Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Choices

Dear Stevie,
It would be so easy for me to become an angry, bitter person right now. Everyday I can feel like I am teetering on the edge of a deep, dark pit filled with "woe is me" and "I hate the world" sentiments. Sometimes I am so close to diving in, head-first, and getting lost in those ugly, murky waters; swimming around in my sorrows. Usually, though, before I can fall in, someone or something grabs me by the hand and pulls me away from the edge. A friend, calling just to "check-in" and see how I'm doing. My mom, taking an extra-long break to take me out to lunch. The dogs, jumping up and licking me all over my face. Dad, making me amazing homemade guacamole and trying his best to make me laugh. The pepper plants out on the deck, popping up and growing bigger and bigger everyday. A fellow "baby loss" sister, leaving an encouraging comment on this blog.

There are days, like today, where I would love nothing more than to jump into that pit of bitterness. But I know I need to keep reaching out and grabbing onto the hands that want to help me, because once you're in that pit, it's so hard to get back out.

Not allowing myself to fall into that pit, to let your death turn me into an angry, bitter person, is a constant, daily struggle. I have to "check myself" all the time. When I find myself in one of "those moods" (many of you know exactly what I'm talking about, I'm sure), I have to consciously ask myself, "Hey, is this the kind of person you want to be? Is this the kind of person your daughter would want you to be?"

I know I have every right to be angry. I have every right to be bitter. I'm not saying there aren't moments and even entire days where I am both. But I refuse to let those feelings consume me and define who I am as a person. I refuse to let your life and death turn me into a person that I don't like. You deserve better than that, Baby.

I used to think that when people went through tragedies and emerged better, stronger people, it was just something that "happened." Right after you died, I remember thinking, "well, at least I'll end up a better person because of this," totally thinking I would just magically be transformed or something. I know now that's not how it works. It's a choice. I can choose to let your death defeat me, or I can choose to let your death make me stronger. I can choose to stay stuck in my sadness, focusing on all the bad that has come from your tragic death, or I can choose to try and make some good come from your beautiful life. These are choices I have to make, every single day.

There is a song I've been listening to quite a bit the last month or so. It's written by Steven Curtis Chapman, a Christian singer I grew up listening to as a kid. He wrote this song a few months after his five-year-old daughter, Maria, died after being accidentally run over by her older brother's SUV while playing on the driveway. The chorus of the song goes:

"Out of these ashes, beauty will rise
And we will dance among the ruins, we will see it with our own eyes"
Out of this darkness, new light will shine
For we know the joy that's coming in the morning
Beauty will rise."

I don't think I'm quite at the point where I am ready to do any dancing (literally or figuratively!) around your death, but this song has become almost like a "battle cry" for me. I can't promise that I will never be angry about your death. I can't promise I'll never be bitter. But Stevie, I promise you your life and death will not be in vain. I promise you I will choose to do everything in my power to find and embrace the beauty you have brought into my life, and into the world.

I promise people will look back and say, "wow, look at all that has come from that little Stevie girl's life." You have so much more to accomplish, Baby girl. There is so much beauty, just waiting to rise up from the ashes. I just know it.

I love you so much. I promise I will make you proud to call me your mommy.

Always and forever,
Mom

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

If, not when

Dear Stevie,
I was watching one of those "Entertainment Tonight" shows with my friend Lisa yesterday evening. Before you say anything, I must defend myself. We have like, seven channels and only three of them actually come in without having to constantly mess around with the antenna, so our TV viewing choices were extremely limited. Anyway, after hearing all about the cheating scandal that is soon to erupt on "The Bachelorette," and how Angelina and Brad are ready to adopt another baby (or are about to break up, I can't remember which one it was), Mario Lopez (a host on the show, also of "Saved By the Bell" fame) announced he and his fake-tanned girlfriend (who is also apparently a host on the show?) are "HAVING A BABY!!" That's right, folks, there will soon be a little mini-A.C. Slater running around! After the big announcement, they went into the most obnoxious "look at us getting ready for the baby" video montage ever. Mario and Fake-Tanned Pregnant Girlfriend getting a sonogram. Mario and Fake-Tanned Pregnant Girlfriend shopping for baby clothes. Mario rubbing Fake-Tanned Pregnant Girlfriend's little baby bump for the cameras. Finally, I said to Lisa, "I'm sorry, I can't take anymore of this..." and switched over to an "Everybody Loves Raymond" re-run.

Mario Lopez, back in his "Saved By the Bell"/AC Slater days

Once again, I wanted to jump inside the TV, go up to Mario and the orange-skinned chick he knocked up, and ask them, "how can you be so sure!?" I'd like to enlighten them that being four months pregnant doesn't necessarily mean you're "HAVING A BABY!" Believe me, I would know.

It's weird. Before you died, I totally assumed being pregnant meant "HAVING A BABY!" I mean sure, you want to be careful who you tell at the beginning, but once you hit the second trimester, bringing home a baby six months later is pretty much a guarantee. According to Dr. Google, my stack of pregnancy books, and even my own Doctor, there was absolutely no reason for me to have any doubt that I would give birth to a living, breathing baby come August. We never said "if we have the baby..." it was always, "when we have the baby..." It was always, "when Stevie gets here..." not "if Stevie gets here..."

