Realizing it will never end

Dave borrowed a booklet from our support group leader last week called A Guide For Fathers: When a Baby Dies. I haven’t done much reading since Jillian died because I’m not able to concentrate long enough to read more than a few paragraphs at a time, but for some reason, I decided to read through this little book today.

I sobbed through most of it because every word rang true for me, even though it was written for the father. The hardest part for me was the section about the future and life going on. He writes that he felt anger on his other daughter’s wedding day, especially towards the maid of honor because he realized that his daughter who died should have been the maid of honor instead.

The thought of this breaks my heart. It’s a possibility I’d never considered. While I hope that we’re lucky to have another daughter (or a son, really), the thought of any of our children growing up without their big sister makes my heart ache. I’ve already thought about the fact that everything we’ll ever do will be missing something, but imagining the really special times is especially painful. It makes me wonder if we’re ever really going to be able to feel happiness again. I hate feeling so hopeless.

Better than expected

I made it through my hair appointment without too much trouble yesterday. I sent an email about what happened to my stylist (K) a few days ago, so it wasn’t like I had to sit there and tell her why I wasn’t almost 30 weeks pregnant like I’m supposed to be. I got a little teary-eyed when I sat down and had to take a few minutes to start talking. I didn’t anticipate talking about Jillian and my pregnancy almost the whole time, but that’s what ended up happening. K told me when she emailed me back that I didn’t have to talk at all if I didn’t want to, but it felt good to talk about it. I realized after I left that if anyone had been listening to us, they may not have realized that Jillian had died, except for the parts when she told me how sorry she was. It felt good to just talk about my little girl and not the fact that she’s gone, although that wasn’t even intentional.

I was supposed to go to skating at Fenway today. I wasn’t going to skate because I haven’t been cleared for exercise yet. The last thing I’d need is to tear my uterus open when falling or something, and falling would have been guaranteed if I’d put skates on. I didn’t go because the idea of being in a crowd of laughing, happy people, especially a crowd full of kids, was too much. My anxiety about it was building up as we got closer to bedtime last night, so I knew I needed to stay home. I also know I would have been upset being in Fenway. The last time we were there, we talked to Jillian (well, the nameless baby inside my belly) about how much we couldn’t wait to take her there and we were going to have so much fun at all the games we attended). I know that being there would have hurt. I’m a little disappointed because it’s our favorite place to be and this was my first chance to be on the field (with ice over it, but it’s still the field), but I’d rather be at home, a little disappointed, than a sobbing, hysterical person in the middle of a huge, happy crowd that doesn’t understand why I’m so upset.

One month

It’s been one month since Jillian died. I’m trying to decide if I’m doing better or worse, and I just don’t know. If I’d written this a week ago, I would have better for sure, but it’s been such a tough week for me that it doesn’t feel like I’m doing better than I was a month ago. When I try to compare how I was feeling then versus now, the only difference is that I’m not in the state of shock that I was then. I think it was easier to bear then because I was in such a fog that it didn’t really feel like it was actually happening.

I was thinking this morning that I wished I had something positive to post. I’ve written this before, but I am so tired of being so sad all the time. I know this blog is such a downer, which frustrates me. The reality is that this blog is for me (and also to honor and remember Jillian), so I need to write what I need to write, but I still wish I had something happy going on. I could write about all the things I’m thankful for, but somehow even those things are negative. For example, I’m thankful that we got the time with Jillian that we did, but I can’t say that without also saying I wish she hadn’t died. I think maybe the grief is still too raw to find a happy topic.

There are things that make me smile, and I’m still trying to focus on those, even though they usually end up making me cry. My favorite thing to think about is the time the day before Jillian died when I’d ask her how much I loved her, and she’d stretch her arms out as wide as possible. I know that she didn’t know what I was asking, and I know that I was asking because she kept stretching her arms out, but it’s still one of the happiest memories I have. I also know that she really did know how much I love her.

Too much

I had a spa gift certificate to use, so I scheduled a day of pampering for today. Sounds like exactly what I needed, right?

Not so much.

I realized shortly before I left that this would be my longest foray into public since Jillian died. I knew I’d be gone for about four hours, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t made it for four hours without crying, so I started to get nervous about how long I’d be at the spa. I meant to take an Ativan before I left, but I forgot about it until I was halfway there. I’m thinking now that it would have been better to come home to get it and be a few minutes late, but on the other hand, who knows how much it would have helped.

This was my first time at this spa, so I had to fill out the information form when I got there. I was fine at first, even when I answered the question about whether or not I’m pregnant. Then I saw the part of the question asking how many months. I’m not really sure why that one set me off and not the other, but it didn’t go over very well. I did everything I could not to burst into tears.

