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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Joy

On December 12, true joy came back into our lives.

The joy that was supposed to come with you, Luke, came with your sister instead.

We went to the hospital and got there by 5:30am. I went to bed confident, feeling Bowie's kicks as I drifted in and out of sleep. I was nervous. Excited. Scared. What if everything somehow changed when we got there in the morning?

But it didn't. We got there, and got moved into a pre-op room immediately. We were greeted by awesome nurses--who knew us. They knew our story. Total relief. They hooked us up to a contraction and heartrate monitor, and everything looked good. They drew blood. Then we waited for the doctors to arrive. It was just daddy and I, and we couldn't wait till we could meet her. Soon. So so so so soon.

Before we knew it, it was 7:30, and I was getting moved into the operating room for the c-section. Daddy stayed behind in the pre-op room while they prepped me. When we got inside, it was SO COLD. It was a cold morning as it was, and that room was beyond freezing. Soon, our anesthesiologist came in, and it was the same doc that was there that night with you, Luke, when I got my epidural. She remembered us too. We waited for the spinal to kick in, and just like with the epidural, my blood pressure crashed pretty fast. I felt like throwing up, but the anesthesiologist was on it and got me some epinephrine to stop it. And before we knew it, the surgery began.

Daddy was right by my side, and he watched the whole thing. I was relieved I couldn't really see them cutting me open, as the smell from the cauterizing kinda made me sick. Mostly I felt drunk. But it happened so fast--And then, we heard your cries.

Finally. Finally. Finally. She was here, and she was alive.

A delivery that we've been waiting for for almost 2 years.

They took her aside to do all her vitals and to get her cleaned up, and before I knew it, Jeff was leaving the room to go be with her. The docs took their time to get me put back together, and then I was also getting wheeled down the hall--into our room--where we could finally be a family together. I couldn't believe it was finally real.

I got into the recovery room, and there was daddy holding her. She was perfect. 9 pounds 8 ounces and 22 inches long. Almost as big as you, Luke, but not quite. She had a head of hair as well...and honestly, she looked just like you. I cried. Tears of joy and happiness, all mixed together. They left us alone after a few minutes, and I still felt like it wasn't real. But slowly, reality set in. Our baby girl was here and we were all OK. The relief was indescribable.

Lena Bowie was here.

After the baby-moon, the nurse came in to run a blood sugar test to make sure she was eating ok. All was well. So we were to be wheeled up to the postnatal care 5th floor. When we got there, we got to do the thing we also didn't get to do with you, Luke. We got to ring the bell that rings Brahm's Lullaby at the hospital everytime a baby is born and moved up to recovery. Doing that...made everything feel like it was coming full circle. I hate the fact that we didn't get to do that with you, Luke. But we never left the L&D floor. We just went home.

We got settled in our room, and things started sinking in that everything was really OK. That first day in the hospital, Lena met her Nana and Opa, her cousin Ethan, and Auntie Lauren and Uncle Pooter. The general feeling was relief. Everyone was so relieved that everything went right this time.

That first night in the hospital, they checked her blood sugar again, and it was really dangerously low. Down to 13, when it was supposed to be about 40. They took her to get her formula-fed ASAP, and that was single-handedly the scariest part of our hospital stay. Apparently it's common for bigger babies to have issues regulating their blood sugar after birth, but her's was scary-low. They spent the next day checking her sugar pretty often. Sometimes by actual blood test, but mostly by pricking her heels. I felt so bad--her poor little heels were pricked apart.

By Saturday, it looked like her blood sugar was getting more normal, and we were cleared to really try breastfeeding without supplementing. That day was rough. I didn't have much, and even the lactation specialist kinda just told me to wait till my milk came in. She did give a LOT of valuable info, though, and that was awesome. By that night, my milk had come in, and all was well in feeding land.

Sunday, we got checked out by everyone, and were cleared for discharge around noon. The happiness...when we were told we could all three go home--together...welled up in my throat. I still couldn't believe it was happening. We got everything loaded into the car, and finally it came time to be wheeled out of the hospital. This time WITH our baby.

With a full car seat.

And a full heart.

I cried on the way home, driving down the same streets we drove down after we drove home without you, Luke, just 15 months ago. This was was the way things were supposed to be. Last time, so many thoughts ran through my head as we drove that agonizing trip home...How was I going to get through planning a funeral? How was I going to get through losing you? How would my life continue? Every question seemed so heavy. I had no idea what the answers were.

This time, the questions were so different. They were the same questions that every new parent asks themselves as they leave the hospital. How am I going to take care of this baby? Can we afford it? Will we ever sleep again? Questions that will all be answered...in time. But they were certainly not as heavy as the time before.

I've come to the realization that Lena wouldn't be here without losing you, Luke. In some ways, I hate that, but in some ways, it makes me love and appreciate you, and in turn, her, that much more. It makes me feel like there's a part of you living in her. You were the only two who ever lived in the same place. Maybe not together. But that will always tie you together.

Lena is 2 weeks and 2 days old right now, and she is absolutely perfect. When I look at her, my heart feels full, which I honestly never thought that I'd feel again after losing you.

I know our lives will never be perfect, because of all we've been through. But this is a start to feeling like things can be happy again.

Missing you always, though.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

She's here

And she is perfect. Thank god. 

Lena Bowie Watanabe
Born December 12, 2013 | 8:00am
9 pounds, 8 ounces | 22 inches

Relief...at least for now...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

At this time tomorrow...

Everything will be different.  Again.

At this time tomorrow, your sister will be here with us, Luke.  I can't describe the relief I can already anticipate feeling once we're there.  I've been waiting for that for 9 months now.  I can't believe it's finally time.

This morning I went back through our pictures--of meeting you.  I'm not sure I should have done that, but I wanted to feel connected to you before we jump on this next rollercoaster.  I wanted to see your face again...to refresh my memory so we can see if your sister looks like you.

But looking back at the pictures of you and me and your Daddy...the hurt and sadness and fear and anguish are so visible.  It still hurts to see us like that. 

I never want to feel that way again.  I see those pictures, and I feel those feelings so hard.  But I know that in no way are the feelings as raw right now as they were that very day.  Thank god. 

I still can't believe what happened to you.  To us.  I still can't believe we have pictures of our son in a tiny coffin.

Today it doesn't really feel real.  Today I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that everything will change tomorrow.  That I will finally understand what it means to make it through pregnancy and have your baby alive in your arms.  Something that seems to be a given for everybody else...I'll finally get to understand it. 

Today I wish I ever got to see your smile.  Or your eyes. 

I'm scared, but I know that at this point, there's nothing else to be scared of, because the worst has happened. 

I still miss you, today, and forever.  That will never change.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

To be someone else

There's been so many times over the past 15 months when I wished I could just be someone else.

Someone who's never lost a baby.  Who's never had to go through another 9 months just to have one baby.  Someone who didn't know what it was like to tell people they've lost a child.  Someone who doesn't know what it feels like to literally have a part of you die inside.  To live every day of the rest of life missing that piece of you.

I'm different.  I'm now someone that has survived something that can genuinely fuck. you. up.  for the rest of your life.

I can never have the perspective of a happy first-time Mom.  I won't ever know what it's like to complain about a terribly long labor and have that be the WORST thing that happened to me in childbirth.   This time will be bittersweet.

I've survived the worst, somehow.  I've survived another 9 months of pregnancy while carrying the burden of knowing that everything can come crashing down on you in an instant.

And I'm proud of myself for not hiding Luke.  For being straight with complete strangers who are nosey and well-intentioned, but also oblivious.  I would be lying to them if I'd told them that this was my first pregnancy--the most asked question of any woman who's visibly pregnant.  Why would I lie?  This was not my first pregnancy, nor my first child.  Luke was a full-grown baby when we met him.  I went through an entire 39 weeks carrying him and experiencing all that goes along with that.  He was real.  I have proof.  How could I lie?

A woman last week--an older woman--zoned in on me in a waiting room.  She was clearly obsessed with pregnancy and babies. I thought I would get away from the questioning after she asked if this one was my first and I said no.  But she continued.  And when I told her that we lost our first--Luke--last year, her first question after was "Full term?!" 

When I say yes to questions like that, that's when I want to cry in front of complete strangers.  Yes. That still happens.  It happened to me. 

And there was no reason.  God didn't need another angel.  He's not in a better place.  It doesn't matter how many prayers are said in the world for you.  It just happens. 

