God is always working to make His children aware of a dream
that remains alive beneath the rubble of every shattered dream,

a new dream that
when realized will release a new song, sung with tears,

till God wipes them away
and we sing with nothing but joy in our hearts

--Larry Crabb

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Feather

If life was as we had planned, I would be anticipating an ultrasound in 2 days. Today I would have quietly celebrated that I was 20 weeks pregnant--half way there. I would have googled "baby at 20 weeks gestation" as I had every Wednesday to see what new and exciting things my baby was doing and what fruit I could compare his body size to this week. I would have probably over indulged once again in Starbursts and would have dreaded taking my multivitamin with dinner. I would have kept Craig up late again pouring over the list of possible names.

Life has not left us where we thought we would be. Instead of discussing baby names we're realizing with more clarity the fact that the dreams we have had for our little one will never be. I find myself making a list each night of things to do the next day so that I not only have things to look forward to, but also fill my time so that I don't sit around and think too much. It seems at times like a new area of my brain has just realized that I am no longer pregnant and my baby is gone, leaving me feeling shocked and confused. There are times that I can sit and talk about Christopher and our experience, look at his pictures and not even shed a tear because I feel nothing--completely numb. Times that I feel full of joy that he lived, and times times that I miss him so much that I have to focus just to breathe. I want off of this pendulum that seems to be swinging between elation and despair with numbness in between. Most of the time I feel nothing at all, though, and that is what I despise. I want to feel. Even if hurts, I want to feel.

I have learned so much in the last year, and especially in the past three weeks. So very much about life, about death, and about love.

Life is unfair. It is confusing and makes no sense sometimes. It hurts and shows little respect for what we want. It is fragile and can be snuffed out without rhyme or reason. It is also blissful and vibrant. It is the greenest green you can find in the spring, but also the stillness of brown in the fall. Unpredictable. Merciless sometimes and inspirational others. Life is like a feather perched atop a fingertip on a breezy day. It may float carelessly for a while upon the gentle wind, beautifully and freely flittering through the air.

Death is sickening. It reduces relationships to mere memories and robs us of opportunity to create new ones. It breaks hearts and creates separation between us and those we love. Death stinks in so many ways. It attempts to rob us of joy by overwhelming us with feelings of sadness. Death catches the whimsically floating feather unaware by its swift current and plummets it to the ground where it becomes soiled and broken. It causes so much hurt, even though I know that death does not have the final say.

Love is so amazing, so beautiful and pure. It eases suffering and creates hope. It comforts and surrounds. Love knows no limits and is mutually felt by the giver and receiver. Love finds an old and rugged feather laying on the ground and sees beauty in it. It tenderly washes it off, and places it again on a fingertip where the next breeze can find it. Love sends cards or hugs when someone is hurting. It is at the center of a warm embrace. Love does not disappoint, even though we may find more pain to heal because we dared to love.

Through all of this I have been reminded that God has not asked me to do anything that He has not done Himself. He has also grieved over the loss of a son. The only difference is God knew what the outcome of his son entering the world was going to be. He knew that His son would die yet He poured Himself into him. He allowed Himself to become attached. Had I known from the beginning that my son would not survive, I know that in an effort to protect my heart, my nature would have pushed away any attempts that would allow me to fully engage in his being. I can say this because I spent the first 3 months of my pregnancy trying not to get my hopes up...somewhat prepping myself for disappointment should it come. God wasn't like that. He knew and still dared to love. That is the greatest example of life, and death, and definitely love that could ever be. God's love...so amazing.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Everything Falls

On the night that Christopher was born a friend brought me a CD with instructions to listen to track 5. After everyone left we popped it in and became entranced by the words of the song that seemed to pull our thoughts out of our heads and pinpoint how we were feeling. I cannot find words that better describe God's providence for us in this time. We listened again on our way home from the hospital. And again on our way to the funeral home, (and again and again...) each time it just brought so much comfort. A while later, I was having a rough day and really wanted to hear the music, but the CD had found a home in Craig's truck and was at work with him. A little disappointed, I turned on my computer to check my e-mail. Lo and behold, another friend sent me a link to the same song on facebook with a note that said that she had been listening to some music and wanted to share it with me.

Here are the lyrics to Everything Falls by Fee:

You said, You'd never leave or forsake me
When You said, this life is gonna shake me
And you said this world is gonna bring trouble on my soul
This I know

When everything falls apart Your arms hold me together
When everything falls apart You're the only hope for this heart
When everything falls apart and my strength is gone
I find You mighty and strong, You keep holding on
You keep holding on.

When I see the darkness all around me
and I see that tragedy has found me
I still believe Your faithful arms will never let me go
and still I know


Sorrow will last for the night
but hope is rising with the sun, it's rising with the sun
There will be storms in this life
But I know You will overcome, You have overcome.


I simply cannot state it any better...

P.S. If you want to watch the video/hear the music via YouTube, click here, or else call me and I'll sing it to you (which is not a recommended option).

Friday, March 26, 2010


I don't know how I have overlooked mentioning one of the most meaningful things that happened on Wednesday evening. We had professional pictures taken with Christopher by an organization called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (NILMDTS). When this was first offered to us we were a little unsure. The hospital had given us a disposable camera and part of us felt like that would be enough. We knew that we did not want to display any pictures in our home--or anywhere else--of our deceased baby, but amid encouragement from the hospital staff we decided that we would have the pictures taken. We would never have to look at them if we didn't choose to, but if we missed our opportunity we wouldn't get another.

The lady that took our portraits was wonderful--very softspoken and kind. The photo session didn't last too long, but long enough. By the time it was finished I was struggling to contain myself. I wasn't sure whether or not I would ever open the envelope when it arrived.

