Thursday, May 26, 2016

Early Summer Happenings with a 3-year-old, would be 18-month-old, and 7-month old



Thanks for all your thoughts on my last blog post.  The whole concept of "plans" is kind of ridiculous to me now.  I cringe when I hear newly married couples talk about their "plan" to have kids. They have no idea if they'll face infertility, miscarriages, stillbirth. They just have no idea -- and yet they have a plan.  I think this is encouraged by our culture... how often are we asked, "How many kids do you want?" as if you can run to the grocery store and make your selection?  This life is just more complicated than that, and it's hard for me that so many people seem not to know that.  I haven't asked anyone this question since the day my daughter died, although I might ask, "Would you like to have one more?"


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I was having a glass of wine at work last week, with faculty members after an all day training.  There's one faculty member I have avoided since my first week back at work after Lydie died .  Because she cornered me, and told me all about a scary ultrasound she had when pregnant with her daughter but thank God she was okay.  Thank God it was just a scare.  I wanted to punch her on the face.  Do you know how insulting that is to a woman whose baby has just died, not to mention how hard it was to stand there and listen to that bullshit?

But last week, glass of wine in hand, I joined a circle of women that included this particular woman.  We were talking about our kids, and I joined in, mentioning my "oldest" and my "youngest."  The conversation moved to naming our kids, and a colleague, funny enough also named "Heather" explained that her parents named her Heather because it couldn't be nicknamed and didn't rhyme with anything.  "Me too!" I explained laughing.  "And then, I named all three of my kids longer names with nicknames!"

The "Thank God she was okay" woman turned to me and actually said, "I thought you only had two?"

Considering I have worked with her for years, and she's watched me grow a belly and take a leave on three different occasions, not to mention the "Thank God she was okay" conversation, I'm pretty damn sure she knows I have three kids.

"I have three," I responded.  "I have two living.  The second died," I continued.

I turned away, had a side bar conversation with another colleague.   Talked about her infertility and adoption and Lydia.  I find that women who have experienced infertility seem to get it better than most. 

But I wanted to turn and shout "We were talking about names!  She has a name!  Just because she died, you don't get to take that away from her!"

Instead I finished my wine and renewed my vow to avoid her.

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Recently, I told someone I'm not a tattoo person.  "Clearly you are," she said, waving at my wrist.

It pissed me off.  No, I'm not.  I'm not a tattoo person.

I never imagined that there would be anything I would want to put on my body for the rest of my life. But then my daughter died.

So if nothing else, just let me be not a tattoo person with a tattoo.

Thankyouverymuch.

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Last week, Justin and I returned to the hospital, where all three of our children were born, to serve on a panel about perinatal loss.  As I was introduced to the coordinator of the training, we both commented that each other looked familiar, and then she figured it out: she taught the birth class that Justin and I took when expecting Ben.

Justin and I have often joked about how worthless that class turned out to be.

There were these cards, that you flipped over one-by-one as the scenario you were willing to accept next.  Of course, our last two cards were "induction" then "cesarean section."

"I hope we don't have to have a c-section," Justin had said.
I laughed.  "Pretty sure you're not going to have a c-section," I told him.

But weeks later, for Ben's birth, we had both of our "worst case scenario" cards come to fruition.  I was induced at 41 weeks.  After 16 hours of labor, they ran down the hallway with me for an emergency c-section when Ben's heart rate plummeted.

But you know what wasn't on that card?
A dead baby.
Or a dead mother.

You know what those cards lead expectant parents to believe?  That the worst case scenario is a c-section.

So, when I met this doula again, three and a half years and three babies later, I told her, "I have a bone to pick with you."  I asked her where the dead baby card is.

She did the whole, "Hmm, I've never thought of that, I'll bring it up with my supervisor" thing.  And she probably won't.  But I hope she thought more about it.  And I hope she stops talking as if induction and c-sections are the worst thing in the world.  Because you know what?  My third baby's birth was a scheduled c-section and it was pretty fucking amazing because she was alive.

The panel went well.  I told Lydie's story and Justin piped in here and there.  It was emotional and I cried a lot, but so did everyone else in the room.  We were asked how the nursing staff can do better - and even though our nurses were incredible - there are ways that it could have been better.  And I'm glad for the opportunity to tell Lydie's story and help other families' have better experiences. 


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Speaking of those better experiences, I just heard from a family that used our Cuddle Cot recently.  One twin lived and one was stillborn, and they got to spend FOUR days in the hospital with both babies.  FOUR days.  I got six hours with Lydie.  Six hours in my whole lifetime.

I will always hate that there's a need for the Cuddle Cot but be glad that other families have the opportunity to use it.  But -- sometimes hearing about how we made their experience so much better is hard for me.  It's hard to hear about all those memories they made in four days.  I think how I had to watch Lydie deteriorate in front of me.  How my sister tried to pass her to me on a pillow because she was getting so fragile, and how I said, "I want to hold my BABY, not a goddamn pillow."

