Elegy for Amy

Year 5 April 3, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — elegyforamy @ 11:42 pm

Five years ago today. Facebook informs me, I wrote this post: “Baby Amy was born this morning around 7 AM. She was perfect and tiny but only 23.5 weeks old and did not survive. We are doing as well as can be expected and should get to go home tomorrow. Thank you for the incredible outpouring of support.”

Of course, I didn’t need Facebook to tell me that. Friends tell me, you know you can turn that off, right? So it doesn’t show you? But I don’t want to. Do you think, if I turned that off, that I would not remember? I remember. We both do.

It’s five years now, so I remember in bits, in pieces, but I remember. Remember asking, was she going to die, my husband nodding yes. Telling me I’d done my best. Remember the nurses handing her to me, telling her to let them know when I was ready for them to take her, wondering how you know when you’re ready to never see your dead daughter again. Remember how relieved I was that the nightmare of that 5 days was, at least, over. How guilty I felt to be relieved. How immediately certain I was that we would try again.

I look like a normal person, we look like a normal family, but I remember in every family picture, someone is missing. Every holiday, someone is missing. That my oldest child is not my first. That the answer to “how many kids do you have” is just not that simple.

And I remember that five years ago from tomorrow, a very kind person I didn’t even really know directed me to a place called Glow in the Woods, and this was on the home page, and I read it with tears streaming down my face.

And now, I’m on the other side.

I don’t, really, know why I’m waiting here. I don’t have much to offer, just my own singular experience, but if it can help you, it’s yours. I never did get that letter, the administrative error, and like so many before me I can not help but realize if I had, my other two children likely wouldn’t exist.

And I also can’t tell you the first time that I remembered that little baby, that once was mine, and smiled rather than cried. When I saw her, rather than only her absence heavily outlined in red. When I looked at that empty chair and nodded. In acknowledgement of where she might have been. When I looked back and thought to myself, I can’t believe that I made it this far. But I did.

When everything else was burnt away and all that remained was love.

I can’t offer you a map. I can’t offer you any guarantees. I can’t tell you how to fix this because I don’t think that it can be fixed.

I can only tell you that the joy of my life did not end.

It really, really didn’t.

To my daughter Amy, on her birthday – we still miss you.

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Baby #3 Update February 23, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — elegyforamy @ 7:39 pm

Long time no post – every week is the same, next week maybe I’ll make the time to post, next week when I’m on bed rest I’ll have loads of time for blogging.

And then, no bed rest, and no post. Because so far, I’m just hanging out here, living the seemingly impossible dream of having a totally uneventful, albeit still high-risk, pregnancy.

So I’m having is something akin to survivor’s guilt, I guess – there is a community of people who have dead babies and most of us have difficult pregnancies after the fact. I did. And now I’m not. Which has made it kind of weird to talk about here, like I’m dishonoring the clan or something by having my body actually function properly this time.

And it’s really, really weird. Good weird. Amazing weird. But, weird. Like, when is the other shoe going to drop? When are things going to get worse? What terrible news will my next test reveal? And then…nothing. More than nothing, actually – as of my last scan, our doctors have officially removed every restriction I had, every caution I was under, for all intents and purposes they are now only concerned with the risks posed from my clotting disorder.

I can pick up our 33 pound toddler, and go for walks, and go grocery shopping, and take baths and really nutty things like actually leave the house and drive and eat all my meals sitting up – heck, standing if I want to. Everything normal people do. At 31 weeks pregnant.

A brief catch-up: I got the preventative cerclage at 14 weeks, just like last time, and then I started going in for cervical scans, just like last time. Except that unlike last time, and the time before that, when we got to 21 weeks, nothing happened. And then it was 23 weeks, and still nothing happened, and they said, hey! We don’t even need to see you for three weeks! And I admit, I didn’t really believe this would work out – they told me after the last two times statistically I had a 90% chance of having the exact same experience, cerclage, funneling, four months of bed rest, hurray. And then it was 26 weeks, and my cervix barely shortened, it was in fact still longer than average. And at 29 weeks, nothing, now I was significantly longer than average, my cervix declared to be “functioning like any other normal pregnant person’s.” Over 3.5cm! At 29 weeks! The stunning conclusion of which is: no bed rest, and no more cervical scans, and no more restrictions (which I’d been gradually getting back with each positive ultrasound, anyway).

