Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sad, but calm

I'm sad today. Melancholic. Not cry, cry, cry sad, but calm sad. One of the definitions of calm is to be nearly or completely motionless. That's how I feel tonight; as if I am pinned to the couch, unable or unwilling to move in case a shift in posture will trip calm sad into cry sad.

There's a lot happening in my mind right now. I haven't slept very well the past two nights because I cannot stop thinking. And when I do fall asleep I inevitably wake up in the middle of the night. I don't know what wakes me up, but I open my eyes, look around the room, my mind starts going and I realize I will be lucky to fall back asleep. I suppose I need to get back on the Valerian root. I was doing so well without it.

It was smoothies at the river for dinner tonight. When it gets warm outside we do this every other week or so. We met up with Jon's good friend, sat on the bank and watched the dogs play in the water. I soaked up a lot of sun, but couldn't shake the sad feeling.

You know, it's not so much Charlotte that I'm sad about right now. Missing her is definitely part of the equation, but today the sadness is for others. There are so many mamas who will never get to see their babies alive. There are so many babies who will be born still. There are so many babies who will die at 10 weeks, 23 weeks etc.

Life feels unfair right now and rather tenuous. Went in for my rubella vaccine and nearly had a panic attack in the waiting room. I feel raw right now, like I'm walking around with no skin. I am jumpy, out of sorts and cranky, but most of all I am sad. And I want to hug everyone who is missing their babies tonight, or fears they may soon be missing their babies, because I know how hard it is.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ducks Meet Row

This morning I set up a couple appointments. We will head down the ttc road soon (I hope) and for the sake of my sanity a few things need to happen before we do. Tomorrow I am getting the rubella vaccine. I know I've had it before, but I have been told I am lacking in that area and I have decided to get the vaccine.

July 16th I am meeting with a naturopath to find out if there is any way to manage my hyperthyroidism naturally. Cue panic attack. I have gone back and forth on this issue for years. I know Charlotte did not die because I have Graves Disease, but I was taking a Class D medication the entire pregnancy. If I can remove the drugs from the equation I will feel a lot better. However, uncontrolled hyperthyroidism can lead to miscarriage. When I talked to my former endocrinologist about ttc and medication, he switched me over to the better option, PTU, which crosses the placenta less. It was his opinion that it was better for me to be on the medication than try to conceive and carry a baby to full term without it.

I hate my Graves Disease. I do not live comfortably with it, but the alternatives are not pretty either. I can have surgery or be dosed with enough radiation to kill the thyroid gland completely. Then I will have hypothyroidism for the rest of my life. A few years ago I made the decision to stay in hyperthyroid land while I had children since it was easily controlled with low medication dosages. Now I'm questioning that decision.

And on the 11th of August we are meeting with a perinatologist for pre-conception counseling. This is entirely for my peace of mind. The husband thinks it is a useless endeavor, but he loves me and is willing to go because I need to talk some things out before ttc. When I told him I wanted to get the peri's opinion he said, "I'm willing to bet money what happened with Charlotte won't happen again and that's good enough for me." I wish I had that confidence.

It feels good to be doing something. I like having a plan in place. I'm trying to keep my anxiety about all of this at a minimum, but it's hard.

I went to a friend's house today. I spent a few minutes with her toddler before her nap time and held her 3 month old when he woke up from his. He and Charlotte were going to be the best of friends. Whenever I hold him I talk about Charlotte and all of the fun things they were going to do together. Today I told him I missed her. I kissed his sweet forehead and said, "Next year I hope to have a precious baby who is here on earth with me." He kicked his little legs and smiled at me.

I miss Charlotte. I feel immense guilt for wanting to have another child so soon after her death. Whenever I talk about the next baby I feel like I should whisper. It feels wrong, secretive even, to want another child.

Last night I was trying to explain this deep desire to my husband and he just couldn't understand it. I am not joking when I say I would get pregnant tomorrow if I wasn't worried about my health.

Three weeks after Charlotte died I was fretting about my desire to get pregnant again so soon. A wise friend told me "I believe a mama's heart holds room for all her babies and all her feelings, happy, sad, bittersweet and everything in between. Follow your heart and create the family and life that is right for you." I need to remember this.

