The Loss of Potential

I so desperately want to write something tonight. I’ve been sitting here looking at a blank screen for what seems like hours listening to the wind howling outside and I can hear the faint sounds of the TV from the basement where Darcy is. But the screen has remained empty for the majority of that time. Much like me. Another stage of mourning I suppose, but I feel just so used up. So empty and worthless. Not in a pity-party kind of way, but in a deeply tired in my soul way. Like a used tin can; contents emptied, can tossed aside. Of no use anymore.

These past few days have been particularly hard for no real evident reason, aside from the obvious. I’ve found myself wanting more and more to crawl into bed and cry for hours on end. My nights are still plagued with sleeplessness. I haven’t gotten more than two hours sleep in a row since Everlee died. I rarely sleep more than 3 hours a night. It’s really doing a number on my body, and it gives my mind no time to relax. It’s hard, on top of everything else that is already so incredibly hard. 

Today we started looking at headstones. I kept a brave face (I’m getting much better at swallowing my tears) but it was honestly one of the hardest things I’ve done in this whole process that has become my life. This will most likely be the last thing I ever buy for Everlee. The last thing I can really do for her. It will be her marker in the world. It’s how people will know she was here and that she was loved. How do I pick something like that? How do I commemorate the death of the dreams – first steps, words, days of school, riding a bike, learning how to swim and fish? How do I not only adequately mark the loss of our daughter, but a grandchild, a niece (by blood and love), a childhood friend for my friend’s children? How do I mark the loss of all of her potential and not just 34 weeks?

I thought Darcy and I would pick out a headstone today, I really wanted to get it done before we escaped for awhile,  but when we got there I was just flooded with all of that reality. This isn’t unfinished business to be dealt with. It’s a memorial to everything she was and could have been. I can’t rush that.  Her headstone will be simple, but I want it to be perfect, just like her. It’s worth that time. 

And for the first time I feel angry and jealous. I should be picking out dresses and hair bows. Instead I’m picking out headstones. 

Can you see that my baby is dead?

In this new life I am living, I go out into the world everyday and do my “supposed to’s”. I’ve resolved to get out of bed every morning (well mostly every morning, some mornings I just can’t), get showered and dressed and face the day. I try to accomplish something every day, despite the anxiety and the crushing grief, I face the day. Sometimes I stop in my tracks because reality hits me like a ton of bricks. I’ll see a mother with her children, or a pregnant lady at the store. Sometimes I’ll just remember something that happened the night I was in labour but had completely forgotten. Like today, out of no where I remembered that I had thrown up twice overnight while I was in labour. I have no idea why I remembered that, but the reality of it slapped me across the cheek and I can still feel the sting.  But everywhere I go there is this background music in my head, every conversation I have I hear it, every person I am with, I wonder do they know? It never stops.

“Can you see that my baby is dead?”

I look like I just had a baby. I have that telltale pooch in my tummy (not to mention my massive chest). I’ve never been one to feel particularly comfortable in my body. Truth be told, I have hated my body my whole life. I have always suffered from somewhat low self esteem when it comes to my physical appearance. I’ve never felt beautiful, not even pretty. I’ve almost always been overweight, save for the year before I became pregnant when I had actually lost enough weight to finally feel comfortable in my own skin. And now my body, my physical appearance, serves as a constant reminder of losing my daughter. I lost her and I lost all of the hard work I put into trying to accept my body again. Now when I look in the mirror all I see is failure and self loathing. 

One of the things I am struggling with quite a bit now is the loss of who I was before Everlee died. I look at pictures of myself taken in the days and weeks before we lost her and I don’t even recognize that person. There’s one in particular that haunts me. A picture taken at Christmas, about six weeks before Everlee died. We were in front of the christmas tree and in the picture I am laughing. I am looking somewhere just beyond the camera lens. I look at this picture over and over. The woman I see there is content. I see her, smiling and confident, and feel an odd sense of detachment. I stare into my own eyes looking for clues- clues to what I’m not really sure; maybe some foreshadowing of the nightmare that will shortly begin, maybe some answer to how I will continue to survive. I envy her, but also pity her- she has no idea what’s coming.

