Do you say in your prayers: ‘Thy will be done’?  Are you courageous enough to pray that prayer?

Spencer W Kimball

MOM
1978
I carried Rachel in the breech position the whole pregnancy.  When I started to go into labor the doctor ascertained that she was still breech, footling breech.  She would be delivered by Cesarean Section. I was awake through the whole delivery, and Dad was in the room also.  The next thing I knew: “It’s a little girl!!!”

When I asked how she was, the doctor simply said she’s having a little trouble breathing.  They took her for x-rays immediately.  The result of the x-rays was stunning – a diaphragmatic hernia.

CDH (Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia).

Rachel’s diaphragm did not compartmentalize, or seal off her abdomen, and with a hole in it, all of Rachel’s intestines were in her chest cavity.  One lung was completely crowded out, and the other provided only 25% of the function it should.  Her heart was pushed up and over to the side.  Our local hospital was not really equipped to deal with this so they put her in an ambulance to Primary Children’s Hospital.

When they brought her out of the ambulance, she was so blue that she was black in color.  She could draw in breathe, but could not get rid of the carbon dioxide which turned to carbonic acid in her body.  She was literally black.

Fortunately, an extraordinary pediatric surgeon was at the hospital.  He talked to Dad before operating; explaining to him that she was pretty far gone and he didn’t know if they would be able to save her.  If they did save her, he suggested she would probably have brain damage from the carbonic acid.  He proceeded with the surgery.

They made a long incision horizontally across her abdomen.  The doctor reached up and pulled the intestines into their position.  He arranged the lungs and heart and then sealed the diaphragm, stitching it closed so that it could perform its proper function.  The doctor put our little, five pound Rachel on paralyzing drugs to keep her perfectly still and allow the surgery to begin to heal.

As soon as I could be released from the hospital (2-3 days) Dad drove me directly to Primary Children’s Hospital.  I saw my little Rachel for the first time.

Rachel began to prosper.  She began to gain a little weight and to cry.  They kept her on a slant board; a board raised to about a 45% angle with a padded post for Rachel to straddle as she lay on her stomach.  The doctors suggested she would be in the hospital a minimum of one month, but we were able to bring her home in two weeks!

What a miracle baby.  I was so grateful to have my little girl, my little pink angel to raise in my home.

 

RACHEL
8 October 2012
Today, Bryant and I were able to bring all three children with us to the hospital for an ultrasound of our fourth child.  A boy!  E is a Brave fan, and thinks having three little brothers, just like Merida, is going to be alright.

Matthew8

We were so glad to have the children with us at the appointment, to “meet” their new baby brother!

At the appointment, we also discovered that there are some complications with the baby.

I remember the technician at the hospital, sitting me down after the ultrasound was completed.  She began, “There is a muscle that stretches across the baby’s abdomen.”  I interrupted her, understanding that a lesson on the anatomy of the diaphragm was probably not normal procedure.

“The diaphragm.  What is wrong with my baby?”

“The baby’s diaphragm has a hole in it…”

I interrupted her again, “A Diaphragmatic Hernia.  My baby has a Diaphragmatic Hernia.”  I had been born with the same condition.  I understood something of the life-threatening condition.

I cried, and she held my hand.

Bryant took the children so I could be alone.  I rode the double decker bus home, by myself.  And, once home, I Skyped my mom.  “We are having a boy!”  She was happy.  She was receiving the call from my dad’s office.  “Mom, there is something else.  My baby has a diaphragmatic hernia.”  I could only barely get the last part out.  And I remember her face when I said it.  I will always remember her face.  She knew, and I knew, what that meant.  And we cried.  I will always remember that moment.

Our case is being transferred to another hospital in London, more suited to meet the needs of our baby.

 

9 October 2012
Thursday we met with two specialists at that hospital.  After an hour on the table, the two doctors were able to give us a better idea of the condition of our baby boy.

The baby’s diaphragm is herniated on it’s left side.  The intestines have entered the chest cavity, collapsing the left lung and pushing the heart into the right side of his chest.  The right lung – the only working lung – is at about 25% capacity.  This places our baby in the “severe” category, and the doctor has given him a 10% chance of survival after birth.  With treatment – putting a balloon into his esophagus while still in the womb – his chances go up to 50%.  The baby, in addition to the hernia, has a slightly bowed left femur and his right foot is bent abnormally.  The specialists are not sure how the three issues could be connected, but are having us meet with a geneticist on Tuesday.

