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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.