Wednesday, July 27, 2011

the cowboy kit ~

Spencer is visiting Grandma and Grandpa this week. Last night I called to check in and see how things were going. This is a piece of our conversation:

S:  "Mommy. Can you give Grammy permission to buy me a cowboy kit? It is so awesome and I need one for Grant. Cause he will need one too when we go to their house to ride Gidgy. Please mommy! She said I could have one if you said it was fine."

J: "Yes that would be fine. But you need to be super good tomorrow."

S:  "Grammy! She said yes! But you can have it back if I am bad. But I will be good. I promise. Deal."

I could just see him sticking his thumb and finger out when he said 'deal'. It brought a smile to my face.

S:  "Mommy, can we talk in private?"

I could hear his feet pattering across the floor along with a muffled "I gotta have a minute of privacy" said to my mom.

S:  "Mommy. I miss you."

J: "You do? I thought you were having all kinds of fun though?"

I had a flash of him crying and begging mom to bring him back home. He has never wanted to come back home so soon after being at either grandparents house. He always asks to be gone for 10 more, no less. I know my mom had all kinds of fun stuff planned for him and this would be their last chance to have him before my dad has surgery again. I didn't want their time to be cut short. A sick, panicky feeling started to creep in.

S:  "I am having fun! But I miss you loving me and holding me and giving me kisses and snuggling with me. And I miss talking about our day.  Don't you miss it too? So how was your day mommy? What did you do today? What did you eat for breakfast?"

J:  "Honey I do love you and of course I miss you and doing all of those things with you."

And then the phone went dead. As quickly as the silence hit, my dad picked up and quickly said the storm was really hitting and they just lost electricity. Spencer was on the cordless phone. I figured it would not be long before his 'old-fashioned' wall phone would go dead too. As quick as the thought entered my mind, the line went silent again.

Spencer loves those little things as much as I do. It didn't really hit me until yesterday how much he looks forward to them. They have been a daily ritual for as long as I can remember. But for him to recognize that I would miss them also, well, it brought tears to my eyes....happy tears that is. Moments like this is what keeps my world turning. It was a reminder of our unconditional love for each other. A love that I would not trade to avoid the heartache of loosing a child.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Birthday Pancakes

It all started with Josie. She was set to be induced with Theo on a Saturday morning. Spencer was on a pancake kick. When I opened up the drawer next to the stove, the birthday candles were peeking out at me.

Birthday pancakes were born.

I thought what a wonderful way to celebrate his life from across the ocean. Spencer already knew about Palmer's diagnosis. He often worried that there would be no one for his brother to play with in heaven. I thought this would be a good way to 'introduce' him to the other babies who would also go to heaven when God decided it was time. I explained that Theo's head didn't grow right either and that today was his birthday. I asked him if he wanted to have a little birthday party for Theo.  He excitedly agreed, the candles were lit and the birthday song commenced. We have since kept this tradition alive by celebrating the births of Christopher, Carys, Gabriel, Sophia, KayLynn and Esther ~ just to name a few.

Eleven years ago today, a beautiful baby girl was born to Monika and Christope in Switzerland. They named her Anouk. Today we remember her along with her parents and siblings. Happy Birthday Anouk!! May your family find peace today as you celebrate in heaven. I know you are looking down on your mom with pride and love. She gave you life and the rest of us hope.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Thanks Dad

January 21st, 2011  ~ the day our world came crashing down.

It started out pretty normal until right before I went to lunch. I started bleeding. At first, I was not too worried. I had problems with this off and on since the beginning of my pregnancy. Three earlier sonograms showed  it was always nothing to be worried about. The heartbeat had always been strong and steady and movement was always seen as well as felt. But this day, the bleeding progressed. I called my OB office and my doctor was out for the day as well as his nurse. My call was sent to the on-call nurse. Voice mail. I left my message with my work number to call back. An hour passed and no call. I checked my cell phone and had a missed call from the OB office with a message to call back. So much for them calling the number I left. So I called back. Voice mail again. By this time it was nearly 3pm on a Friday afternoon. My biggest fear was to be sent to ER to be seen there. So I took my sono tech up on her offer to "call anytime you need reassurance". She called me back less than 3 minutes after I left a message on her voice mail. She went directly to the other doctor on-call and he said to come over for a sono right away. I hadn't told Scott that I was having problems at this point. I called him quick, said I was going over to check for heartbeat and nothing else. The 'nothing else' was our way of teasing each other on finding out baby's sex. He wanted to know and I wanted to be surprised.

