Oh, how the time passes. I’m a little late in posting this, but my baby recently turned five years old. Five.
Try not to laugh at my sad little “5” cake. I like to bake and decorate your birthday cakes on my own, even if I am certainly no expert. This year, we had your first friends party that wasn’t at our house. We had a pool party at the YMCA. I’m not gonna sugar coat it though. December birthdays suck. Between the holidays and the weather, a lot of people we invited weren’t able to make it, but you didn’t notice and you had a lot of fun.
Five years ago the start of kindergarten seemed like a million years away and now your birthday has come and gone and kindergarten looms ever nearer. You just keep on changing. Lately, you have been so proud of how many things you can do for yourself. There are so many cool things about five.
Your dad finally “trained” you to go to sleep on your own at night. We still do our normal bedtime routine…three books, mom or dad sits with you for 3 songs, and then it’s hugs and kisses and goodnight. Most of the time you don’t put up a fight. Occasionally, you wrap your little arms around my neck and ask me to stay. Sometimes you’ll tell your dad that he can leave the room and recently you told him that soon you will be bigger and you won’t need anyone to stay with you at bedtime.
You are so proud of yourself when you can get dressed on your own, which is most of the time if you choose to do it. A few weeks ago, Grandma got you some Converse shoes that actually have laces and you insisted that you needed to learn how to tie right then and there. Of course, you got really frustrated when you couldn’t accomplish the task on the first try….just like your old mom.
We’ve started giving you chores to do and you love to help out around the house. A few days ago you said, “Thank you, mom!” when I asked you to clean something.
For your birthday this year, we got you a karaoke machine. You have always loved to sing and that hasn’t changed. Just today, you told me “I love to sing every day.” We watched the movie Annie for the first time and you said, “Wow, that girl is a really good singer.” You make up your own songs and you get mad at us if we try to sing with you, especially if we don’t sing it exactly the way you think it should be done.
Lately, when you get mad or frustrated at us, or if you don’t get your way, you stomp up to your bedroom, shut the door and draw a picture at your desk. The picture usually depicts whatever wrongdoing we have inflicted on you, but by the time you are finished with it, you are usually giggling as you descend the stairs to show it to us.
You draw happy pictures too. They are not all bad.
You are obsessed with babies and any kid who’s younger than you, really. You have an imaginary sister, and imaginary brother, and a large number (100 I think) of imaginary “cousins” who were displaced by a fire in their home and you invited them to come and live with us. We have to save places at the dinner table and you even take your “siblings” to church with you sometimes. You are struggling right now to understand things like love and marriage. You told me recently that you are going to marry your classmate James. When I asked you what makes him special, you told me that you “didn’t expect it, but you just fell in love with him.” I’m glad that many of these conversations happen in the car and you can’t see me chuckling at you as you tell me in all seriousness. You also ask about death a lot. Your brain is struggling to process all these big concepts. You often ask me what will happen if I die or if Daddy dies or if we both die. The worst part (to me) about you asking these questions is that you don’t seem to be the slightest bit worried about that happening. I think you are more interested in thinking about how your life might be different (like you could go to live with the Dobos family, as you once suggested)!
This year you are taking a tumbling class instead of dance. You seem to like it. You still love to dance and you like to dance along with music videos. You also like to do yoga and you are especially fond of the Gummy Bear song, mainly because the little gummy bear’s butt crack shows in the video. You’re kind of into butts and poop and farts right now. Ha.
I started teaching preschool again this year. It’s been 10 years, so I am a little out of practice. You are in one of the other classes, just down the hall, and you teach me songs and games and all kinds of fun things that I get to try out with my kids. You’re a pretty awesome preschool consultant.
You’re still giving us a run for our money sometimes. You had a pretty big breath holding spell right around Christmas time, after a year of being spell-free. I was certain that we had seen the end of them, but you reminded us that you are still our little girl who needs a little extra understanding now and then.
I’m sure that five is just the beginning of many years of you wishing to be just a bit older, but it’s the number that once seemed so far away to this first-time mom and it’s the number of years I have been pleading that time would slow down just a little….
It’s been a little while since I have contributed to this space. We got all caught up in the holiday madness, with places to go, people to see, guests to entertain. Now that things are a little calmer around here, I can take a breath and reflect on the past year. What a crazy year it’s been. Every day, when facebook shows me my memories from the past years, I find myself half smiling/half dying inside.
Last year at this time, I was pregnant and expecting a little boy. After losing him tragically at 16 weeks, we decided it was too much bear. We couldn’t go through it again. While we have decided that we are fine with leaving our baby days behind, I am still coming to terms with Evelyn being an only child. We are so very blessed to have lots of families in our lives. Evelyn started preschool this year, so she gets to be around other children all day. She’s also been cared for by family friends before and after school, so she gets to play with their children as well. Truly, she’s had the best of both worlds…surrogate siblings with friends and the perks of being an only at home. Still, she caught me off guard when she asked my why God made three babies for our friends’ family and He only made one baby for our family. The tears welled up in her eyes as she asked and I don’t know exactly why that would make her sad, but she seemed sad about it. I could only tell her I didn’t know why and fight back my own tears. It amazes me how much she has grown and how the questions come when I least expect it.
