Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Something you should never EVER say to a pregnant woman (that folks say to me ALL THE TIME)

So there I am - shopping or waiting in a checkout line.  My mind is probably somewhere in worksville thinking about all the things on my to-do list that require my immediate attention at home.  I sense a presence near me, another shopper or an employee.  I count the seconds until they speak up about the bulging appendage I make no effort to hide...

"Is this your first?"

Le sigh.  Random stranger, you have presented me with a very difficult mental dilemma... and you don't even know it.  You're just trying to make small talk with me - you probably have kids and want to relate to me in some way.  Or maybe you think I look great for a pregnant woman, so you feel warm and fuzzy in the aisle and want to express to me all your warm fuzzies.  I know you have good intentions but here is what you've actually done to me.

This is a YES or NO question, basically.  I actually have three options though, on how to answer this (in general).  Here they are:

Answer "YES, this is my first".  I have just lied to you with a straight face and a little smile.  I have just added you to the long list of strangers I've decided to opt for a lie about my first child ...that pile up on one another in my little white lie bank - contributing to an ever-fading emotional attachment to this memory.  I feel horrible inside that I have just denied the existence of my dead child.  His memory enters my mind... but like the ghost from Christmas past he is here to show me how horrible I've become.  I have prevented you from feeling guilty about bringing up a tragic event in my life... but at the same time I've opened the door for you to give me all kinds of pregnancy and parenting advice because now you think this is my first child.  Now you think you can tell me "Oh the third trimester is the WORST."  Now you think it's OK to say, "Well the labor is painful but is is SO worth it."   YES I KNOW.  You don't have to tell me because I've already been there and done that... but my little white lie has dug me in to a little hole here... and I'm just praying that this checkout line moves a little faster so that I don't have to tell you any more lies.  Random stranger, you don't know this... but this brief exchange will haunt me for the rest of my day.

Answer "NO, this is my second child"... but you see I have to follow that up immediately with "BUT MY FIRST CHILD DIED," to prevent you from asking how old my first child is... giving me yet another opportunity to just lie to you.  I have just made you an intimate partner in my grief.  I have given you just a enough information (he's dead) to peak your interest.  "Oh goodness I'm so sorry.  How did he die?" is sure to follow.  Now there's no way for me to explain this quickly.  I'm just trying to get some shopping done.  I have to stop what I'm doing and give you the essentials (so as not to leave any other questions out there).  "I carried him to 42 weeks but when he arrived he didn't breathe.  Doctors said there was a lack of oxygen at some point and he sustained extreme brain damage.  But we got to be with him for 5 days before we 'let him go'."  Now that I've wrinkled my brow for you and regurgitated a painful memory for you, I get to listen to you say something nice about death or grief.  oh joy.  There's a small chance that you, random stranger, have had a personal experience with baby loss.... and now I have to hold off my shopping even longer to relate with you and feel your pain as well.   If that's the case then HOW DARE YOU ask me if this is my first!  Random stranger, you don't know this... but this brief exchange will haunt me for the rest of my day.  

Answer, "Well sort-of... not really."  You have just asked me a basic yes or no question and I have given you the most ambiguous answer in all of humankind.  You are already very very nosy... you are sure to ask me more questions.  I have just made this exchange worse for myself... now it's not only painful but awkward.  Great... I cannot win.  At this point I have to either tell you everything or be a complete asshole and say something like, "I'd rather not talk about it."  Can you imagine?!  Here is this perfect stranger just trying to make smalltalk and I have totally ignored their sweet intentions in favor of "teaching them a lesson".  This won't change anything.  I'll leave this exchange feeling like a stubborn, angry, grief-nazi.  Shoot.  I'd rather just leave depressed or guilty for telling a white lie... at least that way I won't have to feel like I've got a major stick up my butt about nice people just trying to talk to me.  At least this way I'll still feel approachable.  Random stranger, you don't know this... but this brief exchange will haunt me for the rest of my day.

Although no studies exist showing the percentage of all child-bearing women who suffer pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or neo-natal loss due to SIDS or complications due to premature birth, I'm willing to bet that out of all the women who have ever been knowingly pregnant at any age, any time, with any range of health issues or not... it's probably at least something like one in ten.  At least.  And I'm only saying that because that seems to be about the going-rate for women who have a similar baby-loss story to share with me if I end up divulging the truth about my loss.

