Sunday, July 31, 2005

Fish update

Someone please explain to me how a quest for cheap fish ended up with five $2 fish, a heater, thermometer, air pump, tubing, airstone, filters, and "Start Right" additive??? These fish better live or else.

Our goldfish died

So it seems I can't keep anything alive these days. We had originally bought goldfish way back when in college. Nothing special, just a little ten gallon aquarium with rocks on the bottom and some plastic plants.

We had one goldfish that suffered through several moves with us, developed tumors (earning the nickname Franken-fish), and was picked on by new fish we bought to keep him company (earning him a new tank all to himself). He finally kicked the bucket sometime in February, shortly after my birthday.

We've been a one fish household since February, and the last fish finally died yesterday. I myself was considering packing up the fish tank and putting it in the basement with Franken-fish's tank. But Sam, who took the news surprisingly well, told Steve, "We're sad because our fishy died. But we can go to WalMart and buy some more."

So off we go to WalMart to invest in some cheap fish.

Family Visit

My sister and her husband came for a visit this weekend. So the whole family came over last night and we grilled out, drank some sangria, and had some fun watching Sam act silly. It was nice. There was only one moment when I was alone and thought how sad I was that Alex isn't here for this. I thought, "I must be getting better!" But then I remembered the cry-fest on Friday and realized it was just another "good day," not really a sign of any major changes in my psyche. But it was nice to be distracted on a good day anyway.

I miss my sister. Her and her husband live about 4-5 hours away and we never see them. I know they read this (they told me...because you can't tell by their comments here), so I don't want to say too much. But we haven't had what I would call a "close" relationship for many many years. When she got married, we never developed a close relationship with her husband. I don't know why this happened. Personally, I think our whole family is emotionally and relationship-ally challenged. But when Alex died, they were there for us. That meant the world to me. And now they are two of the few people who still ask us how we're doing and allow us some morbid humor to deal with everything. That means even more to me.

My brother in law and I are thinking about starting a business together...headstone personal shoppers...for the job you want done right, but don't want to do yourself. Think we could franchise?

Like I said, it was nice to be distracted on a good day.

Love you sis!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Unexpected kindness

Today I went to the cemetery and had a good cry. When I got home I found a note in the mail.

Dear Catherine,

As the hustle and bustle of life resumes and it seems no one recognizes the sorrow in your heart - we remember.

You and your family are in our thoughts.

Sincerely,
MacDonald 6th Floor Nurses

(that's the floor I was on for my brief recovery)

I cried.

What wonderful people nurses are.

I must be too nice

The coworker who had her baby July 5th is back in the office to visit again today. I get the phone call from the receptionist and am instructed to "spread the word upstairs," presumably so that everyone will run down to see the baby. This is the same coworker who never once asked me how I was upon my return to work. This is the same woman who ran away from me as though I were contagious and something terrible would happen to her baby by just being near me during her final month of pregnancy. When she appeared at the office a week after the little pipsqueak was born, I went down and oohed and aahed over him. She still didn't ask me how I was doing. I think I've put up with more than I should have to. Damn it, I'm not going down there to have salt rubbed in my open wounds. I'm sorry, but I have reached my limit this week. It's Friday and I deserve a freaking break!

Records update

My 2002 doctor called and I CAN have ALL my records for a grand total of $33. I'll pick them up on Wednesday.

My 2005 doctor called and there suddenly is no two week wait, my records are ready to be picked up. There is no charge. I'll pick them up on Wednesday as well. I wonder if I'll get everything as I requested or if I'll have to yell at someone. I really don't want to yell at someone. I just want to go quietly to my specialist appointment and not have all this drama. [sigh]

Tomorrow we talk to the memorial company and get thing squared away there.

Ah...the feeling of progress!

Life is unfair

I received some sad news the other day. I've been trying to digest it before posting about it because I didn't want this post to be all about anger.

I have a friend in animal rescue who is unable to have biological children with her husband. I have never inquired about the problem, so I don't know what it is medically that prevents them from having a baby. But after eleven years, they were on the road to adoption. They were chosen by a birth mother to be the parents of a baby boy due in September. They were over-the-moon-happy. They went on a short four-day vacation as it would be the last baby-free time they would have.

On the third day, they received a phone call that would take them from over-the-moon-happy to the depths of sadness and despair. The birth mother had gone into premature labor and, due to a prolapsed cord, delivered a stillborn baby boy.

I thought it could not be worse than what Steve and I, and so many other couples, had been through. But I see this situation and think how sad it is that TWO mothers lost a son. They both had hopes and dreams for their boy. They both wanted him to grow up loved and happy. They both planned so much for his LIFE. And they will both grieve his passing.

As will I.

Two lists of favorites

I was just surfing my long list of internet favorites, when I realized I could classify everything into two categories. There are before and after favorites. There are people who knew me before and people who got to know me after. They are two different and distinct groups.

The people who knew me before are mostly moms that I shared the birth of my first son with. The people who got to know me after are mostly moms that I shared the birth/death of my second son with.

The people who knew me before don't talk about politics, religion, or most other "serious" topics because it's likely to cause a debate and result in hurt feelings. The people who got to know me after ALWAYS talk about this stuff because their feelings are mostly already hurting in some way and this stuff isn't as important anymore.

The people who knew me before can experience uninhibited joy at the announcement of a BFP. The people who got to know me after all know that the BFP is only the beginning of the worrying.

The people who knew me before knew someone who smiled readily and was ready with a sarcastic comment. The people who got to know me after know a much softer me...someone who is much sadder and less likely to be critical.

The people who knew me before are mostly self-assured about everything they do...they know who they are and where they are going. The people who got to know me after know that no matter what you plan, life and death can make you question every decision you've ever made.

There are so many more differences that it would take me all day to list them all. There is one similarity. Both groups of people are wonderful parents who love their children.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Another customer service award winner

I got this email today from Zales...

"We are delighted to inform you that your recent order has been shipped and should be arriving soon."

Ummm...guys...I got it three days ago.

Thanks for the heads up though. Really. I appreciate it.

well, well, well...

A brief review of my medical records from my first pregnancy reveals that I had the same uterine infection when delivering Sam. Apparently the doctor thought it was from having had ruptured membranes for so long. I do remember him telling me that after 24 hours, there was too much risk for infection, so we went ahead with the c-section after 22 1/2 hours. But nobody ever told me that they did, in fact, find infection. I was told my fever and shivers were "normal at certain stages of labor and delivery."

And when my c-section wound wouldn't heal for a year, the doctor actually asked me if I was keeping it clean, as though it was my fault it wouldn't heal...when in fact that is a frequent consequence of having said uterine infection. Again, nobody ever mentioned it to me. I remember feeling frustrated and sad that I was doing something wrong because I simply couldn't heal. To this day, I still get flair-ups at my incision site where it turns red and itchy and tender. Again, I was told it was normal.

I wonder...Have I been carrying an infection around with me for three years? And if so, what damage has it done? Can I ever have another living baby? Or will my body poison any baby that attempts to grow in my uterus? Don't I deserve to be informed so I can make appropriate family planning decisions? Shouldn't I have known this information so that I could inform my OB during my pregnancy and watch for signs?

Even more distressing is the fact that Sam has breathing issues, he was very sleepy after birth and we had trouble establishing breastfeeding...all apparently also frequent results of said infection. The thought of what could have happened to him... But since I've begged my husband not to borrow trouble, I won't even go there.

You're right Princess Holley...the standard of care is apparently VERY low. And apparently truth isn't part of it.

Do you know what it is like to know that you can't trust your doctor? How the hell am I supposed to EVER go to another doctor's office again? I can tell you that this has created such paranoia in me that I will never leave another doctor's office again without a hard copy of whatever record is generated AT THAT APPOINTMENT. Because apparently, you can't trust a word that comes out of their lying faces.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Today's word of the day is "NO."

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I called one doctor's office, from my pregnancy in 2001/2002, to get my medical records to take to my specialist appointment on August 9th. They were so nice...made the copies right then and had them ready to be picked up after lunch. I was so impressed. Then I looked at what they gave me and my interest was piqued. I was only given hospital records...everything from my delivery and the pathology of my placenta, but nothing from my pregnancy. No blood test results...nothing about my gestational diabetes...basically nothing about my prenatal care whatsoever.

So I called and asked about that.

The first nurse said, "Oh, the gal who got those for you probably didn't know that you wanted those to, let me check."

Then the very nice lady from my first call picked up the phone and she wasn't so nice.

She told me they don't normally give out those records. Why did I need them?

I told her I was going to see a specialist and the specialist requested I bring my complete record with me.

She said, "Did he TELL you that?"

I really felt like saying, "No...he said it'd be ok to discuss my preconception issues with only half my file and information," but I figured that the sarcasm would be lost on this nitwit.

So I just said yes.

You want to guess what she told me? No, don't guess, it's more fun to tell you...

"Well, I'm not comfortable with this, so I'll have to contact our medical records supervisor. There are just too many legal issues involved here."

