Holding Our Angel

Loving After Loss


2 Comments

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. 


Leave a comment

Defending grief

Something I’ve realized in short bursts the last few weeks was pounded into my head this weekend.

Our church did a sermon on conflict and how to resolve conflict properly. It was a good service overall, but one point really got me. The pastor said to ask yourself one question before you bring up an issue with someone: am I upset about this because this is a genuine/important issue, or am I upset because my ego is bruised? Basically, pick your battles.

And that got me thinking…how much energy do I spend defending my grief to people who don’t matter? How much time and thought and words and actions have I spent on making sure the person who said something stupid to me knows my grief and feelings are valid? So what if the store clerk thinks my feelings aren’t valid, just because they think that doesn’t make it true. I know my feelings are valid and that’s all that matters.

So I resolved that I am going to do my best to not care what strangers say about my grief. If someone who is active in my life unintentionally says something hurtful, I will let them know why it hurt and how I would like them to respond next time. And I truly know that with people close to me, if they do say something hurtful, it really wasn’t intentional–they were saying what they thought I needed to hear. And I think they would be open to me saying that didn’t work for me, here’s what I would actually find helpful.

Strangers or people who are acquaintances at best, their thoughts do not matter. I will do my best to let their comments roll off my back. I don’t doubt that some comments will still sting, with something as intimate and raw my child’s life and death, I would be lying if I said their comments will never hurt. But it’s ok for me to feel hurt at their comments and move on. I don’t need to let them know they are wrong or how they have hurt me–I don’t have to waste my energy defending myself to them. I have nothing to prove to them.

I think this will help me talk about Theo with strangers. There have been times I’ve stayed silent about Theo because I was scared of someone’s response, and I don’t need to be scared of that. Someone’s reaction to my grief isn’t my responsibility–if they have a poor reaction, that’s a reflection of them. It’s not a reflection of me, and most importantly, it’s not a reflection of Theo.

They can’t hurt Theo or his memory.


5 Comments

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.)


Leave a comment

That’s 1

I realized I forgot to give an update last week on the fundraiser!

We are now at over 15% raised! I’m so excited, and I can’t believe we’ve already raised so much. If you would like to check out our fundraiser it is here. In addition to the money donated through the link, we’ve also received some cash and check donations! I’m very thankful for everyone who has donated, and is honoring our Theo in this way. Someone asked me what happens if we don’t meet our goal and the answer is nothing bad. The goal is arbitrary, and even if we don’t meet it, all of the money raised will still go to UCSF.

If you are a loss parent, I would love to honor your child at the party! Donations are NOT required for this, I do not care if you donate or not but I would still love to remember your child at the party. Don’t forget to email me at tpldigidesigns@gmail.com with a picture of your baby, your child’s name, birthdate, and date of passing, along with your child’s story. They will be added to the slideshow I am creating. I’ve already gotten several emails, and I’m so excited and honored to remember all of the children at the party!

**Trigger warning**

Saturday night I went to Labor & Delivery because I thought my amniotic fluid was  leaking.

It, thank God, was not. Steam Bun’s heartbeat was fine, and I got to listen to it for about an hour, which was so nice. His heartbeat is very soothing. I forgot how sensitive those heart monitor straps are, and a few times I moved or Steam Bun hit the monitor and all of a sudden it said his heartbeat was 30 or 40 because it was no longer positioned correctly. I was also not having contractions, which I knew I wasn’t anyway, but it was nice to get that confirmation.

An ultrasound was also done and the doctor showed me the fluid level (no issues there), Steam Bun’s diaphragm (perfect), and fetal breathing movement (looked great, yay!). I breathed a huge sigh of relief. The doctor took plenty of time to answer all of my questions and didn’t act like I was being paranoid, which I so appreciate. He told me our perinatologist will likely look closely at the fetal breathing movement at our second anatomy scan.

I asked him what I could do to tell the difference between leaking amniotic fluid and leaking… other stuff. He confirmed what my OB has told me, do the “gush test”, but would prefer I come in every time I have any concern. Not that I was doubting my OB, but it was nice to have him confirm what she said too.

I normally go grocery shopping Saturday or Sunday mornings, since there’s much fewer people in the stores at that time. But I didn’t go Saturday morning because I was lazy, and didn’t go Sunday because I overslept. So I went grocery shopping today, on my way home from work.

