Friday, January 31, 2014

Wading into Words

1/31/2014
Dear Alaska, ?! 
One month, baby girl. You were born one month ago. I know that you were already an angel, but I still say that you were born on that day. New Year's Eve will forever be your birthday. I love you! 
Mommy <3

On this 31st day of 2014, I should be 20 weeks pregnant. Instead I am living the one month anniversary of my daughter's birth. I know that birth is probably not the right word because it implies that I have an alive daughter, but it's the word that I use. The dictionary on my ipad defines birth as "the emergence of a baby or other young from the body of its mother," so going by that, Alaska was born. The next part of the definition gives me some problems with "the start of life as a physically separate being."

Alaska emerged from the body of her mother, my body. That moment was the start of her death as a physically separate being from me and the start of my life physically separated from her.

Miscarriage as a word for Alaska just doesn't work for me even though it is the correct word: "the expulsion of a fetus from the womb before it is able to survive independently." Alaska wasn't expelled before she was able to survive independently. She died first--a "late missed miscarriage." Too soon to be considered a stillbirth. Too soon to be given any legal recognition of life or death. If she had been born because my body couldn't carry her for another day, I still wouldn't like to use that word.

So I choose to use the words "birth" and "born" when I refer to Alaska because I feel like this acknowledges her life. My daughter lived and died. My daughter who lived for just over 15 weeks died, but she is just as much my child as my sons. She was loved before she was born and will be loved now forever. Her life matters.

Since I have known that I was the mother of a dead child (for the past one month and one day), I have been unable to read for pleasure. I have tried but failed. I realized that perhaps I should try to reread Looking for Alaska by John Green. Maybe revisiting this story could be my first step toward healing my reading life. So far, it's working. It's impossible not to love these characters with passages like this one: 
Her library filled her bookshelves and then overflowed into waist-high stacks of books everywhere, piled haphazardly against the walls. If just one of them moved, I thought, the domino effect could engulf the three of us in an asphyxiating mass of literature.        (p. 15)

One Month and a Gift

Exactly one month ago, I was leaving the hospital. Empty. Forever has passed in this time even though my world has stopped. Yesterday on my one month anniversary of becoming the mom to an angel, my dad called me because he had just found out about Alaska. I didn't think that I would find peace in this conversation. If we had caller ID on our home phone, I probably wouldn't have answered for anyone other than Brandon, but talking to my dad for the first time in months helped my day suck a little less. Actually, this was the best conversation I have had with him ever.

My dad said that he didn't know what to say (admitting this is so much better than saying nothing), but then he said, "blink of an eye and we'll all be at the same rodeo." And he told me how much he loves all of us and how much he loves Alaska, too. Hearing him say her name was a gift. Finally, he said, "I say my prayers every night for all of you. I'm very consistent about it."

Most phone calls are uncomfortable for me, and the rare conversations with my dad over the years have been no exception. Somehow, though, he said all the right things and helped heal my heart just a bit.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Alaska's Eyes

Last night my mom commented through Facebook on my "Reminders" blog post about looking in the mirror. She said, "And you promised Alaska so keep waking up everyday loving your family. Look in the mirror and make your promise to Alaska again and again and someday you will see her eyes smiling back at you. Someday some of the hurt will lessen and the joy that is Alaska will shine out from your eyes, because you promised. I love you."

Today when I caught my reflection, I saw that stranger staring back and wondered if those are Alaska's eyes. I looked into them for longer than I wanted to because they might be Alaska's eyes. Or she might have her daddy's eyes. Either way, I'll keep looking. Because I promised and because my mom told me to.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Alaska's Song

Asher sang his song to his sister tonight while dancing and throwing Beary (Alaska's bear) up toward the ceiling. 


 We're gonna fly sky high
And we're gonna do all the fun things together
That we should have done together
We're gonna fly sky high

We're gonna fly sky high
We're gonna have some fun with you
That we should have done
We're gonna fly sky sky sky high

I'm gonna fly so high with you
We're gonna fly fly fly
We're gonna fly to the sky
With you...with you...with you...

