Monthly Archives: November 2012

At least I’m not…(fill in the blanks)

I have, at times in my life, struggled with my weight.

I’m not talking obesity here, but a general chunkiness, the kind that sneaks up on you during the winter, or during periods of extreme “Cook-for-your-hubby-because-he-loves-cheese” happiness. The winter that Mr. Whiskers proposed to me was one of those winters, when my general chunk was disheartening. I remember going to Walmart with my sister to purchase the new Britney Spears album and Rock Band, and thinking to myself,

At least I’m not that fat guy in sweatpants.

I’m not proud of this, but it is true and I am sharing it because when our lives aren’t doing what they are supposed to, we compare to make ourselves feel better, to remind ourselves that it could be worse.

At least I’m not working at McDonalds.
At least I’m not single in this town (and I found this amazing man to marry).
At least I’m not living in a trailer.
At least I’m not blah blahbedeblah.**

**I apologize if you, the reader, are a single person living in a trailer and working at McDonalds. This life may be just fine for you, and I am not here to judge.

With the loss of our daughter, there has been one go-to “At least I’m not…” that makes me feel better.

At least I’m not a Jew in the Holocaust.

How did people living in those times not think it was “End Times” (the Apocalypse)?

I hope this isn’t coming off as insensitive. When you lose a child, you take the comforts you can find. Some days, I can only find comfort in the fact that my religion isn’t being mass persecuted and my family isn’t at risk of being shipped off to a concentration camp.

We get so caught up in ourselves, our personal plight. We forget that so many would trade places with us, if given the opportunity. We forget that our struggle is not the only struggle in the world, and what’s more, our struggle isn’t even probably the worst struggle in the world.

But we feel like it is.

And so we can wallow and moan and feel sorry for ourselves, and sometimes I give myself full permission to do so. I sit in our daughter’s nursery and take in all the outfits she’ll never wear, the Baby Bjorn she’ll never ride in, the glider I’ll never nurse her in, and I let myself just feel the injustice of this world in a deep, personal way, and I cry that yucky, animal-noises cry and blubber and moan things like, “It’s not fair,” and “I miss my baby.” However unproductive this might be, I do it, and I feel cleansed when I let this out all at once, liberated when I let the anger and life-disappointment to the surface for just a few minutes.

Doing this from time to time frees up my logical brain to focus on the ways that I have it so good, instead of on the ways that this world is so wrong. And I realize that I have so much more to do, to give, to offer, to be.

Because of Hudson, I will make a difference. Because of Hudson, I will live in the moment. Because of Hudson, I will take the opportunity, write the check, run the half-marathon, start the foundation, write the grant proposal, touch a life, give a bigger hug, leave a bigger tip.

And when I can get to this place, I get a whole new list of “At leasts…”

At least I’m not going to let this ruin my life.
At least I’m not going to let Hudson be forgotten.
At least I’m not going to take my husband or my family for granted.

At least I got those three wouldn’t-trade-’em-for-anything days with Hudson.

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#GivingTuesday

It’s that time of year – when every day of the week gets a sweet hashtag.

#CyberMonday
#BlackFriday
#SmallBusinessSaturday

and my new favorite:

#GivingTuesday

This is a time of massive spending across the world (Happy Birthday, Jesus!), and that’s fine. We are blessed, even in this tough economy, to be able to celebrate this time of year, give gifts, be Secret Santas, stuff stockings, etc. I personally am very much looking forward to some of the Dub and Shiz family traditions in the coming weeks. I have even started my own “Wish List” – little things I might want or need this year that I would never buy for myself, like a beer brewing kit or instructional photography DVDs.

Do not think that I am by any means intending to condemn Christmas and Holiday spending. Go to town, folks. Let’s boost our economy.

But on this one day, #GivingTuesday, maybe we can do some giving that makes a real, positive difference.

Make some cookies and deliver them to somebody you know who is having a tough holiday.
Donate some books to the Goodwill.
Write a fat check to your favorite non-profit.

Today, I donated $100 to the Forget-Me-Not Foundation in Hudson’s name. I have been making small donations over the past few months as people have purchased the Hudson’s Heroes teeshirts. If you are looking for a worthy cause to donate a little cash to, I would highly recommend the Forget-Me-Not Foundation.

This organization provided us with something you simply cannot put a price tag on, something I can’t put on my holiday wish list and something that I wouldn’t trade for any amount of cashola: memories with and of our beautiful, precious, once-in-a-lifetime daughter Hudson. Without this organization, I might not have a sweet teddy bear that plays Hudson’s heartbeat when you squeeze it. I would probably not have the 3D molds of her cute little feet. I wouldn’t have a disc of pictures taken by a professional photographer who donated her time to capture the last days of our daughter’s life (this is one treat that I’m saving to look at, knowing at this point that these are the last photographs I’ll ever see of our baby).

