Mommy Monday

It's a bit of a funny thing when a MM story is dropped in my lap.  All year I keep my heart and eyes open for that certain Mother who sparks my interest, a story that breaks my heart a woman who shows strength beyond measure...

This weeks Mommy..

Melanie is wife to Clay and mother to Myah (5) they reside in a small community east of the mountains here in Washington State.  Last summer I had a long conversation with Melanie's Mom.  She told Mel's story about her first born baby girl, Shaya.  It was one of those stories.. the kind that stick.. the one you don't easily shake.  Let's meet yet another amazing Mommy.

Mel! Thank you soo much for your willingness to share your story this week!  First, let's talk a little bit about your life before Shaya.  You and Clay had been married a few years before she came along.  On 11/29/04 you welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world.  What were your thoughts on becoming a new Mother?

We were both so excited! Both of us were ready and our whole family was happy for us!

How was your pregnancy? At what point did you know something was not quite right.

I had a normal pregnancy. In labor, the baby was in distress so the doctors delivered her c-section.  She was PERFECT.  Then when she was 6 days old, we noticed a few things were off.  She wasn't eating, she wasn't peeing a lot, and her left leg was turning a little "off color" (blotchy purple).  We were having Clay's 30's birthday party at the beginning of December and we asked a friend our our's (a nurse practitioner) what we should do.  He told us we should go to the ER in Spokane.. just in case. After 6 hours in the ER and then another several hours of test, X-rays, scans, ect, the doctors determined that she had a blocked clot in her descending aorta.  It had cut off blood flow to her kidneys and lower extremities.  She was taken into emergency surgery and give a 5% chance of survival.  She was then flown to Seattle Children's Hospital.

So here you have this "normal" pregnancy, pretty normal delivery then 7 days later you are on the other side of the state.. your sweet baby girl is given a 5% chance of survival... talk a bit about what you were feeling then.. coping? Even putting one foot in front of the other?

Coping with the sheer trauma of the situation was something that I could only do by the grace of God! When I boarded the back of the plane from Spokane to Seattle, I had no idea if my baby would make it there alive. It was in that moment that I prayed and asked God to give me the strength to keep my emotions as "in check" as possible so I could make sound decisions about her care. I knew the doctors would give us tons of information that we would need to make decisions about - and it would be my job to know all the facts.  Shaya's nurse Stephanie (who was with us the first night) made us feel so supported (as did many of the other staff there). She did one small thing that made a huge impact - she made us SMILE again. Our friends and family were also an amazing support system. Faith in a sovereign a caring medical staff...without all of those elements, I could not have coped.

We were at Children's for 4 months. The first few days were chaotic. We had no idea where to stay, what to do, etc. Clay, my mom, my brother and sister-in-law and I were all there taking shifts in the IICU with Shaya. The first thing we had to figure out was sleeping arrangements. We were encouraged to check in at the Ronald McDonald House. It was only across the street but (at first) it felt a million miles away from the IICU. My mom was incredible. She used the kitchen and pantry at the RMH to make us home cooked meals. She did our laundry. She took care of our day to day physical needs. My mom had to leave after almost 2 months. She was a teacher and we knew she needed to get back to work. However, she came back MANY weekends to visit. I never left Seattle. Clay was there the entire time until he had to leave for the police academy. Even then, he called all the time and spent every weekend with us in Seattle. After a couple months, I got into a routine - going between the hospital and the RMH. I knew I had a child who would have intense medical needs for a very long time so I had mentally prepared myself for the hospital life to become my "norm". 

Clay is driving back and forth over the mountain, going to the police academy during the week.. that must have killed him, talk a bit about your relationship during that time.

Yes, Clay was traveling back and forth across the state each weekend and it was SO DIFFICULT for him to be away from us. He doubted his decision to go to the academy the whole time. But he was such a rock for me while we were dealing with all of Shaya's medical issues. I felt like I was able to draw from his strength. He always seemed to ask the doctors all the right questions and fight for Shaya. It was intense, though. Now I see why situations like that either make you or break you as a couple. This ordeal definately drew us closer together because we made each decisions together and relied on God for the strength to make it.

