Whose that crazy Chicken Lady?


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Someone I think you should know- Jennifer Lindahl

I have had the privilege of meeting in person some really dynamic people. I had the pleasure of working with a gob of inspirational folks especially in the past few years when I worked at Republic Services. It was like a close knit family that made you feel comfortable about sharing anything and everything.

I learned about Jennifer Lindahl sometime after she started. She has this super smile that is contagious and beautiful! She bravely posted information about the loss of her Son, Gavin and visiting his grave that gave me pause and I used a bunch of tissue as I watched her visitation via a video. She later went on to start gathering items for Riley's Hospital called, Gavin's Ray of Light. 

As all my Guests that inspire me I sent her a bunch of questions and I will post them as she answered so eloquently and bravely!

You started an Annual Toy drive called, Gavin's Ray of Light for Riley's Children’s hospital in 2015. This amazing drive has spread smiles to countless children. What gave you the inspiration and strength to create this amazing drive?

For the 2nd year of my Son being gone it was really hitting me hard grief wise and to the point of realizing he would have been over a year old to finally understand Christmas and participate. With him not being here and being able to buy toys or things he would have been into like most parents do I saw an ad on my Facebook for Riley's Hospital and an idea came to me. 
I could supply kids who are stuck in the hospital during a joyful time of the year with gifts (toys) to help them forget for one day the struggles or hardships they are going through that put them there in the hospital. I wanted to bring a light (smile) to their faces even if it was for a short Moment like my Son had done for his limited time in my life. 

Gavin's middle name was Ray and that is where the idea of Gavin's Ray of Light for the group name came into effect and prosper for the idea (name) for this cause. I wanted to bring a ray of light to these children the way my Son in his short time did for me. I was able to find the strength to get through that holiday season which is hard for any parent whom has a lost a child, by knowing at the end of this whether it be 5 gifts donated to the 366 that were donated that first year that those were one child per gift I could change their day and that is all that matter and pushed me to get through my sadness and know my Son would of been proud of taking his memory and doing something good in return.

To go backtrack a bit and shed bring light to a difficult subject, can you discuss the tragic loss of your first child, Gavin? 

My Son, Gavin Ray was supposed to be born on April 7th (my due date) and after my last doctor appointment on that Friday, April 4th in Rensselaer. I saw a regular family doctor whom practiced childbirth I was told I was not progressing much and if I did not show much progression after the weekend I would be brought in on Tuesday my due date (April 7th) and induced. 

On Sunday, April 6th the Father of my Son and I attended a cook out with his friends whom had hosted a cook out/get together when I had first announced I was pregnant back in August of 2013. At this cook out I became very uncomfortable and achy after eating some pineapple that the girlfriend had put out with the food. 

After going home and getting ready for bed (well tried) I starting noticing I was having what I thought were false contractions again that I had been having on and off for the last couple months (Braxton Hicks) as I did not know really what "real labor contractions" were like to be honest since this was my first pregnancy. After a while of my body becoming more uncomfortable and not able to really relax and sit I decided it was time to go to the hospital (which was not even 5 minutes away) I was going to be using the local hospital OB that was still open and was not closing yet at the time of my labor.  

When I got to the hospital Sunday evening I was the only one there. Monday morning that's when my labor and the OB department got difficult and changed compared to what I had imagined and planned. The OB got booked with multiple women whom entered and was admitted. 

My doctor came and saw me that morning and due to my surprise after checking me broke my water immediately following without even starting me on Pitocin to thin me out (as I was still not progressing at all on one side). Shortly after this I was put on Pitocin and some kind of pain medicine (I cannot remember the name of it) to help with the contractions as they started to increase from my water breaking. 

When my water broke my Son had done what they refer to is having a bowel movement or something and were supposed to monitor this but they did not. During the time after my water breaking at some point the nurses computers had crashed and went down or something, so notes from my stay are missing during this time as nurses wrote and jotted down things on paper. 

