Five Long Years

Our baby would have turned 5 years old today. Five long years have passed without him. Five years ago, at this exact time, Matt and I were getting ready to lay down in my hospital room after a beyond exhausting two days. After just “giving back” our beautiful son that we got to spend just hours loving on after he was delivered. After being in labor for nearly a day after finding out his heart had stopped beating, waiting, and knowing that he would be born and we would not hear him cry. Now, five years later and tonight that void in our family and the empty places in our hearts are still very much there. I can still close my eyes and remember holding him and admiring how beautiful and perfect he was.

As a mommy, I am eternally grateful and beyond blessed to be able to be a mother here on Earth to 4 children who I love with every fiber of my being. But every day I think about the baby who I held and who I fell in love with and who I have to mother from afar. This doesn’t get easier. Grief really sucks. It affects people in many different ways and can seem to stifle for a while but then BOOM, there it is. I am not the same person that I was when I woke up early on 7/24/14, hours before our baby stopped moving and was gone, and a day before he was born sleeping on 7/25/14. I am just not the same person. But I’m trying very hard to figure out the new me….. it has taken 5 years and may take many more but I’ll figure her out so that I can try to help other people figure her out.

Happy birthday in Heaven, Colson Matthew. Your sisters, Daddy, and I miss you so much, and we can’t wait to one day tell your brothers all about you. Thank you for showing me a kind of love that I didn’t know existed.

Love,

Mommy

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Milestones

I remember the first time, after being laid upon my chest, that your now 1 and 2-year-old brothers opened their eyes and looked at me after they were born.

I wish I would have had that with you, too.

I remember the first time that I was able to feed them, change them, and sponge bathe them when they were each in the hospital. I remember putting them in their car seat and taking them on their first car ride. Destination: Home.

I wish I would have had that with you, too.

I remember the sleepless nights with them when we were adjusting, the nighttime feeds and the day and night cuddles.

I wish I would have had that with you, too.

I remember their first pediatrician appointments, and all the ooohs and the ahhhs from the staff about how awesome and cute they were and how well they were growing.

I wish I would have had that with you, too.

I remember the first time they each cut a tooth, all the excitement and all the tears to wipe away and comfort to give.

I wish I would have had that with you, too.

I remember the first time they each moved to solid foods from formula – all the different stages and foods to try and all f the special memories associated with that.

I wish I would have had that with you, too.

I remember the first time both of your brothers rolled over, sat up, crawled, and the first time your now 2-year-old brother took unassisted steps. (Still waiting on that from your now 1-year-old brother).

I wish I would have had that with you, too.

I remember the first time both of your brothers said Mama and Dada and all the words that they learned afterward and continue to learn.

I wish I would have had that with you, too.

I remember all their monthly birthdays, and the monthly milestone sticker pictures I did for both until they were one.

I wish I would have had that with you, too.

I remember all their first holidays – baby’s first Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween, and more.

I wish I would have had that with you, too.

I remember the first haircut for one and look forward to the first haircut for the other.

I wish I would have had that with you, too.

Since the last time I wrote, we had our second rainbow baby: Donovin Grant, now 14 months old. Like his siblings, he is perfection. Complete perfection.

Milestones have been weighing heavily on my mind lately. Colson’s 5th birthday in Heaven is coming up in July. My oldest son should be going to kindergarten. I will have that with them in just a few years, but I wish I would have had that with you, too.

Double Rainbow

Since the last time I wrote in May 2016, a lot has happened. Our Rainbow was born on October 20, 2016 at 8:08pm. He was 6lbs 15oz and 20.5 inches long. I was induced at around 8am that morning. Labor was fairly easy, except for the fact that I did not want to move from the bed and be unhooked from the monitors. They would have me get up to pee and take walks in between doses of Cytotec, and I was so scared that in those few minutes of being unhooked, something bad would happen. The nurses and my husband did a great job of getting me through that.

Once my water was broken at around 6:30pm, things just flew from there. They hurried up and gave me an epidural but my body moved pretty quickly. He was here before we knew it! They handed him to me immediately and I instantly fell in love, just as I did with Colson when he was handed to me.

We named him MatthewJohn Cole. We really liked the idea of a compound name and his name has a lot of meeting. Matthew is my husband’s name. John is my dad’s name, as well as my Pap’s name and Matt’s Pap’s name.  Cole, of course, is in memory of Colson. I’ve gotten some looks regarding his name and some people who think I’m wrong when I say my own sons name (because they think it’s just Matthew), but to them I just smile, nod, and move on.  We call him MatthewJohn or MJ. He responds to both.

I cannot believe he is going to be 1 year old on Friday. He’s a very vibrant, gorgeous, fun little guy.  He makes me smile.  He dances all of the time.  The kid has moves, that’s for sure. He’s obsessed with The Lion Guard and instantly smiles when we turn it on for him.

