jude because that was a transformative moment for Sean and for me.

That peace has kept me steady in the life I’m living now. Without Jude, I don’t know that I would’ve found that, so I am beyond grateful to my little boy, who will turn three in December, for this precious gift.

After Jude’s funeral, when I was ready to sit down at my computer again, I explained what happened to my editor. He said it was the saddest thing he’d ever heard. I appreciated that. Of course, at that point, I didn’t need any deadline extensions because I had chosen to live. Jude and those prayerful spirits at his funeral helped me make that decision as opposed to falling into the spiraling grief abyss. I would be able to work and to write and to meet deadlines again. Some things would be harder than others, but so far, nothing has been harder than those 500 words that I wrote that long, lonely night between death and life.

 

Dear Jude,

 It’s weird to feel your 20-week-old little sibling kicking me while I’m writing to you. It’s also weird to miss you so much but to be so thankful for you being you just the way you are. I only wish I could hug you, as any mother wishes. I will always wonder what happened and why, but that doesn’t disrupt the peace and faith I have because of you. I’m impressed, of course, at the way that in 33 short weeks, you accomplished more in my life than I have. You are precious, and you are wonderful. I love you and miss you.

Love,

Mommy

 

“The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree

are of equal duration.” –T.S. Elliot

 

Indeed. They are.

Hey Jude – My Little Gidding

Dear Jude,

Today you’d be 2 1/2 if….

Previously I thought I wouldn’t think of the age you’d be or visualize how you’d be growing. But, I remember Lillianne at 2 1/2, and I can picture you. You’d almost be out of toddlerhood, and you’d no doubt be giving your sister a run for her money in terms of the pending threenage years. It’s incredible how different our life’s dynamic would be if….

As you know, of course, I don’t dwell in “if” because so much would be different, I wouldn’t recognize the world I live in or the one I would live in. All I can do is appreciate what I have, what memories, what moments, and what I’ve become for what those things are.

There’s a line from T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding” that was in a book I’ve read a few times recently. It reminds me of you, which compelled me to read the poem. The line reads,

The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree

Are of equal duration.

A rose and a yew have very different life spans, but each are lives fully lived. You and I have very different life spans, but that doesn’t mean your life is any less full, precious, or important than mine. In fact, I believe you’ve had a bigger impact on my life than I have.

It’s interesting that one of Eliot’s themes is that suffering is essential before life can begin. The poem contains images of something being burned down before it is rebuilt. There are themes of past, present, and future in the poem all of which are unavoidably comparable to birth and to life and death.

Both your father and I have felt that the suffering we endured and still endure as well as the lessons we learn have had the transformative effect that’s can only come from being utterly destroyed and reconstructed. It is remarkable and even miraculous that such a powerful rebirth can come from something so small and brief and delicate as your perfect little life.

Though I know you’re not here for me to hug, I’m holding you close to my heart all of the time. As long as I live, so do you for we are of equal duration. I love you very much, always and forever, my Little Gidding, my Jude, my rose, my little hero.

 

 

Hey Jude – Medical Records

STILL…QUESTIONS

Over a year ago, I paid roughly $140 to get my medical records from Providence Hospital in Mobile. I was—at the time—evaluating a theory that low blood pressure was instrumental in losing Jude. We were approaching finding out the gender of our rainbow, Eilie, who would be a girl, and I’d come across some research that implied that hypotension could be as health-hazardous to a fetus in pregnancy as hypertension.

Fast forward to two days ago. Sean and I do natural family planning (Creighton method). Not to over-share, but two cycles within the past five months have been indicative of low progesterone and / or infertility. **Spoiler, we’re not trying right now, so I can’t say if infertility is an issue**. The first month was while I was weaning Eilie, so I attributed the incident to her changes in nursing. This month, I have no excuses.

