You’re 3!

September 15, 2015

I’ve been relatively silent over the past 2 years.

We wanted your story told. We needed our world to know about you. We wanted to chronicle each moment of your brief life – from the first heartbeat to the last.

But that is such a small part of your story Keller. Your story is still being told. You are still doing mighty and incredible things 3 years later. So much more of your story needs to be told.

I think I’m finally ready to tell part 2 of your amazing life Keller Norman.

Last year I couldn’t even bring myself to write on your 2nd birthday.

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I’ve mentioned the mental health demons I battled head on during Keller’s pregnancy. After our Zoe was born the demons returned with fury. I sank. Depression, OCD, Panic, & Anxiety nearly buried me.

I do NOT say this lightly when I say, it was the darkest time in my life.

I groped for a light I couldn’t find. I clenched my fists and held on as tight as I knew how while being bloodied and beaten by demons. I searched for an ounce of hope that eventually the day wouldn’t end with me begging, broken, and desperate. Most days I couldn’t find the hope. I cried openly and often. My mom lived with us for nearly 3 months. I lived in constant panic. I wanted to hide. For months there was not a moment that I did want to sprint as quickly as I could and hide under something dark, heavy, and secure. Nothing felt safe. Nothing felt the same. Nothing felt good. I only held on so tirelessly because those who had found their way out of the darkness assured me deliverance would come. I only held on because I had seen God’s love break through the black of death first hand. I couldn’t see the light then. Sometimes I waivered in believing the dawn would come. Slowly the sky faded from black to blue. The blue melted into reds and purples and oranges and yellows. The sun rose. It always does. It always will. It’s ok if you can’t see the sunrise right now. It’s a tunnel – not a cave.

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This year – I can write. Happy 3rd birthday baby boy! The sun has risen!

God has worked through the hands of so many to bring me to this place of rich, deep, genuine joy. Your big sister Mary just started Kindergarten and is absolutely thriving. Praise God! We continue to cover each school day in prayer and I am just so confident His light will shine through the darkness. Your little sister Zoe is starting to walk and talk, and I just KNOW you would love, love, love playing with her. I miss you. We all miss you. Mary talks about you the most. She never forgets you in family drawings. She always draws you and Jesus together in the sky. I like that she always draws Jesus in our family too. She is excited about you turning 3, and maybe starting preschool in Heaven? We think it would be AMAZING if Jesus was your preschool teacher. I mean – I’ve known Him for a while – maybe I can pray in a request ;).

Your Dad and I miss you all the time.

We have met so many new people in the past 3 years. We miss you most when people ask how many children we have. That question never gets easier. I never don’t stumble over my answer. Your Dad and I both wish we could boldly and confidently say “We have got a boy in Heaven, and his name is Keller, and we REALLY love and miss him”. But that’s hard. Sometimes it’s easier than other times. Sometimes it’s just a perfunctory response to the cashier, “Yup, these are our two girls.” It hurts every time because it means you aren’t here. It means for a short time you were, and now you are not. The question always puts a sort of burden on my heart. We are selfish. We really want you. We want our son. We want a 3 year old boy running around with his goofball 5 & 1 year old sisters.

But the really cool thing is that while our arms ache to scoop you up, hug you tight, and read you bedtime stories in your monster footed jammies – in so many ways – you ARE here. You are still living. You are with Jesus. You are doing incredible work here. It blows our minds how much goodness God has created through your tiny and perfect life.

We love you so much and we want the world to know that you are our son – but we are so thrilled that you are and forever will be His son.

We can’t wait to see you both in full glory. The day we are all born again to the fullness this world desperately lacks. The best birthday.

Happy 3rd Birthday Keller!

September 15, 2015

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Two Days.

In two days, we will be going to the hospital to be induced with our third child.

Two days.

In two days, little sister will begin making her entrance into this world. A world that shouts his majesty from the mountaintops, and whispers His glory through the cracks.

In two days, my pregnancy with this thriving, wiggling, chubby-cheeked little girl will be replaced with a crying, sleepy-eyed, trusting infant in my arms.

This pregnancy has been a screaming-from-the-rooftops testimony of the love, peace, and power of our Abba Father.

He has gently, but firmly held my hand with each step. He has surrounded me with a host of His children. Children that are filled with His Spirit, and love, and unflinching dedication. My name, my husband’s name, and my children’s names have been laid at the feet of our Lord by souls across the country.

Until recently, I have trusted, nearly effortlessly, because as I walked out towards Jesus on these unknown waters, the waves gently and almost kindly lapped around my feet.

In two days, we will be going to the hospital to meet our third child.

In the past month, my heart and mind have begun to register the reality and weight of this truth. The waves have grown and the fear has mounted, as I work to balance the terror alongside growing joy and excitement. My eyes keep flickering away from Jesus. My eyes keep darting towards to rolling waves and my unsteady feet.

Anxiety and panic have inched their way in, and honestly –

I’m just scared.

My obsessive compulsive brain registers this fear and morphs it into intrusive, unrelenting, unreasonable, and absurd fears. I keep looking at these fears. Meditating on the “what-if” scenario. Panicking over panic.

The waves.

Truthfully, most moments I’m looking directly down at stormy waters. I find my heart begin to trust – not only in the senseless, constant fears – but simply in the fact that these waves exist, and navigating through the waters will be full of hazards, panic, and disorder. And I’m scared. I’m scared about everything. EVERYTHING.

And then, for a moment, I look up.

Jesus is still there. Still reaching out with a soft reassuring smile and a gentle, but firm hand.

