Friday, May 29, 2015

Cottage Weekend

We are pretty fortunate that my parents own a cottage on the shores of Lake Huron in Canada, a few minutes from where they grew up and most of our family still lives, and where my sister and I were born.  We spend a lot of time there in the summer.  I love the place.

Last summer, with my Lydie belly, I'd remind both myself and Justin that we'd have a six-month-old with us next summer.  I pictured her crawling around on the deck, eating sand on the beach, splashing in the water, and of course, giggling.

This time, pulling open the cottage door, and let's be honest, rushing to the bathroom, I couldn't help thinking that last time I was there, Lydie was with me.  It was Labor Day weekend.  I was 24 weeks pregnant.  And I was happy.  Life was busy, but simple in a way I don't think it will ever be again.

I was excited for this weekend, but apprehensive too.  I don't socialize very well these days, though I do okay with my close-knit family.   But as I've mentioned, it's tough to watch the cousins run around together and know one is missing.  It's tough to watch my sister and her older brother, younger sister kids.  It's tough to watch my niece on my dad's knee.  It's tough to watch everyone else imbibing in their drinks, when I'm pregnant and should instead be sitting with a six-month-old on my knee.  It's tough to always feel sad, even when I'm feeling happy.

Life's a lot more complicated than it used to be.

It was a good weekend, overall.

But the tough moments were really tough.  Like, when we visited my Oma at the nursing home.  She has Alzheimer's Disease, which my Opa also had.  And I thought about how cruel the universe is, that this perfect baby, ready to live in the world, never got to take her first breath.  And the 87-year-old hardworking immigrant can still remember every word to "You are my Sunshine" but doesn't recognize her own daughter, much less her grandchildren or great-grandchildren.

And then the moment that my sister went to take a photo with her daughter, her mother, and her grandmother.  Holy, trigger alert.  I lost my shit.  I just totally exploded, and I walked away, sobbing, hearing Benji cry "Mama!  Mama!" after me.  I couldn't even get out of the nursing home, because you had to punch a code in the door, and I couldn't stop hyperventilating long enough to do so.

If my nephew or my brother had been in that photo, it wouldn't have hit me the same way.  But 4 generations of women?  Trigger.  Trigger.  Trigger.  My 4th generation is dead, long before she should be, while the 1st generation is holding on, with no quality of life whatsoever.

Seriously, the universe is fucked up.

But back to the good weekend.

Benjamin had so much fun on the beach with his cousins, playing rescue trucks, splashing in the water, digging lakes, kayaking, and going for walks.  It made my heart happy to see him love it so much.  And meanwhile, I got to park my butt on a beach chair and do some reading, talk to my brother and sister watching the sunset, sit around the campfire with my family, and snuggle up for early bedtimes with my husband.

And I felt Lydie.

I struggle with that usually.  Feeling her with me, finding the signs, believing in them when they do appear.

We like the stars.  I like to think of her up there in the stars.  And Friday night, after a beautiful sunset over the lake, out popped one bright star.  Part of me wants to wish upon that star that she could come back to me.  The other part looks up at that star and tells my daughter hello.

I'm clearly no Carly Marie.
And then there's the things we do to feel her with us.  Taking a moment of quiet before eating dinner, lighting her candle, and saying, "We love you, Lydie."  I appreciate that my family has embraced that also, that we make sure there's a candle on the table for every meal, that we're all gathered around when we light it, that my dad, who is a man of few words, is always the first to say, "Love you, Lydie."

There was even a moment were my dad accidentally called my niece Lane "Lydie."  It took my breath away and then I wanted to laugh.  Considering I accidentally call my kid the dog's name sometimes, it seems right that Lydie's name is in the pile that grandparents and parents mix up.

There's the red heart "Lydie stone" that Justin carries in his pocket.  I have to admit that I was skeptical when he started carrying it around in his pocket, after wrapping it up for Lydie, placing it under the Christmas tree, and unwrapping it himself.  I thought about all the holes that stone would wear in his Dockers.  Now?  It is a tangible way to show she is always with us.  I love that Benjamin kisses that stone and Justin cherishes that stone.  I love that when we go to take a family picture, we can bring that out to represent our little girl.  It makes that family photo not so painful. 
When Lydie first died, Justin and I made a big point of saying "Our two kids, our two kids."  We had to acknowledge her.  Now, we are trying to shift to "our three kids."  Our family of five.




(Which is why, I have decided that when I am no longer pregnant, I am finally getting that tattoo.  I never wanted a tattoo but always figured that my dad would kill me.  I have a feeling that he'd let this one go.)

We write her name in the sand.  When we go on walks, we look for stones she might like, and I tell my nephew that he can pick one out and I will take it home and put it with her things.  Justin chooses one to place in her garden at home, bringing her a bit of the cottage.  We talk about her.  We miss her out loud.

