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April 20, 2007

The Other Choice!

Have you ever held a 15 week old baby (dating from conception) in your hands?

I have!

The story of 3 very special days.

This is the story of our time spent with our 8th grandchild, Owen Kristopher Meloche.

There are moments in time that we will never forget. Some are so terrific and wonderful that we never want to forget them. Some are so painful that we can’t forget them. Some hurt a lot but we would never want to forget them. This is one of those wonderful, painful, terrific, hurtful moments that we can’t and would never want to forget.

My wife, Kelly, and I were in our kitchen Thursday afternoon when to my surprise my oldest daughter, Kristi, came in. Before I could even wonder why she wasn’t at school teaching her junior kindergarten class, she and Kelly let me know that something had gone dreadfully wrong and our 8th grandchild, the baby she was carrying, was no longer physically alive.

Earlier in the day Kristi had visited her doctor for what was supposed to be a regular 4 month checkup. Instead, a heartbeat couldn’t be detected. the baby wasn’t moving at all. Kristi went immediately to the hospital for an ultrasound which unfortunately confirmed the worst.

Truthfully, I am not even sure what, if anything, I said or did when I heard this. I know I felt absolutely helpless. In essence, my daughter had just had her “heart” ripped out, and as much I wanted to fix the “problem,” I couldn’t do a thing to change that.

After a few minutes of I am sure the normal questions which really all boil down to two, that being, 1) how did this happen and the even bigger one, 2) why did this happen, neither of which usually get answered, Kristi mentioned that she had to make a decision. Her choices as presented to her by her doctor were 1) a D & C or 2) the administration of certain drugs which would take a few days to work but would somehow cause the baby to be expelled. By then of course, the baby’s physical state would have deteriorated significantly. Her doctor had the operating room booked on Friday so the D & C could be done the next day. With virtually no additional information to go on, we were concerned about Kristi’s health and didn’t know if it would be a good idea for the baby to remain in her for what could be 5 or 6 more days so the D & C seemed to be the best choice of the TWO options.

Kristi did say she wanted to be able to see her baby and to show you how our thinking process goes haywire sometimes, I don’t think any of us thought about the fact that the baby would probably be in pieces as a result of the D & C.

Kristi talked to her husband, Mike, and they made the decision for the D & C and notified the doctor. To show you how things change, when Kristi went in for her checkup, the talk was about her “baby.” Once the doctor confirmed the death of the baby, the language changed and suddenly we were dealing with the removal of the “product.” I must admit that I have never heard of a miscarried baby referred to as the “product” but then I have learned a lot over the last few days.

Friday came and I was working out of town. As the hours ticked by I was constantly watching the clock and offering up prayers. When 10 AM came I pictured Kristi and Mike heading to the hospital. They would arrive about 10:30. I knew the D & C was scheduled for noon so when 12 PM came, more prayers. I had about a ninety minute drive home that afternoon from where I was working and needless to say, there were many tears shed during that drive as I thought about my daughter, son-in-law and our 8th grandchild. When I arrived home, the first question I asked Kelly was - How is Kristi? Well I didn’t get the answer I was expecting. I was hoping Kelly would tell me that everything went fine, Kristi was home and that at least physically Kristi was okay. Kristi and Mike only live about 4 doors from us so I would have been able to go down and see my daughter.

However, Kelly informed me that Kristi was still at the hospital. She explained what had happened. Apparently a woman who was one of the hospital chaplains visited Kristi before the D & C and FORTUNATELY Kristi told her that she really wanted to see her baby. I do not know if the chaplain then contacted Kristi’s doctor or told the nurses to do so but her words were something to this effect: THE DOCTOR NEEDS TO EXPLAIN TO KRISTI... THE OTHER CHOICE!!!

The Other Choice - “What other choice?”

Well, surprisingly perhaps it may be the most obvious choice but apparently it is rarely presented.

Kelly explained to me that Kristi had been given the drugs that women get sometimes to induce labour and rather than submit to a D & C she was going to deliver her baby sometime later that evening. I think it was about 8 PM when our phone rang. Kristi was on the phone and she informed us that our 8th grandchild was a boy and his name was Owen Kristopher. I know everybody always tells everyone how long babies are and how much they weigh and as a proud grandpa I am going to do the same. Owen was about 7 inches long and weighed a whopping .4 pounds or about 6 and a half ounces. Actually Owen fit very well in the palm of my hand. That said, he had broad shoulders and was “big” for his age.

Kristi let us know that her husband, Mike, was heading home from the hospital to pick up their three other children, Alexandra, Olivia and Andrew and they were then heading back up to the hospital so the kids could see their “little” brother. Kristi invited us to join them along with Owen’s other grandparents, my son-in-law Mike’s parents, John and Barb. Our second oldest daughter Tamara, Kristi’s younger sister, was there as well.

ABSOLUTELY AMAZING

It is absolutely amazing to hold a tiny 15 week old baby (dating from conception) in your hand. I watched God’s love flow as everyone in that room loved each other and loved Owen. We talked to Owen and told him all about his family. Everyone got to hold him and touch him and realize that the Bible verse that tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made is true beyond what we can comprehend.  I can’t begin to think about how many pictures and videos were taken that night. Thank goodness for digital cameras.

