(If you’re new to the blog or haven’t seen social media or the podcast, Chris and I welcomed our precious daughter Dagny into the world on March 6 2020. She very unexpectedly left us for Heaven on March 20th.)
I’ll be honest – this post feels like it’s a little more for me than it is for anyone reading. I think I’m okay with that. I don’t ever want to forget these things. And: so many of you don’t know Chris. You’ve heard me talk about his for years, but you don’t know him even though he’s a huge part of Primal Potential behind the scenes.
And maybe this will help you love, celebrate or memorialize someone in your life. Maybe this post will make you less likely to bicker over the dishes or the garbage.
If you were to meet Chris, he’d be the outgoing jokster – it can be hard for people to take him seriously. But you’d quickly realize that he’s the type of guy who would do anything for anyone. It really doesn’t matter if he knows you or not, if he likes you or not, he’s the kind of guy who jumps in and helps. Always.
I knew these things…these are all reasons I love him (and reasons he drives me crazy)…but for better or worse, I saw new, awe-inspiring things in him over these last few weeks where we walked through the peaks of joy and the darkest, loneliest sorrows.
Friends, I don’t think I’d be alive if it weren’t for this man. That’s not hyperbole. I really don’t think I’d have survived this last week if not for this man. I don’t think I’d survive this day if it weren’t for him.
While I was pregnant, I wasn’t sure how Chris would be as a dad. I know a lot of men have trouble connecting with newborns and the bond is certainly different than it is between a mom & her baby.
In the last few weeks, Chris has opened my eyes to a loyalty and bravery I didn’t know until I saw him welcome our daughter into this world and until I walked beside him as we watched her leave.
I was hospitalized for two days before she was born. We were worried about my health but we never had any significant reason to worry about our precious daughter.
I was sick, but she was strong. As my fever climbed, Dagny’s heart rate was strong. Chris stayed up with me 24 hours a day while I labored for 2 days. The doctors and nurses tried to medicate me so I could sleep, but there was no sleep to be had. Chris sat at my side, watching my contractions on the monitor, rubbing my head through each one.
He made sure I was constantly drinking water. He pushed my IV pole to the bathroom hundreds of time. He changed my pads and put my underwear on me. He brought new pillows, put chapstick on my lips and tended to my every need.
As my fever climbed higher and my contractions got more intense, he held my face and calmly reassured me that we’d all be okay.
When my fever passed 104 degrees, they rushed us back for an emergency c-section. Once medicated, my muscles started cramping so badly that I had trouble speaking and breathing. Chris calmly coached every inhale and exhale. I didn’t take my eyes off him.
When the three of us got back to our room, the medical team wanted us to do 24 hours of skin-to-skin to help Dagny’s body temperature stabilize. My fever was breaking, so I was sweaty and clammy. Chris stayed up again, another 24 hours, to make sure she was safely on one of us at all times. She didn’t go near her bassinet for nearly 36 hours.
We fed her together. Chris was a part of every single feeding from the very first. Because of my incision, I couldn’t sit up well enough to control both my breast and our sweet baby, so Chris helped every time, often holding both Dagny and my breast, doing more work than I did.
He continued to help me change my pads, dress me and he even cleaned up my urine off the floor when I couldn’t get to the bathroom fast enough. I don’t typically do well with blood & medical things so he’d check my incision for me daily.
He made sure the nurses gave me my meds on time. He made sure I was eating and constantly drinking. He did all this running on 3+ days without sleep.
And all of that continued, around the clock, when we went home a few days later.
He helped me nurse & pump, he helped me sit and stand, he changed diapers (mine & Dagny’s), continued to help with every feeding, made my meals, cleaned up and took care of our dog & chickens.
I thought I couldn’t love him more – I thought he couldn’t do more – and then our nightmare began.
We took Dagny to the ER, thinking she was just a little dehydrated. Still, I was emotional. I wasn’t feeling well and I was so sad that our tiny baby girl was in the ER. I sat in her room in the ER and pumped in the corner, crying the whole time. Chris stood by Dagny, holding her when he could, talking and singing to her endlessly while also trying to calm me down. He’d dip his finger in sugar water and was so happy when she’d lock eyes with him while aggressively sucking his pinky.
They decided to monitor her overnight, to make sure her appetite returned as she rehydrated. I was bleeding heavily, among a few other challenges, and Chris insisted I lay down in the bed beside her to try and sleep. He stood by her bedside, talking and singing to her.
In the night, he walked with her to her x-ray, unwilling to let her leave the room without us.
When they got back to the room, Dagny started to struggle. It was really our first moment any of us realized she was sick. We were both scared, but Chris’s first priority was making sure that even with 5-10 medical professionals working on her, she knew we were there. He watched her eyes to make sure she didn’t look scared. He wrapped his arms around me and assured me she was going to be fine.
All the while, he continued to take care of me. He made sure I stayed hydrated and fed. He found Tylenol and made me take it. He asked about my bleeding every time I went to the bathroom.
He held all of our bags without setting them down for about 2 hours, wanting to be sure he was ready to fly out the door as soon as they started to move her.
When we arrived at Boston Children’s and realized how dire things had become, he showed complete devotion and urgency. I was so scared of what we would see when we were finally able (9 hours later) to see her. Chris just kept saying, “I don’t care. I need to see her. I need to see her.”
He stood at her bedside immediately, with total courage. He touched her, kissed her, talked to her, sang to her. When I’d fall to the floor, he’d pick me up. With love and firmness, he talked me through each moment. “That’s still our girl. She’s coming back to us. You can do this.”
I wish you could understand what we were seeing as he showed this bravery. There are no words to express his strength.
As we prepared to see her on Friday morning, sure that God would grant us a miracle, my breasts ached with their fullness. He brought me my pump and held me while I expressed milk for our daughter who was fighting for her life.
When they told us we had say goodbye, he insisted that they find a way to let us hold her before she passed. It took hours of logistics for us to be able to hold her, but he was unrelenting.
He insisted we get prints of her hands & feet. He didn’t want the social worker to take the prints. He did it himself.
He insisted someone capture a picture of the three of us, something we hadn’t yet done in her short life.
We sobbed. We held each other. We sat beside each other, with Dagny in his arms, as she was baptized and we said our final goodbyes.
When we got home from Boston that evening, the first thing Chris did was call the hospital. We knew she was gone, but he needed to check on her. He wanted to know where she was and what happened after we left that room. It was a gut-wrenching display of love & loyalty that I hope I never forget.
I could share 1,000 more moments and write 1,000,000 more words and it wouldn’t adequately express his bravery & love.
I never, ever want to forget it.
I think about all the time we’ve spent bickering over the house, the dishes, or a particular tone of voice.
I pray that every time I approach one of those petty annoyances, I remember the way he showed up for our daughter and the way he kept me alive during the darkest moments of my life.
In our darkest moments, there are people lighting the way.
Chris lit the way.
I hope this encourages you to honor someone who has brightened your path or invites you to light the way for someone in your life.
Thank you, Chris, for helping me get through every moment when I don’t think I can. You’ve shown me a bravery and loyalty I didn’t know.