Category Archives: Memories

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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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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Hudson’s Heart

The first time I heard our daughter’s heartbeat, at just 9 weeks along, I cried.

Our little bean had a strong, racing heart beat. We didn’t know if we were having a boy or girl, we didn’t know how much hair or what color of eyes Baby Dub would have, we just knew Baby Dub was strong, alive and kicking.

Every time we went in to see the doctor after that, we got to listen to our baby’s heart beat. I looked forward to hearing that telltale thump-thump through the Doppler, the proof that all the “hard work” I was doing was paying off.

Towards the end of our pregnancy, working with less room in the uterus, Hudson tended to lean a little to the right. I could feel her back along my right side, feel her kicks and punches on the left. And her heart was right there by my belly button, on the right side, the “Sweet Spot”, as Doctor K put it.

When I went into labor, one of the monitors they strapped on to me was to monitor Hudson’s heartbeat. Throughout labor, breathing through contractions, I could focus on the thump-thump of our daughter’s heartbeat, so strong and steady and reassuring and THERE.

But as labor got complicated and two hours of pushing yielded no results, Hudson’s heart started to falter. The sounds of our daughter’s distress were there in her heartbeat. And as they wheeled me downstairs for an emergency C-Section, and I faded into the haze of general anesthesia, I stayed focused on that heartbeat. Was it still there? Less regular, slower, but there… right?

Our daughter was born without a heartbeat. But she was born, and thanks to the hard work of a team of doctors, her heart started beating at a solid 150, and we were given the three beautiful days of Hudson’s life that made me a mommy, made The Hubs a daddy, and made me realize how much is missing in a life without our baby.

Every time we went in to visit Hudson at the NICU, I checked her vitals repeatedly on the monitor. Heart Rate was always high – somewhere between 130 and 135, but there, steady, every time. The oxygenation of her blood would oscillate, or her blood pressure, but that heartrate was steady and solid every time.

While the Hubs was stuck in Spokane without me, a woman came to visit from an organization that helped families create memories with their seriously ill children. The first thing they did was record Hudson’s heartbeat on a little box that was then placed inside of a stuffed bear. You can hear her heart, and you can hear her daddy sniffle in the background. I want to squeeze that bear every minute, to hear our daughter’s heart beat again.

Even more, I want our daughter’s heart to beat.

The night our daughter passed away, we decided to spend as much time with her as possible. The rewarming process was supposed to start at 7 am on Saturday morning, and we knew it was going to be a rough day for Hudson, so we wanted to cherish as many moments with her as we could. It was late, my feet were swollen, and our night nurse had set me up with a reclining chair and some pillows to get my feet up, and I was nodding off. The Hubs was staring at her vitals monitor. All of a sudden the monitor made it’s telltale “Something’s Wrong” sound and Hudson’s heartrate shot up to 180 and then dropped to 90.

Just like that, our daughter was making all the tough decisions for us. We stepped aside, let the doctors and nurses get to Hudson, knowing that these were our last moments with our baby. The Doctor asked us if we wanted to hold her without her ventilator and the choice was made – let our baby be in peace, hold her without any tubes or wires, say goodbye to our precious baby, let her heart stop beating.

As we sobbed and held our baby close, the doctor had to come check for a heartbeat periodically. The first check, she had a faint heartbeat. Knowing she was still there, we sang to our baby girl “With Hudson in the family, happy happy home.” I held her face close to mine and told her all the ways I was proud to be her mommy, how precious she’d made the last three days.

Another check from the doctor. Same, faint heart beat. We sang another song, swaddled our baby in her silky purple blanket, held her tighter, ran our hands through her legendary hair.

Third check. No heart beat. Our baby was gone.

The next morning, after a few hours of fitful sleep, a nurse came to speak to the Hubs and I. Hudson was eligible to donate her heart valves. Would we be willing?

Our daughter’s entire life was a miracle, from that first heartbeat to the last. And now, her heart valves might be a miracle for somebody else’s miracle baby, and somebody else might be able to take their baby home because of our daughter’s amazing heart.

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Bath time is the best time

A friend of the Hubs, in discussing having kids and babies and what-not, told him:

“Bath time is the best time.”

He wasn’t kidding.

The night that Hudson passed away, the night nurse let the Hubs and I give her a bath.

This is the best thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. The most fun I could ever imagine. Sign me up for another, please. Bath time is the best time.

For the first time since Hudson was born, we got to touch our daughter, to cover every little perfectly-formed inch of her. For days I’d ached to hold our baby, and this was as close as I’d been. Together, the Hubs and I took turns washing and drying our baby’s hands, her perfect little wrinkly arm pits, her hairy-tufted shoulders, her folds of neck fat (Oh how I cherish those little folds). We got to turn her on her side and rub her back, we got to take off her little diaper and clean her adorable butt (“Front to back!” Zeb was paying attention in birthing class). We fought over who got to change the first diaper – we ended up doing it together. We were careful to get behind her ears (oh those ears were so perfect and soft and round). Her tiny toes needed extra attention to get the ink off from the footprint fun earlier in the day. Her pudgy little thighs were next, and Mommy was careful to get the backs of those darling knees. And then we got to take a soapy washcloth to our daughter’s gorgeous head of hair – oh man, I know 1 year olds who don’t come close to having as much hair as Hudson.  I never wanted the bath to end.

