Friday, January 22, 2010

Luke's Birthday - Chapter 2

by Joe and Sarah

Upon being wheeled into the OR for Luke's delivery, the first person I saw was Dr. Nichols. She gave me a nod which communicated to me her presence, her strength, her compassion and her belief that we could do this.  I immediately heard the beautiful melodies of the Nebraska Suite filling the OR and I was completely overcome by the magnitude of the moment. I could feel myself shaking with anticipation; we were finally about to meet our son, Luke.  All of our minutes, hours, days, weeks and months of expecting and dreaming were over and the moment was finally here. I felt scared, excited, hopeful, sad, lost, overwhelmed, flooded by love and, from out of nowhere, a smidge strong.  We were finally going to summit this mountain we had been struggling to climb for the past 10 was the mountaintop.

Having never given birth before and never experienced a c-section surgery, I suddenly felt like my body was on autopilot and had become like a machine.  The doctors and nurses were the expert mechanics for my machine in those moments and I surrendered myself to their complete care.  I was transferred to the operating table to a sitting position, and told to hunch over exposing my back to the anesthesiologist.  He began talking us through what he was about to do.  Joe stood directly in front of me and I held onto his hands for dear life and stared at the bright yellow of his scrubs.  My friends had told me about this part of the procedure and they were right:  it was awful.  Having a giant needle inserted into your spine is just extremely unsettling, I don't care what anyone tells you.  It hurt and it was scary.

I was then told to lay down flat on my back and could immediately begin to feel my lower body growing extremely heavy and numb.  I was strapped down onto the table, prepped, poked (to ensure numbness), hooked up to all sorts of machines and the worst part was that my arms were also strapped down in a crucifix-like position for all of the monitoring of different machines etc.  I was not prepared for that part and when the drape went up in front of my face (to prevent seeing any unnecessary gore) I was extremely anxious.  Everything was in motion and completely in God's hands...we were going to meet sweet Luke in a matter of minutes.

Backing up a little bit in the story, I want to share a few details that were going on at this time as well.  One of the things Dr. Nichols told us we could do was to have some special music of our choosing playing in the OR when Luke was born.  We thought long and hard about what to choose, what melodies and tones did we want him to hear during his few minutes here on earth with us?  In keeping with the obvious beauty of the music we wanted our sweet Luke to hear, we also wanted music that was not super familiar for us in that it would trigger a flood of emotion should we hear it in a department store, while dining out, on the radio or at the dentist etc.  It needed to be very special and beautiful, yet not commonly known.

I remembered back in college listening to beautiful piano music composed by the uncle of my dear friend Amy.  Her uncle, Rick Kuethe, is an incredibly talented musician and composer who had several CDs made of his music and I realized that it could be the perfect choice for Luke.  She loaned us several of Rick's CDs to listen to over the final few weeks of Luke's life.  Both Joe and I felt that Rick's beautiful music was perfect to greet Luke upon his birth and we decided upon the CD titled: Nebraska Suite (since Joe is from Nebraska) and its simple yet gorgeous melodies always made me think of wonderment, beauty and hope.  It would be the truly perfect soundtrack for Luke's birth when our three lives would briefly intertwine for a few precious moments.  So being wheeled into the O.R. and hearing the beginning notes of those beautiful melodies playing took my breath away both in the awesomeness of the moment before us, and the whispers of beauty, hope and wonder with which they filled the air.


(We had hoped to be able to post a link directly to the music, but were unable to find anything that didn't require an elaborate download.  But we did find this YouTube video of a random guy playing one of the songs that was playing when Luke was born.  Not what we had envisioned posting, but it allows you to hear some of the beautiful music and get the idea.)

Another aspect of Luke's arrival that we wanted to share before going any farther in the story has to do with his first few precious seconds of being outside of the womb.  During several of our most recent OB appointments, we had spent a lot of time talking through Luke's delivery with Dr. Nichols.  We discussed what could happen, what to expect, what could not be predicted, what couldn't be controlled, what we could do to make things as peaceful for our son as possible, the order of events, the order of where Luke would go when etc.  Every detail had been turned over and over as well as the nuts and bolts of what would be going on physically during the surgery.

Earlier that morning when we were being prepped, Dr. Nichols shared with us something that had been recommended to her by another OB when dealing with babies like Luke.  Initially, our agreed on plan had been for Luke to come out of the womb and straight to Joe for clean up.  That way, every possible second of Luke's life would be with us.  However, that day, Dr. Nichols explained that she was going to try and leave Luke connected via his umbilical chord while she initially wiped him down a little bit before cutting the chord and passing him over to Joe who would finish wiping Luke down.  The thinking here was that while Luke was still connected to me, his life was supported by my body and his few precious minutes of life would not "officially" begin until the cord was cut.  We agreed to go with Dr. Nichols' new plan.

So now, getting back to the delivery/surgery... Joe was positioned to my right near my shoulder.  He sat close, held my hand and kept his eyes locked on mine the whole time.  I was working really, really hard not to cry.  I knew that I did not want to have any amnesia-inducing/calming drugs given to me, so we talked about some of our favorite, peaceful places we had been together.  We took a "walk" through Moraine Park located in Rocky Mountain National Park, "looking" at the rivers, the meadows, our picnic spots, fishing holes, hiking paths, view of the mountains, sunsets and overall beauty of that magnificent place.  We also talked and "walked" along the beaches where we honeymooned....watching the sunrise there, playing cards there, reading, napping in the sun, our afternoons on the beach beds watching people get married ...all of our fun memories there together...and before we knew it, Dr. Nichols was telling Joe to get ready to see Luke be born!  I had made it through the first part of the surgery without any calming drugs needing to be administered. (a miracle!) However, I was in no way prepared for my close encounter with our angel that was about to begin....our sweet son was almost here.