She really didn't say much to me after that...And I could tell that she was horrified.  And I bet that she hasn't had to endure such personal, gut-wrenching pain before.  Because if she had, she would probably have learned by now not to ask questions like that to strangers...

That's the thing.  I feel like those who have experienced trauma like this before get it.  They understand that pregnancy is hard.  It's not a given.  Women giving birth is amazing, but there's so much more to it than that.

Life isn't cut and dry.  There are millions of families that can't answer the question "So, how many children do you have?" with a simple number that can be proven with a photograph.

To be someone that is free--To not know this kind of loss?  Sometimes I wish I was them.  I do.  But then other times, I'm thankful to have been given this perspective.  I wish I could have gained it without having to lose Luke, though.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

7 days

If I don't fall apart
Will my memory stay clear?
So you had to go
And I had to remain here
But the strangest thing to date
So far away and yet you feel so close
I'm not going to question it any other way
It must be an open door for you
To come back...


Here we are.  38 weeks.  I don't really know how it all came around so quickly, but I feel like the days are just hurtling me toward next Thursday.  Toward the day we meet your sister, Luke.

I will say that the first part of this pregnancy was long...and hard.  And confusing.  The middle was muddled by a lot of back pain and physical problems that I didn't have with you.  Sometimes I was thankful for that--for something being SO different about these two pregnancies.  It gave me hope that the ending would be different at the time.

But this last trimester has absolutely flown by.  It's been a blur of happenings and emotions.  In a way, I'm thankful for that. 

Over the weekend before Thanksgiving, Daddy and I went to two Pearl Jam concerts.  When we bought these tickets back in July, I was hesitant how I would feel about being 36 weeks pregnant and going to a rock concert.  But going to shows is what we do...so we went.

In some ways, I feel like you were there with us.  First, there was the show Thursday night, that I didn't go to because it was a work night, and all the way down in San Diego.  But your crazy Daddy went to that one too.  And he called me during the show.  Unfortunately, I couldn't make out what was happening or playing, but when he got home, he told me that they played your song.  Light Years.  The song we had printed in your funeral service card...Because it meant everything that we felt about what happened to you.  And you have to understand...they never play this song.  They've played it one time this tour--the show your Daddy was at.  It's not pulled out very often...and then there it was that night he was there. 

And then there was Saturday night at the first show I went to.  There are really three songs in their gigantic catalog of music that I think of whenever I think of you.  Light Years is one.  The other is a b-side called Other Side.  And the last is a song called Come Back.  I've written about it here on this blog before--How it kills me to listen to now because it only makes me think of losing you. 

And they played it that night too.  A song that's hardly ever pulled out as well.  Oddly, this is the same exact song that was playing the night your Daddy proposed to me at that PJ concert in San Diego in 2006.

Everything's connected.  It was like you were there, telling us you were there.

This week is already filled with anxiety, but relief.  Relief that this stage of grief will be ending somehow.  But it's filled with anxiety about everything. 

The 39th week. 

Ironically, I will be exactly 39 weeks--to the day, when we deliver your sister via c-section Thursday morning.  The same exact day of my pregnancy that we met you after it was too late.  I will give birth to each of you on the same exact day of my pregnancy, and yet I will have exact opposite experiences.  The same, yet different.

Every day this week, we'll get closer to the day we meet your sister...and closer to the same exact day in your pregnancy that we said goodbye to you. 

To say I'll be relieved next Friday is an understatement.

I won't miss having to compare the two of your pregnancies.  I won't miss having to tell complete strangers that no, this is not my first child.  I won't miss telling them that you're no longer with us when they ask me how old you are.  Now people will just see your sister and assume.  Which I'm OK with, because it doesn't require me to drag down their day with a horrifying reminder that full-term stillbirth still happens in modern-day first-world societies.  And I'm living proof.

But what I will miss is you being the only child.  From here on out, there are two of you.  And I know grief will probably get more complicated when we get to experience the joy that she will bring into our lives.  As we get farther away from that day with you.  

Just know that you'll always be number one.  Wherever you are. 

And the days they linger on, yeah
Every night I'm waiting for
The real possibility that I may meet you in my dreams
Sometimes you're there and you're talking back to me
Come the morning I could swear you're next to me
And it's OK

It's OK.  It's OK
.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Creeping fear

At 37 weeks and 3 days pregnant now, things are getting real again.

I've been here before, and the feelings are the same. 

That's what sucks. 

Every first time mom has the same fears. There's the fears about actually delivering the baby. Drugs or no drugs?  Will I be able to breast feed? Will we get everything we want done before baby gets here? Will I have any clue what I'm doing when baby gets here?

Will I be a good mom?

I think most would say that that question is more easily answered the second time around. But for me...I'm still asking that question. And I feel like I've been asking it for the past 2 years. Because I have been. 

This time, I feel like the fear is heightened. I've already been through the delivery part. Labor. Seeing my child for the first time. But I don't know what comes next. I've dreamed about it for the 39 weeks I was pregnant with Luke, and now another 9 months with Bowie. I've had over 76 weeks to plan and dream about what my child would become.  Who they would turn into.
And I still don't have the answers about what comes next.  Because I'm still not parenting either one of them.

Right now, I almost still don't feel like this is real. Like there is no end to being pregnant--or at least an end with a crying baby. That's the part of full-term stillbirth that screws with you the most. You have everything...and then nothing, just like before you were pregnant. 

One part of me feels like there's no more to come after this. But the other part of me yearns for all that I don't know. 

We're so close. I wish I didn't have to carry around the burden of these feelings--Of knowing what it's like to leave the hospital with an empty car seat.  I wish I was just a normal mom who gave birth and went home and became a Mom.

I feel like there's so much more riding on this, this time.

Because I can't possibly fathom going through all of that all over again. 

December 12, 2013 has to be different than September 10, 2012.  It just has to be.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thankful for this...

And forgot to mention yesterday, I'm most thankful for this:


A healthy, moving, crazy baby that reassures me more often than not that she's ok.

It's exactly what I need.  Even if the NSTs take us EXTRA long because she's such a spazz. 

Hope you all had a peaceful Thanksgiving yesterday <3 <3 <3

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving and two weeks to go

This Thanksgiving is already incredibly different than last year's.

And while we're still here, missing you every day, Luke, this year we have so much to be thankful for.  I'm so thankful that in just 2 weeks, our lives will change forever once again.  That we'll finally meet your little sister.

I'm thankful for all our friends and family that have held us up this past year.  For those that speak about you, and still remember you as part of our family.  I hope that never changes.

And I'm so thankful that I've found some sort of healing this past 14 months.  I'm thankful that I've been able to work through my grief to find joy in my life again.  It hasn't been easy.  And even though I can be happy again, I will always be missing you. 

But I have hope right now. I'm not sure if you're pushing that down on me from wherever you are, but I'll take it.  This pregnancy has been hard, but I'm surprised that I feel hope right now.  That I feel that everything can and will be OK with Bowie.  We have a plan.  Our doctors' visits have gone amazingly well.  And I truly believe that she will be OK. 

I accept that the panic will probably set in soon.  I have two weeks to go, but it makes me feel better knowing that we have a c-section scheduled already and everyone's as ready to go as can be. 

But the one thing that I approach with...maybe not hesitation so much as just...trepidation...is seeing your sister's sweet face for the first time.  I know I will be comparing it with yours.  And I wish I could just accept her for being herself...but with you missing, I don't know how I won't. 

And I fear that will make me miss you that much more.

But I will also be incredibly distracted.  With everything I missed out on with you.  And that worries me too.  I never want to be so distracted that thoughts of you fall by the wayside.

So onto another chapter of figuring out how to live this new life.  With your sister here with us, and you watching over us.   

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Yesterday's NST

I feel like for the most part, I've kept my anxiety pretty in-check throughout this entire pregnancy.  I'll admit--The month of September was probably the worst.  Mostly because that month was all about Luke.  I found myself completely distracted--Bowie was almost an afterthought.  But she was there, and all was well, so it was OK.

Yesterday was the first day I really experienced those pangs of anxiety that hit--the uncontrollable fear that something's wrong.

I'm going to NSTs twice a week.  And they've mostly been fine.  But Bowie's an active baby, apparently.  And sometimes, they take some time for us to get a good reading on her heartbeat, which does make me anxious, but not uncontrollably so.

