Sunday, November 30, 2014

Unwilling Participant

One of the first things my doctor said to me after we couldn't find Lydia's heartbeat was "It's not your fault."  I was in complete shock, hadn't even yet shed a tear, and I remember looking at her and thinking, "So that is what I will feel when I finally feel something.  I will feel blame.   I will feel guilt."

And now, I do.

Rationally, I know that Lydie didn't die because I had too many sips of wine.  Or woke up one too many times on my back.  Or ate too much cookie dough.  Or worked out too much.  Or had too much stress.  Rationally, I know this.

Some of the guilt comes in as I wrack my brain trying to remember when I last felt her move. 
And if I had been monitoring her more, if I had been paying more attention, if I could have somehow intuitively known, if I could have rushed to the hospital, demanded they get her out right now.  If I could have saved her.

My doctor tells me it was quick, it wouldn't have mattered, she was gone.  My aunt tells me it's not like I could see her.  I read countless stories of others who have rushed to the hospital just to be told their baby is already gone.  My counselor tells me she works with many, many couples who have lost their babies and not once has it been because of something the mother did or didn't do.  I repeat these snippets to myself again and again and again.  I try to remind myself I love her, I tried my best to take good care of her.  That I would give my own life for hers - but I was never given that opportunity.  I try to remind myself that she didn't suffer, she only felt love, I was holding her when she died.

That's the thing.  I was holding her when she died.  Because she died inside me.  The umbilical cord is the lifeline between the mother and the baby.  And for some godforsaken reason, my baby stopped getting what she needed from ME.  From ME.  Our lifeline failed us.  It failed us both.  I don't know how I could ever stop apologizing to my daughter for that.  But I hope the guilt subsides over time.  Because it's really hard to live with.

I just read an article written by another woman whose baby was stillborn (http://stillstandingmag.com/2013/04/what-i-mean-when-i-say-my-daughter-was-stillborn/).  And she nailed it.  She describes how the experience is not passive, it's not something that happens TO you.  It's something that happens INSIDE you.  That you are forced to participate in. She called herself "an unwilling participant." Exactly.  I was forced to participate first in my daughter's death.  And then I was forced to go through "birth" - when the death came before the birth.  What could ever be more horrific than that?

"The simple fact is – there is nothing like stillbirth. There is nothing like going to the hospital to check on your baby, only to have the incredibly sweet joy of pregnancy replaced in an instant with the dull, moaning emptiness of knowing that you are still going to have to endure labor and birth and filling breasts and the weeks of bleeding.

Only your baby will be dead. Your labor pains will produce nothing but a shell of this most precious person. Your arms will be empty, and there will be no way to soothe your aching breasts.

And that doesn’t even factor in the grief, or the guilt, or the wondering of who or what in this wide world you are now that death has crept into your life, into your body, in such an insidious way...

So when I say, “My daughter was stillborn,” please know that I am not describing something that happened to me. I am describing a traumatic and pivotal event in which I was an active, unwilling participant, an event that I participate in the echoes of still."


It's a start.

This past week, I've actually been able to see a few friends.  It feels like progress, feels like I can come out of hibernation a bit, just for short windows.  It feels good to be with people I love who love me and who love Lydia.  Who would do anything to change our situation.  I want to talk about her with them.  I want to show them pictures, I want them to ask questions, I want to cry together.  I could spend all day talking about my daughter.

But it's hard too.  It's hard to ask my friends how their lives are going, and hear how normal they are.  How their kids are getting bigger and growing up.  I wonder if we'll ever feel normal again.  I think about how my son will have to grow up without his sister.

And it's exhausting too. 

The other night, I went to a little holiday lighting with my family.  And these lights were flashing, and people were everywhere, all holding onto their babies and their toddlers, and I felt like I couldn't breathe.  I thought I might have a panic attack.  I had to leave, and I had to leave quickly.  All these people, holding onto their kids - having no idea how lucky they are - getting excited about Christmas. 

What I wouldn't give to be one of them.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving

Today is weird.  It's the first holiday without my daughter, and I know how difficult the holidays are for grieving families.  And it is hard, but it's also weird, because she wasn't supposed to be here yet.  My visions of Thanksgiving didn't include her.  Instead, they included my whole family at our house - because Lydie would be here in two weeks and it would have been too close to my due date to travel.  I was supposed to be so very pregnant right now.

I pictured us setting up our Christmas tree tomorrow.  We'd spend time figuring out how to fit a Christmas tree in the living room, along with Lydie's swing and bouncer AND Ben's toys. These were the problems I thought we had.  How to fit both the baby shit and the toddler shit in our house.

Instead, we're at my parents' house.  Where I'm both comforted by my family and tormented by my family.  I'm comforted by the familiarity.  Everything is the same.  And yet, I'm tortured by the familiarity.  Everything is the same.   And I feel like I'm the only one recognizing that everything is completely, and totally, and devastatingly different.  I'm tortured watching my son play with his cousins, knowing that my daughter will never have these moments.  I'm tortured that my daughter isn't here. 