3:30 pm. "Heartbeat is great. Baby is head down and legs are crossed. I want to check the cervix and the location of the placenta. That may be the problem.'" Silence. "Oh Jenny." It was the tone in her voice that caught my attention. " Oh Jenny. I want to be as upfront with you as I can. Your baby's head did not develop properly. It appears to have a condition called anencephaly. See. Right there. The head is not round. Jenny I am so sorry." Another tech came in right after her explanation. As soon as she opened the door and looked at the screen, she rushed to my side, dropped down and held me. I was sobbing silently on the exam table looking at the obvious, flat skull. She verbally confirmed what the other tech suspected. She left the room to call my doctor, not the on-call doctor, to confirm the diagnosis. While we waited, she wanted to know if I wanted to continue with the scan to determine sex or to finish the developmental portion of the scan. I couldn't. It was already too much for me to process. This was supposed to be our "rainbow baby". Our take home baby. Our reminder that after the storm, good will come. I couldn't wrap my head or heart around what I had already heard.

We made small talk as we waited for my doctor. As it turns out, my tech worked at a University hospital where all suspected cases of anencephaly were sent for confirmation of diagnosis. She personally had scanned a large amount of babies with anencephaly. I knew there was no question of diagnosis. One, I could see it myself. Two, she wouldn't have said anything if she was not certain. Three, these two techs are the best around. It felt like an hour, but my doctor arrived within 15 minutes after they called him. I don't know what he was doing, but I do know he dropped everything immediately and came in. He confirmed the diagnosis.

How was I going to tell Scott? This was a nightmare that I just wanted to go away. I don't remember if he called me or if I called him. We both remember our locations when the news was shared. I was in my car outside of my OB office and he was in a pasture doing evening chores. We cried together for a long time over the phone. He wanted to drive in and bring me home, I wouldn't let him. He felt so bad that he was not with me. I was thankful that I was alone. If I hadn't started to bleed, we would have received the news three days later and Spencer would have been with us. So yes, I welcomed the thought of shouldering the news by myself for that reason alone.

My next concern was how were we going to tell our parents. We decided each one of us would tell our own parents.  I can't even tell you when he called his mom and dad. I panicked at the thought of calling my mom and dad. How could I call and tell them that their grandchild would die? I kept picturing them cuddling with Spencer when he was an infant. I couldn't do it. I called my sister. I remember I was in the parking lot at HyVee when I told her. My heart was shattered. She said she would call mom and dad for me and let me sort though things at my own pace. She knew they would understand my frame of mind and why I couldn't call now.

So she called our mom that night. Dad was at work that night until 11pm and couldn't be reached. Dad said that all day, he kept thinking there was something significant about the day but he couldn't place it. It was a nagging feeling. He asked several people he worked with if he was forgetting something that day or if they knew what was so important about the day. The feeling just didn't leave him. He decided to try Google to see if there was an answer there. This is the first thing that came up in his search :

         Psalm 121
The Lord My Guardian

I raise my eyes toward the mountains.
   From where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord
   the maker of heaven and earth.
God will not allow your foot to slip;
   your guardian does not sleep.
Truly, the guardian of Israel
   never slumbers nor sleeps.
The Lord is your guardian;
   the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
By day the sun cannot harm you,
   nor the moon by night.
The Lord will guard you from all evil,
   will always guard your life.
The Lord will guard your coming and going
   both now and forever.

He didn't know the significance of this verse at the time, just knew that it eased that nagging feeling he had felt all day. When I finally found the strength to call them, my dad shared this verse with me and how he came upon Psalm 121 on January 21st.  It brought comfort then and still does. A reminder that God will protect us from harm and watch over us night and day.

