A rogue wave

As a midwife, my colleagues and I usually meet once a month to discuss protocols, clinical issues and patient care.  I enjoy these meetings because it’s rare that we actually see each other in person.  I’m in an office with maybe one or two other midwives or docs on any given day, but even then we are all busy seeing patients, often working through our lunch hour.  It’s a pleasure to spend some time face to face with my coworkers- even if it’s entirely work focused.

Recently our monthly meeting has been cancelled or rescheduled for all sorts of logistical reasons, so when we had our first one in several months earlier this week, I was looking forward to it…even though it’s at 7am.  The hour long meeting flew by and I was leaving the hospital, where our meeting is held, in a good mood.

Until I walked out the main entrance.

Sitting there as I was leaving was a woman with a newborn carrier waiting for her ride home.  My heart clenched and I was thrown backward in time. Here I was, leaving the hospital, empty handed once again.

So much has happened since that first time I left the hospital without my baby.  I returned many times- for meetings, to visit staff and friends. I even finally had the chance to leave the hospital with an actual living breathing newborn. But it had been a while since I’d been back at the hospital and it’s amazing how even though it’s been two and a half years since I said goodbye to my Mabel, like a rogue wave in a quiet sea, the grief can still hit hard out of nowhere.

I don’t spend much time actively grieving these days. I often feel that my other job- working for Hope After Loss, the non profit that supports the pregnancy and infant loss community, is my way of grieving. I get to speak of my daughter often and empathize deeply when I’m speaking new a new loss mom or dad.  What I realized earlier this week at the hospital is that though I may be honoring Mabel in my role at Hope, I still compartmentalize my feelings.  It’s protective.  Grief is hard work.

Seeing this mom and her newborn, I was reminded I still have work to do.

I miss her, my baby Mabel.

Advertisements

A memorial day BBQ

I went to a BBQ this weekend at a friend’s. It was great- I needed some friend time, since Chris was away visiting his brother for the weekend and had lots of unused burgers and sausages that needed to be eaten. I debated bringing Muppet with me- I had asked my friend if I could, because it was an outdoor affair and I felt like I hadn’t spent enough time with her that day. But she can be a handful and I wasn’t sure I wanted the responsibility of watching her every move or causing trouble at someone else’s house (she is still a puppy and gets into all sorts of puppy mischief). In the end, I’m glad I did.

The BBQ was small- a couple generations- friends and some of their parents. I liked the mix of it. Muppet was a hit among the parents, which made me feel good. I needed the down time sitting in a chair with friends. Food was delish- extra so, because someone else cooked it! And a couple hours into the party, some friends came with their five week old newborn. I knew they were coming- the host had given me a heads up (which I so very appreciated) and so I tried to mentally prepare. I’ve been trying to face some situations more head on, less avoidance, though my feelings are still the same in these scenarios as they were a year ago- I can just control my emotions more. And I recognize I can’t avoid forever. I still think my feelings are valid, but now that it’s been over a year, I know that others might not understand why it hurts to see newbors or kids Mabel’s age.

It’s harder with friends and family, actually. Stranger babies are easier to see and forget, but I care about my friends and family- I care about their babies. So seeing them is actually harder, balancing my care and my sorrow.

IT was how I expected- there was no dangling the baby in front of my face, pretending that I had never buried my own baby. They were subtle, but they were also new parents, proud of the baby they had made. The older generation was smitten, practically arguing over whose turn it was to hold the baby. They asked questions to the new mom about sleeping and when she was returning to work.

I sat politely through it, my heart aching because I couldn’t help but think about how I didn’t get that with Mabel. How badly I wanted that simple interaction, those simple questions. How maddeningly unfair it was that I had a baby but didn’t get todo any of the normal baby/new mommy stuff. It felt like it never happened, which hurts even more! I wasn’t angry at the new family, I was simply jealous and reminded of the hurt. It really hurt. I felt so so cheated.

I think one friend might have recognized this a little- she pulled me into conversation when everyone else’s talk started to focus on the baby. I was so grateful for that, whether she did so knowingly or not. So we talked about non-baby things, while I reached down and petted my puppy, happy she was there with me.

IMG_7071

I stayed for more than enough time after, but was the first to leave, tired from a busy day and too much emotion.

Have you felt cheated lately?

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.

 

 

Newborn class

“Have you singed up for childbirth classes?” I asked.

“Yeah, we signed up for a bunch- the labor class and hospital tour. Oh and the newborn class!  You know, the one where they teach you how to keep you baby alive?” she said with a little laugh.

