Thursday, September 30, 2010

Do you know how many hearts you have touched in seven short weeks?  Do you know how many lives you have blessed without ever breathing a breath of air?  Do you know how proud I am to be your mom?

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."  Romans 8:28

God is using you baby girl.  He is using you in my life to tell others about His goodness.  How is it that I never really understood the GOODness of God until I had to endure the most tragic nightmare?  I miss you everyday.  I long for you so much it hurts.  I see the glory God is getting from your beautiful life and I find comfort in that.  I still wish I could have you here, but since you are not I will live my life to make sure that your memory stays alive and others will see the sovereignty of God through the testimony of your life!

Monday, September 27, 2010

James 1:17

I had my first appointment at Rockford Memorial Maternal Fetal Medicine at 28 weeks.  They did an u/s to look at Harper's kidney and the spot on her heart.  The doctor was not concerned about her heart, but the kidney was dilated to a level that was not normal.  He told us that often one problem is an underlying condition of an even bigger issue.  He started talking Down Syndrome with us.  I had not done the screening at 16 weeks and my clinic does not routinely do 12 week u/s so I was past the point of any of this testing.  Without this information he could not accurately tell us what our risk was of Harper having Down Syndrome, but apparently he felt he needed to let us know it was a possibility. As we got in the elevator to leave I looked at my husband and asked him if he felt better or worse.  I know I wasn't feeling very relived to find out that now there was another thing to add to our list of things to be concerned about.  As I sat at home that afternoon my images of Harper began to change.  I now was picturing her as a special needs baby.  In a way I had to mourn this possibility of having a baby who wasn't "normal."  It didn't change my love for her, but it changed the way I pictured the future with her.  Would she hit milestones like the other kids did?  Would she get picked on?  Would her brother and sister resent her?  Would she ever get married or have a family?  Would we have to take care of her even as an adult?  The questions tormented me.  I finally had to turn to God's word for some peace and James 1:17 immediately came to me: "Every good and perfect gift is from above."  Did I believe she was good and perfect?  Of course I did...God creates everyone in his own image doesn't he?  This verse became my life verse for Harper.  No matter what we found out when she was born she was good and perfect and a gift from God.  Of course I only imagined this in the context of her being a living baby who could possibly have special needs. 
Now I know it wasn't Down Syndrome.  But the verse remains her life verse.  Even though I didn't get to have her in my life as long as I had hoped, I still believe she was a good and perfect gift from my Heavenly Father. She has brought so much good to my life, she is completely perfect now in Heaven, and a gift is still a gift no matter how long God allowed you to have it....and I will continue to praise him for the gift he gave me.

