Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Song #7 - If I Die Young

I woke up to this song this morning at 7:30. Its so beautiful. Its morbid but beautiful. "Sink me in the river at dawn...........I'll be wearing white when I come into your kingdom." These are my favorite lines. I think I've only heard this song one other time and it's not on any list but it's haunting me today. "the sharp knife of a short life. I've had just enough time."
The Dr. lifted Asher up and laid him on my chest. I just looked at him. I don't remember when I started crying but I also don't remember when I stopped. I just know I inspected every inch of him and held on so tight to his limp frame that at one point I though I was going to hurt him. I know that after a bit I handed him over to my dad. He had never looked as old as he looked at that moment. The gravity of the moment and the weight of years past made him look frail. The rock solid body I had always known became bent and haggard. The grey hairs were more noticeable. As he sobbed, over and over he cried "He's perfect, just perfect. Just perfect." I remember after I had Vera how he held her, cried and said the very same thing. He didn't look so old that day.
I think my mom held him next and then Marla. I remember feeling like I had disappointed them both to extreme levels even though everyone had told me over and over that this was not my fault. I kept thinking that I had one responsibility - to get this child safely into this world and I had failed.
After the young doc, with the guidance of an older teaching dr., stitched me up (I had a long 1st degree tear - which means my skin tore but not into any muscle) I took Asher back and just held him. I told him how I didn't write this chapter of his life and if I could change it I would. I told him I loved him and that he was beautiful. I told him over and over how sorry I was. I told anyone who would listen how sorry I was. We passed Asher around and took pictures. Marla asked if I wanted asher to have a bath - I did. She then asked my mom if she would wash Asher with her. Of course my mom said yes and I rang for a nurse. After what seemed like an eternity a nurse I'd never met before came in with a tub and a blue gift bag. My mom and Marla took asher and laid him in the water and began washing him. He was covered in meconium stained vernix and it was hard to was him. The vernix didn't want to wash off and they couldn't really scrub his skin because if they rubbed very hard his skin just rubbed right off. But it was just as well because I didn't want him to loose his newness smell.
Inside the gift bag was 2 sets of clothes for Asher provided by a United Methodist church in Hartford City. It was the most thoughtful gift. We had come to the hospital with only the clothes on our backs and did not bring the emergency bag with his stuff in it. Truth be told, I was so confident everything was going to be fine that I never bothered to pack an emergency bag.
We held him for hours, passing him around and loving on him. And then the hardest moment of my life happened. Harder than labor. Worse than finding out he was gone.
Song #7 - If I Die Young - The Band Perry

Monday, December 27, 2010


I'm not sure what it was about today, but there were "reminders" of Asher everywhere today. But they didn't make me sad. I am confused by this. I don't feel ready to not cry at every thought of my son. Grief connects me to him. So much of my memory of his short life is wrapped up in grief that if I unwrap it, I'm afraid I might loose what little I have left of Asher. I don't want to grieve less. I want to go on holding the sadness close like a favored childhood blanket. But slowly it is happening. Over Thanksgiving I sobbed through the days. Crying into the pumpkin pie.... wiping the tears away while I made the dinner rolls........ eating only because I didn't want to ruin the meal for others. But Christmas was different. It was hard to go shopping at first. Buying things for Vera and knowing I will never buy Christmas gifts for Asher. But then I started to enjoy myself. I smiled at the moms with babies that passed. And took joy in selecting just exactly the toys that I knew Vera would love the best. Joyously choosing items and knowing that only myself, her mother, would think to get this or that. And maybe I was a bit smug about it too.

During the days immediately leading up to Christmas my nerves were more raw than usual though. I know this because I managed to start several explosive fights with Nolan over dumb things. I was feeling more anxious than normal and felt attacked at every corner. Its a good thing Nolan has the patience of a rock.

Christmas Eve was good. I stopped to have a moment to myself to cry just before we began the evening festivities. That turned out to be a good move, mourning before the party, and not in the middle of it. I was pretty sleepy all evening, but I think God allowed that so I couldn't get too worked up. And looking back, I can tell that many people were praying for me because I was just very laid back. I also took every opportunity to smooch my husband or be close to him because his presents keeps me knowing that we are going to be ok. And (incase you wanted to know) kissing helps your body release oxytocin (the love hormone), which makes you feel happierish.

I slept in on Christmas and when I woke up we began opening gifts. I don't remember thinking about Asher while we opened everything. I only remember enjoying Vera's and Nolan's reactions to the gifts. And I remember how thankful I felt as Nolan read the Christmas Story to Vera and I from the Bible. It helped to much to focus on what God gave us instead of the son he took away. In the evening we went over to my folks house and I even sat and laughed while playing Apples to Apples (a card game) with my mom and siblings. Only a  month apart, Thanksgiving and Christmas... but oh the difference a day makes.

