Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rainbow Babies(part 1)

A rainbow baby is a baby that a family is blessed with after the loss of a previous baby. They are called rainbow babies because a rainbow is a beautiful, joyful occurrence after a dark and stormy time; a rainbow needs both sun and rain. It is also the promise of new hope and life.

Our family has been given the tremendous gift of not one, but THREE rainbow babies. I am so, so grateful for these little ones. First, just 13 months after Clara's birth was Annie. I can't even begin to describe the feelings I had when she was placed, alive and breathing, on my tummy the moment after I delivered her. I cried and cried tears of joy. There was quite a bit of shock too, as there was a part of me that never really believed that she would be okay.

My joy, once again, was mixed with pain as it was so clear what I had missed with Clara. Every time Annie opened her eyes and looked at me, I remembered that Clara never did. When she nursed, I remembered my full, painful breasts in the weeks after Clara died and how badly I wanted a baby to nurse. When she smiled at us and laughed and crawled and babbled and walked and talked and grew, it reminded(and still reminds me) of how long I have to wait to experience all those things with Clara.
I am so grateful for the gospel, and the knowledge that little Clara will be ours to raise later. It gives me hope and pulls me through the darker days.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Five years...

It has been five years since my little Clara was born still. It is hard to believe it has been so long, and yet it feels like forever since I held her, kissed her and said goodbye. Her birthday was Friday and I sent out an email to many friends and family containing a video slide show that I made. It includes pictures from her birth and funeral. I had so many positive responses, I am overwhelmed. It was really special to get to share her with so many people. It sounds strange, but I am glad even that others cry for her and that for a day, I was not the only one.

I sometimes wonder how deeply I will feel this pain in 10 or 20 years. Now, 5 years later, the pain doesn't come often. I am busy with family, church and midwifery. So many days and weeks go with only brief moments of sadness. And then, sometimes out of no where and sometime due to another's fresh loss, the pain comes back as sharp as before. It is an overwhelming pain that makes it hard to breathe, impossible to concentrate and difficult to sleep. I know it is not as bad as those numbing first weeks and months, but it is still intense.

At time my empty(yet so full) arms ache for the baby I can't hold right now. I look at my dear sweet Annie, who came just 13 months after Clara, and wonder how different things would be if Clara hadn't died. Would we have Annie? Would she have come later? Would I have had two little girls to love and raise together? And yet, deep down I know that it was not in Clara's plan to stay on this earth with us and it was in Annie's plan to come after to mend our broken hearts.

I remember back to when I was early pregnant with Clara and Bill had suggested her name to me. It was not one we had ever considerd before, but I immediatly knew it was to be her name and I loved it. I had always had the name Annie in mind for our next girl and one night when I was up in the middle of the night with Stephen I had a strong immpression that both Clara and Annie were coming. I thought we were having twin girls and when the ultrasound showed diferently I was disapointed and confused. But after Clara died and we were pregnant again, I knew in my heart that it was little Annie that was coming this time. That her and Clara were not twins, but were connected still.

And now, five years later as I mourn for Clara and rejoice with my family that we have Annie and also now Porter, I can see that we have not been left alone. I know that Heavenly Father has a plan for us and takes care of us during our darkest pain. While having these babies did not erase the pain, nor did it remove the longing for the daughter who is not with us now, it does help to fill our empty arms and soothe our aching hearts.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Home is Where We Wanted to Be

Kim and Paula left after Bill got there. I learned later that they were cleaning my house and helping to care for my children. After Bill and I had been alone for awhile, Lindy and Kaye came back in. I remember asking "What now?" As knew that I still had to go through labor, I told them that I wanted to go to the hospital to be numbed up and not have to feel anything, as if that would somehow make it easier. Bill was just relieved that I wouldn't have to have a C-section as that was his first thought. He didn't realize that a normal birth would be possible and preferable in this situation. Lindy and Kaye talked to us and asked us to please trust them that we would have a better experience and handle this better if we were to stay home and deliver our little still baby there. They had had a few experiences such as this in their many years of catching babies and Kaye herself had lost one of her twins before labor. I couldn't imagine going through labor, knowing, but as they spoke to us and told us of their experiences, we realized that this was what we wanted to do. I was so afraid of what was coming. But in the end, I am so, so grateful that my midwives encouraged us to stay home. It made such a difference and what was a painful time was also a very spiritual time.

When we left there I was having some contractions, but I willed them to stop. I kept saying, I just can't do this yet. I knew my parents were on their way and I just wanted to have everything in place and to feel ready for it.

When we got home, we had to tell the children what had happened. They had some idea, of course, that something was wrong and they immediately asked me if the baby was okay. I told them no, that she had died. They were so sad and hugged me and asked questions. Michael especially was surprised that this could happen, he said he didn't realise babies could die before they were even born. Bill encouraged them to be gentle with me and to give me lots of hugs. Over the course of the next several days, they did just that. They would play for a while and then come in and hug me and cuddle with me and then they would leave again. Kids are so resilient and they were and are such a comfort to me.

