February 28, 2011

My Car

By Kaci Goodrich Uipi

People always tell me how strong I am. I hear it all the time. Even a sister in our ward mentioned it in her testimony last month...at the pulpit. Yes, this did make me just a little uncomfortable. I don't want people to think that about me...more so, I don't want people to think that I think that about me. I understand why they are saying it, but it's hardly true, at least to me, anyway.

To me, I'm just a normal person living my life...and then BOOM, something bad happens. However, bad things happen to people all the time. Yes, you could say that what happened to me is a little bit bigger than the average "bad thing", but I still don't consider my self "so strong".

While we were in the hospital for 3 weeks, everyone would call us or stop by and say, "You two are so strong, I don't know how you do it!" At the funeral, people would say, "You both are so strong, I don't know how you do it!" Well, let me tell you my secret: my car.

My car has become my safe place. My sanctuary. I get inside my car, put my sunglasses on, cover my mouth with one hand (this is in case someone sees me and wonders why my mouth is wide open), and let it all out. I now know what it means to "wail", and I don't say that boastfully.

A perfect example of this happened the other day as I went to Goodyear to help my sister. It was late morning. The same time I used to drive down that exact same freeway every day to be with Joshua in the PICU. As soon as I started approaching the exit for the hospital, it hit me...Joshua's not there. I was overcome with emotions of sadness and despair. However, it was okay...I was safe inside my car! Oh how I love my car! I don't even drive a nice car, but it doesn't matter... That morning, I was able to let it all out, and hold nothing back.

I started wishing he was still in that hospital. Yes, even hooked up to all those ugly machines and being poked only a hundred times each day. I wanted him to be there still, because if he was, then I could at least go and see him, hold his hand, and maybe dream of the one day we would be able to take him home again and finally get back to our "normal life".

After I got a little further down the freeway, my crying naturally slowed down, and I was able to think about what just happened. "He's not in that hospital. It's over. He's gone, and I won't ever be able to find him in that hospital ever again," I told myself.

It's said that tears shed during grieving are different than regular tears. I believe they are more cleansing, and to some people (especially women), are almost an essential part of the grieving process.

If being "strong" means not crying in front of people, then so be it. As for me, I prefer my car anyway.

Misconception of the ungrieving world: "Not crying means you are super strong." If you don't ever see the griever cry, this doesn't mean they aren't suffering or struggling. Most people wish to grieve extremely private...crawling in their bed under their covers, or in their closest with their door shut. It's not a really bad thing to say, "you are so strong", but please don't think this because you haven't seen them sad. Almost every day I put on a "face" to almost every person I'm around. They would never know the heartache and sick feeling I have unless I told them. And to be honest, I don't care to tell 99% of them.

February 26, 2011

My Story

By Kaci Goodrich Uipi

Over and over in my mind I play out the entire story. I start at the beginning. I finish at the end. It starts with giving birth, and ends with me holding a little baby boy that has changed so much from the way I would like to remember him.

For those of you who don't know my story, I will share it with you...

I found out I was pregnant in the beginning of last year. Just like anybody else, I was excited and overwhelmed all at the same time. With the exception of having morning sickness for over half of my pregnancy, everything else was completely normal. I went into labor 5 days early, making the birth date 10-10-10! I chose to have my baby fully natural and had a wonderful labor and delivery experience.

The only setback to our beautiful story thus far, is that our Little Joshua swallowed meconium at birth. Because of this, he was taken to the nursery where he could be closely monitored. While there, he experienced apnea that was longer than usual for a newborn. Therefore, he was then taken to the NICU. We heard different things in the NICU, but the doctor ended up diagnosing him with having "Wet Lung", and released him after a few days.

Finally then, we got to bring our perfect little baby home, anxious and ready to start our new life. We had been home only about 6 short days, when I noticed Baby Joshua felt extremely hot early one morning as I got ready to feed him. Knowing that a fever was very dangerous for a newborn, immediately I called our doctor's office. They told us to take him to the ER as soon as possible. Stressed, but calm that everything would be okay, we took him straight back to St. Joe's, where we had just been the week prior. I was sure they would tell us that we were over-reacting, give him some baby Tylenol, and let us be on our way... God had other plans.

