Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Mama Project


Recently, I read about the mama project on Brooke's blog.  I hopped over to Jessica's blog to read more and before I knew what I was doing, I responded to her request for help...
 "i need the help of certain mama’s. mama’s that have lost babies. either due to miscarriage. birth defect. or, for other reasons, never came home from the hospital with a baby in their arms."
I know that I don't really feel a need to be honored in any way for having lost my second baby, but I do like the idea of someone honoring and acknowledging him.

I have written very little about losing my baby.  I find that just mentioning him often makes other people uncomfortable.  Goodness knows, I don't want to appear melodramatic about his loss, which is funny because I have been known to be dramatic a time or two in my life {smile}, and after all, in our society it seems you are supposed to simply "get over things" and move on...especially things that are uncomfortable.

In participating in the mama project, Jessica asked that we be open to discussing our experience, which got me to thinking, what would I say?   I don't have a long, amazing story like Brooke, but what do I remember?  What was important? What would I share?  I have written out memories and "birth stories" for my healthy babies, but I have never written about when my second baby was born, because he wasn't really born, was he?  So here is my birth story of sorts, for baby Mann 2, who I wanted to name Luke...

I lost my baby at 13 weeks.  That doesn't seem like a long time, considering a full term pregnancy is typically 38-40 weeks. But, have you ever seen an image of a 13 week fetus?  It is not just a bunch of tissue.  It is a baby.
13 week fetus photo from here

Most miscarriages occur during the first trimester.  When you reach week 13, you typically feel a little safer, having made it to the end of that fragile time.  I remember breathing a sigh of relief when I reached that milestone.

Being busy with my first child, I had not taken the time to photograph myself pregnant. This is the only photo I have of my baby bump.  It was captured by accident, reflected in the mirror when I was taking a picture of B in the tub.

Just days after this photo was taken, I felt something "pop".  When it happened, I was immediately alarmed.  I tried to ignore it and  explain it away as a muscle spasm from stretching. A few days later, though, the spotting began.  I called the doctor, knowing they would tell me it was probably nothing to worry about, but to come on in - and they did - but I was worried.  I knew something was wrong.  For some strange reason, I told my husband that I was fine and I went to the appointment alone.

As I had feared, the nurse was unable to find the heart beat with the doppler. Although she was very calm, I could tell she was concerned.  She explained that sometimes babies get positioned in a way that the heartbeat can be undetectable, and then moved me to the ultrasound room.  I felt sick.  I knew it was bad.

The doctor came in and began the ultrasound, and found the most gentle and kind way to tell me that there was no heartbeat and the baby was no longer growing.  She did not use the word "dead" but all I could think in my head was that my baby was dead.  He was dead. Inside of me.  I sat there in a fog and took in all of the information my doctor gave me in regards to my options.  She encouraged me not to make a decision yet, but to talk it over with my husband and call her in a day or so.  

Before I left, she looked at me very sweetly and said, "It's okay to cry."  I had not cried at all. Even though I had suspected something was wrong prior to the appointment, I think I was in some weird state of shock.  I had not shed one tear.  I told her I was okay, that in fact I was totally fine, and made my way out of the office and into the stairwell...which is where I finally lost it.  I still remember the sound of my hysterical crying echoing through that lonely corridor.

The next day, I decided to schedule a d&c.  The doctor had warned that I could spontaneously deliver the baby naturally at any time, but since I had a 9 month old baby to care for, and since I had to work, I decided it would be better to go ahead and take control of the timing of the situation.  

A number of things really disturbed me about the procedure.  For one, they made me sign several forms of consent for treatment of a "missed abortion".  Why those words?  I had no idea, and I could hardly sign my name under them.  I wanted to scratch them out and write, "natural death of precious baby".  

Another thing that bothered me was that my baby would just be gone.  Gone where?  To the incinerator? To a solid waste disposal?  I didn't know.  I wasn't sure.  But I was bothered.  I wanted to bury him or something, but I was afraid I would seem crazy if I mentioned it and they would tell me how it wasn't the thing to do. I decided I just didn't want to know.  I have never said anything about this out loud until now, but I am still bothered to this day about it. Really bothered.

Probably the hardest thing about having the d&c was coming home.  When you have a d&c, you come home with much of the same physical symptoms you have after a normal childbirth.  Without being totally graphic, you have blood loss and cramping as your uterus contracts back down to normal size.  You also have that same "empty inside" feeling you have after giving birth, but in this case you don't have a wonderful newborn baby with which to fill that emptiness.  Many people told me, "At least you have another baby," and while it was wonderful to have my first son there with me, I still grieved for the baby I had just lost. I could hardly get off the couch.  I had no energy.  I had no enthusiasm for my favorite holiday (which I wrote about here), and I didn't even put on makeup for pictures...nor did I care.  I truly felt like the physical weight of the world was on my shoulders.