I have my angel baby with me always, but I would like a living baby here with me too. As I wait for these appointments and as I wait to be in the right place to start ttc I'm going to attempt to shake the guilty feelings. I want to bring a new life into this world because I have so much love to give and there's nothing shameful about that.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Lunch, six week check up, and a painting in the mail

It really is true that grief comes in waves. Friday I was a mess, Saturday and Sunday I was so angry I wanted to break something. I wanted to tear Charlotte's pictures up, smash the beautiful framed lavender picture that is one of my dearest memories of my little girl on the tile in front of the fireplace, and scream until I felt better. Today I am calm. A little shaky in my soul, but calm.

My midwife and her apprentice came over for my final postpartum check. We went to lunch downtown at Wild Pear. I've wanted to eat there for a while and it did not disappoint. Cool building, good food, early summer outside - a near perfect day. And I loved having my six week check up at home. It included a pap smear and I have to admit I much prefer having a pap at home. It's more comfortable than going to a doctor's. No paper gown - yea!

I have been thinking about my nephew today. My mom sent me a package and when he heard it was headed to Nana Annie he popped a painting in for me. His theory is if he keeps sending me pictures I will feel less sad. I want to write down his memories of Charlotte, because they are precious and I don't want to lose them. This is one of the things I have left now. A few sweet stories of a little boy anticipating his cousin's arrival. I think they would have been great friends and I know he would have loved her and taken care of her. It breaks my heart that he will never meet her.

When I was barely pregnant we started calling Charlotte 'Blueberry.' We named her in January, but we didn't share it with anyone so our family members knew her as Blueberry from six weeks until the day she was born - and died. I was really sick with Charlotte and my nephew was concerned. He told his mama, "If Nana Annie stops eating blueberries she will feel a lot better."

He was so excited for her to be born. He would ask me, "When is my friend going to be here? Did you bring my friend yet?" I remember trying to explain to him how she was eating. He was so worried she wasn't getting enough food. (Ever tried to explain the purpose of an umbilical cord to a 3 year old? It's not easy). I'll never forget the first time he saw Charlotte kick. He giggled, I asked him if he wanted to feel it. He shrank back and said no, but then leaned forward and watched my belly intently while Charlotte kicked and rolled.

My nephew planned my baby shower. He picked out the favors, the balloons, the invitations. Every time my sister went to the store he put something in the cart for Charlotte. If it was the grocery store he picked out gum, candy, fruit or anything else he thought she may like. My sister would have to go through the cart before she checked out so she didn't end up with lots of random things for Blueberry. If they were at a clothing store he would pick out an outfit for her. He liked to buy her things and give them to me.

And here's the truly beautiful thing about my nephew: he understands death. He has leukemia and friends of his have died from cancer. When Charlotte died he picked out a card for me. He scribbled on it and told his mom to write "I miss her" below it. He put a sticker on it as well and when his mom asked him if the sticker was for Charlotte he said "No. Charlotte isn't here anymore. She is in heaven with my friend B."

He tells his mom he misses Charlotte and she passes it on to me. He sends pictures in the mail and hopes I won't be as sad. He has three living cousins and I hope to add another one or two to the pack someday.

When I received that picture from my nephew I was reminded of how unsure life truly is. He is doing better, a lot less sick than when he was first diagnosed, but he is still receiving chemo.

I think as parents we do the best we can and when your baby dies, or you find out your child was born with cancer you keep doing the best you can. This life is hard, but there are so many things that make it worthwhile.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dirt Brings Joy

I will be the first to admit I am terrible with plants. I don't know anything about gardening and I really don't want to learn. Yesterday we moved two lilac bushes from the backyard to the front. Lilacs need full sun and the previous owners planted them under a tree. I may not be good with plants, but when the tag says "this plant needs 5-7 hours of sun a day," I know you don't plant it under the biggest shade tree in the backyard. Needless to say, the lilac bushes are not doing well and I am hoping they will revive in the front yard.

