That We Might Have Joy: April's Story

It’s a unique opportunity to be able to write about my experience and share it with others, and I am so glad Shantelle invited me to share my story. It’s bitter to relive the moments, but also sweet, because talking about it brings healing to me and hopefully others.

My husband, Cory, and I met in 2010 in Las Vegas while both serving missions for the LDS church. Not long after coming home, he looked me up, and we started dating. We got engaged March 20th, 2012. One of the first things I did after we got engaged was buy two newborn outfits. One for a boy and one for a girl. Cory now admits that he thought I was crazy when I showed him the two outfits, but apparently I wasn’t crazy enough for him to back out, because we were married just a few months later.

1,413 days after I bought those outfits (exact calculation) and about a hundred pregnancy tests later (rough estimation), I finally got the two coveted pink lines. Those two little lines sent me straight to pinterest where I started planning nurseries, photo shoots, and how I wanted to announce the pregnancy.

I turned to Dr. Internet where I looked up different nutrition facts and exercises that were safe to do while pregnant. Did I want a midwife or a doctor? What is a doula? I had so many questions. I signed up for at least three different day-by-day pregnancy calendars even though they all said the same information. I was so excited. Cory was excited too.  He even had us take a selfie when I told him, so he could remember the moment, and he NEVER takes selfies.  We were excited. We were very, very excited.

For the next few months, life went on as normal, and my pregnancy progressed as any pregnancy should. I eagerly counted down the appointments until the appointment. The big one where we would find out the gender.  Because as soon as we found out, we could pick out names, and I could buy clothes.  The day of my appointment I finally broke down and told my students that I was expecting—which many of them already suspected—and let them take a guess at the gender. I made it a game and said whoever guessed correctly would get candy the next day.  I went to the appointment and everything was absolutely normal, and in a few short months, we would be welcoming a perfect little girl.

The day after the appointment, we drove to Utah for a weekend visit with both of our families. I was more exhausted than normal and had really bad cramping, which I thought was growing pains of some sort.  Every time I moved around, I felt a gush of fluid, which I didn’t think much of because everyone told me that was normal and would just laugh it off. Unfortunately, none of it was normal.

Saturday night I couldn’t sleep.  I just couldn’t get comfortable, and every time I moved I would feel that uncomfortable gush. Moving was uncomfortable, but holding still felt unbearable. I ended up pacing the short hallway of a family member’s basement and curling up in warm bath water to help ease the pressure. Early, early Sunday morning, so early it still felt like Saturday night, I started bleeding and it wouldn’t stop.  Then the cramps got so bad that I finally realized they were contractions. I woke Cory up, and we headed to the E.R.  I couldn’t even walk myself to the car.  I had to be carried. The E.R. doctor told me I had gone into labor, I was already dilated, and I was barely five months pregnant. They told me to go see my OB/GYN in the morning and hope for the best.

We drove back home and got an appointment right away. At the appointment, we found out that I had lost all the amniotic fluid, and without amniotic fluid, the baby’s lungs wouldn’t develop. The doctor gave us some harrowing statistics and then told us a few different options we could choose from: 1) Go home and letting nature take its course.  2) Get checked in to the hospital and starting antibiotics and hope that the baby could replenish her amniotic fluid and it would stop leaking.

We drove straight to the hospital and I was checked in for the next 48 hours.  Friends and family came to visit, but I still had plenty of time alone with my thoughts-- plenty of time to worry and to research what our odds would be. After my two-day stay, I was sent home with medication and instructions. The goal was to make it to 22 weeks, when I would be checked in to a hospital with a larger NICU.

I made it three more days, and then I realized that I was going to have this baby much earlier than I wanted. It was exactly one week after the visit to the E.R. when everything hit the fan. I remember not feeling ready and being scared, so I knelt and I prayed and I said that I wasn’t ready, that I needed one more day. That prayer was answered, and I did get one more day.

The next morning I checked into the hospital. That day has now been distilled down to a few specific memories that spanned the entire day, but feel like they were moments that were back to back. I remember the way the doctor said “she’s head down, that’s a good sign” and I wanted to cry.  I remember looking away when they first handed her to me because I was too scared.  I remember watching her wiggle and move and try to breathe and feeling so worthless because there was nothing I could do. I remember the doctor standing with his hands on his hips, and mostly speaking to the wall, he said “This is the unfortunate part of obstetrics.”

Later a photographer came and took pictures, and then friends and family were in and out all day.  I talked and handed people my tiny baby to hold, but I don’t remember much of what anyone said. It’s hard to recall the order of events. The only thing that was going through my mind at the time was a nursery prayer on repeat:

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
If I die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Again and again and again that nursery rhyme ran through my head, numbing the pain of knowing that although my daughter wasn’t with me, at least she was with the Lord. The funeral director came at 10:30 pm to take her away, and then we settled in for a long, sleepless night.

It was after the funeral I realized that I really had my work cut out for me. I had to move forward and try to still find the good and joy in life, because life wasn’t going to stop for me. Even though I knew we had to move forward, it doesn’t mean it’s been easy, and it doesn’t mean that everyday has been wonderful. I think a big part of healing is accepting that not every day will be wonderful, or easy, or free from pain, because those feelings are very necessary to healing, and they make it possible for us to recognize the good when it happens. But even with understanding there will be bad days and days full of hurt, I know that I can’t actively choose being bitter.  I chose active bitterness for a while and doing so caused me to change to my core. When something good did happen, I wasn’t able to see it. Looking only for the negative in my situation and focusing on what I didn’t have kept away the joyful and positive moments that wanted to sneak into my day and surprise me, and there are so many small unexpected joys to be grateful for!

On the days that are especially bad, I try to count every little joyful surprise, and that changes everything! When I run out of joyful, daily surprises, I start counting blessings. These two things have been such a lifesaver in helping me remain positive and finding joy. It’s kept me realizing just how much good there is around me and how wonderful life is. I count everything. Running water, my bed, my shoes, indoor plumbing (let’s face it, all our lives would be so very different without that one thing), the fact that I have a job I love. I count everything I can think of, and it doesn’t take long to realize how lucky I am in the grand scheme of things.

I also try to find ways to honor my daughter’s memory and integrate her into my everyday life, so she knows that she is still, and always will be, loved and a part of our family. Sometimes times I read books out loud so she can listen in if she wants to, other times I’ve given little gifts to people on her behalf (even though I don’t necessarily say it is from her), and other times I ask her to go visit her little cousins, because even though we can’t see her doesn’t mean she isn’t nearby. And I think that last point, knowing she is still nearby, is what gives me joy.

I know personally how easy it is to become defeated, to want to give up, and call quits on nearly everything. Life isn’t easy for anyone, but I truly, honestly, and with all my heart believe everyone has someone watching out for them. I know everyone has a Savior, whether they know it or not, that always and unconditionally loves them, and He will somehow help everyone through their trials if they will lean on him and choose to try and move forward.  Knowing that, dear readers, is what helps give me joy!

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