Aside from the sad memories on my facebook news feed, things are pretty good around here. I returned to work a few months ago after our financial situation was upended a bit. Now, Michael and I are both doing work we love and Evelyn seems very happy at preschool. She seems to have grown so much since she started school, from toddler to a true preschooler. She’s still having the occasional terrifying tantrum, but they are fewer and farther between and I have been really trying to change my own response to her, which I think has helped a lot. I am trying to be more patient and positive and she is learning some calm-down methods at school that she actually tries to employ at home. She will sometimes stop in the middle of a screaming fest to take a few deep breaths and calm herself.
Every day I see updates from friends on facebook….babies growing up, rolling over, sitting up, and crawling for the first time. It makes me a little sad that those days are over. Maybe I would have cherished them a little bit more, I don’t know. But, even though I am sad to see her baby days passed, I am also having quite a bit of fun with this spunky, dramatic little girl that she’s become. Instead of babbling and cooing, we’re playing Uno (and she’s winning) and telling made-up stories at bedtime. She helps me to cook scrambled eggs for breakfast and rushes the grab the dustpan when we give her dad a haircut. It’s fun to have a little partner-in-crime.
Even though this past year has been a difficult one, I prefer to look back on the fun moments with my 3-year-old girl that I will never get back.
When Evelyn was born, we became a family of three. It was such a magical time, as it is for many families. An adorable, wrinkly little being enters the world and a mother is born, a father is born, a family is born. Despite the fact that I had to travel a long, hard road to motherhood, once I finally did get pregnant, I was certain that we would have another baby in the future. I carefully chose all of our baby items to be gender neutral, so that they could be used again, regardless of whether we had boys, girls, or one of each. Several hours after giving birth, I was already talking about the “next time” and the nurses teased me, since apparently most women are a little too traumatized to start talking about having another baby so soon. I never had any doubt that we would have another baby. When Michael and I discussed the future, I always referred to “our kids” because I knew that another one would be joining us eventually. We were a family of three, but in my mind, that was only a temporary situation. We would eventually be a family of four.
Once I got pregnant, I naively believed that it would be a snap to get pregnant again. And actually, it was. I’ve been pregnant four times since Evelyn was born, but we’re still a family of three…and the difference now is that I’m pretty sure we always will be. Two chemical pregnancies and two miscarriages kind of left us worse for the wear. After our last miscarriage at 16 weeks, I was pretty sure that it was time to just let go of the idea of another child. We were so weary from the losses and just not sure if we could go through it all again. We are both getting older. Can you believe the medical term is ‘elderly’? I seriously thought my OB was teasing me when he used that word. Physically, I am not what I used to be.
I think for most women the decision to be done having babies is huge, whether you have one or fifteen. It’s hard to close that door forever, even if you think your family is complete. Unfortunately for some, there is no choice in the matter. For me, it’s been a process. At first, I was really mad at the idea of leaving my childbearing years behind after such a negative experience. I didn’t want my last memories of pregnancy and child birth to be so painful and traumatic. I also didn’t want to go through another loss. I started by getting rid of all the baby things. It was so hard. I still had ‘what if?’ in my mind. But my mom and Michael gently reminded me that I could always get more baby things if I needed them. So, I had a yard sale. I cried when I went through all of Evelyn’s things. I cried in my car when I met with ladies to sell her cloth diapers. I cried a lot.
I worried about Evelyn being an only child. In many ways, I think I wanted to have another baby more for her than for myself. Michael and I both come from big families, so the thought of an only child was totally foreign to me. I don’t want her to be alone in this big, bad world once her dad and I are gone. I talked to a good friend of mine and read lots of blog posts about the experience of being an only. I started to see all the positives that can come with that.
As I was slowly coming to acceptance over the idea of an only child, I was also still very much mourning the loss of our son, our last pregnancy. It was very conflicting to start to feel happy and relieved about the idea of being done having children while I was still so sad over our loss. At times I felt that if I let the happiness creep in, it was like saying that I never wanted my son in the first place. I’ve been having to learn how to separate the two experiences and it’s still difficult sometimes. But, I am slowly coming to a place of acceptance.
So, instead of becoming a family of four, we’re becoming a family of three all over again. I’m kind of getting used to the idea. I know we will be able to do a lot of cool things as a family that we might not be able to do as easily if we had more children. I know that Evelyn will be okay. I know that our family is not in a position to be starting over with a new baby right now and I am not sure we ever will be. I suppose that if God decides to add another child (or children) to our family, I am open to that idea, but we are not actively pursuing it. For now, I am just focusing on contentment, and it feels pretty good.
I typically don’t waste a lot of time thinking about what might have been. The past is in the past and I tend to believe that the things that have happened, both good and bad, have taught me a lot about myself, about life, and about how things should be. I take what I need from those lessons and I don’t dwell a lot on the coulda, shoulda, woulda.
But, when you lose a pregnancy, you can’t help but think about the should-have-beens.
I should be feeling my baby move all over the place.
I should have been preparing the nursery by now.
My belly should be watermelon-sized and I should have a hospital bag packed.
I should have planted more in our garden this year, but since I was anticipating being pregnant this summer, I didn’t.
I shouldn’t be dreading August 20…but I am.
That’s the day (give or take a few) that we would have welcomed our little boy into the world. Evelyn would have become a big sister. Instead, he was born 24 weeks early. The baby things have been sold, the nursery is a storage room for the time being, and I’m still hanging on to the weight that I gained in the first trimester….a constant reminder, like my body won’t let go of what it already lost.
