Monday, November 26, 2012

Chicago Trip Thanksgiving 2012

We just returned from a wonderful week in Chicago! We're all filled up on PIZZA, Baby Gifts, and love from friends and family. Always SOO good to be back! 

Yeah Friends! 
Me & Melissa

Leah, Me, Greta, Stephanie

All expecting babes in 2013! Greta, Me, Annie, Stephanie

Jon testing out the gift of the "Sophie" teether toy

Baby Shower in Naperville

Everything was ADORABLE! Baby's nursery is primary colors, hence the matching decor at the shower. Also, I loved the Whale theme .....I might even have to incorporate that into the nursery too! 
Forever friends! Known all these ladies since childhood. LOVE you gals!
(Andrea, Britt, Becky, Me, Laura, Rachel, Abbi)

Me, Andrea, Abs & Crosbi
Martie  (MIL), Linda (Mom), Me,
Steph (pseudo sister in town from California), Mary (Pseudo Mom also  in town from California),
Katie (Sister In Law) 
Stephanie & Me

Laura and her fabulous diaper cake- still impressed! 

Thanksgiving & More
The Thanksgiving Tables.
This is a panoramic photo Jon took ..... don't mind the  double headed man and creepy floating hands! 
Post Dinner Wi Dance Competition

Celebrating Beatrice's 5th Birthday 

And of course, Nathan's 1/2 Birthday

Puzzle Time

Pancake Time
Pizza Time! 

Photo Shoot @ 26 Weeks

 Thankful for all the celebrating with our friends & loved ones in the Midwest.  Chicago and the burbs will always feel like home to me, and the Holiday season never feels complete without a trip home! We got a good taste of winter as it dropped to 28 degrees... I have to admit, I forgot how much I genuinely dislike Winter! I am such a wuss, and probably even more so now that I am not used to it! Although my roots are in Chi-Town, I don't mind calling Santa Barbara home now too. I am realizing that the warm weather and beautiful surroundings are not a bad "second" home.... and of course, there are some great people here too :) They say home is where the heart is and I think my heart is finally feeling more at peace sharing space with California. Now if we could just find a way to skip that 4 hour flight.... and I could have it all that would be great! 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Holiday Anticipation: Merry Wishes of Joy & Sorrow

I know Thanksgiving has not happened yet. However, I can't help think about Christmas already. I am beginning to anticipate the emotion now. (Which knowing me, by the time Christmas comes I will have gotten all my emotion out of my system and be totally fine on the day!)

Why I wish we could "Skip Christmas" this year:

 1. The Obvious. No Baby Drake. We will never get a first Christmas, or any Christmas, with him.

 2. The Memories. Last year I bawled my way through the Christmas Eve service at Church. It was my first Christmas EVER away from my family.

Also, I was filled with so many emotions as we were in the trenches of dealing with things with Drake, who was still in my belly at that time. Blessings of God's Love in the midst of sheer sadness and terror. The Christmas season was when we found out the devastating news Drake would probably not make it. December 6th was one of the WORST days, if not the worst, days of my entire life. After that, it all went downhill fast, and I am greatly anticipating all these "anniversaries" and "firsts".

 3. I just don't know what to do about Christmas cards. Ok, I know this might seem dumb, and Christmas cards are just a part of the holiday "ritual", but I usually do them every year! This year, it feels weird. Our family is not complete- it is still feeling broken, but it is also a work in progress. Alive with sorrow and joy. How would I even begin to summarize all that this last year has meant in a few lines, or even a short letter, in appropriate holiday card? Sending out the status quo cute photo card just isn't feeling right to me this year. Now is the time I would usually start planning photos or layouts and it is starting to taunt me. I know I am not obligated too, but it goes against my nature NOT to.

 4. We will not be able to go home, because I will be too late in my pregnancy to fly. Thankfully, we have wonderful family friends here who we can be with. We will not be alone. However, I will still miss the comforts and traditions of "home" and wish we could be there.

 5. I am extra emotional, because I am pregnant :) I am not typically a crier, but this pregnancy has turned me into one of those people who cries over the sad puppy commercials on TV (OK, those have actually always gotten to me... they are SO SAD!)

On that note, of course, I am very happy that I am pregnant and at least have that as a HUGE positive and hopeful thing. Little guy is doing GREAT in there and we are so thankful for that. We don't take it for granted!!

Would it be wrong to send out a Christmas card that just stated:

 Happy Holidays 2012 
Sending you our JOY & SORROW 
Much love and thanks, 
The Petersons 

 I won't do that, but that's what my card would say if it were honest.

What would your card say if you were to give an honest "Holiday" proclamation?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Aubri Brown Club

In other happy news.... our remaining medical bills from Drake have been paid off!

Thanks to the Aubri Brown Club. We are SO incredible grateful and blown away. Short back story behind this.... In 2005, I was nannying for a wonderful family, The Browns, in Chicago. At the time I began nannying for them, they had three children- two toddler age boys, and a baby girl. Very sadly, their baby girl, Aubri, passed away due to SIDS. This was a devastating loss for them, and one I never will forget. I experienced my own shock and sadness at the suddenness of her death, but it was nothing compared to what they were going through. Their extended family and friends rallied around them, they relied on their support, and their strong faith to get them through. It was an intimate experience to go through with a family I was working for. However, I never ever thought in a million years I would be in a similar kind of situation. A few years ago, the Brown's started the Aubri Brown Club to help support families after the loss of a child. They heard about our loss of Drake and reached out to us, encouraging us to apply for assistance. We recently received the glorious news that the foundation had called UCLA and paid off our remaining hospital costs, and also our paid our balance with our psychologist for counseling expenses. Wow! That is all I can say, Wow! God certainly connects us all in mysterious webs and you never know how relationships will take shape and be used for greater good according to his plans. THANK YOU Aubri Brown Club! I encourage all of you to take a look at their website, and pass it on to anyone you may know who goes through the heartbreaking loss of saying good-bye to a child.

Happy News!

The latest news highlight #1:

It's a BOY! 

