What It’s Really Like To Survive The Death of Your Baby

Remembering Ethan

Weird.

That’s really all I can muster. It’s weird. Not a bad weird. Definitely not a good weird. Not weird.

There’s a hole within you that will never close. Sometimes it gets bigger and overwhelming. Sometimes it returns back to size. But it never closes. It never heals. It’s just kinda…there.

I lost Ethan seven years ago and I had Bear five years ago. I still feel someone, something is missing from my family. It’s not a situation where one loses a job, and they can get another. You wreck your car, you can get another. You end a relationship, you can be in another.

When you lose a baby, there’s no guarantee you’ll have another. Or, if you even want another.

2011 was a difficult year for us for I had two miscarriages that year – an early miscarriage in the spring when shook me to the core, and later, my late-term loss with Ethan, which flipped my world onto its axis.

There’s a feeling of constantly playing catch up. Every time we do something for Bear, we always think, ‘We should’ve done this already.’ Whenever Bear discovers something, we think, ‘His brother should’ve introduced it to him by now.’ There’s always that feeling of constantly trying to do something but felt like it should’ve been done before.

And it sucks, for real.

Sometimes the grief is small and unnoticeable. And sometimes, it hits me like a Mack truck when I’m having a relatively good day (which is the worst because it literally comes out of nowhere). And then sometimes…I’m just numb to it all.

You remember your life in two distinct phases – how you were before the epic loss and how you were after. Parts of you remain the same, but it’s very different. If you were easygoing, you might be more quick-tempered. If you were materialistic, you might not put so much value into things and possessions like you used to.

The grief comes out in different ways. You might be angrier than before. You might be confused when you knew what you wanted down to the letter. You’re trying to figure out this new normal, this thing that you didn’t ask for nor did you want, this club you’re forever a member of…while you’re trying to stay sane.

I often link to this article because it explains how I feel.

I don’t talk about Ethan very much but it’s not because I’m “over it” (I never will be), or I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable (because fuck your feelings when it comes to my grief), but rather, I want to protect him.

Mommy,Daddy, Ethan,Yoda
Us in our  maternity shoot with Bear and our Molly Bear Ethan.

I’ve never shown a photo of Ethan online and I asked family and friends not to. One, I don’t want to satisfy anyone’s morbid curiosity. Two, I want to hold onto the images of him that I do have. He’s finally hanging up on our walls at home and that’s a huge step since there was no evidence of him previously.

Bear is still trying to grasp the concept he had a brother before him and it’ll be a while before he does. We don’t force the issue. As we plan to TTC for another sibling for Bear, we do wonder how we will explain Ethan to them as well.

So yeah…surviving your baby’s death is weird. Angry at God, angry at the universe, angry at people who have normal, uncomplicated pregnancies; angry at those who can conceive just by sneezing…

And then there’s sadness. Heart-wrenching, inconsolable sadness that will follow you for the rest of your days.

Somewhere along the line…one smiles. Smile that you saw how beautiful your baby was and happy your baby doesn’t have to live in world that can be so cruel. And hope one sweet day, you can meet them again.

And then the weirdness isn’t so bad, after all.


Please light a candle for Ethan and all babies lost on this day at 7 PM.

 

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Why Picking Out Your Son’s Grave Marker Really Sucks

img_0046Ethan died five years ago and this is something most people who follow me know. I haven’t been shy in my grief, and I make it a point to let everyone know I had a son before Bear.

What a lot of people don’t know is that we haven’t purchased a grave marker for Ethan.

It’s complicated. It really has nothing to do with money nor time. It’s the finality of it all. Once that marker is in place, then I know for sure, this did happen.

Now you might be wondering, ‘Well, how could you not have known since you’ve talked about it?’ Grief is a funny thing. Sometimes, if you try hard enough, you can think it didn’t happen at all and it was just a bad dream. Does someone really want to reminisce the time they went to Target to pick out an outfit to bury their son in? Does anyone want to remember what mood they were in when a certain song is playing because it reminds them of their son’s funeral?

But almost all of the time, you know it did happen and your mind is trying to keep you from going insane by inserting that defense mechanism to protect you.

I’m not sure what spurned me to look up grave markers. Maybe it’s because it’s been five years and I figured it’s time my baby boy actually has a marker on his grave. Originally, we wanted Ethan to be buried with us but moving his grave might be too costly to do so. I do hope we can be buried near him, though.

I don’t visit Ethan as much as I should have and to be perfectly honest with you, it’s been a long while since I’ve visited his gravesite, though I talk to him regularly and feel his presence. I’m not too sure if having a marker means I’ll start visiting more often, honestly. But I just hate the fact he’s there with no marker on his grave at all.

So, now I’m in the process of searching for the perfect grave marker for my son. I’m going to make an appointment next week to talk to the folks at his memorial park and see what options I have.

But yeah, it sucks. There’s no two ways about it. I wish I could be all light and joyful about this but I just can’t. One of the many aftereffects of dealing with infant and child loss. It truly stays with you forever.

 

 

 

Why Mother’s Day is Still Difficult for Me

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First Mother’s Day with Bear.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been bombarded with Mother’s Day as I’m sure the rest of the country, if not world. Mother’s Day sale here. Mother’s Day deals there. Mother’s Day in my inbox. Mother’s Day when I turn on the TV.

Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day. (For a surprising history of lesson of how it got started, click here.)

I should feel excited. I am a mother. This is a holiday dedicated to me. I’ve been celebrating my mother for years and now, I can share a holiday with her that’s for us!

And yet, I don’t feel that way. Not even close.

My first Mother’s Day was in 2012. It was supposed to be my first Mother’s Day. Ethan was prematurely born and died in 2011 and I spent Mother’s Day 2012 with no baby to show for it. I celebrated International Bereaved Mother’s Day instead but it was still somber.

