Being remembered

There is a miscarriage/pregnancy loss message board that I post on occasionally. The posters consist of mostly women experiencing miscarriage, but there is also a stunning number of women who have experienced late-term or infant loss.

A very sweet woman named Lara started posting on this board a couple of weeks ago after she lost her beautiful son Caleb when he was born at 19 weeks. She and her husband went on vacation, and this morning on our board she posted a link to a set of photos. These photos included this:

She also took these pictures for several other mothers who have experienced losses like ours. I was so moved by it that I cry every time I look at it. Here Lara is, grieving her own devastating loss, and she remembered and took the time to honor our babies as well. One of my biggest fears is that eventually Jillian will be forgotten, and to have her remembered this way fills me with so much happiness that I can’t describe it.  This picture means the world to me.

Thank you, Lara. I treasure this more than you know.

Our favorite day of the year

Today is Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts.  This is normally my favorite holiday.  My feelings about Patriots’ Day are probably pretty close to what a six-year old feels about Christmas.  I wake up in the morning and can’t wait for the festivities to begin.  The Boston Marathon occurs on this day, and despite the fact that I hate crowds, tourists, and noise, there is a palpable excitement in the air that makes me so proud to live in this city.  Our favorite part, however, is the 11 am Sox game, and attending it with another couple each year has become a tradition.

When I first got pregnant with Jillian, Dave and I realized at one point that her due date would probably make attending this year’s game difficult, if not impossible (for at least me, but he wasn’t too keen on going without me).  After Jillian died, we realized that logistically, attending the game would be simple.  We both realized that emotionally, it would be difficult.  Initially, we decided not to go, but had a change of heart upon realizing that today would be difficult either way – so we had to choose between sitting at home on the couch while our favorite events went on without us, or we could go to the game with our friends and try to have a good time.  We decided to go, and while we had fun with our friends despite the miserable outcome, I had a lump in my throat the entire time.

I had been apprehensive about entering Fenway.  The last time I was there, we were at a playoff game, and we spent a good chunk of time telling our still unknown-gendered baby how we couldn’t wait to bring him/her to games, and discussed how we couldn’t wait until the baby was old enough to understand that he/she was walking into the closest thing to a shrine that we have, and how much fun it would be to walk up the ramp with him/her and see his/her eyes light up upon seeing the green field and the Green Monster.  Entering Fenway ended up being less difficult than I’d anticipated, but I felt a kick in the gut when I saw the scoreboard welcoming the newest fans to Red Sox Nation – complete with pictures of newborns from a nearby hospital.

I held myself together until the first of many foul balls headed our way.  As the ball came down in the section next to ours, my mind flashed back to the moment when we discussed the foul ball we hoped to someday catch for our tiny fan, and I had to leave our seats.  I walked out to the open area behind us and stood over the balcony, looking towards our neighborhood, with our former apartment building, where Jillian was conceived, in plain sight.  I looked down on the jubilant crowd below us and wished that I could be one of those people – someone who could focus on the awful score and the number of beers I’d had, instead of having my mind occupied by the fact that Jillian is gone forever.

Dave and I had a good cry and made our way back to our seats.  I spent the rest of the game thinking about her fist and mouth moving as I held her as she died, and I spent an entire inning reading my blog post about that moment over and over again with tears flooding the lenses of my sunglasses.  The game seemed to be the shortest game I’ve ever been to, and I’m so thankful for that.  Our friend joked in the bottom of the 9th about the greatest comeback in Red Sox history, but I’m selfishly glad it didn’t happen.  It wouldn’t have fit into our day.  I’m glad we went to the game, but I’m even more glad it’s over.

Feeling weak

Dave and I attempted to go to a cookout today.  One of my good friends and her husband moved away from the area a few years ago and were back in town for a visit.  This cook out was so friends could see them and their daughter, who was born in November.  I obviously knew that their baby would be there as well as a few other babies and at least one pregnant person.

I knew it would be tough, and I prepared myself for tears when I held my friends’ baby.  Instead, I started crying as soon as they saw them.  It was a mix of emotions.  I was so happy to see my friend, who has been such a huge support to me, but sad at the same time because seeing someone for the first time in my “after” life is difficult.  It was also very emotional to see my friend holding her precious little girl, who was so desperately wanted by her parents.  They didn’t have the easiest time having her, and seeing her in person for the first time as a mother filled my heart with overwhelming joy.  Most of the sadness came from seeing this little girl who, as soon as she was born, I knew would be friends my with my own little girl.  It was difficult for Dave, too.  It was harder on him than he had anticipated, and he described it as being hit with a ton of bricks.  We went out to the car for a few minutes to get some tears out and catch our breath, and we figured we’d be okay for the rest of the afternoon.

As more and more people arrived, more babies entered the house.  I knew well ahead of time to expect this, but as each baby came in, it was a reminder that I should be with my newborn.  I remembered that the last time we saw most of these people, three of us were pregnant, although I was unknowingly only three weeks along and had no idea at the time that the mass of cells that would soon become my heart was already forming.  All three of us had given birth since the last get together, but the other two had outcomes that I would trade my soul to have.

