An Unexpected Gift

I had to write this short post today, because I am just blown away by a beautiful gift we have just received.  I say a “short post” because I am one day away from my due date with our rainbow baby and so incredibly tired and a bit uncomfortable, but this truly made my week and I have to recognize this amazing person!

One thing I have learned from experiencing the grief of losing a child is that there are a lot of people who you barely know or who you’ve never even met who offer you strength, love, and the most generous acts of kindness. I could go on and on about how incredible many of our friends and family were during the most difficult times.  I can never thank them enough.  But what was most surprising to me was the help and support from people we barely knew or had never met.  We had people brand new to my husband’s squadron who brought us meals and were unafraid of our weary, blank looks, our tears, and our inability to make small talk at the time.  We received cards and gifts from near and far from friends of friends, church members from back home, or others who we had never met, but who wanted to comfort us in our time of need.

Okinawa will always hold a special place in my heart, since Luca was born there. Anyone who knows me or has read this blog or my Facebook posts knows that rainbows remind me of our angel the most.  Living in such a beautiful place was a gift from God where I could feel connected to my son as I witnessed some of the most gorgeous sunsets, scenery, and most of all the rainbows that appeared to me so often shortly after Luca’s death and on other special or difficult days like Christmas and my birthday.

Now we are happy living in Kansas, but I will always miss those things about Okinawa.  Recently, I saw photos that friends back in Okinawa posted or shared of a spectacular double rainbow.  One picture, in particular, was shared on many pages of the full arc of that double rainbow over the ocean in an area we frequented.  I tracked down the person who took the picture (never met her) and messaged her to see if I could buy a digital version of the image or order a print from her.  Her name is Jen. Most of my own rainbow pictures were taken on my phone and I thought this would be such a beautiful photo to hang in our new home to remind us of our Luca and Okinawa.  I didn’t mention Luca or exactly why I was interested in the photo, but nonetheless, Jen later messaged me back asking for my address and said she would like to send me a framed canvas version of the photo – no need to pay, just pay it forward to someone else.

Well, today I opened my door to find a package that I fully expected was one of the thousand things we ordered off of Amazon prime, haha!  Instead, it contained the canvass of the rainbow and it is absolutely stunning!  Again, I just cannot believe the kindness of this woman I have never met who gave us such a generous gift that has so much meaning to our family.  Take a look!

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(Excuse the wrinkled sheets and not quite fully decorated bedroom!)

I am so grateful for people like Jen who really prove to me over and over again that there is so much good in the world.  Do you know someone who is going through a difficult time and you are not sure if you should reach out, write them a note, bring them a gift or a meal, or carry out an act of kindness?  If you can, then you should.  I guarantee they will appreciate it and will take great comfort in your efforts and friendship.  I look forward to finding ways to pay this kind gesture forward to someone else soon.  During those most difficult times, actions always speak louder than words.  Thank you again, Jen!  You have a gift for photography and we will cherish this photo forever!  ❤

 

 

34 Weeks

It’s been a looooong time since I’ve last blogged and I’m not proud of it.  Actually, many times I feel guilty for not keeping up with this, because it is a way that I honor my son.  And sometimes that makes me feel like a bad mom.  However, the emotions of this second pregnancy have been overwhelming, and I just haven’t been able to sit down and put my thoughts in order as I would want to.  Not to mention, we moved from one side of the world to the other (while 30 weeks pregnant with a very unhappy cat), and had to get set up from scratch at our new place and figure out things like driving on the right side of the road again and other reverse cultural shocks.

Lately though, I have really felt the overwhelming need to write.  There are and were a lot of moments during this pregnancy that have been especially hard to get through and this 34th week is one of them.  Luca’s heart stopped beating and I delivered him at 34 weeks, so that has been on my mind so much lately.  It’s strange and difficult to experience huge amount of sadness for Luca, excitement for this new baby boy, and tremendous anxiety and fear for the health of this baby all at the same time.  Truly it can be exhausting.

For awhile I postponed a lot of things that I needed to do to get ready for baby like working on the nursery, thinking about clothing, carseats, etc., because I was afraid that if I made those preparations something would surely go wrong and then I would have a carseat in the car and a room decorated, but with no baby.  I’ve finally started to be able to move past some of those fears and have been able to find joy and excitement in getting ready for baby.  I still have those fears, but I am able to focus more on the excitement thankfully.  It certainly helps that I can feel baby move every day, which calms me and assures me that he is well.