So, please... don't ask a woman if this is her first child.  This pregnancy could be her fifth... or tenth... in a long line of painful memories too heavy to burden you - a random stranger - with.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

our 2nd child, our "rainbow" baby

We are excited to announce that we're pregnant!  I'm already 13 weeks along, am no longer feeling icky, and am really looking forward to a nice, big belly.  This is our "Rainbow" baby.

"What is a rainbow baby? A Rainbow Baby is the understanding that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of the storm. When a rainbow appears, it doesn't mean the storm never happened or that the family is not still dealing with its aftermath. What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy and hope."


We know that some of you may be curious, or have questions.  I've put some of the anticipated questions below in case anyone wants to know.  The questions get "deeper" as they go along, so read up as much as you desire. 

When are you due?  Will you find out the sex?  Do you have names picked out?  Are you feeling any morning sickness?

I'm due April 22nd (this is just 7 days after Wolfie's expected due date and 8 days before Wolfie was born).  Yes, we plan to find out the sex on December 5th.  Yes we do have names picked out.  If it's a girl we will name her Gretta Susi (Susi means "wolf" in Finnish!), and if it's a boy we will name him Fox (we don't have a middle name picked out yet for a boy... but we're considering Lawrence because my dads name was Larry).  And since I'm already 13 weeks along, I am not feeling any of the general "ickyness" that I was feeling about 4 weeks ago.  I feel great and everything!

So, you're due pretty much the same time you had Wolfie.  Does that freak you out a little?

Well, yes and no.  It freaks me out that the universe, God, the force, whatever has seen fit to place us in this strange position.  But I'm going to choose (in so much as I can forcibly choose) to see it as a blessing.   I dunno... call it a little kiss from Wolfie or something.   I end up thinking a lot about Wolfie in April, of course.  I think he'll seem closer to me as I near the birth of this baby and although that brings the pain of it closer, it also keeps him close.  We already have a child.  Although he has passed, it will be nice to have my heart full of him too as I make room in my life and my heart for this next one.   Not to mention, my father passed away on April 9th... I mean, April is a big month for reflection for me... and for keeping spirits close at heart.  

Are you considering doing things differently this time?

Yes and no.  For starters I'm eating well this time.  You may or may not have even noticed that I'm getting "rounder"... or maybe you thought I just had a big meal and a pint of bloaty cider or something.  I plan to keep it this way (save the belly, of course).  Last time, I bulked up a bunch in spots I didn't need to put the poundage on.  We weren't prepared mentally or financially to afford endless fresh fruit or frozen banana pops or organic eggs and lean meat.  But now we are.  I'm also taking my prenatals every day... hard to admit that I didn't do that with my first.  I'm also going to enroll in some aqua-aerobics classes - I gotta tell you, I think I'm more excited about that than anything else.  

BUT - there's a lot we will do the same.  yes, the SAME.  I'm with the same midwives and I plan to give birth the same way.  Hopefully I get to receive my baby in the water this time, and also hopefully I don't have to be induced.   I know some of you may say to yourselves, gosh if I were her, I'd just schedule the c-section so I could have peace-of-mind.  In our situation, it isn't called-for.  Rest assured that if it ever were recommended to me by my qualified doctors, I would submit wholeheartedly.   We have been told over and over again that what happened to Wolfie (although the details remain unknown) was an accident, a very rare accident...and that it's not likely to happen that way again.   And everyone agrees that I'm healthy for natural birth, and honestly... after giving birth to a nearly 10 pound baby, I think I'm good at it.   And I'm looking forward to it being easier this time... and maybe a slightly smaller/lighter baby.

Aren't you scared?  What if something tragic happens again?

There's a certain, sad-like strength that the sufferers of tragedy carry with them.  If history ever repeats itself, I imagine these say to themselves, even though the pain is no less than before that "this isn't my first rodeo" and they use the knowledge of grief from their past to suffer through.  Yes I'm scared... but isn't every expectant parent?   It's hard to say what we'd do.... I think it's wrong to definitively say at all.  So I'll take a page from my husband's book and say... "we'll cross that bridge when it comes".... something that I hardly ever, ever say.    Flashes of the "what ifs" come to me at all times... but I'm going to choose (in so much as I can choose) to focus on a positive outcome.  Holding my baby... seeing my baby open their eyes... make noises... move around... and live a happy life.  

Is there anything that I can do?  

Yes, keep us in your thoughts and help us focus on the positive.  We're obviously a little "timid" this time.  We waited extra long to tell anyone (even our family just found out).  And we'll likely wait extra long to set up the crib area and it's also likely that we won't have a baby shower or anything either.... but we literally feed off of the excitement and the encouragement of our family and friends - we need your good vibes.    

