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?"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.|
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.|
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.