Baby Dedications and Bathroom Stalls

Her son looked so cute.  She had found him a little tux.

He was the first baby I held after Aidan.  How could I tell her how hard this day was going to be for me?

My husband and I sat in the pew at our friends’ church.  Friends on one side.  Strangers on the other. We knew the custom in our faith of child dedication. We knew the order of the service even before we walked into the church.

I started to tear up even before they were called up to the altar.  Actually I started to tear up walking into the church.  I knew the time would be painful.

It was time to shake hands – greet your neighbor – shake their hand – give them a hug.  I knew the church ritual.  Put on the smiling face. Greet a stranger as if they were a friend.

I was in tears. I wanted to run.  The lady next to me extended her hand.  The stranger asked me about why we were there.  I blubbered something.  I added some quick statement about sorry this is hard for me my son died a little over a year ago. I remember thinking who throws that into a conversation during the “greet the person next to you” time at church.

We were sitting in a pew toward the back.  My friend, her husband and their son were called forward.  Everyone coo’ed at the adorable little baby. My friend was all smiles.  Her husband was so proud of his little family.

My heart pounded. My pulse quickened. I wanted to run. I wanted to hide. I wanted to sob.

The baby dedication started.  I stood up discreetly and bolted out the door. I didn’t have to say anything to my husband.  He understood my pain.  He didn’t try to stop me.  He didn’t come after me.  He knew I’d return when I was ready.

The bathroom. The bathroom would be a safe place.  I could cry and be alone.  I would compose myself and then go back in to sit next to my husband. Just a few minutes was all I needed.  No one would even know what happened.

I closed the bathroom door in hopes of closing out the ceremonial words, the doting, the cooing, the praying over a young family, the dreams, the hopes.

Instead the words only seemed clearer.  The bathroom was not a safe place.  The bathroom had a speaker.  I listened to the entire ceremony as if I was the only one in the audience. The words were clear and crisp. My sobs were uncontrollable.  I prayed no one would enter in.

I spent her baby’s dedication in a bathroom sobbing as I mourned for my son who was dedicated before God minutes after he was born and hours before he died.  I mourned my son who was dedicated to God surrounded by family members who stood in a somewhat circle in the delivery room around my hospital bed as I was hooked up to machines and iv’s.  I mourned my son who was dedicated in a hospital-issued diaper and blanket.   I simply mourned my son.

I can’t remember how long I stayed in that bathroom. I don’t remember if I stayed in there during the entire dedication. I can’t remember if I dried my tears and got back to my seat before my friend and her young family sat down. I never asked her if she knew I had left the room during the ceremony.  I don’t think I’ve ever told her how that one day was part of my healing process.

All three of my boys have been dedicated as the practice in our faith. One in a hospital room wearing a diaper and blanket.  One in a church wearing a shirt and vest and dress pants.  One who actually was dedicated separately with each side of our family – once in a home wearing shorts and a t-shirt and once in a cabin wearing swimming trunks.  All were surrounded by loving family who prayed beautiful prayers over our family and boys. All trusting and surrendering my boys – and our parenting – to God.  None of those services required an escape to a bathroom stall.


10 Years Ago

10 years ago.  

10 years ago I said hello to my first baby.
10 years ago I said goodbye to my son Aidan.

10 years ago I waited and waited to hear that first cry.
10 years ago I heard that cry after we told the Dr. to stop CPR.

10 years ago I watched my son breathe and heard his coos.
10 years ago I saw his breaths stop while he was in my arms.

10 years ago I counted six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot.
10 years ago I cut off a curl of his reddish hair to tuck away.

10 years ago my body had just given birth to a baby.
10 years ago I left the hospital empty handed.

10 years ago we planned our son’s funeral – tiny casket, songs, custom headstone.
10 years ago I sent my mother and mother-in-law to pick out a baby outfit for burial.

10 years ago my dad hugged me tight and no words were needed.
10 years ago my father-in-law told me “well done” at the grave site.

