Thursday, September 1, 2016

Such A Thing

There is such a thing as a mother's intuition. 

     Levi was 26 days old. Lawson was at daycare, and I decided that I was going to venture out with my little dude. I showered for the first time in who knows how long, and put on clothing that was not all 100% spandex. While snuggling in his little neck, I realized that he could use a rinse down too. It started in the bath. I accidentally splashed some cold water on him, and he didn't really react. His eyes didn't get big like they normally do when something new happens. I told myself that my horrible anxiety was what was making my heart race and my ears throb. I told myself that my upped dose of Zoloft just wasn't kicking in yet and I had nothing to worry about. When we were finished with the bath and I was getting him dressed, I noticed his shorter than normal breaths. His eyes now looked cloudy to me and I was in complete panic mode. Nick was working in his office. As I breezed by him, carrying Levi I was able to get out the sentence, "I'm taking him to the ER" before shaking uncontrollably and swallowing vomit. Nick ran after me, wide eyed, but not questioning my reasons. He must have seen something in my eyes. I remember him following me out to the car as I snapped in the car seat. He was already dialing the hospital to tell them we were coming. I was at the end of the street when Nick called me and told me that they would be expecting me.
     5 exits. I had to make it 5 exits, yet there was a DEAD STOP traffic jam. I started cry-praying. Lord, if you are truly all Mighty, lift my car from this road and float me to the hospital, Lord, if you were ever planning on "rolling a stone away" at some point in my life, make it now. I need traffic to move, I need to get the hospital......I need my baby to live. I started driving on the shoulder. Not just driving on the shoulder, but crazy lady driving on the shoulder. At this time I am praying, Lord, let me get pulled over, so I can have an escort through this traffic jam. Past honking cars, a blatant run of a red light, and a subsiquent middle finger wave, I  made it. I parked directly in front of the entrance to the ER, not giving any fs if they towed me.

There is such a thing a divine coincidence.

The woman checking me in asked my baby's name. I told her Levi James Smith. Her chubby little fingers couldn't type fast enough. I just kept thinking, hurry up, if something happens to my baby because he didn't get properly checked in...etc. The lady looked at me and said, "That's my son's name: Levi James." I couldn't really care about that at this point, even though the rarity wasn't lost on me. She asked his birthday. May 20th, her son was born April 20th. We had children one month apart with the same name. For a moment I could read on her face that she was relieved somewhat that she wasn't in my shoes. But after that fleeting thought left her face, she didn't waste a second in making sure we got seen right away.

There is such a thing as being alone in a crowded room. 

     My tiny son lay on an adult sized hospital bed. Lathargic, pale, small, helpless. The doctor is talking to me and I have to ask her to repeat herself because my ears are throbbing so loudly. I feel faint and they make me sit at some point. Four different nurses were called in to try and get an IV in his tiny little arm. They poked him so many times and finally had to do an artery prick to get some blood. The doctor explained everything they were going to do next to try and figure out the source of his temperature. I am alone. Nick is with Lawson. I thought they were going to turn me away and tell me I was a crazy worrying mom. I thought that I'd be home right now laughing and telling my friends what a spaz I am. Now they are telling me they are going to admit him. I am still alone. I am so alone. They give him a catheter, they swab his eyes, nose, arm pit, they stick that same swab in his little hiney and yet, he never opened his eyes. They start explaining the spinal tap he'll receive after we go get chest xrays. I am drowning, where am I, what is happening right now?
     I am ashamed to write this, but the darkness of this moment can only be told with honesty. Lord, you have to let my baby live. You have taken a husband from me. You have taken my mother from me. You called Levi's sister home to You before her daddy and I even got to meet her. If You take him too, You do not exist. If you take my son, I believe no more. 

There is such a thing as ESP with your sister. (especially in our case, but that's a whole other blog)

I heard the heels before anyone else did. I know that walk like I know the sound of my own breathing. I was slowly being brought back up to the surface by every one of those steps. She was making sure I wasn't going to drown and she wasn't even in the room yet. I remember hearing the words said  like a question from one of the nurses to the doctor "His Auntie?" but before anyone could have told her that she wasn't allowed back to where we were, she was already there. I looked up and realized I hadn't lifted my head from the position of 3 inches from Levi's face, holding his little hand for hours. We locked eyes, and I was able to let go. I sobbed. I needed my sister, and she was there. She rubbed my back as tears rolled down her face too. But in her eyes was the determination that I needed. Nothing was going to happen to my baby. I wasn't alone.

There is such a thing as judging a book by it's cover.

