Mommy Monday

**I know this post is super long, but I tried and tried to take stuff out..I just could not..grab a cup of tea, a hankie and stay for a while**

Jeri was the underclassman that made all of us upper classman look really bad at ANY sport!! Although what always stood out to me more than her basketball skills, was her sweet smile and even sweeter spirit. She currently resides in Monroe Washington with her hubby Ben and 2 kiddos..Blake (age 8) and daughter Faith (age 2). I recently reconnected with her via Facebook (of course) and found out she has a Mommy story to share…

Amber, I’m honored that you would ask me to be a part of your blog…and life! I think you’re fabulous and super easy to talk to. I seriously could just talk with you for hours!!! Thanks for the wonderful intro as well…you are way too kind!

Talk to me about your very sweet kiddos. Blake seems like such a sweet big brother, and Faith is really about the cutest thing around.

Thanks! Well, Blake is my sweet and easy going guy. He loves all things camo/army/military etc. and is a huge Lego fan.
Faith…ahhh…Faith…where to begin. She is a very smart little gal and fiercely independent. It has been quite interesting to watch her over the past two years…I’m pretty sure she hated being an infant.

I have to tell you, when I told Zach that I was going to ask to interview about Jenika for Mommy Monday, he stopped mid tracks and said..”You sent her an email asking, what?”

I’m not going to lie, I don’t even know how to ask you about Jenika..

I totally understand where you’re coming from. There is one thing you should know about me though…I’m a talker…so you don’t have to be afraid of asking me anything. I try to view everything that happens to me as a learning experience. That’s what life’s all about right!?! We are here on borrowed time, so it only makes sense to share my story with others. Especially since what happened to our family has and is happening to other families. It has become my club that I wish nobody else would become a part of…but unfortunately…it continues to happen to many others.

So, if the interview is hard for you…I’ll just start.

