Thursday, July 12, 2018

The 5 year old I don't have

July 12 was Oliver's due date.

Somehow, the idea that he would be 5 today, if it had all gone to plan is so bizarre. There are so many timelines in my mind, would he already be 5, on his delivery date back in May? Or would today be the day we would have our son turning 5? When I think of my children, sometimes I think of him as the oldest, because he came first, but then he is also forever my baby.

This feels like it matters, like I need to know if in an alternate universe somewhere I'm sending David out for last minute party supplies (there is no universe where I remember them all the first time) am I decorating a cake? Are Elliot and Clara there? Who would my 5 year old be?

I think every loss parent must feel this other possibility, somewhere in the back of your mind always. What would the world be like if you were here?

But he isn't, so we have to just do what we can to make the world a bit better, on his behalf. So today I will hug my kids an extra time for their brother, find a charity that supports children that I can donate to, and appreciate the life that I have. We miss you Oliver.

Love Mama

Friday, November 4, 2016

Life changing news.

4 years ago, on Nov 3rd I came home from a work trip exhausted but excited. I was on my second round of clomid. We had been trying for a while to have a baby, and it was getting to be the part where you start wondering if the universe just doesn't want you to have a baby.

I knew I could be pregnant but I couldn't take the test on work trip. I couldn't see another lonely pink line in a hotel room by myself, so I waited until I got home to take one. I even decided to wait until morning, to avoid the possibility of a false negative. So it fell on the next day November 4 th to be the day we found out.

Thanks to the time change and the excitement I was up at 5 that morning. I'll never forget the shock as the second pink line started to develop.

I ran in to tell a still sleeping David. Those women who keep it a secret and tell their partner in some sweet memorable way have a LOT more patience than I do. I just ran into our bedroom yelling "is positive! It's positive! We after going to have a baby!

Some quick math and we decided to tell people in person. We had a trip to Oregon planned for right around the end of the first trimester. It was perfect. We could tell the future grandparents for Christmas. 

We decided to go for a walk to help me contain this exciting secret and we walked a few blocks from our rental duplex to confederation park. It was a beautiful snowy morning and I will never forget how fast it was. How fast we went from hopeful adults to wishful parents. How I could already see this baby's future, stretched before me like a road map of possibilities. 

You see, I don't believe that life begins at conception. At just a few weeks along, that little cluster of cells is just that, a cluster of cells. An embryo.  Like the rest of my body, it's just cells doing their job with no sentient reasoning. Biology is running the show.

But to me, from the first second that stick turned pink that baby, not the cluster of cells, was what was real. Baby having birthdays. Graduating. Falling off a bike. Reading books and making cookies. This possibility of a life is what filled my mind.

That's why these losses cut so deep.

I spent 31 weeks from that day in confederation park watching my baby grow up in my mind. Would he be like me? I'd picture helping her at a science fair. Planning his birthday. Teaching her to swim.

When they told me there was no heartbeat, it wasn't the 31 week old fetus who died. It was my baby who would never take first steps, or take my car without asking and be out late. Those birthday parties dissolved in an instant, never to be.

I often have trouble reconciling my scientific beliefs with emotion. How can an embryo that is not a person carry all those hopes and dreams? How can those little cells with all that possibility not be the person we want then to be.

And here comes the hard part, it's because that person isn't in your uterus. That person you imagine isn't your child. They might be like your child. Share a name with your child. But the life you wish for them, isn't that baby's path. This is the gift my living children have given me. Knowing that if Oliver had lived and been born, the 3½ year old I'd have today wouldn't be the same as the one I pictured. Similar probably but the child you have is never the child you anticipate exactly.

So Oliver can live in my what ifs the way he did 4 years ago when he was 2 pink lines. When he changed my life just by existing. His little cells, dividing away, and packing the way for me to be the kind of mother I want to be.

I'll never get to know what kind of person he would have been, but I know i can always be the mother I decided to be.

