Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Happy First Birthday In Heaven...

Funny how life isn’t always what you think it will be. Things change. Bad things happen. Even though you believe in a loving God, you are not promised a perfect life. For me, this past year has been a huge reminder of these things.

Whenever Trent’s birthday rolls around I busy myself planning a big party with friends, family, food, and cake. The day is usually spent making my home spotless before guests arrive, trying to keep Trent looking cute in his birthday outfit for a few pictures, and making sure that he has the best time, is thrilled with his gifts and knows how much his dad and I love him.

Today is Paige’s birthday and it is nothing like Trent’s. She isn’t here. I can’t hug her, dress her up in a pretty birthday dress, or have a big party for her. I miss her. I know that she doesn’t miss this place at all. She is happy, healthy, and free now. That makes me so happy for her. My selfish heart just wishes she were here with me celebrating her first year of life. I would give anything to watch her smear frosting all over her chubby cheeks and giggle with all the excitement that only a first birthday can bring.

It is definitely bittersweet for me today. And even though we are not having a party with all our friends and family, we are still celebrating her life and what she meant to us. Trent and I are baking a birthday cake for her while Brian is at work and then we will take her some beautiful flowers and release some balloons for her at the cemetery this evening. It may not be the way I want to be celebrating one of my children’s birthdays, but it is what I was given and in this life I can only do the best with what I am given and I will continue to trust in Jesus. It is because of Him that I know I am one year closer to seeing Paige in heaven.

Oh Paige! How very much I miss you. You have touched my life and changed me forever. I cannot say that about many people. Your spirit will live within me as long as I continue to breathe, that I promise you. I hope you know how much you were wanted, were loved, and still are loved. Happy first birthday in heaven my sweet girl!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The March For Babies Is This Saturday!

This weekend is the March For Babies. I feel very honored to have been chosen as their Tri-Cities Ambassador Family for this year. We were able to make a fundraising video that has been used in many places, were featured in a local magazine, attended and spoke at the March Of Dimes Gourmet Gala, and there are even many more things in the works that I am going to be involved with in the months to come. I am very excited to be able to give back in a way that is special and meaningful for me. I am blessed to have the opportunity to teach Trenton to have a big heart and to care for others in hard situations and those less fortunate than himself. I really do still believe that the world can change all because of one person.

This place I am today is an amazing place and it is all because of my dependence on the Lord. I can hope because He lives and that has given me the strength I needed to go on. God can create beauty from ashes. I am seeing the proof of that in my own life. He is truly an awesome God. At times I have not been able to see His plan, but leaned on Him anyway, and that is the beauty of how He works. I don't have to know...He already knows and that can calm my spirit. If you would have asked me 9 months ago if I thought I could ever be in a place where I was truly grateful to God for Paige's life and that I could ever be at peace with Him taking her from me and if I could speak about her without tears in my eyes and instead joy in my heart...I would have most likely said no. But I am thankful that God has chosen to take me from a very broken and hopeless time and fill me up with his joy and hope so that I can do wonderful things to honor the life of my little girl.

I have posted our March of Dimes video below for you to see. I know there are only a few days left until the March for Babies, but please think about joining my team and walking with us this Saturday in Columbia Park or making a small donation to a wonderful cause. Team Trent 'n Paige walks to honor and remember all babies who are born too soon, those who sadly die each year, and also to celebrate all of our living children. It is my hope and the hope of my team that one day all babies will be born healthy and on time. Imagine if everyone just gave $5.00...when you put it all together that is a lot of money raised to help our babies in Washington. It is with small steps that big things can happen. If you can't walk with us or donate to our team, would you at least pray for good weather. :) Thank you for your love and support. http://www.marchforbabies.org/s_team_page.asp?SeId=1523833

Monday, May 2, 2011

Trenton's Story

My first born, Trenton, just turned 4 in March and his story is different from his sister's, but equally amazing and important to share. He was a preemie born at 29 weeks who had a very rough start in life and has grown to be an amazing little boy. I have been encouraged to share the story of Trenton's early entrance into the world. Here goes...

For me the birth of my son, Trenton, was all at once the most joyous and frightening experience of my life. I was a healthy 27-year-old woman. It was my first pregnancy. I was elated when I found out I was going to be a mother and my husband was equally ecstatic that he was going to be a father. The pregnancy progressed very well. All ultrasounds and tests showed that this was a "normal" pregnancy. Our baby was due June 8th, 2007. However, he was born prematurely on March 22, 2007. 11 weeks early.

