The Gap August 27 2018, 23 Comments
I’ll admit it. This back to school season has been more difficult than others.
I always feel the gap. It’s never not there. Most of the time though, it serves to magnify what we do have. Loss is good for that. But, at times, it’s more gaping and empty and searing than others.
Bryer would be of kindergarten age and although I know he was never created for kindergarten, it still stings that I didn’t get to send him on the bus with Remy and Sander this year.
See, when those two lines pop up for the first time on a test, a mama’s heart shifts gears and the dreams start churning. Your expectation and heart’s desire is a healthy baby who will grow up amongst your brood or maybe lead the pack of ones yet to come. Maybe they’ll be musically gifted like dad or tall like mom. Will they have their brother’s sense of humor or their sister's laser focus. You start calculating how old they will be the month you’ve got that Disney trip planned and think about ordering another Christmas stocking. On and on and on the planning and anticipating and day-dreaming goes.
And then loss comes. You don’t just lose a baby. You lose a 1 and 2 year old and 10 and 20 year old. First days of school and lost teeth. Sibling love and well, just everything.
You lose a kindergartener.
Grief is fickle and faceted. It’s so individual, yet universal. I’m still learning as I journey through it.
This much I do know: it IS well with my soul as I continue to #grievewithhope.
But man, my fleshy heart. That vulnerable mama’s-heart that comes packaged with a first babe. It will never be the same.
Sometimes more than others its scars are stretched so thin it nearly busts wide again. Sometimes the scars just quietly seep for weeks and other times it's my silent tears that wash them over.
Yes, my heart is achey these past couple of weeks, and I know if I am feeling this way, then other moms are too.
That's why I share. I have been strengthen and comforted time and again by others who go before me on similar paths. I'm ever grateful for the women who have shared personally and via social media. They’ve lifted my chin on many occasions. They have validated my grief, reaching across a table or even IG and FB to say “me too”. That community has been invaluable.
It’s incredibly important to see others who are still living, breathing and actually have a smile return to their face, to know It IS possible.
Friends, give us grace as we continue on with bruised, scarred and aching hearts. Yep, we may share a little too much about our child from time to time. We may say and do things that make you uncomfortable. We will likely go past what society has stamped as our grief expiration date, but, I challenge you to lay out a timeline. It's just.not.possible.
Yes, lots of grace. It's always the right answer.
Remembering. It's always the most precious gift.
Sweet Redemption June 16 2018, 8 Comments
I’ve written about her before. A sweet soul that was perfectly placed in our path to be the hands and feet of Jesus not only to, The B, as she affectionately called him, but to me. A sweet soul who has turned into a dear sweet friend: her name is Kim and she was Bryer's Physical Therapist.
Kindly, gently and ever so positively (and patiently) she helped us navigate the unchartered waters of Bryer’s 11 months. She was assigned to us at 6 weeks as his NICU PT and somehow managed to follow him onto to every floor he landed, always showing up with a smile and a plan…and maybe even a homemade card from her daughter, Maddie. She even followed us home. She went through all the red tape and head aches it would take to become Bryer’s in-home PT. This, of course, was all in addition to her full in-patient case load, not to mention her own 3 year-old and 1 year-old. It’s not a normal something for a therapist to do.
Into our home she came, just the same, with a smile, a plan and a tender persistence that could quietly rival an olympian. Tears are falling as I remember these moments.
We were most certainly a team, the three of us. We all had goals and targets. Diligently she would craft our weekly plan, making small tweaks here and there, adjusting in accordance to progress or lack there of. She always erred on the side of optimism. I’m not sure I recognized it as being overly optimistic at the time as I don’t think I was functioning in reality. I kept forging ahead with hope, the earthly kind, full of healing, progress and development.
One day, in late spring, we were sitting together on the floor with Bryer lying on the ottoman between us checking-in on progress and discussing the next few months.
“Do you think we can get him sitting up by his 1st birthday?” I asked. I had been daydreaming about the possibility of one of those iconic 1st birthday pictures.
She looked up at me and smiled, “We can certainly write that down as a goal!”
That’s all I needed to hear. “Ok, then. How can we make that happen!?”
He was 7 months with no head control and not rolling over. I now realize that she knew it was not a realistic goal, but she didn’t say so. We were going to work towards it anyway. B and I worked everyone of her plans tirelessly without fail, unless he was admitted to the hospital. It was to no avail.
Justin and I, our family, and Kim were doing everything in our power. I think for anyone, but maybe even more so for someone who thrives on hard work and achievement (me…and Kim), it was the most spirit crushing, disheartening, pitiful, maddening and grievous of times. Little did we know that his brain had begun its deterioration and there was absolutely nothing we could have done. Soon the onslaught of Infantile Spasms would come like a wrecking ball in August and he’d be gone by September. There would be no iconic 1st birthday pictures to be taken on October 17, 2013.
Let’s fast forward to the early summer of 2017.
Our new addition to the family, our son Arrow, was nearly 18 months. Having been diagnosed with Tuberous Sclerosis and fighting seizures for his first 13-14 months (he has his own story:), he was behind and honestly we hadn’t been told he was certain to catch-up. He was noticeably delayed and it was concerning. We had him in OT, PT and Speech therapies. At his 12 month check with the clinic in Cinci, his preferred method of transportation was rolling. He wasn’t crawling, let alone walking. He also didn’t have any words. We were scheduled for our next big developmental evaluation at 18 months and I had set some big goals to reach by then. I so badly wanted to take him walking into that next appointment.
For any of you who have had slow walkers or developmentally delayed babies, you are familiar with the milestone markers and timelines. For walking, they give a normal range to be something like 9-18 months. I was holding onto hope that Arrow could slide in right at the very end of the normal range for walking. Perhaps he would then be labeled as “caught up” or on the right track and maybe that would give us a better idea of his overall prognosis. MAYBE, the doctor would look at us and say, “Looks like Arrow is going to be one of the more mildly affected ones…” or something like that.
We upped his Physical Therapy and even started a new and additional method of therapy. I worked and worked with him, but he just seemed stuck. I was discouraged. It just so happened Kim and her family came over for pizza one night in late May. We discussed his lack of progress and my goal of him walking, now with MY 2 week “deadline" closing in. Mind you, she wasn’t his therapist.
In true Kim form, her wheels started turning. Pretty soon she had come up with a plan to come evaluate him and then the week of our church’s VBS, in which her kids participate as well, she’d do 5 straight days of intensive therapy each evening. It was a brilliant idea.
For 5 straight nights, we met at church, got our kids dropped off to VBS and then stole away to the empty nursery for a 30 minute session. She took a different approach from what our other therapist were trying. She wanted to get him to stand-up in the middle of the floor instead of relying on pulling-up. If we can get him to do that, the walking will come, she said.
You guys. By the the third day, after jerry-rigging a supportive harness out of ace bandages and giving us home-work to do, he was wobbly, but getting up to stand. It was magical. His proud smile, our whoops and cheering him on. The amount of progress he had made in just three days was astonishing.
On the 5th and final day we arrived at VBS and met Kim. As he was crawling around, she went up from behind and prompted him with an “Up Up! Arrow, up up!” and he got up. Not only did he get up, he walked over to Justin who was standing about 20 steps away.
And then I crumpled into a complete mess right there in the middle of the thoroughfare. I excused myself to the bathroom and tried my best to reel it in.
Watching Kim, watch Arrow get up and walk is is difficult to describe. The look of victory, of love and the pureness of pride on her face as she held both hands towards heaven and cheered. I was flooded with memories of how HARD we worked with and FOR Bryer and I could see that she was too. All the brain racking and tweaked approaches. Letting me put “sitting up by 1st birthday” on our sheet as a goal. Celebrating the tiniest of progressions, that were really not progress at all. And then finally saying goodbye hours before he left us. She held him, ran her fingers through his hair and kissed him goodbye.
The B, all the work she had poured in yielded him no physical gains. I can imagine she was left feeling as helpless as I did.
He blessed us with a bit of redemption that 5th day of VBS 2017 and boy was it sweet...and beautiful and sacred...and healing.
