Sunday, December 16, 2012

4 months

It's been 4 months since Peter was born. Four months. One hundred twenty three days. Two thousand nine hundred and fifty two hours. But it feels like a lifetime ago. Or yesterday. Time is funny that way. And on this day, four months later, I am preparing for a Christmas without him. Last Christmas, he was safety tucked away in my womb. None of us knew at the time that he wouldn't be alive and well the following Christmas. We never dreamed we would still be a family of four on Christmas in 2012. And I can't help but think of those 26 families who also didn't know they would be celebrating Christmas without their loved ones this year. The devastation and grief and abandonment they feel is unimaginable, indescribable. The bond we have with our children is like no other. We can only take comfort that those children and teachers, like my Peter, are celebrating Christmas this year with the One True God. They will be in Jesus' arms, will witness the heavenly celebration, hear the angels rejoicing. And God willing we will, too, one day, with Jesus and our beloved children. I pray for all those mourning the victims of the Connecticut shootings. May God comfort them now and always.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4


Lord have mercy. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

It's Advent!

I am honored to be featured on this, the first day of Advent, as a guest writer on CatholicMom. With some great editing by my friend Anne, I think it turned out beautifully. I'm so proud of it, and humbled that people actually are reading it!

Joy in the Midst of Suffering

Where is the time going! Christmas is only a month away. Julie was so excited about putting up "Peter's tree" so we bought a potted Alberta pine on Friday and hauled it and all the accompanying decorations to the cemetery on Saturday. We all enjoyed the first Christmas activity of the season, and enjoyed doing something special for Peter.




Merry Christmas, Peter! We love you!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Newspaper article

Maria Wiering from the Catholic Review wrote a wonderful article on Peter and our story. I am amazed at the number of people who will learn about Peter, be touched by his story. It's truly awe inspiring. I love that his memory is being kept alive and that more people are going to know about our journey. I pray that people will read our story and realize they, too, can carry their child to term after receiving a severe prenatal diagnosis.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Photographs

For families who lose their child to a fatal condition, photographs are so very important. They, along with pieces of clothing or foot print molds, are often the only things we have to remember our babies by. Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep is a wonderful organization staffed by volunteers who take pictures of babies who are stillborn or expected to die shortly after birth. Our photographer from Heartlove Photography took some truly amazing images of Peter that I would like to share with you all. 






God's will

It's been just over 8 weeks since Peter left us and I ache for a baby in my arms. I know that's "normal" after you lose a baby but knowing something is normal doesn't make it any easier. I held a little one year old girl for only a moment, just long enough to feel her pudgy belly under my hands and have her look into my eyes and give me a goofy smile. And oh did my heart ache! I wanted that so badly for myself, for my family. I wanted to add another child to my home, a sibling for the girls, another grandchild. And selfishly I wanted to experience all those typical milestones that I didn't get to experience in the usual way with Natalie. But even thinking about another pregnancy is so scary. There are so many unknowns. I can't imagine putting my family though that again. No child should have to lose one sibling; losing two is unimaginable. 

I've spent a lot of time in prayer lately, trying to learn and discern God's will for my family. Is God calling me to have more children? Is he calling me to go back to school, back to work? Sometimes I wish he would just TELL us what he wants for us! I want to do His will, but I just don't know what his will actually is

I don't know if there will ever be another baby growing in my womb. I've mostly accepted, and even found the positives in, not having more children. But it still makes my heart ache for another little newborn in a sling, a toddler learning to walk, hearing first words and seeing first smiles. I don't know that I'll ever stop aching for that. In the meantime, I will continue to pray that God'w ill is revealed to me, and that I willingly accept it. 


Friday, September 28, 2012

Heaven

If there is one really positive thing to come from Peter's life and death, it's that heaven is a permanent conversational topic in our home. Daily Julie and I discuss the wonders of heaven, the joy that we will experience, curiosity over what Peter is doing and what we will someday do. Just today we talked about how we could go swimming and sled riding all in the same day. Julie wants to go on a "dinosaur back ride". God will have to pick her up, because dinosaurs are very tall. I long for heaven like never before. I truly believe this will help me be a better Christian. It certainly makes me want to do everything I can to get there, and to make sure my family is there with me. 

It makes all the things we suffer in this life seem less important. I don't worry so much about what we may miss out on as individuals and as a family. It removes concern that I may never see the Grand Canyon or the French alps or walk the path Jesus walked on Good Friday. I'll do it all with the ones I love, without worrying about plane fair and if I remembered to pack underwear. What could be better! 

A friend introduced me to the concept that, with heaven being outside of our understanding of time, our babies who we lost wait for us and we get to raise them in heaven. What a breathtaking idea. It brings tears to my eyes. In the days after Peter died I ached to nurse him. I prayed to Our Lady to cuddle him and nurse him at her breast. But maybe I'll get to do that afterall. I've been wrapped up in reading about Heaven, and have learned some interesting concepts that I'd never considered. I look forward to reading more. There are a lot of books on my reading list right now!

On that beautiful day when we meet Jesus and see our family again, Jesus tells us that all our questions will be answered (John 16:23). So many questions, big and small. An eternity of happiness and learning and companionship and praising Him who brought us there awaits us. And an eternity with my beautiful babies I never met, and God willing, the beautiful girls I am raising. 