On my knees last night and this morning, I wasn’t even sure what to pray for.  I wrote down so many questions and thoughts:

What do I pray for?  Do I pray that the baby survives?  Do I pray for my own health?  What lesson am I supposed to learn from this experience?  Who should I turn to for help?  How do I keep the other three children’s lives “normal” and happy during this time?

And in that prayer, it was “given unto (me) what (I) should pray…”  (3 Nephi 19:24).

1.  I felt to pray for Bryant and myself.  For peace and strength, and especially inspiration as we seek answers to the lists of questions and concerns.  And even strength as we continue to raise three healthy children.

2.  Pray that this little boy will fight!  That, for whatever time he has on earth, he will fight and struggle to fulfill whatever purpose he was sent here to fulfill.

3.  Pray “Come what may, and love it!” (Elder Wirthlin)

 

BRYANT
19 November 2012
Since all the information the specialists can gather is from a small black-and-white ultrasound, we hear different things from different specialists. They all agree the baby has a congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) and usually that means a 10%-ish chance of survival without intervention.  With a new type of intervention, the chance of survival increases to around 50%. When we met with the doctor a few weeks ago, he said he thinks the hernia is less complicated than originally anticipated and the operation is unnecessary. The challenge is that lung and intestines are the same shade of grey in an ultrasound, so no one knows or can know until the baby is born. Most babies with diaphragmatic hernias don’t have well developed lungs and can’t breathe (absorb oxygen or release carbon dioxide) and basically suffocate. Our baby appears to have 60% lung capacity, raising the chance of survival up to 90%.

90% is way better than 50% and way way way better than 10%.

Whatever happens, he’ll likely be in the NICU for at least 4 weeks after the major surgery (and he won’t nurse, and will likely be small, and likely have reflux problems, and cry a lot, and …… the associated problems for most CDH babies can be quite long.)  We’re hoping he’s like Rachel, but we can’t know until he’s born. So we keep praying and hoping. And we have faith in God’s plan for us.

 

RACHEL 
5 February 2013
My mom arrived yesterday from the States.  We threw her right into the deep end!  School drop-off, violin lessons, dinner, and then I ended up back in the hospital.

The nurses and midwives and doctors remain as kind as ever, and, after seeing our baby’s face on the scan last night, I feel so anxious to deliver our little miracle.  Tomorrow I will be induced at Kings College Hospital, London.  As soon as our son is born, he will be stabilized and taken to the NICU.  Then, when he is deemed strong enough, surgery will happen (1-4 days after birth).

We are so grateful for so many prayers, so much love over the past few months.

Tonight is our last night as a family of 5.  We packed mum’s bag together with what the children thought I will need tomorrow, then they wrote down the silliest names they could think of for our baby, and we tried to take a vote.  I want the children to feel how blessed we are to have this baby coming to our family.  It has been a rough go, and I know they have noted the difficulties.  I want them to know that we can do difficult things, because of LOVE.

We pray this birth will be a beautiful experience for our family.

 

7 March 2013
Four weeks ago today, on 7 February 2013, I was in the King’s College Hospital.  And Matthew was alive.  Not just living on a respirator, but very much alive inside my womb.

Heather was my midwife that evening.  Bryant was with me.  He was always with me.  He went home just twice during my five day stay at King’s.  And only then to help with the children for an hour before making the 40 minute commute back to me.

That afternoon an African woman – teenager, I think – was admitted and slept in the bed on the other side of the blue curtain from me.  She had her friends with her, but I do not think she had any other support in the hospital.  That night she went into labor.  And she screamed.  Even when they took her from the room and into the delivery room, I could hear her screaming many hours of the evening.

Bryant climbed into bed with me for the night.  There was nowhere else for him to sleep, and neither of us wanted to leave each other.  He seemed to sleep fine through the screaming, but I couldn’t.  I dared to try to take myself to the bathroom.  Due to a torn stomach muscle, I was in incredible pain.  I hobbled to the bathroom around the corner.  Heather was at her station outside my curtain when I returned.

That is all I can remember of that night.

The following night, I remember so many details:  In an effort to put me into labor, the previous Wednesday, the doctor began inducing me.  The doctor thought I would go into labor within hours.  I did not.  I felt some contractions, and some were painful.  But not painful enough and not frequent enough to put me into labor.  Anxious to begin the process, I had Bryant take me walking around the ward every two hours Thursday night and Friday day.  And when that was too painful, I would sit on the laboring ball, hoping gravity would work with me.  And when even that was more pain than I thought I could bear, I would sit in Bryant’s upright chair, instead of my hospital bed.