Reminders

You know how after you cry, you still take deep sobbing breaths sometimes hours later? It's as if the pain of whatever makes you cry is too big to come out all at once, so it saves a piece to check with you later: You were hurting, remember? Are you done yet? Did you feel the relief when I escaped your body just then or are you ready to give the tears another go?

I've noticed that I breathe this way now even on days when I haven't really cried yet. These subtle, sobbing breaths will escape my body throughout the day and remind me: Alaska's still dead, remember? You're not done yet. I just had to let out some of the pressure so your heart doesn't shoot out of your chest (that would be too messy). Don't hold those tears back too long.

And then sometimes I slip up and look in the mirror at another reminder. I've never enjoyed looking in the mirror, but now I can't stand it. That person who looks back at me is a stranger. She looks so old. I don't know that girl. Those eyes.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Healing from Alaska's Guys

"Alaska and I had a good talk on the way home about all the things we would have done if she was here. Fishing and barbies. Her awesome brothers who would protect her."

~Alaska's daddy


Elliott made this at arts and game day yesterday. 


Asher finally got to hold his baby sissy.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Something to Hold

"Can you pick up Alaska?"
Her remains?
Her ashes?
The teaspoon of dust that is all we have left?

This conversation reminded me of the ones that Brandon and I used to have about who was going to pick the boys up from daycare. But this is it. A once in a lifetime moment. Who gets to pick Alaska up and bring her home? I'm sort of jealous that it wasn't me, but I'm glad that it was her daddy. He's the one who should have had all of those trips to daycare.

"I have Alaska."
Her remains.
Her ashes.
Dust in a heart-shaped urn.
Alaska's urn and teddy bear

As I waited for Alaska to get home, I realized that I still had my ridiculous beanie on. And as if it mattered, I had to take it off and fix my hair. When he came into the house carrying Alaska in his arms for the first time, I realized that he was meant to bring her home.

"I'm home."
She's here now.
All of her--body and soul.
A brass heart inside a teddy bear.



It's My Fault

It's my fault that Alaska died.

I know this isn't true, but it doesn't stop me from thinking it. I can what if all day for the rest of my life, but it won't change the outcome. Part of my grief is feeling this, too. I'm not dwelling on it, but this is real. To ignore these thoughts would be to bury them.

It's my fault that Alaska died.

No. No, it's not. It's because of me that she lived.

But she died in my body, so I own that, too.

It's my fault that Alaska died.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Forever Looking

"Mom, what if I'm 89 and it's my birthday and I wake up and I'm not on earth anymore?"

"Maybe I'll get murdered."

"How many days until I die?"

"I just want to know when I'm going to die!"

These are all things that Asher said this morning. We talked through his questions as he dribbled a basketball in the kitchen and I did dishes. Brandon and I wanted to stop the conversation because nothing makes a parent cringe more than hearing these thoughts from your child, but Asher needed to talk this out.

Later Brandon commented about how Asher is right. He might get murdered. The world is effed up, so we really don't know. I asked Brandon if it helped knowing that Alaska doesn't have to live in this crazy world, "Yes, a little, but it sucks that I didn't get to meet her."

Sure, the world is messed up, but it's also beautiful. Life is as painful, as tragic as it is beautiful. I didn't fully understand this until we lost our Alaska. And this brings me to the realization that we will forever be looking for Alaska.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

On Reassurances

Once you hear a heartbeat, chances of miscarriage are low.
Once you get past the first trimester, chances of miscarriage are low.
You have living children? You'll worry, yes, but you were made to make babies. Healthy ones. Alive ones.

Someone get me a bullshit flag.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Wish, Fail, and Repeat

"Mom, I just wish Alaska had lived."

"Yeah. Me, too. More than anything in the world. But she's still with us. We are lucky to have an angel baby."

