Wednesday, October 28, 2009

29 Weeks...

The more time goes by in the preparation to bring this new child home, the more I find myself often overwhelmed with emotion. It's amazing really, the creation of life. Letting go of control when it comes to this pregnancy has been frightening sometimes, but I've done it anyway. Perhaps sometimes, the free-falling gets just... Well, sometimes I recognize that really, my soul is naked here. I'm falling and trusting no matter what - breathing and twisting and just letting it be - and I am so vulnerable. We are all so vulnerable really.

But, believing is beautiful. Being vulnerable is beautiful. Letting life just stroke you on the soft underbelly of being is what it's all about, really. No big ego; no addiction; no false sense of security in money or material things... Just, life. Sleeping and waking up to a new day every morning. Looking at the leaves changing color. Focusing on what is real.

It's amazing, carrying this child in my belly. I remember Josie being at this stage. My tummy looks the same shape as with Josie. Wow, I really, really loved and still love her. And, I love Isobella the same way, and can tell she is adorable and different. I just pour all of my feeling into the hope that she will arrive here, safely and beautifully because you see, I am not content with simply a physically safe arrival. I want her to t have what Josie never did - a non traumatic, beautiful birth.

I will suffer any type of pain in the world - I will bear it all, no matter what, if she can be born in peace and comfort and love, without craziness and fear. When she comes, I want to catch her right there in the hospital, lift her up, wrap her up and look at her in her eyes. I want her weighed next to me by people I trust and like; I need her rooming in with me - never in the nursery. Really, after all is said and done I am in the hospital only because of my own strangely high pain threshold - I need to know what is normal and what is not. Also, for the benefit of others I care about who are not so trusting of the process of birth.

But, really, given the choice I would rather, still, go down to warm water and have my baby there. Alone or perhaps with a couple of people. Life is nothing to be messed with; nothing to be controlled - you can never control it anyway. You just need to surrender to it and feel it's every sensation like you're laying in a meadow and rolling across all of the grass and the flowers and sometimes the thistles underneath. And there will be dark days there, laying in the meadow. But, there will be days filled with sunshine as well. Because the continual motion and carrying on of life does not allow for continual darkness or light: variability is it's nature. You just have to open your eyes and see it for what it is. There is no "why me?" or "why did this happen?" - just things that happen, because they happen. Sometimes, things happen and sometimes, they don't. That's it.

I feel more and more like going through the baby things again and sorting them into sizes... I have already done that once, but now I find myself wanting to wash them again, dry them, fold them up in preparation for Isobella. Our 3D ultrasound is on Friday and I am just filled with joy at the prospect of seeing her face for the first time... I am filled with happy, overflowing tears and a knot in my chest at the thought of holding her in just a few weeks from now. I am so grateful that she is alive and that I have had the honor of holding her in me.

Here I am at 29 weeks...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

28 Weeks...Well, almost...

Yes, 28 weeks in about a day's time here, since it's almost midnight on 27.5 days. I have no idea what I am doing up. I need to sleep. But first, I feel it is only fair to share my big belly with you all...

Here I am with the belly covered up...

Here I am with the belly poking out!

I'm feeling good, if a little enormous now. I really feel like last time, with Josie, I was significantly smaller at this time...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

October 13th and 14th, 2008...

Well, this time last year was a lull in the storm.

Yesterday would have been the funeral day. I don't really know if I ever wrote out the funeral story or just kept it in my head, but in the week on Percocet, it was probably the occasion I remembered the most clearly.

I had been so used to wearing my maternity wardrobe that finding "other clothes" was difficult. I also felt that I wanted to wear black. I remember as a smaller human, being invited to attend the funeral of a little girl who'd died of leukemia, and being told not to wear black - only color. At the time, I had been unable to attend because I had been afraid: the last funeral I attended and had remembered had been my little brother Finn's, who had also died of a placental abruption when I was five. I remembered his little white coffin and really, didn't want to see another child-sized coffin. In short, I was a scared teenager and at that point, unwilling to deal with my emotions effectively. I sat on the bed and cried, and felt scared by the prospect that nobody was "safe" from death. So I didn't go, and didn't wear colors.

