Tag Archives: miscarriage

Five Minute Friday | Breathe

Ready, set, go…

Last year, I was tucking Graham into bed when he started a difficult conversation. One I wasn’t yet ready to have. We had just lost Laurence and Flannery the day before. 

“Mama, I’m so sad our babies died, but I’m glad I get to sleep in yours bed. How long we gonna be so sad? And can we be sad and happy? Cuz I wanna be sad sometimes and happy lots of times. Will we get babies again in your belly? Can we be mean to people? Cuz I wanna be mean to people. Am I still your favorite boy? I’ll be okay if you get more favorite boys. I’m so happy you aren’t in da hospital again tonight cuz I missed you last night. Someday you gotta tell me about the dead baby surgery. Da hospital was pwobly too quiet, huh?”

“We will be sad when we need to be sad and happy when we want to be happy. We can be sad as long as we want to be, as long as we don’t hurt ourselves or be mean to other people. That’s not being sad, that’s other things that aren’t showing God’s love to ourselves and others. I don’t know if we get to have other babies in my belly. But I love all five of you so much! And, yes, you’re still my favorite boy. And I’m so happy I’m home with you. The hospital was very quiet, which was nice. But I missed all our noise.”

“You forgotted da surgery part.”

“When you are older.”

How that was exactly one year ago yesterday, I’m not sure. Time is so strange when you’re 33-going-on-34. 
We made it through the anniversary of the twins’ birth and death. I had been dreading February 1st, but it ended up being easier than I thought it would be. Partially because my kids kept me completely busy and I barely had time to think about it. And partially because I decided to place zero expectations on myself. 

I didn’t make plans to commemorate it at all. No tattoos. No visit to the cemetery. No “one year later” post. Just regular life. Just breathing in and out. 

My word for 2017 is breathe. For whatever that’s worth. It came to me at the very end of December. 

Yesterday, in conversation with Nicole, while our kids were running through the house laughing and screaming, I realized I had found my word for 2017. Nothing profound. But the last several years have been more difficult than not, and I’m choosing to focus on the basics in the new year. Breathing in my husband. Breathing in my children. Breathing in new baby smell. Breathing in friendship. Breathing in the Holy Spirit. “Nicole, I think next year is my year to breathe.” She nodded, then we cleaned some weird orange goo off Graham and Thatcher’s hands, changed Adelaide’s diaper, hunted for Chandler’s missing drink, and averted a near disaster as Bess stuck her head into a birdcage. I was breathing in motherhood, and I felt alive.

I breathed my way through February 1st, the anniversary of losing two children. And I breathed my way through February 2nd, the anniversary of coming home from the hospital empty-handed. And I breathed my way through preschool drop-off and pick-up. I breathed my way through homeschool and pottytraining and dishes and laundry and calling in prescriptions. And I breathed my way through making room for another baby. A baby brother. Who probably eased some of the pain on February 1st. But in the words of Graham, “Getting a new baby doesn’t make me miss our dead ones less. I wish we could have all free of dem!” We’re all breathing our way though pregnancy after losing children. One breath at a time. 
Time’s up.

Join me over at katemotaung.com with your own five minutes of raw and unedited thoughts on the word “breathe”…a safe place to share. 

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Graham and the Hermit-Man

“Mama, I’m so worried I’m gonna gwow up to be a hermit-man and never have fwiends and never leave my house.” 

This started a 5 hour obsession with becoming a hermit. Tears, constant questions, and incessant reassurance that he would never become a hermit. 

“HOW DO YOU KNOW? You can’t know! You don’t know mine future!”

“Graham, if you try to become a hermit, Daddy and I will stop you. We will get you out of your house.”

“What if you ares dead? You aren’t gonna live fowever, Mama!”

“Bess will not allow you to become a hermit.”

“What if all mine family is dead? What if all mine fwiends are dead? What if I CAN ONWY BECOME A HERMIT?”

“Graham, that is not going to happen.”

“IT MIGHT! You don’t know mine future!”

And it went on for hours. And I gave him rational answers. I gave him Scripture. I asked for help from God to deal with the barrage of hermit-man-related questions. 