The next question asked whether I’ve had any recent surgeries. My stomach dropped. I almost left the box unchecked, but I started worrying about something bad happening because I didn’t tell them I’d had a c-section, so I answered it. My anxiety about someone reading that and congratulating me grew until the esthetician came to get me. When we walked into the private room, she asked me how I was. I said I was okay as cheerfully as I could, which wasn’t cheerfully at all. She told me that I didn’t sound very convincing. I lost it.

I blurted out, “I said on the form that I had a c-section and I’m scared you’re going to congratulate me my baby died when she was four days old.”

The lack of punctuation in that sentence was intentional. If I thought anyone could read it if I typed without spaces, I would have typed it that way, because it all came out as one word. A look of horror crossed her face, and I certainly can’t fault her for that. Aside from our support group, this was the first time I’d told anyone in person. I’d like to avoid having to do that again. I felt terrible for burdening her with having this information, but I was so worried that she would catch me off-guard that I had to strike first.

She was incredibly sympathetic and offered to let the other people working on me know what was going on so I wouldn’t have to say it again or deal with someone accidentally saying the wrong thing. She said she was glad I told her, partially because she would know what was wrong and that it wasn’t something she was doing, and partially because she thinks of herself as a part-time therapist. I think she was about as good as a full-time therapist. As much as I don’t want to have share that story face-to-face again, I’m glad she was the first person I told. She handled better than I could have and probably has no idea how much she comforted me.

As comforting as she was, I wanted to come home so badly in the middle of my appointment that I started crying again at one point. It was just too much time out of my literal comfort zone. I almost left in between services, but my need for a pedicure kept me there.

I don’t think I’ll be making any appointments for anything any time soon. I thought I’d be okay, but I really wasn’t. I have a hair appointment on Saturday that I’ve thought about canceling, but I’m trying to resist doing that. I emailed the stylist today to let her know what happened because I’m pretty sure she’d be caught off guard if I walked in there, suddenly not pregnant, with the news that Jillian is gone. I know I’ll cry as soon as I see her, and will probably cry throughout the appointment, but I feel like if I don’t get the first time over with, I’ll never go.

Pride

Today was probably the busiest day I’ve had since Jillian was born (aside from when we were in the hospital and spending the day visiting Jillian and pumping, which took far more time than I ever anticipated). I did a lot of cleaning and cooking and saw my therapist. We had some friends over for dinner, which was great. I was a little nervous about seeing more than one person at once (I’ve literally only seen one friend at a time since Jillian died) because I thought I’d be too overwhelmed. I was fine, though. They’re close friends so I should have realized I would be fine, but just seeing someone for the first time can be too much for me sometimes.

Having such a busy day made it pass quickly, but it didn’t really make it much easier. I had a few breakdowns throughout the day, and Jillian was on my mind constantly, as usual. I got to talk a lot about Jillian while my friends were here and show her off a little. Even through all the sadness, I’m as proud as can be when it comes to her. I guess there’s a part of me that wants to make sure people know about her. I know it’s normal for parents to be proud of their children, and I guess I realized tonight that having a child who only lived for four days doesn’t make me any less proud.

One month ago today

Jillian was born one month ago from today. Sometimes it feels like yesterday, sometimes it feels like it was all a dream. I was lying in bed this morning thinking about how different life was a month ago, and I just couldn’t believe what has happened and how much everything has changed.

We managed to get through yesterday. There were some tough moments. One of the hardest moments happened when I checked the mail and found Jillian’s insurance card inside. The timing of so many things has been difficult. Why coudln’t it have come on Saturday, when Dave was here with me, or even today, after I’ve had a day to adjust to him being at work? There have been some crappy coincidences, too, like Dave getting a jury notice for March 24, which was Jillian’s due date. These are the kinds of things that make me want to stay in bed.

I’ve been reminded since Jillian was born and since she died that are truly good people in this world, which is something that’s easy to forget sometimes. Friends and family have been unbelievably supportive, even through their own grief. People who just a short time ago were strangers on the internet have become a lifeline. Friends I’ve fallen out of touch with, including high school and college classmates that I haven’t spoken to since graduation, have contacted me to let me know that they’re there if there’s anything they can do. I am so grateful for all of the support we’ve received.

Dear Jillian,

Happy one-month birthday, Jilly Girl. We still miss you so much and love you more than anything. Daddy and I wouldn’t be able to get through this if we weren’t together, and we wouldn’t be able to do it without knowing that you’re watching over us. As much as it hurts to be without you, we’re going to be okay. It doesn’t feel like it sometimes, but we’re doing everything we can to get there.