I came upon this song by MercyMe recently. It's called Homesick. 


You're in a better place, I've heard a thousand times
And at least a thousand times I've rejoiced for you
But the reason why I'm broken, the reason why I cry
Is how long must I wait to be with you

I close my eyes and I see your face
If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place
Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow
I've never been more homesick than now

Help me Lord cause I don't understand your ways
The reason why I wonder if I'll ever know
But, even if you showed me, the hurt would be the same
Cause I'm still here so far away from home

I close my eyes and I see your face
If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place
Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow
I've never been more homesick than now

In Christ, there are no goodbye
And in Christ, there is no end
So I'll hold onto Jesus with all that I have
To see you again
To see you again

And I close my eyes and I see your face
If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place
Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow
Won't you give me strength to make it through somehow
Won't you give me strength to make it through somehow

I've never been more homesick than now

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Happy birthday

My baby boy was born one month ago today. One month ago, right now, I was cradling his sweet body, listening to his cute little noises, watching his sister adore him, seeing those around him fall in love with him. One month. On one hand it seems like an eternity but on the other it's like it was yesterday. 

The past month has been different than I expected. I feel like things are getting back to normal, but it's a new normal. I expected to be much more grief stricken than I am. But for the most part, I'm hanging in there, taking it a day at a time. I still dedicate parts of every day to Peter, be it talking to him, tending his garden, visiting the cemetery, looking at pictures. It's the only way to stay connected to my boy who I miss so desperately. 

After just a month I wonder how many people still think of him. How long will his memory stay alive? I'm overjoyed when I hear how his brief life has affected so many people. I hope to continue using his life and memory as an example of the preciousness of life. These children have worth, they have value. They are a true blessing. I just read a comment on an anencephaly support board by a women who lost her son 4 years ago. She talked about the blessing his life was to her family, and how even four years later he continues to bless them. I think that's a difficult concept to convey and, for those who haven't been there, to understand. But it's so true. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Two weeks...

It's been two weeks and two days since Peter was born. It feels like a lifetime ago. There has been very little about my emotions and feelings these last two weeks that has gone as expected. I never know whats going to set me off, what will start the tears. A medical card came in the mail for Peter today. I wouldn't have expected that to lead to tears, but seeing it just reminds me that he should be here with us. Knowing he'll never need that card, but seeing his name printed on it nonetheless, just something about that led to deep emotion. But I literally went from happy to tears in seconds. It was unexpected. 

We placed Peter's headstone today and laid grass seed (and I did THAT without tears. Go figure!). It is small and simple, but perfect. I actually love it even though for a long time I would have thought it too small and simple. Even the day before we ordered it I was leaning toward one larger and more expensive. I am very grateful that I found this one while googling. It was meant for him. 




All I want to do are things that honor and remember Peter. Scrapbooking, organizing pictures, visiting the grave, making a garden, shopping for stuff for the cemetery (two beautiful solar lights!), reading about heaven, and even making breastmilk soap: these are just some of the things I've been doing. It makes me feel closer to him. Ordinary tasks are the hardest. Cleaning the kitchen, picking up toys. They have nothing to do with Peter! It seems like a waste of time!


When I talk to other moms or read grief stories I wonder why I'm doing so well. I even start to feel guilty, like they miss their babies more than I miss mine (which I know isn't really true). I managed to go two days last week without even crying, and I think I had two days this week as well. I've broken down over the past week but it's just moments, it's not the whole day like it was during the several days after the funeral when I felt so empty and void. I know God's grace has a lot to do with it. I know that having six months to prepare, knowing goodbye was coming, helped a lot. But still I am a little surprised that I'm not a complete and utter mess most days. When I run out of things to do - when I complete the photo book, when the memorial garden is finished, when all the prints are ordered and framed, when my milk is gone.....I fear that will be when the sadness will really set in, when it will all feel truly final. 

I've been asked to share my story on a Catholic blogging site. That is very exciting. I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to share Peter's life with as many people as possible. And hopefully, somewhere along the way, someone will choose life for their anencephalic baby because of Peter. 




Sunday, August 26, 2012

Emotions


Some of my emotions through these past 8 days have been expected, and some have come as quite a surprise. After the funeral on Monday I actually felt some sort of relief. That was completely unexpected. I had wondered if I was even going to be able to keep it together long enough to finish Mass, and surely if I did, I would lose it at the cemetery. Somehow I managed to be both present in the moment AND not a complete emotional mess. Much of it was the preparation, I am sure. But some was relief, peace. I had spent the last 6 months in this strange dichotomy. I enjoyed the time I was pregnant. I had an easy pregnancy, loved having Peter in there, and basically didn't want it to end. But on the other hand I had this feeling like every day was one day closer to the worst day of my life. And I was actually getting through the worst day of my life intact. Maybe I would be OK after all?

There was a joy and peace that we experienced, however, that I would not expect the vast majority of parents to feel when they lose a child. Peter my not have been able to see us or hear us. He was, for lack of a better word, imperfect. But in heaven, he CAN see us and hear us. He IS perfect! He can pray for us. He will never know suffering. He will be happy for all eternity. THAT brings me joy.

