Thursday, March 10, 2016

A Double Rainbow

Truth be told, right now I'm fighting every urge to pour a glass of wine and turn on whatever Netflix show pops up first in hopes of falling asleep or at least turning my brain off until the next time one of my kiddos needs attention.

One of my kiddos.


But.  I'm afraid that if I wait much longer, the memories of the past couple of weeks will begin to fade before I get a chance to really process them.  And in sharing whatever comes out here, as always, I'm hoping that maybe even just one soul who reads this will feel encouraged, loved, validated, or less alone on his or her journey.

And per usual- I have no idea where to begin.

So a few things here and now.  One, you likely won't see a lot of pregnancy/birth lingo here for this essentially being a birth story.  Not because it isn't applicable and not because the folks who might read this wouldn't have already heard it all/seen it all/experienced it all before.  Mostly because it just all still feels so dang personal and while I haven't been shy about spilling my emotional guts here for the last few years, my physical guts are a different story.  And for me, this is more about the emotional and spiritual journey of it all- even though my body does still kind of feel like it got hit by a truck.  ;-)  Secondly, even as I try to get this out here, in many ways I am still trying to come to grips with it all.  Two daughters have become my daily reality, but my heart and my brain are very much still trying to catch up with my physical responsibilities.

And so we went to bed on Friday night, February 19th, with nothing but our giant to-do list on our minds.  Our home projects and pre-baby plans were extensive including but not limited to finishing the nursery, painting furniture, cleaning the garage, replacing the sunscreens on the house, and making about a thousand freezer meals.  We had grandma time set up for Izzie and we were all set to go first thing in the morning.  It's no secret that I hadn't been able to connect very much if at all to this pregnancy and this baby, but the logical sense in planning was very easy for me.  And in many ways, I think, it gave me something I could control.  The only thing I could control.

Or so I thought.

It took me about 2 hours to figure out if my suspicions were correct- well not only to figure out that I was right but also to argue back and forth with myself as to whether it meant I needed to do something-- and so at 4 a.m. I finally called Karen and told her that my water had broken.  I think I was very much in shock and pretty much 100% in denial-- which is why my next call to OB triage went something like this:

"Um, hi.  I'm 36 weeks and I believe that my membrane ruptured.  I'm thinking that I might need to come in but wanted to call first."

"Oh, okay.  Then yes, you definitely need to come in."

"Well.  I have a lot that I need to do today so how long do I really have?"

".... you should go ahead and come in."

" Okay, well, so I have some time right?  Like enough time to go to the store and take care of a few things?  I'm not having contractions or anything."

"....No.  No you should not go to the store.  You need to come in."

"Okay well my husband and my baby are still asleep so I can take my time right?"

"If you think your water has broken, then you need to get here.  You can take a shower and pack your bag but then you need to come in.  Please do not wait."

Yeah, it actually went like that.  I don't know exactly what I thought was happening, but I knew that my body wasn't really doing anything, I felt perfectly fine, it was way too early, and gosh darn it, I HAD PLANSSSS. !

So I sat on the couch in the dark for a while longer, thought seriously about taking some time to clean my baseboards (that was also on the list for Saturday), and eventually got up and ate some cereal.  I very slowly began to get my things together and probably did some dishes and started some laundry in between.  And finally at about 5:30 I woke Jesse up and told him what was going on.

About an hour later, I sat in a bed in OB triage thinking about what I was going to do first and which meals I was going to have to eliminate on my list since I wouldn't have as much time that day as I had thought when the nurse came back into the room.

"okay.  So.  your water has definitely broken and we will be admitting you."

"......................I don't understand.  I feel nothing.  Don't I have some time?  I can at least go home until contractions start right??  I have meals to cook.  Lots.  of meals."

(starting to see a pattern here?  I know.  I know.  I was nuts.  and I think everyone knew it but me.)

"No.  Your water has broken.  You are staying here and you are having this baby.  It's going to be okay, but you can't go home, ok?"

And as soon as she left to go make arrangements to have us moved upstairs I lost it for what would be the first time out of about a thousand.

