Tuesday, 25 March 2014

409 - Our Beautiful Rainbow

Stella's birth was by far my most painful delivery.  It was emotionally difficult, but physically difficult as well.  My water was broken at 4pm and the induction drugs were started.  For many hours I felt great, I was simply chatting with Shawn and my mom and waiting for the real contractions to arrive.  Eventually they came with full force and began to run into one another without a break.  Stella was face up and needed to turn.  As a result, I was labouring on all fours in an effort to get her turned around.  Once the contractions were on top of one another and I didn't have a break in between, I began to think of Hope often and was emotionally overwhelmed.  At 5 cms I asked for an epidural and could barely stand the pain as I waited for the doctor to arrive.  The epidural went in easily and as I finally started to feel a little bit of relief, I felt intense pressure and wanted to push.  The epidural had only been in for 10 minutes when I asked the doctor to check me again.  He was surprised to find that I was now 10 cms and ready to push.  

Unfortunately, my labouring on all fours had not done it's job completely.  Stella had turned, but only half way.  She was coming out sideways, shoulders stacked on top of one another!  As a result, she was quite stuck and pushing her out was slow and extremely painful.  Unlike the other two deliveries, I screamed with each push and begged the doctors to hurry up and get her out.  It was about 30 minutes before she finally arrived and was placed on my stomach.  I was instantly aware of how much she looked like Sadie.  She doesn't look like Hope at all, it was Sadie's twin!  Although I'll always wonder what Hope would have looked like as she grew up, I'm thankful that Stella looks like Sadie. 

Before Stella was born, I began grief counselling to prepare for the emotions that would come with her arrival.  When Stella was handed to me in the delivery room, I sobbed.  After arriving home with Stella just 12 hours after she was born, she went 6 hours without eating and would not wake up enough to eat.  We ended up taking her into the children's hospital to make sure she was ok.  As we made the all too familiar drive, again I sobbed.  Stella was perfectly healthy, just extremely exhausted from her delivery.  Since then, my face has been full of smiles and it reflects the feelings in my heart.  Although I feared I would be on an emotional roller coaster after Stella's birth, I was wrong.

Stella has now been home with us for two weeks and we are so thankful for her.  Sadie is absolutely enthralled with her sister and is asking to hold her constantly.  She is always willing to help out with her little sister and is so excited to introduce her to others.  We are proud of Sadie and the way she has adjusted so far to Stella being home with us.  Stella is an extremely easy going baby.  She rarely cries, unless she's hungry or you're changing her diaper while she's hungry.  She sleeps well during the day and is starting to sleep more at night.  She eats a LOT and is sure to grow with the amount she consumes in a day.  

I feel such gratitude for her healthy life and after all we went through with Hope, I realize what a blessing her health is.  Getting up to nurse her in the night is a privilege, not a burden.  I remember what it felt like to get up and mix feeds, pump, run a tube feed and then sterilize all the equipment with Hope.  That was not easy in the night and we were exhausted.  Getting up to cuddle in a chair with a sleepy baby nursing is a completely different experience.  Sleeping in my own bed, instead of a rock hard mattress in the hospital is incredible.  We spent so much time at the hospital with Hope, our time at home with her was so brief it's hard to even remember how it felt.  Each day at home with Stella is a gift.  I hope the gratitude never fades as I enjoy the blessing of having both my girls at home.  I'll always know that a third little girl is missing from each family photo, but I'll continue to find comfort in the knowledge that Hope is pain free in Heaven.  

I love getting to watch Sadie enjoy her sister on a daily basis.  I love that I can care for Stella's needs and still be a mom to Sadie at the same time.  Caring for Hope often involved not being able to care for Sadie, that was never easy.  Newborns are a lot of work, but after the journey we had with Hope, it feels like a much easier road than the one previously travelled.  

Thank you to everyone that prayed for us through my pregnancy and the arrival of Stella.  Your prayers have clearly made an impact as I find such peace in caring for Stella and welcoming her into our family.  

