Another Year

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While I’ve been thinking about this particular day, October 15th, for a few days now, I realized that for the first time, I didn’t acknowledge the anniversary of my first lost baby that occurred in September eight years ago. In the past, I’ve spend September feeling anxious and sad knowing  September 27th was coming up. But, when the day came this year, the event completely slipped my mind. I did not think about it. Not even once.

To me, I felt like this was a betrayal to my lost baby.

Granted, this is 2020 and needless to say, that is a sufficient reason to forget many things and function in an entirely different way.  Still, my life was changed so dramatically that day all those years ago how could I not remember?  I have no answer so I light these candles tonight and allow myself to revisit those things I’ve put away.

I’ve spent the past hour reflecting on that time in my life. A lot of emotions have resurfaced in these moments. I felt the terror, the desperation, just like it was yesterday. I don’t allow myself to go there very often but I realize that remembering those feelings hasn’t destroyed me. I’m still sitting here, typing this, still blessed with a beautiful daughter and husband and still a survivor.

She is my dream come true and always will be. I wholeheartedly say that I live my life for her. Yes, she asked about the candles (she was more afraid of them than anything else). I did not tell her who they were for, but some day I will.

Sometimes, when she plays in her room I realize that she is playing make-believe. She’s just chatting it up with someone having the best time. I have those moments when I wonder, just possibly, is she sensing her older sister’s spirit? Maybe that’s just wishful thinking, but my thoughts often go to this possibility. My daughter has always been drawn to slightly older children. So, I make my own connections, whether real or imagined.

I realize I only write once a year (I could make promises to do more but I won’t) but for me, that is enough. I still read many of your blogs, even though I think most people are in the same position as I am–so busy living a good life that there isn’t time to write it all down.

And yes my daughter still asks for a sibling and yes, I’d still very much like to give her one. This has been a dream I’ve carried for years, though I don’t let the desire consume me. If God has it in store, then so be it.

Thanks for reading this. By reading, I know you see me and that makes all the difference in the world.

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What Do You Say?

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Lately, my almost five-year-old daughter has been proclaiming to me: “I want a sister!” Most of the time, I answer with, “Do you?” while secretly hoping there is a way I can still give her one. Then, I explain to her that if she had a sister that she would come in the form of a newborn baby and it is in that moment that my daughter adamantly says, “No, I want a big sister.”

And I’m at a loss for words.

Moments like these tug at my heart strings because despite being an only child, she does indeed have an older sister–one who was lost in the earliest weeks of pregnancy six years ago.

Though part of me still feels like my experiences are unique, I see stories like mine all over social media, particularly today, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. When I was in the midst of infertility and loss, I felt like I was the only person in the world going through what I was going through. Years later, I see how I was never really alone at all. Today, I am a healed person, though I still am haunted by painful memories. So, what do I say to those who are expressing their pain and loss?

I’m at a loss for words.

Probably, like others were for me all those years ago.

As I scroll through the news feeds, reading each person’s story, I feel  if anyone should have the right words for them, it should be me, but I can only whisper “I know” before I say a silent prayer for them.

So, what do I say to the little girl who asks for “a big sister” who doesn’t even realize that she actually has one?

I’m at a loss for words.

At some point, we’ll talk about the babies that were lost before her. At least one sister and maybe a brother.  But for now, particularly tonight, I will hold my miracle daughter tightly against me as she, for the first time ever, asks “Why are you lighting those candles, Mama?”

One day, she will know.

#Wave of Light

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Despite having the best of intentions I don’t blog anymore. After the birth of my daughter, I wanted to become a new mommy blogger, but that didn’t quite pan out. Then, I thought about reinventing myself as a toddler mom blogger. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Lately, I think about reclaiming my blogging self as a preschool mom blogger. Still hasn’t happened, but hey, anything is possible, right?

I’ll always write this post, though. You know the one, the October 15th one.

I’ve read a lot today about the importance of acknowledging our babies we never got to meet or only knew for a short time. A lot of times we are so wrapped up in the raw grief, even years later, that it is difficult to honor what once was. Some suggest naming your babies. Some suggest holding a special remembrance ceremony. Others recommend lighting a candle as I have done for many years.

I think about my lost babies often but I thought about them more today.  My first baby would now be five years old and meeting an important milestone in her life–starting kindergarten. This reminded me of this thoughtful, powerful and incredible letter I found online a few months back.

