Hosanna is singing!

February 7, 2010

Hosanna Elizabeth Dunn was born at 7:46 PM on Friday, February 5th. She weighs 10.8 ounces and is 9.5 inches in length. Sadly, she went to be with the Lord prior to delivery.  She had the sweetest little nose and ears.  She had tiny hands and feet, but long legs for her size (she must’ve gotten that from the Dunn side).  I loved everything about her especially her tiny little toes.

The hospital staff were absolutely amazing.  They were so kind and compassionate to us.  They were so comforting and helpful.  They even opened an unused room for our extended family to stay in during the day.  We were blown away by their kindness.  We could not have asked for more loving doctors and nurses.  They did everything they could to keep me (and everyone else) comfortable.  They wanted me to experience the least amount of physical pain possible.

During the delivery, a sense of peace was in the room.  The doctor was calm and just whispered to me.  After 19 hours of labor, the actual delivery lasted only about 6 minutes, and was relatively painless.  The atmosphere was sad but peaceful.  And although I would have loved to carry my baby forever to keep her alive, when she was born I had an overwhelming since of relief.

Although Jason and I were hoping for a few minutes Hosanna alive, I truly believe that God was being merciful on us for her to have passed before delivery.  I can imagine it being incredibly painful for her to pass in our arms.  We were able to spend almost 4 hours with her before we were ready to say “good bye”.  We all took turns holding her and kissing her and singing to her.  I believe she melted her daddy’s heart a little  :o), I know she melted mine.  It was so wonderful to have a few moments with her to hold her and to get a lifetime of love in.

I have an angel pendant with the February birthstone that I wear around my neck to carry her with me where ever I go.  She is our little angel, and she rejoicing with the other angels in heaven.  God has made her whole, He has given her a perfect little body.  We take comfort in knowing that she is receiving the utmost care, and that she is with God who loves her far more than we ever could.  We know when our time comes to go to heaven, she will be there waiting for us.  But until then she will help God watch over us, and she will never know pain or suffering.  She will never suffer a broken heart or a scraped knee.  When you think about it, she is truly blessed!  And so are we for getting to know her and care for her for the short time that we had.

Yes, we miss her terribly.  And yes, there are times when we still cry.  But we know that with each day it will get a little bit easier.  We know that she will never be replaced in our hearts – she will always be our first born.  Our sweet little Hosanna Elizabeth as made her mark in our hearts and she will never leave us.

A strange mix of emotions

February 3, 2010

This week has been very strange, as for the past few days we’ve sat in the void between the shock of learning our daughter’s condition and the day we’re being induced.  It’s an awful place to be.  I dread Friday so much, but I also hate the feeling of dreading Friday.  I know that better days lie ahead, on the other side of Friday, but I also know we have to go through Friday to get there.  To get relief, I must hurt.  To experience joy, I must be in sorrow.  To have life, I must face death.

In a matter of hours, the anticipation of the happiest moment of my life has been turned into the dread of the inevitable.  What was meant to be a joyous occasion has been turned into a bittersweet mix of emotions.  As I prepare for my daughter’s birth, I also prepare for her death.  Things are surely not right.  It’s a world turned upside down.

We’ve been at peace for the past few days, but as we’ve approached Friday, we’ve become more anxious.  We don’t want to face this day, but we know that we must face it no matter when it happens or how much we try to pretend it isn’t going to happen.  Thank God, the fear hasn’t frozen us, but they have been there.

As I pray, I am asking God that He’ll allow for the birth to go smoothly, that Julee will not experience much pain, and that she’ll be able to physically heal rather quickly.  It’s a strange difference from how I was praying a week ago.  Last week I was praying that this was all a mistake, that God would form a brain out of nothing.  While this is certainly within God’s reach, I’ve become more at peace over the past few days with the acceptance that this is not going to happen.  Julee and I have directed our faith toward believing that God, though He may not prevent this from happening, He will pull us through it.

