Well, that sucked.

Yesterday, I had to attend another funeral.  I may or may not have mentioned previously that, for most of my pregnancy, I was a full-time caregiver to an elderly family member with fairly advanced dementia.  My ‘contract’ ended at the end of October, a few short days after Brock’s stillbirth, when we moved back to our hometown.  About three months after we ended that arrangement, she was admitted to the hospital by her new caregivers for various ailments.  One thing led to another, and she didn’t end up making it back out.

I knew going into the funeral that it was going to be tough.  It was held at the same funeral home where Brock’s service was held, back in the town we lived in during my pregnancy, and, as much as I might not want it to, that building now hosts a lot of bad memories.  The staff, especially the owner, were absolutely amazing to us when we had Brock’s visitation there.  He let us use the home at an absolute minimum cost, only requiring us to pay processing fees and mandatory expenses.  He was extremely kind and empathetic in our time of need, and even though it is never easy to put a child to rest, his sensitivity and attention to detail made it a little more bearable.

I was okay, on a relative scale, for the first little while, but things got worse quickly.  We arrived early so that we could quietly say goodbye to her and try to gauge our emotional response to being back in that place so soon, and hopefully figure out how well we were going to be able to handle the service.  We went and paid our respects to her, then mingled with some of our other family members who were present.

As time progressed, I started to get more and more anxious.  Being in that place again less than four months later, and already pregnant with another child (although most people in attendance did not know that), ended up being pretty tricky to process.  I started to get frustrated with myself because I was not even a little sad about the passing of this family member; she had lived an extremely long, full life and her life had ended in very little suffering.  Being there made me think of Brock, and how he didn’t get the same luxuries.  He would never live to be almost 94 years old, and quietly die in a hospital after almost a full century of watching the world change: his life ended before it got to begin, in a terrible way and for a stupid reason.  I felt bad about not feeling bad, and I felt selfish and petty for letting my own problems get in the way at someone else’s funeral.

Then my nephew showed up with his parents.

My nephew, with the name I had wanted to give to my son (but they just happened to land on it first), who was only supposed to be two months older than our son.  Since he was premature, he is already nearing 7 months old.  I watched him try to flip pages in a photo album and eat berries and pieces of banana out of his mother’s hand (he would also occasionally try to eat the bag if she took too long to procure the next piece).  I wondered what Brock would be doing if he were here, since he would be only a day shy of four months old.

At some point, one of the grandparents introduced the baby to a couple of attendees as their grandson, and something in me broke.  I left the room too quickly, and spent the next 20 minutes crying in our car.

Brock is their grandchild, too.  I am a mom, and my husband is a dad.  Our nephew is his cousin, and his cousin’s parents are his aunt and uncle.  Just because he is not here doesn’t mean he didn’t exist.

At the same time, it’s not as though I can force people to acknowledge Brock.  The fact of the matter is that things we can’t see tend to avoid being brought up.  I couldn’t run around for the rest of my life, introducing my living children to people, and then also say “I also had a son before them, but he died.”  That wouldn’t make him any more tangible to them; he will always be a piece missing from our lives, but you cannot miss something that you have never had.

Nonetheless, part of me just wanted to yell, for the whole funeral home to hear, “They have two grandsons, by the way.  We’re parents, too.  Ours just happened to die.  We didn’t do anything wrong, and we would have been great parents, but life is unfair sometimes, so they get their baby and we don’t.”

We left shortly afterwards, after I regained my composure and we said goodbye to a few important attendees.  I spent the rest of the day feeling emotionally drained, thinking about how much I don’t want to spend the rest of my life mourning Brock’s passing.  Unfortunately, we don’t always get what we want.

I am a Mom/A Worthy Cause

I was looking through my Facebook feed when I stumbled across a very beautiful, eloquently written article about pregnancy after loss.  PALS is a website that is designed for those of us in that terrible little niche market (expecting after a loss), and I have been reading several of their articles and have followed them on Facebook to try and find some peace of mind with my situation.  This story, in particular, really spoke to me and resonates with a lot of my ideals; it’s posted here.