But then Tuesday rolled around. It was all over. It was just me, an empty womb, and my tears. The roller coaster began. As I expected, all I wanted to do way crawl into bed, ignore everyone, and cry.

My milk began to come in on Monday night, and by Tuesday my breasts were very full. That led to yet another surprising reaction. I expected the milk coming in to be the final kick in the gut that would send me over the edge. But I found joy even in that. I'd missed having milk in my breasts, the scent of the milk, knowing my body made something just for that special little boy. It's just one more way Peter has been a blessing in my life, and I'm not ready to say goodbye to what feels like the last bit of Peter I have left. 

So many people have told me that I am so brave, so courageous. I don't feel brave. I still have moments where I completely break down. I've had days over the last six months where I lose my temper with the girls simply because I am so depressed at what was to come, where all I wanted to do was lay in bed, where I would lay in the floor and scream and cry, where the pain was so palpable it was truly physical. But I feel like I did what any mother would do. And then I was reminded that no, only a very small percent, about 5%, of mothers facing this diagnosis choose this path. I personally think choosing the time and place of my baby's death would be much harder than allowing the pregnancy to continue naturally. I couldn't have done anything differently. I do strongly believe, however, that women need to take their time when given a severe prenatal diagnosis. Even with my strong pro-life beliefs and strong faith, my head was spinning after diagnosis. I knew I would carry him, but I didn't know how long. Would I need to induce early to avoid the possibility of a c-section? Would that even be morally acceptible? Would he be suffering? It was a good two or three days before I could stop crying long enough to really think about anything in a rational manner. That's why it breaks my heart when I hear about a woman having an abortion very soon after a diagnosis. How could that decision have been made rationally? Too many women regret that quickly made decision. I've never heard of ONE women who regrets giving her baby time, giving him life by carrying him to term. But there are all too many who wished they'd carried their babies to term. 

I give God the credit for my positive attitude these past 6 months. It has been a true joy to know Peter. I am so blessed to have had so many people praying for us that I just KNOW it was God's grace that brought us through. Steve and I both feel so truly blessed to have known Peter. I won't pretend that I wouldn't have preferred he lived and be healthy, but I wouldn't have changed this situation if it meant never knowing Peter. We are better people for this experience. I had the pleasure of growing one of God's precious children in my womb for 9 months, and then delivering him to the arms of the Lord. What a beautiful, glorious way to suffer for the glory of God and the joy of my son. 


Friday, August 24, 2012

Peter's funeral

Peter's funeral was on the Monday after his birth, August 20, 2012. I didn't sleep well that night and was up very early. I felt sick. I didn't want to go. We went to the funeral home an hour ahead of time to see him and say goodbye. He looked so perfect and tiny. The home did a beautiful job wrapping him and laying him in his tiny coffin. He was so cold, and instinct told me to tell Julie not to touch him. I didn't want her to remember Peter that way. But I quickly changed my mind. That was wrong; she needed to say goodbye in whatever way felt right for her. She decided not to hold him but she rubbed his cheek and kissed him. I hadn't planned on picking him up but I couldn't resist. I needed to hug him one last time. I hugged him and cried and rocked his tiny body. Natalie showed some interest in him for the first time. She stuck her finger right in his mouth, which was just the right size for her tiny little finger. We spent 30 minutes with him, placed some holy cards in his coffin, a holy medal, a photograph, and a sunflower clipped from my garden. Then we proceeded to the church.


Steve carried in the tiny coffin and placed it at the front of the church. Eric Blair was cantor, and he did a beautiful job singing the wonderful hymns we'd chosen. Fr. Steve's homily was beautiful and touching. I loved hearing Peter's name over and over. I am obsessed with his name, wanting to hear it and read it as much as possible. He spoke of how we don't know why we have such a short time with some loved ones, and how it is always especially heartbreaking and mysterious when a child dies. He told a story about a night blooming flower that blooms just once a year at night, and by morning its petals are wilted, and how that reminded him of little Peter who was born at night and gone by morning, and how that flower is mysterious, and so are the ways of the Lord when it comes to a child dying. It was beautiful and touching. 

The Mass was absolutely beautufl, and even though I didn't want to be there when I'd woken in the morning, once I was there I relished in it. I cherished every moment, tried to be truly present so that I could remember it all. It felt so right, to be there amongst family, friends, our priest, and the Lord Jesus Christ, to celebrate his short life and thank God for the time we did have. When Fr. Steve insenced the coffin, it all felt so real, so sad, and so beautiful at the same time. As I stood there in the pew next to his tiny casket, watching Fr. Steve use the insence, smelling it, seeing it float up towards the heavens, I cried for sadness but I smiled for joy. I saw that moment as a symbol of his rising to the arms of Jesus. If there is one moment I take with me from that Mass, it will be the memory of the insence, rising around the casket and toward the place where Peter waits for me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Peter Benedict's birth story


I suppose Peter's birth story starts on the Tuesday before he was born. I'd gone to Annapolis with Steve for my weekly checkup with Dr. Sweeney and the midwife. I was forty one weeks and one day pregnant. I figured we would be discussing he possibility of induction since my next appointment wouldn't be scheduled until after I'd hit the forty two week mark. Up until that point I was not willing to induce, and there really was no reason for it. So we planned to carry the pregnancy to forty two weeks if possible. But once we reached forty two I didn't feel anymore like it was a choice between being pregnant and inducing, but between gentle induction over a few days and a full-on pitocin induction, and the former sounded more pleasant, and like it would be gentler on Peter. Along with the midwife, Jessica, we decided to try a prostaglandin gel that afternoon. We expected it would need repeating one or two more times, and maybe a full induction would still be necessary. I was still only measuring approximately 33-34 weeks, and Peter was measuring around 4 pounds. The gel started causing contractions almost immediately. I went home, feeling pretty uncomfortable, contracting irregularly until about 1AM, when they stopped and I went to sleep.

