Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Instead.

Today was Lily's planned due date. Instead, I am three weeks post-partum.

Three weeks ago, as the day of her birth progressed and grew longer, I knew what was coming, but I wouldn't say it or acknowledge it. The nurse came in the afternoon to do a check on me and when she left, Brandon asked her if she would tell our family that we needed a little bit of time to ourselves. She said, "Sure" and then left quietly.

And Brandon grabbed my hand...."Sweetheart, I think we need to say our goodbyes. Lily is starting to look different and I don't want you remembering this part. I want you to remember how beautiful and peaceful she looked."

I knew he was right. I just didn't want to let her go. I wanted to hold her forever.

I wanted to be her mommy the way people are supposed to be mommies.

Our families came back in and Brandon told them it was time. They each took one last time to hold her and to tell her that they loved her. I cried the entire time and my arms just ached. I wanted them to hurry so I could hold my girl again because I knew it would be the last time I did. 

They left and then it was just the three of us. It was one of the most wonderful and yet simultaneously heartbreaking times of my life. We talked to her. We unwrapped her from her blankie and just looked at her. We told her that we loved her and that we would miss her desperately every day. (And we do.) And then because I couldn't do it, Brandon buzzed for the nurse.

She came in quietly and I asked her to please keep her wrapped tightly because she was cold. I handed Lily to her and because my arms hurt so badly, I held onto Brandon so tightly as I sobbed as she walked out the door with my girl.

My arms still hurt.

I find myself zoning out, thinking about Lily. I think about the way she looked. She had a cabbage patch nose and the most beautiful little lips. She had puffy cheeks and a chin just like her daddy's. Her eyes were fused closed. So even if she was born alive, she wouldn't have been able to see us when we told her that we loved her. Her hands and her feet were the most perfect little hands and feet I've ever seen.

When I zone, I remember what it felt like to hold her and how tiny she was. Then I look down and instead, see all I have is her blankie from the hospital and I remember where I am and where she is.

In some ways, all that happened three weeks ago seems easier than today does. We've all heard the phrase, "it's gonna get worse before it gets better." I can't see that being the case for this situation. It will always be hard. We will just be distracted more in the future, instead of being consumed by our grief constantly.

Do I think we will have more kids? Yes, I do. But it doesn't mean that I didn't want Lily. I want her with all of my heart. The problem is the way that she was made means she was never meant for this world. Instead, she was meant to be with Jesus.

But I am selfish because I want my baby here.

Instead of taking my baby home, I had to let her go. Instead of learning all there is to know about her for years to come, I had to hand her to a nurse and say goodbye.

Instead of seeing her daily, I have to wait.

Instead...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

War Zone

Everything hurts now.

Well, maybe I should clarify. Physically, I'm healing well. That's about the only thing I've got going for me.

Everywhere else...different story.

Remember when I said I felt like I'd been shot and was staring down the barrel of a gun waiting for the second shot to go off?

A second shot would have felt like a mercy.

I feel like I am in a war zone.

Nighttime is hard. I know in my heart that she is in heaven, whole, healthy, and happy, but physically, the last thing I saw was her little casket in a big old vault. And it is just so sad to think about her little body in there by itself.

Right now, my heart is broken, and so I'm having a hard time overcoming what I've seen versus what I can't see.

There are also a ton of new beginnings and so many good things going on right now.

School is starting.
New babies are being born.
Football season is around the corner.

But all I can see is the ending of my pregnancy and her life.

Everywhere I look is just another reminder too...especially my own body.

My tummy has gone down a lot.
My boobs are starting to go down as well.
The swelling is gone in my feet, face, and hands.
I don't have too much soreness left.

My whole body just aches from my heart ache quite honestly.

People somewhat expect me to be me too. But I'm just not. I wrote a few months ago that there are some things that will remain the same, but there will be things that are different too. I don't think it's a coincidence that in all of this time I haven't seen a rainbow after a storm. (It's not for lack of trying either.)

All I feel right now is the different.

I wish that she was healthy.
I wish that she was alive.
I wish that she wasn't sick.
I wish that she was here with me.

And also?

I wish I wasn't in this war zone.

I know that Jesus is the great healer and so far He has healed my daughter.

All I want to feel is better.

I want Him to get me out of this war zone.

I'm ready for him to bind up my wounds, wipe away my tears, fight off the enemy, and help me stand.

I'm ready to see that I'm going to be okay.

Most of all, I'm ready to see the rainbow...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

How an angel named Lily made us Momma and Daddy: Part Two

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. - Hebrews 11:1

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. - 1 Corinthians 13:12-13

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The thing about Type-A people is that we like order. We also like organization. But I think most of all, we like to be in control. Personally, the reason I like control is because I have anxiety. I may not show that anxiety, but it's there under the surface. I've never been able to sleep the night before the first day of school, from the night before kindergarten to right up to my last first day of law school. One of the ways, I get rid of this anxiety is to research the situation as much as possible. I didn't do this obviously when I was a little kid, but I certainly read a lot about what it was like to go away to college and definitely read about law school.

Worrying about the night before my first baby was no different. And I had been worrying about it for awhile.

