Reality Calling

Our daughter’s heart had stopped beating. The screen was motionless. So was I. Even the excruciating pain of the placental abruption I was experiencing was numbed by shock.  

The simple fact is, there is nothing like a stillbirth. There is nothing like going to the hospital thinking you are about to bring your baby home, only to have the incredible joy of pregnancy ripped away, leaving deep searing emptiness. There is nothing like knowing that you are still going to have to endure labour, and birth, and swollen breasts and weeks of bleeding. 

Only your baby will be dead.

Your labour will produce nothing but a beautiful shell of the precious person you have lived your life to protect. Your arms will be empty and there will be no way to soothe your aching soul. Ever. 

And that doesn’t even factor int he guilt. or the wondering. Or the pain. Soul shattering pain. It wasn’t only emotional, it was physical. My head hurt from sobbing. My eyes burned and felt raw as the scabs beneath them appeared beneath them from wiping all of the tears. My arms throbbed because she wasn’t physically there to fill them. They still do. Stillbirth didn’t just happen to me. Or to Everlee. It’s not passive. It doesn’t just happen. Your baby dies, and then you give birth. 

 And you’ve had a baby. But you don’t have a baby. 

When I was pregnant I was like every other excited mother. I signed up for lists, and coupons and Facebook groups. Now, every forgotten tick of a check box on an online purchase comes back to me when I least expect it, and I relive it all over again. 

Yesterday, while standing at the end of the counter waiting for my latte at Starbucks my phone rang. I picked up and a cheerful gentleman said “Mrs. McMeekin, My name is _______ and I contacted you back in May, we got your information from Thyme Maternity and I was wondering if you had given any more thought to the RESP that we had discussed for your baby. I see they should be about 6 months old now is that right?”

What this gentleman didn’t seem to recall was me falling to pieces on the phone with him back in May. He didn’t remember me telling him about Everlee passing away. He didn’t recall me begging him to take me off of his calling list.  

However, my hurt this time was rage. 

Standing at the end to the counter I tore into the man on the other end of the phone. I had told him in May to remove me from his list and he hadn’t done that. So now, I was standing in the one place where I still find some peace, and I am attacked from behind when I least expect it.  

Reality calling, just checking in to make sure that you know your daughter is still dead. Got it? ok. good.

As if I could forget. But life keeps seeming to want to remind me. Blow after blow to the face. As if I don’t think of it every second of the day. It’s been 205 endless days and nights that blur together in a sleepless haze. I don’t ask for the memories to come. They’re just there. I lie in bed every night and I birth her again and again and again. I hold her again and again for the first and last time. I feel that lingering ache that prevents me forgetting even for a second the nauseating reality of what has happened. 

It changed me. 

I try so hard to out on a smile and go out into the world and be the Rhonda everyone wants me to be. But it’s hard. and I hurt. And I’m exhausted. Sometimes pretending I’m ok is even harder than admitting I’m not.  

It still bothers me when people say I’m brave. Bravery is a choice. Living this, surviving it isn’t a choice. Its my responsibility to my daughter to keep going, because she cannot. If anything, it’s as Juliette Lewis said “The bravest thing I ever did was continuing my life when I wanted to die”. 

My daughter’s heart stopped beating. But mine beats for her now.

Inch By Inch

To those of you who have been following my story, whether it be from right beside me, or only via my blog, you would know that around the same time that Everlee was born (within 6 weeks) both of my very best friends had babies as well. Claire was Born in January, and Danny was born in the wee hours of the first day or February. As a psychiatrist I spoke to once put it, it made a dreadfully tragic circumstance that much more painful for me to deal with. We were supposed to enter a new chapter of our lives together, like we did for high school, post-secondary and marriage. We’ve done everything together. And this was supposed to be the start of another generation of friends.

Don’t get me wrong for a second, I am over the moon happy for A and K. I love their children as if they were my own blood. They are wonderful babies. But knowing that my two best friends who I have turned to for everything in my entire life were now moving onto a stage of life that we were supposed to journey on together, without me, has been beyond heartbreaking. In spoken and unspoken ways we have been all in a delicate dance for the last number of months.

How much do I share of my sorrow without becoming too much?

And how much do they share of their joy without feeling like they’re hurting me?

Most times we don’t have to talk about this agonizing tango. It’s been hard. On all of us. Not just me.  But both of them live at a distance and going through this without them nearby has been worse than I could imagine.