From then on, Joshua only got sicker and sicker. After spending 2 nights in the Pediatric Ward, we felt like our baby was not receiving the care he needed. At this point, we just knew that he had something serious...we could feel it deep down inside. We talked about transferring to Phoenix Children's Hospital, but the doctor assured us that it really wouldn't matter, since all of the specialists were the same. She then asked if we would like to move up to the PICU. We both happily agreed.

Within a few short hours of being transferred to the PICU, our little baby was put on a ventilator, also known as "life support". All that the doctors knew was that he had some type of pneumonia... but which kind, and how he got it, was beyond their imagination.

They started running test after test: daily x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, bronchoscopies, ultrasounds, and eventually even a biopsy of his lung, when nothing else seemed to give answers as to why he was only getting worse. One day the doctor even told us he believed our baby had cancer.

Finally, they thought they found it...the real cause to his severe pneumonia. They discovered candida yeast growing in his lungs, and began treatment immediately. At this time, we had already been there for 2 weeks, and doctors told us it would be at least 3 to 4 additional weeks before we could go home. We were willing to wait.

However, the anticipated recovery never came. It seemed as if the medicine wasn't working. This threw doctors for yet another loop. "Maybe there is something wrong with his immune system", doctors started telling us. They called in another specialist who did 4 more tests. One of which, was for an incredibly rare genetic disorder called Chronic Granulomatous Disease.

Four days later, the doctor told us the test had indeed come back positive for CGD. This was the underlining cause as to why he was not able to fight the yeast infection that had attacked his lungs. How or when he aspirated yeast? We will never know.

By this time, Joshua had become so critically ill that doctors told us his chance of survival was only around 5%. Doctors had upped the dosage of every possible medicine, and even added another breathing machine for more support. His entire body was shutting down, and we knew that at any moment his heart could stop. We had already sat down with doctors to discuss what we would do in case this actually happened.

The next morning, Salesi called to tell me that the nurse wanted both of us at the hospital ASAP. I paced my house back and forth, knowing deep down inside what lay ahead. "This is it, the time has come", I thought. It's very hard to express all of the emotions I then felt rush through my body. Even though I was scared, there seemed to be a sacred feeling surround me. I'm sure there were angels with me, just like there were angels with Joshua ready to escort him to his new home.

I had already made my mind up before we got to the hospital that it was time to let him go. I knew he had suffered enough, and wasn't going to get better. Salesi, on the other hand, had a much harder time with this decision and reality.

We chose to take turns holding him in the rocking chair, still with all of the equipment hooked up and turned on. Our sweet little boy had changed immensely from the little baby we brought into the hospital 3 weeks earlier. His entire body was puffy and very stiff, retaining all liquid. Even the back of his head was swelling rapidly. After a few hours of rocking and singing to our precious son I then took my turn of holding him one last time, as the nurses unplugged all of the equipment that was keeping him alive. He died just a few minutes later.

It's still very hard for me to look at the pictures we took of Joshua's last day on this Earth. I don't wish to remember my son like that. However, looking at those pictures sometimes helps me to understand just what God was thinking when he gave me this trial: I'm much braver than I thought I was. Never would I have ever imagined that I could hold my little baby in my arms and watch him die, but on that day, I was able to do just that.

Misconception of the ungrieving world: "Everyone wants to talk about their story." This isn't always true. Some people like to talk a lot about details in the beginning, shortly after their loved one has died. This is probably because they are still in a state of numbness. Even though it has now been more than 4 months since Joshua passed, I still have days when talking about his story or even his diagnosis is difficult. I will always try to fight back tears with anyone, other than my husband, who talks to me about Joshua. It also depends on the type of loss and cause of death. Some people might never wish to think about how it happened ever again, but only mention it by using the word, "accident". My best advice is to always be extremely sensitive to anyone who has ever lost a child. Really, this means for the rest of time, since grief is something that is always there, and will come and go like waves of the sea.

