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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pregnancy After Stillbirth: It's Complicated

Greetings, KuKd/TTC Mommy-os, Daddy-os and Inquisitive Guests!

Wouldn't ya know: it's complicated.

Just to recap: this past Monday, Dr. C pulled her chair up really close to mine so that she and Kevin and I were sitting in a tight little pow-wow triangle, as though we were about to sing the kumbaya song. She held our 32-week fetus' ultrasound pictures in the air and said - looking mostly at me - "you're having a normal pregnancy, and I don't anticipate any problems."

She seemed solemn with her brows furrowed, like she was willing me to believe her - probably because of the utterly flippant, dismissive, shoulder-shrugging attitude I've had about this whole thing since I saw the pink plus-sign last July. I could hardly even handle her intense eye contact, at times fighting the urge to stare down at my feet. I told her it was easier - if not more fun altogether - to act like my inner KuKd-goth-tatooed self than to be brave and dorky enough to embrace this pregnancy, to believe. She nodded like she got it and asked if I was happy now.

Are ya happy now? (insert loud Italian New-Yorker grandmother voice) Ya got whatcha wawnted! No mowa complainin' outta yous! Now quit-cha cryin' and go eatcha meatballs!

I could've responded with my usual muted cynicism: well, I will be when the baby actually gets here. If he gets here!

But that gets old after a while. I feel like people get tired of cynicism when it's tossed out too liberally, unthinkingly - when it becomes your entire mode of operation, as it's become mine these past few years. So I indulged Dr. C with a big fat YEAH! THIS IS AWESOME NEWS! She seemed relieved.

Admittedly, I smiled my way through the rest of the day and the day after that, feeling light and airy with a prance in my step. I was happy! How could I not be? Buoyed by this newly resounding assurance of a baby on the way. Even Kevin - earthy, serious, quiet Kevin - seemed lighter all of a sudden, and later I saw that he'd bookmarked a website for car seats. Always thinking ahead, that man. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't still happy, relieved.

But it's not all straight-up candy-colored joy, oddly enough. That's what I'm sayin': it's complicated. Pregnancy after loss, that is.


Today and yesterday, after getting over my honeymoon-period of relief, I started feeling oddly as though a wide hole had been ripped open inside my soul by Dr. C's calm proclamation of normalcy, this vague weight of something pressing down on my heart. Anxiety? Depression? Sadness? Some mix of all of those things?

I sort of likened it to more to homesickness, the dreadful sort that I used to get at summercamp, like this feeling of missing something, maybe losing something and grasping to get it back. When I didn't gush about Obama's wonderfulness with characteristic enthusiasm after his State of the Union speech last night, Kevin asked what was wrong.

"I dunno," I said. "I don't know what to do with all this...normalcy. What am I supposed to brood about now?"

He chuckled - we both did. It's been a broody three years of KuKd, and to be told with such certainty, such eye contact - BY A REAL DOCTOR - that "this is a normal pregnancy," well, it takes away my "brooding cloak" so it's just out of reach. I've been wearing that screw-you-and-screw-babies attitude like a big bulky sweater since way back when. July 2006, to be exact. I started feeling naked without it, like letting go of an old friend.

But there's more slipping through my fingers like dry sand, and I'm finding myself this week trying to hold onto it: that KuKd identity and experience that have become so engrained in me these past few years. It's whole invisible universe - that blog-o-world and real-o-world of men and women who have been there before. I'm familiar with it. I enjoy it here. It's like a big secret club for cool kids. I've liked being in this world, even though my reason for being here was so god-awful, as all of our reasons are. It's not that easy to just let go like that, leaping out of one world, one whole identity, and into another: live-baby world.

See what I mean? Complicated.

The thing is, the very fact of being knocked up started pushing me out of this known, loved world a long time ago. I was oblivious to this fact until I received the brutally honest e-mail on this post:

"Now you're pregnant, and I feel so fucking alone. I've lost my misery mentor."

I've thought about that ever since. It troubles me, disturbs me, and makes me feel oddly alienated - like I'm in between worlds in this silent vacuum space. Just ask Kevin, who's heard me babble about it. It makes me want to grab onto the rich universe of baby loss that I know so damn well - of the brave KuKd mommas and daddas who live there, of books and blogs and support groups, of hospitals and tubes and machines and coffins, of ashes and pictures and candles, of poems and flowers and treasured locks of baby hair, of little black footprints on parchment paper, of boxes of Kleenex ever-present at the bedside, of Empty Cradle, Broken Heart sitting dog-eared on the bookshelf, of coveted photographs of little dead babies representing the children we all imagined they would become.

