One year ago today, I woke up preparing to do the unthinkable. Bury my sweet baby boy, who a week earlier was safely residing in my tummy. I was in a fog, my eyes felt blank as I stared, somehow trying to prepare myself.
Thank you for the texts and messages the past few days. The acknowledgment means so much. Koen was the sweetest little thing, and not being able to know him hurts our hearts, but in the past year we have found peace.
Koen is doing a good job watching over his little brother. Tobin is doing good. 31 weeks! Our miracle mark. At 25 weeks after an ultrasound with my specialist, he told us if we were able to make it to 31/32 weeks it would be "possible" to make it to term. At this point in your pregnancy the pelvic structure starts to take over the weight of carrying the baby and lightens the pressure on the cervix. After he explained this, he quickly followed the statement by saying, "it would be a miracle if you made it to that point". We have made it, praise God! I may not be able to make it full term, but we have made it seven weeks longer than anticipated. Seven weeks after the NICU doctor came to tell us the scary statistics of delivering at 24 weeks. That doctors goal for us was 35 weeks, because in theory, at that gestation Tobin would be able to breathe on his own. We are less than four weeks from that safety point.
I went to my weekly doctors appointment yesterday and learned that my urinary infection was very minor, not something they would treat someone for normally, but given my history they are not messing around. After tests were done when we had Koen, it was the same - a very minor urinary infection that wouldn't have even been treated had they had known. I will go next week to see if the infection is gone. I will be on a daily antibiotic until Tobin arrives to ward off any return. We have also decided, with our doctor, to schedule my c-section at 37 weeks. God willing I make it that far. At that point, Tobin still runs a few minor risks arriving early, but is at full gestation. We don't want to run the risk of keeping him any longer than he has to, given that my body has not proven to be a safe place. I don't know the exact date yet, but it would be the second week of July. Six weeks away. Six weeks from a safe and healthy baby. Between my ER visit in February and being admitted to the hospital in April my movements have been limited. I went out to eat just a few times (and was dropped off at the door), I have not been inside a store, or had my hair cut. My biggest adventures were picking up Hackett from school, voting for a millage, visiting my students twice, and going to my doctors appointments. Six more weeks feels like a blink of an eye in comparison. I just pray that I have the opportunity to keep him safe for six more weeks!
We also want you to mark your calendars for our Thank God, Thank You Party! Saturday, August 23, we will be having an open house style party at our house. You can pop in anytime in the late morning/early afternoon. We will have a brunch set up, a bounce house, and a giant slide. The back yard will be filled with FUN too! We want you to meet Tobin, hug you and thank you, celebrate your support this last year, and thank God that we have made it!
I just received word from my school district, that the school board has approved a one year leave absence for the 2014-2015 school year. I am so grateful for a job, school, and community that would support my desire to be home with my infant son. My heart was torn over my decision to potentially leave a position that was clearly tailor made by God for me. A place where I can touch hearts, minds, and prepare these "big kids" for adulthood. The thought of leaving Tobin, after fighting so hard for him, pulled at my mama heart. Thankful, for the ability to stay with my Tobin the first year and then return to my "big kids" in the fall of 2015.
One year ago today I woke up with contractions and no matter how much I pushed my belly I couldn't get Koen to move. We rushed to the hospital knowing things weren't great, but in my mind the worse case scenario was me being admitted. On Memorial Day last year we saw that Koen's heart had stopped beating, we knew no cause, had no warning. Our son had died before we were able to meet him and delivery would occur soon.
That day and all it's events are burned into my memory. I have replayed it so many times in my head, far more than any other day of my life. May 27, 2013, was the the day of Koen's birth, death, and the only physical time we will ever spend with our son. It was a horrible day, a beautiful day, a day that fills my heart with love, a day that shattered my heart into pieces, the only day I was able to tell my second son I loved him while looking at him in the face, the only day I kissed his sweet face and held his hand, it was a day that changed our lives forever. How I wish I could spend Koen's birthday watching him eat his first taste of cake, instead of visiting his grave. Even though I have a third little love growing inside me, there is a space in my heart that only belongs to Koen. He made me a mom for the second time, stole my heart in a whole different way, will forever be my baby, and has changed me and taught me in more ways than I ever knew were possible. He is with me in my thoughts everyday, but I miss having his earthly presence in my home. I always will.
