I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I have to admit, that was a hard day for me… but it got better. Waking up on my most favorite holiday and preparing the food without Luca here to celebrate with us was painful. I cried a lot. But, my caring and patient husband helped me through the day, and we were so fortunate to spend the holiday with some of our closest friends who really are such a source of comfort for me. We lit a special angel candle for Luca and our friends included him in their Thanksgiving prayer. I also made some butterfly cookies to include with the desserts. I am so very thankful for these friends who always remember Luca, yet also treat me like a normal person. I treasure these friendships where I can talk openly about my son if I want, and not be stopped by silence. Thank you, thank you. ❤
My mom surprised me recently with new plants for Luca’s grave! For fall he had pumpkins, but he needed something new for Christmas and a cold New England winter. She hired a gardener who planted tulip, crocus, hyacinth, and narcissus bulbs for spring in the shape of a heart – I love it! They also planted two miniature evergreens for Christmas.
It gives me a lot of peace to know that Luca’s grave is being so well cared for back home and is looking so beautiful.
If this is your first time reading about Luca’s story, you can read the previous posts here. It’s been a little bit since my last “chapter” shall I say… We left off towards the end of my Connecticut trip before I flew south for my friend’s wedding.
During the last few days at home in CT, I packed and got ready to leave for the wedding, which was in Naples, Florida. I packed up everything for the wedding and then everything else so that my bags would be ready for my trek back to Japan, since I had to depart the day after we returned from Naples. It was so hard to pack up all of the gifts that everyone had given to me at my baby shower. I kept almost everything, except for some things that I had purchased on my own while at home which I returned. My mom went to the Carter’s outlet for me to return a huge bag of clothing, because I could not bear to step foot in that store. I’m sure that was so hard for her too.
My mom and I headed to Naples early the Friday before Mother’s Day. I was going through the airport security area and looking pretty large (I think I was about 30 weeks at that point) and this woman stopped me and asked how pregnant I was. I answered and she said, “Ohhhh, I wouldn’t be traveling THAT pregnant” with a super judgey face. Sometimes I really want to slap people. I didn’t respond at all, but really wanted to tell her how my husband was DEPLOYED and my baby boy was DYING and I’m about to take 30 hours of air travel to JAPAN in a few days, so maybe she should lay off and keep her mouth shut. Experiencing the loss of my son has definitely taught me to be more gentle and understanding (something I need to work on daily) – that you never know what someone is going through, so do not be quick to judge.
Anyway, when my mom and I arrived to Naples and saw the gorgeous bride-to-be and stunning waterfront hotel, I was glad we had made the trip. I was honored to be one of Allison’s bridesmaids and was so glad that I could be there for her most special day. Before I had arrived we talked about how we would handle the weekend. We agreed that I wanted her to tell her parents and the bridal party about my situation that way people wouldn’t ask too many questions about the baby. At that point, it was just days after we were given the fatal diagnosis and anything would set me off. It would have been very painful to have people go on and on asking typical pregnancy and baby questions at that particular time. Allison’s friends and family are wonderful people and the wedding was small, so I truly felt like I was with my own family. Even though I was tired and my feet and back hurt, my mom I and danced the night away (thank you, bride, for providing us with flip flips!). Looking back at the photos from that day, it makes me smile to remember the fun we had that weekend celebrating the bride and groom with little Luca in my belly, even in the midst of such a difficult time.
The day after the wedding was Mother’s Day. My mom desperately wanted to find a way to cheer me up. I could tell she was heartbroken for me and wanted to try to put a smile on my face. But, it just wasn’t an easy time for me to smile. She surprised me with a pair of glitzy sandals from the hotel gift shop that were exorbitantly priced – she tried everything to make me happier. The bride and groom hosted a lovely farewell brunch for everyone, and then my mom and I decided to treat each other to the spa for Mother’s Day, since we were staying until the next morning. The spa attendant was a friendly, young guy and looked at me with a big smile on his face and said, “This must be the happiest Mother’s Day ever for you!” I tried to smile back at him and hold back the tears. I turned away and pretended to browse. He began to tell my mom about the baby girl his wife just had and how life changing and special she was. Thankfully, we were taken into our separate rooms shortly after. I had a facial and the woman talked non-stop about my belly and baby and wanted to know everything about him and our plans. I could barely keep myself together and just stopped responding to her until finally she got the message that I did not want to talk. I felt badly that people were just trying to be nice and friendly and saying all the things that any mom-to-be would want to hear, but to me it was just a reminder of the nightmare I was living.