I will always wish we had more.

And then there's Bowie, who as of yesterday's ultrasound, is still stretching and growing inside me.  With Benjamin, we took a weekly bump photo.  And with Lydia, I kept it up.  I'm the second middle child, and I never wanted her to feel overlooked.  So I kept up those weekly bump photos.  And now, I'm so glad we did, even though they are very painful to look at.

So we're continuing the tradition with Bowie.  And just like his or her sister (I'm guessing his) at 16 weeks, Bowie got a beautiful view last week.

Side note: I look huge.  I'd like to think it's the way I'm leaning.

With Lydia at 16 weeks.
With Lydia's little brother or sister at 17 weeks.






















We haven't mentioned this pregnancy to Ben yet.  I'm waiting for him to ask about my growing belly, and I'm a little surprised he hasn't yet.  My therapist asked me what we are waiting for, and I instantly started crying, as I explained to her, "I can't tell my son that another baby died."  But looking at this photo, I'm wondering if he already knows more than I realize.  Two-year-old's are surprisingly perceptive.




Sometimes I realize that we're moving forward.  Moving forward, but not moving on.

Even a storm rolling in, bringing in the cooler air, makes me feel closer to my girl.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Lydie's Garden

A while ago, both my aunt and my mom mentioned the possibility of a memorial garden for Lydie.  I wasn't sure.  My thumb is not green and it seemed like a lot of work and quite frankly, I find life overwhelming as it is these days.

A few days later, as I looked at Lydie's Christmas tree still glowing in April, I thought, "Why the hell not?"  Perhaps we could at least be seasonally-appropriate with the ways we honor Lydie.  I polled my Third Trimester Loss group for ideas and heard a lot about angel statues.

A couple of days later, Ben and I were out running errands when I saw this and immediately decided that every girl needs a bike.  And dammit, I was going to buy this bike for my daughter.  And that settled it for me: Lydie would have a garden and that garden would have a bike. We really just aren't angel statues people.


Not quite the bike I had in mind for Lydie, but every girl needs a bike. 
When my parents were in town for Benjamin's birthday, we sectioned off part of the yard and started the process of killing the grass.  We seem to have no problem accidentally killing grass, but intentionally doing it seems much more difficult, especially because I'm against chemicals (dog + 2-year-old + scary-as-hell pregnancy = no thank you).

My mom suggested laying wet newspaper on top of the grass, and I dug through the recycle bins and the antique tin by the fireplace to find some old newspaper.

When I was about to lay this one down, it took my breath away:

That's right.  This newspaper is dated November 5, 2014.

After I got over the "Oh my God!  Oh my God!  Oh my God!"  I stopped and thought about it.  Justin and I don't read USA Today (in fact, we had a hard time finding newspaper because you know, we have Iphones).  But my dad was on a business trip in Tennessee when he got the phone call that his granddaughter's heart had stopped beating (this one wasn't by me.  I didn't have it in me to deliver that news to anyone else after my husband, mom, and sister).  He was already on his way to Columbus when I spoke to him, and I told him there was no urgency, there was nothing he could do.  But I guess as a parent, he would rather feel useless nearby than useless far away.  I get that.  I appreciate that.  He came as soon as he could.  And he must have brought this USA Today with him.

I threw it on top of the grass and told November 5, 2014 good riddance.  It seemed a little bit fitting to put that paper in Lydie's Garden.

And Lydie's mom and brother and dad and Oma Jo and Pop-Pop started the work on her garden.





When friends and family members heard about our plans, they surprised us, as usual with their thoughtfulness and generosity.  It's sweet knowing that these plants and decorations were chosen for Lydia with love.

"You are the sunshine in my life," from my Oma's garden. Justin picked out the moon for Lydie.  

A lilac bush from Lydie's Aunt Laura and her cousins.
A beautiful glass flower, made for Lydie by my colleague Heidi

A sweet note with a gift card to a garden store from my carpool buddy, Marlaine

Bright yellow dahlia bulbs - perfect for our girl - from Sam's mom, Jeanie
From her mama.  I am not a Bible person but have always loved this verse.  It was read at our wedding and 3 1/2 years later, at Lydie's memorial.  It reminds me that love transcends death.

Justin's creation
From her Oma Jo, this reads "My heart goes with you wherever you are."  Another version of "i carry your heart with me. (i carry it in my heart.)"

Dragonfly from Oma Jo

wagon full of flowers from Mrs. Taylor, transplanted from her home.
A few weeks ago, my mom, who does have a green thumb, visited for the weekend.  The plan was to get Lydie's Garden planted.  I was not looking forward to the manual labor, but was looking forward to having this way to honor our girl.