10 years ago we were given comfort from others.
10 years ago we gave comfort to others.

10 years ago I felt fear, relief, peace, joy, sadness, loss, love, laughter, tears.
10 years ago I fell more in love with my husband as we made the ultimate decisions for our son.

10 years ago.

It seems like yesterday.

It seems like forever ago.

10 years ago.

If you want to read more about Aidan, his diagnosis, and his story, please check out this previous blog post.

Happy Birthday – Slice of Life

Today my son turns 8!

I can hardly believe it.  I still can remember the day he was born.  I was overdue and was scheduled to be induced on a Monday. My parents from Minnesota decided to come out early. As a little back story, they weren’t able to make it for the birth or short life of our son, Aidan, so they were determined not to miss any future births of our children.

My parents unexpectedly arrived at my house on Friday evening.  Throughout the evening as we talked, I just couldn’t get comfortable.  Finally later that night, I figured out I was in labor.  My doctor wanted me to take a bath at home and relax for  a bit.  Instead, we told her we were coming directly to the hospital. I don’t think she believed I was truly in labor.

My husband rushed through red lights on our way. Since it was after midnight, the only open door into the hospital was the ER.  I don’t think the ER staff believed me that I was truly in labor. They took their sweet time. Even asked if I wanted a wheelchair.  And we slowly made our way up to the maternity floor.

I don’t think the nursing staff on that floor believed I was truly in labor.  Instead they had me get changed and asked for a urine sample, which I nicely gave.  I was hooked up to monitors and put into the bed.  My husband kept prodding the nurses to check me.  They took their sweet time.

Finally they checked me. “Oh, um, what time will the doctor be here?” The nurse who was getting the infant stuff ready asked if she could do her rounds on the other babies. “Um. I think you need to stay here,” she was told. “What time is the doctor getting here?” the first nurse asked again with a bit more force.

Yes. Finally someone believed I was truly in labor. Finally the doctor showed up. She checked me and told me to push. A full twenty to thirty minutes probably passed from when I entered the ER doors to when Kory was born. No drugs – even though I told my mother I wasn’t going to have my baby “old school.”

After Kory was born, my parents and some friends arrived. I remember our friends had made sure to stop by a local store to stock up on chips and goodies for them to have in the waiting room. We all laughed, and my dad offered to move our car that was parked in such a funny way in front of the ER doors.

At my six-week check up, my doctor said, “Well I am glad I got there in time to catch your son.”

Of all the things I have been through with having kids, I’m thankful for short labors and deliveries! I think Kory’s was around four hours looking back.  Aidan’s was six from start to finish even with being induced,  and Cade’s was about that too. Let’s just say with Cade, my doctor told me at what point during regular appointments that I should demand to go to the hospital. Don’t hate me for short labor and deliveries – it truly has been God’s way to bless me with everything else we have had to go through with pregnancies and births!

And I’m so thankful that Kory was born healthy and strong. He continues to inspire me. He continues to surprise me. He makes me laugh. He makes me cry tears of pride and fear. He makes me a better me.

I love you Kory!  Thank you for being a part of my life! And happy birthday!

I’m posting every Tuesday as part of the weekly Slice of Life over at Two Writing Teachers.

Mother’s Day without Children

Happy Mothers Day people cheer all around.

You stand there without children.  All the moms are getting flowers. Do you go up for one?  You are a mother.  A mother without a child. Your child is buried in a little cemetery. All the other moms have kids running up with them. Do you walk up alone?

The mothers are invited up to the altar at church for special prayer.  It is awkward standing there deciding. Do I go up. Don’t I go up. Oh what do I do. Will I have to explain. I’m not really a mother. But I am a mother.  My child lives in heaven.

Happy Mother’s Day people say as you walk in the building.  They are all smiles. But you are faking the smile. Inside you are grieving. Your mother died years ago. This day of celebration breaks your heart. If you could only see her one more time.

