Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Matthias' Story

Although I've shared the journal I kept in the months following Matthias' death, I realize many of you may not know Matthias' story, and I've never actually posted about what happened to him. It was what doctors call "a fluke", but what we know to be an inscrutable part of God's holy, wise and loving plan.

Sometimes I am tempted to think back on that day and grieve over the "what ifs" and the "if onlys," wondering if there was anything I could have done to have prevented Matthias' death. But that is a pointless grief and a wasted wondering.

"I am God. Even from eternity I am He, And there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?" "See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand."

God decided to take Matthias to Himself, and who am I to think I could have prevented Matthias' death? It saves me from a lot of unnecessary guilt and is a comfort to my heart to know that God knew from eternity past the number of Matthias' days. Matthias lived his life in exactly the way that his loving Father planned.

"My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
"Your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."
~Psalm 139:15-16

Here is his story:

My pregnancy with Matthias was completely normal and both baby and I were healthy and strong. I went into labor at 5:30 Tuesday morning, August 9th. It was 4 days past my due date and I was starting to think Matthias would never be born! I had started having contractions the week before but they had stopped after I took a bath. I decided to try a bath again, but this time the contractions didn’t stop! I tried to lie back down in bed but was too uncomfortable. Richard got up to go to work, but we weren’t sure if he should go or not. He timed my contractions for about 45 minutes and they were 5-6 minutes apart. We decided to call my parents and sister and have them come over to be with 6-year-old Grace.

Soon my contractions were strong enough to make me very uncomfortable and I was anxious to get to the hospital. My dad and my sister Stephanie were stuck in morning rush hour, so I tried to stay busy making sure our bags were packed and that we had some snack along. Grace seemed a bit worried about me, so I tried not to look too uncomfortable. When Grandpa Mike and Steph arrived, we kissed Grace goodbye and hurried out the door. It was nearing 8:00. Contractions were two minutes apart and I could only focus on breathing through them.

Richard peeled out of the driveway and roared onto Interstate 94 like Jason Bourne. Dodging and weaving through traffic, I just shut my eyes and braced myself. I trusted Richard’s driving…mostly. I did glance at the speedometer once, but when I saw it inching past 100 mph, I thought it best not to look anymore. We arrived at Woodwinds Hospital in record time. Richard got a wheelchair for me and we headed to the Maternity Care Center.

Quickly I was taken to a room, dressed in a gown and hooked up to an external fetal monitor and an I.V. for antibiotics. Richard held my hand and tried to keep me as comfortable as possible. Contractions were VERY intense by now, one on top of the other, and all I wanted was the strength to get through the next one. Running through my head was a verse from "O Worship the King":

“Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light.
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plains,
and sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.”

Then I got up to use the bathroom and this is when the doctors think Matthias’ cord became pinched and he started to lose oxygen. I got back into bed and a nurse came to check on me. She glanced at the fetal heart rate monitor and said, “Uh Oh, what happened?” Matthias’ heart rate was plummeting.

Just then my midwife rushed in. (She had also been caught in traffic.) She tried having me change positions to get the heart rate up, but nothing worked. I sensed that my midwife and nurses were worried, but I could hardly focus on anything other than getting through the contractions. When my midwife broke my water and saw a lot of meconium staining, she called for the doctor and told Richard they needed to do an emergency C-section.

As they wheeled me to the OR, I felt a huge urge to push. I told the nurse but she didn’t answer, so I pushed! I pushed again a couple times in the OR as they were prepping and one doctor told me not to. Yeah, right! Then they decided to let me go ahead and deliver Matthias. Two more big pushes and he was out. Richard, who had not been allowed in before that, came in moments after Matthias was delivered. I didn’t know it at the time, but Matthias had been born without a heartbeat and not breathing.

Immediately they began resuscitation and were able to get his heart beating. I hadn’t yet seen Matthias, as he was surrounded by doctors and the resuscitation team. Richard came to my side and told me, “He’s not breathing.” I just nodded. I felt like the worst was over. The contractions were over, Matthias was delivered; the doctors were taking care of him. I felt sure everything would be fine now. I was able to glance at Matthias as they wheeled me out of the OR and back into my room. He looked beautiful to me.

After Matthias was born, he needed to be transferred to a different hospital. The one at which we delivered did not have an NICU, so they transported him to the University hospital in downtown Minneapolis.

I don’t remember the time right after delivery very well. I remember that when they were ready to take Matthias, they brought him into my room for me to see. He was in a transport unit, all hooked up to oxygen and tubes. I lay on my bed and looked over at my baby. He was so beautiful. He looked just like I knew he would, just like my own sweet baby.

We decided Richard would go with Matthias and I would follow as soon as I could. The Neonatal Nurse Practitioner had talked to us before Matthias left and had basically told us his prospects were not good, that he had been without oxygen for so long that his brain and other organs were most likely very damaged.

I took a long bath, trying to recover physically from having just given birth and emotionally from this horrible and completely unexpected turn of events. My mom and sister sat with me, and as I sat in the bath, it sunk in that Matthias would probably die. I felt so tired, and I felt that there was no use fighting against my baby's inevitable death. My body and mind were both in complete shock.

Richard and one of my brothers were at the NICU with Matthias, and two pastors from Bethlehen with whom we were very close were there too. Both the pastors had “happened” to be at church for a meeting that morning when the call about Matthias came into the church. Thank you Lord, for that!

