(From the unfinished drafts archive) — I am 1 in 4

(I started this post back in October, because it was pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. I never quite finished it, but it’s real for how I felt at the time (and some days still do) so I thought I’d share it with you):

I am 1 in 4. I never wanted to be. I never thought I would be. I never got a choice. I never got a reason. And I never will. But I’m stuck in the flippin’ club no matter what.

I constantly struggle with whether to speak or keep letting others just swim along. I started this blog because I didn’t feel like I could be honest about everything I was going through on Facebook. I still don’t feel like I can be on that platform.

But 6 months and a second pregnancy later, the ignorance of people when it comes to miscarriage still angers me.

My dear acquaintance, it’s so good to know you…

…for strength of your hand, that is loving, and giving; and Happy New Year, with love overflowing, with joy in our hearts for a blessed new year… — Regina Spektor

Happy 2019, blogosphere! I know I’ve been MIA for essentially two months, and I’ll get to that. But first, I just want to shout out into the void that having this space where I can share (often unfiltered) with all of you, some of you, or none of you, has been so important to my psychological well-being as I weathered the shit-storm that 2018 wrought upon my heart.

Yesterday, for the first time in quite awhile, I got out Charlie’s memory box. As the year came to a close, I felt like I needed to revisit it. As you all know, there is never a moment when Charlie isn’t in my heart, but it was important to me to go through the tangible reminders. And lordy-be as soon as I opened that box the emotions overwhelmed me and the crying started; but strangely, I kind of appreciated that — y’know? I went through the sonograms, pregnancy announcement and congrats cards, the lone onesie and the baby boots, and then the┬ácondolence cards and gifts. One pendant stood out to me, just like it had when I received it; it says, “I carry you in my heart”. It’s from an ee cummings poem that I’ve always liked, though until Charlie it held different meaning for me. When I read those words again yesterday, they just seemed extra poignant. Because I do — I carry Charlie in my heart. As much as I wanted to, for reasons I’ll never quite know, I couldn’t carry him in my body. So, my heart is where he’ll stay.

It’s kind of odd, because the closer we get to bringing our Birdy baby into the world, the more I think about how she wouldn’t be here if not for Charlie. I struggle with that sometimes, because if I had been given a choice, if any maybe-mama like me had had an actual choice — how the hell would we have decided which child we lost? Every now and then I ponder if that’s why the choice wasn’t ours to make.

And then I think too, about how we’ll tell Birdy about Charlie someday. I wonder how you go about that, because Hubs and I decided pretty immediately that Charlie isn’t a secret we would be keeping from any other children we may have. I keep coming back to this: “Before you, there was another child. He helped to give us you.” I mean, hopefully by the time we share this story with her I’ll have something better prepared, but that’s where I’m at right now.

Speaking of Birdy, here’s her update: With the fear hanging over our heads about what the low amniotic fluid levels might mean for her and the pregnancy, we were referred to a maternal fetal specialist, who did manage to take the edge of the worry — a bit. A week before Christmas, at a follow-up appointment with them, we got the good news that the levels had reached the “average” range, and were no longer considered low! At the same time, we learned that I had failed the glucose test spectacularly and now had gestational diabetes. Trading one worry for another.

Holy crap, can I tell you how awful I felt? Emotionally, not physically. I was shocked when they told me about the GD because I hadn’t felt “off” in any way, had barely gained five pounds the entire pregnancy, and never experienced the swelling everyone kept saying would come at the end of the second trimester. Oh, but emotionally, I was an absolute mess. I felt immensely guilty, even though I hadn’t done anything wrong — I felt like I couldn’t do anything right no matter how hard I tried, like my body was letting me down once again, like there were a mass litany of things that were just wrong with me and I couldn’t do anything about it.

I went to a class to gain more information and learn how to control the GD with a very strict diet (oh my God, there are carbs in EVERYTHING — no longer are fruits and veggies just considered “healthy”, now you can’t have them before X-time and then only if you eat X kind, etc.). The grocery store became a minefield that could easily start a meltdown on my end because I was trying so hard to follow all of the rules to control the GD but I was so overwhelmed! But I just kept telling myself that if I followed the rules, my blood sugar levels would be fine and everything else would be fine. I mean, that’s the way things are supposed to work! Except it wasn’t because no matter what I did my morning fasting and ketone levels where high. So then they put me on medicine to help those stabilize (which they are and I’m grateful for) but it just felt like one more damn thing I’d failed at.

[I know I’m complaining; I know others have it so much worse; but that doesn’t mean this isn’t still hard for me.]

Here comes the sun though — The doctors said despite all of this, Birdy is doing fine. She’s right where she should be growth and development-wise. As she’s growing and getting stronger, I’ve finally been able to feel her move around, which is such a blessing because it lets me know she still kicking in there (get it?). Last night, Hubs even got to feel her move, which was so great, because she’s been a bit contrary about that every time we’ve tried before!

So, that’s what I’m trying to focus on the most — she is okay, and that’s the most important thing. As Hubs reminded my tear-stained self yesterday when I was flipping 2018 the bird, it was a really difficult year of loss and grief and storm weathering — but 2018 also gave us two-thirds of Birdy. And there’s no arguing with the blessing of that!

Happy New Year, and better times ahead for us all!

Birth Days

Yesterday was Charlie’s due date. What was estimated to have been his birthday. I’m not sure why, but lately I’ve been thinking of Charlie more as a boy. Having a pronoun to use is comforting, so I think I’ll just go with it for now.

I’d put in for a personal day for 11/7 almost as soon as school started up again. I didn’t know how I would feel on his due date, so I thought it best if I just stayed home. That way, no matter how the day ended up being, I wouldn’t have to struggle to keep it together all day long.

What was funny, in an odd and unexpected way, was how I didn’t feel devastated or bereft all day long. I had intended to spend time looking through the box I’d put together of the small amount of things we had that represented his short existence, but I didn’t. I may still do that today though. If he had been born yesterday, it would have a been a beautiful autumn day for him to enter the world.

I’ve been thinking too about how this sort of loss just becomes a part of you. My baby died. And when I think about that, I don’t think about it in terms of “fetal tissue” or whatever clinical terms exist. He was my baby, and he died, and when that happened, I had no idea how I would make it through the darkest grief I have ever experienced. I knew I would, but I didn’t know the path to get there. To get here. Where I can think about him, and what happened, and not break down.

My baby died, and there is absolutely no getting around that. It isn’t something that can be fixed, and it isn’t something I will ever have an answer for. I still get sad, and angry — of course I do. Those are pieces of me now, just like Charlie is. I still feel guilty. I think about things we did last spring, when he had already died, but we didn’t know it. I wonder how the hell I didn’t know. And even though there isn’t a single thing I could have done to change what happened, I am still so sorry.

Oh, wait. Here comes the crying.

If Charlie had lived, his birth day would have been a monumental event. A defining point in our life. I’d be completely exhausted from labor, and, I like to think, completely elated and in love with the new life I’d brought into the world. Instead, I’m fighting like hell to get his sister here safely. To do for her what I couldn’t do for him. And it’s a weird juxtaposition.

Happy Birthday, my first baby. I will never stop wondering who you would have been. But I am so grateful for the time we had you, for making my way through your loss, for everything I’ve learned because of you. I love you always.

 

The uphill of the downhill

Based on a bunch of reading from blogs and baby-focused websites, plus doses from “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” (the book, not the movie), I’ve gleaned that the second trimester is supposed to be the easy one. The downhill stroll before the third trimester rolls around.

But my downhill is still pretty uphill, and not because of a ton of un-fun symptoms. I mean, I have some. But none that are debilitating. To be honest, this pregnancy has been pretty “easy” overall, physically at least. And while I appreciate that part, the whole pregnancy has been very difficult because of the emotional aspect. Not even the heightened emotions bit, just the ever-present fear of losing this baby, too.

I know, because of Charlie, that no matter what I do or how I try to “steel” myself for a potential loss, I will still lose my ever-loving mind to grief if it happens again. But a part of me still braces for it, because as much as I want to believe Birdy will end up happy and healthy in the world come March — and as much as I try and even sometimes convince myself that that will absolutely happen — there’s still a part of me that can’t trust that.

And I’m so jealous. I am. Of all the people who don’t have to think about that while they’re pregnant. I’m happy for them, but I’m jealous of them. I want the bliss. I yearn for it. And I have big, big hope. But I don’t get the bliss that comes from ignorance. That comes from knowing about other people’s stories of loss, but not having them really touch me. Not that blissfully pregnant people are bad people — they aren’t! That’s not what I’m saying! I just — well you get it, right?

Another thing that’s been rolling around in my head lately, is that I still kind of feel like I’m not quite allowed to be excited about Birdy out loud. At least not with people who aren’t my nearest and dearest. Most people don’t ask about the pregnancy. My bosses didn’t even acknowledge they got the email I sent them informing them I would be gone for maternity leave around early March (I finally asked one of them three weeks later, just to be sure they got the email and knew they would have to find a long-term sub — they did). And again, it’s not that anyone’s doing anything wrong. I suppose I just realized that I still feel the weight of stigma from miscarriage — whether it’s truly there or not. As though because I couldn’t get Charlie safely into the world, no one should really bring up Birdy until she’s actually here.

So, clearly, I’m still kind of grappling with some guilt. Ha. Likely that won’t ever completely go away. Logic versus feeling.

But she is here. Every day. And for as long as that lasts, maybe I should let myself celebrate her whenever I damn want. Or, at the very least, not think I should be keeping my head down about the pregnancy.

I’m aware I’m kind of talking in circles. Well, writing. But at least I’m expressing!

Little girl in the world

March baby is a girl! About a week before we found out, Hubs told me he thought that would be the case. I really didn’t have a strong feeling either way, but you know in the only dream I had about our baby beforehand she was a girl. I’ve had another since we found out, a weird dream, but nice in that she had her Daddy’s eyes.

I’m happy and relieved to have a pronoun to use. I’m happy we’re taking steps to move forward with our nursery. I’m happy with getting to tell our nearest and dearest that we’re having a little girl (though I would have been equally as happy with a little boy — my only goal was and is a healthy baby). I’m happy figuring out what to name her.

But, in a way, as happy and relieved as I am, especially knowing that right now she’s all right, I am still completely terrified. Maybe even more so than I was before, even though I know that doesn’t make much sense. We made it this far, 21+ weeks, but there is still so far to go. And I spiral pretty easily of late, because there is so much I still cannot protect her from, and that puts my fear and terror on overload.

Last weekend I had a complete panic attack because I started thinking about how easy it would be for a deer to run across the road at night, and we might hit it, and my seat belt would tighten up and it could crush her. And the same this could happen if we braked suddenly for that hypothetical deer but the car behind us didn’t and so they hit us. Or someone wasn’t paying attention when they merged and the same thing could happen that way. See how quickly the spiral happens?

Beyond that, what if I can’t drink enough water even though Lord knows I am trying and my amniotic fluid dries up and she suffocates? What if my body fails me again and thinks she’s supposed to come out way too early and I go into pre-term labor — there’s no way she could survive outside my body yet. What if the umbilical cord gets wrapped around her neck? What if she gets stuck in the birth canal?

I’m aware that in these moments I am fully on the crazy train, but given that any one of these things could actually happen (in some way), is it being crazy or just that I’m hyper aware of how easily things could go wrong after Charlie?

If I’m honest, I’ve thought about how returning to counseling would possibly be beneficial; but at the same time the pragmatic side of me knows my school schedule doesn’t mesh with my previous counselor’s office schedule, and the whiny side of me doesn’t relish the thought of having to find another one.

I still haven’t been writing much lately, on here or even privately. So I think for now I’ll try to get back into the habit of doing that, to see if it helps.

And I’ll keep writing letters to the baby, and talking to her, and trying to ground myself in what’s going right.

Kids say the darndest

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled into a conversation with a group of my middle school kids. Out of the blue, one of them says: “My mom said I was an accident. Ha!”

I was quietly startled, but asked if he understood what that meant (all the while trying to figure out how to soften the statement). He said no, but that it sounded funny so he just laughed. I asked him if he wanted to understand and he said “yeah”.

I did my best, tried to be school-appropriate but also honest, and just told him that it meant his parents weren’t actively trying to have a baby when they got him. I further said that many babies are often unplanned, but that I was sure his parents were glad he was here.

The first student nodded and then asked another if they were an accident. This student rolled right with it and said, quite clearly, “No. I was a miracle baby.” She further explained, “If my brothers and sisters had lived, I wouldn’t be here.”

I about choked. Because that’s kind of exactly where I am. I still grieve Charlie. But it Charlie had lived, March baby wouldn’t be growing right now. And I caught on the word they had chosen to describe her: miracle. And I was grateful for this set of parents that I’ve never met.

Then a third student chimed in, “Oh, yeah. That happened to my parents, too. Before my sister. He’d be, um, like probably ten by now. If he lived.” So nonchalant. Just stating something that was.

Y’all, it was so surreal. An accident. A miracle. A non-categorical that was familiar with both. It was kind of amazing.

It made me kind of hopeful for this next generation that’s coming. That miscarriages, miracles, accidents; none of it will have to be in the shadows. If at twelve and thirteen, this isn’t a “big deal” for them to talk about, maybe one day it won’t be a big deal for anyone.

Forgive my slightly macabre Harry Potter reference

Last week, my co-worker, the one who had a mirror pregnancy to my first one, had her baby. She was a month early, but all are doing very well. And it’s odd, because I’m happy for her, for their family, but it’s this distant, sort of removed kind of happy. Part of me was grateful her baby came early; grateful she didn’t deliver on Charlie’s due date in November — which was a definite possibility since our pregnancy timelines had been nearly the same. For most of the day when I found out I was fine. Until hubs came home and I said it out loud. Then the floodgates opened. Not for long, but they did.

Because sometimes I still wonder: why me? Why Charlie? Why our family?

If you’ve read or watched Harry Potter, do you remember the part where they talked about the prophecy saying the Chosen One would be a boy born at the end of July? Which Harry was — but so was Neville. Somewhere along the way I heard something like — the Chosen One could just have easily been Neville. His parents were in the Order, too. Fighting against Voldemort. He was born at the end of July, same year as Harry. The only reason Harry ended up being the Chosen One was because Voldemort thought it was him and thus made it so.

Now, I know this is far-fetched. I know it’s a work of fiction and so many holes could be poked in the Chosen One theory. I know it isn’t real life.

But I still make parallels. Because of our similar pregnancy timelines, within two days of each other, I can’t help but wonder why my baby was chosen to leave. Why not hers?

And before anyone gets up in arms, let me be clear: In NO WAY do I wish her baby had died. Not ever, even in the black mass of my grief immediately after we lost Charlie.

But because there is no answer for us, because there never will be, there will always be a part of me that looks for the why. Even if it isn’t there. And even if I’m so grateful for the life I’m growing now.