For a few minutes, it feels good to sit around and have normal conversation.  And then while everyone else is still talking, like nothing has happened, inside I start screaming.  How can we sit around and talk about all this stupid shit when Lydia is dead?  I want to focus on her.  I want to stop talking about who is sitting where at the dinner table, when all I can think about is how we'll always be missing one.  I will always be missing one.

I'm here, but I'm not really here.

I am in a weird time warp, always counting the days since my daughter has been dead (3 weeks today) and at the same time, counting the days until she was supposed to be here (2 weeks from tomorrow). 






Wednesday, November 26, 2014

That moment

Three weeks ago, I was cleaning out the silverware drawer while Ben was eating breakfast.  We got to enjoy a bit of a late start due to my doctor's appointment.  Who knew how many crumbs could get in a silverware drawer?  And who could possibly bring a baby to a home with so many crumbs everywhere?  I was full-on nesting. 

An hour later, my world came crashing down.

That moment - where my doctor couldn't find Lydia's heartbeat - keeps replaying over and over in my mind.  It's the stuff nightmares are made of.

My counselor told me for most moms, it's the moment of birth, the moment of hideous silence when birthing the baby.  For me, it's the silent doppler.  For me, it's the rising fear as my doctor can't find it.  There was a moment, for a second, when that fear subsided.  There was a heartbeat.  And then the doctor told me that that heartbeat was my own.  That second of hope that came crashing down.  And she continued searching.  And it wasn't there.  And it wasn't there.  And it wasn't there.   For me, it's that torturous moment, that feeling deep-down inside, when I know.

And now there is my life before that moment, when I thought our biggest struggles were about stress and money and lack of time.   And there is my life after that moment. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My husband

Do you know what the divorce rate is for couples who lose a child?  I'm sure different studies give different numbers, but Justin was reading up on it and came across 80%.  80% of couples who lose a child get divorced.  In some ways, it makes sense.  Their grief is different.  They are not in the same place.  They don't have the same emotions at the same time. They stop relating to each other.

In other ways, that is devastation upon devastation.  First, you lose your child, then you lose your spouse?  How much crappier can life get?

I am pleased to tell you that I love my husband.  I've loved him for almost 7 years now.  But the past 20 days have made me realize how much I love my husband.

I can be really hard on him.  Really hard on him.  In my defense, I'm hard on myself too.  I'm a perfectionist, and as he'd be the first to tell you, a micro-manager.

But my daughter is teaching me what is important in life -- and what is not important.  And right now, I just really love my husband.  When we said "for better or worse," I don't think we ever imagined how bad "worse" really was.  I certainly never imagined this.  But I can't imagine not having Justin at my side to handle the worst thing that has ever happened to us.  I can't imagine not going through this together.

Some days will be harder than others, I realize.  But right now, we're pretty committed to communication and understanding and patience.  And being each other's priority, with Benjamin right up there with us.  


Figment of my imagination?

Sometimes I think Lydie was just a figment of my imagination.
I think I must have crazy to think that in two and a half weeks from now, I would be having a baby. 
I see photos of us from just three weeks ago, read emails and text messages, recall conversations.
And I think how naive we were, how innocent we were.
How stupid. 
My husband, my sister, my mom, my therapist - they remind me that Lydie was real. 
And that hurts even more.

Monday, November 24, 2014

People who get it.

In the last 18 days, I've talked to so many people who get it.
Justin and I spend countless hours reading books and blogs about stillbirth.  It's like we want to know everyone out there who has experienced this loss.  Who understand how deeply you can miss someone you never even got to meet.  Who understand the gamut of emotions - how one moment, you might be functioning fine and the next moment you wonder how it's possible to continue living. 
I find myself obsessed with other people's stories, other people's pain, other people's children.

I find ourselves seeking out these people.
They understand me right now in a way no one else possibly can.
It's overwhelming, and I cry constantly hearing their stories.
And I feel less alone.
I feel less guilt.
I feel like it might just be possible for us to survive this, though I know we won't ever be the same
We now belong to the worst club in the world: parents who have lost a child.
If you're not in this club, be grateful.  I hope you never join us.  I hope your children outlive you, the way they are supposed to.
If you're in this club, we now connect on a level we'd never imagine.
 
There's BJ, an old acquaintance who suddenly feels more like a close friend, who lost his daughter Khani seven years ago and sent us a letter he wrote her.  Justin and I both read it and cried, and we're seeing BJ and his wife in a few days.  My aunt and uncle whose son Michael lived five days.  Five days.  My cousin's wife who lost Caleb at 40 weeks, who also had to deliver a baby she knew wasn't living.  We've never talked much before, and suddenly, we know each other on a level that our best friends don't.  There's a friend of a friend whose daughter died at 38.5 weeks and did extensive research on cord accidents afterwards.  She wrote to me about the research (or really, lack of it), about the anger, about trying to move on.  There's Jen, a friend of my sister's friend, who lost Luke at 40 weeks due to a cord accident.  I read her blog, and I do the math, "Jen was two weeks out from losing Luke.  How did she feel then?  At one month out, how will I feel?  How about two months, three months?  How about a year? How about two years?"  Jen and I have never met, but we now exchange regular messages, and I feel like I know her better than I know many old friends.  She sent me a book, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, and the author Elizabeth McCracken gets it too.  Her son was stillborn.  I devoured her book in a day, pencil in hand to underline the passages that especially resonated with me.  She describes this baby-loss community as "a sort of kinship... When something terrible happens, you discover all of a sudden that you have a new set of relatives, people with who you can speak in the shorthand of cousins."  There's an old family friend who never mentioned she lost a son at 22 weeks, a friend whose daughter lived three months, a family friend whose daughter died at birth.   There is the card I got from the woman I've talked through once or twice at daycare, who lost twin boys and explained that "facing people living their normal lives feels like a foreign concept to you right now."  She gets why leaving the house is so difficult right now.

