Holding Our Angel

Loving After Loss


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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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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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Comparing the pregnancies and other things

**Trigger warning**

I had my regular appointment yesterday. It went pretty well. We pushed our second anatomy scan back a couple of weeks, my dr wants Steam Bun to be a little bigger when the scan is done. I’ll have a growth scan done at the same time, and I think that will be the last growth scan unless something is off. After the scan, I’ll be having regular NSTs. And then Steam Bun will be here, hopefully healthy. My fluid levels have been checked at almost every appointment, and so far they are looking good.

I’ve been having constant headaches the past couple of weeks, which didn’t really concern me but I brought it up with my doctor anyway. She said that can be a sign of preeclampsia, but my blood pressure is fine and there’s no protein in my urine. But I still need to monitor my blood pressure myself until my next appointment, and if it starts going up to come in right away. A loss mom mentioned that baby aspirin can help prevent preeclampsia, so I emailed my doctor about it and she ok’d me going on it.

I also talked to her about putting a sign on my door that lets everyone know what’s going on. She said that’s fine, she’ll let me put up whatever sign I want. The practice doesn’t have a sign already made, so I’ll be making one. It will be pretty basic and say something like “This patient has experienced child loss. It’s ok to ask about her oldest, but please be sensitive. Expect her to cry, but it’s not a bad thing if she cries”. My OB will be the one performing the c-section, and she assured me she will let everyone involved know what is going on. I don’t really care if I cry in front of all of the doctors and nurses, but people feel awkward when I start crying and then they feel like they can’t bring Theo up. I want them to bring Theo up, so they need to know it’s ok to still talk about him even if I cry. I kind of wish I could carry this sign around with me everyday “Ask about my dead son. I may cry, but I still want you to ask”.

At my next appointment we’ll be going over the “birth plan” in more detail. Do we want to hold Steam Bun right away (provided he’s not showing signs of distress)? Do we want them to examine Steam Bun before we hold him? Who will be in the OR beside my OB, etc. Obviously the ultimate birth plan is to have a living, healthy baby and life-saving measures take priority over everything else, but things were so rushed and chaotic with Theo that we never got the time we should have with him. We missed out on things that should have been offered to us by the hospitals, and so our birth plan with Steam Bun will include what we want done if he is in distress, has the same condition as Theo, etc. We’re making plans for both a healthy baby and a sick baby.

Kenny and I have been comparing this pregnancy to the one with Theo since the beginning, but especially lately.

Physically, my pregnancy with Theo could not have gone smoother. Textbook pregnancy, and I had the usual complaints.

This one has been different since the beginning. At my first appointment my dr said I had a subchorionic hematoma (SCH). It fortunately was less than 3 cm, but she still recommended I not exercise until it cleared up. Which it did at 10 weeks. Not being able to exercise for those first few weeks got me out of my routine, and it’s been hard to get back to regular exercise since.

And then a few weeks later, there were sugars in my urine, so I had the 1 hr glucose test, which I failed. I passed the 3 hr test though, and have had no issues with sugars since. I was still eating healthy the majority of the time at this point, so I know it wasn’t my diet that was causing this issue. Never had any issues with sugars while pregnant with Theo.

Theo and Steam Bun have proven to be incredibly stubborn babies during scans, though I think Theo was more stubborn. He would not move out of his position if he was comfortable, whereas Steam Bun will at least move briefly, but he usually moves back to his spot pretty quick. With both Theo and Steam Bun, I’ve had to had some scans multiple times so the techs can get all of the images they need.

The heartburn started earlier in the pregnancy this time, but it’s different than with Theo. We’re betting Steam Bun will have a good amount of hair, but not as much as Theo. The back pain started earlier though, and the round ligament pain (RLP) is more intense this time. I’ve also had some pain on my c-section scar, which my dr says is due to the scar being stretched but I’m convinced it’s partly because Steam Bun is kicking the crap out of it.

