Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Light in the Darkness

Let me start this by saying that if you don't believe in signs, then you might want to stop right here. I have always heard everyone else's stories where they'd say it's too much of a coincidence to not be a sign. I agreed with them, and I believed that they were in fact receiving a sign. I never personally experienced any signs until Rosa, Robin and our four frosties came into existence. Since then, November 11th, the day that our embryos were conceived, I have had an abundance of signs. 

Today is my niece's baptism, so we traveled down to be here for the family event. I had planned on going to 8:15 mass at our home church, but I was so disappointed when I woke at 8:45. I must've slept through my alarm thanks to the Tylenol PM I took last night. I decided to attend the 11:30 mass at my sister's church instead. This way, I could still receive communion and I'd be where I needed to be for the baptism afterwards. 

I walked into the church a few minutes after mass had already started. All of the lights were out, and after a little while I remembered that they probably were affected by the storm. I found a seat in a pew, and was quickly distracted by a father holding his little boy. I recognized the father and the mother, but couldn't quite place them. 

My thoughts continued to wander, and as usual fixate on my beautiful Rosa. I snapped out of it by the time we got to the homily. And then I couldn't believe my ears as the preacher spoke about the loss of a child being the most tragic of all losses. He went on to relate it to the gospel reading of the day... It was as if he were speaking just to me in the sea of worshipers. He spoke about a little girl who Jesus raised from the dead. He said that we all face dark times in our lives, and Jesus is the light that will help us through. 

By this time, there was no hope of holding myself together, so I quietly wept. The woman next to me noticed, and gave me a tissue along with a hug. She whispered in my ear, "I don't know what's wrong, but it will be ok." I appreciate her kindness so much. 

After the mass was over, I spoke to the familiar looking couple and found out that we did graduate from high school together. They were there with their mother and two year old child. They asked me if I had any children. Before I could even think of an appropriate way to respond, the words were already spilling out of my mouth. "I have a daughter in heaven," I stated. They were shocked and sympathetic. They asked her name, and said that they would pray for Rosa and me. 

Later in the day, I was telling John about the preacher's sermon and he became immediately excited and eager to share what happened this morning. He said that while I was in the shower, he turned on the TV and came across Joel Olsteen's sermon. Usually, he would keep moving on, but he had a similar experience as me: he felt like he was being spoken to. 

I feel like Rosa was speaking to us both. That she wanted us to hear her message, so she found a way to get it across to us both even though we weren't together when we got it. We hear what you are saying, baby girl. We know you are waiting for us with God. We know you are safe and happy. We know we will see you again in the next life. Mommy & Daddy love you more than we could ever say.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Stop the Hurt

I may or may not have just had a panic attack. I feel so sad. I can't describe it any other way except extreme heaviness in my entire body. Especially in my heart and throat. And arms. My arms feel so empty, so when I can, I fill them with the stuffed puppy we had made for Rosa. I wish it was a baby in my arms. My arms yearn to cradle a baby in the worst way, and are literally aching at this absence. 

I was dozing off on the couch just over the past few hours while John, his friend, and my sister were all watching TV. I woke up suddenly and in a panic a few times. It felt like my heart was racing and my chest was tight. I worried and thought that maybe I was having a heart attack. 

I don't think that I am having a heart attack now that I'm awake and conscious enough to understand that my chest feels tight and heavy from the grief. I want to cry all the time. But I feel like I don't have any tears left. Like my tears ducts have actually dried up and are empty. So instead of tears constantly streaming down my face, I have a constant lump in my throat. And my heart feels heavy. And my arms ache for a baby to snuggle and nurture. 

I want the pain to stop. But at the same time, I don't want it to stop. I don't want to lose any little bit of my connection to Rosa. I don't want her to fade. And the bleeding, the lactation, the yearning are all physical reminders of a baby that was just there... and now she's not, but my body hasn't fully registered that yet. I know that sounds completely fucked up. All of this is fucked up. I just miss her so much and am still in disbelief that she is gone. I want to be with her and understand that she can't be here anymore because she is dead. So part of me wishes I could go to her instead. But the other part of me knows that is wrong. I don't want to die. But I don't want to be without her. It's so unfair. I feel so tortured. There is no way to be happy like this. 