As the night went on I was only at a 5 to 6 centimeters by the time supper came. I was so out of it from lack of sleep and pain medicine that I kept receiving that later on my Mom had to tell me that nurses begin helping my cervix stretch and thin out by checking me and doing it by hand. 

As I was able to get an epidural, they called to have the gentleman in charge of this meet me and another Woman. I, who was progressing a lot faster that, had just come in that day that we were ready for it. After he assisted her (she was progressing faster than I was) he came to prep me. It took them 3 epidural attempts as one did nothing for me, one of them he hit a wrong nerve causing me to go deaf for so much time where I had no clue as others in the room with me were talking to me but I was oblivious to what had just happened. 

The third and final attempt I was only able to get a few toes on my right foot to go numb and that eventually wore off and was told I would not be able to have one and would be going full natural childbirth. At this point in my labor of 22 1/2 hours total I was struggling a lot. I was having a lot of discomfort and pain that was not like the rest of my labor. 

At one point I remember Gavin started what I could tell with my body inside started "freaking out" (he started moving a lot on one side then stopped completely) From this point on I remember I never felt my Son inside me anymore but just thought it was normal as I got closer to him arriving. I also was having trouble after this where he had last lain with my hip hurting badly and a pain I cannot describe where it would not go away. 

It was during this time I knew something wasn't right with my body that I asked several times to have a C-section ( I personally requested they get Gavin out immediately) and was refused saying it was just labor and I couldn't risk my Son's life that I just had to bare through. Finally around or after 10 I was told it was time to start pushing that I was ready. During this time my doctor was called but the nurses did most of the work helping me get my Son head out enough to see. I will not go into detail what I was later told that family members had heard my doctor ask not what he was doing after he arrived and was outside my room in the OB as it brings to much anger and other feelings I do not care to elaborate on. Those who were there with me waiting outside know the truth and that is all that matters. 

Now this next part is hard for me to type (share) as many do not know the full details of this time leading up to the end but where I am at almost 3 years later in my grief I feel much stronger sharing and to truly understand what I went through, remember, fight every day to deal with the heartache you must know what happened. 

What I do have to advise as you read on is some of the stuff I had to be told. Unless you were there you are probably asking why I had to be told and the truth of the matter is I don't know and remember. The medicine to help the pain was constantly knocking me out (doze off) that I don't remember doing stuff or what happened without those who were in the room and it saddens me but it’s the honest truth. 

What I am about to share with you is a nightmare I will never be able to shake from my memory/my thoughts and in the way I don't. It reminds me how one Moment in one’s life can change so quickly that it also through time has helped me cope/deal with things that have come my way or cope with. 

When it came time to push (to me it felt only like it had been few minutes but in reality I was told I pushed for 2 hours till Gavin came out) I do not know why it felt like that or my mind blocked out things but I seriously do not remember much of my end of my labor. For so much time after Gavin's arrival and death and months down the line I never told anyone because I was ashamed and just not sure if I was ready to say it and in a way to me felt stupid but it was a big deal after what had happened at the end of my pushing Gavin was stuck. I couldn't get him out. 

I later found out my hips were not big enough for his shoulders and the doctor had to vacuum him out as I was exhausted. I, honestly as his Mother had nothing more to push inside me and felt ashamed I couldn't finish. They had to break one of his shoulders to get out and last thing I remember at this point of when they started using the vacuum tool to push him out was honestly that. 
There are pictures that Gavin's Father's Sister Amanda had taken where I was holding Gavin. I was told I hadn't even held him for more than a minute or less and the doctor had not even asked the Father to cut the cord instead he did and had taken Gavin to the side to the warmer without telling us anything was wrong. 

I sadly do not remember holding my Son right after he had been vacuumed out even though clearly in the photos I have shared I am looking right at him. To this day I cannot tell you what he looked like in my arms during that time or remembering him being taken from me. I was told before he was vacuumed and clearly I could not tell because I could not see that my Son cord had been wrapped around him for more than 20 minutes and he was a different color. This was advised by the Father and his Sister whom were down at that area. 