I frequently still shake my head in disbelief. Not understanding fully that I have two children and one of them is in heaven. Not understanding why. I don't know why God wanted Asher back up in heaven with him. And I'll probably never get an answer other than that God only does those things, that when completed, will bring Him glory. And so, I hope that through all of this I will act in a way that will ring out God's glory. That in the end people will not say "Why? How could a good God do this?", but "Wow. God is good even when he allows bad things to happen."
Christ is more real to me than ever. In the moments when I feel my head slipping under the water he sends someone to pull me back up again. In the times when I'm on the verge of letting go God reaches down and ties a rope around my waist. And when I'm sad the Holy Spirit renews my spirit with joy and gladness. When I'm angry God wraps his arms around me while i pound my fists and cry out that 'its not fair!' And when I'm happy Christ rejoices with me and reminds me that there is much to laugh about.

Even though I still shake my head I know I am healing. I'm not comfortable with less grief yet. I want to hold onto it. But slowly, joy about Asher is replacing the sorrow. Tears of gladness that he will never know the evil of this world sometimes find their way to the top and spill over. And I guess this is all ok.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Song #6 - Hallelujah

Sitting in my birthing tub riding each surge of energy. Feeling God's pleasure as I allowed my body to do what He created it for. Letting my body work. Taking myself deeper into my soul. Closing my mind to the rest of the world and bringing my son into my arms. Laughing as I caught him emerging from my body and into the water. Lifting him from the water and up to my breast. Crying with joy as I rejoiced that I had brought my son safely out. Hearing his first cries. Breathing in his fresh smell. Looking into the teary eyes of my overwhelmed husband and presenting him with a son. Breathing a sigh of contentment and relief.
This is what I pictured those last moments to be like. Blissful. Full of life and the hope of all that potential. Disappointed does not even begin to describe how I felt when those last moments came and how I still feel every morning when I open my eyes and every night when I lay my head back down.
Back in the shower at the hospital I felt myself go through transition. It was painful, but by that time I had surrendered to the pain. I think it took about 30 mins or so. I began to shiver and tried to position my body so that more of the warm water would hit my back. I felt nauseous and a little light headed. I could really feel my body opening up and the more I surrendered the more intense the pain became and the more my body readied itself for Asher's passing. I could feel Asher's head right on my cervix and my body was beginning to push by itself. The pushing felt good. At this point I was so exhausted that I could barely sit on my chair. About an hour before I asked the nurse to run some fluids in my IV incase I decided that I wanted an epidural. She did and just before the end of transition I asked for the epidural. (Now I wish I hadn't, but at the time it was the right choice.) The nurse checked me before they administered the epidural and I was 8.5cm (Normally they do not give epidurals past 7cm, but no one argued with me.) The nurse helped me to the bed and the anesthesiologist came in right away. I had 2 or 3 more contractions while he was pouring meds into my spine. These were by far the most painful contractions I had. I guess because people were in my face and touching me I couldn't concentrate on letting go of the pain. And then my nurse checked me again and said I was almost 10cm. And I told her that my body was pushing weather I liked it or not. She went to get the Dr. and said to try not to push. But I didn't have any choice. It didn't matter anyway because Doc showed up within about 2mins. Like I said before my Dr. was a resident so the head Dr. came in too. He began instructing the resident on what to do. Everything had just gone numb, so I was only numb for pushing, but I needed that relief. My mom and Marla held my legs for me. Dad started to walk out, but I could tell he wanted to be there for everything. I told him he could stay. He took a few pictures of me giving birth, but mostly just stood by my head and cried. Plus I didn't feel like it was my body anymore. It only took about 10mins of pushing to get Asher out. The nurse asked if it was ok if they placed him on my chest and I told her yes. The Dr. lifted him out of me and onto my chest. I wrapped him with the towel and held his lifeless body and cried. Eventually I looked up at the Dr and asked if he could tell what had happened. He then lifted the cord so I could see it and said there was a true knot in the cord. It then occurred to me what happened. When he was still small enough to swim around in my uterus, he swam through a loop. Then when my water broke he moved down into the birth canal and pulled the knot tight. That was the end.
I chose Hallelujah for this post for 2 reasons. 1 the melody is haunting yet soothing and makes me feel very fluid. I would have liked to listen to this while in transition. And 2 I feel it is a song about broken dreams. About how good things could have been, but how it didn't turn out the way anyone wanted. It is a song about despair. Also, I love it.
Song #6 Hallelujah - Alison Crowe

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Money! Money! Money!

Even while I was in labor I was very concerned about the money. Nolan and I had budgeted for a home birth. Which, after the supplements I bought to help keep us both super healthy, the birthing tub we rented, our birthing kit, the prenatal care and the actual delivery round out to about $2,000. That is with out any insurance helping.

We did not however budget for a hospital birth. Thank goodness we have insurance. I just got the insurance statement in the mail and this is what it says. Total costs from Ball Memorial Hospital: $12,799.14. After insurance: $1,719.26. Now you have to keep in mind that this is without any prenatal care, any supplements, and this is only charges to me. If Asher had lived there would be approx. another 10,000 for him - minus whatever the insurance would cover.

