Friday, October 13, 2017

What I think you should know about stillbirth

People often ask me what I want people to know about stillbirth.  As Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day is approaching on Sunday I feel I’m finally ready to share what I would want people to know. 

Stillbirth happens way more often than people think.  23,600 families are affected by stillbirth every year in the United States.  That equals out to about 1 in every 60 pregnancies.  That’s one baby out of every sixty that won’t have first birthday parties or laugh for the first time.  That many families will have to plan funerals instead of welcome home parties from the hospital.  That many families will leave the hospital without their babies in their arms, and will forever feel empty.

Those affected by stillbirth will most likely always have questions.  Why did it happen?  What caused it?  Why me?  What did I do wrong?  Could I have prevented this?  And for some, they have most of those questions answered.  Then, there’s me that didn’t get answers.  There was no explanation as to why.  Sure, the actual cause of Isaac’s death was Placental Abruption.  That is normally caused by heavy drug use or trauma; such as a car accident or fall.  None of that happened to me.  Sometimes if there’s bleeding they can catch it in time to save the baby.  I had none of that either.  The way Isaac’s placenta was, the blood was trapped behind it so there were no indications something was wrong until it was too late.  Questions.  So many questions I’ll never have answers to. 

I would also want people to know that the guilt you feel when your baby dies is suffocating. You question everything.  Our innocence is gone.  There will never be a “normal” pregnancy again. Every time someone announces they’re having a baby I immediately hope theirs doesn’t end like mine did, and their baby lives. 

I would want people to know that the silence sticks with you forever.  Yes, the room was completely silent when Isaac was born.  There were no cries of life or laughter that you did it.  It’s actual silence.  But, more than that there’s also the people you thought would be there to support you that weren’t.  How angry that can make you. 

On the other side there are those few people that you never would have guessed would step up and be there for you.  The surprise heroes who stood by you and let you cry, talk or just sit with you and say nothing.  The people that not only stood by you, but figuratively held you up when you didn’t think you could keep going on your own.  Those are the people I like to surround myself with now.  If they stuck around for my worst they are keepers forever. 

One of the biggest surprises to me after losing Isaac is that everyone is worried about the mom, but most forget that the Dad lost their child too.  I can count on one hand the number of people that reached out to Tom to ask how he was.  Most people would text or call him and ask about me.  Please, please remember the Dads.  They are the ones holding up the moms, making important decisions, like burial outfits and what color casket so the Mom doesn’t have to.  They are barely holding on as well, and they need just as much support.  Take them out for a beer or coffee.  Send them a card.  Or even just a text or call to say you’re thinking about them would go so far. 

You should also know that grief doesn’t go away.  Being two years out from losing Isaac, I still have days where I can’t move past that sinking feeling.  How it would be easier some days to just stay in bed and not face the world.  The simple thrown around question of “how are you?” is so hard to answer most days so you just say “I’m okay” or “I’m good”, when deep down you want to scream “my baby is still dead and not with me – I’m not okay.”  Most people wouldn’t be able to handle that so we just smile and say we’re fine. 

I would also want you to know that the members of the “loss mom” community are some of the strongest, most compassionate women that I’ve ever met.  We would do anything in our power – literally anything – to make it so another mom doesn’t have to become part of our group.  These women are the ones out fighting and making other people aware of infant loss in hopes they won’t have the same thing happen to them.

 We don’t constantly bring up our deceased children for attention.  We’re afraid our child will one day be forgotten.  We bring up our children and show some of the few pictures we have because it’s ALL we have.  We don’t have the memories or the smiley pictures.  We have a lifetime of love in our hearts and we want to share that with you.  Please don’t look at the picture or post and think “she wants attention again” or “she’s already posted that picture so many times before.”  We’re literally sharing with you, our friends and families, the only thing(s) we have to share of our children. 

