Friday, December 31, 2010

If Life Had Background Music...

Dear Luke,

I got on iPod for Christmas this year. I was feeling rather proud of myself for getting such a "hip" present that I bragged to nieces and nephews about my awesome gift. They just smiled smugly, not impressed at all, for they've had iPods for years. In fact, they all got iTouches this year. Well, I'm pretty impressed with myself, even if they aren't. I jumped off the technology train years ago. So, the fact that I even know how to download songs onto the little contraption or type on this blog is one amazing feat!

I've always thought life would be easier if we had our own personal background music playing. For instance, I could have saved myself lots of heartache and wasted time looking for the right boy if there had been background music. I would have known that all those other boys weren't "the one" because I would have never heard the sappy music playing in my head. If there were background music playing the day I met your dad, I'm sure it would have been heavenly. In fact, I think the clouds would have parted and angels themselves would be singing our love song.

It turns out, I don't need heavenly background music afterall. Just an iPod. As I was listening to it one day while changing bedding, I heard "Halle's Song". It's really called "The World" by Brad Paisly.

You think your one of millions,
But your one in a million to me.
If you wonder if you matter, baby,
Open up your eyes. And tell me can't you see?
That, baby, you are the world?"

This song takes me back to the day that I was released from the hospital after having Halle. She remained in the hospital, basking lazily under warming lights, attached to IVs. It was such a bitter/sweet moment driving home. How on earth could I drive away from the hospital without my gorgeous little girl in the back seat? This couldn't be happening. My heart was near breaking. And the same time my heart was near bursting with joy. Baby in the backseat or not, I was now a mother. Nothing could change that. Ever. And I realized at that moment that my world was forever changed by that beautiful little girl with the pink bow in her curly hair. Halle is my world.

I don't have to think for longer than a milli-second over what Sam's song would be - "Holding You" by Gretchen Wilson.

Holding you, holds me together.
When holding on, gets just a little too hard.
When the tightrope I travel,
Seems to unravel.
And I feel like I'm falling apart,
Holding you, holds me together.

This was the song playing in my head the first time I got to hold little Sam. He was three weeks old and it felt like this day would never come. I wonder if we even comprehended at that moment that we almost didn't get this moment, that perhaps the first time we held him could have been to let him go. Up until that moment I was slowly losing my battle with sanity. My little boy was so very sick, despite months of bedrest and doing everything humanly possible to bring him into the world safely. I got zero sleep, for I was either up with Halle in the night or pumping breastmilk to take to Sam first thing in the morning. I was emotionally and physically torn between home and the hospital. When I was with Sam I worried about Halle. Did she feel I had abandoned her? I'd rush home to her only to feel anxiety over Sam. How could I leave him when he was so sick? What if something happened and I wasn't there?

But then I got to hold him. And my life, which seemed to be completely in shambles, suddenly pulled together. I remember the way Sam felt in my arms and how he tried so hard to open his eyes and look at me. Eventually he gave up the fight and dozed happily in my arms. Life was perfect once again.

Now it's your turn. What song signifies you and your life? That day that I was changing bedding and listening to my own personal background music, a song came on that I hadn't heard in years. Sammy Kershaw's "Love of my Life".

You are the love of my life,
You are the reason I'm alive.
And...I need to tell you,
The first time I held you,
I knew, you are the love of my life.

I remember how terrified I was for you to be born. It would all be over, you would be gone and I wasn't sure I was ready for that. I was also afraid that I wouldn't, couldn't, love you. I remember when H and S where born, it was one of the most spiritual moments of my life. I first saw their faces and I was so madly in love that I would have willingly given up my life for them. But how could it be that way with you? Surely I couldn't have those same feelings for a baby that never got to take a breath? But, oh, how wrong I was!!

When you were born, the doctor placed you immediately in my arms, a situation that I had never been in before but always dreamed about. You weren't rushed away from me like the other two. I got to hold you and look into your beautiful face. I got to count your fingers and toes. I got to "oo and ah" over your precious nose and lips. And then there were your curly long eyelashes. I was in love. So madly, deeply in love. And I knew, you are the love of my life and one of the best decisions I could have ever made. I am eternally better because of you and I truly believe that you are one of the reasons I am here on this earth. Having you was one of my important missions here.

On that day that I was contemplating the background music in my head, I found that I was no longer making beds at all, but rather sitting on the edge of S's bed listening all teary eyed. It was at that moment that "Ordinary Miracle", by Sarah McLauchlin, came on. It is my all time favorite song. In fact, I would say that it is "my song".

"Life is like a gift they say,
Wrapped up for you every day...
It's just another ordinary miracle today."

