Friday, October 28, 2011

Live Like You Were Dying

My friend Brooke sent over this story the other day about a woman whose son is terminal. He has a disease that is guaranteed to shorten his life and the quality of those short years. She speaks about how her parenting style is different. Does it really matter if your child eats all their vegetables if they will die tomorrow? He is allowed whatever makes him the most comfortable and happy because she will be able to give him very little for the rest of his life. She won't send him to college or cheer him on at soccer games. But she can give him cheesecake if that's what he really wants to eat for dinner.

Our parenting plans, our lists, the advice I read before Ronan’s birth make little sense now.  No matter what we do for Ronan — choose organic or non-organic food; cloth diapers or disposable; attachment parenting or sleep training — he will die. All the decisions that once mattered so much, don’t. 

It got me thinking... and then of course a country song popped into my head. This happens a lot. My immediate thought was that song from Tim McGraw, Live Like You Were Dying, about a man who learned he had terminal cancer and all the adventures he took himself on were as though living that one day would be his last-- skydiving, Rocky Mountain climbing, riding a bull, loving deeper, speaking sweeter, giving forgiveness {he'd} been denying. And it ends with this kicker:

Someday I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dying.

Let's get real. I'm not ready to die. I wasn't ready for my son to die and I'll never accept that as being okay. I'm not ready to say goodbye to baby #2 either. I hope I don't have to, but I don't have a say in the matter. I have to hope and pray and wish and dream that this little guy will hold on and grow strong in his "safe place" (irony, anyone?) and we'll get to love on him forever. But we just don't know the future. It could be short or long and none of us are promised another day.

As the "dragon mom" in the article mentioned, she is choosing to love her son fully and take one day at a time. I am attempting to make this my goal during this pregnancy. I am so thankful and so lucky to have this little boy growing and kicking within me. But I know he may not be with me forever and I need to cherish the time we have with him however long we're given. Don't get me wrong; I'll be crazy and throw fits and be even angrier if something happens to this little gem, too, but I am choosing to spend my pregnant days just loving him. I feel as though I maintained that same mentality with Andrew, too, but I lost touch at some points when I was too busy planning a nursery, reading pregnancy books, and signing up for parenting classes that I didn't focus as much on the little joy growing within me. I focused on a life we never got and not on the child who mattered in the moment. I wish I'd written more down, taken more photos, counted his little kicks, talked to him even more. This time, I have no excuse. I am not planning a nursery. As a matter of fact, we refuse to take Andrew's name down from the wall or move a thing until this child is in our arms. We'll worry about that later. Right now, we love and bond and cherish each moment.

Dragon Mom has the right idea.

It's short. Read the article. Not just for moms or BLMs or anyone in particular. I think she has some wisdom that puts life in perspective. We could all use the reminder at times.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Sentiments Exactly.

This article has been floating around the BLM circle. I am not re-posting for BLMs to read, but for those who haven't experienced this unbearable loss to read. I'll live this reality for the rest of my life. To say it's changed me as a person is an understatement. So honest, and unfortunately, so real.

Milwaukee Journal, October 6, 2011, Laura Schubert

Did you know that October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month? I'll bet not. Despite the infant mortality crisis that's been at the forefront of Milwaukee's public health news for months, the only people who have more than a cursory comprehension of what it means to lose a baby are those who've lived it.

Infant loss is nature's cruelest practical joke. It's investing all of the required time and effort into pregnancy, only to be robbed of the result. It's cradling a body that grew within your own and trying to reconcile the cold, lifeless form in your arms with your memory of the baby who turned double flips in your womb.

It's worrying that you'll forget what your child looked like and snapping an album's worth of photos that no one will ever ask to see. It's sobbing so hard you can't breathe and wondering if it's possible to cry yourself to death.

Infant loss is handing off a Moses basket to the nurse who's drawn the unfortunate duty of delivering your pride and joy to the morgue and walking out of a hospital with empty arms.

It's boxing up brand new baby clothes and buying a 24-inch casket. It's sifting through sympathy cards, willing your foolish body to stop lactating, clutching your baby's blanket to your chest in hopes of soothing the piercing ache in your heart.

It's resisting the urge to smack the clueless individuals who compare your situation to the death of their dog or who tell you you'll have another baby, as if children are somehow replaceable.