And as I said this to my boys through stifled sobs, I sort of believed it. But I mostly just want our Alaska back alive, in the physical sense. We all keep saying how beautiful she is. Well, guess what? I want to actually SEE Alaska's beauty with my alive eyes. I want to see her faults. I want to live the messes with her.

I want to hear her snotty comments and see her roll her eyes at her dorky parents.
I want to see her bite her brothers and give them slobbery openmouthed baby kisses.
I want to hear her laugh and cry and scream and swear and pray.
I want to wipe drops of blood from her knees and kiss her tears away.
I want to clean up after her when she throws up all over her bed.
I want her to get pissed off at me and slam a door in my face.

I have to dust her urn instead.

They say that she will feel no pain. She will never suffer. Never live the ugly parts of life. And I suppose it's selfish, but I want to love her through all of that--the best and worst that life throws our way.

I wear an angel necklace instead.

No matter how hard we wish and hope and pray, Alaska is dead. We are lucky to have our angel girl. To have known her for the time we had. I would do this over and over again for her.

But.

I just want her back. Right now. Boom. 19 weeks pregnant.

(That attempt at undoing all of this just now? It didn't work.)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

It Should Have Been a Nightmare

You know you're forever changed when you have a wonderful dream about holding your dead baby.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dear Alaska, I can breathe again.

In the days that followed Alaska's birth, I started writing letters to her in a journal. In my "Dear Angel Baby" letters, I told her about how our day went as a family--the funny moments along with the difficult ones. I asked her questions and told her about our family and friends in heaven. I asked her to kiss my Grandpa Shelby who I have always felt a connection to even though he died before I was born. I told her about our family and friends who love her and miss her. I told her about my dream where she was hiding from me while I called to her, "Alaska...Alaska...Alaska..." I taught her what an interrobang is and promised her to work my way back to interrobanging and being my best.

Yesterday after we found out that we had a baby girl, I finally got to write a "Dear Alaska" letter. I even sent my girl a couple of interrobangs; they weren't silly interrobangs, but bursts of love, excitement, anger, pain, and peace. So far, this is the worst and best that I have felt in 24 days.


1/21/14
Dear Alaska,     ?! 

Alaska! My baby girl. I knew you were a girl. My heart is full and broken. Daddy teased me because my eyes are red, watery, & swollen. I've been crying since the doctor called me. I hope you knew your name already. I think you did. I had to tell the world your name. I want everyone to hear it. I want to say it. You're my angel girl. My blessing. My heart. This is an explosion of love & pain & peace like I have never felt. My roller coaster just got serious, baby girl. I'm also mad. I wanted to hold you. To kiss you. I even wanted to scold you for being naughty. I know you would have been naughty. :) <3 Alaska Eileen! Your name is so beautiful! Someone must write you a song (Asher's working on it). I didn't get to kiss you, but I feel you with me. I can breathe again.

Love, Mommy     ?!
my bracelet Elliott made for me in memory of his sister and my Alaska journal

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Daughter

This is our daughter.

ANGEL GIRL

I have a daughter. Her name is Alaska Eileen. They found nothing wrong with her, so it's my turn to be tested. We may never know what happened. So many people have to learn to accept no answers. I feel peace knowing that I have a daughter and that her name is Alaska Eileen. I am broken because I can't have her back.

When I was pregnant and told people that our girl name was Alaska, they either loved it or hated it (and weren't afraid of letting me know). Below is the story of how Alaska Eileen got her name.



One day in early October, I sat on the couch searching name lists for girls and throwing my ideas over to Brandon who was watching some show about Alaska (the state). He denied all of my suggestions and had no ideas to contribute. Out of the blue, he announced that we should move to Alaska (the state). This was not something that I was ok with, but to humor him, I joined him in reading information about what it would take to move. I also teased him about taking all of us with him if he was trying to run away from being outnumbered by our kids. I continued to list my potential girl names. He continued to shoot them down until he was walking out the door to go fishing, "What about Aspen?"

