Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas with and without.

Well, we all survived Luke's first Christmas, and our third Christmas without Olivia.

Christmas has been hard every year (well, maybe not as much the first year- when we were still mostly numb and avoided it all), but this year was especially challenging, as we tried to balance celebrating our first Christmas with Lucas with missing our daughter.

It's the little things and not so little things that are a punch to the gut: Baby's First Christmas ornament that we only have for one baby, stockings, visiting the cemetary on Christmas morning instead of going to church, friend's toddlers all dressed up in front of their tree.

Most of our time at home with just the three of us, I kept thinking about how different it should be but isn't. This is our third Christmas, and it still really sucks that she isn't here.

I think now that we have Lucas here, we felt forced (by ourselves/mommy guilt)to do the Christmas stuff again that we haven't done or to the same extent the previous years. This was the first year I put our tree up since Olivia died (and I waited until the last minute, the 23rd, before I finally did it, and seriously contemplated not putting a tree up at all since it's not like Luke will know or remember the difference- this year at least.) But he LOVES the tree- more than presents and wrapping paper and boxes. So I'm glad I sucked it up and put it up. Anyway, we put the tree up and stockings, shopped (mostly online, thank god for the internet) and wrapped presents, etc. I made and sent out Christmas cards. All of that normal stuff.

And I mostly felt normal. The night before Christmas Eve, after we put the tree up and Lucas to bed, he woke back up while I was in the middle of wrapping presents. I let him crawl around and "help" (which he did by climbing on presents, pulling ornaments off the tree, etc.) while I tried to finish and avoid a trip to the ER with an injured baby. (Sucessful, though it took till 2 am to finally get done.) Even though Lucas wasn't especially helpful, he was really cute, and I thought about how much better this year is with him here vs. last year when he was just in my belly. He really has filled our lives with so much light and laughter and happiness...better than anything I could ask for for Christmas.

We went and saw extended family- Christmas Eve with my mom's side (then at my parent's house later since my siblings both worked Christmas day), Christmas Day we did our own Christmas, then to the cemetery, then to my dad's family. (Joe's family is all in PA.) Luke did pretty well with the choas and so many people and our schedule and everything totally off. He got plenty of presents, although he was pretty ambivalent about unwrapping them. All in all, it was good. Bittersweet as always, but a lot of sweet to go with our bitter this year. Hopefully next Christmas will be even better.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Effing facebook, or, watching a trainwreck

So in case you didn't know, Facebook is up to their usual tricks, next week they are rolling out their "timeline" thing- so now everyone's page will be in a timeline format and all of your old posts and everything can come back to haunt you. You can preview what yours will look like by clicking on your name.

So, back in 2009, I whined about my job in Hell City and the spawn of satan 6th graders on FB probably at least 3x a week. (I know, I know, it is amazing that everyone hasn't hidden me.) I decided I should probably go back and clean that up, even though I try to keep my settings pretty locked down, I might want a job again someday, etc. etc. (Although cleaning up my FB page definitely confirms that it shouldn't be in teaching, 90% of my posts prior to Olivia and Luke were countdowns to summer or spring break or hoping for snow days, etc. Again, pretty amazing if I'm not hidden to most people. It was annoying even to me, in hindsight.)

Anyway, of course in the process of that, I stumbled on my last few posts teaching in Hell City and before Olivia died (some that I deleted , some that I kept up). God, it's eerie and sickening and I don't know how else to explain it, seeing those posts Before and After. Franchesca/Small Birds studio (who made my blog pretty), posted the other day about seeing a picture of herself before she lost her daughter and how there's just something different in pictures now. I totally agree with that. The innocence and naivety and faith that things usually turn out okay, that I had and felt, is not there anymore. I mean, now I know that sometimes things turn out okay (like with Lucas), and sometimes, they really, really, really don't (like the babyloss mom community.)I still can't believe that even after my OB was talking about delivering Olivia at around 24ish weeks due to her bad growth, while I was worried, I had no sense of the impending doom or urgency that I should have had- like seriously, what the hell was wrong with me? (My now 25 year old brother was a 29 weeker in the 80's and he's perfectly fine and healthy, so I think maybe part of it was that I thought if she did get delivered extremely early, as long as it was 24 weeks or later, they could save her and it would be fine, albeit a long NICU stay...because that world I was in...babies didn't die.)

Also, it's crazy how much I whined about school/teaching, but when I was having that stabbing upper right quadrant/ribcage pain that you know- was my liver on the verge of rupturing for 2ish weeks- nope, not a peep whining about that. That was going on through most of mid-late September and I am sure did not help me be less whiny or stressed in general. But working every day from 6 am till 10 pm and barely stopping to eat (my lunch every day was with 100ish 6th graders who were seriously the spawn of satan and could not behave then either...what the hell kind of school makes teachers eat lunch with middle schoolers? School in Hell City, that's where!)

