Sunday, October 12, 2014

Capture your Grief - Week 1

Capture Your Grief is an act of remembrance and awareness. It is a mindful healing project for anyone who is grieving the death of a baby or child of any age or gestation. I hope to bring awareness and compassion to the bereaved parent’s community by participating throughout the month of October- Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.

My grief is not as raw as is used to be, but it will forever be a part of me and my healing is very much a continuous and on-going process. I haven’t taken part in ‘Capture Your Grief’ before and was hesitant to do so this year, but I remember how alone and misunderstood I have felt in the past and in an attempt to save others from this hurt, I will share my heart and my journey throughout the month.

So, in honor of our boys, Aiden and Jeremiah, and in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, here we go...




There are 31 subjects for Capture Your Grief, one for each day in the month of October. I will try to share a photo that captures my journey with each daily subject that inspires my heart.



Day 1: Sunrise
So, it’s not exactly a sunrise. It’s a day-late-and-many-hours-past-sunrise picture. But, such is life… It doesn’t always go as planned now does it?
In the early days of my grief, waking up each morning was such a chore. There was no gratefulness in my heart for being blessed with another day of living. Through my eyes, it was simply another day without my son(s) and facing these days, with the reality of my life before me and the pain I felt deep down in my soul, it just felt unbearable. I knew that I had to keep on living, but I hated that life wouldn’t slow down. I couldn’t make sense of my son’s life and death. I hated the pain in my heart.
“Because of the Lord’ great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” – Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV)
We often can get stuck living in our grief, or living in the past or the future, but this verse reminds me that God wants me to live one day at a time. His grace and His compassions, they are new every morning.
Each day, we should live filled with God’s joy, love and excitement for that day. Every morning, God gives us new grace to enjoy that day. So, take time to enjoy those little moments with God because His grace is for today. When tomorrow comes, we’ll have grace, too; but today’s grace is for today.

 
Day 2: Heart
 { Aiden Robert Roth July 2, 2004 }  -----  { Jeremiah Oliver Roth August 4, 2011 }
I had so many dreams for you two! My heart swelled the moment I knew of your existence. Your lives and the places that your lives and deaths have taken me has filled my faith to overflowing. You have enriched my life and our family’s life beyond compare.
 
I thought I would be teaching Aiden and Jeremiah about life and love, but it has completely been the other way around. My two little boys, who never spoke a word, who never opened their eyes to view the wonders of this world, have taught me more about life and love that I could have imagined.
I carry your heart, baby boys. {I carry it in my heart}
 
 
Day 3: Before
This picture is in the early weeks of my pregnancy with Jeremiah (2011). I was in such a good place emotionally having spent so many years working on healing and restoring my heart after the loss of our first son, Aiden. I was physically the healthiest and fittest that I had been in years too. I felt like I could take on the world! We were beyond thrilled and filled with excitement and love for the little one growing in my belly!
Each of my pregnancies has carried its share of fear and anxiety because of our experience in losing our first son and in knowing the difficulties that my body has carrying a child, but we were in great medical care and any known medical concerns that we had were addressed and being attended to. I was strong and we were ready for this little one!
In the back of my head I would try to calm my fears and tell myself that we had lost one child already and there was no way we would ever lose another. Oh, how I wish that was true...
 
 4th of July, 2014 - 2 days after we celebrated Aiden’s 10th birthday in heaven.

Day 4: Now
 
I am very much a work in progress, but I love who I am today. My life isn’t perfect, my heart still hurts, but I have been blessed with an abundantly beautiful life.
Somewhere along my grief journey I made a choice to stop focusing on what I had lost, but to focus on what I had gained. I would never choose to go through the heartache and devastation that we went through again, but I am so grateful for the journey that my grief has sent me on. My faith is stronger than it ever has been and I am thankful for how God has shaped and changed my heart throughout my healing.
 
 

Day 5: Journal
Journaling is like having a window to your soul. It is a place where you can give your emotions an outlet. It is a place where your deepest thoughts can reside without fear of judgment or any need for justification.
Journaling (blogging) has definitely had a place in my grief and healing journey. I wish I could find (make) the time to slow down, reflect and write more. There is such a great beauty in releasing your thoughts and feelings to paper (or computer screen). I feel a sense of strength and courage when I am able to look back and re-read my journal entries and see the progress that I have made.
I don’t write or blog much these days, but I have found that having a creative outlet can be just as fulfilling. I love surrounding myself with words of inspiration and hope and it brings my soul such a joy to be able to share these words of wisdom, that have helped and encouraged me, with others.
 
