5 Things I’m Not Since My Baby Died

“1 in 4”: I couldn’t find a reliable credible source as to where this statistic comes from. The Pregnancy Loss Directory claims the “1 in 4” statistic applies to pregnancy loss at any gestation while this article asserts it is only for miscarriage (without defining the weeks of miscarriage, though commonly it is a loss before week 20). Regardless, I’m not 1 in 4. I’ve even found the name of this blog to be misleading, 1/160 refers to the statistics of stillbirth (intrauterine fetal death after 20 weeks gestation) in the United States (other countries categorize stillbirth at varying gestations). Our best guess is that Corva died around 39+5 due to a massive fetomaternal hemorrhage (FMH). According to this study, a woman has a 1 in 775 chance of a 39 week stillbirth. It’s thought that FMH may not be as rare, occurring in every 1-3 per 1,000 births (~1 in 500 births).

A Mother to an Angel: I don’t believe Corva “grew wings” when she died and transformed into an angel. I don’t assert to be an expert on religion and I don’t practice the Christian religion. However, if one does subscribe to Christianity, note that the Bible is clear that angels and humans are different entities and humans do not become angels when they die. This isn’t to say I am offended by angels. A friend of mine, who years ago had a 2nd trimester loss, sent me this figurine iaicixhzhw6ixysvykuv__51534.1549715191 and sent Astoria a Vermont Teddy Bear dressed like an angel. I also don’t care if other people believe their baby is now an angel and I’m not offended nor do I argue with people about if their baby is an angel.

“Over it”–even 21 months later: I think about my dead baby everyday. To those who respond with “ew, get over it already,” I challenge you to go a day without thinking about one of your children. Just push them right out of your head and your heart. Don’t give them a second thought. Impossible, isn’t it? This isn’t to say that I cry everyday, although lately I’ve had quite a few tears. And it isn’t to say that I ONLY think about Corva. Of course I have other things to think about. But she’s always there.

Replacing my baby: Here I am in the 3rd trimester, mere weeks away from delivery (although it still seems like months). The truth is, if Corva had lived I wouldn’t be pregnant right now–she was to be our last child. Pregnancy after loss is….complex. I find that I can’t succinctly put into words what tumbles in my heart. There is no reconciliation for wanting my dead baby to be here and also desperately wanting this baby to be born alive and to continue living for many many years.

Ungrateful: I know from first hand experience that life can change in an instant. I don’t take that for granted. I thank the universe every single day that Astoria’s heart continues to beat. In the middle of the night when she’s crawling in bed, between my husband and me, I don’t care (too much) that her feet inevitably end up in my face because she’s ALIVE. I put my hand on her chest and feel the rise and fall and I am SO THANKFUL. Every time I feel my baby kick, I say a silent prayer of thanks that this one hasn’t died. So while the world may look at me and judge me for my anger or my grief, know that I AM grateful for what I have. As Angela Miller says, “You better believe any bereaved parent in the world could school you in the art of being thankful.”


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Miraculous Birth: A Non-Christian Perspective

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Please note that I am not a Biblical scholar by any means!

Astoria has been extremely interested in the original Christmas story this year–the whole baby Jesus thing. I’ve been regularly taking her to our local Unitarian Universalist church for about two years now, but Jesus is rarely mentioned. It’s more about respecting other people and the earth.  But I want Astoria to have an understanding of world religions, including Christianity, especially since about 30% of the world identifies as Christian.

What a confusing story. God impregnated a virgin with His son in order for that baby to grow up, do good deeds, and eventually be put to death on a cross in order for all sinners to go to heaven. Lots of heavy stuff–really too much for a 5 year old. I’ve sort of boiled it down to: God gave Mary a baby named Jesus and when it was time for the baby to come out, Mary and Joseph went to a hotel but all the hotel rooms were full so Mary had her baby in the stable. Then the angels sang and the shepherds and wisemen came to visit the baby and they gave him presents (poor Mary, frankincense and myrrh? She probably could have used a good piece of baby-wearing cloth). Then since the topic of Easter came up…Jesus grew up and was very kind to everybody but some people didn’t like him so they killed him but then God made him alive again in heaven.” (Uh, confusing much? Especially after having to explain about Corva dying and not ever coming home to live with our family). But ultimately, Jesus died because everyone ‘sins’ (then explaining sin: everyone makes bad choices sometimes).