Thanks Dad.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A peek hole to Heaven


I used to not really care for them. I always associated them with the potential for destruction. Hail. Lightening. Tornadoes. Flooding. All bad things.

Palmer's birth gave me a new perspective. It stormed like crazy that day. Even though the shade was up in the delivery room that day, I really wasn't paying attention until I saw Scott pull out his phone and check the radar. When I looked up into the sky, you could see the clouds swirling above the hospital. Those clouds quickly passed and the rain began. The rain varied off and on through out the rest of the day and into the evening. Let me take you back to the most significant part of that storm for me.....

We gave Palmer over to the nurses shortly after 11pm. This was about 5 hours after he entered the world. As we sat on the hospital bed with Palmer, Scott and I talked about the significance of when the cooling process started. (Before tissue can be harvested, the body has to begin a cooling period. The cooling period ensures the tissue can be harvested. In this case it was his heart valves.) We felt that the sooner his body could start cooling, perhaps his valves would be in better shape. We fought to get him to meet criteria. Actually Scott fought pretty hard. He insisted they re-weigh him because he thought Palmer was heavier than 4lbs 13oz. (He was actually 5lbs) Our logic was that the sooner he was harvested, the sooner another family would get "the call".  We knew we would leave the hospital with empty arms. We tried to imagine the joy those parents would feel, knowing they would get to take their baby home. 

We were told that the harvest team would fly in to pick Palmer up and fly him to the harvest location. It was anticipated they would arrive around 4 am. We settled in and went to sleep. In the middle of the night, I woke up to a clap of thunder and drenched in a cold sweat. The lights flickered briefly, the clock flashed off and on at 2:47 and I heard a generator kick on. Outside the door I heard "Mary, they are here!". It was shouted with such urgency. I thought that it was probably pretty normal for people to arrive in the middle of the night. After all it was the OB floor and babies come whenever they are ready. I laid awake in bed until about 4am watching the lightening and listening to the storm rage on. I talked to Palmer during this time asking him to help the harvest crew arrive safely. I also remember feeling such a sense of peace.  Around 4 am the storm stopped and I could hear the birds sing. I remember thinking that was so odd. I have never heard birds singing before day break. Suddenly I was sleepy and ready to go back to sleep. My nurse (Mary) came to wake me up at 6am. It was shift change and she wanted to give me my morning medicine and say goodbye. She also asked which funeral home the day shift needed to call to come pick up Palmer. I was confused. It was arranged that the harvest location would call the funeral home and either they would return him or the funeral home would go there. Harvest location. Palmer never left the hospital. As it turned out, the harvest team came  "about an hour earlier than expected and finished in about an hour." I will let you ponder the timing.

This takes us back to my new appreciation for thunderstorms. I feel the closest to Palmer during a storm or a rain shower. I often find myself outside looking at the clouds on stormy days wondering if the little openings are peek holes to heaven. The anxiety I once felt over "what may happen" is usually not there. I no longer think of destruction, I think of life. Palmer's life. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

back in the saddle again...

A year or so ago, we went through a period of Spencer fibbing. I believe it was my sister who started the 'truth chair' with him. If we thought he was starting to tell a whopper, we would ask him to sit on the 'truth chair' and tell his tale. Thankfully he didn't have to make too many trips to the chair and he learned (hopefully) his lesson on fibbing. Sometimes if he doesn't like what he is told by myself, he asks me to sit on the 'truth chair'....

I guess this blog is my 'truth chair'.

Last week I started back to work doing half days. Slowly easing back in.  I thought I was ready. Well I can't lie. I can't even try to lie. I was not ready.

The anxiety was the worse. It was a weight on my chest dragging me down and hard to breathe. My heart raced. It usually resolved on my drive back home. I would lay awake at night trying to sleep. The closer it came for my alarm to go off, I could feel that weight slowly increasing and my heart speeding up.