I listened to these sweet words as I watched Sam playing on the floor with his new Christmas toys. Suddenly he looks up at me, and with no prompting at all says "I. Love. You. Mommy." While he is now on track with his speech, it is still very punctuated. But it doesn't bother me. Last year at this time he was completely inarticulate. All he ever did was grunt. It was so hard to be around other children who, even though several months younger, could say several dozen words if not string a few together in a sentence. So just to hear Sam put those four words together at all is a miracle in and of itself. And to know he means it, well, that's the crowning moment of motherhood.

I think I've just come to expect miracles in my life. It hasn't been an overly charmed life. We've had to battle through some tough moments. But I've just come to expect that we will make it through these tough moments with flying colors. Perhaps rather naively, it never occurred to us that we could have lost Halle during her delivery. We didn't stop to think how close Sam was to death during his first 3 weeks of life. We were being watched over. Life would work in our favor. We would see miracles.

For weeks after your birth I was in shock. How could the Lord have let us down? Where was our miracle this time? It took me a while to see it, Luke, but now I do. You did not have to take a breath, move those little tiny arms, or blink those beautiful eyes to be a miracle. Just the fact that you lived, and that you still live today even if it's not here on earth, is the greatest miracle of all.

I believe my life is full of these "ordinary miracles". And at this moment I found myself crying, and not the tears of sorrow that so commonly punctuate my days. Instead, these are tears of joy and gratitude. I wish you were here, Luke. I will always wish for that. But I can see that my life is "charmed" after all, for I now have three children. And nothing can change that. Ever.

All my love,

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Celebration of Life (and Light)

Dear Luke,

If I were any normal mom, I would be in the hospital right now having you. If you were any normal baby, you'd be screaming at the top of your lungs, letting the world know you had arrived. Unfortunately we aren't normal. I am home writing this letter and you are looking down on us from heaven.

When did all this happen to us?

So, today is your due date. We knew you'd never make it to this day - Dec 23. We came to terms with that months ago - when we first heard we were pregnant, actually. We knew you'd come early and that your birthday would be weeks, possibly even months before today. We figured you'd spend time in the NICU, just like your brother and sister. But if you were anything like them, you'd be home by your due date. By today. And that is what we had planned for you.

But life has worked out so differently than planned.

We didn't want to focus on our sorrows today. We miss you terribly and wish that your life had turned out differently than it did. But we cannot change what has happened. We can, however, change the way we see this tragedy. And so today we chose to celebrate your life.

First, we made a snowman on your grave. I want you to get to see all the wonderful things this life has to offer. And one of those things is a frosty little friend made of sparkling snow. Halle and Sam were so excited to make you a snowman and were positive you were watching us today.

Your name means "messenger of light". To celebrate the light that you have brought to our family, we lit a candle in your honor that burns even as I write this.

We also went to one of our favorite places to visit - the Salt Lake temple. It is such a beautiful, peaceful place. It is the reminder that our family is eternal. And at this time of the year, the temple seems to glow more than usual as the temple grounds are lit up by hundreds of thousands of lights. It just felt right to be at a place that has brought so much light and hope to our family.

Just like you. You have brought us light. You have helped us feel our Savior's love. We are better people because of you. And that is something worth celebrating!!
I love you, my son,

Monday, December 13, 2010

Let it snow!

I love the snow. I love the way it makes the world feel cozy, like it's just been wrapped in a fluffy white blanket. I love to curl up in a blanket and watch the snow fall as I sip hot chocolate and read a good book. Back in the days before the poverty of college and the cautiousness of pregnancy took place, I used to love snowboarding. Now I love to make snowmen and snow angels with my kids in the fresh snow. There are just so many possibilities with the snow, but who knew that the snow could be an answer to my prayers...

I know the stages of grief. In the first few weeks after your death I rotated through each stage several times a day it seemed. But somewhere along the way I seemed to get stuck in the "anger" stage. Only it was a little deeper than anger. Pure rage, nasty hatred. That's really what it was. (Does that say something sinister about my personality?) At times I have felt the whole universe has turned against me. It's easy to feel that way when there were 10 people in your church pregnant, well, as of September there was one less. The large majority having boys, like me. Due around the holidays, like me. All now snuggling there babies, but not me. It doesn't help that two of my three closest friends fit in this category of women all having boys around the holidays (the other isn't due until March). One had her baby on our "hopeful date" of November 23. That right there caused me to go into deep depression. I felt like she got everything I had worked for, sacrificed for - the perfect pregnancy yielding the perfect little boy.

