Sunday, November 27, 2011

Elizabeth's Second Day......Finally!

I can't believe it's been almost 5 months since my last entry. I have wanted to sit down and write so many times, but I just couldn't. I'm sure there's some psychological reason for it. It's probably because writing about our second day with Elizabeth brings up a lot of strong emotion. There are things about that day that are still hard to talk about, but I think it will be good for me to share it now.

I shared in my last post about our wishes for a home funeral. Early the next morning at the hospital we got started on the logistics of getting our baby out of there and back to our home.  There was no reason for me to stay any longer. I had a natural childbirth and was feeling physically fine. So, we called down to the chaplain and explained that we would like to sign any necessary papers to leave with the baby. Needless to say, that didn't go quite as planned. My doctor had not called ahead to let them know of our plans as he said he would. The chaplains acted like they had never heard of such a request and that it was totally impossible and against hospital policy to leave with our baby.

I called my mom in a panic, completely upset. I wasn't thinking clearly and needed someone else to help me figure this all out. She called a friend from church who is a lawyer and asked for advice. Our friend Monica called me at the hospital. She was so sweet. Grief causes something I like to call "mushy brain". I had it for awhile after losing the baby. It feels like your brain is moving so slowly and just doesn't process anything the right way. This is how I felt when Monica called and she was very gracious. She basically explained to me very gently that if we wanted to have the home funeral, we were limited on time and that trying to fight this legally could take awhile, so she made a call to a family friend of hers that owned a funeral home in town and asked him to help. He offered to send a car to pick the baby up at the hospital, sign any necessary paperwork as the undertaker, and then allow us to come to the funeral home and pick her up. I felt relieved and scared at the same time. This meant that I would have to let her go with someone else for awhile out of my sight. It was better than the alternative.

So, I called the chaplain again. This time there was a new guy that had just started his shift. He was a very nice man who genuinely seemed to understand how I was feeling about letting her go. That made it even harder for him to to explain to me what would need to happen next. He told me I had two choices. Choice A - When I am discharged, leave the baby undressed laying in the crib, shut the door and someone will come pick her up and take her to the morgue. Well, that was NOT an option. I am still her mother and do not feel the least bit comfortable leaving her lay here naked alone in this room. So, what is the second choice? Choice B - We will send someone from the morgue to get her before you leave but she will still need to be undressed and they will carry her out of here in a body bag. WHAT??? That suddenly seemed to make choice A look a little better. I asked him if there was not some other way. He insisted that it was hospital policy. Again, the poor guy felt terrible, but had to do his job.

A few minutes after he left we started gathering our stuff and preparing to leave. I undressed the baby, but left her diaper and hat on and wrapped her back up in the blanket. It may be hospital policy to fully undress them, but I didn't care. I left her there with dignity. I called the nurse to let her know we were going to leave. She came in to say goodbye. I was a wreck! It was the hardest thing I had had to do so far. It wasn't part of the plan. I didn't want to leave her there with strangers. I cried uncontrollably. The nurse cried too and promised me she would stay with her until the person from the morgue arrived. It made me feel a little bit better. I hated that moment. Hated, hated, hated it!!!! We were leaving there with our arms full of baby stuff and no baby. I actually sobbed pretty loudly the whole way to the car. I feel kind of sorry for the people in the elevator with us now. At the time I didn't care.

We had an hour or so to kill before we could pick the baby up so we went to get some lunch. It seemed weird to go out to lunch. I was grieving so hard and didn't want to treat my body to anything satisfying, but I couldn't deny the hunger. I hadn't really eaten much at all in the hospital and was starting to feel it. It felt so strange to sit in a restaurant and watch the happy people all around you. Happy couples, happy families. It seemed like the world should be silent right now. Everyone should stop smiling and laughing and recognize that your precious child has died. But, the world doesn't stop, it just keeps moving without her.

