Thursday, October 27, 2011

Life sentence

The heartbreak of infant loss

By Laura SchubertDid you know that October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month? I'll bet not. Despite the infant mortality crisis that's been at the forefront of Milwaukee's public health news for months, the only people who have more than a cursory comprehension of what it means to lose a baby are those who've lived it.

Infant loss is nature's cruelest practical joke. It's investing all of the required time and effort into pregnancy, only to be robbed of the result. It's cradling a body that grew within your own and trying to reconcile the cold, lifeless form in your arms with your memory of the baby who turned double flips in your womb.

It's worrying that you'll forget what your child looked like and snapping an album's worth of photos that no one will ever ask to see. It's sobbing so hard you can't breathe and wondering if it's possible to cry yourself to death.

Infant loss is handing off a Moses basket to the nurse who's drawn the unfortunate duty of delivering your pride and joy to the morgue and walking out of a hospital with empty arms.

It's boxing up brand new baby clothes and buying a 24-inch casket. It's sifting through sympathy cards, willing your foolish body to stop lactating, clutching your baby's blanket to your chest in hopes of soothing the piercing ache in your heart.

It's resisting the urge to smack the clueless individuals who compare your situation to the death of their dog or who tell you you'll have another baby, as if children are somehow replaceable.

Infant loss is explaining to your 7-year-old that sometimes babies die and being stumped into silence when she asks you why. It's watching other families live out your happy ending and fighting a fresh round of grief with every milestone you miss.

It's being shut out of play groups for perpetuity. It's skipping social events with expectant and newly minted mothers because, as a walking worst-case scenario, you don't want to put a damper on the party.

It's listening to other women gripe about motherhood and realizing that you no longer relate to their petty parental complaints because, frankly, when you've buried a baby, a sleepless night with a vomiting toddler sounds something like a gift.

Infant loss is pruning from your life the friends and relatives who ignore or minimize your loss. It's recognizing that, while they may not mean to be hurtful, the fact that they don't know any better doesn't make their utter lack of empathy one whit easier to bear.

My baby girl would have been 5 years old this month. I don't know what she'd look like, what her favorite food would be. I've never had the privilege of tucking her into bed, taking her to the zoo or kissing her boo-boos. I will never watch her graduate or walk down the aisle.

Infant loss is more than an empty cradle. It's a life sentence.

I know lots of people have posted this on blogger and facebook, but its too well written not to repost.

I'll add a few more...

Infant loss is...

-hesitating every time someone asks how many kids you have, or "is he your first", because there never is a good way to answer, and sometimes answering with the truth just leads to really crappy comments.

-never looking at anything quite the same way as you did before

-figuring out how to do family pictures when one family member is always missing

- living with random flashbacks of the worst moments of your life

-struggling with your spouse being sad when you aren't, or not being sad when you are, or just grieving differently

-Books for children like "We Were Supposed to Have a Baby But Got an Angel Instead" and "Someone Came Before You" and wondering when you will be able to read it without crying, and when is it appropriate to start reading anyway. And wishing you could burn that damn book and get your baby back instead.

Feel free to add yours, fellow babyloss mom's

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

So much stuff.

I keep writing stuff, getting distracted or too rambly, and quitting. Maybe we'll just try bulletpoints.

-Lucas is officially 6 months old tomorrow. His personality is coming out more and more every day. He wants to grab and eat everything. He cries if I leave the room. He thinks our dogs are hysterical, they look at him and he laughs. (They still try to keep their distance from his grabby hands which usually just amuses him more when he gets thisclose to touching them and then move.) He really wants to crawl and it makes him mad that he can't yet, it will happen soon I think. He is perfect and we are so lucky. Although I get sad as we get closer to little boyhood and farther from babyhood, I love every second of him.

-I am registered for the classes I need. Plan A worked out after a bit of drama. (Thanks to Joe being helpful and supportive and Brooke for being encouraging when I nearly said forget this.)