Last night we went out to dinner and on the way I had my husband stop at Fred Meyer so I could buy a watering can. The lilacs, the butterfly bush start (still need to plant it in the ground) and our new Charlotte rose all need lots of water everyday. Or so my husband says. So I went to Fred Meyer, I picked out a watering can, and I am so excited to water these plants.

This is embarrassing. I am excited about watering plants. It will take me all of five minutes. But there is something, some bit of joy or hope, in watching the water fall and knowing I am doing a good thing, a helpful thing. I think it is also nice to have a sense of purpose. I may not go off to work every day anymore, but I have plants to water!

When I was watering the Charlotte rose yesterday I started thinking about planting a few other flowers near it. I commissioned a memorial plaque from a wonderful artist in Northern California, but I want to put some other things near her rose. Maybe create a little area of the garden just for Charlotte.

I have never enjoyed gardening. I don't like getting dirty and poking around in the dirt has never appealed to me. It was odd to wake up and feel excitement about watering a few plants, but if that is what motivates me to get out of bed I'm not going to question it. I'm sure the novelty will wear off and soon I will be complaining about the plants and their insatiable thirst. For now though I love having a purpose. And I really like my new watering can. It is sky blue, cheaply made, but all mine.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Charlotte's Tree




In a forest many miles from here the trees possess carvings of precious names. I am so sad to see all the names carved on the trees, but glad Charlotte is not alone. Yesterday was really hard. The day just would not end. We went for a walk around the block at midnight because we were so sad and could not settle down to sleep. Today is a little easier. At least I feel like I can breathe. Thank you for all of the support fellow baby loss mamas. Thank you for adding Charlotte to the forest Kristin.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Six Weeks Part Two

My midwife called to check in on me and to tell me this:

Charlotte's lungs were fine structurally, but they would not inflate. This problem is usually seen in stillborn babies. (I have questioned if Charlotte was born alive, but I know she was. I heard her cry, she opened her eyes and looked at me when she heard my voice). They don't know why it happened in Charlotte's case. My midwife talked with the doctor on the phone, now I have to call on Monday and request the autopsy report.

It's an answer, but it's more of a non-answer. I am mad at today. I am mad at Charlotte's lungs. I am mad at this whole situation.

Six Weeks

From "For Jane" by Charles Bukowski

"when you left
you took almost
everything.
I kneel in the nights
before tigers
that will not let me be.

what you were
will not happen again.
the tigers have found me
and I do not care."

I am having a down day. Lots of tears and feeling sorry for myself. I knew today was going to be hard, but facing the sheer weight of another day without Charlotte is impossible to prepare for. I try to take deep breaths, I tell myself a hard day is coming because I have had a few easy ones, but when it hits it hits hard and I am left feeling boneless and wrung out.

My midwife was going to come over for my six week check and lunch today, but had to cancel because of a birth. I am glad she cancelled because I don't want to do anything today. She sent me a text message from the birth and I wanted to throw my phone out the window. I feel like I am bad luck and I didn't want my dark cloud to wash over someone else's birth. I know how irrational that thought is, but rationality doesn't crop up too often in my life these days.

I am so tired of crying. I would like to pack the crying away for a while. I spend a lot of time trying not to cry only to reach a point where I start crying and fear I will never stop. I would really like my life back. I would really like my old self back. I am tired of this dark cynical person and her black humor.

Six weeks seems like a marker to me. A marker for what I don't know. It's the end of the postpartum period and it just feels monumental. Time has acquired a strange, surreal quality. I'm not even sure what is happening most days.

Today is exactly what I thought it would be: hard, sad, tear inducing, riddled with anxiety. It's incredible; I feel as if I have lived a lifetime & aged ten years in these six weeks.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Progress?

It's Thursday and I am calm. This is the first Thursday since she died when I have not felt anxious and restless. Six weeks tomorrow. Bracing myself for a bad day, but hoping for a gentle one. Surely I can't dread Thursdays and Fridays for the rest of my life ... ?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This is our life now

I was on the verge of losing my mind last night, but I backed off the ledge and settled down a bit today. I went to the farmer's market downtown for lunch with my husband's best friend's mom (whew), and then we walked around and window shopped. Her son died a couple years ago. He was 28, not a newborn, but it was still good to talk to her. She has been a maternal figure in my life for a long time now - somewhere in the six or seven year range. I love her so much sometimes I wish I would've married her son. Then I remember that would never, ever work. And I really love my husband. Especially right now.

