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.

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Never Safe

Thanksgiving brings some bittersweet memories. Twice, now, I have been pregnant at Thanksgiving time. In 2012, I was 14 weeks pregnant; my husband and I hosted Thanksgiving at our house, my in-laws flying in from Ohio. In 2016 I was 16 weeks pregnant, my husband, daughter and myself flew to Ohio; I puked for the first time on an airplane on our return trip. Both times we announced our pregnancy to family–we were ‘safe’, into the second trimester.

Recently, I saw a post on social media regarding a pregnant woman going past her due date.  The context of the post was over concern that by going past her due date, the baby was in danger of dying. I don’t want to write a blog post on the science of stillbirth risk and gestational age, or the risk of neonatal death to prematurity. Not today, anyway. My personal experience is that my first daughter was born crying and breathing past her due date (41 weeks 1 day according to one due date, 40 weeks 5 days according to the other due date). My second daughter was born silent on her due date, though testing indicated that she likely passed at 39 weeks 5 days. No, today, I want to address the fact that as parents, we are never safe from child loss. Never.

The Coleman family lost their little girl Heidi, just a toddler, drowned in a pond in 1976. 

This mother lost her 12-year-old son while he was playing in a rainstorm. 

Carol Kearns lost her  her 7-year-old daughter to a rogue wave on the Oregon Coast (now I understand my mom’s paranoia). 

Twenty 6 and 7-year-old children lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

Anne Frank was 15 years old, her sister Margot, 19, when they died of typhus in a German concentration camp, leaving their father bereaved.

My uncle lost his only daughter when she was 29, due to seizure (my aunt had passed prior, narrowly escaping the heartbreak of becoming a bereaved parent).

Sixteen years ago this month, a college friend was killed in a drunk-driving crash. She was 20 years old.

The point being, there is no safe window. It’s not once you reach the second trimester of pregnancy. It’s not once the baby is delivered, red and crying. It’s not after the baby reaches 3 months, 6 months, or 1 year. It isn’t at age 18 or 21 or 35. These stories ignite the anxious fire in the pit of my stomach.

The fragility of life has never been so apparent to me than it is now.