Joe stood up to peer over the drape and was able to watch as his son was born into this world.  I could see the focus and adoration written all over my beloved's face...and suddenly, at 9:22am, the room was filled with the sweetest sounds either of us had ever heard: our baby boy was crying! We had not expected this at all and our personal preparation to give birth to silence had been agonizing.  But God had a surprise in store for us that morning- our sweet Luke was crying! God gifted us with his own music in that room- our sweet son's precious voice.  Immediately upon recognizing that Luke's cries were a true miracle, Dr. Nichols scrapped her initial plan of leaving Luke connected, and quickly cut the chord so that Luke was in his daddy's big, strong hands within seconds.  As the tears began to immediately fall from my eyes, the two loves of my life were quickly back by my side.

Joe placed Luke as close as he could to my face and we were both sobbing looking at our beautiful son who lay crying right before our eyes.  He was absolutely magnificent.  We had been prepared for him to appear smooshed, wrinkly and for his torso to be bell-shaped due to his lack of lung development.  We were ready for him to be "beautiful to us," however, he was completely perfect.  His skin was smooth, his face had miraculously been protected in the fluidless womb and was not the slightest bit smooshed.  His tiny limbs were all in tact, his ten fingers and toes were wiggling and flailing.  His torso was not bell-shaped at all.  He was truly a miracle before our very eyes and we were absolutely in love with our little guy. He was gooey and wrapped in a hospital blanket and had the sweetest, most gentle grip.

The remainder of the surgery was an intense 40 minutes involving lots of stitching and stapling the many layers of my body back together.  Although I was crying uncontrollably, flooded with love and sadness, Joe and I were able to spend the entire 40 minutes pouring into our son which kept me relatively calm.  We gently touched his body, face, head, hair and skin while cherishing every single squawking cry as he "told us" about himself.  We told Luke how glad we were to meet him, how much we loved him, how proud of him we were, how we loved hearing him cry, how beautiful he was...over and over and over again.  We cried over him, Joe was even able to sneak a kiss (he was supposed to be wearing his mask, but he snuck Luke a kiss and then put it back on).

Watching Joe become a father before my eyes was magnificent.  He had always been a wonderful dad to Luke over the months and I never doubted his abilities for one second, but seeing the two loves of my life meet each other for the first time was absolutely beautiful. There are no words to describe it.  I fell more in love with my two guys in those moments than I ever believed possible.  My memories of those moments are flooded with tears and great emotion.  Our beautiful son was here and he was amazing.  I could not wait to hold him in my arms, but had to work on remaining calm and still so the surgery could be completed.  Holding Luke was my motivation- the sooner the surgery was over, the sooner I could hold him.


(A nurse in the OR was kind and snapped some photos for us using my camera.)

Being able to be focused on Luke and Joe was another gift from God because I was not paying attention to what was happening beyond the drape where the stitching and stapling was taking place for another almost 40 minutes after Luke's arrival.  The surgery ended without me requiring any calming medications- an absolute miracle!  I was completely overjoyed that Luke continued to cry for us the entire time and his initial few seconds/minutes were stretching into more time together with him than we had ever dared hope. 

The doctors began scurrying around me and telling me that everything was finished.  They rolled me over to clean my back off from where the epidural was placed, they transferred me back to a rolling bed, disconnected me from all of the machines and it was time to go.  Sometime in the flurry of activity, a decision was made to wrap Luke in a different, less-gooey, blanket.  Joe was shown where to bring him and upon setting Luke in the warmer for transfer to his new blanket, Luke opened his eyes for his daddy!  Joe got to see both of Luke's beautiful blue eyes wide open and looking around!  Joe immediately scooped Luke back up and brought him back to me in hopes that I too could see his eyes, but I saw them just as they were closing again.  But what an unexpected thrill for Joe!  I'm so thankful he was with Luke and didn't miss that! 

As I began to be wheeled from the OR, Joe was given permission (against hospital protocol) to carry our son in his arms, down the long hallway, back to our room.  I was being rolled ahead of them, but I could hear Luke's sweet, tiny cries following me down the hallway.  These moments are a blur for me.  I remember finally letting my pent-up sobs burst forth from my body as I was wheeled down the hall...I completely lost it and I didn't care who saw.  (That may be why I cannot really remember this part too well).  My eyes were shut, my body was bawling, my ears were listening for those sweet cries to continue and my heart was partially breaking and partially singing praises to God...all at the same time.

When we arrived back in room 3410, there was another rush of activity around me, getting me settled, plugged in and stabilized medically.  All I could focus on was the sweetest little guy my husband had finally been able to place in my precious Luke was here and he was finally in my arms on my chest.  Joe was right there with us too and our little family was together.  Joe and I both wept with joy and wonder at the miracle both in our arms and unfolding all around us.  There was so much we wanted to do with our son during these much to tell him, so much to capture, so much to remember...cherishing every sweet second....but what I remember feeling most during those precious initial moments was happiness.  I was living my own special miracle and feeling the joy and the love abounding in our room.  Meeting Luke was a true gift from God to both of us.

It was rapidly becoming obvious to us that Luke's birthday had God's fingerprints all over it and was truly a day of miracles for Luke, for us and for our time with him...and some of our favorite moments with our son were still yet to come....

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Luke's Birthday - Chapter 1

by Joe and Sarah

Waking up the morning of January 4, 2010, Luke's birthday, was not difficult- I was already awake and had been practically all night long.  But actually getting up was very hard....that meant that we were actually choosing to set the day's events in motion.  I remember lying there in bed with Joe, knowing that I needed to get up, but not wanting to actually begin that day.  But I eventually did get up- for Luke. We did this all for him.

I was feeling very jittery as I showered, dressed and prepared to leave our home for the last time with Luke, knowing that these were the last few minutes that he would be alive there with us.  I knew that the next time we pulled back into our driveway, so much would be different and that our hearts would never be the same again.  I took pictures of my point of view of Luke- looking down at my belly as well as a profile shot in a full length mirror because I always want to be able to remember how he looked to me and how we looked to others while he was alive and with us.  I purposefully took my time trying to wrangle my socks on that day because I wanted to savor the feeling of fullness and the roundness of Luke's presence in my body.  That day, I actually enjoyed how he impeded me from reaching my feet...not accomplished without great difficulty and shortness of breath.  I spent time talking to him that morning and tapped my numb thigh a few extra times as I moved around, cherishing the feeling and wanting to forever remember the tingling numbness caused by Luke pressing on a particular nerve.  I even savored putting on my giant down jacket that morning- a jacket that is usually large on me but had been fitting me snugly through the belly thanks to Luke.  I sadly realized that it was the last time that it would keep us both warm.