Yesterday I had lunch with a former co-worker who has also filled in on the maternal figure front. I need a lot of mamas in my life. I guess it's just the way I am. We talked for a long time at the restaurant and then she followed me across town to the grocery store near my house and helped me shop. She is a wonderfully funny person, but also so kind and caring. Yesterday she told me it was absolutely okay to feel like I may want to give up on this world. However, if I started making plans, if I started lining up the razor blades, it was time to call in some support. So many people have recommended or gently suggested counseling, but she was the first one who took my personality into account. (I absolutely hate asking for help. I was a junior in college before I learned how to ask for help and I had to go to Europe to learn how. But that's a different story for another day). It was nice to have someone acknowledge that they think I am doing okay, but if there ever comes a day when I am not there ain't no shame in sending up a flare.

Tonight Jonathan and I went to the library and he nearly lost his mind. I was looking at the new fiction shelves while he wandered into the stacks to locate a few books. A few minutes later he came out and motioned me over to him. I walked over and he said, "Everything is moved. I can't find anything. Why are all the paperbacks right here, it doesn't make any sense."
"I was here just last week and the science fiction was in its same place. I know they are doing a lot of rearranging, but it should be right up here." I responded.
We walked a few shelves up and Jonathan pointed, "Look, hardcover fiction, no science fiction."
He sounded utterly panicked so I turned to him and said, "Honey, are you about to lose your bananas?" (In our house this is a reference to a much harsher word, but we try to keep the curse words to a minimum around these parts)
"Yes! Why did they move everything?"
We walked a little further and I found the section he wanted. I showed him where it was and he said, "Okay, but that's only half of it. Where is the other half? This makes no sense." I walked him a little further and showed him where the rest of the authors were and then went back to the new books section to browse.

This is our life now. The library changes how they shelve books and it's stressful enough to make my husband act a little crazy. I have a day like I did yesterday and it is enough to make me act a little crazy. We have our moments, but thankfully they don't usually happen at the same time.

When we came home from the library we worked in the yard together for a while. When Jonathan came inside he walked behind the couch, gave me a hug and said, "Good job, team." I love when he says that. It's a good reminder. We are a team and we are making it through this. Sometimes he has to pull me off the ledge and sometimes I have to pull him off the ledge, but we are making it through. And if there ever comes a time when we are not, I know where the flares are kept.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Angry, Frustrated, Sad

Sorry for two posts in one day, but today has been awful. First there was the call from Dr. K. When I had my husband listen to the message this evening he agreed it sounds like there will be no answers.

Jonathan called on his way home from work nearly out of his mind with frustration. He was stuck in construction traffic, his car was overheating and his gas tank was on empty. After thirty minutes of sitting in traffic with his heater on he pulled into a gas station near our house, filled the car up, turned the car on to leave and ... nothing.

I had to go down there and steer the car across the street to some random garage while Jonathan and a stranger pushed. He knew the starter was going out, but he didn't do anything about it because something is always dying on that old car of his.

Tomorrow we will get an estimate from the garage on how much it will cost to fix the car. We should probably junk the old broken thing, but I would rather not deplete our savings to buy him a car right now.

I really, really need to focus on the good right now. I am so frustrated I feel like screaming. So, three good things from today.

1. I had lunch with a former co-worker. We talked for a long time and then she followed me to the grocery store near my house and helped me shop.
2. She brought me The Reader's Digest Treasury of Wit and Humor. It was published in 1958 and it is making me laugh.
3.


Stumbled across this beauty while I was stomping around in the backyard this evening after picking my husband up.

When you least expect it

Woke up, took a shower. Wandered into the bedroom to see if my friend had called with a time for lunch. Pick up my cell phone - one missed call. I don't recognize the number but it is a local number so assume friend is calling from her house. Dial voice mail, put phone on speaker, continue to get ready.