There are many others too, who have come out of the woodwork, and they are the people who get it. 

I have to slow myself down sometimes, have to walk away from my computer and the books.  I have to remind myself that my grief is my own, that there's no linear way through this.    I have to tell myself that I am overwhelmed with my own grief, much less all these other people's grief.

But I feel less alone, less like a freak. 

Another Monday morning, another day without Lydia.

This morning was my first morning on my own, without my mom or Justin to help me with Ben, give me a quiet moment when I needed it.  I did okay.  When Ben woke up, all he wanted to do for 45 minutes was cuddle.  Usually, it's like come on, Ben, gotta change your diaper, gotta get going, love the cuddles but we don't have time.  Now nothing feels more important in my life than cuddling my son.

Driving Ben to daycare, I played the song "I will follow you into the dark,"

If heaven and hell decide that they both are satisfied
Illuminate the no's on the vacancy sign
If there's no one beside you when your soul departs
I'll follow you into the dark

I would have followed her into the dark, and I wasn't even given the chance.

It was my first time driving since that horrible doctor's appointment where we discovered Lydie had no heartbeat, and I had to drive home from the doctor's office, knowing somehow that these roads would never look the same again.

I drove, with tears streaming down my face, reaching back to grab Ben's hand and squeeze it.

I've always been in a hurry.  Always.  I can't even tell you why except that I think of life as an endless to-do list.  I walk fast, I drive fast, I'm annoyed when other people make me two minutes late, I'm always thinking about the next thing.  I wasn't a bad driver by any means, just didn't have a lot of patience.  I'd text at stoplights and finish the text while moving and try to keep an eye on the road.  I'd roll through stop signs, drive 5 miles over the speed limit, tail people when I thought they should be driving faster.  I still held on a bit to the teenage invincibility complex, even with my son in the backseat, even while carrying my daughter.

I can't imagine that I'll ever feel that way again.
This morning, I drove more cautiously than I ever had in my whole life.

And I was that crazy woman, filling up at the gas station, crying, still telling my daughter I'd follow her into the dark.



Sunday, November 23, 2014

Letting my mind wander, and bringing it back.

This morning, I was upstairs in our closet, unpacking a few clothes that I had stuffed away to make room for maternity clothes.  I could hear my boys playing downstairs.  Then I had this vision of Justin downstairs with both kids, with Lydie in her bouncer watching her big brother, letting out a little whine, and Justin shouting up the stairs, "Heather!  Lydie's getting hungry!"  And I reply, "I'm coming!"

It feels good for a moment, to let my mind wander to what-could-have-been, what-should-have-been.  But it hurts so bad to bring myself back to reality, to remind myself that my daughter is dead, and that vision is never, ever going to happen.




Saturday, November 22, 2014

The What-ifs?

What if we got her out before her heart stopped beating?

What if I could tell she was in trouble?  What if I was counting her kicks?  What if I was paying more attention?

What if I could have protected her the way mothers are supposed to protect their children?

What if it was me instead of her?

What if she was just a figment of my imagination, what if she was never really ours? 

What if she just came early?

What if I was still pregnant?

What if this never happened?  What if I never had to know this kind of pain?  What if our lives were normal, like everyone else's seemingly are?  What if we just had our little boy and our little girl?   What if my girl got to live?


1.5 out of 1000

Doing some research about umbilical cord accidents (yes, that's actually the medical term).  As I can handle it.  Small doses.

1.5 out of 1000 babies die from cord accidents.  .15%. 

Worst lottery win ever.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Footprints

Today, my mom and I went out to make copies of Lydie's footprints and hand prints.  I have projects in mind, want to be able to hibernate in our home and work on them after my mom leaves again.   Wanted her emotional support for this public outing.

So we're waiting at Office Max, as this woman makes the copies for us.  She says she might have to play around with the colors and tones before she finds what works.  No big deal right?  But then, as she finishes up, she tosses those copies in the trash.  And I'm staring at my daughter's foot prints in the trash, and I want to scream.  So instead I say, "Could I please have those copies instead of throwing them away?"  She tells me I will have to pay for them.  I don't care.  Get my daughter out of the trash.  Right now.

I'm sure if my child was born completely healthy, as the majority of children are, this wouldn't even phase me.  They were just copies, for goodness sake.  I was trying to figure out why it bothered me so much. 

I think I have such few items of Lydia's.  So few tangible items to prove that my daughter existed.  Every item I have is that much more valuable because of that. 