And yes we cried, oh did we cry. Big strong grandpas cried and grandmas cried as they comforted their hurting children and thought about all the things that they weren’t going to get to do with Owen. And of course Owen’s Mom and Dad cried as they thought of all the things that they have done with their 3 other children and hoped to do with their fourth.

I don’t think any of us wanted it to end but the time came (well past midnight I think) when it was time for us to leave. Kristi was moved to another room and she and Mike spent the night in the hospital. She had counted on sleeping with her son far more but instead one night was all that she and Mike were going to get. Owen took turns “sleeping” on the chests of his Mom and Dad that night. It is one of those memories that she and Mike will never forget.

Saturday morning, Kristi and Mike came home. Owen was taken to a local funeral home. Later Saturday afternoon we met at the funeral home where Kristi and Mike made some arrangements and then we visited with Owen some more.

Sunday afternoon, Owen was visited by Mom and Dad and his brother and sisters, his grandpas and grandmas, his uncles, aunts, and cousins. Lot of things were brought that would ultimately be placed in his tiny little coffin. There were hand-prints and lip-prints from Mom and Dad and his brother and sisters so he would know the hands that wanted to hold him and the lips that wanted to kiss him. There were lots of photos. There was a baby blanket and bonnet knitted by Grandma Meloche, Mike’s mom. There were cards and notes and of course there were letters from Mom and Dad and his grandpas and grandmas. We literally spent hours and hours visiting with Owen. Ultimately, Mom and Dad felt at peace as they sensed Owen telling them that he was okay.

Monday, yesterday, as I write this, we headed back to the funeral home and traveled with Owen’s body to the place where his little body would be cremated. He certainly doesn’t need that tiny little body any more. Today or tomorrow Owen’s ashes will come home though we all know that he is actually with his great-grandpas and great-grandmas now and he is awaiting the time, just as we are, when we all are together forever. As a father, one of the great moments that I look forward to is the day that my daughter and her husband see Owen and hear the words, Mom and Dad, I love you.

The Other Choice

We spent the last three days with Owen. There has been a lot of crying, lots of hugging each other and simply doing what real families do when tragedy hits. It has been difficult but it has also been amazing. The time that Kristi and Mike and the rest of us got to spend with Owen is priceless. And yet we came so close to never experiencing any of this. We are all so grateful that God intervened and brought a hospital chaplain into the situation before it was too late, an “angel” who knew that there was the OTHER CHOICE.

I have no idea why the choice to deliver the baby wasn’t presented to Kristi. The thought that other women aren’t presented with the OTHER CHOICE is something Kristi cannot comprehend and I will not be surprised to see her work to change it. This time with Owen has been so amazing and special that she wants to make sure every woman who suffers a similar tragedy is given ALL her choices.

It is sobering to think what would have happened if the chaplain had not intervened. The D & C would have been carried out. Owen’s little body would have been ripped in pieces and the pieces would have been stored somewhere waiting the once or twice a year when the hospital disposes of the bodies. I guess he would simply be medical waste. As my daughter said, she didn’t want her baby simply discarded and thrown on a heap of other little babies. I guess that is okay when you see the disposal of Owen as simply the disposal of the “product” but it is not acceptable when you see Owen as your son and your grandson. Legally Owen wasn’t old enough to require a funeral but he got one anyway.  He deserved it and we needed it.

I cannot explain this but we have all bonded with Owen over these past few days. He is as much a part of our family as are the 8 other grandchildren Kelly and I have been blessed with. If you could look inside my wallet, you will find a piece of paper with the birthdays of my grandchildren written down. There are 9 of them. Hopefully there will be a few more. Owen has opened my eyes to many things and made me a better person including opening my eyes to the epidemic of miscarriages. I had no idea how many women have had to endure this and in some cases multiple times as they seek to have children. Unfortunately I was very naive and ignorant when it came to the scope of this problem.

Thanks to Owen, my ignorance has somewhat disappeared.  We certainly feel helpless when it comes to helping women avoid miscarriages but we certainly need to look at doing what we can to make sure that women are given ALL their choices when this tragedy occurs so they can make an informed decision.

Update: July 12th 2008 - A part of Kristi and Mike’s garden in their backyard is set aside as a memorial to Owen. We know that he is with us all, just not in form/body.

Heh Owen.. Fifteen months have passed buddy. Your sisters, Alexandra and Olivia and your brother Andrew miss you. I think Andrew maybe the most because if you were here, he wouldn’t be outnumbered by the girls.  There is no doubt that if you were here with us, Andrew would be taking you for a ride in his car.

Owen, as much as we all miss you more than words than can ever describe, you know that your Mom and Dad love you with the love that God has for every one of us. It is truly infinite.

I know that you already know this but you are going to have to give up your position as our youngest grandchild. You are going to have a baby brother or sister though your sisters and brother are convinced that it is a girl.  Andrew will be even more outnumbered but you never know. We will just have to wait a few more months to find out for sure. (Added later - they were right - Abigail has arrived.)

It kind of sounds funny since in the physical world you were very tiny but now you are beyond physicality and form so from a grandpa to grandson... if it is possible, this grandpa wouldn’t mind a little guidance or direction from his grandson, if you can arrange it.

Love you

Grandpa

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