I liked it, but Aspen prompted me to suggest Alaska. Alaska is the name of a character in one of my favorite books called Looking for Alaska by John Green, but I would have never thought of it as a name without the events of our quiet October afternoon. He went for it.

We chose Eileen after my Grandma Eva Eileen. Our boys loved the idea that if they had a baby sister, her initials would have an A for Asher and an E for Elliott. We love our Alaska, our angel girl.

BIG BROTHERS

Monday, January 20, 2014

Superstar: Another Brick Wall

Asher is the superstar of his class this week. He sat next to me on the couch and read the questionnaire while I wrote his answers, "I have ______ brothers and ______ sisters." I hadn't seen this one coming until we had most of the top half completed. My heart raced, and I swallowed back tears as he talked about his favorite game, tv show, and food.

Why this week?

Why couldn't this have happened before we lost our baby?

Or even in another week when (I hope) we at least know whether we had a girl or boy?

He told me to write that he has one brother and maybe a sister or a brother, and with that, we moved on to the rest of the questions. I am thankful that he wanted to include our baby and that his sadness over our loss hasn't held him back.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Saucy Faces

My family had our first outing today since we lost our baby. I didn't want to leave the house when Brandon suggested that we go out to eat, but I knew that I should just go for it. We had a nice time visiting, watching the game, and teasing our boys about their challenge to NOT use a napkin until they had eaten all of their wings. We just laughed at their saucy faces, and I asked them to please not be so ridiculous when they eat at school.

Hiding at home with my family is more comforting than ever right now, but I have promised that I will get weird again. This means that I have to listen to music, eat food that tastes good, skip, read a great book, and enjoy the simple moments like dinner with my family. Here's to one moment at a time.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

My Last Interrobang

Last night I woke up shortly after I fell asleep. Every time that I wake up, I realize that my baby is dead. This is my "new normal" (a common saying among members of this club that I was forced to join). When I wake up like this, finding sleep again usually takes a couple hours.

As I tried to snuggle back to sleep, I started thinking about the last time I interrobanged, the last time I was excited. It's a vivid memory of a beautiful black and white image on a screen. I was at my last prenatal appointment.

After my doctor commented on how much my belly had grown, she tried to find the baby's heartbeat. This should have been the first time the Doppler worked. That rhythm I had heard through the ultrasound just three weeks prior should have filled the exam room. As the minutes passed and I joked about this stubborn little baby who was sure to be more of a handful than both older brothers combined, my doctor's attempts became less gentle. She pressed the machine harder into my belly, searching and trying to get my baby to turn. I wasn't worried.

She left for a minute to see if the clinic's ultrasound was available, and I texted Brandon to let him know our baby was hiding out again. A few minutes later I chatted with the nurse as we walked down the hall. We went into the dark room. After more jelly was squeezed onto my baby bump, my doctor placed the ultrasound wand and turned the screen, "There's your baby...baby's back...and legs..." My heart warmed. I was excited to see my beautiful little one again, Should I ask them to guess the baby's sex?! She moved the wand and clicked around on the buttons apologizing because she doesn't use the ultrasound often. She left to get help. I wasn't worried.

A second doctor came in and looked at the screen, whispering to my doctor for a few minutes. I watched my baby's perfect form as they moved the wand around and talked about the colors from the blood flow. My baby was the black and white body floating in the center of the screen. My baby was surrounded by the red and blue flashes that appeared around my womb. Too far away. Come on, baby. Light up. As the second doctor left, I realized that I didn't like him. He clearly didn't know how to use the machine. I was a little worried.

My kind and wonderful doctor turned to me. I noticed the nurse's worried face. My doctor said something like, "Sami, we can't find baby's heartbeat, and the baby isn't moving." I was a little worried.

"Ok." That second doctor clearly didn't know anything.

