Happy Mother's Day

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Last week, before all this happened, my mind had wandered to all that it means to me personally to be a Mother. I took a moment to put some of it into words. I thought it might be appropriate to share it with you today with it being Mother's Day and all.

**Warning: It's a LONG one**

One week ago on May 2, 2010, I wrote:

I once read:

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.

I think each mom has their own collection of precious memories and stories they reflect upon when they remember their journey from woman to mother.

Recently my memory reminded me of a gloomy time back when I was twenty-eight weeks pregnant.

Cayman's diagnosis had gone from bad to worse.

The viability of her life after birth was unknown.

My world was falling.

My spiritual-heart building.

Conflicting emotions...

Fears running deep...

Trying to hold onto a supernatural faith that God is always there. His plans prevail for our good.

I was a mild, pain-stricken mom-to-be learning to trust in the One, the only One that knew how things would turn out for this precious life she was carrying.

I can remember so clearly...

The heartache.

The pain.

The yearning.

My heart never wants to forget it. Not even the terrible things. Or the fears that went deep. Because it's in those things that the wonder of the gift that Cayman's life is and the capacity for which I can appreciate my world as a mother, is unlocked.

At twenty-eight weeks gestation, we had known for 8 weeks that our baby would be born with brain damage. We had been watching through ultrasound the fluid in her head stay in a low to moderate level of severity. The fluid seemed to be stable, only slow growing and that gave us hope.

We held tightly onto that ranking of low to moderate. We kept hoping and believing. Unending fervent prayers for God to heal her, fix it, make that fluid drain just as it naturally should.

Those ultrasound appointments were frequent, taking place about every two weeks. They were meant to keep an eye on the amount of fluid accumulating in Cayman's brain. It felt pointless in most ways, since pretty much all we could do was just watch.

We started to obsess over ventricle sizes and head circumferences.

Numbers.

Until that twenty-eight week ultrasound when our minds were weighted with far more medical terms than we've ever wanted to know.

I laid down on the exam table, routinely rolling up my shirt tail to reveal my ever-growing belly. We had just switched my medical care from South Bend to U of M. This was my first appointment at the U of M hospital. It had been four weeks since my last ultrasound. Procrastination on my part as I transitioned my care at this new facility slowly. I wanted a break, I needed a break from these appointments. What an emotional switch that was compared to the thrill we felt at my first ultrasound at 10 weeks that ended with the very excited Mike saying to the technician, "When do we get to have another ones of these done?!"

When we weren't at these appointments, it was hard to believe anything was going awry inside, when from the outside everything appeared so normal. So healthy.

The technician squirted the blue, goopy gel over my belly. "Ok, let's see this cute little baby." she spoke to us in a charming tone as she placed the wand over my stomach and the image of our little Cayman appeared on the screen.

I appreciated the technician's chipper and casual demeanor. I longed for a happy normalcy in these routine appointments.

The ultrasound started out by first looking at the baby's face, then her toes, and little hands. We oohhhed and ahhhed, smiling at that little bundle of joy that we were carrying. The technician printed off a stack of nearly 7 or 8 images for us including our first 3D ultrasound pictures.

Oh what joy we felt!

She was beautiful! So perfect!

Then it came time for the more serious part - looking at Cayman's brain. As soon as the image of it appeared on the screen, the room fell silent taking along with it the laughter in our voices.

Mike was the first to speak. "Wow, the fluid on her brain has really increased.".

I recall how strong his voice seemed to me. It didn't quiver or sound desperate. I clung tightly to his hand wishing to return to the laughter and happiness we felt just seconds ago as we watched our baby suck on her fingers and give us a little smile.

Returning the squeeze to my hand, Mike looked at me and I could see the pain in his eyes. I know his heart. He loves to fix things and make them better. But this - this was out of his control. We needed God to work a miracle like only He can do.

That ultrasound appointment lasted nearly an hour. I grew weary laying on that table for so long looking at image after image of all the parts that seemed less than perfect.

