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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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 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

 

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

 

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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