After lunch, we drove down the street to Keenan's Funeral Home. We knocked on the office door and were greeted by one of the sweetest, most gentle and loving men I've ever met. I will NEVER forget him. Tom Keenan. I would guess he was in his 80's. White hair and very thin. He invited us in until the baby arrived. We sat on a couch across from him while he asked us about her. We told him our story and he cried. I was a little surprised at first. He's done this everyday for most of his life and yet he still cried with us. He told us about the losses he had experienced in his own life. It was a rather lengthy list of family members very close to him, including his wife. He even showed us pictures of her. You could see the love in his eyes as he talked about her and I understood how he could have so much compassion for us. He knew what it's like to lose someone you love more than anything. The car arrived and we went out to meet it. He actually sent the hearse and an employee dressed in a full suit to pick her up. I thought it was very generous considering he wouldn't accept a dime from us. He showed us downstairs and asked us to wait there.

Jodie warned him that I didn't want to see Elizabeth in the body bag. So, they carried her in the room and laid her on the table before I entered. I was pleased to see that they had left her hat and diaper on. Jodie and I began removing her silk dress from the garment bag and worked together slowly to dress her in it. We put her pretty silk ballet slippers on her little feet. All the while, Mr.Keenan stood to the side weeping and rubbing his nose with a tissue. When we finished, we laid her in her casket and shut the lid. I hugged Mr.Keenan so tight and thanked him over and over on our way out the door. Finally, we were taking our baby home.

I was exhausted when we got home. We had some visitors that night including my brother-in-law and Heather and Wayne. They brought us a cedar chest with Elizabeth's name on the top as a gift from her parents. It's beautiful and one of my most prized possessions.  Heather went upstairs and helped fix the baby's bonnet. We safety pinned it to make it smaller and fit her head better. She also helped me make some more hand and foot prints. Finally everyone went home and it was late. The boys were staying with a family friend and the house was really quiet. I needed to get some sleep. Everyone would be arriving for the funeral the next day and I needed to get up early to prepare the house. I laid the casket in the floor next to my side of the bed and tried to get some sleep.

I think I slept for a good 3 or 4 hours. I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't get back to sleep. I turned over and stared at the little casket in the floor through the glow of the alarm clock. Finally, I grabbed my pillow and blanket off the bed and laid down next to it. I opened the lid and stroked her soft little arm and cheek until the sun began to rise. There were birds singing loudly outside the window. I felt as if she was listening to those birds sing with me. Now I think of her every time I hear birds singing in the morning.  

I don't know if it's the holidays, the darker days, or maybe my pregnancy hormones, but lately I find myself desperate to hold her again. Desperate to kiss that little button nose. I wonder what she would look like in her Christmas dress, staring at the lights on the tree. I still think about her every day. We have a stocking for her and we plan to get her first Christmas ornament to match her brothers. The boys still talk about her all the time. We all miss her so much!

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Family Undertaking

My next post will be about our second day with Elizabeth, but I wanted to throw this one in before that so that everyone could understand our wishes a little better.

Late one evening several years ago while flipping through the channels, I came across a documentary on PBS called, " A Family Undertaking". I love documentaries. As a matter of fact, they have become my favorite movie genre. So, I settled in to watch this one that had immediately caught my attention. It was about home funerals. This was definitely something I had never thought about before. I mean I'm all about the home. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am a homebody. Homeschool, homebirth ( God willing someday), but home funeral? Do people really still do that today? Apparently so.

Did you know that they didn't even embalm people in this country until the Civil War? They started the practice so that soldiers could be shipped back home to their families for funerals and burial on the family's property. Anyway, I learned so much from this documentary that I began to do a little more research on the subject.  I won't go into all of it here, but I would encourage everyone to check it out for yourselves. Even if you're not interested in it for yourself or for your loved ones, it's still a very interesting subject. You can rent the documentary on Netflix. There's also a great book called "Caring for the Dead" by Lisa Carlson. If nothing else, it's good to be informed about some of the sneaky practices of dishonest funeral directors. Not that they are all bad. My husband comes from a family in the business. His grandfather, grandmother, uncle, cousin. They are all honest people. And one very special man we recently met that I will talk more about in the next post.