Rosa, baby girl... I am so sorry. I am sorry I couldn't save you. I am sorry that I can't be with you right now to hold you and tell you that everything is going to be ok. I am sorry that you didn't get to feel the sunshine on your face, or the grass tickle your skin. I am sorry I never got to hear your laugh or cry. I am sorry I never got to hear your little voice call out my name. I am sorry that I never got to give you a fraction of the things I wanted to give you in this life. 

I see roses everywhere. I want to gather them all and give every single one to you. Yet I realize that it won't help me to feel better. I could fill my whole yard with roses, I could fill my whole closet with rosy clothing... It'll never ever come close to filling the incredible void in my heart. None are half as beautiful as you. All I want is you. 

I love you, baby girl. I may not have been able to give you all the beautiful things that this world has to offer, but I have always and will always give you all of my love. You have my heart and you ARE my heart. One day we will meet again, and it will be so sweet. Until then, baby girl, please know how deeply I love you. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Random Acts of Kindness

Have I ever mentioned how FABULOUS my fellow Dreamers are?? Because they really are the best of the best. I am so grateful for their love, support, and friendship.

Why are they so fabulous, you ask?? Well, check this out:

They made this beautiful flyer and then organized an event where people could perform random acts of kindness in Rosa's honor. :') Just beautiful!!

Here's how John & I participated.

We bought a dozen red roses. Six of them were given to Rosa in honor of her and her brothers & sisters (Robin and the four frozen embryos who we pray are healthy). The other six were given as gifts.
  1. Shopper at the Farmer's Market. She saw me while I was buying the flowers and commented that they were really pretty. She asked who they were for, and I told her they were for my daughter. She said, that's nice, for a graduation? How old is your daughter? I told her that my daughter was in heaven. She gave me a hug, and I gave her a rose. She asked if I was sure, and I said, yes, Rosa would have wanted her to have it.
  2. The receptionist at the vet's office. We had to make a visit because Mocha got injured from falling out of our bed last night :( She's ok, but we had to get her checked out. I didn't explain why I was giving the receptionist a rose. But it was nice to see her smile :)
  3. My MIL
  4. John's Grandmother
  5. The worker at the gate. My MIL's community is gated, so I handed a rose to the worker at the gate. She asked if there was a special reason why I was giving her a rose. I knew I wouldn't be able to explain it without crying, so I just smiled and said, "It's just a random act of kindness." She smiled back and said thank you.
  6. My neighbor. She and I were bump buddies... she is due three weeks after Rosa was due. She is expecting a baby girl. Sigh. It is and will be difficult to see her growing belly, and eventually growing baby girl... a constant marker of where Rosa should have been. So why did I give her the last rose? Because I feel like that would have made Rosa happy. I want to buy all the roses in the world... and I want to give them out to the whole world to leave Rosa's mark all over the place. It's like she is here whenever there is a rose. 

What Today Could Have Been

I have a voice message saved on my phone from Dr. Moldenhauer. The message was left on May 27th to tell us that we were scheduled to meet Rosa on June 24th: our scheduled C-section, 34 weeks and 1 day, the optimal time according to the neonatologists, surgeons, and MFMs given Rosa's circumstances. That message came just two days before the worst day of our lives... the day that Rosa's heart stopped beating.

You can probably imagine that June 24th - a day that was supposed to be happy, our daughter's birthday - has now become a day that will forever be remembered along with a string of "what ifs" and "could have beens" and "should have beens." We knew going into it that Rosa was going to have to fight and probably fight hard in order to survive... but in my heart, I really thought that she had a chance. We were completely blindsided by her fetal demise... even though we really had no right to be blindsided... the doctors told us all along that it was unfortunately a possibility.

So today is here. It's the day that should have been everything that it is not. We should have been in Philadelphia right now by Rosa's bedside as she fought and kicked ass and survived. We should have been starting a new chapter in our happily ever after. We should have been... but we are not...

Instead, the day started out with a restless night's sleep. I tossed and turned through most of the night. My legs felt so antsy that I remember actually kicking and almost running in my bed. I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin! I needed to MOVE!!! Mocha was also restless...

