Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mother's Day

As Mother's Day approaches, I find myself thinking a lot about what my three children mean to me.  Each one of them has taught me something new.  Individually, they all have brought a whole new outlook on life for me.  Each of my three children mean something truly special, truly unique to me... and for that, I am certainly grateful. 

Micah - newborn

Big brother Micah, my firstborn... my son.  He made me a mother for the very first time.  He is all-boy, and loves adventure.  Dirt, trucks, cars, trains, and water are his favorite sources of entertainment.  If it were up to him, he would live outside - but coming inside for a brief break to read books and do "schoolwork".  Having a son has already taught me more about life, more about parenting than I'll ever know.  At three and a half, he knows how to melt his mom... he knows how to frustrate his mom...yet his tender sensitive heart wins me over most all of the time.  Micah is already a great leader,
Newborn Micah and Mama
teacher, protector, and friend... at two years old he became a big brother for the first time, and took on that role seriously.  He still talks about you, sweet Hannah, and is equally as good of a big brother to your baby sister Keira as well.

Hannah - newborn

Hannah...my sweet Hannah.  You are my middle child, my first daughter.  Of all three children, you taught me the most about life... and... the most about death.  When we were pregnant and first discovered that you had some complications, we vowed to God, you, and to ourselves that we would love you forever...and care for you every moment that you were with us.  The moment you were born, when you let out that one and only cry - the sound of a sweet baby lamb - I began capturing those memories in my heart, never letting them go.  Somehow deep inside I knew we would be separated.  You fought the good fight, my love.  You stood up to battles that most people will never have to fight... you conquered pain and suffering like
Newborn Hannah and Mama
a true warrior... we watched you at your bedside day after day, night after night.  The only thing I could compare is the pain in my heart - the pain I felt watching you hurt, knowing that I could do very little about it.  Our relationship to you was unique...unique to just us, especially to me as your mother.  Every day your father and I would take turns coming to sit at your bedside.  Most of the time, tears just flowed down my cheeks as I talked with you and sung to you.  One particular day when you were just over three weeks old, I remember sitting there not knowing what to say - just tears streaming down my cheeks.  It had been a particularly rough time - you were not doing well, and it was the first time the doctors were at a loss as to what to do.  As I sat there at your bedside that day, God spoke to my heart in the most gentle way - almost as if it was an audible whisper.  I remember it so vividly.  He said, "Erika... give Hannah over to me... give  Hannah over to me..."  I looked up and said "Ok..."  I didn't hesitate,  I didn't fight it.  I knew it would be ok, I knew I had no need to fear.  Prior to that moment, I think I had been holding on too tight.  I hadn't been ready to let you go...but when God reminded me to do it, it brought immediate peace.  I knew I could not do it on my own.  After that, I turned back to you and talked with you.  I said, "Hannah, if you need to go, it's ok.  Daddy, Micah, & I will be ok... it is ok to go..."  I knew you needed to hear those words from me.   At that moment, (and several other moments) I had pictured you saying to me, "Mama... it's ok.  I will meet you there... I will be ok".  I even pictured you telling me about the angels surrounding you, and God holding you... those thoughts went through my mind many times when I visited you at the hospital.  Hannah - your sweet nature spoke volumes about who you were... with all that you endured each day, you rarely became irritable, rarely cried.  Every time the doctors would warn us that you may not do well during a particular procedure or surgery, you come through it amazingly well -proving them all wrong.  You certainly knew how to keep them on their toes!  Four months was not long enough... we wanted more time with you.  Parents are not supposed to outlive their children.  When it came time for us to let you go, you taught us how that there is no fear in deathHannah - you and I had many precious conversations together...many precious moments.  Despite being hospitalized since your (full-term) birth, you responded to me so differently than you did others around you.  One thing you always loved to do to those you loved was hold our fingers so tightly since the day you were born.  Whenever you grabbed my hand, you always tried to bring it close to your mouth to "nuzzle" it... you always knew your mama...(and daddy and Micah too).  When your body began to shut down, one organ at a time, we knew it was time to make some decisions.  On the day you passed away, when your organs had all shut down...your body swollen so severely that you couldn't even move a limb...you still managed to grasp our fingers so tightly in our hand until your very last breath.  That was our reassurance that you were ok...you were at peace...and your "work on this earth was done".  Hannah - you had no fear.  You seemed to know that you were ready, and you had an unexplainable peace about you.  At just four months old, you taught your mother the biggest lesson life has to offer - you taught me to have no fear... especially no fear in death.  That...is...amazing...

