Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hope

We’ve all read the poem by Emily Dickinson: “Hope is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul, …

For me hope is what I am relying on right now. It’s been one month since Charlotte died and all I can think about is the next baby. I have read that it takes most women four years to process the loss of a child. I am young, but I am not waiting four years before trying to get pregnant again. And really can one ever process the loss of a child? (Especially here in America where we can’t believe babies die. Oh this hubris, this pride. It always trips us up doesn’t it?).

I am battered, bruised and bloody, but I’m not willing to leave the ring yet. One more round, one more fight, and if I lose this one I will definitely walk away. I need to go through the entire process again or else I will never be able to get back to a recognizable me. And, okay, yes I will never get back to exactly who I was before, but I need at least some semblance of that person to step forward into this new landscape with me.

I need to know I can go into labor, make it through labor, deliver a baby, and have the baby live. See, it’s that essential last part that eludes me. If I can just slot that last piece into place I will feel a little more whole, a little less broken.

Of course a second baby won’t replace Charlotte. She or he will be entirely different, entirely new. And the poor thing will live in the belly of someone on the edge of losing it for nine months. Gone will be the happiness, the casually tossed out “when the baby comes ..” The next baby will be the if baby and I am very sorry it has to be this way.

I am giving myself time to heal and then the month will arrive when we will try again. When I told my midwife when I wanted to try conceiving again she said, “What? How many months is that? What month is this?” and started counting the months out on her fingers.
“Is it a bad idea to do it?” I asked
“Physically or emotionally?”
“Physically.” I don’t need her telling me it’s going to be rough emotionally. I’ve already figured that one out on my own.
“You’re young, you’ll probably be fine. But it won’t be as easy as your first pregnancy. You will be very tired. You will feel like you have the gestational period of an elephant.” (18 months for those of you who don’t know). “And you need to eat really well. Stay on the Floradix, keep taking prenatal vitamins. You should be fine.”
“I don’t think I will get pregnant as fast as I did with Charlotte.”
“You probably will. There’s no problems with your fertility.”

That’s the thing though. I don’t really trust my body anymore. Somewhere during the birthing process there was a communication breakdown and my baby was born distressed, gray, and limp. I no longer believe a healthy pregnancy equates a healthy baby. I believe in one day at a time, one heart beat at a time, and maybe, just maybe, the next baby will live.

A lot of baby loss mamas get pregnant soon after their loss. I think if we waited we wouldn't lose our desire to have a baby, but we may lose the courage to face another pregnancy. The possibility of another dead baby would overwhelm us and we would surrender to the fear.

So right now is the waiting period. I am waiting to heal physically, waiting for that magical month to roll around. For now I eat for the next baby, I wake up for the next baby, I exercise for the next baby, I get through each day for the next baby.

And on the horizon I can see a little glimmer of hope, a rainbow stretching off into the sky.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Glad it's over

I've been dreading this day. First of all it's the 14th, one month since Charlotte's birth date (and death date). There really should be a better term for that. Second, I had to head to Portland for a visit with the nurse practitioner who took over for my endocrinologist when he moved to Indiana in January. (For those who don't know I miss Dr. G and I wish he would've stayed in Oregon. I cried when I received his announcement in the mail. He is the best doctor I have ever had).

When I arrived at the office there was a new receptionist who could not figure out my insurance. I was getting really frustrated and annoyed but I worked on breathing in and out and managed not to scream at her. She would look at the card, look at me, sigh and say "Look, I'm not very good with insurance. Can you tell me what to do here?" After three rounds of this, with me informing her that it was new insurance and I didn't know what to do, she called the company. The receptionist spent a long time on the phone and I even heard her snap "Help me out here!" before she hung up the phone and announced that my co-pay was $20.00. If I would've known that's what she couldn't figure out I could've helped her since the co-pay is written on the card.