How does anybody cope with a due date after a pregnancy loss? I don’t know. I’m not even sure how to write this. I am still getting through it. In a way, I will be glad when it passes. It feels a bit like the last mountain to climb before I can work my way back to normalcy. It also feels like losing him all over again. So far, it’s just been best for me to let the feelings come, experience them, acknowledge them, honor them. They are what I have of my son….the should-have-beens.
I am grateful that Michael’s vacation time will coincide with the date and several weeks ago, I suggested we take a long trip. Yep, I’m running away from it….away from all the things that remind me of what should have been. I guess I didn’t have my head on straight when we planned the return trip because on August 20, the day I should have been holding my son, I will be sitting in a car for 12 hours, with nothing but time to think about it. Maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t know. I guess we all just muddle through this life and try to figure it out as we go. At least that’s the way I do it.
I’m hoping not to live in the should-have-been for too much longer. “Should have been” suggests that the world owes us something. It does not. We are not owed or guaranteed a single thing. I think about this when I try to figure out how we might honor our son each year. I don’t know how we will do it, but I do know when I’d like to do it and it won’t be on August 20. In the time that it’s taken me to write this, I have realized that I do have more of my son than the should-have-beens. I have what actually was. I still gave birth to him. I still got to hold him. Not many women who have miscarried get to say that. Sure, there have been times when the memory of those moments with him made this loss much more painful than my previous miscarriages. But, I’d much rather honor him on the day he was born rather than the day he should have been.
That seems like a huge step, right? Accepting what was instead of wishing for what should have been? I’ll keep working on it. One day at a time.
I slept in your bed last night because you woke up with a fever, complaining that your head hurt. I had hoped you would go back to sleep quickly, but once I gave you a dose of pain reliever, you wouldn’t stop talking and asking me for water every 5 minutes, so I settled in for the rest of the night.
This morning, I watch you sleep. I just read a mom’s blog story about her baby dying at 2 months from SIDS. I gaze at the long eyelashes over your closed lids and thank God for this one, you, and for babies that live and keep mommas going. You roll over and settle into your pillow. I watch your eyebrows raise and lower again and I’m reminded of you as a baby. You’ve been doing this eyebrow raise since you were just a few months old. An outward display of your innate curiosity. When you first discovered something new…a toy, your foot, the ceiling fan…you would study it for what seemed like hours and your eyebrows jumped up and down. I silently wonder if you will always do this and if I will be able to catch your adult eyebrows raising and be taken back again to your baby days.
You are slow to wake up and be fit to interact with the world…just like your parents. I swear, if I knew that coffee would solve the problem, I would very seriously consider having a cup waiting for you in the morning. Since we’re all a bit foggy, mornings are usually pretty slow around here. Coffee or juice, TV, morning news, feed the pets, tiptoe through our interactions. It’s hard to know what kind of mood you will be in and even if you wake up sunshiney, that can turn around on a dime. Your dad is the master of unintentionally “poking the bear,” as I like to call it. Sometimes all it takes is too much of a smile or an enthusiastic “good morning!” to piss you off. Somehow, though, we manage to muddle through.
Just a few short months ago, every trip out the door was a struggle. These days, we’re more like partners.
“Are you ready to go?”
“Yep, I’m ready!”
And off we go. Amazing how we suddenly find ourselves here and I have no idea how we got here…working together and being on the same page once in awhile. Not always. But now.
Most days, you are attached to my hip. It’s a little frustrating at times. I want you to be independent, play on your own, and be able to entertain yourself. But, I also love that you need me and I know that this time is fleeting. One day soon, you will stop wrapping your little arms around my legs as I try to make dinner. You won’t ask to be held the instant I open my laptop computer. You won’t request bedtime stories and those off-tune lullabies you have been hearing since you were a baby. I won’t always see this sweet little face looking up at me.
No two days are alike around here. I guess we’re not a family of routines. Certain times of the day are pretty routine…mealtime and bedtime mostly…but the rest of the day is open for anything. We make trips to the library and local parks. We have shopping days when we drive out to the Amish produce and discount stores and then stop at the big stores for anything else we didn’t find. In the winter, we stopped at McDonald’s a lot so that you could let out some energy in the Playland area, but summer means trips to the coffee shop for ice cream or bubble tea.
On days when your dad is off work, we make bigger outings, like to the beach at Bald Eagle State Park or we drive to State College. You love to go to Barnes and Noble. We make trips to the strawberry fields, pumpkin patch and the county fair every year. You like to spend a lot of time at your art table, using your watercolors and playdough. Sometimes you help me in the kitchen with whatever I am cooking that day.
You follow me everywhere….literally. Even if I tell you to stay put because I have to run to the basement to pull something out of the freezer (a 30 second task), you have to follow me down there, making the process take much longer. We talk about privacy and how people need that when they go to the bathroom, so you follow me in there and tell me that you’ve closed the door so that I could have some privacy.
Some days we spend way too much time watching TV.
Some days feel like they will never end, but the weeks seem to fly by in a flash.
I usually have to dodge a trail of toys that magically appear in the kitchen when I am trying to prepare dinner. At least once a week, you tell me you don’t like my food. We almost always sit down to eat as a family. You have become an old pro at saying grace and as we eat we share our favorite parts of the day, as well as our less stellar moments. More often than not, you barely touch your food and then 10 minutes after dinner you are asking for fruit or gummies.
