Tag Archives: stillborn

Life’s little (and big) adjustments.

In the past week we’ve spent a lot of time with our families. Some of the time was really nice, some more difficult. My sister has 2 daughters, Chris’ brother has 3, and his sister has 1. Seeing the girls is nice. It always is. They are all very smart, kind, beautiful girls. Spending time with them, even before Rylan passed away, has always given me that “motherly” feeling. You may know it. It’s that little beacon of light inside you that flickers when they run over and hug you. When they look up at you with that sweet innocence in their eyes and say “I love you” or “I missed you.” When they get restless and hop up on your lap–you can’t escape that kids shampoo scent in their hair as you kiss the top of their head. All of the little things that makes you think to yourself, “I want this with my own child someday.” I’ve always dreamed about my own children but thought that I’d have to change my lifestyle first in order to have them. Working 10-12 hour days with a 45 minute commute can make you think that having kids is out of the question. Then one day I realized–if you take a look at your past you will see that you adjust to whatever life throws at you. If you make 30K per year than that is what will dictate how you live, where you live, and how you make it work. If you miraculously start making 100K a year, you will adjust your lifestyle to fit that. Maybe you drive a faster car. Maybe you buy a home if you’ve always rented. And, as scary as it is, if you later lose that high-paying job you may feel insecure at first, but you will also adjust to that change. So, one day I decided that I wanted children–and although I was unsure how it would work in my current occupation I would just go for it. I’d stop dreaming about what others around me had–I would finally let go of my fears and let life adjust for my family along the way. I did give it a little push, though. I traded in my speedy little Mini Cooper for a Ford Escape with 4-doors and enough room to fit a car seat, stroller, a husband, and 2 crazy dogs. We cleaned out our spare room to make space for our addition. I emptied out the coffee mug cabinet in the kitchen to make room for bottles and formula. I tried to pay off some credit cards to open up my cash flow for diapers and other child necessities. Sometimes I think that my “push” is where I made the mistake. I started to make adjustments before allowing life to naturally take it’s course. I tried to steer it where I wanted it to go. I think that I wanted to be prepared for once, rather than behind the eight ball, scrambling at the last minute to pull things together. Plus, I just wanted things to be perfect for our son. Now, I sit here not behind the eight ball but rather in the corner pocket, under it. Trapped. I feel like planning makes no sense these days. What’s the point of planning what we want when life is just going to follow it’s own plan for us? It’s almost as if planning is just something we’ve made up over time to make us feel like we actually have control. We don’t. At least that’s one thing I’ve taken away from this experience. If I wasn’t so powerless in my life I’d be pushing my son’s stroller down the block rather than words on a computer screen. But life has brought me here nonetheless. I wish it hadn’t every second. I wish I didn’t have to be afraid of so many things these days.

Family gatherings, for one. Like last Friday when I looked over at my husband holding Katie on his lap, gazing at the fireworks in the distance. There I sat, alone and watching them in such a sweet embrace. At first it made me feel warm inside. It only took a moment before I had to hold back the tears. I couldn’t help but wish that he could’ve been holding our son and having that moment as a daddy rather than an uncle. Then I saw his eyes welling up. It crushed me because at that moment I think he felt the very same way I did. When the finale was over, I had to leave the table and asked him to follow me outside. As we sat on a bench in front of the restaurant I cried and held onto Chris for support as strangers passed by. When the tears subsided I felt better. And I felt bad. Better because my husband was able to squeeze the sad feeling away with his love. Bad that I had asked him to comfort me when he wasn’t feeling his best either. I will tell you that it’s not easy to be someones strength when you feel weak yourself.

I hate that I have to walk away from social situations to have a “moment.” I hate that sometimes those “moments” are witnessed by people I don’t know. Sometimes its harder when its people I do know. The hardest part is collecting myself afterwards. Because you have to pull your shit together enough to seamlessly jump back into the social situation you just scooted away from (if you were lucky enough to scoot before the waterworks start in the first place).

