May 29, 2011

There's No Place Like Home

Yesterday morning at 4:30, I got the best call I've received in a long time. Miles was home and calling from the driveway! Normally after a deployment I'd go pick him up at work, but he came home with a small group and had to flew into North Carolina where his unit picked him up to drive him home. Fortunately, they just dropped him off at home.

I eagerly, but painfully, got out of bed and hurried downstairs. Roscoe was very confused and started barking as soon as he saw someone was outside, but when I opened the door and he saw who it was he just ran up to Miles and jumped up on him before I even had the chance to hug him myself!

It's so wonderful to have him home. It's one less thing to worry about, especially when my mind is already filled with so many other worries. And it's so great to have him back to help navigate these last couple weeks of this pregnancy. Roscoe couldn't seem to believe he was back for good. Even after we went back to bed to get a few more hours of sleep, Roscoe was so happy to see Miles still there when he woke up. He was jumping on him all morning - I took this picture with my phone, so it's not the best quality, but still captures our very happy pup.
 

The timing of his return is extra special as we'll have a little bit of time to cherish just being together and reflect on all that we've been through since the last time he came back from a deployment, only to lose Cale a day later, to now as we wait two more weeks to meet Finley. It does bring back a lot of emotion, but I knew it would and I'm just so grateful that Miles is home safe and sound to help keep my sanity somewhat intact.

Also, he made it home in time for Memorial Day. Another time to reflect and remember his brother, our friends, and all those who have lost their life in service to our nation. We have so much to be grateful for and Memorial Day helps me keep that in perspective, despite the pain we've endured this past year.

And lastly, Miles' return means that we will get to spend our first Anniversary together which is coming up in a few days. We were both in Afghanistan on our first one and Miles was deployed on our second and third and very nearly this one as well. I suppose one outta four ain't bad!

Here's hoping that his return marks the beginning of a very happy chapter in our lives!

May 25, 2011

Emotions

There are about two and a half weeks until my induction. It's close. It still feels very far away, but it's not. But as the anticipation and excitement mount, so too do a lot of other emotions. And it's made these last few weeks interesting to say the least.

In no particular order, these are some of the emotions I've been feeling:

Excitement: In a short time we will meet our son. Our second son. I can't wait to meet and hold him. At my last appointment, the doctor kept commenting that he thinks Finley has a lot of hair. It amazes me that they can see these things on ultrasounds (they can see a "fuzziness" and blur around the head). But more than once he said "gosh, he's just got a lot of hair." So I'm excited to see for myself and see what he looks like. I wonder if he looks like his brother, his dad, or maybe like me. And I get to find out soon. It may not feel like it all the time, but it's soon, and I can't wait.

Fear: I fear losing him. I fear all the terrible things that can happen. I fear going through everything we did with Cale all over again. One doctor I saw, who is really kind, tried to reassure me that the chance of it happening again were incredibly slim. That's true. But the chance of having it happen the first time were incredibly slim. My chances of having a stillborn are no greater and no less because it's already happened. Unfortunately there is no statute of limitations on tragedy.

Sadness: I miss Cale. The closer we get to meeting Finley, the closer we get to Cale's birthday. It brings back a lot of emotions. I think about his birth a lot and it makes me sad. It makes me sad to re-live those moments, yet I never want to stop re-living them and remembering everything about them. I just miss my baby. I just want him back.

Bitterness/Jealousy: Why did my baby have to die? Why did I go through a full healthy and normal pregnancy, only to have to say goodbye before we got to say hello? Why Cale? I see so many other pregnant women around me and while it's wonderful that most of them, if not all of them, will not experience this pain, it makes me a little jealous. It makes me bitter of the blissfulness they have. It makes me jealous of the me from a year ago. No, I don't know everyones story and yes, there are lots of other people who have been where I've been and lots of people who have experienced stories sadder than my own, but I'm still in this very, very small percentage of people who experienced a part of life that no one should have to endure. And not just me, but Miles too. We see people who don't deserve to be parents go on to have perfectly healthy children or parents who have children, but don't really understand how lucky they are. Why us? We can never answer the "why" questions, but it doesn't make them less painful. It doesn't make it any less unfair.

