Sunday, August 14, 2011

Remembering Jeffrey - 10 Years

Ten years ago, Ron and I were married for a little over a year and we were expecting our first child - a girl, we were told.  Things were going along just fine until I started retaining a lot of water and gaining a lot of weight.  I asked questions of the nurse and doctor at the OB/GYN practice I was going to and was reassured - just put your feet up, you're fine.  Not too long after that, I found myself heading from that practice to the hospital next door so they could monitor me.  I was SO filled with fluid.  I had fears of pre-eclampsia because my mother had it with my sister.  I had no reason to expect that I would have any problems of my own.  I'd always been perfectly healthy with no "female" problems at all.  This naiive soon-to-be mama should have listened to her gut and gone to a hospital on my own before this practice finally noticed a problem.  I knew something was wrong.  They didn't believe me, but I was right.

I was admitted to that hospital pretty quickly.  It was approaching mid-August and I wasn't due til December 7th.  I was admitted with severe pre-eclampsia.  I spent a short time in that small community hospital.  My condition worsened so quickly it was scary.  It was decided that if anything were to happen, they couldn't handle a baby born at that gestational age.  I have some memories of things that were going on at the hospital, but I was so sick and so out of it that at this point my memories become quite fuzzy.  They were pumping me full of meds, including magnesium which makes you feel SO hot.  Unreal.

I remember being transferred from my bed onto a gurney and have vague memories of hallways and looking out ambulance door windows in the middle of the night.  I remember the room I was in at the bigger downtown Houston, TX hospital that I was transferred to.  It was there I was transferred to the care of a high-risk OB/GYN who would be my doctor until we left Houston in August 2008.  I remember the fears people had for my life.  I remember the fears I had for my baby's.  I was watched like a hawk and was hooked up to the fetal monitor constantly.  I was having frequent ultrasounds.  I remember finding out at one of those ultrasounds that our baby girl was really a baby boy!

One night, the nurse decided to turn that fetal monitor off.  I don't know if she thought she was doing me a favor so I wouldn't be bothered by the noise or what she was thinking.  In the morning, I was taken across the hall for another ultrasound.  I remember the look on the lady's face.  I remember her leaving the room.  I remember a female doctor coming back into the room with her.  And I remember her telling me that my baby had died.

I don't know if my lack of memories serves to protect me or to drive me nuts, but my memories are really sketchy through this time.  I think it goes without saying that Ron and I were absolutely devastated by this blow.  Sick as I was, I was then put in the position of having to be induced to give birth to this baby who would be born silently into this world.  I remember my mom being with me in the room holding my hand.  She had come down from Canada.  I was so sick and getting sicker.  I remember wondering how high my blood pressure was.  I remember she wouldn't tell me because she didn't want to make me any worse than I already was.  I did find out that the top number was in the 200s at some point.

I remember the delivery of my baby boy.  So different from what you see on tv and in the movies.  Everyone else (so it seemed to me) got happy endings.  Not us.  The pain of the reality of what was going on was far worse than the pain of childbirth.  And, yes, it was real childbirth - all the pain and agony with no precious living reward at the end.  We hadn't picked out a boy's name so we quickly decided and our son was named Jeffrey George.  He was a tiny 12 inch long 1 lb 1/4 oz baby boy.

I remember having to decided what "to do" about our baby.  We were beyond a "miscarriage" and it was a stillbirth.  We had to decide on a funeral home to handle things.  I was clueless how we should handle things.  My health was so bad.  I had no clue how long I'd be in the hospital or if I'd get out, if you know what I mean!  

I was settled into a regular room and sometime later, they brought my baby to me to hold.  I remember helplessly watching Ron digest what was happening to us.  I remember how hard it was on him and that made me even sadder than I already was.  I wept and I felt like the tears would never cease.  I held on to him for hours before letting him go.  He was dressed in this little white linen gown made by some volunteers.  It was so tiny, but so was this tiny precious baby.  I only just today opened up the package containing this gown for the first time in ten years.

The nurse came in at one point and put Jeffrey in his little bassinet so she could take pictures. The company that does the normal baby pictures we all see of everyone else's precious newborns provides the same pictures under a separate compassionate branch of the company to families who have lost their babies.  We have one picture of Jeffrey.  I am not sharing that here.  It's just too precious.  Sharing these pictures today is enough.

We decided at the time to have Jeffrey cremated.  I was too sick at the time to know what to do.  I didn't know how long I would be in the hospital or what our situation would be.  It seemed the easiest thing do to.  Amazing how once you delivery the baby when you have pre-eclampsia how quickly the symptoms reverse.  I was home very soon afterwards. We had a funeral for Jeffrey at our church on August 18th.

We remember Jeffrey every August 14th.  Have done so every year since he came into our lives.  Since 2004, we've included our other children, Moira first and then Peyton.  Moira is very well aware that she has a big brother in heaven.  She talks about him and gets sad sometimes, wishing he didn't have to die.  When people ask her if she has any brothers or sisters, she will often take them off-guard by telling them "I have a brother Jeffrey but he's dead."  I imagine that would be a little unsettling to the person hearing that!

I cannot believe that ten years has passed already.  It seems like only yesterday and it seems like a lifetime ago all at the same time.  Oh the pain, heartache and the terrible dark places I found myself in.  I don't ever wish to go there again.  We so often heard how high the percentages were for divorce when a family loses a child.  We had a lot of loving caring people supporting us throughout this process.  But there were those who just didn't get it.  Still don't.  I had uncomfortable moments with some even at his funeral.  There are those who really fail to see our son as a legitimate member of the family because he "never existed".  Really?  Then whose footprints are on the little card I came home from the hospital with?  Who is in that picture taken in the hospital?  Each year it would hurt when there was failure of others to acknowledge what August 14th means for us.  I'm mostly over that now.  What's important is how it matters to us.  So we will have a nice family dinner and have our little annual cake with a #10 candle on it this year, say a prayer, and remember our son and brother.  Our first child.  Our first son.  The first grandchild and first grandson on both sides of our family.

I wish I had the faith I have today this time ten years ago.  I remember feeling helpless, abandoned, like I had been robbed/cheated out of this precious life that I'd never get to nourish.  I felt like a failure.  The majority of the past ten years of my life would have been so different.  Better even.  But we learn and grown through all of our experiences no matter where we are at on our journey.  Perhaps we wouldn't be where we are today without those experiences, so I thank God now for the path we have been on all these years because we are where we are now.

Jeffrey has his place in our family that will never be forgotten.  I can't say how our lives would be different if we hadn't gotten pregnant with him or if he had lived.  I would have a 4th grader now and soon-to-be 10 year old (if we're going by a December birthdate and not by the August 14th date).  I can't live in the land of "what if's".  This was God's plan for him.  For us.  It's only recently that I've come to consider that perhaps part of Jeffrey's purpose was to prepare our family for Peyton and on how to deal with the loss of a child.  Perhaps having been through all we've been through, and growing in our faith and trust in God, we will have the strength we need when we face Peyton's future someday.  I don't know.  Only God knows.

I love all my children, and today I am remembering my son, Jeffrey, especially.  This is his day.  I miss him terribly and wish I could hold him in my arms again right now.  But I know that one day I will see him again and we will be together again.

I love you my precious baby boy!

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

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