Keira - newborn

About 18 months later, your beautiful baby sister arrived.  Keira - my baby, my third child... another girl!  She has your eyes, Hannah... she looks a lot like you, but also has some of Micah's features as well.  The day before she was born, Micah came to me and asked, "Mom... is this baby going to have 'owies' like Hannah did?"  He was trying to prepare his heart, as well.  Being she is only six weeks old, there is not a lot I can say about her right now - although she has taught me some valuable lessons already.  Most importantly, sweet Keira has
Newborn Keira and Mama
taught me how to love again... how to trust again... and has taught me that life does continue on after losing a precious child.  Keira has already endured some hard times as well... which of course has mama and daddy pretty concerned sometimes...big brother Micah, too.  After her recent hospitalization, when I was bringing her home, I pulled into the driveway and up to the garage.  As soon as I pulled in, your song "Beautiful" came on the radio.  I could not believe it... it melted my heart.  I needed to hear that again.  It was almost as though you were looking after her, Hannah.  She is a precious gift from God, just like you and Micah...and we are grateful to God for bringing her into our lives. 

I am grateful to God for bring all three of you kids into my life...I am honored to be your mother. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Two Weeks

Dear Hannah,

I haven't written in a while. My feelings, my grief, are all too complicated to put in to words. Daddy & I talk about it often though - and I have talked with other parents who have lost children, too. That has helped Daddy & I sort through our feelings. Feelings that not many will ever understand unless they have lost a child.

We miss you so much. We took Micah over to our friends house just down the road - and the little boy who is his age saw me and asked about the new baby. He was so sweet to talk about you, too. He asked, "Why did your baby girl have to go to heaven?" I smiled, and answered the best I could. He said, "I hope this baby doesn't have to go to heaven so soon!" I smiled again, and agreed with him. I loved being able to talk with him about you. It was precious! These friends of ours really stood by us through your life (and death)... they loved you - and the boys couldn't wait for you to come home so they could play baseball with you and Micah in the back yard.

I know that these boys -and Micah, too - are comforted in knowing how happy you are in heaven, and happy to know you aren't sick anymore. You are so loved, sweet girl.

Love, always your mama

*for those who may read this, please pray for Joe and I. We are two weeks away from delivery of another precious girl. Some anxiety has come up, flashbacks of Hannah's birth, mixed feelings of pure joy, excitement, but still grief mixed in. This new precious baby will never be able to replace Hannah, but it is another blessing, and another way to experience joy and happiness in this life. Please pray for us as we wade through all of the grief still, the joy, the excitement, the nervousness, and all the anticipation. God is still in control, He is still good... always will be. He knows and understands our complicated feelings. He knows our pain, He knows our joy. That is truly comforting. Thank you for praying.

Friday, January 13, 2012

One Year Ago Today

(our last time holding you...exactly one year ago today...see your precious hand held up there?)

One year ago today was the last day we held you in our arms. Do you remember this day? You were at peace in our arms....and you were ready to go to Heaven - you reassured us with that in your own little way. Up until the moment you took your last breath, you were able to squeeze our hands with your little hand. That was such a surprise to all of us because your hands were so swollen! You were truly a fighter all the way, baby girl. I thank you for all that you have taught us. You taught us how to love, you taught us how to live. You taught us how to never give up, to persevere, and to always trust God. After watching what you went through for 4 months on this earth, who could not be changed? We thank God for giving you to us... we thank God for all the miracles He did in your short life on this earth. While our hearts still ache from missing you, we thank God that you are now healed, and rejoice that you are free from all pain, and safe in His arms.

