Still Born

I hate when people call me brave. That’s probably a silly thing to say. I don’t take offense to it, I just don’t get it. Being brave would seem like a choice to me. I didn’t choose this path, so I didn’t choose to be brave. It’s funny how things sound coming out of others mouths and how they bounce around in your head to become something completely different. My ears hear “You’re so brave”. My mind hears “Congratulations on making it another day without throwing yourself off of a cliff”, as if I had some other viable alternative through surviving another day without her. I wake up and breathe in and out and move forward without her because I -have- to, not because it’s a brave choice I’ve made. 

I’ve come to the realization in the last few days that I am now part of a scary statistic. From what I have read, still birth affects 1 in every 200 pregnancies in North America (incidences are higher in third world countries). That’s a lot. More than I ever thought. I remember being warned about miscarriage early on, that losing the baby was a possibility before that seemingly magic twelve week mark but after that it never seemed to enter into the realm of possibility.  As the pregnancy progressed there were conversations about preeclampsia, downs syndrome, common birth defects… why did nobody ever warn me of the risks of still birth?  Nobody ever talks about the sad side of pregnancy. I remember saying a thousand times to people when they asked if we knew if we were having a boy or a girl: “I don’t care, as long as he or she is healthy”. Why did it never occur to me to say “I don’t care, as long as he or she is alive”? 

Before (capital B), I dreamed that each month I would take a picture of my baby with this stuffed Winnie the Pooh that Mom and Dad (Nanny and Poppy) had bought for their first grandchild when they went away on vacation last October. The one that I clutched to my chest at her funeral. It’s just big enough that if I propped my precious baby up along side of it every month and posted the pictures to facebook everyone would be able to see just how much our little baby had grown. This is one of the many “never” thoughts I have in the run of each and every single day. This will never be her one month birthday. Not to anyone but me,  at least. 

I haven’t exactly decided if it was morbid, though it very well may be, that when the clock struck midnight last night I silently muttered to myself “Happy one month birthday, Everlee”, The same way I used to talk to her when she was still alive, still in my stomach. I decided to post it to facebook anyway. To me, even though she was stillborn, Everlee was still born. February 13th will always be her BIRTHday to me, it will never symbolize the day she died, even if we had to say goodbye before we ever really got to say hello.

She would have been a month old today, I should be propping her up against that soft and squishy Winnie the Pooh for her pictures. 

It’s hard to believe, after all that has happened, that I was so scared of the labour process throughout my entire pregnancy. I was petrified of the pain and what it would do to my body. I was scared my body would never be the same. Who knew that it would be the easiest and least painful thing I would go through that day? Who could have realized it wasn’t labour that would change me forever? Certainly not me. Certainly not the people who loved Everlee the most. My baby was born healthy and beautiful, like I had always hoped. My baby just wasn’t born alive. There’s no bravery in that. 

 

Time

If I’ve learned anything in the past month it’s that life goes on around you, whether you chose to be present for it or not. For me, time has all but stood still. I’ve lost all concept of time. Even days and nights are interchangeable. There is only one clear divide. Before (with a capital b) and After (with a capital A)

 

It’s been a month since I felt her wiggling in my belly. A month since I watched my belly dancing. A month since I wished her good morning. The minutes seem like hours and the days seem like months. But time is flying by. Each click-clack of the clock is an accomplishment. I have made it through another minute. 

 

I don’t know what’s going on in the world right now. I’ve isolated myself from a lot of it. I hide things on facebook. Anything that reminds me of what life is supposed to be like right now. It hurts. I’ve been wanting to go to question period since hearing that the House of Assembly has re-opened, to try and resume some semblance of normalcy but I’m so out of touch with the world and it’s so hard to speak to people. World War III could have broken out, and I wouldn’t know it at this point. I’m awful at talking to people, and I can’t seem to make small talk.And what can I talk about…? There’s always this huge elephant in the room that we’re dancing around. People don’t want to talk about Everlee, about a dead baby. It’s uncomfortable. It’s awkward. Nobody wants to think that this sort of thing happens to people like me. It’s easier to just avoid it. 

 

 

And life goes on around me. daily routines are slowly weaving their way back into others lives. People continue to live day in and day out, worrying about all the normal things people worry about. The news comes on TV every night, the mail shows up every day. All the while,  I just want to go outside and scream to the top of my lungs to the world “My baby is dead – how can you go on like nothing happened?!” But I don’t. And time moves forward. click-clack. 

Sleepless Nights

She was a red head. You couldn’t tell that at the funeral home because of her little knitted hat, but she was. She had red hair, just like me. Red hair and huge eyes.

