Thursday, September 4, 2014

James Isaac: My "Laughter"

In early 1999, I went back east where my friends and family gave me a wonderful baby shower.  I received so many wonderful, thoughtful gifts.  There were a few hand-made blankets as well as the typical diaper bags, diapers, diaper cream, and other wonders.  It was a wonderful, joyous time of celebration as we all prepared to greet the new little life growing inside me.
Because of all the ultrasounds I had to have, it was impossible not to know the sex of our baby.  Yes, we were having a boy!  Even before I had gotten pregnant, I knew that our baby would be named James Isaac.  James after his daddy.  Isaac because in the Bible, Isaac is the son of Abraham and Sarah’s promise that they had waited most of their lives for.  Not only was James Isaac the son of the promise God had given us, but he was also our little Laughter.  Remember, Sarah laughed when God told her that she would have a baby at almost a hundred years old.  So when the baby was born, she named him Isaac, meaning “laughter.”
So much about my wonderful baby gave me such wonderful moments of Laughter.  Besides, I had always loved to laugh and after suffering from deep depression for a few years, I needed every reason possible to laugh.  I was trying so hard to allow God to work in my life and make me His instrument.  Being pregnant with my first very beloved, desired, and wanted baby gave me back the laughter that I had been so desperately needing.
I was in about my 36th week of my pregnancy when the doctor told us that our beautiful baby boy, James Isaac, hadn’t turned yet.  He was breech.  The doctor spent almost an hour explaining to my husband and I that if James Isaac hadn’t turned by the time I went in for my next appointment the following week, he would have to admit me to the hospital and turn the baby manually.
            I had never heard of such a thing, so we had a lot of questions, the biggest being why would I have to be admitted to the hospital.
            The doctor assured us that they did procedures like that often enough that they knew what they were doing, but yes, there was a high risk that I could go in to pre-mature labor.  I was far enough along that they were confident the baby would be whole and healthy, but if the baby could stay in and “percolate” (my term, I think) until at least my 38th week, they’d prefer that. 
I thought it was strange that a week and a few days would make such a difference, but I trusted the
doctors, so I was given a steroid shot as well as the shot new mothers get when their blood type is a negative.  My husband and I left, assured that they were telling us what was best for the baby—and me.
            That very evening, I was lying back on the couch, trying to get some rest, when I watched my belly as my beloved James Isaac obviously rolled over into the position he was supposed to be in.  I watched his little butt stick up out of my belly, almost as if it was standing on my back and leaning over, and then it move from my lower to upper belly!  I saw a foot poking out where I could clearly see the imprint, including toes!
There is nothing in the world as wonderful and amazing as having a life grow and move inside of you.  We women truly are blessed to be able to hold God’s beloved children inside our bodies.  It was such an honor being the temporary home for my precious child.  I loved being pregnant.
            Don’t get me wrong, now.  By my 38th week, I was like many other pregnant women who couldn’t wait for the baby to “get out!”  We are anxious for the birth in part because being pregnant really is exhausting, but also because we simply cannot wait to hold our Precious in our arms.
            Five or six days after James Isaac turned on his own, I was in class at school when I felt James Isaac drop.  I immediately raced to the bathroom because I felt as if I really need to go.  When I got there, though, nothing happened.  Nothing at all.  I was dry as a bone.  I thought that was strange considering what I had just felt and the desperate need I’d had to go to the bathroom, but I made my way slowly back to the classroom and finished out the day.
            I thought seriously about calling my doctor’s office, but I had an appointment scheduled for the very next day.  I figured if James Isaac had dropped into place, unless I was having pains, I might as well wait for the appointment.
            I didn’t worry. 
Why would I worry?  Everything had gone so well with my surgery just a few months earlier; there was no reason to worry.  James Isaac had turned and dropped.  He had done what he was supposed to do.  It wouldn’t be long before I would be in full-blown labor.
            I couldn’t wait.          
