Friday, July 29, 2011

And Out of Nowhere

It creeps up, taps me on the shoulder, and fells me in one quick and easy little touch.

I miss him so much.  I just started sobbing, the kind of geyser-like sobs that emerge seemingly out of nowhere.   It crept up and bowled me over.  I want him here.  Otis.  I want that head full of hair to nuzzle my nose into, I want to feel his soft baby skin, I want to hear him cry and look into his eyes.  I want to know my son as a ten month old child, not as a ten month old memory.


My stepsister is an aspiring writer.  She's had several novel excerpts and short stories published in some journals and magazines, and has "won" contests or become a finalist, or whatever it is that aspiring writers enter themselves in.

Today she posted a link, on her FB page, to a short story she has written and is in an online magazine.

I clicked through.  I don't always, I often mean to, but then forget.

This story was about a couple who lose their baby 20 weeks into the pregnancy, due to an incompetent cervix.

And it angered me that she had written it.

She's had two first trimester losses, so she is not immune to the grief, I know.  But I read through her story searching for flaws, thinking "How dare she..."

I know this isn't "right," for me to feel this way.  Of course she has every right to write about whatever she wants.  And there are plenty of authors out there who write about things they haven't personally experienced.  And Otis didn't die due to my having an incompetent cervix, and he didn't die at 20 weeks.  And my husband's name isn't Mitch, like the husband in the story.  And our experience is not the one she wrote about.

And yet I still feel sort of betrayed.  Because she and I don't talk about Otis often, she doesn't ask, we haven't ever been super close and the last year has been no different in that just feels odd.  But who knows, maybe she based her character on a friend who suffered a loss like the one she wrote about. Maybe she didn't even think of me or of Otis at all while writing that story.


And maybe that was what triggered the sudden eruption of grief.  Maybe.  Who knows.  It doesn't even matter.  I just miss him.  So fucking much.  I want to go smash something right now. I haven't had this urge to smash since maybe January.  I've got a basement full of old dishes for this explicit purpose, but I worry that I'd hurt myself or I'd start and be unable to stop, and then neighbors would start coming home from work and I'd be "that woman" in her garage, smashing dishes and screaming and crying and nobody would know what to do with me.  And I don't think that violently smashing dishes is allowed on my "limited activity" restriction either.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Sorry for the hiatus, friends.  I've been out of town and away from all things communicational, and also just a little bit quiet, as seems to be the norm as of late.

We marked 10 months without Otis on the 13th.  Sometimes the 13ths sneak up on me and knock me down unexpectedly, sometimes I prepare for them so the knock down doesn't feel quite so hard, and sometimes (like this month), they just come and go.

I saw my therapist close to around that time (she and I have tapered down our visits due to financial constraints) and it helped.  I had been feeling extraordinarily detached from myself, from my husband, my friends, from any sort of enthusiasm towards life or anything productive...but I didn't feel like it was directly related to needing to talk/cry about Otis.  Yet, spending that hour in there, and crying about Otis, and crying about the loss of the woman I used to be - both the woman I was before Otis was born and died, as well as feeling detached from the raw, fragile, open, "love is everything" woman I was right after he died - somehow brought my balance back towards a comfortable place, and things have felt nicer these last few weeks.  No insight or even glimmers of insight from that appointment, other than it was a good release to go, and cry, and talk about him and how much I miss him, still, every day, and about how wrong it is that he's not here with us.  

We just spent close to a week in the mountains, visiting a family camp that my family camped at throughout my youth.  Then I worked there during my summers in college.  It holds a very special place in my heart, yet I hadn't been back in a long time.  I'd always been waiting to take my own family up there, I guess.  So again, this was a bit of a "Otis should be here with us" sort of trip.  At the same time, one of my dearest friends, who I met while camping there at the wee age of 5,  and who was a devoted pen pal of mine throughout our childhood and teenage years, who also went on to work at the camp, was visiting with her family.  Her husband is in the foreign service so they have been stationed in Moscow for the last three years, so I so rarely get to see her (our last visit was a brief one, three days before I went into labor with Otis, while she had a layover in my city.  She was one of the last of my friends to lay her hands on my belly and feel him kick.)  Her family is now in the country in between her husband's posts (they go to Iceland next) so we decided to surprise them up there.  

