Alex and I were blessed to have been able to spend the last 2 weeks in Maui. It was truly a blessing from God just to be able to go away to Paradise and enjoy each other without the burdens of reality. However, unfortunately reality can't be escaped forever and it hit, hard, once I got home.
There are days that are certainly easier than others. Today is not one of them. Today is the day of would've beens, could've beens, should've beens: Noah's due date. I've had conversations with God during the sleepless nights that have been leading up to today and I felt God compelling me to share Noah's full story from the beginning and with a different perspective.
It all started on February 22, 2019 when I arrived at Peace Arch Hospital for my uterine scope in the morning. Went through all the pre-op activities: weight, changing into a gown, putting on the funny little booties, answering all the questions asked of me by the anesthesiologist, having the nurse start my IV, and then providing a urine sample. Figured it was for a pregnancy test since the surgery can't be done on pregnant women, but I shrugged it off since there was no way I could be pregnant. After all, we had actually tried the month before and had been unsuccessful. This month we actively avoided getting pregnant so there was no way it would have happened.
The nurse came to my hospital bed where I was laying down, talking with my mom while I waited to be taken into surgery. She asked to speak with me alone and if my mom would step out for a moment. I was very confused as to what was happening as the nurse looked slightly distressed. I hoped and prayed it wasn't another complication of some sort - I'd had enough of those. The nurse then informed me that I was pregnant. I stared at her, mouth agape, and then the tears started to flow as my mind processed the full depth of what she was telling me. Pregnant?! I couldn't believe it. The nurse then was worried thinking my tears were tears of sadness. I quickly reassured her that they were tears of complete and utter joy. God had so miraculously blessed me with a baby despite my lack of trust in Him. It was meant to be and thus began my journey with Noah.
My mom drove me to Starbucks where I had an idea to write "We're Pregnant" on a Starbucks cup and surprise Alex at work, since he still didn't know the news. I texted him from my mom's phone asking
him if he'd like Starbucks and got his order. I'll never forget the look of confusion on his face when I showed up at the back door to bring him his coffee at work, "Aren't you supposed to be in surgery?" "Yes...but look at your coffee...no...turn it...what does it say?" He read it and the wheels were turning, "What!? How?!" I started explaining the birds and the bees as a joke, but then we quickly revelled in joy at this gift God had given us. We proceeded to tell my dad and my in-laws, sharing in the joy with them as well.
Then one evening a couple days later I gasped as I saw a small amount of blood in my underwear. Quick tears came with the panic and fear of losing this baby I literally just found out about. Of course it was in the evening when the doctor's offices were closed. Time seemed to move in slow motion as I prayed over and over for God to protect this baby and counted down the minutes until morning when I could call my OB and figure out what could be done. Fortunately, the bleeding never intensified. I called the OB first thing in the morning and she directed me to the Early Pregnancy Assessment Clinic (EPAC) at Surrey Memorial Hospital, where they would be able to take care of me. I contacted EPAC immediately, left a message, and then waited anxiously with my phone glued to my side at work so I wouldn't miss their call.
A week later, we then went for our first ultrasound to see if they could find a source of the bleeding
and determine if the pregnancy was viable. I have come to acquire ultrasound PTSD, since my last ultrasound experience was when I found out I had miscarried with my previous pregnancy. I went into
the EPAC clinic that day and was a bundle of nerves, but I continuously prayed that God would give me peace and protect this life He had blessed us with. The first ultrasound was inconclusive. The OB said that she could see the beginning of what could be a fetal pole, but wasn't sure. Only time would tell. We would repeat the ultrasound around 2 weeks later and see how the pregnancy was developing then. We received a print-out with a couple ultrasound pictures. Noah looked like a cute little fruit loop and I nicknamed him that for the next 2 weeks as I prayed constantly that at the next ultrasound there would be a fetal pole, since last pregnancy there never was one.
The next two weeks passed agonizingly slow. Morning sickness set in, which I was told was a "good sign," but then again I was sick last time too and that pregnancy hadn't turned out well. I prayed, begged, and pleaded to God that He would protect this baby and that we would have good news at our next ultrasound.
