Saturday, November 29, 2008
In speaking with my mom-in-law and my sisters-in-law while we were there, I found out more about my mom-in-law. She's in her seventies now and hasn't had an easy life. She lost four babies of her own and had two miscarriages, I think. All of her babies were born around the eighth month and many of them had kidney problems. She had a daughter in 1958 named Mary Elizabeth who lived 11 days, then a son, Joseph in 1959, another son, Gerard in 1960, and a daughter, Geralyn in 1963, all who died soon after birth. I can't even begin to imagine my mother-in-law's grief during those years and beyond. To lose three babies in three years is a horrific thought. Back then she was pretty much alone in her grief. They had a service for Mary Elizabeth, but not the other babies. People didn't talk about death and believed that if you didn't talk about it, you'd get over it sooner! Can you believe that line of thinking? My mom even remembers around that time being told that her grandfather had "gone to sleep" when he died. Not that 50 years later we've gotten much better talking about death, but at least there's been some improvement.
I look at myself and my response to death. I haven't had a whole lot of people die in my family and those who have died, despite illness, were old and had lived out their lives. So to have a child die is a whole different experience. I found that it took me a couple of weeks to say Felicity "died," rather I'd refer to "after Felicity" or something similar. Now that I'm comfortable with saying "Felicity died," I'm actually finding healing in talking about her death. I cry when I talk about it but I also gain strength from talking about what happened. My poor mother-in-law probably suffered in silence, thus she never really healed from losing her babies. While we were there in Paul's hometown, we went to the cemetery and I saw the place where my mother-in-law will be buried. Her living children bought her a headstone with the names of her dead babies and the years they were born on it. I cried for her because I know she is still grieving those babies.
I've had thoughts of wanting to scream from the highest hilltop that I had a daughter and she died. I play out how I might add the topic of Felicity to conversations I have, even conversations with strangers. I want people to know about her. I want to wear a sign that says, "I have a daughter, but she died." Maybe that's one reason why blogging is so helpful right now. I can write about Felicity and people who don't even know me will read about her if they come across my blog. I feel that if more people know about her, her existence will have more meaning. I want so badly for her life to have some lasting impact on others!
Pray for us during the next five weeks or so. I keep hearing how hard the holidays are after the death of a child and I'm sure they will be. We're missing her already and I know we will miss her even more as we try to celebrate Christ's birth and carry on with traditions for the boys. I'm looking forward to the busyness I guess, though I don't want to get too carried away with things to do that I forget to grieve for Felicity. Even though I can't imagine forgetting, sometimes I'm afraid I might. Even though it's only been almost 8 weeks since her death, as each day passes I feel like she moves farther and farther away from me. And since I can't hold her close, I have to hold my memories as close as I can.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
I've saved all the cards we've received (we both agreed on that). And everything from the hospital that touched her body. I am in the process of framing pictures, so that just about every room in the house has a picture of her in it. Minus the bathrooms of course, I'm not that weird.
I also have a new obsession for the color pink. I never much liked the color pink after about two years of having my bedroom painted pink as a child. My birthstone is pink, which I disliked too. But when I got pregnant, I started to get my pink groove on, thinking about the 50/50 chance of having a girl. I bought a few pink things so that if we did have a girl, she could wear pink from the get-go, not yellow and green, which is what Elijah wore as a newborn. (I jokingly referred to these items of clothing as "my stash.") Now I find myself, searching out the color pink. I've even purchased two pink post-pregnancy shirts, adding that color to my wardrobe for the first time in a long time. I'm so sad my little girl is not here to dress in pink. So like Julia Roberts said (with a southern accent) in Steel Magnolias, "Pink is my signature color." It's just another way I can remember Felicity and feel close to her.
I can't believe tomorrow will be seven weeks since she died and was born. I want her here so badly! Everything we do as a family seems lacking since she's not here. I should be struggling to get everything done because I have to nurse her or change her or hold her because she's fussy. She should be sleeping in our bed every night. Ethan and Elijah should be asking to hold her every morning. We should be in awe over our first little girl. Instead we're looking at the only pictures we'll ever have and missing her so much it hurts.
