Judah and Baylor Second Birthday

Our sweet Judah and Baylor,

Today you would’ve been two years old on earth. I’m not sure that time means anything in Heaven, but maybe you know that today is somehow special to us. Daddy and I visited your grave last month. We read a poem and some scripture. We talked about how things would be now if you were still here. We cried. It all felt different this time. The sadness is changing…like we’re letting go of some pieces of it and gaining new ones.

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The first year was full of sadness for the terrible emptiness in our lives. We missed you every day and the nursery sat empty. Lost and lonely, we had nothing to distract us from your absence…or the horrible shock that took months to absorb, that you really weren’t coming back.

This second year has been full…overflowing. We welcomed your younger brother and sister home. Sammy and Hope bring us so much joy and they continue to bring us healing. They also keep us super busy, similar to what having you two would have been like! And now my sadness knows more. It knows about everything we’re missing with you. And when I see your Daddy with Sammy and Hope, part of me wants to cry because he never got to rock you to sleep and sing to you each night…he never got to chase you around the house and hear your hysterical laughter. So many things that we dreamt about doing with you that we are now experiencing with your brother and sister. It makes us long for you more. I long for our family to be whole.

I still think about you every day. Multiple times a week, people will ask me if I have twins (usually because they hear me reference Sammy and Hope as “the babies”). Although I stumble in my response to whomever is asking, my heart screams, “Yes!  I do have twins. My baby boys in heaven.”

For your birthday this year, we got another book by Nancy Tillman–I’d Know You Anywhere, My Love. And like we do every time we read one of your books, we ask Jesus to share it with you. The last line says,

“Whatever it is you imagine to be, I’ll just be so proud you belong to me…Because, child of mine, I’d know you anywhere.”

This makes me think about that day, when I meet my Lord in Glory, and how I’ll know you too. My heart will recognize you in an instant. I’ll scoop you both up in my arms and give you all the kisses I would’ve given you here. And although the pain of missing you is so hard, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

So until I hold you again, I’m “just so proud you belong to me.”

I love you both with all my heart

Mommy

Daddy’s poem for Judah and Baylor’s 2nd birthday

At the beginning of August, we were visiting family up north. We were also able to visit the twins’ grave and lay the marker. As we sat on the ground next to their spot, Shane pulled out his phone to show me a new poem he’d written for their second birthday. I had no idea he was working on anything. I’ll try to explain it a little bit so it makes more sense. The first ten lines are written from Shane’s perspective. The last ten lines are written from the twins’ perspective.

We stumbled out together your eyes were so hollow

Everything changed with a look that came crashing

And we boarded up slowly without even a word

Because nobody’s quieter than shock and his razor

And where do you go when your home has been leveled?

We need to build walls so no one can hear it

And you who won’t even say your name
Do you really know the way
Take this cup away from me
I don’t have time to get real

Let us stay close because you’re all
that I’ve ever

And when we were made we were made to be together

While at once we broke down by designed imperfection

Because we never saw light from the dark were protected

Now we have this, faces fixed on the maker

And what have we done to earn such favor?

And you I am that I am
Author of all that is real
Yours is the one lifted up
We sing to him who heals

Some explanation:

“We stumbled out [of the hospital] together. [My] eyes were hollow.”

“Everything changed with a look”-referring to the doctor’s look when she told me there were no heartbeats

“We boarded up slowly”-emotionally, shut down

“Where do you go when your home has been leveled?”-our home, our family

“We need to build walls so no one can hear it”- our grief, our mourning

“And you…”-addressing Christ “Who won’t even say your name”-He is seemingly absent

 

From the twins’ point of view

“Let us stay close because you’re all that I’ve ever” -Judah and Baylor were created together with that unique bond shared by identical twins. They met Jesus together. They long to be together. Maybe the line is fully explained by adding “known” to the end.

“Designed imperfection”-God created our babies to live that short time

“Because we never saw light”-because they never saw the light of this world, they were also protected from all of its darkness.

“And you…”-now addressing Christ

 

Hope’s Never Ending Birth Story

I wrote this two months ago. Never got around to posting!!

Hope Jennifer Coughlin was born on April 30, 2013 at 4:12 in the morning. Tomorrow she will be two months old. She is perfect. She is beautiful. She is another reminder that not for a moment did He forsake me.