Here are pictures of his nursery, which my husband and I just finished painting (I drew and he painted) – alpine themed! 🙂  Now, just waiting for all of our furniture and household goods to arrive from Japan, so we can complete it!

During the earlier months, I was sometimes overcome with anxiety to the point of feeling ill over whether or not baby was okay.  During those months, I went to the hospital at least three times for fear that something was wrong and I had lost this little boy too.  Many of those instances were around the times in my last pregnancy when bad news was delivered.  I was so lucky to have an amazing care team in Japan and a compassionate and understanding hospital who encouraged me to come in any time that I was fearful.  Whether it was those hospital visits or my regular checkups, each time they put the monitor, doppler, or ultrasound on me I felt as though I would throw up in those seconds that I had to wait to hear a heartbeat or see his little face and know he was okay.

Today, at 34 weeks plus six days, we had an ultrasound.  My doctor suggested it both to ease my mind and because he is my new doctor here and wanted to see things for himself.  The ultrasound technician acknowledged our first baby and mentioned Trisomy 18 and said she was sorry to hear of our loss.  I told her some of the markers that Luca had had that led to his Trisomy 18 diagnosis.  She went to each tiny body part of our new baby boy and showed me clearly and carefully that everything was okay.  I started out the exam with the usual tightness in my chest and higher than normal blood pressure – it was this appointment in my pregnancy with Luca that I heard the words, “I’m sorry.  There is no heartbeat.” I couldn’t help but remember that.  My anxiety dissipated with each exclamation of health that she made.  She understood our fears and did as much as she could to calm them – for that I am so thankful.  I am also so thankful that my new doctor has an ultra calm demeanor (he has delivered babies for over 32 years!), which is exactly what I need for this upcoming birth.

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Our handsome little munchkin!

Now that the craziness of moving has settled, I can reflect on how things are in our new home.  Moving to Kansas has been bittersweet.  On the one hand, it’s been refreshing to have a new start in a new beautiful home, and most of all be so much closer to family and our friends in the U.S.  On the other hand, Okinawa was such a special place for us… Luca was born there and the beauty of the island – the sound of the ocean, the many rainbows and gorgeous scenery that appeared –  truly helped to heal many of my wounds and provided peace in my heart.  We left behind an amazing community – a military family of the most wonderful friends who supported us like I could have never imagined.  They let us talk about our son without it being awkward and we all were there for each other, both to celebrate the happiest of times as well as life’s sorrows.  Being on the other side of the planet now, I miss them so much!!!!

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While I love to get out and meet new people, it has been both difficult and awkward with our circumstances.  One of the biggest daily challenges an angel mom or dad has, which I know I’ve mentioned before, is when someone asks, “How many kids do you have?” or “Is this your first?”  I, like others, struggle with how to answer this question every day and my answer depends on how I feel at that moment.  And usually, no matter what, I feel badly about however I end up answering.  If I am out and it’s a completely random person that I won’t see again, I usually just say, “Yes, it’s my first.” to avoid the awkwardness, but mostly because I don’t want to get into it with someone I’ll never see again.  However, I always walk away from that feeling guilty and sad that I did not mention one of my children.  In the other scenario, I meet a lot of people that I will see again or might see again and usually I choose to say, “No, this is my second.”  Sometimes, it’s easy and they don’t ask anything further and it can be nice, normal light conversation.  But, the natural next question is, “How old is your first?”  Then, I say, “He actually passed away last year.”  That person I’m talking to then feels terrible and goes quiet and I then feel terrible for making them feel bad or awkward.  But, to me it’s still worth it to tell the truth.  I always tell them that it’s okay and not to feel bad, which is kind of weird to console someone else about the death of your own child, but I want people to know that he is part of our family and like any angel mom, I like to talk about him, so that is why I answer truthfully.  I also really don’t want to deal with someone talking to me like I haven’t been through birth before.  The best case scenario is when someone asks those questions and is not awkward or quiet.  Instead, they say they are so sorry and/or ask more about Luca.  While I can understand why people would hesitate to ask questions, I am always willing to answer those questions.  To take a step out of your comfort zone to ask someone about their child in Heaven is a gift to any bereaved parent.  It truly makes my day to be able to talk about Luca even if it’s just one sentence.

