I've started this entry so many times. It's difficult to organize my thoughts. My journal entries are messy. The are full of incohesive lists, thoughts, bargains with the universe and in the most recent ones loads of swearing. The indentifiable downfall following Pipers day, coupled with third trimester anxiety made a perfect storm for a deep state of sadness. I've been akin to an obese sloth, moving as little and slowly as possible.
I went in to my biweekly appointment a few weeks ago, on an upswing and eager to sneak a peek at my tiniest nugget. Fluid levels all fine so off to our NST. We got high marks on our heat rate test and as I'm feeling smug, the doctor came in with my ultrasound in hand. Moms out there, you get that feeling things are about to go down? Doc says, they found something ""concerning" and wanted me to follow up with our specialty team that Monday. We were already heading in to see our MFM specialist Monday to check growth. He says "don't worry". Yeaaah. I hate to be vague especially when we are so open about our PAL journey but I can't even go in to the details without shaking. I googled myself right on in to a panic attack. Not a figure of speech, an actual panic attack, with respiratory distress and all, where I could not drive my car out of the office parking lot. Mama Bear Bowen has since nixed anymore appointments without an escort.
I spent three days crying on my couch. Driving Beau within an inch of what little sanity he has left. My anxiety finally got the best of me Saturday evening. I felt that Squeak hadn't been moving enough so I had my Beau drive me to L&D. He drove fast.
Neither of us had been on that floor in the hospital since we had left without our big girl over a year ago but my concern for Squeak was in the forefront. A potentially crippling move became a mission. One of Pipe's nurses was working, immediately recognized us and ushered us back to a room. Once the monitor was on the little bugger kicked up a storm and her tiny heart beat registered strong. All was well. The nursing staff was so very kind, reassuring us coming in is always the right thing to do. Expectant moms, trust your gut, go in immediately. You will not be that patient or an inconvenience to anyone. You are your only advocate for your baby. Babies move differently but movements do not slow down.
The level 2 ultrasound on Monday, could not even locate this "concern". It was a complete non issue. What I should type here is my sense of relief but the emotion that I defaulted to, was sheer anger. I want to blame someone for the recent onset of anxiety, but all everyone is doing is looking extra close at our baby for safe keeping. So I'll settle on down as relieved and happy she continues to thrive. If you've been following our story, Squeak has kept us on our toes via several ultrasounds. The remainder of the hour long ultrasound revealed a healthy baby. All blood flow dopplers, within normal. If you have never had a blood flow doppler you should investigate this modern miracle in which they check the blood flow between me and Squeaks various organs. This is particularly comforting to me as Pipes cord was the issue.
Big doc in charge comes in to chat. Squeak looks good but continues to measure on the lowest end of their growth chart. Now mind you, our second kid has been small this entire pregnancy, but took a little dip this past month. The doctors prescribed modified bed rest. The theory is more immobile I can stay, the more blood flow and good nutrients get to our girl. The less hard my body has to work for every day things like work and exercise the more energy can be spent growing her. I'm allowed up for short periods of time. I need to be sitting and ideally laying a majority of the day.
I can hear you through my computer. Wow, I wish someone told me to lay about, eat all the things (ok high protein, ick), relax and get more then your fill of reality TV. Sounds nice in theory but a solid recipe for cabin fever. I am hoping it will help alleviate some of the stress this trimester has introduced.
It was certainly a turn of events. Squeak and I will be here on the couch completely our mission: grow a fat baby for two more weeks then we will make some more decisions about her arrival. I have emotional whiplash but intend to be the best couch potato, ever.
Rest easy PKB.
How am I here? One year since my little, blonde baby died. With her Daddy's nose. I used to ask that question of myself almost daily. How did my daughter die? Will I die too? Thankfully not actually but in that soul crushing way that there is no return. We've spent a year clawing our way out of the pain and why there is always cause for it to resurface, none like the anniversary of her death.
What do you call it? It's not a birthday because she wasn't born. What day do you choose to mourn, the day she died or the day I was fortunate enough to hold my perfect, yet still child and give her a proper good bye. I still can't answer, I felt the shock wave coming for weeks. She passed on Monday, July 11, 2016 and was delivered Thursday, July 13, 2016. Piper's Day.