"We're going to send you to the hospital for another ultrasound. Do you want me to call your husband?" I was already leaning over the side of the table to grab my phone from my coat on the floor. I made the call for Brandon to come pick me up right away. I was a little worried, but since that second incompetent doctor had been involved, I was sure the ultrasound tech would find our baby's heartbeat right away. Just like three weeks before. The hospital's machines were better than that second doctor's machines. I was worried.

Brandon drove around the block and parked at the hospital. He held my hand as we walked over the icy parking lot and checked in. He waited as I went to the bathroom to confirm that everything was fine (instead I stared into the mirror at a face I had never seen before). He brought me tissues and held me as we waited to be registered. I was worried.

He stood at the foot of the table in the ultrasound room and watched the screen that was turned away from me this time. Why didn't I make them turn the screen toward me? He stood there by my feet and listened to my doctor talk to the tech. He watched as my doctor turned to me and said with compassion, "Sami, we don't know why, but your baby didn't survive." I was numb.

Brandon held me as I sobbed at the thought that I would soon be induced and deliver our dead baby. He held me as I imagined whether it would be anything like the dead lamb that I saw my step-dad deliver years ago. He held me as I dreamed of holding our tiny baby. I was terrified.



An essential note: I need to be clear that the second doctor I wrote about above is not incompetent. How I wish he had been a fumbling idiot who got it all wrong on that first ultrasound. He didn't get anything wrong. He is another compassionate and wonderful doctor who was a source of comfort when my induction failed. He was the doctor who delivered our angel. We are thankful for his care.

Friday, January 17, 2014

19 Days: A New Calendar

I've been the mother of a dead baby for 19 days.
Every Monday is one more week that I've been the mother of a dead baby.
Every Tuesday is one more week since my baby was born.
Every Friday I should be one more week pregnant (today should mark 18).
The 20th of every month is one month closer to my due date.
The 30th of every month is one more month since finding out that my baby died.
The 31st of every month is one more month since my baby was born dead.
Every year on New Year's Eve we will honor and celebrate our baby's short life.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

An Almost Interrobang

I came close to interrobanging in a message to a fellow grieving mom yesterday. I am eager to hear her angel baby's name, so I asked if they had decided yet. My first instinct was to interrobang my question, but I deleted the bang and just left it as a question. I don't know why. I regret that I deleted it.

My Love

I need to take a moment to appreciate my husband who has truly been everything we need. He keeps our house together, deals with the funeral home, lets me fall apart and helps pick up my pieces, plays wild games with our boys, and just sits with me. He does all of this without guidance from his own parents. My mom pointed this out to me the other day, and it hadn't even occurred to me that most of us, even as adults, have a parent to turn to when we need them. It's not that he doesn't have support from friends and family. It's just not the same as the love and strength I get from my mom.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Just Hold On

"Embrace everything that grief gives you. [...] We embrace all of those emotions to connect to the flow of life." ~Warburton
This roller coaster of grief is inescapable, but I understand that I have to stick with it even though I'm tempted to bail off. Each day this week, I have watched a speech about grief or loss. Today I chose Dr. Geoff Warburton's TEDxBrighton talk called "The Adventure of Grief." This talk helped me appreciate even more that I need to endure all of this no matter how much it hurts: "You need to feel that emotional abyss. You need to let that abyss swallow you."

Last night I had my first dream about our baby. In my dream, we found out that we she was a girl, and I just kept saying her name over and over. I think that I knew she was dead, but in typical dreamworld fashion, she was also alive. It was almost like she was hiding from me in plain sight as little ones often do, so I was seeking her, playing her game by calling to her.

My first emotions upon remembering this dream were peaceful. But since I am on a roller coaster right now, I also went to all of the what ifs and whys: What if we didn't have a daughter but a son? Why can't I be almost 18 weeks pregnant right now? What if we do find out that we had a daughter? Why can't this nightmare go away?

