Wednesday, January 5, 2011

3 months later...

It's been 3 months since Elspeth passed away.

If she could be here just for a moment I would have so much to tell her. I would say "I love you" over and over again. I would tell Elspeth that I have thought about her every single day since she left me. I would tell her my heart aches for me to rock her asleep. I would tell her how beautiful she is and promise that I will never forget what it felt like to hold her in my arms and kiss her face.

I would also tell Elspeth that we smile when we remember her. Sometimes we just lay in bed and talk about her birthday, just remembering the happiness of that wonderful day. I would tell her that I dream about the day we will be reunited and how joyful that day will be when we are a family again. I would thank her for the time she blessed us with and what a miracle it was that she lived for 9 months!

Yes, it's been 3 months that she has been gone. I enjoyed 6 weeks of "maternity" leave, Thanksgiving, a Christmas candle lighting ceremony at the hospital to remember babies lost, Christmas with family and finally a fresh start with the new year.

I'm especially looking forward to the new year and the possibilities that it brings.

Thank you to everyone who have made these past 3 months better than I could have imagined and for putting up with me.

Thank you mostly to Ryan who is the best husband and father I could have asked for myself and for my child(ren).

I love you Elspeth.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Elspeth's Birthday

Some people dream of angels...I held one in my arms.

Elspeth Allyson Mullen was born still on Oct. 5th at 4:22 p.m. She weighed 5 lbs. 9.7 oz and was 17 inches long. Elspeth had strawberry blonde hair, long fingers and toes, chubby thighs, lips just like her mamma's and the most beautiful, gentle face I have ever seen.
Ryan and I woke early on Tuesday Oct. 5th to start the induction process. We had hardly slept the night before in the hospital because the "cervical ripening" process turned out to be basically miserable. We were anxious and excited to meet our Elspeth finally. The pitocin started at 6:30 a.m. and I wasn't even dilated yet. After 2 hours of pitocin Dr. Sheridan came to see us. I still hadn't made much progress and he had some major concerns about a lengthy labor. He wanted to break my water to speed things up. Now, anyone who knows me would surely know how opposed I was about having my water broken. I had done research on anencephalic babies and it all had said that having the water broken was very difficult for these babies because the water acts like a cushion for their little tender heads. However, with the same concern I also knew that having a labor lasting >10 hours would also be very traumatic to my little Elspeth. We were stuck in between a rock and a hard spot. I looked to Ryan, we had to make a decision right away. Would we have my water broken and risk trauma to Elspeth's head or would we have a strung out labor that would be equally as difficult to Elspeth and myself? As I weighed the options, I felt at peace with having my water broken. I knew it was the right choice, even if the result would be deadly for Elspeth. It was the most difficult decision I had to make throughout the whole pregnancy and delivery. I know that Elspeth understands that I had to make this hard decision and that I wish it could have been different.

After my water was broken I felt tremendous relief. It turned out that I had undiagnosed polyhydraminos for the past several weeks. Almost 2 liters of amniotic fluid gushed out of me instantly and the pressure was gone. You'll have to excuse me, I am a nurse so I tend to leave in all the "details". Hard contractions started within 30 minutes of the water breaking and we were on our way to having a baby. With Ryan and my doula by my side I labored for approximately 4 hours before calling it quits and asking for an epidural. 4 hours may not seem like a long time, but with pitocin it felt much longer. I had contractions every 2 minutes and only 40 seconds downtime in between contractions for the whole process. The anesthesiologist came to place my epidural and after 3 attempts and 1 1/2 hours it finally worked. Ryan and I got a quick nap for about 1/2 hour. While I was sleeping I felt Elspeth coming. I alerted the doula and the nurse who confirmed what I had felt. Elspeth was coming, and she was coming quickly. In 10 minutes Dr. Sheridan had arrived and we were ready to start pushing. Elspeth was born about 20 minutes after the doctor walked into the room.