My “Mommy” story is that I am the mother of a stillborn baby girl. We named her Jenika Loraine Fodge. She was my second child and I carried her full term. She died about a week before she was to be born. It was a total blindside for sure. As part of my grieving process after she died, I actually wrote her story down…
Jenika’s Story
On Tuesday, January 31st I had a regular doctor’s appointment after school (I’m a 2nd grade teacher). Jenika had been really active all day…she was normally a very active little gal, but on this day, she was really busy in there. I was in my 38th week and my doctor had told me that I would be able to have her the following week. I was ecstatic! The nursery was all ready, Blake (4 years old) knew that his sister “Jenika” would be joining us very soon. My last working day before my maternity leave was going to be Friday, Feb. 3rd. My mom, who lives in Spokane, was planning to come and stay with us for a week or so to help out. We had everything all planned out and we were ready! I went home feeling excited and very anxious to finally be able to meet my daughter.
The next day (Wednesday) I went to work and was really busy teaching, organizing, and planning ahead for the substitute who would be coming in to take my place for the remainder of the school year. I worked pretty late. I left the school around 6:30 or 7:00 o’clock that night. When I finally got home I went upstairs to check e-mail on the computer. After I sat down, I realized for the 1st time that I didn’t remember feeling any movement from Jenika that entire day. I told Ben that I was concerned because I didn’t remember her moving or kicking at all. I told him that I was going to go and take a shower to see if she would move…I tried it, she didn’t move. I went and laid down on our bed…still no movement. I started to panic and we decided to look up what we could on the Internet to see if we should call a doctor. He looked up some medical websites regarding the 38th week of pregnancy and I’ll never forget the line that we read. It said: Call your doctor if your baby is overactive, less active, or if you feel no activity at all. I looked at Ben and said, “Oh my gosh! She was overactive all day yesterday and today there is nothing!”
We immediately called the Evergreen Nurse Hotline. They had us do a “kick test.” I had to drink ice cold water and push my stomach around for about an hour. If I wasn’t able to feel 10 kicks within the hour…I was supposed to call back. Well, I felt nothing and we ended up driving to the hospital, dropping Blake off at my aunt’s house on the way. We arrived there around midnight. I was escorted back to a bed where the nurse (Andy) tried to find the baby’s heartbeat…he searched and searched. I knew this was bad because we were always able to find Jenika’s heartbeat right away. He couldn’t find it and so he told us that he was going to get the ultrasound machine.
When he brought it back, he had the monitor turned toward us as he started searching. I’ll never forget seeing her profile. I could see her head, her arm and a little hand aimed upward. The only thing moving on the entire screen was the fluid around her. She was completely still. There was no activity in her chest where her heart should have been beating. Her fingers weren’t wiggling and she wasn’t flipping around like she had done every other time we had seen her on an ultrasound monitor. All I could say was, “She’s not moving…she’s not moving.” Nobody was saying anything and he just kept searching, hoping to find some sort of movement somewhere. I finally said to Andy, “Will you please tell me what you are thinking, because I know what I’m thinking.” He simply replied, “Your doctor is on his way.”
At that point I pretty much lost all track of time and space. The room felt as if it was caving in and I couldn’t stop shaking although I didn’t feel cold. I told Ben that I needed to call my mom. It was the worst call I’ve ever had to make and I’m sure it was the worst that she ever had to receive. Ben called his dad and then we just cried. The whole situation was so unreal. This just couldn’t be happening. It just couldn’t end like this. When the doctor got there he searched on the ultrasound machine just like Andy had done and then, with a big sigh, turned it off and looked at Ben and said,
“I’m really sorry.”
So that was it!?! After that I wanted answers! “What can happen in a day? I was just at the doctor’s and she was fine. I didn’t fall, I wasn’t sick, I didn’t get in a car accident…nothing happened to me!!! How can she be gone when nothing happened?” There was no explanation for this kind of tragic ending to our baby’s life here on Earth. It wasn’t fair! I didn’t do anything wrong. I made all the right choices and I didn’t choose this. This was not acceptable! My world was changed forever.
Jenika Loraine Fodge went to live with Jesus on February 2nd, 2006. She was 6lbs. 15oz. and 19 ½ inches long. She had lots of dark wavy hair and a very distinct dimple on her chin. She looked as if she were only sleeping. She was absolutely beautiful. I remember thinking that she should be so full of life and movement…just like Blake had been on the wonderful day that he was born. Instead, we had this beautiful, perfect little girl, who didn’t even get even a chance to fight for life. Her fate was already sealed and there was nothing we could do to change that. We were powerless to help her and that was the worst feeling that I’ve ever experienced and one I’ll never forget.
We had an autopsy done to see if we could figure out just what happened. Much to our dismay, the autopsy came back with inconclusive results. I later discovered that apparently 20 percent of these types of cases come back with no answers whatsoever…we are in that 20 percent category. I guess for now, we are not supposed to know why this happened to our Jenika.
As you can imagine, life totally changed for us. Looking back at the story that I wrote after this experience, I find it interesting that I didn’t write anything about what happened after we found out she was gone. I guess maybe at that time I wasn’t ready to actually go through each detail of what giving birth to a dead baby was like…I guess I kind of put that behind a “door” and moved on, knowing that I could actually “open that door” at any time and re-live every single second in excruciating detail if I wanted to. I have to say it was a total out of body experience (probably shock) because it was like my brain hit a record button. Although during the whole experience I couldn’t tell you what day it was…what time it was…nothing. Very strange what traumatic experiences do to you.

So, I guess part two of Jenika’s story would be that after my doctor finally came I was taken to a delivery room and they began to induce me. While Ben and I sat there, it had only been about 20 minutes and in comes my brother Justin. I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t called anyone but my mom. He told me that Mom had called him and said that he needed to get to me because she couldn’t get there fast enough. After he came in…the door kept opening and more people piled in. My grandparents, Ben’s parents and grandma, his siblings, my parents. It was unbelievable the support that immediately surrounded us. Even my friends seemed to find out…I couldn’t believe how fast word spread. It still blows my mind!

I also want to mention that we were at Evergreen Hospital…and the nurses there were so wonderful. When life gets hard, I truly believe that God sends you his wonderful and caring people to help you get through the pain. He sent me so many angels that day. Besides my family that came, the nurses took care of me as if I were part of their family. They cried with me, hugged me, cried with me some more. They were amazing. Once I was induced…it didn’t take long for Jenika to be born. I remember being so scared to see her. I wasn’t sure I wanted too. So, Ben cut her cord and saw her first. The nurses took her away for a moment to clean her up and then I remember Ben telling me she looked just like Blake did when he was born. Then I WANTED to see her…really badly. I remember all of a sudden being afraid I might forget what she looked like. It was as if I realized that I would only have a few hours to ingrain her image into my memory. Then those wonderful nurses stepped in again and asked if we wanted a picture of her. We said yes…and then Ben’s wonderful grandma tugged at the nurse’s arm and said “only one?” So, we ended up with a CD of over 50 pictures by the time we left the hospital. Amazing. I later created a wonderful Shutterfly memory book of Jenika using those pictures and Ben created a DVD. I am so thankful for the photos…so thankful.