After the insurance debacle I was desperate to see a familiar face. The door to the inner office opened and who should step out? My favorite nurse. She has a big booming voice and calls me Miss Angela. Granted, five years ago when I first started visiting this office she checked me in as a diabetic instead of a thyroid patient. Now every time I see her she asks if I am there to have my thyroid checked. She is a nice nurse and the only familiar face in the office now that Dr. G is gone.

I was nervous about seeing the nurse practitioner so my pulse was up as well as my blood pressure. When the nice nurse asked me if I was under stress I said yes, but managed to hold it together. We scoffed at the office making me fill out a new patient form since I have been a patient there for 5 years and then she told me the nurse practitioner would be in soon.

A few minutes later the nice nurse poked her head back in and asked if the CBC she had received from the birth center was the only lab work and why it was taken. Then I fell apart. I said, "I don't know, my baby died," and started wailing. Nice nurse rushed into the room, hugged me and let me cry.

The visit pretty much went downhill from there. I met the nurse practitioner, she was pleasant, and I cried a bit. I had to talk about when Charlotte died and how I was feeling and it sucked and I just wanted to go home. Once the nurse practitioner was finished, nice nurse came back in and did a blood draw. She took two vials which made me think about how much iron I will have to take to replace those red blood cells.

Then I had to schedule a 3 month follow up visit. The receptionist cheerfully offered the 14th of September but I asked for any day other than that. Charlotte should be 4 months old on the 14th of September and I'm planning on spending that day in a deep, dark cave.

I drove home from Portland, put the dog in the yard, grabbed the circus animal cookies Rachel brought over soon after Charlotte died and curled up in my corner on the couch. I survived the day, but I need some recovery time now.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Escape

Our friends called and asked if we wanted to join them for the weekend. They were going away for their annual family and friends weekend at a rustic house on the coast and one room was vacant. We said yes we will come, but only for one night because we are not good company right now. They encouraged us to stay longer, but one night was enough for me so we left this afternoon. I thank the Lord daily, and sometimes hourly, for these friends.

How did our time away go? I cried. I held my friend's baby for hours. I cried some more. We walked on the beach. I laughed. The sun shone. We went shopping. I laughed. We played games. We stayed up late, the girls talking, the guys playing ping pong. I laughed. I talked and talked and talked about my baby with my dear friend as she sat next to me holding her baby. We cried together.

I breathed in this gorgeous, peaceful view:



And I felt a tiny piece of my broken soul heal. Losing Charlotte is hard, the hardest thing I have been through, but talking with my friend last night reminded me I can get through this. I am surrounded by wonderful, caring people, and I have a loving Father in heaven who is taking care of Charlotte until I am able to join her.

I have bad days, really, really bad days, but there are moments when the sun shines through the dark and I realize there is life after Charlotte. When I think of her, my dear little bird, I am reminded of lines from a poem by e. e. cummings:

"i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear ..."

Friday, June 11, 2010

One Month



4 Fridays ago Charlotte was born.

According to dates Monday June 14th is officially one month.

I was in labor almost 26 hours.

Charlotte will forever be 1 hour and 37 minutes old. She will never be 1, or 12, or 30.

Yesterday was June 10th, our four year wedding anniversary.

4 years, 1 dead baby, 2 parents left behind.

This is going to be a hard weekend.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sweet Memories

Charlotte,

I went to the bookstore today. I was a little anxious about going, because I thought it may be hard to make the drive. I could’ve gone the longer way, but if I was going to McMinnville I wanted to go the hard way so I would have that obstacle behind me. I drove past Bella Vie, past the field where Life Flight picked you up, and past the hospital where you died, but the drive wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.

We spent a lot of time together on that road, baby girl. During the first trimester I was very sick to my stomach and I was afraid I would have to pull over and throw up on the side of the road, or in a field full of cows. During the second and third trimester we discovered how much you liked music. I would drive to and from work, or out to the birthing center for an appointment, flipping through music channels and finding the songs you liked best. You loved country music, especially female artists, and your favorites were Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift. You also liked Rascal Flatts. I would find a song you liked, turn the music up, and you would dance and dance and dance in my belly.