We are delighted! We weren't sure how we would feel, either way, about the gender revelation. However, it just feels right to be expecting another boy and we are excited. We think we have his name already, but for now it is a secret. The doctor got a pretty clear shot of his boy parts, this time I could actually see the "third leg" before he even pointed it out. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

30 & Pregnant

Baby Peterson #2 @ 12 Weeks

Well, there was a time when I thought that title would make total sense. I always thought 30 was a good year to start the baby train. Instead my baby train ended up starting when I was 28 (almost 29). So it is a bit strange to be here a year later... and be pregnant again. When I was pregnant with Drake, I was looking forward to my 30th Birthday Milestone. Birthdays have always been a big deal in my family, especially milestone birthdays. I had BIG expectations. Drake would be old enough that maybe we could take a trip back to Chicago and leave him with his Grandparents. They of course, would love this, and then we could enjoy a wild weekend in the big city with our good friends. (Ok, we are not so wild anymore, but it is the thought that counts!). BIG Fun with lots of friends is sort of what I had pictured for 30, either that or an all inclusive trip to Costa Rica! ;) So when it came time to actually plan for my 30th, my gut feelings were sadness. Things are just not what I thought they would be. I wish they were different. This year, I just haven't been able to justify making a big deal out of my Birthday. It just hasn't felt right. Maybe that rip roaring party will come at 31!

AT the same time... I am SO grateful I am pregnant again. It made turning 30 much more bearable, to be pregnant, than to not be. I'm 15 weeks and 4 days. We are very lucky that it did not take long for me to get pregnant once we were given the green light to try again. In fact, I think even our doctor was a little surprised how quickly it happened. Despite the close timing,about 5-6 months after my last pregnancy, I have been assured this alone will not pose any major risks. Since I had a C-Section, I will just have to be careful and be watched closely, we don't want anything bursting before it is supposed to. Actually, no bursting at all, No thank you. If all goes as planned, this baby will have a scheduled C-Section mid to late February.

Unfortunately, this pregnancy comes with risk we can't deny. It is very minimal, not one doctor expects us to lose another baby. I have also been told that my pre- eclampsia was likely related to Drake's condition, so that is not expected to come back again.... but you never know! I'm not going to lie, I'm very scared. Very anxious. Trying to just give that anxiety to God and take it day by day as I know it doesn't do any good to worry.

So as you can see, finding out I was pregnant again has become quite a balancing act. Literally within the day, I fluctuate between moments of grief and moments of joy. I am still so heart broken over the loss of Drake, as I always will be. The first time I saw this current baby via ultrasound, my reaction was very guarded. I was surprised I didn't feel the same overwhelming joy I felt the first time I saw Drake on an ultrasound. I know I am already in love with this little one, but I can't help but guard my heart as I am so afraid to lose another child. Also, announcing I am pregnant has been hard- I don't want Drake to ever be forgotten. It is much easier for people to focus on the positive news and talk about that, then to remember the loss. On the positive side, this pregnancy has made the burden of the grief a little easier to bear. I am not drowning in grief, living in a state of remembering my life HAS not changed the way I had hoped it would. Instead,we are back on the road to being parents and having a little nugget to love in our arms. There is a new life to focus positive thoughts on and this gives me joy.

ALSO-- our little get away to Palm Springs with some good friends gave me joy and a chance to celebrate the big 3-0! Other happy markers of the 30th Bday: mani/pedi time, special gifts (including a sewing machine!), prenatal massage, Chicago style Pizza and a beautiful lunch by the beach with friends.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Doctors are like Chefs and Lightning Rarely Strikes Twice

One of the more difficult aspects of dealing with Drake's death has been the unknown. His experience of having heart failure in utero was so rare- none of MANY doctors we met with had seen anything like it before, nor could they explain why it happened. The fatality of his diagnosis was one thing they all agreed on, it was clear our baby would not live long without a miracle. Three short days we had him. After he passed away there were more blood draws, genetics tests ordered, and a full autopsy. Still, we were left with no clear answer as to why this happened.

 That has been hard for me to sit with. Medicine can tell us SO much these days. How is it that our babe's story remained a complete mystery? Most reports and doctors explained things as just a "fluke". Therefore leaving me to worry.... well, if it was just a fluke, who says a fluke can't happen again? I know this is cynical, but it is where my mind has gone. As a grieving mother, who was hit totally out of left field with an unexplainable condition that caused my Son's death- I have been left to wonder. One thing I learned for sure, we have no control, and God's plans do not always make sense to us. That has been where my heart has been stuck, bracing myself to face a potential future of losing other children- because you just never know.

 I have also been left to struggle with the tempting thoughts that I must've done something myself to cause this. I was always extremely honest with doctors about anything I had ingested or any activity I took part in during pregnancy and they assured me I had done nothing wrong. I innately know I took good care of myself during my pregnancy, but when something goes wrong, I think it is a natural response for an expectant mother to begin questioning themselves. Did I accidentally eat some unpasteurized cheese? What about the fact that we found out a little late and I had been on some medications that were not proven to be totally safe during pregnancy? Or is it because I took (doctor approved) sleeping meds to help with my pregnancy insomnia? Was that Herbal Supplement I took for pregnancy really safe? That glass of wine on Thanksgiving? (Shock, yes me the social worker drank a glass of wine while pregnant.... the doctor told me an occasional glass was harmless,I realize this is a highly controversial subject and worthy of it's own blog post, but we'll leave it at that for now). So then comes my overanalyzing of what other people must think of me. As in "They must think I did something CRAZY during my pregnancy" or "They must be judging me for having an occasional 1/2 caf. latte while I was pregnant" or "What did they mean by that question?" etc. etc. Not a fun place to be in. Even as I write this I second guess sharing so honestly, but I guess candidness is what I've strived to be all about- so there you have it! I also know for a fact a good many of my trusted friends would tell me I'm silly for even worrying about this, but I can get carried away with my conscientiousness :)

Recently, I have finally found some relief from this struggle. Thanks to a doctor, we'll call him Dr. S, who FINALLY explained things in a different light. Initially when we received the results from Drake's genetic testing, it was explained to us that they found one tiny tiny small thing, "a slight duplication on the long arm of chromosome 5 of uncertain clinical significance". The geneticists told us that there was no reason to think this was the cause of his heart failure and was likely not linked to anything, nor something we were genetically carrying. Which was good news, but still not an answer.

