Calleigh Joy = Beautiful Happiness
Calleigh is Greek and means "beautiful" and Joy (of course) means "happiness" and that is exactly what she brought to our lives... Beautiful Happiness. I think I should start at the beginning.
Corey and I met around our 19th birthdays. I was searching for someone to pay attention to me and he wanted to get out of the house. Well, we found each other and I guess we fulfilled in each other what we were looking for - for a little bit of time. Four months later I found myself pregnant and pretty unsure about the future for myself and my baby. Well, I did the only thing a “good Christian girl” should do – Corey and I got married on April 21st, 1990. Then on October 19th, 1990 our son, Justen Lee, was born. When the company had all left the hospital and it was quiet and I was all alone sitting in my hospital room, holding my new baby, I looked down at him and so many thoughts and emotions started swirling around in my head. “What did I do?” “What kind of life will this sweet innocent little boy have?” “I can’t even take care of myself, let alone a FAMILY!” I knew right there and then that I had a lot of growing up to do and it was time to get my life straight with God. I was a Christian, had grown up in a Christian home, attended a good Bible teaching church – but somewhere along the way I forgot about my “relationship” with God and only placed value in my relationships with people – and not always good relationships with people.
So there we were, barely 20 years old bringing our new baby home from the hospital almost a year after we had met… I probably don’t need to go into detail about how messed up our lives were, but we were strangers living in the same house taking care of the same baby. It’s a wonder and miracle that Justen’s not a mess himself! So we struggled along, I started getting more involved back with the church that I grew up in and Corey got more involved in the drinking /partying stage. And time moved on… we managed to fake a pretty good relationship and family life, even though, if truth be told, we were growing further and further apart. When Justen was a toddler I desperately wanted to have another baby. I thought it would help our relationship and I had always imagined my life with 3 or 4 kids, so I began planning on having another one. (Yes, I did – not WE did.)
Well, it took a couple of years, but finally when Justen was a little older then 4 ½, I found out I was expecting. I was beyond excited and thought this was just what our “lack-luster” relationship needed. Corey was happy at first then towards the end of the pregnancy he started pulling away from us. Taylor Dawn was born on March 17th, 1996. When she was around 3 months old Corey decided he had had enough and he left us. I knew we were having some problems, but I didn’t know they had gone to this extreme. My thoughts were that we were not quite as close because with a new baby, I had to spend a considerable amount of time with the new one, and didn’t give much attention to my husband. (This was the case, but not the only problem we had.) We were divorced sometime in September, and I had full legal custody of the kids, I got the house, and basically I got all I asked for in the divorce settlement.
I’m not going in to detail about that time in our lives, it was painful, hard and necessary for us to go through to get where we are today. At the time I could not see anything “good” ever coming out of my failed marriage, but God had a plan and I had yet to see it. It’s a good thing He can see the big picture, because I sure didn’t!
Several months past, Corey became a Christian, and we started “dating”. This was a very exciting time for me. It was like I was finally able to “choose” who I wanted to marry – and I chose Corey. He became the love of my life and we were closer than ever before. We re-married and when Taylor was a little over two we decided that we should have another baby. (Yes, I said WE this time…)
I was so excited; finally we were making decisions together as a couple. And a BABY – I could hardly wait! Every month I waited anxiously to see if I was pregnant, and every month I was disappointed. Month after month after month… months became years and with the passing years I watched my sister-in-law get pregnant with my niece, my other sister-in-law get pregnant with my nephew and then a few years after that they each got pregnant again, and then one of them got pregnant a third time. And we were still trying… Some people told us we should go to a fertility doctor, but financially it wasn’t in the best interest of our family - Besides, I just kept telling myself, I should just be happy with the two beautiful kids the Lord blessed me with. But for some reason I still had this ache in the pit of my stomach, this longing for another baby. I just kept pushing it down and tried to keep myself busy.
Twelve years… twelve years went by and one day I realized I was “late”. LATE! Well, I hate to admit it, but my first thought was, “could this really be menopause at 39?” In my heart I wanted another baby so badly, but I had put a wall up around those thoughts and feelings since it didn’t happen. So I waited another week (just to be sure) before I bought a pregnancy test. I had that happen all too often, rush to the store to buy a test, only to have it come out negative and “start” the next day. That is such a sinking feeling that I had made a pact with myself a long time ago that when I might “think” I was pregnant that I had to wait one more week before buying and taking a test. Of course it was a week that would not end… it just seemed to go on and on and I didn’t want to mention any of this to Corey quite yet. He just found out that the company that he worked for was getting ready to shut down its Lincoln, NE plant and move all of the machines and production to two of its Wisconsin plants. So naturally he was under a bit of stress at this time anyway. Well, the week was finally over and I had my test bought. I anxiously unwrapped and took the test; imagine my surprise when it turned out to be POSITIVE! I could hardly believe it – I thought “oh boy, God does have a sense of humor”. Here we have been trying since we were 27, and now we were just a month away from turning 40!