On March 12, 2019 at our next ultrasound, Alex and I held our breath as the OB looked to see if everything was developing well and to see if there was a fetal pole. Luckily, the OB didn't have to search for long before she found what she was looking for. We saw Noah on the ultrasound screen. We could see his little head and already, at just 7 weeks, there was a strong little flutter of a heartbeat. He had now been upgraded to what I called "my little blob." We both sighed in relief and marvelled at the early stages of our baby on the ultrasound screen. Our due date for Baby Boschman was October 28, 2019. We were now filled with such hope: everything was going to be ok. God will protect this baby.
I never worried much after that. I knew God was in control and He had Noah's life in His hands.
In the coming weeks, the morning sickness intensified. I struggled to keep anything down, including fluids. I lived off of Lucky Charms, Fruit Loops, Chef Boyardee, Wine Gums, McDonald's breakfast sandwiches and whatever else didn't make me sick. This is clearly the diet of champions. I felt absolutely miserable, but I didn't mind.
At my 12 week Maternity Clinic appointment on April 15, 2019, the doctor took the doppler and tried to find Noah's heartbeat. She looked a little while and just as she was saying, "It still is quite early to hear the baby's heartbeat, so don't worry-" there it was. It was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. I sat in awe and wished I could keep hearing it over and over. My heart also soared at the realization that now that there was a heartbeat, the chances of a loss were very low.
Easter long weekend, I was almost 13 weeks. This was the longest I had gone in a pregnancy and I heard the baby's heartbeat for the first time, thus I felt even more confident that everything would work out. However, on the Saturday of the long weekend I again had some blood in my underwear. This time though, I had an odd peace about it. Of course, it was a weekend so the Maternity Clinic wasn't open. I called the Maternity Unit at the hospital and they said it would be in my best interest to go to Emergency to make sure everything was ok. My mom drove me to the ER at Ridge Meadows Hospital. We waited a couple hours and then got in to see a doctor. She did an ultrasound to make sure everything was ok. Well, there he was, perfectly fine and ok. I could see his cute little head, spine, belly, and wiggling little arms and legs. He even waved hello and seemed to say, "Hey mom, what's up?!" I chuckled to myself and figured the little rascal just wanted an opportunity to say hello to his mom. I didn't know at the time that this would be the last time I'd get to see him on an ultrasound before going into pre-term labour.
The days passed by more quickly now. I felt the fluttering of his kicks when I was about 15 weeks pregnant, which is early by medical standards but I was overjoyed to be able to feel him moving inside of me so soon. My belly was graduated from what I called "a doughnut belly" to an actual baby bump. The morning sickness was still lingering, but it was improving little by little. I felt slightly less miserable, but then again, maybe I just got better at functioning with it. It almost became like my little companion. The funny thing is, prior to this pregnancy Eggs Benedict and Poutine were two of my favourite things to eat. Comically enough, they were the two foods that even until the end of my pregnancy with Noah would immediately make me turn green and send me running to the porcelain throne. I guess Noah wasn't a fan and I still don't have the appetite for either of them to this day.
In May, when I was about 17 weeks, we decided to paint the nursery before my belly swelled too big and the weather became too hot. Alex and I spent time picking out the perfect colour and my ideas for the nursery started to flow as I started to fully let the walls down, accepting that this pregnancy was progressing well and I would finally have a baby. The colour turned out beautifully: we picked a silvery grey. I planned to accent with pink or blue depending on the baby's gender. We had our gender reveal ultrasound booked for Friday June 7, 2019. It couldn't come quick enough. I was convinced I was having a girl because of a dream I had, but Alex was convinced it was a boy. Time would tell...