By the way, the woman not only took Lydie's footprints out of the trash, but she didn't charge us for them after all.  I am betting that mothers with healthy babies are not crying while doing such errands. 



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Getting out

I have officially left the house on two occasions, besides to the funeral home and the counselors' offices.  

I have been to Ben's daycare twice now.  I teared up walking in, thinking how my last time there, I was dropping Ben off on the way to my doctor's appointment.  Before I heard the most devastating news.  Back when things were normal.   I miss that version of myself already.

I tried to look away from the infant room when I walked by.
So instead I noticed a sign on another classroom, congratulating a family who had just had a baby.
Another punch to the gut.
"Motherfucker," I thought.
 And then comes the moment that I want to trade places with that family.
It's awful to wish some other baby dead.  To wonder why it couldn't have been that baby instead of my baby.
That's a horrible way to think.

I hear it's normal.
I hope I pass this phase soon.
I hope I stop wishing it was other people's children instead of my own.
But I'm trying to be honest here.
It just feels so horribly unfair.

My mom and I also ran into Kohls to make a quick return.  I just wanted to get in and out of there.  Of course, when we get called up to the register, it was by the most annoying sales person alive.  This woman asked me a dozen questions about my pregnancy a month ago.  "When are you due?  What are you having?" making all kinds of small talk when I just wanted her to hand my receipt so I could take my fussy son out of this store.  I knew she'd make small talk again.  I now officially hate small talk.  So my mom goes up to her instead, and I duck out the door.  "How are you?" she asks my mom.  "Okay," my mom answers, which I feel like is overly generous at this point in time.  "Just okay?" the woman continues.

My counselor says we can use the "my-baby-died" card at any time.  It's a great way to make people feel uncomfortable.   Part of me wished I had not ducked out the door so when she asked my mom that I could respond, "Well, my baby just died."  That might shut her up for a while.

These trips out of the house are exhausting.



The Bills

My mom and I just spent a while studying our hospital bills for Lydia's delivery.

So freaking depressing.

You think they are hard to stomach when you bring your baby home.
Imagine how hard they are to stomach when you don't bring your baby home.

What else I lose.

Justin is back at work today.
It's hard for him.  It's hard for all of us.

I'm staying home for a while.  Technically, because I gave birth, I'm entitled to a six-week medical leave.  So I'm taking it.

At first I thought I'd want to go back sooner, for the distraction.  Now I think there's no way I could handle it any time soon.  I work with students all day, as one Denison professor put it "helping them solve all their problems."  I don't think I can handle other people's problems anytime soon, especially when they seem so petty right now.  I can barely function myself right now.

But it's going to be tough to go back in January as well.  I was supposed to spend January home with both my babies.  I had planned a long maternity leave, over six months home.  Paid time off too.  I feel gypped about that.  I feel gypped about that time with both my babies, Ben and Lydie.  Now not only do I not get that time with Lydie, but I don't get that time with Ben either.  Now, I have to keep Ben in daycare, and I have to keep paying for his daycare, instead of all the adventures I thought we'd be going on in during that six months. 

I know in the grand scheme of things, I should try not to worry about this.  The seven grand I'm going to spend on daycare instead of saving because I'm home with Ben.  The adventures I had planned for the three of us.  I know losing my baby is much worse than losing my maternity leave.  But it's just like all the shit that compounds.  All the things that are lost because we lost Lydie.

As if losing my daughter wasn't hard enough.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Doctor, Part 2

It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  I got by one more hurdle.

They brought me in through a side door.  I always saw my doctor in one of two rooms, and I'm grateful I was in the other one - not the one I was in when we couldn't find Lydie's heartbeat (that moment plays and replays again and again in my head).  I waited there with my mom and Justin.

I sobbed when I heard a baby cry.  Some mother was with her baby at their post-delivery check up.  How lucky are they?

My doctor was pretty definitive that it was, in fact, a cord accident.  She said, most likely, Lydie's cord was constricted a bit since conception.  And that she may have somersaulted one too many times in the same direction, she may have moved so much that the cord couldn't untwist this time, and that it was quick.  It happened quick.  (I couldn't help thinking about one appointment, months ago when I told the doctor, "She moves so much!" And she replied, "I have never seen a problem because of too much movement."  Would she still say that?)

She said it was an accident, just like a car accident.  

She said there is no way to detect there is a problem before.  That I had had a completely healthy pregnancy.

She told me it wasn't my fault, that even if I had noticed the lack of movement, there wasn't anything that could have been done. 

I mentioned that no one ever had told me this could be a possibility.  She said it was so rare, so unforeseen, they can't get every pregnant women upset thinking about the possibility of this when it is so unlikely.

She said that it doesn't matter if Ben climbed on me or if I fell or if I woke up on my back.  She said it was unpreventable.

She asked if I wanted to go on anti-depressants.  I told her I think I have to go through this process.  I don't think it's fair to my daughter to take the edge off.  I think I'm grieving so much because I loved her so much.

She said if we ever want to try again, I can see a high risk specialist before we even begin trying but there's nothing that would indicate this would ever happen again.  She said it's extremely, extremely unlikely that this would happen again.  I told her it's extremely, extremely unlikely that this would happen in the first place.