I saw a magnet while I was out yesterday that made me think of you. It said “just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.” It was a good reminder that we’ll survive this. While our world never be complete, hopefully we’ll be able to find happiness and beauty in life again. It will be bittersweet because you aren’t physically here with us, but we know you’ll feel our happiness.

I love you more than anything in the world, even more than both kitties combined times a million (but you still can’t tell them I said that).

Love,
Mommy

A tough night

Bedtime is always the hardest part of the day for me. It could be because lying in bed gives me an opportunity to think too much. I’ve been falling asleep to Seinfeld episodes every night since our second night in the hospital to keep my mind on something else, but my strategy isn’t foolproof. I’ve seen every episode at least several times, so it’s easy for my mind to wander. I’m also afraid of the dreams that may happen once I do fall asleep. I have a lot of nightmares about the c-section and Jillian in the NICU. Sometimes I have good dreams, but the nightmares have been bad enough to give me anxiety about going to bed at all.

My other issue with going to bed is that sometimes the thought of facing the next day is too much. While I’ve proven every day since Jillian died that it is possible to get through each day, it doesn’t make the prospect of another day any easier when I go to bed. I don’t know what it is about bedtime that causes this. I’m not overwhelmed right now about today or even tomorrow, but it’s a safe bet that when I go to bed tonight, I’ll be feeling the usual feelings about dealing with tomorrow.

Last night was especially bad. Dave went back to work “for real” today. He has been into the office twice since Jillian died, but they weren’t whole days, and it was only one day at a time. As we got closer and closer to bedtime, my anxiety got worse, eventually to the point where I felt like I couldn’t breathe and the entire world was closing in on me. I cried harder than I did when Jillian died, harder than I’ve ever cried in my entire life. It was as though I suddenly realized that I’m supposed to live the rest of my life without Jillian and with this pain, and it became too much. We went to bed, and I barely slept, despite taking an Ambien.

Dave left for work a little bit ago. Saying goodbye to him was about a thousand times more difficult than actually being here without him. If I think about the fact that I’m sitting here alone, I get lonely, but I’ll be okay. I have stuff to do and people to see later this week, so I’ll be okay. At least I may be able to get some sleep today.

Jillian’s hands

One of the hardest things for me is all the things that we’ll never be able to see Jillian do or experience. I remember seeing her tiny hands for the first time. They were so tiny, but so perfect, and her fingers were so long and delicate. The first thought that went through my mind was that we needed her to survive so she could grow up and wear a wedding ring on her hand. Looking back, I feel like it was kind of a strange first thought, but I still think of it every time I picture her little hands.

I have a very difficult time thinking ahead and thinking about all of the milestones she’ll never reach. I think for the rest of my life, when I see a child who is the age Jillian should be, I’m going to be thinking about her. Dates like her due date and first birthday are hard enough, but I’m scared that I’m never going to be able to get past what should have been. I know that in three months, I’m going to be thinking about the newborn I should be holding. In a year, I’ll be thinking about the baby who should be calling us “mama” and “da-da” for the first time. In 18 years, I’m going to be thinking about the girl who should be finishing high school. In 30 years, I’ll be thinking about the beautiful woman Dave should be walking down the aisle (sorry, Jilly, we weren’t going to let you out of the house until you were at least 25).

I hope that eventually I’ll be able to focus less on what should have been, but there’s a part of me that feels like I’m forgetting her if I don’t think about it. I’ve already forgotten what her first and only cries sounded like, and I’m terrified to forget anything else. I remember the moment, but I can’t hear it anymore when I close my eyes. I don’t think I can handle forgetting anything else.

Strength

I’ve had multiple people tell me over the past few weeks that I’m strong. The truth is, whenever someone tells me that, the first thought in my mind is that the person saying or writing it must not have any idea that I’m barely hanging on. My heart is broken, and I will never be the same. Even though life has gotten easier, I think I’ve just become more used to the fact that Jillian is gone, and I’m learning how to live with a piece of myself missing.

On the other hand, when I try to imagine someone who is strong, the first people who come to mind are people who have lost someone they love more than anything and somehow manage to survive. Then it kind of hits me in an “oh, duh” moment: that’s why people think I’m strong. I guess I should get over being humble and realize that I’m a lot stronger than I ever realized (or imagined would be necessary).

When I first went through this whole thought process, I tried to figure out where I’m getting the strength to hold on. That’s an easy question to answer. It’s all for Jillian. If we hadn’t promised her before she died that we would do whatever we could to be happy again, I don’t know if I’d be able to even keep breathing, not to mention keep living my life.