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.|
|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.