Monday, December 12, 2016

Three years

It's hard to believe that it's only been three years since Lena was born. So many times I feel like she's been ours forever because the days can be so long and trying. But three years? That's nothing. 

I sometimes wonder if she'll ever understand how much she healed me. How she changed me. In some ways how she saved me from being a completely hopeless soul. I hope someday she understands how she breathed life back into me...just by being born alive. 

I don't know who I would be today if she weren't here. She's exactly everything I needed to live through my grief. To help me carry it. 

I'm not a perfect parent. Not by a mile. I have a lot of help in molding who she turns out to be. And  somehow, this little girl has grown into an amazing person. She's beyond smart. I don't even know how. She's a sponge who absorbs everything--language, tasks, how to ride a trike. She's empathetic and caring, and even though she can be a total asshole (like all toddlers), she knows how to show love and kindness to other people. She's funny and witty and her laugh makes me laugh. 

I feel like I'm finally able to step back and see who she's turning out to be, and every day, I'm blindsided by how lucky I am to be her mama. 

She may never be potty trained, but there's always Depends, and I'd buy them for her if I had to. 

Tonight I put my three-year old to bed for the first time. I've been parenting a living child for three years. There's been so many ups and so many downs...but I'm trying everyday to remember to give her everything that I couldn't give her brother. For him and for her. 

I feel like I fail them a lot of times...but I guess that's probably a constant feeling all parents have, right?

Anyway. Happy third birthday, my Lena Bowie. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

That time of year.

It's so strange to me, how I can so distinctly tell what time of the year it is by how the sun is.

I think I write about it every year at this time, but the color in the sky is changing right now. And it's the same sign every year...It's the season that was coming when we were supposed to take you home, Luke.

And every year since we lost you, it's the change in season that reminds me that you're still gone. I mean, I think about you being gone every day. But when the days get shorter, and the sun shines a little bit differently in the sky like it does when summer's ending, that's when the reminder hurts the most.

Four years ago at this change in seasons, we had so much hope for your future. We were so naive and we had no idea that something so life-altering was just about to happen to us.

If only we could have seen what was coming...if only we could have known that we'd lose you. We could have changed things--We could have gone to the hospital sooner and maybe things could have turned out different. Maybe we'd be celebrating your 4th birthday soon.

I wish that I could go back to being as hopelessly naive as I was at this time four years ago. In so many ways, I'm jealous of people who haven't had to live through really hard things. Why am I the person that had to be brave? That had to figure out how to keep living without my first child? I know there are plenty of others who've also had to do hard things. But I wish none of us did. I was a stupid first time mom worrying about whether the nursery was going to be done in time for when the baby arrived.

The other day I heard Muse's song Madness on the radio...and it took me back. The day we left the funeral home after Luke's service...I remember that song came on, as we were pulling out of the driveway on our way home to live the rest of our lives with that behind us (or maybe, in front of us, too). I remember thinking how absurd it was...We just held a funeral for our first baby. OUR baby. The one who made us parents. I...I can't get these memories out of my mind... I know the song mostly doesn't pertain, but some of it? Eish. Who has to plan funerals for their own babies?!

This week, I've noticed just how much Lena and Lainey look EXACTLY the same. Like, in pictures without context, I can't tell them apart. And then I think about the photos I have of his tiny baby casket. And every night when I'm getting ready to put Lainey down into her crib for bed, I see him. Barely, anymore though. She's growing out of looking like a baby. And with that...there won't be anymore reminders of how his siblings looked like him. Luke will always be a newborn and Lena and Lainey will grow into girls and ultimately, women. 

I sometimes wonder if Luke would have looked different from the girls as he got older. Would he have been the one that looked different? Or would the three of them look exactly the same? It's an unfair question that will always nag me, because none of it makes sense. No one should look at their third baby sleeping and see their dead firstborn. No one should have to think about not having their second or third child because the first one died. 

I realize now that all of that will end soon. At six months, Lainey is growing into her own person. And all I still have of Luke are photos in a casket. And that's all there will ever be. 

And four years out, that still stings. 

Four. Years. You should be four.  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Dear Finn...

How much more heartache can one family take?

Actually, I don't want to know the answer to that question. 

When I got the call Monday morning telling me that you were already gone, I was shocked. Shocked. 