And as we were praying at bedtime for God to protect Graham from a life as a hermit, he looked at me and said, “It could happen. Dey are weal. People choose to be all alone and have no fwiends and become hermit-people. What den?” And I said, “Then it happens. And you figure out how to not be one. You pray, ask your family and friends for help, and you move through it.” 

And he was content with that answer. 

We can’t get those minutes back. The Hermit-Man tears can’t be uncried. 

And then it hit me in the face. 

I am Graham and the Hermit-Man. 

My ‘what ifs’ aren’t as far-fetched, but I’m a 6-year-old crying in God’s lap. “What if we get pregnant again and we lose that baby, too? It happens. It happens to lots of people!” And God says, “Then it happens. And we figure it out. You talk to me…I’m always here…and you ask your family and friends for help. And you move through it.” 


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“You’ll Bounce Back”

After Graham was born, I felt huge. It was the biggest I had ever been in my life. 


This was almost 7 years ago, before I remembered my childhood/adolescent abuse. Before I remembered the decades of body shaming. Before I started my journey of healing. I was still carrying all of that shame deep down inside. So I didn’t understand why I couldn’t show my body grace. I had read all the articles about how my post-partum body would be different. But I wasn’t prepared for the reality of feeling completely ugly. 

I had grown a human being inside of me. Fed him with my body. Carried him in my body. And evacuated him into a world of breathing air and nursing. I wanted to be okay with it. To embrace this new normal. Sagging skin and leaking breasts and staples and stretch marks. But I couldn’t. 

I started to fear that Dave would never find me attractive again. We would never enjoy my body like he had. Because it was now hideous.

I now know it was sleep-deprivation talking. Hormones shifting almost daily. But it was mostly a past I couldn’t even recall that constantly whispered, “You are never pretty enough. Your body is never nice enough. No one will love you if you gain weight.” 

Abuse has a way of following you around and popping up when you don’t expect it. I’m textbook with my body issues. But it doesn’t seem so obvious when you’re in the middle of it. 

What didn’t help: “Your body will bounce back soon!” Why do people say that to a person who just completed a 40-week sprint, which instantly transformed to an 18-year marathon? It’s so odd to focus on someone’s weight at a time like that. 

Plus, mine didn’t. My body didn’t bounce back. And it made me think that people were constantly critiquing my post-baby body. “He’s so cute! And your body will bounce back.” I heard it all the time. Along with aphorisms about how quickly he would grow and move away to college. I needed someone to say, “Rest. Nurse. Cut yourself lots of slack. Wear flowy tops. Don’t stress about your body.” But that’s the opposite of our culture. 

I was standing in line at Walmart with a tiny Graham and counted 14 magazines telling me how celebrities had shed their baby weight in weeks. There’s nothing wrong with them doing that. But life’s a lot different when you have a nanny and a personal chef and a gym in your house. 

I was living in a different world. We were in the middle of remodeling the kitchen in our little house. Our refrigerator was in the living room. Our stove was disconnected. I was living off microwave dinners while Dave was at work. Recovering from an emergency c-section. Definitely not good for the body or the soul. I knew my cart of turkey breast Lean Cuisine meals wasn’t in those celebrity tips. As a brand-new mom, I was seeing how post-partum obsession was at all socio-economic levels. 

Please don’t misunderstand my heart on this. I’m not into reverse shaming either. If a woman is able to bounce back in a healthy way, I’ll be applauding her! But my genes aren’t configured that way. And when someone told me I’d lose more weight if I quit nursing, I nodded politely. Then someone else said I’d lose weight if I pumped more. I hated being big, but I knew nursing Graham was something I wouldn’t give up.

I’ve nursed a total of 4 years, and it only helped me lose weight with Bess. Because I was on an elimination diet. I ate air and drank water…that’s how it felt. But as soon as she was 19 months and I had to wean her for the trial in Colorado, my weight started coming back.