Last week, I tried out a yoga class at my new gym.  It was titled, “Gentle Yoga,” which it was, but I still had difficulties doing about 80% of the moves maneuvering my legs and arms around my giant watermelon sized belly… it was comical.  It felt good to stretch and at least I did something!  As we neared the end of the class, the teacher changed the music as we be began our shivasanas.  Yoga has been an emotional, but healing part of my grief journey, and as soon as I laid down to meditate and bring an end to my yoga practice, I instantly recognized the song by Israel Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole… “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  I was thankful that everyone else in the room had their eyes closed as I lay there in silence with tears rolling down my cheeks thinking of Luca.

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yoga is difficult when you look like this!

While starting over here in Kansas has been a good thing, it’s also sad to feel that something is missing.  In Okinawa, I kept Luca’s room as a special place devoted to him, and at the moment we are living in an empty house waiting for our things to arrive from Japan.  In Okinawa, I felt so many connections to the beauty of the island that made me feel so much closer and connected to my angel.  My friends and family know that rainbows have always been a sign for me that Luca is right here with me.  I knew it would be different here in Kansas.  And it is.  It is a new place that has a different sort of beauty.  The skies and fields are so vast and the sunsets are beautiful.  I think of Luca when I look at all of the gorgeous clouds in the sky or am just enjoying the beautiful fall weather.  A few weeks ago, we were on our way to pick up my family.  I had been feeling sad that day, just missing my boy and wishing he was with us to greet my family at the airport.  As we approached the airport, a tiny little baby rainbow appeared in the clouds!  The first one I had seen in Kansas!  My heart swelled with joy as I thought of my little angel here with us as we picked up my family.  Turns out they saw it from the plane too and had the same feelings.

God truly knows what we need and when we need it and for that we are truly blessed.  As I pass this 34 week milestone with baby boy, I am trying to keep that in mind.  While I cannot control the outcome of this pregnancy, I know that He will be walking this journey with me and will provide the strength and comfort that I need to carry this baby as long as I can, and bring him into this world into our loving arms. ❤

Another Blessing

I have not blogged since March 17th.  I have had so many thoughts and things I’ve wanted to talk about, but couldn’t.  Couldn’t because I haven’t been ready to, and because my emotions have been so mixed up that I just haven’t been able to find the right words to say.  I would start some thoughts on a page about Luca, his birthday, grief, or whatever was on my mind, but those thoughts were always connected to the fact that…. I am pregnant again. ❤

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Baby Boy at 9.5 weeks 🙂

We are so thrilled for this new baby that we planned for and wanted so much, just like Luca.  Another sweet baby boy!  However, it has been hard to celebrate and feel excited when I am so worried and fearful at the same time.  It has taken me a long time to be ready to share our news.  Even now, I wrote this post close to a week ago, and I keep putting off posting it, because I’m always thinking “what if?”  But I know that I do want to share this pregnancy too, because I want to celebrate this child and I know that no matter what happens in our lives, we have friends, family, acquaintances, and even people we don’t know who support us – we are so fortunate for that.

At first, when we decided we were ready to try for another baby, I needed it to happen ASAP.  I couldn’t wait any longer.  I needed to be pregnant.  I had waited more than the minimum amount of time my doctors suggested to let my body recover, because it took much longer for my mind to be in a better place than my body.  I worked out like crazy to get my body in great shape, so that I would be able to exercise throughout another pregnancy.  I saw doctors and had tests to find out what were the chances of something going wrong again?  Everything came back perfectly fine and healthy – no reason to worry they said.

We were away on vacation in northern Japan when we found out and I could not believe it.  I actually was in so much denial that I didn’t even tell my husband, because I thought the first two tests couldn’t possibly be for real.  By the third test, the lines undeniably meant that I was pregnant, so I knew it was true and surprised my hubby with a cheesy poem in a Valentine’s Day card.  We cried happy tears and celebrated on our vacation.

Now, I am halfway through this pregnancy and due in October.  I still ask myself and God every day, “Will I get to keep this baby?”  I don’t take any day for granted.  I don’t have the same blissful excitement as a first pregnancy or someone who has not been through this pain.  I didn’t want to tell anyone for as long as possible, because I thought that if I showed excitement or that I was expecting things to go well, then something bad would happen.  I just wasn’t ready to be excited.  Most people feel relieved after the first ultrasound when they can hear their baby’s heartbeat or after the magical 12-week mark when everything is “fine” after that, but those appointments and milestones did not do much to ease my worry.  In fact, I struggle with extreme anxiety at most of my doctor’s appointments until they can assure me that baby is doing okay.

