Sunday, December 26, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Unfortunately, it feels like they are counting down to tomorrow. 13 weeks. Coinciding with Otis's three month birth-i-versary.
Three months. A quarter of a year. 91 days. Tomorrow, coincidentally, marks the one year anniversary of the day Otis was conceived.
Barely a scratch on the surface, and yet, also, a lifetime. How is it that it works like that?
I miss my boy so fucking much. Yesterday it felt like the world was crashing in on me again. I was bitchy. Agitated. Sad. Angry. I watched a recording of the Glee Christmas episode on Thursday night and I had a fucking rage-bitch-yell session at the TV and at the general entity of Christmas. How dare they try to sell this bullshit message of miracles and hope and 'just believe' and all that fucking feel-good nonsense!?!? IT DOESN'T WORK LIKE THAT. While at times it makes me feel better, right now I am just so fucking sick of the whole "Miracles sometimes come in the package you weren't expecting," form of rationalizing/trying to make me feel better line of thought. Bullshit. Otis is dead. There is no miracle in that. NONE. He is dead, my life is forever changed, my hope, my faith, my naivete and my innocence forever shattered, rattled, traumatized. Poor E, watching me as I threatened to lodge a shoe in our brand new television.
I carried him for 9 months, loved on him, felt him kick, talked to him, sang to him, wished for him, dreamt for him, labored for 72 hours with him, and what do I have to show for it? A box of ashes on his dresser. Try as I do, there is nothing, nothing, nothing consoling about holding a box of ashes, crying, cradling it, calling and screaming out to it, trying to find my boy.
I've been working on thank you notes to the multitudes of people who have helped us in these last 91 days. In the notes, I am including a wildflower seed packet like the ones we gave out at Otis's memorial and a photograph of him. I've been having to use the paper cutter to cut the photographs to the wallet size because the printer we used printed them 4 to a sheet. So I've been staring at his lush head of hair and his chubby little hands and his perfect, perfect nose and his soft skin as I cut the pictures and then put them into the envelopes with the cards.
Sometimes I can tune it out, and just work on cutting the photos. Other times I am completely drawn in, and I sit and stare at his little face for hours. I am back there, in the NICU, dressing him, preparing him for his journey to the other side. Preparing myself. Saying my goodbyes. Crying my tears of pain, of joy, of disbelief. Screaming. Breathing. Bleeding. Loving my little man, so ferociously.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
I also want to preface this post by saying I'm pretty cautious about putting all these details out in the blogoverse to be read by anyone and everyone and I wish blogger could password protect individual posts because this would be one I'd password protect! At the same time, I've kind of become an open book in these last few months, so, whatever, here goes:
I really, really, really want to be pregnant again. I am surprised that I want this, so soon. And then again, I'm not. I knew the day we lost Otis that I wanted to be pregnant again. I actually always knew, throughout my pregnancy, that I wanted to have a second child close in age to Otis. At one point in my pregnancy, E said to me, "So if you give birth at the beginning of September...you could be pregnant again by DECEMBER!" I quickly corrected him, and cautioned that it was highly unlikely that I'd be ready, plus I wanted to breastfeed for Otis's first year, yadda yadda. (I barely had the heart to tell him that I was pretty damn confident that I'd want NOTHING to do even with sex, much less another pregnancy, three months post partum.)
But of course, everything is different, everything has changed now that Otis isn't here with us.
My doctor gave me a timeline of late February to start trying again. He said ideally he recommends a year between full term pregnancies, but at my age, wait six months. But if I got pregnant in the four month range, he said, it wouldn't be cause for alarm necessarily...At the time he told me that, my physical state was still very much NOT conducive to even thinking about sex so February seemed fine to me.
Then I went and saw him and had a procedure done that tremendously sped up my physical healing, a few weeks ago. Which made it possible for me and E to...well...you know.
