Monday, July 9, 2018

July is odd.

“And I will sing of, all you’ve done.
I’ll remember how far, you carried me…”

July is hard. The up and down of emotions, especially during the first 2 weeks. It didn’t used to be this way. It used to be carefree and easy. It used to consist of a fun holiday, sun, swimming and every summer fun thing you can think of. Then July 4 years ago happened.

July 12 to be exact. My world shattered. The worst day of my life. My Malachi went to heaven. After a 4 month long fight for his life in the NICU, he was gone. Just like that. Our life on the roller coaster of NICU life suddenly plummeted into darkness deeper than we’d known. I’d be wrong if I didn’t say I was angry, so angry, so hurt, so confused. How could God, who knows how painful losing a son is, allow this to happen to us? We who had been so faithful, praying, proclaiming his promises over our son’s life, now would have to walk life out without him here. But I learned so much. One of the most important things I learned while walking through the valley of grief was that the same God who formed me, the same God who made the heavens and earth; He can handle my pain, my grief, my anger. All are welcome at his throne. That gave me freedom. Freedom to experience every emotion, freedom to give Him the what for, honestly, wouldn’t you? That freedom allowed me to process everything, to deal with everything, to acknowledge everything. I had guilt for a long time. You see something happened the night before he died. I said something that haunted me for months and months. Let’s backup a smidge. The week before Malachi died was a rough week. He had been doing so well, and then wasn’t doing well. Episodes of almost losing him, bad news, one horrible report after another. Through it all we refused to think death would be his fate, instead we held on to hope that he would be the one who made it through. But it was a hard week. So hard. We were so tired. Mentally exhausted from the ups and downs, physically worn down due to staying with him nearly 24/7, while still trying to be present for our then 3 yr old at home. My heart broke knowing he was in pain. There was nothing I could do to make anything ok, but I did whatever I could. Sat by his bedside for hours on end, cherished the times they let me hold him, changed his diapers so gently. Normal mama things. But it was a hard, hard week. The night before he died I had spent the day at the hospital with him. We had dinner plans with some friends and decided to go to their house. Hubby and I prayed over him as we left, he gave me a sweet smile, LaRon said it was his way of saying “everything’s going to be ok mama”, I took a picture of that smile, and we left. That night I was talking to my friend and I said to her “I’m so tired, I’m so heartbroken and I can’t bear seeing him in pain. This is my prayer right now, I want the Lord to heal him, or I want the Lord to take him home.” The next morning, at 3:12am, I received a phone call that answered that prayer. Not in the way I wanted or imagined, but it was answered. Jesus had come to wrap my baby in his arms and take him home. Free from pain, free from his broken body. I suffered guilt for uttering what I had said to my friend that night before, maybe if I hadn’t said it he’d still be here. But looking at it now, I believe it was the grace of Jesus. His grace had brought me to a place to where I could say “Jesus, heal him or take him”, and mean it. You’re not every ready to hear that your baby has died. You’re not ever ready to walk that path of grief. But when I look back and see the goodness of God through it all, I can still stand and say God you are so good, so incredibly good to me.

“There wasn’t a day, that You weren’t by my side.
There wasn’t a time, that You let me fall…”

He has never left my side. From the minute Malachi was born, to his final breath, walking with my in the valleys….and rejoicing with me on the hilltops….

We received amazing news during Christmas of 2013, we were pregnant with twins. Their technical due date was August 8, 2017. I knew they’d come early. I prayed they wouldn’t come on July 12. I needed that day to be Malachi’s day, a day to remember him, not overshadowed. July 7, 2017 I go into labor, the boys were coming! Such great joy amidst mentally preparing for Malachi’s day. Our boys were born, they were healthy. I vividly remembering hearing Justice’s cry, I turned to LaRon and said “he’s alive” all I wanted was to hear that cry. My heart was overwhelmed with love as both boys were placed on my chest.  9lbs combined of pure love, healing, and redemption. Justice had to go into the NICU and it devastated me. How could I return to the place that just 2 years prior held the worst pain of my life? How would I react? Would I be able to push through the PSTD of beeping monitors and a NICU room to see my baby, to be there for him? I remember when they said I was well enough to go down and visit him. I got into my wheelchair and LaRon pushed me to the elevator, my heart raced, my breaths were short, I started to sweat. But I had to do this. As we descended we prayed together. The doors open and I sat face to face with the place that had been the place of so much pain. The doors opened and we walked through them. Straight to our Justice. And he was perfect. Seeing his perfect face, his window “seat” just like his big brother had. Every ounce of fear was drowned out in that moment with the perfect love for my son. I wept. I picked him up and I soaked up his newborn smell and wiped my tears off his tiny little head. One week he spent there. The day I discharged with Josiah, we were able to bring Josiah down to Justice and they got to be together, they instantly cuddled and it was the sweetest sight. The anniversary of Malachi’s death occurred during the week of Justice’s NICU stay. Enter more guilt…I couldn’t go. I couldn’t bear to be in the NICU on the same day I last held him. I tried. And I couldn’t. I felt horrible. The nurses (of whom almost all had been a part of Malachi’s life!) all assured me he’d be loved on and cared for so much. They held him and rocked him and fed him, when my grief didn’t let me. The next morning I got the most amazing call that he was ready to come home. Our Justice was coming home in the morning. It’s poetic if you think about it. God orchestrated each detail to leave Malachi’s day intact, but also show His goodness.

