Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Caleb's Story

My Dream
Ever since I was little, I always dreamed of being a mom. Now I know that sounds silly, but it's true. When asked in kindergarten what I wanted to be when I grew up, I drew a picture of "a mother". When my cousins came to visit, I always played with the new baby, rather than the kids closer to my age. Maybe I was just an odd child, but I never lost that dream as I grew older. Sure, I had other ambitions in life, but most importantly in my mind was being a good mother.

About a year after my husband and I were married we decided to have children. It only took us a couple of months to get pregnant and we were THRILLED! Our first doctor's appointment at 12 weeks was fun and exciting. The best part was hearing the little heartbeat on their fetal doppler machine. The doctor said that once you can hear the heartbeat, the chance of miscarriage decreases alot. Super! Now we were ready to tell the world about our exciting news. We called up friends and family and happily told them that we were expecting our first child.

I told everyone I worked with and nearly everyone I knew. We were so excited! My life-long dream was coming true. I had ambitions of being such a good mom for our little baby. I wondered what sort of personality he/she would have and all of the fun we would have together. I was naively excited.

The Ultrasound
My husband and I were both very excited for our 20 week ultra sound. We would find out the gender of the baby and be able to SEE our baby. The ultra sound technician started happily pointing out the different body parts to us...the head, the spine...but it wasn't too long before he just got more and more quiet. Finally, he said that there were a few things that he wanted the doctor to come and look at. Now I was nervous. What does that mean? Is there something wrong with my baby? The on-call doctor came in shortly and quietly looked at my baby. In the end he said that there were some concerns and would recommend that we see a specialist. He said the good news was that the specialist from Ogden would be in town on Monday, so we wouldn't have to wait long to see him and wouldn't have to drive far away. Right. Except that today is Friday! That is 2 1/2 days away!

When I called my mom to tell her about the ultra sound she happily asked whether it was a boy or a girl, and I just burst into tears. Steve had to tell her what was going on because I couldn't. As you can imagine, I was a wreck for the next few days. My imagination ran wild about the possible things that could be wrong with our baby.

We went into our follow-up ultra sound on Monday not knowing what to expect. We were clinging to the hope that everything was really okay, but at the same time we tried to brace ourselves for the worst. We came away with many unanswered questions and much sorrow. We had another appointment later with a higher quality ultra sound, which just confirmed our suspicions from the first ultra sound. Our baby was diagnosed with multi-systic dyplastic kidney disease, which basically means that he didn't have functioning kidneys. He had one enlarged kidney, and the other one was non-existant. There were pockets of fluid inside his little body--some around his heart, which also seemed to have extra thick walls. There was virtually no amniotic fluid. Without amniotic fluid, his lungs could not develop properly. Our baby did not have much chance of surviving outside of the womb.

I still had my regular doctor's check-ups, and then we saw the specialist about once a month. The doctor did not give us much hope that the baby would make it until the third trimester. We just took one day at a time and wondered when our baby would come. I prayed with all of my heart that our baby would be born alive, that we could hold him and spend some time with him. About this time, we found out it was a HIM. Because of the lack of amniotic fluid, it was really hard to see things with the ultra sound, but at one of our later appointments, there was at least a "pretty good guess" that it was a boy.

Instead of preparing to bring my baby home, we were making funeral arrangements and deciding how much intervention to provide when our baby was born if he was born alive. It was hard. Really hard. I worked at a physical therapy office where I saw dozens of people each day. All of them would ask how far along I was, "are you excited?", "do you have your nursery ready?"... The questions seemed to never end. I only told my boss and co-workers the truth about what was going on. I didn't want to make everyone else feel awkward about asking, and I simply didn't want to explain the situation over and over again. I would come home emotionally exhausted every day.

Amidst all of this, we were trying to decide on which grad school to attend. Steve would fly out for a weekend while I went to my mom's to stay just in case the baby came. I dreaded those weekends. I knew I couldn't go through the experience without my husband by my side the whole time. Luckily, Caleb needed his daddy there as much as his mommy did.