We had an appointment for Wednesday evening to receive another round of gel. I'm glad my mom was able to be in town for all of these runs to Annapolis and back, so we didn't have to take the girls or find a babysitter. So we found ourselves in the same room, hooked to a monitor to make sure Peter was OK and that I didn't have too many contractions. Nicki was our midwife that evening. She stripped my membranes, something we couldn't do the day before. The first dose of gel had done enough to help me dilate a little and bring Peter down into my pelvis a little more. The gel makes for contractions that are much different than the contractions I felt in regular, natural labor. I was rather uncomforable when we arrived home. I continued contractions throughout the evening, where they were becoming regular and more uncomfortable, and closer together. We called Nicki around midnight, and she met us at 1AM. Labor slowed a couple of times but didn't stall. She placed a foley bulb to help me dilate. Peter was still breech, with at least one foot down toward my cervix, plus he was small and high. Those things altogether made for difficuly in dilating. The foley bulb itself was not painful or even uncomfortable, but boy did it work! I was contracting like crazy, and they HURT. I said at the time that they felt likie transition contractions. I was barely getting a rest between them for a good 15 minutes, and at that time, knowing I wasn't even 4 cm dilated, I thought I would probably get an epidural. I was torn about it, and even a little upset, but later I would see God's hand in it, as I had in so much of the whole experience. Around 4:30AM I discussed the possibility of Stadol with the nurse. I thought if I just got a little rest, I could push through. When it wore off around 6:30AM I was still so sleepy that I decided to request an epidural. There was just no way I was going to be able to push through without some rest. I think it was around 8AM when it was placed. My labor had slowed by that time so we decided to start pitocin, too. I was already close to 7 cm but contractions weren't coming very close together and weren't very strong. Being 7 cm already, however, we decided to call my mom in with the girls, and also called the photographer from "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep". She asked if we wanted her there for the labor, which I thought was a wonderful opportunity for more pictures, so we said yes. Everyone got there around 10AM. Each time Nicki checked me I barely progressed. Peter was still high, and the only pressure on my cervix was from the bag of waters. By the afternoon she said it was time to consider breaking the waters, but I really didn't want to. After some internal manipulations (somthing I never could have tolerated if I didn't have pain medication!) Nicki got me from 8 to 10 cm in just a few minutes! It was time to push! Yay! She broke my waters and I started pushing dear Peter down the birth canal. It took a little while to find the right position to get him down the birth canal, plus the contractions didn't seem like they were coming very close together so there was a bit of a break between pushes. I remember Steve saying he could see a foot! I reached down and felt the tinest toes coming from my body and just started to cry. I was joyful, I was excited, and I was sad. It was all destined to come to an end.  

At 5:27PM Peter Benedict Shock made his entrance into the world. As I saw his body slip from mine I couldn't believe how tiny he was! He weighed 3 pounds 15 ounces, and measured just 15 inches long. He was placed across my chest, where I could gaze upon his sweet face, kiss his darling nose, and play with his tiny fingers. A priest from St. Mary's in Annapolis, Fr. Harrison, was there, waiting. He came in as soon as Peter was placed on my chest, and Peter was baptized. His breathing was labored, and I was afraid we were going to lose him right then. Please God, I prayed, don't take him yet! But he didn't. He continued to have some breathing trouble, as well as circulation trouble, it seemed. His lower half was mostly purple, and his face kept growing cold. His little nose was chilly; I just kept kissing it. He had the sweetest little lips. He would stop breathing for a few seconds, and I would pat his butt, and he would gasp. I don't know if he could hear, and I don't think he could see, but he responded to my touch on his cheek. And I believe he felt our love. I enjoyed every moment with him. I was truly happy. We wet his lips with a little glucose water, and he smacked his lips a little and swallowed the water. Everyone took turns holding him and loving on him. Julie absolutely adored her little brother. She looked at him with such adoring love. She was such a joyful big sister. At one point I asked her if she wanted me to put his hat on him, and she said "I don't care about that. I just love him!". She wanted to hold him as much as possible. I'm pretty sure Steve gave up some of his precious time with Peter in order to allow Julie extra cuddle time. After about 3 hours we noticed his breathing was getting shallow. He cried for a minute or so while I was rocking him. At first we didn't realize he was crying, but when we did Steve held him on the bed while I put colostrum on his lips. He drank it, and fell asleep. That was around or shortly after 8:30, and was the last time we saw him awake.

