Friday, October 10, 2014

Mother of Two

I've been putting off writing this. I guess because it's painful and makes it all real. But I know it will be cathartic, too, so I need to do this. And I feel like I owe it to all of you who have been following our story, loving and supporting us. I can never adequately express the gratitude we feel. And I hope you forgive me for not personally getting back to each and every one of you. Please know how incredibly grateful I am for the dinners that were brought, the cards sent, care packages received, prayers offered, and kind words spoken.

On Wednesday, September 10, 2014 Matt and I went to my OB appointment. We went right into the exam room after checking in as per the doctor's instructions so that we wouldn't have to sit around those excitedly expecting. She felt it would be less harrowing for us to not be placed in that position and I agreed. I didn't begrudge any of those other expectant mothers with healthy babies, but it was a stinging reminder of what I had lost.

As we were waiting in the exam room, my mind was consumed with fear. I had had some spotting over the previous week and had been cramping since the night before. I had this overwhelming feeling that it was the beginning of the end. An end that would make things "easier," but an end I wasn't prepared for. The nurse came in to get my stats and to use the doppler to find Rose's heartbeat. There is nothing in life that can prepare you for the horror of that non-silent silence. We were then shuffled to ultrasound through the back way. Our OB met us there in that darkened room lit by screens that usually reveal joy and anticipation. After several minutes of probing and searching, they determined that there was definitely no heartbeat. But to me it meant something very different. Rose hadn't been able to fight anymore and had been called Home. We arranged that I would be induced on that Friday. My mom had surprised us earlier in the week by telling us that she had bought a plane ticket to come out to see us and help out. Clearly she was inspired in that decision.

We went home and I finished getting dinner ready. As we were eating I was in excruciating pain. These weren't normal cramps that I had been having: I was in labor. We called the after hours number and they told me to go to the hospital. Then we were in a frenzy trying to get packed and ready to go to the hospital while trying to make plans for making sure Will was being taken care of. Luckily, we have been blessed with many dear friends who dropped everything and came right over.

We went to the hospital and got checked in. We were put in the very same labor room that Will had been born in. Somehow it seemed right being in the same room where we experienced so much joy and hope, almost like a reminder that life continues and we can't know the sweet without the bitter.

The doctor who was on that night, Dr. Hirata, came in to check on me and to let me know she had spoken with my OB. I was already dilated to 6 cm. but the intense labor pains that I had been having were settling down. Then it became a waiting game. I was hooked up to an IV in case I wanted an epidural (I didn't since the worst of the labor pain was over), got settled in with a book (Scarlet by Marissa Meyer), and later was hooked up with an M&M McFlurry.

A few hours later I was ready to try and get some sleep. I went to use the restroom and delivered Rose by accident - the sack completely intact. I was pretty hysterical- this was not how I had expected the delivery of my baby to go. I called for Matt, sobbing, to tell him what had happened. He called for the nurses who rushed in and helped get me back to bed before going back into the bathroom and getting Rose carefully out of the toilet. Honestly, I'm horrified and embarrassed to even admit that's how it happened. Looking back, I'm so glad that she was in the sack otherwise I don't know how her fragile body wouldn't have been destroyed. Matt and I sat on the hospital bed together in grief. I had always wanted a September baby. I had just envisioned it somewhat differently.

The nurses brought her out and took her to remove her from the sack and wrap her in a blanket so that we could have some time with her. She was incredibly small and so fragile looking that I was afraid to hold her. Her head looked especially frail, I'm sure that the Triploidy contributed to that. In a way I felt so disconnected from this tiny person that Matt was holding in his hands. This couldn't be my Rose. My mind had always conjured a picture of the most perfect baby to match her perfect spirit. The ease of her delivery, in my mind, testified of her perfect love and compassion - not wanting to make my body hurt like my heart did. So when I saw her, so imperfectly perfect, it was hard for my mind to wrap around the fact that she was who I had been carrying. I'm sure many of you think I'm callous for thinking or feeling this way, but you have to understand that the body that her spirit resided in for a time is not in the perfected form that it will become after Christ comes again and she is resurrected. And knowing that made it hard for me to see how weak the flesh really is and how incomparable it is to the radiance of the unencumbered spirit. In my mind, Rose is the embodiment of beauty and love and all that is good. Maybe that's fanciful, but I don't care because I have meeting her in the flesh to look forward to and I know I won't feel disappointed.