Later, as I was holding my son in my hands I was trying to convert each angle of his little face into memory. I knew that the images that were being stored there were beautiful and perfect, but was a little concerned that if the photos didn't turn out as I had hoped it could distort what was in my mind. I didn't want anything to change the way I remembered my son's precious face.

By the time we'd been home for 4 days I had a strong sense of desire to see pictures of my baby. I took the disposable camera in to be developed and asked Craig to pick them up on his way home from work so that we could look at them for the first time together. My fears came true as we sat on the edge of the sofa and peered through the snapshots. The details of his tiny features were lost and I strained to see my Christopher through the glossy-ness. We put them back in the enevelope and considered throwing them out (and keep the disc that we also had printed just in case), but ultimately decided to keep them and never look at them again (because that makes sense). The thing that made us come to that decision was that those were the only pictures that we would ever have of our sweet son with his adorable little hat on.

About 4 days later Craig and I were returning from a walk when I saw a large envelope sticking out of the mailbox. I broke out in a huge smile and nearly sprinted the rest of the way home, knowing that it was probably our professional pictures. It was. (OK, so Craig is laughing at me as I am reading this post back to him before posting. We were at the end of the driveway when I spotted the envelope, so it was only about 30 feet to the mailbox, but that is far greater a distance than I have sprinted in the last 10 years, and have I mentioned that I still wasn't quite back to par?)

While sitting on the edge of the sofa once again we popped the slideshow into the computer. We sat amazed as perfectly captured images of us with our son flashed before us to a very very sad song. We both cried over the sadness of the loss and gratitude that the way that we remembered Christopher looking was no longer confined to our memories, but now also to pictures that we can look over for years to come.

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep gave us something that we could have obtained no other way. Essentially, it gave us a way to keep our son's appearance fresh and clear long after our memories may begin to fade. Wonderful wonderful wonderful--that's what NILMDTS is...and the service they provide is FREE. (If anyone is looking to donate funds to this fantastic non-profit as we have done, they will accept it!)

You will probably never find any of those pictures displayed publicly (i.e. on my blog). I am working on editing one photo, limiting what can be seen to my finger, Craig's finger, and Christopher's tiny hand. If I am able to get it to look right (ok, so right now it just looks like his arm has been severed from his and is just hanging there--definitly not the final attempt), I might post a link for those who want to see it, but will never post it or any other pictures directly so that they are just there when you open the website.

However, I have printed copies of the pictures and if anyone is interested in personally viewing them, I would be honored to show them. We are not comfortable with electronically sending any, but be glad to show you our hard copies.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Craig's flight home

I tried to get Craig to write this entry so that it would be a first hand account, but his responses were:
1. "I don't have a blog."
2. "People would get confused."
3. "I am not a news contributor."

So, here I go, probing him for information and trying to get it all straight. I wonder how long it will be before he says he should have written this himself.

The first leg of Craig's flight was from Huntsville, Alabama to Atlanta, Georgia. It was set to depart at 7:50 AM. His plan was to leave the hotel (which was only minutes from the airport) at 6:45, fill up and return the rental car and have plenty of time to catch his flight. What he didn't plan for, however, was someone crashing their car and blocking the only road connecting his hotel to the airport. He sat in backed up traffic for 25 minutes before making it to the gas station, filled up quickly, and attempted to return the rental car, where problem #2 surfaced. There was no one in the lot to recieve his car. He decided to deal with that after checking in at the Delta counter. This is where problem #3 came in. There were a few people ahead of him in line, so Craig took the liberty to push his way to the front, where the lady told him that it was too late to check in for the flight. Craig informed her of the emergent need for him to be on the plane and gave her the stare down. (He is never pushy like that, but I have been given the stare down once or twice, and it does convince one to do what he wants!) She reluctantly checked him in, but would not check his bag.

After leaving the Delta counter, he ran back to the Dollar Rental Car Counter and turned in his keys, telling the agent there to just send him the receipt and ran across the airport to check in at security. (I'm going to quit listing problem #'s here, because honestly, I don't know what number I'm on anymore).

Security took one look at his suitcase and said. "Nope, too big." The security guard also got the stare down as Craig plopped the largest suitcase that we own on the belt. For some unknown reason, the guard let it go through and Craig was on his way again. A repeat for the final boarding was announced as he sprinted toward the gate flailing his arms. Amazingly, the gate agent not only allowed him to board the plane, but assured him that his suitcase would be plane-side checked after questioning how he got it through security. To top it off, there were 3 people waiting to fly standby that probably should have been allowed to board since he was not there until the very last second. Whew. He made it. Just time to sit on the tarmac for 45 minutes waiting for fog and heavy rain to clear.

The second (and final) leg of the flight was from Atlanta to Moline. Since there was such a long delay in the first flight taking off, the time to catch the second flight was cut very short. Thankfully, the gates were in close proximity because as Craig was departing the first, they were announcing the final boarding call for the second, and again he arrived just as the gates were closing. He was last person to board a plane for two of two times that day.

All in all, by noon he had landed in the Quad Cities by and PB delivered him to the hospital by 12:30. His luggage was believed to be lost forever, but even it turned up the next night. :) We now love Delta...they came through for us in our time of need!

It is amazing to me how God orchestrated this timing just perfectly. Once again we're a little befuddled as to why He does things the way that He does, but they always seem to work out in the end.

Wednesday continued

We passed the baby in his little basket around for hours, marveling at the first hand witness of God's handiwork. I was filled with pride--I know, it is the root of all sin--but it was there. It was not a pride of what we had created, but what God had created through us. Each time he was passed from one person to another I got to see the joy that he brought to each one. Even though we were all devastated by the fact that he was here way too early, there was so much joy in that room, and so much peace. Mom, Shelli, PB, Mary, Tim, and Molly were all present and sorrowfully rejoiced with us. People who mean so much to us loving us and our son.