-Joe bought me a new vehicle. (2012 Dodge Journey with third row, my 2003 Galant was on its last leg and I was getting increasingly uncomfortable driving Lucas in it.) Ironically, the new car is so much safer that even though it is brand new and much more expensive to replace than my car was worth, our insurance actually went down. I was not expecting that at all. I hate that it isn't a minivan and that there is no way to fit a car seat in the middle of the 2nd row (the safest spot to put a car seat) and also be able to access the 3rd row short of climbing over the 2nd row or climbing over through the trunk. And I'm also not a fan of push start button technology vs. a traditional key and ignition because the first time I am stranded somewhere because my electronic key has broken and now the car won't start, I'm going to be LIVID. (We couldn't find an SUV in our price range with a 3rd row that had a normal ignition, turns out they don't really make them with normal ignitions anymore. Because that was pretty close to a deal breaker for me.) I do love the convenience of it, until it backfires and I get stranded somewhere and then we get to pay the dealership a small fortune to fix or replace the stupid electronic key. (That is probably their plan all along.) Anyway, overall I really like it. Especially for the increased safety.

-I'm thinking it's time for a blog makeover soon. I'm going to wait till all our 6 month pictures are back.

-I have volunteer orientation next Friday. Joe is awesome and decided to push our trip to PA to see his family back a week so I could get it done with. I have to get a flu shot, which I am pretty much against flu shots, but my OB and high risk ob will be thrilled. My ob tried to give me a flu shot last week.

-We are going to start trying again soon. My OB gave me the okay, but reiterated that my risks are the same...high. 75% chance of pre-e, 12% chance of HELLP. More lovenox injections in my stomach, lots of ultrasounds and time with the high risk dr, again a high risk of being put on bedrest and even hospital is daunting. We want our kids close in age though, and the limited stuff we know about pre-eclampsia is that the more closely spaced the pregnancies, the better it tends to go. Since my fertility is always an issue, we need to start thinking about it sooner than later. It still mostly stresses me out to think about it.

Alright, that is all for now.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

This is happening.

I met with some people at our nearby hospital for a volunteering interview. I brought Lucas (after asking if it was ok), and he stole the show of course. I am "hired" and will be getting a volunteering orientation invitation. It was supposed to be Nov.4th but that is when we are supposed to be in PA seeing Joe's family so not sure when that will happen so I can actually start. They are hoping to put me in the radiology dept.

Monday I met with a counselor who looked at my transcripts and said, "Wow, your grades are very good. Are you sure you don't want to teach?" Yes, I am sure. I told her the classes I want to take and she signed the paper and that was that. I can't register online because they have none of my classes/transcripts in the computer. And the classes I need will fill up fast because they are only offering one evening section for the A&P lab and A&P (with 36 seats). So she told me to get there Monday as soon as they open, if not before. What the heck is this, community college black friday? Sheesh. So I get to drag Lucas up there by 8 am and hope they will actually let me register and hope that there will still be openings. I have my doubts because next week is registration for "returning and current students" and I've never taken a class from this school, so I believe that would make me a "new" student, and new students don't get to register until the following week. However, I specifically asked her about that and she said, "No, register next week on the 24th." I have had more than one advisor in my 200ish credit hours who didn't know what they were talking about, so I am not sure that they will even let me register. But we'll give it a try. My plan is to leave the house around 7:45 so I'll be getting there at pretty close to 8 when it opens. I am not standing outside in the cold with a 6 month old just to get in a community college class.