Happiness: I have a healthy baby growing inside right now. I love him and I got to (and always will) love Cale. I'm so lucky. (see, I told you these emotions were complicated - on one hand I feel incredibly unlucky, but on the other hand I know just how lucky I am). I'm happy because I am a mother to a baby who changed my life. I'm happy because I got to experience not one, but two beautiful and full pregnancies. I'm happy because my love for these babies and for Miles is continually strengthened because of all three of them (the more I love one, the more I love the others). I'm happy because I know first hand how incredible it is to hold your child, and have your heart, even when broken, be so full of love. I'm happy I'll get to do that again (hopefully sans broken heart).

Anger: I do get angry about what happened to Cale, but not often. It goes back to the unfairness of it all and naturally that stems a little anger. What angers me is the reaction, or lack there of, of others. And not just about losing our son, but about this pregnancy. This isn't my first pregnancy. And I hate it when it's treated that way. This really doesn't happen too often. And honestly, most people, my friends and family especially, are amazing. But sometimes people say things that really just piss me off. I don't like hearing advice about labor as if I've never been through it. I don't like hearing about how great it will be to be a mother. I am a mother. I just don't like it when Cale's life is discredited because it ended early. That's how it feels when people pretend like I've never been pregnant or delivered a baby. It's discrediting Cale and nothing angers me more.

Hope: It may not seem like it at times, especially with some of those other emotions, but I am very hopeful for our future. In my heart I think that everything will be ok this time, but I think that because I hope it to be true. Not because I know it will be true. Sometimes all you can do is rely on hope to get you through the tough times. Hope has carried me a long way since last June.

All these crazy emotions battle it out pretty frequently and are pretty intertwined. But as I write this we are closing in on another day. Another day closer to meeting our boy and seeing how this crazy life unfolds. . .

May 19, 2011

Turn Baby, Turn!

Well this silly baby is breech. He was head-down all last week, but decided to go head-up this week. He does still have time to move (I'm just a day shy of 34 weeks), and we have options, so it's nothing worth stressing over now. But oh, I do hope he turns! Of course in the meantime I decided to go to the expert on breech babies to get some reassurance and answers. The expert you ask? Why Google of course! And here are a few conclusions I've come to:

* I've got a few weeks left, so we'll see what happens. Lots of babies flip at the last minute.
* I'll try headphones to the lower part of the belly, and I'll try swimming, but there are "home remedies" for flipping a breech baby that I'll surely skip.
* I don't want a C-Section, but it wouldn't be the worst thing like lots of people/websites portray.

I'd like to elaborate on that last one. Because there are so many forums and groups where people talk about how much they dread C-sections or how upset they are they they might have to have one.  I don't want one either. I didn't have one with Cale, I'd like to not have one this time around as well. I don't want to face the longer recovery and I don't want to not be able to hold my baby the second he is born. But you know what? A C-Section is not the end of the world. It's not the worst case scenario in a pregnancy. That, unfortunately, already happened to us. So at the end of the day, breech or not breech, C-Section or not, I just want a healthy, screaming baby in my arms and I'll take him any way I can get him.



May 17, 2011

Baby Blanket

After Cale was born he was cleaned up, put in a diaper, and wrapped in a yellow blanket. This is how Miles and I held him. Our perfect, beautiful little baby.

When we left the hospital, we left with a little purple box which contained his pictures, foot prints, a lock of his hair, a card with his weight and measurements, the yellow blanket, his diaper, and a beanie. Miles and I decided that we will bring the blanket to the hospital with us when I deliver Finley so that he too can be wrapped in the same blanket his brother was wrapped in. We plan to do it for all our children so that they all share something tangible from their births.