In the days and weeks leading up to her birth, Shane and I were making huge decisions for our family…choosing a med school and deciding where our children would spend the first four years of their lives! We desperately wanted to be closer to family again, while at the same time, we had to consider where we could live INCOME-LESS for four years. Shane was offered a $100,000 scholarship to the University of Tennessee which made it possible for me to stay home with the babies while Shane went to school. Once we figured out which school, we had to decide what house. Would we continue renting at our current address or would we buy? For over a week, we scrambled around Memphis with a realtor looking at houses. If we were going to buy a house and be approved for a mortgage, we had to do it quick before Shane stopped working! Needless to say, I was feeling a tad overwhelmed at the end of the pregnancy. I was thankful that my mom was flying in a week before my due date to help get things ready for baby!

On Sunday, April 28, I picked my mom up from the airport around 1 pm. Shane left for work around 4 pm that afternoon and after putting Sammy to bed, my mom and I just hung out on the couch. Around 10 pm, we decided it was time for bed. Before heading upstairs to her “apartment” (as she so fondly refers to the guest bedroom), she said, “Come and wake me up if you go into labor.” To which I quickly responded, “Mom, my due date is still a week away and nothing is happening. I’m not going into labor tonight.” She’s a smart lady. She said, “Ok Min. Just come and get me if you do.” And I did.

I slept on the couch because that’s where I always sleep when Shane works night shifts. Around 12:30 I woke up with those cramps…and they were the serious kind. The contraction kind. I started timing them. From 1:00 am to 2:00 they were 8-10 minutes apart. From 2:00 am to 3:00 am they were closer to five minutes apart. I called Shane at work and told him to prepare to meet his daughter! When he got home from work, we headed to the hospital. It was around 4 am and we asked my mom to stay at home with Sammy until we had more info. The drive was relatively quick since we were the only car on the road. We got there in less than 20 minutes. Unfortunately, the nurses were not able to check dilation (it’s a real problem), so the only information they had to go by was the external contraction monitor. After monitoring contractions for an hour and with no successful cervix check, they sent me home.

We got home around 7:00 am and Shane crashed. I attempted to cope with the contractions by taking a hot shower and tylenol. They were getting increasingly painful and difficult to handle. I woke Shane up and called my OB. She told us to come to the office asap. So we got back in the car and made the same drive, only this time we parked at the doctors office instead of labor and delivery. The contractions were still 5-10 minutes apart so I sat awkwardly in the waiting room while the other currently-not-in-labor patients stared at me. After some more time of waiting in the exam room, Dr Chauhan came in. We told her about the onset of contractions and our recent trip to labor and delivery. She wrote me a special note on a prescription pad instructing the L&D nurses not to attempt cervix checks, but to wait and monitor the baby externally. It was like a hall pass. ha!

So we headed home with the hall pass. Now this was when things got rough. I busted out the big yoga ball and started bearing down on that thing. Meanwhile Shane was holding a bag of frozen veggies on my lower back. I’m breathing…too fast, slow it down…still too fast.I just kept trying to breathe at all. Sammy was crawling around the living room floor while I moaned and groaned like a crazy person. Then I started to get mad. I was mad that I was back at home and had to make that drive back to the hospital on Poplar Ave with this baby coming! At this point, it was closer to 3:00 pm. Over 14 hours of contractions. In that time, I had eaten a popsicle.

So Shane and I got back in the car to make the final drive to Methodist Hospital. It wasn’t pretty. I was gripping the door and center console like the car was about to blast off into space. I said the F word for the first time in my life. It was a sad moment. I really didn’t think we were going to make it (ha! little did I know). After being admitted and taken to our room, I begged the nurse for the epidural. (I had an epidural with the twins and was sure it was what I wanted with Hope. I knew what to expect from the medicine and how it would numb me up) But since they couldn’t check my cervix, they had to wait for Dr Chauhan to start her shift before ordering the epidural.