And on top of worrying about hospital charges, I knew we were facing funeral costs. Which we had no insurance for. This is where I get to tell about God's provision and blessing in the midst of it all. When you have a funeral, you pay for the services of the funeral home and for the services/land for the cemetery. The total funeral home services (taking care of Asher, the casket, the guest sign-in book, transportation of Asher and flowers to the chruch, set-up at the church, transportation of Asher, Nolan, Vera, and I to the cemetery and then Nolan, Vera, and I to the dinner afterward.) were around $3,500 - ALL of which (except for the casket and the sign-in book) were taken care of. The funeral home donated the services. Then my mom and dad paid for the casket and sign-in book. We would never have had the money for any of this. We'd needed to be on a payment plan; for years.
then the costs for the cemetery (the plot, the vault, and the digging) were also all free. I don't even know how much it would have cost (either because no one said or because I don't remember that part of the conversation and didn't pay attention to the paperwork). I only know that the vault was supposed to be over $600, but something happened and they gave it to us for free. Asher was buried in Gardens of Memory cemetery in a place called "Baby Land". I think it is perhaps the most heartbreaking place I've ever been to. It is a space on the grounds of Gardens of Memory where only infants are buried.
The only thing that was left to discuss after the services, and burial, was the headstone. Nolan picked out the most beautiful one. It has a picture of an angle guiding some children across a bridge. You get the sense that the angle is also protecting them on their journey. It also has a place for a vase to be set so that I can take flower out there. The cost for this was $1,932.00. Our options were to pay for it monthly ($50 per month for 3 years) and then, when it was fully paid for, they would make it and put it over Asher's grave.  But we really did not want to have to wait 3 years for our child to have a real grave marker. So my wonderful grandma sent us the money to pay for it. It is important to Nolan and I to pay for this part ourselves. So we will be paying my grandma back over time. She told us not to worry about it...... but we need to do this, for us......for Asher.

I can't believe how God provided for those needs. If we would have needed to pay for all of this out of our pockets it would have been upwards of $21,000.00. God truly owns the cattle on a thousand hills.

P.S. I forgot to mention all the people who sent/gave us money. It made it so we could eat out, or order in and I didn't have to cook. It also helped with our regular bills since Nolan had to miss work. I am just amazed at God's provision for us.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


According to 5% of the 1% of babies with a true knot in their cord die.

Also according to there are about 133,000,000 babies born world wide each year.

If this is true, then 66,500 babies die each year by miscarriage or stillbirth due to a true knot in their cord.

That is .05% or 1 in 2000.

In your lifetime, your average chance of dying in a car crash is 1 in 83.


Monday, December 13, 2010


I have 1 and a half bottles of wine and some super cheap vodka in the cabinet. I haven't had any yet, and if I start, I fear I may not stop. 30 days ago I gave birth to my son. 30 days ago, at about 8:30 in the morning I handed my son over to the Man. The mortuary Man. He put him in what looked like a black duffel bag and I went to sleep.

Today, my plans were to go buy a party dress and some red heels I like very much. But I don't care about red heels today. I don't care about parties. I don't care about eating. I don't care about Christmas. I don't care about anything or anyone today. I feel like I can't breath. Or like I'm trying to breath in water. I inhale, but it does no good. My head still spins, my arms feel heavy and I know I'll soon die. I'm probably starting to scare some of you. Some of you are ready so jump on horseback and whip out your swords to save me. Thank you. I promise everyday isn't like this. Although as reality sets in, these feelings become stronger and  more frequent. I suppose this is normal too. I guess I have to travel the valley if I want to climb the mountain.

Yesterday I felt nothing. I was on even keel all day. No sadness, anger or fear. But no happy either. I don't know what's worse. How long does it take to accept and recover from loosing a child? How long until my heart isn't broken anymore? How long before I can go buy those red shoes without feeling guilty for feeling happy? How long before I want to cook fabulous food again? How long before I want to do anything other than lay in bed in the fetal position? How long.....?????

The other day I was thinking about what sort of things I want to do to celebrate Asher's life at the one year mark. Mrs. Barnard, would you mind terribly if we borrowed your sparklers idea? I like the thought of lighting sparklers. I also like the thought of drinking wine and releasing Chinese lanterns (the kind that are sort of like tiny hot-air balloons.) And maybe we'll bring a portable CD player and play some Aerosmith. And maybe, by then, I'll have started to feel happy with out feeling guilty. Maybe by then, we'll have decided to have more babies. Maybe by then I'll have surrendered my fears as well as all the hopes and dreams I had for Asher. Maybe by then I won't have to convince myself every morning that I really was pregnant and I really did have a baby boy and we really did name him Asher Benjamin Ritchie and he really did die. Really.

And now I'm going to go get that bottle of wine and learn some self control and have just one glass. Temperance in the Midst of Tragedy. That's what I'll call my book.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Monday will be 1 month.

