A year ago today, I went for an ultrasound and was told that the heartbeat was gone. The second pregnancy — the second lost child.
Nobody close to me seems to remember that I lost another child a year ago this week.
When I found out that I was pregnant with my first child, I was definitely surprised. I was 37, single, and childless. The baby was not planned. But she was very much wanted. My boyfriend became my fiancé, then my husband. And I became a wife and a mom-to-be.
Most Moms-to-Be go on to become Moms. I didn’t. Our daughter was stillborn twelve days before her due date. I was still without a living child, but I would never again be the same childless woman I’d been before getting pregnant. In falling in love with our unborn child, I had crossed a point of no return. I had permanently left behind my pre-baby self.
So what was I? I had forever shed my pre-pregnancy identity. I was no longer a Mom-to-Be. Yet I wasn’t a Mom, either. Could it be that there was a fourth group – Grieving-Would-Be-Moms?
Determined to get into that Mom group, I sent out to become a Mom-to-Be once again. Just over six months after the stillbirth, we conceived our second child. I was still grieving, but now I was a Grieving Mom-to-Be. Nine weeks later, I miscarried. I went from Hopeful-Mom-to-Be to Two-Time-Loser.
Am I doomed to be a Grieving-Would-Be-Mom forever? Could this uncomfortable limbo be behind my increasing desperation to have a (living) baby? I will always be Grieving, but would love to go from Would-Be-Mom to Mom.
Some might admonish me not to let my losses define me, but those losses are indeed a part of who I am. They are the first thing I remember when I wake up in the morning, and the last thing I think about as I go to sleep at night.
Blogger’s note: Today makes seven months since we lost Maggie. Following is just a taste of the back-and-forth that I’ve gone through to get off of mailing lists. If I ever get pregnant again, I don’t think I’ll ever register with Babies R Us again. And if I ever buy anything from there or any other related maternity store (are you listening, Motherhood Maternity?), I’ll pay cash and refuse to give them my address.
Dear Babies R Us Executive Committee Members:
I’ve made three requests through the “proper” channels. But there’s still a problem, so I’m writing to all of you.
Although I’ve been buying baby presents for others at your stores for quite a few years, it wasn’t until late last year that I had the opportunity to shop at BRU as a mom-to-be. In November, 2008, I discovered I was pregnant. I was absolutely thrilled. Over the next few months, my husband and I eagerly prepared for the birth of our first child. We chose a name — Margaret Stella — and decided to call her Maggie. We registered at BRU. We received wonderful gifts at two lovely baby showers, as well as gifts bought online by long-distance family and friends. In late June (a few weeks before my July 19th due date), I used the 10% registry completion discount to pick up a few must-have items: a diaper pail, changing pad, etc. I say “a few,” but I ended up spending over $200. But I was too excited to care.
On July 7, 2009, I went to my scheduled 38-week doctor appointment. I was feeling great, and ready to welcome our little baby into the world. When the doctor listened for the baby’s heartbeat on Doppler, he couldn’t hear anything. An ultrasound confirmed that there was no longer a heartbeat, and Maggie was gone. It didn’t seem real. Right there, in that tiny little ultrasound room, our world completely imploded.
After I got home from the hospital, I looked on the BRU website for a way to delete our registry. I finally used the “contact us” option to send a brief message stating that my baby had been stillborn and that I needed to delete our registry. Within a couple of days, I received a very kind e-mail from a BRU Customer Service representative; he extended condolences, informed me that BRU had deleted the registry, and asked me to let him know if there was anything else that BRU could do. I wrote back and asked to have my address removed from the postal mailing list. He replied, saying he would put in a request for the mailing list removal.
Soon after, a BRU representative left a voicemail saying she was calling to confirm our mailing address. When I returned the call, I was put on hold for several minutes. Listening to “I don’t wanna grow up… I’m a Toys R Us kid…” was difficult, but I managed to hold myself together. The actual person that I finally was able to talk to mumbled someting along the lines of, “Yeah, we’ll take care of it.” But she didn’t even take down my address, so how could she take care of it? Sensing some indifference on her part, I said, “Look — this is important. We lost our child.” By this time, I was crying and pleading with her to take my address off the list. She ended up taking down my name and address, and she assured me that we’d be taken off the mailing list.
Almost four weeks later, I went to the mailbox and found another mailing from BRU. This time, I was furious. I went onto the BRU website and fired off a really nasty, expletive-laden e-mail asking how BRU could be so insensitive when I’d already asked twice to be removed from the mailing list. I’m not proud of the swearing, but apparently asking nicely had gotten me nowhere. Again, I got an e-mailed response assuring me that my name and address would be removed from the mailing list. That was two weeks ago.
Today I got another BRU mailing. It has been eight weeks since I lost my only child. And I have asked BRU three times to remove my name from the mailing list. THREE TIMES.
These mailings are yet another painful reminder that I don’t have my child with me. And for them to keep coming after eight weeks and three requests is just cruel. If any of you has a compassionate bone in your body, you will honor my very simple request to make these mailings stop.
I wanted to give you a quick update on our efforts to get you off of our mailing list. We have been able to permanently remove your name from our list for future mailings. However; there is one mailing that is on the way to the Post Office which does include your name and address. We are attempting to locate the specific mailing and remove your card however as you might imagine this will be difficult given the large volume of the mailing. We will have someone searching the shipment when the truck arrives at the postal facility on Thursday.
