Wednesday, July 29, 2015

My First Unnecessary Visit to L&D

I didn't feel Bowie as much as usual yesterday. 

So this morning, I was hoping for big kicks, big movement, big signs that she was okay.  And I was getting nothing.

I grab the gel and the Doppler, tuck a towel around my shorts, curl up with Ben on the couch, and wait to hear that heart beat to put my mind at ease.

Except.  Nothing.


Over the weeks, I've gotten better at finding that heart beat quickly or at least hearing the cord or the placenta at work.

And this time: nothing.

I start hyperventilating.  I start shaking; I can't even keep it steady enough to keep looking.

I dial Justin at work.

I tell him I can't find the heartbeat.  I'm pretty sure he starts hyperventilating too.  "Do you want me to come home?" he asks.  "Or meet you at the hospital?"

The hospital it is.

"Dis no work?" Ben asks, pointing to the Doppler, as I order him to get his shoes on. 

He must sense my anxiety because he has his Crocs on quicker than I've ever seen, and waits patiently by the door for me as I rush around putting the dog in the crate and grabbing the Ipad and a snack cup.  And wondering if that extra minute would have saved my baby's life.  Wondering if I'd always regret that extra minute.

I throw Benjamin in the car and drive ten about the speed limit to the hospital.  The same hospital that Ben was born in; the same hospital that Lydia was stillborn in.  I fluctuate between telling myself I'm sure everything is just fine, sobbing, and hyperventilating.  I debate calling my mom.  I curse at stop lights.  I picture being told "I'm sorry, there's no heartbeat," being induced, giving birth to my silent, dead child. 

I grab Ben from his car seat, run into Labor & Delivery, announce to the front desk woman: "I'm 26 weeks pregnant.  I haven't felt much movement.  I couldn't find the heartbeat on the Doppler.  My daughter was stillborn."

"Have a seat," she gestures to me.

I don't want to fucking sit down.

I sit.

She slowly taps on her computer, looks up at me, with Benjamin sitting on my lap, and asks, "Is this your first pregnancy?"

Seriously, people.

I can't make this shit up.

I am led back to a triage room, told to put on the hospital gown.

My two-year-old starts telling me he needs to pee.  "Can you hold it?" I ask.  "We need to check on Bowie."

"No, mama, no hold it!  Go pee." 

I poke my head into the hallway, see all these nurses standing around, ask one where the bathroom is.  My hospital gown is only half on, and I'm barefoot, but I don't particularly care.  I am unsure if my second daughter is dead or alive and I have a two-year-old who needs to pee.  And I'm crying. The nurse asks why I'm here.  I tell her; I'm 26 weeks pregnant, I haven't felt much movement, the Doppler was silent, my daughter was stillborn.  Her face softens.  She walks us to the bathroom, tells me she'll be waiting to hook me up when we're done.

I don't make Ben wash his hands.

Back in the room, I'm sobbing as she gets the machine ready.  Justin walks in, sees me sobbing, thinks the worst.  I see his face crumble seeing me on the bed, "Is she..."

"We don't know anything yet," I interrupt him, and his face changes immediately.

He knows what it's like for your wife to tell you that your daughter is dead.

The monitor is put on me.

And there's Bowie's heartbeat.

Loud and strong.

I lay there and cry and cry and cry.

Listening to that heartbeat.

The nurse pats my arm.  "I'll wait to take your blood pressure until you calm down a bit," she tells me.

We watch the heart beat stay between those lines.  Between 120 and 160, just where it should be.  "Pretty good for a 26 weeker," the nurse says.  Babies aren't expected to pass NSTs until 28 weeks.

Soon, Bowie starts kicking.  Big kicks.  Kicks we can hear, see, feel.  Kicks that make my hospital gown jump.

Kicks I would have done anything to feel a couple hours ago.

I feel like an idiot.

I feel more like an idiot when Justin pulls my Doppler out of my purse, mentions that the volume button seems to have been pushed down.  (I would like to mention that we don't know for sure that was the issue earlier.  But I'm sure wondering.)

They keep me hooked up for a while, and I don't mind, besides the two-year-old getting antsy.  I say that they are welcome to keep me here, on this monitor, for the next 11 weeks. They seem to think I'm joking.

They tell me that's how it always is, that babies are quiet until you get there and then they kick away.  I think, well, that's not how it always is.  Sometimes babies are just dead.  Sometimes you still think you feel them after they're dead but it turns out just to be their bums floating around in amniotic fluid.  They tell me that I was smart to come in, that I should come in anytime I think something might be wrong.

I don't trust myself to know when something might be wrong.  I don't trust myself to know when everything is fine.  I don't trust my instincts at all anymore.

They do an ultrasound, watch for Bowie to move, watch her practicing breathing.  They tell me she looks great.

They hook me up to the monitors again.  They say they're getting a hold of my doctor, and they'll send us home when they get the all-clear from her.

