Sunday, December 28, 2008

On birth announcements and anger

I'm going to piss someone off here, I am sure. But, it's my space so here is where I get to dump my maybe petty, maybe serious, gripes with 'issues' that I am otherwise compelled to keep quiet about.

So here goes.
As surprising as this may seem, we actually kept my pregnancy with Cason fairly quiet. We didn't tell anyone who wouldn't actually see me during the nine or so months I was carrying him. The exception was some family, of course, and my one good girlfriend up in San Francisco. The reasons are obvious. It just needed to be us. I didn't want the cheerleaders or the questions. I couldn't deal with either or the inevitable,"Oh, everything will be fine." reassurances that were sure to follow if I actually shared my running fears with anyone who dared ask me how I was doing or how the pregnancy was going. It was hard enough dealing with it with the people who did know and did see me everyday, I didn't want to invite anyone else into the bubble.
Even my husband kept the secret from his colleagues at work until I was past the point where we lost Caleb and even then he only shared the information with a few close confidants. I think we all understand the anxiety that was so tightly wrapped around the disclosing of this little tidbit of information. And the obvious unwillingness to not have to untell this story should everything go wrong again.
Fast forward the nine months and the safe arrival of our beautiful boy. Now came the time to actually do the telling. The birth announcement. So much to be told in one simple piece of card stock. I wanted the whole story of Cason to be there, not just his vital stats. This was not an ordinary pregnancy and Cason is more than just another social security statistic. He is the 'happy ending', right? He is the punctuation of a story that has been unfolding for two some years. He is the ending of one book and the beginning of a sequel, but his birth was the overlapping of the two stories and it needed, for me, to be told just like that. I needed both my boys to have a part in the telling. They both needed to be there in the announcement because they were both a part of the story. I couldn't leave Caleb out. He was/is too important a piece of Cason's life to ignore him.
Turns out they really don't make birth announcements for babies born after a stillbirth. They don't have a generic, fill in the blanks for that. There isn't any sample wording or examples of others to choose from. I had to come up with it on my own. My husband and I talked about the wording, how to fit all of the details into a few small words. How to pay tribute to Caleb and also celebrate Cason. I took to heart the symbols that I have come to know that represent loss and babies after. And when it was all said and done I found the right words, after about a hundred different variations were eliminated, and I found a wonderful printer who was able to create the perfect piece for us.

Here it is:
I love it. I covered up our names, but they are the last two lines on the left side. I'm not sure, before I post it if you will be able to read the print. If not, it reads,

After the storm
came our rainbow...
Cason Patrick
November 17, 2008
seven pounds, twelve ounces
twenty inches

(Left corner)
Welcomed with love
and open arms by
(our names)
(our names)

(Right Corner)
Always loved~Never forgotten
Caleb Robert
Born Still
September 1, 2007

Now comes the part where I piss people off, maybe.

Several things have happened since the announcements went out. First, alot of surprised people have reached out to us to help welcome Cason. Lots of gifts have been delivered, cards mailed, the usual baby things, for which I am grateful, don't get me wrong. Second, besides my immediate family and my one girlfriend in SF, NO ONE has mentioned Caleb or his inclusion on the card at all.

What's worse, I have received cards congratulating us on our 'third' child, I have also received cards and even a hand written letter on the 'grace and power of God' in bringing us Cason. One person, who I ran into in a store, who I only know from my sons sport, after seeing me and the baby (I told her the whole story months ago) said right off, "PRAISE GOD!" because you know, it's all about HIM.

And then there are the stalkers. The ones who never sent a thing when Caleb died but who want to be all over Cason. They call or stop by wanting to know all the details about Cason but overtly ignore that little elephant in the room named Caleb. Even still, there are no words of sympathy or compassion. It feels more like now they can be around me because I'm normal again. Or at least I don't make them feel uncomfortable anymore. I guess to them I don't look like a dead baby mom anymore. Idiots.