Pregnancy was a when, not an if, kind of thing.

But now that I've had my perfectly normal pregnancy end with the death of my first baby, pregnancy is an if, not a when, concept. Now, whenever someone announces they are pregnant, I automatically think, "well, I sure hope their baby doesn't die," or "well, I sure hope they don't end up with blood clots in the umbilical cord." When someone says, "we're HAVING A BABY!" I'm not filled with excitement, I'm filled with dread, so scared that what happened to me might happen to them.

I hate it. I hate that pregnancy will never again be the beautiful, miraculous thing it was to me before you died. I hate that I will never be able to enjoy my own future pregnancies, or even my friend's pregnancies the same way I did before I knew, first-hand, how quickly such a beautiful experience could end in such ugly heartbreak. I hate that I will never be blissfully niave, ever again.

I wish that the next time I was pregnant I could loudly shout, "We're HAVING A BABY!" for the world to hear. But I know it'll be more like a quiet, shaky, "I guess we're pregnant, for the time being anyway..." whispered to our closest friends. That is, if we ever even get pregnant again (I am fully aware that's no guarantee either).

I guess the only six months of beautiful, niave pregnant bliss I'll ever have belong to you. And I kind of like that. I'm glad that I was unaware of all that could go wrong when I was carrying you. I'm glad I was able to enjoy and revel in every second of the time we had together. I'm glad I took all those dorky belly photos every week and plastered them all over facebook. I'm glad I told everyone I met, "I'm HAVING A BABY!" I just wish it would have been true.

It's beautiful outside today, Baby. I wish you were here to enjoy the sunshine with me.

Love always,
Mom

Monday, June 28, 2010

Surprises

Dear Stevie,
One thing you would have learned about me as we got to know each other is that I hate surprises. I can usually avoid having to experience them pretty well. I can't remember the last time I was genuinely surprised by a present. When I was little, I would sneak around the house, looking under my parent's bed or in their closet (sorry, Mom and Dad!) for my unwrapped Christmas presents. If I couldn't figure out was I was getting that way, It was always way too easy to get my little brother to spill the beans. It would go something like this. Me: "Brandon, what did Mom and Dad get me for Christmas?" Him: "I'm not telling." Me: "Is it an iPod dock?" Him: "Maybe..."

I will never let Dad surprise me with presents either. I have honestly cried, on more than one occasion, when he has refused to tell me what he bought me for my birthday (embarassing, but true). Every time I've cried, he's cracked. Three years into our marriage, and we now have a pretty solid gift-getting system in place. I will go online and buy myself whatever I want, and then send him an email with the link to the gift I've purchased, saying something like, "here's what you bought me for Valentine's Day. It should be here in five to seven business days."

It's not just presents, either. I also hate surprises when it comes to things like movies and books. Once we decide on a movie to watch, I grab my laptop, pull up good old Wikipedia, and read the full plot summary, paying special attention to the ending. Then I spend the whole movie trying to get Dad to let me tell him what happens, and dropping hints like, "Hmmm, wouldn't it be so sad if that guy's daughter gets kidnapped...?"

When I start a new book, the first thing I do is flip to the back and read the last page. I need to know what happens. I can't enjoy the story until I know how it ends.

That is exactly how I feel right now. I thought I knew how the story of my pregnancy with you would end: "...and Stevie was born healthy and alive and she and her mom and dad lived happily ever after." But instead I experienced the biggest surprise, the biggest plot-twist ever. You died. When that happened, I thought your story was finished. But then, I realized your story, our story, is not over yet. I'm living it right now, day by day, page by page. I'm living in the middle of the novel of my life, my journey to motherhood, and I want to flip to the last page and see how it ends. To sneak a quick peak and see what happens.

I just want to know that one day, I will be happy again. If I could just look into the future and know for certain that in, let's say, three years, I will have at least one living child, I could relax and enjoy the time, the "pages" in between. I don't need to know exactly when, or how, or what gender, or any of the details, I just need to know that I will have another baby and that baby will live. It's the uncertainty of it all that is driving me crazy. Just tell me I'll have my happy ending someday and I'll be good. No more surprises, please.

The thing is, everything about you was a surprise, Baby. From your unplanned arrival, to the way you had me thinking you were a boy most of your life, to your shocking death. I may hate surprises, but I sure love you. My sweet little perfect surprise.

If one of your super special "angel powers" is the ability to see into the future, do mommy a favor and let me know what's coming up. At the very least, can you give me a little hint? :)

Love you. Miss you. Wish you were here.
Mom

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Big Questions

Dear Stevie,
I've been thinking a lot about God and Heaven and prayer and all those "big questions" lately. Experiencing death, especially the death or your child, will do that to you I guess. I've especially been struggling with prayer. The other day, my mom said, "I pray for you everyday." And then it hit me. "You do realize that you're praying to the same God that you asked to keep Stevie safe everyday, you know," I replied, with more than a little sarcasm and bitterness in my voice. "I do know that," she said.

