5 years his story

Warning: trigger post on loss.
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I’ve never fully shared his birth story. It’s been 5 years and I’m finally feeling ready because I know his soul is being redeemed. Thank you for reading if you decide to continue. I fully understand if you don’t read more.

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5 years and 2 days ago I awoke to Xavier’s Mommy’s post in the group about Xavier’s passing at 19 weeks and my heart broke. I was in bed and just stunned, never before realizing loss like that could happen. I thought once we were past the first tri we’re good! (I know, so naive!) I prayed for her and him and started my day.

5 years and 1 day ago, I was 19 weeks and I went to the gym to rest my hips in the hot tub. After avoiding the hot tub during my whole pregnancy, due to the warnings I heard non-stop, I was in so much pain I just had to go this one time. I settled in and tried to be brief. I felt him tell me he was too hot, with a little flutter and a feeling of panic. I begged him for just a couple more minutes and hovered with most of me out of the water. (I spent months regretting that until I realized it would have just been something else later that would have evoked the same response.) I finally felt a little relief and climbed out and dried off. I met Raul in the lobby and he looked at me concerned and asked if I was ok, if I got too hot. I said no, that I felt better (with a flutter of doubt), and we went home. I slept so well and was looking forward to the first Food Truck Rodeo in Seattle the next day, Saturday.

I awoke 5 years ago and pulled out my Doppler, and feeling worried from the night before, tried to listen for his heartbeat and couldn’t find it. I called my friend, who was studying to be a mid-wife and would be my doula, and asked her. She assured me that they sometimes don’t find baby easily at this stage and to rest and try listening again later. I got up and got ready, worry heavy on my heart. We went to the ‘rodeo’ and I was freezing cold the whole day, colder than I’d been for months. I knew something was wrong. I called my doctor’s office and the best they could do was an appointment on Tuesday.

But I knew. I knew he had died.

I waited until Tuesday in complete conscious oblivion and praying that what I knew in my heart wasn’t true. We checked in, the doctor who had confirmed my pregnancy was still ok just 10 weeks earlier pulled the portable u/s machine in the room and there he was, still. Still. They sent me downstairs to the big u/s machines, where I still had an appointment the next Friday for his 20 week anatomy scan. The tech didn’t say anything but excused herself and left the room. We knew. Raul held my hand and I turned my head and started crying. They sent us back upstairs. My options were a D&C or induction. My mom was flying in to town on Friday. Surgery terrified me so I opted for induction and asked to wait until Fri. They booked me a check in for Thursday morning. I told just enough of my clients and colleagues to buy a few days.

I spent two days with my angel inside of me. He would move only in reaction to my movement. I cried. I was panicked. I was numb. He was a “threatened miscarriage” from 6 weeks but they said at his 12 week NT scan he looked great! How could this happen to me? WTF do I do with myself with a dead baby in me? Well, I googled and I cried. I tried to piece together an ‘action plan’ for my hospital stay.

I took one last bump photo. I tried not to cry while Raul took my pic. He hated me for making him take it. I have NO regrets about taking it.

I had been seeing 222 frequently in the days before his death. When I got in the car to go to the hospital, our car had a range of 222 and it was 12:22pm. In that moment, I knew what it meant and I hated it. I am right where I’m supposed to be. And it is hell on earth. On the radio came the song Sail by awolnation. That became his song, my anthem of grief. It used to make me cry instantly but now I find a strange comfort in it, a ‘hi mom, I’m thinking of you,’ instead of suicide (which I did contemplate a few times when the PPM pain was too great). 222 is now comforting, I know when I see it, for better or worse, I’m where I’m supposed to be.

