So long, 2009


December 31st, 2009

We came into 2009 anticipating an eventful year, but we only expected happy events. As we settled into being married (we got married in late 2008), we started trying for a baby and searching for a condo to buy. Everything came together all at once: we found out I was pregnant the day before we closed on our condo.

We were elated and shocked, and I fell in love with that baby faster than I thought was possible. I was terrified that something would go wrong (I’m an eternal pessimist), but regardless of that, I loved her with everything I had. Two weeks later, I started spotting. Even though I had been assured that it could be nothing, it was still scary. I was on a business trip at the time. I called my doctor’s office, and a horrible nurse there told me that I could be miscarrying, and after looking at my labs, coldly told me that it wasn’t a viable pregnancy. She was assuming that I was almost seven weeks pregnant at the time, when I was actually six, so she was wrong, and I knew that, but it still didn’t make it any easier. I remember exactly where I was standing in the Orlando airport when she said it. It turns out that nurse was right, but not in the way she thought.

That spotting stopped, but Dave and I were still on edge. As each day went by with no additional spotting, we relaxed a little more. Then, that following Saturday night, it started again, but this time with heavier, red blood, accompanied by cramping. I thought for sure I was miscarrying, and we were crushed. I didn’t call my doctor’s office until Monday morning because I knew there wasn’t anything they could do. When I did call, they had me come in immediately for an ultrasound. I don’t think Dave or I were breathing when it started, but we both burst into tears when the tech pointed at the screen and said, “there’s the heartbeat.” We were in awe and so relieved.

I remember exactly where I was sitting the first time I thought I felt Jillian (I’m still certain it was her). I could feel her more and more every day, and it never got old. We were certain Jillian was a boy, and were shocked 11 weeks later when we found out she was a girl. We had already picked a couple of girl names. We tried calling her Molly for a day, but it didn’t stick. Jillian was our next try, and by the end of that day, we knew we had a winner. Dave called her Jilly pretty quickly, and I said that I only wanted us calling her Jilly, not the whole world, so we agreed that we would only call her Jillian in front of others. So much for that.

Everything stayed uneventful until December 5. I was in Orlando that week, and just five days before Jillian was born, I walked past the spot where I was standing when the nurse had told me the pregnancy wasn’t viable, rubbed my belly, and told Jillian we were proving that stupid nurse wrong. I was supposed to come home on Thursday, but had to extend the trip until Friday and didn’t get home until 10:00 that night. I am so thankful every day that my water didn’t break until Saturday. My heart races at the thought of this all happening away from home (I know there is great medical care available there, but being away from home would have made the situation even worse, especially because Dave wouldn’t have been there).

The rest of the story has already been posted here.

I was wondering yesterday if I’d look back someday and decide that 2009 wasn’t the worst year of my life because of the time we had with Jillian. I’ve decided that’s not going to happen. I don’t think there’s any way, no matter what, to not think of the year that includes losing a child as the worst year of one’s life. On top of that, it wasn’t just a bad year for us. There are many tragedies that have happened to important people in my life. I’m more than ready for the book to close on this awful year. I won’t forget the good times we had, and for the rest of my life, I’ll try to focus on those instead of the sad times.

I know 2010 won’t be ideal. I know that certain days, especially March 24 (my due date), December 5 (Jillian’s birthday), December 9 (the anniversary of Jillian’s death) will be filled with pain. That said, I’m hoping that only good things happen for everyone. It has to be a better year.

Coping differently


December 30th, 2009

One thing that our social worker at the hospital and our therapist both warned us about is that Dave and I would probably cope differently, and we wouldn’t always be in sync grief-wise. One of us may be feeling badly while the other isn’t. This wasn’t really an issue at first because we were both sad all the time; however, over the past week and a half or so, we’ve been falling more out of sync. Usually it starts with one of us crying and ends with both of us crying. It’s difficult to see the other person sad, but I know for me, I feel bad for bringing him down with my sadness. It’s okay, obviously, because we need to support each other, but it’s definitely not the easiest thing in the world to be at different places with our feelings.

Another thing I’ve noticed through the healing process is that different things make us feel better. Talking about all the events of Jillian’s birth, life, and death help me. The problem with this is that not only does it not help Dave, it usually upsets him. Twice this week, I’ve been talking to friends who have been visiting, and I’ve been reliving both the c-section and finding out about Jillian’s brain hemorrhage. The first time, I didn’t realize that it was upsetting him, and the second time, I noticed and quickly changed the subject. He knows it helps me, so he would never ask me to stop talking about it, but at the same time, I don’t want to do something that makes him upset.