Lost

I’m not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.

―  Winnie the Pooh 

The one thing that they never tell you that happens in all of those “What to expect” books, the blogs I read, the magazines I browsed has happened to me, as it happens to an incomprehensible number of families every year. My baby died before she was even born.  Everything I dreamed, everything I had hoped for shattered like a pane of glass in hurricane winds. There are no instructions to be found to guide me and my family through this unrelenting grief. There are no contour maps anywhere to be found to tell me the heights of the mountains I have yet to climb, or how low the valleys are that I will have to traverse. There is no timeline to let me know if in six months, eight months, two years… can I expect the pain to have diminished? Even a little?

Despite what anyone says about the stages of grief, sorrow is not linear; it ebbs and flows each day, sometimes each hour, for as long as it needs. There are no road signs, no maps to warn me of slippery slopes, or dangerous curves. I have no idea how many miles I’ll have to travel before I reach my destination: the day when I can smile or laugh again. When the pain no longer cripples me in all of my waking moments.

It’s a sad and secretive club I’ve joined. It’s vastly different from the one I envisioned months ago when that little digital screen popped up with it’s positive symbol and three joyous letters, y-e-s. I was unaware of the sorrow and the grief that lay ahead of me. In that happy, easy time in my life that I now refer to as Before, I never imagined how deeply anguish could penetrate my life.

People surreptitiously glance my way from time to time. They try to gauge how I’m managing in life After and judging my pain by appearance alone. Never daring to ask. Some of them choose to tell me ridiculous things like they lost their pet a few months ago and know exactly how I feel. Or commenting on how I look since I lost “all of that weight”… that weight was my daughter. Others whisper behind my back and hope I won’t notice. I long for them to speak to me and ask me how I am, and say Everlee’s name – she had a name, and a face and she was beautiful and so amazingly perfect. And she was so close to coming home. She isn’t just a faint memory. She is a person.

Even worse, the well meaning people, woefully misinformed people.  They tell me it’s for the best, that I have an angel now, that this was Gods plan and comfort me by telling me that I can always have another. Another child will never replace the one I lost. Everlee is my first born.  Sometimes I wonder how people can be so stupid. And I’m quickly reminded that they aren’t being malicious, they’re just not a member of this horrible nightmarish club. I realize how little I knew Before. No book, no article, no well-intentioned word of warning told me that my baby could die days before her due date, after the crib was assembled and the hospital bags were packed. Nothing could have prepared me for this – so why do I expect anyone else to be any different?

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 Ache.

I spend a lot of time looking at the pictures I have of Everlee on my phone. I wish I could show them off to people, like any mother would. My baby is beautiful. Perfect lips, her daddy’s nose and big eyes like her mommy. It’s one of the few physical things I have of Everlee; her pictures. I have one of her laying in my arms for the first time. Just her. Sleeping peacefully. I want so badly to show them off. Or for someone to ask to see them. But that’s not something you offer, and it’s certainly not something that people ask to see. So, I just spend the mind numbing, dark silent hours of the night staring at her and imagining all of the things I wish I had gotten to share with her.

People don’t know how to talk to me right now. My psychologist pointed this out yesterday morning. I didn’t need her to tell me that though. I can see how uncomfortable people feel around me – terrified they might say the wrong things or searching for the perfect thing to say. I’ll let you in on a secret. There is nothing you can say or do at this point that’s going to make me feel any better. You can’t bring Everlee back any more than I can. As much as I wish I could, or you could. And that’s really the only thing that’s going to make me feel any better right now. But please don’t be afraid to talk about her. Use her name. I love to hear people speak her name. It might make me cry, but it breaks my heart more to think people wont speak her name.

People seem most content to share their stories of loss or grief with me, and although I know that losing a parent or grandparent is hard and heart wrenching, I honestly don’t think it can compare to losing my child – a parent losing any child. It’s hard to say that to someone who is trying their best to comfort me. Losing someone like that, like a parent of grandparent, is the natural order of things. Yes, often parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles are taken much much too soon. But nothing will ever compare to losing your own child.

