One Week and Some Days Post Surgery

Life, as we all know, continues.  We get up, we stop at Starbucks, we go to work, we answer emails, we go home and make dinner.  Our household is still going and we are attempting to do just that.  Some friends and family no longer bring up the subject and have resumed talking to us as though nothing has happened.  Others offer support and encouraging words when it seems we need them the most.

Unfortunately, my body gives me daily reminders to not move on so quickly.  Yesterday, I pushed myself too far and I was hurting by the evening, enough to call my doctor this morning for her opinion.  I can’t work out, I can’t walk long distances, and cleaning the house even feels like such an exhausting chore.  My body still hasn’t fully accepted the fact I’m not pregnant which is a whole other treat in itself.

Mentally, I’m still a mess.  Life doesn’t actually move on so quickly and this isn’t something I can rush.  I haven’t made it through a day yet where I don’t cry uncontrollably.  The reminders seem to be everywhere and anywhere.  The triggers, I can’t avoid.  I am not good at putting on a fake smile and just saying I’m fine, because I’m not.  I dread going to sleep at night because I feel overwhelming guilt.  I lay there and wonder if I did something wrong, if I should have done something different, if it will happen again, and where my baby is.  I worry about time passing and dates coming and going.  What would have been second trimester, third trimester, baby shower time, and the dreaded due date.

When I sleep the nightmares come, empty cribs, cries coming from somewhere I can’t decipher, dead babies, empty arms, people stealing my baby and me not being able to get there in time.  They seem never-ending.  I wake up wanting to smack my Husband because how the fuck can he just go to sleep?

Then there is this other worry, something that seems so strange.  I worry every time my Husband walks out the door that he isn’t going to come back.  I worry that he is going to die and won’t make it back home.  I’m sure it is the obvious, lose one and you think you are going to lose it all.  This additional fear in the wake of everything else.

People comment on our marriage, how losing this baby will strain it, how we will handle it differently, how he won’t understand.  These people are wrong and don’t know my marriage.  If anything this has strengthened my marriage, brought us closer together, forced us to lean on one another more than ever for support and comfort.

People make a lot of other assumptions about our life.  They comment on future children, how we should act, how we should mourn, why you don’t do one thing but you do another.  Some comments that are meant to encourage you are actually the worst words that can be echoed.  The most random people will offer you the most amazing words to lift you up and that is when you can see it in their eyes, they have suffered the same pain, they know, they truly understand.

I try to be there for my friends, one complaining about how she doesn’t have privacy in the ICU with her newborn baby girl.  I want to scream at her how nice it must be to hold her baby because I will never hold mine.  But my friend deserves to have her own feelings in her own situation.  So I go with her and we spend a Saturday purchasing everything for the baby shower, the one I promised her.  I sat with a bottle of wine that night making diaper cakes and wrapping baby gifts, my Husband helping me in silence.  The obvious words hanging in the air.

Other times we say no.  We ignore phone calls, offers for dinner, and we even cancel plans at the last-minute.  Some people I can’t entertain, I can’t host, I can’t re-tell my story for them because for some reason they want private details.  Sometimes I just need silence and they can’t offer that.

On another side each day does somehow get slightly easier, I don’t know how to explain.  The weight of it all lightens a bit with each passing minute, hour, day, chance at laughing, smiling and enjoying the little moments.  We grieve daily in our own way, together and separately.  We don’t censor ourselves, we voice what needs to be voiced and we discuss the future.  We talk about how we are going to move forward and what this means for us.

No one can tell you how to go through this.  There isn’t a timeline, a book, or a blog that will give you an answer.  You have to follow your heart, stay true to yourself and always remember to breathe.

Butterfly Baby

Today was my first day back to work.  A week from the day we heard the news.  I made it until 2pm and then excused myself to go. My body was aching and I was mentally exhausted.  I gave it a good go.  I gathered the wine bottles people had dropped at my desk, the flowers and the cards and shoved them in my truck.  I sat for a moment in the silence of my truck, letting the heat roll over me, thinking how exhausting that was.  I was ready to crawl in my bed.

Instead I came home, poured a healthy glass of wine and went to my back deck.  It is an unusually warm September day, not a cloud in the sky.  This is a day I would have normally loved to come home and taken Fenway for a long walk, followed with yoga.  Instead, I can’t leave the deck, I take large sips of the wine and watch the butterflies dance in the yard.

This should have been the last day of my first trimester, a day to be celebrated.

I took another sip.

Fucking butterflies.