Since this was my first appointment at this facility they wanted to do their own thorough scans and measurements of everything. Much of that time was spent scrutinizing over the new anomalies that were being discovered. Twenty minutes alone was reviewing, recording, and debating over the appearance of Cayman's heart. When the doctor returned after consulting with his other colleagues privately, he gave us the long list of our baby's birth defects:

~One kidney.
~A severe level of fluid compressing the very little amount of brain visible.
~The absence of the middle portion of the brain.
~A malformation of the stomach where it connects to the small intestine.
~And a possible heart defect.

He spoke tenderly to us as he explained, "...all of this is concerning for a reduced likelihood of survival post-natally for your baby."

There was no holding back. The tears flowed.

Suddenly just feeling concerned over ventricle sizes seemed not quite as unbearable anymore compared to the now growing list of medical complications our baby had.

She was looking at needing three surgeries shortly after birth with the debate of which one should come first. One for her brain, one for her stomach, and one for her heart.

Her brain was being compressed and further damaged from the build up of fluid. It was imperative to get a shunt placed to relieve her brain of that pressure.

Her stomach was unable to digest anything and she would not be able to eat until she had that surgically fixed.

And at that point, the severity of her heart condition was unknown.

The doctor explained all of these issues and how each carried their own risks and concerns.

Chances of our baby surviving all of that seemed slim.

I felt so broken and forgotten by the Almighty One. I had plenty of faith in who my God is. I knew He could fix my baby. He could make it turn out alright.

But would He?

The doctor showed us to an office where he introduced a Genetic Counselor. We were offered to ask questions or share any thoughts we had.

Thoughts? Oh yeah, I had lots of thoughts but none of them seemed clear enough for words.

I sat silently reflecting on God's promise...

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future. - (Jeremiah 29:11)

"How is that true in this situation, Lord?".

That question pounded through my head as I sat very still, listening to the Genetic Counselor answer the questions Mike had. She handed me a stack of printed papers. She had put together an educational packet explaining each diagnosis that was found. I smiled meekly, thanking her for them and the time she spent helping us.

On the drive home Mike turned down the radio and with his eyes never leaving the road he asked, "What are you thinking?"

I paused for a moment searching for the words. The hardest thing for me during that era was trying to compile all my jumbled thoughts to sum them up into a single answer.

After thinking for a moment I said, "I think God has more in store than I can understand right now. His ways are wonderful, I know that. I just can't see it yet."

That next day, the tears were still falling down my cheeks as I processed the doctor's words.

My foot pressed on the accelerator of our new van, the weight of the pedal feeling heavier than normal as I drove down a desolate country road. This van, it was the first vehicle we had bought with our growing family in mind. My thoughts returned to the day when we had purchased it, just a few weeks prior to the finding of Cayman's brain diagnosis.

Mike happily allowed me to drive it home from the dealer's lot. I felt exhilaration as I glanced in the rear view mirror, smiling as I imagined my baby in the back. I could see her there, buckled soundly in her seat, just waking up from a nap. At that point and time I didn't know if she would be a boy or a girl. That part wasn't clear to the imagination. But I could clearly dream of all the CD's we would listen to, singing as we traveled. I imagined the road trip games we would play as a family. The conversations we would pass between front seat to back seat.

That was a simpler time of planning, preparing, and dreaming of parenthood.

Things had changed so quickly for us. My dreaming and planning took on a whole new direction.

Twenty-eight weeks pregnant, my world was falling taking along with it my ability to dream.

I looked in the rear view mirror again wanting to return to the happiness, the care-free imagination of my baby in the back seat.

The image of her was gone.

Manifesting her presence there in my imagination hurt too much. My fear of losing her began to place a barrier between her and me. I didn't want to feel attached to her anymore. I would never be able to let go.

I tried to prepare for the worst.

I imagined our empty arms.

Our empty laps.

Empty hearts.

Empty van.

Only vacancy stared back at me in the rear view mirror.

I didn't know how to dream anymore. And it hurt too much to try.

I don't know what it's like to lose a baby, but in that moment I imagined the grief would lie greatly in the lost dreams that will never be fulfilled on this side of Heaven.

Why dream if it would only be another reminder of what would never come to be if she passed away?

I stopped dreaming. I stopped imagining her growing up.