I wish I knew God's plan in this pain. I am comforted by how he worked in my life after my divorce. I thought my life was over then and yet in time, God restored what had been taken away. He gave me Paul, the greatest husband, and more children. So even though I hurt now, I will continue to praise Him through this storm!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
TobyMac's song makes me wish for a carefree Saturday night, being chauffeured by my dad, to the roller rink. (He still chuckles, remembering our goofy antics in the car on the way there.) Life was easy back then, even in my teenage angst. My only worries were what I would wear and whether one of the cute guys would look at me while I nonchalantly circled the rink.
Oh, the things we take for granted in life. Until something devastating happens, we have a feeling of invincibility, relying on ourselves only. I think even as Christians we exert our independence subconsciously. Do bad things happen so we can learn to completely lean on God? There are countless schools of thought on why bad things happen to "good" people.
What I do know is that during this time of missing Felicity and wondering why she had to leave us before we ever got a chance to know her and love her, the Holy Spirit seems so close. I feel His presence while reading the Bible and praying and feel His comfort through my family and friends. I feel His strength in the words I read of other moms who've lost a baby and continue to grow in their love of the Lord. He STILL moves mightily in spite of our earthly sorrows! He never leaves us nor forsakes us! He is all we ever need! Blessed be the name of the Lord! I can wake up everyday feeling sad, but with a perspective that reaches beyond this day, this month, even this year.
For I know that this world is not my home.
"This world is not my home,
I'm just a passing through.
My treasures are layed out
somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me
from heaven's open door,
and I can't feel at home
in this world anymore."
© 1965 - Albert E. Brumley & Sons
Monday, November 17, 2008
Go ahead and mention my child,
Sunday, November 16, 2008
I've found myself so interested in all matters relating to stillbirths and especially to cord accidents. I read today that death from a cord accident usually occurs while mom is sleeping as sleep also affects baby's oxygen intake level. In my ignorance, I thought stillbirths no longer happened, when in reality there are approximately 26,000 stillbirths a year in the United States. A stillbirth according to Wikipedia is, "the birth of a fetus which has died in the uterus or during labor or delivery any time after the 24th week of pregnancy." Other definitions use the term stillbirth for any baby 20 weeks or more gestation. My heart aches for all the women I have "met" in the past 6 weeks who have also experienced a stillbirth. Their pain is like mine and so we have become kindred spirits in our grief.
My mom, in her wisdom, told me I should make a list of all the things I am thankful for having to do with Felicity's life, so that when I'm feeling down I can think of those things. So here goes:
I'm thankful for. . .
- beautiful, professional photographs of my daughter and a video of those photographs put to music.
- so many remembrances of Felicity throughout our home.
- the people at the hospital who treated her so lovingly despite her spirit being gone from her body.
- family and friends who have surrounded us with love, prayers, meals, and gifts.
- my own physical health after having a baby.
- a loving husband, who while grieving himself, comforts me with his presence and loving touch.
- Ethan and Elijah, who remind me every moment that life must go on.
- the impact Felicity has had on many people already.
- Jesus Christ, whose shed blood on the cross, ensures our happy reunion with Felicity someday because we believe in Him.
- hope for the future!
"To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of JOY for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified." Isaiah 61:3
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
As I was adding some old friends to my wall/profile/whatever (I haven't yet learned the facebook lingo.) I realized that if they contact me then I'll have to tell them about Felicity. One of those first questions is always "How many kids do you have?" Sure it's a whole lot easier to tell people via facebook rather than face to face, but still I wondered if I wanted to have to tell more people right now. I'm still wondering. I thought I'd jumped over these hurdles already, but I'm finding that more hurdles await me and my body is already aching from this race my life is now on. (Pretty pathetic of me to use a running analogy when I don't run!)
