Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A New Year

I'm a mix of emotions about saying goodbye to 2014.

In many ways, good riddance.  What a shitty year.  What a painful, painful year.

In other ways, 2014 was the year I carried my daughter.  And as it turns out, that was the only time I got with her.  Saying goodbye to 2014 feels like another step away from her.  A new calendar, one she doesn't get to be a part of at all.  Moving forward, further from Lydie.

I hate that.

And I'm also a bit afraid of January.
The sympathy cards have stopped coming.
People are moving on.
I'm afraid that people are going to see us back in our routine and forget about how much we're hurting.

I want to wear a sign that says, "Still grieving my daughter. Please handle with care."
But then again, I'd need that sign for the rest of my life.

Back to the grind has a whole new meaning.

On Friday, I have to go back to work.

I am filled with anxiety about it.

I even had a dream that I walked into my building and someone else had set up shop in my office.  "Oh, we moved you, while you were out," she says and ushers me across campus to an empty office.  And then, "You're a few minutes late, and your class started five minutes ago," as she throws me in front of 25 college students.

I walked out of my office on November 4th, expecting to be in the next morning just a few minutes late after my doctor's appointment.  My routine 34 week check up.  Only it wasn't so routine, and I haven't been back to my office since.

I was working my butt off to get ready to be out for 7 months on maternity leave.  I wanted to be in a good position where I could leave and not worry about it.  And now I have no idea where I am with that work.  No idea who has picked up what - or what hasn't been picked up at all - in my absence.  No idea how to shuffle that work to January.

I can't stop thinking about how I should be home with both of my children.  In my parallel universe.  Sometimes I wonder if I am causing myself more pain by continually thinking about what I should be doing, instead of what I am doing.   Is it any easier to return to work while thinking about how I should be home with both my babies?  No.  Can I stop it?  Can't seem to.

I can barely hold conversations with people.  It's still hard for me to leave the house.  I avoid eye contact when I do.  And now, now, I'm supposed to return to work and have conversations (that are not about my daughter) and be productive?  How exactly is that going to work? 

And what if people did not hear that my daughter died?  What if they saw me, 8 weeks ago, very clearly very pregnant?  And then see me now, very clearly not pregnant?  And make the not-so-crazy assumption that I had my baby?  And that my baby lived?  What if they ask, "How's the baby?"

And what if people who know don't mention it at all?  What if they act normal around me, as if anything is normal these days?  One thing that irks me is when people send sympathy cards but then don't say anything to my face.  I know people don't know what to say, so here are some suggestions:
I've been thinking about you.  (Or the religious one: I've been praying for you.  Not my favorite but better than nothing).
I was so sorry to hear about Lydia.  (Bonus points for using my daughter's name.  Thank you). 
How have you been coping?  (Which is better than "How are you?" because now I know you know.  I know that you really care, rather than just making conversation.)

I wonder if the anxiety about and anticipation of going back to work might be worse than the actual event.  I have been off for 8 weeks now.  Which equals 8 weeks sitting around and grieving.  At some point, it's got to be a good thing just to get back into routine.  But the routine takes me further from Lydie, and that's tough for me. 

Wish me luck on Friday and even more luck when I have to face a full work week next week.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Distractions

Sometimes, I just want to try to get out of my head.
It's not easy.
In case you haven't noticed from this blog, I'm a thinker.  A planner.  A worrier.
I exhaust myself (and I really exhaust my husband).

And Lydia is constantly on my mind.

Even if I seem to be having a normal conversation, she's right there.
(Which is, by the way, why you should never hesitate to bring up my daughter in conversation with me.  Some people say they are worried about making the grieving person feel worse.  Believe me, there is no worse.  And believe me, there is never a moment they are not on our minds.  And believe me, we appreciate you acknowledging our sons and daughters and our pain). 

So at night, Justin and I usually snuggle up for a bit of tv.
We have to be careful right now.
The Mindy Project?  She's an obgyn, this is dangerous territory.
Parenthood?  One of my favs but a character is pregnant.
How I Met Your Mother?  Should be safe, right?  

WRONG.

Spoiler alert: sorry if you haven't watched the series finale yet but it was a while ago, so I am hoping I am safe here... If not, skip this part.

Characters get pregnant.
Characters who don't even WANT their babies.
Early on, they announce the pregnancy.
And 8 or 9 months later, they're all happy and smiley with a baby in their arms.
They're all in love with their new baby.

If only it were that easy.  I want to yell at the tv, "THAT IS NOT THE WAY IT WORKS!" 

Where are the miscarriages?  Where are the stillbirths?   Where are the dead babies??

And why can't I get a fucking break?  Why can't I even be distracted for a short while without all of these happy pregnancy and births being thrown in my face?

If you've watched any good tv series, which do not picture any pregnant women or babies, I'd be happy to have suggestions.

The emotion I don't want to acknowledge

Jealousy.

I assume it's natural (and my counselor tells me it is), but it still just sounds so fucking terrible.

I mean, everyone who has a living baby got what I didn't.
And what I expected.
I expected Lydie to be born alive.

And those living babies seem to be everywhere.  I'm still not even getting out much and yet every time I leave my house, there they are.  I swear, just like in Starbucks the other day, they get in my field of vision just to torture me.  They walk into the grocery store at the exact moment I do.  The universe cannot seem to cut me any slack.  Newborns are the worst, since Lydia should be just 2 1/2 weeks old.  Especially girls.  Any girl is hard, until the age of five or so.  Any of them.  Because Lydie should have been turned five one day.  And in five years?  I think the six year old girls will be tough then.

But it's not just that.

I am extremely jealous of pregnant women.  Who think that 9 months of a healthy, uneventful pregnancy results in a baby at the end.  A baby that's alive, that is.  Who have no idea what the statistics are for stillbirths, no idea that .15% of babies die from cord accidents.  Who are blissfully ignorant, imagining their future with their child.  Who complain about their baby kicking them.   Who hear their baby's heartbeat at every doctor's appointment.  And... who will most likely end up with a healthy baby at the end of 9 months.  Why couldn't have that been me?

I am jealous of mothers who had the privilege of giving birth to living, not dead, babies.  Who don't spend all of labor in shock and in tears and wondering how the hell this is your life.  Who don't scream out in complete and utter despair at that final push.   Who hear their baby cry after that final push.  Who got to immediately do skin-to-skin and breastfeed. Who have, you know, pretty normal birth experiences.  Rather than me, who had to give birth to my dead baby.

I am jealous of new mothers who get to show off pictures of their baby.  I have photos of Lydie - though I will always wish there were more - and I think two people have asked to see them.  I am jealous of those facebook photos, announcing that their baby was born... alive. 

I am jealous of women who plan maternity leave and actually get to take them.

I am jealous of people who have never had to make a quick decision about whether to do an autopsy on their child.  Never had to make another quick decision, while still in shock, to bury or cremate their child.  Never had to plan a memorial or a funeral for her.

I am jealous of people who get to walk out of the hospital with their baby.  Hell, I'm jealous of people who get to walk out of the hospital without their baby, as long as that baby is in NICU and is given a fighting chance.  

I am jealous of mothers who get to dress their children in all those clothes they bought for them.  Rather than Lydia's, which are hanging in her closet and sitting folded in her dresser, untouched.

I am jealous of people who know what both their children look like. 

I am jealous of people who don't have to worry about how to explain death to their living children, how to explain why everyone else's sister lives with them.  When Ben's sister is on an urn on our mantle.

I am jealous of people who think that deciding how many children they want to have is actually their decision.

