Holding Our Angel

Loving After Loss


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Eternal Sunshine

I’ve been thinking a lot about the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s a great movie that came out about 13 years ago (jeeze, that feels like forever!). The movie is about a couple that breaks up, and each decides to have a procedure done to erase all memories they have of each other and their relationship. The man, however, starts to realize that he made a mistake in trying to erase the memories as he realizes he still loves her. The movie makes you think: can you really learn from your mistakes and past if you keep erasing those memories? Or are you doomed to repeat your mistakes?

Sometimes it feels like we’re forgetting about Theo. Logically, I know this isn’t possible. You just don’t forget your child, and I never will forget about Theo. But Artie is requiring so much of us right now (and for obviously good reasons!), that we have little time or energy for Theo. Life has gotten in the way a couple of times too–I developed an infection (nothing major, just annoying and inconvenient) and our AC went out at the same time. But there’s so much guilt with not thinking about Theo as much. It feels like we’re replacing him with Artie. If Theo were here, Artie would still be getting a lot of attention, but more than what currently is would be going to Theo.

I think some people see Artie as the equivalent of that procedure to erase memories. Like, now that we have a living child, all the bad that came with losing Theo is undone and has been made right. That our grief is over. But that’s not how it works. We can’t just pretend to be perfectly whole now, we never will be. And if we were to forget the grief from losing Theo, that would mean one of two things: either we forgot about/never had Theo or we don’t love Theo as much as we do. And neither of those are possible, so we accept the grief. You can’t erase the bad without also erasing the good, the two are intertwined.

Mother’s Day was an incredibly emotional day for me, and I spent a large part of it crying. Having Artie here is a hard example of what should have been with Theo. The joy with Artie is all that we should have gotten with Theo, instead of this grief we got. We ended up not doing much for Mother’s Day, which was fine with me. Even if we would have been able to go out, I don’t think I would have been up for seeing all the happy families everywhere.

On Mother’s Day, I got more people wishing me a happy Mother’s Day than last year. It could be because I now have a living child, but I am giving those people the benefit of the doubt. This time last year I wasn’t as open about what I needed from people, and maybe they were unsure of what, if anything, to say. I’m more open and vocal now, so maybe they felt more comfortable reaching out to me because of that. It was sweet they thought of me.

What hurt though, were all the well wishes I got that mentioned Artie but not Theo. Either mention both of my kids or none at all (nothing wrong with a “Happy Mother’s Day!”), but to leave one out hurt like hell. I even got a “Happy first Mother’s Day!”  (emphasis mine). Uh…. my first Mother’s Day was last year….

There was….an incident… involving a recent visitor and Theo. Visitor came to see Artie, and was looking at a photo of Theo we have displayed on a bookcase. There is an empty frame next to Theo’s picture, where a picture of Artie will go. This person  covered up the photo of Theo with the empty frame. Did this without asking, without saying anything at all, just picked up the empty frame and laid it against Theo’s picture so you could no longer see him.

Unacceptable.

I surprised myself with how calmly I told the person to uncover it and not touch the photo again. Guess I’m maturing a little bit (only took 28 years!). Kenny then took over talking to this person, and let him/her know why this was not ok.

But that hurt so much, to have someone come into my home and cover up my son. I’m not ashamed of him. Yes, pictures of babies on life support are hard to look at because who wants to picture a baby dying? But while it makes you uncomfortable to briefly see a photo of a dying child, it is a reality I deal with every second of every day. So fuck that. I will not apologize for my son, for being proud of him, or for keeping him a part of our family. Especially in my own home.

We had the newborn photos done. We used the same photographer who did the maternity photos, and she was incredible again. We incorporated Theo bear and a picture of Theo into some of the photos, just like we would if Theo was actually here. She even got Artie to hold onto the picture of Theo for a few minutes, which was so cute! Turns out the photographer has a good friend who lost a child at birth. She kept making me cry though while we were taking the photos, so I had to retouch my makeup a few times.

