Friday, December 14, 2012

A 2nd Letter for C&O: Your Birth Story

Dear Charlie and Olivia,

Just days after writing your 4 year letters, I never thought I would be writing you another one. But as I lay in bed this morning, pondering the past 4 years (actually more like 5), I realized that I have never written down your birth story. It was all still too fresh and sensitive to write it when it happened, and then life took over, and I simply forgot. But yours is a story that can not be forgotten. And as I lay there trying to remember the details, I realized that they are already becoming a little fuzzy. I will never completely forget (that would be impossible) but the meaning and significance of the story is held in all those tiny details. So before the memories fade, I am going to do my best to recount the story of your impending arrival and birth as best I can. It is your Grammy who truly has a way with words, so I hope that I can do it justice.

One morning in April, I took a test. Not the kind you've been dreading for weeks. Not the kind you study for, and stay up all hours of the night preparing for. This is a test I had taken before. And failed. This was a test your Daddy and I desperately wanted to ace. We had been trying to get pregnant for what seemed like an eternity (though in reality, we were some of the lucky ones.) After a visit to my OB, Dr. Melillo, I returned home with a prescription for Clomid. (In the future, people would ask if your twinship was a product of medical intervention. For the record, Clomid only increases your chances of having multiples by 4%. And I only took it once. It runs in the family.) So. We'd tried the Clomid, and this April morning we were going to find out if it had worked.

Your Daddy and I had been exercising through all of this, and I had suddenly stopped loosing weight. I chalked it up to the fact that I had reached my "plateau." So as I waited for the little stick to do it's thing, I was telling myself not to be disappointed. Let me tell you something. Whatever the box says about having to wait 3 minutes for the stick to show you anything has NEVER been my experience, thanks to the high level of hormones carrying multiples entails. It took just seconds, and I sat there stunned. We were pregnant!

So excited and not wanting to wait, we called our parents. I was unable to get a hold of my Dad, your Grandpa David, and therefore had to wait until that evening to call him. When I finally did, he was, as was everyone else, so happy and excited for us.

The next day, Grandpa David and Tutu came over to our house. They wanted to talk with us. I was suspecting that it had something to do with out recent announcement...but I was wrong. Your Daddy and I sat there as Grandpa David told us some news of his own. Just two days before, his Dr. had called him to tell him that his heart burn wasn't heart burn. In fact, he had esophogeal cancer. They had planned to tell us the day before, but didn't want to trample on our excitement over the pregnancy. In hindsight, I think I knew then how it was all going to end. But the doctors were optimistic, and so was my Dad. So instead of dwelling on the sad possibilities, I chose to be positive. As Grandpa David began his chemo treatments, I took one day off a week to spend with him. This allowed Tutu to get out of the house and tend to errands and such, because she didn't want to leave Grandpa alone. So we would sit there together and laugh about our state. Here he was getting skinny and weak, while his caretaker was sitting there getting FAT and weak. What a pair we made!

During all of this, we had our 12 week ultrasound, and Dr. Melillo discovered a little surprise. He told your Daddy, who was standing, to sit down before he delivered the news. We weren't just having one baby. We were having twins! My reaction was very different from your Father's. He was stunned into silence, while I laughed out loud. I KNEW it. I was not surprised one little bit. And I never for one second worried about the fact that we were having two. :) So once again, we had news to deliver, and everyone was ecstatic. Your Grandpa wasn't feeling well and was sleeping when I delivered the news to them, so Tutu had to be the messenger. But when he called me later, he was so happy.

Learning that we were expecting multiples was a game changer. Suddenly, I was a high risk pregnancy. While I was allowed to continue working, Dr. M warned me that I would reach a "red zone" where potential complications were likely to arrive. Until then, I was to live my life. So I continued on. We did all the usual things that summer. And through them all, a horrible thought kept creeping into my mind. Cherish this. This could be your last with your Dad. I remember thinking it while we walked to the Memorial Day parade. While we watched the fireworks at Thomas Worthington High School. As we announced your impending arrival at the Legge family reunion, and as our entire extended family surrounded your Grandpa in a giant hug, telling him that he would be there for the next reunion in two years.