I felt this scary regression unfolding in our lives. I began to pull away, to hide and fear social contact. Others noticed our odd stand-offish behaviors, mimicking those first months when I couldn't hold a conversation. Where my daily goals included getting out of bed and eating at least one meal. When Beau coaxed me from the house with 11 p.m. drives and promises of coffee. Days when my mom would come over at 4 a.m. so that Beau could get some sleep away from my sobs.
We were asked about our plans to celebrate our daughter's short life, I'd answer, I have no plan as I couldn't even handle the pressure of the plan. I'd like to say I handled the first anniversary of her death with polish and strength but I didn't. I wandered around my house in my pajamas, unkempt. I opened and closed her memory box, holding her tiny knit hat, howling and cursing the universe. Ate very little and showered even less. Became manic, cleaned the bathroom and nursery. Put together the half finished swing. Cried again. Read every condolence card, note or letter addressed to us or Piper. Often irritable and snapping at my sweet, Beau, while he struggled to keep his own head above water.
The pain engulfed me and I didn't fight against it. I lived every second preceding the anniversary of her death and entrance in to the world in fear, as our lives aligned with the dates. The holidays and birthdays ticked by until it was staring me in the face, daring me to fall off the ledge. I didn't fall, I jumped. I'm thankful I did because taking the time to come undone left me once again standing on the other side with my family, my tribe and a bouncing Squeak in my belly.
I kept my promise to our daughter. We have continued to live our life, full of love and happiness, with a newfound gratitude. I don't mearly exist, which was my deep seaded fear. I have learned to artfully carry my grief, to coexist with it and my life. I am proud of that.
They say time heals all wounds. I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone. -Rose Kennedy.
Reat easy my darling Piper, until we meet again.
This was not an easy one. My generic pregnancy app says this was supposed to be the honeymoon third of your pregnancy. If you are the author to this piece then congratulations, I'm now the driver of the struggle bus. The driver who eats entirely too many donuts and has all but abandoned the gym. Typically as a pregnancy progresses, there is a feeling of safety in the anticipation of your baby, mixed in with general fear about labor. In this pregnancy, I'll admit I've been very focused on the actual pregnancy that I sometimes forget the possibility of bringing home a tiny creature to whom I will be their life force.
There has been an increasing amount of anxiety this past few weeks, as I am now in the final trimester. It's sometimes triggered by the tug of war to nest and fear to get too far ahead of myself. This desire to keep her in there and the selfishness of wanting her in my arms, at the safest and earliest moment. I've made big moves in purchasing a few small items for Squeak but I'm careful to arrange them on Piper's nursery floor. I've talked with my tribe how the nursery is a particularly paralyzing step for me.
Squeak is a mini ninja and graces me with fierce little jabs, mostly aimed at my left ovary. With the kicking came a round of anxiety I was prepared to encounter. The only way I knew something was amiss with my first miss was a lack of fetal movement. If she gets quieter then I'd like I chug juice, lift my shirt up and put my hands on my bare belly until I wake her. I have an odd habit or tic to keep a post it note on my desk and make note of her movements throughout the day. I get busy treating patients and panic, I refer to the post it. It's an illusion of control. The anxiety about her movements has greatly impacted my sleep patterns. Hands up for insomnia. I'm typically awake between 1-3 am watching bad TV. I am convinced Pipes passed away when I was asleep so I wake at night I have to feel Squeak move before I can return to sleep. There are some days when I have a strong desire to lay around and watch my belly roll. Not for nostalgia but out of fear.
There continues to be times when my grief still rocks my world. It can still be mean and manifest out of nowhere. Recently a time hop photo of me a year ago on the day of my baby shower, beaming, 34 weeks along, arms linked with my best girls ignited a day long crash and burn. I try to embrace the grief and cry when I feel moved but I'm fearful of the pain her birthday will bring and have already started to prepare my heart for the tidal wave.
