Thank you nurses and midwives

This week is a big week in my healthcare world.  It is Nurses’ Appreciation Week and tuesday was International Day of the Midwife.  In honor of both celebrations, I wanted to thank my beloved nurses and midwives.

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Dear Nurses,

thank you for bringing some laughter into my triage room as we waited for the maternal fetal medicine doctor to come and give me terrible news.

Thank you for being the protector of my privacy- making sure I was ready for visitors in the midst of emotional turmoil.

Thank you for telling me about the “secret menu” the hospital offers where I can order quesadillas and pork bacon.

Thank you for sitting and chit chatting during my two week stay, keeping me sane and reminding me that things were happening beyond the fetal monitor I was trying not to watch.

Thank you for watching that fetal heart rate monitor so I could have the freedom just to be pregnant, knowing my baby was safe.

Thank you not commenting on how ridiculous i must have looked in in my sleeping outfit- it was just too hot to wear pants even though I knew you’d be coming in to readjust the monitor.

Thank you cheering me along in my in hospital exercise regimen.

Thank you agreeing to be my labor nurse, knowing my case would be emotionally hard and would likely sit in your memory for a long long time.

Thank you for taking photos of Mabel’s birth- not in your job description, but so meaningful to me.

Thank you for watching my baby in my stead, while she was whisked away to the NICU and I got my stitches.

Thank you for repeating everything the neonatologist said, right after he left because I could barely process it all.

Thank you for getting Mabel skin to skin with me for as long as humanely possible.

Thank you for the footprints, in ink and in clay, that turned out amazing, all done while she was on my chest.

Thank you for making sure she wasn’t in pain.

Thank you for taking out her breathing tube, gently, allowing me a first good glimpse of my daughter’s face free from medical equipment.

Thank you for taking photos, during her life and her death and in the after.

Thank you for feeding me, which I needed direly, but was unable to recognize myself.

Thank you for being present but unobtrusive.

Thank you taking her gently when I gave her up that very last time.

Thank you for giving me peace and solitude to sleep and to grieve in the hours after I gave her up.

Thank you for coming to her wake, taking me for walks, bringing me food in the aftermath.

Thank you for being part of it all and keeping her safe, in pregnancy, in labor and in the NICU.

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Dear midwives,

Thank you for all the extra care

Thank you each for calling and checking in when we got the news about Mabel’s Down Syndrome.

Thank you for letting me make tons of extra visits to help keep me sane.

Thank you for letting me use my appointments as mini therapy sessions

Thank you listening for a heartbeat first thing, so I knew she was still alive, before doing the rest of the visit

Thank you for having the hard conversations with me- the ones that were hard for me and hard for you.

Thank you for being honest, saying “I don’t know,” when I asked how I was supposed to return to midwifery if my baby died.

Thank you for giving me the few things I had hoped for- skin to skin, Chris cutting the cord and announcing gender (if he could figure it out!).

Thank you coming to meet her in the few hours she lived- so that you are part of the proof that she actually existed.

Thank you for her dress, an outfit given with love and purpose, the only outfit she worse outside her grave.

Thank you for eating wings with me, bringing me cabbage leaves for engorgement and looking at photos in the aftermath, reminding me that you are not only my midwives, but my friends.

Thank you for the donations you made in Mabel’s memory

Thank you for the lilac bush that you gave me because you know purple is my favorite.  It’s beginning to bloom right now.

Thank you for remembering dates- due dates and anniversaries.

Thank you for saying her name, easily and freely, just like she was any old living child.

Thank you for keeping her safe in my womb and alive in memory.

 

 

 

 

 

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Radio Silence

Well, the day came and went. It’s now 369. In a way no different from day 365 and yet in a way very different. The day was symbolic, of course, and to borrow a term from my pilot brother, I have been radio silent since as I recovered from and sorted through my emotions.

I spent the day doing not too much- sat on the couch, took Muppet to the dog park and did some light cleaning. I took out Mabel’s box- or boxes, the bereavement box we got sent home from the hospital with, the box of pregnancy related things I had kept, the box of cards and what nots I had saved. I got a little teary eyed looking at her outfit- the pair of pants she didn’t even wear because she was too small. They had pockets.  FullSizeRender_2

Her hat still had strands of blond hair in it- which made me smile because the lock they cut for keepsake looks brown. I opened up the tiny blood pressure cuff and held it to my face- I swear I could just catch the scent of her.

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I packed it all back up and organized it the way I want, keeping her bereavement box in our bedroom and putting some of the other stuff away in a closet.

We visited her grave and brought a balloon- Chris unknowingly bought a Hello Kitty one, but we figured she’d like it.  By the time we got to the cemetery, one of the letters fell off and so it read “Happy Birthday abel.”

The evening we had a few friends over- which turned into a few more- and had dinner and cake.