If someone you know loses a baby or has a miscarriage run, don’t walk to them.  Be there for them.  Hold them.  Love on them.  Let them cry.  Let them scream and yell.  Let them just sit and not talk.  Whatever they need, just be there.  Show up.  They are living their worst possible nightmare and need all of the support you can give them.  If you’re scared you’ll say the wrong thing, just don’t say anything.  Bring meals to them.  Take their older children out for a few hours of fun.  Do their dishes.  Just DO something. 

And when and if a loss mom gets pregnant again, please whatever you do – do not tell them “at least you got another chance.”  We wanted that chance.  We wanted our child that died.  And being pregnant again is the most terrifying and traumatic thing they can go through after losing a previous child.  Let us be anxious.  Let us talk to you about every little detail and fear during this pregnancy.  And reassure us it’s okay if we call our OB again (for the fifteenth time) just for peace of mind. 

This Sunday is Baby and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  I’d like to invite you to join me and light a candle at 7 pm and leave it lit for one hour to help us remember our babies that were taken too soon.  If you keep your candle lit for one hour in whatever time zone you’re in, there will be a continuous WAVE OF LIGHT over the entire world on October 15th.

These are the main things I would want people to know.  Stick with us.  Be there for us.  Say our child’s name.  Remember our child’s birthday.  And, please understand that our grief will last a lifetime. 

President Ronald Reagan said it best “When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan.  When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower.  When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them.”  



Friday, September 8, 2017

Two Years

How has it already been two years?  Two years since I gave birth to you. Two years since I last saw your face. Two years since I said hello and goodbye on the same day. 

A lot has changed since last year on your birthday. You sent us your baby sister who has mended a lot of the hurt, but she will never take your place. Seeing her and all of the new things she's learning and doing is a constant reminder of all that we missed out on with you. 

I would give anything to have you here with us. Not a day has passed in the last two years that I haven't thought of you.  Not one. I wonder what your laugh would sound like. What your voice would sound like. If you still looked like your Daddy, when your brother and sister look like me. I wonder what characters you would love, and what would make you smile.  I wonder what your favorite food would be. Would you need sung to at bedtime each night?  Would you try to do all the bigger kid stuff Thomas was into? Would you two fight over the same toy?  So many unknowns. 

That's what your life is to me - unknown. I still don't know why you had to leave us, and I probably never will. I just have so many questions. 

I still have days that I'm angry you're not here. Not angry with anyone in particular, just angry. I still sometimes ask "Why me? Why did God take you?"  And as angry as I am on those days I'd still do it all over again to have those precious thirty four weeks with you. 

I also have days that I'm filled with so much gratitude that I was chosen to be your Mom. Every child is a gift from above, and I was hand picked to be your Mom. 

Children are a gift from the Lord, they are a reward from Him. - Psalm 127:3

Two years. Two years since I gave birth to you. Two years since I last saw your face. Two years since I said hello and goodbye on the same day. But, also, two years full of never ending love, and that's what pushes me to keep going. 

I hope you're dancing in heaven my boy. Happy Angelversary. 


Momma

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Tomorrow....

I don’t know what to say.  
How do I describe the rippling ache whose circles widen but never disappear?
How to communicate that he is an important part of my family, my life, even though he is dead?
How to celebrate his birthday when he is not here to enjoy it, when the decisions I must make of how to remember here are incapacitating?
And how do I describe just how much he has changed my life, my thoughts, my heart? 
How do I put into words the love and gratitude I have for this tiny little boy that never breathed?
Tomorrow is his 2nd birthday, but he’s not here to celebrate.  He died.  I birthed him.  I held his body and said goodbye, but it was not really goodbye.  It was an end, and a beginning.  I carry his memory and my love for him with me always.  
Some days it’s beautiful to be a mother to a son that died, that I was chosen for that purpose.  Other days it’s an eternal aching, knowing I’ll never see him grow up.  
Today is one of those days.  
I don’t know what to say.  