By Friday night, the contractions were regular, and the doctor on call got me into a delivery room.  Bryant began securing an epidural.  I had thought, at the beginning of this pregnancy, that I would deliver my fourth child naturally, and Bryant and I had looked into different pain-management strategies.  Hypno-birthing is popular right now.  And I prepared myself accordingly.

I did not scream.  I knew my body.  I was able to tell Bryant each time a contraction was coming on, and I was able to manage the pain using mental pictures – green ribbons.

Sue, my midwife, later commented on the relationship Bryant and I shared.  She assured us that we would be wonderful parents.  I had always felt that the Lord had trusted us to be such.  Sue was such a gentle blessing to us.  She was older.  She had been a midwife for over 30 years, I think she said.  She sat patiently in a chair next to my bed, hardly taking her eyes off of me.  She said, “I don’t trust you.  You could deliver this baby any minute.  You are fast!”

Well, I wasn’t fast that night.  I labored for several hours.  When the epidural started wearing off, I told Sue that I didn’t mind feeling something.  I didn’t mind hurting.  I could feel my baby moving inside of me.  And, in my heart, I felt a mutual communication with my baby – we were “in this” together.  When the epidural wore all the way off, I went back to “green ribbons”.  Sue ordered more pain relief.  And I was relieved.   The extra epidural upset my stomach, and that combined with a cough I had been suffering since November, made me throw up.  And then throw up again.  And again.  I did not count how many times I threw up on the delivery table.  I do not think it exceeded 10.  After I would throw up, either Bryant or Sue would give me more water, ultimately, to throw up.

I remember thinking, this is ridiculous.  This dang cough is what caused two pulled rib muscles in the last month of pregnancy, and the torn stomach muscle.  The latter caused me so much incredible pain the last month of pregnancy, I couldn’t bear lying down, sitting up, or standing.

I thought to myself, lying there on the delivery table, This is ridiculous!  What does this cough have to do with anything?  Isn’t pregnancy alone difficult enough? 

It was so ridiculous, in fact, that I found it funny.  And I laughed to myself.

But later, after all was said and done, I thought on my “ridiculous” cough, and found myself thanking the Lord for that cough.  For, just before 9:00pm Friday night, Sue made the call to the pediatric doctors, all things were put in order, and I was asked to begin pushing.  After a long stay in the hospital and the medications I had been on, I did not have the energy or control to push anything.  Sue would say push, and I would take the position and even make the face, but nothing would happen.  Every time I coughed, though, the baby was pushed a little closer.  Sue stopped saying, push push, and instead urged, cough cough!  And coughing I could do!  Ultimately, I coughed that baby right out of me!

Understand this: I could not have pushed him out any other way.  I would have had to go in for a cesarean, which would have disabled my body from having the strength to be a mother to my Matthew for the 33 hours I had to mother him outside my womb.  That cough was a blessing to me, and I do not begrudge it now.

On 8 February 2013, I delivered an 8 pound 9 ounce baby boy.  The umbilical cord was wrapped twice around his neck.  I watched Sue pull him out of me and his lifeless body flop onto the delivery table.  I remember frantically calling out, “My baby!” while Sue and Heather unwrapped the cord from his neck.  As soon as that cord was unwrapped, Matthew’s arms and legs jerked out like baby’s reflexes cause them to do.  And, he opened his eyes.  It was just for a second, and just the one time, but Matthew opened his eyes.  No sound came out of him, but his eyes opened, and I would like to always remember that moment.

I do not imagine he could see me.  I do not think he had the ability to see me.  Me – the one person out of billions who have ever lived or will ever live, who would mother him.

Tonight I sit and wonder, Did he think of me?  Did he know who I was?  Did he understand what I had done for him?  Was he in pain?  Was he scared?  Did he know before he was born what would be asked of him?  Did he understand what would be required of me?  He opened his eyes once, and I wondered.  And he was my baby.  And he was absolutely beautiful to me.

Once his umbilical cord was cut and Matthew was moved to the table just feet to the left of my bed.  The pediatrician needed Matthew’s umbilical cord to insert the medicine that would paralyze him, preparing him for all that was to come.

When Matthew was placed on the table, nine doctors and Bryant circled around him.  They went to insert two tubes down him throat, and Matthew fought them.  He wouldn’t hold still, but he did cry out twice.  Then he was held down and he was paralyzed.  I have thought on those 60 seconds over and over again over the past four weeks.  From birth to the moment he was disarmed, for lack of a better word.  In that minute he opened his eyes and cried out twice.  I am so grateful to the Lord for that one minute.