Before the bar, I spoke with my cousin about talking me through childbirth because that's where my biggest fears were. She is Type-A like I am as well so when I explained why I was asking, she got it immediately.

Three months ago, I began learning about letting go of that control. It was my ultimate security blanket and I was stripped of it. As I've said before, I was as vulnerable and as naked as person could be before the Lord. It was where I needed to be, but it didn't mean I liked it.

So when I had no birth plans, no funeral plans, no hospital bag packed, and nothing ready for nurses/doctors and my parents were out of town, I was as out of control as a Type-A person can get. On Monday, I woke up thinking about the history of The Committee and just felt like I needed to write about it. Some blog posts feel like work and others feel like I can't get my fingers to move fast enough. The post I wrote about The Committee was the later. I now know that was God preparing my heart for what was to come.

When I last left off in Lily's birth story, we had just arrived at the hospital. Karen and Dick arrived at the hospital at the same time we did. For as out of control I felt and as anxiety ridden as I was, I began to relax when I saw Karen. One of my best friends from high school, Brad's momma, Terri (did you follow that?) came along as well.

We got all checked in, I got in my very fashionable nightgown, and they got my IV going. I don't know if I've mentioned this or not, but I do not like needles. When I say I don't like needles, I mean, I usually have to have someone hold my hand and stand in between my view of sight. I don't pass out, but I certainly am not brave either. The nurses got it in easily enough, but after they took blood, they adjusted it and it felt like they were digging around in my arm. I then got started on a round of cytotec to thin my cervix. Brandon's momma and daddy showed up soon afterwards. About an hour later, my nurse came back in to check on me and asked if I was feeling contractions. I told her that I wasn't and she said, "Well within fifteen minutes of you taking the cytotec, you started having them." So I asked Brandon to tell me the next time he saw me have one on the screen to tell me so I knew what they felt like. The first one I experienced didn't really feel that awful. It felt like I was trying to start my period.

Jessi and Will showed up right after Karen and Dick left. But before Karen left, she told me to call if I needed anything and that she would be back first thing in the morning to help me with pushing since she knew I was scared. She hugged me and told me that she loved me and that there was no other place she'd rather be.

The next day she told me that she prayed for my anxiety the whole night and that Lily wouldn't suffer. She knew that when she left, her momma heart, knew mine couldn't handle it if Lily was hurting. She also prayed a lot about my blood pressure. I have a pretty low resting BP and where I was registering was high for me. She didn't want to tell me but she was nervous.

About three hours into contractions, the nurse asked how I was feeling and if I wanted something to help me sleep. I told her that I knew I would need help sleeping because I was still having trouble getting on top of my anxiety. Brandon's mom and dad decided to head to the waiting room for a bit. The couches were a lot better than what we had going on in the room and they said they weren't spring chickens like my siblings and couldn't sleep on the floor.

When they stepped out, I told Brandon that I wanted to pray with him, Jessi, Loren, and Will. I knew they were all nervous about mom and dad not being there. We all held hands and prayed over the next few hours. We still hadn't been able to get a hold of my parents to let them know what was going on at this point. We prayed for their hearts. We prayed for Lily. We prayed for one another. It is one of the most precious times I've ever experienced with my siblings. It is also one of the proudest moments I've ever had as their big sister.

After that, it was time for my second round of cytotec. I was starting to doze, but before I could fully go to sleep, the nurse checked me. I personally prefer to block that experience from my life. But I was at a one and my cervix was thinning out really well. Everyone came back into the room and about thirty minutes later, I was out. Of course, I'd wake up occasionally because the IV was in my hand and kept getting occluded. The beeping was loud and I had to let the nurses know because they couldn't hear my machines. I'd roll over and go back to sleep no problem, but apparently everyone else was just about to fall asleep every time I got my IV occluded.

Around 3:30ish my contractions began to get harder to sleep through and I told my mother in law that. She said  to remember that my doctor said I didn't have to wait for my epidural. I told her I wanted to wait a bit longer. At four, my IV was occluded again, but when the nurse came in I told her that I was ready for my epidural. At four-thirty am the anesthesiologist came. The other awful part was when that epidural needle went in my back. The doctor warned me that this was the part of the night where most people cussed.

The doctor was right.

I had one last dose of cytotec and the epidural also began to work immediately. I could feel my legs and body relax. The doctor explained that it would take away the pain, but that I would still be able to feel pressure. I must have had this look of "And how am I supposed to know that?" look on my face because he told me to trust him that I would know. They let everyone back in the room. We all got settled. My mother in law stayed this time because I was checked after my epidural and while I was still a one, my cervix had completely thinned. (In case you were wondering, getting checked after an epidural is way better than getting checked before an epidural.)

At five-thirty, my IV was occluded again ( to no one's surprise and everyone's annoyance), but I also was feeling the contractions in my right backside. The nurses helped shift me so that gravity would help the epidural work its way into my right side and they also gave me a clicker. The clicker and I were friends. And before I knew it, I was asleep again.

