Gosh, where do I start?! Depends on the day, the hour–maybe “minute” would be more accurate. I feel like I have a rubber band ball bouncing around inside of me. I know that probably sounds silly, but it’s true. Rubber band balls begin with a core… for me, that’s made up of our experience… the second we lost Rylan. Then wrapped around that core you have all of these rubber bands that get stretched around it. Some are skinny, some are wide. They are made up of so many different colors. For me, those bands represent the hundreds of feelings that are stirring inside of me. They are all balled up in one big, chaotic bunch. If you’re someone like me than you will agree that anything can bring one of those emotions to the surface. A person, a place, a thing…it’s as quick and as simple as hitting a switch. It can often make you think you’re crazy. But rest assured, mom or dad… you are not crazy. I don’t think that any “normal” human being will ever be prepared for the difficulties that parents have to endure following the loss of their child. And, I’m not talking about the initial difficulties like saying goodbye, leaving the hospital, and arranging funeral services. I’m talking about the days that follow. The months and years that follow. I’m talking about what happens when the services are over, and people–friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors, go home. Those people, for the most part, share your loss and sadness initially and even become a part of your experience to an extent. They sympathize and try to help out as best they can but at some point, pretty quickly, they move on with their lives. I mean, I get it, they have to move forward with their lives. Each individual has their own set of responsibilities and priorities to tend to in life. They can’t very well sit beside you holding your hand and being sad forever. Plus, being around sadness and loss sucks. It’s uncomfortable. It’s a complete downer. Most people can’t even handle being involved in the initial experience. But here’s what I’m trying to get at–people like my husband and I can’t step away from the loss of our child. We are living that loss every day. We weren’t given a choice. We can’t outrun it. It will be there whether we’re at home, twenty steps from his empty crib or sunbathing far off on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. And, if you’re anything like me, there are daily reminders of our loss all around us. The ironic part is that those reminders are the people, places, and objects that once made our hearts pound with excitement and joy. It’s excruciating. You can’t go anywhere or do anything without being reminded of babies, parents, or families. You watch your siblings with their children and wonder why you can’t have the same thing. That’s super difficult because you would never wish this experience on anyone else, certainly not your family. It’s just that you want what they have so badly. Advertising is the worst. Once you’ve signed up for your baby registry you can bet that your home mailbox (and email) will flood with diaper coupons and formula samples forever. The Babycenter app on your iPhone that once helped you eagerly count down the days to parenthood is now haunting your email inbox with tips for “fun with your new baby” that you’ll never need. You flip on the television and see families splattered across most commercials and almost every sitcom. If you feel that those things are harmful to your health please disconnect the cable for a month before any holiday, especially Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Better yet, just cancel it altogether–there’s always some stupid holiday to celebrate. Then there’s outdoor advertising. I’ll admit that I exceeded the speed limit (significantly) once, just to save my husband from noticing the image of a father holding his baby adhered to a local billboard. I couldn’t believe it when I drove beside a truck on the jersey expressway that featured a group of doctors standing beside a mother holding her newborn. The luck. And music. Music can be enough of a trigger on it’s own. You can flip on Pandora and hear an ad for Babies-R-Us, a local hospital maternity ward, or a new TV show about fathers. Trust me, I’ve heard them all and now pay $3.99 a month to avoid them. Don’t even think about picking up an “US Weekly” for a light-hearted read while you’re sitting under the dryer at the hair salon. Take my word for it–the words “pregnant”, “mom,” and “dad” are on every other page, usually associated with people that are less than role models. It will only raise the perpetual question that you ask yourself every day–”Why me? Why us?” Witnessing people like Snookie or Kim Kardashion wear their children like accessories is angering. But it goes beyond famous people and shameless product promotions. It can be just every day activities. You can look out your window in the neighborhood across the street and see a mom pushing her baby in a stroller or a dad biking beside his son. Going out to a restaurant can spark a range of emotions–you either boil inside at the sight of a parent ignoring their