Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It's Okay to Ask

It's okay to ask me about Cole.

I appreciate the thoughtfulness of friends and family who ask me about Cole's life, death, and how I am dealing with it. There are some who never ask, and well, it hurts. I try my best to give them the benefit of the doubt since I know that everyone deals with loss very differently. But really, if I'm face to face with someone, and I know that they know what happened last year, and they don't ask me about any of it, then I feel like there's a big elephant in the room. And then I feel disappointed, confused, and angry. Do they want to spare my feelings?  Do they want to just spare their own feelings? Have they forgotten about Cole? Is that even possible? I don't know the answer, and I surely never confront them. I guess at some point I won't expect to be asked all the time, and I pray that will happen sooner than later. Grief is a process though, and I don't know that I can change it or speed it up. So for now I want to be asked. Maybe I need to be asked. And if you've asked already, I really, truly am thankful.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

10,000 Reasons

I love the song "10,000 Reasons" by Matt Redman. I especially love this verse:

"The sun comes up,
Its a new day dawning.
Its time to sing your song again.
What ever may pass and whatever lies before me,
Let me be singing when the evening comes."

This is a good reminder for me to stay focused on the Lord and to keep trusting and praising him no matter what the days bring. Take a listen here.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


For the sake of noting another anniversary, I'm jumping way ahead in our story. On July 8th one year ago, after spending the first 10 1/2 weeks of his life in the NICU of two different hospitals, Cole came home. It was one of the greatest miracles of his life. He had proven just days before that he could breathe completely on his own. It was so unexpected and simply amazing. I was ecstatic. Eric and I spent the night at the hospital the night before going home to have a trial run with Cole. He had a very set schedule of medications and feedings, and it was our job that night to handle those responsibilities ourselves, knowing there were nurses just outside our room to help us if we needed it. We made it through the night without much sleep, and I figured we'd be leaving the next day by noon at the latest. But that day ended up being long and filled with a mix of emotions. There were many papers to sign. There was medical equipment to learn how to use. We had a quick course in CPR. The car seat had to be installed and rigged in a certain way to ensure Cole could breathe okay. And there were many, many goodbyes to the doctors and nurses who cared for Cole and for our family so wonderfully. I remember some of his nurses, who referred to themselves as Cole's girlfriends, talking about Cole going to the zoo. The zoo? I discovered at some point that in their sadness over seeing the babies leaving the hospital, they referred to home as the zoo. It made it easier on them, I guess.

I was a wreck by the afternoon; so exhausted and so incredibly anxious to get Cole in the car and go. We were finally packed up and ready around 4 pm. Cole looked so tiny in his car seat. I got in the back seat and just kept my eyes on Cole as we headed down the highway. He looked content. My heart was content. At last we would have our son in our home, in his home, free from monitors and excess noise. At last we would have a baby in the crib that had been empty for too long. At last we would be a family under one roof with some sense of normalcy.

Thank you Lord for that day. You made it possible, and I will be forever grateful.

Cole's room at St. Louis Children's Hospital

all snuggled in

Here we go!

home at last

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Beginning

I got pregnant in September 2010, about 3 1/2 years after Eric and I got married. We'd been trying for nearly a year, so of course we were very excited when it finally happened. I've wanted to be a mother for as long as I can remember. I could hardly wait to find out if the baby was a boy or a girl. I really, REALLY wanted a son. My husband is a sweetheart, and I just knew that any son of Eric's would be very sweet too. And  I wanted a son named Cole. Eric's middle name is Cole, and his grandfather, great-grandfather (I believe), and uncle were named Cole. I just loved it. The name Cole was simple and sweet.

At my 20 week ultrasound, it was confirmed that we were having a boy. I was overjoyed. We both were. But our joy suddenly diminished when we were told that the ultrasounds were showing several calcification spots. One was on the baby's heart. I asked my doctor what the worst case scenario could be, and she said it could be a marker for Downs Syndrome. She sent me to another doctor to get higher-resolution ultrasounds. He confirmed that the baby did not have downs, and we were relieved. I had these ultrasounds every three weeks from that point on to monitor the spots, and they eventually became a non-issue. At some point, we were told that the baby was small. I am 6 feet tall, and Eric is 6'2", so this didn't make much sense to me. Plus my belly was huge! I was retaining a heck-of-a lot of fluid. The doctors never seemed particularly alarmed. At the 32 week ultrasound, Cole was 3 lbs. 12 oz. He had been growing at the same rate at every checkup, though, so that was good. We didn't need to be worried. My mother's instinct felt like something was not right. I remember thinking at one point that I might have a baby with special needs. I think God was starting to prepare my heart.