Next, we got the baby lotion. We warmed it in our hands before carefully caressing it into Hudson’s  hands, bruised and swollen from IVs and fluids. Then her feet, wrinkly and just a little bit cracked, each little piggy getting special attention from Mommy and Daddy. Her back got a baby lotion massage, oh how I treasured the chance to touch her back and feel her soft skin and explore this previously unchartered territory and look for freckles. We discovered a freckle on her left thigh, right beneath where her diaper stopped covering. And then we massaged the baby lotion into Hudson’s hair, both of us eager to get our hands on that head of hair again, both of us a little timid about rubbing too hard on her soft little noggin, both of us in love with our daughter and in love with the experience and in love with each other and in love with being Hudson’s Mommy and Daddy.

No bath toys. No tub. No hooded towel that looks like an animal of some sort. No pajamas afterward.

But the best time I’ve ever had.

I know Hudson loved it too. Earlier in the day, we did hand and foot molds and had a photographer come take pictures of Hudson too. Throughout these moments Hudson’s vitals oscillated and you could tell she was a little stressed out.

Not during bath time. Her vitals were steady and strong. I think Hudson was just as hungry for Mommy and Daddy’s loving touch as we were to give it to her. I was dying to touch and hold my baby. If I could have held her to my chest and somehow kept her body at 33 degrees Celsius I would have done it. I would have held her until my arms fell off.

New Baby Smell

Hudson smelled like cinnamon.

I think it was the stuff used to keep her ventilator tubes in.

But I like to think it is just her spicy saucy self in aroma form.

There is nothing like new baby smell. Our precious little girl never blessed us with a dirty diaper to change, so we didn’t get any grody smells, only cinnamon, and the baby lotion smell. She smelled better than anything.

We have a little baggie of some of Hudson’s clothes that a nurse put her in after she passed away. The nurse wrote on the baggie “Hudson’s clothes smell like her from her loving bath.”

I don’t want to open the bag and let the smell out.

Her Red Sox socks smell like her too.

I love the way our baby smells.

There are times in my life that are brought back by smells. Highschool adventures, the summer after I graduated college, the weeks when the Hubs and I first started falling for each other, all are memories that come rushing back to me when I catch a whiff of coconut oil, day-old coffee, stale beer.

Cinnamon. Baby Lotion. Flowers. Hand soap.

Hudson-smells are the best. I am thinking of her nearly all the time, so smells can’t really bring the memories rushing back yet… but later, when the wounds have healed a little more, when Hudson memories aren’t so burned in the back of my eyeballs, maybe I’ll toss a teaspoon of cinnamon into a recipe and be flooded with the memory of the first time the nurses let down the side of her bed so that I could lean in and kiss her precious forehead.

Singing to Hudson

Hudson’s Favorite Songs:

“With Hudson in the Family, happy happy home… happy happy home… happy happy home…”
“Jesus Loves Me”
“Rock Rock Rock”
“1,2,3 Jesus Loves Me”
“The Little ones like Me Me Me”

Mommy’s favorite thing:

Singing to Hudson

The first time I sang to Hudson, I tried to choke out a “Jesus Loves Me.” I could only whisper the words close to her ear. As I got better, I was able to sing most songs without crying or choking up. My Grandma helped me get my voice back.

My Grandma (Great Grandma R) arrived to visit Hudson on Friday. I asked her how the drive was, and was alarmed to learn that she’d made what should be a 6-7 hour drive in just 5 hours. I asked if she listened to books on tape or something to keep her awake (and keep the foot on the gas). Her response:

“No. I sing.”

Thank goodness Great Grandma R was there! I immediately enlisted her help so we could sing to Hudson together!

My Grandma has as low, sweet voice. No high notes to squeak out with Great Grandma R kicking us off. Together with my mom and my grandma, I was able to sing some of my childhood favorites to my daughter, without crying.

From then on, I didn’t hesitate to pick up a tune and sing to my daughter. It provided the perfect opportunity to get close to her sweet face and give kisses between stanzas.

Reading to Hudson

We decided it was time to keep Hudson entertained with more than just our stories and whispered sweet nothings, so Grandma and Grandpa Shiz went to the store and picked up an assortment of children’s books so we could read to her.

From Dr. Seuss to Bedtime Stories to How do you Hug a Porcupine? we had a grand assortment of literature to read to our precious baby girl.

I treasure the memories of reading to Hudson. The first story, I struggled occasionally to get through parts, and not because “Pokey the Puppy” is a real tear jerker. I kept thinking how badly I wanted to be reading the story to Hudson in her crib or in the rocker in her room, not in a hospital bed with no idea how many more stories I’d get to read to her. The Hubs and I took turns reading, and doing voices, and occasionally ad libbing and making comments to each other (“This Pokey the Puppy seems like a bad character, Hudson. Don’t take your life lessons from Pokey the Puppy.”).

