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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Not a clue

Many people, both loss and non-loss friends, have been asking me how the first few postpartum weeks are going.

I honestly have no idea how to answer my non-loss friends.

How can I explain to someone who has not lost their child the complete mind fuck that is postpartum and grief? I don’t even know where to begin, and I get overwhelmed just thinking about it. 

My non-loss friends who are asking me this are the ones who have walked with me this entire time and have listened without judgement, so when they see I’m struggling to answer, they ask if I want to talk about something else. And that’s what I need. 

I had lunch today with a loss mom, and it was like a huge weight was lifted talking to her. Just having someone who can say “yep, I get it” is more comforting than pretty much anything else right now. When I say that a sleeping baby looks like a dead baby, she knows exactly what I mean. 

When I say that I sometimes look at Artie and think that he’s not Theo, she gets it. 

There’s no need to explain what I mean, which is just what I need because I don’t have the capacity right now to explain what I mean. 

This postpartum period is just as rough as the one after Theo, just in an entirely different way. I feel like I’m back at ground zero, wondering what is going on and where to begin. 

Like another loss mom blogged about, I find that when I say I’m tired most assume it’s because I have a newborn. That may be part of it, but mostly I’m exhausted from trying to process and deal with everything, exhausted from walking this shitty path. 

I feel like I’ve been robbed of the joy of parenting. 


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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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Body Image and Loss

I’ve been thinking about this for months, but I’ve been so hesitant to write about it. And even when I started to write, I had to do it very slowly and over time. This hits a very vulnerable and raw spot, and for a lot of reasons I’ve taken some steps back in being completely open about things. But… this is something I haven’t really addressed before and decided it was time.

After Theo died, my confidence and trust in my body was destroyed, and I felt so worthless as a woman and a mom. I hated my body and myself for what it did to Theo.

I think it is a special type of hell when your baby dies inside you or because he didn’t develop correctly. Knowing my body had one job, and it couldn’t even do that shook me to my core. It really made me question what I was capable of, and how else my body would fail me, and when it would happen. I wondered what else would be ripped away from me because my body failed. Would I still be physically capable of doing what I love, still enjoying life if I couldn’t trust my body and health to be there for me? Suddenly I was anxious about things I was never worried about before. I felt fine my entire pregnancy, and yet Theo was so sick, so how could I trust what my body was telling me now?

Though I know rationally I did everything right and I didn’t chose this or have any control on how Theo’s genes formed, I felt like my body killed my son. And I hated my body, myself, for that. How could my body betray me like this? How could I have not known something was wrong? How much of a mess could my body be that it killed my son despite me doing everything right, when there are so many women who do stupid shit while pregnant and their children live?

On really bad days, when my anxiety or PTSD is at its strongest, it’s so easy to take one little thing that goes wrong (like forgetting to pick up the dry cleaning) and have that end with “Why did you think you could do this, you couldn’t even make a healthy baby?”. My “rationale” in these moments is pretty simple: a women’s body is made to produce health babies->my body couldn’t do that-> therefore I can’t do anything right.

Then to have my milk come in was a slap in the face. It was just another way my body couldn’t get it together–it created a baby that couldn’t live but was too stupid to recognize that and so my milk came in despite there not being a baby that needed it. I pumped for a short while after Theo died, and that was helpful at first but quickly turned not helpful so I stopped cold turkey. Which you’re not supposed to do, and I’m glad I didn’t get an infection or anything, but I did find it cruelly ironic that I didn’t get an infection. Like again, here’s my body not doing what it’s supposed to do, even though this time it strangely worked in my favor. It’s weird, and I have weird feelings over this, and I realize it sounds very strange to be complaining about not getting an infection.

There is so much emphasis on having kids in our culture, and tying a woman’s worth to her children. And because my body failed in that regard, failed to produce a healthy baby, I felt like I wasn’t worth much as a woman and a mom. It’s hard to fight against the constant images of pregnancy and babies that are everywhere. It’s in TV shows, movies, commercials, books, and the small talk people make. The #momlife and “Mom life is the best life” sayings that are plastered on coffee mugs and bumper stickers. The picture-perfect Pinterest lifestyle. The jokes about wanting to get rid of your kids. None of these versions of motherhood include the bereaved mother and the children who are no longer on Earth. It’s no wonder I felt worthless–almost everywhere I turned I was being told, directly or indirectly, that I didn’t count as a mom and my son didn’t count. And this exacerbated my hatred for my body because I viewed my body as the cause of my son’s death.

When people kept silent about Theo, it only reinforced my lack of worth and hatred of my body. Because I KNOW they would have talked to me about him if he had lived. They would have asked for pictures and for me to tell his birth story and they would ask me about so many other things. But some people kept silent instead. They treated me as if I was the carrier of some disease that could be caught–like their child(ren) would die because they knew me. They ignored my motherhood, pretending as if Theo was non-existent because it made them uncomfortable. All I heard in their silence was that only the pretty, happy parts of life were worth acknowledging, and the biggest part of me (the most important part of me) didn’t meet those requirements anymore. Theo is perfect in so many ways, but he wasn’t good enough for them. And that crushed me and made me feel even more worthless, because I had failed my son and it was because of me that he wasn’t good enough.

This body trust issue has had an interesting effect on pregnancy after loss. Part of me wants my body to prove itself–that it can get something right, to redeem myself. The other part of me says that in no fucking way am I trusting my body with this, and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve almost begged my doctors to take Steam Bun early (and in some of those cases, REALLY early). Because at the end of the day, I want him taken out while I know he’s alive because I trust machines and science more than I trust my body. As Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results”. And yet, here I am, pregnant again, expecting to get a living child out of this when my history has been the opposite.

