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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Henry’s impact in 2013

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. Henry has been gone far longer than his all too brief life with me. It brings me some measure of comfort to see how many other people met him over the past year.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,500 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

One

One year ago today, we lost you.

I remember the hospital, the nurses – thieves of slumber throughout the night – checking that bloody beeping blue machine, checking my IV drip, inserting the misoprotol. Waiting for my child to drop and be taken away.

Contractions. Broken water. Panic of a new mom. Birth canal. Pushing. A silent baby.

We held you, our beautiful, perfect Henry. We were afraid to handle you too much. You were so, so broken. Born with limbs jutting the wrong way. So frail. You were gone, but we dared not hurt you more, our precious son. A new mom who left the hospital without her child. A father without his second son.

Now, memories. Memorabilia. A few photos. Your footprints, and the hat they put on your head that still has some of your blood. Ashes in an urn I made you.

You are long gone, but you will never, ever, ever be forgotten. Where are you now?

I love you, Henry. My first love, my first child. And I miss you every day.

Once year equals 365 excruciating days without you. Happy birthday, my sweet Henry.

Photo on 13-05-02 at 3.22 PM

One, seven, one

I’m really not sure which blog this post should belong to. Since it’s an emotional time of year for me, I’ll let it live here.

One

This Saturday will be my first child’s birth and death day. On September 28, 2012 at 11:13 a.m., my beautiful son, Henry, was born broken and sleeping.

Life has irrevocably changed.

I’m less patient and more patient. I’m less understanding and more compassionate. I’m less tolerant and more tolerant. I’m less hopeful and more pessimistic. Who I am doesn’t really matter. This doesn’t make much sense because losing a child doesn’t make any sense. Life is on a random-generating system, and I’m just a marble rolling around bumping in to things, trying to squeak out a living.

Seven

Tomorrow, on September 26, I will be celebrating seven years with Henry’s dad. Life with him does make sense, and the love I feel for him anchors me. I’m proud to be someone he chooses to spend his life with, which helps shine a light through my wretchedness, essentially making me lighten up and see life isn’t all bad.

A quick Google search will bring up items on there being seven-year cycles. Your body is new after completely regenerating all its cells, then there’s the seven-year itch, and seven is a lucky number, yadda yadda. Appropriately, this year is going to be our last September anniversary. On March 14, we’re getting married, giving us a new date to celebrate.

One

And finally, in one month, if all goes well, Henry will have a little brother. Someone who shared the same space he did within me, and will fill our days with a sleepy contentment that we can achieve parenthood together. A little blue-eyed, delicate human that we made and will raise in our own loving, quirky way.  He’ll have a step-brother, but equally important, we will teach him who Henry was, that he’ll always have another brother no matter what comes. All of this just blows my mind.

I feel reflective, and only slightly willing to peer down the twisting path that has brought me here today. Growing up, I never wanted children. Never wanted to get married. But life shook and rattled me, making me change my mind and seek out stability, companionship and love.

All of this makes me so tired, and sigh deeply. Life is hard work. I’m surprised I’m not more of a hedonist, where I feel it’s okay to escape life and go live out my days getting drunk on a tropical beach, not worrying about a thing.

But it is what it is. Random situation generator, marbles, and all. Even after the death of a child – that horrifying nightmare, that thing that’s not supposed to happen – here we are, one year later. Waiting to see where the marble will roll to next. Hopefully not in some dusty corner.

Two boys

I think the bubble of pregnancy-related fear I’ve been wrapped in since losing you is becoming slightly more transparent.

I used to spend hours every week reading up on loss stories. Grasping to the reality I could lose your brother so hard it incorporated itself into my flesh and became part of who I was, woven into my personal narrative and explored to every limit. All I knew of pregnancy came from you. Pregnancy = terror, loss, pain, unemployment, sadness, suffering.

As I sit here typing, your brother kicks me so hard other parts of my body not directly touching my belly jiggle. It’s like he’s saying, “Relax, ma, I’m here, and here, and here. Tee hee hee!”

My mom recently bought me two little statues. Two baby boys, placed sitting next to each other. These are my two sons. Henry and Coming Soon. They look so similar. They spent the entirety of both their lives so far inside me.

Today, I closed a blog post on pregnancy loss that I was in the middle of reading. I felt very strongly that I didn’t need to finish this poor woman’s story. I felt like I removed the umbrella from over my head to see that it had stopped raining. The sky is far from blue. Thunderclouds threaten along the horizon, ready to dump the storm of the century on my weak head so that I can sit there, sobbing into the downpour, lamenting that I knew all along that this was going to happen. But it’s not happening right now.

These kicks to my ribs make me smile, and if I look back to childhood singsongs, smiles are like human manifested sunbeams. (Ugh, yep, I went there. Can I have some crackers for this cheese?)

So, with a little over two months to go, I sit here, watching my belly do its own rhumba while a tiny dancer grows inside. And I let go of the fear that has the tendency of overtaking my life. And I look for positive things to read up on for pregnancy. Reinforce those brain pathways instead of constantly strengthening the easier jumbly road of frenzied panic.

…but I’ve GIVEN birth before!

I’m so thrilled to be at a healthy place with this pregnancy. It’s going well. He’s healthy. He kicks and punches and kicks some more. Pregnancy and birth pop up all the time when I’m with friends, family, acquaintances. People share their birth stories. It’s what they do.

Ladies – I’VE GIVEN BIRTH BEFORE!!!! Just because my son is dead and I didn’t get to bring him home doesn’t mean I’m not a mother. But I’ve given birth. I’ve had contractions. My water broke. A baby came out of my birth canal.

I know it’s hard to remember, because you don’t see my son, because he’s dead. But I HAVE given birth.

It’s hard for a loss mom to hear your birth stories and not feel like she can contribute. You might say, “Well you need to feel what it’s like at 8,9 months,” (said by one family member recently. Punch you in the face, very much). You might just look at me with sad puppy dog eyes. You might feel bad for not realizing that what you’re saying is hard for me to hear. You might not realize I’m not a newbie, and feel like my experience giving birth is less valid than yours.

It sucks.

I have given birth. We have given birth. I’m just like you. I have a birth story, and it’s a lot harder than yours, no matter what ways you were split, no matter whether your epidural took effect or not. No matter how much you bled, pooped, screamed at your husband. You got to take your baby home.