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’).

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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.

Marking Time

Monday January 8, 2018  is an odd sort of coincidental date of triggering thoughts and feelings. First, it is a Monday, marking 35 weeks since Corva was delivered. Second, this 8th of January marks 8 months since the birth of my youngest daughter.

Although Corva was born on her due date, technically she was inside me for 38 weeks. This means that in three weeks, on Monday January 29 (or, likely, Saturday January 27th), Corva will have been dead for as long as she was alive

This weekend was particularly difficult for me. With the days lining up precisely as they did in May 2017, I was reminded on Friday January 5th that Friday May 5th was my last day of work. And on Saturday January 6th I remembered that on Saturday May 6th I insisted that my husband go to urgent care after days of illness and severe abdominal pain. On Sunday January 7th I remembered that on Sunday May 7th I picked my husband up from the hospital after his night spent in observation,  conscious of the fact that the very next day was my due date, oblivious to the fact that my daughter had likely already passed away. Last night I recalled that 8 months ago, I fell asleep cuddling with my then-3-year old only to awaken in the night with labor pains. I wasn’t concerned only excited. Was she moving? I don’t recall, though now I can say, likely not; testing indicates Corva likely passed a couple days prior to birth.

This is how I mark time now. By Mondays and 8ths. And I wonder if it will always be this way.



Woke up and wished that I was dead
With an aching in my head
I lay motionless in bed
I thought of you and where you’d gone
And let the world spin madly on.


 

Living in Darkness

The sun rose at 4:18 am on Monday May 8, 2017. I awoke several hours later, though I’m not certain of the exact time. I was in labor, excited to meet my baby girl, oblivious to the fact that her heart had already stopped.  And although Corva was born at 3:24 PM it was the darkest moment of my life. Ever. On that spring day,  in the drizzly mid-afternoon, I was submerged into my own winter solstice. The sun set three hours and seventeen minutes after delivery, the world’s darkness emulating my own.

Sun standing still. The winter solstice occurs today, December 21 at 11:27 AM. It is the shortest day of the year where I live, which makes it the darkest–only 8 hours and 47 minutes of daylight.  This morning the sun rose at 7:09 AM and tonight it will set at 3:57 PM. But tomorrow the daylight extends by six seconds. And the next day by eleven seconds. And the next day by sixteen seconds. Bit by bit, the days lengthen, the sun burns later into the evening hours.


I have been living in darkness for 32 weeks now. In the very beginning, those darkest of days, I couldn’t even imagine light. I couldn’t fathom how I would survive such pain. But, gradually, light re-enters my life. It isn’t very much light– a candle as opposed to floodlights–and yet I am beginning to feel a little bit of hope. Some days.


And in 20 weeks, on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 there will be 14 hours and 35 minutes of daylight, reaching toward the summer solstice. 


I still believe in summer days.

The seasons always change
And life will find a way.