Friends, you have all been wonderful in praying for us during this time and offering your support to us.  We humbly ask that you will be praying for us at some point during this time.  We’re going to the hospital on Thursday night to begin the process.

The song, “Deliver Me” by David Crowder Band has carried new meaning for me during this difficult time:

Deliver me out of the sadness
Deliver me from all the madness
Deliver me courage to guide me
Deliver me Your strength inside me

All of my life
I’ve been in hiding
Wishing there was someone just like You
Now that You’re here
Now that I’ve found You
I know that You’re the One to pull me through

Deliver me loving and caring
Deliver me giving and sharing
Deliver me this cross that I’m bearing

All of my life
I’ve been in hiding
Wishing there was someone just like You
Now that You’re here
Now that I’ve found You
I know that You’re the One to pull me through

Jesus, Jesus how I trust You
How I’ve proved You o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus

Deliver me
Come and pull me through
Come pull me through

The eye of the hurricane

February 1, 2010

For the past few days I have felt such peace.  I know that God has been with us through this whole experience.  It feels like an eternity since we received the news about our baby.  I am in such a better place than I ever imagined I would be.  This is a peace that passes all understanding.  Without Christ I know I would not have this peace.

Last night as I lie in my bed trying to sleep, I felt that feeling you feel when a storm is ending.  I almost began to let myself go to that feeling, but then it hit me – the storm is not over.  The best thing I can equate this to is the eye of a hurricane.  Part of the storm has already hit, but there is more storm to come.  I don’t know much about hurricanes, but I have heard that often the second part of the storm is worse.  I know that we have a big storm ahead of us, but at least we know it’s coming.

I’m reminded of the song by Casting Crowns titled “Praise You in the Storm”.  I have put some of the lyrics below, but I encourage you to listen to the song.

I was sure by now

God, You would have reached down

And wiped our tears away

Stepped in and saved the day

But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining

As the thunder rolls

I barely hear Your whisper through the rain

“I’m with you”

And as Your mercy falls

I raise my hands and praise the God who gives

And takes away

I’ll praise You in this storm

And I will lift my hands

For You are who You are

No matter where I am

Every tear I’ve cried

You hold in Your hand

You never left my side

And though my heart is torn

I will praise You in this storm

Jason and I have chosen to praise God through our storm.  We are praising God for the beautiful gift He has given us.  We have cried out that He take this cup from us, but He has not.  We have spent much time in prayer both individually, as a couple, and with our families.  We love our baby and we want her to be made whole.  Through God’s guidance through prayer, we have decided for Hosanna Elizabeth to be given to God earlier than expected.  We have wrestled with this, but we feel that God is with us in this.  We affirm life on earth, but more so we affirm eternal life.  And we feel God saying to us, “Give her to me and I will heal her and make her whole”.  God can love her far greater than we can.  The thing I want most for my baby girl is for her to be made whole.

Thanking God for clarity

January 29, 2010

Friends, we have been honored to have been lifted up in prayer and brought before God, and have been touched by the goodness of friends, family, and even strangers both near and far.  Our parents have been wonderful, willing to drop everything to come sit with us during the toughest season in our lives.  We have felt God strengthening us and comforting us during this time.  We have felt the love of friends who have visited us, called us, and will visit and call in the future.

We want to specifically thank you for your prayers as we met with our doctor yesterday.  We wanted to meet with the same doctor who met with us on Monday and set up our appointment with the high-risk doctor.  She was wonderful, compassionate, and accommodating.  She offered us her condolences and spoke with conviction her intention that their office would do everything within their power to prevent this from happening in a subsequent pregnancy.

We asked for another ultrasound, for a number of reasons.  Firstly, we wanted to see if ours and others’ prayers that God would heal her in this life had been answered.  Secondly, we wanted to see if our baby was a boy or a girl.  Thirdly, we didn’t get any pictures on Monday, and we wanted to have some pictures printed off so we can have them with us.  It was also important for us to see for ourselves, as we didn’t know what to look for on Monday.  We had the intention that we would schedule another appointment for an ultrasound, but our doctor offered to do it during that visit, which was wonderfully accommodating.