Matthew2

The doctors continued to work to stabilize Matthew while the two midwives worked to deliver my placenta.  Because of the stress of the moment, my cough was uncontrollable.  Painful for me, but helpful in delivering the placenta and all that accompanies the placenta.  I was thrilled to me a mother!  I smiled and laughed with the midwives between coughing fits.  When there was a gap between working doctors, I would get a glimpse of my new baby boy.  I felt stress, yes, but I also felt confident!  I had done it!  I had managed the pain during labor, I had delivered my baby.  I felt so good.  I felt so grateful.  I felt so relieved.  I felt I could conquer the world at that moment!

I had no idea that, just feet away, my Matthew was slipping from the very world I felt I had conquered.

After Matthew was stabilized and put into the incubator, the doctors pushed him to the NICU.  I think Bryant accompanied him at that time, and I laid back on that delivery table and slept for two hours – that was how confident I was that all was well.  I slept while Bryant stood by Matthew across the hospital hallway.

When I finally woke up, in the delivery room, Bryant and two midwives transferred my still heavily-medicated body to another bed and rolled me into the post-natal ward for the night.

Morning couldn’t come soon enough.  Once the morning shift changed, I was checked by the midwife, and Bryant and the midwife moved me into a room where the doctor wanted to consult with us before seeing Matthew.  That was fine.  I thought, Let’s consult, then let me see my baby.  When we were settled in the room, Dr L came in.  He had been the head pediatrician in the delivery room.  He had told our midwife the night before that he was off-duty, but chose stay late to make sure he was present for the delivery of our baby.  He ended up staying the whole of the night with Matthew, and into the morning to meet with us.

Dr L wanted to meet with us before we visited Matthew in the NICU.  A stay in the NICU was not difficult for me.  I expected a stay in the NICU.   I had thought it would be our “home” for the first few months after Matthew’s birth, in fact.  It is strange, but expectations tend to form our perspective, and thus our comfort (or discomfort).  I expected the NICU.  I was comfortable with the NICU.  But that morning when Dr L told us that our baby would not survive, that was unexpected.  I didn’t even cry.  All my hopes for my boy, all I expected for our future together – and Dr L was telling me that Matthew wouldn’t live even the week?  That was unexpected.  I was not sure how to process the unexpected.

On the same theme, I have always expected the Gospel taught by Jesus Christ to be true.  If it weren’t true, that would be unexpected.  Right after Matthew passed away, lying alone on my bed in my hospital room, staring at the white ceiling, I had to ask myself if it was all true – the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Lord’s Plan of Happiness – or if the unexpected would break my heart, and forever.  There was a moment that I had to make a choice.  Do I lose myself in despair and anger OR do I seek peace in the Lord’s promises, “against hope, believ(ing) in hope…stagger(ing) not at the promise of God…being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able to perform” (Romans 4:18,20-21).

It was at that moment that everything I had ever preached, on three continents and for nearly 20 years – as a missionary, as a Sunday School teacher, as a Relief Society President, as a seminary and an institute teacher, as a mom and as a disciple of Christ – was put on the line.  It was either true.  Or it was a lie.  Either God’s plan was a reality or it was a dream.

I testify, it is a reality.  The Lord’s Plan of Salvation and the doctrine surrounding that Plan has not only saved me from eternal death and hell, but has saved me from the temporary mortal hell of losing my baby to CDH.

In a world where the unexpected shakes us and tries us and turns our hearts inside out, we can expect the Lord’s infinite love for us.  We can expect Him to have a plan for our happiness.  We can expect eternal life with our loved ones.  We can expect it to be more perfect and more glorious than we now imagine.

I do not remember the consultation with Dr L well.  I remember phrases like “most sick baby in the NICU”, “his chest is solid”, “We don’t like to see this”, and “I don’t see how he could recover”, stick out in my mind.  I wanted him to be strait with me.  I asked, “What chance does my baby have of living?”  Dr. L just shook his head.  He didn’t say “no chance” but he said he had no hope that Matthew would live even long enough to have surgery.

I did not cry.  I was in shock.  Honestly, Bryant and I had not considered before that our baby might not survive.  Maybe we are hopeless optimists, but we were absolutely shocked by the updated status of our new baby boy.