I have never been a butterfly person.  Sure, I notice them but they weren’t my thing like starfish have been.  Until I was pregnant.

The day I found out I was pregnant, I sat out back and an orange butterfly landed on my leg.  It refused to move and slowly moved its wings back and forth tickling my leg.  It was strange.  The next day it was a huge yellow butterfly on our garage….and it went from there.  Every walk I took with the dog we were surrounded.  Fenway would chase them in the yard or they would hang on us as we did yard work.  They would even hitch rides on Fenway into the house.  I swear they were never around like this until I was pregnant.

We took notice and started calling this our butterfly baby.  I fully believe in signs, as does my husband, and it seemed this baby liked butterflies.

Now it just seems our butterfly baby is gone and our yard is even more full of the creatures of all colors. Even at my Mom’s this past weekend, they followed us and everyone noticed, they commented, look at all the butterflies, isn’t it strange?

I originally sat on my back deck to read a book this afternoon, with my wine, but instead a caterpillar has landed on said book and the butterflies are on parade.  I can’t quit staring at them.

I feel empty.

How do you explain this to someone?

How do you put it into words?

How do you explain about a baby you never met, yet knew so well?

How do you explain what this does to your family, your friends, your spouse?

How do you explain the fear of the leaves falling, the snow coming, and all the butterflies going away?

 

The Monday of Nightmares

When you find out you are pregnant you give thought to when that baby will come into this world.  I can tell you that most don’t think about their baby coming into this world already dead.  Coming into a world where you will never see it.  Where a doctor will, thankfully, sedate you and take your dead baby away.  A funeral home will take the baby away with other babies just like it.

No, you don’t want to think about this moment but your brain will go there when you enter those hospital doors.  I walked in on a bright Monday afternoon, ready to get this day over with.  I walked by the woman with her new baby tucked in a car seat, ready for its first ride home.  Couldn’t there be a separate door for us and them?  I sat at the registration desk where a lady took my information and snapped bracelets on me.

We were directed to the elevator.  I was to go to the second floor.  If I hit the button to the fourth floor that would be the baby NICU.  My friend sat there in that moment with her baby that came nine weeks early.  Her baby that came into the world too early in the same week my babies heart stopped.  I just didn’t know my babies heart stopped that week.  Her baby was living and thriving.  The doors opened on the second floor.  Marilyn was right there to great us like we were told.  She was to direct us to our room.  She gave us her apologies.  I was getting sick of everyone’s apologies, mainly because there was nothing but silence to fill after that.

We were left to our room where I undressed and was settled into a bed.  My Husband asked what I wanted to watch on TV because we had to fill the silence.  There had been silence all day because we had talked about everything else inside and out.  There was nothing left to say.

Nurses filtered in and out.  Explained what their job would be, gave their apologies, inserted IV, asked questions and more questions.  I was so fucking hungry and itchy.  We were left alone for long periods of time.  The clock slowed down.  We were in a corner room where it felt like I had the plague, that is what it had come to feel like.  Like everyone knew, it was written on my face and everyone just stared-the lady with the dead baby-what happened?

My Husband held my hand.  We watched HGTV.  More nurses, more paperwork.  We were told about some paperwork that would be coming and there it was; what to do with the remains of our child.  The nurse handed the clip board to my Husband when I was done with it and said Dad, you need to sign off on this as well.  That was the first time he had been called Dad in reference to this child by someone other than me.  Not what you think will happen the day you find out you are pregnant.  His first child and now he was signing off on what to do with the remains.

They finally came to get me.  I was ready, I wanted it over with.  They finally put the stuff in my IV that would help me go away from it all for a bit.  Even if it was for a short time.  I woke up in recovery where they quickly took me to my Husband and that was it.  45 minutes later I was loaded with medication, instructions, papers, prescriptions and wheeled in a wheelchair downstairs.  I sat with a nurse while my Husband went to get the truck.  Another Mom was waiting with her baby for her Husband.  Seriously, could they get a separate door for those of us who just had a dead baby?  I realized I said this out loud by the horror on the woman’s face and my nurse patted my back.

There wasn’t much to say by the time we were home.  I felt empty, I still do as I sit here today, the day after, stuck resting on the couch.  I can’t sleep.  I’m up at all hours.  I had ordered some free baby items at the baby fair before this and they showed up today.  I couldn’t open them, just stuffed them in a closet.  In the closet where I stuffed other items that had been purchased along with a baby book that said what day we found out we were pregnant. I had to delete the app and emails on my phone from expectant websites that send daily reminders that I no longer need. I still had baby shower invites to address and get out for a friend.  I robotically did that this morning.  I go back to work tomorrow.  We need groceries.  Laundry needs done.  I ignored it and called my travel agent, we need to get away, I explained.

