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This blog has been lovingly created in honor of our precious Brady Benjamin, who was born and died on August 6, 2010. He was not ready for life in this world, but will forever live in our hearts. We love you Brady.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Question

Cody is working late tonight, girls are both in bed, so I sit down in my quiet bedroom to work on my bible study chapter.  I begin with a prayer, then dutifully look up and write down my study verses for this week.  I review the chart of "The Stages of Grief" and mark the date on the point where I feel like I am now, just like the chart instructed.  My mark falls somewhere between guilt and anger.  I didn't even know grief was a 9-step process.

I was feeling pretty good with 5 pages down and only 3 more to go.  Then I dwelled for a bit on a quote from C.S. Lewis, made after the death of his wife: "I live each day thinking about living each day in grief".  Very deep, depressing stuff.

Then I move on to the next question and it hits me like a ton of bricks.  Up until now, I have blamed this unrelenting guilty feeling on the wavering doubts I had early on in the pregnancy, but now, here is this question jumping from the page like a big, fat finger pointed right in my face. 

"When did you first sense that something was wrong with your pregnancy?"

It catches me completely off guard.  I had no idea anything was wrong with my pregnancy.  We had just seen Brady on the sonogram 2 weeks earlier and he was perfect.  Why in the world would anything be wrong?  Then I remember Dr. Green's confused face shortly after the last sonogram as he asked, "did you not feel the baby stop moving?"

I had already had this discussion with the nurse on several visits (during this pregnancy and the one before it).  When you work all day long and come home to a toddler that needs attention almost 24/7 you don't have the luxury of being able to lay down in a calm, peaceful house... patiently awaiting your little one's fluttering movements.  I remember being able to do that when I was pregnant with Rayley and I loved it.  With Karley, it seemed like the only time life slowed down enough for me to really focus on her moving was when I was towards the end of the pregnancy... and who can ignore a knee or an elbow protruding out of your stomach?!

With Brady though, no... I never really felt much "kicking".  I felt the fluttering early on, but it was still a little too early to be worried about not feeling any real dramatic movements.  I wasn't worried at all.

When we did our introductions for our bible study class, the other women recalled experiencing sudden bleeding or a feeling that something just wasn't right.  They immediately called their doctor or went to the emergency room only to hear the tragic news.  Their insticts were right... something was wrong with their baby.  Where were my instincts?  Was I really that busy and concerned with the stresses of life to not notice that something was wrong?  Would it have even made a difference?  Probably not.

I remember being amazed when I was pregnant with Rayley and read that even though the scientific world has documented almost every single step in the fetal growth process, no one knew exactly what action inside the womb caused a baby's heart to start beating.  When you are pregnant, no doctor can tell you with certainty that on X day or after X happens your baby's heart will begin beating... they simply don't know.  Unfortunately, I now know that the opposite is also true.  They cannot tell you exactly when it stops beating either.  Was it the morning of my 5-month check-up as I got dressed for work... or the minute after we found out we were having a baby boy and the sonogram machine was turned off?  I don't know, they don't know.

So why in the world would this seemingly inncoent question, "when did you first sense that something was wrong with your pregnancy" cause my mind and heart so much turmoil?  I am asking the question, but don't really expect an answer.  Then I remember another quote from C.S. Lewis that we studied in Chapter 2:

"When I lay these questions before God I get no answer.  But a rather special sort of 'no answer'.  It is not the locked door.  It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze.  As though He shook His head not in refusal but in waiving the question.  Like, 'Peace, Child; you don't understand."      

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Had a fun night tonight out with the girls.  Fun... am I allowed to have fun yet?  Seems a little strange, but I almost feel guilty for it.  I guess it's sort of like when someone loses a spouse and then starts dating again and wonders... is it too soon?  What will people think?  Most of the concern is probably in our own heads but it is still there nonetheless.

On the way home from town today Cody and I began talking about Brady.  Somewhere in the conversation he casually mentioned that for some reason his death hasn't really affected his day-to-day life as much as he thought it would.  Instantly I felt like I was stranded on a desserted island.  He wasn't being insincere or anything, he just meant that he has been able to see things in a very "life moves on" sort of way and he is dealing with it better than he anticipated.

