Sunday, January 29, 2012


About a year and a half ago, I noticed my wedding photo was missing from my bedroom. I couldn't figure out where it went. A few days later, I noticed Spencer had it in his room on top of his bookcase. When I asked him why he took it, he simply said he loved us and wanted our picture in his room so that he could look at it whenever he wanted. So this summer it didn't surprise me when he asked for  two things: a photo of his brother to sit next to ours in his room and another photo to keep in the car by his car-seat. 

Today, I heard a little voice in the back seat ask me if he could roll up the picture of his brother and hide it. Through silent tears, I asked him why he wanted to do this. His response: "Mom I don't want anyone to know I had a brother. I don't want them to know his head didn't grow right. What if they find out and tease me?"

I can't tell you how much my heart hurt to hear these words.

I thought back to this photo. A four year old  little boy who was so excited and proud to finally hold his little brother. Two parents who tried to shield their son from the defect beneath a hat...only to have the hat fall off...and then to hear that little boy exclaim how beautiful his brother was after seeing him as God created.

Today my heart hurt over the fact that a five year old has to worry about being judged by his peers. Kids can and will be cruel. He has already had a taste of this cruelness over insignificant objects... insignificant to an adult but very meaningful to a child. I could only imagine the hurt he would feel if something was said about his brother. Until today, I never really thought through how Spencer's view of the world would change after experiencing death.

As much as we want to, we can't shelter and protect our children from the hurt and pain of life. However, we can teach them as much as possible before sending them out into the real world. Some of the best teaching measures are set by example.....Showing them unconditional love and cultivating that love to grow and flourish is one of the best examples around. It is my job as a mom to make sure the little boy in the picture does not disappear.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Decision

Growing up in a small little town in South Dakota the word 'abortion' was never really talked about. The movie Dirty Dancing was my first exposure to the concept of abortion. It left a lasting impression of what an illegal abortion could be... a doctor in a back alley with a wire coat hanger.... frankly it scared the hell out of me.  So I always sat perched upon the fence keeping my opinions and thoughts to myself. Abortion was something I didn't think I would personally do, but what right was it of mine to condemn a woman for making that choice. I wasn't walking in their shoes. It was a legal procedure in many states and with strict regulations, I thought at least it left a safer option for those who made that choice. 

January 22 is the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.

I will never pretend to be the strong mom who knew without a shadow of doubt that she would carry her pregnancy to term. On January 22,  I said no to my pregnancy. I consented to ending my pregnancy by induction. I laid in bed the night before, crying instead of sleeping. I was given my options: induce right away or let nature take its course. I was never pushed to make a decision one way or another. I was scared, confused, angry and selfish. Yes selfish. I couldn't bear feeling my child kick and wiggle around. It was a constant reminder of what I wouldn't have and there was no way I could face this reminder each and every day.  Scott never pushed me into the decision, but he made it clear that it broke his heart to watch this pregnancy tear me apart. 

Early that morning I called my OB. With a heavy heart, I sobbed as I told him that I wanted to be induced. My body was already showing signs of miscarriage and I didn't want the inevitable to drag out. Deep down I was not at peace with this decision but I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. He quietly said he understood my decision and that he hated to watch me go through this. This was his first pregnancy with an anencephaly diagnosis. He explained that the induction would be the same as when I had Spencer, and I would have to deliver vaginally and a c-section would not be an option. He needed to call the hospital and see what hospital policy and procedure was and if they had a spot open for an induction.

My phone rang about a half hour later. The hospital viewed an induction prior to 24 weeks as an abortion. This totally confused me. An abortion was about ending an unwanted pregnancy. An abortion was done in a clinic with tools and had people picketing outside...not in a hospital. They felt that at 24 weeks, any child born could be put on life support until it could survive on its own. I was at 20 weeks. My child could not survive and technically I would be ending its life by choice. Because this was uncharted territory for my doctor, he consulted another physician in his group. She reminded him that he needed to look past what  he thought was 'emotionally fair' for me and to think about what was a medically sound decision. It was a gentle reminder to him that the uterus does not respond well to induction medication until the third trimester. Also, if the baby had other deformities (which we did not know because I chose to end the sono early) the placenta may not detach properly. Both of these could cause hemorrhage, rupture or irreparable scarring that would leave me unable to have more children.

As he explained this, several things ran though my mind. I didn't even think that the Catholic Church viewed early termination as abortion. And then what if something did happen to me? I couldn't leave behind a husband and son because of my own selfish wants. I was also replaying a conversation I had with my friend Michelle. "Jenny I will support your decision either way, but if you carry it out, you will get to hold and love this baby. You will get to say hello and goodbye no matter how brief they may be." I thought of our miscarriage a year ago. There was no closure then and my heart still ached over that loss. My child deserved a fighting chance.

I can't really explain what happened next. (My Aunt Margaret likes to say it was divine intervention.) It was like a switch was flipped somewhere deep inside of me. The tears stopped as I told my doctor that I couldn't put myself in that situation. I would carry out this pregnancy for as long as my body allowed. I didn't know how I would get through it, but I could accept it and would manage one way or another. Before we hung up, I remember saying there was a bigger picture that I just couldn't yet see.

On the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, I was asked to make a decision to God. A decision on a commitment that started five months earlier with two pink lines. A commitment of unconditional love and acceptance of His will.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

D-Day: 1.21.11

He answered at the end of the third ring with an out-of-breath hello. Calving season.