Oh.My.God! I just about laughed in her ear.

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I called the liar OB's office and requested my file. Of course, I was told I had to go sign a medical release to release my record to myself...oy! On their medical release form I could pick and choose what I wanted to receive, or check the box for "entire record." We'll see if it really means I get the entire record...

So I signed the form and was promptly told that it is about a two-week wait right now. I told the receptionist that I have an appointment on August 9th and could we do something to make sure I have it by then? Here's the thing, see, they're only working one person in the office at a time because of vacations, so they're just really backed up.

Again, I felt like saying, "I can certainly understand how your vacation-induced inconvenience might be more important than the future possible addition to my family," but again, I was sure the sarcasm would be lost on the desk nazi.

So...I said, "OK...thank you," and walked out seething.

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My husband came home to do all this travelling with me, because he had the minivan with the child seat in it. So while we were driving in the car, he called to check on the status of Alex's headstone. When we first went to the company, the sales lady told us we could probably get the stone for about half off because the owner would "do a deal" for the family of a stillborn. When we went back about a month later, the story had changed and there was no "deal" in sight. We were irritated but we just wanted to get it done and this company has a good reputation. I suppose we should be more in the habit of trusting our first instincts.

So, we were told that it would cost us about $700 for the stone, and we could have "anything put on it that we want." I asked if we could have Alex's footprints actually put on it like I had seen elsewhere and I was told "sure." I waited five weeks for a drawing that was supposed to be the final before we had the stone actually carved. Did I tell you about the "drawing" we received? It looked like something my three-year-old had drawn. Alex's footprints were outlined like some cartoon picture...nowhere near the life-like picture we had asked for. After a back and forth and much stonewalling by the lovely Michelle on the telephone today, they tell us it will be another $190-$350 dollars to get what we want done. Apparently we can't get "anything put on it that we want."

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Of two law firms consulted, one called to tell me that their team reviewed my email inquiry and decided that they would not be able to recover for medical negligence. According to the OB nurse on their team, the standard of care was met for me. I asked if the fact that nobody even considered uterine infection as a possibility wasn't negligence in itself and she said...you guessed it...no.

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There was a point today where I certainly could understand why someone goes postal and randomly hurts people. It seems like everywhere I turned today I was faced with someone with their own agenda telling me "no" and not really giving two shits about me as a person. I didn't want to see a single other person...I wanted everyone to go away and leave me the hell ALONE. I had this hard-to-control urge to just slug the next person I saw.

It seems the rest of the world is working in some parallel universe of which I'm not really a part...I just visit it every now and then. I told Steve that, after today, I'm going to start talking to people with an attitude...because that's the only way to get heard in this mad, mad world.

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Now I'm off to self-medicate. I may write Cask & Cream a letter thanking them for their services.

The true insanity begins

Did you know that after you have any medical procedure, rather than keeping your entire file, medical professionals will purge your file of anything that looks like it might later come back to bite them in the butt? Nice, huh? Lawyers keep everything. Well...at least the lawyers I know who do a good job. Maybe unscrupulous lawyers purge files?

Also, with new medical privacy laws, I have to go in to every doctor's office I am requesting medical records from, and sign a piece of paper that says I am releasing my records...to myself. Absurd? I think so.

Now that I have finally stopped sobbing, the anger has set in and I am off this afternoon to three different doctor offices to sign and copy...

Someone said, "All the courtroom justice in the world won't bring Alex back." That's true. But I owe him the truth. And if I can get courtroom justice that prevents this from happening to some other family, then Alex won't have died for nothing.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Always get it in writing

If ever there was a doubt that I was going to change OB/GYNs after this fiasco, it was completely erased today with the arrival of Alex's final autopsy report. The short version, without the Polish temper including various expletives, is that my OB/GYN LIED TO ME. That's right...liar, liar, pants on fire. Or maybe liar, liar...find me a good lawyer.

Significant findings in this autopsy include: 4+ growth of enteric bacilli on cultures, bacteria present in vessels of multiple organs and in the conducting airspaces of the lung and severe acute chorioamnionitis in the placenta. In summary, the cause of death appears to be bacteremia related to chorioamnionitis. However, examination of the brain revealed significant intracranial hemorrhage. Because of advanced autolysis, the etiology of hemorrhage could not be determined.

Now, for those of you non-medical folks like me...let’s Google bacteremia and chorioamnionitis...

Chorioamnionitis is an infection of the membranes (placental tissues) and amniotic fluid. It occurs in about 1 to 2 percent of all pregnancies, but is much more common in preterm births. Chorioamnionitis can cause bacteremia (blood infection) in the mother and may lead to preterm birth and serious infection in the newborn baby. Other terms for chorioamnionitis include intra-amniotic infection and amnionitis.

The organisms usually responsible for chorioamnionitis are those that are normally present in the vagina, including Escherichia coli (E. coli). Group B streptococcus may also cause the infection.


And you want to know the kicker???

Differential diagnoses for chorioamnionitis can be...drum roll please...

Bronchitis, upper respiratory infection, or viral syndrome.

Guess where I was the week before Alex died? Yes...in both my general practitioner’s office being tested for strep throat and subsequently on the telephone to my OB/GYN begging for some help with my “upper respiratory and sinus infections.” BOTH times I was told to take Tylenol and Sudafed, and drink plenty of fluids. BOTH times I was told I just had an upper respiratory and sinus infection. And NOBODY told me that my illness could possibly be a SYMPTOM of a uterine infection!

So yes, an intracranial hemorrhage most likely ultimately killed my baby. BUT...and this is a BIG BUT...there was an intrauterine infection that was most likely the cause of said hemorrhage. I WAS sick...and most likely Alex WAS sick. And NOBODY diagnosed it despite exhibiting several classic symptoms, including maternal fever, uterine tenderness (we had several conversations about how hard Alex was kicking me and how much it actually hurt), and maternal tachycardia that was brushed off as being a result of my “sinus infection” and taking Sudafed.

I am apparently a classic case with classic signs. I had a previous c-section from which I had difficulty healing (took me a year to heal completely). I had a previous prolonged labor during which I exhibited signs of illness and was told it was “normal in certain stages of labor.” (Nope...that wasn’t true either.) Looks like there is a very real possibility that I've been carrying this infection around with me for over three years.

I’m sorry...this is actually the kicker...

It’s all treatable with antibiotics.

That’s right, had it been properly diagnosed, Alex could still be alive.

Hello?!?!?! Is this thing on?!?!?! What do I have to do to get someone to listen to me?!?!?!? And why in the hell can I Google it NOW...after my baby is DEAD...and find my answers? More importantly...why did my OB/GYN tell me she didn’t have any idea what caused Alex’s intracranial hemorrhage???

It all makes sense now...Her hesitation in agreeing to send me the autopsy report...The lengthy delay in getting said report, which I can only imagine was so she had enough time to consult with her legal counsel.

Now I get to introduce a whole new set of nightmares. My baby suffering from some blood infection for God knows how long. And I thought the anger issues were resolving themselves. Watch out world...I’m on a rampage now!

Girls

My son, at age three, is already learning a valuable lesson about girls...they can be very fickle. Twice last week Sam came home and announced he was no longer friends with a girl he has been quite close to since he started attending daycare at age 15 months. First, Bailey bit the dust because she wouldn't Sam sit by her at lunch. Then Ashley was history because she wouldn't share her trains. These are two girls who would come running up to Sam as he entered the building every morning and gleefully clap their hands and shout, "Sam's here!" Now, it seems, Sam has cooties. Poor Sam. Such a lesson will help him later in life, I'm sure...but right now it hurts.

I do not have the patience for this

I just realized why my job annoys me so much. I do not have the patience for government work anymore. I seriously want to scream, "This is bureaucratic bullshit!" Think that would get me fired?

New Normal

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Today I realized that my normal could be considered freakish to some.

Today I realized that I'm completely out of touch with normal reality and I don't know how to behave in polite company.

Today I reviewed the drawing for my son's headstone over breakfast.

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Which brings me to my next question...

Why do people have such a hard time with the words "dead" or "died?" My baby died. My baby is dead. It may seem harsh and it may not fall in line with the way things are "supposed to be." But dancing around the words doesn't make them any less true or any less final.

I have to admit that I had a hard time saying these words for a short time after Alex died. I almost choked on them when they would come out of my mouth. Not because I was sad about what they meant to my life, but because the words themselves were almost offensive. Those little words held were the worst profanity...words you don't say in polite company. And I really don't understand why. Heck, even my three-year-old understands getting sick and dying...and talks about it quite openly if he isn't distracted by Thomas the Tank Engine.

I'm 33 years old and there are obviously still words that have some mysterious power over me. I know I have issues with the whole "I love you" and "I'm sorry" phrases (as my husband will probably readily attest to). But I'm wondering if there are other words out there that I'm avoiding without even realizing it.

Time to dust off the old Merriam-Webster and skim through for more personal neuroses.

