Monday, July 28, 2008


I am 23 weeks pregnant today. This is how I spent the first day of my 23rd week with Caleb. It was the end of the end. It was the beginning of the beginning. It was the day that I met a part of myself I didn't know existed. It was a time when I felt emotions I didn't know I had. It was an introduction into an emptiness reserved only for the truly devastated, where sadness is only a resting place and despair and hopelessness become a final destination. A realization that nothing is ever in my control, that no one or nothing would ever be able to offer me any reassurance that 'everything will be alright' ever again. A knowledge that everything would forever be changed, that making plans is not always the expedient thing to do and instead can lead to heartbreak and more uncertainty than if you had just left things be.
I am a wholly different person today than I was almost a year ago, 48 weeks and a day give or take, ago. I am not who I thought I would be, but then who can predict your 'recovery' from giving birth to our dead son? I am still haunted daily with thoughts of what happened, although now they are shrouded with equal thoughts of hope and pleading that the tragedy will not be revisited with this tiny leprechaun still growing within my body. My body, which, those 48 weeks ago served as a coffin and not as a place of nurture and growth for a baby. I speak more openly about my loss, I am not afraid to say when asked about this pregnancy that this will be my FOURTH child and to give voice to his name and brief lifetime here on this earth.
My daughter was in the hospital last week, twice and in going over her history with the ER doc, I was asked about her pregnancy, her delivery, my other children, any major illness, deaths etc, as they tried desperately to find out what was wrong with her. And so I told him about my Caleb, not mincing words, not wanting to waste time in diagnosing my daughters condition. "I had a son in September, he was stillborn." Simply stated, not seeking comfort or sympathy only relating the facts, I didn't even think about all of the emotional baggage attached to the statement. It stopped the young doctor in his tracks. He became flustered and wordless. He stammered, "Oh, oh, oh that's just, oh its oh you mean just this past September? Oh almost a year ago, oh, oh..." he looked at my mother, who was sitting in the room with me and my daughter, for help or guidance and then back to me, "Do they know why?" And again I told him, dismissing the familiar lump in my throat that appeared I think more because of his discomfort than mine, "A cord accident." His words continued to tangle their way off of his tongue as he tried to offer something to me, but truth be told, it just wasn't the time. There was nothing to be done for Caleb at that moment and the only thing I wanted for me was to have my daughter not be in any more pain, to have my daughter cured and handed back to me, whole and healthy. It was time to move on and not let his death be the primary focus of the conversation or the moment. And we did.
I suppose I have a different perspective now. The one that time grants you as you struggle through the thickness of grief. I can not or choose not to reread the words I wrote about that day. The memory is still there in my head but I see it differently now. Now I remember the minute details instead of the enormous crushing feelings. When I think of laboring and pushing, I can see vividly the yellow weave of my husbands shirtsleeve that I had buried my face in. I can feel it's course texture on my cheek. I can read his work logo in soft grey lettering on his chest, my mascara smeared on the sleeve. He wore that shirt the other day and I said to him, "I hate that shirt, you were wearing it when Caleb was born." He stopped and looked at me in shock. He had no recollection of it whatsoever. He said I can't focus on that, things like that. We lived in this house, we drove the same cars, we slept in our bed, should we get rid of all of it because it's what we had while he was here? Perspective.
I remember the bright sunlight pouring into our hospital room. Born in the early morning hours of a new day, the darkest of days, the bright rays of golden glimmer refused to be dimmed by our loss. My tiny son lying next to me, still and lifeless, bathed in the warm glow of the promise of a new beginning, one that was denied to all of us and yet mocked us in its brightness, refusing to be shut out even when the curtains were pulled tightly closed in a vain effort to deny that life would go on without him.
I remember being wheeled out of the delivery room, disoriented and flat on my back, not able to move my legs as the epidural had yet to wear off, staring at the ceiling tiles as I was rolled down the L & D hallway being moved to another wing of the floor. A part of the hospital where there were no babies, no cries of hunger, no sounds of life and its first moments here on earth. I remember the gurney wheels turning, passing by closed doors where labors and delivery's with happy endings were still unfolding, I remember being removed from that place where I didn't belong and tucked into a small room, private, where my husband and I would spend the next night, hidden away from all of the joy at the opposite end of the floor. We were not meant to be a part of it and we were not meant to cast a shadow on the pure innocence of childbirth, the happiest day for most who walked those hallways. I remember pulling the thin, white industrial sheet over my head as we made our way down that hallway, not wanting to see another person and not wanting them to see me, alone, empty, childless as I was escorted into my future without my son.
And here I sit, 23 weeks again. This baby is still moving, I know, for the moment this baby is still here. I want to believe that because of that we will make it all the way through and get the happy ending, but I am not yet brave enough to do it, yet. My perspective has changed, my ability to believe in the rightness or wrongness of life has been altered. I know bad things happen to good people and bad people. I know good things happen to bad people and good people. I don't ask "Why me?" I say, "Why not me.".