“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”

Mark 4:39

“The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”

Matthew 7:25

“But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” 

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Matthew 14:27-32

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

1 John 4:4

“Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” “

Exodus 14:13-14

“You need only be still”. Fix my eyes Jesus. Set my eyes. Make me to stare deeply into your eyes and see.  May I be soul-assured of just how deep the Father’s love for us. Make me to trust “without borders”. Gift me an even greater trust in your divine, undeniable might. May the whispers of your love drown out the deafening roar of the thundering waves.

In two days, I will be literal inches and moments away from meeting our daughter.

I love her with such a fierce, protective, all encompassing love that any threat – no matter how minute or unrealistic – causes me to instinctively and completely dive headlong into any possible answer or solution to keep her safe, sheltered, and secure.

HOW MUCH MORE Abba Father do you love me – your daughter? My love is imperfect and partial. Your love is perfect, complete, and fathomless. You love me more deeply than I have ever loved Mary, Keller, or baby sister. This is more than I can reach my mind around. You love me bigger, more fiercely, and more perfectly than the most powerful love I have ever known.

I am your child and you are begging me, “Peace, be still.”

You will carry me.

You won’t stop now.

In two days, we will step into a hospital, preparing our hearts, minds, and bodies to meet our little girl.

She will come into this world, and I will scoop our daughter tightly into my arms, with tears of joy and gratitude in my eyes, and whisper, “I will never stop loving you. I will never stop protecting you. I will give all of myself for all of you.”

Abba will also scoop me up into His tender and magnificent arms and whisper, “I will never stop loving you. I will never stop protecting you. I have given all of myself for all of you.”

 

Happy 1st Birthday Keller!

Happy Birthday Keller!

Keller,

I told Mary about your birthday and she asked, “Are we going to go to Heaven for his birthday?” I told her we couldn’t until we died. She then responded with, “But how will he get his cake?” Our family clearly values food. Mary hopes you enjoy the vanilla cake with sprinkles that God made you. We are going to have a small family birthday party for you today. (Mary is going to eat some cake down here for you.) I wish you could be here. I know that you wish we could be with you and the Lord. I think you are right, that is the better option. One day Keller Feller. One day.

Your Mommy, Daddy, and sister love you so much. I am thankful you have only ever known love. I can only imagine how incredible it is to sit at the feet of Jesus. I long to sit with you in my lap and hold you tight as we sway and sing praises to our King. One day Keller Feller. One day. I know you never lived here on earth, but a lot of people know and love you. They all say, “Happy Birthday!” too. Your short life has done mighty things. It’s really incredible. People all over the world love you and praise and trust the Lord more fully because of the really awesome work God did through your life. I’m so proud of you. You are such a good boy. We really are over the top proud of you Keller. We’ll make sure to keep telling more and more people about Jesus the Overcomer. I know you know Jesus pretty well by now. That’s really cool. Tell God to give you extra hugs and kisses today. Mary hopes you enjoy the balloon.

Miss you so much,

Mommy, Daddy, and Mary

“Keller moments.”

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A lot of large and important decisions must be made relatively quickly following the death of a loved one. There are many practical aspects of death that must be addressed. It’s bizarre to make nearly “business-like” decisions after death has stopped your world from turning. But you have to. So you do.

We chose to have Keller’s perfect body cremated. My sister found a funeral home that offered this service as well as an official death certificate. Having a death certificate was important to me. I needed some official document proving that Keller Norman Bartlett lived, even if recording his death was the only way to legally do so.

Going to the funeral home was an interesting experience. I am thankful for those who dedicate their lives to helping others say goodbye to loved ones. It is a job that has great potential to reach out and hug all of humanity and love them in their darkest moments. It is an incredibly selfless and mighty work.

The funeral home itself was rather macabre. The building was musty and the floor creaked with each step. The lights were kept low and an eery ambiance was cast through purple and yellow stained glass windows. It was almost as if the home was trying to manufacture sadness and sobriety. It made both Nathan and I feel uneasy. In our hearts, death is not something that needs visual and artificial aids in order for the audience to realize the somber finality of it all.

Everyone we worked with was kind and professional. We were asked if we wanted to purchase an urn before leaving. Honestly, looking at the urns made us shudder a bit. None of them made sense for Keller. We declined, and it was then I decided we should paint pottery.

Aside from my parents, our families had gone home. My parents had been busy pouring all the love they had pent up for Keller out on Mary. She was loved up while Nathan and I took care of practicalities, and took advantage of the quiet to mourn and draw closer. Not long after Keller’s memorial service, Nathan and I took Mary out to paint pottery. Nathan and I chose a small lidded box for Keller. Nathan would paint the lid, and I would paint the box. We let Mary choose anything she wanted to paint. We told her it would be her special thing we would keep on her shelf to always remember baby brother. She chose a little boy playing baseball. I think that is just so darling. I was expecting her to choose something  bizarre like a lobster, but she thoughtfully picked a little boy. She has gifted us so many precious moments that I will for always treasure deep in my heart.

We were the only ones in the pottery studio. I think it was a Tuesday afternoon. We all sat and painted. There were no rules. There were no dim lights or mood lighting. It was a bright and cheery space. No one had any idea that the pieces we painted were heavy with significance and loss. We painted anything we wanted. Each little piece expressed a tiny bit of our love for Keller. Everything about that time and space was right. It was a “Keller moment”. It paid tribute to him in the best way we knew how.