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Earlier this year, while I was still blissfully pregnant, Steve and I took Sam to the Cleveland Auto Show. We go every year that we can afford it, so that Sam can oooh and aaah over all the cars and trucks. More importantly, the show is highly interactive and he can actually sit in and "drive" the cars and trucks. But I digress...

One of the companies that now makes a hybrid car (can't remember which one...so I'm guessing this idea wasn't that great of an ad campaign idea) was handing out tree saplings. Baby trees! How wonderful! We took two...one for each boy...with the bright idea that they would grow as our boys grow. I'm a pretty good "ornamental garden" gardener (haven't yet tried my hand at the veggie garden I'd like to try), so I thought this would be a piece of cake. We kept them in the refrigerator until the spring thaw, watering them lightly as directed. The last frost came and went and we planted them and watered them and took great care with them.

Yep, you guessed it...they both died. I was holding out hope that they might make a miraculous comeback later this year...or maybe next spring. All hope was lost, however, when I realized they were so brittle that a good stiff wind would probably break them off. Ah well...best laid plans and all that. I think I will, however, wait to plant that memorial garden all the grief books suggest. I don't think I could emotionally handle a whole garden full of dead things right now.

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I figured out why my son is asking to be pulled in his wagon so much lately. In the book, "We Were Gonna Have a Baby, But We Had an Angel Instead," one of the illustrations on the last pages is the living older brother being pulled in a wagon by his mommy and daddy, while the angel baby looks down on them from the cloud above. When reading this book to me (yes, he was reading it to me, not the other way around), Sam explained that that was Sam in his wagon and Angel Baby Alex was watching.

Can you say..."rip my heart out and tear it to shreds"???

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Today I got my "Alex ring" from Zales. It's a complete waste of money, I know, but it is beautiful and I will wear it every day for the rest of my life.

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I applied for a scholarship to attend the First Candle/SIDS Alliance/International Stillbirth Alliance Conference in Washington, DC. Keep your fingers crossed. Steve and I both would really love to attend...and this would be the only way we would be able to afford it.

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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Senior Moments?

Today while driving in the van, Steve says to me, "Just think, next year I will have been driving for 20 years." There was a pause and then he said, "I'm 36? No, wait, I'm only 34? I don't even know how old I am!"

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So we get to WalMart and I go to the craft department to buy some material to match some that I'm using for a project. Simple cotton broadcloth, nothing special. I go to the rack, sample clipping in hand, find the match, take it to get cut, pay for it, and happily leave the store. I get home and guess what...it doesn't match. How did that happen? Are the eyes the first thing to go?

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In an effort to get my son to take a late nap this afternoon, I snuggled up in the bed with him. I fell asleep and he's still tickin'.

The joy of raising a boy

Yesterday Steve and I loaded Sam up into the van for our weekly venture into town for various farm supplies and some retail therapy at WalMart for me. As I was driving along, Steve and I were having a quite lovely conversation about nothing of consequence. From the booster seat behind me I hear my beautiful, loving son's voice say, "Mommy, just be quiet and drive the van."

Oh.My.God!

I think you could actually see my blood pressure go up. My husband's head whipped around and he gave the look of death to Sam as he said, "WHAT did you say?" Sam, being innocent and obviously slightly dense, repeated the phrase in question.

OY!

And then, of course, the day wouldn't be complete without my son running into the barn to tell his father, "Mommy needs help with that damn dog!" hehehe

We have completely ruined him.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Fork in a toaster

There are a few things I have thought about blogging about but haven't, for fear someone would think I need psychiatric help and say something that would really tick me off. But there comes a time when you just have to type what you think and pray that nobody nitpicks you to death.

A long time ago, when I was in college, a dear friend/roommate asked me if I'd ever thought about sticking a fork in a toaster while it was on, just to see what happened. Now, this friend, if she remembers this at all, probably won't be shocked to learn that I thought she was nuts at the time. I chalked it up to her being depressed and kept a watchful eye on all the forks in the apartment. I never seriously thought she would stick a fork in the toaster, but realized at that point that she had considered things in life that I had never considered...morbid things...and I wanted to keep it that way...her on one side and me on the other. I was ABOVE all that sort of stuff because my life was so perfect...I was such an optimist I didn't NEED to consider things like the fork in the toaster.

Guess what?

I've considered the fork in the toaster and more. It would be SO EASY to run the car off the road into a tree. It would be SO EASY to drop the hair dryer in the bathtub. It would be SO EASY to drink myself into oblivion. It would be SO EASY to stick the fork in the toaster.

Now before everyone starts calling the local police to do a wellness check on me...I don't plan to do any of these things. But I have considered what it would be like. And I can certainly understand how someone who sees themselves as having less to live for might actually DO some of these things.

So to my college roommate who asked me such a "strange" question all those years ago (who I know reads this blog)...I'm sorry I thought you were nuts. I didn't understand back then.

But I understand now.

I feel old

I had an Adult Protective Services client once say to me, "I just don't want to burden anyone." I could sympathetically understand what she was saying, but I didn't really "get it," I guess. That feeling of tiredness and lack of interest in the world is there, lurking under everything I do and say. But there is more...there is a feeling that the best of my time is already behind me and I'm becoming a burden to the people around me.

I look at pictures of myself from before Alex died and I think, you poor, poor naive thing, you have no idea what's coming. And I long for the time when my smile reached my eyes and radiated from my soul. I especially see that happy spark in my eyes in the pictures before we even considered conceiving Alex. I have to admit that I have thought about how much "better" my life would be right now if we hadn't gotten pregnant at all. Shamefully, I admit that I have wished Alex completely out of existence on more than one occasion. That, of course, brings with it all the accompanying feelings of guilt, embarassment, and even more sadness. Isn't this merry-go-round fun?

Already, people don't speak to me. I see it in there eyes in that split second they are contemplating even saying hello. They weigh the options and more than once I've seen, "What if she brings IT up?" and they scurry away, with their head down, as if they didn't see me in the first place. Already, family and friends find it easier to not talk to me at all. Nobody asks how I'm doing or offers to lighten the load. So I'm left to consider the possiblity of asking for help...the possibility that people will think I AM a burden to even be around.

I know it's uncomfortable to talk about. I know it's uncomfortable to even think about. And I really don't want to be a burden to anyone.

I feel so old...

Friday, July 22, 2005

Now look what I did!

I almost feel guilty that I never learned to do this for my own boys. These were so easy to do and they turned out so nice.

Now I'm going to try my sewing hand at a boys burial romper. I didn't know such a thing existed, but apparently it's all the rage with stillborn boys. Sorry...inappropriate humor there. I'll post a picture when it's done and get your thoughts/impressions.

Nightmares

Someone told me that if I give a voice to my nightmares then they won't be able to hurt me anymore. So I'm giving it a try here. I've had a couple of doozies in the past few days that have left me, quite literally, shaking and sick feeling. I have, of course, had your standard nightmares after losing a baby...how he died, me trying to save him but nobody will listen, horrible "it's all a mistake" autopsy and burial nightmares...the list of hits keeps coming. These all keep me from sleeping soundly most nights.

But somewhere between sleep and waking yesterday I had the most disturbing one. Alex was there in bed between Sam and I. I could see his face, feel his warmth, hear him breathing. For the briefest of moments, I felt what it would have felt like to wake up to the sight of my two boys next to me. I was wonderfully happy. Then I realized I couldn't move...I was frozen in my place. I couldn't reach out and touch either of my boys.

Then Alex wasn't breathing anymore and there was nothing I could do to help him because I couldn't move. And Sam was yelling at me that Alex was sick and why didn't I help him?

My eyes opened and I could still see him laying there. I reached out my arm to touch him and made contact with Sam's stuffed dog. I flung it across the bed in frustration and the image was gone.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

A not-so-fun first

Yesterday, I experienced a first with Sam. It's a first I thought might be a ways off. But nope...there it was in all it's glory.

I was sitting at the computer desk and Sam hurried by me sideways with something hidden in his hand, behind his back...and he looked...guilty. He gave me that smile that every child perfects to cover fear of getting caught at something. That smile that expresses the feeling of, "Who me? I haven't done anything wrong, I'm a perfect angel."

Having never seen this particular look from my three-year-old, I quietly followed him into the bedroom where I witnessed him dropping the remains of a light-up ink pen onto my bed. I quietly whispered, "Did you break it?" He looked up at me innocently and said, "Yes, I'm sorry." He looked so sad, as though his whole world was about to come down around his shoulders. Now, I know we had talked about not taking this particular pen apart (because of the multiple batteries and little pieces that could get lost), so I know he was afraid he was going to get in trouble.

But what bothered me was the fact that he was afraid to tell me. So I knelt down beside the bed next to him, picked up all the little pieces, looked him straight in the eye, and said, "You don't have to hide your mistakes from me." He still looked unsure, but said, "OK." So we put the pen back together (it no longer lights up...I suspect we lost a piece somewhere or the batteries are dead) and had a little talk about listening and following directions and not hiding things from each other. I think he got it, but I'm not sure I'm ready for this growing up business.