At a recent appointment with Dr. S, our Perinatologist (high risk pregnancy doctor) we reviewed these results again. His take was that if the ONLY thing anyone could find was this small genetic mutation, then it was likely that was the cause. Dr. S explained that the geneticists would not explain it that way, because there probably is no research to base it on, and no other documented cases such as Drakes. However, if you look at it logically, by process of elimination- there is no other reason, so the genetic mutation probably is linked to the heart failure. As he said, "Doctors are like chefs.... it's like we all know how to make meat loaf, but we all have a slightly different opinion of what goes into the meatloaf and how to prepare it in the best fashion. We all went to culinary school, but each school trains you to think a slightly different way. Not better or worse, just different." My first reaction on hearing this was panic. My immediate next question was, "So does that mean if it was genetic, that it could likely happen again? The geneticists said it would be very rare for it to happen again, is that true?" Dr. S's answer calmly reassured me, "No, this kind of thing is totally random. It's like one tiny little thread just snapped for some random reason early on in development. Sometimes it just happens, but it's rare and the outcomes are all different." He went onto explain, "The odds are like being struck by lightning.... and we all know lightning doesn't strike twice."

 So there you have it. Whether or not all this makes sense to you, it made sense to me! It reassured me that there was some kind of physiological cause and it wasn't some completely mysterious thing..... or some kind of spoiled lunch meat I consumed while pregnant :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Chicago Fun Summer 2012

I've been back to Chicagoland twice in the past month. It's been a whirlwind! To be honest, it was super emotional and hard to go back "home" after everything that has happened. It was another first to check off, where we wished we were traveling with our son to introduce him to this special part of our lives, instead of without him. However, all in all, it was a great trip and so good to see so many people. Lots to celebrate!

Beautiful Bride & "The 6 Pack"
In May, we were back to visit family, and also to attend Kristel & John's wedding. Kristel is a dear friend of mine, whom I have known since 5th Grade. I'm so lucky to have so many close friends who have been a part of my life since childhood, and it was great to see SO many of them at this wedding! It was not only a beautiful wedding, but also quite a reunion and so much fun! Made miss being closer to this community of friends!

Lots of dancing, talking, and laughing. Snapshots:

Jon & I also ate a lot. We made sure to get in our fix of Chicago food and probably came home 5lbs heavier after 5 days. Deep Dish Pizza (2x), Hot Dogs, Greek Food, Dunkin Donuts... mmm.  Seeing our families was also wonderful too, of course!  :)

This past weekend I traveled solo for a quick weekend trip to celebrate my friend Britta's Bachelorette party (she is the cute blonde in the blue).  Another incredible group of "my girls" who I couldn't live without! The North Park crew, my college friends, otherwise known as "DBG".  Almost all of us were there, but we missed those of you who could not make it! It was such a good trip for me, a chance just to focus on girl time and be out and have fun! Despite getting caught in a torrential down pour we made our way around town and kept our dancing shoes on! I was also way overdue for some city time! So GOOD to breath in the big city- miss that. (Minus the traffic and complicated parking)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Being in the Pit

I’ve been in a dark place lately. Call it depression, call it grief, I’m calling it both (I will spare you from the actual DSM-IV Diagnosis that it is). I’ve been exhausted, all the time. There are days when I literally feel like a living machine. Going through the motions and forcing myself to complete the tasks that must get done to make it through the day. Doing so while feeling like a dark heavy cloud is constantly looming over me, ready to catch me in the midst of a terrential down pour at any moment. Forgive me for the cheesy metaphor, but it is a real reflection of where I am. I’m in a cold, stormy, cloudy place.

There are moments when the clouds move away and I can see sunlight. My husband makes me laugh, I can enjoy time with friends, I can take pride in accomplishments, and I can feel happy for someone else’s good news. Unfortunately, for me right now, these are just moments. Mostly though, there is darkness. I’m struggling with how to make it through this phase and maintain life and health in order to keep moving.

I find myself yearning for a day without these deep feelings of sadness and bewilderment being my companion. Having a “type A” personality with natural inclinations to accomplish things makes this a daunting phase for me. I am not good at patiently waiting for things to run their course. I am driven person, when I desire something; I am motivated to do whatever I need to do to come out with success. Therefore, I’ve been trying to do all the things I know that will clinically help me move through grief and fend depression. I started counseling right away after we lost our son, I’ve tried to take as much time off from work as we can afford, I’ve been open with others about my struggles, I have allowed myself time to cry and tried to expeirience emotions as they arise, I have attempted to pay extra attention to my physical health and well being, I’m trusting the Lord and trying to make my faith top priority. Guess what? It is not working… I still feel awful!

I am beginning to understand that it is an unreal expectation for me to “feel better” right now. That is hard as we live in a society that moves quickly and does not relish sadness. We are a pleasure seeking society. Most people do not want to dwell with me in my grief, and why would they? * I want it to be over too! However, to find myself without sadness over my loss would be to deny it. I don’t feel like I have ever denied this loss, I am just getting literally exhausted of facing it every day. But instead of being frustrated that I am still in a place of sadness, I am learning to embrace it. I am trying my best to learn from my loss, to allow it to deepen my soul and make me a more compassionate person. It takes a lot of work to enter into your psyche and soul and go through this process. There are days where I feel defeated by the task, having no energy to invest in anything. Those are the hardest days and they always come without much warning. I know it is ok to have those days, I just wish I didn’t. I wish I felt better. As others have reminded me, unfortunately, there is no way to fast forward through grief. Instead you just make it through, one foot in front of the other, day by day.

Part of my processing involves reading and journaling. Through this, I have come to realize that there is no recovery from grief. The book, A Grace Disguised, by Jerry Sittser has been an enirching and relatable read. Sittser writes;

 “Recovery is a misleading and empty expectation. We recover from broken limbs, not amputations. Catastrophic loss by definition precludes recovery. It will transform us or destroy us, but it will never leave us the same. There is no going back to the past, which is gone forever, only going ahead to the future, which has yet to be discovered. Whatever that future is, it will, and must, include the pain of the past with it. Sorrow never entirely leaveles the soul of those who have suffered a severe loss. If anything it may keep going deeper.” 

And so, I am not the same, nor will I ever be. I will walk the rest of the days of my life carrying the loss and sorrow of the very early and mysterious death of my firstborn son. Learning how to cope with loss and going through grieving is dark and painful. The burden does get lighther, but it will never go away, and that is ok.