Arrow walked into that Cincinnati appointment the following week (June 15, 2017) at 18 months 1 week old. As my son, Sander, would say...
Baby Largent News December 02 2015, 21 Comments
Friends, Bryer's Song shirts donned a message of Victory this year. Well, the fact that I am writing this blog is a small to medium-ish victory as far as I am concerned. See, I spent over 4 hours one night pouring out my heart, only to open it up the next afternoon to edit, finish and post it. I would finally release it. But, it WAS NOT THERE. Not one word of it.
This was hard enough to write the first time. Believe it or not, I don't like writing these. I am doing it out of obedience and in this case somewhat necessity, not because I love to be an open book and spot-light my feelings and emotions.
After I fumed, shed some tears and told Justin that he needed to write the blasted blog, I realized if I didn't open back up the laptop and try again, Satan would win. And honestly, I am sick of him trying to claim victories in my life and in this world. I despise him. Lord, Jesus, come!!
So, step aside, Satan. Here I go again.
I sit here here staring at this screen wondering where to start, especially when I have yet to really finish Bryer's story. I guess it makes sense to just begin where I left off with my last entry…
"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." John 16:33
As I think on this, CNN is on in the background reporting the attacks in Paris.
Unbelievable. Or is it? Oh this world.
Faith-filled or not, kind-hearted or not, deserving or not, we are not exempt from hardships, deep heartaches, seemingly insurmountable loss and devastation, bottomless sorrow, suffering or the missions of evil. This world has been warped with sin and it infiltrates our lives in so many different ways and forms…too many to count, list or even fathom. In fact, the longer I live, the less comfortable I feel here. I long for home like never before.
I have long since removed my rose colored glasses and traded them for eternal ones. But even still, sometimes those get mucked-up, dirty or foggy by what this life throws at me and it nearly obstructs my eternal view. Instead, I see only the splatters of fear, pain and suffering. I become frozen and cannot take another step because I cannot see past the here and now.
Ever found yourself in a similar place?
Thank goodness for family, friends and the church body who have come along side to guide me, even if just for a small step forward, or have literally cleared the muck from my lenses with cloths of God's truth and soapy buckets of prayer when I cannot seek the cleansing for myself.
These trials and sorrows that Jesus talks about, they keep us desperate for Him. They cause us to retrain our eyes on the eternal and hold very loosely to our plans and the things of this world. The ability to hold loosely to this world is a gift, as one wise mentor reminded me, because putting much if any stock in our vaporess existence is futile. It will disappoint every time. It is flawed.
Instead, we must keep our eyes locked on to the one who is flawless...the only one able to redeem and "overcome the world". When we allow Him to take residence in our heart and soul, we can overcome too. I so eagerly anticipate the day when He swoops us to a place of perfection and peace….our true forever home where the consequences of sin are no more.
I don't mean to get preachy. In fact, I am speaking to myself mainly. Refocusing. Retraining. Arming. Pulling myself up by the boot straps, dusting myself off and straightening my eternal glasses.
I am taking heart.
Yes, I could do without a world warped by sin. I could do without disease and seizures that threaten to dismantle God's sweet creation of life within me. He not only said we would have trials and sorrows. He said we would have many. Which brings me to why I am writing this blog post.
On September 11, 2015 Justin and I's world was rocked again as we received another heaping portion.
It was the day before Bryer's 2nd anniversary in heaven. I had a follow-up appointment at Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) to check what they believed to be a shortening cervix. I took Sander with me because he had a doctor's appointment shortly after mine. My cervix was fine and just as every appointment and ultrasound before, "baby looked beautiful", growing big, fluid perfect and placenta healthy. We had passed genetic testing and the 20 week anatomy scan. I was just shy of 25 weeks. I had finally allowed myself to be all-in and completely excited. JOY was on the horizon and I could not wait!
But, Dr. Lang came back in and wanted another ultrasound to look at baby's heart. It was shortly after that the words Rhabdomyomas and Tuberous Sclerosis were mentioned for the first time.
Dr. Lang said it appeared there were two tumors in the heart that looked to be Rhabdomyomas. He wanted me to get a fetal echo at NCH the following week. He then followed up by saying, many times these kinds of tumors are associated with Tuberous Sclerosis. I had never heard of either. He mentioned being encouraged that they weren't seeing anything on the brain or in the kidneys at this point.
Well, that's good.
I called Justin who was near-by to come. Sander was on his knees coloring transformers on a chair in the corner of the room completely oblivious when he arrived. I was holding it together pretty well, but a few tears spilled over and the sonographer quietly placed a box of tissues on the bed. I discreetly blotted my eyes before smiling and telling Sander I'd see him in a bit! They left.
I had been emotional and weepy for the prior week or two anyway because of Bryer's anniversary that was upon us. I needed to get going before I erupted. I stepped into the sunshine and walked to my car. I got in and sat silently for a few minutes. I was in complete shock. We had been so reassured the entire pregnancy, not only through ultrasound, but by specific "God things" that had been happening. So much so that baby's name boy OR girl had been decided upon based on these occurences (which I look forward to sharing another time). I typed Tuberous Sclerosis in my phone and began reading. A familiar knot started forming in the pit of my stomach. No, no, no, no. This cannot be. I saw the words Infantile Spasms, Epilepsy, severe cognitive impairment, brain tumors, kidney tumors and on and on.
I could barely breath.
I called my mom to see if I could come out. She could tell something was wrong, but I didn't want to talk with her over the phone. I drove straight there and we sat on the couch and cried together as I told her the news. The waves of emotions came rolling.
BUT the Dr had said, there was still a 20% chance that it wasn't TS and instead just an isolated finding. These type of tumors typically regress after birth. If baby is tolerating ok now and after birth, then they really aren't an immediate concern. We still needed to check their location and have a cardiologist take a look at NCH.
Justin left for Switzerland that Sunday, September 13th, and was gone for the week, so Mom went to the Echo with me. Just being back at NCH was stirring. However, we were encouraged to hear that the location of the rhabdos were far from any valves or areas that could cause a blockage forcing early delivery which Dr. Lang had mentioned as a possible scenario. We were sobered though to see that there were in fact two tumors and the sonographer at MFM hadn't made a mistake. The cardiologist said she expected that I would go to full-term and take a baby home to hold and snuggle with the caveat that she was only speaking from a cardiology stand-point. I was to go back for another echo at 31 weeks.
Deep breath, ok. I settled into that thought and felt a bit better. Remy and Sander would have their baby home to hold and snuggle. This could be somewhat normal. I thought to myself, "Surely God is in this and wouldn't allow us back to the pit of suffering with this baby when we just were crawling out of one and into the sunshine." I felt encouraged and a bit lighter. I couldn't stomach the possibility of this news just being a "sad story" to share with friends over lunch or the sad eyes and "I'm so sorrys" that might be empty of prayer. So, I shared the news with a very select few. I asked them all to pray for the baby's brain. Anything but the brain. Please Lord, no seizures, which the very mention of completely iced me with fear. I encouraged them all to pray BOLDLY! Lord, protect this baby's brain!
Two weeks later I was back at MFM for another scan. Baby looked great. Growth was ahead of schedule. Tumors in the heart were stable and nothing showing up in the brain. All good news.
September 11th and the initial findings was more than hard to take, but within those two weeks I had gotten myself to a better place. I had allowed hope to lead me on. You know, I rose up again...shook off the shadows…unlocked the door…and let hope live once more. I had surrendered all. I had "let go my soul and trust in Him". I had prayed incessantly and SPECIFICALLY. I had pretty much withdrawn from most people, because that's what I tend to do first in crisis. I didn't really want to talk to anyone or be around anyone because everyone's natural first question was about the baby. I just wasn't ready to go there with people yet. BUT, I was still talking to God. There was a part of me, can't say it was huge, that had this excited anticipation of what God was going to do because SURELY He was going to move in a big way. I prayed boldly and I prayed non-stop. Did I say that already?