Driving to the hospital that morning, Joe and I remarked at how it was such a "get back to normal day" for the majority of the population.  The holidays were officially over.  People were heading back to work and kids were getting back to school...things were returning to "normal" and people were settling back into the routine of their lives. Exactly opposite of what Joe and I were doing that morning...we were driving to the hospital preparing to meet our precious son, hopefully be able to love him for a few precious minutes and then watch him pass away into heaven's arms before our eyes.  Not routine and certainly not "normal" for us.

We delivered Luke at Overland Park Regional Hospital and we were extremely well cared for during our stay.  Our nurses were exceptional, their tenderness and sensitivity to our circumstances were beyond what we could have hoped.  Back in October we had made an appointment with their staff to complete all of our pre-admission paperwork and had expressed our desires for some "special treatment" while we were there.  These "special requests" were in line with our "special circumstances" yet, one never knows how those requests will land in reality or if they will even be remembered let alone valued.  However, as we would soon realize, God was making sure that every possible aspect of Luke's birthday and arrival was well prepared for us in advance.

When we gave the ladies at the desk our name and explained that we were there for a 9am c-section, they did not even hesitate for a second.  It was clear that they knew exactly who we were and what our circumstances were, but they did not give any outward sign of  "Oh, we know who you are the ones who are losing your baby go over here...."  Absolutely nothing of the sort.  They kindly looked at us and directed us to a different department's desk to check the antepartum unit.

The antepartum unit is the unit where women who are experiencing pregnancy complications that require medical monitoring reside.  There are no babies on that unit, yet the nurses are skilled to handle anything mother/baby related.  One of our requests was for our room to be located as far away from the labor and delivery unit as possible, yet (per Dr. Nichols' recommendation), in an area still staffed by nurses used to dealing with C-section patients immediately post-op.  We made this request because we knew it would be especially difficult to be surrounded by joyful new mothers, healthy babies crying at all hours and the sounds of many happy visitors while we would be mourning and trying to survive those difficult, immediate hours and days following Luke's birth and passing. God saw too it that not only were we blessed with a private room in the antepartum unit (where we could not even hear babies crying), but our room was at the end of the hallway by ourselves.  It was beautifully quiet and peaceful for us.

We walked from the first desk to the antepartum unit, located just down another hallway, and were kindly greeted by more nurses who also obviously knew who we were and quickly introduced us to Heather- our personal nurse (angel) for the day.  God had arranged for her to have no other patients but us that day so we were her entire focus- another gift from above and more than we had ever expected.  Our room was #3410 and per our request/their standard procedures, they had an image of a leaf with a teardrop posted outside of our door indicating that we had experienced a loss.  A similar image was also beside our name on the board at the nursing desk.  This image immediately communicated our circumstances to all staff entering our room in hopes of preventing anything inadvertently hurtful or inappropriate being said to us (How is your baby? etc).  We were wonderfully protected during our stay and were extremely thankful for this protection.

As I mentioned in the post Not Alone, I was extremely nervous, scared, anxious and worried about what was going to happen that day.  How the surgery would go, if I would be able to feel my legs and walk again afterward, what meeting our sweet son would be like if I would be able to control my grief at finally getting to meet him knowing he would be soon leaving us, worried that I would have an anxiety attack during the surgery....all of those fears and more were racing through me that morning. I was barely holding myself together. 

Heather our nurse was fantastic from the start.  Both Joe and I instantly liked her and felt comfortable with her.  We gave her a copy of our birth plan which detailed our requests, hopes, desires and expectations for the day and for our time with Luke.  She read through it and quickly set about making it all a reality.  She returned to the room and began getting me prepped.  I asked her what felt like a million questions: what was that IV for, what was that pill for, what was having a catheter like, how did that work post-op, what was post-op care like for a c-section, how long would my legs feel numb, could I go to the bathroom one more time before getting all settled in "for the duration"....on and on...  She answered every single one with absolute patience.  She did not make me feel stupid or make me feel like I was overreacting to something that was part of her absolute normal, daily routine.  She made me feel comfortable, safe and informed and most importantly a little bit more at ease.  She told me what to expect, who would be coming in and talking with us prior to the surgery and she was efficient and completely competent.  She made it feel easy for me to relax which in that situation on that particular day was practically impossible.

I did feel a little bit of relief when Joe brought it to my attention that he had left his wallet, lip balm, belt and breakfast at the house... he had been so focused on me that he had forgotten some of his most routine items! It just made me smile and realize that I was not the only one with my mind in a million places that morning!

One of the requests we had in our birth plan was to get to hear Luke's heartbeat prior to his delivery.  Heather not only made that possible, but she made it possible for the entire two hours before his delivery!  We were expecting to hear his heartbeat using the hand-held Doppler and to hear him for about a minute or so...we would have been pleased with that- but Heather went above and beyond (as we would soon learn was her style) and rigged up a Doppler to an elastic belt-like thing and strapped it to my belly so we could hear it beating non-stop the entire two hour wait before his delivery.  It was fantastic! We were thrilled, soothed and comforted by the steady rhythm and sound of his tiny heart beating during our wait.  It was a fantastic gift and reminder of the mighty life housed inside my belly.  Our sweet and strong son....our little guy for whom we would do absolutely anything.

    That morning as I was getting prepped, hooked up, hydrated, poked, prodded and educated, Joe was beside me every single minute.  There were a few moments during some female prepping, when in effort to spare him, I asked him to step out of the room (I'm sure much to his relief) but aside from those few brief moments, he never once blinked, faltered or left my side.  He was my absolute anchor; holding my hand, running his fingers through my hair, giving me tender kisses and whispering words of encouragement in my ears. My true companion.  He was all in with me-every step of the way.  At one point, he glanced out our window and captured a beautiful sunrise on his camera- I love having that image to look at and remember how that beautiful moment he captured was but a mere beacon of the absolute beauty, wonder and miracles of God we were about to experience as a family that day.

