Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

There is no good time of the year to be mourning a lost baby. I'm hoping to get through Christmas and the last week of 2010 without much extra emotions over what could have been. Last night, as we were getting ready for bed, Dan said it best: "I can't wait for this year to be over."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tough Days

I was getting ready to go with Dan and Owen to Toddler Gym time this morning, when it hit me that four weeks ago, Elliott was still alive and we were about to hear his heartbeat for the last time -- a sound that, somehow, I had been taking for granted. How is that even possible, that the proof that your baby is alive can be "routine?" I should have taken more time to be grateful that he was alive every time we heard his racing heart.

The grief cycle is a horrible rollercoaster ride, one that has so many ups and downs and twists and turns. I've been hovering in the denial/anger part for a few days in a row now, and today, I'm back to sadness/yearning. I'm back to the "what ifs" and wondering how I didn't know something was wrong, and how I didn't know to do something to change the outcome. I'm in disbelief that this is really happening to us and that we don't have both of our boys with us right now.

There are so many times when I think about Elliott's death and it doesn't seem real. It seems like a horrible dream, one that I hope I wake up from every day. But there are so many reminders of how real he was -- the stretchmarks on my stomach, my different c-section scar, the little box of his ashes in the nursery, the charm necklace I wear every day in his memory, the ache of love in my heart for the son I only knew inside of me. And now that it's been 23 days since he was delivered, the dinners have stopped coming, the phone has stopped ringing, and visitors don't come by to check in anymore. Life is going on, and it seems almost like too much to have to keep up with. Like I said, most days are just normal days -- Owen needs to eat, play, sleep, have his diaper changed... But there are days like today, where I wish I could hide under the covers of my bed and stay there until the hurt is gone and we have a new baby to help heal the huge hole in my heart and soul. I can't ever replace Elliott, nor would I want to, but I so want to feel better again. I want to laugh and not feel guilty for it. I want to be hopeful not cynical and scared. I want to hear our babies cry and nurse them for health and comfort. I want to be so sleep deprived that I ask Dan if it's possible to die from it (true story). I want to be a mom to more babies.

For now, I just have to feel these emotions, be the elephant in the room, and learn to live through the tragedy of Elliott's death. I so wish I could change the end of the story, but I have to figure out how to accept that I can't. I miss him so much.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Santa Visit - 2010

We took a trip to visit Santa this morning. Owen was excited until all of the kids in front of us were freaking out and crying on his lap. We wanted a family photo anyway... ;)


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Somehow, Life Continues

Amazingly and somewhat cruelly, life has gone on these past 2+ weeks since we lost our son Elliott. At times, I'm thankful for that, and other times, I wish we could hit pause long enough to catch up, and then keep things going. I have had all kinds of anxiety over today coming -- last Friday was Elliott's official "due date" and I was anxiously trying to anticipate what kind of feelings I would have that day versus the other painful days we had been living through until then. Friday was also my Dad's 63rd birthday, and I'm hopeful that it will only be associated with that celebration in the years to come, and not the day my baby was supposed to be here. What babies are born on their due dates anyway? And Elliott was delivered in November, so why would a day in December be especially hard? I can only wait it out and see.

There were tears of sadness and anger -- sadness from losing our son, the same ache and devastation as we've been feeling since the doctor confirmed Elliott's heart was no longer beating, and anger at this happening to us -- good people, good parents -- that had already made plans for Owen's and Elliott's future as best friends and partners in mischief. I mourn the loss of Owen's brother almost as much as the loss of my son. Sure, we can probably have more kids in the future, but no one will replace Elliott, and certainly not in this stage of our lives. Owen may have a brother, or a sister, or a couple of each or both...I don't pretend to know what our family may look like in the future, especially after our "plans" were clearly not up to us with Elliott.