But then Mother Nature shit on our plans since it wouldn't stop raining all weekend.  Saturday, we worked through the rain to design the garden.  Apparently garden design is very important!  I went to bed on Saturday night hoping we'd wake up to sunny skies to dry out the ground.  And we did!  Until it started pouring rain fifteen minutes later.



Big Brother overseeing.

Last Friday, I took a vacation day and kept Benjamin in daycare for his final day of the summer.  And... I planted my daughter's garden.  I cried when I hit a root from the neighbor's tree when I was trying to plant an azalea bush.  Seriously, universe, I'm planting a garden for my dead daughter.  Can't anything be easy? 

But Justin got home early and dug out that root and helped me finish planting.  And here's our Lydie's Garden. 




It's sad to think that Lydie's Garden will bloom and grow in a way she won't ever get to.  I hope it continues to bring comfort to our hearts and help us keep our girl, and our love for her, close.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

the wall, an anterior placenta, and gender anxiety

Thank you for the responses to our news.  It means a lot to us, it helps make this real, it helps me feel supported and loved.  And feel the support and love for Lydie and this baby too.

Because there's this wall.  There's this defense mechanism that I don't seem to have control over.  I am trying to step around it, trying to make a point to acknowledge this pregnancy.  Trying to feel some hope despite all the fear.

Trying to remind myself, that if I were to lose this baby too, not being attached wouldn't actually make me feel any better. (And in fact, it would probably make me feel a whole lot worse).

The reality is there's not going to be a time I feel safe in this pregnancy.  There's just not.  And I have to, I have to, preface all my statements with "if all goes well..." or "hopefully..." My dad asked me not to talk that way, and I told him that I have to.  It's hard for me when others don't. 

Maybe it's the wall talking.  But I'm unable to picture us bringing home a living, breathing baby.
 
I've been hoping to bond with this baby more when I started to feel movement.  I was feeling movement with Lydie by this time and I've been waiting for it.  But last week, at my appointment, my doctor told me that my placenta is anterior.  Which means it's sitting between the exterior of my belly and this baby, and it's cushioning all the kicks and punches.  And many women with anterior placentas don't start feeling movement until the third trimester.

It also means that it will always be harder to feel movement, which takes away the little ounce of control I felt like I might have, being hypersurveillant about this baby's movement.

That scares the shit of me.

Please ignore that whoever made this graphic did not know how to spell "explanation"
I've read way too much on Google.  I've talked to other mamas who have had anterior placentas.  I'm trying to remember, as far as bad news goes, this isn't that bad.  And believe me, I'm familiar with bad news.

And I'm trying to find other ways to step around this wall.  The bump photos are one way to do that.  Sharing this pregnancy is another.  We are also trying out the nickname "Bowie" (thank you, Jen Watanabe).  Benjamin and Lydia were both "the baby" while in utero.  But we like the idea of nicknaming this Rainbow baby, thinking it will help us to connect.

And then there's the huge issue of gender.  We found out at 20 weeks that Ben was a boy and 19 weeks that Lydie was a girl.  We didn't see any reason to wait (Justin always comments that he's just as surprised at 20 weeks as he would be at birth).  I am was a planner and don't particularly like surprises and I always wanted to envision my baby, to find all those consignment sale and garage sale bargains, to call the baby "he" or "she," to decide on a name.

This time around, I've been tempted to not know.  That's because I want this pregnancy to be as different as it can be.  Also, and mostly, because I want a living daughter so very badly.  I hear this is normal when pregnant after loss, to desperately want the same gender as the child you lost.  And I've gone on and on about how I convinced myself in those first 19 weeks that Lydia was a boy, but only because I wanted a girl so much.  How I was so shocked, so happy to have the opportunity to raise a daughter.  How her nursery still holds enough clothes to outfit her until she turned two or three.

The thing is, I'm grieving that I didn't get to take home the daughter that I was promised for 15 weeks.  That this mother/daughter relationship doesn't look at all the way it was supposed to.  That those clothes sit there untouched.  I'm grieving Lydie.  And I'm grieving the loss of the relationship I was supposed to have with Lydie.

And I desperately still want that relationship.  I want a little sister to wear her hand-me-downs.  I want a daughter to sign up for soccer, not cheerleading.  I want ponytails and rants about how stupid boys are.  I want the girl who calls me when I'm 60, just because we like to talk.  And I want Justin to have that father/daughter relationship too.  I want him to have a daddy's girl, the way I have a mama's boy.  I want him to walk our daughter down the aisle and share a first dance on her wedding day.  He talked about those moments when I was pregnant with Lydie.  And it hurts so much that he'll never have them with Lydie.  And it hurts so much that he may never have them at all.