So eventually, that happens.  And I get a way-too-tired boy home for nap, and I call my mom and cry, and I eat lunch and wonder how the hell I am going to survive the next 11 weeks. 

I know the panic attack while using the Doppler today stemmed from the moment I knew that Lydie was dead.  The silent Doppler was so familiar; I know what a silent Doppler means.  I can't really imagine giving birth to a live Bowie.  It is easier for me to imagine giving birth to a dead Bowie.  I know exactly what that looks like.

I knew I'd be in L&D at some point because I was worried.  I didn't think it would be so soon.  

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

More Tidbits

As we expected, my Oma died last Monday.  My mom was with her, and she tells me it was peaceful.  It made me wonder, for the millionth time, at what moment Lydia died.  And I told myself, it was peaceful.  It was peaceful, whenever it was.

In order to make the funeral, I had to reschedule my MFM appointment.  Which scared the crap out of me.  What if something happened between Thursday and Monday?  What if something could have been caught on Thursday but by Monday it was too late?  What if Bowie died because I attended my Oma's funeral?

I managed to talk myself out of my crazy and rescheduled the appointment, but with increased anxiety.

And we headed up to Canada.

To be honest, the hardest part of the week was not my Oma's death.  My Oma had not been well in a long, long time, and though I would hesitate to call any death "a blessing," she did not have a good quality of life.  I started grieving her years ago.  I will miss her, but I have been missing her for years now.  I hate Alzheimer's.

The hardest part of the week was dealing with triggers about Lydie's death.  Hearing people say things like, "It was her time."  (Great.  I can get on board with that.  But let's also acknowledge that many, many people don't die when it's their time.  Sometimes they just die, and it's not their time at all).  There was a lot of talk about my Opa meeting her at heaven's gates and I don't even know where I stand on heaven, but it made me wonder: who greeted Lydie?  Who greeted Lydie when the people who love her most are stuck here on earth without her?  There was talk about angels welcoming her home. 

There was the baby that was due one day after her.  I couldn't believe how big he was.  I didn't want to be anywhere near him, and yet I found myself staring at him.

There were a lot of thoughts of Lydie.

I appreciated the few people that realized that my tears were not just for Oma.  That could make the connection that the reason I might be sobbing through the opening song at my almost-88-year-old grandmother's funeral was not just that I will miss her, but that we sang that song eight months ago at my own daughter's memorial.  And that she should be in my arms right now -- but she's not. 

There was the obituary, which included Lydia's name.  I told Justin that it's fucked up that I'm so grateful to see her name in print, even when stating her great-grandmother was predeceased by her.  Justin told me it's because she's included, because she counted.  True. But I think it's also because I don't get to see her name in print very much at all.  And have I mentioned how much I love her name?

We have a big family.  Oma and Opa had 7 kids, 2 of whom died, 23 grandchildren, 2 of whom died, and currently have 15 great-grandchildren, 2 of whom have died.  That's a lot of loss.  There's "Lydia" listed last.

Each great-grandchild walked up the aisle to lay a rose on my Oma's casket.  I walked up with Ben, holding a rose from Lydie.

As my Oma's casket was led from the church, the choir erupted in an unplanned burst of "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine."  I pictured my Oma singing it to us all those years, and in her final days, singing those words even though she no longer knew her own name.

But I also know that the second verse is: "The other night dear, as I lay sleeping.  I dreamed I held you in my arms.  When I awoke, I was mistaken.  And I hung my head and cried."

And at that moment, I cried for both my Oma and my daughter.


We stopped by to see Lydie's tree after calling hours.   Spend some time with our girl.  Her tree is directly next to my cousin's son's tree.  Caleb was stillborn in the spring of 2013.

We weren't planning to visit her tree again, but when we were there for my Oma's burial, Benjamin recognized the cemetery.  "Lydie's tree?" he asked.  How could we say no to that?  And I looked at my nephew and niece and knew it was important they spend some time with our girl too.

And then Oma Jo rushed over, holding a rose for Lydie.  The rose from Oma's casket.

In the green of the grass... in the smell of
the sea... in the clouds floating by...
at the top of a tree... in the sound
crickets make at the end of the day...

“You are loved. You are loved. You are
loved,” they all say.

When most people talk about cord accidents, they are referring to nuchal cords, or the umbilical cord around the neck (which is actually what Benjamin had that resulted in an emergency c-section).  Lydie didn't have a nuchal cord.  But she had a small narrowing in her cord, a spot that lacked Wharton's Jelly, and she managed to twist and turn in a way that kinked her cord at that exact spot.  Just like a garden hose.  The Wharton's Jelly is supposed to prevent that from happening.  It clearly did not.

I saw the cord myself.  It didn't leave much room to wonder what happened to her.

And now every time I see a garden hose, I grimace.  I think of Lydia's cord.

