Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Notes from the other side

My coping mechanisms are failing me. The thing that I see now, now that my leprechaun has landed safely, is how much I was denying before. And what I mean by denying is not that I didn't realize that I had a dead baby, but more how much his death and the whole experience of actually delivering a dead baby, would impact me and my life forever. The more time that I spend here in 'live' baby land the more I see that I really was looking at the idea of having another baby as a 'fixer' for all of the things that having had a stillborn broke.

Guess what? Having a baby doesn't fix any of it. They are coupled together and yet they exist independently of each other. But neither experience adds or negates anything to the other one. Cason's birth was marvelous and cleansing and full of light and purity. Laying in the recovery room, him on my chest, surrounded by my family, holding my husbands hand while listening to the joy in my children's voices as they marveled over their new brother, the emotions and feelings that I had at that moment were euphoric. And it wasn't the heavy narcotics. It was love in its purest form. Unencumbered and unfettered it flowed freely and I reveled in it. It was, quite simply,the best moment of my life. And I wanted that moment to be my forever. I wanted those feelings of bliss, of perfectness, of relief and success to stay and inhabit my whole world, leaving no room for any of the other feelings or emotions that had haunted me for the past 14 months. I wanted good to win out over evil. I wanted the good to make the bad go away. I was counting on it, even if I didn't realize it.

Instead, what I have found almost two months out, is that I can recall that moment and cherish it, but it is a memory, it is not a permanent state of being. Rejoining the 'real world' doesn't afford me the luxury of leaving any of who I am behind. All of the loss and its accompaniments come with me. They always will and now I have to learn, all over it seems, how to live with them.

Seeing pregnant women still hurts. Despite having had a 'problem free' subsequent pregnancy myself, I still envy the innocent, shiny happy pregnant woman, because I now know, even if I had 100 more pregnancies that all ended well, they would not begin to erase or minimize the impact of the one that didn't.

The fear of having my world turned upside down at any moment still remains. I feel like all my children have targets on them now. My husband takes the kids out for a bike ride and I am convinced they will get hit by a car. I spend the entire time they are gone listening for sirens, the phone in my hand, my heart pounding, waiting for the call that will bring me the bad news.

Putting the leprechaun down to sleep, terror fills me. Will he wake up, will he keep breathing and not become a SIDS statistic? I want to hide him and my other two from the world forever with the hope that I can protect them from the invisible forces that came into my life and stole away my baby and my sense of security in my world.

Last weekend I went to that mecca of baby stores to pick up a present for my niece who was turning one. I avoided it the whole time I was pg with Cason because the thought of being surrounded by that much in your face "you're having a baby" merchandise made me physically ill. But I thought going now would be ok. It wasn't. It still felt like I was tempting fate. I still felt like a fraud. I didn't belong there with the many shiny, happy pregnant couples. I am not them. I felt like the grim reaper trolling the aisles, the reminder to all of the very bad things that can happen, the one who forces others to shield their eyes and turn away, to deny my existence and run in the opposite direction sure in their belief that it will not happen to them. The one true thing about our paths crossing, the intersection of our worlds being that they are not me and I am not them, for now or anymore, depending on your perspective of course.

I'm angry that even a simple shopping trip still evokes such horrible feelings in me. And on that particular trip, the longer I stayed the harder it got. Choosing outfits and toys for a one year old shouldn't be this hard I thought. Why is it this hard for me still? Why can't this be easy. And as I stood in the middle of the store, slowly sifting through the clothes and trying to pick something that would suit a soon to be walking, precocious one year old, the sudden realization of why it hurt so bad to be in there fell over me, bringing my reality back to me. I should have been shopping for Caleb's first birthday too. My niece and he were supposed to have this birthday, and all of their birthdays together. But it didn't turn out that way. Caleb will never be one or two or anything. He will always be the baby that died. And I can't hide from it anymore. And it isn't him that I am hiding from, it 's the 'it'. The pain, the ache, the missing, the longing for him. That's what I have been hiding from. The fact that I really wanted him, that I really miss having him here and that I hate knowing I will have to spend the rest of my life with these feelings. Because nothing will ever change what happened. Caleb is dead. I never get to see him or touch him or hold him or love him the way he should have been loved. And I hate it.