All you high risk moms to be out there, I applaud you. Not only for being a brave woman but for surviving each doctor visit. With Pipes I remember the eager anticipation of doctors visits to hear or see my baby. Now I have anxiety attacks, pace lobbies and cry to receptionists, who apologize to me when they are running behind schedule. A doctor told me Piper had died so by no fault of theirs, I'm always on edge, waiting for someone to say something scary to me. I earned my first NST (non-stress test), where Squeaks heart and movements are monitored for an extended time. I lost what little cool I had when they wheeled in that machine, as it was being hooked up to one in the hospital is when they told me my Piper girl had no heartbeat. Three cheers to my nurse and OBGYN holding my hand while I had a nervous breakdown. Squeak passed with flying colors, kicking the doppler all along the way.
As much anxiety as I've shared, I wanted to balance that out with a statement about how perfectly "normal" I can feel. It continues to pleasantly surprise me when all of a sudden I'll stop and think "Hey I'm not having a panic attack" or "I just grocery shopped without having a meltdown". Beau and I talk names, speak to Squeak through my belly and buy tiny baby rompers. Beau is even threatening a mini van.
I make a conscious effort to participate in positive self talk about both mine and Squeaks health. A trick I've discovered is having my Mom or Beau recite back to me what the doctor has said. Hearing it aloud rather than in my own head lifts any negative fog. I try not to go to too many doctors visits without my people. My smart husband pointed out today that I ask so many questions at appointments that I end up hearing the worst case scenario. Our MFM gave us great news today, after I forced myself to be an active listener rather than coerce them in to scaring me. Make sense? Lady squeak, although small, grew a ton and is looking healthy!
Physically, I had a lovely break from sicking around 20ish weeks. It still gets me sometimes. I'm obsessed with my growing, round belly but the weight gain is hard. I keep having Beau hoist me in to the air to prove he could move me in case of emergency. Mostly it makes me giggle. Cravings include all cheese based foods, Glazed chocolate cake donuts and beer. I smell everyones beer and dream of kicking back a cheap, cold one. Salads make me sick, actually sick. What is it people say, I'm just a girl standing in front of a salad asking it to be a donut? Nope I just eat the donut.
We started our twice weekly visits this week. I guess what I'm trying to say I'm all this is I'm doing my best. That's all I got. Keep those good vibes coming.
Rest easy Piper Kai.
Most of my interactions with health care providers and professionals have been gentle and tailored for my needs following Piper's death in July. There are certain professionals that I encounter and hope not to explain the details of my child's passing. I only had to correct a nurse at my new OB/GYN's office once that my kid was not a "fetal demise". She was a baby and her name is Piper so go ahead and write that in my chart. I can already tell you our specialty clinic has ANGRY MAMA BEAR:BEWARE or maybe nervous turtle scribbled on the front of my chart. I also don't want to explain to a my PCP or the nurse practitioner I typically see on my lunch break how I have, yes had one pregnancy. No, no live births. The first time I met my counselor, I didn't really say anything just sobbed for our hour session.
I went shopping for new Doctors. Did you know you can just meet a doctor and vet them like a political candidate? I vividly remember telling my counselor how my husband said I don't have to come back like a small child tattling. She handed it like the pro she is. No, I don't blame my former OB for Piper's death. Not even a little. I needed a change. I did not need to be reminded of how my daughter died every time I had a pap smear for the rest. of. my. life. The anxiety that the building incited was off the charts. I was already on my way out when I received a phone call on December 8th asking "How the baby girl was doing?" Go ahead and pick your jaw from the floor. I am a fairly rational person but the follow up phone call to that statement was just shy of insane. Once I had calmed down, several days later, I drafted and sent a letter to both my physician and the office manager. I have kept that message on my phone in case I need the strength to move a car off someone. I have included the letter below:
I hope this letter will assist your office staff during their interactions with families who have experienced child loss.
My name is Natalie and I have been a long standing patient with your practice, nearly 12 years, with Dr. M. heading my care. Following a happy, uncomplicated pregnancy; our girl, Piper Kai Bennett, was born still on July 13, 2016. This was my first pregnancy and I was just over 9 months along. She was a beauty, 6lbs 4ounces, 20 inches long and blonde like her momma. I hope you are not privy to the anguish that follows a stillbirth and I do not think the letter could adequately express the grief my family has endured nor the hole in which I have crawled out of in order to participate fully in life.