So now, here we are. The “maybe” a girl is now at 31 weeks gestation and over 3 pounds and an even more furious kicker than her brother, who likes to hug my stomach and pat it gently when we say “sister.” And I’m working on working through all of the hang-ups I didn’t realize I would have about having another girl, namely not believing we will actually get to bring her home alive, and secondly feeling like she is some kind of replacement or in some way “better,” when really what she’ll be, I hope, is just, you know, alive. And get to grow up. And I’m finding gracious ways to acknowledge Amy to myself when people ask or say unknowing things without having to actually come out and say, “oh no actually, I already have a daughter but she died.”

And I guess Levi will probably be a big brother in 8 weeks or less??

 

Coming Out October 20, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — elegyforamy @ 1:08 am

Everything is all swirly.

We told her, if you have any guesses on gender, we want to know. We know it’s early. And it is, too early, to be sure. It’s more obvious if it’s a boy. For now, she says, she’d lean towards girl, because she sees no evidence of male genitalia yet.

It doesn’t mean it’s a girl, but it means it might be. She might be a she.

It’s pretty common, after you lose a baby, to want the next baby to be the same flavor. A do-over of sorts, even though you know you can’t have the same baby back, you can still have some of your dreams for him or her. The plans you started making for raising a daughter, or a son. Some people feel the opposite; they want the division to be very clear – this is a new baby, this baby is not the one we lost. We always felt the other way, but this thinking is not without its merits.

I did not, however, want to be one of those people who become absolutely devastated about the sex of their baby. Because the reality is, I have been pregnant and grown and delivered a small human and left the hospital without her. If I get to bring the baby home, alive, in a car seat, I am ecstatic. So I told myself that the next pregnancy was a boy, to avoid disappointment. And it was a boy, and I did.

Fast forward a bit more than a year, and I’ve told myself the same thing. And until this moment, I didn’t realize how I would feel.

I didn’t realize, first of all, that while I said I was assuming they were boys to hedge off possible disappointment, the truth of it is that it seemed greedy, asking too much, to get not only a living take-home baby but in my preferred sex at that. Until that moment, that it could be anything other than a boy literally had not occurred to me in any real fashion. I might have said it, oh, I’d prefer it, oh, it’d be nice, but in that way that you say it would be nice to spend a year traveling the world or own a house in the French Riviera, it’d be nice but it’s not realistic, not really.

But maybe it is. And as I’m having some kind of bizarre emotional breakdown from receiving the total non-news that we still don’t know the sex but it might be a girl (which, so we’re clear, means it also might be a boy, we really do not know), I’m thinking, but what if it is?

I can’t have Amy back, but I could have another daughter. I could raise another little girl, her sister, that could happen, and wouldn’t that be just the most incredible second chance? I try to imagine her, as one does, and this is when I realize, having another girl, it’s no easier than never having another girl. If we have another girl and everything goes our way, we get back the chance to raise a little girl, to see at least one of our daughters grow up and graduate and choose a path. And if we have another girl, the one who grows up may be forever a reminder of the one who didn’t get to, in a way that Levi is not. I thought it would be so simple, so cut and dry, a daughter, like we thought, hurray, but like everything else that goes along with losing a baby, it’s complicated and messy and amazing and terribly sad all in one tiny package.

All this from one “might.”

 

Levi Right Now August 29, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — elegyforamy @ 1:49 pm

I realized I never post a lot of details about Levi. He’s 14.5 months old now, and of course we think he is the world’s best little guy. Here is what he’s up to right now:

10633316_10100521804770899_2284549607598949704_oHe loves to giggle. He giggles at everything. You can make him giggle just by giggling at him, or by showing him, well, anything, and he giggles the whole time he’s cruising or crawling. One of his favorite games is to duck down behind something, then pop back up to surprise you and giggle for a full minute.

