Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Welcoming Jana Renee: A Story of Adoption, Healing, and Redemption

 A note from Aubrey: Rachael is basically my sister. Our family "adopted" her husband many years ago before they were married, so we claim their family as our own. Therefore, I considered this little girl my new niece, and this story so personal for our family! I hope that you can find some healing and inspiration here today. 

 Here is Rachael's story.

Fearless. The word engraved on the Brighton bracelet my husband got me this past Christmas.
Little did either of us know, that word foreshadowed a calling on our lives that would come just
one month later.

In years past I had been anything but fearless. Not long after our son, Samuel, was born we
began trying for our second baby. We tried and tried and there was never a baby. As the months
and years progressed my heart was filled with frustration, then sadness, then anger, then
resentment, then hopelessness. We learned several years into our attempts to have a baby that
outside of a miracle we would not have more babies. As that idea settled into my mind and my
heart, God began to work on my faith and our marriage.

Our infertility was the first of many insights into my own brokenness. I am not saying that people
who have infertility struggles are broken. I am saying that all people are broken, and my own
infertility brought about that awareness in me. As hard as I tried, regardless of the books I read,
the doctors we saw, the drugs I took, I was powerless to make a baby come into our lives. For
once I understood that I was small. I don’t do “small” well. As I grappled with not being able to
dictate how my family would look I began to hear God calling me to joy even in pain. He was
teaching me contentment in suffering. He was revealing the flaws in my own plan and the
perfection in His. As my emotion subsided I could begin to see that God was doing something
but I did not know what, exactly.

In this time of waiting and growing our son prayed for a sibling. My heart both mourned and
celebrated when he prayed “Jesus, thank you for the baby we got (himself!!). When will we get
another baby? Sometimes I’m a little alone. Thank you”. Another time he prayed, “Thank you
God, no matter what happens to us, it’s good”. His prayers weren’t the only thing that
encouraged my heart but also his faithful actions. We bought some baby socks to use in a craft
and had a pair left which I was going to pitch. He wouldn’t let me. He wanted to keep the socks
for when “we got a baby”. In my sadness, hoping was painful. It was too risky for me to hope. But
honestly, I clung to his. His faith came so easily. His faith grew ours.

Early in the process of grieving not being able to have more babies God reminded me of the
meaning of Samuel’s name. When we were pregnant with him we chose the name Samuel
because it meant “heard by God” or “God hears”. We were listening to Old Testament story of
how the prophet Samuel came to be and we both fell in love with the name instantly. We had
previously decided to name him Pierce but in one moment, with nothing more than a glance and
a nod of the head, we changed his name to Samuel. Looking back I can see clearly God’s hand
in the unfolding of our family's story. God DELIBERATELY gave us the name Samuel.
Whenever I was sad God would gently remind me that he had heard my prayers for children
even before I had prayed them. Samuel’s name, his very life, became an ever present reminder
that God hears me. Eventually my sadness became surrender. Surrender yielded contentment
and then joy.

One morning Samuel came to me while I was ironing. He was telling me about how he was
praying for a little sister and that we would name her “Jan”. I laughed and loved that he believed
so easily that he would be a brother, even to the point of naming his own little sister. I chuckled
and asked “Why Jan?”. He responded in an astonished kind of way “Jan! As in January!”. All my
heart could do was smile.

Exactly one month after Jason gave me my Brighton “fearless” bracelet I received a private
message on Facebook from a friend. She asked if Jason and I had ever considered adoption. I
explained we had considered it. Surprisingly, this was not the first time we had been
approached about adoption. For years my heart had wondered about this idea. My earliest
memory goes back to sixth grade where I had the distinct thought go through my mind “What if
you can’t have your own babies?”. It was a startling thought for a sixth grader, just bizarre. I
remember responding to that thought by physically shaking it off and thinking “What?!?!?”, as
though the thought was not my own, but placed there. I believe now that it was.

As I chatted with my friend I learned that her eighteen year old daughter was in the process of
choosing a family for her unborn child. The precious momma had decided not to abort the baby
and was selflessly giving this child a future, which included selecting a daddy and mommy. We
met her a week later, on January 31st. We marveled at Samuel’s comment from a few years
before…”Jan! As in January!”. On this day, our “tummy mommy” chose us to become the family
for her precious baby. On this day, God called me to be fearless. 

Adoption is it’s own kind of labor process. Like with physical child birth, it’s something that
happens to you. You can only surrender to it. It overcomes you, and you can’t control it. This is
how I felt as we journeyed this road. I realized again, just how small I was in the process. How
little control I had in it. A future lingered on the horizon that I could not grasp. I was terrified to
become excited. I did not want to hope just to be hurt. And yet, I felt God calling me to
excitement. I resisted. He tugged more. There were so many reasons to believe this baby,
carried by another woman, would never be mine. So many obstacles to overcome. The timing
was terrible. I had just grown accustom to being a single-child family. Why was this wound being
re-opened? I agreed to walk in the direction of the adoption, terrified for where it might lead, but
walked ahead anyway.

Our tummy mommy invited us to the ultrasound to learn the gender of the baby. We were
delighted! I could not believe I was standing in the room where another woman’s belly was bare,
covered in goo, looking at HER baby that she was preparing to give to me. I could not believe
that this was real. The technician wrote the gender of the baby on a little slip of paper and we
opened it later. A girl. After all, Samuel had prayed for a sister. Samuel immediately began
calling the baby Jan, because that’s what he had decided to name her a few years ago, of
course! Amazingly, the name Samuel had chosen means “God is gracious”. Loving the fact that
Samuel had wanted a sister, prayed for a sister and even named his sister, we adapted her name
to Jana Renee, which means “God is gracious” and “new life”.  We love that these two have this
special story to share with each other.

As the months progressed we were inundated with the question “Is the mom going to go
through with this?” (Tip: Don’t ask that question. The adoptive parents can’t answer it with any
certainty anyway and you will just add unnecessary stress!)
. It was a question that lingered in
my mind always. We were faced with scenarios that little girls don’t imagine for themselves
when they think of becoming a mother. Things like, having a baby shower which included the
birth mom, (which I did and found it be an incredible experience!). Or receiving gifts for a baby
that wasn’t yet my own. Or the possibility of returning the gifts. Or holding onto the belly of
another woman wanting desperately not to let go but knowing I had to. Or returning money to
the people who had donated to our adoption. Or waiting in another room as my child was born.
Or watching the birth mother hold “my” baby she birthed only hours before. Or thinking through
how I would tell my son that his little sister wouldn’t be his little sister after all. Or going home to
a nursery that would never have a baby in it. Or the celebratory visit from out of state family to
meet a baby that wouldn’t be met. All of these experiences were filled with anxiety for me,
downright fear, terror. With every fear filled moment I heard a voice in my head that clearly said,
“You are afraid, but I am not. Let me be fearless for you”.

I also ached for our tummy mommy when I thought of her fears. Because what I stood to gain, I understood too well the magnitude of her sacrifice. I grieved for her and celebrated her. A debt of gratitude and deep love grew in my heart for this sweet momma. I began to experience a kind of love that I had never known until the adoption, and I am now among the few privileged to know it.

 My gratitude and love grows daily for our tummy mommy as I raise her first born daughter.

I pray that God makes me worthy of her choice. I also pray that Jana’s very name be a blessing over her life, that she would experience the grace of God and enjoy a life made new.

As my faith increased and God taught me to surrender my fears to him I was able to experience
life, and joy, and hope in new ways.