Friday, September 24, 2010


We met with my doctor today for my 6 week postpartum checkup.  This was the first time we had seen him since the day Harper was born so I had a lot of anxiety and questions I needed answered.  I have never really blamed my doctor, but I have definetly had questions.  Well, I guess at first I blamed him because I thought Harper had died due to low amniotic fluid.  He had told me I could be induced a week early but then at 39 weeks he decided that since things were going well it would be better for me to go into labor on my own.  As I laid in the hospital waiting for Harper to be born I was angry and I thought if only he would have induced me early this wouldn't be happening.  But then she was born with the cord around her neck 5 times and a tight knot in it.  He said is was pretty obvious what had happened and there was sufficient amniotic fluid.  We decided not to do an autopsy.  August 10th was such a blur and I was too numb to ask any questions, or even know what questions to ask. But today I was prepared.  I asked God to go with us today and I know he was there.
I didn't really know what caused Harper to die, I know there was a knot and the cord was around her neck, but I didn't even really understand why this would make her die.  He said that her cord was much longer than normal and probably early on when she had more room she just was so active she got the cord all tangled up and got her self tangled in it.  Then as she grew and grew she ran out of room to get untangled.  The knot is ultimatly what killed her because when she dropped the knot got to tight and cut off her blood and oxygen supply.  He said it was a pretty sudden thing and that 20% of babies are born with the cord around their necks, even 5 times, and still live.  It was the knot that was the problem.  He said everything was perfect and the way it should have been, except for the length of the cord.  It is not considered a birth defect, it was just part of her genetic makeup, like some people are tall and some people are short.
He also assured us that there was no way of knowing this was going to happen.  The umbilical cord barely shows up in ultrasound (and I had a grand total of 10 u/s and nobody ever saw it, even the specialists in Rockford).  A non-stress test would only detect if something was wrong with the placenta, not the cord.  Her lack of movement could have been an indication of something being wrong, but not specifically that there was a knot in the cord.  And if it was a strong enough indication that something was wrong, and they would have induced me, the outcome would have still been the same.  She would have still dropped and the knot would have still tightened up, and she would have probably still died, because by the time the monitor would have indicated a drop in her heart rate and they would have rushed me off to the OR for a C-section, it would have probably been too late.
He also said they had no reason to believe that there was any correlation between her kidney and the knot.  I still believe the precautions we took with her kidney was just God's way of almost preparing us for this outcome.  We spent months praying for Harper and trusting God to take care of her.  No matter what He was in control.
I left the clinic today with a lot of peace.  I know there was nothing that could have been done to prevent this from happening.  It wasn't my fault or her fault or the doctors fault.  This sort of thing unfortunatly just happens, and it can happen to anyone.  The chances of this happening to me are the same as the chances of this happening to anyone...its the risk any woman takes when she decides to get pregnant. 
Harper was perfect.  It makes me sad that it was something as little as knot in her cord that took her life...I think I would almost feel better if it was some serious birth defect or something, but she was perfect and had all the potential to be a healthy, normal little girl.  I guess my biggest question still remains unanswered though, and this is why God chose not to save her, but I will never know that answer.  At least not here and now, but when I am reunited with my baby girl it will all make sense, but it won't even matter then because we will be together for eternity praising our Savior together.
Thank you to everyone who was thinking of us and praying for us today.  I am so at peace and appreciate all the prayers!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

ramblings of a mommy missing her baby

I think that God only allows us to feel so much pain and then he gives us a break from it.  When the pain comes it comes hard and hurts deeply.  It seems impossible to focus on anything but the pain.  Little things that aren't a big deal seem huge because the pain is so overwhelming to deal with it.  Emmerson had her first time out in preschool today and when her teacher told me it almost crushed me.  Why?  She gets time outs all the time at home.  I guess grieving just magnifies everything else happening in life.  I went to MOPs today, and although it is good for me to get out and be around other people I couldn't hear a word the speaker was saying because there were so many cooing babies.  That's all I could hear and all I could see.  They were everywhere.  I don't think I can be strong anymore or put on this face like its all okay.  I think that I have done that too much in the past six weeks and today it hurts so bad.  I don't think I have been leaning on my Savior, I have trying to be strong on my own.  I know God is here just waiting to embrace me and it is a constant struggle to accept that comfort, or to even know how. 
My sweet little Emmerson, even though she is already getting time out on her 4th day of preschool, is so sensistive and loving.  She knows I'm more down today than normal and you can see the concern on her face.  She didn't want me to wear my sunglasses because she wanted to be able to see my eyes, I guess to make sure I'm not crying.  I have to hold so much in because I don't want her to feel upset when I'm upset, but sometimes I just need to cry and let it all out.  Its so hard to know how to grieve and still be a good mommy. 
I miss Harper so much, every minute of every day.  Seeing all the babies today just made my heart ache more, wondering what it would be like to hold my cooing baby, look into her eyes, or rock her to sleep.  I will never know. 
I came across this quote from C.S. Lewis and I think it sums up the journey through grieving perfectly:

Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscapre.  As I've already noted, not every bend does.  Sometimes the surprise is the opposite one; you are presented with exactly the same sort of contry you thought you had left behind miles ago.  That is when you wonder whether the valley isn't a circular trench.  But it isn't.  There are partial recurrences, but the sequence doesn't repeat.

I guess that's how I feel today.  Like I've already been here and I thought it was getting "better" but here it comes again. 