infant child or hold back the tears at the sight of a mom and dad smiling and cooing at their newborn. It’s impossible to avoid these things but you can try to limit the amount of tough experiences you encounter in one day. And, know that it’s okay to do that. Like I said before, outside of your significant other (hopefully), most people in your life have already stepped off of the sad train. They don’t feel the same way or understand your pain the way you do. Just remember that you know what is okay and healthy for you and how much you can handle. It’s okay to test the waters sometimes but don’t rush into situations that will harm your healing. If your family and friends love you they will accept your decisions. They may not understand how you feel, but they will accept it. Believe me, I’m no expert–I’m just here to share my personal feelings and experiences with you. When people ask how we’re doing I always say “hanging in there.” Grief is a gradual process with no right or wrong way, and no determined length of time for feeling better. My husband and I wake up every morning and get out of bed. I think that is a huge accomplishment. If you can do anything beyond that, than give yourself a gold star… you deserve it! I feel like my husband and I are different people than we were before. Some of the things that use to bring us joy or feel familiar feel different now–and I think that’s okay. I say, just keep trying until you find things that make you feel good or happy. If you can do it together, that’s even better. The grief counselor that we found said something I’d like to share–she said something to the effect of, “Grieving is a process that changes often, even daily. What makes you happy or feels right today may not feel the same tomorrow or next week. That’s okay.” I think that is a great insight. She also said that doing activities that use both the left and right side of your brain are good for toning down the sadness or anxiety you may feel. I think she’s right. My husband and I have tried a lot of things (even before she said that) to help us along this bumpy road. Some of the most enjoyable have been: taking an evening walk together (evening is good because less people are out and it can be very peaceful), swimming (great exercise and perfect for these hot summer days), coloring (yes, in a kids coloring book–it’s a no pressure activity, a little funny, and you end up with something nice to place in your baby’s room), seeing a movie (tip: just make sure it’s not a family movie), and mini-golf (again, evenings are great to avoid crowds–and many courses also have batting cages, which are a great way to unload your emotions). Well, that’s all I’ve got for tonight. Please come back soon…
Hi. My name is Megan. I’m a mother. The most fulfilling job a woman can have in life, at least as far as I’m concerned. I have to tell you, though, that being a mother is not an easy job–especially when your child dies before he truly enters the world. My son, Rylan Michael, was born on May 12, 2013, but he was “sleeping,” as people commonly refer to it. He was stillborn. It has been about 40 days since the doctor looked at us and sadly, but plainly, said “I’m sorry, your son has no heartbeat. I’m sorry.” I’m still trying to get my head wrapped around the reality of what happened to my husband and I that day… to what happened to the future we had already planned for ourselves, for our family.
This is what I remember. I attended my last doctor’s appointment on Tuesday, May 7th, early in the morning. I walked in and followed the same routine that pregnant moms are accustom to– I gave a urine sample, had my weight and blood pressure checked (all normal), and was escorted to the exam room. Every week the nurse would ask if I felt my son kicking. As with my entire pregnancy I said, “Not all of the time. My son has his moments but during the day he is pretty mellow, so it’s not out of character to not feel him for lengths of time. I know he’ll tell me when he’s hungry. And he likes to move at night when my husband and I curl up on the couch or in bed.” And that was it. Nobody really had any concerns about what I told them. The doctor asked the same question and I gave the same answer. My belly was the perfect size and we listened to his (very loud) heartbeat. I’m still kicking myself for not recording it on my iPhone that day. The doctor asked if I had any issues and I mentioned the same ailments I had for the past few months. Aches and pains in my “lower regions” (which they suspected was a “split pubic bone”–yes, it is as painful as it sounds) and swelling, especially in my hands and feet. Although, I do remember telling the doctor that my feet weren’t as bad that day–in fact, they looked better than they had in months. The doctor said that I wasn’t dilated at all and that if nothing happened before my next appointment (Monday, May 13th) that they would schedule an induction at my next appointment. I called my husband when I left to give him the rundown that everything was just fine. My husband attended all of my appointments with the exception of the last two which were