I have to be honest: I just don't get the point of prayer. I have always struggled with prayer, mainly because I've never really felt any connection to God when I'm doing it, and I always feel like I'm just talking to myself. Praying is not something I'm good at, or particularly enjoy, but I did it, every night before I went to sleep, when I was pregnant with you. Every night, I would lay in bed, close my eyes, and ask God to please keep you safe. I would say, "please God, let my baby keep growing. Let me be a good mom and help Andy to be a good dad." I would say, "thank you for giving us Stevie. We love her so much already." And then, as we all know, you died. My prayers were not answered.

So why pray now? Did God not somehow not hear me when I prayed for you? Did he hear my prayers, but just choose not to do what I asked of him? And if that's the case, why should I think he'll choose differently now? I mean, really, what's the purpose of prayer, if not to get what you want? And if God already has a big "plan" for my life, and has his mind made up about what's going to happen to all of us, what's the point in asking him for any of the things we want at all? I honestly would like to understand.

What I think is really getting to me, is the unfairness of it all, again. With the way prayer has always been explained to me at least, it seems like some people's prayers are answered, and some aren't. And that really bothers me. The concept of a God who picks and chooses whose prayers to listen to, whose wishes to "grant," seems so unfair to me. A God who sometimes steps in and miraculously heals people, and sometimes decides to let others die while they desperately pray, seems so unjust. If he has ever stepped in and miraculously saved another person's unborn baby, even once, and didn't save you, then that honestly makes me mad. It bothers me when people say things like, "I prayed and prayed and God blessed me with this baby." Because I prayed and prayed and I was not blessed with a living child. I can't stand when I hear, "we prayed and prayed and God healed me." Because I saw a friend of mine from church, who had thousands of people around the world praying to God for a miracle, die of bone cancer when she was 17.

It's easier and makes more sense for me to believe that God created the world, set the laws of nature into motion, and never steps in when those laws cause heartache for people.

But then, what's the point of praying to that God?

Dear readers/lurkers (I know you're out there!), I would love your thoughts on the prayer question. Honestly. This isn't one of those "I'm asking for your opinion but I already have my mind made up on the matter" kinds of things. I am open to understanding. I want to understand.

So, If you pray, why do you do it?

Do you believe God has the power to step in and make miracles happen? If so, why does he only step in sometimes, for some people?

Do you believe God has an ultimate "plan" for everyone's life? If so, does he ever change his mind if we pray for a different outcome than the one that he originally planned?

If God gets "credit" for all the good things in your life, do you think he's also responsible for all the bad things?

What is the meaning of life? Totally kidding. :)

I know I won't ever have all the answers to my questions. I know there are some things I will never understand. But if that's the case, I hate that my brain was wired with such a strong desire to have things make sense. It's really hard for me to take anything on faith. It's really hard for me to admit there are things I can't understand.

Sorry for all the big questions today, Baby. Everyday I wake up and just want to know why this had to happen. I want to know why God didn't keep you safe like I begged him to. It hurts me to my core that it feels like he ignored me. Like always, it all comes down to being sad. I miss you so much, little girl.

All my love,
Mom

Friday, June 25, 2010

Age: 0

Dear Stevie,
Dad and I finally went to pick up your ashes today. They have been ready for us to come and take home since May 14th, but I just didn't want to do it. I feel like a horrible person. What kind of mother leaves her daughter's remains at the mortuary for six weeks? I'm sorry I didn't go get them sooner, but I know it's not like I left you there for six weeks. You were not sitting on the shelf in that plain front office all that time, waiting to be picked up. You left this earth the day your little heart stopped beating. It's the same way I felt in the hospital. One of the nurses asked me if I wanted to keep your body in the room with us. I found that so strange and said, "no, take it out of here. That's not Stevie. Stevie's gone."

I'm sure I'm in the minority here, and I don't want to offend anyone, but I'll just go ahead and say it: your ashes don't mean that much to me. As I was handed the little white plastic box that held your remains, I expected to feel some sort of connection to you. But I didn't. I opened the lid and examined the quarter-cup or so of ashes inside the zip-lock baggie. Nothing. I sat with your ashes on my lap in the car and thought about how weird it was that they were once contained inside my body, in a different form of course. Still nothing. We stopped by Target on the way home and I just left that little white box sitting on my seat in the car. We got home and I said, "so what are we supposed to do with these?" and put that little white box on the bookshelf in the living room.

I don't like seeing that little white box. I find no comfort in it. I have no desire to have it near me. It is just a sad and somewhat creepy reminder to me that your perfect little body was burned to ashes. I'm still not sure what we'll do with those ashes. Probably scatter them somewhere, mainly because I really don't want them in our house.

Today was the second and probably last time I will ever get to sign my name as your mother. On the cremation receipt, on the "relationship to deceased" line, I got to write the word "mother." The first time I got to write that word was when I authorized the hospital to perform your autopsy. It's just not right. I should be filling out forms at your first pediatrician visit and signing field trip permission slips for you someday, not signing over your dead body to the morgue and picking up your remains. No one should ever have to write the word "mother" next to "relationship to deceased." Ever.

