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?
Since this weekend I’ve spoken with a funeral director, a nurse in labor & delivery, the person in charge of the local cemeteries, a photographer, and the owner of a nearby monument company. I didn’t cry or feel distraught during any of the conversations; I took careful notes, evaluated my options, and tried to start planning for the coming month.
I’m worried that I’m distracting and distancing myself too much. I feel less of a connection to the baby when I’m already looking into funeral arrangements. Would it be better or worse to drown myself in grief? Is it normal to be grieving when I haven’t lost the baby yet?
I want to have a normal day when I don’t think about this at all. There were times before when I even forgot I was pregnant; being absorbed in Evan and June, in getting stuff ready for my shop, in the mundane demands of life kept me busy, and I didn’t dwell on my pregnancy much. Now it seems like it’s Everything. When I play with Evan and June, I’m grateful they’re alive and healthy. When Evan gets fussy, I try extra hard to be patient with him because he’s the only son I’ll ever raise. When Jarom is at work, I miss him because he’s going through this with me. And when I try picking an Easter dress out for June, I can’t handle seeing the newborn clothes nearby and knowing I won’t need to buy any.
I don’t know how to find a balance between living everyday life and allowing myself to be heartbroken.
Can we all agree to never again have a week so eventful, life-changing, and exhausting as last week?
On Saturday I woke up feeling . . . normal. Not overwhelmed. I’ve still had moments of sadness – it was hard seeing a cute baby at church yesterday and knowing I won’t get to use June’s baby clothes again. But I’ve mostly felt at peace. I want to use this experience to make me a better person: more patient, more loving, more compassionate, more thoughtful.
Jarom and I talked yesterday afternoon and decided to induce labor on April 24. It gives us a month to prepare ourselves and make arrangements. I spoke with the funeral director of a local mortuary this morning and he said they provide they services free of charge for situations like this, and we’d just need to cover the cost of the casket. I was surprised at how easily I was able to ask questions and think through what I’d need to do for a service. It’s nice to at least have a little while where I can function before I go to the hospital.
I’ve also been contemplating how I can reach out to other parents who’ve lost their babies. One thing that has surprised me is how many people I know who lost a baby or are close to someone who did. I want to make a hand-lettered watercolor piece I can put on the wall to remember this baby, and I’d like to do the same for other parents who’ve gone through this. I’d love to hear your thoughts or find out if you know someone who might appreciate a similar piece.
I’m glad Jarom drove us to the doctor’s office this afternoon, because the closer we got, the more I wanted to turn around and go somewhere else. Anywhere else. Instead we sat in the car for a minute when we got there, and I think opening the car door and getting out was one of the bravest things I’ve done in a long time.
As I said before, we made a list of questions to ask. It helped a lot, but the visit was still awful. Here are the questions and answers.
Have we understood correctly that there’s no chance the baby will survive?
Are there any health risks to me involved?
What are the chances of the baby being born alive at any given point, whether we decide to induce or wait it out?
No precise way to tell. By waiting, there’s a 35% chance the baby will die in utero.
Are there risks to inducing?
Not any more than with a regularly scheduled induction for a regular delivery.
Are there benefits of choosing one option over the other? [The specialist did tell me I had the third option of a D&X, but I’m not comfortable with it and am not considering it in my choices.]
This is personal choice. It depends on what we feel is best for us.
Can I choose to have a C-section?
Will I be in Labor & Delivery with the other expectant mothers?
Yes, but they put a red heart on the door and a note on the chart so all the staff knows what’s happening. There will be a lot of sympathy and sensitivity. [At this point I started crying and handed the list of questions over to Jarom.]
Could I deliver at Mountain View [the hospital where I had Evan and June]?
When do we need to make a decision about what to do?
There’s no rush. The only exception would be if the baby does die in utero, in which case my body won’t know for a few weeks until the fetus starts to decay. For that reason it’s recommended that I have a weekly visit to check for a heartbeat.
Would we do a funeral?
Personal choice. There’s no obligation one way or the other.
What happens to the baby if we decide not to have a funeral?
The hospital will dispose of the body. [I’m absolutely not ok with this, so I’ll have to start figuring out funeral costs and planning. Also not fun.]
How long will I be in the hospital?
I can leave as soon as I feel ready. [I cried again at the thought of leaving the hospital without a baby.]
What will my physical recovery be like?
Slightly faster and easier than a full-term delivery.
How long will I need to wait until I can get an IUD? [The OB gave me an odd look, so I explained that we had already planned for this to be our last baby and it felt right to us to be done.]
Probably about 4 weeks.
What happens if the baby dies in utero?
They should be able to catch it at my weekly visit, and then I’ll be induced sometime in the near future after that.
If the baby is born alive, will we fill out a birth certificate? What do we need to fill out if the baby is stillborn?
The OB wasn’t quite sure about this but said the hospital would know about the paperwork.
Will the medical staff at the hospital be aware of the situation?
