Holding Our Angel

Loving After Loss


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What’s been going on

(Well this post turned out much longer than I expected. Hope you’re comfy!)

I won’t bury the lead: Arthur (fka Steam Bun) was born in early May and arrived safe and sound.

That said, it’s been a long couple of weeks weeks.

The week leading up to my RCS was the most nerve-wracking week of my life. I was pretty convinced I would lose him just before the RCS. I had an extra NST that week, and they all showed he was fine, but I still wasn’t convinced. The morning of the RCS, my water actually broke just as my alarm was going off. I was excited and took it as a good sign until I noticed that I was spotting (my water had to be broken by the dr when I was in labor with Theo), and I didn’t know this was normal. So I freaked out, and we rushed to L&D. Even if I had known this was normal, I probably would have still freaked out. Once I heard his heartbeat I started to relax a little. Because I arrived at the hospital much earlier than planned, we decided to bump up the RCS.

But before we could begin, we had to have one last meeting with the neonatologists regarding our plan should anything go wrong. This was probably the hardest part of the day honestly. We had two neonatologists in the OR, along with two NICU nurses. You can’t make a plan for everything, but went over our general wishes should anything go wrong.

The anesthesiologist asked me what radio station I wanted playing, so I picked contemporary Christian. The first song played was Lauren Daigle’s “Trust in You”, a song I love, but it is about trusting God through hard times so I took it as a bad omen.

In the end, he was born alive and healthy. He took a few seconds to start screaming after he came out, but he quickly demonstrated just how developed his lungs were. To say that was the most beautiful sound ever is an understatement. Even now, when he cries and screams, we don’t mind (that much). Yes, the crying can be frustrating when we’re running on so little sleep, but when it gets really bad, we always say “Thanks for letting us know your lungs work!”.

The difference in an emergency csection and a scheduled one is huge. I was in the same OR as the first time, but this time I could really soak in all of the details. I thought I had every detail down, but looking around the room the second time I noticed things I didn’t the first time. And the feel of the room is much different. Everyone in the OR knew our history very well, so we were all a little tense the first few minutes before he was taken out. Once he was out and crying, it was a complete 180. The doctors and nurses began to laugh and chat with us and each other, you could literally feel the mood lighten. Whereas last time that’s when things got really tense.

Like a lot (all?) hospitals, ours has little signs they put on the doors to the maternity rooms when the baby dies. At mine, it’s a picture of an ocean wave (and if your baby is in the NICU, you get a small sign that says “Just breathe”). I couldn’t handle being in the same maternity room as before (being in the same OR and recovery room was tough enough!), so I requested to be put in a different corridor. Fortunately, there were extra rooms and they were able to accommodate this. But as I was transferred to the maternity room, we passed a couple of rooms where the baby was either in the NICU or had died. My heart broke for them.

I had planned on bringing my own little sign to put on the door (a picture of a rainbow, with below it: “This patient has previously lost a child”), but in the rush the morning of I forgot it. My OB and perinatologist had previously assured me they would make sure all the doctors and nurses who oversaw my care would know of my history, but I wanted the sign to just be extra sure. Fortunately, it ended up not being necessary. Every nurse and doctor we came into contact with knew our history and was very sensitive to it. A few asked us questions about Theo (not medical type questions, but who he looked like more, etc.), but most just said “I’m sorry for your loss” and that was pretty much it. No comments on “everything happens for a reason”, etc. which is what I was really worried about.

The worst part of the hospital stay was hearing the hospital codes. Twice I heard a call for the NICU rapid response team to go to an OR or labor room. That brought back the harsh memory of when that code was being called for us.

The first day in the hospital we were on a high. Everything seemed happy and sunshine and unicorns were everywhere. But the second day… reality hit and I crashed. Hard. There was one really bittersweet, emotional moment. It was late at night, and Artie was sleeping on my chest. Artie was on my left side with his face in my armpit (weird kid, I know). Kenny placed Theo bear on my right, and within a couple of minutes Artie started inching toward Theo bear. A little bit at a time, until he was nose-to-nose with Theo bear. I just knew he was doing that to be next to his brother. It was a beautiful and incredibly painful moment.

I don’t know if this is normal or not, but I now have two c-section scars. My OB made the second incision just below the first incision. I have no idea why she did that, but I love that I now have two. I have little physical proof of Theo, my csection scar is one of them. So I appreciate that the incision for Artie is separate from Theo’s.

