Hi from the silence

Hi, I say meekly.

I’ve fallen off the map.  Everyday I want to write, I want to connect with the community that has held my hand through the past year and a half, I want to tell you all what’s in my head.

I’m ok.  I just wanted you to know that.

I”m just swamped!  I’ve taken on a second job, which I”ll write more about as soon as I can rightfully.  I feel like I have so little time- most of it I try to stay on top of reading other’s blogs so I feel more connected.  But the longer I stay away from writing, the harder it seems to restart.

So for now, I’ll write just a snippet.

Today I was at the dog park and there was a woman there with a teenage girl with Down Syndrome.  She had dark hair and glasses, very high functioning with good conversation skills from what i could overhear.  I so so badly wanted to tell both her and her mother about Mabel.  I wanted to talk to the girl- get to know her.  We exchanged a few words- about our dogs and about a lady who was holding her tiny dog in the pouch pocket of her sweatshirt.  I hung out close to them, trying to figure out how to start more conversation, but then it was time for them to go.  That sweet little interaction made my day.

That same day

“has not had a period since birth of her son on February 15, 2014″

I read the last note I had written on the patient before I went in to see her.  I rarely am so specific in the dating- usually I’d say something along the lines of  “has not had a period since childbirth 5 months ago.”  Clearly the date had struck me.  I wrote it down mindfully, deliberately in the note.  I remember that visit.  I was seeing the patient in the same room actually and thought of how that was also Mabel’s birthday.  At the time all I could think of was how she had a baby to go home to and I did not.

On this day, many months later, a new thought crossed my mind when I re-read my note.  As I stared at her, all I could think of was how she had been on the labor floor at the same time as me.  She was there, down the hall, when I was wheeled from the NICU back to my labor room so that we could call our family in private and tell them our daughter was going to die soon.  As I said “it’s a girl!” in the same breath as “her time with us is short,” picturing the five pound wonder child I had just left on a warmer, tubes criss crossing her slowly bluing face and body, this woman was holding her baby on her chest, shushing those first newborn cries and excitedly cooing over her own little wonder.  Not long later I held my dead daughter as I struggled to keep my eyes open, having been up all night in labor, but not wanting admit I needed sleep for it meant saying good bye to my baby forever.  She probably struggled with fatigue as well, wondering how on earth she would be able to take care of her needy little one when she was just so tired.  I returned to a postpartum room, crawled into the hospital bed with my husband and slept, undisturbed in a quiet room.  She went down the hall, her attempted sleep punctuated by cries telling of a needed diaper change or feeding.  I walked out of the hospital with a box and she was wheeled out with a baby.

I write these words not out of bitterness and jealousy, as I would have many months ago, but out of fascination… that here we both were, face to face, our lives forever changed by the birth of our first children on that same fateful February day, in the same place, but how very very different our lives are now.

 

 

Of hairdressers and dentists

what is it about the dentist and the hairdresser?

I got my haircut, finally.  It had been a year.  I don’t think I’d ever gone so long.  I never get it cut as often as they recommend, but I usually sneak one in every 3 months or so- when my hair starts looking really ratty and I feel like I need a deep clean, I break down and make an appointment.  Last time I went was not too long after Mabel died.  I had a friend’s wedding coming up and I was part of the bridal party, so I felt like I needed a little cleaning up.  I had lost all the baby weight yet, and the one thing I felt I could control was my hair.  I went to the local salon- one I had been to only once or twice because I had recently moved to the town and the hairdresser started up her chatty conversation, as most hairdresser do. I’ve never liked the small talk at the salon- it feels so forced.  Maybe because I make small talk all day long with patients, I have little tolerance for it outside of work. That visit at the salon turned painful when the hairdresser asked- “I can’t remember, do you have kids?”

I was still trying out responses to that question and the one I chose “none living,” did not feel good.  Only led to more awkwardness.  I haven’t been back since.  I guess I just didn’t feel up to facing her or the question again.

One day last week, I was brushing my hair and my brush snapped in half.  It was time, I decided. So finally after a year of throwing my hair in a ponytail daily, I found a salon  even closer to my house.  When I was greeted by the new stylist I was excited to see she was young- to some that may mean inexperienced, but I’m not that picky and really quite lazy with my hair, so for me it was fine.  More importantly I just had a sense that I might not get the jibber jabber I would have in the other salon.  once I sat down and we discussed what to do, I pulled out my phone to search the internet as she cut away.