So we know WHAT happened, but we don't know WHY it happened.

My rescheduled MFM appointment was yesterday.  I was a bit more anxious about it, because the MFM had told me he would measure the cord.  I pushed him on this issue back in January, when this pregnancy was just an idea.  He agreed to measure the diameter of the cord at both insertion sites as well as a short distance out.  To check for narrowings.  I told myself that hospital bed rest was a possibility if a narrowing was discovered.

Of course, when I reminded the sonographer about the measurements, she informed me that she's worked for Dr. F for 8 years and she's never measured the umbilical cord.  But it looks perfect; nothing to worry about!

There's so much we don't know about what happened to Lydie.  So much doctors don't know.  There's conjecture, yes, but sometimes that is even more frustrating.  Sometimes speculating is worse than saying "I don't know."

Why was there a narrowing in her cord?  Why did one small part of her cord lack Wharton's Jelly? When did that narrowing form?  At conception or soon before she died?  Would it have been visible on an ultrasound, had anyone looked?  Did Lydie only constrict her cord once, or were there other times that she constricted it and managed to straighten it back out?  Would nonstress tests or biophysical profiles have shown anything was wrong?

How do we prevent it from happening again if we don't know why it happened in the first place?

Dr. F reminded us that Bowie's growth is right on target, and that's the best sign that the cord is working well.  I reminded him that Lydia's growth was always right on target too.

She was always perfect, until the moment she wasn't.

I have to remind myself it's still GOOD NEWS that Bowie's cord looks "perfect."  Afterall, we could have been given bad news by now, and we haven't.  But there's no peace of mind to be found.

We did find out that Bowie has hair already.  I wonder if it's dark like Lydie's and her dad's.

Eleven weeks to go, and it feels like an eternity.


My aunt and uncle got these two rocks for us.  One is sitting at the cottage, right by the stairs to go down to the water, and served as the perfect way to take our weekly photo last week.

The other we placed in Lydie's Garden.  Also perfect.

I love them.


A friend recently asked me what we are doing to get ready for Bowie, and I almost laughed out loud.  Obsessing about whether her heart is beating?  Going to multiple doctor's appointments a week?  Hoping, hoping, hoping she doesn't die?

I'm not sure that's what she had in mind.

Lydie's nursery is sitting the same as it was last November.  We call it "Lydie's room" although I am trying to switch to "Lydie and Bowie's room."  Maybe "the girls' room" would feel more natural?  I don't know if I want to change everything because this is a different baby or change nothing.  I get overwhelmed when I think about it.  So I try not to.

I do know, rationally, that there's not much that needs to be done.  We were so prepared for Lydia.  And Bowie can wear all her hand-me-downs (are they still hand-me-downs if big sister never got to wear them?)  The bottles can stay in the basement until she comes home.  And the bouncy seat.  And the swing.  And maybe my mom can bring the carseat to the hospital if she's born alive?

I took a leap recently and bought a few items for Bowie at Gymboree.  (My first time in there in 9 months; it felt like a big step).   I reasoned that if Bowie is born alive at 37 weeks, she will need some newborn-sized clothes, which her 41 week brother never needed and I did not expect Lydie to need. I felt furtive about it, like if the sales woman asked me if I was having a girl, I would throw all the clothes down and run out of the store.  I asked their return policy.

I have to remind myself; Lydie did not die because I planned for her.  Lydie did not die because I thought she was coming home.

Or as another BLM's therapist told her: Hope never killed a baby.

Still, the extra clothes feel I'm tempting fate.

I picture myself, with a deflated belly and gorged breasts, standing in front of an even full-er closet.  Asking myself, "How could you be so stupid?"  And... "How could you be so stupid twice?"


I've written a lot about how pregnant women raise my anxiety.  And here I am, almost to the third trimester, and it's worse than ever.  I sense pregnant women trying to catch my eye, wanting to share that knowing glance, or perhaps wanting to complain "don't you miss wine?" or "are your feet swollen yet?" or "it's so hot and I'm so pregnant!" Or perhaps it's to talk birth plans or to ask whether it's a boy or a girl or pick my brain on nursery colors.

I look away.

I want to shout, "WE ARE NOT THE SAME!" 

I want to let them know that sometimes babies die.  Sometimes babies die after a perfectly uneventful pregnancy.

I want to tell them they are "pregnant" but maybe they shouldn't be "expecting" anything.

I want to tell them just to see how things go, that showers should really be given after a baby is born, that there's no "safe time."

I look away.


We seem to have Bowie's REAL name narrowed down to two.  One week we are settled on one.  The next week we are settled on the other.

I asked Justin recently, "What if we decide in the hospital?"  We've never done that before.  I'm all for doing things differently this time around.  You know, see if she's living or dead before we make such decisions.  See what she looks like.

Justin says, "I'll probably just call her Bowie regardless."