Happy Mother’s Day you hear. Yet you are struggling to have children of your own. Maybe you have miscarried more than you want to share.  Maybe you have been told you could never have children. Maybe you are still holding out for the miracle.

You watch moms being loved on. You love on children. Your nieces, nephews, maybe “adopted” children in your life. You never married. You married and never had children.  You chose to not have children. You didn’t have a choice in not having children.  When is your special day of honor?

These women deserve a mother’s day just as much as the ones who bore children, adopted children, raised children.  They are all around us on this day of joyful celebration of mothers.

I’ve been one of these moms. After I lost Aidan, we skipped going to church on the first Mother’s Day. I couldn’t imagine the pain of sitting there and hearing all about how wonderful mothers are knowing that I, as a mother, had made some of the most difficult decisions ever for my child. Decisions that went beyond which was the better apple juice to buy, whether I should buy organic/non-organic or whether to either breastfeed or use formula.

The second Mother’s Day was easier.  I was pregnant with Kory. I could at least “look” the part of the mother without extra explanation.

My heart still cringes on Mother’s Day. I think of all the women I know.  All the women I don’t know. The women walking among us every day. The women we casually bump into. The women who are hurting on this day of celebration for “Mother’s”.  So yes, you will hear me wish a Happy Mother’s Day, but you will also hear me applaud the women out there who are mothers in so many ways.

The ones who are not mothers by choice but deeply involved in a motherly role.  The ones who have tried for years to have babies of their own. The ones who never married – whether by choice or not. The ones who face the day without their own mothers.  The ones who put on a fake smile.  The ones who tear up not out of celebration but sorrow.

Those are the ones who really deserve my tribute today!

Baby Showers and Ventilators

“Oh, you won’t be at her baby shower?” the secretary asked me with a curious expression.

I wanted to scream. Had she not read the company-wide email that my infant son had died shortly after birth? Had she forgotten that everyone in the offices should have known about our son’s severe problems? Had she not remembered that I had been pregnant, gave birth, and buried my son only a few short months before? Had she not realized how her simple question seemed so insincere?

“Um, I can’t do baby showers right now. Will you please make sure she gets this gift?” I softly answered.

I quickly handed over the small gift bag with lotions and a gift card. The only type of gift I could bring myself to buy at that time. I swiftly turned and walked out the department’s door. I was trying to walk bravely. I was trying to not run toward the door.  I was trying to not cry.

It’s nine years, two healthy boys and four of my own baby showers later. I still struggle with baby showers. I still breathe a deep breath before walking into a room full of baby excitement.  I still rehearse in my head the options of what I could say.

Cue the smile. Cue the laughter. Cue the oohs and ahhs. Cue the responses of yes, that is a cute outfit.  I try my hardest to live in the moment of joy, but inside my head I am reminded.

Reminded that any shower plans for our son were quickly halted when we found out about his severe trisomy 13.

Reminded that a trip to plan a baby registry was quickly replaced with a trip to plan end-of-life options with a neonatologist.

Reminded that while others planned baby showers, birthing plans and nursery colors, my husband and I were deciding on feeding tubes, comfort care and ventilators for our unborn son.

Reminded that while others sat at stores with the lady who was about to hand over the scanning device to fill a baby registry, we sat with a doctor who specializes in caring for ill newborns.

Reminded that while others can’t decide between the light blue or the bright green crib set and probably driving some store clerk crazy, we were saying to the neonatologist, “Yes. We want this decision. Wait, no, we want this decision. Oh wait, we don’t know what the best decision is yet.” She was so very patient with us, and we were able to come to concrete decisions.

I will still go to baby showers.  I hope I still get invited to them after this post. I will still take a deep breath before walking into a room full of baby excitement. I will still pick out the cute outfit or impractical necessity on someone’s baby wish list.

But more importantly, I will think back to when we made important decisions for our son. Decisions that went way beyond nursery decor, wipes warmers and baby registries.