Especially when you lose your first, you tend to struggle with knowing how to handle your situation.  Trying to know how to answer questions like “Do you have any kids?” is a tricky endeavour.  I’m sure I’m not going to know how to answer when people start asking me “Is this your first?” all over again; I try not to hide Brock, but it’s also not a discussion that you want to get into with just anyone.  For example, with a hairdresser, I might just want to say “Yes”, because it would probably take all the wind out of their sails for the rest of the session if I started telling them all about my dead baby.

—–

Some of you may or may not have heard a recent story about a mother named April McLean.  I believe this circulated more around the bereaved parenting community, but it went pretty viral for a little while there.  April gave birth to a critically ill child and called on Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a nonprofit organization that takes professional photos of children too ill to survive for their parents to have as keepsakes, to take photos of her and her partner with their baby.  Tragically, the photographer’s car was broken into while the camera was still in there, and the whole lot – priceless photos and all – was stolen.

There is good news, though!  The family and photographer made a public appeal to have the memory card sent back, and it was returned (sans the rest of her equipment, of course).  In the wake of this, a crowdsourced fundraiser has been set up to help replace the photographer’s equipment.  If you can spare a couple of dollars, consider helping the cause out here.

Unfamiliar Waters

Being a bereaved parent is tricky for a lot of reasons.  Of course, the most obvious of these is the fact that, well, I have a dead child.  It was, and continues to be, an emotionally and mentally draining experience to be a part of.  I will spend countless hours over the rest of my life thinking of Brock, wondering over the ‘what-ifs’ and ‘could-have-been’s.  I get to contend with emotional episodes, crying when sometimes even I don’t know the reason, and constantly trying to seek a balance between honouring my son’s memory and not letting my loss completely take over my life.  That, in itself, seems like enough to chew on; it’s more than anyone should have to deal with.  Unfortunately, I have realized it gets much worse than that.

Aside from the standard grief you have to navigate by yourself, you also need to contend with the fact that infant loss is also a surprisingly taboo topic among ‘normal’ people – people who are lucky to not be where we are. Nothing kills a conversation faster than bringing up your stillbirth, especially with new people; however, even my friends and family don’t really know how to take it when I bring up Brock.  They get awkward and change the subject, or say they don’t want to talk about it because it’s “depressing”.  I understand that they don’t really know how to handle it… if our roles were reversed, odds are good that I wouldn’t either, because you don’t know what it feels like until you are here.  At the same time, though, Brock is still my son, and I still feel the need to talk about him once in a while, so feeling the need to repress that for the comfort of others around me leads to more sad emotions.  Not only are you saddled with a lifetime of grief, but you also get the pleasure of doing it practically alone.

This is where support groups come in great handy, and why I think every bereaved parent should try to attend one.  My husband and I began visiting a monthly support group in December, and I have always found I leave those meetings feeling a bit more normal.  When you’re left to deal with all that emotion by yourself while everyone around you  proceeds as usual, it’s easy to start feeling pent-up and, frankly, a little crazy.  You think and feel a lot of strange things in the wake of a loss like this, and it’s nice to have some people who do know what you are going through to share your thoughts and feelings with.  It has been an invaluable service to me; even though all of our stories are a bit different, and there are not many people in the group who are in our exact position (many of them had premature babies who were too small to survive, or carried babies who were incompatible with life for as long as they could), it is still nice to be able to talk about Brock with people who don’t mind hearing about him, and know how therapeutic it can be just to talk about their baby.

