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Thoughts about Loss

I just don’t understand why bad things happen. I don’t think I ever will.

I’m still so sad about Miss Annaleigh. I never expected to become so “involved” with a blog. Is that weird? I came back every day hoping for an update on the miracle that was those babies. I’ll continue to read, of course, for as long as the blog remains. I cried when I read they were born… I cried when I read about the little milestones they were stepping on. The minor weight gains, eating 2ml, being able to breathe better, kangarooing – it all affected me so greatly. I went first thing in the morning/last thing at night to check for an update. I thrived on knowing the babies were doing well and growing; I said as many prayers when they were well as I did on the days things seemed to go awry. I’ve cried so many times this week over Annaleigh and for Joe and Brooke and Charlie and Lily. I don’t even “know” these people.

And yet, I do. They are parents just like me. They are a family, just like mine. Although all of my babies have been big surprises – they tried and tried and tried again until they were blessed with three. I wasn’t trying, they were trying – we’re parents just the same. We know the joy of seeing our babies for the first time. We know the heartache of being told there is something wrong. I don’t know the heartache of having to give my child back to God – but they do. It hurts me when I know that other parents know that pain. I can only imagine there is no worse hurt. The pain of losing the people in my life that I have lost is always with me. It’s strong. On bad days, I lament my losses endlessly until I fall asleep, puffy-faced and tear stained. On good days, I am able to laugh when I think of random memories. On bad and good days, I feel them around me and know that I’m never alone. Even for a moment.

I don’t know personally the pain of losing a child to God. I only know the pain of loss…. I am adopted. I’m the oldest of six adopted children. There were several times we had to give a baby back because a birthmother changed her mind or a birthfather wouldn’t sign the papers. As a child, giving back those babies… the pain of losing my new brother or sister – has stayed with me all these years. I still wonder about them. I don’t know the pain of losing a child to God. I only know the pain of loss. If God had taken my brothers and sisters away, they’d still be here with me.

I was very scared we would lose Magnolia after she was born. I was practically convinced we would. Before she was born, she was diagnosed with hydronephrosis in her right kidney as well as likely having reflux issues with said kidney. Her other kidney (the left one) never developed properly we were told, so after she was born we should expect it to disappear.

She was born and put immediately on antibiotics as a precaution. An ultrasound was performed on her kidney and it turned out to look pretty bad. Surgery was probable. We would visit the specialist two weeks after she came home. Being born at 35 weeks 5 days, we were very lucky that the girls only had to spend an extra day (than me) in the hospital. No NICU time. We were blessed. I cried all night the day they stayed in the hospital and I went home. We went back to the hospital at 11pm to visit them. I felt so bad leaving my precious babies behind. I felt like I was losing time with them.

And here are parents (not just the DiGiuseppes) but other parents I know (and blog-stalk, not in a creepy way I promise) who have had to leave their babies in NICUs for weeks, months, etc. How do they do it? Here I was worried about ONE night. God never gives us more than we can handle, so I can only think these parents must be really, really, really freakin’ strong. And God just likes to throw me on the edge for a minute before pulling me back. He knows I can’t handle the edge.

Two weeks after she was born, we went to the kidney specialist. He reviewed her ultrasound and the tests performed at the hospital and basically told us that we need to wait. She would need surgery before she was five years old. It was best to put surgery off for as long as possible, providing no big issues creeped up. We needed to make sure she was making pee-pee diapers and things were “working” okay. He said to call if we had any concerns, if it seemed like things weren’t working, etc. And come back in a year.

And so we waited. We changed diapers religiously to ward off the chance of infection. We went every two weeks to pick up the new Rx (the medicine lasted only 14 days every time it was made). We freaked out when we missed a dose – often waking her up in the middle of the night to make sure she got her “pink mo” (mo-mo is what we call milk in our house; so ‘pink mo’ is what we called the pink medicine – yes, we’re strange. we know it.) I was crazy about people washing hands before they touched her and I nearly washed my hands off (seriously) trying to keep a germ-free-no-cross-contamination zone in my house….. I didn’t let anyone (ANYONE – except for grandmas, grandpas, and my siblings (hubby is an only-child)) in our house for a whole month. We actually held the girls up the window for people to see them. Seriously, like monkeys behind glass in a zoo. I was mildly psychotic. I’ve yelled at old women in church for touching my daughters, and I’ve smacked strangers hands away. Call me crazy. (I don’t care if you do.)