Sometimes I wonder why someone couldn't have come ahead of me and paved the way for me.  Why someone else couldn't have told the nursing staff not to delete the files of the beautiful pictures of my daughter, that odd-cut sizes of physical photos scan horribly, and PLEASE DO NOT DELETE MY CHILD'S PHOTOS.  Now they're giving families jump-drives with images on them.  Sometimes I wonder why someone else couldn't have fundraised for a Cuddle Cot before November of 2014 so that I could have had more time with my perfect little girl.

Maybe the image of her wouldn't already be so hazy in my mind.

So yeah, sometimes it's hard to hear from families who used our Cuddle Cot.


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Recently, Justin and I bought a brand new Honda Odyssey.  We've needed a new vehicle for a long time, as Justin's ol' Camry was 15 years old.  We wanted to make it until Lydie was born to see if we could manage with the CRV or if we'd need a van, considering we also have a large mutt and we road-trip often.  We all know how that turned out, so just three weeks ago, we finally traded in Justin's 2001 for a whopping $500 and brought home our shiny, fancy mini-van.

And I became a mini-van mom of three, with two carseats in the back.



On our second day of "summer vacation," the pool was still not open so I told Benjamin I'd take him to a splash pad.  Josephine was fussing and refusing to nap, and I had Lydie-related things on my mind, when backing out of the garage... and heard a big cruuuunch.

I had somehow forgotten to push the button to close the fancy power-sliding doors.

I just fucked up my van that still has temporary plates on it.

When bad stuff happens - even when I am the one who caused it - I can't help but think of Lydie.  Like "My daughter is dead and now I have a busted van door.  Can I ever catch a break?"

After a quick jaunt to the splash pad, we headed to the car dealership where Josie woke up screaming and hungry.  After getting my $500 estimate and begging them to get me an appointment before our upcoming road trip, I debated going into the service center to feed Josie.  But I already had the kids all buckled in and figured an ice cream at McDonald's would be more fun for Ben.  Josie hadn't eaten in 4 hours now, when she typically eats every 2, so she screamed the whole way there and my mom guilt was gnawing at me, when I sat down to feed her and Ben announces, "I have to pee."  I told him he would have to hold it, and he discovered an indoor play place and left his ice cream cone dripping to play.  Thirty seconds later, at the top of the play place, he whines, "Mom, I'm peeing!" and I watch as pee drips down 5 layers of climbing equipment.

Also - soon after I noticed a CHILDREN'S BATHROOM a couple feet away.  You have got to be fucking kidding me.

But later, after Justin helped me drop off the van, and I had poured myself a glass of wine, Lydie helped me put the debacle into perspective: Who cares about t
he van?  Who cares about money?

I have certainly had worse days.

As a side note, when Josie was screaming in the backseat, I said, "I'm sorry, I'm not being a very good mom today!"  And my boy said, "You ARE a good mom!"

At the pee-covered playplace.  It's a good thing they're cute.

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Two years ago when pregnant with my second child, I saw a little girl wearing a swimsuit that I loved so much, I asked her mom where she got it.  A few weeks later when I found out my baby was a girl, it was one of the first purchases I made specifically for her.

Yesterday for our inaugural day at the pool, I cut the tags off that swimsuit and it was worn for the first time by that baby's little sister.

There is something so wrong about brand new hand-me-downs.
So glad Josie can wear this suit.  Desperately wish it was all worn out.

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At the pool, a mom struck up conversation with me: "You just have the two?"

Usually, I am not asked this, and it took me aback.  I think most people make that assumption and I let them.

"No," I answered.  "I have three.  But one died.  So just two here with me."

"I'm sorry," she stammered, which is what usually is said next.  I usually nod and the conversation is over, and they never, ever mention Lydie again.

But this woman hung in there.  "Was she a twin?" she asked, pointing to Josephine.

I tell her about Lydie.

She asks some questions, like how I found out she had died.  I told her that I reported to the hospital to be induced and she was born the next day.

She looks shocked.  "You had to go through labor when your baby has died?" she asked, then launched into the typical  "Oh my God, I can't imagine...."

It boggles my mind that people can't wrap their heads around the fact that stillborn babies are still born.   How do they think they get out? 

We talked a while longer and she told me that she had didn't feel well when pregnant with her daughter and she had "a thing sort of like preeclampsia."

"HELLP syndrome?" I asked.

She looks shocked again.  "You know about HELLP syndrome?" she asks.

"I have a few friends who lost their babies because they developed HELLP syndrome," I explain.  "Plus when your baby dies suddenly, you do a lot of research into the ways that babies die."