ETA**My daughter is fully recovered, yippee!**

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pictures of you

My mom had portraits done a couple of weeks ago. Her grand kids. She bought them all matching outfits, hired a photographer, coordinated dates with my sister in law and me and had the sitting done at her house. I wasn't there for the actual shoot because the photographer is my sisters sister in law (not the one who sent me the birth announcement after Caleb died that announced their healthy baby, pictures and all, born a week after my Caleb was born still....Yes, in case you are wondering, I am STILL angry and bitter about that card), and I didn't want her, the other sister in law, to see me and my belly. All I did was get my kids ready, drive them over and drop them off. I left.
Yesterday, my dad brought the disc over with all of the proofs. I sat at my computer with my dad, looking through hundreds of photos, most of them of just my two kids because my niece, the older 4 year old, has an enormous aversion to being photographed. She turns sour and hides and is generally a pill anytime we try to get pictures of the kids together. I scanned through the proofs, choosing ones I thought I might like to order, and as I neared the end of the reel a picture popped up onto my screen. My son and daughter sitting next to each other on the on the grass, smiling beautiful, peaceful smiles, both of them, their heads leaning in towards each other, her arms reaching down in front of her, his arm reaching across her, both of them holding their new cousin, 6 months old. The exact age Caleb would be, Caleb should be, if, if only. Looking at the picture I felt the air in the room get thin and disappear. My head spun. My eyes glazed over. I was looking at what might have been our family photograph, what should have been our family photograph. I was looking at what could have been. I was looking at what isn't ever going to be.
The knife cut deeply. The wound I like to think is healing, left gaping. I was mesmerized by the picture and despite the pain, I could not turn away from it. For that moment I fantasized about the what ifs and the if only's.
I let my eyes stay foggy, I let the picture blur into a memory, I let myself pretend I was looking at a picture of him.
Then the tears started to well and my dads voice brought me back to the reality that is my life. My life without my Caleb. I clicked on the next button and just like that he was gone from me again.
But for just a moment Caleb, just the briefest of seconds, I believed I was looking at my pictures of you.

i've been looking so long at these pictures of you that i almost belive that they're real
i've been living so long with my pictures of you that i almost believe that the pictures are all i can feel
remembering you standing quiet in the rain as i ran to your heart to be near
and we kissed as the sky fell in holding you close
how i always held close in your fear
remembering you running soft through the night
you were bigger and brighter than the snow and screamed at the make-believe
screamed at the sky and you finally found all your courage to let it all go
remembering you fallen into my arms crying for the death of your heart
you were stone white so delicate lost in the cold you were always so lost in the dark
remembering you how you used to be
slow drowned you were angels so much more than everything
oh hold for the last time then slip away quietly open my eyes but i never see anything
if only i had thought of the right words i could have hold on to your heart
if only i'd thought of the right words i wouldn't be breaking apart all my pictures of you
Looking So long at these pictures of you but i never hold on to your heart
looking so long for the words to be true but always just breaking apart my pictures of you
there was nothing in the world that i ever wanted more than to feel you deep in my heart
there was nothing in the world that i ever wanted more than to never feel the breaking apart all my pictures of you*