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For me, the letter not only demonstrates the power of words to heal broken hearts, but also the kindness others can show us in acknowledging and remembering our babies. I’m not the most open person about letting other people see the real me, but the writer of this letter gives me the encouragement to try.

As this evening draws to a close, it is my hope that you were able to acknowledge your lost babies in a way that feels comfortable and meaningful to you.

Together, our wave of light shines bright.

 

 

Wish You Were Here

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Here we are again–National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day or if you prefer, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

It’s now been 5 years since my first miscarriage and about 4 1/2 since my second. I know this day is about remembering and honoring what was lost, but it’s hard not to remember without feeling the sadness and the sting that goes with it.

Yes, I still look at the candles and wonder what might have been, but my heart also hurts for everyone else who has suffered. Someone very close to me endured a devastating pregnancy loss earlier in the year. I carry this child with me every day and I wish for all the world that he could be here.

So these candles are for me and they are for her and they are for you. Remembering what was lost and hoping for dreams to be realized.

 

 

 

To the Babies I Didn’t Meet

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Dear babies:

Today is October 15th, National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. To most, this is just a typical day, but for me (and  others) this is a day where we pause. If only for a moment.

I lit a candle for each of you. I always do. I couldn’t bear not to.

As I watched your candles flicker, I think about this day. How I imagined you running towards the sliding board, holding her hand. How I noticed your spot on the other side of the pumpkin at the fall photo shoot.  How I would have shared my SnoCone with you, even if it left a blue ring around your mouth.

It’s so unbelievable how you can and cannot exist at the same time.

But tonight you reminded me of one simple truth: We are a family. You are mine and I am yours. Time will move  forward and your spirits will go with it.

I love you and miss you,

Mama

 

Keeping the Tradition

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I was out late tonight and by late I mean 8PM. I was tired, anxious, and more than ready to go to bed. I wasn’t going to write this post, this same post that I’ve been writing for the past three years.

However, when I dug out these candles and lit them in honor of my lost babies, I instantly felt soothed. My lost babies. I said it. Not my lost embryo or my lost product of conception, but my babies. Lost early, but a part of me forever.

For the first time, I can light these candles and not lose myself by the sheer weight of the sadness they represent. I can acknowledge and honor my babies, knowing they were real and that they mattered and still do. I am honoring their memories and it feels right and it feels okay.

That Post Where I Vow to Write More Often (But Really Mean It This Time)

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There is one truth about me that I cannot deny.

I am a writer.

I write hundreds of blog posts and diary entries on a regular basis. Most of the time I write these on my way to work, walking around my neighborhood or while driving. Unfortunately, these writings only exist in my imagination, never actually making it to paper or the digital screen.

I’ve got a list of reasons why this happens.

The number one being that A BABY CHANGES YOUR LIFE!

Remember when all those well-meaning fertiles would tell you that after you have a baby you’ll never sleep again? Well, they were right.

How about that one where they said that the high point of your day might be taking a shower?

Also true!

So yeah, between spending time with my angel and continuing to learn how to be the best mom I can be and working full-time, blogging has taken a back seat. A back seat in another universe to put it mildly. There simply aren’t enough hours in a day so I don’t even try. At least that’s what I tell myself every time I think about starting a blog post.

But the truth is I think I’ve lost my voice.Writing voice that is.

Maybe it’s because I’m out of practice. After all, if you don’t practice a skill, you lose it. Unless you’re Batman or something.

Actually, I think I am having a blogging identity crisis and have had it for a very long time.

Consider this (it might be true for you too): the bulk of my previous posts come from the darkest place in my life. Within that place is a different mindset, tone, and yes, a different person. Though the pain of infertility never goes away and the bad memories still overtake me if I let them, my perspective has changed greatly. And with a change in perspective, comes a change in voice.

So, what does my “new” voice sound like?

I don’t know.

I know I need to discover that voice through blogging, but I hesitate because there are still those in the trenches. Though I do not know their specific pain, I know what it feels like to be trapped in what feels like a never-ending sea of unhappiness and worry.

If I were to blog about infertility, but more about all things motherhood: love, laughs, diapers, breastfeeding, sleep (or lack theoreof) would I be betraying those still left behind? Would I be betraying myself?

Once again, the answer is I don’t know.

But I owe it to myself to find out.

Get ready because I might just be back. As soon as I get the baby to sleep.

The First Five Months

One year ago, on April Fool’s Day to be exact, I got a positive pregnancy test.That pregnancy test resulted in my daughter who is five months old today!

