Thursday, August 4, 2016

Celebrating Ethan: Days #348-354


Day #348: Our little fighter//
Ethan was a fighter. For such a tiny baby, he sure had a lot of spirit and spunk in him.

I first felt Ethan flutter at 10 weeks. My doctor said it was unlikely, especially since he was my first. But as the feeling grew stronger and gradually turned into kicks, I knew that I had been experiencing baby flutters.

At one ultrasound, Ethan used both feet to push off the side of the womb and did a complete somersault. The ultrasound tech was in awe. We had a little acrobat on our hands.

After we learned that Ethan was very sick, we were referred to a perinatologist and began a process of multiple exams, regular ultrasounds, and heart echocardiograms. "I guess you never worry about kick counts," I remember our doctor said about a week before Ethan was born, with a smile. Ethan was always ready to put on a show for us. It was as if he wanted to say, "Look at me! Look what I can do! Don't worry, mommy. Don't worry, daddy. I'm still here! Watch me dance!" On the day that we met with the pediatric cardiologist, he noticed that Ethan was in a boxing stance. His little arms were balled up in fists and floated near his face. "Wow! He looks ready to fight," the cardiologist said.
 

And he did. Ethan continued to wiggle, kick and fight, and prove the doctors wrong time and time again. He fought through each week the doctors didn't think he'd survive. He fought through labor. He fought through delivery. "He fought so hard," the nurse told us, after our sweet little baby drifted to sleep and into the arms of Jesus. And he did. He was our little fighter.


Day #349: Always //It's hard to explain how joy and grief can live together simultaneously. My joy does not mean that I don't grieve. My grieving does not take away from my joy. They simply live together, making room for each other.


It can be hard to grasp and often leads to an expectation that you'll be "all better" once you hit a certain day, milestone, or year. But it's different. Not bad--just different. "My missing him won't stop here," I recently said, as I processed the coming days, month, and months to follow. There is no timeline. 


As the world continues to move forward, we will never forget you. While we will continue to move forward into the future, we carry your memory with us, making more room for more joy, more hope, and more love, but never pushing your memory away. 


You'll always be our sweet baby. You'll always be loved. You'll always be missed. You'll always be remembered and celebrated. We love you so.

 Day #350: Our Team//I could see her crying as she walked away. I know she did everything she could not to break down in front of me, but I knew. She was strong for us for hours, but I saw her shoulders heave as she walked out into the hall. 


She had patiently answered every question and calmed our nerves. When the labor turned from "piece of cake" to painful, she kindly reminded me that I'd get through it. When Chris was taken to another room to change, and I was wheeled into the operating room, she continued to coach me. To talk me through it. To help me breathe. When Ethan made his grand arrival, she was there. She was there as the doctors worked to save him. She stayed with us in the recovery room, as we held him and said our goodbyes. She offered to take pictures. She took the only pictures we have of Ethan. She told us to take our time. She never made us feel rushed. She told us we could have as much time as we needed. She assured me that we did everything we could--and that she knows the doctors did everything they could--and I know she meant it. After we said our final goodbye, she and another nurse took his footprints, clipped a lock of his dark hair, kept his tiny hat, and assembled them all together in a beautiful memory box for us to keep. She was there for every moment of Ethan's life and I'll never forget her.

The next day, tears filled the eyes of my second nurse as she said her goodbyes. 
She was there in those first hours after we had kissed our baby goodbye. She was there as we cried. She helped me get out of bed to try to walk for try first times. She sat on the edge of my bed at 3am and listened as I talked about Ethan. She oohed and aahed over his pictures. She took my hand and told me that she had been in my shoes years ago. She was the first to tell me that I'd never ever stop missing him, but that I'd find joy again. I’ll never forget her.

I'll never forget either of them. The nurses who made all the difference.

 

Day #351: Celebrating Ethan//The woodland decorations that were originally intended for my baby shower ended up decorating or church on the day of Ethan's memorial service. A life size tree, complete with cute forest animals, owl center pieces, and edible "acorns", had each been created with love and anticipation by dear friends. I don't think they realized what they were preparing for at the time--but when we were asked if the decor could be used at the service, I couldn't help but think that was the divine purpose all along. 


In the 93 minutes that Ethan was alive, he had managed to make an impact on so many lives. His death, or rather his life, brought 250 people together to hear about Jesus. Ethan had already accomplished more in his short life than some adults do in 90 years. I could not help but feel so proud of our sweet, tiny baby.


 

 Day #352: Home//No one expected us--the young 20-something couple--to be the parents who had made an appointment to make burial arrangements for their son. I watched as multiple staff members at various cemeteries tried to hide their shock, as we stood in response after our names were called out at our scheduled appointment time. It is a heartbreaking scenario that any parent should bury their child.


I have a theory that the process of making burial arrangements adds 30 years to a person's heart. I remember walking out of the funeral home feeling so exhausted--so old. "I just want him home with me," I cried, as we reviewed our arrangements. 
As I thought those words, something occurred to me. This world is not my home. My home is in heaven with my savior Jesus Christ. Ethan is home and one day I will be home with him.

Philippians 3:20-21 says, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” We all have the opportunity to be adopted as God's children and to call Heaven our home. We just need to fully surrender our lives to Jesus; He is waiting for us to come to Him.


Day #353: Precious Memories//On the day we said goodbye to Ethan, our nurses gave us the most special gift--a beautiful lavender memory box containing photos of Ethan, his little hat, a blanket, footprints, a tape measure that displayed his length, and a lock of his soft, dark hair. My favorite item is his hat. It is the first thing he wore when he was born, and was dirtied by everything that comes with a birth. But that soft, little, dirty hat carried his scent for months. We were very careful not to open the box too often. We wanted to savor his scent for as long as we could.


 

Day #354: Love at first sight//The day you were born was the day that I was convinced that "love at first sight" is not just something out of a fairy tale. I already had a very strong suspicion. I loved you from the day I first learned of you. I would've done anything for you. The day I looked upon your face, you took my breath away. It was the most heartbreakingly wonderful, devastatingly joyful day of our lives.



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