Hence the temptation not to find out.  Would I really be upset if a living child was placed in my arms, and he happened to be a boy?  

But.

But.

Not knowing the gender is making it so much easier to stop myself from picturing bringing Bowie home.  And I don't think that's doing Bowie, or me, or Justin, any good.  I think we need to work on bonding with Bowie.  We need to continue to take small steps around the wall.

And I think knowing whether Bowie is a little brother or a little sister for Benjamin and Lydia is one way to do that.

If it's a boy, it's a boy.  There's nothing I can do about that.

If it's a boy, there's the chance that Ben could have a living brother.

So.

We find out in a week and a half now.  Of course, that's also the big anatomy scan with the MFM, so we're also hoping that Bowie, no matter whether a girl or boy, looks healthy.


Early Pregnancy Ramblings


March 26, 2015

I should be 8 weeks and 4 days pregnant today.  I say that because the only time I’m confident that I’m still pregnant are those couple moments a week when I’m laying on the exam table and I’m watching this baby’s heart beat.  Then I text Justin and my mom and my sister and Kate and let them know, that at this moment in time, this baby’s heart is still beating. 


The first time I saw that little flicker of a heartbeat, I cried.  Tears of relief that there was in fact a heartbeat.  And tears – not ones of relief – that that heartbeat couldn’t instead be Lydie’s.  That last time I had an ultrasound, it was at the hospital, as I was about to be induced to deliver my little girl, to ensure that her heart had in fact stopped.  And it had.  It was just her bum floating around, pushing against me that I felt.  The heart was still.  So, so still. 



I would trade this heartbeat for Lydie’s heartbeat in a second. 



I don’t want to be pregnant.  I want Lydie to be here.



But since that’s not possible, I’ll instead live in constant fear of the moment this heart stops beating too.   Right now, I tell myself there’s nothing I can do about it.  Obviously I already miss the wine.  And I’m trying to exercise but not too much.  Maybe I did too much with Lydie?  And I’m trying to force myself to eat when I don’t want to.  Losing eight pounds in the first trimester with Lydie could not have been good.  And I was hungry when I was pregnant with Ben.  So in my mind, eating = living baby, not eating = dead baby.



A week or two ago, I was eating Greek yogurt, strawberries, and granola and realized I ate it often when pregnant with Lydie.  What if that’s what killed her?  I thought.  Totally irrational I realize, but I can’t eat that anymore.



It’s a total mindfuck.

I don’t know any other way to explain it.



Last night, while laying on the couch in a total sobfest, I realized that I was pregnant two years ago, I was pregnant one year ago, and I’m pregnant now.



No wonder I’m tired.



I’m so tired.



Grief +the first-trimester of pregnancy = one tired mama.  


Not to mention the almost-two-year-old or the full-time job.



Every day, I just tell myself to get through the day.  It doesn’t matter how well I do it, how often I tear up at work, how many phone calls I ignore or emails I delete.  I just have to do it.  I have to get one more day down without Lydie and one more day where this new baby continues to grow inside me.  (Hopefully).



I wish I could fast-forward until Lydie’s first birthday.   To know what the outcome is, either way.  If I’m going to lose this baby too, just tell me.  If this baby will actually come home with us, just tell me.

 

I don’t want to live this.



I realized the other day that 1 out of 4 pregnancies end in a loss.  1 out of 4.  I’m so programmed for loss that it came as a revelation to me that there’s a higher chance of bringing this baby home, then not.



But what the fuck do statistics mean to me anymore?



When Dr. B told me that this baby will be here by Halloween, I told her not to say that.  DO NOT MAKE ME PROMISES.  You made me promises before.  I bought my little girl a Christmas outfit.  She was supposed to be here before Christmas.  And she wasn’t.  So do NOT make me promises.



I’ve told myself that I don’t want to miss the next 5 months of Ben’s life.  That knocking me out until the end of October isn’t a good option because I want to experience every day with my little boy.  (As if that’s the only reason it’s not an option). 



I really don’t know what I would do without him.  I need his kisses and his hugs and his wanting to play with me all the time as a distraction. 



And I want a sibling – a living one – for him so badly.





March 31, 2015

 If I’m still pregnant, then I’m 9 weeks and 2 days pregnant.  I woke up this morning thinking, “Today you’ll find out you had a miscarriage.”  It sucks to be so programmed for loss.  I want my invincibility back.  



A few weeks ago, I looked up the statistics for miscarriage.  For a moment, I was happily surprised to see that the chances drop dramatically after a heartbeat is detected.  And then that moment passed and I thought, “Who cares?”  When you’ve been the .5%, it’s pretty hard to convince yourself that you won’t be the 5%. 



