Friday, February 29, 2008

I can only look at your pictures for a second with great fondness before the feelings of loss overcome me. 

You were really so beautiful, with a head full of dark hair, Peyton's cheekbones and my nose and chin. A perfect combination of us. 

You were so small. I often wonder what you would have looked like with a few more pounds on you, and how you would have learned to smiled at us. Your knees were so charmingly knobby and your precious gigantic feet were an exact replica of your father's. You poor child.

I wonder what you would have taught me. 

You would have had a scar on your chest that would have grown with you, a testament to your fighting will. You would have shown everyone how it was possible to move mountains with 4 fingers, and I am sure that even though you would have been sassy and smart, your soul would have been tender. I would have looked into your brown eyes and been wise to your facade, but as a testament of my love for you, would have never given away your secret. 

I know you, even though you aren't here physically. You are strong and calm when I feel myself growing weak. You remind me of the beauty in the color orange, of the smell of the impending summer, and in little girls pink Barbie sandals. You bring the joy of music into my head, so much so that I can envision myself dancing, like I did when I was a carefree kid. You give me ideas for future plans to oceans, warm sands and swimming lazily in the Atlantic. I imagine you showing me seagulls and jellyfish in their transparent bubble. Look Mom, you'll say, look at the different shades of blue in their bells.  

I miss you in those moments, because it is our spirits communicating in the ways we should have grown to. How adult and wise you are. I never had the chance to show you how to be that person, you learned all on your own, quickly, in order to get me out of that dark place. That place you never intended me to be, a place I would just sit in and let the sand fill the hole around me. I didn't even want to look up from that place when I heard you call my name, because all I could see was blackness. You kept calling, telling me to stand, that you were there. My heart was too heavy to be held up by my legs, but you were insistent. 

When I did manage to stand, you said to hold out my hand. I wouldn't, complained how it wasn't enough. You should be here with me, still growing, still kicking me with your mammoth feet. 

You said it had to be enough. Please Mom. Please grab my hand. 

And I did because the sand was beginning to sting my eyes, particles finding their way into my lungs. It was getting to be too much to breathe. OK, sweet boy, I finally whispered. OK. 

I felt your grip.

You pulled me up out of that hole, whispered to my heart that you loved me and to stop being sad. And to honor you, I made you the promise that I would try every day to not fall back in.

Some days are so much easier than others. 

Stay with me, my sweet boy. Don't go too far, I beg.

I won't. 

I am always here.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

God is with you at this time. 

Your baby is an angel now.

God has your angel.

God has a plan for your life.

I stumbled across an atheist grieving mom's site and she wrote this....

At the same time, a few moments later, I got an e-mail from a friend talking about a bible verse, essentially talking about trusting the Lord's bigger picture.

I see value in both arguments. I know that my Christian friends who have been saying rosaries/lighting candles/praying to the Almighty on a daily basis may be taken a little aback that my so-called faith is wavering, but hear me out. 

How do you explain, in a faith based reasoning, that it makes any sense that children are given to mothers who then in turn do something like this to them?

How do you explain when a woman takes immaculate care of herself, like me and a lot of women did, but still lose their children to stillbirth--- but crack whores who eat out of the dump can carry a child to term? 

There is no logic or religion to explain who can carry and deliver a living baby. I believe it is as random as the wind blowing and part of me believes that God is not directly involved in this process. 

30,000 babies are born still.
A year.

 30,000 mothers, fathers, grandparents, best friends, cousins, uncles, aunts and so forth are shattered from the deaths of these children. 

I was given a pamphlet in the labor and delivery ward when I was admitted, explaining stillbirth. One of the lines in the literature was that stillbirth is as random as raindrops. So, if this is the case, why do we try to offer reason to something that doesn't appear to have any real reason behind it whatsoever?

To add God to this mix means that he is my mortal enemy who stole my son. And I am at the point in this grieving-being-hit-by-a-bus feeling that I carry with me that I don't need to carry the added frustration of calling my faith, my underlying spirituality into account. 

I am too exhausted to wonder what God is trying to say by all of this. I am too exhausted to wonder if the inner Catholic, lapsed Baptist will worry if I just avoid thinking/talking to God during this time that I will be struck down by lightning. 

I prefer to believe that he was not involved directly in this decision. His master plan is to let things progress as they should. 

What kind of religion is this?

Monday, February 25, 2008

I went swimming yesterday in our complex pool. It had been in the mid-70s all weekend, and I thought it would be nice to finally take advantage of the pool for some easier exercise (I haven't been cleared for the real work-out yet).