I love you forever
I'll like you for always
As long as I'm living
My baby you'll be.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Celebrating Mother's Day

I spent my first mother's day delivering a baby I would never get to know. 3 years ago I thought that mother's day would be forever tarnished by our loss. By losing Oliver.

We were lucky and a year later I didn't have to spend the day childless. Elliot was just a few months old, sweet and wonderful he saved us and brought back the joy, but I wasn't ready yet to celebrate. Better to spend the day on quiet reflection, and the bittersweet knowledge that my sons are mutually exclusive. It felt like celebrating Elliot was letting his day go too soon.

Last year we celebrated quietly, on a picnic with friends who understood. We visited Oliver's memorial tree and celebrated his birthday a few days later.

This year I felt like I could separate things. The family we have with 2 beautiful children, as well as the community of  mothers that I'm incredibly lucky to be a part of is something that feels like celebrating. On the 12 th we will morn Oliver, but I decided that today is about celebrating motherhood and family.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Anatomy scan

My anatomy scan for baby number 3 is tomorrow. When Oliver died, I knew something was wrong. It was less than 24 hours between healthy baby confirmed by Doppler, and me waking up certain he was gone. I knew. I was sure. So why an I do afraid to trust my instincts now?

I'm terrified that we will go to this scan and get bad news, that the little peanut we saw on my dating ultrasound will be gone and that I will have missed it.

When you lose a child, support groups can help immensely. The relief of knowing someone understands, that your story isn't the most horrific thing they have heard. It's comforting and wonderful. And yet.

The hardest part of a support group is the other stories. The first group we went to, a man told us the story of him and his wife, their first loss, and then all the subsequent losses. As of that meeting they were still childless.

Mothers whose child was lost at full term. Mothers who learned at the anatomy scan. Every horror story you can imagine, if you go to enough groups, you will hear it. And once you hear it, you can't un hear.

You walk into every appointment, especially ultrasounds, carrying the weight of those stories, of surprise bad news. I knew last time, but would I know again?

Could we survive another loss? Would this be the end of my dreams for a large family? Would it be worse? Easier because of Elliot? Harder because we know it won't fade away?

So I try to push the fear away and focus on right now. If I found out tomorrow that the baby was gone, would I regret not enjoying being pregnant today? I try to dwell on the possibility that the baby is just fine in there, and that in under 24 hours we will get to see him or her again.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Due date

I never really know which hypothetical to think about. Oliver was delivered in May, at 31 weeks so we celebrate that day as his birthday, but if he had been full term his birthday would be today.

If he had been full term he would be 2. And everything would be different. There would be no Elliot. I can't think about that, but on days like today I can't stop myself from wondering; what would life be like?

Losing a baby is one of those things that defines you. It becomes part of who you are too the core, and changes you to the point where you might not recognize your old self. Back when you were safe, in the bubble.

Losing Oliver has defined me as a mother. I was loss mom first. The first baby I delivered didn't come home with me. It has overshadowed everything since. It's the reason that every morning, no matter how early he wakes up, the noise Elliot makes lets me breathe a sigh of relief. My parenting has more fear and more gratitude I think, and that's because of Oliver.

All day today, at the back of my mind will be the what ifs. The hypothetical. The impossible to think about. A full term Oliver. Would he be like his brother? More like his dad? Would I be different? Less afraid. Protected by the feeling that bad things happen to other people.

We miss you today Oliver. Your dad and I both, we think about you every day but today you will be a little sharper in our minds. We love you.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

my third mothers day

Mother's day can be a difficult day for any number of people. Children who have lost a mother they miss, children of mothers who aren't a mother at all. Childless women who want a macaroni necklace and some burnt toast in bed. Mother's who lost children. It's all hard.

For me is especially hard. 2 years ago tonight I was being induced to deliver a baby I already knew was dead.

We didn't know that his name was Oliver.

If you had asked me the day before he died what his name was, I could have told you that we were about 80% sure he would be named Benjamin. I had started to picture him with that name. Thought about nicknames. Imagined if it would be stern enough to say with a disapproving tone when he flushed something important. So when he was born, and that future was gone, his name was too. We started over, going back through rejected names, family names, panicking because it was the only thing we could give him.