By this time, the family had all been notified and were making arrangements to come. My sister, Melodie, who worked as a labor and delivery nurse for many years and now teaches nursing, got on a plane right away and was here late Thursday night. My parents got here on Friday morning and Bill's mom got here on Friday evening.

Sleep was impossible, eating was too. I'm still not sure how I survived those days and nights until I delivered her. I felt full, as I was still pregnant and yet empty as there really was no baby waiting to be born. I was acutely aware at how still my womb was. I was offered Benadryl by well meaning people who wanted to ease my suffering. But I refused to take anything. I didn't know when the birth was going to occur and I did not want to risk being drugged or sleepy when it did. I knew that this birth was all I got, for now, with this child. When all was said and done, I would only have the memories of my pregnancy, labor and my birth to hold onto as evidence that this little girl had graced my life. I wanted to be completely alert and aware and not miss anything.

I was puttering around in labor a bit. I had willed the contractions on Thursday to stop, as I knew that I needed more support around me. I really wanted my mom and mother-in-law to be there and now my sister was coming as well. I needed this time to prepare emotionally. We started some herbs on Friday and I went on several walks. I remember that being surreal. I remember thinking that if anyone saw me out walking,with that big round belly, they would have no idea of the immense pain I was in and that my baby was gone.

At some point on Friday, I pulled out a sweet little pink dress that I had sewn for Clara, but that wasn't quite done. I finished it and she was dressed in it later for her trip to Idaho at which point I changed her so I could save the dress.

By Friday evening I hadn't made much progress, despite some good contractions, so we decided to wait until early Saturday morning to start some more herbs.

This was a difficult decision to make as it was so hard to remain pregnant, knowing my baby had died. However, upon reflection now, it was a blessing that it took as long as it did. We were able to gather our support around us. We were able to prepare the kids. We were able to come to terms with it and accept it as best we could before the actual delivery. We had the presence of mind to gather mementos and have someone there to take lots of pictures. We were prepared for what Clara would look like and what to expect during the delivery. Although those days and nights were hard to live through, I do not regret the decisions that we made.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Step into Eternity

On the morning of June 10th, I awoke early, about 5:00, to go to the bathroom. As I climbed back in bed to go back to sleep, I noticed with a start that little Clara was not moving. Usually getting up and moving like that would cause her to kick and move. I started to worry a little and could not go back to sleep. I started thinking and couldn't remember any movements the day before, except in the morning with Michael. I had been really busy running around the day before and had been gone late at a church meeting. I had fallen asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow and had just not noticed her not moving.

I got up and went to have a snack and lie on the couch. She still was not moving and I just about called Lindy, but I really thought that I was just being paranoid. Our prenatal was scheduled for 10:30 that morning and I just knew that I would feel so much better after hearing her heartbeat. I still find it so hard to believe that I just went about my morning and all my normal routines and the whole time Clara was already gone. I do remember feeling antsy and in a bit of a fog. But the denial that there could be anything wrong was so strong.

When I got to the office I was so anxious to hear her heartbeat as I just knew then I could relax and quit worrying. Then I would know that everything was okay. I didn't even say anything to Lindy. I felt silly; after all this was my fifth baby, why was I so worried? When she stepped out to take a phone call I couldn't even sit still and I paced around the room. I wanted to scream "We need to listen to my baby!" But I didn't; I just told myself to quit worrying. When Lindy came back in, I laid down and got ready to hear the little patter of a healthy baby. Lindy did not get the heartbeat at the first spot she tried, but then put more gel on my tummy and started moving around listening carefully. I remember thinking, I hope she hasn't' moved into a bad position and that's why she can't hear her yet. It wasn't until she calmly asked me when was the last time I had felt her move that I began to understand what I was really facing.

I tearfully began to tell her about my experience that morning and I how I couldn't really remember anything after early Wednesday morning. She listened for awhile and then left to go get another midwife, Kaye, who was in another room with her lady. When Kaye came in she also listened(or tried to) with another doppler, but it soon became obvious that my baby had passed away.

How do I begin to explain the shock; the pain; the denial? Or the questions; the wondering; the guilt? The fear of what was ahead? The loneliness of laying on that bed and trying to figure out what to do next?

Kaye and Lindy began to make phone calls for me. They asked me for numbers and somehow I remembered them. They first tried to reach Bill. They called a radiology place so I could have an ultrasound to confirm what we already knew. Bill had forgotten his cell phone at home and it was several hours until they were able to track him down. They called my next door neighbor, Paula to come and get the other children. I wonder now what they were thinking. I don't think we really told them anything. I remember one of them asking me what was wrong and just shaking my head. How could I speak the words that I didn't even understand yet?