What I do recall from this point on was I realized my Son was nowhere to be seen and I kept asking what was wrong yet the doctor nor the nurses would say anything. For the longest time I had to watch as many in the room kept moving around my Son body on the warmer poking and doing things to him that I did not remember learning in my birthing class or was taught would happen. 

I remember at this time realizing I had not heard my Son make one peep nor still. I do remember the look on those faces in the room that worked there whom weren't working on my Son and it wasn't a face any Mother should have to see. Finally after sometime I was told that what they believed happened was Gavin according to them only took a few breathes than stopped and that's when the doctor had taken him so fast to start working on however they do his lungs as I was told his right lung had not inflate and they were trying to get it to work so he would start breathing as they were breathing for him and that his left lung was not doing well since it is so small when they are first born trying to do everything on its own. 

We were told a doctor that specialized in lungs was on his way up from Lafayette and that we needed to start prepping on whom would go with Gavin as they were going to transport him to Lafayette in an incubator. 

The Gavin's Father decided he was going to go and he had stepped outside to talk to my family to make arrangements since I could not as I had to remain there since I had just given birth and needed to be watched and monitored. His Sister also left the room, as I was later told she was trying to not show her emotions around me as I was not coming to terms how serious it was. 

At this hospital you sign a document stating who the only "2" people you would allow into the room during this final time of pushing and birth. Please remember this as I go on. When the doctor finally arrived from Lafayette I was still the only one in the room of my family or his and at this point it became very crowded in the small room. 

I remember at one point that I kept asking for my parents and at one time my Father popped his head in but the refused to let him see how I was doing or me speak to him and I continue sitting in that room by myself with the staff. I recall this because it is a time in my life I wish no one to endure or have to go through or see. 

As the doctor from down south and his staff along with my doctor and the nurses stood as they worked on my Son, I, as a Mother had to just sit back and watch because it was all I could do. This is all happening so quickly! My Placenta still had not been taken out even though it was trying to the nurses advised me they could not take it out only the doctor could (Which I was not going to stop as I wanted to make sure he was working on my Son and 2 with that being said I couldn't move as it was very difficult I was still connected to everything and still a mess and not cleaned up from just pushing).

I watched helplessly as my Son was being poked and prodded to his little body. I don’t think I will ever shake these images burned from my thoughts and memory.

His fragile body would go up when their tool breathed for him and the numbers go up to when they stopped to see if he would breathe on his own his little chest just deflate and the number show a HUGE ZERO! 

I recall at this point tears just coming down. 

The reality of what was happening hit me all of at once! I knew in my heart what was wrong and the look of one nurse whom had been with me the whole labor on and off look right at me with tears of her own rolling down her face as she looked away from the screen that had just shown a zero for what seemed the millionth time gave me the look that I knew my little monkey (what I had called Gavin through my whole pregnancy because he flipped around like a monkey would) was not there nor not sure if he ever was. 

It was at this point I remember hearing myself saying it but couldn't believe it but I remember in a room so crowded and people moving around talking to one another as they worked over him how quickly it became quiet when they heard what I had said and the many faces now looking at me and I remember I was asked if I was sure. 

See, as a Mother you never want to make this decision but in your heart you know you can't take anymore... you know the more they work on him or even if they transport him. 

You won't be there when they tell you the news as the doctor had discussed the odds to me if he would get down there. I just wanted my baby boy left alone and I just wanted to be near him as I had not been still during this time. From his birth at 12:41 A.M. on April 8th to when I had finally spoke up and asked them to stop working on my Son (he was then pronounced at 2:30 A.M. the hardest thing to hear that he had technically to them had passed on when I knew in my heart he never breathed since I pushed him out) that my Son was gone.

The most difficult part was hearing the doctor apologized to me over and over again. The room started clearing out of the Lafayette staff. Gavin’s Father was still outside he had walked in at this point not realizing what had just taken place. 

I again had to listen as the doctor explains to him the whole situation and that our Son was gone. 