And the God stuff. Oh Holy Crap, that makes my skin bristle and my eyes burn. I mean, I am not a religious person, as you may have noticed about me, but I still do have enough faith in me that I wouldn't call myself agnostic, yet. So to suddenly send me a card or say to me, after losing my son a mere year and some months ago, that GOD somehow now decided to give me this baby instead, that GOD decided to let this baby live, that GOD is totally responsible for this, well, it makes me crazy angry. Unless, of course, you're willing to then let me blame Caleb dying all on GOD. As I said to one of my girlfriends after the run in with the sport mom, if it's "Praise God" now what was it a year ago? Hmmm, let me guess, "FUCK GOD", right? I know it's awful, they are awful words to write. And the thing of it is, it's not what I believe anyway. I don't believe, if there is a God, that she or he, micromanages us like that. I'm sorry, but if God has time to pick and choose which of my children are going to live or die inside me or outside me for that matter, what the fuck is going on with all of the children who are starving to death all over the world. Or the ones who are being tortured, raped, maimed, terrorized, suffering from terminal illnesses....the list goes on. And I know the answer to that too. At least I know their answer, "The Mystery, The Plan". Don't question the omnipotent OZ, ooops I mean God.

Come on, people. Open your eyes. At least, if only for my benefit, pretend for a while that common sense is some small part of your religion. If you can't, it's okay, but please, spare me the sharing then, of your beliefs, cuz they sure as hell aren't mine.

Can you imagine if I walked into a funeral for someones baby and announced to the parents, "Boy, God sure must not like you or your baby much. But Praise God!" But of course, the true believers will tell you that God called the baby home and that this is all part of that 'Plan'. And we can't understand it cuz we're too dumb.

I'm not dumb. I'm not evil. I don't even hate God. Unless of course that "Plan" thing is true, then I really do have some serious issues with God. I think bad shit happens to good people. I think bad shit happened to me, to my family, to Caleb. I don't need a bigger, universal reason to explain it. I needed a medical one and luckily I got a pretty decent one. Decent enough to allow us to try again being reasonably certain that particular cause wouldn't happen to us or another baby again. I don't blame God, much. I'm not enough of a lapsed Catholic to have released all of my Catholic guilt. It took years to drill it in to me, it's gonna take the rest of my life I suspect to get it out. So in my moments of weakness, I do call out to God and I have even asked for help. I immediately retract it, reminding myself that I don't believe that God has time for personal prayers, but I still do it.

Funny thing is, this summer when I was rushing my daughter to the ER and I was trying not to be hysterical after my son asked me if she was going to die, I screamed and raged in my head, "You're not taking another one, I won't let you!". Which was stunning to me because that normally would have been a time when I would have fallen back on my praying or more accurately, bargaining with God. But I was so scared and tired of being scared the only thing I had in me was the anger.

And still, it remains, the anger. But, I've kept it in. I haven't rammed my beliefs down anyone's throat.

Now, if everyone else could just show me the same courtesy. That'd be great.

Oh, and one more thing. Please, stop asking us if we are going to have anymore children. Seriously.

P.S. God, if you are reading this I want to tell you, well, you know cuz you can read my mind, right? Thanks.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Through the years we all will be together if the fates allow...

That line always gets to me. Ever since I stood at the side of the grave for one of my best friends from high school as he was buried at the ripe old age of 21 on a cold December morning. Maybe I never paid attention to the lyrics before because I know I had heard the song, maybe it was the version I heard that made it clear, I don't know. But it was then that I realized the fates don't always allow us to be together and it's not a pretty thing. Especially when the one missing is young and beautiful and woefully short of the days necessary to complete a full lifetime.

We all know, too well, how cruel fate can be, how little control we have over anything really. We just have to muddle through somehow. It's what the song says. At least one version of it does anyway.

I'm thinking of all of you and your babies, those that are here, those that are gone and those that will make their first appearance in the near or even far future. And I am thinking especially of Emilie and her family who will never share another Christmas together, at least not here on this earth. I hope that the coming year brings healing to the hearts and hope to the lives of each and everyone of you.

