Holding Our Angel

Loving After Loss


4 Comments

First Birthday

I know it’s only the end of July, but I’ve been thinking a lot of Theo’s first birthday.

I would really like to do a party of some kind.

Probably a fundraiser party. I don’t know what specific cause yet. I keep bouncing between local causes (local elementary school or children’s hospital) or larger causes (American Lung Association or World Wildlife Fund). Maybe I could do a local and global cause, and just split the money between the two?

The idea of having a big party for Theo means a lot, as I know we would have had a birthday party for him if he had lived. And I want his memory to make the world a better place, hence the fundraiser.

My biggest hesitancy is I don’t know how I’m going to feel in 4 months and some change. And even if I’m in a different place in my grief, will I be up for having a party on/near Theo’s first birthday? Will I want to see people? I trust the people we would invite to be understanding of how I’m feeling, so I’m not worried about that.

Kenny is pretty neutral on this right now, but I know if I really want to do one he will go a long with it.

Anyone do a party (fundraiser or not) for the child you lost? What are your thoughts, and are you glad you did it? If you were thinking of having a party, and decided against it, what made you decide not to?


3 Comments

Thankful Saturday

It’s been a hard week for me, and I’ve been feeling very negative lately.

I heard something on the radio yesterday that you are the average of your 5 most frequent thoughts. I didn’t listen to the whole thing, but the title of the segment really struck me, and encouraged me to think about all of the positive things going on in my life.

I am thankful I was able to get pregnant and carry full-term. I’m so grateful for the hours we got with Theo.

I am thankful for my wonderful husband, who answered a panicked call from me Thursday night when I arrived at our airport, thinking I left my keys at the hotel in Dallas. He calmed me down, and told me to look through my luggage and purse one more time. After a mad search through my luggage and removing several items, I found my keys in my purse….and left my electric toothbrush at the airport. When I got home, Kenny only laughed, gave me a hug, and told me not to worry about the cost of buying another electric toothbrush.

I’m thankful for my health, and having the resources to be as healthy as I can, both mentally and physically.

I’m thankful for my kitties, even though they wake me up at 3 in the morning. They let me cuddle them whenever I want (and by want, I mean chase them around the house until I catch them). They’re pretty cute too.

I’m thankful for our friends, friends, and our church. The support from all of you has meant so much.

I’m thankful for my faith; for God carrying me through this grief and for the knowledge I’ll see Theo again someday.

I’m thankful for online shopping and wine. And chocolate.

I’m thankful for my boss, who gives me all of the flexibility I want. I may have coworkers who say dumb things, but I have a boss who respects and trusts me to give me a lot of freedom with my job.

The hardest part of this week was getting my period, and knowing that’s one more month without a baby. We’re going to Hawaii in the fall, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to be 4-5 months pregnant when we go. I wanted to have gorgeous photos of the baby bump in Hawaii. I know that’s sounds superficial, but I’m so grateful for the trip we took in September when I was 7 months pregnant with Theo. Looking back on those photos of me pregnant in Vancouver is so meaningful to me, and I loved feeling him move as we were exploring Canada. I don’t know if we’ll be pregnant by the time we go to Hawaii, but I’ll be ok either way.


4 Comments

Angry Rant

I feel like I’ve been so negative lately. I don’t like feeling like I’m negative most of the time, but I guess that’s just where I am right now. This is something I’ve been biting my tongue on for a little bit, but I don’t think it’s healthy to keep holding in. So bring on a rant…

My company has always called itself a family. When someone gets sick or injured, or suffers a loss, the company claims to look after its own. Bake sales or other fundraisers have been done to raise money for employees who were diagnosed with cancer or had heart attacks, for example.

About a year and a half ago, a coworker had a heart attack. He was out of work for a few weeks, and our company held 3 (yes, 3!) fundraisers to help him with the medical bills. A few months later, another coworker was in a really bad accident and was in the hospital even longer. No company fundraiser for her.