So make your list, check it twice. Then be a little nice, and do something today for #GivingTuesday.

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Separation Anxiety

Even if we hadn’t lost Hudson, I think I would have really missed being pregnant.

You’re never alone.
You’re always doing something important.
You’re connected emotionally and physically to the most important thing in your life.

Being pregnant is awesome. I miss being pregnant, but I miss Hudson more.

I still get phantom kicks that break my heart. Today I looked at my C-section scar and thought about the miracle of birth, how they were able to pull that big baby girl out of such a small incision, how just months ago I didn’t have that scar but I still had a living child. I thought as I climbed into the shower that it doesn’t seem right that my baby could be dead. How could she not be alive when she lived inside me? How can I still be alive without her?

We left the hospital without Hudson, but with a little box full of mementos of Hudson. Locks of hair. The tiny cuff they kept on her ankle. Footprints. Hand prints. A little glove that is stained dark brown with spots of Hudson’s blood.

And a ceramic heart – the outside part for me, the inside part with Hudson.

It is designed to withstand the heat of cremation, so the little inside heart went with Hudson as her tiny, perfect body was turned to ash. The outside part was turned into a beautiful piece of jewelry that I can wear as a necklace or a bracelet, designed and handcrafted by a lovely friend and talented artist whose creations can be found here.

Ruby is Hudson’s birthstone.

That “missing you” feeling really does feel like anxiety. A flutter in my guts, a pain in my heart, a closed throat that makes it difficult to breath. So on those days when missing Hudson is particularly painful, I have these special things to remind me of how connected we still are.

On the cellular level. Hudson is a part of me, and will be a part of her siblings, in a very real and tangible way.
Emotionally. Hudson is thought of and missed every single day, by me, by my husband, by family and friends.
We’re connected through wearable treasures like the one pictured above.
Even through facial hair.

When I’m pregnant again, I will probably think of Hudson with every kick from her baby bro or baby sis. I can’t wait for that truly visceral reminder of our beautiful baby girl, mixed with the hope and anticipation that is sure to come with the next addition to our family.

And in the meantime, I have some gorgeous jewelry and a husband with luscious face salad to remind me that our beautiful little girl is forever with us.

Count your blessings

It’s the day before Thanksgiving. I recall a much different kind of Thanksgiving last year – a secret-keeping, meaningful-glance-throwing Thanksgiving with the Dub clan, the Hubs and I both well aware we were expecting and trying to hide it from the rest of the gang.

This year will be much different.

We thought we’d have a baby by now.

A lifetime has passed. We’re different people. We were both there when our daughter was brought into the world. We were both there when our daughter left the world.

And this week, we are supposed to think about being thankful.

All over Facebook, people are doing this “Thankfulness” exercise, posting something they are thankful for every day. I missed the memo on this whole idea, but I do like the concept. Unfortunately, it has been a pretty emotional month – a hard one, to be frank. More friends are pregnant. The OtherDubs (Auntie K and Uncle M) are expecting a girl. It’s the first in a lifetime of holidays without our daughter. I have had a few really good cries – the puffy-eye kind. I want to be pregnant, and I’m not.

But we do need to give thanks, to count our blessings, and my number one blessing of 2012 was this: we had a beautiful baby girl this year. She died, but she was born and she was amazing and wonderful and her life taught me an important truth: This is all you get – this life, this day – and we should be thankful for and show our appreciation for all the blessings we are given in this moment. There is no time to waste.

I am thankful for our daughter. Everything is more important now, every person, every connection, every opportunity is different because of her.

I am thankful for my husband. Watching him love our daughter, seeing his strength as we’ve navigated this loss together, feeling his support in all the ways I’ve needed it, makes me realize what a once in a lifetime love we have. And I get to spend my life with this man. I am truly blessed.

I am thankful for my family. For a sister who runs with me, hugs me, gets nostalgic for the things we are missing but never in a way that sounds like whining. For a brother who is so sweet, who loved our girl so much that he wrote a poem for her (that I really need to post here), who plays a #3 golf ball inscribed with our daughter’s initials (“HRW”) in his tournaments. For a mother who prints off every single blog post, who shows up when I need her, who sells her photography to raise money for the Forget-Me-Not Foundation. For a father who texts me email-length notes about Hudson and football and love and politics, who keeps in touch with my father-in-law so they can talk grandpa-stuff, who always reminds me that I have the strength to handle this.

I am thankful that Uncle M and Auntie K are having a baby in March, a little girl who will bring so much joy to our family, a world of experiences we missed out on with Hudson. I can’t wait to meet her.