Bedtime is our time. Your dad takes turns with me and he tucks you in at night too, but more often it’s me. I still sit with you every night until you fall asleep and, though there are times when I think it would be nice to just plant a kiss on your forehead and leave you to fall asleep on your own, I still really enjoy just sitting with you because that’s when we talk. Ever since you were about 18 months old, we have been having conversations at bedtime. I used to be able to rock you in the chair and you’d lie in my arms and look up at me and tell me about your day, 2-3 words at a time. Now, you lie in your big girl bed and tell me how much you want to see penguins and that you want to go to the ocean. You ask questions and every response that I give you prompts another question. Not topic is off limits. I like to tell you the truth about whatever you ask.
We move through the motions of the bedtime routine you have had since the beginning. Brush teeth, potty, three books, and as many songs as it takes to get you to sleep. Sometimes I sing and sometimes we use a playlist. You yawn and then I yawn. “I made you yawn, mom.” It’s our little inside joke. I love that we have jokes now. 🙂
Pretty soon, I can hear you lightly snoring and I know that you will be out until morning (at least most of the time). This is the moment when I pause, watch you sleeping, if only for a few seconds. No matter how different you seem from the baby you were, this is the time when that little baby reappears and I thank God for the seconds, minutes, hours we have had together.
When you’re finally in a deep slumber, I back out of your room and take one last glance at those long lashes covering your eyes, grateful that I don’t have to be quite so careful with the rattling of the door knob.
It’s been about a month since we lost our son and I can’t say that I am an expert on recovering from miscarriage, but I am at least feeling better and finding ways to move forward. This kind of loss is so personal and I think everyone handles it differently, but I wanted to share some things that have helped me so far because I know that overwhelming feeling that comes in waves…”How am I going to get through this?”
The first week was the hardest, but fortunately, Michael was home with me and we were able to just grieve together and to allow ourselves to feel whatever we were feeling. We had a few “normal” moments, but for the most part, we struggled. After about a week, I wrote about my experience and posted it here. That was very cathartic for me and I feel like a weight lifted after that. We are very fortunate to have a lot of amazing people around us (and far away) who showered us with phone calls, flowers, gifts, food, prayers and love. It was so comforting to be able to lean on the people we love. For me, it has also been helpful to seek out others who have been in the same situation. I joined a facebook group and some online forums that are specifically for parents who have experienced loss. There is something very healing about being able to share your experience with someone who knows your pain and it’s even more healing to be able to offer encouragement to others as they are going through their darkest hours.
One of the biggest realizations I had during both of my miscarriages was just how precious my daughter is to me. When I found out I was pregnant with her, it felt like a miracle. I had tried for so long and had been through so much before she came along. It almost seemed selfish to hope or ask for another child, but we always thought we would have another one and really wanted Evelyn to have a sibling. We were very intentional, right from the beginning, about the items we purchased (everything gender neutral) and the way we set up the nursery. We had always anticipated that there would be one more. But, after two losses, back to back, we are just not sure if we will continue to try to expand our family. We aren’t ready to take any permanent measures of prevention, but we are definitely planning to take time to heal from this loss and weigh the pros and cons of trying again…or not. As much as I wanted another child, I have always felt that if I only ever had Evelyn, that would be enough for me. I don’t want the weight of this loss to impact my relationship with her, so I am doing my best to maintain life as usual. April has been full of Easter preparations and trying to enjoy the warmer weather. I’m taking pictures again…I know that sounds weird, but I used to take so many pictures of Evelyn and over the past 6 months, I had just kind of stopped. For me, that’s a sure sign that something is wrong. I decided it’s time to take pictures again, to experience life as it happens and to really appreciate all that I have.
Keeping the faith has been a priority for me. I have been down some very difficult roads before and I recognize that these are the times to draw close to God and grow in Him. The first week after we lost our baby was hard. Really hard. On a cerebral level, I knew all the things that people say to be true. It happened for a reason. God had a plan and would use the situation for good. But, I was mad at Him. I needed to be mad at Him for a period of time. Despite my anger with God, I didn’t run away from Him. I went to church on Sunday, two days after I got out of the hospital. I started reading some devotionals that centered around grief and loss. I prayed…constantly. I talked to God and told Him about every fear, every regret, every pain. I asked Him why, over and over. I still do from time to time. I know that God can use this situation for good in my life and that He can use my experience to help other people. I don’t know what that will look like just yet, but I pray about it every day.
There was never any doubt that we would have to find a way to honor our baby. He was real to us, our child, not just a fetus…whatever that means. We got to see him and hold him. We dreamed about who he would be and how he would complete our family. I had just begun to feel movement in my belly and we took pictures of him when he was born. We had named him and talked to our daughter about all the cool things she would do with her little brother. The hospital staff who worked with us were incredible and they gave us a box which contained all kinds of keepsakes, a tiny blanket and hat, poems, a necklace and other items. We added our ultrasound photos, pictures that we took, the little outfit I bought when I found out we were having a boy and, eventually, we will add the tiny urn that holds his ashes.
I am also planning to dedicate a little section of our garden to the angels we have lost. Some friends of mine put together a gift basket for us and it contained some seeds and a decorative stone, so I am excited to get started on that as the weather warms up. I also ordered this adorable necklace, as a way to represent our family of angels, both here on earth and in heaven.
