Things have been hectic the last few years to say the least. Today we are resting at home. D1 has the croup and hasn’t been sleeping well so I declared it an unlimited screen time day.
Despite the lack of sleep, I’m feeling halfway decent so I decided to declutter. I’m going through some purses I don’t use very often, checking the pockets before donating them. And then I found my notes for questions to ask at my six week postpartum check-up.
Kind of gives me an insight into all of those “what if” questions I asked myself. Here other moms are doing meth and having healthy babies and I’m worried that swimming, commuting, or rolling to my right side while sleeping killed my baby.
I’ve been feeling the pressure slowly building. The old me would have shed a tear or two here and there in small mini releases. But I couldn’t cry. Again nothing dead baby bad was going on, so why cry.
This summer has been hard. Two school aged boys have different needs and interests than a baby/toddler girl. I’m just one person and I haven’t coped well, at all. I picked up more work and put the boys in more camp and we are doing better. But stillbirth was the reason for the age gap.
My neighbor had her baby, a third, a girl after two boys. I should be happy for her. I should go meet the baby, bring a present. I hide in my house instead, unable to share in their joy. I’m angry. I’m jealous. Because stillbirth.
My kids got their class assignments and no one in my neighborhood texted me to ask if my boys were in class with their kids. I finally text RGB mom and she tells me about the other neighbor kindergartners. They didn’t include me. I didn’t even know one of the kids existed. Probably because I was a recluse for years. You know, because stillbirth.
I know S3 isn’t here, he’s not coming back, and it’s royally unfair. But it’s effects ripple and ripple through my life. And I’m angry. It took so much from me any kids. And the tears, well, they finally came last night.
It’s a more than a little hard to admit to parenting burnout as a loss mom. I fought so hard to have my living kids and I should have one more. How can I be anything but grateful for every second with my little ones?
But I’m really feeling the burnout. I’m not sure if it’s parenting, or life in general. I had four babies in five years and had to mourn one of them. So I guess I have been through a lot. I got pregnant with my oldest about 7.5 years ago and I haven’t recovered physically or emotionally and let’s not even talk about spiritually.
I’m still in therapy. I still take meds. I think I’ll be doing this for the rest of my life. I have anxiety beyond normal mom anxiety. I think of all the ways my family members can die. I have a career too that I pretend I’m good at and I’m in the exploratory phase of a startup. I’m pooped.
I snap at my kids too much, raise my voice too much. I’m not sure if my problems are anything a week on a deserted island could fix. My therapist recommends I get a nanny but my husband is resistant because I’m only working 1.5 days at my regular job and pick up temp work when I can. I’m actually trying to pick up more temp days so I can better plead my case for help with the kids.
D1 wakes up at 5:30 every day. I quickly go from relief that she’s alive to dread or having to pry myself from the covers. We are very tired.
How does one let the stress of parenting and the extreme gratitude for parenting co-exist? I feel guilt that I don’t cherish every moment.
Has anyone seen the movie Sliding Doors? I was obsessed with it in high school. I rewatched it a bunch of times (along with classics like 10 Things I Hate About You, Dumb and Dumber, and Hope Floats).
In Sliding Doors *spoiler alert* Gwyneth Paltrow plays out two potential life stories – one in which she makes it onto a train and ends up catching her boyfriend cheating on her, and another where she misses the train, gets home after the boyfriend is done sleeping with another woman and they carry on their relationship.
I’m coming up on the three year anniversary of S3’s birth/death and like the previous years have already started replaying the events of the week leading up to finding out he had died. And like the previous years, I think of moments where perhaps I felt like something was off and I should have rushed to the hospital but didn’t. What if I had had my sliding doors moment? What if he had lived? What if I could have saved his life? What would life look like with a three year old boy running around our home?
But what if I had made it in time to save his life but not his quality of life? What would our life look like had he lived but with severe brain damage? And if I’m being totally honest, I’d rather have my life play out like it did rather than have him unable to communicate, unable to eat, etc. Which is probably a totally taboo thing to say in the baby loss community. But I think about how D1 wouldn’t have been born because I’m sure the stress of caring for S3 would have made a fourth child ill-advised. And I love D1! And I think about how caring for a child with severe handicaps would have diverted so much of our resources from S1 and S2. And I want them to thrive!
I’m not sure where that sliding doors moment would have been in the days leading up to his death that would have made it possible for me to
- Notice something was wrong
- Drive to the hospital
- Get the doctors to notice something was wrong
- Get a C-section
- Have S3 still be okay
I was terrified that I’d need to do this in my pregnancy with D1. I kick counted and used my home doppler constantly. Toward the end of pregnancy I limited my activities to within 30 minutes of the hospital. I went to the L&D department because I was nervous at least once weekly in the month before delivery. It was a burden to feel like I needed to react in time to save her life at the drop of a hat. I was going to get on that baby in distress train this time if needed.
