Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Her name in the sand

Shortly after we lost Hannah, in the slew of websites that I came across, I found one called "Names in the Sand." It is a project that a woman in Australia started after her son was stillborn. In the last three years, she has written nearly 13,000 names in the sand. So I added Hannah's information to the waiting list and assumed it would take a while. I checked on it a couple of times, though, and the list seemed to be moving pretty quickly. Sure enough, I got an email tonight that they'd written Hannah's name. You can see the whole entry here, but here's the picture.

I love it.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Last night before bed, I was reading through the pile of cards we've gotten in the last three weeks. It's just something I do once in a while. :) There was one card that said "I have prayed that while you are down, you'll remember whose almighty hand you are in." Great reminder. And we're so grateful that God didn't just carry us through the first couple of days and then say, "Okay, it looks like you've got it from here. See you later!" We are LIVING in his hands right now. And I am not planning on going anywhere anytime soon.

The card reminded me of this song, so I want to share the video. It's kind of dramatic and stereotypical of a 90s Christian music video (even though it was made in like 2005). Just listen to it without watching if that's distracting. ;) Anyway, I love a few of the lyrics enough to point out.

"Two months is too little
They let him go
They had no sudden healing."
Great (and painful) reminder that this grief is going to be a journey. Even though people will go on with their lives around us, we will be in it for a while. I know that healing WILL come. Just not immediately.

"This is what it means to be held
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive."
Before we lost Hannah, our situation would have been one that I'd hear about and say, "I don't know how I'd survive if that happened to me." And then it did. And we survived. It's just one of those things that you don't know how you're going to get through until you HAVE to.

"The promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held."
In the days following Hannah's death, it did seem like everything around us was crumbling. Just stupid stuff, too. The enemy knew we were vulnerable and decided to kick us while we were down. But even in the midst of ALL of that, when we weren't sure how or when we'd be able to stand up again, he was still holding us.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Psalm 31:19 How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you.

Three weeks ago, it was hard to think about the approaching holidays, particularly Thanksgiving. I couldn't think of what I had to be thankful for in the middle of such pain. But obviously I have a lot to be thankful for. God is good, and even in the midst of grief, his goodness is so evident.

So even though I don't understand why things happen the way they do, I choose to give thanks. And not just today. :)

***I have to add to this post this morning. Before bed last night, I decided to read the Message version of the verse above and I loved it. "What a stack of blessing you have piled up for those who worship you, ready and waiting for all who run to you to escape an unkind world." A STACK of blessing. Love that!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hannah's video

As I mentioned in Hannah's story, we had an amazing ministry called Missing Grace who blessed us so deeply while we were in the hospital. They took pictures and video and just really honored Hannah. Well, when I went to the support group tonight, I got my DVD of all of the pictures and video clips, along with a video montage that they put together. And it's amazing, so I want to share it here. Please know that I realize not everyone will want to watch this. And that is really okay. But I also don't want to assume who does and doesn't want to watch it, so it's easier just to post it here and let you all decide. :)

WARNING: The following video contains images of a deceased baby, which may be disturbing to some viewers.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

We are not alone

Ever since I had Hannah, people with similar stories have seemingly come out of the woodwork. And it's so bittersweet. So comforting to know that we're not alone. But so sad to know that so many other people know this pain. Because no one should know what this feels like.

Tonight I went to the support group at Missing Grace. Dan wasn't feeling well, but I knew our friends Leah and Gary would be there, so I went by myself. It was so good to see Candy again and see their amazing facility. And I got to meet other women and couples who have experienced loss. From early miscarriage to second trimester loss to full term loss to SIDS. Amazing stories.

It was a little daunting to walk into a room of strangers to share my story and seek support. But I realized very quickly that these people were not going to be strangers for long. We all share a very heartbreaking bond and have so much to offer to each other. And I am very excited to get to know them all better as we continue to attend the group.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Too good not to share

Dan found this blog post by John Eldredge the other day. I especially love that it was written on Hannah's birthday. :)

Loving Jesus in the Pain

This has been a tough year for me. A year with a lot of suffering.

Both Stasi and I have been through a lot of physical affliction. There were accidents. Betrayals. My father died this year. On top of this, my friends have been suffering. A year with a lot of pain in it.

And there is nothing like suffering to wreak havoc in your relationship with God. The damage pain does to our relationship with Jesus is often far, far worse than the pain itself.