I will say that in my darkest moments of guilt and grief, God never left my side. Through the hardest time He held us up. Through the greatest joy, He stood with us on the mountaintop.

July is odd. It’s a mix of emotions of remembering the day we said our earthly goodbye to our precious Malachi, and celebrating the day we welcomed our twin miracles into our life. With the goodness of God and sorrow all mixed together; I push through. Remembering Malachi’s legacy, celebrating two baby boys who fill our lives with so much joy and healing; and pointing to Jesus every step of the way.

“All of my life, Your love has been true.
All of my life, I will worship you.”

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Justice came in the morning......

...the birth and coming home story of Justice and Josiah...
When we found out we were pregnant, we immediately thanked God. Even though I had just barely become "ok" with trying again and it happened sooner than I anticipated (i.e. no trying necessary, ALREADY pregnant!) we were so thankful. I prayed for 3 things: 

1. That I would get to bring my baby home; where most pray for a healthy baby, and of course that's what I ultimately wanted, I really prayed just to be able to bring them home. 
2. That the birthday would not be July 12 (Malachi's heavenly birthday, I wanted him to keep that as his special day we remember him on)
3. no NICU time.

One of these requests wasn't answered, but we'll get to that in a bit. 
I calculated my expected due date and saw it was August 8, 2016; I knew I'd be delivered at least 2 weeks early, leaving us mid-end of July. When we learned it was twins, I knew that there was an even greater chance of a July 12 possibility of delivery. At my last appointment with my high risk doctor, he made the decision to deliver 2 weeks from then, our repeat c-section was set for July 18. Perfect I thought! I could get through the week remembering the anniversary of Malachi's passing, then our boys would join our family. The timing was so perfect, the plan was right in line with everything I wanted. 

But I also know, that not all of our plans happen the way we think they will...

Their Birthday:

Wednesday July 6, 2016 I was horribly uncomfortable. I was having braxton hicks contractions all day pretty much non-stop. Hubby and I decided to make a date day to get out of the house. We took Deuce to school and went and saw a movie and had lunch together. We picked Deuce up from school and came home. I crashed on the couch because I was in so much pain I could hardly move. That night I went to bed early. I remember thinking to myself "I wonder if my body is getting ready to have the babies" Though I'd had painful days before, there was just something different about how I was feeling that night. After I went to bed, I was up nearly every hour, having to pee, having contractions, unable to get comfortable etc. In order to not wake up hubby I went and laid on the couch at about 3:30am (July 7), I began to count my contractions and they were coming pretty steady and were pretty uncomfortable though not worse than they'd been before. At 430am a contraction hit me harder and more painful than I'd had before. It rendered me unable to move. Once it passed I went to wake up hubby and told him we probably needed to go to the hospital. I called L&D and they said to definitely come in. I threw together a hospital bag (oops...hadn't planned on using it that soon!) and we were off. My contractions were coming closer and closer together and becoming more and more painful. By the time we got to my parents house to drop Deuce off, I couldn't even walk through them and had to stop and wait them out. We got to the hospital at about 6am; they hooked me up to the monitors and let me know I was in fact in full blown, active labor. The plan was to admit me and have the boys that day! My pain however was intense, SO INTENSE. If you've been there, you know. The gracious doctor that was in that morning (who was literally about to go home) decided to push back one of the other scheduled c sections and get me in for delivery. I remember looking at LaRon and saying "we're going to meet our boys today!"I had hoped and prayed we'd make it to our schedule c-section date as that would give our smaller twin (Justice) a bit more time to grow, in hopes that he wouldn't need any NICU time. But; that wasn't the case, today was the day. 

Before I was taken back to be prepped for the c-section; a familiar face came into our room, one of Malachi's NICU nurses, Carrie. She gave me the biggest hug and said how excited she was that she was working that day in delivery and that she was going to get to be there for the boys' birth! It made my thoughts about possible NICU for Justice a little easier; I knew she'd only send one or both down if they absolutely needed it; as she knew how much I didn't want to go back there. Carrie was there for me in every moment. When they took me back to the operating room she held my hand until LaRon got there. What stuck out to me most was how peaceful it was; no emergency, no one was sick, everyone was excited. The anesthesiologist had a bluetooth speaker and said I could connect to it to play whatever music I wanted...."No Longer Slaves" by Bethel Music was the song I chose my boys to be born to. It's such an anthem cry about not being a slave to fear and it was my battle cry throughout my pregnancy. How perfect that the sounds they'd hear at birth would be those words. LaRon was brought in and the procedure began....I waited with bated breath. You see, my last c-section I was close to dying (no joke, I was) and the ONLY thing I remember from that was not hearing Malachi cry. I waited with bated breath to hear the only sound I'd waited so long to hear....Justice was born first; they announced his birth "time of birth 8:22" and then I heard it; the most incredibly beautiful sound my ears could behold...his cry; I looked at LaRon and said "he's crying, he's alive...." and I broke down. Years of heartache felt healed in that moment. His perfect newborn cry was what my heart needed. Another layer of healing was taking place in that moment. Josiah was then born "time of birth 8:24am" and then the other most beautiful sound; his cry. Our boys were here. Early, tiny, but perfect in every way. Relief, joy and healing washed over us as they first placed Josiah on my chest. I looked over to Justice's warmer and caught eyes with Carrie, his nurse and asked if he was ok...she said he was perfect but was having some rapid breathing that wasn't calming down. Because of that and his teeny size, 4lb 1oz, he had to be taken down to the NICU. Before Carrie took him she reassured me she'd stay with him the entire time. She also did something I will never forget, she gave me a moment that I didn't know I'd have; before taking him down to the NICU she placed him on my chest with Josiah. Both of my perfect boys, right where they should be, if just for a minute. THIS was the moment that for so long I had waited for.