Sorry to digress… back to a few things that scare me. I wish I didn’t have to be afraid of seeing a couple that I consider to be our very good friends. The ones that had been following our journey to parenthood, as they anticipated their baby girl. I feel that life pulled us closer just to push us apart. I’m pretty hurt and angry about that. I don’t want to lose my friends but I don’t know how to see them when their precious gift will be a constant reminder of what we’ve lost. Every time their baby celebrates her birthday I will be thinking of my son and how he should also be turning 1… 2… 16… 21… forever. What originally sounded so great–that our lives were following such a parallel course now just feels so cruel. Their baby is an important part of their life–like so many people these days, getting pregnant wasn’t easy for them. I’m so glad that there were no major complications during their pregnancy and that their baby is home with them now, safe and sound. It’s very difficult to be so happy for them and so envious of what they have at the same time. Just 2 weeks before her delivery I remember telling my friend that I was so happy for them. And I remembered how afraid I was to tell my friend the news when I initially found out that I was pregnant. Up until that point I knew that they were still trying (after many years) and I had gotten pregnant without so much as checking the calendar. I was relieved and excited when she revealed that they were also pregnant. But now I look at our situation with such irony. I felt so lucky to have been blessed with a baby easily when I knew they had such a struggle in the beginning. I had no idea that we were in for a struggle ourselves. My friends and their baby girl are a reminder of our pregnancy, our son, his short life, and our giant loss. Their pure joy mirrors our deep devastation. I don’t want to feel that way. Part of me wants to go and visit them. To support their family, to be a good friend. Part of me wants to hold their baby girl. The part that aches to feel like a mom. The part that wants to be a friend. But I know I can’t handle it. I’m afraid that I might close my eyes for just a moment and imagine holding my Rylan. I just don’t think I can bear it. Because I know what will happen when I open my eyes. He will still be gone. And I’ll never know again how it feels to hold him close to my heart. If I saw my friends, even without their baby, I imagine I will just be thinking of Rylan the entire time. I hope that somewhere down the road it will be easier. Mostly because I miss my friends.

I don’t want to be afraid of my emotions. They almost have a life of their own these days. My feelings whether sad, angry, or otherwise can be exaggerated and wash over me like a tsunami. Calm and serene one second, an unexpected, uncontrollable force the next. Sometimes it’s just a feeling of anxiety that sweeps over me. Keeping it down is tough. I know it’s unhealthy to restrain your feelings but most times it’s just not the time or place. And other times you can’t hold them back no matter where you are. I hate that I have to hold them back as much as I hate that there is almost no place I can go that feels “safe” anymore. Safe from heartache. Safe from worries. My husband and I went to dinner with my parents last night. We went to a restaurant located in a fairly large shopping area. To our surprise they had live music in the courtyard situated among the shops. A bunch of people from the community had brought their camping chairs and blankets and were out enjoying the beautiful weather. Sounds like a great event to stumble on, right? I wish I could answer that question with a “yes.” I felt unprepared for such an event and it wasn’t because I didn’t have a spare blanket in the back of my car (I always do). It was because I had not mentally prepared myself for all of the happy families we’d watch as we waited to be buzzed for our table. There were so many families there. So many babies and little kids. Grandmothers dancing hand-in-hand with their grandkids. A son sitting on his dad’s shoulders. Dads and moms pushing strollers and holding their baby girls and boys. An infant boy in torn jeans, laying in the grass looking up at the sky. I couldn’t help but wish that was my family. That my parents could be the grandparents they wanted to be for our child. I could see it in my mom’s eyes–trying to push back her tears so she wouldn’t upset or hurt us. But I hurt anyway. I wished that I was holding our baby boy, rocking him along to the music. Or that Chris was holding him, singing him the lyrics to that horrible Springsteen cover. Again, it just felt so wrong. It took everything I had not to cry right there–in front of a crowd of people. I feel so robbed of what everyone else appears to have. I felt lonely and lost in a sea of families whose babies don’t die. I thought, “I wonder what that feels like.”

That just barely scratches the surface of things I’m afraid of these days. So, I’ll go back to what I started talking about before I veered off track. Life–and how you find ways to adjust. Right now I’m trying to follow the path that my life has taken. I want to resist it, but life just keeps pushing me forward. Making little adjustments every day without me even knowing it. I hope that one day I will wake up and feel like this dark cloud over my heart has lifted, even if just a little. Until then, I will continue to get up every day. I will do my best to pick my head up when I can. I will love my family and live for Rylan. Maybe his life and death were meant to steer us in a new direction. You won’t catch me planning our next move… I’ll just be waiting to see where he takes us.