These painful emotions were brief. When I thought about this dream throughout the day, it was a warm memory of a beautiful moment with my maybe daughter. Today was a better day. Today I didn't feel quite like crawling in a hole each time someone asked me how I was. I realize, though, that tomorrow this roller coaster might have me speeding down into the darkness. The only thing I know for sure is to just hold on.

“Maybe a part of you needs to die. Close off your experience of the abyss and you close off the flow of life. Here’s the thing. Block that anger and you block your vitality. Block that fear and you block your excitement. Block that deep emotional pain, and you’ll block your access to compassion. Even block your hatred and you’ll block your access to peace. Block your experience of that abyss, and you will block access to the depths of who you really are and the energy that is going to take you forward. Right in the center of that abyss, in that silence, you’ll find your liberation.” ~Warburton


     

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tense

I can't breathe today. Through yoga and a grief meditation, I forced myself to get about 30 minutes of good breathing in and tried to unclench my jaw. My heart is being squeezed by a strong, steady grip but pumps on in anticipation. Do we have a daughter or a son? When will we get the ashes? Why did this happen? I delude myself by believing that I will feel better once we have these answers. Ultimately, we have a dead baby, and no number of answered questions will make this ok.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Big Brothers


Elliott brought a book home that he has been writing for our angel baby. After I read this book to Asher tonight, he told us that some kids say that he isn't a big brother. They have no idea what a great big brother Asher has been from the second he found out about our baby.

Below is part of Elliott's letter from page 1 of his book.
Dear, Baby 
I wish that you could have lived. I'm in 3rd grade & I'm really sad. I played football & I'm playing basketball. We lost our first game. My birthday is in May & your birthday is on new years eve. I have a lot of fun. You have 2 brothers Asher & me. 
from, Elliott 
p.s. we made a mii for you



Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Game of Grief

"While you may feel that you are successfully distracting yourself from grief, you are actually a prisoner of your grief. To free yourself, you can't go over it, you can't go under it, you can't go around it, you just have to go through it."  (36)
 from Empty Cradle, Broken Heart: Surviving the Death of Your Baby by Deborah L. Davis, Ph.D. (1996)

I have been thinking about The Game of Life (TM) often over the past 13 days as Elliott and Asher have played several times. It's missing some key aspects of real life, though, I've noticed. None of the little pink or blue characters die during the game. There is no space for divorce or infertility or funeral expenses. They don't have the occasional black space that delivers news like, "You owe the hospital $5,000 because your baby died." Nope. We all drive our station wagons to retirement filled with a happily married couple and their biological children (none of them in an urn).

I didn't notice this until my family landed on that black space so unexpectedly. Today I keep revisiting my denial of the fact that our baby is dead. This didn't really happen to us, right? In seven months I will be hauling a newborn around to baseball practice and swimming lessons. This happens to other people, and it makes me sad when it happens to them. It just doesn't happen to us. So I keep slamming against the brick wall and submitting to this reality again and again.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Blessings and Pain

I realized after a day without pain meds that my body isn't yet healed. Fr. Andrew visited this morning and gave me a blessing for mothers of miscarriage.

My mom and I took Elliott and Asher to the Children's Museum. I hadn't thought about what it would be like to be surrounded by babies and pregnant moms. I love seeing the babies and hearing their baby noises, but it also hurts. It broke my heart to see Asher play with the little ones and know that he doesn't get to hold our baby in June. This kid was made to be a big brother.

But all of those babies are blessings--nursing, spitting, laughing, crying little blessings.

Elliott had his first experience with archery today. As I watched him and the other kids (while trying to stay in the background and away from conversations with strangers), a pony-tailed girl of about 10 caught my attention. Is our angel baby a daughter? Would she have shared these outdoor hobbies with her brothers and daddy? Or do we have another son? I want to know right now!