Not only has this year been filled with excitement in watching our little baby grow, but in May, we found out that we were pregnant again!

After the initial shock went away, I went and got checked out and we determined that my due date is January 28, 2018. We are going to have babies 15 months apart.  We are so excited!

This baby is also a boy.  Matt and I are convinced that we only make boys together – and I’m cool with that! I will be induced on or around January 21st, at the 39 week mark.  I’m currently 25 1/2 weeks pregnant.  Feeling lots of movement and loving every second of it.

But… I’m also feeling so anxious and it’s causing a lot of stress on me.  I was anxious being pregnant with MJ because I was scared to death of losing him like we lost Colson. This time around, I’m anxious for all of the same reasons, but I feel like it’s multiplied by a million. Not only am I scared of a repeat loss, but I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy the experience of bringing a baby home, of having a baby handed to me who was pink and crying instead of silent and still.  I’ve experienced all of the great things about having a baby, and that makes the anxiety even worse for me.  I am living in constant fear all over again.

My pregnancy plan is the same as it was with MJ. Repeat ultrasounds to monitor growth and monitor the baby in general. NSTs starting soon to monitor him that way as well. More frequent OBGYN visits to check on me/him.  And, for this pregnancy, we are also having a fetal echo done at the 27 week mark – which I’m also worried about.

The reason for this precaution is because MJ was born with a heart murmur. The murmur did not go away by the time he was at his first doctor’s appointment at 4 days old, so they sent us to a pediatric cardiologist. She determined that he was born with a heart defect.  He has two holes in his heart, an ASD and a VSD.  Luckily, the holes were small.  We did more testing on him when he was 4 months old and determined that the holes decreased in size – one was barely visible on the echo and the other was just the size of a pinhole. The cardiologist is convinced that he will not have to have surgery, and should be able to lead a life without restrictions.

The chances of this baby having the same defect are very, very slim – but of course I’m worried. I’m worried about a cord accident stripping him of his life. I’m worried about him being born with some sort of defect. Worry is my middle name.

Since I don’t write that often, I’m hoping that my next entry will be full of more amazing news to share, and hoping that my anxiety can subside and I can enjoy the last several weeks of my pregnancy without landing myself in the hospital due to a panic attack.

 

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18

I’m currently pregnant with our rainbow baby and the emotions that I have felt in the past few months are just indescribable.  When we got our positive test, I was beyond thrilled and even took another one the next day to be sure.  Then, immediate panic set in.

Our first pregnancy after the stillbirth of our son (July 2014) was in October 2015.  I, then, miscarried in November 2015 at just 6 weeks gestation.  I vividly remember being in the hospital bed, miscarrying, feeling so vulnerable, and crying on a nurse’s shoulder.  I remember telling her that I felt like such a failure and that I did not understand why God (or whatever higher power) would keep doing this to me and to us.  I remember her crying with me.  I don’t remember her name, and I so wish that I did.  I was so completely unraveled that day.  It was a whole different type of loss and type of grieving than what I felt with Colson.  With a miscarriage, you may not have the body of the baby there with you, but you’re grieving and mourning the loss of your hopes and your dreams for that baby and that pregnancy.

At a visit just a few days later with my OB, he told us to wait 1-2 cycles, then try again.  He tried to assure me that nothing was wrong with me—that sometimes these things just happen (early miscarriages) and it doesn’t mean that I did anything wrong.  He was one of the doctors who spent time with me in the hospital when we had Colson, and I really like him.   I listened to him and heard every word, and took it to heart. I needed to hear that when I was there— that I am not a terrible human and this is not my fault.

We waited just one cycle, tried again, and were successful.  We are 18 weeks pregnant today. Things are seemingly going well. The baby’s heartbeat has been strong at 150. I’m feeling okay physically, aside from a few tummy issues and being tired, but otherwise I am doing well. Just scared and anxious.

When we found out about this pregnancy, we had a blood test ordered by my PCP who confirmed the elevated HCG levels and the pregnancy. I called my OB immediately and they gave me the whole “you can’t be seen until around 10 weeks by the PA” deal, and I demanded to talk to the PA because I knew that I could be seen sooner than that, especially with a loss history.  The wonderful PA called me and ordered more labs for me.  She had me get them done every 48 hours to monitor HCG levels.  Once they were high enough and still increasing, she ordered an ultrasound for viability.

The ultrasound was at around 7 weeks.  My nerves that day were terrible. I was so scared that we were going to get there and that they were going to say that things were empty and nothing was there, and that the pregnancy wasn’t viable. That, thankfully, wasn’t the case. Pretty much as soon as the ultrasound began, the tech pointed out a flicker on the screen. That flicker was the beating of our baby’s heart.