I hadn't been to a funeral in a good twenty years when I attended H's favorite aunt's funeral in January of 2008. The next funeral I attended was the funeral of my daughter. Then, H's good friend's mom, who I also had known. Then, my friend M's baby boy, Carter. Little person, big person, little person, big person, little person... Death is not discriminative.

This time I chose a pair of black, very lightly pin-striped pants I'd used to wear to work. They barely fit, but rode under my cesarean incision. I chose a sleeveless, wool turtleneck with a woolen belt as my top. I did add color - I wore purple flower on my top. I wore black shoes, and black socks. My hair was put up on top of my head in a tight bun. My clothes matched my bruises which only later turned into various colors of the rainbow...

We meandered to the funeral home, H and I, smoking on the way. I'd taken up smoking as a release after Josie's death: I didn't smoke much because I knew it impeded healing, and I wanted to heal - but I did smoke a little. It didn't really seem to matter at that exact moment. We smoked in the car and then wandered up to the funeral home slowly - my arm in H's because I could barely walk. I'd foregone my Percocet for the afternoon in an attempt to get off the stuff, and it had proven to be a mistake.

I really dreaded walking into the funeral home. I dislike being the center of attention unless I'm playing a character - and this was no play. I smiled weakly at the kindly funeral home director who'd taken Josie, who then took my coat and hung it up for me.

There were already quite a few people there and for a second, I felt envy because at the front of the room was my daughter, and they had obviously been there for longer than me and had spent more time with her than me that day. Silly, but true.

I noticed immediately that there were an abundance of flowers. They were everywhere - big, beautiful arrangements: daisies, roses, live plants, hanging plants, lipstick vines - and ornaments. There were big pictures of my girl in frames. I went to them, thinking they were all for show and realized that they had all been sent for Josie. I had never, in my life seen so many flowers in one place. I had been the district manager for the state of Minnesota for my company, and almost all of the stores I'd been managing had sent an arrangement. I had no idea how they'd even known. There was a beautiful little rose in a little vase from my midwife, R, and peace lilies from our friends. I was overwhelmed.

For some reason, many of us go around in our daily lives wondering if the positive things we do actually have a positive impact and if our friends are really our friends - or even on bad day, if people even like us at all. I got my wake up call that day and it said something like "whatever you've been doing, you've not done it wrong." I took that seriously and continue to.

(Later, those flowers would cover every surface in our house, from the kitchen table, to the main table, to the top of the television, to the window sills. I waited until they'd died, and then took the flower petals, which were still brightly colored, and packed them in jars and baskets. We still have most of the living plants.)

I walked up the aisle of the funeral home, I remember being on autopilot. There was the little coffin. Inside it was my baby. I knew this and I was afraid because I didn't know how she'd look, and we'd been apart for two days - she'd been in someone else's hands. I ignored everyone and went up to the coffin. There was a little, heart shaped cushion on it with tiny roses, from her two grandmas. She had on a really beautiful velvet dress and her little white bunny pants - they had a cottontail on the back and little bunny ears on the feet, which I remember thinking were so cute when I picked them up. I loved those pants. She lay on a blanket and had another blanket over her - a light pink one with stars and moons embossed on it, which I later did take and still have (I haven't decided whether or not to use it with Isobella yet, but I think now that I might).

What really killed me, and to some extent still does, is the little crib toy she was buried with. It was a little glow worm - pink and purple - and you pulled it's tail to make it play music in it's little tinkly winkly manner. That was buried with her. I wish I could find another one like that. You can see it in the post I made a little ways down the page - it's attached to her crib there. It lit up...the children wanted her buried with something that lit up...

She looked very serene. I was warned she was delicate, so I just touched her a little bit to get a feel of the clothes she was in, and kissed my hand and placed in on her forehead. She had makeup on and they'd done a lovely job of preparing her - they really had. I remember at the time thinking that her soul had departed, though. This little one laying there was not the so recently life-imbued little body I had held in the hospital - she was gone now, her soul had gone on. In the hospital, I do believe it hung around for a while and the life force only willingly went through the divide between life and death shortly before I handed her over for burial on the Saturday (11th). Before then, her life was with us all in glittering sparks - it just couldn't be reconnected to her body any more.

