Today, my mom returns with more about her story as Emmett’s grandmother. Read the first part here. -Christina
Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.
I read this quote by C.S. Lewis on Pinterest. Although there’s some debate whether or not Lewis actually said this, it really hit the nail for me. One because I’m terrible at monkey bars and two, “letting go at some point in order to move forward” is so true. It takes a lot of effort in life to move forward. You have to dig deep, stretch hard, use every ounce of strength and have stamina. This is where I’ll continue telling the story how Emmett blessed my life the short time he was with us.
In one of Christina’s previous posts, she shared a story and sketch by Curtis Wiklund’s struggle about miscarriage. He wrote:
“Most don’t talk about it. I just didn’t know what else to do, but draw on that day….I hope by sharing it, those others out there who are quietly hurting, some far worse than we are, are comforted knowing at least, that you are not alone.”
Some of us have probably experienced situations in our lives that make us ashamed, embarrassed or frightened, yet we choose not to share them. This is why Wiklund’s sketch and what he said resonated with me. We all go through trials and some people suffer silently. You don’t have too!
In my previous post, I also shared that Christina and I share a very unique bond.
That is as “mother and sister”. As a young single mother attending nursing school, I found myself balancing school and caring for a premature baby, it was difficult. I felt guilty, ashamed and unequipped as a young parent. I suffered quietly as Wiklund did. I wanted a better home-life for Christina so I made a difficult decision to give her up for adoption. Fortunately for me, unlike so many young single women, she was adopted by the same family that adopted me.
I could never compare the loss of a child or a death of a child to giving up a child for adoption. Death is so final and often unexpected, tragic. Once Christina was adopted, out of respect for her new parents, I no longer referred to her as “my daughter.” She became my sister. All the feelings as a mother, I internalized. When I got married and moved away, the feeling of “loss” worsened for me. The loss of missing birthdays, the first day at school, proms, graduations, etc. all the milestones….Lost. It was unbearable! I cried often. I also found my car as a safe haven, just as Wiklund’s sketch demonstrated. I was alone.
If it were not for Emmett, I would have never experienced being a mother again. This was more evident on April 25, 2016. Brett, Christina and I arrived shortly before 4:00pm at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Hospital for Christina’s procedure to induce labor. The day before, Brett’s dad and I discussed with Christina and Brett the procedure, their decisions, expectations and feelings. I think whatever you are going through in life, it’s important to have a support system. As parents, no matter how difficult the situation might be, we have to ask difficult questions. Clearly, going through this, the process was not at all easy.
I recall as the nurses and doctors were preparing for the procedure, I asked Brett and Christina what they wanted to do once she delivered her baby and this included funeral arrangements. Tough topic but a much needed conversation. I listened and I was so at ease that they had already made a decision. So much so that when the nurses were asking them the similar question, Brett and Christina were putting the nurses at ease.
This is a good time to say, that I commend all the medical staff at UMass that they did an exemplary job in treating us with dignity and professionalism. Amy, Leslie, Rose, Elizabeth and several others not only cried with us but delicately helped us get through the process that day. I can’t thank them enough for being there.
Terminating a pregnancy or the word “abortion” is associated with so many stigmas in our society. Let’s just say, it’s a loaded subject. Although I have had a career within the healthcare industry, I am not a physician or clinical practitioner nor could I give anyone medical advice. But it is important as a patient, particularly these days, to be proactive in researching and asking your treating physicians and nurses questions. It is incumbent upon all of us, as “patient” to be responsible for our own medical care. So don’t be afraid to ask questions, research alternatives. Know your options! I’m so glad Christina and Brett did their research.
As the night progressed, during the procedure, Christina would introduce me to the nurses and doctors as “my mother.” I had waited 35 years to hear that. For years, I had thought I would never hear nor anticipate that I would hear that word “mother” from her again. But I did. Only because of Emmett’s presence. Yes, before Emmett was born, he was already changing and affecting peoples lives. He was helping me mend my heart like a surgeon would. Skillfully and masterfully communicating to his mother in her womb. As I was kissing and stroking my daughter’s hand and forehead, I had a vision of Emmett clinging to Christina and Christina clinging onto me. And me, clinging on my faith in Christ and to this scripture:
“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made….and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret…..”