Josiah was able to stay with us and the precious moments we had just him and I were unforgettable. My heart was still broken for my baby in the NICU though, my Justice. I knew he was OK, but traveling that path again, going back IN to the same place that Malachi died, was something I didn't know I could do. Oh the strength a mother's love will give you. I was determined to see my baby that day. By the time they were wheeling me up to our room, I was able to lift my legs, the nurses were impressed; but I know it was my desire to go see Justice that helped me bounce back. A few hours later I was able to be wheeled down to see him. Walking those halls again, going down the elevator, I began to have anxiety, I took deep breaths, LaRon held my hand, and once again we entered the place of our deepest sorrow. The place that held our greatest pain, now held one of our greatest joys; I was going to see my healthy, whole, ALIVE baby, and in that moment, there was no room for fear. 

Juggling twins in the hospital, one with us, one in the NICU, and recovering from the c-section was no easy task. Actually a day or so into our stay I got incredibly overwhelmed and sent all our visitors away. Trying to split my time and 'host' guests was just too much for me. Josiah did great with us and Justice did great in the NICU. We were told it would likely only be a couple of days, but also could be up to 2 weeks until he was home. We contended in prayer for the prior. Josiah and I were discharged on Sunday. Leaving the hospital, without one of my babies, again, was the last thing I wanted to do. I kept begging the NICU doctors to release Justice (I know, totally irrational) but he had to prove he could gain weight appropriately before coming home. We went down to the NICU and were able to take Josiah in with us to have some time, the 4 of us, together before we went home. Leaving that day was so hard. So incredibly hard. I was angry and bitter that the birth I had prayed and longed so hard for, was ending up with things I so desperately didn't want. 

Josiah and I at home. 

Justice alone in the NICU. My heart broke for him. I still feel we were cheated of such precious time together and in ways I feel my body let him down.

Monday morning when we went to see him a new doctor had come on. She was a god send. She had been told our story of Malachi; as Justice had become somewhat of a "celebrity" in the NICU with all Malachi's nurses coming to see him and coming to see me when I was there. When we walked in she told us she was turning his IV off and that if all went well (as she suspected it would) I would be taking him home on Wednesday morning. Joy flooded us. Monday was July 11. The realization then hit me, that Justice would be in the NICU, over the anniversary of Malachi's passing, July 12. When we left that day I spoke with his nurses and let them know I didn't know if I could be there the next day. Stepping foot in there on the anniversary of his passing was just something I couldn't do. They hugged me through my tears and let me know he would be incredibly well taken care of, loved on and snuggled for me. July 12 we spent at home. Remembering our Malachi; and cherishing the quiet times with Josiah. 

Then the next morning came; we got to the NICU as soon as we could, the doctor had already done the discharge exam and he was cleared to come home. We packed his things up as fast as we could and made our way out of the NICU. With both of our alive, healthy and whole babies. I titled this blog "Justice came in the morning.." because it's not lost on me the timing; the day after remembering the day Malachi died, Justice came home to our family. Justice, our tiny 4lb son, and justice for our family for what we've been through, in the form of the most redeeming moment I've ever known.

Justice Anthony and Josiah David: 
You will never know the depth of my love for you. You have healed places in me I thought were forever broken. You will never wonder if you are loved, cherished and wanted. You are two of my greatest treasures. 
I love you.

"And you will receive a double portion blessing, and everlasting joy will be yours" Is. 61:7

Justice Anthony (top) & Josiah David (bottom)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The surprise of a lifetime, part 2…and an update of where we are now!

.....Where were we, oh yes, just had delivered the news to my hubby that we were expecting, only a few short days after we had even decided “hey let’s give this a try again.”