As I started to look at the indicators of low progesterone, I realized that me during Jude’s pregnancy matched well with those indicators. These things were abnornmal for me but included:

  • Extreme, frequent headaches
  • Low **nudge, nudge, wink wink** drive (seriously, any nudging had better mean that I get to go to sleep early)
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Irritability / depression

Oh, and a few other things. Anyway, for anyone who’s ever been pregnant, thinking of being pregnant, or is pregnant, you know that being fat, achy, and fatigued are all pretty darn normal. Sean and I were in the roughest patch martially we’d been in. We’d just renovated a house together (so stupid). We were recovering from the growing pains of our first child’s first year in which I felt completely neglected (in that, I had no personal time to so much as shave an armpit…I did, in case you were wondering). I was working passionately to mount a new career as a freelance writer so that when we had Jude, I could start working from home. Because I was visiting Lillianne at Mom’s store during my lunch hour at USA, I’d lost my hour to exercise.

Of course I was fat, cranky, and tired. Who’d want to have a squelch after that? And honestly, I have NO idea how Sean felt. He was probably as unhappy as I was; however, when one is unhappy, they have limited time to actually assess how unhappy the other person is.

 

GROWING PAINS

We were at the precipice of a slippery slope. Throughout Jude’s pregnancy, Sean had commented he’d barely felt the baby kick because he we never spent enough time together for him to feel Jude’s baby bump. I, on the other hand, felt Jude kick all of the time. He was such an active baby. I knew he’d give Lillianne a run for her money. I mean, if we thought Lillianne was a climbing monkey, Jude was going to be a cirque du toddler. We’d need helmets…and padded mats.

Then, as you know, on December 24, we went in for a 9:00 a.m. check-up. Sean, Lillianne, and I looked at Jude’s heartbeat on Dr. T’s handheld device.

“He’s going to be a chunker,” she said. I felt the same way. I knew that like my brother was to my mom, my second baby—my boy, was going to be a meatball. I couldn’t wait.

Without any intelligible reason, I candidly asked Dr. T as she left the room, “Do you think there’s any chance he’ll come early?”

She tilted her head and scrunched her face thoughtfully. “No, I don’t see any reason,” she said.

Why did I ask that? What a stupid question. I had no reason to ask that; however, it was prophetic and my second indicator thus for of things to come; though, I didn’t realize it at the time.

 

RECAP

On December 26, after noticing decreased fetal movement, I called and went in. On the way to the hospital from west Mississippi, I had reassuring movements. It’s a false alarm. I’m still going in, I thought.

We checked in…Jude had a heartbeat. There were some indicators on his BPP—like the lack of lung activity and my slight excess of amniotic fluid (polyhydraminos) that were causes of concern.

The doctor on call told us that our baby was actually small…lower 5th percentile. This was when I started to cry. My parents had come to take Lillianne with them, and we bravely blinked back tears in face of the news. How was my doctor so wrong about his size?

The setting sun was visible through the windows at Providence Hospital. Sean and I were hand-clasped as we followed a nurse toward the hospital where I’d be checked in for monitoring. Meanwhile, Lillianne…a little over 18th months, held hands between Mom and Dad and walked in the other direction. I looked back to see my golden-haired daughter walk away from me. I had no idea that it would be the last time she’d be in the same room as her brother while he was still alive. If I had, I’d have let her hug him goodbye.

What followed for me from my experience has been documented; however, the medical records…the data story tells of a different narrative and one in which I feel says the opposite of what I’ve been told, which was, “We don’t know what happened.” If I read this accurately, and mind, I’m not a medical doctor, I think it’s clear what happened. Jude died of hypoxia. It’s not apparent WHY this all happened (I’m inclined to think hypotension and possibly low progesterone were factors, but there’s literally no way to know); however, I think what happened might be easier to discern.

 

A DATA STORY*

*A use of ***indicates I’ve skipped perfunctory detail

5:49 p.m. : Patient admitted to ‘Provid:0703’

***

6:33: Fetal Monitor: UA REF (So, the baby is on the monitor, too, I guess?)

***I received an IV. My BP was higher than normal (123/63 and my BPM was 90).

7:00: Decreased variability

7:00: Average contraction duration: 40 seconds in the last 30 minutes; intensity, mild

7:00: Accelerations: 2 in the last 30 minutes

7:00: Decelerations: 1

7:00: Baseline: 150 bmp in last 30 minutes

7:00: Variability: Minimal – detectable <= 5 bpm

7:00: Contractions: 6 in last 30 minutes

7:00: Contraction frequency: 2/ 10 min in last 30 minutes

7:05: Dr. F notified of poor variability; IV orders changed from heplock to LR at 125ml/hr

7:05: Fetal tachycardia noted, reported to Dr. F (Dr. F. is the doc on call who I met with previously who indicated Jude was small.)