I woke up last week with a twinkle in my eye. My sex drive had magically reappeared after many, many, many moons. Oh, thank you, universe. And almost just as magically, E came home from an appointment that morning, saw me in my sweats, slippers and sweatshirt (no joke), and said "Wow, babe, you look really sexy today." (He hasn't said this since I was pregnant, I swear.)
And gah, I don't want to kiss and tell but it was really great. Beyond great. Emotional and beautiful and so very loving and tender and really, really fun. And, well, wow, we needed that, all of it.
We haven't been using protection. And again, without too much detail, we've kind of been like newlyweds. (And I'm talking your stereotypical newlyweds, because we had been together for 7 years when we got married...)
Of course, I am wondering now if I can get pregnant. I mean, sure, I know I *could*. But would I?
Yup, I got out the good old ovulation predictor sticks. Looks like I am ovulating or just ovulated this week. I didn't tell E. I just kind of mumbled that if my body wasn't ready to get pregnant, I wouldn't get pregnant. We continued to forgo any forms of birth control. I didn't do any wacky postcoital headstanding (which I may or may not have done in Otis's conception...), I'm not taking my temperature (yet)...E really doesn't like Trying To Conceive (even when he really wants a child) but he really likes Having Sex - and the distinction between the two is pretty strong for him. For me, the lines between TTC and getting some good oldfashioned lovin' are more blurry. So I've kind of told myself that we're just having sex...but I've also been really aware that this could get me pregnant. And...well...as I said at the beginning of this post...I really want to be pregnant.
And now I'm starting to count dates, imagine myself taking a pregnancy test, imagine how or if I'd share any of the news, imagine if I'd get scolded by my doctor for not following his Feb/March timeline, worry that if I did get pregnant this soon OF COURSE it would end in a loss because my body couldn't possibly be ready again in my first regular cycle, worry how I'd make it to 38 weeks, wonder how I'd do being pregnant on virtually the same seasonal timeline I was last year (Otis was conceived on December 12). Granted, any baby conceived at the same time as Otis would be born probably 3 weeks before his birthday, because I would have a c-section at 38 weeks and Otis was born at 41. (See, I told you I've done all the planning and imagining and counting. Sheesh.)
The dates thing doesn't freak me out, though I know for other BLMs that is an issue. Obviously, I'd like Otis's birthday to remain HIS day (but he already shares it with my nephew). I won't have a baby on that exact day. Beyond that, I don't feel strongly that I'd have an issue with the dates being close together.
I am worried, of course, that this is too soon. For my body, perhaps for my heart and for my soul (though that part feels more like a question mark than a statement.) This is the prayer I've been sending out to the universe, "Please, please, don't let me get pregnant unless I'm ready physically to carry a healthy baby through a live birth. Please body, don't betray me by giving me the immediate gratification of getting pregnant if it's not going to stick, or if it will be dangerous for my health, or that of a baby, or if it will jeopardize this amazing closeness I've found with E."
If you all wouldn't mind co-conspiring with me with a similar wish/thought/prayer/intention for our family, I'd be so grateful.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
But I'll say it anyway, because these can't be taken away from me, no matter how awful the future days might be: the last few days have been really nice.
I even went so far as to say the other night to E as we lay in bed, (following a 2:30 am panic attack in which I sobbed my lungs out, mind you), "I like the person that I have become since Otis came into our lives so much better than the person I was before him. I really like who he is changing me into..."
When I'm not crumpled on the floor of my closet, sobbing and screaming and pounding the walls, I can notice how this journey is making me more of who I've always wanted to be. I am more compassionate, with myself and with others who are suffering. (I've yet to find compassion for that neighbor B!#@* who yelled at me about not picking up after my dog, when, in fact, I had. And I still flip off a lot of undeserving mothers and fathers who so seemingly smugly hike "our" trail with their babies in their baby wraps. But they don't see me flipping them off, so it's not THAT bad, right? OK, yes, I'm working on the compassion for all beings. Haven't quite made it there yet.)