You never know how strong that word can be (was gone) till you hear it as much as I did that morning. 

The time that came after this was like a dream.

I was left to myself as the Father went out and told my family. The doctor then came into the room and cleaned me up so that my family could come in later to see me as he took his turn to go out in the hallway to share the devastating news with them. 

The nurse whom I mentioned before stayed in the room as everyone else had left. 

I remember as I got cleaned up she stood by Son and tried cleaning him up as much as she could as tears came down her face. I, at this point asking for my diaper bag of Gavin's which was in the recovery room as I was told when I was ready family would come in and meet my Son. As his Mother I didn't want them to meet him the way he was. He had a blanket placed over his body and it broke my heart as I knew clothes wouldn't change anything but I felt it was my duty. 
The nurse was truly the greatest as I can't imagine how hard this was on her as she was young maybe even younger than me. 

The sad thing is I never remember her name or asked for it again. But she stood there helping me. 

It’s hard to go into detail how it is dressing an infant whom has passed and I won't go into further detail but know my heart just kept breaking as I felt like I had an egg in my hand and the feeling that takes over you as you see and feel that your Son's body is just a limp body. This is NOT anything a Mother or parent should have to be faced with the first Moments they finally get with their child. 

After I had some time with him and did what I felt I needed to, the family that was outside came in and in the most awkward way you had to say here is Gavin your Grandson, your Nephew, etc… All you could see is their sadness and tears on their faces.

At this point our Son was removed from the room as they told us they had to rush him to the funeral home as in shortness an infant body can only last so long after they have passed before they start changing colors, etc.…

The hardest part was your trying to wrap your head around this and what had happened while your mind and body are battling to process all of this. You just gave birth as well but now you have to decide what funeral home you want to come take your Son. This is not how you imagine the process after you just gave birth to your Son for 9 months. 

As the morning went on I was finally moved to my recovery room till I released the next morning but it was then that reality took place. When complications had happened the night before I had several people that had been at the hospital ask for friends and family to keep me in their prayers as we did not know how severe Gavin was. When they had posted this through social media nothing was posted later on as it was a long morning and no one had been on after. 

I woke up to many messages and posts with people not knowing yet still thinking all the good with what I remember were very positive and thoughtful things like, “Hang in their Mamma you will soon be holding your baby boy” and “All will be well” and messages like that, I had to do something so hard that to this day I do not know how I even came up with the strength to write the post I had made that morning announcing to everyone Gavin's passing. 

After I had done this my parents arrived and it was from the hospital and being released I had to go straight to the funeral home to start the process of Gavin funeral. 

As a parent or more of a Mother whom was just pregnant with a belly just 30 hours plus you never imagine leaving that hospital bare. I no longer had a pregnant belly with my Son in it and I did not have a baby. What hurt most was I was scared to even go home. 

I was thankful for my Mother immediately leaving that hospital in the early morning hours and putting everything in the house we had ready for Gavin's arrival and shoving it in the nursery and hiding the car seat I had in my car so I did not have to deal with but it was hard to even think of going there too as I knew his room was there. A room that I would down the line realize he would never get to see. All the time, effort, hard work put into making sure it was ready for him would never get used. 

I didn't know what to think or even feel, as I felt nothing. I did not know at the time but I was just completely numb. 

For the next 5 days I would be driven around and stay mostly at other's houses as I just did not want to be alone but instead of enjoying life with my Son I was doing everything to make sure his funeral and burial was in place also going to all the places I needed to. I did not realize you have to for a funeral of a Son whom was here and gone so fast. 

From picking out music to play at the funeral, to flowers, to the steps and order of how it will go that week just felt like a blur. 

I never knew how my life would be or how life would become after the days, weeks, and months would go by. I did not know the ups and down's I would be faced and honestly how I did not know what I was even feeling or coping with. You are never prepared for a tragedy like this nor are you ever prepared to bury your child first. All I can say is seeing my Son for the last time in his beautiful bassinet casket and watching it lay there in the ground as I said my final goodbye before he was laid to rest it truly will age a person and open your eyes to things you never knew could exist or happen. 