     They wouldn't let us stay for the spinal tap, we had to leave the room. A nurse that I hadn't seen before entered the room and didn't look at me. She was rough looking. She didn't look kind, she looked like she had been doing this job for a long time and it didn't bring her joy anymore. I coudln't believe this was going to be the woman that held my son down for a spinal tap, but what choice did I have? I tried making eye contact with her. I wanted her to read in my eyes, "Please take care of my tiny little son, please be gentle and loving with his sweet little innocent body". She never held my gaze. J and I were led out of the room and I could feel my whole body shaking, my teeth were chattering.
     After the spinal tap, we came back and there was this "rough" lady, holding my son as tightly as I would have. She was singing quietly to him and rocking him like her own. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. She still didn't look at me, she got up, pulled out the seat for me and moved aside so I could take over holding my baby. She moved and stood by the door staring at the floor again. J and I shared a glance, and then looked at her one more time. I said, "thank you" in my sincere voice. She finally made eye contact with me and said, "I am sorry that I can't look at you. I am so sorry that you are going through this. If I look at your face anymore I am going to break down too, I am just so sorry." I wanted to hug her, I wanted to punch myself for judging her so harshly. I realized God was with me too. Ok, Lord, I hear you. But, don't forsake me and I won't forsake You. 

There is such a thing as the perfect team.

     Nick and I are. That night, after Allyson got to our house (again, another whole blog about a selfless person who has been there for me EVERY time I needed her) to watch Lawson, Nick was able to come the hospital. After hours of no food, and being away from her own family, Jaim was able to leave. Levi was asleep in the hospital bassinet. The beeping of machines and hum of fluorescent lights were the only other company in the room. We just looked at each other with tired pained looks, and then embraced. We held each other so tight as if we were holding each other up, I guess at that moment (and for that whole subsequent week) we were.

There is such a thing as being overwhelmingly humbled by the kindness of others.

     Jaim came every day after work, because wild horses couldn't have kept her away. Allyson and Michelle did Lawson shifts. Jill was ready for a hug every time I got out of my car to pick Lawson up from Daycare. Cheryl gave Lawson all the extra love and attention that she needed. The prayers. Oh my gosh the amount of prayers! The phone calls, the text messages, the outpouring of support that our family needed.
    And then there is Sputty! This mother of 3, busy as shit mom, showed up at my door with at least $200 worth of groceries. She came in, put them away, hugged me tight, and left like she did that sort of thing all the time. How can I repay kindness like that? How do we deserve these amazing people in our lives? Again, I hear you Lord. I see You. 

There is such a thing as faith.

     Faith is believing in something that you can't see. The Ultimate plan is my biggest mystery. I try so hard to figure out how all the jagged, smooth, curved, and sharp edges of my puzzle will fit together on the page of life. It is a fruitless quest. What I do need to spend more time focused on is being thankful for what I have and who I have to share it with. I am blessed, I am loved, I am thankful. Although I don't know how this blog would have gone had Levi not come home with us at the end of this ordeal, he did, and that is that. As I stare now into his monitor at his chubby cheeks and at Lawson's monitor with her all snuggled up in that Paw Patrol blanket, I could cry. Lord, may Your plan be that I never outlive my children. Amen.

Friday, May 6, 2016


Tomorrow. Not the futuristic tomorrow of infinite possibilities, but the actual tomorrow....May 7th.

It weighs on my heart the moment the calendar turns to May. For me, it's more like April showers bring May sours. May 7th is the day our mother, who loved to live, took her last breath. Her last moments are burned in my mind. I remember needing to leave hospice as fast as I could. She was gone, and I needed to go too. I had no place to go but home, but I needed to get there with urgency. I needed to scream into my pillow and crawl into my turtle shell.

I was alone when I got home and I remember going out back with the dogs and sitting at the patio table. I opened a beer and had scrounged up a stale Marlboro Light that needed smoking at that moment. I will never forget thinking, It is such a beautiful day, and my mom just died. My mom is gone forever. Then as I took another drag, I pictured her looking down on me from the clouds. I imagined just how incredibly disappointed she'd be to see me smoking a cigarette, so I put it out. (The beer, I continued to drink). The tears, they continued as well. The tears haven't stopped yet.


Tomorrow is your angel date. I know you are the angel with the biggest smile in Heaven, because your smile lit up earth when you were here. I feel you with me the most at night when I am reading, giggling, and snuggling with Lawson. You should hear her laugh, it is impossible not to smile. She asked the other night, looking at your picture on her wall, "Mommy who's that?" I said, Lawson that is my mommy, that is your GIGI. She said, "yah, mommy." That is all she said, but all I could think was that somehow, someway, she knows you. Does she know you because I am half of you? Does she know you because you visit her in her dreams? I don't know, but I have to believe that. As the date draws near for our son to be born, I have to believe you know him too. I picture you with his twin sister, bouncing her on your knee, holding her to your neck, wrapping her in your wings. I wish I could see you both. I wish you both were here. Nothing about tomorrow is easy for the ones that miss you here on earth. My comfort is that easy is all you have for all of eternity. As always, thank you for teaching me how to be a mommy. Thank you for all of your sacrifices, and thank you for endless love you showered upon us. I use your words as I lay Lawson down every night. She now says them along with me. "You are my gift, my joy, and my treasure, and I love you."

I miss you, I love you, and I will see you in all things beautiful and true.