 * Disclaimer, I do have some amazing friends who have consciously been walking with me and embracing sadness. I am so thankful for you :)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Back to Work

Happy Friday! Fridays can't come soon enough these days. I have now been back at work for a full month. I was ready to go back, it was time to be getting up and getting back out, I was starting to get antsy. However,I am not going to lie, it has been totally exhausting and emotionally taxing. Hence the lack of posting. I'm hanging in there, but pretty much out of steam at the end of each day. Part of it is just getting back into the swing of things, and remembering my job is a little intense and slightly stressful (probably an understatement). The other part is that I am seeing everything through a new lens.... a much more emotional lens. I see a lot of sad situations, but I've always been able to cope with healthy boundaries and separate myself from the situation. Now that I am going through grieving the loss of my own child, it is hard to be as objective. (Lots of countertransference for all of you other clinical folks who will understand what that means).

Just a refresher for those of you may not know, I work as a counselor/social worker to support vulnerable infants and toddlers and their foster parents. The kids I work with have been taken away, involuntarily, from their biological family due to some kind of problem within the family that is putting the child at risk.

 So here are a few of my latest internal rants and raves, from a personal level, not wearing my social worker hat right now:

 * I am viewing child abuse and neglect in a whole new light. Don't people know how LUCKY they are to HAVE their kids..... you can't treat them like crap when God has blessed you with the opportunity to be their parent. I have less empathy for the unfortunate cycle of abuse that many people face.... and now probably too much empathy for children in need. In my job, in order to make it, you have to be able to balance out all these feelings. Not doing so well at that these days. 

 *Also, if someone takes your kid away from you- and getting them back is an option.. why wouldn't you fight like the dickens to get them back!I would have done ANYTHING to be able to keep my baby! 

 *I am finding life UNFAIR. For example, how is it that a baby can be born several weeks early to a Mother who has had no prenatal care,be born addicted to methamphetamine,and end up being totally fine! Our baby had state of the art care at one of the best hospitals in the country.... and I am not a crack addict.... and he was NOT fine. 

 *It is not fun to be carrying a newborn infants around for part of my job. It is especially worse when someone says, "Congratulations." All well intentioned, but unfortunately no congratulations for me.

 So, I think it is safe to say I am maybe moving on to the angry phase of grief. That is my latest update. TGIF

Monday, April 9, 2012

Drake's Journey- Video

A couple of weeks ago, our Church, Ocean Hills Covenant Church, asked us if we were willing to be interviewed about Drake's story. As the pastors were planning for the message on Easter Sunday they decided the theme for this year's Easter service would be, "When it looks like death has won." They felt that our journey with Drake was an example of what it is like to walk with God, "When it looks like death has won." After prayerful consideration, we said yes. We were honored that they would even consider our story worthy of being featured on Easter Sunday. This would mean that hundreds of people would be hearing about our little boy's life... Wow.

Jon and I were both anxious about the filming process. We didn't know how we would react emotionally. I still cry at church EVERY Sunday, so I sort of expected to have a melt down. Our Pastors were very reassuring and respectful- if this was too hard, we could stop filming, take a break, or just say no. SOMEHOW, we pulled this off! Again, we are blown away by how God shows up to be with us and speak through us, so this story can be heard. Also, as we are continuing to grieve, we are getting to the point where we can hold it together a bit more emotionally, especially if we are prepared.

That doesn't mean it isn't still painful. Let me share with you the text from the sermon before they played this video at Church. Quoting Pastor Jon Ireland;

"The good news of Easter is that Jesus Christ, who overcame death, can overcome anything. What does anything mean? It means anything! He can overcome anything that you are facing. He wants to live in you and through you. He wants to change the way you think, he wants to change the perspective about your suffering- about the way you are facing pain and heart ache.And he can make all the difference in your life. when it seems like death has won.

We have a story that we are going to share with you and let you watch on video. It's Jon and Stacy's story. They are a young couple in our Church. You're going to see the difference that the risen Christ has made it their lives. It's not there is not pain. In their story there is a lot of pain, there is a lot of heart ache. But Christ is making all the difference in the midst of their darkness."

So , the point of this video is not to show a "Happy Ending". On Sunday, Pastor Laurie put it well when she explained, "God didn't rescue Jon and Stacy from their grief, but he did show up to walk along side them." That was a good reminder for us, as we sat their and watched our own story.....

Please feel free to pass on this short video documenting Drake's Journey. God used Drake to impact our faith in a profound way. We are happy to share it with anyone else who might need to see some light in the midst of struggle and heart ache. You can share it through this blog- or directly through You Tube @

(Also, props to the amazing W.Ashley Maddox who created this film!)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Drake's Due Date

Today would have been Drake's due date. A day at one point I was looking forward to this date, March 21, as a joyous milestone. Within the past 7 weeks, my anticipation of this date turned to dread. Fearing how hard it would be.

I'm doing ok obviously, because I am able to post. Jon took the day off work- I can't imagine sharing this day without him and don't know what I would have done. Honestly, I'm not sure I would have really gotten out of bed without the encouragement of his company today. It has been a tender, emotional, contemplative day so far. Appreciate all your thoughts and prayers.

We spent a few hours at the beach this afternoon, it has been a beautiful day. I had to post this photo, because I think it is so cute. Piper literally helped me "dig" our little beach memorial for Drake. He held onto the stick, or dug after me, the whole way around the heart.

From the opposite side, ocean view:

Missing our sweet baby boy today, and always. Love you!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I've been getting a lot of, "How are you doing?" questions and check ins lately. Which has been wonderful, thank you for caring about me. I genuinely mean that, and I know people's prayers for us continue. So forgive me in advance for this entirely self focused post about my physical state of being. At some point I will try to blog about my emotional state and how I'm doing with grief, but for now, I'm sticking with a more shallow approach :)

Today is a weird sort of milestone day. Today is the 6 week mark from when Drake was born. Typically after a C-Section, this is when doctors give you the official clearance to return to normal activity. When I was in the hospital, there was a lot of talk about 6 weeks. One day I think I had 4 different OB/GYN residents rotate through my room and give me the 6 week talk. At UCLA they were very conservative about this time frame for basically any type of physical activity and sort of made me feel like I would be forced to be a sack of potatoes for the next 6 weeks. Thankfully, my regular OB/GYN here in Santa Barbara was much less stringent on these standards. Now, I'm not at all saying that the doctors at UCLA were wrong, or that these guidelines are not important. Trust me, my philosophy has been to do WHATEVER the doctors tell me to do, because the last thing I want is to end up back in the hospital or interfere with the long term healing of my body. I'm just grateful to have a primary physician who was diligent about seeing me to make sure I was recovering properly, and understanding that I would like to be active as soon as possible. She gradually cleared me for various types of activity so by the time today (the 6week benchmark) has arrived, I'm already officially clear to be "normal". Except for no sit ups for another 6 weeks (sorry abs, you will have to wait) and no heavy lifting. Most of all, just to be sensible and listen to my body.