Infant loss is explaining to your 7-year-old that sometimes babies die and being stumped into silence when she asks you why. It's watching other families live out your happy ending and fighting a fresh round of grief with every milestone you miss.

It's being shut out of play groups for perpetuity. It's skipping social events with expectant and newly minted mothers because, as a walking worst-case scenario, you don't want to put a damper on the party.

It's listening to other women gripe about motherhood and realizing that you no longer relate to their petty parental complaints because, frankly, when you've buried a baby, a sleepless night with a vomiting toddler sounds something like a gift.

Infant loss is pruning from your life the friends and relatives who ignore or minimize your loss. It's recognizing that, while they may not mean to be hurtful, the fact that they don't know any better doesn't make their utter lack of empathy one whit easier to bear.

My baby girl would have been 5 years old this month. I don't know what she'd look like, what her favorite food would be. I've never had the privilege of tucking her into bed, taking her to the zoo or kissing her boo-boos. I will never watch her graduate or walk down the aisle.

Infant loss is more than an empty cradle. It's a life sentence.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Current List of Worries

Stuff most pregnant women never think about is all I can ...

1. Low grade fevers. This pregnancy I've had this twice and one of those times was last night. Cue the panicking, wet wash cloths, increased water intake, heat turned off, checking my temp every 5 minutes until it broke (over the course of two hours from 1am-3am), and no blankets.

2. Drinking water. We received a letter from our city that in August they tested the drinking water and traces of bacteria were found. Great, I've only increased my water consumption because I've been pregnant the entire time of this testing/realization. Don't panic, they said. Don't boil your water, they said. Don't stop drinking it, they said. Except when you know a good BLM friend of yours lost her perfect son to bacterial meningitis. We'll be purchasing large amounts of bottled water starting today.

3. Cord coiling. Looks like this baby also has an undercoiled umbilical cord. The perinatologist said it is normal and functioning, but definitely less coiled than he's used to seeing. Great. A little too close to home on that one since my first son died from an undercoiled cord being flattened in utero. Hello early induction date!?

4. Falling on ice. Winter is about to hit Chicagoland and we hear that we're going to be taking a beating. Know what that means? More black ice and more chances to fall on it. Looks like I'll be hermit crabbing it up inside my house for the next six months. Don't believe me? Winter really does last that long here.

On the good news front, this baby is developing just as he should and measuring a bit ahead in every category. {No surprise on the gender, btw. We've had a hunch since our 12w u/s that there were boy parts present.} There are no current health concerns or abnormalities to worry about at this time. If only I had the ability to hold that cord in place for the next 4 months, I totally would. Instead, I worry.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Chicago and GRASS

Ever since I gave up facebook, I've discovered Pinterest. It's not new, but I'm now a big fan. I follow some pretty fantastic people like Brooke and Alli. They pin crap I like and then I share it with you. Like this, for example:
That's it. That's all we've got in this state. Chicago, and grass. I'm hard-pressed to find anything from my house to St. Louis that isn't cornfields and soybean farms. And it ain't pretty, either. You mean to tell me that I left Life of the Party for this place? Yeah, yeah, the husband is definitely worth it, I agree. ;)

Mostly I just pin food pictures/recipes because I'm a hoarder. But this, this is a keeper. I wish I were one of those people who could commit to a specific day of blogging about stuff. You know how people do those "Wordless Wednesdays" (which are never really wordless, btw) and stuff like that. But I'm not. Plus, there is no day of the week beginning with 'p' and I'd really like the alliteration to work out in my favor.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fall Getaway to the East Coast

We're on another adventure. Ray has been in the D.C. area for work the last 2 weeks, so we decided to extend some of the meetings into a full visit. I arrived to join him Saturday and we spent 4 days with the Wilson clan.

It all started Friday morning...
I walked downstairs and bent over to grab my shoes. I did not bend my knees and while this is normally not an issue, it was this particular morning. I heard an incredibly scary pop sound and then stood back up. I have been in intense and excruciating pain ever since. The girls turns 29 and all of a sudden she's totally out of shape and unable to perform regular tasks. I suppose part of that could be attributed to my lack of flexibility because I haven't exercised since I saw those two lines on that pregnancy test. Well, a few random hikes and walks here and there, but nothing in the way of heavy cardio or weights. I'm just so intensely afraid that I'll move wrong and hurt this critter. It's totally irrational, but I can't help but feel this way. I'm over halfway at this point, so I guess there will be time to worry about all the lbs later.

