BRINGING HOME BABY…AGAIN
“Jim, you’re never gonna believe this. We got picked to be on the show!” I was jumping up and down waving my cell phone around my head like a crazed banshee.
“Are you serious?”
“I’m as serious as a heart attack, Dude!”
I had just hung up the phone with the producer for TLC’s (The Learning Channel) TV show ‘Bringing Home Baby.’ It was official. They wanted to use our family to document the birth of our next baby who was scheduled for a C-section in eight weeks. They’d come out to our home to film a pre-delivery interview, then meet us at the hospital just as we were being discharged and stay with us for 72 hours and finally, return eight weeks later to see how everyone had adjusted. I felt like this would be an amazing opportunity for our family. We would have once in a lifetime, professional footage of our baby’s first few days, something that could be watched and cherished with their own children one day. After we lost Machaela, I found myself taking tons of pictures, documenting silly events like her first bites of strained green beans, successful pee-pees in the potty and swinging in the park. By the time we had found out we were expecting again, I literally had thousands upon thousands of pictures of Sophia. I’m pretty sure, deep down, the reason I took so many was the fear that she too may be taken from me. I wanted to remember every intricate detail about her life…just in case. So, for TLC to be coming to my home to document the first 72 hours of our new little family, meant the world to me.
TLC was scheduled to come out to our house for our pre-delivery interview two weeks after we were confirmed for the show; I was almost 34 weeks pregnant. The producer interviewed us together and individually to gain perspective on what it’s like to prepare for the birth of a child after having lost one. We shared intimate details about Machaela’s birth, death, our fears about the impending delivery and our hopes for this new miracle we were about to meet. We had opted to not find out the sex of this baby, just as we did with Sophia. We weren’t given that choice with Machaela, we had to know to accurately diagnose her. Not knowing the sex of this bundle of joy only increased the excitement of the delivery. I felt just like a child, waiting for the twenty-five days of December to pass to finally be able to dash into the family room to find what Santa had left for me under the tree, only this was intensified a thousand times.
Just a few days after interview, my nesting instinct kicked in. This should have been my first warning that this baby might be coming sooner than we thought. I went nuts cleaning every nook and cranny, washing every piece of linen, and then twice washing the green and yellow newborn clothing in that overpriced baby detergent. I stocked and restocked our pantry, freezer and fridge and made sure we had every household supply we could possibly need from the store for the next month.
I was busy painting farm animals onto the walls of our new nursery while Jim attempted to complete the task of converting our toddler bed back into a crib. This was a mission proving more difficult than originally anticipated. He managed to strip the screws which meant he couldn’t take the side rails off which also meant that it was about ¼ inch too wide to get through the door jam. That didn’t mean that he wouldn’t try to make the crib fit through it anyway.
“Houston, we have a problem…” The crib was totaled and completely stuck in the door jam.
“Are you serious, Jim?” I was not in the mood to be messed with. He was jerking the crib back and forth, in a poor attempt to force it through, causing the paint to chip off both the crib and door.
“If I could just get the crib through the door, then we can put the side of the crib with the missing railings up against the wall for now. I don’t think anyone will notice.” He had to see the steam blasting from my ears.
“Awe, come on Boney! Are you freaking kidding me? You think people won’t notice that half of the crib is missing? Of course people will notice!” “Boney” was the name I called him when he pissed me off.
Seriously? All I wanted was the crib put back together. I was so mad I that the hairs on my neck stood erect like an angry shackled dog. So much for the convertible crib, obviously, it would not be getting multiple uses out of it. But, I guess for now, just for the sake of time, we’d have to push it up against the wall. Maybe all of America wouldn’t notice.
The next morning I had some mild cramping and was very sick to my stomach. I called my ob/gyn and she wanted me to come in to be checked, just to be safe. I’m glad I did. My blood pressure was through the roof and I had protein in my urine. My contractions were getting stronger and at just thirty five weeks pregnant, my baby would be making its debut into the world.
APRIL 25, 2006
Yup. HOAG hospital had another satisfied customer! We had just welcomed Amaya Grace into the world! She arrived five weeks early but still weighed in at a healthy six pounds. Her beauty astounded me; she came complete with a little button nose, little rose bud lips just like her sisters and long, jet black lashes. She had the perfect face; not the scrunched up, wrinkly, I sat in the Jacuzzi too long, old man look, most newborns have on arrival (I’m not just saying that because she’s mine). She was gorgeous and I was blessed.
Despite being in preterm labor off and on for nearly two months and having high blood pressure, her delivery was amazingly easy. I didn’t have those terrifying thoughts like I’d had with Sophia. My mind wasn’t all cloudy with drugs and I was even able to watch the surgery this time. I begged the anestheologist to angle the mirror above so I could see. It was incredible. My recovery was so much easier and I was up walking by that afternoon and had enough energy to visit with my Grandma Margaret.