It really is remarkable to me the bond that Mocha and Rosa shared... and still share. Call me crazy, but I truly believe that they are connected on a spiritual level. Mocha just knew when things weren't right with Rosa. She sensed that Rosa was there. She snuggled my bump on several occasions, and it seemed that whenever Rosa took a turn for the worse, Mocha would have sympathy pains (causing us to run to the vet).

The night before we went to the hospital the last time, Mocha was restless. John distinctly recalls Mocha laying on my bump in the middle of the night and swears that was the moment that Rosa probably passed... I wouldn't put it past her to have known. When we returned home from the hospital, Mocha jumped up on the couch, sniffed my belly, then jumped down and turned her back to me. Is it possible that she knew Rosa was gone?? I really think she did.

So going back to today. It was three in the morning when I heard a THUMP. Mocha fell out of our bed :( Poor pup! I picked her up, and we cuddled and fell back to sleep. When we woke up this morning, she was limping. We took her to the vet and thankfully she's going to be alright, but she sprained her leg. My poor baby!

I got to thinking... and it just seems like more than a coincidence that Mocha got injured on THIS day. On Rosa's day. Perhaps a sign?

Taken just 10 minutes away from Kristen's house on June 23, 2015
There was a pretty severe storm last night in my hometown, the town that my parents live in. There were a few tornadoes that touched down, lots of downed trees, power is out. My parents' street is not passable due to a large tree blocking the cul de sac. We should have been there. If Rosa hadn't passed three weeks ago, we would have been at my parents' house during yesterday's storm. We would have been there in preparation for Rosa's birthday. We would have been trapped at my parents' house with a massive tree blocking the only way in and out. Now THIS is definitely a sign. At least, it is to me.

Between the storm, the literal road block on our route to the hospital, and Mocha's injury, I'm calling it a sign. Rosa is telling me that today was not our day. I will never know for certain if she would have survived had she had a chance to have her surgeries. But I know for sure that if she was born today like she should have been then she would have felt so much pain.

I so wish that things could have been different for our dear, sweet Rosa Kimberly. But I am thankful that she never felt pain. That I was able to endure all of the physical pain for her. That John & I, along with all our friends and family, will shoulder the emotional toll of losing her, and that she'll never have to know what pain feels like.

I am thankful that Rosa Kimberly only ever knew the loving embrace of my womb.

She only ever knew the sound of my heart. She never knew pain.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Maternal Instincts

I feel an intense need to cradle and rock a baby right now. My arms actually ache along with my heart right now. I am yearning for a baby. 

Mocha let me cradle and hold her for a bit. It felt nice. Then she had enough, so I'm currently rocking in the glider with the stuffed puppy we had made for Rosa. It has her heartbeat inside. I've been sleeping with the stuffed puppy ever since we got home from the hospital. 

I have been reading the book given to us by the hospital, Empty Cradle, Broken Heart. It has mentioned that all of the above may happen. Along with the feeling that you may be going crazy. When I first read it, I thought no way. Now, I see what the author means. 

I can't believe that this is even a thought in my mind, but I find myself wondering when we can try again. I want a baby in the worst way. I worry that we may not be able to get pregnant again. We had so much trouble getting pregnant in the first place. What if Rosa and Robin were our only chance? 

Dr. Ntoso recommended that we wait at least six months before getting pregnant again. I wonder why... Is that to allow for emotional healing? How much of that is for physical healing? I have wanted a baby in my arms for years now. I feel like it's my only chance of being truly happy... A piece of me is missing. I cannot get the piece back that is with Rosa in the cemetery. My heart is with her and always will be. But I hope and believe that a new life growing will help that piece of my heart to grow back. It'll never be the same. But I just see it as being my only way of repairing. 

Maybe it is too much to pin all of my hopes for happiness on another being that isn't necessarily ever going to exist. But I feel like it is meant to be. I am meant to be an earthly mother. And until that happens, I am incomplete. 

I am just rambling... It feels good to get it out and shed the thoughts like this. No editing, no filter. Even still, the lump in my throat is still present. Just like it has been for the past three weeks. I wonder if it'll ever go away. I wonder if the emptiness in my heart will ever fill in. 