But I HAD to be so protective. This was my daughter. If I wasn’t SO protective, I would lose her. I was sure of this.

We went back to the doctor six months later to the specialist who did a reflux test and checked her now nearly disappeared left kidney. The reflux came back a 5/5. A 5 being the worst it could be. He told us to continue the antibiotics and that sometimes these things correct themselves. At 5/5 we shouldn’t expect it to correct itself but he still wanted to wait to do the surgery. He said basically “the longer we can push off the surgery, the better for her”. I knew my daughter would need surgery. I just hoped we could push it off until she was four or five. That was the age the doctor said would be best. We prayed. We prayed a lot. We just wanted her to get better. We wanted there to be no problems this year. The pink mo would help keep infections away & I would continue on with my protective mothering.

A year later we returned. Magnolia was now a year and a half. Thriving. Running, jumping, biting her sister, trying to talk, and had gotten very used to taking her pink mo. We had no issues during the last year. Pee-pee diapers were plentiful. Some days she’d wake up dry, some days she’d wake up with the pee-pee-est diaper ever. But nothing major had creeped up on us.

The first reflux test was difficult; she was only six months old. They had trouble with the catheter insertion… she cried a lot… but she was still a baby-baby. She didn’t have the ability to really comprehend or be scared. (I think?) She was more aware this time of what was happening to her. She did not approve of all the hands touching her, nor did she approve of the catheter for the reflux test. That was very hard. “Daddy, daddy, daddy” she kept screaming. I was of no use to her. Her Daddy would protect her, this she knew. I would have protected her, too… but in a way, it’s nice that she knew her big strong Daddy could “fight off her offenders and protect her honor”. Mommy would just tell her everything would be okay and that Mommy was proud of her. (She also couldn’t say Mommy yet…)

Her left kidney is gone. Disappeared. Vanished. “Reabsorbed into her body” which sounds super sci-fi. The reflux test went well, apparently, as we were told by the specialist that her kidney had corrected itself. There was no more reflux… a 0/5… she didn’t have to have surgery… she could stop taking the pink mo… I needed him to repeat all of this twice because I didn’t really aborb it. It was surreal in a way. I was confused. My husband had tears in his eyes, I hardly showed an emotion. I think I was shocked? I’m not even sure now why I… acted that way. I suppose… I don’t know, I guess I was so surprised that everything had changed. In an instant.

I had been so sure that I would need to prepare myself for a goodbye. A forever goodbye with my precious Magnolia. My daughter. A piece of me. A piece of my husband, too, but a piece of me I had carried with me for my entire life. Only at her conception did she fully become My Magnolia – but until then, she was there with me. The whole time, just waiting for Daddy to come and give her his part.

I still worry now that something will happen to her even though the doctor gave her the all-clear to live life… And I count myself blessed every day that I wake up and she’s babbling (or crying) with her sister in their room. I still worry we’ll wake up and she’ll be gone. I’ll probably never stop worrying about this. I am blessed, I know. I have been given a gift that some other parents have not been given. I have been dipped into the waters of loss… And because of this gift, I am able to empathize with the hardships and trials others are given.

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I can’t wait to read more about Lily & Charlie and how well they’re doing. They have a long way to go from here. But they also have their sister, Annaleigh, watching out for them from Heaven, her hands on their shoulders as they pass through life helping to guide and protect them. She’s always going to be there for them and for her Mommy and Daddy.

Brooke & Joe – I am so very sorry for your loss. I’ve prayed for you and your family for a long time and will continue to do so. I hope you are able to find comfort for the rest of your life through Charlie & Lily and the memories you were able to make with Annaleigh. You are blessed in an infinate number of ways. Even though it’s not in the best or happiest way possible, Annaleigh will always be there with you. Thank you for sharing your story with me.

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Still in Shock Over Twins, Surviving Bridal Showers and Surprising the Family

Still in Shock:

Hubby threw up while we waited for the doctor after our ultrasound.

