Monday, January 26, 2015

Heaven Meets Earth: Lily's Birth Story

I've tried several times to sit down and write this and I have a hard time of where to begin. So here it goes more. try.

When I think back to this day, I am of course flooded with emotions. 

After the initial shock of Lily's diagnosis and the anguish of it all set in, I remember two new fears emerging. The first was wondering how I would ever endure the next five months. The second was wondering how I would ever survive labor knowing I wouldn't get to keep my reward.

I now know the's all grace. A tremendous, overwhelming flood of grace that poured over me especially the last few days and weeks leading up to her birth. People often comment on how strong I am, but honestly, strength had nothing to do with it. It was all grace.

There is nothing to truly prepare you to say your hellos and goodbyes in the same day. We had time to process it all in the months leading up to her birth, but honestly, I don't think it matters. It's hard, it's painful, it makes you ache in ways you never knew possible. But more than all of that, you learn is worth the difficulty,  worth all the pain, and all the sorrow. She is worth it.

What I want people to know more than anything is this...I've never felt the love and presence of God more than the day Lily was born.

The medical side of the story is this: I went in to be induced on November 11th, two weeks (and a day) passed our due date. They dilated me and gave me pitocin. The dilating worked, the pitocin didn't. They turned it off and gave me a break. A few hours later, my water broke on its  own and labor started on its own (yay!). I got an epidural because I needed it and it was still going to be awhile.

Around 6:00am on November 12th, we decided to start pushing. My sister and parents came in to see us and then went to the waiting room.

Jason and I asked for some time by ourselves. My dear friend Chris had given us a rosary his late wife had held and prayed often as she was dying of cancer. I know her immense love for children and I knew she was in Heaven praying for Lily. Jason and I prayed a rosary together. We asked God to let us see Jesus in Lily. We asked God to give us the grace to do this, to give us peace for whatever happened and that we would experience tremendous joy when we met Lily.

And we cried together. 

Our midwife and nurse came back in and we started pushing...for six hours.

I have often wondered how women get through hours and hours (and hours and hours) of pushing. And now I honestly felt like minutes, not hours. If it was what Lily needed, I would have pushed for six more. I would have done anything for her. 

Lily had been head down and face down my entire pregnancy. As she was coming out they told me she was presenting face first and she was stuck. In my heart I knew she had already passed away. 

My midwife called another doctor for assistance. She was my advocate. She knew how much I did not want a csection and she knew how much I wanted to see Lily.

We tried pushing again and the doctor asked about using forceps. It pains me so much when I think back to this moment. I was terrified. I told Jason I didn't think she was alive anymore. We agreed to the forceps. As they were trying to get her out, I looked up and there was the Crucifix. He was right there with me with every push and every tear. I begged Jesus to let me see Lily. 

It still wasn't working. The doctor said we may need to do a csection. It was then that I completely lost it.

And again, I wept.

I laid back and just sobbed. Again, I told Jason I didn't think I could feel her anymore. 

And in that moment, I yelled. I yelled at God. I'm not ashamed to say that. When you have a relationship with your Creator you can yell at Him in those moments of your greatest despair. And this was that moment. I yelled at God and said I didn't want a csection. I begged him to spare me of more pain. I didn't want to go through all this, just to be cut open, especially when I knew in my heart she wasn't alive anymore.

Once again, my midwife was amazing. She fought for me. She went to find another doctor that she knew would be able to help. He had experience with this kind of birth. She never left my side.

Her shoulder was stuck on my pelvic bone, but he knew what to do. They upped my epidural and he pulled her out within a few minutes.

They put her hat on her and placed her on my chest.

I thought I had cried my hardest earlier, but I was wrong. This was the moment that I truly wept.

I sobbed and sobbed and tried to take her all in. I told her over and over again I was sorry. I  was sorry I couldn't save her, sorry I had put her through all that. I told her again and again how much I love her and I begged her forgiveness.

And then just like that, Heaven touched Earth. Jason and I were flooded with an abundance of grace. We just stared at her and examined what a beautiful daughter we made. 

She was perfect.

I didn't see anencephaly. I saw her squishy cheeks that melt my heart every time I close my eyes. I saw her hand wrapped perfectly around my finger. I saw her sweet chubby thighs that had two extra weeks to fatten up. I saw her long beautiful lashes. I saw her perfect feet. I saw my daughter, my own flesh and blood that I created, but couldn't save. 

I know that some of you reading this have an idea what that feels like. I can only imagine it's what Mary felt like when she saw her Son on the Cross. Helpless, full of more sorrow than you ever thought anyone could bear and here I was, experiencing it all for myself. But at the exact same moment you are flooded with so much joy because your daughter is finally in your arms.

I have never experienced the mystery of the Cross like this before. It was the single most amazing experience of my entire life. 
Perfectly made
 Those still my heart.
My very favorite picture...I stare at this every day.
There is so much more to share from this day, but that's all I have...for now. To be continued...