Every time I turned to Jesus in the midst of one episode of heartache then another, every single time I turned to him, the first thing he would say was, "Love me." At first it surprised me - aren't you supposed to say You loveme? I'm the one who's hurting here. But somehow, instinctively, I knew what he meant, knew what he was after. "Love me now, in this - not for this, but in this." And those words have been a rescue.

Here's why: Pain causes us to pull away from God. At the very moment we need him most, we pull back. Our soul withdraws, like a snail into its shell. Then you not only have the heartache, you have "lost" God for awhile too. Desolation on top of suffering. Sometimes it takes months, even years to recover the relationship. Jesus was rescuing me from that cycle by telling me to love him now, right in the midst of the pain.

On a soul level, when I love God in this place, it opens my heart and soul back up to him right where I need him most, right in the center of the pain. Too often what we cry out for is understanding - "why, God?" But I've learned over the years that when you are in the midst of the suffering, you don't often get understanding, and frankly, you don't need understanding - you need God.

And so dear friends I wanted to pass this along to you, for it has been a great help to me. Love Jesus, right there, right in the midst of the pain. Just start telling him you love him, right where you are hurting. For as you do, it enables your heart to open back up to him, it enables him to come to you in this very place. And it is Jesus that we need. Desperately.

Posted by John Eldredge 11/05/2011

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Do I HAVE to?

Christmas is always really exciting for me. I love Christmas music, I love shopping for Christmas gifts, and I LOVE decorating my house.

This year just feels different. It feels harder to get into the spirit of things.

I've usually at least gotten my outside lights up by now, but I've pretty much come to terms with the fact that those might just not happen this year (unless I feel really motivated on Thanksgiving--I hear it's going to be 52 degrees!). And honestly, it doesn't take me more than an hour once I start. It's just not something I feel like doing if I ever happen upon an extra hour in my day.

The rest of the house is normally decorated in the week or so after Thanksgiving. But that's already next week! I'm not ready for that! I have to say, if it wasn't for Jack and Leah, I'd probably just skip the tree altogether this year. It's just too much work for something that doesn't feel as exciting as it usually does.

As for shopping, well everything so far has been done online. But that's just being smart. I mean, free shipping from Amazon if you spend at least $25? Who would deal with the malls when that's your alternative? :)

Good thing that Christmas happens regardless of my mood! And really, good thing that God chose to send his Son regardless of how the world felt about it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Never Once

To say that the last two weeks have been difficult would be putting it lightly. But as I lay in bed last night crying (that seems to be my crying time), I thought about how evident God's hand has been in the midst of the pain. From day one, really. And for that, I am so grateful.

Laying on that ultrasound table, the minute the tech walked out of the room I broke down. She didn't say anything, but she didn't have to. She knew why we were there. If she had seen a heartbeat, she would have said SOMETHING to ease my anxiety instead of just taking measurements for 5 minutes silently. As soon as she left and I started crying, Dan took my hand and prayed. I can't remember much of what he said in the midst of my crying, but I do remember that he asked God to bring peace. And He did. The rest of that day was filled with many tears and frustration, but in the midst of all of that was an inexplicable peace.

After the ultrasound, we met with my midwife. And after explaining some things, she shared about her own loss and said that this was just a very small part of a bigger picture. And the bigger picture is something that we can't see fully right now. And again, even though I was so devastated, that was comforting. God sees the whole picture. I don't need to. He is still God, even in the middle of my nightmare. Jesus is the same now as he was the morning of my appointment when I still thought everything was fine. God had bigger plans for Hannah--plans that didn't include life on this earth. And while most days I am really mad about that, God reminds me that His ways are way better than my own. And while I'd rather NOT be used by God in this way, I don't really have a choice!

Shortly after Hannah was born, I rediscovered a Matt Redman song and bought his newest album, 10,000 Reasons. It was mostly for the one song, but the whole album is really great. The song is "Never Once." And even two weeks into this journey, I know that the words are true now and will be for the rest of our lives. We are NOT in this alone. He hasn't just dumped us on the side of the road to figure things out for ourselves. He is walking this road with us, carrying us when we can't walk any longer. Sometimes it definitely feels like we're walking alone, but that's when I thank the Lord for his promises. "The Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." (Deut 31:6)

Friday, November 18, 2011

I read

A lot. There's always something on my nightstand. Generally it's something for book club or just for fun. But I also read a lot to help me process stuff. And that's where I am right now. I actually tried to start my latest book club pick a couple of days after I had Hannah. Yeah, that was not happening. I'm sure it's a great book, but I decided that it's too hard for me to read about something other than grief and loss right now. It's just where my brain goes anyway, so getting into a different book was too hard.

