Category Archives: children

Family Pictures

Early this month I got some pregnancy pictures taken. It was important to me that Noah’s angel bear be included in some of the family shots, because he is part of our family too (as well as an integral part of this whole pregnancy journey). The angel bear was sent to me along with Noah’s angel birth certificate from Angel Whispers and it sits in our living room.

Our whole family:

Mark & I with bear (and new baby belly):

One Year Anniversary

I wanted to share some pictures from the things we did in honor of the one year anniversary of Noah’s birth. It was actually important to me that we NOT spend all day on it/thinking about it/having a big event, but as it was, I was preoccupied by memories all day anyway. I must have cried most of what I needed to cry the day before though, because I didn’t feel weepy really, more like I was, “waiting for something” (all day). I also just felt reflective as well as a little “down” about life in general.

We made prayer flags to hang in his tree:

The flag I made

Lann's flag

Mark's flag

Zander's flag

We went out together and set my new footprints candle out by his tree as well as the jizo figure that I bought (it is holding two babies) as well as my angel bear from Angel Whispers and the lavender sachet I smelled when I was in labor with him. I said a quick little prayer and the kids asked if we could sing happy birthday to him and so we did. We also each placed a sprig of lavender on the ground from our lavender plants.

Then, I scattered the rosemary from my friend and read her little notes out loud and scattered them around too (they said things like, “you are loved” and “we remember you”).

Then, I decided I wanted to celebrate the kids we have with us who are happy and alive and so I gave them a “birthday” present, which was customizable Stikfas actions figures to assemble. They were getting over being sick (Z had a fever and slept on the couch most of the day on Sunday) and so that is why they look sort of glazed over.

My mom hooks primitive rugs and has a tradition of making a rug for each baby for when it is born (adds their birthday after they are born. She also makes a wedding rug for each of her children to stand on when they get married—so that they can always take the place where they got married with them 🙂 )So, she touched my heart by giving me a small birthday rug for Noah as well:

My parents came over at sunset and added their prayer flags to our string of them and we hung them all up:

We remember you, baby Noah!

Acknowledging Losses (again)

This weekend I was part of a wedding. At the reception, I was talking to my friend who recently experienced the loss of her baby and I started thinking about the amount of pregnancies represented in our group of friends compared to the amount of children—I then expanded this outward to think about all the people in the room whose loss histories I did not know, and wondering how many pregnancies total the room had experienced. It was kind of staggering.

I also had several awkward moments with being asked about how many kids I have. I’m almost 23 weeks pregnant now and so was obviously pregnant in my bridesmaid’s dress. The mother of the bride asked me, “so, is this your third baby now?” The awkwardness of how to respond to questions like this is pretty big (before getting pregnant again, I addressed something similar, in “how many children DO I have?“)—I just said, “yes,” even though my heart was saying, no. This is my FOURTH baby (and it is my fifth pregnancy–I didn’t really identify my second miscarriage as a baby to me yet, but it was a pregnancy. Side note: my oldest son’s 7th birthday was yesterday and I thought about how I’d been pregnant with all four of my babies on Sept. 21st, but only with three of them on Sept. 22nd!). This isn’t something I really want to get into explaining in this setting, but the sense of guilt and “betrayal” of not acknowledging Noah stuck with me for the rest of the evening. I talked with my friend about it and I know that what matters in the end is that he is always acknowledged in my heart—it doesn’t always have to be spoken aloud (though, by not speaking, I am choosing to miss moments of awareness-raising…).

The wedding was beautiful and wonderful and the most fun wedding I’ve ever been to—I think because it was the first wedding I’ve been to as an adult where I cared so much about the wedding couple as well as had so many other friends in attendance (as opposed to having to sit with random distant relatives and make awkward small talk as often occurs at weddings!) And, I was so, so, so thankful and aware of blessedly still being pregnant. One of the things I wrote about early in this pregnancy was the fear that I had already *clicked* forward to the wedding day and what if instead of being halfway through my pregnancy, instead I ended up flat-bellied and empty again?! We’d talked about how the dress would fit me pregnant, etc. and what if it was irrelevant? I’d imagined how sad I would be standing up there alone, knowing I “should” have been pretty pregnant. But, thankfully, when the real moment arrived this weekend I was full both of joy AND a kicky little baby!

