Category Archives: Fisher

Four

Fisher, you would be 4 today. And boy do I wish I could have given you a piggy back ride and felt your big boy weight on my back, watched you build and destroy block towers with your little sister, heard your laugh while we played a pre-school version of talking charades. It would have been good to slurp chicken noodle soup together and read you your favorite stories before nap time. But oh to cuddle you, hold your live warmth in my arms and kiss your soft cheeks. I would do anything to know what your voice sounds like, what you daydream about, what makes you smile and what makes you sad. I’d do my best to make it all better. I wish I could feel all better. It still hurts so much. So very much.

Your big brother sewed you a sweet snowman flannel bag today. Your biggest sis drew you a picture of our family. Harps asked all about heaven and said she loves her baby Fisher like she loves baby Schuyler. We all wrote our words of love to you and hoped the wind would carry them. Their big love for you both warms and tears at my heart.

Wish I had more time to write the whole of what has been on my soul, but your baby brother calls to me to be fed, and as with most areas of life right now there just isn’t the time to write and reflect if I am to be present for these moments now. There is so much more to tell you, so much more to say – in my prayers, in my heart, to scream at the top of my lungs in the lonely places. I love you son. Happy Birthday – someday we’ll celebrate real big okay? You’re irreplaceable.


The Most Awful Silence Part III

I was stone-still, my heart racing, blood pumping, body paralyzed when my husband Scott arrived shortly after I received the awful news.  In a flurry he came into the small dark room dimly lit by a single small light over the hospital bed.  Searching our faces, he looked scared.  Dr. B put her hand on his arm and said “I am so sorry Scott.”

He rounded the hospital bed to be closest to my side and grabbing my hand searched my face for explanations I didn’t want to give.

“We lost him” I said.

Tears broke and started streaming down the sides of my face, into my hair and onto the pillow cushioning my head on the exam bed.  My body was starting to tremble. “Our baby is gone.  He has no heartbeat.”

“No!” His face was pained and his voice started to choke as tears showed in his eyes.

Dr. B offered to do the ultrasound again so he could see for himself.  He looked at me and I said it would be okay not to.  I didn’t want him to have to live with that image.  He said no to protect me and I agreed to protect him.  As much as I dreaded doing it again, I wanted to, thought maybe the answer would be different.  I also desperately wanted to push rewind and have him with me in that awful moment.  I wanted to go further back than that; to this morning when he had hiccups, to Saturday when I had gone into labor and contractions were nearing 5 minutes apart but just went away after I had laid down to rest.  Why didn’t I just come to the hospital then?  Just moments, moments, sooner than this moment he might be with us.  There must be something I still could do, some way to turn back time.  We were so close, so very close to having him with us.  “Oh dear, dear God, how could this possibly have happened to my sweet baby boy?”

I prayed in vain; nothing, absolutely nothing could be done to change the awful truth.  It is hard to describe how utterly painful and terribly helpless a feeling; to have such a tidal wave of life-creating momentum over months and months, building and building and growing and gaining, to be at the precipice of the crest and suddenly, sudden-ly, out of nowhere, there’s flat, lifeless calm and it is the dark of night.  I could blow and cry and howl with everything that is in me and nothing, nothing will bring back the wave of life I was courting.

Hard questions were swimming around in my head as my body took on a new sensation of pain like none other I’d experienced before.  Deep in my chest, and at the base of my throat a hard mass of hurt was taking residence in my body that covered over anything blithe I ever had the luxury of feeling.

Dr. B talked about the rarity of the circumstances, which somehow felt reassuring, affirming.  It was so very wrong to have happened, I needed to hear it was uncommon. She said it had only happened once in all her time of practicing about 20 years or so prior.  She said we might be able to discover why once he is born.

“I took some homeopathic cough syrup, could it have been that?” I asked.

“No” she said reassuringly, “it wouldn’t be that.”

“I ate brie.  I carried my kids up the stairs.  I laid on my back at night…” I confessed my pregnancy sins, desperate and terrified to find out why, horrified at the thought that I may have done something to cause my baby’s death.

“Please God, don’t let it be anything I have done.” I prayed. I am not sure how I would survive the guilt of that.

I felt like a pregnancy pro by now, having done this two times before.  I had felt so self-assured, this pregnancy was so easy, so routine.  “I’m sure women in France don’t give up Brie” I would joke.  How terrible of me.