My friend Leah went through a similar situation about a year ago and lost her sweet boy Isaiah at 20 weeks. I was able to talk to her after our fateful ultrasound and before induction. And both she and her husband Gary have been so wonderful to Dan and me in these weeks. Anyway, about a week and a half ago, I got a book in the mail. I had just gotten an email from Leah saying that she had ordered a book for me and that it might come that day. What a gift!

The book is I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy by Angie Smith (you'll see a link to her blog over there somewhere >>>>>>>). Angie is the wife of Todd Smith of the group Selah. After enduring a miscarriage and going on to have twin girls and another girl, they found themselves pregnant again. At 18 weeks, they found out that their fourth baby girl, Audrey, had multiple complications that were "not compatible with life." Her heart didn't have four chambers, her kidneys were failing, etc. It was recommended that they terminate the pregnancy at that point, but they decided to carry Audrey as long as they could. She was born at around 30 weeks and lived for 2 1/2 hours.

I finished the book last night, and I feel like I need to read it again. And then maybe again. There is just so much to absorb and I know I didn't do it completely the first time through. To read Angie's thoughts and struggles, but also her faith and trust in God, is truly amazing. And inspiring for someone like me in the beginning of this journey.

Next on the reading schedule (if I DON'T pick up I Will Carry You again right away) is Henri Nouwen's Turn My Mourning into Dancing: Finding Hope in Hard Times. Angie actually references this book a few times in I Will Carry You and it was enough to make me want to read the whole thing. And I'm pretty sure you can't go wrong with Henri Nouwen.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

More answers

I had a follow-up appointment with my midwife this morning. I was SO excited for it because I absolutely ADORE Kathrine.

After I had Hannah, Kathrine (who also experienced a second-trimester loss during her third pregnancy) told me that crocheting helped her in her grieving process. We had been talking about crocheting and knitting because I had made a hat for Hannah. Well, she was right about the crocheting. It's just a very easy way to escape. Not necessarily to escape my emotions and try to bury them or hide from something. It's become more of a time to actually sit still and finally be alone with my thoughts. So I made Kathrine a scarf. :) And I wrote her a long note and also got her a bag of MILK chocolate because she was very vocal about her distaste for dark chocolate at some point in a conversation during my labor. Anyway, she read the note and we both cried and chatted and cried and chatted some more. And I was reminded of why I was so looking forward to our visit!

When Hannah was born, the cause of death seemed to be pretty obvious because the cord was wrapped around her neck three times. But Kathrine still sent some of the placenta and part of the umbilical cord to be tested. The cord goes all the way down to Mayo Clinic and it takes a while to get the results back. But the placenta results did come back and they found that I had an infection where the placenta was attached to my uterus. So, it looks like that could have also been the cause. And since babies can get tangled in their cords multiple times throughout pregnancy, and even be born with it around their neck, I'm tempted to think that the infection was more likely the cause. But we'll never know. And we'll never know what caused the infection in the placenta. I am grateful that both the cord accident and the infection are flukes. Nothing happened that will greatly affect future pregnancies for us if that's a road we decide to travel down. We may still find out from the cord that I have a blood clotting issue. And that would simply require some action on my part during a future pregnancy (blood thinners, etc).

One thing that Kathrine did mention is if/when I do get pregnant again someday, I will be considered high risk. I'll have to do some blood tests early on to make sure everything is normal, there are other tests throughout the pregnancy, my 20-week ultrasound will be Level 2, etc. That's a bridge I don't need to worry about right now. We'll wait until we have to cross it.

So we got some more answers. Obviously nothing is going to give us a cut and dry reason for why this happened. But I'm glad it's not a total mystery; I think that would be harder to carry right now.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hannah's story

Hannah Marie was our third baby, set to join big brother Jackson and big sister Leah. Unfortunately, we didn't get to bring her home. She left this world before she even entered it on November 5, due to a triple nuchal cord and a placenta infection.