I spent the first year of his absence trying to fill the void with another baby. It was a hard year and there was grief to be had, tears that were cried and a baby that was missed. But I didn't really let the full impact of being a dead baby mom take hold. I was focused on something else. Now I have to see my whole reality for what it is. For who I am. Dead baby and all. I think somewhere in my mind I thought the grief would be easier to live with and process if I had that live baby. So I pretended that I could put off really looking at it until I had the baby in my arms. That way I would be shielded from the true effect it has had on my life. I existed in different worlds, a schizophrenic existence really and I was able to keep each piece of my broken personality separate pretty successfully. There was the old me, the face I put on for everyone IRL, there was dead baby me who existed in the blog world and there was pregnant me who focused solely on bringing the live baby to fruition. Somehow those separate and distinct personalities existed in a bizarre sort of symbiotic relationship. I functioned and survived my own life by having these distinct places in my head where I could keep my emotions parsed, where my different versions of myself could protect me. I didn't know I was doing it, it wasn't something I planned or contrived. I just did it.

But the act of delivering a live baby has made the managing of these parts of myself impossible. It is time to come to terms with the whole of who I am. I can't pretend that a part of me doesn't exist, it's too hard. I can't pretend that having a dead baby was something I had to get through, an obstacle I had to overcome on my way to having a live baby. And I can't pretend that I am the old me anymore either. I am not her. She is lost to me forever. I may look the same or similar to her but if you look closely in my eyes, you will see the scars, you will see the unmistakable void that tell you I am living my life without my son. And you will see that I am also living my life with my sons and my daughter. It is all in there. I just have to find a way to let it all exist together.

And it will start with me spending what should have been the second year of my sons life, learning to live my life, without him, forever.


Michele said...

We are approaching the one year mark of life with Nick and Sophie and each day, time gets harder and harder. I think I thought that, like you, having another baby would help the hurt. And being pregant with Alex helped, but the grief was still massive. Losing Alex 2 months ago... My heart will never recover, I think. Although I dont think our hearts ever recover. We love our children so much. Our lives are empty without the holding and the watching and the living... Even though we have others to hold and love and live with... I think we are all told that we will get better, that time will heal us, that other children will "help". But the "we" that we are now is not the "we" that we were (or the "we" we would be had our babies lived) Time cant heal our wounds (nor would we want them to, if healing meant that we would forget- in any small way- those moments we did have). And other children... They are unique. They cannot replace. They will always be wonderful for themselves. And, at the same time, they will always show us the lives we didnt have with our other babies. It is such a hard thing to come to terms with, I think.

I am so sorry, dear one... My coping methods are failing me at present, too. Even a dream doesn't take away the nightmare. Although we all hope it takes the edge off when we wake up.

Tash said...

This is really, really lovely Kal. I suppose as much as any of us want some return to normalcy, there will always be the distant memory of what could have been. Regardless of what nice things arrive afterwards.

Leprechaun will come to understand -- and deeply admire the fact -- that you consider him a separate entity. Not a replacement, or a thumb in the damn, but a child that you love on his own terms and on his own plane of existence. You have every right to continue to grieve and miss Caleb and what could be. Thinking of you.

Tash said...

Heh, freudian slip -- that should be DAM.

Aunt Becky said...


I'm thinking of you, friend.

Shannon Ryan said...

Big hugs momma!

c. said...

Oh, K. I am in tears. This is beautiful.

I guess that's what I was getting at in my last post, in that in some strange and WRONG way, I'm hoping that another baby can release me from this deadbaby hell, that I can be myself again once another baby has come to fill the void left when Callum died and left us. I know that I'm only dreaming if I believe this. I know that my live children and my dead son are seperate. I know a new baby, should I ever get it, is seperate, too. I guess I just wish another pregnancy, another baby could erase the pain of what happened, of having to birth and hold my dead baby, wanting him so much and not being able to have him.