Where was God?

When life knocks you on your ass, do you ever feel like it just keeps kicking you while you’re down? Sometimes I just want to throw up my hands and say “I give up.” It feels like every week we’ve had something to “handle,” on top of the obvious. When you are grieving even the smallest things can creep up and feel bigger than mountains. I hate when people say, “God only gives you as much as you can handle” or “just remember, tough times will only make you stronger.” What if I don’t want to be stronger? I thought that I was strong already. What if God was wrong this time? What if I can’t handle this? What if I just don’t want to? I know that I may lose some people on this one, but I need to say it. I’ve been on some blogs where people say that they’ve gotten through their loss with God’s help and that God had a good reason for taking their child. Well, I just can’t get behind that, at least not right now. I don’t know that someone could ever provide me with a reason for Rylan’s death that I could understand or agree with–and I will never understand why any parent must be given such a wonderful gift just to have it taken away, and so quickly.

I’ve honestly been in circles about how I feel about God over the years. When I was younger I attended church with my mom, dad, and sister. I was really too young to retain much about religion by the time my parents divorced and we stopped going regularly. It didn’t stop me from believing in God–I just don’t have in-depth knowledge about the Bible the way other people do. I do feel like I’ve struggled with faith over the years–at least in the sense that God will always look out for and protect us. I think it’s mostly because I’ve always had a lot of “why” questions for God. I feel like my parents have struggled a lot. I witnessed conflict between my mother and father, and eventually their divorce. It made my whole family sad and it took a long time for everyone to heal. My mom eventually remarried. My step-father is a great guy who has also had his share of loss. His wife, 10-year-old son, and young daughter were in a car accident before we met; his wife and son died, his daughter was left with a brain injury that effected her ability to talk and walk. I lived with my mom and stepdad for most of my life and helped to take care of my step-sister, Jocelyn. My parents have always been such hard workers, balancing their jobs with taking care of us–and in Jocelyn’s case it was a lot more care than the average child. I prayed a lot as a kid. For my parents to have it easier sometime. For Jocelyn to get better–for her to call her father “daddy” again–even just once. It seemed like he endured so much that I just wanted a miracle to happen for him. Maybe it was silly for me to think that God would or could even change those things. But, I wanted to believe it. In any case, we grew older and Jocelyn passed away at 21 years of age. I had a hard time dealing with the loss and can only imagine how my parents felt–so hard to care for someone for so long and then one day, they’re gone. It’s like you lose your purpose. That’s how I feel about Rylan and I only cared for him for 9 months. Maybe God doesn’t have to “give” us what we pray for–although, aren’t most prayers about something we want? I never prayed for material things or other silly requests. But I guess you can say that I’ve often prayed for very big things. I guess you can’t expect God to grant everyone a miracle. The reason I’m telling you all of this is because being pregnant strengthened my faith. I felt so blessed–God gave us such a precious gift. One that I would cherish and protect for years to come. A gift that I felt would finally fulfill my true purpose in life–to be a mother–and to share parenthood with my husband. It sparked an interest in me to find a church that my husband and I related to. One to attend more regularly. One that we could eventually raise our son in–where he would be christened with God’s love. I was excited about that. And, I thought that my parents faith was going to strengthen through Rylan’s birth, as well. I use to pray to God every night before dinner with my husband (during our pregnancy). I’d thank him for the blessing that was our beautiful son, kicking around in my belly. I’d thank him for looking after my friends and family and for keeping us safe and healthy. I’d ask him to keep looking out for us and to guide us where he saw fit. And, it made me feel so good.

Fast forward to May 12, 2013. The day that everything changed. I’ve never prayed more than I did that night. Even before we arrived at the hospital I prayed to God from home. I was scared about delivery from the beginning. I asked him to look after us, to keep us safe. I told him that I was excited to meet our little man and that we’d always do our best as parents. Soon after our arrival at the hospital, the doctors told us he was gone. After my epidural set in and the severe pain subsided I focused. Focused on God. I prayed over and over to him to change our fate. I prayed over and over for a miracle. The kind you see in those books about people surviving horrific accidents. The stories you read about people who have died, gone to heaven, met God, and came back to tell the story. I prayed for God to give Ry his heartbeat back. To restore life in his tiny lungs. I actually believed, up until the second Rylan entered the world, that God would come through and answer my prayers this time. Well, he didn’t. I can’t explain how hard it was to swallow that reality. My hope of hearing Rylan’s cries that day were crushed, along with my hope for life. If I put my faith in God’s plan for my family, than why did he lead us here? I wish I hadn’t asked God to guide us where he saw fit. If he had a hand in bringing us to such devastation than I’m not sure I want to follow his plan for my life. Because I don’t want a life for Chris and I that doesn’t include Rylan.