"Hi Angela this is Dr. K. Just wanted to let you know Charlotte's death certificate will be signed in the next couple days ..."

Oh - ouch. Not what I was expecting. I was so proud of myself for having three lunches scheduled this week. I am getting out of the house! I am talking to people! I am feeling okay! And then a punch in the face I did not see coming and I'm knocked down once more. I would like to crawl under the covers and lick my wounds for a while. Maybe in a year I will feel like coming out again.

Dr. K didn't say anything about the results. He said a few metabolic tests had yet to come back, but the results from those probably wouldn't change the findings. Though he did not explicitly say so it sounds like there will be no cause of death. He left a number to call, but what would I say?

Thanks for ruining my day. Any chance you know why my baby died? I think I'll just wait for the autopsy report to come in the mail. This weekend I told my husband I knew it was coming in the next couple weeks and I was trying to prepare myself. Little did I know I needed to prepare for a phone call. For that moment when I would hear Charlotte's name and think, "Did you find her? She's supposed to be here, but she's not and I'm so worried about her. I want to know she's okay. I want to bring her home with me." And then two seconds later the words death certificate filter through my foggy brain and I remember - there will be no baby.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Just another day

I was reading through some of my old blog entires a few nights ago. I like to read about when I was pregnant with Charlotte. It reminds me that there was a lot of joy before the pain. On February 13th I wrote this: Sometimes it seems like everything goes wrong at once and all a person can do is step back, let things fall apart, and then sift through the wreckage and try to repair what can be repaired.

There is a lot of wreckage to sift through these days. I am surrounded by huge piles of grief, loss, sadness and guilt. I am doing my best not to create more damage. My husband and my kind loving friends are doing their best to hold me together, to keep me going, to repair my soul.

I am having a lethargic day. I don't want to do anything, don't want to talk to anyone. I'm sad and a little grumpy. My phone keeps ringing, but I haven't had the energy to answer it since Charlotte died. I let the calls go to voice mail and for every ten calls I return one. I don't have much to say. All I want to talk about is my dead baby and I'm never sure if people want to hear about her.

Today I can't stop thinking about the other universe, that parallel one that all mamas who have lost their babies dream about. In this parallel world Charlotte is alive and well. She is one month old and I have adjusted to this new life that has disrupted my world. I don't understand why I was denied entry to that world. Why I am stuck here in the other world without my baby, the little life I helped create.

When I read about other babies who have died, when I see all of the blogs written by people like me, I am amazed at the number of babies who do survive. Sometimes I think it would be harder to have a baby born still or easier to have a baby born at 23 weeks. Then I realize it is equally hard for everyone who has lost a baby. It doesn't matter if the baby was 20 weeks, or full term, born still, or born alive only to die right after birth. For everyone left behind it is awful and sad and painful.

The sun is trying to break through the clouds here. Sun shoots across the sidewalk outside the house and then the clouds cross over and all is gray once more.

I am doing the best I can. When I get really sad or restless there is always someone around to make me feel a little better. I'm focused inward right now, poking at the wreckage that surrounds me, trying to find answers, hope, peace. I am blessed to have people in my life who don't mind sitting in the middle of this wreckage with me. It's not a fun place to be, but it's where I need to be right now and it's so nice to not be alone.

I have three lunches scheduled this week. For me that is a full week. It will be good to get out of the house, spend time with people I haven't seen for a while. Today has been quiet. I've been spending too much time inside my head, but I don't have the energy to do much more than that. Today I am going to wallow. Tomorrow, Wednesday and Friday I will face the world, but today I am going to be sullen and silent and disagreeable.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Escape Part Two

Last weekend we went to Newport. This weekend we went to Depoe Bay and stayed in this gorgeous house:



I had one of those weekends where I cried constantly. It didn't matter if we were at the house, walking around Depoe Bay, playing on the beach, or driving to dinner. I cried and cried and cried and then I cried some more. That old refrain that runs through my mind constantly (this is not how it was supposed to be!) was particularly loud this weekend. We laughed some. We danced some. But mostly I cried.

The skin on my face is peeling off. At first I thought it was a stress reaction, or maybe a result of all the hormone changes, but now I think it's from the crying. I fear I am literally crying my face off.

