My Friend had a Baby

About a week ago, my good friend had a baby.  A healthy, beautiful baby boy.  This was a long anticipated event for me from the time she told me she was pregnant.  I was incredibly thankful when she told me she was pregnant in private (just in front of our husbands), instead of in a big group of people.  The news came a few months after Joshua was born.  When my husband and I left their house, we got in the car and I started to cry.  I was so happy for her, but at the same time sad for myself.  Especially as my husband and I had just started trying again.  I wanted to be the one who had that announcement.

I had told my friend that I loved pregnancy and that she could ask me anything she wanted.  Over the course of her pregnancy, she texted me all the fun things like kicks and appointments, as well as any random questions she had asking if I experienced the same thing.  We met for lunches and coffees and chatted about pregnancy.  It was so great to be able to experience that with her.  I had an amazing pregnancy with Joshua and even though I didn’t get to take him home with me, I love talking about a time in my life where I was incredibly happy!

Then came the ultrasound.  From a few old wives tales, I was sure she was having a girl.  Or more so, I wanted her to have a girl.  Her having a girl seemed easier for me.  I had a boy and it may seem silly, but every boy announcement that came after our boy passed was met with a grimace.  It’s hard to explain, but girl announcements were so much easier for me to accept.  Of course, my friend’s announcement was a boy.  Again, I was happy for her and sad for myself.  I wanted my boy, and she was going to experience all of those boy things that I was had been missing out on.

I got over the fact that she was having a boy quickly.  It didn’t matter the gender.  People are going to continue having boys and I needed to accept that.  Once she reached the end of her pregnancy, a couple weeks before her due date, we were in touch a lot discussing appointments and those fun cervix checks.  She’s was giving me updates on how dilated she was.  It was fun to hear, but hearing it brought me back to my appointments.  It brought me back to that highly anticipated time when you don’t know when you’ll be going into labor.  Is it today, tomorrow, three weeks from now?  The anticipation of my friend going into labor made me anxious and jealous.  I cried one night to my husband that I was jealous of the stage she was in right now.  It didn’t make much sense, I’m pregnant myself.  But thinking of how excited she was and how close she was to labor brought me back to how excited I was and it made me miss Joshua that much more.

I almost dreaded the day I would get the announcement that he arrived.  However to my surprise, when he arrived, I wasn’t jealous or sad, I was just happy!  I was happy mom and baby were healthy!  Plus, he was pretty darn cute!

Then a day or two later, it hit me.  I cried again.  My husband asked me what was wrong and I told him, “I’m sad we didn’t get to have a happy experience like she did.”  I kept thinking of her in the hospital doing all of the things we missed out on.  Family/friend visits, first bath, breastfeeding, diaper changes, anything you do in the hospital with a newborn.  I felt robbed of that happiness.  I know it’ll happen.  I’ll have that happiness one day, but it won’t be the same.  I will always have the sadness that was experienced when we lost our firstborn.

She wanted me to meet him.  I wanted to meet him too but I was working myself up.  I kept thinking, will I cry?  Will this be difficult for me?  Will I be happy?  Will I be jealous?  Will I be able to do this?  I prayed that God would give me strength.  I met the baby as soon as I could which happened to be about a week after he was born.  I went to my friend’s house and spent a few hours with them.  It was much better than I expected.  I was happy for her.  We talked about labor and birth.  It was fun to see a little baby again.  He was just 1 oz bigger than Joshua when he was born.  The first time she put in him my arms I thought, wow, I haven’t held a baby this little since Joshua.  I forgot how little he was.  The time spent with her was good.  The anxiety I had before meeting him was unneeded.  Her baby boy wasn’t mine.  He wasn’t the same.  He was so different than Joshua that the jealousy I expected wasn’t there.  I’m happy to know that I could be there for her during her pregnancy and now she’ll be able to be there for me when I have my second baby and have a million questions for her!

*To my friend, if you ever read this, I’m so happy for you!  The sadness I experienced along your pregnancy would have happened regardless if it was you or any close friend that was pregnant during this time in my life.  I can’t wait to be able to share in the experiences with you in a few short months!