I woke back up at 6:45 and told my mother in law that I felt like I had pressure, but I wasn't sure. I said I wanted to wait a bit. Mostly, I was sleepy. The epidural really relaxed my body and the ambien helped for sure. Thirty minutes later, I occluded my epidural one last time for good measure and when the nurse came in, I told her that I was feeling pressure. She said that my doctor had wanted to check me the next time.

When I talked to my doctor the next day I asked him what time he thought showtime would be. He said he anticipated mid to late morning and maybe even afternoon because it was my first labor.

Well. That's not how things worked out.

My doctor came in and checked me out. He said, "So, you're fully dilated. In fact, you're a PLUS TWO. She's still in her sac too." Before he left, he asked if I wanted to know to check her on the monitor. I told him that I didn't because if I knew she was gone, I'd shut down.

The nurse began prepping the room. After I got my epidural, however, Brandon finally passed out. He was still passed out right before the doctor came to check me. His mom and Jessi had a heck of a time waking him up. He was sitting right beside me when the doctor told me it was game time and he was suddenly very awake.

While the nurse prepped the room and the doctor stepped out to wash up, I felt a pop and like something had hit my leg. I told the nurse as soon as it happened too.

But here's the deal.

My legs were not in stirrups.
The bed part that removes was still in tact.
I had covers on me.
Like I previously said, the doctor was out in the hall.
The NICU team wasn't there.

We still thought there was time and that I was going to have to push.

But when the nurse looked, she slammed a button and said something about tech and Doctor and the next thing I knew he was in there.

Lily was halfway out.

He remarked how my uterus was strong. He pulled Lily out. They got my legs in stirrups. They had Brandon cut the umbilical cord and then handed her to me. I had to push once to get the placenta out.

Her labor was as easy as it possibly could be. It was the first of so many answered prayers.

We would soon learn that some prayers were to be unanswered. But there were also some more to be answered that we didn't realize needed to be answered and just how much Jesus was with us and protecting us the entire time.

After Lily's diagnosis, we prayed that we would get to tell her that we loved her on this side of heaven.

When I saw her, I knew two things. First, she was already gone to be with Jesus and that she had a lot of hair. 

And so, at 8:38 am on August 6th, 2014, an angel named Lily who weighed 4 lbs. 3 oz. and was 17 inches long made us momma and daddy.

I wasn't sad. I wasn't mad. I was at peace because I knew she wasn't hurting. I also felt closer to God than I ever have before. I was grateful that she never knew any kind of hurt from this world. She only knew the best kind of love: God's.

I looked over at Brandon and tears were rolling down his face. He knew too and I watched his heart break.

It's amazing how one story can affect two people very differently. I had been hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst once we had her official diagnosis.

But my sweetheart and Lily's daddy never once gave up on her. He believed that she would be alive when she was born until the NICU doctor examined her and told us that she was officially gone. 1 Corinthians 13:8 tells us, "Love never gives up" and he was that personified. I saw Jesus in so many ways on August 6th, but one of the people I saw him most in was my husband. 

We asked the NICU nurses to clean her up and to have a few moments with just the three of us before they let everyone in to see her.

When they handed her back to us, I asked for a diaper. Brandon said he hadn't put a diaper on a baby in a long time. I said, "Well today, you're going to break that streak." We decided we would also get her dressed. He asked how we were going to do that. I told him that he couldn't hurt her and that we would dress her like we dress ourselves, one arm and leg at a time.

He unwrapped her from her blanket so we could really look at her. That's when Jesus really revealed his handiwork.

We examined her hands and her feet and her face.

I pulled back her cap to confirm what I thought I had seen earlier: Lily had a head full of pretty blonde hair.

I instantly remembered my dream from a few months earlier the night after we first heard she most likely had trisomy 13. There was a little girl I couldn't catch with long blonde hair with a slight curl in a field of sunflowers. I never saw her face. She giggled a lot too.

There were so many truths in that dream.

In that moment, my sweet Lily assured me that Jesus had kept his promises. In fact, it couldn't be denied.

The entire pregnancy, we never saw her face. She always hid. 
When she was born, she was already gone. We couldn't catch her.She had somewhere else to be. 
And her hair? It was thick, blonde, and had a slight curl.

She was our Lily and there is no doubt in my mind that her place in heaven includes a field of sunflowers....

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I'm going to stop here. Winding up Lily's story will always be hard for me. I think that it's because her legacy and story is one that is still being written even now. I'm sure at some point, there will be days when I'll feel led to share.

There are a lot of parts though that will remain just with us. I hope you'll respect that.

Later this week, I plan to talk about family meeting her and saying goodbye to her, but for now, it will remain between Lily, Brandon and I. We are still healing and will be for awhile.

I do want to say thank you all for your prayers. I know this last week went the way it did because so many people were standing in the gap for us. The doctor told us afterwards that I was headed into full blown preeclampsia and that it was good we didn't wait. God was in the details in so many ways and your prayers were a part of that.

Her funeral is Tuesday. After that, we hope to begin the process of moving forward. We know that there will be hard days and good days, but we just want to keep moving. We feel like that's what Lily wants for us.

Hope this finds you well.

