Holding Our Angel

Loving After Loss


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Breathing

Sometimes, just breathing is an accomplishment.

Officially diagnosed with PPD (who’s surprised? Bueller?) and I’m on medications. It will take a few weeks for the meds to take full effect. Kenny is very relieved I’m finally on meds, I think he was starting to feel a little helpless in dealing with my emotions. Can’t say I blame him too much for that, my emotions have been rather intense lately.

Artie wouldn’t take a bottle the last time we tried, so I’m still exclusively breastfeeding. We’re trying a bottle again next week. I think he’ll take it, as I finally got him to accept a pacifier earlier this week (I think it was this week, I have a terrible sense of time right now). I’m really looking forward to Artie using a bottle. I’ll no longer feel trapped at home, like I can’t go too far away in case Artie gets hungry. I do bring him out with me sometimes, but there’s not a lot of places that have convenient nursing areas. The mall and baby stores are just about it. Which really surprised me, considering this is California. 

Artie has been having some reflux. Mostly I feel awful that my baby is in pain and he can’t sleep, though sometimes I feel frustrated at him when we have difficulty putting him to bed. And then the guilt sets in, because I know how much worse it can be and I feel like I should just be grateful he’s alive (which I am!). And then my anxiety kicks in, as I start to imagine Artie dying. Imagine isn’t really the right word though, it’s more like I’m forced to watch a movie of him dying. I can see it happening before me, and I’m helpless to do anything.

A couple of weeks ago, Artie began smiling at us–and not just when he poops. He has such a beautiful smile, I love it. He smiles the most in the mornings, when he gets up for the day. But, like everything else, soon I start to think about how I never got that with Theo. I bet he would have a beautiful smile too, but I can’t say for sure and that kills me.

I think this is what I feel most guilty about–these thoughts of what I’m missing with Theo after everything Artie does. I don’t want to be constantly comparing my kids, and I really don’t want Artie to feel like he’s living in Theo’s shadow. Or that he has to “fix” our grief or be responsible for our happiness. But how can I make sure he doesn’t feel any of that when I’m constantly comparing them?

I found something I think I would like to do with Theo’s clothes. I’m thinking of having a quilt made out of them. I’ve been searching Pinterest for ideas, and I’ve found a few patterns I like. I am so not crafty though–and especially not good at sewing. I think I’m going to see if someone local would be willing to make the quilt for me (for pay of course). I do have some time to find someone-Artie won’t outgrown Theo’s clothes for a few more months at least. Though I’m still unsure how I feel about Artie wearing Theo’s clothes, I at least want that option, hence why I want to wait. 

Artie and I are now officially on Kenny’s insurance (my insurance used to be through my job but it’s considerably cheaper to have the three of us on Kenny’s than to keep us separated now), and Artie saw his new pediatrician today. I was filling out the new patient forms and they asked about siblings. So I wrote Theo’s name and then deceased in paraenthesis right next to it. Though I obviously write that Theo is dead here many times, writing it out in the “real world” was different. I wanted to scratch it out, or more like stab the paper with my pen. I was bracing myself for this part of the form and it was still sucky. 

I’m not sure if I like this pediatrician though. She was very friendly and seems very smart, but I felt rushed through our appointment. Maybe I just got used to getting extra time and attention during my pregnancy, and need to get used to a doctor who is treating us as normal. I don’t know. I wish kenny had been able to come, so I could bounce my impressions off his.  Artie is getting his shots in a couple of weeks, so I’ll see how that appointment goes. 


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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. 


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Baby Shower

Kenny’s coworkers (at his full-time job) really wanted to throw us a baby shower, and Kenny really wanted to have one with them, so we ended up having a small baby shower at his work. I thought it would be just his department (about 6 people), but way more people showed up to it and we were both surprised by how many people showed up. It was very sweet, his work has been very supportive of us since Theo died. I was able to attend the shower, and it was nice to meet so many of his coworkers I hadn’t before.