We talked a lot on that road too, Charlotte. I told you about books I wanted to read to you, the beautiful countryside flashing by out the window, what had happened at your latest appointment. And I always made sure to share the delicious small town gossip I picked up at work with you.

It was wonderful to go to the bookstore, even though I didn’t get to take you with me. Everyone there loved you very much and were so looking forward to meeting you. I picked a few books up, showed some special people your pictures, and talked about you. You would’ve loved the bookstore, Charlotte. It’s a comfortable place full of good books and nice people. They love us so much baby girl. There is a jar up front with our story on it and many people have donated to your fund.

You grew in my belly, day in and day out, while I worked at the bookstore. We received wonderful blessings and gifts from co-workers and customers before you were born. A friend at the store gave me a beautiful print of a daddy holding a baby. The word Treasure is written across the top. When I can, I like to sit in your nursery, in the rocker, and look at that print. Now that you are no longer with us they are still loving us and blessing us. How I wish you could’ve met them baby girl.

Driving to the bookstore was a peaceful experience. I felt you with me, Charlotte, closer than I have felt you in days. I listened to a CD a dear friend made for me after you died. I played one song, Praise You in This Storm by Casting Crowns, over and over again. It’s a good song; I think it would’ve made you dance. You and I spent a lot of time on that road together and I thought we had many drives stretching out ahead of us. I miss you so much baby girl. Thank you for coming along for one more drive.

Mama

Monday, June 7, 2010

A dream

I was scrolling through The Drudge Report this morning when a story about a stampede at a World Soccer Cup caught my eye. Images started flashing through my mind as I recalled a terrifying dream I had when I was pregnant with Charlotte. I don’t remember when I had the dream, but I know it was in the third trimester of my pregnancy. Until today, I didn’t even recall having the dream. Now, looking back, I remember waking from the dream and rolling so I could press my back against Jonathan’s side. I was frightened when I woke up from that dream, absolutely scared out of my wits. And now of course I wonder if it was a sign.

My memories of the dream are so fragmented now I will never be able to paint a full picture. Honestly I’m amazed I remember any of it. Here is what I do remember: Jonathan and I were at a big event, maybe a political rally. We were in a large plaza, surrounded by tall buildings. I was very pregnant and wearing a black shirt. I think in the beginning I was alone, but at some point Jonathan joined me. We were standing there, listening to someone speak, and out of the middle of nowhere a plane dropped out of the sky. I remember looking up and seeing no sky, only sunshine glinting off machinery. In my mind I can vividly see the plane nose diving towards earth, towards me.

I remember Jonathan grabbing me, hauling us to safety. I had my arms wrapped around my belly and I was screaming, “The baby, the baby. We have to save the baby.” The world exploded around us. Somehow we had escaped the plane crash, but there were explosions happening all around us. People were panicking, running everywhere. We knew it was a terrorist attack, but we didn’t know where we could go, where we could hide.

The next, and final image I can recall, is of Jonathan and I huddled behind a large machine, a tractor maybe, scared and shaking. Buildings were falling all around us. Jonathan had his arm around me and he asked, over and over, “Is the baby okay?

There is no way of knowing if this dream was a sign, some warning. In retrospect, it seems like a giant neon sign warning us of what was to come. It’s like the dream Patricia had when she was napping while we were waiting for my labor to speed up. As she said, if none of this had happened, we would never recall these dreams. Since things turned out the way they did though, we are left wondering. Was that dream about being under attack a warning? Was Patricia’s dream about giving her rabbit chest compressions a portent of things to come?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

For Charlotte



Our friend Greg made this for Charlotte. It was supposed to be solid blue in color, but the gases from the kiln added the dusky red streaks. I love it. Greg offered to make a new one for us, but I told him this was perfect, even though it wasn't what he intended. I'm glad Jonathan decided to have Greg make the urn for us instead of choosing one from the funeral home.

When I look at Charlotte's urn I think: ocean, beach, sky, heaven, peace. It sits on the coffee table, awaiting her ashes.