Happy Monday!

Friday, August 8, 2014

How an angel named Lily made us Momma and Daddy: Part One

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” – Luke 2:19

"I'll be seeing you 
In all the old familiar places 
That this heart of mine embraces 
All day and through 

 In that small cafe 
The park across the way 
The children's carousel 
The chestnut trees, the wishing well 

 I'll be seeing you 
In every lovely summer's day 
In everything that's light and gay 
I'll always think of you that way 

 I'll find you in the morning sun 
And when the night is new 
I'll be looking at the moon 
But I'll be seeing you..."

I’ll Be Seeing You – Billie Holiday

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How does one begin the story of meeting someone that was already gone from this world?

I suppose I’ll do what anyone else does…start as best as I can from the beginning. Sunday night, I talked to the Committee. I told them that I had spoken earlier with a friend from law school. When I talked to her about everything it felt like I had somewhat come to terms with everything. I felt like I had been grieving for three months, and I was as mentally prepared as I could be. I could feel myself ready to stand up and fight again. In other words, I was starting to feel like myself. I don’t think it was a coincidence that I felt this way. I also think that this was God helping me stand up and be me more than I knew too.

Tuesday, I woke up, thinking I was headed to another doctor’s appointment. I had lots of questions about the child birth process. I also wore a new maternity shirt that I hadn’t worn before. My brother was headed a float trip and my little sister was headed to the doctor’s appointment with us. Jessi was at work in Edmond. My parents were still on an Alaskan cruise celebrating their 35 years of marriage. After the appointment, I planned on going back to my parents’ home. We would be back at our place that weekend once they got back. I had planned to finish up all the birth plans, pack my hospital bag, finalize the funeral plans, and do a few other fun things for the doctors and nurses. We still were looking at an inducement date later in the month, so I thought I had time.

I thought it was going to be just another day. I thought I had more time to plan.

After I took on the bar last week, I had been actively fighting swelling in my feet, hands, and face. I hadn’t been worried about my feet. I knew that was a normal part of pregnancy. But I was worried about the swelling in my hands and face. I’d read that there was a significant percentage of women pregnant with Trisomy 13 babies that had preeclampsia. Some of the normal signs were the face and hand swelling. I also had just felt bigger. When I got to the doctor’s office, I had weighed in and had a 9 pound weight gain. The most I’d ever gained in a period in between all of my doctor’s visits was three pounds. I told the nurse that had to be water weight because I had been swelling a lot. She raised her eyebrows when I said where I’d been swelling. Asked if I had been puking or having any headaches. I told her I had one the day before the bar. I took a nap that day and some Tylenol to try to get it to go away but woke up feeling worse than I did before. I got another eyebrow raise. She asked her other questions and said she’d be back. She came back and said while we were waiting for the doctor, he wanted me to do a urine analysis just to check. So I drank some water. Found the doctor’s wife who is also his lead nurse and told her I was ready to pee.

Went back into my room and waited for my doctor to come in and tell me what I already knew: I had preeclampsia.

I tried to remain calm because I didn’t want Brandon to worry any more than I knew he already was. 

Shortly after, the doctor and his wife came in and said I had preeclampsia. My urine “lit up the analysis stick like a neon sign.” I very naively told them that I wasn’t going to fight anything, but that I still wanted to wait as much as I could because my parents didn’t get back until Friday. The doctor very politely said, “Well let’s see what is going on in the ultrasound. You may not have a choice.”

We went back to the ultrasound room where the doctor had confirmed her analysis three months earlier. I quickly noted that we hadn’t been there since that time. Loren sat to my left this time so she could see her niece. The doctor talks to me while he is doing the ultrasound, usually. This time he looked around and then he said, “Samantha, her heart is enlarged and there is some swelling on her brain. The problem with that is that sometimes it’s an indicator that something is also going wrong with the momma. It’s called Mirror Image Syndrome. It can be dangerous. So you can’t wait. We are going to induce tonight. I want you to go get a good meal, get your things and then come back to the hospital. I’ll answer any questions you have.”

 I asked him all I could think to ask with tears rolling down my face. He said he was so sorry that things didn’t work out the way they did. He told me that at that point he was glad I had finished the bar. That was his goal for me. He didn’t realize that my mom and dad would still be gone. I told him that was the hardest part because I knew it would be so hard for them to get back in time. I thanked him and told him I would see him soon. His wife told me that she wouldn’t be there for the delivery but that she wanted to come by afterwards.

At this point, I want to pause in the story to say that despite the reason that we met our doctor and his team, we are extremely grateful for them. They have been a huge blessing to us. There were so many reasons that they were the right doctor for us instead of where we were. I am so grateful that my husband insisted on staying with the specialist. Because of Brandon’s discernment, we were taken care of a wonderful doctor who respected us a great deal, tolerated no BS with regards to my health, and was still very personal. He and his wife genuinely cared for us as people. Even on our toughest days in the office, they were able to bring light to the situation. They were ministering to us whether they knew it or not.