My sister Sunshine gave us the idea to create a blessings jar for this year. On our angel's birthday, we will open it and read our blessings from 2014. Even on this painful day, we had several blessings to add.
BLESSINGS JAR

Friday, January 10, 2014

Thanks and Rest

Today was a day for thanks and rest. Thanks to our family, friends, and colleagues for the support and acknowledgement of our baby. Thanks for the time that we had with our angel baby. Thanks for the prayer that our baby's big brothers read when we sat down to eat this evening, "Perhaps they are not stars in the sky, but rather openings where our loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy." Thanks to my doctor and nurses and for healing. Thanks for the restful day with Grandma Dawn. Thanks to my husband for being everything I need.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Angry

For a moment I forgot. It didn't even last a second, but I had this moment of joy thinking about how much my baby bump had grown since before break. I felt so stupid after. And pissed at that idiot part of me who is in complete denial. Who forgets that she isn't pregnant anymore?

My world is a shattered pile on the ground, but life goes on.

"Finger of birth-strangled babe"--this line from Macbeth has played over and over in my mind since Tuesday when we read it in class minutes after I told them that our baby died and was born last week. I can't shut it off, and I can't erase the images that come with the phrase.

I cannot read a book right now. I don't want to read a book. I don't care about books.

I can't have our baby back no matter how many times I ask. 

I, I, I, I, me, me, me. Greif is self-centered and whiny. I can't get out of my own head. I suck as a friend right now.

I had a baby last week, but my old clothes fit me.

I am so blessed, but I don't want to talk about that right now.

Instead of ordering baby items, I'm tracking a package for a cremation necklace.

My body hurts from holding myself together all day.

Instead of being excited about hearing our baby's heartbeat at my next appointment, I'm waiting to get our baby's ashes and the results of the autopsy.

I still have moments where I think that I will wake up from this nightmare.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Just Gray

What does our baby look like?
Just questions--do we have a third son or a daughter? mommy's freckles? daddy's crazy hair? big brothers' blue eyes?

What does our baby look like?
Just dreams--about boy or girl, about uncontrollable giggles at the best big brothers in the world, about bright eyes behind long eyelashes.

What does our baby look like?
Just gray--ashes and a black and white ultrasound photo.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

conversations after loss as the world moves on

Last week I found out that my baby had died.
Last week I had my baby.
Last week I became the mother of a dead child.


"I don't know what to say."
I know.
Neither do I.


"How are you?"
Crappy.
Heartbroken.
Angry.
Grieving.
Blessed.
I don't know.


*silence, avoidance, belly checks*
This really happened.
I will not pretend that I'm ok.
I can't smile to make you more comfortable.


"I'm so sorry."
I know.
Me too.
Thank you.


"It happened for a reason."
Yeah.
Ok.


"I wish there was something I could do."
I know.
Me too.
You can't.
You're here.


"I lost a baby, too."
I'm so sorry.
I don't know what to say.


"Mom, today I told my class that our baby died."
How did that go?
"It made me feel sad."
I felt that way, too.
"Mom, I miss our baby."
So do I.
I love you.

Monday, January 6, 2014

I'm not weird anymore.

I'm not weird anymore.

One week ago, I decided to take belly pics to send to my friends and family. Elliott took one after I did a goofy self-portrait peering over my bump. Aside from one photo at 5 weeks, these were the first belly shots of what I thought would be many more to come.

When I found out that my baby was dead, I transformed from being weird (and proud of it) to being broken. Will I ever be silly again? I can laugh at my family's antics, but I have no ability to amuse myself. Things that were funny before just aren't right now. I wouldn't know how to make my friend Michelle laugh and say, "You're so strange," like I imagined she would when I sent her my selfie belly.

So I'm not weird right now, but I have promised our angel baby that I will find a way to a new weird on this grief journey. For my family and for myself and to honor our third child.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

4 plus an angel

I welcome the physical pain that I have now--engorgement, bruised hands, cramps. My body is healing as the days go by, and none of this has hurt as much as the emptiness, stillness, silence. Somehow the pain is proof that I really am the mother of three. That I didn't imagine this lost baby. That I am not asleep in a nightmare. That this really did happen to my family as it has to so many others.