It’s been more than a year. In that year, I’ve added a pregnancy and the end of a pregnancy. If there’s anytime you should show yourself grace, it should be after losing children. Part of what makes post-partum easier is that you are cuddling a tiny human who desperately needs you. After you lose children, you have the stretch marks and leaking breasts and no baby to hide your sagging skin when you’re out in public. You are exposed. And people say, “Your body will bounce back.” When they should be saying, “I’m sorry that your life feels completely worthless at this moment. I’m sorry that you feel like you failed. I’m sorry that you won’t see your baby this side of eternity.” 

One of my best friends recently lost her baby. Most likely from a virus. And she mentioned nonchalantly that she was bigger after her loss than she had been pregnant. And I texted without a second thought, “Your body will bounce back.” I should’ve paused and typed, “I know. A virus took your baby and your body doesn’t know what’s going on. It’s clueless. So your mind needs to remind your heart that you are strong and beautiful. Don’t even think about your weight and go buy bigger underwear.”

That’s what I did. I realized that I had bought bigger jeans from TJMaxx and bigger shirts from ThredUp. But I was still trying to wear smaller underwear. Which was a constant reminder that I was bigger. The biggest I’ve ever been. I took the kids to BigLots and bought my favorite underwear 2 sizes bigger. Then I told myself, “Your body isn’t bouncing back. And it doesn’t really matter. Not right now. What matters right now is feeling beautiful and comfortable in clothes that fit while you grieve.” 

August 26th is our due date. There are so many things I’ve never experienced. Infertility. Delivering stillborn. Losing a child in infancy or childhood or when they’re in college and it never crosses your mind that something horrible could happen on a regular Thursday. But I have lost babies in my womb. Delivered too early. And the day I was supposed to deliver is almost here. And it will last 24 hours and be gone. 

And I don’t have time to lament that I’m not as thin as I would like to be while I’m standing at that grave watching Graham release balloons. I won’t listen to the lies that it’s been 6 months and I should be smaller and happier. I lost most of my childhood to lies about myself. I won’t sacrifice my kids’ lives with the same. I’ll throw on a flowy top and mourn.

I won’t stop striving to be a strong mom. A healthy mom. A happy mom. But I give up on being a Size X Mom. I don’t have enough energy anymore to live that life. No one cares about my underwear size. 

And I vow to never again tell a woman who just gave birth, or was robbed of the chance, that her body will bounce back. Because that’s one of the last things she needs to hear. I’ll give her a hug, buy her some decaf coffee, and rejoice or mourn…whichever the occasion requires. 

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Laurence & Flannery’s Virtual Baby ShowerΒ 

Me: “Let’s get ready! We get to go buy a baby gift for a friend’s little baby boy!”

Graham: “Peoples are sposed to be getting us baby gifts, but our babies are dead. No one buys gifts for dead babies. Cept weirdos.”

I started laughing, because I’ve been planning a baby shower for Laurence and Flannery. Confirmation that I’m a weirdo. 

I decided awhile back that I was going to celebrate their milestones.  It’s part of my healing process. And as my friend, Haley, says, “When your kids die, you get to do whatever you want!” 

So I’m hosting a Virtual Baby Shower! And all of you are invited! 

If you want to join us, we’re going to bless our local crisis pregnancy centers and church pantries with baby items! Diapers, wipes, clothes, bottles, blankets, baby food…there are literally thousands of items to choose from. 

So buy what you feel led to buy, and then drop it off at your neighborhood’s outreach. 

Not able to get out? Hop online and give to one of the many organizations that help babies in need! We are fans of WorldVision, Compassion, and Samaritan’s Purse. All three have online catalogs where you can search the word ‘baby’ to see how you can help monetarily. 

Be sure to snap a pic of you with your goodies and join in Laurence & Flannery’s Virtual Baby Shower! 

You can 1) share on Instagram by tagging @bylittlehouseinthecity and using #LaurenceAndFlannery or 2) share them here in the comments or  3) over on the Little House In The City Facebook page

I’m so excited to see what happens! XX


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Can We Actually Talk About Insurance?

When I was a kid, insurance was just a word in a math problem. And the word problem was always something ridiculously unrealistic: 

If Suzy breaks her arm and the doctor charges her $75, and her insurance only covers 80%, how much should Suzy send to the doctor’s office from her checking account? Show your work.

