Tag Archives: stillbirth

What to expect when you’re expecting…the worst.

I don’t believe that there are any mother-to-be books out there that enlighten readers on the darker, unforeseen happenings that can occur during pregnancy. I’m almost sure of it. My husband and I took a trip to Barnes and Noble recently and as I stood uncomfortably in front of the “Parenting” section I read the covers of several books that touted key insights to child planning, successful deliveries, and “beautiful beginnings.” I remember paging through a few of them during my first pregnancy and don’t remember any chapters that discussed the possibility of losing a child. Nobody warned me that you could reach 40 weeks, progress into natural labor, and leave the hospital empty-handed. I thought the most difficult part of pregnancy would be getting pregnantwhich, in our case, ended up being the easiest part. Not once did I see the word “stillbirth” in writing, nor did I hear anyone speak it out loud, before May 12, 2013. Since that time I’ve learned that 1 in 160 pregnancies in the United States result in stillbirth. Unlike what I’ve heard from most medical professionals, the occurrence of stillbirth sounds far from “rare” to me.

While 37 weeks pregnant with our second baby and full of uncertainty, I scanned the shelves for “what to expect in the first year of parenthood” books. I contemplated my upcoming purchase for 20 minutes as I stood there in a frozen gaze, covers of happy moms and dads holding their newborns staring back at me. I may as well have been standing in the “fiction” section for how surreal those images were at that moment. Here I am with only a short time before active parenthood finds its way into my arms and I still can’t believe that it’s 100% achievable. I’m actually afraid to buy a book that has anything to do with planning because I’m superstitious that my small purchase (and tiny shred of confidence) will bring about a flop in the universe, causing us to lose another child. I wrestled with my craziness for awhile, grabbed up one of the well-known titles, and tucked it under my arm. Another obstacle overcome.

It doesn’t seem fair. Not that we lost a child. Not that we lose more than our children. We lose our way. We lose hope, and for some, the will to live. Connections to people we love—to the world around us. We lose ourselves—who we thought we were. In the face of loss we must rally ourselves to keep moving—and do it with a forced smile. We sober up to the fact that life can hand you rotten limes and still expect you to make lemonade. That’s how I feel at this moment. While personal experience urges me to approach this pregnancy with the utmost fear and uncertainty, life is asking me to proceed with confidence and faith.

Wow, Life, you’re asking a hell of a lot. Count me in.

Hop to it!

I wanted to send my sincere congratulations to the Hopper family, who just welcomed their 2nd son into the world, Samuel Hudson. The Hoppers said goodbye to their baby, Luke, last year, a few days after we lost Rylan. I have followed their story from the beginning and feel so happy to witness this new joy in their lives. Thank you for sharing the highs and lows of your lives with others and for giving other grieving parents hope that active parenthood is not out of reach.

Congratulations Mom and Dad Hopper. I know that you’ll appreciate every second with Sam. 🙂

For those of you interested in getting to know this lovely couple and their family, please visit littlelightluke.wordpress.com.

Turning the page.

You can’t have light without darkness. Black without white. Nor good without bad. Life is a balancing act.

Saying that our first holiday without Rylan was difficult is an understatement. Last Christmas we were lucky enough to have our 20 week ultrasound a few days before the 25th…on Christmas morning we hurriedly sat ourselves in front of the tree to tear open the envelope that revealed we were having a son. We were so excited that we tried to prop the camera on the couch in order to record ourselves opening it. What an amazing gift. Not only were we blessed with a child, but also with the first boy in a sea of girls in our family. We thought that nobody could top our gift, our announcement, last year. We held onto the news until we could tell our families and even recorded that too. I came across that video over the past few months and watched it. It killed me for so many reasons. I look back at the couple in the video—the couple that looks and sounds a lot like me and my husband—and ache inside because I feel like they were so innocent and naive. It’s like I’m observing complete strangers. I watch and feel so sad for them. They have no idea.

All of the joy and excitement that was, is now just a faded memory—something that barely feels real. If someone told me about those experiences today, without proof, I’d likely tell them it’s fiction. But Chris and I have been left with plenty. We have ultrasound images to prove that I was pregnant. We have video to prove that other people knew we were pregnant. We have receipts from our baby registry stuffed in my nightstand. Photos and decor from two beautiful baby showers on a shelf in his room. I have a few recordings of Rylan’s heartbeat stored in the memo app on my phone. We have cards wishing us well for our future as a family. We have a basement full of toys and furniture. A nursery full of baby boy clothes carefully placed in drawers and suspended from tiny hangers in the closet. There are children’s books sitting quietly in baskets. Terrycloth towels neatly folded in the closet and baby shampoos stowed away in a bathroom drawer that I just can’t bring myself to clean out. It’s like we’re still waiting for him to come home. Wishing he’d come back to us. Hoping. Or maybe we’re just afraid that changing our surroundings will erase the only part of him we have left. What do you do when all you have are the memories that were suppose to be?