We pulled in to the hospital parking garage, got checked in. They made me sit in a wheelchair and pushed me to the end of the hall. It was dark, there was a white butterfly on my door. They hooked up an IV and started fluids. They put pitocin tablets up against my cervix and we waited. Slowly the contractions started to build. The dr came to check on me. She told me rather matter of fairly but with a soft touch that I could have any pain meds I wanted. I held off for quite awhile. Once the sun came up, the contractions got stronger. I asked for something for the pain, they gave me morphine. My doula came. My mom arrived. The contractions got stronger. Cervical cheeks came and went but I was little fuzzy, a little more numb. Finally they said it was time to push. It wasn’t too hard, I remember feeling his sack slide out. They popped it, cleaned him up and helped me birth the placenta. They asked if I wanted him autopsied but I declined, the thought of cutting him open made me physically ill. I was ok with having the placenta checked out. (The only thing his placenta results revealed was that he was missing a blood vessel in his umbilical cord. I believe the bleeding I had at 5-6 weeks in, just before I met you ladies, was related to that blood vessel issue as that’s when the cord forms. But that’s another story.)

He was so tiny, he fit in my hand. He was not a typical 19 week old bc of that missing vessel. His left arm was not fully formed, his head and torso were excessively swollen. But his feet and legs were just perfect. (His right side was visible in the NT scan and was formed properly so that’s why they didn’t catch anything amiss.)

I was told I could have as much time with him as I needed. The nurse dressed him as best she could, but he was too tiny for regular hospital clothing. My doula left to tend to her life. My mom went to get some food. DCW stepped out too. I ordered food for myself, and sat with my son on the pillow next to me. I pretended he was ok. I talked to him, I held him. I WILL NEVER AGAIN JUDGE A POST-PARTUM MOM FOR ACTING “CRAZY”. I get it now. I understood what a ‘mother’s love’ meant finally and it did me no good. I didn’t know before that it could hurt this terribly. I didn’t know before that it would be so beautiful. He was so beautiful. I could see Raul in him. I could see all the hard work our bodies did, G’s and mine, to build him as he was.

I spent a good 8 hours with him by my side before the nurse came to take him away. He would be transported to a nearby funeral home. I couldn’t watch her walk away with him. I wanted to scream to bring him back. To let me take him home, please just let me take him home. (Repeat after me, I will never judge a PPM mom again.)

The grief counselor came but I was too numb and in shock for her to be any good. The u/s office downstairs called wondering why I wasn’t at my 20 week scan and that they’d have to charge me for no-showing (um, hello, you saw me three days ago, who the fuck forgot to cancel my appointment?!?). That was the first, but not last, person I had to tell that my baby died. Pretty sure I cursed those words at her on the phone. They checked on me a couple more times then said I could be released. It was dark by now. Raul helped me pack. They put me in a wheelchair again.

Coming out to the lobby and to the elevator was a LARGE, maybe 30+ family of a patient. Happy, excited, cheering, with balloons. I wanted to scream at them to shut up. Instead I looked away, trying not to burst into tears. That moment, that moment right there, has been the hardest moment of my life. To wheel past all of those happy people without my baby. To go home without my baby. I succeeded in keeping my composure until the elevator doors closed. Raul helped me into the car and drove me home.

We held a small funeral service for G a couple days later. I got to see him and say one more good bye. I didn’t want to leave. Raul had to pull me away bc it was someone else’s turn.

I don’t remember much after that. The day I checked in to the hospital was the last day of summer. The day I left it was fall and started raining. It rained for days. I couldn’t get out of bed. My milk came in, a stinging giant Fuck You from the universe. Raul made me sage butter pasta for a week straight. I wore allthebras. He forced me to go outside on walks, and pointed out the lovely bits of nature. He watched me slide down and wouldn’t let go of me. For all of my bitching about him, he saved my life.

After 2 weeks I had to go back to work, to deal with my projects and the volunteer gig I had signed up for (as Madam President of a professional organization.) I threw myself into distractions. I still bled for 6 weeks.

I joined the FB group Stories of Babies Born Still. I learned how common this is. I heard stories of heartbreak worse than mine. I didn’t have a fully put together nursery I had to dismantle. I was not due in a week or due last week.