    One of the visitors we had that morning was from the anesthesiologist who would be present during Luke's delivery in the OR.  He was going to be the one who administered the epidural and would be in charge of not only my pain management but also my "calmness-management" during the surgery.  He was a nice man and while I felt confident in his abilities, I was still very anxious about being paralyzed from mid-torso down.  He answered all of my questions to the best of his abilities, but I still felt worried as I signed my name on the release detailing everything that could possibly go wrong during the surgery.  I just kept reminding myself that he does this many times a day, women do this every day and are fine and that most importantly, we were doing this for Luke.

    One of the elements of Luke's delivery that I was not prepared for that morning was the discovery that the drugs available to help calm me down during his delivery should I require them, all had an amnesia effect- and if administered to me, would erase any memory I would have during that time.  OBVIOUSLY, not remembering Luke's arrival or those precious moments of his short life was absolutely not an option for me.  I had not realized the major ramifications of being administered those drugs during that time and the realization that they were no longer an option for me brought the necessity of my remaining calm and peaceful at ALL times during my surgery (especially the importance of calmness and stillness during the re-stitching and closing up my incision during the flood of emotion upon meeting our son) came into lazer sharp focus for me.  This experience was truly going to require everything I had and I knew I was going to do my absolute best not only for Luke but for Joe as well, so he could just focus on Luke and not worry about me.

    I knew we were getting close to "go-time" not just by the hands of the clock, which were somehow speeding rapidly towards 9am, but also because our parents came in to see us and give us their love, giant hugs and kisses of support through their tears and lots of emotion.  Our dear friend, Harold also came in (more on him later) and prayed over us, for us and for Luke.  And our OB, Dr. Nichols, came for a final check-in before she went to be prepped for our surgery.  It all began happening so quickly.  Joe was given his bright yellow scrubs, booties, hat and mask and once he got those on, it was time to go.

    I could feel my heart beating in my chest and the blood rushing through my body.  As I was being rolled down the hallway, I wiggled my toes as much as I could in case these were the last moments I would be able to do that. I felt terrified.  I felt excited.  I was completely flooded with emotions.  I was absolutely crazy in love with my husband.  I had my hands on my belly holding Luke as close as I could as we approached the two giant brown doors of the OR.  This was it.  We were going to finally meet our longed for, beloved Luke.

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    Not Alone

    by Joe and Sarah

    It seems only appropriate to begin describing Luke's birthday by starting the story the day before he arrived- his final day in my belly.  As I had written about before, I had been feeling rather "peaceful" until the reality hit me that this was my last day being pregnant with Luke.  My final day to be able to talk to him whenever I wanted, the final day I would feel his presence inside me, the final day I would struggle to bend over and pick something up off the floor, feel him kick, be able to reach down and gently rub my belly and dream about the little guy in there.  I woke up anxious, overwhelmed and crying.  From the very beginning of the day, I had an extremely heavy heart and spirit.  Joe and I had decided the evening before not to go to church that morning not because we didn't think it was important, but more because I simply did not think I could handle everyone's well wishes, tears, supportive hugs and love.  I knew I was beginning to go underwater emotionally- I was completely flooded.

    After a quiet brunch at a favorite spot of ours in town, we returned home to tackle what remained of our giant to-do list to prepare as best we could for the hospital and Luke's arrival.  How do you prepare for the complete unknown?  We packed our bags, picked out movies to watch in the hospital, loaded books into bags, went to the grocery store, sweet Joe cleaned our house from top to bottom, we gassed up the car, paid bills, worked on the blog, wrote some thank you notes and tried to get ourselves organized.  It was a busy day, but also somewhat of a relief to have things to keep our hands occupied.  I found myself crying off and on throughout the day- for no particular reason, just sad that my time with Luke was growing shorter and shorter as my feelings of anxiety, fear and nervousness were continuing to grow.

    While out for dinner that night we ran into some friends whom we greatly enjoy, but I was not feeling especially social or chatty.  The only person I wanted to be around, talk to or see was Joe.  I found myself silently praying that our friends would not bring up or mention Luke because I knew that I was teetering right on the edge of a complete sobbing meltdown...the kind where I would not be able to compose myself even if I tried my hardest.  Luckily our difficult day ahead with Luke was not brought up when we briefly stopped by their table on our way out the door.  I could barely make eye contact with them for fear that I would crumble.  I slumped myself into the car feeling like I had escaped a final public breakdown using my last bit of strength...even though my tears were hiding (maybe not too well) right at the edge of my eyelids.

    Crawling into bed that night, we were both emotionally and physically exhausted.  We spent time together praying over our son, about our upcoming stay in the hospital, specifics from our prayer requests, crying, just trying desperately to surrender ourselves to what was coming and to brace ourselves for the unknown reality that finally getting to meet our son held for us.  Joe drifted in and out of a light sleep all night, while I did not sleep for more than maybe thirty minutes total.  I tossed and turned, cried, prayed, stared up to heaven and just tried with all my might to not wake up Joe...I could not rest...spiritually, physically, mentally or emotionally.  And I was exhausted before going to bed.

    The only reason I know I even drifted off for a few minutes (trust me, I was watching that clock) was because at one point that night, I believe I received a word directly from God. In the pit of that night, in my darkest hour, I know I did.  It happened at 2:37am (to be exact) when I awoke from my brief thirty minute slumber to go to the bathroom.  Immediately upon waking, all I could think over and over and over was the phrase, "My peace I give you."  Over and over and over.  I absolutely know without a doubt that that thought did not come from me- I was anything but peaceful and had not even been thinking about peace! (just being honest!)  It is also in language and phrasing that I don't use.  Plus, just the phrase "My peace"- I have been fresh out of my own peace for months, so it had to be God offering me his.  I just kept thinking that phrase over and over and over for hours that night and I began to believe and trust that God was with me and would be with us the following day when we would need Him most.  I could literally feel myself settling and calming down as I clung to the word He had given me and began to believe that He had not forgotten us or abandoned us.  I could hardly wait for Joe to wake up so I could tell him.