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Tomorrow is Keller’s first birthday. We have been at a total loss in how best to honor and celebrate his life. Our love for him cannot be fully captured in any one event. It’s been difficult, but I have accepted this. We have decided to spend the day as a family. We will have a picnic, eat birthday cake, and let Mary release a balloon so Keller can have some party decorations up in Heaven. (Mary let me know that God is making him a vanilla cake with sprinkles.) We will spend the day singing the hymns so closely tied to Keller’s life. We will play at the park and watch Mary’s toddler joy and imagine Keller crawling up beside her and flashing her smiles of big sister admiration. It will be our “Keller moment” – the best way we know to pay tribute to our son. We (Nathan and I) will stay up till 11:57 p.m. and light a candle for our boy. A candle to represent the light his life has shown in the middle of total darkness. We will listen to his memorial service and weep with our community all over again. We will praise our Lord for the incredible things He has done through Keller’s life. We will petition to our God for continued comfort, trust, and healing. We will pour our hearts to our God because we deeply long to hold our son again.

I imagine throughout our lives we will have many “Keller moments”. Quiet moments focused in on showing our love for our boy. These moments will join up to a lifetime of “Keller moments”, and even though he was never with us, Keller will keep on living and shining the light of Heaven. That’s Jesus. And that’s awesome.

 

 

The house of mourning.

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It’s difficult to know the best way to honor and remember a stillborn child. Funerals and memorial services allow people a dedicated time to grieve and mourn the loss of a loved one. Friends and family take time to hug and reminisce the memories shared with the deceased. No one ever knew Keller. Aside from our medical team, my parents, Wendy, Nathan, and myself – no one even saw Keller’s perfect tiny body. We knew we wanted to set aside time to honor our son, but initially, we weren’t sure of the best way. It seemed strange to hold a memorial service for a little boy that no one in the room had ever known.

A couple days after returning home, I was laying next to Mary while she took her nap. In those quiet moments, I decided, strange or not, we needed to have memorial service for Keller. I think this was the first time I used the phrase “my love song to Keller”. We needed to have a memorial service precisely because no one in the room had ever known him. His arrival had been eagerly anticipated by everyone in our community. We all needed to gather up and mourn the little boy we would never know. We all needed to gather up and recognize and praise the great Overcomer. Nathan and I needed hugs. We needed to be loved on by those we loved the most. We needed to show the world our son.

Over the next few days, Nathan and I retreated to our room and worked out the details of the service. It would be held at our church in Sunnyvale on Sunday September 21 at 5:45 p.m.. We chose our fathers and our preacher to say any words the Lord had placed on their hearts. We chose my brother and brother-in-law to read scriptures that had been providing us divine comfort. We chose two of our dearest brothers in Christ to open and close the service with prayers and petitions to our God. We chose another beloved brother in Him to lead hymns that had been providing us with solace and hope. We put together a slide show. We only had 9 months of pictures to share, but each picture captured the large and forever footprint Keller had placed on our hearts. Nathan ended the service with a message and leading the song “How Great Is Our God”. This is Keller’s song. 60 years from now, this will still be Keller’s song.

It was difficult trying to mentally and emotionally prepare for Keller’s service. Some moments are so heavy with importance and meaning that the idea of finally sitting and experiencing that moment is almost frightening. I feel a lot of these same emotions as Keller’s first birthday is approaching. It’s another momentous occasion intended to honor our son in the best possible way. Nothing will ever feel quite grand or large enough to capture the love song we have in our hearts for Keller. We have to be content with every feeble attempt we make and allow God and His love to work and shine through us.

Our church was at the ready to provide all they could to make his service everything we needed it to be. Several went up to the building the evening before to ensure the sound system worked properly and songs we wanted played worked with the current set up. The normal Sunday evening service was shortened in order to dedicate as much time to Keller’s service as possible.

The Saturday before the service, the best man at our wedding, Andrew, called Nathan to let us know he was at his layover in Dallas on his way to be at Keller’s service. Nathan and I were and are forever deeply moved by this lavish act of love and loyalty. Y’all should get an Andrew too. We really have some very amazing souls in our life.

Sunday afternoon, my mom and sister put Mary down for a nap so that Nathan and I could go up to the church building and make all the last minute arrangements. 


We placed the beautiful and abundant flowers we had received on the steps of the stage. We sat the toy Mary had chose for Keller at the welcome table, along with his baby brother onesie, and crocheted hat. I sat while Nathan and our loved ones did most of the manual labor. My body was still so fragile from giving birth. We tested our slide show. Everything was ready. My family dressed Mary in her big sister shirt and a silver tutu.

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Mary and our families arrived. One by one, an incredible amount of people we love to eternity and back filled the auditorium. The only other similar moment I have experienced was at our wedding. My dad was at my side and the doors opened for me to walk down the aisle to Nathan. The doors opened and the chapel was filled with all the loved ones that had helped get me to this point in my life. It was one of the most moving and worship-filled experiences I had ever had. In that moment, I cried and praised the Lord for the community with which He had surrounded me. Keller’s service had that same worship-filled moment. Friends from the community. Co-workers. Friends from who had driven from across the entire state of California. Friends who had flown in just for this very day. Family. Brothers and sisters in Christ. Our entire community gathered up in order to sit for a time and weep with us. Moments like these bring you to your knees as you bow down before the Creator with a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

The service began and we all joined together and sat in the house of mourning. Mary sat next to us and played with Fisher Price Little People and the Scottie Dog she had bought for Keller. We sang “Blessed Be Your Name”, “Glorious Day”, “Just As I am (I Come Broken)”, “Mighty to Save”, “Greater”, and “How Great is Our God”. Each song offered a unique comfort and shared a unique message we needed to be shared. We read II Corinthians 1: 3-7, excerpts from Exodus 14 and John 16, and Phillipians 4:10-13. Words of love for our boy and praise to our God were shared. “Where Joy and Sorrow Meet” was the song that accompanied our slide show.