Now, here’s where things get tricky for me: obviously pregnant women aren’t allowed to attend the support groups in case they may be a trigger to the other women there.  It’s a perfectly fair rule, of course – were I on the opposite side, I wouldn’t be happy to see a pregnant woman in the group, either.  However, the reality of not being able to attend these ever-important meetings as soon as a couple of months from now is terribly distressing.  Fortunately for the general population, bereaved parents are not a terribly common occurrence; in my region of about 300,000 people, we only get six to twelve people coming to these monthly meetings.  (I am sure there are many more that do not go to group meetings, and that other organizations have meetings as well, but the turnout is surprisingly low nonetheless.)  With the demand so low, the odds of finding a group for my niche market (pregnant again after an infant loss) are basically non-existent.  So, unfortunately, at a time where I am going to be even less sure of myself than ever, I’m looking at having to work my way through it by myself.

I am trying to juggle a lot right now, and I’m going to be perfectly honest, I feel overwhelmed by it all.

I feel shock and disbelief over being pregnant again, and due at almost exactly the same time as I was with Brock, no less.  I bounce back and forth between the two pretty often.

I feel guilty, like I’m rushing to replace him, and I should have waited longer to be fair to his memory.

I feel overwhelming fear that this pregnancy will end badly, either in miscarriage or, by some terrible freak occurrence, the same thing will happen again.  I realize, statistically, it is extremely unlikely that the same thing could happen again, especially since I will be under much closer watch this time, but you tend to be a little irrational after something like this happens to you.  (Knowing that I am irrational does not help me to be less irrational, sadly, lol)

And, oddly enough, I feel anxiety over a lot of the silly little things that I did in my first pregnancy.  I wonder what gender we’re having.  I wonder what the delivery will be like this time around.  I still have no idea what parenthood is actually like, and I don’t know what to expect in that regard.  I’ve never had the pleasure of bathing a baby or breastfeeding or changing a diaper, and I get to deal with wondering what those things will be like all over again.

But, this time, I get to go at it with the full understanding that life is not always fair, nothing is certain, and there’s always a chance that I’m going to be left with empty arms again.  It’s almost too much to handle.

I know full well that life is not fair, but I guess I’m just going to have to cross my fingers and hope that it decides to be this time.

Reminiscing/An Executive Decision

I have spent less time than I should have looking through Brock’s things.  When I went to look through the chest of his belongings today, the top was dusty, and I immediately felt very guilty.

For the first couple of months, every time I looked through his stuff, I was guaranteed a good, long cry.  Holding his urn was bittersweet, and I would hug it to my chest and cry, wondering why I had a box full of ashes instead of a soft, warm baby nuzzling my neck.  (To be honest, I still wonder this.)  The first time I dared to look at the clothes he wore, I was, somehow, totally shocked by the reality of clothing a deceased baby: his clothes were stained with his blood, and it hit me like a tonne of bricks.  I put them back, cried, and, after that point, avoided looking at them again.

This afternoon, I spent some time carefully looking again at all of his memorabilia.  I reread the sympathy cards and guestbook from his service.  I looked at the tape he was measured with, and the (cut) wrist and ankle bands he was given after birth.  I smelled his blankets, polished the front of his urn with a dry cloth, gave him a good long hug… I even found the nerve to look again at his clothes.  It wasn’t until I realized that there were a few of his stray hairs on the inside of his cap that the waterworks started.  They were good tears, though: I lamented not asking for some of his hair, and, somehow, knowing that I had some after all felt like a weight off my chest.

—–

I think, when I spent time with Brock and his things today, I was looking for consultation.  I still don’t know how I feel about being pregnant again, but I wanted to try and find some peace with it; I hoped to find it when I thought about him, and I did.

I found myself thinking about things that I felt I did “wrong” with my last pregnancy, and what I would change about it if I got the second chance (which I now have).  It came down to two things: I would spend less time worrying, and more time enjoying it all.  I realized that, even if this child ends in a miscarriage (or the unthinkable happens again, against all odds), all life is worth celebrating, and I have nothing to gain by being anxious about the possibility of a new child.  I owe it to this new baby to cherish every moment I get with them, even if it does end up not being as long as I want.  No matter of fretting or wishing will determine whether or not I get to meet this child, so all I can do, in the meantime, is love it unconditionally.