I didn't mean for it to happen, but I began to develop very bitter feelings toward her. I ran into her at a preschool open house. I couldn't look at her, let alone be in the same room as her. I hated that people kept asking her about her labor and delivery experience. No one asked about mine - mostly because most of them didn't even know I had been pregnant, but also because no one wants to hear about your labor and delivery of a baby that was already gone.

I began to avoid this friend like the plague. I'd turn and walk the other direction if I saw her at church. I changed the subject when others would talk about her. My anger and bitterness was beginning to affect my sleep. I'd wake up in the middle of the night having just had a dream where I'd be yelling at my friend who had tried to show me pictures of her baby. I'd tell her how insensitive she was and then begin swearing at her (which is NOT something I usually do) and tearing up the pictures of her baby which I would then stomp on. It was a disturbing dream. I promise that I'm not usually a violent, angry person and it was clear that I was turning into someone I wasn't happy being. So I decided to look for a way in which I could serve this friend.

That's when it began to snow.

I knew she would be taking her daughter to preschool soon. I didn't think she needed to be out shoveling her driveway after just having a baby. And it didn't seem safe to be carrying a baby out to the car on the slippery snow. So I grabbed my shovel and headed to her house. As I shoveled her driveway I cried. I'm not quite sure why, but I did. After a few minutes I heard the door opening. "Ann! What are you doing?" My friend stood in her doorway with tears in her eyes.

Slowly I walked to the door and to my friend. "Please don't give up on me," I muttered. "This is just really hard for me right now, but don't give up on our friendship." At this point she pulled me into a tight hug and held me for a long time as we both cried. And then I said the words that were the hardest to say, "I am happy for you." And it was true. I am happy for my friends. I just hurt for me. Sometimes it's hard to see that I can still be happy for others while in the depths of my own pain.

It took a snowstorm to show me that I'm going to be okay. I hurt everyday. I cry everyday. But I don't have to let my pain destroy my friendships. I don't have to let my grief turn me into a bitter, hateful person. I can mourn the loss of you, my son, I can miss you every day, but I can also love and serve others around me. I can still be happy.

Yup, there are just so many possibilities with the snow.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Luke's Story

Dear Luke,

To truly understand the story of your life, we have to start back a couple of years. I guess you could say your story truly began with your big sister...

It appeared we were going to have a miscarriage in the first trimester. Things were not looking good. But that feisty little girl hung in there until 35 weeks. She was delivered by emergency c-section. I was having a placental abruption and it was obvious the doctors were scared. She was born wide-eyed and silent. I was terrified. Was she okay?

Halle was whisked away to be cleaned and checked. It was at this moment that she would begin to cry. The most beautiful sound a mother could hope for.

After a short NICU stay (which seemed like an eternity to us as naive, first-time parents) Halle came home attached to oxygen and monitors. All her extra cords would accompany us for several months, but soon that would all be forgotten. And being completely in love with our little girl and with the idea of parenthood, we decided to have another when Halle was 15 months old.

Perhaps it was a good thing we didn't know at this point that I had physical problems that caused complicated pregnancies. Had we known all that was going to happen over the next few months, we may not have been so anxious for our little boy to arrive. Little did we know that he would arrive all too soon...

When I was 19 weeks pregnant with Sam I was rushed to the ER. I was bleeding like crazy and in emotional shock. What was happening to me? Turns out I had a placenta previa. I would sporadically start bleeding every few weeks and took many trips to labor and delivery. At 19 weeks I went on "partial bedrest". By 23 weeks I was on full bedrest. And by 29 weeks I kept going into labor. After consulting with specialists, our doctor decided that there was nothing else we could do and decided to let Sam come on his own.

Sam arrived at 30 weeks gestation and had a mess of hair on his head (and all over his body for that matter). He was a beautiful shade of pink and tried his best to cry. It only came out as a little whimper and would be the only sound he would make for another three weeks. During these weeks he spent his time on a ventilator, with one lung collapsed at a time to heal them, and all the while his other organs began to fail. Miraculously, Sam would get better and after two months, he would go home to be snuggled by his big sister who adores him.

We found out during our pregnancy with Sam that there were reasons for all of my placental problems.  After learning this information - knowing it wasn't just a coincidence but rather something that would happen again - and watching Sam fight for his life, we decided that we should be done with our family.

This decision nearly broke my heart, but we felt we had no other option. A year and a half after making this decision, however, we no longer felt so good about it. We felt very strongly that our family was NOT over with quite yet. After countless hours of prayer and several trips to specialists, we found a doctor with answers. Not only was he the only one who could explain in detail why we had these problems, but he also felt he had some ways of preventing another "Sam pregnancy". We knew that I would never make it to 40 weeks, but if we could just make it to 35 weeks again.

And so began our latest journey through life. Your life...