I am jealous of people who never experience this kind of pain, this kind of deep, deep longing which I know will be with me for the rest of my life.  I am jealous of people who have intact hearts.   I am jealous of people who don't have to think twice in the response to the question, "How many children do you have?"  I am jealous of people who get to tuck in all their children at bedtime and kiss them goodnight.   I am jealous of people who think that potty-training their two-year-old or weaning their one-year-old is a huge problem. 

I am jealous of people who can function in the world, make small talk at the grocery store, be productive at work, drive without crying. 

So there you have it.
It's a complex thing, this grief, this yearning.

I hope there's a day when other people's children or their pregnant bellies bring me hope and healing.  But today is not that day.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Ouch

Benjamin has been growing up quickly.  To Justin and me, it seemed like he started to grow up remarkably fast right when Lydie died.  I don't know if that's all in our heads, but suddenly it's clear that our boy understands everything (like this morning when I asked him to throw a bottle in the recycle bin, and off he goes).  This, in a way, is extra painful for me.  Suddenly, he's my baby, and I want him to stay my baby just a little bit longer.  I can't help thinking about how if Lydie was here, I would be thrilled that he was acting so grown up.  It would make life that much more manageable.

Ben picks up new words everyday, and sometimes even strings them together.  "Bus!" he pointed out on the way to school this morning.  "Dadda's car!" he says whenever he sees a silver car.  "Up," he said yesterday, raising his car.  "Down!" he cried, bringing it down.

And the newest word, which cuts so deep into my heart, is "baby."

The platitudes

When I was 25, I fell in love for the first time.  It was what I always dreamed of... until a few months later when my heart was broken.   Smashed to pieces.  At the time, it was the worst thing that ever happened to me.  I began to rethink my "everything happens for a reason" philosophy.
But still, I wondered, if with a little time and perspective, this might make more sense.  I worked on giving myself that perspective and a few months after that, packed my bags, crossed the international dateline, and landed in Australia where I lived, worked and traveled for six months.  I experienced some the best adventures of my life and saw some of the most beautiful sights (and just might have "pashed" a few Aussies, which helped to mend that broken heart).  Within a few weeks of returning the the States, (which I had to, in order to I be in two of my best friends' weddings, which I tried not to be bitter about), I met the man that is now my husband.

And once again, I could tell myself, "everything happens for a reason."

And now?  Seven years later?

Fuck that.

Now, I think that anyone who believes that hasn't lost a child.

Now, I think sometimes terrible things just happen and sometimes you have absolutely no control.  Sometimes those terrible things just happen to happen to you.  Even when you've done everything right.  Even when you're good people.  Even when there's no reason at all.

Honestly, I liked my old philosophy better.
It was comforting (though maybe extremely naive) to have that kind of faith in the universe.

I know, deep in my bones, that my daughter's death will never make sense to me.  No matter how much time passes, no matter how much perspective I gain. I will never understand why she's not here.  And I will always wish she was.

Sure, I can see the good that can come out of it.  I can see how losing someone so I love so much makes me appreciate all that I do have, especially my husband and my son.  It makes me so grateful for those ones I love that are here.  It makes me appreciate the present moment more, stop looking so much into the future which is so very uncertain.  And I imagine that over the course of my life, which feels so very long right now, that I will continue to learn from my daughter.

But do those lessons make up for her life?
Obviously not.

Gratefully, no one has yet tried to tell me that my daughter died for a reason.
But what I have heard is:
"This will be the worst thing that ever happens to you."

Oh will it?
You know that?

I sure hope so.

But I don't know that for sure, as much as I wish I did.
What I know now that I didn't know 8 weeks ago is that random, life-altering, hellish, unfair things happen to good people.  And while I certainly hope my daughter's death is the worst part of my life, there's nothing guaranteeing that more bad things won't happen to my family.  (Which is why Justin and I are suddenly more protective of Benjamin than we've ever been before).

So there's that.

The parallel universe

In my parallel universe, my mom is here right now because Justin's back to work and I'm still recovering from my c-section and majorly overwhelmed with my toddler and newborn.  I'm sleep-deprived and covered in spit-up.  And I have no idea how good I have it.  In fact, I'm probably a little bit cranky.

I'm a little bit obsessed with this song, by Pink:



There's a whole other conversation going on
In a parallel universe
Where nothin' breaks and nothin' hurts
There's a waltz playin' frozen in time
Blades of grass on tiny bare feet
I look at you and you're lookin' at me
Could you beam me up
Give me a minute
I don't know what I'd say in it
I'd probably just stare
Happy just to be there holdin' your face
Beam me up
Let me be lighter
I'm tired of bein' a fighter
I think a minute's enough
Just beam me up
Saw a blackbird soarin' in the sky
Barely a breath I caught one last sight
Tell me that was you sayin' goodbye
There are times I feel the shiver and cold
It only happens when I'm on my own
That's how you tell me I'm not alone
Could you beam me up
Give me a minute
I don't know what I'd say in it
I'd probably just stare
Happy just to be there holdin' your face
Beam me up
Let me be lighter
I'm tired of bein' a fighter
I think a minute's enough
Just beam me up
In my head I see your baby blues
I hear your voice and I
I break in two and now there's
One of me with you
So when I need you can I send you a sign
I'll burn a candle and turn off the lights
I'll pick a star and watch you shine
Just beam me up
Give me a minute
I don't know what 'd say in it
I'd probably just stare
Happy just to be there holdin' your face
Beam me up
Let me be lighter
I'm tired of bein' a fighter
I think a minute's enough
Beam me up
Beam me up
Beam me up
Could you beam me up




Why good days are tough.

On Saturday night, laying in bed, I realized I hadn't cried the entire day.  And thinking about that made me cry.  Which honestly, was a bit of a relief. 

There are those tears.  There are those tears that connect me to my daughter.

That's the weird thing about better days.  There's guilt sitting right there.

The better days, the days I can breathe a little bit more, eat a little bit more, and like Saturday, spend time with an old friend and engage in somewhat normal conversation for short periods of time... those days hurt.  They feel like they bring me further from Lydie.  Sometimes I don't want to feel better. I want all my pain.  I want to feel connected to my daughter.  I don't want to be further from Lydie.

I don't want to have fun.  I don't want to laugh or smile or feel like the world continues to turn.  

Moving forward, moving forward without her, seems like a betrayal.

I've been caught up in a new blog www.bythebrooke.blogspot.com.  Brooke has an eerily similar story, losing her daughter to stillbirth at 34 weeks.  And sometimes I feel like she gets inside my head and expresses my own emotions better than I do.  When she was almost 8 weeks out from losing Eliza, which is this very week for me, she writes that she has faith that one day, leading a full and happy life will feel like a tribute to rather than a betrayal of her daughter.

I keep going back to that.  And just like Brooke, I'm not there yet.  But it sounds like a beautiful hope for the future.

Right now, I'm still wondering why it couldn't have been me instead of Eliza.  Would that it had been me, instead of her, you know?  Right now the only thing that could make me happy is to have her back with me.  Unless I can have my baby here with me, where she belongs, there's no fixing this or making it better.
But even as I weep and fast and gnash my teeth and shake my fists and curse the world and everyone in it, I can't entirely ignore that quiet assurance, deep in my gut, that says some day it will get better.  I will get better.  Love will come into my life again and light up the darkness and make it sparkle.

Lord knows I'm not there yet.  I still have a lot of doubts as to when (and sometimes, yes, if) it will happen.  But alongside these doubts, I am clinging to the faith that some day I will get there.  Some day, I will laugh without feeling guilty or conflicted about it.  Some day I will no longer walk around with the weight of suppressed tears in my chest.  I will be able to look forward to the future.  I will be truly grateful for the many good things I still have in my life.  I will love another child.  And one thing I know for certain is when I do these things, that love--all of it--will be a tribute to Eliza.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Kinship

I spent my Sunday afternoon in a Starbucks, talking with a new friend for almost 4 hours.  A new friend who lost her son Graham at 36 weeks due to a cord accident.