That evening Corey and I were walking my parents’ dog and as we strolled down the street I asked him, “Do you think we are going to be a young 40?” He said, “What are you talking about” and I asked him the same question again. After giving this just a moments thought he looked at me and said, “Are you pregnant?” I wheeled around and said, “We are going to be a young 40, right?” He hugged me and said he couldn’t believe it.
We decided to tell Taylor that night, so we called her into the living room and asked her if there was something her friend Grace had that she really wanted, and she responded with a booming, “A baby brother”. Well, come to find out that she had seen the pregnancy test in the bathroom drawer that I was storing it in, so she had already put it together, but she was thrilled all the same.
The next evening we Skyped Justen, who is currently serving with the US Coast Guard, to let him know. When we got him on the computer we asked him if he was sitting down and when he assured us he was, we said, “Taylor has something to tell you”. Taylor then proceeded to exclaim to him, “Brother guess what? I’m not going to be the youngest anymore!” Justen was totally shocked by this news, but he was so excited!
I called our family doctor to make an appointment, when they asked what my symptoms were I could barely say it out loud. It was like if I actually said it to someone out loud, it wouldn’t be true. So the day came for my appointment, I went in and my doctor said, “Well, since you are in the Advanced Age for pregnancy I’m sure an OB doctor will watch you very closely.” This became the joke at my work and with my family – That I was in an Advanced Age. He went on to recommend an OB doctor and when I went home I called the one that he had suggested. The receptionist was cranky over the phone and told me she couldn’t get me in for over a month. I shared with her that my doctor recommended that I was seen as soon as possible since I was almost 40 and she told me that she would send out my paperwork but that no appointment would be made for over a month.
The next day was Wednesday, and I went to Cubbies at church that night. One of my leaders is a nurse – I knew that she was but I didn’t know what kind of nurse she was. I confided in her about the pregnancy, the cranky lady at the OB’s office and about not getting in for over a month. Stephenie said, “Are you set on that doctor?” I told her no, that he was just the one that my family doctor had recommended. She then informed me that she was the nurse for a Christian OB doctor and that her doctor was a really nice guy and had his own practice and she was sure I could get in right away – and if I wanted to, I could go in to meet everyone and just check it out. The next day I called the number she wrote down for me and the lady that answered the phone was pleasant sounding and when I explained who I was, she said, “Oh, I’ve been waiting for you to call.” Yes, they could get me in the next Tuesday and that was the day that the ultrasound technician was there so they would squeeze me in for an ultrasound too!
An Ultrasound! Wow, I had only had one ultrasound before – when I was at 20 weeks with Taylor, and I hadn’t had any with Justen. An ultrasound would be so exciting! Well, the next Tuesday came and it just happened to be the day after my 40th birthday. Corey and I went to the appointment, had the ultrasound (everything looked great), and had blood drawn for lab work- all the tests from that came back good, too. My head was swirling – so many things I had forgot about in the last 14 years, so many new lab tests, new feelings, new anxieties, new experiences… We were so thankful that we had gotten over that first hurdle and everything looked good so far.
My pregnancy progressed normally – not much sickness, eating healthy, and I thoroughly enjoyed being pregnant. When I first started feeling Calleigh move and kick it was the most electrifying thing ever. I would sit back, put my feet up and just feel her and talk to her. I continued to listen to everything my doctor told me and suggested, and everything continued to go smoothly. Calleigh was growing within the parameters of where she should be, all of my tests and lab worked continued to come back normal and each of my ultrasounds looked wonderful. At my last ultrasound, the technician said several times, “she has a gorgeous heart, such a gorgeous heart”.
I was at almost seven months, the crib was up and the sheets were on, the pack & play was bought and assembled, two baby showers were planned and the dates for them were set, the diaper bag was purchased and had a few little tiny diapers in it, and several special outfits were hanging in Calleigh’s room… I even found a great deal on E-Bay (32 little girls outfits ranging in sizes 3 months to 18 months) for only $10.25! Yes, this dream I was having for the last 12 years was finally coming to a reality.