Staying?  admitted?  baby?  Having a baby?  Right now?  Like today?

And I began to feel like I was watching it all happen to someone else.  Even now, two and a half weeks removed from it all, I still wonder if it was me this all actually happened to or if it was someone else. All of it.  Is very difficult to put into words.

And so it all began.  Or ended.  All I know is that the prior 7ish months that I had been stuffing into the closet in the corner of my heart, the ultrasounds and the kicks and the excited questions from loved ones-  suddenly, those closet doors burst open, seemingly without any warning-  and it all came crashing down on me, knocking me to the floor and practically taking the breath from my very chest.

Things went.  Extremely slowly.  The Little had decided that it was time, but apparently she forgot to send the memo to the rest of my body.  And even before I elected to get the drugs, I felt numb.  No matter how hard I tried, I could NOT see it.  I still couldn't see it.  Monitors and beeping and IV's and holy cow the pain- and I still.  could.  not.  see it.  I couldn't see the end.  I couldn't see her.  I couldn't see how any of this was going to go.

And the closest thing that I can compare it to is how it felt when we were waiting for our finalization date with Isobel.  Somewhere in my head I knew that we were going to pledge to be her parents forever, her name would be changed to ours, and the 9 long months of waiting and waiting and waiting and never knowing- they were coming to an end.  But I couldn't see it.  That golden picture that all adoptive families have- of the judge and the parents and child, all beaming from ear to ear- I couldn't see ours, no matter how hard I tried.

And it was no different this time around.  I mean.  It was completely different.  But the denial and inability to connect with reality?  That was the same.

I'd finally called Karen later that evening and told her I was hurting and I was ready for her.  And so around 6:30 pm, the Mary Poppins of the doula world flew in with her umbrella and carpet bag full of tricks and loveliness (two words:  peppermint oil.  trust me. Karen) - and I felt so relieved.  I may not have known how it all would go, but I knew that I couldn't do it without her.  And that was the deal.  We made it.  7 months before when I called her in utter shock to tell her that I was maybe pregnant.  And I told her that no matter what was going to happen and when I could not would not do it without her- and she agreed.  And I was pretty sure at that time that she would be supporting me through another loss- I didn't know how or when, but that's what I was expecting to be sure.  I never thought it would end in a hospital room with the sound of a baby's heartbeat on the fetal monitor.  Ever.

And I digress a bit, but.  Can I just say?  All that we had been through together.  The heartwrenching middle of the night conversations and the plans and dreams for our ministry and the phone call to tell me about Isobel- and the tears and more tears and still more tears- and here we were.  Friends.  it was.
Unreal.  To have her at my side while all of this was happening.

And so beautiful and perfect that God would write it like this.  Because I really believe that other than my husband, there is probably no one else on the planet that understands my mother heart like this girl does.  Who has been in the thick of it with me- time and again.  And who never ever gave up hope that God would bring me earthly babies.  Who carried that hope for me for a very long time when I just couldn't carry it for myself.  Who God used to literally find us our firstborn, Isobel.  And walked that entire journey with us, right down to the finalization date.  And now stood with me, holding my hand, believing once again when I couldn't believe it for myself- that God was, once again, quite literally delivering on His promise for our second rainbow.

This is what happens when God writes your story.  You can't make this stuff up.

And so for the next several hours, I leaned on Jesse and Karen heavily.  And can I just say also?  That husband of mine.  If God has done nothing else in the past 3 years, He most definitely has used the deaths of our children to knit our hearts even closer together.  Through every sorrow, every point of grief, every heart wrenching holiday, month after month and tear after tear- and the journey to bring Izzie home.  Wow.  We would NOT have made it through that pressure cooker were it not for the unity and deep love that God had blessed us with.  And yet this?  Childbirth?  Took it to a whole new level that I didn't even know was possible.  And I can honestly say that my love and my respect for Jesse have only grown even more so.

