Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pregnancy After Loss

Pregnancy after loss

Two and a half years after the stillbirth of my second daughter and nine months after a miscarriage, I found myself finally pregnant again and facing an excruciating and long 40 weeks.  I can think of few other times in my life when I have been as uncertain and scared as with the pregnancy of my rainbow baby.  To have had losses and know it could happen again is agonizing.  To know this pregnancy may end at any point or that an alive baby may not even be the end result is heart wrenching. 

I did not cope with the early days of my rainbow’s pregnancy well and was in denial for the first 14 weeks.  I wouldn’t let anyone talk about it.  I was preparing for more loss.  My mind was trying to protect my spirit from more heartbreak.  In fact, once in my second trimester, I had to put an ultrasound picture on my refrigerator to remind myself there was a baby inside of me and to encourage me to embrace this pregnancy. 

Finally, at 20 weeks, I became more accepting of my pregnancy and even more terrified at the same time.  At first, all I could think about was how 20 weeks was another marker of stillbirth.  If the baby died at any point from now on, it would be another stillbirth.  I would have two stillborns. 

This realization knocked some sense into me.  It’s true – I could lose the baby at any time.  It has certainly happened before and I have more deceased children than I have alive.  I came to the realization that since my pregnancy could end at any time, the only choice I had was to live in gratitude for each day I had with the baby inside of me.  What if the baby did die and I didn’t even appreciate the time I had with it?

As my fellow loss mom’s know, it takes a lot of courage to love, knowing it might result in loss.  At least it did for me.  The various journeys I have been on since Quinn’s stillbirth came full-circle to lift me up for the remaining weeks of my pregnancy, mostly: living in the present moment and living with gratitude.  There has simply been no other way to live and these lessons have been my survival skills.  Mantras such as “I am grateful to be pregnant with this baby today” and “day by day” were the only way to make it through the day.  Little by little, the days accumulated to a week, and the baby made it to another week of gestation. 

When faced with the ignorant and innocent happiness of others, my mantras kept me cool.  When I was frustrated that others planned for the future and talked about life after the baby was here, my mantras re-centered me and brought me back to the moment, not taking anything for granted.

I would also whisper another mantra to my belly each day: “Alive and healthy baby.”  How foolish I was to only wish for a “healthy baby” with Quinn. 

Now that I am approaching my due date, my gratitude and daily presence is at its strongest, which is a great gift from this baby.  These have kept me sane and healthy during the last 37 weeks of excruciating uncertainty.  I still have not bought any clothes for the baby or set-up the co-sleeper.  There’s time, I tell my husband.  We’ll do it if we need to.  Hopefully we will. 

For now, I live in the present with extreme gratitude for the 255 days I’ve been lucky enough to have this baby. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

She's Mine

Stillbirth legacy

My deceased daughter’s legacy lives through me.  This is what I’ve come to learn in the twenty-seven months since the stillbirth of my second daughter. 

I welcome with an open heart and arms other people who join me, and I am especially grateful for the close family and friends who do carry her legacy.  However, I certainly don’t expect it from those beyond my intimate circle.

As the saying goes, life goes on.  The world keeps turning.  Each night births a new day and people have their own lives to be present with.  And I have mine, which includes the daily reality of being a mother to both a living and deceased daughter.  This was the hand I was dealt…no one else’s.  As other people’s lives carry on, I am ultimately the one left with my daughter’s legacy.  Everyday I decide: how will I choose to honor her? 

Lately, I have chosen to honor her quietly.  I enjoy picking roses and wildflowers from our garden with my living daughter to put by her urn or tending to her memorial tree in the park.  Other days I simply give her a squeeze in my heart.  And, for now, that’s enough…because she is mine. 

Sometimes I need to honor her loudly and shout from the rooftops.  I want her name to be seen and heard and her story to be known. 

This is how my grief has evolved over the last twenty-seven months.  I get to decide how her legacy gets carried out, big or small.  Both are ok.  Both are meaningful.  As my grief ebbs and flows into infinity, so will how I choose to honor her.  If others join me, they are welcome.  But how freeing it has been to not expect it.

I will always accept a hello, a hug, a picture, a thought, a prayer, or a candle lit in the name and memory of my deceased daughter, for I know her beauty and grace has touched many.  These moments are pure gift and fill my heart.  However, as the world keeps turning and the night keeps falling, her legacy returns to me to carry on.

So join me if you want, quiet or loud.

If not, I will always be here honoring her.

She’s mine.