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Marlowe's Birth Story

I was scheduled to be induced on Sunday, July 16th around 5 pm.  That entire day I was an emotional mess.  I was so worried about leaving Thomas for three nights, how having Marlowe here would affect him, what having a breathing newborn would feel like again, and every other possible thought that could have run through my head.  The day seemed to drag on forever, which was a blessing and a curse.  I was tired, but my mind was too busy to allow me to sleep so I decided to finally pack my hospital bag.  Nothing like waiting until the very last minute.  About an hour before we left both boys and I laid on my bed and talked, and laughed, and laughed some more.  Thomas thought it was funny to tell us that after Marlowe we should have 17 more kids.  He wanted a lot more brothers and sisters.  After we kept laughing his number kept getting higher - all the way up to 9 7 6 kids.  Hearing him laugh and enjoying that last little time as a family of three still brings tears to my eyes.

We dropped Thomas off at my dads house around 3:40, and made it to the hospital and onto the maternity floor by 4:30.  Yes, we were early, but Tom said he'd rather have me there early than run into traffic.  I think he was just anxious to get it all started.  As soon as we dropped Thomas off I started to get excited, and the sadness went away.  Could this be really happening?  Would we bring home a living, crying, breathing baby?  As odd as it sounds, I hadn't let myself believe that was actually going to be our reality during my pregnancy.

We got all checked in and I was hooked up to the machines.  The nurses seemed to be amazing and very nice.  One nurse in particular, Debbie, went out of her way to take great care of us.  It was just Tom and I there until around 6:45 when my Mom got there.  She was going to stay the night and stay until Marlowe was born in case we needed anything.  They started the meds to soften my cervix at 6:30, and told me they'd use that medicine every four hours until I was 2 cm dilated.  Of course, I was only at 1 when we got there.  My OB was on call that night from 6 pm until 6 pm on Monday so I was very excited that he would be the one to deliver her.  It was what I had been praying for. He came in to see me around 7:30 and said he was so relieved we were finally at the hospital being monitored, and he would do everything in his power to get her here safely.

I tried to sleep that night, but no sleep was had.  I was too uncomfortable on that rock hard bed, and nurses came in periodically.  At 2:30 am the anesthesiologist came in to go over all of the risks and questions of the epidural, and the nurse checked and I was 2 cm - I thought things would start moving much quicker and she would be here within the next few hours.  I had no idea. After I hit 2 cm's, they told me they'd see if there were any significant changes on it's own, and if not they would start the pitocin around 5 am.  My contractions were every two minutes at the point, but I wasn't even feeling them.

Pitocin was actually started at 5:30 am.  At 9:15 my doctor came in and checked me and I was between 5-6 cm dilated, and fully effaced so I decided why wait for the pain to get worse, and got the epidural.  That was when my OB also broke my water.  Not sure how after that, but I finally got about an hour nap, which was much needed after not sleeping all night.

Around noon I was checked again and I was 7-8 cm dilated.  They were upping the dosage of my pitocin by 2 every 20 minutes at this point.  The contractions were definitely stronger, as I could feel all of the pressure with the epidural.  Mom and Tom took turns holding my hand during the contractions which was nice.  Not sure I could have done it without them.

At 2:15 I was checked again and I was finally at 9.  That was also the moment I had an emotional breakdown.  We were so close, but I was so afraid something would happen, and we would lose her too.  Tom just held me for what felt like an hour (really only minutes I'm assuming).  My OB came in to see my around 2:30 and said it wouldn't be much longer.

