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Posts Tagged ‘Stillbirth’

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Good morning, K-Mart Shoppers. I see that I have not visited you here for quite some time. I have much to share, but each time that I plan to log on and do so, I realize that I’ve failed to mention a few sort-of major things that are going on and so I log back off, failing to post anything. First and foremost, it would appear that I am having a baby. According to medical professionals, this baby will be a boy. According to my pregnancy app, this boy will make an appearance in or around 58 days from today. As I waddle about, fretting over the big stuff and the small stuff, it occasionally hits me that these medical professionals and that pregnancy app may actually not be a part of some grand conspiracy. It may actually be true that I’m having a baby. This is, all at once, incredible and exciting and breathtaking. It’s also terrifying and grey hair-producing and exhausting. What it isn’t is miraculous, or at least not any more so than any conception, gestation or birth. I can have babies. The proof is in the messy-haired blonde I just peeked at, snoring softly, Abby Cadabby tucked under her arm. I can also lose babies. Unfortunately, we all can. But it isn’t more than what it is. Or at least this is what I will tell you that I believe. I don’t know if it is my largely-Irish DNA or the fact that I was born under the sign of Virgo (or the fact that I used to play truly insane amounts of Tetris), but for me, things must make sense. The puzzle pieces must fit in order to weave a cohesive story. In terms of this one, this Who Gets To Have a Baby and When and How Much Grief Must Be Endured In the Process, I am waving the white flag. This one doesn’t make sense and it never will. One trip to any grocery store in America will shatter your belief that only seemingly “worthy” people get to parent. I read an essay² this morning, written by a mother who was stuck in limbo as her daughter endured diagnostic test after diagnostic test, and this is how it ended:

This is not the other shoe dropping. It is not tragic irony or doom or punishment for our interpretive failures. It is life, with loss woven into its very fabric. That’s just what there is.

So, I’m still here. And I’ll try to visit more often. In part because I really need to talk to you about Heelys and the fact that they are, surely and truly, going to be the death of what makes this country great endurable. So, I’ll see you soon.

 

¹ I’m hoping my baby doesn’t look quite this terrified/appalled/aghast.

² “Lumpy” – Catherine Newman

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As I stated last year, I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions.  I think they’re generally committed to under duress, or worse yet, under the influence of eggnog and sugar.  And since no judge in the world would be able to hold you accountable for any contracts drafted by the pen of Captain Morgan or Sara Lee, you’re really sort of left in a lurch, with nobody to answer to but your own sorry self.

2010 has been a difficult year sucked ass.  Between my nutso autoimmune disease and my pregnancy losses, my body has had more attention than I generally like for it to have.  And I have found no shortage of people who are chock-full of tips, hints and general advice.  There are only so many times that one person can say, “Yes, that might work.”  Or, “That’s one idea.”  Or, “Sure, give me his card.”  Or, “Please step away from me, kind sir.”

So with that being said (and with nothing more than oatmeal and a possibly-lethal amount of coffee in my system), I have decided to make a December 5th Resolution.  Starting right this minute, anybody who attempts to offer advice about my body¹ will be met with a loud chirping noise, followed by a flick between the eyes, followed by a kick in the ass.

So hear ye!  Hear ye!  Whether you are a friend or a foe; a doctor or a salesperson; a pirate, a poet or a pauper, consider yourself warned.  The non-existent suggestion box is officially closed for business, locked, chained and cast into the deepest depths of the Pacific Ocean.  Got it?  Chirp, flick, kick.  Or maybe flick, chirp, kick.  Or, depending on the obnoxiousness of the advice-giver, kick, kick, flick, flick, kick, chirp.  We’ll see.  The possibilities are endless.  The world is my oyster.  And I prefer my oysters served without a side of shitty advice.²

¹ ie: What my body does or doesn’t do; is or isn’t capable of; does or doesn’t look like; should or shouldn’t behave like, etc…

² Okay, I’m actually allergic to shellfish but let’s just pretend I’m not for the sake of bad analogies.

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Several months ago, my husband and I unearthed my CD collection, which had been in storage for over a year, and I spent a day listening to songs and albums (are they still called albums?!) which I hadn’t heard in too long.  Since my stillbirth in June, I had replayed a bit of the Tori Amos song “Spark” in my head, from her “miscarriage album”, From the Choirgirl Hotel.  She’s convinced she could hold back a glacier.  But she couldn’t keep baby alive… I found that song and played it on repeat, over and over and over and over again.  And then I moved on to “Playboy Mommy.” Then the baby came before I found the magic how to keep her happy… I’ll say it loud here by your grave.  Those angels can’t ever take my place… And then my paranoia began.  I’m superstitious.  I found out in September that I was pregnant again.  I was happy to have another little bean growing in my belly but anybody who has lost a baby knows that the word “excitement” does not come into play in a subsequent pregnancy.  Fear, dread, worry, hope, hope, hope, hope, hope…

People always say that all you need to do to get pregnant and sustain a healthy pregnancy is to relax.  “Just relax and everything will be fine.”  “A friend of mine had tried to get pregnant for 6 years and once she finally relaxed and quit trying, she got pregnant with twins!”  “Your body knows what it’s doing.  Relax.”  “What are the chances that something bad could happen again?  Don’t borrow trouble.”  Guess what?  There’s not enough chamomile tea, aromatherapy bath salts or benzodiazepines on this planet to allow for relaxation during a pregnancy after a loss.  But alas, I stowed my Tori Amos albums away for fear that all that miscarriage talk, all of that looking back instead of forward, might keep me from being able to adequately relax.  I drank my pregnancy tea and slept on my left side.  I kept my hot laptop battery away from my belly and I crossed streets to avoid second-hand smoke.  I took my prenatal vitamins and I stayed far away from lunch meats, soft cheeses and alcohol.  I did everything right.  But I still lost my baby.