The water was freezing cold, couldn't have been more than 60 degrees, but I waded out there and began to swim laps, breast strokes, back strokes. My muscles struggled with the water, and after 20 minutes, I had had enough. My body was tired and this morning, my muscles in my back and arms are sore, but it's a good sore. The outside matches my inside now.

I have been looking at the message boards all weekend and am sad to report several new moms who have lost their babies. If we were to meet in a room, you could spot the new ones immediately. They would walk in with that raw look about them, their face showing all signs of shock and bewilderment. Their eyes would try to adjust to the darkness that they have been unwillingly thrust into, but the women who have come there before them try to light candles to show them the way. As the new ones walk closer to the light source, they would be met with the blinding light that is their life now-- and perhaps be amazed, because the amount of candles that have been lit by women who have gone through this before is so many, it makes you wonder how any child is born onto this earth.

Welcome to club, you say, so very sorry you are here. 

A great topic on this message board is how you will lose friends when this happens, and potentially gain friends from sources you never thought you could. I am seeing this already. Friends that were close are far. I have one friend who has totally abandoned me altogether and is happily on a plane to paradise with her new beau as I type. She called when this first happened, 4 days after I got home from delivering Ronan, and then nothing. No return phone calls, e-mails, nothing.

I suppose you can't begrudge people to live their lives. I wouldn't want to talk to me either, the downer I am right now. I would happily go back and have my life be the one where my biggest problem of the day is deciding where to eat lunch, not one where I have to have a pep talk with myself to get out of bed. 

Seriously, the coaxing, yeah, is insane. I have to wrack my brain as to why I should make the move. In the end, it's usually a 'Ronan would want you to get out of bed' thought that guilts me into removing the covers. However, I usually concede with a snarky comment like 'then he should have stuck around to make sure I would get out of bed'.

This is all normal, I am assured, by the legions of women who have years of sadness under their belt. 

I go back to work next week, and not really looking forward to dealing with 12 people's awkward emotions towards me. I can envision how they will all study me before they ask or say anything, scared to death that I will sit in the middle of the conference room and cry like a woman who lost her baby. 

Not that they have ever seen a women that has lost their baby....or so they think.

My friend Ellie who works with me has had her share of heartache in that department. She has lupus, so she was able to get pregnant, but not able to carry any of her babies to the 2nd trimester. She called me on Valentine's Day, a day of remembering her last miscarriage, and told me, secret-society-club mom to secret-society-club mom that she knew my pain and was thinking about me. It was nice of her. 

In addition to the awkwardness, 2 babies will be born this coming month, their fathers eagerly awaiting their arrival back at work. When this happened I was told that it shook them up, because again, no one talks about losing their baby in the 3rd trimester. I felt like sending them an e-mail, explaining the laws of physics and odds, trying to calm their fears by saying, 'hey guys, no need to really worry, I was the lucky one who was targeted this time. The odds are stacked in your favor....', but then why bother? 

People prefer to be blissfully ignorant. State their mantra about how it will never happen to them. I know I was.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Saturdays are becoming the worst day for me. It seems every Saturday I lose it in one form or fashion. 

It took me a few seconds to figure out why, and it was like, oh yeah. I gave birth to my stillborn son on a Saturday.

I was doing OK yesterday, not really freaking out in any real way, and then we went to eat at our favorite burger joint and there were all these children. Young boys, about 7 years old, having a birthday party. 

And the grief that I would not be one of those mothers looking on hit me like a sledgehammer to the chest. 

I miss my son. I wanted my son. I will go as far as say I needed my son. 

There is no manual for this. When we lose parents or grandparents, or hell, even older children, we are taught that we should celebrate their lives. 

What do you do when that life never had the chance to live? How can you celebrate anything? Or focus on anything positive? All you feel 24/7 is that you were robbed. That life is so fucking unfair. That even if there was something wrong with your baby, you were denied the chance to prove you were their mother. 

I grow tired of trying to be positive and philosophical about all of this. I grow tired that the grief can hit me so hard out of the blue when I least suspect it, leaving me blubbering over a damn cheeseburger. 

Fragmented pieces remain of me. 
The pieces are jagged and don't fit together like they once did.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

4 weeks.

1 month.

28 days.

I was laying on a hospital bed praying to God for a baby's heartbeat.

God is not my favorite person today.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I got my hair cut today, and as I sat in the car contemplating whether or not to go in, I said a silent prayer that I didn't have a chatty broad who asked me 1,000 questions about my life. 