So, after my research back then, I told Jodie that my personal wishes when I die is to not be embalmed. I also don't want an expensive casket. I would prefer a simple home funeral if he thinks he could handle it. Then I talked to my dad about starting a family cemetery on his farm. He thought it was a great idea, but we never got around to filing the necessary paperwork with the city. Until, Elizabeth that is. As soon as we got the diagnosis I knew. I knew that I needed to get that ball rolling.

Constantly I thought about what it would be like to hand her body over to the hospital morgue, or to a funeral director. It became my worst fear. Though it sounds crazy, the thought of that hurt worse than the thought of her actual death. I knew that it would be hard to see her die, but I wasn't scared of it. I knew that she was entering a better place. But the thought of handing her over took my breath away. God gave me the awesome privilege of being her mother. A mother is expected to take care of her baby's' every need. So why does it seem like the right thing to hand her over to a stranger once she dies? And the thought of having her tiny body embalmed. No. She would stay with me until her body was put into the ground.

So I read everything I could get my hands on. I learned the proper way to care for her body. Got the permits we needed for the cemetery. Ordered a beautiful wood casket. And most importantly, checked into all of the laws for our state concerning a home funeral and burial. Indeed it is lawful to care for and bury your own dead in Kentucky. It is not the law that a body must be embalmed in our state unless the person has a communicable disease.

I let our doctor know our wishes. I told him we would be taking Elizabeth home with us from the hospital and he assured me that he would contact the hospital chaplain that very day so that if there were any problems with that they could have it all worked out in advance to our arrival. Needless to say, that was one of the many broken promises from our doctor. We did encounter problems. I will explain more in the next post.

I can tell you now from experience that there was never a "weird" moment while taking care of our baby after her death. It was very healing and brought us a lot of closure that I'm not sure we would have had otherwise. It was easier to let go. When a person is embalmed and "made-up" they can still appear to have life in them. But, seeing Lizzy in her natural state confirmed for us that she was really gone. She couldn't stay with us.

Elizabeth would've been 8 weeks old today. I have yet to get through one day without crying, but the tears don't flow quite as heavy as they did a few weeks ago. I miss her so much. Can't wait to see her again.....full of life!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Rest of the First Day

I have waited way too long to do this. Every time I want to sit down and write, something inside pulls me away. The passing of Gabriel Cude, another anencephalic sweetie that we have been keeping up with passed away just a few days ago after 10 days here on Earth. For some reason, it prompted me to write again. Reading his mommy's blog and realizing that my own memories of my time with Elizabeth are fading fast woke me up a bit.

I want to write down all of the memories I have of her here. Unfortunately, most of those happened after she passed away. So, if that bothers you, you may not want to read any further. My last post left off with us finishing up in the L&D room. After the boys and the grandparents left to go home, Jodie and I had to be moved to another room. I was pleased that they put us in a room far away from the Mommy and Baby floor. I didn't have to hear other baby's crying all night and see happy moms and dads walking down the halls with balloons and teddy bears.

I kept Elizabeth with me the whole time. Jodie was really hungry and asked if I would be okay if he went down to get something to eat. I told him it would be fine and welcomed the opportunity to be alone with the baby for a bit. As soon as the door closed behind him, I looked down at her and lost it for the first time. I sobbed uncontrollably. I squeezed her tight and kissed her again and again. She was so cold already. That's just something a mother shouldn't have to experience. Mom's are naturally aware of their baby's body and it's an instinct to keep your baby warm. It's a desperate feeling not to be able to warm her no matter what you try. I realized that this would be a mental hurdle that I would need to get over. Nothing could bring that warmth back to her physical body.