Which brings me to the biggest differences in the pregnancies: the movements and kicks. Theo was a kicker. He moved around, but he liked his spot and much preferred to just kick and punch me. His favorite spot to kick was my left ribcage, and he would go to town on kicking it throughout the day. Steam Bun is calmer. He likes to squirm around more than kick, though he still kicks a good amount. His favorite spot to kick is my c-section scar.

I’m carrying the babies differently. Theo was higher up, and further back. Steam Bun is sitting lower and in the front.

No matter how old your child is when they die, it’s all horrific and it is not “better” or “easier” to lose your child at birth or 10 years old or 20, etc. But I think a special pain of losing your child before/at/just after birth is that you don’t know their personality. We have brief glimpses of their personalities while they were still in utero, but that can only tell you so much about them.

Kenny and I have talked a lot about who we think Theo would have become. We’ve decided he would have been the “brawn” of the family. Theo would have been very athletic, Kenny used to joke he was practicing karate in utero and we would joke about how Theo would never walk–he would go straight from crawling to running, and he would never stop once he started. He would have been smart, but he would have enjoyed physical activities more than anything else and would have been outgoing and very energetic. With Steam Bun being so much calmer in terms of kicks and movements, we think he’s going to be less hyper and more observant. More brainy or artsy than athletic. We joke how Steam Bun will blame Theo for the trouble he gets into.

You know how they talk about how birth order affects personality? That oldest children have certain personality traits, only children are different than those with siblings, etc? Steam Bun is our second child and the baby of the family. We’re probably done after Steam Bun, regardless if he lives or dies. But… Steam Bun in a weird way is also the oldest of the family and the only child. I mean, Theo will always be his big brother and we’re going to raise Steam Bun to know his big brother, but in a lot of ways Steam Bun will be an only child. And so I wonder how that will affect his personality. Will he have the personality traits of “the baby” of the family? Or will he be more like the stereotypical older/only child? I kind of want to see if anyone’s done research on this… how does the death of an older sibling affect the personality of the younger children?

I’ve noticed that my pregnancy with Steam Bun has been very cyclical: period of bonding/optimism for the pregnancy, followed by a period of fear and withdraw, then repeat. Right now I would say Kenny and I are entering a period of bonding/optimism. It’s so scary to be bonding with Steam Bun, I hope we are not hurt at the end.


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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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Baby Shower, Car, and Third Trimester

Yesterday was just a blah day.

A coworker had her work baby shower in the conference room at lunch. My cube is directly across from the conference room. I work from home most days, but as my luck would have it, there was a meeting I had to be in the office for yesterday.

So I leave for work, and stop at a coffee shop for my daily bagel and hot chocolate. I get back to my car and it won’t start. It sounds like it’s trying to start, but it never actually turns over and just shakes and makes weird sounds. I try it a few times, and I’m about to call AAA when on the 5th or 6th try it finally starts. Fortunately, my mechanic is right by my office (I can see my mechanic from my office), so I text a coworker that I’m running late and drive to the mechanic first. I walk to work.

The meeting I had was over before the baby shower started, and I was really hoping to leave then and finish my day at home, but my car wasn’t ready. So I put my head phones in, turned up the volume, and did my best to ignore everyone and the shower. The conference room was already decorated for her shower, so every time I looked up from my desk I saw baby stuff. And of course, everyone was talking about babies and who was going to be pregnant next, how cute babies are, etc.

There was a potluck set up in the conference for the shower, which I did not attend. I couldn’t bring myself to go into the conference room, and I also didn’t bring anything for the potluck since I was not intending to be at the office at lunch time. Someone did leave me a piece of red velvet cake though, which was nice.