Makes me wonder, what's the point in trying so hard anyway? Nothing will erase what happened, nothing will lessen the hurt, though time can numb it.

Thinking of you, K. XO.

Ange said...

This made me tear up...I am scared of all of what you write and sense it lurking up on me...after I get this baby out. Ok my first fear is I won't get this baby out...but if I do..I am sure there is also pain to come. You are strong and brave and very wise. You will get to know this new new new you and I hope you like her as much as we all do. I think after all this time we are still 'shocked' by what has happened to us. The finality of it. The rawness can still be just there. That is happened to me.

Hope's Mama said...

Scary K, but i have to keep going foward. I have never brought a baby home. If I don't, it will ruin me. I guess that is the desperation speaking because of losing my first. I just gotta know I can do this.
Great post xo

Reba said...

Thank you for saying all of these truths. I could read this again and again. My now-fondest hopes are that I have the chance to feel these things, too...and I know if I have the chance, I will...but it helps so very much to see that it will be "okay" to feel this way, because someone else does.

Amy said...

My heart aches for you. This is such a crap state of affairs. I am sure it is hard. I never would have guessed that you hid so much from yourself or us.

I am hoping that this year you are able to learn to live without Caleb and live with all of your other children. I am hoping that you learn to live for you and living means carrying on Calebs memory. I am hoping this year you find some peace and more pieces of you!

You know my belief system (not too religous and a little too earthy!) I believe Caleb is always with you, not physically but spiritually and I believe he's watching over his siblings. I hope it's a little bit of comfort and you don't decide to lock all of your living children away to protect them(not that I'd blame you or call anyone!) Like I said, I think they have a protector!

Much love and peace,

CLC said...

I don't know what to say other that I am sure you are not the first one to feel this nor will you be the last. I think I am guilty of this too. I am hoping it all just goes away should I be holding a baby in my arms come spring. But how can we ever forget the precious ones we lost and how can we ever feel not hurt by it?

Sophie said...

Your words bring me to tears. Through you I see the journey ahead that I too will take. Thank you for letting me glimpse the future.

There is always some part of me that thinks that another baby will make it hurt less. Sometimes I think that perhaps it will hurt more. I think now that it will always just hurt. And like you say, I just have to learn to exist with it.

Beautiful post. Thinking of you and your precious Cason and Caleb.

Steph said...

this is such an honest account of how it 'really' is, after a sub pregnancy. I think we all secretly hope it will 'fix' us, and we can finally join live baby land. I'd always suspected it wasn't truly accurate to assume that, and your post echoes that. It must be a whole new grief, to realize that the one single thing you thought might fix it, didn't. So now, grief is truly there for the long haul. There is no fixing it. I'm sorry.

charmedgirl said...

all i can think of at this moment is, WTF?!? there's really nothing...NOTHING...we can do except live through each day, live our lives, and try to incorporate it ALL. i kinda like denial, get over it, it happened and that's it...but as i get closer to the intense shit with this treatment cycle, and closer to the possibility that i MIGHT get pregnant...it all falls to hell. inside i want healing, but really, i just want some happiness after.

niobe said...

Lovely, thoughtful post.

But (because I'm always focussing on me, me, me) reading this makes me wonder about my own reactions. Because, for me, having an actual live baby has gone a long way towards "fixing" the loss of the twins. It's almost as though I was able to pause, rewind, and run the movie over again, but this time with a different ending. But I realize that most people don't feel that way.

K D said...

thank you for this post. I found you through glow-in-the-woods some time ago and have followed your story.

I lost one of my identicial twin girls and the other was born alive with special needs as a result in September 2007.

This post and your description of your separate parts of your life...is exactly how I've coped too with all that has happened.

three minute palaver said...

I found having my subsequent baby didn't make losing my son ok but it did make me feel a whole lot better than before having her. Suddenly my life became bareable again. Even quite happy much to me surprise. Although I still think about what happened in 05 on a regular basis, it isn't the gapping, unfathomable wound it used to be. It's more like picking at a permanent scab. It won't heal but it can't consume me. I wouldn't feel this way, have this buffer from pain without my subsequent one.