Many of my friendships have developed and grown in ways I didn't think were possible since Otis died. Old friends have emerged out of the woodwork and shown up for me in ways I never would have expected. I recognize, and appreciate, how loved I am. I love E more than I ever imagined possible. I appreciate him so much, and I have such an incredible sense of respect and adoration for him - it surprises me sometimes, even. I love what our marriage is now. I love the closeness we share. I love that Otis is in many ways like the most special little secret that no one else can ever know the way we do. E often says to me, "Otis is my superpower." I am pushing myself to face longheld fears and knock them down. As is E. Knowing Otis, losing Otis, loving Otis - all of these things challenge me to be a better woman, in ways I didn't know I could. It's pretty fucking phenomenal.
But, of course, there's that caveat in the first sentence of the paragraph two paragraphs above - because, well, yes, there are still a lot of moments that find me just absolutely and completely gutted. Moments where I am completely overcome with panic, with anxiety, with anger, with rage, and at the bottom of all those, sadness. Pretty much every "outburst" I have - whether it be a panic attack, an anxiety attack, a raging fit or yelling at a person on the freeway - when they are distilled - all the outbursts end in flurries of tears, and this deep longing for Otis to be back here, alive, in my arms. And make no mistake - I have outbursts pretty much every day still. So even when I title this post "A good coupla days" - I say that with the asterisk that will accompany everything in my life from now on - *all things considered.
But there were so many breathtaking glimpses of hope, of beauty, of Life, in my world in these last few days. My heart is full, except for that big gaping hole, of course.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
I always envisioned myself as the type of mother who would not let her child be her EVERYTHING. I wanted to go on dates with my husband. Let my mom watch the baby for a night and drive up to wine country. Continue my volunteer work at the animal shelter. Keep working. Keep practicing and teaching yoga. Continue on my journey of figuring out who I am, independently of a child. Of course a child was going to enrich my life, of course a child was going to change me to my very core and things would no longer be the way they were before. But I didn't want motherhood to consume me.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
The bedroom is as close as I can get to him these days. I spend a lot of time in there, it's my sanctuary. When Otis first died, we put the TV down there with the idea that the distraction might somehow help me. Four days later, I was going nuts, sobbing at the idea that I destroyed my sanctuary. It felt like the distraction was pushing Otis out of the room. I woke up the next morning and practically threw my back out dragging that old piece of crap TV out of there.
Before Otis, I never cared much about making the bed, or keeping the room neat down there (though I always liked it when it was made.) In the days after his death, our friends made it a point to go in every day and make the bed, change out the flowers, and straighten up. Now it's become a bit of a "thing" for me - I have to have the room cared for. It's where I feel his presence the strongest.
Monday, November 15, 2010
I feel so hopeless right now, so full of "what's the point" type questions and other existential angst.
After realizing how I'm running from everything to get to some mythical Other Place where the ghosts can't find me, I've been thinking about how my whole life has felt like a series of "When....then..." statements. "When I get married, then I will be happy..." "When I lose ten pounds, then I will feel happy with my body..." "When I get that job that I love, then I will know career fulfillment..." and on and on and on. "When I have this baby...."
And now it all seems so futile. So stupid. And endless treadmill or hamster wheel. "Now" has never been good enough for me. And now, especially, "Now" is absolutely empty and hollow and depressing and miserable.
And of course, I'm still playing the "when-then" game...Most of it centers around having another child.
"When my body is healed enough for us to have sex again...
"When I know I am ovulating..."
"When I take a pregnancy test..."
"When I make it through the first trimester"
"When I make it past 24 weeks"
"When I make it to the c-section"
"When the baby is born, alive"
And the worst part is, these aren't When Statements, they are all Big, Fat, If Statements. Replace "when" with "if" in every single one of those statements. There are no guarantees. At this point, it feels so far off to even be getting to the TTC game in the first place, not to mention actually being successful at that game.
And I'm sick of living in the world of Whens, Ifs and Waiting Until.
