Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Auld Lang Syne

As we ring in the New Year, saying goodbye to 2008 will be bittersweet. While this year was filled with hardship, tears, and despair, it also marks the birth of our sweet Dylan. May the memories of this year, both bitter and sweet, stay on our minds and in our hearts always and forever.

March

April June

October

Monday, December 22, 2008

I Am Blessed

This is my husband (Hottie McHotterson):


And this is why I love, admire, and respect him (an e-mail he sent last night):

If ever you needed proof that God exists, just look upon one of his Angels and see for yourself.

Merry Christmas to you all!

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God."

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.


Luke 1:26-38

As God's Gabriel serves as his messenger, our Dylan Gabriel serves God's message to us.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Six Months Ago . . .

. . . Dylan earned his wings. I would say that it was the most heart-wrenching day of my life, but all I remember was the peace. For me, the harder day was a few days after Dylan’s birthday, when we found out that all the doctors could do was "keep him comfortable and let nature take its course". To be told that all hope was lost was absolutely devastating. I never saw this coming, but I guess that’s part of the journey.

I have to believe that the few days we had with him after that was God giving us the time to find that peace. During that time, we questioned and were angry at God. We certainly weren’t thinking about how blessed we were to have to say goodbye to our son, all of that has happened in retrospect.

But by the morning of June 17th, that peace had entered our minds and our hearts and we were ready to let Dylan go. It was quite possibly the quietest and most peaceful moment of my life. I remember the sun blazing into the hospital room window. I had Dylan on my heart, my hand on his head, and Justin right next to us. Perfect. Peace.

Some Borrowed Writing

Don't Say Anything

Author Unknown


Don't tell me "things happen for a reason."
Don't tell me to "keep busy" and "move on."
Don't tell me that you "know how I feel."

Don't tell me that it was "too hard" for YOU
to talk to ME about the death of MY baby boy.

Don't tell me that YOU feel "uncomfortable"
looking at his picture or calling me on his birthday.

Don't SAY anything to try to make me feel better.

Hug me.
Listen to me.
Sit quietly with me.
Let me cry.
Smile when you look at his picture.
Help me plant a tree in his memory.
Allow me to sit in the rocking chair in the nursery.
Light a candle.
Release a balloon.
Walk with me on my journey.
Remember him forever.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Road Less Travelled

Today, I am 30. When I look back at the timeline I thought I’d be on, I always imagined that I’d have children by 30. And sure, nothing takes away from the fact that I had Dylan and that he is, and will always be, our firstborn. Still, being a parent without a child is inexplicable except to those who live it. This isn’t the road I expected to be on, but it is the one less travelled and what a difference that has made in my life.

Some Borrowed Writing

The Road Not Taken
By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference

Saturday, November 29, 2008

If I Must

Okay, I gave in and finished decorating the Christmas tree today. I put one ornament on the tree last night and just gave up. But the first ornament on our Christmas tree this year was this:

I let the tree sit overnight with just that ornament on it, and then I finally found the desire and energy to finish trimming the tree today. But Dylan's little face sits right in the middle of all of it. And it's the first ornament my eye goes to now, everytime I look at the tree.


*** UPDATE ***

I was bound and determined to have an angel as a tree-topper this year. We've had a rinky-dink star at the top of our tree for the past couple of years. I thought it was time we graduated to an actual angel. We laid down some moolah on this beauty:

She's now a good 20% of our tree, but I love her nonetheless!

And then, we stumbled upon this and just HAD to buy it (of course):

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I'm Thankful For

The following is a short list of "Dylan-isms" that we're thankful for:

1. 6 days of life

2. getting to hold him

3. getting to bathe him

4. he was not a fussy baby

5. getting lost in his beautiful eyes

6. having his entire hand grip tightly around our fingers



7. he was in the care of some of the best medical professionals

8. having tons of pictures of our time with him, that we can cherish forever

9. he was the cutest thing we've ever laid our eyes on (yes, we're partial)

10. the unconditional and irreplaceable love that he brought to our lives

That's just the 10 that I could think of on the spot. I'm sure there's about a million more. I hope everyone's Thanksgiving Day was an enjoyable start to a wonderful holiday season.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Things That Get Me By

Kindness of Strangers

The apathetic void that I'm feeling at work by those closest to me is actually being filled by people I barely know or don't know at all. Last night, for example, I was shopping for a new dress. I wasn't even set on buying anything, but because these women were so nice and accomodating, I almost felt obligated. They weren't doing it for commission or to get anything else out of it, they were just doing it because they enjoyed their jobs (which many people, including myself, don't have right now).

So my frustration was building in the dressing room, as I was trying on dress after dress that just didn't look as flattering on me as they did on the size 0 mannequins. The lady could probably sense my frustration, so I explained to her that I'd just had a baby a few months ago and I'm not back to my old figure. Well, I finally found a beautiful dress, and after I was done checking out, the lady asked how old my baby was. I said, "Well, I had a son in June, but unfortunately he passed away." The cashier who checked me out almost started crying and she said with much empathy, "I was pregnant 6 times and only have 3 kids." They both said they would pray for me, and I left the store with such a feeling of satisfaction. Sometimes, I just need people to acknowledge my reality, whether or not they understand what I'm going through.

Epiphanies and Enlightenment

I don't discuss much about religion or God on this blog. I'm not a preacher, so I won't preach. I've always believed that people have every right to put their faith where they feel necessary, and I'm not going to be that person that imposes my beliefs on others. Anyway, this next little anecdote is part of my faith journey that I actually wanted to share. I asked Justin if he was angry at God for what happened to Dylan, and he answered quickly and steadfastly, "No". Of course I wanted him to elaborate. After all, he's a father who'd just lost his son, he had every right to be angry and bitter. He said, "God doesn't interfere. He knew exactly what was going to happen, but He doesn't interfere." I was completely taken off gaurd, but in the best way possible. It's like my vision of God was shifted, shaken to the core, but it made perfect sense.

In order for people to believe in Free Will (which I do), you almost have to accept this version (I'm not sure if that's the right word) of God. In order for me to stop being angry at God and shaking my fists in the air (because I don't want to be angry at God), I had to believe that God doesn't desire to punish people. He doesn't will for bad things to happen to anyone. The reality of life is that bad things do happen, and God is simply there for us to pick up the pieces in the aftermath. It absolutely harkens back to the Footprints in the Sand poem. We experience times of trial and suffering, God doesn't stop or prevent that. But that is when God is carrying us. And then Justin showed me this poem:

And God said "no"
-Author Unknown

I asked God to take away my grief,
And God said no-
It is not for me to take away,
But for you to work through.

I asked God to make my broken heart whole,
And God said no-
Your spirit is whole.
Your pain is only temporary.

I asked God to grant me patience,
And God said no-
Patience is a by-product of tribulation.
It isn't granted, it's earned.

I asked God to give me happiness,
And God said no-
I give you blessings.
Happiness is up to you.

I asked God to spare me pain,
And God said no-
suffering draws you apart from worldly cares,
And brings you closer to Me.

I asked God to make my spirit grow,
and God said no-
Grow on your own.
I do the pruning that makes you fruitful.

I asked God if He loved me,
And God said yes-
I gave my only son to die for you.

I asked God to help me love others,
As much as He loves me.
God said, "Ah, finally you have the idea."


Justin's been carrying this on a folded-up piece of paper in his Bible, ever since he "accidentally" stumbled upon it one day at work.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Down Memory Lane

Or street, whatever the case may be. I had to go to an office building off Clifton Road for work today. I will never forget Clifton Road. It's the street where Egleston Hospital (where Dylan spent his final days) is located. I'm familiar enough with the area to drive the route without needing directions. As I navigated the back roads leading up to Clifton, I found myself turning back to the morning of Saturday, June 14, 2008. After I got released from Northside, Justin and I sat in the car and cried the entire the way to Egleston. We exchanged few words.





