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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Self-Care

Self-care has been difficult while dealing with everything.

When I was pregnant with Theo, I was very healthy. I exercised regularly until 38 weeks, modifying the exercises the farther along I got of course. But I stayed moving for the majority of the pregnancy and was proud of myself (and I’ll admit–a little smug!). Once I hit 38 weeks, I went on leave and decided to enjoy my last weeks as a couch potato. Lol. And overall, I ate pretty healthy with Theo. I would say I ate healthy about 75-80% of the time, though I certainly used the pregnancy to justify the larger bowl of ice cream. I wanted to give Theo the best start at life.

And then he died.

After he died, I focused a lot on being healthier. I started exercising as soon as I could after the c-section, and I ate as healthy as I could. I got rid of a bunch of crap in our lives to make us and our home healthier. This was probably mostly a way to feel in control more than anything else.

But as soon as I got pregnant again, my whole attitude shifted. All of a sudden I couldn’t motivate myself to workout or eat healthy. I just didn’t (and still don’t) see the point. Thousands of women are on drugs, smoking, or drinking during their pregnancies and their babies live. I’m not denying the health problems associated with those habits, but the babies live. It just feels so pointless to do everything right when the baby still dies in the end. It didn’t help that until I was 10 weeks along, my doctor recommended I not workout due to a complication (that has since resolved) they found. That lost momentum had a big affect.

But self-care goes beyond physical health.

I’ve been focusing more on mental health lately. Even more than a year out, and there’s still only so much energy I have and sometimes I have to ration it. Mental health is a higher priority than physical right now, though I have noticed a correlation between better physical health and better mental health for me. Still, I’m giving myself a pass on the missed workouts and crappy eating because that’s just not what it important to me right now.

So I’ve been focusing on what makes me feel good mentally/emotionally. Like new makeup or clothes, giving myself permission to feel whatever I need to feel, or venting here. There will be some big changes to our lives in 2017. I hope for the better, but honestly I’m preparing myself for the worst. Some of these changes Kenny and I are in control of, some we are at life’s mercy.