As our baby was passed from person to person we tried to think of a name for him. We had thought we'd have 4 1/2 months to bounce names we liked around in our minds, but when our son arrived, he really didn't look like any of them, so we were back to square one. When Craig and I had a brief moment to ourselves with the baby, we became inspired by the name Job. We knew that we wanted a strong, biblical name and Job seemed perfect when we considered how faithful God has been to us during such a tough time...not just around our baby's birth, but throughout the years of yearning for a child. Other suggestions were "Zaccheus" which was never a serious contender and was only brought up because he was such a "wee little man." No, thanks. I did not want to give a child a name that I would have to sing.

That evening we had also recognized our desire to have our son baptized. Craig talked with PB and we set the time that we would gather again in the morning to dedicate our baby back to God.

When Craig and I were alone with our son we continued trying to find a name. We snuggled up on the bed, Craig with our baby, and I with my laptop (no significance there, just the way it worked out) searching the internet for the perfect name. We wanted something traditional. We had spent about 10 minutes looking before we stumbled upon Christopher. Early in the pregnancy we had discussed the name, but ruled it out quickly when we realized that it could get confusing should his name ever get shortened to Chris since that is my mom's name, which would inevitably happen. Christopher is also Craig's middle name, and, although Craig had never expressed interest in naming our child after him before, we both felt it was a good fit. Plus, he looked like a Christopher. Christopher Job...that was him.

It was strange to me how I had wanted to give our son a name and identity so soon, but yet couldn't call him my it. For 4 months he had been just "baby" and the naming process made me acknowledge that he was here...way too early. Here it is two weeks later and I am just starting to be able to say his name more comfortably without thinking just of the loss.

The name seems to sound more fitting with each passing moment. Christopher Job Riedel. My firstborn, my son, my baby. Oh how I miss him.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Two weeks ago...

It has now been two weeks since Christopher died. As I reflect on the day that my life was changed by that precious little angel many thoughts and emotions come to mind. I have taken a lot of time to think about the way things all happened and have a new sense of gratitude as I realize how everything was perfectly orchestrated to bring our son into the world in the way that he came.

I feel a little reluctance in writing these thoughts, because I don't want to leave any room for misunderstanding. I would have done ANYTHING to bring this little guy into the world safe and healthy. I would have given anything to protect him from the very beginning, but the fact is, I couldn't. I could not have done a single thing to prevent what happened from taking place. There was a silent threat lurking inside of me that robbed my son of life. A threat that, had anyone known about, would have been treated and all would be fine. If only we had known. God knew, though, and for some reason this was all part of His plan. As His will unraveled around us we were hurt, angry, confused, and unsure--and still face some of those feelings as we try to make sense of it, but also there is a stillness within, a contentedness of sorts as we know that everything will be ok.

Two weeks ago at this time I was praying the hardest prayer that I have ever prayed. I was still waiting for Craig to arrive and just asked God again for peace and strength as we tried to discern His will in all of this. I prayed that He would make the right choices clear to us, and that (this was the hardest part of all) He would not let there be a heartbeat on our next ultrasound if it was His plan to take our dearly loved baby to heaven, clearing the way for us to know what to do next. I knew in my heart that if our baby had died then I could deliver and find a place of healing someday, but if we had to make a choice between life and death for our son I could not do it. I could not end the life of my child by bringing him into the world without a chance when, if he was left alone inside of me, he could live for even one second longer. I couldn't believe that those words were coming from my lips. Out of love for my unborn child and with all things considered I reluctantly gave God permission (not that He needs it) to let my baby die. I wanted a miracle more than I needed air, but the miracle I would receive was not the one I asked for.

Craig finally arrived and when he walked into the room I felt just like I did two years ago when I picked him up at the airport after 11 months in Iraq--relieved and full of love for him. His trip home was rather eventful--there were several things that had happened that should have caused him to miss every leg of his flight--but I'll save that for another day. He climbed in bed next to me and we just held eachother and wept and talked. Oh how blessed I was then and am now to have him. So very blessed in so many ways.

We had a heart to heart discussion, trying to discern our responsibility to God and our son in a few of the scenerios that we knew could unfold before us and made some tentative decisions about a few things. Then we joined my mom, sister, and our pastor (PB) who were in a family room. It seemed refreshing to get out of the room a little bit while we waited for the doctor to make rounds.

After a while, the nurse asked Craig and I to go back to my room to see the doctor. It was Dr. B that day, as well as my midwife, Beth, who also had already earned her way to my BFF list. The ultrasound tech came in and the room grew silent as we all stared at the monitor. Within me we saw no movement, no heartbeat. There wasn't a dry eye in the room as Dr. B whispered "there's no heartbeat". My mind and body began to react with sobs and wretching as I was forced to let go of hope for a miracle. Craig held me in a tight embrace, his tears mixing with mine as they ran down my face. I asked Dr. B "what do we do now?" not really wanting to hear the answer.

"We can induce labor whenever you are ready...take as much time as you need."

Everyone but Craig and I left, and together we began to acknowledge the familiar pain of death once again. Mom, Shelli, and PB came in and shared in our loss. Even though my prayer had been answered, my broken heart could not comprehend what was happening.

A short while later, we decided to begin the induction, knowing that it could take up to a couple of days to complete. I felt calm and collected. Craig went for a short walk in an attempt to clear his thoughts and returned quickly. Mom and Shelli left for a short time to get some fresh air. Craig, PB, and I sat in the room and had a pleasant conversation about something, but for the life of me I can't remember what it was. Just as PB was getting ready to leave, the labor was getting intense. I called Beth (midwife) and she was by my side immediately.

Within the hour, I was holding the most precious thing I had ever seen in my hands. A beautiful and perfect baby boy. Not just any baby, but our baby, our son.

The nurse and the midwife had tenderly wrapped him in a blanket and placed him in a tiny basket. His arms were gently folded across his chest (he was born that way), and he was covered in baby oil to keep his tissues moist and fresh, which gave him the sweetest smell on earth.