I was looking at your cremation certificate, and the place where your age is listed really struck me. "Age: 0," it said. I guess I have never seen an age written out as just "zero" before. Why couldn't it say, "age: 25 weeks, 5 days," or "age: 6.5 months gestation." Zero implies that you never lived at all. That you never existed. And we both know that's just not true.






I may not find comfort in your ashes, but I find it knowing you are not in that little white box. You are running free, playing and skipping and jumping and dancing. And you are in my heart forever.

I love you so much, Baby girl.

Always and forever,
Mom

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Old Self, is that you?

Dear Stevie,
Yesterday I had a few chance encounters with someone I haven't seen in a very long time, someone I almost didn't recognize. I ran into my old self.

I was sitting at my desk at work and realized, "hey, I haven't thought about Stevie dying for like, a whole five minutes." Then, I noticed my old self again, a couple hours later as I thought, "wow, I'm talking to my boss about her five-year-old and not feeling super sorry for myself that my daughter will never be five years old and going to soccer practice." Later that afternoon, my old self helped me take the dogs for a walk. She tagged along as I ran into a couple new neighbors along the way, chit-chatted about the World Cup and pretended to have a clue what I was talking about. I think I saw her again that night when I was laughing and smiling along with this very strange Niel Patrick Harris musical we found on Netflix ("Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog." Seriously, very strange).

Each time I ran into my old self yesterday, I tried my best to push her away. It was like running into someone you never really liked from high school at the mall. You have to say hello, but you try to get out of there as soon as you can. You make an excuse like, "well, my husband is actually waiting for me down at the pretzel stand, so..." and make a run for the escalator.

Every time I see my old self coming, I want to grab her by the neck and say, "What are you doing here?? Don't you know our daughter died!? Leave me alone!" I force myself to remember that I am sad. Whenever I find myself feeling "normal," I quickly think about the fact that I should be almost 33 weeks pregnant right now. I consciously make myself feel the pain of losing you again. I don't know why I do this to myself, but I do.

I am torn between wanting to feel like my old self again, and wanting to wallow in my grief for a little while longer. I feel guilty when I am not consumed with crushing sadness. Last week I prayed and prayed to start feeling "better." Now, when I do, I hate it. The great Justin Bieber (yes, I am going to make a Justin Bieber reference here, watch out!) once said, in his classic song titled "Eenie Meenie Mini Mo Lover," "You cant make up your mind, mind, mind, mind, mind..." That is how I feel (and now I am going to have that annoying song stuck in my head all day long, awesome).

I guess I need to take some time to sit down and get reacquainted with my old self once again. Maybe if I try and get to know her again, I won't think she's all that bad. Maybe, slowly, I'll let her back into my life. Until one day, the two of us are such good friends that my "old self" and this "new me" come together as one.

Love you, little girl. Hope you're behaving yourself up there.

Xoxo,
Mom

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Empty

Dear Stevie,
"Our house just feels so...empty," Dad said one night. It was a few days after we got home from the hospital, and the two of us were sprawled out on the living room floor together, just starring at the ceiling in silence. "It really does," I quietly replied.

It seems odd to talk about our house feeling "empty" when it has the same number occupants living in it now as there were when we first moved in, just two weeks before you died. It's not like there used to be children running through the halls and now there are not. I didn't even spend most of my pregnancy in this house, so there are hardly any memories of that here. But our house feels so empty since you've been gone.

Our house was never filled with children, or memories of the past, but in the short time we lived there, we had filled it up with so many future memories, so many plans and hopes and dreams. Plans and hopes and dreams for you. For our life as a family of three.

We started filling it with future memories the day we looked at the house for the first time. I left a trail of plans behind me as I walked into the room which would be your nursery and said to Dad, "this is just perfect for the baby." I stuffed the closet, which I declared would be "perfect for all the baby's toys," full of hopes. I left a huge pile of dreams out on the deck, which I noted, "is perfect for hanging a baby swing from."

As we unpacked our things and settled into the new place a month later, we also unpacked box upon box full of future memories and put them away throughout the house. Dreams of reading to you were placed up on the bookshelf. Plans of watching all the classic Disney movies with you were put next to the TV. Hopes of making our own homemade baby food for you were shoved in the kitchen cabinet, next to the food processor. Thoughts of bath time with our new baby were dispersed between shampoo bottles, body wash, and cans of shaving cream in the tub. We put our plans and hopes and dreams in every nook and cranny of every room of our new house. In no time at all, it was filled to the brim with our future memories. It was full.

And now, it's empty.

The moment you died, all those plans, hopes, dreams, and future memories died too. They all vanished in an instant, snatched away from their perfect spots in our home. We used to be surrounded by a lifetime of things to come, and now we are surrounded by...emptiness.

I suppose we will start to fill it up again, slowly, with plans and hopes and dreams of a different kind. I've already carefully placed the dream of another positive pregnancy test on the counter by the bathroom sink. I've cautiously left bits of hope of running through the grass after another child in the backyard. I've secretly put plans of naps with a new baby sleeping peacefully on my chest on the living room couch. Hopefully, someday, these future memories will become realities. Hopefully, someday, our house will be filled not only with plans and hopes and dreams, but with the sound of children laughing and a lifetime of real memories.

