Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Feeling it in my bones

I've been thinking a lot about how my body knows what time of year it is.

I've been trying to figure out how to put this into words, how I feel November coming deep within my bones.  How I could possibly explain this to someone whose body doesn't carry the shock and trauma and grief the way that mine does.  How it's visceral, not rational or intellectual, how I feel it in my guts.

Then, this morning, I was listening to my favorite podcast, Terrible, Thanks for Asking, and my sister-in-grief, Nora McInerny, who became a widow at age 31 when her husband died from cancer,  put it into words for me:

"It was a year later and I woke up, and my body remembered.  It remembered all of the horror to follow, and it was bracing me to lose Aaron again."

This is it.  My body is bracing to lose Lydie all over again.

A difference between Nora and me?  Her loved one did not die inside her body.

So while it feels physical for Nora, it makes sense that it really feels physical for me.

My body remembers the ultrasound, at the end of October.  The last time I saw Lydie moving, when I thought we'd be bringing her home in a few short weeks.  An extra, unplanned ultrasound, after my belly was measuring small.   "Let's just take a look at her, just to be safe," my OB had suggested.  I felt panicked as my OB ushered me from the examination room to the ultrasound sound.  And sweet, sweet relief when I was told my daughter was in the 30th percentile and doing just fine.

She would be dead in two weeks.

My brain asks why I didn't demand an NST, more testing, why I took my OB's word that my baby was fine.

I know the reality is that I didn't know then what I know now.

I know the reality is that most women trust their OBs.

That doesn't mean I don't wonder if Lydie actually had intrauterine growth restriction, if maybe that cord constricted many times, causing her to be smaller than both her brother and sister were at that gestation.  That maybe she constricted her cord, unconstricted her cord, constricted her cord, unconstricted her cord many times, before the time when she didn't.  That maybe if I had had an NST we might have seen decelerations of her heartrate and realized the danger of her umbilical cord.  That maybe if I had been 35 and "Advanced Maternal Age," I might have had more thorough prenatal care.

There's a million what ifs and there will always be, because we'll never have answers.

I live with these what ifs everyday, but it's this time of year that I wonder the most.

Three years ago, I was still living in the before.

Three years ago, I still could have changed the outcome.

Last night, Ben pulled on his Spiderman costume and Josie her Elmo, and we met up with our neighbor friends. I drank my travel mug of wine and reminded Benjamin to use his manners and helped Josephine up steep steps and thought of Lydie. Three years ago, trick or treating, a neighbor handed me a piece of candy and told me it was for the baby.

The baby would be dead within the week.

I never saw it coming, though her death took place inside me.

On November 5, 2017, I will inevitably relive November 5, 2014. I will watch the time and at 8:45ish, I'll think about how I realized I didn't know the last time Lydie moved.  My body will feel that pit in my stomach all over again. At 9:15, I'll relive the moment of the silent Doppler. I'll think about the silence, the panic rising, the moment of relief when I heard a heartbeat, the crash when my OB told me that was my own heartbeat. How at that moment, I knew. A few minutes later, I'll think about how I had to call my husband and tell him, how I was forced to shatter his world. He'll think about how he feels physically ill when he sees the conference room he was sitting in when he received that phone call. Around 10:30 am,  I'll think about how the phone rang, with Benjamin's school's telephone number lighting up the screen and how I was sure they were calling to tell me he was dead too.

You see, by 10:30 am, I was living in the after.

The after is one where you live with the knowledge that you can do everything right - for pretty much your entire life - and everything can go so terribly wrong. It includes anxiety and fear. And jealousy.  And anger.

The after is one that you have to learn to manage these emotions to be a good mom, a good employee, a good friend, a good human being.

In an especially cruel twist, Daylight Savings Time occurs on November 5th this year. Fall back. That means that I get to live an extra hour of the worst day of my life. It also means the game I play, the one that I relieve every moment while staring at the clock is that much more challenging.

Of course, Ben got invited to his very first birthday party from his new school... on November 5th. Justin looked at the invitation, threw it down, and declared, "Well, that's not going to happen."  Ben cried.  I will get into how difficult it is to parent living children and a dead child at some other point, but for now, I will say this: nothing about the after is simple.

We'll do our best to get through the day on November 5th, 2017, the same as we've done on November 5th, 2014, November 5th, 2015, and November 5th, 2016.

I'll let my body feel it, because as terrible as reliving these moments are, I need to. I want to.

I'll grieve heavy that day with the hopes that Lydia's third birthday will feel a little lighter, a little more celebratory of the girl that rocked my world, who I love for the rest of time.

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