Just grab onto that world with both hands like a golfball-sized globe, and keep it in my pocket forever.

That's what's on my mind this week: how to do that, even as another little globe - a pastel-colored universe of new mommyhood- comes hurtling at me while I stand here blinded like a deer in headlights.


Hope's Mama said...

Complicated. That's exactly it.
I very much get this post.

Anabelle said...

I don't comment much.. because i've never had to deal with what you've been through and I don't feel as though I should even be reading.. like i'm intruding into the wrong "golfball" universe, when i'm happily dancing around on that pastel covered golf ball without a care in the world.

I know its complicated... but I can't resist the urge to reach my hand across and pull you on over....

Jenn said...

Perfect defination, complicated. You want to be happy, and enjoy every min, but in the back of your brain, gnawing at your happiness, is the reminder of your loss.

Mendy said...

I like how Anabelle said that. Ditto.

Rachael Taylor said...

The emotions are complicated, but the reality is not. As depressing as this sounds, you and me and all of us will always be KUKD mommas no matter how many babies we have before or after our losses. The babies we have (or hope to have) will never and can never replace the babies we've lost. We will always be members of the club nobody wants to belong to because even though time helps to heal the wound of the loss, we will always carry the scar of the experience with us. We will always grieve for the little individuals we dared to love. I think that's why you still want to hold onto the KUKD golf-ball sized globe... Maybe because you don't want this new baby to replace the babies you've lost...and that's ok, it's ok to hold onto both globes. :)

Parenthood For Me said...

I understand what you are saying. I also do not have personal experience with loss but I can see why you feel stuck in between. You will get through this portion of the journey. It will make sense.

therootofallevel said...

i got my first "so you're getting back to the 'old' you" comment from a friend a few days ago and it made me laugh. HA, to think i'll E-V-E-R be able to 'go back' to the way i was before our loss. never. but i'm starting to see a rebirth of myself, a new me – with bits and pieces of my 'old self' sprinkled inside.

and that is where you are, will be, and continue to be, constantly changing, evolving. it's not like your loss will disappear when you pop out a screaming child, the part of you that is the poster child for the babyloss scene (that's my nickname for you) will ALWAYS be there.

as for me, i love reading your pregnancy after stillbirth stories and look forward even more to your life with an actual living baby after stillbirth stories. so you better hire a nanny now so you can have time to write, damnit.

your fan - julie

Sharon said...

Hey Mon
Its VERY complicated. I wrote a blog posting on a similar vein last week, about feeling lost, like I've lost my identity or I don't belong anymore. I have a baby now, but everything that made me infertile and KuKd is still there. The symptom is gone but not the problem. And if I'm honest, not everyone in the KuKd and IF blogosphere have been warm and kind about my new mommy status. Its left me feeling isolated and very alone at times.
We just have to figure this out one day at a time. Perhaps start a new club, we can be the founders and have open arms for those we've left behind, when their time comes and they move on, we can be there to help them through to finding their new place in the world, to starting a new journey.
I dunno, its like you said, its complicated. I'm still very conflicted by all of it and my baby will be 7 weeks on Sunday. 7weeks of feeling lost, of feeling like a fake of feeling like I don't fit in or belong anymore. Very weird!

Lara said...

KUKD loose no sleep about not being in the club. Though there is nothing like the healing, light, and love of a live baby after KUKD quite regularly I visit the handful of blogs that have buoyed me and made me feel I wasn't the only leper but part of a Colony. You women that write are smart, wise, wounded, and wonderful-our children are our children no matter the time they spent with us on earth. Do you ever read happy sad moma-7 years out and three live babies later she is still very much a club member and writes about it beautifully. Can't wait until you are a member of both clubs.


Sonya said...

I keep typing a reply and erasing it. I don't know whether to apologise or just sit here and watch the damage unfold. I don't even know if it was damage or just me seeing further down the road than you at that particular moment. Loss has a way of stripping that lovely haze away. The thing is.. I don't know what the thing is.

The thing is, you reach out and touch people and that's not a hallmark, cliche kind of remark. You pour yourself out onto the screen and paint a picture that is as much a mirror than a self portrait. And it's comforting. It's comforting to look in that picture and see someone who yes, was my 'misery mentor' but also, really, you were SURVIVING the misery. I could look at you and know that you went through more pain, more anquish, and could still write, still bike through Ireland, still laugh, and yeah, still even get pregnant.