In just the last few weeks I have learned of multiple instances of how Koen's story has stretched beyond just my Facebook friends. His story has touched people's hearts and provided comfort. My Koen lives on. I started writing this blog for myself. I needed a space to dump the thoughts spinning in my head. The thoughts that I was unable to speak outloud to anyone but Kevin, and he needed his own space to heal without having to pick me up off the floor each night. I am the type of person who doesn't like to burden others. I prefer to be the listener of others hurts, not necessarily the sharer of my own. It was hard for me to share verbally, even to those who were willing to listen, because it was just such heavy memories and emotions. It was a way for me to share with my many dear friends without editing myself. It was a way for me to ensure that Koen would not be forgotten, that he would be remembered as a part of our family. This blog journey has surprised me. This last week over 800 people read one of my posts and the blog itself has almost 20,000 views. These numbers don't matter, are not my driving force, not something I focus on, but it shows me that my Koen's little legacy will live on. Koen touches his Mommy's heart and the hearts of many others. Happy first birthday my Little Muffin. I love you more than all the stars in the sky.
When Hackett's birthday approaches each year, Kevin and I reminis, giving a play by play of the events leading up to his birth. It's fun to relive the joy together. This weekend I find myself doing the same with Koen's birth. These memories I am not speaking outloud, not laughing about, not enjoying reliving them. It's not fun. It's excruciatingly painful.
Such a common "mom" topic that comes up in group conversations is birth stories. We all have them, they are all unique, many are funny, and most mom's love reliving those moments. Surprisingly, I have found myself in the middle of these conversations a few times this year. Sometimes and with some people, I do want to talk about Koen's birth, but in a larger social setting I just want to run. It is so painful to listen to others joy. As I have been anticipating Tobin's arrival it has occurred to me that I can't be the only mom that feels this way. So many of my friends have had their precious new babies swept away from them and taken to the NICU, not the joy filled experience of your dreams. Scary, so scary to not know and to not be with the new life you brought into the world. It scares me to think about my third birth story and what that will hold.
We have decided that while Memorial Day won't always fall on May 27th, it will be the day we celebrate our Koen. It is the day we remember and a day we know we will always be together. We will have cake and visit Koen's gravesite, heartbreaking that those two things go together, but it's necessary. We need to grieve our loss, but also celebrate his life as part of our family. We also decided to start a tradition of lighting some candles to float down the creek for Koen. I will have to watch this year from the deck. Difficult to grieve the way I would like to this year while I am fighting to keep the life of my third son safe. My Tobin who I love so dearly, but who would not be here if we had not lost our Koen last year. So many emotions.
It has been a long year. A year filled with intense grief. A painful year. A year that has stretched our faith. A year that has brought me to my knees. A year where we were surrounded with love. A year that has changed me profoundly. A year that has made us stronger. A year where I have learned how to continue to live with a large piece of my heart missing. I can't believe it has been one year since I saw my Koen's face for the first time and then kissed him goodbye ...
With Koen's birthday just days away it makes me uneasy to learn today that I have a urinary infection. Something that they believe may have been the cause of death for our sweet Koen, as the infection may have spread to my uterus. I have been going in for regular tests for just this reason. I will start a blast of antibiotics for a week to heal the current infection and be on another medication for the remainder of my pregnancy to assist in ensuring that an infection does not return.
I feel Tobin wiggling away today and that gives me peace. He did great at my NST yesterday, but my emotions run high as the NST is performed in the very spot we learned that Koen was gone. It is hard to escape the memories. The joy is mixed with sadness. It seems that it is one thing after another. I have been on insulin now for a week to control my blood sugar levels. This pregnancy, this year, continues to be a roller coaster. Please pray that the medicine stops the infection and that my Tobin is kept safe.