Kenny goes back to work in a few days (for a few weeks, then he’s taking more time off). I’m both looking forward to this and dreading this. I’m excited for it to just be Artie and I, and for me to have the chance to work on some projects while he naps. But… it’s also going to just be Artie and I during the day. No Kenny to take over when I need a break. We’ve been talking about me becoming a stay at home mom, so this will be a trial run to see if I like it/can do it. Me staying home will require some sacrifices too, so that’s something we have to consider.

I am going to say something I feel a little guilty about: I hate breastfeeding. It’s technically going well, I have no issues with my supply or his latch or anything like that. But I hate it. It’s exhausting and I feel trapped at home because I have to always be available to Artie when he’s hungry. So I decided to stop and try exclusively pumping. We’ll be switching Artie to formula for a couple of days while I get used to pumping and build up a supply. And if this doesn’t work, we’ll be doing all formula.

Every June, the hospital where Theo died holds a remembrance ceremony for babies and children who died there. This year, it falls during Kenny’s second round of paternity leave. I haven’t decided if we’ll be going. It would be so nice to go, this may be our only chance since they hold it on a week night and the hospital is 2 hours from us. And taking Artie would be so bittersweet. But…. I don’t know. I have a few days before I have to RSVP, hopefully I can make up my mind.

Here’s a funny video on PPD.


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What’s been going on

(Well this post turned out much longer than I expected. Hope you’re comfy!)

I won’t bury the lead: Arthur (fka Steam Bun) was born in early May and arrived safe and sound.

That said, it’s been a long couple of weeks weeks.

The week leading up to my RCS was the most nerve-wracking week of my life. I was pretty convinced I would lose him just before the RCS. I had an extra NST that week, and they all showed he was fine, but I still wasn’t convinced. The morning of the RCS, my water actually broke just as my alarm was going off. I was excited and took it as a good sign until I noticed that I was spotting (my water had to be broken by the dr when I was in labor with Theo), and I didn’t know this was normal. So I freaked out, and we rushed to L&D. Even if I had known this was normal, I probably would have still freaked out. Once I heard his heartbeat I started to relax a little. Because I arrived at the hospital much earlier than planned, we decided to bump up the RCS.

But before we could begin, we had to have one last meeting with the neonatologists regarding our plan should anything go wrong. This was probably the hardest part of the day honestly. We had two neonatologists in the OR, along with two NICU nurses. You can’t make a plan for everything, but went over our general wishes should anything go wrong.

The anesthesiologist asked me what radio station I wanted playing, so I picked contemporary Christian. The first song played was Lauren Daigle’s “Trust in You”, a song I love, but it is about trusting God through hard times so I took it as a bad omen.

In the end, he was born alive and healthy. He took a few seconds to start screaming after he came out, but he quickly demonstrated just how developed his lungs were. To say that was the most beautiful sound ever is an understatement. Even now, when he cries and screams, we don’t mind (that much). Yes, the crying can be frustrating when we’re running on so little sleep, but when it gets really bad, we always say “Thanks for letting us know your lungs work!”.

The difference in an emergency csection and a scheduled one is huge. I was in the same OR as the first time, but this time I could really soak in all of the details. I thought I had every detail down, but looking around the room the second time I noticed things I didn’t the first time. And the feel of the room is much different. Everyone in the OR knew our history very well, so we were all a little tense the first few minutes before he was taken out. Once he was out and crying, it was a complete 180. The doctors and nurses began to laugh and chat with us and each other, you could literally feel the mood lighten. Whereas last time that’s when things got really tense.

Like a lot (all?) hospitals, ours has little signs they put on the doors to the maternity rooms when the baby dies. At mine, it’s a picture of an ocean wave (and if your baby is in the NICU, you get a small sign that says “Just breathe”). I couldn’t handle being in the same maternity room as before (being in the same OR and recovery room was tough enough!), so I requested to be put in a different corridor. Fortunately, there were extra rooms and they were able to accommodate this. But as I was transferred to the maternity room, we passed a couple of rooms where the baby was either in the NICU or had died. My heart broke for them.

