Sunday, August 25, 2019

8 Years

August sixth. It's the day we "celebrate" Luke's birthday. Celebrate always seems like a strange word for the day. But I guess that's what we do. This year it happened to be on a Tuesday and we happened to be in Utah which also happened to be "Two Dollar Tuesday" at Thanksgiving Point." Jeremy tells me, "going there is something Luke would like to do." So that's where we spend the first half of the day and then on to our regular traditions of pizza and a hike. Being in nature always just feels like the right thing to do. A little closer to God. A little closer to heaven. A little closer to Luke.

Eight years. It was hard to believe it's already been eight years. I know for some time heals and for others the grief is still so rich and deep that they scoff at that saying. I'd say for me it has healed. I wonder how that might be different if I had lost a child whom I'd KNOWN versus a child who I only carried in my womb. The thought of losing one of  my other kids who I know and who are an intricate part of our daily lives seems like such a greater loss, one that I'm not so sure time would heal.

We strangely haven't been in Utah on August 6th since 2011, the year Luke died . . . the year Luke was born. Trevor took the kids on "tour-de-Utah" pointing out different places. In Provo it was simply things like "that's where your mom and I lived when we were first married" or "that's the building I took most of my classes." But on the way down  to Provo stop was a bit more melancholy. "This is hospital where Luke was born. This was the parking lot where I was when I called Grandma to tell her Luke had died."

I wasn't really in the mood for going down that road of all those emotions. So maybe in avoidance or maybe in a recommitted effort to actually do something to pay-it-forward I quickly told my family I'd be right back and hopped out of the van and went in side. Nothing looked familiar. They have either remodeled the labor and delivery wing or I was in such a fog walking in to that hospital eight years ago that I wasn't seeing my surroundings --only feeling the depth of the laborious task ahead of me - to get the baby out of me. What an awful terrible chore a woman has to do. I don't feel that way about birth. I love giving birth. But to have to birth a baby who is already deceased, that feels like one of the most cruel challenges a woman has to face. Writing these words I can almost feel it. It sits in front of me. It's a wall. It's something that feels impassable. Yet somehow in that foggy haze of emotions I put one foot in front of the other, checked in to the hospital, changed in to a gown, got all hooked up to monitors and IV's and began what felt like the longest road in front of me.

Eight years later much of it still seems blurry. Was that just because of how I was feeling or has time added the filter that softens the edges and makes it all less poignant?

So here I am in the hospital again and I'm introducing myself to a woman, I've already forgotten her name. I don't shake her hand for fear that I might still be sick, yet I greet her with a big smile and explain why I'm there. It's only an instant before I'm waving my hands at my eyes as if to dry out the tears that I feel welling up beyond my eye sockets. I feel it in my throat and eyes, "Today is my son's birthday who was stillborn. I gave birth here 8 years ago." I don't cry and just as quick as it came the emotions descend back out of my face, perhaps to my core where they are buried and only surface occasionally now. I ask her about the items they give to families who experience loss. She walks me across the corridor to a closet that has a permanent sign next to it "bereavement supplies" and I am somehow reminded of a fact I knew but push aside and forget, are dying all the time. Sometimes it feels like those sweet gifts were just for me, but no, the premature dying just keeps on going. I guess I don't think about it often because that's just too hard. I'm better at life when I can push that pain back down inside where it sleeps quietly as if it were hibernating. I'm good with it there. Yet I don't want the pain to be so forgotten that I don't reach out  and do my part to give back. So I take a quick visual survey of the things they provide to families of loss and start scheming how I can provide similar items, if needed, at my local hospitals.

Then just as rapidly as I raced in to the building I scurry back out to our van filled with three waiting children. How different that exit was than my previous exit. When I had rushed in to the building I had not only looked around for familiar details but was quickly taken back to the strange, strange feeling of leaving a hospital empty handed. And as I sit here and type my mind turns to the moment of turning my baby over to a stranger, albeit a kind stranger, nevertheless a complete stranger. A moment you have never even conceived or entertained, but suddenly you're living the moment of someone taking your baby. As I sit here now I regret not taking more time. More time to just be and observe and to hold. But I guess no amount of time would have been enough. I could have sat in the labor room for a week holding my baby and it wouldn't have been long enough before I had to hand him over to the mortuary employee.