If anybody’s keeping score, my three pregnancies have yielded one living child.  I don’t need Rain Man to tell me that those odds are pretty shitty.  Yes, it would seem that the dealer’s got an ace in the hole, but I’m not easily discouraged in the face of being dealt a terrifically dismal hand.  In fact, I have plans of blowing up the fucking casino.

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A woman who inspires me, a woman who inspires me, a woman who inspires me…  I’ve been thinking about this writing assignment for a few days now and I’ve been having a hard time choosing just one woman.  There are women who inspire me in different ways every single day.  Some are inspiring mothers, writers, friends, businesspeople, athletes, actors, neighbors, grandmothers, activists, lactivists, gardeners…  How do I choose just one?  And then I received an email newsletter from Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope and I had my answer.

Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope is a support site that is “putting a face on miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss.”  Women are able to submit their stories and photos to the Faces Gallery.  The creator of the site, Kristin Cook, lost her little girl in May due to a blood clot in the umbilical cord.  I found her blog, Dear Stevie, after I lost Mabel in June.  Although this sort of misery does not love company, I did find comfort in knowing that I was not alone in my sorrow, confusion, anger, and emptiness.  Kristin started Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope with several other mothers who have experienced the loss of a child.  The site, and all of the beautiful faces that are featured, are a testament to a woman’s ability to endure unthinkable heartbreak.  These women are survivors and I am one, too.  Luckily, being a survivor doesn’t mean that we don’t get to have days where the tears flow easily and the emptiness in our arms seems too much to bear.  But tomorrow is a new day.  If that one sucks too, there will be another day after that.  And another and another.

Many women suffer the loss of a child.  Too many.  But not every woman is able to create something so positive out of the pain.  Thank you for doing what you do, Kristin.  You are true inspiration.

Kristin’s carving of Mabel’s name, from her Forest project

{Thank you to SITS and to the sponsors of the Back to Blogging event, Standards of Excellence, Westar Kitchen & Bath, and Florida Builder Appliances.}

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…Death put on its steel-toed boots and mounted a restless stallion who then jumped on the back of a pissed of rhinoceros who, in turn, hijacked an overheating Mack truck and ran me the hell over.

On June 12th, 11 weeks ago today, I said hello and goodbye to my little girl.  On that day, I saw the very deepest depths of hell and – I’m not gonna lie to you here – the PCA pump of Fentanyl that I had access to during my 30 hours in the hospital was nice.  It is unquestionably easier to deal with the overly-lifelike aspects of life while you’re high as a kite and floating somewhere above your physical body.  When that pump was shut off I was left here on Earth, gravity fully-engaged, with nothing more than an opiate hangover and an empty and confused belly.

I spent the remainder of June and July soaking in the mild early-summer sun and trying to move on.  But I didn’t grieve.  I kept moving and I avoided pregnant women like the plague.  It’s not that I felt anger or jealousy about their pregnancies, it was more that pregnancy no longer brought with it an assumption of coming joy.  When I saw a pregnant woman, my mind was reeling with the knowledge of the things that can and do go horribly wrong.  In the past 11 weeks I have seen countless images of dead babies and each and every one of them is breathtakingly beautiful.  But not in the same way that beauty is assessed by anybody who has not seen their own dead baby.  There are more of us who have witnessed this beauty than you can even imagine and I will not go into the “fairness” of this because, as it all turn out, our mothers were right.  Life isn’t fair.  And although I suppose it’s all relative, there are millions of people in the world who are suffering greater injustices than you or I.  I just heard a story yesterday of a woman in my area who was told that she had advanced stomach cancer.  When the doctor performed the surgery to remove the huge tumor, he found that she was actually just pregnant.  He “removed” the baby without telling her in hopes of covering up his own mistake.  Not all doctors are good and I have learned this lesson in a most unfortunate way.

I have a beautiful, intelligent and loving 4-year-old daughter and she is almost the whole entire world to me.  Watching her sleep is a joy that, prior to knowing her, I didn’t realize existed.  In the grief community, people often say that their baby was “born sleeping.”  I don’t care for this term because, let’s be honest, we would all prefer that our baby be born kicking and screaming, with a beating heart.  Why sugar-coat it?  Many well-meaning people have told me that I’m lucky to have my living daughter.  And I am.  But children are not interchangeable.  Don’t they know that?