Yesterday...there was a different girl working in the office.  And she didn't know me or how active Bowie was (or my story, or really also...how to find the heartbeat really well?  I'm not even sure.) So it didn't start off well.  She really couldn't find her heartbeat.  Then it was sort of there--but very faint.  I could feel Bowie moving, but the fact that her heartbeat was so faint...scared the crap out of me.  I know she was probably facing backward, and that she was probably fine, but to talk yourself into that--it's hard when you've been on the other side of this.  Where everything is NOT fine.  When you're getting told that your baby is already gone. 

We sat...with the faint heartrate reading...for about a half hour.  Finally, the girl working went to go get a doctor.  She came in, and I was crying at that point.  It was at that point that I was sort of forced to tell her what I've been through (she wasn't my normal OB).  She completely understood my terrors, and somehow, found Bowie's heartbeat pretty quickly.  At that point, I was angry at the girl working there.  But I just wanted to get it done and over with. 

And then Bowie moved, and it seemed that finding her heartbeat was impossible again. 

The frustration...I know the girl working there was frustrated.  And then she told me that when she takes the reading to my doctor, she wasn't going to like it.  And that she'd probably send me over to the hospital for more monitoring...

And that's when I really stressed out.  It was really the wrong thing for her to say to me. 

But somehow, after moving and moving and moving, Bowie chilled out a bit.  And then she got the hiccups.  And after about an hour of trying and trying to get any stable reading out of her, she calmed down enough for us to get what we needed.

There are times I'm thankful that she's an active, moving baby.  It keeps my anxiety in check--especially considering that the REASON I went to the hospital with Luke was because I noticed he'd stopped moving... But then there are times when it scares me.  When things like this happen.  Or when I think about the potential of her getting too wrapped up in her cord like Luke--maybe BECAUSE she's so active. 

Yesterday's NST took almost 2 hours.  I swear that must be some sort of record.  I really hope that the rest of them go much more smoothly, but I just keep telling myself that we only have less than 4 weeks to go.  We can get through this. 

4 weeks.  We're so close.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How do you reconcile joy and grief?

It's November now.  And we're about a MONTH from meeting Luke's little sister...a baby who I'm not sure we'd be having had it not been for Luke's death. 

One year ago, I was in the depths of despair.  The freshness of losing Luke was so raw and new and I didn't understand it or know how to deal with it.

There are still some times when I feel like what happened to us wasn't real.  Like it was something I watched happen in a movie or a terrible TV show or to someone else.  In so many ways, it still feels unreal, to this day.

I wish it were true.

I wish what happened to us never had to happen to us.  I would be happy to have my 14-month-old son right now.  I'd be happy to not have had to travel this road of grief for the past year.  I'd be happy to not have to continue traveling it for the rest of my life.

I told myself that we'd always do what made us happy--when Luke died--to honor him.  I remember sitting in our bedroom with my sister a few days after his funeral, and making a promise to myself that I would do everything in my power to sell and move out of our condo within the next year.  BEING there made me unhappy.  It almost always had, but after losing him, it was the final straw.  And I'm proud to say that we did it--We sold that place. We're in a much happier place right now.  A place where I have hope, AND where our neighbors aren't terrible people.

And we said the same thing about trying for another baby...that we'd like to get pregnant again as soon as we could, since there was no medical reason stopping us.  And by some grace of God, we did that too.

There's so much to be happy about.  And it gets in the way of grief.  That's where grief is tricky.  No matter what you have that makes you happy--that brings you joy--that you've wanted and yearned for for a long time--There's always something lurking in the background.  The sadness.  The grief.  The heaviness of everything you lost.

I have four weeks to go until we meet Luke's little sister.  I'm already scheduled for a c-section because, like her big brother, she's supposedly going to be be a big one.  I'm happy that this date is set in stone.  That I know the day that we get to meet her and start our lives together.  But it all circles back to thinking about Luke a lot of times.  About the day that we got to meet, but didn't get to live the rest of our lives together.  It makes me nervous.  And scared.  Deep down I know that everything will be fine this time.  And I know that there will be nothing else in the world that will feel the same as the second we hear this little girl cry for the first time.  I can't wait to finally get to experience that happiness.

But I grieve that I had to miss that happiness with Luke.

These past 8 months have been a ride.  I feel like I've been pregnant forever.  I sort of have been.  I hate how unfair it is that I'll have to have been pregnant 18 out of the past 24 months only to have one child here with me.  I hate coming to grips with that.  It will never be right and I'll never be OK with it. 

I hate that I'm only going to experience that feeling of extreme joy with just ONE of my children.  And I don't want the sorrow I feel for Luke to taint my experiences with Bowie.  But I know that's impossible.

Everytime I see Bowie smile.  Hear her laugh. See her roll over for the first time.  Crawl.  Walk.  Go off to Kingergarten.  High school.  College.  Get married.  I'll be forced to think about missing all of those things with Luke.  I'll be forced to wonder about him.  About what never was or can ever be.  And that will always hurt my heart. I know it will get easier with time (at least I hope it will), but the reality will always be there.

At the end of the day, I can't stay in the depths of my grief forever.  I choose not to.  I don't want to.  But that doesn't mean that I won't miss Luke every single day for the rest of my life.  Joy will have to learn to live with grief...and that's ok.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Capture Your Grief--Day 11--Emotional Triggers

For me, triggers are something that are ever-changing. In the first days and weeks after we lost Luke, I couldn't bear to go out. There was one time I remember specifically when Jeff and I were out having breakfast together. And there was a Mom with her new baby--probably about the same age he would have been. In the same stroller and car seat that we had...living in the closet. 

I had a small meltdown. Eating breakfast. 

There was going into Target and walking by the baby aisle that first time. 

And the numerous pregnancy and birth announcements that always seemed like a slap in the face...

There's always something. And the emotions are always changing. I don't feel the same as I did in those early days. And obviously, now I'm the one walkjng around pregnant, causing other baby-loss Moms meltdowns. If only they knew. 

Lately, I feel like it's the little boys that I see around who are the same age Luke would be now. The sting of imagining what he would be like today will always be there. It will always haunt me. I don't see how they will ever get easier to look at. 

But thank goodness these emotions are always changing. Because if everything stayed the way it was, I have no idea how I'd get through this. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Capture Your Grief--Day 9--Music

This one is obvious...I've posted it here before.

To say I live for lyrics is an understatement.  I have for pretty much my entire life.  And when we lost Luke, I found myself finding different meanings in songs I'd listened to a million times.  And then I came across this song.  I've been a Ryan Adams fan for years, but the lyrics to this song never hit me the way they had after that day.  And then I learned that sadly enough, Ryan wrote this song for a dear friend whose baby was stillborn.  Her name was Elizabeth. 

He captured my feelings on loss so perfectly, it's unbelievable.  And now I kind of can't listen to it without bawling.  Just the opening piano part gets me.  But the yearning in his voice...and the frailty.  Exactly.

Elizabeth, You Were Born to Play That Part--Ryan Adams

For you I'd do anything
Tear myself in two
Just to hear you breathe

Calculate the changes that in time
Turn to nothing and then multiply
Yourself by my pain

Over you is where I stand
I wish I knew why
But I don't understand

I'm waiting on someone that just won't show
And every night it seems like there's no tomorrow
Not that you will ever know

Wherever you are, I hope you're happy now
I'm caught in a dream and I can't get out
I'm caught in a dream
I'm caught in an endless dream

Wherever you are, I hope you're happy now
I'm caught in a dream and I can't get out
I'm caught in an endless dream
And I'm not strong enough to let you go

And I have tried everything
But that
Elizabeth

Friday, October 4, 2013

Capture Your Grief--Day 4--Legacy

I can't say that I've started an organization or anything in Luke's name since he passed (though we have raised a substantial sum of money for the OC Walk to Remember in his name), but what I can say is this:  He taught me, and many of those around me--that life is short.  That tomorrow is never a given.  I've always been a person that lived very much in the present, but this never became more clear that day we lost him.  I never ever once believed that someone--let alone ME--could make it through 39 weeks of pregnancy and NOT go home with their baby.  Those things don't happen anymore, I thought.  I was wrong.

I'm not sure what made us wait so long to start a family, but that was one of the things that was hard to face when we lost him.  First and foremost, none of us are given tomorrow.  Now is all we have.  To start a family.  To kiss your children goodnight.  To be happy.  Don't wait.

That's his legacy. 