Geeze.

But I digress.

Why a baby? I mean, He’s God. He could have saved all sinners in any sort of way. He had made adults before–why send an innocent baby only to have him sacrificed as an adult?

I imagine Joseph and Mary–ready to deliver, weary and hungry from their travels. Likely frustrated at being turned away at the inn (I would be). Only to deliver a baby in a dirty stable among the animals. The Bible tells us nothing of the actual delivery. Was it long and painful, resulting in contraction after contraction for hours? Or was it short and cutting–like quickly ripping off a Band Aid? Was Mary a loud laboring mama, braying like the donkey? Or was she more reserved? Was she scared? Did she cry? Did she vomit? How tightly did she grip Joseph’s hand? And when Jesus emerged from Mary’s body, did he cry immediately? Did he have difficulty latching on her breast to nurse? How did Joseph cut the umbilical cord? Did Mary experience tearing? So many unanswered questions…

I don’t believe Jesus was this perfect baby who never cried and slept for 8 hours at at a time. I like to think that Mary and Joseph struggled with perhaps a colicy baby, or a spitty Jesus who created a lot of laundry. Maybe he was even gassy. I like to imagine that Mary and Joseph argued about who would rise in the night to change a diaper.

Joseph: “you have to nurse him anyway and I have to work tomorrow.”

Mary: “I stayed home all day with him, you change him and I’ll feed him after.”

Ultimately, nobody knows why God sent a savior in the form of a baby: Jesus, born to earthly parents and raised among society only to be sacrificed for the sins of humanity. I like to think it’s because there is something so incredibly sacred about a baby: their sweet smelling skin, their absolute innocence, their helplessness–completely reliant on their parents; the miracle of birth-not only the birth of Jesus but the birth of all babies, even those who have left this earth. Continue reading “Miraculous Birth: A Non-Christian Perspective”

I Need You To Know That My Stillbirth Was Still A Birth — An Unexpected Family Outing

Chances are, even if you don’t know who, you know someone whose life has been impacted a stillbirth. If you are aware of this, then you probably know how important it is to acknowledge and honor the baby who was lost. You may have heard the parents ask for you to say their baby’s name […]

via I Need You To Know That My Stillbirth Was Still A Birth — An Unexpected Family Outing

***Trigger Warning***

***Trigger Warning***

 

Pregnancy after Loss AKA Why It’s Scary to Share Joyful News

So, I’m pregnant (see above). Other than a good handful of “loss moms” (mostly on Facebook), healthcare providers (everyone at my ob-gyn’s office, my dentist, my daughter’s therapist), and our immediate families–only about 10 others know (one of which is a friend/coworker who identified my pregnancy at 13 weeks–she pegged my previous 2 pregnancies also). My husband and I had a difficult time telling Astoria about this baby. Let’s just say it didn’t go great. And I waited until 21 weeks to tell my parents(!) and my boss. As I’ve been mulling over why it’s so difficult to share what should be joyous news, I’ve managed to come up with a few reasons.

Edited to add: This one is obvious and is related to the title of Trigger Warning–I’m ashamed that I forgot to write it. After nearly 19 months in the bereaved parent community, I know that pregnancy announcements can be difficult. Heck, I STILL struggle with pregnancy announcements and I’m pregnant. I doubt I will ever attend another baby shower and after Corva died it took me 17 months to hold a baby (and even then they were babies of other loss moms). Quite honestly, if it’s a fellow loss mom who is pregnant I don’t struggle but recently my college roommate announced her 4th pregnancy on social media and I had to unfollow her. I am also more aware and sensitive to those who have encountered the heartbreak of infertility. If you also struggle with pregnancy announcements, I am sorry if this post is difficult for you.

A. It could happen again

While the chances of this baby dying are low, the chances last time were also low. I was considered to be “low risk.” My blood pressure was normal, I didn’t have gestational diabetes, I didn’t use alcohol (while pregnant), drugs, or tobacco. Everything looked good. I had previously delivered a healthy baby at 40 weeks 5 days four years prior without any major complications. There was absolutely no reason to believe that my baby would die in utero. But she did. Research shows that once a woman has experienced stillbirth she is at four times greater risk of having another stillbirth. Fortunately, everything (once again), looks good for this baby and we have providers who are monitoring our progress more dutifully, but I still anxiously hold my breath daily. I don’t hold a lot of weight in statistics or chances as that really didn’t work out well for me last time.