Parents that lose children find so much is left behind, while so little remains to hang onto each day. We do our best to cope. We try to honor our children, by showcasing the love that we have for them in some way. We try to find ways to keep them a part of us and as close to our hearts as we can. We have a picture of Rylan on the dresser in our bedroom and another in our living room. My husband and I wear necklaces every day that are engraved with Rylan’s name and the date of his birth. They were a gift from my parents, given the week of his funeral services. We have a few other gifts—necklaces, bracelets—that were also given to us that we wear in honor of his memory, but not every day. We have tattoos to keep him close and to give us the ability to open up and talk about our son to others. We’ve made donations to children’s charities, in his name, which has been so important to us. To know that our love for Rylan is helping other babies and children is amazing. It’s a way to honor his life and his memory.

All of the above are helpful and good, but they don’t replace or remove the heartache and emptiness that I feel without my baby. The longing to take care of him. It goes beyond “wanting” to be a parent. Once you are a parent you can’t shake the need to be a parent, whether your child is physically here or not. That is one of the hardest parts of this experience. It takes me to a place that is beyond sorrow. It makes me feel like a failure. It makes me jealous of other families, other parents—especially the ones who seem to take for granted what they have or what a miracle they’ve witnessed. When a baby cries in public I want to get out of my seat to calm them—but really it’s just the part of me who needs to hold and comfort my own baby. When I hear a child cry out for his mommy I feel stabbed in the heart because I know that I will never hear the same words from my own son. Every baby that is born healthy makes me wonder “why does it work out for them and not for us?” or “what did I do wrong?” The other night, after receiving the joyful email that my co-worker successfully delivered her baby boy, I stopped at the grocery store on my way home to pick up dinner. I pulled into the first space to find out that it was a “reserved for expectant mothers” space. After some choice words, I backed out and took a spot a few lines down in another row. I haven’t stopped thinking about that sign, though. Maybe I should have stayed in that spot, after all. The words seem so accurate in hindsight. Deep inside my soul I continue to be an expectant mother. I’m expecting to share parenthood with my husband—to be a mom and for my son to exist here in my arms. I know that I sound crazy, and, believe me, I do know what is. But understanding what is doesn’t change what your heart, mind, and body feels should be. If you can’t and don’t want to let go of being a parent to your child, than how do you find a way to loosen the grip? If you can’t loosen the grip, does it mean that it’s a good time to try again?

My husband and I have discussed “trying again” for awhile now. Pretty soon after we lost Rylan, about a month or so, I remember talking about how badly we wanted to be parents—sooner than later. But this kind of grief can be so confusing. At that point I wasn’t sure if my feelings were more about wanting to be a mom, in general, or about the natural need and desire to fulfill my job as Rylan’s mom. I also didn’t want to feel like we were trying to replace Rylan in any way or remedy the depression and despair that has come with his loss. I know full well that nobody could ever replace Rylan or the love that we have for him. I also know that the only bandaid in this situation would be having him back here. Being aware of those things doesnt change the fact that thoughts like those can creep in and make you question your intentions. After months of consideration I can tell you that no matter how much time elapses, I will always fall on both sides of the motherhood coin. I will always want to be Rylan’s mom and feel an urgency to be that now. That is a huge part of what drives my sadness. But I also know that I have and always will want to be a mom, moving forward. And, that is okay. I’m so glad that I finally got there. I do want to try again. I do want Ry to have a younger brother or sister. I do want Chris and I to get a chance at actively being parents—together.

So, here I sit, smack dab in the middle of January 1stand here’s what I know. I know I want to be a mom again. I know I want Chris to be a dad again. I know the road to get there will be bumpy, but for the good of my family I’m willing to get back into the driver’s seat. I won’t lie, I’m fearful of the journeyterrified, actually. But, I have to at least try. I didn’t think that I could survive the past 7 months, but here I sit still writing to you. This year I also want to make some changes. I want to adjust our lifestyle to make family the priority we’ve always wanted it to be—even if it can’t happen overnight. I want to take better care of myself and be a happier person for my family. Do more for others. Do my part in making our life as fulfilled as possible. Lucky for us, we have the best driving force in the world—the love for our beautiful son, Rylan.

Thank you for stopping by…and for being a part of our story so far. My best to you and yours for a happier new year.

Plain and simple.

I want my son back. 

I don’t want Christmas gifts. The only thing on my list this year is the one thing that no one can give me.

I don’t want people to pray for me. I’m not like other people. I don’t feel comforted by prayers, nor do I feel like they do anything for me. I don’t want to offend people who read this who feel differently-and I certainly don’t want to offend the people who’ve been kind enough to make time to pray for our son and for our recovery. I appreciate the sentiment. I think some people say “I’m praying for you” as a way to say “I care about you.” I think it’s a way for people who feel powerless in a situation to do something for the people they care about. I really wish I felt differently about prayer, about faith, and about God right now. It’s hard though. During my pregnancy, and for the first time in my life, I genuinely felt that I opened up my heart to God, my mind to religion, and put my faith in Him— that He would take care of my family. Having that little baby in my belly was really the first time in my life that I can remember having so many people pray for us—and on a regular basis. I suppose I look back now and wonder where my faith in God and all of those prayers really got me. It’s one hell of a devastating place.

I don’t want to swallow my sadness and despair anymore in order to keep up with the daily grind of the work week or the expectations and needs of others. I’m so tired. I just wish I could take the time I need to adjust to what has happened to us and to mourn the loss of my baby. No matter how long it takes.