Bringing her ashes home is a bridge I'm not ready to cross yet. Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Three Weeks

These are a couple of the pictures from when I was in labor. My last hours with a living, breathing Charlotte. We have lots of video from that day, but I don't know if I will ever be able to watch it.

Laboring in the backyard before we went to the birth center.



Sometime during that long, long night. Jonathan had a hard time getting a good picture because I would not hold still.



Talking to the apprentice who checked on Charlotte and me during the night.



I love you, Charlotte. I hope you are safe, happy, and well in heaven. - Mama

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Is This A Joke?

Today we received an explanation of benefits from the insurance company. The bill was addressed to Charlotte. Was that really necessary?? I understand we have to receive bills and explanations of benefits for our dead baby, but do these slips of paper need to be addressed to our dead baby?

The insurance company was nice enough to include this letter:

To the family of Charlotte,

We were deeply saddened to learn of Charlotte's passing.

We would like to express our sincere sympathy to you and your family on behalf of all of us here at PHT.

We will make every attempt to consolidate mailings associated to the medical care that was provided.

Okay, thank you for your thoughtfulness, but will you please stop sending things to my dead baby?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Selfish

I've been very selective about who I let in the door right now. I'm in a strange, dark place and I want very little company while I am here. I am thankful for the people who love me despite my silence. They don't comment on the unanswered e-mails, phone calls and texts; they just keep sending them my way.

Tina stopped by for a visit today. I thought I was having an okay day, but as soon as I saw her I started to cry. I don't know what it is about Tina and Patricia, but I often cry as soon as I see them. Tina brought me a beautiful picture of a stone angel holding a baby. She said she has had it in her life for a long time, but she thought it was my turn to have it.

Tina helped me do the laundry and started a load of dishes. She also sat with me on the couch and let me talk through everything that has happened. She wasn't there for the birth, but she did teach our birth classes and she helped me immensely the day after Charlotte died. Even though I didn't call her, I'm glad she showed up today to help me. Sometimes the Lord knows when you need someone to come along and sit with you, even if you don't realize it yourself.

While Tina was visiting, Rachel called and asked if Jonathan and I would like to come over for dinner and a movie. Jonathan was reluctant to go because he had a hard day at work, but it ended up being good for both of us. I don't know what it is about their house, or their company, but it brings me peace and comfort. I think I should feel reluctance to go over there since they have a little one born a month before Charlotte. Instead I feel calm and renewed after spending time with them.

Chris and Rachel have a beautiful new house overlooking Salem. When I am sad (which is all the time) I enjoy sitting on their couch and looking at the trees and mountains. It is calm and restful, even when I can hear their baby crying in the background. I like their house because it is a place where I am taken care of, but I feel at home as well.

People like Tina, Chris and Rachel are wonderful because they sit with us, cry with us, help us to laugh, feed us,and provide us with beer, tea, Kleenex and lots of love.

Even though I have a select group of people I want around me right now it doesn't mean I don't love or appreciate anyone else; I'm just feeling very protective of my space. I apologize to those who feel ignored and those who are worried they have offended me. I assure you this is not the case. I need a lot of alone time right now and I'm not very comfortable with most visitors. This is the only time in my life when I have felt like it's okay for me to be selfish.

Please, keep the e-mails and phone calls coming. I may not respond now, or ever, but I do appreciate it.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Her beautiful name

Charlotte: Little, Tiny, Feminine, Free
Ava: Bird (Hebrew, German, Latin, English) Voice (Persian), Life (Latin) Breath of Life (Old English) Sky or Heaven (Akposso)

Our sweet little bird.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mary Oliver

From In Blackwater Woods

Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Small Steps

I've found that getting up, taking a shower, styling my hair and putting my contacts in makes me feel better. I may then crawl back into bed, or spend the entire day on the couch, but at least I don't have unwashed hair scraped back into a ponytail.

I spent the day in bed, watching Hotel Babylon on Netflix. I love British television. I wish that hotel existed in real life so I could go to London, move in, and have them take care of me. If I really think about it though, it would be a lot less personal than the fabulous care I'm currently receiving.