We requested to be released as soon as possible, so we could take Peter home and cuddle with him there, take foot and hand prints, and just enjoy him there. We prepared all of our things, packed up the cars, and headed home with baby Peter. We aren't sure of the exact time he passed from his body into heaven. It was sometime just after 9PM. I thought we were going to be able to get him breathing again. I patted his butt several times, rubbed his cheek, but he was gone. We'd had a precious 3.5 hours with him, and now he was in the arms of Jesus. 

At home we cuddled him, made molds of his handprints and footprints, and did ink prints. Around 1AM I dressed him in his baptism/burial gown, with his little booties and diaper cover made by wonderful volunteers from Isaiah's Promise. I wrapped him in two blankets to keep him as warm as possible. I tried to sleep but every time I turned off the light I turned it on again so I could just stare at him. Finally around 2AM I fell asleep, but I was back up at 6, staring at him, holding him, and crying. Julie woke up around 8 and came over. She asked if he was breathing, and I said no. She went to her room and cried, then came back and held him and laid with him. That afternoon we delivered him to the funeral home, Steve, Julie and I. Handing him over and walking away was unspeakably hard. But I knew that what I'd left behind was just his body. I'd already been talking to him all morning, asking for his prayers and telling him how much we loved him. There was a peace there, and that was something I hadn't expected. When I cried, I smiled, too. I thought about him in the loving arms of Jesus, made perfect and whole, knowing only joy and peace and love. If only all children could be so lucky, to know nothing but love from the moment of conception until death. 

Strangely in the day after his birth I found myself forgetting for split seconds that I wasn't pregnant, that he was really gone. Physically, I felt perfectly fine. I certainly didn't feel like I'd just given birth. My stomach was still round. There wasn't a baby in my arms. I would touch my stomach and then remember he was no longer there. But now that I knew his body I could picture his tiny frame in my womb, where his face was, where his little arms and legs were. 

I spent a lot of time talking to him in those first hours, telling him how much I loved him, how much I missed him, and how happy I was for him to be in heaven with Our Lord, and asking him through tears to pray for us. He could hear me now, he could even see me. He couldn't do those things a few hours before. That was part of the peace that came; Peter's imperfect body was here but his perfect soul was in God's Kingdom. I would cry for my own sadness and grief, but smile at the same time for his joy and peace. It was odd having so many emotions at the same time. I'd not expected that. 

I can remember back to February when Peter was diagnosed. For days I scoured the internet for anything related to acrania and anencephly, both the good and the bad. I poured over blogs. I saw pictures of smiling women holding their babies who were not long for this world, moms at baby showers, or family pictures of a smiling, pregnant mom during a family vacation, and I wondered how they do it. I felt like I would never smile again. HOW could they smile while holding their baby, when hello and goodbye are only minutes or hours apart? As the pregnancy progressed I realized how they could be joyful because I, too, was joyful. But even still I wasn't sure how I was going to react when I met Peter. Would I sob over him, knowing it was goodbye? Or would I spill tears of joy because I am finally meeting my son for the first time? I can say now that I was truly blessed to know him, truly joyful to meet him, and that the room was filled all around with smiles and joy over meeting our son and brother for the first time, even when we had no idea how long he would be with us. We loved him as much, and maybe even a little more, than any other baby. After all we had to squeeze a lifetime of love into just a few short hours. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Peter Benedict Shock

Our beautiful boy is a saint in heaven, alive in the arms of Jesus and his blessed mother. He was born at 5:27 on August 16th. He weighed just 3 pounds 15 ounces, and was 15 inches long. We spent the evening with him, after which he passed peacefully. We would have loved more time with him but I knew after he was born that he wouldn't be with us for very long. Julie absolutely adores him; she misses him terribly. 

Funeral Mass arrangements are being made for Monday, 9:30am at St. Ursula on Harford rd. in Parkville. 



Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Getting closer

I'm a little over 41 weeks along now. It doesn't seem that Peter is going to come on his own. It's not uncommon for babies with anencephaly to need to be induced. No one knows exactly what causes labor to begin but one theory is that the baby's brain sends signals to the kidneys. These babies may be unable to do that. That, coupled with his small size, and who knows how long I would stay pregnant if we let him just come when he was ready! 

I'm working with my midwives on some more gentle induction methods this week. I am hoping they'll work and decided on those early because I had a strong feeling he wasn't going to come without help, and next week they'll go to pitocin. So, rather than do nothing and then go straight to pitocin, we are trying some other things first. Hopefully we get to meet Peter sometime this week or weekend. Otherwise I imagine he will make his appearance on August 23rd at the latest. 

Today is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, where Catholics celebrate our belief that God saved Mary from bodily corruption and assumed her body and soul into heaven. I thought it would be a beautiful day for Peter to be born. I suppose we do still have 8 hours in the day!

I'm understandably scared and anxious. Obviously labor and birth are big deals even when you expect to greet a perfectly healthy baby at the end of it. I am worried about how I will handle the pain knowing that there is tragedy to follow. But there will also be joy. Keep me in your prayers if you will, that I will be able to put my sadness and anxiety aside and work with my body to have a safe, healthy, and comfortable labor. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Due Date

Wow has it gone fast. I'm 40 week today, a full week and then some longer than I've been pregnant in the past. Peter has been doing really well in there. In a week be gained over 10 ounces to get to almost 4 pounds. If he stays another week maybe he will even make 5 pounds at birth. He's been hanging out in the breech position. I hope he stays there instead of going transverse. I am allowed a breech delivery; if he goes back to transverse I'll have to have a c-section. 

