Letting myself have fun

A year ago I spent a friend’s birth trying to bowl with my very pregnant belly. It was one of the last hurrahs before going into the hospital. Chris and I joked around, standing back to back, me 32 weeks pregnant with Mabel, he with a bowling ball under his shirt. I bowled terribly, blaming the offset in my balance. Overall, I had fun.

This year that same friend’s birth rolled around and we found ourselves at the same bowling alley, reliving the same birthday celebration. With the holidays often interrupting many of our social schedules, it was nice to be among the larger group of friends again. As I sat down and put on my bowling shoes, with plates of every kind of fried food sitting before me, I decided I was going to have fun. Being in celebratory situations have often been difficult after my child died. Can I have fun? Will people think I am over Mabel? If I have fun, will I be forsaking her? As I pledged on one of babylossmamma’s posts, I am trying to let myself have fun, without too much guilt. It is a fine balance because I still worry that people will think I’m fine, I’m “healed” (I have another whole post in the making about what I think of that word), that I’ve moved on. My therapist asks me, what am I afraid will happen? The best answer I can come up with is that my support will go away. I still need lots of it. I struggle with anger, sadness, jealousy, hurt on a daily basis and need people to recognize that and cut me some slack sometimes. For the most part they have. I hope that can continue.

And of course, Mabel still came up that night amidst all the fun. A friend brought his girlfriend- someone I’ve simply met before but didn’t get to know. She was simply a ball full of pleasantness. Sweet and interested. We made lots of small talk. Since I was bowling remarkably well, I felt the need for her to understand it was a fluke- that last year, I was terrible. I blamed it on being big and pregnant, but secretly I’m usually not very good. We talked about where we were from, went to school, etc. And then she asked innocently, “so how many kids do you have?” My stomach dropped- but for such a different reason than it used to when asked this question. My baby died and I can say that now. I just felt so bad for her that I was about to drop this bomb on her, turning this lighthearted conversation into something inevitably sad.

“I had a baby last year and she died after birth. So none living at the moment.” I smile din the best way that I could- trying to show that yes, I’m sad, but I’m not going to go to pieces right at this moment.

She did all the right things, reaching out, touching my arm, saying, “Oh, I’m so sorry.”

She was then at a loss for words and so as I often do, I tried to fill the space.

“It’s ok…. Wait, no, it’s not ok that she died, but it’s ok that you asked. Thank you.”

And then it was my turn to bowl. So despite all my fun, Mabel was still there, present and with me.

Do you let yourself have fun? Without guilt? How does it turn out?

Baby Bottles

“Do you have any recommendations on bottles?” she asked, her body swollen with it’s second pregnancy well into the third trimester.

I stared at her blankly, not understanding.

“I plan to go back to work, so you know, for pumping.  Do you have any recommendations?”

I was not only lost by this nonsequitor- we had just been discussing her thoughts on this baby’s weight compared to her first- but I was also surprised she was asking me.  I’m a midwife- birth is my thing, not bottles.

“That’s a better question for your pediatrician.  I don’t do babies once they come out of you.”

I wanted to add, “and my baby died. I never got a chance to breastfeed, let alone worry about bottles.”  I was mad at this woman in a way.  This was her second baby.  Shouldn’t she have figured it out with her first baby?  And really?  You’re asking the woman whose baby died?

Not fair, I know.  She probably didn’t read the sign about Mabel.  She has no reason to know anything about my personal life.  And since part of my job technically is to deliver babies, it’s not too much of a stretch to assume I know something about feeding them.  I do know a bit about breastfeeding after all.

I couldn’t help but feel angry at the woman even though it wasn’t her fault.  I know deep down I’m not really angry at her, I’m angry at the circumstance.  I felt like the universe was teasing me- playing a cruel little joke, presenting me with a question I should have been able to answer had my baby lived.  That universe which I once thought if I was good to, it would be good to me.  Silly me.

Have you ever felt like the universe was playing a joke on you?

I am not the bad guy

I have a confession. I was not the perfect pregnant woman. Every few weeks I had a glass of wine. I snuck some raw cookie dough and licked the cake batter bowl. I ate too much sugar and not enough vegetables. Many of my babyloss counterparts say “I did everything right” and I often have chimed in, though I know I did a few things that others might have looked down on me for. But none of these things killed my baby. A faulty chromosome was really her downfall- something that is usually quite livable, but in her case leading to a cascading effect of fatal birth defects.

So when I hear people doing some counter culture things in pregnancy (crossfit? An occasional glass of wine? Medication with potential effects on the baby?), I have always been rather understanding, even now in my grief. But I draw the line.

Arguing with me about how marijuana should be allowable for pregnant women doesn’t change the fact that it’s still illegal here. My job requires that I protect your health and your baby’s health. If you are unhappy with the law, take it up with your state legislature, not with me.

I could go on about how people who smoke marijuana often use other drugs, about how unregulated marijuana could be laced with other harmful substances, how people who make poor decisions regarding drugs are more likely to participate in other risky behaviors.

