Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Welcome, Little One

I am overjoyed to announce that our daughter, B, arrived safely into the world on the evening of the 28th of December. I'll share details soon, but for now we are safe and happy and I am relishing every moment of this.

Today is the anniversary of L's death - I just told her little sister about her. It has been bittersweet being in the same hospital where we lost L. On one hand, there are familiar faces, which means we do not have to tell the story over and over. On the other hand, I ended up having a c-section and it was in the same  OR where we found out L's heart stopped beating. I'll elaborate more in another post. 

Until we head home (New Year's Day), I'll leave you all with a photo of the best thing that has ever happened to me (a tie with meeting my husband). I hope that, for some of you, our story offers a little bit of hope. We were told "never" and here she is. The road has been anything but smooth, but wow, she is worth it. My heart has never been so full.

Friday, December 19, 2014

36 Weeks

I had a good cry tonight reading the archives on a blog that I follow.  The woman lost her baby to a cord accident and while I had read her story before, re-reading it tonight made me incredibly emotional.  It really touched a nerve as to the things that have me worried this week... is my placenta going to hold up this time?  Will we have a cord accident? Placental abruption?  Unknown issue that causes this baby's death?  My mind is definitely working on overdrive here and not in a good way.

On the other hand, here we are!  36 weeks.  My induction is scheduled for a week from tomorrow at 8 AM.  I may meet my little girl in a week.  Tonight my husband and I were both talking to her.  He suggested that we call her Meatball (ha) and asked her what she thought.  It seems like we are so close to having her in our arms.

Tomorrow morning we have our carseat check (first we have to actually install it) and we are finally going to put together the crib and the dresser and get the baby's room organized.  After L, I swore that if we ever had another baby, I wouldn't do anything until he or she arrived and would just have a friend or my parents bring us a carseat in the hospital.  I felt that way until about a month ago when the urge to prepare and nest kicked in and I just could not help myself.  Now I just want the room set up so I can feel like we are prepared in the only way I know how to be.

For those of you out there who have experienced a loss and have gone on to have a healthy, living child, how did you handle the anxiety at the end? I'm still exercising and going to acupuncture and I have times when I feel happy and optimistic, but the fear is always there...
36 Weeks - A Headless Bump Shot

Saturday, December 13, 2014

35 Weeks

I continue to be amazed that I am lucky enough to get this far and be able to write these updates.  35 weeks yesterday!  I had an ultrasound earlier this week and this little one is growing right on track (50th percentile) and weighs over 5 pounds now!  She was moving around like crazy at our ultrasound so we couldn't get a good 3D image of her, but I am happy to report she is head down (or at least she was on Monday).

Thursday was my second NST and it went much better than the first.  I ate part of a cookie at the start to get things going and she responded like a champ.  Phew.  I left this one feeling reassured rather than panicked, which is (obviously) the point.  I'll have one in each of the next two weeks and we scheduled our induction:

Saturday, December 27th!

Two weeks from today we'll hopefully be holding our little girl.  (She just kicked me. I hope this means she is equally as excited to meet us.)

R and I are spending this weekend in the mountains.  We rented a cozy cabin, we went hiking, there is a roaring fire, and tonight we are supposed to get snow.  I was reluctant to go away because there is a lot to be done at home, but it was a great decision just to have some time for the two of us.  Last night we spent time talking about names... we haven't settled on one, but we narrowed our list.  I'm having a hard time picking one at all because I think the perfect name is the one we gave L.  Does anyone have any favorite names for girls they want to share?  We are struggling!

The view from our hike today.

So, yesterday a dear friend of mine had her baby.  She was due about a week before me and her baby arrived early (and everyone is healthy and doing great).  I need to confess something - I am jealous.  She has been married just over a year and now - poof! - she has a little girl.  Just. Like. That.  And before me!  I've been pregnant twice!

The worst thing is that this is a friend who I love and cherish and who has been incredibly supportive over the last year in particular and here I am having these terrible feelings towards her.  Obviously I am thrilled on one level, but it is these underlying feelings that creep up from time to time that I dislike but can't seem to control....

Friday, December 12, 2014

"A Photo of a Stillborn Baby, Proof of Life, and Grief and Memory"

This piece appeared in the New York Times yesterday and just hit home in the most poignant way.  The author describes her experience having a stillborn son, specifically describing her feelings about having a photo of Dylan.  The last paragraph really struck a chord:

I have often looked at that photo when I have felt ungrounded and alone, because this is the life work of bereaved parents — learning to inhabit, from time to time, a kind of necessary solitude, one that permits us to cull grace from agony. It is in this exercise that we can beat back despair and permit absence to underscore a beautiful presence as we gather ourselves and move forward. I remember. David remembers. He existed; he was here; he is here still.  
I sometimes feel this way about L.  We have so few tangible things that represent her and so few people talk about her that sometimes I worry she will just be forgotten or that she didn't really exist to anyone but me and R.  The entire article is included below.