On a somewhat brighter note, I was not sure what to do with the kids Big Brother and Big Sister shirts they were supposed to wear to the hospital so I stuffed them and sewed them up so the kids now have pillows.  They love the pillows.  They know that these shirts are because Harper is their baby sister and they snuggle with them all the time!  It is so cute because they are not much into stuffed animals or pillows but its like they just know how special these pillows are.  They love Harper even though I know they don't understand what happened to her.  Its funny how accepting kids are.  When we told them I was pregnant and had a baby in my tummy, they were just like, "OK"  They just accepted it and didn't ask any questions.  We talked about Harper before she was born and they just accepted that too.  Harper had a room and clothes and toys and they knew it was all Harper's stuff, even though they didn't know who Harper was.  It amazes me what they understand at such a young age.  Then they got to see Harper and hold her, I'm sure they thought she was alive because we didn't tell them any different, but when we came home empty handed we told them Harper was in Heaven with Jesus.  Emmerson had a few questions about that and she still asks sometimes, but they still accepted it.  My heart aches to have all my kids together, to see them grow up together and share the bond of being siblings.  I wish this picture was of all three of them and not with stuffed pillows, but thats what I have to do to keep her memory alive.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My New Normal

I've been told that after you lose someone you love, life never goes back to normal.  You have a new normal.  This is my new normal:

  • It is normal to feel a constant feeling of guilt, guilt if I am too sad to play with my kids, and guilt if I am having fun enjoying my kids when I "should" be grieving
  • It is normal to feel cheated everytime I walk past my empty nursery
  • It is normal to not be elated for people who are bringing home new babies
  • It is normal to give the kids Kool-Aid for supper because I am too afraid to run to the store for milk in case I run into someone I know
  • It is normal to think about my baby from the minute I wake up to the minute I go to sleep and dream about her all night long
  • It is normal to read everybook I can about stillbirth and spend hours online reading others' stories of loss
  • It is normal that the word "stillborn" has become part of my everyday vocabulary
  • It is normal if the floors need to be swept, the dishes need to be done, and the laundry is piled up and not even care
  • It is normal to check on the kids periodically through the night and put my hand on their chests just to make sure they are breathing
  • It is normal to start crying in public with no warning
  • It is normal to no longer answer, "Good, how are you?" when someone asks me how I'm doing
  • It is normal to visit the cemetary frequently to water her flower, because that is all I have of her to take care of
  • It is normal to have a least one thing written on the calendar for everyday so I don't have to sit at home and think for too long
  • It is normal to have questions for God, but run into his open arms when there are no answers for those questions
  • It is normal to find joy in picturing my little girl as perfect and whole, singing and dancing for Jesus, but feel pain at the same time because she's not here with me

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Story

I was always the little girl whose response to the question "what do you want to be when you grow up?" was a mommy.
I never really knew what else I wanted to be (and I still don't), but the one thing I knew for sure was I was going to be a mommy. I wanted a house full of kids and married a man who wanted the same. Little did I realize that my plans are not always God's plans.
I first found out I was pregnant in November of 2000. I was only 19 years old and not in a very stable relationship, but I was so excited to think my dream of becoming a mom was already going to be coming true. My pregnancy was normal and my first doctors appointment was around eight weeks. They didn't listen for the baby's heartbeat because it was too soon to hear it on the Doppler but I was to return in four weeks.
The weekend before my next appointment I began to spot and called the doctor right away. They told me not to worry and just take it easy until my scheduled appointment. But the spotting got worse and then I began cramping. I went to the ER and had my first ultrasound. The doctor asked if I was sure about my due date because the baby was only measuring six weeks and I should have been close to 13 weeks. I knew my dates couldn't be that far off but they drew blood for an hcg count and told me to go home. The next day the cramping was much worse and I knew that I was losing the baby. I went back to the ER and they drew more blood and found that my levels were dropping.
I had a D&C and went home later that night. I was devastated to say the least. Many people told me it was for the best and as much as I hated to hear that I began to believe it. I was too young and in an unstable relationship, what business did I have having a baby? But the ache in my heart never went away and I knew I loved that baby as much as any mother could love a baby. Fast forward a few years, I grew up a lot after my first miscarriage.
I met my husband and found out we were expecting in June 2006. I was excited to be pregnant again. My heart had not stopped hurting from the miscarriage and I wanted a baby so badly. This time I started spotting around six weeks and just lost it. I knew for sure I was going to lose this baby too. I went in to the doctor for an u/s and to our surprise the doctor said he saw two sacs on the screen! Twins!

