Today I’m turning over the blog to my friend, Ashley. I’m so proud of her for so many reasons, but right now, I want to highlight her newest endeavor, The Young Life Memorial Fun Run. This event will take place on June 27 in Ashley’s (and my) hometown, West Liberty, OH.
It was born out of a three-fold passion: 1.) to honor little ones whose lives ended too soon (like Ashley’s son, Greyson). 2.) to help care for the poor & oppressed by donating the proceeds to various organizations (this year’s proceeds are coming to Cambodia) and 3.) running! (Ashley was a stand-out runner in high school and runs marathons & stuff all super-fast.)
There will be a sky lantern release and markers along the course in remembrance of sweet loved ones.
This special run will take place just three days before my beautiful baby niece Jubilee’s first birthday. She never took a breath outside her mama’s womb, but her little life changed ours forever, and we will remember her and honor her for always.
I asked Ashley to share her favorite memory of us and then to tell us Greyson’s story.
I was thirteen years old and an eager camper at Scioto Hills – eager to be without parents and with my closest friends. Marla was my down-to-earth camp counselor with a calm and embracing spirit. One morning, during prayer, a pastor asked if anyone there had a desire to accept Jesus into their heart. I raised my hand…and moments later I found out I was the only one, as he continued prayer for “this young girl.” Later Marla spent one-on-one time with me and talked to me about how much I am loved by God.
Sometimes I cringe when I hear conversation and stats on “being saved,” but this was different, because it wasn’t about a checklist or fitting in, it was about putting down walls and letting a greater being love me unconditionally. And today I accept it as a slow and still current transformation to a better understanding of how he loves us.
Years passed, but I never forgot that memory or the fun with the Blob and Carpet Ball! Sometime around 2009ish, I found Marla on Facebook and saw she had become an author. I’ll be honest, I bought my first book just because I could say the author was my camp counselor and attended my high school. But after I read, “From Blushing Bride to Wedded Wife” I fell in love with her transparent and raw lingo and bought more to learn about men and sex and loving on babies.
I admire her authenticity, truthful and factual nature. I love her way of showing that emotion of any kind is embraced and encouraged. She has a spirit that aches when the underdogs are mistreated. Marla has a gift of honoring truth, no matter the circumstance. I love her through and through.
(Thank you, Ashley!! Blushing at your kindness.)
My pregnancy was ideal and everything was great. Ultrasound measurements and blood tests were all healthy, and I was walking in the summer Georgia heat four miles plus every day, drinking lots of water and feeling lots of kicks and punches.
Mom and Doug came down to visit when I was at 36 weeks. And all of us (Mom, Doug, Chris and I) were going to go to Destin, FL for a five day pre-baby getaway. I went to my 36-week check up which was just four weeks from my due date. The midwife poked around on my belly and said, “his heart rate is great but I just feel like there’s too much fluid, and not enough baby. For whatever reason he isn’t getting the nutrients he needs to grow. Since his lungs are developed, he will be better off outside the womb.”
So they sent me straight to the hospital. I had my heart set on a completely natural birth. Which is why I had chosen an amazing midwife office – three of them – all backed by a doctor for major or surgical procedures. They did another high quality ultrasound at the hospital and found a hole in Greyson’s heart. Natural birth would have been too stressful on him. They scheduled an emergency cesarean section. When he was born I heard him cry and his APGAR scores were good and in normal range. They put him on one of those clear NICU beds and he looked at me through its plastic wall. My heart skipped a beat for this new kind of love in my life.
I was stitched up and in recovery, when the neonatal doctor came in and said that Greyson had some physical features and complications that resemble Trisomy 18, which has a fatality statistic of 90 percent, and most do not make it past the first few days.
We waited 24 hours for his results to come back positive. But in the meantime, we knew it was bad because he was on a ventilator. I continued to pump milk and bring it in to the NICU to feed it to him through a tube. I did most of the diaper changes and skin-to-skin Kangaroo Care every night, because those were the only ways I could find as a mother, to love a dying baby. I remember feeling guilty during one of my showers at home while I was shaving my legs, ‘I should be with my baby, holding him outside of that stupid box.’
We tried to wean him off of the ventilator on day eight, so we could take him home for however much time he had. He would breathe on his own when he was awake, but when he was asleep the machine did it all. So then the next day we removed the ventilator and I had them put oxygen on him to compensate for the O2 loss with the mixed blood in his heart from the ventricular hole.
We got a ton of great pictures that I cherish dearly, and then I held him skin to skin on my chest like I did every night of his life. He died there. Chris and I were tested and it wasn’t a gene from either of us. It was just a fluke extra chromosome that snuck in. The doctor said that most miscarriages are believed to be from Trisomy 18. But, for whatever reason, he made it to birth.
One of the hardest parts for me was making all the decisions. I had them give him morphine before they started taking the tubes out of his lungs and from everywhere else, so he wouldn’t be in pain. And then they continued to give him doses so he wouldn’t hurt from what was happening in his little body. He stayed awake for six hours straight on morphine, which was crazy. But it started to make him sleepy and when he was sleepy he couldn’t breathe on his own. Which is what killed him first. And I was having them give him morphine…so three days later I went back to the hospital for an explanation of how I didn’t just kill my son. Now, I know I made the best choices I could. But it was some heavy shit.
I remember at the funeral thinking that, if I heard one more person tell me that God just needed another angel, I was considering removing my breast pads and allowing my milk to leak on them in the hug they would share with me. The hugs were painful, because no one understood, and because my breasts were still enduring engorgement. I know now, especially because so many traveled so far to support us, that all words were out of love.
But even now I think, God is God. So what, did an angel call in sick that day?! It’s just erroneous to have God-given hormones that left me with a longing to take care of a baby, healthy milk production and an abdominal incision with nothing to show for it. For this to be a purposeful act of God was simply erroneous on all accounts. I’ll save my theology conversation for another day. You’re welcome. Also there’s James 1:17.
What I do know, is that the spirit of love and goodness from Him, that lives in all of us, can create a force strong enough to take a mother’s nightmare, or any tragedy, and turn it for good, ten-fold. Don’t ask me how I got there. Because it was ugly and messy and unattractive and disappointing and lifeless and dark…very dark, like end all, be all, dark. But I have come to a place that I would rather it be the way it is. If I had brought Greyson home, he would have been five months old when I became pregnant with Kenley, one month old when I start the ovulation-smiley kit mission.
I know I am among some noble and cutthroat women, but I would never have considered a second pregnancy so soon. I even did a self-check when Kenley turned five months old…nope. So to have G-man be with Jesus (the coolest dude to exist) and get to raise Kenley OR to be raising an almost five year old son and no Kenley at all…I cannot imagine my life without her. She teaches me the real things that matter in life on a daily, wait, no, moment by moment basis. Even if I were ever given the choice in a world without the gift of freewill, I still would have chosen the ten-fold. It has led me to inner peace.
With the big kind of love, Ashley Michelle
If you live anywhere near West Liberty, Ohio and would like to run and/or honor a lost loved one, check out Ashley’s Facebook Event Page for The Young Life Memorial Run. If you know someone who might like to be involved, Ashley asks that you be sensitive and message them privately about the event. Thank you, friends!