Thursday, September 17, 2015

One Year Later


     I sit here, next to Alex, on the eve of what would have been Kaitlyn's second birthday. So much has happened in the last year, in the last two years, that it seems surreal.

     Kiera is 11 months old today. I have been thinking for the last year that I had wished I had requested to wait just one additional hour when she was delivered so that the girls would have been exactly 13 months apart, but today I am grateful that I didn't. I'm grateful that today was Kiera's day, and tomorrow will be Kaitlyn's.
      This year is so different from last year. Last year, all I was focused on was getting through Kaitlyn's birthday so that I could focus on my last month of pregnancy with Kiera. This year, I feel like time has slowed down and I can just breathe. Breathe into the loss, breathe into the grief.
       I feel like, for the most part, I have done well separating the girls in my mind. By that, I mean that I don't mourn the loss of Kaitlyn every time Kiera hits a milestone. Then again, there are days that knock my breath away. It usually comes at the most unsuspecting time, but I can feel the air leave the room. Most of the time it's when I'm by myself, and I will just remember strange things, like the sound of the silence as she was lifted from my body, or the way that Alex helped me dry off after my first shower and how he lovingly patted my fresh wound dry.
      We moved in May. God blessed us with the means to have a bigger home with room to expand our family again in the future. But today, I am reminded of our old house and how I cried over the nursery when we decided to leave. That was the only room, the only house, that will know the heart beats of both my babies. I remember watching Alex paint the accent wall in that room, and put together the rocker and the crib before he left to go to Afghanistan. I remember walking in on him after her we got home from the hospital, after all our family had taken everything from every other part of the house and put it in the nursery and shut the door so that we wouldn't have to see it the first thing as we walked in to our house baby-less. I remember so many days of sitting in that room and crying my heart out to God as I asked why, as I worked through so many issues and doubts and fears.
     Grace has been a resounding theme over the last year. Every time someone asks me how many kids I have, or if Kiera is our first, I call on grace. It depends on the day how I answer. Sometimes, it is all I can do to not lash out at people who just don't understand that babies die. Life is fragile. Not too long ago, Kiera scared us by having some rapid breathing and we ended up in an ER down the street. In her explanation of what was going on, the doctor said, "Don't worry, your baby's not going to just stop breathing." It was all I could do not tell her that my first baby had died without warning, without reason. I had to breathe, and give grace.

       Kaitlyn's urn still sits on my bedside. To be honest, I don't look at it often, and I think that is okay for me. I don't feel the need to stare at it everyday, or talk to it like she's here. Tomorrow will be different, but I know that my daughter is with Jesus and the remnants of her body are not her soul. I wrote once about how separation from God is essentially death, and how we are all born dead until we decide to walk with Jesus. I go back to that thought quite often and remind myself that Kaitlyn isn't gone, or even really dead in the sense of that word. "For the wages of sin is death..." The cost of our sin is death, separation from God. And if separation from God is death, than life is found in His presence.

       And for this, as a closing thought, on the eve of my precious daughter's second birthday, I am again reminded of the glory of the Word and how it is a living, breathing thing. The Easter story means something completely different than it use to on the other side of infant death. In the story, when the women went to the tomb to dress Jesus' body in oils they found the stone rolls away and his body gone. It was then that the angels that had appeared at the tomb asked them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" (Luke 24:5)

      That, my friends, is the freedom in Christ. Because through His grace and mercy, Kaitlyn truly lives.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


      I knew when I started writing this blog that it wasn't suppose to go on indefinitely, and I knew that once we had our second child my grief would change again (as it did). Very early on, I decided to stop writing this blog as it stands once we had a healthy child, but I had no idea that it would be one day short of 13 months to the day after we lost Kaitlyn.