I am surprised to find myself desperately wishing to be out of the first trimester, and I don’t know why.  Is it the old mentality, the mentality that every other woman seems to have lingering on?  As if there’s a safe time? 



With both Benjamin and Lydia, I thought if you didn’t bleed, you hadn’t miscarried.  So although I tempered my excitement, I didn’t actively worry about miscarriage.  Now?  I am just waiting for it.   I brace myself.  I tell myself before my doctor’s appointment, that if there is no heartbeat, there is wine in the fridge at home.  I really wish I didn’t know so much now.



And if this pregnancy is going to result in another loss, I would rather that loss happen sooner than later.  I would never wish my time with Lydie away.  I would never wish Lydie away.  But if I’m going to experience another loss, I’d rather it happen sooner than later. 



And after that last appointment, where there was still a heartbeat, I told a couple more people. I’m going to tell them if I miscarry, right?  Still, I find myself not wanting to acknowledge this pregnancy, not wanting it to seem real yet.  I figure, as long as this pregnancy continues, these 37 weeks are going to be LONG and there’s going to be a point that I won’t be able to help but feel attached to this little one.  So if I’m still a bit in the denial stage, then maybe it will make the pregnancy feel a bit shorter? 



It’s not that I don’t think about this pregnancy.  I do.  It’s just that I can’t – I cannot – think about the end game.  There’s a chance we could have a living, breathing baby home with us by Lydie’s first birthday, but I absolutely cannot count on that or plan for that, and I really don’t even want to imagine it yet.



And the last thing I want to hear is “congratulations.”  What a load of shit.  I heard that hundreds – maybe even thousands – of times when I was pregnant with Lydie.  When I was walking around with my beautiful Lydia bump, thinking that once you got past the first trimester and all looked good on the 20 week anatomical scan that you were pretty much guaranteed a healthy (living) baby.  No one – not one person – congratulated me when my daughter, my beautiful and perfect daughter, was born.  Because she was dead.  So I do not want to hear it now. 



The funny thing is, I have a little bump.  I didn’t show with Lydie for so long and that surprised me, since they say you show sooner with the second.  9 weeks in now, and I’ve got this little bump.  



Justin and I haven’t talked about this much yet.  We’re waiting I guess.  He asked me recently when we’re going to start celebrating this pregnancy.  I responded, “I don’t know, but not yet.”  What are we supposed to talk about?  How our children would be Irish twins, but I don’t know that that works if one is not living?  How devastated I’ll be if it’s a boy? How we may or may not be able to make use of all of Lydie’s things next fall?



I have to remind myself that I felt guilty when Lydie died because I thought we didn’t celebrate her enough, we weren’t quite ready for her, she was a bit earlier than planned.  That was the guilt talking.  And when that guilt started to subside, I saw how clearly that little girl was wanted and loved.  She still is.  She is wanted and loved.  So if this pregnancy is going to result in another loss, do I really think that it would be better if I hadn’t celebrated it?  Right now, yes, I do.  Later on?  No.  No, there will come a point where we have to embrace it.



It’s not that we don’t want this child.  It’s that we want this child so badly, and we know what it feels like to have all our dreams dashed in an instant. 



I never thought I could survive what I have survived.  And I sincerely think I would not be able to live through it again.






April 22, 2015

I had my first real breakdown of this pregnancy the other evening.  I’m surprised it took so long. 


We were at Andy’s house in Indy, and we had finally gotten Ben to sleep, and the boys were pouring back the craft beers.  And discussing them.  “Oh, taste this one” and “Oooh, this one is really good.” And I’m tired, after a late night the night before and spending the last day and a half with in-laws, and you know, grieving all the time and taking care of a two-year-old and being pregnant.  And I want a fucking beer too. 



And I’m sitting there, feeling how familiar this is, how I was at the end of my first-trimester with Lydie last time we were at Andy’s house.  And the boys poured back the beers and I sat there, sober and tired and jealous. 



Déjà vu. 



Except Lydie died, it’s almost a year later, and I’m doing this all fucking over again.



And it occurred to me that I have no idea whether this pregnancy will result in a living baby.  I have no idea if later, I will think this was worthwhile.  Or if it will end in another heartbreak.



I go upstairs where I have this complete breakdown in the guest bedroom.  I’m sobbing by myself, hoping I’m just loud enough for Justin to hear so he’ll come up.  But that doesn’t seem to be the case, so I sneak downstairs and ask if he’ll come up for a minute.  And he does, and I let it go, sitting on the bed, screaming and crying, “I just did this!  And I am doing it again, and I have NO idea whether this will be worth it.  I have no idea if this baby is going to be born alive.  And I can’t do it again!  I can’t deliver another dead baby!  I never thought I would be able to survive what I have, I never thought I’d be able to do this, so maybe I could live through it again… but I really don’t want to!  I don’t want to!  I just did this!  I just fucking did this!”