I have to admit, the last two sentences surprised me when I wrote them.  I was surprised at how I could go from the emotions of the memory, to the emotions at baby showers, to the realization of the real memory  that connects me to Aidan and baby showers.

I’m attempting to take part in the “The Fifth Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge” through the month of March. The challenge is run by Two Writing Teachers.

Laughter in the Midst of Grief

My son missed his own funeral.

Yes. You read that correctly.

My son missed his own funeral.

I can laugh at it.  It is one of the aspects of Aidan’s life that brings me a lot of laughter. It is where I can clearly remember laughter in the midst of grief.

Aidan only lived for 4 1/2 hours.  He was born, lived and died in the hospital.

I don’t remember much of the funeral planning.  While I was physically recovering from having a baby and some complications I had in those last days of pregnancy, my husband took care of all the details.

At the time we had only lived in Pennsylvania for about 2 years.  My husband’s family lives in Virginia.  My family in Minnesota.  We decided to bury Aidan in Virginia.

He is buried in a little country church cemetery.  It is a peaceful place with winds blowing across open fields.

Keith’s grandfather is now buried next to Aidan.  Their plots are on the end of the row approximately three or four rows in from the black garbage can at the end of the cemetery. Aidan’s grave marker sits crooked in the ground.  We never noticed that detail before.  Each time we say, “oh we need to have someone check into getting that fixed.”  Funny things to remember about your son’s grave site.

Back to the story…

Since Aidan’s body was going to be crossing state lines, the funeral director in Pennsylvania made arrangements for Aidan’s body to be flown to Virginia. Of course, it required a layover in Texas.

The day of the funeral, I was getting ready upstairs in the bathroom at my in-law’s house.   The phone rang.  I thought nothing of it.  Keith came upstairs to find me. He sat down on the closed toilet.  He said, “Um, there is a bit of a problem. Aidan’s body is stuck in Houston. He missed the connecting flight. He won’t be here for the funeral.”

And that is when it happened. The laughter.  Not a little chuckle. A deep rolling laughter.

My son. The one who defied odds. The one who shouldn’t have been born alive. The one I should have miscarried. The one who shouldn’t have squeaked at us for a few short hours.  He was having an adventure.  He was flying all over.  He was missing flights. He was traveling to a place I had never been.

He was missing his own funeral.

I remember my mother-in-law peeked around the corner as Keith and I laughed, hugged and then shed a few tears.  Yes. We were laughing.

It ended up being a beautiful funeral for our son. Instead of his casket being in place, we had a little display.  The few pictures we had of him. The baby blanket my sister had made for him. A few flowers.

And the next day, the immediate family gathered once again.  Just family.  Family that was saying hello to Aidan for the first time.  Family that was saying goodbye to Aidan.  Family that was shedding tears of not getting to hold this precious little boy.  Family that was grateful for the few hours they got with Aidan when he was alive.

I can still picture my mom and dad lovingly stand over Aidan’s open casket and gently touching his skin.   I can still see the image of Aidan’s uncles carrying the small casket to his grave site. The stillness. The quiet.  The reflection. The wondering. The questions.

And yes, the laughter.

Laughter in the Midst of Grief.

I’m attempting to take part in the “The Fifth Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge” through the month of March. The challenge is run by Two Writing Teachers.

If only she knew….

“Oh, you have two boys with Irish names. How cute,” the lady said to me.

“You really need to have a little girl. Caitlin would be a beautiful Irish name for a girl,” she continued.

I cringed and laughed it off.

“No, I am fine with my boys,” I nicely replied.

“Well you must try,” she said with a smile and a glimmer in her eye.

Outside, I was laughing. Inside, I was thinking “if only you knew.”

If only she knew I really had three boys with Irish names.

If only she knew I buried my firstborn son who only lived about four hours. We learned about his rare trisomy while I was pregnant.

If only she knew the dread I felt while pregnant with my two boys. All our baby planning was put on hold as we waited for each level-two ultrasound to tell us that I was carrying a healthy baby.