I'm pretty sure the weight was actually 1 lb some odd ounces

The next morning after tossing and turning all night, our nurses brought in a box full of momentos for us; something that they give to all parents in circumstances like ours.

Matt also went home to bring our first miracle back to the hospital to see me. And bring me edible food. We were able to make arrangements for a burial (I'll go into that more in a future post). And then I was free to go home.

It's a very strange thing to come home with empty arms (aside from an overnight bag and a couple of hospital water jugs) after delivering a baby. And to have a body soft from pregnancy and childbirth with no newborn to nestle in that softness. You just walk in the door as if everything should be like it was the last time you came inside only everything has changed. The only physical evidence of the huge difference being the extra pounds from pregnancy which now mock you cruelly. Part of me thought, "I should be able to go on like before because I have nothing to show for what we have been through." Nobody can see the gaping hole in my heart, there's nothing that illustrates the yearning that I feel for a baby to hold and take care of, there's not outward sign that there's a child that I won't get to watch grow, learn, and discover. At least not in this life.

I'm reminded again of the story of Job. As you may recall, at the end of the story all of Job's possessions and wealth were restored to him two-fold. And he had seven more children. Some people may think, "well, if everything else was doubled, why didn't he have fourteen children?" The answer? He did. His first seven children were still his children. Death doesn't change the eternal nature of family. The number of children he had was doubled, the first half were just beyond his reach for a little while.

That night the number of my posterity was doubled. I just have to wait to meet the other half.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Circles of Love

I want to start off by thanking everyone who has sent kind words, prayers, and love our way. I apologize to those I haven't thanked or responded to personally but I want you to know that you are appreciated and that we love you. The immense love and support we feel is so humbling and I am grateful that I have been blessed to have so much goodness in my life.

I'm still feeling baby Rose moving so that's good. Matt has also been checking my blood pressure every night and it has been really good -- even after cooking freezer meals for 11 hours on Saturday. I figured I might as well do things like that while I can since I feel like a ticking time bomb without a timer. I felt like I had been run over by a truck when I woke up on Sunday morning but at least I feel like I got something ready or accomplished since I have felt like all I have done recently is wait.

A couple of days ago we received a small package in the mail addressed to Rose. I had no idea what it was. We opened it up and what we saw brought tears to our eyes. As a little background to the gift, all of the women and girls in Matt's family have matching bracelets. The tradition first started on a family trip to St. Croix where they found these bracelets made by a woman named Sonja. So after that, all females who joined the family were given a bracelet. As part of the purchase, if you outgrow the bracelet you just send it in and they send back the size up. At or rehearsal dinner on the night before our wedding, I was given one of these bracelets.

Since this photo was taken at our reception, five grandchildren have been added but only one girl. Until now.

Matt's mom had ordered a tiny bracelet for Rose. She is a very real part of our family and has so many people who love her. Though we won't have a need to trade in for the next size up, she still gets a physical representation of being a part of something on earth even though she won't get to stay here very long, if at all. She is such a blessing to me and I still have so much to learn from her.