If I was married, what I did for a living, if I had any children...

Luckily I had a pissy drama/flaming queen and he wasn't bothered to ask me anything other than what I wanted done with my hair. 

The drawback to watching 100 hours of TV a day is that watching What Not to Wear starts to mess with your mind a little. I am starting to feel like Holly Golightly, thinking several insane things like:

There are certain shades of limelight that can wreck a girl's complexion...

A girl can't read that sort of thing without her lipstick...

I still look like hell, but hell with a cute haircut. I suppose that there are certain things that can't erase what the last month has brought on. I feel like a crime scene, someone needs to come and clean the house where the body has been laying, decaying for a month.

I have been spending money, money that would have been sacked away for my real maternity leave. I bought some lamps, some crap for our walls, some sport bras, and paid a million bills. 

Funny how you still have to pay bills when you feel your life has stopped. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

In 1980, Hurricane Allen, a Category 5 hurricane, made it's way up the Gulf Coast. I was 5 at the time, and sent to weather the storm at my Grandma's house (father's mother), 50 miles inland. My parents were both part of the rescue team, so they had to stay back in my small hometown closer to the coast.

My uncle Jesse (my father's youngest brother) was almost 9 at the time and we were bestest good friends. We were giddy with excitement as the winds started howling and the rain and hail started to fall. My Grandma's old house had been boarded up, so it was eerily dark and the wind through the boarded up windows would let out this unearthly howling sound. Down the way, a mobile home was being beaten by the winds, and we watched in horror/amazement at the way the wind eventually tore that home apart, piece by piece. 

During a hurricane, there is a calm part called the eye of the storm. During the eye, there is no wind or rain. It is strangely quiet and calm, but it never lasts long and the remaining portion of the storm will eventually come. During Allen, Jesse and I walked outside during the eye of the storm. Even though I was a young kid, I can still remember the silence. No birds or crickets. No winds rustling the trees. The sun had come out for a brief period and it truly seemed like the storm was over. 

Then my Grandmother yelled to get back in the house. It wasn't over. She was panicking as she looked to the west and saw darker skies in the horizon. We ran back inside and prepared for what ended up being the worst part of the storm.

At 6am on Saturday the 26th, my contractions started to come stronger, and I could feel them even though I had an epidural. My water had broke 2 hours earlier and the nurse who checked me said that things should progress much quickly now. I had been induced at 11am the day before, and was in labor since 4pm the night before. 

They sent the doctor back in to check my epidural. He pumped an hour's worth of narcotics into my spine along with the same amount of numbing stuff. He was a tall, lanky man, Dr. K. I noticed he had a wedding band so I imagined him taking great pity on me in those moments, knowing that I was about to deliver Ronan stillborn. Perhaps he was imagining his poor wife having to go through the same thing. Perhaps he felt absolute numbing was the only way to go through this.

For all his efforts, the drugs did kick in about 15 minutes later. By 6:30, I was calling the nurse's station to tell them I needed to push. I went from 4 cms to 10 in 30 minutes. 

It was a storm of activity in those next few minutes. 5 people entered my room, including my doctor, a tall thin man with a mane of white hair and long fingers. My bed was assembled for delivery, my feet were placed in stirrups, towels and bags were placed underneath me. I noticed an older women, the placenta catcher, was in the back of the room just staring at me with a blank look. No sympathy, just an empty, hollow looks. By 6:45 I was told to push. I remember panicking, thinking that this was the moment that all new mothers dreaded. The reality that a child had to be pushed out of my body came quickly. As I pushed, the anger and despair I had been holding back from the last 2 days came through and I remember crying out during my last push and then there was silence.

No baby cries. No idle chatter about what a big boy he was. Complete silence. 

I remember hearing my own heavy breathing. I could hear the doctor instruct Peyton about where to cut the cord. I held my breath waiting for Ronan to be given to me, so I could finally see what my son looked like.

The doctor placed him on the table straddled over me, wrapped in a blue towel that we used to use in the lab. His little mouth was open and his eyes closed. He looked like a sleepy infant opening his mouth ready to take a drink from the nipple. In those moments I had after his delivery, I was the most calm. I ran my fingers over his tiny body, his head full of dark hair, his crimson mouth. I smiled when I saw that his feet looked exactly like Peyton's hobbit feet. 

I could feel Dr. C. watching over me as he patiently waited for the placenta to be delivered.

