Thursday, May 26, 2011

What's in a number?

My son will be turning three next week and is a pure joy. Of course we battle over what shoes to wear, the amount of TV to be watched, and what’s for dinner. But he also says, “I love you”, snuggles, tells awesome stories and makes the most brilliant observations, “My head is a circle!” Overall he is a wonderful, smart, compassionate little boy and I am truly blessed to have him. I cannot wait for him to have a living sibling to play with.  It's not that we haven't tried to give that to him.

When you are pregnant, people seem to lose a filter and say whatever pops into their minds and can occasionally lose control over their bodies and touch your growing tummy at a moment’s notice. This being my third (fourth counting the early miscarriage in November) pregnancy, I’ve heard and experienced this a lot. “No, there aren’t triplets in there.” “Yes, I am waddling as I walk.” “Yes, I understand things are about to change in our lives and become a little more hectic in the beginning.” I have been felt up (i.e. violated) by strangers and acquaintances. I even watched recently as a man pretended to make a large arc while walking around the apparent hugeness of me. But I usually shake it off, even if my feelings are hurt. This time is different though. I'm not sure people know how to talk to a pregnant women who has had a child died.

I was taking my son to daycare this morning and he just HAD to jump down every step instead of walking. A line of parents were forming to leave and I apologetically looked at them and said, “Sorry! You know everything is a game!” A mother looked at me, one who knows that Ellie died last year, and said, “Wait until you have two.” I smiled politely and nodded my head. But I cried and screamed inside, “I HAVE TWO CHIDLREN. ONE IS NOT HERE, BUT SHE EXISTED. SHE COUNTS! DON’T FORGET ABOUT HER!”

If you have suffered the loss of a child and are pregnant, or if you have a surviving/living child at home and lost another child, you understand the conundrum I am in. For 12 months, I had no hesitation when answering how many children I had: Two. Period. If people asked, I gave out more information. I didn’t try to guilt people, but I do have two children and I’m proud of that. (Please note that if a woman loses her first and/or only child, she is STILL a mother. I don’t even feel that deserves an explanation as it is common sense.) But now that I am pregnant, I find it hard to explain. People are usually smiling and excited when they talk to me as most are when a new life is about to enter the world. They will ask if this is my first, second, etc. pregnancy and I always say third (I feel so guilty for leaving out the miscarriage…I think I will start including it from now on). Then the question of what do we have and how old follows with "What do you hope this one is". I want to answer the last question with, "Alive." Whatever I do, which is try to stay true to myself and babies, I have to watch as they uncomfortably shift or look away, desperate to get out of the situation. It's a repeat of the months after Ellie died.

And there is more. Those that know I have a son will say, “I bet you hope it’s a girl” or “I hope it’s a girl.” It is bittersweet. We find out next Tuesday if the baby is healthy and the gender. If it is a boy, I will be sad because I will never have my living daughter. If it is a girl, I will be sad that is wasn’t Ellie and scared that in some way I am replacing her. Hearing people talk about hoping and wishing for a girl hurts more than them thinking it is a boy for some reason. I want my Eleanor. I know it may seem irrational to some. I know you may think I need to just be happy and stop worrying. Maybe you are right. But until you’ve been in my shoes, I’d ask you to refrain from sharing those thoughts. I try to avoid talking to people about how much pain I am in. How I fear getting close to this baby in case it will die too. How I am worried others will forget about my Eleanor or two lost angels, Pizza and Baby K, when this baby is born. I really try to be optimistic, but the unimaginable has happened…multiple times. I can’t just think happy-puppy-dog-and-sunshine thoughts and magically be okay. Of course I want this baby. I know that stress can affect your body and pregnancy. I wanted ALL my babies. But I am terrified. You tell me how to stay calm after all we have experienced! I'm willing to try it!!