She hugged me.  I cried.


God


Before Lydie died, I still had not figured out the way I felt about God.  It was nice to think there was a presence up there but I didn’t often pray – except only those few occasions when I really didn’t know what else to do.  Justin and I joked about wanting no Jesus talk at our wedding.  We’re not Jesus-y people.  I got annoyed when people quoted Bible verses.  I am not a Bible person.  I did not believe in most aspects of the Catholicism I grew up with.  I believed in equal rights and treating people well and karma.  I wanted to teach my children these things, by the way they were raised.

And then Lydie’s heart stopped beating. 

And now I’m even more lost.  Hundreds of people have told me they are praying for me.  I wonder what they could possibly be praying for.  A time machine?

I know they’d tell me that they pray we find strength, comfort, peace.  
And I appreciate that. 
I hope we can find those things too.

But I’d rather turn back time.

I know sometimes grief makes people turn towards God.  And I know sometimes grief makes people turn away.

And as someone who was sitting on the fence for so long, I don’t know which way to turn right now.  

I know that I am finding a lot of comfort in Ben Harper’s song “I shall not walk alone.”





I wake up in the middle of the night and I think about Lydie and hug her blanket and this song echoes in my head. 

I’m not sure I even believe in karma anymore.  Have we ever done anything to deserve this?  I think that shit just happens, that I can’t control anything in this world no matter how much my control-freak, perfectionist self wants to. I think sometimes perfectly healthy babies die.  I think we got screwed.  My Lydie Girl got screwed. 

I’ve never known what to believe about heaven either.   If often seems like something humans made up to make themselves feel better.   It seems like a really nice idea.   How could we possibly know what happens to people when they leave us?  But right now, I have to believe that I will be reunited with my daughter.  That our family will be complete again.  That we’ll see our little girl again. I have to believe that she hears me as I talk to her.

My mom said that as she was driving here yesterday, the sun peeked through the clouds and she thought of Lydie.  A couple weeks ago, I might have scoffed at that.  And now I think I have to find little signs of my girl in this universe. 

Wishing

My mom came back yesterday.  It was good timing.  Yesterday was an especially hard day.  I started a photo book of my pregnancy with Lydie.  It was something I did for Ben and I planned to do it for Lydie.  And I still want to do it and I'd like to have it at her memorial, so I feel like I have to get it done... but I don't know where to start.  This is not the way I pictured it.  Shutterfly doesn't have a book template for when your baby dies.  So I started using the pregnancy one, and it's all joyous, all these emblems like "spreading the news!" and "feeling you kick!"  And Lydie Girl, I can tell you the first time I felt you kick.  We were at the cottage, Dad and I were laying in bed.  And there you were.  But that "feeling you kick" emblem can't help me to think about how I stopped feeling you kick.  How I didn't realize it.  And the joyous pictures that are supposed to be at the end of those 9 long months?  They look different for us.  In our pictures, our daughter is dead.

I was pregnant on Ben's first birthday, though I didn't know it yet.  So I put a picture of the 3 of us celebrating in there.  And Ben looks so young, so young, such a baby still, when now he is such a little boy.  And it hit me how long I was pregnant with Lydie.  How very long pregnancy is. 34 weeks is a long time.

When I needed a break from the photo book, when my heart couldn't handle it anymore, I started taking a survey for mothers who lose their babies to stillbirth.  I want to stop this stupid shit from happening.  I want someone to hear my story and research how the hell this happened.  And the survey asked all these detailed questions, about what I consumed during pregnancy, what position I fell asleep in, what position I woke up in, if I took any sleep aids, details detail details.  And I think about how many times I woke up on my back.  And I think about how I started taking melatonin, after my doctor suggested it, because I was having such a hard time sleeping.  And I think about what I possibly did to hurt my baby.

Sometimes the guilt subsides a bit, and yesterday, I felt it full-force.

You know what contributes to stillbirth?
Obesity.
I am certainly not obese.  And I was still working out 4 or 5 times a week.
High blood pressure.
Nope.
Preclampsia.
Nope.
Advanced maternal age
Not yet.
African-American people have a higher rate of stillbirths.
Nope.


So there doesn't seem to be much to explain why this happened to us.

So I was glad to hug my mom.
But then I started wishing.
She had planned to be here when Lydie was born, help us with Ben and Lydie while I recovered for my c-section.
Why couldn't she be here because she was helping us with Lydie?
Or maybe, Lydie could just be in NICU, and she's here to help us because of that?
It's pretty ridiculous when you wish your baby was in NICU.
I wish my baby was in NICU.

I spend a lot of my time wishing things were different.

I try to remind myself that it is what it is.  That wishing won't bring Lydia back to us.  That it's not productive.

This song echoed in my mind all night, as Ben wouldn't sleep for hours and both Justin and I were up with him.
Woke up and wished that I was dead
With an aching in my head
I thought of you and you were gone
And the world spins madly on

I have wished I was dead.  Not because I'm suicidal, but because how else do I get to be with my daughter?

