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

 

Advertisements

Approaching May

I had anticipated that May 2018 would be rough but April surprised me. The end of the month brought me back to one year prior–36 weeks pregnant, 37 weeks pregnant, 38 weeks pregnant. Tomorrow marks the Monday that last year I was 39 weeks pregnant.  Spring is my absolute most favorite season. I wanted both of my children to have spring birthdays–it’s the season of new life, of hope, of growth.

Last summer I had to “unfollow” another loss mom. She’s had a long and heartbreaking journey through fertility treatments, 2nd trimester loss of twins, and eventual adoption. She and her husband adopted an embryo last summer and her due date was May 5th. Yes I was happy for her, no I couldn’t bring myself to continue going to my support group and watch her growing belly, knowing that her timeline would follow mine from one year ago. Too painful. I found out that she delivered her healthy baby girl via C-Section last Thursday. So happy for her. So sad for me.

Yesterday I found myself at a “Baby Fair” (no, they weren’t selling babies, it’s one of those indoor yard sales where people set up tables and try to sell off their used kids’ clothes, books, and toys–they’re very popular around here). I was there to scope out toys and books for my oldest. I hate picking through used clothes at those type of sales. No luck finding any Shopkins but I did manage to pick up a slew of Magic Tree House books for a bargain.  It’s getting easier to see babies although there’s always a bit of an ache in my heart for what I should have but don’t. I ran into another loss mom from my abandoned support group. This is a mom I actually like very much, who I feel actually gets my pain. She lost her son, Malcolm 3 ½ years ago at 39 weeks. Since then, she’s gone on to have twin boys who are now a bit over 2 years. I remarked that my one year is approaching and that I don’t know what to do. We don’t have a grave. I’m not planning to go to work that day but my husband has to give a final exam and I’m hoping to send my oldest daughter to school. It will be a Tuesday this year. I don’t want to have a party for my dead baby. I know some people do that, and that’s fine if it works for them. I can’t imagine saying Happy Birthday. A happy birthday would be one here on earth with her family. I’ve thought about making the 50 minute drive to the hospital where I delivered. Then what? I’ve thought about having flowers delivered to the nurses on the labor and delivery ward. I’ve thought about curling up in bed for the day.

This coming week will be difficult. One year ago I was at the very end of my pregnancy, ready to meet my baby. It was this week a year ago when my husband became very sick, one year ago this Saturday when he was admitted for observation at the local hospital. And that is likely when Corva died. As I lay down with Astoria, I fell asleep only to awake at midnight and throw up violently (I’d been sick the entire pregnancy). I often wonder if that is the moment life left her little body. On Sunday Astoria and I picked my husband up from the hospital and on Monday May 8, 2017 I awoke in labor, having no idea my baby had already died.

It’s spring again, one year later. The snow has melted. The birds are singing. My friend’s goat delivered two healthy babies last night. But all I can think about is what I don’t have. My hope is gone.

Do Not Pass Go

Fifty-two weeks ago, on a Friday night after a full day of work, I was  laying down with my 3 year old daughter. I turned to my husband and said “I don’t think the baby has been moving much today.” It was my 37th birthday and I was 37 weeks pregnant. I texted my midwife. Here’s our conversation:

April 21, 2017 at 7:07 PM:

Me: Today I didn’t feel much movement from the baby

7:39 PM:

Laura: Are you concerned?

Me: Not sure, it’s a bit unusual to not feel some activity after I eat dinner but I think I’m feeling light movement just not strong obvious moving.

Laura: Babies have less room to move as they get bigger. It’s not uncommon for there to be a gradual decrease in the strength of their movements.

(Um, NO).

Try lying on your left side and see if you get some movement

WRONG ANSWER.

I’ll admit I had no idea that my baby could die. In retrospect, that sounds so stupid, so naive. How did I think I was immune to this tragedy? I had never had a pregnancy loss, already delivered a full-term healthy child, my blood pressure was perfect, as were my blood sugars. I didn’t drink, smoke, or do any illicit drugs. Nobody had ever mentioned the possibility of stillbirth to me.

If only I had known. If any pregnant woman ever has an inkling of a doubt, do not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly to the hospital.