I brought the blanket in to get monogrammed the other day. I wanted to wash it first because I hadn't yet from when Cale was wrapped in it. That was hard. It didn't have a smell to it our anything that made it especially difficult, but I couldn't help but feel a little guilty washing something that had once touched my son's skin. But washed or not washed, just holding on to the blanket is comforting since Cale was wrapped in it. And that will always be the case many years, and many washes later.


I'm pleased with how it turned out and I'm anxious to hold Finley wrapped in the same blanket. Then we'll get his name and birthday added to another corner and it'll just make that sweet little blanket that much more special.

May 16, 2011

I want . . .

these:


My sister-in-law sent me a picture of a cupcake today. And I've wanted one ever since. So much so that I google-imaged them to find which one looked tastiest. These bad boys won. Don't you want one? Or eight? Me too.

May 13, 2011

Our Registry

I've recently been asked by several people if we are registered anywhere for our baby. And since we are slowly, but surely nearing the end of this pregnancy (hard to believe), that question may come up a few more times. So I want to explain to people (or at least those who read this little blog) why we are not registering anywhere this time around.

When I was pregnant with Cale we had created a registry through Babies R Us. In fact, the day we learned the gender, we went straight to Babies R Us to register. It was our way of enjoying and celebrating the fact that we just learned we'd be having a boy! And over the course of the pregnancy I was thrown a wonderful Baby Shower where we received lots and lots of great baby gifts. I even got a surprise shower at work a few weeks before giving birth. The out-pouring of gifts, and love, was just amazing. But the best part was just knowing how loved Cale was as we awaited his arrival. It helped (and still does) ease the pain of losing him, because at least we can look back on our time with him and know he was showered with so much love. (And SO many clothes!)

And now, with our nursery still full of those wonderful gifts, we don't feel right asking for more. We have almost everything we'd need, especially what we'll need early on. We just need the baby. So our "registry" isn't one for gifts, but rather continual love & support, prayers, well-wishes, and lots of positive thoughts! And if people really feel inclined to do something else, we ask that you do not send us a gift, but consider making a donation to Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. This incredible organization is one in which professional photographers donate their time and talent to take photos of a baby who has recently passed away or will in the near future and create beautiful remembrance pictures that will help bring comfort to a grieving family, all at no cost to the family. Unfortunately we didn't know about this organization until a few weeks after Cale was born, but we know now and can try our best to get word out. Because the sad reality is that people will still lose children and tragedy will still strike. But having pictures of a baby before, or soon after, their passing will help so much in the healing process. We are fortunate in that we do have a couple pictures of Cale taken by one of our nurses. And while nothing will be as special as our memory of him or holding him, those pictures have brought us so much comfort and will do so the rest of our lives. The are part of our most cherished possessions and organizations like Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep are the reason so many other families have that same comfort.

But just because we aren't registering or having a "typical" baby shower, certainly does not mean that our baby is not already being showered with lots of love. In fact, this past weekend my friend Heidi put together a very sweet dinner in which we celebrated the joys and hopes of this pregnancy and this baby.



In the pictures you may notice the amazingly cute (and amazingly delicious) cake with "Baby Finn" written on it. We never really announced his name, but I think most people already know it anyway and I figured it wasn't worth cropping the pictures or trying to hide. So there you have it . . . . .


Thank you all for the continued love you have given us, our son Cale, and his little brother Finley. It means so much - please keep it coming! Especially during these last 4-ish weeks!

May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

After Cale was born I remember wondering what Mother's Day would be like. It seemed so far away and I knew that it had the potential to be a difficult day. And now it's here and it's hard to believe that so much time has passed since I held that sweet little boy who made me a Mom. It hasn't been a great day, but by no means has it been a bad day either. I've been so thankful for all the thoughtful messages, cards, calls, etc. I received today wishing me a Happy Mother's Day. It's meant so much.

And today, even when my heart is heavy, I'm comforted by some wonderful thoughts.
 