But it wasn't until our trip to Torch Lake, MI that I allowed myself to really acknowledge it. Grandpa David was thin by this point, and not feeling well. He was done with his chemo, but he had surgery scheduled shortly after our return from the trip. He was cold, and tired, and though I know he was glad to be there with the family, he probably wished he was at home where he could really be comfortable. But he had one good day. And so we all hopped aboard the pontoon boat, and he drove us around the lake. We listened to music, and just enjoyed having everyone all together. Toward the end of the day, a song came on the radio. Everyone was lost in their own smaller conversations, and Grandpa and I were sitting together silently. The song was "I'm Going Home," by Chris Daughtry.

I'm staring out into the night, trying to hide the pain
I'm going to the place where love
And feeling good don't ever cost a thing
And the pain you feel's a different kind of pain

Well, I'm going home, back to the place where I belong
And where your love has always been enough for me
I'm not running from, no, I think you got me all wrong
I don't regret this life I chose for me
But these places and these faces are getting old
So I'm going home, well I'm going home

After the first chorus, Grandpa looked at me and smiled thinly. "I like this song," he said. "Me too," I replied. I smiled back, quickly, and then looked away as a tear slid down my face. This was happening.

Shortly after, I called Grammy on the way home from work and told her, crying, that I was afraid I was going to loose my Daddy. Her reply was wise and priceless. She said, "I know Abbykins. But it will be okay. It already is okay. Christ has made it okay." And still, there was hope. Surgery was the next step. So we focused on that.

Meanwhile, I had noticed that my (now very large) belly would sometimes get super hard in places. Having never been pregnant, and feeling no pain, I thought it was Charlie pushing out on my stomach in spots. (Side note: we had the name Olivia picked out well before we were even trying to get pregnant. It took us a little longer to settle on Charlie, but it was a contender from the beginning. It was on the drive up to Torch Lake that we decided on Charles David.) Anyway, after our vacation, I mentioned this tightening of my belly to my co-worker Margie. Thankfully, she realized right away that what I was really experiencing were contractions. I immediately called Dr. Melillo's office and in a matter of about 20 minutes, I walked out of Mary Evans Child Development Center and never least as an employee. I went to the doctor's office where they confirmed that I was, in fact, having contractions. They sent me over to Riverside hospital immediately, and the doctors and nurses there began trying to stop my contractions. I had been there for 3 days when they finally discharged me. I was sent home and put on strict bed rest. The contractions never fully stopped, but because they were so infrequent, they felt safe sending me home.

Your Grammy became my caretaker during the day. She brought me everything I needed and took care of the housework. She also kept me company, and we would spend the day watching Jon & Kate Plus 8 and wondering how on earth they survived. And how in the world you could handle more than 2 at a time. The joke was on us I guess. :)

Somewhere between Torch Lake and my hospitalization, I received a phone call from your Grandpa on the way home from work. The tests had come back after his surgery. He was cancer free! I was so relieved, and I truly couldn't believe it.

I spent my birthday on the couch that year. With Dad feeling a little better, he came over for a small celebration. It was good to see him up and moving without too much trouble.

Two days later, I had an appointment with Dr. Melillo. Bad news. My cervix was shortening. He sent me back to Riverside, where I would stay until your birth. I was there for two months, where the most amazing nurses cared for me. I would go back and spend another two months with those same women a few years later, when I was pregnant with Jack, Luke, and Wendy. They are now great friends of mine. I will not share all of the details of my hospital stay in this letter. I have already recorded those. But I will say that while I was there, I was monitored what felt like ALL. THE. TIME. The contractions still never completely stopped, my cervix continued to shorten, and my water broke. But you two hung on like the amazing people that you are.