Of course it’s possible, that had I gone to the hospital, an ultrasound could have deemed my baby fine and I would have been sent home. But what if something was off? What if the decision was made to give me a c-section that night? I would be holding my youngest child right now, planning a first birthday party.

Why risk it?

I will regret, for every second of my life, that I didn’t follow my instincts. I will blame myself, of course, regardless of what others say.

The thing is, nobody ever mentioned kick counting to me. Nobody ever told me to monitor my baby’s movements. How can this be? There’s an entire organization dedicated to kick counting instruction.

There are even apps for kick counting.

One part of me feels I should have known better, like it’s a “duh” concept. Another part of me blames my midwife. The letters after her name, CPM, stands for Certified Professional Midwife. And yet she acted unprofessionally multiple times. She let me down. She spoke with me in-depth about baby-wearing and eating dates to induce labor but somehow she left out the importance of kick-counting?

I just can’t.

I have to live with this for the rest of my life. My only consolation is that she does too. Three months after I delivered my dead daughter, she delivered a  living son. I hope that every time she looks at him she remembers the terrible advice she gave me that cost my daughter’s life.

(Yes,  I am still stuck in the ‘anger stage’).

Words of Wisdom from an Octogenarian

I’ve had permanent writer’s block for months. Fresh from my loss, it seems like I had a lot to say/blog. Was that an outpouring of grief? Is my grief less-so now? It isn’t that I have run out of topics. Truthfully, I have a good number of blog posts started. Here they sit, in Google Docs limbo, waiting for a finale, an ending, a punch. Something that will resonate with people. It’s not for lack of ideas. Maybe it’s lack of time. Motivation. Energy. Maybe my brain cells, exhausted from grief, are escaping me.
The other evening I had my second of four nutrition classes I’m running through an adult education program. After class, one woman, Bea, told us that she is 87 years old. Eighty-seven. Wow. She still lives alone too. I asked her what her secret is.
Here’s where people give answers like:
“Eat olive oil.”
“A good cup of coffee.”
“Homemade brandy.”
“Vodka and hotdogs.”
Do you know what she said? (With a small smile on her face) “Just keep going.”

Just keep going.
That’s it. No declarations of daily bacon, or chocolate or yoga. No swearing off butter. Or wine.

That’s what I’ve been doing for 11 months now. For 48 weeks since I found out my baby girl died, I’ve been going. Through anger and tears. Going.
I’ve been going to work. Pulling myself out of bed, looking sort-of presentable.
I’ve been going to church. To the people who brought me food in the early days of grief.
I’ve been going to daycare, to pick up my daughter or drop her off, passing by the infant room where Corva would be, had she lived.
I’ve been going to the gym, running my grief into the treadmill.
I’ve been thinking about going to counseling (again).
Sometimes I’ve been going nowhere but bed, wishing to drown in my own tears.
I don’t know Bea’s story and she doesn’t know mine. I imagine she’s experienced grief in 87 years on earth. Her parents have passed away, maybe siblings, perhaps a husband, likely some of her friends have died. Maybe she’s even lost a child. I don’t know. But there she is, she keeps on going.

#Funnynotfunny

 

i-had-a-shower-today-and-kept-the-kids-alive-go-me-6058fall-these-moms-on-pinterest-making-rainbow-spaghetti-and-homemade-playdoughand-im-over-here-like-today-i-took-a-shower-kept-the-kids-alive-go-me-ab61e9c6db98758cf5bfb4f6c729a35da5076boy-you-amp-039-re-gonna-feel-like-an-ass-when-she-has-a-stillbirth_o_21492251392751_1437685196

 

To so many tired mothers, these are funny. I sort of get it. I remember those sleepless nights and foggy days. But seriously, that was nothing. I would gladly take all the fatigue in the world to have my baby in my arms right now. And what do these memes imply to the grieving parent? That somehow we are inferior because we were not able to keep our child alive?

#notfunny

#thinkbeforeyoupost

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor

In the dystopian trilogy, The Hunger Games, twenty-four children (two from each of 12 districts) are reaped into a televised war, in which only one survives–the victor. At age 16, Katniss Everdeen has 20 entries in the reaping bowl. At age 12, her sister, Primrose, has only one entry. Collins doesn’t tell us the number of children eligible for reaping in District 12, so we don’t know what Katniss’s or Prim’s odds of getting reaped are, only that Katniss has a higher chance than Prim. And yet, Prim is reaped

May the odds be ever in your favor.