I'm more at peace with the coming birth than I was earlier, but at the same time I'm still not excited like one would be with a typical pregnancy. In just a few weeks, or a lot less, it's all over. And I'm left with photos and memories and clothes and blankets. God give me strength. God, please let me focus on Peter and not myself. Let me be joyful that he will be made perfect and live in joy with you. Let me not focus on my own grief. Bring me peace. Amen. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A whirlwind of emotions


I'm finally getting out of my funk. It was a rough few weeks. I'm not sure why I was hit so hard by the sadness and negativity. Perhaps it's normal and natural. Perhaps it's hormones. Perhaps it's the devil. Or a combination of all of the above. I'm going to confession in a few hours. I expect I will feel like a new person spiritually by 4:30. It really does do wonders for the soul! 


I'm blessed to have friends who reminded me that it's normal and it's ok to me angry at God. He can take our anger and sadness and bitterness. Rather than praise Him and worship Him I was finding myself yelling at Him. I know there isn't a "why". I know in my brain that He grieves for Peter, too, and that He loves us and supports us. But my brain just says why do bad things keep happening!? Why won't he just fix Peter!? Julie asked me that - why Jesus doesn't heal Peter. That was a hard conversation. It's hard to know how to deal with all of these emotions. Through the whole experience I've been surprised at the speed with which my emotions change. I'm crying at the drop of a hat, and just as quickly feeling hopeful again.


I'm having some success in not paying too much attention to the calendar. I'm full term now. Peter could potentially come any time between now and 5 weeks from now. But I just can't focus on that. I have to just enjoy the last few weeks with him without thinking that they ARE the last few weeks. For the first time this morning, while praying and thinking, I felt truly excited to meet him. I know it sounds awful - a mother not excited to meet her son. But I already know Peter. And he's safe and healthy and loved right where he is. So it's hard to want to give birth to him knowing that it's the beginning of the end. But today I pictured holding him, looking into his sweet face, and for the first time it sounded joyful instead of just bitter sweet. 


But listen up God. That doesn't mean I'm ready for labor! I want more time! Please? 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

New territory

A wise woman who has already walked this journey told me that losing a child changes you. I don't know why hearing it from someone else made that click. I guess I thought eventually I would get past it and just be who I always was. But that's not the path I'm on. That's not the life I lead. I want to allow this experience to change me for the better. I want to be a better person, a better Christian, a better mother for having known Peter. But honestly I don't know how to do that. Emily from ourcarolinegrace.blogspot.com told a group of us that she could choose to feel sad or choose to feel blessed. I do feel blessed but I feel so very sad. I hope I can be as joyful and feel as blessed as Emily after we've said goodbye to Peter. I'm sure she was sad at first, too - I don't mean to imply that she didn't and doesn't still grieve her daughter. Lately I've been so sad and full of anxiety over his coming birth that I have been a worse mother and a worse Christian. How do I put aside my anxiety and sadness over the coming loss and just enjoy him for the last few weeks that he's here? I want to enjoy our last few weeks together.

It's amazing how things that were once so important just don't seem so important anymore. My family, our health, and my relationship with Jesus: those are the important things in life. Dirty floors, artificial coloring, clean sheets, too much tv, a toddler wearing just a diaper all day...those don't seem like big deals anymore.

Please Lord, let us have time with Peter. Let us bring him home. Let him sleep in my bed and maybe even nurse like my babies before him. Show me how to turn tragedy into blessings. Make us stronger, better people for having known him. Amen.

Save me, God, for the waters have reached my neck. I have sunk into the mire of the deep, where there is no foothold. I have gone down to the watery depths; the flood overwhelms me. I am weary with crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes have failed, looking for my God. Psalm 69:2-4

Thursday, June 28, 2012

So close

In two weeks I will be full term. Someone please tell me how to slow this down! My due date is 5 weeks away, and of course he could come early or late. I'm just so not ready for this. I want to keep him in my belly forever, where he's safe and happy and healthy. I am not at peace with this anymore. I just want to slow down time and have more kicks and punches and ultrasounds. I should be happy and excited to meet him, but instead I find myself wanting to wait because hello will mean goodbye. I am not ready for goodbye.

We had our monthly ultrasound today. Peter is getting much bigger. He's still very small for his gestational age but has gained over a pound since my last visit, making him approximately 2lbs and 12 ounces. He could easily be under 6 pounds at birth. I guess it all depends on when he decides to make his appearance. I have a few hats for him but I want to start on a new one. I would love to make one with doggie ears (I got him a little brown and orange romper with a dog!) but that might be beyond my crocheting abilities.

Julie loves talking to Peter, feeling him move, hugging my belly. She is definitely attached to him. Prayers for her to have peace would be very appreciated. Actually I could use a big, fat dose of peace right now, too, if you could throw my name in on that prayer.