For some reason the thought of him being able to feel that way made me feel even more alone.  I know (based on my own common sense... and reinforced by the books I have recently read on the subject) that men and women grieve very differently.  They tell me not to expect him to have the same emotions that I have at the same time I have them.  For the past month though I have felt like we were on the same wavelength... until today.  I love Cody to pieces and I know he loves our kids more than anything in this world, but I think for the first time today I actually realized that he will never be able to comprehend my grief, just like I may never fully understand his.

I have several friends (who I won't mention by name) that have gone through miscarriage in the past.  Especially after I became a mom, every time I heard of this happening to someone I cared about I truly felt sadness in my heart.  I thought about them often in the days following the tragic news, but it lingered with me for a relatively short time.  After all, statistics say that miscarriages happen to most women at some point in their lives, many times before they even know they are pregnant.  That is simply a fact of life.  I think that is where Cody's mind is now and that's why he is able to get on with his life easier than I can. 

When it happens to you though, statistics go out the window.  I don't care if every woman I know has had a miscarriage in their past, this time it was me.  I lost MY son.  He died while he was supposed to be safe inside of me.  I am not trying to say that all of a sudden I understand what these other women have gone through, but I honestly do have a newfound respect for them.  It is tough.  Tougher than I could have ever imagined.  And I don't think it really matters how old your child was or how far along in your pregnancy you were.  Before my loss, I would have said that a loss in early pregnancy would be much easier to "get over" than a loss later on.  But now I am not so sure.  Early on, your baby is probably nameless... you haven't felt them flutter or kicking inside you.  But afterwards, that just means that the child you lost doesn't even have a name to be remembered by... and probably not even a sonogram picture to reflect on.  I think the greatest pain there would come from knowing that the world may not even remember him or her. 

Later losses, like mine, are no doubt hard... but they are recognized and acknowledged by the world.  Brady was taken care of by a funeral home and people made condolences for us to cherish.  We brought him home in an urn that we can see and touch every day.  His existence is thereby validated.  The thought that others loved him, not just us, gives us some measure of comfort.

I feel like I am rambling tonight (probably a few too many glasses of wine to blame for that), but I guess I am just trying to say that today was somewhat of a turning point for me.  I see now that Cody and I are not grieving in the same way.  I know that I and my friends who have suffered losses have not grieved in the same way.  But we have all felt the pain that no one else in this world can even begin to comprehend unless they have felt it too.  My prayer tonight is for all of us to continually receive some measure of comfort each day... in our own way...  as we remember the ones we have lost.   I love you all.         

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Our Story

Our story begins 22 years ago, where Cody and I met in Mrs. McKinney's 2nd grade class.  Fast forward through many years of grade school puppy love, high school sweethearts and engaged college years to a happily newlywed couple. 

Cody and I had been married for about a year and a half when we decided to start trying for our first baby.  After several unsuccessful months I made a trip to the doctor and was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).  Nope... we had never heard of it before either.  Turns out it is a leading cause of infertility in women.  We were devastated.  We had picked out names for our kids when we were 16, how could it be possible that we may never have any?

Luckily, after a year of trying and several months of fertility drugs we found out we were pregnant with our first baby girl, Rayley.  I had a "perfect" pregnancy (as Dr. Green constantly reminded me) and Rayley was born on March 19, 2006.  She was truly our little miracle.

After Rayley turned 2 we started throwing around the idea of trying for another baby.  We both wanted more kids and agreed 3 years was a good "spacing".  Determined not to have to take on fertility drugs again, we halfheartedly started trying to conceive on our own.  This time we were pregnant within 2 months!  We were amazed, and in shock... how in the world could it have been so easy this time?!

After another perfect pregnancy, our second precious baby girl, Karley, was born on June 17, 2009.  Although neither of us were dead set against having any more kids, we were definitely content with our lives and our beautiful little girls.  Our family.

When Karley was just 1 month shy of her first birthday, we found out we were pregnant again.  Shock can't even begin to describe what I felt.  Being the analytical person I am, I immediately put pen to paper and determined it was physically impossible.  I immediately made an appointment to figure out what in the heck was going on with my crazy body. 