7:24: FHR1: TACHYCARDIA (tachycardia detected)

***

7:30: Contractions: 4 in the last 30 minutes; 1/10 in last 30 minuets; 0 accelerations in last 30 minutes (FHR 1)

7:30: Dr. F called to check on patient; informed that FHTs has improved; however, variability is still minimal, *** and she denies feeling any contractions or abdominal pain.

7:33: PT sitting up, eating; family brought dinner and visiting.

7:53: FHR1: SIGNAL LOSS; Please adjust FHR sensor

8:00: Contractions: 6 in last 30 minutes; accelerations 1 in last 30 minutes; baseline 155 bpm in last 30 minutes. Av. Contraction duration: 70 seconds in last 30 minutes

8:07: BRADYCARDIA: Severe Bradycardia detected

8:12: TACHYCARDIA: Tachycardia detected

8:16: RN Nurse remarks: I went to the phone to update Dr. F about decelerations and variably. Dr. F called to inform of another pt on the way and I updated her. I was told that we would continue to watch her and more lab work would be done in the morning. I expressed concern about the decelerations and minimal variability.

8:30: Accelerations: 0 in last 30 mins, 155 BPM in last 30 mins, contraction duration 108 seconds in last 30 mins,

8:57: FHR1: No Transducer

9:00: Contractions 4 in last 30 minutes…

***

9:00: Up to bathroom (me, the patient)

(I was put back on the monitor. This was the longest 50 minutes of my life. If I were to swear to it in court, I’d way it was 10 minutes).

9:06: SIGNAL LOSS. Please adjust FHR sensor

9:06: BRADYCARDIA; Severe bradycardia detected

9:12: O2 applied via face mask at 8L per (nurse) (What they haven’t noted is that at least half an hour to an hour earlier, I requested to be moved to USA Women’s & Children’s. I was advised when I stabilized, that would happen. It. Never. Happened.)

9:14: O2 applied via face mask at 10l/min

9:15: BRADYCARDIA: Severe bradycardia detected

9:19: FHTS audible; fetal movement audible

9:20: SIGNAL LOSS; Bad FHR signal; please adjust FHR sensor

9:22: PT discussing how much baby is moving and states that she things it is because she has just eaten for the first time today; fetal heart tones audible 140s; fetal movement audible

9:22: Doppler at bedside; FHTS audible; fetal movement audible; begin using Doppler to aide in placement of efm so that it will trace

9:23: SIGNAL LOSS; Please check patient and FHR sensor

9:23: FHR1 measurement method: No transducer

***

9:24: Nurse (RN) remarks: Pt states that it is hard to believe she went to the doctors office for decreased fetal movement this afternoon when he is moving so much since she has eaten while attempting to audit monitors fetal movement is visible and audible. (In hindsight, I believe Jude was in fetal distress, which is why I felt his movements. My poor baby. I wish so much that I’d have done so much so differently.)

9:29: FHR1: SINGAL LOSS

9:33: Dr F notified of patient status and requested for her to come assess fetal monitoring strip. She stated she was on the way and to have ultrasound ready in pts. Room. Dr. F informed that FHTS were audible and fetal movement was audible and visible per RNs as well as the pt and significant other; however, we were uncomfortable not being have be to have the monitor tracing the heart tones.

9:40: Ultrasound brought to pt room, plugged in and turned on

9:42: Nurse: Explained to pt that the ultrasound was brought in because Dr. F is coming in to ultrasound her and assess the fetal monitor strip. RNs alternating assessing FHTs with EFM and doppler—pt states that she feels baby kicking, fetal heart tones audible 150s fetal movement audible, significant other has been at bedside.

9:46: FHR1 SIGNAL LOSS

9:50: Dr. F at besides. Ultrasound reveals no fetal movement and no heart rate per Dr. F. Pt requests stat c-section and states, “Please do all you can do.”

