Monday, December 17, 2012

2013, A Year Without a Pregnancy

Recently I have had several people ask me when we are going to try to get pregnant again.  I don't have an answer to that question.  I do know that it will not be anytime soon.  I think it's hard for someone to imagine losing a pregnancy and not wanting to try again right away.  It is very hard to come home from the hospital with empty arms.  There is nothing I want more than for my son and daughter to be with me.  I also know that getting pregnant is not going to take away the pain of losing them.  They can never be replaced. When someone loses a spouse, nobody asks them when they are going to get married again.  We all know that a husband or wife can't be replaced.  Why can't people understand that a child is also irreplaceable?
The past three years have very stressful on my body.  I was pregnant with Gwenevere for most of 2010.  I got pregnant again in September or 2011 and had a miscarriage and D&C in late November.  I then became pregnant again in March of 2012 and delivered my twins prematurely in August.  My poor body has hardly had a break!  It's been four months since I gave birth to Penelope and James and I am finally starting to feel back to normal.  I still have baby weight to lose and I wonder if my stomach will ever look the same, but I feel physically good.  My body and my soul deserve a break.
I am actually looking forward to a year without pregnancy.  No prenatal vitamins, no morning sickness, no fatigue, no heartburn, no pelvic exams, no anxiety over losing another baby, and a glass or two of wine whenever I feel like it.  I can take some time to myself and my family and really focus on all the wonderful people in my life.  I am so blessed to have a beautiful little girl that keeps me busy and reminds me what is really important in life.  I have the best husband I could have ever wished for.  He is supportive, understanding, caring and makes me laugh every day.  My parents are amazing and they are there for me in every way.  I have a loving sister that is more ambitious and strong that I could ever hope to be.  Not to mention the incredible network of friends that I have surrounded myself with.  I am so lucky to be showered with so much love and support and I can't wait to spend the next year enjoying my life.
I still don't know the answer to the question of when we will try to get pregnant again.  I don't know when I will be emotionally ready to go down that road.  I do know that it is not now, and I am at peace with that. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Since the day I watched my son and daughter die in the arms of their dad my perspective on mortality has shifted.  I have always assumed that if you are pregnant and you make it into the second trimester you will have a healthy baby.  Unfortunately, I now know this is not true.  Not only from my own experience, but from many other parents that I have encountered on my journey.  Sometimes children die.  Sometimes they die during pregnancy, or at birth or even well into their life.  I now understand that our children's lives cannot be taken for granted, ever.
This weekend I experienced the second most terrifying day of my life.  After feeding my daughter a small handful of cashews I watched her break out in hives within minutes.  I immediately knew something was wrong and my husband and I rushed to get her a dose of benedryl and head to the Urgent Care.  Once we arrived there we sat in the waiting room.  I watched Gwenevere as her hives continued to spread.  I poked my head around the corner and told the staff we were having a food allergy emergency.  They rushed us back and gave Gwenevere more benedryl and a dose of steroids.  Her hives continued to spread.  I watched as her ears became the color of tomatoes and her whole body got splotchy and puffy.  I could see the concerned looks and the medical staff's faces and it was all I could do not to panic.  I heard them talking about drawing up and epi-pen and calling 911, my stomach dropped.
A nurse came over and prepared a breathing treatment to give to Gwenevere while we waited for the ambulance to arrive.  She calmly explained that the treatments they had available were not working and they wanted to transfer her to the hospital where they could do more to help.  All I could think was that I have already had a funeral for my son and daughter, I couldn't lose my baby girl.  I held her tightly on my lap and stroked her puffy face telling her everything would be okay.
The ambulance finally arrived and they placed my daughter on the stretcher.  I had to ride in the front seat as I listened to her crying for her Mommy.  Halfway to the hospital she went quiet and my stomach dropped again.  I asked if everything was okay and they told me she had fallen asleep, the benedryl had taken affect.  That twenty minute ride to the hospital was the longest car ride of my life.
We arrived at the hospital and the got us into a room right away.  Micah found us and he kept reassuring me that she would be fine.  My Mom arrived as well.  She came in and asked how we were all doing.  I broke down and cried.  I couldn't lose my little girl, I had already gone through so much.  The nurse was in the room getting Gwenevere set up on the oxygen monitor and putting her into a hospital gown.  She told us that everything would be okay and I tried to believe her.  As we sat in the room and waited for the Dr., Gwenevere's hives started to calm down.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  The nurse said that the medicine was working.  By the time the Dr. came in to see us she was almost looking like her normal self.  I knew we were through the worst of it.
That night I didn't sleep very well.  At three in the morning I caved in and I scooped Gwenevere out of her crib and I brought her into the guest bedroom me.  We slept there together for the rest of the night, although I kept checking her breathing.  She woke up in the morning with a big smile on her face saying "snuggle, snuggle, snuggle".  I couldn't believe what a trooper she was through this whole experience.
I know that most likely Gwenevere will live a wonderful healthy life and live well beyond my years.  I still can't shake my fears that she won't.  I want to do all that I can to protect her and keep her safe.  But, I know that as she gets older she will have to explore on her own.  She will have to make mistakes and learn from them.  I won't always be around to keep her safe.  I just have to hope that I will be the best parent I can be and teach her to make good choices.  I am not in control of her life and that is one of the hardest realizations that I have come to.  What I can do is make sure she knows every day how much I love her.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Due Date & Reminders