Link to part II.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Almost Perfect

It's the most wonderful time of the year! I love the Advent/Christmas season...usually. I love the way the Church looks with lights and decorations. I usually love picking out the perfect gifts for everyone I love. I usually love annual gatherings, galas and parties.

This year was obviously hard. I knew it would be. Christmas Eve was exactly six weeks since Lily was born sleeping. I knew it would be difficult, but I just didn't realize how difficult it would be.

I tried to care about Christmas presents, but honestly, I couldn't do it. I went to my obligatory parties, but wanted to leave within minutes. I decorated the house, but it didn't fill me with my usual Christmas cheer. 

We had a quiet Christmas Eve and I loved that. We went to Mass at our Church and I felt so much peace despite how much my heart was hurting. In the quiet moments of the Mass I can't help but think what it would be like to be wrestling Ted AND have a newborn. I hate that I don't know the answer to that. And I miss her.

The theme of Advent at our parish was "10,000 Reasons for Gratitude". Every family was supposed write three things they were grateful for everyday during Advent. By Christmas, there would be over 10,000 reasons throughout the parish.

We didn't do the best at keeping up with our list, but just seeing it on the fridge reminded me everyday how grateful I am. I am sad, angry and missing my daughter every single moment of every single day, but I am grateful that I get the chance to miss her

They played Matt Maher's version of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and there's one part that made my heart sing thinking of Lily:
"And the angels they sing,
And the Heavens they ring,
Won't you raise up your voice
To the Son of the King"
I've never heard this Christmas song quite like this before...I know with all my heart Lily was rejoicing in the Heavens. I know she is praying for me. How do I know? Because there is no other way to survive this type of loss. It's impossible to breathe in and out without the faith of knowing she is helping me through this.

We left for Iowa on Christmas Day. (FYI - it's a great day to travel with a toddler.) My family does Christmas big we have to rent a hall to hold everyone. I love it. I love that it grows every year with new fiances and new babies. I love how loud and joyful my family is. I normally hate to miss it, but this year we did. I didn't want to be overwhelmed all at once and mostly, I just didn't want to be there if Lily wasn't with me. I guess I wanted both of us to miss her first Christmas.

I was so happy to be home though and so thankful for that big and loud and wonderful family. We had lots of gatherings...I would say small gatherings, but that's never possible with my family. ;)

The most special part of our trip was getting to celebrate Lily with everyone. I know every single one of them wishes they could have been with us when Lily was born and after. But it just wasn't possible. One of my cousins asked me if it would be okay to have a Mass said for Lily at the Church where I grew up. It was so special! There were nearly 50 family and friends who showed up for Lily's Mass. It meant so much to celebrate Lily with all of our family and friends in Iowa. 

We spent the rest of the week soaking up time with family and squeezed in a few visits with friends. Ted got to play with all of his little cousins and they were so excited to see "Ted from Arizona".

All in all, it was almost close as perfect gets when you are missing your daughter. I don't think we will ever have a perfect Christmas again, but I'll take a few more "almost perfect" ones...

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Two Months

There are some days where I feel normal...even though I'm not really sure what "normal" means to me anymore.

There are some days I wake up and do all the normal things that a mom would do with her 20 month old son. We go on walks, we have play dates, we go to the park and build blocks. He naps, we go to the store, run errands, make dinner and get excited when Daddy comes home. There are some days when all of this feels and seems normal.

But most days it feels like something is missing. Most days there is a void in my heart that takes my breathe away. Most days I tell myself it's not supposed to be like this.

I try to do things I used to really enjoy. I go out with friends and have fun, laughing and talking and then it always hits me at some point...I shouldn't be able to stay out with friends because I should be going home to nurse my baby. I should be reading blogs and begging for tips on how to juggle a toddler and a newborn.

In mid-conversation, I stop and think about the way it should be. I usually daze off mid-conversation and all I can think about is Lily and how long it's been. Is anyone else thinking how absurd it is that I haven't held my daughter in two months?

Only two months. When you put it that way it doesn't seem like a lot of time. But when you add up all the late-night snuggles, baby breathes on my chest and coos I've missed, it feels like eternity.

Everyone says the holidays are harder than other times of the year, but I disagree. It's the day to day...the little insignificant moments that you miss the mostNot her first Christmas that she missed, but her sweet little, insignificant to everyone else, but milestones to me, that I miss.

The other night Jason and I were laying in bed. He was reading and I started crying (as I often do). He looked over and just said, "I miss her too." 

We talk about Lily a lot, but it's usually me bringing her up. I think about her non-stop. I look down at my post-partum self and I'm constantly reminded. Of course I started crying even more when he said that. He doesn't have the same physical or hormonal reminders so I often think he's forgetting her. 

So my tears kept flowing, but they were more so tears of gratitude. Grateful that we can talk about Lily, cry about missing our daughter and bring to life our sweet memories that we have. 

Most days I miss her so much I can barely breathe. Some days I can still feel my lips on her amazing cheeks. Every single day I thank God for giving her to me.

Lily's tree

Ted loving his Lily bear.

My favorite picture of Jason and his girl :)