Today has been a relatively better day. I keep thinking about how when Jillian was still in the NICU, the doctors and nurses told us that life was going to be like a roller coaster. We may have a good day one day, but the next day may have setbacks. There would be a lot of ups and downs. They weren’t kidding. We had so many ups and downs in the short time that Jillian was in there that those 90-some hours feel like a lifetime. In a way, I feel like we’re still on a roller coaster. This moment feels fine, but in a few minutes, I may be sobbing my eyes out. When I’ve had tough moments today, I’ve reminded myself that life is getting a little easier, and it seems to be helping a little bit. I’d still sell my soul to make things different, though.

Steps forward and back


December 29th, 2009

I have a lot of moments where I feel like I’m getting better. Today is definitely better than, for example, the day after Jillian died. I don’t have the constant aching in my heart that I did then. That said, there are still moments when I feel like I’m never going to get better and everything seems so hopeless. I try to remind myself that it is actually getting a little easier, but the grief is so overwhelming when it comes that I forget about the times when it’s not that bad.

Dave went into work today, and I’ve almost called him to come home a few times. I’ve had a couple of instances of crying my eyes out, and being afraid that I’m not going to be able to stop crying. I have, obviously, but having Dave go to work was harder than I expected it to be. I also ran a couple of errands today, and that probably wasn’t the best idea (and not only because it 20 degrees out and about as windy as can be). I survived, but I almost broke down a few times. It’s just another thing that’s easier when Dave is there. I kind of wish I could call the grocery store before I go there again to ask if they can turn the music off for me. I think every song they had playing was more tear-inducing than the last.

I feel like the hardest thing about all of this is seeing how much Dave is hurting. I think he probably feels the same way about seeing me in pain. As hard as all of this is, if I could take his pain for him, I would do it in a heartbeat. I know he wouldn’t let me, though. I feel very lucky to have him. We’ve both said that as much as we wish we didn’t have to go through this, we’re glad we’re going through it with each other.

I don’t really have a point today.


December 28th, 2009

It’s been a tough couple of days. Nothing really specific has happened, but I’ve done a lot of crying. I’ve also done a lot of smiling because I’ve been trying to focus on the good moments we had with Jillian. That usually leads to crying, though.

I was thinking earlier about all of Jillian’s stuff. We have a drawer full of her clothes in our bedroom, and I have several dresses of hers hanging in my closet. I can’t bring myself to put them away. They’re all so pretty, and it doesn’t hurt to see them the way I thought it would. The first thing I did when we came home from the hospital was open my closet and run my fingers over the dresses. For some strange reason, seeing them provides comfort. I’ve also been unable to do anything with her stroller. I guess I’m hoping that we’ll be able to put it to use before too long.

We start our support group next week. Dave is looking forward to it, for no reason other than he hopes it will help, but I’m pretty nervous about it. I know the first session is going to be tough, mainly because I imagine that we’ll all have to share our stories about why we’re there. On the other hand, I’m looking forward to talking about Jillian. Nothing makes me happier than telling anyone who will listen all about her.

A picture of Jillian


December 26th, 2009

There is a wonderful organization called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep that provides free photography to families who are experiencing the loss of a baby. A wonderful photographer came to the hospital the night that Jillian passed, and took pictures of us as a family as we prepared to say goodbye to her.

Dave and I don’t plan to share most of these photographs with anyone. We do have this picture framed and on display in our home, so I’m comfortable sharing it here. In this picture, Jillian is on my chest. I can’t help but smile when I think of this moment. She was so warm and snuggly and clearly very comfortable. Even with all the moments of doubt I’ve had about her knowing who I was, remembering the time I spent holding her makes it obvious that she knew exactly who I was.

[picture removed]

Christmas


December 25th, 2009

Dear Jillian,

Today is not what we expected or hoped it would be. Regardless of all the pain and sorrow that we’re feeling, we are thankful for the four days we had with you. Those are, without question, the best four days of our lives. We miss you, but we know you’re here with us in spirit, and we’ll love you forever.

Love,
Mommy

I hope everyone else is having a safe and peaceful holiday.

Remains


December 24th, 2009

We picked up Jillian’s remains today. I can’t decide if it was harder or easier than I imagined it would be. Either way, this wasn’t how I imagined bringing her home.

Right now, we’re just focusing on getting through the next two days. I guess that’s how we’ve been functioning for the past 15 days, but the holiday makes it even more difficult.

Thanks for all the comments yesterday, and every day. I was in an especially dark place yesterday when I wrote that, and the comments help bring me out of that. I know I have a long way to go. I’ll get there, though.