My son dies, and all I get is a thing of flowers. One bouquet. No one asked me if I wanted/needed a fundraiser, no one offered help or asked if we were facing medical and funeral expenses. A few people reached out to me from my company while I was gone, the rest said or did nothing. And worse, when I came back to work, a couple said really hurtful things: one told me she was uncomfortable being around me because of my loss, and another said it was probably for the best because I wasn’t ready to be a mom.

Now, 2 more fundraisers were recently held for the guy who had the heart attack because his niece’s husband died. 2 more fundraisers. And the real knife in the heart? An email went out to everyone in the office saying what a family we are, how we support each other through the bad times, and applauding everyone who donated money. That this money will help relieve some financial stress during her time of need.

I’m not saying her loss isn’t tragic (it truly does break my heart), but she doesn’t even work for our company! We’re enough of a family to help a coworker’s relative in a time of need, but not enough of family to help me? Where was this supposed family when my son died? Where was the support for me? Why didn’t more reach out to me?

It’s not about the money, but the fact that I was overlooked (whether intentionally or not). It feels like Theo and our loss isn’t worth being acknowledged beyond a bouquet of flowers. We acknowledge that the death of a spouse is worthy of the company banding together, but not my newborn son? What if he had been 5 years old, instead of 30 hours? Would he have been “worthy” enough of a fundraiser if he was older when he died?

One coworker tried to justify the lack of support with “well, some people just can’t handle deep and painful subjects like the loss of your child”. I really rolled my eyes at that one. One, there’s obviously someone in the company who can handle “deep and painful subjects” because someone is organizing the fundraisers (they don’t organize themselves!). Two, do you think I like having to deal with my son’s death? I too would prefer for everything to be sunshine, unicorns and roses.

As they say, it’s the thought that counts.

I’m even more grateful for our family and friends after this. We truly have an amazing support system, between friends before our loss and friends we’ve made since. I’m eternally grateful for all of you, and I don’t think I have said that enough. ❤


Leave a comment

Gone

 

Soon I will be on a business trip for a couple of days, and while prepping for this trip I’m struck by how different life is now.

My office is super casual, so I normally wear jeans and t-shirts to work. But the office I’ll be at is more formal, so I tried on my business clothes to make sure they fit still. I would be doing that if Theo had lived.

But my carry-on would have included my pumping bra, breast pump, and all of the accessories for the pump. I mean, assuming I was able to breastfeed Theo this long. I’d be debating with myself if I should ask the receptionist if there is a pumping room in advance, or just wing it when I get there.

I’d be wondering how to keep to a pumping schedule when I change time zones. And triple-checking the TSA guidelines on breast milk, and how to keep it safe while traveling.

Kenny would be coordinating with work to be able to pick up Theo from day care (our agreement was he would do the drop-off, I would do the pick-up) the days I’m gone. We would feel guilty about having to leave Theo in day care for an extra hour/day.

I’d probably remind Kenny of what time Theo goes to bed, and to give him his bath, and what his favorite toy is…all things Kenny would be aware of and he would roll his eyes in response. He would joke that he’s not like those dads on TV who can’t seem to function when it comes to anything kid related.

We would be introducing Theo to baby food by now. I would have made extra batches of baby food for Theo, with the baby bullet we got as a shower gift. I would be obsessively checking the guidelines on how long baby food could stay in the fridge, just to be 1,000% sure it would be safe to eat. (Kenny would not make baby food, trust me on this. Lol.)

I would spend the dinner with my coworkers probably dying for a chance to talk about Theo, and show him off. Instead I’m dreading dinner because I know someone will ask if I have kids, and I still can’t answer that question without crying.

I’d probably be fretting over leaving Theo for a couple of days, feeling so much guilt over being a working mom and the travel (even though this is the 2nd trip I’ve taken in 4 years).

But most of all, I’d be missing my baby so, so much and counting down the seconds until I get to see him again. And I would get to see him again.


1 Comment

Loss Brain

Can I just say how much loss brain sucks?

I’m walking this fine line between taking control of things I have control over, but not trying to control everything. Because I can’t control everything (and that is unbelievably frustrating).