If I had a super power, it would be perspective. I can see both sides of the coin. I can understand the other’s point of view (even when my ego doesn’t want to admit it!) and if I ever seem callous or dry or harsh, it’s because of this power. Seeing these stories of others, of still born babies, of nicu babies lost, and since then of Syrian babies killed, of women who choose abortion, and so much more, gives me a weird comfort. Comfort that I got off easy. That my experience was only this bad. And I felt guilt about that for a long time, but a special reiki session helped me make peace with this. I understand now that he chose me as his mother and he only needed that little amount of time on earth to reach perfection.

The hospital classified him a miscarriage because he perished at 19 weeks, one week shy of the ‘cut off’ to be recognized as still born. I didn’t get a death certificate. I did get a cremation bill.

My grandma, who had 3 early miscarriages of her own, has, for the last 5 years, knitted small little baby blankets for me after she first heard he was too little for the hospital clothes. I tuck a card and a blanket in a ziploc and deliver them to hospitals in his name.

It was hard to be an invisible mother. It’s much easier with a rainbow baby because at least now the world recognizes I am a mom. But it’s still hard. He’s not in pre-k. He’s not losing teeth. He’s not riding his bike next to me. All these things he will never do are thoughts I usually just try not to think.

Then I’ll be alone in my car and that song, Titanium, comes on. There’s something about it, I can’t explain. It transports my heart back to that hospital bed and I’m instantly in tears. Tears of sorrow. Tears of joy. Tears of strength. I am titanium. I remember my lesson from my first son. My purpose is to pick up the pieces of my broken heart and carry them forward, to grow them into a new love. To spread love. To be love. To calm my fears, to trust my strength. To run in the fields on these most perfect feet I have, with angels lifting me up, and Bear by my side, reminding me of all I have lost and all I have gained.

I am sitting on the floor in Bear’s room as I type this, crying of course. And just as I typed that last sentence, in his sleep he rustled and then said, “whoaaa!” and I have to giggle. Thank you my son.

 

I love you forever.

I like you for always.

Beyond when I’m living,

my baby you’ll be.

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Happy World Down Syndrome Day_ a tribute to eternal love

It was decades ago but I still remember snippets like it was yesterday. Sitting shotgun in Oma’s station wagon, my flute case on my lap, rain misting over the car as we barreled down the back streets. Into the waterfront community we went. We drove to where the gardens are shaped like animals and everyone’s lawn is immaculate and level. Beautiful flowers peek out of the rockery used to secure the hillside to each home.

We pull into the driveway and ascend the stairs to the front door. I look behind me at the Sound, the water glistening off in the distance, a dreary dark blue grey with just a pocket of sunshine hitting the waves and glistening back at me. Stepping inside I’m hit by the smell of them. Not in a bad way, but in the way that everyone’s home smells a little bit different. I gaze up at her cases of trophies and collectibles while Oma and her chit chat. We walk down the stairs past photos of her, of him, of their son.

I don’t remember if I was ever able to meet her son. She talked about him a lot and had photos everywhere and I always left feeling her love and grief. The love made sense to me. The grief, not so much to my small self. I could not put words to it, but I could feel it’s cloudy presence over her heart.

She would walk me to her music room, help me get set up, kindly ask about my day while Oma sat to the side, or upstairs some days.

© Yiannos1

Joy would teach me about music. She would teach me about playing the flute, about proper breathing, reading music.

© Argument

© Argument

What I didn’t realize until many years later that she was also teaching me the strength to love in the face of grief. She taught me how to have an open heart, a patient mind and how “disability” is a state of mind and environment, not a reflection on someone’s soul, their heart or them at all.

She loved to talk about Davey. She loved to share his photo and tell me about what a loving a warm heart he had. Her beautiful son, Davey, was born with Down Syndrome.

Pilot with down syndrome

*not Davey, but a close stand-in

She always wanted a child. Joy and Herb had tried for many years. Joy was a former beauty queen and dedicated musician and singer. Herb was a brass man. Keen to the trumpet, her to the winds, together they would teach children to love music, to be good at music.

