Leif’s Story

Note to the reader: On August 27th, 2017, we arrived at the hospital to have our full-term baby boy only to find out his heart was no longer beating. From that time on, I’ve been writing. Writing has been my release. October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month, so it seems as good a time to share as any. I’m posting this today with the full intention of sharing everything I’ve written and what my husband and I have been through so far. It is my hope that the Lord will do something wonderful amidst this tragedy and I believe knowing our story better sheds light on where and how He’s been moving. I don’t do this with any desire for attention–only the desire to process this process. To let other parents that have experienced this loss know I now see, hear, and feel them. And, ultimately, to glorify the Great Comforter who has been with me through this even before I knew I needed Him to the extent I would. This story is written (to the best of my ability) in the voices of my husband, Leslee, and I–because fathers are so often looked over in this loss. So, here’s our story and it will continue on this blog as I am able to post.

 

Leslee

We pulled into the hospital parking lot after stopping by Panera to get some breakfast. Neither one of us had eaten breakfast and Breauna was only moderately uncomfortable every 9 minutes, so a little breakfast was necessary for energy to bring our son into the world. It was just a couple minutes from the hospital and when we arrived there, Breauna said, “Don’t worry about pulling under the covered drop-off area. I’m ok right now. I’ll finish my bagel and we can just walk in together.” We were happy. Jubilant, really. Breauna was nervous about the pain she knew was involved, but her anticipation overshadowed it. I always tend to be more high strung about everything than she is, but it was excited anxiety.

We had left our house that morning uncertain whether this was the real deal or not. The doctors had told us our son’s due date was August 30th based on where he was measuring at his 21-week ultrasound, but by our account, he was due September 7th.  Today was Sunday,  August 27th, so we were definitely full-term and ready to welcome our son, Leif, to our lives. We had two wonderful little girls already and this boy was icing on the cake. Our family was complete.

Breauna was having to breathe through the contractions when they came, but they only lasted for a minute and then she could resume whatever she was doing.  The closer we got to the hospital, the less anxiety I felt. We arrived with time to spare, ( more than I could say for our second daughter’s birth) walked into the hospital, and made our way to Labor & Delivery. Breauna greeted the desk attendant with a smile and said, “We’re here to have a baby.”

 

Breauna

I grabbed the gown I was instructed to put on and made my way into the bathroom to change. While in there, I breathed through another contraction and talked to God. I was feeling anxious and fearful about labor. I had decided I was going to do this naturally long beforehand and Leslee was on board. I had done it with Luxe—but not by choice. This time…I knew what was coming. I whispered a quick prayer, “Father, I’m feeling nervous. Be with me as I do this. Calm my nerves. Eliminate my fear. Give me strength and endurance. I’d be so grateful if this labor could be quick.” I asked Him for strength…not knowing I would need so much of another kind.

I laid down on the bed and prepared to have the nurse do the routine heartbeat monitoring. She squeezed the green gel on the monitor and started on my right side. Nothing. I wasn’t worried, though. Nurses had found Leif a little uncooperative before. She moved to my left side. Nothing… Maybe this nurse didn’t know what she was doing. I glanced at Leslee, aware that this kind of thing always freaked him out, but couldn’t get him to return my gaze. We had just heard his heartbeat—good and strong—on Monday. Everything had to be fine.

Without any look of alarm on her face, the nurse said, “I’m going to go grab a different machine. I’ll be right back.”

She returned with an ultrasound machine and another nurse. The two of them brought our son into view on the ultrasound screen and the first thing I noticed was the lack of that little pulsing, rhythmic beat you see when a baby comes into view. The nurses exchanged several glances as they looked with us at the screen, but said nothing. I continued to glance at Leslee, but he was boring holes into the monitor. Our eyes searched frantically for the one thing we weren’t finding.

“I’m going to go get the OB on call and have him take a look at this,” the nurse said to me. Leslee still wouldn’t look at me.

 

Leslee

I couldn’t look at her. One look and I would have fallen apart. I knew. And she wasn’t there yet. I had prayed so hard for this baby. Harder and more consistently than I’ve ever prayed for anything before. I prayed he would be born healthy and that Breauna would labor quickly. That they both would make it through Leif’s arrival in the world. Our oldest daughter, Taegan, never left him out of her prayers, either. Oh, God, I thought, please give us a miracle. Please don’t let this be. If not for me, than for that little girl who thinks she’s going to meet her baby brother today. Father, please! I’ve been down this road. You gave me Breauna and she helped me pick up the pieces. Please don’t make her travel it, Lord. Don’t let her suffer. I’m begging, Father! Please let him be ok. My mind ran crazy. All I wanted someone to do was come in here and tell us we were scared for no reason.

