When 2002 rang in, it seemed like it was going to be the best year ever. My husband, Chris, and I had been together for 8 years, we had lived in our first home for almost 2 years, we had a son, Duncan, who was going to turn 6, I was scheduled to graduate from college in December, and in the Spring of that year, I found out I was pregnant with our second child. Chris and I were very young when we had Duncan and wanted to wait until I was close to being done with college before adding to our family. We were so excited to find out we were expecting.
Things moved forward as planned. We were making plans for the new baby and enjoying the summer. We even got a chance to visit my Dad in California. When my last semester of college arrived, I was showing quite a bit! I was due with our baby girl in November. There was a lot of excitement about the first granddaughter (on my husband’s side) coming close to the start of the Holidays!
I attended my first day of classes and other than being tired, things were great. My second day of classes came and things took a drastic turn. That morning, I realized that I had not felt our baby girl move much. I drank a pop and went about my day. I became more concerned after drinking that pop when I didn’t feel her move. Just before my first class that day, I called my doctor. The nurse told us to come in…they would find the baby’s heartbeat and send me on my way. This gave me a little relief.
When I got to see my doctor, he started searching for our baby girl’s heartbeat. After a minute, I started to panic. My doctor couldn’t find her heartbeat and told us they would do a quick sonogram. The 10 minutes I had to wait for the sonogram tech seemed like an eternity! The sonogram tech started and took pictures for a few minutes. Then she said the words that would change our lives drastically… “I am so sorry. There is no heartbeat”. Our world came crashing down around us. At 29 weeks, our sweet baby girl had died in the womb. We had no warning and I had no symptoms. The next morning, on August 30th, my doctor delivered this perfectly formed, but stillborn, baby girl that we named Madelyn. We held her, prayed over her, loved on her and spent hours with her. I can still feel how tiny she was, her perfect hands, perfect feet and all her black hair on her head. My heart broke into a million pieces to know I would have to bury her and never see her grow up.
Our daughter’s memorial service was beautiful. My Dad, who was a Pastor, came back to perform her memorial service. So many friends and family turned out to support us. And, the most shocking thing to us was the number of friends who reached out to say that they had experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth. How is it that this can happen so often but it is so “taboo” to discuss it? I still wonder this today!
The last weeks and months of 2002 seemed like they would never end. The grief was soul-crushing and I wasn’t sure I would make it through. I felt like I had failed Chris, Duncan, and most importantly, Madelyn. We were unsure if we wanted to attempt to get pregnant again and just left things in God’s hands. If I got pregnant again, that would be wonderful. If not, then we knew that it wasn’t going to happen for us. We rang in 2003 not knowing where our world was going, but it was going wherever God lead us.
After graduation, I found my first “real job” in Human Resources and Benefits for a small non-profit company. I was feeling like I was on the path of healing. About 2 weeks after starting my new job, I found out I was pregnant again! Excitement and fear filled our hearts. We were excited that we had the chance to add to our family again. We were so scared that this baby wouldn’t make it…even though my doctor had tried to assure us that it was very unlikely to have a second stillbirth.
After several weeks, I grew the courage to tell my new employer that I was pregnant and due in September/October timeframe. Each milestone I reached in the new pregnancy came and I was very anxious, but trusting God that we would get to see this child grow up! We were absolutely elated when we found out we were having another girl! We knew our son, who was 7 now, would enjoy having a baby sister. We also knew that we would never let Madelyn’s memory fade. We would talk about her and let our kids know about the sister that they never knew.
The summer of 2003 found me “very pregnant”. This baby girl was growing and growing. She was expected to be over 7 pounds. By August, I was starting to feel miserable. The baby was getting so big that everything hurt! That didn’t matter to me! We were going to have a new baby girl. By the end of August, I had to be admitted to the hospital. The baby was so big, she was pressing on my kidneys and causing complications. After a week of being in the hospital, the doctor came to Chris and let him know that the baby needed to be born or it would cause irreversible damage to me. On August 27th, at 35 weeks, Olivia was born. She was beautiful and just as perfect as her sister. Even sweeter was the fact that our girls were “Irish twins”. Hope filled our hearts!
Most people would think that my story would end on that happy note, but little did I know, that 14 years later, I would be faced with an even harder obstacle.
In 2015, Chris learned that his kidneys were failing due to his Type 1 Diabetes. Our future could consist of dialysis and a possible kidney transplant. While trying to process all this information, Olivia was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 12. While Olivia was in the best possible family to deal with Type 1 Diabetes, our hearts broke for her. This was not easy to handle in middle school, let alone, any time.