We’re making healthy changes to our lifestyle that will (hopefully) help our next child develop correctly, but have the added bonus of making us healthier.

It’s hard to not second guess every decision I make, wondering if it will have an impact on my future child. Am I eating enough? Too much? Am I getting enough vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients? Am I getting too much? What about my water intake, my activity level, do I have too much BPA in my life, is it safe to fly…

The list goes on.

It drives me crazy sometimes, but I’m lucky that I have amazing women in my life who keep me sane.

There are a million million things I can’t control in my life. And that’s ok. I’m doing the best I can, with the information and resources I have. I’m letting love and hope guide my choices.

I repeat that to myself so many times a day.

Fear                                                                                           love


3 Comments

The Birth and Death

*Trigger warning*

Little by little, I’ve been working up the courage to write about Theo’s birth and death. What should have been one of the best days our of lives turned quickly in a nightmare. As I worked on Theo’s baby book today, I felt it was time to finish the story of his birth and death.

My due date was the day after Thanksgiving. I was so sure Theo would arrive early, like I felt it in my bones he would arrive early. Ha. My appointment that day showed I was nowhere close to him arriving. Was told this was typical for first babies, but I was really hoping my obsessive need to be early would have worn off on Theo. NST went fine.

So we waited. The following Friday I had another appointment and NST, all fine. Monday, December 7th at 10 am was my last appointment. I was 41.5 weeks. Doc said we were getting to the point where we would need to induce, and we agreed with we induce the next day. We wanted to give Kenny a chance to wrap up a few things at work before going on leave. My NST showed I was having contractions every 5 minutes, and they were lasting almost 1 minute each.

I was in labor! I couldn’t feel these contractions, and I naively thought that meant the contractions wouldn’t be so bad later (HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!). I was admitted to labor and delivery. Kenny ran home to change out of work clothes, and I told him if he missed the birth I would turn our son against him. He got back in time.

Hours after I was admitted, they decided I wasn’t progressing fast enough, and I needed some help. I remember walking around with the portable fetal monitor, and we saw a couple also walking around in the courtyard. She was Asian, he was white (the opposite of Kenny and I), she was short and he was tall. I remember thinking that our babies would probably be born on the same day and wondering if we would see them again.

The portable fetal monitor wasn’t cooperating and they decided they weren’t going to let me walk around anymore. I was disappointed, but agreed to it. What mattered was a healthy baby. Over the next day they did a lot to try to progress my labor. I wasn’t progressing as quick as they wanted, and they were worried about the quality of the placenta. I got an analgesic for the pain, and Theo’s heart rate started to decelerate during contractions. They thought it might have been the pain-killer, so they said once that wore off I wasn’t allowed another one, for fear of how Theo was reacting to it.

It wore off and very quickly I learned how painful contractions are and I got an epidural. Theo’s heart rate stabilized for a bit, but around 1 pm it started decelerating again. They couldn’t get it to stabilize again, and at 2:30 the doctor said enough was enough, and had me sign the paperwork for a c-section.

I was in labor for about 28 hours. We got two hours of sleep during that time.

As I was being wheeled to the OR, the doctor and I were joking about how stubborn Theo was being. We were making fun of Kenny, she commented that he looked like a stubborn man and I confirmed. The whole trip to the OR (which now feels like a lifetime but was probably less than 20 seconds) we joked how much Theo was like his dad already.

Kenny entered the OR and they started testing my epidural. I told Kenny I was getting a little freaked out and needed him to tell me how much he loved me. He did. A nurse commented that they appreciated how hard we were working to stay calm, that calm patients made it easier for them.

Theo was pulled out and I immediately felt a rush of emotions. I knew he was out even before they told me and the room was silent. All I could focus on was the silence.

They started doing everything they could to get him breathing, but he wasn’t on his own. I asked over and over if he was ok, and they kept saying he would be ok. I could see the doctor working on him out of the corner of my left eye. I kept asking, and the next thing I knew I was waking up to recovery. They had knocked me out completely, because I was starting to panic.