I was in shock. Still laughing, but in honest shock. Truly, it was so unexpected. First just being pregnant was a big surprise… but twins? {Flashback to the conception date: Hubby (then just my boyfriend) left it up to God and took a chance with his ‘swimmers’, telling Him, ‘If this is meant to be, so be it.” I had asked God for a sign a week earlier that the long-distance was worth the struggle … boy did He really hit this one out of the park, in terms of signs. And my boyfriend… well, he hit it out of the park, too.}

Two. Two…… We couldn’t believe it. What were we going to do? We still hadn’t found a house at this point ~ Hubby had looked at nearly two hundred homes. (We finally closed on one – the day before our wedding – with 15 foot ceilings ~ Beautiful and spacious, but NOT an easy climb at any-months pregnant with twins, let me tell you. We spent the last month and a half of my pregnancy living on the first floor. And the eight weeks it took me to recover from the c-section, too. 🙂 And how were we going to afford twins? I was definitely not going back to work ~ it was only financially obvious we’d save money by not paying for a babysitter. TWO. TWO BABIES. And the ultrasound technician thought it looked like both might be girls. Hubby is the only child, of an only-child, of an only-child, of an only-child, of an only-child, of an only-child ~ ALL MALE. For the past six generations, all boys, and only one. Way to break tradition!!! 🙂 TWO. We just couldn’t believe it!

My doctor was very relaxed when she came into the room after the ultrasound. She had only delivered four sets of twins before during her practice but she said that she felt confident delivering mine if everything was normal and there were no major complications during the pregnancy. She wanted to consult with a Maternal-Fetal doctor during my pregnancy (that’s where I’d end up having my many ultrasounds) to keep on eye on things. (There showed some kidney malfunction on Baby B at the first ultrasound.) If my pregnancy continued to still ‘look good’ and Baby B’s kidney never posed any major problems, then she’d keep me on as her patient and deliver the babies herself. I totally trusted her when she said that if she reached a point and felt she couldn’t handle it, then she would hand me over to the experts. Although the kidney did turn out to pose a few problems, and we did have to receive many, many ultrasounds, my doctor delivered both babies – without the help of the “experts”.

(SideNote: Promptly two hours after delivering mine, after going home for a shower and some dinner, my doctor delivered a second set of twins (two boys). It was a record day for her and I’m proud my girls are part of it! )

We left the appointment still stunned and got into the car. “Wow,” I think we both said. I was starving (no surprise there) so we decided to go out to lunch. My mom called to check in and see how the appointment went. I said “Oh fine, the baby looks great! We’ll show you guys the pictures tomorrow after the bridal shower.” Phew, I passed ~ she suspected nothing.

We went to a restaurant we had never been to before. Since then, we’ve probably been 30 times. It’s become a favorite place of ours; sentimental, definitely ~ and the food is fabulous. That day, however, I threw up. It all got overwhelming for a minute. We agreed to not tell anyone until we told our families the following day. Our families were getting together for a BBQ at the poolhouse after my bridal shower.

Hubby is the worst secret keeper EVER. I don’t tell him my ‘secrets’ or even my ‘true thoughts’ on a lot of things. I know you’re not supposed to tell your husband everything…… but it would be nice to be able to confide in him and know that his best friends won’t know all about it by the end of the day. I’ve got no one to vent to down here in the Little City and sometimes I wish I did. His friends knew about the twins later that night before anyone from our own families found out. *sigh* Typical.

Surviving Bridal Showers:

My mother-in-law is truly a wonderful woman. No, really, she is! I’m probably one of the luckiest girls to have such a great MIL. She is truly interested in me and genuinely listens when I speak. I know she hears and tries to remember all my likes and dislikes and is extremely thoughtful. For example, she’ll send me to the nail salon with a gift certificate sometimes when I drop the kids off for my weekly “Mommy’s Day Out/Grandma’s Day In”. When we come for dinner it is always a feast filled with our favorites; she makes extra food for us to take home so I don’t have to bother with cooking the next day. She brought me pineapple after pineapple when I was craving it most ~ and supplied me with endless carmel apples after the babies were born.

She loves my children so much. She loves to give, give, give. (I’ve got (literally) five huge bins of clothes ranging from newborn through 2T. Some of the clothes I’ve purchased but she’s always finding things for the girls and snatching them up!) Anyways… MIL is great. Her MIL (Hubby’s grandmother) was very mean to her when she first married into the family. VERY mean, as in Hubby’s Grandma accused my MIL of being knocked up by someone other than her husband when they got pregnant with my husband (did that make sense? basically, Grandma accused my MIL of cheating on her husband and getting knocked up and that the baby wasn’t actually theirs. *sigh*… it’s really too long a story to get more into.) Back to my MIL… so she had a terrible MIL experience and so with me (and my MIL told me this) she never wants to have that kind of relationship. She wants to help me as much as I need her to help and she wants to include me in her life as much as I’ll let her. She doesn’t give unneeded advice, she sticks with my ‘rules’ for the babies… she calls me the ‘daughter she never had’ – which truly is so awesome. She’s such a wonderful woman and I feel so blessed to have her as my MIL.

