Monday, March 31, 2014

Just In Case

I have a confession to make.  At the beginning of this pregnancy, I made a conscious decision to treat it like any other pregnancy.  I decided to do everything I normally would while being pregnant - the things I did for Kenley.  I went public at 12 weeks.  I trace my belly.  I make pregnancy Facebook posts.  I do all the things a "normal" pregnant woman would do during this time.   My confession is this:  the reason I do them is not necessarily for the purpose of normalcy.   I do them in case Bean dies.

I know, that's a horrible reason to do anything, but it's true.  If Bean dies, I want to know I did everything I should have to remember her.   The belly tracing painting I have from Kenley's pregnancy is so special to me.  It lets me see how I grew as she grew.  So, I started a tracing canvas with Bean.  In case she dies, I will have this reminder of her as well.   I am not the best at taking pictures of myself, but I made sure to schedule a maternity photo shoot.  In case she dies, I want to have photos to remind myself of the life she had inside me.  

The biggest part of my confession deals with the public aspect of my pregnancy.  I know many mothers pregnant after loss prefer to keep their pregnancy private.  They don't want to deal with questions from other people.  They want to protect their heart.  I'm protecting my heart too - just in the opposite way.  In addition to these blog posts, I post Facebook statuses about Bean.  I post ultrasound pictures and doctor updates.  I've been playing a name game with my Facebook friends for the past month to see if they can guess what we have named her. (That reveal is coming soon, by the way)  Why?   In case she dies.   If she dies, I want everyone to love her as much as I do.   I want everyone to miss her as much as I will.  I want them to be as heartbroken as I would be.  I want her to be remembered, even if it's only as my own swollen belly. 

However, there is only one thing I cannot bring myself to do this time that I did with Kenley.   That is having a baby shower.  I just can't do it.  I can't bear to open presents she may never get.  Clothes she may never wear.  Toys she may never play with.  I can't sit in a room full of my friends and pretend that I am not scared out of my mind.   I cannot hold up an outfit with a smile on my face and make it seem like I am not wondering whether or not I'll have to seal it in a bin in a few weeks.  I know for certain I would never, ever be able to enjoy myself at a baby shower for Bean.  So, for the sake of my own sanity, I am not having one.  Plus, what would I do with all of that extra stuff - you know, in case she dies?

For the past 33 weeks, I have been hopeful for Bean's life while bracing for her death.  It's just what you do when you have lost a child.  You want to be happy and joyous.  You want to celebrate the life you are about to have.   Yet, you know that life is not guaranteed, and so you ready yourself for disappointment.  You prepare your heart to be broken, hoping with all you have that it won't have to be, but knowing just how real that possibility is. 

Everything I have done throughout this pregnancy, even as lighthearted as I have tried to make it seem, has a darker purpose.  I try to memorize how she feels as she moves inside me in case those movements stop before they should.  I soak in every ultrasound image, every screen shot, in case those are the last ones I get to see of her alive.   I post some of those images because I want other people to see her alive too.   "Look!  She is a person!  She is my daughter!  Isn't she wonderful?"   I am so proud of her, so in love with her, and I want everyone to know it.  I take every second of my pregnancy and create a memory of Bean, for myself and for others.  In case she dies.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014


If I am having a tough day missing Kenley, someone will inevitably say something to the effect of "Bean will be here soon!  Smile!"  It's really not that simple.  I can't push my sorrow aside to be happy instead.  I can be both - and I am learning how to do that - but I can't just shut out missing my oldest child because my youngest is on her way.  I think so many people just don't understand what it's like to live without your baby.  While I wouldn't wish that pain on anyone, it can sometimes be very frustrating living in a world where so few people really "get" how I feel.

There's a massive split that occurs in your life when your child dies.  A bifurcation of your heart and soul.   At the beginning, this gaping hole oozes and bleeds.  It hemorrhages and screams in agony.  The pain is so great and immense that you think there is no way you can ever learn to live with it.  Surely, it will kill you.   But, it doesn't.  You live.  You heal.  Except, you heal in a way that is unexpected.

Instead of your heart and soul fusing back together into one whole entity, each heals into two pieces, like a pronged fork.  And now, they also function differently than before.  Emotions are now, in a weird way, more streamlined.  One half of your heart processes joy.  The other, sorrow.  Simultaneously and forever.   Everything in your life that should bring you happiness and light also brings you sorrow and darkness.  And you learn how to deal with these conflicting emotions as they flow through you.  