We have also removed you from our Loyalty mailing list and are searching for other lists that may contain your name.
Once again, my sincere apologies for the delay in getting this done.
Enclosed are two more mailings that I’ve received from Babies R Us in the past few weeks. I don’t understand why, after seven months and four requests, we keep getting this stuff. What part of “our baby is dead” DON’T you people understand???
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I felt like I was under a dual siege – the religious Christmas, and the secular Christmas. The religious Christmas has made me examine my anger and confusion about God. The fact that a birth is central to the holiday probably made it tougher. Then there’s the secular Christmas part – the gift-shopping, the commercials, the songs, the traditions – and the fact that so much of Christmas is geared toward children. I have no living children. Instead of a “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament, we received a memorial angel ornament (we didn’t get a tree this year). I sent checks to my niece and nephew because it was too painful to go to a toy store (or its website). And everywhere I looked or went, it was CHRISTMAS CHRISTMAS CHRISTMAS – like an endless assault on the senses and the soul. I’m so relieved that it’s over.
So long, 2009 — good riddance to you.
To 2010 — may it be a peaceful and happy year for all of us.
Blogger’s note: In my high school and college English classes, we were instructed to capitalize the names of deities, along with pronouns referring to them. Although I’ve capitalized the names of God and Jesus (just like any name is capitalized), I’m not capitalizing the pronouns. It may seem disrespectful to some, but I’m having a tough time dealing with God’s role (or lack thereof) in the loss of my child. I don’t even know if God exists. So to me it seems too odd to talk about “Him” or “His plan” (if there is one). I am certainly tired of hearing about tragic things being “His will.”
Warning: This post contains a letter to God that questions many things (including his existence). If such things offend you, please stop reading now. And don’t bother telling me that I’m going to hell — losing one’s child IS hell.
Dear God (if you exist),
People say that there are things you do that are beyond human understanding. Well, I’m still trying to understand why you took Maggie away. And if you didn’t cause her death, why couldn’t you intervene and prevent it? Were we not worthy of one of those miracles we’re always hearing about? And if you are unable to cause horrible things or prevent them, then why do people worship you as an omnipotent deity? Losing Maggie tells me that you’re either hateful enough to kill a child in her mother’s womb, or helpless to prevent her death. The only other explanation would be that I deserved this, but I did everything I was supposed to do. Maggie was wanted and loved.
So don’t be shocked that I’m not all into celebrating the birth of Jesus this year. I don’t really want to read stories about a virgin great with child, or sing songs about a baby in a manger. And I sure as hell don’t feel like decking the halls.
It has been said (by me and others) that grief is not a linear process. For me, these past few months have been more like a roller coaster. It’s impossible to know what’s around the curve, and just when I think that I’m going to survive the ride, I get turned upside down and sideways.
Recently, a member of my immediate family called me “bitter,” “hostile,” and “hypersensitive.” What that person doesn’t know is that for those of us who have lost a child, bitter doesn’t even begin to describe the flood of feelings that we’re dealing with. Damn right I’m bitter. I’m angry at God/Higher Power/Whatever — for taking our baby or at least failing to intervene (people are always talking about miracles — were we not worthy of one?) I’m incredulous at some of the insensitive things that have been said to my husband and me in the wake of our loss. I’m disappointed with people who insist that they understand, then try to tell us how to grieve (or how not to).
Here’s something that it took me years to learn: our feelings are what they are. Denying feelings doesn’t soften them or make them go away. Trying to suppress them is like pressing down on the top of a really messy sandwich — instead of making things tidy, it makes stuff ooze from the sides.
So what are we to do with the feelings? What do I do with the feelings that keep coming at me, crashing like stormy waves and often changing with the frequency of New England weather? Sometimes I have to hunker down, close my eyes tightly, grit my teeth, and ride them out. Sometimes I write. Often I cry. But I know I can’t deny my feelings. I can’t snap my fingers and make myself stop being sad or angry. I have to acknowledge the sadness, anger, confusion, disappointment, or whatever I’m feeling at the moment. I don’t have to wallow in my feelings, but I do have to acknowledge them, because they are what they are. The waves crash over my head, and they sometimes knock me down. There will be other storms in the future. But I know that eventually, this storm will subside. Never completely… but enough for me to be able to open my eyes, stand up, and breathe again.
Sadly, for too many of us, every day is pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day.
Lately, I’ve been trying to get out for a walk almost every day. The other day, I saw a dandelion — in perfect condition for wish-making. But I kept walking. All I could think of to wish for was to have Maggie alive and well, here in my arms. And I knew that no matter how hard I wished, no matter how hard I blew on that dandelion, that wish could never come true. That was a bitter reality to swallow, but I kept walking.
A couple of days later, I was out for another walk. I saw another dandelion — probably not the same one, but one of many. This time, I picked the dandelion, made a wish, and blew. It wasn’t the same wish from the other day — I know I can’t have that wish. But I was able to come up with another wish. Maybe that’s what hope means to me these days — being able to come up with other wishes, even though my biggest wish can’t come true. Being able to look to the future. Being able to stop, pick that dandelion, wish, and blow.