I found out in mid-April that I was expecting. I have never been so scared in all my life. But peace quickly replaced my fear. You were the answer to all of our prayers.

By the time I was 23 weeks along I had had 4 ultrasounds. I went in to my regular OB every week to receive progesterone shots to prevent me from going into labor. I went to a specialist once a month for ultrasounds, cervical checks, and testing for infections. Our ultrasound on Sept 3 showed that you were growing big. Halle and Sam came with me for my appointment on Sept 9 which was on my 24 week mark. To reach this milestone with very few complications was an enormous feat for us and we began to breathe a sigh of relief. That day the kids got to hear your little heart beating so loud and so strong. This miraculous sound put enormous grins on both of their faces and caused Halle to put her hands on Sam's cheeks, look him in the eyes and say "Do you hear that? That's our baby!!"

I don't think I've ever seen a four- and two-year-old so excited for a little brother before. They had worked just as hard as Dad and I had to get you here safely. Halle learned to make her own bed and do little chores around the house. Sam learned to sleep in a big boy bed so that I wouldn't have to lift him out of his crib anymore. In fact, he learned to climb up into his own high-chair and carseat to prevent me from having to pick him up. Dad took over all the major housekeeping and grocery shopping. And me? Well, I learned to do absolutely nothing. I was afraid to even bend over. So I spent most of my day sitting on the floor playing with the kids. It was a wonderful time for us. We were closer than ever before as we worked toward our goal of getting you here safely. Halle prayed every night that you would grow healthy and strong. And you did, until less than 48 hours after hearing your heartbeat...

I woke up shortly after midnight on Saturday morning, Sept 11. I felt immediately that something was wrong. I went to check on Halle and Sam who were sleeping peacefully. They were snuggled into their bunk beds, our way of making room for you in the nursery. Once I was convinced they were fine I went back to bed. And that is when I knew why I had woken up. You weren't moving anymore. You were by far my most active baby, and that's saying something since Halle and Sam were both high-strung and hyperactive from the womb. I felt you kick several weeks before I felt the other two. I remember giggling during my last ultrasound at the bubbles forming in the fluid as your little legs stirred everything up. Your constant movements actually kept me awake at night - they were SO distracting. But not his time. This time I felt absolutely nothing.

I tried everything I could think of to wake you up. Dad and I convinced ourselves we were just being overly paranoid. But after some time had past and nothing changed we rushed to the hospital where they would quickly confirm our greatest fear - you were gone.

This day would prove to be the worst day of my entire life. And yet, I have never felt so close to the Lord before. There are memories of that day that I cannot return to - they are just too painful. But there are other memories from that day that bring such a joy to me that I cannot help but look at them as tender mercies from the Lord.

You were born at 9:35 pm, Saturday Sept 11, 2010. You weighed 1 pound 12 ounces (rather large for a 24 weeker!) and were 12 1/2 inches long. You looked so much like your older brother and sister. Same kissable mouth. Same button nose. You even had their same long curly eyelashes. We would spend the next 20 hours bathing and dressing you, taking countless pictures of you, and snuggling you in our arms. Never before had we held a baby right after birth. Never before had we gotten to have one of our babies sleep in my hospital room with me. We would cherish those 20 hours and the novelty of having you right there with us. Your sweet little body only lay in the bassinet for an hour or two while Dad and I tried to sleep. But the rest of the time if you weren't in my arms, then you were in Daddy's. We felt as though we couldn't get enough hugs and kisses in, for we knew our time was short.

While your story may seem like a sad one, you have brought us closer to our Heavenly Father, and for that I cannot help but rejoice. While I have experienced all of the typical signs of grief, including questioning God over some of the aspects of our loss, there are two things I have NEVER doubted for a minute:

First, I have never doubted that Christ lives, that He suffered for our sins and heartaches, and that after being hung on the cross and placed in a tomb, He was resurrected. I have never doubted these truths and the knowledge that one day you will be resurrected again because of our Savior's sacrifice. There are times when my arms literally ache to hold you and my lips long to kiss your sweet smelling head. At these times I remind myself to be patient, for one day I will get the chance to wrap my arms around you and kiss you all I want. That will be one very happy day!

Secondly, I have never doubted that we were supposed to bring you into this world, even if you never got a chance to live in it. I do not regret our decision to have you. If I had known how all of this would end - the intense pain that would follow - I would have chosen it anyway. For you are worth every bit of the pain and sorrow I feel at your loss. You are also worthy of all the joy and happiness we experience over the thought of your life.

You were loved, long before we first saw you. You were wanted long before you were even conceived. You have changed us forever and we are much better people for having you in our lives. And this is your story.

Remember you are loved,