Anyway, so today feels kind of weird. Not necessarily in a sad way, just in a "it has my attention" kind of way. I think maybe because it is very surreal that I'm now in a place where I'm allowed to return to a normal physical state, but really, I should still be pregnant right now. Now not only am I not pregnant, but I have no baby, and I am still left with a body that has to recover. Hmmm, recovering from having a baby, but having NO baby. Ok see, it is weird, and it is not fun.

So when people ask how I'm doing physically, how am I physically healing, I usually say "I'm doing well!". How am I feeling about how I am healing and the fact that I have to be physically healing??...... that is another story. I probably haven't been as honest as I've felt when people have casually asked that "How are you doing, physically?" question. I think I feel guilty complaining, because I dropped 90% of my pregnancy weight within 2 weeks, the doctors say I'm healing very well from the surgery, I didn't need the full dose of pain meds, and when all is said is done, I know I'm really lucky to be doing so well. I know I need to be gentle with myself and give myself grace and have a healthy perspective on all this. I know I should NOT expect to fit into my skinniest jeans or be able to go run 4miles. That being said, I know I should feel extremely lucky I can fit into most of my jeans and that I can go run, at all, period. However, I still don't feel like me, and It's frustrating!!! If you know me, you know I am not a patient person when it comes to not being able to be active. I am also not very good at being sick- I have a tendency to be sick for a long time when I get sick, because I'm not good at "being" sick and letting myself recover. My stress also has a tendency to manifest itself physically, because I'm not one to relax and "go with the flow of my body" (this is why I HATE yoga and I love running.) I was remarkably patient when I had to be on hospital bed rest, but that was for a cause bigger than me. Now I am in a selfish place where I just want to feel like me again. I still get exhausted very easily from too much activity, but if I don't have activity I get depressed and I want to be out doing things. I still require an insane amount of sleep, so I sleep a lot, and then I get frustrated I have done nothing with my day. Also, in the midst of getting my strength back, I ended up getting a flu bug or something so that set me back too. I have all this time off work, think of how productive I could be! That is where my mind goes. The end result of that train of thought usually ends with me taking a nap or laying out in the yard reading.

Really, I am doing ok, and I am grateful for that. The fact that I am complaining, well that is just me being honest with how I'm really doing.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Precious Cards

We received a package in the mail from my home church back in Illinois. Naperville Covenant is the church I grew up in, and where my parents still attend. Even though it is not the church where Jon and I attended once we were married, they are a church family that will always be close to our hearts, and they are filled with generosity. The package was a large envelope filled with cards from the children there. I could barely get through the note from the Director of Children's Ministry, total tear jerker. She wrote,
"The Sunday after Drake passed I shared your story with the children. We talked about the happy things that had happened that week (Drake's birth and being with a family that loved him so much) and the sad (that Drake couldn't be with his family for long and that his family is very sad and misses him very much.) We looked at Romans 12:15 and talked about how we could be happy and sad with you. The result of that talk are these honest and beautiful cards that I hope will bless your hearts."

Below are a few of the cards from the package. There were many more, and they were all so sweet. Nothing quite as special as the faith and genuine love children show us.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Hello Grief

Grief. It's been awhile since I've walked with grief. You are not a companion I would chose to walk with, but you are here. I've learned that it helps me to process some of my emotions through writing and sharing, so bare with me. I'm sure I'm going to be walking with grief for awhile. And I know that is OK.

Drake is ALWAYS on my mind. There is not a second that goes by when he doesn't feel near the forefront of my mind. Especially at night when I'm trying to fall asleep or when I have some time to myself. My mind instantly begins to replay the events of my pregnancy, hospitalization, Drake's birth, and Drake's death. I am trying to let myself go there and feel feelings and remember. This is by far the most painful season of my life- I just want my baby and it hurts not to have him. Day by day I have to learn to let him go a little bit more, while at the same time find a way to keep him close to my heart. Never wanting to forget him. Usually after a period of intentional reflecting I can at least move the thoughts to second place, and get myself up and going to something else. It doesn't mean the feelings aren't there, it is just the only way to survive without allowing myself to go into an utterly deep depression. As far as daily functioning goes, all things considered, I think I'm doing pretty well.

However, sometimes in the midst of just "functioning", is when things hit me. This trait of grief is familiar in such a funny way. I'm remembering that often times unexpected things are what hurt the most. All of a sudden grief can creep up on you, flood you with emotion, and knock you off track for awhile. A couple of things I never anticipated:

Singing. Recently, I was by myself and instinctively began singing along to something. I don't even remember what it was- maybe a TV commercial or a song on the radio. The sound of my own voice caught me off guard and instantly swept me to a place of sadness. I realized I was the only one who could hear me singing. Drake used to be able to hear me. I was intentional about trying to sing often when I was pregnant, because I wanted him to know my voice and hear me. Also, when he was in the hospital, Jon and I used to sing to him. No matter how bad our voices are (there is a reason why I only do karaoke in private), we knew they would be familiar and comforting for him.

Mani/Pedi time. I even tried to be strategic on this one. I didn't go to my usual place, where they know me, because I knew I was not ready to explain what had happened. Some of my dear friends had gotten me a gift certificate to a different place in town, and I was anxious to use it. I was looking forward to the time of relaxation and zoning out to trashy magazines. Once I sank into the chair, I found myself getting nervous almost instantly. As the lady scrubbing my feet began to make small talk, I became anxious that she was going to ask me if I had children. I wasn't ready to answer that question. This was a complete stranger and I didn't know how I would react. If I said no, then she might question me, "Why not?" "What are you waiting for?" (pre-pregnancy, this has happened to me more than once before when getting a mani/pedi). I contemplated just saying "Yes, I have children." Then I realized she would ask more questions, "How old are they? Boys or girls?" etc and it would lead me fumbling to maneuver down a path of lies. Not to mention, that method may have bordered on some type of psychotic way of coping. I didn't want to honestly answer and explain what happened, because I wasn't comfortable becoming emotional at that time and place, with this lady who I'd never seen before. So I just sat there nervously for an hour. Thankfully, she never asked. I left feeling tense and upset, which was not what I was going for. (At least my nails looked good and that made me feel a bit better.)