I hated the questions or the anticipation of questions. I tried so hard during my pregnancy to tell everyone who acknowledged my belly that  Palmer would not survive. I did this to avoid answering questions when I came back from maternity leave. I did this for nearly 20 weeks. I did this to avoid the awkward questions of  'How is your baby?'. It was hard then, but it is harder now.

I am not sure if people did not believe Palmer's diagnosis or if they just didn't pay attention. Maybe they thought the doctors were wrong. Or that there would be a miracle. It is hard to hear "How is your baby? Is everything fine now with him?" or "Congratulations. How are your boys doing? Has it really been six weeks? So your new little one is six weeks now. I bet he is big." I can guarantee you there was an awkward silence followed by stammering on my end. How do you answer that? Even after re-explaining some still don't believe me. A blunt "My baby is dead" is all I can come up with at times. Terms like "passed away" bring confusion to some faces. It drained me mentally. The mental end wore me down physically.

After we discuss that indeed he did die, I usually hear the following: "Oh that is too bad. I guess it was just meant to be that way. You know, Gods will. I guess you can just have another one."  or "Well at least you have one child that is alive. By the way, your hair looks great today." Alright. Some of this may be true on a few different levels, but this is the last thing I want to hear. I want my child healthy and alive and home with me. I want the sleepless nights. I welcomed them. I don't care if my hair looks great! I would be bald if it meant he was in my arms.

And now we move on to my weight. For the record, I just finished a Snickers ice cream cone before I started this blog. I ate yogurt for breakfast,  lasagna and salad for lunch and for supper we went to Sonic where I had a New York hot dog, cheese tots and a root beer float. Yes I am eating. Yes I have lost weight. Has it been intentional. Yes. Am I self-destructing through grief? No.  If you saw me before I was pregnant, you would know that I needed to loose weight. Aside from tonight, I am eating smarter, counting my carbs and proteins; basically  following my pregnancy diabetic diet.

I also had issues with Spencer starting a new daycare. This had nothing to do with the care he was getting. I was so afraid of change. I do not like and do not deal well with change. It was out of my comfort zone. Have I mentioned that I hate change?  But he fit right in and loves his new provider. He even cried one night because he didn't want to go home and there was never  clinging "Don't go mommy!" moments in the mornings.

Life threw too much at me to handle at one time. I can recognize that. I can accept that. Thankfully I have an understanding boss. I am feeling a lot better with some things. Others will be a work in progress. For as much as I would like to sit at home, I can't. For now, just half days for a while. No one ever said things will be 'normal' in six weeks. I need to try to find a balance. Onward and upward...

Friday, July 8, 2011


Today I cried for thirty glorious minutes.

That is the amount of time it took me to look at all 169 photos we received from our Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep photographer.  I never thought I would be able to have a complete stranger in the room with me at such a vulnerable time and in such a vulnerable position. I will never forget the moment she walked into our hospital room. It was a moment of confusion. She was not the person we were even expecting. Literally.  I knew she was meant for us as I watched her walk to the spot where she took her very first picture. The dry erase board.

Video was not needed. She used her camera to tell our capture the day to perfection. We made beautiful memories that day and Karen captured them.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mercy through Spencer

It was hot today. Two years ago I bought a small 5 foot collapsible pool on clearance. It stayed in the basement in its package until today. Last summer I was not in the right frame of mind to put it up. Sad, but true. Today it made its way outside. Spencer and I filled it up to the perfect temperature. (I knew the hot and cold faucets outside would eventually pay off!) He played in the pool and I sat in a lawn chair soaking my feet. Today was one of those "bad days". It seemed like nothing was right for me in so many areas of my life. The finishing touch was being told that Spencer has a heart murmur and would need testing to make sure there was nothing seriously wrong. Medically a murmur can be a pretty normal, functional diagnosis. Logically I know the odds are in his favor and it will probably be fine and no treatment will be needed. Despite knowing this, all I could think were how the "odds" have not been in our favor lately. As he played, I listened to a song by Selah, 'I Will Carry You'. I thought of Palmer and the tears streamed down my face behind my sunglasses. I kept thinking that I didn't want anything else wrong in my life....especially when it came to my children.