I have Plan B and Plan C in my mind. Plan B is to register for the classes I need at another community college that has 4 different campuses and a variety of evening/weekend/hybrid classes to chose from. One of them even would let me take A&P I for the first 8 weeks and A&P II the last 8 weeks for a total of 8 credit hours. If I didn't have a baby, if the professor had better reviews on ratemyprofessor, and/or if I didn't really really like getting A's, I might be extremely tempted to put myself through 16 weeks of torture and just do that (especially since the majority of it is online with just 4 hours of lab on Fridays.) But I do have a baby and I'm not sure how study time is going to work out and I really like getting A's, I'm kinda OCD about it actually. (The crazy thing is my parents never pressured me about it at all, but I'd come home from school crying if I got less than a B on a test even though I never did get a B for a semester grade - except for I think pre-calc maybe, but it was a college credit/weighted grade so it counted as an A still.) So anyway, that class would totally stress me out and bother me I think, but it is nice to know that there are a lot of options, including classes with the majority of work online. The only reason why I'm not just going to register there in the first place is because it's slightly more expensive since we don't live in that "district" and drives to campus will be 30-40 minutes one way. Plan C is trying to find an online class at my alma mater, but those classes are much more expensive, but maybe I could find something online. Either way, I'm taking A&P I with a lab starting in Jan and hopefully medical terminology online. I've already taken a year of college credit A&P in high school, I definitely need my memory refreshed, but hopefully it won't be too hard. (A couple of my high school teachers are teaching it there at the community college anyway.)

So, here goes nothing.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

6 month pictures sneak peek

So he turned 24 weeks old a week after these were taken (last weekend), but he's technically not 6 months till Oct.27th so we are pretty impressed with his sitting. (He did wobble but Joe was behind him with hand out to catch him every few minutes.)

Have I told the story of the lamb? Things went crazy so quickly the day Olivia was born...I called my parents from the hospital that morning just to let them know I was there but "everything is fine" because we still insanely naively thought it was. Then it wasn't fine and I was in an ambulance to level III NICU hospital and my parents were on the way. When it became clear we were delivering, when they prepped me for c-section my mom ran down to the gift shop and bought a little lamb. She gave it to us right before we went in to the OR. Joe put it in his pocket, and when they gave her to us, got the lamb out and held it next to her. We bought 2 more lambs, 1 is buried with her, 1 we gave to my mom, and the original lamb from the delivery room is in our memory box. So when I was pregnant over a year later, a month or so before Lucas was due, it occurred to me to try the gift shop to get a lamb for him. The gift shop inventory changes a lot- we walk by it every month to get to the support group and they ALWAYS have different stuff in the windows, so I wasn't very optimistic about finding another lamb, but sure enough, almost 2 years later, they were still there. So Lucas has one and we include it in some of our pictures as a symbol for Olivia.

Anyway, here are the pictures that we have back as our sneak peek, we are very excited to see the rest!

To anyone in our area, we can't recommend our photographer highly enough. She is the sister of another baby loss mama and also volunteers with NILMDTS (Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep- an organization that sends professional photographers out to take pictures for families for free in the hospital with their child.) So I liked her a lot just knowing that (which she does not mention but her sister told me).

Anyway, we are in love with all of the pictures we have so far and I think we did a good job of remembering Olivia with the main focus being on Lucas since it was *his* photo shoot after all.

SHARE walk for remembrance, 2011, Part 1

Lucas and my mom and balloons
Joe and Lucas
Lucas and me, wearing our Olivia butterflies and the butterfly we made for Brooke's Eliza
since Brooke wasn't able to make it, Lucas was determined to get that glittery foam goodness into
his mouth so we had to ditch his butterfly
Little brothers ARE awesome indeed.
Jackie and me, moms to an angel and a rainbow
This does not even come close to capturing the crowd, people in green are bereaved parents.

Again, only part of the crowd.
There are a few more pictures I have to share that other people took, so I'll make that as a Part 2 post when I get them.

The weather was PERFECT. The crowd was huge. It was a nice day to remember all of our babies who left too soon. Seeing so many people I knew there made me realize just how many people I have met in this journey. I am grateful for all of them.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

October 15

October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Today we honor the babies we carried but never met, those we held but could not take home, and the ones who came home but couldn't stay.