To be honest...I thought we'd already met the statistics. Babies just don't die that often after the second and third trimester. I mean...the people that I've met that it's happened to? I know them because of Luke. Those are the types of circles I run in. 

But you were MY nephew. This wasn't supposed to happen to us again. We already paid our dues. We already lost Luke. 

First was the shock. Then the tears came flooding back. Every thought I had that day we were told Luke was gone ran through my head again. How? When? Did he struggle? What happened? He has to be delivered! When? 

Oh my god. 

Except this time, I knew what was coming. Because these are the circles I run in now. I know people who've been through this at all stages of pregnancy. 20 weeks. 34 weeks. 42 weeks. How fucked up is it that I know these things? That I knew Finn probably wouldn't be considered a stillborn at 19 weeks + a few days. That that MATTERS. That I knew he'd have to be delivered the hard way. That questions about autopsies and mortuaries were coming. 

I got to the hospital, and watched again as hearts broke each time a new person walked through the door. This time, there were new faces. But the pain was all the same. 

We'd have to wait for Lauren to start labor. Which is absurd when you're just 20 weeks. This journey would take much longer than ours meeting Luke. But it was still so unfair. 

No mama should ever have to give birth to death. To their own, much-wanted baby. To silence. 

Soon enough, it was Wednesday. And things were still progressing slowly. I called a photographer, knowing there was no way my brother could possibly document any of what was coming--no matter how talented of a photographer he may be. 

We waited at the hospital for hours. And soon enough, you were here. At 9:41pm on July 20, you were born. With the cord wrapped too tightly around your neck. 

When we heard the news about your cord, heart felt like it stopped. How? How could we have lost you to a cord accident too? We already HAVE a cord loss in our family. How was this possible? At 20 weeks? How is it possible that two out of seven babies in my immediate family have died before birth from a cord accident? 

What I know is that we will likely never have an answer. 

What I know is how to survive this. How to work to remember you. How to be there for your parents. Who to call at the mortuary. When to bring cookies. 

I will never understand this. It will always haunt me. It will always be absolutely absurd that my family has had to go through the death of two babies. It will never be ok and no matter how much I've been able to help others through this, I'd trade it all to just have both of you here, somehow. 

The paths that are paved for us by life change so much about who we come to be. We didn't choose the path that brought us Luke, then Lena and Lainey. And we would never have chosen this for you, Finn. You were supposed to be Lainey's BFF. Like E and Lena. And now all of those dreams will be tucked away with our dreams we had for Luke. 

I still have a hard time putting away those dreams, 4 years later. I'm starting to wonder if I'll ever stop wondering, but I'm positive the answer is that I won't. Now we're short two boys in our family. Which seems like a gaping hole at this point. 

I mean, we've been through enough right? 

I'm still in disbelief. I still can't believe we're surviving this again. How can you really be gone too?

I know you and Luke will be BFFs, wherever you are. In some ways, it's comforting to believe that the two of you are traveling whatever forms you might be in. Maybe now your lights will be twice as bright... 

I love you, always, sweet Finn. You were perfect. And so, so, so loved. 

I hope you know that--wherever you are. 

All my love, 
Auntie Jen

(And Heather...there aren't enough thank yous for this picture. We needed it so much. You're the best BFFBLM I could ask for.)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Waiting on someone that just won't show

About 4 years ago, I bought these navy Carter's rock star jammies. 

For my son, who was supposed to be born on September 17, 2012. 

I loved everything about them. They were boyish and cool--I found so many boy clothes to be so cliche. I wasn't into trucks and cars, but I could 100% get behind these. 

Four years ago, we were also at Coachella. I was about 18 weeks pregnant, and it was Jeff's 39th birthday. It was so, so, so friggin hot (I vaguely remember it being about 110 degrees F), and I felt SO pregnant. The day before we left, though, we had our anatomy scan, and there was nothing as exciting in our lives as finding out what the sex of our first child would be. A boy, they said! I'll admit that I was disappointed at first--I'd always wanted a daughter first--like me! But I was also so happy. Because of this: 

Jeff was so so excited for that little boy to come. I was too--it just took me a little longer to grasp. 

We bought those footies and that Coachella shirt for a little boy that seemed like such a given. We made it to the second trimester! Obviously he'd be wearing the clothes we bought for him soon! In a matter of months!