WHHHAAAATT? Dr Chauhan doesn’t start her shift until 5 pm…

So from about 3pm-5pm, I inflicted physical pain on Shane in an effort to cope with the contractions. It was a nightmare. By the time Dr. Chauhan got to the hospital, saw me, ordered the epidural, and the anesthesiologist came up to do the procedure, I was 8 cm dilated. Things got worse. Immediately after the first bit of medicine came through, my blood pressure crashed. I lost it. I was passing out and the anesthesiologist was doing everything he could to stabilize my blood pressure. Now, in an effort to prevent that from happening again, the anesthesiologist did not want to give me medicine through the epidural. But in addition to the catheter in my back, I had a catheter in my bladder, an IV in my arm, a contraction monitor in my uterus, and no pain relief.

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The clock ticked on. At that point, I was attempting to cope with the contractions with little to no pain relief and was unable to get out of the bed. This was a miserable time. I felt so confused as to why my blood pressure dropped and why the epidural wasn’t taking the way it had in my previous delivery. I was so tired and so hungry. Around 9:00 pm, Dr. Chauhan ordered pitocin to get me to 10 cm. I pleaded with her. There was no way I could handle pitocin without adequate medicine through the epidural. She spoke with the anesthesiologist who came back in to administer the meds. Finally…two hours of relief. Shane laid on the chair and my mom sat next to me while I drifted in and out. Around 11:30, I was 10 cm dilated. The nurse put me in the “pretzel position” to help the baby descend. I laid like a pretzel for way too long.

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At 1:30 am, it was finally time to start pushing. They stopped the pain meds (just to make me lose it I guess) and I pushed…and pushed…and pushed. And I popped blood vessels in my face. And for two hours I pushed so hard because I would have given anything to be done. For it to be over. The nurse tried all kinds of other stretching, soap-to-make-things-slippery, really bizarre techniques that have no place in a blog. And after two hours, I could tell by the look on the nurse’s face that Hope wasn’t coming out any time soon. I was crying. My mom was crying. Shane stood by very quiet. Around 3:00 am and after almost 27 hours of contractions, no food, and no sleep, Dr. Chauhan came in to check the baby. Hope’s head was not coming under the pelvic bone. It seemed to be turned sideways. She said that I could continue to push but she couldn’t say when or if Hope would come out. Physically unable to push for one more second, I cried because I couldn’t keep going. My mind, my body, my heart…everything was shutting down. I’ve never experienced that kind of exhaustion. I felt trapped. Trapped in all this pain with no way out. I wanted nothing more than to push the baby out, but my body was done.

Dr. Chauhan ordered the c-section. And I wasn’t afraid. I was actually feeling some scary resolve. I was pretty sure they could get Hope out this way. They asked me if I wanted to be asleep for the surgery. I said no because I was so afraid of the blood pressure thing happening again. They told me I would feel pulling and tugging and pressure. They were right. It was the weirdest, most unpleasant feeling. But at 4:12 am, I heard a baby cry.

I couldn’t see her when I heard the cry, but I knew she was there. For 21 months, since delivering the twins, I’d imagined what it would be like to give birth to a baby and hear those first sounds. My heart didn’t even know what to feel in that moment.  I was also shaking uncontrollably and my teeth were chattering like nobody’s business. I was focusing so hard on trying to control the shivering, but the anesthesia made it impossible to stop. A few minutes later, Shane brought the baby over to me so I could see her. She was already wrapped in a blanket, perfectly content in daddy’s arms. She didn’t look the way I expected…her face all squished up and her head bruised from the pushing. I wanted to know all about her. I kept asking, “How much does she weigh?” And “How long is she?” After 30 miserable hours, she was finally here.

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The c-section recovery was unpleasant. I never realized how much you use your abs to do all of the little things…like moving, walking, sitting, getting up. Sheesh! So after five days, we finally went home. At home with my newborn, 9 month old, and praise God, my mom. She became Sammy’s primary caretaker since Shane was back at work and the only thing I could do was breast feed.

Then, when Hope was only a few weeks old, we moved into the house next door. God provided exactly what we needed just in time. I’m trusting that he will give me grace as I attempt this motherhood thing, he will sustain Shane during the tough years of medical school, that he will work out his perfect will for our family as we lift our eyes to Him.

Pregnancy after loss

Hope has been with us for 24 weeks 4 days. This is the week I’ve been dreading, and now I see it coming and going. I believe we will see 25 weeks with our baby girl. She’s still moving. She’s still here.