Day 6: Books
I have read quite a few books in the years since the loss of our boys, but one that really brought a lot of healing to my heart was “I Will Carry You” by Angie Smith. This book gave many of my thoughts and feelings a voice that I hadn’t been able to find or pinpoint before reading it. It brought me closer and helped me realize that there is a very safe place with the Lord where we don't have to have all of the answers. Read that again. Slowly. We don't need to have all of the answers. That was HUGE for me.
God is perfectly capable of revealing Himself in His time. I don't need to try to fill all the gaps. I believe that these gaps in our understanding are there to serve as opportunities to lean into Him despite the gaps being there. I had been leaning into God as I was grieving and healing my heart, but this book and the stories shared within its pages encouraged me to lean into my faith and trust God even more.
 
 
Day 7: Sacred Place

I still remember the very first time we attended Eagle Brook Church. The worship music started and my heart was overwhelmed with a comfort and peace that I had desperately yearned and searched for in the years after we lost Aiden. Tears streamed down my cheeks and I knew that I had finally found a safe place. I felt like I was ‘home.’

Years later, I am still moved to tears nearly every single week during the worship music. That same comfort and peace fills my heart and I know that my boys are with me in those moments. I close my eyes, reach out my hands beside me and imagine my little boys holding my hands as we sing and worship together. I can feel them with me. These are some of my most sacred and cherished moments.

 
 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Ten years ago

Friday, July 2nd, 2004 was the day that I became a mom when I delivered our first-born son, Aiden Robert Roth. That fateful Friday morning was the most beautiful and most life-changing day of my life. 

It is so hard to think that it has been ten years.  In some ways it feels like Aiden's birth was just moments ago, but in other ways... Wow. It feels like it was a lifetime ago.

I barely remember who I was before I became Aiden's mom and I'm okay with that because he has enriched my life so fully. God has used our little boy's life and death to teach me more than I could have ever dreamed it wouldBeing Aiden's mom has been the most rewarding and impactful experience of my life.

-----------------------------------

I came across this quote a while ago:
“Every true cross-bearer learns to carry his cross as if it were an ornament rather than a burden, and finds after a time that it carries him. It gives more strength to him than he gives to it.”
- Mrs. Charles Cowman
----------------------------------

It's may seem strange to relate the death of our son as an ornament, but I do.  Ornaments are adored, cherished and admired. They often hold significance, special meanings or sweet and precious memories.

The day that Aiden was born holds some of my most precious memories, but it was also the day that my heart was ripped from my body. It was the day that my heart was truly broken and shattered to pieces.

In the years following Aiden's death, I greatly missed the person I used to be. I missed my innocence and the old me. But mostly, I missed my son. Nothing made sense to me.

Deep down I think a part of me always knew that there was more to Aiden's life that my feelings of pain and sadness, but to describe our loss as an 'ornament' would not have crossed my mind. Losing our son was a heavy, heavy burden that quickly defined everything about me. My every waking moment was centered around his death and the emptiness I felt inside.

--------------------------------

Today when I think about our first-born son, I miss him deeply, but a smile often fills my heart and defines my face. I can speak about him without being overwhelmed by tears. I am so grateful and I thank God for every day that he was with us- for every single day that I carried him and felt his amazing kicks.

Over time, our loss- the unexpected, heart-wrenching twist that changed our lives into what we are living today- became something so much more than my grief. It is something that I am proud of. It has never been something that I hold onto for fear of forgetting his existence, but it is what I hold onto simply because this is our story and it's a beautiful story filled with so much hope, restoration and joy.  Aiden was our gift and our ornament, and the truth is, he only makes Heaven that much sweeter.

--------------------------------

I wish I could say that it doesn't matter to me who remembers what, who speaks our son's name, who thinks about our little boy- because we do all those things and we forever will. There will always be a bit of a sadness in knowing that others will never know all the gifts that our son has to give and has given already. But, I know.  I feel his presence with me every day. When I look in the mirror I see Aiden smiling back at me. And when you see me smiling at you, I hope that you see a part of him too.

So, for today- for every day, please don't be afraid to speak my son's name. His name is sweet music to my ears and I love to hear it.

Happy 10th birthday, Aiden! I look forward to the day that I will hold you in my arms again!

 

 



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A year of sweetness

This past year has been one of the sweetest years of my life. No, let me rephrase that. It has been the sweetest year of my life. My heart has grown in ways that I didn't know it could. Spaces were filled in my spirit that I didn't know needed filled or that I thought had been filled as best they could be. God continues to bring a strength and resiliency to my being that surprises me. Saying I'm thankful just doesn't seem to be enough to describe it.

At times I feel guilty admitting this. I feel guilty acknowledging the depths of the joy that I feel. There has been an inner battle inside me between my grief over the loss of Aiden and Jeremiah and the joy I have before me raising Gavin, Gabe and Dominic.

But, there's no denying it. I am realizing more and more, I am feeling more and more that God does truly have great things in store for me and our family. I have prayed for so many years for restoration, but I think I didn't really believe that it was possible. For so long I have felt so broken.