 I thank God for slowing the growth of my family so he could grow my faith instead.

I thank God for healing the broken parts of my marriage rather than healing our infertility.

I thank God for giving me enough pain and brokenness to recognize it in someone else in order to direct them to Christ.

 I thank God for the two little lives that are living, breathing reminders that God hears and is gracious.

I thank God for being fearless for me.

(Photos by Sarah Thatcher and Emily Fleming) 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Letter to My Body

Body, I need to tell you something that I've had on my mind. I often feel like we're not connected- like I look in the mirror and I don't know who I see. And I usually don't like what I see. I am so weary of this, so I think it's time to have a heart-to-heart.

First of all, I want to say that I forgive you. And I don't want to just say it, I want to MEAN it. SO bear with me as we recall life.

I forgive you for not being tall and thin.

I forgive you for failing me with injuries.

I forgive you for always having a big butt.

I forgive you for making me labor for 67 hours.

I forgive you for not dilating and needing an epidural for rest.

I forgive you for pushing for 3 hours and still tearing.

I forgive you for needing surgery to be fixed.

I forgive you for needing pain medication to get through those long days.

I forgive you for not feeding my baby, even when I longed to provide her nourishment.

I forgive you for being tired, hungry, and achy.

I forgive you for letting our second baby go too soon. 

I forgive you for having more bumps and dimples appear over the years.

I forgive you for being too big and too small.

I forgive you for not looking like the body I had 6 years ago. 

But I DO NOT forgive you for giving up when it's hard.

I do not forgive you for never being enough.

I do not forgive you for making me feel less than someone else.

If we are going to make this work, I need my body and my mind to work together. I need you to accept each other. I need you to respect each other. I need you to love each other.

 I am tired of other people telling us what is normal, appropriate, and acceptable. I'm tired of other things defining what is beautiful. Mind, you know TRUTH, and I need you to tell the body. Body, you have had done some hard work, and I need you to REMIND the mind of that.

Every day will not be perfect. Every day will not be easy. I know I may need to re-forgive you many times throughout our life together. But we need to start somewhere, and we need to move forward from here. Today I want to drop this burden because it is simply too heavy to carry.

 I am sorry for the mean things I have said.
 I am sorry for the cruel activities I have put you through.
 I am sorry for starving you and filling you with crap.
 I am sorry for hating you for 'not looking like me', when you ARE me.

Will you join me, body? Can we learn to love each other? Can we respect this journey? I sure hope so. I will do my best to treat you well, and you do your best to treat me well. I hope that one day soon we can look at each other and find true peace.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Birth of River Rae: A FAST Home Waterbirth

The birth of River Rae was a fast one. It was quick and beautiful. However, if you know me at all, you know of my ability to make short stories novels. This will be no different. Get a drink, maybe a snack and get comfy- here goes...

  I suppose I'll start by saying conceiving this baby was not as simple as we would have liked it to be. There were many pee sticks, lots of charting and plenty of tears when we learned, despite all my years of cycle charting, and after all my normal tests and blood work, I had "Unexplained Infertility". 
It took almost exactly one year, but we finally conceived! This pregnancy had so many ups and downs. I had morning (all day) sickness up until 38 weeks, Complete Placenta Previa that moved by 28 weeks (Thank God!) and one more surprise that would reveal itself at birth! Even though it wasn't the easiest pregnancy, and it was at times SO hard on my body, I made the choice to choose joy every day. And the truth is, I loved being pregnant! I loved that I had another chance to grow life and a chance to experience a peaceful home birth. 
With my firstborn, I was 40 weeks and 5 days when she made her appearance. It was my first pregnancy and I trusted my OB when she suggested a membrane sweep at 40+4. I labored 36 hours and had a whole lot of unwanted/unnecessary intervention -mainly because my OB who was on board with our birth plan- was just leaving a 24 hour shift when we were checking in. While I would never say Amelia's birth was awful or traumatic, it certainly was not what I had in mind. I wanted more control this time around. I wanted my body to start labor spontaneously. I wanted to birth at home under my conditions. Most importantly, I wanted those present to be fully supportive and respectful of my birth plan.
So, 41 weeks rolls around and my  Midwife asks if I want a sweep. We had thought for weeks that every day that passed was "The Day" but it wasn't. My midwife's protocol is home birth is safe until 42 weeks. I had time. So I chose to hold off on the sweep but did have her move my cervix under baby's head. Hopefully that would be enough to gently coax my body into doing what it was made to do! My cervix was very posterior because my baby liked to keep one arm by her face. She still does. This created somewhat of a pocket that pulled my cervix back behind her head. We had my biophysical ultrasound afterwards to confirm all was well with baby and it was safe to continue the pregnancy. Passed that with flying colors! Seeing our baby's sweet face all smushed in my pelvis made me so much more eager to meet him/her. (Oh that's another thing, we don't like to find out gender, it's such a huge surprise and SO worth it!).
Well we went home and I felt at peace with the choice I made to wait. I knew it would only be a few more days anyway. We did decide that if I was still pregnant at 41 weeks 5 days we would try to get things started with a sweep or castor oil shake to avoid hospital induction at 42 weeks. This was on Wednesday, March 25th. My daughter's 3rd birthday was coming up on the 29th. 41+5 would put us at March 30th. The only uneasiness I felt about waiting was that my kids might have to share their special day if baby chose to come on the 29th. Not a huge deal at all, just something that I had preferred not to happen. 
Well, the next few days were long. I was surprised at the amount of energy I still had and how amazing I felt. You know, despite being super pregnant and tired of waiting! I stayed active  this pregnancy, with an exception of 11 weeks in the middle where I was on pelvic rest due to the Placenta Previa. I made healthy choices, but totally had my In n Out when I wanted it! I basically listened to my body and intuition. Like I said, I really enjoyed this pregnancy! I was doing my best to enjoy these last days even though the anxiety of not knowing when and how was starting to get to me.
  Millie's birthday rolled around (41+4). I felt amazing! A little tired, but still happy and healthy. We had taken Millie out for a bit of fun to celebrate her the day before her actual birthday. Since we didn't know when our second child would arrive, this made the most sense to us. I'm so glad we did this! I'll never forget that day it was so special.
The night of 41+4 was ending and into the wee hours of Monday March 30th (the morning of 41+5) I broke down. I was in bed crying and I couldn't sleep. I was approaching that 42 week mark and knew at my appointment with Mary later that morning, I would be getting a sweep. It was my informed decision to do this. Now hear me out here- I'm all for giving your child the time he or she needs in the womb. I've done extensive research on this subject and felt like I was making the best decision to get a sweep in order to avoid the hospital. We had been on such a roller coaster; with the trying to get pregnant, finally getting pregnant, terrible headaches and nausea, pursuing a home birth midwife we connected with and trusted, investing financially in a home birth, finding out I had Complete Placenta Previa -being put on pelvic rest and therefore might not be able to have a home birth if the placenta doesn't move, to finding out that the placenta HAD moved and home birth plans were back on...to now being just 3 days away from the home birth cut off. I couldn't believe it! I never would have imagined I would be *this* pregnant with my second! Going to the 42 week mark wasn't even on my radar before! Now I had to make a choice to gently nudge things along or just wait. My husband consoled me that night and we decided that we gave this baby plenty of time. We waited patiently, but the stress of not knowing if I would spontaneously begin labor on my own before 42 weeks was not an added stress I needed. Especially because through all of the ups and downs I had remained so positive. Until that night. And I just lost it. 
Now, a membrane sweep is fairly gentle compared to other induction methods-sure. You may be wondering "What's this psycho freaking out about? It's a sweep! If it doesn't work, no harm no foul!" To be honest, it wasn't really the sweep. It was more about the trepidation I had regarding any induction methods at all. 
I completely trust my midwife. She's a very informed, very experienced woman who's been doing this since the 70's! I knew she wouldn't put me in any situation that was risky or made me uncomfortable. I know my fear was coming from a place of doubt that IF this didn't work...or if it DID work but gave me a long drawn out labor that would end up in the hospital anyway... 
But IF I had to go to the hospital, Mary would be with me. So I tried to shut these thoughts out. There are beautiful hospital births of course- just wasn't my plan this time around...
At any rate, we went in to Mary's practice on Monday morning, March 30th for the sweep. I was getting excited because cramps and pressure started shortly after. So I walked a lot, and bounced on the yoga ball, and talked to our baby, and crawled around on all fours, and sipped red raspberry leaf tea, and practiced my hypnobirthing techniques... And a few hours later...nothing. It completely stopped. All I really had to show for it was more chunks of mucus plug (I had been losing pieces for days). 