Today, as I took the same route, I felt myself flashing back to that ride. It hit me like a ton of bricks, really. I didn't expect it. The tears started flowing down my face, and I looked in my rearview mirror and saw the guy in the car behind me singing to himself and was instantly back in real-time. I wasn't headed to the hospital. I wasn't headed to see Dylan.

And you know, in a sense, it's a relief. I can't imagine what it would be like if Dylan were still in the hospital. As much as I want my son here with me (more than anything in the world), I'm relieved. Just like in the first few minutes after he died, there's that sense of relief that he's no longer pained, no longer suffering, and he's healed and whole in heaven.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Words of Wisdom

The following is just a list of quotes I've compiled over that last few months that struck me enough to write them down. I don't have sources or authors for any of them, they're merely a compilation of things I heard in passing or read somewhere:

"God's grace is working through you."

"This too shall pass."

"He who does not weep, does not seek."

"The hardest part of saying goodbye is having to do it again every, single day."

"You will soar on wings of eagles. You will run on legs that never get weary."

"Courage is grace under pressure."

"Don't be too scared to live your dreams."

"What you accomplish is never as important as what you had to overcome to accomplish it!"

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Realizations

Dylan would’ve been 5 months today. Looking back on the highs and lows of the last 5 months, I realize how much we’ve overcome. Dylan was a fighter because he took after Justin and I and our fighting spirits. I made the comment to Justin today that we may not have as much money as our friends, but we’re the richest people I know.

I still cry occasionally, but it becomes less and less frequent. I think of Dylan everyday, but rather than hold on to the pain, I celebrate his life. I sit and stare at our many pictures of him with fondness, remembering our handsome son. How cute his feet were. How soft his spiky hair was. How tight his grip was. How amazing it was to stare into his beautiful eyes.

I realize how much this experience has shaped me. I realize the kind of strength it takes. I realize the kind of man I’m privileged to be married to. I realize the burden that we’ve been blessed (yes, blessed) with.

I always tell Justin that this happened to us for a reason. God knew we could handle this, that not every parent can, and that we would come out of this better people than we went into it. The things Dylan has taught us have been priceless. Faith, Strength, Hope. Everything that I am now, I owe to my son.

Closing Thoughts of the Day


“A wife who loses a husband is called a widow.
A husband who loses a wife is called a widower.
A child who loses his parents is called an orphan.

But . . . there is no word for a parent who loses a child,
that's how awful the loss is!”
--J. Neugeborren


“Can you please,
remind me how you feel?
This emptiness is real,
I can't bear the thought of it.
And please, remind me how to smile,
I lost track after awhile.
Is happiness so hard to get?”
--Butch Walker (song lyrics)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Inspired

This'll just be a "quickie" post. Anyway, while perusing blog sites the other day, I stumbled across http://namesinthesand.blogspot.com/, where they memorialize angelbabies by writing their name in sand. I didn't send in for one of my own, but I did search the site for one (and found two). I thought they were pretty cool:

And then I was inspired to write:

I Wrote Your Name
By Katrina
In Memory of Dylan Gabriel

I wrote your name in the sand,
but the waves washed it away.

I wrote your name in the clouds,
but the wind blew it away.

I wrote your name on the sidewalk,
but the rain drizzled it away.

I wrote your name on a cake,
but the dog ate it away.

I wrote your name on paper,
but it somehow got thrown away.

You wrote your name on our hearts,
where it will never go away.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Just Random Things

I'm Restless

I'm at work, and I know I don't want to be here right now. I'd rather be at home taking care of Dylan. There are random times in my day-to-day life when I stop because I get the overwhelming feeling that I should be doing something, and then I realize exactly what it is. I should be taking care of Dylan. I haven't personally felt the "heavy arms" phenomenon, but maybe this is what it feels like to have a heavy heart.

My Husband's Profound

I know that what Justin and I share is a deep and passionate and profound love. It's what I've always wanted in my life. Justin completes me; we complete each other. The sheer and utter strength of our relationship having survived what we have this year will only continue to grow.

And when I have no words (which is rare), he always has the perfect ones. Yesterday, he cc'd me on an e-mail he wrote to his aunt. His words were so touching and eloquent: "Its become very easy and even refreshing to talk about Dylan, and always wonderful to look at pictures of him. We've got them up all over and can't help but smile every time we see our little angel. We know that he's with God in Heaven and nothing ill can come to him now. We take comfort in knowing that HE's the lucky one, and WE're the ones that have to work through this rough world. We just have to remember that our hearts may be broken with him gone, but our spirits are whole with Christ."

Justin is so inspiring. After everything went down with Dylan, there was one constant that I could find peace in: "I know one thing's for sure. Justin is a wonderful father," I would tell people. Most people don't get a chance to "test-drive" their parenting skills (pardon the analogy). But I had the utmost pleasure to watch Justin in action. I can stand firm in knowing that there isn't a prouder or better or more loving father out there.

Closing Borrowed Writing

A Different Child
by Pandora MacMillian

People notice
There's a special glow around you.

You grow
Surrounded by love,
Never doubting you are wanted;
Only look at the pride and joy
In your mother and father's eyes.

And if sometimes
Between the smiles
There's a trace of tears,
One day
You'll understand.

You'll understand
There was once another child
A different child
Who was in their hopes and dreams.

That child will never outgrow the baby clothes
That child will never keep them up at night
In fact, that child will never be any trouble at all.

Except sometimes, in a silent moment,
When mother and father miss so much
That different child.

May hope and love wrap you warmly
And may you learn the lesson forever
How infinitely precious
How infinitely fragile
Is this life on earth.

One day, as a young man or woman
You may see another mother's tears
Another father's silent grief
Then you, and you alone
Will understand
And offer the greatest comfort.

When all hope seems lost,
You will tell them
With great compassion,
"I know how you feel.
I'm only here
Because my mother tried again."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

First November Post

I'm a Voter

I won't go into a political rant or discuss the candidates. Rather than tell you who I voted for, I will share why I voted. The whole time I waited in line, I thought about Dylan and how I would've been shaping his future. I thought about the environment and education. I thought about the health industry. As Justin and I continue to move on without Dylan here, we must keep faith that more children are in our future and that our votes today will make a difference in their lives also.

Halloween Aftermath

So yesterday, when my co-workers asked how my Halloween went, my constant answer was "mellow". And it was pretty chill, but what I really wanted to say was, "Well, I wish Dylan was there."

Our Dog's Intuition

I always wonder if dogs are inherently intuitive. When we look at our dog Inu, sometimes we say, "I wonder what he's thinking". I asked Justin the other day if Inu knew what happened to us in June, if he understood what was happening the whole time I was pregnant. I read a few books that said dogs can "smell" it. But could he comprehend the fact that we left for the hospital and came back days and days later empty-handed? Could he understand what happened?

Being the lucky recipient of all the extra love and attention we came home with, he probably had some idea. He probably realizes that the door to Dylan's nursery always stays closed. And he's always there to wipe (or lick) the tears off my face if I've been crying. Yeah, he knows.

Closing Borrowed Writing

Thoughts on Becoming a Mother
-Author Unknown

There are women that become mothers without effort, without thought, without patience or loss and though they are good mothers and love their children, I know that I will be better.

I will be better not because of genetics, or money or that I have read more books but because I have struggled and toiled for this child. I have longed and waited. I have cried and prayed. I have endured and planned over and over again.

Like most things in life, the people who truly have appreciation are those who have struggled to attain their dreams. I will notice everything about my child. I will take time to watch my child sleep, explore and discover. I will marvel at this miracle every day for the rest of my life.

I will be happy when I wake in the middle of the night to the sound of my child, knowing that I can comfort, hold and feed him and that I am not waking to take another temperature, pop another pill, take another shot or cry tears of a broken dream. My dream will be crying for me.

I count myself lucky in this sense; that God has given me this insight, this special vision with which I will look upon my child that my friends will not see.

Whether I parent a child I actually give birth to or a child that God leads me to, I will not be careless with my love.