Theo was born at 3:10 pm on Tuesday, December 8th. He weighed 7 lbs 3 oz.

Kenny was sitting in recovery when I arrived, and he was so somber. He didn’t look like a man who just had a baby. He told me Theo had been taken to the NICU and there was talk of transferring him to a hospital in San Francisco (we are about 2 hours away from SF). Kenny said there was something wrong with his lungs.

The nurse who was with us during recovery was so sweet. She kept us talking, and did a great job at balancing hope and realistic expectations. She didn’t know what was wrong with Theo, at that time no one did, but she knew enough to know the best case scenario was a long hospital fight ahead of us.

I don’t remember how long, but soon the doctor who did the c-section came up and told us Theo didn’t have two lungs, that he couldn’t breathe on his own. I asked her if if was possible for him to grow lungs at this point and she said no. She then moved Heaven and Earth to get Kenny and I in the NICU. We sat in the NICU until 3:30 am on Wednesday, when Theo was transported via ambulance to SF.

I couldn’t go in the ambulance with him because of the c-section. And we weren’t up for driving to SF right away. It was 3:30 am on Wednesday and we had been up since Monday morning (save 2 hours of sleep).

We slept for 2 more hours and at 5:30 we got a call from SF that Theo had arrived. The doctor said he had arrived safely, but all that really meant was the ambulance didn’t crash on the way to the hospital.

At 6:30 am we got another call we needed to get to SF ASAP, that Theo had hours to live. Kenny asked that Theo be put on an ECMO, and soon we got a call that Theo was stabilizing and they could run more tests. They still urged us to get there ASAP.

I discharged myself AMA around noon and we took my car to our house so we could pack for SF. We packed a couple changes of clothes for Theo, but didn’t think to grab anything else. We packed several days worth of clothes for us. I think we both still thought that we were facing a long hospital stay, not saying goodbye.

We arrived in SF around 4 pm. We spent about 5 minutes with Theo when the doctors said they needed to talk to us. And there we got the crushing news. Theo wouldn’t survive, and there was nothing modern medicine could do for him. He was suffering on the ECMO, and out of interest for him, we needed to say goodbye sooner than later.

We spent the next few hours with him. Took pictures, held him, got molds of his hands and feet. My dad washed his hair.

The head of cardiology talked with us a bit. He told us that if this was his child, he would be making the same decision we were. The he respected us and could tell how much we love Theo, and assured us we were doing the best for our son. His words meant everything in those moments.

We said goodbye at 8:30 pm and he was removed from life support. We never saw Theo when he wasn’t hooked up to machines, we never got the chance to hold him without medical equipment attached to him. That’s my second biggest regret, that we never got those moments without all of the medical junk around.

We drove back home after saying goodbye on Wednesday. Friday my dad took Kenny and I out to lunch and to pick up Kenny’s car. See, we had driven separately to my appointment on Monday morning because Kenny was coming from work. My car was at home, but Kenny’s was still at the hospital when we left for SF. As we were pulling into the parking lot, I saw the couple I had first seen when I was still in labor. The white man, Asian woman. They were carrying their baby to their car.


Leave a comment

Daisies 


Today I called in sick. I needed a mental health day. I am grateful my work is pretty flexible. 

I went on a bike ride to work out some anger and annoyances. Exercise helps me a lot when I’m angry or anxious. I find it a great way to get my aggression out. Better to get it out via exercise than punching people (cough). 

I ran an errand at Walmart and then stopped at Theo’s grave for a little bit. The daisies I bought at Costco yesterday. Daisies are my favorite flower and I love how colorful and bright they are. I actually carried a bouquet of daisies at my wedding, and have a large print of my bouquet hanging next to a collage of photos of Theo. 

Daisies have a lot of symbolism that make them perfect for children. They are commonly used at children’s funerals because of their meaning. They symbolize motherhood, childbirth, simplicity, purity, innocence, and loyal love. The many colors that daisies come in are said to represent the joy of children. 

