Today was my first weekly appointment to check the baby’s heartbeat. Although the baby was very active around 5am, I lived most of my day in fear that there’d be no heartbeat by the afternoon. I was surprised that the nurse brought us into an exam room that had an ultrasound machine instead of just the small Doppler to listen for the heartbeat. And, I’ll be honest, I wondered how much I was going to end up paying for all these ultrasounds.
The practice I go to has 3 OBs, all of whom I’d met when I was pregnant with Evan and June. This was my first visit with Dr. L for this pregnancy, so he wanted to take a look at some of the things mentioned in the reports by the sonographers. Apparently they’ve been concerned about the possibility of me having placenta previa – a fact I’m sure I’ve been told, and I filed away under “Less of a big deal than losing my baby.” Dr. L showed me that it looks close, but shouldn’t be a problem. And then we got to see the baby’s beautifully beating heart. It was a huge relief and definitely worth whatever the ultrasound costs.
I guess the OB wanted to make sure we fully understood the diagnosis we’d been given, so we got to hear for third time that the baby has no chance of survival. But he also explained that the baby will, more likely than not, be born alive, and despite being unable to breathe will continue to live for about an hour.
Nothing has been on my mind so much as whether or not the baby would live for at least a few minutes. I have almost no control over this whole experience, and it’s become important to me that I get to hold the baby before he or she dies. I want it desperately. Dr. L’s comments have given me hope that I will cling to as tightly as I can.
With everything that has happened in the last two weeks, we thought a bit of a lighter post would be good for us and everybody else. This week, Evan talks about dinosaurs.
When my neighbor’s sister went into labor at 23 weeks a year and a half ago, I was heartbroken for her. The baby lived only a few hours. I wrote about not knowing what I could possibly do to help. What was there to say? What comfort could I give? With my limited funds, what could I give her that would show how sorry I was for her loss?
I’m glad now that I wrote about that experience, because it helps me understand how you guys might be feeling. I feel bad that anyone else is sad – it seems bad enough that Jarom and I are going through this; I don’t want friends and family to have a hard time too! Looking back on that experience, though, reminds me that we “mourn with those that mourn.” It’s part of being human. We do feel sorrow when misfortunes befall those we love.
One of the things I’ve heard people say most is, “I wish I knew what to say.” Unfortunately, aside from changing the facts of the situation, there isn’t really anything you can say that will make things better. A lot of the time I don’t even know what to say. But, because I’m a generous and magnanimous person, I’ve compiled a list of things that make me feel better – both things you can say and things you can do. Obviously, the sentiment behind these has to be real, because otherwise it isn’t actually meaningful.
Things I like hearing
- I’m sorry you’re going through this.
- I’m heartbroken with you.
- I went through this (which, if it is the case, I’m so sorry that you understand) / I know someone who did. (I’d rather not hear “I knew someone whose baby was really sick but lived” because . . . well, just because.)
- I’m bringing you dinner / taking your kids / sending you a note in the mail.
- I’m thinking of you.
- What can I do to help?
It’s hard not to want to do something concrete. I’ve had lots of general offers of help, but often I can’t think of something specific on the spot or I’m just too unwilling to actually ask for help. Some of these things can only be done if you live nearby, but others are good even long-distance.
Things you can do
- Bring a meal, especially one I can put in the freezer.
- Take my kids away for a while.
- Bring or send a game or project I can do with the kids. Playing with them helps me A LOT.
- Mail a note. Knowing that people are thinking of me makes me feel loved.
- If you want, pray for us.
- Come keep me company while I do housework – I really struggle when I don’t have a grownup around to talk to – or even do the housework yourself. (I hope I don’t sound selfish or demanding; it’s just harder to keep up with housework lately.)
- Send a package. I have an Amazon list, which is probably legitimately selfish to link to, and I’ve been thinking it would be nice to have some nicer toiletries to take with me to the hospital. Body wash? Shampoo? Lotion? (Not long before I had Evan, my sister-in-law gave me some amazing body wash from Victoria’s Secret. I saved it to take to the hospital and I always remember feeling pampered by the luxurious soap.)
- Email, Facebook, comment on the blog, or text to see how I’m doing. There are times when I really need to know that someone is thinking of me.
- If you know someone who’s lost a baby, ask if they’d be willing to talk to me. In the end I doubt there’s much I can do to truly prepare, but it might be helpful for me to connect with other parents who have an idea what I’m going through and who can share their experience.
- Babysit in the evening so Jarom and I can go out. Spending more time together helps us feel better, as does trying to have fun and enjoy ourselves.
- Stop by to say hi.
- Ask any questions you have. Talking about it is good for me.
What do you think? Do you have other ideas of what friends and family can do?