We than asked the many questions we had that would help us decide where to go from here.  On Monday, we were provided with the options of inducing labor prematurely or removing the baby through surgery (basically an abortion).  An option that we brought up on Monday was the possibility of carrying the baby to term.  Since the surgical procedure is something we do not consider to be an option, we were left with the heartwrenching and troubling decision regarding whether to induce labor or carry the baby full term.

Yesterday, our doctor was wonderful in telling us what it might look like to undergo either option, and was good to explain to us that the longer we wait for the birth, the more health risks are involved for Julee that may have an effect on subsequent pregnancies.  That was something I hadn’t thought about.  She also told us that whether we induced or carried to term, we can pretty much do whatever we want during the delivery process.  Many people, we were told, like to hold the baby, take pictures, have a pastor baptize the baby, or make footprints.  We were free to do this during our baby’s delivery, which was a comfort to us.  We were also comforted to know that our baby is not in pain, and will not suffer during the birth or during death.  Our baby will pass peacefully.

During the ultrasound, we were told that we were having a baby girl.  It really helped me and Julee both to humanize our child.  In a time like this, we no longer wanted to refer to our baby as “it.”  We can say “she.”  We were also told that the doctor was 100% certain that our little girl has anencephaly.  Strangely enough, this was a relief for us.  It allowed for us to accept the lot that we’ve been given and to engage in what we should do next.

We have chosen to name our baby Hosanna Elizabeth Dunn.  Hosanna, of course, is the cry of praise that was given to Jesus on Palm Sunday.  It was originally meant as a both a cry of praise and a cry for help.  One translation we saw read, “save now, we pray!”  Julee and I both feel that this was a perfect name for our baby.  Elizabeth was chosen not because it’s Julee’s middle name, but because it means “consecrated to God.”  Again, we felt it was a perfect name for her as we prepare to give her to God for healing and to make her whole.

Regarding what decision we make, I am absolutely convinced that this is not a moral decision, and we cannot make our decision based on our position on moral issues.  We choose to make our decision based on what is the most loving thing for our child, for ourselves, and for our family.  There are extreme times in our lives such as this, where we look at the circumstances around us and find that the rules don’t apply; that the beliefs and opinions we so frequently construct for ourselves like a brick wall crumble under the need for compassion and mercy.  I affirm life in all its forms, and if our daughter suffered from any other defect that allowed for the possibility that she may live, there would be no question.

Please continue to be in prayer for us as we continue to grieve.  We have grieved publicly and in community, and we have been blessed to have so many great friends and family who have treasured us and lifted us up in prayer.  You are probably one of those people.  Again, we thank you for your prayers and support for myself, Julee, and baby Hosanna.

A dream come false.

January 28, 2010

On January 25th, 2010, at 2pm, Julee and I met our second ultrasound appointment with great anticipation, as we were eagerly awaiting whether we would be having a boy or a girl.  In fact, we thought the worst thing that could happen was that our baby wouldn’t cooperate, and we would be left guessing.  What happened in reality was the farthest thing from our minds.  As we met with the ultrasound technician, she proceeded to identify the baby’s body parts – hands, arms, legs, feet, ribs, heart, stomach, bladder.  We grinned giddily as we witnessed our baby’s development, and we even let out a half-frustrated chuckle and sigh upon seeing our baby’s legs crossed, preventing us from knowing its sex.  We watched in wonder at seeing our baby’s heartbeat, and in seeing our baby move.  The technician began to get quieter and quieter as she talked about having trouble seeing our baby’s head, but we thought nothing of it.  We began to get more concerned as the technician called the doctor in to see if she could view our baby’s head.  The doctor came in almost immediately (which is a rarity for any doctor), and after looking at the ultrasound for about 5 minutes, she urged us to go to a high-risk specialist immediately and have this looked at.  She told us nothing about what was happening other than it could be an abnormality or that it could be the limitations of their machine, but urged us to drive immediately to the hospital.  They would be waiting for us, we were told, and they are staying open after hours to take a look at us.