I will be a better mother for all that I have endured. I am a better wife, a better aunt, a better daughter, neighbor, friend and sister because I have known pain.

I know disillusionment as I have been betrayed by my own body. I have been tried by fire and hell many never face, yet given time, I stood tall.

I have prevailed.

I have succeeded.

I have won.

So now, when others hurt around me, I do not run from their pain in order to save myself discomfort. I see it, mourn it, and join them in theirs.

I listen.

And even though I cannot make it better, I can make it less lonely. I have learned the immense power of another hand holding tight to mine, of other eyes that moisten as they learn to accept the harsh truth and when life is beyond hard. I have learned a compassion that only comes with walking in those shoes.

I have learned to appreciate life.

Yes I will be a wonderful mother.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween




Halloween has always been our favorite holiday as a couple. We found out we were pregnant last year just before Halloween, and already we started thinking about costume ideas for our new addition. I even got a few e-mails from friends earlier this year about how excited they were to see what we would dress Dylan up in for Halloween.

This year, we're hosting the big Halloween party for all of our friends at our house. We went shopping for some decor and provisions last night, and as I walked around the aisles, I came across the infant costumes. It really stings to not be able to pick one out for Dylan. It stings that we're not going to have him to dress up and show off for Halloween. It just really stings.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pontifications on Life

Choices

I recently had a thought that choices exist in absolutely everything we do in life. There are very few instances when one can truly say, “I had no choice.” You choose how to raise your kids. You choose how to treat your friends. You choose whether or not to go to work.

I have recently used my “I had no choice” card. Someone made the statement to me that she didn’t know how I managed to go to Dylan’s memorial. In my mind, I could not choose to skip it.

Don’t They Communicate?

Hospitals, I mean. In July (when Justin and I took a vacation, trying to escape the rest of the world), we got a call from a lady asking if Dylan had completed the vision and hearing testing required by the state. I responded back, “I’m sorry. He’s passed.” The lady said, “Oh, he passed. Do you have the results?” I reiterated, “Actually, he passed away.” She apologized profusely, but the poor lady couldn’t get off the phone fast enough.

Just last month, a lady from Northside (where Dylan was born) called to ask a similar question. I finally asked the lady to update us in her little computer, trying my best to avoid sounding the least bit irritated.

Then there was my first post-op trip back to my OB’s office. The nurse there (who’s as sweet as can be) asked me how the baby was. I told her that Dylan didn’t make it, and she was so sorry. She told me, “We had a feeling but were never told.” There should be some kind of alert system for the doctors and hospitals to be informed when something like this happens.

Hospital Bills

“How are we ever going to afford this?” I’m sure everyone thinks that when they’re getting ready to have a baby for the first time. We thought about it, especially when we found out that Dylan was going to need 3 surgeries on his heart after birth. We went ahead and doubled-up on insurance, getting coverage with both my and Justin’s employers. When we filled out the hospital forms, we made sure they knew we would have primary and secondary coverage. So when the bills roll in, I always dread opening them a little especially the ones that are multiple pages. When you have the word “Continued” in the amount due box that can’t be good. Imagine my relief when I flip the page and it’s only like $21. Ahh, insurance. I especially enjoy the letters from the insurance companies that are like a beacon, forewarning you of bills that will come.

I complain in jest, but I just wish, more than anything in the world, that Dylan was here with us regardless of whatever financial hardships we would face with his medical condition.

Timelines

One of my favorite parts about working in the television industry is editing video. In every video editing program that I’ve ever worked on, everything is done on a timeline. Timelines are something that I can take real comfort in. You have control over everything, including where to put start and end points. It’s all very black and white.

Life, not so much. Start and end points are all grey. How is this relevant to anything at all? (I know, I digress.) Every time people ask Justin and I if we’re going to try [having kids] again, we both answer without hesitation, “Yes, of course!” We went into our pregnancy wanting kids, and now more than ever, we still want them. That desire didn’t just go away.

When’s the right time to start trying, though? That point isn’t defined on some kind of cosmic timeline for us. It’s hard because we struggle with making sure we’ve given ourselves adequate time to grieve. Then we realize that we’ll be grieving for the rest of our lives. And for me in particular, I don’t want people judging us and thinking it’s too soon for us to want to have kids again.

I was flipping through the newsletter from our support group, and there was a section in there with birth announcements. Each announcement was set up so you could see the date of their previous loss and then the new addition’s date of birth. I mentally calculated in my head how long each of the couples waited to see if I could get a definitive answer on this. But then, the more and more I think about it, the more and more I feel that timing is different for everyone. Some people waited years, others months. What’s right for you may not be right for us. Justin and I will have to figure that out for ourselves because, at the end of the day, we all do stuff in our own time.

Closing Thoughts of the Day

“Those that live long lives have much to learn, but those who die young are here to teach.” --Bhuddist saying

“If you lose a parent, you lose your past
If you lose a spouse, you lose your present
If you lose a child, you lose your future”

Monday, October 20, 2008

Yet Another Rewind

The Memorial Service

Life after Dylan's 6 days was numb. I didn't really have time to digest or feel what was going on around me. We got home (on Tuesday) and immediately started planning a memorial (for Thursday, the only day our Priest was available to do the service for another 2 weeks). The turnaround was quick, but we managed to pull everything together. We sent out bulk texts and e-mails, knowing that on 2-days notice, alot of people probably weren't going to make it.

Our NILMDTS photographer and his wife graciously turned around a few pictures for us to use at the memorial. We were e-mailing back-and-forth until after midnight on Wednesday. Justin's brother put together a beautiful slideshow of the pictures that we'd taken at both hospitals to display in the church lobby. Justin and I made memorial cards for the attendees to have. Again, we only had like 40 printed, thinking we'll probably get some of those back. We even chose all the readings for the service. I think keeping busy was also keeping us from getting emotional.

On Thursday morning, we had more running around to do. I bought a new dress to wear to the memorial, but not because I needed one. It reminded me of a scene from Sex and the City, when Miranda's mother died. She said, "I'll probably just buy a lousy black dress that I'll never wear again." I felt the same way. After I wear this dress to my son's memorial, I'll probably never want to wear it again (of course I don't do lousy, so I ended up buying a dress from Banana Republic). And I started thinking about more scenes in my head, like in Steel Magnolias after Shelby's funeral when her mother said, "I realize as a mother how lucky I am. I was there when that beautiful creature drifted into my life, and I was there when [he] drifted out. . . I just want to know why?! . . . No, it's not supposed to happen this way, I'm supposed to go first. I've always been ready to go first." It's always so tragic when parents have to bury their own children. It's not right, it seems like it messes up the whole cosmos of everything.

When we got to the church I made my way inside after greeting a few people in the lobby. I enjoyed that quiet time before people started filing in to just sit and let it all sink in. Up to that point, I hadn't done that yet. I began to sob. What I didn't realize when I sat down was that Justin and I were to be part of the processional when the Priest came in. So after everyone seated themselves, Justin came up to get me. When I turned around, I saw for the first time that the church was almost full (more full than some of our Sunday masses). I was overwhelmed, but I tried to make as little eye contact as I possibly could because I didn't want to lose it before the memorial even started. I think Justin carried my entire weight up the aisle.

The memorial was perfect. I pretty much kept myself from crying the entire time until Justin went up to read. Our Priest told us that if we wanted to, we could prepare something to read but that it wasn't necessary. I knew that I would not be able to carry myself well if I went up there, but Justin was bound and determined to do so. He wrote a beautiful piece, and before he even started reading, I could already hear people crying. Not 1 or 2 words came out of his mouth before his voice started cracking, and I so badly wanted someone to go up there and read it for him. But he continued. His strength of character was so strong and evident at that very moment. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house.