We waited until 12 weeks, when we heard the heartbeat on the Doppler for the first time, to tell our girls (now 7 and 8). We showed them the 7 week ultrasound picture and told them to guess what it was.  Our youngest guessed that it was a rabbit, then a frog.  I asked “where do you usually see pictures like this?” Our oldest immediately said “it’s a baby!”  This was closely followed by our youngest saying “Ohhhhh, I get it now. It’s a BABY frog.” We laughed. We can always count on them to make us smile.  The girls were both excited.  They immediately both said they hoped that it was a girl so that they can dress her up.  After a few minutes of conversation, they went back to playing.

After a little while, we noticed that Dianna (our oldest) had a troubled look on her face— a look of concern. I remember my husband asking her what was wrong and telling her she could always talk to him.  She said she was very happy but that she didn’t want the baby to pass away like Colson did.  We told her that we were going to do everything possible to make sure that wouldn’t happen. We also reminded her that Colson’s passing was an accident—something that doesn’t happen very often to babies. While there’s nothing that we can do to prevent these things from happening, we would make sure that we were doing everything else that we are supposed to do.  She smiled again and seemed content with that response.

We are now just 1 week away from finding out the gender. Alynna (our youngest) has now switched from wanting a girl to wanting a boy.  Dianna now says she just wants a “happy, healthy baby.”  That’s what my husband and I want, too.

We just want to be able to bring our baby home this time instead of having to spend the day with him or her in the hospital, then say goodbye.

I’m so nervous about this ultrasound.  When we had the anatomy ultrasound with Colson, I went into it all smiles – a complete innocence.  The ultrasound turned out picture perfect and we had our beautiful boy for almost 18 more weeks after that, before he passed at just around 38 weeks gestation.

For this pregnancy, I’m going into the anatomy ultrasound completely nervous that the baby won’t be moving, or that something will be wrong with the baby.  I know that I need to keep it together, and I will, because that’s just what I do.  But on the inside, I’m beyond scared, beyond sick, and just wishing that we could fast forward time so that we could just be holding our baby already.

They say that they’ll likely deliver at 39 weeks.  21 more weeks to go. 21 more. We can do this. I can do this.

1.5

Yesterday, I wrote on my Facebook that it had been 47,433,600 seconds, 790,560 minutes, 13,176 hours, 78.5 weeks, 549 days, 392 weekdays and 157 weekend days… 1.5 years since our son died.

Today, it’s been 47,433,600 seconds, 790,560 minutes, 13,176 hours, 78.5 weeks, 549 days, 392 weekdays and 157 weekend days… 1.5 years since we held our son. Since we hugged him and kissed him and held him tight. Since we told him how much we loved him and admired all of his beautiful features.

How is it fair for someone to have a date of death that’s before their date of birth? In what universe is this acceptable or fair?

I can’t go one day— one minute, even— without thinking about our son. I just can’t get over the fact that we should have a little one nearing toddler age right now… who is running all over the place. Who is stealing our hearts all over again with all of the new things he is learning.

I JUST CAN’T HANDLE THIS. IT IS JUST NOT FAIR!!!

Late this fall, in October, we became pregnant with our rainbow baby. We were over-the-moon excited. We had been trying for about a year.

6 weeks later and our hearts were torn from our chests again when we lost the baby. It was a whole different kind of grief to experience and only added to the grief that we were already experiencing.

I just don’t understand what what we did to deserve this. What our poor babies did to deserve this. It just isn’t fair. It really isn’t. I keep hoping for better things to come, and I know that they will someday, but until then I’m going to just keep being insanely pissed off at whatever higher power there is, because I truly don’t feel like they’ve been watching over us or protecting us like they should…

Guilt

Guilt.  That’s one thing that I’ve been feeling a lot of in the past 15 months.  When I say guilt, I mean it…. GUILT. Over EVERYthing.

I feel guilty for my flawed body not protecting my precious son.  My body failed him, and failed me, my husband, our daughters, everybody.  There is not a day that goes by that I do not wish that my body had an alarm system in it. So that it could have alerted me and said “Um, hey! Your son’s umbilical cord is knotted and he’s not getting enough blood flow and oxygen. Go to the hospital!” But, alas, that did not happen. I hung out and worked that morning like any normal day, not knowing of the tragic circumstances that were happening in my womb. My poor baby.

I feel guilty for failing my family. I’m not “normal” mommy yet. I’m not “normal” wife yet.  I do not think I could ever be normal again. My husband and my daughters aren’t expecting me to be, but I feel that I NEED to be, for their sake.  I need to be able to do better.  My husband tells me how great I am doing and how proud of me he is, but I focus on all of the flaws.  This is my “new” normal. I’m still developing it and it’s a work in progress.