The drive was rushed and frantic, though I tried to maintain my composure.  “That ultrasound machine did look kind of old,” I told myself.  “This is just a precaution.  Normal doctor freakout better-safe-than-sorry behavior,” I said.  As we entered the doctor’s office, we completed some paperwork and nervously underwent the second ultrasound of the day.  Much to protocol, the technician identified the major body parts for us, conducted some measurements, then left to get the doctor.  As the doctor entered, he was sheepish and soft spoken, and immediately we knew bad news was coming.  I felt as if someone was about to punch me in the gut, but I couldn’t do anything to stop it.  He informed me our baby suffers from anencephaly, which is an extremely rare defect in which the brain fails to develop from the ears up, making it impossible for the baby to survive.  We were stunned.  I cried, but not nearly as hard as I’ve cried since.  Sometimes the weight of it doesn’t hit until some time passes.  The doctor sat with us for a moment for our questions, but we were too stunned to say anything.  Part of me felt bad for our doctor.  How is someone supposed to break the news to us that our baby is not going to live?  How can he give our baby a death sentence, then go home and have dinner with his wife as if nothing happened?  I’ve wondered how he’s handled it since.  He proceeded to tell us that this is not a genetic condition, and that the chances of this happening again is extremely slim.

I’ve been angry with God.  I’ve asked Him many questions and peppered Him with my protests.  At times I haven’t felt like talking to Him.  God knows how long we’ve tried to have a baby, and He knows how excited we were to be parents.  Why this joy has been taken from us, we do not know.

I have been told at times, and have probably told others that God has a reason for everything.  In this case, I am unable to think of a possible reason for this that makes me okay with it.  Strangely enough, I find more comfort in thinking that there isn’t a reason for this – that this wasn’t God’s plan and that God didn’t want it to happen.  That God hurts with me, Julee, and our families, and that God would want it some other way like I do.  I realize that blows up my theology and much of the theology within Christendom, but perhaps this is a pain and a suffering that the world of theology fails to encompass.  Perhaps this event in our lives doesn’t fit neatly into tight little boxes; little rules and statutes we can memorize and teach in Sunday School.  Perhaps some things in life cannot be explained.

In the past 48 hours, I’ve been incredibly thankful for how public we have been about our pregnancy, because it has led to us being public in our grief.  While one may think that a public grief would be embarrassing, I have felt nothing of the sort.  I have been overwhelmed by how loved we have felt in just a few moments after telling our friends and family what has happened, and this means the world at a time like this.  If you’re reading this blog, you’re likely one of the many who have reached out to us with kind words or gifts and have lifted us up to God in prayer.  I thank you for your part in making us feel so loved, from the bottom of my heart.  I am humbled by the goodness of God’s people.

We ask for your continued prayers as we decide where to go from here, as we have many questions to ask of our doctors that we were in too much shock to ask on Monday.  We get by day to day, so we thank God when we can make it to the next day.  Please be in prayer for us, that God would guide our thoughts and actions in the coming months.  Also pray that God will carry us as we cope with the pain of losing a child.  Selfishly, I ask for your prayers that we continue to sleep well.  We deal with the pain and suffering from this loss every hour – I pray that the nighttime becomes a time of peace and of respite for us.  Again, we are exceedingly grateful for your kind words and the confidence in knowing you are in prayer.

The unexpected news.

January 27, 2010

Ever since Monday when we found out the devastating news about our baby, Jason and I have been floating around just trying to keep our heads above the water.  This is something I never imagined being faced with.  In my ignorance, I thought we were in the clear since passing into the second trimester.  I guess I should’ve had some armor on to shield from any possible unexpected pain that would come my way with this baby.  But I had no idea.  There was no inkling that anything, anything at all was wrong.