We decided initially not to tell anyone, I of course told a couple of the people closest to me, but other than that, no one knew. I immediately called my OB and my Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) specialist (aka high risk doctor) and let them know the news. I was already on a baby aspirin regimen as well as pre-natals and at 5 weeks daily Lovenox injections were added to the mix. They scheduled our ultrasound to “confirm viability” at 7 weeks 1 day, a Tuesday, 3 days before Christmas. Nerves can’t explain what I felt in the weeks leading up to that appointment. I figured it would either make for the best Christmas announcement to our families or another season of coping with more loss. It stinks, but when you’ve been through what we have, that’s unfortunately where your mind goes.  The day of the appointment came and the clock ticked slowly. Hubs picked me up from work and we drove to the appointment, both knowing the weight this appointment had on our future as a family.
We checked in and got into our room. My OB came in and hugged us and said she had been thinking about us all day.  The ultrasound starts, all I see is black….in a moment I was brought back to when we had the blighted ovum last year, and I begin to feel like hope is lost. Then a blob. The screen was facing my OB and I had a pretty clear view of if, Hubs couldn’t see it. She was having a hard time getting the right picture she needed so she said she was going to switch the view…..and the picture that popped up will be seared into my mind forever. I have a pretty solid medical records/terminology/imaging background, so I knew right away what I saw. I saw two sacs, two blobs, it was clear as day. Yet I had to ask “what is that”…..she replies “well guys, it’s a second sac” let’s check it sac, baby measuring perfect; we heard the sweetest sound, the heartbeat. On to the next sac…another baby, measuring perfectly and another perfect heartbeat. I said in my shock “what does that mean?” and she said “YOU guys, its’ TWINS”…..Hubs immediately threw a fist in the air (I think ;) ) and exclaimed “YES!” probably loud enough for patients in other rooms to hear! I laid there in shock. Immediately thoughts of “how can my body do this, when I have such a hard time carrying one?” began to flood my mind.  The mix of emotions was tangible; I was excited to hear those perfect heartbeats, scared of what this meant, anxious at the thought of TWO BABIES; so many things mixed into one moment. I was in a daze. My OB kept repeating “I can’t believe this you guys…after all you have been through, now twins” she probably said it 3 or 4 times. I’m pretty sure she had tears in her eyes. Tears began to flood mine, and immediately the verse of Isaiah 61:7 came to mind “And you will be blessed with a double blessing, and everlasting joy will be yours”. We left with instruction that our next appt would be in about a week or so, my MFM would be calling me, and huge hugs and congratulations from my OB. She’s incredible and so invested in us. The entire drive home I kept saying “I can’t believe this, two babies” TWO BABIES PEOPLE. (I think there’s a part of me that STILL can’t believe it…lol). I think I was in such a state of shock because this all happened so effortlessly (which we are eternally grateful for) no planning, no fertility doctors, no extreme measures….it just, happened.

first ultrasound of the twins, very clear that there are TWO! 
We told our families on Christmas. I framed copies of the ultrasound photos and our parents opened them….my parents are both in the medical field and immediately knew what they were looking at; they both cried J My sister (who I HAD told I was pregnant) immediately goes, TWINS?!!? We had kept that as a surprise. My in-loves (in-laws) reaction was a bit different….they looked at the picture up and down, and knew it was a ultrasound so they knew at that point we were pregnant; what they didn’t get (and I wouldn’t guess that anyone would at a glance at an ultrasound) was that there were two. I stopped their celebration at our pregnancy and said “wait wait….there’s one more thing, it’s twins” the house ERUPTED. There were tears, dancing, praising Jesus and more tears. It’s so amazing to be so loved. For these babies to be so loved already.

When we made our “social media” announcements, the outpouring of love, well wishes and prayers we received (and continue to receive) was incredible.

our "social media announcement"
And that brings us to our update…where we are currently. I’m 19 weeks, feeling great, getting big, and the babies are growing right at where they are supposed to be. I’ve had no crazy early symptoms like I had with Malachi and so far my body is cooperating and working the way it’s supposed to. I am due August 8th, our announcement says July because they will come at 36-38 weeks, sometime between July 11 and July 25! We are feeling incredibly blessed to have things going so smooth so far and praying for the easy-ness to continue until 36-38 weeks. 

Will you continue to pray with us?

Friday, February 12, 2016

The surprise of a lifetime part 1...

The creative comes out in me in times of high emotion; it’s when the words want to flow. Maybe that’s why I the two things I love to photograph the most are weddings and births. The emotions that they evoke are beyond words and there is so much depth to be able to capture. So when huge things happen I write…..

After we miscarried in June (a blighted ovum) I took it incredibly rough. The following July was one of the worst months for me, physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally; all around it was incredibly difficult. We were coming up on the year anniversary (or angelversary as loss moms like to say) of Malachi’s death and we had just lost what we thought was going to be our redemption baby. I had a hard time reconciling that again we were dealing with pain and loss. I thought I had made the decision that we were done trying. I just couldn’t handle any more loss, the stress, the anxiety, it all just felt too much. The month was awful. I was withdrawn, I isolated, I dealt with depression and it was ugly. I was ugly to my son and to my husband, bitterness and resentment (towards my own body) were growing and I was just in a bad place. I think it’s ok to admit that. I think it’s ok to say, “ya this sucks and I am going through it”. Just when we thought there was a glimmer of hope it again had been ripped away from us. I ended up having to have a really frank conversation with my hubby. I asked him one question; “If It’s just you, me and Deuce for our family, is that enough for you? Are we enough for you?” I dealt with doubt and guilt that somehow my sweet, ever encouraging and there for me husband had not gotten dealt the hand that he thought he had been, we had always dreamed of a big family (4 kiddos to be exact). I felt like a complete letdown to him, a failure. When he looked me in the eyes and said “yes, if that is the decision we come to, than you guys are more than enough for me” it gave me the boost I needed to get out of the pit that I was in. I crawled out of the pit, pulled myself together and determined, even though we had not made any formal decisions regarding this, that I needed to be the best wife to hubby (which I hadn’t been) and best mother to Deuce (I definitely hadn’t been) that I could be. Time passed, the ‘old me’ returned. Happiness, contentment, JOY returned (and I’m sure my family was grateful, lol J ) God found me in the midst of the mire and his grace was sufficient through the yuck and he pulled me out.