Many people have asked me if I will continue to blog.  This blog was started to share Hope's story and her story has already been written.  I have decided that since Hope was with us for 412 days on this earth, I'll write 412 entries onto this blog.  After that I'll enjoy my girls at home and no longer write about the ins and outs of our daily lives.  This entry is number 409, that leaves 3 entries before I'll finish, likely just in time for the one year anniversary of Hope's death.  Thank you to everyone that has journeyed with our family.  It has been a long road and was full of a lot of ups and downs, we don't even want to imagine how it would have felt to walk through that without all the support we've been given from you all.  

Friday, 14 March 2014

The "Rainbow" has arrived!

On March 10th at 11:19 pm, we welcomed Stella Hope Koslowski into the world.  She weighed 6 lbs., 6 oz. and was 21 inches long.  She is the spitting image of her older sister, Sadie.  She is perfectly healthy and we are rejoicing in the safe delivery of our rainbow baby!  I have intended to write about her entrance into our lives several times since Monday, but right now Stella likes to party all night and I am finding it hard to stay awake long enough to blog!  Stay tuned and I will write more when the fog clears. : )  Thank you so much for all your prayers for our little family!  We are in love.

Monday, 10 March 2014

The Night Before...

I've been told I'll get a call that tells me what time to come to the hospital tomorrow.  I have no idea when that will happen and can only hope it truly happens tomorrow.  There is always the chance that every other woman in Calgary will decide to deliver tomorrow and I'll be postponed.  I am trusting that God will have control over the timing and praying that I get a call earlier in the day and not later.  The baby is fine, I'm simply overwhelmed emotionally and my body appears to be trying to go into labour, but failing.  I've been induced with all of my deliveries.  My body will break my water or begin contractions but never makes it far enough on it's own and I end up with an induction anyway.  I feel confident that this is the right decision.

This little girl, this upcoming delivery and this pregnancy have been an experience I was not fully prepared for.  We were obviously shocked to find out we were pregnant so quickly after losing Hope, but were excited and knew that we had many months to adjust to the idea.  I spent the majority of those months in denial and focused on the fact that I was pregnant, but not the fact that I would be having a baby.  Thanks to a lot of help from a grief counsellor, I've been able to dig into my pain and allow myself to bond with this new little girl and not allow my fears to hold me back.

This does not mean the fears simply go away.  After losing a child, you are no longer free to assume that everything will be fine.  It doesn't matter that the echo looked great of this baby's heart, the list of complications that can happen is still quite long.  I fear a lot of things that will likely never become reality, but until I hold my healthy baby girl in my arms, my heart is not truly at rest.

In reading through materials for parents about to have a child after the loss of another, I have learned that I am not alone in my feelings.  Any pregnant woman struggles at the end of pregnancy with the patience of waiting to meet their baby and to finish being pregnant!  The intensity of all that when you've lost a child is just so much greater.  I was comforted to know that this is normal and that often woman begin to lose their minds much earlier than I have.  At this point, although I feel my daughter move within me, I need to see her breathe in front of me.  I long to see her breathing and alive.  Sadie will always be my baby girl, but Hope was truly still a baby and the last time I held her she was no longer alive.  My arms ache for the feel of a warm baby's body, a rising chest and eyes full of life that look up at me.  This is not filled by any baby, it is a feeling that I believe will only go away when I hold a baby belonging to Shawn and me.

I hold a lot of fears about the hospital.  The experience is too familiar and it's a struggle for Shawn to be there as well.  I'm not sure how I'll feel about the IV's, the doctors coming in and out, the nurses, the smell of hospital laundry, the sounds around the ward or the experience all together.  I'm not sure how I'll feel emotionally as I go through the pain of bringing this life into the world.  I'm truly overwhelmed tonight as I think about it and can only pray that sleep comes quickly and deeply so tonight will be over soon.  I'm praying that our daughter and myself will go through labour without complications and that when I tell the doctors I'd really like to stay in the hospital for the shortest amount of time possible, that they understand and let us come home.