Hey there. Just wanted to call you quick. I am sitting outside of Priddle's office and the girls are going to work me in for a sono. Long story short, I started spotting at lunch, couldn't get the on-call nurse to call me back so I called the tech, who talked to another nurse who got her doc to authorize a sono before the weekend.  Yes this is different from a few months ago. More blood.  But I felt movement before it happened so I am sure everything will be fine. Well the last appointment is at 4:00 and it is 3:30 right now, so no, I guess you won't have time to drive the hour and a half  to be here. I am sure they will just do a quick check for heartbeat and nothing more. I promise I won't sneak a look for boy or girl parts *giggle* and I will check to see if we can still keep our regular sono on Monday so we can find out together. That one is right away in the morning so we can bring Spencer and you can drop him off at daycare on the way back home. I know he is so excited to see his brother or sister. Are you sure? But I know how much you wanted to be there when we found out. Alright we will play it by ear. I will call you as soon as I know something.

Well little kiddo is active. Let me turn this on so you can listen. See, nice strong heartbeat. You had that bleed back around week 8 didn't you? I am not seeing anything abnormal, especially in the area where it was before. Kiddo is head down so lets see if the placenta is over the cervix. That may be what caused the bleeding. Hmmm. Not cooperating are you. Alright little stinker! I can't see if you keep kicking at me. Hold still. There you go. Oh Jenny. I have to be honest with what I am seeing. I can't keep this from you. Kiddo's skull is not round. See right here. There is a flat appearance at the top. Your baby has anencephaly. I am 100% certain but I will get Jen in here to confirm with me. We will call Priddle. It is his day off but I am sure he is in town somewhere. Don't worry. We will get a hold of him to come in, look at the sono and talk to you. Oh Jenny. I am so sorry.

The following ten minutes were the longest of my life. I sat there in shock. Numb. Unable to move. Too confused to really cry. My mind was buzzing. Medical terminology class was filed way back in my memory banks. Anen = missing or without. Cephalic = head end of the body. Without his head? How could that be. I could feel him kick and squirm even then. The dreams came flooding back. Hydrocephaly. The recurring dream of a child born with hydrocephaly. That wasn't right. Hydrocephaly had to do with fluid on the brain. Maybe I totally misunderstood what she said. Was it hydrocephaly or anencephaly. My head hurt. I am sure the confused look on my face gave me away. The tech explained that her previous job was at the University of Iowa. It was there that she personally had scanned around 20 babies who were diagnosed with anencephaly. If the doctor suspected it in his office, they were sent to her to do a higher level scan. I didn't doubt her. I never questioned if she made a mistake. Small talk followed. She told me I would be given the options to end the pregnancy or carry it out to term with the 'popular' option being termination. Quietly she offered up the option of organ donation, explaining that if she were in my shoes, she would carry it out and donate organs. I was asked again if I wanted to find out if my child was a boy or a girl. I couldn't. I thought about Scott. He wanted to know so bad. I couldn't take that experience away from him. I thought of Spencer. I could handle getting this news by myself if it meant he was not here to see me like this. He knew mommy had a baby in her belly. How were we going to explain death to a four year old? Our moms. They just had birthdays. How could we tell them that their grandchild was going to die? I was supposed to get good news today. This baby was supposed to breathe new life into a month associated with loss and pain of our previous miscarriage.

The door quietly opened as my doctor walked in. The buzzing in my head stopped. Jenny. I am so sorry. I looked at the film. The diagnosis is correct. Your baby has anencephaly.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Me

I finished going through the rest of your things tonight. Your feet and hand prints are bigger than I remembered...but still tiny when I saw the picture of Emily holding your feet in her hands...feet complete with ten little hammer toes. Your hospital bracelet intertwined with mine. The application for your birth certificate. I didn't remember seeing the book the hospital sent home either. That started the tears. It was a baby book intended for a child that died. How did I miss that. I also packaged up your hospital blanket and hat. Remembering the look on the nurse's face made me smile and brought fresh tears again. She really thought I lost my mind when I asked for them. She thought they should have been thrown away because they were stained with your blood. I didn't care though. I wanted them back. It was one more reminder that you were real.

I didn't put your things away because someone told me it was time. When we came home from the hospital that day, your brother met us at the door. When he realized you weren't with us, he started screaming.  We dropped everything in our bedroom and laid with him on the bed, trying to comfort him as he sobbed and screamed. Nothing was moved until today.

Nearly a year ago, laying on that sono table, I became a different person. Some days I don't recognize myself. I don't like the jaded person I have become and knowing the days of innocence are long gone. Some days are a struggle to get through. I still have problems remembering little things. If you see me with a gallon of milk in my hand wandering around the kitchen it is because I can't remember where to put it. Thankfully I have fewer of these days, but I am quicker at recognizing why and when it happens. Putting the negative aside, I can find some good qualities in the new me. I have experienced life from a whole new perspective and have also met some wonderful people who bring out the best in me. I don't think I could have experienced this type of sorrow and joy and not become a different person.

I did it for me.  Learning to love the good, accept the bad, recognizing my weakness and utilizing my strengths. Embracing the path that He chose for me. This new me is because of you. Tangible things are just that. I have realized the best part of you will always be with me...nothing found in a memory box...but inside my heart where you will always be.