The three of us got into the elevator and hugged each other and cried. I told Brandon that he needed to call Jessi because we had a change in plans. He said that he already had let her know and that his momma and daddy were packing and on their way. Loren started texting Will to get off the river as fast as he could. At the time I thought my parents were at sea. So since I couldn’t call my momma and daddy, I called the next best option, I called Karen and Dick. Karen told me that as soon as Dick got home from work, they were on their way.

We then went home to grab Lily’s things that I had thankfully left there because I didn’t think I would need them until later in the month. I put them in a bag for her and grabbed a bag for myself to put a few things I would grab from Target because I had left everything at my parents. We made our Target run, grabbed some food and headed to the hospital....

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I'm stopping at this point not because I want to keep you in suspense, but because I'm really tired. I hope you'll be understanding of that. I'll hope to have more for you tomorrow. As you can tell, this is the back story which kind of goes with how I write my posts. I don't want to leave anything out because this is important and for my family.

Monday, August 4, 2014

On how the committee became The Committee

Sometime during law school, my sister Jessi - whose full name is Jessica by the way. This will matter later in the story.- texted her best pal Jessika and I about a football game that was making us nuts. I don't remember if it was my first or second year, but I do remember that it was football season because Jessi said that it would be easier for the three of us to have this conversation in one group because she was basically repeating herself. Since that day, we've talked about everything in between.

The End.

....except not so much.

The Committee roots go back to 1994.

If you don't recall 1994, let me refresh your memory. In 1994, Bill Clinton was president. Nancy Kerrigan had her knee hit by Tonya Harding's people. OJ Simpson ran away from the cops in his Bronco in a "high speed" chase. The songs "Cotton-Eye Joe" by Rednex and "I Swear" by All-4-One were all the rage.

But what you need to know is that in August of that year, two little girls named Jessica and Jessika were in Mrs. Riley's first grade class.

(There also was a girl named Samantha in the 4th grade, but today really isn't about her. But since you'd probably like a reference of where I was in the story, there you go. I was in the 4th grade. It was the year of glasses and my first time with braces.)

(Now you know why I'd rather focus on the Jessic/ka's. Braces and glasses are a tragic time in any girl's life.)

Our momma is a school teacher, so our afternoons look different than some kids. Instead of going home after school, we went to our momma's room, got our snack and then waited for our mom to be done for the day before heading home. Since it was the beginning of the school year, the wait wasn't terribly long that day. But we still had time to talk about our classes and what we thought.

Jessi went on and on about how she liked her class and her teacher, but mostly she talked about a girl named Jessika spelled with a K. Meeting someone with your name is not as big a novelty as one might think, especially when you had super popular 80s names like Jessi and I did. (There were 6 Samantha's in my class alone.) But it was Jessi's first time to meet another Jessica and her mind was blown that she spelled it with a K.

We soon began to hear stories about Jessika spelled with a K on the regular.

Now what you don't know about The Committe is that there are two honorary members: our mommas. Occasionally, when discussing  the latest scuttle, it is quicker and certainly more entertaining if we just include them as well. (The entertainment part comes from laughing at how long it takes the mommas to text us back.)

At some point, our moms met. I'm not entirely sure on the details, but what I do know is that Lori and Karen, our mom and Jessika's mom respectively, have been friends almost as long as the Jessic/ka's have been friends.

And our daddies (Butch and Dick) have been friends only a little time less than our mommas have.

I hope you're following along who is who because there will be a quiz later.

(Okay. Not really.)

(Sorta.)

I should probably mention that Jessika has an older sister named Kari. Again, this story isn't about her or I, but just so you know that Jessika isn't an only child. And also so you get the big picture.

1994 was a hard year for Jessi and I. Our beloved Pappaw had been diagnosed with cancer. In early 1995, he succumbed to that cancer. But Jessika with a K and her family didn't miss a beat and were right there with us. 1994 was also a year of transition. We had been unhappy with our church for some time. In summer of 1995, we finally decided that it was time for a fresh start and we began going where Jessika and her family went.

The body of Christ is a wonderful thing and I don't ever know if Jessika and her family knew how much of an influence they had on our joining the church. But they did.

Mom and Karen bonded over having two girls, a love for craft fairs, girl talk, similar hair cuts and the trials and triibulations of getting the hair stylist to listen to them, and a love for good shop til you drop session at the mall in Tulsa. They have shared similar tastes and are known for showing up to church wearing the same outfit having never called one another. They both are extremely generous with their love and have taught me on more than one occasion including as recent as this year, that forgiveness should always be freely given.

Dad and Dick share a love of music, films, and motorcycles and old cars. They are stoic, known to remain calm when Lori and Karen are in a tizzy, and I count them among the wisest men I know.

