Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness #1: Why Dead Babies are Still Taboo

October marks Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. Over the course of this month, I’ll feature a series of posts dedicated to this month. It’s a bittersweet month for me. Sweet because it’s my birthday month, bitter because I’m reminded of my lost babies (not that I ever forget them).

Pregnancy and infant loss is a taboo subject because let’s face it, no one likes to talk or think about dead babies. No one wants to see a picture of one. No one wants to know someone who’s lost one. Often times, parents who has suffered from pregnancy and infant loss are often isolated and left alone. We lose friendships. People we were once close to, are no longer a factor. Our world is now completely different than it was before.

I think this blog post perfectly explains it.

It’s always the fall that I get a little uncomfortable. I used to look forward to the fall. My birthday is in October, my husband’s in November. Thanksgiving and Christmas follow right behind. For me, fall always symbolized a new beginning and a fresh start, kinda like a school year.

Now, come early September, I get a little anxious. It gets a little worse in October and November, and then full-blown depression in December.

You see, my mind constantly goes back to 2011, where I was youngish and naive. I was pregnant with Ethan. It was my rainbow baby after a devastating miscarriage that April. I prayed every day and even listened to gospel music because I was so thankful for this baby. And then…I wasn’t pregnant anymore. I haven’t listened to gospel music since and my praying habits are few and far in between now.

I hate it when people feel because you have a living child, everything’s OK now. Why should I still be in mourning when I have an active toddler? Why haven’t I ‘gotten over it?’ Well, everything’s better now, right? Those questions and the like really make me angry. You don’t get over losing a child like you would losing a job. You don’t get over burying a child like you would a goldfish.

Picking out an outfit to bury your son in? Choosing the perfect song for the pianist to play during the service? Writing an eulogy to say at your son’s funeral? Yeah, THAT FUCKING SUCKS.

It does get easier over time. It doesn’t hurt as much as it used to. The first few months are brutal and it’s really hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you’re surrounded in darkness. But the pain will always be there.

For those who have never lost a pregnancy or infant, please be sympathetic to those who have/had. They’re going through something unimaginable and only a few people truly know what it’s like. The next post will tackle on what NOT to say to a bereaved parent.

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My Saving Grace

Does it ever get better?

As tomorrow is the first official day of fall (today, if you’re reading this on September 23rd), I’m always reminded of four years ago. You see, right around this time, I was newly pregnant with Ethan. I was about seven weeks, I believe. I belonged to an April 2012 moms board, a board I’m still active on. The ladies were talking about their pregnancies and what they looked forward to. It was then I was introduced to Starbucks pumpkin frappuccino, something I hadn’t previously tasted before.

I wanted a Lion King theme for the nursery. I was going to dress him preppy like his daddy. Ethan’s nickname was PYT (which makes sense since I’m a lifelong Michael Jackson fan). I decided I was going to announce my pregnancy on my birthday (which I did), and enjoy a relatively worry-free pregnancy.

And then it all went to shit.

On his birthday, I’ll share more of Ethan’s birth. Today, I want to talk about something different.

What if Ethan lived?

He was born at 22w2d, too young to save by any hospital standards. My local hospital, Huntington Memorial, doesn’t begin to save babies until 23 weeks. At first I was angry, especially since a new report recently came how some hospitals are contemplating to start saving babies at 22 weeks.

Let’s just say for argument’s sake, Huntington did attempt to save Ethan at 22 weeks. Would I be okay with how he’d turned out?

Let’s be realistic here. When a baby is born before viability (24 weeks), the chances of a normal life are very slim. Normal as in no problems. No speech delays. No developmental delays. Nothing that could impair/impact his quality of life. The earlier a baby is born, the more at risk he is for severe problems at birth and later in life.

It’s a question I’ve been struggling with off and on for the past several years. If Ethan was handicapped in some form, would I be okay with that?

Now, let’s get something clear. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have loved him if he wasn’t perfect or I would’ve rejected him. That is so not the case. My argument is would I have been okay with how Ethan turned out, knowing the other option was death and letting him go peacefully and on his own terms?

You see, some parents feel they wouldn’t care and would’ve loved their child no matter what. I wonder about that. A special needs child requires a lot of care, sometimes round-the-clock. I applaud parents of special needs children and give them kudos upon kudos. They truly have a thankless job.

This blog post gave me a lot of perspective, particularly this quote.

And yet if there was one thing I’d want parents of non-special needs kids to know, it’s to please be aware that we — the moms and dads of those “special” kids — are hurting.

Yes, we love our kids.  No, we wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world.  But the love we have doesn’t take our pain away.  In fact, it just intensifies it.  Because we can’t take their hurt away.  We can try and try and try, and we DO, and it might even help a little, but we can’t make the pain that accompanies disability go away.