in a further location and closer to my job. (In hindsight, I wish I would have made the appointments at the location closer to my home, just so he would have been there to hear Rylan’s heartbeats.) Anyway, the week moved forward like any other. I went to work during the day and into the evening (my job is pretty demanding of my time) and went home to be with my husband at night. Being so uncomfortable I made my husband spend most nights watching bad TV on the couch beside me while we ate dinner. On Thursday, in bed, I remember Rylan kicking up a storm and even made Chris feel it because it was so nuts. Friday at work I tried to get things in order before I left because my heart told me that I would have my baby on Sunday–on Mother’s Day. Saturday was rainy. I remember Rylan moving when we got up in the morning and I stopped Chris from his plans (as usual) to feel my belly. I had an appointment at the hair salon. I wanted to look good for my baby–plus, I knew after he was born I probably wouldn’t go for awhile. Afterward, I came home. I helped Chris arrange some of the flowers on our patio. We had dinner. I had some work to catch up on at night and wanted to “tie up lose ends” with work before I had my baby (since I thought it would be the next day). While I was on the computer I felt really crampy and wondered if this was “it.” I didn’t know what contractions would feel like. Some say it’s pain all over your belly, but mine were more like awful menstrual cramps. After an hour, I knew that it was the beginning of labor.
I called the emergency line for the doctors office and the woman on the phone said she’d have the on-call doctor ring me. I was unsure and nervous and to be honest, the on-call doctor was less than nice on the phone and told me that I didn’t sound that far along and I should wait before going to the hospital (which I’ve always heard is pretty common). Chris and I curled up on our spare room bed and listened to music on the computer. I remember us looking at each other and sharing the excitement that our baby would be here with us soon. After awhile the pains became more intense and I asked Chris to get his bag together and take our stuff to the car. While this was happening it became much more painful. We left for the hospital and called for the doctor again. When we got to the hospital I was having trouble standing and walking. When we finally got to a room my water broke. I was attached to the machines for monitoring and the nurses listened for the heartbeat. I remember not hearing it and watching them fumble around a little. I believe the doctor followed, and again, seemed worried. I believe I asked them what was wrong, even though in my head and heart, I knew. My husband and I held hands and heard the news together. If it weren’t for the terrible pain I was physically in, I don’t know how I would have reacted. I mostly felt stunned by what the doctor told us. I felt like it was a terrible nightmare that I would wake up from… in all of the office visits, in the child prep class we took just weeks before, when you talk to tons of people who have had children… not one person mentions the possibility of your baby not surviving–certainly not when they are 2 days shy of their due date. Not that it would have made it easy, per say, but I feel like someone knocked the wind out of me–I never saw that coming. After a lot of pain, an epidural, and a little time to rest, my body was ready. With the help and reassurance of my amazing husband, I gave birth to our baby boy.
It was Mother’s Day, as I had predicted. What a bitter sweet day. We finally met our son. He was beautiful. His face was so peaceful that he really did look like he was sleeping. We got to hold him and the hospital let us keep him as long as we wanted to… it gave us time. For that, I am so thankful. Holding him felt so good. I daydream about that feeling. I will always remember how soft his skin was… I’ve noticed that a lot of babies have these little bumps on their face or arms when they’re born… Rylan did not have even one imperfection. He had the shape of his daddy’s eyes and my lips. I wish we could have seen the color of his eyes. I often wonder about them. Chris was able to hold Ry that night while he slept. I just stayed awake all night watching them. A few friends and family were able to come and meet our baby–and hold him–which was so nice. In the short time we had him physically with us, we were able to make some memories. We took photos. We took video of ourselves holding him and talking to him. My husband read a story. It wasn’t completely easy, but I’m so glad we were able to do those things and have some record of our time together. To make memories that we will hold onto for the rest of our lives.
I will leave our goodbyes for my next post, as well as the arrangements we made for the services. The goodbye was difficult but we were lucky to have so many of our friends and family involved, helping us to prepare and ensure that we could say goodbye the way we wanted–to honor our son and take care of him as best we could. To make it special.
I miss him so very much.