In middle school in my French class we learned about saint days, and how in some places a saint day was like a birthday. So we googled. Some website had the saint listed for July 12 as Oliver. As soon as I said it I knew it was his name. Sometimes it feels odd, as an atheist to use saint days to name my son. Sometimes I wonder what if we had named him Benjamin. But it feels now like he was always Oliver.  From the first kick to the last.

We chose his name on mother's day. Sitting in the private room at the hospital, that is reserved for a different kind of delivery.

When you don't need to protect the baby, labor is very different. They give you medication that they can't give to moms of living babies. There is no urgency. Less physical pain. Oliver was coaxed slowly out, breech.

I spent my first day as a mother holding my sweet baby boy. The only day I would get to hold him at all. Memorizing his face and tiny hands and perfect ears and tiny toes.

I spent my first mother's day deciding if we would do an autopsy, and choosing a funeral home. When mothers share birth stories they get uncomfortable when you mention that part. That before you started pushing you signed the papers to donate his organs to research. I never knew what happened to a stillborn baby before I had one. People never ask. So you don't tell anyone. And sometimes parts of it start to fade. It makes me afraid, that if I can't remember which nurse brought in the tiny donated hat, how will I remember him. I only had 24 hours to hold his body, how could I let one second of that day slip away. It was my first mother's day. How could I not replay it all. Second by second.

But I remember all the seconds of him.

We gave him the only thing we could give him, his name. He never even heard me say it. Mother's day for me will always be a difficult day, followed by his birthday however many days later it happens to be. For me it's the anniversary of the only day we ever spent with our firstborn son. The anniversary of the most profound day of my life.

Oliver, I miss you every day. Not just mother's day. Not just your birthday, or Christmas, or when there is an Oliver keychain for sale at the zoo. I miss you when I think of you, which is every day. You made me a mother. You changed me forever.

I love you Oliver.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

nothing new

I ran out of new things to say.

About once I week I think about posting here. At night when I'm rocking Elliot to sleep and smelling his head and feeling the weight of him change as he falls asleep on my chest, I think about how I should write something.

I miss Oliver every day. This is our second Christmas without him. This year he would be a toddler. Climbing. Talking.

I can't help but picture it. The family of 4 with the two little boys. Playing together. 4 stockings. 2 heads to kiss goodnight.

Its all the same things I have written before. The grief comes on hard at first painful and on waves, but then before you know it life heals over and you just have this deep scar that stays the same every time you look at it. Same scar. Same grief. Same love. Oliver, I still miss you.

I still wonder what you would be like. What your voice would have sounded like when you called me mama. But that's not new, I started wondering that from the beginning. From the day I found out I was pregnant, I wondered who you were. And I always will.

In a lot of ways losing your baby puts you on hold. At first your whole body is on hold. Your mind, even your heart seems to have stopped. But after that, when you start to do normal things and your life resumes, that part of you is still on hold. Still waiting to know someone you will never get to know. Still feeling phantom kicks sometimes at night. I will feel those kicks forever. The kicks I wished for so hard. Lying in the hospital bed waiting to be told what I already knew, that there wouldn't be anymore kicks.

I think the holidays bring the pain of loss to the surface more than normal days because they are the days we had pictured in our minds. You get pregnant and you start doing the math. How old will my baby be at Christmas. What will his first birthday be like. First day of school. First thanksgiving. Will he be old enough to walk? Will we have to baby proof the tree?

These moments are so vivid while you are lying in bed dreaming of your future with your child. Then as your baby gets older the real moments crowd them out. The first imagined Christmas gets replaced by the first real one.

So I will write the same feelings over and over. Cement the same thoughts I had of Oliver time and time again. The Christmas we should have had last year with our baby who was 5 months old (based on due date) or maybe the  7 month old we would have had if he had been born alive.

I will hold on to my what ifs . I will look at my scar and remember the wound. Remember what I lost. Remember what could have been. And those new, wonderful memories we will make with our amazing son, will be stored along side all the plans for what could have been.