I don’t begrudge the coworker for having a shower, but I just wish I hadn’t been included or had a way to easily escape it all. There’s been so many emails the last week about this shower (don’t forget this Friday is the baby shower! Sign up for the potluck for the baby shower! 15 minutes until the shower starts! etc.), and I’ve hated seeing every one of them. Being trapped at work didn’t help, and essentially forced to be around a baby shower. It also didn’t help I was asked multiple times if I was going to join the shower or grab food. So it was a triggering day.

The mechanic didn’t find anything wrong with my car, he said he started it about 50 times and didn’t have any issues. He’s a good mechanic, and I trust him, so I’m crossing my fingers and hoping my car was just being pissy. Kenny said the car is acting out because it knows I’m replacing it next year (with a Tesla. So excited!). He’s probably right, when I called Kenny to let him know what was going on, I told him I would be so pissed if this car needed to be replaced now or we had to spend a lot of money to fix it right before I got my Tesla.

My ten-year high school reunion is coming up this summer. I can’t believe it’s already time for that. I will not be going, it’s too close to Steam Bun’s due date for us to make it. I’m honestly relieved I have that excuse, the thought of going to my reunion makes me want to cry. Having to listen to people talk about their happy families, having to explain mine over and over again… no, it doesn’t sound enjoyable at all. The people important to me from high school stay up to date on my life, and vice versa. 

**Trigger warning**

 

I had a major realization this morning. I am in the third trimester. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I mean, I know how far along I am but I’ve just been thinking about it in terms of weeks, and for me to suddenly realize, oh hey it’s the third trimester! threw me for a loop.

My first thought was, ohmygod, we have so much left to do! I’ve been keeping a list of what we need to buy/do before Steam Bun’s birth in my phone, and suddenly it seemed so daunting. I have only a few months to get it all done. What the hell. I woke Kenny up in a panic, and began rattling off everything we had to do, tallying up how much we are going to spend over the next few months… and Kenny promptly fell right back to sleep.

February is Theo’s month. We have his party in less than two weeks (ahhhh!), so I’m going shopping today to buy the last of what we need for that. It’s so bittersweet buying things for this party. It’s fun and I love that people are willing to come and celebrate Theo’s (belated) first birthday with us, but I also hate it. This isn’t how life should be, and I will forever hate it for that reason. March will be dedicated to buying everything we need for Steam Bun and his nursery, and April will be dedicated to putting it all together. We also have our maternity photos in March, and I need to buy an outfit for that. We’re including our Theo Bear in the photos.

We decided officially against a baby shower, but we will be doing the 3D/4D ultrasound. We have everything we need for Steam Bun (minus a car seat, stroller, and Owlet baby monitor), so a baby shower seems pointless. Those who have asked what we need/want, I’m simply telling them diapers or clothes for Steam Bun. I do want to use some of Theo’s clothes for Steam Bun, but I’m not really sure how much I’ll be able to handle that so I’m hoping having a mix of Theo’s clothes and new clothes for Steam Bun will help me cope. And since we’re not having a baby shower, doing the 3D/4D ultrasound seemed like a good way to celebrate Steam Bun.

I need to make some lactation cookies soon. Right before Theo was due, I bought some brewer’s yeast so I could make these cookies to help make sure my milk supply was good. Even though I pumped for a month after he died, I never used the few cookies I made in advance, nor did I use any more of the brewer’s yeast. And the brewer’s yeast expires next month, so I think I’ll make a large batch of cookie dough to freeze in case I need it.

There’s also the dreaded hospital bag. I can’t bring myself to really think about preparing the hospital bag for more than a couple minutes at a time, and I certainly can’t bring myself to actually get it ready. The last hospital bag I prepared was me throwing some clothes for Kenny and myself in a suitcase right before we left for San Francisco. Right before everything came crashing down and what hope we had was shattered. I can’t do it. I can’t prepare another hospital bag. All I care about having with me is my digital camera, to ensure I get good photos of Steam Bun in case the worst happens again. Everything else… I don’t care or we can probably find in the hospital gift shop. Maybe I’ll task Kenny with getting the bag ready.