4 months in the hospital is a long time.  Did it feel long? Was it hard to watch everyone around resume normal lives?

4 months seemed like a long time. My friend Shanna at the RMH was there with her daughter who had cancer and she would say things like, "All I want to do is sit on a porch swing with a glass of iced tea with my family and be normal." And that's how I felt, too. I felt like I would never take a "normal life" for granted ever again. I would appreciate little things like: sipping iced tea, walks and sunny days. By the 3rd month there, I was getting into a routine. I had many, many visits from friends and family, which helped me not feel lonely.

Speaking of visits, you had (and still have) a simply amazing support to me about your peeps:)

(Shaya and Granny)

My mom and my family were by our side the entire time. Mom, Mark and sister-in-law drove Clay from Spokane to Seattle in a blizzard when Shaya was first hospitalized. They made sure we were all set up at the Ronald McDonald house. Mom stayed with us for 2 months and took care of us. She was an INCREDIBLE support! My friend Mary came up from Portland to be by my side several times. Our friends and family were there for us constantly. Some of our friends and Clay's parents even flew out from Virginia. Our church family in Summit Valley sent letters, cards and money to help us out. We never really felt alone because we had so much support. We had about 30 visitors come see Shaya in the hospital. Without all that support, I'm not sure I could've made it emotionally.

4 months into this new life...

We were preparing to take Shaya home and we were SO EXCITED! To make that transition, she had to stay with me at the RMH for a few weeks. Our nurse, Linda, loaded us and all of our equipment from the hospital in her own personal van and moved us into the RMH. Moving Shaya out of the hospital and to the RMH with me was one of the most terrifying things I've ever experienced. I had a total melt-down (ok, it may have been a panic attack!) I was sobbing because all of the sudden I was fully in charge of administering meds, dialysis, feeding tube, etc. I called my friend Alicia who lived in Lynnwood and asked her if she could come stay with me and she graciously accepted! Two days later, I took Shaya in for her regular check-up at the hospital and they told me I had to re-admit her to the hospital. She was placed in a room that was not on the IICU floor. I tried to tell myself that this was just a "bump in the road" but deep down, I knew everything was "off". During the weeks preceding, my mom had felt a strong call to go on a missions trip and she had just returned to the states. She did not even go home before she came to the hospital (yes, that's how awesome my mom is!).  She agreed with me - Shaya was not stabilizing very well. I had to go back to the RMH and get a pice of paper for a nurse and grab a change of clothes. My mom stayed with Shaya. I was literally gone for 10 minutes when I got THE CALL from my mom saying to get over to the hospital because Shaya was "coding" (cardiac arrest). My legs went numb and I tore out of that place in a panic. I rushed up to Shaya's room and what I encountered was unbelievable. There were at least 15 people in her room. They were all working in sync and the room was very quiet, but the feeling was very heavy. Louine (the ICU social worker) held on to me the entire time as we all watched helplessly. The doctor on the floor performed CPR for about 20 minutes. Then, they took her to the IICU. I called Clay (who was at the police academy) and gave him the news. Clay was on a plane to Seattle within the hour. My mom called my brother, sister, sister-in-law, pastor & his wife, and my friend Mary who were all there within 24 hours. When Clay arrived, we sat down with the doctor and Louine and he told us that there was nothing more they could do and that our baby girl would never recover. The news was a blow and all we could do is sit with her until she died. In the 24 hours following that conversation, our room in the IICU was a revolving door or friends, family and hospital staff who were all coming to say their goodbyes. It was hard to watch these people who had fought SO HARD for SO LONG say goodbye. Whenever I would step out of her room, I would see medical staff in tears. But it was comforting to know that they LOVED our child. I was holding Shaya as she passed away and words cannot describe 
the heartache we felt as we said goodbye to her.

Going forward..