March 19, 2008
That was a day I will never forget. Labor started early in the morning, and was mistaken for back pain for awhile. By the time we went to the hospital, I was dialated to a 4. After walking around for an hour, I was at a 6. Awhile later, I got an epidural and was then left to sit in bed and wait. I had prayed with all of my heart that the baby would be born alive and that we could spend some time together. We had informed the doctors that because there was virtually no chance he would live long (if at all), that we wanted minimal intervention so that we could just spend some time with him. Our little boy was born at 1:57 pm. The doctors took our baby and turned their back so that they could look him over and do some quick tests. I heard nothing and didn't know what was going on. Was my precious baby alive? Was he really the son that we thought he was going to be? After what seemed like ages, he let out a little cry and they handed me our first child. There he was--more precious than we could have imagined. We just held him and loved him. One of our greatest treasures is this video we took of him with the hiccups. He didn't like them.

Our moms were also able to be there with us. We took turn holding him for the next hour and a half before he returned back to his Father in Heaven. It was hard to say goodbye. Even after months of knowing this would happen, it was still so hard! We just held each other and cried and cried. Then we cried some more.

A couple of days later, we held a graveside service. My family wondered how I was so strong. Really I wasn't, I just didn't have any tears left in me to cry.

Fast forward three years

Time has eased some of the pain, but it's still so hard. I think of him often. I miss him.

To Remember Him
Here are some special things that we have done to honor and remember Caleb:

Since we knew shortly after our 20-week ultra sound that there wasn't much chance of our son living long, I wanted to make something special for him. Other moms made blankets for their babies, so that's what I wanted to do for mine. I crocheted a white blanket for Caleb. He was buried with it.

Steve's dad made the beautiful casket engraved with the LDS Logan Temple.

There were a couple of women from the amazing SHARE group that came to the hospital and took some pictures for us. They also gave us a few momentos to help us remember and honor our son. Our favorite were these precious hand and feet molds. Steve had the great idea of displaying them in a nice shadow box.

This now sits on our desk in our living room next to his picture so that anyone who comes over can see. It was a special something that Daddy was able to do for his baby boy. He also wrote a song which put words to the feelings that were too hard for me to express.

The first Christmas after Caleb was born was really, really hard. We watched as all of the other grandchildren opened presents from Grandma and Grandpa (which was often the same gift for each of them). There wasn't a single gift for Caleb. Did I expect any? Not really. Did I want any? I don't know, not necessarily. Either way, it was and would have been painful. Steve and I made a special wreath to decorate his grave. I'm glad we did something, but it didn't seem like enough. We've put the wreath out every year since then.

This last Christmas, I made felt hands of each of us. Caleb's hand was tiny even in comparison to our daughter who is a year and a half. Steve wrote down memories of Caleb and put them in his stocking. We read them Christmas morning. It was nice to spend time together, even in a small way, as a whole family.

1st birthday
His first birthday was hard, too. It was still hard to see other little boys and to think about the what-could-have-beens with my little boy. Steve and I went to a state park and hiked around together. It was a quiet, peaceful time because no one else was hiking around in March, even though it was a beautiful day. We ended the day with cake and ice cream, but couldn't bear to sing to him. I had made a couple of small baby blankets to give to a hospital for someone in a similar situation as ours, but we were disappointed to find out that there really wasn't the same sort of groups organized here in Wisconsin that there were in Utah. I still have the blankets and hope to be able to give them to the right group someday. We also planted some forget-me-nots. They are the flowers that we had planted by his headstone.

2nd Birthday
Steve came up with the idea of making a kite for Caleb. We took it out the day before his birthday and spent the day as a family.

3rd Birthday
This year we've got lots of big plans, we'll see how many of them come into fruition. I've been working a lot on this blog and hope to have it ready to share with others. We also plan to celebrate Caleb's birthday with other people. I feel like this is a big step, but a good one. I'm actually really excited about least for now. We going to have a birthday dinner, complete with a dinosaur birthday cake. More to come after the big day.