Several months ago, when we were caught in the throes of an endless winter, we reserved a little cabin for a weekend getaway in the woods. Our weekend is coming up soon and it has been nice to have something to look forward to. It will be nice to get away from our familiar surroundings, go hiking, enjoy the outdoors, sit by the fire at night, play games, and cut ourselves off from our cell phones and Netflix. We’ve also been thinking a lot about some day trips that we can take with Evelyn this summer and possibly a getaway for just Michael and me around the time of our anniversary. It’s helpful to be able to think about the future in a positive way instead of always dwelling on what could have been.
I know that there will still be difficult days ahead and that healing happens moment to moment. So, I think one of the most important things to do, if you are faced with loss, is to just give yourself time. Don’t expect to feel better tomorrow, or next week, or next month, but know that you will feel better, in your own time. As I have talked with friends who have been through miscarriage, we have been able to say that we are better, stronger people for having known and lost our angels. If you are going through this now, take heart. We will never forget, but slowly, it does get easier.
***Please, if you are currently pregnant or have suffered a pregnancy loss, please be aware that this post may contain painful triggers or graphic details that may be upsetting or distressful. Please feel free to skip this post. My intention is to remember this time and to grieve in my own way so that I can begin to heal and move forward. I also think it is important to share stories of loss, so that others who are traveling the same road can feel less alone. It is not my intention to upset my readers or to cause anyone pain or distress. Much love, Carrie***
Since my miscarriage in October, a darkness has taken up residency here. I had hoped that my most recent pregnancy would bring some light to my world (and to this blog) once again.
My second trimester started with an ultrasound around 13 weeks. Everything looked normal, although the baby wasn’t very active and the ultrasound technician wasn’t able to get the measurements he needed to complete the screening for chromosomal abnormalities. So instead, they offered me a blood test that would screen for the same issues and would give me the added bonus of knowing the baby’s gender well before my 20 week ultrasound. Once we had that ultrasound in hand and had heard the heartbeat once more, I felt comfortable sharing our good news with the world at large (aka, my facebook community). This was the week before Valentine’s Day.
In the week to follow, I had my blood drawn for the test, and about 1 week later, I received a phone call from my OB’s office. They called to share the good news that the baby was at low risk for chromosomal abnormalities and the surprising news that we were expecting a BOY! I was completely taken aback because I was pretty convinced that we were having another girl, but I was happy just the same and I knew that Michael would be elated. I ran out to the store that day to buy a cute little boy outfit and some bibs, wrapped them up, and gave them to him as a way of sharing the good news. We were so very excited and even though Evelyn was in denial for a few days (she was convinced that she wanted a sister), she came around to the idea that she would have a little brother. Michael had told me in our early days of dating that if he ever had a son, the baby would be named after his father and his oldest brother, who shared the same name and who had both passed on years before. So, we already knew what we would call him and Evelyn was excited to help us decide what his nickname would be. She started telling everyone about the baby in mom’s belly named Robbie. So, shortly thereafter, I shared the good news once again.
By this time, I was about 15 weeks pregnant and was finally starting to feel better after months of being sick. But then I got sick once more with the 24 hour stomach bug. Finally, on a Thursday, I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, starting to feel better again. I put my hand to my belly and was overcome by the “feeling” of not being pregnant anymore. At the moment, I brushed it off as just a silly paranoid feeling, but now looking back, I believe that was the moment my baby boy’s heart stopped beating. I was exactly 16 weeks pregnant. I guess it was that moment in the middle of the night that prompted me to pull out the fetal heart monitor that my friend gave me to use. I never had one with Evelyn and I had only used it a few times to hear his little heartbeat for a few seconds at a time. But this time I couldn’t find his heartbeat at all. I tried again a little later and still couldn’t find it. I started to worry, but convinced myself that it was just a fluke and that my anterior placenta was probably blocking me from hearing him. I tried again several times the following day and still couldn’t find anything. I was really starting to worry now and Michael suggested that I try to move my next doctor appointment up a little bit, so that I could have some reassurance. So I was able to schedule my appointment for Tuesday instead of Wednesday and I just did my best to convince myself that everything was fine while I waited to see the doctor.
First thing on Tuesday morning, I went in to see the midwife. I told her about my worries and she tried herself to find the heartbeat, but couldn’t find it either. At this point, I kept telling myself that everything would turn out ok on the ultrasound. She walked us to the ultrasound room and the technician put the wand on my belly. Michael was trying to wrangle Evelyn, so he didn’t see most of what transpired. But I knew right away that something wasn’t right. When we had gone for our ultrasound at 8 weeks, the technician assured us instantly that the baby was there with a nice heartbeat. This time, he didn’t say anything. I knew. I couldn’t see the baby moving on the screen and after a few seconds, I saw him look at the midwife and shake his head. She frowned and looked at me whispering, “I’m so sorry.” I couldn’t believe this was happening. Part of me already knew that he was gone, but the rest of me didn’t want to believe it. I got Michael’s attention and gave him the same head shake that told him the bad news. I think we both wanted to just break down, but we had to keep it together for Evelyn.
Next, I met with the OB and he explained the next steps. I could either have a D&E, which he said was not advised at this stage in the pregnancy, or I would have to be induced to deliver the baby. There really didn’t seem like another choice. The idea of waiting for a miscarriage to happen on it’s own seemed unthinkable and dangerous. He told us to think about it, not to wait too long, and to call to schedule the induction when we were ready.