It was great! No small talk, got a good cut.  Everyone was happy.

Going to the hair dresser I’ve learned is monumental after babyloss-  I know both Wrapped up in Parenthesis and In All Things Rejoice have both written about their experiences and what it means emotionally.  The other parallel I’ve seen is experiences with the dentist.  Nasrene at Anchors for Reece recently wrote about her latest trip and what it means to do so after babyloss.  I was reminded about my first trip to the dentist after Mabel died- and I have another appointment coming up.

I think the thing about hairdressers and dentists is that they both mark the passing of time.  Something scheduled every year that usually involves a fair amount of small talk.  Under most circumstances such chatter would be welcome and pleasant even.  But for us, it can be a reminder of what should have been.  That there should be a baby in a carrier at the base of the stool in the dentist chair.  That we should be chatting easily about sleepless nights and kid stuff with the stylist.  But instead, we sit in those chairs, a captive audience, unable to run away or avoid friendly, well meaning questions that can stab us.

Do you have any experiences like that at the dentist or hairdresser?  Any other places you’d throw into the same category?   

Sunday Synopsis

The Stone– A beautiful description of how grief evolves over time.  It’s there, never leaves, sometimes is heavier and more noticeable, sometimes just simply carrying on beside you.

Thomas Gray lived six days, but his life had lasting impact– wow wow wow.  I wish I had thought of donating organs to research for Mabel.  I had thought a little about donating her organs, but I wondered whether they would be useful due to her Down Syndrome.  Some organs were clearly not donatable- her kidneys were damaged, her lungs so small, her heart formed imperfectly.  But her corneas were likely fine.  Other organs maybe.  I might not have wanted to go through rejection of her organs for donation, but I never thought of donating for research.  Many props to Thomas Gray’s mom who not only thought about and did this for her son, but also is telling the world about it- spreading his legacy and giving options to those pregnant with babies with life limiting conditions.

Meet the very cute baby who was born without a nose– Love the positive image this post promotes about a child with a birth defect, one that makes him look different.

Baby Girl Memorial Scrapbook– Love this babyloss focused scrap book.  A way to give us a chance to make something for our babies without the pain of sorting through all the living children memorabilia

When grief becomes a disorder– I mull over this in my mind a lot- where do you draw the line at complicated grief? When someone is grieving too long or too much? We are constantly affirmed that no one can tell us how to grieve, but I feel like, here they are.  At the same time, I also believe some people could benefit from medication.  Not everyone, of course.  And I don’t think that we should medicate all grief- make people happy and forget about their loss.  But thats not what most medications do.  As someone who has benefitted from medication (but also has had a pre-existing anxiety disorder), I think meds helped me in some ways and also delayed some of my grieving process in others.  Is grief a disorder? yes and no.  It requires attention and care like other disorders, but there is no fixing it either.

April 1st

I have a confession to make.

I did something insensitive.  It was years and years ago, but this day now reminds me of it.  It was at a time when I was young and stupid and didn’t know better- but I feel so horrible about it now.  Though I have renounced any formal religion, the Catholic guilt can still get me, so I’m hoping confession will relieve me a bit.

Some background first.  I remember being on a family trip when I was a kid- a young teenager I think.  One day in the hotel room my siblings and I were just fooling around and we somehow figured out that most of us could push their stomach out in a way that looks pregnant.  My older sister could do it, my 9 and 10 year old younger brother and sister could do it.  It was funny seeing a sight on such a little person.  Oddly, I couldn’t.  Maybe I wasn’t coordinated enough or didn’t have the abs to do it, but I felt a little left out.

Fast forward to many years later.  I was in my early twenties and my sister had showed me a photo of her looking pregnant (with the whole push out your belly trick)- though it seemed hilarious because we knew she most certainly wasn’t.  So I tried it too, and this time I did it!  I was so impressed with myself.  The older me laughs a bit at this- having been asked many many times in my career “are you pregnant?” when I most certainly wasn’t.  Way to make me feel fat.  But in my skinny little 23 year old body, faking it was some sort of accomplishment.

I took a photo.  And posted it.  It wasn’t April fools (thankfully) but it was still a joke in my mind- seeing if anyone would comment.  I don’t think I got many responses.  I wondered about that- perhaps because it didn’t look as real as I thought, perhaps because I had no back story or perhaps because people were just being polite.