And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

Pretenders - Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Merry Christmas my friends, near or far, I hope you all have yourself a merry little Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Silenced too soon

I don't have the actual post to confirm this news but I have heard that brave Emilie has died. I have not been able to stop thinking of her and her boys all week. I think of her last post, not even a week ago, in which she says "I'll write more later." and I can not believe that her words, her voice, has been silenced.

Yes, tonight will be a silent night. Not the kind I wished for for her and her family. If there is such a thing, I hope that she is sleeping in heavenly peace.

ETA: The post from Emilie's husband is up now. Please stop over and offer what comfort you can so he knows just how much his family is being thought of now in these dark hours. My heart is shattered, the tears for someone I never met but felt so close to, surprise even me.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On grieving and gratitude

It's hard to give voice to the thoughts. I want to write and say to everyone, "It's all perfect now. Once you get your baby, everything goes back to normal and all of the dead baby things just vanish, they slip away into the air carried by the cries of a new life." But that is just not the truth. Not even close.

In the moment of Cason's birth, it is true that I saw for the first time the permanence of Caleb's death. Maybe the more accurate thing to say is that I felt it. I let myself feel it. I had to stop holding onto the wishing this had never happened feelings and I had to embrace the reality of my life. I have a child who died. And now I have a child who lives. I have both. I have to live with both. Forever.

I want to tell you that having Cason has taken the sting, or more aptly the full body blow, of losing Caleb away. But it doesn't. Not even a little. I think I thought it would. I wonder if we all think that.

I was wrong. Having Cason didn't even quiet the noise, the running dead baby soundtrack in my head. It's all still there.

Maybe I thought or even believed that having another baby would somehow replace Caleb or fill the void left by him. I didn't think I thought that. I really didn't. I know I wrote during my pregnancy that I didn't want anyone to ever think that Cason would replace Caleb or that I would somehow be healed if I got the live baby. But I wonder if the biggest fool in all of it was me. I think somewhere deep down inside I thought, or maybe hoped, that that is exactly what would happen.
It didn't.

Which isn't to imply or even hint at the idea that having Cason is or was in any way diminished by having lost Caleb. Exactly the opposite is true. Having Cason is by far the best thing that has ever happened to our family, to me, since, well, ever. Do I love him more than my other two living children? No. But my love for him is colored with different emotions. My heart is in an entirely different condition than it was when they were born. Obviously, right? I am not the same anymore. One of my friends once said to me, "No two children are ever raised by the same parents." I always loved that idea because it does truly capture the uniqueness of every child's experience in a family. And never has it felt more true to me than it does now. For Cason is surely not going to be raised by the same people who raised his older brother and sister. We have nurtured two children and have survived the loss of a third. We have a humility and awareness of life and death that we did not know before. We have lived the very best and worst moments as parents. We are most assuredly not the same two people we were a decade and then some ago when we ventured into this thing called parenthood. Even if we wanted to we could not be the people we were before he was born.

And Cason, his very existence is illuminated by his lost brothers life. Can I tell you how many times my husband has called Cason, Caleb? No, I stopped counting a while ago.

And for me, every time I hold him, especially in the quiet late night hours when he and I are alone, him snuggled warmly against my chest, his body curved into an impossible "S" shaped bundle, as I imagine he must have been when he dwelled within me, I stroke his back, my hand now able to reach his skin and not be shielded from him by my belly, I implore him never to leave me. My love for him is so fierce it is almost frightening. The lingering fear of a dead baby mom always hovering around me, reminding me that nothing is certain, that anything can be taken away at any moment. (I sometimes try to shake the fear away with images of me doing an impersonation of Shirley McClain in Terms of Endearment. Early in the movie when she doesn't hear her baby daughter moving in the crib, she tells her husband that the baby must be dead so she climbs into the crib and shakes the baby enough to get her to cry at which point she says "there that's better" and leaves the crying baby and goes back to her own room to sleep. I don't shake Cason but I have been known to move him around a bit, to make sure he is still breathing, often waking him in the process.) I want not a second to pass without him feeling me loving him. I wonder does he know, can he ever know, how much he was wanted, needed in our lives. Will he ever be able to understand just what his life has meant to all of us. Will he feel burdened by his lost brothers legacy or grateful for it? I can't answer that question myself, I have no idea how I will raise a child to.