My daughter loves Candy Land. We have both the original and the Princess version. (Yes, there is a Princess Candy Land, which, has nothing to do with candy at all). I am continuously reminding her that there are no skills involved with Candy Land, it’s just “luck of the draw.” When it’s your turn, you choose a card and that’s the space you move your gingerbread guy (or princess) to. No, it’s not always fair–luck of the draw.


When I was a kid, there were these books, Choose Your Own Adventure. My recollection of these books is there would be a scenario presented and then the reader would get to choose the next part of the story. I hated these books. Inevitably, I would choose one path, turn to page 11, only to find myself in some horrific mess. Quickly, I would turn back to page 6 and choose a different path, seeking a happy ending.  My brain replays, like a movie, scenes of my pregnancy as though I were living in one of these books.

You’re pregnant! If you opt to seek care through an ob-gyn, turn to page 22, if you opt to hire a homebirth midwife, continue reading.

At 37 weeks gestation, you wonder if your baby is moving enough. If you opt to go the hospital, turn to page 14, if you opt to stay home and hope for the best, continue reading.

As a non-smoking, non-drinking, non-drug using mother without diabetes or high blood pressure, the odds of delivering a living baby were good, we could even say the odds were ever in my favor.

But somehow, my name was drawn from the reaping bowl.

Support Groups

One of the first things I did after the birth and death of Corva, was seek out support. I wanted to know–no I needed to know–that there were others surviving this nightmare. The hospital had given me contact information for a local support group, but I actually knew of the group’s existence prior to my loss. As a WIC nutritionist,  I referred clients to the group, not frequently, but often enough considering the 1 in 4 statistic.  I didn’t really know what the group did though.

The support group in my area specific to baby loss welcomes bereaved parents who have lost a baby at any gestational age, and after birth up until age one.  They meet monthly. The first meeting post loss arrived ten days after Corva’s delivery. I went, though it was the same day that earlier, in my grief stricken state, I left my purse in a friend’s car and it was stolen (the purse, not the car). So it had been an exhausting day, complete with a panic attack and a police report. There was one person at the group that night–Elisha–and I found immediate comfort from her. She sat with me for over an hour and for that I am forever grateful.

After that initial meeting, I attended four more meetings. I also went with several other moms to get coffee, attended a butterfly release and a social dinner out.  In October I attended a remembrance walk for infant loss awareness month.

Then I started to feel angry and frustrated.

First there was the prayer. Now, I’m not a stranger to prayer; after all I pray everyday, to a God  I ambiguously believe in, that I will die before my eldest daughter. At this walk in October, a board member of the support group, we’ll call her Jenny, said some touching words then invited her husband to say a prayer before the walk. This fueled so much anger within me.

Then I started reflecting on the stories. I’m not saying that my loss is worse or greater or more painful than anyone else’s. I only say the following because I cannot relate to these losses. Each month at support group, we went around the circle, saying our name and “as much of your story as you wish to share.” I got so tired of hearing those stories. (All names have been changed). There was Ashley, one of the leaders, who portrays her loss as further along than it actually was. Jenny, who lost her daughter with congenital defects at 19 weeks. Shaina, who delivered prematurely due to complications of preeclampsia at 23 weeks but whose son lived for 10 days. Tara who experienced an ectopic pregnancy in the first trimester. And Elisha who lost her beautiful twins at 20 weeks due to an infection.

And then there is me. Me, who carried my beautiful wanted baby for 40 weeks. Me, who had no complications during that time. Me, whose baby was healthy and growing (until she wasn’t). Me, whose baby lived only inside me, who did not get any sort of acknowledgment of life.

Elisha was the mother who was present at my first meeting. She was the one who was there for me, the one I connected with by default. On that unusually hot day in May, she was the one who watched my tears fall, who listened without judgement. She was the one who demonstrated survival.

Elisha’s story is complex–and it’s not mine to share. And, although, I am thrilled that she is carrying a successful pregnancy, it hurts to no end that she is due May 5, 2018–almost exactly one year (May 8, 2017) after my due date for Corva. I just can’t bring myself to watch her growing belly each month at a support group for infant loss.

So I stopped going.


Tell me about your in-person support groups.