A Photo of a Stillborn Baby, Proof of Life, and Grief and Memory

When I heard my brother, a writer, read an excerpt from his book about a character’s memory of the stillbirth of his baby sister, I almost fell to my knees. The scene was a gift; the private, unspoken and unseen blossoming into the public and documented. There was a him. My son Dylan, stillborn after days of labor, existed, and was remembered.
My brother, David Shafer, author of “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” wrote the scene based on a photograph taken by a forward-thinking member of the hospital staff after my labor with Dylan. I was well into my third trimester when a blood-clotting disorder caused placental abruption, and I knew he would not be born alive before I went into labor.
As I write this, I recall being in labor. I am struck by my fractured memories, of how much of my labor and delivery was spent fighting to be truly present in that room, of how aware I was that his stillbirth would result in the kind of metaphysical scar that forever changes us, and how dual was my struggle: to keep him and to birth him at the same time.
How do we hold on to what we have loved and lost? To help, the hospital gave me a memory box. There were so few items to share with others; to my mother I gave a tiny heart to be hung on a chain, but we kept everything else, including a photograph.
Immediately after my loss, just discharged from the hospital, I sat disheveled on my bed holding this photo out to my brother David, who had flown across the country instantly when I needed him in the full snowy depths of winter.
Why did hearing him read the scene affect me so deeply? For a decade since the stillbirth, I’d imagined a shared community around losses like mine, though such hope had been whittled away. When I heard the scene, the hope suddenly regained vivid and sharp focus. In permanently recording the loss of my son, David helped me with the sieve-like quality of memory and its impermanence, which operate within a wider social taboo telling us not to dwell on our loss, or infect others with our sorrow.
After “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” was published, David wrote to me about the photograph that inspired the scene: “It was a Polaroid picture. Those always make the subject seem ephemeral, like a fleeting memory. So when I saw this Polaroid of a stillborn baby held by his still-living mother — my nephew; my sister — I was seeing as much a ghost, as much a spirit, as I will ever see. The image stayed with me for years; and one day I wrote it down. That is a picture of him, there was a him.”
Proof of existence is essential to integrating loss, and this is the power of documentation. About that photograph: I have been cautious about sharing such a particular treasure. Writing here is the first time I have ever revealed publicly that it exists. Cheryl Haggard is co-founder of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a nonprofit that provides remembrance photography for families facing infant death. She says that pictures may provide parents with a sense of peace and healing because they give the bereaved a way to share their child with family and friends. She explains that from these photographs people are able to learn that these babies are important in the life of a family even though they are not physically present.
Much is captured in my Polaroid shot. As I held my dead son, I tried to trace what the memory of his physical self would be for me. I knew that he was dead, but still in his body I saw all potential that had been and gone, and even that seemed beautiful to me; I felt his radiance pulsing from him like waves of heat from stone.
I have often looked at that photo when I have felt ungrounded and alone, because this is the life work of bereaved parents — learning to inhabit, from time to time, a kind of necessary solitude, one that permits us to cull grace from agony. It is in this exercise that we can beat back despair and permit absence to underscore a beautiful presence as we gather ourselves and move forward. I remember. David remembers. He existed; he was here; he is here still.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Husbands & Loss

R and I finally decided it was time to take a few classes at the hospital (prompted by the fact that this is the last opportunity before our induction... nothing like waiting until the last minute).  Last week we took Infant Safety together, I took Baby 101 (R was traveling and missed it), which taught swaddling, bathing, diapering, and basic newborn care, and R went to Daddy Boot Camp over the weekend.

To tell the truth, we were both reluctant to take any classes. I am an only child and neither of us baby-sat much or has a lot of experience with children, but I was really nervous about sitting in a class with a bunch of parents-to-be who can't relate to anything we've been through.  I dreaded our situation with L coming up somehow and not knowing how to respond (and frankly, to having to respond and totally freaking out all of the other parents - ha).

Past pregnancies, L, etc. did not come up at either Infant Safety or Baby 101.  But it did come up in Daddy Boot Camp.  The class is much more hands-on and personal and started with each guy giving a little background on themselves.  R would never have shared L's story without prompting (and he didn't share any details), but another Dad shared that he and his wife lost a baby at 22 weeks last year and this prompted R to mention our story.  Apparently the other Dad came over and talked to R and they are going to get drinks this week to talk further.

This is all a long introduction into the fact that I've thought on numerous occasions how differently R and I have handled everything in the last year.  I think he felt like he had to be strong and stable for me.  And he is a problem-solver by nature, so he wanted to assess the situation and figure out the steps we could take to "make things better."  He spoke to his family and maybe a friend or two about what happened, but he didn't go to a therapist or a support group.  And truthfully, we talk less about L at home than you might think - my suspicion is that we both hesitate to bring her up all the time because we don't want to upset the other person.

When R came home from class, he immediately shared that it was surprisingly emotional.  He said it was very hard to be back in the hospital again (the class was just off the labor and delivery floor), to talk about babies, and to hold the babies, particularly since they were all around the same age that L would be (as part of the class, alums bring in their babies so the men can practice comforting them, changing diapers, etc.).  It caught me off-guard to hear him express his emotions about the class and it also prompted a really good conversation about L, about how we are both still so apprehensive about getting excited about this pregnancy, about how we want to handle discussing L in the future, about how we might finally spread L's ashes somewhere, etc.  It was so nice to talk about our fears and worries and we both agreed that we need to do this more.

This has turned into quite the rambling post, but this week was a reminder that we are both actively grieving for L.  Even if it feels odd to talk about it when we are hopefully on the brink of something wonderful happening, we still need to do it.

Do any of you have thoughts on communicating about grief with your significant other?  Any tips or advice?


On a different note, has anyone read the book "Someone Came Before You"?  I've been thinking of ordering it and would love to hear your thoughts.