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Third Trimester

I don’t know why, but I’ve dreaded writing about the last trimester. I think because his birth was so traumatic, and writing about the third trimester is just one step closer to his birth.

But the third trimester was amazing in so many ways.

We were completely in love with Theo, though still wrapping our mind around the fact that soon we would have a baby.

I was majorly showing, and I felt like an elephant. But everyone kept telling me I was so tiny and the bump was so “cute”. It made me fearful that Theo wasn’t getting big enough, but he was always on track for development at every appointment.

We went to Vancouver, Canada in September and had a blast. It was so much fun showing Theo the world, and we talked about the places we would take him next. I really feel it’s important to expose my children to the world as much as possible.

I walked every day. Less toward the end, but I tried really hard to exercise on a regular basis. I definitely developed that waddle pregnant women get. I tried really hard to fight it, but I couldn’t. I waddled.

Two weeks after we got back from Canada we did our maternity photos, on September 30th. Shopping for the maternity photos was so hard. My stomach was getting bigger every day and I was continually out growing my shirts. The day before the photoshoot, I went shopping and bought a beautiful purple blouse. Kenny wore my favorite shirt of his, pin strips with purple and blue. He rolled up the sleeves a little, just the way I like (his arms are his best feature 😉 ). We had the photoshoot done in a nearby park right after work. It was so much fun.

It was raining that day, and I was a little worried about the rain ruining the photos. But the photographer said she would bring umbrellas and we could do the photos in the rain if necessary. It stopped just in time for our photos, and they turned out great. They have a woodsy look to them that I love.

On October 17th we had our baby shower. I wanted a casual, co-ed BBQ-type shower. And that’s exactly what we got. Again I was worried about the weather, as it had started to rain but stopped just as the shower was starting. It was so much fun, and our friends really went all out for us. Friends traveled from out of state to party with us. The decorations were so cute, and my friends made so many wonderful and yummy desserts. It was amazing.

We only played one shower game because I hate shower games. My friend asked Kenny and I questions about babies (i.e. when do they start crawling? How long do they stay in the carseat?), and we wrote our answers on a white board, and then showed everyone our answers. Our friends played along with us. Kenny answered each question with a joke answer, and he was so funny. When asked when babies start crawling, he said when Theo sees a toy we won’t give him. We had so much fun at the shower.

Our friends truly showered us with love and gifts. We got so many wonderful and cute things for Theo. It breaks my heart that we won’t be able to use everything we got for Theo. I’ve set aside a few things that will always just be Theo’s, no matter how many more boys we have. Everything else we’ll pass down to any future children, just like we would if Theo had lived.

Every test was normal during the third trimester. They never had any issues with finding his heart rate, and he was a super active baby. Pretty quiet in the morning, but non-stop kicking in the afternoon and evening. You could watch my stomach move from several feet away, that’s how active he was. We joked that Theo was dancing in a night club, and made jokes about how much of a handle he would be once he started crawling.

When Kenny was 2 years old, he had a penchant for running around his neighborhood naked (yep, he was that kid!). When we took walks around our neighborhood in the evening, we planned out the routes Theo would take as he ran around the neighborhood naked just like his father. We wanted to be prepared for all of his escape routes. 😉

My first day on maternity leave was 11/13/15. I watched Netflix and worked on the nursery during my leave. I’ll write another post dedicated to just the nursery later.

My only complaints during the third trimester were the heartburn and back aches. The heartburn was horrendous. Some nights, I had to sleep on the couch in a slightly reclined position because the heartburn would keep me awake. I’m pretty sure Tums saw a significant decrease in profits after Theo was born.

My due date came and went. I was due 11/27/15, the day after Thanksgiving. On December 7th I went in for what was my final appointment, at 41.5 weeks. We agreed to induce the next day, but my doctor wanted me to have an NST done first. At the NST, they saw I was having contractions and I was admitted to the maternity ward.