When Elspeth was placed on my chest I knew instantly that she was gone. The NICU nurses were all on standby to help, but it wasn't necessary. I didn't want any life saving measures for Elspeth, I wanted her death to be peaceful and uninterrupted. We wrapped Elspeth's body up in a warm blanket and I just held her close to my skin. I thought I was going to be so sad, but instead I was filled with joy to finally see the beautiful face of my daughter, to memorize every part of her. I talked to her like she was still with me because I feel that her spirit was still with me at that time. I told her how beautiful and lovely I thought she was and how grateful I am to be her mother. It was one of the most wonderful moments of my life.
Ryan's task was to bathe and dress Elspeth so we could call our families into join us to meet our Elspeth. I watched Ryan bathe his daughter with such love and care. He was so gentle to her as he talked to her the whole time. He told her how much he loved her, how beautiful she was and how special she was to us. Shortly after, we called our family into the delivery room so Ryan, our fathers and brothers could give Elspeth a blessing which in our religion is similar to a Christening. When our families came into the room there was such peace and reverence for our little baby. I felt so calm and at peace knowing that my baby was safely home with her Heavenly Father. Our family members took turns holding Elspeth for just a moment. I wish it could have been longer, but time was so limited.
When everything quieted down Ryan and I settled in for the night. The nurse told us that we had until 3 a.m. to spend with Elspeth because they would have to come and take her body to be prepared for organ donation. We were both so exhausted but I dreaded going to sleep because I would miss out on precious time with Elspeth. Elspeth spent the few hours we had left in bed alongside of me. My body kept her warm and it felt so good to have her with me for just a little while longer. When the nurse came in at 3 to take Elspeth away I felt the deepest sorrow I have ever felt. Elspeth and I had never been separated before and my heart was heavy as the nurse walked away with my precious baby. It felt like the best part of me, the best thing I have ever done was being taken away. Ryan and I cried ourselves back to sleep, holding onto each other and the memories of our daughter.

The funeral services for Elspeth were held on Saturday Oct. 9th at our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Our Bishop and Stake President (local leaders) spoke about God's plan for our baby and reminded us that we will be reunited with her again. Their words were so comforting and perfectly matched for what we needed to hear. At the cemetery Ryan tenderly laid Elspeth's tiny casket into the ground and family and friends dropped a flower into her grave as a last farewell. It was a beautiful day outside, sunny and 70 degrees. The leaves on the trees had just started to change. Ryan and I decided that whenever we see the trees start to change it will be a silent reminder of our baby.

It's now been 10 days since Elspeth was born. I know that I have to slowly start picking up the pieces, and it's been much harder that I had anticipated. I left the house for the first time today and cooked dinner for Ryan in an attempt to imitate "normal" life. I feel like an imposter in my own home. One of these days I will be able to say Elspeth's name and instead of crying I will smile. There's something to be said of people have been through a loss like those who have been here in my shoes I have a tremendous respect for you. I am looking forward to becoming strong and resilient again.

Monday, October 4, 2010

39 weeks

Bronchitis + 39 weeks pregnant = Exhausted. Sorry this post is so late, but technically this is my very last day of being 39 weeks pregnant. This past week has been terribly uneventful. It included me laying around in my pajamas for approximately one week while coughing up a lung and hoping my bladder doesn't give out in the process *sigh*.

Luckily after a lot of pampering and love (and strong antibiotics) I have recovered just in time to check into the hospital this morning for my cervical "ripening". The staff here at the hospital is so wonderful. The nurse and I just finished making a little bracelet for Elspeth together and the maternity coordinator and her secretary made a little hat just for Elspeth. I am so touched by their thoughtfulless.

I want to give a special thanks to so many of your emails, cards, letters, FB shout outs, etc from friends and so many of you that I have never even met. I have been touched deeply by your concern and love poured out to Ryan, Elspeth and I. There aren't words for the appreciation we feel for all of you.

I especially want to thank our families who have traveled many miles to be here with us tomorrow as Elspeth enters the world. To our parents, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews...we love you more than words.

