Mourning

Though it's going on six years since the birth and death of our first child, Genesis, I still find myself slowly digging down to the roots of my grief and sadness. Every time I think I've made significant progress, I come across stories like this one, of baby Zion born with Trisomy 18, or this one of baby Grayson born with anencephaly, and my grief splits open my insides all over again. And I've only just come to realize that it's not merely the reminder that life is precious, no one is guaranteed tomorrow, etc etc. It's because these parents knew ahead of time that their babies were going to die, and so they made a concerted effort to make the rest of their babies' lives the most joyous days possible.

And I wonder: did I cherish the tiny bit of time I had with my daughter?

Sometimes I seriously doubt it, and that's what hurts the most.

We didn't know ahead of time that she would definitely die. We knew it was a possibility, but from everything that we were told, we'd thought that at worst she would likely be born far too early and we'd end up with an astronomical NICU bill and then be able to take home a tiny, wriggling miracle of life. We thought it would be hard but that it would all be worth it in the end.

And so no preparations were made ahead of time. We waited with hope, with bated breath, for the day my squirming pink baby would be born and rushed to the NICU.

And then, it didn't turn out the way we'd hoped.

The day she was born started out with a sense of dread and just got worse from there. The whole day was encompassed in fear. I don't know how I breathed that day, honestly.

And then, when she was born, there were no joyful tears as she was lifted to my chest. Instead, there was silence from my baby as she was rushed across the room as the neonatologists attempted to put her on a ventilator. There was me, still pouring out birthing fluids and trying to deliver the placenta, tied to the birthing table by IVs and monitors and other medical accouterments, screaming to the ceiling, sobbing my heart and lungs out until I didn't think they existed anymore, my obstetrician holding my hand and weeping quietly next to me. There was my husband, walking back across the room from where he had been with our daughter and the doctors, with death and mourning etched into his features.

We had no Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep photographer to capture in beautiful black and white our final moments with our child. We had no time to revel in giving her her very first bath. There were no cute photos with adorable first outfits, as the entire length of her life was spent wrapped in a too-big receiving blanket and our arms. I was so overwhelmed by the fact that I held a dying baby that my heart had no room left for anything else.

From the moment of her birth, I grieved the loss of her.

Did I really ever celebrate her life?

She was with us for one hour forty-three minutes. That's it. That tiny sliver of time was all she had here on earth. And how was it spent?

Weeping over her body as she made every tiny attempt to use her under-developed lungs to suck in life.

So this is the reason I still grieve. I'm not sure I'm mourning the loss of her anymore. But rather I'm mourning the chance we had to celebrate her life while she was here.

Broken

October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month (among a host of other "months"). But this is the awareness that sits closest to my heart.

I have lost four babies, in varying stages of pregnancy.

I also have two living children. They are the absolute light of my life. They can drive me batty at times, it's true. But I absolutely love watching them grow and learn, testing their curiosity and their questions, learning how to use new words, figuring out how things work, and just the sheer wonder at nature. It's like everything is magical.

I love my family the way it is. Now that my son has just turned two, I feel like I'm finally starting to get a little bit of "me" back. I feel the haze of infancy and nursing 'round the clock and crazy hormones drifting away, and I am finding that I can think more clearly again, reason, use logic even, instead of using words like "thingy" for, well, everything.

But here is my dilemma. I feel I am at a crossroads. My husband and I had always intended to have at least three, maybe four, children. We technically have six, though only two of them are here with us. But the two we have would likely have joined their brothers and sisters had it not been for some extreme medical intervention. I had surgeries to keep my babies in, and surgeries to take my babies out. I was on bedrest. I was prodded for ultrasounds every two weeks during one pregnancy for at least half of the pregnancy. While my pregnancy with my son had the fewest complications, his birth had the most. I was quite literally traumatized. When you're strapped to a table shaking uncontrollably because your body is going into shock from loss of blood, and there's a blood transfusion waiting for you a few feet away, and the doctors tell you they're waiting to close you up until some specialists arrive because the tearing was so odd they want to make sure it's done right...and all the while, your husband has no idea why you're not out of surgery three hours later... You might be traumatized. Maybe.

Because of everything that happened during my son's birth, I've come to absolutely fear my body. I had already doubted its abilities, having lost three children (and nearly lost one) before he was born. But his birth sealed the deal: I was officially broken. Might as well just slap an "out of order" sign on my uterus. We're done. No way my body can handle any more of this.

Even though I felt this way, there's still this debate going on in my head. "Maybe we could have another. Maybe it would be healing. Maybe there's a chance..."

And then I think of life with an infant. And I kind of shudder. I don't know that I want to go through that again. And I especially don't know that I want to go through birth. Like, EVER again.

And yet, for some reason, I feel guilty for this, for wanting to be done.

I think the biggest thing is just feeling like my body is a failure. I couldn't have even gotten my two living children into the world by myself. I am just...broken. And I think that's what I'm having a hard time coming to terms with. That I'm broken, and I may not ever be "fixed" enough to actually have a kid "the right way." My experiences, sucky as they are, might be it. And that...just really sucks. Really.

So that's where I am right now. I don't mean this to be a downer post. I just need to process, and I want to be real. And I'm sure there's someone, somewhere out there who is in a similar place.

I'm just on this journey now to accept my broken pieces for what they are:

Pieces of me.

Not the whole of me.