Even though her birth story doesn't have a happy ending, I feel as though it deserves to be shared. So I will. :)

On Thursday morning, November 3, I had a routine midwife appointment. I'd been writing down a myriad of questions since my last appointment and my midwife, Kathrine, patiently and thoroughly answered everything for me. At the end of the appointment, she had me hop up on the exam table to check for baby's heartbeat. She tried for a while with the doppler but couldn't find anything. Neither she nor I thought much about that because we knew from my 20-week ultrasound that my placenta was anterior (on the front wall of my uterus), so it provided a nice buffer and we'd only ever heard the heartbeat with the doppler once at 11 weeks. So she rolled in an old ultrasound machine that the clinic had donated to them and tried to find it with that was but was again unsuccessful. It's a really grainy machine and she couldn't even get a good picture of the heart, much less a good enough picture to see if it was beating. She decided that I should get in for an ultrasound that afternoon at a different clinic, and she called and set that up for me.

I drove home, picked up the kids from my neighbor, and called Dan. I told him what had happened and that I had an ultrasound scheduled for 1:30. I said that I wasn't nervous but that I really didn't want to go alone. So he came home, we got Jack on the bus after lunch, brought Leah to a friend's house, and headed to the ultrasound.

After checking in, we were brought into an ultrasound room and the tech asked me a couple of questions and started the ultrasound. The screen was turned away from me, and as soon as she started, she didn't say a word. That was my first indication that something was up. She knew we were there to check for a heartbeat, so I assumed if she saw a heartbeat, she'd tell me and show me the screen and we'd all breathe a sigh of relief. She continued to take measurements and pictures in silence for about five minutes. Then she turned off the machine and said, "I'll be right back" and left the room. And I lost it. Dan held my hand and prayed while I bawled. The tech came back in about ten minutes later and said, "I talked to the radiologist and your midwife would like to see you right away at her office."

So we drove down the road back to my midwife's clinic where she met us in the hallway and hugged me while I cried. We found a room and she said, "What did they tell you?" I said, "Nothing, but I know it's not good." She confirmed that the baby had passed away and that we would have to induce labor. She said I could safely wait a few days if I needed to, but staying pregnant just felt too odd. Besides, Kathrine was on call at the hospital for the weekend, and she's really the only midwife in the practice (there are three total) that I know very well. So she called North Memorial to make sure there would be room for me on Friday morning, and we decided to go for it.

On Friday morning, my mom came to stay with our kids for the day(s) and Dan and I packed up and headed to the hospital. We checked in at Labor and Delivery and were brought to our room. Kathrine arrived shortly after we did and we talked through what we'd be doing to induce labor. After some paperwork and asking lots of questions, I got my first dose of cytotec (a tablet that is placed behind the cervix to help it start to dilate and efface). I was already at about 1 cm and 50% effaced, so I figured it wouldn't take too long to get to 4 cm (which is where my midwife wanted me to get before delivering). I was wrong. I don't know why I thought this would be faster than my labors with Jack and Leah (30 hours and 28 hours, respectively). I got the cytotec every four hours. After the second dose at about 2:00 pm, I also started a drug called fentanyl to take the edge off of some of the pain. Even though I had two unmedicated births with Jack and Leah, I had decided early on in the day that I was not about to tough it out with this one. I told my midwife that I could handle physical pain OR emotional pain--not both. The fentanyl worked okay for a while. I got a third dose of cytotec at 6:00 pm and was still at 1 cm and about 75% effaced. Kathrine said she would have liked to have seen the second dose do more than it did, so after the third dose didn't do much either, she decided we should probably try pitocin to get some contractions into a good labor pattern. I told her that if she was going to talk pitocin, then I was going to talk epidural. Just the thought of it freaked me out, but again, I knew I didn't want to feel this.

Luckily, they weren't in a hurry to start the pitocin, so they let me get the epidural first and make sure I was getting relief from it before the pitocin started. I'm so grateful for that because the epidural experience was an adventure. The anesthesiologist was a very dear man and felt terrible, but it took him three tries to get the needle in the right place. And holy mother of God, every time hurt so bad. He finally got the needle in correctly, but even then, something was wrong with the medicine actually making it into the tube. About an hour later, I was finally feeling relief and they started the pitocin.

