Friday, August 31, 2012

Update, part 2

After Holden was born, life seemed to be turning around for us.  I still struggled with my faith and my fears, but slowly it seemed the waves were calming around us.  I still think of Harper everyday.  I carry her in my heart with me always, she is just such a part of me.  I'm still never sure how to answer the questions when asked how many kids I have.  I don't visit the cemetery as often, or look at her scrapbook as much, but she is never far from my thoughts.  I'm healing, but I'll never be the same.  I'll never look at life the same.  I will always hold a glance too long when I see a newborn baby girl, or a curly headed 2 year old. 

Sometimes my fears can take hold of my thoughts, and block out what I know to be truth.  I know these thoughts and fears are not from the Lord, and this is a major struggle of mine.  I feel like I just wait for the next bad thing to happen.  It can't stay good for too long.  But I was in no way prepared for our next big storm.

Six weeks ago, on the day after her fifth birthday, Emmerson Ruth was diagnosed with Leukemia.  Sometimes I still can't believe it.  It has been an emotional whirlwind these last six weeks.  Losing Harper was the most difficult thing I have ever been through, and I'm not sure I can compare these two situations.  I am thankful I never had to see Harper struggle and fight for her life.  It kills me to see my little girl in pain.  To watch her fight everyday.  To see what the chemo is doing to her body.  She's five.  She should be carefree and happy, going to kindergarten and making new friends.  Instead she has had to grow up so much.  She lost her baby sister and now she is fighting cancer.  It is so unfair. 

At first the diagnosis felt like a death sentence.  Cancer=death, right?  I told my dad that night that I could not bury another one of my babies.  I just can't.  And as hard as it was to bury Harper, losing Emmerson would be so much harder.  I know her, I have memories with her.  She is a part of our home, our daily lives...and to not have her here would be more than I could bear. 

In the last six weeks I have learned a lot.  Medical terminology I could have never made any sense of two months ago seems like plain English today.  Emmerson's prognosis is good.  She has the most treatable type of childhood cancer, and while the success rate is around 95%, her survival is not a guarantee.  But I know God is giving me the peace and strength I need to make it through each day, one day at a time.  When I think about the unknowns in the future I feel myself spinning out of control.  I have to stay focused on today, what is happening right here, right now. 

I hate that this is a part of our lives.  I hated being a part of the "stillbirth club" and now I hate being a part of the "cancer club."  I don't know what God is doing in our lives, but I know it is my job to use what he has given us for his glory.  Sometimes I struggle with being so angry with him for allowing so much pain in such a short amount of time, but then I turn around a beg him to hold me, because I know he is the only one who can heal my little girl.  He is the only one who can give me true peace and hope. 

If you are interested in following Emmerson's journey I have started a Caring Bridge website.  Please keep our family in your prayers as we travel this new journey.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Update, part 1

Its been nearly a year and a half since my last post.  I'm not sure if anyone even follows any more, but quite a lot has happened since then.

Shortly after I shared my story at MOPs I found out I was pregnant again.  This was pregnancy #7, baby #8.  I was scared to death the moment the test came back postive.  I had weekly u/s for the first trimester and we heard the heartbeat early on.  Everything always looked good, and every week that passed I was able to let out a small breath, but at the same time I found it harder and harder to get attatched to this new little person. 

Joel became very sick when I was around 9 weeks pregnant.  He ended up being hospitalized for a few weeks with diverticulitis.  It was a very difficult time for our family.  I was in the nauseaus, tired phase of pregnancy with two energetic kids to take care of.  Then dealing with the stress of Joel being in the hospital, and trying to be there for him, while still being there for my kids and the things needing to be done at home, I was mentally, phyiscally, and spiritually exhausted.  I was once again dealing with the "why" questions.  Why was this happening to our family?  When were we ever going to catch a break?  I dealt with a lot of anger at that time. Thankfully, Joel is doing well now with very little evidence of having been so very ill.

Things continued to progress smoothly with my pregnancy.  I was never able to fully let my guard down.  I dreamed about the new baby, and begged and pleaded God would bless us with another healthy, baby girl.  At 20 weeks we found out the baby was perfectly healthy, but not a girl as I so desperatly wanted.  I couldn't hold back my emotions.  I sobbed through most of the ultrasound.  And then I felt guilty.  I should have been overjoyed that things were going so well with the pregnancy, but instead all I could think of was the baby's gender.  Looking back now, I realize how badly I wanted to replace Harper, even though I said that was not the case.  I think I was grieving that last little hope I had that somehow I would get her back, that somehow a new baby girl would make that hurt go away. 

A few days later we celebrated Harper's first birthday.  The actual day was not a difficult as the anticiaption leading up to it.  We lit flying lanterns and it was really beautiful.  I was coming to terms with the fact that my little girl was really gone, and embracing the new life I was carrying inside of me.  In that week I started preparing his nursery, which was something I said I wouldn't do until after the baby was born alive.  I started going through Alton's old clothes, and I sold all of my baby girl clothes, even the stuff that I had brand new for Harper.  That was a big step for me.  I was purging myself of all the "stuff" I held on to, admitting she would never really be here to use it. 

Things continued to go smoothly with the pregnancy.  I was still scared most days.  I tried to give my trust to God, sometimes hourly.  It was never easy, and most days I failed miserably.  The Tuesday before Thanksgiving I went in for an u/s.  I was 36 weeks.  I was going to start having weekly u/s to check the cord and such, mostly for my peace of mind.  The baby's bladder was very full and he did not pee during the entire u/s.  My doctor scheduled me to come back in on Friday to have it rechecked.  That Friday no changes were noted and my doctor said it was time to get this pregnancy over with.  He knew I was emotionally at my limit, and we had grounds enough to schedule an induction.

The induction process was not as easy as I had hoped, but after 18 hours Holden Everett came out crying.  It was such a beautiful experience.  We all cried as a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders.  He was here, healthy and alive.  He did have some minor issues with breathing and jaundice, due to being slighltly premature.  That first week was so overwhelming trying to get him healthy enough to stay home, but he is a happy, busy 9 month old today.  I love him so much and can't imagine him not being a part of our family.  I had some low points in the hospital after his birth..reliving Harper's birth, worrying over his health.  I was overwhelmed with joy to have him, but at the same time grief was still heavy on my heart for my little girl.  It was such a strange mix of emotions I was not prepared to deal with.

There are so many times I will look at Holden and wonder "what if."  What if she had lived?  He wouldn't be here.  But she would.  Its almost tormenting at times.  I sometimes feel like I have to choose between them.  Would I rather have her here, and have missed out on Holden?  Or by loving Holden so much am I saying I'm glad things turned out the way they did?  Its just so unfair.  What I really want is for all of them to be here.  I wouldn't trade Holden for the world....I just wish his big sister was here, living life with us.