    Starting from those moments deep in the night and going forward into Luke's birthday, whenever (and it was OFTEN) I felt myself beginning to panic or lose it emotionally (getting ready, at the hospital, getting prepped for the surgery, receiving my epidural...time and time again), I just repeated that phrase to myself over and over, "My peace I give you." and I would again immediately feel myself relaxing and calming down. It was that powerful and that realHis peace.  He gave it and I clung desperately to it and it truly sustained me every minute of Luke's birthday- my most difficult and beautiful day.

    Several nights later, the very first card Joe and I opened upon leaving the hospital stopped me in my tracks.  On the front of the card was the verse John 14:27.  It reads:

    Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. - John 14:27

    To be sure, we were absolutely not alone on Luke's birthday- and this was only the beginning of how God showed up....

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    Sharing the Wonder of Luke's Birthday

    by Sarah

    It feels impossible that nine days ago our sweet son, Luke was born into our arms and then passed away a few short hours later.  These past nine days feel like an absolute blur of acute emotion mixed with pain, grief, gratitude, peace and numbness.  I have been blessed to have had Joe beside me every minute and his presence has without a doubt sustained me.  We have had the luxury of time together to remember, share and retell each other the story of amazing wonder that was Luke's birthday.  We know without question that it was a day of miracles, blessings, gifts, and rich, rich, memories that we will treasure and cherish all the rest of our days.  Our experience of Luke's birthday as a day we will hold close to our hearts is of course the result of finally getting to meet and love our son in person as well as so many heartfelt prayers that were lifted up on our behalf by so many of you.

    It has been difficult to translate our overwhelmed hearts and experience into words, but we finally feel ready as we want to remember and record every single second and experience we shared that day with Luke in as much vivid detail while it is still fresh in our minds.  We also want to share with you the miracles, wonder and grace we experienced because you too have been part of Luke's story and we desperately want you to know how much your prayers helped us and how truly good God was to Luke, Joe and myself on January 4, 2010 (and many other days as well, but that day in particular).

    In thinking about how to write about our experience in meeting our sweet, little Luke, we feel like the best way would be to break up the story into segments because there is simply so much we want to share and remember together about how God showed up and was not only present with us on Luke's birthday, but he was BIG.  Our prayers were answered in ways BEYOND what we had hoped and we remain humbled by His response to our cries and prayers for that day.  We are profoundly honored that He entrusted us to love, carry, honor and cherish His beloved and absolutely beautiful Luke.  We remain forever thankful.

           - Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory...
                                     - Ephesians 3:20-21a

    Saturday, January 9, 2010

    Our Letter to Luke

    Our Dearest Luke-

    Today is one of the days we hoped would never arrive.  While we certainly would not choose to be sitting here today in this beautiful chapel without you, we know that you will always be alive and with us in our hearts and memories. We have loved every minute of getting to be your parents and wanted to write you this letter to tell you how much you have touched our hearts and lives.

    You were prayed for, wanted and loved even when you were simply a whisper of hope in our hearts and finding out we were pregnant with you was one of the most exciting and thrilling days of our lives.  Although we were chosen to be your earthly parents, your heavenly Father is the One to whom you have truly belonged. He created you exactly perfect exactly as you were- no kidneys, no bladder, low fluid and small lungs- perfect in every way for the life and purpose for which He had designed you.

    God knew that your time with us would be short long before we did and knew in advance that he was going to use your brave heart to teach us to experience life to its fullest, to expand our ability to feel and to teach us to love more deeply. Luke, God knew that none of us would ever be the same because of you. 

    God knew that as you grew, we would delight in feeling you kick and move at various times of the day and night.  He knew we would laugh when you seemed to be dancing around while we listened to a YouTube video about bacon, or how you enjoyed moving during worship at Heartland.  God also knew how much you would love times when your dad would read Calvin and Hobbes cartoons to you.  Your wiggling and continued growth always made us smile with delight.  We loved getting to talk to you and love you as you grew bigger inside your mom’s tummy.

    We have been absolutely delighted and honored to get to share some of life’s simple pleasures and moments with you.  We cherished getting to take you with us to the Rocky Mountains, out onto the Tall Grass prairie, on trips to visit family in Nebraska, to our special spot at the Nelson where we got engaged, watching 4th of July fireworks, experiencing the Plaza Lights turn on at Thanksgiving, dining at so many of our favorite restaurants, cheering at a K-State football game, attending weddings of dear friends and family, visiting the farm in Gridley, taking many family photographs of you with us, chasing storms in various locations....Your dad and I loved getting to pick out our first Christmas tree as a family, and getting to have you there with us as we celebrated the holidays.

    As much as we tried to embrace each day leading up to your birthday, nothing could have prepared us for the avalanche of love in getting to meet you in person.  God saved up his best surprises and secrets about you for when we got to meet you face to face; you had us truly captivated from our very first glimpse.  He surprised us with the sound of your sweet cries straight from the womb and the gentle grip of your finger.  Your strength of heart and unbelievable courage amazed us as we were blessed to have you with us for more than two hours!  We could not get enough of your soft skin, heavenly scent, gentle whimpers, sweet snuggles and most of all, your beautiful face.  We hope and pray that you were able to hear us telling you how much we love you and are so unbelievably proud of you and how we cherish the fact that you are and will always be our sweet, precious son whom we adore.

    You loved us in so many ways; especially with your warrior-like strength and fight to live as long as possible, the touch of your skin, your tiniest handshake, glimpses of your sweet eyes and tongue and with the gift of the sound of your voice. You were a fighter, Luke and we were honored to hold you close and be able to love you every second of your precious life.  We love that our time with you on your birthday was filled with peace and wonder, a beautiful day that was enjoyed to its fullest…an absolute gift.

    Luke, we remain so honored to have been chosen to be your parents. We have cherished carrying you with us all of your days and only wish there were more. We are deeply grateful for the memories and experiences we have shared with you.  Luke, through you, God has shown us how richly our family is blessed and has continued to open our eyes to all we have to be thankful for in our lives.

    Learning you would not be living with us here on Earth broke our hearts into a million pieces.  You have heard more than your share of crying to be sure! But God also knew way before we did how profoundly our hearts and lives would be forever changed for the better because you were with us for these few hours, days and months.