We got a few gifts, all clothes, which I am grateful for. We have all the baby stuff we need for Steam Bun, so we’ve been telling people to just get us clothes for Steam Bun. I’m so conflicted over Theo’s clothes and whether I want to see Steam Bun wearing them. I go back and forth, and I know there’s no right answer, I’ll just have to take that moment by moment. So having more clothes for Steam Bun is going to come in handy.

Though as I was cutting the tags off everything and tossing them in the laundry basket, it occurred to me that soon, way too soon, there will be a point where I don’t have the option of using “hand-me-downs” for Steam Bun. We only have so many clothes that were brought for/given to Theo, and they only go up to about 1 yr old in sizes. At some point in the very near future, Steam Bun will outgrow all of the clothes originally belonging to Theo, and we’ll have no choice but to buy new clothes for him. Same goes for toys, now that I think about it, and everything else he’ll need past infancy. The “hand-me-downs” we have now for Steam Bun are all baby things, and we’ll never have the hand-me-downs from when Theo was a toddler, pre-teen, etc.

What a crappy realization to have.

So I’ve been very vague with people about my due date and when the repeat c-section (RCS) is scheduled. I’ve been vague about when we want people to visit. I did this because I wanted to avoid making plans and having to answer everyone’s questions on this, and my vagueness has been successful so far. But as we near the end, it’s obvious that I now have to tell people what I want in regards to this. Damn.

Kenny pointed this out to me, that if I don’t express my desires in regards to visitors, etc. clearly, I’m likely to be frustrated at people because they won’t know what I want them to do. I really hate it when he’s right. 😉 So I spent some time today texting and calling people to clarify when I want them to visit and what I will need from them. Everyone took it really well, which I mostly knew they would. I don’t want visitors at the hospital, and a lot of people wanted to visit us in the hospital, so having to tell them no was hard for me. I was so hesitant to clarify my wishes in this area because I hate disappointing people, and I already feel like I let so many people down with Theo dying and my grief. I feel like my grief is a burden on people for many, many reasons, which just sucks.

So, as a way for me to practice expressing my wishes for the delivery and visitors, I’m going to go over my plan here. I’ve already told this to most of the people who will be visiting us those first couple of weeks, but goodness knows I need practice in saying this.

We will let family and close friends know when he’s here, but we will not be having any visitors in the hospital. We’ll be telling them when I am expected to be discharged so they can arrange to visit us after we are home. It’s important to both Kenny and myself that we have the days in the hospital to ourselves, and we’ll probably keep our phones off for most of the stay. Kenny and I both are expecting those first few days to be rather emotional, and we want to deal with that in private before everyone sees Steam Bun. Once we’re home, people can come visit us whenever they want and they’re welcome to stay during the day as long as they want, as long as they leave at night and sleep somewhere else. Kenny and I want to make sure we have some privacy at home too and a chance to relax once all the visitors leave for the night.

Ugh, it was much harder for me to make these plans and vocalize my wishes than I expected. If Steam Bun doesn’t live… it’s just more we have to undo and disappoint people all over again. I really hate all of this.


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It’s complicated

I took a short break from blogging because I needed to reevaluate if being so open about grief and child loss was still helping me. I think being honest and real about these topics is so important, but it also has some challenges and I wanted to make sure there were still enough benefits for me. Especially as we near Steam Bun’s birth, I expect there to be so many emotions if he lives. I can’t predict what I’ll feel, but I am prepared to face whatever I am feeling head on. That will make some people uncomfortable, because the truth and life can be uncomfortable, and I needed to make sure I was up for dealing with that.

Kenny and I have gotten very specific in our prayers over Steam Bun. We prayed every day for Theo, always asking God to watch over him and keep him safe. Which, technically God is doing, but so not what we meant (obviously). So now when we pray fro Steam Bun we say things like “Please let Steam Bun continue to develop properly, be born alive and screaming, and be born healthy. Please make sure his worst illness isn’t something over-the-counter medicine can’t fix, and make sure he lives on Earth for at least 60 years, dying only after we die. And make sure we don’t die until we are at least 60 years old, and only if we die together”. I used to also throw in something about not going into premature labor, but I’m not as worried about that now. It’s still hard to trust that God will answer our prayers regarding Steam Bun, and I think I’ll be struggling with that for awhile, even if Steam Bun is born healthy.

