Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What it's like

I keep looking at the clock – it’s been a week since we found out this morning – and I keep thinking about what I was doing a week ago at this time. I already wrote about thinking that I hadn’t felt her kick as much on the way to the doctor. I think I thought about that the night before too, and then I reminded myself that babies settle in near the end, that they are bigger and don’t have as much room to move so it’s normal to not feel them as much. When my doctor asked the usual question, “Lots of good kicks?,” I told her that, that there wasn’t as much movement but wasn’t that normal? Yep, she said. The sinking feeling in my gut when she couldn’t find that heartbeat. I can’t stop thinking about that sinking feeling. That complete and utter panic. The urgency – but not.

I had told her earlier in my pregnancy that our girl was so active – so much more active than Ben had ever been – always moving and kicking. She replied, “I’ve never seen a problem with a baby that was too active before.” Now I wonder, was she too active? Did she somersault too many times in the same direction? One week ago. Right now, I was walking into my doctor’s office. With no idea of the pain that was about to explode in my world. With no idea how all our dreams and plans and life was about to come crashing down.

In some ways, it already feels like years and in other ways, the pain is still so fresh and so raw, I can’t believe it’s been a week.

I read about a doctor who is now suggesting kick counts to her patients, after delivering a stillborn baby. And I wonder: if I had been counting her kicks, could I have saved her? Everyone keeps telling me it’s not my fault, but then I hear things like this that insinuate that I could have prevented it. If I had been paying better attention to her movement and kicks, would she be here, alive? And when I checked into the hospital, the nurse warned me she had to walk me through this extensive list of questions before we got started. Did you use drugs or alcohol during your pregnancy? I respond no, but I think of how I allowed myself a half glass of wine or beer every week or two. Then she asks. “Have you fallen recently?” So let me get this straight: you’re going to sit here and tell me it’s not my fault, tell me I shouldn’t feel guilty, and then you’re going to ask if I have fallen recently? I respond no, and then I think of how a week or two ago, I literally shut the car door on my belly. I laughed about it and texted Justin to say apparently I’m bigger than I realize, and I hope the amniotic fluid did its job. It’s not so funny now. And I think about how Ben is so rough with me, I joked that he thought my baby bump was his ladder. And how I wanted to touch up paint on the trim upstairs the week before, and Justin said I shouldn’t do it, but I’m so much of a perfectionist – I actually thought that touching up white paint was a big concern of mine –that I still did it myself. One of the stillbirth organizations suggests it uses funds to help women take better care of themselves during pregnancy to prevent stillbirths. Just keep on telling me it wasn’t my fault and keep on putting shit out there like that.

I am angry at my doctor. Not because I think this was her fault. But because when we were waiting, one week ago at this moment, for Justin to join us in the ultrasound room because our baby had no heartbeat, she sat with me and held my hand and told me I was her first priority (I told her I didn’t want to be her first priority). But then 27 hours later, when I was pushing out my dead baby, she wasn’t in the room. She wasn’t even there. It was an easy delivery, Lydie was so little still. The doctors didn’t have to do much. But I think I needed the emotional support of MY doctor, and I didn’t have it. I had some gruff man who announced that Lydie’s cord was fucked up and walked out of the room, as if that was that.

Yesterday, Day 5 Without our Daughter (I will forever mark time this way), was beautiful. 65 degrees in the middle of November. Justin and I actually raked leaves. We always like to take care of our yard, and it felt good to do something productive, something with purpose. We had some moments that we sat down in the middle of the front yard and cried. Justin asked what the neighbors and all the cars driving past would think – a Tuesday afternoon with a couple sitting in the middle of their front yard, crying. I didn’t really care. The sunshine felt good.

My sister and I were texting – I had asked her to look into some organizations we could donate to in Lydie’s name. My mom suggested the organization that took photos of Lydie for us. They gave me – and will continue to give me – such great comfort. But I also want to give money to an organization that stops this senseless tragedy. Isn’t there some organization that does research to prevent cord accidents? Or just fetal death? I asked my sister to look into it. A minute later, she texted back with statistics – and the thing about a text message is, you can’t unread it. I felt like I got punched in the gut and had to sit down in the middle of the yard. I have purposefully been avoiding seeing the numbers, because I don’t want to know. I’m not ready to know. I’m already well-aware that this is extremely rare, extremely unlikely. As much as I appreciate all this outreach from friends and family and strangers, it reminds me that the reason that I am hearing from so many people it is because it is so rare, so unimaginable. I’m not ready to ask “Why me?” I’m not ready to ask, “Why my daughter?”