Sorry, Suzy, but if you are getting out of this with a $15 charge, you are most likely a time traveler or sleeping with the doctor. The actual medical doctor, because that other Doctor is too busy with wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey business. Please don’t show your work…

As a grownup, insurance is part of my daily life. And sometimes a curse word. Because I have a disabled child. 

A common misconception is that all children with special needs are on disability or Medicaid or both. We get lots of people making assumptions about our family and our financial choices. 

Adelaide happens to be on neither. That’s our choice. I honestly am not concerned with the choices other families make. Each child and situation are unique. But it is absurd to think that a wheelchair = fill-in-the-blank services.

For several years, Adelaide was on private insurance. Some stuff was covered, most wasn’t. That’s what happens when premiums need to stay in a certain place for all the members. 

But this year, things are different. 

Dave took a new job. We love it! It’s an awesome company. The owners are wonderful. Dave uses all his skills everyday. He has a fantastic team. It’s a small company. But the insurance premiums are higher. So we had to get creative. 

We looked at all our options. We even checked out the “marketplace” and it was half our take-home pay for the year. After I laughed, peed my pants, and laughed some more, we looked into a medical sharing group. 

We were able to get a plan that fit our budget. We chose our ratio of premiums to out-of-pocket costs. Everything was looking great. Then, we got pregnant completely unexpectedly. We learned that the pregnancy and birth wouldn’t be covered, due to an issue with the start date. It was back to the Excel spreadsheet to figure out how we were going to insure our now growing family. 

Then we lost Laurence and Flannery. We were forced to sell our souls to the devil to afford COBRA. It was a nightmare. But since I was back to being unpregnant, we went back to the medical sharing group. 

It’s not perfect. Adelaide’s pre-existing conditions aren’t covered until March 2019. Three years from the start date. Eeek. It’s the price we pay to afford our premiums. But under the private insurance, she didn’t qualify for therapy or gear anyway. We were already paying out-of-pocket for all gear and using public school therapy services at our local preschool. 
So what will we be doing for all her other appointments and procedures? Haggling. Adelaide has two appointments at our Children’s Hospital next month. So I need to put my game face on. Aside from a brief season as the worst player in my homeschool soccer league, Athletic Lyndse has never existed. So I need to actually acquire a game face. But that unibrow was on point!

  
Why share all of this? Because I’m tired of folks assuming things about our kiddos. We don’t assume that every single mom is on food stamps or every pregnant woman is on WIC or that every military veteran goes to the VA. Why do we assume that every kid with a label and a slew of specialists is drawing benefits? Sometimes our kids are on private insurance. Sometimes our kids are in a medical sharing group. And we all choose what fits our families’ needs and philosophies. 

I had to leave a disability support group on Facebook after being bullied for not having Adelaide on disability or Medicaid. A new mom asked a question and I answered it truthfully. This mom, brand new to our world of disability, asked if it was possible to raise a disabled child on one income without seeking benefits. I answered yes.  I started receiving messages from moms and admin saying I was too prideful and making other moms feel bad. Just because I spoke about our experience and mentioned that we didn’t utilize those services. And I was told that all children with a diagnosis should be receiving government benefits or the parents were neglectful and abusive. We obviously differed in our definitions of neglect and abuse and I left the group. But it’s always stayed with me that an honest conversation couldn’t take place that day. 

So we’ll just do it here. That’s the fun part about blogging. I can write what I want and can’t be censored. Even when I use the worst curse word around: insurance.

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Dancing In Mom Shoes

“Mama, gimme my babies from Mama belly. I wanna play. Come here, babies. Bess loves you.”

Bess still talks to my belly. There’s nothing I can do to stop her. Tonight, she lifted up my shirt to comment that my belly was smaller. It’s finally going down. She doesn’t know why.

“Lyndse, your blood shows that you are officially not pregnant anymore.” The nurse was apprehensive, yet cheerful. My blood work was perfect. My body textbook. It was bittersweet. I had anticipated that news all month. It finally came on a Friday. The last Friday in February. I rejoiced that a follow-up D & C wasn’t necessary. I sobbed that it was 100% finished.