I did start to tell my family and closest friends, especially those who live with us in Okinawa, because I physically could not hide it much more after about 14 weeks.  Even sooner than that my friends suspected something, because my belly popped SO much sooner this time around!  I realized that telling my friends was a good thing, because in a way they helped me to feel more relaxed and excited about my pregnancy.  They had seen what we went through and I felt that they knew about my Luca even more than most of my family did.

Sometimes I feel guilty about being pregnant again – that Luca might think I’m moving on, which is so not true.  Another fear I have is that with the passage of time and this new pregnancy people will forget about Luca.  I still love to talk about him and I always will.  I was talking to another angel mom yesterday who lost her son four years ago about this – no one can truly imagine how much we think about our babies who are gone.  All the time.  I am not “done” grieving.  I will always mourn the loss of my first son.  It bothers me when people say “everything will be okay this time,” because I just want to scream, “you don’t know that!” It’s better if someone says, “I really think that everything will be okay this time”or “I am praying for a healthy pregnancy” or just simply, “congratulations!” – you can think, wish, and pray for everything to be okay (and I appreciate that so much – I really do), but please don’t try to tell me that everything will for sure be okay.  I’ve also had people ask, “So the doctors say everything is fine this time, right?  So baby will be okay?” Are you kidding me?! You will never know if everything will be okay!  No doctors appointment, pregnancy milestone, or ultrasound will give me that kind of confidence.  Until this baby is safely in my arms, breathing and crying, I will not stop worrying!  Oh, and then, I will not stop worrying until the day I die, because, well, that is parenting, right??

This new baby boy is not replacing Luca.  He will not “balance out” the unimaginable grief and loss we have experienced.  This will not fix everything.  Think of your children if you have any.  Could another child replace your child?  No way.  Each child is a uniquely special gift from God.  We will love this baby boy just as we love Luca and look forward to telling him all about his older brother when the time comes.

I could write so much more about pregnancy after loss, and I look forward to doing so, in addition to continuing to write about Luca.  For now, I am doing my best to celebrate this pregnancy as I celebrated my last.  I take one day at a time to keep myself from worrying about the future too much.  To me it’s like the end of a long run when you are getting tired.  Just focus on the next light post or telephone pole.  Then, when you get there, find the next one and focus on that… until you reach your goal.  That’s what I’ve been doing with each week, each doctor’s appointment, each kick that I can now feel from Baby Boy.  I will continue to pray for my angel and for the health of this baby, and give thanks to God for these two beautiful children that we have been blessed with who are perfect to me in every way. ❤

 

 

Luca’s Story – Part 8 – Labor of Love

I feel like I have been holding off on writing about Luca’s birthday, because I’m afraid of not writing it beautifully or perfectly enough.  It was the biggest day of my life, next to marrying my handsome husband, and I want to depict it well.  However, all I can do is be real.  Disclaimer: this post is about childbirth, so if that’s not your thing, don’t read on!  But, I must write about it, because this day was the most beautiful and special of days to me.  The entire experience with my husband and my beautiful boy will forever help to heal my heart.


 

In my last post, we had just found out that sweet Luca’s heart had stopped beating.  After the doctor gave my husband and I some time alone to process what we had just learned, she came back to discuss the next steps.  As I mentioned previously, most people don’t ever really think about the fact that even if your baby dies, you must still go through labor and delivery in the majority of cases. We had already discussed this scenario and decided that I wanted to be induced immediately, so that we could meet Luca as soon as possible and see him in his best condition.  The doctor told us she would notify the hospital staff.  In the meantime,  and we could go home and take our time to talk to our families and pack a bag, then come back to the hospital, so that’s what we did.

My husband drove us home.  We had arrived separately to the hospital for the appointment, but I was in no condition to drive myself at that point.  We called one of the military chaplains on the way home and he invited us to come to his office.  We stopped at the chapel on the way home to pray with the chaplain.  If I am being honest, I will say that at that moment, sitting with the chaplain and hearing his words did not comfort me.  I felt like none of his words were penetrating and nothing made sense.  We were trying to do the right thing… to pray for Luca and try to get through this and heal ourselves, but everything was just confusing and sad.  We got home and I sat on the couch while my husband called his boss.  We couldn’t call our families yet, because they were all sleeping with the time difference.  We went upstairs and began to pack a hospital bag.  How do you even pack a hospital bag when you know it will be the only time you’ll ever spend with your child?  I packed about 10 outfits because I had no idea what would fit him since I knew he would be so tiny. As we were getting things together, my nurse Katie, who had been helping us since we started going to the U.S. Naval Hospital, called us.  She told us that she thought the hospital staff coming on shift first thing the next morning would be a much better fit for our situation.  The midwife the next morning was one who I had requested, and Katie highly recommended that we wait until then in order to have the best experience.  I didn’t have to think twice to agree to her suggestion.  While I wanted to meet Luca as soon as possible, I wanted his day to be peaceful and perfect and I trusted Katie’s opinion more than anyone at that hospital.  It was vital for those surrounding us to be respectful and compassionate and Katie assured me that would be the case that next day.

