Mommy's heart for Baby Jacob

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Racing through the Storm

Wow.  First let me apologize for my delinquency in writing...I know a lot of you out there check in from time to time to read my blog and I am so sorry I've been delayed in writing!  I've had so much to write about but I feel like I've been a bit swallowed up in the last two weeks at least.  I've had an insanely crazy schedule and no time to do anything 'extra'...I'm so sorry...

I'll catch you up on a lot of that in a bit (including where we are with fertility treatments) but I'd like to tell you a bit about today.  It's May 25--well, okay.  It's now May 26 but just by a few hours. :)  Today was our anniversary and it was, well, a bit out of the ordinary.

Because we have been so busy lately, neither my husband nor I had taken time to shop for anything for each other--even cards.  We had talked about heading to the bookstore early this evening instead.  Yup, we are both book-lovers and thought we could select something for the other person (even with some not-so-subtle hints) and then make our exchange at home over dinner.  We also planned on stopping at Walmart for our anniversary cards and a few supplies. 

Well, it's the spring season and as we all know, time for lots of TV shows to wrap up.  We don't watch a lot of TV but knew we wanted to catch the final Oprah show as well as American Idol's Finale.  Alex got home early from work and together he and I sat and watched Oprah share her heartfelt goodbye message. I really enjoyed this time with my husband.  The boys were playing quietly in the kitchen and Alex & I were able to just sit, reflect on, and discuss Oprah's words during commercials.  It felt nice to have that time together today.

Alex was considering finishing mowing the backyard when the show was over but when we saw that storms that were heading our way later that evening, we decided to quickly run out to complete our errands so we could beat the storms back...and of course, catch American Idol.

Let me stop here.  I've always been one to carefully watch the weather.  I'm a weather-girl through and through and have been since I was a kid.  I was always fascinated by the weather and still am.  But I'm also very cautious and try to play it safe.  In every area where we've lived, I'm the one with the TV on watching this line, that cell, you name it, cross in different directions around my home.  I can remember when we lived in Oklahoma, right in Tornado Alley, Alex would have no problem heading to bed despite the weather forecast.  I'd stand in the bedroom doorway telling him that 70-mile an hour straight line winds were predicted to hit us and he'd shoe me out saying he needed sleep.  Mind you, he was working crazy hours as a drill sgt. but I figured I'd pull him out of bed and to safety if it really ever came to it.  Thankfully it never did.  I'd stay up until the wee hours of the morning and only when I knew it was safe to go to bed, did I finally shut our TV off.

We caught the top of the six o'clock news after Oprah and got more information about the tornadic storm in Indiana that was heading for our area...our area in a broad sense.  The weather man only gave a 10 minute storm path so we couldn't tell if it was really heading for us or not.  I'm sure you've seen the reports.  Storms can change direction, size, their path and intensity so quickly.  A lot of times you just don't know what it will do when it's still so far out.  We decided to make a quick dash out and to pop into the thrift store instead of heading for the bookstore which was about 20 minutes from our house.  I saw how dark it was off to the side and we looked at the anvil cloud looming overhead.  Alex guessed the storm was still a ways off but we agreed to keep checking our phones for weather updates in the store and to make it a quick visit.

I was pushing my cart towards the front of the store when I heard the weather warnings cut into the radio. I couldn't hear everything but didn't see anyone in the store moving quickly so I figured it was just another general update.  I told Alex I was checking out and he took the boys to see a sweet old lady who works behind the jewelry/whatnot counter.  Do you remember in one of my first posts when I first learned of Baby Jacob's condition how we had stopped at the thrift store afterwards?  It was at that counter that I wandered up to for the first time ever when I spotted the "Be still and know that I am God" little gold bookmark that I still carry in my wallet.  The lady who works behind the counter loves our boys and always slips them some sort of treat.  I heard Alex asking her how her Mother's Day was when I overheard the cashiers talking about the weather.

"The sirens are going off!"  One clerk yelled to the others and in an instant I saw panic hit all four women's faces, especially the girl ringing me up.  The cashier, well, let's just say she gave me a deal I think.  I heard her say, "How about all of this for $1", etc.  The head cashier said they were going to lock the doors.  I yelled for Alex and the boys and we and a few other customers dashed out of the store.  I heard a customer say that there was severe hail heading this way.  Everyone had the same look on their faces--panic.