When Mother’s Day 2014 rolled around, my mother declared it was exciting because it was my “first official Mother’s Day,” completely ignoring the fact I had a son before Bear. I quickly reminded her it wasn’t my first Mother’s Day and left it alone.

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And it’s just…unless you have a deceased child, you don’t understand.

There’s always the feeling of something, someone missing. Sure, I can have all of the spa days, nice jewelry, breakfasts in bed, etc. on Mother’s Day. And I’m sure those days will come in the future. But I’m always going to remember there should be an extra person celebrating. And he’s not here with me.

I take comfort in having a strong family and friend support, both here and offline to help me through the day. While it hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be, it hasn’t been Mushrooms & Roses, neither. And that’s okay. It’s a grief I’ll have for the rest of my life.

Every Mother’s Day, I try to find some articles online that bring me some comfort. This year, I’m sharing them with you in case you need comfort on this day.

Being the Mother of a Child Who Died on Mother’s Day.

The Land of Not OK (she refers to her disabled son but it also applies to bereaved parents as well). This is one of my all-time favorite articles because it explains what I live with everyday.

To all of my angel mamas, you’re beautiful, blessed, and loved. If the world ignores you, I’m here for you. To my rainbow mamas, celebrate your Mother’s Day with your rainbows as you remember your angels as well.

God bless you all.

Don’t Cry

It gets better but it’s still pretty shitty.

For those new to the blog, I’ll share this with you: over four years ago, I lost my firstborn, Ethan, due to incompetent/insufficient cervix. That means, my cervix shortened before term and since Ethan was just a few days short of viability, he couldn’t be saved. He lived two hours and peacefully died in my arms with my husband nearby. That being said, if this post might bother you, you can stop reading now.

Let’s talk about the ongoing aftermath, shall we?

I’m forever clothes shopping for Bear. He has too many shirts. He doesn’t have enough shorts. He needs more jeans. We need to invest in a belt for him. We should probably get new socks for him. Hmm…we should probably get more shorter-sleeve and sleeveless tanks for him now.

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Yet, there’s one piece of clothing I could never buy for him:

little-brother-shirt
Available here: http://gardeningbear.com/wp/product/carters-little-brother-graphic-shirt-gbc-jp-106-toddler-clothing-philippines/

It’s one of those things where I could purchase because technically speaking, he is a little brother. But if I purchase the shirt, I’m going to get the inevitable question – ‘Where is his big brother?’ and that requires an  answer I don’t think I’m ready to explain to strangers.

When people hear you lost a child, they naturally feel sympathy towards you. Let’s face it – no parent should ever bury their child, no matter how old. When the same people hear you have another child or other children, they have a noticeable relief on their faces, as if they were saying, ‘Thank God you have at least that one!’

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(In future reference, don’t ever say that to a parent who’s lost a child. Just don’t.)

But back to the topic at hand…it’s one of those things that you’re constantly dealing with in one way or another – the permanent effects of baby loss. When people hear about a miscarriage, be it early or late-term, they think, ‘Well, they went through something bad then but everything’s okay now!’

Is it, really?

When we mourn the loss of our babies, we’re also mourning what will never be – no first days of school, no playdates, no first crushes, no sporting events to attend, no driving lessons, no graduation dates, no weddings, no births of their children – our grandchildren.

We could be watching a movie and a certain scene will trigger a crying spell. We can hear a song on the radio and remember our babies through that tune. There’s always two sides of our lives – before the loss and after. It’s a very defining moment.

There’s someone missing, there’s something missing. I can have all of the memorial keepsakes, tattoos, special dedications to Ethan, but it doesn’t change the fact he’s not here. It’s also a factor why Bear is so spoiled. We know the pain of suddenly losing a child and we don’t take life for granted.

Someday, I’ll buy Bear’s future sibling that same shirt I wanted to purchase for him. And I’ll probably be an emotional wreck about it. And I’ll wonder aloud that I shouldn’t have to buy it at all because Bear should’ve had one already for him to use.

Until that time, I’ll go shopping for Bear. I’ll contemplate if I should get him a size 3T or 4T. I’ll probably chastised myself for once again buying him light-colored shorts as I watch him happily play in the mud. And all the while, I’ll wonder how Ethan is doing in heaven with his friends.

 

Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness #4: When People Don’t Acknowledge Your Loss

October marks Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness (PAIL) 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).

People respond differently to tragedies. Some buckle down and get stronger. Some get weaker. When a woman suddenly loses her pregnancy or infant, I feel that’s when the true friends and family show their colors.

But how do you react when someone refuses to acknowledge your loss?

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It’s tricky and honestly, it really depends on your relationship with that person. If it’s a casual friend, you probably won’t be affected or care. If it’s a close person such as family or a long-term friendship, you might have a different (and possibly visceral) reaction. I know from experience, I had a lifelong friend who pretty much ignored what happened or didn’t think it was that serious. Needless to say, we’re not friends anymore and I’m not quite sure if we’ll ever repair that friendship.

On the flip side, I had someone who didn’t acknowledge my loss and acted very strangely towards me. She recently reached out and we’re in the process of repairing our friendship. My brother didn’t acknowledge my loss until years later and that really changed the dynamic of our relationship. We’re definitely not as close as we used to be.

What is the best course of action?

It’s really a case-by-case or I should say, person-by-person type of deal. You have to assess your relationship with that person and see if it’s a relationship worth savaging. Some people you have to stay away from – just for your own sanity – while others, you can be cordial and respectful without necessarily turning it into a Jerry Springer show.

The next post in my PAIL series will focus on the different ways you can acknowledge and remember your angel.