Anyway, here it is, the last couple months of my pregnancy from facebook:

July 15, 2009
is excited that on Aug. 15 we get to find out if it's a girl baby or boy baby! If only that didn't seem like forever away...

August 15, 2009

August 21,2009
Baby Brooks (7 photos)
First "pictures" of our baby. Expected arrival Jan. 23, 2010!

August 22,2009
is hopefully going crib shopping today...for the 3rd time...

August 31, 2009
knows it's way too soon to be burnt out already....but I'm burnt out already.
(this was the 3rd week of school when it became apparent these kids were the spawn of satan)

September 14, 2009
wishes it was January...or better yet...MAY!
(already knew I wasn't teaching there next year)

September 20, 2009
finally ordered the crib! I guess this means we should probably start cleaning out the baby room. Now, if only my work would fire me so I'd have time for this.
(seriously would have been happy to be fired, at this point I didn't feel like I could quit without losing my teaching license...and obviously someone who orders a baby crib at 21 weeks is living in a world where babies don't die)

September 21, 2009
so it's not looking good for the January baby to be a January baby after all...hopefully she at least hangs in there until November.

friend asks-what's wrong!?!?!?

Response: She's not growing very well. At my last ultrasound, she was 8 days behind, and now she is 2 weeks behind, so they are thinking that I may have pre-eclampsia or something wrong with the placenta. If she continues to fall even more behind, then they want to get her out sooner than later. 24 weeks is considered viable and I'm 22 weeks now, but hopefully she can stay put until at least Nov. because she'd still be very very early even then.

(why the hell I was so calm about all of this, I don't know. And I wasn't exactly "calm" but I kind of want to smack myself in hindsight. Also, the reason they only said I "might" have pre-eclampsia was because my blood pressure was still perfectly normal and I was not spilling protein, but I was very swollen and in a lot of pain.)

September 24, 2009
is DONE. I'm either quitting or going on medical leave, I am so not doing this anymore! And by the way, crying is very effective classroom really freaked the 6th graders from hell out.
(not one of my finer teaching moments. But this was after my principal- who knew everything that was going on with my pregnancy- called me into her office during my plan period and chewed me out for an hour for "not disciplining" one of the biggest spawns of satan...because he was so bad some of the other kids were going to her and complaining about him...when I pointed out that I had written him up multiple times even that week, sent him in the hallway (which we weren't supposed to do), called home, given him detention, exactly wtf else was I supposed to do with the kid...her helpful response was "I've never seen a write up" and then she looked at the computer and there they were...20 minutes later I'm at lunch with same kid, he throws a milk carton across the table, I'm just done and send him directly to the office since we had just had this long talk, she sends him right back to my class as soon as lunch was over- thanks for the help.) Like I have said, I have *at least* as much PTSD from teaching in Hell City as I do from losing Olivia. I do not talk to a single person still from that entire school and I have a couple of school spirit t-shirts from the school that I really want to burn.

September 25,2009
is very happy it's Friday and today is most likely my last way or another..l am DONE. Spirit day indeed.
(it really was my last day there, not for the reasons I had thought.)

September 25, 2009
will hear back from the doctor on Monday. In the meantime, I need to find the meanest sub ever.
(I had called the doctor sobbing during my plan period begging her to put me on medical leave. We had talked about it at my appointment earlier in the week but she had said bedrest isn't proven to help--which is still true even now-- but she also didn't realize the extreme stress I was under at that time. The nurse took my call and all the info and said the doctor was out of the office and would call me back Monday. I did talk to her Monday, but it was at 3 am and then in the hospital.)

September 30, 2009
Olivia Caetlyn Brooks was born at 8:48 pm on Monday, Sept.28 via an emergency c-section. She passed away about an hour later. Angie and Joe are doing as well as can be expected, we thank our wonderful friends and family for your prayers and support.

October 2, 2009
was released from the hospital today and physically feeling almost normal even though I'm supposed to be recovering from a c-section. We are both doing okay. Thanks again to everyone for all of your thoughts and prayers, they have really helped us.

October 22, 2009
turned in my work laptop today, I think I'm pretty much done with that place now--very glad that I'm out of that nightmare, at least.