The fun little repertoire we had going came to a standstill.  It wasn’t her fault; she didn’t know my newborn had died.  I could see a little confusion on her face as her chummy midwife suddenly became all business.

“Which arm do you want your flu shot in?”

SiIlly me, I only signed up for labor classes.  I hadn’t taken the newborn class.  Do you think if I did, I would have been able to keep my baby alive?

 

Are there jokes you once easily laughed at that you don’t find funny anymore?

 

 

Parallel Lives

She was telling me about a problem she’s had since her baby was born. To get a better sense of the duration of her symptoms, I asked when she had the baby.

February 15, 2014.

As I typed the date into my note, I my fingers began to freeze. They understood the significance of that day. For the woman in front of me, it was the best day of her life. For me it was the worst. We were in the same hospital, on the same labor floor at the same time. We both held our first borns that very day, changing our lives forever.

My family came to meet my lifeless child, while hers came with balloons and teddy bears.

While she changed diapers in the middle of the night, I slept in an ambien-induced haze.

She woke to the sound of a crying baby; I woke to the sound of my cell phone, a call from my credit card company to inform me of some fraud that happened while I was listening to the nurse ask us if we wanted to call the chaplain.

A day later, I was leaving the hospital empty armed and she stayed learning how to nurse her child.

Her milk came in, as did mine, but she had an outlet for her brimming breasts.

While I planned a funeral, she learned to care for a baby.

I sat on my couch, staring mindlessly at the tv; she longed for the free time she had pre-baby to catch up on her shows.

She watched her baby grow into an infant, learning to smile and respond; I placed photos of my dead baby around the house, knowing that I would never see her smile.

She raised a baby while I got a puppy.

She is a mom and I am the shadow of one.

She lived the life I was supposed to have.

At the end of her visit, I slipped into the bathroom and cried.

 

Have you come across someone living the life you were supposed to have?

Fur Babies

I always said I wasn’t responsible enough for a dog until I proved myself with a baby- coming straight home everyday after work, arranging daycare, having a small creature totally reliant on me. When Mabel died and I made connections in the babyloss world, especially with those who had no living children, I learned many of them had “fur babies.” They poured their built up love and caring into an animal that they had or brought home after they lost their babies. At first I didn’t want one- my baby died and replacing her with an animal was not going to make it any better.  In fact, getting a dog would make her death more real. I wouldn’t have minded it as a temporary thing- caring for a snuggly puppy in the first months of my grief, while home alone, but I would want to give it up when I returned to work.  The idea of doing all I should have been doing (rushing home from work, middle of the night awakenings) for a dog instead of a baby seemed too painful.  But as the months rolled by and the house remained empty and quiet, I started to have second thoughts.

Chris has always been a dog lover. He’ll the get on the floor and wrestle with your dog. He knows how to talk to them and make them stay or sit. It’s almost as fun watching him play with dogs as it is watching him play with kids (he’s a natural there too). He would have been happy getting a dog a long time ago- I was the hold up. So he was thrilled when I suggested we start looking.

I was picky. The biggest requirement was that we get a dog that didn’t shed. I shed plenty of hair and have trouble keeping the house clean with just me- I didn’t want to have to be vacuuming every day or find stray dog hair in my food. I also was partial to smaller dogs, but Chris preferred bigger dogs, so we agreed on medium sized. Plus we want one that’s friendly, active and good with kids (I do hope to have more in the future). I loved the idea of a rescue dog (I feel almost morally dictated to get one) but with all my pickiness, a rescue was seeming less likely. Chris researched and found a local breeder of Golden Doodles and I was completely won over by their teddy bear appearance (if you want to be distracted by cuteness, look up golden doodles on pinterest). We began the process.

The breeder had a litter of medium sized dogs due in the end of July and so we signed ourselves up. A month of waiting for the pups to be born, then another month of waiting to meet and pick out our pup and a last month of waiting to take her home. Our Muppet has been three months in the making. In the last few weeks I would often comment “this must be what it’s like to be excitedly waiting for a baby to be born,” rather than wanting to stay pregnant and avoid the inevitable day, learning whether your baby would live or die.

Now we have a newborn pup at home and are living the lifestyle of newborn pup parents- frequent potty trips, sleeping poorly at night awoken by the cries of a pup in the crate next to our bed and showing her off proudly to anyone who will look.

Do you have a fur baby? Where have you put all your pent up love after your loss?