Question for Grandma: “Is this your first Grandbaby?”

We just got back from an amazing trip to Alaska with my parents.  Alaska is beautiful!  God really knew what he was doing when we created this world!

My mom can’t stop talking about how excited she is for our baby to arrive.  It started on the trip to the airport.  She was saying how excited she was and I snapped at her, “Yeah, but you were excited last time too and it didn’t work out, did it?”  I can’t help but be annoyed by her excitement.  I don’t know why.  I’m so cautiously excited for this baby.  I’m overjoyed and really scared.  I love being pregnant, I love picturing life with a baby, but for me, those initial dreams came crashing down when Joshua was born and pronounced dead.  I want to be naively excited like so many moms are, but my reality is that I was excited, I had so many hopes and dreams, and they all came crumbling down.

On the last day of our trip, we went on a bus tour of Denali National Park.  When we got on the bus, the lady sitting in front of my mom was making small talk with her.  I wasn’t paying attention until I heard her say, “Oh, I see your daughter is pregnant, is this your first grandbaby?”

“Yes,” my mom responded.

YES?  Excuse me?  I could have punched her.  Not really, but I felt like I wanted to.

The lady went on, “oh, your life will totally change after having a grandbaby!  You think you’ll have fun now, but once they are here, you’ll have so much more fun than you anticipated.”  Clearly not intentional, but thanks for making me feel worse lady!

The conversation ended, I looked across the aisle at my mom and mouthed, “This is NOT your first.”

She mouthed back, “I know”.

I started bawling.  I was thankful that we were in the back of the bus and no one could see my tears.  I probably cried for the next half hour or hour….and if I’m totally honest, tears came randomly on and off throughout the day.

After about 5 minutes, my mom noticed I was crying, she walk over to me to say she was sorry.  I told her I didn’t want to talk to her and to go away.  She tried talking to me through my husband to which he responded, “I’m not getting into this.”  He hadn’t heard the conversation between my mom and the lady.  He just knew how upset I was at the time.  He sat there and put his arm around me and rubbed my leg while I sobbed.  All while not having any idea what happened.  He knew I was crying for Joshua though (it wasn’t the first time that week, more on that in later posts).

Since it didn’t work to talk to me through my husband, she started talking to me again, “this is the first time I’ve answered it that way.  I didn’t want her to ask more questions.”  To which I responded, “I don’t fucking care.  She doesn’t know if you have more kids (I’m an only child) or if I have more kids that we left at home.”  Excuse my French.

All throughout the day she was trying to say she was sorry, but I didn’t want to hear it.  It just made me relive how hurtful it was to hear those words come out of her mouth.  For her to disclude Joshua from her lineup of grandkids right in front of my face.

Later in the day, my mom and I were alone walking to our hotel rooms.  She said, “Christina, can I just say something?”  I turned back to her and she had tears in her eyes.  “I’m so sorry, that’s the first time I’ve answered it that way.  I didn’t want her to ask more questions.”

At that point, I wasn’t angry like I was earlier in the day.  Still very hurt, but not angry.  I said, “Mom, I heard you the first three times, that doesn’t make it feel any better.  If you would have said ‘yes’, she probably would have dropped it.  When people ask me if I have kids, I say ‘yes’.  Usually people end the conversation there.  If they ask how old he is, then I just say he passed away at birth, but most times, the conversation doesn’t get that far.”

“You’re right, I shouldn’t have answered it that way, I’m sorry.”  Our conversation ended there and we didn’t speak of it again.

But even a few days later, I keep thinking about how terrible that made me feel.  My own mom, one of my best friends, Joshua’s grandma was forgetting about him.  Was afraid someone would “ask questions” so instead she just left him out entirely.

Reading other blogs has made me realize there is no right way to answer this question.  Some people are more comfortable just including the living children when asked how many kids they have.  Some people choose to answer based on who’s asking.  I suppose that’s what my mom was doing.  She didn’t know this lady.  She didn’t want the lady to ask more questions so she answered in a way that would make her not ask questions.  I understand.  I do.  I’ve struggled with how I’m going to answer these questions going forward.