Being a mother has a way of tethering us to this earth.  But what happens when one of your children isn’t on this earth?  What then?  I imagine that you’re stuck somewhere between the earth and the sky, in a sort of dyslexic purgatory.

August has been a blur.  Sadness finds me every day and deep sadness brings its own share of physical pain as well.  Apparently our bodies like to remind us that things have been shitty, and that things are pretty shitty still. Thankfully, fall is coming soon and I will be here greeting it with open arms.  I welcome the break from the sunshine and the beginning of the Pacific Northwest’s long rainy season.  I won’t get my baby in October but maybe I’ll get a chance to grieve her in the cool, damp darkness.  Because, as Bob Dylan sang, “I’ve still got the scars that the sun didn’t heal.”

photo, To Write Their Names in the Sand

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On May 26th, I started a chapter of life that I had not previously imagined possible.  I found out that things were not right, not okay, with my baby-to-be.  I started consulting with Dr. Google.  I started seeking out answers as to what might be wrong with my little girl and what I might possibly do about it.  I found lots of articles that, with neither a medical degree nor a deep understanding of Latin roots, were all Greek to me.  I also found a wealth of support groups.  I found groups of women who were pregnant and were choosing to terminate their pregnancies due to medical reasons.  I found groups of women who were pregnant and were choosing to terminate their pregnancies due to non-medical reasons.  I found groups of women who were pregnant and hoping that their non-thriving babies would live to see 24 weeks, at least.  I found groups of women who were pregnant and were choosing to continue their pregnancies despite the fact that their doctors were giving their babies a very slim chance (or no chance at all) of living beyond the womb.  I felt compelled to join the last group.  I didn’t know what was wrong with Mabel but I knew that I wasn’t at all sure that I could “terminate” her brief life for any reason short of my life being seriously threatened.  I settled into that group for as long as I could, and then my baby died and made the point moot.  I would’ve kept her in my belly for as many days, weeks, and months that were given to me by whoever the hell is handing out miracles these days.  The sore boobs, achy joints, freckled face and constant peeing were heaven on earth to me.  I knew that they were short-lived.  And then she was gone.

Here’s what is left in her place:  The stories of women who lost their babies far too soon (Is there a right time to lose a baby?) and families who are in the process.  I am drawn to these stories, to these women.  I don’t know why (and believe me, it pisses me me off beyond reason), but every story I come across includes wonderful families, deserving parents (Maybe the shitheads always get to keep their babies or maybe they just don’t blog?), broken hearts and unanswered questions for the dude (or dudette?) upstairs.  Beautiful families.

One of these families is the Cook Family.  They lost their little girl, Stevie Joy, on May 8th at almost 26 weeks.  Kristin Cook writes a beautiful, heartbreaking tribute to Stevie at her blog, which began as a spot to write letters to her baby-to-be.  One of the ways that Kristin and Andy remember Stevie is through the beauty (and the life) of trees.  After they lost Stevie, they carved her name into the bark of a tree – a love letter.  Now, they do the same for other little ones who left too soon.  Last night, after a full day of fitful tears and a defeated heart, I opened my email and found Mabel’s carving.

When you have a baby, and that baby is not here on this earth, it’s hard to find opportunities to celebrate them.  Last night, I got one.  Thank you, Kristin.

Kristin’s blog

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Last night, out of the clear, blue sky – as if there were such a thing – my daughter said to me, “So… your dad’s invisible, right?”  I wasn’t sure how to respond.  My dad died three years ago but for much of my life he was, essentially, invisible.  But she wasn’t speaking figuratively – She’s 4.  I told her that my dad is not alive anymore and that many believe that people who are not alive anymore go to a beautiful place called Heaven.  I said that those people could think about us and that we could think about them but that we could not see or speak with one another in the same way that she and I see and speak with one another.  I told her that we could still think about and love one another.  What I didn’t tell her is that I really don’t know what I believe happens to us after we die.  (How could I tell her that?)  She said that I should paint a picture of my dad and hang it on the wall so that I can see him while I’m thinking about him.  I told her that this was a fabulous idea.  And then she said, ‘Which one of us will be invisible first, me or you?”  I told her that it would probably be me.  I tried to make this sound, in some way, light and cheery.  She played along for a few seconds and then burst into tears.  She sobbed and sobbed and, between sobs, said, “I just feel like I need to cry about that!!”  While I held and rocked her (and tried not to lose my mind because of the sadness of it all) I remembered the first time I learned that my mom would, someday, die.  I remember feeling that I would never be able to carry on – that life could never again be normal.

I was a child who had a healthy fear of strangers (thanks in part to the man who tried to coax my sister and I off of a city bus and to his home) and an unhealthy fear of impending war (thanks in part to being born in 1975 and also in part to the song, “Russians.”  Thanks a lot, Sting.).  I was afraid of loud noises, unusual weather, darkness…  But mostly, I was afraid of being apart from my mom.  I knew that one day Averi would start to understand that living is not a permanent state, but I was hoping that I had a few more years before she would start to ask questions.   Who was I kidding?  Last month she was waiting for her new baby sister, her “Halloween Surprise.”  This month she’s saying that she’d really like to have a baby brother or sister…someday.

Fuck you, life.

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