Saturday, October 17, 2015

Four Year Ramblings

My sweet still baby would be fours year old. He’d be more than a month into pre-K by now and getting excited for his birthday and Halloween shortly after. I’d be bustling around to get all three kids ready for Halloween, decorate, stock up on candy and also plan my son’s fourth birthday party. I imagine he’d be more of a boy and not so much “toddler” anymore. I’d marvel at how fast the time goes and swoon over the memories of him as an infant. What was his first word? When did he take his first steps?

I do not feel like the mother of a four-year-old. And I certainly don’t feel like the mother of a boy. Our girls are not girly by any means, but they aren’t the energy balls so often prone to destruction that little boys tend to be.

E came home from the grocery store the night before A’s birthday with a pack of beer and two packages of Oreos. Let the emotional self-medicating commence. (I’m shoving fistfuls of Oreos in my mouth as I type this. It doesn’t make me feel any better but it’s kind of a distraction.)

I watch Dragon play with the four-year-old neighbor boy – born 5 months before A – and instantly my mind fantasizes about her interacting with her big brother. She watches the neighbor boy enthralled with his super squirt gun but she has learned not to grab or even ask for his things because he is not a good sharer. She waits until he drops the squirter to get another toy and then swoops in behind his back and starts fiddling with it. She’s trying to figure out how it works, but doesn’t want to ask because that would draw attention to the fact that she now possesses the coveted toy. She emulates whatever he does. You can see the adoration in her eyes as she watches the neighbor boy. On days when it’s just us at home, she’ll pick out a shirt to wear and tell me that the neighbor boy “likes this one.” Why is she seeking his approval? Must be that he’s older and she looks up to him. I can only imagine what kind of big brother A would be. I’d give anything to watch the three of our children play/argue/fight together like normal siblings.
“What do you want to do for his birthday?” I ask E. He thinks briefly and says, “Something he’d want to do.” I suggest the zoo, museum, bounce house or indoor trampoline park. “All of them?” he responds. My brokenhearted husband, I know it hurts even when, most of the year, you don’t let on.

So this morning we set out to have a special day for Big Brother’s birthday, doing things he’d like to do as a four-year-old. We went to the trampoline place and then out to a restaurant for lunch. A nice elderly couple complimented us on how cute Sheep is at 3-months old and joked with E that two daughters is really like having three wives. No mention of our absent son.

I wish had more time to spend with my son and with my grief this fourth year, but a 2 ½ year-old and a 3-month-old don’t allow for much alone time. In fact, I’ve hardly cried so far this month. I think it’s mainly because if I have a moment of time to myself, I try to lay down (not a whole lot of sleeping going on. Eh hem, I’m looking at you Baby Sheep.). Finally in the shower this week I began sobbing. Now I just need like 15 more showers this weekend to get all the emotions out.

Four years old and I wonder who he’d be. Four years old and I miss him like crazy.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Baby Sheep (it is the Year of the Sheep per the Lunar Zodiac, hence the nickname) was born at 39 weeks 2 days. We had initially scheduled the C-section for 39 w 6 d to give my body as much of a chance as possible to go into spontaneous labor but then we started to panic. We had been doing kickcounts 3-5 times each day including 2-3 times overnight. Three out of the last four nights, Sheep's ovenight kickcounts were real pokey. We'd freak out. I'd chug orange juice and lay down again anxiously awaiting the kicks to start coming. Even the 3 visits per week couldn't quell our worry. So we figured, what's an extra 5 days? We're already past the 39-week mark which is the earliest our doc would do the elective section. We figured baby was robustly full-term by 39 weeks. Why put ourselves through the constant terror for 5 more days? Why push our luck? Sometimes it felt like each day we were risking the baby's life; gambling even.

So I called my doctor who was incredibly understanding. It was late in the afternoon but she said she'd call the surgery scheduler at the hospital first thing in the morning and let us know if they could get us in. Sure enough we got the call that there was a slot open in the afternoon. Immediately I felt relieved knowing this kid would be here TODAY but I was also really nervous about the surgery. I delivered A vaginally after medically inducing and Dragon was born after a successful medical induction that went awry and resulted in an emergency C-section with me knocked out under general anesthesia. The thought of a needle in my spine gives me the heebie jeebies and being awake during surgery (knowing what's going on on the other side of the drape even though you don't feel the pain) straight up turns my stomach. But the thought of this baby dying after 9 long months of vigilance was scarier than facing the C-section.