My heart and prayers have been focused on others, there is just so much sad in this world. I learned yesterday, that a dear friend I met while living in California, has had cancer return to her body after being cancer free for almost three years. Malayni's faith and joy bubbles over even when faced with her first battle, stage 3B triple negative breast cancer. It required an ungodly amount of chemo, surgeries, and radiation. All while raising her daughter, who is now in 2nd grade, on her own. She is crushed by this blow that she received yesterday. She does not know the diagnosis or scope yet. She is amazing and she is a fighter.
I am feeling the "why" question bubble inside of me again. I know we live in a imperfect world, infections occur, accidents happen, diseases exist, but I will never, in my earthly life, understand why God intercedes for some and not for others. Why didn't he heal the infection in my placenta last year that caused Koen's death? Why didn't he protect little Isaiah? Why was Malanyi healed from cancer three years ago, but now He allowed it to return? I ask these why questions, but at the same time I have a miracle living in my tummy. My Tobin, who could have very easily arrived at 24 weeks is now at 30.5 and counting. God has interceded this time and I am so grateful. I see His power at work all time. It is hard to understand why He says yes sometimes and no others. So difficult for our human minds to comprehend. I have to rely on faith. I have to have faith, because I will never understand. What I do know for certain is that even when horrible events occur in this imperfect world, Jesus is there to hold us and comfort us. I have felt this comfort, even when I should have been in hysterics, I have felt His peace wash over me. I can't take away the pain from these two precious families or answer the why for them, but I can pray for the peace and comfort that only He can give. Will you please join me in that?
Sadly, this week has been one filled with grief. Yesterday, Kevin was there as his best friend, Jason, buried his 8-month-old son, Isaiah. A week from today is Koen's birthday, which is also the day of his death. Our hearts are bleeding for our friends and our own emotions have also been stirred.
Kevin, Jason, and I all graduated from the same school, and had a lot of the same friends. Many of which I have been in close contact with this week, as we are all hurting for our dear friend and his family. One of my friends wrote to me this week and articulated it so well. She said our loss of Koen is unimagineable, but the loss of Isaiah is every parents worse nightmare. So true, if you are a parent you can imagine what losing your sweet baby would be like and it truly is your worse nightmare. The mere thought of having Hackett ripped from my life is enough to make me physically ill. Our loss is more unrelateable. Typically the birth of a child is the happiest day of a parents life, not so in our situation. While our time with Koen was beautiful, it was also heart wrenching, but so sacred. It was like we were able to see heaven looking at him. We would have done anything to have just an hour or a day with Koen, but we did not. My heart hurts at the loss of any time with him, but in many ways I think the more time we had the harder it would have been to let him go. Even then, letting him go was the hardest thing I have ever done.
Koen and Isaiah's stories are so different, but I believe what they have had to endure this week and the months ahead will have similarities. The all consuming weight of grief will weigh so heavy on their chest. The decisions and things that have occurred this last week for them is unthinkable and will haunt their thoughts. Especially in the coming weeks, they won't be able to shake the events as they replay on repeat quietly in their heads. The world will become a scary place for a time. You cannot turn on the TV, the radio, go to a store, read a book, or be in a social setting without constant reminders slapping you in the face. The world moves on, but time for you stands still. Smiling or enjoying something feels like a betrayal. That intense grief is something I clung to, didn't want to let go of, and when that intense grief slowly started to slip away I wanted it back. It was a place that I still felt closest to Koen, so that is where I wanted to reside. I spent many hours just simply staring, lost in my sadness. I felt like life would stay like that forever, that the cloud would never be lifted. People try to fill the space of conversation with wise words to heal your heart. No words can be uttered that can bring any relief to your shattered heart. A hug, ear, love, and prayers is all anyone can do. I felt the need to excuse myself from social situations and gatherings, for myself, but also for others. The dark cloud seems to follow you everywhere and you can see in people's eyes that they don't know how to handle your pain. It is such a lonely place to reside. Very few can understand the enormity of your heartbreak.