We need to move forward and are ready to but this is something that can’t be rushed.  My body won’t allow it, nor my brain.  I have to refocus my mind.  Our plans have changed and our lives have changed, never to be the same again.  We have both been through bad things in our lives, I have been at rock bottom before, I have had my life changed in the blink of an eye before, I know how to get up, learn from life’s ass kickin’s and move on.  I know we are tough.  Life will move forward but now we just have a butterfly baby.

The Weekend In-Between

We woke up on Friday as people who were barely human, lacking sleep, puffy eyes, blank expressions, and still numb. Thankfully with a dog who didn’t understand bad days but still needed to be fed, be let outside and demanded we take her new monster toy and play with her.

We also had decisions to make.  We had a few hours before we had to pick up Rebecca and we were suppose to go back to my parent’s for the weekend.  What did we want to do?  We decided sitting around for the weekend was going to get us no where.  Monday would come one way or another and I couldn’t stare at a wall till then. We might as well go back, make it easier on Rebecca and then I could drink with my sister.  The Husband and I could say the words out loud to someone else besides one another.  We could say those words to my sister without her flinching or judging.

We didn’t want to deal with the world but we couldn’t make ourselves crazy.  We needed a bit of normal.

A few hours later we picked up Rebecca and put on our best “everything is normal faces” even though I looked like hell.  Absolute hell.  We started down the highway for our long drive and she told me all about her over night field trip.  I could tell she stayed up late with her friends talking, telling the stories you tell when you are 12 and staying in a cabin.  In a world before you have to be an adult.

I was twisted around in the front seat to make eye contact with her in the back while she talked.  Finally she said, “I forget how many weeks the baby is today?”

This was it.

This kid and I, we have had a lot of life happen in trucks, driving down the highway, miles going by and I was going to add to it.

I explained that the baby died and how the ultrasound went and that on Monday I would have surgery.  She nodded and asked a few questions and the truck grew silent.  I didn’t want to push her and I knew she was thinking.

Later that weekend she would ask if the baby was still just dead, in me, and she would touch my belly.  She would ask how the doctor would get it out and where the baby’s body would go, if it’s soul was already in heaven like the movie Heaven is for Real?  Because in that movie the lady had a miscarriage and that was Rebecca’s first time hearing about such things.  I answered as best I could, we have always been open and honest with her, no lies, and no half truths.

We joined my family that weekend and tried to keep it normal.  We invited my maid of honor over with her boyfriend and started a large fire outside.  We sat, we talked about it, we talked about life, we talked about normal things, we joked, we drank, the kids ran and played with the dog and glow sticks, and under the blanket on the swing I would occasionally squeeze my Husband’s hand, knowing where our minds truly were.

For the weekend we could take a step back, regroup, talk more logically about decisions to be made, and take a few deep breaths before Monday.  Texts and emails trickled in from friends with kind words that meant more than we would have ever say.  We vented to my sister, said words out loud that some don’t want to think.  We ignored other obligations and just did what we needed to do.

We drove back on Sunday night with a better frame of mind.  Not perfect.  Life wasn’t normal, life wasn’t fixed, I couldn’t sleep through the nights and I was a bit snappy, I lacked compassion for anyone else but us.  I need to be selfish.  But we were better than we had been on Thursday. One step forward, we were going to make it through this one way or another.

Our Thursday of Nightmares

I could tell you I knew as I was driving to the hospital.  That feeling you just get in the pit of your stomach.  My Husband and I sat so carelessly in the waiting room, laughing at videos on Facebook.  I almost feel stupid about that now.  Sipping our smoothies, thinking life was just fine.  The next day I would be 12 weeks.  With each passing week our excitement grew and fear ebbed away.  Once again, how stupid of us.

I can tell you we both knew as soon as the baby flashed up on the screen.  The tech didn’t say a word and I watched my baby not move.  No flicker, no heartbeat.  The tech asked if my previous ultrasound was normal.

There is no heartbeat, is there?

No, there isn’t.  I’m sorry.  Baby is measuring at 10 weeks, it died sometime last week.

I reached back for my Husbands hand and started crying, staring at my baby, willing it to move.

The tech left to go get my doctor’s nurse.  She left the picture of my dead baby on the screen and I just couldn’t look at it.

My Husband climbed on the bed with me and we cried.  What was there really to say?