Your children are supposed to bury you, that’s how the world works. I never imagined in my life I would have to watch that teeny tiny casket being laid into the ground by her daddy. The only thing, he pointed out, that he ever got to physically do for her was carry her to her grave (words that will haunt me until the day I die). I never thought I would bury my child.

What I need and what I want is people that aren’t afraid to be around me. I need to start taking small steps to get out more, to see and interact with people. The thought of it makes my chest tighten, and makes me labour every breath. I get a hot, tight burning at the back of my throat. But my biggest fear is feeling like a chore to others. Im not easy to be around right now, and I know this. And I know I make people feel guilty. Two of my Very best friends in the entire world have both given birth to beautiful healthy babies in the last two months. I feel awful talking to them because I feel like I’m taking some of their happiness from them. I don’t want to ruin this time for them. I love their children so much and I don’t want them to feel an ounce of guilt for being happy. I don’t want to bring anyone else down. And I know that no one else can really help bring me up.

I’m so far down I can barely tell which way is up.

My arms ache with emptiness.

My Eulogy – Being your Mommy

On February 16th, surrounded by over 200 of her closest family and friends, we laid my sweet baby Everlee to rest. In the hardest moment of my life. I stood in front of that chapel full of people and I gave a eulogy to my sweet baby, and I told the world out loud how proud I was to be her mommy. This blog contains the words I spoke over my darling daughter the last time I saw her, and how I let people into my heart and soul to know what an amazing little girl she was before she even had a chance to be. This is my eulogy for sweet little Everlee Rose.

Ive always wanted to be a mommy. I was born to be your mommy my beautiful Everlee Rose. I never expected that motherhood would be like this for me. A mothers joy begins in an instant. That first positive test. That instant you first see that little flicker on a screen from deep inside you. From the first time you hear that incredible sound of the heartbeat and those first flutters that become playful kicks that let you know you’re never alone. For the last nine months I shared my everything with you, Everlee. I wished you goodnight and good morning with the first little stirs from within that let me know you we’re ready to start your day too. I sang to you, I talked to you, and I poked you back when you poked me. I was your mommy right from the very start, and I always will be. I am a mom, I am your mom.

Nobody will ever know you like I did. Not even your daddy. And that breaks my heart. Because to me you are perfect. An amazingly playful little girl who would wiggle and squirm and react to everything around you. I feel so sad for everyone who will never get to play with you like I did. we spent an amazing 9 months together. And ” No one will ever know the strength of my love for you like you did, you’re the only one who knows what what heart sounds like from the inside”.

Your daddy and I spent years waiting for you, not knowing if we’d ever get a chance to be your mommy and daddy. And when our prayers were finally answered against all odds we spent so many nights lying awake imagining all that you would be. You would be beautiful. Who would you be like? What would it feel like to hold you for the first time? Who would be the first one to make you laugh? What would your first word be? We waited patiently. It was hard. You were stubborn like your mommy and you had to make things just a little bit difficult in everything you did, but I did it all for you. I wish everyone knew you like I did, and I wish that we would get a chance to know the answer to all of those questions we’ve had in our hearts about you for the last nine months, but I do know this. You are more beautiful than I had ever imagined you could be and you were much too perfect for this often very cruel world.

I’ve always said that the wisest words come from Winnie the Pooh. We chose Winnie the Pooh for your nursery Everlee, because he’s been such a source of inspiration for me. So I want you to remember these words that I’ve been clinging to to get me through these absolutely most darkest days of my life as I learn to be a mommy for the first time without you here to help me “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”

A Good Day

I’m completely and utterly overwhelmed by the response to this blog. I really only expected a few close friends to read it. I wanted to do this for myself, as a therapeutic outlet where I could just let my feelings out, but the support you’ve all shown me (over 1300 visitors on my very first day) has given me the encouragement I need to go on.