I felt really defeated and if the night before was hard, THIS night was MUCH harder. I was running out of time and options. Mary said to come in first thing in the morning. She would check me, reposition my cervix (our baby loved that hand by the face!) and we would talk next steps. I couldn't help but feel like I was "on the clock" -a feeling I hated while in labor with my first child. This feeling was something I was trying to avoid with a home birth. Yet there I was. It was rough!
Something Mary said a week or so earlier kept ringing in my head, "Out of every hundred women there's about 1 or 2 I can't get into labor before 42 weeks." And I kept hearing, "I'm that 1 or 2." And then I thought, "No! Don't let this negativity cloud your mind! I AM going to do this at home! I am healthy, my baby is healthy, I have planned for this, this is on mine and my husbands hearts, God has heard our prayers and He is with us. I will NOT choose fear! We will birth at home and it will be beautiful!" 
And then, I was 41 weeks and 6 days pregnant.

 I breathed deeply and let Mary reposition my cervix (again). She says, "I have no idea why you haven't started labor on your own yet, but I'm NOT worried about you." She told me to look at her as she repeated that. "I am not worried about you." 
She then proceeded to tell me I was dilated to a 5! I was dilated to 5 and my bag of water was bulging out of my cervix! She said she could break it with her finger no problem, or we could wait a few more hours, and start the castor oil shake first. I chose to do the shake as all my research told me artificial rupture of the membranes is 50/50 positive and negative outcomes. Again, I trust Mary. Completely. But something was telling me to do the drink first instead. So, we left her office and went to Whole Foods to get what we needed. It's important to stay hydrated when doing this method for obvious reasons. It's important to stay hydrated in any situation in Phoenix, Arizona but especially during labor time! So we bought some drinks and the ingredients for the shake.
 Before I made the drink, I needed to eat a buttery pasta- hey Midwife's orders! Since it was before 10am we waited for Babbo to open so I could at least enjoy my "last meal". 
We fast forward a few hours and I call my mom, let her know to head over about 2:00 because I would start my shake around then and she could be there to help tie up loose ends in the house while I um, did my business :). Joey and I were getting excited! My grandpa came to pick up Jake, our English Bulldog whom we love-but is so terribly gassy he just needed to not be there! Luckily my grandparents love him, so win/win.  My Brother-in-law and his wife took Millie for the day so she could be with her cousins. We had planned on Millie being present this whole time. We watched lots of birth videos together and she was so interested/excited-until presented with the option of going to her cousin's baseball game and potentially sleeping over instead. (It's amazing how these things work out. Looking back now, I think her presence would have been lost in the hustle and bustle.)
Well I made my shake at 1:40 and before things got started my husband and I rested in a quiet empty house. We took a nap together on the couch and it was yet another sentimental memory of our relationship I'll always hold close to my heart. Funny, there's so much to those small serendipitous moments. I just knew by the energy in our home, our baby was coming that day.

Generally, it takes a couple hours for the castor oil to kick in, contractions usually begin 2-3 hours after that. So we're looking at about a 5-6pm Go Time here...
Well the shake works it's magic at 4:15. Again at 5:30... only I don't have a single contraction. Not even much discomfort while I'm on the toilet. I kept thinking, "Well if this doesn't work, at least I won't poop myself during labor- I'll be all cleaned out!" 
Mary texts me to check in on any progress. Nothing. No contractions, not a single cramp. This was at 6:30. Her response was "See you soon!".
While I was a tad nervous about all the unknown events to transpire, I found solace knowing I would be in active labor at home within the next few hours. OR  I would be laboring in the hospital. Either way, we would meet our baby soon, because I decided to have Mary come to the house to break my water. 
It's nearly 7:20 when Mary and the assistant midwife, Elizabeth arrive. Mary follows me to my bedroom and says, "Now remember, if the water is green (meconium is present- more common with "late" babies) then we have to go in, ok?" "I understand." I turn to my mom who is standing in the corner of the room and give her a look that says, 'everything will be ok'. I take a deep breath...
I feel a light pop and warm trickle.
"All clear!" Mary says with a big smile. "Alright now I want you to get in the warm shower and tug on those nipples like you mean it!" I was starting the shower and overheard her telling Joey that she and Elizabeth would grab some coffee and be back in 20 minutes. I think it took five minutes of nipple stimulation to bring on my first twinge. After my shower, I leaned and rocked myself on the birthing ball to help bring on contractions.
Before she left she instructed me to lay down on my left side after I felt the first labor surge. This intensifies contractions and we didn't want to lose them! So there I was on my left side in bed. It was uncomfortable. But it was necessary. I'll never forget the chain of events to come...