About that time, the Odells arrived. What a relief! Carrie cried with me for a few minutes. I was glad not to be alone. She held the baby for awhile. I am very proud of her. I know she was scared about how she would react or if she could handle the whole thing, but she did great and I think she was as surprised as I was at how little you even noticed her anomaly. After the Odells left, my grandparents came up for a visit. Granny rocked the baby for a bit. It was getting late so they left.


Carrie Odell visiting us at the hospital.
 Jodie and I were alone with Lizzy. The room was very quiet. It dawned on me that I hadn't actually seen proof that this baby was a girl. I had stared at her face so intently until they took her to put the diaper on and clean her up. I told Jodie I needed to see it for myself. So, we unfastened the diaper, and guess what? We actually made a girl! I almost couldn't believe it. This was definitely not a sight we were used to. We giggled a bit and fastened her back up. I decided to change her outfit...again. This was my first girl, and I was determined to make the most of it. We put the "Little Sister" onesie on her. It had some of those cute little ballet slipper socks to match. She was adorable. We played around with some different hats too, trying to find one that fit well. None of them really fit very good, but we figured out that they fit better with the hospital hat on underneath. The biggest problem was that her head kept leaking onto her hats. So, we called the nurse and asked for some bandages. When she came in, she said, "Hey, I know you. I saw your video on Facebook. So, this is baby Elizabeth!" I think knowing our story, she took extra good care of us. She was very sweet. We got Lizzy's head bandaged and started settling in for the night.


"Little Sister"
 It was getting really late. I hadn't had any sleep since 3am. I was exhausted, but fighting sleep. I didn't want to miss a second with her knowing that in a a day or two she would be out of my reach. Don't get me wrong, I totally understood that she wasn't actually there, but I wanted to have that time with her body. I wanted to hug her, and kiss her, and rock her, and memorize her features. It wasn't long before Jodie was snoozing, the lights were mostly out, and it was just me and Elizabeth. I reluctantly laid her in the crib next to the bed and tried to get some sleep. I knew I would need to regain some strength for the days ahead.

I had only had about 3 hours of sleep when I woke up. It was 3am. I'm not sure I can put into words how I felt over the next few hours. My body and my instincts were telling me to mother my baby. Feed her, change her, rock her when she cries. None of these were possible. I felt so helpless and useless. All I could do was hold her. As I sat there rocking her in the dark and crying, God answered my prayer. I noticed that little baby boogies were barely running out of her nose. Finally, something a mommy could do. I grabbed a tissue and blotted the boogies away. It happened a couple more times over the next hour and I was thrilled each time to wipe her little nose. I folded up that tissue and put it in her memory box. Knowing that we weren't going to have her embalmed, we had to keep her body cool. So, I also got to make sure that her ice packs were changed frequently. Any little thing to help me feel useful.

I finally decided to lay back down in the bed, this time with her in my arms. We snuggled up close and I fell back asleep for about an hour before they brought my breakfast in.What a long day we had together and God was with us through it all.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hello and Goodbye...for now.

There are so many things I want to share about our experiences over the last few days, but right now I want to concentrate on remembering everything from Lizzy's birth. I want to write it down so that I never forget any of it.

It started at 3:05 am on Friday, May13th. I was sleeping very soundly for a change when all of a sudden I felt a warm gush. I was shocked! I frantically woke up Jodie. "My water broke!" He jumped up and turned on the light. I didn't move. I just laid there on my side afraid to get up. I immediately started to cry and began to shake all over. I knew exactly what this meant. I would meet my baby girl today, five weeks early. Jodie rubbed my back while I cried. "I'm not ready", I cried. "I'm not ready to lose her, she's safe inside me right now." I was so scared, but I knew that it couldn't be stopped. I hate that feeling of knowing that you have absolutely no control over what's happening to you. I cried out to the Lord to give me strength and to please let her make it through this.

I wasn't having any contractions so I knew I had a little time. I packed my bags and called my mom and my granny to come stay with the kids. I was trying to stop and respond every time Elizabeth gave me a kick. I kept telling her it would all be okay. She was probably wondering where all of her comfy fluid had gone.