After the recessional, we ended up in the lobby just standing there not knowing exactly what to do. All of a sudden, I noticed these lines start forming in front of Justin and I, kind of like the receiving line at a wedding. People were coming up to hug us and say their condolences. There were even people there who we'd never met before, alot of them members of the church. It was fascinating how I'd react to the different people in line. In some cases, the exchange was very casual and I was completely fine. In others, I would bust out crying and just fall into the person's arms. And for some people, they lost it and needed my strength and support to hold them up.

The memorial cards went so fast that some people came up to us and asked if we had any more. I was not prepared for this many people to show up. We felt blessed to have Dylan's life honored by so many people. Alot of our co-workers even made it.

Justin said he could definitely tell the difference between people who came up to him that were parents and those that weren't. There's that level of sympathy that you have from another parent, and that whole underlying, "I don't know how you can go through this" thought.

Work

Justin returned to work a mere 2 weeks after Dylan's death. It was an extremely difficult transition for him because he would still have people visit him at his desk to ask how the baby was, not knowing the entire situation. I, on the other hand, took the full amount of paid-time off I could take (12 weeks total, supported by the rest of my vacation and personal days for the year). During this time, I grappled with returning back to work. I thought about how much easier it would be to just get a new job where no one knew me, where I wouldn't have to face the questions or the sympathetic looks. By the end of August, though, I decided that I needed to just suck it up. Justin had to go back to work, and he survived. Why couldn't I do the same thing?

The first Monday after Labor Day, I went back to work. It was actually much easier than I anticipated. Most people would just "duck and cover" when they saw me, to completely avoid any uncomfortable situations. The more and more people saw that I was fine and would not just break into tears when they came around, the more and more people started treating me like nothing happened (just like the good ole days). See, that's what bothers me, though. It happened. My son died. While I realize that most people don't want to sit down and have in-depth conversations with me about it, I do wish that more people at least acknowledged it.

Support Group

We attended a perinatal loss support group at one point. I think I would've been fine had the date not been the 11th (Dylan would've been 2 months old). The 11th and the 17th of every month have been dates that are particularly emotional for me. Another emotional one was the 4th of July (my original due date). Anyway, we got into this small room where the chairs were set up in a circle. Each chair had a travel-size package of Kleenex on it. I thought, "Oh, great" and prepared myself for an outpouring of emotions. We went around the room for each couple to share. When it came time for us, Justin had to talk because I was already knee-deep in the Kleenex. It was amazing how everyone's story was so different, but we were all there for the same thing. For the first time, we weren't getting sympathetic "I'm so sorry for you" looks. We were getting empathetic "I know what you mean" nods. I was comforted by the fact that these people actually understood what we were going through and could relate.

Saying Something Wrong

I've read many grief and loss books and pamphlets. I'm amazed when I read the "What Not to Say" passages. Surely, people don't say things like that, right? My Priest forwarned us that we would be angered by some of the things people say, but to give them the benefit of the doubt becuase they're only trying to help. I won't tack on a list of things to not say. What I will do, however, is list the things that helped me, even if they weren't all verbal:

1. "You have handled this with so much grace."
2. "I admire your strength."
3. "We will continue to pray for you, Justin, and Dylan."
4. Sending an e-mail that simply says, "You're on my mind."
5. Sending a card in the mail.
6. Making a donation in Dylan's name to the children's hospital or NILMDTS.
7. Getting a beautiful necklace with Dylan's name engraved on it.
8. Getting me out of the house during my "hiatus" to do lunch.
9. Asking to see the nursery.
10. Sending us a tree (one of the more unique gifts we received), to symbolize the promise of growth and more life.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Walk to Remember

Today, I had both the pleasure and opportunity to participate in the 4th Annual Atlanta Walk to Remember. Justin had to leave this morning for a business trip and couldn't go (this is the first time we've been apart since losing Dylan). I'd initially thought that I would tough it out and go alone. I'd reconsidered that thought earlier in the week though. Fortunately, one of my best girlfriends stepped in and shared the experience with me (thanks Crystal). It was an absolutely gorgeous day. The sky was clear blue, and there was a nice breeze blowing that kept us all from getting too hot.

The program included a few speakers, including parents sharing their own stories and original writings. I did not get too emotional until a young lady stepped up to the podium and started singing a song entitled "Precious Child". To be honest, I'm not even sure I could hear all the words. She just kept hitting these high notes that made everyone in the audience start spontaneously crying. Lucky for all of us, there were boxes of tissues on every other chair!

I do fine until I see or hear other people cry, that's when I get the most hysterical. Crying is so contageous to me. Anyway, after all the speakers and the cry-inducing singing, we took a quick walk around the grounds and all gathered back for the balloon release. They gave all the attendees a chance to write messages to our little angels on these cute, purple butterflies. I didn't want to get too emotional, so I quickly grabbed one of the butterflies and scribbled, "Hey Dill, Mommy and Daddy just wanted to tell you that we LOVE you and MISS you very, very much. Always our little angel, love you!"

I'll share a picture of the butterfly Crystal filled out for Dylan and some other pics from the day's events (thanks again to Crystal for taking over the camera so I could be in some of the shots).

To close out, I'd like to include the quote from the cover of today's program: "When you come to the edge of all the light you know and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly." - Author Unknown

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Writer Who Doesn't Write

Ever since I can remember, I had a real passion for writing. I was editor-in-chief of my high school paper. I majored in Journalism in college. I've just always enjoyed how a series of words could make a person feel anything and everything. I'm still fairly new at this whole blogging business, but I already enjoy it. For me, it fills something in my heart that makes me excited and proud to be writing again. I'm saddened that my inspiration to return to writing was as a result of losing Dylan, but I'm honored to have that story to share. I'm humbled to have people read this. So now, I guess I should share some writing. First, I wrote the following letter to Dylan when we were in the hospital with him:

Dylan,

It's hard for me to not feel cheated or teased by God for taking you from us too soon. I have to think of you as being much too precious and good, too perfect for this world.

We haven't shared nearly enough time together for me to shower you with the love I hold in my heart for you, but I'm sure you'll take that love and more up to Heaven with you.

Please know that your Daddy and I were overjoyed and excited about getting to spend our lives with you. And now we're blessed with the thought that you'll always be watching over us from your perch up above.

You are and will always be our little guardian angel. Thank you for blessing us with the time that you did have for us. I will cherish this time forever.

You get to go to a place where there are no monitors, or tubes, or pumps in your stomach. You get to go to a place free of pain, or worry, or discomfort (even though your pouty face is still so cute)!

I will think of you and Pray for you everyday for the rest of my life, and I know Daddy will too. You are an amazing miracle that I had the blessing and opportunity to hold for the last 9 months.

You're the best thing that's ever happened to us, and nothing's ever going to change that. I hope you know how much you're loved--by Mommy, by Daddy, and by everyone else whose life you've already graced.

As I say to Daddy every single night: "Good night, sweet Prince!" Mommy and Daddy love you very much!


More recently, I wrote this poem to Dylan:

Unfulfilled
By Katrina
In Memory of Dylan Gabriel

My arms long to hold you
To rock you to your sleep
To bring you close to my heart
And comfort you while you weep

My eyes long to see you
To gaze upon your face
To stare into your perfect eyes
And witness God's good grace

My hands long for your tiny grasp
To let you hold onto me
To show me just how strong you are
And how strong I must be

My lips long to kiss you
To sing you many songs
To read you bedtime stories
And tell you nothing's wrong

My body aches from missing you
And my heart is incomplete
But one day we shall reunite
At Heaven's gate, we'll meet.

Friday, October 17, 2008

6 Days

Life is far too short when it is merely measured by days or, in some cases, minutes.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Our first son Dylan Gabriel Brooks was born at 6:25 PM on June 11, 2008. The operating room experience was, in one word, bizarre. The lights were all aimed at me like some kind of sci-fi movie. All the doctors' and nurses' faces were covered with masks. It felt like there were hundreds of them. They placed a sheet coming up from my chest to cover my line of sight. I assume to keep me from seeing myself cut in half as well. They let Justin back into the room.