Maybe a better analogy for my life is Before and After. Normally, the After is a better picture; a new makeover, a room redecorated, etc. In my case, give me back my Before. The After Rachel isn't pretty. She's a different person; she's a different wife, a different mother, and a different friend. She wonders sometimes if she's going to make it. These negative feelings don't last because of the hope I have in Christ, but they are part of my life now. Pray for me as I learn to fulfill my roles now that I'm a different person. This goes for all of us - Paul, Ethan, and Elijah as well. We're all different, grief has/is changing us. I pray that when the hurting lessens, these new people we're becoming are an improvement on the Before. But right now, Before looks pretty good.
Monday, November 10, 2008
remembering the weight of Felicity's almost ten pound body cradled in my arms. . .
remembering the smell of her hair and skin through my stuffed up nose. . .
remembering the feeling of her soft, smooth skin and how chubby her cheeks were. . .
remembering the feel of her hair and her fingers wrapped around mine. . .
I'm trying so hard to remember and yet, I wish I could just forget. . .
forget that this is my life. . .
forget this empty feeling in my body because she's not with me. . .
forget this intense sadness in every moment. . .
But I'd much rather have sadness and pain in my memories than no memories at all!
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
We moved downstairs where the birth tub, a bed, and our supplies were set up for the big event. The contractions were really hard and close together. By 5:45 I was feeling the urge to push. Paul was on the phone with our midwife and she instructed me to get down on the mattress in a head down butt up position to counteract gravity. I was also puffing out my breaths to keep from pushing, but it was really difficult. I wanted so badly to get into the tub, but couldn’t because our midwife wasn’t there yet. (She had been on the phone with Paul while she was in the car driving to our house.)
She arrived at about 6:25 and rushed to get all her stuff in. I got into the tub as soon as she said I could and she tried to get the baby’s heart rate with the Doppler. I felt my water break then and needed to push, so when she couldn’t find the heart rate, I was only briefly concerned. Due to a shoulder issue with my last baby, she wanted me in a running start position for pushing, so I didn’t really see what was going on as the baby crowned and came out at about 6:40 a.m.
After she (we didn’t know what we were having) came out, I turned around and the umbilical cord tore in half. I saw my baby in the midwife’s arms, all purple and with the cord around her neck. I was so weak and numb from the pain being over. I heard the midwife say, “Oh, God!” and immediately she started doing mouth to mouth. Paul was stunned at what was happening and she yelled to him to call 911. They took the baby over to the bed and our midwife continued infant CPR with Paul right there. He was crying out to God to help his daughter and that’s when I realized we had a baby girl! I hadn’t even touched her! I was still in the tub, numb from shock. I continued to sit in the birth tub sobbing and crying out to God to help my daughter.
Then the paramedics and police arrived. There were multiple people helping with Felicity (we had names already picked out) and others talking and attending to me. We were in such shock, we didn’t know whether anything they were doing was helping or not. They left with Felicity at about 7:10 to transport her to the hospital. I still hadn’t even touched her!
Paul stayed with me and once I had delivered the placenta, they transported me by ambulance to the hospital as well. The hospital is about 8 miles away and the whole ride there, Paul and I alternated between praying, singing, crying, and quoting scripture. The scripture that came to mind which I kept repeating was “and the peace that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” The paramedics kept saying they didn’t know anything about Felicity and that we would find out when we got to the hospital. We arrived about about 8:30 a.m.
They took me up to the OB floor. A nurse came in and asked some questions and took my blood pressure. It was all a blur; I just wanted to see my baby. We were told my doctor was on the way and then they left us alone in the room. We had to wait about half an hour before my doctor came in to the room. (I had seen her twice during my pregnancy and she had given me the referral for the homebirth.)
It was after 9 at this point and I think I remember her introducing herself to Paul and greeting me. She made a couple of comments about what had happened during my labor and then she started to say, 'Rachel, I am so sorry to have to tell you this. . .' She didn't get any farther and I just felt my body erupt in pain and anguish. I started crying out, 'No, no, no!' and Paul was sobbing too! It is such an empty hollow feeling and I just can't even begin to describe what we were feeling.