Isabel was absolutely overwhelmed by the size of the house. She spent the first night running around frantically. The house is three stories with many, many bedrooms and she ran around and around and around in confusion. Eventually she found a quiet corner in the TV/game room and collapsed from sheer exhaustion. Since Charlotte died I've felt like Isabel was acting. I am absolutely overwhelmed by Charlotte's death, I'm in a strange new place, and I spend a lot of my time frantically searching for ever elusive peace.

There were some bright moments this weekend. I thought the weather was going to be horrible, but on Saturday the sun came out and we sat outside in t-shirts. How often does that happen at the coast? Last summer we went to the beach in August and I had to wear a light sweatshirt under a down vest. We read and played with Isabel in the sunshine and it was nice to spend time together.



We wandered in and out of the shops in Depoe Bay Saturday afternoon. When a shop owner asked Jonathan if we had any kids he said, "No, well um kind-of." I nearly accosted a pregnant woman on the street. She looked so happy and I wanted to grab her by the shoulders, look her in the eye and say, "Your baby might die. Just so you are prepared, because I certainly wasn't, your baby might die."

We venture into the world, get tossed around for a while, and then retreat. Whenever I step outside my front door I feel like screaming, "Fall back! Fall back! It is not safe out here!" It's just so hard to face the world with this grief, this knowledge that the universe is going backwards and we have somehow outlived our child.

So here I am, back on my couch, curled up in the corner, exhausted from the crying and the weekend away. It's nice to be back here, looking at Charlotte's things. I latched on to a little bird in a store this weekend.



I walked back and forth, back and forth, touched it, walked away, circled back to it until Jonathan offered to buy it for me. I find little things that remind me of Charlotte and I obsessively gather these trinkets, put them in my pocket, and carry them home to the coffee table where everything that is Charlotte lives now. And I sit in front of her things day after day, missing her, loving her, wishing I had a baby in my arms instead of a handful of memories strewn across a coffee table.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Songs for Charlotte

These are the songs I have listened to over and over since Charlotte died.

Bright Eyes - Art Garfunkel
This song is incredible because it so perfectly captures how I felt in the immediate hours after Charlotte was born and passed on.

I Will Carry You - Selah
A beautiful song a good friend shared with me.

Borrowed Angels - Kristin Chenoweth

For All We Know - Donny Hathaway

Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley version
I have loved this song for a long, long time. The week after Charlotte died I listened to it constantly.

Merrimack River - Mandy Moore
“Don’t say you’re not amazed when you know you are
Don’t say you’re not afraid when you know you are”
These two lines ran through my head continuously while I was pregnant.

Falling Slowly - The Frames version
When I think of what happened immediately after Charlotte was born this is the song that I hear in my head.

Dreams Collide - Colbie Caillat

I’d Do It All Again - Corrine Bailey Rae
I think the title says it all. This song is from the CD she wrote after her husband unexpectedly died.

Smile - Glee cover
A good reminder

Gardenia - Mandy Moore
This song reminds me not to lose sight of myself during this process. I miss my baby, I’m so sad I’m not a mama to a living baby right now. But I am still me and I was a person before I was pregnant. Sometimes I have a really hard time remembering this. And the first part of this song just gets me. It begins with these lyrics: “Well I put so much thought into getting ready / Now I know that was the best part.”

Brand New Day - Joshua Radin

"It’s a brand new day
The sun is shining
It’s a brand new day
For the first time
In such a long long time
I know I’ll be okay"

Someday I hope I can say those words and mean them. This last song is my goal song. And I do have moments where I truly feel okay. I can never rid myself entirely of that shaky soul feeling, but there are gentle moments in time when I know I can survive the loss of my daughter.

Friday, June 18, 2010

5 Weeks

There is a chart in my mind. Each time I do something, even something small, I add a gold star to the chart. Hey, it helps me get through the day. I never thought getting out of bed would be considered an accomplishment for me, but these days it is. I add a gold star for everything, even small things like brushing my teeth. The first two weeks after Charlotte died there were quite a few days when I forgot to brush my teeth, comb my hair, or shower.