I was reading this memoir when this all happened written by a man whose wife died in labor, and he has to raise his daughter on his own, without her.  I wonder now which is worse.
So the thing is, I knew these things happen.  Justin and I have had conversations about it, especially because he asks why I read stuff this like when pregnant.
But the statistics are so, so low.  .5% chances of stillbirth, probably even lower at 34 weeks.
Something crazy like 2%-4% are due to cord accidents.
So, if someone had told me those numbers at week 33, I'd probably feel pretty safe betting that that wouldn't be us, wouldn't be Lydie.
And yet here we are.
And wishing isn't getting me anywhere.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hard to believe

 
This summer, at our cottage, I’d give my belly a little pat and say to Justin, “Hard to believe we’ll have a seven-month-old baby with us here next summer.”  I’d think how she’d be sitting up by then, how we’d have to keep her from eating the sand on the beach, how we'd need to keep her in the shade.  I’d remind myself of these things on purpose, remind us how our lives would be different then.  Preparing myself for all the changes to come in our lives.

Labor Day weekend at the cottage.  Thoughts of our daughter with us there next summer.
Now it’s so hard to believe that we won’t have a seven-month-old baby with us next summer at the cottage. 

Another baby-loss mama - who I have connected with and who feels like an old friend now -  wrote something similar.  She explained how fucked up it is that you spend nine months preparing for your new normal with your baby.  You spend nine months preparing yourself for all the changes that are to come with your new baby, prepping yourself, reminding yourself that this is real.  Your entire world is supposed to be turned upside down by a screaming, crying baby.  You prepare yourself for that change. You’re ready for that change.  And instead you leave the hospital completely empty.  Empty body.  Empty hands.  Empty heart.   And soon after,  you’re supposed to go back to your lives before.  You’re supposed to walk the dog, go to work, go to the gym, come home, have dinner, hang out with your friends.  The old normal, but totally fucked up.  Our new normal is the old normal with a big fucking hole in the middle of it.
 
I miss my daughter.

The calendar

I usually love Google Cal. 

I have all my work stuff on there.  And all our home stuff.  And I access it and update it right on my Iphone.  And it's so convenient.  I know what each day looks like, each week.  I'm a planner and it helps me plan.

Another thing I'm terrified of now is that goddamn calendar.

If I were to look right now, I obviously should be at work.  Meeting with students.  With my 36 week check up tomorrow, and then starting weekly appointments with my obgyn from there.  Weekly, I have been thinking, I can't believe we're there already!  I have a dentist appointment next week where I had to remind them of no x-rays, and a hair appointment on Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  I wanted to get my hair cut and highlighted, take care of myself a little before our baby girl arrived.  Look nice for those hospital photos.  My family would all be coming in to our house for Thanksgiving, since it was too close to my due date to travel.

Not to mention the c-section scheduled for December 12th.  On my calendar. 

And my maternity leave starting, and plans to be home with both of my babies.

And no plans in January, since of course, we'd be sleep-deprived and home with our baby girl.

I'm a planner and my life has been shot to shit.

So now, I'm afraid to see those things.  Afraid to delete them.  Do I go to the dentist as scheduled, and just let them know, "hey, actually, you can do x-rays because my baby girl just died.  See how I no longer look pregnant?"  Or do I reschedule because I can't deal with it?  Do I still get my hair done?  Now I want to dye it brown or red.  Never in my life have I wanted brown or red hair.  But I want to look different.  I am different now.

I have no idea what the date is.  I don't want to know.  It just makes me do math, count the days without her, count the days before she was supposed to be here.  So how do I remind myself that my health insurance paperwork is due next Wednesday when I can't even look at my calendar?  How the hell do people still expect me to meet deadlines right now?





The Doctor

I have my doctor's appointment tomorrow.  My check in.  It was supposed to be my 36 week check up.  But it's not.  Not anymore.

I'm terrified.

I'm terrified of the walking into that building - even though there are already plans to bring me in a side door to avoid the pregnant mamas and babies.  I'm terrified of sitting on that table that I've sat on so many times before.  I'm terrified of seeing my doctor.  I'm terrified of what she'll be able to tell me about Lydie's death.  I'm terrified of what she won't be able to tell me about Lydie's death.   I'm terrified that there will be answers.  I'm terrified that there will be no answers.   I'm terrified to learn that there was something I could have done differently, something that could have prevented this.

(Even though our counselor told us yesterday that she has worked with many families in this situation and never, not once, was it because of something the mother did or didn't do.  I am repeating that to myself so often right now).

I'm terrified she'll tell me I'm healing well.  I'm terrified that she'll tell me that I'm not.  I'm terrified of her examining me. 

After Ben, I didn't care about that at all - after that experience, my doctor could do whatever she needed and it didn't bother me at all.  Now I feel violated.  I don't want to be touched.



Monday, November 17, 2014

I didn't mean it.

Dear Lydie,
I'm sorry about saying I wished you were a miscarriage.  I am grateful for all 34 weeks with you.  I just wish I had appreciated them more. 

Love,
Mama

Starting with my sister.

My sister and many of my close girlfriends have offered to come visit.  And for the most part, I've pushed them away.  It's really hard to be around other people right now.