I feel guilty for failing my extended family and my friends.  I’ve been extended olive branches on so many occasions.  So many of you have done so much to help me, or to try to help me.  I feel that I haven’t properly thanked everybody.  I also feel guilty that I haven’t spent a lot of time with anybody.  I’m so focused on just getting through the day—the work day, the school day, the everyday mom and wife duties.  I can’t even begin to think outside of the box.

I feel guilty for failing myself.  I had lost 120lbs prior to getting pregnant.  Now I’m 20lbs heavier than I was before I got pregnant.  I’m still down 100lbs from my highest weight, but I feel like I’m failing myself—and the worst part is that I have no motivation or desire to push my body back to where it was.  I have been keeping a food journal to try to get back into the swing of things, but I haven’t exercised like I should and I haven’t followed all of my rules closely.  I always seem to have a perfect plan in my head for how I want things to pan out, but that is in my head. I haven’t actually made any of it come to fruition.  Again, because it takes everything I have just to get through the normal day-to-day activities.  Just being a functioning part of society is exhausting to me.

I feel guilty that I’m not pregnant yet.  I feel like my body is failing everyone who is so badly looking forward to seeing us have our “rainbow” baby, especially including myself.  Every month that I fail in becoming pregnant, I am so harsh on myself. Wondering what I did wrong or what I could have done differently.  Wondering how I’ll answer the girls the next time they ask “Mommy, when’s another baby going to be in your belly?”

I feel guilty even for the dumbest things, such as sharing something on my Facebook page that’s related to our loss… because I have family members and friends who are pregnant and I don’t want to make them sad. I don’t want them to worry. I don’t want to squash their happiness by being so down in my own world.

I feel guilty because I wonder how many people out there are thinking “Gee, I wonder when she’ll just be happy already.” Yes, there have been questions. There have been comments such as “I hope Courtney is doing better and not still thinking about everything.” I know that it’s been almost 15 months, but not one day has gone by where I haven’t replayed things in my head from that dreadful day.

I’ve had so many people reach out to me and tell me that I’m inspiring to them, and that they admire me.  To all of you, I say thank you. Thank you for brightening my days. Thank you for lifting my spirits.   You truly may not understand what even just one kind word does for me.  On days where I just don’t feel like rolling out of bed (but do anyway), you may just be part of the help that keeps me afloat, and that keeps me honed in.

Kaleidoscope

A common question that my husband always asks me is “what are you thinking?”  I can never give him a direct answer.

In the past year, the most common way that I’ve been able to describe the thoughts in my mind, is by comparing the inside of my mind to a kaleidoscope. Different patterns, a plethora of colors, and pretty much just one big unpredictable mess.

I could be happy one minute, sad the next. Pleasant one minute, angry the next.  I could be feeling positive one minute and extremely hopeless the next. This thing called grief? It is terrible. It does things to the mind and body that are just indescribable.

So, let me just discuss something that’s been weighing heavily on my mind lately (and causing a lot of kaleidoscope-ness in my brain): acceptance. Accepting that a stillborn baby is still a human life, still a baby, still a son or daughter.  THEY MATTER!

I have had a couple of experiences in the past year that have rubbed me the wrong way. I had someone tell me (and this person seemed to be well-meaning) that “back in their day and age, they didn’t even name babies that died before coming through the birth canal, no matter if they were 20 weeks or 40.” If that isn’t bad enough, it was communicated to me by a different person that they “didn’t know that stillborn babies even had funerals or were buried, since they never lived.” Excuse my language, but are you effing serious?

I didn’t flip out. I kept my cool, because: 1. I’m a pretty respectful human and 2. I feel that educating the person was more beneficial than decking them.

Wake up, people. Just wake up. We aren’t living in the 1920’s anymore. A baby who dies in their mother’s womb is not any less important than a baby who is born crying and breathing. Babies who are stillborn have heart beats. They move. They bond. They grow. Just because they stopped living before they were “born” doesn’t mean that they aren’t considered a life.

To add to that: a baby that passes away in it’s mother’s womb is not any less important than a baby is alive when exiting the womb, but that passes shortly after. Stillborn babies still deserve a proper burial. It doesn’t make them any less worthy of love and respect just because their little bodies didn’t allow them to take their first breath or cry their first cry.

This is something that haunts me: the close-mindedness that still exists in this world. I’m sure that any loss mom can agree—the grief is VERY, VERY real and losing an unborn child is something that just shakes you to the core.

I have a feeling that the kaleidoscope frame of mind is not going to go away anytime soon. It’s my job, though– as a mom, wife, and as a functioning member of society– to continue to thrive and continue to work my way out of this hole. If I can help others, I think that I will be helped as well.

It’s been suggested to me that I should continue to write blog entries. So, here you go. I am no writing genius and I will forewarn you that my posts will likely end up in me ranting or venting about something, but therapy is therapy, and such is life.

Sending hugs to all. Thank you for your continued love and support!

Stillborn. Still born.