 

AFTERMATH

After that, I was rushed in for an emergency Cesearean delivery with the hopes…the hopes that a miracle could happen and knowing it probably wouldn’t.

I was in shock and convulsed in panic as I was wheeled in to L&D. I rhythmically changed, “Oh God, oh God, oh God,” on the way in. I looked into a light that was a facsimile of the Kingdom of Heaven—a big beautiful bright light—as I took what could’ve been my last gulps of air in the hopes of saving my son. In those moments, I also prayed to be spared so my daughter, Lillianne, wouldn’t grow up without a mother.

Lillianne’s mother survived. I pulled out of the sandbag of medicated sleep and asked Sean, “How’s our baby?”

Sean clasped my hand. “He didn’t make it. I named him Jude. Jude David. Is that okay?”

I started to sing, “Hey Jude.” And Sean started to sing with me. And then appeared a man of God whose name is also David, Father David, our Priest, and he prayed for and with us in our darkest hour.

 

REFLECTION

I keep thinking I’m finished looking for answers, but then something happens, and I’m on the hunt again. I know this is the writer in me. The bloodhound that sees mystery, intrigue, and questions to be answered at every turn. I m insatiably curious about the what-ifs of life. Respectfully, in the case of my son, I am curious not for causes of morbid fascination but to (1) get closure; (2) to help others; and (3) to know what to look for if we get pregnant again.

I have increasingly become of the opinion that hypotension is undermonitored and undervalued as a complication of pregnancy; however, as one who suffers from this sleeping giant, I know for a fact that Eilie, our rainbow baby would have died had it not been for increased monitoring and the solid instincts of my regular OB, Dr. T.

I miss Jude so much…every day. He would be such a precious age now. I loved seeing Lillianne at two. I imagine my boy at this age…just two months away from two and a half. He’d have been so cuddly and beautiful; however, he’s among the angels, and he blesses me every day. I know God took Jude for a reason. I no longer believe Jude’s death was a miraculous ascension into heaven (I never thought that per say, but I also had no idea “what happened). Now I know that there were variables that might have influenced our outcomes. What if a different doctor was on call? What if we went straight to the high risk facility, USA Women’s & Children’s? What if I just ripped that darn IV out and drove myself to Women’s & Children’s? Would Jude have lived? But then, would he have died in minutes? Would he have suffered greatly? Would he have lived but with traumatic brain defects due to lack of oxygen?

To every question, all I can say is, maybe. That’s the bitter-sweetness of hindsight and begging the “what-ifs”. I could go for days. At the end, this is my life. This is my world. We lost Jude. He’s in heaven, but he’s such a beautiful addition, and he’s such a real part of my family and my life…it’s as if he was still right here every day.

Jude has given me drive and strength. I’m going to continue exploring my research about hypotension in pregnancy. I’m going to raise money for women and prenatal support particularly in the area of raising awareness for women who fall into this category. Jude will not have gone in vain; he gives me strength to do something good for all of woman and their unborn children’s kind.

 

Dear Jude,

Goodness, how much we’ve grown in these past two (and almost a half!) years. You’ve taught me so much. You’ve made me everything I hoped you would and more. You’re so amazing my darling. Please keep inspiring me and moving and motivating your father and me. Help us to be our best selves for Lillianne, Eilie, and you…and that last baby if it’s meant to be. Jude, help us learn and use your story to help others. What’s more, help me find real and accurate information and researchers who can prove my theories or lead me to better ones so that you and I can be instruments for raising support and awareness to help other mommies keep their angels on Earth so long as that’s where God intends them to be. 

I love you, sweetheart.

Until we meet in heaven.

Mommy

 

Hey Jude – Extraordinary Faith

Joshua

Last week, our Sunday school class covered the events of Joshua 10, which were honestly quite extraordinary. It was the day that the sun stood still in which Joshua and the Israelites were able to defeat predator armies because God essentially froze the moon and sun in the sky, which provided enough light for Joshua and his army to advance as needed. He also threw in a hailstorm on the enemies of the Israelites for good measure. I can only imagine it was a lovely day…to have a full sun and a full moon simultaneously….unless you were on the losing side.