I don’t want to be subjected to the tons of people who have babies without complications and tragedy. Whose families grow as effortlessly as weeds in a garden. They’re everywhere. Everyone but us. I know that people like us exist—because I’ve read stories and met people over the web—but in daily life it feels like my husband and I are so alone. Being expected to survive this loss shoulder-to-shoulder with a world full of people who are so different than us seems impossible and cruel. I wish that we didn’t have to do it anymore.

I don’t want anyone else to put me on the spot when I least expect it. We had to take our dogs to the vet over the weekend and the vet, although with very good intentions, asked us, “ah, you’re both here, who’s watching the baby?” I just shook my head, no. I’ve already had this conversation with him and he must have forgotten. When he walked out of the room my husband said, “I’m sorry.” I said, “It’s okay.” But it’s not. I’m tired of having to explain what’s happened to us. I’m tired of having to tell people that my son has died. It’s like I’m stabbing myself in the heart. Every time I say it I feel like he’s dying all over again. I’m tired of my husband having to feel bad for me when he sees me in pain. I’m tired of having to feel sorry for him and his pain, too. It’s not fair. We shouldn’t be here. This isn’t how it was suppose to be. 

I don’t want anyone else to tell me how I should feel or what I need to do with regard to my son or “moving on” from his death. Good intentions or not, nobody else knows how I feel. I don’t want to know where you think my son is or why he was taken or that you know he’s in a better place. In my opinion, the only better place he could be is in my arms. I don’t want you to tell me that things will get better or easier. I can’t see that. I don’t feel that. No day that exists without my baby, my son, will ever feel better or easier. Not today, not next year, not ten years from now. It will just feel farther away from the day that I lost him. And, stop telling me that we should have another baby. It’s not the antidote for my pain over Rylan. And, furthermore, you don’t know that the next time we try—if I can make it through nine months of extreme fear—that we will leave the hospital with a living, breathing baby. Yes, this can happen more than once.

I’m sorry to the people who read my blog who are searching out hope. Over time I began to feel a sense of responsibility to try to end my posts on a positive note, when possible—to give others some optimism in their journey—to not let my writings get too dark. But I’ve given this additional thought and believe that my initial need to start this site was to tell our story, in the truest way possible. Obviously, I would still like to help other people and give them something to relate to… but first and foremost I need to be honest. So much of my life is filled with lying about or hiding my true feelings from others—this place, my blog, must be more about truth. How I really feel, even if every post says the same thing over and over. I hope that my readers will understand where I’m coming from and not be pushed away.

Until next time I have only one thing left to say.

I want my son back.

My angel.

Since this nightmare began I’ve tried many things to work through my pain. As you already know, writing is one of them. This is a poem that I wrote about a month after we lost Ry. I debated about sharing it, but I think it still captures how I feel… plus, I haven’t really held much back up to this point so here you go:

Are you an angel in the sky,
adorned with wings of grace?
Barely a comfort as we lie awake,
dreaming of your beautiful face.

I wish we could hold you in our arms,
and trace your perfect skin.
We’d gladly give our world away,
for one more chance to breathe you in.

Our lives just keep on moving,
while our hearts are standing still.
We wonder if the hole you’ve left,
will find a way to fill.

Our love for you will rise each morning,
like the sun that shines so bright.
We’ll carry thoughts of you throughout our days,
and fall asleep to them at night.

We miss you Rylan Michael,
and look forward to the day
when mommy and daddy
to you, will find their way.

Tis the season to be…uncertain.

The holidays are fast approaching and I find myself feeling more and more uncomfortable. Now, to be perfectly honest, I’m somebody who dreads parts of the holiday season during an average year. My parents have been divorced since I was 8 years old so I’ve been doing to “split the holidays” dance for as long as I can remember… and keep in mind, that was a waltz between two families. Now add my husband’s side and my sisters in-laws to the mix (who always extend an invite) and you can imagine the tug-of-war and guilt that goes along with devising the holiday plans for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and just about every other holiday that people find important. I’ve tried everything from eating multiple dinners in one day to splitting visits across 3 days to scheduling everyone at our house without overlap (which did not really work or eliminate the stress as I’d hoped it would). Either way you feel like someone or some group is being slighted–including yourself. I find myself trying so hard to please everyone else that my own wants are pushed aside. I literally begin stressing about the holidays in September. And, as the families know that we have many to choose from, they also start trying to solidify plans with us earlier to catch us first. I’m not sure if that is intentional or if that’s just how it feels to me after all of this time.

Besides the big questions around “where do we go?” I find that venturing out into public becomes a nightmare around the holidays. People drive erratically and fight over parking spaces in high volume shopping areas. They push each other over to get the last fad-of-the-year toy on the shelf. Checkout lines are a mile long. I always hold off to the last minute then try to knock out all of my shopping in 3 days.

Thanksgiving has never been my holiday. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem giving thanks—I just wish that the turkey and cranberry sauce could be replaced with lasagna and spaghetti and the football—well, that could just disappear all together as far as I’m concerned! Having said all of that, there are many things that I love about Christmas. The lights draped across my neighbor’s rooftops. The piney smell of a real Christmas tree in my living room. Listening to holiday music while I curl up with my husband and dogs on the couch, staring at the lights and decor placed in every corner of our home. Hot cocoa with peppermint and marshmallows. Giving gifts to the people that I care about. Attending church on Christmas Eve–especially when I can hear the chiming of the bell choir playing classic carols. Having our annual backyard bonfire, which has become a tradition among our family and friends.