I am thankful for my in-laws. The concept of dreading a visit from the in-laws is completely foreign to me – I hit the jackpot in that department and my husband’s family is my own, a wonderful support system who raised such a gentleman for me to marry.

I am thankful for my dogs, for sunshine, for baked goods, for good books, for clothes that fit and for access to the Internet.

I am thankful for my body. What an amazing thing the human body is! I can run for miles after having a live human baby (almost 8 pounds!) pulled from a 6 1/2″ incision (I just measured) in my abdomen.

I am thankful that an elderly pediatrician was able to get my baby girl’s heart beating so that I could spend the best three days of my life with her.

I am thankful for time, for a future, for hope, for comments on my blog and for notes from people who never even met Hudson whose lives have been impacted by her story and ours.

I am thankful for my friends, this amazing group of people from different stages of my life who have stuck around as I’ve grown up, who have seen me in my wildest and my tamest of moments, who have listened through failed love stories and disliked people on my behalf, who let me talk about Hudson and ramble a stream-of-consciousness riff of emotion and never tune out, who let me feel how I need to feel and sometimes go there with me. These are the people I want in my children’s lives.

I am thankful for this moment. For the next. For five minutes and five years from now, if I am so lucky.

Count your blessings, one by one. You’ll find that life given you millions of things to be thankful for, and that your life is beautiful if you let it be.

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Feeding Hudson

When your baby is in the NICU, there are all sorts of physical changes that the mother goes through that just kind of get overlooked.

One of those changes is the breast milk coming in.

After a few days, it sort of hit me – at some point, my breast milk is going to come in and what do I do with it?

Hudson was being fed through a series of tubes, a bag of protein that looked like Mountain Dew and a syringe of fat. A few nurses in the antepartum area left me thinking that it’d be best to avoid pumping in order to shut off the milk as quickly as possible. I felt like it was an admission of defeat but didn’t want to argue.

I’m so grateful for the Hubs, who talked to our NICU nurse, who talked to the doctor, who told us that I’d be able to feed my colostrum and breast milk to Hudson with a Q-tip and save the excess for her to use later. If she wasn’t able to use it, I could donate it to the hospital for other babies.

The lactation specialist came to talk to me, and set me up with a breast pump and all the goods to “get things pumping”. She warned me that I’d probably only produce a few drops of colostrum the first time, but that whatever I was able to produce could be used.

I got a half an ounce.

I was so proud of that little jar of colostrum, “Liquid Gold”. I came back upstairs with my treasure, feeling a little weird about waving it around “Look what I can do!” The family and friends we had in the waiting room all were suitably impressed. Mothers who’d been through the breast feeding regime all oohed and ahhed and commented on how much that was, and I was proud of myself: I was born and bred to be this baby’s mom and provide for her in any way.

I couldn’t wait to get in to Hudson with my Liquid Gold. It was the first best part of that day.

Nurse A hooked me up with a Q-tip, told me to soak it, and once it was soaked I could rub it on Hudson’s lips, gums, tongue. I let that Q-tip soak much more than it probably needed to. Moms with cameras were summoned.

Soaking up that Liquid Gold

Hudson’s First Taste

Oh so gently, I rubbed the goody-soaked Q-tip on Hudson’s perfect little lips… careful to avoid the breathing tubes but trying to cover the entire surface area of her mouth. Her tiny, juicy tongue protruded just a little as I ran the Q-tip over it, stayed resting on her lips for a while after the feeding. I lingered perhaps a bit too long, wanting to savor every second, wanting Hudson to get every drop on that Q-tip.

I think she likes it!

The first best part of my day

I know that breastfeeding mothers form a special bond with their baby as they feed them. While I was never able to hold Hudson’s face to my breast and feed her the way a mother should, the moments when I was able to bend over my beautiful daughter with a few drops of colostrum were some of my most personally fulfilling and special memories in the three short days I was blessed to be Hudson’s mommy.

I pumped two more times that day, yielding 1.5 ounces the second time and having to switch bottles from one side to the other for risk of overflowing. The third time I pumped, I got 2 ounces of colostrum!

Too much information? I don’t know that I care – these were proud moments in my brief days as a mommy, and I want to brag a little, to remember every detail.

Pumping was a bonding time for me and the Hubs, too. I married such an incredibly supportive and thoughtful and wonderful man, who went out of his way to help me experience just a fraction of what every mommy should. Feeding our daughter was a privilege I’m so glad I got to enjoy, but I think it was satisfying for my husband too.

Later that evening I got to feed Hudson again. I’m pretty sure I “milked” that second feeding too, drawing it out more than probably necessary, exhausting that Q-tip and hovering over our daughter’s precious little mouth longer than I needed to.

Friday with Hudson was the best day, filled with memories that I cling to and cherish when her absence hurts my heart and makes it hard to breathe.