I love you, Rosa & Robin. I hope you are safely waiting for me up in heaven. I think about you all the time. Not a second goes by when you're not in my thoughts and heart. I love you more than you will ever know. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

I Gave Birth to an Angel

I have been thinking about this moment & experience nonstop since it happened. But I haven't been able to find the words to adequately express the power and love within. I'm going to try now to tell the story. I hope I do it justice.

Friday, May 29, 2015 will forever be a sad, dark day. It is the day that we found out about Rosa Kimberly's fetal demise. Once Dr. Moldenhauer confirmed that Rosa's heart had stopped, she was silent for a long while. I knew what she was going to say, but waited for her words. Finally, she said, "I'm so sorry..." 

I turned on the exam table to face my husband, and curled up in a ball. The tears streamed down my face and my voice was trapped in my throat. Then the wailing started and John and I wept as the doctor and nurse excused themselves from the room to give us some privacy. 

When the doctor came back in, she spoke gently to us about our options. I had to deliver the baby. The safest, healthiest way for me was a vaginal birth rather than a C-section. I flashed back in my mind to the appointment two weeks ago with Dr. Martinez. He confirmed that Rosa's birth would be a certain C-section with the only exception being if she were to pass away in the womb. I remember thinking, 'God forbid that ever become an option,' and then stuffing the fear and horrible scenario away in my mind. How could this be happening? 

As the doctor spoke to me, I kept thinking of the scene in Divergent when Tris is in the simulation. She's trapped in the glass case, and it is quickly filling with water. She snaps out of her panic and the world seems to float along in slow motion as she looks at her reflection in the watery glass. Her reflection looks back at her and says, "This isn't real." She taps the glass with her finger and it cracks. Calmly and peacefully, she taps on the glass until suddenly, the glass shatters and gives way to the weight of the water. 

We settled very quickly on a vaginal birth, and now the question was when to start the induction. I had taken my prescription of Lovenox about six hours earlier, so the doctors wanted to wait for the medication to clear from my system. I told the medical team that I didn't want an epidural or any pain medications, but they insisted that we wait just in case I changed my mind. We were offered the chance to go home and gather our things, or to stay at the hospital. The thought of walking around with my daughter's lifeless body inside of me... I just couldn't bear the thought of the world going on like nothing had happened when in actuality our world would never be the same. We decided to stay at the hospital until it was time.

We were taken from the triage room to a delivery room at the end of the hallway. Dr. Ntoso told me to eat a good meal. I would need my strength. But food turned my stomach, I was too upset to eat. I managed to eat chicken noodle soup and part of a soft pretzel.

John called his parents to tell them the awful news... I called mine. I could hardly say a sentence without sobbing into the phone. My mother cried back on the other end of the line as she made sense of what I was saying. She said they'd be there soon.

We spoke to Dr. Cole and went over the plan we made just two days before. The "palliative care plan" just incase the unthinkable happened. Did we want to take pictures? Did we want to make momentos? Hand prints, cut lochs of her hair... When we made the plan, I had hoped to never see it again. Then Dr. Moldenhauer called to tell me that we would plan to meet Rosa on June 24th. But now that wouldn't be happening...

My parents & sister arrived while we were talking to Dr. Cole. They said hello, and then we told them we'd get them when we were done. Honestly, I can't remember much of what was said. I felt like I was in a fog.

My brother came up and brought me a picture that my nephew made. Dr. Ntoso came in at 8:00pm to give me the first dose of misoprostol. I felt mild contractions within ten minutes. My family left around 9:00 or 9:30. I was sleeping by 10:00pm. The nurse and doctor came back in at midnight to put in the next dose. I couldn't fall back to sleep, so around 2:00am I asked for an Ambien. The plan was to get two more doses of the misoprostol at 4:00am and 8:00am, but I woke up at 6:00am and the nurse told me that they decided to wait because my contractions were too close together.

