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

 

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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’).

#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

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.

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.

Christmas Conundrum

The conundrum being this: how do I include my absent (dead) baby in my holiday traditions? One of the nagging topics in my head has been honoring Corva at Christmas. Obviously, I do not have a living 7 ½ month old baby in my home to open gifts (or have her older sister open gifts for her). Initially I thought I would purchase gifts for Corva from Santa. Then I vetoed that idea–what would we do with the gifts? Somehow, I needed to be able to give gifts to someone in honor of Corva.

My parents never honored St. Nicholas DayThat is, Santa came to our house only on Christmas Eve, December 24th. However, I did have a childhood friend who had a St. Nick visit on December 5th, and it was a tradition during my husband’s childhood, so hey, why not? (Coincidentally? Both my childhood friend and my husband were raised in Catholic homes. Is this a Catholic tradition?)

This year St. Nick came to our house on December 5th (in actuality, a hungover mommy awoke sometime around 1 am on December 6th and pulled the gift bag from the spare room closet). There were small gifts in the bag: chapstick, fruit snacks, Christmas socks. And a card:

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Several days later, I sought out the Salvation Army table at my local mall and found this tag, for a baby girl, 8 months old. Just about the same age Corva would be, had she lived.

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This evening, my living daughter and I went to TJ Maxx and acquired our loot:
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I hope that I am instilling something good in my living daughter, not something desperate and depressing, though I often wonder. I will add to this gift, but I am satisfied that Astoria was able to come with me to choose some toys and books for this baby–toys and books that she would have chosen for her baby sister.


How do you honor your deceased loved one during the winter holiday season? If you are newly bereaved, has it been a struggle to identify new traditions for your family?