I only had a few items, so I got in line in the express checkout. And right in front of me was a dad with a stroller. The baby couldn’t have been more than 4 months old. The dad was picking up a few things, so he put all of the food in the bottom of the stroller. I immediately thought of Kenny and how much he is missing out on. Kenny was so excited to take Theo on silly errands, and I can totally picture Kenny loading up the stroller with the groceries instead of getting a bag. Kenny would have been proudly pushing the stroller everywhere we go too. It’s been awhile since a trigger has knocked me off my feet, but that one did. It’s just not fair that Kenny, who is a great dad to an angel but would be a great dad to a living child, can’t parent the way he is supposed to. And I can’t watch Kenny be the dad he was supposed to be to Theo.

I started tearing up in the store, but didn’t really start crying until I got to my car. And then Kenny had one of those moments that has me convinced he really is psychic and just hides it from me. A few minutes later he text me he loves me, which made me feel a little bit better.


1 Comment

Big Steps

I have a Barnes & Noble credit card, and they send you a gift card once you get a certain number of points. Since Theo died, I’ve used every B&N gift card to buy books on grief and child loss. Until this week that is. I got my gift card and I bought two cookbooks with it. There’s still some books on child loss that I want to buy, but I have a few books I already own that I haven’t read yet, so I decided to buy something fun with the gift card. It feels strange. If you look at my Amazon wishlist of books, you’ll notice a clear divide in the books I added pre- and post-Theo’s death. Even if you didn’t know my story, you would be able to guess I lost a child around that time just based on the wishlist. I’m not sure what this means for my grief journey, but it feels like it means something.

**Trigger warning**

*

There’s also been some big steps in the pregnancy.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked my doctor to prescribe me something for heartburn. I had horrible heartburn with Theo (and he was born with a full head of hair, proving the old wives tale true for me at least), and popped Tums like they were candy. The Tums helped, but not enough. I started getting heartburn around 13 weeks this time, and finally had enough and asked for something stronger than Tums. This may seem like nothing major, but it is a huge step for me. I hate taking medications in general, but that increased even more after Theo died.

We had our fetal echocardiogram this week and it went well. It took forever though because Steam Bun is officially the most stubborn baby in the world. He was in a bad position for a lot of the scan (like every other scan), and I ended up being there for sooo long.

I’m not done with the scans though: at 30 weeks I will have a second anatomy scan, and our perinatologist will make a decision at that point if we need a fetal MRI or not. Our doctor warned us that he’s going to recommend NOT doing an MRI unless he sees something very wrong on the 30 week scan. Lungs cannot be seen on an ultrasound, hence the possibility of an MRI. But fetal MRIs to check lung development is still new enough, and our doctor has seen cases where doctors overanalyze the MRI and make a recommendation that ends up hurting the mom and baby more than necessary. I get his reasoning, and a large part of me agrees with him. Kenny and I went into the pregnancy knowing *if* Steam Bun has the same genetic condition, there’s nothing we can do. But we both started the pregnancy wanting to know as much as possible, so we can make certain arrangements in advance if necessary. Though now, the farther along I get, the more we’re both changing our minds. We haven’t swung completely to the other side, but we’re on the fence now. We’ll probably be relieved (for multiple reasons) if the doctor recommends skipping the MRI.

We are also past the point of viability. I was not expecting to be relieved by this, but I did breathe a small sigh of relief once we made it to that point. Not because this means it is more likely that Steam Bun will live, but because if I were to go into preterm labor that cannot be stopped (knock on wood), the doctors will perform life-saving measures if Steam Bun were to be born now. That made me feel better: knowing everything will be done now to save Steam Bun’s life.

But… now I have to keep track of my “kick counts”. And I am stressing so much at how much he is and isn’t moving. But more than that, I am worrying that I won’t recognize when he stops moving. I’m getting used to his kicks–I feel them, but they’ve become second nature if that makes sense. And I only seem to notice when he is NOT kicking, as opposed to when he is. The app that was recommended to me is certainly helping, and I like using it. I don’t let myself use it everyday though, because I can see myself get a little obsessive about it. So my plan (for now, may or may not change) is to use the app about 3-4 times a week, logging as many kicks as possible. The other 3-4 days I plan on doing “hourly check-ins”: every hour make sure I feel some movement, maybe logging kicks to compare to a different day’s kicks. Ugh. I am stressing so much about these kick counts. I wish I could just enjoy the kicks, and not worry about when he is and isn’t kicking.