I digress. I somehow managed to get on a plane Saturday morning to fly to Reagan and met up with my husband and my in-laws. We then headed over to dinner with Ray's lovely grandparents and his Aunt Helen and Uncle Mike. They gave us some beautiful Andrew gifts... but I'll have to display those in a different post as I'd like to take a few photos that haven't yet been taken since the gifts are packed away in my luggage. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to have my son remembered and loved by family. It truly means everything to me. Unfortunately, pain continued. I was laying on my back before and after dessert-- which was carrot cake and my favorite peanut butter swirl ice cream!

Sunday meant church and a lovely brunch and performance of Chicago at a local dinner theatre in the Baltimore area. I'd been there once before about 5 years ago when I made my first trip to MD to meet the family! Now I'm definitely part of the family... so a much different trip. Saw my beautiful SIL, but otherwise winced in pain the entire show as Ray would apply pressure to my back every few minutes.

Monday was a day of relaxation and two chiropractor appointments. I would normally never visit a doctor in another state, but I simply could not take the pain any longer. It was to the point that I'd go to bed for 12 hours and spend most of the days laying on my back. He was really nice and gave me a neck adjustment (ouch) along with using some strange vi.brating torture tools. I also sat on a moving massage bed for 20 minutes. I left feeling 100% unchanged. Five hours later, I was back. This time, I pinpointed exactly where in my upper back felt the most shooting pain and he gave me yet another neck adjustment along with more torture tools. I was so terrified during this process as I'm pregnant with a critter who was probably being shaken, too. Luckily, the pain was occurring in my upper back and not my lower back. But when you've lost one child, you pretty much assume only the worst can happen since there is intervention involved. I left feeling about 20% better. Throughout the rest of that night and the next day, it progressed to 50% pain. That night we went to visit a friend who coaches soccer for Ray's old high school. We didn't actually get to hang out with him, but we watched the JV and Varsity games of his Alma Mater.

Tuesday, the four of us headed to Mt. Vernon in Alexandria, VA. It was a lovely day and perfect for our visit. I'd never seen Washington's home, so it was really great to visit. I always find it so wild that Ray grew up less than an hour from the White House, Pentagon, and the heart of D.C. So much history, including battlefields, were literally his backyard. We took a walk in Downtown Alexandria and enjoyed dinner at the Columbia Firehouse off King Street.

Currently, I'm sitting in our hotel room that Ray's parents dropped us off at last night after our dinner. I spent some of the morning walking around town and had lunch at this pita joint... totally underwhelming. Yelp definitely let me down on that one.

 My walking lunch of mediocre ingredients.

We'll be having dinner with some of Ray's colleagues this evening and will be heading out tomorrow around dinnertime. I love getaways with my husband! Thankfully, too, this litter critter has been moving quite a bit since my little chiropractic experience. We had one scare where we both nearly lost it when I hadn't felt its movements in awhile. Of course no one will be able to talk me out of thinking that it's now brain-damaged, but that's the psychosis of a pregnancy after loss. I respect all you women who have crossed this road before me. There are no rules and no way anyone can guarantee things will work out. I guess that's the reality of life. None of us have any guarantees about anything and life is just a precious and fragile thing.

Guess who's flying first class tomorrow? Don't get used to it, child. Mom and Dad are definitely too cheap to be spending the G's on upgrades like this! Just worked out this go-around.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day today.
...and his name is Andrew. Love you my boy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Operation Fat Baby

It's probably just going to end up being Operation Fat Brandy, but whatever. Pregnancy is stressful enough under these circumstances and stress might make a certain someone want to eat. A lot.

As I walked out of TCBY this afternoon with my strawberry frozen yogurt, some guy made sure to ask, "Is that for you or the baby?" I honestly looked around me to see if there were other customers he was talking to because I didn't know what he was talking about. Oh, that thing in my belly? Ah, right. Yeah, it's probably just for me. Thanks for asking, inappropriate stranger. Since I often choose to forget there's a little human setting up camp in there, it was weird to hear that out of the mouth of a complete stranger. Then I realized that he doesn't know anything about me and most certainly has no clue that I have such sensitive issues surrounding pregnancy and babymaking. Most people don't-- I'm just the anomaly.