Watching Kenny with Artie is incredibly amazing and heartbreaking. He is such a good dad, and I love watching him with Artie. He just exudes love for Artie, and is so happy to be a dad to a living child and so good with Artie. And that’s what also makes it so heartbreaking. I can’t stand knowing Kenny had to bury his child, that he has to grieve the loss of his son. Watching Kenny be in that pain is often worse than my own grief. Kenny has never blamed me for Theo, never even hinted at it, but I can’t help but feel like it’s because of me that he has to go through this pain and missed out on raising a living Theo.

Something that I can’t wrap my head around is whether or not Artie has outlived Theo. Theo was born at 41 weeks and 4 days, and then lived for 30 hours. Artie was born at 39 weeks and has lived for more than 30 hours. So has he outlived Theo? Kind of? It’s a messed up question and really doesn’t matter because it doesn’t change anything, but yet I can’t stop thinking about it.

I try to not talk about Kenny’s grief because he’s way more private than I am, but having Artie has brought out new levels of grief and anxiety for Kenny as well. Kenny is not an anxious person. He does not worry about things he cannot control, and is very level headed. He places everything in God’s hands and focuses on what is in his realm of control. So pretty much the exact opposite of me. Lol. But now Kenny is anxious. He worries about how he holds Artie, if he is supporting Artie’s head enough, worries about Artie not breathing, etc. This goes beyond the basic newborn anxiety. I hate seeing Kenny so anxious.

I love watching Artie sleep. He’s so cute, and just looks so peaceful. But it is so hard to not worry about him when he’s sleeping. Especially when he isn’t making any of the adorable sounds he sometimes makes in his sleep. I watch his chest carefully, making sure it rises and falls. I have the Snuza monitor, but it’s hard for me to trust that even. On the car ride home from the hospital (and the car ride to and from his first doctor’s appointment), I sat in the back with Artie and carefully watched him in the car seat. I had my hand on his chest to be double sure he was breathing. Right now Artie is only sleeping on our chests (which makes us getting sleep even more difficult), and we’re working on transitioning him to his bassinet. But this is causing a lot of anxiety for me. He finally fell asleep in his rocker, and it was so hard for me to take a much needed nap while he slept. I did, it was a very short nap though and man it was hard.

I’m so grateful Artie is alive and well, but it’s brought up a ton of hard emotions. I’ll go into all of that later, though I know most of you know what I’m talking about. 

To make this a little light hearted, I’ve been peed on a lot this week. The hospital gave us extra pads (the ones they put on the beds), so we’ve put those around the changing station to catch his pee. Artie’s first sponge bath was because he peed all over himself as we were changing his diaper. 


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Baby Shower

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

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

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

What a crappy realization to have.

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

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

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

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

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


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It’s complicated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll never know the answers to these questions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Prepping for a living child

Is terrifying and exciting. It feels like we’re jinxing ourselves–like how dare we be so presumptuous to assume we will have a living, healthy baby at the end of this. And the more we prep, the more we’ll have to undo if he doesn’t live. But at the same time, if we don’t, it’s like we’re admitting defeat before the results are in. Either way just sucks for us.

Thursday we bought the car seat and stroller. We went to Buy Buy Baby, which is a PTSD minefield. The last time we were there was when we returned Theo’s car seat and stroller a couple of weeks after he died. Going there to buy the car seat and stroller felt like we were forgetting about Theo. It sucked so much, but I didn’t start crying until we were back in the car. Fortunately, since we went on a Thursday night, there were few people in the store and we were able to get in and out in about 15 minutes. We bought a different brand than we did for Theo, as buying the same would have felt so wrong. We opted to buy these from the store instead of Amazon as I wanted to “test drive” the stroller I picked out.

The strollers were located right next to the section of baby and pregnancy keepsakes (like the monthly chalkboards, etc.). and it sucked so much to walk past all of that. I had planned out the monthly photos we would take to show how Theo was growing. But what do I actually take monthly photos of? A tree. And it will forever just be a tree. Last night brought up a lot of emotions. Our first time in BBB we were creating the registry for Theo and we were so excited, we had a lot of fun looking at everything and pointing out all the weird pregnancy and baby things they sell. This time, it was like we were keeping our heads down to avoid seeing everything around us.