The holidays are going to be so different than I imagined. I know it may sound selfish, but I felt like this year was our year. I’ve spent so much time sharing in our family’s Christmas celebrations–going to their homes and being a part of their lives. So much time watching the world around us enjoy the holidays with their kids. So much time wishing it could be us and feeling like it would never happen. Then we got pregnant. I thought that this year was going to be our time. To spend Christmas at our home as our own family unit. To begin our own traditions. To share memories that were completely new and different from anything we’d ever experienced. I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to add that hokey “baby’s first christmas” ornament to our tree. To make and hang Rylan’s stocking. To have people as interested in sharing in our family as we do in theirs. I couldn’t wait to hold my baby in my arms while sitting by the tree at night. I couldn’t wait to read him Christmas books from my childhood. I couldn’t wait to bundle him up in cute, holiday outfits and show people how proud I am to be his mommy. I wanted to join that group that sends family photo cards attached to update letters about their family members and what they’ve been involved in this year.

Now, I don’t know what to do. I don’t really feel like doing anything. If I could I’d probably run to Hawaii or lock myself in my room and hibernate until after May 12th.  I considered sending Christmas cards that double as the thank you’s that I haven’t yet sent. Well, you have to write them out to send them, I suppose. I think about wanting to do them, I just haven’t had the emotional energy to actually follow through. So maybe that’s a good option. I want to avoid everything-especially the families that I will encounter in every store, every hallway, every restaurant, every public bathroom, on every t.v. commercial, catalogue, and hallmark movie…among others. As far as traveling to the homes of friends and family this year, I just don’t want to. I feel torn. I want to see everyone–I love them–but at the same time want to be at home–alone. I feel like I put on a brave face for people every single day–at work, for family-birthday celebrations, for visits with friends. Over the holidays I want to be able to feel when I feel, as silly as it sounds. I want to be able to cry the second the sadness makes its way to my eyes–with no discomfort or worry about what others will think or with concern over how uncomfortable it makes them feel. I want to sleep all day if I’m tired. I want the quality time with my immediate family that I expected–even if it has to be without Ry. I want to have some good memories with Chris this year–I think that’s very important. We actually talked about going away. Traveling to some small, Christmas town. Escaping the norm this season–after all, the norm isn’t our life right now. We’ve contemplated the idea…as Christmas towns will surely harbor large amounts of family festivities. So who knows if that will happen. Plus, I work Monday, Tuesday, and Friday that week. Doesn’t exactly make it easy to take a long weekend. Chris and I have talked and decided that we want people to donate money in Rylan’s name in place of buying us gifts. It was Chris’ idea and I think it’s a great one. We just have to nail down some charities that we feel would be best–all we know is that we want it to benefit children. I would also like to find some way to volunteer this season–to help someone/people in need. I’m not sure how yet, but I definitely feel the urge to do something positive for others.

Well, it’s late and I’ve found this post to be a bit of a ramble. I guess my point is that I need the holidays to be considerate of us this year, and I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I want to acknowledge our son’s life even if he’s not in our arms. I want to be comfortable. Spend time at home. To be able to keep our plans unplanned–flexible to change as little or as often as needed to accommodate our aching hearts. I want to have some smiles. I want to feel warm. I want to feel loved.

Before I go I have just one thing left to say.

I miss Rylan so much.

Come back soon!

This is just a quick heads up to anyone who stops by… my computer recently crashed for the second time and between work and a commute, finding a time and place to write has been challenging. As soon as I find a solution, I will be back to blogging so please continue to check in every once in awhile. Sharing my thoughts with others has been a great part of my healing process—and knowing that my words may be helping others in some way is also a huge plus for me. I have a lot stirring around inside so I definitely plan to return ASAP.

Thank you for stopping… and wishing you well from afar. 🙂

Surreality.

The word above may not grace the pages of a dictionary but it sure describes the life I’ve been living since I lost Rylan. This experience continues to feel like a dream, although I know full well that our loss is real. In fact, I’ve never felt anything more real. The loss is so deep in the core of my being that the weight can physically be felt in my chest sometimes. I can almost feel the surge of emotions that I carry rising to the surface the way that you can feel your eyes well up with tears just before they fall down your your cheeks. The only things I’m sure of on a daily basis are that my emotions and daily obstacles will be unpredictable. People continue to commend me on my strength. On how well I carry myself. They’ve said that from the beginning. That comment has brought many thoughts to mind. One, that I’m not strong. People aren’t with me every second of the day. If I had a choice I’d be weeping and telling my story to anyone with a heart. Two, it’s not a matter of strength–it’s that I’ve been given no choice, no other options besides my son dying and having to continue on without him. Although I do agree that getting up each day is a personal success. Three, I’ve never felt more weak. Tired, both physically and mentally. I want to be taken care of so badly. I’d love to just slink back into my childhood to be looked after by my mom. To climb up beside her, lay on her lap so that she could stroke my hair and help me to sleep without the need of over-the-counter meds. I don’t want to have to play the role of the mindful, responsible adult who goes to work, pays bills, and attends children’s parties and other uncomfortable public or social affairs. Some days I’d like to sell my house, quit my job, and move somewhere that doesn’t include any memories of pregnancy. A place where nobody knew me as a soon-to-be mom. If I can’t hit rewind and save the day for my family than I think I might I want to hit the restart button on my life instead. But, creating a new life takes energy that I just don’t feel I can muster up these days. And the truth is, most people in my current life treat me as if I never even had a child. If I moved away I’d probably talk more about my son with people than I do now.