I'm sitting here crying. Its been an exhausting day and I feel really overwhelmed. Vera has been sick and I fought with Nolan all day. Piddly stuff. Little things that take over and make mountains out of themselves. And I just want my baby back in my arms. Right now I never want to have another child. Ever again. I want to go out to the cemetery and lay down next to where he is with his album and the lock of his hair I have and cry. I want to just lay there forever and cry. I sound like an insane person. I just sit and stare at the  piles of Asher's clothes in my room. I smell the last clothes he had on. I touch his hair. I stare and stare and stare at his face. His slackened bluish face. I try to understand what went wrong. Over and over I play the "What if ....." game. What if I'd lay still more. What if I'd jumped up and down more. What if I'd just chosen to do things like everyone else and scheduled a C-section. I could have saved him. If I hadn't been so stubborn. Why was everyone but me so terrified those last 3 weeks, but I had no clue. Where was my mother's intuition? How can a knot in the cord kill some babies but not most? Why did it have to be mine?? I never opened his eyes to find out what color his eyes were. Every mom should know what color her child's eyes are. I just want to hold him again. I wish I could go back and hold him more. I wish I'd have told that Dr. not to give me the cervidil so my labor would have lasted longer. Just a few more minutes with my son. MY SON. my son. Right now the part of my brain that makes sense says that this is not my fault and that no one blames me. But the unreasonable part of me that aches and craves to have a baby boy in my arms says that this is most certainly my fault. And that everyone secretly blames me. They all thought you were crazy to start with...... what else could possibly have happened??? Of course you signed your child's death warrant. NO! No! This is not your fault. This was a random act of nature. Something that cannot be predicted or prevented or helped in any way. My brains are arguing. All day they argue.

The other day I lay in bed holding Vera's baby doll to my chest and talking to it. I'm surely going crazy. I'm really great at hiding it, you'd never know from the outside. I don't let people see me act crazy. I don't want people to know I'm loosing my mind.

Monday will be 1 month. 11 more months and it will be the anniversary of his death.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Song #5 Down in the River to Pray

About 10 minutes later my nurse came back in with the morphine. Nolan was sitting by my side and we were talking. Anne went around to my left side where the IV was and started unpackaging the pain killer. I remember my mom was sitting a a chair to my left and my dad was standing across the room in front of me. Next to him was my pastor. Then it seems like Jim and marla were across the room on my right. I asked the nurse what this was going to do to me and she said that it would make me feel kinda drunk. (Now I've honestly never been drunk so I still don't really know what to expect) I say, ok, and I turn my head over to Nolan and we keep talking. I suddenly feel a cold sensation travel up my arm, around my brain, and then back down my right arm. I remember telling Nolan that I felt something funny. And then I remember people laughing at me and being concerned that I was going to make a fool of myself in front of my pastor. I also remember looking at my mom and seeing her so sad, but feeling a sort of hazy happiness, and wishing she could feel it too. Mom told me later that I kept telling her that she needed to get some of this and that if she asked nicely the nurse would hook her up. I also remember my dad laughing at me and saying how 6mms of morphine was nothing. (I also remember wondering how he knew what 6mms of morphine felt like in comparison to more than that. But I think that might be a story for another day.) I guess I was pretty funny considering the circumstances. I don't remember a ton about those minutes, but I do remember that medicine didn't do a darn thing for those contractions. I got up a few more times as the contractions began to get stronger and longer. After about 3 or 4 I was lucid again and it was as if I'd never had the morphine. Marla or my mom would follow me into the bathroom and stand there with me or rub my back. Anne (my amazing nurse - this is not sarcasm, she really was amazing) asked if I wanted a body ball and I told her that would be nice. But I only got to use it for like 20 seconds total, because at this point the contractions were coming at about 30 seconds apart. But don't get any ideas that this was close to being over, because it was a good 4 hours before Asher was born.
I stood for what seemed like hours in that bathroom. The counter was just high enough for me to grip the far edge of the sink and snarl into the basin. I started out on the balls of my feet for every contraction. In the beginning I never came down off the balls of my feet. All I would do is grip the sink, grit my teeth, stand with my feet apart, and growl. It was the angry growl of a wounded mother wolf trying to protect her cub, but knowing she is powerless. So full of sorrow and anger and fear. I suppose that sounds corny, but it's true. As time wore on and I began to get tired I started hearing Lori's (my birthing class instructor) voice in my head; keep your feet flat..... keep your voice in low tones......keep your bottom loose........ say "OOPEENN"........ride a wave in your mind with each contraction. So I started by putting my feet flat on the ground and moaning instead of growling. It became the guttural moans that come from a power deep down inside that no woman knows she has until she goes through labor. This moan was not like anything you can stop from coming out. It has to come out. This moan reverberated in the sink of that bathroom and off the walls. It vibrated my whole body from the inside out. It gave a release to my pain. If I were to stop that sound..........well, I don't know, because I could no sooner do that then keep the sun from rising. With each contraction the moan would start soft, and as my uterus tightened the decibels would rise to what seemed like thunder in my ears. As the contraction eased off so did the roar of my voice. It felt good. It also felt like I was dying.
(This is a totally random side point which I never want to forget, so I'm putting it in here now) As I was growing up, my dad used to make comments about how I needed to be tough as an Indian squaw. He used to say that they just went off by themselves and squatted in the woods or a field to give birth (this is actually true for some tribes, I have a book about it). At some point he came in and said one of the most encouraging things to me. He said "You sound like a squaw." Now I know this sounds like a ridiculous thing to tell a laboring woman.... but it was honestly a compliment of the highest order. Later he came in and said "Come on! Tough it out!" Again, unless you know my dad, you'd never know this was him cheering me on. Letting me know he'd do anything in the world to take this pain away from me. Telling me he loved me and that he knew I was a strong woman. That he was proud of me.
At some point the nurse came in and asked if I'd like the dr. to check me (that is check my cervix for dilation), to see if there was any progress. I asked if she could just do the checking, and she said yes she could. I squatted a bit and she reached up inside me and said I was 3-4cm. I got really disappointed at this point. I felt like I'd been in that bathroom for hours. At this point I decided to get into the shower. This is when the real magic began to happen. If I'd have been smart, I'd have gotten into the shower right off the bat. That is where I'm the most relaxed, in the water. They would have let me in the birthing tub..... but the Cervidil was still in my vagina. So the shower it was. The contractions became stronger, harder, like someone was going to pull my body apart right down the middle. But there was Lori's voice again in my head..... keep your butt loose....... low tones......... keep your jaw muscles loose..... say "OOPPEEENNN".......... ride that wave! it took every ounce of control in my body to relax the muscles of my butt and cervix and vagina. It was like pain from hell itself when I would begin to relax, but after the muscles were unclenched the pain became tolerable; and so I learned a pattern.
A contraction would start, I would stand up (Anne had gotten me a chair to sit on while in the shower), I would consciously plant my feet firmly on the floor, grab the railing and clench my hands with all my might while at the same time moaning "open", unclenching my bottom and envisioning myself riding a gigantic wave. As the wave would fold itself into a giant curl, the contraction would be at its peak; as it crashed to the shore the contraction would come to an end. Then I would sit down again. Exhausted, I'd sleep for the 30 seconds or so until the next one came on.
This song reminds me of my time spent in the shower. The fellowship I felt with God. The kinship I felt with every mother giving birth who had come before me. The closeness and support from my family. And the prayers for me that were said that night. I choose this song back in May.
Song #5 is Down in the Rive to Pray by Alison Krauss