Then came Davey.  He grew from a baby to a toddler to a young boy. It was as he was turning into a young man that his generous heart gave out. They loved him so much, and I’m sure they grew to love him more and more each day even after his passing.

The look in her eye would be bright and shiny at first, then as her memories moved forward in time, the twinkle would dim and a veil of grief would sneak in. He was her only son and he was perfect.

Davey was a fighter who would constantly defy the odds. Growing older against doctor’s opinions. Going to school and embracing his life, he was a lover who welcomed every person he encountered with an open heart and compassion. He is an angel and an inspiration.

Joy was a mother who loved her son unconditionally. Her love for him was so great it gave her the strength to be a mentor to and love other people’s children. She tutored many dozens of kids in her years teaching music. The photos they would send her, for years even after going to college and moving away, are a testament of her work. (Any woman who can love someone else’s child as if he or she were her own, in the face of her own loss, is superwoman to me.)

What I took away from Joy and Davey was not a tale of loss, but a tale of dogged determination, hope and love. I don’t know if Joy and Herb are still around, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking of them and thanking them for their love.

For more information on World Down Syndrome Day click HERE

Shake it Up

Today is a dreary Thursday. It’s raining. I suppose that should not be a surprise as I live near Seattle where it rains 366 days a year. Yes, 366 days a year, at least in my mind.

What I’ve always found interesting on observation, since I was a wee rex, was how many different modes of movement exist that enable rain to hit my head. And FYI, don’t use an umbrella around here. We all know you’re a tourist or an idiot. When the rain hits, you just buckle down and push through, like a woman birthing without drugs. Woman up and put your umbrella down, or the wind will do it for you.

Oh, Marie, rain is not THAT big of a deal, right?

I know it may not seem like an annoyance and worth getting all up-in-RAWRS about because there are a lot of places that would like a good rain once in awhile. I am very grateful for all the moisture we get. It is the reason we are the Evergreen state and one of the most lush, green places (west of the Cascades) with a Gen-u-ine Rain Forest. I love all the greenery, really, I do! It’s just hard to enjoy it when it feels like the sky is peeing on you all the time. To understand my relationship with rain, study the image below for a moment.

That is how I feel in the rain. So now I’m going to have my moment and wish for the sun and RAWR about how annoying rain can be.

The most Annoying types of Rain I’ve Observed:

The monsoon down pour where the 1.5 seconds it takes you to get to the car door has you and everyone and thing with you drenched to the core. That only happens a couple days a year here. (God bless those living in real monsoons.)

The spring shower, where you look up and see blue sky above you, and yet, somehow, it IS raining on your head. It’s also the third time today this has happened.

The unrelenting rain, where it’s a steady patter, a lighter droplet, enough wetness to cause the dogs to go on a bathroom strike which is too bad for them because it can last for HOURS and sometimes days. Usually the rain wins and the dogs give in. They feel like the lion too.

The mist, a gentle, all encompassing cloud of misty humidity that upon touching curly hair magically turns it into a ‘fro no matter what chemicals were used prior to exposure to said mist.

The sideways mist, a strange cloud of mist moving past you with a ghost-like appearance. It will stop you in your tracks with mesmerizing movements until the cloud of ballet makes sense, “Oh, it IS raining sideways!” Curly hair is no match for this mist either.

Too many encounters with the rain styles above and you may be left feeling like this…

JimBentonComic-DinosaurShakeUp

So on this dreary day, join me in telling the weather to be kind. We all need a break sometime, or we may turn into dinosaurs and… well, you know.

Ode to the 80’s and the Moon

Ah, the days of Reese’s Pieces and ET phone home… Yup, those were the days, the 80’s. And eventually the wild-n-out RAWR of that decade morphed into the neon nineties. Somewhere in this mix of fashion adventure and extra terrestrials, an amazing shoe was born. It was over the top, the high top, to be exact. It was flashy. It was fahbyoulus. It was… the LA Gear Trainer.