February 24, 2011

This Is My Life

By Kaci Goodrich Uipi

I remember back, about a week after Joshua past away, I was walking out to the car to go to church. I was walking very slowly. Not because we had a lot of time to get there, but because it was hard for me to get one foot in front of the other. Things were now starting to sink it. "My son died," I thought. "My son is dead", I thought some more. "All I have to do is endure and I will be okay. Once I get through Sunday School, it will be Relief Society. I'm not particularly fond of Relief Society... so this might be the tough one... but then it will be Sacrament Meeting, and then it will be time to go home." The next day as I got on the computer to check my email I thought, "I can endure... I can endure each day until this hard thing is over and then I can get on with my life." Boy was I wrong. Horribly wrong.

Enduring isn't about trying to rush through hard things and get them over with so we can get on with our lives. Enduring is about living in the here and now. Accepting that trials will always be a part of our lives. The death of my son will always be a part of my life. Trials will always be a part of my life. This is now my life.

I also realized that enduring life isn't just about putting one foot in front of the other and telling yourself that you can get through one more meeting, but it's about enjoying life, the here and now. Life is short, too short. The death of our loved ones should be a constant reminder of the briefness of this earthly journey.

An example of this is what I thought about as Salesi and I drove home from our anniversary date last night. As we drove down the freeway, I thought to myself..."We could be hit by a car right now and both be completely gone. Our death plus our son's death would swipe our family off this Earth. There would be no more of us, our little family." This might sound morbid to some, but for me, it helped get a sense of just how short our lives really are. None of us know the exact time of when our Earthly Life is over, but I think it's fair to say, that in less than 100 years, we will all be gone.

"Some think of enduring to the end of simply suffering through challenges. It is so much more than that--It is the process of coming unto Christ, and being perfected in Him". This is a quote by Joseph B. Worthlin. I really like this, and it totally hits the nail head on. Since the passing of my son, there are many days when I find myself involved in deep meditation. I ponder the purpose of my life, the purpose of my son's life, and how it all fits together. I contemplate our missions, and the plan that was revealed to us before we even came here to Earth.

When life is hard, it seems as if even doing the smallest things are almost impossible. Even kneeling down to say a prayer feels like it would require way too too much effort. If I force myself to pray, however, I usually always feel better. It seems as if I'm immediately blessed with strength beyond my own. This strength can only come from a loving Father in Heaven who knows us perfectly, and a Savior who has already felt everything and anything we could possibly ever feel.

As I do the little things daily, (read, pray, and obey) it seems as if the Holy Ghost can teach me what I need to know. Answers are poured into my mind to some of my hardest questions. I have a greater desire to do good, and my desire to do evil lessens. This must be the real meaning of enduring to the end and coming unto Christ.

Misconception of the ungrieving world: "Life only gets better and easier as time goes on". This might be true in the grand scheme of things, but right after a serious loss, life indeed only gets worse for some time. One big loss causes smaller losses, and then you have even more on your plate than you did before. It takes a while for everything to really penetrate. Feelings of doubt, misbelief, guilt, anger, jealousy, and fear take a while to sink in and this easily causes other issues with relationships, jobs, and self image.

February 22, 2011

No I Don't Want To Hold Your Baby

By Kaci Goodrich Uipi
At our Annual Ward Chili Cook-off a couple of weeks ago, Salesi asked me something that will forever stay in my mind, "You wanna hold the baby?" I yelled back with a dirty look on my face, "What? No, of course I don't want to hold the baby! Are you out of your mind! Why would you ask me that!?" He told me that he "felt bad" for a sister in our ward who was sitting all by herself with her newborn. I thought to myself, "Do you not feel bad for your wife who is without a newborn?" Within a few minutes, however, there were plenty of eager baby-lovers lining up to hold the infant.

Not long ago, I remember my sister telling me of a friend who loves to hold babies that are the same age of her infant who passed away. Well that is her, and she's not me. Everyone grieves differently. Not only do I not care to hold little babies, but I don't care to have much to do with expectant mothers either. Seeing little babies and pregnant women give me a very sick feeling and an awful pain in my stomach. This is not always the case, but usually it is. This makes it very hard when 2 of my sisters are pregnant right now. One of which, will be having her baby any day. I haven't said anything to her, but I hope that she's not planning on that congratulations call from me when her new baby arrives.