Thank you for holding our family up in prayer tomorrow, as I should be receiving that phone call to go and begin our induction.  I'll be sure to post an update, and a picture, as soon as I can get home and back on the computer.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Baby Girl 3.0

I am now 36.5 weeks pregnant and ready to deliver yesterday.  This little lady dropped into the birth canal at 33 weeks and has stayed there ever since.  The pressure from this change has been less than enjoyable and caused these weeks to feel long.  I am thankful that she avoided coming during the time that would have required a NICU stay, but I am happy to evict her now!

A few weeks ago I finally found the right fit for me in grief counselling.  Some times it takes trying 4 people before you find the right person.  She has been a great blessing in this final trimester as she prepares me for the emotions of welcoming this new life and also forcing me to see areas that I am avoiding.  It wasn't until I began meeting with her that I finally realized I was unintentionally avoiding bonding with baby girl 3.0 as we call her.  The fear of losing another precious life makes us protect ourselves, sometimes subconsciously.  It has been good to force my heart open once again and risk pain in order to find the pleasure of deeply loving the life inside.

This little girl is our third daughter.  Not a new Hope, not a replacement for Hope and will never be expected to fill the life we lost in Hope.  In understanding that and desiring to separate the two experiences, I've been taking steps toward making this little girl a new experience.  We have re-decorated the nursery for the first time since Sadie was born.  It is no longer pink, brown and white.  It now has bursts of colour and a 'few' extra hearts around.  When I walk into the room, I find it refreshing and it no longer feels like Hope's room.  We also finally decided on a name for the baby and have begun referring to her by name.  I have even allowed myself to purchase new things for her.  Yes, I have a lot of sleepers and clothes in pink, but they all bring back memories and I need some fresh memories as well.

My bag for the hospital is packed, the baby's bag is packed and we are now in the waiting stage.  The doctors are surprised my body has held out this long.  I could go tonight, or I may have to wait another 3 weeks.  I guess that's the beauty of the human body, we can only guess, but will never know for sure.  Truly I desire this little girl to arrive in the next two weeks.  I would like for her birth to be in no way associated with Hope's death.  The 21st is really hard on me and although some feel that delivering on that day would be healing, I feel it would be too much for me.  I want to celebrate this new life and not have deep sorrow creeping into the day.  It will already be emotional with all the memories that will come.  If you'd like a specific prayer, a delivery well before the 21st would be ideal!

Sadie is very excited for the arrival of her new baby sister.  She talks about her often and plays in her room with her dolls.  I think she'll be a wonderful helper for me and fall in love easily.  I'm hardly sleeping currently, perhaps this is in preparation for the lack of sleep to come.  I could really use some good sleep to get through the next little while.  Each night I have contractions, pain and discomfort that keep me from sleeping.  The constant movement is keeping Shawn up in the night and we both look forward to me sleeping better one day.

This year Shawn and I decided to be intentional about seeking the Lord in our lives.  We started to read through the Bible and have really enjoyed the routine of being in the word each day.  It has created more of a hunger for me to dig in on my own and brought my prayer life more passion as well.  I would appreciate prayer to maintain this discipline as life will be much busier with a new baby in the home.  My walk with God through our journey with Hope was intimate in a way I've never experienced.  I learned so much through it and look forward to our girls being older and having more time to share this experience with others.  The desperation for God is not as strong in my current walk, but I know my need is the same and I try to make him a priority in my everyday life.

Hopefully my next post will be to introduce baby girl 3.0 to you all.  I often try to picture what she will look like, and look forward to finally seeing her face and having the pleasure of being her mom.  Thank you for continuing to pray for us.  We know that this next stage will come with blessings and difficulty and we covet your prayers.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Final Trimester

It appears the blog has become more of a monthly thing now.  I don't intentionally stay away, it just doesn't often come to mind and life is fairly 'normal' now, so there isn't much to write.  I am now almost 32 weeks pregnant and in the awkward and uncomfortable stage.  I'm not a huge fan of pregnancy in general, but the end is my least favourite part.  Thankfully the count down can soon begin and I know it's worth it in the end.