I want to live, now. I'm sick and tired of chasing dreams, only to have my heart broken, my dreams shattered, my prayers ignored. I'm sick of the game of constantly replacing one "if-then" statement with another as I realize I am never satisfied with what I have.
This smacks of depression and the past few times I've had serious bouts of it. I know. So, what? I need a lifeline, some method of surviving these darkest days. What I'm doing barely seems to be working, and I'm getting tired of it, fast. And I can't find any good suggestions. E thinks I need a different therapist. My mom thinks I need meds. I don't agree with either of those options, but then again, I can't figure out any better ones, and feeling optionless also feels really hopeless right now.
There are all sorts of reasons why I don't want to go on meds right now. The two biggest hurdles in that thought process are that we are totally F#$Ked right now with regard to health insurance, and we are already applying to have to pay out of pocket and looking at exorbitant bills. Add a big old mental health piece on top of all my other stuff and it's just not very pretty. The second part about going on ADs is that I can't handle the weight gain right now. It may seem vain or superficial, I agree. But it's already taking every bit of compassion and self-love I have to not totally despise the state of my body right now and losing pregnancy weight right now is a tangible thing that is theoretically helping me in some coping sort of way. Stalling that by adding meds into the mix just won't work. Please don't try to tell me it wouldn't happen this time, because I know my body and I know how it responds to the meds and I fell for it last time and I gained 15 pounds on them.
Not to mention that this isn't necessarily "depression" - it's grief. I don't feel right about going on meds for it.
But E told me today he's really concerned about me. And I'm getting concerned about me too. I'm isolating. I find myself pretty awful to be around, so I can't imagine that others would want to be around me either. And I have no patience for any of their bs, either. I don't want to be around people. I don't even want to be around my dogs right now. I don't know what to do.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
My life feels haunted.
And I feel like I am running from his ghost. Running from the total and complete overwhelm of grief. Racing up the shore so that the wave doesn't crash on me, and take me under her grips, and drown me.
I do everything I can to avoid slowing down, both in my head and in my activity. I lie in bed in the mornings, frantically calculating when I could get pregnant again. I spend my days scheduling "self care" (acupuncture, chiropractic, therapy) to such an obsessive amount that perhaps it's no longer self care, but just distraction. Wishing on stars. Writing lists and lists upon lists of to-dos. Racing around. Anything to keep me from stopping, breathing in, and feeling the emptiness in my heart. It creeps up on me, and I feel my heart start to race. I feel my chest tighten. And I feel that sense, that urgency, that fear. Run. Run for your life. It really does remind me of a good old horror flick, being chased, sheer terror in my eyes, barely able to breathe.
And yet, every time, it catches up with me. Today it was at the sink, doing dishes. I had felt it creeping up since my eyes opened this morning, but had made it a good couple of hours before it finally caught up with me. I started screaming for Otis. I wanted to smash every dish in the sink. I wanted to slam things against the wall. My body heaved, and my heart felt like it was breaking anew all over again. I wanted to throw things, smash things, anything to get the haunting out of my head space. Instead, I just sobbed into the soap suds. I felt my legs buckling under me. I wailed and sobbed and howled.
It passed, as it always does.
I can't help but fear that all this running is going to come back and make it worse somehow. I worry that somehow I'm trying to bypass grief and what I'm doing in fact is going to make it a thousand times worse. I feel guilty for having days where I barely cry at all, days when it feels like it's all going to be okay somehow. I then worry that by having days like that it somehow means it's going to be worse later on down the road. And at the same time, I am terrified of the monsters that hide behind every corner, just waiting to attack me. I am terrified of the ghosts. I am living a haunted life.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
With that, my tears began to fall. Just as I had known from the moment I saw him - he was a perfect little boy. From the tip of his squishy little nose to his pudgy little fingers to his squishy thighs and soft soles of his feet - perfect.