 It started with my mom telling me Felicia wouldn't be able to get here by 7:30 because of a work schedule situation (Felicia has been my best friend/"sister" since 7th grade. She was going to be my birth photographer as well.) Since she wasn't there my mom offered to take pictures. I remember trying to explain my Canon to my mom and I was trying not to worry or think about photo quality. My mom had this job last time and I think I might have gotten one photo that was in focus/not completely blurry from shaky nervous mother hands 😏 Sorry Ma. Sorry for putting you on blast like that. Anyway, she looks at my husband and I nervously after I explain a super quick how-to, panics at the screen and says, "WORDS. I JUST SEE WORDS." Immense laughter ensues (because what else can you do at this point?) and then immediately afterwards:
Contraction One: 7:30pm, lasted one minute. Oh good, that one actually made me breathe through it! Thanks Ma. 
Contraction Two: 7:35 lasted one minute. Stronger. Good. 
Contraction Three: 7:40 lasted 2+ minutes. Very strong. I was breathing and using low tones through this one. I told myself these strong contractions help my baby move down & out the birth canal. And then I felt my baby descending! 
It was in the minutes between each surge that I would catch my breath and prep my mind for the next one. I noticed Joey had left to text or call Mary. Apparently he heard the urgency and very fast change of tones I was using to get through these surges. She told him she'd be back soon, to keep me on my side even though I said I wanted to move, and to turn up the water heater, start filling the birth pool. 
Contraction Four: 7:44 lasted 3 minutes. Feel baby moving further down. Oh my GOD I can FEEL MY BABY MOVING DOWN! 
I remember this one was hard because Joey wasn't there to hold my hand or breathe with me through it. I wasn't upset about this as I knew he was getting the pool ready. It just seemed harder without him by my side. My mom kept telling me I was doing so well. I thought to myself, "I don't know how much longer I can do this." Then I KNEW. These are transition contractions!  I used that to get me through the next one.
Contraction Five: 7:50 lasted 3 minutes!
Contraction Six: 7:54 lasted 4 minutes!! I remember thinking "Where's Mary? I can feel my baby descending I'm going to have to push soon!"
Contraction Seven: 7:59 I was primal moaning through this one, then I felt Mary go to check me, I grabbed her wrist, "No." I grunted.
She said quickly and sternly, "You're about to push, I need to see where the baby is at and if we have time to get to the pool." and she checked me mid contraction. She could feel the baby's head. I was at a 10. 
I went from no labor, not even early labor, dilated 5 to a full 10 ready to push in 29 minutes!! (Keep in mind here my water broke at home with my first and I went on to have a 36 hour labor!)
She pulled me upright to help me out of my bed and I heard Elizabeth call out that the water was scalding hot. Then I heard some rummaging in the kitchen and the entire contents of our freezer's ice tray being dumped into the water. 
"I have to poop." I say to Mary. (I remember predicting she was going to tell me it wasn't poop.) 
She starts to tell me that it isn't poop and I cut her off, "No, I do. Castor oil." (I'd like to add here that Mary is not a sugar coater. She is very matter of fact, but also has this peaceful energy about her. That's a hard thing to accomplish but she does it well. I connect with that and appreciate it. So while our conversations may seem frank as I write them out, it's actually how I preferred them to be.)
 I make it to the hall bathroom, get out the last of the castor oil shake, and I was trying to focus on not pushing at all. Because I knew how close my baby was. I had a contraction on the toilet and I used one arm to brace myself in the lip of the tub, the other on the counter- I was shaking. My baby was almost here!
She reminds me it's safe to birth on the toilet but says, "If you still want a water birth we need you in the pool now."
It's about 8:04 when they help me into the (barely) half-full pool. The water felt nice. I got comfortable and worked my way through another contraction. It was amazing how the water took away most of the pressure! Mary suggested I move forward and use my husband to brace my back. It was heaven to be embraced by him in the water. He whispered affirmations in my ear and made me feel so strong and beautiful! I gripped his hands and started to breathe our baby down. "You're doing it babe! You're doing great my love!"  His words gave me strength and peace. He would emulate my breathing to support my focus. Mary kept her fingers around my vaginal opening. I had a third degree tear with Amelia and was sutured so tightly afterwards that if she didn't stretch me as I pushed, I would tear again. This was not the most comfortable thing in the world, but it was necessary. 
Honestly, after the first few pushes I didn't feel her there. I recall a few silly details, I knew Patti (my mother-in-love) was there because I could smell her. I had my eyes closed for most of this. It helped me stay in my hypnobirthing zone. She has a very specific and beautiful scent. It's a combination of eucalyptus, Thierry Mugler Angel perfume and patchouli/cinnamon spice. She basically smells like Classy Christmas. Anyway, since my eyes were closed I didn't see her arrive, but I could smell her so I knew she was there.
Another snippet is when Mary requested someone go to my room and grab the flashlight from her bag. She explained a, "black Prada bag" and the moms were both a little frazzled- things progressed so quickly after all!- They couldn't follow direction and Mid moan I said, "Ma! Prada Bag!" To the tune of "Ma! The Meatloaf!!" So yes, even in pushing stage I had my sense of humor : ).
The last thing -which I almost feel badly about now- is Elizabeth told Joey to reach and feel baby's head and I quickly but firmly spit out, "Don't reach around me." Just really putting the kibosh on that suggestion. Typical shrew me. It wasn't that I didn't want Joey to touch our baby, I just knew the movement of him reaching around me would cause discomfort. So, I'm not really a shrew. I'm actually pretty awesome to be married to. I mean, I'd imagine. Glad we cleared that up. (Love you babe!).
Back to the story. 
Soon I was crowning, she told me to touch my baby-so much hair! I I whisper to our baby, "Come on, sweetie. I'm ready to meet you." She had suggested I take these final contractions slowly and to only breathe her out- no pushing. And that's what felt natural to me, my body did most of the work here on its own, like a reflex. Our bodies are incredible! I took a deep breath, exhaled slowly, releasing low tones, and with my chin to my chest I did it again. 
Then, I caught my baby! I brought that cheesy little body to my chest and couldn't stop praising God! Joe was holding me tight "You did it babe! You did great!" There was so much joy in the room it was tangible.

 Someone said, "Well? Is it a boy or girl?"  I held her up in front of me. I saw her and exclaimed, "River Rae! We have another daughter!" 
And just like that, at 8:30 pm River Rae was born at home, in the water, in an hour and a half.
I was ELATED and couldn't believe it was over! Then I saw Elizabeth clamping her cord. I said it was too early for that, but Mary said the cord was attached to membranes and she needed to birth the placenta now. Her face was so serious I knew something was up. The pool water was filled with blood, it was an odd state of being, because I was on such a high- but I saw the urgency in her face. She kept asking me if I was feeling alright-I was. The cord was clamped, cut and she had me hand River to Patti. She had Joey get out and get dried off. Then she told me I needed to slowly stand up and pass the placenta. I got a shot in the leg of pitocin to clamp my uterus down to stop the bleeding, then I gently birthed my placenta. It (thankfully) all came out in one piece.
 Remember that last surprise I mentioned earlier? Well, I had a very rare placenta. It's called Velamentous Cord Insertion. It's a 1% chance of occurrence in a singleton pregnancy, 9% in multiples.
Now, I felt God's presence during this labor. I told my mom and MIL afterwards how I felt the presence of angels and Holy peace...there was a spiritual part of me that seemed like it was somewhere off in the distance at total peace. So euphoric.
The thing about Velamentous Cord Insertion is that the cord attaches to unprotected membranes on the outside of the placenta. There is nothing coating them or offering a buffer between them and the walls of my womb. If they are too close to the cervix (say in the event of oh I dunno, a Complete Placenta Previa) these membranes could (and almost always do) easily rupture in early labor. This causes still birth and/or maternal hemorrhage & death. I believe that's why my body wouldn't start spontaneous labor. I believe it was Divine Intervention. I never experienced early labor this whole time! My body miraculously dilated to 5 without so much as Braxton Hicks! I had only 4 ultrasounds this entire pregnancy, one of them specifically for my placenta, all of them done by a highly regarded Doctor in the Valley and yet this still went unnoticed! When my labor finally started, it BEGAN in transition stage! When I birthed the placenta it all came out in one piece despite the multiple thick membranes and "branches" where her umbilical cord attached. Had this been diagnosed, I would have delivered via C-Section at 35 weeks to avoid the death of myself and baby. Had just one of these membranes ruptured during any time of this pregnancy, let alone early labor stage, one or both of us would not have made it. It was not only a miracle that my labor went as well as it did, but the fact that my pregnancy was as long and healthy as it was is truly something to be recognized here.
Seriously, Hallelujah! 