And then my thoughts are with Caleb and everything that he is missing. All of the love he never got to know, to feel, the life he never got to live. All of the things we will never know about him. Cason is an impossibly easy baby, would Caleb have been? Cason loves his baths, would Caleb have? Cason still has red hair and the beginnings of what seem to be green eyes, a true leprechaun, what color hair and eyes would Caleb have had? The list goes on and on. And it hurts me now more to think of these things than it did before. I think maybe the joy I feel experiencing these moments with Cason makes me feel as though I am somehow cheating Caleb out of something. I don't know how to parent a dead child. I don't know how to love him the right way, if there is such a thing.

It's as if the grief has started all over again. First you get to grieve the emptiness of your heart and your arms and then you get to grieve the fullness of them. I suppose it's not the fullness really, it's the awareness of the stark truth that one is always going to be missing. And while your arms and heart are filled they are never going to hold everything they should have.

My daughter seems to have grasped this reality easier than I have. She will often talk to me about the 4 children in our family, her and her 3 brothers. How if Caleb had lived she would have been a big sister to two brothers. I wonder if she will always include Caleb or if her memory of him and the loss of him will fade over time as Cason and his presence fill her daily life.

I guess I wonder that about me too.

I'll take it though. Living with this confusion is infinitely more bearable than the alternative. I know that. I am not whining. I know how lucky we are, I am. I know not everyone who gets a membership card to the db club gets a living baby afterwards. I remember the night and day I labored and delivered Caleb, two of the three nurses I had were members of this club. I asked both of them if they had a live baby after. Neither did. Hearing that from them was devastating to me. I was already trying to plan another baby and they both were crushing my hopes of the possibility. Getting here, to this place, getting my baby, I am beyond grateful. There aren't words to express the feelings or the emotions that come with the magic that is handed to you in a living, breathing baby when you have already lived through the devastation of being handed your dead baby. And when people see him, people who don't know the story, when they offer the standard congratulations or other baby type welcome words, I feel compelled to tell them everything. I want them to know this is no ordinary baby, he did not come easily, we didn't just decide to have a baby and get one. I want them to understand as much as possible that I am overwhelmed with gratitude for this little boy. I want them to see the magic in him too. But I don't think anyone can truly see it unless they have a membership card.

I see it.

There will never be a time that I look at him or think of him and don't see it. And for that I am grateful.
ETA: Blogger rotated my pic...sorry for any neck strain:)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Comfort & Joy...?

As if any of us need reminding about the unfairness of life and the randomness of that evil bitch fate anyway...
I have posted here before about an incredible mom, Emilie, whose blog I follow quietly. She was diagnosed with cancer while she was in the early weeks of pregnancy with her second son. She braved surgery and treatment and beat the odds, delivering her beautiful, healthy son almost a year ago. The cancer then reoccurred and she has been fighting like a mother bear to save her own life and to spend as much time with her two children as possible.
Today, she posted this and I am heartbroken. For her, for her boys, for her husband and for her extended family and friends who have all been supporting her and helping her fight. It seems the time has come for her to stop fighting and to prepare for something no young mother should have to.
If you have a moment to stop by her blog and offer what ever support one can in an ungodly time such as this,please do. I can not wrap my tiny brain around this. I suppose because there is no way to understand it.
This is not the way it should be, for anyone.
What does that song say, 'comfort and joy'? Where is that now?

Friday, December 5, 2008

What's in a year?