At 9:15am on Saturday, the doctor put in the next dose. Again, I felt mild contractions within 10 minutes. At this point, my cervix was 70% effaced and 2 cm dilated. My parents, sisters and brother all came back to be with us. I called Father Bruce to tell him what was happening, and he said he'd come around 1:30pm. My best friend, Kim, drove up from Virginia. My best friend, Kristen, came too.

The next dose of misoprostol was put in at 1:15pm. The contractions started to become much more painful, but I was able to manage them by breathing through them. I sat on the birthing ball, and held onto the side of the bed. I started feeling nauseous and as I mentioned this to the nurse I said that I should probably have a puke bucket nearby. Actually, I need one RIGHT NOW. The second it was handed to me, I got sick. I told the nurse that I wanted some anti-nausea medication. I could deal with most physical pain, but nausea and vomiting bring out the wimp in me. I got some zofran and as it was dissolving under my tongue, I felt the nausea creep back.

Kim took a deep breath and said, "So what mile are we on?" She was referencing a marathon because she knows how meaningful that is to me. I mumbled, "I don't know," while reaching for the puke bucket and vomited again. So much for the zofran! Kristen went to tell the nurse, and they gave me an intravenous version of the medication. The nausea went away almost instantly.

Father Bruce arrived around 2:00pm, and everyone cleared out of the room so John & I could talk to him privately. I told him that I might not be able to participate in the conversation too well because the contractions were getting intense. It wasn't long before I think I scared him! He said that he was present for his wife's three C-sections, but this was the first time that he was ever in the room with a laboring woman. I'm sure it wasn't pretty to witness! He & John eventually left the room, and the nurse stayed with me.

I went back and forth between the birthing ball and the rocking chair. At some point, I think my water broke. That was a surprise to me because there was no amniotic fluid detectable over the past six weeks. The contractions were so intensely painful. I started to wonder if I could do this without medications. I had no idea that I was in active labor at this point. I just knew that it was extremely painful.

The midwife checked on me at some point within all this. I was 80% effaced and 4 cm dilated. She apologized saying, "I know you probably hoped to be farther along." I hadn't really hoped for anything... I had no expectations for this experience. The only thing I had invested my hope in for the past three years was already gone.

Father Bruce came back in the room and said a blessing over me and the baby. The contractions made it very hard to focus, but I'm glad he was there to do that for us.

John & I stayed in the room alone from this point with the nurse & midwife coming in every now and then to check. John tried to comfort me, but nothing made me feel better. He asked me questions. I couldn't answer except in one word responses. "Water." He came running to my side with the water mug. I got up from the birthing ball and walked towards the bathroom. He came running over to move my IV pole. He was trying so hard to take care of me, and find out what I needed and wanted. I couldn't respond to him. I was so focused and concentrated on each contraction.

I felt like I had to push, but I wasn't able to verbalize it. I thought it might help to use the bathroom, and that's when John realized that he had to get the nurse. The midwife came in and said that she would check me. She said very calmly, "You are about ready to go." There was a lot of commotion around me as the nurse assembled the instrument table and the doctor came into the room. Jessi, the midwife, told me to try to breathe through the next two contractions to allow my cervix to get completely ready. I wanted to push very much, but tried to breathe it out.

Finally, Jessi said to push. She was so calm and serene. Pushing felt like a relief. The contractions almost seemed to disappear. Now the pain was entirely focused on the baby trying to come out. The time in between contractions and pushing seemed to stretch on for a long time. I winced from the pain, and Jessi assured me that it was ok, that it was just stretching. I sat with the pain and accepted it for what it was. It was uncomfortable and peaceful at the same time.

The room was so quiet. The nurse held one leg back and taught John how to hold the other. I looked to Jessi for direction. She quietly told me what to do. The look in her eyes was serene and sympathetic.

Rosa was breech, so her butt came out first. John decided not to look, but was asking what it looked like. Jessi explained that it looked like the baby was crowning, but instead of her head, her butt was poking out. I said, "She's butting." John misheard me and thought I said, "She's budding." That way was much better <3

After about four pushes, her butt, legs, and body were out. Just a few more pushes to get her head out. On the next push, I felt a woosh as she slipped out. It was the most incredible, indescribable feeling. John cut the cord, and the doctor and midwife explained to him that the placenta still had to come out. They said it could take 30-45 minutes more. But with the next contraction and push, it came out. All of the pain stopped. The nurse handed Rosa to me, and I just marveled at her beauty. She was beautiful.