The findings discussed yesterday at the meeting with the NICU team and the fetal pathologist were not new, necessarily, but they did help us to piece together some of Otis' story. Their belief is that he was doing great up until the last few days of my pregnancy. Then, somewhere in there, he either got stressed or pooped just because he was full term (there was meconium in his lungs, only minor amounts, but enough to show that at some point he had pooped, but because my water was clear mostly, they figured it had happened probably a few days before he was born.) So he may have been slightly stressed at some point, or maybe just ready to start pooping. Meconium in a preterm birth they said is a sign of distress, but in a full term, not necessarily. I hadn't known that.
So, perhaps he was already stressed.
Then he had a two vessel cord. Not necessarily cause for concern, but, a little easier to bend. ("Folding a ribbon instead of folding a rope," the pathologist explained.) So it's possible his cord could have bent at some point, also taxing his oxygen levels.
My blood pressure skyrocketed on day two of my labor - for unknown reasons. High blood pressure = less blood flow through placenta. So again, taxing his oxygen levels. It wasn't Pre-E, so I hadn't realized the risk level. But it was still there. Less blood, less oxygen, more work for baby to try to keep everything alive in his body.
Long labor = lots of work for baby also. Start to finish, I was in labor for 71 hours. And there were times that my contractions were relentless in there, back to back, stacking on top of each other lasting 5 minutes each. Not easy for baby to stay strong through those, they told me.
My placenta was small(ish) - 40th percentile. Not small for a normal sized baby, but small for an almost 11 pounder. So again, the cards were stacked against him - poor little guy had to work to get what he needed, and he had done an amazing job of it, throughout pregnancy. But labor is hard work, they explained, and a long labor with a small placenta means even more chances he's not getting the full oxygen that he needs.
And then, in delivery, his shoulder gets stuck on my pubic bone. And he's stuck there for 90 seconds. Again, not long enough to do big damage, on its own. But for a baby who's been in labor for 3 days at that point, with a possible cord compression somewhere in there, fighting to get his blood for a while when my blood pressure was screwy, for an extended period of time - well, it's kind of like asking someone who has just finished a marathon (their first) to jump under water and hold their breath for 90 seconds. It was just too much for his body to figure out how to do.
If each of these things was an isolated incident, it's likely that the baby could survive. But all of them combined, it was just too much.
So his brain shut down. Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. Fancy words, basically low/no oxygen, low/no blood, brain damage.
And the damage was extensive. Throughout all the thinking, feeling, processing, "personality" parts of his brain. As they suspected when they recommended we take him off life support. Really, the only part that wasn't damaged with such extensive necrosis was the brain stem. The cells in his brain (and lack of another type of cell they see when damage has occurred farther out, timewise) revealed that the damage had occurred within 6 days of his death. So we have it timed at least to that point. And everyone feels that it was just a sort of perfect storm, a 1-2-3-4 punch that he just couldn't fight his way out of.
The good news in this is that they think the genetic marker that they found in Otis' array is really of no importance. It doesn't show up as a marker for anything they know of, birth defect or disorder or anything. E and I both will still be tested to see if one of us has the same marker/deletion. If we do, then we know for sure it's a Red Herring and there is nothing to be concerned about. If we don't have the same deletion, then it will be something to look out for in a future pregnancy. But it's of unknown relevance. It sounds like it's more of interest from a research standpoint to the geneticists than anything, but that it's not really of concern to us in terms of future prognoses. We will meet with the genetics team when the result of our Array Testing comes back in 4 weeks.
As a whole, they feel quite hopeful about future pregnancies for us. My age is of concern, of course. For that reason, and not because I had a child who died, they recommend a full battery of genetic testing. (We've already decided that if we are blessed to get pregnant again we will do a CVS at 11 weeks and also get a chromosomal array done too then.) They recommend that I don't go into labor ever again. Otis was fine, until I went into labor. Labor killed him, essentially. So, c-section at 38 or 39 weeks, provided the baby's lungs are fully developed and ready to go. This is also fine with me. I am very sad that I won't get to "do" labor again, that I won't get to push a baby out, feel contractions, ride the waves of childbirth. At the same time, of course, I am willing and ready to do whatever it takes for us to have a healthy living child at the end of a pregnancy. As I've heard so many BLMs state: Take this child however you need to. Just give him (or her, I suppose, though i am stuck thinking fetuses are boys because I am still so much with Otis) to me alive, breathing, crying, kicking.