We told our families that night and comforted each other as best as we could.  We notified our doula and photographer that we would need them the next day.  There really wasn’t much to say and I was too exhausted to talk to many people.  It was actually good that we stayed home that night because I fell right asleep and slept the whole night.  Katie told us that the hospital would be calling between 5-6 a.m. the next morning to confirm when we should come to the hospital.

The next morning, my husband handled all of the hospital coordination and we arrived to the hospital around 7:30 a.m.  I was completely overwhelmed walking into the building.  I remember a friend tapped me on the shoulder and gave me a hug as she spotted me in the entrance area and I know I must have looked like a deer in headlights… with my hospital bag and pillow under my arm getting ready to deliver a baby that I would never bring home.

At the same time, I was really excited.  I was so eager to see his sweet face and hold him and smell his sweet baby smell!  It was such a strange mix of emotions.  Looking back, I don’t think I cried as much that morning.  I think I had run out of tears.  My husband and I were both in “game time” mode and just ready to hear about the next steps.  After checking in, we were brought to our room, which was the same room Katie had told us she would try to secure for us – a nice big private room all the way at the end of the hall.  On the door hung the symbol of a leaf, signifying to all medical staff that we were experiencing a loss, so they could act accordingly.

As most parents know, labor is a lot of waiting around!  When we arrived, there was plenty of paperwork to do, and lots of discussion to be had.  After that, our midwife discussed induction options with us.  At 34 weeks pregnant, my body was not showing signs of being ready for labor, so induction was absolutely necessary.  Induction for the purpose of delivering a stillborn baby is completely different than an induction of a 40 weeks pregnant lady who just needs a little nudge in the right direction.  She told me I had two drug options: Cervidil and Cytotec.  Now, please note that I’m not a doctor or an expert, so I am simply describing all of this as I remember it and from my own perspective.  The two drugs had differences.  Cervidil was – generally speaking – a gentler approach.  The induction would take longer, but it was “less aggressive” and gentler on my body.  Cytotec would work more quickly and tended to be more aggressive (and therefore painful).  I had read and watched documentaries that talked about how terrible and even potentially dangerous Cytotec was (go ahead and google it), so I quickly chose option number one, Cervidil.  We told the midwife and she left to go secure that for me.  I didn’t think twice about it until she came back and told us that unfortunately, the hospital was OUT of Cervidil!!!!  You have got to be kidding me.  If you live on this island, then you understand how ridiculous and almost comical that is.  We have regular issues at the military commissaries (grocery stores) where they will be out of milk and yogurt for weeks.  I couldn’t believe it, but then again I could – typical Okinawa!  Because shipments from the U.S. are not frequent and take so long to get to Japan, she said she had no idea when the hospital would get more.  She offered to call nearby Japanese hospitals to try to get some, but warned us that the Japanese hospitals usually did not carry that particular drug.  I asked her to please call, but she came back with no luck.  My only option to meet my son any time soon was the Cytotec, so I nervously gave the go ahead to administer the induction.  I have to say that I truly appreciate how straightforward my midwife was.  She explained everything in detail and answered every question I had.  I never felt rushed or pressured to make a certain choice.  It was extremely overwhelming at times to make these decisions and a couple times I just asked her, “If you were me, what would you do?”  I appreciated her kindness and nonjudgemental feedback.

I believe they had to give me several times the amount they would have given a full term pregnant woman, because they really had to kickstart my body into labor.  When the medication was administered I wasn’t having any contractions.  By about 40 minutes later they picked up and quickly!  I went from zero to one thousand in less than an hour.  My midwife had warned me that it was not going to be pleasant.  She knew that before all of this I had wanted a completely natural birth.  She told me not to judge birth based on this birth, because the amount of medication I had to take would make it so much more intense and painful.  She wanted me to know that if I had another baby in the future, I could achieve my goals and not to be discouraged.  They were so right.  The contractions were so intense.  I wasn’t surprised so much by the pain of each individual contraction (hey, I knew labor wasn’t going to be a walk in the park), but I really had no gradual build in my labor.  It went from nothing to me being out of my mind so fast.  And, the worst part about it was that I had no break in contractions, they were one after the other.  I had no chance to relax and prepare for the next one, because it was already there.