We have decided to wait a little while to tell family and friends the gender of the baby. I need to process it. I need to celebrate with my husband and grieve for the lost babies in our lives. Whether this is baby #5 or baby #1, it is wanted and loved. I so hope the baby is healthy. I would appreciate your good thoughts, fingers crossed or prayers to whatever you pray to that it is.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pregnancy isn't a "Cure"

It is rare for me to post more than once a week let alone twice in one day, but I recently read something that floored me. For those of you that don't know, I'm about to drop a bomb on you (being just a tad...okay A LOT...bit sarcastic right now).

Pregnancy. Is. Not. A. Cure. It does not magically erase your memory. And it certainly doesn't fill that missing piece of your heart left when your child died. Are you thankful for surviving children? Hell yes! Are you beyond hopeful for a healthy pregnancy after loss? No question! But please, please, never under any circumstances think that a woman who has had a baby die is "better" or over her grief because she is expecting. There is no time frame for "dealing" with that grief. You never get over it. I am 16 months out and hurt everyday although I may not show it.

Being pregnant is bittersweet. I cannot wait to hold this baby and often wish I could fast forward to it being safely in my arms. I am terrified. But this baby is wanted. This baby is wanted to be healthy. This baby is wanted to be alive.

And while we are on it, "thinking positive thoughts," doesn't save lives. Don't tell me to "be positive" for the baby growing inside me. I had NOTHING but good intentions and thoughts about my daughter and it didn't save her. While I held Eleanor in my arms as she died, I thought positive, healing thoughts and she still didn't make it. Some may think there is a reason for everything, but I am still trying to figure that out. So, please spare me your explanation of why I had to watch my daughter die. You insult me and dishonor my daughter by trying to explain something so horrific away. I may not share your belief system...please keep that in mind. I can respect you as long as you respect me.

Calming down now...

Yes, new hope has been brought into our lives with this pregnancy. Yes, we are thankful for our son and all of our babies no matter how short their time was. Yes, life goes on. YAnd yes, the time to walk on egg shells has passed. But, if you have not experienced the death of a child, please think before you speak, and don't assume anything about how me or my family is processing what has happened. You can have no idea what we are going through...and each one of us is different. Please try to be compassionate and continue to be patient with us. Thank you to our loving friends and families who have and never would say the above to us. Sorry for the outburst. 

A Mother's Day in Mourning

First, if you follow my blog I have to report that my husband's result for Cystic Fibrosis came back negative! We are beyond excited. This is one less thing I will be worrying about during my pregnancy. Now...on to the post.

Is it appropriate to wear all black on Mother's Day?

Mother's Day. Oy! Last year I mourned Eleanor. My son is my world and I am crazy about him, and of course I am thankful for him. I know I am a good mother. And a lot of my guilt comes from not being outwardly happier about his health and mere existence, which I most certainly am. But I thought it was going to be different; my two children playing. Thankfully I travelled for work that Sunday and was preoccupied. My husband made breakfast and had my son color a card. It was very sweet. I cried of course; partially out of joy and partially out of grief. I may be travelling again this year for work and actually think it will be better than staying home. I just can bare to think about it.

I also thought this year would be different because I expected to be pregnant...which I am. But I just add two more children to the list of those to mourn. I am beyond happy to be expecting and am 15.2 weeks today. I am terrified, yet hopeful. I haven't connected to the baby yet out of fear since we lost its twin at 9 weeks. (I'm hoping I will soon, but I am just so scared that something will happen or the baby will be sick. The 31st of May CANNOT come soon enough! That is when our ultrasound with the Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist occurs.) I don't know if holidays, especially family-centered ones, will ever be the same for me.

This doesn't seem to be getting any less painful. Tears stream down my face as I type this. Sorry this post is incoherent. One of those days. I just needed to get something, anything out. I have been crying every day for a week now. Hormones? Fear? Grief? Other mother's who have lost know this feeling well; that irrational day when nothing makes sense and everything reminds you of what has been lost. You ramble on and on until exhaustion sets in and you can no longer process anything. It's only 10 am. It's going to be a loooong day.