(Psalm 139: 13-15 NKJ)
Often, we are unprepared in life. I certainly was unprepared for what would happen next. For a brief moment, I heard Christina crying and screaming when she was giving birth to her baby. It was just a second ago when the nurse told Brett and I that she was in labor. Suddenly, Emmett was born. When the doctor put little Emmett’s body in his tiny prenatal bed, I struggled within myself debating like ‘should I go over to see him or not’. What would he look like? What would I see? What would I tell my daughter or my son-in law? They hadn’t seen him. And again, I questioned and asked God, why? Why did this child have to go through this? I was so conflicted. In as much, I had the support of my husband, Gary back home, he was 2,000 plus miles away. I couldn’t text fast enough.
I finally had the strength to stand next to Emmett’s bed. As I gazed upon him, all I could say and continued to say out loud was “She was beautiful, She’s perfect”. You see, during that time, we were told that Emmett would be a girl. I couldn’t help but think of the scripture in Psalm 139 in how Emmett appeared physically perfect despite of his genetic problems. He looked as if he was sleeping peacefully. I remembered counting all his fingers and toes. Not a blemish was on him. I succumbed with joy with the thought of my very first grandchild but grieved at the same time that I would never be able to hold his hand, walk in the park with him or take him to school. Reality hit me like a brick.
When the nurses were wrapping Emmett in a blanket and putting a tiny cap on him, this is when we were told “she” was actually a “he”. I had stepped out of the room for moment to provide Christina and Brett some privacy with their little angel. Again, as a parent, you think you know what to say but you don’t. I just knew, they had to deal with the situation on their own terms, their own time. It seemed that at 12:50 a.m. on April 26, 2016, time stood still for me. I tried to cry in the bathroom but I couldn’t. I just remember praying to God to help my kids with their grief.
When I re-entered the room, Brett was holding Emmett in one arm while sitting on a chair along side the bed. Christina gazing at her husband, tears gently rolling from her cheeks and holding Brett’s other hand. Leslie, the attending nurse was on the other side of the bed working quietly on the computer. Then Christina said to me “Mom, I want you to hold your grandson!” This is that moment here in this photo:
At 2:05 a.m., time stood still again for me. Brett said, “Mom, meet your grandson!”. This was the first time, Brett, my son-in-law called me “Mom” for the very first time. And I gently held my grand-baby. Tears flowed from all of us at this point. I think the closest thing I can compare the tears falling is the Manawaiopuna Falls better known as the “Jurassic Park Falls “in Kauai from the Jurassic Park movie. I thought to myself, this was the first time and only time I would ever hold this child. It was a very difficult but a touching moment. I will never regret or forget that day. All I could think of at this point was to pray. I gave Emmett back to Brett to hold him and we all held hands together, weeping and praying
Emmett gave us a wonderful memory of our time with him that day. He introduced me to a new “love” that I never had experience before. A love for a grandchild. He helped re-kindled the love between a mother-daughter and an appreciation for life. No matter how old or how short of time one has in this world, you learn to cherish it.
Some people may say, “get over it”, but I really don’t care. Because it seems when I hear that, I feel as though they are really saying, “forget that situation.” I can’t forget my grandson. Has anyone ever forgotten the loss of spouse, a child or any family member? It’s a daunting situation but you just keep moving forward, reaching the next monkey bars.
I think grief is a personal process and every day God gives us is a gift especially moments like these. Seize every moment of the day and take charge of your life. Don’t let circumstances rule you or other people’s decisions rule you about what they think you should do. Make a decision to live your life the way that is right for you and live with purpose. I know I’ve shared more details than you might want to read or know, but this has changed my life….My daughter’s life…..and Brett’s life. I hope this changes you. I encourage you to know that no matter how long you live, whether it’s 99 years or 90 seconds, you have a purpose. Losing Emmett for me gave me a purpose. A purpose to reach out to others who experience loss, grief, disappointment and struggle. This is how I can honor Emmett’s memory of him.
I’ll leave you with a this story of Nick Vujicic. He was born with no arms and no legs. He struggled with bullying, suicide and hopelessness. I hope his story inspires and empowers you because I truly believe we all are “fearfully and wonderfully made”.