The doctor did an initial cut to make sure I didn't feel anything, and then he proceeded to bring Dylan into the world. Not 10 minutes after he started, they put Dylan up over the curtain so that we could catch a quick glimpse. He was 4 lbs 10 oz, a little gooey, alien-looking creature. Then they quickly whisked him away so that he could be evaluated by the perinatalogist. None of that was really any surprise to me. Because of Dylan's existing heart condition, I was prepared for the fact that he would be taken away almost immediately. Meanwhile, I'm getting stitched up and rolled out to recovery. We had to wait about an hour in recovery for my blood pressure to stabilize (surprise-surprise) before they wheeled me back up to my room.

Justin ran back and forth between the recovery room and the waiting room, where a handful of our family and friends were eagerly awaiting the news. When we were finally back in the room, our guests all came in to visit and see how mommy was doing. Dylan was already in the NICU at this point. After about another hour, the perinatalogist came into the room to tell us her findings. Everyone left the room, and she informed Justin and I what they could tell from their initial screenings. She told us Dylan was VACTERYL and explained the condition to us. First, she told us Dylan had an extra vertebrae (V). A cardiologist came and confirmed the congenital heart condition, HRHS (C). Finally, and what ended up being the most serious of all his conditions, his renal (kidney) funtion was questionable (R). They still weren't sure if he had 2 kidneys and whether or not they were funtioning. Further screenings would need to take place when Dylan got transferred to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

Once our family and friends left the hospital, I spent the rest of the night in my room attempting to sleep off the pain. And Justin spent every chance he could excitedly walking over to the NICU to visit Dylan.

Thursday

Still no word on the transfer to CHOA/Egleston. They were waiting for spots to open up before they would take him over there. And because, all in all, Dylan was stable, he kept getting pushed back for newborns who needed the transfer more urgently than he did. When I woke up that morning, I was bound and determined to go to the NICU to see my son. Justin couldn't have all the fun without me. It was a chore just to sit up, but I finally made it over there. Justin wheeled me through the hospital, and he seemed to know the route like the back of his hand from his numberous trips to see Dylan. He was so amazing to look at. I just sat in my wheelchair and stared at him in fascination. Justin and I had created this life, the most handsome boy in the whole wide world (he takes after his daddy).

Friday

By early evening on Friday, the transport was finally ready to take Dylan to CHOA/Egleston. Justin and I just happened to be in the NICU visiting him and anxiously watched as they packed our son up in a travelling incubator. At this point, my doctor had not released me from the hospital yet, so Justin rode with Dylan in the ambulance. Honestly, the thought had not yet crossed my mind that I should be alarmed for any reason. I knew he was going to be in good hands at Egleston. Justin sent me text updates the whole time he was there.

At Egleston, there was a whole team of people eagerly waiting to meet Dylan. Justin told me, "He's the most popular kid on the block already." It took hours for all the doctors to run their various tests. Justin went to spend some quiet time with Dylan, and when the doctors returned, they dropped the bombshell on him. After an in-depth ultrasound, they discovered that Dylan only had one kidney, and they were almost certain it was not functioning. They drew some blood and said they would run some tests on it. By the morning, they would be able to give us a difinitive answer based on the creatinine levels. Justin stayed with Dylan for another hour. He was so torn between not wanting to leave his son and having me in the hospital with no idea of the extremity of the situation.

When he text me that he was on his way back, my gut had already told me that something was not quite right. As he relayed his day's ordeal with me, we both just cried. Friday night was the first time I'd really thought about the urgency of what Dylan was facing.

Saturday

If the creatinine levels confirmed that his kidney was not funtioning, our options would be very limited. When Justin woke up on Saturday morning, all he could think about was getting back to Egleston to be with Dylan. He was in Dylan's room for 5 minutes before the perinatalogist and surgeon came down to explain the blood results. What they'd found was the worst-case scenario. Dylan's creatinine levels were 5x higher than a normal kidney would allow, indicating kidney failure. The creatinine level would eventually cause the rest of his vital organs to shut down.

The options were minimal. He was too young for a transplant because the anti-rejection drugs would be toxic. Internal or external dialysis was not feasible because of his heart condition. We were basically left with a very sick baby and no viable choices.

Justin rushed back to Northside to have me released, so that we could be together as a family. We had to track down my doctor as he was doing his rounds and explain the urgency of the situation to him. I just sat in the hospital room and waited, stared out the window and waited. Once the nurses knew what was going on, they were all very accommodating. They found a wheelchair and took me through the back hallways of the hospital. Justin pulled the car around, where the rest of the mothers were loading up their babies to take them home. I sat in my wheelchair, no baby, and with the full knowledge of the battle Dylan was facing at Egleston.

When we got to Egleston, I just took Dylan into my arms and cried. We were trying to be as rational as we possibly could with the situation, and Justin's first thought was to call our Priest so that he could come to the hospital and baptize Dylan. We had no idea at this point how much time he had, so our sense of urgency was high. Our Priest got to the hospital a few hours later and performed the baptism for us. Again, I just held Dylan in my arms the whole time and cried.

After a few more hours, they told us they would move us into one of the step-down rooms in the NICU, where babies recover from surgery. That way, we could have our own private room and bathroom. A social worker came to visit us in the room and asked if we needed anything. She also suggested that we contact the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) foundation, an organization of volunteer photographers that came out to hospitals and took pictures of terminally-ill or recently passed infants and their families for free. She even went ahead and coordinated some time for a photographer to come visit.

Sunday (Father's Day)

Our NILMDTS photographer took time away from spending Father's Day with his own family so that he could take pictures for us. He was an absolutely amazing person and photographer. He came into the room and just immediately started snapping shots with Dylan. Dylan was sleeping, until the flash they'd brought kept going off. He woke up, very reactive, and wanting to follow the flash everytime it went off, that shutterbug (just like mom and dad)!

We were able to have his tubes removed for the pictures. The hospital also had a beautiful garden area, where we had the opportunity to take some really great outside shots. Most of the pictures on this page are from our NILMDTS photographer, thank you James (http://www.jamesadamhill.com/)!

The whole time we were at Egleston, we did not want any visitors. It was too hard to see family or friends at this point. By Sunday night, though, we sent a text out to our immediate family. We invited them to say their last goodbyes to Dylan, if they desired to do so. Justin and I escaped to the chapel to be alone and pray, while they all visited.

Monday

Our time at the hospital was spent dealing with a real roller coaster of emotions. We rejoiced in the time we got to spend with Dylan. We were angry over what he was having to go through. We were scared of what was going to happen from here. We were sad that we would have to say goodbye soon. We took turns holding him the whole time, basically only putting him down when a nurse came in to check his vitals.

I wrote this on Monday, our last full day with Dylan:

Dylan is 5 days old today. Our little man is such a soldier. He's been so strong and undergone so much pain in his short lifetime. It's hard to see him suffer. Justin and I decided to start him on morphine last night. He was more fussy than usual, and even though we knew the pain medication would knock him out, we just wanted to take all his suffering away.

We spend our days and nights sleeping in shifts, forcing ourselves to eat when our bodies beg for the nourishment, and holding Dylan (our most precious time of all). We talk to him, sing to him, read, everything we can to let him know Mommy and Daddy are around. Even the silent moments with him in our arms is dear.

Now, the hardest part is knowing exactly what's going to happen, but having no clue in the world what to expect or what it will be like. We had a momentary scare this morning when the alarm sounded that his breathing was slowed and his heart rate had decelerated. I remember Justin saying, "That's what it's going to be like", but there is still no preparing for it.

We got him more morphine, and he's been sleeping soundly since. Never before in my life did I experience such a roller coaster of emotions. There's that overwhelming and instantaneous joy that I felt on Wednesday, when Dylan finally decided to grace this world and then there's that ultimate devastation from knowing that his days with us would be so limited. Never before could I know what the meaning of "being on borrowed time" really meant until now.