Towards the end of October, I began to have the desire again. The seeds that had been planted so long ago for what we desired for our family, had bloomed into flowers that for so long (it felt) had been shrouded in darkness. When the darkness eased, I saw the flowers again, I saw the desires that we wanted for our family and was again reminded of the wise words hubby had spoken “I don’t believe that circumstance changes the desires God places in our hearts.” I remember having the thought that I would tell hubby in November that I was ready. My birthday was coming up and I thought that’d be a great ‘gift’ to him from me (even though it was my birthday) and I knew how excited he would be. We went out for my birthday on November 20th. At dinner I said “so…..I wanted to let you know that I think I’m ready to try this one more time.” The smile on his face was everything I needed to see. The excitement to dream for the future again was something I think both of us needed. Hope. 8 days later I got the inkling to take a pregnancy test. In no way I thought this was THE MONTH that it would happen, I had been watching my days, and it was incredibly unlikely. I have no clue why I had the urge to take a test but I did. Just for the “heck of it”. POSITIVE. Faintly. The most faint line I believe I’ve ever seen. And it was later in the day. No way. Not yet. I JUST felt ready, I JUST told hubby a week ago that we should start trying again. HOW? (I mean I know HOW, but the dates, everything didn’t match up). The next morning I pulled out the last First Response test I had tucked away. Immediately positive and the line was clear as day. I hadn’t even missed my period yet (sorry for the TMI ;) ). Historically I’ve told hubby in a creative way that we’ve been expecting….a onesie with a positive test, a poem, etc.. This time my mind was blank I think I was in shock that it was happening so soon (I mean, this meant we were already pregnant when I told him I was just now ready to try again!!) Honestly I thought that I had some time to get ‘used to the idea’ even though I felt it was right. So I did it simple. I went to him and our conversation went like this:

ME: So…..**pause**…
HIM: **anxiously** um ya?.....
ME: remember that conversation we had at my birthday dinner?
HIM: yes…
ME: what part do you remember?
HIM: that you were ready to start trying again for another baby………
ME: Well I’m not sure we’re going to have to try very hard…. **insert silly goofy surprised face**
HIM: What?
ME: so I took a test this morning…..annnnnnnnd it’s positive.

He was so thrilled. We were so thrilled, although I was still anxious as, like I stated before, I kinda thought I had a little more time to get used to the idea. He embraced me and we immediately prayed and thanked God for this new life. We decided not to tell anyone….of course I can’t keep a secret so I had to tell my sister and my best friend.

I told my best friend that I was anxious, that I thought I had more time to get ready mentally, that HOW could this happen so soon…her response was so perfect:

“God wasn’t ready for you, He made you ready for him!!!!”

Let that sink in. God knew what He was intending to do. For a while my heart had been so hardened to the thought of trying again. He softened it and prepared it just in time for what He was ALREADY doing and what He had already did. He is so good.

To be continued…… 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Silent suffering..

The last 3 weeks or so, has give me a lesson in the reality of suffering loss and grief in silence vs suffering loss and grief in the public eye. The stark contrast between the two has made it's impression so much on me that I had to write. I feel as though loss has become a theme of our current life and I have been given nearly every perspective as to how we have experienced it, publicly and privately.

Simply stated, on May 20th, 2015, 10 months after our beautiful Malachi James went to heaven, we found out we were expecting. Our redemption baby, one to bring healing to our hearts from the pain and heartbreak we've endured over the past year. Contrary to what we have done with our prior pregnancies, we didn't publicly announce this one right away. We told relatively few people. It wasn't intentional, we just didn't.

To backtrack, we've always announced when we were pregnant pretty much right away. We could never contain our excitement in knowing that we were expecting. Our second pregnancy we announced at midnight of the new year of 2013, ended in a miscarriage 8 weeks later (I was roughly 12 weeks pregnant when they discovered there was no longer a heartbeat). Since we had announced our pregnancy publicly, we also announced our loss. Immediately we were surrounded in a cocoon of support and love. It wasn't long, 6 months later, that we discovered we were expecting again. This time our precious Malachi. We never hesitated to announce our pregnancy with him and continued to remain open and candid that way through all of his struggles and his victories. Again, when heartbreak filled our lives, we were surrounded by the best support anyone could ask for. Family, friends, people who didn't know us, faceless friends who only knew us through the internet, all came together in the largest display of support I think I have ever witnessed in my life.