Every appointment up until Monday had gone great.  The doctors had had no trouble finding the heartbeat at each appointment.  I had no sickness and thought I was progressing normally.  Just 2 weeks ago I began feeling the little movements of our sweet little baby and with each day they were happening more and more.  Everything was going smoothly or so I thought.

Monday came with great anticipation.  We could hardly wait to see our little baby again, to find out if we are having a boy or a girl.  The worst thing we thought would happen is the baby wouldn’t cooperate and we wouldn’t be able to find out the gender.  Well, the baby had its legs crossed, so we couldn’t tell anyway.  But that was the least of our concern once we found out something was terribly wrong with our sweet little dream come true.

The ultrasound started out just fine, the technician showed us all the tiny body parts.  We saw the heart beating – 133, just right.  We saw the arms and legs moving.  We saw the torso moving up and down as the baby breathed.  We even saw the cute little nose and mouth.  Everything looked perfect to us.  This was our baby, the baby we’d dreamed so long of having.

The tech seemed totally calm, I had no idea anything was wrong.  She said she was going to ask the doctor if she wanted to look at anything herself before they cleaned me up (I had goop all over my tummy).  I suppose I should’ve known something was up, but I (again in my ignorance) thought this was normal.  The doctor came in right away, and told us the tech was having trouble seeing the brain, so she was going to take a look and try to get a better view.  After a minute or so of moving the thing around, she told us she wasn’t getting a good view either.  She said she was concerned that there may be an abnormality, and she wanted us to go ASAP to a high risk doctor.

She told us that the high risk doctor was going to stay late right then for us to come.  She basically said “go, go, GO”.  We were scared, but hopeful that she just wasn’t able to get a good angle.  At the high risk doctor, another ultrasound tech did a similar ultrasound.  She showed everything, and our baby still looked perfect to me.  After she had done all of her measurements, she said that she was having trouble seeing the brain as well.  She told us the doctor would be right in to look for himself, and to talk with us.

When the doctor walked in, he sheepishly said hello, and right away I knew something was wrong.  He told us that there is an abnormality called anencephaly.  He said that the baby’s brain did not fully develop, and this type of condition is “incompatible with survival”.  I was stunned, and didn’t know what to do.  My whole body was numb.  I just laid there as one single tear rolled down my cheek.  He told us he would leave us alone for a few minutes and then we could come talk with him.  Jason and I just held each other, both us heartbroken and it totally shock.  Still I didn’t cry, I didn’t know what to do.  I had just received the most devastating news, but I didn’t cry (believe me, though, I’ve cried a lot since then).

When we met with the doctor he asked if we had any questions.  Questions!?!  I couldn’t even think at all.  He told us that we did nothing to cause this.  It just happens.  He also told us that it’s very rare, and even more rare for it to happen again.  He assured us that there are no complications for me, and that it will not affect my ability to have more children.  Somehow though, at that moment, those words were not comforting.  I didn’t care about me, I wanted my baby to be okay!  I wanted my baby to live.  I wanted my baby to have a full life.

He told us of our options, which at that moment I couldn’t fully absorb anything.  All I knew was that no matter what we did, this baby is not going to live for very long, if at all.  Still at this moment, two days later, we have no idea what to do.  We have to rely on God to guide us and to help us make the right decision.  I’m not sure that there’s a right or wrong answer, and I pray that no matter what decision we make – everyone will know we made it with the utmost prayer.

We have been humbled by the outpouring of love and support we have received.  We know that God is doing something amazing through this, and He is using our unborn child to do something in in the lives of not only us, but many others as well.  To God by the glory in all things…even when we do not feel like praising Him, even when we are angry with Him – we choose to serve and love Him with all that we are.