She gave a little shiver after the feeding, like, “Mmm that was GOOOOD!”

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This world is not my home…

When I was in high school, we used to sing this song during chapel.

This world is not my home, I’m just a’passin’ through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door (golden shore?)
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

A few years ago, a very close friend of mine lost her baby. She was about 7 months pregnant with her first child when they discovered that their baby girl didn’t have a heartbeat. My friend had to be induced and go through the whole labor and delivery process knowing there wasn’t going to be a baby to bring home.

As is so often the case with bad news, I got the news on Facebook. After texting my dear friend my condolences (meager comfort though they may be), I posted my own thoughts on the inter-webs. I posted:

This world is not my home.

A few short weeks before we had Hudson, I met up with a fellow pregger friend for some fro-yo. We hugged, I gave her a little gift (some maternity clothes I thought would come in handy), and she apologized for missing my baby shower. She had just found out that their baby had a heart defect, that the little guy would need to have heart surgery within the first year of his life. I remember being flabbergasted, driving home and thinking in the car “This world is not my home.”

Then we had Hudson, and she died.

I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

Don’t you think there has to be something more? Even though I’m a little ticked off at God for letting this happen to us, for not answering our prayers, this experience has actually made me believe in God more. This world can not be all we get. We so easily become complacent with our lives – maybe we aren’t “living the dream,” but we aren’t sick, poor, destitute, we might even be pretty comfortable, getting to do the things we want when we want, happy with our spouse, good friends, good family. So we think “This world is alright.”

And then something really effed up happens, and we remember that this world is NOT alright, that something is very very wrong with our world when parents have to bury their children, not to mention the horrors that happen in other countries, the lack of civil liberties experienced in other cultures, the just-plain-evil exhibited in the name of religion or freedom or some other “noble” cause. The death of our daughter was enough to make me seriously contemplate holing up in our house and waiting for “End Times” (as my husband calls the Apocalypse).

But the life of our daughter was so amazing, beautiful, an overwhelming flood of good feelings, proud feelings, love feelings… this world is not alright, but so much beauty can still survive in such an ugly place.

My friend who lost her baby late in pregnancy ended up getting pregnant within a year with baby #2, a beautiful healthy little boy, one of the prettiest babies I’ve ever seen. My friend whose baby boy has a heart defect has made it through the scariest stages of his early life, and he’s recovering from his surgery nicely, surrounded by loving family and incredible prayers.

Horrible things happen in this world, but beautiful, wonderful things happen in this world, too. Redemptive things. Cathartic things.

This world is not my home, but I do have to live in this world.

And I will make this world more beautiful.

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Choked up

Today I took my niece to school.

My niece (my brother’s daughter) is nine years old, and she’s lovely, a stylish and fun and smart little one with thick, dirty blonde hair and high-high top (like, knee high!) Converse tennies. The crayon drawing in Hudson’s bed at the hospital? That’s my niece’s artwork.

“Love Hudson” – art by my niece, NAS

I got to make her scrambled eggs and talk to her about school and gymnastics and Thanksgiving break, and then we piled into my car and I took her to school. As I was slow-creeping through the parking lot behind other carfulls of kids ready for school, I thought back to just over a year ago, before I was pregnant, the last time I took my niece to school.

I remember thinking to myself last September, “This is going to be fun to do someday… take my kids to school.”

And today I realized that I’ll never get to take Hudson to school.

I mean, I’ve realized a lot of things that I’ll never get to do with Hudson, do for Hudson, see Hudson do. But for whatever reason, dropping off my sweet, stylish niece today made my heart hurt a little bit for all the things I wish I were doing, all the things I wish I were looking forward to, all the ways I’ll never get to see our daughter grow up.

So when we pulled up to the curb, I took off my seatbelt and gave my niece a too-tight hug, and told her I loved her and encouraged her to have a great day, and once she got out I let myself cry.

Don’t take a single thing for granted. What you might think of as a mundane, trivial daily chore is the same thing that makes a grown woman choke up in a grade school parking lot, slow-creeping over the speed bumps, stopping for the little 3rd grade flagger, wishing for a world of experiences she’ll never have.

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I’m going to be an auntie…

…and it’s a girl.

Today my sister in law called to tell me that she and Uncle M are going to have a girl in March.

I had expected it to be hard.

I mean, one way or another, I think it would have been hard news for me. Them having a baby so soon after we lost Hudson is just sucky and hard, but also wonderful, and not their fault at all.

But they’re having a girl, the nail in the “Hard Times” coffin.

I spent the day making a cake with my other sisters-in-law. Cake-making and delicious wine.

Because for now, I can have cake and wine.

All day I knew that Auntie K was finding out today: Boy or Girl. And all day I thought to myself, with a fair amount of certainty:

“It’s a boy.”