It still amazes me how it went so very wrong, so quickly. But I guess that's how it usually does go with babyloss, and our drama actually dragged out longer than most since things started going wrong with the bad quad screen at the end of August, then they noticed she was several days behind (8, but a week off is considered normal so they weren't too worried yet but going to watch it..I didn't post about any of that.) Anyway, I probably could have done without that trip down memory lane, so thanks Facebook.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Saving Grace, 2011

Every year, the Pre-Eclampsia Foundation has an event called Saving Grace somewhere in the country (it changes every year, this year I think it was in NY.) It is a night where they raise money, share stories, etc. (Those interested in it can read more about it here: ) I hope someday soon Saving Grace will be close enough that we can go to it. (It was in Chicago in 2009, which would have been close enough, we seriously considered going but everything was still so new and raw only 2 months after we lost Olivia, we didn't really feel up to it.)

They also usually have something they call a Patient Symposium the day before or day after Saving Grace where all of the top experts on pre-eclampsia and HELLP in the country have a talk about what they know, etc. and take questions. They filmed it and sold dvd's of it a couple years ago, I have the dvd but haven't managed to watch it all the way through ever. (Too sciency even for me.)

 Anyway, a few months ago I posted about the "Field of Cradles" project that Susannah Pabot put together in honor of babies lost to pre-eclampsia, and we were lucky enough to have Olivia remembered and honored with a cradle and blanket and poem, which were exhibited several places on the East Coast. Well, Susannah also brought a few of the cradles and all of the blankets to Saving Grace, and was kind enough to send us pictures.
(I *think* that purple blanket right there is the one made in honor of Olivia but can't be for sure.)

Obviously nothing makes up for her not being here right now, but it is such a good feeling to know that other people are learning about her too short life and remembering and honoring her too.

Anyway, the Pre-Eclampsia Foundation put together this video honoring the babies and moms who have died due to pre-eclampsia, and showed it at Saving Grace this year. They took excerpts from some of the poems that Susannah wrote and put with the cradles and blankets for each baby, for parts of the video. It's a very nicely done video but you'll definitely want to be prepared to cry.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Baby wake up calls

Yesterday morning I woke up to Lucas sitting up in his pack n play next to me, putting his hand on my cheek and grinning. God, I love that baby. (And really appreciate that he didn't try to claw my face off, or pull my hair, or stick his hand in my mouth.) He is awesome (even face clawing, hair pulling, and trying to gag me with his hand). First time he's mostly slept through the night in a long time, fingers crossed for more of that. (Did not happen last night, but I can hardly complain about sleeping from 2-5 am with a warm cuddly perfect baby on my chest in the recliner.)

I started volunteering Friday and really liked it. I am really excited about the prospect of maybe someday having a job where I would get to wear scrubs every day. I am in the radiology dept but mainly helping the person who does the CT machines. I help get and move patients, set up the room, run file to the doctors, etc. They are apparently going to let me load the CT machine with contrast dye, too. I am not doing much in ultrasound yet, but the hospital I am volunteering at is really small and so I probably won't see many or any OB patients since they have an u/s machine on the OB floor. The time I'm there goes by pretty fast.

Luke and Joe had a rough night on Friday but he was good last night. Wednesday my mom is watching him for the first time, I'm nervous about it, mainly because he's so attached to me and I don't want him to cry the whole time. Hopefully it will go okay. I am not used to being so busy! It is going to be a crazy 6ish-9 months (school 2x a week and online, volunteering 2x a week) and then be nothing again.

I am horrible at Christmas this year. Our tree is still not up. I don't have stockings for Lucas and Olivia. (And Joe's stocking I made with glitter glue in college- it's pretty lame.) I have bought a few things online for Luke and Joe but that is it. It's just been busy. I think I will take Luke out shopping in a bit, mainly I'm struggling to keep up with everything. I'm pumping a lot in case I get pregnant and have to wean (can't breastfeed on blood thinners), which takes a lot of time and constantly doing dishes and washing pump parts, plus Lucas is really mobile and loves cords and escaping his 'baby jail' (a fort of gates in the middle of our living room- our lame/sucky/lazy babyproofing attempt) so that makes getting things done tough. I did get our Christmas cards *mostly* sent out though, so yay for small progress. (Video of Luke on the previous post, it wouldn't let me type on it.)

Water bottle fun (7.5 months)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

18 years

A couple nights ago my friend Jackie and I met someone who lost her daughter (I think her first child), eighteen years ago.

Her baby lived for 17 hours and then died of Group B strep, that was before they commonly tested for it. She said that a year later, they made it a routine test.

So she beamed at us and said that now she feels so lucky and glad to have an angel. And grinned at us like we were in this secret, really cool club.

And I might have unintentionally gave her my "are you smoking crack?" look because it was so over the top and I was so caught off guard and dumbfounded by it.