In honor of you, Daddy, Micah, and I will be leaving today - we're going away for the weekend to a city not far from here. We will fill the days with fun activities that Micah will enjoy, which I know you would be happy about, too. Aquariums, museums, playgrounds, and many other activities. You would love to see us all happy and having fun, so we knew this would be a perfect way to honor you.

Here is the link to your song again that we played at your funeral, "Hannah's Song" (Beautiful by MercyMe).

We love you and miss you so very much. Happy Heavenly Birthday....
Daddy, Mama, Micah, and your baby sister.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Piercing Words

Dear Hannah,

With the anniversary of your death approaching, I felt that it was even more fitting to join in a weekly blog feature where parents share about their experiences with losing precious children. This week we begin with sharing the first part of our journey - the day we found out something was wrong with the precious life inside of me.

Every expecting parents worst nightmare is getting the phone call with their concerned doctor on the other side saying those piercing words, "We found something quite concerning with your last ultrasound".

It was week 19 of our pregnancy, and we were beyond excited to go to the ultrasound. This was the moment we were to find out if we were carrying another boy, or a girl. Arriving at the clinic, we couldn't wait to get into the exam room. The technician began the scan, and we watched and waited. From our first pregnancy with our son, we knew some of what the technicians look for in the 19 week ultrasounds. This one kept zooming in on the umbilical cord. It was then that I knew something must be wrong. I thought briefly to myself, "There must only be two vessels in that cord instead of one". I quickly pushed that thought aside, and kept on trying to enjoy the ultrasound. The technician was quiet, patient, and took her time. She seemed to focus a lot on the heart and the umbilical cord. I tried not to think about that.

After we were done, my husband went back to his office, and I went home. I visited with the babysitter and saw her to the door. After I put my son down for a nap, I went to my room to lay down for a bit. My phone rang. It was my doctor. Not even an hour after our ultrasound, he was calling me. I picked up the phone and answered with a feeble "Hello". The doctor replied, "Erika, I just received the results from your ultrasound." The sound in his voice was enough to make me start crying already. "There are some very concerning things regarding the results that I need to tell you about...first, they only found two vessels in the cord - instead of the normal three." My instincts were correct. I badly wanted them to be wrong. He continued, "They also discovered a large cyst on the cord, as well as some unknown concerns about the heart." At that point, I began to weep. He heard the tears, and tried his best to console me by saying "It will be OK...this is no guarantee that something will be wrong, but we want to keep a very close watch on this baby - we will schedule you for regular high-risk ultrasound appointments and the Maternal Fetal Medicine Center. It will be OK." I thanked him for calling, dropped the phone, and just wept. I cried out to God, pounding the wall saying "Why me? Why... this only happens to others, but not me?!" The past few years I had come across a few blogs where mom's had documented their journeys with their babies that they lost. Hearing the words from the doctor that day sounded so familiar to the other stories I have read.

I called my husband immediately and told him the news. We both were in shock, but remained as calm as possible. We never gave up hope that the condition of this baby wouldn't be bad - just mild, and an "easy fix" once the baby is born. Little did we know, during that time, the little bit of positive outlook throughout our pregnancy would end up being our "calm before the storm".

Several weeks of long extensive appointments at the high-risk center just gave us more details about possible conditions of this baby. The only definite diagnosis we received was at 30 weeks when we found out she was a girl - who we named Hannah Joy. Secondly, she has an extremely unique chromosome condition - so unique that it is the only documented case of it in this world. As for knowing her outcome after she is born - the diagnosis did not help at all. Every bit of her health and condition was unknown. One high-risk doctor gave her a 70% chance of being completely healthy, 30% chance of having severe health issues. Again, we felt helpless. The unknowns were hard for us to take. We knew the only thing to do was to give it all over to God - put Hannah's life and well-being in God's hands. There was nothing we could do on our own but trust that God would care for her, and care for us along the way. We loved our daughter from the very beginning. God gave Hannah to us - and we knew we would love her and care for her all of the days of her life.

And that we did.

To be continued next Monday when I will be writing about the waiting period...the time before Hannah entered this world.