We actually tried to entertain ourselves for the rest of the day by taking Evelyn to visit her aunt, going out to lunch, and riding the carousel at the mall. We didn’t have it in us to be cheerful around our daughter and the thought of going home just meant that we would probably break down. I was scared. I didn’t want to schedule this induction…ever. But Michael had to go back to work in two days and suggested we schedule it for the next day so that he could be there with me. I called later that day and we set it up for the following morning. I tried to do some internet research to find out what this process would be like, but it was difficult to find any two stories that were similar. I had no idea what to expect and lots of scary possibilities floating around in my head. But the one thing that echoed through every account that I read was the importance of seeing and holding the baby and taking pictures, for closure and to aid the healing process. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep very well that night.
At 7:30 the next morning we arrived at the hospital to start the process of delivering our baby. My plan is to write a separate post about the medical aspects of this whole process, for those who are interested. But I think for now it’s sufficient to say that the induction didn’t go as planned. A process that was supposed to take 12-24 hours ended up taking 48 hours because the medication that they used for induction didn’t work on me.
During my stay in the hospital, I joked with the nurses, visited with family, and tried to be strong. But in the moments that I was all alone, I cried for what I was about to lose…what I had already lost…the baby boy I would never rock, sing to, or nurse to sleep…the little brother that Evelyn would never see, never tattle on, and never teach to dance, as she once asked to do.
The waiting seemed endless. My body just would not cooperate. Michael and I spent time crying and laughing as we talked about all the people who were already holding Robbie in heaven and what each of them would teach him.
As I waited to deliver my baby, my fears vacillated between being scared to endure any pain and being afraid to actually see the baby when he came out. I wanted to get it over with, but I was afraid of what I would endure and see. I felt stuck, trapped. At the end of the second day, I still had not made any progress with the medication. The doctor started offering other options that were scary to me, but I started to feel like I didn’t have a choice. If nothing else worked, I would have to have a D&E, and that meant I would never get to see and hold my baby. I cried, prayed, and gave myself permission to let go. I begged my body to let go of my son, so that I could say my goodbyes.
I agreed to try a different method to induce labor. The doctor inserted a balloon device around my cervix and and I settled in for my second night. For the first time since I entered the hospital, I was relieved to finally feel pain. I slept through the cramping and woke every three hours when the nurses came to deliver my medication. Finally, around 4:30 am, I woke up to a severe cramp and then felt a “pop.” Finally, some movement, but no baby yet. I started to feel a lot more pain and requested some pain relief around 5am. I think that the pain meds allowed my muscles to relax enough to just let everything go. Finally, at 8:20am, I sat up in bed and felt my baby enter the world.
I was afraid to look, but had to confirm that the baby had arrived before I called the nurse. I peeked under the blankets that covered my legs and saw his little body lying there. I called the nurse and she and the OB came into the room. As he examined our baby, the OB showed us how the umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around his neck and there was also a knot in the cord. It was a relief to know that there was nobody to blame for his death. While I was waiting to deliver, I wrestled with the idea that I might have done something to harm my baby. Maybe it was something I ate, maybe it was the medication I took when I had the flu, maybe it was that one time I scooped the cat litter or drank those few sips of wine. It is comforting to know that I had done nothing to cause this. At the same time, it seems so unfair that there was nothing wrong with our little boy. He was perfect. He died from a freak accident, in the place where he should have been safer than he would ever be on this earth.
The nurse wrapped him in a blanket and put a tiny hat on his head. Then they left us so that we could have some time alone with our son. We looked at him for a long time and cried. We didn’t really exchange any words. There was nothing to say. Our beautiful, perfectly formed little boy was dead. It felt strange to do it, but I took a few pictures. I’m glad that I did, even if it’s hard to look at them now. This was my one chance to hold my little boy’s hand…and his tiny hand looks just like Evelyn’s.
Because I had reached 16 weeks, we were told that we would have to take care of making arrangements for the baby’s body. I was glad for this because I knew that it would be hard to just let him go and leave him at the hospital. We live about a block away from a funeral home and when I called them to ask about our options, I was told that they would provide cremation free of charge. It was such a blessing to discover that there would be no financial burden attached to the loss of our son. Today we chose a heart shaped locket to contain his ashes and I feel so at peace about the fact that he will be at home with us. I can’t even express how grateful I am that this part of the ordeal was so simple and handled with such compassion.
I have no idea where we go from here. It’s been one week since we learned that our baby no longer had a heartbeat, but the wound is still so fresh and I don’t think that I will be ok for very long time. I know that I have to be strong and keep going for Evelyn and for my marriage. I know that Michael is grieving too and we have just been very gentle with one another over the past week. As much as I would never wish this on anyone, it’s a comfort that I don’t have to go through it alone and I know that he understands my hurt because he is feeling it too. I know that God has a plan in all of this. I know that my son is in a better place, but it’s going to be a long time before I can even begin to understand why this happened…and maybe I will never understand it at all. But just like any child would, my son has profoundly changed me already.
When I was pregnant with Evelyn, I posted about each of my trimesters and figured I’d try to do the same this time around.
I broke all of my own TTC rules with this pregnancy. I tested way too soon, I peed on a stick every day for at least a week to watch the lines get darker, I kept on taking my temperature, even after all the positive tests. I wanted to be sure.
