Every day, I am thankful for each and every one of you. Thank you for the messages, the meals, the fundraisers, the support in every fashion that we could ask for, that we so desperately need. There is not a large enough "thank you" to demonstrate the gratitude that we have for each and every one of you and how you have supported us. Please continue on, even just to check in, we need it crave it, look forward to it, it is not an intrusion. It helps to keep the mind from wandering or to hold us up in a moment of "down".
Some of you have passed on dreams of Ruthie Lou or how she has "visited" you or continues to bless you, please continue to do so, it brings us such joy to see that she is continuing to touch you, even now since she has physically left this world. We are not always in a position to respond but your words comfort us in ways you can't imagine.
We will be celebrating Ruthie Lou's life on Thursday, October 6th at the Hoffman Ranch Picnic Grounds in Geyserville. Cloverdale folk, you know this as Geyser Peak, same place, new name. Please join us to honor our angel, celebrate her life and support the community that she has created. We are looking forward to seeing you and hugging each and every one of you! If you would like a copy, Ruthie Lou's obituary will be running in the Press Democrat this Friday (9/23) and will also be available online for the following 30 days.
Thank you for being such an important person to us and a special person to Ruthie Lou. We love you so much.
Ruthie Lou Lands
August 9, 2011- September 10, 2011
Ruthie Lou Lands, our angel whose feet barely touched the ground, gave & received a lifetime of love in her 33 days in this world. Ruthie Lou was a miracle & brought tremendous joy to everyone who knew her. She has an amazing extended family, including her Great Grandpa Adamson, Great Gramma Pat, Grandpa Kevin , Grammie Lorrie, Grand Pa Randy (Yvonne), Nana Cindi (Bruce), Papa G (Auntie Dee), Aunties Niki, Chanell, Hailey, Candace, Kayla; Uncles Sean, Casey, Daniel, Jerry, Landon, Keaton, Jonathon and cousins Kaidin, Lexi & Tilly Mae. Chris & Amie Lands will forever be the proud parents of little Miss Ruthie Lou & are so blessed that this angel chose them. Friends & family are invited to celebrate Ruthie Lou’s life on Thursday, October 6th at 2 p.m. at the Hoffman Ranch Picnic Grounds located at 22298 Geyserville Ave in Geyserville. If your heart is so inclined, please donate to the George Mark Children's House in honor of Ruthie Lou Lands for the respect & dignity they showed her & our family.
Breastfeeding has ended....although it never really began. I always imagined what breastfeeding would feel like, the joy of producing something so valuable for my child. As in pregnancy, being the sole provider for your baby but now, with child born, being the life force for your baby to thrive. Offering the one thing in the world so pure and nutritious, feeding more than her belly but her soul, part of me, once again.
When we arrived after transferring to the NICU, I was under the impression that we would not be here for long, that this was precautionary and almost unnecessary. I looked at the other families with sadness, feeling so bad that their child was sick, not understanding the severity of our daughter. I felt nervous, uncomfortable, afraid to make eye contact with the other parents, their babies. Little did I know....
Our baby was the biggest in the NICU, looked like she didn't belong, and in my heart, she didn't. Ruthie Lou was never "sick" to us, she was healthy, strong, she was a fighter. And all those things continue to be true, regardless of her diagnosis. She wasn't sick or unhealthy. She was born with something out of her control but she didn't know that. She kept on, courageous, oblivious to science that she shouldn't be here. To her, science was irrelevant. She had a job to do and she was here to do it, despite what the doctors said, despite what we knew that job to be.
My vision of giving birth was beautiful, greeted with my baby being placed on my chest, searching for my breast, to offer the first external physical bond we would fulfill. When that didn't happen, they rushed her away so fast, my heart breaking, I needed to be ready the moment Ruthie Lou was, to feed. So, after loving my child over an isolette, I asked to pump, I needed to get my body ready, ready for nursing. The first night of pumping was awkward, lonely in a room with a curtain....and a pump. Separate from my baby, separate from the world. Not much happened that night, I don't know what was supposed to happen, but not much did.
The next day, I was determined. As I entered the room, I felt slightly more prepared for what my body was made to do. I needed to be ready when Ruthie Lou was for me. I refused to let her down, no matter what it meant from me. Breastfeeding is sacred, an honor for mother to bond with child and I desperately looked forward to providing that, no matter what.
As I left the room with my 5 mL syringe full of colostrum, I have never felt more proud. I did it! I created this for my child! I could do it! Now I just needed her to be ready....