Then came Monday, January 17th, 2011. The day that will forever leave an ache in my heart…
I was off of work that day, Martin Luther King’s birthday, so I had scheduled my doctor’s appointment for then so I wouldn’t have to miss work that week, Corey had a list of places that he wanted to go to fill out applications and hand in resumes, and I had some typical errands to run. We started the morning off “normal”: I took a shower, got dressed, ate breakfast, then we headed in to Lincoln for my 9:30 am doctors appointment. I told Corey on the way in that we would get to hear Calleigh’s heartbeat at my appointment; he was not able to go to my last two ultrasounds since he had been working up in Wisconsin for the past two and a half months, but at least hearing her precious heartbeat would be a good alternative for him. We walked in to the office laughing, smiling and looking forward to spending the day together. We had just gotten checked in and sat down when Kammy, one of the nurses, came out and said that Dr. Plambeck had to get going to the hospital for a delivery that morning, so he’s going to see me first before he goes. She rushed us back to a room and I remember saying something about how I bet that deliveries were such exciting times around the office and about how thrilling it must be. She had me lay back on the bed and said, “Let’s hear her heart real quick before Dr. Plambeck comes in.” Then she took her machine, squirted the cold gel all over my tummy and started to move the monitor all over to pick up her heart beat. Kammy tried several places and finally asked me, in a tone that I could tell was trying to hide her nervousness, where they had been hearing her heartbeat at. I knew right then and there that there was trouble… Every single time that anyone had tried to find her heartbeat it was there on the first try, no matter where anyone had set the monitor down.
Kammy went out to find Dr. Plambeck and what seemed like an eternity later, where all I could do was cry and look at Corey with fear in my eyes, he came in. I could tell he, too, had “that look”. He squirted more cold gel on and with the monitor he began searching for Calleigh’s heartbeat. Several moments later, and with the dejected look in his eyes becoming more and more noticeable, he told us we needed to go straight to Dr. Kinney’s office for an ultrasound. He would call ahead. I asked what we were to do after that and he said Dr. Kinney would talk to us and he would call later. At this point I knew, with all certainty, that my precious little Calleigh was gone.
On the short drive over to Dr. Kinney’s all I remember doing is pleading with God. I don’t even remember if I did this out loud or in my head. I just remember begging him to show her gorgeous heart beating strong and healthy in the ultrasound, and that it would be explained by her moving and shifting to a different position… please God, please God, I know you can make her be OK. Please, please, please, don’t take my baby…
We walked in to Dr. Kinney’s office, I checked in and told them that Dr. Plambeck had called and told me to come over. After a short wait we were called in to the room and the technician placed the machine on my abdomen and all I wanted was to see life. My eyes anxiously searched the monitor with all the hope I could muster as I continued to plead with God – please, please, please. Nothing. No movements, no gorgeous heart fluttering. Nothing.
Nothing. That is how I felt at that moment. Empty. The technician looked at us and said she was so sorry and that Dr. Kinney would be in soon to talk to us. When he came in I really don’t remember much about what he said. Something about sometimes these things just happen and there is no explanation and sometimes it is a freak cord accident… I don’t really remember. Somehow we left his office and drove to my parents’ house where Taylor was at. I do remember driving through the streets of Lincoln with tears streaming down my cheeks, wondering how all the people in the cars that we were driving by could look so happy when all my hopes and dreams were crashing down around me. Taylor and Grandma were not home from Syracuse yet, but my dad was there. Corey told him and then we just waited in silence until Taylor and Grandma got home. They were surprised to see us there since we were planning on spending the day in Lincoln, but they came in the house all smiles and laughing. Corey met them by the back door and shared with them the heartbreaking news. I remember my mom yelling “NO” and I remember Taylor crying “my sister, my sister”. Other then that I don’t recall much more of that either. We headed home and when we had been there for several minutes I completely lost it. I fell in a heap on the kitchen floor and sobbed and screamed and pleaded and cursed and prayed and wept and begged. Corey and Taylor came and sat by me on the floor and held, listened and tried to comfort me.
Corey made a couple phone calls (his parents, my brothers) and then we spent the day together, crying, talking, getting the house picked up, then talking and crying some more. That afternoon Dr. Plambeck called and gave us the option of going to the hospital that evening or the next morning. We chose the next morning, so at 5:30 am we made the trek back in to Lincoln. Once we got to the hospital and up to the Labor and Delivery floor we went to the nurse's station to check in. They were sitting there, chatting having a normal conversation when we walked up. Once we told them who we were they immediately got quiet and left the area. I don't really blame them, they usually have such a fun, upbeat place to work - I'm sure it's hard on them too when a couple comes in with no chance of earthly life for their little one.