Dave took me away for the weekend. Concert tickets. A hotel. Our children divvied up among grandmothers. I packed an overnight bag. A change of clothes, lingerie, my makeup, a couple toiletries, and our read-aloud.

I’ve waited more than a decade to see MUTEMATH in concert. To watch Darren King play the drums like I do in my daydreams…even though I can barely clap. And to sing along with Paul. And to dance.

We walked Downtown Tulsa for hours before the show. The Art Deco district. The Brady Arts district. Ate dinner. Made our way to Cain’s Ballroom. Ran into Darren, as he was walking into the show. And I had forgotten for a moment that I had been pregnant. For the first time in a month, I had actually forgotten. But Darren was holding his daughter, and it all returned to me.

Would Laurence have been a musician? Would Flannery have been curly-haired? I touched my belly. But my abdomen is just fluffy now. I look like I recently ate all my 4-year-old’s Valentine’s Day candy. Which I did. I quickly put my arm back through Dave’s. Pressing up against him. Snuggling in so I wouldn’t cry in front of a ticket taker. And I held it together.

Until right before the show started. She was about my age. Holding her belly. Just three feet away. And I could tell we would’ve been the same week. And I almost said, “I bet we share due dates!” I caught myself. Our eyes had already made contact. But I said nothing. Looked at her, in her second trimester. I stared a bit too long. She moved her arm protectively over her baby. Grabbed her husband’s arm. I started to cry.

Hours from home. From anyone who knew. A room full of strangers. Zero of them knew that I am attending a memorial service this month at a hospital chapel. Zero of them knew that my blood work had come back ‘not pregnant’ and how I can’t reconcile feeling dismay and happiness in the same moment.

I spent most of the show singing and laughing and crying. Standing room only. Some girls behind us mocked my outfit. Made fun of my shoes. My pants. My hair. They were young. Trying to impress everyone around them. Getting a high from sniggering at me.

I chuckled. Because I was relishing my 33rd birthday gift from my husband. Those shoes had just walked 4 miles with the love of my life. Those jeans were my first non-maternity pants of 2016…a 16W and covering the midsection of a mother of five. My hair. Well, it does whatever it wants to do and I don’t stop it. I can’t stop it. I laughed at how they knew nothing of my life. Yet they passed judgment. Time and time again.

I was like a pendulum. From joy to grief. My dancing much like the figure eights that put a little to sleep when I’m wearing on my back. Or my arms flailing like a sailor overboard. Singing along word-for-word to a decade of songs. Or making it up.

On the last Saturday in February, my dancing turned to mourning and then turned to worship. My first time worshiping since I lost my children. Since I put my dad in prison. Since my dad-in-law died. Since Adelaide was diagnosed as being undiagnosable. Had I not raised my hands and danced around and screamed to, and at, God in the last three plus years? I can’t remember. But I did in Tulsa.

“Just keep going.” Those lyrics were for me. The words the Holy Spirit gave me during my own private hell. When I want to just give up, He keeps throwing hope in my face. And I danced in my mom shoes and the tears streamed down my textbook non-pregnant face and my pants almost fell off, because my tummy shrinks everyday. And I still don’t know why.

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My New Word For 2016

I teased a few days ago in an angry/sad/hopeless text to a friend that I was changing my 2016 word from ‘hope’ to ‘hops’ and would most likely become an alcoholic. When I’m not pregnant or breastfeeding, I enjoy the occasional beer or hard apple (or pear) cider. My 2016 wasn’t supposed to have any alcohol in it. Because I was supposed to be pregnant and then nursing. Nursing twins. But, here I am, about to be cleared by my obgyn to drink caffeine and alcohol. And boy, I can’t wait. Not sure if I’ll start with a Guinness. Or a Magner’s pear. Dave’s previous work family dropped off wine. Don’t worry. I only tease about how much I’ll drink. I usually stick to 6 slow ounces. But 2016 changed on me. And maybe I’ll do some changing, too. Not tiny diapers. I packed all those up. And not reusable nursing pads. Packed those up, too. I did change my planner. I’ve used the same planner since before Adelaide’s first MRI. One of my best friends sent me vinyl monograms. I picked up a new planner on Monday, right after a little girl ran up and asked when my baby was due. She was so excited. I answered that the twins were due this Summer. She ran back to her mom beaming. I bawled. I thought I had covered my postpartum belly well enough with my coat, but that wasn’t the case. I’ve left the house twice since losing my children. And since 2016 decided this wouldn’t be my year to learn how to tandem wear twins, then I’m going to drink. Cheers.