Justin rubbed my back and didn’t say much of anything.  What’s he supposed to say?  He can’t promise me this baby will be born alive. 



It’s going to be a very long 37 weeks.  I hope so anyway.  I hope it’s 37 weeks.

  

Monday, May 18, 2015

Choosing hope. Or trying to.

So.

I am pregnant.

With our third child.

Shocking, I know.
You're probably like, "Woah, didn't she just write about how much anxiety pregnant women give her?"  Yes.  I did.  They do.  My anxiety about pregnant women has only gotten worse being pregnant myself.  They only make me more uncomfortable, because I feel so very different from them.

Let me back up.  

I'm pretty sure I started thinking about another baby while I was still in the hospital with Lydie.  I didn't say anything out loud because that would have just been crazy.  I was trying to soak up every moment with my daughter.  I think I just told myself, this can't be the end of our story.

I continued to think about it in those initial days, weeks, months.  I told myself it was a knee-jerk reaction.  I told myself to slow down.

We all know that I like to refer to Elizabeth McCracken to explain how I feel, because she does it better than I do.  She explained it as two separate wantings, her wanting for her stillborn son and her wanting for another child.  And one of those wantings, she could do something about, while the other she could not.  I nodded my head A LOT during that part.

The truth is, we do want Lydie.  We want Lydie not in an urn on our mantle, but sitting up and laughing and watching her big brother get into trouble.  We want that more than anything.  But there's this stage of grief that Elizabeth Kubler-Ross calls "acceptance."  I, by no means, think I am there.  But I do realize that that dream of mine is never going to happen.  I realize that Lydie will always be missed.  A friend of ours says that Kubler-Ross should have called it "resignation," and I believe that is far more accurate.

I know we will continue to grieve for Lydie for the rest of our lives.  No matter how many other children we have.

I also always knew that being pregnant again would be hard.  Really hard.  Terrifying.  Before I became pregnant, I had anxiety about having anxiety about being pregnant.  It seemed easier to jump into the anxiety itself.  I knew that no matter how long we waited, that anxiety wouldn't be going anywhere.

I'm also 33.  Not old.  But certainly not getting any younger or becoming any easier to have children.

I also wanted to have my children close together.  Lydia was stillborn when Ben was 19 months old.  It wasn't supposed to look that way.  And I find myself still wanting my children close together, although I'm learning that I don't have nearly as much control over that as I always thought I did.

And I also found myself terrified of secondary infertility.  You may scratch your head at that one.  Nothing in our history indicates that conceiving would be a problem.  My therapist reminded me often not to allow infertility any space in my story until it had to be there.  But still, there was a deep-seeded fear: what if this is it?

We did the math about conception and timelines and Lydie's birthday and due date and asked if should try to avoid a November baby.  And a December baby.

But if I've learned anything, it's that I can't control these things.  I didn't feel like trying to manage due dates.

I told myself (and let's face it, my husband) we'd give it three months and if all these yearnings were still present, we'd talk about trying for our third.  I've been very careful with that language.  "Trying again" makes Lydie sound like she was a mistake, an error, like we need a redo.  "Trying for a third" acknowledges Lydie's place in our family.  She is and always will be our second child.

So that's how I found myself pregnant not even three months after Lydia's stillbirth.

It wasn't elation when I saw that second pink line.  It was "oh."  It was a deep breath.  It was tucking the open bottle of wine out of my sight in the fridge. The fear shifted from secondary infertility to miscarriage.  And it was denial for a while.  Justin said something about me being pregnant early on and I snapped at him, "I'm not pregnant!  I just had a positive pregnancy test!"  I had to wait two weeks to see my OB at 6 weeks and I became a little more convinced after seeing that little heart beating.  (But I cried too, because last time I had an ultrasound it was to determine, just to be sure, that Lydie's heart wasn't beating.  And it wasn't.  I cried because I so very badly wished that was Lydie's heart I saw beating.  And I also cried from relief, because if I can't make Lydie's heart start beating again, then I want this little one to keep beating).

I'm now 16 weeks.  I have had 11 ultrasounds.   I see my own OB weekly.  I sit in the waiting room with other pregnant women and try to avoid looking at them and all the magazines with celebrities having babies on the cover (damn you, Kate Middleton).   Gratefully, I don't have to wait for more than a few minutes.  My doctor has asked the reception staff to let her know when I arrive and she doesn't make me wait, just snaps me up.  The other women glare at me, and I think, believe me, you don't want this VIP status. 