When I believed in God more than I ever had in my whole life, he abandoned us. At least that’s how I feel in my heart. I know that it’s easy to trust God and have faith when things in your life are positive. If you can still have faith when the chips are down than you are a true believer, right? What if you believe in God but lose your faith in him? Can you be sure that it will ever be restored? It took a long time for me to get to a place where I felt I had given my world over to God–with open arms. I feel like he gave it back to me. And, it’s not even the world I knew before. It’s tarnished now. Everything feels different. I carry sadness with me all of the time. I feel like a piece of my soul has vanished and I don’t know where to begin to look for it. I feel like when you’re born you possess this beautiful innocence, with no concerns, no expectations for life. Untouched by the world around you. Over the years it’s difficult to sustain that purity. I feel like I’ve completely lost the innocence I had left–through one tragedy. For the first time I can’t grab that silver lining that helps us through hard times. People say, “you may never get over the loss of your son, but down the road you’ll feel better, things will get easier.” I’ve lost loved ones before. They’re right, time does ease pain in most cases. I’ve witnessed it first hand. But this feels different for me than my previous losses. This has so many other feelings attached to it. So many physical and emotional hardships to bear. I want to see the light at the end of the tunnel so badly. I want to believe what people say. But for now I just don’t want to hear it. I hope that someday I will be able to reassure readers who feel the same way, that time does heal your broken heart. That putting the pieces of your life back together after a trauma like losing your child is achievable. That hope and your baby aren’t gone forever. Because that’s what I wish someone (who’s been through the same thing) would say to me right now.

Rylan’s poem.

Service cards were given out at the funeral home on the day of Rylan’s wake. It took me some time to figure out what to have printed on them until I found the below poem. I want to share it with you–if you have experienced the loss of your own son(s) or daughter(s) you may be able to relate. I think it’s a beautiful piece of writing. I hope you like it as much as I do.

Sweet Dreams Our Angel
Fly away my angel,
Spread your wings and fly.
Take the beauty of your soul,
and share it with the sky.
Take the warmth within your heart,
and put the sun to shame.
The glow of summer’s sunlight,
will never be the same.
Take the strength within your soul,
from your heart, the tenderness there.
Behold the majesty of the sky,
its beauty does not compare.
Take the splendor of the stars,
that twinkle in the sky.
It fades in the matchless sparkle,
of the beauty there in your eyes.
Fly away my angel,
for I have set you free.
I will wait here patiently,
until you fly back to me.

What’s keeping you?

It’s 2:00 am. Another night where I’ve kept my husband up with me watching bad TV until almost midnight. I feel even worse about that knowing that he has to work in the morning. For the past two hours I’ve surfed the web for random sources of entertainment, searched new books on my kindle, read two “stillborn stories,” and played a silly game on my phone. Then I turned off the electronic devices and placed them on my nightstand. Our counselor says it’s not good to increase your brain activity with those things before bedtime but I just don’t know what else to do. When I lay down in bed my mind just goes haywire. I slowly feel my anxiety increase as the minutes count down to sunrise. Watching the hours inch toward daylight adds to the pressure in my head that I should be asleep. That just leads to more restlessness. The real kicker is that I need a sleep aid of some kind every night. I hate taking medicine. I don’t want to take something that encourages me to sleep my day away. But I know that I can’t get to sleep without one. That sucks. Most days I try to get to bed before midnight so I can take a Benadryl–which does a pretty good job of helping me get to and stay asleep through the night. I feel it’s better than other meds which can have long term effects on your body over time–like stomach bleeding–and that’s the last thing I need right now. Initially, I tried Tylenol PM. I still take it occasionally–usually a half of a pill just to help me fall asleep. That’s what I did tonight. As you can see, it was a failed attempt.