Within a few hours I felt strong enough to leave the hospital where I delivered and go to Matthias. Stephanie came with me and my mom went to our house to be with Grace, who had spent the morning with Grandma Vickie, Uncle Mark and his girlfriend Heather. It was pouring rain when we left, a thunderous summer deluge. It seemed fitting.

I remember walking into the NICU, seeing all the tiny babies, and then seeing Matthias. I knew him instantly! I could have picked my baby out of a thousand. Richard was sitting next to the little isolette with his hand on Matthias’ chest.

During the ambulance ride Matthias had begun to convulse. To me he looked like he couldn’t take a breath; like a little child who has cried too long. It was horrible to watch his little body seize up and not be able to do anything. Richard knew what to do, though. He prayed over that tiny body every time it convulsed until it let up.

Matthias was hooked up to so many wires and tubes. He had a diaper on loosely, but no clothes, and he had blood around his bellybutton where an umbilical catheter was inserted. He lay totally limp, except for the periodic convulsions. Eventually the doctors gave him a drug to paralyze his little body so it couldn't seize up anymore and then he just laid there, looking as if her were peacefully sleeping, but with a machine breathing for him. He never moved or cried or opened his eyes.

In the NICU, we had several meetings with Matthias’ doctors. They were very honest with us about his prognosis. Most likely his little body would not be able to survive much longer. If he did survive he would be completely brain dead; - blind, deaf, eating and breathing through machines. They gently advised removing life support.

Richard and I agonized over such a decision. We were honestly terrified of having a severely handicapped son, but we wanted to be able to trust the Lord even in that. So we prayed, sought council and waited.

Soon it became clear that Matthias would not live. He was on maximum doses of medication and still his little body was failing. Now it was not a matter of if he would die, but when.

With breaking hearts, we asked our families and a few close friends to gather with us on the evening of Wednesday, August 10th. We all spent a precious time holding Matthias, singing hymns, reciting scripture and praying.

Then pastor John Erickson lead Richard and I in dedicating our son, Matthias Paul, to the Lord.

“Matthias, together with your parents
who love you dearly,
and this people who care about
the outcome of your faith,
I dedicate you to God,
surrendering together with them
all wordly claim upon your life
in the hope that you will belong
wholly to God forever.”

After that everyone left except for Pastor Erickson, Pastor Sherard, my parents and our dear friends the Lundgrens. Holding my sweet baby in my arms, born a scant 36 hours earlier, I said goodbye.

The nurse removed his breathing tube and slowly his little heart stopped beating. His Papa placed his hand over Matthias‘ chest and felt the beating grow fainter and fainter and finally stop.

I was left holding his body; his spirit we gave to Jesus.


Leah Miller said...

Thanks for sharing, Melissa. I wish I could have met him.

I'm glad I'm friends with you.

Mike and Katie said...

Thank you for sharing. Your family is very near and dear to Elisa's heart, which makes you near and dear to mine.


Rachel said...

I never knew the whole story of what had happened and have just spent the last hour or so reading about Matthias and the grief you have endured. Thank you for sharing your story and being so vulnerable. You are a strong woman. I am so sorry for your loss and wish I had been there for you through it.

TulipGirl said...

Thank you for your openness, sharing, trusting the Lord, grieving. . .

Gladis said...

You are so brave, such faith!

Lisa Thomas said...

I can't remember who or how I came across your blog..I'm sure it's through someone we know mutually but anyway I just spent the last 20 minutes reading and sobbing as I read the story and I'm just in awe of what you went through. Truly the Lord is with you and your family and I know Matthias will always be remembered. I was wondering how Grace handled everything. Was she able to see and meet him before he died? How did she deal after?

amy said...

i just randomly came across your blog while looking up homebirthing info and i have to say that i cried my eyes out reading your story. i love how strong you and your dh are in your faith. it's just amazing to see how God can help to carry us through our tough times. i have a judah as well! he's 8 months old and one joy of our hearts. he has a big brother, sam, who is almost 2. sam was born via emergency c-section after i got up from my bed in the hospital to go to the restroom. when i returned to the bed i believe the scene in my room was somewhat like yours. it was such a scary moment and i remember begging God over and over again to provide protection. you have 5 beautiful children and i know you know this, but one day you'll get to see matthias again! and THAT is true joy. i will be praying for you all. thank you so much for sharing!

Anne said...

I couldn't read this and not post. Thank you for sharing your story, My heart goes out to you and yours.

Rachel said...

Beautiful, really beautiful Melissa. Remembering him with you today. I especially love how you write about knowing him, knowing which baby was yours. That is how it will be for you again, in heaven. You will know him. Ah sweet, sweet Matthias.

amber t said...

thank you for sharing your story. i was looking up breastfeeding artwork and your site had some beautiful pictures on it. i started reading and couldn't stop. i am a mother of 3 that also trusts my life to Jesus. just browsing your blog, we have much in common. your sweet baby matthias was beautiful.

Deborah said...

I'm brought to tears as I read it's beautiful and sad all at once. I thought to myself how do we prepare to come out of such a difficult situation, not bitter, but better as you have, and the answer occurred to me to have a relationship with God so that we can get through times like these.