These two articles of clothing will always be Luke's. I just never anticipated that he'd never wear them, but his two sisters would. 

These are the things that still haunt me. 

I put these pajamas on Lainey a few weeks ago. And while it's comforting now to put my baby in them, I still long for the one baby that they were first intended for. Unfulfilled wishes and dreams...I'm relieved that they didn't sit unused, forever. But it's still not fair. I still wish I had a picture of him wearing these. 

You were so, so wanted, Luke. You still are. You will always be. 

In the beginning, there was nothing more painful to me than to look at Luke's dresser and closet--full of clothes, just waiting for him to wear them. It was the ultimate neverending nightmare. 

Waiting on someone that just won't show...and every night it seems like there's no tomorrow, not that you'll ever know...

What would i do with them if he was never coming back? 

I was forced to pick one thing--one item of clothing--for him to wear at his family viewing and then to be cremated in. Babies don't wear suits in a coffin, do they? Pajamas were pretty much all we had. Who even has to think of these things? Do you have any idea what a terrible, horrific, painful choice that is to make when he'd literally never worn a goddamn piece of clothing in his life? I picked out a different footie pajama--one that said "Mommy Loves Me". Because I couldn't bring myself to part with this one thing of his

Because I'd already allowed myself to see him in it in my head...and if he wasn't gonna be in it...I just couldn't let it go. 

And I don't think I ever will. At this point, both of his sisters have spit up and pooped through it. But it was always his. And the same goes for the Coachella shirt. It was always meant to be his. 

The other day I thought about what I was going to do with the baby clothes. We're done having babies. But Luke only had baby clothes. And literally ALL of them hold a pretty special place in my heart. But it's not like I would have kept them all if he'd lived. So why would I keep them all now? Because I have so little left of his presence? That's probably why. 

I still don't know my answer to this question. I'm probably going to put them back into the box they came from and sit on it for awhile.

But these two things are going in the special box of his things. Waiting for a little boy that will never come. Whose sisters' faces look just like his did. 

Cruel and beautiful. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

March 10.

I wrote this on March 10. This month has been crazy and trying and so so hard, but I'm finally getting around to posting this. 

First things first. 

Last Friday, we welcomed Lainey Ruth to the family. 

Today was supposed to be the day--her big brother's would-be 3.5 year birthday, but she had other plans for us too. At this time last week, I had no idea that would be the last night I was pregnant. 

Friday morning, we had our NST and fluid check at the hospital. We've had a few NSTs that didn't go as easily as I'd hoped. So Friday morning, we got there, and hopped straight into the fluid check ultrasound. So far, fluid had always been alright. But I could tell right away that Patty didn't like something she saw. I could see there didn't seem to be many pockets around where baby was. The good thing was that I could still feel her moving. Thank. God. But fluids had dropped from about a 12 the week before to about a 4 that day. They'd dropped a lot, and I had no idea why. 

Patty went to check with the doc, came back in, and said, "well, looks like you're having this baby today!" They didn't see any reason to let my fluid drop any further, especially considering the c-section was scheduled for that week anyway. 

I'd eaten breakfast that morning, and that bought us about 6 hours to go and get as ready as possible. Considering I hadn't packed a single thing for the hospital, that was one thing I was thankful for. 

We ran home, called family to let them know what was going on, and packed for ourselves and Lena (who was staying with Nana and Gropa while we were in the hospital). Then at 3:30, we headed back to the hospital. I cried when we left Lena. She wasn't going to be alone anymore. She was finally going to have a sibling. Here. With us. 

Getting there was a relief. I was so relieved to not have to worry about movement anymore. Not have to stress about the NSTs. This was it. The last hours of being pregnant. Forever. I think that was the one emotional thing that hit me the hardest. I was happy...but so so sad. This was really it. And I hadn't really mentally prepared for it to happen on that exact day. 

I realize I sound crazy, saying I wasn't ready at 38 weeks and 1 day. But both Luke and Lena were born at exactly 39 weeks, and this one was supposed to be that way too. So in my head, it would obviously happen. And it didn't. 

But again, relief was coming. And quicker than I thought it would. 