From then on you see a new perspective of life and importance in things going forward. You are put into a life you didn't ask for, a life you must for the rest of your time here on Earth learn to cope with, deal with, mask and sadly with how the world is and time is move on and come to terms with. You no longer feel like a normal 25 year old like the rest of your friends of your age. You just feel different. A difference you can't ever put into words. A person that you feel you is stamped with a different word on your forehead that you feel all see "the bereaved Mom".  

I forever became known as the girl that lost her first child. I forever tread a loss and heartache that I learned will forever shape the woman I am and will become. It was a tragedy that forever shaped my family, my friends, my life.

What advice would you give to others that have experienced a loss?

The biggest advice I would say is to not be afraid to discuss your child. No matter how long they lived, how they died, or what had happened they were your child from the moment you knew you were pregnant to even the time you might of had with them and don't worry what other say or tell you to do. 

Do what makes you feel good and you feel in your heart is right. Those who care are your real friends...those telling you things you don't feel is right or wrong don't need to be in your life and honestly not a good support system. I never allow anymore those to tell me to stop talking of Gavin or bringing him up or sharing his memory or even doing things I want to do for a child that I do realize is not here tell me how I should cope or deal with it. 

It's only been almost 3 years since his loss but I continue to this day if I see something that remind me of my pregnancy of him or he might of been interested in if he would be here I either do it for him and for me or I buy something. 

I am not ashamed or feel anymore I should not talk of my child because even though not here, even though did not live after the womb, he was still a child and I forever will have an infant whom died at birth but am a Mom to him. Not "was" but "am".

Don't feel ashamed either to post or display your child if you do have pictures because sadly I do know some never got the chance if it was miscarriage or etc. but do whatever you feel you need to do to remember your child. If you need to have a birthday party every year for your child, you want to buy something and keep in a special place in your home that is their place THAN DO IT! 

Stop worrying what others will think or say and worry about what will help you and make you feel good. It took me a long time to stop worrying what others were telling me or what they would think and now I just do whatever I feel I need to. I have lost a lot of people along the journey but guess what...I don't need them as they aren't good for me or any support. If they truly love you and care they will be right beside you supporting you and happy with what you decide. They can't judge or think what you’re doing because honestly they have no say. 


What is the wrong thing to say or do to someone in that devastating situation?

*Get over it. He didn't even live as much as you continue to talk of him or post things. It is time to move on
*Your young, you will have more...as if having another one will replace the loss of a child .

Also telling the person to stop talking about their child or acting weird if they bring the child up. I have had many incidences where someone I now since Gavin death has been pregnant and are talking about a craving or something that I can relate to and when it comes time for me to talk they start acting weird or change subject and act like I just stabbed their belly or will make them loose their child. 

Many forget I still had a normal and healthy 9 month pregnancy and it is hard for me to remember the good times of that when I get those reactions. I sadly lost my child but have seen many from the time Gavin has died have healthy births and be fine and don't get why to this day people do that. 

The biggest thing is I that I know people are uncomfortable with death especially that of a child but they need to think for just few seconds of how I can't bring harm just talking of my pregnancy with my Son.

Do you have suggestions how loved one's and friend's offer support?

By allowing me to talk about my child. Asking things. Not being afraid to mention his name. Doing things I might want to do but haven't because I either haven't brought myself to do it (like to this day still going to the zoo like I wanted to after Gavin was born to see monkeys) or etc.Just being normal in an awkward and difficult situation and not making it feel like the elephant in the room. 

What helped you during that difficult time?

My support group mostly. I had other people who either were going through a loss of a child in recent time of me losing my Son or had and I could see progression and areas they were all in at different places and points in their grief. From newly grieved like I was to some a few years in to those 20+. 

I found a place I could go to once a month and just talk about whatever I was feeling or wanted to say, I wasn't judged, wasn't told I couldn't say it or if I had an idea to do something in Gavin memory I was encouraged and not brought down.