Sometimes, you wish you could ignore the part of your heart that makes you sad, but you can't.  It's just part of you now.  You will forever straddle the line of joy and sorrow as both will flow through you in a constant stream.  Sometimes, one will outweigh the other and sometimes they will level out.  But, the fact remains they are always together.

Despite my fear surrounding this pregnancy, I am so very happy about Bean.  I am grateful for my ability to get pregnant.  I am full of hope and joy for this new life growing inside me.  But, to tell you I am not also so very sad that Kenley is not here would be a lie.  For every piece of joy Bean brings me, my heart will also feel a twinge of sadness for the little girl I will not get to raise.   It's not an affront to Bean or an obsession with Kenley, it's just the way it is.  My heart is no longer whole.  It will never be again.  I will process everything in this world with this duality for as long as I live.

As Bean grows, I will watch her with joy and happiness.  I will celebrate all of her milestones and rejoice in having her here with me.  And, at the same time, I will be missing Kenley.   When Bean says her first word, I will smile and gush, and I will also wonder with a twinge of sadness what Kenley's would have been.   When Bean goes to kindergarten in her new clothes, I will swell with pride.   And I will also think about what Kenley would have chosen to wear for her first day.  Every day for the rest of my life, I will celebrate one child while missing the other.  There will always be a little bit of sorrow in my life - a slight haze around my sun. 

You might want to say to me now, "Well, I'm sure time will ease that."  And I'll respond to you like this:  If one of your children died, how long would it take for you to stop thinking about them?  How long would you go before you stopped missing them?  I'm sure if you immersed yourself in your other children, you'd feel so much better, right?  There is no end to this.  There is adaptation, but there is no resolution. 

Joy and sorrow are no longer two separate emotions for me.  They are twisted together in a knot that cannot be untied.  One will always accompany the other.   And you know what?  That's okay.  In our society, we have this strange need to clean up messy emotions - to sweep away sadness and conceal pain.  If someone is hurting, we will do everything we can to make that hurt stop - and if we can't make it stop, we throw platitudes at it to make ourselves feel better.    But, let me tell you that there is nothing wrong with being sad.  There is no shame in feeling down.

We will all be sad sometimes, and in allowing ourselves and each other feel that sadness, we are giving ourselves permission to be vulnerable - to be human.   So, yes, I feel sadness daily.  But, I also feel joy.  And hope.  And love.   

So, on days when I am feeling especially low and sorrow has laid an extra thick blanket over me, just remember that it's okay for me to be sad.  You don't have to try to fix it.  In fact, you really can't.   It's just the way things are.  Thinking of Bean won't cheer me up.  Joy for her isn't a's an addition.   And while I'm still learning how to gracefully feel both at the same time, I'll get there.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


I know my last two posts have been kind of frantic, but it's really how I've been feeling lately - especially since entering the third trimester.   This is supposed to be the "safety zone".  Even women who are generally cautious at the beginning of their pregnancies finally begin to relax at this point.  Viability is achieved, and premature babies still have a good chance at survival if born in the third trimester.  Really, this part is supposed to be just a waiting game.  As the days tick by, they tick down to the birth of a baby, right?   No one would ever guess that might not happen.   No one would ever think that the baby might not come home.  Not unless it happened to you.

This is the part of my pregnancy with Kenley where I really began to think "Wow...I'm going to have a baby.  This is really happening."   Having had friends and family members who had experienced both first and second trimester losses, I knew there was no such thing as a sure thing, but certainly, once you hit that third trimester, you were golden, right?  The third trimester is when the finishing touches to the nursery are made, when maternity pictures are taken, when baby showers are held.   It's when all the final preparations are made because - a baby is coming home.   Except, sometimes, one doesn't.  And when it doesn't, everything you ever knew to be true in the world is turned upside down.  Nothing makes sense.  And nothing will ever be the same. 

For me, there is no "safety zone".   There is no magic bubble to protect my baby.  There is only a shadowed past, a frightening present, and an uncertain future.   I say this to you not so you will send me words of comfort and assurance, but just so you will know how this feels. 

As harsh as this might sound to you, your words don't help.  I know they aren't empty - I know they are heartfelt and completely genuine.  I know you truly want to wrap your arms around me and keep me safe within them, and I don't want this post to make you feel like you are unappreciated because you are not.   But, honestly, your words don't help.   Not even a little bit. 