      There is a movie that I have loved for a very long time that came out in 2000 called Gladiator, starring Russel Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix. The story line is filled with lots of blood and intrigue, and if you rented it today you would probably call it a "dude" movie.
      At the beginning of the movie, the main character is out fighting a battle and the corrupt Emperor of Rome has his wife and child killed (bear with me on this). Throughout the whole movie, you watch his character go through his grief in different stages and share his story with certain key people along his journey to free himself from the slavery of being a gladiator.
       Spoiler alert: at the very end of the movie, the Gladiator dies. His death scene is one of the most amazing cinematic pictures that I think I have ever seen. As he lays bleeding out in the middle of an arena, his spirit is crossing over to the other side by walking slowly through a field of wheat that looks just like his home where his family was murdered. As he continues to walk to the fields, the wind blowing the grains to make waves on the hills in front of him, he finally reaches the end of a dirt pathway where his wife and child are waiting at the other end. His son starts sprinting towards his father in joyful recognition.
       I know that is what Heaven will be like when we get there. I know that one day, when my parents die, and when Alex dies, and when I die, we will be greeted by the most beautiful girl to ever leave this planet early. I know that she will run to us in recognition, taking us by the hand anxious to show us around Heaven.
       Because I put my faith in Jesus Christ, I know that I will be reunited with her. It is the promise of salvation.

      The final scene in the movie Gladiator shows one of the key characters, a fellow gladiator and friend of Russell Crowe's, takes the small wooden figures of the Gladiator's family and creates a tiny grave for them to be buried in. As he placed the dirt over the figures, he looks to the sky and says with certainty, "I will see you again." A slow smile comes across his face as he continues, "But not yet..." and the final words of the movie are said in a whisper, "Not yet."

Oct. 17th (Part III)


     As we wheeled back to the OR, it was hard not to have flashbacks to when we had Kaitlyn. I'm fairly sure that we went into a different room, but the rooms are all set up nearly identically so it was hard to tell.
     If there is one thing I regret about our birth, it is that I never asked Alex how he felt about delivering at the same hospital. I was so determined to have the same staff at the same hospital deliver us, I never stopped to consider that Alex might not want that. I watched him as we went into the suite, and I know he was fighting back the same memories that I was.
     Luckily, we had a great team with us that kept us distracted from those memories.

     Gail had put on scrubs and had volunteered to hold me while I got my epidural, the exact same way she had just over a year ago. This time, however, I was able to feel everything that the anesthesiologist was doing since I wasn't overcome with grief. I will admit that from the time they disconnected me from the monitor in pre-op I had to battle the fear that our baby girl would pass away from something. I just wanted her out and screaming, that's all I wanted.

    As everyone was getting set up and I was being prepped for surgery, Alex worked with Larry to hook his phone up to the speaker to play music. He put it on the Disney Pandora station, and we were able to listen to some great Disney classics as well as some newer songs that were popular (quite a few from Frozen, actually).
     Soon, it was time. The blue drape obscured my view from my stomach and I was staring at those same white lights I had been just over a year ago. I waited anxiously for the reflection on the lights to turn red, knowing that meant they had started cutting me to get our little girl out.
     I tried my best not to be anxious. I listened to the music, I prayed, and I recited those verses that had kept me company for so many weeks before this day.

     As Dr. D stepped up to her side of the table to start the delivery, an old but familiar song came on the radio.
Naaaaaaaaaants ingonyama bagithi Baba
Sithi uhm ingonyama
Naaaaaaaaaaaaants ingonyama bagithi Baba
Sithi uhm ingonyama
Siyo nqoba
Ingonyama nengw enambala

From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun
There's more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done

There's far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high
Through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round

It's the Circle of Life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
In the path unwinding 
In the circle 
The circle of Life

      As the song played, we waited for our sweet little girl to come out. This was absolutely the hardest part for me- last time, I was almost numb to the idea of Kaitlyn being born. As awful as it sounds, I didn't care about when she came out because she was already gone. There was no anticipation last time, only dread.
      This time, I was loaded with anticipation and apprehension. I just wanted them to get her out NOW because I knew she was okay and her heart was beating a short while ago. 

Alex and Gail took pictures while we waited.