 After the placenta was birthed I got out of the pool, dried off and went to my bed to relax and nurse my beautiful girl. She latched on (forcefully!) and suckled for a while. I couldn't stop looking at this beautiful baby. I couldn't stop exclaiming she was here! I was in awe of the labor I had just had. I felt like such a badass! I felt peace, happiness, confidence...I felt so close to my husband, I felt like I had been anointed by the Holy Spirit. This intense high consumed me! 
I heard the midwives taking pictures and talking in the kitchen about my placenta. In this state of bliss I forgot to ask them to cut up a couple pieces for my smoothies the first few days while the rest would be dried and encapsulated. Not a huge deal- I just still can't believe I forgot to do this as I was looking forward to it for months! #Mombrain haha! I'm not sure how they would have cut it anyway, being that it was mainly membranes and so abnormal.
Elizabeth came back to the room to show and explain my placenta to me. Truly remarkable. It resembled a Tree of Life. 
They then checked me and the baby, weighed her, measured her etc. She was about 7lbs 2oz, 20" long. 
 Soon Millie was home to meet her sister. This was the most beautiful thing I've witnessed. Amelia said, "Hello River Baby! I Love you! I'm your big sister! Oh you're so cute! I'll tell you stories and kiss you and sing songs!" 
The family bonding time was perfect. And other than thirst, I hardly felt any discomfort! I didn't tear at all! 

River's birth was intense and fast. It was miraculous and beautiful. Everything I hoped it to be and more! I'll always be thankful for the supportive birth team I had in my husband, midwives and our mothers. Thankful to the women closest to me who prayed through my labor and gave me love and positivity throughout my pregnancy. Thankful to God for one more chance at growing, birthing, and nurturing new life. 
 Thank you for the chance to share this intimate journey with you all!
 I hope this story inspires other women to be confident in making their own informed decisions regarding their birth options, to trust their bodies, trust their intuition, and to Birth Without Fear!


Saturday, April 11, 2015

12 Tips to Help You Navigate Miscarriage

These tips are not meant to offend anyone, they are simply things that I found useful in the weeks after my miscarriage. Maybe they can help you, too.

1. Take It Slow
Miscarriage is a grieving process. Whether you were just a few weeks along or near the end, it was still a little person that you had hopes and dreams for, and that is all now lost. Knowing the 7 Stages of Grief, I found myself fitting right into them. I was actually amazed by how accurate they were. Because I knew this, I think I was more gentle on myself and my husband, because I knew we were just following along this journey until we found healing. I decided to basically stop life to let myself grieve, because I knew that if I didn't, it would come back stronger and harder later. I wanted to grieve the little life that I had wanted so badly- for myself, and for baby.

2. Your Husband May Grieve Differently 
In fact, it's probably a fact that he will grieve differently. Daddies have less connection with a baby during pregnancy and have their bonding time after birth. If you didn't have that time, your husband may feel very differently than you do. Do your best to not take your anger out on him or say something you'll regret, because BELIEVE ME, you need each other right now. In our case, my husband was in the middle of a busy season of working three jobs and basically had time to eat and sleep. He didn't have as much time to process as I did, so he has had to grieve differently because work always comes the next morning. Give each other grace, talk it out, and respect what the other needs during this time.

3. It Hurts Your Heart More Than Your Body
I won't lie to you, miscarriage can hurt physically. I went through a mini-labor to deliver my little baby. But that few hours compared to what I have felt in the weeks afterwards... nothing. Many friends would try to get me out of the house and distract me, which worked for a few hours, but when I was back home and it was quiet, the grief hit again like a wave. I hadn't acknowledged it earlier, so it came back with a vengeance! Distraction was bad for me. It was easier to wake up, face it, cry, talk through it, and then I could go on with my day. Ignoring it didn't help, only postponed it for a little while.

4. Every Miscarriage Is Different
 I miscarried at the end of March. My baby was 12 weeks along and I delivered it whole. I went to the ER with some bleeding and it happened 24 hours later. Less than 2 weeks after this, my little sister was told she is also miscarrying. She was 12 weeks along, but her HCG was still high. Her only symptom was a little bit of bleeding and her HCG decreasing. It's been over a week, and she is still waiting to miscarry. Although I just went through this, I feel like her situation is so different and I am finding myself Googling "how to comfort someone during miscarriage". How ironic. From the many women I have talked with, there are so many different experiences. Some with bleeding, some with a baby present, some with a D&C. For some it is painful, and for others it feels like a "light period". I put that in quotes because my sister and I have both now heard that, and mine was NOT a light period. I really wish I could tell you exactly what you will experience and how it will feel. I know you're afraid, and I know you don't know what to expect. All I can say is that you will be okay. You can do this, and most of the time our body knows exactly what it is doing.

5. Talk Talk Talk 
This one is debatable, because it may not be your personality. But for me, I needed to talk it out. Talking about it helped to get my tears out and helped to dry them. It made me feel like it was important, like I wasn't alone, and like other people cared. It made me feel loved and taken care of. And it gave me hope. It also opened up the ability for others to tell me their stories or to approach me when they also needed some encouragement. Everyone kept telling me that my words were raw and real, but I feel like that's just the naked emotion that was pouring out of me. There were moments I wanted and needed to talk, and other moments that I wanted to be quiet. If you are shy, jump on Facebook and find someone to message about it. We always seem to be more "raw and real" when we aren't face to face. But please, don't bottle it up. Talk through the emotions so that you can allow healing to come to your heart.

6. Words From People
I received many messages, cards, flowers, songs and bible verses. In the first few days, I glanced over them and filed them away for another day. That day, I just wanted to sit in bed and stare at my walls. But I knew I would want them another day. A few days later I took a bath in the middle of the day and looked up some songs that had been sent to me. It was a moment of grieving and peace I will never forget. A few days after that I needed a bible verse to dwell on- my heart needed some truth to hold onto. Now, you will also get people who say things to you that seem way off-base and may not be comforting but offensive. Try to remember that MOST people are not intending to hurt you, but they also don't know how to comfort you. Let these comments roll right off of you. You don't need to dwell on them, and they probably were not meant the way they were said. Ain't nobody got time for that.

7. Accept Help
If people offer to help you, TAKE IT. My Mama Tribe (who are awesome) had a meal train started within minutes of finding out and told me that they were feeding me no matter what I said. My sister dropped by a few times to pick up my daughter for a few hours. People sent us gift cards and gifts. If someone offers, they usually mean it, so don't turn it down. It was glorious to not have to worry about cooking a meal for 10 days! Or being able to take a bath and grieve in the middle of the day because my child was somewhere safe. People also stepped up to fill in activities that we needed to do, but just weren't ready for. Many times they would ask how they could help and what I needed, and I honestly couldn't tell them what I needed. I didn't know! But I made a metal note to call on them if I did need something. Never turn down a helping hand.

8. Workout
This one has a couple parts to it. First, I had to buy some transition clothes because I was already in maternity clothes. The thought of putting on my maternity pants dissolved me to tears, but nothing else fit. I wore sweatpants for 2 weeks. So I worked out a small budget with my husband to get a few things to get me through- physically and emotionally. Think maxi dresses and flowy tank tops.

Second, I started a workout/eating program about a week after my miscarriage- once I had stopped bleeding and some of my energy had returned (and all of the donuts were FINALLY gone). I am not saying you have to workout after a trauma like this, but what I am saying is that looking in the mirror and seeing my extra baby weight with no baby to show for it, killed me every day. I had to do something. I had to "get my body back". I am taking this slowly and trying to do it in a way to bring health and strength to my body, not just lose weight. I want to feel strong again. I want to push myself. Exercise it also a great outlet for all of the pent-up emotion. I was in a cycle class last week and it was dark and loud. My legs were just about breaking and I was so mad- mad that I couldn't push harder, mad that my body was failing me. I kept telling my brain "come on! You've done WAY harder things than this! A 4 day labor! Reconstructive surgery! A painful miscarriage! You can do so much more than this". This moment was good for my body and my mind. I am stronger than I have ever given myself credit for. Right there in a dark room full of people, I had a small turning point in my recovery process.