 "Do you have any pain?" he asked. 

"No," I whispered, still looking at Ronan.

The placenta came, "it looks normal and intact," he said to someone. He continued to watch us, taking in our heartache, wishing, like everyone else on that floor, that things could be different.

"I am truly sorry," he said softly. I looked at him, a seasoned veteran of 20+ years, and saw his sadness. I appreciated the glimpse of his humanity that he didn't try to hide from us. 

We spent 12 hours with our son. We held him, took him in. I told him that I loved him, and I would miss him for the rest of my life. Peyton walked Ronan back to the nurses that would take him to the stillbirth study. As the guard knocked on the door to escort them back, I began to panic, knowing this was the last time I would ever see him. The guard was the same man who escorted Ronan with the nurse to my private room away from labor and delivery that morning. He had weepily hugged Peyton and me and said he was sorry for our loss. Now, as the guard saw the look of panic on my face, he looked toward the mass of people we had in the waiting room, including my uncle Jesse--- 30 years later and we are still weathering storms together. 

I shook my head and told him I needed a minute. I kissed Peyton and Ronan and sent them on their way. I closed the door and walked over to the window where the blinds had been drawn. When I was in the labor and delivery ward, my view was overlooking the parking garage. The Thursday and Friday before Ronan came had been cold and dreary with rain and wind. I opened the blinds and saw that we were overlooking the back of a school, with lots of trees. The sun was shining and the light was hitting the clouds in a beautiful red and orange pattern. It was there that I knew I was witnessing the eye of our storm. I could see the beauty in light and sound, still and calm so that I could reflect on what we had just endured. I exhaled, and exhaustion was beginning to creep back into me. As I took in the beauty, my phone rang bringing me back to reality, and it was like my grandmother's voice reminding me that the storm was not over. 

Brace yourself, I said softly. The worst is yet to come.  

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Back when I didn't know who the hell Barack Obama was, I was intrigued by the title of his book, the Audacity of Hope. 

The audacity to hope for something better. 

In his case, he was talking about the American dream. In my meager book that is being somewhat compiled in my listless brain, it is the hope that this life as I know it now can somehow change...with time, or by the sheer will of God or Alah or the sun setting in a pretty pattern. The hope that the feelings of hell on earth will someday go away.

On the days I do feel somewhat less hormonal and normal, I feel guilty for wanting this. As if not feeling immense pain and sheer agony is doing an injustice to my son's memory. If I laugh at a South Park episode that I have seen 20X before, I feel I have to be beaten with reeds emotionally in order to feel like I think grieving mothers should feel.

A big part of me knows that this reasoning is in-fucking-sane, but sanity is not a luxury I have at any given moment these days. 

One time coming home from the lab one summer day, I tripped over a road barrier and skinned my leg on gravel from the bottom of my knee to the top of my ankle. I had to ride a bus to get my car and then drive my car to my apartment. It was the longest bus ride of my life. I was in immense pain, all nerve endings were exposed and the shifting of the kids riding the bus was making silent tears run down my face. 

When I was discharged from the hospital after having given birth to Ronan the day before,  and I was black and blue from the phlebotomists using my arms like a pin cushion, I was wheeled out of the hospital and the sunlight hit me and I had the same feeling like I did when I skinned my leg. My skin, my eyes, my ears, my very core was so raw, all my nerves endings were exposed. I sat in the wheelchair with my in-laws waiting for Peyton to get the car with silent tears running down my face. 

I have spent a lot of time shielding myself from pain. I was one to roll with things to avoid conflict. How do you move on when conflict has found you and the worst fear you have ever imagined is suddenly upon you?

Someone wrote in the message boards that I am lurking in that grieving is exhausting. My bones ache. My back aches. My head aches. My soul aches. I fall into this exhaustive sleep at night, a surrender to the grief. My prayer when I sleep is that Ronan finds me there and shares a secret with me. A delicious tidbit that children whisper to their mommies in earnest about something nonsensical. Give me a sign that you were real, and that when my mind finally rests, I can feel you again, like I did when you were inside of me.  

So he sends me weird dreams of Harry Potter and movie-like dramatic tales. When I am sad he sends a ray of sunshine on a dreary day, or a vulture propped on a light fixture, wings spread in all its awkward majesty.

And when I am really sad, he sends me a seal baby, because he was our little seal baby, on every TV screen at Best Buy, and it takes everything in me not to fall to my knees and sob in the middle of the store.
I have grown to hate the taste of my own tears. 

