Born into Heaven | A Suffering Savior

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Alone. 

There I laid, alone. Flat on my back on a gurney in the hallway of the ER. In a room to my right, my husband held our son's hand as the doctors tried to resuscitate him. I'd just given birth minutes ago and my body was screaming at me, shaking with pain and adrenaline, but there was no one there to help me. 

Thirsty

My mouth was so dry. Suddenly, all I could think about was getting water. One of the paramedics from our ambulance went looking for some. This is all I could find, he said as he dipped a tiny sponge into a cup and pressed it to my lips. I cringed as a bitter menthol-like substance filled my mouth. 

Pierced.

They strapped my arms out on either side of me in the operating room. There had been lots of tearing during labor. For two hours, they pierced my skin with needle and thread again and again. My shoulders began to ache as I drifted in and out of sleep, laying there in the shape of a cross. 

For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
- 2 Corinthians 1:5 -

I was alone in that ER hallway. In my most desperate need there was no one there to care for me. And Jesus, in his darkest moment, was abandoned by his closest friends and faced the cross alone - for me (Mark 14:50). I was thirsty with nothing to drink. And Jesus, the Living Water, went thirsty on the cross - for me (John 19:28). I laid on that operating table, pierced and broken. He was pierced and broken on the cross - for me (Isaiah 53:5). 

As I reflect this Good Friday on the incomprehensible events of the crucifixion, I get shivers at how many parallels there are between Jesus' suffering and my own. It's not that I believe I'm somehow comparable to Jesus...it's that I see Him in every detail of my pain.

2 Cor 1:5 says, "For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too."

It's no secret that Ty's life has drawn us closer to our Suffering Savior, but it has also drawn us deeper into his comfort, too. Today I'm in awe that God would use my son and the ways I suffered for his life, to pull me into a bigger story - the greatest story in human history. But most of all, I'm in awe of my Suffering Savior who faced death alone, so that even in my darkest moments, I would never have to. 

Goodbye 2017

Every year I write a "Goodbye 20_ _" post. It's a tradition that helps me to reflect on the year past and look forward to a new set of days, weeks, and months. It reminds me that so much can happen in one year and builds the muscle of gratitude in my heart.

But when I remembered a few weeks ago that pretty soon I'd have to write a goodbye letter to 2017, my heart filled with fear. I questioned if I should even write it. I wasn't sure if I wanted to look back over the last year. So much unexpected pain fills the days, weeks, and months of 2017. It was a year of being bulldozed and blindsided. And who in their right mind would want to reflect on that? 

But it's also the year we became parents. It's the year we met our firstborn son. It's a year we've been blow away by community and astonished by God's love for us. It's a year I never ever want to forget. So, Jesus help me, I'm going to look back over the hardest year of our lives. I pray it helps me keep building that muscle of gratitude in my heart and that by God's grace I'll be able to look ahead to a new year with hope and anticipation. Like I said, a lot can happen in one year, right? So here we go.

In 2017...

My parents moved to Long Beach and I now live about a mile from both them and my sisters - a childhood dream come true.

We welcomed our niece, Noel Jordan Ranieri, into the family.

We celebrated our baby bear at two baby showers, full of intentional and thoughtful gifts and a bunch of people I love very much. 

We welcomed Titus Kent Hagen into our family and moments later, released him into the arms of his Savior. 

One month later, we threw him the best celebration of life possible on Easter weekend.

I had my gallbladder removed - my first surgery in the books (yet another thing I can thank pregnancy for).

Watercoloring jumped onto the scene, providing me with a much needed creative and therapeutic outlet. 

Kent got his first tattoo so that he's always carrying Titus with him (read the story here).

We welcomed our nephew, Noah Timothy Keith Marks, into the family. 

As always, we traveled a ton - to Spokane, WA and Coeur d'Alene, ID and New York City, NY.

We made a pilgrimage up to Heart Lake in Mammoth to spread Ty's ashes alongside his grandma Cherie's. 

We did an infant loss remembrance walk for Titus with our friends and family while wearing his name on our chests and Kent's tattoo on our arms.  

We've celebrated two big family engagements - Kent's dad and my little sis are both getting married this next year.

And let's not forget our therapy doggie! Harvey proved to be so many things we needed this year. We cuddled. A lot. We cried. He licked the tears off our cheeks. We cried some more. He ate our tissues. And for all those moments where we couldn't dote-on and dress-up our baby boy, our fur baby allowed some pretty over the top smothering. 

We spent hours of family time at the beach writing "Titus" in the sand and throwing the ball for Harvey. We survived tidal wave after tidal wave of grief, spent time in counseling and doctors offices. We took lots of time off work. Cried more tears that I ever thought possible. Spread ashes and packed away dreams. We experienced the power of community, the gift of friends who are willing to sit in and sort through the mess with us. We learned some hard lessons - how to celebrate in the midst of pain, how to dig in when we want to run away, how to face our doubts and our deepest fears. We were forced to let go of the illusion of control and declare day after day after day, "God we trust you with ... [fill in the blank]" (our family, our finances, our medical bills, our jobs, our hearts, our pain, our dreams, our precious little Titus).