My doctor told me that she saw nothing wrong with me or the baby, when she examined him after delivery.  She said she saw no reason as to why I couldn't have another child. I also had many well meaning friends who told me things like, "You're young, you can have another baby."  Now, I know no one really knows what to say at these times, and while I was truly not upset with anybody,  I often felt the urge to SCREAM, "That's fine and great, but WHAT ABOUT THIS BABY? I WANTED THIS BABY!"  

It was also during this time that I suddenly found out that almost everyone in the world (it seemed) had endured a miscarriage or miscarriages, because they told me about it.  In great detail.  Which was somewhat comforting in the comradery, but also very scary.  I remember thinking, "My God, if it is so common, what if it happens again?!"

In talking with so many people who suffered miscarriages, I found that everyone seemed to handle it differently.  For me, one of the hardest things was that there was no closure.  In other circumstances, when you have a death, there is usually a funeral and a degree of formality to mark the event.  With a miscarriage, there is nothing.  You come home, and go about your business with nothing ceremonial or special.  

I struggled with the feelings of wanting to do something.  It was out of those emotions that I began feverishly working on a simple, small scrapbook.  I took every little shred of evidence that I had from my baby's brief existence and arranged it all in a book.  I included my initial ultrasound photos, cards, emails, and even photographs of flowers people sent to me.  It took me a couple of days to complete it, but it was very cathartic and like a labor of love.   I almost couldn't rest until it was finished.  
In the end, there wasn't much to it, but it was something.  It was something I could hold and touch and look back through to know that my baby had existed.
I remember wanting to show it to people.  I don't know why.  Again, I didn't want to seem melodramatic, but I wanted to share his little life in some way.  I remember having the scrapbook with me at work and just hoping somebody would notice it and ask what it was and hopefully take a peek inside.  I still pull it off the shelf from time to time and look through pages and wonder what might have been.
In addition to the scrapbook, I have a crystal Christmas ornament (mentioned here). My aunt gave it to me to hang on our Christmas tree in memory of my baby.  I love watching it sparkle in the lights from the top of the tree each year.
After the miscarriage, I waited 3 months before I tried to get pregnant again.  During this time, I kinda let myself go.  I wasn't motivated to workout or focus on good health as I had been prior to and during my pregnancy with  Brodie and with my second baby.  With Brodie, I had maintained a regular exercise routine up until the day I went in labor.  I was cleared by the doctor 2 weeks after his delivery to return to my workouts.  It was when he was only 6 months old, that I became pregnant with my second baby.  I was still in good shape overall, and never dreamed anything would go wrong.  But it did, and after that I sort of lost my way for a while.  I suffered in silence, mostly because I wanted everyone to think I was okay.

After the 3 months post d&c passed, I remember feeling quite determined and nervous to see if I would become pregnant again, and if all would go well.  Fortunately, God blessed me with another pregnancy right away, and today I have Blayd, who is now 3, the same age my second baby would have been had he survived.  Sometimes I think I am the only one who remembers him.  

While I am ever so thankful for the 2 boys I have here with me on earth, I do wonder about my second baby, my little Luke, who I think must have been born into heaven and who is today cared for by my Bigmama and the angels and who plays at Jesus' feet...at least that is the way I like to imagine it.  

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

5 comments:

  1. Oh Kerri...not sure I was ready to read this post this morning. I'm sorry for your loss. I could insert 10 weeks in your post for 13 weeks...and this could be my story. Everything...right down to signing under that line that said missed abortion....not very happy about that. I was told that I asked hundreds of times while still under if it was a boy or girl. They told me they could not tell?? Nobody in my family ever mentions what happened....like it's forgotten. Thanks for this post...I'm not sure I would be able to put my words down on paper to participate in this project. Good for you for having the courage to do so.
    Big hugs~ Kerri

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  2. What a sweet post. I think it's awesome to remember that baby & honor him in whatever way you want. I've known so many people that have gone through a miscarraige & I never know what to say besides I'm sorry. While I've never had a miscarriage I understand what you mean about wishing someone would've asked about your scrapbook or looked at it. I suffer with infertility & I finally started telling people because of the constant "when are y'all going to have a baby?" questions. While I never wanted anyone to feel sorry for me, it would be really nice for some of my family or close friends to just ask how I'm doing. Thanks for sharing little Luke with us.

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  3. Wow my friend. I'm so happy that you wrote about this, not happy about you losing a baby, but that you would share so honestly. I think you honour your baby up in heaven. Hugs.

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  4. This really touched me. Such a sad story but what a way to remember your baby by having a special scrapbook. Definitely not melodramatic.

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  5. I just read this - I was so overcome with grief. I also had the same experience at the same time in my 1st pregnancy. You never forget. Thank you for sharing this. You are an amazing woman. *Love*

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Kerri says:

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts! I LOVE reading your comments.

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