Dr. B said she’d give Scott and I some time alone and walked out of the room.  We held each other, starting to cry, still caught off guard and in shock.  We hurt so much.

All the statistics about how hard it is on a couple to lose a child flashed through my mind.  We’d already walked through our hard year as new parents after my second child was born when we weren’t sure our marriage was going to make it.  We’d done the hard work to rebuild a solid life-giving relationship and I couldn’t bear to go back to that lonely awful place.  As our embrace loosened I put a hand on each side of his face, looking into his eyes I said emphatically “I promise to be good to you through this” as serious as I was when I said each word of our wedding vows.

He often said how important those words were to him.  This was a promise I would keep to the ends of the earth, through hell and back, which was exactly where I feared we were headed.

When Dr. B returned she gave me the option to go home and rest for the night or go directly to the hospital to be induced.  Without a doubt I said I wanted to go then.  Scott held my hand and we both asked Dr.B when we could try for another baby.  We wanted our baby.  We wanted this baby. She gave a generic answer of a few months.  It felt like an eternity to wait, coupled with a whole nine month gestation all over again.  That felt so hard to bear, so long.

A wheelchair came to get me and my sweet nurse wheeled me over to labor and delivery while Scott went to get my bag of things from the car.  Thank God I had insisted on bringing my hospital bag.  I wondered if somehow I had known.  Somewhere deep in my body where my mind was yet to bring to my conscious awareness, had I known my baby was gone?  How could I have known?  How could I not have known?

And the long night of waiting, laboring to give birth to death began.  I secretly hoped, in the dark shadow that had overcome me, like a single pale star in an overcast grey night sky, that once my sweet baby boy was born he would be the miracle I longed for and take the deep life giving breath he was always meant to take, proving all forces of faulty human technology wrong.  And I would have the boy that I, together with my Creator, had worked so hard to give life to all these long days and months; the boy I already knew and loved with the depths of my whole being.


The Most Awful Silence Part II

My nurse was growing visibly frustrated as she searched and searched for the sound of my baby’s heartbeat with the small round disc.  I searched her poker face for answers, for emotion, for a sign of what to think and feel.  She never made eye contact with me until exasperated she asked

“Didn’t your OB do a doppler in the office?”

“No” I said timidly.

She left me to turn down the loud heartbeats coming from the other machines in the room.  I grabbed my phone to text Scott as quickly as I could like a high school kid in chem class, trying to squeeze it in before the teacher returned.  I felt like I was in trouble, like I was annoying her.  I texted:

“No heartbeat.”

Nearing the library, Scott got my message.  He was was scared by it, but confused as I had been, and deliberated about what to do being so close to completing his task and the threat of icy roads causing further delay. He too thought this was just some fluke thing; things always seemed to work out in the end, and we praised God to be sure, but felt a bit like life would always be good for us, before that day.  He drove one more block then quickly turned around and came to me as fast as he could in Seattle’s rush hour traffic amidst snow and ice.

Anxious and confused, I laid still as I could while my heart raced frantically within my chest.  In desperation she sent a new nurse to work on me.  A tall, sweet cheeked, familiar woman came in.  She had been my first nurse to orient me to this whole business of being pregnant 5 years before with my first daughter.  She knew me, my babies, my stories.  I needed that, I was so scared, felt so alone.

“Oh God, please let Scott come quickly!” I prayed

The first thing Kelly did was look me in the eyes and smile at me.  She said my name acknowledging that I was a human being in her care that needed to be treated as such.

“Now let’s find that heartbeat.”  She said with her characteristic slight giggle.

She was calm and happy.  I didn’t know if I could believe her words, but I appreciated them.  She felt around my belly with her hands, feeling the form of my full grown son and with a start said,

“Oh there he is, I think I felt him move there!  Now let’s get this machine to work.”

I didn’t stop looking at her face, her ever-present dimples, her happy eyes.  She kept talking to me throughout, telling me what she was doing in a matter of fact but sweet way that soothed me.  I was calming but it was my quickened heartbeat that kept giving us hope and causing the trouble.  A baby’s heart rate is around 140 beats per minute in the third trimester of life.  An average adult heart rate is between 60 to 100 beats per minute, the difference is rather significant, usually mine is on the low end.    We’d jump and smile at one another when we heard the fast thump-thump and then both of us would realize it was too slow to be my baby’s. Then she’d gather more goop and go for another swoop around and around my belly before pressing the doppler in again at the ideal place on my lower abdomen his heart should be strongest and we would hold our breath to listen.