        Soon, I heard them say that I was going to feel some pressure as they pulled her out. My heart started racing as I waited for that sound we had waited over a year to hear- our daughter's first cry.
        Finally, we heard it, loud and clear.

 Kiera Paige Munoz was born October 17, 2014, at 11:06 PM.

The first time we met.

Our family.

My absolute favorite picture from that night.
Later, the Nanana would give me a frame that had this picture in it
with Kaitlyn's footprints faded in the background. I have it on my nightstand,
right next to Kaitlyn's urn.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Oct. 17th (Part II)


        I have this tendency to not pay close attention to time when I am laying in a hospital bed listening to our baby girl's heart beat. I could lay there for hours just listening to the reassuring thus thus thub of a healthy heart rate.
       "It's been an hour..." Alex said, kind of startling me out of my peaceful zone. "What are they thinking is going on?"
        "I dunno," I shrugged, not really ready for them to come back and tell me that they were going to send me home because everything was fine. I pushed the call button to have the nurse come back and talk to us. Within about 5 minutes, she appeared.
         "So, I've been on the phone with Dr D, showing her all of your strips, and we agree that this is true early labor," she paused. "And we are ready to deliver tonight if you guys are okay with that."
          "Really?!" I said, shocked and excited and nervous. I looked at Alex and I could tell he felt the same way- we were finally going to meet our baby girl. 
           "Yes, really," the nurse giggled at us. "Are you okay with that?"
           "Heck yes!" we both said enthusiastically.
           "So, how long will it take for everyone to get here? I mean, how long will we need to wait until we actually deliver?" I asked anxiously.
            "You'll have your baby in your arms before midnight," she said gleefully.

            We called my parents, who were shocked and excited that the time had come for the little one to make her appearance, but saddened that they wouldn't be there for the delivery. My grandmother was still hanging in there, but there was no way they could leave right that second and come to Dallas. 
             We called Gail, the nurse that had been with us during Kaitlyn's delivery, and she headed up to the hospital. So did Jenny, Kenney (the Nanana), and Becky and Charlie that had been with my parents while we delivered Kaitlyn. Our friends chatted with us while we waited for the staff to get set up. 
              We also texted Carol, the CRNA who had done my anesthesia for Kaitlyn.

Me: Hi Carol! This is Amy Munoz- we are going to have a c section tonight, would you happen tone available?
Carol: I'm so sorry. I have had an adult beverage. I could not come in. Amy, you will do fine. Larry (the anesthesiologist on call) will take excellent care of you. He has been there for 25 years. he brought me on. I am praying for you and your baby. God bless you.

                Even though I was disappointed to not have Carol in the room with us, I laughed out loud at her response that she had an "adult beverage"! 
                The replacement anesthesiologist, Larry, came in to talk to us about the procedure. He could have come in and said, "Blah blah blah" as far as I was concerned because we were just ready to get this sweet one out into the world safely! He did tell us, though, that he always kept a speaker with him for his procedures so that we could listen to music.
                "I have a set c-section playlist if you'd like that," he told us. "Or Dad over there can put his music on and we can listen to something you guys like." Alex got really excited about the idea of getting to chose the music that our little one was born to.

                Soon, it was time for us to go back to the OR. Dr. D came skirting in right about the time they were wheeling me around the room (let me just say- I did my research on all of Dr. B's partners a LONG time before we even talked about having kids, so I was very comfortable with the idea of Dr. D delivering our baby) and I finally was able to put a face to the name. She was a little older than Dr. B, and shorter with dark brown hair instead of blonde. 
                "Are you ready to do this?" she asked us.
                "Beyond ready!" I told her. And off we went to the OR suite.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

October 17th (part 1)