I was induced at 11 a.m. and made a commitment to myself that I would try my hardest to stick to my goal of working through everything on my own.  I told the nurse not to even mention an epidural to me – that if I decided I wanted one, I would let her know.  I wasn’t ruling it out, I just wanted to make my own decisions.  She respected my wishes.  I worked through the contractions as best I could for about five hours.  My doula, Amanda, and my husband were wonderful, helping me into different positions, playing my hypnobirthing CD, rubbing my back.  Amanda was so great at reassuring me and helping my husband know how to best support me.  At one point, she suggested that he take me into the shower because the warm water would help me to feel better.  I had just blow dried (and straightened) my hair that morning (hey, I had lots of time waiting around!) and the whole time I was in the shower I was yelling “DON’T GET MY HAIR WET!”  Poor husband!  Haha.

After five hours, my midwife came back and asked if I wanted to know my progress.  You’re damn right I wanted to know my progress!  Unfortunately, I was only three centimeters dilated (and I had started at one). I felt so frustrated and defeated.  I could not stand the constant pain – my husband later told me that the screen monitoring my contractions was just basically a flat line way up high, showing that it was just contraction after contraction after contraction with no dip or break. I told the nurse to give me the epidural.  Now.  She went to go get the anesthesiologist, but came back and said he was “unavailable” dealing with an emergency in the ER (there is only one on shift at a time here).  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!  I told her she needed to (please) figure something else out, so she brought me morphine (or something similar).  The rules were much different for me because Luca was not alive – they did not have to worry about medication like that putting stress on the baby, so I was permitted to have pain killers.  I was also able to sneak a few snacks, since the likelihood of an emergency c-section was very low for me.  The morphine gave me almost instant relief.  I finally could take a breath and rest a moment.  It also made me pretty loopy!  When the anesthesiologist finally arrived, he was a serious dude and started giving me some spiel about how he was going to put a needle in my back and it would be painful, and I said something like “YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW PAIN!!!”  Men.  Didn’t even feel the needle.  Thanks, morphine!

The painkillers quickly wore off since that was supposed to be just enough to hold me over until the epidural.  The epidural gave me relief for a little while, then about 45 minutes later the pain started creeping back, particularly on my left side.  I just dealt with it for awhile, because I had no idea how epidurals were supposed to be anyway, but eventually I told the nurse that the epidural did not seem to be working.  She called the anesthesiologist and he said he could come try to adjust the epidural.  Before he arrived, my midwife let me know that she would have to check me again soon and if I had not made progress, we would have to talk about either breaking my water or administering Pitocin, another induction drug. The doctor walked in and had me turn on my side so he could try to fix the epidural.  It’s amazing how so many people get to see ALL PARTS of you when you’re in labor and you just don’t care!  At that very moment, my water broke.  Everywhere.  Like, we’re talking out of the movies, people.  I literally had no idea what was going on, but then my midwife happily exclaimed, “Your water broke!”  I was mortified that this young doctor man had witnessed what looked like a category 5 typhoon went through the room.  But, on the bright side, the Cytotec had worn off and my water breaking naturally meant that my body was taking over now.  I was getting closer to meeting my baby!

I definitely need to take a moment to talk about how amazing my husband was during my labor.  He took care of me all day catering to my every need – rubbing my back, holding my hand, massaging my feet and hands, reassuring me.  He put my socks on and took them off about 1,000 times.  Fed me ice chips.  He remained calm through everything and didn’t hold it against me when I got cranky.  He will always be the very best husband and daddy in my book and I can’t ever thank him enough. ❤

Whatever the anesthesiologist did seemed to help for a little bit, but then the epidural wore off again.  I guess it just wasn’t meant for me, because all the pain came back eventually.  After some more time passed and things were getting intense, the doctor suggested I turn onto my left side because the pain was more severe on that side.  Perhaps the epidural medication would go to that side if I moved that way.  My husband helped me slowly but surely roll over.  It felt like that took forever to move, because it was so painful to change positions.  As soon as I got onto my side, I could feel my baby drop immediately and there was a lot of pressure.  I just knew he was ready to arrive!  Of course I started freaking out, and my midwife calmly confirmed that I was ten centimeters dilated and ready to have my baby!