B. Announcing this pregnancy invites conversation that I don’t want to experience

The conversation around most pregnancy revolves around excitement and happiness. I experienced this with my previous two pregnancies. And yes, I am excited and happy to welcome this baby into our family. However I’m also anxious (see point A). People typically ask about due dates (not something I want to share, I’m trying to be as vague as possible), gender (we do know the sex of this baby and have shared with some people but for a handful of reasons it’s a challenging topic), and names (see gender). Over Thanksgiving I managed to answer questions as briefly as possible and move the conversation away from my midsection. When I shared the news with my boss, I did reiterate (numerous times like a nervous lunatic) that we weren’t really sharing the news with many people. She promised to keep quiet (and I believe her completely) but she did ask what I’m going to do as I begin to show (more). I believe that some people will be oblivious, some people will just think I’m getting fat(ter), and others will suspect but have enough tact to not ask. At least this is what I’m hoping for.

C. Some people will assume that this new baby will “heal” our family

Let’s just make something clear right now: I think about Corva (and Astoria and this new little one) every.single.day. I know there are people out there who may think this is morbid or strange or believe I should just “move on” from such a tragedy. To them I ask: Do you think about your children everyday? How could a mother forget her child? I carried her for 40 weeks before she died and I delivered her in the same way I delivered my oldest daughter. Our third child is an addition to our family, not a replacement.

D. Some people lack tact

While most people were supportive after our loss and some continue to remember Corva with our family, other people weren’t/didn’t know how to be “there” for us during our grief. (Two of these people are my own parents which is why I waited so long to share our news with them. This has been a very hurtful scenario for me to navigate). If something DOES happen to this child (see point A), I assume those who failed to support our family the first time would continue in the same manner. Right now, my heart just can’t take that.  I want to avoid conversations (see point B) that invite platitudes and hurtful comments, even if unintentional.

And last, but certainly not least…

E. I fear my child will be forgotten

There are going to be people who, upon finding out about this third baby, sigh with relief and think such thoughts as now they can move on. (see point C). And while I will never forget my 2nd daughter, my baby who never took a breath, others will forget and never mention her.


What were the biggest challenges you had in your pregnancy(ies) after your loss?

Still Here

A few weeks ago, a fellow “loss mom” messaged me to check in. She noticed I hadn’t posted a blog in awhile. Yup, #truestory. And it’s not that I don’t have ideas for posts. I have a handful of half finished Google Docs that I could, well, finish and post. But for whatever reason, I haven’t. Maybe it’s because I’ve been having a crazy/busy summer with trips and house guests and work. Maybe it’s because my brain doesn’t work right anymore. Or maybe it’s just so painful. Like now I’ve gotten to this point where I feel like I’ve been able to manage my grief and if I churn up a blog post it unleashes all these emotions and I might (gasp) cry. Whereas before, I couldn’t stop crying and writing and posting now, it’s the opposite.

One year ago, I was crying multiple times a day. I was devastated and heartbroken. I truly thought I would never be happy again. I couldn’t imagine having to live the rest of my life in such sorrow, because the sorrow was so painful.  I blogged frequently. It was a way to process what happened to me–to my family, to my dreams, to my life.

These days, I still cry but not everyday. I do think about Corva daily, how could I not? I miss her terribly and imagine what our lives would be like had she survived. That in-and-of-itself is a dangerous path to venture down. It leads to what-ifs, doubts, and blame.

Several weeks ago, we took our 2nd annual family vacation to Rye, NH–gorgeous beach, lots of sun and sand. It was the second year writing Corva’s name in the sand. This year I wrote some names for some other loss moms but my internet wasn’t working and I spelled one baby’s name wrong and neglected a few others which was terrible because these women have been my tribe for the past 14 months. But then I also had Astoria tugging at me to go with her to the water and because I’m paranoid and 50% of my children are dead, I won’t let her go in the surf alone. So I vow to do better the next time I’m at the beach. Also, for writing names in the sand, it can’t be too gloppy and it can’t be too dry. Who knew?

