Most parents are concerned about emotional and physical development when it comes to their children – when’s the right time to talk about the birds and the bees? How to handle menstruation concerns? How to deal with male puberty?
Some parents take it a step further and try to map out their child’s financial future – will there be enough money for college? Do we have enough savings? Are they expected to stay inside the home past 18? Those are very important and sometimes, the talks come more fluid and naturally than expected.
But what happens when your child asks about their deceased sibling? Then what?
Last night, Bear was being his little rambunctious self late at night. He didn’t want to go to sleep and we accidentally overstimulated him so he was very wired. He kept pointing to the lights we have on our balcony and up to the sky. Naturally, I asked him if he saw his big brother Ethan and he responded with a simple question:
The innocent question knocked the wind out of me and to be honest, I’m still recovering from it. (I did tell Bear Ethan was one of the stars in the sky.)
You see, it’s been a discussion between Maks and I for the past several years on how to tell our children about their oldest brother who died in infancy, and why he’s included on our annual Christmas cards. I equate us talking about it and planning it out as the famous I Love Lucy labor episode – everything’s all planned and ready to go until it actually happens, then all hell breaks loose.
I’m fortunate that for now, Bear is too young to understand the concepts of life and death, Heaven and Earth, so on and so forth. Him being this young is only a temporary advantage. As anyone with children can tell you, they grow up fast and a lot can (and will) change right before you.
Right before Bear was born, we did purchase a book – Someone Came Before You. We barely got through it before we had to put it away. Maybe one day, I can finish reading the book without breaking into hysterics and I can explain to Bear that while he is our second child, he is just as loved and cherished as our first.
So, let’s open it up for discussion…is there a way to talk to your child about death?
I’m typing this post with a semi-sleepy Yoda on my boob. I’m sure you wanted to know that but you can’t deny I’ve been honest for this long so why hold back now?
A year ago, I found out I was pregnant and I remember I had a flurry of emotions go through me. The biggest emotion was relief. We were trying for a year. We both went through a battery of testing, all of them turned out normal. We were mentally exhausted (not to mention, physically) and we decided to take a break for a few months and start up again with medical intervention. I was researching IUI treatments at the time.
And then it happened. I remember it being a Thursday evening and I suddenly felt sick. I took a test and it was a pink dye one but it was also pretty faint.
I showed M. the test and we pretty much had the same reaction – let’s not get our hopes up.
I retested the following Friday and the test was no better.
We decided since my period was going to come by Monday morning, we’ll test then. I remember I could barely sleep the night before because I was so nervous. I was either pregnant or I was going to delay trying again for a while. It was pretty much black and white.
And then this happened…
My only reaction was running into the other bathroom where my husband was, jumping up and down, yelling, ‘We did it! We did it!’
Crazy. A year ago I found out I was pregnant and started this blog shortly afterward. A year later, I have this to show for:
There is something innately unnatural about burying a child. Like it really goes against God’s plan and all laws of nature.
This Friday marks the second angelversary of Ethan going to heaven. I can vividly recall that entire day – going into labor at 2:30 in the morning, and fighting the labor the entire day until 5:30 that night when Ethan appeared on his own. It was then I learned I had incompetent (now diagnosed as insufficient) cervix and would require a cerclage and bed rest for all subsequent pregnancies.
Supposedly IC affects only 1% of all pregnancies though I beg to differ. I know many, many women who have suffered the same fate as me; in some cases, worse with many women having several losses. No parent should ever have to bury their child. It’s a surreal feeling – knowing I should have an 18-month old toddler and I don’t.
I remember the days after Ethan’s passing were a fog. My mind convinced me that it was a nightmare and that I was never pregnant and for a while, I believed it. (I learned later this is a coping mechanism.) I lost a couple of friendships, one being 30+ years, and some other friends and family members I have no desire to talk to. A friend who I thought had my back through thick and thin, admitted he kept his distance from me because he couldn’t handle my grief. As a result, I terminated the friendship. (Funny how said person is trying to get back into my good graces now that Bo is here.) My brother (yeah, that brother) used a bullshit excuse of ‘not knowing what to say’ for an entire year and decided it was better to avoid than to acknowledge (now can y’all see why I want absolutely nothing to do with him ever?)