Shawn and I are still debating over two names for our little girl and trying to prepare ourselves for the arrival of a new baby.  Although I'd like to believe I'll be totally fine, I know the arrival of this child will come with a lot of emotions.  I am about to embark on a new relationship with a highly recommended grief counsellor and I'm hoping it's the perfect fit.

The journey of grief is very random at times.  I have sad days, more often just sad moments.  I don't mind talking about Hope or our journey, but I often find it difficult to support others that are grieving over Hope.  If their pain is from another source, I don't find it difficult at all.  When it comes to Hope, I feel that carrying my own pain is enough and at times I'm not strong enough to support someone else that is struggling with her loss.  There are days that I have the strength to walk alongside someone else grieving her loss, but never on a 21st of the month!

Sadie is doing well and still talks about her sister often.  She is quick to correct anyone that suggests she is becoming a big sister for the first time.  She appears to understand that a new baby is coming, but has yet to grasp that her new sister is healthy.  She will often ask questions that relate to the new baby dying or one of her parents dying.  Her brain is still working to process her loss and we work hard to be open and patient with all of her questions.  I can only handle so many suggestions that the new baby will die in a single day though.  There are times that I have to be honest and tell her that if she suggests this baby is going to die again, mommy might cry.

I had planned to leave the nursery alone, but have decided that it would be better for me to add some new touches and make things fresh.  Remembering that this baby is our rainbow baby, and Hope's little sister, I decided on a heart theme in rainbow colours.  I'm still in the ideas stage, but I'm looking forward to giving this baby a beautiful bedroom of her own.  I know that these little steps are progress in my journey with grief and are necessary.

I have also been re-learning how to connect with God when life is not in crisis.  Although our journey with Hope was painful, I felt a deep connection to God and a desperate need for him.  Now that life has transitioned to a more normal routine, I have to be intentional about pursuing a relationship with God.  I now feel that I am more in control of my life, which requires choosing to relinquish that control to God.    As much as walking through crisis is painful, there are beautiful benefits to feeling completely broken.

Tomorrow Shawn, Sadie and I depart on a family vacation.  We hope to enjoy a vacation before the arrival of the new baby.  Sadie is so excited to have both of us around all day and to wear her summer clothes.  She's been talking about this trip for a long time and we look forward to seeing her joy each day.

Please continue to pray for us as we prepare for the arrival of this baby girl.  I need prayer as I walk through the emotions of having a healthy child and mourn all the things I wasn't able to do with Hope.  Thank you for continuing to care and for holding our family up in prayer.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

December in Denial

Merry Christmas everyone!  I've been asked a lot today how I'm doing and I appreciate that people care.  To be honest I feel that this Christmas I've chosen to be numb of most emotions and avoid the pain.  It's not to say that I refuse to grieve, I've still shed tears, but I didn't want to sob through the day and pushed myself to not focus on what I was missing today.  Sadie was a fantastic distraction and was very excited that Santa remembered to bring her a wheelchair for her dolls.  We had my parents out for a wonderful 5 day visit to keep us busy and distracted.  They flew out today at noon so it broke up our day and helped keep my thoughts off missing Hope.  We did make a stop at the Children's hospital on the way up to Shawn's parents house to drop off some treats for two families.  I simply couldn't let today go by without acknowledging that there are still families spending the holiday in a cramped hospital room and not doing the things they normally would.  I realize they are so blessed to just be together, but I know it's difficult and wanted to try to bring a smile, even if only for a moment.  I had so many ideas of what I wanted to do for families in the hospital this year, but December did not go according to plan!