I was hesitant and reluctant, going to a family camp where children would be running all around me, but, in the end, my desire to see her won.  And I'm so glad it did.  What a treat, a recharge for my soul's batteries, to get to spend that time with her.  I hadn't told her I was pregnant, wanting to keep it as an in person surprise (plus we have been pretty private with this pregnancy, I'd say maybe only 50% of my "real life" people actually know...)   It was so great to see her face when she realized I was there, and then when she realized I was pregnant...I wouldn't have traded it for anything.  And we got to talk, face to face, about Otis, about this sweet big boy who I miss so much, and I got to see her tears in person, and  I got to talk to her daughter about this baby in my belly ("No, it's not my first baby...") and hear my friend say to her five year old, "Remember, you know Sarah's first baby, Otis.  We have a picture of him in our house.  We talk about him a lot, he's no longer here with us but he's so loved.  So loved."  And watch as her five year old muddles that information in her brain, blinks back a few tears, swallows, and then lays her hands on my belly, leans in real close, and says, "I love you baby."

The last night in our cabin, we had bats.  Lots of them.  We shooed two out of the cabin and found one more in the morning so I'm pretty confident there were at least three in there, though perhaps it was one very persistent bat who kept coming back.  I am an animal lover.  I love the bat exhibit at the zoo, I really do.  I have a bat decoration that every Halloween I am so excited to hang on our porch.  In fact, it was one thing that brought me joy even last year, in the darkest October of my life.  But real life bats, flying through your hair when you get out of bed to pee at night (which, at 27 weeks pregnant, you do about every hour, especially when you're pounding water to keep from getting altitude sickness or dehydration)...not so much.  Freaked me out, to no end.  And no google to consult with in the middle of the night, since we didn't even have a phone line.  I desperately worried that I was going to get bitten by a bat and become "that woman that lost her second child due to a freak bat accident."  Seriously.  I didn't sleep at all.  Every time I heard that bat flutter around I would whimper and cry and beg to be pardoned from the wrath of the bat.  No joke.  I realized that this is another after-effect of losing your child - horribly random and scary occurrences no longer seem out of the realm of possibility.  Of course I could be attacked by a bat.  My perfectly healthy son died at birth.  The world is senseless.  Bats attack.  Babies die.

But I didn't get attacked by a bat, and as far as I know, no bats hitched onto our luggage for a ride back home, so I think we're in the clear, at least for now.

So I'm 27 weeks pregnant.  I can't believe it.  And I can't believe that I'm saying this, but I am really, really, really loving being pregnant.  I think, at least right now, at *this moment,* I kind of understand what living in the moment feels like.  We rarely, rarely, rarely talk about "when the baby comes."  We have not set up anything baby related in the house.  We don't have a name picked out.  And yet yesterday at the doctor, we got to see him on the u/s screen yet again, and there was his adorable little profile, that sweet button nose and what appear to be some really luscious lips (oh please oh please oh please let them be like Otis's perfect nose and lips) and E broke down into sobs as we walked out of the office, "I love him SO much.  SO MUCH," he kept repeating through some really good crying...."Can you talk to me more about your tears, babe?" I asked him...I just wasn't sure if they were Otis tears, or tears for this baby, or - duh - both - since really no tears are ever without Otis anymore...and E sniffled, looked up at me, looked back at the u/s pics, and said, "I think these are happy tears.  I really do."

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Sending so much love and light to Missy this weekend, who is marking her son Chai's first birthday this weekend...Missy was one of the first blogging mamas I "met" here in this horrific (and yet so beautifully supportive) blog world of baby loss, and she's been an amazing friend to me in these months.  Drop on by and send her some love as we mark Chai's first birthday....


(warning: discussion of subsequent pregnancy)

So we just got back from 8 days in Honolulu, there for a family wedding.  We all went - my brother, his wife, their two kids, my mom, E and there were a ton of family friends there as well.  The trip had been planned for over a year, so originally in the planning this was supposed to be our first big trip with Otis.  First time on an airplane.  First time on the beach.  "Perfect time to travel with him," our friends with kids told us.  We would be traveling with grandma - free babysitting!  Mama and Papa could go on a DATE!  Yadda yadda yadda.

My heart broke a bunch of times over during the trip, I missed Otis so badly. Our hotel pool was full of babies swimming with their parents....Everybody saw my pregnant belly and made the usual "Is this your first?" or "Enjoy it'll be busier than you know it soon," line of commentary.  I usually just nodded, then ignored most of them and put on headphones; but E would often get to talking.

This one particular family started in with the usual "You're expecting" chatter and I put on my headphones; and I realized soon enough that E was actually sharing the details of Otis's birth and death with them.  Turns out, their son, who was happily swimming in the pool with his mama, had shoulder dystocia in delivery as well.  But there he was, alive and well, jumping and splashing and laughing....