Lessons from Children's Television

I was watching an episode of Oswald with my son yesterday when I was struck with a truth about myself. I personally had no idea children's television was so insightful, but it turns out that they teach some very abstract lessons.

Oswald captured a lightning bug in a jar on the premise that he would get one wish upon releasing the lightning bug back into the air. Once he had the "big guy" in the jar, he couldn't think of what he wanted to wish for. He thought about the pros and cons of all the wishes he could possibly wish. He even asked his friends what they would wish for, hoping they would provide some insight and/or guidance. There was, of course, the standard, "I would wish for more wishes." But seeing a lack of honesty in that wish, Oswald continued on his journey to choose a wish.

Oswald was unable to think of a wish and even slept on it, hoping an appropriate wish would come to him the next day. When he woke up, he still didn't know what to wish for. He spent the day looking for just the right wish. He returned to the park where he had captured his lightning bug and was confronted by a group of his friends asking him where all the lightning bugs had gone. "This park used to be filled with lightning bugs, Oswald, where did they all go?"

Oswald suddenly knew what he wanted to wish for. He opened the lid on the jar and wished for the return of all the lighning bugs to the park. Sure enough, as the "big guy" flew up into the twilight sky, all the other lightning bugs returned to the park and everyone was amazed by their beauty.

Now, this story has special meaning for me because my Sam has recently discovered the joy of lightning bugs. At first he was afraid of them and wouldn't even look out the window for fear that the lightning "bees" would get him. But now, we sit in the living room and look out across our backyard and see the lightning bugs dance about. He gets a big smile on his face and says, "Mommy...look at all the lightning bugs...they're beautiful!" We have talked about the magic of lightning bugs and why they light up. We have even talked about making a wish on the first lightning bug you see (never capturing one in a jar).

But beyond the wonder of the lightning bugs themselves, I was struck yesterday by the concept of wishes. I realized that my wishes have changed since I was a child. But my wishes have most dramatically changed since earlier this year. I was so insulated in having my own wish on a lightning bug, that it never even occurred to me that there were others out there making wishes on lightning bugs too. Suddenly, while watching that show yesterday, I knew what I would wish for...and it wasn't what you would expect. Sure, I considered wishing that our Alex could be here with us. But instead, the wish that I truly would wish, is that NO family should have to know this pain. I would wish that this never happen again to anyone. I would wish for a sky full of lightning bugs for everyone I know, and even those I don't know. I would wish that their wishes be only needed for something simple, like a new car or a quiet dinner...that they never have to contemplate using their wish to resurrect their dead child.

Perhaps it's too grandiose a wish and it falls into the dishonest category of wishing for more wishes. But the sky is full of lightning bugs, so I'm going to keep trying until the magic of one of them works. And I'm going to teach my Sam the same thing...with a little help from Oswald.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Do you plan what you're going to say?

It's obvious I don't plan what I'm going to say when I blog, since my posts are often rambling and pretty much pointless. But when out in the world, I would often spend a lot of prep time before a conversation, planning what I was going to say. I felt the need to psyche myself up for emails, telephone conversations, AND face to face encounters. I imagined possible reactions and tried to come up with what I would say in response.

Perhaps it was part of my need to feel some sort of control over things, I really don't know. I know I have some conversations now that I just don't want to be surprised and start to cry...so I'm motivated to desensitize myself ahead of time. But it's really been a relief to not really care, and just go with the flow, so to speak. I've been pleasantly surprised to find that nothing dire happens if you don't have the right words at any given moment. And sometimes the best thing you can do is to feel the moment and react honestly. Of course, that means more long and rambling posts for this blog. I hope you'll survive my creative chaos.

Breakfast...and the name thing

Since I've been asked...

My full name is Catherine Rachel...only my mom calls me that. :o) Catherine is the name I go by professionally. My friends in real life generally call me Cathy. My friends online generally call me Kate. It's not something I consciously separated out for people. I think it came about because my screenname was originally Kate (back in the beginning of time and the internet)...and I just stuck with it because it was the shortest and easiest to type. Lazy, I know. Of course, there are a couple friends who call me Cathode or Lady Catherine...but they're just a little weird, so it's to be expected. And of course, there's Steve...who sometimes calls me Moose (long story).

So that's me and all my multiple personalities. :o)

------------------------------------------------------

Today for breakfast, I had a croissant and half-caf coffee. After my caffeinated day yesterday, I felt a need to cut down.

Generally, I wake up too late to eat breakfast at home and end up eating whatever it is at my desk at work. So most of my breakfast foods must be portable. Yesterday was grapefruit and a granola bar. A point to remember...eat the grapefruit first...the granola bar will make the grapefruit unbearably sour if you eat the in the wrong order.

10 weeks

I hate Wednesdays.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

What do you really know about me?

I realized while reading someone else's blog that I know about the worst thing that happened to her, but I don't really know much else about her. That, of course, spiraled into a thought about what you all know or don't know about us. Yes, I am THAT self-absorbed that I think about this stuff. :o)

In this blogosphere, I have created a world where I welcome that special mark/label on my forehead..."Mommy to a stillborn baby." But this is exactly the kind of thing I want to avoid in "real" life. Why the difference?

It seems as though there are people who know about all the little details and can't or won't share the big important ones. And then there are you guys/gals. You share that one horrible, awful, unthinkable experience with me, but know very few of the little details. There are only a handful of people who know both parts of me. And I'm apparently crafting my existence as though I accept that fact.

Perhaps it's ok to wear the label if you're surrounded by people who can identify...but it's not ok to wear the label around people who knew you "before?"

I've never been one to keep my mouth shut. If something is important to me, I generally talk incessantly about it. But with this ONE thing, I only talk in the quiet and safe place of this blog. I'm perplexed by this.

Today I admitted that I write not for an audience, but for my own therapeutic needs. I find it helps me to corral my crazy thoughts into something that makes sense, instead of buzzing around creating chaos in my brain. The fact that I have a small cheering section who understands what I've been through is just an added bonus. I mean, really...how many times are you going to find a therapist who REALLY understands what you're talking about?

This blog started out as a boring ramble about the tedious events in my life. Then it became something more important to me. I have no idea where it will lead, but it's already led me to some pretty amazing people who have endured some pretty horrible things. I look forward to getting to know the little details about each and every one of you. Or at least, the little details that you want me to know.

As for me, I think I may start blogging about what I ate for breakfast, so you can see how truly boring my life really is. My little Alex doesn't overshadow EVERY aspect of my life (just the majority)...and it's really unfair of me to lead you to believe that he does. It's not fair to his memory...and it's not fair to the rest of my life to pretend it doesn't exist.

I don't know how you do it

I don't know either.

Sometimes we're handed cards that we'd rather not ever play. But you know what? We have no choice. What should we do instead? Curl up in a ball and sob? Hide in a closet and ignore the rest of the world? Retreat into some sad and pathetic shell where we no longer have to deal with feeling anything?

We miss our son. And we are immeasurably sad that he isn't alive and with us. But we did not die with him. We are alive.

So we trudge forward, one step at a time. I don't know how we do it. There are moments when we feel like we just might not be able to take one more step. But then we remember all the things we can still do because we're alive. And we recognize that by doing those things, we are not squandering the gift of life that was given to US. We are honoring our son's memory by remembering him and continuing on toward whatever the future may hold for us. And we know that whatever gets thrown our way, we can handle it...because we have been through the worst together. There would be no honor in letting our grief and sadness destroy us.

So maybe we do it out of a sense of obligation. Or maybe we do it because we love one another and recognize that love and happiness are a blessing. Or maybe we do it because it's innate human nature to carry forward after a tragedy.

I don't know how we do it.

We just do.

I love you Steve.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Time and people

Today I got into a philosophical discussion with a fellow lawyer. He's in his mid-fifties and struggling with the meaning of life. As you get older, he told me, you find that there are only two things that matter...time...and people.

He bills a lot of hours and therefore has no real life outside of his office. He said he started to consider, on his fiftieth birthday, that his life was more than half over and he wasn't where he wanted to be. He hasn't spent his time well and he doesn't see himself able to spend the rest of his time well. I thought that was a darn shame. With no real obstacles around you, the only justification for such an attitude is money. He claims he spends his money on his son and his fiancee. I don't know him well enough to know if that is entirely true. But if it is, isn't it sad that he spends his entire lifetime pursuing the almighty dollar for someone else. I mean, if he was spending it on himself, maybe I could understand it.

And people. Well, I think we all know where I stand on this one. People are the MOST important thing in my life. You know, shortly before Alex died, I filled out one of those email forward surveys for my mom. It asked me what my greatest fear was and I replied, "That something bad would happen to someone I love." Alex's death didn't bring with it any great realization...I already knew what was important to me. Unfortunately, knowing that people are important doesn't protect them from bad things happening to them.

I guess that's why this conversation irritated me so much. I didn't have a chance to deal any extra time with Alex. I think everyone should fix any time problems you may have...that way if something happens to one of the people in your life, you won't have any regrets concerning the amount of time you spent with them.

Which is worse?