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Singing Happy Birthday to my dead daughter actually didn’t feel so good, but it seemed like the logical thing to do. We watched her video and my friends got teary eyed, while mine remained dry. I realized I don’t like to cry real tears in front of people. I was reminded of how in the immediate days after her death, with family filling the house, I would sneak up to my room to cry unwitnessed.

My tears came the night before, triggered into a meltdown when one of my midwives messaged me about how on the eve of her kids’ birthdays she often thinks about what she had been doing way back when, and how hard it must be for me to do that. The message was sweet and needed, opening up the flood gates. I didn’t have a good cry again until I crawled into bed on Sunday, crying about some of the disappointments from the day- the people I didn’t hear from. Crying about how my life and relationships had changed so much in ways that I felt I so sad about. Crying about how my daughter was dead-how I have a dead child.

I’ve spent the next few days sorting through it all- trying to focus on all the kindnesses, the so many kindnesses that came with the day and not be consumed by the sadness of disappointments (some of which I’ve since decided were justified, some of which were not).

So in that vein, I want to share with you all some of the many Random Acts of Kindness. There are too many to even list, many I don’t even know about and not enough words to thank those who have done them.

  • Donations to children’s museums- in CT, in RI
  • Cupcakes to my care team- the practice I work for, the midwives who cared for me, the MFM docs who cared for me, Labor and Birth, the NICU
  • "we wanted to thank those who so beautifully cared for her and for her family while she was here (the amazing midwives of [the group that cared for her], everyone on Labor & Birth, the NICU staff, the MFMs who were involved and the group Meg works with.) They will be eating birthday Karate Carrot cupcakes."

    “we wanted to thank those who so beautifully cared for her and for her family while she was here (the amazing midwives of [the group that cared for her], everyone on Labor & Birth, the NICU staff, the MFMs who were involved and the group Meg works with.) They will be eating birthday Karate Carrot cupcakes.”

  • Flowers at Mabel’s grave
  • play dough too!

    play dough too!

  • Carrot soup
  • Books that showed up as gifts (including the one on the right that came from unknown sender)
  • did any of you send the Help Thanks Wow book?  it came without a sender...

    did any of you send the Help Thanks Wow book? it came without a sender…

  • Gifts for children’s hospital in Boston and Indianapolis
  • Shoveling neighbors snow in Massachusetts and Connecticut
  • cards! so many cards!
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  • Donation to help migrant workers and their families in Florida
  • Diapers and kids treats donated to a homeless family in North Carolina
  • Donation to a Down Syndrome organization in Virginia
  • A children’s book donated to my town’s library
  • Letting people go ahead in the airport line
  • Buying ice cream for the kids at the next table
  • Dinner buying for a cancer survivor
  • Baking carrot cake for a friend
  • Coffee bought for people in line behind the buyers
  • A big tip left for waitress, a big tip left for a bartender who is fostering a baby with Down Syndrome born addicted to heroin
  • A donation given to a homeless man in a wheelchair
  • A donation to the Perinatal Mental Health task force in LA
  • Water bottles given out to strangers in LA on a very hot day (hard to conceive in chilly new England)
  • A carrot hat given to me
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  • Presents donated to a local shelter including a carrot stuffy
  • Donation to a high school lunar rover team in CT
  • Handmade carrot wreath for my door
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  • Letters from Thai high school students
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Dear Bootcamp Instructor

Dear Bootcamp instructor,

I was never a fan of group exercise.  I was happy running when I wanted, for how long I wanted.  But as pregnancy shaped my body and complications with my baby arose, I found I couldn’t run for both physical and emotional reasons.  With a broken elliptical at home and no gym membership, I was uncentered and anxious without my exercise routine.  I finally caved in to a friend’s entreaties to join her at “bootcamp.”  My first class, I arrived early and sat in a near panic attack as all the women in the 6pm class performed different exercises in near seamless coordination.  Everyone looked so good!  I was overwhelmed.  Then the warm up nearly did me in.  I left feeling on the fence about whether this bootcamp was for me.  I tried again at an early morning Wednesday class and left still feeling undecided.  I had an ultrasound later that day with my doctor (a fellow bootcamp-er) and I remember telling her I was like 50/50 on whether I liked it or not.  I gave it one last shot on a Friday morning class that you were teaching.  When I left, I began thinking, I could like this.  In the car on the way to dinner later that night I was telling my husband about my day and told him about the good class I went to with the friendly instructor.  And then there you were at the restaurant- smiling and remembering my name!  Like I told you the other day, that’s what sold me.

Over the next three weeks, the exercise saved my sanity.  I learned to love jam ball slams for the anger I could release about my baby’s health.  When I was admitted to the hospital, the doctors (my colleagues) all had a good laugh at rounds about how their admission for the day (me) would be late because she wanted to go to bootcamp.