Which is what my best friend said last week, when I sat staring at the wall, one hand on my belly which held my dead daughter, waiting to go to the hospital. She wailed “Why? Why? Why?” And I told her, in a calm voice, that sometimes these things happen. And then I told her I needed to go. It wasn’t where I was. It’s still not where I am yet. I will get there. But in the meantime, I don’t want to know the numbers.

All our physical memories of our daughter – her footprints, the little sister onesie, the few photos we have, the scrapbook that the nurses made while I was in labor with “Lydia” on the cover – are sitting on the dining room table. A few times a day, we wander in there and we look at them, the only tangible reminders we’ll ever have of our daughter. Sometimes we cry. Sometimes we’re empty.

We are still taking Ben to daycare, so he has his routine. I have a hard time saying goodbye to him when he leaves but I feel relief too. He needs a lot right now, and it is exhausting to be a good parent to him. He has this new fear of clothes, especially pajamas, and I can’t send him to daycare in a onesie. This morning, I finally convinced him to put pants on by bribing him with his favorite book (and pretending to read it myself as he ran away from me, refusing). We’re not pushing pajamas – he can sleep in clothes, but I wonder the psychology behind it. Is he afraid to go to sleep? Is he afraid he won’t wake up? Justin told him the other night that baby Lydie didn’t go to sleep and not wake up, baby Lydie’s heart stopped beating, but then when you sleep, your heart keeps beating. He understands so much more than we realize. These last few days, he has grown up so fast. And I want him to just slow down a bit, be my baby a bit longer.

Writing is still helping but it’s not coming as easily to me now. My thoughts are so jumbled, they are just everywhere and I don’t know how to make sense of them. As of now, 1246 people have read my first blog post, about Our Story. 1246 people! Although Justin says half of those hits could be him, he’s read it so many times. And suddenly, I am terrified to read it again. I wrote it, it happened to us, we lost our Lydie, but I am terrified to relive those two days. Last night, I woke up at 3 am. I was wrapped in her blanket, and my mind went straight to Lydie, and to the terror of the last week. Usually, when I wake up in the middle of the night, I have to tell myself to forget my worries, that everything will be okay. How can you wake up in the middle of the night and tell yourself not to think about your dead daughter?

We’ve had a stressful fall for other reasons. When I was trying to deal with that stress, I would always tell myself – and Justin too – “Ben is healthy, the baby is healthy, you are healthy, I am healthy.” And I would remind myself that that was all that mattered. I would remind myself “this too shall pass.” But this will never pass.

November 12th. One month until Lydie was supposed to join us. If it was a normal morning, if this had never happened, I’d be telling Justin, “The baby will be here in a month!” Now I tell myself one month until her memorial. How do you remember someone you never knew? Sometimes I feel like I got punched in the gut. Sometimes I get choked up just thinking of her (and Ben asks “Mama?” in a concerned voice.) Sometimes I feel empty, just physically empty.  Like the well is dry and I couldn’t cry if I tried. I feel guilty for those moments, on top of all the other guilt I feel. Other times I feel like we can do this, we can get through this, we’ll be okay one day. As my husband described it, “The emotions come on so quickly and unannounced, unbearable and so intense, only to wane and leave me so empty inside.”

It’s scary to think of leaving the house, of not having control over who we see and when and what they know or don’t know and what they say and what questions they ask. I don’t want to talk on the phone, not even to my sister or my dad. When I read your notes, I have control over when I read it and how (or if) I respond and when I need to take a minute to sob, I can give myself that in a way I can’t on the phone. (Side note: My dad, who has always just wanted to fix all my problems for me, called on Day 2 or 3. My mom just told him I managed to eat a little bit of breakfast. So I get on the phone with him and he asks, “So are you better today?” No Dad, I’m not better today). We spend a lot of time on the computer instead, reading blogs of other parents who have been through this. Giving us hope that we can survive this.

I have these fleeting thoughts about ways things could be worse. There are parents who lose their children because they back over them with the car, they leave them in a hot car accidentally, they let their children drown in the bathtub. That would be worse. I don’t know if SIDS is worse but I suspect it is. But at least those parents got to meet their child. My biggest fear when Ben was a baby was going in to find him not breathing. Now I find myself checking his breathing once he is finally asleep at night. Once the unimaginable has happened to you, there’s no believing it’s not going to happen again.

Yesterday, for a moment, I got mad at my daughter. We got these gorgeous flowers delivered, and I stood staring out the window, and I actually thought, “Why did you do it Lydie? Why would you leave us?” And it feels super shitty to blame your not-yet-born daughter for dying. As if she chose to do it. As if she had control over the situation.

There’s no control in this situation. All there is is extreme helplessness, extreme pain. I am so scared for each day.

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