I thought this because I thought it was going to be harder for me if they were having a girl. And I let myself think those thoughts because I was so confident that they’d never know that I felt that way because it would be a boy, no problemo, no questions asked, wipe the brow, whew.

Except that it is a girl.

Their appointment was late in the afternoon, and after a few glasses of wine (and a few bites of delicious cake), my sister-in-law blurts out: “Why hasn’t K called yet? They know RIGHT NOW!”

It wasn’t but a few moments later that the phone rang. Auntie K called me to share the news. I think I knew when I answered the phone:

It’s a girl.

I spent the entire drive home probing and prodding at the darkest recesses of my psyche, trying to get choked up, trying to let myself be unabashedly upset about the news.

I couldn’t get there. I was just empty. Upon further diagnosis, I realized:

This is not harder for me because they are having a girl. This is just hard.

I am thrilled for them, and I would have been thrilled for them one way or the other, in this life and certainly even more so in another life, with other circumstances and our healthy four-month-old girl.

What has me heartbroken tonight is the fact that I cannot appreciate this news with the reckless abandon it deserves. Our shitty situation taints everything else.

This baby deserves better. My family deserves better. I want so badly to be “cool”, to be unhindered and thrilled. I know that if I were reclusive and weird and sad about it, the entire Dub clan would understand, and be wonderful about it. Instead of being thrilled for a baby girl cousin for Hudson, I am in this awkward, sad, uncomfortable and apologetic place. And I want so badly to do or say something that could make this all guilt-free happy for everybody.

Sure, Uncle M and Auntie K having a girl is going to be a more concrete reminder of the things we are missing: bows and ribbons and frills and pink-tones and cuteness. But wardrobe aside, they are having a baby and we don’t have ours, and that is what is hard.

I want so badly for my brother and sister-in-law to be able to experience this pregnancy in a different way. I know they will be incredible parents. They are amazing people.

I wish there was a way for us to isolate our hurt. To set aside our loss. To take our pain, to take baby Hudson, and keep her all to ourselves. Hudson should only make our lives more full, but especially today, it feels like we are so very painfully aware of all we have lost.

I love my family so, so much. I wish for them all the fullness and joy that can be experienced in this life. So today, I feel guilty and helpless and hopeless and sad.

But I also feel this incredible happiness (however bittersweet) that we are going to meet a niece in March. She’ll be a beautiful little girl, and she’ll be welcomed into such a loving home, surrounded by so many affectionate Aunties and Uncles, a Grandma and Grandpa who will dote on her like crazy. Her daddy will be wrapped around her little finger. Her mommy will be so craft-tastic in the next 20 weeks that she will have no shortage of homemade, girly treasures. Her Uncle (the Hubs) will be hopeless against her charms. And her Auntie (me) will do her best to set a good example, to be the “fun aunt” without spoiling her (okay maybe just a little spoiling), to take her on adventures and give her her first caffeinated beverage and maybe teach her how to play the piano.

And so for the next 20 weeks (give or take), and really for the rest of our lives, I am focusing on the ways this baby girl will make life more beautiful and wonderful. I’ve truly felt that God has revealed himself to me through the people in our lives, and this new little person will be no different, a tiny little revelation of God on earth. She’ll be beautiful, and loved, and full of potential, the dawn of a hopeful new time for our family. She’ll be spunk and wit and gooey smiles, cute outfits and handmade quilts and willful spirit. She’ll be her own amazing person.

And until then, on the hardest days, I have cake and wine.

Chocolate Cake

The cake: delicious!

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Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope posting – Hudson’s story

This weekend, the Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope website published Hudson’s story. I’m including it here, but I encourage you to check out their site and give some love to the other women who are bravely sharing their stories.

It is hard to believe that the best days of your life can be the worst days of your life.

The best days of my life were the three days that I got to be a mommy to Hudson Ruth Walter.

Baby Dub was born at 3:50 am on July 11, at the 41 week mark. She weighed 7 lbs. 14 oz. and measured 20 1/2 inches, and she had a full head of hair. Long, red hair.

Baby Dub was born without a heartbeat and had to be resuscitated. After getting a heartbeat going, Hudson was flown to Sacred Heart in Spokane, Washington.

Not even 2 hours old, and already Baby Dub was having adventures on a helicopter.

I got to see her for about 60 seconds before they flew her off to Spokane. Daddy Dub followed quickly but I had to stay in the hospital because I had just had a Cesarean Section and evidently you don’t just hop on the helicopter after one of those.

Hudson didn’t need much time to make you fall in love with her. A perfect little nose (we’re sure from her mommy), huge hands and feet, her daddy’s mouth, and that full head of luscious red hair did everybody in. One NICU nurse commented upon meeting her, “You could put a barrette in there!”