LA-GEAR

Somehow (I can’t remember so it must be magic), I convinced my mom or my grandparents (again, I can’t remember, so maybe it was a wizard) to get me this pair of LA Gear High Tops, but in a crisp black and pink only (bottom right in image below). I will never forget the double laces and how supported my feet felt. I will always love the sassy touch of the side suede ribbing.

LA Gear Trainer

I do remember eeking out a small RAWR of excitement when I got my foot resting on the cushy sole, the double laces laced up, the velcro flap flipped over and velcroed down and the license plate flair promptly added to my key chain collection, I was ready to go. This is also when I discovered my power color. HOT PINK. And it made my wardrobe so much easier! Hot pink or Black leggings, check! Hot pink and black oversized sweatshirt, check! Hot pink or black scrunchie to complement my fountain bangs, CHECK!

So reminisce with me… In the spirit of the recent full moon, I’d like to share this handy mug. You can find it at Zazzle.com. Then, while you drink your coffee out of it, you can chuckle as you remember your early RAWRS.

moon mug

Too many d*cks on the dancefloor…

A Reader: There’s the Testosterone Conundrum… Teenage boy + step father = constant conflict & disagreements so what do I do?

Father and Son

Boys boys boys. Growing up in a house full of two “little” brothers, a wrestling match or stinky hamper was never far away. Neither was a fight over our mom’s attention. Like two dueling dancers, they’d each try to out-do the other until she noticed. Even when you love the boys in your life they can be stinky, LOUD, rude, and messy all at once without realizing it themselves. Lots of testosterone can certainly strain a family relationship. It doesn’t even take a full grown boy to disrupt a family dynamic, even a Preggosaurus Rex growing a little boy can produce enough testosterone to kick the circus off-queue. So what is a mama rex to do when the going gets too RAWR?

The first step is to channel it. I like to think of testosterone as steam in a kettle. The more of it a guy has, the more forcefully he needs it to be turned into spent energy. You can’t just cap the steam and expect it to go away, it needs a healthy outlet. Finding some activity they can do together, maybe it’s race RC cars, or go to batting practice or work on a car, or whatever it may be for your boys, will go a long way in helping them bond in a healthy way. The more healthy outlets they have in common, the stronger a relationship they’ll be able to build.

There’s also some sticky family dynamics at play, underneath all the hormones and beating their chests with fists. There is a father-son dynamic that needs support. Right now, as a teenager, your son can’t see the big picture and long term because his pre-frontal cortex is just not quite there. It will take him a few years to realize your husbands’ actions aren’t putting restrictions on him or reigning him in just to be mean, but rather to give him guidance that typically comes from Dad. Finding ways to nurture this bond is tricky and often, a well-intentioned plan can backfire in your face. Some degree of Mama-Sneak is called for, but not too much. You can send them on errands together, find new activities that they both have to try (outdoor stuff is good because they burn much more energy and come home tired!), but be careful being too sneaky in setting activities up.

Something that seems to work well for the men I love in my life, but certainly is not appropriate for everyone, is being the rube for them in those crucial bonding situations. When they can be on the same ‘team’ because they’re both laughing with (and usually at) me, I don’t take it personal because I know they in the end, they’ll be more bonded, and it’s not like there’s any less love then.

The other consideration is to be an open listener for your son. This means to LISTEN and not judge or try to problem solve but just listen. He’s reaching an age where he wants to emotionally attach and if you and him have a good relationship, he’ll attach back to you. This is not attachment in some weird way but rather he’ll develop a deeper trust with you. He’ll be comfortable sharing more than the typical teenage boy shares with his mother about the happenings of his life. The goal is for you and his Step-father to be there for him as a solid support- through dumb decisions and good decisions.

And when all else fails, “RAWR” at them.

Grandma’s got a… beer?