Through all of that, Grandpa David and Tutu came to visit me several times. I noticed that he didn't seem to be getting much better. Yes, he was up and moving around, but he wasn't improving. On Thanksgiving, he called me to tell me that he was still having trouble eating, but he managed a few bites of the meal. Shortly after that, he was admitted to OSU. The doctors were trying to figure out why he wasn't healing like he should.

We had scheduled the c-section for December 12th, and by then I hadn't seen Grandpa David in quite awhile. He had been in the hospital for 2 weeks, by that point, but he hadn't been out of the house for a long time before that. We'd had some phone conversations, but not too many. On the 10th, I received a call from his nurse at OSU. Upon answering, she told me that my Dad wanted to talk to me. The phone call was short and strange. It went something like this:

Grandpa: Abby?
Me: Yes, it's me. Hi Dad!
G: Hi. I love you.
M: I love you too, Dad.
G: Hey, I gotta go. I just wanted to tell you that.
M: Ok. Love you. Bye.
G: Love you too. Bye.

The conversation worried me. I told your Daddy later that night that I was afraid Grandpa was getting sick again. And that he might not make it. I had no reason to think this, but I felt it was coming.

The day before your scheduled C-section, I spent the day preparing to be moved to another room. I received permission to pack up my things (there were a lot of things by this point!), and then I just rested, hoping the day would pass quickly. I was so excited for your arrival. I had visitors to help me pass the time. MooMoo had come to town, so she came to visit me that night. We had a wonderful conversation. We discussed how the veil was so thin. How there were angels watching over all of us, over you. And then, in the middle of that discussion, my world shattered. Grammy entered my hospital room. It was late, and Grammy doesn't stay up that late, much less go out. I knew something was up. She told me that Grandpa David had stage 4 lung cancer. The doctors had missed it. And they weren't sure that he would live long enough to see you.

This moment. This moment is one I will never forget. In that moment, my future and my past collided so forcefully that I could feel it in my bones. My spirit shook with the weight of it. This Earth and beyond had never felt so close. And I collapsed into tears. Dr. Melillo came in shortly thereafter. This wonderful man had made arrangements to have me released from Riverside and transferred to OSU immediately. He had scheduled a c-section for 8:30 AM the following day. I would be able to see Grandpa David that night.

After a quick check that the two of you were alright, Daddy I got into our car and headed straight for OSU. This was the first time I'd been out of the hospital in two months, but I barely saw a thing. I only knew I had to get to my Dad. And I did. When we arrived at the SICU, Grandpa David was surrounded by family and friends. His brother and sisters had come in, and the tiny room was full to overflowing. But they all faded away as I was wheeled in beside Grandpa, who was lying in the bed.

I am shaking, even now, as I write this. As I came to stop beside his bed, Grandpa said, "I've missed you." "I've missed you too Dad!" I said, and then gave him a hug. He wondered why I was there, so I told him that I'd been transferred so that he wouldn't have to wait to meet the two of you. We all sat together in that little room. I couldn't leave his side. But eventually, I had to go to my own room. Reluctantly, I told him good-night, and then checked myself in. I slept for one, very fitful, hour that night. I was a wreck. Worried that he wouldn't make it, that he wouldn't see you. Worried that the two of you were okay. Hoping that my mental and emotional state wouldn't send me into labor.

But morning arrived, and soon I was being wheeled into the operating room. Everything passed in a blur. I remember it, but it seems like a dream. Seeing your tiny, perfect little bodies for the first time. Staring up at the ceiling, wondering if my Dad was still alive. There is a picture of the three of us, when I held you for the first time, that depicts every emotion I had at that moment.