      On Friday morning, after a very busy week with doctors appointments and balloon releases, I went in for my last NST before the weekend. I was really happy I had asked for the extra appointment because it just eased my mind that our baby girl was tolerating my irregular and weak contractions okay.
       Twenty minutes after they hooked me up to the monitor, Dr D's medical assistant came in and took the strip back for analysis. Within about 5 minutes she came back and told me that everything looked good, just one semi-strong contraction but the baby's heart rate was just fine with it.
       I went off to work and covered one of our afternoon cases locally. After my first bout with preterm labor, I discussed with my managers that I needed to stay closer to our hospital instead of driving my regular 30-45 minutes away to cover cases. They had been 100% supportive and it made it so much easier to make my biweekly (or in this case, triweekly) doctor visits.
       The case that afternoon was a bit long, and I ended up finishing up at about 4:30. The nurses I worked with that day were the same group that had come to Kaitlyn's memorial service, and they had been nothing but sweet and supportive the entire pregnancy. This time, one of the male nurses asked me how I was doing with everything and I gave him the update on my most recent NST results.
        "I'm so ready," I told him as I was packing up my stuff. "This baby could come tonight and I would be just fine with it. I'm tired of waiting and all these meds make me anxious."
        "I bet!" he laughed a little bit at my boldness.

        On the way home I called my mom, which is a typical drive home for me. As I was talking to her, I felt a contraction that was pretty strong.
        "Did you drink enough water today?" she asked me.
        "No, I probably didn't. I'll go home and down a big glass and get off my feet and all that jazz," I responded to try to ease her mind. Some people may not know this, but dehydration can actually jump start labor.
          I asked my mom how my grandmother was doing and she let me know that she thought my grandmother probably wouldn't make it through the night.
          My mom has a true gift (which she'll never admit to) with helping people pass away peacefully. Unfortunately, she's had a lot of practice with some really good friends. I remember when I was a senior in high school, one of her good friends had terminal cancer and my mom served almost in a hospice nurse capacity, spending hour after hour at her friend's bedside and helping with the housework.  Weeks before Alex and I got married, another best friend lost her battle with cancer, and weeks before we lost Kaitlyn, my mom lost another friend in a freak accident.

         As soon as I got home, I parked it on the couch with a big glass of water and waited. Ever since I had been put on the medication to make the contractions stop, I had kept a note on my phone so that I could track the break-through contractions to see if I needed to talk to Dr. B about increasing the dose at all.
         While I sat and waited, I started to notice that my list of times for contractions was growing faster than it ever had before. When I first started tracking them that afternoon, they came every 15 minutes, but before it was 5:30, we were down to every 3 minutes. About that time, Alex got home from work. I had given him the short version of what was going on, and as usual he was playing it cool.
          "So, do you want to go see a movie or something?" he asked, gauging my reaction to how serious the situation was.
          "Yeah that's what I want to do..." I replied a little sarcastically. "Maybe some salted down popcorn will make these contractions stop."
          "Hmm, what's the plan then?" he asked.
          "They say that you have to have contractions for an hour before you call the doctor, and I'm 30 minutes in. So let's wait another 30 minutes and see if they go away. Otherwise I'll call the on-call doctor and see what we should do."
           So we waited another 30 minutes, my notes on my phone growing with the times of contractions still 2-3 minutes apart. When my arbitrary deadline approached, I nervously called the number to reach the on-call physician. I left her a message, and was sure to mention Kaitlyn so she would know that I would be a nervous patient when she called me back.
            After about 15 minutes or so, my phone finally rang. It was Dr D, the same doctor that had read my NST that same morning. I repeated what was going on and waited to see what her suggestion was.
           "I'm still not convinced this is true labor, so let's wait another hour and if they don't go away call me back," she said kindly.
           "Okay, no problem," I said, somewhat relieved to have a plan.
           We sat on the couch and waited. Just like clockwork, the contractions kept coming every 3 minutes and I kept charting them on my phone as they came and went.
               As the hour came to a close, Alex asked me what I wanted to do.
              "I want to go to the hospital and make sure she's okay," I said firmly. "I feel her move after every contraction, but I just want to make sure she is tolerating the contractions okay."
               "Okay," he agreed, and we hopped in the car to go to the hospital. I called Dr D and left her a somewhat short message telling her we were going to L&D just to make sure everything was okay, and she called back to let us know that she would meet us there.
                It was about 8:00 when we checked in to L&D, and it felt like de ja vu from two weeks ago. I got hooked up to the monitor and watched and listened to the little one's heart rate, and sighed with relief that there didn't seem to be any fluctuations in her steady rhythm as the contractions continued on.
                "Okay," the nurse said. "We're just going to keep watching you for a little while to see what is going on. I'll be back in about 10 minutes to check on you."