[This got answered earlier.]
Do I still have to do the glucose test? [I thought of this as we were going into the exam room because I saw a pack of the drinks on the table. It was a trivial concern, but I figured I might as well ask.]
No, they won’t make me do that.
Those were all the questions on my list. Then I threw one into the air and made the entire visit a million times worse.
Will we get to hold the baby?
Yes, of course. The OB said he encourages parents to hold their baby because it will be better than always imagining the worst. But it was heartbreaking to think of.
Tomorrow Evan is going to a friend’s birthday party and then I’m taking the kids to an Easter egg hunt. Somehow I have to clean the kitchen and at least the living room, and bake cakes for Jarom’s party on Sunday. It will be a busy day – which I hope will keep me distracted. I’m so worn out after this week.
I feel full of unanswered and unanswerable questions.
Is it ok if I feel awful?
Is it ok if sometimes I feel normal and then suddenly, for no specific reason, I feel awful again?
Is it ok if I’m scared of what happens next?
Is it ok if I try not to think about it sometimes?
Is it ok if I want to think about it and cry sometimes?
How do I keep this from overtaking my efforts to be a good mother for Evan and June?
How can I use this experience to help me be a better, more loving person?
How do I deal with this?
Yesterday Jarom stayed home from work. We didn’t really do much all day. I woke up around 5:30 when June needed something, and when I came back to bed I sobbed for an hour or two. Eventually I fell back asleep and Jarom got up with June the next time she woke up. In the afternoon we all went on a walk, and spent a while outside. I chilled in the swing with June; she fell asleep on my lap. I only had a few moments where I was overwhelmed – for some reason, seeing myself in the mirror sets me off. But I went to bed early. Jarom and I started listing 3 things we’re grateful for at bedtime. On my list yesterday: (1) I have Jarom. (2) My buddy Megan brought us dinner and Drumsticks for dessert. (3) We didn’t have to sit through all of Jack the Giant Slayer. We’d gone to see it Tuesday night to distract ourselves – it was the next movie playing when we got to the theater – and it was so bad, we ended up leaving. I literally preferred to go talk about the impending death of my baby than finish watching that movie.
Today Jarom went back to work. This morning the kids went over to a friend’s house – I was shocked beyond words that Evan went willingly, since he wants to stay at home even when I ask if he’d like to go out for ice cream – and my friend Bridget came over with donuts. I’m glad she did, because I learned that being alone isn’t good for me right now. Bridget and I went to an antique store for a while, but once I got home I broke down again. Jarom was able to leave work (it’s nice that he works for a small company and they’re very understanding), and we ended up going back to the antique store together. They had a big box of Legos and a Lego table we bought for Evan as a surprise for when he got home.
By the way, before this all happened, we’d explained to Evan that if we had a baby girl, he’d have to trade rooms with June so we could put the two girls together in the bigger bedroom. He was actually excited about the idea of moving into June’s smaller room and asked frequently if we could go ahead and move their stuff. The plan was to wait until we knew if the baby was a boy or girl and then, if needed, trade rooms; since we still don’t know the gender and it sadly isn’t relevant to the bedroom setup anymore, I switched the kids’ beds yesterday. It gave me something to focus on. Today while the kids were gone Jarom and I finished cleaning their rooms and moving the toys and clothes around. When Evan came home and saw the Legos and the table, he was thrilled. It was definitely worth the money and the effort to get it set up for him.
This evening one of the girls in our neighborhood came to babysit for a few hours. I asked her on Sunday if she could come over, so after the stress of Monday and Tuesday I debated cancelling. (Honestly, it was mainly because our house is such a disaster right now. It’s embarrassing. But I sort of have an excuse . . . right?) Jarom and I didn’t have any specific plans, so we made up a date as we went along. Pro tip: Spanish Fork basically closes at 6pm. Don’t bother trying to browse downtown later than that. The only places open were a pet store and an international market. After the disappointing Spanish Fork scene, we spent a while in Barnes & Noble, where, by the way, they are currently selling adorable donut pillows. Just in case you feel like you should send me a little something to cheer me up. We had hot chocolate and cheesecake in the cafe and then used a Best Buy giftcard to get Toy Story 3. Right now I really feel like spoiling Evan and June a little . . .
Tomorrow I’ll take the kids to a neighbor’s house in the morning – their kids are the same ages as mine, so they have a lot of fun together. Then breakfast with a friend and an hour or two to myself. We’ll see how that goes. Jarom needs to renew his driver’s license before it expires on Monday (it’s his birthday!!!), so he’ll take care of that before we meet with the OB at 4. We sat down this afternoon to make a list of questions to ask. Every single thing on the list was awful. I don’t want to need to ask any of them. I was doing ok with the list until I got to “When I have the baby, will I be in Labor & Delivery with all the other expectant moms?” The thought was too much. I’m scared of everything about that day, but especially of being surrounded by so many reminders of what I’m losing.