Two more weeks went by. I was just shy of 29 weeks when I went back for another MFM appointment on Friday, October 9th. Justin and Sander were both with me. It was the day of "Bryer's Song Presents The Nephews at King Ave 5". It was to be a great evening of celebration and fundraising. There was a lot to do in preparation, so I was happy when we were called back within a decent time frame. She preformed the ultrasound and everything was looking great. Again, baby was measuring big and strong, fluid perfect, placenta was healthy. She was checking the brain, the kidneys and also the tumors on the heart to make sure they were still stable. She then mentioned she might have seen something on the brain, but wanted Dr. Lang to take a look too. This was the same technician that found the rhabdos in the heart. She left to go discuss and they both came back.
Yes, they concurred they saw 2-3 spots on the brain.
Dr. Lang said this really tips the scales towards Tuberous Sclerosis Complex. I leaned back in the chair. I had nothing to say. No questions. We were told we needed a Fetal MRI at NCH the following week to get a better look. Sarah, our genetic counselor, who we had been working with from the beginning, came in and said she'd get that scheduled asap.
"Ok." I said
"Do you have any questions?" They both looked at us with such sympathy and concern in their faces. I know they hated this so much for us, but I just wanted to get out of there and away from their gaze. We had no questions, and I needed to leave.
When we got home, I told Justin I needed to walk. I went and walked around our neighborhood and cried. I remember passing a lady twice with a bouncy, jumpy, yappy, annoying dog who she obviously thought was adorable and was not concerned one bit about tightening the leash and keeping it from jumping all over me. I had my therapeutic tights on for my ever-worsening varicose veins which are about $130 a pair. I didn't need a hole ripped into them by a tiny, yapping dog. I just kind of walked through the dog head down sobbing. The next time I was about to meet her, I crossed the street and walked on the other side. She called over, "You don't have to go on the other side, she really is friendly!"
"It's ok." I mustered. Clearly, she didn't understand that my world was falling apart.
Hmm there's a phrase, "my world." The mud began to spatter and my view was becoming compromised.
I walked and my anger grew. My confusion, hurt and anxiety were building layer after layer, one on top of the other. I had no words to pray, but audibly spoke these phrases to Him.
"I don't understand!"
"Haven't you heard one of our prayers??"
"Really, of all things. The BRAIN!?"
"Where WERE you and where ARE you??"
"I can't do seizures again!"
"I can't watch my baby suffer, again!"
"I don't want to be the friend and family in crisis again!! How are we supposed to help and encourage others when we will be in survival mode once again?!? I just don't get it! I will not be free to do much of anything let alone continue our ministry."
I went back inside with my swollen eyes and runny nose and told Justin that I didn't think I could manage the event that evening. All of our friends and family…just all of the people, I would have to be out in the crowd talking to all of them. At least he could be hiding behind the drums and banging on something! All I wanted to do was crawl in bed with my sorrow and hide. I had been preparing to speak on stage that night. I told him I couldn't. I would be too emotional. He said he would do it, and I that didn't have to go. But, I couldn't not go. After all, I was one of the hosts. There was a lot to do!
And most importantly...I am Bryer's Mommy.
I caught his face in the picture packed with all the other stuff to take down. Oh Bryer. This is supposed to be all about you tonight, but it's not because in my heart, this moment, it's about your brother or sister who will be coming into this world. You are safe and sound, whole and healthy in the arms of Jesus. I miss you! But, I do not worry about you or anguish over your suffering. However, I am absolutely frozen in fear thinking of what's ahead for your sibling.
I didn't want to go, but I did.
My parents came over to help get Remy and Sander ready. They'd come for a bit and then leave with my Mom and Dad to spend the night. I couldn't stomach eating, so I declined dinner. I didn't have it in me to update my siblings or friends with the latest news, so I went without any of them knowing.
On the way to the venue, I sat silent in the back seat while my dad drove, and I text with my OB soliciting her opinion on whether an anti-anxiety medication would be appropriate and safe at this point in my pregnancy. A myriad of reasons prompted me to reach out, but the biggest of which being I had never taken anything during Bryer's life or after and now I wondered why I hadn't. I probably should have as I had many physical ramifications of the unrelenting stress of that time which took me months to recuperate from. Knowing this, I wanted to be as proactive as possible. I needed to function. I hadn't been sleeping, I'd been on edge and this was all prior to the news I had received that day. She immediately text me back and called in the script that night. She's amazing.
I stepped out of the car and into the concert hall. I forced smiles and hugged people. I tried to share in their excitement of the baby.
"Oh I am just so thrilled for you! I can NOT wait to hear what the baby is!"
"A Christmas baby, what a blessing!!"
"You look so adorable!!!"
My answer to the question, "How's the baby doing!?" was "Baby is growing big! Probably my biggest so far!"
But inside, I was filled with the dread of suffering that loomed on the horizon. The freight train was headed our way, I could hear it. I was laden with grief for my baby once more. Seizures?? I was heavy for Remy and Sander. I felt that their baby had been taken from them...again. Is this even real?? It was just too much to process. I was feeling light headed, probably because I hadn't eaten. I wanted out of there.
I stole my sister-in-law, Kari, away to the bathroom to ask if she would take over the bake sale that our team had coordinated. There wasn't anyone in the bathroom, so I told her we had an appointment and it wasn't good. I tried to get the words out, "They found 2-3 spots on the brain.." but I completely broke. We ushered ourselves into a stall where I was pretty much hyperventilating. To have acknowledged it out loud proved to be more than I could handle. Lesson learned, I wasn't ready to talk about it. I needed to go home.
I am not that strong, folks.
I slowed my breathing and wiped my tears. Thankfully, the venue was dark to hide the redness left in my eyes. I made an early exit around 11pm without many good-byes.
Aaron and Kari took me home and the ride was silent. I came home to an empty, quiet house. I called my mom around midnight regarding arrangements for the next day's soccer games since she had the kids. We had a very raw conversation, one I told her I am sure I would later regret. I fell into bed that night without a prayer on my lips. I was exhausted and angry.
"The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me." Job 30:27
Sleeping on it did not help. In fact, I awoke to a well meaning text, that did the exact opposite and set me ablaze. Justin and I got up and quickly got dressed and out the door to make it to Sander's early morning soccer game. It was a beautiful sunny day. I got my chair, set it up and watched his game. I didn't want to see or talk to anyone. I couldn't swallow small talk. I couldn't fake a smile. I didn't want to talk about what was happening.
a) No one could possibly say or do anything to make me feel any better, so I didn't even want to hear their attempts.
b) No one could possibly imagine what I was feeling or come close to understanding, so why bother trying to explain.
c) I was ashamed that I wasn't handling this better. After all I had learned and been shown of God's mercy, grace, goodness and presence during Bryer's life and death, shouldn't I be? Shouldn't I be able to take this in stride and be a testimony of strength and faith?
I was far from that.
"Yet if I speak, my pain is not relieved; and if I refrain, it does not go away. Surely, O God, you have worn me out." Job 16:6-7
We had about an hour between Sander and Remy's game, so we went to my Mom and Dad's who live close by along with the rest of the family. I didn't want to be around anyone. I didn't want to eat. So, I went in the house, dropped my keys and told Justin I was going for a walk. I stepped outside and got about 20 yards before I broke into a run. I hadn't ran in several weeks. I didn't care. I wasn't dressed for running (except the shoes). I didn't care. I took a comforting loop around the LARGE field in front of my parent's. I didn't stop. Angry tears threatened to overtake me and I'd start to heave for breathes, but speeding up choked them back down. I ran the 3 miles hard and fast. It felt therapeutic, but also strange because aside from my inner turmoil and heavy breathing, it was silent.
I had shut down communication with God.
Still wanting to be alone, I walked over to the new house that we are in the process of building, which is two country doors down from my parent's.
I stood there and looked at it, hands on hips. I had been so excited about it and day dreamed about the joy we'd have getting settled there with our new addition to the family. It seemed so meaningless now. Who cares about a new house!?! It was being built in front of my eyes as my baby was being built within. There was so much more control over the process of the house and I had zero control over the process going on within me. I stood there and thought about this. I could have screamed in frustration. All the selections being chosen carefully for this house compared to all of what had gone into creating our new baby. I had spent equal if not more time in prayer over this baby as it was developing as I had in making decisions for this darn house. I knew I had no control over my baby, but I trusted so wholeheartedly and put him/her prayerfully in His hands….every inch from before they were even conceived. Again, weren't you listening? Don't you care? Why are you allowing this?!