Maybe I’m the only one, but at that point when I realized I was about to give birth, I started to panic.  I just wasn’t sure I could do this!  I hadn’t done this before!  How would I know what to do?  I was feeling every contraction (thanks for nothing, epidural!), but to be honest, I am really glad that the epidural did not work out.  It wasn’t what I had wanted, and now, I was really able to feel the slow build of each contraction and work directly with my body, breathing through each contraction and making progress each time.  And because this was normal labor and not me on drugs anymore, there was a nice break between each contraction where I could collect myself and get ready for the next one.  It was like my body was telling me to just let it do what it was supposed to do.

Those last 30 minutes were really intense, but truly amazing and powerful.  I think having that experience really helped me to cope with our loss and bond with our baby.  After just two or three pushes, I heard my midwife say as he was being born, “Here he is! Grab your baby!” and I did!  I picked him right up and put him on my chest and it was pure love.

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Kristi James Photography


It is my hope that somehow my blog can reach others going through similar struggles.  I want them to know that they are not alone.  Stillbirth affects about 1% of all pregnancies and about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the U.S. each year.  That is 10 times as many babies who are lost each year to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), another terrible cause of infant death that is much more well known and widely discussed (cdc.gov).  Additionally, around 1 out of 2,500 babies are affected by Trisomy 18 (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).  We can be glad about the fact that most pregnancies result in healthy babies, but let’s also not forget the thousands of families who quietly struggle through this type of loss on a daily basis.

I will pause for now, because I feel that I need a whole other post for the time that we spent with Luca.  It is my wish that by writing about his birthday, people will learn that while it was a very sad day, it was also incredibly joyous.  I love when I can share my birth story with others – to celebrate Luca, or to simply be a normal mom and compare the ups and downs of labor.  To be continued… ❤

 

 

 

 

A New Year

As I mentioned in my last post, now that Christmas is over, I feel like a weight has been lifted off me.  Not only because the holidays are over, but because of our beautiful Christmas rainbow and the peaceful Christmas day that we were miraculously able to have in the midst of an achingly painful holiday season.

Usually we keep our Christmas decorations up for at least the first week of January (or beyond, since usually I want Christmas to last forever!), but I was really ready to take them down as soon as possible this year.  I wanted to put everything away, clean the house, and start fresh. Momo, who loves climbing our Christmas tree, was not of the same mindset!

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Momo protesting putting the Christmas tree away

Now that it’s 2016, I have mixed emotions.  My family has been through many difficult times this year and has experienced many losses.  Some might say that they could not be happier that 2015 has come to an end.  But, while 2015 was the saddest year of my life, it will also always be one of my happiest, because it was the year I got to meet my son – the only time I could ever be with him on this earth.  I wish I could have frozen those days for eternity to have more time with him, but time goes on.  I never want to forget 2015 – ever.  It is incredibly sad to move into a brand new year without Luca.  However, I remind myself that his spirit is always with me and every day I am one day closer to meeting him in Heaven.

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A beautiful visitor on my walk the other day 🙂

Despite the pain we have been through, most of the time I am able to be optimistic for the future.  I pray for peace, joy, health, and hope for our family.  I pray that I can continue to work on my relationship with God and having faith that He will provide.  That I can continue to find purpose in my life and with that heal my heart.  That hopefully we can move closer to our families at the end of this year who we miss so much.  That I can be gentle on myself when those waves of grief wash over me, and have faith that tomorrow will be a better day.

Wishing you all much joy and many blessings in 2016! ❤

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Ringing in the New Year with my hubby

Surviving Christmas

So it’s been awhile since I last blogged – over two weeks.  I took a break for a couple of reasons.  Once the holiday season was in full swing, I just could not handle writing about it.  What was there to write about?  How much pain I was in?  How I could not take seeing all of the babies’ first Christmases or picture with Santa on my Facebook feed every day?  How we had plans to go home to the U.S. and introduce our son to our family, but not anymore?  Even if I had wanted to talk about that in a blog post, I just couldn’t find ways to put my thoughts together, so I decided it was best to just let myself get through Christmas and reassess afterwards.  I didn’t want to feel angry when I was writing, so I knew it would be better to wait.  And now that Christmas is finally over with and the new year is upon us, I feel like a weight has been lifted off of me to some extent.