I can't believe that it has been one year since my first post. I had been lurking around here in db land for a while, somehow having found my way to a post by Ashleigh, appropriately entitled 'Bite Me' ( a great post btw, definitely worth reading) and later somehow found Niobe who had recently put up a post about the worst thing a medical 'professional', or other a**hole, had said to you, and my love affair with this place we call db land was sealed.
I started reading the blogs of women who commented on those spaces and found my way to C, Coggy, Charmed Girl, Olive Lucy, A., Julia, Tash, G., the list grew and grew until my side bar of favorites, formerly full of things like holiday cupcake recipes, places to take children and decorating ideas, slowly became a list of lifelines, a support network like nothing I had ever known before and certainly didn't know even existed. I never in a million years would have seen myself as a 'blogger', who could imagine that I would have anything of interest to share with strangers or that I would even be brazen enough to do it if I did. But as we all discover, once we get the chutzpah to actually comment on another's blog, it is like the opening of the flood gates. All of those words and thoughts we have kept to ourselves during the painful days, weeks, months after joining this G*dforsaken club, come spilling out, or as Janice would say, we vomit them all over the screen (I love that saying as it perfectly describes how I write) and pretty soon we need our own space to do it. As happened with me. And to my utter bewilderment, these lovely ladies who I had never met, never seen, never spoken to, reached out their collective broken hearts to me and began to help me heal. They encouraged me to keep spilling, keep talking, keep sharing. They offered me a safe place to be honest, brutally, painfully honest without fear of hurting someone else's feelings or offending someones idea of decency or worse. They offered solace, comfort, shared tears and even the occasional laugh, sometimes a hearty one, cuz even a db mom can laugh, sometimes.
In the beginning I told no one about my blog. I wrote late at night when the house was quiet, a cocktail or three at the ready (the only casualty in the creation of this blog I am afraid was a treasured bottle of Scotch my husband was saving for a really special occasion, which, turned out to be the writing of this blog, but as it worked out, I was the only one who was toasting....sorry honey).
I had no idea where my life was headed 365 days ago. It felt like I was in a downward spiral, hanging on by a thread, going through the motions, trying to hold things together for my children, trying to make life normal in a world that now felt so alien and cruel to me. I knew I was lucky, lucky to have two beautiful children already, lucky to have such a supportive family surrounding me and lucky to have many friends who stayed by my side as I struggled to regain my footing, trying like hell to find that new 'normal' we all search for after being handed our dead baby membership card. But lucky doesn't count for shit when you get handed your membership card, does it?
I wrote about wanting out of the club. The daily strapping on of the grief backpack was burdensome at best and suffocating at it's worst. I wanted to be finished with it. I know now, you don't ever finish, you just learn to live with it and someday's it really isn't heavy at all, it just is what it is.
I wrote about wanting another baby. I truly did not think I would get one. I did not think my husband would be willing to gamble again. He was much more inclined to believe the message was clear, you're done. A miscarriage and stillbirth back to back at our age...give it up. But I made my case, I told him I thought our marriage, our life would be altered forever if we just quit. That I didn't think I would ever recover if we didn't at least try. That I didn't want to walk away from my child bearing years with the awful memory of being handed my dead son as my last memory of the baby world. I told him, it's the tragedy you don't want again, a baby you would love. And somewhere in the pleading, he heard me and, well...we got supremely lucky. Unbelievably, mind blowingly, lucky. I still can't believe how lucky.
And through it all, you ladies stayed here with me. Even when you were dealing with your own grief, your own loss, your own disappointments and shit luck, you still stayed here and even cheered.
And I am humbled. I am awe struck and amazed. That out of this nightmare has come something so beautiful. If you had asked me a year ago to write that sentence I would have spit my drink out in your face. A horrible waste of perfectly fine liquor. But it is true. I am not going to wax on and blow sunshine up your nether parts because I know for some of you this last year has been more thorns than roses and for others it is still unfolding. But for all of you, I am hoping like hell that luck or whatever it is that brings happy endings or beginnings, depending on how you look at it, visits each and every one of you and soon, god damn it. Soon. Because I could not have survived this past year without you and I plan on hanging around here trying to lend the same comfort and shoulders that you have given me. And I'll do it forever and a day if that's what it takes.
I don't know what this blog will turn into now that Cason has joined our family. I still have plenty to write about but it is all wrapped up in this new place I am in and I don't know how to separate them. And this is a place where dead baby mom's should be able to go and not read about the musings of a mom and her newborn. Which is not to say that I don't have db things to say, because believe me, I do, I just need to find a way to do it that is right.
But I'll figure it out. It takes time. As all things do.
So thank you to all of you, new and old to this place of mine. Your friendship has literally kept me afloat and made the difference for me in ways I don't think I could ever describe. But I suspect you know what they are.
Happy Anniversary to all of us...I that sick or what?
Now, be a good friend and go have a drink...on me:)
And make it a double.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Saying hello...and good-bye