As the days continued on and the pumping took me away from my daughter into that closet of a room, I felt trapped. I told myself, it was worth it, Ruthie Lou would need this when she was awake. I needed to keep going. She was fighting, doing her part, I needed to do mine. The one thing I had control over, the one thing I COULD do for her, I needed to stay focused and healthy for her.
I was a pumping machine. I was a milk making machine. I was so proud to give my bottle of milk to the nurses, although I don't think anyone was as excited as me. My body's alarm was set in the middle of the night, I would wake up, pump, clean, store the milk, the gift I produced for my child. I ate, drank, slept for the sole purpose of being able to produce milk for Ruthie Lou, it's what kept me going when I wanted to give up. I would do anything for her, ANYTHING. But at this point, pumping was the ONLY thing I COULD do so I continued all day everyday.
As the days went on, I couldn't fathom going into go into that room to pump anymore. It kept me from my baby and I never wanted to leave her. My husband and I had a routine in order to share Ruthie Lou. I would pump and he would clean the supplies, that way pumping didn't take ALL my time from her. But it did take my time, time I would never get back, time I thought I could make up later, but it didn't happen. Finally, I realized (or was told) that I could pump bedside, although it was a hassle, it was better than leaving her. Once I even successfully pumped with Ruthie Lou on my lap, the closest I would EVER come to breastfeeding her my milk. It was the best moment for me and I hope a special moment for her.
She loved my milk. Although I was never able to put her to breast, we would do her "oral care" several times a day and give her my milk from a sponge. She would suck, pucker, appear to swallow my milk at first, later it just sat in her mouth. I loved oral care because it "woke" her from the depths of her slumber even if just to suck, I craved these reactions, these interactions of mother and daughter. It fueled my spirit knowing that she loved me and was aware of my presence.
As we were given our own room and Ruthie Lou's terminal prognosis, pumping became futile. It was pointless. She would never eat the amount that I had created, there was plenty for her in the time she would have with us. I wanted to give up, so I did. But my body said no way. I think the mastitis was a gift from Ruthie Lou, another blessing bestowed upon me to take care of myself, to make my body continue to move forward, to make it possible to have the energy to continue on and be present for my daughter. Had I not gotten sick and forced to eat, drink, sleep as I had been for two weeks now, my body would have given up, would not have had the energy, the calories to wake up and get moving everyday.
The mastitis was another blessing from Ruthie Lou and continued to be for the next three weeks as it would recover on one side and trade to the other. Antibiotics were a part of my daily routine, just as eating and drinking water had to be to aid my recovery. But along with that came energy, clear mind, sleep at night and presence during the day. I was able to be present for my child. Everyday even though I was exhausted, even though I knew my time was limited, even though my heart was so desperately breaking, I was clear for Ruthie Lou.
When Ruthie Lou moved to George Mark Children's House, I had limited my pumping schedule to the degree that you can while trying to pump mastitis and clogged ducts but I still was not done. I still found the joy in oral care and offered milk to Ruthie Lou several times a day, hoping for the same reaction, the instinctual reflexes that we had seen in the beginning. Sometimes we would get it, other times she was just so tired and weak, her mouth barely forming around the sponge. But we continued on, offering her my love, my milk and some moisture to her dry little mouth, it was all I could do for her.
I began to despise pumping, the one thing that brought me purpose before, now controlled me and I could not get it to stop fast enough. I had wanted to donate my milk, offer it to the moms in the NICU who could not produce, as I had an abundance. Even through all the stress, the separation, somehow my body continued producing, holding in to the hope that I would be ready for my baby when she was ready to come home. But in the end my body just couldn't give up, it didn't know that it shouldn't produce anymore, just as Ruthie Lou couldn't give up, didn't know that she wasn't "supposed" to be here. Try telling Ruthie Lou that....What is science anyways?
Now home, grieving the loss of my child, I am ace bandaged and iced waiting for my body to realize what my mind is protecting me from acknowledging. My baby is gone, I do not need this milk anymore. And as I force it to stop, I mourn the loss of that also, I never breastfed my baby. My only nightmare about Ruthie Lou since the day she was born was that I never breastfed her and for that I am so heartbroken. The only thing that gives me solace is that, should we be so fortunate to have another child, at least we will share that first, together. The joy after your baby's birth when they place your child on your chest and he/she searches out your breast...at least we will share that first together.
