Friday, February 17, 2012


My best friend Sarah has been commissioned to do a sculpture of St Vincent. I cried when I saw how the work was progressing. I hope somewhere in heaven, St Vincent is looking after my babies. I think this little one looks so much like one my own. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

All things borne in love: The birth of Garrett Daniel

There are so many ways I could tell this story. It is a story of death and life; loss and redemption; fear and hope. Mostly, though it is a story of love.

I have given birth three times. The second time however, I did not labor to bring forth life. Instead, my daughter Ruby was born perfect, tiny and still. The loss was devastating. I had so much guilt about the complaints I had made about pregnancy; the doubts I had voiced about having a second child; the assumptions I had made that it would all inevitably end with a live baby. Once she was gone, I knew for certain that I wanted another child and to feel those magical kicks, to give birth and nurse again. The idea of facing another loss was terrifying, but I had to believe that there was hope of redemption out there.

The month after Ruby’s due date, my husband and I made a hasty decision to try again before we lost our courage. When we conceived, I placed the tiny stick with the two red lines next to Ruby’s urn and asked her to look after her sibling and send me strength. I did my best to accept the discomforts of pregnancy this time, to be grateful for this gift that I thought might never come again. So many mornings, I looked in the mirror at my growing belly and wondered at the fragile miracle of it all.

On Thursday, April 28th, I was 38 weeks and 5 days pregnant. I had been feeling like the birth was imminent for a few days. The signs were subtle, so I told myself that I was just being overly hopeful. That night however, I got a backache and started having contractions. I timed them over dinner and was surprised to find that they were coming at 3 minutes apart already. Convinced that I couldn't possibly really be in labor, I put my 3.5 year old to bed and tried to distract myself on the computer. My contractions were getting so strong though that I couldn’t stay seated during them. I called my midwife and asked in embarrassment how I would know if I was really in labor. She said when I had to change activity during a contraction. Then she listened to me talk through a contraction and said that she expected to hear from me again around midnight but would come earlier if I wanted her to.

I decided to call my best friend to come over and see how things went. I paced around for a while after she came and when my husband got out of work at 11PM, we inflated the birth tub. Then, unexpectedly, I decided to try and get some sleep. Even more shockingly, I was actually able to. I woke up around 3 AM and started timing my contractions again and discovered they had spaced out to 6 minutes apart. Disappointed, I texted my midwife and tried to sleep some more. I was feeling restless though and had started pacing again when I was suddenly I was overcome with two thoughts: “I want in the water” and “I want my midwife.” I woke my husband, had a moment of anxiety (“Tell me I can do this again.”) and then told him to call my midwife.

The contractions were getting uncomfortable now and the tub was only a foot or so full when I couldn’t bear it anymore, stripped naked and got in. The water helped some but was not the miracle pain reliever that I thought it was going to be. I struggled to relax and it got harder and harder as I approached transition. By the time my midwife arrived close to 5 AM, I was really desperate for her presence. Fear was starting to overcome me and she encouraged me by telling me what a great job I was doing and reminding me that I needed to breathe slowly and deeply so my baby would continue to get good oxygen flow. I tried to channel all of my emotions toward the baby – telling him how much I loved him, how I couldn't wait to see him. Still, I fought back the dread of each coming contraction and cried a lot.

Around 6:30, Reed woke up and was delighted to see all the action in the house. I was laboring down at this point and barely holding it together. Feeling my body begin to involuntarily begin to push was scarily intense. I begged for help and encouragement with each contraction. When I said I couldn’t do it anymore, I was reminded that I could and was. When the baby started to crown, I went into a complete panic. Then something took over inside of me. I became determined to get the labor over with and the baby out. With the next contraction, I starting pushing with everything I had. None of this easy, breathing out the baby stuff. It was one massive, screaming push and his head popped out. As I waited for the next contraction to push out his shoulders, I actually felt his little head turn one way and then the other like he was looking around. (Seriously, the weirdest sensation ever.)

The rest of him came out with the next contraction, and the midwife caught him and put him on my chest. I looked down at this tiny, slimy baby covered with vernix and tons of downy hair and burst into tears of joy and relief. He let out a beautiful bleating little cry. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it was over. He was here and alive. I kissed my husband and my son who reached over my shoulder and patted his brother lovingly on the head. Then my midwife had me reach down and feel the cord pulsing. Actually feeling the life pass between us left me speechless with amazement.

I was grateful to have delivered at home with my wonderful midwife. Getting out of the tub, washing up and then being tucked immediately into my own bed was wonderful. I was glad to have experienced birth free of needles, monitors or cervical checks for ‘progress’. It was just this uninterrupted, intense, hard and amazing ordeal. I was surprised afterwards how difficult the birth felt and how scared I had been – but then so much of bringing another child into this world had been a headlong charge against fear and doubt. Love carried me from beginning to end – my husband’s love, the love of my best friend and my midwife, the love of my children, the strong assurance of the love of my Creator. Later that evening, I happened to be near Ruby’s urn and caught sight of the faded positive pregnancy test sitting next to it. My heart full of love and tears, I thanked her for being there with me through it all and for watching over her brother’s safe arrival. Her story is no longer just one of loss but rather a story of redemption.