But our excitement was short lived. I had a clot in my uterus that the babies were attaching too and unless they were able to attach to a healthy part of my uterus the outcome wouldn't be good. I was to come back in a week for another u/s. A week later I was still spotting. The u/s didn't go well, but I was hanging on to any ounce of hope I could find. The doctor announced there was only one baby this time and we could see a tiny flicker of a heartbeat, but it wasn't even strong enough to be picked up with the vaginal u/s. I didn't even care...I saw that little bit of life in my child and I hung on to that with all I had. I didn't understand why they were only able to see one baby this week when last week they had seen two, but I just kept praying that the one they saw would keep growing.
I returned a few days later with as much optimism as I could muster but the doctor finally confirmed that there was no hope left. There was no heartbeat. Another D&C confirmed that there were two bags of water, so not only had a lost another baby, I had lost two. Three all together. I felt completely hopeless. I thought, "one miscarriage is normal, that happens to a lot of women, but two..."
I began to wonder if I would ever have a baby. I wondered why God would keep allowing this to happen to me. Miscarriage is a crazy thing, because there are no answers. Now I became determined. I was going to have a baby.
Three months later in October 2006 I became pregnant once again. I was a wreck the minute the test came back positive. I called the doctor and demanded an u/s even though they told me it was too early to pick up the heartbeat. I went anyway and sure enough there was no heartbeat. I came back a week later and the most wonderful thing happened...I heard my baby's heartbeat! Loud and strong...160 bpm! It was the most incredible thing I had ever experienced up to that point. A life was actually growing inside of me! A week later I began to spot. I couldn't believe this was happening to me AGAIN. Three times? But miracles do happen. I spotted the rest of my first trimester and did not lose the baby. I was on pins and needles the whole time, but I now have a healthy, beautiful 3 year old daughter! After so much pain and fear and worry and anxiety, God heard my prayer and blessed me with a the baby I had so longed for on July 16, 2007.
Six months later I found out I was pregnant again, turns out breastfeeding is not legit birth control! This time I was to busy (and tired) to worry much about my pregnancy, but everything was perfect. No spotting, no scares of any kind.
On October 3, 2008, after a fast and drug free delivery, not by choice! I welcomed my second baby into the world, a healthy little boy. I felt blessed beyond words. My dreams were coming true. It was so hard to remember the pain of the miscarriages when I was holding my two perfect babies, who were only 14 months apart. I thought the pain of the past was behind me, but like I said before, my plans are not God's plans. We waited a year this time before deciding we were ready for another.
December 5, 2009 I found out we were expecting again. I just assumed we would have another healthy, normal pregnancy and once we were out of the first trimester I had little to fear, or so I thought. I always had a nagging thought that something wasn't right about this pregnancy. Nothing was out of the ordinary, but something just felt wrong to me. Before our 20 week u/s I half-joking said to my sister I was afraid they were going to tell me the baby didn't have a brain or something. She just rolled her eyes at me...I have always been the worrier. But everything looked great at the u/s. We found out we were having another girl! The doctor did mention her right kidney was slightly dilated, but not to the point they were concerned. He left it up to me if I wanted to come back in 6 weeks for a follow up u/s. Of course I did, I wasn't taking any chances.
The next 6 weeks went by with little thought to the kidney. I went to the u/s not thinking much would have changed, but I was wrong. Her kidney was even more dilated and now they saw a "spot" on her heart. I was referred to a specialist to follow up with. I was crushed. I cried the whole way home. Two weeks later I met with the specialist where we had good news and bad news. The good news was the spot was just calcium deposits and they were not concerned, but the bad news was the kidney was even more dilated. The u/s tech also commented that the baby was so cooperative, she hardly moved during the scan. I had been noticing that this baby was much less active than the other two had been, but no one seemed too concerned about it.
We were to follow up with the specialist once a month to keep an eye on the kidney. There was nothing they could do about it until she was born, but they wanted to keep monitoring the amniotic fluid levels to make sure the baby was eliminating enough. We were told the worst case scenario she would have to have surgery after she was born. I was terrified to think of putting my newborn under the knife, but I tried really hard not to stress about it until we knew more. I decided to not see the specialist anymore because it was too much to see two different doctors and felt confident my OB could monitor the amniotic fluid just fine. So the rest of my pregnancy continued with u/s every other week until 36 weeks and then every week until the end. The fluid level was always great so there was little reason for concern. As my pregnancy progressed I felt more peaceful about things and just trusted God to take care of my little girl.