I was telling Joe about it yesterday when we were driving to the Angel of Hope statue and he was also flabbergasted.

This isn't to say that there aren't good things that have happened as a result of Olivia's death. I have  new, fantastic, friends, that I wouldn't have if Olivia were here. I'm probably a better person overall. I'm definitely a better mom to Lucas because of Olivia. I will have a new career. Etc. I mean, I'd still trade that all to have her back, but since she isn't coming back, I can at least recognize that some good has come of it.

But I really can't imagine ever being so dang happy about it and acting like I'm glad that I have "an angel" instead of a living daughter. As I was trying to explain it to Joe, I said, "It was like she was saying that she was glad or happy that her daughter died. " I will never be glad or happy that Olivia died, I can't fathom that or what it takes to get to that point. Self- preservation, maybe? I don't know. But I would like to think that 18 (er, 16) years from now, I won't be *happy* about it.

Like Brooke says, all sorts of people lose babies, even tacky and crazy and weird people. (Some people are probably crazy and weird and tacky before they lose babies and some people maybe it's an after effect. I'm sure I've had my share of crazy and weird days, but some of the things you hear are just way way beyond that .) I think maybe we can chalk this up to another person who is just out there, maybe.

Teeth, not ears

I can't remember if I mentioned it, but a couple weeks ago Luke got his first tooth, bottom middle. It was a nonevent. Literally, one day he chomped down on my hand and there was something sharp poking me- his tooth.

Yesterday Luke acted normal most of the day and didn't have a fever, so I figured his ears were probably okay. We took him in anyway, and he's totally healthy (let's hope he stays that way), but his second tooth is ready to pop through any day now.

It ended up being a good thing we went in because yesterday evening he was So Crabby, I've never seen him that bad. I might have panicked and rushed him into the ER or Urgent Care had I not already known that he was fine. Also, it turns out he pulls on his left ear when he's pissed off.

 So basically, all is well there.

After the doctor, we went to the Angel of Hope statue and took turns leaving a flower while the other stayed in the car with Lucas who was sleeping. So it sorta worked out, at least our version of it. It was better than skipping it all together, and the bitter cold made me kinda glad we were skipping it this year- last year I think I wore like 3 layers plus a coat and we were toward the front so we got done early.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mommy guilt

On needs of living child vs. memory of dead child

So tonight is the annual candlelight vigil. It's Dec.6th every year, always cold, crowded, slightly chaotic- but they have a nice little ceremony. The first year I was really nervous about it, last year I was really excited for it, this year, I have been dreading it. Not so much the service but standing in the freezing cold for a couple hours, no parking, leaving Luke with someone for the first time, being in a crowd of like 1000 people with very little space...yeah. The ceremony is very nice though.

Luke was just not acting like his happy self yesterday. He was super irritable (even while I was feeding him- food ALWAYS makes him happy), and slept more than usual. Last night I left him with Joe while we started working on Christmas stuff to send out to all the new loss people at the hospital support group, he was actually mostly ok for Joe but he saw him pulling on his left ear a lot. He was out cold by the time I got home but woke up after an hour or two (which secretly made me happy), I changed him and let him play for an hour (Joe had given him tylenol) then he fell back to sleep for most of the night. Today he has been acting pretty normal again but he has pulled on his left ear a few times. My guess is that it is probably nothing or teething since he doesn't really have a fever, but I'd rather get it checked out to be sure, he's never been to the doctor for anything but well baby visits and shots (in 7.5 months), so even if it's nothing, I'm not too worried about being a crazy mom on this. We have an appointment at the end of today. (Coincidentally, we were at the dr last week for just a shot, I wonder if he picked up something from that, and that does make me more hesitant to bring him in now. Sick kids are on the "well" side all of the time since they aren't separated by anything- there are 2 different doors/sides but it opens to one big room with a supposed well side and sick side.)

Then I talked to my mom, my sister was going to baby-sit for us but she left work sick yesterday. So we've already decided, ear infection/illness or not, we aren't going this year, technically one of my brothers or my mom or dad could maybe watch them, but my sister has been sick for a few days and she's been around all of them, I'd rather not expose Luke to something extra even if he isn't sick . It's too cold to bring him to the memorial. We are planning on stopping by before and leaving a flower while Luke stays in the car with one of us while the other goes. That will have to do for this year.

But I feel guilty about it. I know we do/have done other stuff remembering Olivia and for other babyloss families throughout the year, and this is just one day, but blech. I never thought there'd be a year when we wouldn't go unless something really serious was going on, but here we are, not going.  I guess it's because I didn't really want to go anyway, and this excuse came up, so we're not. Oh well, I guess I'll have to get over it.