This coming from the woman who struggles to communicate with a few of her closest friends.

The kinship here, it's amazing.  I feel like I know her, and I know Graham, and I feel like we could have talked for many more hours about our perfect, loved babies.

Oh and also?  As soon as we sat down, a couple showed up with their baby girl and sat right in my line of vision.  Not easy to ignore them, but I sure tried.  


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Addition to Right where I am

Also, I don't want to be in pictures right now.  It feels like a way to document what's missing.  See, Heather there with her empty arms?  I hate faking a smile; it seems like a betrayal to my daughter.

A while ago, Justin and I said we take way too many photos of Ben.  Like, enough already, with the Iphone always handy.  Too many to possibly count and keep track of.  But in the last 7 weeks, I think we have increased our photo count.  I don't hear about too many people who are on their deathbed saying, "I wish I took fewer photos of my child."

But right now, the family photos feel so pervasively wrong.

So I was grateful on Christmas Eve, when my sister didn't push us for a family photo, even though it's a tradition.  She did ask, the next day, if we could take a photo of the grandparents with their grandkids and I teared up a bit.  But then, we took this:



And it felt good to include Lydie.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Right where I am.

I've been reading a lot of other blog posts entitled "right where I am."  In 2011, there seemed to be this group of baby loss mamas that all blogged and all talked and all responded to this prompt.  I like reading them, figuring out right where they are how many days or weeks or months later.  (And I wish they could be my bffs).

And two days ago, when my sister didn't ask how we are doing and didn't give me a hug, I realized I need to think about right where I am.   Because she said I didn't want those things.  And I realized that I didn't --- 7 weeks ago.  Seven weeks ago, I felt violated and I didn't want to be touched, except maybe by my husband, and a couple weeks after that, I wrote that I hated the question "how are you?" because I just wanted to answer "fucking terrible."  But here's what I know about grief now that hopefully my sister will never know: it evolves.  Every day.  Hell, every minute.

I guess I can't expect you all to be mind-readers.  I can't tell you what I want or need and then change my mind and expect you to know when I change my mind.

But sometimes I don't even know what I want or need.  I don't realize that it's changed.  Until my sister didn't ask how I was doing and didn't give me a hug.  And then I was like, WTF?  Until my mom reminded me that that's what I had asked for... 7 weeks ago.

A lot of people say things like, "just let me know what you need," as if I can figure that our for myself.

A time machine?

I should stop making that comment; she's not coming back.

It's not really helpful for me to imagine she might.

Right where I am: I am so comfortable talking about my daughter, even talking about what happened to her.  I'll tell you what the research says.  I'll tell you, dry-eyed, about what happened to her.

I talked to an old friend (old, because we're been friends a long time, not because she's old, but she is my friend's mom) today for hours about my daughter.  I didn't cry.  Being able to talk about Lydie felt good.  After that, I went back to my parents' house where my dad casually mentioned my sister's friend who is pregnant... and I lost it.  Stormed off, cried by myself, cried more when my sister tried to talk to me.  Told her her friend should not count on having her baby... living, that is.  Told her if she does have her baby... living... then it's just another example of how I got fucked. 

Right where I am: I can talk about my daughter, who she could have been, would have been, should have been, dry-eyed for hours.

And then my brother-in-law makes some comment about him "living the dream" as he tries to dress  his one-year-old daughter and I want to scream.  Scream, scream, scream.  I wonder how I am ever going to integrate myself back into the real world again.  Can I wear a sign that says , "My daughter died, so please don't complain about your children to me?"  I want to isolate myself.  And if I can't do that, I want to move to a community where every single person has lost a child, just so people get me.

So this is at this moment.  I assure you that tomorrow will be a different story. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


And here we are... Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve has always felt pretty magical for my family.  We all meet at my parents' house, kick off the holiday with mass (which I admit is the only time I go anymore except for weddings), come home for a nice dinner together, and open a few gifts.  Christmas morning is always fun too, but by the time lunch rolls around on Christmas day, I always feel like the holiday is over.

I had planned not to attend Christmas Eve mass this year.  People thought we were crazy for even planning to make it to my parents' house with a newborn baby and even more so, me still recovering from surgery.  But we planned to.  But I had thought church was not a good idea, didn't want to expose my 12 day old baby to germs, not to mention her need to eat whenever.

And so here we are, without that 12 day old baby.  I keep thinking of her Christmas outfit, hanging with the tags still on in her closet. 

And I'm still not at church.  It's not about my beliefs in God as much as it is how I don't want to see other people, especially not babies or little girls, all dressed up in their finest.  It's about how I don't want to hear about a little baby - even if that baby is Jesus.   It's about how I can't imagine singing "Joy to the World" right now.

So the three of us, plus my brother, are huddling in at my parents' house.  My brother is playing bartender and I'm grateful for the quiet time, along with the yummy drinks.

Still, I feel a little sad that I am missing one of my favorite parts of the holiday.  I wonder if I am punishing myself.

It's this odd mix of wanting to enjoy the holiday - because as my sister said, who wants to be sad at Christmas?  And also NOT wanting to enjoy the holiday.  Because Lydie's not here and it just doesn't feel right.  And how could I enjoy anything right now?

There's also a lot of guilt that comes in whenever I laugh or smile or catch myself having a moment of peace.  It's like how I couldn't eat for the first few weeks (and still honestly don't have much of an appetite)  - one other baby-loss mama wrote, "Why does self-care morph into a sense of betrayal to your baby?"  I don't know, but it does. 

I'll try to be present for my son tomorrow, try to find a few smiles when he opens gifts or chases his cousins around.  Maybe being present in the most I can hope for right now.  And when the small moments of joy peek through, I will try my hardest not to feel guilty for them.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Trust

Tonight, Ben was screaming at bedtime then quickly got quiet.

"I know that it's irrational, but this is when I worry he stopped breathing," Justin says.

"Oh, it's all right," my mom responds.

I instantly teared up.

"I can never trust anything again," I responded.

And the instant I said it, I knew it was true.


All I want for Christmas is YOU

I haven't listened to any Christmas music this year.  I'm kind of in denial about Christmas since this wasn't at all the Christmas I envisioned.  Much less the whole baby Jesus thing.  And I'm not listening to the radio - do you know how many songs are about losing someone?  A whole new connotation now.  Instead, I made a playlist of songs that make me think about Lydie and I play it nonstop (with the addition of Thomas the Tank Engine music to please Ben every once in a while).  Still, I heard this song, that Mariah Carey classic, always one of my favorites.  Usually I love to sing it loudly in the car, especially with my sister.  And I felt like I was going to throw up. 

And that's it: all I want for Christmas is you.

Conversations that haunt me

"I haven't really gotten anything for the baby for Christmas..." - me, end of October

"We are giving her the gift of life!" - Justin

Monday, December 22, 2014

Heaven

I got a couple of books from the library about heaven.  I'd like myself to believe that heaven does exist, that my little girl is there.  And happy and content and not hurting.

I'm working on this.

But then I wonder if she is lonely.  It hurts to think of her there without me.  I mean, I still have trouble Benji dropping off at daycare, especially if he cries.  How can I possibly think of this long, long life while I am here and she is there?  

My mom tells me that she's with the family who has already died.  I scoff.  I am supposed to feel comforted that she is with second cousins, cousins once removed, and great uncles?  I love all of them, but in all honesty, we don't even see my living family all that often anymore, and I don't think Lydia would have built a deep relationship with any of them had she lived. It doesn't offer me much comfort.  