It was about 11:30 pm by now and I had been awake since 3:30 am, so I was very glad for the chance to rest (as was Dan). Of course, my sleep was a little interrupted by my blood pressure cuff going off every 20 minutes and the nurse coming in to increase the pitocin every half hour. But it was still nice to rest my eyes. At about midnight, my nurse took my temperature and discovered that I had a fever of almost 102 degrees. So they added a penicillin drip to my IV in case I had an infection. (At one point I was hooked up to an ekg, the epidural, a contraction monitor, a blood pressure cuff, and an IV with pitocin, fluid, and penicillin. It was quite the sight. I couldn't move if I wanted to).

At about 1:45 am, I pushed my epidural button for more relief and it didn't do a whole lot, so I called my nurse and told her that I needed something adjusted. I was feeling way too much and it was getting way too painful. Kathrine came in and checked me and said that she'd like to break my water. The anesthesiologist came in because my nurse had called him in to increase my epidural. By the time he got to the side of my bed, I said, "It's too late! The baby is coming!" and I kind of freaked out. I wasn't ready for it to happen then. I thought Kathrine would break my water and I'd have to push. That was not the case at all. The baby (still in the amniotic sac) and the placenta all came out at once. (That was a huge answer to prayer--at 23 weeks, it can be trickier to deliver the placenta without issues and there was a chance I'd have to have a D&C).

The contractions stopped immediately and Dan and I just cried. Kathrine was working on getting the baby out of the sac and she finally was able to lift it to me, where I had two warm blankets on my chest to hold it. At this point, we still didn't know if it was a boy or a girl. I had wanted Dan to announce the gender when the baby came out, but it was in the sac and he couldn't see anything. So once the baby was in my blankets, we all looked at the same time and saw that she was a girl, and we named her Hannah Marie. (And all three of us thought, but didn't say out loud right away, "Jack really does have laser vision!"). Dan and I cried some more while Kathrine took care of cleaning me up a little bit. I noticed that her head seemed kind of misshapen, and I asked Kathrine if that was the problem (she had told me that the reason for all of this might be obvious at birth). She said that the bones are all still so soft at this point, so it was normal for her head to look like that. Then she told us that when she broke the sac, she had to unwrap the cord from around Hannah's neck three times. She said that was pretty obviously the cause of death. I was really grateful that it was so obvious. I didn't want to have to go through getting an autopsy or other tests to determine any chromosomal problems. She still sent some of my placenta and part of the cord to pathology to be tested for anything unusual.

My parents arrived shortly after she was born and were able to hold her and pray over her. It was an incredibly sacred time and I'm so glad we had it. At about 3:30 am, two wonderful women from a ministry called Missing Grace Foundation came and took such good care of us. They were really there to walk us through this experience so that we wouldn't have any regrets. They both lost babies (one at 33 weeks, one at 20 weeks) and were coming in with clear minds and the experience (from their own births and so many others that they've attended) to help us through each step.

They cleaned Hannah up and put a tiny outfit and hat on her. They wrapped her in a beautiful blanket with a beanbag sort of thing behind her (to give her some weight, but it was also filled with essential oils and smelled lovely). They took pictures and video the whole time they were there. They gave us a huge basket with gifts and resources. The nurse weighed and measured her (14 ounces and 11 1/2 inches), and they took her foot prints and hand prints. But most of all, they just let us hold her and love her for as long as we wanted.

The ladies from Missing Grace stayed for a couple of hours and after they left, Dan and I decided to rest some more (since I was literally falling asleep sitting up while people were talking to me). Dan fell asleep right away on his pull-out bed and I lay with Hannah for a while before I finally dozed off. I think we both slept on and off for a couple of hours. Dan decided to go get some breakfast and I took a bath. After another hour or so in our room, we decided it was time to say goodbye to Hannah. We cried together and hugged and kissed her and let Kathrine take her away. Then we packed up our stuff, signed some papers, and left to go home.

We were so glad to pick up Jack and Leah at my parents and hug and kiss them and love them. And they were happy to see us too. ;) So we headed home and began this very long journey ahead of us.

Right now everything is still so surreal. I can't believe that a week and a half ago, I went to a midwife appointment assuming everything was fine and ended that day completely devastated and lost. We are constantly overwhelmed by the love and support of those around us. The sadness comes in waves and sometimes it just knocks me off my feet when I am least expecting it.

Hannah Marie from Erin Bennett on Vimeo.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Hannah Marie

Our sweet baby girl was born early on Saturday morning, just over 23 weeks, straight into the arms of Jesus.

While we are so sad that we don't get to be her parents here on earth, we are incredibly grateful for the promise of heaven and know that we will see her again.