I see two doctors, who are in conversation about my care.   The Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist was the second one we consulted with back in January, when this pregnancy was entirely hypothetical.  He seemed willing to do what helps to help me "manage" my anxiety.  He's willing to measure the cord.

The thing is, I'm not only afraid of cord accidents.  I am now very familiar with the many, many ways that babies can die. I know about all the things that can go wrong in pregnancy.  And after birth. 

I didn't have a miscarriage in the first trimester, like I pretty much expected to.  I used to think if you didn't spot during the first trimester, you hadn't miscarried.  I now know all about missed miscarriages.  I now know you can be informed, that actually, that baby of yours stopped growing weeks ago.  Hence seeing my doctor weekly.  I want to know as soon as my baby dies.   I drive to every doctor's appointment reminding myself there's wine in the fridge at home.

But as far as I know, I am still pregnant right now. 

And things look good, at this point in time.

A month ago, I saw the MFM for the nuchal translucency scan, looking for Down's Syndrome, Trisomy 13, and Trisomy 18.  Their equipment is amazing, and I couldn't believe all the details we could see on this little one.  And the results came back "absolutely perfect."

I have to remind myself this is a good news.

It's just that Lydie's results would have come back absolutely perfect too.

It's hard to find any sort of relief, any sort of peace of mind.

I cringe when I hear "congratulations."  That's hard to hear, for reasons that I've explained before.  Like how I heard that so many times while pregnant with Lydie but not once after she was (still)born.  I would like to hear "congratulations" if and when I am holding a breathing baby in my arms.  But I understand it's what people say when they hear this news.   I have a friend, a fellow BLM, whose first son was stillborn and is expecting her second child 4 days ahead of me.  I asked her if she hates hearing "congratulations" too.  "No," she told me.  "It reminds me of the hope.  And its so easy to let the fear win over the hope.  So 'congratulations' helps me hang on to the hope."  What wise words, and ones I am trying to remember.   (And if you want to say "good luck with that," I'm okay with that too.  I certainly hope to have good luck with this).

My due date is November 1st.  Yes, that's right, November.  5 days before Lydia's first birthday.  361 after the worst day of my life.

But if all goes well, this little rainbow will be delivered at 37 weeks.

And besides, the due date is a moot point.  Let's see if we get there first.

It's hard for me to share this news.

I worry about my baby loss friends who are at different parts of their journeys.  I worry about the ones that have not been able to have their rainbow, my friends who have to deal with infertility on top of loss.  I worry that this pregnancy reminds them of how unfair the world is.  I worry that I'll make them feel the way other pregnant women make me feel.  I worry that I'll alienate or cause more pain to the very women that have been my lifelines.  (And for you mamas, I want us all to be holding living babies in our arms).

I worry that others will think it's too soon.

I worry that others won't understand the complexities in this pregnancy.  I worry they won't understand the fear.

I worry that others will think this means we've "moved on"or that we're "over" Lydie or that this "fixes" things.

So to be clear: this pregnancy doesn't fix anything.

I will miss my daughter for the rest of my life.

But it does give us a very small amount of hope.

I desperately hope that she'll become a big sister soon. I desperately hope that this baby will live.


With all three of my babies. 


Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Lending Library

After Lydie's death, I wanted to read everything I could get my hands on about stillbirth, child loss, and grief.  And the public library, which is where Justin and I usually get our reading material, did not have much.  The "My baby died, now what?" section was quite thin.  Yet I stumbled on dozens of titles I wanted to read and purchased a few off Amazon or authors' websites. (Taking my grief shopping, shopping for grief!)

So a few months ago, I emailed the whole contact list for our support group, which included many parents who haven't attended in years, and asked if they'd like to donate books in memory of their children in order to begin a lending library for the support group.

And it turns out other baby loss parents also want others to have more resources available than they did.  Lots of parents donated their personal books, while others purchased books for the lending library that they found most helpful after the death of their babies.

Through email, I got to talk to many of these parents and hear their stories.  And once I received their books, I designed these book dedications in honor of their babies:


This is what I wish existed six months ago.



About 35 books are in our lending library in total and a few more on their way. If you need books suggestions, I have read most of them!

I told my therapist at one point that I find myself having a lack of motivation these days.  A lot of things that used to seem important just don't anymore.  She pointed out the lending library and my hard work on it, and asked if perhaps my motivation just shifted.  I'm trying to remember that. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Unplanning

I have always been a planner.

Or maybe I should revise that.  I had always been a planner.  Until my daughter died.  

I had plans.  I had plans to have a living baby on December 12th.  I had plans to raise a daughter, to dress her in all those cute clothes I bought her, to teach her how to swim and how to be self-confident.  I had all sorts of plans for us, for our mother/daughter team, our perfect family of four.

My plans clearly didn't work out.