On my due date I went in for my last appointment. My OB striped my membranes and I heard my little girls heartbeat on the Doppler. She kicked at the doctor as he placed the probe on my stomach. This was the last time I remember feeling her kick and the last time I heard her heart beat. I went home praying I would go into labor. The summer heat was kicking my butt and I was so tired of being pregnant and chasing after two busy toddlers.
I had been contracting off and on for about three weeks so I was afraid I wouldn't know when I was actually in labor. I spent most of that day paying attention to my contractions but they never amounted to much. About 9 p.m. I realized that I hadn't noticed much movement since my appointment. I drank some orange juice and ate some fruit...still nothing. I pushed on my stomach and tried to wiggle her a bit...still nothing. My husband asked if we should call the doctor, but I said no, I was too tired to deal with it and wanted to go to bed. I think I knew that something was terribly wrong but I was in denial. I went to bed, but of course I could not sleep. Around midnight I was pretty sure I was in labor and around 3 am I told my husband it was time to go.
The whole ride to the hospital was silent. I just remember feeling so sad, when with the other two I felt excitement. I guess I just knew, but couldn't admit it to myself. We got checked right in and I changed into my gown and laid down on the bed so they could hook up the monitors. No heartbeat. Another nurse tried...nothing. Don't worry they said, we'll get the doctor in here with the u/s. I just looked at my husband and shook my head. Thirty minutes later the doctor was in. He kept asking lots of questions because he was not my regular OB. He said "I'm sorry, there is no heartbeat and no fluid around the baby." I screamed and covered my face with my hands. I just cried and cried, I don't even know how long. How could this be. I just had an u/s four days earlier and the fluid was fine. I just heard her heartbeat less than 24 hours earlier and everything was great. I just wanted to go home and crawl into my bed and pull the covers up over my head.
Then another contraction pulled me into reality. The first thing I said out loud was "So I still have to deliver the baby?" I felt so stupid after I said it, but I don't think anyone can ever imagine having to give birth to a dead baby. They got my epidural going and my parents and in-laws came to the hospital. We all just cried. Our pastor came and prayed with us.
At 8:48 a.m. Harper Elizabeth entered the world, but the only cries to be heard came from her parents and grandma. She had a knot in her umbilical cord and it was around her neck 5 times. She was 6 lbs. 11 oz. and 21 inches long. She was perfect and beautiful. The staff was wonderful.
We bathed her and dressed her and they took tons of pictures. We held her most of the day and our kids came to see her. My daughter held her and kissed her and told her she loved her. It makes me so sad. She was so excited to be a big sister again and she still doesn't understand why Harper isn't at home with us. How do you explain to a 3 year old and a 22 month old that their sister died before she was even born?
We left at 6 p.m. empty handed. I was broken. I thought I had felt enough pain with the miscarriages, but this was so much worse. So much pain. I sat in my overstuffed chair when we got home and realized that 24 hours earlier it still hadn't dawned on me that I hadn't felt her life can change in 24 hours!
Life is short, life is fragile, and there are no guarantees. I just have to cling to God and his promise to carry me through it. I still have lots of questions. I don't know if her being a less active baby was a sign. I don't know if her kidney had anything to do with the cord, but I do feel like that was God telling us that we needed to entrust her care to him. I thought my biggest fear was having to watch my baby go through surgery...I never imagined I would be planning her funeral and saying goodbye. Harper was a beautiful gift and I was so glad God chose me to be her mommy, if only for a moment.