Those are my thoughts to share for today. Maybe for some of you who are reading who have experienced grief before you can relate to it's "unexpected" trait. Or maybe this can be a reminder that you can never expect the unexpected or control your emotional processing no matter how hard you might try. For those of us who like to be in control, this is not a welcome lesson, but one where there is no choice in the matter- you just have to go with it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Drake's Memorial Service

Drake William Peterson's Memorial ServiceFebruary 7, 2012 3:30 p.m.

It was beautiful. It was perfect. It was more than I'd hoped for. God blessed us through others. All the words spoken were of great comfort. The music was beyond beautiful. It was also extremely difficult and heart breaking, but in a way that felt like the beginning of healing. The very very beginning. We have a LONG way to go.

The service was planned to be outside at one of our favorite parks, Elings Park. The park is near our home, up on a tall hill that overlooks the Santa Barbara coastline. We were looking forward to remembering Drake in this special spot, but the weather did not cooperate. Of course, it was one of the FEW days it was not perfect weather in Santa Barbara. Oh well, we had a back up plan. Instead, the service was held at Montecito Covenant Church. This is the Church where Jon grew up, his father was pastor there for about 25 years. It is not where we currently attend church, but it is a place filled with sentiment and it is a beautiful sanctuary. Also, our current church meets in an auditorium, so not really an option. Anyway, it all worked out and people were comfortable and not battling with the weather.

Our pastor, and friend, Jon Ireland led the service. Jon Ireland has known Jon (Peterson) since his childhood. Jon Ireland was Jon's youth pastor, and now he is our pastor at Ocean Hills Covenant Church. He has been a support to us in many ways over the past couple of years since we have moved here. He led the service with grace and his words were powerful. Unfortunately, I don't have the text to his message.

Jeff Given led us in song. He is a close friend/ brother to our family. His arrangements of Jesus Loves Me and Children of the Heavenly Father were gorgeous. I was struck by the strength of his delivery of these songs. Jeffrey's musical gifts have always inspired us, but touched us in an entirely different way as he sang for our son.

Jon's Dad, Curt Peterson, gave the Eulogy:

From the earliest days of pregnancy the mystery of the life of Drake William was known fully to God – loved and blessed child. This we believe.

It was in December when the baby boy of Jon and Stacy was called by name – Drake William Peterson. A person and personality began to be formed in our minds and prayers. Also in December, Drake William was diagnosed with cardio myopathy – a weak heart muscle. Cardiologists in Santa Barbara, at UCLA, and at Stanford all confirmed the 1% chance of sustained life for Drake. The weaving of the strands of grief, hope and faith began for Jon and Stacy and all our family.

Prayer became the breathing rhythm of our lives – inhaling the comfort, love, and grace of God; exhaling our fears, our cries for mercy, our pleas for the miracle of healing.

Like the Gospel’s persistent widow seeking justice and the person of shameless audacity knocking on the door of a friend at midnight– we prayed and prayed and prayed – all of us and a host of believers around the world, literally – passionate prayers I witnessed in the past two months calling out to God for strength, peace, healing, miracles.

It was Stacy – loving mother – who carried Drake’s fragile life in her body and heart with amazing grace and strength and love. With Jon always attentive and supporting alongside, Stacy bore the mystery and uncertainty of Drake’s life with courage and faith. Then there were complications – Stacy’s severe preeclampsia required hospital monitoring and care so UCLA Children’s Hospital became home for parents and grandparents for three weeks. If you will indulge me as a parent, Stacy and Jon are amazing – dealing with the deepest of emotional heartaches, and managing care for Stacy and Drake with strength and grace, the Lord was always with them. Their UCLA nurses expressed the powerful impact of their faith through all these days.

After marginal improvement for Drake in the cardiologist’s ultrasound report on January 23rd our hopes were raised but guarded. A clear answer to prayer and first miracle was that Drake and Stacy were stable enough to schedule a delivery for Tuesday, January 31st. Stacy, Jon and Drake were carried by the network of praying friends that grew exponentially through Facebook, Twitter and Emails – friends of friends of friends became part of a community of compassion and prayer linked together by one common life – Drake William.

With great courage Stacy went into delivery facing understandable fears with faith and Jon’s support. Eighteen of us in the waiting room and a host of praying friends waited for the news. After two hours Dr. Lee came out with a big smile – “a beautiful baby boy is born – the delivery went well, Drake cried loudly and Stacy is doing well.” We all rejoiced in praise to God for another miracle.

Jon came into the waiting room elated. Drake William Peterson was born on Tuesday at 2:44 p.m. At birth Drake was quickly surrounded by five doctors, with another five watching over their shoulders – Drake’s life was beyond their expectations. After draining the fluid in Drake’s abdomen they whisked him off to the NICU unit. Jon visited his son and then quickly returned to Stacy’s side, her C-section and blood pressure complications intensified.

We prayed fervently for Drake and for Stacy. “Lord have mercy.”

We called Drake a fighter, a child of strength - his heart condition was beyond treatment – but Drake showed signs of fighting to live from the moment of his birth - his oxygen levels and his heart beat grew stronger each hour. Occasionally his eyes opened. His left hand gripped Jon and Stacy’s fingers. His right hand was always in a fighter’s fist punching against the odds.

Facial features and body were beautifully developed at 33 weeks.

Stacy saw Drake Wednesday morning, her mother’s touch and love seemed to bring increased strength to our fighter. Then others of us who were there got a glimpse of God’s grace in this precious child. He captured our hearts more and more. We rested through the night in cautious peace.

Then, suddenly on Thursday Drake’s body began to fail, as calls for prayer went out, parents and grandparents and friend/brother David went in to surround Drake in prayer, ready to say our goodbyes. But Drake wanted to fight another round. Doctors administered treatment, we prayed – Jon comforted Drake’s forehead. Stacy now was fighting her own battle and had to return to her room for treatment.