But this does:

"They say that time in heaven is compared to 'the blink of an eye' for us on this earth.  Sometimes it helps me to think of my child running ahead of me through a beautiful field of wildflowers and butterflies; so happy and completely caught up in what she is doing that when she looks behind her, I'll already be there."    

Lydie makes the news.

In July, before we found out the gender of our baby, I told Justin maybe we should try to keep it to ourselves for a little while.  He laughed at me; there's not much I don't tell my mom and sister.  He told me he gave me 15 minutes.

I think I lasted 5.

Laura's response was the best.  She screamed when I said, "It's a girl!"  I laughed along side her.  We were both so excited.  Both of us would have big brother, little sister combinations.  A (small) part of me as a little disappointed that Ben wouldn't have a brother, but he is best buddies with his cousin AJ.   Now the girls would be sister-cousins, we said.  It all seemed so perfect. 

Laura is a reporter and writes a weekly parenting column.  In August, the topic of this column was that I was having a girl.  I can't bear to read this now, but here's the link.

Not too long after Lydia died, I asked Laura if she planned to address it in her column.  I told her I was worried about what the commenters might say.  She always gets the most asinine comments from people who seem to have nothing better to do than stir up trouble.  Laura always has pretty thick skin about it, but then again, she's never written about such a sensitive topic before.  I was worried they would ask what I had done, I was worried they would blame me.  

But more than that worry, I wanted people to hear about stillbirth.  I want people to start talking about this taboo topic.  I want to raise awareness, promote research, figure this shit out. So I gave Laura the okay, helped her revise the column 3 or 4 times, and yesterday, it was published on cleveland.com.

You can read it here.

I was right to be worried about the comments.  One asshole asks if the picture of Lydie's beautiful, perfect (although quite large for a baby her size) feet was a photo of "the deceased fetus."  I burst into tears when I read that.  And I yelled, "That's my child you're talking about!"  What an insensitive asshole.

Another person said the topic made them uncomfortable.  Oh, how terrible for you.  I would hate for you to be uncomfortable.

And the third, and perhaps most cruel comment was "And I'm supposed to care why?"

Oh, and this one is laughable: "I hardly think you and your sister should think that medical science can prevent God calling his child home he has given life to in the womb."

I know people are ignorant.  I know these things don't really affect you until it happens to you or happens to someone you love.  But isn't that part of the problem?





Sunday, December 21, 2014

Do me a favor...

Do me a favor... don't tell me "Merry Christmas."  It actually makes me shudder right now.   It makes me feel like you have NO idea what my life is like right now. Recognize that my Christmas isn't going to be all that merry.  Instead, here is what I am hoping for: "I simply pray that in the midst of the pain you find moments of joy. Moments when the pressure on your chest lightens, the knot in your throat eases, anxiety lifts, and hope peeks through."

Someone in my support group commented that Christmas is so challenging for the grieving because everyone else is so fucking happy.

And then there's the happy family Christmas photo cards that we're getting in the mail.  I had thought Lydia's birth announcement would double as a Christmas card.  And now I realize that we'll never ever have a complete family photo.  We'll even never get both our children in the same picture.  We'll always be missing one.

So do me another favor, if you're going to send us one of those happy family Christmas cards, please at least acknowledge our loss and our pain.  Please don't send me your happy, smiley children wishing me a merry Christmas.

I had this thought already and then read this:

"When I opened the first batch of cards, shock washed over me. Photos of beautiful, happy, intact families cascaded onto my kitchen table. Most were accompanied by a greeting wishing me a joyous Christmas.  Others included a standard family newsletter, listing the accomplishments, vacations, and delightful family moments that had filled their year. I grew astonished, then angry, as I realized that none of the cards mentioned that our precious Matthew had died violently six months earlier, leaving us definitely not having a joyous Christmas.
...Weeks later, I tore through them, angry tears pouring down my cheeks as I separated them into three piles: ones that didn’t mention our grief, ones that did so with a short, “Praying for you,” and ones that included soothing, loving, and thoughtful words of compassion and empathy. The third stack was the smallest.
If you aren’t willing to modify your way of sending cards for a while, please do us a favor and take us off your list."

I guess I'll end by echoing that sentiment.  I don't necessarily want to be off your list, but I do want you to acknowledge that this Christmas - and perhaps every Christmas in years to come - will only emphasize our loss.  I want you to acknowledge that we're hurting.  I want you to mention my daughter by name.  And if you're not willing to make that extra effort while writing your cards, then it's probably best that you don't include us at all.

And please, don't wish me a Merry Christmas.

It happened again.

I taught middle school for 3 years in Colorado, a lifetime ago.  I loved those kids, but there were certainly kids I bonded with more than others.  (And teachers always said they didn't have favorites... I wondered if that meant my parents actually had a favorite too...)

There's a few select students I keep in touch with, almost 10 years later. 

One is Daniel.

Daniel wrote me right after Lydie died.  He told me he was so sorry and my blog was beautiful.  He said he cried. 

It appears I did not write back.  I received so many messages in those early days; they were overwhelming.

He wrote again today.
Yesterday, his cousin's daughter was born.  Still.  Stillborn.

This is the first time I have heard of a stillbirth after my own.  And it almost angered me.  Like Lydia just died within me, and you still haven't figured this out yet?  It's still happening?  Didn't anyone realize how devastating this loss is, how completely senseless it is, and make it STOP HAPPENING? 

I felt so sorry to hear that another mother has lost her child.  And so close to Christmas.  And so close to her December 23rd due date.  I know how overwhelming the grief is, how impossible it is to function in those early days, how when the shock wears off a bit the pain really seeps in.

Daniel said he'd like to put her in touch with me.  That he'd like us to tell each other our stories and share our pain.

There's this whole community of baby-loss mamas, and I hate that it's still growing.  Hate that 6 weeks later, I'm offering support to some other poor mother.  But at the same time, I feel like I'm a voice for this community.  I want to talk about this.  What happened to our babies, who never even got a chance.  How perfect they were, how much we love them, how we can't imagine this life without them.  And how we're forced to.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The rabbit hole of self-pity

I just counted.  I have 7 friends and one cousin due with their babies within a few weeks of Lydia's due date.  And now those babies are all coming, one after the other, being born ALIVE.

And I get sucked down into the rabbit hole of self-pity.

I keep hearing that this blog is impacting others, making them appreciate their loved ones more.  And I can't help but wonder: why does it have to be me that does this?  Why can't someone else make me appreciate my beautiful new baby and my cute toddler?

At night, I lay in bed and look to where the pack n play should be set up so Lydie can can sleep next to us. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

In someone else's words:

In someone else's words:

The Heartbreak of Infant Loss:
Infant loss is nature's cruelest practical joke. It's investing all of the required time and effort into pregnancy, only to be robbed of the result. It's cradling a body that grew within your own and trying to reconcile the cold, lifeless form in your arms with your memory of the baby who turned double flips in your womb.

It's worrying that you'll forget what your child looked like and snapping an album's worth of photos that no one will ever ask to see. It's sobbing so hard you can't breathe and wondering if it's possible to cry yourself to death.

Infant loss is handing off a Moses basket to the nurse who's drawn the unfortunate duty of delivering your pride and joy to the morgue and walking out of a hospital with empty arms.

It's boxing up brand new baby clothes and buying a 24-inch casket. It's sifting through sympathy cards, willing your foolish body to stop lactating, clutching your baby's blanket to your chest in hopes of soothing the piercing ache in your heart.

It's resisting the urge to smack the clueless individuals who compare your situation to the death of their dog or who tell you you'll have another baby, as if children are somehow replaceable.

Infant loss is explaining to your 7-year-old that sometimes babies die and being stumped into silence when she asks you why. It's watching other families live out your happy ending and fighting a fresh round of grief with every milestone you miss.