Anyway, in our group, the question was asked as to how one has faith when we aren’t always presented with extraordinary circumstances. I reflected on this because at no point has the sun or moon stopped for me (I’m not even sure death would stop for me, nudge, nudge, wink, wink Emily Dickinson). I’m being flip. But truly, we have extraordinary things happen to us all of the time…it’s just that sometimes the end result isn’t always something that we think is what we want or deserve.

I did comment some to the lesson during class that day, but when we were asked if we had an example of how extraordinary events were transformative for our faith I didn’t respond. The answer was fully-formed in my mind, but I couldn’t talk about you, Jude.

 

Jude

I couldn’t explain the story about how I went in for monitoring because I hadn’t felt you move as much on 12/26/14. I couldn’t explain that while being monitored, they lost your heartbeat. We went in for an emergency Cesarean delivery. I was literally in shock; I shook from head to toe as oxygen was administered and I was rushed into the OR. I couldn’t even think clearly. I just kept saying, “Oh God,” as if by repeating the mantra, God would appear and make this all okay and save my son.

My last conscious and cognizant thoughts before going under for the surgery were of Sean and Lillianne, “God, please let me wake up,” and my last spoken words as I felt pin-pricks along the previous cesarean scar line that had delivered Lillianne, “Wait, I’m not asleep!” And then I inhaled the gas. Must get to sleep. Must get to sleep.

I woke up, and Sean was by my side. The world was fuzzy. “How’s our baby?” I’d asked. The baby hadn’t made it. “I named him Jude, Jude David,” Sean said, and I started to sing, “Hey Jude,” which had been the impetus for me wanting to go with the name Jude (ultimately). Originally, Jude had been a boy’s name that we both just loved. When we found out we were expecting a boy, Sean had wanted to explore other boy’s names to be sure. Aedan became a close contender, but after a night of Beatle’s tribute music and hearing “Hey Jude”, I knew that Jude was the name I wanted for my son. It was a name that represented the person I’d forgotten how to be…a person who could be sentimental and emotional and who felt deeply. I’d become very unhappy with many things because what they don’t tell you when you have the audacity to get married and to pursue “happily ever after” with a kid and some guy you hopefully didn’t meet on the Internet, it’s really stinking hard to come close to “happily”. Love really isn’t enough; it’s not even close. You have to also both be good, sacrificial and understanding human beings.

 

Marriage & Parenting

Sean and I loved each other, and we wanted to understand each other, but we may as well have lived in the Tower of Babel for much of Lillianne’s first year and the subsequent year when we were (as planned) pregnant with Jude. I wasn’t happy; my feelings were like a valve that was slowly being turned into the off position. This was the cumulative result of my 20s plus the impact of becoming a wife and mother without truly understanding what any of that actually did to a person who would –if I’m being honest—could’ve been complete without any of those amazing things. I could have. I know I could. I’m thankful I’ve been chosen for what I have, but if nature had decided I couldn’t have kids, I’d have been okay. Sean wouldn’t have. He wanted kids; craved them. He definitely had no idea what he was signing up for, but he had the yearning that so many humans have that I didn’t.

 

Un-Plans

I’m not being melodramatic. I know that if we hadn’t started doing natural family planning (because I was very aware of the heightened cancer risks after 30 and my family history with cancer) and if we hadn’t been so aggressively bad at it those first four months and happened to get pregnant, I’d have never looked at myself or my life or my selfish ambitions and said, “Yes, now’s a great time to have a baby.” And maybe, for the first time, I think that perhaps Lillianne was God’s first effort to get my attention.

 

Plans

And then we got pregnant with Jude. Jude was planned. Sean and I were both close in age to our closest siblings (Sean was 13 months younger than his brother, and I was 20 months older than mine) easily knew we wanted our children close together. Ideally, Lillianne and her sibling would’ve been 18 months apart, but stress literally hindered our conception plans, and it so happened they were destined to be 20 months apart…at least that’s what it seemed at the onset. Jude’s gestational due date was 2/15/15. We were sure we’d have to do a Cesarean, so I chose 2/11, my mom’s birthday, as his DD.