On December 8, 2016, I received a voicemail from your front office staff inquiring “how you and the baby girl are doing” and to remind me of my annual appointment. I became upset to the point it was necessary to pull over my vehicle. I called your front desk staff immediately and through heavy tears attempted to explain my child’s death and that messages, such as these, are traumatizing. I was too emotional to fully explain the magnitude of this oversight. I am concerned, how in the year 2016, with electronic medical charting that my trauma is not listed in bold, red letters to allow for some careful handling.
I realize people make mistakes. I choose to believe that people are mostly good, kind hearted and had this been the first incident I would have been willing to overlook it; however this event is not isolated. On July 11, 2016 I called around 0900 to speak with a nurse, with concerns about lack of fetal movement. At 0945, I drove myself to L&D where her death was confirmed. I realize that she had passed prior to that 45 minute lapse in time. What I am fearful about is the lack of consistency and protocol for dealing with patient concerns.
On July 14, 2016 your office called to remind me of my prenatal appointment scheduled for the following day. Now working in a hospital, I can understand that your computers had not been updated as Piper had died earlier that week but we called to lodge a complaint. Again on a helpful note, when we came in for my postpartum check-up being handed the postpartum paperwork and enduring the lobby was difficult. I could imagine this being the case for most mothers’ experiencing child loss. I would have found it helpful had the paperwork been previewed and perhaps allowing my husband and me to wait for Dr. M. in a different room.
I live in this world without my daughter permanently and a 30 second chart review could have easily avoided these patterns of negligence. As a mother of a child that does not walk the earth, I hope that this letter can help educate your office staff.
So I switched. I also never heard from them again. My best friend's Mom, recommended a nice, lady doctor who handles high risk (read, crazy) moms. My former OB did not want to examine me at my 6 week follow-up for fear of traumatizing me. At the time, much appreciated but then a few months later, OK October, I thought hm, better get all that checked out. I scheduled an appointment which my sweet mother attended. They had all my records ahead of time.
The first thing the nurse said to me was "You don't have to tell me anything. I know why you are here and I am so sorry" and the proceeded to hug me. Sob, sob, sob went the mama bear. The doctor answered my questions for nearly an hour and said almost exactly what my past OB had said. Umbilical cord accidents are rare. Did it make me feel better? Yes. I had every test done under the sun and a set of fresh eyes to review Piper and my hospital records.
I had to see her again after that initial visit because there was fear of an ovarian cyst. Turned out to be a kidney stone. Oh the joy. I had to have an internal ultrasound and let me tell you how anxiety inducing that can be for a woman who has experienced child loss or anyone with an ounce of anxiety. I told the nurse I thought I was about to faint. She offered me a water and let me sit in the chair with the door open and rubbed my back, ya'll. Rubbed my back. That little bit of humanity goes a looong way.
Doctor visits are traumatic for me, now. I am thankful for our new care team and modern medicine. Yet I continue to be wrecked with anxiety at each appointment. Squeak is a high risk pregnancy, requiring loads of extra monitoring. On one hand it's soothing to see my baby more frequently, and on the other requires I live at the doctors. Specifically the high risk clinic. It's a serious place and I'm fortunate to be under their care but the waiting and hour long ultrasounds are hard. Luckily, I know these visits are not solely the byproduct of my own anxiety or grief. Recently I have encountered some brave moms who have survived the quiet, dark rooms at the specialty hospital.
If you work or know someone who works in a hospital setting, share away. Patients are people. People have problems, stories and boo-boos. Be nice and read your charts.
Rest easy my darling Piper Kai. Everyday my babe, everyday.
I'll go ahead and start this post with the obligatory we want a healthy baby, any baby, boy or girl. Yes, this should go without saying but I need to say it. I was surprised by the guilt I felt in wanting to know and even having a preference. As a mom whose first child died at term you almost feel like you can't have the luxury of feeling excited about your baby's sex. We whisper about gender disappointment on our private pregnancy after loss pages because it's a real thing. We had imagined our lives one way. We have a nursery lovingly constructed, full of images of a child. I keep the door of my beautiful gray and pink nursery closed. It's a portal to Piper and it's a painful shrine.