There was one pregnant woman there who I don’t think I’d ever met before today.  She’s over 40 weeks pregnant right now, so just seeing her and having her in such close proximity was more difficult than I’d expected.  She was being so friendly and trying so hard to make conversation with me, but I was trying so hard to choke back my tears that I could barely get out one word answers to her questions.  Dave and I stood around a kitchen island trying to pretend we were mentally present but doing everything we could to tune out the conversations that were surrounding us.  Then the pregnant woman asked one of the new mothers if she’d known ahead of time what she was having and I reached my breaking point.  We moved into the other room, and when I saw my friend’s concerned look on her face, going into the other room wasn’t enough.  We went outside and never made it back into the house.

I cried and cried while Dave went inside to ask my friend to come out with her daughter.  She and her husband came out, and Dave hugged her husband and cried while I held their little girl.  It was the first time I’ve held a baby since Jillian was born, and it was the easiest part of the day.  It felt so good to have a baby in my arms, but it didn’t really remind me of Jillian.  My baby weighed less than a pound and a half when I got to hold her, so I can’t even compare holding these two little girls.  It was just very bittersweet to hold the baby that should have been one of Jillian’s first friends and it was impossible not to cry.

Fortunately, I’m going to see my friends in a couple of weeks, and I’m looking forward to it very much.  It’s hard not to beat myself up because I couldn’t handle a situation I’d tried so hard to prepare myself for.  As Dave put it, it feels like a huge step back.  I’ve tried so hard not to be the person who can’t handle other babies or pregnant woman, but today was kind of an overload.  I know someday it will be easier, but for now, it’s more than I can take.

Never alone

We spent this weekend in California visiting my dad and stepmom. I was a little nervous about the trip because seeing people for the first time after Jillian died isn’t easy. I was also nervous about being away from home for the first time. We had a great visit, so now I feel more confident about going away more.

One of the highlights of my trip was seeing my friend S. Technically, this was the first time we’ve actually met, but we already knew each other. She lost her precious daughter K in August. She has been an incredible support to me – more than I can really describe. Whenever I had really bad days after Jillian died and I didn’t feel like getting out of bed or even breathing, I would think of her and the incredible strength she has shown since her sweet girl passed away. She has been such an inspiration to me and her friendship has brought so much happiness into my life. I think of her like a big sister and I feel like she understands me in a way that very few people (thankfully) can.

Meeting her was just as fabulous as I knew it would be. I think I probably horrified her (and Dave) with all of my uh, retail therapy, but being with her was like being with an old friend. We talked about our beautiful babies, the awful tragedy that we both suffered, and daydreamed about our little angels being together. I’m sure they’re the best of friends. Saying goodbye sucked, but like Dave kept telling me, we will make a plan to get together again soon.

The low point of the trip happened last night when I drank way too much wine.  I’ve been a little tipsy a couple of times since Jillian died, but this was the first time I’ve actually been drunk.  That was a huge mistake.  At one point, I said to my dad that I just want a baby.  Then I corrected myself and said, “I just want Jillian.”  That was it for me.  The sadness I suddenly felt made it feel like it was December 10, and the thought of living the rest of my life without Jillian was once again unbearable.  Next thing I knew, I was on the floor of the patio, in Dave’s arms, wailing in a way that I think only parents who have lost their children can do.  Needless to say, I won’t be drinking more than one or two drinks at at time again any time soon.  I’ve been avoiding getting drunk because I was afraid it would stir up too many emotions, and it certainly did.

We’re on our way home now.  As much as I’ve enjoyed seeing everyone and the beautiful weather, I’m ready to be home with my animals.  Before we left, I was worried that it would feel like I was leaving Jillian behind.  I know now that it wasn’t the case.  She was with me the whole time.  It’s very fitting that S gave me a small heart-shaped token with an angel on the front.  On the back, it reads “you are never alone.”

Four Months

Dear Jillian,

Happy four months, baby girl. I feel like I say this every fifth of the month, but I can’t believe it’s been another month already.

I had a dream about you last night. I don’t remember much about it other than holding you in my arms and staring into your big brown eyes. We never got to see your eyes open, but I’m sure they looked like mine. It was such a peaceful dream. You were big and healthy, and there were no tubes, wires, or beeping machines. It was just us, happily gazing at each other. I woke up from the dream very suddenly and realized I was cradling our bunched up comforter in my arms. I tried to fall back asleep so I could hopefully see you again, but instead I lay there, wide awake, for almost four hours.

I was telling Daddy yesterday how that in spite of losing you, I feel happier now than I have in years. We were trying to figure out why that is. Daddy mentioned that it could be from all the love and support we’ve received, and while he’s right about that, there’s so much more to it. I go through each day fighting for you. I feel like because your life was so short, I owe it to you to live the best, happiest life I possibly can. All I want is to make you proud. You, Jilly bear, are getting me through this. I won’t lie – the Zoloft helps, but most of the credit goes to you. You are my strength.

We love you and miss you so much, Jilly. I hope I see you in my dreams again soon.