But I never stopped singing to her. I never stopped praying over her. I never stopped touching my belly, reaching, longing to hold her close.

My day's purpose became in filling her life with love for as long as God allowed me to carry her beating heart here.

I turned my face toward Heaven daily, knowing I had a Father that once went through the pain of losing His One and Only.

Cayman, she was our one and only. I thought of how that would significantly effect us if we lost her.

There is not one birth order exceeding another one that could possibly make the pain easier over losing a child. But, can it possibly be made worse when it's your one and only?

My mind and heart were filled with so much hurt and fear, I struggled to find the words that would help untangle it all. Songs ministered to me greatly then. They provided the words when my heart was too weary to express.

Particularly that day when I felt the grief of losing the image of my baby in the rear-view mirror, "Never Alone" by Barlow Girls played on the radio:

I waited for you today
But you didn't show
No no no
I needed You today
So where did You go?

You told me to call
Said You'd be there
And though I haven't seen You
Are You still there?

And I can't feel You by my side
So I'll hold tight to what I know
You're here and I'm never alone

And though I cannot see You
And I can't explain why
Such a deep, deep reassurance
You've placed in my life

We cannot separate
'Cause You're part of me
And though You're invisible
I'll trust the unseen

It was a process.

A long journey.

Learning to trust.

Learning to hope.

Learning to live unplanned, day by day.

It taught us much. While in some ways we felt deprivation, in other ways it freed us to bask in the preciousness of every kick and not let a single one go unnoticed.

God was there. Listening and speaking as He always does.

And two months later the Beautiful Cayman Cindy made her entrance into this world.

Alive and thriving.

She brought me into the world of motherhood.

Born with many birth defects, it made that introduction traumatic, scary, but completely miraculous. I can still remember the chilling fear, intertwined with the heartfelt and overwhelming love that conflicted my emotions when I met my daughter.

Cayman's life has altered my perspectives, multiplied the love in my heart, and has changed me forever!

The journey to motherhood was not how I imagined it would be. But I want to never forget, not even the terrible details of that time, because it's in those things that has grown the capacity for which I can feel the wondrous gift that Cayman's life is.

And today as I reflect on the dream of my baby in the rear view mirror, I will turn my face toward Heaven and praise Him for that dream come true. For giving me a gift beyond compare...

The title of mother.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And on this Mother's Day I am thanking Him for it all over again! It's truly the happiest Mother's Day for me.

Wishing a beautiful day to all you precious mothers out there...

Especially to my own Mom and Mother-in-law..."I appreciate the two of you so much and count it among some of my greatest blessings to have you both in my life!"

10 Showin' Comment Love:

The Soldatke family said...

1st!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oooh, loved this post!

Happy mothers day to you...and I'm sure even though you are spending it in the hospital, it will be a happy one, non the less.

The picture of you too is beautiful...this one needs to be framed somewhere!

Sarah said...

Lovely post!

Sue said...

Cayman is such a blessed little girl to have you for a mom! I do hope that you know that you are not just writing a 'blog'....it is a ministry to all of us that follow....I can only hope that I could somehow find the faith and strength that you have! No doubt this will be a very special mothers day for you....enjoy!

Your Mom said...

Dearest Krissy - HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!!! You are an amazing person and mother and daughter - not just to me but to your Heavenly Father! So proud of you! I love you!!! XOXOXOXO (Share with Cayman :o) )

Gabriella said...

How amazing that you put these words down when you did. Happy Mother's Day, Kristen. You make lots of reader-mommies' hearts fill with even more love on this day!

Tiffany said...

Love, love, love this post. You are truly amazing, Kristen. Happy Mother's Day.

KajnBlonde said...

Kristen,

Happy Mother's Day!! You are such an amazing Mom (and person)! Cayman is so lucky to have you as her Mommy!!

Mary

Diana Parker said...

Beautiful!

Marcy said...

Wow, Kristen. You, Mike and Cayman are truly magnificent. Happy Mother's Day to you....what a miraculous day for you - and all of us mothers. Still praying for you all.

bonnie said...

Happy Mothers day!!! Cayman is sooo lucky to have such a wonderful mother:)