I’m debating if I should do one of those 3D/4D ultrasounds. I googled to see how many are in my area, and there is a highly rated one a few miles away from our house. And because we live in the age of Google, alllllll of my ads immediately became ads for these ultrasound places. I just love seeing these ultrasounds whenever I go online. </sarcasm> I wrote down the info of the place not far from me, in case I decide to do this. I didn’t get one for Theo, and that’s why I’m so hesitant to do this for Steam Bun. I wish I did one for Theo, just to have more pictures. And if anything should happen to Steam Bun, I will probably regret not doing this. But… Theo was an accident and Steam Bun wasn’t. And I have a lot of guilt over how I initially reacted to finding out I was pregnant with Theo. I constantly wonder if he would have lived if I had a different reaction, or worry I didn’t love him enough. And so, I feel like I need to do the same things for Steam Bun that I did for Theo: to show that I love them the same. It’s crazy I know, but it is what it is.

I had a long cry the other night with Kenny. It kills me to see women embracing their pregnancies and being so happy about them. I want that SO bad. I want that joy. But I can’t have it. It’s just not that easy, though I wish it was. I can’t just make myself that carefree and happy about pregnancy, no matter how much I wish I could. Sometimes I wonder if Theo’s condition had been diagnosed before he was born, would that make this pregnancy easier? Would it be easier for me to accept this pregnancy is going well and accept good news from the doctors, if I hadn’t heard the same for Theo? I doubt it, but I still wonder.

We have a lot of people asking us about baby showers. And I have no idea how I feel about that. One friend suggested we just do a casual BBQ thing instead of a shower, just to celebrate Steam Bun so far. I like that idea more than any other idea. Emotions are complicated. Lol.

And finally, I’ve been planning Steam Bun’s nursery, which both kills me and is fun. And I feel guilty that I find it fun. We’re going with gray and navy, and owls/woodland theme. The nursery stuff we bought at IKEA a few weeks ago is still sitting in my car trunk, I can’t bring them inside yet. I don’t think I’m going to buy anything else for Steam Bun until after Theo’s party in February. Come March 1st, I’ll buy everything at once to give myself enough time to slowly work on the nursery before Steam Bun’s birth.


Leave a comment

Economic impact of grief

Earlier this week someone in one of my online groups posted this really interesting article on the economic impact of grief.

The article rang true for many of us. I know my work productivity has been impacted, I am much less productive at work than I was before. It’s hard to get through work. I wish I had taken more time off after Theo was born, I took my 2 months of paid STD and that was it. I thought going back as soon as I could would be good for me, but while it helped in the short-term, I don’t think it helped in the long-term. Several women also regretted going back to work too soon, but were forced to because of medical and funeral bills. I also regret going back to full-time work right away, but I didn’t have the option of starting part-time and easing my way in because I needed to keep my health insurance, as all of the extensive genetic testing was billed to my insurance.

Kenny had a different reaction: he threw himself into work after Theo died, because he felt so helpless and work was the only thing he could “fix” or make any progress on. Kenny agreed in the beginning he wasn’t as productive at work as he used to be, but says he’s slowly returned to his pre-Theo levels of productivity.

There was one point in the article which I really liked, and felt like a small victory:

The effects do not depend on the age or birth order of the child or on family size.

As I’m sure many, many parents who have experienced stillbirth or infant loss will tell you, I’ve experienced people telling me to “get over it” quickly because Theo was “just a baby”, implying that my grief and pain aren’t valid because Theo wasn’t alive long enough. I’ve also heard from my friends who have living children, that people will say they shouldn’t be grieving as much because “at least you have your other son(s)/daughter(s)”. I have to admit, I love that this study supports what all loss parents know to be true: it does not matter if you have living children, have no living children, if your child never took a breathe, lived for 30 years, etc. the death of your child is always the worst thing you can experience.

Anyway, I’m a numbers person so stuff like this I always find fascinating. I’m curious what additional research will show on the impact of child loss.


1 Comment

1/24/16

On this day last year, we buried our son.

We took so long to have a funeral, because we just couldn’t cope with having to plan one.

