Once Upon A Prayer

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Addy Hope - The Birth Story

Today was our due date.
Wednesday, May 15th, 2013.

Since it was written in my day planner 8 months ago,
highlighted and with a little heart under it,
I feel like I need to do "something"
today about that.

Every birth has a story.  
This is the story of how our precious Addy Hope entered the world, 
after she had already opened her eyes for the first time
in heaven.

Sunday morning (May 5th) I was not feeling well.  I had been up all night tossing and turning from the end of pregnancy discomforts, and also due to a cold that my four girls so generously shared with me.  Jacques was preaching that morning, so he got the girls up and ready and took them all to worship while I drug myself into Urgent Care.  I was pretty confident I only had a cold, but Jacques wanted a doctor to confirm.  Much to our relief, I was diagnosed with "The Common Cold".  I rallied for a few hours when Jacques and the girls returned home from church, but headed upstairs around 4pm for a nap.  I distinctly remember laying on my right side and feeling a ton of kicks from the baby.  Soon after, I fell asleep.  Little did I know at the time that those kicks would be the last ones I would ever feel.

The rest of the evening and night I was miserable.  I was limited to taking only Tylenol, and that simply did not even touch any of my discomfort.  Monday morning rolled around, and it struck me that I had not felt the baby move since 4pm the afternoon before.  This baby was a mover and a shaker so I remember thinking that this was odd.  I ate a granola bar, and had some juice but still nothing.  I called my OB around 8:30am, and she told me to go to Labor and Delivery for a non-stress test.  I finished packing a suitcase since the nurse told me that depending upon what the test showed, they may choose to induce me.  

The little secret that Jacques and I had been keeping since the week prior was that we were scheduled to be induced on Wednesday, May 8th...my father-in-law's birthday.  Jacques and I were giddy with excitement about the thought that we would get to call and say "Happy Birthday" from the delivery room.

I arrived to the hospital, and was not really even concerned at this point.  I excitedly walked to the Labor and Delivery area thinking that today "might" be THE day.  The nurses were all smiles as I approached the nurses station, and one even commented that she loved my black and white bubble necklace.  Kate introduced herself to me, and said she would be my nurse.  We walked over to Room 8 and talked about my girls while she hooked me up to the non-stress test.  I was in the middle of telling her about Mackenzie when she placed the heart rate monitor on my belly.  Nothing.  I remember telling her that they always find the baby's heartbeat very low.  And then I realized, she was already searching down very low.  Kate was very calm, and kept searching.  Nothing.

At that moment I knew.  I had so many non-stress tests during the past few weeks, and the baby's powerful heartbeat was always heard immediately upon putting the probe on my belly.  Kate said she was going to go and get the sonogram machine, and would be right back.  I frantically called Jacques, who was at work next door, and told him they couldn't find the baby's heartbeat and to come quickly.  Moments later, my OB walked in the room with Kate and she immediately began the sonogram.  She went straight to the heart, and without uttering a word, I knew.  I burst into tears, and my OB hugged me as I sobbed into her shoulder.  

Jacques entered the room a couple minutes later, and all I could say was, "we lost the baby".  We held each other as best we could through our body wracking sobs.  It was awful.

Jacques and I were prepared for so much, but not this.  No one ever is.  I already knew the answer, but asked the OB what would happen next.  Within a short time, I was hooked up to an IV receiving fluids.  The anesthesiologist came in and administered the epidural, and then Pitocin was started to induce labor.  I labored for about 8 long hours.  My blood pressure kept crashing very low, so as uncomfortable as it was, my bed needed to be virtually flat during the entire 8 hours. There was no laughter or excitement in the room as I was accustomed to during labor.  No talk of "is it a boy" or "is it a girl" like with our other two deliveries.  The thing about this labor that I will never forget is that there was no heartbeat rhythmically beating in the background.  A deafening silence rang in my ears for 8 long hours.

About an hour and half before delivery, it was decided to bump up the Pitocin.  My OB explained that typically they cannot do this since the concern is always focused on the fetal heart rate.  Unfortunately, this was not a concern for our baby, as much as I wished it was at that very moment.  Before I knew it, I remembered that familiar "pressure feeling" accompanied by a lot of pain.  Sure enough it was time.  

To keep with our tradition, the OB allowed Jacques to put on a gown and gloves.  He stood with the OB at the base of the bed, and the OB walked him through how to deliver our baby.  Jacques' hands have always been the first hands to hold our children.  This baby was no exception.  Jacques carefully pulled our baby from the birth canal, and placed its precious body on my chest.  The OB told him to check out its gender.  To all of you naysayers (I say this in the most loving of ways) who could not imagine not knowing the gender of your child before birth, this was the crescendo of our baby's birth story.  I held my breath until Jacques said, "It's a girl!".  A girl?  No way!  I was 100% sure she was a boy.  So much so that I even had Jacques convinced.  What a beautiful surprise.

After we told the nurses and OB that her name was Addy Hope, I remember closing my eyes.  I did not want to forget this moment.  I could feel the weight of her body against mine.  And she was warm.  So very warm.  The only crying heard in the room was from Jacques and I.  Oh how we longed and continue to long for the cry of newborn life ringing in our ears.

