Sunday, March 6, 2016

The World Breaks Everyone

I came across this quotation this week, and I loved it:

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. 
-Ernest Hemingway

Sometimes I feel strong in my broken places. More often than not these days, in fact. Sometimes I still just feel broken. 

The quotation is a little different when read in full:

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.

-Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms, 1929

As I read the quotation in it's entirety, it seems to be advocating breaking. If we are broken, we can heal, we can get strong again. But to do this we must first yield. 

Four Years Ago

Four years ago in March 2012 we were in the process of deciding to make our second baby. I'd been in my new job for six months or so, and we felt that it was time. We found out the next month on Easter that I was pregnant. I was traveling in Namibia for work at the time. I called home and told my husband. Our baby would be born in December 2012, we thought. Our baby would be a dragon baby according to the Chinese astrological calendar. Very lucky. My dragon baby, my little girl who left too soon, I still think of you every day. Today I filled our dragon vase with pink tulips and put it near your ashes. Soon the flowers we plant each year for you will come up: the pink tulips, the baby blessed iris, the hibiscus, the anemones. All of these living things grow in the world where you could not.

Monday, November 23, 2015

All Tied Together

A trigger warning: this post mentions the birth of my second child after the loss of my daughter at 22 weeks gestation, and this new baby's early hospitalization for viral meningitis (from which he very thankfully recovered).


I am at home on maternity leave. My son was born in early October. He came earlier than expected because he wasn't moving enough during a biophysical profile, so they bumped up my c-section and we had him that day. I was grateful that my doctors took a conservative approach given my crappy obstetric history. He came out kicking and screaming and peeing and with great Apgar scores. He was feeding immediately, with a great latch. I felt blessed. We came home after the initial hospital stay and had a one night of familial bliss: dinner with our other two kids at our dining room table and stories before bed, all five of us together. I'm not sure that we'll ever feel like a "complete" family, having lost Chiara, but this togetherness felt pretty good. We made it, I thought, we're home. Relief.

My relief did not last for long. I woke for feeding during the night, and he was doing great. When my husband went to change him for a feeding around 5am, he noticed that he was very warm. It turned out he had a temperature. We called the doctor and were advised to go the emergency room. We called my mom to watch the older boys, and when she arrived, we left for the hospital. There we learned that he would need to be admitted for at least 48 hours, and would need a spinal tap. We watched while they did the spinal tap to collect fluid for the tests. I won't go into all the details, but will just sum it up to say that it was a very hard four days. He would not eat, was barely conscious at all, and we were pretty convinced we would lose him. About the time that the cultures came back with a positive result for viral meningitis (the least troubling possibility), he started to improve. And then all of a sudden he was back to himself and we were going home again.

And now we are home. We are all getting to know this new babe, watching his every move. His older brothers love to touch his feet, and want to watch him nurse, watch him sleep. They are proud big brothers. I am finding my postpartum emotions better than the last time around. I am still emotional, but less teary, and for less time. I am grateful. For that, for him, for his older brothers. We still mourn his sister. Having a baby in the house again makes my emotional scar tissue throb. What could have been, what we missed, who we are missing, these things occupy my thoughts. I rock him, I marvel at him, I marvel at his brothers. I cry for our good fortune, I cry for my missing daughter. All the joy, all the grief, all tied together.

Friday, August 7, 2015

New York Times Piece on Stillbirth Aug 2015

Perhaps you read Stillbirth: Your Stories in the New York Times last week. Perhaps you were brave enough to submit your story, your baby's photo. If so, I want to acknowledge your bravery and your willingness to share your story to help other families and to shine a light on stillbirth, which is too often relegated to the shadows and still considered taboo to discuss. I want to thank you for doing what seems to me to be a very difficult thing.

I was not brave. I contemplated  sharing Chiara's story. I kept the link to submit stories on my phone. I pondered what I would say, whether I would share the photo we have of her tiny feet in my hand. In the end, I could not. I am both sad and ashamed that I could not do this. It was too public an arena and I was not ready to share my private pain with the world.

But I read every story. I pored over every beautiful photo they published. I cried for you, for your beautiful babies, and for all that we all have lost. Thank you for sharing your babies with the world, for being honest about your pain, for putting real faces and names and caring suggestions out there for new families impacted by this loss. I am humbled by your accomplishment, this beautiful piece that will hopefully raise awareness so that we can start to decrease the number of babies lost to stillbirth, and ease the pain of families who suffer this terrible tragedy. Thank you.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

22 Weeks

A trigger warning: this post is about my second pregnancy after the death of our daughter, and also discusses our living children.

I am 22 weeks pregnant with our fourth child, a boy. Hopefully, if all continues to go well, he will join his living brothers here on earth. Three boys. Despite my longings for a daughter to raise, the idea of three brothers tumbling about us makes me very happy. Like my last pregnancy, my first after we lost our daughter Chiara at 22 weeks gestation, I felt like I knew this one would be a boy before we even got started making him. We found out back in March that my hunch was right.