Now we come to this. May 20, 2015, we learn that we are expecting again! We made the phone calls to our parents, brothers, sisters, and a few close friends. It was a limited circle that knew. We immediately let our doctors know and had an appointment at 5 weeks with our MFM (Maternal Fetal Medicine - fancy name for High Risk pregnancy doctor) and began daily lovenox injections. Each day we prayed and thanked God for this miracle growing inside me. I felt GREAT. A little bit of excess tiredness, but no sickness, no nausea (and all the preggo moms say HALLELUJAH!). Around when we found out, I saw a couple of my friends on FB announce that they were expecting. One friend was even due 2 days before me! How fun it was going to be to share this pregnancy together! We began texting daily about how we were feeling, sharing our excitement, etc. I don't know why we hesitated to post on social media, however I knew I wanted a special announcement, something that would include our Malachi in it and show how excited we were! On Tuesday, June 16th, we got together with one of my best friends and took this picture:
She emailed the copy to us that night, we fell in love with it, and decided we would post it the next day to Facebook! The next day was significant for two reasons: one was that I had been asked to contribute to a pregnancy after loss blog and be a bump day blogger. I would blog weekly on how this pregnancy after our loss was going and be real with what I was going through. I was excited for our story to bring more hope to others, and this next day was the day my first post was going to be shared! The other reason, was that we had out 8 week appointment that next day! EEEEK! We were excited to announce our pregnancy then see this beautiful baby at our appointment! 

The next day was busy. I didn't get around to posting the photo in the morning, and my new blog had been posted, I was officially a "bump day blogger" for ! We couldn't contain our excitement going into our appointment. I saw my doctor in the hallway while getting weighed (boo!) and my BP checked. We high-fived each other, she was giddy with excitement for us, and expressed how excited she was for this appointment, after all she had been witness to our pain and heartbreak with Malachi.

We get into the office and wait on the doctor. LaRon and I joked with each other about the possibility of twins (oh Lord!) and talked about how people had come to us with dreams that we were pregnant, we felt this as calm confirmation and had great expectation that this was going to be nothing but a perfect appointment. I am prepped for our ultrasound. LaRon gets the phone ready to video record, I wanted a recording of the heartbeat <3. The ultrasound begins. No sound. She prodded more. Her silent expression and the blank ultrasound screen was enough to confirm our worst and unexpected fear. There was no baby. There was a gestational sac, but nothing inside. The technical term being a "blighted ovum." Tears began to flow. Heart wrenching, soul crushing tears. I think my doctor even might have been silently crying with us. She held my hands in hers and said we would get a level 2 ultrasound ASAP, that possibly I wasn't as far along as we thought I was, best case scenario. I knew though, I knew exactly when this baby was conceived, I knew my dates were not off. We were sent home, to await our level 2 ultrasound the next day. I texted those close to us who knew, the news. That at this point a bonafide miracle would need to happen, for this pregnancy to continue. I was angry. I was heartbroken. I was silent. I didn't want to talk to anyone about it. I had things to do, we were prepping for our Run 4 Hope in honor of Malachi that was to happen the following Saturday. I couldn't deal with all of this at the same time. The next morning came and we went to our appointment. As we know, ultrasound techs couldn't say much, all she would say was that there was a pregnancy, which I followed with "ya but no baby, right" silence from her confirmed our fear. We were sent home without anything conclusive. My doctor called soon after and confirmed our fear. There was not going to be a baby from this pregnancy, and my body was continuing as if I were pregnant, she recommended I have a surgical procedure the following Monday to remove the "remnants of pregnancy" from my body. I proceeded in angry silence. I coordinated and directed our Run 4 Hope on June 20th with silent tears. Hardly anyone at the event knew. The ones that did gave me extra big hugs, the ones that didn't never knew anything else was wrong. I held it together to honor Malachi, and when I went home I fell apart. That Sunday (Father's Day) I sat through church, listening to my Father In Law preach about the goodness of God, with a cold heart. How could this good God let this happen, what was supposed to be our redemption, has yet turned into more pain. On some levels, it felt like this hurt in a way worse than Malachi's passing did. At least he was sick. Heaven meant healing and health for him. This baby wasn't even given the chance. I had failed. My body failed again to protect, grow and nurture my baby. Worship was excruciating, I stood with crossed arms, afraid of the torrent of anger and tears that might come if I were to surrender in that moment. Monday came, a haunting silence filled the space between LaRon and I. Devastation and heartbreak wearing us thin. Both wondering the how's and why's, me angry and feeling like a failure, him confused and trying to be the best support for me possible. The days have followed and my body has healed. I ended up being selected to sit on a jury, which would be a great excuse to tell my co-workers, only two of them had known, and how else do you explain what has ended up to be an over 2 week absence from my job. 

Which now brings me to the title of my post "silent suffering" Even though a baby never technically formed, any woman who has been pregnant can tell you that once you are pregnant, there is a baby. No matter what. The thoughts, ideas, plans you have are all there. I have felt a sort of silent suffering. That we had never "made it public" that we were expecting, so there's an element of support that was missing. It gave me a different perspective on loss. When only a select few know, only a select few can be there to support you. Our select few are incredible people, that have walked us through our darkest days and have been there for us through this as well, but I am not sure everyone has that. Even I have found myself having to reach out a bit more, saying "hey here's how I'm feeling, I'm really struggling..." It's been an entire different experience that has left me wondering why we tell women to "wait until the safe zone to announce it" why wait? for fear of loss? And what if you do lose a pregnancy early? Are you better that no one really knows, or are you better if everyone does and everyone can support you? I wonder about the women who suffer in silence. Who's heart breaks and no one hears them. I hear you. I guess I am writing this to encourage anyone going through loss to be open and vulnerable, it's hard, hard to reach out when you need help, but it is so much better than suffering in silence alone. 