Pregnancy Trauma

A month after my first miscarriage, I ran into a friend in the doctor’s office. She offered to listen if I needed to talk and shared that she’d “been there” too, but “no where near as traumatic as you.” At the time, I felt a little puzzled by the term—I didn’t feel like what I experienced with Noah could really be called “traumatic.” I did feel like the placenta aftermath was traumatic as was the blood loss and fear of death, but his birth was not traumatic and that is what I was focused on. As time went on, I was interested to note that my interest in reading and writing about birth and my birth activism interest hadn’t changed. But, what had changed was my interest in working with or being around pregnant women. And now, I have this experience of being pregnant again and that feeling of not wanting to talk about it out loud—and feeling nervous, skittish, and like saying “stop!” if other people talk about it out loud (like, “do you actually think I’m going to have a living baby?”). Not wanting to wear maternity clothes, etc. And what I realized is that I am not birth traumatized, but I am pregnancy traumatized and for me there is a difference between the two. My experience of birth with Noah was a positive one (as these things go), it made me feel strong and brave and proud of myself and it reaffirmed my sense of amazement at the capacity and capability of my body. The experience of losing the pregnancy, however, was scarring. One of the most painful experiences of my life (not including burying my baby) was having to put away all the maternity clothes that were unpacked and in my drawers. It was awful. I can still hardly stand to look at the tub where they all are now. And, I certainly haven’t gotten any of them back out and do not know if I will be able to wear some of them ever again (i.e. the shirt I was wearing during the ultrasound where we found out that he’d died).

Another painful experience was cutting my fingernails for the first time after Noah was born—why would this be painful? Because they were super-strong from pregnancy hormones and cutting them off felt like abandoning my last physical sign of pregnancy (also because the reason I had to cut them short was in order to try to feel around the edge of the stuck placenta). I have never been able to cut my fingernails again without remembering how it felt to cut off my strong, pregnant fingernails. The kids for days said things like, “you still have your strong mama fingernails!” Of all things to be “scarred” by, I know, but it was very painful.

There is STILL a bookmark in my Meditations for a Healthy Pregnancy book at the 15 week entry. I can hardly stand to look at the pictures in the pregnancy book or on my charts of the 13-15 week size fetus—but that is where my eyes automatically go. When I look at pregnancy books now, I only go to 15 weeks and stop—for me pregnancy arrested there. That is as far as it goes (mentally). If someone says they’re 14 weeks pregnant, I want to run away from them.

Shortly after he died, I put away all my pregnant belly necklaces that I like so much, because I couldn’t stand looking at them either. In the last week, I have gotten some of them back out and worn them a couple of times, though I feel strange and almost “scared” of them.

My kids, I think, have been pregnancy traumatized too. When we told them about the new baby (they never knew about my second m/c), L said, “I hope this one survives.” And, just now, Z (4) said to me, “I’m glad you’re pregnant, but I really hope this baby does not die.” Little four year olds shouldn’t have to know so much about that possibility 😦

This revelation about the difference between birth trauma and pregnancy trauma made a lot of things more clear to me—how it is that I can still enjoy birth stories and books about birth and that I still love writing about and talking about birth. Because birth itself didn’t hurt me—it affirmed me. But, pregnancy left me empty and sad. I can’t read a pregnancy announcement without thinking about putting away those clothes and cutting those fingernails.

This explains to me why I cringe slightly when I see someone else’s pregnancy announcement—because it seems hopelessly naïve in a way, because I hope so much that they don’t have to learn that for themselves, and because it is a painful reminder of what ended so sadly, and so suddenly, for me.

Would He?

This week, my older son keeps asking, “would baby Noah have been born now?” Meaning, if he hadn’t died, how old would he be now, etc. Maybe I am in a place of of acceptance (or denial), but my heart feeling is that nothing could have unfolded any differently and that, no, he was born in Nov. and while I thought at the beginning of my pregnancy that he would be born in May, it was never actually going to happen (and thus, no, he wouldn’t have been born now). When L asks the question though, I know what he is asking and so I answer from that original place of what we thought was going to happen, “yes, he would have been born now. About 7 weeks old. Probably hot and sweaty and nursing all the time.” However, my brain and heart cannot really GO to a place where he would have been born now—I literally feel my head skitter away from the thoughts that I “should” or could have a little baby in arms right now. Like it mentally hurts to risk going into that could/should-have-been territory.