Today, I had a client who recently underwent surgery for colon cancer, has a colostomy (spelling?) bag, and is undergoing chemtherapy and radiation tell me, "If this is the worst thing that happens to me...to be honest, I'd much rather be going through this than what you recently went through." Oddly enough, I find that comforting to hear because it means that this person recognizes the pain I am going through. But on the life sucks scale, I personally think that we're pretty much even.

Fast Forward

Steve and I have both decided that this summer would be much better on fast forward. It's hot and sticky, we have no money, and we have no baby...let's just get it over with and pretend it never happened shall we? At least when the snow flies we won't have hot and sticky to deal with.

As for the money stuff...we found out we have to pay $200 for my hospital stay deductible. You know, I wouldn't object if I actually had a baby to show for it. But it just seems wrong somehow to have to pay for a labor and delivery room under these circumstances.

But back to the time fast forward...

I was vacuuming the other day and realized that we have four hooks on our mantel. We went out last Christmas and bought new stockings because the mice had gotten to ours in the basement. I guess we put the cart before the horse buying four of them. I've already told Steve, who completely agrees, that we're going to give them away and get three new ones. But now that I think about it, I just don't know. Maybe for just this year we'll leave them the way they are. Whatever happens, I really hope that's the last thing we "planned" concerning Alex that will ambush us this year. I really don't think I can deal with anymore "should have beens" popping up.

Even on fast forward, time tortures us.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Colors

I crocheted Alex a blanket like I crocheted one for Sam before he was born. Sam's was pastel colors. Alex's was bright rainbow colors. I never got to finish Alex's...I thought I had more time. But what I did have finished I buried with him.



Today we pulled the overcooked spring flowers up at Alex's grave and planted some "heat tolerant" flowers in their place. We had started with white petunias, then some purple flowers I can't remember the name of, and now we have yellow/gold/orange flowers I can't remember the name of (they have thick green leaves and look like a bush with yellow/gold/orange daisies all over them).

***[Butter Daisy, Melampodium, Gold Medallion Flower, Star Daisy (Melampodium paludosum)]

I think it's right that Alex gets all the colors of the rainbow in and on his grave, since he doesn't get to experience them any other way. Damn, I wish I had had the time to finish that blanket.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Not much to say

There are days when I just don't have much to say, yet I feel compelled to blog something. Why is that? I think it's therapeutic for me to speak my mind...it helps me deal with whatever I'm feeling at any given moment. So I feel like if I don't say SOMETHING, then I'm not making any progress in learning to cope with my new reality.

Did I tell you that I called a Maternal Fetal specialist to get her medical opinion on what went wrong and where we might adjust things if we decide to have another baby? I made the mistake of telling the nurse that my schedule was flexible. She said she'd make me an appointment and call me back. That was at 3pm Friday...no phone call back yet. (sigh) I'm normally a slightly impatient person (no smart comments from those who would qualify me as more than "slightly impatient"). Add to that my sudden control issues, and you've got one irritated woman right about now.

Speaking of which, I've REALLY got to let go of my need to control things. I found myself yelling at my husband this morning because he didn't put his shoes neatly in a row near the doorway. I'm SUCH a joy to live with these days, I'm surprised he didn't bean me with one of the offending shoes. And of course, it's so painfully obvious why I feel I need to control things, even Steve figured it out. Now, those of you who know Steve know he's not normally a really psychologically in-tune person...so I must be wearing a sign on my forehead for him to have noticed it too.

I have also been having a strange feeling lately. The memory box that I so painfully put together for Alex currently sits in our living room per my request. I want to hide it away in a closet. I don't want to look at it. What's that about?

Expensive potty training

We tried bribery to get Sam potty-trained and it worked...a little too well.

We told him he could buy a Thomas the Tank Engine toy if he peed on the potty. He did...and we bought him a toy.

Now he thinks EVERY time he pees on the potty he's going to get a new toy.

He was NOT happy when we introduce the pooping on the potty concept.

hehehe

Friday, July 15, 2005

They named him Xavier

My coworker and her husband's baby, that is. His name is Xavier Daniel, and he's beautiful and amazing.

And now I'm back in that same place I was on Day One.

Happy Birthday Mom!
We love you!

I have to admit

I have to admit to being completely useless to most anyone and everyone. Since I found out I was pregnant with Alex, I'd been baby obsessed. Since Alex died, I've been grief obsessed. I get very little work done. I'm short-tempered with my husband and my son. I don't speak to friends or family, most notably my mom. I don't want to do any of the fun stuff I used to do.

The only two good things I can say about my immediate existence are (1) my house is benefitting because I clean when I'm upset; and (2) I am back doing some rescue business for shelter dogs.

Eventually, my boss, my husband, my son, and my mother are going to get pissed off at this attitude. I know that. But I can't seem to find the coping tools to shake it off. All the books I read and all the people I talk to say to "give it time." How much time is too much? If I'm getting impatient with myself, I can only imagine how the people I care about must be thinking about me.

No need to comment mom...I already know what you're going to say anyway. :o)

Happy Birthday Mom!
We love you!

Just my luck

Apparently, the person who has my SAM ALEX license plates must live near us. I pulled up behind his dark green Plymouth Voyager again this morning on my way to work.

Happy Birthday Mom!
We love you!
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday dear Mom
Happy Birthday to you!

We love you!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Thanks for the reading suggestions.

I read Empty Cradle, Broken Heart...it was ok...nothing to write home about.

Then I read Empty Arms (what's with the empty theme?) and didn't care for it at all.

I picked up Trying Again last night again and I think I must be in a bit better of a frame of mind, because it's not as bad as I first thought. The thing that really set me off of it the first time was the line, "There's not any single right answer." But I read past that and it's actually pretty helpful.

The thing I waffle on dis/liking in all these books are the, "Nancy remembers the feelings of hopelessness..." stories. I don't need to identify more...I can identify just fine without the personlized stuff, ya know?

I'll give Pregnancy After a Loss a try too...thanks for the suggestion.

Can you tell I'm a researcher by nature? A planner? I wonder why I bother, since we all know it don't mean a hill of beans in the long run.

Cemetery rituals

The first few times I visited Alex's grave, I stood in the same spot I stood in for his funeral. It was a routine or a habit that I think was my unconscious attempt to freeze time, to stay in that exact same place so I wouldn't have to face the reality of time passing without his being here with me. I would stare at his flowers or up at the sky, my eyes always avoiding that place where he is actually laid to rest in the ground.

Then one day, I sat down. I sat on Alex's left side, assuming he is buried with his head near his headstone space (there is no headstone in place yet). I talked and cried and screamed all the while looking at his flowers or the trees surrounding that back corner of the cemetery. There are no other graves in the direction I looked, only a handful of graves behind my back. It was like being in a park. I could watch the trees dance in the wind and feel the breeze on my face. But I knew it wasn't "right."

I finally worked up the courage to look down at the spot where his body lays, and I remember thinking how easy it would be to dig him up and take him home with me. Rather sick and twisted, I know. I'm well aware he's not really there...just his body is...but sometimes convincing my heart to agree with my head is a complicated process. So, to stop my urge to take my baby and run, I laid my hands over the top of his grave and felt a sense of connection...a sense of peace. There was finally something tactile for me to hold onto as I talked out loud about all those things I can't tell anyone else for fear they will judge me. In that space, my tears flowed a bit less intensely. I stroked the grass and felt the warmness of the day's sunshine reflected back up to my fingers.

Then one day, I switched sides. I was able to look at Alex's grave in the context of the cemetery as a whole. I no longer needed to fool myself into thinking I was in some beautiful park. I was able to take in the whole scene with the realization that my baby boy is never coming back to me. And in that place, he was surrounded by the final chapters of many other stories. There are babies and young people and old people all laid to rest there. They ALL left behind someone to carry on their story. They all left behind someone who remembered them.

Two days ago, when I went to the cemetery, I stood in that same spot I stood in at Alex's funeral. I remembered the beautiful day we buried him...the blueness of the sky and the strong feeling of Steve supporting me with an arm around my shoulders. I remember the breeze through the trees and the site of the little tiny casket on the green turf-grass rug. I remember the sound of my sobbing mixed with the sounds of the birds singing in the trees, totally oblivious to what was going on in that space. With the remembering came tears...but also a quiet acceptance. I no longer feel the need to rail at the universe for taking my son from me. I no longer want to scream, "why?" into the heavens.

It just is.

There is still an incredible sadness there...and ache in my heart that I don't know how to deal with. But there is something else too. There is a quiet calm that I haven't felt in nine weeks and one day. Maybe I have resigned myself to the sadness for now. But I'm hoping that in that quiet calm there will grow some hope for the future...to replace some of the sadness with happiness again.

Progress in Ohio

I called the Ohio Department of Health, Office of Vital Records, expecting to be told that I would be able to get a death certificate for Alex, but not a birth certificate. But guess what? Ohio now officially offers a birth certificate for stillborn babies. I can't remember what they call it, but it just went in this year's budget and is now in effect. You just have to indicate that it is a birth certificate for a stillborn baby and send in the $15 fee. Hooray for progress.