But dare I say it? Dare I say that I don't feel broken anymore? Beaten. Battered. Scarred?

Of course. Yes, I am those things.

But, broken?

No. I'm claiming it. I am declaring it. I am not broken anymore.

I carry my wounds and scars with great pride, but amongst those wounds, I feel a sense of wholeness that has eluded me for a long time.

Tears fill my eyes as I say that.

I am choosing... I am trying to live beyond the labels I have given myself.

I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a friend. I don't want to define myself by my grief anymore. There's too much joy- too many blessings that surround me. And honestly, I'm not sure how much choice I have in this. There's no way to deny it.

Look at these faces.

 
These precious faces are some of the greatest gifts I have been given and they are greatest gifts I will leave behind me.

And I haven't even mentioned my husband... He is the greatest father. The most amazing and supportive husband. He is such a sturdy rock and safe place to fall for all of us.

I'm gushing a little. Yes. Yes, I am.

I couldn't be who I am, I couldn't be where I am, without him in my corner and by my side. I may joke that I 'wear the pants' in our family, but let's be real for a second...  I may 'wear the pants' around here, but it only works because my hubby is the best pair of suspenders a girl can own!! Oh, how I love him!

-------------------------------------

God is so good.

-------------------------------------

We'll be celebrating Dominic's 1st birthday in a few weeks. His first birthday!



Can you believe that he is nearly one already? 

This past year has been so utterly sweet because of him. Dominic has brought such joy, laughter and thanksgiving to all of our hearts. I don't know if our little boy will ever be able to understand the healing that he has brought to our family.

Listening to his giggles, watching him explore and learn, feeling and seeing his arms wrap around each of us, being witness to the love that he has for his dad and his brothers and the love that they have for him...

It truly, without a doubt, is absolutely and positively, the most rewarding, the most stunning and wonderful experience to be a part of.

Seriously.

-------------------------------------

I think about how much love I have for my husband and our children and I know God's love for us far surpasses that which I am capable of feeling. How great is that? God's love has sustained me and has carried me through many dark days. He has gifted me with the support and blessings that I have needed to find my way.

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
     He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
     He restores my soul.
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yes, even though I walk through the darkest valley,
     I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
     You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,
     and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Flashbacks

The ways and the moments in which my grief is triggered often leaves me feeling disheveled and deprived of strength.

My heart has been really aching these last few weeks. It was Aiden's 9th birthday a couple weeks ago and next week it will be Jeremiah's 2nd birthday. My boys are always on my mind, but the time around their birthday's always heightens my sensitivity and my grief.

Today I experienced a beautifully painful flashback.

--------------------------------

Nine years ago, just a couple weeks after we buried our son, Aiden, I nervously went to the hospital to visit with a friend who had just given birth to her precious baby girl. I was excited and happy for my friend, but at the same time I remember being filled with so much fear and anxiety.  Anger and pain too.  How would I respond to seeing her sweet and full of life little baby when I had just days before had to say good-bye to my own???  As we walked into her hospital room, every fiber within me wanted to scream and run away. Life felt so unfair and cruel.

I had all but forgotten those feelings, until today.

Today, I drove to that same hospital. I entered the same parking lot and walked some of the same steps that I took on that very difficult day.  In an instant, all of those feelings came rushing back to me. The feelings filled my spirit and my body before my mind was able to process where they were coming from. A flood of emotion consumed me and I was almost breathless. PTSD? Maybe?

Immediately tears filled my eyes as I remembered that difficult journey years ago.

My husband and three of my amazing boys were with me today, but still, a part of me longed to be back to that day nine years ago - deep in my grief - just days away from having last held my little boy. 

As painful as that time was, I wished I could be back there.

It's hard to imagine wanting to be so close to the raw, debilitating grief that consumed me back then, but in that moment today- that's right where I wanted to be. There's a sacredness to my grief that I sometimes wish I could experience more frequently and be closer to. I wish I had the ability to close my eyes, be released of all responsibility and just be in that dark sacred place. Just be in my grief.

It's amazing how quickly and seemingly effortlessly I have gotten at grabbing my heart and bringing myself back to present time. When in flashes, I simply wish to run and hide in my pain.

-------------------------------

I have purposefully created joy and happiness around both Aiden and Jeremiah's lives, but instinctually and deep within me, it is in pain and sorrow that I often feel close to them.

------------------------------

Can you imagine that?  Appreciating (and sometimes yearning for) unfathomable pain because it brings a sense of connectedness to your child? It's so hard to describe.

But for a moment today, that was me. I wished I could close my eyes and wrap my arms around my grief. So often I think we run from pain and sorrow. What an unnerving feeling to desire to be closer to it...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

RETURN TO ZERO


I am on a mission. And I’m hoping you’ll help me!