I’ve been seeing a psychologist. She came to see me in my hospital room the day after Everlee was born. Well, she’s been seeing both Darcy and I. I’m in awe of him. He opens up so easily, he knows exactly how he’s feeling and how to compartmentalize those feelings. He understands why he feels a certain way and knows how to cope. he has a list of things to distract himself and a list of accomplishments. So far in our sessions he’s really been doing well in talking to her. I, on the other hand, sit there like a shy and quiet child who is being punished. I don’t know where to begin. How to look at this stranger and tell her I feel like I’m a failure as a human being – I failed to do the one thing we’re designed to do. It seems easy to write that here, but to look her in the eye and say that seems like the scariest thing I could do. I know she’s not supposed to judge me, but at this moment, I feel like the whole world is judging me.

I keep having horrific dreams. I often wake up with my hand on my stomach after dreaming I’m still pregnant. I rarely sleep longer than 20 minutes at a time. I’m jolted awake by my own fear. Most often though, I dream that different people are mad at me. Close friends. My family. My doctors. Darcy. They’re mad that I failed them. Everlee wasn’t just mine, she belonged to so many people. So many people eagerly awaited her arrival and so many people loved her. That means so much to me. That other people loved her. As Darcy said in his eulogy a week ago, she was never tainted by this cruel world, all she ever knew was love. But in my dreams people are mad that I robbed them of her.

When most people pass they leave something behind; memories, something physical, a favourite object or article of clothing. Everyone has their own feelings, their own thoughts, their own grief over the one who was lost. With Everlee, she never got that opportunity. You never got to know her, only through me. Your grief is for me – for Darcy.
Your love is for us, your sadness is for us. You’re watching me in pain, in sadness and in grief, but you can’t quite grasp what the pain is, because you didn’t know her, you had never met. That’s why this is so lonely and isolating for us, and for me especially. I was the only one who really ever knew Everlee. I knew her personality, her patterns, what she liked and didn’t like. In short – I guess – I am her mother. I knew her best.

People promise that I’m going to have good days and bad. They say that things won’t get easier, but I’ll learn how to live with the pain. I’m still waiting for those good days. Problem is, at the moment I don’t have much to look forward to. Everything for the past nine months has been about Everlee. I don’t have any hobbies, any pastimes, anything I really want to accomplish in the short term to help pass the time and numb the pain. The only thing I can really focus on is trying again, on making her a big sister. But that doesn’t have a time line right now. With an endless array of doctors appointments on the horizon I don’t know when I’ll be given then ok to try and when it will be physically safe for me to be pregnant again.

And then there’s the fear.

I just know I’ll live in constant fear of failing again. Of failing to bring my baby safe into this world.

If I can get pregnant again.

Life is just a big question mark right now. I don’t have any answers. I barely have questions. All I have is overwhelming, all consuming grief and guilt.

When do I get a good day?

The worst days of my life

It’s been really hard for me to even speak for the last week. I can’t talk much before the bitter taste of sadness fills my mouth and pours out of my eyes and on to my cheeks. Every ounce of happiness I have ever felt has been torn from my body. I’m left empty, lost and alone. I have so many wonderful people around me, offering me nothing short of everything. But what I want none of them can give me. I want my precious Everlee Rose back. I want her cooing and crying in my arms. Instead of waking up for middle of the night feedings like most new moms, I wake up to silence and a hole being dug through my chest. A crushing pain that keeps me from crying out in the nights. It leaves me scared, and vulnerable. Probably worse than that, it leaves me hating myself for something I know very well I have no control over. I may not have been able to do anything to stop what happened, but it it was still my body that betrayed my beautiful baby and didn’t keep her safe like it was supposed to. It may have been completely out of my control, but I still hate myself every second of every day for not being able to do the one job a mother should; keeping my baby safe.

Last Tuesday afternoon, February 12th would be only one day in a string of days that would culminate to be the worst in my life. I never thought I would ever have trouble pinpointing the worst day of my life, but that’s where it begins – I guess. I went to a routine doctors appointment, my 34 week checkup. I had been on bed rest for 3 weeks because of high blood pressure. A practice in torture for anyone who knows me, I’m not one to sit still for long. But I did. I ended up admitted to hospital twice in that time, but each time I was assured my baby was fine and that it was my health that was in jeopardy. I was having some mild cramping all afternoon. Like period cramps that were progressively getting worse. As my doctor and I went through our routine checkup I mentioned the cramping to her and she joked that it would be great if that was the start of labour because she was sick of seeing me already (in a joking manner, of course). I hopped up on her table, she measured my tummy and listened for the heartbeat – 154 beats per minute. I’ll never forget that number. She put me on blood pressure meds at that appointment and sent me on my way with an appointment for next weeks follow up.