But I didn't come on to write about my pain and anger. I wanted to take advantage of life going on, to talk about Owen and how he has grown and changed in the past month. When we left him in his highchair eating dinner and watching TV on that terrible Saturday, neither of us realized we were about to leave him for three nights. The longest we have ever left him before that was around 2 hours to go see a movie, and he was finishing a nap for half of that. That day, we took off, without being able to call him (he doesn't quite understand the back and forth of the phone yet) and without seeing him at all. He was in great hands and it sounds like he had a blast, but I was so worried every nap time and bed time. He puts up a fight for us when we lay down with him, even with bear hugs and kisses and the right number of stuffed toys surrounding him. How was anyone going to be able to put him down? But he slept and ate and played and enjoyed the extra attention. And he was so excited when we came home. He gave us a tour of the upstairs -- "Closet! Music! Fan! Window!"

He has also picked up some new phrases that I love:

- "Where's hammer? Where'd it go? Somewhere I find it. There is he! 'S'right there! I get..." This same series of thoughts happens for any lost object -- his water, a garbage truck, our cat, a sound.
- "Watch this!"
- "I nape's Owen!" (My name's Owen)
- "Thank you...Welcome" (after sharing his food with us)
- "What's that sound? That sound's airplane!" (or cat, or Mommy, or...)
- "'K'out window!" ("Look out window" when anyone leaves our house)
- "Do again!" (which is hard in real life without TV)
- "Get back here!" and "Come back here!" when he's chasing our cat or a friend
- Some Christmas words - "Kiss-mas," "Santa Caus," "Snow"

Owen's attention span is also getting longer, and he can sit and play with his trains or trucks or read books for a good amount of time. He's also getting bored more easily lately, which is hard for us to keep up with, especially in the winter weather. It's cold and wet, and dark so early, that it's hard to come up with things to do where he can run off some energy and be mentally stimulated too. That's our challenge for this winter -- keeping Owen entertained and happy, no matter how tired, sad, mad, etc we are. It'll help us all. (12/14/10)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Our Angel, Elliott

Sometime between our appointment on November 23rd and our trip to the childbirth center on November 27th, our youngest son, Elliott, passed away. Our lives have been changed forever, and the loss we feel is unimaginable. Our amazing little guy was alive and strong on Tuesday, and something happened that we'll never understand.

I began having frequent, strong contractions on Monday night, November 22nd. They weren't strong enough to think I was in labor yet, and at our appointment the next morning, I was checked for progress and hadn't made much -- I was just starting to dilate, but it was clearly not "real" labor. I continued to have contractions every 3-4 minutes from Tuesday night on. I was exhausted, not sleeping well, and in general discomfort. On Friday afternoon, I realized that I didn't know if I was feeling Elliott moving at all. I had been so focused on the contractions that I couldn't tell if he was reacting or sleeping...but I mentioned it to Dan. We tried to find his heartbeat with our doppler, without success. But we didn't find my heartbeat either, so we figured it was just something wrong with the doppler. Saturday afternoon, we decided to try again to find the heartbeat. When we still couldn't, but we found Dan's when we checked, we thought it was worth a call to the on-call doctor to have things checked out. Honestly, I didn't think we had anything to worry about. I figured we'd go in, they'd monitor us for an hour or so, and send us home for being "those parents." God, I wish we were "those parents."

We got to the Childbirth Center at 5:00 PM on Saturday evening. The nurses that got us in our room were kind and joking, trying to ease our minds. When they hooked me up to monitors to find Elliott's heart rate, they couldn't. So rather than grab a doppler, they brought in an ultrasound machine, to get to the point and find his beating heart. But they couldn't. They told us not to worry -- they weren't experts. The doctor would be there soon. But she couldn't find Elliott's heart beat either. A final "official" ultrasound was performed by an ultrasound technician that confirmed we had lost our son. I was sobbing, asking them to not give up, to please please please keep trying. It wasn't possible that he was perfect on Tuesday and gone now. It couldn't be true.