9. Make A Goal
As I stated above, I stayed in my sweatpants for about 2 weeks. I did go out a few times here and there, but I didn't wear makeup or get myself ready. I really felt like I needed the mourning on the inside showed on the outside, and I didn't feel ready to cover it up. Plus, I never quite knew when the tears would flow. One of the mamas in my Mama Tribe was schedule to have her Mother's Blessing a few weeks out. So, that was my goal. I wanted to grieve and heal enough to attend it and be happy for her, and also not draw attention to myself on her day. I wanted to use that day to finally get dressed, put on makeup, do my hair, and feel pretty again. It was 2 weeks away- I could do it. And I did. And it felt so good to feel 'normal' and celebrate life again.
 I also took two weeks off of church. I wasn't ready to worship or have pity glances. Once I finally went back, it was easier than expected. This weekend I will lead worship again for the first time since this, and it will be another step and another goal reached.
Give yourself something to look forward to, and a small ending point to work your healing further. And this leads into my next point...

10. You Are Not a Victim
This is another point that some may not agree with, but this is my side. I really hate that I can now be referred to as a "miscarriage survivor". I understand the term, but in my case, this was not life-threatening. Yes it was something that happened to me, but it does not define me. I believe that God allows circumstances to build and shape me into the person he has planned for me to be, and also to be a lighthouse for others who are experiencing the same thing (which I hope to be!). I am not a victim. I am not a survivor. I am simply a girl who had some yucky circumstances come my way, and I hoping to learn and grow from them to become a better ME. And in the beginning, your grief will be so big that you feel like a victim, that you are a victim. But you don't have to stay there forever. Feel it, and let it go (sorry...Frozen.).

11. Invest In Something Special
Immediately after deciding to call our baby Shalom, I felt like I needed the word on me; I needed it around my neck. It reminded me of Proverbs 6:21 that says " Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck". I needed the promises of this word on my heart and in a place that was close to me. I messaged a friend at 2:30am to ask for her to stamp out this necklace. She did it right away, and the next day I had my word "bound around my neck". It gave me relief. It made me feel like I was still carrying a piece of my baby. My sister has had the same feeling. She has asked for a necklace with her baby's due date, and has felt the same urgency I did. I also had a friend send me a sweet little nest necklaces with two eggs in it... I love feeling that heaviness on my chest! Let yourself find an item of comfort, and hold onto it.

 12. "Grief Changes Shape, But it Never Ends"
This quote that I read from Keanu Reeves has stayed in my head for the past couple of weeks. I don't feel like I fully understand it yet. My grief has absolutely changed in the last few weeks. Some days it feels so severe that I physically hurt. Other days I can talk about it without shedding a tear. Some days I forget about it for a few hours, and other days it looms over my head. From what I have experienced so far, it stands true. I can see myself in the future grieving again, in a different way, because I will never watch that baby kick a soccer ball. I can see my grief rising to bring comfort to others moms who experience miscarriage. I think that grief can stick with us, like a scar, to remind us of where we've been. But it doesn't always look so raw and it won't always be so apparent.

So as you navigate this process, just remember that there is no right or wrong way to go through it. Let yourself ride the waves as they come, and take each day, each hour, EACH MOMENT as it comes. You are stronger than you think.

 P.S. Please keep my baby sister Hahna in your prayers as she is just beginning this journey herself. The grief is so big right now.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Story of Miscarriage: Part 2 (Trigger Warning)

Part 2. Please read Part 1 to fully understand my story.

This post contains graphic pictures of a baby miscarried at 12 weeks. If you do not wish to see them, do not scroll to the bottom of the page.

I left you last night with myself laying on the couch Friday night and waiting for my body to miscarry my baby. Waiting for my body to dispel the little body that it had homed for the past 4 months. I had seen my baby the night before on the monitor and though I had some doubt, I was pretty confident that I would deliver the baby whole.

I asked my husband "If it comes out whole, do you want to see it? Do we take it out of the toilet? What do we do with it?". These are questions we never imagined asking each other, and we felt pressed for time to have an answer. Last week we were discussing baby items and planning our birth, and today we had to decide what to do with our baby if we were able to see it.

At 9pm, I started to feel my body tighten. After a few minutes, I realized that I was having contractions, and they were close together. I felt as if I was beginning labor. Without my knowledge, my husband started timing them. I had done this before, I could do it again. I started to breath and hum a little bit through them. My husband reminded me to let my mind release this, to not fight against this. I tried to focus on letting go.

A few minutes later, I felt something trickle up my back (I was laying down) and immediately swiped at it, thinking that I had started bleeding everywhere. I jumped up and said "Is that water? Is my back sweating? My back isn't sweating". My husband's eyes got big and he said "I think your water just broke". I didn't believe him, but he said that he had read it could happen. My water broke. With Piper, I had to have it punctured. I hadn't experienced this. I now knew that this was happening tonight. Terrified, I took some of the pain meds that they had prescribed me and went to bed, hoping to wake before it started and I ruined my bedding.

 I slept on and off for the next 4 hours. At about 2am, I rolled onto my back to breathe through a contraction. Then I felt a strong "pop" in my belly that made me jump and gasp. I said "Oh my gosh. I think the baby just detached. Or the placenta. Something just pulled away from the wall". Of course, I started to cry. I just kept repeating "I can't believe this is happening". My husband kept telling me to breathe through it, relax, and let it go. I had no control over this and I needed to let my body work it out for my safety and health.

When I couldn't stand it anymore, I went into the bathroom. I sat on the toilet and let the contractions wash over me. They were so strong that they were reaching up to my shoulder and locking it up. I had my arm all the up the wall just trying to catch a breath. Just trying to breathe. I felt some things pass out of me, so I looked down to see that it was just water and very little blood. I wondered how long this would take. My husband came in and asked to look. Now, we have been married for 6 years and he has seen worse. And I know that he was also concerned about the miscarriage and wanted to have knowledge of what I passed so he could monitor me for any emergency.

He asked me if I felt something hanging out of me. I looked down, a little horrified to see tissue hanging there. I didn't feel it. I am sorry for the graphic detail, but this is real stuff. I tried to push it out but nothing happened. Taking a deep breath, I grabbed some tissue and reached down to pull it out. I lifted it up and we both looked at it as I said "What is it? Is it my placenta?".

And then I saw it. A little tiny hand. Resting on a face. I screamed "Oh my God, it's our baby! Take it! Take it!". My husband took it and walked away a bit. I freaked out, more than I have ever done before. I just kept saying "that's my baby". My husband asked if I wanted to see it, and I wasn't ready. I was also still on the toilet, in lots of pain. I watched my husband as he studied our tiny baby and got a container to put it in. After a few minutes, I got up and said I was ready to see. That was the most difficult moment of my life. Peeking over to see the little life that my body had sustained for 4 months, and trying not to be afraid that it wasn't alive. After a few minutes, we realized that neither of us could take our eyes off of it.