My sister wanted to come this weekend, bring her family.  And I just thought we couldn't handle the chaos.  And I thought we can't be around people right now.  But then I thought about how she was there for our Day with Lydie.  She was there when I delivered her.  She held her, she cried with us.  She is my sister, Lydie's aunt, my closest friend, and I've gotta start somewhere.  And I figured if I'm having trouble making eye-contact, my sister is a good place to start.  So she left her husband, daughter, and big dog at home, and brought just her son AJ who is best buddies with Benji.  I felt bad about Lanie - we had big plans for Lanie and Lydie to be sister-cousins.  But our boys are brother-cousins and best buddies.  And I wanted my boy to have a fun day.  A normal day.  I didn't want my boy to have another day of sitting around the house with his parents crying.

I'm someone who always keeps busy, is always moving, running, cleaning, making plans.  I don't understand how people just sit.  But I have found myself making a cup of tea - the warmth from the tea makes me feel less cold and empty - and sitting at the kitchen table, staring out the window.   Thinking about my girl.  Wondering where we went wrong.

I could tell my sister that she was talking too loud.  I could tell my sister that the beeping from her text messages was annoying the crap out of me.  Couldn't she just let me enjoy the quiet while the boys were napping?  When she offered to take the compost out, I could tell her, will you please just sit down?  Sit down and stare out the window with me.  That's what I need right now.  I don't give a shit about the compost.

My brother stopped by and brought me a bottle of wine.  You know things are shitty when your brother, with no prompting and for no reason at all (except that things are shitty), brings you a bottle of wine.

And we left the house!  We left the house!  We took our boys to Wild Lights at the zoo.  It helped that it was dark.  And I loved seeing my boy bah at the goats and go "oh, oh, oh! AJ, oh!" when he first saw the elephants.  We took a train ride, and right before we climbed in, it started snowing these big, beautiful flakes.  I wondered if Lydie was behind that.  Which was a nice thought until my pants got soaked.

Visible family of 3 huddled together for a snowy train ride,  missing Lydie.

But it was exhausting too.  Babies everywhere, children everywhere.  I couldn't help thinking that any one of them could have been the 1 in 200 instead of Lydie.  And then I felt cruel, nasty, jealous.   I physically ached for her.  I held my husband's hand.  We pushed around the double Bob we bought for Ben and Lydie.  We watched a light show with Christmas music and I felt like I was tripping, like this couldn't possibly be my life. 

And this morning, Benjamin woke us up far too early, which makes the day so much longer and harder.  And it's still snowing - so much snow - and I didn't want to get out of bed.  I just want to curl up and think about my daughter.  Or even better, wake up in an alternate reality with a happy ending.  I am exhausted from yesterday, from the past 12 days.  And I just want to curl up today and watch the snow.

Except that we have another appointment with our counselor soon and she'd probably appreciate it if I brushed my teeth.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Stillbirth

The term is stillbirth.  I hated that term at first but it's grown on me.  I don't know how else to describe it.

And there's all kinds of plays on words.  Stillborn, still born.
Born silently.  That's the truth.
I always imagined hearing cries at the birth of my children.
Death before birth.

That's something that gets me now.
The fact that I never, for a second, considered that I would be one of the mothers who leaves the hospital without her baby.
That I never considered that Lydie was never completely ours.
Why did no one warn me that stillbirth could be a possibility?

I remember before the 20 week scan, the big one where you see if there are any abnormalities.  I remember reminding myself that the majority of babies are born healthy.
I remember breathing a sigh of relief that my baby looked perfect.
Why did no one warn me that stillbirth could be a possibility?

You don't think about it, not at 34 weeks.
She could have lived on her own, outside my womb, for the last 10 or so weeks.
I breathed another sigh of relief at that time.  We made it to the point that she could live in the world.  Sure with some help.  But she could have lived in the world.
You think you're safe.

Why did no one warn me that stillbirth could be a possibility?
Because the odds are 99.5% that you're NOT going to have a stillbirth?
Because no one expected that we were the fucked ones?

It's 2014.
I live in the United States.
I have good healthcare coverage.
Why did no one warn me that stillbirth could be a possibility?


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Proof

Today in the shower, I noticed I have stretch marks.  I have stretch marks!  I didn't get them with Benjamin, and after that pregnancy, I was relieved to have my old body back within a short time.

Now, the idea of getting my old body back is scary.  I instantly felt grateful for these stretch marks.  I hope they never fade.  I like the proof on my body that I carried Lydia for 34 weeks, that Lydia was in fact here.

The second child

An article on bereaved parents tells others never to say, “At least you have other children.”  The author poses the question, “And which of your children would you like to live without?”

But still, I can’t imagine what we’d do right now if we didn’t have Benjamin.  It’s not that we love Lydia any less than Ben.  It's not that I don't want my daughter just as much as my son.  It’s just that Ben is my reason to get out of bed in the morning.  He needs me.  I need to be needed right now. 