It began like any other day. I got up in the morning, kissed my husband goodbye, and went to work. Little did I know that in a mere 12 hours I would be welcoming my son into the world. I was living in Huntington Beach, California at the time and working in medical billing. After work that day my husband asked me if I would be willing to drive up to Reseda to check out this new car that was for sale by owner. I was beginning to feel some pressure in my lower abdomen and had a horrible headache, but agreed to go if we could eat first and if he would stop anytime I needed to use the restroom. Like any expectant father, he was used to these demands so he agreed and off we went. We hadn’t made it very far up the 405 when I had to take my first bathroom stop. I was feeling pretty bad, but we kept on driving. After quite a few more stops we finally made it to Reseda. He loved the car, bought it, and we were on our way home…he in his new M3 and me in my Honda following behind.

On the drive home I began contracting. And in no time at all I was in extreme pain, sweating, and praying for God to help keep my car on the road until I got home. I remember Michael Bolton’s “I Said I Loved You But I Lied” came on the radio. I didn’t particularly like the song before then, but I couldn’t take my hands off the wheel, so I listened to it and began to cry. I honestly remember thinking that it had the most beautiful lyrics I had ever heard. In the song he is saying that he feels so much more than love and basically that he just can’t express it into words. How sweet is that? That is how I felt about my husband and my unborn child. Deep, deep love. So with one hand on my stomach and one hand on the wheel I continued to follow my husband’s tail lights on the dark highway.

We ended up making it home to our apartment safely around 9:30 that night and I went to our bedroom to lie down. The contractions weren’t letting up at all, so I called my doctor’s office. I wasn’t sure what was wrong with me, maybe food poisoning from that Subway sandwich I had for dinner? Or could this be those Braxton Hicks contractions that I had been reading about in my pregnancy books? I definitely never thought that I was in labor since I was only 6 ½ months along. The answering service for my physician assured me that they would have the doctor-on-call call me back as soon as possible.

Well, after an hour and a half with no call back and some bleeding when I urinated, my husband and I decided to drive to the emergency room and have things checked out. That was my first ride in his new car. I grunted at him over every bump in the road or turn that wasn’t perfectly smooth and he told me to please not to let my water break in his car. We both laughed. As if I had control over something like that! While we drove down the scenic Pacific Coast Highway toward Hoag Hospital we held hands and prayed that the worst wasn’t happening, although, looking back, I am not sure of what we thought was actually happening.

My husband and I arrived at the hospital a little after midnight and I was immediately taken up to labor and delivery. I can still remember the dirty looks we received from an elderly couple in the waiting room of the ER who were very perturbed that I just walked in, was put in a wheel chair, and taken back so quickly while they were left there to wait. I was put in a gown and given an IV. The nurse performed a vaginal exam and then excused herself from the room quickly. She said that she wanted to get a doctors opinion and would be right back.

When the doctor came in the room to check me out he had a very relaxed demeanor and seemed as if he was just going to check me out and send me on my way. However, that is not what happened. He slowly introduced himself, put on a glove, and casually checked my “status”. I will never forget the look on his face. His head tilted to the side, as if he was surprised, and he told me to get ready because, “We were gonna have this baby tonight. Within the hour.” I couldn’t believe it. The labor had progressed so quickly. I kept thinking to myself, "How can this be? I am only 29 weeks along.” Since I was fully dilated, effaced, and in full on labor, there was nothing they could do to try and stop it or even slow it down.

The next half hour or so was such a whirlwind for me. They tipped me back in the bed to get the room ready for delivery and when I was tipped back down it was time to push. It seemed as if all delivery decisions were now out of my control. It was too late for them to administer any pain medication to me plus I hadn’t even decided if I wanted anyone but my husband in the delivery room with me and now there was a crowd at the foot of my bed. The NICU doctor came and introduced himself to me and gave me all the grim details of what hurdles our baby would possibly have to face being that he was not fully developed yet. I can remember lying in the bed signing papers for consent to treat my child, but I really had no idea what they said. I was scared. Too scared to think rationally anyway. But in my quest to be brave, I just smiled and nodded and went with the flow. Even though I felt like curling up in the fetal position and pulling the covers up over my head. After three hard pushes Trenton was born at 1:42 am by normal vaginal delivery.

He weighed 2 pounds 10 ounces, was 15 3/4 inches long, and not breathing when he came into the world. The delivery doctor quickly handed him off to the NICU staff, which were standing by with an incubator and all sorts of medical supplies. I couldn’t see him at all from where my bed was. I kept asking my husband what he looked like and how he was doing. The NICU doctor intubated him there in the delivery room and then his team whisked our baby away to the NICU. We were not allowed to go with him. My nurse promised to get us an update as soon as she could. My husband and I sat in the delivery room awaiting news from the nurses about our baby's status for what seemed like days or weeks, but in reality was only about an hour.