I took a moment to text my sisters and mom and just wrote "Oh my God... I just delivered a baby. A perfect little baby with no blood on it. It has fingers and toes and eyelids!" It was 2:30am, but my Mom called me immediately. She asked me questions; comforted me. I can't remember what we talked about. By now I was back on the toilet, the phone in one hand, the other hand up the wall to help me breathe, contracting HARD. Trying to relax. As I spoke to my mom, I felt what I think was the placenta come out of me. Weirdest feeling EVER. After a few minutes, It was over. No more contractions. No more pain. But blood. Lots of blood. The first blood I had really had since all of this started. It was over. I was done. I have delivered my baby at home.

I moved back towards my husband who was with the baby. He was struggling. I have no right to describe his feelings here or guess what he was thinking here. I just know what I saw. I saw a man meeting his baby for the first time. A man so full of agony and awe at the same time. The man I love, the man I made this baby with, holding the little life we shared. Holding some of our lost hopes and dreams. Grieving over who this baby would have been, and how we could have raised it. It was both beautiful and completely heart wrenching.

For the next hour or so, Daniel and I stood in our bathroom talking to our baby, each other, crying, laughing a little, holding each other, and taking pictures of our little newborn. I told the baby how much I loved it and how much Jesus loved it. But it already knew- it was already in Jesus's arms. I told the baby how I just wanted to hold and kiss it and nurse it. I wanted to keep it so badly. To raise it. In the deep quiet of the night, Daniel and I grieved and rejoiced, as we realized that one of our children has surpassed us and gone to heaven before us. We felt incredible joy and sorrow at the same time- it is so hard to explain. We started this together, and we ended it together. We had played the part that God had wanted us to, and he took our baby home. But not before giving us a glimpse of his incredible handiwork.

We couldn't stop staring at the incredible detail in this tiny body. My husband kept saying how he felt like he was witnessing God's creation in the making. In the secret place.

I wholeheartedly believe that God allowed our experience to be this way to heal my heart. After having a difficult delivery with Piper and later having reconstructive surgery, I was left with only the option of c-section deliveries from now on. My longing to have a beautiful home birth slipped right through my fingers. I also believed that my body was broken and couldn't do what it was made to do. And although my body did not hold this pregnancy, I do not believe my body was the issue. I miscarried so well. No, I BIRTHED so well. My body was not broken, it did exactly what God intended it to do.

I realize that I am still grieving and still grasping for some hope here, but I believe that this was the beautiful home birth that I never believed I could have. It could have been so different and so medical, but it wasn't. I expected my baby to be lost somewhere in blood and clots, but it came out on it's own and first. My body followed a normal birthing protocol. I was awestruck.

In the days to follow, I have been grieving. Grieving hard. I miss my baby. I miss who it would have been. I can't believe we lost it. Yet I also feel peace and overwhelming love. I don't feel anger or regret, I am not passing blame or asking for answers. I am content that this was God's plan all along. Nothing surprises him. But that doesn't stop my heart from longing that things were different. That I was sitting here right now feeling my baby move within me, and dreaming about who it was.

This is the hardest thing I have ever done. I think it will be one of the hardest things we ever do. But we stared death in the face and said "We are not afraid". We accepted what was given to us, and thankful that I got to be the vessel to give that baby a little body before it met Jesus. For a few weeks, I feel like I shared my baby with God. He held the soul, but I still held the body. What a connection.

Every day I feel differently. I have already woken up broken, somber, and calloused. I have found that talking about it pulls me out of my sorrow and even brings me some laughter. And lots and lots of lessons. I have found that others have questions and thoughts, and are afraid to ask. But I am not afraid to answer. I want to talk about my baby. And my amazing body. And my amazing God who created my child. I have heard stories of how my experience and my baby has inspired, encouraged, and caused spiritual growth for others. In a mere five days.

This was not about me. Yes I experienced this and I am the one who lost, but we all lost. I feel like just a small part of the plan. This baby was loved by many already. It's birth has already touched so many lives. I love hearing these stories and realizing "Wow, God was working here, and not just in me. He had such bigger plans". I feel honored to be a part of that plan and to see the fruit that comes from it.

I wonder how many days will pass before I have a day when I don't cry. When I don't think about my baby, or rub my tummy, or look at the pictures. How long before my heartache does not feel suffocating? How long? I don't have these answers and I am just at the beginning of this process, trying to take my grief step by step and hour by hour, knowing that it changes constantly. Trying to feel every bit of it so I can move on stronger, with no regrets or bitterness. I am talking about it, accepting help, and letting myself rest. I am just being.

Without further ado, I would like to introduce you to our sweet second born. We do not know for sure, but we feel as if it was a boy. We didn't have any names picked out or plan on naming it once it came. But as the hours passed, I had to call my baby something. I had to know that I would see him in Heaven and call him by name. The word "Shalom" came to my mind which I knew meant peace, but I wanted to look it up. Among other things, it also means wholeness, perfectness, rest. And most importantly it is also the jewish greeting for "hello" and "goodbye". It was everything our baby was, all wrapped into one.

So this is baby Shalom, our beautiful and perfect little baby. 12 weeks 4 days gestation. 
I miss you so much, and I can't wait to hold you in my arms one day.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Story of Miscarriage: Part 1 (Trigger Warning)

Just one short month ago, I posted the exciting news that we were expecting our second baby! I was into my second trimester, feeling great, and looking forward to sharing my pregnancy whims with all of you and overly documenting. 

Well, many of you know or have heard... I miscarried last weekend. This was just as much a shock to all of us as it may have been to you. I was (what I thought) 16 weeks pregnant. I will give all the details as a write. Some for you, some for me so that I won't every forget this experience. I will also say that this will probably be one of many posts about miscarriage, because there are too many parts of the story to fit into one post. 

This is hard for me to write, and it may be hard for you to read. I have always vowed to be honest and raw about my emotions and my life so that others could learn from my experiences.

 This is part of life. This IS life. This is my story.

From the moment I found out we were expecting, I felt worried and unsure about the pregnancy. I'm not sure why. I was excited as we wanted this, but I had this nagging feeling that I might not keep this baby. I was not being cynical, I just couldn't shake my fear. Everyone told me that I was just nervous because I didn't have much morning sickness. I did my best to enjoy how good I felt and trust that everything was fine. I slowly started to believe it.

With my first pregnancy, we announced publicly (i.e. Facebook) at 8 weeks. I was just too excited to wait any longer. This time, I felt more cautious. Although most of our friends and family that we came into contact with regularly knew, we held back on announcing. I bugged the doctors at 10 weeks and 11 weeks to just TRY to hear the heartbeat. We finally did hear it a little after 11 weeks. The next day, we posted our announcement. Little did I know that just a few days later, our sweet baby's heart beat it's final beat.

I went about the next 4 weeks normally. My cravings went up and my slight nausea lessened even more. We went on vacation. We made plans. I started shopping for the items we would need and almost bought a few.

On Wednesday morning (my 16 week change!) I did a class at the gym that was a much harder workout than I expected. I did well and felt proud of myself afterwards. But then my lower body began to ache, and it didn't subside all day. I felt those funny aches that you get the day before your period starts. I figured I worked too hard and should rest. That night my husband was at church when I went to the bathroom and found blood. Not a lot, but not a little either. After taking a few moments to process what I was seeing, I called my husband frantically and barely blurted out through tears "I'm bleeding". He said "I'm on my way". I paced the house for a few minutes before I decided I should sit down.