We arrived at the hospital at about 4:20. They took me to a room and started my pitocin drip at about 6:30. It didn't take long for me to start having some small contractions. The nurse checked me and I was 3 cm and 70% effaced. I started to notice that Lizzy wasn't moving much anymore and that worried me.

The nurses left the room for a bit and Jodie pulled our book that we have been reading to Lizzy out of the suitcase. It's called, "God Gave Us You". He read it to her for the last time. He's so strong. He read it out loud without ever wavering while I sobbed. I think my mom was crying too. I always love when he gets to the part where the baby polar bear asks her mommy, "Mama, did you ever want a different baby? One like Samuel the seal or Fredrika the fox?" "Never," Mama said."Never, ever, ever. Your papa and I wouldn't trade you for the world. Because God gave us you." I love it because it's so true. Even through all of this, I wouldn't trade her for anything. She's perfect to us.

The contractions were coming closer together and becoming more intense. Our children's minister, Jeff Goodyear came in to pray with us. I needed that so much. The L&D nurses were so awesome and compassionate. They were taking very good care of me. I managed to stay in good spirits, mostly smiling. I felt a real peace about it all.

Finally, at about 10:15 am the contractions were becoming too painful to talk through. I was feeling some pressure and asked the nurse to check me. She said I was about 6.5 cm. but the baby was still fairly high.  I began to go back and forth, asking myself if I should get the epidural. The pain was so intense now and I could be pushing for a long time if she was high up. I kept asking Jodie what I should do. He reminded me that usually when I start asking for an epidural during labor it means I will be pushing a baby out at any minute. He was right.

About 15 minutes after being checked at 6.5, I told Jodie to get the nurse. I felt the urge to start pushing. She came back in, checked me and said I was at 9.5 cm. That was fast! 6.5 cm to 9.5 cm in 15 minutes. She called Dr.P in. He was in a 3 piece suit because he had been filming some kind of commercial for Norton's. I loudly, through clinched teeth told him that she was coming! Like, right now!! I expected him to throw a gown and some gloves over his suit. But no, he left the room to change. Are you kidding me? I decided I would push anyway and let the nurses catch her if need be. Elizabeth was the second hardest baby I've had to deliver. She was tiny, but she had huge shoulders and because of her condition, she didn't have much of a neck. Babies usually have that natural curve in the back of their neck that make it possible for them to slide underneath the pubic bone. Lizzy didn't, and that made it very hard. Not to mention that she was partially sideways. So, what had mostly been a very easy delivery had suddenly turned into a crazy mother screaming at the top of her lungs, pushing with all her might. The doctor ran in just at the last second and pulled and tugged to help get her out. Finally, she was delivered and I was relieved.

They put her up on my chest and I couldn't stop looking at her precious face. I can't exactly describe it, but she had the most angelic beauty. Everything about her was beautiful. Her lips looked like they were painted a shiny red and her blue eyes stared at my face so intensely. Her face was round and soft and was framed by little blonde hairs at the top. I hardly even noticed her head. It wasn't as bad as I had expected. I will NEVER forget that moment. The moment I met my first daughter. My pretty little angel.