Elspeth is still holding strong. On sonogram this morning she was looking beautiful, still head down with a heart rate in the 130's. The nurse tells me that labor will probably be between 12-18 hours because I am a first time momma. I am a little distressed by this news but still keeping my head up. Statistics show that Elspeth chances of making it out alive sharply decrease after 10 hours of labor. I am holding onto the fact that no matter what happens in the end, Elspeth will always be my daughter. She will be just as beautiful to me alive or passed. Her imprint on my heart is never-ending.

This is it. I am 40 weeks tomorrow. We made it! I promised Elsepth that she would get every single day of her gestation and I am so happy that I was able to keep that promise to her. I will update you all for one final post after her birth.

I love you all.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

38 weeks

Today is my birthday, my 29th birthday. I had the most fabulously uneventful day. I got to be on-call for work and didn't end up going in at all. I slept in, cleaned house, watched old episodes of Glee from Netflix, skyped the family and got a delicious cupcake from a local bakery from a friend. Pretty much my definition of a perfect day.

Elspeth is coming in only 10 days! We went to the doctor yesterday and everything is looking great. She was extremely active during our office visit and made everyone smile, including Dr. Sheridan.

Elspeth is my best birthday gift. She has made this past year the most incredible adventure. I have had such a wonderful pregnancy, no major aches and pains, no morning sickness, etc. She is the best baby a mother could ask for. Today I can say that I have everything I have ever wanted for my birthday...a wonderful husband and a beautiful daughter. I am truly blessed.

I can best describe the emotional side of the pregancy as an "emotional marathon". I have never enjoyed running, and the best I have ever ran was a 5k, but what I do know about running is that the most difficult part of a marathon is the last few miles. Ryan and I are on the last few emotional miles of this pregnancy marathon and we are feeling the wear and tear of a long road. We have learned so much about ourselves. Marathon runners run hundreds of miles in preparation for their races. Ryan and I have "trained" for this pregnancy is a very different way. We have good parents who taught us to trust in our Heavenly Father and they showed us how to go to Him in prayer since we were small children. We have studied the scriptures and found comfort in the passages left by prophets of God. Ryan and I have relied on our faith and fortitude built up from many years through this time. We have been sustained and lifted up because of it. People may wonder why I can smile and laugh during this time and I can tell you that I know it's because I know that I am a child of God, He loves me. He knows who I am by name and Elspeth is one of His most precious daughters. I have felt the loving arms of my Savior around me as I have prayed for my daughter. I am so thankful for this testimony, to know who I am and to understand my eternal goals. I know that Ryan and I will be reunited with our daughter again someday and our joy will be so sweet when we get to see her perfected body along with her perfect spirit that we feel now.

Thank you everyone for your birthday wishes. You have all helped to make this day special for my little family.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Elspeth and I had a very special Satuday this past week. It started with a photography session with Julie Pinedo. We found Julie through Alexandra's House founder Patti. Julie's path to us started when she volunteered taking photos for children with cancer. Her work with these children lead her to Alexandra's House which is a peri-natal hospice house. Julie was so much fun to work with and bent over backwards to meet our crazy schedule. She really helped us to relax while we were getting our photos done and we actually had fun. We don't have the finished product yet, but we are hoping to get them this week. You can check out Julie's work at . I'm thrilled to have our first family photos to cherish forever.

Saturday afternoon my dear friend Celeste threw me a "shower of love". I felt extremely showered with love from family and my friends from church. It's terrible to admit, but I was really hesitant about having a baby shower because I felt self-concious about recieving gifts for myself. Ryan saved the day however when he suggested that we collect items to donate. He pitched the idea to Celeste and I, of course we loved it. After careful deliberation, we picked The Rose Brooks Center. The Rose Brooks Center is a shelter for battered women here in Kansas City. I was first introduced to this organization back in February at a women's conference held by our church. All of the ladies brought items to donate and then the founder spoke to us. She was inspiring and I knew that they would be the perfect choice. A battered women can be anyone, it's possible they could be pregnant or have small children. Now that I have a mother's perspective there have been so many times I have wished that I could give Elsepth anything she needs or do anything I could for her but in so many ways I cannot. These women feel the same way about their babies, they want to give their babies everything but can't because they are starting their lives over again. I wanted to make it a little easier for them and this project was a tiny dent in the list of needs for the shelter. We collected far more than I had expected. I am so grateful for the generosity of good friends.