So if I've learned anything in this new life after loss, it's that plans need to be made with a whole lot of flexibility.  Or perhaps not be made at all. 

It's hard to commit to social engagements.  It's hard to commit to doing much besides staying in my Fortress of Solitude with my husband and my son. 

I don't know when the waves of grief will hit.  Sure, there are the times I know will be tough.  But other days, I don't see the waves coming, but they knock me on my ass.  It's impossible to plan for them.

On Justin's 35th birthday, we drove to Indiana.  We left Benjamin with his grandpa for the evening, and we drove up to Purdue, Justin's alma mater to see our favorite band, The Avett Brothers.  Before the evening, it felt like fate.  Justin's birthday, 35th at that, his dad offering to watch Ben, his college, our favorite band.  Oh, and our good friend Andy joining us.  Like the stars were aligning to give us a night out.  

Before we left, Justin's dad's wife said, "If Lydie were here, we'd be watching her too."

And I thought, "No.  If Lydie were here, we wouldn't be here."

And who wants a night out when they could be home with their baby?  All night, I kept thinking about what a lousy consolation prize it was.

The first song we heard at that concert?   A song that I have not been able to listen to for the past six months.  One that has the lyric, "she has got a baby with brand new eyes."

So I'm standing there in this concert, crying, wishing desperately I was home with my baby with brand new eyes.

It's hard to predict the triggers.

And that is why I no longer like making plans.

Last Friday, I took the day off work, took Ben to school and hoped for a nice day to myself.  I was getting my hair cut, trying to de-stress, when the woman next to me started talking about her new baby.  And I couldn't run, and I couldn't hide, and I couldn't, though I desperately wanted to, say, "My baby died, so do you mind not talking about your baby?"  It got worse as she continued on that they wanted to have another one right away so her two kids would grow up close in age, and you know, the older you get, the harder it is to have a healthy baby.

The plan was to have a relaxing morning.  The plan was not to sit and listen to someone else talk about her new baby.

At least I got to meet a friend from support group for lunch after that and I could vent and she understood.  And we could laugh about all these women, cluelessly talking about their babies.  How naive are they?!?! (And how much do we wish we could be them?)

I find I fight my own personality in the new unwillingness to plan.

I was born a planner.  I always believed that hard work and dedication would get you to the place you wanted to be.  I believed that life was what you made it.  I believed that I was in control.   I believed in dreams and aspirations.

In high school, I graduated with over a 4.0 GPA.  Didn't get one B.  Didn't know exactly what my plans were, but I knew if I worked hard, I'd put myself in the place I wanted to be.  I knew the plan was to be successful.

In college, there was one semester I partied a little too much and got my first B - two of them, in fact. 
But after that, I struggled a bit more with plans.  That summa cum laude title didn't seem to mean much in the real world.  I floundered a bit.  I moved to Connecticut, then Colorado.  I taught middle school, I skied, I mountain biked, I drank too much.  I was lonely and I missed my friends and family and I dated some guys I shouldn't have.  I allowed my adventurous spirit to win out and practiced 6 months of unplanning in Australia, where I sometimes figured out where I would sleep that night at 8 or 9 pm.  And I learned that you can live that way too.

And then I returned to Ohio, where I met Justin two weeks later.  And I earned my Master's and I found my job and we bought a house and we got engaged and all those years of floundering in my mid-20's seemed like a hell of a good adventure that allowed me to have stories to tell.  Because the plans seemed to be falling in place again.

So what now?

A dead daughter was not part of my life's plans.

This grief was certainly not part of my life's plans.

How do I write my performance review for work, where I must reflect on professional development plans for the 2015-2016 academic year, when right now, my plans consist merely of getting through the day?  What would my supervisors think if I responded that I would like to cry in my office less next year?  I'm not sure that's quite what they have in mind. 

The "get through the day" mentality is where I am.  It's realistic.  In life after loss, you learn that all you really have is the present moment.  The future?  You never actually have that until it arrives.  

Besides a planner, I've also always been a saver.  It's always been much harder for me to spend money than save money.  I was the kid that would stash away all her Halloween candy.  I was the 26-year-old that came home with two boxes of my favorite "bikkys" (Tim-Tams!)  from Australia and rationed them so much that I had to throw half of them away months and months later.

I've never really believed in instant gratification. Now?  I'm the one who keeps telling my husband that I am "taking my grief shopping" as I peruse Amazon in the evening or as another package shows up at our door.  I'm not blowing our life savings by any means, but I'm finding the future hard to believe in, and suddenly it's a bit easier to spend my money today than it used to be.

Like all the other personality changes I've experienced in the past six months, I am not sure what will stick.  But as for now?  I'll be focusing on getting through each day, and sometimes taking my grief shopping helps me do that.


 
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