Like the fact that I get to celebrate this day because of Cale:


And his brother:


 And let's certainly not forget this guy. I'm his mother too:


And I'm that fortunate, to be a mother two (three if you count the dog) times over because of this amazing lady . . . my mom:



In closing I'd like to share "The Mama Project" with you all. A local photographer here in town, Jessica Flynn, donated her time, talent, and her heart towards this very special project. She wanted to do something for mother's who have lost a child so she met with a group of us mama's and took our pictures, listened to our stories, and got to know a little about our children. She asked that we bring something that either reminds us of our babies or that just had some sentimental value to it. It was hard to choose one thing, but I chose a book my in-laws sent me when I was pregnant with Cale - Oh Baby, the Places You'll Go!, which is meant to be read in utero. I read it to Cale often and always felt that he was attentive and active when I was reading it. I now read it to his brother, loving them both at the same time. You'll have to excuse the fact that in these pictures I look like I desperately need sleep. Or more make-up. Or botox. Probably all of the above. But regardless, I was very happy to be a part of The Mama Project, and just so grateful for the kindness that people like Jessica, and my wonderful friends and family, have shown, today and every day.

May 5, 2011

Shamelessly Copying

The baby-loss community is relatively small. A lot of us know each other without actually meeting. And those of us that blog or stalk read other blogs sometimes see a lot of "familiar" faces. So this post will be redundant for some of my friends, but it's worth sharing for those who haven't seen it, especially for those not in the baby-loss community. Actually it's really for all those who don't know me and don't know Cale's story, who don't know much about baby-loss/stillbirth/reality. Maybe by doing what Molly did and copying this post from Brooke, we'll help spread the word.

Again, these are not my words, but they are certainly my thoughts.

------------------------------

A Public Service Announcement

Or something like that...

The other day I found myself having a really horrible dark thought that went something along the lines of, "Wouldn't it be great if [insert someone famous] had a stillborn baby?"

NOT that it would be great if a baby died.  Obviously it's the saddest story in the world.  I wouldn't wish it on anyone, famous or otherwise.

It's just that I think more people should be talking about it.  It shouldn't be a secret.

It's not that stillbirth should get publicized as something that happens frequently.  It's rare and it shouldn't cause undue anxiety.  But it's hard to figure out how to present statistics and percentages in the most accurate way possible.

The fact is that stillbirths happen in less than 1% of pregnancies.  But it's also true that a shitload of people get pregnant everyday.  (Do you like my accurate number reporting?  1% of a shitload.)

It's different from, say, a rare type of cancer that only 5% of breast cancer victims end up developing.  When you think of the relatively small portion of the population that gets breast cancer to begin with, then that 5% ends up being a really small number.

Compare that to 1% of all women who ever get pregnant in the world at any given time.

As many people have noted, membership to this club is much less exclusive than you might expect.

1% - those are slim odds.  In all likelihood, an otherwise healthy woman with a low-risk pregnancy will not experience the death of that baby.

In all likelihood, it wouldn't have happened to me.  Three months before Eliza died, we grieved with our friends whose baby boy twin died just before his sister made her own dramatically premature appearance in the world.  I thought since it happened to someone we knew, the odds of probability would keep us safe.  Once I was 32 weeks along, I breathed a sigh of relief.  Viability was good, even if we had a premie.  We were practically home free.

And then we weren't.  And I couldn't believe it.

I'm sure it was no different for the teacher at David's school, who wept for us as she drove to her own thirty-six weeks check-up, grateful to be two weeks further along in her pregnancy than I had been when I lost Eliza.  At 36 weeks pregnant, the end was in sight.  The law of probabilities protected her.  And then they couldn't find her baby's heartbeat.

I mean seriously.  What are the odds?

Slim.  Really slim.

But it's more likely that a baby will be stillborn than have Down's Syndrome.

It's more likely that a baby will be stillborn than die of SIDS.

It's more likely that a baby will be stillborn than be struck by lightening or attacked by a shark or killed in a home burglary or shaken to death or rolled over on by a parent.