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

No one else.

‎..No one else will ever know the strength of my love for you..After all, you're the only one who knows what my heart sounds like from the inside♥

-to Vera and Asher. 

This was written by a friend of mine. I stole it. Thank you Brigid. 

Monday, December 6, 2010


I'm angry and I feel hateful. I feel like my insides are gonna fly apart. No one has caused this. And I don't know where to direct my anger. I thought about going for a drive, but I'm afraid I might not have the best driving skills right now. I want to throw my dishes and smash the christmas tree. I wish I had a baseball bat and a metal trash can to bash. This isn't fair. I'm so angry I'm shaking and crying. I want to punch someone. I want to shake them. It feels like there is a ball of fire in my stomach. Its pure boiling rage. Don't tell me we can try again. Don't talk to me about God's goodness. Don't say it will all be fine. I don't want to hear about how time heals wounds. How dare you talk about how you can imagine. Don't expect me to put my clothes on or get out of bed or be nice or smile ever again. THIS IS NOT FAIR!!!!!!! I LOVE HIM!!! I ATE ALL THE RIGHT THINGS. I EXERCISED. I HAD ALL HIS CLOTHES WASHED!! THEY'RE ALL STILL IN MY ROOM. I'M DONE BEING BRAVE AND GOOD AND FINE AND OK. I'M DONE. I MIGHT CUSS. I might go sit in my car and scream at the top of my lungs. GO SIT ON SOMEONE ELSES PORCH, SATAN. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

No Song Today

I used to look forward to grocery day. The hunt. Chatting with perfect strangers over how awful it is that the price of milk has gone up....AGAIN! Watching the old people gaze at my daughter. Getting a great deal on the items I need for the week.
   But now I dread it. I slink through the isles hoping no one speaks to me, longing only to get in, get what I need and get out. Desperately hoping I don't see anyone I know, or worse yet, someone I know who hasn't heard that I was ever pregnant or that my son is dead. Or worse still, someone who hasn't heard, but knew I was pregnant. Even strangers are a risk now. Today at Meijer this scene played out:
  Cashier: Oh my word, your little girl is a doll!
  Me: (Smiling) Thank you.
  Cashier: (to Vera) How old are you?
  Me: She's really shy sometimes; she'll be 3 in January.
  Cashier: Is she your only one??
  Me: (Head spinning, stuttering, trying to hold it together so I don't cause a scene) Uhh, Uh.. yes.
  Cashier: (Finished ringing me up) Have a nice day ma'am.

Why did I say that? NO! NO! She's not my only one! My son... he's 3 weeks old today. No, wait, I mean, he would be 3 weeks old today. It's just..... you see..... well what happened is.... actually.... My head swims with ways to tell her the truth. By now we were almost back to the car. I actually thought about going back in, finding that cashier, and telling her about Asher. How much I wanted him, still want him. How much I love him. How my arms physically ache for wanting to hold him. Like some how, if I tell enough people that I want him, God will send him back to me.