Additionally, I got a message from someone a couple weeks ago, which did not help me to channel more positive thoughts.  This person told me I needed to “grieve privately,” that I should “loosen my grip” on everything, that I should just have another baby, and that – drumroll – I need to put my son in “another part of [my] brain.”  I really just want to write a bunch of expletives now, but I already got that out of the way, so let’s just get to the point.  No one should EVER tell another person how to grieve.  Put my son in another part of my brain?!?  I did respond to this person and simply said that it’s not anyone’s business how I grieve.  And that I think I am doing pretty well considering the hell that my husband and I have been through this year.  While the holiday season was particularly hard, most days are happy for me.  I went to holiday parties and was able to enjoy myself.  I work, run my daily errands, take care of my husband, go out with my friends.  Some days I do cancel my plans and stay home because I am sad, because sometimes that is what I know I need.  But, overall, I am satisfied with my progress.  I do realize that I chose to write this blog and am putting all of this out there publicly for all to see, which is a risk I take; however, if it is offending someone, they can choose not to read it – just like anything else on the internet.  I said in my short response to this person, “I do enjoy my life and part of my life is Luca and that is how it will always be.”

Even though I know I should not let this affect me, how could it not?  Those words stung and I wondered for awhile how many other people were thinking what this person said about me?  But, on the other hand, this was the only really negative response I had received from anyone, and in addition to that I have received so many positive messages and emails from so many kind people encouraging me to write and telling me they enjoy reading about Luca.  I have received several messages from people even saying that reading about my grief journey has helped them to get through their own hard times.  And, just the other day, I got a message from someone who asked me to please tell them how they can best support a grieving person – how amazing is that?  Those kind of messages are the best responses I could ever receive.  For those reasons, and because it helps me so much to tell Luca’s story, I will continue to blog, but I am glad I took some time to rest and reflect.

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Beautifully decorated for Christmas – thanks to Nonnina and Mimi!

As Christmas neared, the days became harder to bear… excruciating is more like it.  On Christmas Eve, we attended church.  Admittedly, it hasn’t been easy for me to go to church since Luca, especially here where I haven’t found one that I really feel at home in, and Christmas Eve was no exception.  I usually love Christmastime, but as everyone surrounded me with their families and children and babies, I cried through most of the songs while everyone else smiled and celebrated.  The minister spoke of God’s mercy and how God had spared his son from an explosion in Afghanistan by mere seconds.  While I am happy that his son is okay, this message just did not resonate with me.  I listened and wondered why that man’s son was spared and mine was not. It just didn’t make sense.  I didn’t get it.  Afterwards, I left as quickly as possible, so I wouldn’t have to stop to talk to anyone, and we headed out to have dinner with friends.  The best friends are the ones who take you as you are – happy or sad – and I am so thankful for the many people I have in my life like that.  We enjoyed a delicious, fancy Christmas meal, laughed a lot, and had a great time.

I woke up on Christmas morning and realized I had had a dream that I saw a rainbow.  There was more to the dream, but that is all I can remember.  I dream a lot these days, so it wasn’t anything surprising.  I got up and went across the hall into Luca’s room to have a quiet peaceful moment to think about him on Christmas morning.  First, I opened up the blinds and as I looked out the window, I saw a gorgeous rainbow!  I woke my husband up and made him look to make sure I wasn’t imagining it.  I wasn’t!  I cried happy tears because I just knew that this was God’s way of saying everything was going to be okay and my angel was safe with Him and was saying hello to his mom and dad.  I FaceTimed my mom and showed her too, then went outside to take a walk and snap some pictures.

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View from our doorstep

A picture taken by my friend of the same rainbow with a much better view from the seawall down the street:

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Sunabe Seawall, Okinawa, Japan – Photo Credit: Kelsey 🙂

The rainbow lasted for at least 20 minutes and was so beautiful.  They are less common this time of year, and after it disappeared the rest of the day was gray and rainy.  I feel so incredibly blessed to have received such a special Christmas gift.  It truly lifted my spirits on a day that I assumed would be terribly painful. Christmas was still not an easy day, but I felt more hopeful and peaceful that day than I had in weeks.  My husband and I exchanged a few gifts, watched movies, and mostly relaxed.  We didn’t talk to as many family members and friends, because we just weren’t in the mood to exchange pleasantries and act like we were having a merry Christmas.  Maybe next year I will be able to write about how to survive Christmas when you’ve lost someone, but for this year I was just trying to survive.  ❤

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