I tried to continue the pace in the hospital, taking time each day to do a mini-bootcamp while tethered to the fetal monitor.  You’d be surprised what one can do in a small hospital room attached to a six-foot wire.  My husband even got me a medicine ball for my birthday, which I celebrated in the hospital.  I yearned to do some jam ball slams, but my midwife and doctor (also fellow bootcamp-ers) didn’t think it would be a good experience for the patient in the room below me.  My doctor thought I was a great research project in itself, showing that a baby with no fluid did just fine through vigorous exercise.  How cool it was to watch her heart rate never falter while I did ball taps and squats.  Your class was even on my mind in labor as I told my midwife between contractions, “this is harder than bootcamp!”

My midwife let me return to bootcamp at 2 ½ weeks postpartum, under her supervision.  My daughter was buried, my family had all left and my husband was back at work- I was alone and terrified of my grief.  In the initial days, I wouldn’t get out of bed, barely eating.  Going to bootcamp gave me a reason to get out of bed, brush my hair and eat breakfast.

Upon returning to my first class, I sat in the car crying until the last possible moment.  I was scared of the memories- being somewhere that I only knew in pregnancy, seeing people who might ask about my baby, unaware that she had died in my arms.  I made it in that day, as you know, and many days that followed.  That first day wasn’t the only day that saw tears.  The nice thing about bootcamp is I can’t make it through a class without a red face dripping with sweat- a nice camoflauge for the emotion that would spill out without warning. 

Bootcamp allowed me to step out of myself for a bit.  I took a momentary vacation from my sadness everytime I thought “only ten more seconds of climbers,” and sometimes I dove deeper into my grief, using my anger to push me further.

As you may have noticed, I come pretty much exclusively to your classes.  I found myself going almost exclusively to your classes, looking forward to the bubbliness and kindness you showed.  You didn’t treat me weird- you didn’t ignore the fact that I was back, no longer pregnant but childless, nor did you treat me like I had some sort of leprosy.  I was comfortable.  I was coming to your mid-morning classes (one that I dubbed the “mommy class” because of all the kid chatter that happens before warm up) and I could come alone- without the crutch of my friends from the earlier classes- because I knew you.  You knew my name from day one.

I often think that the person you see at bootcamp is not the “real” me, though I’m not so sure anymore.  There I know I am quiet and keep to myself. Other bootcamp-ers might even find me unfriendly, as I learn how to smile and make small talk again.  I might not show how much I enjoy being there and how much my body and mind need to be there.  This new timidity and shyness is a function of the “after.”  In my other life, the one “before” I carried a baby I knew might die, “before” I had to take my daughter off life support, “before” my world came to a halt, I was outgoing and friendly and would have told you all this in person.  I suppose that is why I am writing this.  All the times I have referred to “bootcamp” in writing this, I‘ve really been thinking of YOUR bootcamp.  I feel like I’m in AA, going back, making amends, thanking all those who have helped me on my journey.  I was procrastinating writing this because my journey is far from over, but a friend encouraged me to do it.

So in case I haven’t been vary clear… Thank you.  Thank you for your cheer, your motivation, for knowing my name, learning my story and welcoming me.  Thank you for giving me a temporary reprieve from and insight into my sorrow at the same time.  Thank you for making your class a warm place, full of exertion and encouragement.  You’ve helped me enormously.  You are an excellent trainer and wonderful person.

Thank you.

 

What I need

Yesterday the grief hit hard.  I wasn’t prepared for it.  And it slammed into me like a mack-truck.  I thought I was sad before, but I’ve reached a new place.  My family had left the day before, leaving only Chris’s brother.  My midwife came over that night and spent hours just talking.  She asked the questions others are afraid to ask- like: Do you miss her moving? How was her burial?  What are your thoughts on the next pregnancy?  And she distracts well too- we watched sketches from Jimmy Kimmel.

So I was well distracted all that day.  The next morning came and I just crumpled.  I was mush.  It was the first day we didn’t have much on our plate.  I don’t think I realized how comforting it was having family around.   They were a nice distraction and I could retreat to my bedroom anytime I wanted to cry.  I didn’t have to think about anything- food and scheduling were all taken care of.  It was tiring to have so much company but it was also lovely.  I think that having family and planning services kept my mid and heart busy, but also kept me from really processing all that happened.  I think people were impressed about how well I was holding up.  But I was distracted, in some sort of la-la land.  If they could only see me now.