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One Week Later

It was Monday, nearing that 2 o’clock hour. My mom watched the kids, because I couldn’t be at the house. One whole week. I ended up at Hallmark. Staring at a wall of clearance Christmas ornaments. And then I saw them. At exactly 2:10. A set of babies. One with dark hair and one with light. Dated 2015 — the twins’ only Christmas. And I knew I had to buy them. My little love note from God. I brought them home. Cut their fairy wings off with utility scissors. And just held them in my hands. They are the size my babies were when they left this world. And God said, “Just keep moving.”

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Five Minute Friday | Focus

Ready, set, go…

Two of our children died this week. My brain is so fuzzy. I wake up in the middle of the night and wonder why I’m not nauseated. Confused that I can sleep on my back. On my stomach. I don’t need to pee. And it makes me sob. Because I’ve been unpregnant for only a few days. Yesterday, two-year-old Bess came up to pat my belly. “Babies!” I can’t correct her. I just can’t. But Graham does it for me. “No, Bess, our babies died. They are dead now.” Bess giggles and runs off. Graham asks for chocolate milk. I go cry in the laundry room and try to pull it together. But I’m constantly reminded that they are gone. My belly is smaller today than it was last night. My breasts are actually shrinking. My hormones are starting to level out. And I hate it. I want my hips to ache. I want to be vomiting. I long to be peeing every 2 hours. I can’t have it back. It’s over. And everyone keeps asking if I’m okay. I smile and say, “I’m doing okay.” But I want to scream, “Of course I’m not okay! I just packed up all my babies’ clothes. All my maternity clothes…except for these jeans, because I’m so swollen from 7 liters of iv fluids. And I just want to cry for an hour until I can’t cry anymore, but I have apples to cut and diapers to change and pee sheets to wash.” Because life keeps going on. There’s barely any grieving time when you have 3 littles who need a mom. And how ironic is it that I can’t focus on being a mom to 3, because I’m aching from being a mom to 5?

Time’s up..join me for your own five minutes of raw, unedited writing at katemotaung.com

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My 4th Birth Story | The Ballew Twins

At 2:10 pm on February 1st, I delivered our twins. I then continued to labor for 9 more hours, as my body delivered the rest of our babies’ placenta. Close to midnight, I underwent surgery to completely empty my womb. I went home at 2:14 pm on February 2nd.

24 hours. It took only 24 hours for me to lose 40% of my children. But Dave keeps saying, “They aren’t lost. We have two children who are safe. We will see them again. Two of our five children.” I know it’s true. I know I will see them again.

But it took me only 15 seconds to know that it was over. I cried out to God, “Oh no, my baby can’t live through this.” I delivered our babies in our bathroom. Sobbing so hard I couldn’t breathe. Contractions so hard, I couldn’t stand. And I heard God say, “Keep moving.” I went through the motions as I was calling for help. Calling Dave. Calling my mom. Calling my midwife. Texting my doula. I held one of my babies in my hand and it’s hands were so tiny. It’s body was so tiny. And I whispered, “You are my son. I love you so much. I thought you had a sister in there, too.”

When we arrived at the emergency room, my babies in a Rubbermaid container, I had to pull it together. Fake that I was okay. A small girl was sitting in the ER waiting room. Staring at me. Blood on my hands, under my fingernails, peeking out of my maxi skirt as it had splattered my calves and ankles and soaked into my heels. We had tried to clean me up a bit, but didn’t have time. There was no time for anything. Didn’t brush my teeth. Didn’t brush my hair. Standing in the waiting room, looking feral, holding my babies in what used to hold two dozen bath toys.

Our first nurse, Sue, was one of the most compassionate people I’ve ever met. Whispering to me as my body went through contractions for hours. Dave on one side, Sue on the other. My blood pressure tanking. Everyone waiting for the next doctor to come.