So I’m on maternity leave now, at the end of my second week actually. It feels like it has been forever already! I’m already ahead of my schedule in terms of completing projects, apparently I work more quickly than I realize (when I want to, lol). Kenny teaches at a university part-time, so I volunteered to do all of his grading and everything for the rest of the semester. Gives me another project to focus on. Lol.

My first project was to remove the koala decal from the nursery and put up the new decal I bought for Steam Bun. It unbelievably sucked to take down Theo’s decal. I cried for most of that, I felt like I was giving up on Theo in a weird way. And there’s no graceful way of removing a decal that size, so many of the koalas and parts of the tree ripped as I was removing them, which made me feel worse. It’s just awful to have to change your child’s room because they died, even if it is to potentially welcome another one home.

Putting up Steam Bun’s decal (owls in birch trees), was easier on me and fun, but part of me thought, “This is going to be a huge pain in the ass to remove if he doesn’t live”. This actually made me laugh, as I remembered Kenny commenting that the koala decal would be a pain to remove when Theo decided he no longer liked koalas. And it just seemed so morbidly funny to be making almost the same comment, a year and a half apart, and yet the comments be so very different.

Putting together Steam Bun’s nursery has such a different feel than when I did it for Theo. With Theo, there was no doubt he would come home. We were past the “safe point” in the pregnancy and naively thought a healthy baby was a given at that point. We naively believed healthy pregnancies end with a healthy baby, that SIDS and childhood cancer were the only threats we faced. And those were things that happened to “other people”.

Now it’s a weird tug and pull, torn between wanting to prepare and be excited for this baby, but knowing that every additional thing I do is just one more thing I’ll have to undo if he doesn’t live. I think we’ll have to move if Steam Bun doesn’t come home. And preparing for Steam Bun has brought up new aspects of grief I didn’t know before. I mourn the rose-colored glasses I used to have regarding pregnancy, but mostly I mourn what Steam Bun is missing out on. As I change the nursery, I’m keenly aware that it’s not changing how it’s supposed to be changing.

At this point in my alternate life (the one in which Theo lives), we would be debating if we should even bother with buying Steam Bun a crib. After all, both the boys would have to share a room and we would eventually need to buy a bunk bed. Would we try to move Theo to a bunk bed now, and let Steam Bun use his crib? Would we keep Steam Bun in our room for as long as possible, to let Theo keep his crib for as long as possible? Would we use this opportunity to change the theme of the boys’ room to a more typical boy theme, like superheroes or dinosaurs?

I’ll never know the answers to these questions.

Instead of talking about how to prepare Theo for having a younger brother and sharing the spotlight, we talk about the best way to tell a younger sibling their older sibling is dead, and when. We talk about if we think Steam Bun will grieve because he sees us grieving, and if that is healthy or not. Instead of learning to prepare an older sibling for a baby, we talk to loss parents about how they deal with handling their grief while parenting a living child.

Steam Bun will never have the older brother he should have. He won’t have an older brother to torment him, play with him, protect him. I’ll never be able to say “go play with your brother” unless I want Steam Bun to play with Theo bear, or an imaginary Theo. And though it’s normal for kids to have imaginary friends, what if Steam Bun says his imaginary friend is Theo?? I realize I’m getting ahead of myself here, but is it normal for a kid to have their deceased older sibling as their imaginary friend? These are the things I think about.

Last weekend we were hanging out at a friend’s backyard and I got so many mosquito bites. It was a last minute thing and I forgot to put on bug spray, not that it helps me much as I am candy to mosquitos. Every time I get a mosquito bite, the bite welts and I will get hives if I scratch it. I wasn’t sure what I’m allowed to use for the bites while pregnant, so I called my doctor to double check. She also gave me a list of symptoms to watch out for (for West Nile Virus, etc.). I was not at all concerned about the bites until then, and now I’m paranoid. Lol. I’ve managed to resist googling WNV + pregnancy so far, hopefully I can keep holding out.