At 3pm exactly my day nurse Kristen came in and checked me.  She said I was at 10, and ready to push.  The next 20 minutes were such a whirlwind.  By 3:05 my OB and two nurses were in the room and I was starting to push.  After one contraction I heard my OB say that she was face up.  Of course any and all of the the horrible possible outcomes came rushing to my mind.  They kept telling me to take deep breaths, but I finally said "I can't get a deep breath!"  I shouldn't have said that because then I had an oxygen mask put on, and I definitely hate those things.  The strong smell of plastic is gross.  I pushed through two more contractions and I could hear my doctor saying stuff but wasn't really focusing on it.  I was turned over on my side, and I had no idea why and didn't push through one of the contractions.  Apparently, (thank you epidural), with every contraction my doctor was turning her around so that she would come out face down like normal.  During the fourth contraction after everything started I heard my doctor say something about a judgement call and he was going to use the vacuum to get her out.  Little did I know that Marlowe's heart rate was dropping with each contraction.  During the fifth contraction (the fourth one I pushed through) she was finally out.  I waited and I swear you could hear a pin drop in the room.  For the first time I looked around and the room was full of doctors, nurses, and two pediatricians.

The next sound was hearing her cry, and I honestly can't even describe the feeling of relief that overtook me.  She was here, and she was alive.  I did it.  She was born at 3:20 - only 20 minutes after it all started, and pushing through four contractions.  I remember looking into Tom's eyes and saw how happy he was.  The tears were there in his eyes as well, and I could tell he felt the relief too.  My OB asked him if he'd like to cut the cord, and with the biggest smile I'd seen from him in a while he said "Absolutely!"

I asked to hold her, and that's when they told me that due to her being face up she had swallowed some fluid, and the pediatricians were working on her.  I just laid there listening to her crying and thought it was one of the best sounds I'd ever heard.

See, after having and losing Isaac the sound of the room when he was born was silent. Not even the doctor or nurses spoke.  So hearing the room buzzing with people cleaning up, her crying, the pediatricians talking, and my OB talking to me while he stitched me up was a completely different feeling.  That's when I started sobbing.  I was instantly releasing every emotion I had held in for I didn't even know how long.  Tom held me again (our new normal) and kept telling me she was beautiful.  I asked if she had hair and was told yes, but they wouldn't be able to tell what color until after she'd had a bath.  Ha!  Tom went over and took a picture of her so I could see her.

While the pediatricians were doing her vitals I heard one of them say "Boy!"  I immediately freaked out and asked if she had said it was a boy.  The room erupted in laughter.  Apparently she had said "oh boy" because Marlowe was such a big baby.  My OB then says while laughing - "Congratulations, your daughter grew a penis!"   The tension was gone at that point, and within a couple of minutes she was on my chest.

She was perfect.  She was beautiful.  She was everything and more that I hoped she would be.  I didn't see or hold her for 25 minutes after she was born, and that felt like the longest moment of my life.  I held her for a little bit, and then I let her Daddy hold her.  To say we were instantly in love is an understatement.

Thomas came up to the hospital a little bit later, and his face lit up seeing her as well.  He even fed her a bottle - he was so proud!!

Thank you to everyone that prayed for us, checked in on us, and sent well wishes.  Our journey with our precious girl has only just begun, and I can't wait to see where it takes us.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Countdown to Baby, with all of my mixed feelings and emotions

So many thoughts running through my mind. Seventeen hours until we're supposed to go to the hospital to be induced.  It's still hard for me to believe we get to bring a baby home this time. 

I worry about Thomas, and how having a baby at home will affect him. Although, truth be told, he will be fine - he's wanted a baby sister since before I was even pregnant. I worry about him being away from us for three nights or so - the longest he'll have been away from us. I worry about him being jealous. 

I wonder how the delivery will go, and if the memories of giving birth to Isaac will pop up, and make me miss him even more. I wonder if it'll happen faster than with Thomas - good lord I hope so. 

I worry about how things will change between Tom and I. Not that I'm worried it won't be good in the end, but lack of sleep is always hard and tempers run shorter than normal.  This is mainly on my part. He's much better about not snapping. 

I wonder what she looks like, what type of temperament she'll have. I wonder if she'll look like her Daddy, her brothers, or me. In the end it doesn't really matter - she'll be beautiful no matter what. 

Just so many emotions and feelings going on tonight. Every day that I've been pregnant this time I've been waiting for the bad news, for the sad look on a doctors face and the words "I'm sorry." 