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Capture Your Grief--Day 3--Myth

There are a lot of myths I've encountered on this path, but probably the most obvious one is the 5 Stages of Grief. I think this path SOUNDS likes a great idea, but the reality is, you're never done grieving something like this. A loss of this magnitude. There are tons of days anger and depression live together. And acceptance...can be felt--I know I'm at that stage. But I think I will always have parts of me that are angry and depressed about what happened to Luke. There is no path with an end. Nothing is linear and clean. It's hard. And messy.  And it always will be.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Capture Your Grief--Day 2--Identity

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, and every year, the wonderful Carly Marie puts out a list of prompts for the month--To capture your grief. 

I missed the sunrise yesterday, so I'm starting today...

The hand and footprints that the hospital took that day in the hospital mean everything to me. They're something...that he touched.  The last...and probably only thing besides his hat that have will have his identity on them forever.  

I feel like they give him his existence.  Full on hands and feet.  They were once here.  And now they're gone.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Judgement

It must be nice.

It must be nice to judge other people as if they all live the same exact charmed life that you do.

Since losing Luke, I've come to be more empathetic.  I've always had empathy for people that can't help themselves.   For those who are disabled.  Poor.  Hungry.  But I've come to find that those are the easiest to feel empathy toward. 

Mothers, and parents in general, seem to dish out a lot of judgement.  And maybe I notice it more now because I AM a parent now, and yet, not.  I am in a weird, inbetween stage that MAYBE 5% of the population truly understands what it's like to live in.   

And maybe comments are finding their way to my ears now because it's clear that I'm a parent--Or at least I'm going to be a parent.  People tend to look at a pregnant woman as a given--A given that they'll have their baby and raise it through adulthood.  Obviously, right?  If you're noticeably pregnant, you'll have your baby. 

It must be nice to assume that all women just go through labor, and walk away with their baby.  To have a birth plan.  To say, "I'm doing this naturally!  No meds for me!" and then actually do it, and hey!  There's my screaming baby.  How perfect.

Now that I'm about 28 weeks along with Bowie, people talk to me about being pregnant a lot.  I don't mind it with people I know.  But strangers are always a wild card.  Some are perfectly fine, and others stray too far into the "I-don't-know-you-but-I-like-to-pry-and-offer-unsolicited-advice" category a little too easily. 

There are times I wish I had a sign on my forehead that just said "I had a full-term dead baby already.  Please don't talk to me about being pregnant.  Whatever you say to me about it will probably piss me off."

I recently had to have a conversation with someone...a medical professional.  Not my OB or anyone taking care of my pregnancy.  A man.  This man clearly has the perfect life.  From what I know about him, he makes quite a bit of money, just got himself a motorcycle, has two perfect children and a hot wife.  He just moved his oldest daughter off to college, and she's perfect.  His son is pretty obsessed with bodybuilding/healthy eating/"just looking his best!".  This has all come from conversations we've had.  I don't tend to ask much-It's just offered up.

He knows my story.  He knows what happened to me.  He knows I'm messed up about it.  So about a month back, he brings up delivery.  I don't think I've shared how my delivery went last time, but he proceeded to hammer it home to me about how crazy he thinks women are when they just go to the hospital and say "Give me drugs!"  Also about how crazy it is that a lot of women think they can just sit back in a hospital bed, put their feet up and push out a baby.  "That's just not natural!  I mean, gravity!  Think about it!"

I kind of just wanted to throw up in my mouth a little.  Then I said, "Well, I'm pretty much going to do whatever it is my doctor wants me to do to have this baby alive.  Whatever that means.  It doesn't matter to me."

Then he kind of shut up.

I don't care if I have to have a c-section.  I don't care if I'm induced.  I certainly don't care if I get an epidural.  And frankly, I've had one before.  And I was induced before.  And oh yeah, did you even think about the fact that I'VE BEEN THROUGH BIRTH BEFORE?  So how do you even know what my opinions were on it?

Presumptuous.  All of it.  And frankly, people in general seem to miss the entire point.  Did you get to take your baby home with you at the end of the day, whatever sort of interventions you had to have?  You did?

Well great.  You're lucky.  And you're better off than I am. 

I feel like so many people feel free to judge.  Judge women's choices.  Judge whether or not they're good mothers.  Complete strangers feel free to make snide comments to moms in grocery stores about their parenting skills.  Why?  Do you have any idea what it's like to live one second in their shoes?

You don't.  You don't know if that pregnant woman has had a stillborn son like me.  You don't know what it was like for her to go through postpartum healing WITHOUT her child.  You don't know if that woman you call "lucky to be child free!" has been battling fertility her entire life.  You don't know why that girl walking out of Planned Parenthood is crying.  And you don't know her situation. You don't know what that mom with out-of-control kids in the grocery store has gone through to HAVE those kids. 

So stop it. 

It would be lovely if I could have your seemingly perfect life.  But I'm willing to bet money that your life is far from perfect.  And I won't judge you about that.

Being pregnant this time around is the hardest thing I've ever gone through, besides going through the motions of losing Luke.  I guess this is all still part of losing him.  I don't know.  I wish I could be naive again.  To not know the things I know.  But I can only go forward as who I am now.   

Life isn't as clean and tidy as some people make it out to be.  I wish it was, but it's just not. 



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A letter from your Aunt Ali: One year without you

Dear Luke,

How has it been a whole year since we met you for the first and last time? I remember walking into the room after you were born so clearly. There you were, like a little doll in my sister's arms, all swaddled and cozy with the hospital-supplied knit cap on your head, covering your locks of dark hair. Eyes closed. Lips slightly apart, and so red. When I saw them I felt my breath leave my body and I couldn't catch it again. There was no room to breathe. I never in my life imagined I'd meet a stillborn baby, much less my own nephew in my sister's arms. She kept saying, "He's so perfect," and you were. In a state of shock, I kept expecting those eyes to open and those lips to breathe air into your body. Even after hours in the room with you, I couldn't shake the fantasy that you would just suddenly wail the newborn cry that every new parent is desperate to hear. But you remained silent.

I still don't think it really happened some days, when the sun is shining and we're laughing and life seems Normal. The events of that day feel like something I saw in a movie or on a TV show. But I know you were real. I felt you move in my sister's belly as we sat by the pool only three weeks prior to your birth. You weren't just a figment of our collective imagination. I know this because your influence in this world has been so tangible.

Luke, your life, brief though it was, has touched so many lives since that day. You have accomplished far more than the average one-year-old. No, we didn't get to see you smile for the first time, or roll over, or eat rice cereal, or babble, or take your first steps, but we saw you open the hearts of people near and far. They recognized the shared humanity in your loss. It could happen to anyone. Nobody ever wants to be anyone, but there we were. And this truth has resonated with everyone who never thought they could be anyone. For you, how many parents embraced their children a little tighter every night before bedtime? How many of us let the small stuff slide with just a little more ease? How many of us looked at the wonders of our lives with a gratitude we had never genuinely known before? How many of us cherished our loved ones with a newfound tenderness? How many of us decided that we didn't want to put off our dreams for a family any longer?

Your Uncle Andy and I fit into that last category (and all the others, eventually). Your cousin Madeline was born almost two months ago, and she has brought such incredible joy and love to our lives. In fact, you have two cousins now. Ethan was born the day after Maddie. He has your name as his middle name and bears more than a slight resemblance to you. Sometimes I wonder if you sent them to help heal our hearts. They have done that, but at the same time, they've made us realize the magnitude of your loss in ways that I can hardly comprehend. Every milestone we see Maddie reach is also a reminder of something missed, and of how much my sister and brother-in-law lost one year ago.

But I don't know if these two angels would have joined us had it not been for you, Luke. Would we have tried, or would we have waited a little longer? Would we have felt so sure we were ready had our hearts not been so raw and hungry for the love we lost when you left us? Those are questions we'll never know the answers to. But I do know that without you, I would not look at my daughter every day with the same awestruck gratitude and wonder at how such a little miracle came to be in our lives. I needed you to show me that. We can't take anything for granted.

I don't know if I believe in the type of heaven where there are harp-playing angels flying around in the clouds, Luke. But I do believe in the soul's energy and the presence of things we can't see, and I believe you're still with us in a way we can feel, even if our rational minds have other explanations. Sometimes you're in a song that comes on the radio at just the right moment, as you were when I heard Iz's version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" when I was driving to my sister's house the day after you were born last year. For some reason, that song brought me comfort and peace at the height of emotional turmoil. It was played at your memorial service later that week. And I'm certain I've seen you in rainbows twice since then.

The first time was after Andy and I returned from our trip to the UK last October. A double rainbow appeared right over our house. It was almost eerie how it framed our house perfectly and brought a sense of calm after a fall storm. A few days after that, I found out I was pregnant with Maddie. I thought about the rainbows and felt they were your way of announcing the incredible gift on its way.