You did wrap yourself up in the identity of being the mother of a stillborn. You wrapped yourself up and you presented yourself to all of us and we eagerly accepted the gift. Selfishly, perhaps, but eager nontheless. We tore open the paper and delighted in finding something we could identify with - who else in our own circle of friends and family could really understand. You became our best-friend-dead-baby-mama, and it was a great friendship.

It IS a great friendship. Relationships don't stay the same, and everyone, you included, have to accept that people change. Circumstance change, identities change. And although sometimes we want to keep things the same, they really are better off changing.

You really are better off letting go of this dead-baby-mama time of your life and we are better off letting you do it. Fuck, we better DELIGHT in your transformation, because not many women I know deserve it more than you. In fact, nobody I know deserves it more than you.

You don't have to go from dead-baby-mama to live-baby-mama... there's an inbetween. There's live-baby-who-knows-what-it's-like-to-have-her-heart-drug-out-through-her-throat-and-raked-over-hot-coals-and-glass-mama. You might not want to write that out every day, but you get the drift. We need that Monika. We need the woman who survived it and beat the living hell out of it and came out of it breathing, still married, still sane, still able to celebrate life, still able to be a fantastic mother, and still amazing, despite suffering immeasurable losses. We need that Monika, and so does your husband, your new child... and you can slap me for saying this, but I think it will honor your son by becoming more of a woman as a result of his death, instead of using that event to stay down here because a bunch of us relate to you.

I dread the possible onslaught of responses my letter might bring, but you know me, I live dangerously, and only hit 'send' when I think it's really important. Or I'm drunk. (and I haven't had a damn beer in three weeks)

angie said...

No matter how well-meaning the people who want to pull you over to their world, that simply isn't possible. You are both. You are going to be a native and stranger in two lands. You might feel alienated in both at times, or right at home others. There simply isn't a time when your parenting won't be seen through the lens of loss, or vice versa. I don't know if that is a bad thing. It simply is.

We, those of us in this liminal place between loss and new babies, form a new land of anxiety, experience-suppressed hope, grief, love...all of it. It is hard to translate this language for others. I read these comments and it isn't simply a shedding or changing of perspective. It is ingrained in who we are and how we engage with the world. This space will always be Planet Monica, and whatever emotions and experience you have will make it right. I do think our planets share an atmosphere, though, because I am totally breathing your words, sister. So true and important. And I'm not just saying that because I am 28 weeks pregnant after a 38 week stillbirth too. (Okay maybe I am)

After this baby is born healthy and breathing, there will be a new kind of grief that settles in, I think, and a new kind of experience to write about. Maybe you will lose people like the letter-writer, but you will gain others. It is the Tao of Blogging. XO

AnxiousMummyto3 said...

Hey Mon,
I loved when you came to my blog and said that you felt like you know me, even though we've only met in 'blog world.' That's exactly how I feel about you.
I hope I'm not assuming too much in saying this, but I believe that you will always exist in both worlds. You will always hold a special place in your heart for all of your lost babies, regardless of where your journey takes you in the future. Kukd is a life-changing experience, not necessarily for the better but it just happens. I understand how hard it can be to move on and actually *let* yourself be happy,t hell, it took me almost two years to get there, but I think it's time!! It will be an ongoing process and there will probably be many bittersweet moments when & after that little one inside of you arrives, but that is the way it's meant to be.
I will always read this blog....regardless of whether it changes or not. I think of you as a survivor and I think it's about time you got the happy ending.

chicklet said...

I hate to say it but it really does get worse when you have a real live baby...

Everybody oooooh's and aaaaah's like it's so magical while you shrug and think it's cool, but also think it's kicking your ass.

Everybody ooooh's and aaaaah's while you're so tired you feel like you now understand prison torture tactics.

And then one day you talk in silly voices, and make stupid faces, and many more embarrassing things to make your kid smile. And on that day you REALLY miss that brooding bitch cuz she's really long gone.Never completely, but quite a ways away.

KuKd Chick said...

Hmmm, where to start. So much great insight here that makes me feel like a (slightly) more normal and (slightly) less freakish human being.

Yes, all - I think one can exist in both worlds. Thanks for this reassurance on that front.

Sonya - you write awesome messages whether your drunk, sober, high, or "high on life." ((Hugs.)) Everything you say here makes perfect sense.

Desiree said...

Sonya said it so beautifully I have to say it again, even though you're smart and could just scroll up.

"We need the woman who survived it and beat the living hell out of it and came out of it breathing, still married, still sane, still able to celebrate life, still able to be a fantastic mother, and still amazing, despite suffering immeasurable losses."