“Where Joy and Sorrow Meet”

There’s a place of quiet stillness ‘tween the light and shadows reach
Where the hurting and the hopeless seek everlasting peace
Words of men and songs of angels whisper comfort bittersweet
Mending grief and life eternal where joy and sorrow meet

There is a place where hope remains
In crowns of thorns and crimson stains
And tears that fall on Jesus’ feet
Where joy and sorrow meet

There’s a place the lost surrender and the weary will retreat
Full of grace and mercy tender in times of unbelief
For the wounded there is healing, strength is given to the weak
Broken hearts find love redeeming where joy and sorrow meet

There’s a place of thirst and hunger where the roots of faith grow deep
And there is rain and rolling thunder when the road is rough and steep
There is hope in desperation there is victory in defeat
At the cross of restoration where joy and sorrow meet

There is a place where hope remains
In crowns of thorns and crimson stains
And tears that fall on Jesus’ feet
Where joy and sorrow meet

We all sat in that place – the place where joy and sorrow meet. I think that this is same place the writer of Ecclesiastes was talking about when he said, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” We all sat in the house of mourning, where joy and sorrow meet, and worshipped. I cannot articulate all the blessings that come with accepting and embracing seasons of grief and pain. It’s truly difficult to allow yourself the time and energy to sit with sadness and loss and accept they have entered your life and forever changed the way you do and perceive everything. It will take more time and wisdom for me to be able to list the reasons and benefits of time spent in the house of mourning. For now, I simply know beyond doubt that the time spent face to face with death and agony in the shadow of the cross has profoundly changed me for the better. Allow yourself the grace and gift of pulling up a chair and spending all the time you need in the house of mourning.

We stayed at the church building until close to 10. We laughed, cried, and embraced each person who had come to be with us. Mary had the time of her life. She and her best friends ran around the building and played as hard as they could. Nathan and I both vividly recall thinking, “Man. Mary is having a blast!” – which is really awesome. It’s SO good to see sparks of innocent joy in the shadows of darkness.

Nathan and I have made “Crack Pies” for both Mary and Keller’s “Coming-home-from-the-hospital-hooray-you-are-born” celebration. We made each of them a couple weeks before our babies were born. The pies stayed in the freezer at the ready for the birth of our children. We decided that we would have the pies after Keller’s memorial service. Our family and several of our friends crammed into our tiny living room and celebrated Keller with pie. Pie is a good way to celebrate most things. (Especially this pie – it is really, REALLY, good.) We hadn’t really told Mary why we were having the pies, but as soon as we got to our front door she said, “It’s Keller’s birthday party.” Precious child – we will forever treasure the tender moments you provided us in those days of darkness.

We have an audio copy of the Keller’s memorial service. We have yet to listen to it. No time has felt still or worthy enough of taking time to once again sit in the house of mourning and worship. We will take time and listen to it this week. We will sit and weep with our loved ones all over again and praise the great Overcomer of death.

Here are the final words we shared at Keller’s service. This is the best way we know how to honor Keller. Let them see Jesus.
“Treat all you see & interact with as if they just lost their child – we don’t know the long, dusty, tiresome road that may have brought someone to where they are – and I know for certain that they all need the gentle, never stopping, over flowing, never giving up love of Jesus in their lives – at the very moment you encounter them. 
YOU are the hands of Jesus. 
YOU are the voice of Jesus. 
YOU are the feet of Jesus. 
You are JESUS in this world.
Be Jesus. 
He is risen. He is real. He has overcome. 
Be Jesus. 
Let them see Jesus today.”
Keller’s slide show

Everyone needs compassion.

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The staff gave us the option of going to recovery in either the “Mommy & Me” wing or down to a regular hospital room on the second floor. We chose the later option, imagining it would be difficult to hear the tiny cries of newborns. Looking back, both Nathan and I regret this decision a bit. We lost our feeling of security in the regular hospital wing. We were a bit lost in the shuffle of nurses caring for a variety of patients. The nurses were (rightfully) busy and many didn’t know that we had just lost our son. It was our initial introduction into the real world. The thing about functioning in the real world when you are broken is that no one knows you are broken. I have shared this sentiment with others and we all agree that wearing a shirt that says “I just went through stillbirth. Please treat me gently, and if you have them, cookies and hugs are appreciated.”would be helpful. I’ve yet to find that graphic tee in an Etsy shop.

A dear friend brought us breakfast. He asked if I had any requests, so I said “Bagel and Lox.” Sweet man had NO idea what lox was but drove around to SEVERAL different bagel shops until he found it. Just the beginning of the ridiculous love that was poured out on us in the weeks and months to come.

Wendy said goodbye while we were in this room. She had stood by our side for over 24 hours. The real world called. The need for rest called. It was the first of many small transitional steps into our “new normal”. We hugged. I don’t remember any profound words of love and thanks spilling from my lips, but it’s a comfort to have a friend who can read your heart.