The photo is of us preparing to unload the truck. From left to right Rose, Joan, Me, and Celeste's children Scout, Olivia and Asher. The best moment of the day was Joan's embrace. She transferred so much love into my heart through a simple hug, I couldn't help but to become a little bit emotional. These women's work is inspirational and amazing. I hope I can get involved in the shelter again soon.

Photos from the baby shower:

No baby shower is complete without tasty treats. Celeste, Shirley and Michelle did a great job keeping our sweet teeth satisfied. Thank you everyone who helped and participated.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

37 weeks

This week's milestone is a celebration because Elsepth is officially a full term baby. 14 weeks into the pregnancy we found out that Elspeth has anencephaly. The doctors told me over and over again that she could pass at any time. They told me that she might not be very active. Basically they left us with very little expectations. This is not to fault our medical staff, I just think we all didn't really know what to expect. I had to go to the doctor on a weekly basis for several weeks just to check to see if she still had a heart beat. Those weeks were terrible, not knowing if my baby was still alive. Elspeth has beaten the odds and surpassed every expectation in several ways over the past 37 weeks.

So many people have told me that they are praying for a miracle for Elsepth. I am so grateful for their prayers and also hope for a miracle at birth, but I know that she has already been a miracle several times over. It's a miracle I could even become pregnant, it's a miracle that Elspeth didn't miscarry in the first fragile trimester, it's a miracle that she has made it to be a full term baby. Who knows what else she has in store?

So, I decided to celebrate Elsepth's full termness by going out with my dear friend Celeste. We went for pedicures (as you could see from a previous post that I really needed one), and then went out to eat disgustingly unhealthy cheese french fries. It was great! With so much to mourn, it was refreshing to celebrate.

You all probably think I am obsessed with my feet. I guess I am a little bit, especially since I can't see them anymore.

This week's doctor update is extremely uneventful...thankfully. No dialation or contractions (I know it's TMI). It's looking like we are still headed for an induction on Oct. 5th as previously planned.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Reality Check

Yesterday Ryan and I recieved a tough reality check. I came home from work last night and I realized I hadn't felt Elspeth kick at all yesterday. I got settled into my comfortable chair and sat still waiting to feel her familiar and friendly kicks. Nothing. After about 2 hours I started to panic. I called Ryan who was at work and told him the situation. Ryan was wonderful, he stayed calm and we said a prayer and asked God to help me feel Elsepth soon and to know what to do. We discussed going to the hospital or calling the OBGYN but decided to just wait it out. I hung up the phone with Ryan and my sister Annah called. She helped me keep things in perspective and calmed me down. While I was talking to my sister Ryan had an interesting experience. A NICU nurse walked right into his work and saw the worry on his face and asked him what was wrong. Ryan told this stranger what was going on not knowing her profession. She was able to calm his fears so that he could be a better support to me. Of course early this morning around 4:45 a.m. Elspeth woke me up beeping and bopping around like a ninja baby. She was exceptionally active for a good part of the day today too.

3 lessons learned
1. I am not nearly as prepared as I thought I was to have my baby die. Last night was a painful insight in the weeks to come.
2. God answers our prayers through other people. Maybe it's family, maybe it's a stranger.
3. Proverbs 3:5 "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding". We talked about this verse in Sunday school about 2 weeks ago and it's been on my mind ever since. I can't even tell you how many times I have asked Heavenly Father "why me? why my baby?" I have tried justifying and rationalizing this situation over and over. The only answer that makes any kind of sense is that this is God's plan. He loves me and I have to trust in Him. Maybe someday this will all make sense.

Oh, I liked this quote I "overheard" on my online support group.
"Death leaves a heartache no one can heal and love leaves a memory no one can steal."