While Daddy Dub traveled to Spokane, I was stuck in Walla Walla with strict instructions to sleep and recover so I could travel the next day to be with our baby girl. I slept from about 6-10 o’clock, when Daddy Dub called from the road to tell me that the doctor at Sacred Heart had called already.

He and another doctor were working hard on Hudson, but she was very sick. Details were best discussed in person, but he wanted to let our daughter’s Daddy know that she’d made it and they were on the case.

Around 11, I got a call from one of the Doctors at Sacred Heart who gave me more of an update on Hudson. Our daughter was without oxygen for a significant period, and the main concern (among many concerns) was brain activity. Damage to the brain from such a significant event could be substantial. She may not have enough brain function to live on her own.

The plan was to undergo a cooling process for 72 hours. They’d keep Hudson’s body temperature around 33 degrees Celsius for three days. The doctor explained to me that there are three types of brain cells – the ones that would recover on their own, the ones that don’t ever recover, and the ones that can benefit from the cooling process and might recover. We were targeting those with the cooling process. He didn’t paint a very positive picture. It wasn’t his job to.

At around 12:30, my father-in-law called my mom and said they were starting a process over at Sacred Heart to get me there that day instead of waiting for the next day. I am so grateful for that phone call. It was agonizing being stuck in Walla Walla, and the moments I got to spend with our daughter were so precious. I would give anything for just a few more minutes. I got an extra couple of hours on that day.

So after much hubbub, I got in the ambulance and embarked on the 3+ hour drive to Spokane. How it took so long I don’t know… don’t ambulances get to go faster than other cars on the road? I tried to sleep but couldn’t. As I told the Hubs via text, the ambulance was the medical equivalent of a Vegas Hot Trolley – a rattling tin can that couldn’t get under 80 degrees even with the air conditioning on full blast. But it was taking me to my daughter and my husband, and I couldn’t wait.

We arrived at Sacred Heart around 7:45 and spent a little time trying to figure out how to get me to my room, but once I got there and got checked in, I was able to go see our baby girl, for reals this time, not through the haze of general anesthesia and a night of difficult labor.

She is perfect. I don’t want to take my eyes off of her. I can’t believe we made her, and then again I can. A full, cone-shaped head of hair is the first thing you notice, and you can’t help but wonder where all of it came from. So much, so thick, curly, and RED! It never escaped comment, our daughter’s head of hair, the mystery behind it all a part of the legend that is Hudson. Her nose is tiny and perfect and we all agree is mine. Chubby cheeks, the same cheeks we fell in love with at our 36 week ultrasound. She has soft, arching eyebrows, a light blond, and let’s face it, if you look close enough her hairline extends down to her eyebrows but you have to look really close. A little point of wispy white-blonde hair sticks up off the tip of each of her ears. How can ears be so perfect? They’re not Shrek-like at all, but perfectly round with soft lobes, the ultimate kissable ear (I just wanted to nibble on each one!). Her arms have fuzzy hair all over them, especially the fleshy part of her shoulders, like those Italian construction workers you see getting questioned in episodes of “Law and Order”. Her eyes are closed, and gel seals them so they don’t get dry, but even with a coating of clear gel I can see that she has long, curly blond eyelashes, oh those lashes would get us into trouble, I bet. When the doctor examines her eyes later, I can see that they’re a deep, soft blue. She has a broad chest, with a tiny bruise in the center from doctors performing CPR. I can’t see her mouth very well – ventilator tubes keep most of her mouth covered up, but her little tongue sticks out a bit and her bottom lip is oh so soft. Her legs are chubby (Great Grandma R commented that she had her mommy’s thighs… what’s that supposed to mean?), bent at the knees with her heels tucked in towards her crotch and I imagine how she probably had these same contortionists tendencies when she was in my belly. I have to take off one of the Red Sox socks the Hubs has put on her feet, so I can count her toes.

She’s got it all. And then some. She’s perfection, every little piece of her is a part of me and a part of her daddy, so you know she has to be strong.

I wanted to pick her up, tubes and wires and all, and squeeze her close. Holding my daughter is an ache in my chest that won’t go away, a yearning I never got to satisfy fully, a feels-so-right that I got to experience so briefly it is an injustice. No mommy should go three days before she gets to hold her baby. And no mommy should have to hold her baby as her heartbeat slows to a stop.

That first night with Hudson was a series of questions, doubts, frustrations, what-ifs and what-is-thats. As the obstacles facing Baby Dub began to create a more clear picture, I tried to pick out the hopeful bits to cling to. I dig deep into my faithstores, I pray fervently, I repaint the picture in my head when it gets too bleak. We are looking at a perfectly formed treasure, her brain needs some time on ice but maybe, just maybe-definitely, a miracle is taking place in there.