Laying on the operating table, I was unable to wipe the tears away as they poured from my eyes, my arms were securely fastened, crucifix style, to the outstretched shelves of the table, to aid the anesthesiologist in vein access. It didn't matter though, I lay there and listened to my newborn son, his cries were hearty and quivery, just as you might imagine they would be, just as I had hoped, for so many months, two years really, to hear one day. My husband kept saying to me, "He's here honey, he's here..." and I kept repeating, "Is he ok? Is he really ok?"
The nurse held him up so I could see him, really look at him through my tears, so that I could see he was indeed, really here. And really alive.
In the moments before he was born, laying on the table, paralyzed from the chest down, waiting for them to start, I was terrified. My body was shaking, not from the coldness of the room but from the crushing fear that still, something could go wrong. They had taken me off the monitors(the very same monitors that two hours earlier had failed to find his heartbeat when they first hooked me up. The universe, I guess, thought it might be funny to send in a nurse with broken, but brand new, equipment...needless to say I didn't get the joke and my stress level never did recover from that scary start to my delivery)and I could no longer feel anything in my belly. The assisting doctor was late and we all were waiting for her. And so I lay helpless, literally paralyzed and fear filled, thinking even now, my baby could die, please hurry, please get it out. We were delayed because of another baby in distress, not news a db mom needs to hear when waiting to deliver.
And then she came and everything started. Through my rattling teeth I chanted, healthy baby, healthy baby, over and over as I waited, my view obstructed by the blue sheet put between my face and my body. I held my husbands hand as long as I could. Then he stood up to take pictures and the doctor told me 'alot of pressure now' and she meant it, I felt as though an elephant had parked on my chest. I couldn't breathe. My husband told me, "...almost honey, almost, almost..." and then in unison a chorus of nurses and doctors yelled out, "Here it comes and it's a.... boy!" and then in a moment it all changed. I heard his cry. The sweetest sound I have ever heard in all of my life. And in that moment, a year and some months worth of grief spilled out of me, poured out of me really, my body wracked with uncontrollable sobs, my eyes blurred by the tears, my voice a whisper as I sought reassurance after reassurance that he really was ok.
And when the nurse held him up, and I saw his red hair, his long legs, his beautiful chest rising and falling with every cry, every breath, it was then that I saw Caleb. In that instant I held my two sons in my mind, one still and lifeless as I cradled his tiny body in a mortuary and the other filled with life, his daddy standing protectively over him as he is weighed and measured, cutting the cord and marking the moments with pictures.
I thought of these two boys, whose lives are so completely intertwined, and yet they will never know each other, never share a toy or a secret, never conspire to squeeze another hour of playtime before bed, never comfort one another or grow old together, these two boys shared my body, my heart and my love. But only one gets to share a lifetime with me. With us.
For that moment my boys were together. I let my eyes soak in the view of my new son and my memory called forth my lost son. The two were there in the room with me, as close as they ever would be. This new life, my Cason, born out of his brother Caleb's death. And I realized in that taking of a breath Cason changed the way I would see his brother forever. Never again would I be able to wish that Caleb hadn't died because that would mean that I would not have my Cason. I can't play the what if game anymore. Caleb is dead, he is gone from me forever. He didn't die so that Cason could be born, but Cason was born because Caleb died. And the only words that came to me were, "Thank you for him Caleb, I love you Caleb.".
And so it happened, when they lay sweet Cason on my chest and I kissed his tiny, perfect head, I said hello to one son and I said good-bye to the other. I cried tears for both of them, holding tightly to one, and like a child holding a balloon by a string, looking to the sky, beyond the clouds to the vastness of the heavens, wanting to hang on to that string forever but knowing the time had come to let him soar, I slowly opened my fingers and I let my other son go.