Occasionally, a line or two would make me clench up, but I got pretty good at getting through each story without losing too much steam.

I cherish every story we read to our daughter. I cherish the memories of taking turns reading with the Hubs, of listening to Auntie Shiz reading the Wacky Wednesday story and smiling at her animated rendition. Holding Hudson’s tiny hand or cradling her sweet head in my palm while regaling her with a tale of what I’d do with Duck Feet… These are some of my absolute favorite moments with Hudson, and I can’t think of what I wouldn’t give to read to her about Pokey the Puppy and his horrible siblings just one more time.

Even though it would have taught her nothing useful.

Things said at our daughter’s memorial

Here’s a poem our friend MStu read, because I wasn’t sure I could choke it out. I don’t know the author and I don’t know the poem’s name, so if somebody wants to help me give credit where credit is due on this, I’d appreciate it.

I thought of you with love today, but that is nothing new.
I thought about you yesterday and the day before that too.
I think of you in silence. I often say your name.
But all I have are memories and your picture in a frame.

Your memory is my keepsake, with which I’ll never part.
God has you in His keeping. I have you in my heart.
I shed tears for what might have been. A million times I’ve cried.
If love alone could have saved you, you never would have died.

In life I loved you dearly. In death I love you still.
In my heart you hold a place no one can ever fill.
It broke my heart to lose you but you didn’t go alone
for part of me went with you, the day God took you home.

The world may never notice if a rosebud doesn’t bloom
or even pause to wonder if the petals fall too soon
but every life that ever forms or ever comes to be
touches the world in some small way for all eternity.

The little one we longed for was swiftly here and gone
but the love that was then planted is a light that still shines on
and though our arms are empty our hearts know what to do
every beating of our heart says

We will remember you.

Pictures you haven’t seen

I’m getting to the point where my memories of what our beautiful daughter looked like are memorized photographs. So when I see a new picture of Hudson, it’s a new memory to file away, another side of our baby girl… what I wouldn’t give to have a movie of her entire three days of life so I could replay it over and over.

Today I saw three pictures of Baby Dub that were taken with my camera within an hour of her birth.

What a beautiful baby we made.

One of Hudson, sprawled out in the nursery at the hospital she was born in. Two of Hudson and the Hubs, that a nurse took, probably, where I can see the emotion on my husband’s face as he is falling even more in love with this beautiful person.

New pictures of Hudson are new memories of our daughter, a sad substitute for making real, “in real life” memories with our baby girl, but it is what I have right now so I’ll take it.

Hudson’s Feet

Hudson's Feet

Truer words…

One of the most precious memories I have in the three days we got to spend with our daughter is the time we spent making her footprints.

We had two day nurses, M and E, who were integral in getting me over to Spokane sooner and who made that first day in the hospital for the Hubs tolerable. And M made the call one afternoon to do footprints.

We got to ink up her huge baby feet, press them on a few different pieces of paper, making sure to get every toe and every little wrinkle to translate from her foot to the paper.

M announced: “I do foot tattoos, too.”

This brought the masses to Hudson’s bedside. Everybody was clamoring to get a Hudson foot tattoo, starting with Daddy, who got it pressed to his forearm. Mommy next, pressing an inked foot to her own forearm, maybe the only tattoo I’d ever want. I can still see her little foot very faintly inked to my left forearm, trace the outline of our daughter’s abnormally large little “gunboat” (she takes after her momma with big feet).

Grandpas and grandmas and aunties and uncles and friends all came in to get a Hudson foot tattoo. Our buddy MStu, who is particularly hairy, came in for one, and Uncle M commented “Ooooh might need to go lower back!” My sister got Hudson’s foot tattooed to her right upper arm and posted the picture of it to Facebook with the words “Hudson Power!”

It really is the ultimate in fandome to want to have another person’s body parts tattooed on yourself, and Hudson had a lot of fans.

The last full day we spent with Hudson, we made a little model magic clay heart with the imprints of Hudson’s feet in it. It shows up better if you ink the feet, so we obliged, and Daddy Dub re-inked his foot tattoo.

The cooling process made it difficult for us to tell what kind of awareness Hudson had of her outside surroundings. I know Hudson knew I was her mommy, and that the Hubs was her daddy. One of the things that never failed to get a reaction out of Hudson was running my hands across the soles of her tiny-huge baby feet. She’d curl her toes and pull her legs back, “Eww that tickles!” Her precious little tootsies got a little dried out, and cracked, and they were a bit purple from the cooling process, but they were the most beautiful feet a mother could kiss.

The Hubs has long talked about different tattoos he might like to get, always getting vetoed by his wife (no, I don’t think it would be cool to get the Jagermeister stag tattooed across your back). But on the agonizing drive home from Spokane after our daughter passed away, the Hubs mentioned wanting to get a tattoo of Hudson’s feet, maybe with the word “Legendary” in my handwriting. I would get that tattoo.

I might get that tattoo.

Mommy & Daddy Dub with their foot tatts