God has blessed us with:

Garrett Daniel B

Born April 29th, 2011 at 7:28AM
6lbs, 8oz and 18.5 inches

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hello, self-torture. My name is Grace.

Thanks to obsessive online baby gear 'window shopping' and trigger happy Amazon One-Click ordering, there is now a beautiful girly crib bedding set on its way to my house. Ugh. Shoot me. I didn't mean to - honest.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I'm hurting today

I want tests. I want to know what went wrong. I want to know if it can be fixed. I am so frustrated that two doctors now have been unwilling or uninformed enough to not test for every reasonable cause. I am so not wanting to get the phone and call yet another doctor's office; not wanting to go through the hassle of trying to get my records; not wanting to spend the money and risk wasting my time again.

I just want to cry. I am so angry.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ruby's Story

October 25, 2009 - The morning after A's baptism. I had slept on the floor of R's room and woke early to find AF had not arrived. I went into the bathroom, debated with myself a bit and then took a digital HPT. I watched the little hour glass turn over and over and then...Pregnant! I was shocked and kept staring at it in disbelief. I climbed into bed with DH and whispered, "Well, I'm pregnant." It seemed so easy. God had given me the desire of my heart after all.

7 weeks - I made an appointment at Dr. L's office and while waiting for the nurse practitioner to arrive, Dr. L poked her head in the door, "I think it is time we have another. What do you think?" She always makes me laugh. I was very happy that day.

12 weeks - Dr. L couldn't get the heartbeat on her doppler. She left to get the ultrasound machine and I sat on the bed and tried to breathe. It was a miscarriage. I was sure. Would I need a D&C? Did I want to miscarry at home? Back with the u/s machine, we were both surprised to see a wriggling baby. She was all arms and legs and moving so much that Dr. L still had trouble getting her heartbeat. I was so glad to see her alive. My busy baby. The fireball I always imagined for my daughter. The perfect balance for my introverted little boy. Back at home, I got out my maternity clothes, admired my growing belly and made plans.

16 weeks - My breasts which hadn't changed at all over the course of the pregnancy had suddenly swelled up over the weekend. I spent Monday throwing up and Tuesday on the couch with horrifically low blood pressure. E, my midwife, came for an appointment and once again, we couldn't get a heartbeat on the doppler. She said it had happened before, especially with someone with a very retroverted uterus like mine. I tried not to worry, but called her the next day to ask about being referred for an ultrasound. She came over that night with a better doppler. Still no luck. DH assured me that everything was fine. Over the next week, I continued to weigh myself in the morning and look at my belly in the mirror. I didn't seem as firm or big as I remembered being at this point with R, but I didn't think much of it.

January 25, 2010 - 17 weeks 2 days - I'm bleeding. My heart was beating wildly. I couldn't think of what it meant. R was asleep so I couldn't scream in fear like I wanted to. I stumbled out of the bathroom and found DH outside of the door. (Oh, this was just like last time.) He asked what was wrong before I could speak. "I'm bleeding," I said. He held me and said everything would be okay. We retreated back into the bathroom together. I got E's number but decided to wait out the night. I lay in bed, thought I felt the baby moving and prayed.

January 26 - I woke up to cramping and downward pressure. Not good. I called my midwife to get an ultrasound appointment. I claimed I could go alone, but DH took off work and we drove 40 minutes to the clinic. I don't remember what we talked about on the way. Nothing so serious as this possibly being the end. We waited a long time in the reception area. Then we were taken back into the office. They weighed me and I noted for the first time that my weight had plateaued. I had even lost a little. We got into an exam room, the doctor came in after a short time and started an abdominal ultrasound right away. I saw the familiar form of my baby's head appear on the screen immediately. Move, baby, I thought, move. I reached out and took DH's hand. The doctor pointed at the baby's chest area and said, "Right in here is where we're looking for cardiac movement." There was just a black hole where a beating heart should be. The baby was still. "I'm sorry," said the doctor, "I don't see a heartbeat." I knew. Of course, I knew, but I had held on to hope until that moment. Now, I clutched my husband, sobbing. I can't believe this is happening, I said. Please let this be a bad dream.

The doctor gave us a few minutes and then came back, did a few measurements and scheduled me for an induction the next day. We drove home feeling battered and in shock. My best friend bought me a huge bouquet of flowers. We called family. I had a glass of wine with dinner, took a tranquilizer and brought R into bed with us. We all curled up together. My heart was broken. I was glad to have my living child, warm and breathing next to me all night.