You're our survivor Monica! You have to go to the other side, so you can show us how to do it, how to straddle the fence. You have to let go of the brooding because if you don't, how will we learn to? I mean, we all will probably eventually learn but you've shown us the way this far, there's no need to stop.

You've got two hands - hold on to both golf-balls. In your heart and mind though - you'll need your real hands to hold on to that baby. YOUR baby - your wonderful little boy who will be here in a few short weeks.

We who truly get you, who care about you and internet-love you will always get it.

You're a life-long member of the DBM club - you'll never be an un-member. But it's totally cool to go to the live-baby-momma side. And if you want to come back and see us and chat, we will take a deep breath, smile from our hearts that love you and ask you how your baby's doing. And mean it.

I will, at least.

Go to the pastel-colored happy place. Tell us how it is.

Ya Chun said...

There is a risk to allowing hope in again.

And I accept your journey. I think it is selfish to not allow you to walk your path, and support you in doing so - and right now your path is another pregnancy. Friends should honor and celebrate that. I know I did when I saw my fellow dbms getting pregnant - I hoped for them and it allows me to see that this whole thing might work out for me too.

aliza said...

i am with you in this liminal space as well monica. it is a complicated place to be. we hold so much here, our lost babes and our new ones growing inside.
i'm here with you....

also wanted to put out there that i'm planning to be in seattle feb.19, 20- maybe we can have a cup of tea if we are both up for it...

KuKd Chick said...

Aliza - I might be in Vancouver for the Olympics, but give me a shout-out - - I'd love to try to get together! -m

Just Breathe said...

Hi! I came over to visit you from Wellsphere. They have asked me to join them. I really don't think I have anything to offer like you do.
I am looking forward to reading your blog, I am very new to this community and I am learning as I go along. I have a blog called For Your Tears which I started at the end of June '09. I mail out handkerchiefs to women/mothers who have lost a baby/child. There is a story behind it. I have not lost a child but my heart is with the women who have. I am very small using my own resources. I'm not quite sure why they would want me.
I know that I should write back and ask them why. Thought that maybe you would have some suggestions for me when you have time. Thank you. Debby

KuKd Chick said...

Debby, thanks so much for coming over to visit. This is a great thing you're doing with the hankerchief project. As for blogging, if there's a particular reason why your heart is drawn to women who have lost a baby/child, you might think about blogging about the root of that - where that comes from, your reason for reaching out to that particular community of women. I think a lot of people would be interested in that.

Ebe said...

I never know how I find blogs, so I can't say how I got to yours...
but thank you for this post.

I have been feeling so bizarre lately. I was blog-jumping a few weeks ago and found myself watching a video a mommy put together for her son who died from Trisomy. I cried and cried and cried for her loss. I felt at home there. Weird to say, but it's the world we live in.
My own son was stillborn at 36 weeks in 2007. I am now 25 weeks pregnant with his sister.

It is complicated. I couldn't put my finger on it at the time, but it was like this is where I belong. I am a bereaved mommy. I am now a mommy to a living baby in my womb whom I hope to raise for many years, but I just don't know the girl who is pregnant and hoping to raise her daughter. I know the girl who grieves her son. I know the weepy, hurting and pain filled girl who cries over stranger's videos.
It's like a whole new identity is being craved into who I am, who I've become comfortable with.
I am still a hurting bereaved mommy, and I am now a mommy on the cusp of having a living baby to bring home.

It's hard to wrap my head around. Like you said, it's complicated. said...

Yes, that's where I am at. Wanting in a half harted way to be part of the pastel world but still so comfortable in the cobbwebby shadow world I have been living in. Terrified that willingly crossing that threshold will be the in and of itself, the thing that shatters the pretty babypowder scented globe. I hope to see you make the transition so that I know it can happen for me too.

Anonymous said...

I've just found out I'm six weeks pregnant 3 months after loosing a baby girl at 42 weeks. Perfect pregnancy until no heart beat in early labour. Scared, lost, angry and over the moon, don't even cut it.

Alyson said...

I just found this post and so understand! My son was stillborn at 38 weeks...for no known reason even though we did everything from an autopsy to testing from the Mayo Clinic. There are days I feel somewhat normal, and others where I just want to scream at people, telling them to quit enjoying life because don't they know my baby is dead!

We just found out we are pregnant and haven't told many people yet. I'm utterly terrified. Every ache, every pain, I wonder if this is I miscarrying? Ii won't quit feeling this way until I hold my baby...then I'm sure new worries will start.

Kudos to you for sharing and being honest on your journey. Hope all is well!