Sadness and Hope

18 Aug

Up until the day I found out I was pregnant, I was a party girl. While I never said that I didn’t want kids, I didn’t know specifically when children would fit into my life’s plan. I knew that, one day, I would marry and have children and I hoped that when that day came, we would be a happy family. In 2006, I became pregnant with my daughter and three months after she was born, I became pregnant with my son, who was born four days before his big sister’s first birthday. This was some kind of cosmic joke, right? The party girl has two kids within the time span of one year; sounds funny to me.

Turns out, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. My children are my heart and their father, my husband, has made me into a much better person than I was when we met. Our becoming a family introduced me to my husband’s family, which is where this story begins.

My husband, Daniel has a good sized family; his mother is one of six and his father is one of five so, there are a lot of cousins. Out of all the cousins, and their spouses, I consider myself closest to Rachel, the wife of Daniel’s cousin Joshua. Joshua is a redhead and Rachel a strawberry blonde and their relationship comes with all the flashes of temper and fires of passion that you would expect of two redheads. When Joshua and Rachel found out they were expecting, it was as if you stuck a great bellows under their love for each other. As Rachel progressed in her pregnancy and started to show, you saw more fire and less flash out of each of them; it was beautiful.

Since Rachel and I had become friends, and I had two little children to take care of, she would come to me from time to time with various concerns. Anyone that knew my past would see the irony in this; but I welcomed each question and answered it to the best of my knowledge but always told Rachel to rely on her instincts.

Since Daniel’s family is so big, and all of his cousins had reached the age where they were getting married and having children, there were always babies around. For someone that had never held a baby before having one of her own, it was intimidating at first; but it also served as a crash course in raising a baby. For a while, the babies were being born at about a 6-month interval. It started with Ava and Ava was followed 7 months later by my daughter, Taylor. Six months after Taylor was born, we welcomed Jaxson and six months after Jaxson we met my son, Daniel Jr. Rachel and I were pregnant together for a time since Hailee was expected six months after my son, in November of 2008.

Five months after my son was born, Daniel’s family was hit with tragedy when Daniel’s grandmother, Eunice, lost her battle to cancer. To say that she was the matriarch of the family would have been a gross understatement. Eunice was a mother, sister, grandmother, great grandmother, teacher, friend, confidant and so much more all in one person. It was a heavy blow to the family, she was deeply loved by everyone that met her and her absence is something that is still felt today. It was especially difficult for Joshua and Rachel since she had raised Joshua and she was a mother and more to both of them. But through the storm of losing Eunice, there was the ray of hope we saw in Rachel. She continued to get bigger and bigger, much to her dismay; but it was worth it. At the time of Eunice’s funeral, Rachel and Joshua had only one more month to wait before they met their little princess, Hailee.

Joshua worked during the day so they were concerned about how Rachel would get to the hospital if she were to go into labor while he was at work. They knew that the image of rushing to the hospital as soon as labor began was something that movies perpetuated and that when labor began there was plenty of time; but Rachel was home alone during the day, Joshua’s job didn’t exactly permit just dropping everything he was doing at a moment’s notice, and her family lives in Florida, so it was a concern. Rachel and I worked out that, if she needed to go to the hospital while Joshua was working that I would drop my kids off with Daniel’s mother and pick her up.

On Monday, November 10th, 2008 Rachel called me to say she thought she needed to go to the hospital. Immediately after getting off the phone with her, I called Daniel’s mom to let her know I was bringing the kids over. I packed a bag for the kids and grabbed a book for myself and headed out the door. Once I got Rachel in the car and we were on the way, the excitement really set in. My friendship with Rachel had made me very excited, it was the first time I would be nearby for a friend when she gave birth and I was excited to be there, even if not in the room, since I had recently had the experience myself… twice! Luckily, Joshua was not very busy at work so he arrived at the hospital just before us. Joshua is definitely not one to wear his heart on his sleeve but you could tell that he was raring to go; he was a very good “uncle” to all of the babies and he was ready to have his own little one to pass around.