This week I’ve been reading a blog and some articles from an online magazine called Still Standing. It has been helpful in processing the crazy mix of emotions I feel on top of the normal emotional craziness (like my tearful breakdown during an episode of Undercover Boss).

http://smallbirdstudios.com/2012/08/13/baby-kicks-and-the-pregnancy-i-dont-remember/

In this post, the author says,

“I remember being amazed that I could grow a healthy baby. I had lost so much trust in my own body.”

This is a familiar feeling. Since August, I’ve struggled to believe that everything could be normal. I look around at the rest of the world and see healthy babies being born left and right. I now have a hard time naming a close friend or family member that isn’t expecting or recently had a child. And everything seems to be ok for them while it still feels so impossible for us. All of our doctors keep saying the same thing, “Everything is going to be ok,” “Twins are a bear,” “We’re just thankful this is a singleton.” “We’re confident that this pregnancy will be different.” But fear and doubt still find their way into my thoughts.

http://stillstandingmag.com/2012/07/pregnancy-after-loss-and-the-loss-of-innocence/

This article talks about the loss of innocence that weighs on the joy of pregnancy after the death of a baby. I feel this weight most after Shane gives me a heparin injection. I know this seems silly, but these heparin injections are intertwined with a whole host of emotions…and poor Shane always gets the worst of it. I think its just a reminder of  how different everything is, how much naivety was lost, how much I miss those boys. With the twins, I had two ultrasounds, a doctor’s appointment every 4 weeks, and spent the rest of the time dreaming of raising two together. With Hope, I’ve already had seven ultrasounds, a doctor’s appointment every 2 weeks, a trip to labor and delivery, over 270 heparin injections resulting in a very bruised rear end! And all of this is preventative since we really have no idea what caused the boys’ death.

I guess I wouldn’t want it any other way. I need the close monitoring for my own peace of mind. I would do anything to ensure that Hope is born alive. But in the daily routine, I am reminded of how different things are and why the differences exist.

I miss them all the time.

all this time

A few weeks ago I was driving in the Pontiac with Sammy when this Christian pop song came on the radio…K-LOVE of course. And although Shane spends the majority of our time in the car mocking the voices of the artists on K-LOVE (I can see where he’s coming from), I started crying as I listened to these words.
I remember the moment, I remember the pain
I was only a girl, but I grew up that day
Tears were falling
I know You saw me
All this time, from the first tear cried
‘Till today’s sunrise
And every single moment between
You were there, You were always there
It was You and I
You’ve been walking with me all this time
I am still so confused by a million different things. I still wonder why things happened the way they did, even though I don’t anticipate a real answer until eternity. I choose to believe that God was there, in the darkest moment and all of the tearful nights after, and that he is here now as I hold our sweet Samuel and feel the kicks of baby Hope. I think about the way he answered our prayers, and I think about the way he didn’t answer others. I wonder about all of the events that unfold in this life and how they make sense under the sovereign hand of God. Sometimes I wonder if I’m stronger or weaker, if my faith has grown under trial or been made smaller. I know I struggle with cynicism and am quick to dismiss God’s active role in our lives. Everything seems more complicated now, and at the same time, very simple.
So I am thankful for the daily reminders that help me trust him more. Like when I look at Sammy’s face and instantly think, “I prayed for this child and God granted me what I asked of Him.” And when people ask about our little girl, I tell them that her name is Hope Jennifer. Apart from naming her after the two best moms in the world, she is named for Romans 5:3-5. This verse has been posted all over our house for the past 16 months…the bathroom, the living room, the kitchen.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

the new stroller

Like many of my blogging buddies, I’ve been keeping a thankful list through the month of November. (And after reading the book “1,000 Gifts” in June, I was reminded of how important it is to cultivate–if thats the right word–a thankful heart.) So on November 2 I wrote, “I am thankful that God answers prayers.” Tonight, while crusin’ the streets with Sammy in the new stroller, I really thought about this. The new stroller was what got me thinking…

A few weeks after the twins died, I was able to sort through the piles of Amazon boxes filled with baby shower gifts that had been shipped to our house. Shane and I opened each box and tried to make practical decisions about what to keep, what to ship back, and what to worry about later. Since our chances of conceiving identical twins again was slim to none, we sent back one of each duplicate gift. We wouldn’t need two car seats or two high chairs or the boppy pillow for twins anymore. And beyond grieving the loss of our precious sons, I had to grieve the fact that we wouldn’t be the parents who raise twins in this life.