It was now time to tell Mary. We had been mourning over this moment for many hours. Our neighbors brought her to the hospital and my parents went down the lobby to bring her up to our room. They gave us time alone as a family to explain everything that had happened to baby brother. I know Mary was only just 2, but she fully understood that her brother Keller was going to come out of mommy’s belly and come home and live with us. It was something we had been discussing with her for months. Not only did she understand, she was excited. She knew that when “Auntie” brought her to the hospital, she would get to meet and hold Keller. She came in the room and Nathan and I fought back every urge to breakdown in tears and frighten Mary.

“Hey baby! How are you? We missed you.”

“We have something we need to tell you ok honey?”

“You know how baby brother came out of mommy’s tummy in the hospital? Well, baby brother got hurt. Keller died and went to Heaven. Heaven is where God and Jesus live. So since he got hurt and died, he won’t be able to come and live with us. He’s going to stay with God and Jesus in Heaven. We are so sorry you don’t get to hold him. We know you were so excited.”

“….But I love him. I miss him. I want to see him… … … I want some nummies.”

I love toddlers. I love their moments of profound tenderness that are quickly followed by a loud reality check that your child is in fact only 2.

We had brought a few gifts for her to the hospital to open once Keller was born. She opened both her gifts, and the gifts she had picked out for Keller. Daddy, Mary, and I decided it would be ok if Mary opened them and kept them for him. One of the presents we got her was a Veggie Tales “God Loves You” DVD. The providence of this is not lost on me. We put it in and curled up on the bed and watched it as a family.

Our neighbors, their son, and my parents all came back in the room. My parents gave Mary a lollipop and the three of them drove back to grab some lunch and head to our apartment. We talked with our neighbors. We cried together. We thanked them.

At this point everyone had left. Nathan and I ate some lunch and took a nap in my hospital bed. I mention this because I just want to take a moment to praise the Lord for my husband and that nap I got to take in his arms. He is my champion.

My sister arrived around 2 that afternoon. She was immediately dropped off at the hospital. She crawled up in the bed beside me and we both sat and wept. For so many reasons, we wept. We shared pictures and moments we had with Keller. We laughed. We snacked. We held each other in silence.

A nurse technician came into our room not long after my sister had arrived. She came in, looked around at our somber faces, and said “Well you all are quiet! Did someone do something bad?” Bless her heart. I had no brain and or will power to say anything other than “Well. My son just died. It was a stillbirth.” Again. Bless her heart. (Here comes the bizarre/funny part.) “Well that’s sad… [looks down at the lollipop Mary had left on the table] That looks good! Whose is it?” “Our daughters. She’s 2.”  “Well you better watch out. I might steal it when you are sleeping.” And walks out the door. Bless that dear woman’s heart. We dropped quite a bomb on her. It’s hard to know just what to say when you are met with a shocking statement such as, “My son just died”. I’m certain she walked out of that room thinking “What in the WORLD did I just say? Did I just threaten to steal their daughter’s lollipop?!” I have all the sympathy. I have a terrible case of inappropriate word vomit as well. Bless your heart.

It was then time to go. My body was returning to “normalcy” rather quickly and we worked to be able to leave within the hour. We got a call on our hospital phone. “Congratulations on the birth of your child. Would you like to pay by credit card now or be billed later?” The employee on the other end of the line was doing her job and doing it well. She had no idea. That was ok, there is no way she could have known. It was just a bleak reminder that we were about the step out in the world. We were about to step into a world that couldn’t see our bruises.

It was such a still feeling packing up to leave. I imagine it was similar to what it must be like sorting through the wreckage after a disastrous tornado. What was once chaos and swirling and howling all around you, was now quiet, as if nothing had ever happen, save the rubble you are left sort through. Quite surreal.

We didn’t need to make sure to pack up all the diapers, bottles, wipes, and blankets the hospital provided. There was no need for a “going home” outfit. It was such a contrast from going home after Mary was born. When you leave a hospital after being pregnant for nine months, it is assumed you will go home with a baby. 36 hours prior we were eagerly awaiting our boys arrival. We had given birth to Keller, but he would not be coming home with us. Nathan and I both liken it to the rewind button being pressed on our life. Things would be “just as they were” nine months prior. Nathan, myself, and Mary – no Keller. It was almost as if those nine months had never happened. There was no baby to prove that he was real. There was nothing that showed those outside of our network that we had two children. Nothing to indicate that I had carried a second child inside my womb for nine months. It was and is difficult for our minds to process. Stepping back into life, a life completely new yet completely the same, was a daunting and scary process.

Nathan and my sister went to get our car and I was wheeled down to the front doors.

Seeing a world that is functioning the exact same capacity as it did two days before was overwhelming. I remember that even the way the volunteer wheeled me to the lobby felt trite considering everything that leaving that hospital meant.

We didn’t want to listen to the radio. It was another reminder that life was marching on without us. We needed everything to keep still for a while longer. The carseat sat empty. The backseat mirror was installed, but there was no squishy baby to glance at. The car was silent, yet every little thing around us screamed out loud that Keller would never be with us.

I remember the car ride home. Both Nathan and I were struck to the core with the truth -“Everyone needs compassion”.

We were battered and broken and no one around us knew. There are so many around us bruised and crumbling under the weight of sorrow and trial – our cashier, the driver who just laid on their horn, the colleague with the snide comment, the teacher lacking patience, the quiet mother at the park who can’t bring herself to smile – and we all so desperately need compassion. We don’t need details. We need love. We needed love. We needed everyone around us to assume that what we needed right at that moment was overflowing compassion.

This lesson has been both a gift and test. It is a difficult lesson to engrain. I constantly have to remind myself that EVERYONE needs that same tender compassion we needed so badly. Compassion looks different for different people and different circumstances, but it is always begins with love.