“Oh, how I love the smell of newborn babies. She is so warm and cuddly. This is as close to heaven as you can get on earth.”
My Grandma Margaret was cradling a freshly bathed Amaya Grace in her arms. When Grandma became “great grandma” she requested that her great grandchildren call her GG.
Grandma had a talent for sewing; always blessing her grand-daughters with vintage style sundresses, sweaters and bonnets. I remember that on this day GG was wearing a Raggedy Ann dress she had made.
She was smiling, looking down at Amaya and then back at me. She was baby talking to Amaya saying, “GG didn’t get to finish your blankie and your bonnet because you were in a hurry to meet me. But don’t worry, you’ll get it soon enough…”
Fatigue was finally catching up with me, I was barely able to keep my eyes opened, but determined to listen to my grandma tell me baby stories about my dad. She had a gift for storytelling and I loved picturing my dad as a child getting into mischief. She stayed for several hours, only putting Amaya down for a diaper change or a feeding.GG only got to hold her a few more times before she passed away four short months later. I am so grateful for the time that we shared on that day.
The next morning the film crew arrived in my hospital room. What in the world was I thinking when I said we’d do this show? I was a ball of nerves, to say the least. I was coming home with baby number two, but now that was being compounded with a film crew documenting my every move. Maybe I should’ve thought this out better.
The next thing I knew was that I had a microphone taped to my back, the camera was rolling and I was being wheeled out of the secret back door of the hospital. Amaya, so teeny and new, was all loaded up and secured in the car seat. We headed down Pacific Coast Highway with a camera man in the passenger seat as Jim drove to our new adventure of becoming a family of four.
One evening during the filming I had a heart to heart with the producer, Shelly. She wanted to understand loss and how we found the courage to carry on after such a tragic loss. After Machaela went to heaven, I started to pay attention to the small things like flowers growing out of a crack of a sidewalk, beautiful rainbows and delicate butterflies. They were a constant reminder of God’s promises and I knew, with God, I’d be okay. Butterflies always made me think of Machaela. Once she passed, I started to notice them everywhere, particularly if we were at a family event. It brought me so much comfort when I told myself that every time that I saw one, she was stopping by for a visit.
A month after she died, my family and I went to my dad’s company picnic. One of his coworker’s wives hadjust a baby a few days before Machaela’s birth. I knew they were going to be there and I knew it was going to be hard. I truly was happy for them, but it was so difficult to congratulate them on their baby. Knowing that I’d have to look at this new little life that would’ve been the same age as Machaela put me in a somber mood. The familiar suffocation of grief returned.
I was carrying a plate of food to the blanket where we’d be eating. Tears were hidden behind my sunglasses and the passage way in my throat was being blocked by a stone of grief. I was so confused with God. I couldn’t understand how he could let a new mother hold her dead infant and not step in and perform a miracle. Talk about a major head game. I knew that these thoughts were irrational to some degree. They went against everything I had ever learned in church about God and faith. But then again, I had never experienced so much sorrow in my life. I never had to dig deep within my soul and use my own faith. Everything within me yearned to understand what the purpose of all this was. I remember repeating in my head, “God, if you’re real, give me a sign. If you’re taking care of my baby, please give me a sign.” At that moment, a pair of butterflies performed a delicate dance of grace across the blanket I was sitting on. I sat Indian style, watching them, knowing God was responsible for this. The butterflies fluttered and then landed on my knee. A bit of perfection hung out with me for a few minutes and then they flew off with the wind.
In an instant, my heart felt lighter and like a jagged mountains crest, my stone of grief also chipped away a little. I knew, without a doubt, that those butterflies were meant for my eyes to see. From that point on, I see butterflies at every special event or family function we have. It’s like Machaela’s there, partaking in the festivities and it made me happy.
As Shelly was listening, tears filled her eyes. She reached over and gave me a giant bear hug and thanked for me for sharing.
What I didn’t know was that Shelly was preparing to give us the most beautiful of gifts. We wouldn’t know it until the show aired months later. The last clip of our episode showed Jim, my best friend, Jeanae, Sophia, Amaya and me walking down the pathway in our complex. Following closely behind us was my dancing butterfly, vibrant orange and full of life. The camera zoomed in and captured the familiar dance of grace. This was the wrap of the shoot, a special occasion and Machaela had stopped by, as always. I am so incredibly grateful.
Shelly remembered an intimate detail about my life, a conversation that had taken place months prior and it meant a lot to me. She remembered my Machaela, when so often, people forget.