As I waited at the pharmacy down the hall for my prescription to be filled the cramping got progressively worse. I thought maybe it was gastro pain and went to the washroom. The was little relief. My parents were in the parking lot to drive me home (unable to drive on bed rest) so I quickly got in their car and asked them to bring me home because I wasn’t feeling well.   By the time I got home (ten minutes later) the pain was unbearable. I tried to lay in bed to make it go away but I soon gave in to call my husband home for work to take me to the hospital.

About 30 minutes later we arrived in the case room where the nurses began asking me a barrage of questions as they took my blood pressure and hooked me up to monitors. I showed the nurse where our babies heart beat was normally found so that she could hook up the fetal monitor but it wasn’t there. She searched all over my round tummy and couldn’t find it. Another doctor soon rolled in with an ultrasound machine. The room was quiet. There was my beautiful baby on the screen. Hands to her mouth. I was in awe. So beautiful, too beautiful for words. But they couldn’t find the heartbeat. I was still either oblivious or in denial. I had heard the heartbeat not more than an hour ago. 154 beats per minute. She’s being stubborn again, I thought. I asked what that meant. And the doctor took a deep breath and looked at me, hand on my leg squeezing “it means your baby died”.

The world stopped. Time stood still.

What did she mean? How was that even possible? What happened to my beautiful baby? I could clearly see all ten fingers at her little mouth on the screen. But they weren’t moving. I don’t really remember what happened next. My husband left the room to go call my parents. I have no idea what he said to them, how he told them. I just lay there, staring into space.

Sometime later they wheeled me down to the ultra sound unit to a more sophisticated ultrasound machine to confirm the horrible nightmare, my beautiful baby, that the whole world had nicknamed McBaby, had gone. I was still in excruciating pain, and until this point had refused any sort of pain relief because I was sure they had made a mistake. But it was real, and I wasn’t waking up.   As they brought me back up to the labour and delivery room I was greeted by my crying family outside the doors, my mom dad and only sister. They were crying. That’s when I shed my first tears. They haven’t stopped since.  My husbands parents live 3000km away and when we called they quickly made the three hour drive to Toronto and hopped on the first flight to St. John’s tobe with us.  The doctors and nurses greeted me in the room with the news that I would now have to be induced and deliver my baby (it was much too risky to do a c-section). It could take hours but they promised to make me as comfortable as possible, there was absolutely no reason why I should feel pain. It was a cruel joke. I hadn’t ever felt this kind of pain, I was just told my only child, the one I loved and wanted for as long as I could remember and wasn’t sure I would ever be able to conceive, had died -and they thought the drugs would help me not feel pain?

4 shots of morphine, 4 doses of Ativan, an epidural, 4 minutes of pushing and 16 hours of labour later at 1:16pm on February 13th,  I heard the words, now tainted and sour, that I had waited almost nine months to hear – its a girl. My beautiful Everlee Rose was born sleeping, much too perfect for this cruel world.

I’m not sure what this blog will become, how long I’ll write here or what it will be a vessel for. I have a long road of healing ahead of me. Having children is not something that comes easily to my body, not conceiving, and not carrying. I know I want to make Everlee a big sister. That’s really the only thought that is keeping me the least bit sane. But we won’t be able to do it on our own. So this may become a place where I discuss that, or maybe just a place where I can discuss my road to finding a new kind of happiness again. My world is dark and lonely right now, despite all of the love I’m surrounded by I feel like I’m drowning. Drowning and all people can do is cheer me on to reach the surface, but nobody can reach down to pull me from the water.   All I know is that the one thing I want, the one thing I need to make this pain and this hurt go away is to hold my baby girl in my arms and see her big beautiful eyes looking up at me. How can I find happiness in a world without my little girl?