Now it’s time to really grieve and grieving I am.  I spent the morning in bed, unable to stop crying.  I tried distraction, but it wasn’t working.  Some things even made it worse.  I looked at something on social media that I wasn’t ready for, which made me cry harder.  It made me realize that certain things that used to make me happy now spotlight my grief.  And then I feel bad for feeling bad about something I usually celebrate.   It’s a horrible cycle.  I could feel it physically.  I was nauseous. I felt pangs in my breasts.  I was lethargic.  I had moments of reprieve- a friend stopped by a visited and I didn’t cry.  Chris was finally able to get me out of the house to go for a walk.  We went out to dinner and I held it together publically, save for one quick cry in the bathroom.  But even when doing these things, the thoughts creep back in my head- I shouldn’t be doing this, my baby just died.

When I get right down to it, my heart just aches.  I had a baby.  I waited and worried for so many months.  I was trying to prepare for this scenario, but how do you really prepare for the death of your child?  I worried in pregnancy that I might have come across as having little hope.  Chris and I even verbalized that we thought our baby might die.  Words are just words though.   The depth of my sadness makes me realize how much hope I actually had.  I wanted her, whether she was on a ventilator or needed dialysis.  I wanted her to stay.  I wish so hard that I had more time with her.  I wish I could just have one hour a day where I could hold her again.  One hour a week.  Just one more time even.

I worry that people will forget her.  I worry that people will forget me.  When I was pregnant with her, my belly was a constant reminder to both me and the world.  We were a duo- people thought of her whenever they looked at me.  Now I am alone.  I worry that people will expect me to be strong, act a certain way, be ready for normal life- all when I’m not.  I’ve had such an outpouring of love- so many cards and messages and I want to recognize that.  Thank you, all of you who have reached out.  I read every card, every message, listened to every voicemail.  They help.  They really do.  I know that as Mabel’s birth and death slowly fade into the past, things will taper down.  People ask me what I need, and at first I was speechless. I didn’t know what I needed.  Now I know.  Chris returns to work next week and then I will be alone.  I’m hoping I’ll be in a better place then, but I’ll need people.  I’ll need to both talk about my baby and be distracted from my grief.  I’ll need people-I know that much.

These also might be helpful.  

http://www.glowinthewoods.com/how-to-help-a-friend/

and

Taken from:  http://jacwell.org/Summer_2002/comforting_those_who_have_lost_a_baby.htm

Below are some guidelines to help you support and comfort “those who mourn”.

  • The first and likely the most important thing you can do is realize that a baby has died and this death is just as “real” as the death of an older child. The parents’ grief and healing process will be painful and take time, lots of time. They may not be recovered or done “thinking about their baby” after a month or even a year. Realize that the parents are sad because they miss their baby, and that he or she can never be replaced by anyone else, including future children or children they may already have.
  • Let the parents know that they and their family and the baby are in your prayers. Call or send a sympathy card. You don’t have to write a lot inside, a simple “You and your baby are in my thoughts and prayers” is enough.
  • What the parents need most now is a good listener and a shoulder, not a lecture or advice. Listen when they talk about the death of their baby. Don’t be afraid, and try not to be uncomfortable when talking about the loss. Talk about the baby by name, if they have named the child. Ask what the baby looked like, if the parents saw the baby. Let them talk about the baby – most parents need and want to talk about their baby, their hopes and dreams for their lost child.
  • It is okay to admit that you don’t know how they feel. A good thing to say is, “I can’t imagine how you feel and I just wanted you to know that I am here for you and am very sorry.”
  • Give a hug, this is a sign of love and concern. Even if this is all you do, it’s a nonverbal way of saying “I’m sorry” or that “I’m praying for you.”
  • Offer to bring over meals; often mothers have no “energy” to do even basic things.
  • Offer to go food shopping, help clean the house, do laundry. Anything that lightens the burden of daily chores that need to be done. This is especially helpful if the mother is still waiting to miscarry the baby. That process may take days and is physically and emotionally draining.
  • Be careful not to forget the father of the baby. Men’s feelings are very often overlooked because they seem to cope more easily. The truth is that they are quite often just as devastated as their partner.
  • Try to remember the anniversary of the death and due date with a card, call, or visit. Anniversaries can trigger grief reactions as strong as when the loss first happened. Months down the road a simple “How have you been doing since you lost your baby?” can give much comfort.
  • If you are pregnant, it may be hard for the bereaved parents (especially the mother) to see or even talk to you. You will need to be very understanding and extra patient with them. They still love you and are happy for you, but it is just such a huge reminder of what they have lost. Some may not be able to talk to you right now. If this happens, please don’t take it personally it is just that to avoid pregnant people at the moment may save your friend’s sanity. Your bereaved friends may even feel a little jealous of you (especially after your baby comes), and then feel angry at themselves for feeling that way because they don’t really begrudge your happiness, it’s just that they are mourning the loss of theirs.
  • Remember that any subsequent pregnancies can be a roller-coaster ride of joy, fear and bittersweet memories.
  • Remember also that mourning puts a tremendous strain on relationships between family and friends.