Clay and I had a long car ride home together. We cried the entire time. But it was during that time when we talked about getting through this together. We gave each other permission to get through each day in our own way (as long as it wasn't destructive). Some days Clay was ok and I was not - and vice versa. But we were there for one another. One of the most difficult things for me to overcome as I came home was an overwhelming feeling of "NOW WHAT"? I had quit my job when I was pregnant. And now my job as a mom was over. One thing I did was go to our friend Rosie's scrapbooking store about 3 days per week and scrapbooked Shaya's life. It was so therapeutic. About 2 months after Shaya passed away, Clay started pushing me to get a job. He could see that I needed to keep moving forward. I didn't really FEEL like moving forward but I applied for - and got a job - in the school district where I currently work. God is so good...He provided a job for me with people who supported me both emotionally and spiritually. They helped me take one day at a time.

Then came something a little unexpected..

About 5 months after I started my new job, I found out I was pregnant. Truthfully we were devastated at first. We did not feel prepared for another baby AT ALL. My entire pregnancy was filled with tests and ultrasounds. The thought of the same thing happening all over again was terrifying. Then, when we went in to the ultrasound and found out we were having another girl, we both fell apart (the poor ultrasound lady must've thought we were crazy!). But once Myah arrived, we were so happy. And looking back now, I'm glad we had another girl! After we had Myah, we found JOY again!

How did Myah help you heal?

Having Myah has been healing in so many ways. She brought our JOY back. She makes us SMILE and LAUGH. She helped us move forward. I'm not sure we ever would've "planned" to have another baby so she was definitely a gift from God! Just the other day she told me that she wished Shaya was still alive. We talked about it for awhile. I explained to Myah that when Shaya passed away, our hearts were very, very sad. But then God gave us Myah and our hearts were HAPPY again! 
Even if I don't understand all the REASONS we go through trials, I know that God can use our heartbreak to comfort others....2 Cornithians 1: 3-4 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."

Ok lady, fun question.

10 days outside the US with 10 people.  (this might be hard because you have such a big family!!)

10 Days outside the US with 10 People....I would love to go somewhere like Australia or Bora Bora and enjoy the beautiful beaches! This sounds horrible but I might not take Clay because he HATES flying and would probably rather NOT go!! If we were taking a road trip, he would be #1 on my list, though! I would probably make it a "girl trip" and take: Mary Jane, Rachelle, Jennie and Michelle (four of my close girl friends) and Tammy (my sister in law), Mindy (my sister), my Mom, Mikaela & Morgan (two of my nieces who have baby sat for me so many times that they deserve a trip!) and Myah. 


elaine said…
so many tears as I read your story, Melanie. It's so hard to read and yet so beautiful. You are one of those gals who truly lives it from deep within. You have been and continue to be a blessing to so many.
Anonymous said…
Mel...when I read this I did cry! In the public are an incredible woman. I have so many regrets of not being one of those people by your side in Seattle. I love you my dear friend!!! Rachelle
Jeff said…
Mel. your a special person that has gone thru so much. Knowing you on a family level gave me an inside view of your support system. You and your family rock and are such a testimony of how God never gives us more then we can handle. And he knows just who to put in our paths to give us strength and guidance. Again I'm blessed to have read your story but even more blessed to have you as a member of my family. God Bless you and yours. Jeff from Forks
Renae said…
Your strength through the Lord Almighty is inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story and the pictures of the beautiful little girl which the Lord shared with you for a short time. When I see you smile it is hard to fathom the pain you have gone through. You have touched my heart and renewed my faith. Words cannot express my sorrow for your loss or the joy of God's gift of a strong network of family & friends. You are such a beautiful person Melanie. God Bless you and your family!
Melanie said…
Thank you, everyone, for your comments!! None of us are immune to trials, heartache, loss. The real, true story in my life was how to find HOPE in the midst of all of the hurt and pain and loss. So many times we go through the WORST and end up losing ourselves in the pain of it all. Losing a child has taken me to the place of TRUST in a Sovereign God who LOVES me and who has led me right through the "valley of the shadow of death". Painful stories are the hardest to tell but are usually the one's that help you understand what others are going through!! Thanks for letting me share! ~Melanie

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