I have probably written a hundred or more blog posts in my mind that never made it to the digital screen. As much as I want to record everything for posterity’s sake both here and in places like my journal and yet-to-be created scrapbooks, I just can’t seem to get organized.My house is a mess, I’m completely exhausted, and I probably have damp clothes in the washer that have soured for the second time this week.

Yet. . .

I am the happiest I’ve been in my entire life!

Babybelle lights up my world in a way that I never thought could be done. Every day I wake up to a smiling, squirming angel that I fall in love with more every day.

I might say that the last five months have flown by. In a way, they certainly have but in some ways time seems to have stood still. Don ‘t ask me how this can happen, just trust that it can. This was especially true in the first month of her life. Everything felt so–surreal! It was almost like being in a perpetual daze. I sensed time and space move around me, but I felt like I could only stand still, processing my world at my own pace. All I knew was that I saw and now see the world through a different lens.

But enough about my own brand of weirdness, back to Babybelle.

Like most babies, she mainly ate and slept those first few weeks. In the meantime, I did what many first-time mothers do.

I worried incessantly about her.

Is she too hot? Too cold? Will it hurt her to pull a shirt over her head? Is she gaining enough weight? Am I actually producing breast milk? If so, is it enough? Should I burp her? How do I burp her? Will burping hurt her? Is there dust in the house? Is she breathing the dust? Should I bathe her? How do I bathe her? Does she have jaundice? How long will she have it? Does she have reflux? Should she take medicine? Am I holding her right? Is her head supported? Is the room too dark? Does she need sunlight?

Yep, those were the first couple of weeks, but looking back they were blissful because they were the first experiences we had as a family.

The second month, Babybelle was much more alert and had gained a few ounces. After she got her two- month shots, we started venturing out and she was more than ready to explore what was outside of our door. I learned a very important thing about my girl: she is a major people person! She absolutely loves to be talked to and I believe that if she could talk, she would babble on and on. It was at this point in her development that I realized that she will likely take on her Daddy’s personality!

The third month marked the month of the smiles. I knew that I would love seeing that first “social smile” but nothing prepared me for how extremely happy it made me feel when I began to see it in all its glory. She began to smile when she was spoken to and smiled when she was smiled at. The other day one of the dogs was panting and she interpreted this as a smile and smiled right back.

And what has her grin naturally led to during the fourth month?

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What started out as her own little chuckle is now evolving into what I can only call as a baby cackle! If I could take that sound and bottle it up forever, I would. I never know when she’s going to release one but when she does I frantically grab my cell-phone hoping to record it, but I haven’t been successful yet.

Now that we are in the fifth month, I am eager to see what milestones she will reach. Within the last couple of days, she has been using both hands more and more, reaching for things that are within her grasp. She hasn’t quite mastered sitting up without assistance yet or rolling over (She HATES Tummy Time) but we will continue to work at her pace.

There is one thing that I wish would happen this month.  I hope she begins to sleep through the night. I realize that everyone has a different definition of sleeping through the night. Some say that it is sleeping 4-5 hours in a row and if this is what sleeping through the night is, she has mastered it. However, I define sleeping through the night as going to bed when I go to bed and waking up when I wake up. I can dream, right?

Actually, she had three nights in a row where she did just this. I was thrilled, not to mention well-rested. Maybe more of these nights are to come.

Speaking of which, we’ve all heard the (ridiculous) expression Sleep when your baby sleeps and I am going to do just that!

Goodnight!

Microblog Mondays: Today I Went to Target

Microblog_MondaysToday I went to Target. Not as the type of shopper I once was: a despondent, anxiety-ridden, want-to-be mother who went out of her way to avoid the painful triggers of the baby section. Nor did I go as the soon-to-be mother who felt she was tempting fate by cautiously and curiously going to the aisle where those items were stocked.  No, I went as the new mother who can now look at those rows of bottles, cute clothes, and stacks of diapers with purpose and a calm heart.

I went as a mother who has a daughter wrapped in the arms of her husband, both waiting at home.

I went as a survivor who has finally found “a new normal.”

Today I went to Target and I have never been happier.

Three Weeks Ago Today. . . Part 2

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Actually, my title should now read 5 weeks ago today because Babybelle is 5 weeks old today. Coincidentally, today is also her due date.

But back to my story!

As you recall, I was being wheeled in for a C-section. Yep, I was quite anxious. Not so much for myself, but for my baby. I was shaking uncontrollably already due to the medication which made things more than a little rough. The doctor calmly explained everything that would happen and what I could expect to feel. She also reiterated the fact that we would not be able to see any of the procedure as a large tent-like curtain would be  used. I think this mostly calmed me because I definitely did not want to see a live surgery, especially being performed on myself.