Mighty to Save

Everyone needs compassion
A love that’s never ending
Let mercy fall on me
Everyone needs forgiveness
The kindness of a savior
The hope of nations
Saviour he can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave
So take me as you find me
All my fears and failures
Fill my life again
I give my life to follow
Everything I believe in
Now I surrender
Saviour he can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave
Saviour he can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave
Shine your light and let the whole world see
Were singing for the glory of the risen king Jesus
Were singing for the glory of the risen king Jesus
Saviour he can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave
Saviour he can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave
Shine you light and let the whole world see
Were singing for the glory of the risen king Jesus
(by Hillsong United)

 

 

 

You are forever a part of our story.

I need to pause from telling the story of Keller’s birth, and highlight a few incredible servants.

Dr. O – 

Praise the Lord for providing us with Dr. O. I asked Wendy and my family to send me everything they could remember about Keller’s labor and delivery. Each one mentioned our Doctor. She worked with the perfect blend of professionalism and compassion. I love her. I always will. She was tender and strong. She saw our pain, and reached out in love. She saw our agony, and became family. She saw our fear, and rolled up her sleeves, ready to work with and for us.

September 15 was just another day of work. September 15 was the day our world stopped. Dr. O saw our world come to a screeching halt and made herself vulnerable to our grief. She cried with us. She attentively cared for us. She had to be the one to tell us our son’s heart had stopped beating. There is such poetry in the fact that she bookended Keller’s birth. My body progressed very little throughout the day, and then Dr. O came back into work. Within a few hours, Keller’s little body was ready to be born and the same doctor that told us of Keller’s death was able to bring him into this world.  She held my parents as they wept on the floor outside of the delivery room moments after Keller was born. She was and is everything you want a Doctor to be. Praise the Lord for you Dr. O. You are doing a good and mighty work. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to day in and day out, making yourself vulnerable to the tragedies of others, but thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for opening your heart and serving us with perfect compassion. You are forever a part of our story.

The Nurses –

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Each nurse played their role perfectly in our story. I know each of their names. I praise the Lord for the career path they have chosen. Take this as my bear hug to all those who serve as nurses. Nursing offers you a unique opportunity to touch the most intimate and raw moments of others lives. God bless those who put themselves aside and give fully to those they attend each and every shift.

Our first nurse wept with us as we came to grips with Keller’s death. Our second nurse had a heart filled with empathy. [She snuck me popsicles, jello, and chicken broth as long as I didn’t tell ;)] Our third nurse had perfect attention to detail. She did not neglect a single need. She worked her hardest to provide the best possible medical care in the worst possible situation. Our fourth nurse got our boys feet and hand prints with perfect respect and gentility. She was the nurse who wheeled Keller away after we said goodbye. I have no words for this act of service. Our fifth nurse provided  a comedic anecdote to share in the days after Keller’s death. I won’t go into details, but you know, everyone has a role to play, and her role was to shock us into laughing till we cried. Our last nurse didn’t know much of our situation. We were moved out of labor and delivery, and into a regular hospital room. She checked in with us and brought us lunch and juice. Thank you for feeding us.

So this is my love song to all those who serve in the medical field with compassion and vulnerability. Labor and delivery nurses are able to see and experience incredibly joyful moments. They witness moments of new creation entering this world, surrounded by parents ready to fully sacrifice themselves for the sake of their child. Our story was different. Our nurses had to witness incredible grief. I can’t imagine the difficulty of toggling the two emotions. One room is filled with the light and love of new birth, and another heavy with the heartache of the death of a child.  Thank you for putting yourself aside to serve so beautifully in each capacity. I cherish your talents. They leave me in awe. You touch so many lives. You have such power to bring light into darkness. Thank you for serving us on our darkest day. You are forever a part of our story.

Dr. M-

Dr. M was my prenatal and postpartum therapist. I can only fall to my knees and thank the  Lord for providing Dr. M. When I became pregnant with Keller, my insurance had recently started offering free counseling to pregnant and postpartum women. She and I had gotten to know each other rather well throughout my pregnancy. She patiently worked to guide me through the dense forest of Anxiety and OCD. She expertly led me to resources and exercises to rewire my misfiring brain. I credit her for the bulk of my progress.

If you are reading Dr. M, I’m out of the darkness. I turned a corner. I still battle, I know you know that. I just want you to know how much you have meant in our lives. I praise the Lord for you. I scream out thanksgiving because of the skill set and compassion you gifted me.

She heard that we had lost Keller, and, on her own time, came to our hospital room. We hugged and we wept. I will never forget or minimize this act. In later visits, she told me she was angry for days after Keller died. She saw our struggle and made herself vulnerable to our pain. Empathy is an incredible gift. You are everything you want and need in a Psychologist. I love you. You are forever a part of our story.

Abby –

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Guys. You should get yourself an Abby – as well as a Wendy. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep is an incredible ministry. NILMDTS “trains, educates, and mobilizes professional quality photographers to provide beautiful heirloom portraits to families facing the untimely death of an infant.” Each photographer volunteers their time and hearts and offers “a free gift of professional portraiture” to families of stillbirth and infant loss. I know. What an INCREDIBLE work.