    Because God already knew how special you were, He also knew the Luke-shaped hole you would leave behind when you were gone and how profoundly sad your father and I would be when we couldn’t bring you home to live with us.  However, in His wisdom and faithfulness, God also knew in advance that we would need lots of help and has surrounded us with amazing people who are pouring out their strength, love, encouragement, support and lots of prayer onto us.  So please do not worry about us Luke, our hearts will eventually heal, but we will never forget you.  We hope and look forward to getting to share your story and introduce you to your future siblings and celebrate that we all have a special guardian angel in heaven watching over us.

    We named you Luke Cirrus Leimer in honor of the beauty you have added to our lives.  Your middle name, Cirrus, is after our favorite type of cloud.  Cirrus clouds are the beautiful, wispy ones that are located the closest to heaven.  Know that we will be watching the sky every day and when we see those exquisitely fragile and beautiful clouds dancing above us- like the ones we saw on your birthday, we will smile and be reminded of you and how much beauty and love you have brought into our world.  

    We love you sweet boy… and to your sovereign Creator, we humbly bow our heads and whisper with all of the strength our broken hearts can muster, simply, “Thank you.”   Thank you for our precious Luke, whom you brought into our lives and for choosing us to be his parents.  We thank you for the overflow of blessings and answers to prayer you gave to us on his birthday.  We thank you for the extra time we were given with him, we thank you for getting to hear his sweet cries, we thank you for his perfect beauty, for his strength, for his gentle touch and for his snuggles. 

    Lord, we thank you for sustaining us during this impossible season of life.  We thank you for your faithfulness both good times and bad.  Thank you for expanding our capacity to experience life and love through our sweet son.  We thank you for all of the amazing people and love you have surrounded us with and we thank you for your promise of life everlasting in heaven with you.  Part of our hearts resides in heaven with you now and his name is Luke – whom we cannot wait to see and hold again.

    We gave birth and said goodbye to him on January 4, 2010 and until we are able to be with him again in heaven, we will continue to be watching the sky hoping to glimpse some of his cirrus clouds. Thank you, Lord for picking us to love, carry and hold our sweet Luke all of his days.

    We love you Luke- and our hearts overflow with our affection- and always will.  Thank you for allowing us to love and adore you.  You have been an absolute gift and we are profoundly honored to have gotten to hold you in our arms- heaven’s newest and sweetest angel.  We love you sweet boy.

    With our never ending love and affection,

    Your mom and dad

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010

    Introducing Our Sweet Little Nugget of Cuteness

    by Sarah and Joe

    It is with great joy that we introduce to you our sweet, beautiful baby Luke- heaven's newest angel.  Luke's birthday was a day of miracles, peace, answered prayers, sadness and joy....and we look forward to sharing the amazing details with you in future posts.  Needless to say, we are both absolutely head over heels in love with our precious son. We were gifted with the sound of his sweet, tender cries when he was born and cherished every second of the little over two hours that he was with us.  We cherished getting to capture his brief life in photos, some video clips, audio clips, handprints, footprints, molds, haircuts and of course in our hearts and minds.  It truly was a day of answered prayers and miracles and we are working on putting our experience and overwhelmed hearts into words. 

    So until then, we will simply let these photos do all of our talking for us...









    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    Luke's Honoration Service

    by Sarah and Joe

    Please join us as we honor Luke's life on Saturday, January 9th at 3:30pm at Village Presbyterian Church (located at 67th and Mission Road), map.  This will be a public service that is open to anyone who wishes to join us as we honor our precious son.  There will also be a low-key social time in Friendship Hall following the service where some of Luke's favorite cookies and cupcakes will be served.  We would love to see you there and wish to thank you for loving us and our son through this season.

    Our Memorial for Luke

    by Joe and Sarah

    We continue to be overwhelmed by everyone's love and support for our family during this time.  We've never written anything like this before so please forgive us if this sounds even the least bit assumptive as that is the absolute last way we want this message to come across.

    Back in October when we actually started to think and ponder ways we wanted to remember Luke after he had passed, we were overwhelmed with all of the avenues there are out there for memorials- personal ones, public ones, donations to organizations, trees, bricks, plaques, markers....  so many options and so difficult to we didn't...until recently.

    We have spent a lot of time talking about Luke and how he fits into our story as a couple and as we re-traced our journey together, our conversation led back to Heartland Community Church where we first met and began our life together.  We thought it would be perfect to help create some kind of memorial to Luke at Heartland rather than ask for donations in his name to be given anywhere felt right for both of us. 

    Heartland is a church with a focus on making people who may not attend church regularly (or ever) feel comfortable in exploring getting to know Jesus.  Even just thinking that our sweet little Luke's life could help facilitate that even a little bit brings us great hope.  While we have a good idea of what his actual memorial will be, the exact details are still in the works as there are lots of factors and variables at play.  But we have been given the A-ok to do something very special there in honor of Luke and we are completely thrilled to think about the joy it will bring us and about how we will be reminded of his sweet spirit each time we walk through the doors of the church we love.  All donations made to Luke's fund will go towards creating this memorial for Luke, and to helping Heartland continue its mission.

    So, again, without any expectations, we have established a memorial in Luke's name at Heartland and we would appreciate donations being made there in lieu of any flowers being sent to us.  Heartland has made it very simple to donate to his fund and we wanted to pass along that information to you.  The steps are as follows:

    1. Go to Heartland's Website
    2. In the upper right corner is a tab marked- 'give online' - click this
    3. On the next screen on the left side is a link marked 'one time gift' - click this
    4. Complete this page and in the category of "to" - scroll down to 'Luke Leimer Memorial'- select this account
    5. Finish completing screen and submit
    You can send a check to 

    Heartland Community Church
    12175 S. Strang Line Road
    Olathe, KS 66062

    via the U.S. Mail and they just ask that in the memo portion of the check you write Luke Leimer Memorial so they know which area to deposit the money.

    Heartland is a member of the ECFA a highly regimented financial accountability accreditation program.  You can click on the link to learn more about their financial accountability.  We share this information so that you may know that when we (and Heartland) say this money is going toward something specific, it truly is and won't be shuffled into some other area on the sly.