Thursdays and Fridays are proving to be the hardest days to get through. Thursdays because I was in labor all day and Fridays because Charlotte was born on a beautiful Friday morning. Each Thursday and Friday feels momentous, and then I realize it's only been two weeks and I still have the rest of my life to live without my Charlotte.

I'm sleeping without the aid of Ambien now. Or trying to at least. I just had a bath, drank some herbal tea and took liquid Valerian root. That stuff is disgusting in liquid form, but it should work better than the pill form I was taking.

My goal is to take the dog for a walk tomorrow. I didn't get out of bed at all today so tomorrow I must force myself to do something. And the poor dog has been so neglected I'm afraid she may declare mutiny soon.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A little anger

This afternoon I snapped at a guy who came to the door. I answered because I thought it may be someone dropping off food, or another delivery person with flowers. Instead it was a guy selling something, his shirt said Honeywell and he said something about signs in yards, so it was probably home security systems. He started talking and all I could think was, “I really want to tell you to go away because my baby just died. I want to say that and make you feel bad for knocking on my door.”

Instead I interrupted his spiel with, “We’re not interested, thank you.” “Not interested in what?” he responded, but I had already closed the door. “Not interested in whatever you’re selling,” I muttered as I shuffled back to my spot on the couch. Maybe I should put a sign on the door: Warning! Grumpy, tearful, angry, grieving person inside. No solicitations unless you have food.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Outside

This morning I decided it was time for me to venture outside. I have a box of books from the bookstore, plus scores of books on my shelves I haven't read, but I decided I wanted to go to the library. (I'm glad I live in Oregon. Even though it is the end of May it is overcast and rainy today. I'm not sure I can handle sunshine right now. Usually I can't wait for the rainy season to end, but this year I may be okay with it extending through June).

We were gone less than an hour, but that was definitely the limit of what I can handle right now. It was more difficult than I thought it would be to find books to read. First off, I've read so many books it's hard to find something I haven't read already. This is especially true because I worked at the bookstore for so long and most of the new books available at the library I read as advance copies six or more months ago. Add in the fact that every other book has a baby, or someone wanting, or not wanting, a baby in it and I was lucky to come home with more than one book. I think the library should be divided into sections based on how one is feeling, or what one is experiencing. It would be so much easier if I could go to the 'your baby recently died' section and select a book that way.

I really thought I was up to a trip out, but oh my was it draining. For some reason I feel like I should be up and around. No one is putting this expectation on me, but I'm starting to feel a little bit pathetic with all the couch sitting and bed wallowing.

Whenever something happens to me that I can't control, I tend to focus obsessively on something, or somethings else. Lately that's been my weight (I know, I just had a baby, but seeing as that baby isn't here it's hard for me to accept the physical changes) and my worry about what I will do in the future. I find if I think too far into the future, say to next Wednesday, I start to panic about what I should be doing.

When I worked at the bookstore I had a bad habit of saying "I should have done ..." or "I should read that ..." One of my co-workers would always respond with "Don't should on yourself." I think it's time for me to take my former co-worker's advice.

It's time for me to stop worrying about the quantity of ice cream and M&M's I'm consuming (uggh, a lot). It's time for me to stop worrying about when I will be able to button my pre-pregnancy jeans (On the positive side, at least I can get those jeans on). It's time for me to stop thinking about the 7 pounds I still have to lose to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight and the 5 extra pounds I wouldn't mind losing after that.

And I really need to stop worrying about what I will be doing six months from now. Or even a week from now. As it says in Matthew 6:34: Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Week 1

One week ago I was in labor and so excited. Soon, soon I would get to meet my little girl. Now I find myself on my estimated due date lying in bed and crying my eyes out. I have hard days and easy days - moments of laughter followed by moments of tears. I had a bad moment last night. I woke up, realized I wasn't pregnant, rolled over to see the baby in the co-sleeper and suddenly understood she wasn't there and would never be there.