The cloud of witnesses leaned over the edge of life and death and prayed.

By the grace and miracle of God Drake rallied, as did Stacy.

He returned to stable condition, breathing got better, acidity was neutralized – we all went to our corners to give thanks to God.

Friday morning the call came early to Jon and Stacy – Drake’s organs were failing, prepare yourself and your family to come to Drake’s side.

We gathered. Jon, Stacy, and grandparents, Linda, Brant, Martie and I – gathered around Drake in a sanctuary formed by curtains, believers and the presence of God. The worship began: “Let the children come to me,” Jesus said, “do not hinder them. For to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” We sang “Jesus Loves Me” – and I had the joy of baptizing Drake William and praying for God’s welcome into the loving arms of Jesus. With thanks for the powerful touch of this precious child reaching around the world, we committed Drake to the grace and peace of God. Jon and Stacy made the courageous decision to let Drake go to God on Friday morning. After all the life support tubes were removed from Drake’s body, Drake fought on for 15 minutes on his own. With amazing strength Drake clung to life as long as he could. This miracle child with three brief days in earth’s light now lives in the eternal light of heaven. It was Friday, but we knew in faith that Sunday’s resurrection was coming!

Drake was not only a fighter, he was a giver- he gave us a glimpse of God's grace in the miracle of birth. He taught us how precious the days of life are for every child. And he gave us the amazing gift of a loving community around a vulnerable child. He gave us the reminder of the dignity and preciousness of every child, everywhere. Drake was a strong fighter, and a strong giver.

From the waters of his mother's womb to the waters of baptism in the hour before his passing, Drake was sustained by the love of Jesus. Held by his parents’ loving arms until his last breath, he is now in the loving arms of his Savior. We see Drake now as born for eternity, more than born for this earth. This is a statement of faith and hope in the midst of our tears and grief - it is the source of peace in the midst of this great loss. How could we face this pain without the amazing grace and love of God? God is good, all the time - we will trust God in our grief. God’s love will become our love for the vulnerable children of this world in memory of Drake William Peterson.

Jon and I also had words to share about Drake. I wanted to be able to speak these words, but I was still quite physically weak, not to mention an emotional wreck. My family was insistent that it was not a smart idea to get up and talk, so I agreed to let Jon do the talking (even though he was an emotional wreck too, physically he was fine). Through the pouring of genuine tears, Jon shared for both of us:

Stacy's text:

I could talk for hours about all the things I learned along Drake’s journey. However, the main theme that has resonated with me during this season has been trusting in the Lord. From the day we found out we were pregnant, which was actually quite a surprise, to the day we found out Drake had heart complications, to the final moments we spent with Drake saying Good-Bye. The ONLY thing I have been able to cling to that has brought me any sort of comfort has been trusting in the Lord. Trust that even though this experience has made absolutely no sense, and been utterly painful, that God does have a plan for each of us and that Drake is truly in a better place. I CAN trust, because I’ve experienced God’s faithfulness throughout my life, and I know it is true. In fact, throughout these past weeks, I’ve already seen God’s plan and protection unfold. One example, I was able to be physically strong and stable enough to be with Drake as he passed away, holding him until the final moment. If his death had come any sooner than it did, I would have still been limited to bed rest from experiencing complications after the C-Section.

There are no words to adequately describe all the emotions and thoughts that I have been flooded with over the past week. I have felt the ultimate highs of life and the ultimate lows, in a very short period of time. There are also no words to describe the way it feels to experience a Mother’s love. It is just as powerful and raw as every Mother I’ve known has described it to be. I’m so grateful to have experienced this love for Drake, and I know nothing will ever make it go away. The separation from him is excruciatingly painful and I constantly wish he was here in my arms. Knowing that I believe in a God, who loves me more than the love I feel for this little boy has given me a profound new perspective on God’s love. It is a love so big, that I simply can’t understand how God tolerates the joy and pain of what it means to love so big. Drake will forever be in my heart and has changed me profoundly. I’m a better person for getting to be his Mom, and I will never let him go.

Jon's text:

When I first saw Drake I was instantly moved to tears, I had tried to connect with him before he was born but even when he kicked me from inside the womb as I was talking to him, I could not imagine the joy of seeing him cry for the first time. It then became my sole purpose in life to do all I could for him while he was with us. All that time he kept fighting and fighting to prove the Doctors wrong about his heart.

Losing him on Friday was the hardest thing I have ever been through in my life; I have never felt my heart physically ache as it did while I held him in the final moments of his life.

But Stacy and I know that his story did not end in the NICU. Earlier that week when we settled on Tuesday the 31st for his delivery I decided to start reading the Proverbs of the day fro my devotions, I went to Proverbs 31 for the date he would be born, it started

O my son, O son of my womb, O son of my vows.

That seemed appropriate enough, and then I read verses 8-9

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, Speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.

I hoped that maybe Drake would live a long life serving the poor and caring for the helpless. But after seeing the response he has created on social media and e-mail and around the world, I think he is doing that in his death.

Stacy and I have peace knowing that Drake was given all the best opportunities to live with the best Doctors and Facilities available, but God had a plan bigger than we can hope for. I don’t believe that it is just coincidence that on Friday Covenant Kids Congo was officially started, I feel like Drake’s life may have been an encouragement to us all to help the poor and helpless in his memory.

Thank you all again for the love and support you have shown Stacy and me over the past several days and weeks.

The song, Glory Baby, by Watermark, was preformed (again, beautifully) by a few of the members of the worship team from our church along with Jeffrey. Lyrics to this song are on previous blog post. If you haven't ever heard it, download it. It is amazingly perfect to express how we feel.

Thank you to everyone who attended Drake's service. It was a full house and it was wonderful to share his life with others. Also thanks to all those who have sent cards, flowers, and other gifts. Drake's life touched many, and we feel so blessed to be the chosen parents for this special little boy. Love him forever.

If you would like to make a donation in honor of Drake, please consider supporting one of the following organizations that help children in need:

Friday, February 3, 2012

Saying Good-Bye to Drake

Drake William Peterson

January 31, 2012 ~ February 3, 2012

Precious Baby Boy. We miss you already.