I mourn the loss of my milk along with the loss of Ruthie Lou's body. Breastfeeding has ended....although it never really began.
Back in the real world.....
The Thing Is by Ellen Bass
to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat thickening the air,
heavy as water more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.
I will love Ruthie Lou again and again and again. If given the choice to go thru this pain, this heartache but to also experience the love, the miracle and the blessing of Ruthie Lou then "yes, I will take you, I will love you again."
The morning after Ruthie Lou left us, I awoke suddenly with the weight of my dreams heavy in my heart. I felt such a loss, the pain tremendously hurting in my chest. I dreamt of being back in the world, without my baby, my child, my heart. The tears flowed without sound, without help. Chris came in, probably waiting for me to wake, waiting for the tears that he knew would begin the moment I awoke. We have had loss before, he knows my routine, my sad times. Mornings and nights, pretty much my bed makes me sad. I am safe there, vulnerable and free to let it all out, so I do. Chris and I came home Sunday, after spending one last night of rest at the house, one last night in Ruthie Lou's home, the home we shared with her. We got up the next morning, packed our stuff, packed her stuff and got ready to go. Before we left we sat out under the gazebo, my favorite place with Ruthie Lou, and visited with the dr/co-founder of the house. We talked about Ruthie, talked about life and loss and told many stories and shared some great laughs.
The drive home felt like we were returning from someone else's life. So tired, we could barely speak but when we did, laughter filled the car, inappropriate laughter will get us thru this, I am sure. Laughter is healing, too. Since coming home, we have gotten to rest, it's going to take a long time to catch up on all the "going, going, going" from the last month. I am so thankful our bodies physically allowed us to keep going, we were able to truly stay in the moment most every second for Ruthie Lou, our bodies allowed us that gift for her. Now is the time to crash.
I thought the moment that we entered our home that I would crash from the devastation of losing our angel...I am still waiting for that moment, I am sure its coming. But I think I am still "high" on Ruthie Lou, her love, her strength, the joy she brought us. I have my moments, Chris has his, thankfully they are not mostly at the same time so that we can hold each other up, but we speak of Ruthie all day, with smiles on our faces, love in our hearts.
I miss her so much, her smell, her hair, the softness of her skin, holding her in my arms but I imagine her here with us, wanting us to love each other, not be torn apart. Someone said to us through this mess, that Ruthie Lou did not come here to ruin our lives, she didn't come here to tear us apart and I remind myself that all day. I am not denying myself the emotions of her loss, I feel them as they arise but I just love her so much and I feel her here with us right now.
Before bed last night, I went to turn off the light in our living room and there was a ladybug on it, I told chris and he said that he had seen one with us the day before. She is with us already, she hasn't left our side.
Which brings me to this...
I have wanted to take some time to talk about the house that we stayed in with Ruthie Lou. I haven't mentioned it directly yet because for the 12 days we were there, the best 12 days of my life even knowing the outcome, it was our safe haven. We were protected there and we wanted it to remain that way while we stayed there. The George Mark House in San Leandro is an amazing, wonderful and blessed children's house, one of a kind. Please take a moment to look up this facility, (www.georgemark.org) not only to see where Ruthie Lou lived but also because it is truly a godsend for families of children with special needs whether it is cancer, disabilities, critically ill children, etc. It offers a safe place for families to be a family with the greatest support system of drs, nurses, child life specialist, social worker, even the maintenance, housecleaning and security are all such wonderful kind and supportive people. I cannot say enough about the George Mark house other than they are truly wonderful and amazing.
Also, we have had many questions about a public celebration for Ruthie Lou and we are discussing our plans right now. We think that a celebration for her life, the gifts she has given us is only fitting, I only hope we can do justice to celebrate her appropriately. We imagine there will be quite a large group of loved ones there so our first priority is to find a location to accommodate everyone...so as we decide a date & location, we will announce it for all of you.
Thank you so much for your continued support, messages, phone calls, etc. While we cannot respond to all of them, they bring us such great comfort. Please don't feel as though you are intruding on our space (as some of you have expressed that concern) I think that makes things more awkward. We don't want awkward, at some point we have to return to the real world and we don't want awkward. We know this is most horrendous thing a family can endure, there are no words and we realize that but nothing will make us feel worse than the not reaching out.
Your words are like hugs to our souls and we need so many hugs.
I am mama of three beautiful babes; two sons whom I have the privilege of raising and my daughter who lived for 33 sacred days.