I know some of you might be thinking that I sound a little angry and jealous. Well you're absolutely right. Anger is one of the main components of the grieving process. Does it make me angry to see pictures on facebook of friends holding their new babies? Yes. Does it make me jealous to hear about a friend who just found out she is pregnant? Yes. Will I avoid you if you have a little baby? Sadly, the answer is yes.

Today I was faced with a dilemma. I had been invited to a baby shower for a friend. I knew that I had 3 options: Go and pretend like I was super thrilled for her to have a new baby boy; Not go and come up with a good lie; Or not go and tell the truth. If I went, I knew I would have to not only paste on my smile but also make lots of oohs and awes. This might make me feel like vomiting. If I chose to lie, however, I would feel bad about it. If I told the truth, I would make my friend feel bad about it. I knew I didn't want to take away from her happiness of having a new baby. You see, I don't want to be angry and jealous. I pray that these horrible feelings will leave me very soon, but in the mean time, I have to be careful so that I don't cause more pain to my very broken heart.

After much thinking and praying about this recent baby shower situation, I called a friend for one last piece of advice. She also happens to be a part of this very crappy club. She said that I can't keep "picking at my scab" or it will never heal! A baby shower just isn't the place for me right now, and might not be the place for me for a very long time.

Misconception of the ungrieving world: "If you lose a baby, you will find peace and joy in holding someone else's baby." This might be true for some, but not all. Remember, everyone grieves differently! Therefore, it is so important to be sensitive around those who have just lost someone, especially a baby. If at all possible, don't flaunt your pregnant belly or bring your baby with you to the same places where she will be, unless you absolutely have to. If you are ever unsure that you might be doing something that's causing pain to the grieving mother, ask her. I know that I really appreciate emails or private messages on facebook. That way, I can be completely honest and not have to worry about emotions and awkward immediate responses getting in the way. It gives the 2 parties time to think and ponder about how to say things the best.

February 12, 2011

I Understand

By Kaci Goodrich Uipi

During the midst of deep despair and heartache, we long for someone's understanding. Anyone's. What we don't long for, is understanding of those who really don't understand. Please let me explain.

Not long ago, I visited with a friend. Quickly the topic became one regarding Joshua. She told me that she understood what I was going through because she cried immensely when she heard the news of his passing. I wasn't sure how to respond to this. Honestly I was a little stumped, thinking my ears might need a check-up. Astonished that someone would say that to me, I quickly said the only thing I could get out of my dumb-founded mouth: "I don't think I could ever say to someone 'I understand', because everyone's situation is so different."

Not only was her situation different, but it was completely opposite I would have to say. You see, instead of her baby being dead, her baby (born only a month before Joshua) was alive, healthy, and sleeping on the very same floor where I placed my feet.

If there's one thing I've noticed with being a grieving parent, it's that everyone else around you believes that they themselves need time to grieve as well. I'm not saying that my friends should show no sign of sadness, but let's remember just whose loss it is, shall we.

Many people will come to your house only to fill the air with words, and nothing else. And in most cases (but not all), this does no good for the griever. In the beginning, they come over with sad looks on their faces and tears in their eyes in hopes that you will cry with them. It's almost as if you, the griever, is now the comforter. I've been in this circumstance countless times as my well-meaning sister will call me, obviously having been crying, wanting to talk with me about Joshua. However, whenever she happens to call me, I'm just not in the mood to cry. If I really was in the mood to cry over my loss, I would hang up the phone, lock my doors, and climb into bed where I could be alone.

Misconception of the ungrieving world: "If you say I understand to someone who has just suffered a serious loss, this will make them feel much better." Reality check: There is no possible way that you could understand how they are feeling, since you have never experienced that type of loss. Even if you have lost a child, please remember that every person's situation is individual.