The first time the sex was an issue for me was during a routine 16 week scan and the tech asked me if I wanted to know Squeaks sex. Um, no. Um, yes? Beau? Yes. We had already decided to find out, as Beau puts it, we have had enough surprises in life. I was completely content waiting until there was a baby in my arms to know about its bits.
I could feel the panic mounting with that familiar yet unpleasant tingling in my hands. My pusle went up and I got the mouth sweats.
Will another girl break my heart? Can I be a boy mom, I paint everything pink? Could I let another little girl sleep in Pipe's room? Can I handle pockets full of worms? Can I change the nursery, can I leave it the same?
Can I take knowing and planning to love another baby?
At the 16 week scan my child sat breeched, cross legged, sex unknown.
Fast forward two weeks and I had a teeny scare. I can say that now but in the moment I was not cool, calm or collected. Again people, my husband deserves some love for the amount of sheer crazy I throw at him, my eternal optimist. I had a small amount of spotting. I've learned loads of things can cause some light spotting but when you see blood at any point in your pregnancy, I don't care who you are, you will freak. A call to the after hours doctor did absolutely nothing to ease my worries. I slept not at all, up all night watching reruns of Friends and eating cheese sticks.
The next morning we were sent for a just in case scan. I was terrified they were about to tell me scary things but there was my Squeak. Squirming around with a solid heartbeat. Me and the kid were all good. You want to know the sex? Our sweet tech said, I can tell you with 99% accuracy. I could have cared less. I later told my friend how numb I was to the news. I tried to summon some sort of feeling but there was none. I thought what the heck is wrong with me but the best answer is nothing. I only cared that Squeak was well.
Squeaks sex was confirmed at 20 weeks following a most terrifying ultrasound at the high risk clinic. Most of you already know Squeak's sex because I keep telling everyone (awful secret keeper) and have sloppy pronoun use here and there...but.
SHE will certainly move mountains. Piper is to be a big to a little, sister. For you are fearfully and wonderfully made, all is well with my soul.
Reasy easy Piper Kai.
All photos: Kimmy Fremont
She's in the Hampton Roads area and an absolute doll, check her out!
Beau pointed out that I haven't been blogging much these past few weeks. It's because I've been preoccupied with a test I was given. A challenging test, where I could not study and there wasn't a pass/fail option. This test turned out to be important.
A few weeks ago, against my better judgement, decided to go forward with the standard genetic testing. I had opted out of this with our daughter because the results would not have impacted our course and I lived in a happy bubble, where nothing bad happens to babies. She was the pillar of perfection, gaining gold stars at every turn until she died. This time after speaking with a few doctors and being assured it would soothe my anxieties gave the blood necessary for the screen.
"Your test came back positive for Down Syndrome." I went in to shock. "What does that mean?" I asked the unfamiliar nurse on the other end of the phone. "Your test came back with high risk for Trisomy 21, expect a call from the specialist to schedule a follow up, level 2 ultrasound, try not to worry".
I got off the phone, called Beau at work and relayed the message. He had so many questions I did not have answers for and I began to cry. Cry out of fear. Squeak's sick I wailed. Squeaks going to die too, I thought. That is the real fear all child loss families experience. Beau expressed relief in hearing the news. We can handle that, Squeak is alive. The last phone call he received at work about our children was me screaming into the phone Piper had died.
Beau convinced me to call our home base OBGYN where I received some clarification. Given my age, I screened (not tested, that is a different diagnostic criteria) higher risk. My risk is 1:218 or statistically speaking .5% chance and a 99.5% chance of no chromsomal abnormalities. My risk given my age and genetic make up off the street is 1:560. They explained the MFM (maternal fetal medical) specialist would perform a level 2 ultrasound and look for soft markers or anatomical differences in Squeak that may support a diagnosis. It will take a week or two to obtain an appointment.
Nope, a solid no. I became hysterical. I cannot handle the time, I need to be seen, I panicked. I am not special but I know that I couldn't make it. They agreed to see me the next day only after I declared I would sleep in their office.
Then I had to leave work because I had a nervous breakdown. I have already been the statistic, worse than 1:218, I've been the 1:2,000. I couldn't cope.