And in between the joy and devastation, there's a whole spectrum of other emotions that mostly just leave us drained and numb to the world until we force ourselves to sleep it off for a few hours. As a Mother, I just want to harbor both Dylan's and Justin's pain and worries from them. I want to take Dylan in my arms and lull him away from all this. It breaks my heart to know that this is the only life he'll ever know.

I hold such anger towards God for putting us through this. There are moments when I'm all cried out though, and I just have to smile at Dylan and feel blessed to have had him at all. I have to think to myself that God is calling our little angelic son Home.

I worry also that, after everything is said and done, Justin and I will have a difficult time trying to find any sort of happiness or beauty in life. After this whole ordeal, how can our hearts ever heal and not feel cold and callus towards the rest of the world? How long before we're able to face our family and friends?

How long before I'll want to hear about another person's baby without holding any sort of jealousy or resentment towards them?

I guess only time will tell with all of these things. Maybe Justin and I were put through all of this because we're the only ones truly stong and brave enough to survive such a tragic loss. God would not burden us with more than we can handle, right?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

We were getting minimal sleep in the hospital. Justin wanted one of us to be awake when the time came, so we took turns holding Dylan. His heart and breathing function had already failed several times throughout the night, but it was as if his body just kept jumpstarting. Our eyes were glued to the monitor, thinking that would give us a definitive answer on when he'd pass. But at this point, our bodies were exhausted. We both needed sleep and food.

Justin wheeled the pull-out chair that we'd been sleeping in closer to Dylan's monitors. The three of us stuffed ourselves into the chair and fell asleep as a family. I had Dylan on my chest, and we just dozed off. I'm not sure how much time passed before a nurse came in to check on us. I woke up as she was leaving the room. I looked over at the monitor, and Dylan's breathing had slowed. I didn't want to wake Justin up because I thought it could've been another one of the dips in his vitals that we'd endured all night. But it felt different this time. I watched the breathing monitor flatline for a good three minutes before I woke Justin up and told him.

I think it was mildly appropriate that he passed away on my chest, where he could hear my heartbeat, the sound he'd gotten so used to for 9 months. We called the nurse in. We had no idea what to do. No idea. She asked us if we wanted to bathe him and clothe him. We spent the next half-hour doing just that. We put him in this adorable gown with blue dogbones all over it. It had a puppy on the front and said "My Dog" (it reminded us of Inu).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Leading Up To Dylan's Birth

I lit a candle for Dylan today, in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I know I don't need a special day to remember Dylan, I will remember him everyday for the rest of my life. But it's still nice, you know? Justin and I walked up to church and lit 5 candles, the first for Dylan (of course), and 4 others for the things weighing heavy on our hearts right now. When I got home, I lit just about every candle I could find (I bet Dylan can see the lights from Heaven ;).

June 2008, the month that changed our lives forever, the month that will go down in infamy in my book. From 30 weeks on, my pregnancy consisted of 5 baby showers, twice weekly doctor appointments, childbirth prep class, a hospital tour . . . you know, the usual. I had a regular appointment at my OB on the afternoon of June 2nd. My blood pressure was higher than normal and the amniotic fluid was just below the level it should be. My doctor told me to go straight to the hospital from there and check myself in, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. I ran home just to grab my hospital paperwork and give our dog Inu some lovin' (I didn't even pack a bag). At the end of the week, I would be 36 weeks along (I thought that was plenty, and I really wasn't freaking out). I gave Justin a call on the way to the hospital, and he met me there.

My first night there I was in the Urgent Care area of the hospital, right next to the ER. My doctor came to see me that night and told me that I would be staying overnight. They administered an IV of magnesium (to prevent seizures). That was excruciating (still gives me chills thinking about it, and I have a high pain tolerance). Anyway, my doctor's fear, of course, was preeclampsia. A tech from Maternal Fetal came that night and performed an ultrasound.

The amniotic fluid was fine at that point, but I would still have to sleep off the magnesium in that hospital room overnight. When my doctor came to see me the next day, he said he was recommending STRICT bedrest, and that I would need to stay in the hospital for the remainder of my pregnancy. They moved me up the the High-Risk Pregnancy wing that night. At least I'd be surrounded by other preggos at that point. By the end of the week, I accepted the fact that this is where I'd be until I got to meet Dylan. I got alot of sleep though. I thought, this may be the last time I can get some good sleep for a while. I took full advantage, and my BP stabilized.

On Monday of the following week, a Maternal Fetal tech came to do another ultrasound. The amniotic fluid was back "on the fence", but still no alarms. They came back on Wednesday morning to check on the amniotic level again. That morning, the fluid was down slightly more, and the Maternal Fetal doctor told me she would inform my OB. Shortly after, at around 9 AM on Wednesday morning, the Maternal Fetal doctor told me that they were scheduling me for a C-section at 6 that evening. Wow, waiting until 6 PM was emotional. I had no idea what to expect, and that freaked me out ALOT. I called Justin to come back (he'd spent every night at the hospital with me the whole time I was there, and he had just left for work about an hour earlier). He started making calls to family and friends, and the nerves just kept building.

He must've sensed my brain going in a million different directions, so he sat next to me on the bed and put on a movie. We watched Knocked Up, which I thought was mildly appropriate. We just sat in my hospital bed and laughed at the movie, it definitely took the edge off. A nurse popped in during one of the sex scenes, and Justin couldn't press pause fast enough. I got a little chuckle about that too. I didn't just sit and watch the clock the whole time, Justin helped me stay calm and relaxed. 6 PM was coming, and I was a bundle of excitement, fear, uncertainty, everything at once. I just couldn't wait to welcome Dylan into the world already!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pregnancy, Interrupted

After we got over the hump of telling everyone, I could finally tell the world. I posted the following on my Myspace page on December 29, 2007:


It’s Real

I wrote this after my first doctor's appointment (12.03.2007). Now that we've told everyone the news, I can actually post it:


I heard the baby's heartbeat for the first time today. Today, it became real. Not that it wasn't real before, but now it's tangible. The doctor took an U/S picture for us, and showed us the heartbeat. It's real!

We're going to do our best, against all odds and our excitement and anxiety, to hold the news from everyone until Christmas. We'll see how that goes. But, in all fairness, it's been 2 months since I initially found out. No one knows, that we know of . . . it's going to be quite a December to remember!

Right now, we have a nubbin. Come 4th of July next year (approximately), we'll have our first baby. We're already so proud! And I still can't get over the fact that the U/S actually picks up an image this early on. We saw it with our own eyes, even the fluttering of it's little heart!



10 Random Facts About My Pregnancy:

10. I had high blood pressure before I got pregnant. (Hereditary, a gift from my mom).

9. This was going to be the first grandchild for Justin's parents and the third for mine.

8. This was my first pregnancy.

7. We originally decided not to find out the sex of the baby.

6. Our theme on the registry was Winnie the Pooh (mainly for its neutral colors).

5. We painted the nursery purple and gold (big LSU Tigers fans), so much for neutral.

4. I had no morning sickness.

3. I eventually got Gestational Diabetes.

2. Our dog growled at me everytime I got out of bed in the middle of the night to potty.

1. I was hospitalized twice (both for high blood pressure), the second time for 10 days before Dylan's birthday.



I didn't really think this wasn't going to be a run-of-the-mill pregnancy. The thought never crossed my mind that anything could (or would) go wrong. We'd started calling the baby "Nubbins" early on (most people go with "Peanut" or something similar, and since we usually go against the grain of what most people do, we decided on "Nubbins"). I posted the following on my Myspace page on January 9, 2008:

Nubbins is Now Tubbins!

I had another doctor's appoinment on Monday morning at the Maternal Fetal Specialist. I will have to go there every four weeks, in addition to my regular OB appointments. My doctor just wants to make sure that my blood pressure doesn't have any negative affects on the baby's development or anything else, but it appears that baby is developing just fine. Justin and I got to look at another U/S. Baby is 4 ounces already, which they told me was normal but it sounds big! The funny part is, I didn't even notice the hearbeat this time. Baby was all curled up and kicking, and the crazy motion of arms and legs all over the screen was just so fascinating.