They prepared a transfer ambulance for me, but the doctor who delivered my first three children said she would come to the hospital to care for me. The ultrasound revealed that I was laboring so well. The same man who showed us our Graham at 20 weeks, showed me my empty womb. Measuring everything with taps on that keyboard. The same machine that told us Graham was a boy with a healthy heart and average legs, told me this was almost over.

Four hours in, and I was still delivering everything. My body was in labor anachronistically. I did it. I delivered without a c-section. And it was not what it was supposed to be. My body had dilated, was contracting and pushing and doing everything right. My sweet body, bless it, doesn’t know how to read a calendar. My babies weren’t ready for this world. “I need to warn you. I am going to listen to your ovarian artery. It will sound like a baby heartbeat.” And it did. But there was no baby on that screen. No profile. No black and white photo of a Ballew to shove in a drawer with hopes of completing a baby book someday. I am a mother of five with zero baby books started or completed. Our ultrasound doctor leaned down, crying, “I am so sorry this is happening to you. I will pray for you. I am so sorry. So sorry.”

Everyone says, “I am so sorry.” Every nurse, nurse tech, kid from the lab, family member, friend, and stranger. I can see all the unspoken prayers behind the words. So simple, but so powerful.

We thought that I had delivered everything. My body had worked so hard. I had silently breathed. I had moaned at unspeakable pain. I had cried out, “Oh Jesus help me!” in one breath and “Dave, this hurts like a motherf***er” in another breath. So much for only living water coming out of a cistern…but my humanity was fully evident as my humans were being taken from me out of their time. And I said, “I need a bedpan.” The pressure was surreal. “What just came out? It felt like a head!” And I delivered something larger than a baseball. While I was dilated to a 4. It was the closest I had ever come to vaginal birth and I found myself laughing and shouting, “Look at it! Get the nurse! Save it for the doctor!” And then I bawled at the realization that this hellish event was almost complete. And I hadn’t delivered one of my babies’ heads. I had delivered the place that was supposed to grow them. It only felt like birth. But it was just more death. And as Dave wiped my blood-stained thighs with a washcloth, I turned to a nurse and said, “This is real love.”

At 11 pm, we confirmed that I couldn’t continue. I would lose too much blood. It was time for surgery. Another ultrasound showed I had done it. I had delivered twins. I had suspected twins for so long. Had been shopping for twins. Planning a twin gender reveal. I was, and am, a mom of twins. I delivered them and their home. But I hadn’t delivered the last evidence of their shortened stay. And I would lose too much blood if I went on any longer. They called in the operating team for emergency surgery. These people were at home on call. Doing laundry. Watching movies. Sleeping. And now they were prepping for my D & C.

I’ve had four surgeries in my life. Three c-sections and one D & C. The same doctor has done all four. This last surgery was my first time going under anesthesia. Dave was with me until we reached the Operating Room doors. Then he kissed my lips. Kissed me right between the eyes. And they took him away. I heard a nurse say, “Let’s give her something to relax her.” I was still contracting. My pain was down to a 4. It had been at a 9 so many times. I had been refusing the pain meds, because I didn’t want to be out of it. I wanted to feel my grief and my pain and my babies and my vaginal birth and everything I could feel. Because I suspected they would eventually knock me out and it would all be over. And that’s what happened at almost midnight. I was in the OR, making a joke about how all ORs smell the same. And then I woke up next to Dave in a recovery room.

“I feel great. I don’t need any pain meds right now.” The nurse chuckled. “Oh, sweetheart, they gave you meds while you were in the surgery.” Oh. Of course. The surgery. “So, it’s done?” There was nothing left. My swollen tummy and leaking breasts. But no babies.

I was on morphine. “My daughter used to get therapy at this hospital. For three years. Then, insurance people said she couldn’t get therapy. Because she doesn’t walk. Well, she walked at school last week. I’m gonna send the video to the insurance agents and tell them to KISS MY ASS.” Nurses and nurse techs giggling under their breath. “I have C-3PO legs.” Compression boots on my legs. To keep me from clotting. “Everyone keeps saying this is God’s plan. Is God’s plan bankruptcy, too, because this shitstorm is gonna cost a fortune.” More giggles. But I was serious. I had been saving every extra penny for my Summer birth. And it was vanishing into a nightmare scenario. With each new person who walked through each of my four rooms, I saw dollar signs. All our savings being sucked away, like the suction machine that took away the last of my babies’ home.