I am horrified that my younger self did this.  I was soooo far from the world of wanting to be pregnant, it seemed harmless.  My friends on social media were right there with me- I didn’t know anyone my age who pregnant, let alone trying or experiencing loss.  That, I am grateful for.  Though there could have been.  We all know that the loss and infertility world is often a silent one- we don’t always know who is grieving.

Today, April 1st, can be a significant one in the babyloss community.  Apparently it can be “a thing” to do an april fools pregnancy announcement on social media.  I am fortunate in that so far, I have not seen any… yet.  I hope that you all are in the same boat.  This day could be hard- or if there are no insensitive jokes, it could be a day like any other for most of us.

But today I also think of a friend, who will undoubtedly will be having a hard day.  She lost her son a year ago today- the cruelest of all jokes.  Thinking of her and Anders today and apologizing to the world for my young, insensitive self.

Play Date

I was at the dog park with Muppet and she was having her usual blissful time running around with the other dogs. The snow has begun to melt creating a large muddy patch at the park, which of course tends to draw all the dogs. Muppets fur soaks its all up and she gets crazy dirty, loving every minute. This day she found a couple of puppies that she played so well with. Coco was a brown and white dog (I am terrible at remembering breeds) just a few months older than Muppet and about the same size. They romped happily giving chase and play biting.

Dog parks are friendly places. Conversation seems to flow easily between puppy parents.

“Which one is yours?”

“What’s his name?”

“How old?”

“Where do you get her groomed?”

We exchange advice on boots for the snow, where to get a cheap light up collar, where there is a do-it-yourself dog bathing station near by.

On this day, Coco’s mom and I struck up conversation. She seemed about 15 years older than me and very friendly. She spoke with an accent and I soon learned she was from Columbia. She told me how she met her husband, an American, while she was vacationing here and ended up moving here for him.

“Our puppies get along so well!” she said. “If you ever want, we have a fenced in yard and live down the street. You can come over with Muppet and they can play!”

She told me how she works, but her mother is at home with Coco during the day.

“but she doesn’t speak English,” she warned.

“Esta bien. Hablo espanol!”

Her eyes widened and she smiled! “That’s great! She would love you! Even if you speak just a little Spanish.” She wanted to know what I did and I explained I was a midwife (“una partera o comodroma” I said when she wasn’t familiar with the English word. “pero en la hospital,” explaining that here midwives practice a little differently). I joked about how my obstetrical and gyn spanish was much better than general conversational Spanish, so hopefully her mother wouldn’t mind if I talked about vaginas! She laughed.

I left the dog park with her name and number to later arrange a puppy playdate. I thought, is this what parents with living children do? Would I be making similar playdates for Mabel, had she lived? Or not because she would have been sick?

Sunday Synopsis

Why mentioning a Loved One who Has Recently Passed Away Matters–  Yes- please speak the name of our children. yes, at parties.  Yes, even when we seem happy- it will not bring us down.  Only joy knowing that our children are remembered.

WHen I’m asked how many children I have, I always say, “Five, but one died.” I”m glad I”m not the only one.

What I wish more people understood about losing a child–   Yes yes! Especially the one about not fixing us.  I’ve really come to focus on this recently. It’s hard to see us sad and people want to make us happy.  But sometimes when people try to make us happy, they invalidate our feelings of grief.  I may feel jealous of others- but I”m ok with that feeling. I don’t to be reminded to think of others’ burdens- it wont take away my jealousy, it only makes feel like a bad person.  Sometimes food intentions hurt.

Beloved fist bumping Bruins fan is running for cancer group’s man of the year-  You know what I love about this? Liam is presented simply as a child with leukemia. He is a sick child first; his Down Syndrome is only a detail. Leukemia is more common in children with Down Syndrome, so why not make him the Man of the Year!

It’s none of your business how many kids I”m having-  Oh man, this hit home. As if we have full control over how many kids we’re having.  I’m having as many kids as my body and mind will let me- but sadly that is not as many as I wanted- because one of my children will always be missing.

Grief Support Groups: Positives and Negatives- I go to a babyloss support group- overall it’s been super helpful, though there was one group meeting that didn’t go so well- some new people, one of which led the conversation into dark angry places that were not therapeutic.  But overall I’m a big fan of the right support group.

Things never to say to couples without children– “From a well-intentioned friend, family planning questions can hurt or offend a childless couple. When in doubt, respect a couple’s current family without prescribing decisions for their future. ‪#‎BabyTalk‬” from george takei’s fbpage