It's still hard. I have questions for God. I am struggling in maintaining hope that we will have more children that fill our arms. I am confused as to why this would happen, on a different level than "normal loss", it just feels incredibly unfair.  Especially after all we've been through. 

So please keep us in prayer. And to those "afraid" to announce to early. I say go for it. And if the unthinkable happens, you will be surrounded by more love and support than if you were to suffer in silence alone.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

and so, I run...

Running, it’s been a therapy of mine for a long time. I went through a pretty traumatic experience about 10 years ago and running became my therapy. My way to escape, a way to channel the hurt and brokenness into something positive, as long as I ran I knew one foot was going in front of the other, I was still moving, I was still alive.

When I had my eldest son, I ran a ½ marathon right under a year after he was born. Again it was a bit of escapism for me, running to have “me” time, running to re-energize and spend time outdoors. When I got pregnant with Malachi, running took a bit of a backseat. I had some symptoms from the beginning of my pregnancy with him that were not right, and wreaked havoc on my previously fit self. When Malachi was born, and I almost lost my life, running was pulled off even the backburner and put into the pantry. Every ounce of strength, fight and will in me, was focused on him. His health, his survival, his life, fight and journey. I neglected myself for so long. I ate and drank barely enough to survive and pump for him, my body shuts down when I am stressed, and as you could try to imagine, we were in the most stressful situation of life. I lost a lot of weight, the unhealthy way. I became a shell of my former self. Sunken, dark eyes, ribs showing, dark circles, lifeless skin…where life once thrived, I remember looking in the mirror and feeling it had all been drained out of me. Then, that day, that awful, horrible, heart shattering, life-changing day when Malachi went to be with Jesus. The depths of my sorrow knew no limits. Not only did physically I resemble a shell, now I felt as if the whole world had been pulled out from under me, just as I was learning to stand on my two feet in the halls of the NICU. Everything we had hoped for, prayed for, dreamed for; for Malachi, was gone. In an instant he was gone from us and taken into eternity. A perfect and whole eternity for him, shattered and broken hearts left behind. I often wonder how eternity looks for him, if he looks down on me and thinks “just wait mommy, it’s so wonderful here, if only you knew…you wouldn’t be sad...” What I’d give for a glimpse of eternity in heaven. Dealing with all the decisions and plans that follow a death is distracting, I love to plan. Now I was planning the most beautiful party I never wanted to attend. After the service we were swept away to a mountain retreat with the closest of friends {Family}, and beautiful distraction followed. Time for us to be away, just the 3 of us. Upon our return we were graciously gifted with a getaway for LaRon and I, again, beautiful distraction in a tropical place. How can you not love laying on sundrenched beaches listening to the waves without a ‘care’ in the world. Except my care lingered, I could always feel the grief, just below the surface, it would explode at a moment’s notice.  A smell that would send me back to the darkness, the sound of a baby crying, the swollen bellies of expectant mothers without a care in the world…those and more triggers that would unleash a torrent of unstoppable tears and sobs from the deepest parts of me. When we got back, friends and family made sure we were taken care of, meals, phone calls, visits, we weren’t alone. In all truth I couldn’t be alone. I feared for what would come if I was left alone in my sorrow. Schedule and routine of friends spending time with me became my lifeline, especially when my Love returned to work and I was still at home. The sounds of the emptiness of the house were far too much to bear alone. Where newborn cries should’ve filled the air, instead was silence and the murmur of the ceiling fan. I am so grateful to my mat carriers who carried me through that time.

Then it happened one day.. I had the urge to run. But how to be alone? I didn’t know. What I did know was that I needed to learn to be alone with my grief. To really process it. To really learn from it. And to learn how to honor Malachi’s life with it. So I ran. I ran until I felt like I couldn’t that day and I broke. Tears flooded my eyes through my run as I was finally alone with my grief. I knew then, that running would again be my escape, my safe place. To be alone with my thoughts, which now wasn’t so scary, to pray, to talk to God, to talk to Malachi… the only place really free of distraction, was what I needed. It has been so healing and therapeutic for me to run again. If I am having an overwhelming grief day, I run. If I am feeling overtly good that day, I run. I run to celebrate my life and his. I run for him since he never was able to. I run for so many reasons. In early winter I registered to run a ½ marathon with a non-profit group that helps support local NICUs in Sacramento, our hometown. That ½ marathon is this coming Sunday, Mother’s Day. I am running in honor of Malachi. I am running for myself because I know that one foot in front of the other is sometimes the only way to get through a day. How precious is it that this run falls on Mother’s Day. My first Mother’s Day without Malachi, but running a tribute run in his honor. I can think of no better way to spend the day. Soon my passion for running will be fused into another way to honor and celebrate Malachi’s incredible life and legacy and I am so excited to share that with you soon! 

But this weekend, for 13.1 miles, among the 16,000 registered participants It will be me and him on that course. His spirit with me every step of the way. Guiding me out of darkness into a future of hope and life.

Friday, January 30, 2015

New Year, New Hope

New Year, New Hope.