Anger and guilt


December 23rd, 2009

I was supposed to be 27 weeks pregnant today. This is a hard one for me to swallow. All I can think about, in addition to the baby we didn’t get to keep, is the entire trimester I didn’t get to have. Once I got past being nauseated and exhausted 24 hours a day, I loved being pregnant. I felt great, and every day, there was something new and exciting. Jillian’s hiccups were my favorite. I felt such a connection to her already, and I selfishly treasured the time when I had her all to myself.

The thing I’m having the hardest time with is the guilt I feel about Jillian being born so early. I know it wasn’t caused by anything I did or had any control over, but the fact is my body failed. While it’s possible that someday I may stop feeling so guilty about it, I don’t think anyone will ever be able to convince me that this was not a failure on my body’s part. It didn’t work the way it was supposed to. It didn’t keep my baby safe. The most frustrating thing for me is that there doesn’t seem to be a reason for it. There was no infection, and worst of all for me, there wasn’t anything wrong with Jillian (aside from being born way too early).

The thing that keeps me up at night is the thought of Jillian being scared. I don’t know how conscious she was of anything that was going on. While a part of me would like to think she didn’t have any idea what was happening, that also means that she didn’t know when Dave and I were there, didn’t feel my hands on her, didn’t hear us, etc. The evidence suggests otherwise (mainly, her heart rate slowing down when we talked to her, and her physically calming down when my hands were on her), but that leads me back to thinking that she must have been terrified during her short life. It upsets me so much that I don’t think I can even finish typing my thoughts on it. I know she knew how much we love her. I wish it had been enough to save her.

Jillian’s blanket and other things


December 22nd, 2009

A box was delivered to my hospital room right around the time we found out about Jillian’s brain hemorrhage. I didn’t open it because we were obviously focused on other things, but right before we left the room to begin saying goodbye, I noticed the word “blanket” on the box. I had been upset because I hadn’t finished the blanket I’d been knitting for Jillian, but I wanted to be able to use a special blanket while we were holding her, so I tore into the box. Inside was a gift basket with a pink blanket, a small photo album, a frame, and a kit with plaster to take a baby’s hand and footprints. The timing and the items were perfect.

I found the card and discovered it had been sent by a group of friends from the internet. I’ve never met any of these amazing women, except for one (and that didn’t happen until I was in the hospital), but they have been so supportive to us since everything happened (and before then, but the support since then has been overwhelming and amazing). I will forever be incredibly thankful for the support they’ve provided, as well as the gift they sent. The blanket they sent, which we used with Jillian, is now a fixture on our bed, and the hand and foot print kit allowed us to create what is now the most treasured object we’ll ever possess.

Jillian’s hand and foot prints:

Jillian’s foot prints are about 1.75 inches long. They are miniature versions of mine, which is amazing to me. Our feet are identical, and it’s hard to see in this picture, but our pinkies are bent in the exact same way.

I finished Jillian’s knit blanket today. It’s not perfect, but I’m okay with that. I guess I realize how how unimportant that is. It hurts my heart to think about how many times I imagined wrapping Jillian in it before we came home from the hospital. I hope we’ll be able to give it to our next baby before too long.

Dread


December 21st, 2009

I woke up with a sense of dread this morning. It’s not an unfamiliar feeling. I have a history of depression, and I used to wake up with this feeling (when I could actually sleep) pretty regularly when I was depressed. It concerns me a little bit because I’d like to avoid another bout of depression (although I’m sure it would be understandable for it to happen now), but I’m comforted by the fact that I’m seeing a therapist on my own, Dave and I are seeing a therapist together, and we’re starting in a couple of weeks with a support group for parents who have lost infants. It’s kind of a mental health overload, but there’s no doubt that we need it.

In addition to the dread I felt when I woke up this morning, I’m dreading the rest of this week. I hate that Christmas is in four days. We’re not doing anything for it (Dave and I are spending the day alone, together), but pretending it isn’t happening doesn’t make the reminders go away. There are music and decorations everywhere, but they aren’t nearly as bad as the commercials on TV. We’ve mostly been avoiding live TV, but we’ve already watched everything on our DVR and most movies are unable to capture our attention, so sometimes live TV is the only thing to watch. Most Christmas commercials seem to involve kids opening presents, which aren’t easy to see, but the worst commercial by far is that damn Kay commercial with the husband telling his baby-holding wife that it’s their first Christmas as a family. It’s truly a Christmas miracle that I haven’t thrown my computer or a brick through our TV in the dozen or so times that we’ve seen it.

Dave and I joked a few times while I was still pregnant that this would be our last boring Christmas, because we naively assumed that starting in 2010, we’d always have kids around to make Christmas more fun. So much for that idea.