It was dark out but no wind or rain yet.  Where was this storm?  I couldn't hear the sirens, I don't think.  I don't remember hearing them.  We raced out and started our drive home.  We still had no idea where this storm was exactly or when it was going to hit us.  It just looked like the darkness--a greenish, grey was enveloping us from 3 sides.  We were driving into a skinny doorway of blue.  I checked my phone and there it was where it hadn't been when we were in the store--"Tornado Warning".  I read details:  "Take cover immediately", "You won't be able to see or hear the tornado it it comes", etc.  Alex turned on the radio and we heard the reports of very large hail and tornadic activity.  I even heard the reporters saying how many cars were on the road and why weren't they heeding the warnings?  I was mad.  We were trying to heed the warnings!  We were seriously racing to get home.  This storm hit with very little advance warning and I'm still mad that the news at 6:15 couldn't even give us a general idea that it would hit us within the hour!  It just all popped up so fast.

The reports coming over the radio by this point were starting to send me into a panic.  I kept over my shoulder to see if anything was coming.  Sammy was clutching a small robot in his car seat and I knew he was scared, especially when he saw my face.  I tried so hard to be strong for him.  My breathing quickened and the tears started to fall.  Alex said we were less than 5 minutes from home.

We turned onto the main road leading to our house, we passed my OB's and that's when it hit.  It's like the storm that had been following us was suddenly right on top of us.  The winds blew sideways and the rain came.  It was when I saw a tree branch blow through the air right in front of our car that I knew something bad was not only coming, it was already here.  The reports had said the rotation would be rain-wrapped.  If a tornado dropped we wouldn't see it or hear it in time. 

We pulled onto the road heading to our neighborhood and that's when the hail hit.  Big, loud, fast-falling hail.  Alex screeched around the corner and pulled us into the first driveway we came to not even a half block from our house.  We were sitting under a tree.  Suddenly the radio went to a solid buzz.  I thought of how that preceded the tornadoes the movie, "Twister".  It was so loud, I don't think we could have heard the reports had the radio not gone out anyway.  I yelled for Alex to take us home--that if a tornado hit the last place we wanted to be was in car.  I knew he was panicking too.  He started cussing, I was crying.

I just can't put into words how terrifying this drive home was.  We were so close to making it home before the storm hit, but we didn't. I don't know that I've ever been that scared in my life.  When I had a placental abruption with Sammy, I was scared and shaking all over at the thought of losing my son or of dying myself.  When I went into labor early with Benny and we were caught in a bit of traffic, I was scared that we might not make it to the hospital in time.  When I learned of Jacob's diagnosis, I was scared that he would die...or that he would live only for awhile and that I'd have to go through a nightmare just to hold him and then lose him.  But this fear was something different.  It was a fear of the unknown like the other situations, yes.  But it felt like it was more of a monster coming after you.  It was like your dreams where you are trying to outrun something dangerous or scary but you can't.  It was loud and something you couldn't see and didn't know where it was.

We raced past the playground, around the corner, up the hill and up our driveway and somewhere from the house with the tree to our house I think my thoughts stopped.  Literally, they just stopped.  Was a tornado going to hit us?  I don't know.  How big was the hail that sounded like it was going to break our windshield? (and we'd heard that it was that bad where it had just gone through from the weather reports)  Were we going to get hurt getting out of the van?  At that point I stopped thinking and just acted on pure instinct.  My babies.  My boys.  I just wanted to get into our house and basement.  I knew Alex would get Sammy seated behind him and I went straight for Benny.

I opened my car door and felt the hail pummeling me.  It was so loud.  I yanked Benny's door open and I think I was crying telling Benny to hold on to his Spiderman.  He had a shocked look on his face.  I grabbed Spiderman for him.  As soon as I threw him on my hip, he started to cry and yell.  He hates storms anyway and I knew this one was something he hadn't expected.  I slammed the door shut and dashed into the house not looking anywhere but the door.  Alex took the boys straight downstairs and into the room under the stairs.  I went for the dogs in their cages upstairs.  After leaving them with the boys I ran back upstairs to grab something important. 

Now, let me add here that if really strange noises started outside (suggesting something major was happening) I probably wouldn't have done that.  But all I heard was the hail hitting the house and the windows, nothing else.  I just knew that I had to get my baby if I could.  Jacob's remains sit on a shelf in my bedroom and I flew in, grabbed them and his ultrasound picture and went back downstairs.  By this time the hail was stopping and Alex was upstairs with the TV on.  Finally we could watch the weather and see what on earth was happening!  He said it looked like it was slowing down and that the worst was over.

Then the TV went out.  But, our power stayed on. 

Eventually things settled down enough that I felt it was safe for us all to come back upstairs.  I was still shaking, not crying any more, but still breathing fast and furious.  It felt like I'd literally run for my life and that of my children.  I know that a lot of people (us included) have been hit by severe thunderstorms in the past.  But not only was there something different about this one (supposedly it was NOT the typical severe storm that you see) and being out in it instead of inside your house?  Well, let's just say that it probably ranks up there in pretty intensely scary situations to find yourself in.  And it wasn't just me.  My husband was scared.  I knew he was thinking what I was.  With all of the reports on the radio, with everything going totally bananas outside and with the hail and sideways winds that hit us, well, he also felt that we could be snatched up by something from the sky.  Being frequently road travellers, we've been through several storms--hail, high winds, etc.  One time we even were on the heals of a tornado that crossed the very highway we were travelling on!  We've seen it all but nothing compared to this.  And I hope nothing ever does.