With that said, I’ve decided to be happy about the pregnancy.  I use the term “decided” loosely, because I know it’s not going to be that simple.  Does this mean I’m never going to worry about the outcome?  No.  Does it mean I’m not going to, on occasion, feel guilty about getting pregnant again so soon, and that I will miss my son less than I did before?  Again, no.  What it does mean is that I’m going to do my very damnedest to be sunny, and hope that, come October, I’ll get to welcome Brock’s younger brother or sister to the world.  Worry typically does not help make a situation better, anyway. 🙂

History Repeats Itself (Pregnancy Mentioned)

I am beyond words.

I purchased a big box of pregnancy tests back in January so I would be all set when the time came to start trying to conceive our rainbow.  I typically test once a week, anyway, just to keep tabs on things and make sure there are no surprises.

I was supposed to test yesterday, but I didn’t.  February 11th of 2014 was the day that I found out I was pregnant with Brock, and even though I was pretty sure I wasn’t pregnant (if you’d asked, I probably would have said I was dead sure), I was pretty sure that my brain would explode if it WAS positive, so I skipped it.

Today, though, I woke up and realized I should do it anyway.  I was planning a drinking day with a friend on Friday, and I also realized I might have a drink or two at an event tonight.  So, I peed on a stick, thinking nothing of it.

About a minute later, I froze.  Did I see a line?  REALLY?  I thought I was being crazy and had ‘line eye’.
But the longer I stared, the more obvious it became.  Nope, it was really there.

Here It Goes Again

“Oh my God,” I said to nobody in particular.

That was it.  I stared, and cursed a couple times – not out of distress or anger, simply out of genuine shock.  I was completely blindsided.

I had frequently wondered about what would happen on this day. I had visions of me completely losing my mind and panicking, and feeling immense regret or guilt.  I imagined the scrutiny of others, chastising me for ‘replacing’ Brock, and I thought I would feel like I was dishonouring him.  But, at the same time, oh, how I want that baby in my arms!  I pictured the ultimate internal struggle of fear and joy, guilt and doubt.  I imagined I’d be cynical, worrying about a miscarriage or the same outcome all over again.

Not so, at all; none of that has happened (yet).  My brain has completely shut up on me.  Even now that I am trying to force myself to sit back and consider all the possible outcomes and be rational, I just keep thinking, “It is what it is.  What happens, happens.”  It doesn’t seem to know what to make of it, either.  It’s been almost 2 hours and I still keep picking it up every couple of minutes, not totally believing what I’m seeing.  No complete, systematic meltdown.  No anger, or fear, just completely taken by surprise, and numb to the rest of it.

I still don’t believe it.  I am not as far along as I was when I had Brock (the test is a lot fainter), but I still don’t know how to process that, if I had tested yesterday, I would have got a positive on the same day, one year apart.  I’m also, somehow, not as mortified by the idea of another October baby as I thought I would be.

Life is funny sometimes.  And by funny, I mean mind-blowing and confusing.

An Ugly Pair of Shoes

I am wearing a pair of shoes.
They are ugly shoes.
Uncomfortable shoes.
I hate my shoes.

Each day I wear them, and each day I wish I had another pair.
Some days my shoes hurt so bad that I do not think I can take another step.
Yet, I continue to wear them.

I get funny looks wearing these shoes. They are looks of sympathy.
I can tell in others eyes that they are glad they are my shoes and not theirs.
They never talk about my shoes.

To learn how awful my shoes are might make them uncomfortable.
To truly understand these shoes you must walk in them.
But, once you put them on, you can never take them off.
I now realize that I am not the only one who wears these shoes.
There are many pairs in this world.

Some women are like me and ache daily as they try and walk in them.
Some have learned how to walk in them so they don’t hurt quite as much.
Some have worn the shoes so long that days will go by before they think
about how much they hurt.
No woman deserves to wear these shoes.

Yet, because of these shoes I am a stronger woman.
These shoes have given me the strength to face anything.
They have made me who I am.
I will forever walk in the shoes of a woman who has lost a child.