Bryant wheeled me into Matthew’s NICU room immediately, to see my baby for the first time since his birth, and for the first time since we had learned of his imminent death.  And there I wept.  I prayed out loud to our Heavenly Father, and I pled with Matthew, “If you have any say in this, please stay with us!  I will be a good mom!  I promise.  Whatever I need to change or do better, I will!  I promise.  We are in this together.  Don’t leave me.  Don’t leave me.  If you can help it at all, don’t leave me.”

Matthew6

I think I am pretty frank with the Lord.  I try to be perfectly honest and open, especially about my own shortcomings.  I thought I always had.  But, as Matthew lie dying in his incubator, I sat there, holding his hand, racking my brain for a reason.  And I found myself guilty of pride that I had never before confessed to the Lord.  Prideful and selfish thoughts I was utterly embarrassed and ashamed to admit to the Lord, and to Matthew, for that matter.  I do not believe that my pride is the reason Matthew was taken from us, but I do think it was appropriate to feel guilty about those thoughts, at that time.  And I think my death-bed repentance was also appropriate, especially considering it was not my own death-bed.

Matthew3

Meanwhile, my mom was back at the flat with the other three children, praying.

The midwives had secured a private room for Bryant and me to stay in during this difficult time.  I remember crying in that room:  “How will I tell the children.”

I phoned my mom.  She later wrote:  Saturday, I received one of those calls that will never be forgotten.  Cried Rachel, “We are losing him! We are losing him quickly! He is not strong enough to have surgery, and the doctor said he has done all he could – and he is losing. I am thinking things through. I am crying things through. I am pleading with Matthew and with the Lord.”

My mom was so anxious, “I want to see him!”  A family friend immediately picked up E, L, and J so my mom could come to the hospital.  She went straight to the NICU, but I waited in the private room for her, thinking that is where she would be sent upon arrival.  I waited in my bed for maybe an hour.  I stared at the ceiling.  There were two sprinklers on the ceiling, and I was trying to line them up in my mind.

The night of 7 February, two or three hours after Bryant and I had retired to the private room, a doctor came into our room, turned on the light, and told us that our baby would not make it to the morning.  Come now.  We did.  I sat next to Matthew’s incubator while Bryant phoned my mom, asking her to bring the children to the NICU by 6:30am.  At the nurses urging, we went into the room around the corner to rest another hour.  At about 4am, the nurse came in to us.  “If you want any other family to see him alive, they must come now.”  Bryant phoned my mom back and arranged for a car to pick them up and bring them to the hospital immediately.

Before my mom and the children arrived, Bryant gave Matthew a name and a blessing – Matthew Holmes Blanchard.  And when the children arrived, in their pajamas and very sleepy, we sat with them on the floor of the hallway in the NICU outside Matthew’s room, while the nurses set up a screen around Matthew’s incubator.  As we sat waiting, I talked to the children about Matthew dying.  I asked the three children if Matthew’s death was happy or sad.  L, noting my tears, said decisively, “sad”.  We explained to him and the other children that it’s sad because we would miss Matthew very very much, but happy because he would be returning to live with Heavenly Father. Then we testified to the children that, if we were obedient and worthy, when we died, we would return to heaven, too, to be with our Matthew. E cried. She said that that was way too long to wait. “I’m not even OLD yet.”

Matthew4

The nurses let us come into the screened area.  Matthew had been unplugged from some of the tubes that tethered him to his bed, and was taken off the large ventilator enabling us to hold him while the smaller ventilator kept him breathing.  I held him first, on a pillow the nurse offered me.  I passed him carefully to Bryant.  Then on to my mom.  And finally he was put back into my arms.

There he died.  The doctor on call asked my permission to unplug Matthew from the ventilator.  I was taken aback.  I said, “Do I have any other option?”  He said, “No.”  “Then why are you asking me.”  Why were they making me choose to take my boy off the only thing keeping him alive in my arms.  I was mad.  I told him that my husband would have to give the permission.  I could not.

I do not remember what happened after that.  I remember the respirator went quiet. Bryant put Matthew back in the incubator and we returned to our hospital room, without our baby.  And there I stayed and wept and prayed.  And there the nurse brought Matthew’s body back to us, to be dressed in his burial clothes.  And there we held that precious body in our arms and on our chests. I didn’t want to leave that quiet hospital room, where Bryant, Matthew, and I were together in such peace, for a final time before his little body was taken from us.

That room became sacred to me. It is where my eternal love and I held our lifeless child for four hours – where we said goodbye to the baby we had so desperately wanted to keep.  His was only a 33 hour life in the hospital, but it began long before and he will be a part of our family for eternity.