This may be an important time to clarify because I know many people have babies with exceptionalities. Ones that you can see and others you cannot. I work with and love on them everyday. I made a career out of being around babies who need extra care and choosing to grow a child does not garuntee perfection. When I heard, Down Syndrome I heart heart defects, sick, hospitals etc. I cried for MY future not Squeaks. MY future would no longer fit in a tidy box it will be filled with doctors and therapists. I was being selfish. Squeak would only be loved.
The next day we met with a genetic counselor who was extremely kind but did absolutely nothing to calm my nerves. Next we had a level 2 ultrasound. Every inch of Squeak was examined. I relaxed slightly when I saw the beautiful heart, all four chambers, ticking away. Beau held my hand as the tight lipped tech looked Squeak over. She then excused herself and when she returned she brought the big guns. The head of the MFM unit. He was the same physician who spoke with us after Piper died. Hop on the table he said. I told him I was going to faint. He shrugged and said he wanted to take a look. He focused over Squeaks heart, I felt Beau stiffen at my side, looks good. Except squeaks small or more specifically baby's legs are short, which is seen in babies with DS and babies without. Back to the genetic counselor, where we were referred for a highly specialized (and costly) blood test that examines fetal DNA. NIPT. It takes about two weeks. I left in a daze but I saw my darling baby and the heart was beating. I held to that.
The following day I saw my OBGYN. I immediately began to cry. What he said next to me was so important. You are not crazy. What happened to Piper (yes he knows her name) would make anyone's anxiety worse. He explained in detail what a quad screening is and how it works. He printed out my report and reviewed it line by line. Ultrasounds at this point are not growth scans they are anatomy scans and the anatomy appears normal. Squeak may in fact be short (like mom and dad).
NIPT came back today. Negative. Baby number two is healthy and a little short. Squeak kicks about in my belly as I write, saying who ya calling short.
The way information is explained can be very important to a mother. I wanted to gather all of my thoughts before sharing this blog because life served me up a big old platter. Remember way back at the top of this rant I said this test was important.
I obsessively googled everything there was to know about quad screens and ultrasounds until I actually made myself sick. I over indulged my anxiety inducing behaviors. I suffered the most but then I pulled everyone down with the sinking ship, most importantly my husband.
Be still and know.
I should have have trusted my heart. I never wanted to do those tests because I love Squeak no matter the genetic make up. I should have trusted my motherly instinct and stayed true to my course. If she happens to come out with an extra chromosome then so be it. That will be our path. I had no way of knowing I'd be navigating this path as a mother whose first baby died. Here's another sidebar. Those tests are invaluable for mothers whose babies are diagnosed prenatally with ANYTHING. My anxiety; however, is not equipt for them.
I'd better shape up. I'd better start pouring all that joy I talk about right back in to myself or the next few months will be even more difficult.
That was scary. The unknown is scary. This pregnancy is scary. Motherhood is scary. My mother constantly assures me the worrying never ceases. I'm allowed to be scared but I'd better balance it out or I'm going to ruin this precious time I have with Squeaks. My family has gently reminded me that positivity is a choice.
Lastly, I want this story heard and shared. I heard over and over I know people who that happened to. My friend had the same thing. I want to be that friend. I want to hold up my life and say see you can survive scary things. You can breathe, live and have peace.
Today I am thankful. I am thankful for Piper and Squeak. My husband and my tribe. I am thankful that I am healthy, happy and well loved.
If you've made it this far then you must love me. Lots of words and lots of feelings (probably loads of typos that Beau will call me about later).
Reat easy, Piper Kai.
There was that rush of excitement then a heavy presence of anxiety. I hopped on the bed, "hey babe guess what?" I said. Him asleep said, nothing. "I'm pregnant". The smile. The smile that I'm glad I get to keep all to myself.
Time evenly split between fighting to stay awake and my head in a toilet. Surviving off flat sodas and simple carbs, sleeping no less than 10 hours a night. What's different is how I've had to grow a light and keep Pipers burning. It's harder this time. Being a mother to two.
