Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What I want to say to her

When he was 19, my husband served a mission for my church for 2 years.  While on his mission he got compared with other young men as a "companionship." This would change every 6 weeks to a few months, depending.  As you can imagine, he developed some lasting friendships and is still in contact with several of his old companions.

Today he found out that the wife of one of them just lost twins (I don't know what gestation).  I told him to tell David to let his wife know I'm here if she needs someone to talk to.  And there are some things that I definitely want to say.

~It's okay to be devastated.  It doesn't matter when it happens, having a baby or babies die is one of the most horrible things that can happen to a woman.  It shatters your very sense of self.  It doesn't matter when it happens, either.  The moment you know you are pregnant you start having hopes and dreams and plans for that child.  And having those stolen from you hurts, whether it's the day after your positive test, or years after the child is born.

~It's okay to not want to think about it.  Sometimes, the pain hurts so much you can't breathe, and the only way to KEEP breathing is to turn it all off.  That doesn't mean that you don't love those babies.  Do what you need to get you from one moment to the next.

~You don't have to accept hurtful statements.  Very well-meaning people will try to say things to make you feel better.  Only, the idea that you can be made to feel better about it undermines and invalidates your feelings.  It's okay to tell people that what they've said is actually painful for you.  Hopefully, because they love you, they will try to understand what you need from them at that moment.

~It's okay to ask for help.  If someone says "If there's anything I can do...," ask them to do your dishes.  It's okay to allow someone to serve you.  It will help you both.

~It DOES get better.  That doesn't mean that the pain ever completely goes away, because I don't think it does really.  You love your child, and therefore you will always miss them and wish they were there with you.  But you will be able to smile and laugh again.  It is possible to find joy in life again.  It is possible to find joy in the child that you lost, even though you don't have them with you.  Smiles will one day come with the tears, and the tears will no longer be constant or even every day.  And sometimes the smile will come without the tears.  It does get better.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Steps back into life

January 21, 2013 ~ Steps Back into Life
Share about your first steps back into life. What helped you survive in the world outside as you took those first tender steps? Are there still tender areas for you today, living in a world that doesn’t embrace or understand the loss of a baby/child? How do you cope with those struggles? What advice would you offer those new to this walk to encourage and bring hope? How has this changed for you from the beginning? If you are in early grief, what do you fear/struggle with as you try to navigate a new normal….life without your baby?

For the first 3 1/2 years of our marriage, Matt was going to school at BYU-Idaho in the very small town of Rexburg, Idaho.  I was pregnant with Cora there.  I worked at a gas station/convenience store that would sell 40oz soda for $.60.  Being a college town, you can imagine how busy we were because of that.  And there were the regulars.  It was amazing how many people came in multiple times a day for their soda.

So they knew me, and it was quite obvious that I was pregnant.  Many of them knew I only had a few weeks left and were as excited as me.  So I don't think it surprised anyone when I left suddenly.

Only, they thought it was because I had a baby.  Of course, I did "have a baby" in that I had gone through labor and delivery.  But while all my coworkers knew that Cora died, none of the customers knew.

I of course took time off. But we were poor, and really needed my small income, and the company was small, and really needed someone working my shift, so I went back to work after only a little over a month of leave.  I was apprehensive, but I honestly felt I needed to be doing something other than sitting at home staring at my empty nursery.

The first day I was asked 5 times how my baby was.  My friend Bree was working with me, and started intercepting and explaining.  But that didn't stop the stab in the gut I felt every time the words were said.  Or the guilt I felt when I saw the expression on their face.  They were expecting happy news from me, not tragedy.  I know it's not really a rational thought, but I still felt guilty for it.  I powered through, expecting it to get better.  But there was one evening when a man with Down's Syndrome came in with his caretaker shortly after I got in.  My first job after I got in was to fill the ice reservoirs in the soda machines, so I was filling buckets with ice when he poked his head in the side room the ice maker chest was in.  I had promised to bring a picture of Cora for him to see after she was born, and he was bubbling over with excitement.  And of course, he didn't understand what the term "stillborn" meant, so I had to explain to him that she died.  And he started crying.  And he hugged me and we just sobbed.  His caretaker (I never did know if it was his brother or someone who was hired to care for him) was, of course, shocked and embarrassed until I explained.  But that grief was too much for me.  I had to lock myself in the restroom and cry for 15 minutes before I could get ahold of myself.

So when another job opportunity fell into my lap, I jumped on it.  I needed to get away.  I just could not move on when I had to keep explaining over and over and over that no, I didn't have a baby at home.

In a way, I started my life over.  I still kept in contact with a few of my friends I'd made over the course of that year, but mostly I was dealing with a completely separate group of people on a daily basis.  People who didn't look at me with pity in their eyes every time our eyes met.  People to whom my loss was abstract, if they knew about it at all, because they didn't *see* me pregnant or even feel my baby move.

Being around different people, doing different things every day, making my life not a constant reminder of being pregnant with Cora helped pull me out of the darkness, I think.  I wasn't going to go back to what I was before because my life was so different in so many other aspects as well.

I still get frustrated today, though, that people don't understand that part of me isn't ever going to go away.  I have 3 living children now, and many people just expect me to be "better."  But I will always miss Cora, because she's my daughter.  A mother's love for a child doesn't require that child ever being seen, or known, or held while alive.  A mother's love just is, and it doesn't go away.  So my grief for her doesn't either.  I've come to a place of peace in my grief, and I wish that others could accept that I could be at peace and still be grieving, and not have something be "wrong."