The kids have asked a LOT of complicated questions over the past 7 months. I think I do a good job answering them, if I do say so myself. They probably talk about him in some way every other day or so—not in a sad way, but in a matter of fact way or in a curious way. (For example, when setting up dollhouse people this week, Z laid out all the dolls and named them the same names as members of our family, including naming the baby doll Noah.) I think it is nice that they feel like he is a real part of their lives and that they remember the little brother who is not with us.

How Many Children DO I have?

I spent the weekend out of town at an annual craft workshop my family directs. I had expected to be full-term at this year’s workshop and to be contending with comments about, ” are you going to go into labor while you’re teaching this craft class?!” Instead, I got comments like, “so, when are you going to have a third baby?” and “third’s times the charm” with regard to my having two boys and no girls. I do not know how many people present actually have any information about my experiences—only one woman there came up to me to say she wanted to tell me she was sorry about “the child you lost.” What I wanted to respond with to the joking comments was, “well, I did actually have a third baby, but he died. And, it was perfectly fine with me that he was another boy and not a ‘charmed’ girl—I would just like to have my baby.” I do feel like a mother of three—like I have three children, but only two are with me. I think this is partially because of my strong feeling that I have given birth three times, but only have two kids to show for it. When I introduce myself to strangers in group setting—like when teaching my current college class or attending my recent prenatal yoga teacher training—I introduce myself as having two sons and a third son who died during my second trimester. Somehow it is easier to say this in a public setting than to people I know—like the people I know already will think, “it was only a miscarriage, why would she think she has three kids?” When the people are strangers, I can present it as my reality—I have three kids, two are alive and one died—and they accept that in a way that maybe other friends and acquaintances do not.

I know that many babyloss mamas struggle with the question of how many children they have. I felt really sad to not acknowledge Noah during the joke comments this weekend about third times the charm—it didn’t feel appropriate somehow to mention him and yet it also felt not appropriate to leave him out. I talked to my husband about it briefly last night, asking him, “do you feel like we’ve had three children?” He responded with, “I feel like we have two kids.” This was hard for me to hear, while I can accept it, because it is not how I feel—I feel like we have two living children and there is a huge difference there. Perhaps this is because I perceive Noah’s birth AS a birth—and thus also a death/loss—my husband does not have the physical experience as a reference point. I do not know how or if this will change when/if we have another baby. I feel like I need to have another baby before I will be fully “healed”—so to speak—from these experiences, while I also know that I will still have Noah’s footprints on my heart forever. When I have another baby, I hope to be healed of the *pangs* I feel when seeing other pregnant women and the sense of loss/disillusionment I feel with my work with birth, and I also expect that I will feel like that as-yet-hypothetical future baby will be our fourth child and there will always be a little hole in our family. Someone missing. (even though we only planned to have three children. Period.) Will I still feel like acknowledging him then? I think I will—I have three kids with me and I had another son who died in my second trimester. Maybe that is weird, but I don’t really care.

One of the things I did learn from my second miscarriage is how people can not make a big deal about miscarriage or perceive it as a significant loss. While I will most certainly never forget that experience either, it carries significantly less emotional weight and meaning to me. I did not have time to feel a real attachment to that possible baby—-it was still an “idea,” a potential, a “spark,” rather than a person at that point in pregnancy to me—Noah, I gave birth to and saw and touched, as well as felt move in-utero. He was a real baby and in my heart and in my inner knowing he is one of my children. Our three sons.