When he got home, I told him about my day, the cramps and the blood. He asked to see it. We then did some research and talked a lot. I told him I think I wanted to go to the ER. He got a friend on-call for us just in case. We reached my doctor who said it wasn't uncommon, and that I could take some Tylenol for the cramps and go to bed. He could see me on Friday morning to confirm that everything was fine. I complied and went to bed.

The next day I was still spotting a bit, but it seemed less and I felt okay. I was still cramping slightly, but my muscles were also sore. I went through my day normally. Confident that it was nothing, I decided not to schedule to see my doctor on Friday and just keep my Tuesday appointment. I was fine. Then at 9pm, I started bleeding heavier. I called my husband at work and we had the same conversation we had the night before. I called a friend to see if she could watch Piper the next day while I went to the doctor, and she instead insisted that she and her husband would come over right then so she could go to the ER instead with me. Little did we both know what a night it would be, and how thankful I would be to her for forcing her way in like that.

We arrived at the ER a little before 10pm. I was checked in and seen pretty quickly. They drew my blood and left the IV needle (what IS it called?) in just in case. It took awhile, but eventually the ultrasound tech came to get us. He explained how he was not allowed to say anything or tell us any information. He simply did the ultrasound and the results would go to the radiologist who would come give me a diagnosis. I remember saying to him "oh, I'm not really worried about the baby, I just want to see if I damaged my placenta and need to rest it".

I was shaking as he put the gel on my belly. Partly from nerves and partly from feeling cold. The screen was turned towards him, so I could only see the side. I saw my baby. I saw a sweet little profile. Then he moved. There was no sound in the room. I saw it again a few more times. I saw him measuring sound, but he didn't have any speakers on. I kept looking away for some reason, nervous to be watching it. Then the tech stood up and said "excuse me for just a moment" and left the room. I didn't know what to think. When he returned a few minutes later he said "Sorry about that. Almost done". When I looked over again I caught a glimpse of the baby's face. Then I realized "wow, I don't think that baby is moving. Babies move at 16 weeks". I didn't see a little flutter of the heart where I knew it would be. Deep deep down, in that moment, I knew.

As he wheeled me back to my waiting room, it was so quiet. He gave me a warm blanket. My friend said "I think I know what you're having". We decided not to find out, so I didn't want to hear anymore. We talked and waited. It was almost midnight. My husband got off work and started towards the hospital to join us. Five minutes before he arrived, then the doctor came in.

The next moments are sort of a blur. I remember the doctor saying that my HCG level should be at 20,000 and it was at 1,000. He said the baby had stopped growing and measured only about 12 weeks. Then he said something like "the pregnancy was not viable". He didn't say I miscarried. I asked. I felt my friend jump out of her seat and grab my shoulders. I saw tears in the doctor's eyes. I said "Okay, so what's next?" trying so hard to hold it together and not explode or pass out in the Emergency Room. He said some things about not wanting to do a D & C, my body had been working on the miscarriage for 4 weeks, and that he was so sorry to have to tell me. I don't really remember, I think I dazed out. I was in shock. He left the room and closed the door. I wailed. I asked for my husband, asking my friend when he would be there, telling her I needed him.

When my husband arrived, my friend went out to get him, hoping her swollen eyes wouldn't give it away. When he walked into the room, I burst into tears and yelled "I lost the baby!". I'm not totally sure what happened next. I'm not even sure I was there. I remember screaming to get the needles out of me, the bracelets off, and let me go home. A nurse came in to take everything off. Then I felt like we waited forever to be discharged. I remember crying to Daniel "How will we tell Piper? I can't tell Piper". I would stop crying and stare, and then I lost it again. I couldn't look at anyone. I couldn't really talk. I felt either hysterical or like a zombie. The discharge nurse gave us some paperwork and some instructions that I didn't hear, and then we were asked to pay $800 for our visit since our deductible wasn't met. I ignored everyone and everything.

As we drove home. We sat in silence. For 30 minutes. I had a thousand different thoughts but no words. I wailed. I could hear my husband struggling beside me. When we got home, it was 1:30am and my husband insisted on going out to fill my prescription for pain medication. I told him I was fine and that I could do it tomorrow. I sent a text to my sister in Japan because I knew she was awake. My husband texted my other sister who had been waiting to hear. I wanted to call my mom. My husband insisted on going out, so I let him- realizing that maybe he wanted alone time, and maybe this was the only way he felt he could help.

2:30am I called my mom. I didn't expect her to answer, but she did and I needed her. We talked for a few minutes and then my husband got home, after going to two different drugstores. I didn't want to go to sleep because I was so afraid what would wake me up. And I was so afraid to awake in the morning and remember it all. I remember saying that I hated this and I just wanted it out of me. I couldn't do this. I wanted to go get the surgery and be done and have this over with. I was grieving hard. My husband finally convinced me to try to sleep, so I laid a towel down and went to bed.

After fitful sleep, I woke at about 6:30. I had slept for almost 4 hours. It hit me again. My husband had to go to work. It was a rough week at the office and he needed to be there. He helped to get Piper up and dressed and out the door with the same friend who had just comforted me in the ER hours before. She had to be exhausted too. He left and promised to be home after lunch to help with Piper when she returned.

I think I spent most of that day in bed. I did have a visit from my neighbor who brought me coffee and chocolate and promised to return with dinner. My sister came over with more gifts. I started writing messages and texts, unable to speak on the phone. We had so many plans that weekend - birthday parties, church events, leading worship, babysitting... I had to tell more people than I realized, even if I didn't feel ready. Strangely though, I wanted to tell everyone, like ripping a band-aid off. I was grieving in a whole different way than I expected I would, and it sort of scared me. A group of friends created a meal schedule for the next week. It felt strange receiving the condolences when I still felt pregnant. It felt strange to tell my friends that my baby had died when my already-showing belly was right there in between us. It was even more bizarre replying "I'm just relaxing at home, waiting for it to start". I felt out of control, not knowing when "this" would happen or what it would be like. I had so many questions. Some were answered, others were not.

Piper came home and said "Mommy are you a little sad? Because new baby went away? To heaven?" I was both amused and heartbroken. We had told her the truth. She was so excited to be a big sister.
When Daniel got home, he found us both napping (barely). Luckily he took over that night and parented alone. I couldn't function. Everyone was waiting for me to pass my baby. I felt frozen with fear.

As the evening progressed, Daniel and I tried to be as normal as possible, sitting on the couch to watch a show. You may call it intuition, I may call it God, but I knew laying there that I would pass my baby that night and that it would be in the middle of the night. I begged my husband not to go to work at 3am like he planned, because I knew it would happen when he was gone and I couldn't be alone. He agreed.

What happened next was a night of events that we will never forget. An experience that we did not expect, but we are eternally grateful for. In the next post, I will describe my miscarriage. I am not trying to be gory or offensive, I am trying to show you how real pregnancy and birth are, and how real life is. I want you to take your notion of miscarriage being taboo or "not a big deal" and change it. I want you to know what it is REALLY like. And if anyone reads this in the future who is experiencing a miscarriage, I want her to feel like she knew what to expect and wasn't afraid. That someone else has walked this road before her and came out the other side.

I will also be including pictures of our baby. We have discussed this action and decided that we are not ashamed of our baby and our experience, and we want others to see how early life forms. And how perfect it is. And get a glimpse into the "secret place" where God was working in such detail. I will include the pictures at the bottom of the post so hopefully those of you who do not want to see can avoid them. I understand that they are shocking and emotional to see. But for us, they are healing.