January 27 - In the morning, I got in the shower and touched my belly. It was such a small bump, but it was there...for a few more hours, anyway. This is the last morning the baby will be inside me, I thought. The last morning I will be pregnant. Packing for the hospital was difficult. I didn't have any clean non-maternity clothes to wear that fit. The idea of leaving the hospital wearing maternity clothing but without a baby was terrible. I sat the bed and cried because I had nothing to wear.

When we arrived at the hospital at noon, I informed the admissions person that I was there for an induction as I was told to the day before. I was all bundled up because it was winter and I sensed right away that she didn't realize what type of induction this was. Please don't say anything stupid, I thought. PLEASE don't say anything stupid. The woman made several cheerful comments about how we must be excited, when DH finally said gruffly, "This is for a miscarriage." "Excuse me?" she replied in confusion. "The induction is for a miscarriage." "Oh," she was all flustered then. "Well, that just ruins my whole day."

We were admitted, went up to the L&D floor and were shown into the lactation room to wait while my room was being made ready. I stared at the little yellow machines and the nursing pillows and felt numbly disappointed that I would not be nursing this summer as I expected. The rest followed the normal procedures. The small room, the gown, the blood draw, the IV and the parade of nurses, phlebotomists and doctors. We were left alone for a few minutes and I turned to my husband and confessed that I was scared. He squeezed my hand and tried to look brave for me.

Around 2PM, the doctor inserted the Cytotec and the waiting began. The waiting was terrible. I didn't want to be there, being induced and giving birth to a dead baby in the first place. The anticipation of the ordeal before me made the hours agony. At 6PM, the doctor gave me another dose and when they all left the room, I started to cry. "I don't want to do this. I can't believe I have to do this. I don't want to do this." Tears sprang into my husband's eyes, "I wish you didn't have to do this either." As day turned to night, I began to think that I had made a mistake agreeing to the induction. Nothing was happening. I imagined telling them that I'd changed my mind, that I wanted to go home and just wait for nature to take it's course. I was given another dose at 10PM and finally started to feel some cramping. It got worse quickly and I asked for meds. I already had more pain in my heart than I could handle. I saw no point to putting up with any more. The meds allowed me to sleep for an hour before the pain woke me up. I asked for more meds and went back to sleep again. This cycle repeated itself every hour until I had had every narcotic available.

January 28 - The cramps turned to contractions the early hours of the morning. I figured that meant that I was closing in on 4 centimeters and hopefully getting closer to being able to deliver. There was now breaks in the pain and DH and I swayed together during the contractions, just like when I had given birth to R. I was grateful that we had experienced labor before but at the same time, it meant that I knew undeniably that this was birth. I stood next to bed at one point (I was too uncomfortable to lie down anymore) and bawled after one contraction, "I can't believe I have to do this and I don't even get a live baby at the end." I was angry.

The baby started to descend and I felt pushy. Suddenly, there was a pop and gush of liquid. I scrambled up on the bed and yelled at DH to call the nurse. The baby just fell out. It was so sad. When R was born, . there was this dramatic sense of emergence. This baby tumbled out like a drowned mouse. The nurse came in at that moment and when she confirmed that it was the baby, I laid back in relief. "I did it. It's over. I did it." The placenta was still attached, so the doctor cut the tiny umbilical cord and took the baby over to a tray for examination.

It wasn't over though and I spent the next four hours vainly trying to deliver the placenta. The experience was horrific. I bled and bled, passed dozens of cloths and replaced the pads around me uncounted times but the placenta just wouldn't come. I eventually gave up trying to work around the hospital gown and took it off. I hobbled to and from the bathroom wearing only a tank top and a pad shoved between my legs. The room looked like a slaughterhouse with a trail of blood marking everywhere I had been. Any sense of privacy or embarrassment that was between my husband and I was stripped away. He was with me the whole time, brought me new pads and took away the blood soaked ones. I think a lesser man would have vomited or passed out. I was so blessed to have him with me that day.

As dawn broke, the nurse came in and said that I couldn't go on bleeding at the rate I was and that they were going to slip me for a D&C before the scheduled surgeries for the day. I agreed that that sounded like the best way to go. I was exhausted emotionally and physically and just wanted it to be over. I had delivered the baby whole and that was really my only goal. In the end, the doctor decided that the placenta was detached and just stuck in my cervix and could be removed without surgery. The anesthesiologist came in and I remember nothing until I woke up feeling DH's hand in mine and heard the nurse talking over my head. The procedure had worked and the doctor had been able to remove the placenta manually. This was a blessing actually, as it allowed for a thorough examination of the tissue and provided a sample for DNA analysis.