Matthew7

Lean on my ample arm,
O thou depressed!
And I will bid the storm
Cease in thy breast.
Whate’er thy lot may be
On life’s complaining sea,
If thou wilt come to me,
Thou shalt have rest.
If thou wilt come to me,
Thou shalt have rest.

Lift up thy tearful eyes,
Sad heart, to me;
I am the sacrifice
Offered for thee.
In me thy pain shall cease,
In me is thy release,
In me thou shalt have peace
Eternally.

We would rather cry than have nothing to cry about.  We would rather feel this pain than never had known this perfect child.

 

REENTRY

Well the sun is surely sinking down,
But the moon is slowly rising.
So this old world must still be spinning round,
And I still love you.

James Taylor, You Can Close Your Eyes

13 February 2013
DAY 3

I woke up.

Bryant took the children to school before I could get myself out of bed.  He said every drop-off/pick-up was difficult, as all the school mums know that I should have had my baby by now, but few knew that there were any complications with Matthew.  Bry went to the front office to inform them of Matthew’s death, and to get the children excused from school for a month.  The children’s teachers were notified, and they have been gentle and supportive. E brought a picture of Matthew to class with her, and they had a class discussion about death.

When Bryant returned from drop-off, we opened my hotmail inbox together. We spent some hours reading the messages of condolences that had come.  We read.  We wept.  Some emails shared thoughts and condolences that resonated with our own thoughts.  Some emails were angry.  Interesting.  Their way of showing support to us was to show anger at the situation.  Some emails were short.  Some were very long.  Some offered their time and talents to help us through this difficult time. Some were all practical.  We laughed out loud.  “Rachel, now you are probably having to deal with the challenge of drying up your milk.  To do this, you will need…”  Every single person was showing their love in a way that they knew how to.

I did some laundry.

I cleaned my room.

I bathed.

Bryant finalized the details to get Matthew’s body from the UK to the US.

L and I made Valentine’s Day cards.  Pirates.  Pirates with heart-shaped eye-patches, that is.

I phoned Great Grampa and Gramma.

We went to bed.  The past two nights I have taken a sleep-aid.  My dreams are full and vivid. And I spend much time awake, preferring to be awake facing my grief than asleep facing my dreams.

 

14 February 2013
DAY 4
I made breakfast for the children this morning.  It has been awhile.  Oatmeal with peaches.

I entertained three guests today – our Bishop, and then two friends brought Valentine’s treats for the children.

I helped E with her violin practice and helped the boys with their math.

I journaled some thoughts I had today on Matthew, and compiled pictures from all cameras present at Matthew’s bedside.

There was a moment when Bryant and I were looking at all the pictures we had compiled of Matthew, that I felt such peace.  Such peace.  And I turned to Bryant and said, it was such a pleasure.  The pregnancy, the labor, the delivery, the time in the NICU, and even the heart-wrenching hours and days after Matthew’s death.  It was such a pleasure.  And I cried, because I felt it with all my heart.  For those 33 hours with my boy, I would do it all again.  He is a part of our eternal family, and bringing him into our family was such a pleasure.

 

RECOVERY

Learn conduct from the Holy One.

Hymn 187

20 February 2013
One week after delivering Matthew, I was on a flight from London to Utah. And one week after Matthews death, I was hugging and catching-up with dozens of family members and friends, and friends of family, and family of friends.

Tuesday, we picked up Matthew from the airport.  We didn’t get to see the body.  The casket was wrapped tightly.  The tiny package was the size of the pillow I sleep with at night.  Bryant wrapped his arms around the box, and we had our baby’s body with us again.

Matthew5

Bryant had sat down in quiet last week, and written out what he wanted on the headstone.  And I was so grateful he had.  It was beautiful.

 

5 March 2013
The funeral happened the day of a big snowstorm. Many friends/family had to turn back on their way to the funeral. But about 300 people did make the trek. People from every stage of our lives – childhood friends, mission presidents, college roommates, past coworkers, friends from NYC, almost 20 people from the NY Deaf Branch, a friend from London, and family. Even my baby brother got permission to leave his mission to attend the funeral.

Everything was so white and so pure with the newly fallen snow. Appropriate.  We had about 100 white balloons for the children present to release together at the end of the graveside service.

2013-02-23 14.28.50

I thought I had prepared myself sufficiently to bury my baby that day, but nothing could have prepared me for the grief I felt when his tiny beautiful casket was closed and locked. I never thought I would be burying my baby.

