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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Blind Side.

Dear Josie,

The other day a girl I've known since middle school shared an (early) pregnancy announcement:  "To hell with the superstitions!  We're going to share our happy news!"

To me, a superstition implies some type of silliness.  An act or belief that holds little warrant or reason.  During every softball game I would jump over the white chalk lines before jogging to center field.  I never leave the volume level in my car on an even number and I've thrown salt over my right shoulder (or is it the left?) a time or two.   Is there a reason for doing these things?  Not really, but they make me feel better.

When I was pregnant with your little brother all of that left me.  I had learned how risky a pregnancy is, that losing a baby can happen (and does happen) after the coveted twelve week mark.  Despite the example commonly used by medical professionals, I knew that losing a baby in the third trimester is more likely to happen than being struck by lightening.  Unfortunately, much more likely.  (I googled it.  It's  way off.  That analogy actually makes no sense.  It's crazy.)

More importantly, I had learned just how much a body and a soul endures when a baby dies.  What it's like to give birth to death.  How it feels to place your child in the dirt on a sunny day.  I learned that superstitions don't really apply to pregnancy.  That all of the waiting and the jumping and the counting don't help, because they can save you from none of it.

Your little brother is eight months old.  This means he has been with us on the outside, exactly the amount of time I spent worrying that he was dead carrying him to term.

There are many things that still hold a punch in their reminders of my time with you.  New car smell.  Big Macs.  Orange Juice.  (I haven't had a glass of orange juice since you died.)  But there are also things that remind of me of the second most traumatic thing I have ever endured:  my subsequent pregnancy with your little brother. 

To say your death was freeing would be true, but it would also be misleading.  During my "rainbow" pregnancy I was free-er, in a sense.  I stopped knocking on wood and crossing my fingers and I even held a black cat during my 27th week.  But if I was free I was equal parts paralyzed. 

There were songs I heard over and over on the radio those months.  Songs that I didn't want to hear only there was some weird, subliminal, telepathic OCD thing that seemed to freeze my finger on the dial.

"Oh don't you dare look back, just keep your eyes on me."  and
"This is my heartbeat song and I'm gonna play it." or
"Cause baby, now we've got bad blood" and
"Give it to me I'm worth it."

To this day the smell of Aloe Vera makes me nauseous.  I used it during every Doppler check.  Three pumps every time and I would slather and glide and listen as long as I needed to hear.  Typically this would range from one minute to twenty, but there were outliers.  

There was the time I checked mid-lecture because he hadn't moved since lunch.  Pausing the power point and asking someone to watch my room while I hobbled to the faculty lounge.  There I sat and listened until it felt safe to leave.  And I wondered if anyone else felt cruelly teased when they heard that beautiful sound.  And I wondered if they could sense the relief when I returned,  pooling next to my description of  vestigial traits.  The fear was so immense then that it had to be palpable.  I still don't know how I was able to focus on anything else.

It seems strange to think about all of that now, as if it were some other lifetime because it feels that way.  When I rock him to sleep at night, or when he pulls himself across the living room rug.  As we sing to him on the crowded recliner it all seems so normal, as if he were always a guarantee.  

Once a month I make it a priority to remember.  I get out the colorful sticker with the white onesie behind, and I take a picture with your bear and I remember what we went through to be here.  You and me and him. 

But I also think of her.  The woman out there right now in her subsequent pregnancy.  In her respective, pregnancy- after- loss hell.  Maybe she's contemplating quitting Facebook.  Maybe she's mid-doppler or awaiting a scan.  I think of her racing heart and the sweat on her palms, how she's positive something bad is coming.  And because I can't tell her she is wrong, because no one can, I say something else out loud.  On purpose.  Into the air. 

I don't say that it's worth it times a million or that everything will be fine.  I don't use words like "statistically" or "probably" or "close".  I say what helped me when you died.   Words that still help today.  Words I hear whenever I look at him, as they diffuse from his chubby arms into mine.   Mother, don't stop. 

I see you and don't stop.



  1. That superstition comment annoys me sooooo much. People are so weird, thinking pregnancy is a sure thing, when some of us around them have experienced third trimester losses. I don't think I'll ever understand their certainty despite them KNOWING me. And I'm so glad you brought up the lightning strike analogy that I so HATE. Sending love to you today.

  2. It only occured to me that some people keep things quiet for the first trimester because of the chance of fetal abnormalities being detected at the 12w scan (well, here in the UK) and tough decisions. That it might be something you'd want to play out in private. I only understand this now having seen friends go through it, and hearing stories on the baby loss support forums.

    I feel like a fool going into all my pre-stillbirth scans with just excitement- no fear whatsoever that there might not be a healthy baby in there.

    It's just another fear I guess I'll have to deal with if/when the time comes. Oh to be naive again.

  3. During my post-loss pregnancy, I was a wreck. I had almost weekly ultrasounds (some for medical reasons, others for peace of mind). I'm so grateful to have had an understanding OB and a u/s tech who would let me text her and just come in if I was worried. I never told people I was pregnant, I just let them ask and we didn't share our news widely at all. And I always said "If we get to have this baby..."

    Anyway, all of that is to say that everything you wrote above I relate to. Thanks for sharing.