I plan on doing some work Theo’s photo book today. It’s been awhile since I’ve worked on it, and I feel a little guilty for that. I found a local photographer who can edit out all of the medical equipment from the pictures we have of Theo,and I need to arrange a time to drop off a thumb drive of the photos. 


1 Comment

Odd Man Out

A few weeks ago I joined a bible study meant for women who’ve lost a child. The study focuses on Heaven and what it means for the children we’ve lost.

I was really excited for this study at first but now… I don’t know. I dread going. There’s only a few weeks left and I constantly have an internal battle about whether I should stick it out or quit while I’m ahead. I really can’t figure out if this study is helping or hurting me.

The subject matter isn’t the issue, I love learning about this and it’s bringing great comfort to me.

It’s the other women in the group. There are 6 of us, and I’m in such a different place than all of them.

My loss is the most recent. The next most recent loss was 4 years ago, all the way up to 13 years. It’s hard being only 7 months out when everyone else has years under their belts. In some ways it is really beneficial, I listen to their stories of how their keep their child’s memory alive and what they do to honor their children. But I think they forget how hard it is to be so close to the loss (time wise), and insensitive things are said.

For instance, even though it had absolutely nothing to do with the question at hand, one lady talked for 5 minutes this week on how amazing breast feeding is. Gee thanks, I really needed yet another reminder of everything I don’t get to do for my son. Of how special that connection is, and thanks for slapping me in the face with how bad you feel for women who don’t get to breastfeed. This is the same woman who brought her 3 month-old to the first meeting. I immediately broke down when I saw the infant, and she and the baby left and she was told not to return unless she had child care. You would think that would have been enough of a hint to be more sensitive, but I guess not.

I’m also the only one without a living child. Please know that I am not saying that not having living children is “harder” or “worse” than loss after living children; both are awful and losing your child is always devastating. But grief is unique to your situation; there are challenges unique to losing your only child just like there challenges unique to losing your child when you have living children. But I don’t think any of them really get that. It’s like they don’t stop and try to think of it from my perspective, they just speak. I wish they would consider how what they are saying could sound to someone without a living child.

When comments like “Well, for those of us who have children…” are made, it hurts. A lot. I have a child. He’s not here, but that doesn’t make him any less my child. He’s forgotten or ignored by most of the world, though I was not expecting a loss mom to treat him the same way.

But to give credit where it’s due, a couple of them really do try to be sensitive. They try to curb the conversation on living children because they can see how visibly it upsets me. They can tell how hard it is for me to speak up on this, and they try to be there for me. And I so appreciate that, I really do. It’s good to have an advocate when I can’t be one for myself. I wish I wasn’t triggered in the first place, and could approach the group like it was a safe place.

It took a huge amount of energy to say I was triggered by the infant on the first meeting, and while I am constantly willing myself to speak up when the conversation turns too triggering, I just can’t. I can’t. I don’t know why it’s hard for me.

I don’t know, maybe I enjoy tormenting myself. But I just can’t bring myself to say I’m done with the study, especially when there’s only a few weeks left. I still have my regular support group, which continues to be amazing. I do know that once I am done with this study, I am going to stick to just one support group for a little bit. Give my heart a break.

 


6 Comments

Time

I can’t remember where, but a long time ago I heard something really interesting about how we perceive time passing. When we are kids, it feels like time passes so slowly, and it was said this is because we are experiencing and processing everything for the first time. As we get older, life goes by quicker because we’ve already experienced so much and know how to process it.

When Theo died, it felt like time stopped. The first couple of months felt like a lifetime, and I can remember so much of it. All of the breakdowns, when the tears just completely overtook me and the despair was overwhelming.

The last couple of months have flown by compared to those first couple of months. I feel like time is going so much quicker now. I swear it was only a few days ago that we hit the 6 month mark, but we actually just passed 7 months.

If the above theory is true, time feels like it’s moving more quickly because I’m getting used to processing my son’s death.

I’m not sure how I feel about that, or even if I want it to be true.