Yesterday was my due date for Penelope and James.  It came and went like any other day.  I actually didn't even remember it was their due date until late last night.  Due dates are a funny thing.  Almost from the moment you discover you are pregnant you look eight months into the future at this looming date when your baby will be born.  Very rarely do babies actually arrive on this date.  My daughter Gwenevere was born exactly one week early. I went into labor at work on Tuesday morning and I passed it off as normal pregnancy pains.  It didn't even register to me that I could be in labor because I hadn't reached that magical date yet.  Eighteen hours later Gwenevere arrived.
I had several different due dates with the twins.  When I first discovered I was pregnant I calculated the date myself and discovered that I was due on December 18th.  At my first OB appointment I was told that I was due on December 20th.  Then, several weeks later when we found out that I was carrying twins we were given a twin due date of November 30th.  Finally, when I switched to a new OB they told me the first Doctor had miscalculated and that my actual twin due date was November 28th.  I never would have thought that they would have arrived on August 19th.
In the months following the birth and death of James and Penelope I dreaded facing November 28th.  I imagined it would be a day that I would lock myself in my room and cry.  Now that it has actually happened I realize that it's just another day of grief.  There have been better days and worse days, it's not determined by the calendar.
Many things serve as painful reminders of my son and daughter.  Lately it has been twins.  It seems that everywhere I go is flooded with twins.  I'm actually starting to wonder if there is something in the water around me, there is an unnatural occurance of twins.  I recently took Gwenevere to the library and found myself surrounded.  There was a set of twin to my left, and a set of twins to my right.  I looked down to take a moment to breath and there on the floor was a board book titiled "Bath Time For Twins".  I had to laugh, the only other choice was to cry and I wasn't in the mood for sobbing in public.
I know that as time goes on certain things will remind me of my loss.  I hope that eventually I will be able to see twins and not feel a burning sense of jealousy.  I hope that I will be better equipped to handle the floods of emotion that come and go.  Most days I cry, some days a little and some days a lot.  I miss my children.  I miss who they could have become and who they were.  I would still give anything to be able to kiss their tiny faces again or hold them in my arms.  I simply miss them, not just on their due date, but everyday.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The New Me

My life is a little different these days.  Grief counseling with my Therapist every three weeks, Miscarriage & Infant Loss Support Group the 2nd Thursday of every month, making time everyday to meditate and be alone with my thoughts.  Of all the things I thought I would be when I grew up, being the mother to one living child and two deceased children is not something that I ever imagined.  I never imagined that while I was Christmas shopping I would have to buy votive candles to light in my dead children's honor, or buy angel wing ornaments, or stuff two of my children's stocking with donations to March of Dimes instead of toys.  This is not what I thought my family would look like.
I love my family.  Micah is the best husband, partner and co-parent I could have ever asked for.  Gwenevere is a ball of joy, energy, fun, love, excitement, intelligence, giggles, and sweetness.  I have always wanted to have a daughter, not that I have anything against boys.  But I love my mother and I wanted a relationship like that with my own daughter.  I got my wish and so much more when Gwenevere was born.  No matter how wonderful and perfect the three of us are together, I can't ignore the gaping hole.  James and Penelope are not with us.
I can't help but let my mind wander into the dangerous zone of what ifs.  What would my family look like if the twins were here.  Would they even have been born yet?  My official twin due date is just eight days away.  If they were here I'm sure we would be crazy busy.  Three children in diapers, two infants breastfeeding, twice the middle of the night feedings, twice the crying, twice the stress, twice the joy.  I'll never really know what that life would have looked like, I can only dream.
My life now is different than it was three months ago.  While most of the changes have come with pain, there are some good things that have started to glimmer through the hurt.  I am not the same mother to Gwenevere that I was for the first twenty months of her life.  I give her more hugs, kisses and cuddles.  I sit and read with her more often.  I stare at her beautiful face and find myself tearing up at her mere existence.  She is a miracle and I can't believe I am lucky enough to be her mother.  Losing Penelope and James was awful and I wish they were still here.  But they are gone.  I have to believe that their short life had purpose.  I don't yet know what that complete purpose is.  I do know that some of their purpose was to make me a different kind of mother.  I am a mother that loves with all of my heart and then some.  I take nothing for granted.  I am more patient, more attentive. I never would have thought it was possible, but I love my daughter more.  A new part of my heart was awakened with the death of my son and daughter.  Without their brief time in my life I wouldn't be the person I am today.