I tried to sleep, but my colostrum kept wetting the front of my gown. It was the wrong gown. I was a mom. I should’ve been in a pink nursing gown. Instead, I was in a med-surg gown. No plastic bassinets in my room. No diaper changes. No middle-of-the-night cries, except my own. I just kept letting the tears come. At 4 am, the nurse gave me the smallest dose of morphine to calm me down. Mostly so I could pee. But also because they could hear my sobs. A babyless mother. In a dark, silent room. The only sounds were Dave’s breathing and all my beeping machines.
I was supposed to go home mid-morning, but my blood pressure wasn’t good enough. The doctor was called again. Did I need a blood transfusion? Was I going to be able to walk without passing out? How many times had I been up to use the bathroom? I just wanted to leave, but I couldn’t even sit up. Waves of nausea required more meds. My hormones were confused. My body confused. After 4 hours of slowly returning to myself, I was discharged. It took 24 hours for me to lose my babies.

I walked out of that hospital with no carseats. No striped hospital caps. Nobody checking wristbands to make sure I was a mom. The same door that introduced me to the outside world as Graham’s Mom, Adelaide’s Mom, and Elizabeth’s Mom, slid open and I walked through as Baby Ballew IV & V’s Mom. But my babies stayed there. I walked out with my purse on my shoulder. Sobbing. No diaper bags. My hands empty. Dave’s hands on my back and arm.

We drove the three minutes home. Graham greeted us with, “What took you so long? You were gone so long! Tell me now.” And we told the 6-year-old who had once carried a plastic baggy with a lentil to church so he could show his friends how big our baby was. We told the 6-year-old who had announced to the Grandmas that we were getting a new baby who would be at his Mario Birthday Party. We told the 6-year-old who had talked to my belly everyday for weeks upon weeks. We told him that there had been two babies, but they both died.

He didn’t believe it. He wanted to know what Mommy had done wrong. He ran to Mema for comfort. He cried and yelled. And I understood his reaction, because it was mine. We had been robbed. Twice. Two babies who weren’t in our arms. Two babies not wearing the Coming Home outfits I had just bought. Two babies who wouldn’t be attending a Mario Birthday party. And I won’t correct people who say it’s God’s plan, but it wasn’t. God didn’t take my babies from me. God is Holy and this world is not. And our babies died. They shouldn’t be dead, but they are. This wasn’t the plan. It was a byproduct of a fallen world. But our babies are safe, and we will see them again.

“Mama, I’m so sad our babies died, but I’m glad I get to sleep in yours bed. How long we gonna be so sad? And can we be sad and happy? Cuz I wanna be sad sometimes and happy lots of times. Will we get babies again in your belly? Can we be mean to people? Cuz I wanna be mean to people. Am I still your favorite boy? I’ll be okay if you get more favorite boys. I’m so happy you aren’t in da hospital again tonight cuz I missed you last night. Someday you gotta tell me about the dead baby surgery. Da hospital was pwobly too quiet, huh?”

“We will be sad when we need to be sad and happy when we want to be happy. We can be sad as long as we want to be, as long as we don’t hurt ourselves or be mean to other people. That’s not being sad, that’s other things that aren’t showing God’s love to ourselves and others. I don’t know if we get to have other babies in my belly. But I love all five of you so much! And, yes, you’re still my favorite boy. And I’m so happy I’m home with you. The hospital was very quiet, which was nice. But I missed all our noise.”

“You forgotted da surgery part.”

“When you are older.”

That first bedtime at home was tough. Tougher than I thought it would be.

And today, I packed up their Coming Home outfits. But my babies are already home. And I will join them someday. I cling to that hope and I know that it’s true. With everything inside me, I know that it’s true. And I will just keep moving.

I delivered the twins at 2:10pm on February 1st. Rest in peace, our sweet babies. Mommy and Daddy will see you again someday.

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