Leaving the house is worthy of two gold stars. It's strange, I'm strange. I'm a completely different person now. I've always been a bit of a homebody, but I could leave the house without feeling anxious and sick to my stomach. If I'm with somebody it's not so bad, but going out on my own is hard. Sometimes I don't even realize how hard it is until I am home. I walk in the door shaky and weepy, collapse on the couch and realize I am drained and exhausted. A day of errands is usually followed by a day of staying at home and resting.

I am a people pleaser, always have been, always will be, and it gives me such joy to tell other people what I have accomplished. When my sister sends me a text message each day asking "how's things today?" I like being able to say I went to the library, or the store, or for a walk. I hate responding with, today is quiet, not doing much, but there are plenty of days when I have to respond with that because my only accomplishment has been getting from the bed to the couch. I like informing my midwife how well I am doing too. Good thing she recognizes this and praises me for all my small accomplishments. It's pathetic really and reminiscent of a two-year-old who is toilet training and must tell everyone how well they are doing, but it forces me to do things so it can't be all bad.

Now if I decide to post an actual chart on the wall in the dining room so I can show everyone who comes over how I am doing someone should consider committing me to a nice facility for a good long rest.

I'm in the middle of my worst days of the week: Thursday and Friday. Yesterday I could not figure out what day/date it was (this happens to me a lot) but I was restless and anxious all day. When I wandered into the kitchen for lunch and saw the calendar I realized why: I was in the middle of a Thursday. I HATE Thursdays and Fridays.

Last night I went to a movie with an acquaintance who is rapidly becoming a friend. She called Wednesday afternoon and asked if I would like to go to a movie. When I said yes she said here are your two options, here is the time, I will pick you up, and we can get coffee or something after. I love people like her. Making decisions is overwhelming for me. When someone asks what I want to do, or if I need something, or what I want to eat for dinner my anxiety shoots through the roof and I freak out. I'm not even sure if I want to eat most of the time. If you put food in front of me I will eat, but please don't make me decide what I want to eat or when.

I think the movie outing deserves three stars, if not four. We went to see Date Night and the main character's have two kids and of course the little girl's name was Charlotte. I didn't cry. I didn't jump up and leave the theater. I breathed in and out, stayed calm, and thankfully the name was only used a few times. After the movie we went to Cold Stone for ice cream. I haven't been there in years, it reminded me of being in college.

Often when a mama loses a baby friends disappear. I have been blessed to have friends surround me and love me even when they don't know what to say, or are worried they will offend me. And I am even developing new friendships, and not just in blog-land (love you very much, blog-land friends).

It's been five weeks since Charlotte died and I feel like I am doing okay. The house is mostly clean. I cry, but not all the time. I get out of bed every day. I go for a walk every evening. I walk out of stores sometimes because I am too sad to find groceries and I can't spend too long in the world before my safe corner of the couch calls me back, but the gold stars are slowly stacking up and each day I heal a little more.

This weekend it's back to the beach. Father's Day is Sunday so I think it will be good to get out of town.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A moment of peace

Charlotte

I dreamed of you this morning. The first week after you died I dreamed of you all the time, but those dreams were more like nightmares. This was the first time since you died when I dreamed of you and didn't wake up screaming, crying or panicking.

You were sleeping, little bird. In my dreams you are always sleeping. You briefly opened your eyes for me, but you were so limp I never saw you as a viable, living baby. So you were sleeping on my shoulder and I laid you down in your crib. You put your thumb in your mouth just like you did in your ultrasound pictures and you looked so peaceful and beautiful.

When I woke up I came into the living room and saw a tiny bird sitting on the branch below the bird feeder in the front yard. There are lots of birds who visit our bird feeder, but this was one was so small and it hopped on the branch for a few moments and then flew away. Was that you, my little bird? Did you want to say hello today?

You are always with me, I carry you wherever I go, but it's wonderful to dream of you and know you are at peace. Please visit again soon.

Mama

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Birth Story

I finally wrote out Charlotte's birth story. Fair warning: It's really long, which is why I saved it as a page instead of posting it as normal.

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.

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