 

Testing Faith

Then, on 12/26/14, Boxing Day, the day after we celebrated Jesus’s birthday, it all went wrong. Jude went to heaven. He was gone. I’ve written extensively about how surreal that first night was in the hospital with Sean by my side in the twin hospital bed. How every time I woke up after falling asleep, I’d have to remind myself that this was real. My son was dead. I was no longer pregnant, even though I could feel twitches in my body, like baby kicks. Little phantom kicks. I’ve never been so raw.

I had to pause just now in this writing because to revisit that room and that night and that space in my mind is all encompassing. I had been a Christian, that is to say, someone who had no problem believing in God and having “faith” in God and the Bible, my entire life. I never went through that edgy phase some kids go through where they challenge religion and spirituality and faith. I had reason to, mind you. I was bullied at times. I wasn’t beautiful. I really just wanted to be loved. I was an introverted artistic kid who was pre-Meyers-Brigg obsessive “what about me” anti-bullying culture. I had an eating disorder for eight years. I was literally afraid that I would die from it some nights as I lay in bed. I didn’t lean on God during many of those times, but I didn’t reject Him either.

When I lost Jude, it was like a wake-up call. I did, for a brief time, wonder if God hadn’t taken Jude to force us to the wake-up call. I had to wonder if I wasn’t such a horrible human being that God had to kill my baby for me to look in His direction. I don’t think that’s the case. In fact, I sometimes wonder if perhaps, Jude’s death wasn’t entirely preventable. We have always been lead to believe that it was a complete medical mystery. I’ve been okay with that because it’s something I can cope with. There’s not one person or one mistake or one thing to direct pain, frustration, and rage at, so I don’t express those things.

Even thought I don’t think God took Jude to wake us up, that’s what happened. Sean and I both remember Jude’s funeral on New Year’s Eve of 2014. It was a cold, clear, sunny day with a beautiful blue sky. We wept as the wake started. He was so tiny in that little white box. Oh, how I cried when I saw his little coffin. Parents who’d suffered so much more than I did –and who would suffer so much more than I would—came, cried, and hugged me. Eventually, I stopped crying. I just felt…at peace.

Sean stopped crying, too. We felt peace. Later, afterward, we agreed that we felt…peace. We also were surprised at how much faith we had. Suddenly versus that had been words really meant something. I could do all things through Christ that strengthened me, for example.

 

The Extraodinary

And that brings me back to Joshua and the extraordinary things that Christ does that gives us cause for having faith.

An extraordinary thing happened to me and my family. It was an extraordinarily bad thing. We lost a baby. A beautiful, health, 4 lb, 2 oz baby boy went to heaven at 33 weeks the day after Christmas for reasons we may never know. Sean and I were broken. Lillianne was a haven of joy. We had nothing but our faith to rely on and so began a journey. I craved being closer to God. I needed the water of life that is only found through faith. Sean said that he felt like Jude saved his life because without losing Jude, he wouldn’t desire heaven the way he did.

Yes, God does do extraordinary things to transform our faith. Sometimes, they are mundane things. Sometimes, they are terrible things. God has the power to take negatives and positives and to heal us and help us from them.

I realize that I’ve never seen the sun and the moon stand still at the same time, and I probably won’t, but at the same time, I also know that my world has stopped spinning, and I’ll never be the same.

“And there has been no day like that, before or it or after it….” Joshua 10:14

 

Dear Jude,

I love you. I do miss you. Your sisters miss you. I know you’re with us, but I wish I could hold you. It’s hard to believe that you’re almost 2 ½, darling. I can’t believe how much you’ve grown. I really wish I could see how you look. I look at your pictures, and I just miss you. You’ve done so much for me. I don’t know how I could ever ask for a more beautiful boy. You give me so much to look forward to one day.

Love forever,

Mommy

Hey Jude – When I Think of You

Little Jude. I think about you a lot. More than you know. They way I think about you is different from how I think of your sisters because they live here, and you live in heaven. Of course, all three of you live in my heart.