If only she knew that social workers visited me in the hospital after each son was born. “We read your records. Do you need to talk about your first son?”

If only she knew that my third son’s port wine stain on his face was the cause of alarm after he was born. Thankfully he is fine, but there was quite some concern about his brain tissue development when he was first born.

If only she knew the number of appointments with specialists my third son has endured.  Eye doctor. Dermatologist. Plastic surgeon. Eleven laser treatments.

If only she knew how thankful I was for two healthy boys.

If only she knew the agonizing decision process it took for my husband and I to decide we were done having children.

If only she knew that I dread any questions about how many children I plan to have, when I am having the next one or when I am having a girl.

If only she knew that I am asked these questions all too often.

If only she knew that if she presses me hard enough, I will tell her why there are only two boys.

If only she knew I would give almost anything to have my Aidan back with me.

If only she knew that I have to go to my son’s grave site for my three boys to be together.

If only she knew that my family will never quite feel complete.

If only she knew. But she doesn’t.

I simply laugh her comments off instead of telling her my life story. I don’t want “the look.” I don’t want to make her feel bad for asking. I don’t want to cry.

If only she knew.

My son Aidan would have been nine this past December. You can click to my blog post on his birthday here.

Also, occasionally I will go into my story with random people. I quickly consider a lot of factors as to whether to go into such detail with someone.

I’m attempting to take part in the “The Fifth Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge” through the month of March. The challenge is run by Two Writing Teachers.

Nine Years Later…

It is hard to believe that today, December 27, 2011, I have a nine-year-old.

Aidan - December 27, 2002

I think often about the verse that says, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”  Luke 2:19 (NIV).

And that is what I often do when it comes to Aidan. I ponder. I treasure.  Nine years later I still can sit back, tightly close my eyes and remember the vivid details that I want to remember.

I remember how 6 weeks early, he was 5 pounds 15 ounces.  I remember the only birthmark I saw… 6 fingers on each hand and 6 toes on each foot.  I can almost hear his little cooing.  I can remember holding him and tears flowing. I can remember being so tired. I can remember the nurses being pleased that he was responding as well as he was and taking him to put in a feeding tube.  I can remember Keith going with the nurses and Aidan in the NICU.  I can remember Keith coming back and turning on ESPN.  I can remember the nurse bringing Aidan back to us because he wasn’t doing well.  I can remember holding him and not seeing or hearing any breathing.  I can remember the nurse checking for anything to show he was still alive. I can remember her shaking her head no.  I can remember a nurse coming in to comfort us.  I don’t remember what she exactly said but I do remember that her first child died and she had many more healthy babies after that.  I remember the blood pressure cuff going off every five to ten minutes to monitor me.  I remember Keith’s parents and his brother being there as well as my brother.  I remember grieving with my husband.  I remember the doctor being so kind.  I remember the nurses being so kind.  I remember the tears – which can be as fresh today as they were nine years ago. But I can still remember Aidan.

Within four hours we said hello and goodbye to our Aidan.  I will never forget him.  I will forever be grateful for what he caused me to learn in life and in faith.  I will forever be sensitive to those who have lost a child (and you will rarely hear me asking someone how many children they plan to have or when they will have another). I will forever be sensitve to those who have decided to not continue a pregnancy. I will forever be grateful for those before and after us who have lost children and shared with us their stories – even those in my life growing up whose children died.  And I will forever be grateful for my two healthy boys since Aidan.

My Three Boys - May 2011

Happy Birthday Aidan. I know heaven is throwing you an amazing birthday party. And thank you for being a part of our life – as brief as it was.

** Aidan’s death was a result of a trisomy 13. A random extra chromosome that impacted his brain, heart and lungs – along with other organs.  We learned about his problems during a routine level 2 ultrasound and decided to continue the pregnancy. You can read more about his trisomy, birth and death at my previous blog site through this link.