I wish I could say that everything was perfect in that moment, but unfortunately it wasn't. I thought I had made my wishes very clear to my doctor over the last few months. I wanted Elizabeth to be treated as any other baby and given every opportunity to live as long as possible. After they put her on my chest, I hate to say it, but I assumed she was stillborn. She was very purple and limp. No one had suctioned her nose or throat and I just assumed. Everything was happening so fast. I was still trying to deliver the placenta and admire my baby at the same time. Then, her eyes started to move slowly back and forth. I said, " Her eyes are moving, somebody PLEASE suction her!" I felt almost like that was her cry for help. Her little eyes looking around wondering why she could no longer breathe. The doctor took her and carelessly suctioned her nose and mouth without much effort, gave her back and left the room. Her baby nurse never touched her even once and she left as well taking all of the normal equipment that had been set up along with her. They left us there with our baby slowly slipping away. After a minute I asked for a bulb syringe and suctioned her myself. I got tons of stuff out of her nose and mouth. I was so mad that they hadn't done that to begin with. I tried to just concentrate on her and spending every second with her that we could. The L&D nurses took her over to the other side of the room to bathe her and get her weight and height. They had to search the room to find something to bathe her with since the baby nurse had taken everything with her when she left. I am so thankful for those two sweet ladies who treated our child with such dignity and respect. One of them joyfully let us know that indeed her heart was still beating. Again, I almost felt like I was in a daze. Looking back, I wish I had asked to give Lizzy her first bath. I will always regret that.

The boys came in from the waiting room. They saw Lizzy being bathed. They couldn't stand the waiting. They wanted to hold her. I wanted to hold her again, too. I wanted so much to be selfish and not share her, but I knew that everyone else needed a chance to have time with her, too. One by one they took turns holding her and kissing all over her. Lincoln wanted to see every inch of her. He would say, "Can I see her toes?" so we would show him her toes and he would say, "Awwww! Her toes are so cute!", "Can I see her fingers?" and on and on until he had seen all of her sweet little features. It was exactly as we had prayed. It was a very joyous occasion. We were all so happy to finally meet her and welcome her into our family.

After spending some time with everyone, Elizabeth had her first photo shoot. We dressed her up in several different hats and outfits. The photographer took lots of pictures. After that, a team of ladies came in to take some impressions of her hands and feet for us. We also put ink on her hands and feet and stamped them on lots of stuff. I never want to forget those sweet little fingers and toes.

Elizabeth was a very tiny baby weighing only 3lbs and 14oz. She was 16.5 inches long. She was perfect in every way. She lived here on Earth for about 1.5 hours. It was an amazing time we had together. It felt like being in the presence of God, knowing that she was passing into His loving arms. I can say it was the best and the worst day of my life. I know it's selfish to want to keep her here in this cruel world when she is so much better off with our Lord, but I guess I am only human. I am a mother who wants to be with her baby. I have never thought about the Lord's return more than I have in the past 4 days. I keep looking to the sky, waiting for those clouds to roll back. Someday my family will all be together again. That day can't come soon enough for me.

I love you, Elizabeth. I miss you so much it hurts. I'll see you again someday!
Love,
Mommy

Monday, May 9, 2011

A little about Jude

For those of you who may be reading this and don't know us very well, we have a very sweet little boy that will be turning 2 on Friday. His name is Jude, and he is a special needs child. I wanted to share some good news with everyone, especially those who have been praying for baby Jude over the past 2 years.

Jude has a tendency to make great strides very quickly, and then plateau for awhile. Well, we have been experiencing one of those plateaus. However, I am thrilled to report that over the past week, he has started doing lots of new things. They may seem like small strides to some, but to us they are huge and SO very exciting. He has started scooting backwards on his belly, babbling like crazy, and using his hands to wipe food off of his face. If you know Jude, you know these are huge milestones for him. He has literally started doing all of these things just in the last few days. I think he knows he's turning 2!

So a huge thanks to everyone who prays for Jude. Keep 'em comin'!! And, Happy Early Birthday, Jude! You bring so much joy to this family. Your smile can light up a room.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Six weeks to go!

So much has happened since my last post. The baby shower was last Saturday and it was a huge success. There are no words to express how grateful I am to all of the ladies who worked so hard to make it happen. And how do you ever say thank you enough to all of the people who came out to support our family? There were approximately 175 people in attendance. We raised $11,000. There were two 8ft. tables overflowing with donations. The crazy thing is, there are still donations coming in as we speak. There were many beautiful cakes donated for the cake-off. And my favorite part was the awesome time of prayer that we all had together. I was overwhelmed with emotion knowing that so many people were praying for our baby Elizabeth and for the future of the two pregnancy centers.