And, I just wanted to thank everyone for all the support and friendship over the years.   It has been a difficult 2.5 years emotionally... not gonna lie.  And though it never ends, we can't thank you all enough for every last word, every last gesture.  As always, we look forward to many more "times" with all of you... whether good or bad, such is life - we want to share them with you.





Tuesday, January 1, 2013

looking back... looking forward

For more reasons than one, it's hard to believe that it's been one whole year and 8 months since Wolfie's birth.  The resonance of the holiday season we just passed through still rings in my head.  On Christmas morning I thought about Wolfie a lot...mostly of all the cool new toddler toys that would have been under (and around, and spilling out all over the place from) the tree.

And being that it's New Years Day, I'm feeling particularly sentimental about the 2012.  Last April we marked the milestone of it having been one-year since everything happened.  It was a strange sort-of milestone, filled with fears and anxiety.  At the time I was concerned for my mental health and "losing it" - so to speak, so in an attempt to prepare for any unknown emotional breakdowns, I shut myself in from the subject and did as little outside communication as possible during that time.  And I have to say, I think it helped.  There comes a point where the wound is sufficiently aired out and now it just needs some internal nourishment to further heal.

But our year wasn't all discourse and sadness.  Ben and I both work a lot, and while our jobs and responsibilities may come at a time-management and sacrifice price, we are both very grateful that we don't have to worry about many things involving that.  Plus, I think we can both agree that it's nice to be able to fully immerse yourself in something other than your own thoughts during the daily grind.  Our jobs have been almost the only protein we consume in an otherwise poor diet of daily life... they're good and they're keeping us feeling healthy and good. 

But if I had to sum up 2012 in one word for myself it would be "dislocation".  Or, at least, that's the one word that's really sticking out for me today.  I don't feel disassociated from things... I feel dislocated from them.  Like an arm that's come loose from a socket, I'm still there in sinew and flesh, but the bone has come loose, and I'm hanging limp and although I can still feel everything I don't feel like I have the proper connection to do anything about it.

Most of the dislocation has been self-inflicted.  And it's made us into shut-ins.  A small part of me wants to go out, spend time with friends, dance the night away, etc... but mostly I just want to watch TV and fall asleep.  Depression?  Maybe.  Getting older?  Maybe that too.  Lazy?  Yes possibly.  I feel it happening to my life as if I'm being slowly injected with some kind of sedative... and I'm struggling to keep my eyes awake in life and not completely fade into hermit-dom.  But I am unsure how to stop it.  The bottom line is that the motivation to go out and "have fun" just isn't there.  We can arrange to do fun things together, but the shoe of life has almost completely lost it's shine.  Is there no more marrow for us to suck?  Is all the world now painted black?

but then...

in the quiet drive-time during a better-late-than-never vacation just a few weeks ago....

Ben and I started talking about our dreams.  Mostly our dreams involve business and enterprise in some way.  I suppose some couples talk of gardens and numbers of bedrooms... but at this juncture in life we talk of work.  It was such a break-through moment, but you'd never know it with us.   We realized that our dreams can be combined into one epic life-dream... and that they are feasible.  We realized that all our other dreams can be grandfathered in at some point too.  We've been crawling around in the dirt of our sorrow and our unknown futures for a while now, and this one discussion drew an outline for the structural support for beams for the floor for the foundation for the ground-level of our newly decided life-dream.  The plan is a little shaky and we're not too clear how to get from a to zed but the light of a goal shining through an open window is all we may need to climb out of this dislocation.

And another open window too.  Since everything I've not only been shut-in but also shut-off.  I haven't honestly wanted to get pregnant again... for fears... for grief... for lack of zeal.  I worried that if we had another little one that my emotional lachrymose would rob our second child of the deserving excitement.  I didn't want to bring a precious baby into my jaded, tarnished, and depressed world.  And it's taken me this long to consider that my cup never empties for love... and certainly never empties for desire for a child despite my brain trying to convince me it's "not a good time".  So, here's a little open window.  It's the same open window we left cracked when we got married... maybe the stork will come, maybe it won't.   But now I'm open to it, and actually... to tell you the truth... a little excited about what that may hold.  But even in that same breath I tell you that I cover that joy and excitement with rationality... after all, we've already been shown that joy can be ripped right out from our grasping hands.

So, here's to a new year.  To healing.  To finding joy, and keeping joy.  To open windows and life-dreams.  To relocation and going out and having fun.  To gardens and good jobs.  To having energy and spending time.   May all the marrow of life be yours.