I need to believe in miracles. Even more so today than on the brief days that made up Hudson’s precious life.

Hudson died just a few hours before the cooling process was supposed to end. I am so very glad that the Hubs and I were with her when her heart rate shot up and then drastically dropped. The nurse on duty quickly sprung into action as I scrambled to get out of the way. I remember the nurse pleading with Hudson, “Oh no you don’t”… turning to the Hubs and I “If we can’t stabilize her you two will have to decide if you want us to resuscitate”, I remember clinging to the Hubs, unbelieving, “This isn’t real, right? This is one of those horrible dreams and I’ll start awake at any moment”. Somehow in all that we let Hudson make the call, and she was removed from all the tubes and wires and handed to her mommy and daddy to die in our loving arms while Grandpa Dub went to call the family.

I don’t know how long we stayed in the room and held our baby. Seeing her face for the first time unencumbered by the breathing tube, holding all 9+ pounds of her (she’d gained two pounds in fluids over the past three days), swaddling her and singing to her and weeping with her daddy, both of us telling her how proud we were of her and how thankful we were that she gave us the time we got. It felt so good to hold her to my shoulder – like a missing piece of me had been found, only to be lost again.

After minutes, hours, years, we looked at each other and realized we had to face our family, who had all been rousted from their middle of the night slumber to come be with us in our grief. The nurse escorted us to a chaplin’s room, through the hallway where our entire family was waiting and I made this somber deathwalk, leaning on my husband and clutching our baby to my shoulder and trying not to make eye contact with anybody as we walked past. Once we were situated in the room, our immediate family was brought in first. Grandmas, Grandpas, Aunties and Uncles, then close friends who are like family all wordlessly wept with us.

This is the injustice of our world – that parents sometimes outlive their children, that grandparents live to see their children lose their children, that a joy like new life should ever be turned this horrific 180.

Finally, the night’s grief led to a heavy exhaustion, I’d cried through every bit of moisture in my body and it was time to let go of Hudson. I didn’t want anybody to see her face, pale and splotchy and lifeless, nothing like the precious yet ever-changing face I had fallen in love with over the past 3 days, 9 months, lifetime.

The nurse urged me to let the family hold her, “They need this.” I didn’t care, nothing mattered except what I wanted, what we needed, and we needed our baby to be alive. Since we didn’t get that, I was adamant about this: I didn’t want my family to see our baby looking so not like our baby.

The nurse laid off me a little bit, then offered to take some pictures of Hudson. This seemed macabre to me, and I refused again. But this time, the nurse was the one who was adamant. “Trust me, later you’ll want any picture you can get of her. Let me do this for you.”

She was right. When all you have left are pictures of your baby, you are grateful for every single one… even if it doesn’t look like who you made.

“Do you have some clothes that you brought for her?”

Through my weak and broken voice:  “We brought some stuff for her, a lot of outfits, some of them were for if she was born on the 4th of July” I blubbered.

“Whatever you brought for her, those are Hudson’s clothes. You’ll be happy you have these…”

We left the nurse with our baby and our overnight bag full of baby clothes and we went to bed and stared wordlessly at each other. It seems impossible to go to sleep when your life is this nightmare… but sleep came more quickly than I had anticipated and then all of a sudden it was morning and yes, this was real, yes, our baby died. There is a printed rose on our room’s door so people know to be gentle with you when they walk in to take your temperature, talk to you about your options.

The amazing social worker from the Forget-Me-Not Foundation came to see us and offered to get us a few lockets of Hudson’s incredible hair. She offered to dress her and bring her to the “Angel Room” for our family to see her and hold her. What had seemed like a horrible idea the night before seemed like an amazing gift in the morning, and of course we said yes, please let us all see her again. The photographer that had been with us the day before had volunteered to come take more pictures of Hudson and we wanted that too.

I showered, put on some of the clothes my wonderful sisters-in-law had gone to get me since our stay in the hospital had proved to be so much longer than we had anticipated. I brushed my hair, even put my contacts in (despite them being foggy from the previous night’s tears). We walked out to brave our family and friends yet again. I remember a friend of my sister’s was there, someone I’d known a bit in college, who was pregnant with her second baby, dressed in black, tears in her eyes, and I remembered thinking how lucky she was to be pregnant as I made brief eye contact with her.

We got to be the first in the Angel Room with Hudson and there she was, our beautiful, stunning baby dressed in her “going home” outfit, the adorable grey and white zebra print onesie with the lime green flower, wrapped in the soft purple blanket with the silky polka dot trim that her aunties had bought for her, sporting the white flowered headband that her other aunties had made in anticipation of the professional photographer’s arrival the previous day.