    We thank you so much for your generosity and for wanting to help us create something truly special in Luke's memory and honor and would love to have you come see it when it's completed!

    Photo Credit: Janae W. with thanks for letting us use your beautiful photo of Heartland.

    We Met Luke!

    by Sarah and Joe

    we lovingly announce our son and heaven's newest angel

    luke cirrus leimer

    january 4, 2010 at 9:22am
    4 pounds, 9 ounces and 16½ inches long
    with love, sarah and joe leimer

    As you now know, we named our precious son, Luke Cirrus Leimer.  Cirrus is not your typical middle name for a child and so we wanted to share with you why we chose it and why it is so special to us. As we shared earlier in the blog, Joe and I both love clouds and watching the sky's ever-changing beauty. Cirrus is the name for a specific type of cloud.  Cirrus clouds are the beautiful, wispy, fragile, elegant, sometimes majestic looking clouds that are located the highest up in the atmosphere- the closest to heaven.  When they are present you cannot help but notice their beauty.  We thought that Cirrus would be the perfect name for our beautiful, angel baby who will be residing in heaven as every time we see them in the sky, we will think of him and be reminded of the beauty he added to our lives during his brief visit here.  We hope that the next time you notice those beautiful wispy clouds up in the sky that you will also think of Luke and remember him with love. 

    Check back soon as we will have some photos and details from our amazing day with Luke up shortly!

    Note:  The slide show on our blog is of many of the cirrus clouds we have seen while Luke was here with us.  Here's a bigger version of the slide show, weblink

    Saturday, January 2, 2010

    Prayer Requests

    by Sarah and Joe

    As we move into our final 48 hours with Luke, we continue to be humbled by you, our amazing community of friends and family who are rallying around us when we need it most.  We have had many, many people ask us how they can best be praying for us during these last couple of days and especially on Monday, so we decided to make a list of every possible thing we could think of that we would like to have covered in prayer and are praying for ourselves.  Again, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all of the love you are showing us and for the ways you are lifting us up and helping us through this season.

    Specific Prayers for Luke
    • That he would not suffer
    • That he would feel only peace in his body and spirit
    • That he would be able to have a few moments with us upon being born
    • That he will know how loved he is
    • That his passing would be peaceful and would be in the arms of his parents
    • That he would be able to feel our touch, hear our voices and know we love him and will miss him

    Specific Prayers for Monday, January 4, 2010
    • That all procedures would go as planned with no complications
    • That the doctors and nurses would be alert and thinking clearly when caring for Luke and Sarah
    • That all medications administered to Sarah would be accurately measured and appropriate to need
    • That all staff caring for Joe, Sarah and Luke would be aware of situation and respond accordingly
    • That all preparations made for Luke's delivery would proceed as desired (music, atmosphere etc)
    • That all keepsakes desired are able to be obtained without incident (hand prints/photos/hair/molds etc)
    • That Dr. Nichols feels she has everything she needs and all of the support required for an easy delivery of Luke
    • That all incisions are able to be closed, stitched and repaired properly
    • That our families are able to meet and connect with Luke
    • That Harold (our personal minister of peace for the day) is able to sense our needs and guide us spiritually through the day
    • Most of all, that God would be present with us and that we would be able to feel his peace and presence in those various hospital rooms

    Specific Prayers for Joe
    • That he would be able to soak in every moment of the experience
    • That he would feel an instant bond and connection with Luke
    • That his memory would be acute and that he would be able to remember every moment shared with Luke
    • That he would be able to protect his family during the stressful situation and create tender moments for himself, Sarah and Luke together
    • That he will know how best to comfort Sarah during Luke's delivery
    • That he would know how to best help Sarah
    • That Luke would recognize and know his father's touch, voice and scent
    • That he would feel affirmed as the excellent father he has been for Luke
    • That he would be able to sleep and feel restored with energy
    • That he would be able to sense Sarah's unspoken needs
    • That he would exhibit emotional strength and yet feel able to express his emotions as he truly experiences them

    Specific Prayers for Sarah
    • That she would feel peace and not panic from the beginning to the end of her surgery
    • That her body would respond appropriately to all medications
    • That she would be able to relax in the capable care of the doctors and nurses, Joe and family around her
    • That she would be able to be emotionally present during Luke's birth
    • That everything will go as planned with the epidural, incision and re-stitching
    • That Sarah will feel free to ask for any necessary medications she may require to help her remain calm
    • That Sarah will feel comforted by Joe and his presence during delivery
    • That Sarah will be able to bond and connect with Luke when he is born
    • For emotional peace during precious moments with Luke and Joe
    • For joy at getting to finally meet Luke
    • For presence of mind and acute memory to remember our moments with Luke
    • For sleep and rest
    • For physical healing of incision
    • For the ability to express herself in the moment as she is feeling her emotions
    • For adjustment period postpartum without a baby to help (emotionally, physically)
    • For strength to continue forward towards healing

    Specific Prayers for Sarah and Joe together
    • That this experience would knit us closer together and to God
    • That we will be able to look back on this experience with warmth and gratitude and share it together
    • That our memories of our time with Luke would remain sharp
    • That we would feel the Lord's closeness and peace during this time and going forward as we heal
    • That we would experience both physical and emotional healing in the weeks ahead
    • That we would know how and when to say goodbye to Luke in the hospital
    • That we would have courage to grieve and mourn as we need to both as individuals and together
    • That our faith would only be deepened by this experience
    • That God would be able to use our experience and Luke's life for good
    • That we would feel the comfort of the Holy Spirit
    • That we will be able to receive the embrace and TLC from those around us who wish to help us
    • That we would be able to ask for any help we may need in the weeks and months ahead
    • That we will be blessed with siblings for Luke in God's timing

    We know that this is an exhaustive list of prayer requests, but we wanted to be as specific as possible for those who may feel compelled to pray for one specific area over another.  Please know that we cherish your willingness to pray over our family and we are beyond thankful for your presence in our lives.

    As we spend and enjoy these final few hours we have with Luke, our blog will be quiet for the next couple days.  We will be posting details of his arrival and service next week as well as few other posts that I'm writing in advance about Luke that we want to share after he is born.

