Every Day is Precious | a Mother’s Journey, part 12

From the journals of Kerry Trotter.

July, 1989

Corrie is one year old today! This has been one of the happiest years of my life. Probably it has been so sweet because it followed the saddest, hardest year of my life. I have enjoyed watching her grow with more appreciation for the miracle of life and good health.

Jonathan and Kathryn have such a zest for life and are both such robust kids and I do not take it for granted like I might have had we not had Laura. I’ve enjoyed everything about having a baby. Even the nights.

When I thought I might never get to experience the joy of holding a  newborn or rocking a baby to sleep, I ached so for the time I had wasted (or not appreciated) with Jonathan and Kathryn.

With Corrie, every day has been so precious, made so I think by the knowledge of how fast they are passing. She will never be this age again — I will never have this day again and it has made me savor this time with her.

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A Mother’s Journey: table of contents

“A Long Wait all by Myself” | A Mother’s Journey, part 10

From the journals of Kerry Trotter

May 10, 1988

Today I’m feeling like I have a long wait all by myself. I don’t even feel like Mark is in it with me. I also feel unattractive — very much so. It’s hard to feel OK about yourself when you feel so crummy about the way you look.

I’m just feeling so alone in these last 8 weeks to go of this pregnancy and so ugly. Maybe that means I should be concentrating on those inner qualities of beauty that are pleasing in God’s sight, a “gentle and quiet spirit.” (1 Peter 3)

Feeling physically unattractive is such a crummy feeling. And I don’t feel like there’s a thing I can do about it now. After this baby is born I am going to be doing 50 sit ups a day, walking four miles three times a week and twenty push ups. That’s the least I can do for my physical body’s sake!

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Of Tulips and Death | A Mother’s Journey, part 1

A Baby’s Life Story | A Mother’s Journey, part 9

May 9, 1988

These are notes I wrote on paper that I planned on transferring to a permanent place. For some reason I feel it is extremely important to document Laura’s life and our experience. Time will bring a certain dulling of events, and that is fine, but I need some sort of semi-accurate record of that time.

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October 11, 1987

There are so many things and feelings that I feel the need to record for my own self. Time has a way of erasing and dulling even very painful and acute feelings. For some reason I feel I should record things so that I will have some accurate record of what we went through.

The moment Laura was born and was tiny, I knew something was wrong. My nurses, my OB, the pediatrician, were all saying she was 2-4 weeks early. I knew she was 10 days late and it wasn’t until a week later, when the chromosome study came back, that the doctors could validate that all the characteristics that made her look premature were actually characteristics of her syndrome: Trisomy 18.

That first week is sort of a blur. We woke up, drove to the hospital, stayed all day, drove home. We went to the cafeteria and saw residents laughing at a table nearby. Mark commented that life still goes on for others while ours had come to a screeching halt.

Our feelings were so sad and bleak. At this point I wondered if life could ever be happy again. In retrospect that seems ridiculous, but at the time we couldn’t’ see any further than the next day.

Waiting for the chromosome study on Friday was frightening. We expected the geneticist to have an answer by then. He wouldn’t give us a clue as to what it might show. Again, in retrospect, we should have known it was a probability of chromosome abnormalities, since they were running the test. After assimilating this, I think maybe on Saturday I had accepted the fact that it was going to be bad news.

Saturday the doctor and resident met with us and told us the results of the study. The study wasn’t complete, but they were fairly sure of the diagnosis: an extra chromosome on the 18th pair — trisomy 18. Brain damage, heart defect, possibly lots of other things. The sun was pouring into the room, we were sitting there with them telling us our baby would die within six months; trying to figure a plan — surgery? what? I remember trying to hold back the tears so we could finish our conversation, decide on what course to take with this badly defective baby that had no hope for life; about the siblings involved, the surgery involved.

We decided on surgery for Monday morning. Hopefully we could control the heart failure and get her home. The neonatologist guide us in this effort. He felt if we could get her home and let our kids stimulate her, she could develop as much as was possible with her ability. That seemed like a reasonably practical and ethical course to take.

On Monday we held Laura most of the day in the parents’ room. We had a run-in with the cardiologist who questioned our “no code.” He didn’t even know the baby he was getting ready to operate on had trisomy 18 syndrome. He almost attacked us until I told him about all her problems. He backed down quickly and offered an apology.

I was a wreck.

We couldn’t believe so large a misunderstanding could have occurred. She made it off the ventilator Tuesday morning but started having real problems Tuesday afternoon. She was dying. We had to decide to re-ventilate her. The doctors made it very easy though, saying that after two days she would either live on her own or die.

I was glad for their decisiveness. I was afraid we might get into a situation where she would be kept alive indefinitely on a respirator. For the next two days I sat by her in intensive care. A beautiful 18 month old boy was beside her, in a coma, suspected child abuse.

On the other side was a beautiful 5 week old girl who had had heart surgery. As I stood over Laura on Thursday night, Dr. Ashcroft came by and told me “you can’t breathe for her, she has to do it on her own.” I cried as I looked at her and said, “I would if I could.”