I stared at our tiny miracle (I had thought all along that our baby would be a boy!) in disbelief of how perfect he really was. Perfectly formed fingers and toes complete with itty bitty fingernails. A beautiful face with the cutest nose you could ever imagine. Tiny ears that were curled just a little at the top just like my dad's were. The amazing network of veins and arteries clearly tracable through his transparent skin as well as the muscles and ligaments that would become his bones. I have never seen such a beautiful sight in all my life, and was amazed to think that the same God that formed the mighty mountains had also delicately knitted this baby's tiny body so perfectly together. (I know that I have used the word perfect a lot, but it is the ideal descriptor!)

Wednesday was such a packed day and I want to include more details, but am too tired and emotionally drained to continue on right now. Therefore, I'll continue another time....

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Still Tuesday, but not so scary. (Part 2)

The paramedics somehow got the stretcher next to the exam table and were getting ready to move me over. One thing that drives me bananas is being treated like I'm helpless. I knew I didn't want to be on my feet, but could certainly slide my own body two feet to the right. Once I was as settled as could be on that incredibly uncomfortable cart (the rumors I'd heard from my patients are true!) and all buckled in we set in motion. In the hallway I began to realize that they were taking me out through the waiting room. The last thing I wanted was for people to stare at me and wonder what had happened, so I pulled the sheet that had been covering me up over my face. Most people know that I am not one to be the center of attention without perfoming just a little, but this time refrained from doing what I really wanted to do. It had crossed my mind to make a groaning sound and let my arm fall off the cart to the side while holding my breath, (making it look like they were transporting a body) but had sense enough to realize that not only would the paramedics freak out, but they would remove that sheet from covering my face and expose my identity. Probably a good call to leave well enough alone.

The ride to the hospital was pretty bouncy and uncomfortable. Luckily, it wasn't far. The paramedic in the back with me got ready to start my IV and asked me what line of work I was in. I remember telling him that I would let him know AFTER my IV was in (no one needs added pressure for perfection from an IV/PICC line nurse) and that I would appreciate it if he could use a 22 gauge in my right "intern" vein. He did use the vein that I wanted, but said that the 22 was too small and reached for a 16 gauge. I kindly let him know that I would not be needing large volume rapid infusions and jokingly spouted off about how the CDC and INS standards strongly recommend using the smallest bore catheter in the largest vein possible for the shortest duration of time required for the prescribed therapy, and threw in that a needle that size would leave too large of a scar on my pretty little wrist when it came out. I begged for a 20 gauge, he grabbed an 18 gauge and I gave up. At least he got it in on the first try.

In the ER a lab tech drew some blood and asked me a question that I could not answer. "Are you Pregnant?" Good question. All I could do is stare at her and all she could do was repeat herself. "Ma'am, are you pregnant?" I honestly didn't know how to answer her. I thought that I could explain how I was 17 weeks pregnant this morning but delivered a whole lot of something in the office, was told I had had a baby but don't really believe it, so the answer to her question would be probably but maybe not. Finally a nurse came in as she inquired once again and hushed the lab tech. She left with a red face and certain embarassment. I feel SO bad for people when things like this happen. I know that she didn't know what was going and just needed an answer, but I just had no words.

They did an ultrasound in the ER also but the only thing they said was that the baby was still there. I didn't know if the baby was still living or not, and didn't want to ask for fear that the answer would be no. Ignorance could bring bliss for just a little longer, couldn't it?

Finally they moved me up to my room where I met one of the greatest nurses, Kim. She was awesome. She told me how sorry she was, cried with me, held my hand, and showed so much compassion. The only thing that she didn't do was get me something to eat. (not her fault, blame the Doc) By then it had been nearly 6 hours since I had eaten my chips and pineapple and I was starving!

It was early evening before I had a chance to call Craig back. He was unable to get out of Alabama that night but had booked the first flight out the next morning and would be back in the QCA by noon. He told me that he had called my mom and she was on her way. Oh, my mom. My heart broke as I thought of her making that drive by herself. I remember how long that drive was when we were trying to get to the farm after Dad's accident. We talked for a few more minutes before the doctor came in with more news. He told me that the Ultrasound in the ER showed that the baby still had a heartbeat, but that the prognosis was very poor. I would likely either go into labor and deliver or else develop an infection at which time they would have to induce labor to keep me safe. The baby was simply too small to live outside of me. "Oh God, fill me with your spirit, because I don't think I can cope with another loss. I'm begging for a miracle, but whatever Your will is, help me to accept it, Lord." Peace found me once again.

I watched intently as they placed the sonosite probe over my belly and saw that tiny little heart flickering on the screen. My baby was still alive. There was hope--it was just slight glimmer, but still hope.

Craig and I talked again. We cried and hoped and comforted eachother. For a little bit it seemed like he was right next to me, not 800 miles away. I wanted so much for him to be with me and I knew that he would have done anything to have been there, but we would just have to wait. I felt helpless. What made me feel worst of all, though, was knowing that our tiny little miracle was sleeping inside of me and my body could no longer provide what it needed to live. There was nothing that I could do.

I called to check on Mom--she was only a few miles out--and a called a couple of friends. I didn't want a lot of visitors. Within minutes the "Three M's" showed up. Mom, Molly, and Mary. Perfect. We cried, we laughed just a little, and then we cried some more. I begged my wonderful new nurse, Amanda, for a PB & J sandwich and she became my new BFF when it arrived. (They finally allowed me to eat because I had stabalized--and whined a lot!)