One of his other favorite games right now is throwing things away. Everything must be thrown away. Especially tissues – not, like, used tissues, but the ones still in the box. He grabs the top one, very meticulously crumples it up, then slowly walks over and throws it in the trash, then comes back over to the tissue box anew. Fun variation on this game – first tear the tissue into ten small pieces, then gather them up and meticulously crumple into the ball to throw away.

He is not walking – he refuses to walk! He is shockingly good at walking and will walk anywhere holding your hand, on which he puts absolutely no weight because he can, in fact, walk. (We’ve seen him do it accidentally.) And he loves to walk! But he will not do it unsupported; I guess he is terrified of falling from his ridiculous height.

He is huge and frequently mistaken for a bashful three-year-old when we are shopping together. It’s kind of funny, but also I feel a little bad for the awkwardness that ensues. I have gotten great at my pat response to their shock, though, “oh, yeah, his dad’s a giant.” He’s wearing size 3T in most brands.

He has 12 teeth and is working on #13, much to his chagrin. His favorite foods right now are anything served to him on his own plate with his own fork – using utensils is the best and can trick him into eating things he doesn’t particularly like (such as any and all meats that are not bacon or hot dogs). But he loves fruits and raw vegetables, not a bad nutritional habit for a toddler.

And as messy and challenging as it can be, he’s easily our favorite person in the whole world.

 

 

 

August 3, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — elegyforamy @ 2:20 am

I don’t visit much anymore, but I dropped in to read Glow In The Woods a few nights ago and there it was, a punch in the gut. “I’m too busy raising my son to acknowledge how sad it makes me to see him alone in the yard.”

It immediately brought tears to my eyes and, again, as I go to link to it. Every time I read it, because there it is, my life, right now, summarized in a single sentence. How did you know? It’s both comforting and disconcerting how much this experience is mirrored, over and over and over again, by other peoples’ losses.

People say, I think about my dead baby every day, but if I’m being honest? I don’t. When you decide to have a child, that’s the commitment you’re making – every day, for the rest of your life, there will be this other person you’ll be thinking of before yourself. But dead children are different – they don’t need much, and they’ve got all the time in the world for you to get around to them. You don’t have to think of a dead baby every day, the way you would if she’d been a living baby. There are no midnight feedings or tantrums or afternoon snuggles or trips to the park, it’s just ashes and photographs tucked away in a box and she’s got all the time in the world.

No, I don’t think about Amy every single day, not with intention or purpose or consciousness, though I think of her often. And that’s probably as it should be – life has gone on, and it’s a happy life, and we are forever changed and she is forever missed but we are, I guess, content.

Minds are rude things, though. I’m glad no one can hear what actually goes on in there, my macabre dead baby retorts. They’re not even retorts, they’re just, I don’t know, corrections? “Oh, I bet he’d love to have a sibling.” He does. “Boys are so great, can you even imagine having a girl?” I had one, so, yes, and I imagine it would be wonderful to get to keep her. Or, my favorite, the inevitable mom introductory conversation in which it is revealed that the other mom’s child, a little girl of course, is within a month of the age Amy should be, if Amy were alive. Oh, she’s the same age my dead daughter would be. 

And watching him, interacting with other kids, realizing that little girl, the one a whole year older than him who’s playing with him so sweetly, that could be our life, but it’s not. He’ll be raised as the oldest. People will tell him what a great big brother he is, and tell me how great it is to have boys or a boy first or an only, and I will do my damnedest to keep my thoughts to myself.

—–

A week ago, we passed her due date for the third time without her. It’s gotten so much easier, less acute. A dull ache I’ve grown accustomed to. A day no one but me remembers, anymore. I asked Dan if he ever thought about it, and he said a lot, all the time. If there was a particular part. Because for me, the thing my mind flashes to every time is the moment on the day when I was in labor, and I asked him if the baby was going to die, and, in the kindest way possible, he said that she was. And he said, he thinks about that too. It made me feel better, a little, though I can’t say why.

It’s easier, but, I don’t know, it’s still awful. I guess we’ve just learned to live with it.