Sunday, August 31, 2014


Well, we got the call from our doctor with the results of the first part of the amniocentesis on Friday evening. I didn't think the news could bring more disappointment, but I was wrong. We were told that our baby has triploidy. This means that there are 69 chromosomes instead of the 46 that there should be. It's not just one chromosome that's affected as in the case of a trisomy like we originally thought; it's all of them. One of the main issues with triploidy is the fact that it's so rare. This only happens in about 1% of pregnancies and the majority of those miscarry in the first trimester. So we have a fighter on our hands, who is beating the odds. That said, my OB was concerned about the possible health risks to me. The doctor who did the amnio had seen one case of triploidy when she was a resident probably 15 years ago. The woman came in and was seizing because she had developed preeclampsia which moved quickly into eclampsia due to the fact that the baby was triploid. I think that this caused a lot of worry to my OB and the other doctor because it's a risk to me. As I was talking to her, it seemed like the choice was how to deliver: vaginally or surgically. Obviously, this news was devastating to me as I thought about the fact that I want to continue the pregnancy but also have other people to take care of.  As we ended the conversation she told me that she would call me as soon as she got the rest of the amnio results and asked if we would like to know the gender. I told her yes. Our sweet little angel is a girl: Rose Marie Stringham.

Initially, it seemed like my decision had to be between delivery methods and I was heartbroken. Rose has fought so hard to make it this far that deciding to end that fight didn't sit right with me. We started researching and getting information from other health professionals to help widen our base of knowledge. A lot of our research informed us of the rarity of our situation and made me realize that we weren't going to be able to get any definitive answers about the odds or likelihood of the pregnancy becoming a risk to me. There just isn't enough data. Two of Matt's sisters, Ashby and Stacey, got in touch with their OBs and explained my situation and asked their opinion on the pregnancy and what they would do if I were their patient. Both of them said that they would start treating me as a high risk patient and have me come in weekly to check my blood pressure, urine, and Rose's heartbeat. Then, if the situation warranted, and I developed preeclampsia, we could make a decision then based on an actuality rather than a possibility. Ashby then talked to her bishop (or ecclesiastical leader) today who has been an OB for 30 years. This coincided with Matt and many family members fasting and praying that we would find some direction and answers to our plight. Matt and I also received very comforting priesthood blessings that helped us feel hopeful.

As our home teacher who had helped with the blessings was leaving, I got a call from Ashby telling me about her conversation with her bishop. He told her much the same as far as how he would treat me as a patient. He explained that they would want me to get to 28 weeks when she would be viable and have a chance of not dying during labor. But he also told her that he has had three patients who were pregnant with triploid babies. None of whom developed preeclampsia. And one of whom carried until 37 weeks. Heavenly Father is so aware of us. It was no coincidence that Ashby called when she did. We as well as many of our friends and family had been earnestly supplicating the Lord for guidance. And He has not forsaken us. It is an absolute miracle that this doctor has seen three cases similar to mine all of which were healthy pregnancies. When we look, we can see the tender mercies of the Lord. He is watchful and mindful.

I don't know how long Rose will be able to keep fighting, but I do know that I will help her to do so for as long as I can. She has already defied the odds many times over. We know that we may not get to meet her while her perfect and valiant spirit is still in her body and it is absolutely heart wrenching. But I know and have faith that we will get to raise Rose in the eternities. This is not the end for her-- it's truly only the beginning. We will be blessed to have someone on the other side who will watch over her younger siblings until it's their time to come to our family. In my mind's eye I can almost see it: she's telling them one by one how much we have yearned and prayed for them, how she knows we will protect them when the odds are with us since we watched over and protected her when there was no hope of bringing her home. How I love our little Rose. I can tell she has a will to rival her older brother's. She is literally the embodiment of what it means to fight.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

God's Surrogate

After writing last I received an incredible outpouring of love, support, and prayers. I can't express how grateful I am for such amazing family and friends who are standing by us at this difficult time. So to all of you who are thinking of us and praying for us I say, "Thank you!" I also decided that I want to be better at keeping up with the blog. It's cathartic for me and I think as our situation progresses it will help to be able to look back on this time and see the many miracles that occur. It also seems that there are many out there who want to be kept up to date on what happens.