When they finally handed her to me, I looked at her and I remember thinking how perfect she looked. Just like she was sleeping. She was so beautiful…so perfect. Perfect tiny fingers and toes. She had that wonderful new baby smell. She looked chunky even though she was only 6lbs. 15oz. She also had a perfect dimple in her chin. I also felt a twinge of anger that nobody was trying to resuscitate her…as if maybe there were some chance she would live. I knew in my mind that she was gone…but looking at her…my heart was broken. I wanted to know her alive…I didn’t want this reality. This was not something I had ever fathomed would happen. You know when you map out your life and think of things that could possibly happen to you…this was not even a blip on my radar screen. Seriously…what the heck…right!?!

Ben and I both held her and our family members were with us. I wanted everyone with us. It was weird because while I was holding her…I wasn’t sure what I should do, or what I could do? I know this sounds strange, but I distinctly remembering wanting to pull back her eyelids and see what color her eyes were, but I wasn’t sure that would be appropriate? I was also sort of freaked out that maybe something scary would be lurking under her eyelids…and I’d have to live with that memory. So, I never looked. I regret that. Later, I had correspondence with another family that had a stillborn baby girl, and she let me read her story (coincidentally, she wrote hers down too) and she mentioned that they had looked at the baby’s eyes and they were brown. When I read that…I cried. I wished I would have looked into Jenika’s eyes. My hunch is that they were blue…just like Blake’s were.

All our family members were able to hold Jenika in the hospital. We actually have pictures of nearly everyone getting to hold her. I’m so glad that everyone WANTED to hold her. I wasn’t sure that they would. I was almost afraid to ask, but I remember saying…”does anyone want to hold her?” I guess I was expecting people not to want to…but everyone did. I mean, honestly, who really thinks that they will have to hold a dead baby during their lifetime…or actually want to. I was very thankful that we have such strong and supportive family members who were willing to walk with us during our time of sadness. Because of this, we didn’t end up having a formal service for her. I think we all had enough closure and frankly, I don’t do well at funerals. At the time, I didn’t think I would be able to handle it. Ben and I knew that she was with Jesus…and that was all we needed to know.

I remember after leaving the hospital…I couldn’t go home, so I went to my Grandma’s house. I have never cried so much in my entire life. I didn’t know that it was humanly possible to cry as much as I cried. I remember looking in the mirror and not recognizing my own face. It was a sad time. Yet at the same time, people kept reaching out to us and it became totally unreal. We received so many flowers. I couldn’t believe how many people sent us flowers…cards…candles…gifts…e-mails…money…the list goes on and on! We also had visitors and people who brought us dinners, deserts, and even toys for Blake. It still to this day is somewhat indescribable how much love and support we received after this tragedy. I will be forever grateful.

Explaining what happened to Blake was the hardest part. He was only 4 at the time and expecting a little sister. We explained to him that Jenika had to go live with Jesus instead of with us, but we would see her again someday…in Heaven. Luckily for me, Blake is the kind of kid that if something’s on his mind, he is pretty vocal about it. I remember always trying to gage his feelings about what happened. It was sort of funny the times and places that he would think about her. It usually occurred with strangers aka: the store cashier, the joggers going by our house, etc. He would just say or call out “my baby sister died.” Usually, the stranger he said this statement to would stop and stare at me as if to say “how do I respond to that?” It was always totally awkward. I actually didn’t mind though because I thought, well Blake must have needed to get that off his chest…so he did! I figured with strangers, we wouldn’t see them again so no biggy…although I did feel sad for them in the moment because I’m sure they felt really bad and generally didn’t know what to say to his matter of fact statements.

Now that I have a family blog, I sort of have an outlet to remember Jenika on her birthday…which is really nice. Here is Jenika's 4th Birthday post.