I pretty much felt the things the doctor said I would. I felt a little pressure and tugging as the procedure was performed, but in no way felt any pain. In reality, I can recall very little she said she said because my mind was occupied with one thought and one thought only: Please let me hear my baby cry.

My husband was standing beside me and was trying to be reassuring and strong for me, but I knew he was just as anxious as I was. Here we were minutes away from what we had waited close to 5 years for.

It seemed like my shaking was only getting worse and the doctor ordered more Demerol. Minutes passed and I heard the doctor talking through the procedure, but I felt myself getting more and more woozy. I knew we were getting close to the moment when she would make the incision. I felt more tears coming on as I could only think again : Please let me hear my baby cry.

Then, I felt a tug and the doctor said: “She’s got a head full of hair!”

(I took this as a good sign)

And then she said: “She’s practically jumping out!”

(I took this all as an even better sign).

And then. . .

My baby girl wailed the most beautiful and vigorous cry in the world!

And I cried with her.

The doctor held her up for us and it was absolutely surreal.

After a few moments, the nurse brought her closer for me to see and there she was! Her eyes were wide open and she continued that same cry. When we made eye contact, something just clicked.  For so long, she had been this abstract concept, and there she was, real. This is a moment I will remember forever.

I remember my husband asking if she was ok and then he took a few pictures. Then they were both whisked off to the special care unit. I was rolled away to a recovery room where I returned to my half-awake, half-dreaming stage.

After a while, I made my way to the room where I would be staying. My husband came in and showed me the pictures he had taken on the phone. He told me all about her I’m sure but I was so heavily medicated I don’t remember much.

Yes, not remembering due to medication is a running theme here.

However, I do remember seeing those photos and wanting to see her very badly. Since she was in the special care unit, I thought this meant that we would only be able to see her through the window. In my drug-induced state, I had emotionally prepared for this, but imagine my surprise when I was told that we would be able to step inside the nursery and visit as long as we liked whenever we liked.

I was finally able to get into a wheelchair and was on my way to the nursery to see her. We scrubbed in and there she was all snug and swaddled in her warmer with her hospital cap on her head. I stroked her skin and absolutely couldn’t wait to hold her.

It was absolutely incredible to have her in my arms!

I wanted more than anything to take her back to the room with us but accepted the fact that she was getting the best care in the nursery. She had to remain in the special care nursery (except for that last glorious day when she got to room-in!) because her breathing was a little faster than normal which is a condition associated with some preterm babies. Of course I worried nonstop about this and could write a whole post about having a baby in the NICU and the thoughts and emotions that go along with that, but I’ll save it.

The first night we were visited by most members of my family and I was beyond exhausted. I think I fell asleep on most of them! Of course, we didn’t get much sleep that first night with doctors checking in but I was particularly annoyed beyond words when a nurse visited me at 3AM to ask if I wanted to pump breast milk. I wanted so badly to say: “I just had a baby!  I just had major surgery! My emotions are all over the place and you want me to pump breast milk at 3AM?! Crazy much?”

But I did try the pump and got a few drops of colostrum which made the nurses very happy.

We probably had more visitors in the next couple of days than I have had in all of my life. To be honest, I was too tired and emotionally spent to enjoy most of them, but I did appreciate the gesture since I felt like I was living in another world at that point.

I knew I would be at the hospital an extra day because of my surgery and assumed that the baby would have to stay even longer since she was born so early. I tried to make peace with the idea that I would have to go home before she did but miraculously I was told that if all continued to go well she would be going home with us right on schedule.

And that she did! On Tuesday, November 4, we took her home.

This date was very symbolic for me because it was my grandmother’s would-be 97th birthday. She had died a few months earlier and throughout my pregnancy I had hoped that the two would have the opportunity to meet. Though that didn’t happen, I still felt her spirit that day.

So that’s Babybelle’s birth story in a nutshell. She’s been to the doctor a few times to have her bilirubin levels checked (she had jaundice and actually lost several ounces of weight after leaving the hospital), but she is doing very well. She has been to her one-month appointment where she passed with flying colors and has her two-month appointment scheduled at the end of the month.

Each day for us is a blessing with its ups and downs and challenges. I’ve thought of a thousand blog posts I could write and maybe now I can get to writing them. My story doesn’t end here and Babybelle’s is just beginning.