Another tip for the ungrieving: If you are to visit someone who is experiencing a terrible loss, bring them food or a meal that they might need; Give them money to help with funeral/hospital expenses; Offer to wash their car or scrub their toilet; Take young children to a park for a few hours! I personally couldn't stand most of the visits we got right after Joshua died! We were so busy trying to plan the funeral, that having people over constantly to visit with us, was so NOT helpful! I really appreciated a sister in our ward who called me beforehand to ask when a good time would be to come and visit. I also appreciated people who came by to just drop off food or flowers but not stay longer than a few minutes. My phone rang continually the 3 days after he passed away, and I tried to tell people to please come the following week (after the funeral) but most people didn't listen! Whatever you do, however, just DO SOMETHING, but please don't say "I Understand"!

February 11, 2011

The Co-Sleeper

By Kaci Goodrich Uipi

Last night as I walked around my bed to get into it to go to sleep, I glanced over at the space between my dresser and armoire. This space is now used for the extra pillows from our bed, and occasionally the junk that we want to get out of our living room. What used to be in this space, however, was the little crib we used to put Joshua in for bedtime.

When my sister came to visit last Summer, she brought some baby stuff for me that she didn't need anymore. Some of which were used-items that I myself had given her the previous year, so you can only imagine the quality of these items... or lack of. Probably the only nice thing that I was excited about getting to use was the co-sleeper. She mentioned to me that it had already been used by her 2 kids, and even a cousin, but it still looked pretty good to me. It wasn't long before I asked Salesi to set it up in our bedroom. I wanted to make sure it worked and fit in the space I had chosen. After Salesi set it up, I filled the bottom with diapers and tried to figure out how to make the "mattress" more comfortable for a little baby. I then waited patiently a couple more months before I could place a real baby in it to test it out.

When we brought home our 3 day-old Joshua Wednesday evening from the hospital, I still wasn't sure if the co-sleeper would be "co-zy" enough for him. I put him in pajamas, and instead placed him in the little swing we had set up in our living room. Immediately he fell asleep. Later that evening as it became dark, I knew I needed to move him into our room and try out the co-sleeper. To me, however, it just looked so hard and un-welcoming for an infant. Salesi folded an extra blanket and placed it in the co-sleeper to add more padding. This seemed to be the answer. I don't remember exactly how Baby Joshua slept his first night in his new home, but I believe he did pretty well, only waking up a couple of times to eat and then drifting right back to sleep.

From that night on, Salesi's on-going project was to make the co-sleeper as comfortable as he could for Baby Joshua. Every time I gently put Joshua down to sleep, (hoping he wouldn't wake up) I noticed something different about the co-sleeper. Usually there was a "nest" made up of rolled towels and blankets. Salesi kept telling me, "He needs to feel like he is with someone... if he feels all alone in his crib, he won't sleep!" I soon realized that this actually was true. Some nights if I only but kept my hand on his little chest after I lay him down, he continued to sleep peacefully. Another trick that Salesi had, was to make sure his little NICU friend was with him at all times. He liked to place him barely over his head so Joshua could feel that someone was with him, even if that someone was a beany baby bear.

Now that little crib, the co-sleeper, is gone. I left it up for as long as I could, but I knew the day would come when my sister needed it back. Even when I cleaned up most everything else that belonged to Joshua, I left the co-sleeper exactly where we had it: between the dresser and armoire. A couple of weeks following his death, and even after that, I attempted to remove the ducky blanket from the co-sleeper and put it away... but I just couldn't do it. Sure enough, my sister eventually did ask to have the co-sleeper back and then I was "forced" to put away that little ducky blanket with Joshua's scent. To me, it was slightly a painful request, asking to get rid of the little bed where Joshua slept each night. I knew that I couldn't fight it, and needed to hand it over.

Misconception of the ungrieving world: "People will eventually get over their loss, and move on with life." Yes, life does go on, but it seems at times, it goes on without us. There are days when time stands still, as we can only remember the passing of our loved one. We pay no attention to the day, the time, or month. In the deep and dark moments, we only feel the pain, and nothing else. We will never "get over" our loss, but hopefully learn to adjust our life to it. The pain will always be there, but will just come less frequent, and hopefully not as strong. Never assume when or if a grieving person is over their loss. Never assume it's the right time to take down the co-sleeper.