I sat down at the front with a box of tissues and gripped them between my legs. H sat next to me and we just held hands and looked at the floor, or each other, or our clasped hands. Pretty soon the tears began to fall and it was like turning a faucet on - they fell very thickly and very quickly. Part of me wanted to hide, and hoped nobody would notice me. But they did.

Then endless people came in and started coming down and crying, looking at Josie and then coming to us and hugging us. Some offered words; some said "I'm sorry." Some children came in of my friend, and they were crying and crying... My pregnant friend Jill came as well and I remember being awed by her - how brave of her...she must have been terrified. My friend E came, crying, and I gave her a big hug. R, my midwife and friend, came in and immediately sat next to me - and I was so glad to see her. I was so glad she was sitting next to me.

Nurses from the hospital came, and the doctor who'd delivered Josie as well, all crying. I honestly had no idea how people had known because usually I am the "doer" - the "informer" who tells people where to meet and arranges things. Others had taken over for me here and that was amazing. There were almost 100 people there in the home.

Father Stenzil came in - a Catholic priest I have a lot of respect for, who is very kindly and un-pretentious. He conducted the memorial there in a "non-Catholic" way and it was really beautiful. The whole time, I wondered if the scene was real. Could I really be sitting here at the funeral of my own child? Could I get away with pretending it wasn't the funeral of my child, but rather someone else's - or that this was all fiction? I really couldn't - but I did entertain the thought.

Afterward, we waited for people to leave, which they did. A few came later to pay their respects. H helped me up from the chair, and I kissed Josie again - then turned and quickly left - only looking back to see another friend who had not been able to get to the whole service walk up and see her there...

It was cold - a cold day; very gray. H and I got in the car and watched as the man from the funeral home carried Josie out to their Mercedes and placed her gently in the back seat. Awful, really, because my baby wasn't even big enough to need a hearse... Up we drove, in very slow, police accompanied procession, to the cemetery just outside town. Many people came.

We stood there in the cemetery and formed a circle, I think, around the tiny hole she was being buried in. We held hands and H went to the Mercedes, and was handed the tiny coffin, now closed. He walked it to the hole in the ground and gently set it down. It must have been the longest walk of his life. I looked at him and had never respected someone as much as that in my life. I still cannot imagine how hard that was for him. He cried and I saw his eyes just lost in the wilderness, without all the people around him. We stood together in the cold, and looked at her coffin with the little wreath over it, and prayers were said.

Afterward we gathered the tiny roses from her wreath and took some home. I really wished I had been there when she was lowered into the ground. In England we do it differently - we lower the coffin into the ground and are able to toss the first dirt onto it. I wanted to do that, but apparently it is not how things are done here... That still bothers me.

When we got home, everybody was there. Our house was filled with smoke...everywhere I went, people would follow - no place was a "safe" place. I remember conversing for hours. It was very, very draining. Good friends were there, which was nice, and also people I didn't know very well who all were asking questions and questions and questions... After a few hours, I was glad to find myself with not too many people around.

The bars Ma had baked, which we'd meant to use for the baby shower, we used for the funeral gathering instead. I remember thinking how the flavor would have been different under those different circumstances - so different.

But then, everything would have been different under different circumstances...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

October 11th, 2008...

...was the day that, at about 10am, the kindly man from the funeral home came to take Josie gently away from me.

I remember how he was shaking a little bit and on the edge of tears as he cradled her gently like any other newborn baby, and I told him "take care of her for me" in some cliche way (isn't that what you expect someone on TV to do? Only it actually came out of my mouth rather naturally) and he replied "we will..."

He was in a black suit, looking very appropriate I remember. I suppose people from funeral homes have to dress appropriately in black an awful lot, because of their professions. One can't work at a place like that looking like Rainbow Brite, after all. He was very, very nice though, that man. I felt sad for him because he was almost crying.

I was alone when Josie left and for a moment, as she was taken out of the door, I felt like panicking - I felt like I was losing my grip. But then, the morphine kicked in again and I turned to the somewhat pacifying television set and looked for something "normal" to watch. I think some kind of morning show was on: lots of people cheering, looking like the most spectacular thing that had happened to them that day was being part of the studio audience. Good for them, I thought. Life is obviously normal somewhere.