Finally a little before 4:00 am Trenton was stable enough for us to journey down to the NICU and see him. I will never forget how it felt to be wheeled into the NICU and placed beside his incubator. It was dark and quiet. Quite a pleasant space really, however, there was a heavy sadness that accompanied it. His bed had a sign on it that read, “Minimal Stimulation”. What did that even mean? How sick was he? I couldn’t even see his face. There were so many sensors and IVs and wires hooked on to his little body. His skin was purplish looking and he was so swollen that he almost appeared shiny. But despite all of that, he was the most beautiful and perfect being that I had ever laid eyes on. I had loved him for the last six months while he was growing in my belly and now that same love had become very overwhelming. He was mine. I was going to fight for him. Pray for him. And do whatever was needed to make sure that he made it out of that hospital and home safely with his dad and me. I was able to take one photo on my camera phone that night and then was taken back to my room.

The nurse brought me a turkey sandwich on wheat bread and a glass of milk. I drank my milk and picked at my sandwich, but I wasn’t hungry. I felt sick to my stomach. She told me to try and get some sleep. I finally did manage to fall asleep. I slept for almost 2 hours. When I awoke and realized where I was, I quickly remembered that it wasn’t a dream and I asked to go and see my baby again. They told me that I needed to wait for the doctor and lactation consultant to come in and see me. Wait? Wait! Are they kidding me? I was fine. I just needed to be with my son. He needed me.

That night began a roller coaster ride of emotions for me. For the next 66 days I was a permanent fixture in the NICU. I used to sit there for hours staring into the incubator lifting my precious little boy up in prayer just asking God to please give my husband and I strength to deal with this hurdle facing us, to carefully watch over my precious boy, and to give wisdom and a caring heart to all of his doctors and nurses.

I did not get to see Trenton’s beautiful face for 2 days. I know that may not seem like such a long time, but for a new mother it is an eternity. When the nurse finally lifted off his breathing tube and eye mask for a moment so that I could take a peek, I couldn’t believe it. His poor little eyes were so bruised. The respiratory therapists even called him Rocky. It seemed fitting. He was my little fighter. He was fighting for his life. It was amazing when I looked at him all alone in his isolette. How tiny and helpless he was; and yet there was a sense of strength and life that shone through. I knew he was going to make it and be okay. He just was. And once again, I fell deeper in love with my little boy.

I did not get to hold him for the first time until he was over a week old, and even then I was only able to hold him for 20 minutes. It just didn’t seem long enough at all. But I happily took what was given to me. I had been waiting for this moment! When they handed him to me he felt like he weighed no more than a bag of marshmallows. It was incredible. But since he was still hooked up to so many machines I felt a little nervous holding my own child. I know that was silly of me. But I didn’t want to do anything wrong. I wanted him to be safe. Soon I realized that he was completely safe in my arms and I began to relax. I had never felt so much happiness. I could have stared into those little eyes forever. He was the love of my life. Nothing else mattered. I had been waiting my whole life to be his mom. It felt perfect.

I loved visiting with my baby and wished that I could just stay there with him 24 hours a day. Every time I had to leave him I would try and be strong, but somewhere between the 6th floor where the NICU was and the parking garage I would fall apart. It just isn’t natural to have to leave the hospital without your baby. It feels so wrong and sad. I hated it. Even though my husband was there by my side giving me love and support every step of the way, I felt very alone. I don’t know why. But it was what it was. I was happy when I was with my son and really depressed when I wasn’t.

What happened to Trenton in the NICU was nothing short of a miracle. Even though time didn’t always move fast enough for me and progress didn’t happen as quickly as I had hoped for, God was there with us the entire time, working in a big way. I watched with my own eyes as my baby’s skin color went from purple to pink. He went from complete intubation, to a c-pap machine, to a nasal cannula, and then finally was able to breathe room air on his own. What an achievement that was! He had an umbilical catheter, many IVs, a PICC line, and a core pack (feeding tube). I can't even describe in words how wonderful it felt each time a wire or tube was removed from my baby. His nurse even fashioned a cake out of a diaper and colored q-tips when he hit the three pound mark and we celebrated. He was finally reaching some milestones and it was very encouraging.

Once he was off of so many machines I was able to do Kangaroo Care with him. That was the absolute best! I was able to hold him to my chest. Skin to skin. It was amazing to see his body temperature and heart rate regulate when I was holding him close to me. To me, that was concrete evidence that he loved me as much as I loved him and that he needed me as much as I needed him.