After breakfast, they brought the baby back to me. I wish I could say that I spent many touching moments with her, but the truth was that I was in too much shock to feel much of anything. I didn't even recognize how beautiful she was until looking at pictures later. The ultrasound measurements had put her at 14 and half weeks, but her condition was so good that it was pretty clear that she had not been growing as she should have been and was actually small for her age. (I now believe that she probably had died after I started bleeding from the placenta abrupting.) She was perfectly formed with beautiful hands and feet. The only feature she had really lost was her nose. I could clearly see my own familiar pointed chin and cupid's bow lip on her face. I had made a tiny hat the morning before since I knew there would otherwise nothing in the universe for her to wear. I put the tiny hat on her head; we took a few pictures and then I wrapped her in a scrap of soft fabric and tucked her little body in a small bamboo box that once held tea.

Though exhausted, I paced the room for a few hours to get the drugs out of my system so I could go home. They finally released me about noon, giving me a gift bag with a teddy bear, a copy of "We were gonna have a baby, but we had an angel instead" for R and a frame with the baby's hands and footprints in it. The nurses were all so kind and tender. One of them recommended a funeral director and arranged for him to come and pick the baby up from the hospital. I am still grateful for all they did for me.

It has been a long road. My husband grieved hard at first, while I remained stuck, waiting for the DNA test. My nurse concluded that we couldn't tell the gender just by looking at the baby, but from what I know now, it was obvious that she was a girl in those early stages of differentiation. When the tests came back and confirmed that she was genetically normal and female, I cried and finally started to mourn my only daughter. We named her Ruby - our little glorious July jewel, rarer than diamonds. I had so many dreams for her and cannot wait to see her again.

Thank you to all of you who comforted me during these past months and sent me cards and gifts. I cannot express the generosity of spirit I saw in people I have never met or haven't seen in years. It moves me to know that so many believed Ruby's life to be significant.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

This is how I imagine it will be in heaven

There will be so many people to see when I get to heaven - grandparents, friends, long missed relatives. There will be lots of kisses and hugs. Suddenly, behind me is a voice.


I turn and there he is. My first baby, my Ben. He's blond haired and blue eyed like his brother, but looks so much more like my husband with his prominent nose and wiry build. He's a young man - 17 or 18, maybe - with that thin, lanky, not quite filled out look of late teens. There is an edgy, alternative Christian skater dude quality to him. He is so much cooler then his father and I ever were at that age. Maybe it comes from spending so many years hanging out with the Almighty. I am thrilled to see his face. I hug and kiss him. Something about him still smells like a baby. The faint odor of milk and powder. He's taller than I expected.

We part and he smiles at me. "You look great," he says. "We've been waiting for you."

We? I look around. Ruby. Where is she?

Ben takes my hand. "She's over here. Wait 'till you see her." He's proud of his sister. I want to hug him again.

In a garden, around a bush dripping with sweet smelling honeysuckle, there on a bench, is my Ruby. Her back is to us at first and all I see is her slender shoulders and long black hair. She hears us coming and gets up to greet us. There are no words. I throw myself in to her arms bawling. She holds and comforts me.

"I love you, mom. I'm so happy to see you."

Through tears, I look at her sweet face and see my own. She's a mirror of me - black hair, brown eyes, pointed chin. Like her brother, she is a young woman, a flower in that gorgeous moment just before full bloom. There is so much fresh grace and life in her. I could drink her in forever.

"You're so beautiful," I manage to get out. She laughs through her own tearfilled eyes. "So are you," she responds. And she hugs me again.

I reach out for Ben and hold them both to me, one in each arm, our heads together. Suddenly, "memories" come flooding back to me - images of giving birth them, of their lives as toddlers and children, many happy years we had together. It was as if we never actually lost anything. We were together all along.

Then we are walking on a beach and Reed, also a young man, is with us. The boys are running along the edge of the surf like kids and trying to splash each other. Ruby and I walk some paces behind, watching, our hands entwined, her head on my shoulder.

"I've missed you, Mom."

I kiss her on the head. "I've missed you too."

One of the boys, I think it's Ben, manages to throw the other completely in the water. A full wrestling match ensues. They're now soaked but laughing.

Ruby rolls her eyes. "They do that all the time."

I notice a man standing a short distance away, hands in his pockets, watching the boys in the water. I recognize the figure immediately. I squeeze Ruby's hand and then let go. She squints a little in the sun and then her face lights up.

"Go ahead," I say, "I'll catch up."

I watch as she rushes to her father, getting there just seconds after her brothers. There are back thumping hugs for the boys and then a tender, heartbreaking embrace for Ruby. I can tell he is crying. Ruby reaches up and wipes his tears away. I arrive just in time to hear her say, "I love you, Daddy."

There we are together again, as family, on that gorgeous heavenly beach. My husband kisses me. I hug my children. I am whole.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

When A Baby Dies

I love this video. It is so true.