Kind of like the song, "I was sure by now, Lord you would have reached down and wiped my tears away, stepped in and saved the day. But once again, I say amen and it's still raining." But, unlike the song, I was not to a place of praising in this storm. I was so angry. I felt as if the One I trusted most and placed all my hope in had betrayed me. I was wounded. I was completely devastated. The winds were raging, and I seemed to be suffocating under the relentless pelts of rain.
I was done.
Excerpts from my journal that weekend.
Sunday, October 11, 2015. I've been up since 4:50am for a combination of reasons. I had to pee, Sander was in bed wallering me to death and my stomach was growling from not eating dinner last night. Justin couldn't take it anymore so he scooped Sander up and took him back to bed. I laid awake for several more minutes before giving in. I got up and went downstairs not wanting to disturb the kids.
I grabbed a Neuro Bliss from the fridge. It was a new drink I found at Walgreens yesterday afternoon while there to pick up my new prescription for an anti-anxiety med. Ironic? They were 2 for $4 and I had never seen them. Yesterday, I drank the flavor "stress relief" and currently I am trying the "sleep" flavor. Seemed like it was worth a shot. Neuro Bliss plus anxiety meds equals a sure cure to it all right?
Meds. Yep, I am willing to give it a try. I am hoping it numbs some of the anger, rage and churning anxiety within. I am willing to try anything, well not ANYTHING. But drinks called Neuro Bliss and anti-anxiety meds landed on the safe list.
The name of the drink almost makes me want to laugh out loud in one of those crazy woman laughs... that then turns into an even crazier cry... which then leads me to psychotically throw the drink and watch it smash against the sliding glass door. But, instead I sit sensibly at the table in my plaid oversized pajamas and drink it down while eating a nasty little quaker granola bar to stave off the hunger pain.
Neuro Bliss. If it were only that easy.
I am not in a good place. At all. In fact, I'd go so far as to say I am in the worst place I have ever found myself. And that's saying a lot considering where I've been. I haven't prayed in two days. I just don't have any words right now. I have no song to sing.
"I am worn out from all my groaning…all night long I flop my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow." Psalms 6:6-7
October 12, 2015. I have started to run again. Why not? But, it's strange and almost counter productive to a certain extent?? Running has always been my time to pray and praise and pray some more. However, I am silent, so it's weird. While I am still getting the physical cleanse, I am lacking the spirt's cleansing that I typically find. It's becoming glaringly obvious that God is by far the one I talk to the most through out the day, but since I am not talking to Him currently, my habits are all out of whack. In the shower, I would sing and pray. In the car, I'd pray and sing. Now, I am quiet. I am feeling empty...but I am still so mad.
Last night as I ran/walked I decided to talk to Satan instead. Sounds insane, I know. Perhaps I have actually gone insane. It's possible. I spoke out loud because unlike God, he cannot hear our thoughts. I told him how much I despise him and his corruption. I told him to get away from me and my family. I let him know that even though I am mad at God, I still know and believe God is more powerful than he is. I told him that he is no match for the power for Jesus Christ and that I refuse to allow him to divide and fragment my family over this. I refuse to allow him to take Remy and Sander's mother from them emotionally. I seethed at the thought of what this imperfect world full of sin has done to my children and their little bodies through disease. I told him I can't wait for the day that God crushes his head and binds him up in hell forever. I sure hope no one was sitting out on their porch that night in uptown Westerville as the crazy prego lady came walking by rebuking Satan.
But still, I am so incredibly hurt and angry that my God has not done anything about this specific situation. Yes, I know He defeated death on the cross and rose again. I have never doubted that. Yes, I know He sent Jesus as our rescue plan to save us from this world. But what about right now? These moments. My baby!? A miraculous healing on behalf of our baby would be a victory over Satan on earth in the here and NOW. Why isn't He doing that? Please, Lord give me THAT testimony to share!! Instead, I am struggling to keep faith and am made to re-engage the discipline of trying to grasp His presence in the depths of my despair. He was there with Bryer, no doubt. Yes, He was faithful to meet me in the depths and for that I am thankful and it was truly a gift that I treasure. But, quite honestly, I was looking forward to finding Him in the JOY of this next phase of life. I don't want to go back to the pit. I don't want to go, and I don't want to take my baby and family with me! Don't allow that to happen, God!
I was in the middle of a huge fit. The biggest fit of my life. I can imagine now how God was looking down on me. It's like I sometimes look at Remy and Sander in the middle of of their irrational tantrums where even if I tried to explain anything, they wouldn't have ears to hear me. He was letting me get it out.
The fetal MRI was scheduled for Tuesday, October 13. Justin and I went together. By Tuesday, I had gotten myself to a little better of a place. I was daring to trust again. I was back in communication with God after 5 days of silence. Again, I thought surely He will do something. How could He not? I felt extremely peaceful during the MRI. Of course they couldn't give us any results immediately afterwards. We'd have to wait. When we got back to the waiting room, my Mom was sitting there. We were all hungry, so we went to the cafeteria to grab a bite to eat. The three of us milling about that place trying to find our old favorites was…interesting? We sat down together and I told Mom how optimistic Justin had been as I gave him a playful pat on his back with a grin knowing how I had been the opposite and he'd been prime witness to it all. I said that I was beginning to feel more optimistic though.
"Just as long as they didn't find a brain full of tumors, (which is very possible with TSC) I think I can start to move towards acceptance." I said.
Justin looked at me, "Carey, they aren't going to find a brain full of tumors." For some reason his words cut through me and I believed him.
The next day was Wednesday, October 14. We were scheduled to have family pictures that evening, then I had pilates class and following that I was in charge of a large online event for my Rodan + Fields business. I was anxious to hear the results, but nervous. I got a call around 2:45pm. I saw the number was from St Ann's and I knew it was our genetic counselor, Sarah. I picked up the phone. She said Dr. O'Shaunnessy had the results and wondered if Justin and I could come over to the hospital to chat. No, we couldn't as we still needed to get Remy from school and head to our scheduled family pictures. Sarah said he would call back shortly and asked that Justin and I to be together. We snuck away upstairs out of earshot from Sander where I was trying to unsuccessfully hot roll my hair. He put the Dr. and Sarah on speaker and held the phone out between us. Dr. S began to talk giving us a bunch of background info regarding the situation that we were already aware of. I just wanted him to spit it out. His tone was grim and I knew. He finally said, "The findings of the baby's MRI were problematic. (Long pause) It shows tumors throughout the brain and the kidneys."
Wait, what? The kidneys too? And did you say THROUGHOUT the brain? That seems like way more than 2-3, no? He went on and said some other things… how sorry he was. I don't even know what else he offered. Sarah said she'd call me to schedule an appointment with Dr. Rink a MFM and Geneticist for next week. Ok, I said. We hung up the phone. I looked at Justin. I had to leave in 10 minutes to get Remy.
I set my jaw and continued to roll my hair. I had no time to fall apart. I whisked ourselves out the door looking very put together with matching clothes, make up for me, gel for Sander. We got Remy from school and went to my moms to have her change. Soon, Justin met us and it was time for family pictures. It was really the last thing I wanted to be doing, but it was a gorgeous fall day…dare I say perfect. We met Rachel's smiling face and round belly at our new house to start. She asked how baby was...I was...how the day was….I lied straight through my teeth recalling my scene in the bathroom with Kari.
We got through the shoot. The kids were great and looked so darn cute. Our pictures actually turned out very nice and for that I am thankful! This blog may just turn out to be one of those Christmas update cards. Here are some shots:)
Next up was pilates with my dear friend Brooke who knew, but I hadn't been letting in either. I thought the stretching and the deep breathing would be good for me. There were times where the grief and fear almost came spilling out, but the deep breaths, sighs and groans that are natural during pilates made for a great cover. I couldn't get out of there quick enough.
Finally, at 9pm was the online event I was in charge of which had ballooned way out of proportion. I could hardly think straight and my armpits were sweating. When it was over at 10:15pm, I told the team I was signing off and shut the lid of my laptop. I sat alone on the couch with my thoughts.