"You have friends that also lost babies?" she asks.

I didn't really want to launch into the fact that I've never met most of my closest friends, because you know, I met them on the internet (although Jen is a friend of a friend!)

Because you know, two things I never thought I'd say include: My daughter died.  And:  I met my closest friends on the internet.

This woman seemed so stunned by me.  She was used to telling her war stories, mentioning she got this crazy syndrome while pregnant and shocking people by saying, "Sometimes BABIES DIE from it!  Sometimes MOTHERS DIE from it!"  She didn't expect me to one-up her, and say, "Yeah, sometimes they do."

But then again, she really didn't expect that conversation at all.








Tuesday, May 17, 2016

So, what are your "plans?"

I've been asked this a few times recently.  Once by a good friend (totally acceptable), once by Dr. B (totally acceptable, especially using the guise of birth control to ask), once by a coworker (completely inappropriate).

My short response?  "It's complicated."

Like every single thing in my life after losing my daughter, it's complicated.

I have three kids, but I only get to raise two of them.

I don't feel my family is complete.  But is it because we will never be complete, because we will always be missing one?  I know that no matter how many children I have, I will never feel the way other moms get to feel, when they look around their kitchen table or in their rearview mirror.

I know I will never feel "done."

The thought of going through another pregnancy makes me want to vomit.  I'm not talking about having to pee every hour or not being able to drink.  I'm talking about constantly wondering if my baby has died inside me.  I'm talking about waking up in the middle of the night, terrified that my baby's heart stopped beating while I've been sleeping.  I'm talking about worrying that every kick might be his or her last.  I'm just not sure I have it in me to do it again.  And the idea of facing another loss?  A miscarriage I could handle.  Another stillborn child might destroy me.

Lydie's death has changed me, and though I don't worry about not having a guest room like I did before, I still can't fathom paying three grand a month for daycare.  I wouldn't be able to afford to work. (This is not a joke).

Not to mention, I am really quite busy and stressed with my two living children and all the projects I take on to honor my girl.

But still I find myself wondering, as Bowie grows out of her hand-me-down clothes and I place them in a tub: will we use these again?  Or should I just get rid of them now?

Obviously, clothes are not the issue here, though the tubs do take up a lot of space in the basement.

I wish I knew if this was my last time for all these "firsts," as Bowie sits up, eats solids, itches to crawl.  Sometimes I wish I could look around the dinner table, with Lydie's candle burning brightly in the center of it, and stop wishing for more and instead start trying to be grateful for all that I do have.

So, what are my plans?  I don't know.  I don't know if we'll try for a fourth child.  I don't know if we want one more.

In an uncomplicated world, I'd want one more.  But in an uncomplicated world, my dinner table would be full, and this would be a moot point.

I know that it is okay not to know right now.  But I don't know when I will know.  I don't know how we will make this decision.  I worry that if we don't make a decision soon, then my age and time will make that decision for us.

And I still find myself wanting more of the love.


BLM friends, I would love your thoughts here.  Your families will also always be incomplete. So, how do you know when you're "done"?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Lydie's Loop: Steps against Stillbirth

Thank you all so much for your helpful feedback when I posted about wanting to DO something to help prevent senseless tragedies like Lydie's death.  So many of you offered advice and support about how to get started on planning a 5k.

 So... drumroll please...

Today, I'm excited to open up registration for Lydie's Loop: Steps against Stillbirth!


You can find out more at our registration page here and our Facebook event page here.

If you're wondering how you can help, certainly signing up to run or walk helps, as does running "virtually" with us.  We're also currently seeking donations for raffle prizes, post-race food, and corporate sponsorships. We'd also love some more volunteers for some bigger projects too! 

A huge thank you to my friend Jessi Snapp at Luminous Light Studios for her awesome artwork, integrating Lydie's actual footprints. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Dear Lydie: 18 months

Dear Lydie,
Today, you'd be 18 months old.  A year and a half.  Full into toddler mode.  Walking and talking and singing and laughing.

(And tantruming too, I know.)

18 months feels so big to me.

The other day, one of my closest friends asked how I picture you.  She knew I picture you.

You were born with dark, dark hair but I picture you as blond.  Wavy hair, falling out of a ponytail.  Running and giggling and glancing back at your mama.

I would recognize you anywhere.

You've taken this toddler form in my mind long before you were a toddler.  I wonder if my daydream of you will change, if you'll grow to be a teenager and an adult in my mind, or whether you will always remain this toddler with your hair streaming behind you as you run.

Recently, your brother called out to me in the morning, as he usually does.  He climbs into his crib at night but gratefully, hasn't realized that he can climb out.  I walked into his room, and the first thing he said to me was, "I had a dream about Lydia."

"You did?" I asked.  "Tell me about it."

He didn't respond.