I am not the bad guy.

Being pregnant is a privilege and an opportunity to better oneself. I was told my baby was likely going to die and I still recognized that. I asked advice of my providers and listened. I wish others would do the same.

Do you have any confessions? What do you get mad at seeing other pregnant woman doing?

A little glucola, a little Mabel

“Ugh I don’t want to taste that syrupy gross glucola again,” she said adamantly.  A long discussion ensued, where I reviewed her risk for diabetes- her size, her family history, and where I went over the risks of undiagnosed diabetes, including stillbirth.  I often have patients complain about the diabetes test.  It’s gross, but it’s necessary.  I offered her a jellybean test or referral to do finger sticks to assess blood sugar.  She didn’t seem interested.  I tried to instill how important the test is.

“I won’t sleep well at night until I know you don’t have diabetes.  I want to make sure your baby is okay,” I pleaded.  She reluctantly agreed to go before her next appointment, though I wasn’t convinced.  I knew this patient well- she’s generally jovial, educated and opinionated.  She had been my gyn patient before pregnancy and was seeing me exclusively for her prenatal visits.

“You better be there when I deliver!” she coaxed me.

“You know I’m not doing deliveries right now, right?”

“Well you’ll do them by January 1st, right? In the new year?”

“We’ll see. When I’m ready.  I’m taking it day by day right now.”

“Why aren’t you ready now?”

“My baby died.  It’s too sad for me right now.”

She stood up and gave me a big hug.

“So this is why you want me to do the glucose test, huh?”

“I know what it’s like to not take a baby home from the hospital.  I don’t want anyone else to have to do that.”

She did her glucose test right after the visit.  She passed. I’ll sleep better.

Mabel came up organically in this conversation, but I worry some people might view me a using her to guilt people.  I don’t usually bring her up under these circumstances, but it just came out naturally- and frankly, it felt right.  What do you think?  Am I using my experience in the wrong way?  Have you had a similar situation?

How do I bond with this baby?

How do I bond with this baby?  I’ve talked about how I want others to see this baby as a real person and maybe part of that is so I can feel like this baby is real.  I’ve felt a lot of movement in the past few days and movement is something I am so very thankful for.  Mostly because I know the baby is alive and nothing has changed.  It helps a little to think the baby is interacting with me and my body too. But it’s still so unreal.  It was unreal when I discovered I was pregnant.  At that time, I felt pretty much ok and certainly didn’t look pregnant.  It was unreal when we found out the baby has Down Syndrome.  I hadn’t even adjusted to the pregnancy yet and then I had another hurdle to adjust to.  It got a little more real when we went to the CT Congress on Downs Syndrome’s conference- meeting parents with children with Down Syndrome.  But now this.  I need another conference full of people who’s babies kidneys weren’t working and had lung issues. AND have Down Syndrome.  I just don’t know what life will be like if the baby lives.  I have no role models, no scenarios, no nothing.

 

I can’t picture what my baby will look like.  I used to have trouble just trying to morph Chris’s and my baby pictures in my head to come up with some vision of our baby.  Adding features of Down Syndrome made it more difficult to imagine the face of our baby.  And now with the low fluid, the baby may have Potter’s syndrome too- with no swimming pool to stretch out in, the baby’s limbs could be contracted and some of the facial features smooshed. Plus the baby has clubbed feet.  I worry that my baby will look funny.  I know it will be my baby, but I just can’t picture him/her.

 

I think about if we have to have a funeral- I don’t know if I’d display a photo- especially if it were a stillbirth- mostly because people are uncomfortable with seeing a photo of a dead baby.  I would keep those photos for me to remember and reflect.  So my next thought would be to display a picture of the baby’s feet, because that’s a sweet, classic, usually “safe” image.  But my baby’s feet might be rotated and contracted.  It makes me so sad that there might not be photos of my baby that people would want to see.

 

So how do I bond with this baby?  I know that this may be a typical first time mom experience.  It’s hard to envision yourself as a mother until you’ve been one, right?  But the act of breastfeeding, changing diapers, holding your baby are all things that help first time moms really get adjusted to the idea that they are really mothers.  I might not get that.  I know people will say I’m still a mom even if my baby doesn’t survive.  But how will I feel like a mom?  If my baby is in the neonatal ICU, I don’t get to do those initial mom things.  I don’t even get the first step- holding my baby skin to skin.

 

How do I bond with this baby?

 

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On another note, I came across this on one of my Down Syndrome message boards.  I can’t explain the part of my brain and heart that this touched.  I read this as not just as someone who is pregnant, but who faces pregnant women every day.

http://liferearranged.com/2014/01/why-it-matters-when-we-rub-our-bellies-and-say-so-long-as-its-healthy/

My response when people ask if its a boy or a girl. “I don’t know.  But I’m pretty sure its a baby.”  It’s a baby.