 I am not comforted when someone tells me they are confident in my ability to bring Bean into this world safely.   Clearly, my track record speaks for itself.  I'm 0 for 1.  My ability to bring children into this world has no affect whatsoever on that actually happening.  

I am not comforted when someone tells me I will be holding Bean soon.  That was said to me last year.   I did get to hold my baby girl then, but not the way I wanted to, and I can't ever hold her again.  

I am not comforted when someone tells me they "have faith" Bean will be born healthy and alive.   Was that faith not there with Kenley?  Did you think Kenley would die?  No, of course not.  Because we want to believe that babies don't die.  We want to put our "faith" in a greater power that wouldn't allow that to happen - and yet it did.  So, what's to stop it from happening again?   And, if that greater power does indeed have the ability to keep Bean alive, why did Kenley die?  Was she not important?  You can't answer those questions for me, and it's probably a safe bet you don't even really want to think about it because it just makes things more muddled and confusing.  So, let's just not go down that road at all.

I am not comforted when people throw statistics and odds into my face.  A cord accident occurs in 1 in 1,600 births.  Yes, the odds are that Bean's cord will not follow in her sister's footsteps.  Most likely, her cord will never be an issue.  But, that doesn't make me feel better.  I've met a great deal of women in the last year who have "beaten" their odds - or better yet, who have been beaten by them.   We are a sad bunch of statistics.  A lonely island of women who have experienced the small percentage of tragedy no one thought we would.  Telling me this won't happen again is like telling me lightning doesn't strike twice.  It's a nice thing to believe, but it's not actually true and the evidence speaks otherwise.  It can happen again, as well as so many other things.  We all want to think that tragedy won't visit me again, but no one has a crystal ball.

I know all of this really just boils down to positive thinking.  You want to be positive to help me be positive.  You want to believe that good things will happen, and so you send me those happy thoughts.   And I thank you for your efforts.  But, nothing you can say or do will bring me peace.  This is not a negative attitude - this is just my reality.  And as much as you want to bring light to the darkness, only one thing can do that.   Bean, living and breathing, placed in my arms. 

Again, I'm not trying to look a gift horse in the mouth.  I don't mean to come across as ungrateful for the amazing level of support I have in you all.  Honestly, the fact that I have so many people who love and care about me, Mike, and Bean is often so wonderfully overwhelming.  I just need you to know how I'm feeling.  That's the spirit of the blog, right?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Out of the Woods

 I feel like that first victim in the first scene of a horror movie.   You know the one.  You see her racing through the woods, gasping for breath.  A close up on her face reveals blood trickling down her cheeks and eyes wide with fear.  The camera pans to her feet as she runs.  You see her stumbling over tree roots and slipping in mud.  She falls, which allows the killer to gain on her.  She scrambles to her feet, but it takes her an agonizingly long time to get herself organized again.  She starts to run again, frantic with fear, glancing behind her at the shadowed figure in pursuit.  She can see the edge of the woods just ahead.  She's almost there.  In the clearing is a large group of people around  a campfire, laughing and having a wonderful time.  If she can make it to them in time, she'll be safe.  You can see a shiny glimmer of hope flicker across her eyes.  Maybe she can do this after all.  She gives it her all and really pushes herself forward.   Just as she reaches the last line of trees, just when she's inches from freedom, a close up of her upper body shows her arching her back and twisting her face in pain and horror.  It's too late.  He's got her. His knife plunges into her back over and over and over again until she goes limp.   Grabbing her fallen body by her arm, he drags her away from the clearing in a trail of blood, the people by the campfire none the wiser. 

Kenley died at the edge of that clearing.  I thought I was home-free.  At that time, I didn't even know I was being chased.   I didn't know my baby was running out of time, that she would be snatched from me at the last second, that the killer would strike me down and leave me broken. 

Now, I feel like I am racing against the clock.  Like I am running, running, running towards a clearing I may or may not reach.   I am trying to keep my eyes on the prize - to keep myself focused on what lies ahead of me instead of what I feel is hot on my heels, but it is so hard.  It's so hard to imagine actually reaching that point, of being free of the woods and the killer behind me.  I can feel his breath on my neck, the tip of his knife scratching against the fabric of my shirt.   I am out of breath and exhausted, but I have to make it.  I have to!  Run!  Run!  Run!   