Even so, our house, and any house we ever live in in the future, will never feel quite full. I think there will always be a little piece of emptiness wherever we are, because we will always be missing you, Baby.

I love you so much and miss you more everyday.

Always and forever,
Mom

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Unfair

Dear Stevie,
Yesterday afternoon I went out to lunch with Grandma (my mom). She was asking me how I was feeling and I said, "I know I sound like a broken record, but I just can't get over how unfair this all is. It makes me so mad." My mom said something along the lines of, "Kristin, you have always really struggled with injustice. Ever since you were a little kid, you have always wanted things to be fair, so it makes sense that that aspect of the situation is so hard for you now."

She's right. I hate injustice, unfairness. I have always been a very logical person and it bothers me to no end when things don't make sense. When things don't add up, I want to fix them and make it right. I guess you could call me somewhat of a "bleeding heart." I work for a non-profit where I feel like I really can help "fix" some of the injustice in the world. I like to watch shows and movies where the bad guys get what's coming to them and the good guys prevail. It makes my blood boil when I see bad things happen to good people.

I can remember many years ago, when I was in elementary school, there was a nice couple from my church that were struggling to have a baby. They kept having miscarriage after miscarriage until finally, they got pregnant and made it past the first trimester (I didn't know it then, but I am pretty sure they were doing IVF the whole time). Then, the baby died. I think they were around five or six months pregnant when it happened. They had a small memorial service at their house which my Dad presided over (he was their pastor) and my mom and I attended. I have this vivid memory of looking at the baby's tiny footprints that they had laying out during the service. I remember being so mad that day. It's actually the first time I remember being angry at God. I cried that night to my mom and just kept saying, "it's just not fair! They wanted a baby so much. It's not fair!"

I was so mad for this couple then, and now, I am so mad for myself.

It's just not fair. It's not fair that other women smoke or drink or don't even know they're even pregnant until they are in freaking labor (a friend on facebook posted a link to one of these stories just this morning!) get to keep their babies, and I did everything right my entire pregnancy and you died. It's not fair that my mom already lost her first daughter, and now she has to lose her first granddaughter too. It's not fair that there are all sorts of women who are going to be terrible mothers (sorry, but let's be honest, we all know a few of these people) that get to keep their babies, and my precious baby died. I feel like I'm a pretty "good" person. I feel like I deserved to keep you.

Is it just me, or does it seem like it's always "good" people that have their babies die? I have been absolutely blown away by the number of amazingly kind, compassionate, selfless women I have met during the the last six weeks who have also experienced the death of a child. Do we just not hear about the not-so-good people that this happens to or what? I know no one, not even the baddest of the "bad people" deserve this, but it seems like this is something that happens to way more good people than should be allowed by the laws of the universe or whatever. It is just not right.

I hate that there is nothing I can do to "right" the injustice that has happened to me, and to so many like me. There's nothing I can do but try not to let the unfairness of losing you consume me, I guess.

I wish you were here, Baby. I wish the only unfairness I was complaining about is how unfair it is that I have to get up with you 10 times a night while Dad gets to sleep. :) I miss you so much, sweet girl.

Love,
Mom

PS. One of these amazing, "good" women I mentioned, Julie, just started a blog (which I was so hoping she would!) for her son , Kenny, who was stillborn at 25 weeks around the time Stevie died. Please check it out and show her some love! :) Xo

Monday, June 21, 2010

Future-Stevie

Dear Stevie,
Dad and I went to see Toy Story 3 the other night. Amazing. Those people at Pixar sure know how to make a good movie. About five minutes into it, I decided that my dream job would be to help write Pixar films (I am fully aware this will never happen, but a girl can dream, right?) Seriously though, everyone should go out and see TS3. It's just brilliant. You will laugh, you will cry (a lot, make sure you bring Kleenex or you will end up having to wipe your tears and snot all over the back of your hands like I did), and I promise you will leave the theater in a much better mood than you went in with. Alright, plug over. But seriously, go see it.

Anyway, in the movie there is a little girl, about three years old, named Bonnie, who ends up being a pretty important character in the film (I don't want to give too much away!) She has a huge imagination and loves playing with all her toys, acting out everything from tea parties to alien invasions. She wears a tutu and rubber rain boots, carries around a little backpack everywhere, and is just the cutest thing ever. She reminded me so much of what I imagine you would have been like as a three-year-old.

Speaking of tutus, here is your mom as a three-year-old. Would you have looked kind of like this?

I've never been too into babies. To be completely honest, newborns really scare me. They are so fragile and floppy and whenever I hold one, I'm always terrified I'm going to break it. Plus, all they ever really do is sleep and cry (and poop). I mean really, how fun is that? I've never been a baby-person, but I love pre-schoolers. I adore them. I think age three is the funnest age ever, the age when a kids' personality really come shining through. When I think of you (which is pretty much all the time!), I usually imagine you as a three-year-old. I definitely grieve the loss of newborn Stevie, but I especially grieve the death of "Future-Stevie."