I have a particular affinity toward things made with processed cheese (Cheetos, Cheezits) or anything fried. This could be a very bad situation, especially if strangers feel the need to point out my calorie consumption on the regular.

Hi, my name is Brandy and I consume way too many calories. Oh, and I don't care what anyone has to say about it. If someone could guarantee me a healthy, screaming, fat baby at the end of this whole ordeal, I would literally go buy out the entire potato chip aisle at the nearest market. I have no shame.

Mine will definitely (or we'd have serious issues) not be Asian or this much of a chunker, but it wouldn't be a proper fat baby post without a visual of sorts. Totally necessary, right?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Are You Ready For Some Football?

Air Force wasn't. Ba-dum-ch.

Okay, in all honesty, we were really rooting for those Falcons since the husband is an alum. It just wasn't in the cards. So much that it was Notre Dame's highest scoring game in 15 years. Ouch. A very high scoring game and Air Force just didn't have what it took on the defense to stop them. I do believe there were three touchdowns in the first quarter alone by ND.

We drove from Chicago to South Bend and made it in time to see a little of the lacrosse scrimmage going on between the two teams. Ray played Division 1 for Air Force all four years at the Academy and we were there to check out their newbies. Nothing like a bunch of young, athletic men to make you feel old as the hills. We walked by the lacrosse bus later on and out of the crowd, one of Ray's former coaches called him out by name. It was really special. It's always awkward to run into someone from so long ago and expect them to remember you-- but he remembered Ray without drawing attention to himself. Definitely made this wife incredibly proud. We also caught the first half of the soccer game between UConn and ND. Both fantastic teams we enjoyed watching. No scoring, but tough teams overall.

We walked to grab some lunch and finally found our way to the football stadium. It just so happens we were sitting in the Air Force block of seats (aka: someone in the Springs purchased tickets and sold them at a higher price to us schmucks). There was an obnoxious couple next to us that had plenty of opportunities to cheer for those Irish since they scored so often. There were tons of cadets and proud Academy parents surrounding us in the stands. I think it's always so fun to attend Academy events or visit because it was such a huge part of Ray's life that I was not in the picture for. There was also a B-2 Bomber flyover before the game which was extremely cool.

Pretty special picture of myself wearing Ray's old number. That's the team in the background.

 Upside-down IRISH.
Just after the National Anthem, a B-2 Bomber flew over. It was incredible. Even more depressing incredible was that the pilot is a 2007 USAFA grad. Three years younger than us flying an incredibly expensive aircraft. Here are my pathetic attempts to take a photo using our crappy camera. I also was not prepared because I really didn't think they'd have a flyover at a game in Indiana. I sure was wrong. Can you spot the black speck at the bottom cable line?
 What about the even smaller speck here?
 Since my attempts were so poor, here's a real image of one. Awesome, huh?
Why some of these photos are so low quality is beyond me.
  Standing with Touchdown Jesus in the background.
 That's all she wrote...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Did I Speak Too Soon?

I read advice somewhere in my early stages of grief that advised couples who lost a child in-utero to only start trying again once they felt their excitement for having another child outweighed their fear of losing said child.

I call bullshit.

While we're excited at being pregnant again, we are terrified at equal levels. Like my friend Keleen pointed out in one of her current pregnancy post-loss posts, we're more familiar with the idea of loss than life. In some ways, I'm more "comfortable" with how to react if this child dies than if it lives. It's the only experience I have. I don't think my fear will ever go away and I don't think that if we waited a year, 2 years, 5 years, that my heart would feel any different. I might actually feel more fear because my biological clock is ticking and complications mount the more time I wait.

I've spent the last 4 months avoiding pregnancy topics, talks, and anything that might "out" me as one of them. I've been desperately hiding my belly so students wouldn't notice. To date, two of them have commented. One said, "You're having another baby?" It's abnormal to see someone pregnant so quickly after their last obvious pregnancy. I get it, kid. I logically responded by looking at him like he was crazy and telling him to get back to reading his story. Another girl commented on how I looked pregnant. I acted offended that she would consider me "fat", though I'm obviously masking a growing munchkin. Another innocent kiddo asked where my son was recently. I responded by saying, "Well, not here!" The child then commented back about him being home with a babysitter. Hah. If only.