I also had my parents. My Mom definitely went through a roller coaster with me one minute being in a good place to being in my own hell with my grief. 

She was always there whether it was a text, a phone call, me just showing up at my Parent's home and she went through tons of mood swings that I had all the while trying to cope/grieve herself of a Grandchild and a Child who was hurting as well (double pain). 

She attends every meeting with me and takes once a month a night out of her schedule to do something I want and that in its all is a huge support for me. She along with my Dad too don't shy or hide my Son their Grandson memory. They display his picture proudly in their home! They do things or buy something for Gavin grave and never forget him.

My Dad was one too that never stopped from the minute of Gavin passing to this day to not be quiet on his memory. He picked up running and spread his story why he started running and was never ashamed to talk of my Son. He is one like my Mother who will visit Gavin's grave on special days/holidays or just whenever and talk to him. 

He has proudly raised money for Ronald McDonald house for children whom are ill or make visits and help those families out as we do not know if Gavin would have had to ever use those organizations if he would have made it. He definitely has been one in my life to make it known to those how many grandchildren he has with no embarrassment or fear.  

I know you belong to a support group, how has the group helped you?

My support group has allowed me and helped me through battles of up and down grief grow with it, learn to cope with the loss and stop asking the why's or what if's and be able to find in a way to move on with not forgetting my child. They have shown me how to fight through the sadness and find good and carry on my child's name to help others. They have also taught me how to look at life now after the loss of a child and I really have learned how to be there for one's who are just starting this sad journey or haven't found a place they felt they could go to or be comfortable in no matter how long the grief has been and to reach out to them in a way that makes sense to each individual (how to read where they are at in grief)

They also have become a family. We have all gone through hard times, rough times, good times, happy times and sad but no matter what we are always up to date with what is going on in each other lives and are always there to talk whether the group is meeting or not. I have gained many friendships with those in the group and meet up with outside of it. They got me through many dark times through my 3 years and I know they will continue. As I prepare for my 2nd child they are there helping me deal with emotions, concerns, fears, etc. I have that way I don't feel alone or keep it shut in and not express it.

What is your favorite motto?

"Grief is like the ocean; it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim." Vicki Harrison

This hits every aspect of losing a child and the journey you will take afterwards. There is no right step or order to deal with grief. Some days will be good some days will be bad. All we can do is learn to cope, deal, and get through it the best only you know how and honestly just swim through each transition as you go through life following the loss and times it will be dark, times it will light but know in the end you will make it through it no matter the time it has been or how long it takes you to get through it. 

Describe yourself in 3 words in the past and describe yourself now in 3 words

Past: Scared, Selfish, Somewhat naive, somewhat sheltered

Now: Brave to speak my mind or act on things (not scared), caring and passionate to help others through hard or good times. Always trying to find ways to lend a helping hand, be there. 
Being a better listener to others needs/wants/fears instead of always talking about myself. More compassionate and understanding.

I am more realistic of how life is and I don't dwell on the small things that before my loss I felt and thought were the big things. I don't let things bother me as much as I once would or let them phase me. I am able to let things go and move past without them affecting me. I see life more for granted and not afraid or scared to try things I never would of before or say things or seek things I always dreamed of doing as I know how in a blink of an eye how things can change or be taken away.  

If anyone would like more information about finding light at a dark time or how participating in Gavin's Ray of light how can they reach you?

I can be reached on Facebook as Jennifer Lindahl. Just send me a message or add me. My email jrl0110@hotmail.com

My Son's personal page for the events I do like toy drive, school supply drive by searching Gavin's Ray of Light. I have through Facebook/email and talking with those whom have reached out to me met up personally when and if they were ready and talked and just have a more casual one on one talk.

For grief support- Contact Jennifer for further information about how to reach the group Leaders. 

**So excited for her and Hector! I'll update the post with pictures from this beautiful and strong Woman and family. Find the updated post here- Someone I think you should know **

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