“Let’s just get you in for an ultrasound.” She said, again with a smile and a reassuring pat to my arm, “I’ll get Dr. B”

She left me alone again and I stole a glance at my phone.  Scott had texted: “I’m coming”

I was relieved.  It couldn’t be fast enough.

Dr. B, a slight 5 foot tall blonde woman, who makes up for her small stature in wisdom and experience, came just a few minutes later and looked at me with reserved concern.  In a kind but matter-of-fact way she said, “let’s see what is going on.”

She laced her arm in mine to help me off the table and her short legs moved us briskly down the hall.  I wanted to dig my heals in and stop all of this.  I looked frantically up and down down the hallways for Scott.  I had no idea where he was, when he would arrive. I felt like a wild animal being taken to my cage.

The office was barren, thank God, and the windows that displayed a beautiful view of the Seattle’s city skyline had gone dark from the early winter sunset.  Dr. B was quiet as she moved us quickly down the hall except for one question; “Have you felt him move today?”

That was the question I’d come to hate at each of my appointments, for no apparent reason whatsoever, when nothing was wrong.  When she asked it, my body went weak and I nearly collapsed if it weren’t for her strong arm holding me up.    The veil of confusion began to part and deep dark heavy reality crept over me.

“No,”  I stammered, “Well, yes, he had hiccups this morning…”

My mind searched for another moment and panic started to take hold.

“That was it, nothing else.  I haven’t felt him since. Oh God, no, no, no”  I whispered my desperate prayer.  It was starting to make sense to me that something might actually be wrong and I was finding it hard to breath.

As my body weakened and slowed, Dr. B’s became stronger and she urged me forward, around the corner and into the ultrasound room, shutting the door behind us.  I was was scared, anxious and searching around hoping for Scott to walk through the door.  Reluctantly, in slow motion, I got onto the exam table as Dr. B prepared the ultrasound machine and wielded the weapon that would seal our fate.

“Oh God please let my baby be okay! Please let him be ok! Please Lord, please!”

I prayed over and over fast as I could, hoping against everything this machine would make everything right and the whole thing would just be some error in technology.

The ultrasound room was dim, with a soft glowing light like a night light just above the machine to light up the keyboard and controls. Dr. B scrolled over the image of my baby, the outline of his body, his distinct profile with facial features I had come to recognize, fully formed arms, round belly, and large chest cavity where his full flesh heart had once filled and fluttered rapidly while arms and legs flickered and flexed.  His body was still, his chest cavity a dark void, and I knew he was gone before a word fell from Dr. B’s lips.

“Oh Heather, I am so sorry,” Dr. B’s voice was so soft, serious, “he is gone.”

And there I dove into the deep end of grief for the first real time in my life.  The unbearable happened and I hadn’t been able to prevent it, predict it, prepare for it or pray it away.  It swept me down and out into the cold dark waters where breathing gets hard and I wondered if the effort it takes to stay above water was really worth it.


The Most Awful Silence Part I

Pregnancy does me well.  I relish the idea of creating life and all that goes on in these miraculous months, from the formation of first cells to an entirely put together human being.  When I got my period at thirteen I was in utter awe of the whole situation.  I came out to the living room, plopped myself down by my mom on the couch and staring out in a daze said, “I can’t believe my body did that!”

“Did what?” she asked.

“Released an egg!” I said.

When I met my husband, I had a similar sense of wonder and excitement. I knew I wanted to spend my life with this man and I regularly feared the day I might lose him.  Since early childhood I have been inclined to fear the death of a loved one with a fair bit of anxiety.  I wasn’t sure how I could cope with such a fate.  Scott was, and is, the man of my dreams, love of my life, everything I ever hoped for in a life partner.

When we were brand-new newlyweds we moved from the safe suburbs of Spokane to the big unknown suburbs of Los Angeles for me to attend graduate school and begin our lives as a Mr. and Mrs.  We often enjoyed late night movies in those early years, even on mid-week work nights, which feels like a big luxury now that we are homebound by early evening for young children’s bedtimes.  In the land of entertainment, we could hit a movie as late as 1:00 a.m., streets still buzzing with energy and life. If ever there was a theme of death in a movie, which it seemed there always was at least some reference, I would end the night in tears.  I would bury my face in Scott’s chest sobbing, lamenting death altogether, upset with God whom I very much loved and believed in but just could not grasp why this horrible thing would be our inevitable state.  Cuddling into bed with no kids between us, I would testify to my undying love for him and plead with God to never take this man away from me. I feared I wouldn’t survive such a loss.