We were able to hold her about 10 minutes each evening. It was a big ordeal to get some of the monitors off so we could hold her. Thursday morning I had told the kids he might die on Friday. I asked them, “Would you rather come home if you were Laura, or would you want to go to heaven and live with God?” Jonathan said he would rather go to heaven and live with God, Kathryn said she would want to come home. Thursday night Kathryn prayed, “Dear God, please let Laura come home and have good friends like I do.”

Friday morning was a beautiful day. As we drove to the hospital we were both ready for her to die when they took her off the respirator. The nurses, doctor, and technicians expected her to die then. They moved us into a room so we could be by ourselves. We took our tape, “A Mighty Fortress” by Steve Green and A Capella’s “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” Those words became so real: “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also.”

“Let his little child come in.”

We were holding our baby as her heart rate dropped and dropped. By late afternoon she was still alive. I asked the neonatologist to please assess our situation. The neonatologist, his resident, the heart surgeon and the nurse went out in the hall. They came back in and told us we could go home. All day were expecting her to die and I kept thinking of Kathryn’s sweet prayer. While I was at peace with her dying that day, I knew that Kathryn had begged God to let her come home.

They ordered portable oxygen and got us ready to go home. I’ve never been so happy. Even if she died on the way home that would be OK. A friend came to the hospital and drove home with us. Holly helped us out of the hospital. When we got home, we found Mark’s mom, Jay and Shelly and their kids, and our kids.

They were all on our bed wanting to hold her. Three huge oxygen tanks were bubbling in our bedroom. Saturday I called the Burkets, the Pryors, and the Thomassons. They all come over and held her. The Burkets brought 18 hamburgers. It was a party!

We were so happy. Saturday night we took her to Jim and Sandy’s for another party. Everyone was there — all the cousins. We knew this would be a one-time thing and we were glad for the opportunity. There was no reason to be nervous or afraid. We knew she was going to die.

Sunday, neighbors came over. I took my first nap in three weeks. A four-hour nap. That evening the Brackens came over. We were all dead tired. We sat on the bed and visited. Them with their healthy baby, our baby dying. Monday, Mark went to work. That evening he told the kids to hold her and tell her goodbye because she probably wouldn’t live that night.

She died about 2am Tuesday morning in my arms.

We called the funeral home and then waited about two hours for them to come. I read Catherine Marshall’s account of her husbands death. Mark listened to worship music. We talked about what we had been through and how it had ended. It was really a pleasant ending — no struggle for life. We were with her. I was so glad she didn’t die in the hospital.

Jonathan got up and wanted to go to school. It was his 2nd day of first grade. We had to go to the hospital and sign Laura’s birth certificate — how ironic. I had to get a Rhogam shot. No one at the doctor’s office even asked about the baby.

Then we made funeral arrangements.

As a 33-year old it seemed unreal making funeral arrangements. I did what I always said I wanted to do — got the cheapest casket. I couldn’t stand the thought of throwing away money to preserve a dead body. She wasn’t in that body anymore.

Tuesday evening Mark and I selected songs and Scriptures. We wanted every word to be exactly what we wanted. Words that would minister to us. The “protocol” of funerals seemed totally irrelevant. It was just for us and we wanted to do things exactly like we wanted them. Hymns and Scripture, that was all. No big black cars, we set up the chairs ourselves and had no tent to separate us from others.

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Of Tulips and Death, part 1

When Your Baby Dies, part 2

“Malformed Babies” and Dust, part 3

Waiting, part 4

Still Waiting, part 5

Romans 8:28 and C.S. Lewis, part 6

The High Cost of Growing, part 7

Power in Praise & Corrie ten Boom, part 8

Power in Praise & Corrie ten Boom | A Mother’s Journey, part 8

April 12, 1988

Went to a Bible study today. A friend spoke on Power In Praise. I needed to hear it today. I haven’t praised God for the present situation. In fact, I’ve been pretty grumbly. 1) The enforced sedentary lifestyle, 2) the difficult pregnancy, 3) my bad back, 4) my weight.

I know that even these must be put into thanks. God loves me and has brought me to this point. God has allowed these difficulties in my life. Here are the last two pages from The Hiding Place.

[What follows is a devotional that was included at the end of Corrie ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place, with my mom’s notes added in. — Jonathan]

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God wills us to give thanks. Our praise and gratitude in some mysterious way opens the door for Him to bless us as He wishes. On the lines below write down the five things for which you are currently most grateful.

  1. Mark
  2. Jonathan
  3. Kathryn
  4. Home
  5. Good job

Several times a day pause to thank God for these blessing; watch your sense of the goodness and love in the world—and especially of His love—grow accordingly.

On these lines, note five present situations for which you are most definitely not grateful:

  1. My weight
  2. Difficult pregnancy
  3. Enforced sedentary lifestyle
  4. Going through a pregnancy and not having a baby

Now set yourself the discipline of giving thanks daily for these things as well. See how God is able to use your changed attitude to change facts.

The High Cost of Growing | A Mother’s Journey, part 7

April 1, 1988

I am now 26 1/2 weeks pregnant — 13 1/2 weeks to go. I have not done too well with the waiting.