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Tidbits (A BLM visit, my Oma, and kick counts)

I was pulling weeds out of our front flower bed when Benjamin asked if this was Bowie's garden.  "No," I responded.  "Hopefully Bowie never has her own garden."

And then I touched my belly and whispered my new mantra: "Stay with us."  Sometimes it's "stay safe in there."

I wish my belly were a fish bowl.


Last week, Julie and Cate from BLM land flew in to visit us.  I've made some BLM friends locally, even a few who I originally connected with online.  But this was a first: inviting people that I met online into my home, picking them up from the airport, and hugging them hard upon their arrival.

There are a lot of things I never thought I'd be doing a year ago.

It was a lovely two days with Anna's mom and sister.  There was a lot of talk about Anna and Lydie, our experiences with all of our children woven into our normal conversations (such a relief!)  There were conversations with Cate and Benjamin about their sisters, lighting candles at the dinner table for both of them.  There was laughter and there were tears, especially when we curled up to look at photos of our two perfect little girls.

I broke the double stroller out of the garage for our trip to the zoo.  It's been sitting there unused for over a year, and Julie cried when I offered it up.  It felt right though, to put Benji in there with a rainbow baby.

Not the way I envisioned using this stroller.  But glad to use it.
I wish I never had a reason to meet Julie or the many other loss moms I've connected with, but I'm so grateful to have them in my new normal.

Julie and I listen...

As Justin reads to our kids.  Planting a Rainbow seemed especially appropriate to share.


My Oma is dying.  We are just waiting for the next phone call now.  Which is terrible, in so many ways, except she's 87 and has suffered from Alzheimer's for so many years now.  She used to talk on and on about how much she misses my Opa, but she's long stopped that.  She stopped talking much at all quite a while ago. It's been a long time since she understood enough to hold a conversation, but if you start singing "You are my sunshine," she'll join right in.

My mom told her to give Lydie a hug for us.

That got me.

But this is not a tragedy.  It's a woman who lived a long life.  A hard life, burying not only her husband, but two sons, two grandsons, and now two great grand-children.  Not to mention immigrating from Holland to Canada without knowing if she'd see her ten siblings or her parents ever again.  Mostly, a good hard life though.

She used to offer me ice cream for breakfast and always had homemade cookies ready. It always seemed like she and my Opa had their own secret language, their Dutch intermingled in with their English.  She used to tell my mom "niet te droken en neit te laat" which means "not too drunk and not too late."

This is the way it is supposed to happen.  You are supposed to bury your grandparents.  You are supposed to bury your parents.

The last time I saw her, I was too triggered by the 4-generation photo my sister was setting up to pay her any attention.  I'm told she smiled watching the kids.  I'm trying not to feel too guilty that the last time I spent with her, I was hysterical and pretty much ignored her.

Once my mom calmed me down a bit, she asked me to pose with my Oma.  I didn't want to be in a picture.  I didn't want to take that generational photo without my daughter.  But I did, for my mom, and I guess I'll always be glad I did.

I wish I went to visit just one more time after that, even though our visits only seemed to confuse her more.  
Sunglasses hide my swollen eyes.  And that is not so much a smile.

And now, we wait.

I wasn't going to travel anymore.  25 weeks now, and I wanted Bowie and me to stay nice and close to our doctor and our hospital.  I wanted to know who to call or where to go if I felt that anxiety rise and couldn't shake it.

Also, on a completely selfish note, it will be hard for me to see some of my family, including the baby that was due a day or two after Lydie... and was born alive.  

But this is my grandmother, and I want to be there to say one final goodbye.  So Justin, Benjamin, and me and my Doppler will drive the 5+ hours to do that sometime this week.

And in the meantime, we wait.

And I pack my bags for the beach and for a funeral.  


I've always slept terribly when I was pregnant (remember how my doctor suggested I take melatonin when pregnant with Lydie?  Yeah, so do I).  I'm really surprised that I'm sleeping better now that I did when pregnant with both Benjamin and Lydia.  (Knock on wood.  I'd really like it to continue).

Most cord accidents happen when the mother is sleeping.  I know this.  I fear this.  If I allow myself to think about it, I would bet that Lydie died while I was sleeping.  But I don't allow myself to go there too often; the thought of me sleeping soundly while my daughter dies inside me is just too much.

But still, I know this.

I wake up on my back, no matter how hard I try to stay on my side.  I get mad at myself every time.  I get up to pee and hope to feel Bowie.  And usually, she complies.   Sometimes, I have to nudge her a little.  I lay in bed, on my left side, at 2 am, and push in on my belly, hoping she'll give me a reassuring kick.  And usually, she does.  And then I can sleep again.

And what would I do if I didn't get that reassuring kick?  Reach for the Doppler?  Wake Justin and tell him to grab our bags?  I'm not sure yet.