Right now, Joshua and this unborn child are my only kids (and my two dogs whom I love like my own).  I don’t feel comfortable leaving out Joshua when people ask me if I have kids.  Maybe that answer will change as the years go by, but I hope that’s not the case.  I’m a proud mom to Joshua.  I don’t care if I have 3 more kids and people ask me how many kids I have.  I can proudly say 4.  And if they look puzzled because they only see 3, I’m okay with that.  I have no issue talking about Joshua and the impact he’s made in my life.  My “situation” won’t be swept under a rug to only speak his name to those who knew him.

Announcing my Pregnancy after Loss – Mixed Feelings

I admit, it was hard for me to write that first post about my pregnancy.  Still, only 2 blogs since the announcement, it’s hard for me to talk about things that may hurt someone reading it.  Up until now, my blog has revolved around the stillbirth of my son and the pain that’s surrounded it.  I didn’t know how to announce my pregnancy to my friends or those who follow my blog but I knew it had to come out sooner or later.  My life is evolving.  It’s growing into something I never planned.  I planned to be pregnant a year before I was but it took a year for me to get pregnant.  I planned to have a 6 month old right now, not to be pregnant with my second child because my first died.  I planned to get pregnant the month we started trying again.  But life doesn’t always go the way we plan and I have to believe that’s for a good reason.

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I am truly sorry if my announcement has caused a tinge of pain to any of my followers or friends.  I’m hoping that isn’t the case, but I was afraid it may happen.  Those feelings are okay and they’re acceptable.  I understand, I’ve felt it before.  The pain of seeing that someone else is pregnant while I am not.  I know that feeling.  I’ve been happy for that person and sad for myself.  Loathing the fact that they can have happiness again and I’m just not there yet.  Avoiding their blogs and focusing on others that are still in my shoes.  If it’s easier for some to not follow my blog at this moment in time, I’m okay with that because I understand.

My blog is about my journey through the stillbirth of my son and that will not change.  My son is the reason I created this blog.  My son is the reason we are having another child so quickly.  My son is the reason I’m a mom.

Reading blogs of others in similar life circumstances has helped me tremendously through my deep, deep sorrow and helps me today as my grief comes and goes.  The community we have here has help me feel less alone, feel more sane, and has help me feel more me again.  For that, I thank all of you!  Your support has been amazing!

I’m hoping to jump into new writing.  Writing of my experiences of life after death where our second baby can bring renewed happiness and renewed strength.  I write that hoping that this is all roses and butterflies but I know that’s not the case.  I’m happy and sad, excited and scared.  I know this will be a long road until a baby is safe in my arms – breathing.  This is my life and this is my journey!

How People Treat me Differently (after the Death of a Child)

Today I feel like I need a little venting session on the unfair realities of the death of a child.  I’m feeling a little feisty and want to write my feelings out about how people have treated me differently since my son died.

People don’t want to talk about my child.  Whether they are uncomfortable talking about death or they don’t want to hurt my feelings by bringing it up, people usually don’t want to talk about anything past the initial “what happened”.  It’s so frustrating.  I feel like so many people “cared” in the beginning and wanted to know what happened and how I was feeling, then they dropped off the face of the earth.  It’s like a slap in the face.  Did they only want to know what happened so they could talk (gossip) to others about me?  I want to shout to the world that I have a son.  I’m proud of him.  I carried him for his whole life and now that he’s gone, no one wants to talk about him.

People don’t want to hear my pregnancy experience.  I was talking to a lady at work who’s pregnant and she was chatting about normal pregnancy things.  When I chimed in about my experience with that same thing she was experiencing, she got visibly uncomfortable, like my experience was jaded because my child died.  My pregnancy was totally normal and healthy.  Don’t make me feel uncomfortable for sharing those great memories.  Also, people don’t want to ask you about your experiences.  Again, I don’t know if they just don’t want to bring up potentially painful memories, but I experienced pregnancy and birth, please don’t leave me out of the conversation because the end result wasn’t the same as yours.