To my friends, you and your angels are in my thoughts and prayers today, and everyday. I will be forever thankful to have walked this journey with you all by my side. ♥
(Stolen from a friend's facebook status, but I know I can't say it any better than she just did.)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Best picture ever

Last weekend we had Lucas's photo shoot, I will put the "normal" pictures up when they are all done. Our photographer was/is AMAZING, I cannot recommend her highly enough and her rates are crazy low.

Anyway, she got this picture for us (while Lucas was having a big breakdown but luckily you can't tell), which might be my personal favorite "family" picture ever.

October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss remembrance, so this picture is perfect timing. Tomorrow (technically today since it is 1 am- I can't sleep- too many thoughts going on in my head) we will be at a Remembrance Walk for our daughter and all of the other babies that left much too soon. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Freaking dots

A blogger that I follow just posted this quote addressing something that I used to believe in, but its harder/iffy now:

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life." ~ Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

We had our lives so nicely planned out. Joe did the military thing while I worked on my degree and we waited to have kids until he was out. (Being a child bride, figured we had plenty of time for that. And I was adamantly against having/raising military brats- I admire the women who can do it but I was pretty much the Worst Military Wife Ever and knew adding kids to the mix at that time would have been a horrible idea.) He finally got out and I finished my degree and found a job, then a different "better" job that turned out to be Hell City. I got pregnant and nearly died and before we could even set up the baby crib, we picked out a casket for our daughter instead. I might not be Mother Teresa, but karma can suck it, because nothing I've done was That Bad for us to deserve losing our daughter, and there are some pretty crappy people who manage to have kids (Casey Anthony?). And I know some really really great people who lost babies too. So where is the karma in that?

But as bad as it was and is, it could have been a lot worse. Suppose, for instance, that I hadn't been adamantly anti-military-brats for us. (Joe actually wanted to start having kids almost immediately.) If I had gotten pregnant when we were overseas, and that pregnancy had turned out like it went with Olivia, I would have died too, there's no doubt in my mind about that. The military doctors where we were stationed were not very good (they are a big reason Joe's knee is considered permanently damaged turns out that Motrin can not fix Everything.) There was not an American OB on the island. The off base hospital had very few English speakers, could not do c-sections or epidurals, probably did not have magnesium sulfate which prevented me from seizing, and if they had bothered to take me seriously at all and done bloodwork, it likely would have come back a week or two later. What happened to us was awful, but it could have been worse. I guess.

If we hadn't lost Olivia, I'd still be teaching and missing out on a lot of their babyhood with my hours and hours of grading and planning every night. I may have kept a friend or two who deserted me when I needed them most, but I wouldn't have met some of the great people who I have met who are and will be fantastic friends for many years to come. Would I trade my new friends and teaching to have her back? Absolutely. (Sorry.) But the what if game is not much fun and there are no trades, only what is.

What is, is that Olivia has brought so many great people and friends into our lives. What is, is that we have a beautiful little boy, losing Olivia has made it easier in some ways to parent him. So he woke up 10 times last night (true story), I snuggled with him on my chest in our recliner and marveled at how much of my body space he is taking up these days and am just so thankful that he is here and healthy. The little things like that, it is a little easier to appreciate and deal with some of the harder stuff, because nothing is harder than watching your baby die. What is, is that I have a new path that isn't teaching and I think I will be pretty good at it and I think that I will love it and I think that it will fit very well into our lives, allowing my to still have time at home with Lucas and also not having to drag work home.

So I don't really believe so much in karma anymore- crappy things happen to great people and horrible people get away with murder. But maybe the dots do connect after all, maybe not in the way we thought we should or would have liked them to, but maybe I am starting to trust that maybe one of the worst things to say to a bereaved parents, "things happen for a reason" has some hint of truth. Not that there is ever, will ever, be a reason good enough for Olivia to have died. BUT, if she had to die, at least I am at a place now where I can appreciate that her death, as horrible as it is and was, has brought some good changes and maybe pointed me to a better path than the one I was on.