"What did she look like?  What was she doing?" I pressed.

"Was she happy?" I continued.

Finally, he told me he didn't remember.  That's the way dreams often work, but I still couldn't help feeling disappointed.  I desperately wanted a glimpse of you.

And even though I am a bit jealous, I am so glad he got that dream.

He calls you Lydia, not Lydie, these days.  He fingers my necklace and says, "B for me, L for Lydia, and J for Josie!"  And whenever he sees L's on billboards or in books, he shouts, "L for Lydia!"

It makes me so proud of both of you.

Oma Jo visited recently, and as I sat down to feed your sister, I grabbed her phone and scrolled through.  Suddenly, I found myself unable to breathe: there was a photo of you I had never seen before.  This happens all the time with Ben and Josie, in photos taken by Oma Jo or Dad or even daycare teachers.  But this doesn't happen with you.  The photos of you are finite.  Until this discovery, there were are exactly 66 photos of you, all which I've studied hundreds of times.

I stared at this photo.  I zoomed closer, studied your face.  I zoomed back out.  I zoomed closer again.

I cried.

I tried to see if you look like your big brother or your little sister.  I never can tell with my own kids.  You all just look like yourselves to me, not like each other or like Dad or like me.

I cried some more.

Look at you.  Look how perfect you were.  Look how loved you are.



I could have a million photos of you, and it would never be enough, but I am still so grateful to have just one more.  There will never be new photos of you, but I now have 67 photos.

Can you see the love, Lydie?  I can see the love.


Spreading your love, painting the bathroom.
I am realizing: there may be a finite number of photos of you, but there will always be new photos that document our love for you.  Our collection of Lydie photos will keep on growing.
your Easter egg.  Next year, your brother wants one too.

with Oma Jo in Florida
Every time Pop-Pop goes to the cottage, he visits your tree and sends me a photo.  It's budding!   


Recently, a coworker of mine was telling me how she and her daughter were out to lunch and how the waitress reminded her of me.  Similar facial features, blond hair in a ponytail, friendly.  She asked the waitress her name, thinking it would be funny if her name was Heather.

"Lydia," she responded.

You are everywhere.

But you're still not where I want you to be - at home, in my arms.  I desperately wish to stroke your hair, kiss your cheek, and tuck you in at night with your yellow blanket.   Instead, I curl up with that blanket that held you, night after night.  Sometimes I press my face into it, as if that brings you just a little closer.  Sometimes I search for the spots of your blood.

The other day was Bereaved Mother's Day.  It was a holiday I did not know about eighteen months ago.  It's a holiday I would have happily gone the rest of my life ignorant of.  I sat down with the Ipad to watch a tribute made to us mamas, featuring not only you and me, but hundreds of other mamas and their beloved children.  I pulled the tissue box close, set up Josephine to breastfeed, and pushed play.  But then she was fussing and my phone was vibrating and I couldn't really pay the attention I wanted to to the video.  And I didn't want to miss our moment, I didn't want to miss the quick second shot of you and me.  So I blindly reached over and pushed pause.  A minute later, I had responded to my texts, repositioned Josie, and went to push play on the Ipad.

And this was on the screen.



I've spent the last 18 months doubting signs, but how could this not be one?  I am still dumbfounded.

Hundreds of mamas and their beloved babies pictured in this video and I blindly pressed pause on you and me.

You might just be turning me into a believer.

I've spent the last 18 months missing you, and I will spend the rest of my life missing you.

That will never change, but I am learning as I go.

I'm learning what it means to be a "bereaved mother."

That life is a crapshoot and you got the shortest stick possible.

That all the wishing in the world won't change things, won't bring you back.

That I'll carry my love for you, my ache for you, my missing of you for the rest of my life.

That I'll always know how old you would be and what milestones you'd be reaching.  That the first day of kindergarten is going to hurt like hell, and the day you could have gotten your driver's license is going to too.

That my grief connects me to you, but that's not my only connection to you.  That I see you in the tulips in your garden, the waves on the beach, every sunrise and sunset.  I feel you in the wind in my face.



That I can teach your big brother and little sister to see you in these ways too, and I can keep you alive in them.



That we speak your name in love.  In missing and longing and grief, but mostly just in love. 

That I think of you every moment of every day.  That e.e. cummings knew what he was talking about when he said, "i am never without you."  That you are in my heart always.

Always.

Always, always, always.

I wish I could offer you more.  But this is what we have, Lydie Girl.  And our relationship is still continuing to grow and deepen, even though we are separated.  I'm still learning how to be your mom, just like I'm learning how to be Benjamin's mom and Josephine's mom too.  Thanks for helping me to find my way.

I love you, my one-and-a-half year old.

I love you, I love you, I love you.

Mama

A picture taken of Josie at daycare.  I see you in these sunbeams.  




 
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