Another double rainbow appeared over our house this past April. That was the day your mom called to tell me she was pregnant with your sister, who is due to arrive in December. Another incredible gift.


Despite these signs of your presence, the fact is that we miss you terribly. You have left a deep chasm in our hearts. Does it hurt more because we never got to know you? What fond memories of you do we have to look back on? It's so cruel, never having a chance. I've come to accept that you'll always be a part of our lives and hearts, our narratives, as a blank page we wanted so badly to see filled. How you can be so much without ever being here with us is difficult to understand, but isn't that life? Yin and yang, something and nothing, never and forever. Seems we are always stuck somewhere in between.

Love,
Your Aunt Ali


One year.

Because of you, I've had to grow thicker skin and be stronger than I ever knew I could possibly be.

I've had to accept that terrible things happen. To good people, even. And there's nothing you can do to change it or fix it.

I've had to learn how to accept things I never wanted to accept.

I've had to learn to make myself laugh again. To want to live life again. To find joy again.

And I've been forced to learn that all we are given is now. Now is our only guarantee in life. Life will move forward--with or without you--and it's your choice whether or not to go with it and try to be happy with what you're given. But everything can change in a second--Taken from you when you least expect it for no reason at all.

I've realized that while we've been dealt the worst news a parent could hear, I'm still lucky. I haven't had to go through this alone. I'm blessed with family members and friends who have held us up for the past 365 days. They remember you and they aren't afraid to talk about you.

I've learned that the worst can happen...and I can survive. You've taught me that being scared doesn't accomplish anything. Fear won't get you anywhere.

I understand now that watching those who have what you want is easy to be jealous of...but it's far more constructive to do something for yourself than be envious of them.

I'm getting a better grip on becoming who you've made me without losing who I was before. It's a hard balancing act, though.

I wake up thinking about you and I go to sleep thinking about you. About everything that might've been. It's hard to give up on. A year out, and I'm still not sure I've given up on all that I wished for you in this life.

I think I've learned that that's what a parent does--Love their child or children forever--Unconditionally. Here, or in heaven.

This morning I was awake at 5:23am. The exact time you were born. I have no idea how--It must be something in my brain that just knows what my heart is feeling.

I can't believe it's been a year. The hole in my heart hasn't gotten any smaller. I'm not sure if I was expecting it to, but this morning when I woke up, it hurt just as much as those first few days at home without you.

It has gotten easier, but it will never be easy. I'll still miss you forever--every day of my life.

Happy first birthday in heaven, sweet boy. I miss you more than words can ever say ♥

Monday, September 9, 2013

And just like that, you were gone.

On this day one year ago, we heard the horrific news that you were gone. That it was already too late.

Even though I'd woken up with a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach, I waited to go to L&D until a bit before noon. I think part of me knew something was terribly wrong, but I did feel reassured when I got the chance to talk to my doc, who was on call that day, and she told me everything was probably fine, but to just come in anyway to get checked out.

"Who knows?" she said, "Maybe he's ready to come today!"

We dropped off PJ at my parents', thinking we'd maybe just meet Luke that night, and why not? My Dad said goodbye, patted my tummy and told Luke he'd see him soon.

There was the line at check in--that we skipped, and just headed up to L&D anyway. We got there and there was Katye. She was so sweet and amazingly comforting. She told us not to worry--everything would probably be fine. This happens all the time.

But after that was when everything came crashing down.

There was the nurse--first with the doppler. Nothing. Then she left...and came back with another nurse. Still nothing. And I think that's about when things started hitting us--what we were really being told. Then came my doctor. She looked at the ultrasound machine...and I could sense her panic.

That's when the shaking started.

The shivers that come...when you understand the horrific news you're being told, but haven't been told yet. I never want to feel them again.

You were gone. Somehow, they told us. They weren't sure how or why. But we had to find out.

That's the part that I think most people don't comprehend when they hear you've had a stillborn baby. You still have to deliver the baby. You still have to go through everything every Mom who has a living baby goes through. With no reward at the end. Just silence. Then the tears.

I was terrified. I was already terrified to give birth to a baby. How was I going to do this?

I still don't know how I made it through this night, knowing you were already gone. I couldn't have done it without Jeff. Or my family. If anything...they made me feel less alone. But in the end, the terror of it being all on ME to get done...It was cruel.

Thinking about these very hours on this day last year hurts. I never want to feel those feelings again. This was the most painful, torturing day of my life. We waited out the night...waiting for the inevitable.

I was supposed to be excited to meet you--to see what you looked like--FINALLY--after 9 months of carrying you with me.

But now I'd have to also say goodbye to you too. In the same breath, I'd meet you and you'd already be gone.

It all seems surreal, still, how the day unfolded. Unimaginable, really. There are scenarios you play out in your head over and over--happy endings. And then there's the scenarios you would never imagine that suddenly become your reality. That's where we were. A nightmare come true.

We didn't sleep. I dozed to try and gain strength. Thank God for epidurals--it made the pain just a tiny bit less cruel.

It felt like the night would last forever. It really did. Like it would never end.

Or maybe I just didn't want it to end. Because it would mean we were moving farther away from being together. There was no stopping the inevitable, though. The panic set in, and somehow, I survived, without you.

It didn't seem right, but there was nothing anybody could do to change it. You were really gone. I thought maybe by some miracle you might not be--but everything we were told was right.

I will never understand this day. How we could go in thinking we'd have you, and how we could leave without you. In one day. We were discharged from the hospital almost exactly 24 hours after checking in. Everything that happened in those 24 hours was somehow real.

And now here we are at September 9, 2013--Today was nothing like I expected it to be one year and one day ago.

On this day one year ago, a lifelong adjustment of expectations began.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Your heartbeat was still there, then

It's been a year now since we last heard your heartbeat, Luke.

September 7, 2012 was the last appointment we had with our OB. It was perfect, too. Daddy and I were so excited. I was 1cm dilated and 25% effaced. The doc said that you could show up any day. And there were NO worries. I'd tested negative for strep. Your heartbeat on the doppler was right there and perfect. That night after dinner at Chipotle, you were doing flips and I was positive I was going to explode at any minute. I'd finally developed cankles--at 38 weeks, 4 days. I was so thankful I wouldn't have to put up with those for much longer...

There was nothing to alert us that something would be so wrong in less than 48 hours.

That's the part that hurts the most to think about. How blind we were. I was shocked at how simple my pregnancy was up to that point. I called myself lucky.

And then we found out in less than 48 hours that you were gone. With no warning. No potential to save you. It was already too late. I was the unluckiest.

We were supposed to bring you home in your going home outfit--in the carseat we'd just gotten checked--to the bassinet that was passed down through my family for generations. You were supposed to just BE here.

And then you weren't. In an instant.

Thinking about the whiplash of this weekend last year is hard. It will never make sense. How everything could be so perfect, and then so wrong, so quickly...

I will always try to think of something I could have done--to know that you were in trouble. But I can never come up with anything that would have told me a single thing. I've had a year now--to think of something, but nothing lines up.

I will always wish for things to have turned out differently--For the path that our lives should have taken that weekend, instead of the path that we were forced down.

I miss you, Luke. And I wish I had a time machine to go back to this day and then go to L&D and meet you when you were still alive. Before it was too late.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

One week to go...

Until your first birthday, Luke.

I wish I was planning your birthday party right now.  I wonder a lot about what you would be interested in at this point.  What kinds of toys would you pick out at Target?  Would you be walking like a pro yet?  What your favorite foods would be?  How much hair would you have and how big would you be?

Seeing your new cousins develop so quickly makes me realize the vastness of what we missed out on with you.  Everything happens so fast.  They're starting to recognize voices and be more aware of what's around them.  They're starting to react to smiles and laughter.  They're not newborns, already.   

They all seem like small things that happen so quickly.  Most parents kind of just forget that their children could never smile at them or laugh at them in the beginning.   I wish we got anything.

On this very day, one year ago, I was still naive.  I wasn't scarred.  I remember at this point...I'd gotten SO much done to get ready for you.  We'd just finished having our bathroom redone.  Our new insurance had kicked in and I wasn't worried about going into labor early anymore because whatever--It had kicked in!  I was researching where to get our carseat installation inspected, just in case, and made an appointment at the local CHP office.  I'd just started not driving into the office anymore because I didn't want to be far from the hospital in case I went into quick labor.  Jeff had just found out that he passed his comps, and there was no more to worry about because he'd gotten his MPA.  I'd literally written in my journal: "This time next month, we'll be parents. And I'm sure I'll be sleep deprived and delirious. But that's ok. At this point, I feel like we're ready for a change of pace in our lives. It's scary and exciting all at once."