I had appointments with the fire department this week to have the car seat checked in both of our cars. It’s strange driving around with the car seat base in my car again. The car seat itself is in the closet, and there it will remain until we leave for the hospital. But it’s still strange, opening up the door to the back seat and seeing a car seat base. As I walk past cars, I peer in and see if they have car seats or other signs of kids in the car. I wonder what their family is like–have they lost a child? Was the road to the family they have an easy one? I wonder if people will walk past my car and see the car seat base and think the same thing. (This sounds creepier than it is: I’m not going up to each car and sticking my face against the window. Lol. I just glance in as I am walking by.)

I’ve been meticulously saving the receipts and boxes for everything I’ve bought for Steam Bun. Last time, I threw out all the boxes right away and saved receipts for only the big items or the things I wasn’t sure would work. Now I’m saving receipts for even the nightlight I bought, with all of the boxes piled up in the hall closet.

Grief, pregnancy hormones, and loss brain are a dangerous combination. It’s exhausting dealing with all of this honestly. Though I am not wishing for a preemie, I’ll be so grateful when this pregnancy is over. I think Kenny’s looking forward to it being over too. 😉

Since I know I’m having a c-section this time, I’ve been doing research on c-section recovery. My postpartum care last time was definitely lacking, and that can only be partially blamed on me discharging myself against medical advice from the hospital. At my 4-6 week postpartum appointment, I was cleared for exercising and when I asked what kind of exercises were safe to do all I was told was “go slow”. Fortunately, I soon found a loss mom who is also a personal trainer, and she was able to give me really good information on how to safely return to exercise after a c-section. I’ll also be trying a belly binder this time, which I did not know about after my last c-section.

I’ve been off facebook for a few weeks and it’s been so refreshing! I did sneak on to Kenny’s facebook and immediately regretted it. My anxiety and PTSD were immediately triggered, and this only confirmed facebook is no good for me. There is one thing I miss though, a small facebook group of loss moms that focused on mental and physical health after loss. Having that community for support in dealing with PTSD, body image after loss, etc. was so great and I miss it. The loss community is truly like no other. Maybe I’ll try to start something like that locally after Steam Bun’s birth.

This upcoming week I’ll be working on Steam Bun’s baby book. I’m so conflicted about this one. Ugh.


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Social media and grief

I wrote this huge, very long and rambling post about what effect I think social media has made on my grief, debating whether or not to keep my facebook and instagram.

At the end of it, I was crying over one point: the number of photos I have of Theo will never increase. Never. I will always be sharing the same photos of Theo until the day I die. And that convinced me I needed to get rid of facebook. I’m keeping instagram though.

I realize that may not make a lot of sense, but trust me when I say this version is about 1,000 times more straightforward than my original mess of a post. Lol. Basically, even though I found a couple of facebook groups very helpful in my grief, I no longer find those benefits outweigh the overall negative effects of facebook on my grief. I don’t feel that instagram has as much of a negative impact on my grief, so I’m keeping it.

Maybe later I’ll be able to write more clearly how social media has played both a positive and negative role in my grief.

(Fun fact: I had to look up affect vs. effect, and I’m still not completely sure I used the correct word.)


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It’s the little things

A couple of months ago I read Always Within: Grieving the Loss of Your InfantIt’s a collection of stories about pregnancy and child loss.

There was one story that really stood out to me, it was by a woman who buried all 4 of her children (her oldest two were killed in a car accident when they were a few years old, and then she had twins who were stillborn). Her whole story was incredible, but she had one quote that really stood out to me:

Just the other day we got our house painted. That’s good, most people would say. No, it was not good. Do you know that all the fingerprints my children left on the walls were painted over?

This quote resonated with me so much, there are so many little aspects to child loss that hit me randomly. Things I never expected to hurt.

Last year, our taxes were difficult to do. Theo was born alive so we were able to claim him on our taxes as a dependent. I didn’t care about getting the tax break, but being able to claim him as a dependent meant SO much to me. He got a SSN, a birth and death certificate. They mean everything to me because it’s proof that he was here. I don’t have a child in my arms to prove I am a mother, so I hold onto as many tangible things as I can that prove he is my son. And being able to say on my taxes I had a son, a dependent, felt like a small validation.