Monday, February 11, 2013

Clinging in the pit

January 14, 2013 ~ Clinging in the Pit
If you are not new to loss, talk a bit about early grief. What was it like, clinging for hope in the pits of despair? What did you cling to for hope? How did you survive the early days? What helped? What do you wish you could share with someone new to this walk, clinging in the pit? If you’re in the pit, currently, share your struggles. What can others do to encourage you?

First of all, I really want to reiterate how sudden it was for us.  Cora was perfectly healthy.  Everything at the ultrasounds looked great, and we always had really great prenatal appointments.  I had worried about miscarriage at the beginning, but after having such a great mid-pregnancy ultrasound (and I asked a LOT of questions and made the tech show me everything), I figured we were in the clear.  I didn't know stillbirths still happened as often as they do.  So when I woke up that morning and couldn't get her to respond, even though I knew in my heart what the answer must be, I had convinced myself it couldn't happen. It took a while for me to be able to get into my doctor and a while longer waiting for them to have an open moment where they could take me back.  All that time, I had that dread deep down, but I had been hoping I was wrong.

Dr. B. tried the find the heartbeat on doppler first, and I was already crying when he switched to the ultrasound.  He said something about only miracle workers being able to get a heartbeat on every try, but at 38 weeks I knew that just about the only reason to not find a heartbeat is because there isn't one.  Even so, I can't really describe what it felt like to hear "I'm sorry, there's her heart, and it isn't beating."  I made a sort of strangled scream sound that I've never heard anywhere else, which quickly turned into sobbing.

It's interesting to be asked to describe the times right after, because I quite honestly don't remember much.  I had to turn my brain off. I couldn't allow myself to think because the thoughts were so suffocatingly painful.  I spent a lot of time just reminding myself to breathe.  Most of it, though, is just a fog.  I know that I was living, but I wasn't really alive.  I was more like a puppet, going through the motions and only existing.

I also spent a lot of time angry at myself that I just couldn't go back to normal.  Holding the lifeless body of your baby completely changes you though, and it took me a while to realize that I couldn't ever be the person I was before anymore.

But slowly and surely something happened.  I started to come out of the fog.  I started really engage in my life again.  I could smile without feeling guilty.  I could laugh.  Most of all, though, I appreciated every moment.  I understood how fast it could all end, so every moment was a miracle.

Thankfully, while the fog is gone, the gratitude is not.  Cora Rei means "heart full of gratitude."  That seems to have been her gift to me.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Walking with you series

I recently discovered this blog series.  It's over this week, so I'll be playing catch-up.

January 7, 2013 ~ Introduction and Where are You Now?
Tell us a little about yourself, your baby, and how you’ve come to this walk. Also, where are you now in your grief and healing? Are you new to this, still in the depths of fresh grief? Have you been walking this path awhile?

I'm Brittanie.  I'll be turning 30 this year, and am the mother of one sweet angel girl, and 3 rainbows.  Cora Rei was my first baby, and I was so excited to be pregnant.  Unfortunately I have suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum with every one of my of my four pregnancies, pretty much from conception, all the way until delivery.  With my first pregnancy, since it was unexpected, it got pretty severe before I started getting treatment for it.  So my pregnancy with Cora was quite difficult, but I was still so very grateful.  I was due May 14, 2006, which that year happened to be Mother's Day.  On May 1st (38 weeks and 1 day), I woke up and when I took my shower, Cora didn't move.  This was completely uncharacteristic for her.  I bruised myself trying to get her to move and had no response.  When I was finally able to get in to my doctor (I had to argue for a while with a nurse practitioner who apparently thought that I was just a stupid first-timer who was freaking out over nothing), they did an ultrasound and confirmed she no longer had a heartbeat.  I was induced the next morning, as there were no open hospital beds until then, and Cora was born at 4:02 pm, weighing a perfect 6lb10oz, 20 inches long, with beautiful, bright red curly hair.  She would be turning 7 this year, and not a day goes by that I don't miss her.

Since I'm currently a stay-at-home-mother to Cora's three rainbow siblings, my life is filled with a lot of joy.  But I still miss her every day.  Especially when I look at Erin, who was born 13 months and 5 days after Cora was stillborn.  Every new thing Erin does shows me something know I didn't know to grieve for.  But Erin knows who her sister is.  We have discussions about Cora and our beliefs about what happens after death and where she is now.  In some way, it has made it easier because talking about her reminds me that she is never forgotten and is still a part of our family.

Friday, February 8, 2013


Sometimes it just hits me over the head the little moments I have or will miss.  I was watching Erin, thinking about all the things I'm looking forward to with my living children, and it just hit me that I'm not going to experience those things with Cora.

I don't get to watch her pick her own clothes out for the day, or go shopping with her.  I don't get to hear her talk about her day or what she wants for her own future.  She doesn't get to tell me her dreams, even the bad ones. I don't get to see her interact with her siblings, and ask me for another baby.

I'll never get to pick out/make prom dresses with her, or see her graduate from high school or play a sport or an instrument or be in a play.  I won't get to hug her on her wedding day, or sit with her while she is in labor with her own babies.

I know I'll get to see her again someday, deep in my heart.  But that doesn't fix this.  It doesn't give me back all the things I'm missing now.  And that hurts.