So when the stars aligned a few weeks ago that we could all be together again for the first time in over 2 years, I swallowed my pain and booked a ticket to Halifax so that I could spend a week with my three best girlfriends – two of them with their same-aged children.

A lot of people were worried about me. Including myself. Mostly myself. How would I deal with being in a house with two babies the same age as Everlee should be? Would their crying cut me like thousand tiny knives? And would I be able to look at them without feeling the pain of every one of Everlee’s missed smiles?

Surprisingly, spending time with the kids was not the hardest part of the week for me. What was harder to swallow was the fact that my two best friends has grown into the most wonderful mothers. Watching them cooing over their beautiful babies, and kissing away every tear, and falling in love all over again over every giggle was what was most painful. Their shells were the same, but they had found a new love in the eyes of their kids that has awakened a beauty that I had never seen in them before. Their smiles were brighter, and they glowed with pride. And the jealousy I felt was almost more than I could bear sometimes. And I fought with myself, So overwhelmingly happy for them, to see them oozing with pure joy. And so sad for myself, who should be feeling all of that love for my Everlee, but instead feeling them exact opposite. Hot, burning painful sorrow of her absence.

I enjoyed my week. We shopped. We laughed, we drank beer and talked about the past and the future. I love my girl friends more than almost anything in the whole world, and my pain did not and will not ever overshadow our lifetime of friendship. Long before children were on the immediate radar, the three of us dreamed of a scenario where our kids grew up together, close in age and close in proximity. We imagined our babies crawling around together, our toddlers fighting over toys, our pre-schoolers trading sentences. It’s only natural, of course, for us to wish the sort of closeness between our kids as we share ourselves.  I grieve for that loss. But I am so thankful for their amazing supportive friendship. I am so incredibly lucky to have had these beautiful women in my life for the last 24 years. And nothing – NOTHING – will ever change that.

A, K, MD: I love you endlessly and thank you for being exactly the kind of friends I have needed every day of my life. And thank you for being there for me for that last week in Hali. You’re support and patience with me helped me more than you could ever understand, even if I never speak it aloud.

As I’ve changed -or maybe as my friends have changed- so have our relationships.  Sometimes we’ve stayed buoyed to each other and sometimes we’ve floated away, each pushed along by the tide of our own lives.  The friendships that have stuck and have followed me through my life despite all the changes, both theirs and mine, are the ones in which we’ve continued to find new places in our lives for each other.

I am not the same as I was seven months ago and neither are all of my friendships.  There is no more animosity for the ones who could not stay but there is so much gratitude for the ones that did.

My future life of living

There are so many moments when I am flooded with missing her. The shock hits me like a freight train that she’s really gone. I know that it sounds crazy, but it scares me to think of a time when I don’t get hit with how much I miss her, then she will seem farther so much farther away.

Mornings are hard, I miss her… but then again afternoons are rough, evenings difficult and night-time is downright painful. So my logical self (she doesn’t pop out too often) knows that life will start to grow around the pain and the missing, that it will be permanent piece in my new normal- my future life of living.

Do I ever hope life gets easier? Do I ever want to feel less pain? I know the answers to those questions, for me, are not the answers people would assume. I don’t really hope life gets easier. I don’t really want less pain. In a way, those are the ways I KNOW that I remember, the ways my heart knows she was so important and real. When I don’t feel pain or I start to move a little easier will that mean I have moved on? I don’t know, all these things my brain will get to, when it is ready.

Right now I’ll let the weight of the day rest on my shoulders and wait for the darkness of night to consume me and my thoughts for another sleepless night. This is a journey of me finding my new normal. I miss my old normal all of the time, my normal that included Everlee. I don’t know how this new normal will ever not be broken and in a way empty, but I choose to know that there is some path out of this darkness. I didn’t just lose my baby, I lost my whole world.

I Had a Baby.

One day at a time. one foot in front of the other. I wake up every morning and go through the motions of life while everything stands still. Every morning I gaze in the bathroom mirror and try to remember what I looked like pregnant. I hated how my body looked pregnant at the time, and now I’m so acutely aware of how beautiful it was and how beautiful I was when she was with me. I was huge, but I had a happiness and a smile that transcended my circumference. Now I stand and see a saggy tummy, full of bright purple stretch marks that only serve as a painful reminder of what I had and lost, in so many ways.

It’s very easy for the world to forget that I’ve had a baby when I don’t have a baby. It’s easy for others not to acknowledge what my body has been through. I’ve been focusing a lot of the emotional side of this struggle, which is undoubtedly the part of this that consumes me the most. But there is a part of this that a lot of people forget about, that’s easy to forget about when you don’t have a baby in your arms. The physical side; the pain, the recovery, the engorgement.