It's being shut out of play groups for perpetuity. It's skipping social events with expectant and newly minted mothers because, as a walking worst-case scenario, you don't want to put a damper on the party.

It's listening to other women gripe about motherhood and realizing that you no longer relate to their petty parental complaints because, frankly, when you've buried a baby, a sleepless night with a vomiting toddler sounds something like a gift.

Infant loss is pruning from your life the friends and relatives who ignore or minimize your loss. It's recognizing that, while they may not mean to be hurtful, the fact that they don't know any better doesn't make their utter lack of empathy one whit easier to bear.


My baby girl would have been 5 years old this month. I don't know what she'd look like, what her favorite food would be. I've never had the privilege of tucking her into bed, taking her to the zoo or kissing her boo-boos. I will never watch her graduate or walk down the aisle.

Infant loss is more than an empty cradle. It's a life sentence.

- Laura Schubert

Lydie was there.

This fall, when I was 30 weeks pregnant, I traveled to Albuquerque for a work conference.  When you are that pregnant, you are used to getting comments all over the place. 

Take the person sitting next to me, who was traveling with her colleagues for the conference.  I mentioned that I was traveling alone and she said, "Well, you're not really alone, are you?" 

I laughed and responded, "I have a one-year-old at home.  This feels like alone to me."

Now I think: Lydie was with me.
Lydie went to Albuquerque.  Lydie got to see beautiful sunsets over the mountains!

Now I think: I wish I would have appreciated that Lydie was with me.

Instead of complaining when everyone else was having margaritas at dinner, and I was sober.  And tired.

You know that couple that made the news because their son was anencephalic and they knew he would not live?  (By the way, I've chatted with them now.  I read about them when I was pregnant with Lydie and I never, ever thought I'd be talking with them personally because we'd both lose our babies).  They had a "bucket list" of things they wanted to do while the mother was pregnant, knowing their son would never get to experience those adventures out of the womb.

I think, yeah, we might have done all those things too, had we known our daughter would not live.

The spring hiking trip in Pennsylvania, all those summer cottage visits, the fall trip to Chicago and the work trips to Tampa and Albuquerque... the afternoons at the pool and the zoo.  The Avett Brothers concert.  Now, I think: Lydie was with me.  Lydie was there.

But in our parallel universe, we were waiting to meet our daughter to begin our adventures with her.

Sometimes I wonder if it's better to know before.  Is it better to know your time is limited, so you can make the most of it?  Or does that just make you hurt longer, hold out hope longer?

We had all the hopes in the world.  And then no hope at all - shattered in a second.

I'm not sure.
I just know there's no easy way for your child to die.

The Long Winter

I thought it would be a very long winter.

Benjamin, at 20 months, is a handful.  He is demanding (you must sit right here, Mom!), he constantly tests us, and he is so, so active, climbing and jumping, and in general, getting into trouble.  (Side note: He is also very, very sweet, likes to cuddle, and gives me lots of kisses).  Today was supposed to be his last day of daycare until August.  August!

I was supposed to be home with Ben and Lydie.  I was so looking forward to my time with both of my children.  But to be honest, I was worried about my sanity too; I'm not really one made to be a stay-at-home mom.  I wondered how I would chase my active toddler while breastfeeding my infant.  I worried about the winter and how much we'd be able to get out of the house.  I worried that the days would seem so long before Justin came walking in the door.  I was determined to go the library regularly, have play dates with our neighbors, get out of the house even though I knew it would be easier to stay in.

Sometimes I don't even realize all the plans I made in my head until I realize we no longer have them.  Because we no longer have Lydie.

And now I realize: It is going to be a long winter.
Just for completely different reasons.

It is going to be a long winter because I am so damn brokenhearted that everyday is a struggle to get out of bed.  It is going to be a long winter because I have trouble talking to my friends, trouble going out in public, trouble being consistent with my son because it's so much easier to give in, trouble being motivated to continue living without my daughter.

Everyone keeps telling me one day at a time.  But that has never been how I function.  And to ask someone who is inherently a planner (and a worrier) to take things one day at a time is such a challenge.  I am fighting my own personality here.



Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Christmas baby

Today is Lydia's due date: December 18th.
When I first heard it, I thought "oh shit."  Poor kid.  Christmas birthday.

When others asked my due date (as they inevitably do), and exclaimed, "A Christmas baby!" I would usually respond, "Yeah, we didn't do the math" or "You can't always plan these things!"

I thought it was so far from ideal.

Benjamin was born 6 days after his due date when I was finally induced. And though I was dreading the c-section for Lydia, I was glad to take her birthday further from Christmas instead of closer.  If Lydia had been born 6 days after her due date, she would be born on Christmas Eve!  And that would be just terrible.

I can't believe the things I worried about now.


Dear Lydia

Dear Lydia,
Happy due date.
I miss you.

Love,
Mama

Dream

Every night, I curl up with Lydie's blanket.  Last night, I had a dream that I was curled up with her urn instead. 


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Doctor: Update

We sat in her office, next to each other, pouring over my file together for over an hour.
I asked a lot of questions.
She admitted there's a lot she doesn't know.

I asked if she has heard of Jason Collins - the one doctor in Louisiana that does research on umbilical cord accidents.  She had not, but she seemed eager and willing to learn more.

I told her I have now read that babies with cord issues often die when the mother is sleeping.  The stress from the melatonin created by the mother is too much for them.  I reminded her she suggested I take melatonin to help me sleep.  I told her I'm not blaming her, but I want her to know this.

She drew me diagrams to show me more of what happened with Ben, but there's a lot of unknowns there too.  Apparently I had an extra "accessory lobe" on my placenta and there was blood where there shouldn't have been in his cord?  It's just natural to not bother asking as many questions when you get a healthy baby in the end.

She said she didn't think it was related to Lydie's cord.  But then again, I've had two pregnancies and two abnormalities in cords.  She said we shouldn't dismiss that.

She showed me all of Lydia's ultrasounds, even the cord insertion into the placenta, where everything always, always looked healthy.  She said she didn't think monitoring the blood flow through the cord would have made a difference, because Lydie was always getting everything she needed and was growing at the 54% percentile.  She was always getting what she needed until suddenly she wasn't.  It was "acute," and even if I had non-stress tests the whole pregnancy, there was likely no way to predict this. 

It was an odd mix of talking about hindsight and the future.

She suggested that we meet with a high-risk doctor together.  That she would completely review my file before, write him a detailed letter, and go to meet with him with Justin and me.  She warned me that he may not have many answers either, that he has more experience with twins and high blood pressure and diabetes.  But she's hoping he will be able to help.

She said they may even send me down to Louisiana to meet with Dr. Collins.

She told me that they've had a few second trimester losses in their office but it's been a long time since she has had a patient lose her baby so far along.  She talked about the moment she couldn't find Lydia's heartbeat, how she knew in that moment.  How she couldn't believe it.  It felt a little therapeutic to talk about that moment, since that is my haunting moment.  It felt a little therapeutic to look in the exam room where that nightmare happened. 

I feel like maybe I educated her a bit, about what happens after baby loss.  I told her about my grief, told her no, it's not getting easier after 6 weeks.  I told her that hearing about how extremely rare this is doesn't really make me feel any better.  In fact, I think it makes me feel worse.  I told her a lot of people who aren't good parents get to have healthy children.  She agreed.  She said life is unfair.

She said we should mention to the high-risk doctor that my cousin and his wife have also had a stillbirth.  She said we shouldn't discount anything.

She seemed willing to learn.

I need to remind myself that no matter how much research I do, no matter how many people I talk to, no matter how many questions I ask, there are always going to be many aspects to this story that we don't understand. 