When you look at us like we are weird, when you stare and ogle, when you move your kids away from ours, or worse, NEVER include our child in your child’s activities, it’s like rubbing salt into our already raw wounds.

For my son’s ninth birthday, we sent printed invitations to school.  We invited the entire special needs class, as well as the entire regular class.  The invitations indicated that we were serving pizza and that families were welcome.  We wanted to make sure people showed up.  So we bribed them with free food.

Fortunately, all my son’s special needs friends came.  We have to stick together after all, because special needs kids don’t get invited to that many parties.

One boy from the regular class came.  One.

That’s enough to just break a momma’s heart right in two.

My anxiety directly correlates to Travis’ behavior.  When he’s doing well, I usually do okay.  When he struggles, I get worse.  I’m sure it could be defined in some complex mathematical formula.  All I know is that when he hurts, I hurt more.

And he always hurts.

I deal with guilt in a different way for Ethan. I often wondered if I could’ve held out a bit longer. If I should been more insistent on cervical checks from the very beginning, if I should’ve quit my job at the time…I’ll always wonder those things and wonder what could’ve been different.

In conclusion, while I miss and mourn Ethan something terrible, I’m glad he’s in a better place. I’m glad he will never know struggle, anguish, or pain. I’m glad he’s finally free.

Ethan stairway

Second Time Around

Registering the second time around isn’t that exciting.

Let’s get something clear – I’m not pregnant, at least not yet. This is the first official cycle of trying and I’m currently on CD 6. I won’t ovulate for another week or so. I do feel surprisingly confident this time around. I don’t know if it’s the meditation or false hope. I would like to believe I truly think I’ll be pregnant again soon and that’s helping with the nerves.

For those new to this blog, let’s hit you with some terminology I’m going to use within the next several months:

PgAL: Pregnant After a Loss.

PgALL: Pregnant after a Late Loss

Rainbow baby: Baby after a loss

Rainbow pregnancy: pregnancy after a loss

IC: Incompetent (or insufficient) cervix

Cerclage: a stitch that keeps the cervix in tact so a woman can carry to term. This is typically common with IC.

So now we got that out of the way…let’s talk registering for the second rainbow kid.

With Bo, it was easy and not for a reason I like to admit. I still had Ethan’s registry on Amazon and I simply used a lot of that to fill up Bo’s. Yeah, kinda sucks. I don’t necessarily like how convenient it was.

Now, it’s a bit different. The expectation for the first baby is so exciting because it’s really new and fresh. Who doesn’t love picking out baby clothes? Who doesn’t love going to showers and seeing all of the cool little gifts? With the next baby, it’s like…hmm…I already have this. And that. And those. And I probably have too many of those.

Not as fun.

I’m also debating if I should even register. Tradition says a mother should only have one baby shower because she’d have everything else for the other children, which is true. But what if your first baby is a different gender from your next one? Does the same rule apply? What if there’s a bit of a time-lapse between babies (3+ years), does the rule still apply?

Decisions, decisions…

If I get pregnant soon, this baby will be a spring 2016 one. That means I will have to get summer-type onesies like this one.

summeronesie
Available at Amazon, click on the picture!

These were the same onesies I originally picked out for Ethan. Yeah, feeling emotional puffs.

So yeah, that’s where I’m at, emotionally-wise about a registry. In other news, I decided I’ll have another cerclage. I know you’re probably thinking, ‘Um, wasn’t that plan anyway since the last one was so successful?‘ Well, I’m stubborn. I vividly remember all of the doctor’s appointments (three of them monthly) and the cerclage recovery (which wasn’t that bad, other than I had to stay inside the house for a week). A part of me wondered if I really wanted to go through all of that again? I have a toddler now and it’s never a dull moment with him. Each appointment I go to, Bear will come with me. Keeping a toddler entertained in a waiting room? Hah. That’s going to be fun.

And then I received some clarity.

I’m part of a IC group on Facebook. While I don’t post as much as I used to, I do remain to lend my support and give advice to other moms in the group. Two moms recently lost their sons; one of them being her third loss.

I remember the devastation of losing Ethan and can still recall it like if it just happened yesterday. There is absolutely nothing worse than to bury your child. Nothing. Nothing can compare and nothing won’t compare. Why in the hell would I even want to risk putting myself through that again?

So, I’m getting another cerclage. I’m also getting another c-section. Meh…I’ll share my feelings on that in another post. I’m not advocating for a VBAC (nor do I want) but major surgery is a little iffy on me. Maybe my feelings will change again soon.

My Saving Grace

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.

IMG_0333
I was about 16 weeks pregnant with Ethan in this picture.

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.

Remembering Ethan

 

Scream

This kid is stubborn.

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.

angry-cat-fuck-this

Yeah…

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:

2359913-are_you_serious_bro_22

 

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. 

Twisted.

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.