Pregnancy after a miscarriage is hard, but in some ways it’s also easier. My first pregnancy, before I had ever miscarried, was pretty blissful. Even though the unfortunate possibilities would occasionally swim around in the back of my head, I didn’t give in to them. That won’t happen to me. That only happens to other people. At the same time, I had to push the negative thoughts out of my head because I had convinced myself that I would never be able to survive a loss. The heartbreak would be too much for me to take after 6 long years of trying.
Now that I have experienced that loss, I have worried about every little thing and for some time I didn’t really allow myself to “believe” that I was actually pregnant. At the same time, I know if I have another loss, I will survive it. I made it through the last one and I can do it again, if that’s what I need to do. The fear of the unknown is gone to a certain extent, so that’s what makes it just a tiny bit easier. But still, every day that passes is another day for something to go wrong.
So, I was a little unnerved that I had virtually no pregnancy symptoms during the first trimester. I kept waiting for the nausea to hit me. I waited to be repulsed by certain smells and by even the thought of certain foods. I wondered when I would be hit with crippling fatigue. But, week 7 came, then week 8, then week 9…and still nothing. I was worried. I didn’t feel pregnant. Maybe it was all wrong. Maybe I was imagining it.
When I went in for my first doctor appointment, I expressed my concern over my lack of symptoms, so they arranged for me to have an ultrasound 2 days later. As soon as the tech put the wand on my belly, I could see our little peanut moving around! He told us right away that the baby was there and there was a heartbeat (178, I’m thinking girl!?) and I cried just a little as a huge surge of relief washed over me.
Despite the fact that my pregnancy symptoms have been almost non-existent, that doesn’t mean that I have had it easy. Once I had my ultrasound and was able to relax just a bit, then I got sick. One morning, I woke up with a strange rash on my back that turned out to be shingles. Fortunately, I got off pretty easy. I stressed myself out a ton, reading about shingles online and expecting to be in bed and in pain for weeks. But in the end, the rash didn’t really spread, and it only got a little itchy. But, by the time that was clearing itself up, then I came down with the flu…and I’m not talking a little cold…I’m talking monster flu. I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt so utterly sick and miserable. I spent about 3 days on the couch, unable to do much except for cough, sneeze and gag. I couldn’t even really sleep it was so bad.
I went in for my NT Scan around 12 weeks and was able to have another ultrasound. The baby was being shy and the tech could not get the measurements he needed to be able to complete the screening, so they offered me a Panorama test, which is a blood test that will check for chromosomal abnormalities and I’ll also get to find out the gender! The baby’s heart rate was 176, so I am still thinking girl. 🙂 They offered me a bunch of other tests as well, since I am considered to be high risk this time because of my age. *eye roll* I probably won’t do any of them unless some concerns arise. I also passed my first test for gestational diabetes, which was a big relief since I had to manage that with Evelyn.
One thing that is really different this time around is that I have been completely ravenous all the time. No food aversions for me…and my body wants carbs! Ugh…I’ve already gained more weight than I would like to mention and I’m a little worried that I am going to gain a lot more. My belly is popping out a lot sooner this time. At 13 weeks, I look like I did at 20 weeks with Evelyn! I wish I could say it’s all baby. Yikes!
This pregnancy has been so different from my first in so many other ways. It’s been a lot harder to sit and daydream about the little one since I am chasing after Evelyn all the time. My symptoms have been a lot milder too, so in general, I just haven’t been “feeling” pregnant. I found out that I was pregnant very early, so the time seems to be dragging on and on. At the same time, the weeks are flying by. I’m really looking forward to the second trimester, feeling movement, and beginning to prepare the nursery. And I’m hoping things will begin to calm down, so that I can just try to enjoy it for a bit, since this will very likely be my last baby. Having any more is at the top of my Murtaugh List. I’m just too old for this sh*t.
It’s been quite some time since I have posted here, and I don’t have any particular reason for staying away. I guess I just needed a break. A lot of changes over the past year have left me in a strange state. I don’t know if it’s depression or exhaustion or just indifference. You know all those big life changes that cause the most stress? Even the good ones…getting married, moving, having a baby…can take a toll. It seems I always experience big life changes in large lump sums. Never one at a time.
This year, I left my job to become a stay at home mom. It was strange at first, especially after 20 years of working. 20 years. Is that even possible? I still don’t feel like I have figured out how to be at home, but I can at least say that I have gotten used to it and it’s mostly been a great experience. I am very grateful to be able to be home with Evelyn, but at times I wonder what on earth I am doing. I sometimes feel like it was a frivolous, impulsive decision, even though we planned for it. I guess for someone who has worked so hard and been in the workplace for so long, being at home feels almost irresponsible for me. I am by no means saying that stay at home moms are frivolous or irresponsible. Being at home is hard work and taking care of children and raising them to be decent human beings is a complicated and worthy undertaking. It’s just still strange for me. I often joke that I’m going through a mid-life crisis. I probably am.
My miscarriage in October made the latter part of the year a bit of a blur. This kind of loss is weird. It’s not like a break-up, when you have someone at whom you can direct your anger and hurt. It’s nobody’s fault, so you have to just sort of move on and get past it. I don’t know how to grieve this way.