Friday, March 7, 2014

In the Still of the Night

My eyes flutter open in the darkness.  It's three a.m.  Maybe it's four.  Every night is slightly different, but still always the same.  Mike is sleeping next to me, often snoring.  The dog is inevitably sprawled out on the floor doing the same.  My belly, heavy and round, rests on the body pillow at the edge of the bed - and it feels frighteningly empty.   Every night.  Every night, I wake up to an empty stillness.  I can't feel her.  I know she's in there, but the fear creeps in that I've lost her.  That sometime between feeling her flutter as I fell asleep and waking up to silence, she has left me.  As I lay there in the dark, my mind twists and turns down frightening corridors, trying to find its way back to rational thought.   She's okay.  She's fine.  She's just sleeping and comfortable -like I was just a few moments ago.  She's still alive.  But, my mind won't let me believe that.  I need proof.   I need to feel her move.   Sometimes, it only takes her a few minutes of me being awake before she gives me a little pop. (Probably my escalated heart rate wakes her up)  One pop is often not enough for me, though.  What if I just made it up?  What if, in my panic, my body just twitched and that wasn't really her?  I need at least one more, maybe two.  A good punch to really assure me she's still alive.  Most of the time, she gives me what I need within a few minutes, and I can go back to sleep with a little more reassurance.  Sometimes, though, she's not cooperative, and I have to shift myself around.  I turn to the other side.  I try to sit up.  I poke her a little bit.  Anything to get her stirring.  Anything to put my mind at ease.  Sometimes, it takes half an hour or more to get those kicks.  Half an hour, laying in the darkness, worrying about my world crashing down around me a second time - often convinced that it is.  Twice, I have panicked to the point where I actually get out of bed and pull out my Doppler.   I sneak out into the living room so as not to wake up Mike and I search for her heartbeat.  When I finally find it, I cry heaving sighs of relief.  She's still here.  I have kept her alive for another night.

Being pregnant again is no cake walk, as many of you already know.  While I am not completely terrified 24 hours a day, I do think about her safety most of the time.  I have begun keeping a kick-count chart per my doctor's orders.  Three times a day, I have to sit with my feet up for an hour while I record the amount of times she moves.  That's a tall order for a teacher.   If she moves at least 10 times, I can stop counting.  Usually, I can get all of her kicks in within the first 30 minutes.  My students have been fairly cooperative with this new development, which is very helpful.   However, if she kicks less than five times in an hour, I have to start over.  If she still doesn't make ten kicks, I have to go to the hospital.   That's a scary thing to specifically focus on three times a day.  So far, so good though.  

During the day, I'm fairly active and distracted with work and other things.  She's always on my mind, but I can usually remember the last time I felt her move, so I can keep myself calm with those thoughts.  Night is different.  When I wake up in the middle of the night (and I do - every night), I don't know when she last moved because I was sleeping.  I don't know how long it has been.  I know I've been asleep for at least three or four hours, which already surpasses the two hour maximum for my kick counts.  A study I read once, which was a terrible thing to do now that I think about it, said that the majority of cord deaths that occur before birth occur between the hours of 2am and 4am while the mother is asleep.   Looking back on this, that was probably what happened with Kenley.   She left me in the very early hours of Sunday morning.   I can't let the same thing happen to Bean.   It's probably why my body won't let me sleep at that time.  I wake up every night without fail.   I can't lose her too.  I just can't.

So, the darkness and I have become old friends.   It greets me with a soft silence when I wake.  In the darkness, I lay my hand upon my belly and will my daughter into moving, trying my hardest to stay calm, but often failing.  Once she reassures me that she's not going anywhere, I can settle back in with a little calmness - into the still of the night. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Is this your first?

You're sitting in the mall's food court, waiting for your shopping buddy to arrive.  You check your Facebook page, maybe update your status, and play a game of candy crush.  While you're waiting, a very pregnant stranger sits nearby.  She smiles at you and heaves herself into a slightly more comfortable position.  You smile back, noticing her bulging belly and light glow.  Like you, she pulls out her phone, but before she can settle in behind her wall of technology, you politely ask her, "How far along are you?"   "28 weeks," she says with a soft smile.  The next question rolls off your tongue as naturally as the one before it, "Is this your first?"    "No," she replies, "I have a daughter."   "Oh, how nice!"  you say.  And then, "How far apart are they?"  You and she continue this polite and natural conversation for a few minutes until your friend arrives, talking about her older child, how wonderful it will be for her two children to be so close in age, how wonderful it is to be pregnant and bringing life into this world.   As you get up to leave, you say to her with a genuine grin, "Good luck with the baby!" and you walk away.  It's always nice to have a pleasant conversation with a stranger.