Heather Lynch Photography

Heather Lynch Photography

Heather Lynch Photography

Heather Lynch Photography

Heather Lynch Photography

And into the late night and early morning we went with very little changes happening.  And after another very sleepless night, the shift change was about to happen when my night team of nurses came in and asked us if we would be okay with taking a look at some paperwork and signing off on surgery.  Not much was happening and unfortunately, the baby's heart rate was dropping every so often, so not much could be done to force stronger contractions without risk to her.  I have to say that I really had no plans and no expectations (every single doctor and nurse that came in asked me what my birth plan was and I told every one the same thing- Can you please get this baby out alive and get me out alive?  I really don't care about the rest.)  but I was hoping to avoid a nasty surgery recovery given that I had a toddler at home to care for as well.  But we agreed that if that's what the doctor was recommending at that point that we would sign whatever they needed and wait to talk to the doctor for the actual plan.  And so we sent out a few updates to our loved ones letting them know that it was looking like surgery may be happening when the doctor walked in a short time later.  She wasn't my doctor but she was very nice, asked us a few questions, and told us what she was thinking.  She wanted to try one other thing to see if she could get the baby to respond more safely in hopes that we could continue on and delivery normally- but she also said that after she finished her next patient, she would come back and do the c- section if it was what we wanted.

Man.  that was tempting.  Any sane, level-headed person could see that a few more hours of labor to get through to a normal delivery versus a major surgery and subsequent recovery would be far better in the long run- but at that point, I was neither sane nor level-headed.  The offer to have it all finally over sure sounded good.  And I kind of wanted to take that offer.

But.  I was also exhausted.  And for once in my life?  Too tired to argue.  And so we went with the doctor's original plan to replace some of the amniotic fluid that had been lost and was most likely causing the distress to the baby and see if it would work.

And so as we settled in to wait some more, and I let my photographer know that one way or another it looked like things would be wrapping up in the next few hours.  We were nearing the 36 hour mark and something was going to give.

And on that note- It's still so weird to me that we had a photographer.  But then again.  It really isn't.  Because this isn't someone that I found on social media or even through a friend.  This was someone I have a very special connection with, who approached me a few months back and asked if I would consider letting her come photograph the birth.  Never in a million years would I have really even considered seeking this out, much less agreeing to an offer for it.  But this was very different.  See.  Heather Lynch is someone that I met just a little over a year ago- when my husband and I sat next to her and her husband in our adoption class.  We connected with them very easily and were able to stand on the sidelines and watch as after years and years of waiting and praying, they were able to adopt their precious little boy.  I've found that there is something very unique about the connection that adoptive moms have with one another, and the connection that I felt with Heather was just that.  Special.  And unique.  And how cool would it be, to have her take these photos for us.  I was and still am completely honored that she would even offer much less agree to this, given her own long and arduous journey to motherhood.  It's something that I know came from great sacrifice on her part and I will forever be grateful to have had these life-changing moments captured as beautifully as they were.

And I think it was somewhere around 1:15 pm when Karen leaned down with her face next to mine and told me that it was time.  I told her that I wasn't ready and I couldn't do it.  And so the three of us said one last prayer, faint praise music playing in the background.

Heather Lynch Photography

And at about 2:20 pm, my second daughter was born (apparently she flew?!  I couldn't see but that's what they told me) into the world and someone put her on my chest.  I don't remember a whole lot about the next few seconds, but I remember very clearly that the only words that I could get out were, "She's real?  She's real?  I can't believe she's real??"

I don't know if I was expecting a puppy to come out or what, but I certainly wasn't expecting a baby.

 And as quickly as she was there, she was gone.

And so began the longest and darkest five minutes of my life.

No one from the other side of the room was saying anything.  And where there had originally been like one or two personnel, there were suddenly a dozen, running into the room, moving very quickly, yelling things like "what doctor delivered this baby??!" and telling the photographer to stop taking pictures immediately.  But no one.  was telling us.  ANYTHING. And there was no noise from the baby.  And no movement.

And in that moment. I believed with every fiber of my being that my daughter was dead.

It was.  in many ways.  My very worst of nightmares.  My deepest fear.  And still even in this moment as I recount it, renders me nearly paralyzed.  This was it.  We had made it all this way.  And she was dead.  And they were trying to revive her.  But she was dead.