The hospital allowed me to eat something for breakfast that day, as well. I think it might have been something savory. My doctor came in and told me that according to blood taken earlier that day, my count was something dreadful and they were going to put more blood in. They then did that, along with saline. I do believe that at some point around midday my blood oxygen level started to improve to the point where they felt it was okay to unhook some of the machines.

I cannot for the life of me remember much about how I spent the entire rest of the day. I know they got me up and walking later that afternoon, finally, after my bloody, messy, frightening (more for the nurses - I just felt bad about the amount of blood they had to clean up) attempt the previous evening. I walked all the way down to the nurses station and all the nurses were rather impressed. My favorite nurse, Ann (who, much to my chagrin, has now retired) came and visited me. I think many people came and visited, and I had no idea what to say to any of them.

H came back with A, who wanted to leave, it seemed, much too soon. I begged him to take her home to grandma and then to come back and spend the night. I didn't know how I was going to get through the quiet hours without my morphine drip. It took some convincing, but he agreed. He then left to take A back home...

I remember that evening, being so grateful for the fact that H was there. Babies crying startled me...and they were everywhere. My ears seemed to have become more acutely aware of absolutely every noise, and I became frightened by the drug-induced and hormone-induced dreams I'd have when I drifted off to sleep. Coughing hurt, and I felt congestion building in my lungs as I lay there in bed; my incision was totally numb and the little butterfly stitches felt so strange and dry to touch. My belly was bruised completely black from the attempts to get Josie out in time.

It was a strange time: I was kind of in purgatory between being fairly calm and simultaneously wanting to scream and totally lose my mind - perhaps that's how it feels, just before one goes completely mad. I think they call it "on the brink" and then you have to make a choice: go crazy, or start climbing through the most insane territory possible, to get back to a new normality somewhere far ahead; somewhere legendary.

So my first night without Josie, I can't say I was "in denial" because I knew perfectly well what had happened. But, at the same time, my body was certainly pumping me full of all the happy hormones it could, because I'm sure some part of my brain knew that if it didn't, the shock might totally overwhelm me and stop my heart.

Now we're a year later and I do think about this day in 2008. I think for the next week or so, I will be following a time line - re-stepping in the days of last year. I'm so grateful that Isobella is here to keep me company though - she's such a blessing and a total miracle because looking at the state of my body this time last year, I'm surprised my ovaries didn't just shrivel up and die... Thank goodness for life's unwillingness to just "quit."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

October 8th, 2008...

Someone saw a picture of you and I together today, in H's toolbox. He was shocked and taken aback because you looked "like any other baby" - of course, I'd retouched you and I both and brought you back to looking like you again. But it just went to show: of course you did. Of course you looked like any other baby. You were a baby; a little, worthwhile, human life. A tiny person.

This day, last year, I sat in the bath upstairs with you, Josie, in my tummy. I knew it wouldn't be long until you were born, and knew that in a few short days or weeks, I'd not be able to relax like this in a bath because you'd need me. I was looking forward to that: we'd discussed how we'd be spending all winter with a new baby, and how nice that would be. Nice and cozy.

I lay in the bath and listened to Clannad. My laptop was across about three feet away no the bathroom floor and I'd set up a playlist. I had my favorite bubble bath in the bath and it really was relaxing.

While in there, I had my first quite noticeably different contraction. In hindsight, this may have been the first indication there was something wrong because actually, the contraction felt like a slightly dimmer (but not much) version of what I felt for those hours on the Friday morning you were born and died. However, it went away and hey, everyone says that you get those stronger and sometimes quite striking contractions before labor begins properly. So, I based everything on that contraction. I had to turn around in the bath and breathe - it took a good couple of minutes to go away.

Oblivious though, I was. We all were. Up until the very end. You see there wasn't a massive amount of bleeding - just enough to indicate I was dilating. It was all totally hidden. Just the pain was there and having nothing but one contraction to compare to, I simply didn't know. But you know that, don't you Josie. You know I had no clue. I'd have gone through worse pain than that to bring you into the world in a loving and peaceful way...

I'd spent the previous few days nesting: washing all the baby clothes in Dreft soap, so that they smelt baby-like. I'd had sensitive skin when I was small, and thought perhaps you'd be the same. I bundled all your socks in little pairs, and folded up onesies and little outfits in age order, putting them in small plastic totes I'd bought for that very reason, in our closet.