As I have been thinking about this almost constantly, I've had many thoughts that have brought me comfort and a measure of understanding. Many of which are the little things that I won't get to experience this time around. When we got pregnant with Will and then found out we were having a boy I was able to plan and prepare. I got to buy the little clothes. I got to plan and execute a nursery. And one of the biggest little things that I'm sad I'll miss out on is getting to celebrate with family and friends at a baby shower. I got to share in the excitement with my wonderful family and dearest friends. And I know I will be attending many showers between now and my due date to celebrate others' miracles. And I don't at all begrudge them the joy and excitement. On the contrary, I'm far more aware now than ever before of how worth celebrating every miracle (baby) is. I look forward to being there for others and sharing in their joy. But I know as this baby grows within me and I continue to go through this pregnancy I won't get to have a celebration. There will be no tiny baby clothes being carefully folded and put away. And designing a nursery won't be necessary.

There are other times when I'm not feeling sorry for myself like that though. As a woman, I have the unique and sacred ability to partner with God in creating a life. He provides one of his precious spirits and I provide an environment in which that spirit can get a little body. Normally we get to then partner with our spouses in creating an environment where that perfect little baby can grow, learn, be taken care of, and be cherished. We get the incredible blessing and responsibility of taking stewardship over one that's not truly ours. Ultimately, God is the Father of us all, He just lets us share with Him in the joy of being parents.That led me to thinking of the fact that right now I'm acting as a surrogate for God. Usually when we act as a surrogate for him we get to keep the baby for a while. But for me, I know that's not the case. At some point God is going to call His baby back home to Him. This knowledge doesn't make the loss any easier. My heart still aches for the baby I won't get to cuddle and show the world to. But it does help me know that I'm doing the right thing for the baby. I want as much time with this precious spirit as possible, though I know it won't be much. But I want to feel confident in the fact that once I see my baby again, they will know how much I wanted them to live and to be mine even though I wouldn't get to keep them in this life. They will know how much I truly love them.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

An Update

It has been forever since I have written, I do realize that. But this post isn't to try and catch everyone up on the past year. It's more recent than that. I will be 20 weeks pregnant tomorrow. Yesterday (Monday, August 25), I posted on Facebook saying we had been having a tough day so I felt it prudent to explain. Matt and I went to the doctor to get an ultrasound to find out the gender of the baby we are expecting. We were beyond thrilled and filled with anticipation. The ultrasound tech started the exam and did her thing getting picture of different parts of the anatomy. She told us that the baby was curled so at that exact moment she couldn't see well enough to determine the gender. She had me lay on my side while she went and showed the doctor over ultrasound the images and to confer with her. I wasn't concerned in the least. The tech came back with the doctor and then the doctor dropped the bomb.

Our sweet baby has severe and fatal abnormalities most likely due to a chromosomal issue that occurred practically at conception. (We will know more for sure after we get the results of the amniocentesis) The frontal lobe of the brain didn't develop correctly and there is fluid in the back of the brain. The heart is enlarged and is surrounded by fluid. The bottom of the spinal column didn't develop correctly. The size of the baby is measuring small by a month. And the baby doesn't have kidneys or a bladder.

We don't know if the baby will make it to full term, but even if it does, it won't live more than a few days. For us, the last thing that mattered as we were being told this horrifying news was the reason we had been so excited to have the ultrasound in the first place.

I'm in shock and mourning. I never thought I would be in this position. I plan to continue with the pregnancy and allow this perfect spirit to grow inside me for as long as Heavenly Father allows it. It's heartbreaking knowing that I won't get to bring my baby home from the hospital and may never even get to hold them while they are still breathing. But I do feel strongly that one day I will see this baby again.

As we left our appointment yesterday I told Matt that the day before I had been reading the lesson for Sunday School next week in preparation. The lesson is about Job. The verse that keeps coming to my mind is found in the first chapter, verse 21: "And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and support we have received. Thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers. I know that many out there have experienced this kind of loss an mourning and I hope you know that we love you and know that the Lord loves you.

So as of now I have moments when I'm okay and others when I am not. So if I'm not particularly perky when I see you, please understand that it's not you, I'm just dealing with this situation the best I know how, but please know that I love and care for all of you and am grateful for you.