 

And So We Meet Again April 3, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — elegyforamy @ 12:54 pm

Two years ago today, I gave birth to a perfect little girl. Under different circumstances, today might be the day that we celebrated the miracles of modern medicine and everything it had brought us, but instead I just wonder what to call this day. Her birthday. Her anniversary. I’m pretty sure a death day isn’t a thing, and if it were, who would celebrate with you?

And a big part of me feels a little crazy for still caring so much. About the day, I mean. Dan says, it’s just another day, I live with this every day, and it’s true. For even our nearest and dearest, as far as I know, April 3 is not a date that looms large and terrifying on the calendar.

Not me, though. Almost as soon as spring arrived, I felt it – a sense of foreboding, and a crankiness I never quite seem to shake. “What’s wrong with you,” my husband asked me, quite reasonably after the 5th times I’ve snapped at him or had a minor freakout about basic baby care. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.

And then, the answer, plain as day – spring. March. The last two springs have brought with them unpleasant surprises and hardships. Two springs, barely registered, let alone enjoyed. One spent mourning a dead child and the next spent trapped in bed trying to keep a new child alive. I used to love spring; now I dread it.

So I dove headfirst into trying to overcome the dread, mostly through distraction and enjoyment of what is now ours. Long walks on our own land with our wonderful, alive son, who is so funny and more and more mobile and interactive every day. And the way he looks at us and grins like we are the best people in the whole world.

And Amy is dead today, and tomorrow, and every day forevermore, Amy is gone, our daughter, deceased. Really never even started. But I can’t seem to help noticing the absence more, right now. Emily made a really lovely post on her Aidan’s two year anniversary that resonates with me, about the impact of his existence and his death and how losing him has brought positives as well as negatives. And about the hole. But the thing that for me feels different is that my hole seems a lot like an abyss these days, one I simply try to avoid looking in too deeply, lest I lose myself in it. It’s easy to see how a person could look into that abyss and start crying and never stop, and I want to enjoy the lessons Amy’s taught us and the lessons her little brother is teaching us daily and so I mostly just take quick peeks, here and there. A wave, to our daughter, and then, think of something else. But this time of year, the abyss seems particularly…present. And no matter what I’m doing, my thoughts turn to Amy. Other little girls of friends due when we were are walking and talking and growing up, and Amy never will. Our daughter is dead, and I know it’s true every day, but April 3rd just really seems to bring it home, for me.

I’ll love and miss you always.

 

Inside the Box December 15, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — elegyforamy @ 1:54 pm

One of the things that gets me is her box. Sometimes, I walk into our room and I see her box and it just seems so … gauche, maybe. A little bit awful. Tacky. Everything that remains of her entire existence, in a decoupaged memory box with a green bow, like a place you’d store letters from old boyfriends or photographs of your childhood friends, except there’s an entire human being in there, and 6 months of my life in there, and an endless fount of what-ifs and could-have-beens and if-only’s. It shouldn’t be so tidy, or so overly precious.

I don’t open the box very often, anymore. At first, I opened it a lot, I would have carried her around with me if I could have without seeming totally insane. I wanted the box under my pillow and in my purse and really I just wanted her back but only that last part is still true. But something about her very alive brother makes it hurt too much, to look in the box, to see her pictures, how fragile and small and never getting any bigger, any better, any healthier, just frozen forever at way too small to survive. And then there is her brother, taking after his father and already nearly half my height, huge and robust and, well, alive. He’s alive. She’s not. Somehow that feels like failing her all over again, when I get out the box.

And it feels like failing her that I don’t want to open the box right now. I’m sure I will again at some point. I feel terrible about it, and I wonder if it’s okay that I don’t want to open the box. The one thing people told me with all of this baby loss stuff that is inexorably true though is that whatever you need, however you feel, it is what it is and that’s fine. It’s always fine. Amy is not more or less loved, or more or less dead, if I can’t look at her pictures right now. I’ll look at them later. I know that’s true. Still, I worry.

And that box, man. That bow. I wouldn’t want her things anywhere else, anywhere less pretty, anywhere less important, but sometimes it just seems so goddamn trite.