I had planned on bringing my own little sign to put on the door (a picture of a rainbow, with below it: “This patient has previously lost a child”), but in the rush the morning of I forgot it. My OB and perinatologist had previously assured me they would make sure all the doctors and nurses who oversaw my care would know of my history, but I wanted the sign to just be extra sure. Fortunately, it ended up not being necessary. Every nurse and doctor we came into contact with knew our history and was very sensitive to it. A few asked us questions about Theo (not medical type questions, but who he looked like more, etc.), but most just said “I’m sorry for your loss” and that was pretty much it. No comments on “everything happens for a reason”, etc. which is what I was really worried about.

The worst part of the hospital stay was hearing the hospital codes. Twice I heard a call for the NICU rapid response team to go to an OR or labor room. That brought back the harsh memory of when that code was being called for us.

The first day in the hospital we were on a high. Everything seemed happy and sunshine and unicorns were everywhere. But the second day… reality hit and I crashed. Hard. There was one really bittersweet, emotional moment. It was late at night, and Artie was sleeping on my chest. Artie was on my left side with his face in my armpit (weird kid, I know). Kenny placed Theo bear on my right, and within a couple of minutes Artie started inching toward Theo bear. A little bit at a time, until he was nose-to-nose with Theo bear. I just knew he was doing that to be next to his brother. It was a beautiful and incredibly painful moment.

I don’t know if this is normal or not, but I now have two c-section scars. My OB made the second incision just below the first incision. I have no idea why she did that, but I love that I now have two. I have little physical proof of Theo, my csection scar is one of them. So I appreciate that the incision for Artie is separate from Theo’s.

Watching Kenny with Artie is incredibly amazing and heartbreaking. He is such a good dad, and I love watching him with Artie. He just exudes love for Artie, and is so happy to be a dad to a living child and so good with Artie. And that’s what also makes it so heartbreaking. I can’t stand knowing Kenny had to bury his child, that he has to grieve the loss of his son. Watching Kenny be in that pain is often worse than my own grief. Kenny has never blamed me for Theo, never even hinted at it, but I can’t help but feel like it’s because of me that he has to go through this pain and missed out on raising a living Theo.

Something that I can’t wrap my head around is whether or not Artie has outlived Theo. Theo was born at 41 weeks and 4 days, and then lived for 30 hours. Artie was born at 39 weeks and has lived for more than 30 hours. So has he outlived Theo? Kind of? It’s a messed up question and really doesn’t matter because it doesn’t change anything, but yet I can’t stop thinking about it.

I try to not talk about Kenny’s grief because he’s way more private than I am, but having Artie has brought out new levels of grief and anxiety for Kenny as well. Kenny is not an anxious person. He does not worry about things he cannot control, and is very level headed. He places everything in God’s hands and focuses on what is in his realm of control. So pretty much the exact opposite of me. Lol. But now Kenny is anxious. He worries about how he holds Artie, if he is supporting Artie’s head enough, worries about Artie not breathing, etc. This goes beyond the basic newborn anxiety. I hate seeing Kenny so anxious.

I love watching Artie sleep. He’s so cute, and just looks so peaceful. But it is so hard to not worry about him when he’s sleeping. Especially when he isn’t making any of the adorable sounds he sometimes makes in his sleep. I watch his chest carefully, making sure it rises and falls. I have the Snuza monitor, but it’s hard for me to trust that even. On the car ride home from the hospital (and the car ride to and from his first doctor’s appointment), I sat in the back with Artie and carefully watched him in the car seat. I had my hand on his chest to be double sure he was breathing. Right now Artie is only sleeping on our chests (which makes us getting sleep even more difficult), and we’re working on transitioning him to his bassinet. But this is causing a lot of anxiety for me. He finally fell asleep in his rocker, and it was so hard for me to take a much needed nap while he slept. I did, it was a very short nap though and man it was hard.

I’m so grateful Artie is alive and well, but it’s brought up a ton of hard emotions. I’ll go into all of that later, though I know most of you know what I’m talking about. 

To make this a little light hearted, I’ve been peed on a lot this week. The hospital gave us extra pads (the ones they put on the beds), so we’ve put those around the changing station to catch his pee. Artie’s first sponge bath was because he peed all over himself as we were changing his diaper.