The office for Rachel’s OB was in an office building that was connected to the hospital so, before being admitted to the hospital, her doctor wanted her to come to their office for a quick check to make sure it really was “time”. A short elevator ride and an even shorter wait in the waiting room and they were calling us back to visit with Rachel before admitting her to the hospital. After a few questions, they determined that it was OK for everyone to go home until labor had progressed a little further. We were all just about to exit through the waiting room when they decided to do a quick fetal heart monitor and ultrasound to check on Hailee. I sat down in the waiting room and cracked open my book to keep me busy. It was hard to pay attention to what I was reading since there were some people in the waiting room with their new babies and I couldn’t help but admire the perfection present in a new born baby. After a few minutes, Joshua opened the door to the waiting room to call me back. I thought it a little odd but I figured they wanted me to take a look before we all headed home.

When I entered the room with the equipment, Rachel was laying on the exam table openly weeping. For a brief moment, I was confused. If Rachel was in such pain then why were they sending her home? And then I looked at Joshua, who was sobbing quietly.

Have you ever heard someone say that “all the sound was sucked out of the room”? As realization washed over me, that is exactly what happened. I looked at the dark monitor and could physically feel the sheer grief that had washed over the recently ecstatic couple and I knew.

I looked to Joshua and he told me to “go to her”. Surprisingly, my eyes stayed dry as I went to Rachel and took her in my arms. Another wave of grief washed over her at my touch but I didn’t let go.

“I want my mommy”

It’s amazing how, no matter what we women go through, when times get tough, we’re the little girl in braids again, crying for our mommy.

I went to Rachel’s purse and found her phone. I dialed her mother, Beth and the phone began ringing. Rachel had already spoken to Beth earlier so she picked up immediately. “Hello!” I cleared my throat and began to speak, “Beth hey, this is…”

Rachel thrust out her hand, “I want to talk to her”. So I handed her the phone.

“Mom? Hailee’s dead”

The words I didn’t want to think had been said. Joshua crumbled to the floor as Rachel tried to speak through the ocean of sadness that had surrounded her. I decided to leave them for a minute to call Daniel. I told him the bad news and asked him to let everyone know and told him I loved him before we got off the phone.

And then I called my mommy. And that is when I cried. I don’t remember what was said between my mom and me but I know she told me to “be there for her”.

Once I got off the phone with my mom, I went to rejoin Joshua and Rachel. They say that there are five stages of grief. Denial had come and gone; it being tough to deny what stared you in the face from an ultrasound with no movement. Anger had found Joshua and he wanted to find a doctor; he wanted someone to blame and he wanted them now. Luckily, he and I crossed paths; the only thing I could think to do was hold him so, that’s what I did. Like Rachel, grief washed over Joshua once again as I held him. He sank to the floor while I held him and I just went with him. Nothing I could have said would have done anything so, I did what worked for my babies; I swayed and I shushed. From there, we went back to Rachel quickly. A nurse was going into the room to explain things to Joshua and Rachel. I went for the waiting room but Joshua asked me to go back in with him. As the nurse spoke, a sort of realization struck Rachel.

“Do I still have to have her?”

“Yes, honey.”

But who could blame her? Who would want to go through the pain of labor knowing that the joyous sound of a baby’s cry, the culmination of 40 weeks of pregnancy, would not come to pass? But, she was quick to understand that the pain of a C-section would last longer than the pain of giving birth and everything would be done to insure that she was “comfortable”.

Now, as I left the office with them to head over to the hospital, I knew that the babies I had been looking at in awe would feel like salt on a wound to Rachel and Joshua. As we filed out, they kept their heads down. Once on the ground floor we walked the short distance to the hospital where they had already been informed of the situation at hand. A room was waiting for them and, on the door, the hospital staff had affixed a card that, even though it depicted a beautiful dark purple flower against a dark purple background, evoked the state of affairs present behind the door it was attached to.

As Joshua and Rachel got settled, the visitors began to arrive. The first was their minister and beyond that, it was all a blur until Rachel’s mother arrived. Although she had been crying freely off and on, once her mother held her, I think Rachel was finally able to really let go.