The spinal wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be. The operation was off the creepiness chart. I mean I could hear the scissors clicking and feel the little pulls as they cut me open. GROSS! Luckily, it wasn't too long after the surgery began that Sheep was born. I was surprised it was another girl. I guess down deep I was convinced it was a boy. As soon as E announced it was a girl, I began to sob, right there on the OR table. That plus hearing her little cry and knowing she was alive and well was overwhelming.

She resembles her older sister though they aren't identical newborns. And speaking of sisters, holy crow how am I going to raise sisters? I have a single brother and every set of sisters I know - young and old - are a mystery to me. There is this bewildering dynamic where a sister will literally die for the other, but then can turn around and say the nastiest things imaginable and know exactly what buttons to push. I just don't get it. I guess the girls will have to teach me. "The girls," it's strange to say that and think of "our girls" now that we have two. It's going to take some getting used to.

I am also anticipating lots of comments from strangers about our girls and each time will feel the pang of our missing son - we don't have just girls. But that's for another post.

In the meantime, I'm going to put my feet up before Sheep is ready to nurse again in another 45 minutes. I look at her chubby cheeks and sweet face and cannot believe she is mine. She is mine and she is mine to keep. We actually get to take her home with us. I'm so grateful.

Monday, July 6, 2015

One Way or the Other

I’m almost 38 weeks. Because no one knows why A died at 40weeks 4 days, my doctor won’t let us go past the 40-week mark with this pregnancy. I don’t disagree with this strategy. However, due to the details of my emergencyC-section with Dragon, I am not a candidate for an induction this pregnancy. This is disheartening because induction, though not ideal, has been a nice middle ground for us because we didn’t have to wait past the due date and I did’t have to deal with the risks and ordeal of major surgery.

Except now I do. Or at least, I might. If labor doesn’t start spontaneously before the due date, I’ll have a scheduled C-section. The doc will do it as early as 39-weeks but after E and I discussed it, we’d rather wait the extra 7 days and schedule it for 40-weeks. The doctor isn’t available on the exact due date so we’ve set it for 39 weeks 6 days.

I very much would prefer to deliver this baby vaginally. I’ve had both a vaginal delivery and a C-section (under general anesthesia) and can say that I prefer the vaginal experience and recovery. Plus, for four years I’ve been thinking about and planning for a natural childbirth. I’d like to know what it feels like. At this point, it would be very healing and redeeming. I think it would also help me to regain some trust in my body after being so brutally betrayed by it. 

While I wish for spontaneous labor, I realize it is unlikely. With A, I was barely 1cm when we induced the night we found he was dead; I was at 40 ½ weeks. Last checkup, on Tuesday, I was 50% effaced, barely 1cm and -3 station, so nothing really happening. I am tempted to intervene with homeopathic labor inducers – evening prim rose oil, acupuncture, etc. but I worry about pushing my body, and baby, too hard before it’s ready. I’ve met those families who went in for a checkup at 38 weeks, had the membranes stripped, contracted all night at home, went in the next morning and the baby was dead because it was too stressful for the baby. I guess we’ll stick to sex and walking since those seem to be less aggressive.

I’m trying to keep my perspective that although we’re anxious to get this kid out, I don’t want to gamble the baby’s well being just to ease my worrying.

As you likely know, a significant number of intrauterine deaths happen overnight. There are several different theories –  low maternal blood pressure, melatonin levels, etc. – and I have always suspected that A died overnight based on his normal active periods. This, of course, makes nights nerve wracking. Several weeks ago, E suggested I drink a large glass of water before turning off the light at bedtime and then, when up to pee during the night, drink more fluids to ensure that I was up at 2-3 times each night. This would buoy my blood pressure and give me a chance to pay attention to baby’s activity during the night.

That strategy has hardened to setting an alarm to wake every 2 ½ hours over night and do kick counts – sometimes we check in with the Doppler too. It is rather miserable to be forcing my waning will power to wake when I’m so flippin’ exhausted, but if a few weeks of sleep deprivation means getting baby here safely, then it’s worth it. I say that, but I also recognize how quickly things can change and that this baby could very well die during one of the 2 ½ hour periods between kick counts. Are we really protecting our child? The only certainty is that it alleviates some of the helplessness we feel as parents.