The rest of our night was spent battening down the hatches for round two of the storms which were to hit around 1 AM.  We worked to get the van into the garage (had to move some stuff) and talked about how to protect the other car in the driveway.  They were telling everyone to use this little 'break' to prepare for the next line of storms which could produce even bigger hail and more damaging winds.

Long story short, the line came and had weakened some.  Supposedly it had 50-60 mph winds but I didn't notice them.  All was well.  Thankfully.

All night long I've felt sick and drained.  We ate a late supper but I could hardly touch it.  We later heard that a funnel cloud was spotted right over the very hospital where I learned the devastating news about Jacob last fall, and not more than 2 minutes from where we were leaving the store tonight.  The damage reports kept coming in. Sitings, hail sized up to softballs, smashed windshields, overturned trees.  I would have turned the TV off (when it finally came back up) but I had to learn about the second round of storms so kept it on.

I can't tell you how thankful I am that we were okay.  That we made it home without getting into an accident (many cars were racing to escape the storm), that we made it home without a tornado or straight line winds getting us, that the hail didn't break any windows and that our hail was "only" marble to golf-ball size.  Only.

I know I called out to God when we were in our final stretch home--after leaving what little safety the tree provided during the hale storm.  I don't remember what I said, but I know I needed Him to be with us right then.  And He was.  I am so very, very thankful.  Thank you, Lord for keeping my little family safe this night.

For all that I can remember, I've never before heard so many dangerous weather terms in one evening--hale core, tornadic core, rain-wrapped rotation, updrafts, downdrafts, hail up to softball size, etc.  With all of the tornadoes that hit in April and then those that hit this month, I kept imagining that this is probably what it was like for those poor people caught in the storms.  They heard sirens, maybe.  They only had moments to dash for cover.  One couple in the last few weeks had just gotten into their van when a tornado hit them and spun their van around, doors blew open, stuff blew out.  So many scary stories and so many awful and heartbreaking losses. 

We didn't hear the typical train sound that a tornado makes.  We didn't have our windows blow out and our ears pop with the pressure.  We didn't feel our house move and shake as the storm tried to take it.  I am so grateful that we didn't.  But we did come close in many ways.  We just didn't know what was out there.  No one did.  We knew what damage had just been done but that was it.  For all we knew and felt and saw, at any moment what had happened to so many this violent spring season could have happened to us.  But God knew all of this.  He was with us through it all.

I hate fear.  I hate that storms have to come at all. Sammy has asked me so many questions lately about God.  About Heaven.  About tornadoes.  I know he's actually been really fascinated by tornadoes.  He's our little science boy.  But tonight they scared him.  He told me that he didn't like tornadoes any more.  His childlike wonder at such a powerful and amazing act of nature was finally smashed as the reality of what tornadoes really were hit home.  It's been so difficult explaining to him why tornadoes come and why does God let these things happen.  Sammy even asked me the other day why babies have to die.  These are questions I hate that he has to ask and I pray that I find the right words to share with him.  Just like so many parents, I wish I could just shelter he and Benny from all of the storms...from all of the fears in the world.  I know I can't though, it's part of life.  But, why do these storms have to come?  Why do we have to go through them?  To be stronger?  To learn something?  To not take our loved ones for granted?  I don't know.  Probably all of that and a million more reasons.  Life.  Sometimes that's the only answer.  It's just life.

At this point, I feel totally drained.  It's been a rough couple of weeks.  We've been super busy, we just completed some fertility treatments and I've been very tired.  I remember telling Alex just last night about how I was struggling with where to put my head and heart with these fertility treatments.  To hope?  To be realistic?  I told him about "rainbow babies" and how they come after the storm.  Funny how less than 24 hours after this conversation we find ourselves not in the midst of an 'emotional storm' (like when we lost Jacob) but in a real one. 

Both storms are dangerous, scary and brought tears to my eyes.  I know I tried to be strong both times.  I know too that I had to cry when I needed to.  For now, the weather-related storms have quieted down and we should have a relatively peaceful night to sleep.  For me, the 'baby' storm threat still lies out there.  If I do get pregnant, I know I'll be watching for the storm clouds looming in the distance and praying for a rainbow instead.

I hope all of you stay safe from these spring storms and any other situations that bring you darkness, fear and the unknown. 

Here's to looking for our rainbows, my friends.