            In the doctor’s office, I was stripped from the waist down, waiting for the doctor to come in to do his exam to see how close we were to delivery.  The nurse came in to listen to the baby’s heartbeat.
            I loved listening to James Isaac’s heartbeat.  It was one of my favorite sounds in the world.  I always hated that we only listened for a few moments.
            Rather than the fast woosh-woosh-woosh-woosh that we had been hearing for the past six months when we’d listen to James Isaac’s heartbeat, all we heard as she placed that monitor on my belly was a slow, methodical ba-bum…ba-bum…ba-bum…ba-bum. 
            My heartbeat.
            Not the baby’s.
            She moved the monitor to find a better position in order to hear the baby.
            Still mine.
            The nurse said that she was going to get a different monitor because that one didn’t seem to be working very well.  She said something about maybe even letting the doctor listen to get the baby’s heartbeat.
            As soon as she left, I looked at my husband, “Something’s wrong.”
            “What do you mean?  She said there’s something wrong with the monitor,” he tried.
            “No, that was my heartbeat we were listening to.  We should have easily heard the baby’s heartbeat.  We’ve never had any trouble hearing the baby’s heartbeat.”
            “Let’s just wait and see what the doctor says.  I don’t think that nurse knows what she’s doing.”
            “No, she knows what she’s doing.  There’s something seriously wrong.”
            Deep breath.
            Deep breath.
            You can do it, Polly.  Just breathe.  Wait until the doctor comes in.  He’ll tell you what’s going on.  Maybe it’s just what happens when the baby drops and it’s time for labor to begin.  It’s going to be okay.
            Lord, help us:  “But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3, NLT).
            The doctor came in with another monitor and immediately put it on my belly.  He said “hello,” but normally he was more talkative.  I knew he was concerned.
            Again, we heard ba-bum…ba-bum…ba-bum…ba-bum… mine, not the baby’s.
            He didn’t take long, “Let’s go downstairs and have an ultrasound.  We’ll find that baby,” attempting to sound more confident than he looked.
            I knew.
            I didn’t need the ultrasound to make it so.
            I knew.
            It was over.
            But I went downstairs as asked, laid down on the ultrasound table, and let them do the ultrasound.
            There it was on the screen—as obvious and real as the sound of the screams that were choking me.  A heart not moving.
            James said something about it not being real.
            I looked the doctor in the eye and I choked out, “You fix it.”
            “Oh, Polly.  I would if I could.  I am so sorry,” he patted my shoulder gently.
            “Can we have a second opinion?” James broke in.
            “If you want,” the doctor said as he left us for a few minutes to go get one of the other doctors in the group. 
            We had seen this second doctor before so we knew him.  We trusted him, too.
            It didn’t take long for him to verify what the first doctor had found.
            A different doctor couldn’t change what wasn’t there on that screen.  He couldn’t make the baby’s heart beat any more than our first doctor could.
            The doctor told us our options:  he would have to induce my labor so I would have the baby naturally (yes, that means vaginally) but he needed to know whether we wanted to do it right away or wait a day or so.
            James wanted to wait, but I told the doctor that there was no waiting; we would do it right away.
The arrangements were made for me to go straight across the street and be admitted to the hospital. 
            As we were leaving the doctor’s office, the doctor asked me if we should call someone.  (This was pre-cell phone days, mind you.)  I told him that we probably ought to call my parents but that the call would be long distance.  He told me not to worry about that, so we called my mom and dad.
            Mom wasn’t home yet. 
Dad answered the phone.
            “Praise the Lord, Kinseys!” Dad answered exuberantly, as he always did.
            “Daddy?  Oh, daddy,” I sobbed.
            And he knew.
            “Is James there with you?  Hand him the phone.”
            And James explained that we were going straight across the street to be admitted to the hospital and the doctor was going to induce my labor and that yes, I would have to deliver the baby naturally.
            I guess Dad told James that they would be on their way as soon as they could.
            I was given a room in the hospital in the far back corner, as far away from the mothers on the floor whose babies were crying and cooing. 
            The doctor induced my labor and the wait began.