It is a hot, smokey taste that comes from deep within of my soul. When I am truly sobbing, these tears drip into my parted lips, chapped from all the crying I have done over the last 3 weeks. The taste is making my stomach turn, and now and forever, I will associate the taste of my tears with this God-awful time in our lives.

Tomorrow is 3 weeks. 3 weeks ago Ronan was born with the same subtle fanfare in which he departed. 3 pushes and he was out. He was always so chill about everything. I imagined him a truly hippie kid, wearing his Birkenstocks and telling me his plans to save the world over a cup of green tea infused with some sort of miracle healing herbs. I would never have had to worry about him because he rarely caused me any issues...until the day his heart stopped beating.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It is Valentine's Day. A day of love. I have several more holidays to try to get through without losing my mind.

I was looking forward to having a valentine from my son someday, all scribbled with his sloppy script. I was looking forward to Easter egg hunts, 4th of July picnics and Thanksgiving where we all cooed at him.

I feel so goddamn robbed today. My friends have their babies. I have my son's ashes and a heart so heavy that it takes effort to stand. 

I am supposed to get Ronan's pictures from the hospital today. I don't know if this is a blessing or not. The woman Pam called me yesterday and spoke so slowly and softly to me, I almost screamed. The caution that some people use around me is crazy. I find relief in dealing with people who don't know my life has been shattered, like the waiter last Friday who was just being his normal charming self. What a relief to not be looked at like 'oh you poor dear. I will say a prayer for you,'---as if prayer will numb this pain.

Peyton has returned to work and is immersing himself in normal life. To me, that is a luxury I won't have for a few more weeks. I am supposed to be out on this modified/fucked up maternity leave until March 3rd. That means 2 more weeks of sleeping in late, dealing with the quiet apartment life and watching the Discovery Channel and Food Network for hours.

No one is writing anymore. No one is calling me. But everyone is supposedly thinking about me. A black cat walked across our path when we were driving next to a major highway yesterday. I foolishly asked how much worse luck we could possibly have this year--being selected as 1 out of the 100 who loses their child in the womb is enough. Of course it could get worse. Much worse. I pray that cat had some white paws we couldn't see, because this lesson that I am supposedly being taught is hard enough right now. 

I'm tired. Going back to bed.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How do you start a journey like this? One moment you are almost 8 months pregnant, waiting for your son to arrive, and the next minute, they tell you he is gone. His heart has stopped beating.

In that moment, you are Alice down the rabbit hole. You begin watching this horrible scene from out of your body. You see a woman and her loving husband hugging each other in a small exam room, crying like children over their loss that no one saw coming. Your son was fine yesterday. What the hell happened? Will you ever know?

Stillbirth is still so taboo. No one tells you about it, but when it happens to you, you don't realize that you become part of this secret society--and that scores of women have had to go through labor to deliver their dead infants. It is morbid and beauty all wrapped in a tiny package that looks like they are sleeping. You marvel at the moment when he's finally born, because you have been wondering if he would look like you or your hubby. When he comes out, he looks like you, with his little nose, dark hair and stubborn chin, and the tears that come from losing the opportunity to see who he would become are enough to fill an ocean.

Anger doesn't even cover the range of emotions we have right now. But there is something inside of me that told me I needed to do what I do best--write. Let people know what happened, what I am feeling, how scared and angry we are. Our friends and families are like moths attracted to the flame within us, bumping around but staying away from the heat. It is in our nature to comfort others, to make the ones we love feel less uncomfortable about their pain. But, I needed a venue to share our pain and our incredible loss. People ask how we are, and we say ok, but everyone needs to know that ok means barely hanging on. A swift wind could knock us over. It takes so much effort to stay strong, when all you really want to do is sit down. Forever.

Ronan was our first child. Our first attempt at parenthood. The joy at discovering we were having a son was so huge. Losing him meant losing everything we were ready to take on. A new chapter we were ready to write in our lives together, but the ink was still wet and now it is smudged. 

We don't have other children to find comfort in. When this happens with your first baby, the fear of ever having children sets in. You cannot imagine going through this twice. We are hoping science will offer a reason to why this happened, not that it really matters at this point. There is no real blessing in losing a baby you wanted so desperately, even if there was something wrong with him. It's cruel to have this happen so late in the game. And the way I am feeling right now, God can be so incredibly cruel sometimes. 

My husband and I love each other.  It's a love that we are lucky to have found. I know our love, and trust our love, and want to believe it will see us through this insanity.

In the meantime, I will write.