Other than discovering that our "son" was indeed Addy Hope, perhaps the most memorable part of her birth story occurred when Kate waited with me in the wheelchair while Jacques went to go and pull around the car.  Kate told me that she can tell a lot about a couple by they way they treat each other in the labor and delivery room...even in the most normal and perfect of situations.  She said that in all of her years of working as a nurse in labor and delivery, she had never met a couple like Jacques and I.  She was amazed at how we handled Addy's birth with grace, and treated each other.  She said there was something "different" about us. 

It's easy to talk the talk.  I have said a lot of words over the past two years through this blog.  It is a different story to live out your faith.  Addy's death and birth have been the most heart wrenching part of my life so far.  I love the song, "Live Like That" by Sidewalk Prophets.  The lyrics say:

"I want to live like that, and give it all I have
so that everything I say and do
points to You."

"People pass, and even if they don't know my name
is there evidence that I've been changed?
When they see me do they see You?"

I can confidently say that what Kate saw in Jacques and I was Jesus.  He is the center of our marriage and of our family.  Jacques and I did not have the strength on our own to make it through the birth and delivery of our deceased daughter, Addy Hope, alone.  The only explanation is that Jesus was ever present in that delivery room carrying Jacques and I through the most difficult day (and days to follow) of our lives.  

Yes, even through the hurt "I want to live like that".

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Healthy Grieving

While a person is grieving, absolutely nothing about it feels healthy.  As a matter of fact, my head is throbbing right now, my eyes are bulging and swollen, and my chest feels like the elephants from the Circus are still in town and camping out there.  But, grieving is necessary, and ultimately healthy. 

Yesterday, we took the big girls to the funeral home to say hello and goodbye to their baby sister Addy Hope.  This is not what we expected or planned to do, but there is no playbook and every child grieves differently.  Dryden and Soleil were adamant that they needed to "see" and "touch" Addy.  The funeral home director was amazing, and he made Addy look like an absolute princess baby lying under a beautiful spring time quilt.  Her lips were perfectly pink, and it looked like she may wake up and cry at any moment.

Dryden documenting her sister Addy so she never forgets...

Jacques and I studied our sweet girl from top to bottom many times.
I assure you, 
everything was perfect.
Addy Hope was a perfect gift from God,
and I was blessed to have carried her for 39 weeks.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

"Don't worry, I gotcha!"

If we were given the opportunity to paint the picture of our own future, things might look completely different. But we aren’t. Instead, we understand that our lives – present and future, rest in the hands of the master painter. What that means is, we don’t know what the future holds. We don’t try to control the hands of the one who holds us. 

We let Him paint the masterpiece.

Sometimes it feels like a masterpiece.  One year ago today, we added two incredibly beautiful and wonderfully designed girls to our family.  Mackenzie Ty and Lily Grace became ours. Our lives will never be same because of it. In just one year, our family has seen the power of what love can do. While people would whisper to us, “Those girls are so lucky you rescued them”, we understood that in fact, the opposite was the case. In many ways, they rescued us. They showed and are showing us that when God paints a picture of a family, it comes in all shapes, and colors and sizes. 

And love; love can overcome anything.

We learned to trust the one painting the masterpiece. And although there were many moments of doubt – believe it or not, trusting was easy. Lily was getting stronger. Mackenzie was soaking up the love of a family. Dryden and Soleil had survived the initial shock, and were embracing their new sisters.  We can do this, we thought – we like the picture the artist is painting. 

Sometimes it does feel like a masterpiece!

Sometimes it doesn’t. As most of you reading this blog already know, just over 9 months ago, Emily and I found out the shock of a lifetime, another baby was on the way. Just a couple months into the pregnancy, our worlds were rocked to learn that our precious baby had Down’s Syndrome and a major heart defect. When the shock wore off, we not only moved to the point of embracing this new reality, we were looking forward to it – even excited about it. We spent the next few months bantering over names, taking bets as to whether it is a boy or a girl, and surviving multiple ultrasounds and echocardiograms that represented an opportunity for someone to ruin the surprise.

Boy or girl - we couldn’t wait to be surprised!

We weren’t prepared for the surprise that crushed every part of a parent that could be crushed. Last night, at 8:00 p.m., my brave wife Emily delivered Addy Hope Rancourt.  She delivered our daughter only after finding out she had already died. She arrived to us, the most beautiful and angelic 7lbs, 14oz, girl you could imagine.  Yet we never got to hear her cry, see her beautiful lips pucker up, or feel her tiny hands grasp onto our fingers. 

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a masterpiece. 

And although right now, I want to grab the brush and finish the painting myself, I know I can’t. We can’t. I am tempted to think that I could paint a much better masterpiece for our lives. Our minds are filled with questions like “Why” and “How”, and we can’t get the “What if’s” out of our head. We are trying to make sense of our thoughts and feelings, but I am not sure we ever will. 

All I can ask of you is this: Pray for us. Pray for our family. Pray that we can trust the one who is holding the brush. Pray that we can celebrate the beautiful strokes that are Dryden and Soleil and Mackenzie and Lily. And pray that we can always see the incredible beauty that is in the stroke Addy Hope. We love you all. 

You may or may not know that the anniversary of the day you get your adopted child is called “Gotcha Day”. And we are celebrating that. And we take great comfort in the fact that our God has already whispered to Addy, “Don’t worry, I gotcha!"

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, 
and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Mathew 5:45