We learned that there was no heartbeat on March 16, 1999.
James Isaac was born on March 17, 1999.
I can’t even begin to tell you how long my labor lasted except to say that I was induced in the early evening and James Isaac was born early the next morning. 
            Mom, Dad, Katie, and Baba (my grandma) arrived late that first evening.  I noticed almost immediately that my mom had a nasty bruise on her wrist.  It looked like a hand wrapped around her wrist.  She told me that when she had gotten home from work (apparently just a few minutes after we had spoken to my dad), she had walked in and immediately began talking about what they needed to do for the evening and what she had to do for supper and just talking a mile a minute so that Dad was unable to get a word in edge-wise.  To get her attention, he had grabbed her wrist.  In his anxiety for me, his daughter, he grabbed her much harder than he’d intended or meant to, leaving a hand-shaped bruise wrapped around Mom’s wrist like a bracelet.

My brother and his family came, as well.  My youngest nephew, Nate, was only about four months old at the time.  We had all been looking forward to having cousins close in age.  
            I was on some pretty powerful drugs that let me sleep through most of my labor, but I was half awake and half asleep off and on throughout the long night.  One time I was in between awake and asleep and I knew the doctor was in the room talking with my family.  I remember hearing my Baba say that in spite of everything, I looked really good. 
            I also remember my sister sharing with the doctor the story of how she was there to help me after my cyst surgery, but that she was unable to help me when I went to the bathroom.  She told him how she’d brought me a spatula.
            In spite of the circumstances, it was still funny.
            It was a surreal moment for me and I wasn’t even fully awake.
            I can only imagine what things were like for my family as they waited and watched.
            Once it was time for me to begin pushing, the doctor realized that the bed I was in was not a break-away bed.  I had never heard of such a thing, but apparently the maternity wards have beds that come apart special for delivery so the Mom can stay in the same bed for both labor and delivery.  My doctor was really upset, but he didn’t have time to worry about it.  He had to make do with what he had.  I was too far dilated and ready to deliver.  There wasn’t any more waiting.
            He propped me up on towels the best he could and told me to push when I felt a contraction.
            It did not take too terribly long once I started pushing and my beloved James Isaac was born.
            I couldn’t see, but I listened as the doctor counted as he unrolled the cord from around my sweet son’s neck.
            I don’t know where it stopped.  It was already too much.  My husband has said that he heard (and saw) six times.  My mom says she remembers the doctor saying seven.  Even one was too many. 
            We had our “why.”
            It didn’t make it any easier.
            As soon as the baby was wrapped in his blanket and wiped off a little bit, he was laid on my chest.  His precious body was still warm from being snug inside me where my body had been unable to keep him safe.
            He fit in my arms on my breast as if he had been created just to fit right there snuggled against me. 
I loved how he felt.

            My husband and I were not aware of the doctor as he finished removing the afterbirth, stitching me up, and getting me cleaned up.  My husband leaned over me and our baby and we cried as we felt the warmth quickly seeping from the little body in spite of the warm blanket.
            All too soon, the nurse came to take my son away. 
            I slept.
            The nurses brought my son into the room over the next day or so whenever they could.  I was not able to hold him much as I was very weak and in a lot of pain—and on a lot a pain medication.
            I had blood drawn what felt like every hour on the hour.  I’m sure it wasn’t that often, but it felt like it.  And every single time, it hurt.  Bad.  I cried it hurt so bad.  I couldn’t help but wonder why she was hurting me considering what I had just been through.
            I tried to ask her to stop, but all she said was that she was following orders.
            A friend of mine had come up to see me.  She was a CNA (Certified Nurse’s Assistant); she spoke to the blood nurse and told her to come back at a different time.  When the blood nurse left, my friend had my nurse call my doctor and speak to him about all the blood being drawn.
            I did not have any more blood drawn while I was in the hospital.
            (My doctor even apologized later when I saw him in his office.  He said that it was simply what he normally did in such situations, but if he had known how much it was hurting me, he would have ordered them to stop drawing blood much sooner.  I wonder if that helped him in future situations.)
            James and I both attempted to hold our James Isaac whenever we could.  Because of the damage to his neck, we had to be especially careful, so rather than pass him from hand to hand, the nurse actually put our baby on a pillow to be held and transported more easily.
            I sat in my bed, watching my husband as he fell apart—weeping and sobbing—with our son in his arms as the nurse put her arms around the two of them.  It took me a while, but I finally was able to get out of the bed and wobble over to take the nurse’s place. 
            The last time we saw and held our beloved baby, I asked whoever was in the room, “Can I kiss him?”