Happy 4th Birthday Jenika

Wow...another year has gone by. I can't help but think that I should be planning a party for a 4 year old little girl. I wonder what the theme would have been. What would she be interested in?...What would she have asked for?...What would she have looked like, sounded like? The questions are endless. I also think, wow...if she were here today, I would have had an 8 year old, a 4 year old, and a 2 year old. That would have been very interesting. :-)
I've decided that when you've had something terrible happen in your life, you are left with many strange thoughts and theories. I chalk it up to the fact that it's hard to wrap your mind around things that are unexpected and tragic. I feel that being on this strange road of having one of your children die...before they are even born...is sometimes a tragedy that not many can really relate to. I call it "my club that no one should have to join." Unfortunately, I have discovered that there are many people that get thrown into this "club" with me. Since this has happened to me, I hear about these stories quite frequently. Over the past year I have been told notified of 3 different stillborn situations. I feel that I have become sort of a "go to" person for those who know someone who is caught up in this tragic situation. I am so sad when I hear these stories. It's so sad to think of someone having to deal with the loss of their child. It's really just not fair...not fair......it's just plain WRONG.
I know that there is nothing I can say, or do really to help them make things better. What I can do is send my condolences and share our story. I've put together sort of a "care" package that usually includes: a card for the family with a message from me, Jenika's Story, my blog post from last year, and my contact information. I feel that by doing this, Jenika's short life here has a purpose and she lives on. It allows me to talk about her to people...which, I don't really get to do too much because I feel that people either get uncomfortable or think I'm feeling sorry for myself. It is a strange road indeed. I do have to say that I am not afraid of hard situations anymore. I have been through the grieving process and I know that everyone handles it different.
The main thing to do is LISTEN, DO NOT BE AFRAID, and DO NOT AVOID. I remember that there were a couple of people who did not want to look at Jenika's pictures when I offered to show them. They did not want to look at her for whatever reason. It really hurt my feelings and it also made me angry. I wasn't directly angry at them...but more angry in the fact that they could CHOOSE to look at them or CHOOSE not to look at them. I never got a choice...I never got to CHOOSE. It just wasn't fair. I had to walk down the path whether I wanted to or not. So, through this I have learned that if someone wants to share with me something that is HARD or PAINFUL, I will go with them...I will take their hand and I will walk with them. I will CHOOSE to be the friend that doesn't avoid the hard stuff. I think that because of this, Jenika really does live on and has made me a better friend, mother, and person.
But, I still miss her and will always miss her presence...I wish she were here and I wish we were celebrating her birthday. We prayed that God would give her a big hug from us...I think he did.

Although I think of her every day, I don’t get to talk about her much. So it’s really nice when someone wants to know about her. As you can tell…I sort of just explode…and to think Amber, you didn’t even ask me a question. I bet you’re wishing you would have now huh!

Jeri you told it better than I ever could have..you are a true Mommy hero to us all, thanks so so much for sharing your story.

I'm sure Jeri won't mind me offering up her email if anyone would like to contact her, just contact me via tresbirdsphotog@hotmail.com and I will pass her info on.

Comments

tinkerverve said…
Wow! I'm pretty sure it isn't good for my laptop to read stories like this. tear-jerker indeed.
Thank you for sharing your story Jeri. What a blessing that others who have gone through a still-born birth can connect with you and receive from you a truly understanding heart.
I would love to have a link to your blog...
Our Family said…
Hi "Tinkerverve"
I would love to send you an invitation to my blog. It's nothing fancy...just send me your e-mail address and I'll send you the invite.
My e-mail is fodges@comcast.net

Amber...Thanks so much for sharing my story. I hope it will help someone. :-)

~ Jeri
Lori Nelson said…
I'm not even sure what to say except, Jeri, you are an amazing woman! Of course I'm crying reading this but I'm also struck with how strong you are. You could have a totally different perspective on life, God and being a mommy, but your story brings hope through the sadness. Loved how you shared about walking with people through the pain, it's a great reminder.
Thanks for ministering to others through your tragedy. You are truly living out 2 Corinthians 1:4- "...who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."
Thanks Amber for yet another great post.
-Lori (Martinez) Nelson
Johnna Sutton said…
God bless you and your family Jeri....My heart is broken for you, thank you for sharing.
Miss Charity said…
Jeri...as I sit here wiping away the tears...I thank God you shared your story with us. My brother& his wife lost their little boy Luke only 6 days after his birth. I miss him everyday, I can't imagine your pain. May God continue to bless you and your family...

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