Julie told me the other day that when it's too much for Justin and me to carry hope for Bowie, she, and others will carry it for us.  That while she understands that we HAVE to phrase things as "if all goes well," or "hopefully," that she may choose to say WHEN Bowie is here (safe and pink and tight-fisted and crying).  That she along with others who care, will hold faith and hope and the belief that Bowie will be fine when we can't. That maybe knowing that others are believing that Bowie will be in the "right" statistic this time will ease just the teensiest bit of anxiety and pressure we feel.

And it does help.  And knowing that we're being held up by family and friends until the day that we meet Bowie -- and after -- is so very encouraging.


Just one more Julie story: we were in our front room, watching our two living children play and talking about our two other children, when suddenly, two young fawns darted through our lawn and ran up to our window.  I swear I made eye contact with one of them.  And as then they were gone, just like that.

I've lived in this house for five years now, and I've never seen one deer.  Not in the whole neighborhood.  Not once.


If I allowed myself to believe in signs, if I encouraged myself to believe in signs, those two fawns might just bring some warmth to my heart.

Two girls we miss very much, two fawns.



I feel like I'm at a tough junction in this pregnancy.  Bowie is viable after all; she could perhaps live outside me, though of course, it would mean a lot of NICU time.  But we're not a point that I can do much about that.

I can't do kick counts yet.  Doctors recommend you start them at 28 weeks (although of course in my two previous pregnancies, my doctor didn't recommend them at all).  I was reading up on them and read that in high risk pregnancies, it is sometimes recommended to start at 26 weeks.  So that's a week away... but the problem being, with this f@#$!! anterior placenta, I don't feel enough movement for that yet.  You're supposed to lie on your side and count ten movements.  Ideally within thirty minutes but in up to two hours.  And the idea is not just to count kicks but to know your baby's patterns.  And of course, to recognize when something is off.

I never knew Benjamin or Lydia's patterns.

I already know some of Bowie's.

I know I feel her most at night, when I finally, finally lay down on the couch.  The other night, when she wasn't moving then, like she usually does, I felt the anxiety creeping in.  I found myself prodding her as Julie and Justin talked.  I found myself apologizing, reaching for the Doppler.  And then I found her heartbeat.  (Or rather, Justin did).  We all breathed out then.

She kicked more later that night, when I laid down in bed.  Bowie, that is NOT your pattern.

I know this is why doctors tell you to begin at 28 weeks.  So you don't drive yourself crazy because before then, babies don't have as much of a predictable pattern.

I've had a hard time preparing to count kicks.  I have put off figuring out exactly how it is done, downloading the app, doing the research.  When I read about how stillbirth may be preventable by paying attention to your baby's movements, I can't help read it as: Lydie might be here if you paid more attention.  WHY DIDN'T YOU PAY MORE ATTENTION?

Of course, I could cite my full-time job, my one-and-a-half-year-old son, my millions of things to do around the house.  Which all very much consumed me right before Lydie died.  I could also acknowledge that I never thought this would happen to me.  That I was young and healthy (I've run a marathon, for God's sake) and took care of myself and my children, and you know, didn't drink 8 cups of coffee a day.  (I recently read an article that cited that as a cause for stillbirth.  I wanted to throw my laptop across the room.  "Research" like that makes it seem like if you don't drink 8 cups of coffee a day, your child will be born alive.) 

Legitimately though, it was never mentioned to me.  My doctor asking "Lots of movement lately?" was not the same question as "How long does it take to feel ten kicks from Lydie every evening?"  or "Any abnormality in how long it takes to feel those ten kicks?"

(And for the record, I don't blame my doctor.  I do blame the medical community that dismisses stillbirth as something that just happens and doesn't educate women about the ways it can be prevented.)

There's an organization called Count the Kicks.  I follow them on Facebook but every time a new story pops up about a mom who saved her baby by counting kicks and realizing something was wrong, I want to vomit.  Or scream.  Or bawl.  Depends on my mood, but wanting to throw the laptop across the room is a pretty common feeling for me.

But today, I sat down and read their website.  I downloaded the app.  I prepared myself to do for Bowie what I did not know to do for Lydie. 

And in a way, I can't wait until I can get started, considering then I might feel like there's something I can actually do to protect my child.

Monday, July 13, 2015


So here we are, 24 weeks with Bowie.

24 weeks seems like a turning point.  The point babies can often survive outside the womb, and each day that passes, their rate of survival is higher.

If I lost my baby to prematurity, I am sure that hitting this milestone would bring me great comfort.

But I didn't.  And it doesn't.

I lost my 34-week perfectly healthy baby who suddenly stopped getting what she needed from me. 

And so now? Viability scares the shit out of me.

For 20 weeks now, one way I have been surviving this pregnancy is telling myself, over and over again, there's nothing you can do.  I'm taking good care of myself, but besides that, if something were to happen to Bowie, there would be nothing I could do.  And in an odd way, that has been comforting.  That takes the responsibility off of me.