We only had 7 hours with Keller. 7 hours. 7 hours can’t hold enough memories or take enough mental snapshots to ever capture Keller’s face perfectly in our minds, no matter how hard we may have tried. Wendy and the medical staff were aware of NILMDTS and contacted the agency for information regarding a local photographer. They were put in touch with Abby. Wendy recently told me that NILMDTS doesn’t do photography between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. (Keller was born at 11:57 p.m.). So, Abby reached out and told Wendy to contact her directly whenever Keller was born. She got to the hospital within 15 minutes. She left her husband and toddler in the middle of the night to serve our family. She sacrificed her rest and her heart to provide a gift to total strangers. She captured so many incredible moments with our son. We will forever know each little detail about Keller’s perfect body thanks to the selfless service of Abby. I’ll forever be certain that he indeed has my nose. Man. Isn’t he just the most handsome thing you have ever seen?

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Abby and I formed a friendship that I imagine will last forever. She shared her heartache of miscarriage, infertility, and failed adoptions – all of which led her tender heart to serve others experiencing loss. Our toddlers played together. She took family photos of us and our “Keller Bear” before leaving California. We keep in touch and I am in constant awe of her undeniable urge to serve the defenseless. I love you Abby. You are forever a part of our story.

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Thank you all for your service. Thank you all for using your talents to enrich the lives of others. Thank you for changing our lives. Thank you for allowing the Lord to work through you. You are FOREVER a part of our story.

Some have asked how they can honor Keller on his upcoming 1st birthday. If you are inclined, please consider making a donation in his name to Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. Click here for more information.

Making phone calls.

We sat and wept in that observation room for over an hour. So much still laid before us. It was only the beginning of both the longest and shortest 24 hours of our lives.

The doctor came back in and gently asked if we would like more time. We were ready to take the next step. She gave us our options : 1. Go home and wait to begin labor naturally. 2. Go home, gather some things, and head back up to the hospital when we were ready. 3. Be admitted and begin inducing labor. The last option was the only one our hearts could bear. We couldn’t take on the burden of delaying the delivery of our stillborn son any longer than necessary. They began the paper work to get us admitted and into a delivery room. We asked for a bit of time to make phone calls.

Making phone calls. My goodness. For every person that has had to make a phone call filled with the despair and heartbreak of sudden death, you have all of my love and empathy. It is a somber and heavy burden to be tasked with. You have to deliver tragedy to your loved ones while barely mustering up the courage to form the words.

We called our parents first. I don’t remember a lot about each phone call. Your brain goes a bit numb in self-defense I think. One of the first things my mom said was, “I’m coming.” “I know Mom.” “I’m coming right now.” “I know you are.” I knew without a doubt my parents would be on the first possible flight to San Jose. What a privilege to be loved so deeply. What a steadying comfort to have the one who delivered you into this life stand by your side while you work to deliver your own stillborn son. Nathan was unable to say much more than “We lost him.” to his parents. We called my sister. I remember sudden and complete heartbreak. She wept bitterly. “No. No. No.”

These phone calls were particularly difficult because, keep in my mind, it was my due date – September 15. Each person, asleep only seconds ago, answered the call with an excited and expectant, “Is it time?”. Instead, we delivered the news of Keller’s death. We had to break the hearts of those who already deeply and eternally loved our son. It is a brutal and sobering task. We called our neighbors. Christine was on the couch waiting for our call. “We lost Keller. He’s gone. There’s no heartbeat.” Heartbreak and love poured out. We knew without a doubt that Mary would be loved up and tenderly watched over no matter how long we had to be away. (I highly recommend convincing your best friends to become your neighbors – nothing but blessings await you.) We called our preacher’s wife whom we knew would be awake, and she humbly took on the task of sharing the news with our church family. We called our Wendy. She was expecting a call from us soon. She was not expecting this call. “Can I come?”. We had already decided that we still wanted Wendy to be a part of Keller’s delivery. She was at the hospital within 30 minutes and labored along side of us for the next 24 hours.

Thank you for answering the phone. Thank you for meeting darkness with love and compassion. Thank you for such a deep love that it can’t help but rush to selflessly serve. Thank you for pouring out your souls on our behalf.

Our story is not one of darkness and tragedy. We are by no means unique because we have seen death. Death and trials are in the lives of every person we meet. So many souls have experienced a magnitude of losses and tragedies that my heart and mind cannot even begin to comprehend. Many, most maybe, do not have the blessing of meeting death surrounded by a host of loved ones ready to do battle by their side. The bulk of challenges we would have to face still lied ahead of us, but we had total confidence that we would be constantly encircled by love and support. For this very blessing, we shout praise to our God. Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord oh my soul.

Thank you Jesus for living your life to show us how to be selfless servants to humanity. Thank you Jesus for teaching us how to abase ourselves to lift our brother up. Thank you Jesus for coming down from glory as a humble servant. Thank you for living, dying and rising again. Thank you for your army that desires this very same humble servitude. This is good news. This is life.

 

Oh God.

I have been dreading this post the most. More than once I have called the observation room “my dark place”. It’s a place that’s difficult for me to go. It’s where Keller died.

We got checked in and they sent us to an observation room. I got into my nightgown, laid down, and waited. This was when I first remember getting nervous. He still wasn’t moving. The nurse came in and attached a fetal monitor. The mood was light. We all fully expected the monitor to pick up a tiny heartbeat within seconds. We’d all breath sigh of relief and head home.  She moved the monitor all over my stomach. It couldn’t pick up any movement or heartbeat. Silence. Our hearts started to beat a bit faster.  The nurse decided to bring in an ultrasound machine. She searched. Something in her face changed. Silence. She quietly got up and left. She decided to defer to the resident on staff. He came in. He smiled gently, but there was nervousness in his voice. He prodded the wand in every direction. The room filled with tension. More silence. He didn’t want to say the words. He didn’t want to tell us. Truth was starting to settle on top of all of us. His eyes said that our worst fears were likely.

