Sunday, November 25, 2012


After A was stillborn, we were fortunate enough to receive outreach from several local support groups and babylost organizations. Through one such organization I befriended a woman whose firstborn child was born still thirteen years ago at 38 weeks from a supposed cord accident, though cause of death was never conclusively decided. She got pregnant soon after her son’s birth and just four days after the first anniversary of his death she gave birth to a living son. She went on to have one more subsequent living son a couple years later.

We really seem to get each other and I have leaned on her a few times so far during this subsequent pregnancy. Her insight is that her son’s birthday is bittersweet. Each year she is sad that her eldest is not here but then a few days later she celebrates her “miracle” baby who wouldn’t exist if his older brother had not died.

I’m not quite to bittersweet yet, although I do feel grateful for Dragon and this new pregnancy even in the midst of my continued angst of missing A. But for me they are two distinct emotional experiences – I feel angry, sorrowful and severe pain because I yearn for my son, and I feel distinctly excited and thankful for this new life kicking me in the ribs. Perhaps with time, like my friend, I too will know how to hold two contrary truths together in my heart simultaneously, to find holidays and special occasions bittersweet.

She tells me that life is wonderful since her second son arrived and that she thinks it will be wonderful for me too one day. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Crisis of Faith

Last year while processing the novel experience of pregnancy and contemplating how this ever-growing baby was going to escape from my body E and I agreed we would try to go the natural route. I am not really a hippie, though some people think I am crunchy and I certainly like to hug trees.

We attended weeks of Brio Birth classes and were surrounded by women whose commitment to an intervention-free experience exceeded mine. I did kegels, pelvic tilts, yoga and squatted whenever I thought about it. We did labor run-throughs practicing relaxation techniques.

I wholeheartedly believed that my body was designed to do this. That for eons, women have been giving birth unassisted by medical technology and given our healthy pregnancy I was a perfect candidate to just allow it happen – hands off. We even considered a homebirth, but decided to stick with our midwives who deliver at the hospital.

The literature I read ingrained the benefits of natural labor. That it may take many, many hours but it gives your baby time to prepare and allows your tissues to stretch. That the squeeze through the birth canal benefits the baby in ways we don’t yet understand. That there is no rush, so allow the placenta to expel on its own. I bought into all of it. The delayed cord clamping, the immediate skin-to-skin contact and suckling, the idea that I’d be less likely to tear if things progressed slowly and there was counter pressure.

I watched the documentaries and listened to the stories of groggy babies after epidurals. Of mothers who died because of complications from medical induction or a C-section. Of mothers who died because their doctor helped pull the placenta out unwittingly leaving a tiny scrap behind which developed into a fatal infection. That fear, coupled with the touted benefits of natural childbirth sealed the deal.

My mother delivered both of her babies without any drugs. E’s mother delivered two-thirds of her the same way – one was even a VBAC.

I trusted that my body and my baby knew how to do this. That they would indicate to me when the time had come. I scoffed at how science could dictate a standard gestation for all human babies; I was willing to go ‘overdue’ if that’s what my body and baby decided. But that’s not what happened. Before I was ever in labor, he died inside my womb and I chose a medical induction to deliver my already dead child. I felt betrayed. Betrayed by my body. Betrayed by my beliefs. Betrayed by the childbirth instructor, book authors and all those who preach the dogma.

Now I stand here in the third trimester making plans for Dragon’s delivery. Obviously the top priority is to get the kid here alive and safe regardless of the details of our birthplan. The midwife and the perinatalogist have recommended induction at 39-weeks if we do not go into labor before then. At this point I agree, but I am still hung up about the medical induction.

You see, the benefits of the natural process are deep rooted and much of me still believes those tenets. Plus, my grief-shaken self-esteem allows the horror stories of medical births gone wrong to grip even stronger. But I do not believe wholeheartedly in either ethos right now. So I am stuck standing in the middle desperate for some place to lay my faith down. I need conviction in one system or another so that I can unsaddle myself of this and all that’s connected to it including my confidence and my courage. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Say His Name

I have heard many bereaved parents express the desire for people to say their babies’ names out loud, to affirm not only their existence but also their uniqueness as individuals. I consider myself in this camp too. Then why is it that I so often forget to say his name when I speak of him?