I prefer a car…

January 18, 2010

…but I feel like I’m on a train.  One of the things I’ve been most struck by in this point in my life is how little control I have over it.  I’m in the middle of an internship application and interviewing process wherein a computer program will play a large role in determining where I, my wife, and our baby will spend the next (and first) year of our lives.  My wife is carrying a baby inside of her, and while I can do a lot to support her through this process, I pretty much have to sit back and let the miracle happen.  I have very little control over what goes on in there.  It’s kind of like trying to drive a train.  There are some places that I would like the train to go, but I have very little control over whether that actually happens.  Which begs the question: is this a season of my life where I have less control than others, or has my illusion of control under which I live for most of my life been lifted?  Have I lost control or have I realized that I never had it?  So, in two major areas of my life, I wait.  I hope God enjoys watching me squirm.

18 weeks and 2 days; that is when I first felt the baby move (that’s today, by the way)!!  I was driving to Target when I felt a little thump on my left lower ab.  I thought, “oh!  is that the baby?”.  Then a few seconds later I felt a few little thumps, and then a few seconds later a few more.  Still, though, I thought maybe it was just gas (sorry, TMI).  But after a few minutes passed, I knew it was the baby.  I’ve been holding my breath all evening, hoping to feel it again.  Nothing yet, but I know I will feel it again soon.  :o)

Preparing…

December 21, 2009

Wow…one month since our last blog.  Since you’ve last heard from us, Julee has charged herself right into the second trimester, and is still doing wonderfully.  She’s begun to show a little bump around the belly, which is adorable and something I understand to be relatively common among pregnant women.  Julee’s had a bizarre craving for summer sausage, and had at least two occurrences of crying against her will.  She’s begun wearing maternity clothes, which look adorable on her.  I find the maternity pants to be very interesting, as they look kind of like what would happen if a pair of jeans mated with a turtleneck.

As we’re approaching Christmas time, I enter this season with a different perspective than I’ve ever had.  I think about how we often talk about the Advent season as one of preparing for the coming of Jesus into our world.  Pregnancy is like that as well; it’s like a 9 month Advent season – preparing for the coming of our baby.  After the initial excitement and celebration is over, we enter into the time in which we begin to plan for what our lives may be like as parents.  I’m sure Mary and Joseph had to do much of the same thing; they didn’t have to research the best and safest baby furniture or begin putting more money in a savings account, but they did have a great deal of preparing to do I’m sure.  So for me, Advent and Christmas carry a double meaning for me this year, as we will soon introduce our own little life into our world.  Good thing our baby doesn’t have to grow up and save it.

Home ≠ Home

November 19, 2009

This past weekend, Julee and I got the opportunity to celebrate with our families in person for the first time.  It’s pretty amazing how a pregnancy can bring everyone together.  I am so excited for Julee’s parents, who will be grandparents for the first time, and for my parents, who will be having a new grandbaby.  I’ve written a lot on here about how the fact that I know I’m about to be a dad has changed me already, and I was struck again by it this weekend.  As we were saying our goodbyes to our parents and getting ready to board the plane back to Chicago, a strong sense of sadness came over both Julee and myself.  Ordinarily, I am one who has felt fairly comfortable living away from family for the past three and a half years, but this time it was different.  I was sad to leave my folks.  I was sad to leave the mountains.  I was sad to leave sweet tea, college football, and southern accents.  I was sad to leave all the things that made home home.

It’s always been said that a parent will tolerate harm to themselves far more than they will tolerate harm done to their children.  I believe that to be true.  I believe that opposite to be true as well — that a parent will strive to do good for their children far more than they will for themselves.  I think that’s a big reason why I want so much to be back near our families, because I know how good it will be for our child, and how good it was for both Julee and myself to have our grandparents nearby when we grew up.

It was a turbulent plane flight back, which is quite ironic.  The plane stumbled through the rainclouds, as if it was being forced against its will.  After one of the better weekends we’ve had in awhile, it follows to think that its end will come with sadness.  Leaving home to go home is such an odd feeling, because right now home can mean two different places.  I’m excited for where God will lead us next, and hope that He leads us where the weather is warmer and the tea is sweeter.