This blog has been stirring in my mind for a while now. Well over a month. But I kept thinking that a blog titled new year, new hope is just too cliché..yet I have conceded with myself that when I feel the need to share something and it doesn’t go away, then I need to share it. What for, it’s likely I’ll never know. But listening to my inner (upper) voice is better than having it nag at me ALL.THE.TIME. So here we go.

I think there’s one question that a lot of people want to ask us, but they hesitate. It’s understandable that they hesitate, this is a touchy subject. This is one that can either bring an onslaught of tears and even more broken pieces of a heart or it could bring the twinkle to the eye of a new hope. When someone asked this at the reception after Malachi’s service (well they talked about it, didn’t necessarily state this question) I was horrified and dismissed them. A few months ago I would’ve hated when someone asked this question, it just would have been too hard to think about. This is the question:

Do you think you’ll have more children? Or any variation of that statement… although personally I hate the phrase “will you try again” as if I failed with Malachi, as if he never was here. He was here. He LIVED. He fought. I held him. I breathed his baby scent. I fed him. I changed his diapers. I had 127 days with him. And he died. I much prefer, “will you have another/more children”. I’ve actually been more careful now myself when talking with friends I know who’ve had miscarriages and have tailored my questions to “another/more” type statements, as opposed to “trying again”. But I digress… 

Earlier in our process this wasn’t something I could handle even thinking about, let alone talking about. My amazing husband would bring it up gently and even that felt like too much. I didn’t know if I would ever get to the point where even talking about this was OK. So I prayed. I prayed for God to renew that desire in me, if that is what He wanted. I prayed for Him to soften my heart, to prepare me for this. My husband and I had multiple conversations and in his wisdom he spoke something to me in probably the first conversation we had about this after Malachi passed and he said this: “I do not believe that our circumstances changes the dreams/desires that God has put in our hearts”. WHAT. Not what I wanted to hear. But so wise, and in time I have learned so very true. We always have wanted a lot of kids. 4. Some call that crazy. I call that seeing a home full of the sounds of love and laughter that I yearn for. Even if Malachi had lived longer and come home with us, we had still planned on having more kids. Because of consistent prayer and conversation with God and my husband, my heart softened to this idea. Not that an additional child would be Malachi’s replacement, but that he or she would be and addition to our family and one who was always wanted and always going to be there. So now where are we? The answer to the obvious question is No we are not pregnant right now (sorry for those that thought this might be a build up to that announcement!). But we have taken steps in that direction. We have been so open with our journey that I wanted to be open about this next step as well. So here is where we are:

In December we had a high risk pre-conception appointment. We met with the head of perinatology (high risk OBGYN) for Kaiser and had a great meeting. Our doctor had gone over my complete chart from our hospital stay when we had Malachi, my previous miscarriage at 15 weeks in early 2013 and our pregnancy and delivery with Deuce. There were some consistent abnormalities in all of them. In the least technical way to explain it, blood vessels to the placentas were clotted off. The placentas were never given the right amount of blood supply, therefore couldn’t nourish our babies correctly. With Deuce, our doctor told us, we got lucky. As tears rolled down my face I realized how much of a miracle he is. They believe this is why the miscarriage happened. They know this is why Malachi was so small (I know he was only 25 weeks, but he was small for 25 weeks, the size of a 23 weeker). This doesn’t explain the HELLP syndrome ( There are no known causes of HELLP, but clotting disorders are thought to be a risk factor. But it does allow us to do some preventative measures the next time we get pregnant to make sure that the placenta gets the correct amount of blood supply it needs, Lovenox (blood thinner) injections daily as soon as I test positive, weekly visits beginning at 16 weeks, weekly bloodwork to look for HELLP markers, weekly NSTs to monitor baby’s growth, etc. He also stated I have closer to a 50% risk of developing HELLP syndrome again, because of how early onset and how severe mine was with Malachi. And then he encouraged us. Showed us photographs of families who have been through what we’ve been through and have welcomed more children into their family, and he said this “I would not discourage you from having more children”…before we left he grabbed my hands and looked me in the eyes and said “I will be with you every step of the way, we can do this together if this is what you want.” Tears streaming down my face as we left, because let me tell you that is a lot if information to digest, a peace filled us. This doctor gave us hope. We know the journey will be different, in ways it will be more difficult, more complicated, more everything. But I know at the end I would be able to say it was all worth it, like I did with Malachi’s journey. Every moment worth it.

So that is where we are. We had our appointment; we have been given clearance and a “plan”, though we know more than anyone that not all things happen according to your plan, we have been given hope. A new hope. For a new year. And a new baby. So please pray for us. This journey seems daunting. I can’t imagine not being entirely stressed out the whole time or even being able to enjoy a pregnancy, but as I talked with one of my closest friends about this and I said “there’s no way I can have a stress free, completely enjoyable carefree pregnancy again” she wisely looked at me with love in her eyes and said “but you can.” Because we are rooted in truth, because my life and the lives of my children are in the hands of the One who holds us all, because we know that God is good regardless of our circumstance. I’m surrounded by such wise people.

So pray with us, for us, and for new life.

Perhaps this is real Christian living, this is whole hearted living. Where the greatest pain and trauma you have known, become the birthplace for the greatest miracle you could ever experience. (my version of a statement made by Christa Black

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