*The Cure

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The fear

The days are long and hot and sleep, restful sleep anyway, is hard to come by. The time is fast approaching, the time when I lost Caleb. I think I know the night he died. I remember a sudden flurry of kicking. I remember a fleeting thought, what if the baby is choking and I remember dismissing it as ridiculous paranoia. I remember hitting the 20 week point in his pregnancy and thinking, "Ha!, no chance of a miscarriage for me anymore." The thought of a stillborn child lingering in the quiet corner of my mind, dismissed again, as ridiculous paranoia.
In the days after those rapid fire kicks I felt, I convinced myself that our baby was still okay despite the fear I felt rising inside of me. As each day passed without his regular nighttime exercise routine, I told myself it would be okay, the baby had just turned the other way and I could not feel the kicks the same way. I thought about all the kicking I had seen during the ultrasound only a week before and I had felt none of it. Babies don't die, I told myself. At least mine don't, that would never happen to me. But it did.
Now as I have hit the 20 week point with this pregnancy, every time I feel this baby kick I wonder, will it be the last time? When are you going to die? When is the rug going to be pulled out from under me? Today driving in the car with my two not so little anymore kids, my son, out of the blue asked me, "How is the baby doing?" . I was having a morning where I hadn't felt the baby yet and had worked myself into a state of hidden panic, desperate to eat something to encourage movement, and I did not know how to answer him. So I said, "Are you worried?" And he told me he was. I wonder how long he has been waiting to ask me that question and I wonder if my answer made him worry more. I told him I was worried too. But that we thought for now, the baby was ok. My daughter piped in with, "That's why I always have my fingers crossed. To keep the baby safe.". I drove my anxiety filled car home and shoved some food into my belly and sure enough, kicks, little kicks that said to me "Hello, I'm still in here, alive and, well, kicking." Reassurance, yes, for a few moments and then it will come back. The fear. Was that it? Have you died now? Are you gone from me forever?
I know there will never be a time with this pregnancy where I ever feel any guarantee that it will all be alright. In my successful pregnancy's I know I worried, (I am a worrier by birth right) but I think I was just arrogant enough to believe that really, the bad things never happened to me. I am not arrogant anymore. I ate one huge, not slice, but one whole humble pie the morning my Caleb was born still. I know the bad things do happen to me and that there is nothing stopping them from coming around for a repeat visit.
The fear isn't ordinary or imagined, it is born of real life terror. It comes from a place within I hadn't known existed before I held my dead son. It makes my previous lifetime of worry pale in comparison. "Before", I worried about things that I thought might happen, things I could conjure up, things that happened to other people and I wondered and worried could they happen to me. Now I worry about the things that happened to me. I don't have to conjure or imagine, I only have to remember, I only have to look at the tiny footprints, the tiny hand prints, the death certificate. Now there is no convincing myself that these things don't happen to me, there is no talking myself down from the ledge. Now the worry has earned a permanent place in the forefront of my thoughts. I tell myself the worry won't, can't make it not happen, the worry won't, can't make it happen, the worry does nothing but take, take, take. And yet I can not stop it. The fear, the terror, the worry.
I don't know if the worry will subside if I make it past where I lost Caleb, my inner voice and past life tell me no it will not. I'd like a day where I can just enjoy this pregnancy, where I can feel confident in my body's ability to safely nurture a child to full term...I'd like to be innocent again. But I can not.
Instead, I will spend these next few days and hopefully these next 18 or so weeks, alternating between the moments of calm that come when this baby sends me a message of hope, kicked out in baby Morse code, and the times filled with anxiety when I feel nothing, but the fear.

Friday, July 4, 2008

I have no words....