And I couldn't do anything but lay there, screaming out with a voice that was pretty much gone, "is she alive??  is she alive?  is she alive?"

And no one would respond.

Heather Lynch Photography

And then we heard it.  "Her heartbeat is....."  And through the sea of people,  I saw a teeny foot kick from across the room.

And instantly Jesse and Karen's voices were in my ears telling me she was alive.

And I don't really know how to explain the rest.  She was gone.  And then she was back.  And it had been nothing short of terrifying.

And we wouldn't find out until the next day or so that she in fact had not been breathing, scored only 4 on her APGAR, and had to be given oxygen.  We will never know what exactly happened or why she had such a hard time when she first came out, but I have to say that it's enough to make me never want to ever experience any of it again.  The physical trauma was temporal and didn't matter.  But the emotional trauma of seeing the lifeless form of one of my daughters?  She was gone.  She came back.  But she was gone.  And I feel like it's going to take me a very long time to heal from that.  Karen and I still talk about it frequently and she told me after the fact that she believed the exact same thing and was begging God and praying into my ear to please give us Rosie back, and believes that's exactly what happened.

Heather Lynch Photography

Heather Lynch Photography

Heather Lynch Photography

Heather Lynch Photography

Heather Lynch Photography

Heather Lynch Photography

Heather Lynch Photography

Eventually Jesse went to the nursery with her in order for the docs to finish what they needed to do, and a while later we were able to get a few moments alone.  And much like the rest of this story, I remember sitting and trying to let it all sink in but it just didn't.  Every moment felt surreal.  Felt as though I was watching it all happen to someone else.

And so as the hours went by during the day and the nights, I tried to begin to un-do the prior 7 months of distancing myself from this child and began to try to open my heart to her in whatever way I could.  It wasn't perfect and it still isn't, but I knew that enough was enough and it was time to try to figure out how to connect.  And for the first time ever, I began to talk to her.

And there was something very freeing about that.

For a few months we had kicked around several possible names, but somewhere along the way we'd taken to the nickname "Rosie" but had never really landed on what full name that would be short for.  After a great deal of back and forth we decided she was definitely a Roselynn Mae- and seeing her full name on the birth certificate paperwork was pretty unbelievable.  With Isobel, it took about a year for that to finally happen- and we were starting to realize that this baby was coming home with us and that would be it- there were no ifs about anyone ever coming to take her away.

This was just all so new.

After spending that night and the next day there, we were more than ready to get home and I was so anxious to finally see Isobel.  We were expecting to be discharged late on Tuesday but as shift change came around, it became clear that the day time staff didn't have the time to get us out, so we were stuck waiting a while longer.  Finally at 10 pm, all the bags were out in the car, we had the carseat ready, and we were just waiting for confirmation that her Bili count was good and we were going to be on our way.  To make a very long story short, her bili numbers were perfect but the lab had suddenly contacted our nurse or the doc on call or somebody (I don't even know and don't remember because I was pretty much brainless at that point) and we were told that our discharge had to be completely halted.  We didn't really understand what was going on and unfortunately, no doctor even came to tell us or to answer our questions.  All we knew is that we had to stay, Rosie didn't seem to be in any immediate danger, and the doctor would be in touch with us the next morning.

After another complete meltdown on my part (oops) and another sleepless night (me and hospitals don't really get along), I was anxious to find out what in the world was going on with Roselynn and get the heck out of that place.  Finally, the pediatrician came in and explained to us that it was possible that Rosie had some type of infection and they could not let her go until they performed another culture to know for sure.  This would take 24-48 hours- and he told us that we would be leaving the hospital without her as a result.

There is nothing that anyone could have said at that point to bring me back.  It was now Tuesday and I'd gone without any sleep since the 3 hours I'd gotten on Friday night, I hadn't seen one daughter in over 3 days, and was now being told that I was going to have to go home and leave my new baby at the hospital for an undetermined amount of time because she could potentially have a life-threatening infection.  To compound the situation, my discharge orders had been thrown out so that we could stay the second night, and I now had to wait an unknown amount of time to be re-discharged so that Jesse could take me home to try to get a little sleep.  After Rosie was settled in the NICU and something like 2 or 3 pm had rolled around, I told Jesse that I was just going to leave.  I didn't care what it meant, I was taking off my armband, getting the heck off of that floor, and going back downstairs to sit with my baby.

