Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hunter Hope

One of my favorite things to do as a child was snooping through the haphazard boxes of mementos and photo albums in my mother’s wooden hope chest upstairs in their bedroom. I loved finding old black and whites of grandpas when they had hair and sports cars, a golden lock from my first haircut, and once, a box of my brother’s baby teeth.

Somewhere in that mess of memories, I distinctly remember a brown Statesman Journal article with a 4 column photo of my dad playing baseball in high school. The headline proudly yelled, “HUNTER DOES HIS JOB.”
I don’t even know if I ever read the article, or figured out what “job” my father, Scott Hunter, had done, but for some reason, that headline and that photo have always stuck with me.

I think it’s because that headline is so much my dad.
He does his work, no complaints, no dilly-dallying, he just does it.
I don’t think anyone would ever describe him as lazy.
Tired, maybe. But not lazy.

I can just imagine his high school baseball coach yelling out, “C’mon Hunter, do your job!”
And he did it.

I always wanted a son named Hunter.
He would play baseball, like his daddy.
Some coach would yell out, “C’mon Hunter, do your job!” and I would smile and think about my daddy.

I had plans for Hunter.

Three weeks ago, I held my son, Hunter, for the first time.
And I didn’t even know it.
There’s a reason why you are told the gender of your baby at the 20-week ultrasound.
I learned this because if your baby is only 14 weeks, 3 days old, you can’t really tell.

When our breathless baby was born 174 days too early, I thought at first, “It’s a boy,” but then the nurses guessed otherwise and we settled on the idea that the baby was a girl. When we told Cayden that she had another baby sister, she looked confused and said, “Huh? I thought it was a brother.”

The genetic tests done in the weeks after the baby’s birth told us his chromosomes were XY – male.

This rocked me.

My heart had settled on my daughter Hope.
I had grieved my daughter Hope.
And now, I had to grieve a son too.

We named him Hunter.
Hunter Hope Bernard.

I remember watching Hunter on the ultrasound at 10 weeks, somersaulting around and making it hard to catch a profile.

I’d never seen a 10-week ultrasound before (usually coming in at 8 weeks) and I was amazed at his arms and legs flailing around. The curve of his belly when he faced down, the outline of his ear. 

One month later, they couldn’t find his heartbeat.
I saw him on an ultrasound that day too, so much more grown up, but not somersaulting this time.
The next day, I got to hold my son.
If anyone knows about losing a son, it is my Heavenly Father.

God didn’t take away my son, He let me carry my son for a few short months.

He let me love the thought of my son growing inside of me, and He let hold my baby.

I never got to feel Hunter’s sleepy weight under my chin or see him wiggle his precious toes, but I did get to love him, and he made me a better mama.
He reminded me how miraculous bringing life into this world is, and how quickly good news can change to heartbreaking news. He showed me that my healthy children are to be snuggled and kissed every day because we never know how much time we have.
Hunter taught me many things before I even knew he was my son. To think of the things he would have taught me, had he lived, breaks my heart, but I have hope, and I am thankful.
I had always wanted a son named Hunter, and God gave me one for 14 weeks and 3 days.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


I had a baby girl last Tuesday.
There was no pushing.
No pain.
No first cry.
I had baby girl last Tuesday, 174 days too early.
For nearly 15 weeks, she was ours.
We wondered if she was a boy or a girl.
I dreamt up new names.

I gained 5 pounds for her.
I resisted extra caffeine, snuck in naps, and even made Mother’s Day coffee mugs bearing a picture of her 10-week-old ultrasound silhouette as gifts for her grandmas.

My mom hollered when she saw the picture, which foretold that her 3rd grandchild was due the day before Thanksgiving. Then, just a week later, I wept listening to my sweet mother sing to my sweet, breathless 1.5 ounce girl “your little tiny hands, and your little tiny feet…”
How does this happen? How does a baby somersaulting in an ultrasound at 10 weeks now lie there perfectly formed, but without a heartbeat just a month later?


“Let’s listen to baby,” nurse Glenda told me after taking my blood pressure during my routine appointment last Monday morning.
I jumped up on the table, she put the goo on and started laps across my stomach with the Doppler.
“That’s you,” she said instantly, when we heard one heartbeat, slow and loud.
We were both waiting for that quick, swishing beat that we both knew so well.
Back and forth, back and forth.
Not good.   
Glenda moved me to a bigger room and rolled in the portable ultrasound machine. I saw my OB in the hall, and her face was grim.

I think my own heart stopped as I searched the screen for a beating heart in my baby. But she just lay there, perfect on the outside, and dead inside.

Later, Bryan and I came back for a formal ultrasound in radiology, where they took measurements and looked for any abnormalities. Her perfect little legs crossed at the ankles were too much to bear. I sobbed. Her perfect profile looked like it was smiling. Her fists were up near her face.  
I went home and put my face to the hot shower wall and cried.

“We need to induce you,” are words I’ve never heard before.
All day Tuesday, we sat in Labor & Delivery at the hospital, waiting for the medicine to make the baby come.
“The baby is here!” is something I’ve never had to announce, but suddenly, there she was.

As a flurry of nurses descended upon us, I saw Hope.
Lying there, a perfect little creation stopped short of life outside the walls of my womb.

But how amazing was she? There are no words. Without her own breath, she took mine away. God’s handiwork shone through her as we spent the next three hours marveling at her 10 individual fingers and toes, her round belly, her little ears, her eyes.
We had her weighed, and thought, initially, that she weighed 1.5 POUNDS, because it was unfathomable that this little detailed person could only weigh 1.5 OUNCES. But when we actually looked into it, 1.5 ounces is pretty close to the average weight for a 14 week, 3 day old baby in the womb. It still blows my mind.

From the moment I saw Hope, my heart rested.
The past 32 hours of uncertainty and grief had drained me, but there was a new hope inside my soul. The same amazing God who formed this little person inside of me was telling me, “It’s ok. I have Hope.”
So, I have hope.

Hope that my baby girl is getting loved on by the same God who loves my heart enough to give me peace, even in this most devastating of circumstances.

I know that God is going to use this. He already has. There are doors in many grieving mothers’ hearts around me that only empathy can open.

I lost my very first baby to early miscarriage in 2010.

When I found out I was pregnant in late March of this year, miscarriage was on my mind. That week, God placed me in two separate situations to encourage two women on two different continents as they went through miscarriage. During those days, I wrote down the following verse in my journal, and going back to read it today tells me that God knew all along that I would have a tiny daughter named Hope.

“My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind and therefore, I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end. They are new each morning, great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,’ therefore I will hope in Him.”                  - Lamentations 3:20-23