They are concerned about a future baby's size because I grew such a big one the first time out. Subsequent pregnancies are shown to produce bigger babies. They can't find a cause for why Otis was so big - he was all in proportion, just big. (Beyond the 90th percentile in length and weight.) They recommend that I follow a gestational diabetes diet even though I showed no signs of GD during my pregnancy. They would like me to monitor my weight gain a little more closely. But not in a way that causes me to stress out, they were very clear about that as well. There was a moment in there where we talked about maternal weight gain as a risk factor, and I got very nervous and scared that all of a sudden, here was the moment I had dreaded - this was where the big finger of blame would come out of the sky and point to me...And yet, it didn't. They were very clear about this. "This would be more of a concern if maternal obesity was a factor, Sarah. That is CLEARLY not the case with you." They said it as if they were stating the obvious. E had to stop them and ask them to repeat it, to make sure I heard them. They laughed at his request, as if it were a joke E was making. E grabbed my hand, and looked me in the eyes, and said it again, and made sure I heard it. "This is not the case with you, Sarah. Your weight had nothing to do with this. The way you ate during your pregnancy had nothing to do with this. You are healthy. Your body is healthy. Please hear that."
"Take your folic acid. Cry for the loss of Otis. Stay in therapy. Eat green vegetables and lean protein. Laugh and dance with your husband. Walk your dogs. Ask questions. Get angry. Do what you need to do. And then come back, stop by and see us in the NICU after you have your healthy beautiful baby next year." The fetal pathologist added, "Please send me a postcard from Maui. And then send me a postcard of your second child."
And I know, it may not be as easy as that. But they left us feeling hopeful. There's still the overwhelming sadness, of course. I want my baby boy back. I want to turn back the clock to that 40 week appointment before labor had begun and demand a c-section right then and there. I know, they couldn't do it. It wouldn't have been ethical at that time. And with what I knew then, I would have refused it. And if I had requested to be induced at that point, who is to say that the labor wouldn't have also been as stressful on his body then. And then I would blame myself for getting induced and stressing his body in that way. I cried hard this morning, apologized to my sweet Otis that he had to work so hard and for so long in my labor. It kills me to think of him struggling, fighting to live, fighting to be born. It kills me to think it was a prolonged fight. A 1-2-3-4-5 punch. Or more.
But nobody made any mistakes. Nobody did anything wrong. It just was too much. The perfect storm. And it took my perfect baby boy.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
As You know, each labor and birth is as unique as the individuals involved. Different situations require different techniques. While I hope that my presence was as helpful as you anticipated, I know that I learn from each birth I attend. Please take a moment to share your thoughts and feelings about your birth. I would love to have a detailed account of your perspective of the birth, but short answers are fine too (In fact, shorter answers are preferred to putting the questionnaire aside until "you have more time!"). Thank you for taking the time to help me be the best doula I can be!
I know that some of you gave birth a long time ago, but if you would take a few moments to fill out my evaluation I would really appreciate it.
Link : [removed]
It then had a link to some automated survey or something.
It feels beyond insensitive for you to include us in a generic email request such as this. Please remove us from your list.
I'd say I'm letting her off softly. Is it just me, or do I have every right to be totally offended by her cluelessness? Even if she were "the perfect" doula and our baby had died, don't you think it would be odd for me to want to fill out a survey about our birth?
Monday, November 8, 2010
I can't fathom it getting any harder. Well, actually, I can...but I can't fathom being able to muster any sort of strength to make it through life if it gets any harder. It's already taking every bit of reserve I have. And it's already unbearable. And it's only Monday. Mondays are usually the easiest day of my week.