Then came the babies.  Oh those amazing, precious, fragile babies!  Rumor was they could suddenly stop breathing for no apparent reason in the middle of the night as they peacefully slept. I still sneak in their rooms before I retire to bed each night to listen to my children breath, give them a kiss and whisper one more I love you into their dreams.  Well beyond any risk of SIDS, it gives me peace to hear their breath and kiss their warm skin so full of life.  I sleep better. The thought of losing these little ones was unthinkable.

My third pregnancy was especially blissful.  With three behind me, the first ended in an early miscarriage, I knew by now it would be exhausting so I took my maternity leave 3 months into gestation.  I wanted to relish this time and nurture my baby’s growth as much as possible in this full season of life as a family.  With some scares in my previous pregnancy that put me on bed-rest I intentionally took a step back to give this baby life.  I felt calm, at ease, nothing to fear or worry about this time around.  My little guy in there was an energetic delight, similar to my 2 year old son, the boys were already full of energy in-utero.  I’d had one calm, serene, girl when my 2nd born little guy turned life upside down with his first top-of-his-lungs “vroom-vroom!”  It warmed my heart to think of my boys taking over the world, destroying it, and figuring out how to put it all back together again.  Inseparable buddies they were destined to be.

Six days after my due date I went in for my routine obstetric exam and to discuss birth options.  I always went overdue, 4 days with my daughter, 11 with my son.  My nurse and OB, who knew me well by now after nearly 5 years of routine appointments, and I laughed about that.  This was my normal.  Everything looked good that day but it was routine for an over due mom to have a non-stress test that checked the baby’s heart rate and my contractions, just to be safe. It was just a routine.

We were the last appointment of the day and it was starting to snow in Seattle.  Scott needed to return some books to his University library before it closed for Christmas break.  He asked how I felt about him running this errand and with absolute certainty gave him my blessing that this would be a great use of his time while I sat with monitors on my belly for the standard 20 minute check.

“No big deal” I said so casually, so naively confident, “Go get that done and we’ll grab a coffee together afterwards.”

Looking forward to our mini-date – precious stolen time together with two little ones at home – I waddled my way alone down the hall into my own curtain enclosed chamber to join the room full of expectant parents.  I had gone through this routine many times in my last pregnancy with my now 2 year old son.  I had early bleeding and contractions that warned us he might come too soon, so often I was sent for these tests to make sure he was okay and wouldn’t come early.  He was born 11 days late, at a hefty 9 pound 12 ounces.  It had all worked out in the end.

I huffed my big pregnant body onto the hospital bed with mint green and white polka dot sheets. The non-stress test nurse was a tall, serious faced woman with long dark hair who didn’t have much of the usual joy and excitement of the other OB nurses I’d come to know at the office.  Without much more than a simple hello, she got to business, slathering me with goo and hooking up the monitors, roaming around for the best spot to pick up Fisher’s signs of life.  She kept roaming.  And roaming, and roaming.  And roaming.


Remembering Days

Last year on this day we spread Fisher’s ashes and spent the day doing special things to remember him as a family.  We gave each other alone time and then reconvened at a park over-looking the water where we are reminded of Fisher.  The kids played and we got to smile and cry  and remember throughout the day.

One day that year, when Barley lost a beloved helium balloon and had started to cry, he soothed himself through is tears saying “now baby Fisher will have a special balloon in heaven.”

I was so touched by his remembering and loving thought towards his baby brother.  That kid has a huge heart!

So that had to be our special thing.  We each picked out a color we wanted to give to Fisher and wrote our special messages to him before launching them up to heaven.

In my time alone, the public beach dark at dusk and empty in winter, I cried out to heaven on the shores where his ashes were spread.  I was full and pregnant with my new baby girl due in a few days, anxious, hopeful, angry, heartbroken and hurting.  So much was the same, but so much was different in our lives.

We came home and watched his memorial service, the video we made of his life  and fell into bed exhausted but full from a meaningful day remembering.

I would love to hear others’ ideas of how they intentionally remember a loved one on their birthday or on the day of their loss.