It was just Kenny, myself, and our pastor.

In November, I received a letter from the funeral home that asked if I wanted to have an ornament made for Theo and participate in a candlelight service. I said yes, but I completely forgot about the service. I felt so bad, but since I had turned in the postcard saying I wanted an ornament past the deadline, I assumed I wouldn’t have gotten an ornament anyway.

The ornament from the funeral home arrived today.

 


3 Comments

Purging

Christmas weekend I started “KonMari’ing”  the house. If you aren’t familiar with Marie Kondo, she wrote “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up”. Her method of decluttering is pretty simple: go category by category and only keep what “sparks joy”.

I got a good start by getting rid of 3 bags of clothes and accessories (which included some of Kenny’s clothes) that weekend. The decluttering has come and gone in waves since then. Not long ago I did the pantry and tossed a bunch of expired food, and this week I did the rest of the kitchen. While going through all of my kitchen stuff (I have a lot), I found some baby related things: the Kiinde BreastFeeding Starter Kit, Kiinde Foodii Start Kit, Baby Bullet, and some sippy cups. These were all shoved in a cabinet we don’t use.

I almost closed the cabinet and moved on, but I decided to organize it. I moved some of the Kiinde Breastfeeding kit to our bedroom, where I will hypothetically be nursing or pumping most of the time. This kit comes with a rack to store breastmilk in the freezer, so I moved that to the freezer. Doing that required me to make room for where the hypothetical breastmilk will be stored in the freezer, so I moved a bunch of food around.

Now I’m realizing I kind of got ahead of myself, making room in the freezer for breastmilk is assuming a lot and a little over the top considering I’m not in the third tri yet. Even for a non-loss mom, that’s over preparing. Lol. There’s no guarantee I’ll be able to breastfeed/pump (I have no issue with using formula–whatever keeps the kid alive!).

Decluttering has felt great though. I think it’s more about control than nesting. Decluttering and organizing the house gives me some sense of much needed control in an otherwise very chaotic period of my life. I’m slowly learning there is very little in life I have complete control over, and trusting God with everything has been tough. But clutter is one of the few things that is completely in my control, and there’s been a surprising peace that has come from ditching things. Maybe it’s because those were possessions from our B.T. (before Theo) life and it feels good to shed that life a little. And I’ve noticed that the more cluttered and disorganized the house is, the more anxiety I feel.

 

I told Kenny last night I love “our bubble”. I like the little world we’ve built, it’s the outside world I don’t like. I’m finding myself more and more content by myself or just with Kenny. I’m not withdrawing myself from people, but I appreciate the moments by ourselves more than ever.


4 Comments

Struggles

The past couple of months have been really hard.

I feel like they have been harder than any other point in this journey so far. We are now just over 13 months from his birth and death. I still can’t believe it. Time moved so slowly at first, but has been moving so fast lately.

So much of my day I struggle to stay on task, to do what I have to do. I’m so scared for Steam Bun, for facing another potential loss. And that fear gets stronger the farther along I get. I’m scared what impact grief will have on parenting a living child or that we will screw up Steam Bun somehow.

I feel like I have been constantly defending how I feel and my reality. My reality is that so far 100% of my pregnancies end in death. If Steam Bun lives, my reality will be 50% of my pregnancies end in death. Pregnancy is not easy for me anymore, and I hate that what should be so joyous can no longer be. I can’t “just” separate this pregnancy from my first. I’m jealous of those who have never experienced a loss, who are able to enjoy pregnancy. My body has failed me in the biggest way it could, and I trust machines more than I trust my body.

I’m exhausted, angry, and I feel so alone. I feel like I can’t participate in my old normal life or in the world in general, because I’m not as optimistic and happy as others want me to be. Not every moment is this hard, but I feel like admitting I have struggles means I’m failing and I need to be fixed.

At work the other day someone told me I am “so weird about this pregnancy”. Earlier this week I was asked how my holidays were and when I answered truthfully (they were awful), one of the responses I got was “but your cell phone case is so cute!”. (In fairness, I got good, comforting responses from others. But that one cut like a knife and hurt so much.)

None of this is fair. I don’t want to have to put in this work, to be dealing with this struggle. I’ve been changed permanently, and I’m figuring out this new person.

19f693b14f54d0db66d6091653d7934b 481512df567a16d75190348618e9ee61