 

Breauna

I was scared—but I still had hope. There was a mistake. There had to be. I had prayed too long and too hard over this little boy for something to be wrong. A doctor we didn’t know walked into the room and took over as the nurses stood alongside him. We couldn’t read his face. It was emotionless. Tears started to roll down my face. My body and my brain already knew, but my heart refused to believe.

He turned to look at the nurses, his mouth in a grim line, and quietly said, “Yeah, I’m not finding a heartbeat.” He turned to us with that same grim face and repeated it. Meanwhile, my heart raced. It wanted to beat out of my chest. I looked at him and said, “So, are you saying–are you saying he’s dead?” I needed him to say it. That was the only way this unbelievable, unimaginable situation was truly happening.

“I’m sorry. He’s passed.”

I couldn’t look at anyone. I could only stare at the white sheets on the bed, my eyes tethered to my feet while my soul felt like it left my body. Disbelief. Shock. In moments like this, the two take over and a person can’t even think. The brain goes numb, a form of protection, and you can’t even speak.

The medical staff stood in there and quietly discussed what the next step was while my world fell apart. “We’re going to have someone from radiology come down here,” the doctor said. “They’re going to take a look and maybe what they find can give us some answers.” All I could do was continue to stare off into space.

I looked at Leslee and his face mirrored mine.

“Can we have a moment?” he asked.

“Of course,” replied the nurse.

The door shut, he grabbed me, buried his face in my hair, and we wailed.

 

Leslee

“This is not your fault. I want you to know that, baby. This is not your fault.” I cried into her hair and kept repeating that. All she could say was my name. She had told me last night in passing that she hadn’t remembered him moving during the day, but how could he move? There was no room. Plus, she’d been busy and distracted with the girls and grown so used to him moving that it simply became commonplace. She said all this last night to calm her worry wart of a husband down. I couldn’t bear for her to think in this moment that I blamed her for not being more aware. I didn’t. I didn’t at all. “I can’t do this! I can’t do this, Leslee. God, I can’t do this! I’m not this strong!!” I have no words for what my wife was going through, but I mustered up the strength to say, “Yes, you can. We can. We’ll do this together.”

They left us in there for a long time. Finally, the OB on call came in and it was time to talk about what we were going to do from here. By that time, we had called our parents and close family members to tell them our horrific news. The OB wanted to check to see how far along Breauna was and make a decision of whether to induce or let everything happen as it would. As he was about to check her, Breauna stopped him.

“I’m starting another contraction. Can we wait just a minute?” she calmly asked.

“Of course,” he replied.

As she came down off of it, she said, “I have questions. If we have to induce, does that make the contractions more intense? Do they hurt worse? I wanted to do this without an epidural, but—“ she started to cry—“I don’t know if I can without having something to look forward to.”

He nodded his head and said, “Yeah…well, a contraction is a contraction. Induction doesn’t make them worse. They’re as bad as they’re going to get on their own. So, no, it doesn’t make them more intense, it just brings active labor on more quickly. It’s like going 0-60 in 5 seconds rather than a slow acceleration.” I don’t know if that put her mind at ease at all, but she was processing the information.

He had to leave the room for a moment, which left us and the nurse in there. Breauna turned to the nurse with a pained look of dilemma on her tear-stained face. “I don’t know what to do. I can’t even think right now. And I’m scared! I mean, seriously, what does a man know about this?”

The nurses face was full of sympathy when she said, “Woman to woman, I would go with the epidural. There’s no pressure to endure the physical pain when you’re already suffering this emotional pain.” A tear rolled down her face. “We want to make this as easy as possible for you if that’s what you want.”

“Ok, I think I want the epidural.”

Immediately after she spoke, the doctor walked back in and proceeded to examine Breauna’s progress. He quickly looked at the nurse and said in a rush, “She’s 100 effaced and dilated to a 9.”

He looked at Breauna—who was calmly lying there– with a slightly dumbfounded look on his face. “You must be one very tough woman. I’d be screaming like a little girl right now.”