Blame

It seems there is enough guilt and blame when you lose a baby to blanket the whole world.

I blame myself. What did I DO that could have caused Alex's body to grow oddly like it did? What did I do to cause the blood vessel in his brain to explode like it did? What could I have done differently?

I blame my doctor. Why was I treated like nothing could go wrong? Why didn't someone tell me things to watch out for that could indicate a problem?

I blame my insurance company. Why do they only pay for two ultrasounds? Why is my baby's death a calculated business risk to them?

I blame God. Why didn't he stop this from happening? Or the alternative...why did he make this happen? Or yet a third option...why is he powerless to do anything?

I blame genetics. Where in my family tree did this defect come from?

But the one thing I wasn't prepared for is that there are people out there that will also blame me for Alex's death. You can see it on their faces and hear it in their voices. They are thinking to themselves, "You must have done something to cause this. Either you physically harmed him, or you brought bad karma on yourself and you deserve this as some sort of cosmic retribution."

Now maybe they're just trying to make sense of a nonsensical situation. Or maybe they really believe I'm a bad person and somehow deserved this. But I wonder...if I inquired further...would they say that they really believe bad things only happen for a reason? Do bad things only really happen to bad people? Is there always a sense of justice in every single thing that happens in the world?

I'm not much up for philosophical discussions with people just yet, so I keep it to myself and blog about it here. It bugs the snot out of me when I feel that disapproval and blame being tossed out my direction. And someday I'm going to let loose on someone. You'll probably hear the explosion from wherever you are.

Who needs a watch?

My belly has never been flat. In fact, except for my years of two hour per day college marching band high stepping practice, I've always been overweight. When I lose/gain weight, I usually notice it because something fits better or worse than it did the week before. Normally, these changes don't bother me or excite me...they just are.

Today, however, my pants are too big and I'm now in a tailspin that has effectively ruined my entire day. Imagine that, I'm upset because I've lost weight. But I think some of you may understand. The baggier my pants get, the further I am away from when I was happy. My waistline has become some sort of bizarre measure of time.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The remains of Hurricane Dennis

I just realized my headache is gone! I love pressure fronts named Dennis!

Remembering

I've been doing a lot of remembering this week. For some reason, strange images keep popping into my head at the oddest times. Mostly tactile sensations...and the feelings they evoked...in no particular order.

Walking through Babies R Us carrying the blue stuffed dog, hugging and petting it and marvelling at how soft it was.

Watching Dr. Phil, standing bent over with my pregnant belly hanging to give my back some relief.

The absolute nirvana of eating grape tomatoes and drinking chocolate milk.

Rubbing my pregnant belly and the feel of the soft pink stretch maternity shirt I was wearing.

Sitting in the rocking chair in the darkness of 12:30am, feeling the cool breeze of the ceiling fan, and listening to the silence.

Laying in bed, grabbing Steve's hand and telling him to work his magic to calm his son down.

Sam saying, "I want up," and climbing into my lap...feeling the weight of my belly and rearranging myself so Sam and Alex would both fit with minimum discomfort.

Standing in the shower with hot water pouring down my neck, my hands on my pregnant belly, feeling Alex move and stretch.

The brightness of the snow out the big wall of windows as we started working on tearing up the carpet in the living room.

Being exhausted and out of breath after the long pregnant trudge up the driveway when the minivan got stuck in the slush.

The scent of the hallway as we walked out of the ultrasound when we found out Alex was a boy. The feel of Steve's hand on my back when he asked me if I was sad it wasn't a girl.

Waiting for Steve to come in from the barn and falling asleep with Sam sitting next to me and Thomas the Tank Engine playing for the millionth time on the television in our bedroom.

The squeak of the brand new couch as I lowered my big self down onto it to watch television at night.

The bright blue sky, the green grass, and the gentle breeze of the day we buried Alex.

I don't know if these images are supposed to soothe me or sadden me. But I wish I had some control over them. I feel like I'm watching some crazy fast-edit music video.

Trying Again

So I bought a book that was recommended to me. Thankfully, I bought it off eBay at a greatly discounted price, because it tells me absolutely nothing. Trying Again: A Guide to Pregnancy After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss is NOT a "guide" to anything. It's filled with a bunch of statistics that I'm sure are meant to be reassuring. But when you've already come out on the losing end of the statistics once before, the numbers don't mean a whole heck of a lot. Much of what's in there can be divided into two points...1)Only you can say when you're emotionally ready; and 2)All those pre-pregnancy tips for "normal" people still apply (alcohol, caffeine, weight loss, etc).

Gee thanks.

For those of you who haven't experienced a pregnancy loss

This is the kind of crap that women who HAVE experienced a loss find offensive and downright irresponsible.

I'm going to step up on my soapbox for a moment here...

"the odds were overwhelmingly in a pregnant woman’s favor that around 40 weeks or so from conception, one way or another and mostly regardless of what she had or hadn’t done, the average pregnant woman would deliver a baby and that baby would be just swell."

This is why women are uninformed and completely shocked when/if a pregnancy loss happens to them. This is the kind of arrogant intentional ignorance that we, as women, should fight to eliminate, not perpetuate. Your statistics are way off. Your attitude is condescending and rude. And you continue to sermonize how women shouldn't worry.

Despite the number of prenatal losses in this country, this is a topic that is glossed over in books. In 2000, there were 2,181 SIDS deaths reported in the United States. That year there were over 26,000 S.A.D.S. deaths reported, almost 12 times as many. An estimated 26,000 stillbirths occur annually in the U. S., many of them at or near full term. Stated another way, 1 in every 115 deliveries is a "still" baby. Despite advances in so many areas of obstetrics, the incidence of stillbirths in many states has been rising in over the past decade. Data collection on stillbirth is often inconsistent from state to state, however, it is believed that 1 in 3 stillbirths are caused by cord accidents, infections, genetic anomalies, maternal diabetes, and placental failures of varying kinds. Two-thirds of stillborn babies, including many that undergo a post-mortem evaluation, are diagnosed as having died for "undetermined or unknown" reasons. It is not uncommon that autopsies fail to reveal the cause or causes. The March of Dimes, the leading birth defects organization in America, isn't studying stillbirth at all.

Doctors are irritated because of what they perceive to be hysteria? They're irritated because women are informing themselves about possible complications (because their medical professionals won't do it)? Too bad. Perhaps these same medical professionals should take note of a woman's need for information and her capacity to understand, rather than patting her on her head and sending her on her merry way as though she hasn't a care in the world.

Further...Do you worry about your child now that s/he is born? I worry about mine every day. So why shouldn't I worry about my child while s/he is inside my belly? Because the odds are in my favor? Talk to one of the tens of thousands of mothers out there who lose a baby every year about how the odds were in there favor. What would you say to them? Better luck next time?

We should be empowering women to learn as much as possible about their own reproductive matters. We shouldn't be encouraging them to live blissfully in ignorance because we think they worry too much. I don't know about you, but I'd like to know what's going on in my body, the whole big ugly truth, not just the palatable happy-go-lucky parts of the story.

Now...how do I get a job at MSNBC? Obviously you don't have to be a responsible journalist...so what exactly are their qualifications?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Jealousy

I hate self-assurance, because I used to have it.
I hate people with all the answers, because I once was like that.
I hate happy baby talk, because all I have is sad baby talk.
I hate religion, because it provides me no comfort.
I hate people who don't have all the answers, because I want some and have very few.
I hate crying, because it seems to be all I do.
I hate that feeling in the pit of my stomach that something is horribly wrong, because something IS horribly wrong.
I hate that people tell me to just give it time, because it seems all I have left is one long endless stretch of time.
I hate that people are afraid to talk to me, because I would have been the same way.
I hate that people don't know what this is like, because I want someone to share my pain and understand.

I'm jealous of all those people out there who have what I used to have...a happily complicated-with-everyday-things kind of life. This is what my life is reduced to...simple jealousy. I feel a need to turn this around FAST. This is not who I want to be. I won't ask for suggestions, because I fear they would only serve to piss me off. lol Just know that I'm aware of this and I'm trying to fix it.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Dear Alex

Today is your two-month birthday and I just wanted to take a moment to remember. I know we didn't have a lifetime together like I promised, but what time we did have together was pure magic to me. I'm sorry I couldn't protect you. And I'm sorry you will miss out on meeting your Daddy and your big brother. Of all the things in this world that I would have shown you, the love in your Daddy's eyes is the one thing I'm most sad that you will never see.

He was so happy when I told him I was pregnant with you. I can still see the pure joy on his face when we found out you were a boy, and all those Daddy-type plans raced through his head. I know he so very badly wanted to show you the joy of a Colorado Rockies homerun, the thrill of looking at huge TVs, and the excitement of a good classic rock tune. I know he looked forward to seeing you and Sam grow and do boy things together.