And now?  Viability means Bowie could live outside the womb.  And it's hard not to think of my  womb as a death trap.  It's hard to house a baby who could make it on her own, and fear for her life while she's inside of me.

We are still 10 weeks from our point of loss with Lydie.  10 weeks.
I remember saying to Justin, she's viable!  I felt like we were home-free.
That takes my breath away.
That makes me remember how ready Lydie was to live in this world, when her life got snatched away from all of us.

When people ask me how this pregnancy is going, and I say "good so far," I also want to remind them that Lydie's pregnancy was going great until the moment it wasn't.  

I know this feeling, of responsibility and fear, is just going to continue to amp up over the next 14 weeks.  My friends say to me, "October is only three months away!" And I think, holy hell, how am I supposed to make it three more months?

The other day, my doctor told me to enjoy my "short leash" now.  That my leash is about to get a lot tighter.  That in less than a month, I'll be going from one doctor's appointment a week to two or three.

I don't know if I am looking forward to that or dreading it.

When my doctors speak about how Lydie died, they tell me it was"acute."  They tell me that they could have done all the testing in the world and not seen it coming.  They give me statistics about how unlikely it was to have happened.

And when they speak about Bowie, they tell me not to worry, because they'll be running tests multiple times a week.  That if there's anything wrong, they'll catch it.  They give me statistics about how unlikely anything is to happen.

Do they not see how they contradict themselves?

Believing what happened to Lydie was acute is good for my guilt.  It is not good for my anxiety about Bowie.

I told my doctor this.  She sighed and said, "What happened to Lydie was very, very unusual and very, very unlikely.  It's very, very unlikely to happen again, but considering it's already happened once, I know that doesn't give you any peace of mind."

When she asks how my anxiety is (and she does, regularly, and seems to be functioning as my therapist as well as my OB), I tell her, "It's not as bad as I thought it would be."  Which is true.  I knew this would be hard.  I expected this.  But I can feel the anxiety ramping up with this milestone.  

I just want to fast-forward until mid-October.

Moms of rainbow babies, how did you manage?  Any advice??  Please??

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

4 years (Happy Anniversary, Justin)

Four years ago, my dad walked me out to a gazebo as Justin stood nervously waiting for me. 

The minister proclaimed that it was our "intention to share with each other your joys and sorrows and all that the years will bring."  Clearly, we had no idea at the time what those sorrows would be and what those years would bring.

My cousins read First Corintheans: "Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."  Clearly, we never imagined that my mom would be reading the same verse at our daughter's funeral.  Clearly, we never imagined how our love for our daughter would persevere even after her death.  

We said our vows, our for betters or for worses, with no idea of the worse we'd be experiencing together.  

And the minister ended with: "Strengthen us all in the days and years ahead, when the way is hard.  Grant Heather and Justin the courage to keep talking and the faith to keep listening when it is hard to do, and the mature love that grows slowly throughout the years."

And that's where we are.  The way is hard.  But we're still talking and we're still listening, sometimes more successfully that other times.  We're in mature love. 

I've said this before and I'll say it again.  I cannot imagine dealing with the pain of my daughter's death without this man by my side.  It is certainly not the life we imagined for ourselves four years ago.  It is not a life we would have chosen.  But still, I'd choose this man all over again, knowing then what I know now. 

One night, laying on the couch together, Justin pointed to our mantle.

Without any intention whatsoever, our mantle decor spelled out our journey together, from left to right: HOME blocks (and yes, we purchased our home together long before our wedding), our wedding invitation and a favorite wedding photo, Benjamin's birth announcement, and Lydia's "You are my Sunshine" print and urn.  And now, to the right of Lydie's urn?  The chalkboard marking Bowie's growth.

The night before we got married, at our rehearsal dinner in my parents' backyard, I told our family and friends that Justin has always made me feel lucky.  Lucky to have found him, lucky to get to share a home and a life with him, lucky to be loved by him.

These days, it's hard to feel lucky.  But sometimes I look at Justin and Benjamin, and I feel that way all over again.

Happy fourth anniversary, Justin.  Here's to many, many more.  

And I will share one more reading from our wedding, just because I love it, and four years later, I find it truer than ever :

A GIFT FROM THE SEA by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
One recognizes the truth of Saint Exupery's line: “Love does not consist in gazing at each other. But in looking outward together in the same direction.” For in fact, man and woman are not only looking outward in the same direction, they are working outward. Here one forms ties, roots, a firm base....Here one makes oneself part of the community of men, of human society. Here the bonds of marriage are formed. For marriage, which is always spoken of as a bond, becomes actually, in this stage, many bonds, many strands, of different texture and strength, making up a web that is taut and firm. The web is fashioned of love. Yes, but many kinds of love: romantic love first, then a slow-growing devotion and, playing through these, a constantly rippling companionship. It is made of loyalties, and interdependencies, and shared experiences. It is woven of memories of meetings and conflicts; of triumphs and disappointments. It is a web of communication, a common language, and the acceptance of lack of language too, a knowledge of likes and dislikes, of habits and reactions, both physical and mental. It is a web of instincts and intuitions, and known and unknown exchanges. The web of marriage is made by propinquity, in the day to day living side by side, looking outward and working outward in the same direction. It is woven in space and in time of the substance of life itself.