Before bed I posted my first blog entry. That was so hard to write because I didn't want my situation to be true. Even though I felt at peace about what would happen with the baby, I worried about Craig and how he was dealing with everything as well as his travel back, and worried also about my mom, Craig's parents, and Madison with the other losses still being so fresh. I prayed for each of them and then drifted off into a light sleep, thankful that at least for one more night I had reason to hope.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Smiles in the midst of everything

I have been writing the continuation of Tuesday and a couple of other things, but don't have any of those ready to post yet. The reflection on those days has been met with very mixed emotions. I have felt happy, sad, crazy, joyful, distraught, angry, and indifferent to name a few. It is hard to find words to describe sometimes.

We have received so many cards and notes that have been so encouraging. THANK YOU for all of the hugs sent that way when we just needed a little squeeze from someone who cared!

Today has been a good one and I feel like writing about some things that are going on OUTSIDE of "Loss of Christopher World." Well, some of them might be related, but they are still lighthearted.

*I got my first ever pedicure. My sis was here and we decided that we needed a little pampering. We learned a whole lot about how exciting it is to be "graduating in 9 days." (We got them done at a beauty school). It was probably a good thing that it was the maiden voyage for both of us for pedicures because we heard the word "Oops" a lot and had no idea what they did wrong. I liked the paraffin wax dip, but I suspect that many other people have also dipped their feet in the same vat of warm goo. That makes me want to puke a little. It felt good, but next time? Um, no thanks.

*I was told by a certain adorable 4 year old that he wanted me to be his mom (in front of his mother on her birthday, none the less) because he liked to talk to me. Flattered, I told him that I thought he already had a really special mom, but I would like to be his friend. From there the conversation went on to how he got a new kaleidoscope and his birthday was coming up so I should really be thinking about a gift for him.

*My love for chocolate has found me once again, although I still seem to have some restraint. My friend sent a package with lots of variety of chocolate covered treats and it has lasted for a whole week. Plus, I have not hid it from anyone, which is not like me. Well, I take that back. I guess keeping it in the box under another box in the corner of the dining room is technically considered hiding, but the point is I have shared.

*We went to 3 movies last week...The Blindside, It's Complicated, and "Green Zone." (guess who picked the last one) Two of them didn't start until after 9:30 p.m. but have found that the movie theater is one of the few places that we can go and not think about what is going on other than what is on the silver screen.

*I had a meltdown one night and asked Craig to take me for a drive. We no sooner got out of the driveway when I decided that I really just wanted to stay home, but didn't say anything. Once we got about 3 miles out I asked Craig to turn around, which he did just in time for us to come upon the scene of 2 dogs getting hit by a car and yelping out in pain. It was traumatic and I was inconsolable for a while. That stunk.

*Our house hunting trip has been extended. (For those who don't know, Craig has accepted a transfer with the Dept. of Defense and we'll be moving to the northern suburbs of Detroit in the end of May.) It would be rediculous for me to post the dates we'll be gone on the big old scary internet, but if any of you Michiganders want to get together when we're out there, call me and I'll let you know. It will be nice to get away from home for a bit before the craziness of selling our house starts.

*Craig and I have spent so much time together and it has been wonderful. I love love love that man. He is so good to me...but I don't want to spoil one of the posts I'm working on so that's all I'm saying.

*Madison is coming this weekend! Oh how I've missed my girl. She's been in England with her grandparents for spring break, so she wasn't here last weekend. We've talked on the phone a few times, but I can't wait to hug her. When it comes to stepdaughters, I'm blessed with the best!

*I am still accepting reservations for lunch dates. My schedule is filling up quickly and am down to only about 4 openings per week so for best selection you should put in your requests early. =)

*Spring is here! We've really enjoyed getting out for walks. Craig has begun digging in the landscaping bricks so that we can put mulch around the trees and bushes in our yard. He's doing a great job, but it is going to take a long time to finish.

*Beginning in mid April, I will be watching Judge Judy faithfully until the episode airs that depicts the fate of one Craig's comrades who evidently sees no other way to get back what is rightfully his. All I can ask is WHY???

*We were given a beautiful fresh cut tulip and lily bouquet after coming home from the hospital. I sent at least 2 blooming lilies and 5 unopened buds home with my sister to take to the cemetary where my dad is buried, but there are now approximately 15 opened flowers and 9 more buds that are threatening to open any day. I had to move them out of the family room because they're so highly scented. Now they're in the dining room where we can still see and enjoy them, but don't have to experience the lily induced high. Whoa those suckers are strong.

I think that is it for now. Have a good one, all.

Friday, March 19, 2010

That scary Tuesday--Part 1

..I was at home and talking to Craig on the phone. He was in Alabama at a logistics in engineering conference for work. My stomach was feeling exceptionally bloated. I felt some occasional minor cramps. Not a big deal. My abdomen had been rounding out and I was really starting to show. This being my first pregnancy, I thought that maybe it was just the ligaments stretching and causing a little discomfort. I at that point had lost over 20 pounds and had not worn maternity pants that day. Maybe my pants were just a little too tight...

I put Craig on hold and went to the bathroom. While there, I felt a little more pressure inside and felt a dropping sensation low in my belly. Hmmm. My instincts finally started to kick in. I told Craig what was going on and that I was going to call my Midwife. I told him I'd call him back as soon as I knew something and, as I have trained myself to do when something doesn't seem right, remained calm.

45 minutes later I left to drive the 6 blocks to the OB office. There wasn't a midwife there that day, so I would be seeing one of the doctors. That was A-OK with me. The waiting room was crowded and as I took a seat I became a little anxious. I had no idea why. I can only remember one other time in my life when I had anxiety...when I got the phone call about my dad's accident, the return of that memory just increased the anxiousness within me.