I can tell you now what we were both thinking, our minds racing.  The people we had told already, the people we were grateful we hadn’t told, the plans we had made.  All of that was unraveling.  Your mind in this moment thinks unthinkable and strange things, you react in a way you have no control over.

A nurse knocked on the door and gave her apologies.  She explained how she would walk us down to my doctor, that she would want to talk to us.  The nurse led us down the back hallways, back stairways, ignoring the lobbies full of people.  Other nurses stopped in the hallways and bowed their heads, silent, as we walked by them.  We were those people, tear streaked faces, being led down those hallways, they knew what it meant.  I went by nurses I have come to know and they had the courage to meet my eyes and nod.

We were led in a room that I had been in a million times.  I knew the picture on the wall of a huge fall colored tree, up on a hill, with a woman standing below it, her back to me, with a big billowing dress and long flowing hair, walking somewhere.  I couldn’t look at my Husband, we just sat there silently crying.  Where was that woman in the picture going?

I looked up when my doctor came in, the same woman I have come to known over the past 10 years.  She said nothing, wrapped me in a hug, and we both cried as she said she was sorry over and over.  She started slowly explaining things.  I tried to take it in.  This was a Thursday, the soonest she could get me in for surgery was Monday, unless I wanted to wait 4-5 weeks for my body to take care of it on its own.  There was no way I could wait.  I wanted this over with.  I couldn’t just carry my dead baby around.

She shared her worry about how we would tell Rebecca.

She explained how this wasn’t our fault, I did nothing wrong.

She explained about testing that would be done on our baby.  Chromosomal testing.  Could this happen again?

I thought about the few couples I know who have been in my shoes more than once.  How did they do it?

Then she said the number.  The number that would piss us off.  The number that we would repeat the rest of the weekend.  5%.  We were in a 5% category.  This was late in the game to have a miscarriage, only 5% of pregnancies at this point end in miscarriage.  With each passing week our chances were going down but instead we became apart of the 5%.

Our chances of twins, on the fertility drugs I was taking was higher.

She explained more options.  Options on what could be done with our baby afterwards, on Monday.  Things I never thought about.  Things you don’t think about when people say this happens to them.  Things that were now apart of our lives.  I looked at my Husband then, still in his work clothes because he was going to head back to work.  That was the plan before we knew we had a dead baby.  Four years ago I hadn’t even met this man, now we had these options being provided to us, decisions we were going to have to make. I realized I had never seen him cry much in my life, until now.  A dead baby makes you do that.

I started to become numb.  More people came in and out.  Surgical nurses with directions and paperwork.  I nodded, like I gave a shit.

And just like that we could leave. Just like that we had to walk back into the world, our lives changed completely from when we walked in 90 minutes prior.

He grabbed my hand and we walked through the lobby, the lobby where people with full pregnant bellies stared at us.  We were those people.

We walked down the hallway and a lady with two screaming kids and a new baby in a carrier walked past us and we tried to look forward.  I could feel her staring because we were those people.  A nurse opened the door to the outside for us and I wanted to run to my truck, get the fuck away from there.

It was the same outside as when we walked in but I didn’t know how.  One of those top ten days that suddenly held nothing but grief.  We had to drive home separately.  My husband had to run back to work, he borrowed someone elses truck and had to get it back.  We stood there in this weird limbo not knowing how to take the next step, where do we go from here?

Do you want to go across the street to get a few bottles of wine?  Were the first words my Husband came up with.

My Husband can think of priorities in the moment.  I knew what was in my wine fridge at home though.  I just wanted to get there, not have people look at me.  So that is what we did.  We drove home separately.  It was the longest trip of my life.  I just drove, with all the windows down with my dead baby.  That was all I could think about.  I couldn’t even cry.  I was numb.

I got home, opened a bottle of wine, didn’t bother with a glass, went to the back porch, drank directly from the bottle and waited for my Husband to come home.  He came and joined me in silence, lit a cigar and one by one words came out.  The unfairness, the hatred, the why us?  We discussed how to tell people when someone sent a text, excited to hear how my appointment went.  How were we going to tell our parents, Rebecca and our close friends?  We almost felt foolish for getting so excited in the first place.  I told him my fears of this moment, the unthinkable that probably goes through every pregnant womans brain in the beginning.

We sent out a mass text and a few individual texts.  We called parents.

Then we cried.  We got pissed off, we cried some more, we talked, I didn’t sleep and when I did, I was plagued with nightmares.

Because really this day, this Thursday in my life, was what nightmares were made of.   We were those people.