This year we can’t claim Theo as a dependent. He was not alive at all in 2016, so according to our government he is no longer my dependent. I mean, I get it from a purely tax perspective. But it cuts like a knife to know that this year we can’t say Theo is ours. I’ve been putting off taxes for a couple of weeks, but we really need to do them this week and it just sucks to say we have no dependents when we have a child already.


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Comparing the pregnancies and other things

**Trigger warning**

I had my regular appointment yesterday. It went pretty well. We pushed our second anatomy scan back a couple of weeks, my dr wants Steam Bun to be a little bigger when the scan is done. I’ll have a growth scan done at the same time, and I think that will be the last growth scan unless something is off. After the scan, I’ll be having regular NSTs. And then Steam Bun will be here, hopefully healthy. My fluid levels have been checked at almost every appointment, and so far they are looking good.

I’ve been having constant headaches the past couple of weeks, which didn’t really concern me but I brought it up with my doctor anyway. She said that can be a sign of preeclampsia, but my blood pressure is fine and there’s no protein in my urine. But I still need to monitor my blood pressure myself until my next appointment, and if it starts going up to come in right away. A loss mom mentioned that baby aspirin can help prevent preeclampsia, so I emailed my doctor about it and she ok’d me going on it.

I also talked to her about putting a sign on my door that lets everyone know what’s going on. She said that’s fine, she’ll let me put up whatever sign I want. The practice doesn’t have a sign already made, so I’ll be making one. It will be pretty basic and say something like “This patient has experienced child loss. It’s ok to ask about her oldest, but please be sensitive. Expect her to cry, but it’s not a bad thing if she cries”. My OB will be the one performing the c-section, and she assured me she will let everyone involved know what is going on. I don’t really care if I cry in front of all of the doctors and nurses, but people feel awkward when I start crying and then they feel like they can’t bring Theo up. I want them to bring Theo up, so they need to know it’s ok to still talk about him even if I cry. I kind of wish I could carry this sign around with me everyday “Ask about my dead son. I may cry, but I still want you to ask”.

At my next appointment we’ll be going over the “birth plan” in more detail. Do we want to hold Steam Bun right away (provided he’s not showing signs of distress)? Do we want them to examine Steam Bun before we hold him? Who will be in the OR beside my OB, etc. Obviously the ultimate birth plan is to have a living, healthy baby and life-saving measures take priority over everything else, but things were so rushed and chaotic with Theo that we never got the time we should have with him. We missed out on things that should have been offered to us by the hospitals, and so our birth plan with Steam Bun will include what we want done if he is in distress, has the same condition as Theo, etc. We’re making plans for both a healthy baby and a sick baby.

Kenny and I have been comparing this pregnancy to the one with Theo since the beginning, but especially lately.

Physically, my pregnancy with Theo could not have gone smoother. Textbook pregnancy, and I had the usual complaints.

This one has been different since the beginning. At my first appointment my dr said I had a subchorionic hematoma (SCH). It fortunately was less than 3 cm, but she still recommended I not exercise until it cleared up. Which it did at 10 weeks. Not being able to exercise for those first few weeks got me out of my routine, and it’s been hard to get back to regular exercise since.

And then a few weeks later, there were sugars in my urine, so I had the 1 hr glucose test, which I failed. I passed the 3 hr test though, and have had no issues with sugars since. I was still eating healthy the majority of the time at this point, so I know it wasn’t my diet that was causing this issue. Never had any issues with sugars while pregnant with Theo.

Theo and Steam Bun have proven to be incredibly stubborn babies during scans, though I think Theo was more stubborn. He would not move out of his position if he was comfortable, whereas Steam Bun will at least move briefly, but he usually moves back to his spot pretty quick. With both Theo and Steam Bun, I’ve had to had some scans multiple times so the techs can get all of the images they need.

The heartburn started earlier in the pregnancy this time, but it’s different than with Theo. We’re betting Steam Bun will have a good amount of hair, but not as much as Theo. The back pain started earlier though, and the round ligament pain (RLP) is more intense this time. I’ve also had some pain on my c-section scar, which my dr says is due to the scar being stretched but I’m convinced it’s partly because Steam Bun is kicking the crap out of it.