What do you do when you can barely remember who you were before pregnancy? When you can’t get back who you were during pregnancy? That innocent, naive girl that wasn’t clued-in to the fact that not all pregnancies end in living babies and growing families. Who do you become when you’re not sure who you want to be? Or, when the only thing you want to be is a mom and it may not even be an option anymore? For now, I’m just taking one day at a time and trying to remind myself that in time the above answers will come. And, hoping that someday my dreams of being an active mom and sharing parenthood with my husband will happen. For now I’m just coping with the need to have Ry back so I can be his mom.

I’ve recently thought about the fact that many tough life experiences are characterized by stages. When you lose a child, I would assume that those stages are different for everyone. As unique as fingerprints. If I had to classify my journey so far I would describe them as the following:

Stage 1: Confusion

Trying to comprehend what happened in the hours that followed the announcement that my son had died. Insert that word again…surreality. I’m not sure that there is anything worse than preparing nine long months (or more for those people who had to work hard to get pregnant) for an amazing, beautiful, breathing baby only to have it all taken away in the blink of an eye. When  they told us I thought, “This can’t be happening… Am I awake? Can this really happen? What did they say? Can’t they be wrong? Wait, NO, this can’t happen. This is not how it’s suppose to be. But he was ok. I didn’t know. I… didn’t know. How could I not know?!” From one thought to another to another I went back and forth in my head and spent a lot of time praying until we delivered him. He didn’t cry. He didn’t move. To this day I still don’t understand how it could’ve happened and I don’t image I ever will.

Stage 2: Auto-pilot

From the delivery room through the funeral arrangements you are expected to set aside your devastation, sadness, and disbelief long enough to make one tough decision after another. The only way I think we make it through is by being on a sort of auto-pilot, so-to-speak. You know, like when you hear stories about how someone seriously injured in an accident can somehow manage to drag themselves for miles, if necessary, to find help… it’s that adrenaline thing that kicks in. Those chemicals your body releases which allow you to put your pain aside long enough to get through even the toughest experience or pain of your life. The people who surround us at that time often mistake strength for cruise control. Something in us just takes over. For me, wanting to do right for Rylan while he was still “here” added to my adrenaline.

Stage 3: Shock

The decisions and formalities are over. People leave and we are left with only ourselves and our sadness. Our auto function switches off. All of those repressed feelings rise quickly to the surface. I think this forces us into a state of shock. Some would call it denial. I think it’s the time when we must come to the realization that losing our child really happened. That there’s nothing we can do to change it. We can’t prevent it now. This was a time when I reflected on the months leading up to Rylan’s death. The days and hours and minutes before  it happened. The time when I tried to figure out when it happened and why I didn’t know. At this time, when I truly began grieving, I blamed myself for what happened–constantly. For working too many hours. For what what I ate. The fact that I colored my hair. For not getting enough rest. That I forgot to take those horse-pill vitamins some mornings. Anything that could explain what the doctors couldn’t. I think that I will always carry guilt that something I did or did not do could have been the cause of my son’s death. And, that I’m his mom and I was suppose to protect him and didn’t. I know that’s being a bit hard on myself–because I would have tried to save him from pain and dying if I’d known something was wrong–but I still blame myself, nonetheless. In any case, I think this “shock” stage lasts for weeks. During this time I felt like I was in a kind of zombie state. Perfectly content just sitting and staring off into nowhere. Moving about in a slow shuffle. Outer appearances giving false perceptions that I was like everyone else, while the rest of me felt numb. Food didn’t taste as good and hunger took a hiatus. I only ate because I felt I had to. During this stage it was important to me to be in Rylan’s nursery. The only place that I could get close to him–by being around his things. His clothes, his bed, his toys, and especially his books. Chris and I tried to connect somehow. We even sat in there and read books out loud to him. I’d place newly cut flowers on his dresser every day or so. I even talked Chris into coloring with me one late evening while we listened to music. Sometimes those actions gave me comfort. They made me feel like we were doing something for him. And it even helped to talk out loud to him. Eventually, those things lost their connection for me. Going into his room and being around the items he’d never use or wear or sleep in became sad reminders of our loss. I spent a lot of sleepless nights in tears curled up into a ball on his bedroom floor. I’d lay in the dark staring at the lighted stars projected onto the ceiling from his little stuffed turtle nightlight. I’d apologize to him for not knowing something was wrong, for not protecting him like a mother should. I’d beg God to tell me why he let this happen, why he didn’t or even couldn’t intervene somehow. To give me me a sign that my son was okay. And, when I didn’t receive an answer I would cry until I slowly drifted off to sleep. At some point I couldn’t manage without at least a little sleep and realized that I needed rest more than anything or this stage of my grief would surely kill me. I began taking sleep aids and decided to stop cutting flowers. I decided that going into his room was no longer a comfort but a trigger which ignited my feelings of heartbreak, separation anxiety, guilt, and sadness. I began keeping the door closed. It made me a little sad to do it, but knew it was necessary in order to move forward–even if just in small steps.