Monday, November 12, 2012


One week from today will be the three month mark from the day that Penelope and James were born and died.  I really can't believe that much time has gone by.  I know that when you have a baby people always tell you "It goes by so fast".  I guess that's just as true when your baby doesn't come home with you.  It really seems like yesterday that Micah and I were driving home from the hospital, silent, tearful and trying to make sense of it all.
These days are a mixed bag.  I am still full of grief and I miss my son and daughter every day.  I also have an amazing toddler to care for.  To help me cope with my loss I have thrown all of my energy into taking care of my beautiful daughter.  I spend my time away from her planning educational activities and enriching life experiences. When I am with her we go on play dates, reading time at the library, exploring at the science museum, art projects at home, sorting & counting, singing and playing.  I pour the energy I have into raising this child.  Putting all of my energy into Gwenevere doesn't leave me with much time for crying and moping.
Even with my busy days I still find myself overcome at times with grief.  Sometimes it's just a passing thought, other times I break down crying.  Gwenevere has become very good at recognizing my sadness and offering hugs, "Mommy crying, sad".
Although I try to hold it all together I never know what will be a trigger for me.  This weekend it was seeing a set of boy girl twins at the museum.  They were about three years old and adorable.  I wanted to cry,  I wanted to take the Mom aside and tell her how lucky she was, I wanted to hug the kids, I wanted them to leave so I didn't have to see this painful reminder.  I never used to notice twins.  I'm sure they have always been around, but I never noticed them.  Now, wherever I go there seem to be twins.  I can't look past them anymore.
Last night I was flipping through shows on Netflix.  I stumbled upon Teen Mom 2 and decided to watch.  By the end of the first episode I found myself crying.  I couldn't help but wonder why these Moms deserved to have their children with them and I didn't.  These people can barely take care of themselves, let alone a child.  I know the world doesn't work that way.  Bad things happen to good people and life isn't fair.  That doesn't mean I can't be angry about it once in a while.
While Gwenevere is sometimes the glue that is holding me together, she can also be a trigger.  I see how far she has come, all that she can do, all that she has learned and it makes me sad.  James and Penelope will never get to experience all that Gwenevere does.  They will never get to snuggle in bed with us and read goodnight stories.  They will never say their first words or take their first steps.  They will never have a tantrum in Meijer and embarrass me.  They will never give me a hug when I am sad.
I try very hard to stay positive.  I have one living child.  She is amazing and more than I ever could have hoped for.  I am lucky.  Some people never know the joy of giving birth to a healthy baby and watching them grow up.  I have this privilege that is parenthood.  I am a Mom and for that I am grateful.  I just wish that I could be a Mom to all three of my children.  But, because I can't I will continue to be the best Mom I can be Gwenevere and remind myself how blessed I am to have her in my life.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Holidays

Now that Halloween has come and gone, we are rapidly approaching the holiday season.  Christmas music is on the radio and decorations are up at stores.  Usually, I love the Holidays.  I love Thanksgiving.  I enjoy the planning and preparation of the feast as well as eating it.  I enjoy spending special time with my family and taking a moment to remember what we are thankful for.  I enjoy the four day weekend and knowing that the day after Thanksgiving I can wear my pajamas all day while Micah works a half day but gets paid for a full day.  I love the leftovers, I love the online shopping.

Last year's Thanksgiving was special to us.  We were expecting our second child at 9 weeks pregnant.  Our families knew our good news and although they were a little surprised, they were happy for us.  I enjoyed Thankgiving sober, as I did the previous year when I was 38 weeks pregnant with Gwenevere.  Just 3 short days later I found out in the emergency room that our baby no longer had a hearbeat.  The next day I was scheduling my D & C.

Christmas came one month later, as it always does.  It felt empty.  Not many people knew that I had just lost a pregnancy.  I felt ashamed and self indulgent to talk about it.  Not many people even knew that I was pregnant, and it seemed awkward to explain.  Micah and I went on planning a fun Christmas for our daughter.  We hung the stockings, bought presents and participated in all of the usual celebrations.  On Christmas day we celebrated with Micah's family.  One of his family members was pregnant and due the same time that we were.  I couldn't even bring myself to make eye contact with them.  It just hurt to know that they were going to meet their little June bug, and ours was gone.  I remember thinking at the time that hopefully we would have a new baby by Christmas of next year.

Fast forward to now.  Christmas is coming and there will be no new baby in our home.  Thanksgiving is less than a month away and I am having a hard time of thinking what I am thankful for this year.  Of course I am thankful for my wonderful network of family and friends, but without James & Penelope it seems incomplete.  I am thankful for my daughter, but sometimes her milestones serve as a painful reminder of what her brother and sister will never do.   Once again I face the holidays knowing that something is missing.  This time, so much more.  With my first loss I was 10 weeks pregnant.  I know that some people consider any stage of pregnancy to be a baby, but to me it was the idea of a baby.  I never met that baby, never held that baby.  However, I mourned the loss of the potential child that it could have been.  With my more recent loss it is so much more real.  I carried Penelope and James for almost 23 weeks.  I felt them moving inside of me, I saw their kicks.  When they were born they were just as real as any baby.  They each had 10 fingers and 10 toes, eyes, ears a mouth and James even had a full head of hair.  I labored through contractions and delivered them the same way I brought Gwenevere into this world.  They are my children, but they aren't here with me.