Your bayba

Friday, January 15, 2016

Dancing On Rock Bottom

For every tragedy, I can look back and pinpoint my "rock bottom". In 2009 it was the small in stature, gentle faced doctor that held my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, "I am so sorry, but there was nothing else we could do for your husband." In 2012, I can still feel the grass tickling my ankles as I sit leaning on my sister. I looked at the coffin and thought, "my mom is in mom. My mom is dead." This year, 2015, it was in a public restroom stall. I crouched down, back to the wall, digging my nails into my palms, bawling, and silently screaming toward the ceiling. With my nose bleeding from wiping it so many times with doctor's office tissues and bathroom paper towels, I walked outside to my car. The world was melting around me and I once again was having to say goodbye before I was ready.

These are the events leading up to this year's rock bottom.

Cocktail after happy cocktail was flowing at our September house warming party. We did it! Nick and I bought a house for our family and now our friends and family were over to share in our excitement. Cocktails, happiness, and overwhelming feeling of love led to the "PREGNANT" digital sign on a stick. It was September 23rd and we were thrilled! I was so sick that I couldn't stop joking that I was pregnant with twins. I joked, but I had a feeling and my intuition has always been as good as my mama's, I already knew.

October 20th, my intuition was confirmed at our 8 week appointment. There were two little heart- beating beans, each in their own cozy little sacs. I cried as Nick was as cool as a cucumber. I will never forget him saying, "Wow, so we're going to have a big family." All I could think about was if we would even be able to afford Ramen Noodles and if we could, we'd eat them by candlelight because we wouldn't be able to afford electricity anymore.  I stayed completely in shock and freaked out until November 10th when I saw them again on ultrasound. There they were. Little lizard fingers and toes, and alien heads bobbing about. I was in awe, I was in love, and all my fears were gone. We were going to have 3 kids, and it was all going to work itself out.

November 16th at Maternal and Fetal Medicine we had another ultrasound. Baby A was bouncing about and measuring perfect. Baby B, more still, measured about a week behind. The doctor assured us that this could mean something as simple as one is a boy and one is a girl. They drew my blood, chatted with us about my "advanced maternal age" and we were on our way. That intuition I have was telling me I needed to be worried, there was something wrong with Baby B. I was terrified, but there was nothing I could do. I put it in God's hands and tried to think positively.

 Monday, November 23rd. A morning rush of parent teacher conferences and then off to Newks with my team. I had a voice mail from the genetic counselor. Why is the genetic counselor calling me? Why does her voice sound like that? Tiffin, try and breathe, call her back.

Riding in the car with Michelle and the genetic counselor gives me the news. One or both of the babies is most likely afflicted with a syndrome called Trisomy 18. This is a lethal syndrome in which the children usually die before being born or only live minutes after birth. Oh dear God, this is not happening. These are my children. I sat passenger side as Michelle held my shaking hand. My next conference was at 1:00 and it was 12:59. The counselor explained to me that to be sure they needed to grow cells and I would need to have an amniocentesis done sooner than later.

I finished out my conferences in a fog. I immediately went home to share the news with Nick. We cried and held each other close. How were we going to deal with this? How would we get through thisHow do you come out on the other side of this? Please Lord let this be a mistake.  

After a series of diagnostic tests were completed, we got a phone call on Black Friday with the preliminary results. Baby A was a genetically healthy boy, and our Baby B was a girl afflicted with Trisomy 18. They were going to continue to grow the cells to get the complete picture and severity of this particular case. I cried myself to sleep many nights in a row.

The following Tuesday, the Doctor called with the full results. All 3 strands for our baby girl were Trisomy strands. His exact words were, this is a fatal diagnosis. I had no idea that I was still holding out hope that maybe it wouldn't be as severe, but I couldn't stop shaking and crying. A medical professional was telling me my baby was going to die. I had an OB appointment that same day and wept through the entire thing. She found both heartbeats and I cried even harder. She tried her best to comfort me and reassure me with words of joy for our healthy baby, but nothing was making this news any easier. When I was able to make my way out the doctor's office doors, I plunged into the bathroom, landing in the first stall and unleashing cries that only a mother growing children in her womb can understand. Why, God? Why have I had to ask you WHY so many times in my life? I don't understand Your plan, and I don't like it either. I am angry with You, and I am hurt. I am down as far as I can go. I am laying here praying to You from rock bottom.

Nick and I said goodbye to our unborn daughter on the angel date of December 11, 2015. On that very day, Lawson came home from daycare with a huge smile on her face, as she always does. She hugged me and tugged at my hands for me to "get up, Mommy" from the couch. When I stood with her precious little hand in mine she walked us to the middle of the floor with that huge grin and wiggled, "dance, dance, dance, mommy". We spun and hugged and her smile was contagious.

Her and I danced that night on rock bottom instead of laying there flat. I danced to the beat of my many blessings, the most precious being her smile and touch in that very moment. I spun her around with our cheeks pressed together, just like my mom did with me so many year ago. The tears ran silently off my nose.

Lawson and I stopped dancing, I shared a kiss with my amazing, supportive, calming, and wonderful husband, and we all had one of L's favorite "family" hugs. She reminded me that night that you can dance at any time, and on any surface....especially rock.