We were so excited to meet you then.  There was so much to look forward to.  We were going to be PARENTS.  Finally.     

We were excited about the life-altering events that were supposed to happen in just a few weeks.  But we never once could have predicted that those life-altering events didn't include bringing you home.  We were in the safe zone--nothing can go wrong at 38 weeks.  Or after that.  Right?

I still can't wrap my head around how all of this happened to me.  To us.  These kinds of tragedies only happened to other people.  How could we have prepared ourselves to bring our son's ashes home instead of a living, breathing child?  

This has been the hardest year of my life--by far.  No one ever plans to lose their child.  I never thought I would know that pain.  But here I am.  Surviving.

I don't really know how, but it's probably because it's the only thing I know how to do.  I changed my calendar at work today, and seeing your birthday written on THIS month brings everything rushing back to the forefront.  An entire year without you. 

I miss you every day.  And I know I will for the rest of my life.  I'm feeling wistful and nostalgic this week.  I wish I could go back to last year and have everything be different.

But there are no genies to grant me three wishes.  Or time machines.  There's just now.  And now, all I can do is do everything I can to keep your memory alive, and do all I can to make sure things turn out different with Bowie.  

I miss you, big guy.

This week, instead of buying Luke a birthday present, I would ask anyone that wanted to to give a donation to his team at OC Walk to Remember. I'd love to break $1000 by his birthday next Tuesday...So if you'd like to help us out, please click the logo here:


Thanks to you all for being there this year. I'm quite sure that it would have been MUCH more difficult without having others' stories and pain to relate to. To feel less isolated means everything to me.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Weird feelings

I think that maybe the hardest part about being pregnant again is dealing with all of the weird thoughts and feelings that any lucky, unscarred pregnant person would never have to deal with.

The other day, I was reading a pregnancy community online.  I used to get a lot of joy doing that when I was pregnant with Luke--Talking and reading about what other moms were feeling/going through made things easier for me to absorb and deal with (not that I even KNEW what was difficult, back then).  But this time around...I feel like an outsider.  I feel like I don't belong there anymore.

The discussion this particular time was talking about what everyone had REALISTICALLY packed in their hospital bag for when they headed to the hospital for delivery.  Everyone who had given birth before was putting in their two cents about what they really used and needed in that bag.

And I bet I was the only person reading that discussion whose heart broke thinking about packing a hospital bag.

I packed my bag for the hospital, obviously--I was 39 weeks when Luke was born.  That day when we went to L&D, I figured I'd take it, since who knew?!  Maybe we'd end up having him that day!

But everything fell apart so quickly.  And in all honesty, I did not use a single thing from my hospital bag.  Except for my soft fluffy slippers that I used because my blood pressure crashed and my feet were freezing.

My stay at the hospital was the complete opposite of almost every other soon-to-be-mom's.

I didn't get to use a going home outfit for Luke.  Or a nursing bra.  Or baby socks.  Or chapstick.  Or even a birthing ball. Or even my birthing plan.  I left that hospital with my hospital bag pretty much intact.  Except with some added paperwork about mortuaries and contact information for a social worker.

I legitimately had something to contribute to that question.  And yet I found myself holding back.  As if my experience didn't count because I didn't get to bring my son home.

Or maybe I held back because I felt like unless my answer included my story...I'd be a liar. And I didn't want to bring down such a happy discussion.  No one wants to hear a Debbie Downer. So I said nothing.

It hurts my heart that I feel like I can't even have input on these discussions.   I'm still a Mom.  I still had a baby.  I went through 13 hours of labor, was given Cytotec, Pitocin, an Epidural, and experienced giving birth to a baby with shoulder dystocia.  Everything about what happened to me was complicated.  And yet I feel like a complete outsider on these discussions because Luke didn't leave the hospital alive with me.

I hate feeling like an outsider.  I know I'm different now, and I would never give up having had Luke to be who I was before. But I feel weird.  Not normal.  There's a peace to being called normal that I never really understood before...but now I understand completely.      

I shy away from these discussions and message boards now. I see what other girls are worried about, and a lot of times I just sigh. That used to be me. 

And I wish it still was. I hope none of them have to understand true worry. Or what it feels like to be an inside outsider. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The unlikeliest of places

I just hugged a TSA agent. 

I've spent the past week up in Portland--visiting my sister and Andy, and spending time with my new niece Madeline. 

It's been an amazing week...and of course, it's a reminder of you, Luke. Seeing my sister bond with Maddie allows me a glimpse into all the scenarios that should have been for us but weren't. 

Anyway, I'm t the airport right now, and I truly give myself a pat on the back for how well I took this entire trip. 

But maybe I'm hormonal. Or emotional from meeting Maddie for the first time. But it kind of just came out. 

I was sort of apprehensive about security up here because they use those body scanners, and I'm pretty against that being pregnant right now. So I was hoping to be sent straight to the metal detectors.

And amazingly, I was!

But I kept setting it off. And I had no idea why. I was empty of everything. And then the guy mentioned that it was probably the underwire in my bra. Dammit. 

So I got sent straight to the pat-down. 

The woman's name was Debra. I could tell right away she was very nice. She explained everything to me that she would do, and then asked about my necklace. 

I told her it was for my son. My son that I lost. And then the tears came. 

And she told me that she lost a son too. 

She asked what his name was and how old he was. And when I told her you were stillborn at 39 weeks, she said, no--you were 39 weeks old. 

Her son was 23 months old when she lost him. When she told me that I burst out in more tears for her. 

All of this while she was doing her job to make sure I was not a threat to airport security. 

We chatted. She was wonderful and told me that she now has 3 grandkids, and while the grief doesn't go away...it hurts less, all these years later. But she told me to never feel bad for grieving. 

And then she hugged me. 

It's strange how our stories bring us together sometimes. Even in the unlikeliest of places. 

So now I sort of feel like a weird hormonal wreck, but I have a plane to catch....

Saturday, August 10, 2013

11 months...or one month away from a year

How have we come to August 10 already?

How has it been almost an entire year since we both met and said goodbye, Luke?

I remember this month last year so well.  We were so busy getting ready for your arrival--we had your baby shower.  And we worked hard on getting all the things that you supposedly NEED for a newborn.  We ordered a rocker from Babies R Us.  And we hoped it'd get here in time for your arrival.

It got here the same day as the last time we heard your heartbeat.  Two days before we lost you.

I don't know where the past year has gone.  So much has changed.  In so many ways, you've caused a lot of that change.  We sold our house, and we just moved into a single story house.  It's awesome and perfect, and I wish you were there with us.

And then there's the fact that I'm 4.5 months pregnant.  We found out about 3 weeks ago that you're going to have yourself a little sister, Luke.  I was torn either way, about what sex this baby would be.  But I think I've come to the realization that I'm glad this one's a girl.  I won't ever ever feel like this baby is replacing you in any way.  You will always be you, and she'll always be herself.  I will have a son and daughter.

What sucks is that we could've had the perfect family--Everyone dreams of having both a boy and a girl and calling it a day.  I know I did.  Now...It is what it is.  We'll always be missing our boy, but we'll have our girl.  Strangers on the street won't know that...and that's what's going to feel the most hollow.

The first year...almost here.

During the next month, I'm going to make it a point to raise money in your name for The OC Walk to Remember.  I hate that we won't be able to spend your first birthday together--eating cake and opening presents.  So this is all that I have left--Raising money to help others who have been put into the same terrible situation as we were with you.

A couple of weeks ago, I received a letter from the Office of Vital Records in Sacramento.  I've been waiting for this letter for a long time.  Since last November, when I submitted the form for your certificate of stillbirth.  I'm sure no one really knows that when your baby is born without a heartbeat,  you don't get a birth certificate.  You walk away with just a death certificate. It's like you were never alive.  And that hurts.  so I submitted for the certificate of stillbirth--mostly because that's all we have left to ask for.  I sent in the form, and the $20 for a copy.

So when I opened that envelope, and saw the sentence "NO RECORD FOUND", obviously, my heart broke.

I was expecting the certificates enclosed.  And I was greeted with that.  No reason why.  Nothing.

I called up the office Thursday.  And I sort of lost it on them.  I asked them how it was possible for me to be receiving it.  We HAVE a death certificate.  How can there be NO RECORD?  No record of your existence that day in the hospital? I gave birth to you at 5:29am on September 10. 