Today I read The High Cost of Growing by Joyce Landorf and here are some things she says about being in “God’s waiting room.”

[NOTE: It’s unclear whether the following entries are direct quotes from Landorf or summaries.]

Christian growth takes place during the still, quiet times of waiting.

God’s waiting room is the most tiresome and unpleasant place in our Christian experience. We sing “Have thine own way Lord. Mold me and make me after they will, while I am waiting, yielded and still.”

  1. Waiting never comes easily or automatically. Our attitude toward it will determine our demise or our development.
  2. The waiting process is used by God to shove us into a position of trust and dependence on him.

Perhaps there’s no way to come to a full position of trust except through the “waiting room” experience. For example, Noah, Job, Abraham, Joseph, Moses

We seem to show signs of irritability if our lives are narrowed down to a waiting room period, or a day is intellectually limited by mundane chores. Our Father knew we would need quiet, ordinary, even boring days to put our confidence and trust in him.

We must begin to see the times of waiting for what they really are: long-term growth.

Habakkuk 1:2-4 and 2:2-4.

  • We have to wait in silence (not time to run here and there telling our tales of woes.) Be still and know that God is God, sovereign and sufficient for our ability to continue.
  • We have to blindly trust God before we see results or successful conclusions.
  • We have to understand that no matter how dark the picture, God will still be in control.

Habakkuk 3:17

God can give you contentment in your waiting room, period. Don’t be discouraged.

Philippians 1:6 is the promise to:

  1. Help us to grow.
  2. Help us to endure.
  3. Help us to not self-destruct in times of stress.

O Lord, thank you for all these different ways of growing. Help us to learn our lessons well, for when we are obedient to you, our 1) joy knows no boundaries, 2) our love sets no limits, and 3) wisdom ever broadens.

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All these thoughts are very helpful to me. I am trying everyday to “wait on the Lord.” and to “be content in the state I’m in.” This is not easy for me. I am very overweight and can neither diet nor exercise.

I love to walk but it hurts my body and I fear going into early labor if I do anything too strenuous. So every time I look in the mirror it is almost with disgust.

And yet how would I feel if I weren’t pregnant? Help me to enjoy the beauty of nature as it prepares a body for a baby.

The movements of the baby are so active and are a real comfort to me. I pray for encouragement everyday. My anxiety comes and goes like the tide. It’s gone, then it’s back.

Mark is so steady in his feelings of safety and security for our family. I’m so thankful for it. I want to grow in this time of waiting… waiting for the physical pain of pregnancy to end, waiting for this special baby that God promised me. I want to be learning to BE CONTENT in this present state.

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Of Tulips and Death, part 1

When Your Baby Dies, part 2

“Malformed Babies” and Dust, part 3

Waiting, part 4

Still Waiting, part 5

Romans 8:28 and C.S. Lewis, part 6

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Romans 8:28 and C.S. Lewis | A Mother’s Journey, part 6

February 22, 1988

I was so angered today by a lady who said, “See, everything has worked out fine.”

With all my heart I believe that God will work out everything and I believe Romans 8:28, but how dare someone with three children and a healthy grandchild say that to me!!

She said it to me New Year’s eve and I sobbed all the way home. Christmas had been so hard but we were almost through the season when she said it. I couldn’t believe the tears and anger that welled up inside me so immediately.

C.S. Lewis, in a Grief Observed writes about a mother mourning the death of her child. The verses used to comfort, comfort only the “spirit within her.”

“But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her baby on her knee, or bathe her, or tell her a story, or plan for her future or see her grandchild.”

That physical separation, those empty, aching arms are for a body that no longer exists. A body that has no life. But my arms are still wanting, aching for that sweet smell and feel and sound of a newborn.

I don’t feel like I will fully be able to let go of all my grief for Laura until I have a baby in my arms. It would literally kill me to grieve that powerfully I’m afraid.

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Of Tulips and Death, part 1

When Your Baby Dies, part 2

“Malformed Babies” and Dust, part 3

Waiting, part 4

Still Waiting, part 5

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Still Waiting | A Mother’s Journey, part 5

February 7, 1988

I’m still waiting. The Holy Spirit has given me two scriptures in times of dark despair. One from 2 Corinthians 1 — “The answer is yes.” And one from Psalms — “Weeping shall last for a night but joy will come in the morning.”

Both verses had to be looked up. I didn’t know where there were. They were really just given to me. I’ve been trying to learn, “do not fear.” I’m so human as I vacillate between courage and utter despair.

I’m 18 and 1/2 weeks pregnant. I can feel the baby move. I’m getting larger everyday, and we still haven’t told anyone. We will have to soon. I feel like this is one big exercise in faith. When you exercise everyday you get stronger, you get more endurance. I hope that’s the way with faith — “tribulation works patience; and patience experience; and experience hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)

These truths are becoming more real — thank heavens! I want to know God’s perfect peace and to rest in it. I want my churned up feelings to be calm and confident in God’s ability to love, care for, provide for, and nurture me. I need to know that God is working his will in me for my good — “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

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Of Tulips and Death, part 1

When Your Baby Dies, part 2

“Malformed Babies” and Dust, part 3

Waiting, part 4