...and it was time to come undone.
Justin was upstairs and he's never told me whether he heard me that night. I laid on the couch and put my face in the pillow and cried the hardest I have ever cried. I moaned. I groaned. I rolled on the floor. I had reached the deepest of pits. And it was there that I found myself completely broken. Even my anger was broken. It was so strange. I had been raging for the last 5 days and I couldn't even feel enraged any longer. I was completely empty and broken in spirit. I could barely get myself off the floor and up the stairs to bed.
The next morning, I could hardly get out of bed. The kids needed breakfast, clothed and lunches packed then off to school. I forced my feet to the ground. Around 7:45am there's a tap on the sliding glass door. I look up to see my mom standing there with a bag full of "stuff" for breakfast. She always has a bag of something. She came in and takes over fixing Remy's hair and fixing the kids oatmeal with fresh peaches. She is always exactly what I need at the exact time I need it. She knew. Justin left with the kids for school and the two of us sat in the kitchen She fixed me a big bowl of the same yummy oatmeal and we talked as tears salted our coffee. I eventually had to get dressed for the appointment. She left and Justin and I made our way to Mt Carmel to meet with Dr. Rink.
Dr. Rink isn't your typical geneticist. She is quite pretty, fit and personable with a great bedside manner. Come to find out she is partners with Dr. Hickey, Bryer's main geneticist at NCH. She doesn't do in patient anymore, but rather she holds clinic hours. Her and Sarah took the two of us into a labor and delivery room for some reason. They thought it would be a better place to talk. It ended up being perfect as I used the bathroom to pee 3 times:) It was a long meeting. We reviewed the MRI report and all the other information we had. I cried. We talked about our concerns and fears. She asked if termination was a possibility. We said no, absolutely not. Justin asked the hard questions. "How severe?" "Will our baby die?" "What can you predict?" She said she would surmise it is on the severe end of the spectrum and she'd be very concerned with seizures, yes. She said it's extremely hard to predict the course these babies/children take. Otherwise, from everything else she is seeing, baby seems in good health and is growing well so she does not expect death, no. Oh yes, and in all of the geneticist's opinions, this is completely unrelated to Bryer. That was one of our first questions, so I am sure it was one of yours. This is random and what they call "unlucky".
"As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, you cannot understand the work of God, Maker of all things." Ecclesiates 11:5
My prayers changed after that meeting. "God have mercy on our baby. I'd rather you take him/her home now than it be thrust into a world of immediate despair and suffering. Please, Lord, step in and save my baby. I can deal much better with death than continuos suffering of my child. Better yet, HEAL them! I know you can! But will you??"
"Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief." Psalms 31:9
We left the appointment very heavy hearted and drained by the information we had discussed. We talked about getting a second opinion. Sarah used to work at Cincinnati Children's TSC clinic while in grad school, and I had read about the clinic in my research as THE top in the world. I read of a Dr. named Franz. People came from all over the world to see him. He headed up trials for new drugs and is the top in the field. His name sounded familiar. Come to find out our friends, Breena and Andy Holt, had seen him with their son, Zeke. He was actually the one that diagnosed Zeke with Batten's Disease. I remember Breena speaking so highly of him. I asked Sarah if she could arrange an appointment with the clinic. With Cincy only being 2 hours away, it seemed to be a no brainer, although I still felt I was cheating on NCH. Sarah said she'd try to get an appointment, but sometimes it takes upwards of 3 months. She also said she was going to get a birth plan meeting scheduled with Dr. Miller (neonatologist), Lang (MFM), Arbona (OB), Rink (MFM/Geneticist) and herself so everyone could be on the same page when baby arrives. She would be in contact with me.
This was October 15th. The Nationwide Children's Columbus Marathon was in a few days. It was such a weird time. I was basically the "captain" for our team of Bryer's Song runners. We were the top fundraising team which was amazing and so inspirational! I was trying to be motivational and encouraging, but felt I had been sucked dry of those particular qualities. I had been looking forward to this race for Justin and for all the new and old runners alike. I was excited again to be celebrating Bryer, but now my mind was elsewhere. I just wanted it to be over. I had envisioned that I would be 30 weeks pregnant that day and how exciting it would be! Turning 30 weeks to me is always such a milestone. It enters you into the 10 week countdown! I had looked forward to being nice and pregnant with my round belly, holding a warm drink, taking pictures and cheering my heart out. But now everything was so dampened. My heart didn't have a lot of cheer. I did my best. Actually, I was truly blessed by seeing all the runners that day. They lifted me up more than the other way around. It was beautiful, and I couldn't have been more proud of our team.
The day before the marathon was Bryer's 3rd Birthday, October 17th. I was feeling a tremendous sense of guilt that I had not given him the proper time. My thoughts, my tears, my reminiscing were not his. I had been so paralyzed in fear, sorrow and anger that I was unable to get my mind in its typical "birthday state". But, in the wee hours of October 17th, I couldn't sleep and my thoughts shifted to him. I sat in bed and wrote this.
I reminisced, remembered and was reminded. God was working on me.
That evening, in bed with my laptop opened, I pulled up all the pictures and videos of him. I spent a good 2 hours looking at him, watching him, listening to him….remembering him. You know what I remembered the most in those moments? Not the ugliness of suffering, but rather God was unveiling the beauty of my deep and unconditional LOVE for him. Not that I didn't already know I loved him! But it was jumping off the screen and grabbing my heart, completely trumping the disease and sickness. I believe this was a gift from above. Despite it all, I loved him so very much. Despite the stress, the chaos, the suffering, his inabilities and on and on, I loved Bryer and will love him forever. I was able to remember and see the joy. I smiled.
I felt the defenses towards my little one within begin to disarm. My heart had been so confused by how love and dread for this new life could co-exist. I was deeply sorrowed and troubled by this. Without doubt, I knew I loved him/her, but at the same time I also felt that we were standing at the edge of another black hole and upon baby's arrival we would be thrust into it head first. I dreaded what that would mean for the baby and our family. I felt like time was ticking instead of joyfully anticipating the birth. The fact that I even felt this way, made me angry. I felt like a terrible mother for having these emotions. I'll just say it, I was afraid of my baby! For a few weeks, I had been trying to detach myself and push this whole thing aside, which is nearly impossible when you're a Mommy..
Loving can hurt sometimes, but oh it's worth it.
The fear of having my heart shattered again began to fade and the newly inflicted wounds slowly started the healing process. It was as if God was taking from His overflowing vats of love and directly applying it like a salve to my wounds torn open from the past which now lay alongside fresh and gaping ones from the present. And I was still enough to let Him work. My spirit had not been still in several weeks.
"Faith, hope and love….and the greatest of these is love...It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." 1 Corinthians 13:7-13
God was stirring, I took notice and thought it would be a good idea to similarly revisit my Bryer's Song blog posts to remember how He was with us. I wanted to remember Him before us, beside us and behind us. I read them all again and felt strengthened, not by my words, but by His faithfulness. I was slowly regaining my stance on solid rock. Though, I had never abandoned the rock, I sure hadn't been standing with eternal posture.
Monday morning, October 19th, I reached out and sought wise counsel from a few different sources. I was determined to do anything that would help our family prepare and cope. One of the deep layers to my grief in this was Remy and Sander. We had not shared anything with them yet. I didn't know when or how or what I should share. I felt so very protective of their hearts and their faith having heard ALL the MANY prayers they had prayed for this baby (some that would rip your heart open) and witnessed the anticipation and excitement for their baby. I needed help on navigating this. Justin and I went to counseling together. I also spoke one night over the phone with Nancy Guthrie who is an amazing Christian author and facilitator of the Respite Retreat Justin and I had gone to in Nashville for grieving parents. She has lost 2 children. She understands like no one else can. She spoke such truth and wisdom into my heart. She validated me which was so important, but she also asked me some tough and humbling questions. She left me with some things to think about, and I did. That conversation was such a gift. She has written many, many books, but this one on Hope is my favorite and has been a go-to many times.
I was taking steps forward.