I felt (and still feel) abandoned by both sets of parents – mine and M’s – as they refuse to talk about Ethan or count him in the number of grandchildren they have. A lot of the time, it feels like I’m the only one who cared that I had a son before Bo. Both grandparents are proudly showing off pictures of Bo in their home but not a single one of Ethan. I decided who ever comes over to my home is going to see a picture of Ethan. He’ll be in a frame and along with other pictures of friends and family. It’s my home and if seeing a picture of an angel baby bothers them, they can get the fuck out and not come back.
Tragedy brings out the very best and worst in people. You will quickly learn who cares and who doesn’t. Some people can’t handle grief for reasons only they know while others embrace it. I guess I was so used to unexpected deaths from friends and family, I was able to deal with Ethan’s death head on. It wasn’t easy, though. I can vividly recall the day after Ethan’s funeral, I attempted suicide. I had a note written out and I cut up both arms with a very sharp knife, waiting for M to come home so he could discover my body in the living room. It was then I decided to seek treatment from a therapist.
Caring for Bo has been a challenge. For a while I thought I was suffering from postpartum depression and maybe I do have a mild form of it. I talked to other angel mom friends of mine about my feelings – why I’m feeling sadness when this beautiful moment just occurred. They all expressed the same thing – they were dealing with their rainbows milestones and big moments when they should’ve celebrated their angel’s milestones.
It makes sense. You would always wonder about the ‘what ifs’ and ‘could’ve beens’ instead of what actually happened. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve wondered if Ethan would’ve been a fussy baby like Bo or what type of child he would’ve grown up to be. Would he be into art? Would he like sports? What about European football? Would he be a cool kid or a geek? What type of girl would he be into?
It’s sad. What hurts about infant loss is that you’re robbed of the opportunity to know what could’ve been and nothing will ever make it better. It gets easier over time. You smile more before you cry. I can look back at my pregnancy with Ethan and smile fondly. But I’ll always wonder what could’ve been. No matter how many children I’ll have, I’ll always long for the one that never came home.
Let’s see it’s been about three weeks since I’ve last updated. Well, a lot has happened since then. Namely this:
To fully tell the story, I have to backtrack a little so bear with me here.
Saturday, November 9
Over the weekend, I saw my OB and had a special trip to Labor & Delivery (L&D) for a NST since my blood pressure was becoming alarmingly high, mix in with a little nausea and just overall yuckiness. Go to L&D and turns out everything is okay. In fact, while I was at L&D, I was contracting; not enough contractions to warrant being in labor but enough where they were noticeable. My OB comes in about an hour later to check on me and sends me home. He calls me that following Sunday to make sure I’m doing alright.
Monday, November 11: Now this is when the bullshit started.
I go to my OB’s office late Monday afternoon (he’s courtesy enough to be open on holidays). My blood pressure is once again through the roof so my OB sends me straight to L&D for a NST. I wasn’t allowed to eat before I went so I had to go there straight from his office.
Keep that in mind: I wasn’t allowed to eat anything.
So M and I go to L&D where we’re informed we have to wait a while so they can get a room ready for us. The secretary tells us 10 minutes. Well, 10 minutes turned into 15, which turned into 30, which turned into an hour. So imagine a full-term pregnant woman, who hasn’t eaten anything since breakfast, isn’t allowed to eat anything, is waiting for a spontaneous NST at her doctor’s orders? Yeah, you’d be pissed off too.
I finally went ballistic and went home. I left. I’m not sure how long it took for everyone to realize I wasn’t there but my phone started blowing up about an hour later from my OB to the L&D nurses begging me to go back. The only reason why I went back is because I didn’t feel Yoda move that much. We went back to L&D around 11:30 PM and returned home around 2 AM. Everything was fine. I was ordered to make an appointment with my OB first thing Thursday morning. Fun.