I spent a long time talking to Patricia last night trying to process what happened. I asked her question after question and she answered each one as best as she could. The hardest thing for everyone is the lack of answers. We got a preliminary report from the county coroner; nothing was wrong with Charlotte structurally. Now we have to wait for blood results and other tests to come back. I am beginning to think we may not get any answers. Often in these situations it's impossible to provide answers.

I don't regret going with Bella Vie. I can't imagine having Charlotte anywhere else; she was loved by everyone at the birth center. However, I can't help but wonder what would have happened in a hospital setting. I know we made the best decision for us and I don't blame the midwives for what happened, but I can't help wondering if there was something I could've done differently so I could have my Charlotte here with me.

Tomorrow it will be one week since my daughter was born. One week. Sometimes I can't believe it's already almost been a week. Other moments I feel like time is dragging. What will I do when Jonathan goes back to work?

I can't help but wonder if I can get pregnant again. How long I should wait before I get pregnant again. Patricia says we should gather as much information as we can so we can be prepared if we decide to try again. Ideally someone would tell me in 8 months, or a year, or two years you should try for another baby. Your baby will be healthy and you will have a normal delivery. Since that is impossible, I will have to wait and trust that God will let us know when the time is right.

Right now I am clinging to the positive as much as I can. I had 39 beautiful weeks with my Charlotte. She opened her eyes and looked at me and her Daddy before she was put on the ambulance stretcher. I got to hold her for two precious seconds before the midwives started working on her. Jonathan and I are surrounded by love and prayer and we are not the only ones who miss our Charlotte.

Patricia took a beautiful picture of the lavender at Bella Vie on the morning Charlotte was born. I put a picture of Charlotte in the frame with the lavender. I carry that frame with me from couch to bed, from bed to couch and it brings me immense comfort. Every time I look at it I feel like my Charlotte is nearby and knows her Mama loves her.

I leave you with this:

Glory Baby - Watermark


Glory baby you slipped away as fast as we could say baby…baby..
You were growing, what happened dear?
You disappeared on us baby…baby..
Heaven will hold you before we do
Heaven will keep you safe until we’re home with you…
Until we’re home with you…

Miss you everyday
Miss you in every way
But we know there’s a
day when we will hold you
We will hold you
You’ll kiss our tears away
When we’re home to stay
Can’t wait for the day when we will see you
We will see you
But baby let sweet Jesus hold you
‘till mom and dad can hold you…
You’ll just have heaven before we do
You’ll just have heaven before we do

Sweet little babies, it’s hard to
understand it ‘cause we’re hurting
We are hurting
But there is healing
And we know we’re stronger people through the growing
And in knowing-
That all things work together for our good
And God works His purposes just like He said He would…
Just like He said He would…

BRIDGE:
I can’t imagine heaven’s lullabies
and what they must sound like
But I will rest in knowing, heaven is your home
And it’s all you’ll ever know…all you’ll ever know…

Monday, May 17, 2010

Charlotte Ava

At this point I don't feel like I can write out my entire birth experience, but I will say it was a good one despite what happened at the end. Our little girl, Charlotte Ava, was born on 5/14 at 10:10 am. She left to be with Jesus at 11:47 am. These past few days have been hard ones, but we are surrounded by loving and compassionate people. I don't know what I would do without my midwives. They've loved and pampered me so much & I know their kindness is helping me heal.

The physical discomfort from the birth has almost abated entirely, but my milk came in today and so far it's been a painful experience. I've been taking a lot of herbs to suppress the milk & I'm hoping the process of drying up the supply won't take very long. I thought today was going to be the hardest day because a lot of people warned me it would. I prayed for peace and calm for today and I am so glad God answered that prayer. I cried some this morning, but for most of the day I've been feeling relaxed and calm. My midwife gave me a massage and I think that helped me stay in a good calm place. I don't know what the next day, or the next week, or the next month will bring. Right now I am thankful for family, friends and loving midwives. I miss my Charlotte but I am glad she is safe in heaven.

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