Even though the NICU was often a little scary, so many amazing moments took place there. Of course if I could have had him born at full term I would have. No doubt about it. But sometimes, when I look back, I am grateful for the time that he and I spent there getting to know each other and think that it ended up being a pretty special experience. It is where we bonded. I cherish every single one of the moments that we spent there together. I can’t even count the number of hours I spent just cuddling with him in the rocking chair or holding his hand while he slept. Every day I would check with his nurse to see if he gained weight or had any changes take place. With every ounce that he gained, it was like I gained a bit more confidence that we were going to be alright. It gave me hope to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And I needed that. Desperately.

He came home Memorial Day weekend 2007 on a heart rate/apnea monitor, Reglan for his reflux, and iron supplements. All things considered he was doing extremely well. He had grown to a whopping 5 pounds 14 ounces and was 19 inches long. He did not have ROP (Retinopathy of Prematurity) which can cause blindness and had been a big concern since he was on oxygen. And he had no brain hemorrhaging either, which I had been told was very common in preemies. We were very blessed. Feedings were sometimes a struggle, but we managed to get through it together. Then there were times when he would “forget” to breathe and we would have to rouse and stimulate him. I have to admit that it was a bit intimidating at first to be at home alone with him, but at the same time it had been so exhausting to have him in the hospital for a little over 2 months. I felt such relief and happiness to finally have my baby home with me, where he belonged.

When you become a mother things change anyway and you instantly understand everything that your mother once told you, every silly cliché about how they fast they grow and how it is a love like no other…you realize it is all true. But when you have a baby born prematurely, sick, or with a special need, in a way, it is like you instantly become a member of a special club. Every other mother that you encounter along your journey in the NICU gives you that look and maybe a comforting hug to let you know that she knows how hard it is and that she has been there.

Taking home a preemie can be a bit scary. It teaches you so many things so fast and soon you know them like the back of your hand. You learn to take regular 20 calorie baby formula and make it into 22 or 24 calories so that your baby can be assisted in brain development and weight gain. You know just what to do when your baby stops breathing for a moment and don’t even skip a beat. You just do what is necessary. The medicine schedule becomes so routine that you almost don’t even have to look at the clock anymore. And soon that feeling that you wouldn’t know what to do without the nurses there with you disappears and you know that you can handle it on your own. Because you are a mom and that is what a mom does.

I hope that my story can bring comfort and encouragement to families out there struggling with prematurity like we were. I want to show them that even though it may seem like your NICU stay will never end...it will. There is always a rainbow after the storm. God has promised that to us. Having a premature baby and going through all that it entails has made me a much stronger person. It definitely strengthened my dependence on God and has made me truly cherish every moment I am given with my beautiful family. Life is a precious and fragile gift. Once you have seen someone struggling just to live and breathe it changes your outlook on life. I have absolutely been forever changed by my experience with Trenton.

Trenton is 4 years old now, but I will never forget the challenge of his early entrance into this world. It can still bring tears to my eyes when I think about it. Partly because it was so touch and go with him for a few weeks. And partly because I am just so happy that he is here with no more than a few tiny scars on his heels. We were told of so many complications that he could have, but he has none. He may have crawled and walked a little later than the other kids his age. But, he did it. He is here. Alive. And thriving in this great big world. When I look at him I truly do feel God’s blessing in my life. He is without a doubt the first of two wonderful gifts that I have received from above. I love him with all of my heart and am so excited to see what the future holds for my little miracle boy.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Butterflies always remind me of Paige.

The Butterfly

The butterfly is the hope
that the transformation
that loss brings into our life
can result in something different,
something beautiful.
We may not be the same
at the end of the journey,
but we have grown
and are able to see things
that we could not before.

-Author Unknown

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Long Time, No Blog

I haven't had a blog entry for a while. I have been busy in body and mind. Sometimes this grief I am wading through can make me feel very wearied and tired all on it's own. However, since losing Paige I went back to work, quit to stay home with Trent again, bought a new house, and stay busy trying to make it our home in the hopes that I will find myself again. Sometimes, I think that saying is silly. You don't need to own a house to have a home. It may sound cliche, but it is true that home is where your heart is.

We drove past our old rental house on Brittlebush Lane last night and I got very sentimental. We lived in that house for over 3 years. Trent had almost all of his "firsts" there. A tiny part of me felt sad to know that we can't go back there. It may have only been a small rental, but there was a lot of love and fun times shared in that house. Those are the things that really matter. One of the biggest lessons I have learned from Paige's short life and death is that much in life is very trivial. What really matters in life are your relationships.