I used to ask MFM during her pregnancy how I could have prevented S3’s death so I could know what I could do this time around. And they usually told me that really there was likely nothing that I could have done. That it seems like whatever it was that killed him killed him quickly. And sometimes this feels satisfying and helps alleviate my guilt. But sometimes I’ll read some online story that goes like I felt less movement, rushed to the hospital, they got my baby out and all is well. And then I rewatch the movie of my life, looking again for a door that I should have opened.
True story. So I went to visit my in-laws for Easter and I had to put on my big girl panties and meet my nephew who was born about four months after S3. And I was surprisingly okay with it. He just didn’t seem like he could be my kid. His personality was very different from the personalities of my living children. He stood near D1 a bunch since she was the closest to his age and I managed to briefly hold the image of S3 and D1 co-existing in my mind without letting it break me.
Toward the end of the party my brother in law fired up this trivia app and broadcast a family trivia game he had made to the TV set and we could use our smartphones to give our answers. Neato. The first question was literally “who in the family is pregnant?” and thus, I found out that I have yet another pregnant sister-in-law. And I had written her off as done having kids. Like her oldest is going to college in the fall. Like be done already lady.
Then last week I had a professional meeting in the evening and a colleague that I’m friends with was hosting it. I was the first to arrive so she confessed to me that she is pregnant with her third. She then asked if I ever took meds for morning sickness and I told her I took zofran with S1, S2, and S3 but I didn’t with D1 because S3 was stillborn and I was too terrified. Nothing like reminding an optimistic pregnant lady that stillbirth can just sneak in at the tail end of pregnancy to help solidify a friendship.
Then the speaker for the event walked in and she was visibly pregnant. With her third. And her fourth. Twins. Fuck…I could do a whole rant about twins. Then I got to hear each person walk in and congratulate her. Fuuuuuck.
I swear I’m just going to make friends with post-menopausal women from here on. Pregnancy still pisses me off and scares me. And pregnant women are so smug. I hate it all.
Like many who experience a sudden traumatic experience, I wondered if I’d ever feel normal again. I turned to Google looking for answers and saw repeatedly…
You will find a new normal.
So I waited and waited for the new normal to arrive and at 2 years 10 months post stillbirth I can, with trepidation, say that I’m there. I miss S3 all day every day but I’m kind of used to it now. I’ve accepted that I’m not special enough to get to live a trauma-free life and I’m gradually becoming more okay with typical grief-free people.
When S3 died I was still working at making friends in a new city far from family. I have a girl group that meets monthly and I have a loss mom friend (#1LMF) who has become like a sister to me. But most of my girl group live 30-40 minutes away and #1LMF is always putting out some fire in her life so I don’t really have anyone that can support me when I need help. I have been struggling with having someone in the family having some illness since before Christmas. I’m covering for my boss’s vacation at work and child care keeps of having closures (over a week off for Easter and then closed for a rummage sale at the Church that hosts it). I have no back up, no village.
So just as I did when I was wondering when I’d feel normal again, I turned to Google. Most of the advice for people in my situation is to make friends. I figured okay let’s do this the modern way and I downloaded the mom friend app Peanut.
Peanut is like Tinder except you swipe up/down. And about three profiles in I remembered why I quit trying to make mom friends. Everyone either had a 2 year old, 3 year old, or baby boy. I don’t really need to make friends with a trigger family. I don’t want to have to talk about how many kids I have. I had the bravery to fill out my profile which asked for ages and genders of children (ugh I hate these questions) but not enough to see an endless stream of moms whose babies didn’t die.
So I may have found a new normal but my new normal still isn’t normal, not by a long shot.
After S3 died, I cried and cried and cried. Multiple times, all day and all night. Definitely everyday the first six months, then about half of the days until his first birthday. Then it decreased to once a week, to once a month, and by the time of his second birthday my eyes went dry.
I think I cried all of the tears. I think I kind of broke them because about a month ago I was diagnosed with dry eye.
Now I’m almost physically incapable of crying. Triggers that previously would have resulted in tears now *just* produce a flight-or-fight response. Oh someone is pregnant? Let’s get that heart rate up to 100, get clammy, and nearly faint.
But I have had things happen to me that the old me would have definitely cried over. On one hand I’m grateful for the perspective, like, this isn’t dead baby bad so I don’t need to cry over it. But recently I’m starting to miss the release of crying, the catharsis. I have been denying myself that for so long.
So we have had at lease one sick family member since before Christmas. S1 needs me to advocate for him better with his teachers. He just had flu and pneumonia last week. S2 is going through all sorts of minor medical treatments. D1 has four molars coming in and still (STILL!!!) isn’t sleeping through the night at 18 months. DH still takes the kids to church every week without me and I’m about to visit my very religious in-laws who only recently learned I don’t go to church anymore. My hair turned out bad again (AGAIN!!!) and I don’t have anyone to watch the kids so I can get it fixed.
Again, individually none of these are as bad as S3 dying so I push down any feelings of being upset from the hardships I still experience. But I’d love to have a nice deep hearty sob.