This Christmas will come and go like all holidays do.  I will wrap presents, decorate our tree, drink hot chocolate, and revel in the joy of my daughter. I will do this all while knowing that two of my children can't be with me.  I will cry, I will take a Xanax, I will miss the crap out of those two sweet babies.  I know I will get through it, but I also know that it won't be a joyous occasion. The Holidays will be over before I know it and I will be starting a new year.  May this next year be a little less painful and a little more peaceful.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Faith Shaken

Let me begin by explaining my religious background.  I am a Unitarian Universalist and I have been my whole life.  I grew up in a UU family and attended church almost every week.  I have been a part of this religion for over 30 years, yet I still struggle to explain the creed of our church.  The best way to describe the set of beliefs set forth is the Golden Rule; Treat others as you would like to be treated.  All people are accepted in our church as they are, spiritualists, Agnostics, Atheists, Intellectuals, Straight, Gay and Transgendered.  It is a religion that does not impose beliefs, instead it expects acceptance.

While growing up in the UU church it was expected of me to create my own set of beliefs.  Was there a god, and what did that figure mean to me?  I still don't know the answer to that question, but it has been a stimulating one to ponder over the years.  I have always leaned towards the belief that there is a greater power.  Some people may call that God.  I liked to believe that in times of great stress I could turn to this power and pray.  I never really expected miracles, just a feeling of support and comfort from knowing that I wasn't alone.

Now that I have been through the greatest tragedy of my life I find that I have a new viewpoint.  I have come to one realization;  God does not meddle in our lives. 

Before this year I have never known anyone who has lost a baby or child (not including 1st trimester pregnancy loss).  Since the death of my son and daughter I have encountered a countless number of parents that have been through a loss.  Some similar to my experience, others completely different but equally painful.  I started to do some Internet research on the statistics of infant mortality rates.  In the U.S. approximately 20% of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage before 20 weeks.  Loss of a baby after 20 weeks is approximately .5%.  It may not sound like much, until you are one of the parents of a miscarriage or death of an infant.

It is hard for me to imagine that there is any God that would allow or even cause these terrible things to happen, not to mention all of the other catastrophic things that happen in this world.  Some people say that everything happens for a reason, it's part of God's plan.  I have a hard time accepting this.  God can't possibly want people to suffer.  If this is God's test of me, I have failed.  I don't like to give labels, but I guess I am agnostic.  There may be a greater power, there may not.  If there is, I know It is not concerned with how often one attends church or what their specific creed is.  This greater power is there for reasons unknown to me.

In one aspect my faith has been strengthened, my faith in humanity.  I have been truly astounded at the outreach of my friends, family & even strangers.  Every card that was send to our house, every vase full of flowers, every prayer said in our honor, every meal that was brought to our door, every phone call and every e-mail that I received showed me how incredible the people are that surround me.  I am amazed how many people have reached out to say a simple "I'm sorry" or "I'm thinking about you".

Some people may pity me for not having a strong faith in God.  They may wonder how I can possible get through this awful loss without that relationship.  My answer is simple, I have faith in you.  I believe that you have the power to make someone feel loved and supported.  You may not always have the right words, but the warmth and kindness is there.  I hope that I can someday return the favor and be a shoulder to cry on or a pillar of strength when needed.  God knows, we need each other.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Dreaded Question

I am anxiously waiting for the first time I have to answer the dreaded question; "Is she your first?".  I guess the answer is yes, Gwenevere is my first child.  However, she is not my only child.  The question is always asked with the best intentions.  Usually just another Mom striking up a conversation.  It is a question that I don't think I'll ever ask a stranger again.

For any parent that has been through the loss of a pregnancy or child it is a loaded question.  If you answer politely and say yes you feel like you are not respecting your dead children.  If you answer honestly and explain your complicated family it makes for a pretty awkward moment.  It was recommended to me that I have a standard answer prepared for when it comes up.  That way I'm not caught off guard.  I plan on saying, "She is my only living child".  If someone wants to ask follow up questions they can, and if not that's okay too. I can't imagine pretending like Penelope and James never existed, even to a stranger at the grocery store.  They are just as much a part of our family as any of us.  The only difference is that they are not with us.