So I put the food into the car, and load up Vera. On the way out of the parking lot I begin to cry, just a trickle because I don't want Vera to know I'm crying. It makes her sad when mommy is sad. But the more I think about it all, the more I cry, which by the time I make it halfway to our next grocery stop has become a full on sob. I can't hardly see to drive and Vera is now crying. She says, "Mommy sad? Mommy miss baby?" I tell her yes and she says "I need my daddy." I think, yeah, I need your daddy too. And so, even though I still have 3 more stops to make, we go home. And I walk in and Nolan wants to know what's wrong. And I just stand and sob into his chest. I tell him about the cashier and how I feel as if I betrayed my son. I feel as if I abandoned him. Why did I tell her I only have one child? Why did I lie? Was I protecting her? I don't know.

And then of course there are all the Christmas songs. Have you ever thought about how many times the word baby is used in christmas songs? Neither had I until this year. As I was sobbing, I was also crying out to God; Asking how did he expect me to rejoice? How was I supposed to do that? How can He expect me to go on rejoicing when there is Christmas music playing, and old people, and cashiers, and parents who are mean to their children, and snow that I will never get to see my baby play in, and mothers with babies in carriers. How can I rejoice when everything around me reminds me of Asher?? And still even in that moment I felt God holding me. Even as I pounded my fists on His chest he held me and poured his sweet peace on my wounded soul. I felt the tiniest part of me find something to be thankful for: Asher will never have to know the pain of this world. He will never have to experience a broken heart.

So today is a hard day. Today there will be no song.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Song #4 - Carol of the Bells

I love Christmas music. And I especially love Carol of the Bells. My most favorite version is by Barlow Girl. And a close second is the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. For some reason, this song takes me to another world. I can close my eyes and the background fades away. That is why I picked this song. I knew that I would need songs that would help me move past the pain and go deep into myself.
Nolan came back a bit after the cervidil was put in. He told me that while he was home he called his parents and Brittney (my sister who was watching Vera) called my mom and dad. He also said everyone was coming to the hospital which I was thankful for. While I had a few more contractions I updated Nolan on the cervidil escapade and told him that at some point the nurse was going to shoot me up with morphine. At this point time begins to run together in my brain. I think we got to the hospital at 8pm, the cervidil happened by 9:30 and the morphine wasn't administered until around 11 or so. So sometime between 9:30 and 11 this next scene happened.
My mom and dad got to the hospital a bit after Nolan did. Now you have to have some background info. My parents, especially my mom were VERY worried about my decision to have a home birth and to see midwives instead of an M.D. So when she got to the hospital she looked angry. I knew this was a mask for her sadness, but I also knew that she was mad on some level. At that time we had no idea why Asher had so suddenly died. All indications prior were that he was fit as a fiddle. She immediately demanded to know why I had not been given a C-Section (she didn't want me to have to go through the pain of labor). Before the Dr. and Nurses had a chance to say anything, I told her that I didn't want one. I didn't want the longer recovery time, the multiplied risks to myself, or the fact that if I ever had any other children, I would have to choose a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) which carries with it a whole other set of risks or have another C-Sec. She then wanted to know why I hadn't been given an epidural for the pain, and again I told her I didn't want one. I told her we were going to try other forms of pain control before I let anyone mess around with my spine again (I'd had an epidural with Vera and it didn't work properly and left me with pain for a year afterward). I could see in her eyes that she felt so helpless. She wanted so much to take all the pain away. Emotional and physical. She couldn't put a band-aid on this, and for now there was no one to blame. I don't know what it is to watch helplessly as you child is in pain. As a mother we want to make things all better, but it isn't always possible to save our children.
By now Marla and Jim - Nolan's parents - had gotten there. I've never seen so much sorrow in one room before. And I've never seen the people I consider superheroes look so defeated. They knew it was impossible to save me. To save Nolan. And looking back, I now realized that was a defining moment in my life. The responsibility was now all on me. Each of the others could hold my hand and cheer me on...... but I had to give birth.
After a bit the nurse came with the morphine and while she was giving it to me my pastor walked in. I felt that morphine shoot up my arm, around my brain, and back down my arm. It was like a stick of mint gum was in my veins. I told Nolan that I felt a little funny. And I also remember my dad laughing at me and that I told my pastor that I hope I didn't act undignified in front of him. Later everyone said that the morphine made me say some funny things. I kept telling my mom that "You neeeed to gettt sssoomm of THIS." and that if she asked nicely I'd bet the nurse would hook her up. But I also remember that the morphine did absolutely NOTHING for the pain of the contractions. And at some point the lights were turned way down and the heat was turned up because I wanted it that way, and by about the 4th contraction after the morphine I was completely lucid again. I asked if anyone had a Bible on hand, but no one did. And the men decided to go for a walk. My mom and Marla took turns rubbing my back or getting me something to drink or coercing the Nurses to give me more red jello. Also, some where along the way a birthing ball showed up. I can't remember where it came from.... but it was nice to have for the 5 minutes I was able to sit on it. My pastor came back and said he had found a Bible in the Hospital's chapel. He asked me where I'd like him to read from and I told him I'd like the passage in Jeremiah where it talks about how God will be with you as you pass through the waters. But he never got to read any of it to me because just then is when my contractions really kicked in. I would finish one, go over and sit on the body/birth ball, only to have another one start right away. I remember looking in the mirror and crying between contractions. I remember wondering if it was really my own reflection I was seeing in the mirror. I remember seeing so much sadness in my own eyes. It was truly like being in a different person's body.
At home, I would have been looking in a different mirror. Thinking that I was one contraction closer to holding my son. Every surge of pain would have been for a purpose. That is what would have gotten me through. Right now I can't say what got me through. God for sure, but there was some other element as well. I don't know if it was sheer force of will, or possibly the intense sorrow. Maybe one day I will know. But for now, I only know that God held me up, and gave me power.

