Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Life Story of Samuel Ralphs

To some, a baby at the mid-point of a pregnancy isn't a real human yet. To me, they've been a human a long time. Here's the life story of one of my favorite humans ever.

On September 11, 2015 our baby boy Luke was born and died at 1 day shy of 20 weeks of pregnancy. It was hard. I assumed that trial was a unique one. We'd never bury another child.  Losing Luke taught us that I have an incompetent cervix. To those not familiar with female anatomy, the cervix is what kept you inside your mother until you were ready to face the world. When it's insufficient, a baby is born suddenly and without warning, when he or she has become heavy enough to weigh on the cervix, usually between 18 and 22 weeks.

We knew what to do to prevent it from happening again--get a cervical cerclage at about 3 months of pregnancy. So we began praying that we would be blessed with another baby soon. I felt overwhelmingly empty and missed Luke so much. I wanted another baby to look forward to, while knowing that another could never replace Luke. We prayed and prayed and on December 3rd I nervously took a pregnancy test and was SO happy to see it was positive. I believe every pregnancy is a real miracle, and never to be taken for granted. See those two lines? That's when Samuel's known life began. Maybe my tummy didn't grow very fast, but my love was growing exponentially from that moment on. I told Carson later that night and I'll never forget his excited reaction. We were so happy.

Here is his first picture--the baby is the diamond of the ring (which is the sac). I kept all his ultra-sound pictures to one day show to him. Wouldn't it be amazing to see YOU when you were the size of a lentil?

From the beginning I was able to see the doctor that my mom saw when she was pregnant with me. Since my mom had the same struggles keeping babies in, Dr. Tutt was very familiar with what to do. He did the cerclage that kept me from being born too soon, so I felt I was in pretty good hands. He'd known me since I was just a flicker on the ultra sound screen and he took really good care of me. In early February, when I was 14 weeks pregnant, I spent a day in the hospital and Dr. Tutt did a cerclage, which stitches the cervix closed and blocks off our baby's only way of escape. It was an awkward, uncomfortable and very expensive ordeal, but I was so happy! It was a small price to pay for our baby. This was a red-letter day for him. It meant that he would stay in, sure thing! This baby was making it, and I had full confidence. 

 At 15 weeks, it was apparent he was a boy.  Just as my mother instincts had suspected all along. 

At about 17 weeks I started to feel our baby kick. Every time, I was thrilled. Those kicks never got old--every one just sent me surging with gratitude and excitement. During those months, it seems nothing can get me down.

19 weeks. Scratching his head. So cute.

At 19 weeks I couldn't contain the excitement any more and had to spill the beans. After all, this pregnancy was for sure. Samuel got over 600 likes in a matter of a day or so. Very popular fellow!

The day we passed 20 weeks was a relief. We were in uncharted territory. Every Wednesday as I would reach another week mark, I would celebrate by reading all about my baby's development on my pregnancy apps. I was obsessed. 

Then, on one such Wednesday, April 6, we were celebrating 22 weeks of pregnancy and 2 years of dating (we started officially dating on April 6, 2014 and plan to celebrate every April 6 after). We went to a movie and I could hardly pay attention because I started to feel awful. I couldn't quite remember what contractions felt like, but I began to realize that I was having them. We left the movie and I called some people, and it was decided I should go to the hospital. We went to Banner Desert--the same hospital where our little Luke came. 

At first they gave me some anti-contraction medicine. It was a huge relief, for about 30 minutes. I had an ultra sound and my cervix was shortening, so they told me I'd be at the hospital for at least a couple weeks on bed rest. Sign me up. I was willing to do anything to keep this baby. If I had to live in the hospital for the next 4 months, I'd do it in a heart beat. I spent a sleepless night in the hospital.

But in the morning the contractions wouldn't stop. My body seemed to be insistent that this baby come now. The doctor at the very top of high-risk pregnancies came in to my little antepartum room.
He said they'd do an amniocentesis--where they draw some amniotic fluid to test it. The results were flooring, shocking to everyone. My amniotic fluid and surrounding placenta and uterus were severely infected (called chorioamnionitis), even though I had felt no symptoms. It was only a matter of time before the infection spread to my blood stream and be fatal to both me and Samuel. When the doctor told me this, and I connected the dots that this infection meant the loss of our was like the light of my life turned off. My world seemed to end. The cause of my daily, hourly happiness was suddenly...over. What about August 10? What about all the hours I couldn't wait to spend with him, just us two, in Alabama this fall while Carson was in school? What about the near future, and what about the long-term future that had taken up my thoughts the past 5 months?

The stitches were cut. I was taken to the Labor and Delivery room (please no!) and after what seemed like an eternity of excruciating contractions and wishing I'd said yes to an epidural, our precious baby was born. April 7, 2016 at 8:00 p.m. We held him tight for the hour that he lived and marveled at his perfect little frame and features. Just like Luke, he resembled Carson already. Unlike Luke, he weighed a whole pound and was 11 inches long, and had little sprouts of peach fuzz on his head. My heart wanted to burst with love for him, and break with sadness.

Why, oh WHY couldn't my body keep him in? Why can't we be a normal couple that gets married and has kids? Why can't I be as normal as all the teenagers who get pregnant and have healthy babies? Why did I get the infection that happens in less than 2% of all pregnancies? Why did this have to happen again? How much can I really take? Not this much. This was too much.

Just like this experience 7 months ago, we hadn't chosen a name yet because we thought we had four more months to decide. We had a couple ideas, but Samuel was not one of them. In the hospital before we knew this baby would be born early, I remembered the story of Hannah in the Old Testament. She prayed for a son for years. She promised that if God granted her a son, she would dedicate his life to serving the Lord. She was blessed with a son, who she named Samuel, and he did serve the Lord his entire life as a prophet. The thought occurred to me that maybe this baby wouldn't survive, but as I had done before, I told Heavenly Father that if He would just let this baby live, I would raise him and teach him to dedicate His life to the service of God. However, God's ways are higher than my ways, and we still give our baby's life to Him. We believe He's serving God from above. Since Samuel was always God's to begin with and never ours, we have to give him back willingly. Samuel Jay Ralphs. He's His.

On April 15 we had a little funeral for him, with all four of his grandparents and all his cousins present. He's buried next to his older brother, and on top of my grandfather.

April 15, 2016

All of my parent's grandchildren.

We love our boys, Samuel and Luke, more than we can say. We are so grateful for them, and for the joy they've brought us. We have no doubt they're complete persons. They have souls, spirits, personalities. They came. They lived. They're God's, but they're also ours and always will be. While hard to type it now, we believe life is beautiful. God is good. I've felt Him weep with me. He is the true light of our life every day. He knows best.  That brings us the most comfort of all. 

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