Jessica’s mom

On mother’s day, I went to visit my daughter.  I took Felix with me, which I don’t often do, simply because it’s a pain in the butt to get him in and out of the car seat.  But since the weather’s warmer and it was a special day, we went together.  It was super cute to see him dance around her headstone, jumping and running in pure toddler fashion. Felix loved playing with the pinwheels I had brought her for Easter.

But the best part was just as I was walking up to her grave, another woman, maybe 10-15 years older than me walked up to the grave in front of hers.  As I held Felix in my arms, I asked “Are you Jessica’s mom?”

I had always felt comforted by the graves in front of and behind Mabel.  Behind her was a woman who died older and I pictured her as a grandma figure for Mabel.  In front of her lie baby Jessica, who lived for 3 days. A playmate for Mabel, someone to show her the ropes, hold her hand. I told Jessica’s mom this.

We talked for several minutes. I learned that Jessica was born at full term, with an infection from which she simply could not recover.  She has two older siblings and two younger siblings.  Jessica’s mom likes to visit her grave alone, as do I.  I shared a bit of Mabel’s story with her- how we knew she would be sick, but we were hopeful. I said how hard it must have been to lose Jessica suddenly, without warning after a full term pregnancy.  She reminisced about the time after she lost Jessica and how her two living children gave her a reason to get out of bed.  I spoke of how hard it was losing my first.  It was validating in a way- losing your first child is a special kind of pain (not that it’s any worse than losing a second, or third…it’s a unique  pain that makes you mother- an invisible one, because the public cannot see the baby that made you a mom).  It’s funny how we both tried to make our losses seem less painful than the other’s- the suddenness of her loss, the pain of me having no living children with mine.  We bonded over how difficult it is to answer how many children we have. I even mentioned how I had wrote about Jessica in this blog.  I asked how old she would be- 17, graduating from high school.  She told me of seeing her nieces and nephews the same age reaching milestones and the pang it leaves in her heart.  Oh, to know I am not the only one! To know it will always hurt a little… even 17 years later…and that’s normal for our babyloss clan.

I wanted to tell her that I sometimes left a flower for baby Jessica, that I often looked at her headstone, that her daughter proximity to my daughter made me feel less alone.  I think she understood without me saying so, as is so common in our clan.

 

Have you bonded with any babyloss strangers?

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Sunday Synopsis

Toddler Cyberbullied Oh gosh, why is the internet such a mean place?  As the mother of child who would have grown up looking non-traditional, had she been given the chance to live, this really smarts.  And really, her daughter is totally cute! I often worry about thing I put out on the internet- I know I”m taking a risk, but it’s important for me to share my daughter.  Yes, people have freedom of speech.  But dont people have the moral obligation to be kind too?

Kissing skeletons: love has no labels  On a more upbeat note, some happiness is going around the internet right now- and here’s the story behind it.  Love the Down Syndrome feature 

One Day  For those of you with kids, who have experienced loss… oh my this is a simple, powerful portrait of what I imagine it must be like.

You need a new doctor- a nice reminder as a health care professional, myself, that our words can hurt.  I cringe reading these too.  I hope I am never featured.  I do recognize that sometimes things we say can be misinterpreted and sometimes it’s just a lack of training, knowing what to say.  We’ve all experienced people like that in the babyloss world. But some of these- geez.

I’ve always wanted a big family

I sat across from her in the exam room. She was there with her partner and the youngest of her two children, a toddler. She had no clue when her last period was, but based on some recent negative pregnancy tests and now positive, I knew she was in early days. I had congratulated her when I entered the room and she welcomed my words with a smile.

“So were you guys trying or was this a surprise?”

I ask pretty much all my patients this, especially at these kind of visits- one we call “confirm pregnancy” appointments. It’s a quick early visit, to establish with our test that a woman is pregnant and to see if they need an early ultrasound. Plus we are able to start some education and answer questions before the typical initial pregnancy appointment at 8-10 weeks. I ask this question because sometimes people come to this visit to discuss options- I’m trying to see if I need to discuss termination or just plow forward with all the excitement of a new pregnancy. I’m also trying to assess her emotional needs- does she have support? What are her worries?

“Oh, it was a surprise!” She said with a laugh.

“So were using any birth control recently then? Pills? Condoms…?” I ask this to help assess her pregnancy dating. Recent pill use can affect timing of ovulation and thus pregnancy due dates.

“No…” A typical answer that always makes me laugh internally. In my world if you’re not contracepting, you are actively trying to get pregnant.

“But you seem happy about things?”

“Oh yes! I’ve always wanted a big family!”

I looked at her, in her twenties now pregnant with her third child. No history of loss. Smiling, happy, accepting and expecting that things of course would work out.

I’ve always wanted a big family. In the beginning of our relationship, Chris and I discussed how many kids we wanted. He wanted two. I wanted five. He came from a family of two kids; I came from a family of five. No wonders there. Because I got married and would be starting a family later in life, I knew that five was unlikely- we sort of agreed on three (though he would sometimes would argue for two still). When Mabel was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, I became firm in my belief I wanted three kids. We needed to ensure she had siblings who would care for her when Chris and I were no longer able to or weren’t around.

I now laugh at myself- even then- at the naivete of those thoughts. As if we have some sort of control of how many kids we get to bring home (I recognize in a way we do- with the medical marvels of birth control and all…). I didn’t realize that when I was wanting three kids I should have been hoping for three living children. Silly me!

I recently posted about grieving parenthood but I’m also grieving the loss of my future family dreams. If I’m lucky enough to get a take home baby- I no there are no guarantees that I’ll be lucky enough to get another. In another world I thought being an only child seemed like a cruel thing. But I wasn’t thinking about the fact that parents might not have had a choice. My childhood was defined by my large family- I want a semblance of that for any future child I might be lucky enough to have. But I feel like asking for more than one living child is greedy. Just give me one, please. In addition to grieving active parenting, I’m grieving parenting a large family- and the innocence in that statement I heard in the office… “I’ve always wanted a big family!”

How have your visions of your future family changed after loss?