And somehow I am going to have to learn to live with that.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Apparently, the Doctor, Part III

I bit the bullet and just called my doctor's office.
I have more questions - about Ben's umbilical cord and the "inconclusive" testing results.  And many, many questions about Lydie.
My mom and Justin have been encouraging me to call, ask my questions.

You know how usually you have to leave a message and a doctor's office takes forever to call you back?
It seems a stillborn daughter gets you right to the front of the line.

I still had to wait on hold for the nurse.  I listened to the "our goal is to ensure a healthy pregnancy resulting in a healthy birth" on repeat.  Do you know how hard that is to listen to when your baby has died?  It reminded me about how many times my doctor said, she wanted "a healthy mom and a healthy baby."  So I was already in tears by the time the nurse picked up.

She suggested I come in today to talk to my doctor.
Gulp.

She suggested we look through my file together and I ask all of my questions.
I have to keep reminding myself: if this is something we could have predicted, could have seen, then that is on my doctor, not me.
Right??
Right?



The Five Stages of Grief

We've all heard about the five stages of grief, thanks to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

I knew that once you hit a new stage, you could easily backslide.

What I didn't know was: They are all happening, all at once.

I talked to my best friend last week, telling her how mad I am.  How I am just so angry that my daughter died.  She responded, "Well at least you're in that stage now, right?"  I laughed.  I told her they are all happening RIGHT NOW.  Just because I am angry doesn't mean I'm not totally bargaining with everything I have.  And completely depressed as well.  She told me this would be a good blog post.  So here I am.

It's a nice thought that I could just walk down this path of grief and in the end, wind up at acceptance.  I wish that I could fast-forward to the end of that path right now.

But I am all of these things, all at once right now.

I'm not sure it's denial, as much as disbelief and shock.  I still have a lot of moments that I can't believe that my daughter is sitting in an urn on our mantle.  Everything about that just seems so wrong.  This can't possibly be my life.  I'm a good person!

And the anger, it's most definitely there.  Simmering below the surface if not active.  Waiting for some kind of release.
The guilt I've been plagued with is a type of anger.  When I'm not sure who to blame, it's easy to blame myself.    
(At the memorial, my grandma, hugged me and said "It's not your fault.  It was God's wish."  My aunt hugged me next and told me sometime shit just happens.  I responded, "Fuck God."  So yeah, the anger is always present.)

The bargaining is always constant too.  For me, it manifests in wishing things were different.  In dreaming of my parallel universe, where I am breastfeeding my 4 day old baby.  Thinking about everything I would give to make that happen.  In the beginning, the bargaining even looked like: Take me instead. I'll give my own life for her in a second.

The depression is constant too.  It's always hard to get out of bed in the morning.  I lack motivation for life.  I'm hiding from the world.  I just feel so freaking sad.

And the acceptance.  Can't say I'm there yet, though there have been glimpses of it, when I think that somehow, someway, we'll get through this.  When I realize nothing I can do will bring Lydie back.  When I realize that I did everything I could do to take care of her, and it wasn't my fault.  When I feel like sometimes shit just happens, and it just happened to happen to us.  When I think about how much I love my husband and my son and how rich my life is in many other ways.  Even though I'll always, always be missing my daughter.  A new friend from group is a year and two months out from losing her son to stillbirth.  I asked where she was, and she said she prefers the word "resignation."  She doesn't as much accept that her son died as she is resigned to it.  I think that makes a lot of sense.

I think about how I look forward to being there, when it doesn't hurt as bad.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Customer Service... or taking my anger on on a stranger.

You know, when your daughter dies, other "shit happens" shit keeps happening.

It feels unfair.  It feels like if we have to deal with the death of our daughter, perhaps our sink could not start leaking?  Sorry, sink, I'm busy grieving.  I don't have time for you.

I've been meaning to make this customer service call but never up for it.
I've mentioned how debilitating grief is, but it's not just leaving the house.
It's doing all the normal things.
I'm usually such a motivated person, I usually plow through to-do lists.  I usually can't rest until everything is done.
But for the past 5 weeks and 5 days, I have been paralyzed. 

So this morning, I decide to bite the bullet and call this customer service.
Let's just say the conversation did not go well.
This man decides to give me a long list of things I need to do in order for him to send me replacement dishes.
And did I mention how hard it is to do anything these days?
I proceed to tell him each of these things is infinitely more difficult... because my daughter just died.

I'm not sure what I wanted him to say.  I just was trying to explain why locating a receipt from last April seems so freaking difficult right now.  Why calling my credit card company is not a good option.  (I would probably have to tell that poor customer service representative that my daughter just died too).

He tells me that he understands grief because his grandmother just died.
I yelled at him.
Before I get into that, let me say that I apologized before I hung up.  And then I sat down on the floor and sobbed.

But: YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BURY YOUR GRANDPARENTS.  I know, I've done it.
That doesn't mean it's easy.  Or unemotional.  Or that you don't grieve.  But it's the way that the world is supposed to work.
YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BURY YOUR CHILDREN.  They are supposed to outlive you.  They should bury you.

Also, we were supposed to come home from the hospital today.


Lighting a Candle

Last night at 7 pm was the Worldwide Candle Lighting for children who have died.  Instead of doing it at home, at the last minute, we decided to join the Compassionate Friends support group for a little potluck and then their candle lighting service.

I've been feeling an odd sense of calm since Lydie's memorial.  Maybe it should be a relief, but instead, it feels disconcerting.  Yesterday, before Ben's nap, I sang to him both songs from Lydie's memorial: On Eagle's Wings and Somewhere over the Rainbow.  And I cried.  Because I never get to rock my daughter to sleep and sing to her.  But mostly, I've felt calm.

After the memorial, we're left wondering what's next.  We've been planning this memorial since Lydia died.  And now what?  Where's our focus?  What do we DO?

So I wanted to connect with Lydie last night.

We sat next to a couple whose 30 year old daughter committed suicide.  I didn't know what to say to them.  After all this, and all my new understanding about grief, I didn't know what to say to them.  I'm pretty sure the questions that arise in my mind first aren't appropriate: How did she do it?  Did she leave a note?  Were their signs? 

I walked around and looked at all the displayed photos of people's children who have died.   So much pain in one room.  I felt the disbelief all over again, shocked that we are among this group.  I was holding Ben, who actually reached for a tissue and wiped away my tears.  He is getting really used to seeing his mama cry.

Meanwhile, we brought the photo of both of us holding Lydie's hand to have scanned for the slideshow.  It's one of my favorites.  We have very few photos of her face.  She wasn't in that great of shape.  When Justin handed the photo over, the man scanning them said, "Is this it?"

Yep, that's it. 

It's easy to think that the pain of losing an infant isn't as deep as the pain of losing an older child.  And when I hear the stories about losing a 12-year-old, I shudder.   I can't imagine.  The grief is different of course.

But those parents got 12 years with their child.   We lost our daughter before we even got the chance to meet her.  We said hello as we said goodbye.  The memories of our daughter are the images we had in our minds, all the dreams we had for her.  Who she was supposed to be.  That's all we have.  That's it.

We listened to readings and poems and songs, and we tried to get Ben to stay quiet.  We lit a candle for Lydie.

Sometimes this makes me angry.

Like when I dropped Ben off at daycare this morning, and there was another sign, another baby announcement.  A girl.  Born December 11th.

They got their daughter and all we got was a fucking candle.




Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Memorial

A few people told me it would be the worst day of my life.
It wasn't - not at all.

When I stop and think about what I've been through in the last 5 weeks, including the silent Doppler while looking for my daughter's heartbeat, packing a hospital bag without any baby items, going through labor and ultimately delivering my daughter who had already died, turning my back on my daughter, being wheeled out of the hospital room without her and leaving the hospital empty-armed, and in general, living every day since, I wasn't too worried about the memorial.