But those are things we talk about.

The truth is that stillbirth is (thankfully) rare.  It's exceptional and unusual and terrible.  At the same time, it's common enough that it doesn't get any attention until it happens to someone you know.

But it happens.  For many different reasons.  For reasons doctors still can't explain.  To educated women in first world countries.  To women who take care of themselves.  To women who follow strict guidelines of diet and exercise in pregnancy.

It doesn't happen very often, but it can happen to anyone at any time and I think there should be a way to raise awareness about it without fearmongering.  Without our babies becoming names that can't be whispered in earshot of pregnant women, names you have to avoid mentioning at baby showers.

Stillbirth is not an experience that became obsolete along with with corsets and hoopskirts.  It is not an experience limited to women with few resources and unclean water supplies.

It's not something that pregnant woman need to worry about, but it is something that pregnancy books should list resources for.  It should not be used to frighten people, but information about it should be readily available.

There has to be a way to let people know that a stillborn baby will break your heart, but it doesn't have to wreck your entire life.

Because that is what people need to know--it's what I still need to be told.

I've said a million times that there is no upside to the loss of a baby, there is no silver lining, there is nothing that will ever make this remotely okay.  But there should be a way to say that this is an event that you can survive.  That this great loss can hollow out your guts and also enrich your life in unexpected ways.  That great sorrow can make room for great joy.  That you will survive this.  That it will change you forever, but not all of those changes will be bad.  That even five months later you will still hurt more than you ever have in your life, but you will also find hope again.  This sort of information should be out there.

A friend of mine is pregnant now.  She had an early pregnancy loss several months ago, so she knows something of my grief.  I mentioned to her the other day that I hate that Eliza is a horror story--instead of a sweet, fat baby who makes people smile, she's a sad story that makes people scared.  I voiced my concern that Eliza's story probably scared this friend of mine, heightened her anxiety about her current pregnancy.  The thought that my daughter has become an unmentionable source of fear and pain--I hate it.  But she said that wasn't true.  That Eliza's story was actually an inspiration to her.  A reminder to treasure every moment of her pregnancy, a demonstration of the way love and friendship can help us endure the greatest of tragedies, the way a baby can change our lives and make us love unselfishly, simply by existing.

This is what I mean when I say that someone famous should have a stillborn baby.  Because it is not a shameful secret or the natural consequences of inappropriate behavior.  It's a terrible tragedy that we can choose to make meaningful.

It doesn't happen to people who deserve it, or people who can handle it, or people who are being tested by God, or people who could have made better choices, or people who don't believe in medical intervention.  It just happens.  Randomly.  Without warning.  To people of every age, every race, every religion, every socioeconomic group, in every country, in any kind of relationship, with every variety of personal history, and every kind of birth plan (or lack thereof).

It will always be a terrible shock and the greatest of personal losses.  But it doesn't have to be an experience that makes people feel isolated and ashamed.

The point of all this is an Associated Press article featuring a few bloggers who are well known in our little circles.  Those of us who try to articulate our pain and put it out there for the world to see.

We're not alone.

We're not insane.

We're not irreparably damaged.

We are mired in grief and overwhelmed by disappointment and furious about the random unfairness of it all and really freaking sad.

But we are not so different from anybody else.  We manage to find strength even though we are not strong.  We are unfailingly generous and gentle with each other, and righteously indignant about the insensitivity of others.  Our hearts fill up and our tears spill over when we see other people putting our experiences into words.  We find ways to hold intact our sense of humor and our dignity and our marriages.  The support we can offer each other cannot be overestimated.

We may be a very slim percentage of the population, those of us whose babies have died, but our numbers are much greater than you would think.

And, in one of the cruelest ironies of all, most of us are actually really cool people.  The sort of people you would want to be friends with in real life (nerdy little folks like me generously included).

So yes, we should talk about stillborn babies, even though it's the saddest story in the world.  Because you never know whose story might be the same.
------------------------------

May 4, 2011

Here's Hoping . . .