Loss at this magnitude changes you at your very core. I am not the same person I was before, and never will be. My perspective has changed. Life is valuable. Life is a gift. Life should not be taken for granted. My innocence has gone, but it has been replaced with peace. Somehow the loss of my son has brought calm and peace to my life. I realize this now, looking back after a year. This peace did not come easily or quickly. My heart still grieves and hurts, but I now know what is important and what is not. So much stress comes from things that don't matter. I can let those things go now. Jason and his family have a long journey of grief ahead of them, there is no timetable, and it is something that cannot be rushed. I pray that someday down the road, even though their hearts will still ache, that they too, can find that peace.
Yesterday, our dear friends lost their sweet, healthy, and happy baby boy, without any warning. He was just days from turning 8 months. Exactly three months ago, our dear friend, lost his mother. He has been Kevin's best friend from early elementary school, and is like a brother to him. Our hearts are in pieces for them and are in shock at the horror they face. They have no answers yet, no idea the cause. They now must begin the process of doing the unthinkable, burrying their sweet baby. Loss, grief, and heartbreak is different for everyone. I don't believe we ever truly know how someone else is feeling, but I have enormous empathy and can relate to some of what they will endure in the days ahead.
I have no wise words. No understanding. I find myself once again questioning God, not my faith, but God. Why? Something's I will never understand while on earth. I do know that life is oh so fragile. That our children are truly gifts from God, gifts that are sometimes taken without reason or warning. Cherish your sweet gifts, love them, give them grace, because we do not know what the future holds. Nothing on this earth is certain.
I ask that you pray for our dear friends. That they are given strength and comfort to endure the days ahead.
Instead of grieving Koen's physical presence in my life, I grieve all the what would have beens. Instead of seeing things that remind me of Koen that pull me back to my sadness, I see things and wonder. I don't know my own child. I don't know his likes, dislikes, personality, what makes him tick, his little quirks, what he would have been, or what he would have looked like. I only get to wonder. It's not limited to baby things, I wonder about his whole life. Just like I do with Hackett - what will he be when he grows up, what will his passion in life be, what girl will sweep him off his feet - I am blessed to be a spectator in Hackett's life. I get to watch his pages turn on a daily basis. I get to watch his story unfold. Koen's book was so short. I don't get to watch his pages turn, I will never see his story unfold, I can only wonder.
I watched a video of an "epic mother and son dance" today. Something that would typically make me laugh and that is what I anticipated when I clicked on it. As soon as it started tears fell from my cheeks. The video really is sweet and funny. I think what got me is you can see the love between the mother and son, you know this isn't the first time they have been silly and laughed together, and I also saw Kevin in the groom. This dance would be way outside my comfort zone, but it is in Kevin's wheelhouse. Would Koen, the second born son like his daddy, had the same carefree zest for life and the spotlight? I wonder. I am sure I will wonder for the rest of my life. I miss him ..
I have had quite a few people ask me if we were planning to have some sort of a shower and/or what we needed for Tobin. What we need for Tobin is what you are all giving us on a daily basis - your love, support, and prayers!
Our desire is to throw a party in August or September for YOU! We want to celebrate Tobin's life, God's blessings, and all of you who have rallied around us. It will be a "Thank God, Thank You Celebration"! What would bless us is your presence and the opportunity to introduce you to our little Tobin and celebrate his safe arrival on this earth. Not only have you supported us during this pregnancy, but you have also held us up in our grief this past year. There are no words to express our gratitude!
A few months ago, after learning that Tobin was a boy, I took inventory of what we had. We saved so much from Hackett (including all his clothes), but while living in California gave away some of the bigger items when we learned of people in need. Some of the things we were missing we had already purchased for Koen. Our remaining "needs", much of which are luxury items, I did put into a registry at Babies R Us. I intended to only share that list with family. I have had a few people adamant about wanting to shower us with something, and one of the many things we have learned this year is sometimes you have to let people give and accept the love. That being said we expect and desire NOTHING, but your continued love, prayers, and support.
Thank God, Thank You! We can't wait to celebrate with a healthy baby in our arms!
I am Jackie.