I’m still fairly active in a handful of Facebook support groups, though I have failed to return whole-heartedly to my in-person support group (I did get together with 2 other moms in the month of May, which proved to be a difficult month–duh–to say the least). And I’ve noticed that now, 14 months out, I’m the one commenting on the posts from moms saying “it’s been x days since my baby died.” I’m the one reaching back 13 months to my own dark days, searching for what helped me the most. I remember desperately looking for a way to survive the pain–I found the Facebook groups, the blogs, the memoirs, the Still Standing articles. And it blows my mind that I wasn’t the last one whose baby died, that many more families have faced this heartbreak.

If you’re reading this and you have experienced the death of your baby, I am so sorry for your pain. There are a lot of us mamas, more than there should be. And we are here, we are still standing.

A Beating from the Universe

Have you ever felt like the universe, seeing that you’re already on the ground, approaches and beats you up (or down)? This feels like my life right now. Monday morning my husband told me that he couldn’t find our cat. He had last seen him outside on our patio and had left the door to the garage open so he could come in at his leisure. We live in the country and I am certain that some animal has killed him.

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Pedro was born May 15, 2005 in Oregon. My husband and I, not married or engaged at the time, had just moved into a shared house together in June 2005. I hadn’t had a cat in years–not since leaving my parents’ home for college in 1998. I’m a cat person. We picked up this adorable sweet tiny kitten from a pet store in July 2005. He was named for the character of Pedro in the movie Napoleon Dynamite. 

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As a kitten, I diligently taught Pedro not to climb on tables and counters. He lived in our rental home in Corvallis until we purchased our first home together in Monmouth. Once Aaron accepted a position in Orono and moved to Maine, Pedro kept me company in Oregon. Pedro helped me plan my wedding (ok, not really, but he was there). He loved going outside–though I tried so hard to keep him as an indoor cat–he was so happy outside with the wind ruffling his fur. When it was time to move him to Maine, we flew him on the plane, worried the whole time. He enjoyed clawing up our small rental house in Hampden and his life ended in Winterport, Maine.

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Pedro was part of our family for 80% of our relationship. He literally was our first (and only) “fur baby”.  He endured 2 pregnancies with me and met one of my children. He had incredibly soft fur–great for sopping up tears. He was also a good lap cat and loved to purr and be petted. As a baby, Astoria picked up a few signs and faithfully “signed” cat for Pedro (which was actually her just brushing her fingers against her cheeks to indicate whiskers). 

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IMG_20140615_094821.jpgDon’t get me wrong–he had his faults. His long soft fur shed like crazy, especially during season changes. He would get thick knots in his fur that I would brush out. He scratched up a great deal of our furniture. Once Astoria started walking he seemed to be really pissed (literally) and peed up one of our area rugs. He had constant eye gunk which every vet attributed to allergies. He coughed up the most disgusting fur balls and in recent years seemed to be getting some sort of cat IBS, which sometimes he uncontrollably shat on same pissed-on rug.

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I’ve lost my fair share of pets in my life. In addition to like 5 cats (4 hit by cars), there was a dog, a couple of chameleons, a hermit crab, a snail, and numerous fish. Most of the time, we are going to outlive our pets. And losing a pet doesn’t come close to the loss of a beloved child. But it still stings. It’s still a reminder that we can lose what we love in a second.

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Farewell, Pedro

May 15 2005-May 13, 2018

A Letter to My Daughter

May 8, 2018

Dearest Corva,

I can’t bring myself to say Happy Birthday, for a happy birthday would be one with you here. You are supposed to be here with us, your parents and big sister.  We are supposed to be taking messy cake pictures and helping you open gifts. I’m supposed to be whispering I love yous in your tiny ear.

I has been fifty-two long weeks–it feels like yesterday and also a thousand years ago–since I whispered hello and goodbye all in one breath. 

I need you to know that my love for you will last forever. Even if you see me smile or laugh or enjoy life, you are always on my mind and I am always thinking about you and wishing you were here on earth.  

I love you, baby girl.
Love,

Your Mommy