I purchased a beaded light, we picked up a second hand crib from my in-laws that we were going to paint white. It was starting to come together and I was excited. At 18 weeks, the weekend before Noah arrived, Alex and I decided it was time to do a baby registry. We spent the whole day Saturday of that weekend at Buy Buy Baby picking out gender neutral crib sheets, soothers, bottles, diaper bag, books - all of the necessities as well as luxuries for baby. I kept saying to Alex, "This little one is so loved and so wanted." I wanted nothing more than to pamper it. I couldn't wait to find out if I was having a boy or a girl. We even had a gender reveal planned with our family the following weekend.
God had different plans.
Our gender reveal happened early as Noah was brought into this world on June 3, 2019 with a mercifully quick labour when I was 19 weeks, 0 days pregnant. We were gracefully placed in an isolation room at the far end of the Langley Maternity Unit by the nurses. The nurse who helped deliver him said calmly, "You have a son," and she joked, "There's definitely no denying this little guy is a boy." Alex was right after all, this baby is a boy; we have a son. She spoke about him as if he was living and breathing, weighing him on the scale and saying his weight with excitement, "280 grams which is 9.88 ounces!" She bundled him up, asked if I'd like to hold my son. Of course, the answer was "yes" as tears of sadness and shock streamed down my face. No one can ever prepare you for the amount of love you feel for your child when you see their face for the first time, even if they're no longer breathing. My mom whispered through tears, "Larissa, he's absolutely beautiful." Yes, he was. I remember looking at his face and seeing how peaceful he looked; his mouth curved into a slight smile. Aside from our personal meaning of Noah's name "God hears our cries," the formal meaning of Noah is "rest, comfort." How fitting...
He had a perfect little round head, strong toned arms like his mom, lean long legs like his dad, 'peace sign' toes like my dad, dainty lips, hands that fit on my finger tip, perfect big feet.. no wonder I could feel his kicks at just 15 weeks! I'm sure he would have been tall like his dad. Probably would have been crazy about sports like him, too. Looks wise, he was so much of my side of the family. I joked to Alex and my mother-in-law that the Jeske genes are evidently very dominant.
I got the gift of being able to hold him in my arms for almost 24 hours. We were also blessed with a beautiful, kind photographer who volunteered her time to come take photos of him and us as a family. The photographer was a God sent. She talked to him like he could hear her and commented on how cute he was. She later gave us one of the greatest gifts: photos of him and our family to cherish forever. The day nurse made a little bracelet with his name on it, took moulds of his feet as well as hand and feet prints and placed them neatly in a white memory box along with this umbilical clamp, donated knitted blanket and hat, and the butterfly that was attached outside our hospital room signalling a "loss." I cherish all of it.
When I look back on Noah's full story, I feel pain. But I also see how although we lost him all too soon, there is beauty in tragedy, there is joy amidst pain. And God is moving in it all, orchestrating it for His great purpose. I find sometimes I'm at war with myself. I don't want to remember Noah's life as a tragedy, because there is joy and beauty in it. But amidst the joy and beauty is the trauma of pain and loss; the feeling of being robbed of something so badly wanted.
I don't know what God's plans are for me and how it'll all pan out. Right now I'm in the in-between stage, the waiting. God so clearly spoke to me after I had Noah that He promises me a child. The when is something He and I clearly disagree on. The more amount of time that passes after having Noah, the more bad news of another month of being unsuccessful at achieving a pregnancy, it gets harder to have faith that God will come through. It also gets harder to believe that He is good. And yet, Noah is a constant reminder of God's promise to Alex and I. Although I battle with my emotions - the good, the bad, the ugly - I fight to hold on to hope, I fight to have faith that God will come through for me.
Romans 12:12 is so simple, yet powerful: "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Patience has never been my strong suit, neither has prayer. But I hope God teaches me to be stronger in both those areas and I try everyday to have an open heart.
In the meantime, I know that Noah is more than ok. He's being held in the arms of my Heavenly Father. I look forward to the day when I get to meet him face to face, to hold him again in my arms, tell him I love him and to spend eternity with him. Until then, I will cherish his memory, grieve freely, and allow it to drive me into deeper faith and trust in my Lord Jesus Christ.
And if anyone ever asks: I already have two children, the next one will be my third.