On Sunday April 17th, 2011, I began having some contractions and light spotting. We went to the hospital in the middle of the night, and we spent about three hours there. I was sent home because I was not in labor, and I was told to take some medication to keep the contractions in check. I was fine for about a week. On the following Sunday, which happened to be Easter, the contractions and spotting started again. I tried to ignore them and felt if we went to the hospital again, I would just be sent home. The contractions persisted. Night time came, and I could not sleep at all. Finally at about 3 am, I woke Eric and told him we better get to the hospital. During the 25 minute drive, my contractions seemed to come about every 5 minutes, and I started to feel panicked. Cole was not due until June 9th. It was too soon. I'd had that last ultrasound a week before, so I knew how small Cole was.

We arrived at the hospital, and my water broke, but only a little bit. We were told I was going to have that baby. Tears came instantly. What was going on? I hadn't even had my childbirth class yet. I didn't know how to breathe through contractions. I had not had my baby shower. We were just not ready. The doctors decided to stop labor for at least two days so that I could receive steroid injections for Cole's lung development. Those two days were absolutely terrible. I'll spare you the details, but I don't think I've ever felt physically worse in my whole life. The medication was indeed stopping labor, but its side effects were horrendous.

Cole had a strong heartbeat just like he had throughout the pregnancy. The nurses laughed about how active Cole was. We could hear him on the fetal monitors, and I just couldn't imagine what he was doing in there. He just sounded so busy!

On Wednesday April 27th, the doctors stopped "stopping" my labor, and we all thought it would just start to roll along. It didn't, really, even after I was given pitocin. Concerned about infection, my doctor broke my water completely, and all Hell broke loose. I could feel all that fluid just gushing out, and suddenly I began having unbelieveably intense contractions. They kept coming without hardly a pause in between. I've never experienced pain like that. I couldn't see it, but my doctor said I was bleeding, and just like that, I was rushed out of the room for an emergency c-section. I was told my placenta had probably abrupted, and I might have to be put under. They didn't end up doing that, but I sure felt like I was going under, and it was scary. What happend next is a blur. I remember bright lights and many people rushing around. I remember receiving the epidural and Eric standing next to me saying, "You should see what I'm wearing." Then he said "Cole is out", but I couldn't see Cole. Instead I heard a voice somewhere behind me counting quickly. Somehow in my fog, I realized Cole was receiving CPR. I felt no emotion. I was too drugged.

In the recovery room, someone told me that Cole needed to go to the NICU at a different hospital, but I would be able to see him before he was taken away. He had stopped breathing during the delivery. He was put on a ventilator, but the doctor had a very difficult time putting the tube down Cole's throat because his airway was so small. I was told that Cole's ears were lower than normal, his toes and a few fingers were fused, his head was small, his jaw was pushed back too far, and worst of all, he was having seizures. I listened, still in a fog, and still felt no emotion. Cole was brought into my room in one of those incubator-looking beds. He was swaddled, wearing a hat, had his eyes closed, and wasn't moving much. This was not the active, busy baby I thought I was going to have, but he was here nonetheless.  He was here, and I couldn't hold him, and he was going to be sent about 10-15 minutes down the road to another hospital. It seemed like there were many people in the room with us in addition to my parents and Eric's parents. This was not how I pictured meeting my son for the first time. In my foggy, nauseated state, I reached my hand through one of the holes in Cole's bed, slipped his hat off, and stroked his head. My doctor told me much later that someone else in the room had asked quietly, "Does she get it?". Right then I didn't. None of what was happening seemed real. I'm not sure how much time passed, but it was time for Cole to leave. According to my doctor, I wouldn't get to see him until probably 4 days later.

This was just the beginning of our unexpected, painful journey with our son.

Cole, not long after his birth