In many ways, I was looking forward to it.  Looking forward to the opportunity to talk about my daughter, to honor her.  To show off photos and talk about how beautiful she is and how much she is loved.  What could be so hard about that?

We walked into the funeral home, completely overwhelmed by the number of flowers there.  So many flowers.  (Thank you!) 



I dressed Benjamin in his big brother t-shirt.  I had debated this, but I figured he is Lydia's big brother and it seemed much more appropriate than a button down.  And besides, I figured, this was about his only chance to wear this shirt.  Unfortunately, I don't think he'll be wearing it much.



Next, we set up a table with everything we wanted to show off about our daughter.   We framed lots of photos and her handprints and footprints, displayed her little sister onesie and framed prints for her nursery, made bookmarks and CDs to to share and to remember Lydia by, asked people to write a note to Lydie.



And at the front of the room, surrounded by all the flowers, sat Lydia herself.



I was pretty composed while getting everything set up, but it got a little tougher once our friends and family started arriving.  When our friends arrived crying, it was impossible not to cry with them.   When some coworkers arrived, I couldn't help thinking about how the last time I saw them, everything was just fine.  That made me emotional right there.  

Everyone was talking in such hushed voices, and lining up to look all of Lydia's things, and I started complaining that it felt too much like a funeral.  I'm not sure what I thought our service was, but I definitely did not want it to feel like a funeral.  I think some of my friends overheard, and I was glad to see people start to mill about a little more naturally.  I was glad Ben was running around, making noise, being himself.  I didn't like it so quiet and formal.  I was not wearing black!

Somehow the service started with the wrong song.  We meant to begin with "On Eagle's Wings," and even though I may not be clear about my relationship with God these days, that is a song that gave me great comfort during my childhood - and plus, I like the message anyway.  "He will raise you up..."  But what was playing was NOT that song.  Everyone's sitting quietly and some damn song I've never heard is playing.

Still have no idea how that happened, but I marched back to the control room, got it straightened out, and as I walked back up the aisle, said "take 2!"  I am not sure why no one laughed.   I had to laugh - not only am I at a memorial for my own daughter, but it started with the wrong song??

After Justin thanked everyone for coming, we read to both our children My Love Will Find You.  


My sister talked about all the plans she had for her niece, Justin and I both read letters we wrote to our daughter, my mom read 1st Corintheans, my best friend read e.e. cummings' carry your heart, Justin shared lyrics from an Avett Brothers song, and then we did a candlelighting, passing around Lydie's light.  We ended with Somewhere over the Rainbow.



There were some lighter moments, like when Justin started speaking and Ben noticed his picture on tv, running over to it, yelling "Dada!"

And there were a lot of tears.

I've heard that "grief is the price we pay for love," and that certainly feels true these days.

It felt good to share Lydia and our love for her.  I hope we are able to continue to do that.

The morning of

I started waking up at 4 am on Friday morning, thinking of my parallel life:
4 am - I should be getting up, getting into the shower, getting ready for the hospital.
5 am - I should be on my way to the hospital.
6 am - I should be getting prepped for surgery.
6:30 am - She should be here by now.  She should be here by now.  She should be here by now.

And since then, I've felt different.  I've stopped to wonder why, what does it matter if I was still supposed to be pregnant or she was supposed to be here?  It changes nothing.  She's gone, one way or the other.  But in some ways, it changes everything.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Dear Lydie

I wrote this to my daughter and read it at her memorial yesterday:

Dear Lydie,
It’s weird how one day can simultaneously be the worst and best day of your life.  The worst day because it’s the only one we got with you.  The best day because it’s the only one we got with you.  We got to count your ten perfect little toes and your ten perfect little fingers and hold you and kiss you and tell you how much we love you. 

The thing is, there’s no way to give a lifetime of hugs and kisses in one afternoon.

The thing is, you were already gone.

I always wanted a daughter.  Not for the reasons that most women want daughters.  I hate those baby headbands.  And I said you were never allowed to be a cheerleader.  But because I am so close with my mom, your Oma Jo.  I joke that when times get tough, I ask myself not “What would Jesus do?” But “What would Joanne do?”  I am named after her, and so are you, my Lydie Jo.  I wanted that third generation of strong Lammers and Johnston women.  I wanted you to call me everyday when I am 60, just because we liked to talk.  I wanted you and I to have the relationship that Oma Jo and I do. 

I wanted you long before I got pregnant with you last March.  I wanted you always.  I hope you know that, I hope you felt that.  I hope you knew how much I loved you, even when I was tired and overwhelmed.

At first, I was so convinced that you were a boy.  I wanted myself to be okay if I was always surrounded by boys – your Dad, your brother, and Ozzie and Jimmie too.  And in July, I was so thrilled when I found out that you were a girl.   Completely thrilled.  It felt too good to be true.  You always seemed to good to be true.  Sometimes I wonder if you were never really ours.  Sometimes you feel like a figment of my imagination.

After a regular doctor’s appointment, when you were doing just fine, I let your dad know.  Dad said he was glad his girls were doing well.  He said he was going to have to get used to saying “his girls.”  He liked the sound of it.  So did I.

We always check on Benjamin before we go to bed, and Dad said we’d have to get used to making two stops – checking on both our babies.  Now, your room sits empty, but I say goodnight to you there anyway. 

I wonder if your hair would have stayed dark like your Dad’s, or if was going to lighten up in the sun the way that Ben’s and mine do.  I wonder what your cry sounds like, what your voice sounds like.  I wonder if you would have been the tomboy in my mind or whether you would have surprised us all and delighted your Aunt Laura by being a girly girl.  I wonder who you would have become.

I wonder so many things about you, my daughter that I never actually got to meet.  I would give anything to meet you, to know you, to watch you grow up.

We got so used to the idea of you that it’s really tough to imagine life without you now.  I can’t quite picture our lives without you.  I hate trying to picture our lives without you.

I wish so many things, Lydie.  I wish today was your birthday, like we planned.  I wish we were celebrating your arrival right now, instead of celebrating you in this way we never imagined.  I wish your first birthday party, not your memorial, brought all our family together.  I wish you got to grow up with your big brother.  He would have teased you mercilessly, but that’s what brothers do.   He would have been a really good big brother.  I hope you felt all his kisses, all his raspberries, all his love.

I wish I could have kissed you and made it all better.  I wish our lifeline hadn’t failed us both.  I wish you were here with us. 

I’m sorry that we don’t get to witness your first smile, camera ready to capture the moment.  I’m sorry that I don’t get to tuck you in with the blanket I made you and kiss you good night.  I’m sorry that you don’t get to splash in the waves at the cottage, or go on your first kayak ride, or share a bath with your cousins.  I’m sorry that I don’t get to teach you how to ski and hope you love it as much as I do.  I’m sorry that I don’t get to take you to the pool, spending my summer days chasing you around, leaving exhausted and happy.  I’m sorry that we don’t get to live through your moody teenage years, arguing about your curfew.  I’m sorry that we don’t get to tour colleges with you, figure out where our Lydie fits best.  I’m sorry I don’t get to help you mend a broken heart, tell you that everything happens for a reason.  I’m sorry I don’t get to watch you fall in love, witness your wedding day, and be my own Oma Jo to your children. 

And most of all, I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to take better care of you.  I’ve heard many times that what happened to you wasn’t my fault, that I shouldn’t blame myself, but the truth is, I’m your mother.   It was my job to take care of you and to protect you.  And I’ll never stop being sorry that I wasn’t able to do that.  I’ll never stop being sorry that I don’t get to mother you here on earth.

I’m sorry that we have to go on without you.