Losing the “Busy” Excuse

Last night a friend of mine rang and I let it go to voicemail since we were sitting down for dinner.  Once I listened to her voicemail she had listed out her schedule for the week and how “busy” she would be and how “busy” life is and so on.  If I could try to find time to call her in between her millions of things, that would be great.  I have been the one trying to get ahold of her for a couple of weeks now.  It wasn’t just for any reason, it was to tell her I was pregnant so she didn’t have to learn the news from Facebook.  But time was running out.  I shot her a picture that we are planning on posting to FB and she immediately called me.  I guess she wasn’t so busy after all.

I’m not trying to pick on my friend but I am using her as an example.  The Husband and I have been purposely trying to ban the “busy” excuse from our daily lives.  In this day where we have every means of communication available to us at our finger tips, we sure do think of a lot of excuses to not be able to call Grandma or a friend we haven’t spoken with in a couple of months.  I’m tired of getting the excuse from friends and I sure don’t want to give it back to them.

Unfortunately, as much as we live in a “busy” society, we also live in a society that doesn’t seem to know how to say “no” from time to time.  My Husband started saying “no” to side jobs.  They are great money but woah are they time-consuming and cause some serious stress.  It was adding to the busy excuse as well.  The second he started saying “no” he felt much better.  After he said it a few times it got easier and freed up time to do what he wanted to do.

Sure, some of the things that make us busy we can’t say no to.  Sometimes are lives really and truly are busy.  But the rest of it….really?  Why do we even feel the need to make the excuse?  Isn’t it a good thing to be busy, to have friends want to call and meet up, to have weekends filled with family activities, stay-cations, mini trips, long trips, or even lazy days filled with movie marathons?  That means you are alive, not busy.  That means you are doing something with your life.  You are finding purpose.  Why not enjoy it instead of rushing through it?

By losing the “busy” excuse in our summer (and saying no!) I cannot express how much more we seemed to live in the moment.  I can honestly tell you we took every minute we possibly could out of our summer and made every effort to make time stand still and summer last a bit longer.  We really aren’t busy right now, we are just indulging daily in life.

Telling our Families

While we have told a few people about our impending arrival, we were holding off on telling our parents, and for good reason.  To start with, my family lives two hours away and I don’t see them often.  Two, both mother’s have big mouths.  The concept of waiting to tell their friends the news was just not going to sink in.

We started with my Mom, Dad, and sister the day I hit 9 weeks.  We went back home and poor Rebecca had been busting to spread the news.  She has some self-control, unlike my Mother.  Both Fenway and Rebecca had “big sister” shirts we put on after we arrived.  The problem was Fenway’s said “big sister” on the belly and on the back it said, “I have a secret, rub my belly to find out.”  My Mom assumed we were pulling some sort of weird joke on her and it took my sister (she had figured it out) to convince my Mom to just look at poor Fenway’s belly.  She yelled “Are you serious!?” at least 1500 times.  It was all very humorous and obviously very exciting.  My sister immediately produced onsies she had been slowly stashing away and my Dad, with his Alzheimer’s, still has no idea we were even there for the weekend.  We eventually followed up with telling my brother and his wife.  She cried, he nodded a “cool” and went about his business.  Very him.

Onto the next set of parents.  It was my MIL’s birthday and we joined her for lunch.  Both of my in-laws are deaf (I can’t sign, my Husband can) so we opted for a card that basically stated we are going to quit calling you Mom and move on to calling you Grandma.  This elicited a lot of smiles and clapping from his mother and his Dad gave a nod of approval.  After that it was lunch as normal.

I have another ultrasound at 12 weeks and from there we will Facebook announce and call extended family and Grandparents.  My Mother, on the other hand, is having no idea how to keep her trap shut.  She lives in a world where nothing bad will happen and she just thinks we should tell everyone.  I live in a world called reality and still fear the worst case scenarios.  While those scary thoughts are fading as each week passes, they are still there.

The number one reason I am so glad we kept this close to us for a while was to give ourselves time to get used to the idea.  Everyone has opinions, advice and a million questions.  Just learning you are pregnant is overwhelming enough, let alone feeling the need to make sure you appease everyone else.  The Husband and I were able to adjust to this new norm.  We were able to think about how we wanted to handle this pregnancy without outside influences.  I was able to alleviate some pressure keeping it a secret and how often can you and your Husband share something like that? It has actually brought us closer and strengthen our marriage in a new way.

As far as the Mother’s go-the mayhem has begun.