Then, only 6 weeks or so after my miscarriage, I got this…
…and I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. Of course I was happy, but also scared and worried and a bit in disbelief. The holidays came and went, I announced the pregnancy to my family and a handful of friends, but I couldn’t help but think about the fact that if the first baby had stayed, we would have been finding out the gender by then. I totally distracted myself with online shopping during the month before Christmas, buying gifts for Evelyn’s birthday and for Christmas itself. I didn’t allow myself to become too attached to this new little being and I felt like this cloud was hanging over us. I didn’t take pictures or videos, which is completely unheard of for me. For the first time since Evelyn was born, I just didn’t feel excited about much of anything. This is a pretty depressing pregnancy announcement, isn’t it?
I’m still trying to work my way out of that funk and it’s been hard because I have also been physically unwell. I am planning to write soon about my first trimester, but to make a long story short, I have been in physical pain for months (back, sciatic) and have had multiple illnesses over the past few months (shingles, influenza). It’s been a rough year so far, but I am trying to move forward. I will be starting physical therapy sessions next week and I have slowly recovered from the other sickness that has had me down.
I am looking forward to Spring and to many happy occasions that my family will be celebrating this year…graduations, a wedding, our baby. I’m working on my spiritual growth, which is something that I have neglected for far too long. I hope to be posting here more often again and I am finally starting to feel attached to the new little alien in our lives. Evelyn is insisting that it’s a girl and we should be able to find out for sure in a few weeks…and it’s nice to finally see a light at the end of this dark tunnel I have been walking through.
A lot of people told me that staying at home would be a huge adjustment and I could see why it would be for many people. Many first time moms decide to stay at home after the birth of a baby and getting adjusted to a newborn is definitely huge. I can remember my two months of maternity leave after Evelyn was born. I was in a constant state of shock/panic/exhaustion. Learning how to read a baby’s cues and establish a routine is hard work. Add breastfeeding to that and there is very little time left in the day to shower, eat, sleep and otherwise take care of the basic needs that keep us all feeling human.
Since all of that is behind me, transitioning into being at home has been pretty smooth for me, but I have had to adjust in other ways. I’ve probably been a bit like a kid on summer break. You know, no more work, right? Woo Hoo! I can stay up late and watch back to back episodes of Dexter while mindlessly scrolling away on Pinterest and Facebook. Before I know it, it’s after midnight and I know I’ll regret this tomorrow afternoon when I am fighting Evelyn to take a nap and I end up passed out on the floor next to her bed while she’s grabbing my face and whispering in my ear “Are you OK, Mommy?”
Time to get serious…
Establishing a routine is something that I haven’t really accomplished yet. I chose summertime to leave work for a few reasons, primarily so that I could enjoy the season and all it’s activities with my daughter. So, we’ve really been on the go since I have been home. We’ve had guests come and go, a family staycation, and we’ve gone to visit family ourselves. Needless to say, that hasn’t left much time for “normalcy” in our world and it’s something that I will be striving for in the next 30 days. I know that Evelyn needs the routine and I definitely need a stretch of “normal” days so that I can really work at potty training with her. I’d also like to develop a regular blogging routine, since I’ve got a pile of half and unwritten posts, a guest post, and a 50 Things book that I am working to finish.
One of the things I worried about most before I left my job was that Evelyn would miss school. She’s 2 and a half, after all, and had been attending daycare for almost a year. I was afraid that she would miss her friends and teachers and that maybe I was being a tad selfish for pulling her out of that social environment to trap her like a hermit at home with me. After about the second week, I was feeling super-smug and proud of myself that she had not once mentioned school. This wouldn’t be so bad after all. Maybe she didn’t really miss school at all and I was just being silly to worry about it. Then the harsh reality hit me one afternoon when we were driving home from an outing. Her daddy and I had taken her to the new Children’s Garden that had just opened at Penn State. It was awesome. She got to play in water and rocks and sand, run through a tunnel in a big cave, bang on some musical chimes and climb on a happy caterpillar.
There was a group of daycare children there with their teachers and she was eager to join the group and run and laugh with the other kids. At one point, when the teachers were trying to round up the children to move to a different area, she wanted to go with them and was upset when she couldn’t hold onto one of the rings attached to a rope which is designed to keep them all together. On the way home, I asked her, “Did you like the garden? What was your favorite part?” Her response…. “The KIDS!” The doubts started to creep in again as I realized that even though she might not verbalize it, she did miss school and her friends there and playing with other kids. Why wouldn’t she? So, I know I need to make sure she gets out of the house and has a chance to play with other kids.
I also haven’t really had a chance to feel the full effects of the financial consequences of my actions. I have still been getting paychecks and a payout for the vacation time I had accrued, so it’s hard to gauge just how broke we really are. To be continued in August…
Probably the biggest setback I have had was a severe case of sciatica that set in just about the time I was leaving work. I have been living on ibuprofen for the past month and visited the doctor last week. I’ll be doing lots of stretching and core-strengthening exercises, icing my back a few times a day, and I got a script for physical therapy. If you’ve ever had this kind of pain, I’m sure you can attest to the fact that it’s AWFUL and debilitating, especially when you’re trying to run after a little one who requires being hoisted onto one’s hip multiple times a day.
I guess I could sum this all up by saying that I don’t think it has completely sunk in that I left my job and I definitely haven’t exactly figured out how this new role is going to play out for me. My house is not suddenly sparkling and I haven’t put on makeup for weeks. But I can tell you…I am having a BLAST with my daughter. It’s so amazing to be able to be with her and see and hear all the funny things she says and does. Sure, there have been frustrating moments and I am sure that it won’t always be fun, but for now, I am loving every second of it.