I was given the standard bureaucratic answer.  And then more explanation that broke my heart even more.  There are so few stillbirths in each county, that they're gathered up and submitted by the county they occurred in in one batch every six months.  I must've submitted it on the end of the six month cutoff.  And so your birth/death probably didn't get submitted to Sacramento until the NEXT 6 months cutoff.

When I told him it's been almost a year since your death, he told me that it's possible that Orange County hadn't submitted them for either period, and maybe they'll just submit a year's worth of these records...THAT'S how few there are.

I started choking up when I explained to him that that was disappointing...that I'd hoped to have the certificate for your birthday.  I told him that it hurt to feel like your birth/death wasn't even submitted yet...like it was incredibly unimportant.  Like it never happened.

He said he totally understood and told me he was very sorry...

You were important to us.  So important to us.

It hurts that our situation is so rare, the county doesn't even care enough to submit them very often.  Especially considering how much more this means to me than just a normal parent that gets their alive-child a standard birth certificate.  I understand that they need it more than me.  But I think my heart my need this more then they do.

Anyway.

11 months.  I wish I hadn't learned so much about stillbirth in these past 11 months.  But if there's anything I can do, it's to help raise money for a cause that supported me when I needed it most that day in the hospital and after.

For Luke's first birthday, I'd love to be able to raise at least $1000 for the OC Walk to Remember.  I'm trying to liken this to getting him a first birthday present.  But instead, you'll be helping others in my area and beyond (now that they're associated with the STILL Project) who need this help.  You can find our donation page by clicking the picture below...


And thanks to all of you who have supported us this past year.  It's been a year of a lot of downs, but even some ups.  And we couldn't have done it alone. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Missed out

And with my last entry, not even 24 hours later, I was welcoming my brother and his wife's baby into the world.  Within 48 hours, 2 little lives came into my life--into our family.

I will say that being at the hospital with my brother was a breath of fresh air.  The last time I was there, it was all bad--from start to finish.  It started with fear that something was wrong with Luke.  And ended with me being wheeled out the back door without my baby. 

This time was different.  There were no fears.  Just happiness.  Excitement.  Crying babies, and happy parents.

The flip side is so much better than the side I experienced the first time.  I have hope that this can be our side in December.

But this past week has just been hard.  Everything has changed for the two people in my family I'm closest to.  My siblings are entering parenthood.  Nearly simultaneously.  And watching it unfold is hard on me.

Because it's all that I've missed out on this past 10.5 months.  Everything that was supposed to happen with us and Luke, but didn't.

I don't hold it against them. They're doing what any new parent does.  Exactly what I would have done in September if things had turned out differently.

They're sort of absent from the world--adjusting.  Getting used to feedings and new sleep schedules.  Cries in the middle of the night and wanting to take a shower.

Continued congratulations and pictures and comments from friends who can so identify with you as a new mom.

I never got that.  No one I knew identified with me.  No one should have to.

If they weren't my siblings and the people I'm closest to in this world, I would have hidden them on social media--like I've done to others these past 10 months.  But I can't do that to them.  Because this is my niece and nephew they're talking about.  I have a stake in their lives.  I want to see what's happening with these two-they mean a lot to me--a lot more than other people who have had kids since Luke.

This was the part that I feared the most--the aftermath of their pregnancies.  The part where our experiences no longer crossed paths.  And it sucks.  I could keep up with their pregnancies--I made it all the way to the end, just like they did.  But now, they're experiencing a whole new set of events and emotions that I never got to experience.

I don't know how much worse this would be, if I weren't actually pregnant right now myself.  I feel that it might have been torture.  I don't know, but I'm relieved that it's not.  I actually have something--for us--to look forward to.  Thank God.  I know that I'm not far behind.

But I should have been ahead of them.  And I'm just sad.  Mostly just sad for myself.  Not mad at them.  Just sad that this happened to me and Jeff and Luke.  

The good thing...is that the sight of those two babies brings me happiness.  I wasn't sure how that would go, but that's another relief--that I don't feel bitterness toward them for being born.

My brother and his wife named their son Ethan.  Ethan Luke.  When my brother told us on Sunday that it was a boy, I threw a party inside, because I knew that was what they were going to name him if he turned out to be a boy...and a really big part of me wanted to know for sure that Luke's name would have life.  And now it does. 

And with all of this swirling around so quickly--I think it IS doing something to me that makes me more confident about this baby.  That Bowie WILL be born and be fine.

Which is more than I could ask for right now.

We find out if Bowie's a boy or a girl on Wednesday.  We're in the middle of packing up our house to move the last week of this month.  So much is changing.  But right now, I'm looking forward to all of it.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

The things I wish I didn't know firsthand


I wish I didn't know that you can go through 9 months of pregnancy...with ZERO problems...and STILL lose your baby.

What it felt like to wake up panicked because I "just had a feeling" that something was wrong.

What it felt like to be induced for labor.  Or have an epidural.  Knowing that there would be no crying baby to greet me at the end.

The shivers that come when you're told that your baby has no heartbeat.

I wish I didn't know that they post a picture of a falling leaf on your door at the hospital when your baby has died.

How to come to terms with the fact that all the hopes and dreams and plans for the future would just...need to be erased.  

What it felt like to get wheeled out the back door of the maternity floor so as not to see "happy people."

What it was like LEAVING that hospital without my baby.

The ins and outs of mortuaries and arranging funeral services.

The pain of having to tell everyone I knew that we lost him. What it feels like to not get to announce something that everyone seemingly sees as a given when they find out you're pregnant and make it to the end. 

What it feels like to carry a full-term baby...that had already died.

I wish I didn't know what death felt like inside of me.  Or to be haunted by the memories of putting our hopes and dreams for you aside.



I wish I was new.  Unscathed.  Naive.  I wish my innocence wasn't shattered last September. 

I wish my first experience of motherhood was like seemingly everyone else's:  Filled with balloons and crying babies and sleepless nights and pictures and happy posts on Facebook and growing up and a lifetime of memories.

I was robbed of all of that.

And now I'm going to go through this again.  With a different perspective.  One that's deeply rooted in fear, but also deeply rooted in optimism that this time HAS to be different.  Because lightning can't strike you twice.  Because what happened to Luke was against almost all odds.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I wrote this about a month ago.  And everything I wrote just stung my heart even more today.

Today, your first cousin was born, Luke.  Madeline Ainsleigh.  She is perfect.  Beautiful.  And best of all, alive.

When Ali texted me late Thursday night to tell me she was going into labor, I felt the entire gamut of emotions.  Fear.  Happiness.  Pity for myself. Tears.

Yesterday I made it through the day with a rock in my stomach.  Waiting.  Waiting for my sister to get the ending that everyone should get for their pregnancy.  Deep down I knew everything would be fine.  They rarely aren't fine, right?  But then I felt that extreme loneliness that you feel when you join this shitty club.

Luke was still gone.  And Ali would get to have her first baby. And she did.  And all was well with the world.  Thank God.

I wish that the rest of my life wouldn't be tainted by this sadness that I have for what happened to me.  Today when I heard the news that Madeline was born and she was fine and healthy, I can't explain the relief that ran through my veins.  Happiness for another niece to spoil. Relief that she was alive and born without problems.  Relief that Ali was fine.  Relief that it was over for now.  Relief that...Ali didn't have to go through what I went through.

I'm going to go through this all over again sometime this coming week when my brother and Lauren have their baby.

And then again, when I have Bowie in December.  Except then, I'll be in the driver's seat again.  

The loneliness...struck again today.  I hadn't felt it in awhile, but there it was.  I thought back to the day we came home from the hospital after leaving Luke.  Led through the back halls of the hospital.  Emptyhanded.  Empty-carseated.  I remember that feeling of extreme isolation.  That no one I knew--Not a single person--Understood what it felt like to deliver their full-term baby after they already knew he was gone.

I know I'm in a different place now.  I've found my people.  You're all here.  You live all over the place.  My therapist is even one of them.  And I can't describe what a relief THAT is.  This isolation is one that you don't want to be in...and you don't want OTHERS to be in.    But you want nothing else but to NOT be the only one that knows these feelings.  These feelings are so thick, they can choke you on a daily basis.  There's no control over them, because they're maternal and wild, and so ingrained in human beings.

And in some ways, I don't think anyone can understand just how thick these feelings are until they are the ones giving birth.  Mothers.