By the time I got to the exam room I knew I was in trouble. Over the course of the next 45 minutes I experienced the most excruciating pain that I have ever had. Pain that was not even defined to one area of my body, but everywhere. At one point I told the nurse that I needed to sit up. Big mistake. I sat for about 5 seconds before I started to pass out. The nurse helped me lay back down as darkness surrounded me. My arms and legs went numb and cold as my head and torso began to sweat profusely. It was another one of those moments that I wished I wasn't a nurse. I knew what was happening...I've seen it too many times. I had lost too much blood and was going into shock. My body was shutting down circulation to my legs and arms. This would conserve my blood supply in my head, chest, and abdomen allowing my vital organs to get what they needed. I was in trouble. I needed more help and quick or things could get really bad. My thoughts were clear and deliberate. I did the only two things that I could do at that point...I kept breathing and started to pray, knowing that the baby wasn't big enough to survive without me and wondering whether I was strong enough to survive without it. I remember being very specific with God. It was pretty much one of those "Here is the list of things I need from You, Lord. Thank you. Amen" That prayer definitely did not fit the A.C.T.S profile that I usually use, but I think that God understood that I need to get to the point! I prayed for four things: the baby to be OK, the pain to subside, the bleeding to stop, and for peace from the fear that had began to invade my soul. Within seconds, my mind had cleared, the pain was lifted, and the bleeding slowed. God is funny like that, but sometimes I wish that He didn't wait for me to ask! :) I was told that I had delivered. Devastated, I asked to see my baby to which the nurse said that it just looked like "a big blood clot and tissue." I'll never forget those words. I knew at that moment that she was incorrect (it turns out she WAS mistaken) I knew that the baby's body was fully formed and it should be about the size of my hand. It would be recognized among mass of tissue and clotting blood. My baby was still under my heart. I could just tell it...and I even thought I felt a little kicking, but with everything that had just happened I could not be sure. Finally, I had a quick chance to call Craig and ask him to get home ASAP.

The next thing I knew there were at least 8 people crammed into the tiny exam room. The room was 8 foot by 10 foot max and there were several nurses, a couple of doctors, 2 paramedics, a stretcher, an exam table, and me. No one but me had room to take a deep breath. My mind was clear again and I felt calm and peaceful. I thanked God for answering and prayed again that the baby would be ok.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

This is the fourth morning in a row that I have awaken at 4:30 AM compelled to delve into my journey through the book of Job. Although originally I very much preferred to sleep through the night, I am now at a place where I very much enjoy this time with the Lord. (Please do not misunderstand and think that I am becoming a morning person--I would still highly recommend ignoring me until you get an "all clear" sign indicating that I will not attempt to ruin your life if you talk to me) Today I finished the chapters of Job. I've heard the story many times before but it was like this morning was the first time that I ever read the ending. Everything that had been taken from Job was returned--much of it twofold. His faithfulness was rewarded in a way that he never dreamed. This story gives me hope, and I am humbled that our sweet Christopher Job shares in the namesake of this steadfast man serving as a reminder that no matter how much loss or pain or reason that you feel you have to be angry, hurt, or reject God He will be faithful to you if you trust Him through the storm. Our storm is far from over--in some ways it seems like it hasn't even started yet--but there is hope on the horizon. It is still seems so far away, but where there is hope, peace may be found.

One week ago I woke up at this time of morning and realized that my hand was positioned on my still-stretched abdomen with my thumb out and middle and ring fingers folded tightly to my palm. The sign language symbol for love was over where my baby slept tucked deep inside of me. I have so much love for this child. Love that didn't die when his heart stopped. Love that only grows in depth each day as I reflect on how much I have poured myself into his being. A mother's love. Love that he reciprocated back to me in his still, silent gesture when he was born with his arms gently folded across his tiny chest...the only way that he could tell me that he loved me, too. Thanks for that, Lord!

In the depths of my soul there is a peace. I just know that we'll heal from this someday. We'll never forget, but we'll heal. My mind, though, is a different story. I have no idea what is going on in there or how to process those emotions. I feel guilt when I have reprieve from my grief long enough to find the strength to go for a walk or engage in meaningful conversation with a friend without crying. I feel like I am not missing my son enough when I do something that I enjoy. My mind tricks me into thinking that if I am not sad about missing him all the time then I am forgetting him and moving on all too soon. I miss my CJ (it was only a matter of time before his mommy shortened it) more than you could know and each day becomes one day longer since I've held him or saw his sweet face. Even when my eyes are dry my heart weeps at the very whisper of anything related to him, and since my world and thoughts started to embrace becming a mom, everything around me seems to relate back to him and to our loss. A loss that on some sweet day will be as peaceful in mind as it is in my soul. Someday a long time from now.

OK, that's it for now. I'm going back to bed. My mind and body need some more rest to face another day. As I finish this post I am curled up in my bed with my prayer shawl so ready to drift off. Good night and love to all.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I have a feeling that I'm going to be blogging quite a bit. I am used to keeping pretty busy, but am off work for 6 weeks and am content for the time being with the cleanliness of my house. To top it off I am still feeling quite lightheaded at times, so venturing off on my own is not an option yet. However, sitting in my chair with my laptop--that is something I can handle!

Craig and I have both felt so uplifted by the prayers, phone calls, visits, and encouraging notes left on the blog, e-mail, or facebook. One thing I have really struggled with is feeling so alone. My rounded abdomen is flattening out and my empty body reminds me often that I have recently given birth. I know that in time things will physically start feeling normal again, but for now each pain and cramp prompts me to remember that I am a mother with a baby only to love, not to hold or care for. Those physical aches are bad enough, but are nothing compared to the pain in my heart.