I'm sure if you're a long time reader, you'll notice that I haven't mentioned Loren and Will yet. Well, don't you worry, Jessika and her family were there for that too. In fact, Karen took mom to the doctor the day before Loren and Will were born. Mom was on bed rest towards the end with them and so Karen helped with doctor's appointments when dad couldn't make it. The doctor wanted to do a c-section that day, but I'm fairly certain between Lori and Karen, that doctor got a "what for" lecture that he probably remembers to this day. When we talk about Loren and Will's entry to this world, it always starts with the nastiest thunderstorm the day before and Karen driving Momma up there in it. Then Karen driving momma home in it after they told the doctor that Mom didn't have any of her stuff with her, her family wasn't there, and most importantly Butch wasn't there. Mom would be fine and if anything went wrong, they'd be back to Tulsa that night no problem because they were experienced at making that drive, thankyouverymuch. Loren and Will were born the next day and of course, Karen, Kari, and Jessika were there to say hello to the newest members of the gang/troup.

That's how it's always been, all the way up to that fateful day when Jessi finally sent the group text.

Our familes have been together through grade school, junior high, babies, high school, boys (good and bad), college, Phi Lamb (membership and officer years), moves across country, graduations, weddings, law school, graduate school, finding Jessi a dude, football season after football season, Alzheimer's, betrayals, and the bar.

They're a constant in our lives and vice versa. I know that we can all count on one another to be there in "a ride or die, tough love, but loved fiercely, get after it, work hard, play hard, love Jesus and one another" kind of way.

Two nights ago, I read my first post about Lily and I cried fresh tears. But, I also realized that it's time for me to get after it. It's time for me to put on my big girl panties and make the best of my time. It's what we've been taught by our parents and what we push one another to do now. I told the committee about what I'd realized last night and the Jessic/ka's told me that they were glad to hear it. They knew I needed my time to be sad and I still have some sad and hard days ahead of me, but they also were glad to see that I was rising to the occasion and not letting the old devil defeat me.

They also told me that they would be with me, no matter what. It's what we do. We are there on the best days and on the worst days. It's what we've always done. We are family. That's what the committee is about: family and loving one another. This year more than ever with Lily and a cancer diagnosis, we've realized just how important it is to be there if that only includes sitting quietly and holding the other's hand.

And all of it is because two little girls named Jessica and Jessika met twenty years ago in the first grade.

THAT'S how the committee became The Committee.

Friday, August 1, 2014

On being scared...

"Courage is being scared to death...and saddling up anyway." - John Wayne

I mentioned yesterday that Brandon and I talked on the way to Little Rock yesterday. We talked about a lot of things, but we also had the conversation I've been avoiding.

My anxiety about child birth is and has been high for about a month now. I've been reading articles about what to expect. I also plan to have conversations with my doctor and my cousin that recently had a baby. My cousin is very Type-A like I am, so she won't be bothered by my million and one questions. I've never been able to sleep the night before school starts. There is so much unknown in the day. This is like that - on a much bigger scale of course! - and I've found that if I figure out what to expect, it helps me to take back some of the control and helps my anxiety.

But that's not the conversation I'm talking about.

We had the "if something goes wrong with me during labor, this is what I want you to do" conversation.

(I cried writing that sentence.)

We both cried while we had the conversation. It was one of those things that really could have gone unsaid, but I wanted Brandon to know where I stood from the horse's mouth. I needed him to know that I'm going to fight and I wanted him to fight for me. I think he needed to hear me say it too.

As awful as it sounds, I don't want to die. I still have a lot I want to do on this Earth. More than ever I've realized that I want my shot as a momma and I want Brandon to be the daddy helping me raise those babies. Even more so, I want to grow old with Brandon. I don't want him to do life with someone else and vice versa. And yes, being an attorney and making my mark in that aspect would be nice too. I've also realized that I want to help people too....not just in a legal aspect. I want others to know that even though life can handle us a shitty hand sometimes, there is someone that can get them through it. It's only God that will get us through this hell now.

A few months ago, I told my dad that I felt like even though this whole deal was going to be hard, we would be okay. I still believe it. But I readily admit, I struggle a LOT of days to hold onto that truth too.

If things were different, I'd likely not be this anxious. Then again, maybe not.

My point in sharing this is two-fold.

1. I believe that communication has serious power. Communication comes in all forms. It can be a look, a kind word, a smile, a hug, a kiss on the forehead, or it can be a blog post. If someone goes through a time where they are scared like I am now, I hope they read this post and feel comfort knowing that someone else has been there too. It will happen the way I want it to happen too...on their own terms and not mine.

2. That being said, I share this to communicate my needs. This is a very real way that you can know HOW to pray for me, my husband, my family, and my doctors.

I hope this finds you well. And if this finds you when you're struggling, I hope you find comfort in knowing that someone has felt the way you do too.

Happy August.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

On our own terms...

"We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!  But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love." - 1 Corinthians 13:12

I took the bar yesterday. I slept in until about 11 today. It was the hardest I've slept in months. There were lots of people praying for me to have focus. And I was able to quiet my mind and focus on the law for two days straight. When it was over, I was exhausted.

I'm completely grateful for it because when I woke up today, the weight of what is coming hit me like a ton of bricks.

Brandon and I haven't made any finalized plans about Lily's funeral or anything else for that matter. I've started documents for her eulogy, the birth plan, my hospital list, etc. We've talked about certain things, but most of it has been shelved. Partly because I needed to study, but also because it's just sad. Plus, I don't want this grief to overtake me or make me bitter and so I have to know my limits. We are trying to find a balance as best we can.