Unless that stranger is One in Four, because then that conversation was not pleasant for her at all.   That conversation was absolute torture.  Each moment, she was wishing and hoping you wouldn't ask that next question.  Each moment, she was trying to make split second decisions about how she was going to answer them, trying to quickly judge your character to see if you could handle the truth, trying to gauge her own emotions to see if she was willing to tell it to you.  Should she tell you the baby in her belly is her first and then wade through a conversation of all the joys she will experience once her baby is here?  Should she deny her first born to you for your own comfort and then spend the rest of the day racked with guilt?  Or, should she let you know she had another child, and hope you leave it there?  She knows you won't.  She knows you'll ask about the other child.  Her age.  Her name.  How she feels about being a big sister.  Then what?  Does she tell you her baby died - and watch as you go from a friendly, well-meaning stranger, to a sad and uncomfortable one?  (Of course you're sorry.  Of course, you didn't know)  Or, does she let you assume her first child is still alive and then participate in a very painful conversation where she has to pretend she has a life she doesn't, but wants more than anything?   She never knows which way she's going to go until it happens.  Each conversation is different, yet always the same.   She begins to hate making eye contact with strangers, afraid that, in combination with her welcoming belly, people will be drawn to her.   She knows everyone is just being friendly.  She knows no one means any harm, and that makes it even harder.  She begins to feel even more out of place.  Before getting pregnant again, very few people felt entitled to know about her children.  She could pass through the world unnoticed.  But as soon as her belly began to pop out, it became an open invitation for conversation.  Her business was their business.  It's not that she doesn't want to talk about the child she lost - because she does - but she knows it's not a conversation to have with someone who's just making polite small talk, and she's rarely in the mood to introduce a stranger to the world of baby loss.

When I was pregnant with Kenley, these conversations didn't really bother me to the extent they do now, but I will admit, they did get annoying at times.  I think almost every pregnant woman, regardless of whether they have lost a baby, gets irritated at times with the forwardness of strangers.  Is it truly your business whether or not we have more children or how old they are?   Would you ask a woman who wasn't pregnant these questions?  Do you really need to know if I am planning a natural birth or if I am going to breastfeed?  With Kenley, I didn't mind that much.  I was often taken aback by the personal information people either requested of me or shared with me, but I'm a friendly person and I just carried on the conversation anyway.   

Things are different now.  I can see it before it happens.  The sideways glance from the stranger nearby.  The slight smile.  It's coming.  I brace myself.   It always starts the same..."How far along are you?"  And then it goes from there.  Spiraling down, down, down the rabbit hole, with them looking down and me looking up, answering their questions behind the mask I put on for just these occasions.   And when the conversation is over, I climb back out of the hole, take off my mask, and continue to live the life that is mine but shouldn't be.

I suppose my point to this post is that I wish more people knew about the different circumstances surrounding pregnancy, and that being pregnant is not an open invitation for conversation.   You never know if the woman you are talking to is carrying her second (or third, or forth) chance.  You never know if she's not the epitome of joy and light you think she is, but is instead full of terror for the life of her child, just holding on to every shred of hope she can that this pregnancy won't end up like the last.  You never know if the child she is carrying is "incompatible with life", and she is listening to you ramble on about the joy of having children while she knows hers will most likely only live for hours, days at the most.  One in four women have experienced the loss of a baby.  One in four.   If someone offered you a lottery ticket that guaranteed you a one in four chance at winning, you'd take it, right?  Because those are pretty good odds.   So, there's a pretty good chance that woman you are talking to about her baby is really wishing you'd stop.

I'm not saying to not be friendly.   "How far along are you?" is a pretty benign question and is probably fine.  And really, 75% of women will probably take no issue with the rest of the conversation.   But, pay attention.  Remember, not all of us have known only sunshine.  One in four of us have just walked through a terrible storm.  Many of us are still bracing against the weather, and trying our best to get to the other side with our rainbow intact.   There's a saying I've seen that says "Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about".   Hopefully, this post has given you a little more insight into mine - and the many other women who fight it too.