I was still struggling, but was definitely moving in the right direction. The weekend after the marathon, some girlfriends and I had planned a weekend getaway to a cabin at Apple Valley. I had pretty much cut myself off from them…communication was the bare minimum which only included updates and many one word replies. I had turned down all of their offers for coffee, prayer and walks and they continued to ask. Bless their hearts. So, as Apple Valley approached, I wondered how it would go. I had been apprehensive about going at all, but it was time to reinsert myself and I am so glad I did. It was a wonderfully, relaxing weekend. I let them in…even to some of the ugly. There were tears, laughter, long walks, shared hope, venting sessions, prayer and coffee. It was so needed.
Some time had passed between appointments, so I was due for a follow up with MFM and another Echo at NCH, especially before we were to leave for a short trip to Florida. The echo came back unchanged, which was good news. I then went to MFM for another ultrasound on October 28th. Things there were also unchanged, except baby was growing bigger and bigger! I spoke to our genetic counselor, Sarah, again that day touching base about the birth plan meeting and the meeting with Cincy TSC clinic. She said she had locked down Nov. 2 with the doctors regarding the birth plan and was also able to secure a meeting in Cincy with the TSC clinic. She was amazed that she was able to get us in. I asked which neurologist would be in attendance, hoping her answer would be the world-renown Dr. Franz. She said she wasn't sure, but it would be 1 of the 5. "Is there a particular one you were hoping for?" She asked. I told her Dr. Franz would be amazing. She said she would see what she could do and call me by the end of the day.
I met my Mom, who was working upstairs in mother/infant, in the cafe after the appointment. She, I could tell, had not caught up to where I was headed emotionally. She felt this nearly as deep as me and in some ways from another perspective, deeper. She was working through her own grief all while trying to support me. I was feeling more positive and geared up for what was coming. I was telling her what I had been praying lately, which was something like, "Lord, if your will is not to heal our baby completely, I am working to accept that. My prayer then would be that you will give us something to HELP out child so as we navigate this disease we would not feel the familiar feeling of helplessness we did with Bryer. I pray you would bless us with plans, a surgery, a medication, a team. SOMETHING. Of course, Lord, I pray for your healing! But if that is not to be, please show us you are near. Give us something here on earth to help our child!!"
"Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed. Uphold me and I will be delivered." Psalms 119:116-117
As we were sitting there talking, my phone rang and it was Sarah. Her voice was excited. She had gotten us a one-on-one appointment with Dr. Franz at Cincinnati Children's for Wednesday, November 4th at 9am. What?!? This made me happy and I knew it was God's doing. So, we'd go to Disney and Siesta Key for the weekend, and when we got back we'd have two very important meetings the following week.
Florida was so fun. We took my 10 year old niece, Maddy, with us which was a treat. The individual time with her and the kids was definitely worth the fast paced whirlwind of Disney.
Justin met us there from a work meeting in Vegas and we also enjoyed some time in Siesta Key at his Dad's house. As I mentioned, I had been making strides each day with how I was coping, but a couple times a day I would get a dose of grief laid on me from nowhere. It happened at Disney of all places…you know the happiest place on earth? The last time we were there was just a month or so after Bryer had left us for heaven. I just remember being so happy to have time back with Remy and Sander after such a year of separation. That's what the whole trip was about. I was able to let go and pour into them and was free to indulge in them. When I thought of Bryer, I thought of him in glory. I thought of him being FREE. I guess the best way to describe it was I felt so much lighter…there were some lines we literally skipped our way through. This trip to Disney, I also wanted to indulge and soak up time with Remy, Sander and Maddy, but it was because we were headed for rough and unchartered waters, not on the other side yet. Big difference. That feeling would sneak up on me as I'd wait and watch for them to whiz by on a roller coaster. I didn't like it one bit.
We returned home that Sunday and got mentally prepared for our big week. First up was our birth planning meeting. I walked into the room and the first person I saw was Heidi (Dr. Arbona). She had come in on her day off. She met me halfway into the room with a big, long hug. I hadn't seen her in several weeks as I had been going to MFM, but we had been in frequent communication through text. It was so comforting to see her. She has delivered each of my babes. She's so kind and cares so much. She met me one morning for coffee when Bryer was about 4 months old. We had just got our coffee and the power went off in Starbucks, so we sat in my mini-van for about an hour talking. Later that week she dropped by fresh cut up fruit and veggies which was perfect and such a doctor thing to do;) I cannot say enough about her.
Justin and I sat down and soon Dr. Miller entered the room in scrubs. I hadn't seen him since Bryer. He heads up the group of neonatologists that took care of Bryer while in the NICU for 6 months. Smart, smart man. I had MANY long talks with him. Seeing him stirred me up….a character from Bryer's story….lots flashed back. It was a good meeting. We talked about some hard things. Bottom line was just like any other baby, we'd need to see what he/she shows us at birth and react. The only definite "order" was 48-72 hours of surveillance in the NICU for heart monitoring and a heart echo. Reason being is that some babes with Rhabdomyomas even though stable will develop arrhythmias and require meds to correct. They would be able to do all of this at St. Ann's. I was happy about that as I was bracing myself for Dr. Miller to tell me baby needed to go to NCH. 48-72 hours at St. Ann's seemed like small potatoes. I could deal with that. All other tests could be as follow up barring nothing acute shows up or happens. If you read about Tuberous Sclerosis further, you'll find that there is no set course and that each kid is different. They call it the land mind of disease. Lovely, I know. There's a spectrum and even with many brain tumors, seizures may not begin for many, many months, some years and some never. Anyway, it's complicated …perhaps that is why they call it Tuberous Sclerosis COMPLEX?
Next up was our meeting with Dr. Franz on Wednesday. I was eager for this. I love information. I need information to be able to process. We had the opportunity to meet with the expert of this disease. Good or bad, I knew we'd get a clear picture of what was going on with our baby. Even though it had been about 7 weeks since they had first found the Rhabdomyomas, there were times I caught myself shaking my head in disbelief that this was really happening. Who am I kidding, I still do that. Driving down to Cincinnati Children's Hospital was one of those times. We arrived with 10 minutes to spare before the appointment. Navigating a new children's hospital seemed surreal. It was interesting.
We finally were in the waiting room and my name was called. Since I didn't have a child on the outside of me, they treated me as the patient. Weight, blood pressure, head circumference. It was actually comical. We talked with their genetic counselor who we handed our complete chart along with the MRI scans. Then came a nurse and a social worker. Finally, they said Dr. Franz would be in shortly.
There was a rap on the door and in he came. He is taller than I expected and resembled a more refined version of santa with white hair, a beard and notably rosy cheeks. Immediately, I sensed a warmth about him. For as accomplished as he was, he did not radiate arrogance at all. It was refreshing and rather comforting. He smiled and shook our hands.
He spent about 90 minutes with us. Amazing. I had asked in our birth meeting a couple days earlier if Dr. Franz would actually review the MRI scans. The consensus from the group was "no" but he would review the radiologist report from NCH, which is what everyone else had been drawing their conclusions from. I wanted his eyes on my baby's scans. He sat down on a stool and I can't really remember how he opened our time together, because to me the meeting didn't really begin until I heard him say, "Do I have the MRI scans to look at?" I let him know that we had passed them to the genetic counselor who said she would upload them. "Oh, great!" He said as he spun around to the computer. "Let me just pull those up and take a look myself."
I think my heart skipped a beat and then started pounding. This was it. He was either going to confirm what we already knew, tell us it was worse than we were expecting or shed positive light on our situation. And we'd know in a matter of minutes.
"Ok let's see here…" he said to himself as he flipped throw the images. "Alright, here we go. See this? It's your baby…and here is your baby's brain." He paused as he looked closer.
I was literally on the edge of my seat.
"Oh…the brain involvement isn't that bad. I mean, it definitely appears that your baby has TS, but I wouldn't call this an exciting case."
I looked at Justin like did you just hear what he said?!?
"Really??" I blurted. "They told us there were tumors throughout the brain and kidneys and that it was likely a severe case."
"Really. I do see some SEN's and Cortical Tubers, but I have seen way, way worse. I could show you lots of people in this clinic with similar brain involvement…"
And before he could go on, I interrupted saying, "That are walking, talking and eating by mouth??"