December has not been a month of great health for our family and I've spent a lot of it on the couch.  I started with a cold that was survivable, but not enjoyable.  I then got the influenza virus, apparently a strain that was not covered by my flu shot.  I was very ill and after being given IV fluids at the hospital, they decided to put me on antivirals.  These may have helped, but I'm not really sure as I didn't react well to them.  Eventually I was taken off of them, after I began vomiting each time I took them and feeling worse when they were in my system.  I spent almost an entire day at my OB's office after vomiting all over myself while driving to my appointment!  They didn't want to send me into the hospital as there were so many germs and my immune system was garbage.  They started an IV right in their office for the first time ever and essentially put me in a storage room on a bed for hours while filling my body with fluids.  I even had to show them how to use some of the equipment, all those months in the hospital pay off some days.  They did an ultrasound of the baby to make sure she was tolerating all the sickness well.  She looks great and is growing on schedule and developing as she should.  I had the privilege of seeing her beautiful 4 chamber heart once again and could thank God for a miracle I never understood before meeting Hope.

When I finally began to feel human again, I spent a day running around to catch up on all the errands I had gotten so far behind on.  While dropping something off at a friends house I jokingly told her I thought I broke my ribs.  I had this terrible pain in my side that had started in the morning.  By 4 pm the pain was so intense I couldn't handle it any longer and had to go back to the hospital again!  They confirmed that I had indeed broken at least 1 but possibly 3 ribs from coughing so hard with all my yucky germs I'd been fighting.  I spent the next couple of days on pain meds but eventually began feeling nauseous from those and went off them.  I am now feeling a lot more comfortable and can cough or sneeze without getting tense beforehand.  They said the healing process may be slow with all the movement in my ribs from the baby growing.  They don't realize that we've been praying about it and things are healing faster than I expected and I'm almost back to my normal routine.  I still have a difficult time picking up anything heavy, that includes Sadie girl.

This morning under the tree were a few gifts from my family for the new little lady that grows in my belly.  Opening little girl clothes once again and being reminded that this girl is coming in a few short months was nice.  I'm excited to meet her and often wonder if she'll look like Hope.  I look forward to having the moments with her that I wasn't able to have with Hope.  I feel afraid when I think about planning this daughter's 1st birthday as I know it was the only one I ever had the privilege of planning for Hope.  At the same time, I look forward to telling her often about her big sister up in Heaven who was such a world changer and will forever be precious in our family.

I also had the joy of walking down memory lane.  My mom worked tirelessly this year and completed a scrapbook of the first 30 years of my life! (I turn 30 on the 28th this month)  She beautifully laid out our precious Hope and our life journey with her.  I was also reminded of my terrible haircut choice in grade 8, boyfriends that just weren't Shawn and friends I haven't seen in years.  It was such a gift to sit and go through it all with my mom and to enjoy her hard labours finally!

The holiday season was full of a lot of blessing.  Although we thought often of Christmas last year and knew that our family was one short, we were glad that Sadie didn't have to spend all day at the hospital this year and could enjoy time with her extended family.  Someone who never identified themselves dropped off very creative packages on our doorstep each morning for the 12 days of Christmas.  I often laughed or smiled going through them and it was something to look forward to each day.  We also received a video we requested be made after Hope's death and were able to watch it just before Christmas.  Watching Hope smile and hearing her whine was a precious gift we will cherish.  I have yet to sit through more than 20 seconds of it before the tears begin to stream.  If anyone would like a good cry and a reminder of how bright her smiles were, I'm happy to watch it again!  I also spent this Christmas knowing that Hope was celebrating Jesus' birth with the birthday boy.  That's much more exciting than what we were doing here on earth and I picture her in absolute joy and peace and that is comforting.  I don't wish her back here to a world of pain, I just look forward to joining her one day in paradise.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Naked Truth

Many people told me that losing Hope would make me a better mom to Sadie.  They were wrong.  Today was horrible, down right awful.  Today I hit the wall of a build up of Sadie's whining, complaining and bad attitude.  I don't know what happened to our sweet girl, but over the last 72 hours she's been more of a thorn in my flesh than a precious blessing.  By 4:30 pm I had hit rock bottom.  Sadie and I could no longer work together and we needed Shawn.  At 4:45 I begged him to leave work early to save me from the anger and frustration I was feeling.  The moment he walked in the door I washed my hands of being a mother for the rest of the day.