Messes and Miracles (The Flood, Part 2)

The rain turned into a light mist and then dissipated. While enduring the waiting, all I could do was pace…or clean. The girls were inside with me and we were all restless. Little Luxe was feeling the vibes and constantly wanted me to hold her. Taegan decided that a rainy day was good day to go to Papa & Nanny’s, so she took off before Leslee came in the house.

When he walked in, I was ready to get in the side-by-side and go see the situation. He was hesitant to even go driving around because the sound of our Ranger is a call of sorts to our cows. They know when he’s driving around in it that 1) food is coming or 2) it’s time to go to the milk barn. Our stranded cows were already motivated to be milked—as they are every morning—and Leslee didn’t want that to entice them to attempt crossing the creek. It was way too deep and swift!

Not knowing cattle as well as he, I asked, “Are cows good swimmers?”

“Ehhh, they do alright. They really need to be able to bounce off the bottom while they swim to stay afloat. I don’t think they could ever get any footing with as fast as it’s moving and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 10 feet deep.”

Well, that settled that for me. Cows are big, but they’re not that tall. I was really hoping that even if some did attempt to cross this morning, worst case scenario would be getting washed down to a different property, not drowning.

“Can we go check on them? See if they’ve moved or maybe if they’re even there at all??”

He hesitated, but curiosity and concern won out. We loaded ourselves and Luxe into the Ranger and took off for the only vantage point Leslee was able to get to.

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Beauty amidst disaster

It was a muddy mess of a ride with little flood-made rivulets all over the property. Dairy farms tend to be muddy, anyway, so it made an everyday problem ten times worse.

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Sometimes disaster creates beauty.

As we drove through the first gate, the cows that had stayed on higher ground all night were gathered…just standing there. That’s not normal.

“See, look at them,” Leslee said. “They know something’s wrong. You should have felt the mood in the barn this morning. They were mopey and a little tense. They’re missing the rest of the herd.”

He called another cow by name and said, “She’s been bawling quite a bit this morning.” (Bawling means “calling by mooing” if you’re not familiar with dairy lingo). “The girls she’s with aren’t the ones she usually hangs out with.”

Cows have cliques. They stay together for the most part, but they have their certain little tribes within the group. Kind of like people. You tend to separate into different age groups, different likes/dislikes, etc.

Listening to him speak with such care and intimate knowledge of his cattle led me to think of all the bad press farmers get regarding their treatment of animals and the farming practices they choose to implement. I’m sure I could meet some farmers around the world that practice a moral or ethical code that I would not agree with. Show me a career field that DOESN’T have unethical or immoral people. But, THIS farmer on THIS day and every other day is what I know. And it’s worth sharing in a world that seems to be so angry all the time at the people providing them food. This man knows them all by name or number, knows whom runs around with whom, immediately realizes one might be walking with a limp, notices when droopy ears might be a sign of sickness…all of it. He cares.

We arrived on a high-point from which Leslee had last seen a few of the trapped cows. I’d never seen anything like it! Water was EVERYWHERE—to the point I was disoriented about location. I couldn’t pinpoint where exactly we were from where they were because all dry land was covered.

We looked through a gap in the trees and about 250-300 yards across the water, we could see some cows. Not all 36, mind you, but at least some. Leslee breathed a small sigh of relief and said, “They moved.”

“What do you mean they moved?”

“That’s not where they were when I came over here last. They were able to retreat.”

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“Ok, so that’s not the piece of land they were on before?”

“No, it’s covered now.”

I felt an overwhelming amount of gratitude to God then. A friend had told me she was praying for God to put “a hedge of protection” around our cows and seeing them butted right up to a line of trees immediately made me think of her wording. A hedge. That’s exactly what He had done. And whether He had given them some extra intelligence or moved them Himself, they were on higher ground.

Fortunately–and yet still unfortunately–we could only see 6 or 7. Although Leslee was glad to see some had survived, I could tell he was preparing himself for the worst. Thirty-six cows was over half of our milking herd. When you’re a small operation, every last cow matters. Six or seven of 36 was not going to improve our potential loss. Replacing thirty cows was not an option for us financially. The only option upon suffering a loss of this magnitude was selling out and starting a new, unknown journey.

“These are the same cows I saw earlier. I don’t see any new ones,” he said.

“At least these are still OK. We know He’s got these. Maybe we just can’t see the other ones. There’s a lot of trees and brush they could be hiding in. Or maybe they got separated from this group and they’re holed up in a different spot.” Positive Polly here…trying to lift her husband’s spirits.