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Week (and a half) in Photos

Each year, my family meets at our cottage on Lake Huron in Canada for our annual end-of-June weekend. 

And typically, Justin, Benjamin, and I stay at our cottage for the rest of that week, for our "family vacation."  (I put this in quotes because our family vacations don't look like other family vacations, mostly because we spend no money.   But still, we're together for a week on a beach.)

This year was supposed to look different.  Ben's third summer up at the cottage.  Should have been Lydie's first.  Last summer, with my Lydie belly, I pictured her crawling around on the deck after her big brother.

Instead, this summer looked an awful lot like last summer.  Justin, Ben, and pregnant Heather.

But we all know that no matter what we look like from the outside, our family is a lot different than we were one year ago.

And I have no idea how to picture our family one year from now.  In general, I try not to.

I was nervous to take a break from my weekly doctor's appointment, to be away from the ultrasound machine that proves Bowie's heart is still beating.  Luckily, I had an MFM appointment on the day before we left, and of course, I booked my Dr. B appt as soon as possible upon our return.  Still, I wondered: what if I don't feel much movement?  What if I freak out? How will I know she's still alive?

Bowie at 21 weeks.  Ah-maze-ing ultrasound technology at the MFM.

We road-tripped up to my Homeland, a bit more than a five hour drive, meeting my sister and her family at McDonald's along the way as we often manage to do.  Within minutes of arriving at the cottage, we were on the beach.  Which was relaxing and fun for about an hour.  Until my sister got back from her kayak ride, and Benjamin jumped down to go help her with the kayak.

Ironically, at this point in time, I had my nephew AJ sitting on my lap, cuddling him with a towel to warm him up, feeding him a snack.

I hear Ben start screaming and next thing I know, Laura is carrying him towards me, apologizing profusely, while blood is spilling out of his head.

Somehow, Laura accidentally dropped the kayak on his face.  Near his face?  No idea.  No idea what actually happened, but all I knew was that my two-year-old had a huge gash in the center of his forehead, right above his eyes.

"He needs stitches," I said, almost automatically.

No, no, everyone else said.  Let's just see if it stops bleeding. 

I carry him up the long flight of stairs, keeping my beach towel against the gash.  I can barely make it to the top, I'm so out of breath, but the adrenaline gets me there.

I sit on the porch and rock and cuddle my boy, keeping the towel pressed over the gash.  Justin gets him a "cee-cee" (aka soother aka pacifier) and he lays his head against my chest, sniffling.  "I help!  I  help with kayak," he tells me.

"You were just trying to help, buddy?"  I ask him.  He nods.

We look at the cut.  It's deep.  It's in the center of his face.  I don't want it to scar.

We debate butterfly bandages, skin glue, and then, like I first said, stitches.

We're in another country.  I have no idea what my insurance will or won't cover.  I don't even know where the hospital is, although my parents do. The thought of walking through the doors of a hospital make me want to vomit.  Hello, PTSD.

As we make the decision to head to the ER, I hug my boy, and I let out a couple of sobs.  I think it's pretty clear that my reaction is due to my anxiety I've developed since Lydie's sudden death.

My sister keeps apologizing, saying she didn't mean to.  No shit, I told her, but clearly you weren't being careful.  I also may have asked, "Why couldn't you drop the fucking kayak on your own kid's face?"

So, on the eve of my 34th birthday, we climb into the car to drive to the same hospital at which I was born.

My mom came with us, and I sat in the back, holding Ben's hand.  I told him we were going to see a doctor about his boo-boo.  I felt a bit better when he asked, "Dis boo-boo?" (pointing to a scrape on his knee) "Or dis boo-boo?" (pointing to the giant gash on his forehead).

Like any emergency room visit, we waited for a while to see a doctor, who immediately said, "Yep he needs stitches."  

Justin showing Ben how to squeeze his hand if it hurts, while the numbing gel is at work.
So let's just remember that I have semi-regular dreams about Ben dying.  This emergency room visit was NOT good for my anxiety.  (And I thought it would be Bowie I worried about on this trip).  I tried to stop the sobs as I watched blood ooze from Benjamin's face ("even deeper than I realized," said the doctor) as a doctor sewed together my kid's face.  It all felt pretty traumatic.

The nurse wrapping my baby up in a straightjacket.  Or a burrito.  Either way.