Tom and I have been advocates for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness since the loss of our sons, Aiden (2004) and Jeremiah (2011). Recently, we learned about an incredible movie that was being made titled RETURN TO ZERO.  We were presented with the opportunity to be a part of the film and we immediately signed up!  We feel so passionately about the subject matter of the movie that we just knew we wanted to be a part of sharing its message and we want to try to help ensure that this movie makes it to local theaters! 

 
RETURN TO ZERO is about love, loss, heartache and happiness.  Specifically, RETURN TO ZERO is about the loss of a baby.  It is the first film ever created with stillbirth as its central theme. While the film is intended for all audiences, regardless of one’s life experience, RETURN TO ZERO fills a particular niche for a group of people that have gone unserved - those who have or know someone who has experienced the devastating loss of a child by stillbirth, miscarriage, or neonatal death.

The movie has an amazing cast (MINNIE DRIVER and PAUL ADELSTEIN - to name a couple) and I believe in my heart that they have created a beautiful and touching film that will change how people view pregnancy and infant loss and the effect it has on parents, relationships, families, and communities. RETURN TO ZERO plans to entertain and enlighten audiences with a story of the strength and resilience of the human spirit. It intends to break through the silence often associated with pregnancy and infant loss.

BUT there are two parts to making a successful film. First, the film has to be made. THEN - and this is the toughest part - you have to make sure that it gets into theaters and people see it.

That’s where I come in – and hopefully YOU too! 

I have signed up to be a LOCAL LEADER for the film and I am hoping to get 250 of my family and friends to sign up and pledge to see the film opening weekend (which has yet to be determined- hopefully late 2013 or early 2014). If we can prove to Hollywood and distributors that there is indeed an audience for RETURN TO ZERO, we will get it into theaters so that we can BREAK THE SILENCE and help RAISE AWARENESS and SUPPORT for families in need!

Tom and I also made a small financial pledge to help fund the production of the movie and in return for doing so, Aiden and Jeremiah’s names will be listed in the credits of the film.  This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we will be so proud when we see Aiden and Jeremiah’s names prominently displayed up on the big screen! How special will that be?!?!

So, how can you help? It’s simple!

Just sign up and pledge that you will go see the movie when it is released!

Break the Silence! Pledge to See RETURN TO ZERO in theaters! Sign up HERE!

It’ll take about 30 seconds.  List me as your LOCAL LEADER (Jolene Roth) and you’re done!  It’s as easy as that! The city with the highest number of pledges at the end of the pledge drive will not only receive a special screening of RETURN TO ZERO but writer/director SEAN HANISH & producer PAUL JACONI-BIERY will attend to host a Q&A afterward! So, if you are in the Twin Cities Metro area, please list Minneapolis as your city/region. Let's bring these guys to Minnesota!!  And even if you aren't sure that you'll actually see the film, I encourage you to still sign up and show your support.  In doing so, you'll help ensure that the movie makes it to the theaters! 

If you know others who would be interested in seeing this movie, feel free to share my blog entry and ask them to pledge to see the movie as well!!

Thank you for your help as we try to make sure that RETURN TO ZERO makes its way to theaters!! And thank you for helping us ensure that we get to see our boy’s names up on the big screen! We can do this together!

If you are interested, here's another link that you can check out to learn even more about this project and why it is so important. RETURN TO ZERO Kickstarter Project Thank you!!




 
"Go Jolene!!! This is a most important film that has the potential to really change how the community understands our losses. Plus it is a very entertaining drama. Having seen the rough cut 10 days ago in LA (I know, lucky me), I can only say words like: incredible, poignant, funny at times, hard at times, and so real that people will never look at us the same again. We must have this come to theaters. We have the power to make that happen. ONLY if our friends and family will get on board and fill out the simple pledge form.  No money, no signing over the car or house, nothing more than showing support by signing up and putting Jolene's name as the Local Leader.  Simple. Important. Life changing. Will you all join us???"                                                                                   ~Sherokee Isle, author

 

"Hi Jolene,Thank you very much for your support of the film! I just checked and am happy to confirm that your boys' names are included in the end credits of the film! Thanks again for becoming a Local Leader. So wonderful that you're working with Sherokee! I met her 2 weeks ago--she's an unbelievable light in this community.Gratefully,Sean." 

                                                          ~Sean Hanish, director/writer of RETURN TO ZERO

 
Don't forget to sign up! It only takes a few seconds!! Sign up NOW! RIGHT HERE!!

 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Falling in love

I have spent the last 9 weeks...

  Falling.
     In.
        Love.

Over and over again each day I fall more deeply in love with our little boy, Dominic.  There have been moments that I have found myself breathless as I look into his eyes, capture and memorize the curves of his face, smell his sweetness, touch the softness of his skin and listen to his breath and the beloved noise escape his lips.
 