But then we had to decide how to deliver him. I had my heart set on a vaginal birth -- the one that I wanted with Owen, and the one that I was determined to have with Elliott. I wanted to try still, since the recovery would be faster and the hospital stay would be shorter, so we began the steps for an induction of labor. At 7:00 PM, a Cook's catheter was placed through the small opening in my cervix and inflated on either side. The purpose is to use the "balloons" to soften and thin the cervix, so that labor can be helped by Pitocin to create contractions and finish the dilation process. It was uncomfortable at first, but it also was creating very strong, close contractions for me right from the beginning. They were on top of each other, with only 30 seconds to a minute off between them, and they were off the charts in strength. We were told that this stage of labor would probably take 10-12 hours, but the nurse was thinking we wouldn't last until midnight with these contractions. I didn't want to get an epidural, but I was in pain. I asked for a narcotic drip to help, which did help for a while, but it also slowed my contractions and made me sick. By 5:00 AM, I was throwing up, and the catheter hadn't fallen out yet. The nurses removed it at 7:00 AM, and I asked for an epidural before we started the Pitocin stage.

It took three times before the anesthesiologist was able to get the epidural in, but when he did, he did a great job. I never lost feeling in my legs or feet, but I didn't feel the contractions at all. He was also great at managing my nausea, which was such a nice relief. At around noon, the nurse on duty checked my progress, to see how the catheter and Pitocin were working. And, much like with my labor with Owen, nothing was happening. I was only a little more than 2 cm dilated, and Elliott was nowhere near my pelvic opening. They offered to break my water and keep trying -- no one was pressuring me to have a c-section or to give up. But I knew by then what we had to do. I didn't want to spend another whole day waiting to meet Elliott, delaying the inevitable. At 1:00 PM, we made the decision to have a c-section, and the on-call doctor called our doctor in. The two of them did the surgery together.

At 2:28 PM on Sunday, November 28th, Elliott was born sleeping. It was eerily quiet in the operating room, and until that moment, I was still trying to convince myself that there was a chance that everyone was wrong and that he'd wake up and start crying. As time went on in the surgery and they were working on closing me up, we had to face the truth -- our amazing little boy didn't make it. Once Elliott was cleaned up and wrapped in blankets, Dan was able to hold him. He was so beautiful!! He weighed an amazing 11 pounds, 10 ounces, was 20.5 inches tall, and had a gorgeous big 15-inch head. His hair was almost black, and he looked so different from Owen. I was convinced we'd have another little redhead, but Elliott was his own little person. He had my crooked little toes, and the chubbiest legs. He really was so perfect and I will never understand why he didn't get his chance at life.

By 3:30, we were back in our room with Elliott. We had the afternoon, evening and night to spend with him. We held him and talked to him and did what we could to memorize his face. A photographer from a volunteer group called "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" came and took pictures of our son. Family came by to meet him. I couldn't stand the thought of sending him away, knowing that we had such limited time with him. In the morning, though, we had to begin the preparations for letting him go. We had to choose a funeral home for after his autopsy, and we had to say goodbye to his physical body. It was horrible -- something that no one should ever have to do.

On Tuesday morning, we were discharged and had to leave the hospital without our baby. Thank god we had Owen to come home to -- he got us through so much when we were in the hospital, and he continues to help us heal now. He doesn't know what has happened, and he has moments where he seems terrified we're going to disappear again, but he's so sweet and funny and has such a love for life, that we can only be thankful for what we have. We aren't burdening him with our recovery, and we won't try to explain this to him until he's old enough to really understand, but he is helping us more than he can ever know. And when he gets the chance to meet a little brother or sister in the future, he'll be just as amazing of a big brother as he was to Elliott already. We are so sad that he doesn't get to a chance to know Elliott, but we are thankful that he's too young to feel our pain with us.

So for now, we just take our lives day-by-day, minute-by-minute. We have no other choice. But we are so proud of both of our boys, and will never forget how much Elliott touched our lives in such a short time.