Leif’s Story, Day 1, Part 3

Leslee

I made arrangements for the girls to be brought to us in the city as Breauna rested. I had laid Leif in the little crib cart the nurses had brought to our room and sat down. Heart broken. Spent. Still in shock. All I knew was that I had to be strong for Breauna. My mind raced. Maybe something was wrong with him and that’s why God took him. As an act of mercy on us. No…no no no…He was perfect. I know in my heart there wasn’t anything wrong. Why, then? Why did he make it to this point and then…? I wanted answers so badly. It’s me, isn’t it, God? It’s not Breauna. She’s suffering because of me. Because I just can’t get my act together. I battle controlling my mouth. I battle so many things. I’m not who you want me to be, right? I  think it’s pretty obvious right now that I am cursed. Two out of four…not a real great success rate… But over and above all that, I looked over at my wife and wondered what she was thinking and feeling. I felt for her more than I thought of myself. What was it like to bear a child? What kind of pain did that entail? What pain she must be in…far greater than mine…to have carried him for nine months, felt every kick, felt every roll,  and lost him. What was she feeling right now? What was she thinking?

I watched her bring Leif into the world knowing he was dead and I couldn’t think of anyone I’d ever known who was stronger than my wife. I was thankful-so thankful-that she was here. I may not have had Leif, but I still had her. I knew what it was like to lose my whole family–

My outlook took a turn there. Was I discouraged? Yes. Was I hurting? To the core. Was I afraid of what lie ahead and how we would navigate it? Yeah…a little…because I’d gone down this path before. But, I was harder now. Stronger. See, that’s the thing about death and loss—at least for me, anyway—each time I suffer, I get tougher. The dark places of this rough road are familiar. Call me callous, but the first time I went down it was the hardest. After that, I knew how to get where I wanted to go. But, I could not imagine going down it without Breauna. That would be a whole different road. That’s the other thing about death and loss—for me, anyway—my loss caused me to love Breauna like I’ve never loved before. That woman lit up my road—lit up my entire life. I didn’t have to wonder what it would be like if I lost her—goodness, I didn’t even want to think about that. Black. The darkest black. Blind black. Black I didn’t think there was any way I could ever recover from.

I’m not cursed. I’m still very blessed. And I determined right there that we would certainly cry together—we would hurt—but I was going to be the one this time that lit our road. I was going to guide her down it. In the fog, I would try my best to bring clarity. I would validate her feelings. I would hold her when she cried—when we cried. And I would understand.

I tried my best to cling to that thought—how very blessed I still am—and decided to focus on what needed to be done right now. There was one thing nagging my heart in that moment: Taegan was on her way to the hospital and she didn’t know. My heart broke all over again thinking about her…knowing she was excited and happy. I asked our family not to say anything to her because it needed to be me. I was dreading that phone call, but I couldn’t let her get here thinking she was going to meet her baby brother and find out once she was here that he was gone. That felt cruel. So, I picked up the phone and called my sister.

“Hey, Tanna. Where are you guys at?”

“We just left…only about 5 minutes down the road from Mom’s.”

“Ok, can you put Taegan on the phone? I need to tell her.”

“Yeah.”

I heard some shuffling and then Taegan’s sweet little voice.

“Hi, Daddy!”

“Hey, baby…um…There’s something I need to tell you.” My voice broke and tears started rolling down my face.

Silence.

“Leif didn’t make it.”

“What…?”

“He didn’t make it, sweetie.” She started to cry and  the call dropped. Oh, no! Aw, man! I dialed it back as fast as I could and got Tanna again.

“Can you put Taegan back on the phone? I’m not sure if she hung up on me or if you lost signal, but I need to talk to her again.” I felt awful. There was no easy way to do this and I couldn’t come up with words. I could hear her crying in the background.

“Hello?” Taegan said.

“Hey, I lost ya there. Mommy and I want to see you really bad. I’m going to have Tanna text me as soon as you get here and I’ll meet you at the front door, ok? I love you, Taegan.” She was still crying. “Hey, I love you. I’ll see you when you get here, alright?” She wasn’t talking. Just crying.

Tanna came back on the phone and I said, “Hey, Tanna, just let me know when you’re parked and I’ll come meet you at the front door.”

“Ok, Leslee. Love you.”

“Love you, too. Bye.”

I felt awful. That was definitely one of the hardest phone calls I’ve ever had to make.

 

Breauna

I listened to Leslee make that phone call, tears rolling down my face. My mom had arrived and was sitting in the chair next to my bed in tears, as well. She was holding Leif and trying her best to be a comfort. The only thing I could think about was Leif. I beat myself up. How did I not know? I’m his mother! How did I not know?! I went shopping on Friday and bought the rug I’d been wanting for his room. I took the girls to the pediatrician and told her she was going to have a new little patient. And he was already slipping away…or gone! I didn’t even know! He didn’t tell me goodbye! Oh God, please say he didn’t suffer. I was supposed to protect him. He was supposed to be safe with me. I failed. I failed miserably. I failed my son. I gave him my best and it wasn’t good enough. Tears continued to come. I thought I’d never stop crying. I continued to pray for peace, comfort, and strength. I got it, but I found that tears were a part of it.

My sister arrived and we held on tight. “I wish I could take all of this on myself,” she said as she cried. “I wish I could carry this pain on me rather than see you carry it. I just want to make all this go away. I feel so helpless to help you.” These were the same sentiments almost verbatim that my mom had said when she had arrived earlier. “I wanted to let you know there’s a little bit of buzz on Facebook. Nothing specific. It’s all pretty vague, but people are asking questions.”

“Aw, man, are you serious?” I asked.

“Yeah…”

In that moment, I was frustrated that I had to do it, but I would much rather have had people hear it from the source than find out from someone else, so I quickly typed up a Facebook post.

 

I’ve heard there is Facebook chatter, so I’ll go ahead and address it. I went into labor this morning, got to the hospital fine, and found out our son, Leif Owen, was no longer with us. He’s with the One who gave him to us. We are experiencing the unimaginable, but I feel Jesus here with us. And through it all, we still believe that God is good. Your prayers mean the world to us. Leslee and I are leaning into each other while we trust the Father with this grief.

 

I clicked “post” and tried my best to think about some of my favorite songs. This is not well with my soul, Father. Not yet, anyway. But, I trust You’re going to make it so. You’ve always been my only hope. More so now than ever. So, don’t let me go. Peace came over me as friends and family started to fill up the waiting room. Never have, never will, it was as if He said. Messages of comfort and solidarity started pinging on my phone. Prayers were going up. Friends were crying with us. People loved us and they loved Leif, too. It wasn’t easy letting each of them see me so raw, but I found that visiting and having each of them cry, sit, and talk with us was a comforting distraction from solitude in our pain. I was thankful for that…and thankful for friends and family all over the country that were another vessel for the love God wanted us to feel. And for the rest of that day, I chose to dwell on that.

OAWbw-4660

 

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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.”