I'd pretty much reached full breakdown/delirium mode and was operating on I don't even know what.  Thankfully, just as I zipped my last bag, the nurse came in with my discharge papers and we made our way back to the NICU to be with Rosie.  At that point I became extremely emotional and Jesse decided it was best that I go home for a little while and promised that we would come back that evening.  And as I was wheeled out the doors, I shuffled to the front seat past the two other women sitting in their wheelchairs holding their babies in the carriers on their laps- I settled into the car and the dam completely burst.

I was thinking about my baby still inside and I was thinking about the thousands of women every year who leave the hospital without their babies, and are forced to go home to face an empty nursery and a lifetime of grief.  I knew that at least that wasn't what I was facing and that by all accounts given, Roselynn was doing beautifully, but it didn't matter.  I wept.  I wept for the moment that my daughter was born and refused to breathe, I wept from the guilt that she came back and was alive, I wept for the 7 months I'd failed to connect to her, I wept for the fact that I was abandoning her in this place, and I wept for the women who would leave this place empty-handed only to go home and plan their baby's funeral.

It was a lot.

Nearly 3 weeks later and I think that I'm still processing a lot of it.

And I don't remember much of the rest of that day but was taken home and cared for by my husband and a close friend as I alternately wept and slept for the next 15 hours.

The next morning as we were sitting with Rosie in the NICU, we ran into her doctor who told us that the preliminary tests looked great, the original test had in fact been a false positive, and we would be able to take her home after one more night.

And so after what seemed like an eternity (what IS it about a hospital stay that makes you feel like you've been in an alternate universe instead of a few miles from home ?!), we brought our Rosie home to meet our Izzie and had our first moments together- our new little family.

And in the last 3 weeks I've learned and been reminded of a lot.

My husband and I?  We are a great team.  We always have been but our nightly ability to switch between a zone and man-to man defense depending on the immediate baby need has just confirmed that.  And I love him and have so much respect for him as a husband and as a father.   I'm reminded of how integral our friends and family are to all of this- plain and simple, we need them, lean on them, and would not be where we are without them. I've learned that moments of silence are to be treasured and that a 4 inch piece of felt that resembles a baby wipe can keep my toddler entertained for literally hours.  I've also learned that baby-wearing is going to be key to surviving this next chapter and sometimes that means Rosie will accompany me to the bathroom.  But if it's between that or wetting my pants, it's probably okay.  I've learned that one day my toddler may have a future in acting, judging by the musicals she has been putting on for herself in the middle of the night.   I've also learned that I can do more than I thought I could and that I can carry two babies up the stairs at the same time- as long as Juno is nowhere around and I take my time.  And tonight I learned that my toddler is perfectly happy to be served black beans, broccoli, and cheerios as a main course for dinner.    And on days like this one, there are a few dishes in the sink and a load of laundry in the dryer that I will likely not get to before I die in a pile when Jess gets home.  But that's okay because there were other more important things that needed my attention.  Namely.  My husband and my children.

I've had older and wiser moms with kiddos this close together tell me that I likely won't remember much of the next year.  And that there will be long days and there will be hard days.  But that it will all be worth it and that more than likely, my girls will end up as besties.

I don't know how to cap this other than this. I don't know why God has chosen to give us so much.  I don't know why He has entrusted us with two beautiful daughters.  And I don't know why our other babies had to be born into heaven before He gave them to us.  I feel like I have no idea how to parent, much less how to parent one adopted child and one biological child in such a way that both feel equally loved and wanted.  Daily, I fear that I will fail them both in that.  And.  I don't know what will happen next and I've given up trying to guess.  But I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is faithful.  Always.  I'm so tired that even my tired is tired.  But my heart.  Has never been so grateful.