Why did he get to stay?  Why not Otis?

Later in the trip, the father came back up to us, to say goodbye, they were heading back home from their vacation.  "I wish nothing but the best for you guys in the next few months.  I'm so sorry about your son.  Just so you know, we all prayed for you today in church," he told us, tears in his eyes....It was such a kind gesture.  I silently apologized for my anger/envy at their good fortune and our crap luck.

Like most of the members of my family (I must be from a different gene pool), my brother likes to make small talk.  "How old is your baby?" he'd often ask some of the parents in the pool with us.   And inevitably, for every age they answered, I thought of my friends here in the babyloss world and your babies who should be here, who should be that age.  And every time someone said, "Ten months," I flashed to Otis, of course. So that's what he'd be like right now.  Wow. I often found myself looking away, wiping tears from behind my sunglasses, and then swimming as fast as I could to the deep end.

So, no, it wasn't all sun and surf and bliss, our Hawaiian getaway.  E and I are fighting more than usual these days.  It was stressful traveling with family.  It was hard being around so many babies.  And so many strangers and their innocent (yet incessant) questioning about this pregnancy.  And their all-knowing "advice" they offer to (seemingly) first-time parents.  Many days I escaped into our air conditioned room and cried.  Or just got incredibly bitchy with whichever family member happened to cross my path first.  One day, I threw a full on fit at the beach of the "exclusive" beach club we were visiting as guests of a member...Yelling and crying and everything, right there in the middle of it all.  I stormed out as my mother tried to make apologies for me, "Pregnancy hormones..." she whispered.  "Dead baby," I snapped, as I ran out.

The wedding itself was simply beautiful.  They rented a home on the beach, and had a small ceremony with only their closest friends and family.  The wind was blowing like crazy that day.  Just that morning, I had read something about how there is a belief in Hawaiian culture about the wind, how it carries the spirits of our ancestors and those who have left the earth before us.  Remembering this, the strong wind became strangely comforting, like Otis was there at the wedding with us after all.  After the ceremony, E and I stole back down to the beach and wrote Otis's name in the sand.  We used the lei I had been given to make the O, and watched as the waves began to lap at the edges of his name.

Hawaii is a special place - our trip to Maui in January was so incredibly healing and nurturing, on so many levels, plus, we came home with one new member in our ohana - this little baby boy that is currently kicking and wiggling away in my ever growing belly.  He loved the trip - and there were moments of connecting with him there that were truly magical.  Every time I got out of the pool and laid down on my lounge chair, he would kick and punch to the point that strangers sitting a few chairs away would comment on his strength and determination in his movements.  He seemed to appreciate the sweetness of the fruit and fruity tropical drinks there, dancing away like mad after a few bites of Duke's Hula Pie or my virgin pina coladas.  When we were stopping on Maui for our layover on the way home, he started kicking like crazy - it was almost as if he was trying to tell us he wanted to stay there.  And I got weepy flying into Maui - such an incredibly special place for us all - looking over the land there and remembering our time in January, our dip into the healing waters at the Iao Valley, our work with the traditional healer there, and her words to me, "Your next baby is ready to join you, Sarah, you just have to invite him in..." (Four days later I found out I was pregnant.)

Our friends that live on Maui came and met us at the airport during our layover.  They brought us a gift for the new babe - two onesies that proudly proclaim "MauiBuilt" across the front.  They are the first gifts for this little guy that I've allowed myself to look at and really imagine him in.  And they came home, and got folded and put into the dresser drawer.  Tears flooded my eyes as I pulled open the drawer, and I found myself apologizing in my head to Otis as I placed this baby's onesies into a drawer that was once filled with all of Otis's belongings.

Otis should be here.  And yet, if he were, this little dude wouldn't be wriggling around in my belly.  And I love them both so incredibly much. I can't imagine life without either of them...although I have to live life without Otis physically here, there is no denying his constant presence nevertheless. And this new little guy (we are soliciting name suggestions, by the way), he's every bit as loved and wanted and wished for as Otis...and even with him in utero I am beginning to see how my love for my two sons is differentiated, separate, one not greater than the other, just...different. This little guy is really beginning to exist as his own entity, to hold his own in our family and as much as that fact fills me with fear, it also brings me such undeniable comfort and joy.  I'm doing my best to keep the horse in front of the cart, and simply enjoy the moments I have with him right here, right now, and love them for every little bit of heart-stretching-expansion that they bring me.

(And then insert prayers/wishes/disclaimers/pleadings to every deity and power that this guy is healthy, safe, and gets to come home, alive, with us in October.)