    It seems strange to think that the next time we post here our sweet angel baby will be dancing and playing in heaven.  We thank you for loving him and for loving us through to this point in this difficult season and beyond into the weeks and months ahead.  We continue to be humbled by the richness of our blessings and thank you with all of our hearts.  Much love to you. - Sarah and Joe

    Friday, January 1, 2010

    Looking Forward

    by Sarah

    Luke will be born in less than 72 hours and while I'm dreading his arrival and subsequent passing, I'm also starting to feel a little bit eager to see my son with my own eyes and not just through my hands against my belly. Because of an immediate emotional tidal wave of sadness, eventual panic and fear of saying goodbye that always follows my thoughts about meeting my son, I really have not felt emotionally ready or prepared or excited about meeting him- until the past few days when I have felt what I can only describe as a huge, seismic shift in my heart.

    I have noticed that through a rather sudden, indescribable inner calm that defies my own understanding, I have experienced more peace than panic these past couple of days.  While I still have my moments of frequent breakdowns and there are still tons of tears that fall from my heart and eyes, I am finding it the tiniest bit easier to return to a state of eventual peacefulness- which is a HUGE change for me when compared to the past four months where it has been pretty much panic, anxiety and fear all the time.  I truly believe that the only explanation is because of all of the prayers from everyone and God's faithfulness in giving us what we need to face the challenges of the day.  As these days and now hours continue to escalate in difficulty as we near Luke's birth, I have no doubt that we are being given a greater portion of peace and for that I am BEYOND thankful.  This peace has helped me to actually begin to feel a little bit excited instead of only sad about meeting Luke on Monday morning.

    I am looking forward to seeing Joe hold his son for the first time, touching Luke's skin, snuggling his neck, rubbing his back and belly, counting his sweet, tiny toes, holding onto his hands, admiring and kissing his sweet face, holding his head, smelling his skin, feeling how soft and new he is, getting to whisper in his ears how much we love him, feeling his weight and presence outside of my body, touching his sweet cheeks, praying over him, admiring his little knees and elbows and fists, looking at his fingernails, examining all of the sweet wrinkles on his skin, hands and feet, seeing if we notice a resemblance, wrapping him in the special blanket and warm hat we have for him, introducing him to his amazing grandparents, having our picture taken with him, but mainly just holding him close to us for what I know will be an all too brief period of time. Then, when it is all over, I'm looking forward to holding Joe's hand, kissing him and crying together knowing that we gave Luke all the love we could give him....that we had finished well... not just together but as a family.

    Like I mentioned, since finding out about Luke's diagnosis, I have never been able to actually think through all of these precious events I do have to look forward to on Monday.  I feel that it is an absolute blessing to be able to see some beauty ahead on that day where before all I have been able to see was tragedy.  So thank you, God for your peace you are raining down on me during these final few days and hours.  And thank you friends and loved ones who are praying for us- I speak honestly when I tell you that your prayers are truly making a difference in how I am finally a little bit able to look forward toward what is ahead.

    - And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
                              - Philippians 4:7

    Gratitude for 2009 and Welcoming our New Year of Hope

    by Sarah and Joe

    Last night we started a new family tradition.  We came home from a New Year's gathering with dear friends and had our own toast to the new year.  We used our beautiful toasting flutes from our wedding and some stellar sparkling grape juice (of which I'm actually becoming a huge fan!).  We toasted to things we were thankful for in 2009, to things we were thankful to be leaving behind in this past decade, and to things we are looking forward to in not only the next year but the next decade as well.

    Some of the things we were thankful for in the last year were:
    • the beginning of our life together as husband and wife
    • our beautiful wedding celebration and day (70 degrees in February!)
    • our fantastic honeymoon getaway
    • our cozy house where we started building our life together
    • getting to be present when Joe's beloved grandmother, Fern, passed away
    • a church loaded with beautiful Easter Lily's at her funeral service that was held on Fern's birthday
    • discovering we were pregnant with Luke and thus beginning our journey as parents
    • my mom's healthy recovery (Trish)
    • Dr. Nichols, our amazing OB
    • fun outings with friends to the Royals and KSU games
    • fun family trips to Nebraska, Colorado, central Kansas
    • Joe's new job which he truly enjoys
    • Heartland Community Church's beautiful new home in Olathe, Kansas
    • our baptism as a family
    • the Deeper Still conference in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
    • the Believing God Bible Study
    • blogging together
    • our amazing white Christmas
    • getting to celebrate the holidays with Luke
    • hearing Luke's heartbeat
    • seeing glimpses of him on the sonogram screens
    • feeling him kick and move and wiggle
    • watching him grow
    • our health
    • Netflix and the much needed escape it provided us during this season
    • the strengthening of our marriage
    • our families
    • having the opportunity to build memories with Luke
    • our amazing community of friends and family who have surrounded us during this difficult season
    • getting to celebrate the marriages of many friends and some family members
    • the healthy births of many longed for babies of dear friends
    • an entire year of firsts as a married couple
    • a wonderful new-to-us car
    • God's continued provision over us
    • most of all, for our sweet baby son, Luke

    We officially declared 2010 as a year of HOPE for us...
    Some of the things we are hoping for in the new year...
    • hope for healing
    • hope for peace in our lives and hearts
    • hope for continued health
    • hope for emotional and physical strength
    • hope for emotional and physical recovery
    • hope for another baby
    • hope for a healthy pregnancy and delivery
    • hope for purpose
    • hope for direction for our lives
    • hope clarity
    • hope for greater depth of love
    • hope eyes to see greater beauty
    • hope for increased gratitude for simple things in life
    • hope for our marriage's continued deepening
    • hope for personal, professional and creative growth
    • hope for bravery
    • hope for more smiles than tears
    • hope for continued safety and health
    • hope for continued provision
    • hope for a brightening of life's colors
    • hope for renewal and restoration
    • hope for release from fears
    • hope for return to fitness
    • hope that our second year of marriage holds less drama than our first
    • hope for new adventures together
    • hope that we will continue to find ways to treasure, honor and remember Luke and his time with us
    • hope that we will always remember this difficult season in our lives, but that we will also not be defined by it