I decided that we'd hike the Grotto in Payson canyon. Hardly a hike, more like a little walk to a charming waterfall. We had done it when I was pregnant and then with family in town for the funeral somehow we decided to do it again. It just seemed like the right hike to do on his "birthday" since we were there. Being back I could clearly see myself in my red athletic-style swishy pants (that I've long let go of) walking the path. I was walking with family even possibly chatting, with my hands in my pockets, yet carrying something. Carrying the weight of the fresh, fresh grief. When grief is that fresh it is tangible. You feel it. Always. Even if you're smiling, you feel it. Even if you're talking about something else, you feel it. It's thick. It's ever present. It's consuming. All consuming. 

Now as we hike the trails with our kids I look around and notice the charred trees from last year's summer fire. I think of those trees engulfed in flames and completely consumed. There is no escaping it. There is no avoiding feeling it when you're surrounded by flames. Those trees were showing me the consumption that grief carries. That consumption that does, like the flames, pass. But you're ever changed from it. I am no longer engulfed in the tangible nearly taste-able woes of grief, but my limbs are charred, like a tree that is split open to reveal its history through the markings on its rings, there will always be years that I know are marked with those consuming experiences.

How different life is for us now. The aches and longing for parenthood have been filled overflowing with parenthood. I ached for this life. Back then I was probably committing to never complain about anything regarding being a mother. Yet it's hard. It's hard work. The challenges are every growing me in to a new person. Yet this is the life I chose. It's not easy, so I recommit to finding the magic, the moments of smiles, the laughter, the silliness. All the things I longed for. They're here, but it takes more work to find them than I would have thought.

Silly kids surround me as they explore and splash and play --the colors of the rocks catch my eye. So vibrant. So varied. These rocks remind me how different we all are and how different grief can be for each of us. Yet the water washes over all --shaping, changing, and making anew.


Your brother and sister speak of you often. Your name has brought mastery to the letter "L" as we practice our letters. We don't know what you're like, but the kids like to think they do! May you be keeping busy watching over us and doing whatever work there is to do beyond the veil of this mortal existence. Oh how we look forward to you joining in on our crazy shenanigans! 
With love,
You mommy

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Missing You

My little Luke, today I longed for you. It was a wonderful day at church -- full of inspiring and heartfelt messages as we remembered pioneers and our ancestors, talked about faith, and trials and tribulations, and serving and loving others. With my heart full, I turned open the Hymn book to sing the final song of the day --89 The Lord is My Light. I missed you. I thought about singing this song at your funeral and my heart was turned toward you. I wanted to hold you and know you. I sang my praises to God and smiled and hurt all at the same time. 

Lately I have been so consumed with raising your brother and sister. It's a hard thing --raising kids. It's even more trying if I haven't slept enough or if no one is listening to me. They consume me and most of my energy. So perhaps time has softened my grief or perhaps it's the utter demands on me from day to day life, whatever the reason my heart doesn't usually have time to just sit and be with you. 

But today . . . today I felt you. I felt my heart drawn out to you. I felt the pain of losing you. I felt the mother's love that I have for you. Albeit for just the brief moments while we sang the hymn, which to my dismay was cut short. I was ready to just let the tears fall from my face, but they did not.  

I love you and miss you and can't wait to know you and see what your personality is like. 

Love, your mommy. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Doula Training Begins: It's a rough start

So here I am. I knew pain would surface. But not like this.

I am training to be a doula. A what-a? A doula. A doula is a woman who assists a mother (and her spouse) during birth. I have had three very different births. Well three very similar births -- "unmediated, vaginal, quick, relatively little physical pain." As far as the birth itself one was far better than expected and I felt like a rock-star, another was completely perfect, and another was the loneliest worst thing I've been through. And you might be surprised that the third birth I described is not my stillborn son's birth, but my daughters birth.

So here I am. Working to be trained in an industry that I have my own stories to bring to the table for the hope that no woman has to go through labor with out the physical OR emotional support she needs. I don't even know if I'd say it's something I want to do, but it is something that I feel called to do. Oh and do I ever needs God's power and strength to get me through it.

I can't even get through introductions. I can tell so many people in passing about my son Luke who was stillborn. And now (I never thought I'd do this) but sometimes now I don't even tell people ...or correct them. "Oh, you have a boy and a girl? One of each. How perfect!" In my head something sassy like yeah and a headstone with my name on it because I'm the parent of a dead child, real perfect is composed in all it's sarcastic glory, but I'm too nice to actually say something like that to someone (but I guess not nice enough to not think it!) I digress.

I bumbling.