Please go visit my dear friend C., the unthinkable has happened, again.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A lifetime

Today is 10 months. 10 months since he's been gone. I don't usually mark these days, even though it is hard not to notice them, it being the "first' of every month. He's been gone longer than we knew him and now this little one inside me has been here almost as long as we had him.
I remember lying in bed with my husband in those first weeks after we lost Caleb trying to convince my husband to try again. I wanted so desperately to be pregnant again. Some nights I could almost imagine that I could still feel Caleb moving inside me. I told myself if I could just get pregnant again right away it would almost be like it didn't happen. A new baby would come only months behind when Caleb should have been here. A new baby would have come right around now.
I never pictured myself as a denial type person. I always thought of myself as pretty in touch with all the emotions spinning around in my little head. But I know now, that I was heaping denial into my pile by the bucket load. Trying to cram a new baby into our lives before we had even had a real moment to grieve for our lost son. Spending the immediate weeks after begging my husband to try again, then finally convincing him to and immediately focusing on calendars and weeks and "o" days and then the tww. Oh sure, the sadness was there, the tears were there, a day never passed that I didn't miss the baby I had already lost but I refused to acknowledge the hugeness of his loss, the permanence of his dying, the constant of the emptiness. It is here now.
And the guilt too. When I was pregnant with Caleb, we didn't find out his sex. I have never wanted to know ahead of time with any of my kids. But I knew. With all of them. And it was true with him as well. And when I knew, I was sad. I wanted a girl. I never told anyone that but I did. I don't even know why I wanted another girl. Truth be told my son was an easier baby and gave us a lot less drama growing up than my daughter does. Of course she is only 6 so the drama is just getting started but WOW is it here. Maybe I wanted her to have a sister cuz I love mine so much. Maybe it was all the bins of girl clothes staring me in the face in my garage, I don't know. But a girl was what I wanted. And when the feeling came, the I know it's a boy feeling, I was disappointed. I spent many days convincing myself that I would love this baby just as much, reminding myself how much I loved my son when he was born, how much I had wanted a boy, I had wanted all boys in fact, having been terrified of the love hate relationship of moms and daughters that I had known with my own mom in my teen years. And so my daily reassurance was that when I finally saw this baby I would love him with all of my heart and I wouldn't miss the girl at all. I was right. And I was devastated. When he was born I asked for confirmation of what I already knew, was he a boy? Yes. And my heart broke. What if? What if I hadn't loved him enough already. What if he knew I had wanted him to be a girl? What if my disappointment had made it's way into his tiny world within me. I only had a few short weeks with him and I didn't spend them loving him unconditionally. I spent them talking myself out of wanting a girl. Shame on me. Greedy, greedy girl, now look what you've done.
And now it has gotten worse.
Why? Because I am fairly certain this new baby, is a girl. I didn't look at the ultrasound, my husband did, who knows what he saw, but he thinks he knows. He's made some 'her' references but always follows with 'or him', but that's not why I feel the way I do. I just have the same feeling I have had with all of my babies. And this time I feel like it's a girl. And I feel so guilty, I can't even put it all into words. I know, logically that my thinking the way I did, did not cause Caleb to die. My wishing he was a girl did not make his cord narrow at one point thereby allowing him to get it twisted to a point where, like a garden hose, he kinked it and cut off his own oxygen supply. I know this. I think. But it's hard not to let the thoughts of the charmic Gods having yet another laugh at me flow, "You want a girl, okay, we'll take this one then, and here you go. Take that greed monger.".
Whether or not I am right on the whole sex thing, my eyes have been opened wide. My little boy is gone from me, forever. No baby will ever take his place. His place was not a void to be filled. His place is a permanent part of us, we can not erase it or cover it up with something else. His absence will always fill a room and no matter how many people we stuff into that room, his place will still be there. It is that force field between opposite ends of magnets, that no matter how hard you try to push them together, to make them touch, to make them whole, to make them one, you can not. Because it is always there, even though you can't see it or feel it or touch it. That force is always there. And in the same way, Caleb will always be there. We will not be whole, we will not be one complete unit, ever again. For us, our family photo will always have an empty place where Caleb should have been.
No matter who this new baby turns out to be, I get it now. It has taken me 10 months to get here. 10 long and short months of grieving and hoping. I get it now. It has taken me 10 months to understand it, to really feel it. What is it that you lose when your baby dies? It's a short answer really, what you lose when your baby dies is, a lifetime.