Today was beautiful. Craig had to pick up some Primerica paperwork so I rode along. We had the sunroof open and it was wonderful just to let the warm sun shine in my face while he was in the office. I'm so thankful that the weather has been lovely--it is so refreshing. We also walked 1.5 mile round trip to Hy-Vee and back. It seemed like it was a doable distance but I was thankful for a nice bench and plenty of time to rest on the way home. We set out just for batteries and laughed as we brought home batteries, a sympathy card, tylenol, and sushi. This evening we went to a movie. It seems strange in a way to be going out when this is still so fresh, but I know that all too soon the waves of loss will find me and we do need to take tender care of eachother, too. I'll write a post soon telling you all just how wonderful my husband is. :)

I need to wrap it up for now-tomorrow has all of the makings to be a difficult day (I'll probably blog again to explain), but just wanted to ask you all to hold our friends Matt and Christy in prayer. Matt's mom lost her battle with cancer on the same day that Christopher died. It is good for us to remember that we are not the only ones dealing with the pain of loss.

Thanks for listening,

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Last night I couldn't sleep. As I laid there hearing nothing but the steady breathing of my sleeping husband I was overcome by a deep desire to hold my Christopher. As tried to coerce my mind back to rest I began to pray. My thoughts were so scattered and sporadic I couldn't even focus enough to make a sentence. I couldn't decide whether I was angry at God for giving me my heart's desire and then taking it away, or whether I wanted to praise Him for the time I was given to carry my son and hold him. Or maybe a little of both.
Downstairs I found Christopher's little hat. He looked so cute with it on. The smell of it made me feel so close to him. I talked to him for a little while--telling him how much I love him and miss him. Telling him of how I wished I could go back in time to last Sunday when I could feel his gentle kicks within me, and how I was so happy for him that he was with Jesus and didn't have to ever suffer the pain of this world....among other more personal thoughts.
I reached for my Bible and headed back upstairs. The book of Job opened before me and spoke to my heart. Completely drawn in, I began to realize the magnitude of Job's loss in just his first test of faithfulness by Satan. EVERYTHING that he had and continually gave thanks for had been taken away, yet his response? "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." I did lose something so special and I am hurting--sometimes more than I feel I can bear, but I have still been given so much. Praise to God needed to come from within me, also. I drifted off with a strong desire to attend worship this morning.
With no alarm set, I woke up at 8:45 and asked Craig if he thought we could still make the 9:30 service. As we raced through the shower and I attempted to make some sense of order to my hair, we arrived just a little late and found a seat near the back--perfect. With tears of loss and gratitude welling in my eyes and a little remaining weakness in my knees I sang one of my favorite songs "In Christ Alone." (click for lyrics)
Just before the end of the service the people on the end of our pew got up and left an opening for us to get out. Thanks, God, for giving us the break we needed. As we left the parking lot my soul had been recharged. God had been praised, and my sweet little Christopher Job was expeiencing his first Sunday in Heaven.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Note to self:

Note to self: Do not get your hair cut on the day you are discharged from the hospital if: A.) You can't drive yourself there. B.) You've also done a transaction at a funeral home the same day. C.) The hairdresser asks you what kind of cut you want and you stare at her blankly for a few seconds before you say something to the effect of "You have nice hair--anything is fine." or D.) While waiting 10 minutes for your cut you forget your name and why you are there.

The lady asked me how short I wanted to go and I remember saying "Oh, about right here would be good." I have no idea where I was pointing but evidently it was somewhere near my ear. I also vaguely remember telling her that she could go a little shorter to which she took a deep breath and said that she wouldn't do it, but would be glad to take a little more off tomorrow if I still wanted shorter.

I spent 45 minutes this morning trying to come up with the least crappy version of my new mess. I won't be going shorter. Thanks lady for saving me from further embarassmet.

Today has been going pretty well. Craig and I both slept wonderfully and that helps. I know from past experience, though, that the worst will hit a little later. For the moment, though, it just feels good to be home and rested.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Going home

It seems in some ways that each day gets a little more difficult. I woke up several times in the night to relieve myself of the effects of all the IV fluid and often found myself stopping to hold my son for a bit resting peacefully in his little blanket. With the glow of the nightlight he just looked like a little angel. A very little angel.

The baptism was very meaningful. My mom, Craig's parents, and dear friends (two of whom are also our pastors) were there. We had a time of sharing our thoughts and perspectives on the the loss of Christopher. It was beautiful and regret deeply that my emotional state does not allow me to remember a lot of what was said. Hopefully in time those memories will come back...

We left the hospital shortly after noon. All through the morning I kept trying to figure out how I could possibly leave this little one behind when it was time to go, but when the time came to hold him one last time I once again felt empowered with strength and peace. It was time to go and Craig and I both realized it at the same time. With more love than I ever have thought possible we kissed our baby goodbye.

It felt good to be home. I even was able to take a short nap before we went to the funeral home. I am so sick of those places I almost puked. This is the third funeral home in barely over a year. My body went numb. I was so grateful that Craig could convey our wishes because I had no words. I couldn't comprehend even basic discussion. I could point and confirm--that was it. It was like Craig was reading my mind and saying all the thoughts that were trapped inside of me. Normally, this wouldn't be a good thing, but today it was great. Perhaps at some point I will feel ready to post more about the decisions that we made there, but not tonight.

The airline called and said that Craig's lost luggage had been found--Whew! His laptop, the GPS (affectionately known as Bonnie) and a lot of his dress clothes were in there, so it was a relief to have that turn up. Craig and I drove out to the airport to pick it up. It felt good to do something that seemed normal. On the way home we stopped to get haircuts. I went way short for me and will probably have some regrets in the morning, but it was nice to just feel refreshed and normal. Of course the hairdresser asked the inevitable "do you have kids?" to which my pre-planned response was "We have a really cute rabbit." Not at all an answer to her question, but a nice change of subject. We spent the rest of the time talking about pets. Perfect!