People treat the birth differently.  When anyone in my department at work has a child, as a group gift, they are given a necklace with the child’s name and birth date.  I was looking forward to this while I was pregnant!  But, did I get one?  No, and I’m upset about it.  Why am I forgotten or left out?  You may wonder, well, what did she get then?  A plant and an Edible Arrangement.  Because I’d much rather have a plant and fruit when my child dies rather than a beautiful necklace that I can wear and remember my child by (sense the sarcasm?).

People assume I should be “over it” by now.  Many people have been so great to me, I want to start with that!  However some you can see get uncomfortable when you talk about your child, their life, and their death.  Yes, sometimes I still cry when I talk about him.  No, I will never be over the fact that my child died.  I live a new life now and I’m not the same I used to be.  Just like if my child lived, I would not be the same I was before children.

People whisper about me.  I can hear their whispers.  You’re not protecting me with your whispers, you’re making it more like a secret than reality.  You make my life seem more gossipy than protecting me from hurt.  I was getting a pedicure with my mother-in-law one day and afterwards her hairstylist came up to her with excitement, “OH, are you a grandma yet?  Did she have the baby?”  My mother-in-law just whispered, told her to ask someone else at the spa about it, pushed it aside, and they continued with another conversation.    After a great afternoon with her getting pampered, I got in my car and started bawling.  It doesn’t make me feel better to whisper about me.  Say it as it is!  My child died.  I’m okay with people saying that.  It’s not a secret!

9 Things NOT to Say to a Bereaved Parent, and 8 Things to Say

Most people have the best intentions when they are trying to comfort you while you’re grieving.  I know that!  However, sometimes the words just don’t translate well.  If you said something like this to me, please know, I’m not upset that you said this!  I know your intentions were good!

You’ll be a great mom someday!  Guess what, I am a mom!  A great on at that!  Just because my baby didn’t come home from the hospital with me doesn’t mean I’m not a mom.  If a child died at age 6, does that mean that woman is no longer a mother?  I created this being, I carried him, and I will always be his mom!  

You’re a spring chicken, you’ll have more kids.  First off, I wanted this child!  More children cannot replace the one you’ve lost.  Just because I’m young or just because I can have more kids, doesn’t make me feel better about the one I lost.  Secondly, there’s no guarantee that I’ll have more kids.  You don’t know if it took a month, a year, or 5 rounds of IVF to have this child.

Something went wrong, babies don’t just die.  There was no explanation of my son’s death during labor.  Nothing went wrong, nothing could have been done differently.  And if something could have been done differently, I will never know because that’s not the reality of what happened and I refuse to dwell on the “what ifs”.

If something was wrong with him, it’s better it happened when it did than finding him in his crib a few days later.  Either scenario is awful, but I would have loved to have seen my baby alive and interacting with me.  Even if it was just for a few short days.

Are you going to sue the doctors?  I had a few people ask me this.  I thought it was such a silly questions and frankly, none of their business if we were planning to sue.  This is so irrelevant to the death of my child and felt more like a bit a gossip they wanted to spread if the answer was “yes”.

I know how you feel.  No one truly knows how you feel even if they’ve been in the same situation.  No death, no grief is equal.  Tread lightly when telling people you know how they feel, every situation is different.  However, it is comforting to know that people share similar grief.  I find comfort in knowing that I’m not in this alone.

I can’t imagine the pain you feel.  Please don’t imagine it, it’s awful!  And please don’t remind me how painful it is.

You’re so strong, I would never be that strong!  When life throws things like this at you, you have no choice.  And quite honestly, I feel weak, I cry at random things, and I yearn for my baby.  I don’t feel strong, nor do I feel the need to be strong.

Something similar happened to so and so, but their baby lived.  It is in no way comforting to know that something similar happened to someone else, but their baby lived and mine died.  If you have a similar story like this, please keep it to yourself.

Instead try letting the person know that you care for them and the person who died.

I’m sorry.  Period.

You’ve been in my prayers.  Some don’t like this because people have different religions, but to me, it felt good knowing that I was in people’s prayers.

I think of you often.  It was nice for me to know that people were thinking of me during this hard time in my life.