Song #4 Carol of the Bells - Barlow Girl

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Song #3 - Angel

The first time I ever, in a barely audible whisper, asked Nolan if he loved me he looked straight into my eyes and said "Yes, I love you." I don't know if he already knew this, or if because I asked him, it suddenly occurred to him that yes he did. I just know that I loved him too.
When we were first dating, and even into our very short-lived engagement Angel would come onto the radio and sometimes Nolan would imitate the singer in a super high pitched voice. I would pretend that he was singing to me, and not just along with the radio. Now he does sing to me occasionally, and it still makes my heart pitter-patter. I am daily amazed that such an amazing man decided to marry me. And please believe me when I say, our marriage has not been a total walk in the park (seriously, picture the worst fight you've ever had with your spouse and we've probably had something like it). Some days I don't like Nolan, and he doesn't like me... but we make up for it later ;- D
But of all our trials together, the death of our son has been and may well be the hardest. And as much as I love the pitter-patter feelings, so much more cherished are the deep vibrations of connectedness I feel for and from my husband in the midst of this sorrow. We have held each other more. Told each other 'I love you' more. Smiled at each other more. Served each other more. As we both move toward God for comfort, we are finding ourselves effortlessly moving toward each other.
From the first moments after being told that Asher was gone we had a peace. God promises a peace that passes all understanding in the moments where there is no ability to understand your circumstances. I never knew what it meant to have a peace that was so great, so complete that it could not be understood, only experienced, until that night. I won't try to describe it, because it can't be described.
Nolan and I talked and cried together for a bit while the hospital staff got a game plan together. We decided that it would be best if Nolan went home to be with Vera, put her to bed and make a few phone calls. My midwives were with me, and he wouldn't really be of much practical help then anyway (no husband can help a woman give birth; it is truly woman's work).
So off he went and I waited around for another technician to arrive with a newer, fancier ultrasound machine so that the hospital could do a "formal" ultrasound. This is what the hospital calls it when they want to cover their backsides so no one can sue them later for anything stupid. Next the young Dr. came in again and wanted to do a pelvic exam, to check how far I was dilated. He tells me this in the middle of a contraction. All I could think was, "Geez, I only just met you 10 mins ago and you want to stick your hand where???" So I told him we needed to shake hands first. (true story) And then he proceeds to tell us (myself and my midwives) that he jammed his middle finger on his right (dominant) hand, so he'll just have to use the left. My midwives had a slightly alarmed look on their faces. I wasn't sure why until he was trying to find my cervix and I was on the brink of tears from the pain. You think trying to write with the wrong hand is hard? This man did not know what he was doing. (Did I mention he just graduated from med school last May??) One of my midwives finally says, "Samantha, put your fists under your butt, he'll be able to find your cervix much easier." I did, and he did, and he yanks his hand out and says Well she's only 2cm (like I'm not there). At this point I get out of bed to have another contraction. By now I'm moaning. Not loudly, yet. He tried to talk to me but I ignore him. Then after he's explained it all I ask him to repeat himself (Now this whole time he really is trying to be nice, and all professional and whatnot, but he's just super new at all this, and he's having to learn on his feet, so.. well... bless his heart. Anyway....) So he tells me that we need to get things going because..... and he falters here..... and leaves my midwives to explain to me why we need to speed things up a bit. One of them turns to me and as gently as she can says that we need to use some kind of induction drugs to get Asher out as quick as possible because babies start to deteriorate after they die. I can't quite wrap my head around this, so I nod dumbly and ask what the good Dr. proposes. He wants to use Cytotec on me. I tell him no way because it says right on the label not to use on pregnant women and that is can cause uterine rupture. I won't go into that here. Suffice to say I told him we'd be using cervidil to help ripen my cervix.
So off he runs to get the cervidil while I have a few more contractions and the nurse puts an IV in my arm "just incase" I want any pain meds later. Dr. gets back and says "I'm just going to place this behind your cervix." So that hell ensues again. Left hand and all. But I understand the importance of speeding things up, so I go along with it. When he's finished i ask what my options are for pain. He says really about anything because "We don't have the fetus to worry about". I wanted to jump up and bash him in the head. But I didn't, I just let a few more tears fall as he asked if morphine was ok. I said sure, and my super amazing nurse (you'll hear more about her later) went to get the morphine. I just leaned back and turned my head away from everyone in the room and cried. I didn't want them to see me crying, and I didn't want to see them cry. Because maybe if no one was crying.... none of this was real, and I could go home.
Song #3 from the labor/birth songs playlist Angel by Aerosmith

Ba-ee-ay-Ba! Your my Angel!