He has begun to share his priceless smile with us and he has even shared a few giggles with me.  As I look down into his eyes and feel him tugging at my breast, it feels like he's tugging at my heart.

 I feel like I have know him forever.  He and I were meant to be together. 


More than that though, he was meant to be with us.  With our family. 

I had no doubts.  I knew that he would be:

Treasured.
Celebrated.
Admired.
Oohed and aahed over.
Cherished.
And so, so very loved and adored.

But seeing it and feeling it, well, like I said, it simply takes my breath away. 

I am so in love. 


We are so in love.  This little boy has captured our heart.
 
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose."   Romans 8:28

Very few things are promised to us, but this I know: God shines light into our darkness. 


As I lay here and think about all the gifts that Aiden, Gavin, Gabe, and Jeremiah have
brought to our lives, tears fill my eyes, joy grips my heart and my spirit is filled with hope. 
 
I can only imagine what the little boy laying beside me tonight will teach us.





 
Photography by:
 
 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dominic's Birth Story


It’s January 8th and I’m 36 weeks pregnant. Breathe. We’ve made it! My cerclage is scheduled to be removed today! I feel like I’ve been holding my breath for months now. I haven’t let my fear or uncertainty overtake me, but to say that I am feeling a huge sense of relief to be here is an understatement. Praise God for our answered prayers!
January 21st and I’m 38 weeks. I am 2-3 cm dilated. Our house is clean. The fridge is stocked. My legs are shaved. We are ready for our little boy to greet us with his presence in our arms any day now! Prior to my cerclage removal, I had been experiencing rounds of random contractions, but since it has been removed, my contractions have all but disappeared! I guess we have to continue to patiently wait...
January 28th and here we are. I’m 39 weeks. I’m 4 cm dilated and it could be any day now! Or another 2 weeks or so! It's SO HARD not knowing when it will happen! I have begun experiencing rounds of contractions again. I usually have a couple periods of contractions that last for a few hours every day. They seem consistent for a while, only to slow down and then stop altogether again. I’m trying to walk as much as I can and to get every last little thing done around the house that I can think of. It seems that our little man just needs a bit more time. I keep telling myself that I’m okay with that and I’m trying to savor these last moments of pregnancy… but come on, let’s go baby!
February 4th and it’s my due date. I am still 4 cm dilated. Since my cerclage removal, a month ago, I've been going to bed every night hoping that I'd wake up in the middle of the night with contractions or laying in a puddle of ‘water’ and be off to the hospital to have a baby. Then I wake up in the morning feeling defeated, sore and still pregnant. Very pregnant. Each round of contractions that I experience sends me through a rollercoaster of emotions… Is this it? Is this the start of real contractions, real labor? Will today be the day? I feel like every night, I crawl into bed (well, actually the couch) and cry. I cry because I am physically and emotionally exhausted. My body hurts. I am impatient and it is getting harder and harder to push the fear within me out of my mind and heart.
 
Emotionally I realize how unprepared I have been to actually carry this little boy to full-term. My body is so tired. I am so thankful, but emotionally, I am exhausted. I need my baby boy in my arms. Having experienced the loss of my sons, Aiden and Jeremiah, I know not to take this pregnancy for granted. Sadly, just because we’ve made it this far, I know that doesn’t mean that we’re 'safe.' I won’t feel 'safe’ until our baby boy is in our arms.

After we lost Aiden and again when we lost Jeremiah, I remember wishing that I could just have one more moment, one more day with each of them, carrying them within me. I can’t help but wonder if God is giving me one more moment, one more day with this baby because he too, will leave this earth too soon… Oh, please, please little one. Please let us welcome you into our arms soon. These fearful thoughts are beginning to consume me.

I keep telling myself that my “Estimated Due Date” is just that- an estimate.  Baby boy HAS to come at some point! He will come. I trust you, God...
February 11th and I am now 41 weeks pregnant. Deep breaths. I still have no clear signs that our little guy is on his way. My contractions keep coming and going. The house has been thoroughly cleaned again. The fridge has been stocked again. We (yes we) shaved my legs again. My biggest maternity shirts are too small. I can barely squeeze into my maternity pants.

I have been reading birth story after birth story in preparation for our birth. I have been trying to be patient and to really have trust and faith in the birth process. Again, this has been physically and emotionally difficult, but I believe that ALL the work that my body has been doing, all these contractions that I have been experiencing for these last few week, will count towards and benefit my labor and birth of our baby boy. My body has been preparing for the wonderful task ahead and it is readying itself for labor. It has been challenging knowing just how to “trust my body” because I feel like my body has been sending me mixed signals for weeks now! But, I will continue to trust in the birth process and trust in my body (even though I feel like it has utterly failed me in the past…).