Elizabeth continues to do well and look great in all of her ultrasound pictures. She is not camera shy at all. We always get the most beautiful pictures of her sweet face that appears to be getting chubbier every week. I have been feeling so great throughout this pregnancy up until the last few weeks. I have developed polyhydramnios. This is because the baby isn't swallowing enough fluid and it's causing me to have an overabundance. It wasn't too bad at first, but the last week was miserable. I had started sleeping in the recliner because it hurt so bad to lay in the bed. The weight of my uterus was making it hard for me to breathe and felt like it was crushing my kidneys at night.

I saw Dr.P on Tuesday for a regular check-up and my fluid levels had spiked to 40, up from 27 just two weeks prior. (18-20 is normal) So, he decided to have me back in on Wednesday for an amnio-reduction. He told me that this wouldn't be very painful and there wouldn't be any major side effects and that I would feel a ton better once we got rid of some of the fluid. Well, the first time he poked me, it wasn't bad at all but after a few minutes he decided we needed a bigger needle or we would be there all day. So, when he stuck me the second time I almost came off the bed. I immediately started to feel like I was going to faint or throw up. They sit me up a bit and put some cold rags on my head and chest. That helped a lot. The baby didn't like this foreign object that was draining her swimming pool. She wouldn't quit wiggling and kicking which made the procedure that much more uncomfortable. After draining 3 liters, Elizabeth decided enough was enough. She kept sticking her arm up over the catheter to block the flow. Dr.P really wanted to drain at least 4 liters. He offered to stick me a third time in a different spot. No THANK YOU!!

I felt absolutely terrible the whole day after I got home. I had non-stop contractions and thought for sure we would be having the baby Wednesday night. Luckily they stopped overnight and I got a GREAT nights sleep. First night in a long while. Dr.P says we will probably have to do a reduction a few more times before she comes. Friends, I need your prayers on this one. Please pray that the fluid levels will stay normal as I do NOT want to have to repeat that procedure ever again!!

So, that's the update on us for now. Thank you to everyone who has been bringing meals and sending cards and encouraging e-mails. They mean so much to us. I am a big believer in thank-you notes. I would love to send one to everyone who has blessed us recently but I wouldn't even know where to start. Hope everyone has a wonderful Mother's Day.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A great day to worship!

Wow! What a day. Our church, Highview Baptist interviewed our family earlier in the week about our situation with Elizabeth. They showed the video this morning at all seven campuses.

First of all, our new friend John did a GREAT job on the video. Trust me, it wasn't easy for him. Our house is very chaotic with so many little boys running around, and well, anyone with toddlers knows how excited they get when you have company. Especially a man with a video camera. I hope to post the video here when I get a hold of a copy later.

Anyway, after the video was shown, the church prayed for our family and for baby Elizabeth. I can't tell you how good it feels to know that so many people will be praying for us over the next few months. I know we need all we can get. There are so many sweet, caring people at Highview. I even met a lady after the service who lost a granddaughter in June of last year to anencephaly. They got to spend a blessed 2 hours with her.

For those of you who haven't heard yet, our church is hosting a baby shower in honor of baby Elizabeth. It will be Saturday, April 30th from 2-4pm. This is a community wide event. So, please come and bring a friend! You can bring typical baby shower items such as diapers, wipes, formula, clothes size newborn-4t, and any other baby needs. All of these items will be donated to " A Woman's Choice Resource Center". And, if you don't feel like shopping, we will gladly accept monetary donations that will be given to " A New Hope Pregnancy Center" that will be opening it's doors soon here in Bullitt County. This will be a fun time of celebration and prayer. We are SOOOOO excited about this event. I can't wait to see how God uses this to bless other babies.