I’ve learned that life is fragile, it is delicate.  It is precious.  You’ve taught me that, my girl.  You’ve taught me never to take the people I love for granted, not for one minute.  You’re teaching me, everyday, not to look too far ahead and instead to be grateful for what I have.  I have a lot, Lydie. You’re reminding me how deeply I love your dad and your brother.  And how deeply I love you.

You are a part of me, Lydia Joanne.  You were a part of me for 34 weeks and you’re a part of me now.  I hope you can feel that.  I hope you could always feel my love for you.  I hope you still can.

And I promise you that we’ll carry you with us always.  We won’t leave you behind, Lydie Girl.  There won’t be a day, not even an hour, when we’re not thinking about you and missing you and wishing you were with us.  And I can’t wait to see you again.  I will cover you with kisses.  You’re going to be so sick of my kisses.

I love you always.
Mama

Friday, December 12, 2014

December 12th

I’ve thought about my daughter every second of every day since the horrific moment I found out she was gone.

Still, today feels different; December 12th was planned to be her birthday. In my other life, the life I covet, I am posting photos of her right now announcing her arrival and dressing her in her “little sister” onesie.

In reality, today, our close friends and family will be gathering to honor her at her memorial.

I feel like I’m living every parent’s worst nightmare.

Many of you have offered to help. Although I’d much prefer someone invent a time machine, there are two organizations that you can support in her name.

30,000 babies a year are stillborn. Yet little research is being done, and the medical community dismisses it as something that “just happens.” Lydia died in the place she was supposed to be the safest. Star Legacy Foundation is one of the few organizations promoting research: http://starlegacyfoundation.org/lydia/

Another organization to support is Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, whose photographer captured our few precious moments with Lydie. With so few tangible objects to prove Lydie was here, we will treasure them forever. https://www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org/donate/
 
Thank you for all your support. We appreciate it so much.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

What I said, but better:

"There is a constant undercurrent of loss, a schism in our brains, which we gradually learn to adapt to, but it is ever present.  It's as if our brains are operating on two separate tracks. One is the here and now.  The second is the parallel track of what could or should have been yet will not be."
- Anna Whitson-Donaldson, Rare Bird

I'm always keeping track of the days:
How long since she's been gone?  In one hour, 5 weeks today.
How long until she'd be here?  19 hours.  (A scheduled c-section at 6 am December 12th doesn't leave much room for guessing).

I thought maybe once tomorrow is over, my brain would stop doing the math all the time.
But then I realized, the math will just look different.

How long since she's been gone?
How old would she be?

And that won't hurt any less.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Bullshit

Let's be clear about something.

I am REALLY angry.

I am really fucking mad.

I am angry that everyone else gets their perfect little families, and every word I hear, everywhere I go, everything I see seems to be throwing that in my face.   I am angry that I will never be able to count my children as I load them into the car like everyone else.  I am angry that I am forced to go on, forced to live without my daughter.  I am angry that the world keeps on spinning, even though she's not here.  I am angry that my son has to grow up without his sister.  I am angry that we didn't do anything to deserve this.  I am angry that my daughter was part of the .15% of babies who die because of a constricted cord.  I am angry that I am going to spend the rest of my life missing my daughter, that we never get to feel like a complete family.

It all feels like such BULLSHIT.

And the most frustrating part?

I have no idea where to direct this anger.
I have no idea who I am angry at.



Dead Baby Club

Last night, Justin and I had lined up Uncle D to watch Benjamin, thinking we'd try out another support group - one about child loss.

We got a last-minute invite to meet a group of others that we met last week at our infant loss support group.  At first, I didn't think I could meet them at a restaurant, considering I've barely been able to leave the house and change out of yoga pants.  But then I decided that if there was anyone who understood why this is tough for me, it is these people.  So we went.

There were 9 of us, tucked away in a corner at the bar.  We talked about how we met our spouses, where we work, how our children died, how fallopian tubes are tested for blockages.  It's a relief to have our children woven into our conversations naturally.  I showed off photos of Lydia on my phone.   They told me she is beautiful (she is).  We joked about dressing our urns up for Christmas - do they make tiny little Santa hats for them?   We joked about calling ourselves the Dead Baby Club.  It's perverse, I get that, but I haven't laughed that much in approximately 5 weeks. 

Two lives.

Today should be my last day at work before an extra-long maternity leave.
Before Lydia arrives on Friday.
Which is, coincidentally, the last day of classes at my university.

While I was pregnant with Lydia, the typical question "When's your due date?" felt off.  It was December 18th, but it didn't matter; I had a scheduled c-section on December 12th.  The last day of classes.

So when students would ask, I'd tell them, "You'll finish up classes.  I'll finish up this pregnancy." I found it amusing, appropriate.  Good timing, Lydie.

I now lead two lives lives; one in my head of what I should be doing right at this moment.   All the last minute work to be out of the office for a long time, making sure things are in order so my replacement knows what she's doing while I'm gone.  Getting things done so I won't have to worry about work while I am home with my two kids... for such a nice, long time.   Coming home, looking forward to my day to myself tomorrow, making sure that everything is ready for Lydie at home, that the carseat is snug in the car, that I have everything I need packed in my hospital bag.

Instead, I had to pack for the hospital 5 weeks ago, without bringing a damn thing for my child.
This life, the one I have to keep reminding myself about, is shear torture.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Control, or lack there of.

I find so many things irritating these days, but here's a big one:

When people say things like, "They are going to have kids right away."

Oh, are they? 

And when there's pictures of a kid on the daycare bulletin board, with a little blurb, "I'm going to have a little sister in February 2015!"

Oh, are you?

Is the decision to start a family all it takes?  Is that baby, coming in February 2015, really a sure-fire thing?

I hear this, I read this, I feel like I got punched in the gut.

Lydie was a sure-fire thing.
Lydie would be here in 3 days.  3 freaking days.

It's the control that gets me.  People think they have control.  I thought I had control. Sure, everyone realizes that you can't plan exactly when your baby will be born, but I was one of those people who thought I could get it in the ballpark.   How naive was I??

How naive are they.

Then I remind myself:
Likely, this couple will have a baby within a year of trying.
And very likely, this boy will have a sister in February 2015.

Which leads me straight to the "why me?" path.









 



What if Kim Kardashian's baby was stillborn?

What if Kim Kardashian's baby was stillborn?

Or Kate and William's?  (gasp here)

Or some other celebrity's?  Someone who the media paid attention to?  Someone we paid attention to?

I'm not wishing this on anyone, believe me.
Not even a Kardashian.
But I just can't get over how little stillbirth is talked about.

I've said the numbers before and I'll say them again:
2,000 babies die from SIDS a year.
30,000 babies are stillborn.
FIFTEEN times the amount of babies are stillborn than the babies that die from SIDS.

So, why, why do we hear so much about SIDS and so little about stillbirth?
When Ben was a newborn, our biggest fear was SIDS.  We would watch to make sure his chest was rising and falling.  He slept in our room for 8 weeks, partially so we could always keep an eye on him and hear him.  We were paranoid.  Did society make us that way with all the talk about sleeping on the back and no blankets?

And then, when I was cruising along with my pregnancy with Lydia, counting down the days until she got here, it had never once occurred to me that she could die in the place she was meant to be the safest.  Especially not at 34 weeks.

I would not wish this on anyone.
But what I do wish is it was discussed more.

So, what if a public figure had a stillborn baby?
Would it wake us up a little bit?

Me too

Yesterday, I ran into a neighbor who is also one of my closest friends.  She said to me, "I miss you!"

I miss me too.

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I miss the me from November 4th.  I wish I could go back.  I’m afraid I’ll never be that girl again.

But mostly, I miss my daughter.  Who cares about missing me when I miss her?



 
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