I am proud to be the mother of James & Penelope, even though I only got to fill that role for a very short time.  I was present from the moment they were born to the moment they died.  I didn't miss a breath or heartbeat or movement.  Their entire life was spent in the loving arms of their Mom & Dad. Not many parents can say that.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Guilt & Blame

As humans we are always looking for answers.  What is our purpose?  Why does it always rain after you wash your car?  I find it to be added heartache not knowing why my son & daughter were taken from me.  This is a question that I have asked over and over to myself and to my OB and one that I will never get an answer to.

In the medical world preterm labor is as mysterious as it is devistating.  With all the medical advances that have been made over the years they still seem to have no real idea as to why it happens or how to stop it.  I find that unacceptable.  While doing my own research online I have discovered several suspected causes; smoking, lack of prenatal care, multiple pregnancy, and undetected infection.  I didn't smoke during my pregnancy, I had consistent prenatal care and there appeared to be no infection present.  My only risk factor was a multiple pregnancy.  At my last OB appointment before I went into labor I was measuring at 31 weeks and I was 22 weeks pregnant.  I found this shocking, but the Dr. assured me that this was normal for a twin pregnancy, so I went on with my day.  I never thought that one week later I would be in labor.

I find myself replaying the days and weeks leading up to their birth over and over in my head.  Maybe I walked too much.  Maybe I shouldn't have air traveled.  Maybe keeping up with Gwenevere and cleaning the house was too much.  Maybe my OB should have been checking my cervix more frequently.  Maybe I should have drank more water.  Maybe I should have drank less water.  Maybe I was too stressed.  Maybe I should have been on partial bedrest.  Maybe I should have gone to the hospital the night before.  There are so many what ifs.

It is impossible for me to just let it go.  I want an answer, I want to place blame.  As a parent it is so easy for me to place the blame on myself.  It was my body that began having the contractions that forced James & Penelope into this world too early.  Why couldn't I do something?  At times I blame the medical staff at Sparrow hospital.  If only they would have started me on the Magnesium Sulfate several hours earlier maybe we could have stopped labor.  Sometimes I blame the medical community.  Why hasn't there been more research done on preterm labor treatment, why is it still such a mystery?  Sometimes I blame my family.  Why didn't they do more to help my during my pregnancy, why did they let me be so physically active?  In reality I know that I have no one to blame.  Nobody could have predicted that a perfectly healthy pregnancy could go so wrong.  I had already carried one wonderful baby to term with no problems, so why not assume that I could carry twins.

I still catch myself occasionally playing the blame game.  It's so hard not too.  Hopefully I will eventually come to peace with it.  I will be able to accept that sometimes bad things happen to good people and nobody knows why.  My darling son and daughter were here and gone and I am left wondering why.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Tomorrow will be the two month anniversary of the birth and death of my precious son and daughter.  I honestly can't believe that much time has passed.  When you are stuck in grief it's hard to see that the world keeps turning despite your loss.  As the weeks have gone by, I have felt the heaviness in my heart become lighter.  I cry less often and the pain seems less intense.  However, the past few days I seem to have found myself in a dark place once again.
I am irritable with my family, impatient with Gwenevere and bitter at the world around me. Seeing happy families makes me jealous and angry.  I envy people that get to come home to their complete family, whatever that is for them. I hate that this is who I have become.  I like to think that when friends and family think of me they would describe me as a happy person.  I am not that happy person right now.  I can still smile and laugh, but on the inside it's just empty and sad.
With the holiday season quickly aproaching I  have a sense of dread.  This Christmas I will be buying gifts for only one of my three children.  Our mantle will only have three stockings hanging from it.  I want to just crawl into a corner and wait for the holidays to pass.  I don't want to go to church, I don't want to open presents, I want to have my son and daughter home safe with their Mom, Dad, and Sister.  
I've been told by others that have also lost a baby that it does get better.  I believe this to be true, it must get better.  If it doesn't get better I don't know how any parent could survive.  Most women have said that the first year is the worst.  Every special day or holiday that goes by that should have been your child's first is just a painful reminder that they are not here.  Well, I am two months down, ten more to go.  I know I won't magically feel better in August, but I hope that by then the pain will have gradually lifted.  Maybe I will be able once again feel truly happy and laugh with sincerity.   
For now I am focused on coping with the pain.  It is real and a part of my life for now.  I accept that I will never forget my sweet James and Penelope, but I hold onto the hope that I will come to terms with their death.  This week may be a difficult one, but next week may be better.  The journey I am on is a bumpy road.  It is not a smooth path from sadness to acceptance.  I know I will have bad days and good days.  Even though today is a bad day, I will get through it.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Even On a Good Day

Some days are bad.  Those are the days that I am listless, irritable, weepy and sad.  I cry after I put Gwenevere down for her nap and I allow myself to feel the deep pain from the loss of my son and daughter.  I see people post pregnancy and new baby pictures on facebook and I block their posts.  Their joy just adds to my pain.  I will never again be excited at the sight of a positive pregnancy test, I will be fearful.  On the bad days I am angry.  I am angry at my body for not allowing my babies to live.  I am angry at the world for not grinding to a halt to allow me to grieve.  I am angry at the hospital for not doing more to save my babies.  But mostly, I am just lost.