I’m done wishing the heartache will stop, because I know it won’t. I’ve talked to enough people now who’ve lived through this to know that the heartache will never stop, or even ease up just a little. I’m trying to learn to live with it. Finding new ways to cope, and survive with a gaping hole in my chest. I can only cope for so long before I start to crack and breakdown again. But everyday I get up, I shower, get dressed… I go through the motions and hope, just a little bit, that today will hurt a little less and feel a little less raw than the day before.

Sleep still evades me. I got a new prescription yesterday that is supposed to last longer than my other one. I took that last night along with four melatonin tablets. I was still awake at 1:20am… And I’m still awake now.

Friday night I awoke in bed around 1am with a sudden jolt. I sat straight up and couldn’t catch my breath. Afraid to wake Darcy (because the only reason his sleep has been suffering is because mine is) I quickly curled into a little ball in bed and tried to catch my breath and ease my anxiety. I had dreamed I had to go to work in the morning and I couldn’t bare the thought of being surrounded by so many people I knew all day long. Ad that I would have to complete all of these complex tasks and have people depend on me to fix their problems when I couldn’t even fix my own. It took about seven minutes for me to figure out that I didn’t have to work and that I don’t have to return to work for some time. I can’t even fathom the thought right now.

Friday afternoon I went out to coffee with two of my closest girlfriends. I arrived early (which I never do) because I was feeling anxious about being around them. Even though I knew neither one of them was there when I arrived I had to sit in my car for five minutes and calm my anxieties again before I even walked into the starbucks.

I feel like I’m lost somewhere inside of myself right now and I can’t find me no matter how hard I try. I’m just a shell of who I used to be, and I don’t know if I’ll ever find the me I used to be ever again.

While sitting there in the corner of starbucks a group of girls arrived one by one. The first had an infant carrier with her. A few moments after all parties had arrived she reached down ever so gently and scooped up a handsome little boy, no more than three weeks old. The same age Everlee would be. They took turns passing him around the table, cooing and kissing him. They discussed how the mother was feeling, how she was deprived of sleep. I have no idea what was going on at my table. I was so focused on this small child and the conversation around him. I was wishing, so desperately that the same conversation had been happening at my table. That we were passing Everlee around and that I was complaining about my lack of sleep from being awake with her, instead of being awake without her.

I must have looked crazy. I know they noticed me staring, but I didn’t care. I wanted to tell that mother how insanely lucky she was, and how I envied her sleepless nights. But instead I just sat there and tried to refocus myself back into my own conversations.

Maybe I’ll find myself somewhere in my sleepless nights.

Glow

I remember making the statement long before I was pregnant that if I were ever to become pregnant I wanted a huge baby belly so people would know, unmistakably, that I was having a baby and not just fat. By the time I was 16-17 weeks pregnant I was unmistakably pregnant. People often asked if I was having twins, or thought I was much further along than I was. We joked a lot that I was having a toddler. Everlee was born at 34 weeks and weighed 5lbs1oz. She was a big baby, so I guess the size made sense.

20130308-170406.jpg

I always dreamed about being pregnant and having a baby one day. I thought I would be like one of those mothers-to-be on the cover of magazines. You know, the ones that glow. Truth is, I hated being pregnant. Every minute of it. And I despised people who told me they loved it. I was uncomfortable from day one. I slept through my entire first trimester (although thankfully I wasn’t sick) like a hibernating bear. I bled and ended up in the emergency room twice in my second trimester and had insufferable back pain. And in my third trimester I had hypertension and ended up on bed rest and admitted to hospital. I couldn’t find any clothes I felt comfortable in. I hated that my belly got in the way. I struggled to put on my own shoes on my best days. I got stretch marks. A lot of them. And now, there is nothing I wouldn’t give to be pregnant again. I’d live every single moment of that pregnancy again for the rest of my life.

I spent the night awake last night. From about 2am. My mind seemed to be in overdrive, replaying every scenario in my head and how I somehow might have been able to change the outcome of what happened to Everlee. Maybe if I hadn’t complained so much about being pregnant? Maybe the universe thought I didn’t deserve her?

Even writing that now seems irrational to me.

But that’s how the mind works, I guess, when you haven’t really slept in weeks. Every irrational thought seems so real and plausible in my head.

I’ve talked myself into, and out of, a lot of things in the last 3 weeks. What if I had gone to the hospital that day for the pain instead of just my doctors office?

Some thoughts seem more rational than others.

I promise that if I ever get pregnant again that I won’t complain. I will take every moment as a gift and enjoy everything that comes along with being pregnant. But for now, I’ll just stand in the mirror and look at my stretch marks and try to remember what it felt like, and wish for that big baby belly again.

Hope

Hope: the feeling that this horrible, gut wrenching feeling won’t last forever.