Tonight I went into Sadie's room where she was sleeping, crawled into bed beside her and wept bitterly.  Losing a child doesn't make you a better mother, it only makes you feel worse when you aren't a great mother.  I know the reality of how much it sucks to be "free" of parenting a child.  When I have a day where I feel like I wish I'd never had children, I crash at the end of the day feeling the horrible and real pain of what that would cost me.  I stroked Sadie's hair and sobbed into her pillow as I knew that I had not been capable of showing her the fruits of the spirit, of parenting her in love and kindness and feeling like a failure for giving up on her.  How can you be so angry with someone you love more than yourself?

Tomorrow hasn't yet arrived and I know that it will be a day full of more pain than today and it frightens me too much to go to sleep.  My 6th 21st and a half year since I watched my baby girl take her final breath, all her muscles relax and life leave her body.  A baby that was so difficult to parent so many times and yet I would take our worst day back over and over again just to spend it with her.  I long to spend tomorrow alone, curled up in bed with a large supply of kleenex.  Instead I have to live a normal day and function for Sadie.  Perhaps I should say that Sadie has to deal with me for the day.  I realize that much of my impatience and frustration comes not only from her attitude, but also from my emotional state.

Becoming a mother has been one of the most painful, difficult and rewarding decisions I've ever made.  I often resent the deep wounds that Hope's death left.  I cherish the lessons I learned through her life, the way it forced me to fully rely on God and the understanding that we all need community that came out of it.  But I struggle with how the deep wounds leave so much pain, pain that makes me tired as a mother with Sadie.  Pain that makes it too difficult to deal with 3 year old attitude on bad days.  Pain that hides in the soul and bubbles up whenever it feels like it, often when I don't have time for it.  Usually on a weekday when I don't have the luxury of turning to Shawn for help and support.

In these last few days of deep frustration and intense feelings of failure, I have reached out to God.  I find a show Sadie loves and get her cozy next to me on the couch so I can sit and journal in prayer.  My frustration only grows as she decides to draw in my journal, touch my face and ask me 4,000 questions instead of watching her show and letting me get refreshed.  At night I'm exhausted and just want to sleep and when I wake up each morning I have never had enough sleep.  The pregnancy takes all the extra energy I have.  When you can identify that you're empty and you are tying to refuel, it's only that much more frustrating when your efforts are failing.  I've resorted to praying while I pee, at least I do that a lot while pregnant!

Once again I am reminded of my deep need for Jesus.  I can't parent a healthy child without him.  I don't have the strength in myself, I don't have the patience required either.  Just as I have no idea how single mothers survive, I can not understand how one parents without the grace and love that Jesus gives.  Each time I have a day of darkness like today, the only thing that carries me through is knowing that I am not perfect, but Jesus has saved me by grace.  Salvation is thankfully not earned, as I would fall short.  It is grace that will get me out of bed tomorrow and give me the strength to try again, even on a day that I just want to be alone.  We get so frustrated with our children, I can only imagine what it's like to be God and watch his children fall over and over again.  Tonight I am reaching out, taking his hand and getting back on my feet.  Thankfully this earth is not my home and is fleeting in comparison to eternity.  One day in glory I will go to sleep without tears.

Tomorrow is a new day, a difficult day to face, but a day I hope to show Sadie how much I love and cherish her.  A day that I hope to hold her close and remind her of how blessed I am to be her mother.  A day that I will feel the pain of not holding Hope, yet be comforted to know that Jesus is doing it for me and one day I will join them.  Tomorrow is a day I could really use some prayer.