Four stitches later and many tears from both the mom and the boy later, we were finally on our way. The final instructions from the doctor?  To keep it dry for a week.  Excellent start to our beach vacation, eh?  And he also casually mentioned, he might get two black eyes next.  At least that would make his aunt feel even guiltier, I joked.

On the way back to the cottage from the hospital.  The boy deserved as many donuts as he could eat.  The look on his face shows he is well aware of this. 
I think it was harder on me than him.   After arriving back at the cottage, I spent most of the rest of the evening in tears.  I couldn't seem to stop crying.  I told myself over and over again that Ben was okay, that Lydie had already died, that nothing had changed with Bowie (although I half-joked that I wanted to ask the doctor if he could just do a quick ultrasound while we were there to check on her).   My mom assured me that I had held myself together when I needed to for Ben, and then came the inevitable crash.   I wondered if that was holding myself together, what losing it looked like.

(Also, by the way, my sister and I are fine.  She didn't mean to hurt Ben, but she should have been more careful.  She knows that.  She's sorry.  Although I did giggle a little when Ben was asked what happened to his face, and he answered, "Laura.")

Ben is a daredevil, and Justin and I always figured we would be taking him to the ER someday.  But we did not see that coming on the beach that day.  I guess that's how it happens, right?

The sunset that night.  I breathed in and out a lot and wrote and rewrote Lydie's name in the sand.

AJ wanting to match Ben, needed a band-aid on his face also.

Made me laugh.

The next day was my birthday.  Usually, a day full of family and the beach.  This time, a day full of family and rain.  And rain.  And more rain.  Cold rain.  To bide the time, we went shopping and out to lunch (the cottage is REALLY small when stuck in there with 10 people, including 3 rowdy kids.)

This is not what I thought 34 would look like.
My little tough guy, one day later.

The following day was our tree dedication for Lydia at our family cemetery.  I have way too many family members buried at this cemetery.  Although we cremated Lydie and keep her with us at home, I am grateful that my aunts and uncles offered to purchase a tree and a plaque for her at this cemetery. And I'm grateful that they all came out in the rain and the cold to dedicate that tree.  

My uncle John, who is a Catholic deacon, leading the dedication

I read this poem entitled Remember Me, by Margaret Mead:
To the living, I am gone.
To the sorrowful, I will never return.
To the angry, I was cheated,
But to the happy, I am at peace,
And to the faithful, I have never left.
I cannot be seen, but I can be heard.
So as you stand upon a shore, gazing at a beautiful sea - remember me.
As you look in awe at a mighty forest and its grand majesty - remember me.
As you look upon a flower and admire its simplicity - remember me.
Remember me in your heart, your thoughts, your memories of the times we loved,
the times we cried, the times we fought, the times we laughed.

For if you always think of me, I will never be gone.

I left out the crossed out part.  It didn't fit for Lydie, unfortunately.  That's the thing about a stillborn baby; all the "memories" are what you expect to have.  Lydie and I didn't get to fight or laugh.   But I liked this poem especially for a tree dedication, and especially so close to our cottage, where we do in fact stand upon a shore and gaze at a beautiful sea (or lake).  And I don't think it will ever be hard to remember her. 

Watering the tree... not so much needed in the rain, but a symbolic gesture of nurturing Lydie and our love for her.
Closest to a complete family photo we will ever have.

It's comforting to know that Lydia has another special spot.  A place we will continue to visit.  It's about twenty minutes away from our cottage, where we visit multiple times every summer, and right near many family member's houses.  Justin said we'll picnic with Lydie's Tree every summer.  I like that.

The cousins dressed up for an early celebration of Canada Day
Beach days
By Monday afternoon, the rest of the family had departed.  Justin and I welcomed the quiet and the extra space, though Ben talked about how much he missed his Oma and Pop-Pop and cousin AJ ("Oma go home.  I miss Oma.  Aa-Gay go home.  I miss Aa-Gay.  Pop-Pop go home.  I miss Pop-Pop).

Thoughts of Lydie

To the bridge (Michigan on one side, Ontario on the other) to watch boats.  And eat fries.  And check my email/Instagram/Facebook.

And share cuddles.

Spent our evenings watching the sunset on the beach.  

And scrawling Lydie's name in the sand.

Bowie on the beach

Bowie gave me kicks at least a few times a day.  Enough reassurance to keep my anxiety in check and not break out the Doppler.  I'm grateful for that.

Lining up trucks to make a choo-choo, obviously.

We visited Lydie's Tree again on a dryer morning.

Bowie at 22 weeks.  With all 3 of my babes.

My boys on the beach.

The 23 bump shot, as we're saying goodbye to the cottage.  Note Justin's holding Lydie's Stone.

Typically, I visit the cottage at least a few times every summer, but we have no plans to go back again this summer.  We're getting closer to viability for Bowie, and that scares me.  More on that later.

8 months today.  We love you, Lydie.  And if this isn't glaringly obvious, we miss you so, so much.

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