Stage 4: Anticipation

Re-entering the “real” world. This was hard one for me. Actually, it still is–every day. This is the time when I had to leave the comfort of home and go back to work. To adjust from having complete grieving freedom to grieving on the clock. Before, I could be sad when I wanted and where I wanted, as much as my mind and body needed it. I could at least try to protect myself from challenging experiences. If I made the mistake of shopping during prime mommy-baby-outing-time I could walk out of a store and head somewhere safe. The workplace doesn’t allow for that. You are a prisoner of “normal” people. Of acceptable mom and dad conversations (all day long). Of pregnant women eagerly awaiting the arrival of their beautiful addition. My employers are very understanding when it comes to families… meaning people often bring their children in if their sick or in-between sitters. Some people do this more than others. I’ve held my tears in most times during the work day but recently lost it completely. Last week I walked through the door in the morning only to be unexpectedly greeted by a co-worker carrying her newborn son, close enough to bump shoulders. It felt like someone staked me in the heart. I felt my entire body collapse under me. I heard his sweet baby sounds and the exchange of another co-worker as to how cute he looked. I held in the tears. Well, at first. That is, until my good friend looked into my eyes with that awful stare and asked how I was doing. Then it rained. I took myself outside, cried hard, collected myself and returned to the work on my desk. What else could I do? I wanted to click my heels together and be home in the comfort and safety of my husband’s arms. That’s what stinks about this stage. I can no longer run away when something triggers the pain. I have to tuck it down so that I can move along like the “normal” people. But forcing such strong feelings aside is like overfilling a water balloon. At some point the pressure will be too much and it will burst. The 45 minute commute home from work is usually the time when that happens for me. When I’m alone with my thoughts. When my iphone shuffles to that one song that draws it all to the surface. Or when the pressure of work stress and the anxiety over losing my son collide and I just can’t handle it all. I will say one thing, though–I usually feel relieved after a good, hard cry.

This stage isn’t always bad though. There have been moments when the pain subsides and I enjoy myself for a little. When a small spot of light sneaks in through the darkness. Those moments have somehow presented themselves during most of the stages. In the beginning it’s easy to feel bad about those moments. Like being happy somehow equals not honoring or missing your child. If you are feeling that way please know that is not the case. Those happy moments don’t replace the fact that we miss our children or wish they were here and that circumstances were different. Those moments will keep us living for our babies since they can’t. I, personally, want to live to the fullest for Rylan. To honor him by living the happiest life I can live. Ry gave me so many little moments of joy. Similarly, I think it’s small amounts of joy in our lives now that will keep us going. For me it’s like listening to my husband play his guitar on a Saturday morning. Hearing the sound of his voice coupled with a warm breeze brings me such peace. When my mom made me home-made pancakes for breakfast this morning-after craving them for weeks. Enjoying the company of friends at lunch during the week–a much needed and appreciated break in my day. Getting a big bear hug from my dad. Watching the sky change color as the sun sets. Being greeted by my dogs and curling up with them on the couch at night. I think this stage is all about learning how to survive and treasure the good times we have, no matter how small. How to live for our children’s memory, not in the shadows of them. To strike a balance between living the day-to-day and making time to mourn our losses. It’s not easy, but we’re doing it. Gradually finding ways to cope. Finding it in others and in ourselves. I have a feeling that this stage is going to last for awhile so keep a firm grip on whatever life preservers you can. In the meantime, I promise to continue treading water if you do.

To be continued…

Something(s) to celebrate.

My husband and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary last weekend. It was great for several reasons.

1. My parents invited us over on Friday night, on our actual anniversary night, to celebrate–complete with dinner on the grill, a candlelit table outside by a roaring fire, the mellow sound of jazz, and strings of twinkling string lights overhead. It was like our own private bistro. It was a beautiful night in every sense of the word. Beautiful weather and even more beautiful company. We even talked Chris into playing some of his songs on the guitar after dinner (I was happy to see that he didn’t require too much persuasion). It was such a special way to celebrate.

2. Saturday we drove into the city, checked into a nice hotel near Rittenhouse Square, and headed to an appointment at a nearby tattoo shop. The Hawaiian theme made me feel right at home (as it’s my dream to live there someday). Chris and I wanted to celebrate our 5th year of marriage with a memorial tattoo for our son. We both decided to get lion cubs. The story of the lion starts at the hospital and if you’ve read my previous posts you may have already heard a little about him. The day we were discharged my husband made a run into the lobby gift shop for a large, stuffed lion that caught his eye during our stay. He said that it helped him feel connected to Ry. Chris drove home with his new friend positioned beside him in the back seat of my car. Once we got home, we placed the lion in front of Rylan’s crib in the nursery. He has been there ever since. You could say he’s a guardian of sorts. Chris’ purchase that day has become a very comforting symbol in our home. Chris ended up getting a tattoo with a really beautiful lion cub face on his upper arm, supported by Ry’s name underneath. The eyes in the tattoo are amazing. Originally I was planning on getting a monarch, as they were very quickly another symbol tied to Rylan, specifically connected to the butterfly release at his service. I accidentally came across a lion symbol two days before (that I love) and instantly knew that I needed to adjust my plan. I ended up getting the lion cub from the movie “the Lion King.” In the movie it is a drawing that one of the animals sketches on a tree after Simba is born and baptized. I found this young lion drawing to be a perfect connection to my little baby. Not only from one of my favorite childhood movies, but a connection to the nursery lion and my husband’s tattoo. It’s nice to have something that Chris and I share as a connection to our son. I also had Rylan’s name placed in script on my inner wrist. It’s a nice way to carry him with us in more that just our hearts. You could say that I truly “wear my heart on my sleeve” these days. I will upload a photo of them once they’re healed. It’s so nice to have it in a place that is pretty visible, too. It’s only been a week and I’ve already been asked about a few times from strangers. It feels so good to have a conversation starter about my son, even if sometimes it makes me want to cry. I’m proud of him and I love him so much–this is definitely a way to keep him close and share him with the world at the same time.