Which brings me to the biggest differences in the pregnancies: the movements and kicks. Theo was a kicker. He moved around, but he liked his spot and much preferred to just kick and punch me. His favorite spot to kick was my left ribcage, and he would go to town on kicking it throughout the day. Steam Bun is calmer. He likes to squirm around more than kick, though he still kicks a good amount. His favorite spot to kick is my c-section scar.

I’m carrying the babies differently. Theo was higher up, and further back. Steam Bun is sitting lower and in the front.

No matter how old your child is when they die, it’s all horrific and it is not “better” or “easier” to lose your child at birth or 10 years old or 20, etc. But I think a special pain of losing your child before/at/just after birth is that you don’t know their personality. We have brief glimpses of their personalities while they were still in utero, but that can only tell you so much about them.

Kenny and I have talked a lot about who we think Theo would have become. We’ve decided he would have been the “brawn” of the family. Theo would have been very athletic, Kenny used to joke he was practicing karate in utero and we would joke about how Theo would never walk–he would go straight from crawling to running, and he would never stop once he started. He would have been smart, but he would have enjoyed physical activities more than anything else and would have been outgoing and very energetic. With Steam Bun being so much calmer in terms of kicks and movements, we think he’s going to be less hyper and more observant. More brainy or artsy than athletic. We joke how Steam Bun will blame Theo for the trouble he gets into.

You know how they talk about how birth order affects personality? That oldest children have certain personality traits, only children are different than those with siblings, etc? Steam Bun is our second child and the baby of the family. We’re probably done after Steam Bun, regardless if he lives or dies. But… Steam Bun in a weird way is also the oldest of the family and the only child. I mean, Theo will always be his big brother and we’re going to raise Steam Bun to know his big brother, but in a lot of ways Steam Bun will be an only child. And so I wonder how that will affect his personality. Will he have the personality traits of “the baby” of the family? Or will he be more like the stereotypical older/only child? I kind of want to see if anyone’s done research on this… how does the death of an older sibling affect the personality of the younger children?

I’ve noticed that my pregnancy with Steam Bun has been very cyclical: period of bonding/optimism for the pregnancy, followed by a period of fear and withdraw, then repeat. Right now I would say Kenny and I are entering a period of bonding/optimism. It’s so scary to be bonding with Steam Bun, I hope we are not hurt at the end.


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Not Fair

Every night Kenny and I pray before we go to bed.

During last night’s prayers, Kenny thanked God for bringing an acquaintance’s baby into the world safely.

I realize that there isn’t a finite number of kids that can be born, but it hurt so much to hear this news. It brought up a lot of emotions of “why us?” and “why them?”. I wouldn’t wish child loss on the devil himself and I’m glad they aren’t in our position, but I still don’t get what they did to deserve a healthy baby that we didn’t do.

I realize rationally the answer to that is nothing, that life is random and ultimately there is so much we can’t control. It’s pure chance that Theo died and their daughter lived, and nothing we could have done would have changed the outcome. That is almost harder to swallow–accepting that the most important things life to us are not within our control.

This couple are acquaintances, so I told Kenny I can’t hear about them again. And I know this is so unfair of me to say, but I really struggle with praying for things like thanking a baby was born healthy or asking God to look after someone’s baby and make sure it’s healthy. Again, I don’t want anyone else in our position, but it’s just hard seeing those prayers answered when ours for Theo wasn’t. Fellow loss moms are the only exception to this, I have no problem praying for their babies.

We have about 40 people coming to Theo’s party this Friday. I’m so so grateful that so many want to come celebrate our boy, but I’ve been really struggling with having this party the past few days. This isn’t how his first birthday party should be held, this is nothing how his birthday party should look. Part of me almost wishes we weren’t doing it, but I know I’ll be glad we had it once it’s over. I feel a little guilty for admitting that because again, I’m so happy we have so many people in our life who want to acknowledge and celebrate Theo, but it needed to come out.

Basically, pregnancy hormones and grief are a dangerous mix and have made me a blubbering mess the past few days.