So, what keeps me up? A lot of things. Work. Money. Vacation. The seasons. Holidays. Then there’s the one that hangs over all of the others–that my precious baby is gone.

Work. I have to go back. It scares the hell out of me. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to handle the stress and pressure of my job anymore. I consider myself a diligent worker. Someone who cares about the quality of work I produce. I want to do a good job for me, my co-workers, and my family. I think that my current state may hold me back from the capacity of work I normally do. I have a very demanding job. I wish I could say that I’m a doctor who saves lives every day, but I don’t. I work in advertising and the hours and deadlines are challenging. I’ve always struggled to find a balance between personal and work life. I drive 45 minutes each way to work and typically end my work day between 6 and 8:00 pm. I spend my evenings trying to jam in as much quality time as possible with my husband, dogs, and family, when our schedules align. I don’t know that I will be able to keep those hours anymore. I’m mentally tired these days. I’m afraid of being far away from Chris–far enough that if I need him, or if he needs me, we won’t be there for each other. My husband works from home on most days and I’m afraid he’ll have too much time to think when it’s not busy. I don’t want him to feel alone and sad as a result. I don’t want us to feel abandoned by each other. If he calls and I’m in a meeting I may not be able to answer and talk when he needs me. That sucks, because in my heart he is my true priority. If I’m busy on a deadline with no time for breaks, how will I take pause when I need to get away and just be sad? I’m afraid that I won’t care about our unappreciative clients and their crazy requests. I’m worried that work “emergencies” will feel so trivial compared to the enormous tragedy that has occurred in my life. How can I keep those feelings a secret? I work in a very open environment. The layout is basically one room lined with short-walled cubicles. It’s hard to escape the noise and chaos on a busy day. I’m worried how I will react when hearing other people’s conversations–about their families, mostly. I just found out that a new girl started in my absence and just had a baby boy. The girl who sits diagonal to me recently announced her pregnancy to the agency and is around 4 months along. It’s easy to be happy for them and want to wish them congratulations, but I know there is a part of me who will be crying inside–and maybe even on the outside. I just want my baby boy. I worry that I will think of my own pregnancy when people ask her how she’s feeling. I’ll have to attend her shower and hold back the tears. How will I escape the feeling that everyone is looking at me as they give her gifts and well wishes? I wouldn’t want to make anyone else feel bad–after all, they should be able to enjoy it the way I did. I’m as afraid of the people who approach me with kind thoughts and sad eyes as I am of the people who act like nothing has happened. It’s easier to care for yourself and avoid tough experiences when you have the freedom to do what you want. I’m afraid of the limitations that being at work will add to an already difficult situation. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to leave work early enough to make our counseling sessions, which is far from my job. I feel those sessions, along with the evening walks my husband and I take, are so important to my healing. I really don’t want to compromise them. I wanted to go back to work gradually. I asked my boss if I could do three days a week through the rest of the year, knowing it was a long shot. She said it’s not possible, that they need the staff and I would, obviously, take a pay cut. Although a 3-day schedule may prove good for my head, I don’t think I’d be able to swing it financially. So, I’ll be thinking of a new plan to throw in front of my boss this week. All I know is that I should be returning in the first week of August. I’m sure that in some ways it will be good for me. I also want to plan something special–a small vacation, perhaps–for our 5th wedding anniversary. I’m not sure how that will go over with work now that I’ve been gone so long.

Vacation and money. Shortly after we lost Rylan I wanted to run. Immediately. Anywhere. Mostly to my favorite place, Maui. I also threw around the idea of going somewhere special for our anniversary which is on September 6th. I’ve looked at everything from Sedona spas and the Grand Canyon to Hawaii and Delaware. I don’t know if I can go in September since I’ll just be getting back to work, but I at least need to ask for a day or two. I don’t know if I’ll have the money to go anywhere right now, anyway. We’ve had a lot to take care of in the financial department in the past few months. I just want to do something to mark our marriage. After all, our love is what’s getting us through every day.