As the weeks tick by, the temptation to intervene in this process has been on my mind. Good meaning friends and family keep asking if/when we are going to be induced. But, there will be no induction with this pregnancy. As hard as it is to wait, I prefer that this little boy come in his own time and not mine. I just have to remember, I can’t remain pregnant forever!

---------------------------------

Dominic Davis Roth was born on February 11th of 2013 at 8:32 pm. 
This is his birth story:

I have written this story over and over in my head. I relive each moment of my labor and Dominic’s birth again and again. As I stare into his big, bold, beautiful eyes, I have so much to say, but so little words can express the wonder and awe of his labor and birth. His birth was challenging, a little scary and overwhelming at times, but it was also the one of the most beautiful and empowering moments of my life. Birth may not exactly be pretty, but it’s how we all came to be here. It might be a common occurrence, but it is a phenomenal one. Babies are born every second, but each one is so utterly unique. Of all the human experiences, giving birth is one of the most sacred moments that I know I will ever encounter.

The morning of February 11thstarted just like the many mornings before it with a round of contractions from about 8 am until 11 am. They started about 10 minutes apart and then went down to 8 minutes, then 6 minutes, then back to 10, 12, 8, then 15… you get the idea. They did feel slightly different, but as I mentioned before, knowing just how to trust/interpret what my body was doing had become increasingly challenging. I feel like my body kept crying wolf and I just didn’t know what to think!

I had a scheduled doctor’s appointment for 12:30 pm. At about 11 am, I talked to Tom and told him how the morning had been progressing. I told him that I thought that maybe something was happening and that I may want him to come home from work so that we could drive to my doctor appointment together. We agreed that I was going to take a quick bath and see if the contractions stopped or if they continued. If they continued, Tom would come home. If they stopped, we’d just meet at the doctor’s office as planned.

Well, once again, the contractions stopped. Frustrating! Body: what are you doing???

Gabe came home from school just before noon and we hopped in the car to head to my doctor appointment. As I drove to my appointment, I had a couple more contractions. They still felt mild and were not painful, but again, somehow they did feel a little different.
At my doctor appointment, I was given an exam and to our surprise, I was now 6 cm dilated and had bulging membranes! My doctor asked me if I knew what that meant and I said “No?” She smiled as she chuckled and said that she recommended that we head to the hospital and told us that our baby boy was going to be coming soon! I guess all those contractions that I had been having really were doing something!

Tears quickly filled my eyes as the reality that I was in labor hit me. This wasn’t the way I imagined my labor would look like or how it would physically feel, but nonetheless, this was labor and it was happening! Tom and I hugged and smiled at each other as it set in that it was finally time to grab our hospital bags and to prepare for our son’s arrival. Gabe was excited as we told him that today was going to be the day that he was going to meet his little brother!

We clarified with my doctor that she thought we had time to head back home and get the things we needed for our trip to the hospital. She said that that was fine, but encouraged us to not stop for pizza on the way! Not knowing how quickly things were going to progress, she wanted to make sure that we delivered at the hospital and not on the side of the road somewhere!

So, after we left the doctor’s office, we made the necessary phone calls, grabbed our hospital bags and picked Gavin up from school. We told Gavin what was happening and he stated that he thought today was “the best day EVER!” As we drove to my sister’s house, where Gavin and Gabe were going to be dropped off, they talked about what life was going to be like with their little brother. And once again, they imagined what life would be like if Aiden and Jeremiah were with us.

Tears filled my eyes as we talked about this. I shared with our boys that although Aiden and Jeremiah weren’t here on earth with us for this moment, they will forever be a part of our family and that they are waiting for us in heaven. Through my tear-filled eyes, I told Gavin and Gabe that I believe that somehow, in some way, Aiden and Jeremiah have already met the little boy that we were going to be meeting soon and that they were smiling down upon us...

Tom and I gave our boys big hugs as we dropped them off and told them that next time we saw them, that they would be meeting their little brother! I could hardly believe that this time had finally come!

Throughout all of this, I could finally feel that my contractions were picking up in intensity. I could still talk through them, but they were slowing me down a little bit and they were getting a little longer and stronger. Although the intensity of the contractions was increasing, they still were fairly inconsistent-ranging from 6-10 minutes between each one.

When we arrived at the hospital at about 4:30 pm, the staff was ready and waiting for us because my doctor’s office had called ahead and let them know that we were on our way. We were greeted and headed back to our delivery room right away. When we met with our nurse, we shared our birth plan with her and expressed our desire to have a natural birth, which to me meant no constant fetal monitoring, no IVs, freedom to move around the room, no Pitocin, and hopefully, no pain meds. This definition is different for every woman and I believe that as long as a woman gets to have the birth she wants (whether it’s under the maximum legal amount of drugs or on the floor of her kitchen!) it’s a beautiful and empowering experience.