A thought or more so feeling thats been difficult for me is that I wouldn't be pregnant right now if my daughter had survived. It's true but hard to fact to admit. How I survive this thought, is gently reminding myself that I am supposed to mother these two children. I was somehow meant to grow, love and survive child loss. I don't know big picture but I know me. I'm not taking this lightly.
I am thankful. I am thankful that my daughter taught me to love every sweaty second of this go around. This is easier said then done. After battling severe morning, read all day, sickness with our daughter resulting in near dehydration, missed work and countless hours in the bathroom. We (Beau, doctors and me) decided that I would accept the anti nausea meds around week 10 with Squeak. I started getting sick 3-10x a day, at week 5. We have sicked in every imaginable place. Beau just loves talking about vomit, it's his favorite. I couldn't handle the emotional aspect of it this time. It was too much. The last go around I told myself it'd be worth it because I'd get a baby. This time I couldn't balance throwing up, being a wife, working and grief all at once. Now I'm not an advocate for taking medication but it was a lot easier to sleep and function with a little help from my friend. I stopped the meds at 15 weeks but the toilet and I are still pretty tight.
The Piper pudge didn't bother me. Growing my daughter and racking up nearly 50 lbs was well fun. This time it's harder. I remember how hard I worked to get down to my pre pregnancy weight. I can recall crying after my first hurling match weighing 25 lbs more than the last time I had played. Running once down the pitch and almost collapsing. It's harder this time to watch my body grow and stretch and spend countless hours throwing up with no promise of a baby. I cry to Beau then I feel guilty for crying about stretch marks then cry harder. It's a bad cycle. If you know my Beau slap him on the back for being the world's greatest Daddy to babes he has yet to meet earth side. I made a wise choice in life. He has stood strong with the grieving, sick mama bear who worries endlessly and eats all the bagels. Ok, all the things.
I ran races aces while carrying Piper. Races, y'all. I exercised diligently and waddled around the gym well in to 8 months. This go around I'm lucky if I can manage a 30 minute walk with Karma before I crawl on the couch with my saltines. I feel guilty about that too.
There are times when I cannot distinguish what is grief and what is a symptom of back to back pregnancies. What I'm sure you hear is whining, Beau certainly has, but I'm saying while I am over the moon in love this is the hard stuff. Admitting that it's hard and giving yourself permission to go easy is challenging for me and I'm sure other mothers.
This is is a different pregnancy and a different baby. Squeak is an addition not a replacement. We want Squeak to be loved the way my daughter is celebrated, starting now.
Rest easy our Piper girl.
I never formally announced the upcoming arrival of our girl, Piper Kai. I was haughty. I thought the cutesy, done up announcements were cheesy. And I was too good for all that jazz. I told close family and friends but tried to hide it from most of the world until 21 weeks. Which leads me to a fresh round of guilt. The only thing I ever announced was her death. That guilt stabs at me and hasn't dulled. I thought it best to wait the traditional 12 weeks then got scared and moved it back and back.
The death of your child does something to you. It redefines time. There was my life before Piper and after. This deep, clear meridian in my life. My counselor said something I can't shake. She asked me if loving and planning for Piper killed her. I was instantly horrified because people tend to handle me gently then I was angry someone spoke to me so boldly. Lastly I was ashamed because she was right. Loving and celebrating her didn't cause her umbilical cord accident. We loved her even when she was just an idea and we love Squeak.
And I'm scared. The thought I whisper in horror to Beau. What if we have to tell people something bad happened to this baby? It's the heavy fear of surviving something bad, again. We have crawled out of an impossibly deep hole and I am so afraid of it's darkness. It's been hard to stay grounded these past four months. Our tribe is strong and they catch me before I even know I'm falling. We have an excellent care team that lets me see the Squeak frequently and doesn't treat me like the insane person that I am when I just pop in. I am more scared than any mother deserves to be but here it is, the next great adventure and being scared doesn't mean it's not going to happen. I am trying to not let the fear outweigh my love, excitement or JOY.
We invite you to love both our babies. To direct all your good vibes right at our growing family. We appreciate the support, space and respect as we navigate this new chapter.
Welcome me to our tribe, little Squeak. Your sister taught us how to love fiercely so we do.
Rest easy our first love.