Lindy asked me if I wanted to wait for Bill before going for the ultrasound. I couldn't though and we left right away. As we were leaving the office, my good friend, Kim, stopped by to see Kaye. We were both due with little girls, just days apart. I was sobbing and told her that they couldn't find my babies heartbeat. She held me as I cried and then helped me walk to Lindy's car. She rode with us the short distance to the ultrasound and sat with me as I waited. While we were still in the waiting room, my neighbor came in. She had had her sister come for the kids as she felt she needed to come be with me. I am so thankful that if I couldn't have Bill with me,at least I had these strong and caring women to hold me up(both literally and figuratively).

The ultrasound confirmed what we already knew. My sweet baby girl had passed on to her Father in Heaven while still in my womb. While the tech was doing the ultrasound, the screen was turned away from me and I was staring at the wall. How different from a normal pregnancy ultrasound when you watch the screen in anticipation! When she left for a moment, I turned the screen towards me, wanting to see my baby. The screen was blank, but Lindy knew exactly what I wanted and picked up the wand and got a little profile of Clara's face. She was so still and motionless. I looked away.

I am so grateful that no one ever said the horrible words to me. It was just obvious that there was no heartbeat; no movement. The most Lindy said during the ultrasound was that it didn't look good. I knew what that meant, even if I couldn't really believe it yet. It was a blessing not to actually hear the words aloud.

I asked Kim to call my parents. I didn't know how I could say the words. I didn't even want to hear them and asked her to leave the room. I still feel bad that I asked her to do this very difficult task, but all I could think was how far away they were and how long it would take them to get here. Kim was strong for me then and many, many times in the coming days, weeks and years.

We went back to Lindy's office where some men from my church were already waiting to give me a blessing. The Spirit of the Lord was strong in the room and I am thankful for the Priesthood and the comfort that it brings to our lives. After the blessing I just wanted to lie down and Kim and Paula asked if I wanted to be alone. I didn't and they stayed with me until Bill finally was reached and he got there. Lindy had told him on the phone what had happened and so when he got there he just held me and we cried. I kept telling him that I wanted to wake up, that I didn't want this to be real.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

9 Months of Anticipation, Planning and Joy

The story of Clara Jane Wells began in October of 2003 when I took a pregnancy test on a whim. My husband, Bill, was out of town on business, but I took a test because I was a few days late. I didn't really think that I was pregnant, or I would have waited until he came home. When I saw those two pink lines, I got so excited and felt such joy to know that another baby was beginning to form inside me. I decided to wait until Bill got home on Friday to tell him, but I did call my midwife Lindy and told her. I am always so excited that I want to shout it from the rooftops, so keeping the secret was a bit hard for me. That night Bill called me and asked if I was pregnant. I said no, thinking I would fess up when he got home. He said that he thought that I was, and that I was having a girl and her name should be Clara. I immediately loved the name, even though it wasn't on we had considered before. He called me several more times before he got home and I still kept insisting that I didn't think I was pregnant. Once he got home, I told him the truth, but it was very anti-climatic. He just said, I knew that, I have been telling you that for days!

I was due on June 22, 2004. Our older children, Michael, Emmalie, Spencer and Stephen were very excited when we told them. Everyone was looking forward to having a new little baby in our family. The boys of course insisted they wanted another brother and Emmalie was really hoping for a sister. At this point we had only found out the gender of one of our babies before birth and I wanted to be surprised at the birth again. Bill however was certain it was a girl and wanted to find out by ultrasound. I still wasn't sure, but made him a deal. If we found out it was a girl I could decorate the girls room and prepare a nursery, for the first time. I had never had that opportunity before. So, we had the ultrasound and it was in fact a girl and we started getting ready. I painted Emmalie's(now the GIRLS!) room, bought girly bedding and even had my first, and only, baby shower. Buying little girl things again was so much fun. In retrospect, knowing she was a girl ahead of time ended up being such a blessing.

We were planning another homebirth. Stephen had been born at home, and we had such an amazing experience with his birth, that we could not wait to do it again. The pregnancy progressed smoothly and towards the end I was not even in a hurry to have her born. I thought it was because I had lists of things that just needed to be done, but looking back and have to wonder if it was my spirit just wanting to hold on to her for as long as possible.

The last time that I heard little Clara's heartbeat was June 3, 2004. I had a prenatal appointment with Lindy that morning and everything checked out just perfect. I remember Lindy listening to her for several minutes and pronouncing that she sounded really good. We set up an appointment for the following week.

The last time that I remember feeling Clara move inside me was on Wednesday June 9th in the early morning. Michael, our oldest, climbed in bed with me as they often did in the mornings to feel their sister kick as she was always fairly active in the mornings. This particular morning though she wasn't very active. Michael and I tried for awhile to get he to really kick, but we only got a few smaller movements. It didn't worry me though, I never even thought that something might be wrong.