Last weekend was the first time since Rylan died that I felt truly happy and relaxed for a longer period of time. The sadness is always there but it made itself a little lighter for a time. Long enough for us to have a great time in the company of our parents and also on our own. I forgot to mention that we managed to score a table at a great restaurant Saturday evening and enjoyed some time walking around the city. We even caught some impromptu musicians in the park. I was thankful that our 5th year ended on a very positive note. We were able to celebrate our journey so far–to honor our relationship and our son all in one weekend. It was most definitely a success.

I’m looking forward to finding out what will happen in year 6… it can only go up from here!

Too tired.

It’s almost 1 am and I have so much on my mind. I can’t sleep and it’s probably been about 2 weeks since I last took a pill to force myself into dreamland. I just don’t want to…it’s way too hard when I have to work the next day. So, last night I got about 3 hours of sleep and tonight doesn’t look too promising.

I walked in the door at 8 pm tonight. People who know me would say something to the effect of, “so things are back to normal for you?” The answer to that question is “yes.” Well, and also a big “no.” I have been pushed back into a higher level role at work without so much as a conversation about it. I didn’t want that responsibility before my leave and don’t feel like I can handle it now. And, to make matters worse, I feel that as long as I stay there I have no choice but to do that job. Life can be so exhausting sometimes. Especially these days. As uncertain as I feel about who I am or who I want to be moving forward, I’m extremely clear about what other people want me to be for them.

At work they want me to be proactive, energetic, strategic, decisive, diligent, fast, creative, sharp, inspiring, passionate, insightful, strong-willed, a leader, and to wear a smile in the face of stress, among many other things. It even sounds tiring. What they don’t know, or don’t want to know, is that I’m not who they think I am or who they’d like me to be. These days being energetic is getting a shower and blow-drying my hair before going to work in the morning. I feel stressed thinking about what to have for dinner or what to do over the weekend. I don’t want to make decisions or think too hard. I’m tired. I’m so deeply sad. My mind is already full of so many thoughts and feelings that there isn’t room for much else. Many days I can’t bear the weight of our loss, much less the weight of daily responsibilities and spend my drive to and/or from work with tear-soaked cheeks. Why does it feel like caring people really don’t care? I feel like they look at me on the surface and tell themselves I’m okay because they need me to be okay. They need me to be a star. I may sound like some child throwing a tantrum but I don’t care–I don’t want to be a star. Why can’t I just do a good job for awhile? I am one of those people who works hard anyway, always to their full capacity. I still want to do a good job…just not kill myself in the process. Even as I sit here tonight I can’t stop thinking about all I have to do tomorrow–and how I don’t feel like there are enough hours in the day to finish my work…meet my deadlines…meet everyone else’s expectations. Why can’t I just meet my own expectations for once? Why can’t I give myself a pass and let someone else do the hard work–just for a little while? Sometimes you can’t be everything for everyone. Sometimes you can only work hard enough to just be. I want to put the little energy I have into healing myself. I want to concentrate on my family. Otherwise, I’m afraid we won’t survive.

Family, friends, and even acquaintances are tough. Even though they love and support us, I continue to have mixed feelings when I’m with them. I can quickly go from being comfortable and sharing laughs to wanting to be alone or moved to tears. Again, it’s so hard. They care for us and want to see us heal from all of this. Sooner than later, I think. Some want to do something to help us get there. I’m at a loss for what to tell them. The only thing that could truly make me feel better is having my son here in my arms. To be the mom I wanted to be for him. But no one can do that for me. For us. Sometimes I feel like people are disappointed when they ask how we’re doing and I give them a slightly honest answer. I’m not great. If heartache was a disease I’d be signing up for experimental studies to find a cure. At some moments it feels unbearable. People also try to help by sharing stories of loss–to relate in some way. I would probably do the same if roles were reversed. But, from this side of the fence this loss is like no other. Not like losing a grandparent, parent, or sibling–and certainly not a pet. This is like nothing I can really explain to those who haven’t lost a child. I feel like I can’t breathe sometimes. My spirit feels broken. I spent so many months wrapping all of my dreams and aspirations into being Rylan’s mom. In my heart it was my purpose. My pregnancy wasn’t a cake-walk and I kept telling myself it was all worth it for the end result…my beautiful son and a lifetime of love and memories. Don’t get me wrong, he was the best thing I ever created and he was amazing. I just wish he was alive and that my memories could have made it beyond my belly and the hospital delivery room.