I was choosing to believe it. I was still going to believe that God had saved every last one of those cows and I just couldn’t see them. So, I got back on the computer and updated our friends and family about the current situation while continuing to ask for prayers of protection. The tremendous outpouring of love, offers of help, and prayer was palpable. If it’s possible to tangibly FEEL the power of prayer and love, I was feelin’ it.

It gave me a good boost for what was next. More rain was coming.

 

Conversations Between the Farmer and his Wife

The farmer is baling and wrapping hay all day today, but he came in for a quick bite to eat. As I walked from my desk area to the kitchen carrying a plate, he says,

“Watcha doin?”

Me: “Oh, ya know, what I do best…”

Him: “Editing?’

Me: “Well, I was thinking more along the lines of eating, but I’ll take editing, too. I’m multitasking. All while being SUPER efficient because I’m eating leftovers…therefore, no food is going to waste.

Him: “Yeah, I see you also finished off the last Clif bar.”

Me: “I couldn’t let YOU eat it!” (He’s all low carb, high protein, no sugar right now. I took one for the team. That’s sacrificial love right there, folks. In action. )

Him: “Oh, no! We couldn’t have that!”

Me: “OH, OH! AND here’s the best part, (I ignore the prior sarcasm) while I’m eating, editing, and being SUPER efficient, I’m also growing a tiny human! And that quite possibly makes me the most productive person you will encounter today! 

Him: *smirk*

Trust me, it blew his mind. I rendered him speechless. He’s a lucky, lucky man. (I’m still hungry.)

All in a Week’s Time

Taegan was home on Spring Break all last week and we always try to do some fun things when she has a little time away from school. Fortunately, she had several cousins staying right up the road at my mother-in-law’s, so that made it even more fun. We started off Monday with a nature scavenger hunt after the farmer finished feeding hay. I took these photos with my phone.

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We enjoyed it. They enjoyed it. And a good time was had by all.

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Also during this week, we jumped in full throttle with potty training Luxe. It wasn’t going well.

Me: Luxe, where do we go pee and poop?

Luxe: In the toe-wet.

Me: So, why aren’t you going in the toilet?

Luxe: ‘Cuz I don’t want to.

I was in need of some reinforcements and the timing of spring break couldn’t have been better. I suggested to Taegan that she might be just the right person for this job and she squinted her little eyes and gave me a look that said, “What are you trying to pull?”

Mind you, this is the child that consistently says she’s never having kids “because they’re too much work.” Astute and accurate observation. I’ll make sure I tell her that she better feel really fortunate that I was not as sharp as she is at 24…otherwise she wouldn’t be here. And then I did it again.

And again.

But back to my story, I decided a different tactic would surely work to get Taegan to give potty training Luxe a shot. She’s competitive by nature, so I said, “I bet you could do this way better than me.” She took the bait. Show Mommy up? I’ll play. She asked Luxe if she needed to go on the toilet. Luxe, of course, followed her back there and I sat her on her potty seat on the big toilet. We don’t use the little one…because she can get off it.

So, Taegan’s in there reading a book and I hear Taegan ask Luxe, “Do you want me to hide?” Luxe says, “Yeah.” Taegan opens up the cabinet door and gets behind it and what.do.you.know….Luxe goes potty!!! I’m whooping and hollering; Luxe is grinning from ear to ear; and I’m pretty sure a person couldn’t have wiped the proud smile off of Taegan’s face for the next couple hours. Because Luxe did it again and again for Taegan. To the point Taegan started referring to it as “working her magic.” She’d call from the bathroom with Luxe and say, “Mommy, I worked my magic again!” Luxe obviously thrives on pleasing her sister. Now, she’s going like a champ for all of us. We’ve had a few accidents since Thursday when we started, but many, many more successes.

So, thank you, Taegan. I gladly bow down to your potty training prowess. 🙂

Meanwhile, Luxe continues to work on mastering the very necessary skill of drinking out of the hose.

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You can’t be a farmgirl and not get this down.

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Then, on Friday, we decided to take the girls–namely Taegan–to chick day at the local feed store. I don’t like chickens. I’ve made that very clear in past posts, but chicks are cute and I thought I might be able to work a little photography around them in spring photos with the girls. Taegan is the farm animal lover. We would have everything if it were up to her. Chickens, bunnies, cows, horses, ducks, goats, sheep, pigs–you name it, we would have it.

