A year ago (almost to the minute as I write this), I walked into the labor and delivery floor at OSF St. Francis in Peoria. A couple hours away from home, back in the hospital where Clive was delivered. We felt more assured that the connected Children’s Hospital would be able to handle any unexpected complications. Up until this point I was still talking and thinking in “ifs”. I’d gone through two (three, with the complications surrounding Corrie’s adoption) times of leaving the hospital devastated and empty-handed.
How could we even consider trying again? Somehow hope prevailed and Miles grew inside me and all seemed as it should be, but I still spoke and thought in “ifs”. Everything was “if he comes home”, “if he does this or that”, “if he nurses”, “if he doesn’t have complications” but more than anything “if he lives”. Clive and Winnie’s deaths were both surprises—to us and to the medical teams. Some complications were known and considered, but death wasn’t talked about or prepared for. But I was somewhat prepared for Miles to die. And Sam, sadly, carried the burden that something tragic would happen to me. We hoped and prayed for redemption and health, we wanted it with all our hearts, but we could hardly imagine how it could happen.
We didn’t enter February 17, 2020 with full-on joy. We were excited, but scared. Exhausted and braced for impact. I checked in at 6 am, ready for induction. Nurses changed shifts at 7, and my new nurse was ready for the day (I wish I could remember her name! So much has escaped me!). We instantly liked her, and our maternal fetal specialist Dr. Renfroe created a team that was so calm and reassuring about my care. Both women with plenty of experience and expertise, we knew we were in good hands. So we began the wait for contractions, and when they came we began the wait for unmanageable pain and then pain management.
Clive’s birth was a semi-emergent c-section, and Winnie’s was (thankfully) a VBAC, so I was still able to have a vaginal birth with Miles. C-sections were absolutely fine by me, but I knew that the number of c-sections that was recommended and healthy for me would become a determining factor for number of future kids—so avoiding the surgery was preferred.
I wish I’d written down more about his birth earlier. If I did, I don’t know where it is. I wish I remembered all the details. I can see the room and I remember jokingly playing Frozen 2’s “Into the Unknown” on my birth playlist because it was funnily fitting.
I’m dying to meet you
It’s your turn
Are you the one I’ve been looking for
All of my life?
We had to have something to lighten the mood. 😉
Miles was born at about 6 pm, after a (somewhat quick) 12 hour induction and labor, with my mom and Sam present. I pushed him into the world, and he was healthy and strong. He wasn’t taken away to a NICU. He stayed with us. I wasn’t ready for that. Sam cried when Miles was born, relief swelling over him. I was overjoyed but continued to feel trepidation. I stayed awake with him all night, holding him and watching for any signs or cues that something was wrong. I needed rest. I was desperately tired, but Clive and Winnie had both experienced cardiac events (crashed) overnight at the hospital while I wasn’t with them. You may be able to imagine the pressure I felt to keep him safe, and now that he wasn’t in my womb I felt helpless.
The next morning brought an ECHO of his heart, a visit from Clive’s primary NICU doctor, and exhaustion. Nursing was difficult, and lactation support didn’t come until late in the day. The ECHO results were not interpreted and shared with us until close to 4 or 5 pm, and I was a tired mess by then. It was normal. He was normal. Still stunned, I tried to let the relief settle me but was too tired to truly relish it. We continued to work on nursing, had a few visitors, and had a relatively short hospital stay. I’d been prepared for days or weeks away.
Even after we left the hospital, nursing continued to be difficult for a long time. It is something I’m sure other loss mamas can understand, but there is so much emotion in not being able to feed your first babies, or having to pump, and drying up after they die. There was so much trauma involved in pumping for Clive while he was on life support, and we got “the call” about Winnie crashing while I was up in the middle of the night pumping. Breastfeeding didn’t come easily to me and Miles, and my milk production was late (probably from intense stress and lack of sleep). But after several weeks we got the hang of it. I have always had lower supply and Miles has always been pretty small, but I am so thankful that I’m still able to nurse him now at a year old.
COVID-19 hit full-force just a few weeks after he was born, and shut downs began. Running a small food-service business, not seeing family or friends for weeks and weeks (months? it was a long time). It was hard and stressful, and a lot to handle in his first year. We had some other big challenges and hurts come our way, and some huge life changes in those around us, and it was just a big, hard year. It felt as if I had small pockets where I was able to reflect a bit and wonder at Mile’s presence in our family, but so much felt like a blur.
My book came out in January 2020, and I barely wrote anything for the rest of the year. My words were dried up and tired, my energy was spent. We were in such a survival mode as a family.
But I could spend so long writing the things that went wrong in 2020 and miss all the things that went right. So I’m going to finish out this post with a list of blessings. These are not taken lightly. They aren’t deserved or expected, but they are celebrated!
- Miles is “sleeping in” as I write this, allowing me some uninterrupted time. It’s 6:30 am!
- We got to witness beautiful redemption stories in both Miles and Corrie’s births.
- Clive and Winnie are cared for in the arms of Jesus. Completely wrapped in love.
- We got to have lots of special at-home family time this year.
- Our kids were relatively unaffected by COVID/staying home. We would have been home SO MUCH anyway with naps and two littles.
- We live in a place with so much outdoor hiking and walking available.
- We have amazing friends and family.
- Our porch and yard became perfect places to gather this summer and fall.
- We didn’t get COVID. Our parents (who we still see regularly) will be getting vaccinated soon.
- Miles has the most delicious smile and laugh.
- Corrie and Miles play together so sweetly (ok not all the time) and he loves her energy.
- Sleep happens (ok not all the time, but so much better than before!).
- My body has been able to feed and nourish my son for a year. What an unexpected blessing. Also, he loves and demands all the food. Especially fruit and meat!
- Miles drinks from a contigo water bottle like a little boss and it’s cute.
- Our business has survived some doozies this year, but we’re still here!
- We have a home, two cars, can pay our bills. We want for nothing.
- Our marriage has been streeeeetched thin this year, but we are connecting better again.
- Our mental health has struggled so much, but we are coming out of a hard season.
- My parents retired and moved just 5 doors down from us.
- My faith is growing and restoring. While my routine of connecting with God changes with Mile’s sleep patterns and routines, I am able to regroup and reestablish these faith practices better than before and also turn to audio Bible and devotionals.
- I am my son’s safe place and favorite person in the world. It’s exhausting, but wow! I know it won’t always be like this, and I relish it.
- I’ve nursed and rocked him thousands of times this year. Such beautiful moments (ok, some while potty training or wrangling a toddler, but many in the calm and quiet of the night—or the calm and quiet of Daniel Tiger downstairs on tv).
So many more to list, but I’ll stop there. Thank you, God, for these abundant blessings and such a wonderful year getting to know our Miles Dietrich.
Miles, I can’t wait to see you grow more and more. You’re entering such a physical and exploratory phase (bruises on your sweet head), and you have so much to learn. I love to see your sweet brain making big connections, and your appreciation for people. You were named after a couple great guys—Miles Davis making that awesome music, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer who spent his life for justice—and we are so thrilled to raise you, sweet boy.
“The blessedness of waiting is lost on those who cannot wait, and the fulfillment of promise is never theirs. They want quick answers to the deepest questions of life and miss the value of those times of anxious waiting, seeking with patient uncertainties until the answers come. They lose the moment when the answers are revealed in dazzling clarity.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer