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.

Let your heart beat here

[So I haven’t blogged in awhile, and to be quite honest it’s mostly because this new position at work has been completely sapping me. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt this unsteady at work, and I keep telling myself that I just have to get through this “first” year in a new position and after that things will calm down. But a school year is a looooooong time — at least it feels that way. Between school and growing March baby, my nights and weekends have been reserved (mostly) for full-on resting! But. I’ve still been saying a lot in my head, and since I get a three day weekend I’ve been wanting to get back on here.]

We had a check-up last Tuesday (Finally — four weeks is a long time to wait!) when I was two days prior to eighteen weeks. I’m not sure if it’s the same for any of you, but I’m always of two minds when we have a doctor’s appointment: I’m so grateful to have one, because it gives me definitive evidence that March baby is continuing to live, but I’m also completely anxious, because that definitive evidence could also tell us that March baby has died. On Tuesday, when it got to the point where they used the fetal doppler to check for a heartbeat, I like to think I was initially calm.

But then it seemed like it was taking so much longer than last time to find the beat, and my calm went away in increasing increments. The doctor kept telling me it was so normal, but at the same time she kept moving the thing to different places because we weren’t hearing a heartbeat yet and all I kept screaming in my head was, “THAT’S WHAT THEY TOLD US LAST TIME!” Right about the time I knew I was going to completely lose it, that I was convinced she would take up the doppler and tell me what I already knew, that “it happened again, it happened again, it happened again” was on a constant loop in my head — the sound changed. And I felt like I barely gasped out, “Is that it?!”

And it was. And it was okay. And the heartbeat was strong and normal. And I was amazingly relieved but I also full on started crying because holy shit I had been in such a state of panic that we had lost another child. The doctor was kind, and was again trying to assure us that it was normal for it to take awhile to find a heartbeat at this stage, and attempting to respectfully figure out why our emotions had shot sky high, and all I could get out as I attempted to get myself under control was, “We thought it happened again.” And then hubs took over and explained the backstory.

The doctor was kind, and almost immediately went into this mode of how the practice could help make the process better for me (which still surprises me, no matter how many of the staff make up for my awful first visit there). She offered then and there to schedule more frequent heartbeat checks if we wanted. I had been trying to just have faith over this last month waiting for the check up, and we go in for the gender ultrasound in a little under two weeks, and I feel like I can last until then.

But if I could go back and start this pregnancy over again, I would schedule more frequent heartbeat checks from the start. I wanted to fight for March baby but also be brave and have faith. People — you can do those things and still get more regular piece of mind. That’s my advice to anyone out there like me. Honestly, if we manage to get March baby here safe and sound, and we are lucky enough to get pregnant again later on, I will for sure be scheduling those right away.

According to my pregnancy app, March baby can hear some things now, so I talk to him/her at night. I tell the baby how we were given quite a fright at the appointment, and how we are so relieved they are still here with us. And I press my hand against my stomach and will the baby to move enough so that I can finally feel it. Just something else to reassure that things are still on-going, still hopeful, still growing.

Dropping the baby bomb!

Hubs and I dropped the baby bomb today — we made our social-media-official announcement that March baby is incoming! And it felt really good. But, not gonna lie, we also felt a little apprehension, anxiety, and fear. We are still illogically worried about jinxes. Personally, I have to keep reminding myself that Charlie didn’t die because we shared our joy back in the spring. And if, God forbid, we lose March baby too, it will not be as a result of sharing our hope and happiness now.

I still want our hope to be bigger <3.

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