I mourn that I will never know this little girl, "Future-Stevie." Is she stubborn and head-strong, like I was? Does she like to play make-believe and dress-up, and boss around all her little friends like I imagine she would? Does she have frizzy, out-of-control curly hair that she hates having brushed, like her mama? Does she like to play in the dirt and get her hands messy? Does she enjoy being the center of attention, or is she more shy and reserved? Does she love to swing outside and belt out songs she's made up? Does she always insist on dressing herself every morning? Does she have a munchkin voice? Is she a picky eater?

I think about all the fun things "Future-Stevie" and I were going to do together and it makes me so sad. Reading books. Walking to the park. Finger-painting. Baking cookies. Watching her run through the sprinkler and play with her dolls. Dying Easter eggs. Opening presents from Santa on Christmas morning. Tucking her into bed every night. It's so strange how badly you can miss doing things you've never actually done before.

Strange how badly you can miss someone you've never actually met before.

I love you Stevie, and I love the future little girl and person you would have become. I believe with all my heart that you had a unique personality from the moment your little heart started beating; I just wish you wouldn't have died before I got a chance to know what it was like.

Love you always,
Mom

PS. Welcome ICLW bloggers! You can find the very beginning of Stevie's story here and her birth story here. Thanks for stopping by our little corner of the internet! :) Xoxo

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My dad, your grandpa

Dear Stevie,
Today is Father's Day. It's an extra hard day, an extra harsh reminder that you should be here with your dad and me. I should be 32 weeks pregnant, probably looking like I'm about to pop. We should be taking super cute pictures of Dad posing with my belly to remember his first Father's Day with his little girl. Instead, his little girl is in Heaven, and we're just trying to make it through the day without too many tears. We miss you so much, Baby.

You and I are both lucky to have two of the best dads in the world. It makes me sad that not only will you never get to spend time with your dad, you'll never get to hang out with my dad, your Grandpa. Let me tell you, he's a fun guy. You would have had a blast with him. You are even named after him (his name is Steve)! That's one of the things I was most looking forward to: watching you with your Grandpa Ziemke. So many of the things I did with him as a little girl, I couldn't wait for you to do with him too, like:
  • "Water Country USA." He used to turn our backyard into a water amusement park in the summers, complete with slip and slides made out of plastic garbage bags, and extreme water slides on our old swing set. I can just imagine you in a cute little swim suit, your pot-belly sticking out, running around, getting spayed with the hose in my parent's huge backyard next summer.
  • "My couch." This was one of me and my brother's favorite games when we were little. Grandpa would pretend to be sleeping on the couch, and we would try to sneak up on it without waking him up. Of course, he'd always catch us in the act and yell, "this is MY couch!" while tickling us off and throwing us onto the floor. I can totally picture you trying so hard not to giggle and "wake up" your Grandpa in my parent's living room.
  • Bike rides. I was so looking forward to having the same guy who taught me how to ride a bike all those years ago ("Kristin! USE YOUR BRAKES!!"), help you learn to ride your first big girl bike, too. Grandpa and your Dad are both super into bikes right now, and I know you would have gone on lots of long rides with the both of them.
  • Thrift store shopping. Grandpa is the "grand master" of the art of thrift store shopping. From $1.99 golf clubs he finds at the Goodwill and sells on Ebay for $200, to $4.99 bikes he flips for $500, to about a million pairs of shoes he's found for me over the years (including 13 pairs of Doc Martins during the height of their coolness and a pair of brand new Birkenstock sandals), the deals he finds on an almost-daily basis are ridiculous. He started finding things for you, including a sweet Kelty baby carrier Dad and I couldn't wait to use, as soon as I was pregnant with you. He would have found you so many awesome things for you as you grew up, Stevie. And when you got older, I'm sure he would have passed along some of his bargain-finding skills and secrets to you.
  • Singing for Dairy Queen. Starting when I was about nine or 10 years old, Grandpa would play blue-grass music in the car and buy my friends and I ice cream from Dairy Queen if we would sing along as loud as we could. There was this one song, that went something like, "If you've got the money honey, I've got the time," that I remember singing and laughing to all the time. I would have loved to be there as Grandpa bribed you into singing that song at the top of your lungs, and to see you enjoy your sweet reward afterward.
  • Late night trips to Cheap-O. When I was in high school, one of my very favorite things to do with Grandpa was go into Uptown and look around at used CDs at Cheap-O. I'd always talk him into buying me one (or two or three) Cds and we'd listen to them on the way home. I bet he would have taken you there and bought you a CD or two (or three or four) when you were old enough to be into music.
  • Watching stupid action movies. I loved watching "guy movies" with Grandpa growing up. Silly action movies like "Passenger 57," "Rambo: First Blood," "Die Hard," and "The Fugitive." Movies that my mom probably didn't want me watching quite yet, which is what made it so much fun. I just know he would have introduced you to some of these classics--probably before I was quite ready for you to be watching them, which is what would have made it so much fun. :)
Me and Grandma and Grandpa. I told you I was a fat baby!

Teaching me to ride a bike (I still can't believe I was ever allowed on this bike without a helmet! Grandma must have been out of town that day...)