And so we've lived the strange life of pregnancy after the loss of a baby. Like the first time, it is surreal. So many memories blend together. The milestones converge. You cannot help but compare pregnancies. The good news this time around is that it is not as white-knuckle, it is not as fraught with all the postpartum hormones and grief of our first pregnancy after our daughter died, when I was just a fountain of tears more often than not. This is a relief, because it was exhausting to endure that sorrow and anxiety. There is still sorrow, and still anxiety, but it is far less acute. I am grateful for this fact.

But here I am at 22 weeks. This is when Chiara died and was born, almost three years ago. This baby is much larger than she was. The measurement numbers alone make it clear just how small she was, how much she was struggling. This is hard. To know she was inside me and I did not know how sick she was is difficult to live with. But there is no way to know these things. It frustrates me that we know far less than we need to about gestation and about what makes babies die before birth. But going through pregnancy again has brought me closer to accepting that current truth. I say current because it will not always be the case. I really believe that there will be medical advances that help us understand better how babies develop, and help us recognize when they are in distress, and then hopefully learn how we can intervene to save them.

Until then, we wait. I've reached the quickening, and can feel this baby move. It is such a relief. We're not quite at the kick count stage, but will be in about 2 weeks. I've got regular OB visits and they have been very open and kind about offering to increase my appointments if it would alleviate anxiety. As of now, I have not taken them up on it. I am diving into summer. I am trying to live my life, to prepare for the chaos that is to come, and trying to trust my body, this baby, and the universe. This baby has his own story. He will hopefully come to us healthy and screaming, and eventually he'll learn about his dear sister. But he has his own story. This is my mantra as I put one foot in front of the other each day.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Heart Still Broken

Been waiting for this moment, not anxiously hoping for it to come, but knowing it someday would come. The moment that someone asked me how they could help a couple whose child died shortly after birth. It's been over 2.5 years, and we really haven't been asked this question yet. It surprised me. I thought that it would happen much earlier on. I hear of lost babies, but usually not so directly. This was a personal request, from someone close to us, one of our parents, actually. It was delivered via email with the subject line "graveside service". A little description of what happened to this poor couple, their daughter gone 4 days after a premature birth. A request for help. No mention of our daughter. No mention of the pain this request could cause us. Just a request to dive back into the deepest pain of our lives and provide resources for other hurting souls in a similar predicament.

I guess that I should clarify: I'm not unhappy with the request for help. I always thought my phone would ring much earlier (figuratively speaking). I'm happy to put this pain to use if it could possibly help another. But for one of our parents to be so oblivious to our feelings, it does bother me. Maybe if he had mentioned her name, or acknowledged this might be hard for us, gave us an out, honored his own granddaughter? I don't know. This particular parent always seems to get it wrong anyway, when the stakes are far lower. How could be expected to navigate these treacherous waters?

In any case, I'm digging around, trying to comply a list of resources, and crying, crying, crying. So often now, the days go by and she is present, her loss the first thing I think of every day, but there are not these tears, it is not hard to breathe. Today though, I sob, I keen, I pull at my chest, I moan. I am a mother whose baby has died, and my heart is still broken.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Reflections on Christmas 2014 and A New Year Without You

Christmas has come and gone. It was frenzied this year. Chaotic and rushed. Your brothers enjoyed every minute of it, but it exhausted me. I longed for moments of quiet contemplation that were not to be found. I resolve to start earlier next year and to be more mindful of the important things.

Within the chaos were moments of beauty, and certainly moments of remembering you. There were flowers in your stocking, and a new photo framed for our mantle, remembering you. We took your flowers to the beach and tossed them on the outgoing tide. We donated gifts in your memory and I made an ornament for another family who lost a baby. You were on our minds, if not present with us in person. These rituals of including you are some of the most important of the holiday for me. How I wish I was wrapping your presents instead.

Here is the beautiful picture from Carly Marie we had framed:

And here is your stocking:

My grief was less crippling this Christmas, less at the surface. Tears came as I left the house for Christmas dinner. Presents opened and things packed and everyone else in the car and I was alone in the house for a few seconds. It was then that I was overtaken by grief and then that tears came. This is how it seems to be now, my grief needs the quiet to sneak in. I wrote a poem about it this summer:

A Perfect Moment

All of these moments without you
so often, now, are tolerable.
Two years after your death
the song in my head chanting
about your loss is quieter.
Tears don't come every day,
but they seem to come
strongest, in wrenching torrents,
immediately after a moment
of peace,
a perfect moment.
Walking across a meadow,
taking in a late summer morning.
One of your brothers is sleeping,
one is off catching crabs,
your Dad is sweeping the kitchen floor.
And I remember
two years ago.
I was wearing this same shirt,
you were rocking in my growing belly.
I thought we had it all.
And suddenly, this perfect moment
breaks apart.
And I have nothing.

And that's how it is these days. I have so much, I am so grateful for the joy. But then I remember that you should be here, and it shatters to pieces.

This is a bleak post to start the new year on, but it is where I am at. I am weary, spent. I am mystified that this year you will be three years gone from us. I feel distant from my early pain, and yet at times I also find myself back in its clutches. I miss you, I miss you, I miss you.

Love to all my babylost friends as you embark upon this new year and continue to reinvent your lives without your dear children beside you. It takes a lot of strength and grace and patience to persevere. I wish you many moments of peace and joy in the year ahead. You deserve them all. You deserve much more. XO