Do I start in ascending order or descending order of my children? I thought I had already worked through in my head what I'd say and it would just be simple and matter of fact. And now I don't know where to start. What facts to share. And before I can even get the words together emotions are rising. I'm tearing up. Nothing like sitting in a room with a dozen woman who are PASSIONATE about birth and babies and mothers, just their presence made my emotions raw and bring it to the surface. But I'm okay. I really am okay with things. So the lump in my throat is there and I get choked up a smidge, but I get it out just fine and relatively quickly. Well...that was one way to start introductions as the second person to intorduce themselves, but the first person to introduce who has given birth. Why didn't I ask to go later? I didn't want to go right then? If only I was quick enough in the moment to realize that I didn't want to speak yet and then just ask for that. To just ask for others to go first. But maybe it's best to not be the mood kill toward the end. It's just not easy. That's all there is to it. Sometimes it's not easy to say and sometimes it's not easy to share. Well it's easy to share, but it's not easy putting this big weighty thing out there for someone to have to receive.

So I did it. I got through introductions. Moving on.

The whole thing was filled with moments of pain. Moments that I only visit when I need to open up those painful wounds and sit with them and be with them. I haven't needed or wanted that in a while.

It was little things and little points of education that brought me back:
Talking about getting an IV as a standard protocol in hospitals.
The IV in my warm while I labored with Luke was excruciating. It was placed in a way that was completely uncomfortable and an irritant the whole time I was laboring. And a brutal reminder that I am in a hospital. I shouldn't have been at the hospital because I was going to have a home birth, but instead I am in a hospital delivering my stillborn son. That IV was there to make sure I didn't forget why I was there that day. 

Talking about checking dilation and how a discrepancy in centimeters reported can happen simply because the nurses fingers are smaller than the doctors.
The doctor. Not "my doctor." He wasn't my doctor. He was simply the doctor that was "nice enough" to take me on as a patient so I could be induced at the hospital. Another symbol of how this was not the birth I had planned. The doctor doing vaginal exams. Painful. They were painful. Well, not as painful as when he was removing my placenta manually. 

The IV finally ripped out of my arm at some point while I was laboring. No more contractions so they stabbed my leg with pitocin to try to get my uterus to contract and birth the placenta. No luck. 

So it went on. The memories. The memories I didn't choose to revisit yesterday. The memories I'm going to have to revisit today and tomorrow. The memories I'm not sure if I can handle revisiting each and every time I'm assisting another woman during a birth.

So I'll go back today. Not because I want to. But because I feel called to this.


God today I need you more than other days. I need you to protect me. To make me strong. Protect me from my own heartache and pain. Hold me up in the face of it. If I am to serve others in this capacity I need you to strengthen me and make me more than I am, because right now I don't like it. I don't want to face it. 


So I'll begin my day. Showering. I was I was dancing, but I'm going to go shower and commute and get myself to my training. I will go and I will do. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Mountain Escape to Honor Luke: 4 Years

We seem to have created a bit of a tradition for the anniversary of Luke's "birthday." The first year was so strange. . .  do we celebrate? Do we mourn and grieve? What do we do?

So we found ourselves taking a hike together. And have been able to be in nature each year since.

This year Trevor was scheduled to be at scout camp and we didn't really have plans. I decided I'd take the kids and meet up with him in the mountains for a hike and decided, very last minute and by the graces of a friend who helped us have a place to stay, to make a weekend getaway of it.

With all of the packing and other commitments of the day we departed just in time for rush hour traffic and were not going to make it to the mountains in time for a hike.

Yet I think God knew it was a special day and gave us something more wonderful than a little hike together. He gave us a vista that would never be forgotten.

The children had finally settled in to our car ride and Clara slept while Jeremy watched a movie. Cruising along the freeway, even before we climbed the mountainside we were enchanted with a rainbow that we were driving right towards. The evening sky was a perfect blue filled with the loveliest white and grey-blue rain clouds that were just dazzling with the evening light shinning through and the rainbow lingering. It was absolutely beautiful. As Lightening McQueen finished his race a little voice beckoned for another movie. "No, it's time to just look out the windows now and find things to see."

"I see trees. And clouds. And rocks." He could see it too. The beauty that surrounded us.

I saw my favorite August flower. The little yellow mini-sunflower-like flowers that grow in bunches were scattered along the roadside as we climbed up the mountain. I thought back to these yellow flowers that were blooming every in and around Payson. These flowers were the sunshine and brightness that brought me a bit of happiness, that reminded me of God's love for me, and were such a comfort to me through the month of August just four short years ago.

And here they were. Scattered along the road, just for me.

My heart is happiest when I'm in nature despite the fact that I'm a city girl and currently could not live without the conveniences of the city. Yet here I was on this special day completely surrounded by a world that even though it was all new to me felt more like home than ever.


Home is when we are together with the ones we love.

Though we weren't with Luke we felt a little closer to him that day.

And it wouldn't be a day to honor someone without commemorating them with pizza. Our family's new favorite pizza restaurant in California, Lou Eddie's.

