Earlier this week, if you had encountered me, you would have met a woman with downcast eyes, slumped shoulders and a smile that couldn’t quite make it to the surface. If you had bumped into me that day, you would not have recognized me. Usually my eyes happily meet each person I pass … there is always a smile just waiting to come out to brighten someone’s day. But that day, I couldn’t produce any of that. First impressions would have tagged me as unapproachable, maybe … sullen … irritated … disconnected … defiant.
I have had many people tell me that they were surprised at how well I’m doing this time around … well, here’s the whole picture.
Yes, on some levels I am doing well. I sadly have experience that I wish no one did. I had so many questions about the unknown with Abigail. I know the heartbreaking answers to those questions now. I know what it feels like to plan a tiny funeral while still pregnant. I know how it will feel to go through the mind-numbing pain of labor and delivery … knowing that I won’t get to enjoy all the sweet snuggles after. I know what it feels like to have my baby die in my arms. I know what it feels like to have my incredibly strong husband lean on me, suddenly consumed by wracking tears of grief. I know what it feels like to experience the mixture of delight of my boys at Christmas time with the numbness of grief and the devastation of wishing for the baby to snuggle that I don’t have. I could go on – but yes, those “what will happen? What will it look like?” questions have answers now.
And one year to the day, we were given results from Baby Sebastian’s ultrasound that sadly mimic Abigail’s diagnosis. I had an ultrasound done on Tuesday, July 28th and it showed that my amniotic fluid levels were in the 2.5 percentile (0 is none). There were other concerns that needed to be confirmed by more detailed ultrasounds at the specialist hospital.
Yesterday, I had that appointment and they confirmed that Sebastian does not have either of his kidneys or the arterial support for them. At this point his amniotic fluid is at 1%. I have an incredible medical team that will be supporting me throughout this pregnancy. Our Sebastian is due January 4th, however it is very unlikely that he will go to full term and more likely to arrive at the 36-37 week mark, as did Abigail.
On Mother’s Day 2015 I received some news that I desperately wanted to hear, and completely didn’t want to accept, at the same time. I found out that I am expecting our fifth baby. Let me explain my contradictory feelings … I love babies. I rarely pass by a baby that I don’t smile at the wonder of their sweetness and creation. I love to hold babies … to snuggle them and smell their “babyness”. I have been thoroughly excited each time that the test showed me a positive result. And have loved those baby moments that followed.
When a parent dies, you lose your past. When a child dies, you lose your future. – Anonymous
Grief is a tricky thing to understand. In some ways it can be neatly put into a 5 step process (Denial & Isolation; Anger; Bargaining; Depression; and Acceptance). In other ways, it doesn’t fit into any logical realm of reasoning. And although I thought that I understood the grieving process quite well, I was completely unprepared for the process of grieving my baby girl.
I started this blog as a private place to collect my Facebook posts and thoughts, regarding Abigail, in one place. I have since changed it to a public blog in hopes that somewhere, sometime my words will help someone. In the vein of journaling, this post is a copy of a response that I wrote on a message board that I participate in. The original question was “how has your baby’s death changed you?” and the following was my answer.
Do you remember when you were a kid and went through a phase where you were convinced that there was a monster lurking behind everything, but never found it? That’s how grief feels to me … there is a monster lurking all around me and I keep watching for it to rear it’s hurtful head, but it doesn’t come out when I expect it would. Instead it jumps out, right in front of me, catching me completely off-guard. It doesn’t always come out when I see a baby girl that is close to Abigail’s age. But almost every time one of my boys cry, the thought that if she could have only had lungs to cry like that rushes through my mind. It doesn’t often rear it’s head when I walk past the baby section in a store. But in simple moments like grocery shopping, the reminder that I’m not adding little diapers, bottle liners or baby wash to my cart causes tears to come.
On Tuesday night, I was having a rough time. I tearfully complained to my husband that I was tired of being a shadow of myself. Of being the person who cries in public. Of being irrational about things I would typically view very rationally. Of having good days followed, for no apparent reason, by a bad day that leaves me feeling confused and vulnerable and makes decision making difficult. I was tired of grieving. He was gracious and reminded me that grief takes time.
We came home and I sat down with a crochet project that I knew wasn’t working as well as it could have. But I had all ready taken it out 3 times and I was loath to do that again. So I determinedly kept going. As I worked, I could hear my mother’s words in my mind, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” Finally I listened to those words of wisdom and took it all out. I then started again and that time, it was exactly as it should be.