Based on my previous births and experiences, these things just happened to be important to me. The births of Aiden, Gavin and Gabe were all induced labors- each for differing reasons and with Gavin and Gabe’s births, I ended up getting epidurals. Jeremiah’s birth was a natural birth, but knowing that he was coming much, much too soon, made the experience incredibly frightening and heartbreaking.

With this birth, I was hoping to overcome the fears and weaknesses that had filled my spirit from each of my previous birthing experiences and instead fill my spirit with one of strength and power. I am happy to say that both our nurse and our doctor not only respected my wishes, but they helped encourage me as well.
As we discussed our birth plan, I got changed and hooked up to be monitored for a little bit. I was having contractions that were about 5 minutes apart at this point, but they were still pretty mild.
The doctor who would be delivering with us came in and introduced himself and we talked about our options and our hopes for our delivery. He offered some suggestions to help encourage active labor to kick in. One of his suggestions was to break my bag of waters, another suggestion was to let Tom and I have some private time alone! Ha! Our nurse just asked that we let her know and to put a ‘DO NOT DISTURB' sign on our door if we chose to do this!

Even though we had hesitation in augmenting our labor, Tom and I privately discussed our doctor’s suggestion(s) and we decided to break my water to encourage labor along. So, just before 6pm, Dr. Gaziano ruptured my membranes and told me that I was now 7cm dilated. It was amazing to me that my labor had progressed along so far without having yet felt the pain that I associated with labor and birth. That was soon to change!

Almost immediately after my bag of waters was broke, the intensity of my contractions picked up. The waves that were hitting my body were definitely labor now and although I could still smile and talk between them, they were getting very strong. I tried to stand and walk around our hospital room for the first few intense contractions that I felt, but quickly felt the need to use the bathroom. Having read so many birth stories, I knew that this was a common feeling to have. Although I knew that I didn’t necessarily actually have to go to the bathroom, I thought that maybe sitting on the toilet would feel good so, I proceeded to the bathroom.

Once I was there, the pain of my contractions hit me like a ton of bricks! I quickly realized that sitting on the toilet was not going to be very comfortable and was not the place I wanted to be. Tom helped me out of the bathroom and back near the bed where our nurse had brought me a birthing ball to try to use. Again, I quickly realized that the sitting position was not going to be a good position for me. My body wanted to be upright and elongated through my contractions. I tried several different positions but everything hurt! Our nurse raised the bed to its highest position and eventually we realized that what was most comfortable (can I even call it that?) was me standing and leaning over the edge of the bed.

As Tom supported my weight, I tried to breathe through each contraction. Nothing really seemed to help at this point. The pain was so intense! I remember looking down at my legs and feet as I was having contractions and realizing that I was standing on my tiptoes! As I continued to try to breathe through each contraction, my legs literally shook beneath me. I begged Tom to keep holding me and supporting me, because I didn’t feel like I had the strength to keep myself upright.

I was having a hard time believing how quickly things were progressing. It was like WHAMMO!-intense, transition style contractions were flooding my body. I told our nurse that I was feeling a TON of pressure. She asked if I wanted to get back in bed and she could examine me again. It was 7pm at this point and when she checked me, I was 8cm dilated.

Once I was back in the bed, the urge to push hit me. Our nurse told me to make sure NOT to push as my body wasn’t quite ready. I remember thinking that the feelings that were flooding my body were so instinctual that I should just let my body do what it wanted to do, but I also felt like I should listen to what our nurse was telling me. So, I fought the urge to push with everything that I had within me. As I was fighting with my body, fear began to creep in. I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to do this anymore. Fighting with my body’s natural urge to push was too intense- excruciating even. I wish I would have just listened to my body.

Before I was in labor, I had these visions of laboring gracefully and breathing, humming and moving through my contractions like a warrior woman. In reality, I’m not sure I was exactly graceful. At times, I felt small, weak and scared. My body made noises that I have never heard before and during many of my contractions I simply wanted to give up and I was quickly losing faith in myself that I truly had the ability to do this. I knew that I was in charge of everything that was happening as I was laboring and this was simultaneously empowering and terrifying!

Sometime after 7pm, during these incredibly intense contractions, while I was fighting every instinctual urge within my body to push, a part of me gave up on my plans for a non-medicated birth. I knew I still did not want an epidural, but fear got the best of me and I asked for a shot of fentanyl to help take the edge off. The fear and uncertainty that I was actually going to be able to finish laboring filled me so much that I decided I wanted a little help. I needed a little relief!

I tried to fight my fears and during my contractions, I reminded myself that this pain I was feeling had a purpose. With each contraction I tried to visualize our baby moving further and further down. I could feel him moving down! Our nurse suggested I try to blow away the pain. Let me tell you, I blew and blew and amazingly, it helped! Again, I visualized the pain leaving my body as I blew it away. After each contraction, I told myself, “That one is done and I never have to go through it again.”

