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Friday, April 17, 2015

The Hardest Thing.

Dear Josie,

The other day I picked your brother up from school.  It was sunny and I was waiting just outside the door in the parking lot with all the other moms.  One of them asked me something about the upcoming spring festival, how the weather is supposed to be nice that day.  I think I responded.  I think I was polite.  I hope I was engaging and attentive and that I smiled.

But mostly I'm always just thinking, I hope my baby is alive.

Whenever I meet someone new lately, I want to apologize upfront.  I keep thinking of a line from 'Fight Club', one of my favorite books. 

"You met me at a very strange time in my life."

I read somewhere that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may develop after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events.  I'm pretty sure stillbirth qualifies.

At my doctor's appointment last week my blood pressure was elevated.  It was the third time I had called in as many days.  Just to be seen.  Just to have someone else in charge.  Just for a minute.
There were ketones in my urine sample, a sign of a lack of carbohydrate intake, and I told her about the eye twitches, the lack of sleep, the shortness of breath, the lack of any sort of appetite.   I told her how it's getting harder to be hopeful.  She reminded me of the script she wrote six months ago.  That there is safe medication to be taken.

"You told me in the beginning that you weren't sure you needed it." She said, tears in her eyes.  "Nora, I think we're there."

I remember telling myself as they started the Pitocin, "This is the hardest thing you will ever have to do."  I remember repeating it, over and over as I received the epidural, hunched over and shaking and holding tightly to your father's hand.  It was all they could do to lessen the pain.  The physical pain, that is.  There would be no lessening of any other type.

I said it again with each announcement of progression.  Three centimeters.  Then four.  Then six.  I remember that it felt like some sick joke.  Living what are supposed to be the most joyful, anticipatory moments of a life, and thinking how I didn't care.  Just get me to the end.  Just get through it. 

How awful the climax, how terrible it is to labor for death.  To work so hard at growing something so unique and special and beautiful, only to hand it away before being granted one moment of its life.  How most people, hopefully, will never ever have to experience what that feels like.  How I had to.  How I will never be the same. 

But I was wrong then, in that room.  It was not the hardest thing.

Your delivery was, undoubtedly, the absolute worst thing I have ever had to do.  The saddest.  The most painful.  It remains the most unfair.  The most cruel.  The most horrific.  It will haunt me for the remainder of my days. It's why I can't have conversations in sunny parking lots. It has forever changed me and I will always, always be less normal for it.  But it was not the hardest.  There have been a hundred days more difficult than that day.  The "after" is the hardest thing, and nobody tells you that.

Two nights ago I had a dream.  I was sitting in my classroom when a  microwave sounded.  I ran to open it, but nothing was inside.

I woke in a rush and I glanced at the clock.  3 am. 
Quickly I shuffled to the kitchen, poured a glass of your brother's favorite blueberry apple juice from the refrigerator and swallowed.  Then I waited for this baby to move. Ten minutes?  Fifteen?  Finally I woke your father.  I knew this baby was gone.  Just like I knew it the day before.  And two days before that. 

We stood in the living room together.  Half asleep, he placed one hand on my wrist, checking my pulse, which was rising by the second.  Shaking, I held the Doppler, searched his eyes. 

"They're the same, aren't they?"
"I can't tell.  I think that's the baby.  I think yours is faster."
"No," I corrected.  "It's gone.  I know it."  Frantically my hands searched, pushing around on my abdomen in haste, gel spilling onto the hardwood.  I could hear the heartbeat in my mind.  Faster.   Healthy.  Only this one was still too slow.  Had to be.  I lay on the couch, willing the movement to come, and he sat by my feet, saying nothing.  After five more agonizing minutes I felt a kick. 

"There!" I said.  "There it is!"    He sighed, and although he had remained calm I could see the relief pooling in his eyes.  I realized that my anxiety, my heightened awareness of this impending doom was no longer solely affecting me. 

"Nora, you've got to stop this."  And I know he is right, but I can't.  Can't stop reliving it.  Can't stop bracing for it.  I think of the baby hats I recently purchased, only I'm not placing them on any head.  I'm laying them, gently, into a plastic tub.

"Why do people do this?"  I asked. 
Calmly he stood, held out his hand.  "Because we want a baby."

And so we went back to bed.  Together.  Neither of us saying a word.  Both of us grateful for this night, both of us picturing the one where the kicks never come. 
And we tossed and we turned, and the baby tossed and it turned.  And no one could get back to sleep.  And my alarm sounded ninety minutes later.

And when I got to work someone asked how I was doing, and I smiled and I said "one day at a time."

And I'm thinking to myself, that is also untrue.  That lately, it's more like one minute.



  1. Nora, I wrote something very similar on my blog: that while I was in labor with Lydie, I kept telling myself, "This is the hardest thing you'll ever have to do. Just get through this. This is the hardest thing you'll ever have to do." And then I wrote, "Maybe that's not true. Maybe living the rest of my life without my daughter will be the hardest thing I have to do." I'm right there with you. And I am even getting treatment for my PTSD which I definitely have and I am sure you do as well. I hope we both look back on these times and think pregnancy after loss was hard as hell, but also the bravest - and most worthwhile - thing we have ever done. Here's hoping.

  2. This rings so true for me. I'm not pregnant again but wish to be in the future. But by far the hardest days have been after delivering asher. It's a constant mental battle.