Other days are good.  I laugh with my family.  I enjoy watching my daughter grow and learn and I enjoy the quiet time with my husband.  I dance, and play, and smile.  Sometimes the good days are the hardest.  I realize at the end of day that I am only tucking in one of my three children.  Gwenevere gets a goodnight kiss and I lay her in her crib with her blankets and I tell her how much I love her.  Then I walk into the other bedroom and gently place my hands on James and Penelope's urns.  They are cold to the touch.  I say goodnight and tell them how much I love them. 

As the weeks go by since I said goodbye to my son and daughter I have more good days.  I find myself able to get through a whole day without crying at times.  This isn't because I have forgotten them or moved on.  It's the process of grief.  I know I will always have bad days.  As time goes on they will be fewer and far between.  I also know that I will never have a day that I don't miss James and Penelope.  They are a part of our family.  Most of my days will be good days, but even on a good day I am still missing two of my children.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Our Own Timeline

I keep reminding myself that every family has it's own timeline.  Ours just looks a little different than most family's.  We have had three children in 20 months, yet only one of them is home with us.  We also had one miscarriage smack in the middle.  Is our family complete?  I don't know.

Micah and I planned on having two, maybe three children.  When we discovered we were pregnant with twins we were so happy.  Our family was complete.  I was ready to schedule my tubal ligation right then and there.  Early in the pregnancy I suffered from hypermesis.  This meant that when I wasn't vomiting I was dry heaving.  I had never felt physically worse in my life.  All throughout the first trimester I would cry to Micah that I could not get through it.  The days went by so slowly, I never thought I would see the day that I could keep down my saltine crackers and sprite.  During week 6 I pronounced that this was the last time I would ever be pregnant.  I told Micah that I didn't care if we had another miscarriage, this was it.  Gwenevere could be an only child, she was enough for me.  Nothing could make me go through this torture again. 

Now the question comes to me frequently.  Will Gwenevere be an only child?  I was an only child for nine years.  I had a wonderful childhood.  I had both of my parent's undivided attention and love.  I was the center of their world and I loved it.  Then, the summer before 4th grade the news came that I was going to be a big sister.  I was thrilled!  Although I had moments that I resented my new sibling about the time and attention that she took away from me, I loved her.  Now in adulthood I can't imagine my life without her.  Who would I call when our Dad showed up at my house wearing flip flops?  Who could I complain to about my Mom thinking that yogurt was a perfectly acceptable lunch?  Who could I laugh and cry with and know that no matter what she would always be there?  She is my sister and I am so grateful to have her in my life.

Lately, I seem to see pregnant women everywhere.  I feel a deep sense of envy.  I should be pregnant.  Today I would be 30 weeks pregnant with my twins and I would be huge and uncomfortable.  I would be loving and hating every moment.  When I see a pregnant woman I am most envious of her ignorant bliss.  Of course I am assuming that she has never been through the loss of a pregnancy or child.  I remember very well my first pregnancy with Gwenevere.  At times I felt concern, but I assumed that I would give birth to a perfectly healthy baby.  I didn't know at the time that sometimes healthy babies die.  Now, the thought of being pregnant is terrifying.  Forty weeks is an awfully long time to live in terror, especially since pregnant women can't take Xanax.

Can I overcome my fear?  Micah and I have discussed our options.  We know that we may have a normal pregnancy that results in a healthy baby.  We also know that I may go into preterm labor again and lose another child.  We know there are medical interventions available for single pregnancies to prevent preterm labor.  We also know that because we conceived twins naturally we have double the chance of twins again. We know that if we become pregnant with twins there is not much that modern medicine can do to prevent preterm labor. We know that if we lose another child we may be broken beyond repair. But are we willing to sacrifice having more children because of fear?  Maybe.

For now, my spirit and body need to heal.  I gave birth to twins just 7 weeks ago.  They were born and they died.  This is now part of my life, part of my story.  I have to take the time to honor their existence, they are my son and daughter.  I have to honor myself and give me time to make peace.  I have a new identity.  I am the Mom of 3 children.  I have one living child and two babies that died.  James and Penelope are part of our timeline.  Strangers may ask when we are going to have another baby.  They don't know our family's timeline.  They don't know that Gwenevere has two siblings already. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Big Sister

The other day Micah and I were talking about Penelope and James, as we often do.  Micah remarked that someday Gwenevere will have to tell the story of her brother and sister that were born and died.  Two sibling that she never even met.  Although I still feel pangs of guilt about many things revolving around their death I have come to terms with most of the decisions we made that day.  One regret that I have lingering on is that our twins never got to meet their big sister.

Of course they would not have been able to meet her in their short lifetime.  Micah and I were the only people that got to hold them before they died.  However, our parents and my sister were all able to hold them and meet them even though they had already passed.  In all the chaos of that day I never stopped to think that Gwenevere deserved to meet her baby brother and sister.