I posted the following on my Myspace page on February 5, 2008:

Nubbins is Stubborn Already!

We had an appoinment at the specialist yesterday, so of course I'm excited about getting new pictures. Unfortunately, Nubbins was not as excited to come out and pose for the camera. I spent what felt like an eternity getting my center poked endlessly by the U/S probe, but to no avail. Nubbins was curled up tight as a fist (chin and knees to chest) and was in no mood to come out and play.

The U/S tech was getting so frustrated about not getting any of the measurements that she needed. Which also means, she was not able to check the "junk", if you will. We still don't know if it's going to be a pee pee or a puakinekine [this is the Tagalog word for girly parts], so don't even bother asking. See, that's just a sign that we're not supposed to find out! Next appointment is Monday . . . wish us luck!


The bottom dropped on my seemingly "normal" pregnancy at my 20-week appointment. I posted the following on my Myspace page on February 25, 2008:

Our 20-Week Bombshell

2.12.2008
My high blood pressure was a blessing in disguise. Ever since the beginning of my pregnancy, I've been seeing Maternal Fetal Specialists to monitor the baby's growth and make sure that my high blood pressure would not cause any complications down the line.


In "normal" pregnancies, women generally see their OB every 4 weeks for regular check ups. Because I was deemed high-risk early on, I was seeing my OB every 4 weeks, and in between seeing the Maternal Fetal Specialist every 4 weeks (which boils down to being in a doctor's office every 2 weeks).

On top of that, a regular OB probably won't do ultrasounds every visit, but they do at Maternal Fetal. So we were pretty excited about getting updated pictures every 4 weeks. We had a regular visit scheduled at Maternal Fetal on Monday, February 2nd, but Nubbins (our nickname for our sexless baby at the time) didn't want to come out for pictures, so they were unable to get any of the regular measurements that they needed.

We had a follow-up scheduled for a week after on February 11th. Again, Nubbins was curled up and in a tough position to get any of the measurements or see any of the anatomy (which was the sole purpose for these visits . . . to monitor baby's growth and development). The ultrasound tech did her business, then the doctor came in to try her hand at it. I thought to myself, "Not again, Nubbins doesn't want to come out and play!"

But their frustrations felt slightly more crucial this time around. I asked if there were any major problems in not getting the measurements and anatomy again (as if to say, I wouldn't mind coming in again next week to try another ultrasound and, hopefully, the baby will be in a better position). But to my horror, the doctor said there were concerns that the baby may have some "issues". It quickly went from that to, "We need to do an amniocentesis to try and figure some things out."

I could feel myself tearing up as I signed the paperwork for the amnio. They make you sign like 5 pieces of paper, and they try to explain everything that you're signing to you, as if you're paying any sort of attention. Wait a minute, I was just told that there may be something wrong with my baby . . . can I have a moment? No, straight to the amnio. I was overwhelmed by my emotions. Honestly, I didn't even have a second to take it all in. So I just cried the entire time. Not because of the procedure or the needle or the pain. I never really had a moment to just digest the information that was flying at us at light speed (there were concerns of the baby having a heart defect and/or possible issues with the kidney/bladder, maybe a chromosomal abnormality).

I must've looked like a deer in headlights when the doctor asked us if we had any questions. I managed to shake my head, as the tears continued to roll down my face. I still hadn't processed anything in my head of what just went down or anything that she said. At that moment, I just wanted to get out of there. They scheduled a follow-up appoinment on Friday, along with an appointment for a pediatric cardiologist. The drive home was fuzzy.

2.15.2008

After everything that went down Monday, I had to take a day from work to just veg, sleep, cry (all of the kind of things that would have just made me useless at work). It really helped. Justin and I sat together and just processed through everything. It was almost like the 5 stages of grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance), and by Friday, I had definitely reached acceptance. Yeah, I go from 0 to 60 pretty fast.

By Wednesday morning, I received a call from the doctor's office with preliminary results from the amnio. The FISH tests came back negative for abnormalities to Chromosomes 15, 18, and 21 (Down's Syndrome). This was welcome news, considering Monday's visit left us with so little information.

First thing Friday morning, we went for our first visit with the pediatric cardiologist for a closer look at baby's heart. The doctor confirmed the news that we originally heard on Monday. There was indeed something wrong with the baby's heart. The doctor (Vedelefsky) was amazing and broke it all down for us, so we could understand everything. From the ultrasound, he could tell that the baby has a very serious and very rare condition called Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome (HRHS -- the right ventricle of the heart is smaller than it should be) and, in addition to that, Transposition of the Great Vessels (i.e. the Pulmonary Artery and the Aorta are reversed from how they should be).

Due to the condition, the baby would need at least 3 surgeries before the age of 5 (one at birth, the second between 4-6 months, and the last between 18 months-4 years). For the first time, the idea of terminating the pregnancy had to really enter our heads with the severity of the condition we had in front of us. We wanted to wait and see what the rest of the amnio results would be before we made any decisions one way or the other. We agreed that if any of the rest of the results from the amnio came back positive for any sort of chromosomal abnormality, then we would seriously have to consider terminating the pregancy.

We then went straight from the cardiologist's office back to Maternal Fetal. We had another ultrasound waiting, to see if the baby was in a better position than Monday and that maybe they could get some more measurements or a better look at the anatomy. Coming from the cardiologist's office really made us believe that it couldn't get much worse, but as if to say the cake really needed a cherry on top, the doctor at Maternal Fetal confirmed that the baby only had 1 kidney and the amniotic fluid was low (which was the least of our worries at this point, with everything else going on).

Within 1 week, we really had to put everything into perspective. Should we consider terminating the pregnancy? Can this baby have a meaninful life? How can we possibly afford all of this? We had a good handful of questions between us, and a great deal of research ahead of us.

2.18.2008

We spent the weekend scouring the internet for all the research we could possibly find on HRHS. The fact that we found so few articles really made us realize how rare this was. Armed with all this new information, we went to my doctor's appointment on Monday with our heads held high, trying to be as positive as we could. It was just another routine appointment at the doctor's office (peeing in a cup, weighing in, getting my blood pressure checked, and hearing the baby's heartbeat – everything was checking out A-OK). Before we left, Justin asked the question that we wanted to avoid but couldn't. "What's the procedure for termination?" (At this point, we were still waiting on the rest of the results from my amnio – there could very well still be something in the chromosomes that we would need to tackle.)

The doctor's bewildered look before he answered was answer enough. He said it was rare to terminate a pregnancy after 20 weeks. 26 weeks would be the absolute latest, and this is in cases of extreme medical emergencies. But basically, they would inject the baby's heart with Potassium, wait for it to pass, and I would have to birth it. NO! The look on my face must've been answer enough for Justin, but I told him that I just couldn't do it.

That was out of the question now. We had rethink everything we'd talked about up until now – to me, there was no other option than to proceed with the pregnancy. What would happen from here on out would be in God's hands.

2.22.2008

We carried our positive attitudes into my doctor's appointment on Friday. In the beginning of this pregnancy, we'd initially agreed that we would not find out the baby's sex until he/she was born. With everything else that we were going through, we found that finding out the baby's sex was at least one thing that we didn't have to keep up in the air. This really made us excited for Friday's appointment.

Again, I went in for the usual vitals routine, and then they brought us into the ultrasound room. The tech came in to give us a look at the baby. We told her that we wanted to know the baby's sex this time. Leave it to our baby to not want to show off . . surprise, surprise! So she wasn't able to see anything from the ultrasound. But since I'd had an amnio, there would be a definitive answer in my file.

The tech brought us into another room to wait and speak with the doctor. After a few seconds, the tech popped her head back into the room and asked if we still wanted to know. Without hesitation or even looking at Justin, I said, "YES!" When she told us that we were having a BOY, I think I actually yelped. Justin and I were more excited than ever before, and we just hugged each other until the doctor came in.