At the end of May, when we found out we were adopting a little girl who would be born around the beginning of July, I reactivated the Amazon registry for the things we were lacking. I specifically remember editing the items–changing it from boy to girl, from two to one. And I remember how it broke my heart to delete the double stroller and register for the single one. The stupid stroller really got to me and I just had to be sad for awhile.

Of course in the year between losing the boys and welcoming Samuel home, I prayed for God to give us twins again. Whether biologically, through adoption, or a combination of both, I didn’t care. My heart was prepared for all that double trouble, and I couldn’t shake it. So tonight, as Sammy and I took to the uneven sidewalks in this early Christmas gift, I remembered the first double stroller…and thanked God for answering prayers.


Thank you Grandma Hope! Sammy loves his new ride and can’t wait to welcome his crusin’ buddy this spring!

Baby Coughlin #4

This post is inspired by our dear friend Jenna in NJ who said that she couldn’t wait to read a blog about baby 4! So here I am, 14 weeks along, with a precious 14 week old Sammy asleep in the nursery. My arms are no longer empty. My heart is full of hope for the future and full of new dreams for the two children God has entrusted to us.

So, let me rewind a few months back to August. Shane and I were preparing to celebrate the twins’ first birthday. A very sad and very awkward thing to celebrate, by the way. I was dreading September 1. It was somehow very significant to me that a year had passed. Despite all of my grief knowledge, I had weird thoughts that I should be “better” or not as sad anymore or still not missing them so much or maybe just “getting over it” like many people desperately want you to do. And on top of all this grief was the loss of the adoption in July (or a “disruption” as it is commonly referred to) and the unfulfilled desire to have a third baby. For some odd reason, we didn’t get pregnant on the first try as we had in the past (imagine that) and the months rolled on. All of these heartaches seemed to be culminating and landing me right on September 1.

On August 30 after a lovely breakfast with Michael and Emery, Shane and I came back to the house to prepare for our trip to Nashville. (We decided to spend the boys’ birthday in Nashville since that was the last place the four of us were together before I went back to TX and delivered them.) So while Shane was dilly dallying in the kitchen, I was pacing around the house contemplating taking a pregnancy test…something I hadn’t done in probably 7 months. I told Shane, “I think I’ve mustered up the courage to take a test.” Shane, being a part of this monthly emotional roller coaster, didn’t want me to get my hopes up and cautiously told me to do what I needed to do.

I went into the bathroom and, for a few seconds, I watched the lines (PLURAL! LINES!) darken on the test. Then, without saying a word (for fear that maybe I was dreaming), I walked back out to the kitchen, grabbed Shane’s hand, and led him into the bathroom. We glanced at the test for a moment…and then just held tight and cried…and cried…and cried. For the first time in exactly one year, we cried tears of joy. Those were the most long awaited tears of our lives.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

Two days later, the three of us faced September 1. And it was really hard. It was still an extremely difficult day as our minds replayed the night I spent in labor and the night Shane spent trying to get to Dallas, and the morning of their birth. Around midnight on Sept 1, I fell asleep on the couch while Shane was working on the computer, and around 1 am he woke me up to go get in bed. When I walked into our bedroom I saw that Shane had gotten out the blanket from the hospital that they were wrapped in. So we cried. More tears of sadness…sometimes I wish I’d run out but I never do.

As you can probably imagine, along with the joy of this new pregnancy came great fear. Since we never got an answer to what happened with the boys, I often wonder if that same thing will happen again. I’m afraid to be 24 weeks pregnant…afraid of what will happen that week. As if so many other things couldn’t happen in the other 39. But what I miss most is the completely trusting, naive, optimistic, joyful self I was while pregnant with the twins. I never imagined we could live through such a nightmare, and now that I know its possible, I can’t go back to the person I was. Not to say that I can’t be a joyful, optimistic person…I certainly want to be that, but something has certainly changed. I see everything differently. So the past several months have been a fight to trust God, to surrender this baby to Him despite my fear, to give him my fear…to let peace rule my thoughts.

You will keep in perfect peace
him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.

Isaiah 26:3-4