So good we went back again before we left the mountains!

We were also able to still go on a family hike, it just had to wait until later.


And of course a big thank you to Grandparents who were so thoughtful to provide flowers both on Luke's grave and for us.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June 2015 Cemetery Visit

Sometimes it just hits you when you least expect it . . .

I was in Utah to visit family and attend my 10 year high school reunion. My days were just as crazy there as they are at home. Two kids, taking naps all day (on opposite schedules right now), lots of feedings, diaper changes, mood swings (mostly the toddler, but sometimes mine too!). It was just all around usual day-to-day stuff, plus trying to cram in as many visits to friends that I could.

I finally got the kids and myself ready and packed in to the car and I knew that if I were to visit my friend we didn't have time to really stop and pick up flowers before and after the visit the kids would be fussy and needing to sleep so going to a store then wasn't really practical either.

I'll call a florist, I thought.

The most convenient florist I could think of was actually the one who had provided Luke's casket flowers. So I pulled over and parked in a neighborhood so I could look up the info on my phone and make the call before I got on the freeway to head south.

"Hi. I was wondering if I could place an order."

"What can we do for you?"

"Well, I just need some flowers to take to the cemetery today, if possible. Just something simple and I'd like to spend about $30. I don't have any particular preferences on flower types today, but it's for my son's grave so whatever you think would be nice for a baby boy."

And with that, emotion just weld up in my throat. Something about saying the words to a stranger "for my son's grave" just got to me. I can't tell you how many times I mention that fact that I have a son who died before birth, and it's just conversation. Just words and a story and I just tell it so matter-of-factly.

But that day . . . it was real and raw and it felt terribly heartbreaking as I spoke those words.

I felt so grateful for Main Street Floral in Spanish Fork. They created yet another perfect arrangement for me and were kind enough to bring it out to my car so I could pick it up without having to wake up my sleeping baby and take her in for the 60 seconds it was going to take to grab the flowers.


Being there I couldn't help thinking back to the days that I would come to Luke's grave with the numbness of empty arms aching to have my baby . . . to have another baby . . . to just be a mother. I longed for the day that I could be a mother. 

And here I am. 
In the throws of mothering young children. 
It's exhausting. 
It's hard. 
It's emotional for everyone involved.
Yet this is the life I longed for.
I wish I could say that it feels glorious, and even though I know this is the most glorious work God gives a person, being in the middle of it often feels muddled and messy. It is messy. Diapers. Broken glass. Food. Lots of food --on the floor, on the face, on my clothes, on their clothes, on their hands, on the furniture "come back here so I can wipe your hands off." Change the sheets. Catch the throw up. Wipe the bum. There is joy and laughter and satisfaction along the way, but it doesn't take away the the overwhelming work and the thoughts: Am I giving my children what they need? What would God have me do for them? When will I get a break? Does this ever get easier...probably not! Am I being to hard on them? Or is this the firmness that results in respect and discipline? Did he just remember to say please without being reminded. A victory! Am I teaching enough? Involving them enough? The list could go on forever. 
So here I am. In the midst of it all.
I feel joy that I have what I longed for and gratitude that I am in the throws of this crazy, messy life.
"Bring that flag back, it's not ours!"

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Feeling Robbed

Birth is such a personal, powerful, and supposedly beautiful thing.

But I was robbed. I was robbed of it's intense joy and amazingness that accompanies your first birth.

Yes, I've given birth two more times since giving birth to Luke and yes I was happy when my babies were finally born, but it never ends in the culmination of joy.

For me it's --relief.

I can breath now.
My baby didn't die.

Doesn't that seem so unfair. I wish so badly it wasn't this way.

A friend of mine recently posted on facebook a handful of beautiful birth photos showing the moments of joy after birth. The excitement. The happiness. The tears of joy.

I hear people talk about "that moment when you get to hold your baby for the first time" and it's accompanied with "changes your world"  "is the best moment ever" "is the most wonderful feeling."

And for those people who have experienced that joy, the wonderful moment, the happiest feeling --I am jealous. I am jealous of them and sad for myself for what was taken for me.

Mine ended in pain. A bitter loss. An insurmountable task achieved. A relief.
Where is my victory and joy in that?

So with each subsequent birth perhaps the pain will fade. Perhaps the worry will fade. Perhaps the anxiety will fade.

Maybe, maybe one day I can be pregnant without fear and birth without skepticism. Maybe those things will continue to fade if I am privileged to bear more children.


What a gift it truly is to those women who get to hold their baby's in perfect, blissful, happiness.

They will never truly know.