People keep talking about it “getting better”, but I want to miss Matthew. I want to miss him so much that it hurts.

This morning was the first time since the moment Matthew died in my arms, that I dispared.  I cry every single day.  But this morning, it went beyond mourning.  I felt angry – not at any one person, and certainly not at God or my too-quiet Matthew.  I just felt angry.  I didn’t want advice, I didn’t want a hug, I didn’t want to pray, I didn’t want to feel better again…ever.  Last night I had such distressing dreams.  Stairs that I climbed and climbed and would never come to an end, buildings that turned as if on a turn table that I could never get off of, my J didn’t recognize me, and my other two children were gone, to death or something else, I don’t know.  And everyone was so kind, but no one could help me.  I woke up, and found no comfort in being awake.  Bryant held me close – against my will – while I cried.

We drove to the cemetary, so we could spend some time close to Matthew’s body before our flight.  It is only his body that we are leaving in Utah.  But, at this point, it is all I have of his little body – that body I had carried those 9 months, and could hardly wrench myself away from those 33 hours after birth.  It was his body that I dressed so carefully after his death in London, and waited so long for in the airport in Utah.  It was his body that our family finally met and touched, and it was his body that we cried over when that casket was closed to us.  We said goodbye to Matthew’s body, and I prayed that someday I would feel him with me, and feel his love for our family.

My eyes are swollen.  My heart could break.  I need sleep.

 

12 March 2013
Facing people without Bryant is difficult.  I have not gone through hardly an hour without him by my side.

 

14 March 2013
I feel so grateful tonight for Matthew. He gave us a reason to cry. He gave us a reason to rejoice. He gave us a reason to gather together with family and friend, and I feel so grateful for the sweet reunion. Matthew gave us a reason to change, to soften our hearts, to love more readily and more devotedly. I am so grateful that Matthew would come to us. Such gifts he’s offered us in his short life and quiet death.

 

10 June 2013
Four months ago today my Matthew died.

This morning, after dropping the children off at school, and on my way to tennis in Greenwich Park, an elderly woman stopped me outside an old church and invited me to “morning coffee”, held at the church every Monday morning.  I took her flyer, thanked her, then continued on, up the hill to the tennis courts.

Only minutes later, I learned that my friend was going to be late to tennis, so I turned around, and walked back to the church, where I let myself in to an open and empty hall.  There were tables set up, with chairs around each.  There were pastries waiting at the front of the room.  Two elderly women were surprised, but please to see me.  They offered me coffee.  No, I don’t drink coffee.  They offered me juice.  They said that they had felt they could help the community by offering “morning coffee” for women on their way home from school drop-off.  It was their first attempt.

We talked about school, we talked about America, we talked about children, I told them about Matthew.  One of the hostesses, Margaret, cried.  She offered me a booklet on grieving.  I thanked her politely, then packed it away.  Then something happened.  I could feel the moment the “switch went on”, as they say – when Margaret started thinking for herself, uninhibited by fear of saying something wrong.  She motioned for me to wait for a moment, as she found a Bible.  She told me that when her daughter was born with spinalbifida, she had searched the Bible for amswers and comfort.  It was very difficult for her.  She opened her Bible to Exodus, when Moses received his call from God:  “And Moses said unto the Lord, I am not eloquent…but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Exodus 4:10).  Margaret shared this with me, then reminded me that it was the Lord who had made Moses’ tongue.  And he did not heal it.  She knew that the Lord had made her daughter’s body in the condition that it was in.  And she had found great comfort in that.

The Lord made my Matthew the way he was born.  It was not an accident, it was not a mistake.  And He did not heal my boy.  But He had a reason for Moses’ slow tongue.  And He has a reason for Matthew’s hard lungs.

A later thought.  When Matthew passed away, I thought to myself, “This ought to create a change for the better in me.  There ought to be things I now do that I will never do again because of Matthew.  Or vice versa.”  I maintain that philosophy, but I do not think that change will happen cold-turkey, as I originally expected.  Rather “grace to grace.”

Maybe I am becoming a kinder mum to my other three children.  I think I am.  Maybe I am more merciful to others around me.  I know I have searched and loved the scripture and the doctrines of the Gospel in a different way than I have before.  Maybe I care a little less about the temporal and care a little more about the eternal.  Maybe I am more kind to and grateful for my body.  Maybe I spend more time thinking about relationships that will extend beyond this life, and less time thinking about relationships that do not even exist – TV/movie characters, celebrities, etc.