In addition to the vigilance at home (I’m doing 5-6 rounds of kick counts each day, including the overnighters) I am also going for regular OB visits once a week and biophysical profiles twice a week which is 3 appointments each week. I spread them out so that a professional is checking in on the baby every couple days. Again, the peace-of-mind is short-lived because the minute the ultrasound wand comes off my belly, I know that kid could go into distress and I may, or may not know it and it could all be over. There is just no reassurance for a babylost mom.

And so, this baby will be born one way or the other – vaginally or C-section, dead or alive – in the next couple weeks. I will be sure to post something once baby arrives.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

34 Weeks

I'm 34 weeks and am unraveling. Like my friend Jen said, at this point the baby would likely live if it were born but it's all on you to notice if something abnormal is going on in there. The truth is I'm not confident in my ability to detect if something is wrong in my own womb.

The anxiety and worry are ramping up. For example, Baby #3 has had the hiccups several nights each week for the last couple weeks. I lay there and wonder if I should act. Yes, hiccups are considered "good" because they're evidence of practice breathing in utero. But they can also be a sign of distress that there's intermittent cord compression and it's baby's body's natural reaction to try to get up off the cord. If I wait until the hiccups are over, then fall back to sleep and the baby is dead by morning how can I live myself? But can I really put myself and E through the fright of running to the ER three times a week in the middle of the night and having to call someone to come stay with Dragon while she's sleeping? 

Or how am I supposed to know if that burst of vigorous movement is a reassuring sign or a redflag that baby is in distress and trying desperately to reposition? 

I'm doing the best I can to walk the line of vigilance and hope. I cried through most of my checkup today. Not because the baby is in danger. Simply because there is so much pressure on me to be attuned to what's happening inside my body and I don't trust myself or my body to keep this baby safe. 

Presently I attend regular OB checkups and also weekly biophysical profiles with a perinatologist's office. This means a professional is checking in on the baby every 3-4 days. It's always nice to check in but I know how quickly things can change so the peace-of-mind is short-lived. 

Further, the weekly BPP's only take specific measurements and don't look for cord entanglement. We don't know what killed A, but two separate perinatologists have theorized it was an umbilical cord accident of some sort. He was born with a single cord loop around his neck; though they don't believe this is what killed him. Fifteen months later, when the specialist saw the cord wrapped around Dragon's neck twice on ultrasound, he recommended we induce that day at 37 1/2 weeks. I'm batting a thousand when it comes to nuchal cords. 

Yes, I realize the cord is floating everywhere and with a big ole third trimester baby it's hard to visualize the cord. Yes, I understand the majority of babies who are born with the cord around their necks are totally fine (85% is the statistic I've heard). But if something happens to this kid and it could have been prevented or I could have taken some sort of the hell am I going to live with myself? These were the bullet points of the back-and-forth conversation I had with my OB provider today. Her point is, what are you going to do if there is some sort of entanglement? Implying that ignorance is bliss and looking for entanglement at each week's ultrasound will only cause me to worry more. I don't know what I'll do if they see something suspicious. It really depends on the circumstances. Is it a single nuchal cord? Is the cord around baby's neck and also looped around the ankle? Is there a true knot in the cord? 

I do feel that I'd be more levelheaded than I was when approached about Dragon. Instead of immediately pulling the trigger (without even discussing it with my husband), I'd ask the specialist what the alternatives are, get input from my OB provider and think it through a little before making a decision. Yet I know from experience, it's hard to keep any faith when you're so scared and so vulnerable and the stakes are so high.  

So after a tearful conversation (I think I've cried at 60% of my OB checkups this pregnancy), she agreed to send the order to the perinatologist asking them to look for entanglement while they're doing the BPP scan each week. My husband's response to this sums it up, "Thanks for being such a great advocate for our children both dead, alive and cookin'."

I am trying to take it day-by-day but damn these emotions are getting the best of me.  

Saturday, April 18, 2015

3 in 4

I am 26 weeks pregnant with our third child. This baby is due in July, at which time Dragon will be two-and-a-half and A would have been a few months shy of 4-years-old. Three kids in under four years. Which is odd because it doesn't feel like we have three kids. There is only one spirited 2-year-old standing in front of us; that's it. 