I keep thinking "I'm just going to blog a little bit tonight" and the next thing I know it is late. I am feeling good, but am easily reminded that my blood volume isn't what is should be yet. My levels had dropped again this morning and I'm thinking that laying in my own bed sounds pretty wonderful. Good night, and thanks to all of you for your prayers and support. We can really reel that we are being held up by the power of so many prayers right now.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

March 10, 2010

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord. "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Today was among the toughest days of my life. Last night I had an ultrasound and saw our baby's heartbeat. As long as there was a heartbeat, there was life. Today Craig and I watched as that tiny heart lay still and silent. Craig held me tight as quiet tears gave way to uncontrolled sobs and wretching. Yet, somehow I felt a peace.

At 4:40 this afternoon our baby boy arrived. Although he never would get the chance to breathe his first breath he is perfect as can be. He has ten little fingers and toes and perfectly defined features. He weighed in at 5.3 ounces and 16 centimeters long. He was born with his tiny arms crossed on his chest. Truly amazing and beautiful. Holding this baby in my arms and telling him how loved he is and how proud I was to call him my son made it all worth it. All of the morning sickness, all of the pain, all the tears, everything. We have been so blessed.

Tomorrow morning we will have him baptized with water from the Jordan River--the same river water that Jesus was baptized in. His grandma and grandpa Riedel are on their way, and grandma Nieuwsma is here. Then, somehow, we'll say goodbye. I have no idea how to do that.

Sure, we are sad beyond measure, but at the same time know that this is all going to be OK. God has been so very good to us, even in this. Things could have been much worse. I am doing well and will probably be discharged tomorrow. Labor went quickly and without complications. We will get through somehow, and will count our blessings by these tiny little handprints--no bigger than my thumbnail that are forever imprinted on our hearts.

We have given him the name Christopher Job Riedel. Christopher after his daddy (that is Craig's middle name) and Job because Job endured many many struggles before his faithfulness to God was rewarded. Oh he's so beautiful.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


I am going to keep this short. Let me start by saying that God is good. All the time. Always.
Today I learned that this baby that I have been carrying and have learned to love so much will not survive. I have had some complications and was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where I will be until our baby is born. Craig is in Alabama and has booked the next available flight home, which will arrive at noon tomorrow. Mom is here with me. I have lost a lot of blood but have stabalized and am now comfortable. The doctor has warned that I could go into labor at any time, but I am really praying that that won't happen until Craig can be here.

I can't begin to put into words how I am feeling (perhaps because things haven't really set in yet). Heartbroken is a good start, though. I know that in this, too, God has a plan and His plan is not to watch us hurt, but (as Uncle Duane said at Dad's funeral) to turn this bad thing also into something good, just as He has already done for Dad...and for Kimmi....and soon for this baby.

Please don't think for a minute that this is all some cruel mistake. Nothing about this baby has been a mistake, and for the last 17 weeks it has brought so much joy to our lives. Although this is clearly not what we would have chosen, this is all part of our journey to becoming a family, and God is completely in control.

That's enough for now. I am exhausted and my body needs rest to face tomorrow. For tonight, I am resting in the knowledge that I will have the strength through grace to receive what I need for each moment. I can so clearly recall the view from the mountaintop between the valley of my dad's death and now this.

One last thought....I am comforted with the thought of knowing that this baby won't be going to a heaven full of strangers, but grandpa, some great grandparents, and an aunt who will be eager to care for it until its parents arrive.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I remember

~I remember the first time that Craig brought me to Omaha to meet his family. He had told me (among other things) in the car not to be alarmed by his sister's size. She was very short and petite and had just turned 16.
~I remember when we got to their house for the first time. Kimmi wasn't there for long. Her and Shawna were "going out." She was all dolled up with her long blond hair looking so pretty.
~I remember when Craig's mom, Kimmi, her friend Kim, and I all went up to the Mall of America for a weekend. Craig was interning in Minneapolis and Evelyn and I were walking around the mall with one walkie talkie trying to get ahold of the Kims who had the other one. I'll never forget that "KIMMIE--THIS IS YOUR MOM--ANSWER ME AND TELL ME WHERE
YOU ARE!" (walkie talkies don't work at the Mall.)
~I remember when on the way home from that trip we had to wait in the drive through window of McDonalds for the employees to warm up her bag of dialysate fluid.
I remember when we got married. Kim was at the guest book table with Craig's sister in law in her cute purple dress.
~I remember when Kim got her second transplant and could put the years of CAPD (dialysis) behind her. We later went to Colorado and spent a day at Waterworld. So much fun.
~I remember when Kim got Licorice, her little black kitty from Paul for Christmas
~I remember when I went to WalMart with her late one night. That was the first (and thankfully last) time I ever experienced her driving firsthand.
~I remember sitting around the table listening to the latest drama in Kim's life...she got pulled over again for not looking old enough to drive...someone slashed her tires...Craig had tied her to a chair and denied her food when he was supposed to be babysitting her as a child...etc.
~I remember when Kim became the official family potato masher. Never a lump in them taters.
~I remember decorating easter eggs.
~I remember Kim graduating from highschool. We bought her a lavendar stethescope to use in her college courses.
~I remember Kim highlighting Craig's hair. Even our rabbits were scared of him when he got home.
~I remember the sound of her clicking her tongue piercing.
~I remember Christmas 2008. Quiet and simple. It was her favorite holiday. She was making peanut butter balls to take to the dialysis center the next morning, as well as some stinky dog treats. Life was normal.
~I remember thinking that she seemed much more frail, and that she needed to get another transplant soon.
~I remember getting the call from Bob that things hadn't gone well in surgery and knowing that we needed to get to Omaha.
~I remember spending a week at the hospital not knowing whether she was going to make it or not, but sensing an increasing feeling of dread.
~I remember Kimmi coming home with hospice. She was laying in her bed with her big blue eyes wide open.
~I remember when her eyes closed and her body came to rest.
~I remember March 3, 2009...the day Kimmi died.
But more imporantly...
~I remember the way that she lived.
Even though a year has now passed and the shock has given way to sadness and loss, I continue to miss Kim, and will always remember these good times and so many more.