Seasons and holidays. I’m afraid of the seasons changing. I believe that the summer months have helped me through these tough days, even if just a little. To be honest, I’m allergic to winter time. At least, it feels that way. Once the weather is cold and it’s time to trade flip-flops for down jackets a part of my body shuts down. My hair is limp and staticky. My skin is pale and dry. My heart eventually feels like it slumps into some kind of sad state that only blue skies and sun can cure. I feel that way even in a normal year–a year when I’m not dealing with a huge loss. I am terrified that once the leaves blow off of the trees and we’re left with dead branches it will be harder to fight off depression. When we’re cooped up indoors day after day the hurt in my heart will linger more at the surface. It’s nice having sunshine, evening walks, and butterflies. I’m not sure where winter will leave me this time. I don’t want to be stuck inside with my devastation. And, of course we can’t forget the holidays. I pictured this year as being our first Christmas as parents, laying with our son on the couch listening to music and watching the tree lights twinkle as a family. Buying that cheesy “Babies First Christmas” ornament. Dressing Ry up in a sweet holiday outfit and showing off our beautiful son to relatives and friends. Without him, I’m not sure I’ll feel okay to be with family and friends. It will be hard to watch all of the other families with their children and not reflect on our loss. If I sit here with tears in my eyes as I think ahead, how will I be when the real festivities arrive?

My sweet baby boy. Some days I just can’t handle his absence. It breaks my heart. I can only describe it as a type of “separation anxiety.” It’s just so unnatural that he’s not here with Chris and I. I don’t want to go along with the hand we’ve been dealt anymore. I want to swim against the tide that’s pushing us further and further from the life we came so close to having. As painful as it was, I want to go back to the hospital room–the time when I held him in my arms. Even if he wasn’t completely there, he was still there. More importantly, we were there–together. The way it’s suppose to be. Not like this. I just want to go back there and stay for eternity. I don’t spend much time in the nursery these days. What brought me comfort before feels different now. It’s not like I can’t open the door or go in there without shedding tears, because I can. I just don’t want to go in there now. Most of the time it just feels like I’m throwing salt in a wound. For awhile I placed flowers from our garden in a vase on his dresser on a weekly basis. Not so much anymore. As much as I did those things for Ry, a big part of me did those things for me, too. The marker for his grave is now in place. It has a flower and butterfly design on it and includes a vase for flowers. His final resting place is right under a tree and is beside my sisters grave. I hope that she’s watching over him for us. I think about him every day. I hope that he knows that. I hope he can see and hear his dad and I when we tell him we love him. I hope he can feel love when we think of him too.

I hate it when I feel the way I did tonight. And, it always happens in the middle of the night–when I can’t sleep and the rest of the world is in a silent slumber. Here I am. It’s 4:30 am now and I’m still typing away. I was hoping the bright light of the monitor would be enough to make my eyes drowsy. No such luck. I think I’m going to take the other half of that pill now. I thank you for stopping by to hear the string of thoughts balling up in my head. If you’d like to get anything off of your chest, I’d be glad to hear what’s keeping you, too.

What if I don’t want to pick myself up today?

It’s been almost two months. Sometimes it feels like we received the news yesterday. Sometimes it feels like more time has passed. No matter which it happens to be on a particular day, all I know is, it hurts. I find it hard to explain how I feel. It’s a hollow sadness deep inside me that even Webster can’t define. I don’t cry all day. I don’t know if it’s because sometimes the “well is dry,” so-to-speak, or because enough time has elapsed that I can be sad without sobbing every hour. It’s not like I feel any better about what has happened. Time just keeps moving ahead whether we’re ready to move with it or not. Shouldn’t the world stop to acknowledge when traumatic things happen to us? I wish it was as easy as pressing the pause button on some oversized remote for life. Maybe all of those technology guru’s can put their brains together for good and create an app for that… yeah, I know, I won’t hold my breath. Some say that life is full of disappointment, but this goes beyond that. I think that losing your baby is the most traumatic thing that can happen to someone in their lifetime. When you find out that you’re having a child you begin making plans and setting expectations for your future, almost immediately–some are small, some large. Nine to ten months is a long time. It’s full of changes, adjustments, and preparation both physically and mentally for both mom- and dad-to-be. And the same goes for the people in your circle. I feel like we we’re all driving down the road together with my husband in the passenger seat and me at the wheel–with everyone following behind us. We saw our future ahead and within reach. All of the sudden, without warning, I lost control. The car did a complete 180 and began to drive on its own. The brakes don’t work and I can’t turn around no matter how much I pull at the wheel. Our expected future fades in the rearview every day. I know it’s a horrible metaphor, that I’m even stretching a bit, but it does sum up how I feel about our loss. I thought we were going to have our baby that night and start our new journey together as a family for years to come. I thought that we were in control to a point–that as long as we had appreciation for what we were given, if we had faith in our future, the family we wanted was attainable.