Me and Grandpa last summer, doing our best awkward "Brandon face" :)

I wish you could have stayed here and gotten to know your awesome daddy and amazing grandpa. They (and the rest of our families, including your other Grandpa, Dad's Dad, who is just as amazing!) love you very, very much. Baby girl, you are so loved and so missed by so many. I really hope you know that and can feel our love.

Missing you on this bittersweet day,
Mom

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Back to Reality

Dear Stevie,
Right after hearing the news that your heart had stopped beating, I stopped living in reality. I mean, I knew everything that was going on, and I was definitely sad, but I pretty much went into shock. When I was sitting in the exam room and my doctor was explaining that you had died and that I would need to deliver you, I couldn't even cry. Dad was sobbing, my mom had tears streaming down her face, and I just sat there, in utter disbelief. Numb. As soon as the doctor left the room, Dad tried to hug me. I kind of pushed him away and said, "Mom, can you call my boss and let her know I am not going to be in today. Make sure she knows I probably won't be in on Monday either." I have no idea why, but I was very concerned about work. It didn't hit me that I wouldn't be going back that Monday. That I wouldn't be going back for awhile. That I was going to need to recover from delivering my dead child.

We went home to get some things before heading to the hospital. I can remember standing in the shower, washing my hair, thinking, "this is the last shower I will ever take with Stevie inside me." Then, I decided to blow dry and straighten my hair, something I was usually too lazy to do the majority of my pregnancy. I remember actually thinking, "I want my hair to look good in the pictures from the hospital." Clearly, what was about to happen hadn't really sunken in yet.

Once we were at the hospital, I truly went into survival mode. I was running on "auto-pilot." I really believe our bodies do this as a defense mechanism or something, to keep us from going absolutely insane and shutting down in times like these. If I had truly realized what was going on, and the enormity of the situation while I was living through it, there is no way I would been able to make it through 20+ hours of labor to deliver the daughter I knew was already dead. No way. Aside from the few moments when I was holding you, I really felt no emotions my entire hospital stay. I just wanted to get the whole thing over with and get the hell out of there. Like I said, I was not living in reality.

Once we got home, the numbness gave way to pain. A kind of pain I had never felt before. A pain so raw and intense, I felt physically sick. My heart literally hurt. For the first week after you died, I was experiencing real emotions, but I was still very far from living in reality. During the those first days, the outside world did not exist to me. I was living in my own mind. I didn't leave the house. I barely spoke. My mind was absolutely consumed with thoughts of you. I relived the moment I saw your lifeless body on the ultrasound screen over and over and over again. I was either crying or fighting back tears, all the time.

Since that first week, things have gotten progressively "better." Eventually I started venturing out of the house, first just for a walk around the block, then to the grocery store, to now where we'll go out for an entire evening. I started being able to get through an hour, and then four hours, and then almost a whole day without crying. I started hanging out with my friends again. I got a new bike and have been going on lots of bike rides with Dad. I even slowly started back at work. I thought I was back to the real world. Back to reality.

But I was wrong. I think I figured out why I've been in such a funk this week: I know that actual reality is sneaking up on me and it's only a matter of time before I'm forced back to it. For the last six weeks, I've been allowed to live in my own little world, where everything revolves around me and my grief. I've been able to go to sleep and wake up whenever I feel like it. To think about you and talk about you all the time. To spend all my time online, in what I like to call "Stevie's world" (my blog, other baby loss blogs, pregnancy/infant loss support forums, etc--all places that revolve around you). I haven't really had to deal with any real responsibilities. I haven't even had to drive myself anywhere, other than work. I've been in mourning the last six weeks. But I know I can't be in mourning forever. Eventually life must go on, I must go back to reality, and it scares the crap out of me.

I know I can't just call into work whenever I'm feeling particularly sad forever. I can't expect everyone to want to talk about you all the time forever. I can't allow Dad to do everything for me for the rest of my life. For some reason, six weeks feels like some kind of magical "cut-off" time for heavy grieving. I feel the world moving on and expecting me to come along. Up until now, I've only dipped my toes in the pool of reality, but now it's time to jump in (or at the very least wade around in the shallow end before getting my hair wet).

I've been watching at least five episodes of Law and Order SVU everyday since the day after we came home from the hospital and realized Netflix had ten seasons available to "watch instantly" through online streaming. I'm currently on episode eight of season 10. 13 more episodes and there will be no more SVU left for me to watch. 13 more episodes until reality. It's coming, I can't hold it off any longer.

I'm so scared of reality, baby. I am scared to go back to a life that doesn't revolve around you. Part of me wishes I could stay in my safe little Stevie-centered, Law and Order world forever, but I know that wouldn't be healthy. I know it will get easier and easier to live with this hole I have in my heart, but it's a hole that will always be there. It's a hole that will never be fully healed until I get to hold you in my arms again someday.

Please stay near, Baby girl. Let Mama know you're okay. I miss you so much.

Love you forever,
Mom

Friday, June 18, 2010

From Rachel

Dear Stevie,
Today is just one of those days. Actually, this whole week has been one of "those days." I'm feeling especially down. I just don't have it in me to write to you today. I have no words. If I tried, it would look something like, "I'm sad. I miss you. I love you. I wish you were here. I hate that you died. Love always, Mom," and who wants to read that?