He looked at me and smiled. "Yes…and are even educated, some with graduate degrees."
"Are you serious!?!" I looked at Justin again smiling.
He turned towards us and went on, "Now, I can't predict the future 100%. I can't tell you what kind of grades this child will get or if/when seizures will start. 90% of TS patients have a seizure at some point, but some are easily controlled, more severe cases are not. I would think your child would fall into the category of less severe based on these images."
I had read so much on the level of disease severity based on the number and type of brain tumors (There are 3 types in TS). I had read a few articles and studies where there were kids that had less than 9 cortical tubers that were developing normally and at 3 years of age had yet to have a seizure. I had also read that the first year of life really dictates future cognitive ability and level of severity. The longer a child can escape seizures the more chance it has to develop normally. Or if they do begin, the faster you can get seizures under control before they wreak havoc, the better the chance they have to develop normally. All that to say, I wanted to know a number.
"Can you count them?" I asked.
"Sure." He said turning back towards the scans. "There appears to be about 6 cortical tubers and 4 SEN's."
"Well that's better than…" I started, but this time he interrupted me...
"20, 30, 40, 50? I've seen that too." He said.
We talked a bit more, but then I remembered….the kidneys! I need to ask him about the kidneys. So, I asked if he'd take a look. He got to an image of the kidneys and grew quiet as he looked. "Hmm. This doesn't look to dramatic either, but it's not my specialty. I want to run this by my nephrologist before you leave and have him give his opinion."
"Great! Thank you." I said.
Now it was time for our questions and to express how important it was for us to have a plan. He was all over it. He spoke of a drug that is in the early trial stages that they give in pregnancy to the mother. It's a form of the same drug they give the actual child when they are born. He said, however, that my case doesn't warrant the side effects that would go along with it (for me), but he mentioned another case he is currently working on with a pregnancy that is much for severe so they are going to try it with her but are in the stage of presenting to a board for permission. All very interesting and cutting edge. That's why we were there and this is why I felt so blessed to have so much face time with him!
We talked about Bryer, which he was very interested in. He actually requested Bryer's medical records so he could look them over and asked if he could see a picture of him. "Handsome fella." He said with a smile. "Yes." I smiled back. We went on to explain because of our experience with seizures, most notably Infantile Spasms which are catastrophic to development, we wanted to be as proactive as possible with treatments and a plan.
He began explaining the different medications and how they use them and when. He spoke of the trials and the success and now of the FDA approval. All things of which he led the charge on. He said it's his expectation that the baby will be ok when born, acting normally. He did agree with the cardiac monitoring, but in his opinion it could be deferred for 12-24 hours. He said, if baby is acting normally and checks out on the initial evaluation in delivery room, then by all means we need to treat baby normally and give your family normal family time.
I cannot tell you what this did to my heart. That meant, barring no other complications, I could have baby put on my chest to bond…breastfeed…and MOST importantly this meant Remy and Sander could meet their new brother or sister outside the confines of the NICU. I wanted that so much for them. At this point, we had still not shared anything with them as we were waiting until after this specific appointment to have as clear a picture as possible.
He went on…Two weeks after birth he'd like to see baby and preform an EEG. The reason for this is they want to stay AHEAD of seizure activity, not chase them. MY KIND OF GUY! He said even if baby is not having active seizures there are subtle patterns on an EEG they can pick up 2-3 months prior to the onset. If they saw these patterns at any point, we would immediately begin medications for PREVENTION of seizures.
I was certainly picking up what he was laying down. Every. single. word.
He would like baby's first MRI to be at 3 months of age to establish a baseline. Any earlier presents too many risks. Other than that, treatment or intervention would be in reaction to what the baby shows us. I also asked him to explain how we work with their clinic. What if seizures start within the first two weeks of life. Can we have a rescue med? Do we call them and bring baby immediately? How do we utilize NCH? He was very patient with all the questions and had an answer for everyone. We talked about getting a script for DiStat (a seizure rescue med) which gave me much peace of mind.
We talked some more. Come to find out he went to medical school at OSU with one of our MFM docs…He said to tell him hello and that Dr. Schubert had backed into his car at one point. I told him no problem, will do with a smile. He was just so down to earth. I really liked him.
The last thing he wanted to do before talking to his kidney guy was do a skin check on us. TSC is genetic in 75% of the cases and it's a dominant gene meaning only one parent has to be a carrier. He was pretty confident both Justin and I were not affected, but wanted to take a look. Some people have such mild cases, they aren't diagnosed until adulthood. There are specific skin findings that come along with TSC, so he wanted to see if we had any of them. We changed into gowns and he came back with a black light and turned the lights off. All checked out fine. Never a dull moment.
He left to go talk to his kidney guy and we got dressed. A social worker came back in and talked for a bit. Soon there was a knock on the door and Dr. Franz popped his head in smiling and said, "By the way, it's what I was thinking….the kidneys look fine. We don't see any tumors. They just look like normal baby kidneys to us!"
Of course I couldn't believe it and made him repeat what he said. He kindly obliged. I looked at Justin again in disbelief. What?!?
We gathered our things and began our walk to the car. I was feeling so encouraged…so thankful…so uplifted. They were such welcomed feelings. I couldn't wait to share this news with my Mom and shower her with the same. I told Justin that some people might not feel as encouraged as us to hear their baby has 10-11 tumors in the brain. But I do!! And not only that, we had a PLAN!! Praise the Lord.
I was also looking forward to sharing this news with the team back home. When I did the next day, Sarah said she was going to cry. I could hear the happiness and shake in her voice. She said she had been praying specifically for us. She definitely said we should feel encouraged as Dr. Franz opinion carries the most weight by far. We made the changes to the birth plan calling for normal family time together outside of the NICU.
Since then, I've continued to see MFM. Baby is growing big, my biggest yet and on track for being 9lbs. at term! Baby continues to tolerate the heart tumors and nothing new has shown up. Babe is also breech and has been since 26 weeks. If you are friends with me on Facebook, you know I have been doing everything to try to flip it head down. After 3 natural, no drug births, a c-section would be so foreign and something I'd like to avoid. However, if I end up with one, there are certainly worse things. I will leave it in God's hands and trust that it is the best way for him or her to arrive.
So, that's where we are. We told Remy and Sander that the baby will need to have its heart monitored in the NICU after its born, but it should only take a few days. We didn't even mention the brain because they so associate a brain problem with Bryer. I don't want them to worry, but I do want them to have proper expectations and not be alarmed when the baby doesn't come home for a few days.
We decided on a last minute trip to the Cayman Islands with the blessings of my doctors the week before Thanksgiving. Dr. Arbona actually encouraged us to go. It's a place that holds special meaning to Justin as he vacationed there many, many times with his family (including his late mother) and has always wanted to take us there. Not knowing what our future will be like, we wanted to take a trip just the four of us and enjoy the quality time together. So it was kind of like a family/babymoon. It was a great decision. We had the best time.
I have more to say...more thoughts...but I'm just going to abruptly end it here because well, I am really tired and really pregnant.
Christmas is barreling down on us which all you moms out there know how much there is to do! I have felt the urge to just get this news released, so I am thankful this will reach many at once and save me from having the same conversation over and over.
I ask for your prayers over our new baby, its upcoming birth and our whole family as we continue to walk by faith even when we cannot see.
I am 100% excited to meet this little person and I have been given back the joy of anticipation rather than dread. I am so thankful to have that back in my heart.
We don't know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future and it is well with my soul. I look forward to introducing our newest member in a few weeks. Stay tuned.
A Gaze Toward Heaven June 01 2015, 2 Comments
In the acuteness of my grief, in the immediate weeks following Bryer's death, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and relief. The suffering had come to an end and he was in glory. I felt his memorial service was a celebration of his eternal life and the Hope we have in Jesus. To many it was an introduction to Bryer and summary of his earthly life. I remember smiling more than I cried that day.
Oh I deeply missed him, but the freshness of his hellish suffering, especially towards the end, was still too close to have wished him back. And the peace that had consumed me during his last breaths seemed to powerfully linger.
