Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Since I Last Wrote...

I haven't been in this space in almost two months.  I've missed it, but there has been so much to say with so little way to say it.

The night after I last posted, I received the worst phone call of my life, my brother calling to tell me that our twenty-three year old cousin was in critical care at the hospital in Birmingham, likely at the end of his days.  The Mister and I prayed more ardently all that night than I have ever prayed before, calling upon God to heal Cousin and to save his life, upon Our Blessed Mother and a host of other Saints to pray for him.  By morning, I had learned that it was not at all likely Cousin would be with us much longer.

I wanted to get to Cousin, and to his father and sister, but I was six weeks pregnant, having signs of a third miscarriage, and had a doctor's appointment scheduled for that day.  I knew I ought to attend that appointment before getting on an airplane, and I hoped that--contrary to the signs--all would be well, and I would be cleared to travel.  An ultrasound revealed what appeared to be an empty gestational sac, meaning that the baby seemed not to be developing.  There were also other indicators from the ultrasound that this was an ill-fated pregnancy.  The doctor told me that I would begin to miscarry in the next couple of days.  She was hesitant for me to fly, but gave me a prescription for medicine to take if I got into an emergency situation on the airplane, and orders for blood work to be done in Birmingham, if I had not miscarried within a couple days.

That night, I was on my way to Birmingham, with a number of sweet friends praying for my safety on the flight, and that the miscarriage would not begin until I reached Birmingham.  It was too late to visit in the ICU by the time I got to Birmingham, but the next morning, I got to be at Cousin's bedside, and in waves throughout the day, pray over him with my mother, grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

So very many people who loved Cousin were there, filling the waiting room and traveling in a constant stream to and from his bedside.  This was not surprising, as Cousin--like his father--was an easy person to love.  He was selfless and kind, humble and generous.  He was also very warm and funny, the person who might be the first to greet you at a big family gathering and who would have his end of the dinner table laughing until they cried.  My earliest memories of Cousin are of a little boy called Brother, with golden hair and impeccable manners, who bounced along on his tippy toes, looking for the next bit of fun.  My last memory of him is from a couple months ago, when I called Mama one afternoon and she told me Cousin was at her house, moving some furniture around and hanging some pictures.  Cousin had become a regular fixture at Mama's, helping her with all the jobs that my brothers did until they grew up and got busy with their own families and homes.  That day, it was raining and Cousin had spotted an abandoned kitten on the side of the road.  He had the kitten all warm and cozy in a box in Mama's garage and was consulting Google for feeding suggestions.  It's not a particularly remarkable memory, and yet it was so him.

On February 8, 2014, Cousin's heart stopped beating unassisted, and his soul passed into eternal life.

I took this picture of Cousin on Thanksgiving Day 2012, a day that was warm and golden,
where the light was perfect for showing the twinkle of his eyes that we all knew so well.
I'm so thankful to have this tangible memory of him.

Because Cousin was to be an organ donor, we had the rare opportunity of spending most of that day at his bedside, as well, continuing to pray over his body.  I offered many prayers for the eternal rest of his soul and for peace for those closest to him.  Knowing that, in Heaven, Cousin would be able to understand the understandable of this world and had been released from the pain he suffered here, I also dared to ask for his prayers for what I still barely had hope was life inside me.

The days after Cousin's death were a comforting closeness of family, working together to honor him with a funeral and a celebration of his life.  I cherish the time spent with my family members in those days.  Grief should not be borne alone, and it is a privilege to be with those who grieve.

The day after the funeral, I still had not miscarried.  Although the days away from the Mister and the children were getting far too long, no one felt that I should get on another airplane, five days deeper into a miscarriage situation.  Additionally, we were trying to shield the children from another sadness.  There had been far too many difficult things for their tender little hearts to absorb in the last few months, and if we could, we were going to protect them from this one.  I went to my uncle's obstetrical practice to be seen.  The plan was to have a repeat ultrasound for confirmation, and an operation the following day.

I laid back on the ultrasound table, steeling myself for another glimpse of the absence of a baby.  The ultrasound technician brought my womb into view, and it appeared to be just as empty as before.  She clicked around for a few more seconds and then I sat straight up.  WHAT was THAT?  THAT was a BABY, tucked into a corner of the irregularly shaped gestational sac, measuring about a week smaller than it ought to, but with its heart beating strongly.  Relief and thanksgiving, joy and praise washed over me so fully that I was literally warmed from the inside.

My uncle warned me that we were still not out of the woods, but that we could be cautiously optimistic that this pregnancy would end with a live baby.  That hope was so very sweet.

As soon as the DC snowstorms would allow, I got home to the Mister and the children, who had all been lovingly cared for by my dear mother-in-law for the duration of my 9-day absence.  Leaving Birmingham, and especially, leaving my uncle in his grief, was very hard, but I needed to be home.

A few days later, I took all the children with me to an appointment at my OB's office.  During the ultrasound, the children were absorbed in playing with replicas of babies at different gestational ages, but when the technician said, there's the baby, the boys' heads both snapped to attention.  Little Guy had had his suspicions about why we were there, and he exclaimed, "A baby!  There IS a baby in there, Mommy!"  The children and I all got to listen to the baby's heartbeat, which felt like a balm to the wound of our loss of Max, as we shared in the joy of this new life.

We had another big scare this past week, where I thought in the middle of the night that for sure we had now lost the baby.  But, thankfully, when we took a peek, the baby was dancing around the ultraound screen, with a heart beating strongly and measurements perfectly on schedule.  It seems to be a possible case of placenta previa, which we will check on again in a few weeks.  I've been observing a few days of bed rest and will continue to do so until the symptoms abate.

As we fully open our hearts to the hope that our family will welcome new life into its circle this September, we remain particularly mindful that all our children are God's children lovingly entrusted to us for a time unknown, and that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.


tarheelmom said...

Oh my! What a bittersweet post! Loss and life; however is Gods plan! Even though I don't know you personally I pray for your new little life! Do keep us posted!

Katie Futrell said...

Sweet Elizabeth! His plans are a mystery but his goodness and unwavering love are not. Your words are beautiful and full of truth. Hopefully rejoicing with you over your baby! We join with you and your loved ones in your grief following cousin's passing. Love to you dear one.

Traveling Widely said...
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Ashley W. Jasman said...

Praying for you, your sweet family and the miracle of life that is growing every day! I know just how hard it is to lose those you love as well as fear the unknown and I'm with you in spirit and faith. Please do take it easy, rest, and if you're up to it - update us! You are loved by so many and you're all lifted up in prayer - love to you!!

Ashley W. Jasman said...
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Ashley W. Jasman said...
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Ashley W. Jasman said...
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Jenny Lovell said...

God bless you and your wonderful family sweet Elizabeth! You are such a strong, loving and God fearing woman. I truly feel the grace of the Spirit through your words. You growing angel now has a true guardian angel in Max. May you find comfort in knowing he is there with your other little angels awaiting all our arrival. God be with you my dear friend.

Mary Louis Quinn said...

Tears of sorrow mixed with tears of joy! And I don't even know you. :) I'm so very sorry for the loss of your cousin. And so very happy for the blessing of this sweet new life! Praying for this precious blessing to continue to thrive!