First, you need to constantly be seeking God with all your heart and really nurturing your relationship with Him. After all, "We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19 NIV). Secondly, when it comes right down to it our relationships with family and close friends are what complete us, comfort us, and bring us joy. People are what matter. There is not one material thing on this earth that could ever bring me such pure happiness as when my husband kisses me before he leaves for work in the mornings or when I am crawling on the living room floor chasing Trent playing our "kitty game" and when I finally catch him and he falls into my lap with his arms around my neck and we are both laughing so hard...it's nothing but pure joy. Those two boys mean the world to me. I am blessed. Even though Paige is in heaven, she is still very much alive in my heart and in my home. She too brought me so much joy in the short while we had together. I was so happy when I was pregnant with her...so excited about our future together. I truly am thankful for that time. She was definitely taken from me much sooner than I wanted, but we don't always get a choice in life.

Actually, we humans are not in control of as much as we think we are. That has been a tough lesson for me to learn. It is hard to feel helpless and out of control, but God knows that. He tells us that trials will come and that we are to lean on Him for strength. "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." (1 Peter 5:10)

For months I felt like I was walking around in a fog of "Why me?" "Why my baby?" I never got an answer. Am I mad at God? I think I was in the beginning. Or maybe I was only confused and looking for answers. Somehow, just waking up, putting one foot in front of the other and managing to breathe has shown me that you just have to deal. When you think you can't, that is okay, He can for you. And you just find a way.

When Paige died I thought I could never be happy again. But I have been happy since then. No matter how fleeting or far apart the truly happy feelings have been I have tried really hard to make myself aware. Really, really aware of them. It is nice to feel something other than pain and sadness. I am beginning to see that time does heal. Although, slowly and not completely, but at least enough to keep you going.

I have had to really deal with myself. I needed to. It was hard and dirty. I had to face feelings of embarrassment, guilt, jealousy, disappointment, and abandonment. All things I wish I hadn't felt and are even now difficult to admit. I have learned that I am human. Not immune to tragedy and not immune to having negative emotions. I have spent much of my life trying to please others no matter the cost to me and not ever showing any emotion that wasn't happy. That isn't realistic.

When Paige died, my world crumbled. I was sad that she died, embarrassed that I wasn't able to sustain my pregnancy, felt guilty because somehow maybe it was my fault, jealous of others who could carry healthy babies to term, disappointed that I would have to tell Trent that his baby sister died and along with her, all the hopes and dreams I had for our family died too, and finally I even felt a little abandoned by God. Those are yucky feelings. But they are just that. Feelings. Human emotions. I can acknowledge them and say, "Yeah, I felt that way." But those feelings don't define me. I don't have to live my life stuck in them. But it was very necessary for me to accept them and own them for a while before I could begin to move forward. Looking back at times when I had those feelings and felt like a horrible person for having them...I wasn't a horrible person. My baby had just died and I was trying to cope and process.

I think it is human nature to compare. At least it seemed natural to me. I couldn't help but compare myself, my pregnancy, and my body to other women and their experiences. What was wrong with me? Bearing children is such a natural process, but it is SO hard for me. Conceiving easily, carrying, and delivering a healthy, full-term baby is something I know nothing about. I had a miscarriage at 6 weeks, Trent was born prematurely at 29 weeks, and Paige was stillborn at 22 weeks. Not a great track record. It is hard to not get down about that sometimes. So, I let myself be sad for a moment - or longer - and then I go on with my day.

People constantly ask if we are going to try again. I feel confident that we will someday have 2 living children. I'm just not sure of when. I still feel conflicted in my heart about it. I worry that miscarriage or stillbirth could happen again. It would be devastating. However, then I look at Trent. He deserves to have a sibling here with him to play with and love. It breaks my heart that we go to the cemetery to see his sister. Yet, at the same time he is such an awesome kid. He is not quite 4 years old and he has the purest acceptance of God's will. He doesn't doubt that his sister is in heaven. He accepts it. That is so cool! I wish that faith in God was as easy and pure for adults as it is for children.

Honestly, I don't think I could have ever dealt with Paige's death if I didn't have Trent in my life. He is my best friend. He is my concrete proof that life goes on. When I had days that I thought I wanted to die too, in the back of my mind I knew I couldn't. Trent needed a mom. He needed me. So, though I miss Paige with all that I am, I have to rest in the promise that I will see her again when my time here on earth is over. And it isn't over yet. She isn't sad. I gave her all that I had while she was here and then she went straight into the arms of Christ. She never knew any sadness. It's hard to imagine a life like that. For that, I am happy. It might not make sense to others. And that's okay. I am not in the people pleasing business anymore. ;)