I hope one day I will go to bed without feeling sad. I want to go to bed one night and not lay there with tears just on the brink. In the months just before Asher was born I would hold my huge, round tummy and smile and breath a sigh of contentment and joy. Now I find myself with my hands in the same position, but the tummy is empty and my heart is so full of sorrow that it leaks out into every other crevice of my body. 

I KNOW Asher is in heaven enjoying all of Gods amazing promises; but right now I want to know why I wasn't good enough to be his mom. What test didn't I pass?? How are you going to use my broken heart to your glory, God?? I love you, God. But right now, at 2:04 am, alone in my house with my thoughts, I just don't understand. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Song #2 - Jaded

Aerosmith.... I've loved their songs since I was a child. This I got from my dad. However, I never knew who wrote the songs until I met Nolan (my husband); they are one of his favorite bands (maybe his all-time favorite). When I started thinking about making a playlist of songs to labor by I knew I needed to have a few that Nolan loved as well. I didn't want him to be annoyed by the music the whole time because I knew I'd subconsciously pick up on his annoyance and it would translate over into my labor experience. So, one day about 3 weeks before I had Asher, Nolan and I were laying on the bed and I asked him to help me pick out some songs that both he and I liked. This is why there is so much Aerosmith on the list.
I had already determined, weeks prior to Asher's arrival that I would start the music just after my contractions became real. I was going to get myself in a happy, relaxed mood. And proceed with the evening as normal, only I'd have a baby somewhere in the middle of the night. It would be nothing strange, nothing to get riled up about. I had no plans to call anyone other than my sister if I needed her to come get Vera. I wanted to start playing music early though b/c I was so jittery. So excited to be having another baby. And I was 42 wks and 4 days, so I had waited, and waited, and waited.
I had just come home from the grocery store Friday night. I was carrying in 2 gallons of milk and 4 plastic sacks on my arms. I made it to the kitchen and felt my water break. I immediately looked up at the clock on the microwave. 6:23pm. I thought to myself, well, there wasn't much "gush", so maybe I'm just spontaneously peeing. So I went to the bathroom to check, and sure enough I was right, my water was leaking, just a bit though. So I excitedly woke Nolan up (as far as he knew, he still had to work that night, so he was asleep) and told him my water had broke. He grunted and smiled and rolled over and went back to sleep. I thought that was good idea, because I was going to need him later.
Then I got the phone and called my midwife to let her know what was going on. She said she'd be over after a bit to check fetal heart tones. I decided to get dinner going. By the time dinner was finished, about an hour later, my midwife arrived. She and I sat and talked about a few things and then she asked if I was ready to check heart tones. She had forgotten the gel she normally uses on my belly and asked if I had any lotion. I told her the only thing I had was vaseline because I'm allergic to most other lotions, she said she didn't normally like to use it, but since it was the only thing I had, it would do. I stretched out on the couch and she felt for Asher and found his back. Then she began using the doppler. There had never been a problem finding his heart beat in the past so I didn't panic when she didn't find it at first. I just assumed it was because of the vaseline and she would find it eventually. As the minutes stretched out and we heard nothing, I began to get worried. My midwife asked if I had any plain olive oil. I told her where it was and she went to get that. She used the olive oil and began searching again for his heart beat. When there was nothing she said "We should be able to hear something, you need to go to the hospital."
This is where I felt the most powerful fear of my entire life. I ran to get Nolan. I said "Get up. She can't find the heartbeat. We have to go to the hospital." Then I called my sister and told her that I needed her to be here "like 10 mins ago quick". Nolan put his clothes on faster than I've ever seen before. I didn't grab anything but my purse and we left. As we were pulling out there was a group of boys standing in the way, and Nolan sped up and honked to scare them out of the way. Then we drove to the hospital. I just kept looking at Nolan. I just kept thinking there was no way Asher could have died. He was fine the night before, robustly kicking the computer that I had rested on my belly. He was fine right after my water broke, I felt him kick just after my water broke. That kick was probably his last.
When we got to the hospital Nolan dropped me off at the front doors. I raced inside and stammered something about no heartbeat to the receptionist and she motioned to someone to wheel me up to labor and delivery. It felt like my head was spinning. And I remember telling the man pushing me to "RUN".
When we got up there, the nurses wheeled me into a room and rustled me out of my clothes and into a hospital gown even though I told them to just check me first with their doppler. Once they got me into the right clothes (???????), the super great nurse I had (this part is super true, she really was awesome) broke out the fancy hospital doppler and checked for a heart beat. Some time while she was doing this Nolan made it to the room. I knew before she was finished checking that Asher was gone. When she decided that she wasn't going to be able to find anything with that machine, she called the Dr. and that is when he used the ultrasound machine to see if there was any chance that my son, my perfect, full term, son was still alive. He wasn't.
In a moment I was robbed of the joy that birthing a fresh new life into this world brings. Instead I knew I was going to have to face laboring for no reason other than to bring death into that hospital room. In that moment God held me up. He steeled my soul, my heart, my spirit, my being for the task at hand. I knew that night I would need to welcome death into my arms. I cried and sobbed in disbelief.
I did not smile that night. I did not laugh that night. I did not dance that night.