The ER crew had worked on Felicity until about 7:50 a.m., but was never able to get her breathing. It was noted that she had a tight knot in her umbilical cord and the cord was stretched very thin on either side of the knot. When they tried to intubate her, they noted meconium in her system. The ER doctor in charge called her death at 7:50 a.m. Officially, it was recorded that she never breathed and died sometime before she was born. (In the case of a stillbirth, parents never receive a birth certificate, only a death certificate.)
They brought Felicity up to our room in a nursery bassinet, wrapped in hospital blankets and with a newborn hat on. She was very dark purple due to her heart having stopped before birth, but so beautiful, none the less. They picked her up with such care and put her in my arms and left us alone with her. We cried and cried. We were told we could spend as much time with her as we wanted and everyone in the hospital was so kind. We hadn't called home to let anyone know what had happened to Felicity and then my mom arrived. Paul was holding Felicity and had his back to the door when she came in and at first her mouth dropped open in shock and a light came into her eyes, but I started crying and had to say, 'Mom, she's gone!'
The grief we feel is like nothing I can describe. We spent most of the day with Felicity, holding her, kissing her, crying over her, and examining all her features in detail. She had a head full of dark, dark hair, basically black and little ears. Her fingernails and toenails were so long! She had my long skinny toes and chubby thighs. She looked so much like Elijah did with a perfect little rosebud mouth and chubby cheeks. She had light colored eyebrows and despite her coloring, she was absolutely perfect in every way! I could tell she was heavy. They weighed her and measured her and took her back to the nursery to do her footprints and take more photographs. They dressed her in the sweetest pink sleeper with a hand-knit sweater and hat.
We debated a little bit about whether the boys should see her. I am so glad that Paul thought it was important for them, as I was unsure. He went home to tell the boys and bring them and my Dad and Aunt Cathy back to the hospital. My mom called home and told Dad and Cathy that Felicity went to be with Jesus, but to wait to tell the boys. When Paul got home, Ethan greeted him at the door and said, 'Daddy, can we go and see my sister?' Then he saw Paul's sad expression and he started to cry. Paul sat down with the boys and told them what happened. He and Ethan cried together.
I was holding Felicity when they came into the room. Ethan had a very sad, closed off look when he came in, but Elijah in all his 2 year old enthusiasm came right over to the bed, said, 'Hi Mama.' and asked to get on the bed. He said hi to Felicity and immediately started touching her and kissing her. He had no reservations about the dark color of her skin or how still she was. Ethan had to be encouraged to come and look at her and touch her. He finally climbed up on the end of the bed with me and looked more closely. He touched her and I commented to him about how soft her skin was. He agreed. The nurses took more pictures of her with the boys. They both held her.
My parents and Cathy took the boys home around 1 or 1:30. Time is fuzzy and I can't quite keep it all straight. So much time was spent in tears and prayer. We had to meet with the coroner and talk about what happened and why. He determined by looking and examining her that the result of death was the 'true' knot in her cord. In doing some research online I found that only 5% of pregnancies have a knot form in the cord, usually in the first trimester and they are not detectable by ultrasound. But of that 5% only 1% end in death/stillbirth. Felicity died while still inside me, sometime in the night or during labor.
My doctor wanted me to stay the standard 24 hours, but of course I wanted to go home. I wanted to be with the boys, to be surrounded by my family, and feel their love. We spent the rest of the afternoon, holding and loving our daughter, while trying to make some plans - whether anything in her body could be donated (it couldn't due to an unknown time of death.) We also had to decide on whether we wanted an autopsy or testing done to determine any genetic problems which might have led to her death. We decided against both. An autopsy wouldn't be able to tell us when she died and based on how she looked and that she was full term, it was fairly certain that there was nothing wrong with her internally. The genetic testing didn’t make sense considering the knot in her cord.
A professional photographer from a ministry called 'Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep' and took photographs. It was amazing how many things they do for families who lose a baby. The hospital sent us home with the outfit she wore, mementos, a lock of hair, and her footprints.
We had to start the process of planning a service and contacting a funeral home before we could go home. A man from the funeral home came and picked up her body around 4 p.m. He came with what looked like a large black tool box case. I couldn't watch him put her body into it, so Paul held me while he did it. And then . . . she was gone!