Our baby items – the swing and the bouncers and the high chair and the car seat and the Boppy and the Bumbo -  all the things you think you need before you bring home a baby – Benji used them all.  They have happy memories associated with them.  Sure, we expected to make new memories of Lydie with them, and it rips my heart out looking at the empty swing in the front room.  But still, Benji rolled over on that play mat.   He used every bottle, and the bottle rack dried them.  I cannot fathom coming home to all those items, brand-new, just received at the baby shower, just set up carefully by Dad, with no baby. 

Our counselor, who we saw on Friday and we’ll see again on Monday, kept telling me not to compare loss or grief.  Not to compare miscarriages to stillborn babies to losing a child at any age.  And specifically to me, not to compare losing your first child to losing your second child.  And I get where she’s coming from; I’m quickly learning that each person has their own grief, which is so unique (which is why I hate when people tell me “I know how you feel.”  You have NO idea how I feel.  I also find that people who have actually been through similar situations never try to tell me they understand… because they know how individual grief is.) 

Even so, I told her how I feel less empty – physically less empty – when Ben is sitting on my lap.  I have never so appreciated the weight of my son before.

We made it out of the house on a short walk this morning, and this kid makes me smile.  I'm so grateful to have him as my biggest distraction to my broken heart right now.  And I'm so sad that he is going to grow up without his sister.




Becoming a recluse

I never thought that it would be so scary to leave the house. 

I’m hearing and reading this is normal when grieving.  One woman called it her “Fortress of Solitude.”

There are a lot of fears about leaving my fortress of solitude. Seeing pregnant women.  Seeing babies.  Seeing girls with their mothers. Not knowing whether people heard the news or didn’t.  Answering questions about where my baby is.   Being asked how many children I have.  People asking “Hi, how are you?” as a greeting and not expecting the reply, “Pretty shitty, my baby died last week.”   Having to make small talk about the weather or the traffic.  Having to act normal.

I asked our grief counselor about it and she said don’t push it, it’s okay to hibernate for now.  But I wonder if there’s ever going to be a time I’m ready for it.  I wonder if my anxiety is making it worse than it actually is going to be.  If the anticipation building in my mind is worse than the actual event. 

I wonder how I’m ever going to walk by the infant room on my way to Ben’s classroom; I know I can’t have other people take my son to and from daycare forever.   I wonder how long my mom can go to the grocery store for us. 

The few friends and family members I have seen, I have trouble making eye contact with them.  I don’t know what that’s about either, but it’s easier to talk about Lydie while looking at the floor or out the window.  Maybe I’m afraid of the sympathy their eyes hold.

I had a dream the other night, and I was back in high school with two of my old friends.  I was 16 or 17, and we were at the mall, going down the escalator.   I saw a pregnant woman, and I felt such deep sadness and I knew at that moment the grief that was coming in my future.  I knew I would always be incomplete.

I have avoided Facebook, besides my own page.  I am not ready to see pictures of your babies or your pregnant bellies right now.  Or what about the moms who complain about not getting enough sleep because of their baby?  Do you know what I would give to not be getting enough sleep because of my baby right now?   I thought I would be one of these moms.


How will I ever listen to other people talk about their problems when my daughter is dead?  I worry that I will never function normally again.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Today, we're bringing Lydie home.

Just not quite the way I imagined it.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

One Week Without Her

Today is one week since our Day with Lydie.  I still keep looking at the clock, thinking about what exactly we were doing one week ago.  She was delivered (I just heard the phrase “born into the arms of angels”) at 12:14 pm.  Today, Justin and I lit a candle and shared some quiet moments at 12:14 pm. 

When I found out Lydie had no heartbeat, my doctor talked me through my options.  I asked if we would get to see her, and she said if we wanted to.  I told her I had never thought about whether I would choose to hold my dead baby or not.

But the answer was yes.  Yes, I want to hold my dead daughter.  As long as I possibly can.  In fact, I never want to let her go.

I spent all day holding Lydie, whispering to her that I love her, that I’m sorry.  When Justin was holding her, I sat next to him, holding her hand.

She became more fragile as the day went on, making it more difficult to hold her, more difficult to pass her back and forth.  Her nose was bleeding, and I kept wiping it, again and again and again.  I realized what a futile effort it was, and then I thought “I am her mother, and her nose is bleeding.  I will continue to wipe it.”  I’m so glad I did.

Her blanket got blood on it.  I remember thinking at the time, I can wash this.  Now I don’t want to.  I actually find those spots on the blanket, and I rub my fingers over them and I think of her.

I wish I had sung to her.  There are a million songs I wish I would have sung to her.  I especially wish I would have sung that song that gave me comfort when I was a kid: “And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of His hand.”  Why didn’t I sing that song to Lydie?  Because my voice is awful?  Because I didn’t trust myself to get the words out?  Because I’m not sure that I believe in God anymore?

It will never be enough.  The time we had with her will never be enough.  How do you fit a lifetime worth of hugs and kisses into one afternoon?

I have to remind myself that it wasn’t really her.  She was already gone.


I have to remind myself that she knew how much we loved her.  She could feel that love, all 34 weeks I carried her.  As my cousin’s wife who also lost her baby so eloquently wrote me, “Know that she knew how much you loved her.  She always felt your warmth and the presence of her father.  She would have felt and heard the hustle and bustle of her brother.  All she knew was love.”   
 
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