In those first few weeks, I felt myself recuperating physically from severe sleep deprivation and the deep anxiety and stress that had produced not so pleasant physical ramifications.
The service was behind us and we were settling back into a normal pace of living. I thought, ok I am doing pretty darn well. I existed in this cloud of engulfing peace. So you can imagine how shook-to-the-core I was when I experienced my first Post Traumatic Stress event. It was as if a powerful and most terrifying monster had reached up through cracks in the floor boards, and with blackened, long-nailed hands, grabbed my ankles and pulled me down into a torturous sea of images and movie-like scenes from Bryer's most terrible bouts of suffering. Each time it seemed that there was one "feature film" that was on display. They would bombard my mind, my eyes, my heart and sear my soul with his suffering. I couldn't escape it. It completely took over. I couldn't breathe at times. My heart pounded out of my chest and I'd heave and sob at the horror as if it were happening for the first time.
I was so taken back. "Why is this happening, Lord? I have your peace. You gave it to me!"
It was time to grieve his suffering. All the traumatic events of his life...and there were a lot. I hadn't fully dealt with them in real time. I couldn't break then, but boy was I breaking now.
I prayed through it. I said the name of Jesus over and over again until the images subsided and my breathing and heaving slowed. The enemy was attacking and trying to steal my peace. I battled back with truth and the power of His name. I turned to scripture.
During the several months of these random battles, I feel as though God revealed something to me. Let's see if I can explain this.
One day, I was scrolling through pictures of Bryer on my phone as I tended to do. One that I had looked at many times made me stop and gazed a little longer. It was a picture of him during one of 36 + hours where sleep was traded for thrashing, screaming, moaning, whimpering and seizing (August 22, 2013). He would not and could not rest.
He had become still for a rare few moments and I snapped this photo. I recall those hours with tears in my eyes. We were in one of the top Pediatric ICU's in the country, and not to their fault, but nobody seemed to be able to help. I have never felt more helpless and insufficient as a mother.
As I looked at the picture this time, however, this conversation popped into my mind.
Bryer with a gaze towards heaven, "Daddy, I am so tired and weak. I want the rest and peace I know is with you. How much longer?"
God answered, "Bryer, my sweet boy. I love you so much! It won't be much longer. Sweet child of mine, hold on. I am coming to rescue you, but there's still more purpose left in your time on earth! There is still more I have to teach your Mommy and Daddy." (more on that another time)
Now, did that conversation really happen? Maybe not. But it occurred to me that it COULD HAVE. It was put on my heart that I had no idea this side of heaven how the God of the Universe comforted Bryer during all those times that I anguish and grieve over. I have no idea how He communicated with him….soothed him. By touch? Sight? Sound? Smell? Angels? I prayed for it continuously, so why wouldn't He have answered? I prayed Bryer would feel held even when we weren't there. That he would be comforted, protected and feel secure. That love and peace would permeate his body into the crevices where my love and touch could not reach.
Did he experience pain, of course. Did he suffer, yes. But, I believe God was a buffer, perhaps softening it more than I know or could see. Or if not in that way, by being WITH Bryer in ways I cannot comprehend.
"He holds the whole world in His hands. I'm holding onto His promises. He is faithful. He is faithful." Lyrics of a song I often sang to Bryer.
Yes, our God is faithful like that.
Try as I may, I couldn't be Bryer's all-in-all, but God could. Bryer had many limitations. His eyes were failing. His hearing was imperfect. His brain proved to be deteriorating perhaps not allowing recognition by any means towards the end. But GOD isn't limited in His ability at anything, let alone finding a way to comfort and reveal His presence to my baby boy.
Thank you, Lord, for putting that on my heart. It has comforted me ever since.
God's Rainbow Whisper September 04 2014, 3 Comments
I think I could maybe write a short book about Remy and Sander in regards to Bryer's life and death. It's been an incredibly eye-opening, heart-reeling and heart-healing time of motherhood. I didn't give them nearly the credit they deserved for what they take into their hearts and then spit back out of their mouths. Or the things they would ponder in their spirit until it came bursting forth unexpectedly. For a grieving mom, it can be hard enough to hold it together at any given moment, let alone when these little eternally-inspired, spirit-filled missles come shooting from the back of the mini-van or snipe me in the grocery store or drop in my lap at a restaurant or disarm during goodnight prayers. Boom. A beautiful mess of questions, perceptions and declarations from the past, present and/or eternal future. It all boils down to that phrase we've all heard..."child-like faith", and wow, it's an amazing thing to behold.
Now you might expect for me to launch in to a myriad of these experiences. They certainly are such sweet treasures I've enjoyed sharing here and there with friends and family. Perhaps I will at some point. But for now, I wrote the above to lend a little insight into the heart-happenings of my 5 and 3 year old these past 18 months. They were certainly stirred up and still are. They've been ripe for teaching and truth speaking.
Moving on. Remy loves rainbows. She's been intrigued and a bit obsessed ever since before she turned 4. Her 4th birthday party was unicorns and rainbows. Almost all pictures she draws includes a rainbow. She has drawn countless pictures of her and Bryer under rainbows. If given a choice of something rainbow colored, she picks it. If coloring anything that can be a pattern...it's rainbow. A few months ago while shopping she brought to me a "B" charm bracelet..the "B" was striped in rainbow. Of course we bought it. She corrects me if I get the colors of the rainbow out of order while coloring. If you ask her what her favorite color is she will say ROY G BIV. You get the picture.
On the last day Remy and Sander saw and held Bryer, there was a rainbow stretching from one side of 71 to the other as they drove home from Nationwide Children's Hospital. Did any of you see it too?
All this brings me to last Thursday. August 28. I was serving Remy and Sander lunch at our kitchen island and seized the opportunity to go over their sticker chart. One thing on the list is reading their bible. I hadn't been there the night before at bedtime, so I asked if they had read it with Daddy. Remy assures me they had and proceeds to tell me about what story. A king worshipping idols. A short conversation ensued about what idols are etc. All this talk reminded me that I had been wanting to ask Remy a question. It was a question sparked from a recent meeting at church I had attended about spiritual parenting. We watched a short video of kids answering the question, "How does God speak to you?" The answers were insightful and quite entertaining.
With that on my mind, I turn around and ask, "Remy, does God speak to you?"
She looks at me and doesn't answer.
I rephrase, "How do you think God speaks to you?"
My back is to the window and she is facing me. As soon as I got the question out of my mouth, she immediately responds while pointing, "I don't know, but there is a rainbow that went across Bryer's face!"
She shakes her pointer again at the picture. I turn around and look at the picture of Bryer that we have sitting on the window ceil. There is a small rainbow going directly across his face. My breath was taken for a second. I look again as I release a smile-sigh.
"Remy! THAT is God speaking to us...right now!" We all continue to stare at Bryer's face with a rainbow on it. It's quiet for a second.
"What's he saying?!?" she innocently asks.
"Well um, I think He's saying 'I love you. I am here. My promises are true. Bryer is with me. I haven't forgotten you'. Something along those lines, honey."
I was so touched, of course, I became very emotional. She got up off her stool and came to me, "I miss Bryer."
"Me too, baby."
With her arms wrapped around my waist looking up with her new jack o' lantern smile and post tonsilectomy kermit voice, she says, "Well, it's a good thing you took lots of pictures."
I picked her gangly, long-legged body up and took her to the window ceil. I said, "Remy, I want you to always remember this. It's just for you. God knows how much you love rainbows and how much you love Bryer. This is so special".
She laid her head on my shoulder and we continued to look at Bryer's face.
Meanwhile, Sander is sitting on the other stool taking this all in.
This all gets even better.
Later that evening, I got dinner on the table. I was over at the sink getting something when I hear Sander excitedly burst, "Mommy! God didn't forget about me!"
It was almost too much in one day! I was comforted. I was reassured of His presence and His promises. I was taken back by His impeccable timing. He gave me such a tender moment with Remy ...a teachable and unforgettable moment. And THEN, lest he forget Sander, who was probably sitting there feeling left out....He drops a rainbow right on his dinner plate.
Oh He is sweet and He is with us. My heart is full. I hope yours is a little fuller too:)