I recently finished reading a new book called Avoiding Miscarriage by Susan Rousselot and she says, “A miscarriage is, by its nature, a life-changing event. From the moment a woman knows she is pregnant, she wonders how that pregnancy will change her life—she imagines the future with that child. How will this impact my work? What changes need to be made to the house? And what sort of mother will I be?…That unborn child can turn out to be anything, and because of that it is a dream of the future. When that dream is shattered, we don’t just lose a few weeks or months of pregnancy, we don’t even just lose a ‘fetus’ or ‘baby.’ It is as though we lose a whole lifetime—the lifetime we were going to share with that child.” I think this is a very accurate representation of the loss as I have experienced it—except for that fact that Noah wasn’t just an “idea” or a “dream,” he was a real little baby that I birthed alone in my bathroom—he had closed eyelids and little nostrils and a mouth that opened and fingers and toes. The magnitude and complexity of his development to that point and the reality of his fully-formed-ness takes my breath away. Do you realize the vastness of the development that had already taken place at that point in pregnancy? I am stunned by the intricacy and the reality of what had formed and then “failed” after that much growth and change and just magic of human creation. All organs are formed and body systems are working—a baby that size can suck its thumb and swallow amniotic fluid, as well as has brain waves and fingerprints and lungs, heart, etc., etc.

In another book I recently finished: Miscarriage: Women’s Experiences and Needs, the author addresses the question of “is it a baby?” with the following: “I do not want to suggest that a miscarriage at ten or twelve weeks is the same as losing a baby at twenty-two weeks…Nor am I suggesting that all women who miscarry at eight or ten weeks are devastated by the experience. Some clearly are, but that loss of a baby at any stage of pregnancy is an experience with unique meaning for that woman and her partner. All pregnancy loss is part of the same continuum, of experience. There is no natural divide when a fetus magically and conveniently becomes a baby to all concerned, from the mother to the doctor and the lady next door as well. What is important is that women are able to define the meaning of their own experience and that those around them enable them to do so, without prejudging the nature of the loss. The fact that the individual meaning of the miscarriage goes unrecognised and, moreover, is often publicly denied, is at the root of the difficulties that many women have with those who are close to them and with those who are supposed to be there to help them.” (emphasis mine, because I find this a powerful phrase and have written about it with regard to birth in another post.)

I have shared this sort of feeling with several other people before—from the moment you find out you are pregnant, you mentally click-click-click forward on the calendar and through life. You think about being really pregnant at X event and having a new baby on X holiday, etc. You mentally rearrange your life to include the new person. I believe I have already mentioned how I am looking forward to passing my due date—maybe I am wrong, but I feel like my click-click-clicks only extended until May 3rd and perhaps those new pings and pangs of “should have been” will ease once I really shouldn’t be pregnant any more. Or, will it just change texture? I should have a three month old now, etc., etc. We’ll see.

In this same book, the issue of a subsequent pregnancy is also addressed and brings me back to my point above in feeling that it will take giving birth to another living child for me to feel fully healed from my loss experiences: “For many women it is only when they finally have their baby that the miscarriage is more in the past than the present. One woman described how the birth of her baby had taken the sting out of her miscarriage, and another described how she felt the emotional effects of her miscarriage would have been far more permanent had she not been one of the ‘lucky ones who went on to be successful’…Miscarriage is not something you get over, as a child gets over the chicken pox, but something you come to accept; that it has happened to you, you experienced it, it had an impact on your life but gradually has become less painful. A successful pregnancy is often part of that process.”

This is what I was talking about earlier in this post—I do not think I will be “fixed” unless we have another baby. My fear is of recurrent losses and in ending our family on a painful note that not only has an impact on my personal life, but also has a profound impact on my friendships, my joy for other women, and on my birthwork career and professional aspirations.

Remembrance Poem

Got this poem from my mom this morning:

I see the crisp, new snow
I hear the sighing wind
I smell the smoking fire
I taste a deep sorrow
I feel a tear on my cheek
And I remember Noah.

——

::sob:: We all went out to play in the snow today and had a lovely time, but of course I felt like someone was missing. I also felt the anticipatory grief (this is the difference between losing the “future” compared to losing the past) of next year when there “should” be three little boys playing in the snow. Lann built a snowman family and included three kids—about the small one, “and this one is Noah!” 🙂

It seems very unreal to me that it has only been two months since my miscarriage. It feels almost a lifetime ago in a weird way—like my life is completely different now. TMI, but I am starting my second postpartum period today too. Those are hard days, because it is yet another reminder of what “should” be, but more so because every time I go into the bathroom I feel like I am having flashbacks of the miscarriage.