After about an hour or so, I noticed the sun disappeared. The sky was really dark to the north and I told him we needed to go inside because it would probably storm. Spencer looked at me funny and said "We can stay outside. Mercy is in heaven with God. She comes down to us when it rains". What? As his vocabulary increases, he sometimes slurs his words and enunciation is an issue. I asked him to repeat what he had said.  "Mom. Mercy is in heaven with God. You know! Mercy! She comes down to us when it rains. Don't you listen to Father Pat?" I got "the look" from Spencer. The same look that I know I give him when he should be paying attention. "Mom. He said it again when we were in church with baby. He says it all the time. We need mercy to come to us,"

The storm hit shortly after this conversation. His words kept repeating in my head as we went to the basement to wait out the storm. So like any good Catholic, I fired up Google after Spencer went to bed.  It seems for me, when I go to church the responses can be automatic. There is thought and reflection behind it to a point, but not always on the level it should. The word mercy is found throughout the Catholic mass. I needed to find the spot he was referring to and linking to the rain. So I found a site for the Catholic mass and started reading, going from link to link. 

May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.
Lord have Mercy.
Christ have Mercy.

So now I found the point in church where I think he pays attention to. "Bring us." If God lives in heaven, the only way he can 'bring' us anything is to send it down. The only thing he knows that can tangibly be brought down is rain. So mercy that is brought to us must be rain. I could be wrong. My brain is tired. But knowing my son and his logic, this is the connection that makes the most sense.  I also thought I would throw in another search for mercy. This was for myself. His choice of words must have some relevance to my day. I needed easy snippets of information that I didn't have to break down or sort through fluffy words. 

"Mercy is for everyone"
"Mercy relieves suffering, and there are different kinds of suffering." 
"Mercy is not always convenient.... suffering and crisis are often unpredictable."

I am not sure if my interpretation of what Spencer said is correct. Regardless, my son reminded me of what He is willing to provide. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Good Grief

Good Grief.

How many times have you used that phrase? Was it said out of frustration? I am guilty of using it. Usually it is said under my breath when Spencer pulls a good one. Should I use this phrase? Probably not. When I do say it, I am typically at my whits end. Tired, grumpy, annoyed, short on patience. I could keep throwing adjectives out there but I think you have either caught my drift or have been in my shoes.

Grief Good.

That looks funny doesn't it. How can grief be good?

This weekend came with a bit of reflecting...reflecting on my own grief process with the loss of Palmer. Spencer and I made the trip out to western Kansas to see Scott. A total of 10 hours or so in the car. That is a lot of time to think and ponder life. Lately I have been wondering and worrying  if I am handling my grief the right way. Some days I cry. Some days I do not. I feel like I have more good days with a sprinkling of bad moments. On my good days I feel a sense of peace. Peace that surrounds me and holds me tight.  But is my peace really an illusion? Have I tricked myself into believing that I am "fine"? Have I really started to pick the pieces back up after the death of my son?  Will this sense of peace crumble down on me one day and leave me vulnerable and further broken?  All these questions bring doubt. Doubt will be the cause for me to reflect and work through the answers to my questions.

I held a baby this weekend. Well a one-year-old to be exact. I didn't know if I could do it. Doubt crept up and settled in next to me as I sat on the couch. It was the first child I held since Palmer.  He was such a rambunctious little guy, tired and in need of a nap. His parents said, "This is strange. He just doesn't warm up to strangers." Actually I kept hearing this phrase the entire hour he sat on my lap playing. He was so peaceful and calm. At one point I thought maybe it was Palmer's doing. I could picture him whispering into the little guys ear. "Hey! That is my mom. I know she will hold you just like she did me! Just stick your arms up and she will pick you up. Yeah! That's it! I told you so!"  It felt good to take that step and to mentally work through the physical act of holding and playing with a child again. I showed Doubt that I could do it.

Some days will be easy, others will be hard. The pieces of my life will be found and  picked back up again. Love, understanding and acceptance of my grief will help hold those pieces back into place.

Grief Good.