I think of the little boy you would be now. Two. Such a precious age. You’d be walking and talking. You and Lillianne would be busy little playmates. Lillianne wouldn’t be dragging Eilie around the house behind the Mickey Mouse scooter; it would be you, and there might not even be a Mickey Mouse scooter because it’s Eilie’s scooter. In those moments when Lillianne tries to talk to Eilie like she’s an older child, and Eilie’s just…not…I think of you.

When we go to the playground, and Lillianne can’t find any other kids to play with, I think of you. You’d be chasing her around, climbing everything she climbed, and she would tell you how to do it and she’d cheer you on and give you a pull to get you to the top of the slide faster. 

Today we took Lillianne to her first Mardi Gras parade (and Eilie, too). It would’ve been your first parade, I thought, as I watched Lillianne on Daddy’s shoulders and could see the olive-skinned, shiny, dark brown haired cherub you’d have been with gold-flecked chocolate-colored eyes and a Cupid’s bow lip and rosy cheeks. I didn’t see you sitting on anyone’s shoulders, but I could just see you up there next to Lillianne. I thought, “Jude would’ve loved this.”

When new people ask how many kids I have, I think of you because I have to explain about my baby in heaven, and they always look so sad and say they’re sorry. Yes, of course, I’m sorry, too, and I’m sad, but I also know how God used you to help make me a better and more faithful person. I’m not perfect, but I want to be a better person all of the time. You made me more compassionate. You gave us Eilie. I can’t really fathom what the parallel universe that now constantly runs alongside my life would be like if you were here. 

When I look at your father, I think of you. His life, like mine, is steadily undergoing a transformation that I don’t think could’ve or would’ve happened if not for what God’s done for him through you. 

I don’t understand why we had to lose you. I really don’t. You were such a busy thing. I like to think about your alive time. It was such a fleeting but such a special time. And then you were gone to heaven. 

So, I’m thankful for the times I think of you and imagine you with us or what’s going on in that parallel universe. I’m thankful that you’re still so very alive in my heart and that there are so many wonderful things that happen to me and your daddy and your sisters that I can say, “Jude helped us do that.” I love making new memories with you. 

I love you, sweet baby boy. I’m thinking of you.

Hey Jude – Golden Rainbows

Today is 1.26.17. Jude is 26 months old. It’s a golden day for tomorrow, our rainbow, Eilie, will be one-year old. Without Jude, we wouldn’t have our rainbow. Without what happened a year ago, which was extra monitoring because of Jude, we wouldn’t have Eilie. While today has been an otherwise ordinary day, I feel like in heaven, rainbows were spun of gold for my boy and all of the joy and the blessings he brings to us each and every day…and especially, his sister Eilie.

I’ve mentioned this many times, but when we lost Jude, my best friend, Becca, flew in as fast as she could buy a plane ticket to be with me. I didn’t ask, and neither did she. She just showed up.

This past January, Becca’s beloved GaGa, (Etta) passed away. Becca and I met in middle school. We quickly bonded over the awkwardness of being adolescent outcasts and the absurdity of changing socks for gym class. The year after sixth grade, Becca moved, and I was alone in every sense of the word. My only solace was the letters I wrote to Becca and that I received (and that I still have). It was a blessing to me that Becca had family living in Mobile: her GaGa, aunts, uncles, and father. Becca was a military child and was neither born nor settled in Mobile; it was truly an act of God that she had reason to return when she left in the mid-90s.

Thus, a few times a year, Becca came home to see family. There were many times I spent the night at GaGa’s house with her. I remember watching movies, eating dinners, and always, always being greeted with a wide smile, an exclamation of joy, and a big hug when GaGa answered the door.

That was the GaGa I knew, but I learned even more about her at her funeral. I bit my teeth to hold back tears as the service started. Part of me was thinking of Jude’s service; part of me was thinking of the grandmother who accepted me as a second granddaughter because I was best friends with her beloved Becca; she was a woman so full of love.

I soon learned through beautiful stories shared by her children that she was a woman of sass and celebration. She took care of people…she had the world’s greatest sense for laundry needing to be done, and don’t get me started on the gold stilettos. Grandma had game!

Of course, she was also a beautiful heart. She was a prayerful woman and a compassionate woman. She did things to and for people that most of us could only dream of doing, and as her eulogy continued, I realized that I was less than half the woman she was.