Yesterday, Darcy and I toured Ronald McDonald House. When we announced Everlee’s funeral in the Telegram we had said that flowers would be gratefully accepted, or donations could be made in her memory to Ronald McDonald House. It was our thought that we would love for her to be honoured through helping other families, and other babies who may be fighting for the life that Everlee never got to have.

At her funeral we were blessed to have so many flowers sent from all over the world, dozens of beautiful arrangements for our precious little girl. To be completely honest, I took every single one of them home. I know most people usually end up donating the flowers through the funeral home to hospitals or retirement homes, but I just couldn’t bare to leave them all behind. They were gifts to Everlee and I wanted them to come home with me. Even now that most of the flowers have wilted and died, I have made a display in our kitchen of all of the beautiful glassware that the flowers came in. I look at them every day and think of her.

I grasp at everything I can to make a physical memory of her.

But yesterday at Ronald McDonald House we learned that in addition to all of those beautiful flowers, over $1100 had been donated in her memory already, and that there was still a large portion of money still not tabulated in their safe. $1100 in her name to help other families the way ours couldn’t be helped. And I was proud. I am proud. So proud of my little girl. All of the love people have for her is doing something good, and helping others. She has a legacy. She has brought people together like I never thought possible.

Anyone still wishing to make a donation to Ronald McDonald House in her name can still do so, you can find more information here: http://www.ourhousenl.ca/donate.asp

And the cards.

We’ve received well over 200 cards from people we didn’t even know were thinking of us, childhood friends, former colleagues, neighbours… I even received a beautiful handwritten card from the Premier of the province yesterday telling us that she had been thinking about Everlee every day since she heard the news. But what has shocked us most is the frequency at which people say that this kind of tragedy has struck them too, or someone they know. Angel babies, just like Everlee. Does this happen more than we know? Do people just not talk about it?

I will never let anyone forget Everlee. I will speak her name every day. I keep thinking about going on our upcoming vacation and meeting strangers, who will inevitably ask Darcy and I “do you have any children?”. I know it will happen. It’s a natural conversation to have. And I will say with pride that I have one daughter who is no longer with us.

This week has been a roller-coaster of emotion for me. I still haven’t been sleeping, and I have to force myself to eat everyday. I hardly had the energy to pull myself out of bed today. Truth be told, I spent more time in bed sobbing today than I did upright. But I got up, I went out and I faced the world. But it’s important to remind myself every day to get out of bed, and breathe in and out until I don’t have to remind myself anymore (thanks for that lesson Sleepless in Seattle). I have to have hope. Even if right now all that hope is, is the feeling that this horrible, gut wrenching feeling won’t last forever.

Phantom Pain

I remember a number of years ago, when I was still a girl living at home with my parents, my great aunt used to come visit and stay with us on weekends. The reason for her visit wasn’t purely social. She had recently had her leg removed due to diabetes and was allowed out of the rehabilitation centre on weekends under the care of family. I remember her vividly describing to me, at that time, the immense pain she would feel in her absent leg. She said she would often reach out in the night in attempt to make the pain stop, only to discover her leg was no longer there. It was, what the doctors described as, phantom pain. I don’t ever recall anyone asking my aunt how she was doing in getting over the loss of her leg, they simply asked her how she was learning to live without it.

Phantom pain. My heart and soul have been torn from my body and even though they’re not there anymore I still feel myself reaching, crying out in the night for them, only to find them missing. Unlike a leg, it’s not something that can be seen by others. Only felt by me. Being haunted by a phantom. Can I learn to live without my heart and soul, or will I ever find them again?

As predicted, today is a bad day. I feel like I’ve been punched in the throat. I wish I could accurately describe this feeling, this tightness, the raw ache and burn in my throat that’s always there, pain from holding back the tears every minute of every day. She was supposed to be mine today. She was supposed to be safe in my arms, but now all I have is that phantom pain where love should be.

The Sinkhole

Tomorrow is going to be a bad day. I’m bracing for that. Tomorrow is the day we were supposed to induce and I was going to get to meet my sweet little Everlee for the first time. Tomorrow was supposed to be the best day of my life. Now I know it will just be another bad day.

But today, I feel like today could have good moments. It’s a small step. We started our morning with Miranda, our psychologist. We gave her the URL for this blog, so if you’re reading this, hi Miranda. This is me, in my most raw form. The me you don’t often get to see in our sessions. I hope you still think I’m strong after you read this. Our session today was helpful and for the first time I left feeling a little more hopeful than when I arrived. After such a bad day on Friday I was beginning to lose hope that I was going to get to try to have another baby as soon as I wanted. Miranda listened and understood my point of view on why I want to try again sooner than 6 months from mow. Not monumentally sooner, just sooner than 6 months. She said she’s willing to support us in going to our doctor with that. That is honestly the best thing i have heard from anyone since this whole nightmare began. That’s the first thing that anyone has said that has started to ease my mind and my pain. That someone is willing to help me become a mommy, for the second time, without questioning my mental state – or my weight for that matter. Today has had good moments. I’m going to build on that and try to get out and have lunch with a friend today. Baby steps. One foot in front of the other.