She would probably have no memory of them.  She is far too young to understand the concept of birth and death.  But someday, when we talk about James and Penelope, I would have been able to tell her that they were able to meet.  I could tell her that even though she was only with them for a short time she was a wonderful big sister to them..

We kept both Penelope and James with us all night in our hospital room the night after they died.  It wasn't until the next morning after they were blessed by the hospital Minister with a Unitarian prayer that we said our final goodbye.  Shortly after, my Mom and Sister brought Gwenevere to the hospital to see us.  She came in the room and snuggled with me in the hospital bed while trying to pull out my IV.  I wanted to cry.  I looked at her and I realized it was too late.  The big sister never got to see or touch her little brother and little sister.

Several days after we were home I was putting laundry away and I saw her Big Sister shirt crumpled in the basket.  I hugged the shirt and cried.  I gently folded it and put it in the closet with all of my maternity clothes.  I then went and got Gwenevere and brought her into my bedroom.  We sat on the bed together and I showed her the few photos that we have of James and Penelope.  I told her all about her brother and sister and how much I loved them and missed them.  I told her how they were born too little to live.  I knew she understood nothing of what I was saying, but it felt good to let her point to the pictures and say "Brother, Sister".  

She may never get to be the typical Big Sister.  She won't get to hold them, try to feed them bottles, steal their toys from them, fight on car trips about who's touching who, chase them around the house, take baths together, and grow up to talk about their crazy parents.  But she IS a Big Sister.  I will continue to talk to her about her brother and sister.  I will show her their pictures and let her ask questions.  Even though she never met James and Penelope, she will know that she had a baby brother and sister and we loved them very much.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

You Survive Because You Have To

My pregnancy with Gwenevere was uneventful.  I was lucky.  From five weeks to fourteen weeks I suffered from all day sickness, a sign of a healthy pregnancy.  I worried from time to time about a pregnancy loss, but never let my mind dwell on the thought.  At 10 weeks I saw my physician for a routine appointment and she asked how far along I was.  I told her I was only 10 weeks.  She asked if I wanted her to try and find a heartbeat via Doppler.  I hesitated for a moment, I had anticipated Micah being present for that moment but I said yes.  She got out the Doppler and within a minute she found a strong heartbeat.  I called Micah and he could hear our baby’s heartbeat over the phone.  It was a magical moment.
I remember throughout my pregnancy with her I enjoyed everything.  I loved our prenatal appointments with our midwife and getting to hear our baby’s heartbeat.  I loved buying baby things and decorating her nursery.  I loved my growing belly and feeling all of her movements.  I loved the right to complain about all of the discomforts that come along with being a pregnant lady.  I loved the moment we found out we were having a baby girl by cutting into a pink cake.  I loved taking natural child birth classes and planning the drug free arrival of our daughter into the world.  I loved the anticipation of becoming a parent with my husband.   My perfect pregnancy ended on December 1st, 2010 at 4:49am with the delivery of a perfect baby girl, Gwenevere Cate Fuerst; 8lbs. 1oz. 20.5 inches.
Ten months after the birth of Gwenevere I found out we were pregnant again.  I was elated!  It was a little sooner that we had originally planned on having another child, but I couldn’t wait to become a parent again.  This pregnancy however was very different for me.  I had a loss of appetite, but I had no nausea.  I didn’t feel pregnant.  I had anxiety all the time that something was wrong.  I kept saying to Micah that it was either twins or I was going to miscarry.  I just knew it was different.  To calm my nerves my midwife offered me an early ultrasound.  At seven weeks we got to see our little Poppy (as we referred to him/her).  Poppy had strong heartbeat, but was only measuring at 5 weeks.  Our midwife told us not to worry because it is common to be off on dates.  Micah’s mind was put at ease, mine was not.  I reluctantly told our family and a few friends that we were pregnant.  We bought Gwenevere a “Big Sister” onesie and everyone was so excited.  I was not excited, just anxious.
The weekend before Gwenevere’s 1st birthday we threw a party for her.  We invited a few friends and family.  It was a wonderful party and Gwenevere had a great time.  Once all of the guests left I went to the bathroom and noticed some bleeding.  My stomach sank.  I tried to stay calm, reminding myself that spotting can be perfectly normal in the first trimester.  The next morning it got worse.  I called our midwife and she suggested going to the E.R. to get checked out.  We dropped our daughter off with friends and went to the hospital.  It was there that we discovered that our Poppy no longer had a heartbeat.  It looked as though our baby had died several weeks ago.  I cried knowing that my worst fears had come true.  I was angry.  I felt that my body had failed me and my baby.  I tried to comfort myself that something was wrong with our baby and that Poppy wasn’t meant to be.  I had a D & C later that week, two days before my daughter’s first birthday.
After my miscarriage I felt devastated.  I wanted that baby.  I didn’t think I could find the strength to get through the loss.  It didn’t seem fair.  The OB that did my operation recommended waiting at least 3 months before trying to conceive again.  I wanted to be pregnant again.  I also wanted to never again experience the loss of a baby.  Four and a half months after my miscarriage I learned that I was again pregnant.  I was struck with excitement and fear, but mostly fear. 
This third pregnancy was so much different than both of my previous pregnancies.  I was so sick I could barely lift my head from the bathroom floor.  I was exhausted beyond belief.  At 7 weeks we had our first ultrasound to confirm dates and viability. I will never forget what the ultrasound tech said when I asked if everything looked okay.  “Well, there are two!”.  Twins, I couldn’t believe it.  It gave me twice as much to worry about and twice as much to look forward to.  The first trimester was challenging to say the least.  I had to care for my daughter at home while curled up in the fetal position and dry heaving.  I worried every minute about every tiny ache or pain that I had.  I remember lying in bed one night feeling light cramps with my heart racing.  I was sure that I was miscarrying. 
Although the first 13 weeks went by at a snail’s pace I made it through.  Each week that went by I felt more and more confident that we were actually going to have two healthy babies.  At 18 weeks we had our anatomy scan.  Not only did we discover that we were going to have a son and daughter but most importantly both of them looked perfectly healthy!  I was elated.  Even though everything looked perfect I never let go of the anxiety.  When I would wake up in the morning I would check to make sure my water hadn’t broken prematurely.  I avoided heavy lifting, even having Gwenevere climb stairs to get into her crib.  I ate healthy and drank a gallon of water a day to help prevent preterm labor.  I knew that a multiple pregnancy was high risk and I wanted to reduce my risk as much as possible.
Despite my efforts I did go into preterm labor.  At 22 weeks and 5 days I went into labor and delivered my son and daughter.  Nine days too soon for any medical intervention.  I had to watch them die and know that there was nothing that could be done to save their lives.  The worst part was seeing how perfect and healthy they looked. 
My point is this; at the time of my pregnancy with Gwenevere I never would have thought I could handle a miscarriage.  The thought of losing a pregnancy was too much to bear.  I knew it happened to many women and they got through it, but I just couldn’t imagine the pain.  When my miscarriage happened I got through it.  As each day passed it got better and I survived.  Not long after my miscarriage someone very close to me had a 2nd trimester pregnancy loss.  I couldn’t imagine the pain.  I knew how much it hurt to lose my baby at 10 weeks and I couldn’t begin to comprehend her loss.  By that time you are feeling your baby move, setting up the nursery, picking names and planning for that child.  Then, three months later the unthinkable happened to me.  The event that I never thought I was strong enough to survive happened.  My babies were taken from me and I was left to try to go on with my life.  I am still here, I survived.  Not because I am strong, because I had no choice. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Doing the Work