They hooked me up to the monitors, and apparently I was already having contractions 4 minutes apart? Nothing painful, but at that moment, I was so glad about Patty's call to send us in that night. I might've gone into labor at any moment that weekend, and with my high pain tolerance, who knows when I would've made it to the hospital. And who knows what might've happened if my fluid levels got lower and were unmonitored. At that point, I was so glad to be there. 

Everyone there was awesome. It wasn't busy in L&D that night, so everyone was amazing. At 5:30, it was time. I walked to the OR first, got my spinal from the same anesthesiologist who was there with Luke and Lena, and we rolled from there. Jeff came in before I knew it, and they'd started. 

Jeff told me when they were about to pull her out, and the first thing I heard was crying. Sweet, sweet noisy baby cries. That moment was bittersweet with Lena and it was still bittersweet this time, knowing what the flip side of that scenario is all too well. 

And then the best part was that not only did I get to see her, but I got to have her do skin-to-skin in the OR. I felt her heart beating. She was moving and reacting to being born! It was perfect. 

She was a perfect 9 pounds, 21.5 inches. My last baby. 

We got wheeled back to recovery altogether, and everything was a blur. She nursed like a champ off the bat, and all the testing was fine. And I couldn't believe that was it. I was done. We have our girls and we have Luke in our hearts. I wish it felt more complete, but I know this is it. And we'll never really feel complete. 

It was in recovery that we settled on her name. We kept with the Ls. And she has my mom's middle name. 

I'm not sure when it will all settle in...that this is our family now. That we've moved on to the next phase of our lives...but I'm so so relieved that we made it here this time without anymore heartache. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Thoughts that I bet you haven't had

It's official. One month from today, I'm scheduled to have rainbow baby #2.

Coincidentally, March 10 is Luke's half birthday every year. And it's also the day I went back to work after Lena was born.

Everything is sort of swirling around right now--Going by so fast that I can hardly absorb what happens. I suppose that's what life is like for most people with toddlers and full-time jobs and friends and houses to take care of. Part of me feels like this pregnancy went by too fast. So fast that I could hardly absorb what was going on.

But then another part of me feels like I've been pregnant forever. Maybe that's why I'm not absorbing what's going on--because this all just feels like normal to me. I've been pregnant for nearly 4 years straight. Pregnant feels like my normal. And there's a huge part of me that's just relieved that this chapter will be closing soon. That soon, pregnancy won't even be a thought for me.

I knew, going into having Luke, that we'd like to have at least one other child. I don't think that I had any idea that having three children would take this kind of toll on me, though. I never could have predicted what happened to Luke. That I'd walk away from 9 months of pregnancy with no child to show. That I'd have to grieve death while pregnant and hopeful to take my next child home. And then that I'd have to have three just to hold two...

I feel like I'm falling apart, physically. Some of that's probably my age, but it's also having had carried 2 children that were both over 9.5 pounds and another that's yet to be determined within such a short time frame. It's just...a lot. I'm tired.

Thinking about being at the hospital with this baby this time, I'm a bit more excited than apprehensive. But there's always something lurking that has to sort of rain on my parade. I thought about getting Lena something cute to wear to the hospital when little sister arrives. Most people can just go and order a cute shirt that says "Big Sister" on it (for the big sister) and a tiny onesie that says "Little Sister", or something like that and call it a day.

I've been sitting on this one for over a week now. Because I feel stuck. Last time, we didn't have a child to bring to the hospital. But we brought Luke's teddy bear, and we felt OK with that. Like he was there with us.

This time, I'm torn about this stupid shirt situation. What do I get Lena? A shirt that says "Middle Sister"? "Big Sister" also applies, but it kind of also doesn't take into account that Luke existed. And then I thought about getting something to put on his teddy bear (which, again, things no one should even have to think about--dressing up a teddy bear that signifies your dead son?). But then it gets worse. Because you know what? They don't make "Big Brother" shirts in sizes smaller than 6 months. I really haven't seen anything smaller than an 18 month sized shirt.

Because, oh yeah. Big Brothers are never supposed to be smaller than their Little Sisters. Except when they died and you're dressing a teddy bear in his likeness.

These are the sort of fucked up things that I still deal with, 3.5 years out.

It doesn't stab me in the heart like it used to...It just makes me wistful that it's a problem that I've thought about.

Maybe I'll just end up making something myself. Because obviously the profit margin on tiny "Big Brother" shirts made to fit teddy bears isn't high enough for anyone to want to produce them...