I often find myself reliving that day in bits and pieces in my mind. I wonder when a day will go by that I won't think about her and the place she would have had in our family. I will always wonder how different our lives would be if she were here with us. We will always feel an emptiness in our lives because she is not with us. We are so thankful though that she is in Jesus' arms, perfectly complete and content. Felicity Faith means "joyful faith." Her life was short, but we pray we can live out her legacy by having a joyful faith.
After doing more research on true knots, I came across information saying that knots ARE detectable in an ultrasound. There are still many factors that contribute to whether or not a knot can be seen, but they can be detected. There are no guarantees that a C-section will produce a live baby if a knot is detected. I had an ultrasound at 38 weeks 5 days to confirm Felicity was not breech. I am assuming that the technician checked other things during the scan as it lasted for about 10 minutes or so. No concerns were noted at that time. I believe God is sovereign and that we live in a fallen world because of sin. I blame no one for my daughter's death.
I was rudely awakened this morning at 5:45 and eventually got out of bed to turn on the computer for election results (we don't get any t.v. stations) rather than to check my blog's live traffic feed (so cool for those of you who don't have one!)
Then I saw the results and started to feel sick to my stomach. Many of you may not agree with me on politics, but the morality change our nation is facing with this new president is scary, as in end times scary!
Then I noticed the weather. Ugh! It's raining and stormy. I definitely notice that my sadness is stronger on days when the sun's not shining. Like the sky, my eyes want to rain at every thought of Felicity and I feel spent having already cried myself to sleep last night.
So I think today calls for drastic measures - okay, so I'm just going to get out of the house and head down to my mom's. Hopefully she's up to company after working 15+ hours yesterday as an election judge.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Never underestimate the power of a two year old's imagination! A month or more ago, Elijah put on a toy pair of safety goggles and proudly announced "I'm Goggle Boy, yes I am!" And so the adventures of Goggle Boy began.
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to LAUGH; a time to mourn, and a time to dance." Ecclesiastes 3:1-4
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Yesterday we went to my aunt's wedding. I was thrilled to see her happily wed to a wonderful guy. When I opened the wedding program and saw at the end that she had special flowers in memory of my grandparents, my great aunt, and Felicity, I cried. It meant so much to me that she would think to do that.
On the way to the wedding, we stopped at Michael's to pick up a collage frame we had made. It has three sepia photos of Felicity along with a handmade card a friend from church made with her name on it. It turned out beautifully. I can't wait to hang it in the living room where I can see her everyday.
Ethan's grieving more. He's talking about Felicity a little more and on Friday night he woke up crying. When I went into his room, he was half asleep still and when I asked him what was wrong, he simply said, "I'm sad about Felicity." I laid between he and Elijah for a few minutes and just held him. I hate (a word I hardly ever use) that he is hurting and I can't do anything to take it away. My mom said a couple weeks ago that she feels the same way about me hurting. As moms we hate to see our kids sad or hurt, we want to kiss the pain away. He hasn't really taken me up on my offers to discuss Felicity at any length. I hope the day soon comes when he will feel comfortable enough to ask questions and tell me more about how he's feeling, but for now I don't push the issue.
Today after church we went to Felicity's grave and put some fake flowers in the ground, all pink, of course. I wanted to have something marking it during the winter since we won't get her headstone in place until next spring. While we were there, I saw another grave had been dug. It was a small one and no one at church has lost a baby or child, so I wonder who will be buried there. Death is very real to me now. I NEVER thought that I would bury my child. I've anticipated with great anxiety the death of my maternal grandparents and my parents, but I never thought I'd lose a child! I believe wholeheartedly that God is sovereign, but it will ease this great pain in my heart to be able to ask Him "Why?" someday.
I am working on "Felicity's Story" and hope to post it on Thursday. I hope it will help other moms who find themselves reading it. I'm also working on a section on how to help someone who's grieving. For those of you who've never experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth or loss of a child, I hope you find information with which you can help those you know or will meet who experience such pain.
Thank you for your continued prayers! Your prayers have helped us so much in these past 4 weeks.