That night, I emailed my closest friend in Japan who was planning my shower. I asked her to please cancel my baby shower, which was planned for less than two weeks later. She had worked so hard and I had been looking forward to that day so much – spending the day celebrating my baby with my friends who were like my family – but there was no way it could happen now. I asked her to please send this message to the guests:
As some of you know, our baby was diagnosed with a rare heart condition a few weeks ago. While this was scary enough, we had hope that with multiple surgeries he could live a healthy, normal life. A few days ago, we learned that he also has a rare chromosomal abnormality. The combination we are dealing with is extremely rare and these diagnoses together are unsurvivable. Whenever he decides to arrive, our sweet baby boy may live minutes to days at most. Our hearts are completely broken, but we will cherish every second that God gives us with him. We ask for you to please pray for our family and beautiful baby. There are just no words to describe how difficult this is and we are just trying to take one day at a time as we accept this reality. We appreciate your love and support.
I couldn’t sleep, so I tried to be productive. I emailed Dr. Fumi, my doctor in Okinawa to set up an appointment for Joe and I to meet with her and talk about everything. I messaged my friend who is a nurse at the military hospital to set up a plan of action in case we wanted to change hospitals. I wanted to consider all of our options. Thank goodness I had her, because it was nearly impossible to contact the OBGYN clinic from the U.S. with the time difference. I contacted my doula to set up a meeting with her to tell her the news and develop a plan. My mom woke up and asked if I was okay and told me to please try to sleep. I said okay, then snuck into the bathroom and sat on the floor researching birth photographers. I messaged three of them, explaining our situation and asking if they would be interested. I was shocked by two immediate responses from the two photographers I wanted most. One photographer said she was sorry she would not be available during the dates that I needed, but that she had lost her own baby years ago. She offered to meet with me and be a shoulder to lean on any time I needed her. That was one of the first times I realized that I was not alone and it was so comforting. The other photographer messaged me right back and said it would be her honor to photograph our birth and baby and that she would not accept any payment for it. I could not believe it. I would have paid any amount of money for these photos, but she would not accept. This was one of the greatest gifts anyone could give to us.
Getting all of those little plans worked out were ways that I felt that my husband and I could be good parents to Luca. I knew I wouldn’t get to make many parental decisions in his short life, so I wanted to work very hard to make sure that everything was planned as best I could for the day of his birth.
Two days later, after saying goodbye to family, I began my very long journey back to Okinawa. It was a pretty tiring journey for a 30 weeks pregnant lady (or anyone for that matter), but I was so looking forward to getting back to my husband and my own bed. I still cannot believe that we got through so much while being so far apart from each other, and I knew that just being physically together would make things a little easier.
One thing about living overseas in the military is the post office. Particularly the post office at Christmastime. Things can take forever to ship here, so it’s very exciting when they arrive! However, it’s nearly impossible to surprise your husband with a gift, since the contents of each package are listed on the customs form on the box. Grrrr. My husband went to get a package the other day that I was sure was a pair of shoes I ordered; however, it was really a very special Christmas present I ordered for him. He came home and said, “I don’t think I was supposed to see that!” It didn’t matter because I was so excited that his gift had arrived that I had to give it to him early anyway.
For months, I have been tracking down the two outfits that Luca ever wore – the outfit he had on when we had him at the hospital and the outfit that he was buried in. Both prints were not being manufactured anymore, but I was able to get one of them from another mom on base. The other one was more difficult to track down, so my mother helped me out. She went to Just Hatched in my hometown where it was purchased and explained the situation. The very nice owner did not have any of that outfit left, so she called the manufacturer (Kickee Pants) and they sent three of the little outfits that Luca wore at the hospital! I sent all of that to this amazing Etsy shop to have this little memory bear made. I call him our “Luca Bear.” Isn’t he the cutest??? This little bear made my week! (And my husband loved him too. 🙂 )
There are so many ways to remember a loved one and we are happy to have this to remind us of our little love. ❤