Most of that day was a blur, medicines to start contractions, beginning the IV, blood drawn, blood pressures taken, nurses questions, doctor check-ups, more medicine to start contractions, monitors hooked up, epidural given, families concern and prayers offered up on our behalf... It was a long day and almost 12 hours after the first dose of medicine was given to start contractions I could tell that the time had come. My Beautiful Happiness was ready to make her entrance into this world and go straight in the arms of Jesus.
When she arrived, all 1 lb. 7.4 oz. of her, our family had a very meaningful time holding her, checking out her fingers and toes, cuddling her up close, Taylor even read her a book that she bought for her baby sister the week before. We took lots of snapshots and a photographer that volunteers with the organization "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep" came in and took professional pictures of Calleigh and us. I will treasure these memories for the rest of my life.
After some time had passed it was time for our family to say their final goodbyes. Her Sister, Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts and Cousins all took turns holding her and soaking in the memory of her that would have to last them their earthly lives. Our nurse brought in a tiny wooden cradle and Calleigh stayed with Corey and me in my room. I remember thinking that there would be time for sleep when I went home from the hospital without my baby girl and I wanted to spend every single moment I could holding her, knowing the next day I would be leaving the hospital without her. Dozing off for a tiny bit was all the luxury I would allow myself, for I knew that time was short.
Morning came and as I watched the sun rise out of my east facing window I knew this day would be just as difficult as the previous two had been. Our nurse came in and we began the agonizing task of making decisions that no parents should have to make. What funeral home to use? Burial or Cremation? Autopsy or Not? Memorial Service or Private Family Time? Thankfully the nurses at our hospital were so kind and caring and were there every step of the way in helping us make these decisions and provide us with the necessary materials to aid in our selections. We were also able to get some precious hand and feet prints, a plaster mold made of Calleigh's folded hands, and some clippings of her dark hair. Lots of cherished memories were made that day.
The time had come. The funeral home representative, Marty, was called and on his way. It was time to let go of the physical body of my baby. When Marty arrived, he came in and talked to us and asked us if we had any questions. Then he went out in the hall and told us to take all the time we needed to say goodbye. I held Calleigh so tight, tears were flowing from my eyes and I just kept kissing the top of her head. I tried to sing her a lullaby, but the words would not audibly come out of my mouth, so I settled with a lullaby sang to her in my head. Corey went out in the hall and told Marty we were ready. He had brought along an infant car seat to strap her in for her only car ride. I watched as he clicked the straps and I thought, "This is not fair, she should be strapped in MY car seat going home with ME, and I should be the one strapping her in." As I stood in that hospital room and watched a perfect stranger walk out the door with my baby, I felt like a complete failure. I am her mother, I am suppose to take care of and protect her. How could I have let this happen? At that moment I felt a slight nudge and a small quiet voice told me that God was taking care of her and God had a plan that I could not quite yet see. I still had the almost uncontrollable urge to run down the hall, grab my baby out of that strangers car seat and take her home with me. But I knew God was in control, and I had to live my faith more now then ever before.
Corey and I finished packing up our few things that we had brought with us and we made the 30 minute trip home. Leaving that hospital without my baby was the worst feeling I have ever had. No one could have told me anything that would have prepared me for that. The next couple of days were blurs. Memorial plans were made, the obituary was written, songs and poems picked out, meeting with our pastor - the whole time I just kept telling myself, "Her little life has a purpose, make the plans and the memories to honor that purpose".
The day of Calleigh's memorial service came and around 200 people came to show us love and support for losing our baby girl. My sister-in-law Lisa made a beautiful video in memory of Calleigh and Taylor wrote a heartfelt, meaningful poem about her sister that Lisa included at the end of the video. Pastor Jason's message was clear and definite, Calleigh Joy was enjoying the perfection of heaven while we were stuck here in the hell on earth. She was enjoying the unblemished eternity while we were suffering through this life and all the consequences of mans sinful nature. With the hope we have been given through God losing his only Son through death on the cross as punishment for our sin, we too, will be able to spend glorious eternity in heaven.
It has currently been three and half weeks since our baby girl went to be with God in heaven. It has been hard, but I read somewhere that "THERE IS NO FOOT TOO SMALL THAT IT CANNOT LEAVE AN IMPRINT ON THIS WORLD". It is my hope, belief and prayer that Calleigh's small foot prints have left several imprints on people's lives. Whether it be how we choose to honor her, our words and actions, her memorial service, or how we preserve her future memory; I will choose to make the most of this assignment that has been given me and to enjoy Beautiful Happiness.