It was such a peaceful moment. I couldn't believe how sweet her face was. Her skin was so soft. I wrapped her little hand around my thumb and stroked her cheeks with my finger. She was so perfect.

The world kept whizzing on, I'm sure, but for me, it's like the world stopped in that moment. I am still stuck there. I think I will be for the rest of my life. I gave birth to an angel. I can't wait until the day comes when I can join her in heaven. I love her so much.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

So much pain

My heart hurts so much... I don't understand why stuff like this can happen. I miss her so much. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

So much love!!!

I cannot begin to express how blessed I am... The love and support that John & I have been feeling is overwhelming and simply amazing! Our friends and family, our sisterhood of dreamers and internet friends, our colleagues and communities at work, our church... Just everyone! So many people, I just can't keep up with the love ❤️

One of the readings we selected for Rosa's Requiem Eucharist comes to mind. 

Wisdom 4:7-14

But the righteous, though they die early, will be at rest. For old age is not honored for length of time, or measured by number of years;
but understanding is gray hair for anyone, 
and a blameless life is ripe old age. There were some who pleased God and were loved by him, and while living among sinners were taken up. They were caught up so that evil might not change their understanding or guile deceive their souls. For the fascination of wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind. Being perfected in a short time, they fulfilled long years; for their souls were pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took them quickly from the midst of wickedness. 

Is it possible that Rosa's soul felt so much love that she was deemed ready by God for the next life? I think so. She was surrounded by so much love... I am so grateful that she felt that. I know she's up in heaven now, and I know one day we will be together again. And in the meantime, the love we feel here from our incredible support system lifts us up. 

Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you ❤️

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Ethan's Mother

I went to the cemetery this afternoon to visit Rosa. It really is a beautiful place. It's more like a park than anything else. I see myself running there a lot in the future. 

When John & I went on Tuesday, we noticed that Rosa's 'neighbor' was a baby boy born last September. His grave had a tag with his name which said "Ethan DeRosa." We were instantly struck by the last name and its resemblance of our daughter's name. But simultaneously we also noticed the boy's first name: Ethan. When we thought Rosa was a boy, Ethan was my top choice for a name. Today, I noticed that Ethan's headstone was installed. It is beautiful. 

I brought a basket of rose petals and sprinkled them on Rosa's grave. Then I sat in the grass and showed her the cross stitch project that I started. 

I stitched for a little while and then put it away. I played 'our song' and sang to her. As the song was finishing, I noticed through my tears that a woman was parking her car and walking towards us. 

The woman was Ethan's mother. She was so kind. We shared our stories. She told me it gets easier. She gave me some flowers which she brought saying that she bought extra. She told me that she has never met anyone at the cemetery before. She is usually the only one there. 

I feel like it was meant to be for Rosa to be laid to rest next to Ethan. The significance of his name was enough, but to also give Margaret, his mother, and I the chance to meet... It's just beautiful. It was very comforting to talk to Margaret, to hear Ethan's story, to see his picture. It was difficult yet easy for me to tell her Rosa's story. We understood each other. One grieving mother to another. 

Finding my Voice

I don't even know where to begin...

Rosa Kimberly was born sleeping on May 30, 2015.
She weighed 3 lbs 6 oz, measured 15 inches long, and was a perfect little angel.
Not exactly the birth announcement I envisioned... I miss her so much. I don't understand how this can be allowed to happen to anyone. It is truly the cruelest, most vile pain I have ever known in my entire life. 

What happened... the whole pregnancy was so scary. We felt like we were cheating the system the whole time. Like it was too good to be true. God, I wish we were wrong about that.

I think back to the past eight months... three years... so much has happened. My heart has filled with love until it ran over, and then been smashed to pieces so many times... I have lost count. Now, I feel like I am empty. Walking around with a huge hole in my chest where my heart used to be. It fills with hurt and sadness, darkness and despair. 

She was so beautiful. I cannot describe how beautiful her face was.