After the funeral, we went to the cemetery, the same one where Jude lies next to my beloved Memaw, who passed roughly 20 years ahead of GaGa when I was 13 on January 2, 1997.

On the drive, I learned that Becca’s oldest brother, Charlie, was laid to rest near his grandparents (or rather, they were laid to rest near him). This I hadn’t known; Jude was lain to rest next to my grandmother, and my parents will be next to them, and Sean and I, above them.

Though it was indeed GaGa’s day, nothing could prepare me for seeing where Charlie, a beautiful young man whose life ended far too soon my sophomore year of high school and his freshman year of college, was buried.

Perhaps it’s something that a mother and a parent feels that can’t be explained; perhaps it’s something that only a traumatic loss…one that’s too sudden and too soon that shakes our core, can be related to…I don’t know. I wasn’t able to focus on anything other than Charlie.

When Charlie passed away, he was a freshman at FSU. It was during Mardi Gras that he passed away. I remember most distinctly “being there” with Becca (but not being there in the best of ways because I was truly too naïve to be there the way I now wish I could’ve been) with her dad and Ann at the Civic Center on the lawn near the arena. It was night. No one was particularly celebratory.

I didn’t know Charlie well. He was a nice guy and a fun, funny guy. He loved animals. He wanted to be vet…I knew that much. His obituary was particularly long as he was survived by many beloved pets in it. It was printed in Mobile’s paper. My 10th grade English teacher mentioned it in class, and I, despite my extreme shyness, raised my hand and said that was my best friend’s brother. I’m not sure what her reason for mentioning it was…she wasn’t being disrespectful, but I thought it was important for people to know more about Charlie…that he loved his animals and that he had a family and a sister who missed him.

I’m honestly not sure why we try to remain composed at funerals. I’ve noticed this as I’ve gotten older. People try so hard not to show their grief in front of others. Though I felt like crying several times during GaGa’s funeral (it was that laundry story, if you must know…poignant yet so telling), I held it together until Ms. Donna, Becca’s mom, stooped to brush her fingers across the raised bronze of her son’s name on his headstone.

All mothers must do that. It was a gesture I recognized because from the day Jude had a headstone, I would kneel and brush my fingers across his name and think of how much I missed him and just saying his name aloud.

Becca knelt beside her mother, and the two wept. I put my hand on Becca’s shoulder to “be there”…to be there for the years and years of grief and sorrow where I wasn’t for proximity or ignorance. I cried for and with them, for there are times where tears can express what words cannot, which is that I cannot and will not ever understand, and in equal measure, I understand, and I feel your pain. I wasn’t thinking of Jude, but he was giving me the power to feel…it’s a gift I’m thankful for.

When she rose, Becca and I hugged, and she painted a beautiful picture of little Jude in heaven, delighting both Charlie and GaGa, and vice versa. I know they are all together and dancing and playing and laughing.

As we idled back to our cars, the sun broke through the clouds, and I realized that Becca and I would have many more years of holding each other’s hands. I know God gave me this person for a reason. By all accounts, it’s miracle she has family here; it’s a miracle she had reason to visit. My strongest friendship is one that’s persisted since I was 11 years old but is one that hasn’t had a physical presence for 22 years. She’s a sister to me, and I know one day, our goodbyes and hellos will come with heavier prices as we say goodbye to parents and more grandparents…as we endure life lessons and hardships I can only imagine, but you know what? I’m thankful to God that she’s the one who’ll hold my hand, and I’ll always be there to hold hers.

There may not be golden rainbows every day, but there are pots of gold at the end of rainbows, and I feel like Becca’s mine.

May golden rainbows shine down on you all.

Dear Jude… 

Thank you for everything. Thank you for giving Dr. T the intuition to deliver your sister a year ago tomorrow. Thank you for giving me the ability to feel more than I’ve ever felt in my life. Thank you for being my boy. You’re my boy. Happy golden day to you, dear heart. You’re 26 months on the 26th! Kisses and hugs. I can’t wait to see you in heaven. Dance and play and celebrate the glory for mommy, my darling. I miss you.

Love,

Mommy