What we expected to be a year full of celebrations turned into a year of survival. The worst case scenario happened and has changed our lives forever. But God. He's preserved our faith. He's upheld our hope. He's been our rock, our comfort, our song when we have none. He's taught us what it looks like to grieve well, and how important it is to mourn when His good gifts are stolen. He's allowed us to experience firsthand what it means when the Bible says, "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." And I can honestly say that I have never felt so close to his heartbeat. It is as if He tucked Kent and me against his chest and there we could just cuddle up and listen to it - powerful and steady and full of love for us. It has been a holy experience. Even now, when I think back over all the pain, theres an unexplainable gratitude that fills my heart as tears fill my eyes. What a privilege - to be so near to Him. What a privilege - to be entrusted with this suffering, this story. 

Yes, this year we've been refined by fire. But I finally feel the embers beginning to settle. And what's left are purified, stronger, faith-filled Hagens than existed last year. I'm expectant going into a new year. Against all odds I'm hopeful.

So, like a battle cry from deep within our hearts:

Here we go 2018. The Hagens are ready for you. BRING. IT. ON.

Born into Heaven | Recovery + the Power of the Triple Dose

It has been 7 months since we said hello and goodbye to our baby boy and I have yet to write even one word about our hospital experience. Not the birthing center where he was born, or the ER where we said goodbye. The hospital, where I spent three days recovering from Preeclampsia. People have asked me why. And it’s always come back to the fact that maybe I don’t feel like I’ve fully healed yet.

My grief has always been very intimately tied to my body. To the point where I cried after getting a clean bill of health at my 6 week postpartum check-up. And they weren’t happy tears. I cried big, splashy tears of grief, because in my head, an all clear from my doctor meant that this part of my journey with Titus was officially over. My pregnancy was over. My body had “healed.” All signs of Titus were gone. I wept in the car with Kent after the appointment. And then he reminded me that all signs of Titus weren’t gone. He reached out and touched my hair, “He had your hair,” then with a gentle smile, “and your nose,” touching his fingertip to my nose. And still to this day, I know that if Kent touches my hair or my nose, he’s thinking of Ty.

So the fact that I haven’t written because I don’t feel fully healed makes sense to me. But now, as I sit here, I think it is equally about my heart, too.

One of the absolute best things that came out of the hospital experience was what Kent and I call the “triple dose.” For the first couple days of my stay I laid in bed, unmoving. At first, because of the saddle block they gave me to numb my body from the waist down during surgery, but then because of the pain meds, the exhaustion, the catheter, and the 24 hour magnesium drip I was on to treat my Preeclampsia (talk about feeling feverish and completely out of it). Needless to say, hugs and cuddles were not part of our hospital routine. So Kent would show he loved me by giving me a kiss on the forehead. I remember smiling up at him, cheeks rosy from the magnesium, mind groggy with meds, and saying, “Mmmm, that’s like medicine.” He kissed me on the nose and I smiled more. Then on the lips and I said, “It’s like a triple dose!” And it stuck.

It gives us a physical action to signify something internal. It says, “I see your pain. I’m with you. And I love you.” And sometimes, even if only for a little while, it helps to ease the throbbing in our hearts.

Needless to say, this “treatment” came in handy many times in the hospital.

Part of my recovery was constant blood pressure monitoring. Every hour, the machine would beep, my cuff would squeeze tight and release, revealing those two important numbers. Every hour. On the hour. By the second day, my right arm was bruised. I would cringe when I heard the machine beep, knowing that pain was coming. Enter the triple dose.

I also had a heart rate monitor taped to my toe. If my heart rate rose above a certain number it would start beeping at me as if to say, “Calm down…” Coincidentally, every time I cried it would sound, forcing me to stop crying and take some deep breaths. It was incredibly frustrating. Especially since I just wanted to have a good cry! Enter the triple dose.

The second morning of my stay we woke up and decided it was time to announce our son to the world. He deserved an announcement, just like any other baby. Kent sat by my bedside and we wrote it together. “He was 9 pounds and 21 inches of absolute perfection…” my breath caught in my throat. For the first time I’d admitted, out loud, that he was gone. I started to cry. My machine began to beep. Kent leaned over. Enter the triple dose.

My machine calmed down, and I looked through tears at this sweet man, shoulders hunched, defeated and broken, eyes so full of love for me. And I pulled his tear-streaked face close to mine … for a kiss on the forehead, and the nose, and then the lips.

God showed up in that hospital room in so many ways (ways I intend to write about eventually), but one of the most tangible was the loving presence of my husband and the healing balm of the “triple dose.”

THIS PHOTO WAS TAKEN RIGHT AFTER KENT PROPOSED BACK IN 2012. TURNS OUT WE’VE BEEN GIVING “TRIPLE DOSES” ALL ALONG.

THIS PHOTO WAS TAKEN RIGHT AFTER KENT PROPOSED BACK IN 2012. TURNS OUT WE’VE BEEN GIVING “TRIPLE DOSES” ALL ALONG.