ID-10032444A Reader:

Within my more somewhat liberal, Catholic, northern family, all gatherings include beer and wine for the adults (even children’s birthday parties, which are more family affairs than bunches of little kids). My husband’s family are Southern, conservative, and more generically Christian, some baptist, and anti-alcohol of any type.

We live 5+ hours from both of our immediate families, in opposite directions. My husband feels more at ease with my immediate family than his own, and our local group of friends, who have become our family, are much like my family. We gather for their kids’ birthdays, and the adults have a few beers while the kids eat cake and shoot nerf or water guns.

Our son is nearing his first birthday, and my husband wants his party to be like those of our friends and my family. He doesn’t even want his parents there, because he doesn’t want them to judge our friends (no one ever gets out of hand). We never drink around his parents out of courtesy, and it took many years of us being married before DH didn’t hide any beer we had in the house when his parents came to visit. He’s honestly too hard on his parents, as annoying as they can be at times, and really tries to cut them out. Not that I particularly enjoy hanging out with them, but I smile and exchange niceties, they are our son’s grandparents. Thoughts on handling this situation?

Kayce:

I actually come from a family just like this; my mom was raised strict Roman Catholic, even attended a Catholic school with nuns who hit the kids with rulers, while my dad was raised Southern Baptist and was forbidden to dance (including prom!), drink, or even have playing cards in the house (they lead to gambling you know). Thankfully they both rebelled, first by marrying each other (via secret elopement), and then by distancing themselves from both doctrines. They still read the Bible to us as kids, but allowed a dialogue about what the teachings meant to us, and encouraged us to seek out our own interests in spirituality.

Their gatherings always included some drinking and lots of card playing & dancing. To this day I’m surprised when I find that I know parts of the Bible more than most of my Christian friends, and I make it a point to connect with my Source (or God) every single day. I’ve never had a drinking problem, or a gambling problem for that matter, and I can’t say that dancing has ever lead to sex for me (I’m not that great of a dancer haha)!

I remember a happy, healthy childhood while my parents have struggled most of their lives to forgive their parents for the expectations that were placed on them at such an early age. So, I guess the bottom line is figuring out what’s more important to you- trying to live a life based on what your church has interpreted as being upright while judging those closest to you, or connecting with your friends and family in a real way that lasts generations and affects everyone they in turn meet. Its important to be honest as adults and to lead by example for your children; the family members can choose whether or not to attend! It’ll ultimately be their loss if they distance themselves, but they might surprise you and come around – rawr!

Marie:

As it’s your party, (since you planned and are hosting it!), if you want to cry, you can. But I doubt you will because you seem like a realistic gal with her head squarely on her shoulders. It’s obvious to me you want everyone to feel welcome, drinkers and abstainers alike. Keep that feeling in your heart and all the guests will feel it.

Coming from a family with a history of alcoholism and where many members of my family have bad memories associated with alcohol, I can understand the need for a ‘dry’ event, religious beliefs aside. Alcohol can bring out the bad side and more voracious comments at the wrong time. And after attending many dry family events, I can also attest to the great social lubricant that it is. Sitting awkwardly on the couch for a few hours is hardly fun for anyone.

So looking for a happy medium, let’s separate alcohol from the obvious. Set up two beverage centers, one with non-alcoholic punches, juices and spritzers (oh my!) by the food and festivities. Set up a “grown ups only” bar somewhere off to the side (maybe in the garage or laundry or back bedroom). Get a bunch of blue Solo cups and a couple packs of fun colored Sharpies or maybe something extra fun like differing Mustache stickers and have everyone personalize their cup to drink from. (I’m sure your cool friends will “get it” and cooperate.) Then it’s a little less obvious who’s drinking and who’s not.

Lastly, designate a “quiet room” for anyone (of ANY age) who’s having a fit. Fill it with some calming music, soft blankets and pillows and keep it pretty dark. Then, if someone does get unruly, grown up or grumpy munchkin, there is somewhere for them to retreat to without causing a scene and ruining the party. (Unless it’s you crying, and then, since it’s your party, you can cry if you want to.)

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