Holding Our Angel

Loving After Loss


2 Comments

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. 


3 Comments

Things I Wouldn’t Have Minded if My Baby Had Lived

A phrase I frequently said the first few months after Theo (and still do, honestly) was “My baby died! I shouldn’t have to deal with XYZ!”. So here are some of the postpartum joys that I probably wouldn’t have minded as much if Theo had lived.

  1. Hair loss. I STILL have a bald spot on my right temple. The amount of hair I lost was disgusting. And though the hair loss fortunately has stopped, it is growing back in super awkwardly. I have a bunch of wispy hairs along my hairline and on my temples. And that bald spot on my temple is taking its sweet time filling in. I take great pleasure in shattering the myth that prenatals are the reason your hair grows during pregnancy (it’s actually the hormones, hence the hair loss) in women who’ve never been pregnant. Sorry, not sorry, kind of sick of hearing that I should just take prenatals to make my hair grow back.
  2. Milk coming in. Oy, this was a huge knife in the heart. I actually pumped for about a month after Theo died. I wish I could have done it longer, but toward the end it was too emotionally painful. It was too much to see the milk that should have gone to Theo, so I stopped pumping cold turkey after a month. Part of me wishes my milk had never come in honestly. Seriously body, you screwed up enough with killing my son, the least you could have done was know that you killed my son and he didn’t need any milk.
  3. Gray hair. Ok, this isn’t a postpartum thing, but I found my first gray hair a few days before I found out I was pregnant. And that lonely gray hair multiplied when my hair started to grow back in after the hair loss…. so I’m sticking with postpartum gave me gray hair. Had Theo lived, 15 years from I would be using that against him, telling him all the ways he caused my gray hair when he was a baby.
  4. C-section recovery. The day Theo was born and the day he died, I actually barely noticed that I had just had major abdominal surgery. I was walking and running all over the place those 30 hours he was alive, very much against my doctors’ medical advice. I couldn’t believe the fuss everyone was making over me; I felt (physically) fine! I was having no problem walking around and sitting and standing. Then the day after Theo died, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I could barely move, barely bend. Every time Kenny left the toilet seat up, I would have to call him into the bathroom to lower it because I couldn’t bend enough to do that myself. And the first few weeks were hard physically-you can’t sit up in bed like you normally could, you’re not allowed to walk much or go up and down stairs. And my ab muscles felt just plain weird. Had Theo lived, I would have taken complete advantage of that and plopped myself on the couch to binge on Netflix while breastfeeding and cuddling my baby.
  5. “You don’t look like you just had a baby!” Nearly everyone said this to me, and had Theo lived, I would have been eating that up. And probably egging you on to say it a couple more times. But it stung so much to hear those words. I already felt like Theo wasn’t real, that I had imagined the whole pregnancy, that the world had forgotten him. And those words, which were totally meant as a compliment, only confirmed those feelings and fears.