            Can you believe I felt the need to ask such a question?  Why wouldn’t I be able to kiss my own son?  But I had no idea what we were allowed to do and what we weren’t allowed to do in such a situation.  No one came to offer suggestions or to tell us it was ok to love on him just as if…..well, just as if…..
            So I kissed his precious little cheek—his perfect cheek—and laid him back in the bassinet to be removed by the nurse for the last time. 
            It was horrible.
            My husband and I left the hospital that day—just the two of us in a car that had been prepared to be taking home a baby.  We went to a home that had been prepared for a baby—baby bed, baby clothes, toys, diapers, bottles, a rocking chair. 
            It was horrible.
            And we still had a funeral we had to get through.
            The day of the funeral, we arrived at the funeral home for a receiving (there would be no viewing) that we had just an hour or so before the actual funeral.  I walked in to the room where my son’s body was in a tiny box and made a bee-line for that box.  I stood before my son’s box and would have crumpled to the floor in my grief had it not been for the loving arms of my mom.  She held me up as I wept.
            She finally led me to a chair and the people began filing in.  One after another.  The line seemed endless. 
            Every single one of my students had come.  They were all there.
            I learned later that they were told they had to go to school and were not allowed to leave for the funeral, but every single one of them—and their parents—said that they were going to the funeral and that is exactly what they did.
            While I don’t condone defiance or rebellion, I have to admit that their devotion to me rather than to
the rules warmed my heart as so little at that terrible time did.  Even now, fifteen years later, it warms my heart more than I can express in words.
            My doctors came. 
            James, my husband—our baby’s daddy—preached the funeral.  All I remember about it was that he kept saying over and over, “I now know the meaning of life.  I know now the meaning of life.”  I’m still not sure exactly what he meant by that, but it’s what I remember that he said.
            I also remember that during the actual funeral—it was outside at the grave so it was a combined graveside service and funeral, a tiny spider was crawling on my arm and my sister—who is DEATHLY afraid of spiders (if only I could make you understand just how severe her fear is…), swiped it off my arm and killed it—just as calm as you please.
            She had never before and has never since been even half that calm when she sees a spider.  It was another surreal moment that stands out amongst all the horrific memories of that time because it was just so odd and unusual as well as so out of character for my sister.
            After the service, we were told to wait because there were people who had not yet had a chance to speak to us.  So we had a second receiving after the funeral and spoke not only to those we hadn’t spoken to prior to the service as well as many who just wanted to hug our necks a second time.
            It was a long time we had to stand there, but every single person who walked by hugged me and told me how much he/she loved me.  In spite of the fact that I was still in a lot of pain and worried about my breasts leaking, it was worth the time and effort it took to keep standing. 
I needed the love.
            Over the next several months, I did whatever I had to do—no more or less.  I finished the school year, but the end of that year is a fog.  I know I did not work over the summer months, but the only thing I remember is being in my pajamas—a lot.  I think I still showered for Sunday services, but beyond that, I don’t think I left the house or showered. 
            I counted down the days—six months—until we could begin trying to have another baby.  I lived for the day when the doctor would say that my body had healed enough and we could begin trying.
            This is when I first truly began to feel trapped as if in a deep, dark cave, so dark and so deep that I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.  I was completely alone and scared out of my mind.  I had no idea which direction to go to get out of my dark cave.  There wasn’t even a pin-prick of light to give me a hint as to where to go.  I had fallen multiple times and had bumps, scrapes, bruises, and pains that made every movement simply unbearable. 

            I made a very conscious decision to sit down on a rock in my cave and stay right there without moving because moving only hurt…..for a very long time.


  1. Expression of how painful that loss is. God's plans don't always make sense. Thank you for being brave enough to share.

    1. Thank you, Chrissy. While difficult, it is healing to tell it.

  2. You left out Kenny...he rode with us and was there the entire time and Kella and the kids came soon after....This was hard on Kella as she had Nate in October 1998 and she was feeling deeply for you.
    I believe the doctor told us the cord was wrapped 7 times ....
    About middle way you say IT WAS HORRIBLE. and then a paragraph later you say it again IT WAS HORRIBLE. Possibly you could use TRULY UNBEARABLY HARD. Or something else you will think of.
    Also you talk about James Isaac being a boy and knowing the sex twice. You need to adjust one of those.
    It is a story that made me cry especially since I was there. Somethings I would say I saw differently but it is not my story it is yours and you told it beautifully. Love you, MOM