Although I had requested a shot of fentanyl, it was taking forever to find a vein to put in an IV and I had to keep laboring on my own and I had to put my doubts aside. Just knowing that eventually relief was coming helped. I didn’t know when the relief was going to come though so, I knew that I had no choice but to trust myself and leap into the unknown. I started to pray. “God, please help me. Please fill me with your strength. Please! I am so scared and this hurts so much. I know I can’t do this without you. Please lift me up, hold me in your arms and help me through this.” I began to focus in a way that I never have before. A part of me felt like if I didn’t get on top of and in control of the pain I was feeling, I quite literally might die… at the same time though, I felt safe. Incredibly safe.

I was grunting and groaning, roaring even, through every contraction and urge to push. It’s like I became some primitive form of myself. Instinct was taking over. I wasn’t really thinking anymore, I was just doing. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to fight the urge to push much more. My body was beginning to push on its own and there was such a huge relief in those few seconds when it did.

At some point, I remember getting nauseas and feeling like I was going to throw up. Finally at 8:21 pm, at least an hour after I had asked for some pain relief, my IV line was in and I was given a shot of fentanyl. Although, it did take the edge off of the next few contractions I had, I was still grunting, groaning, and blowing through each one like I had been before.

The next thing I can remember was Dr. Gaziano asking me if I was ready to deliver our baby boy. I wasn’t quite sure if he was serious or not! I remember thinking, “What?!?! Everyone has been telling me to NOT push for the last hour and now you WANT me to push?” He told me I could push with the next contraction. I tried to, but because my body had been resisting this urge for so long, I wasn’t able to really give a good push. It took one more contraction for me to switch gears and to finally allow my body to do what it had been wanting to do for what seemed like forever! With this next contraction, I gave several large pushes and to my amazement, could feel our baby boy's head come out!

Dr. Gaziano then told me to stop pushing so that we could slowly ease his shoulders out. He guided me through a series of little pushes and then asked if I wanted to reach down and deliver our little boy. I looked down between my legs and for what seemed like much longer than it really was, I saw our son’s gorgeous face looking up at me, eyes closed, arms moving slowly. This moment will always be imprinted firmly in my memory, as will the overwhelming feeling of love and pure joy as I reached down and brought him up out of my womb and into my arms where he took his first breath. In complete amazement and awe, at 8:32pm, Dominic Davis was born. We did it!  What an amazing moment to actually reach down and deliver my own son! 
I felt a tidal wave of love hit me and all I could do was hold onto our little precious baby boy. I couldn’t believe he was finally in my arms. Our eyes and hearts locked together and at that moment, I could no longer imagine my life without him in it. As I held him, everything else around me stopped. The pain and fear were gone. Nothing else in the world mattered. All awareness of anything else faded into the background. I had my precious, slimy, absolutely perfect little boy in my arms. I was completely in love.

I looked up at Tom and saw tears in his eyes. I know that he was just as in love with this little guy as I was and I couldn’t have felt more overjoyed. Our baby boy was finally here. All the pain, fear and uncertainty was worth it. Going through labor mostly un-medicated was physically, the hardest work of my life, but I did it!

Our nurse covered us in warm blankets and helped wipe our baby off. I just stared in wonder at him. At our request, the umbilical cord was not clamped or cut until after it had stopped pulsating. About five minutes after delivery, Dr. Gaziano showed me the now fully drained cord and clamped it. Tom cut it and shortly thereafter, I delivered the placenta. I had one little tear and received one stitch.

Our new baby boy did not leave my chest for hours. He was weighed and measured a couple hours after his birth. Any vitals that were needed were taken while he rested in the comfort of my arms.

The whole labor was a whirlwind. Dominic Davis was born at 8:32pm on February 11th, after less than 3 hours of active labor! He weighed in at 6 lbs, 14 oz and measured 21 ¼ inches long. He was perfect!
Sitting in bed later that night, after Gavin and Gabe had come to visit their little brother for the first time, I quietly thanked God for being so good to us. We have been through so much heartache and unimaginable loss, but God’s faithfulness still remains true. I poured out my heart to Him and thanked Him for giving us another little one to love. I thanked Him for giving us the strength and hope to go through another uncertain pregnancy. We did not let this uncertainty or fear deter us. As I carry the memory of Aiden and Jeremiah with me, I rejoice in my boys and the power that God gave us women, that God gave me, to bring life even after unspeakable pain.

We are all in awe. We have spent the last week snuggling in our bed together, getting used to the new normal of having a newborn in the house and giving everyone the time that they want holding Dominic and being next to him. There has been little talk of the things that are needing to be done around the house or distractions from the outside world. For now, we are in our own little love cocoon. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 
 We are so very blessed.