Glory Baby: By Watermark

Glory baby you slipped away as fast as we could say baby…baby..
You were growing, what happened dear?
You disappeared on us baby…baby..
Heaven will hold you before we do
Heaven will keep you safe until we’re home with you…
Until we’re home with you…

Miss you everyday
Miss you in every way
But we know there’s a
day when we will hold you
We will hold you
You’ll kiss our tears away
When we’re home to stay
Can’t wait for the day when we will see you
We will see you
But baby let sweet Jesus hold you
‘till mom and dad can hold you…
You’ll just have heaven before we do
You’ll just have heaven before we do

Sweet little babies, it’s hard to
understand it ‘cause we’re hurting
We are hurting
But there is healing
And we know we’re stronger people through the growing
And in knowing-
That all things work together for our good
And God works His purposes just like He said He would…
Just like He said He would…

I can’t imagine heaven’s lullabies
and what they must sound like
But I will rest in knowing, heaven is your home
And it’s all you’ll ever know…all you’ll ever know…

Friday, January 27, 2012

January 31, 2012

Drake is scheduled to arrive into the world on
Tuesday, January 31, 2012.
The C-Section procedure is set to begin at 1:30 p.m.

That's the plan, unless any more surprises come up. I'm doing ok. This is all taking its toll on me for sure. Feeling really exhausted and overwhelmed. Desperately wanting to just hold my baby. At the same time, trying to cope with the fact I will most likely not get to hold my baby for awhile. We're prepared for him to be whisked off to the NICU right away, and we trust the team of doctors who will be taking care of him. We're bracing ourselves that we may not have long with our sweet baby boy. Trying to stay strong and not utterly fall apart at the mere thought of losing him. An emotional juggling act that I still can't believe I am in the midst of.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Drake's Latest Plan

This past week has been an emotional roller coaster to say the least! We've been through differing doctors opinions and difficult choices during our time here at UCLA. Last Thursday after seeing the Cardiologist, we learned that Drake's heart had gotten worse. This led the cardiologist to feel the best decision was to deliver Drake ASAP. However, our OB had a different opinion, thinking it was better to continue to wait to allow him to mature and gain more weight/strength. Thursday night, Jon and I were totally overwhelmed. The doctors had presented both sides and told us "It is up to you what you want to do." We couldn't do it, making such a HUGE decision on the timing of his birth was too much. The pros and cons seemed too brutal. The main issue was presented as whether we wanted to risk death in utero or death out of utero. Both risks are very probable. So we were faced with: Keep him in and let him develop, but risk sudden death due to an arrhythmia in utero. OR Take him out and risk complications of prematurity on top of heart failure and hydrops, therefore leading to risk of death shortly after delivery. How do you pick between those things?? We didn't. We said we wanted more time to make a decision (I guess sort of by default opting to give him more time). We asked for another appointment with the cardiologist to see if Drake's heart was rapidly getting progressively worse on a day to day basis. He happily agreed to see us on Monday. We also met with our OB again yesterday, and she gave him a good look too via ultrasound. He had not gotten any worse over the past 3-4 days. Actually, one thing, the umbilical flow to the heart, actually looked a little better!

Sooo.... all that leads to the most recent update on Drake. Which was emailed out today:

Hi all,

The latest news to share is that Drake will only be cooking for another week at the most. After several ups and downs and back and forths, all doctors have come to agreement it is best to not let him stay in utero much more than a week. This is due mainly to two factors 1) His condition is very poor and he is at high risk for death in utero. 2) Although my preeclampsia remains stable, it is still severe and best not to push it much longer.

The cardiologist will be examining Drake again on Thursday. If his heart looks worse on Thursday, they will deliver him via C-Section either the same day, or the next day. If his heart looks the same as it did when he was examined yesterday, they will wait until Tuesday for the C-Section.

Once Drake is born, no one is sure how he will fare. The main priority will be to get him stabilized ASAP, which means he will be handed over to a team of doctors and taken to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). There are no surgeries that can be preformed for his condition. We've been thoroughly counseled on the reality that his chances of survival are poor. It could be hours, days, weeks, etc. The cardiologist said he believes there is about a 1% chance he will live very long without a heart transplant.

Many of you have asked what will happen once Drake is born if he does survive. I will do my best to answer that based off what we know right now. As soon as Drake departs from the womb and is stabilized, they will examine him thoroughly to try to determine what will be most helpful to treat him. They will also begin all the steps to evaluate him for a heart transplant. If he is considered a candidate for a heart transplant, the wait for a heart will be a couple of months minimum. (Key word there being minimum, since he will be so little the wait will be long!). The prediction is that Drake will need to remain in the hospital, under intensive care, until a heart is available. We're praying that he is able to maintain his strength and keep his fighting spirit during this time.

However, as we've said before, we also know we are literally praying for a miracle. That has always been the case. So far, he already is a miracle. The doctors all are surprised he has made it this far. This leaves us all filled with Hope, and leads us to pray for a BIG miracle. Drake will have many challenges to face and many odds to beat. Of course it is our personal desire, for our baby to be one of God's miracles. This is one of those seasons of faith where it is extremely challenging to pray for God's will, because we want our baby, alive and well, in our arms forever! We know we have to put all our trust in the Lord, and that no matter what happens, he will carry us through and he will be there. We're experiencing that every day now, as we are surrounded with love and support from others. God has been so good to us. Also, the gift of being at one of the best hospitals in the country. The team of doctors and nurses have been not only brilliant, but also kind and compassionate. We are very lucky.

A few specific prayer requests in addition to what we have mentioned above. As if the above were not enough to ask for! :)

1) I (Stacy) am extremely nervous about the C-Section. I know it is a very common procedure and I'm sure I'll be fine. I'm less nervous about the medical aspect of it, and more concerned about the psychological aspect. I'm terrified of the spinal epidural procedure (phobic of IV's/needles) and also very anxious since Drake is at such high risk and I will just have to be laying there. Prayer's for Jon's as well in this regard- strength and a calm spirit as he has to support his crazy wife who will probably be completely panicking, and as he watches his vulnerable son being born.

2) Peace for the upcoming days as we await for these final milestones and decision points before Drake is born.

3) Safety and good health for our family amidst all of this. Our parents are already here and others will be traveling to be here once the delivery is a "go".

Much love and thanks,

Stacy, Jon, and Drake Peterson