Wednesday, November 13
M decided to take the day off and take care of household items. We go on what would be our very last twosome date to a local pizza parlor. We both feel it’s the calm before the storm and just enjoy the day with each other.
Thursday, November 14
I go to my OB’s office first thing Thursday morning. My blood pressure once again is through the roof, no to mention, there is protein in my urine for the first time this pregnancy. This immediately puts me as a candidate for preeclampsia and my OB told me to go straight to L&D. No NST this time – I’m getting prepped for a c-section.
We checked into L&D and this time they’re ready for me. I get changed and I have a set of nurses taking my vitals and what-not. One of the nurses graduated from my alma mater, Azusa Pacific, so she has student nurses with her, also from APU. That’s pretty cool. I immediately took that as a sign from God.
We had a chaplain come in right before the surgery to bless the delivery of Yoda’s arrival and a good surgery for me. And then it was on!
I got wheeled into the operating room and I requested jazz music to be played during the delivery. I told the anesthesiologist that anything else would hype me up. I was given a spinal block and once again, I just didn’t like that shit. Needles and my back just don’t get along. But the spinal worked and I couldn’t feel anything below my chest. The sheet was pulled up and my OB asked me if I could feel anything. I told him no and he replied with, ‘Good because I just made an incision.’ (It’s funny now.)
M was let into the room and sat next to me with camera in tow. Minutes later with a few tugs and pulls, my OB holds up Yoda and says, ‘Here’s your baby!’ The moment was surreal. It honestly felt like I won the lottery.
We have our first family photo and I’m a little out of it. A lot of drugs are in me but I managed to smile:
This photo below, I honestly don’t remember taking. I was that drugged up:
Here is the photo we debuted to everyone on our respective Facebook pages:
Yoda’s going-home outfit:
Here is a photo of me, one week postpartum:
Yoda’s official name is Bogdan Michael. Bogdan is Russian for ‘given by God’ and Michael, in honor of his big brother, Ethan, who shared the same middle name.
During the hospital stay, I kept getting asked if Bo was my first baby. I answered yes even though it wasn’t true. I didn’t want to go through explaining to each person about Ethan and I most certainly didn’t want to cloud a happy moment with sadness. I didn’t feel bad about lying, however. I’m very protective of Ethan’s memory and I would rather lie to protect him than be honest and deal with uncomfortable reactions from people.
My surgery recovery is going as expected. I’m always sore but it’s manageable. I’m on Vicodin and heavy-duty Motrin that I take twice daily. I’m not allowed to pick up anything heavier than Bo and that’s fine by me. I recently got my staples removed and Bo had his first pediatrician appointment the other day. Other than getting used to no sleep, everything is great. I can honestly say my life is perfect. 🙂
My parents weren’t able to come up due to other issues that I’m glad had nothing to do with my brother but I hope they can come up soon.
Needless to say, this blog will go from talking about my pregnancy to raising a biracial, multi-ethnic baby in Los Angeles and being a ‘first-time’ mother.
So it’s been almost two weeks since my cerclage was removed and well, I’m still very much pregnant. It wasn’t too bad except for when I suddenly fell sick. I didn’t think it was a big deal but apparently my OB did. I saw him today and he checked me. The good news: Yoda is still locked and loaded. The bad news: He’s not low enough to warrant an induction.
See, I asked him if Yoda could be induced on his due date (18th). Well, my OB had other news for me:
I don’t want you going past the 14th.
Granted, my reaction was pretty appropriate:
Yoda’s head is already measuring 41 weeks. His body is measuring over 39 weeks. Combined with me being sick suddenly and my blood pressure being unusually high, my OB was very concerned about me going 40 weeks. In short, the longer Yoda is inside, the sicker I become.
Whether I’ll be induced or have a c-section, it doesn’t matter at this point. I just want my son alive and healthy. That is all.