Last night we were invited to dinner at our friends’ along with another couple who we have never met. Luckily, the other couple were relentless talkers. As obnoxious as that was at times, it also avoided inquiries about my 7-month-pregnant belly…at least until the end of the night.

Throughout dinner the topic changed a handful of times. I tried my best to keep a neutral, engaged look on my face as the newly introduced couple delved into their birth story and the fright of the complications throughout her pregnancy, trips to the hospital a couple times for pre-term labor and her bed rest until their daughter was born healthy at 37-weeks. She spoke of her precipitous labor and the OB group who attended the delivery. I nodded and listened but did not speak up about my own pregnancy and birth experience.

Finally, I played the sober-tired-pregnant-lady card and announced it was time for E and I to head out. At that point the new-to-us husband asked what number baby this was for us. Damn, I thought, we were so close to sneaking out. But, as usual, part of me was relieved someone else brought it up. Because I do want to talk about A and I do want to acknowledge him I just feel awkward bringing up something so devastatingly sad in social situations, especially first meetings.

So I calmly replied this was baby number two. “Oh, so how old is…” he trailed off, his inquisitive face finished the question. “Our son would be one, but he died.” I said.

Next, I resorted to years of social conditioning and yammered a few more unnecessary sentences about how we therefore don’t have any living children at home but we do have a fully stocked nursery. WTF? I wasn’t even making sense. In hindsight I realize this was a reaction to the stifling awkward silence. But really, my rambling made the whole situation more awkward. I should have stated the fact and then shut my trap. There isn’t much more to say after, “Our son would be one, but he died.” Yes there will be an uncomfortable silence as the truth of that statement sinks in; there ought to be!

We left a couple minutes later and although I was relieved to be on our way home, I chastised myself for not saying his name.

As the months have passed, it has become easier for me to state the facts; easier to say the words, “Our son died.” - “Our son was inexplicably stillborn a few days after the due date.” - “Our son died last year, actually.” But so often I unintentionally omit his name. I should say, ““Our son, A, died.” - “Our son, A, was inexplicably stillborn a few days after the due date.” - “Our son died last year, actually. His name is A.” 

I want others to speak of him. I want them to say his name aloud. I need to be the role model and encourage such behavior. By speaking his name I demonstrate to people that it’s ok to talk about him and talk about what happened. So why do I get so flustered that I forget to say his name?

Surely there will be plenty more opportunities like last night to speak of my son. Hopefully with more time and more practice I will be able to confidently sit through the inevitable uncomfortable silence and also remember to include his name in my description.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Halloween Heartache

Halloween is a big deal in my family. As a child growing up we went all out. The house was decorated inside and out, candy was stocked by the front door, a dummy sat stuffed with leaves in the yard and we played spooky music out the windows. We always carved pumpkins as a family. Even as I got older and we no longer needed a chaperone to trick-or-treat my parents would still don costumes to man the front door and pass out candy.

Ever since E and I got together, he has adopted my zeal for the holiday. Each year we brainstorm our costumes and head out to at least one party. He isn’t as enthusiastic about standing near the door handing out candy, but he definitely peeks to see the adorable and clever ghouls and goblins that stop by.

With a due date in mid-October we knew our baby would definitely be here before Halloween. I was ready to share one of my favorite holidays with my child even if he wouldn’t remember it. For me it was about family traditions.

After thinking about it for a while I had decided on a cute costume idea and enlisted my mother. She made an adorable newborn costume from scratch for her first grandchild. She still has this costume at her house but I have a photo of it that I carry on my phone. Looking at it makes me smile with pride, seethe with anger and weep with anguish.

Having just gotten through the tumult of A’s first birthday, I am still staggering to regain my footing. As I had anticipated, Halloween set me back even further; a favorite holiday in his autumnal season.

It is Halloween again and my boy is not here…again.