I bought the wall decal for Steam Bun’s room, and even managed to bring in the decor items we bought from IKEA about a month ago (maybe longer?). They’ve been sitting in the trunk of our car since we bought them, but they are now in the house. In a couple of weeks I’ll buy the baby monitor and the rest of the nursery decor. I’m really torn on when I should start removing Theo’s decal and installing Steam Bun’s. I want to wait until I’m on leave…but it’s a little physically intensive taking down/putting up a floor-to-ceiling wall decal and I’m not sure how much physical activity I want to do when I’m that far along. Blergh. Ultimately I’ll be putting Theo’s decal on one of the walls of the playroom/library, but I’m not sure when I’ll get to that.

I’m going on maternity leave soon, and was talking with a coworker about a few things she’ll handle while I’m gone. She commented “I’m so jealous of you! You will get a few weeks of peace and quiet, all to yourself. Must be nice!”.

Though I know she didn’t mean it this way, all I could think was “Yeah, my life is awesome. My house is deafeningly quiet because my oldest is dead. Who wouldn’t be jealous of me?”. I didn’t reply to her remark, just directed the conversation back to preparing her for my leave.

I’m looking forward to maternity leave because it’s a break from work, and I know I am getting burnt out. But at the same time, I am also dreading it. I will be home all day by myself, with no Theo to look after and enjoy, in a quiet house and little to do. I feel like I should reread those infant care/development books we have, as I’m fairly certain I’ve forgotten everything I learned before Theo was born about what medicines babies need, etc. I’m creating a list of everything I should do while on leave, but I have maybe two weeks’ worth of tasks to keep me busy. The rest of the time it will just be me and my thoughts…

And in other work news, the pregnant coworker who had the baby shower last week is apparently 38 weeks pregnant. I know this, not because I asked her, but because a different coworker sought me out to tell me she ran into pregnant coworker in the bathroom and pregnant coworker looks like she’s going to pop! She’s so big, and she’s got that pregnant waddle, it’s so funny!

I just stared at this coworker and walked away. I’m sure when pregnant coworker has her kid, an email will go out to everyone with a picture and the baby stats. Unfortunately, I will not be gone by that point, so I’ll be having to deal with those emails. I’m surprised the baby pool emails have started yet, usually by this point someone starts a pool for everyone to place bets on the baby’s size, birthdate, etc. (Or, maybe the pool has started but they’ve left me off the emails? That would be nice!)

Blah.


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Not Fair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Visualizing

Now that I’m in the third tri, I realized I’m *actually* going to have to go to L&D at some point to have Steam Bun.

I knew that before, but I always kind of shrugged it off. Or told myself I would deal with that later.

Well, later is now and now I have to deal with this reality.

I went to L&D once a few weeks ago when I thought my amniotic fluid was leaking, but fortunately they only kept me in triage and didn’t actually admit me. That was hard enough, I had to walk by the room where I was in triage before having Theo.

But when it comes time to have Steam Bun, I will actually be admitted to L&D, I will have to go into an OR again, and stay in one of the recovery rooms before being moved to the room where you stay post-birth. This is me at that thought:

nope

I can picture every detail of my 28-hour labor and the c-section so clearly. I remember each nurse and doctor, I can easily tell you which rooms I was in. I remember what the OR looks like so perfectly, and the hallway leading to the OR. And thinking about any of it just makes me want to cry.

So I’m spending some time visualizing the hospital. Hoping that if I picture it often enough, I’ll be triggered less when I go to L&D? I don’t want to go on one of the group hospital tours, but I’m thinking I’ll ask my OB if she and I (and Kenny) can do a walk through together to get used to being in the same place again. The blessing and curse of a scheduled c-section is you know *exactly* when it will be taking place. I won’t be wondering how much longer it will be until we meet him, but at the same time I will know exactly how much time we have until we are greeted with a healthy baby or a sick baby.

I’ve also been trying hard to think about what it will be like to meet Steam Bun alive and healthy. To hear him cry, which we never got with Theo. Maybe if I trick myself into only expecting the good when I go into L&D it won’t be so hard? I’m not sure how successful that will be…once you know child loss you can’t unknow it, so it will always be in the back of my mind that we may be walking out empty handed again.

I plan on asking my OB if the hospital has a sign they can place on my door that lets all doctors and nurses know I’m having a “rainbow baby” or that I’ve lost a child. I don’t like the term rainbow baby and have avoided using it so far, but I know it’s something that the doctors and nurses in my practice are used to, so it’s the easiest way to let them know about my loss history. So far all of the doctors and nurses I’ve encountered have been really good about reading my chart and seeing that Theo died, but I’ve heard enough stories from loss moms where this does not happen and I want to avoid being in that situation.

