Still born

My goodness, it’s been a while. Let’s catch up a bit.

Right now, I’m sitting on my bed while my family hangs out/be crazy/clean up after dinner. I’m supposed to be working on a 20-page term paper on governance and fair trade coffee, because I am a grad student now out of Athabasca University (yaaay!). I was so cripplingly bored and antsy after we moved across the country that I dove in about two years ago. It’s great, but I also have to do the self-discipline thing and actually find the bits of motivation needed, like some buried chocolate in a crappy chocolate chip muffin that is mostly just dry cake, to get things done. Why is this challenging? Well, because I have two bambinos now.

They are everything, but it’s also important for me to not just identify as a mommy. I’m not a mom, I’m their mom, uniquely for them. I’m also a bunch of other things. Another thing I am today is reflective on what Henry means to me after I gave birth to two living children, now 3.5 years old, and 8 months old.

I find myself feeling guilty whenever I lose patience with my toddler, because I should be savouring every second. Also, I do a lot of self-admonishion for feeling that guilt, because momming is fucking hard and challenging, and when there are two of them? At the same time? Fuuuuuuuuuuck, man. Sometimes, my face doesn’t even look like me. My eyes are glaze-y, my nose looks chunkier, I have this big ‘ol mom belly that’s kinda dangly and wiggly, but, I’m strong as fuck. Which is why I was prepared for what life threw at me today.

This morning, a beloved friend was asking me for advice of the worst kind. What should she do for her friend who delivered a still born baby last night? A lot of my answer can be found in this very blog, but basically, there’s nothing you can do. Our friend (or not friend? Or, really doesn’t matter how you relate because too bad) time will chip away at the raw, blistering pain at a life event that just cannot make sense. One thing hit me hard and stayed with me throughout the day — that she couldn’t believe she had to leave the hospital without her baby.

She could not leave the hospital with her baby.

Let that sink in.

I had to do that, too. If you’ve never done that, then you have not walked through the dark valley of hell that is walled with flames, spikes, crying, silent babies, and the oncoming onslaught of offensive images that is other people leaving the hospital with their babies. This woman, who my friend knows, is going through this right now.

The worst thing that can happen to a parent is going on so close to me, and it all comes flooding back, as if I’m also just leaving the hospital, in a fog, just trying to cope. My body compensated by developing a years-long facial tic that makes me feel like I can’t blink hard enough, almost like my body wants to shield my eyes from the pain my waking self is living.

Life is so fickle sometimes. Some babies live, some die, and the only thing separating you from those horrible moments is the time between now and then. It doesn’t matter that I have two amazing, healthy children. They don’t erase Henry, they don’t replace Henry. Henry was and always will be the first, and will always be the great mystery of my life, and my greatest loss. My two living kids bounce along in a joyful raft around the island of my loss, and more and more, that island gets sprinkles of the confetti that is the happiness from my two kids. It’s all still there, but the look is changing. I still wear my locket, and always will. but I don’t feel compelled to tell people who compliment me on it that it’s full of my baby’s ashes. He’s gone, but he was still born, just like my friend’s child. The only advice I can really give for her is, hold on tight, this is going to hurt. But you’ll surface again, so take your time.

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Dealing with being called a first-time mom

It’s difficult being referred to as a first-time mom when I’m anywhere with Corin. I try to stick with the truth – that he’s the second – but with so many of the fumbles that come with FTM-isms, I relent and don’t correct people when they throw that box over my head.

What I mean mostly is the buying of useless baby-things that experienced moms know to avoid. The clip-on-holds-the-spoon-for-kiddo ‘convenience’ thing that really just ends up being a whip/chew toy, for example. That’s $5 wasted that could have bought more useful chocolate.

I just roll with it. Being called a FTM with those types of things. It’s not always fun to stand there and awkwardly correct well-intended acquaintances that my first son doesn’t walk this earth. And let’s not get in to the step-son I have been raising for the past eight years. When he plopped down into my life, he was four, potty trained, all teethed, and etc. So, in a very long thought-line of self-assurance and justifying, yes, in some cases, I am very much a first-time mom. There, I said it.

Your baby’s pictures

It doesn’t hurt to look at my friends’ baby’s pictures anymore. Remember a while ago, I wrote about how much that sucked, yet I was compelled by some inner drive of torture to look at ALL of them on facebook. Grief has no bounds for the crazy things it makes you do.

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It got to the point where I no longer ‘followed’ even close friends so that I wouldn’t see their happy goddamn babies and their happy goddamn perfect lives, with all the alive babies who didn’t have a horrible fatal genetic disease that didn’t kill them. The well of bitterness ran deep. Now the acid seems to have been replaced with something less noxious, and I’m able to look now and then without sharp knives piercing my heart. Hooray!

Keep you baby away from me

I truly am very happy for you and all of your healthy babies – really I am, but stay away from me (for now).

I save my daily walks for nighttime because the chances of running in to children and babies in strollers is significantly diminished. When I see little boys especially, I get punched in the heart.

Seeing babies makes me feel like I’ll never have that. Looking at pictures of friends who have babies (a lesson in torture) bewilders me. I’m so surprised now to see healthy, alive babies. The thought that I’ll ever be able to make one of them is unfathomable right now. I feel like my womb is a cursed place where only sick babies destined for death can grow for a short while. I feel like my subsequent pregnancies are all doomed to miscarriage, to stillbirth, to SIDS, to genetic disease.

Logic ramble: Yes, of course, I know that I may have healthy babies in the future. But I also know that it’s a risk. I know how many pregnancies fail, and I know genetic hiccoughs are more common than we suspect. I also know that I really am happy for you and your birth – you are very lucky parents, and I hope to join you one day. And this is a lot coming from someone who spent most of her life saying she never wanted kids.  Oh, how life turns tricks on us.

I know this post makes me sound crazy, but that’s my feeling for the day. I’ve spent a month grieving after what I thought was a healthy pregnancy, for five whole months. And of course, I do not want to offend anyone who has a child. I’m sorry if you feel offended. But I honestly don’t know when I’ll feel comfortable being around other people’s babies.

Am I jealous? Of course I am! And I judge myself for knowing this is petty and selfish, so I’m putting this out there knowing full-well that this is a post that might offend some of you. And this self-judging and feeling bad for writing this post isn’t healthy for me. But putting this out there is right, because I know, with 10000000% certainty, that I’m not the only bereaved parent who has thoughts and feelings like this. So I write it for you who are in this boat with me.

– Crazy woman out.