The doctor gave us a bit more good news. All of the results from the amnio were back, and all the chromosome tests were negative! And while we still face an uphill battle from here, we rest assured knowing that we have each other and now a beautiful baby boy on the way.


Initially, we had extreme pain and anger over what our son would be facing in his life. No one goes into their first pregnancy prepared for anything but a perfect little baby. When you're told that your baby isn't going to be "perfect" (medically speaking, I mean), you definitely go through a grieving period, mourning for what you thought your child would be. That goes away, of course, and I continued to enjoy the rest of my roller coaster pregnancy. I posted the following on my Myspace page on April 29, 2008:

A 30-Week Update

I know it's been a while since my last report on everything, so where do I begin? First off, Dylan has been the name that's really stuck for Baby Brooks, so that's the name that we'll probably go with. Justin and I have high hopes that he'll be a brilliant musician. Dylan has been growing and doing really well. His weight and measurements have all been right where they need to be when we get those checked at Maternal Fetal.

Our appointments at the cardiologist have been nothing but positive as well. The doctor that originally diagnosed Dylan's heart condition (Dr.V) will also be his pediatric cardiologist growing up. So we're already establishing that history with him. We're blessed because this doctor is absolutely amazing! He is very positive about everything. He says that the pump on Dylan's Left Ventricle is excellent, so at least the Ventricle that will be doing all the work is in good shape. Basically, once all the surgeries are complete, Dylan's heart will function as a 2-chamber vessel rather than a 4-chamber vessel.

We had the opportunity to meet with the doctor who will more than likely perform Dylan's surgeries (Kanter) and got another bit of good news. There's the slightest of possibilities that the first surgery may not even be necessary. If, at birth, Dylan's heart is pumping just the right amount of blood to the body, then we can skip the first surgery. He referred to it as the "Three Bears" scenario. At birth, Dr. V will evaluate whether Dylan's heart is a) not pumping enough blood to the body, b) pumping too much blood to the body, or c) pumping just the right amount of blood to the body. Obviously, if things are not "just right" at birth (options A and B), a surgery will be necessary.

The first surgery will vary, depending on which condition Dylan's heart is in at birth. The surgeries will be at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta/Egleston. Along with meeting the surgeon, Justin and I also had the opportunity to tour the facilities at Egleston. What an amazing place! The heart center there, including the staff of doctors and nurses, is top-notch. We got to see a 4-month old just an hour out of surgery. I was fascinated. I know it'll be different when it's Dylan in that position, but I have faith knowing that he will be in the best hands.

And since everything with Dylan has been developing so well, it stands to reason that I'd have some kind of issues on my own. I now have Gestational Diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy; it usually goes away after labor). I have to check my Blood Glucose levels 4 times a day, so I'm on a strict meal plan. I've had to adjust my Blood Pressure medication twice now to make sure it stays in the "safe" range. And the latest (and greatest), I had some issues with my sciatic nerve causing me some EXTREME pain. At the end of the day, it'll all be worth it. Dylan will be the ultimate payoff. I just cannot wait to meet him already!

On a side note, today is our 2nd Anniversary. I can't believe how quickly time flies. I'm pretty much convinced that Justin and I can survive anything thrown our way. And we're truly grateful and blessed by those of you who have given us your undying support, thoughts, and prayers.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Little History




So I realized that this blog is just in it's early stages and still a little rough around the edges. I also realized that I just sent my story into cyberspace without so much as a little history. Where do I begin? Like so many others out there, Justin and I met at work. From the start, the chemistry was undeniable. We started dating in July of '02, got engaged in July of '05, and were married on April 29, 2006.


We collectively decided that we would wait to have kids for at least a year after our wedding. By July 2007, we'd held strong to our ground, but we were also ready . . . ready to start trying. I never really expected for it to happen so quickly, but in October 2007, I took the test that gave me two pink lines. I was bursting with nerves and utter excitement, but had to wait a little while for Justin to get home from work. When he did, I think he went into shock. He kept asking me if I was sure, so I took a 2nd test to satisfy him. Sure enough, it was true. We were still shocked but also excited. We were going to experience this new territory together and had no idea what to expect.

My first doctor's appointment was in early December, so Justin and I decided that the timing was just right to keep the pregnancy a secret from everyone until Christmas Day. Our little secret was definitely a difficult one to keep. The main thing that people started realizing was that I wasn't drinking anymore. What made it believable was that I'd just started taking medicine for my chronic hypertension, so we told everyone that I couldn't drink on the new medication.

Christmas Day couldn't come soon enough. Justin and I planned to get our family members gifts that would say Grandma, Grandad, Uncle, etc. We'd gotten my mom, my 2 sisters, and Justin's mom these cute engraved snow globes. We got his dad an engraved beer stein, his brother an engraved keychain, and my brother and sister-in-law an engraved frame. (Yes, I'm obssessed with Things Remembered). Anyway, Christmas morning came around and, for the first time, I was nervous going over to the parents' houses to exchange gifts. We went over to my mom's first. Justin and I made a point to open our "secret" gifts last. When we handed them out to my mom and sisters, my sister opened hers first. She didn't want to ruin the surprise, but she looked at me, smiled, and questioned, "Really?" My other sister got into hers next, but she also bit her lip because at that point we were all looking at my mom waiting for her to open hers up. She may have used her maternal instincts to sense that something was up because she was eager (and a little nervous) to open it. All of a sudden, the snowglobe crash-landed on the wood floor!

Even though there was glass and water all over the place, both of my sisters went to pick it up and show it to my mom. I think the combination of the news itself and the fact that she broke the gift caused her to start crying. And it never fails, I cry everytime my mom does. So we shared some unexpected tears, but they were all thrilled with the news. We still had to head over to Justin's parents' house, where again "smooth sailing" was not part of the itinerary.

We went through the same motions, leaving our special gifts for last. Justin's brother opened his first, and like my sisters, immediately knew what was going on but didn't say anything. Justin's dad opened his mug next but thought the engraving read "Conrad", not "Grandad". He couldn't quite understand the gift but tried to appear appreciative nonetheless. When Justin's mom went to open her snowglobe, I braced myself thinking she may drop and break hers too. She finally got it out of the box but couldn't even see the engraving on it! Justin's brother was brimming with excitement, so he turned on the lights in the living room and made her put on her glasses. She finally read the "Grandma" engraving and it still didn't quite sink in. Justin cleared up the confusion for both of them, "That's right. We're pregnant!"

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Life's Small Milestones

Dylan would be 4 months old today, and I wonder what milestones he would have hit by now. It amazes me that's it's only been 4 months since we lost our beloved, perfect son. It feels likes it's been longer. Justin and I have been well, all-in-all. We've both had moments, some of mine more recent. I have a really tough time with one of the seemingly smallest things. When people ask me/us the question, "Do you have any kids?" It's happened twice now, and both times, we answered (with hesitation), "No".

The first time, a family from church asked us. I could hear the trepidation in my voice as I answered. Afterwards, I was so angry at myself. I could list reasons in my head why that was my natural response (maybe to avoid having to go into a long, drawn-out explanation of what happened or to say something uncomfortable like, "Yes, but he's passed."), but that didn't lessen my regret for saying it. I kept telling Justin, "Yes, of course, we have a kid."

Then there was last weekend. Justin and I were at a friend's wedding, and just as we were leaving, the Groom's father (who Justin's known for a while) asked if we had any kids yet. Justin looked at me, and my processors were a bit slowed by the fact that I was three sheets to the wind at that point in the night. He smiled and told him, "No, not yet." I honestly don't remember walking out to the car, I just know that once I was there and the door closed behind me, I erupted into tears. "Why, why," I cried, "Why isn't he here?" I bawled the whole way home.

It's only been 4 months since Dylan's death. I could be worse, right?