Can I see pictures?  This was the best for me!!  I only had 2 friends who actually asked to see photos.  Most of the time I was asking people if they wanted to see pictures.  I love showing pictures of my baby to people, I don’t get the opportunity to do that enough.  He’s perfect and I will never tire of showing people how cute he is or looking at them myself!

He is beautiful/precious/handsome/adorable/etc.  This hits me so hard when it is said to me!  Yes, people initially told me after I showed them pictures, but one friend did out of the blue.  It was about two months after Joshua died and we were out to eat with some friends and their baby.  I was oogling over their baby and said, “he’s so cute!”  And she immediately responded, “Joshua was beautiful too!”  She couldn’t have said anything more meaningful to me.

He was very special.  Thank you, I think so too!

I’m here.  Though this is usually a passive way of helping people, it’s nice to hear.

I remember.  People are there immediately following a death but it seems they quickly dive back into their busy lives.  To a bereaved parent, this can come across as forgetting the baby who has died.  Weeks, months, years down the road, mention the baby.  Say the baby’s name.  Remember key days and reach out.  You have no idea what an impact this makes!

Beginning of the Journey

I’m starting this blog to hopefully help someone along their journey of stillbirth.  And, in part, to help myself along my own journey of stillbirth.  After the unexpected stillbirth of my son in October, I was lost.  Hopeless.  Angry.  I frantically Googled “stillbirth blogs” and spent hours sobbing through others’ blogs.  I still do.  But during the days and weeks after his birth and death, the blogs gave me comfort.

Comfort in knowing that I’m truly not alone.

Comfort in seeing that people have gone through stillbirth and come out of it okay.

In the first weeks, I felt so alone.  None of my close friends had gone through stillbirth (thankfully) and tried their best to comfort me, but no one comforted me best than those who’d been through it.  There’s a bond you have with someone who has shared a similar situation with you, whether it’s bonding through a disease, an accomplishment, or death.  I had about a dozen coworkers, friends of friends, or family of friends who came to me in the days after we lost Joshua telling me how the same thing happened to them.

I had a perfect pregnancy.  Sure, I was sick in the beginning, but I loved it because I was pregnant.  There’s nothing I wanted more in life than to be a mom.  Since I was little, I knew that was my calling in life.  A mother.  A nurturer.  Someone my babes could count on to love and support them.

I wouldn’t complain about any sickness or pain because pregnancy was truly the happiest I’ve ever been.  People would ask me how I was feeling and I’d smile, “GREAT!”  Because I was happy, I was great!  Then my husband would look at me and tell people the truth, “you throw up every morning!”  Every kick, every hiccup was a warm welcome to the fact that I was growing my own child.  I could not wait until my little munchkin was in my arms.

The night before I was to be induced (one week after my due date), we went to the hospital in labor.  6 cm when we arrived.  The doctors told me I had about one hour per centimeter to go, so I geared up for another 4 hours of pain.  Then came the pushing.  I pushed for another 4 hours and at 5:38 AM my baby was born.  “It’s a BOY!!”  I’ll never forget that.  We didn’t find out the gender.  I was in a fog.  So happy the pushing was over, so happy the baby was here.  Then the baby nurses were calling the respiratory unit and trying to get his heart to start up again.  What was going on?  This wasn’t happening.  I prayed and prayed.  “God, bring him back.  God, please give the doctors the knowledge what to do.  God, please give us a miracle.”  After a half hour, the head nurse came to my side and told me, “there’s nothing more we can do, I’m so sorry”.

Somewhere between the last push and the outside world, our baby died.  Born into God’s arms instead of mine.  All in one day, I was the happiest and saddest of my life.  Looking at my baby made me so incredibly happy!  Joshua was mine, I made him.  He was perfect.  A perfect combination of my husband and myself.  And knowing he was gone made my world fall apart.  Knowing I had to leave him at the hospital instead of taking him home.  Knowing I was only holding his body instead of his whole self.

Our firstborn.  Our son.  The babe I only got to know inside of me for 41 weeks.  The perfect child whom I will meet again someday in Heaven.  Mommy loves you!