Like other babyloss moms who have had multiple rainbow babies, (Caroline, Brooke and Catherine for example), I have found this current pregnancy to be less anxious (thus far) than my pregnancy with Dragon. Keeping up with a 2-year-old, coping with extended morning sickness and battling what seems like every bug and illness this winter has left little space or energy for worrying. Of course I have.

I went in when I was sick with the flu and my temperature wasn't coming down. I went in after having some sharp, albeit brief, contractions one night. I went in after the hummus brand we buy every week was recalled for listeria and I had a bout of chills, body aches and low grade temperature. Each time, all was well and baby continues to grow.

Initially, my concern over this baby was more of a resignation. Each pang or cramp made me think, "Well that's it. We lost the baby. I'll just wait to start bleeding." Whereas with Dragon, it would have set me into a tailspin of panic.

As the pregnancy has wore on (and my physical misery of constant morning sickness has abated), my anxiety has ramped up. Maybe it has to do with reaching viability. Before 24-weeks even if I was going into labor, I wasn't convinced they'd do much to try and save my baby. Wow! Writing that sentence was a bit of revelation. I clearly still harbor lots of resentment that modern medicine and science couldn't save my healthy full-term son.

With Dragon we checked in on her often with the Doppler we bought for home. E even went as far as to conduct non-stress tests at home in late pregnancy – that’s a whole other story. This time around, we've only reached for the Doppler a handful of times. We'll start daily kick counts in a couple weeks, which may prompt more listening in. 

Either way the hope is still the same; get this baby here alive and well. Get through each day and try to find reassurance that we’re that much closer to the end of this odyssey.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Group No More

E and I attended our first bereaved parents’ support group a couple weeks after A died. I would have gone sooner but that was the next scheduled group. Before I was discharged from the hospital I knew I wanted to try the local support groups. I was desperate to try anything – the books, the groups, the blogs – whatever stillbirth and babyloss information I could get.

For more than three years I have been attending babyloss support group. In the beginning, it couldn’t come soon enough. I wished that they were every single week. I craved the solidarity and the chance to talk about my son. As time wore on, the grief was less debilitating, less consuming on a daily basis and so I’d go to group as needed instead of every month. I could always count on that second Tuesday of the month if I was feeling especially sorrowful or when the holidays rolled around or whenever I needed a little extra support.

Recently, the facilitator who runs what was the most popular (by attendance) babyloss support group informed me that group was on a hiatus. Over the last year attendance at monthly support group had dropped significantly. Lately, there were only 2-3 people showing up, and sometimes, just one. The facilitator feels that that few of people doesn’t constitute a group because if someone did not want to talk, they would feel pressure to.

The facilitator has talked to other local support group leaders and even reached out to colleagues in other states; apparently this is a national issue one that isn’t restricted to babyloss support groups. The new trend, according to her, is digital support.

I have found tremendous support with the online babyloss community. I started this blog three months after A died and had been reading other blogs within a day of becoming a babyloss mother. The validation, camaraderie and support of all of you who read and write out here on the internet is invaluable. But it isn’t the same as face-to-face meetings. For me, there is value in both online support and in-person support group. That’s why I’ve regularly utilized both for the last 3+ years.

One of the benefits of support group is that I get to tell A’s story every time I go. And, to this day, I still breakdown while recounting the short life of our firstborn. By now, I am considered a “veteran” at group. Most of the other parents who are there are much earlier in their grief journey. I respect this important role as a “grief elder.” These parents are so freshly shattered and I can immediately go back to the place myself. I can empathize with the emotions, the challenges, the shock. When I walk out of group now, I don’t feel the relief that I once felt, but it is rewarding. I belong to the local bereaved community and also to the online community. And just like the women who have come before me, those I’ve met in person and those who I communicate with online, I want to be here for the unfortunate families who come after me.

So I am disappointed and disheartened that our local group is no more. I feel it is a disservice to the community. The facilitator is considering starting a few different Facebook groups (early loss, later loss/stillbirth, subsequent pregnancy, etc.) but it won’t be the same. I respect that not every person gets something out of support group. But I know I do. I wish there was more I could do to rally these broken parents and encourage them to drag themselves out of their isolation and to group. Truth is, so does the facilitator and she gets paid to do that, yet the numbers still dwindled and now the future of face-to-face support group is up in the air.