I attended my nieces birthday party this past weekend. The initial part was tough. I walked into a backyard of parents and children of various ages. A beautiful, pregnant woman splashing around with her infant son in the pool. It hurt so much. Don’t get me wrong, she was very nice and so was her family. But watching them together instantly made me think about how I should be interacting with my son in a similar way. He would be much younger but I still dreamed about summer activities with him, with my family. But instead, there I sat in a rocking chair, with empty arms. And on top of it I felt that I had to suck it up, so to speak. I made small talk with people I didn’t know…people that I found out later had been clued in on our secret. I took a moment to walk out front, sit on the front porch, and cry. I thought I slipped away undetected but my sister apologized later for my discomfort and told me that someone thought they upset me and felt bad about it. And, do you want to know what bothers me about that? That on top of feeling sad I had to also take on the weight of feeling bad that my leaving caused someone else discomfort. It sucks because being sad is hard enough without feeling like I’m obligated to keep everyone else comfortable too. And in some ways I was angry that she pressured me to be there for the kid part of the day and that she didn’t warn me about the people that would be there. But, again, people just want me to be there for them–and to be okay. It’s not really anyone’s job to protect me, I know–but I wish they would at least try.

Everywhere I go I feel so isolated from the world around me. I know I’ve said it before, but it’s really lonely to feel like nobody in your daily life “gets it” or “gets you” (with the exception of your mate). It’s like your constantly a fly on the wall, just observing the world around you. To some extent I use to feel a part of that world. The world where mothers give birth to live babies is a much simpler world. It’s a world where people complain about their kids cries keeping them up at night or the annoyance of them bickering with their siblings. I would do anything to have that. My world is silent, beyond my own cries in the night. My son lives almost entirely in my heart and mind–I rarely get the opportunity to tell anyone about him–not the way I’d like to, which is one of the most hurtful things for me. I don’t know if people are afraid to talk to me about him or if they just feel too uncomfortable. But, either way, it sucks. It makes me feel awful and leads me to feel like the past year has been fake. A dream. A nightmare. I want it to be real, I want him to be real–to other people as much as to me. I want to have his picture beside me on my desk at work, like other parents. I want to say his name out loud sometimes. I don’t want to have to watch everyone else have children around me. It makes me feel so many things. Like a failure. Sad. Angry. Jealous. Heartbroken.

My husband and I went to a counseling session last night. It had been 3 weeks since our last appointment. On the way over we talked about how we weren’t sure what we were going to say this time. That our feelings weren’t too different. We felt somewhat okay. Once we were there we ran over the allotted time for our chat. Kind of funny. You know those feelings are there all of the time, inside–but sometimes I think we repress them and don’t even realize how much until we get talking. I’ve never really been in therapy before now. I can’t recommend it enough to people who are in similar shoes. I think it’s important to find someone that you have a connection with–or at least someone who you feel comfortable with–and go even when you think you don’t need to or want to. I think it’s so helpful just being able to express our feelings to someone who is outside of the people we know. My husband and I go together which is nice. And, although we talk to each other regularly, our sessions continue to bring out feelings that we may not have shared with each other otherwise–even if it’s not on purpose. The office we go to is called “The Center for Loss and Bereavement” in Skippack, PA. It has been so helpful to go to a place that specializes in loss. It’s a non-profit and is not covered by our insurance but has been worth every penny. If you’re in the area and experiencing the loss of a loved one, I strongly recommend it.

The past few weeks have been busy. We celebrated my husbands birthday which turned out to be enjoyable and easier than expected. The road to get there was tough–it was a milestone birthday and I wanted to do something special without overwhelming him if it happened to be a rough day. The planning was a bit stressful and took some energy on my part but was all worth it when I saw him smile. We also have our anniversary to celebrate this weekend. We are scheduled to get memorial tattoos in the city for Ry. I’m excited and very nervous. Not my first tattoo but it’s an important one and I feel a lot of pressure that it must be perfect for him. We also got lucky with a deal on a vacation rental and will be going to Outerbanks in the fall. We’ve never been there so it should be fun. So, I’m glad that we have some things to look forward to…I think it’s good to have things to keep you going. I’m still worried about winter and the holidays but I guess we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get to it. I told Chris that I’m going on a sabbatical until spring (lol).

A few more noteworthy topics:

1. A warning: I recently read an article about a family who had created a web site for their stillborn baby and years later his photos had been taken and used by company web sites and by individuals claiming it was their son. This article made my stomach turn. I can’t believe that people have the ability to do something so horrible. I wanted to share it because I know that so many people memorialize their children by creating blogs and enjoy sharing photos of their precious babies. I am one of those people who is very leery of social media and making personal information and images public. Please take a look at this article if you can:

http://www.wmur.com/news/nh-news/special-reports/family-shocked-that-picture-of-stillborn-son-stolen-online/-/13386842/20242576/-/item/0/-/2uspz/-/index.html

2. Congratulations: to another blogger (and his family) who just welcomed their baby girl, Zoe, into the world. I’m so happy that you can all let out a deep breath now that she’s healthy and full of life. Thank you for sharing your daughters with us and for giving others hope for the future.

Well, on that super positive note I’m going to try to go to bed. It’s now 3 am and I still have two days of work ahead. As always, I thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and follow our story. Good night and hang in there. Tomorrow is a new day.