Blessings to you all,
Steph

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Friendship

I have the greatest friends in the world! Many may be miles and miles away, scattered across the country. Some are new, having met them through this experience. They have all been my support, my shoulder to cry on, and my prayer warriors. Without these good Christian women praying for me and supporting me, I don't know how I would have gotten through the last 4 months with my sanity intact. There are dozens of people, maybe more, who I don't even know who are praying for us. A large group of friends got together to make me a prayer shawl, each contributing one handmade square. But it ended up that so many women wanted to participate that I got a beautiful quilt instead! It's been such a comfort on sad evenings. When I feel grieved and alone, I wrap myself in that quilt and pray and cry. The kind volunteers from Isaiah's promise have made me and Peter many beautiful, handmade items including his baptism gown, which I believe is also what we will bury him in. Friends have also been generous with their financial support, helping us with Peter's funeral expenses. And old childhood friend just wrote to let me know she is arranging a food tree for us, so we won't have to eat sandwiches and take out for days or weeks after the birth.  My oldest friend from childhood even insisted that I could call her home from the beach if I need her when I go into labor. And the quick notes to check in on me and CaringBridge guestbook comments still mean so much. It means people are thinking of us, remembering us in our time of need. Even knowing these wonderful women and their kind hearts, I am STILL overwhelmed at the amount of love and support that has flowed from all of them. 


I hope everyone in trying situations has the support of wonderful friends. You've all be so kind, caring, wonderful.....may God bless each and every one of you. Love, Steph

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A big thank you to Steve's boss

My husband's boss generously started a fundraising drive to help pay for funeral and burial expenses for the upcoming birth of Peter. Thank you to Noelle and Dewey, to everyone who donates, and also to everyone who has sent donations to me privately. It's so very appreciated, and definitely helps to remove some stress at this difficult time. Raise Money for Baby Peter Shock | YouCaring

Friday, June 22, 2012

Newest ultrasound appearance

We had a really wonderful experience this week going for an elective 3D ultrasound. We got to spend time with him and go home with a CD, DVD, and heartbeat recorder. He's gotten so chubby! He just looks like a cute little newborn now instead of the hairy, skinny look that they sport in the 2nd trimester. I know I will treasure these even more in the months to come.






33.5 weeks...

Wow, I can hardly believe it. I wish I had the ability to slow down time. It's going so fast. When I hot 30 weeks I started to feel..... panicked? I don't know if that's the right word. Like there's a clock ticking, counting down to one of the best and worst days of my life. I'll get to meet my first son face to face for the first time. And I'll have to say goodbye. There are just no words to describe how that feels. 

I went to a social event last night to meet with a group of moms who've also lost babies, some with anencephaly as well, others for seemingly no reason at all. It's so comforting to not feel alone, to see these other moms who value their children as much as I, whether here or in heaven, and to know that I will get over it. I will eventually heal. It just takes time and faith and prayer and support. 

Seeing Peter on 3d and 4d ultrasound at Precious Previews was amazing. I mean, sure we've gotten to see him every 4 weeks since I was 14 weeks, but this was different. She wasn't there to check the heart and measure the femur; we got to just look at his darling face (his cheeks are so chubby now!!!) and talk about him and listen to her describe what we were seeing and how the ultrasound was working......it was really a wonderful gift. THIS is our time together. This is when we get to know him and enjoy him. So I am grateful that there are places like that where we can go and just feel a little closer to him. 

I won't lie. The last two weeks have been very trying. I'm generally a very upbeat person and I've dealt exceptionally well with this tragedy I think. But the last two weeks have been much more difficult, and I think it's only going to get harder as I get closer and closer to saying hello and saying goodbye. I still feel so blessed to know him, to have him be a part of our lives, and to have him make an impact on others' lives. But I sure am going to miss him. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Changing Plans


Many of us have had to change our idea of family through the years as visions and reality don't quite meet up. Perhaps a spouse died, or maybe a job was lost and a move across the country was necessary. Maybe a couple can't conceive or suffers from secondary infertility, the mother is ill and can't continue to carry babies, or other circumstances don't allow for them to grow their family as they had hoped. Or maybe a child was born with a birth defect, developed an illness, or even died. We don't just grieve the child or spouse that we lost, we grieve for the children that maybe never be, the family we'd envisioned, the life we thought we would make for ourselves and our family. 

I'm a planner. I am fully aware of the saying "when we make plans, God laughs". Is it ever true! Not to say that God purposely messes up our plans or takes pleasure in seeing them change. He knows all of this was going to happen anyway. I had envisioned my daughters being best friends. I was so excited to learn of having another girl when I was pregnant with Natalie! Best friends! I prayed for it, I was sure it would happen, even if not now, eventually. But then we found out Natalie wasn't your typical child. Sure, my girls love each other and are friends, but it's not the same. There won't be midnight calls to each other when one of their children is running a fever. They won't be writing college term papers together. I had to change my vision. I had to grieve that loss and move on to reality, which is my new idea of family. 