These are things I might feel differently about if my arms weren’t empty. I’d like to imagine that when you do come home with a baby you’re so consumed with this new precious little life that taking care of your own physical needs becomes secondary and not nearly as consuming as it has been for me. Unfortunately, I can’t speak from experience, I can only speculate. I didn’t bring a baby home. People are afraid to ask, but for those who were curious, I didn’t have a c-section. I’m undergoing the same recovery process that any mother who delivered a baby goes through. And I’m not spared from the postpartum hormones either, I’m a tangled mess of hormones and grief. My body and my mind conspire against me.

Grief is such an odd “thing”. If am not sure if it’s an emotion or feeling or state of mind or stage or what so I am just gonna call it a thing. Its a thing that has consumed my mind and my body. I don’t know when or if I’ll get either, or both, back. It makes you sad and keeps you sad. It can take away the ability to see the happy in situations. It can smother you like a blanket and take your breath away. It makes you a stranger to yourself. It will allow you to go through the motions of life, but in a way, stop you from actually living.

Where is God?

I’ve had this entry written for a few days. I haven’t done that with any other blog. Usually I post them immediately because I want them to be the raw and emotional account of this period in my life that they have been thus far. This is different. I considered not posting this, because I know it will upset some people. But this blog is about honesty emotion and hurt. This is how I am feeling at this juncture in my life. Many people have praised me for writing this blog, citing that it may help those who have gone through this who can’t find their voice. If that’s true, then I can only deduce that others have these same questioning, angry feelings about God that I do right now. So I’m posting this. If you want to debate the existence or love of God I ask that you first search deep inside yourself and ask if you were in my shoes would you really react any differently? 

This entry may upset some people. I’m prepared to deal with that. I am not, however, prepared to debate it.

I feel like I have been standing on the precipice of writing this entry for awhile now. Maybe it’s all of the fanfare surrounding the appointing of a new pope, or maybe it’s just my complete exasperation with people continually telling me that this hell I’ve been subjected to is part of Gods plan, but I really feel like it’s time I got this out.

I have always had a relationship with God. I was born and raised a catholic and the church has played various roles – sometime a supporting role, and sometimes a starring one – in my life. In my teen years, my search for God led me to many wonderful people who have helped shape who I have become. My faith has always played a part in who I am and has guided me in making many of life’s major decisions. I have never been showy about my spirituality, so this may come as a surprise to some. And although I have not been an active member of a church for many years, I have lived by the mantra that hands that  help are better than hands that pray. Not that I stopped praying, I just decided to devote myself to God in service in a more literal sense through volunteerism, than the figurative sense being spent in church for an hour each week.

But through all of this, I can’t help but wonder, when people tell me this was all a part of God’s plan,  what kind of monstrous, spiteful, vengeful God could ever rob my baby of a life she deserved? She will never wake me up to be fed at 3am. She will never squish buttercream icing between her chubby fingers on her first birthday. Her eyes will never light up at the sight of presents under the tree on christmas morning. She’ll never walk into a school for her first day of kindergarten. She will never have her nightmares kissed away by her mommy who loves her more than anything or anyone. If that was God’s plan – if he PLANNED this – I want no part in him. I want no part in a God conspired to take my baby away from me; a baby that I prayed and hoped and wished for every moment of my adult life. My Everlee.

There are a lot of things that are really hard for me to swallow when people say them, one is when people suggest “You could always adopt”. I think adoption is a wonderful, beautiful thing. But at this moment, it’s not a consideration for us. That is a last effort for us. And to me (again, what people say and what I hear are two very different things right now) I hear them telling me to give up and that I have no hope of ever having a biological child. The second  is that “God has a reason for this” or this is “Part of God’s plan”. I don’t often side with my husband when it comes to matters of the church, but in this case I agree with him – either I need another God, or God needs another plan.

I don’t foresee that I will search for God, or for a divine answer in all of this. As with all of my questions in this utter tragedy,  I don’t think that there are any answers. If there is a God out there, something I am doubting for the first time in my life, he’s going to have to prove himself to me.

What I do believe in, what I have more faith in now than ever before is the goodness of people. People have reached out from everywhere to support us. There have been people who have been there my entire life who have gotten closer, people who had left my life who have come back and shown me that love is never lost, and people who were always on the periphery in my life, who have stepped up when I have needed support the most. My faith is now, at least for the time being, in love, and in humanity.

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.