I tried to be a good wife and mom–to protect our future. I followed the doctor’s rules. I never missed an appointment. I ate the right things to keep him strong, to keep me healthy. I took those crazy, big vitamins. I even choked down yogurt for the first few months (bleh). I tried to be prepared. We made a nice room. I read up on the latest crib, stroller, and car seat safety before tagging items for our registry. I washed his clothes in special detergent in case he might have allergies like his daddy. I made sure that we had two kinds of bottles and formula in our cupboard in case he didn’t take to breastfeeding. Diapers were ready and waiting next to at least three kinds of rash cream. All of the preparation in the world could never have prepared me for where we stand now. How do you go from picking out the perfect crib and bedding one day to choosing your baby’s final resting place the next? How am I suppose to accept my empty belly now that our baby is not here in my arms to hold? How am I suppose to reassure my husband that things are going to be okay when I’m on shaky ground? I want to act out like a child sometimes, kicking and screaming with my fists to the floor, hoping that someone will “give me my way.” That someone will give us back our son. Our future. I wanted so many things for us, to do so many things together. I want to see my baby’s eyes looking up at me while I hold him. I want to hear him cry. To hear him breathe. I want to dress him in that blue surf sweatshirt his daddy picked out for him. I want to rock him to sleep. I want to smell his baby face while I kiss his forehead. To teach him how to swim. To read him books at bedtime. To see him laugh and smile. To watch him clap along to his daddy’s guitar. To play with him as he splashes around at bath time. To introduce him to the feeling of cool sand between his tiny toes at the beach. I want to tell him I love him when I know he’s listening. I want to watch him play in the backyard with Sam and Nacho, and most of all with his dad. I want to draw and color with him. I want to hear his voice one day–for him to call us “mom” and “dad”. I want to watch and help him grow into a good man.

I wish we would have had the chance to save Rylan. I wish we could have changed our fate. I have to live every day knowing that I was the only one who could’ve known that something was wrong and didn’t pick up on it. It kills me to know that my baby could have been hurting or struggling and I never even knew. Even worse, it’s hard to know that my body could be responsible in some way for his death. I often feel like I failed Rylan and my husband. Even our family, sometimes. I have to keep telling myself that thoughts like that are irrational–because I know that I would have done anything to protect Ry and Chris had I known–but it’s not always easy to be rational when you’re sad. All I know is that I would have given my own life to save his–and to save Chris from this experience. I hope that means that I am a good mom and wife in some way.

Most days I feel lazy, or, just plain crazy. I don’t know which way is up and I definitely need someone to mark me with a big “fragile” sticker before shipping me out to my next social event. But, I keep getting up every morning and try to stay busy. Maybe I just try to stay distracted. Mostly I look forward to when my husband isn’t working so we can hang out. Our time together has been my saving grace. I gain such comfort by being in his presence. Part of that is because we have endured a similar experience, that we’ve shared a loss that only one another can understand. But, it’s also because we love each other so much. We have our moments like anyone else, but at the end of the day we truly care about each other. It feels good to be so sure of something in such uncertain times. I’m so glad that I listened years ago when my parents said that I should marry my best friend. I still get that excited feeling inside when we hold hands or he leans in for a kiss. When we get into those giddy moods together he makes me laugh so hard that my cheeks hurt. I’ve cherished those moments over the years. Now, I live for those moments. I guess that’s what makes this situation even more frustrating. In my heart I always knew that we would be good parents. I looked forward to sharing the great love that we have for each other with our child. I hoped that we could be a good example so that someday, hopefully, he could meet some lucky girl and have a relationship as good as ours. I don’t know how much babies retain while in the womb, but I hope that he got to know his mom and dad a little during our time together. I hope that he felt the love we have for each other and for him. I hope that it surrounded him and protected him when he passed away–the way that his daddy’s love surrounded me that night to get me through. The way it continues to light my way.

How do I feel?

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…

Becoming parents

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.