Thank you to everyone who left such sweet messages after the first blog post. It was very refreshing and encouraging. Please remember me in your prayers as I head into the OB tomorrow for a check-up. My fluid levels are high and are making me very uncomfortable right now. Please pray that the fluid will begin to lessen on it's own without intervention. Headed out now to enjoy this beautiful sunshine as I see that the forecast looks pretty glum for the rest of the week.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Deep breath - my first post!

So, as you can see I have waited awhile to write my first post. I've been a little nervous thinking about what I want to share here. I guess I should start from the beginning. I am a stay-at-home, homeschool mom to my six boys ages 1, 3, 5, 8, 10, and 12. When I was 17 weeks pregnant with #7, we went for a 3D ultrasound to find out the sex of the baby. Much to our surprise ( honestly! we didn't think it was possible!) we found out we were having our first little girl. I am not usually a very emotional person, but I immediately started crying happy tears. Our 4 oldest boys were with us. They were equally excited. They were clapping, grinning from ear to ear and the five year old couldn't even stay in his seat. He kept jumping up and down. My husband Jodie was happy but sort of looked like he was in shock. It was truly one of the happiest days of our lives. We were all walking on cloud nine.

Our mood shifted pretty quickly the next day when we got a call from the ultrasound place telling us we needed to see our OBGYN right away because there had been a problem with the ultrasound. They couldn't give us much information. We were so confused because the baby looked great. We saw and heard her heart beating, all of her organs looked fine, and she was kicking and moving all over the place.

Four days later we were at the office for another ultrasound. It was apparent to the tech right away. They called the doctor in to speak with us. The next few minutes felt almost unreal. She said that the baby had a condition called anencephaly. It's a neural tube defect. All of her body has formed and is working perfectly except for her skull and the majority of her brain. Her skull stops right above her eyebrows and she mostly just has a brain stem. We were surprised to learn that she can function and grow normally inside the womb. However, once she is born, her condition will not be "compatible with life" as they put it. Needless to say, we were devastated. She almost immediately mentioned the possibility of termination. We let her know immediately that it was not an option. We didn't even need to discuss it. We just looked at each other and knew. God gave us this precious gift of life and it would be up to Him to decide when she leaves this Earth.

We called our parents together at our home to deliver the news. I felt so bad. Just a few days before we had called to tell them they were finally having another granddaughter. ( there aren't many in the family) I felt like I was letting them down. I know they didn't feel that way. We waited a few days to tell the kids. That was so hard. We called them into the living room and explained what was going on with the baby. The oldest 3 were sobbing. We encouraged them to ask questions. Our oldest, Noah said, "well, God says we should praise Him in the good times and in the bad times". I was very impressed with his wisdom. I have to admit that my grief was so strong at that point that I hadn't felt much like praising God. We all gathered around in a big hug/circle and prayed for strength.

It's been almost exactly 3 months since we received the diagnosis. It's been a roller coaster of emotions. On one hand, I desperately want to be the "normal" happy pregnant mom looking forward to meeting her baby girl, and on the other hand, I am terrified of what is to come. There are days when I am happy and days when the grief seems to take over. This whole experience can be described as, well... strange. That is the best word I can think of. When the nesting kicks in, instead of painting the nursery, or organizing baby clothes, I start planning the memorial service and all of the little details that go along with it. See? Strange.

People are always saying that I am so strong. I don't know how you you do it, they say. Well, let me tell you, it's not me! I have not been given a choice. This is my life. God is absolutely getting me through. He holds me up everyday and gives me the strength to get out of the bed every morning. We are praying everyday for a miracle. I believe with everything that is in me that God can fully heal her and WILL heal her! I may not get to see it here, but I will see it someday. I thought to myself the other day, the doctors say that she will be deaf and blind. Can you imagine? The first sight you ever see and the first voice you ever hear is that of Jesus himself? Amazing. That's all I can say.

So, that's how this journey started. I will add more soon. Thank you to everyone who has been praying for us. You don't know how much it means.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Our first good look at Elizabeth.
Jan.10, 2011 - 17 weeks