The teachers are more keen and concerned for me, often asking questions about well-being. I've got to be honest, though. I have never announced to any of these people, yet they feel the need to ask me point-blank if I am pregnant. I'm a little surprised by this because 1. It's never okay to ask someone if they are pregnant unless they are clearly showing if you aren't at least a close friend or the keeper of their phone number (indicating personal relationship) and 2. Pregnancy is a fragile topic for me. Handle with care. If I'm not talking about it, I probably don't want to. It's also incredibly uncomfortable to feel like I need to validate how myself and my doctors plan to make sure this one doesn't die. They don't outright say it like that, but it usually heads down this road: So... is there anything being done differently this time? Well, yes, but mostly just to protect my fragile heart and reassure me constantly that there's still a heartbeat. The implication is that we didn't do enough last time to save Andrew and therefore were negligent in some way and responsible for his death. No, sometimes it's just an accident. Maybe that's just me being all defensive and presuming too much. I know people are curious and afraid to ask. When they do ask, I make assumptions about their thoughts and become offended. Always a lose-lose. Gah. I can assure you that I wouldn't just get pregnant again to put myself intentionally back in the dead-baby zone. I will move heaven and earth for this child, just as I would for Andrew. There are some wonderful responses like, "We're over the moon for you. Please know that you are in our every thought and prayer for this little one."

Anyway, just babbling my emotions once again. I had a scare on Sunday morning when I thought my stomach looked less bulging and therefore my automatic assumption was that there was a limp, lifeless baby inside my uterus. I asked Ray for the doppler (he keeps it in his car so I don't have freakout sessions without him home) and we found the heartbeat right away along with some movement. I questioned recently if I thought the doppler was a good purchase. I felt it made me crazy trying to figure out if the sounds I was hearing were actually the heartbeat. That one use validated the purchase.

I spent a good portion of the yesterday evening crying. I rarely answer the phone anymore, so the voicemails just pile up.This time there were seven. I know that once I let them play, I'll cry. For that reason, I let them pile up so I can listen when I feel most emotionally stable and get the tears out of the way all at the same time. When I went to listen, I heard such wonderful messages of love and support. What should normally be comforting to most people sent me into a fit of crying. I haven't cried that long and hard for a long time. I was crying because I felt like a terrible friend. Like I've been entirely too antisocial but don't know how to handle things any other way. Crying because people are saying wonderful things to congratulate and offer condolences when I never wanted to be in this position to begin with. I appreciate them but just don't know how to handle things. Crying because I couldn't (still) believe this is the life I'll live forever missing Andrew. It can be really too much to handle sometimes. When tears feel like they're literally pouring out of your heart and could fill up a small bowl with their downpour.

Announcing the pregnancy was a vulnerable experience for me. I hate putting myself out there so much, but I knew it was inevitable. There's so much to talk about that makes this pregnancy a world different than my pregnancy with Andrew. I'm sure I'll get to all those emotions at some point if I can keep my head straight for 5 minutes long enough to blog about them.

Ten months. It stings.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Oktoberfest Dreamin'

Two years ago today and we were living the dream. Oktoberfest in Munich and drinking our weight in beer without a care in the world...

Look at me! I have no idea what it means to hit rock bottom yet! Ah, the simple life.
Wanna make a baby next year? Sure! How perfect that will be!
Nice form.
Na na na na na.... na na na na na...
Smoke-filled room with Germans, beer, pretzels, and Lederhosen.
Beer garden, music, and dancing...
Attacking an innocent pretzel while Alison gracefully nibbles. I'm usually this modest and classy.
Weeeee! Beer!
Wo ist die Toilette? Zu viel Bier!
Potato dumpling in gravy, aka Kartoffelkloesse
 Rathaus - Munich

 Approaching Oktoberfest...
 Swings of death...
 Beer tent!
 Pretzels for sale.
 Paulaner Beer tent
 Happy, drunk folks
 Plenty of festive attire in this photo...
 Not my cup of tea!
 What's a beer tent without music?

We are thinking about going back next year maybe? Or 2013? I remember mentioning that we only planned to visit Oktoberfest once (as resident Germans laughed and scoffed at us...) but we sure miss it there and definitely miss the crazy shenanigans.

p.s. Thanks for the sweet and understanding comments on Friday's post. I've only had one freakout session since then. Oh the days are crawling. Hence the dreaming about a more innocent time in my life to maintain sanity on some level.