After this weekend, I needed this morning. I buried myself away from the world this weekend. I can’t make a habit of that. It’s not good for me. My mind plays awfully funny tricks on me when Im given too much time alone. It’s not good for who I am. I am far from antisocial. I thrive on people and energy from a room. Being alone, being hidden, like I did this weekend weakens my soul. But I was broken and my mind was haunted with horrible thoughts. I’ve started to wonder if my baby girl felt any pain, did I hurt her in any way. I also started questioning my friendships, would my friends who are all blissfully happy right now even want me around bringing them down at the happiest points in their lives? But I have amazing friends, and I know if it was anyone of them going through what I’m going through, and the roles were reversed I would do whatever it takes to try and make them feel whole again. And I know now my friends want no different from me. I’m going to try and stop distancing myself from them. My world is a shattered place to be right now, but I need to my friends to be there when I’m able to pull myself from the rubble.

Saturday morning I woke up around 5am and read on twitter abut a man who had been swallowed by a sinkhole in his own home, from his own bed, in Florida that night. Strange as this may seem, I don’t think I’ve felt more connected to anybody than I did to him in that moment. His whole world had literally fallen out from underneath him and swallowed him whole, and figuratively, so had mine. Tragically, he hadn’t been able to claw his way out and dig his way up and find his shattered life, but I can. I have that hope. And although my life will never been the same, and that gaping hole will always be there right in the middle of my life, I have the hope that I can continue on and find a way to live with it. Everlee is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I can’t keep living like the only thing she ever did was die. Her death will always haunt me, but her life, and the life and love and hope that she brought to me and her daddy will always be her legacy.

Her death was a sudden sinkhole that swallowed me up, but it’s her memory and the light that was her life that will help me claw my way back to the surface.

The Weight of the World

I was laying in bed last night trying to remember what it felt like to feel her wiggling in my belly.

Yesterday was a bad day. One of the worst I’ve had since her funeral. Then again, I’m still in search of a good day. The day started easy enough, Darcy and I went to get our passports renewed at the passport office. We’ve decided to take a vacation to try and get some sun on our bodies and our souls. Life is depressing enough here in the winter months in Newfoundland without all of the added torture in our lives right now. After that was done we went to see my doctor.

I stopped taking my blood pressure meds earlier this week when my blood pressure started returning to normal and the pills were driving it down much too low. So she had me repeat some blood work and go see her.

After the formalities of my blood work were discussed I asked the questions I’ve been longing to have answered “when can we try again?”.

My mind kind of went numb after the first few sentences. She said most people (I have no idea who these people are) recommend you wait a year to try again after something like this happens to recover mentally. My heart ached. Then she said that she usually suggests 6 months. Ache again. I don’t want to wait that long, I can’t. What may hurt one person might help heal another. And I know that actively trying to get pregnant again is something that’s going to help me get through this. I know I have to wait some time, but 6 months seems like a lifetime to me right now when I have so much trouble just seeing past the moon to tomorrow when I go to sleep at night.

Then she said what hurt the most. In reviewing everything in my file and considering everything that went wrong, the only thing we have that we can actually fix is my weight. Breakdown. Emotional breakdown. My weight is something I have struggled with my entire life however, when I got pregnant I was the smallest I’ve ever been. I’m not meant to be a skinny girl, I have hips, and an ass (that I love) and curves. But I’ll never be smaller than a size 12. That’s just how my body was made. I know this after years of struggle with my weight and my self-image and self worth. I had made peace with that. And now all I can hear in my head is “because you’re fat your baby died”. I know that’s not what she said, not even what she’s implying and its the furthest thing from the truth. people, much bigger than i have ever been, give birth to happy healthy babies all of the time. But my mind is playing all kinds of strange tricks on me these days, and the only thing she says I have control over is the one thing I know I can’t change. I have weight to lose now, and I will try my damned hardest to get it off and get it off quickly (I’m already back in my jeans that I was wearing when I first got pregnant, two weeks after delivery) but even then, will that be enough to make things safer for Everlee’s brother or sister? Will she tell me it’s not safe enough for me to try again? I already know that I can’t get pregnant without medical intervention, so I need to have her support on this, but how do I make her see that this is not only what I want, but what I need to make my heart heal? No two people are the same in their grief.

She should have been born this week. They were going to induce me. We buried Everlee two weeks ago today. I can now say I have lived and survived two weeks in hell. Absolute and utter hell.

One day at a time, one foot in front of the other, just trying to make it to tomorrow through all of the pain.

I miss you Everlee.