I will not begin to presume what Rachel and Joshua felt that day. When Hailee finally arrived as still and silent and perfect as a fresh fallen snow, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room. The hospital staff had finally allowed us all to come back to the room to be together; I think there were close to thirty of us there. We were each given a chance to hold little Hailee; when my turn came, as I looked at Hailee and how perfect she truly was, I could think only of my children and what I would have done had I been in Rachel’s shoes. It was an especially sobering moment for Jason and his wife Kristen who were expecting their own little girl. The minister was in the room and he asked for friends and family to bow their heads in a prayer for Hailee. We all closed our eyes and I was struck by the fact that Hailee would never open hers. I think that moment was when reality hit me and I sobbed silently as I listened to the minister’s beautiful words for Hailee.

Over the next year, I tried to be there for Rachel as much as I could. Joshua and Rachel faced their grief in different ways so; there were times that they fought. But, through it all, they remained in love. As November 10th, 2009 approached, I knew it would be a tough time for both of them to approach to approach the date empty handed. For Hailee’s first birthday, pink balloons were released at her graveside.

That following Christmas, their second with no baby, was a tough one for Joshua and Rachel. It had been decided that the big family get together should be on Eunice’s birthday, December 20th. We all got together and brought secret Santa presents for each other and presents for all the little ones. Although they didn’t have a child to participate in the gift exchange, Rachel and Joshua did bring a surprise of their own.

They were expecting.

And just like that, hope entered our lives once again.

Since her first pregnancy had ended the way it did, this one, and all the ones after, would be considered a “high risk pregnancy”. After much blood work and testing, Rachel was informed that she had a protein-S deficiency which caused tiny blood clots to form. This did not affect her on a day-to-day basis, she had never had a problem; but, this type of deficiency was known to either cause blood clots to collect in the umbilical cord and deprive the fetus of nourishment or cause placental abruption, either of which could result in the loss of the baby, as we had all learned. The doctor said that it was an easy thing to treat; Daily injections of Lovenox (a blood thinner) would help to prevent the blood clots but, just to be sure, Rachel would be induced before her due date.

Over the course of the pregnancy, emotions flared between Joshua and Rachel. I think they wanted to hope and be excited but, they were scared of hope. Joshua helped Rachel with her injections and the whole family was there to support them both but, the loss they had experienced still pained them.

On August 13th, 2010 we all gathered at the hospital to be there for Rachel and Joshua once again. This time, we got to hear a baby cry.

Joshua and Rachel finally got to look into their baby’s eyes.

Cale was, and is, just as much a picture of perfection as his sister had been. He has red hair, just like his mommy and daddy and sister and is the spitting image of both of his parents. As I write this, Rachel and Joshua are preparing to celebrate Cale’s first birthday. Whenever I look at Cale, I am reminded that every storm has its rainbow; and Cale is a rainbow of hope, stretching far into the future.

As is custom, once the first child is safe and secure, the talks turn to the possibility of a second one. While Rachel wants to deliver a child naturally, she worries that her having had a C-section coupled with the fact that any and all of her pregnancies will be high risk makes her think that she may never be able to experience that rite of passage that only women can experience.

I have given birth twice. Both times, I elected to have pain medication. The first time, it didn’t take so I joke that I had a natural childbirth, even though I didn’t want to. The second time the pain medicine worked. Both times, I was rewarded with a perfect baby. Now, as I look back on both of my experiences and both of Rachel’s, I have begun to really consider the possibility of a truly natural childbirth experience. If women can handle the pain of losing a baby, then the pain of bringing a baby into the world is nothing.

Our bodies were made for this. We, as women, were created to bring life into this world and I think that it has become too much of a custom to run from the pain of childbirth. Yes, it hurt for me to give birth to my daughter. It hurt a lot. But she was worth it. I look on her now and I wear that hurt as a badge of honor. I think back on the pain and my memory of it is dulled by the beautiful girl standing before me.

Certain things in life were meant to be hard. If everything came easy we would never learn to appreciate what we have. As I think of Hailee and wonder what she would be like and as I look at Cale and am filled with hope for the future, I am reminded how truly precious life is and how much we all really need to treasure every moment. Even the ones that hurt.

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