As we navigated the rough and rocky path of a teenager with Type 1 Diabetes, we found out that Chris’ kidney failure had progressed to the point of needing dialysis and going on the national transplant list. This was a huge blow to everyone. He had been stable for so very long. April of 2016 brought in-home dialysis into our lives. It was so difficult on Chris and on our family as a whole. We tried to remain positive, but we were (honestly) scared! We had no idea what the next days, weeks, or months would hold. Chris was my best friend, as well as being my husband. He had accomplished so much. During the time Olivia and Duncan were growing up, Chris has gone to Seminary and obtained his Masters of Divinity. He was a Pastor at a small church in our area and Chaplain at the local hospital. He loved his work and providing for his family. He was a very gentle soul.
The Spring of 2017, Chris developed an infection from his dialysis. He had to remain in the hospital for several days to receive antibiotics. In a short time, he was back to working and spending with our family. The infection had definitely made him tired, but he kept going and we were all there to support him. The last day of May 2017, I took Chris to the Emergency Room because he had developed the same infection that he had fought a few months earlier. He was placed on IV antibiotics and was in the hospital.
We were looking forward to him beating this infection again and coming home. But, that didn’t happen. There were several antibiotic changes, tests done, and procedures done. They changed the type of dialysis Chris did each day to give his body a chance to fight the infection. I wasn’t with him the first time he started this new type of dialysis, I was at work…on Chris’ insistence. That morning, we traded text messages and I told him I was praying for him and how much I loved him. About an hour after he was supposed to start dialysis, I got a call from the hospital telling me that his blood pressure dropped very low and they were moving him to ICU. I raced to the hospital.
I spent the next 8 days by his side, only leaving to grab a small bite to eat and run home to take a shower. After being in ICU for over a week, Chris was pretty much sleeping all the time. His blood pressure fluctuated often and because it was going low a lot, he couldn’t have much pain medicine. It was so hard to watch my husband and best friend be in so much pain.
The doctors came to me after running a series of tests to let me know that Chris needed surgery immediately. Since he was not responding, I needed to make the decision. There was only a 10% chance that he would survive the surgery and if he did, we had a very long road ahead of us. I made the heart wrenching, soul-crushing decision to stop all treatment and make Chris comfortable.
I can still hear the screams and crying of my children from when I told them what needed to be done. My heart was already shattered from making the decision, but having to tell my children destroyed what was left of my heart.
At 12:52 am on June 13th, we watched Chris take his last breath.
The first two months after Chris passed away, I just went through the motions. Work kept my mind occupied and friends checked on me. I celebrated my birthday without him by my side, holidays, his own birthday, our wedding anniversary and all the hard things. I finally settled into a new routine, although, it wasn’t the best. I went to work, did what was needed for my kids and spent the rest of the time in bed. When it got close to Thanksgiving, I realized that this wasn’t healthy and that I was so very lonely. I made the crazy decision (or it seemed crazy at the time) to try online dating. It was so weird to think of “going out on a date.” I hadn’t “dated” anyone in over 20 years.
God’s hand was prevalent in all of this. After being in online dating for a while, I went on a date with a wonderful man, Darin. Darin was kind, sweet, and such a gentleman. It was new territory for me and so weird to be dating someone. Darin and I talked a lot. We discussed Chris and the man he was at length. Darin was and is so respectful of Chris, his memory and his legacy. I was so certain that Chris and God got together and picked Darin for me!
After a couple of months of dating, I told Chris’ family and my family about Darin. Everyone was so accepting of him. They all knew that Chris would want my life to move forward and to be filled with laughter and love. Not every day was or is easy. I miss Chris dearly, but I know that I have an amazing man supporting me through it all. Darin loves me and loves my children as if they were his own.
Hope…hope was starting to return to my heart. Hope that I could be happy again, hope for all the laughter that would be shared, and hope for the future. Darin proposed to me this past summer and I said “yes!”. As I took the engagement ring, Darin mentioned a ring that I was currently wearing. The ring is one that Chris gave to me for our 10th wedding anniversary. It has 11 stones, one for each year we were married and one for eternity. Darin wanted to make sure that I knew I didn’t have to stop wearing that ring from Chris. In fact, he picked my engagement ring to try and match my anniversary ring. So, tucked behind my engagement ring is my anniversary ring from Chris. I wear them both all the time. When we get married, I will continue to wear the three rings.
We have grown in our relationship and Darin still has the same respect for Chris and his legacy. I was beginning to realize that the hope was there all along. God just put someone in my path to help me see it. I still have rough times and days. My kids still have rough times and days, but we are getting through it together. Our future is filled with hope and we know we have special angels in Heaven watching over our entire family.