Before I got out of bed this morning, I looked at social media and saw that two friends lost family members too soon again today. It feels like we have just been surrounded by loss this year. So many good people taken early. I realize this is a season. But today, I'm just mad about it all. I've had my fill of death.

Unfortunately, our turn is around the corner. We talked about things a lot on Monday as we drove to Little Rock. As of last Thursday, we've been grieving for three months. Now we have to finish up all of those awful to-do lists and it pisses me off royally.

That doesn't mean that people haven't continued to reach out to us. Most of it I really appreciate. Knowing people are praying for me has been the most comforting thing. there are two emotions I've felt consistently: heartbreak and anger. I know God has been right beside me through both, but I'm just curious about what he thinks on the days I'm pissed as hell at him. On those days, I don't have a lot to say to him. I know prayer is what gets me through those days. I know it got me through the bar the past two days too. People have also brought us meals and talked to us about meal schedules for afterwards.

But there are also people that want to tell us about others that have been through a similar situation. I know people mean well, but I have two thoughts....and maybe I shouldn't share them. But this is just where I am tonight.

1) Who wants to meet someone because they've experienced the horrible tragedy you have? Think about it. You know someone or meet someone only because they've gone through the same shitty situation you have. Listen, I get it. This is a situation that will be a ministry for Brandon and I for the rest of our lives, but right now, I'm not entirely happy about it. I'll make my peace with it at some point. For now, I don't want to know others who have been there because it just makes me madder. Because here's the other deal, everyone I've met that has gone through this is someone that doesn't deserve it just like we don't. I am trying desperately to make the best of this situation and seeing more bad isn't a help right now. Some might find comfort in that. I don't at this point. It just makes the sting bite harder. I already know that in the future when this happens again and someone reaches out to me, I'll be telling them to make sure it's something the other person wants.

2) How that couple handled their situation may not be the way Brandon and I handle ours. Every so often, I look at the websites for Trisomy 13. What I've learned is that EVERYONE does things differently. I am sure that Brandon and I will be part of that trend. Not everyone has the same faith or belief system, so how each couple handles it will be different AS IT SHOULD BE. I realize that couples that have been in our place are the most likely to get that, but people are people. And I don't necessarily want to be told, "This is what we did..."

Brandon and I have to do this on our own terms. She's still our first-born child. Every couple goes through a steep learning curve with their first baby. We will be no different. I want respect (and space!) for that. 

I hope people get where I'm coming from on this. In the meantime, pray for us. The next two months are going to be really rough.

Happy end of July y'all.

P.S. I also highly recommend reading this article.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

On miracles...

   "They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, 'Sit here while I pray.' He took Peter, James, and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,' he said to them. 'Stay here and keep watch.
    Going a little farther he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 'Abba, Father,' he said, 'everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.'"  - Mark 14:32-36

***************************

I have had the following conversation several times since Lily's diagnosis was confirmed by the amniocentesis:

Other person: Hey Sam, how's it going?

Me: Good days and bad. I'm emotionally drained from the pregnancy. Things that I probably would chalk up to being normal stress me out. While I'm ready to be done, it also makes me sad because I know that when I am, she won't be here for very long either. It's a double edged sword."

Other person: Don't give up hope. God performs miracles every day. And I pray every night for you to have that miracle.

****************************

When I have this conversation with people, I want them to know that I, of all people, don't want my daughter to die. The only other person that could possibly want it more than me is Brandon.

But I don't think God is going to take this cup from us.

I so desperately wish He was.  I've never wanted something so badly in all my life. But I don't think that's what Lily's story is going to be.

That reality is just really hard to say because then it's out there and it's real and there's nothing that can be done about it. I don't think people want to believe it anymore than I do. So most of the time, I'm just quiet. I think it's a coping mechanism more than anything.

There are some times when I can't stop the pain. My triggers lately happen with two situations. The first is when I see new babies come into the world. The hardest part of seeing all these pictures of families looking happy is watching the daddy drive the family home. The other is watching all the nurseries and shopping trips and all the little rites of passage of getting ready for baby coming together.

We haven't made any major shopping trips.
We don't have a nursery.
I can count on one hand how many outfits she has.
Brandon likely won't get to take Lily home.

Some days the pain of what lies ahead of us is overwhelming, but it doesn't mean that I don't think she isn't a miracle.

I think it's crazy to know that Jesus knew what was ahead of him. He knew it was going to hurt and that it was going to be humbling, and that he was going to be humiliated. And it's why he asked for his Father to get him out of what was coming.

I so identify with this. I know Lily dying is going to hurt. I know Lily dying is going to be humbling. To some extent, I know that Lily dying is going to be humiliating. I wish that last part wasn't true, but there are some people that don't think about what they say and things will happen that I just can't control.

But you know what Jesus also knew? He knew that his death would bring the resurrection which is the single greatest miracle this world has ever known.

Now I don't think that Lily is going to be resurrected by any means, but I do think that there will be beauty  from the ashes that I can't even begin to fathom or know about yet. While I can't see past my nose for trying some days, I know that our redemption will come.

It has to come. It just has to...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Here's to seeing the good.

I mentioned in my last post that going to sleep is the hardest time of the day for me. There isn't anything to distract me from the reality that awaits us.

The other night I was looking at my Instagram account and I was looking at all the pictures from when we lived in Michigan. I was struck by how happy we looked in them. There were hard times in Michigan for us, but we were melded together as two in a way that might never have happened for us if we hadn't gone to Michigan. The whole time I was looking at these pictures I kept thinking, "All that time, that happy girl was headed for where I am sitting tonight and for this year."

I also wondered, "Will I ever be that happy girl again? Will my smile be changed? Will people be able to see that there is just a bit of sadness to my eyes for the rest of my life?"

And it made me sad and mad all over again. I told Brandon at dinner that I remembered that the first 8 months were hard because we were so homesick, law school was kicking my butt, and we were struggling financially.

But we survived and so many things worked out wonderfully for us.

That hard didn't seem to touch what we were going through now. I'd take all three of those situations in a heartbeat if it meant we got to have a healthy little girl.

I shared with Brandon that I wanted so badly for Arkansas and all that it holds for us to be good like Michigan was. I remembered Michigan being hard, but the level of hard we'd experienced in Arkansas, was just weird. I then took a sip of my water at the pizza place we were at and said, "Man I'm so glad that just about everywhere in Arkansas has Sonic ice for drinks."

And he said, "See there's something good about Arkansas right there."

It was simple and to the point. Brandon never said it, but if I want to see the good, I've got to look for it.

That's who I am. In the worst of times, I look for the good. It's how things in Michigan got better and how we survived at first and then thrived there.

I feel like this might be among the worst of times for us is an obvious understatement. But I've still got to look for the good, even if I have to fight to find it, because if I don't, I'll drown in my sadness.

The time I have with Lily is going to be special, no matter what. If it is two hours or ten, I want her to get the best version of me. I am not naive enough to think that it won't be hard to watch her go, but while she's here, I want her to know me as her momma who loves her with all she has. I want her to know the woman that fights to see the good, and not only survives this hard time, but thrives because of the grace of God.

I know there will be days I fall back down again, but the point is that I will fight to stand up and with the help of God and those that I love, I'll be able to stand up and see the good while doing it. I'll definitely have some battle scars from this deal, but those scars will be just that, scars, because God will heal me.

So here's to seeing the good...and on the bad days, here's to remembering that the good days will come.

Happy Wednesday.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

On being the Tin Man




"Now I know I've got a heart, because it's breaking." -The Tin Man, The Wizard of Oz

Ever have a post that just doesn't come together like you want it? That was yesterday for me. There are so many thoughts I have going on these days and I'm trying to express them because I know it's important in the healing process.

Today is going to be short and sweet, but exactly where I've been and am right now.

Brandon and I have our NICU appointment today for Lily. 

I've been having panic attacks at night because it gets dark and quiet in the house and there isn't any noise to distract me from what's happening. I don't have them every night. But I'd say about once a week. Things are always harder when I know I have a doctor's appointment coming.

The anxiety is crippling at times.

I fight it as hard as I can. I pray constantly throughout it. Bottom line, it's just really sad to think about and I worry about everyone else I love being safe.

Sometimes I tell Brandon if I can just survive this year, I will make it. But as soon as I tell him that all the worry about what else could go wrong with it comes whooshing in and the rest of the year seems cloudy.

I've never felt that before.

I've always been secure in my life and the direction it was going. I've always gone with plans of how I think things will work out and for the most part they do. When they haven't, I've been able to bounce back.

Now NOTHING is certain anymore.

I know that losing the power of control and being vulnerable is part of my journey in all of this, but I feel helpless.

...and scared. I've never been so scared in my life of losing the people I love.

At this point, my heart is broken with Lily. I know that with time, my heart will heal. But if I lose Brandon, I think my spirit will be broken. I don't dare say these things out loud all that often because I feel like I'm tempting fate. I have never once let myself say out loud "What else could go wrong?" because I don't want to be like Job with no one left. Even now I worry about typing those sentences out. I can't handle losing everyone. I can't really handle losing Lily.

I'm wondering if God has forgotten about me.

Everything I grew up being taught about Jesus is being put to the biggest test right now.

I want so badly to believe that this plan is better and that God's ways are better, but I feel almost betrayed by God. I am called to trust Him wholeheartedly and I've been told my whole life that no matter what I can trust Him.

I know that is Satan at work which pisses me off. I wish I could tell you that that asshole has left me alone during all of this, but he takes his shots whenever and however he can.

I fight so hard to see the good. Trust me on that. It seems like a lot of good Christian people have been hit hard this year with loss.

I want so desperately to see God's faithfulness to others, but I want to see it for us as well. I need to see it and desperately so.

So pray for us today.
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Hi y'all! The name's Samantha. You can call me Sam if you like. I am a somewhat newlywed that is Southern Baptist by denomination, a Sooner born and Sooner bred and when I die I'll be Sooner dead, Democrat by party, blonde to the core, and oldies but goodies kind of girl.
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