Dr. Green did an ultrasound that very first visit and said we were in fact very pregnant, almost 8 weeks along!  Instead of the overwhelming joy and excitment I had felt with the first two, I was overwhelmed by anxiety and fear.  How in the world could we afford another child so soon?  Karley was still supposed to be the baby, how could I steal that away from her?  These and many other mostly negative feelings filled the first few weeks that followed.   By about the 12th week though, those feelings were being replaced with anticipation and excitement.  Yes it would be hard, but we were solid.  We would figure out how to make it work.

At 18 weeks our little family watched a bouncing, wiggling baby on the monitor in the doctor's office.  When she told us it was a boy it was like it was just meant to be.  Our family was complete.  I don't think I have ever seen Cody and Rayley so excited.  Now the shopping for clothes and decorating could officially begin!

Just 2 weeks later our world stopped.  At my routine 20 week check-up there was no heartbeat.  It was impossible.  It seemed like just yesterday we had watched him on the screen bouncing around like crazy.  When the ultrasound image came up this time though, I immediately knew there was no mistake.  It was still.  It was silent.  There was our perfect, precious baby... sleeping.

I was checking into the hospital later that afternoon and after 14 hours of induced labor Brady was delivered at 5:05 am on August 6th.  In the middle of a painful contraction straight into the bedsheets, with no doctor or nurse in sight.  They had warned me that was likely to happen, but nothing can prepare you for that feeling.  A baby is supposed to enter this world red-faced and screaming into the hands of a smiling doctor... not lifeless and cold laying against my thighs under the sheets.  That was the worst moment of my life.

Although the memories of the physical delivery are something I pray one day I will forget, I feel blessed to have been able to touch and hold my baby boy, even for a short while.  He was so tiny, only half a pound and nine inches long... but he was perfect.  His little arms and legs were so fragile.  His peaceful face looked just like his daddy's, no mistake.  I didnt't want to let him go.

I thought being able to bring home his ashes would give me some sort of peace, but I have yet to feel it.  Even the necklace I wear every day around my neck, which holds a small portion of his ashes inside, doesn't provide nearly the comfort I was expecting it to.  When you have carried your baby inside you and felt him moving inside you, no outside tangible token can replace the hole that is left when they are gone. 

So that is where we are now, one month and ten days later.  Still trying to fill the void and move on with some semblance of a normal life.  We have to, we have two little girls who don't yet understand the pain of death.  To Rayley heaven is a temporary place that Brady stopped to visit.  She gets upset when I cry and she cries too, but it's an innocent cry.  She knows something is wrong but she doesn't really understand it... and five minutes later she is playing again and asking for a snack.  Resilience.  What I wouldn't give for resilience in place of anger, guilt and pain.  I was ambivalent about my pregnancy early on.  Is this punishment?  God thinks I didn't want my child bad enough so he took him away from me?  Absolutely not, logic says.  There is nothing I could have done.  Still, some things simply cannot be rationalized away.  I know they are not true, but they still haunt me every day.

"Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

Please Lord, help me find it.

How life can change in the blink of an eye

My husband Cody's tribute to Brady as part of his online memorial book:
I remember when Ashley told me we were pregnant with our 3rd child. We were so nervous about it, and how could we afford another child. As time passed, we got more and more excited. We looked for bedding and tried to figure out were we would put the kids in our 3 bedroom home. We weren't concerned if it was a boy or girl, but deep down inside as a daddy of course I wanted a boy.

The day we found out it was a boy, I posted it on facebook before we even left the sonogram. We were so excited. I spent many hours a day dreaming about the things we would do as father and son. Don't get me wrong, I love my little girls more than anything in this world. I was just excited to have a boy to fight with them.

On August 5th Ashley went to the doctor for a normal check up and I didn't think anything about it until Dr. Green called me on Ashley's phone. He told me they couldn't find Brady's heartbeat. My heart dropped, this can't be real.

My wife is the strongest person in this world to go through what she had to. I love her and my little girls more than anything, and will do whatever it takes to try and get us through this. Brady Benjamin Hanna, daddy will never forget you and will think of you every day. We love you more than you will ever know.