It’s seems as though Micah and I have gone to great lengths to do everything “right” in our grieving process.  The moment our babies were born we held them each in our arms.  We bonded with them as much as we could in the short time frame we had.  We had pictures taken of us holding our beloved children in our arms since we would never again have that opportunity.  I look at those pictures often.  The weekend following James and Penelope’s birth and death we held a memorial service at our church to mourn their loss with our family and friends.  We are reading books and visiting websites about dealing with infant loss.  We have recently started counseling to help us cope with this great loss.  We have attended a support group for parents going through similar loss.  We talk often to each other and others about our feelings.  We openly share our grief.  As our counselor told us we are “doing the work”.  So why is this still so hard?
I know that this isn’t supposed to be easy.  I know that grief takes time and we are still only in the beginning stages.  I know that losing a child, or in our case two children is a loss like no other.  I know that we are forever changed.  I know all of these things to be true but I hoped it would be different somehow.  I hoped that by seeking out all of the appropriate channels and facing our loss head on we would somehow be exempt from the typical crappyness that is grief. 
Part me is ready to move past this stage.  The constant tears and breakdowns are exhausting.  I find it challenging to get through the day, let alone care for my toddler and be present for her.  I am tired of crying, tired of talking about it, tired of the emptiness.  Another part of me relishes the pain.  It exists because of James and Penelope.  It is really all that I have left of them.  Each tear that falls is in their honor.  I don’t want to “move on”.  It seems disrespectful to want to escape the sadness.
Eventually I will get through this.  We are doing the work and it sucks, but I know it is necessary.   I look forward to the day I can tell the story of Penelope and James without crying.  I will find other ways to honor them.  I may never know why my body went into labor at almost 23 weeks, forcing them into this world too soon.  However, I know that they came into our lives for a reason.  They reminded me of how fragile life is.  They taught me how to have a new level of appreciation and love for Gwenevere.  I love her so much more, which I never thought was possible.  I am amazed by here mere existence as well as in everything she does.  I am thankful that I have been given the opportunity to be a mother to three children.  Even if I only got to meet two of my children briefly, they will always be my son & daughter and they will always be loved.