There has never been a more beautiful person, and we made her. A series of miracles all culminated in this amazing little body, this bundle of nerves and cells and this amazing mesh of my husband and me in new-human form. Even though I knew she was no longer there, the physical evidence of her struck me, “This is still something that we made.” Touching her skin, holding her and feeling her weight once again, it didn’t feel off or wrong at all. Holding your baby is the absolute best feeling.

The social worker encouraged us to take our time. We could stay as long as we liked, stay with Hudson in our room even. She said people had kept their babies in the room with them for days after their death.

But for us, it was time to go home and pick up the pieces.

We were given the opportunity to donate Hudson’s heart valves, and jumped at the chance. I stayed on at the hospital to answer a series of questions a kind-voiced man calling from the organ donation center asked: “Have you and/or Hudson been to Zimbabwe since 1979?”  An overly talkative nurse with a wonky eye came to remove the staples from my C-section incision. She told me of her 5 miscarriages, her two successful deliveries, how she’d donated her breastmilk, on and on and on she went, I’m sure trying to find just the right story to tell me that would make me feel better.

And then we left. The sunlight after three days spent in the hospital seared my cried-out eyeballs. I felt nauseous, like the worst hangover ever.

On the drive home, we talked, and were silent, we cried, and stared blankly. We rallied against the universe. We questioned the existence of God. Somehow in all the possibilities, we hadn’t even considered the possibility that we would go home without our baby. We talked about how beautiful our daughter was. I mean, seriously the most gorgeous baby ever made, and we were the ones who made her.

At one point, my husband blurted out, “How do we not have a baby right now?”

I didn’t have an answer.

After one particularly prolonged silence, my husband smiled silently to himself. When I asked him what he was thinking, he said:

“I was just thinking how glad I am that people who don’t even know us can tell how much we love each other.”

I fell a little more in love with my husband right then. I am thankful for him every single day. I’ll never forget how proud I was of our love in that moment in the car. We are fortunate to have each other.

We are also fortunate to have such an incredible family. Our parents were with us, our siblings and friends, a cadre of Hudson Fans surrounded her with love from the very first moments of her life through to the very last moments which came all too soon.

Today, this same support system has formed “Team Hudson’s Heroes“.

So many people fell in love with Hudson – from the nurses who cared for her to people who never met her and even people who don’t know me. We created one charismatic little human. And although losing her was the most devastating experience I’ve ever had to face, having her was the proudest accomplishment of my life. Having Hudson taught me a new level of love. It made me realize how full life is and also how terribly empty. She made me realize that life is too short to take a single second for granted.

Hudson is forever a part of our family, her pictures proudly displayed on Momma Sue’s wall in the biggest size Costco’s Photo Center can print.

Hudson made me a Mommy, the job I covet now more than any other occupation I’ve ever dreamed of (movie star! Broadway actress! Missionary Veterinarian!).

And so, yes. The worst days of your life can also be the best. Life can become more full despite a devastating loss. The loss of a child creates a strange dichotomy of your “Real Life”, where dwelling in the positive half is the key to survival (and truly, this is all about the reality you choose). And despite some really bad bad days, we’re slowly finding it easier to live in the “Positive Place”, anxiously awaiting the arrival of a brother or sister for Hudson, eagerly looking forward to a really gross diaper change, ready to tackle that journey all over again because even though we lost Hudson, I’ll never, ever regret having her.

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Team Hudson’s Heroes takes to the streets once more

My sweet cousin Katie and my childhood friend Raelynn helped to spearhead the SoCal chapter of Team Hudson’s Heroes in their first run last weekend, the San Diego Color Run. For those of you who missed it, we started Team Hudson’s Heroes at the Portland Color Run and had an incredibly amazing time with friends and family.

It is, after all, “The Happiest 5K on the Planet.” However you do the trademark sign.

My sweet friend Britt and her aunt participated, my cousins, aunt, uncle, people I don’t even know proudly wore Hudson’s feet and ran, maybe walked, jogged (yogged? “I think it’s a soft j“) maybe slogged (Slow Jog). I’m so honored. I’m so blessed. Our sweet daughter continue to makes an impact.

Check out Katie’s pictures and post here.

Here’s a pic Katie texted to me of her and her sweet little family, hubby Charlie and baby girl Karis. Diggin’ the Hudson’s Heroes onesie, girl!

 

I’m going to need to get some of those cute onesies made for all Hudson’s little baby pals. And some long sleeved shirts for winter racing! Hudson’s Heroes apparel for everybody.

P.S. You can purchase your own Hudson’s Heroes tee for $15. Let me know if you want in.

Bottom line: we have such an amazing family. Already Hudson’s Heroes teeshirts are responsible for raising over $700 for the Forget-Me-Not Foundation, and I know that is making a huge difference in the lives of other families facing similar tragedies.

God shows Himself in the acts of these amazing people.

There are no words.

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