Sweet Sam...your big brother. He wishes you were here all the time. He imagines you all around him...in his room sleeping in his bed, out in the barn "talking to the girlies," and even in his tummy sharing the swiss cake rolls he loves so much. It's impossible for him to grasp that you went away and never came home to live with us. It's impossible for me to grasp too.

I can still remember that horribly long drive home from the hospital with empty arms. I look at your empty space on the seat next to Sam in the minivan and it's like I'm reliving that awful hour over and over again. I can only tell you what an empty feeling I have when I think how you should be there on all our drives together.

There are many moments that replay in my mind. The moment you were born, I looked over and saw them lift you over onto the baby warmer and wrap you in a blanket. I can remember your bare back and your curly toes and your dark hair. I just kept wishing for your body to move, to cry, to do something that would make me wake up from this horrible nightmare. But there was nothing...just stillness and silence.

I know you were already long gone by the time you were born. But I have to have something to hang onto. Some reminder on the calendar that you were really here...even if it was for a short time. So I will celebrate your birthday every month on the 11th. Right now the celebration takes the form of tears and sadness. I hope some day it will bring smiles and warm memories. But whatever form it takes, I want you to know that I will never forget you. You took a piece of my heart with you when you left. I feel honored to have known you even a little bit. I feel blessed to be your mommy.

I love you.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Today

Sucked. Everywhere I went there were baby reminders. The fabric store...baby fabrics and yarns. The scrapbooking store...baby papers and embellishments. The dollar store...a woman and her mother happily planning and shopping for her baby shower. The toy store...baby days sale (not to mention the million or so beautiful tiny babies with their obviously new mothers). I can't escape it. I want to crawl in a hole and never come out. I'd probably run into baby rabbits in that hole, with my luck.

Tomorrow is two months by the calendar. The 11th. I hate the 11th.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Friday, July 08, 2005

Read your blog

Question for bloggers: Do you get a lot of emails with this as the first line? I got three within the last 24 hours and it kind of made me giggle.

A transformed woman

One of the paralegals in my office went to see the coworker who had her baby this week. She said she is a "completely transformed woman...everything about her is different...her aura...everything. You know what having a child does for a woman." I so desperately wanted to ask her what has changed about me since having lost Alex...but I didn't want her to think I'm completely self-involved.

But I do wonder. Am I a transformed woman? Or am I the same person, just going through a rough time right now? I feel different. But perhaps that is just grief and mourning talking, and it will wear off in time. Maybe the transformation comes AFTER the grief has subsided.

I must admit that I have never felt particularly "grown up." I have generally felt as though I'm play acting at this grown up thing. Faking it, if you will. So I'm not really sure how I'm supposed to see myself. Fact is, I'm a reasonably intelligent, well-educated, underpaid professional. That's not so childlike. I have an amazing husband, one beautiful living son, and one stillborn son. Definitely not so childlike. So why is it I have such a hard time taking ownership of my own life?

For the record

We're THINKING about having another baby.
We haven't even discussed it.
JUST THINKING.
That's all.

Why do I doubt it?

I have it on good authority that I am officially "still in the running" for the aforementioned job that I interviewed with but never heard anything and now a coworker is interviewing for (how's that for a run-on sentence?). Thank you to my source (wink, wink)

When I went for my interview, they said they would know something in two weeks. Apparently they did. They hired someone else for the first position (There are two more positions open up in the same department). But apparently their knowing something does not translate into their extending the professional courtesy of sending out a note to let me know.

Have I mentioned I can't stand most lawyers?

So now I'm pretty negative about the whole thing...and really doubtful that I have a snowball's chance. Ah well...life sucks...I pretty much knew that already.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The big pink elephant

I composed myself enough to attend the weekly "ladies lunch" here at my office. We had been, prior to my medical leave, each bringing in a dish to pass on a given day each week and enjoying some good female bonding conversation (gossip). Today's lunch was to be a dual purpose lunch to be a shower of sorts for my pregnant coworker. But since she delivered her as yet unnamed baby boy a couple of weeks early, we just had a single purpose lunch today. We mainly talked about family...sharing stories about husbands and boyfriends and kids. It was nice. It was a little awkward for me. But it was nice.

At one point in the conversation, an incredibly young and wonderfully naive co-worker made some reference to how her twenty-some years had passed so quickly, imagine how fast the rest of her life will go. Start the awkward silence and furtive glances my direction...followed by a smattering of nervous laughter.

Was I supposed to fall apart? start crying? make some comment?

Don't think it didn't enter my mind to say, "Sweetheart, you aren't guaranteed ANY tomorrows." But I'm not a pessimist by nature, and I didn't want to cast a cloud of gloom over a relatively nice lunch. Besides, everyone was obviously already thinking it...so it really wasn't necessary to say it out loud.

The one thing I've found most tiring about this whole grieving thing is the NOT talking about the big pink elephant in the room. But I don't know how to start the conversation. Do I just say, "My baby boy had a hemmorrhage in his brain and that's why he died?" Do I issue a memo? Do I make the pessimistic comment when the opportunity arises and hope that it leads to a full conversation? I mean, there is no real way to segue into the topic I know most people want to have but are too polite to ask about.

Or maybe I presume too much. Maybe they just don't want to know and that's why they haven't asked.

Either way, the pink elephant is taking up space everywhere I go and I would LOVE to find a way to get rid of it...if only for my own sense of relief.

Fabulous

Just when I was starting to feel "accomplished," a coworker comes into my office to tell me she has an interview with a place I previously interviewed with but received no response. Life sucks.

Nothing to say

Do you ever just have nothing to say, but feel like you should fill up the silence with something? I've been having this feeling a lot lately. I think my mind is turning too fast because I keep imagining what must be going through other people's minds when there is any amount of silence between us. It's like I imagine they are thinking about how sad it must be to be me, so I need to reassure them that while I am sad, my existence has not become sad. I feel like I need to fill up the silence so that they won't feel pity for me.

When did I become pitiful? And why did I become pitiful? Why didn't I become like some tragic heroine in a novel, where everyone sees me as strong and mysterious and soulful because of my grief? One of many things I think television has done a disservice to. Instead of shaping characters for the rest of their lives, the loss of a child is only temporarily mourned and then everyone moves on to the next great crisis, seemingly forgetting the child ever existed. In the days of the great novels, people remembered things like children and great loves and great tragedies. Now it seems like there are so many to pick and choose from, we're supposed to move on in the blink of an eye.
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Tuesday I got my high school class ring back from Jostens after having it resized. One of the best customer services they provide is lifetime resizing. Of course, it took me fifteen years to realize I was never going to be small enough to wear the high school size again. But now that I have come to terms with having sausage fingers, my ring has been resized. I think pants makers should offer the same service. When my butt gets too big for my jeans, Levis should replace them or resize them for me. Don't ya think?
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My first crocheted hat turned out remarkably well...though a bit large. I have learned I need to either (a) get a smaller hook and some lighter yarn; or (b) cut the pattern down by about half the stitches. I tried alternative (b) and was quite pleased with the results. I will still have to buy a smaller hook and some lighter yarn. I want to work with that soft baby yarn...it feels so calming as it runs through your fingers.
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How soon is too soon to think about having another baby? I will never replace my Alex...but my clock ain't slowing down. And, after all, Alex existed because we wanted a baby. Thoughts?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Keeping myself busy

Today I spent the day splitting my time between playing with Sam and working on sewing projects. I finished Sam's red blankie, as requested by the little man himself. I worked on a medieval faire costume for a friend. And I learned how to crochet baby hats for charity. Yes, I have decided to use my scrap yarn and my need to keep busy to make baby hats, booties, and outfits for hospitals and other charities. Particularly important to me are the items that will be given to stillborn babies and their families. It bothers me that Alex only had a hospital blanket to wrap up in when we were in the hospital. He did have a hand-made hat that we kept that as a treasured keepsake. And we were given a baby blankie that was given to Sam as a gift from his baby brother. It was wonderful to know someone cared enough to make those thing for us. Now it's my turn to give back...and it keeps me busy so I don't think so much. I'll post pics if my first attempts don't turn out too scary.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

My coworker had her baby

And as a very good friend said...why couldn't she do the decent thing and just go have her baby quietly over the long weekend?

7lb 9oz baby boy made his entrance into the world at about 10:30 this morning. Mom and baby are healthy and happy. The message from her mom didn't include a name. I hope her husband didn't name him something weird. Last I heard (before Alex died) he was entertaining the first name of "Crash." lol

I know it sounds horrible, but I'm so glad she had that baby and will be out on maternity leave now. It was so hard to pass her and her pregnant belly in the hallway each day. And she has enough leave saved up, she probably won't be back until October. By then the new baby stuff will have worn off and I can get away with polite inquiries without all the required newborn goo-goo-ing.

I think that's the last pregnant person I come into contact with on a regular basis. Thank God! Now I can stop feeling like someone is rubbing salt in an open wound. Right?