 

Fucking PTSD.


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Knowing when you don’t know

**Trigger warning**

Had a bit of a scare today. Steam Bun barely moved for almost 2 hours. I text my church group and a couple of loss moms, and got in the car to go to L&D. Fortunately Steam Bun started moving again when we got in the car, and his movements all day have been fairly regular.

I opted not to go to L&D once he started moving again, though I do have an appointment this week. His movements for the rest of the day have been pretty typical, slightly less in the strength of his kicks and movements, though I’ve been told that’s not something to really worry about.

So it’s been a stressful day. And it ended with me crying to Kenny. Did I make the right decision to not go into L&D? What if something happens and it could have been prevented by me simply going in? For the first time in the whole pregnancy, I really wished I had a doppler so I could hear his heartbeat. Because, honestly, if I had gone in to L&D, they would have checked his heartbeat and done an ultrasound and then send me on my way.

I’m on such edge in this pregnancy. How do I know what’s best for Steam Bun when I never knew how sick Theo was? How can I trust my body, my doctors after Theo? I should know what’s best for Steam Bun, but I can’t trust that I do because I never knew just how sick Theo was. How can I be a good mom when Theo died and I had no idea he was so sick?

Where’s that line between being paranoid and knowing when something is actually wrong?

As I type this, Steam Bun is kicking like he normally does. Maybe he was in a bad position to feel kicks, maybe he was just napping earlier. Maybe he’s just trying to make me go insane to prepare me for the hell he’ll cause when he’s here. Lol.


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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**

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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.


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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.

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A lovely trip

**Trigger warning**

So last week I’m in the office, and I decide to walk around the block on my break. Gotta combat all the fro-yo I’m eating some how…

And I slip on some freaking leaves and fall forward. Fortunately, I did not hit my abdomen against the ground, but my wrists and knees got a little banged up.

I was tempted to just sit there, but I was close to another building so I walked there and sat in their lobby while I called my doctor’s office. Told the nurse what happened, she said she thinks I should go to labor and delivery, but needed to call them first to double checked. After putting me on hold, she tells me L&D won’t accept me since I’m not far enough along (by like 3 days but whatever…) and tells me my options are to go to the ER or come in that day for an appointment. First available appointment is 2.5 hours later, which I accept.

After I hung up I was feeling like I should go to the ER instead, so I text a friend who agreed with me and headed to the ER. The doctors and nurses there were very nice, agreed that going in right away was the right thing to do, and saw me pretty quick. Steam Bun had stopped moving about 20 minutes before the fall (which is normal so far–that time of day I tend not to feel anything), but I was telling Steam Bun the whole way to the ER to start moving so I would know s/he is ok. As soon as I entered the ER, Steam Bun started kicking (already listening to mommy!) so I felt some relief.

Everything looked good and heartbeat was fine.

I felt…mostly relieved, though I was still fighting to ignore that voice in the back of my head. Fortunately, a couple days later I had a regular prenatal appointment scheduled, and my doctor was able to confirm again that the placenta and everything was fine.

One small victory in this: I resisted playing Dr. Google and reading all horror stories after a fall. Woo! Usually Google is the second place I turn, and it always makes it worse.

But in other news, I was about ready to throw my computer at the HR department the other day. I plan on going on leave sometime in the next few months, so I figured now would be a good time to gather all of the paperwork I would need to complete. This is what I did last time I went on leave, and had no problem getting the paperwork early. I emailed HR a couple days ago and was told to reach out 2 weeks before my scheduled leave date and they would provide all information then.

Uh, not an acceptable answer to me (especially considering last year). So I pushed back, saying that I want to have all of the paperwork now so if I need to go on leave earlier than planned (such as premature labor), I have it ready for me to fill out. I was told no, HR will not give me any paperwork or tell me what information they need from my doctor until 2 weeks before my scheduled leave date. I was told it is “just easier” this way.

So I emailed a second HR department, which technically does not oversee my division but they have a reputation of being more helpful. Told them I know it is early but I would like all of the paperwork and everything now so I can be prepared. They had no problem with this, and were able to give me all of the paperwork I need. I mentioned the first HR department wouldn’t help me and why, and the second said there is nothing wrong with getting everything ready early and that it actually helps them when employees are on top of stuff like this (imagine that…).

I emailed Kenny a copy of the paperwork, so if something should happen (knock on wood) he can complete it for me so I have it ready to send to HR at a moment’s notice.