Our hearts were beating out of our chests. We sat there blankly. We stared straight ahead and didn’t say anything to each other. Last chance. They sent in another resident. They assured us that she was the best at navigating ultrasounds. She came in. She had a kind face and warm demeanor. She had hope in her eyes. Our minds pleaded with God for her to find something moving.  Even the slightest heartbeat. Even a little twitch. Anything. She searched and searched. She looked in every possible direction. And then – she stopped looking. Silence. Oh God. She just looked at us and said, “I’m so sorry.” Oh God. She moved the wand to show us where his tiny heart was. That little beating heart that we had seen and heard many times over the previous seven months was no longer moving. Nothing was moving. He was perfectly and completely still.

“Oh God.”

“Oh GOD!”

These were the only words I could say. I continued to cry out, “Oh God!” We both broke. Instantly.

“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.”

Panic set in. When you are met with sudden, tragic, and final news it takes a really long time for your brain to process it. I think our brains are still processing it in a lot of ways. Our heads were spinning, but also fully aware that our lives were never going to be the same.

The doctors kindly gave us all the time we needed to be alone. I didn’t really want them to leave right at first. I was scared of sitting alone with the fact that our son had just died.

As soon as they left, Nathan just shattered. We sobbed. We cried out to God. We shook with sorrow. We held each other and all I could say was “I’m sorry. I’m just so sorry. I’m so sorry Nathan. I’m so sorry you don’t get to have your son. I’m so so sorry.” I felt sick. Nothing could undo this. He was dead. It was final. Nothing could make his heart beat again. It was infuriating. You want to crawl out of your skin and scream. There was no re-do button. We thought about Mary never getting to meet her brother and absolutely collapsed in grief. We had to tell our daughter that her baby brother was dead. He wasn’t going to come live with us. She wouldn’t get to hold him in the hospital.

Oh God!

We cried in each others arms for nearly an hour. So many questions run through your mind. So many fears chase after you. It is a dark place. Death is darkness. It’s a heavy, thick, almost tangible darkness.

“We’re going to Hawaii.”

This was one of the first things I said when we were alone. I think I just wanted to get as far away from this horrible truth as possible. I wanted to jump in an ocean and cry out to God. Shout out to the Lord in the deep waters. Sudden death just rattles you to your core.

“Jesus wept.”

John 11:35

Death breaks Jesus’ heart too. Jesus saw the destruction death leaves, and He met it with compassion. He wept. He wept with compassion and love for his friends. My Jesus wept.

Taking time to think about Jesus as filled to the brim with compassion is comforting. Compassion means He sees our sorrows. He knows each grief plaguing our hearts. He intimately knows me and is filled with compassion just for me.

I cannot sort out all of eternity and the spiritual realm. I cannot make out a map detailing the end of times or the inner workings of the Godhead. I cannot explain the intricacies of God’s providence and intervention. I can only rest in what I do know. I do know that the Lord has compassion for me. I do know that Jesus saw our broken state and had absolute and perfect compassion. He held us tight and said, “Peace. Be still.” The storm raged violently all around us. We were blinded by roaring waves. Jesus in His perfect love, held us in His arms through the storm.

“And Moses said to the people,“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today…The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Exodus 14:13-14

To Him who divided the Red Sea asunder,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
And made Israel pass through the midst of it,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting;”

Psalm 136:13-14

A walk to remember.

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It was around 4 a.m. when we left for the hospital. There isn’t much happening in Bay Area suburbia at 4 a.m. The roads were dark and quiet. It probably only took 5 minutes to get to the hospital.

We parked in the garage. I told Nathan to go ahead and grab our overnight bags. He said he could come back and get them if we needed to, but a 9 month pregnant woman would not be denied, so he grabbed the bags and we walked.

We walked through the parking garage and parking lots to the front door of the E.R. We calmly and lightheartedly told the front desk that we were just heading up to labor and delivery. We got on the elevator and went up to the 3rd floor.

I have distinct memories of walking the long hallways towards check-in. I was having some Braxton hicks, but Keller was still not moving. I remember laughing as we walked down the hall. I remember truly believing, “Worst case scenario, I have an emergency C-section. We’ll get to hold him tonight and Mary can finally meet her baby brother.” I think I was even a touch excited. I think I was just excited at the chance that we could hold our son in just a few hours. Excited at the chance that the next time walked down that hallway, we’d be going home with our son.

There is such a vivid snapshot in my mind of Nathan and I walking that long hallway. It was the calm before the storm. It was eerie stillness before the tornado hits. All was quiet. It was just Nathan, and I, and our son.

Hand in hand with my husband and the father of our children, we walked. We laughed. We prayed. We arrived at the check-in desk. I explained that I was the one who had called a few minutes earlier. Both the nurse and I were not too worried, but we agreed,  it’s good just to check really quickly.

I’m thankful for this walk. I’m thankful for the moment of total stillness Nathan and I got to experience before everything shattered. It was a glimmer of light before everything went dark for a while.

There isn’t much else to say. I don’t really have a large spiritual take-away for this one. I just have this memory so deeply imprinted on my heart, and I wanted to share it with you.

Thank you for holding my hand as we walked down that hallway Babe. Thank you for holding my hand when there are glimmers of light. Thank you for holding my hand when everything goes dark. You have a good hand. I like it.