I'm very excited to be a Stay-At-Home-Mom. One day. Hopefully.

I will stop working in March of next year, so if all goes well, our little one will be about nine months old at that time. He'll be about two months when I go back to work after maternity leave, so it will only be about seven months that we'll have to utilize daycare. I know that first day of bringing our baby to daycare will be really hard. I'll probably be a hot mess. Yet after my maternity leave was up last year, the hardest thing about going back to work was that I didn't get to put a baby in daycare. Oh the irony.

If we don't go the Nanny route, we have been very fortunate to already have a spot at a local daycare that I recently toured and really liked. When they called to tell me they had an opening for August (when I'll return to work), I was very happy - after all, I was only on the wait list but a few days! But as I went today to pay our registration fee and guarantee our spot, part of me wanted to ask "what's your refund policy? Ya know, in case I don't have a baby to put in daycare come August." But I decided, in my ongoing effort to remain positive and stay hopeful, I won't ask. Now if only I could not even think those thoughts . . . baby steps I suppose (no pun intended).

May 2, 2011

Proud Today, Just as Proud Tomorrow

It's hard to put down in words the vast emotions and thoughts that I've had over the last 24 hours, but if you bear with me I'll attempt to do just that.

When I log into facebook, watch TV, or see articles online I'm in awe of the patriotic displays; the flags being held by someone who is beaming with pride or the chants of "USA" by informal gatherings of proud Americans. It's wonderful to see, but part of me can't help but think "where have you been?" Please don't get me wrong, this news is certainly reason to celebrate and reason to reflect all that we have been through as a nation. And I hope that some peace has been brought to the hearts of all those who have lost a loved one in 9-11. I feel that this news is especially poignant for them.

This morning on my drive into work the radio station was asking listeners how they felt about hearing the news of Bin Laden's death. One man called in and said "I'm so glad this is finally over." And while I certainly agree that I'm glad the hunt for this man in particular is over, "this" is far from over. The threat of terrorism is still very real. There are still husbands, fathers, sisters, and friends who are deployed in harms way and need our support. And not just when something big happens.

As I was getting ready for work, I was looking for my bracelet that has the information of my brother-in-law Daren who was killed in action on February 20th. I remembered that it was downstairs, but I looked at my counter and I put on the other bracelet I wear often; that with the information of my friend Nick who was killed in July of 2008. And next to Nick's bracelet was one for one of Miles' former Soldier, Jankie, who was killed last April. And it humbled and saddened me to think that I have options for what KIA bracelet I can wear. I have these options, as well as much bigger options and freedoms, because of the sacrifice that brave men and women make and have made for nearly the last ten years.

I wonder what will happen next. What will the reaction of the public be in a few months when the excitement of this new has worn off and Soldiers are still being killed? Will it be time to come home? Or will it be more reason to stay? It's debatable either way and I'm not saying there is one clear answer. People have talked about troop withdrawal for a long time, they talk about being tired of it all. And part of me can't blame them. But that's the part of me that is tired of missing my friends and family. Tired of worrying about my husband. Tired of wondering when we will ever celebrate an anniversary together, or when we will finally live together longer than we've lived apart (as of May 2011 we have lived together 19 months. We've been married for 48 months.) So yes, I understand why people want to see the troops come home and want to be done with it all. What I don't understand is how these requests can come from people who care more about the scandal of Charlie Sheen or Lindsay Lohan than they do about the fact that the military was almost given IOU's instead of payment last month during the budget crisis.

So while last nights news was certainly reason to be proud and reason to cheer, it is also reason to remember. Remember the sacrifice that so many make every day. Remember what happened to our country on 9-11 and what has happened in all the years since. Remember that we are stronger together and that there is no one right answer to any of the problems we, or the world, face, and Bin Laden's death is not the end of terrorism or terrorist acts. It it is a reminder to all of us of the freedoms we do have and how those should never be taken for granted.