Saturday, May 14, 2016

Robbing the Cradle



A version of this post was first published on the Hope Mommies Blog on May 14, 2016.

My husband and I met through a prank phone call my first semester of college. I was a bright-eyed eighteen year-old fresh out of high school. He was a dreamy junior who was the front man in a rock band. Some might even say that he robbed the cradle. But, back to the prank phone call...

The phone rang in my dorm room late one night and I answered. This was before everyone had cell phones (yes, we are THAT old). It was a group of not-so-nice boys who said they were in my English class. I naively believed them. As it turns out, they were randomly picking girls from the Belmont University directory and cold-calling them. 

THEY ASKED ME MY BRA SIZE. To which, I replied, "None of your business." They asked why I came to Nashville and I told them I was a singer. They put me on speaker phone and asked me to sing. I sang Amazing Grace.

My husband (who swears up and down that he wasn’t involved in his roommates’ pranks) overheard me singing on speaker phone and took note. He had to meet the girl who sang the same lullaby his mother used to sing to him. He called me a week later and apologized for his roommates’ inappropriate line of questioning. 

He asked if we could meet in a gazebo on campus. It was in that very same gazebo six months later that he asked me to marry him. It was a whirlwind romance and before I even turned twenty, we were married and dreaming about how many kids we would have and making lists of our favorite baby names.

However, after eight years of wedded bliss and nothing to show for it except for one very early miscarriage, we began to wonder if we were able to have a baby at all. We even made an appointment with a fertility specialist. But in an ironic twist of fate, I had to call and cancel because the very week of my appointment, I started throwing up my breakfast and seeing those coveted pink lines on a home pregnancy test. Yes! Our dream of having a family was finally coming true.

Nine months later, our first son was born. He is our namesake and our pride and joy. It was such a great pregnancy and birthing experience that we wanted to have another baby right away. I remember thinking, “That was so easy, let’s do it again!” 

Four months later, Chad’s little brother was on the way. His name would be Cohen. These two brothers would be just over a year apart. This one, however, would not be easy. This one, in fact, would rip our hearts in two. 

They often say that having a baby changes everything. What they don’t ever mention is that losing a baby makes the ground beneath your feet tremble. It shakes the very foundation of everything you thought you ever knew.

For me, it all happened so fast. It seemed like another perfect pregnancy, but the nightmare began when I went to the hospital to be induced. I was a day past my due date. No one had any idea that I had a velamentous cord insertion which caused vasa previa, a very rare condition affecting only 1 in 3000 pregnancies. It has a 50-100% infant mortality rate when undiagnosed and when a c-section is not performed. Because the fetal membranes were exposed, they ruptured when the doctor broke my water.

I wish there were a way to rewind. To pause. To freeze-frame that moment in time and change the outcome. IF ONLY I had been more concerned and proactive when the doctor broke my water and it was mixed with blood. IF ONLY I had been more argumentative when she told me that was normal. IF ONLY I had been more adamant and had insisted on an immediate c-section rather than allowing her to go to the ER for another surgery. IF ONLY she had been there when Cohen’s heart rate began to drop and the nurses began to panic. 

IF ONLY.  IF ONLY.  IF ONLY...

When I finally woke up from general anesthesia, I remember asking my husband if we lost the baby. He whispered, "We lost the baby." Those are the loudest words I think I've ever heard. They still echo in my ears to this day. 

Talk about robbing the cradle.

To be honest, the year that followed losing Cohen was kind of a blur. I remember lots of crying myself to sleep. Crying so much that I couldn’t breathe. Crying so hard that I couldn’t even recognize the red, puffy face in the mirror anymore. I remember reliving every single moment of that day over and over again in my mind as I lay in bed each night. I remember desperately trying to find the ever-elusive answer to the question, "Why did God allow this to happen to us?"

Eventually, I realized I was asking the wrong question. The question I should have been asking was not Why? but What now? Am I going to dwell in this sorrow and build walls between myself and other people? Between myself and God? Or am I going to trust that God is who He says He is and that He knows what's best for me?

I had to choose. There is NO riding the fence with grief.

The anger I felt was destroying me from the inside out, so I decided that in order for my wounds to truly heal, I had to make peace with God and accept what happened. It was only after I had that spiritual breakthrough that I was able to see the good that Cohen brought to our lives.

It is vital for me to know that he mattered. That his little heart did not beat in vain. Even though his life was short, he made a HUGE impact. He had such a positive effect on us as parents, as Christians, and as human beings. We now have the glorious hope of not only meeting our Maker someday, but also of being with our beloved son again. We also feel so much more capable of comforting others who are grieving after having had our own hearts pierced. We have come to appreciate so much more how our heavenly Father must have felt when He lost His Son. 

His ONLY Son.

I was introduced to Hope Mommies almost five years after losing Cohen. It was like opening up a secret door and stepping over the threshold into a magical world where I discovered women just like me who were thriving. They weren't afraid to boldly speak out about the death of their babies and they were using the platform God had given them to reach out, to inspire others, to win souls for Christ. 

It was eye-opening. 

Now I see that Cohen helped usher me closer to what God intended for me to be. A better friend, a better daughter, a better sister, a better wife, a better mother. He made me so much more than just a survivor. 

He made me brave. He made me a fighter. He made me a Hope Mommy.

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