We take life for granted.  One of my sister's friends who was at the hospital in Portland with them last night, texted with me, and she told me that while she was sitting there in the waiting room, a group of teenage boys walked into the waiting room.  And one was a baby's daddy who was being delivered as well.  He wasn't in the delivery room with his baby.  She told me she heard him saying that his life was over.  Everything was over for him.

And it made both of us so angry.  Life isn't fair.  There was a boy--A literal boy--Who probably got to see his baby and hear that baby cry last night.  He wasn't ready to be a father.  He clearly doesn't even understand what he's just been given.

It's not fair that he got to meet his baby and we didn't.

But I hope he one day understands just how lucky he is.  And I hope he never has to understand the pain of losing that child--no matter how much he thinks his life may be over because of it.

Remember...
 Life's a beautiful thing
And it's a gift
And life's a beautiful thing

Oh don't waste it, doll

Thank you Ali and Madeline...for showing me, again, that babies can be born fine and healthy.  I needed that affirmation more than you knew.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

10 Months? How?

The other day in therapy, it really hit me how close to the 1-year mark we are, Luke. 

Almost one entire year without you.  Almost one entire year that your existence has been missed.  Greatly.

10 months feels like an eternity.  And at the same time, these past ten months were crystal clear in my memory.  It's like my brain is working overtime trying to magnify and remember the short, fleeting moments we got to spend together. Because the farther away we get from September 10, 2012, the less discernible those moments will become.  And so I feel like I have to do all I can to remember.  To keep those memories for the rest of my lifetime.

These next few weeks are going to be an emotional rollercoaster for me.  Both of your cousins are due to be born soon.  I should be chasing a 10-month old who's probably crawling around, but instead, I will be waiting for their calls...packing up our condo to move...and wishing that you could be here to meet them and experience all of this change that's happening in our lives.  But it's going to be without you.  Your cousins will never get to meet you or know who you are.

But that's not going to stop us from celebrating you.  I want to make you a first birthday cake in September. Like I would have if you were here.  

Your first birthday is going to be here before I know it. I'm not making plans about how I'll feel, but if there's one thing I know, it's that this pain in my heart is never going to go away. It will dull, I'm sure.  It already has. But it will never be gone. And I don't want it to be. 

I miss you. Even knowing that we'll have another baby soon doesn't change that. I'll always miss you. You can count on that. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

All the things we'd hoped for, for you in life, Luke...

But were shattered by your death?

We get to pass them onto someone else.

You're going to be a big brother.  Sometime this December.

I know that some people might think that by having another baby, we'll be "fixed". That our hearts will be mended. Because we'll finally walk away with a living breathing baby. 

But this doesn't fix anything. The hole you left in our lives and hearts will always be in my heart. We'll always be missing a child at the dinner table. My "oldest" child in this world will not truly be my oldest child, and from an outsider's perspective, their point of view will always be incorrect.

The questions have already started this time around...

"Is this your first?!  No?  How old is your oldest?!" (This has already happened)

I've told myself that I will not lie.  I've already had to put on the anti-liar hat and say things to complete strangers that I'm sure were not the careless answers they expected to this question.  This child is our second, and you were our first, Luke.  And you always will be.  Nothing can change that order.  I think about just how much we're missing by not having you here with us.  I think about the fact that I'm the oldest sibling in my family. What would my family be like if I weren't still here?

It's things like that that are hard to grasp.  We'll never know what we're missing about you.

But this little baby...has already given me hope.  The worst has already happened with you.  It can't possibly happen again.

So we'll get to have a new version of our family.  I wish you could be here with us at Christmas when we welcome this little one...but I know you'll be watching to make sure everything goes right.

In a way, that's a comfort--I have you, up there...to watch over me--to make sure this goes right.

I wish we had years and years to grieve your death.  But our time here is short, and you've shown me that.  But you've also made me a Mom.  And I guess it makes me special that I'll have one angel watching over me, and I'll have one here with me on Earth.

Now all we have to do is get through the next 5ish months.

I've been writing a few entries before we wanted to let this out of the bag...So those will probably be up in the next few days...


Baby's nickname is Bowie.  As in...Rainbow Baby.  But also...it connects to Luke.  My sister and I nicknamed Luke Jemaine in the womb.  From Flight of the Conchords--mostly because we thought it was an awesome name to never use.  But Jemaine appears as David Bowie in a dream that Bret has....and, it all just seemed to fit...So until this one has a real name...It's sticking.

Monday, June 17, 2013

OC Walk to Remember 2013

It's official--The OC Walk to Remember is scheduled for October 5, 2013, and you can bet your bootie that Luke's Skywalkers will be representing this year. There are two things you can do to help us support this amazing organization that has helped not just Jeff and I, but MANY others across Southern California who have dealt with the loss of their babies. First, you can help us fund raise. Our goal is to raise at least $3500 in Luke's name this year. We want to thank ALL of you that contributed to our amazing, recordbreaking effort last year, and hope you'll help us again this year.

If you'd like to contribute to our team this year, please see our fundraising page below. Any amount you can give is GREATLY appreciated and truly helps families struggling with their losses. Again--Thank you to ALL of you that helped us spread the word about the OC Walk last year. Let's keep that momentum going this year ♥ Feel free to share this link with any friends you have, near or far.


http://www.active.com/donate/2013ocwalk/LukesSkywalkers2013
  
SECONDLY, if you'd like, registration for doing the ACTUAL 5k Walk in Tustin this October is open and ready to go! If you'd like to register for that now, you can do that here: https://www.active.com/register/index.cfm?CHECKSSO=0&EVENT_ID=2101402

 If you'd like to do the walk with our team, be sure you pick Luke's Skywalkers from the dropdown list when it asks for your Team Name  :)

As always, thank you ALL for your wonderful support.  It hasn't been an easy journey for us, but I can now say that the load is easier to bear with so many amazing friends, family, and even complete strangers helping ease our burden from near and far.  Love to you all.

Monday, June 10, 2013

9 Months, and Getting ready to sell...

We've been getting our condo prepped the past few days to put on the market to sell.

There's a mix of emotions happening for me right now...

Obviously, our realtor asked us to declutter our house.  I knew this was coming...but the extent to which we really needed to go didn't really hit me till last week, as I sat boxing up things and putting them away.

The pictures on our built-in--Of the 3 of us at the hospital.  Your teddy bear that holds your ashes.  The rose from the OC Walk to Remember that we dried.  It's all still out.

And I somehow have to put most of this away for now.

I understand the reasons, and I have gotten it put away.  But pulling it all down right that second made me cry.

This is where our story began.  And soon (hopefully), we'll be moving forward to somewhere else.  It's all for the best, I know that deep inside. But giving it up to get there is a hard notion to come to grips with.

I opened the drawers in your dresser, Luke.  It's doing things like that that make me cry and miss you the most.  I don't do it very often.  It holds the most tangible things that were supposed to be part of your existence.  Socks.  Hats.  Swaddlers.  Tiny shoes.

It's so unfair--how we have so many things meant for a baby who will never arrive. How we just can't know if we'll get to use any of your things in the future. 

How wrong it will feel giving these things to anyone else--even a sibling.

There are books on your bookshelf that we were supposed to read to you.  But now they'll be your brother or sister's someday, hopefully.  

It still hurts that you never got the chance to see any of it.  Especially because all of it was picked out specifically for you.

Taking down your Star Wars mobile that's hanging from the ceiling is probably going to be the hardest part.  I don't know why, but it's probably because it was the first handmade gift that one of my very best friends made for you.  I remember thinking about how excited I was when Kelly sent that to us--that everything was finally coming together--and this piece--it was SO PERFECT.  In every way.  I haven't gotten to that part, yet.

It all just feels so empty now.  The love is still there, but it's different.

I'll be sad to move out of our condo sometime soon.  But at the same time, I'm happy to move forward.  Hopeful.  I know that many things will never change being here.  Our neighbors will always be terrible.  This will never be a good condo to have a child in.  And you will always be gone.

But to start somewhere fresh, moving forward as who we are now, with you in our hearts, feels like the most right thing to do.  So while I will miss everything that we've created here for our family (that includes you), I know that we can take you with us anywhere, always.  

I can't believe it's been 9 months.  It feels like eternity at this point.  So much of life has moved forward. 

I fear what this will feel like 3 months, 1 year, even 10 years from now.  Because I'm scared that I'll feel so far away from having lost you.  That day in September was our only day together.  And I'm scared I'll somehow forget it. 

Rational-Me knows that's impossible, though.