I thought we would have a medium or large sized family. We take our faith and the teachings of our church seriously. We are always open to new life. That won't change. But God doesn't call us to have as many babies as biology will allow. He asks us to use the gift of fertility prudently. I am still grieving that my family is going to be small. With the various factors in play with a hereditary condition that can result in a variety of outcomes, we've decided it's probably not prudent to continue to grow our family, at least not with biological children. That has been extremely difficult for me. Now I have to grieve that loss as well, and move on to reality, our new idea of family. And of course I also have to remember that it is ALL in God's control. It's all in his hands. If he so chooses he could send me another baby or two, healthy or not. WE are not in control. HIS plans are the only ones that count. His will be done. I am so blessed to have Peter in my life. I honestly wouldn't change any of this. I am so grateful for the opportunity to know him and to love him. I hope that his short time on earth will have true meaning beyond just my family. I hope that his memory lasts much longer. I hope people realize that ALL life matters. ALL LIFE IS SACRED

May my baby boy, my only son, have a lasting change on this world. I love you, Peter. 



Lastly I want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart who have donated toward the funeral expenses. That has been a big stress for me for the past 4 months, and your generosity is easing that stress. I will get around to thanking you all individually but I didn't want to let that go any longer than necessary. 

Thank you again for all your prayers. 
Stephanie

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The power of faith


I am OK. Really. I have bad days, as does my husband, and planning the funeral is really, *really* hard, but overall I am actually alright. And I know it's prayer and God's grace. I love feeling Peter move. I feel blessed to know this little person growing inside me, who has no idea that he will know Jesus in just a few months. My family will be better for having Peter in our lives. 

I am not angry at God. I believe this has actually strengthened my faith in the Lord. He does not will evil. Yes, he allows evil to take place. But I believe that always leads to a greater good. Perhaps my story will save a baby? Maybe someone will decide to give their terminal baby a chance at life. I've not heard of one single mother who regretted carrying her child to term. But it's not hard at all to find women who wish they'd given their babies a chance to be born. The words that I keep repeating are: From my arms to God's, knowing only love. Peter will know only love, not suffering, not sadness, not grief, and God willing, not pain. 

One day I pray that I will make it to heaven and my precious Peter will be there with his brother or sister we lost 2 years ago, waiting at the gates to welcome me home. 


Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved, he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Nearing the 3rd trimester

I'm 26.5 weeks today, just a week and a half from the third trimester. I can't believe it. When Peter was diagnosed I thought, how am I going to do this for 6 months? But I can't believe how quickly it's gone. I know the third trimester will be bittersweet as Peter grows and shows his personality, kicks hard enough for others to feel, and then as pregnancy discomforts increase and the time to say goodbye draws nearer. 

We had our prenatal appointments today. External measurements are almost on target, just a little small. On ultrasound he's weighing a pound and still several weeks behind in growth. But he's strong, heart looks excellent according to Dr. Sweeney, and we still have every hope that we will have a full term, normal delivery!
 
The tech couldn't get any great 3D shots this week but we did get to really see him moving around on ultrasound. He is so much bigger than 4 weeks ago! Or at least it seems so. I posted a cute picture of his tiny feet :) I never get tired of watching him on screen, comfortable and safe and healthy. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Grieving

It's so comforting to have people ask how I am, just drop a line to see how I'm doing or let me know they're praying for me. If you have other friends or family who are grieving or in a difficult situation, most people seem to be comforted by knowing people remember them, recognize their pain, and care about them. You won't remind them of the grief by mentioning it - they haven't forgotten it. Especially for parents who've lost a child to miscarriage or stillbirth it seems common for people to expect that person to quickly "get over it" and move on. Others around them forget their loss or are uncomfortable by the mention of the lost child. But the parents don't forget the loss. Their children in heaven are as loved as their children on earth. What a tragedy it is for that child to be forgotten by all but the parents.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Check-ups

April 5th, Holy Thursday, I went to Annapolis for my midwife appointment and the monthly ultrasound. Peter is doing great. The perinatologist, Dr. Sweeny, said he looks great, healthy, and sees nothing so far that will cut the pregnancy short. Heart beat is strong and steady, but he is still measuring small. Now he's about 18-19 weeks (I'm almost 23 weeks). The midwives have been kind and supportive, and will still be the ones to deliver Peter even if we decide to go with a hospital delivery. 

It was so wonderful to see Peter on ultrasound, wiggling, kicking, playing with his fingers. The placenta is anterior, which is probably, along with his smaller size, why I haven't felt a lot of movement. I did feel three gentle kicks this morning, which was wonderful. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sirach 6


"Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter:
whoever finds one has found a treasure.
Faithful friends are beyond price;
no amount can balance their worth.
Faithful friends are life-saving medicine;
and those who fear the Lord will find them.”
-Sirach 6:14-16

We've been reading this passage during Friday stations of the cross. It really spoke to me. Those who have been so kind, generous, loving, supportive - they have been friends. Most are scattered across the county. Some I've never even met in person. Many who've prayed for us are friends or family members of friends, people I've never even spoken to. In a time when families are scattered across the county, are involved in their own goings-on, in a time of dwindling faith, in a time where people seek their own paths, I've been grateful for friends near and far, friends who've watched our kids, friends who've offered to drop everything and help us when the baby comes, friends who've sent books, made rosaries, are making clothes or blankets or hats. 

I don't believe it was God's will that my child die. I do believe that God takes tragedy and makes good come of it. I believe it's our job to find that good and nourish it. I believe making new friends is one of those goods that will come of this. 

Thank you.