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Pregnancy, Stillbirth, and Infant loss awareness day


October 15th is pregnancy and infant loss awareness day. I didn't even know about this day last year, but had several of my friends participate in the Wave of Light in Kaitlyn's honor. The Wave of Light is where you light a candle from 7-8pm in your time zone so that the light travels the entire globe in memory of the babies lost. This year, Hope Mommies requested that Elyse and I organize a balloon release for the local area Hope Moms to come to in addition to the Wave of Light. We were excited to do so, and we had a pretty good turn out of moms in the area show up.

I filled in some of the extra balloons with names of my friends' babies.

The whole Hope Mommies group. My only sad thought of this picture is that the fabulous Mallie Ray took it- which is only sad because she should have been in it with us. 

     It was neat to see this group come together just because we all have different stories. Some of us only know each other through the Hope Mommies group, others have shared Mallie as a Now I lay Me Down to Sleep photographer, and still others have known each other through the Hope Mommies Bible study that Elyse and Michelle have both lead.

    After the release, we all went down the street to a BBQ place to have a nice dinner and light our candles for the Wave of Light. Elyse had a friend that took the time to write all of our baby's names on the votives that held the candles.
Hope Mommies Candle

I left a candle for Alex at the house. I wasn't sure if he would use it or not, but he sent me a picture 
of this candle lit during the 7-8pm hour.

Me and Elyse, both about 36 weeks pregnant.

The next weeks


      The weekend seemed to creep by: I was trying my best not to worry or overdo it, but I found myself doing constant kick counts and counting down to the time when I would get to go to the doctor to see our little girl on the ultrasound screen.
       Monday finally rolled around and we went in to the office to talk to Dr. B about "the plan". She still wanted us to try to wait until 38 weeks to deliver, which I was less than thrilled about. We decided to switch to biweekly checks, meaning that I would continue having full biophysical profiles including sonograms and an NST, and we added an extra NST each week. It definitely seemed to help my anxiety, and I continued taking the medicine every 6 hours, even setting an alarm on my phone every night for 2 AM to be sure I didn't miss a dose. I was a nervous wreck, and again the only thing I kept referring to were my notecards filled with scriptures.
        Each time I went into have an NST, the story would be the same. Maybe a weak contraction or two, but nothing regular and nothing severe. Baby girl's heart rate was tolerating everything just fine, so we kept waiting, each day inching closer to our goal.

         On the afternoon of the 15th, I had one of my usual biophysical profile appointments complete with a sonogram and some time with Dr. B. My next appointment wasn't until the following Monday, and I expressed to her that it made me a little uncomfortable to go that long without being checked out.
         "I know everything is looking good, but it just feels like that is a really long time without having eyes on her at all. Would you be okay with me coming in for an NST on Friday?" I asked her in the exam room.
          "If that's what you need, that's totally fine. I'm actually off on Friday, but I can see if one of my partners minds reading your test," she replied. "I'll let you know in just a minute who that will be."
           After I gathered my things and opened the door to leave, Dr B let me know that her partner, Dr D, would be available to read my test on Friday. I was pretty relieved that I would be able to come back in without any hiccups.

            The other thing that happened that morning was that my grandmother, who had been struggling with Alzheimers disease and congestive heart failure, had slipped out of her chair in the middle of the night (sleeping sitting straight up was the only way she was able to rest) and broke her hip. It was really hard on my Dad because her Alzheimers had gotten so bad that it would have done more harm than good to put her through a surgery to fix her hip. So instead, the doctors just did their best to make her comfortable. It was only a matter of time before she would leave us to go be with her husband and her Maker in Heaven.