I let life pile up. I strategically shuffled the layers of it over the pain. Never completely hiding it but dulling it's effects. That's unwise, letting the grief rise up with no where to go. I shut the door on her nursery and let a thin layer of dust cover my journal.
Then the universe gently nudged my heart and gave the grief a chance to surface. Once the light hit it there was crying and pain , oh the pain. I stopped struggling and let it seep out. A healthy does of reality. I sometimes tell Beau, I can't believe our daughter died. It's so traumatic that I think your brain sometimes helps the burden. Masking the pain a bit with disillusion, like a bad dream feeling. The rest was my fault, trying unsuccessfully to smoother it.
I feel better. Naming the grief, giving it the time and attention it deserved.
Our Piper girl's brick was laid in the butterfly garden at the children's hospital, where I work. Loads of good people who care for us and our daughter rallied and had that brick placed as a permanent memorial.
Forever Loved. Forever is without end. It's appealing to think that we will love her beyond our earthly lives and it scares the heck out of me that I will live with the pain of my child's death until the day my soul joins her for a sunny picnic.
The magnitude of support I continue to receive is the strong foundation for my stability. I think it's helpful to have some tangible things in remembrance of Piper. It makes my grief purposeful, giving it a place to reside. In the necklace I wear with her tiny handprint, Beau's leather bracelet with her initials, the scholarship, the tiny gift that was given in honor of our friend's Mom, and so on. Her gold urn and birth announcement both gifted, are on display in our living room. It's my niece wearing Pipe's bows. Our loved ones continue to come up with creative ways to weave my child's legacy.
That brick was a reminder. Forever. As scary as that is, I won't fight it, the grief will ebb and flow, sometimes overwhelming and other times a distant roar. If you shove it down too long, you will drown. Don't let grief sneak up on you. Head it off with purpose.
Reat easy my Piper girl, you are Forever Loved.
It's a seemingly appropriate question to ask a 31 year old, healthy, happy married woman. I will answer that question with "Yes, I have a daughter who passed away". Personal questions get personal answers. I'll let you navigate the silence that follow because I need to say it. I don't easily offend, especially at social niceties. I'll say it matter of fact, in a practiced manner and on good days in the absence of the ugly cry.
Now I've bonded with other mothers who have experienced child loss and this is one of the most talked about subjects. Several moms expecting baby after a loss face that question in another form. "Is this your first?" Thanks to free will and a certain amount of sass, I've heard this question answered several ways ranging from the total truth to a simple 'yes'. Yes, because they don't want to explain to the cashier at Target that they are barely hanging in there as they are managing a pregnancy after loss. Or there is twenty people behind them. There is no handbook. No right or wrong.
I have had patients or less familiar acquaintances ask this innocent social question. Once, I tried to say "no" to a new hair stylist because I really didn't want to explain while trapped in a smock with wet hair how I had this beautiful little girl who died in July. It made me feel ill and like a liar, so out came the whole story in great detail. The horror on her face was a mirror reflection of my feelings.
Will you try again?
Now, that is a question that I have no cookie cutter answer. I mumbled something and sweated in my smock. It's not often I've been asked by a stranger to divulge my very private um life. I'm already a mother and I am hopeful that we will add to our family, one way or another. That verbiage, try again, somehow doesn't sit well with me. I've really had to think of why it's so bothersome and here's what I think. Another child is not a fix nor is Piper an error to eradicate. I cannot try again because my daughter was a unique soul. There will never be another Piper, just the one.
I choose to believe people are well meaning and in that particular case recovering from some intense information but from my new perspective I wanted to share something with you. Maybe to give someone else the pause-reflect that I'm learning.
Beyond being a mother to a stillborn child there are many types of women. Those who choose not to have children. Those who cannot have children. Women who choose to adopt, foster and care for children not biologically their own. Women with fertility issues, recurrent miscarriages and neonatal loss. Families who choose to have ten children because they've always wanted a big family. Blended families. The list goes on.
Perhaps the weather is a safer topic? Or maybe politics? If you've asked that question, fear not. Just a loving reminder that you never know another persons journey. Some social niceties may unknowingly sting. If you ask me you may get an earful then we can cry together.
Rest easy, my darling girl.