You had arrived, and you were doing well. I was relieved. They took you to the NICU, and I visited on my way from recovery to my room. As soon as I was given the go-ahead from my nurse, I got up and walked (as best I could) out of my room. I had seen you, and you were well, so I went to Grandpa's bedside. And there I sat. For the next few days, I spent my days in an endless cycle of Grandpa David's bedside and your bedside. Stopping at my own room long enough to get my pain medication and pump. Daddy took family and friends on little NICU tours to meet you both. On the second day of your life, they wheeled Grandpa David down to the NICU to meet you. He held you both, and he was alert and aware for most of the time. The video of this is so sweet and tender. He loves you both so much. You were so tiny, that he held both of you in his cupped hands, with some assistance from us. 

A day or so after this meeting had been accomplished, the family all decided to have Grandpa transferred to the hospice at Riverside to finish his time more comfortably. This must be said. Everyone awaited my approval of this move. They weren't going to do it unless I felt alright with it. For that, I am so grateful. They moved him on the night of the 15th. I said my good-byes in the event that he would pass before I was discharged the next morning. I hugged him, told him how much I loved him, and assured him that we were ALL going to be alright. We would take care of each other. As it happened, he made it through the night, but we got a call from Aunt Mary the next morning letting us know that we needed to get there as soon as possible. His breathing had changed. 

So we gathered our things, said a quick good-bye to you, and made our way to Riverside again. I didn't sit there long before he passed. Perhaps 30 minutes, maybe an hour?  Daddy had left to fill my prescription for my pain medication, just like the loving husband and father he is. But the time came when Grandpa took a breath, and there was a long pause. Then another quick breath. At this point, he opened his eyes that had been shut the whole time...just a little. He was looking at me. And I nodded. And then he took his last breath. 

Your Grammy asked me, at some point after all of this, what I would tell you if you ever asked me if I was happy on the day you were born. I told her I would tell you the truth. I would tell you that I was both happy and sad. As I think back, I want you to also know this. I have never felt more sorrow and grief, more joy and relief, more love. I have never felt more strength, peace, and calm from the Holy Ghost and the Savior. I have never felt the veil so thin between this life and beyond. Angels and  family members who have passed on were there, ushering you into this life, and waiting with open arms for the arrival of your Grandpa. And somehow, I was caught up in the whole big mess of it. While I cried for my own Daddy, I also felt to rejoice for his release from the pain and his reunion with his parents and loved ones. For I now knew what they were feeling, as they received him on the other side of the veil. They were feeling what I felt, as I received you into this world. JOY. And the most overwhelming LOVE.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.



Breezi@ Not Your Average Fairytale said...

Ohh Abby I am just sitting here in tears. It has been a tender day already (due to the school tragedy) but this just really hugged at my heart strings.

I am so thankful for the plan of salvation. That we know that death is just the next step- but certainly not the final one. My heart goes out to you. Love you!

Emilia said...

Darn it! I was around and aware of the whole thing while it was going on and I'm STILL sitting here sobbing! Beautifully written and your children will cherish this story forever. Good for you for having the strength to get it all recorded. <3

Mary Day said...

What a lovely letter. You are such a good Momma:) Charlie and Olivia brought joy into our lives at a time of such sorrow. They continue to be a joy to this day! Thank you for that! Your Dad would continue to be so very proud of you and Eli and the job that you are doing as parents! We love you!!

desertdeb said...

Thanks for getting it down in writing. I couldn't have been easy to get it all down, but the events deserve to be recorded-The Book of Bowman, if you will.

The veil was so thin with the comings and goings of such great people, the ministering of angels, and the tender mercies of our kind and loving Savior. All things came together and people were giving the opportunity to act compassionately and receive blessings. Many served and were served. It was a choice time and continues to be. Your home and family are a rich source of blessings, not just for you but for others who orbit about you. Thank you for living your life in a way that allows for this to be the case. xoxoxoo, moo

Kelly said...

You have told me briefly this story- but the details in this letter and so tender and clear. I feel your love so deeply. Thank you for sharing this very emotional time with us.


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