 Elliott asked me if the baby felt any pain. I told him that I didn't think so because the best place in the world to be is in mommy's belly. I hope that's true.

 I would do this all over again for the 15 weeks that we had to celebrate this baby. We became a family of five, and Asher often wondered whether we were three boys and two girls or four boys and one girl. Now we are 4 plus an angel.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Empty

On Monday, December, 30, 2013, I went in for a regular prenatal checkup at 15 weeks 3 days. I had had an ultrasound at 12 weeks because my doctor had trouble finding a heartbeat with the Doppler still. Everything looked perfect at that time--a wiggly baby with a fat belly and sweet little nose. When my doctor couldn't find the heartbeat on Monday, I wasn't worried. I just thought that we had a stubborn baby and was excited that she took me back for an ultrasound in the clinic (maybe I could get them to guess the sex). She couldn't find the heartbeat and baby wasn't moving, so they sent me to the hospital for a second ultrasound. I held my breath hoping. Brandon watched as the tech and my doctor examined the screen. It didn't take long for my doctor to tell me that our baby was dead. My heart broke right then, but I held it in until she said that she wanted to induce labor soon. I couldn't wrap my mind around that one; I was terrified.

We went home to tell Elliott and Asher. I decided that I needed to go in that afternoon. I couldn't bear the thought of waiting. The induction didn't work after 24 hours of first having cytotec and then pitocin. I couldn't take it anymore. I hadn't made any progress on the pitocin but didn't want the D&E. What if something went wrong, and I died? I was desperate to see my kids. Brandon had my sister bring our sons to the hospital to help calm my fears. My doctor listened to my fears and put me at ease. The surgical team was wonderful.

When they brought me back to the OB floor, I came to enough and reality hit, "I'm not pregnant anymore, am I?" And the nurse said that I wasn't, and I rolled over and just sobbed. I swear she broke down, too, but I have no idea if that was real.

I wanted to labor and deliver my baby without pain meds as I had done with Elliott and Asher. I wanted to feel the pain of all of it. I wanted to see my baby and get tiny little prints. I didn't get to have it my way, but it doesn't really matter. My baby is dead, and we will honor our child and grieve this loss. I am anxious to get the ashes and the results from the autopsy. At least we will know whether we had a boy or a girl. We can use the names that we had picked out.

My world is broken right now. I'm trying to hold it together and have some special time with my family. My boys are amazing. They made a mii character in the wii to represent the baby (with a little piece of each person in our family--Brandon's nose, Elliott chose hair, my favorite color, Asher's chubby cheeks). I am so thankful that we told our boys early and had these past months to celebrate and love our baby.

I will return to work on Monday. My students and colleagues knew that we were expecting. I am terrified of facing those people but need to get it over with.

I hate that this happens. I hate that there is nothing that we can do to fix this. I keep waking up and remembering that my body is empty. On Thursday I tore and smashed a window screen (it was in line for the trash anyway). I can't stop time or reverse it, but I want to. I want to go back a few days to when my baby belly was growing every single day. Back to when my biggest problem was so minor that I can't even think of what it might have been.

I am praying for healing for any baby losses and health for all of the babies who are growing rapidly to prepare for a beautiful screaming arrival into this world. The sounds of the babies on the OB floor were such a comfort to me. It's the best sound. The absence of it in my life has left a gaping hole.

Lost Interrobang

I decided to start this blog after spending the last few days reading the blogs of other mothers who have lost babies. I have written before that I do not know what I truly think about something until I have written about it. Writing helps me process.

I wasn't sure what to name this blog. Since my world fell apart on Monday, I have no ability or desire to interrobang with joy. When I interrobang it is because I am excited and happy (usually about something weird--just ask my family, friends, students). I know that I can still interrobang; I have interrobanged some anger in the past few days. Will I ever interrobang with joy again? I hope so. I think so. My baby would want me to. For now, though, I know it is going to be a long road until I find it.