So of course when we announced our engagement (and the ‘curveball’ aka the first grandchild) she wanted to throw me a bridal shower at their poolhouse (I like to say I married up… but actually, HE did. Haha.) but as tradition goes, the MIL is not supposed to host a shower – so her group of best friends hosted the shower at the MIL’s poolhouse. I was nervous. What if her friends didn’t like me? What if I got some really wierd present and couldn’t effectively pull off an “oh! this is so lovely!” upon opening it?

The day arrived and everything actually went smoothly. My husbands friends who attended kept our secret very well! With smiles so amused as people joked about Hubby & I having twins since I looked so big, they really helped me ease into being the lady of the afternoon. I received many wonderful gifts, some odd items, and a sprinkle of things I’ll pass on to a White Elephant. It all went really well and I’m pretty sure all my MIL’s friends approve of me.

PHEW! ! ! ! ! !

Surprising the Family:

We decided to tell our families at the same time during our planned family barbeque after the bridal shower. That way everyone found out together and no one could feel left out. (It’s difficult some of the time when one side lives out of town.) The guys had been golfing all day (very regular amongst the men in our families). My dad and Hubby’s dad had really gotten to know each other and the time spent together proved they would have a wonderful relationship. Thank God my in-laws are normal people, like golf and wine, and can get along with my parents (who are more or less the same, as long as you add hardcore Catholic into their mix).

As the meat went on the grill my mom went inside the poolhouse to help my MIL and FIL serve up appetizers and bring some dishes outside to the tables where we were all sitting. They joked, “I wonder what they want to tell us. Maybe they found out what it is”, “Thank God it’s only one baby! Haha. Haha.”, “Yeah, we’d know by now if it were twins!” Laughter filled the poolhouse as our parents imagined our upcoming announcement.

Everyone settled down for appetizers and Hubby & I stood up to address our families. We started with the usual ‘thanks for being here’, blah blah. We continued, “The ultrasound went really well other than a couple of things. Nothing un-handle-able is wrong there are just some things the doctor is concerned about. We wanted to brief the family on it before the birth so that everyone could be prepared.” Dun dun dun…. ominous looks crossed everyone’s faces. They were preparing themselves for something bad.

“Everything’s great, the only thing is that she’s dyzygotic,” Hubby said.

Before he said ‘dizygotic’, my MIL screamed, “SHE?!” Then someone asked “What’s dizygotic?” A light-bulb look came over the faces of my father (a doctor) and my sister (a science know-all) as they found in their memory banks the meaning of dizygotic.

I smiled. Then, I said, “It means she has a sister.” At that moment, you could have heard a flea laughing it was so silent!

“TWIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINS!!” My mother howled and gasped laughter out of her mouth. She was red as a beet with surprise and excitement. She and my MIL were screaming and hugging each other. I wish we had gotten it on videotape. My FIL just sat there and opened another beer, completely stunned by our news. Everyone was so excited, so surprised, and deliriously happy.

I think my sisters were especially happy because while although they aren’t officially twins, they’ve been raised as such their entire lives so for me, their oldest sister, to be having twins was really exciting for them. Plus, they each got to be a godmother so no one’s feelings were hurt. PHEW! 🙂

I had survived my first scary ultrasound, my first scary bridal shower, and the excitement of sharing our good news. Now I just had to survive being mom to twins….. Dun dun dun….

I was glad that we had told the families because now I could go back to the Big City to tell MY friends. It was so exciting and I knew I’d have to tell them all at the same time. I decided my bachelorette party would be the day. My friends were taking me to the horse races for some brunch and a classy day of betting and cheering on our favorites. This, of course, is another ‘blog-story’ for another day.

(SideNote: My sisters are seven weeks apart in age.)

(Explanation cause I know you want one: Myself and all my siblings are adopted. At the time my parents were looking for a baby, two birthmothers picked them and agreed to have my parents raise their babies together. Pretty cool. I had prayed really hard for a sister; we joke now that I prayed too hard. 🙂 )

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