Tuesday, December 20, 2011
I hate the word.
Something about hearing it or seeing it makes my skin crawl. And like most things from that night back in September 2003, I completely understand why I feel that way and why I feel that way still...
When I was in that hospital (39 weeks pregnant) waiting to get my labor induced and they couldn't find heart tones on my babies, I thought nothing of it. I could feel kicks and by then I knew how cramped it probably was in there for my babies. I had had an ultrasound a few days earlier and all was well. Still, heart tones couldn't be found so that 'on-call doctor' (who changed my life in more ways than he'll ever know) brought in an ultra-sound machine.
He put it on my stomach and we all saw the picture.
I knew immediately what was wrong. That flicker from the heartbeat was gone. While I don't know if the magnitude of that picture set in at that precise moment, I do know that it registered with me... My baby is dead and has no heartbeat. He went to the other side of my stomach and same picture. Perhaps in a bit of a fog, or shock, or denial or perhaps all three~ What he said next is something I will NEVER forget. But it wasn't the message he was trying to communicate that struck me as much as his word choice.
"I am sorry, but it appears your fetuses are dead."
I did not hear his condolence or even the word "dead"~what I think screamed at me most was the word 'fetus,' and to this day I will never forget that feeling or that look on his face (or the faces of those I loved that were in that room).
I understand that as a doctor there are different stages in a child's development... embryo... fetus... but while I (as an educator and an early childhood educator at that) have had many classes about childhood development and those different stages, NOT ONCE in my pregnancy did I ever think I was having an embryo... or a fetus... Every time I looked at my stomach (even before the outside world could see) I knew that I was having a BABY!
There has been a lot of talk with the Duggars' recent announcement of her "miscarriage" (another word I hate) specifically regarding the pictures that were taken and the memorial (My thoughts on all that will probably come in another post soon). In one article that I read, an anonymous commenter was against the pictures and while she (or he) had other things that certainly shocked me, when I read 'fetus'... again my head went back to that night and that moment...
That damn word again...
That word that still manages to steal my breath.
That word that somehow means 'less than'.
"Less than" human.
"Less than" a child.
Had my son at six pounds 11 oz (the largest child I ever delivered) taken one little breath, he would have gone from being a fetus to a child and that makes me sick. To me he was more than that... more than some tissues and bone which to me is what I think of when I hear that dreaded word and even when my children were just little sparks inside of me, I knew then that they were bigger than that. They had purpose and they were "more than" anything I could ever imagine (and continue to be that... more than just a child even... to me... the mother...).
My "fetus" has taught me so much in this lifetime.
Perhaps he can teach you something too, "anonymous".
(Ah... exhale... I feel better now... Thanks for allowing me to pause for a moment~ and allowing me a little rant of sorts.)
Sunday, December 4, 2011
"I just can't help but think that you look up at your mantle and think, 'There should be one more stocking up there...'"
That is what she said to me.
It was my first week back to work after delivering the boys. I had decided to come back to teach one week before the holidays to 'ease' my way back to the 'normalcy' of life... My life teaching children... The truth was I no longer knew normalcy~ the normalcy I had known had changed~ shifted~ disappeared.
The comment was rude. It caught me off guard and it was said as I was surrounded by second graders getting ready to start a school day. To say that it made it impossible to focus on my job would have been an understatement and yet somehow I managed. I went through the motions. I survived. Somehow we all survive.
"Laura, you are so strong."
How many times I have heard that... but the truth is~ what choice did I have? In the end I woke up each day, I breathed out and I breathed in and that world that I had thought had stopped kept spinning while my life as I had known it had stopped.
But it was the 'holidays'
And there was one less stocking upon my mantle.
What she said hurt and at the same time it validated me too. She knew that I was hurting and the acknowledgement (albeit strange) was also a comfort. I did look at my mantle and think it looked amiss. I had dreamed for 39 weeks that Christmas would contain four stockings and yet there were three~ I had dreamed of seeing little babes dressed in matching jammies... but when I opened my eyes, I didn't. And that hurt.
It doesn't matter if you lost your baby on January 1st, or December 26th, that first Christmas without your baby cuts and it feels as if it was yesterday~ as if yesterday you held him in your arms, closed your eyes and kissed him goodbye~ or perhaps only kissed that dream~ that dream of that 'first Christmas'~ goodbye.
It doesn't matter if your baby lived years, months in your womb or was just a spark. It hurts. Christmas is a child's holiday... it doesn't matter it's roots or the 'reason for the season', it is the time where children's eyes are wide, and the whole world seems to slow and have a magical glow about it... and when it doesn't... it hurts.
The truth was he had no stocking, but to me he was all I could think about. The elephant in the room that nobody talked about. I needed something. But what? I didn't know. My husband and I were out shopping, determined to get up, breathe, live. We found an angel. It sparkled and was beautiful and reminded me of my sweet one who was amongst the real angels.
It's been 9 Christmases.
And still I look at that mantle and wonder....
And that angel and sigh...
Andrew has more ornaments than our living children and they came from you. My friends. People who saw an ornament with his name, and angel, a letter (A), a star. Friends who had no words but wanted to do something. And as my living children placed them upon the tree I remembered where I was when I opened those ornaments, what it meant to me as I saw them and how each one seemed to heal my broken heart~ pick up one piece and try to glue its jagged pieces back together.
This year as my children hung them on the tree they said, "This one is for Andrew... And this one is for my sister..." and I sat and thought how lovely that they remember... how sad that they have to know.
And so I pause and think and remember how hard that first Christmas was~ how I never dreamt I would ever survive it... and here I am 9 Christmases later. The world has kept spinning and still his angel is there, watching over it all... and somehow I did. We did it.
Survived it without him.
Thank you Andrew.
Thank you E.
Thank you to all who remembered and remember still...
Thinking of your angels this holiday season and thinking of YOU.
I know others are too~ I just pray they let you know
In their own way.
And though it will never heal your broken heart, I hope you can see it for what it is, a medicine. A caring. A community. An attempt.
To show you love.
But you're not alone.
You never have been...
You never will be...