Loving myself and self-care after my baby has died is really freaking hard. It is a long, hard road up a steep mountain with lots of obstacles. It often feels like there’s no point in trying to be healthy. After all, if I could do everything right and still have the most important thing ripped away from me, then doing everything right clearly didn’t matter. So what’s to motivate me to keep doing what’s best for myself? Being there for Kenny usually does, but not always. I often felt like I didn’t deserve to be healthy, to take care of myself, because of what happened to Theo. During these periods I would not care about what I ate or if I exercised. It’s a dark, dark hole to be in. These are the moments when I tend to hear “I wish you would be happy”, etc. the most and this only made me feel worse. It felt like I wasn’t worth anyone’s time if I wasn’t happy and smiling and looking on the bright side. It felt like Theo and his life and death, and the effects it had on me, weren’t good enough.

There is another extreme I’ve swung to, and that was to be obsessive about food and exercise. To take control from fate and become invincible. I ate “clean” and exercised a lot for long stretches of time and became obsessive about what was in all the products I used, eating only organic, etc. I exhausted myself trying to be perfect in this way and would beat myself up if I ate junk food. I convinced myself that every “slip up” would result in another child of mine dying. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the epitome of health.

Obviously both extremes are neither healthy nor sustainable, and I have evened out in this regard. I still occasionally have that second bowl of ice cream, but it’s usually vegan, organic, hippie ice cream so that totally balances it out. 😉 The majority of what we eat at home is still organic and I’m still super careful about what products we use (don’t even get me started on BPA and all of the signs in CA that state “there are chemicals here known to the state of CA that cause birth defects”. Ugh, I’m rambling.), but I have a much healthier attitude toward it overall.

There are so many wounds that have to heal after you’ve lost a child, so many issues you have to face. You can’t work on everything at once, so some things get shoved down the list. It doesn’t make these issues any less real or hard to deal with though. I’m slowly rebuilding my body image and trust, but it won’t happen over night.


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At least, But, However

Are words/phrases that need to be banned from all languages.

I was with a friend last night who is going through a hard time, and she was telling me some of the things people have said in an effort to “comfort” her.

I think it speaks to my optimism that despite all the crappy things people have said to me, I was still surprised at what has been said to my friend.

I realize the vast majority of people reading this are those who have lost a child or are a family/friend of mine, which means in both cases these people already know not to say a sentence with at least/but/however in it. But (see what I did there?) just in case…

If someone you know is struggling (not just with child loss, but with anything), do not say the words at least/but/however. Period.

Stop your sentence (or don’t even start it!) before you get to the offending word. There is no “I’m so sorry, but…”. Leave it at “I’m so sorry”. Throw in an “I’ll be thinking of/praying for you” if it’s genuine. Remember that actions speak louder than words. Offering to run an errand or drop off a dinner or help them with something around the house means so much more than a cliche.

No good comes from saying the words at least/but/however. For me, I started to withdraw from people. There are certain people I keep at arm’s length now because it is just easier to deal with than to have my feelings and experiences invalidated. I don’t like pretending everything is ok when it’s not, but it got to the point where pretending to be ok is a thousand times easier than opening myself up to someone only to be cut deeper.


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Seeing a baby

**TW: Living child (not mine)**

I’ve been spending the last few days mostly denying that we are nearing Steam Bun’s birth. Staying busy certainly helps, I’ve been completing surveys online for cash. I wasn’t planning on doing this, but it fills the time and extra cash is never a bad thing. Lol. A couple of the surveys have been on Trump’s administration, and I have thoroughly enjoyed filling those out. 😀

We visited a friend who recently had their second child, a girl. She is their rainbow, their oldest passed away shortly after Theo died. We met them through church, and they are so amazing and sweet. They’ve been very supportive of us, they and their parents both attended Theo’s birthday party. We are so grateful their baby girl is healthy and home safe and sound. I was so anxious for them leading up to her birth (as I am for all of my loss friends expecting another child), so learning she was born alive and well was a huge relief.

We dropped off dinner and some snacks, and a toy for their daughter. We talked about what those first few days with a living child are like, how bonding is going, etc. It’s so nice to have loss friends to talk about these things with. I know I can’t predict what I will feel, but I like talking to/reading blogs of other loss parents and getting as many different perspectives I can. No one has the same experience or handles it the same way, and hearing everyone talk about what it is like for them is very helpful. I feel like I’m going in a little prepared, even though I don’t think I can truly prepare myself for what it will be like.

They asked us if we wanted to hold the baby, and Kenny accepted. Their baby was the first one Kenny has held since Theo, and it was heartbreaking and heartwarming seeing him hold a baby. Because we only saw Theo while he was on machines, we never got to hold like you normally would hold a baby. We only got to hold him on our laps. Seeing Kenny hold a living baby, one that isn’t ours, cut my heart so deep. I couldn’t look at him too long, I really wanted the first time I see Kenny holding a living baby to be him holding one of ours. But he and I grieve very differently and if he felt holding a living baby would help him, then I’m (begrudgingly) glad he did.

I refused, I just couldn’t hold someone else’s baby before I hold a living child of my own. As I expected, they were completely understanding and did not take offense or push me. This was also the longest I’ve been around a baby since Theo died, and it wasn’t as hard as it normally is. It actually wasn’t hard for me at all, I liked being around her even though I wasn’t ready to hold her. I’m pretty sure this has to do with the fact that they’ve lost a child too, so there wasn’t that pressure to coo over the baby and act super excited and happy.


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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.