We've prayed for the baby for so long. It's just hard to believe it's finally time to accept that it's really happening. 

I've had a perfect pregnancy by the books. No gestational diabetes, no blood pressure issues, some swelling, no weight gain (still down 16 pounds from when I got pregnant), but not enough to worry. I wouldn't have been put on bed rest if it wasn't for the anxiety and stress related to losing Isaac. 

Every day I've still been pregnant since June 10th when I hit the 34 week mark is another milestone I made it past. And, as of now, this is the longest I've ever been pregnant. I had Thomas at 39 weeks at 4:05 am. That was this morning. 

I'm proud of my body for what it has done to bring our girl safe. I doubted my body, I doubted I could safely do this without messing up all sorts of things. 

Will she be the right fit for us?  I admit I didn't try to bond with her as much as I should have while she was still inside. That, to me, was keeping my heart guarded in case something happened again. I couldn't let my heart be broken into a million pieces again. So I've done my best, and talked to her, and loved her from afar. It's all I had to give at that moment. She has deserved so much more.   My hope is that I will  able to give her all of the inner parts of me that I've held in since September of 2015. 

In the end what I want is for my family to be complete, and extremely happy. Our goal over the next few days, weeks, and months is that we all come together and bring our family full circle to where we're supposed to be and life will be normal again. 

People have babies every day, and life goes on. I just need to know that this pain, sorrow, desperation, longing, love, and weakness have all been worth it. 

I need to hear her tiny baby cries and hold her, because i think that's when I'll allow all of these walls of fear and uncertainty to fall down, and I'll be so over the moon that our little girl - the one that was chosen for us from her brother Isaac, will finally be ours. It will be time to relax and know our baby girl has finally safely made it home. 

Sweet dreams baby girl - I'll definitely miss these strong kicks and movements, but I'm looking forward to seeing you on the outside so I can hug, and kiss, and hold you for hours. I'll memorize every little part of you that I missed out on doing with your brother. Rest tonight my love because tomorrow night you and I have a lot of work to do. In the end, I pray it's all worth it. I love you so much already. 

~Momma

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Choose Love over Fear

It isn’t our ability or our disability that divides us.
It isn’t our gender or sexuality. 
It isn’t our religion or politics.
It isn’t our wealth or poverty.
It isn’t our race or family background.
It’s fear.
Fear divides us.
Fear keeps us separate and alone.
Fear builds a wall but love breaks it down.
Fear stays safely away, but love opens the door and says
“Let’s journey together.”
Love doesn’t have to be right.
Love doesn’t have to be perfect.
Love doesn’t need everyone to be the same.
Fear divides.  Love unites.
Therefore, I choose love.
Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest
of these is Love.  1 Corinthians 13:13


Faith takes the first step.
Hope believes the path leads to healing.
Love makes the journey beautiful.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Another first...

When some of your best friends have a new baby boy, you do everything you can to go show your support and see the beautiful baby. But, what do you do when they had their healthy baby at the same place you lost yours?  

Last night for the first time since leaving without Isaac on September 10th 2015, I faced my fears and went back inside the place I was completely broken apart. And guess what?  I survived. Sure, thinking of Isaac was on my mind the entire time, but I wasn't there for me last night. It also helped that the few days I was there with Isaac I never once saw what room number I was in, or even remembered what floor I was on exactly. 

This was the third baby we've gone to visit at various hospitals since we lost Isaac. And every single time we were back safely in our car I lost it. Not because I wasn't happy for them, (because I definitely am happy for them) it just brought up the "why us" question again. I wouldn't wish what happened to us on anyone, especially those closest to us, but why did they get their happy ending when we didn't?  

Just when I think I've handled every "first" that I'll have to go through as a loss parent another one pops up.  And as long as I keep looking forward, I'll keep going to visit friends and family, and tell them congratulations, even if it still hurts. Because in the end, I'll survive. I have each time so far.