Daddy and Devin assembled the crib and the car seat. I put sheets on the crib. I still remember trying to knot the bumper pad strings around the wide slats on the side of the crib. I finally got it done and glowed because it looked so neat. We'd probably be sleeping together in the same place anyway, but the crib was your place, you know? Your little domain, and a signal that you had a spot. A special spot with us there in our home.

Your car seat I loved. We'd bought a little animals one, that was yellow, in case we had a boy next. It was cute. I liked looking at it, assembled there in the living room. The cats wanted to sleep in it... We ended up having to cover it up so it didn't get hairy!

Your little bath sat in the bathroom. Your little washcloths were in a little hanging basket that hung under a shelf in the closet. I'd bought some lovely things from Burts Bees to wash you with and some lovely almond baby oil to make you soft with. You had a nightlight with a giraffe at the bottom - a kind of baby lamp, and I put it on the table by the crib together with some little diapers and wipes in case you needed changing in the night.

These are the things nobody sees. They just see the baby who died, not the preparation for the baby, or the things for the baby hung up in the bathroom, or the baby monitor plugged in and tested. They don't see the slings I bought, or the little green photo frame, ready for your first picture. They don't see my visions of lifting you up out of me under the water and raising you up, and looking into our eyes. smiling, the whole time, saying "welcome to life, little one..."

But, I'll always remember. I will always remember: the touch of your tiny hand in mine; the feel of the skin on your forehead; the feeling of you kicking me; the scent of your hair; your tiny, soft lips; your feet that looked just like mine; the back of your neck; your chest with your tiny little nipples; your little bottom; your chubby little knees; your eyes, so, so dark and huge, your eyelashes...your cheeks...your nose...your gums, full of spaces for new teeth...your weight...the little hole in your hand where they'd tried to revive you with drugs - evidence of a life so recently extinguished that it was unfathomable...unfathomable that they had been unsuccessful in bringing you back.

Instead of raising you up on the 10th October, I lay there hooked to monitors, moving my head from side to side, staring at the ceiling, saying "no..." and thinking it had to be a dream; a nightmare - it felt so much like a nightmare. I couldn't wake up though. I couldn't even begin to understand. I had no idea how to deal at all. It had all gone so, so terribly wrong.

And then I said what my friend, McKayla did only a month ago on the 10th October, 2009, when she lost her son, Carter. I said "I would have been a good mum..." and "but I would have been a good mum..." and "I would have taken care of her so well...I wanted her...I would have been a good mum..."

And I would have been. And I have been trying to be.

Now in the lead up - the final couple of days, I do feel very introspective - very introverted. I don't really want to be hugged by anyone but the very closest people when I cry, I just want to cry. Hugs are nice, but I am alone here, with you now, and I remember everything as though it's happening right now. I'm thrown back in time; slingshot into the past and I'm sitting up there on the bathroom floor, wrapped in a towel, stroking my belly in the October sunshine which came streaming through the window across the roof like melted butter.

I only wish I could have that day back, the 10th. To hold you for just another day would be so, so sweet. Oh, relief, the relief of a broken heart - the strange relaxation one gets from just touching something, even if it is lost. I would have frozen that moment and lived there forever if I could have. I would have stopped time for you if I could have.

Thank you Josie. You taught me to see colors as brightly as they really are; to relish every taste; every sound; every sight and every feeling because it's true - we are delicate. I am lucky to be alive after what happened to us. I am so lucky to be able to carry Isobella and oh, she is so bouncy, just like you, Josie. She reminds me of life every day. I pray so hard that I can take her home with me.

It's impossibly hard to be in love with something you can never have, you know. Sometimes I feel love might overwhelm me. What I need is to see an end to this stage - to birth Isobella as I should; to bring her out and hold her to me and say hello: to see life happening; continuing. To be able to pour some of this love out upon her and to put her in my arms, and somehow hold both of you at once.

So let me pour some love out now - I need to pour it on you because no other vessel is big enough. I need to pour it on you because if I don't, it's going to overflow all over the floor...running down the stairs in big rivulets and tiny waterfalls, just like overfilling the bath. You just take it. It's yours, little girl.