 

I’m also the type of mother that has a hard time saying no to things that teach responsibility. Taegan is a very practical, responsible realist.She’s never really been into playing pretend or fairy tales. If she plays, it usually has a real-life component to it and she tends to  give things a long, hard think before she commits her time. And she really wanted some chickens. And she told me she would take care of them and gather all the eggs when they started laying.

Works great for me because I do like eggs.

So, here we are at the feed store with a box.

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This chick is ready for her chicks…even down to knowing what kind she wants. Yeah, we had to have all that figured out, too. We looked up every breed they had available and picked out our favorites. The farmer asked me, “Now, are the ones we’re getting good layers?”

My reply: “Oh, we don’t care about that. We’re going purely based on looks.”

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Here’s the whole fam.

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Luxe can’t figure out why Taegan’s so happy, what we’re doing here, and why there’s all this incessant chirping.

So, we get up to the chicks and they.are.cute!!

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They had ducklings, too! I’m getting some after researching why I would want them. Has anyone ever had duck eggs? I read that they’re more nutritious, better tasting, better for baking, and that ducks lay year round–never really going through a rest time. I also read that ducks are excellent pest controllers (bugs, ticks, grasshoppers, etc), won’t dig up your yard and gardens like a chicken will, and will even kill small snakes if given an opportunity. Sign me up!!! Sounds like the best pet ever!

Seriously, I’m totally getting some ducks.

We told the man what chicks we wanted. He placed them in the box. We paid for them. And now we are the proud owners of some pretty cute little chicks.

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If you ask Taegan, she will accurately tell you exactly which breeds are which, but we’ve got 2 Welsummers, 2 Barred Rock, and 2 Silver Laced Wyandottes.

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And one happy little chicken-loving farm girl.

She puts her shoes on every 20 minutes, opens the front door, and says, “I’m going to check my chicks. You gotta be fast if you wanna’ catch those Welsummers! I just have to swoop in cuz they run!” I think she’s holding a Silver Laced Wyandotte here.

It was an eventful, productive spring break. I miss Taegan when she’s gone. She creates so much material for my creative processes.

Me and My Guy

Our trip to Florida was wonderful! We couldn’t have asked for better. The girls were little peaches! Minimal amounts of whining/yelling during our drive and both of them slept all night, every night. It was the first time we had gone on vacation as a family and we’re so grateful for the memories we came back with.

There will be a couple posts about our trip, but this one’s just about me and my guy.

Here he is. Smolder-smile and all. The best part? He has no idea how charming he is.Especially when he’s got 2 adorable girls in each hand.

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And let me just preface the next round of pictures with this–we I am not great at being photographed in displays of public affection. Especially when it’s my mom behind the camera. To be honest, I couldn’t feel cheesier. BUT, these pictures did turn out pretty cute…
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This photo is symbolic for me. Funny story…Leslee was vehemently against taking a photo like this. Again, the cheese factor…but when I started going through all of them once we got back, it inspired reflection. It takes me back to 12 years ago when I stood at the altar about to embark on a whole new journey. I was willing to walk away with him into deep waters because I knew there was no one else on earth I’d rather embrace uncertainty  with than him. And the same still goes for today.

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Let the awkwardness commence…Must I stand so close to this guy??!

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I guess he’s alright. One thing that people might not know about my husband until they’ve been around him a lot is that he’s incredibly funny. I’ll admit, when I met the guy, I was drawn to him because he has a broody, kind of mysterious exterior. I liked it. So, to find out there was a goofball with a heart of gold underneath sealed the deal. I was a goner. He says I bring out the goof.

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But, it’s obvious that we feed off each other. One of my favorite things about us is how much we laugh. At ourselves, at each other, and at common things that we decide to make funny for our own entertainment. You have to. Life gets heavy if you can’t laugh with someone special.

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Parenting–some more deep water, but we’re trusting the good Father for guidance on this part of our journey. And enjoying the laughs along the way, as well.

Me and my guy…

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by the ocean feeling small and embracing uncertainty. The vastness has a way of doing that to a person. However, the sea is full of rejuvenation and empowerment, as well. It’s an amazing place to press “reset” and remind ourselves that we are part of something so much bigger than us. A place to witness something beautiful for our enjoyment and for His glory.  A place to remember that He’s got this–whatever IT is–…and He’s got us.

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