I have slowed down.

I am more likely to visit a quiet church for “morning coffee”.

I am more sober.  But I hope no less comfortable to be around.

I am tired.  I feel I have physically aged.

I am pensive.

I am grateful.

Today I am grateful for those two sweet women at “morning coffee”, and their idea to help the community by caring for the mums.  I felt the Spirit there – “where two or more (were) gathered in my name” (Matthew 18:20).

 

15 July 2013
Someone at school yesterday asked me about my baby.  I usually don’t cry anymore when people ask, but I did yesterday.  As I was walking home with J, I got thinking.  I don’t mind people asking me about Matthew.  They recognize that I had a baby.  When we move back the NYC, I will be a woman with just three children.  Here, in London, I am glad that I am a woman who should have four children.

 

1 August 2013
Matthew’s presence is, every day, in our lives.  The children thank Heavenly Father for him in every prayer, we have pictures of him around the flat, and sometimes I find myself talking aloud, as if I were talking to him.  I am content to do so.  And I am okay.

The children are okay, too.  People have asked me how Matthew’s death has affected the children.  I do not think it has affected them adversely.  Their school report cards were brilliant.  And socially, they are secure.

J is young, and still trying to figure it all out.  We were babysitting my friends’ baby, “Baby Mary”, while the couple went on an anniversary date.  Our children loved having a baby in our home.  I hardly held her, for all the help I had!

E, L, and J went to bed before Mary’s parents returned.  And when J woke up in the morning, and realized that “Baby Mary” was gone, he came into my bedroom.  “Mom.  Did that baby go to live with Jesus Christ, too?”  He was so sincere.  So sober.  I could have wept right then.  “No.  Baby Mary went home with her Mum.”

 

8 August 2013
I took E up into the inner gate of the castle this morning before the rest of Beynac-et-Cazenac woke up. We found a quiet spot overlooking miles of provincial France. My intent was to think and write – a journaling experience. E‘s intent was to have good talk with her mom, sing a song or two, voice her concerns about the weather, the snails, the consistency of the grass, etc.  I can’t say which one of us won.  It wasn’t a battle of wills. She chatted at bit, and I thought.  She thought a bit, and I took pictures.  We both journaled most of the time.  I brought a sweater.  She didn’t.  So I sat atop the stone wall shivering while she cuddled under my sweater.

Matthew was born six months ago today.

I needed that quiet time atop the castle wall this morning.  I told E, “I never thought he would die. I expected Matthew to live, and to be a part of our family now.”

Not even looking up from her journal, E responded, “Well, like Daddy always says, ‘You’d be surprised’.”  Then she carried on without a hiccup in her work.

Her response took me back, and then made me laugh.

But then I let the message settle.  I think I WOULD be surprised.  Surprised by what?  Surprised by how much a part of our family Matthew still is – what a blessing he is to us, and to others, even now.  I think I would be surprised by the relationship we will maintain in this life.  Surprised by the relationship we will enjoy in the next life.  Surprised by how familiar Matthew will be to me when I hold him again – mother and son.  I think I would be surprised by the depth of love our Heavenly Father has for me and for Matthew, and by the breadth of His mercy.

“Amidst the wondrously complex tasks inherent in the universe, He seeks our individual happiness and safety above all other godly concerns. . . ‘Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive…'” (Jeffrey R Holland, 2003)

E and I returned to the cottage in time for a breakfast of scrambled eggs and hashbrowns, and pain au chocolat (again).

E closed her journal entry:

Ssh. Ssh. It’s time to go. But you never know. I might be back.

 

14 October 2013
I spend time journaling every day.  I journal positive things.  I am not being dishonest about the difficult things, but I find journaling negative emotions enlarges those emotions.  And journaling positive emotions does likewise.  It invites the Spirit of hope into our home, and enables the Savior to succor me.

I struggle.  But, like I keep telling my seminary students, HARD does not mean BAD.  HARD moves us forward, like a ship is only moved forward by using what would resist it – the water (Howard W Hunter, 1980).

We move forward, using experiences that would resist us, near well damn us.  Instead, God wills it to jettison us forward and upward.

 

RESOLVE

Curiously mingled with the sense of
Faithful apprehension and ache,
Must be a driving feeling of excitement,
Of adventure.
Here he is at the outset of a voyage so sacred and glorious
It has yet to be fully revealed to this profane planet.
Here he is,
Embarking on a quest of great requirements and great rewards.

Benjamin Holmes, writing about Matthew, 2013

Matthew9