Draft horse owners are so weird

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And now a word from our sponsor

I am selling Tree-Free Greeting Cards as a fundraiser for Second Chances Dalmatian Rescue. Each set of twelve gorgeous cards comes with twelve equally beautiful envelopes...all in a matching tin. The price is $13.95 per set and Second Chances gets 50% of the proceeds. Check out their website and email me if you're interested in buying anything. We don't have all the cards listed on the Tree-Free site, but we hav many of them. Or maybe you might be moved to just make a donation (we would love it if you would).

And now back to our regularly scheduled blogging.

Blindsided

I was all set to blog today about my dilemma surrounding whether or not to attend a potluck lunch thrown in honor of my coworker who is due July 17th (one month after I was due with Alex).

But instead, I come into the office today and the receptionist (who I love and who normally is much more sensitive) tells me that my coworker is in the hospital and having her baby. I'm happy for her...I really am. But I feel as though I've been hit by a very big truck.

I survived this weekend with my ghost Alex haunting every single second. I thought I could return to some semblance of an even keel today with my office door shutting out the rest of the world. Instead, the office is all a-twitter with happy anticipation. And I just keep crying.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Such a struggle

My little Sam is struggling so hard with growing up.

A part of him wants desperately to go out and watch the fireworks and be a "big kid." But there is still an overwhelming little kid part of him that is afraid of the "loud noise." So this translates into requests like, "Take me into the kitchen and hold me up so I can see out the window," (to watch the neighbor's display of illegal fireworks) and, "I want to go drive and see fireworks in the van." Presumably, the second request would lead to us driving some distance in order to sit in the van and, at the first boom, listening to him cry and say, "I want to go home."

So we are staying at home and making repeated trips to the kitchen window...and back to the safety of the living room (away from the window). It really is quite adorable. But it is also bittersweet to see my first baby boy growing up right before my eyes.

There is too much blog material here

OK...maybe I'm being unpatriotic here, but watching A Capitol Fourth on PBS this evening has provided me enough blog material to last a lifetime.

Barry Bostwick hosts the show. His hair...well...that would be too easy. His drunken state...you have to see it to appreciate the humor.

So...The latest rendition of the Beach Boys leads off the performance part of the show. It looks to be one original member in his eighties, and the rest are kids who look to be too young to even remember the Beach Boys in their original form.

As for their actual singing...I'm being kind when I say this...what the hell happened to them?!?!? They're horrible! To say they can't carry a tune in a bucket is the understatement of the year. Now I know they're the Beach Boys (sort of) and everyone knows their music...so it isn't really a necessity that they sing the words because the crowd will fill in the blanks. But, my God! It's almost painful to watch.

Next, we get Sharon Lawrence in her adorable Shirley Temple red dress. She's singing patriotic show tunes...and dancing. She's actually selling it now that she's got some backup dancers and she's not left hanging out there on her own. Bring on cute kids dressed like Uncle Sam and you've always got a winner. Even if she does look ridiculous in that dress. Steve is currently shouting, "Bring back the Beach Boys."

By the way...is it a rule that all tuba players have to be fat? I mean, when they show up in the fifth grade to pick out instruments, do they say, "Hey, you, fat kid...tuba?" (Steve wants to know)

At the end of her performance, they forget to shut off her microphone and we can all hear Sharon Lawrence heavy breathing. Lovely.

The O'Jays...a bunch of old guys wearing PJ's. The guy on the left end has his pants pulled up to his armpits...old man style. Hey...at least they can sing.

And I thought this July Fourth would suck. I'm laughing so hard my sides hurt. And Steve says he's just getting warmed up...he hasn't even had any beer yet.

There is something about A Capitol Fourth that lends itself to show tunes. The Impossible Dream...from Man of La Mancha...an adaptation of Don Quixote, the story of a crazy man tilting at windmills...seems perfect performed on the steps of the Capitol on Independence Day in this year of all others. Where IS GWB today anyway?

I'm slightly disappointed in the finale. Didn't they used to do a segment that honored the various branches of the military? Or did I miss that on one of my various trips to the kitchen window (see post that follows this one)?

All in all, not bad...definitely improved after the Beach Boys left the stage.

New York's Macy's fireworks show is definitely better, though. Someday I would like to actually travel there and see it in person. It looks quite spectacular.

We went to the show in Cleveland one year. After parking several blocks from the beach in what did not feel like a great neighborhood, and walking down the closed shoreway for about half an hour, we made it to a grassy hillside overlooking Lake Erie. We spread a blanket and were treated to some really bad canned renditions of oldies tunes and a fifteen minute display. It was NOT New York, that's for sure.

Better question

Why oh why did I buy Sam a keyboard for Christmas??? Why? Why? Why?

Why do I do this to myself?

Why do I engage in home improvement projects with my husband? Why? Why? Why?

Sunday, July 03, 2005

No Doughnuts

We live in a small town that is celebrating the grand opening weekend of our very first Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins store at the corner gas station/grocery mart. Just stopped in for a dozen doughnuts only to be told to stop back later...they have to make more. How does Dunkin Donuts run out of doughnuts? I guess it's like the times Arby's ran out of roast beef and Burger King ran out of burger buns. Seriously, those have actually happened to us...and we laughed each time. This time, however, we are not laughing. Do you KNOW what it is like to try to explain to a three-year-old that Dunkin Donuts has no doughnuts? He just looks at us like we've lost our minds and insists, "But I want doughnuts." Luckily, we need to run out again anyway...so we're going to hit another Dunkin Donuts along the way. If THEY don't have dougnuts, you'll probably hear the whining wherever you are. Wish us luck.

All that's left is me missing you

Now that we "know what happened," I still don't feel any better. I thought I would.

But I feel exactly the same.

I miss my baby. I miss him in everything I do and everything I see.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Not forgotten

I'm posting this here because I believe every baby should be remembered. I hope the friend who sent this story to me won't mind that I'm sharing it.


I was touched by the image of all the pinwheels you put on the babies' graves at the cemetery. It made me remember being little and going to the cemetery where my grandfather is buried. My mom and aunts always told us that my grandfather knew the exact location of, and always put flowers on, the unmarked grave of a baby who died long ago and was buried outside the cemetery because he/she was black. No one remembered the precise location anymore, but we always took flowers out there and guessed just the same. I have a sudden urge to drive out to that cemetery and walk through the knee-high grass outside the fence and remember that forgotten little one with some flowers.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Questions and Answers

Well, my OB/GYN called with the final autopsy results. She shared them over the phone...this woman has a lot to learn about how to deal with this sort of thing. Luckily I was having a "good" day and handled it relatively well.

From Alex's final autopsy...

There was evidence of an intercranial hemmorrhage. That can't happen once the baby is dead. So it is most likely what killed Alex.

Mercifully, I have an answer...sort of. We still don't know why the hemmorrhage happened. There are suppositions and educated guesses revolving around his large size. But it is just as possible that he could have been born early and then dropped dead. Nobody knows for sure.

It is comforting to know that Alex most likely did not suffer a long-term illness while I was oblivious. Also, I have been told that based on my recollection of events, and because his eyes were closed, it is likely Alex died in his sleep. It is something to me to know that he did not feel pain and was happy up until the end.

Now maybe the nightmares will stop.

Good question

Have I changed or am I afraid other people will think I've changed?

OK...so this question was in a conversation context that wasn't exactly phrased this way, but it's the question I came up with for today's self-psychoanalysis.

Of course I've changed. How could I NOT change? Everywhere I go there will be this missing piece, this emptiness. Everything I look at I will see where Alex should be but isn't. There is this sadness that follows me, and despite how I try, I can't shake it. I will always find it unfair that others will have happy and healthy new babies but mine died. Not that I've changed so much as to wish anyone else ill...but why us and Alex?

But more than just the present sadness, I know there is more sadness in my future...and fear. I will never again experience the unaltered joy of being pregnant. With a positive pregnancy test comes the very real knowledge that it could just as easily end in a nightmare. I will never have the pure experience of hoping and dreaming for my child(ren). I will always recognize, as a very real possibility, that any one of us could die today. That doesn't make for polite dinner conversation.

The other half of the question has a little less definite answer. Am I afraid my friends will think I've changed? Yes and no. It would be too difficult to maintain my friendships as they were before...with me acting like nothing was different. But at the same time, I don't want to ever have to deal with the sighs and the eye rolls that I know will come eventually, as if to say, "Aren't you over that yet? Can't you talk about anything else?" I know they will come...because I've been guilty of giving them myself. I'm ashamed to admit that, but it's the brutal truth. I have not been the best friend any person could have. I have been self-absorbed and often times impatient with friends who needed my love and support. So it would be poetic justice that I get that sort of treatment in return...I understand that.

Now maybe my friends are better friends than I give them credit for and they won't ever roll there eyes or become impatient with my grieving...but I'm not sure I'm willing to risk it. Yet another irrational fear/loss of faith that comes with losing my baby, I guess. It's easier to shut my friends out and deal with them on my own terms (not talking to them except to invite them to read this blog...and email). That way I know I control the situation as much as I can, and I don't have to risk disappointment. What is my problem??? I'm a coward. This has turned me into a coward...afraid of my own shadow.