So I'm not even going to try. Instead, here is a letter from your Auntie Rachel, my Sister-in-Law, who also happens to be one of my good friends and roommates from college (we married brothers!) And an old picture of us (circa 2004ish) from college, just for fun:

Rachel is the blond on the floor, I am the one in the middle with the crazy face and sweeeet bangs, and that's another one of my best friends, Marissa up top. We were so cool.

And a slightly more recent (think 2007), just as awkward picture of us and our boys (before any of us were married to those boys):

Andy and his two (twin) brothers, Bill and Ben, with me (in the pink) and Auntie Rachel (in the black) and Auntie Jaime (in the white)

Dearest Stevie-

We never had the opportunity to meet, but I am your Auntie Rachel. I have seen your beautiful face in pictures and you have both touched and broken my heart. I find it so unfair that your life was cut so short, that your mom and dad have to go through so much pain in a time that should be so joyful. It really sucks. They were so excited for you to come! I have never seen your mother so happy. She lit up when she talked about all the things she was doing to prepare for you. She had your nursery planned, clothing bought and a cute little bear hat picked out just for you. You are the first Cook grand baby, and your parents first little “cub” and you will never be forgotten.

I was so looking forward to you coming into this world, so that I could spoil you like all aunties should. I even had fabric picked out to make your first quilt. It was so soft and had bears all over it. I know you would've loved it. It would have kept you warm on those cold Minnesota nights, something to cuddle with as your dad and mom read to you at night, and maybe even turned into your blankie that you would drag all over the place as a toddler. It is not fair that you do not get the chance to grow up and live. It is things like this in the world that really make me question my faith and why things have to be the way they are. I know that God has a greater plan, but to me not having you doesn't seem that great.

I am a nurse, a person who likes to fix things, and make bad things better. I am supposed to know how to deal with death, and know the words to say to the family that is left behind. But somehow I find myself at a loss. It is so much harder when you were to be my niece! I don't have the words to say to you or to your mom and dad to make it better. I simply can't. I can just be there for your mom and dad. Your short life has made me realize that I don't have to have the right things to say, I just have to be available to listen.


I will remember you always,
Love your Auntie Rachel

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I'm that baby

Dear Stevie,
I've become obsessed with "happy endings." I scour the internet all day long, searching for stories of women who have lost babies and then gone on to have other (living) children. These children are commonly referred to as "rainbow babies." The first time I saw the term in someone's signature on the online pregnancy forum I belonged to when I was pregnant with you ("expecting our rainbow baby in August!"), I assumed a "rainbow baby" was either A) a baby that belonged to parents who didn't want to know the gender ahead of time (you know, like it could be either pink or blue or any other color of the rainbow for all they cared!), or B) a baby that belonged to a gay or lesbian couple. The term "rainbow baby" makes perfect sense to me now. A baby that comes after loss is a rainbow after the storm. A ray of light shining through the darkness. Joy after sorrow. Hope after despair. I seek out stories of pregnancy after loss because I need to know that "happy endings" do actually happen, that these so-called "rainbow babies" do exist.

Then a thought occurred to me: I am living proof that they do. I don't need the internet or a bunch of books to prove that to me. I am someone's very own "happy ending." That future baby that I think about all the time and hope so badly for? That baby and I are one in the same.

I was born about a year and a half after my mom and dad (your grandparents) lost their first baby, a little girl, just like you. My parents didn't talk about this baby much when I was growing up (it was even more taboo to talk about stillbirth 25 years ago than it is now), but I always knew I had an older sister that lived up in Heaven. In a way, you were even named after her. You see, after their first baby died, my parents wanted another little girl so bad. When I was born, they gave me the middle name Joy because they were just so overjoyed to finally have a baby girl in their loving arms (and such an awesome, albeit fairly chunky baby girl at that!). I always knew that if I ever had a daughter, I would give her the middle name Joy as a small way to remember the sister I never knew. That daughter was you, Stevie Joy. :)

I am not going to divulge much about our future plans for getting pregnant again here. My real-life friends and family read this blog and frankly, I don't want them all knowing the second we start "trying to conceive," in case it takes a long time. I also don't feel like fending off more unsolicited advice in that area (Andy and I will decide when we're ready, without the help of anyone else, thank you very much! And yes, I know that having another baby will not replace Stevie, I'm not trying to replace her!)

But I will say this: I want my rainbow baby. Bad.

My "mother switch" has been turned to "on" and I need a living baby to be a mommy to. A baby that I can hold in my arms, and sing to, and tickle, and watch grow up. A baby I get to keep.

Sometimes that baby seems so far away and out of reach. I guess I just need to keep looking in the mirror and know that its possible.

Even when (see, trying to stay positive here!) I get my rainbow baby someday, I will always miss you, Stevie. You will always be my first child and I promise you your future brothers and sisters will know all about you and how much we love you. You will always be a part of our family, always and forever.

All my love,
Mom

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Meet Rocky

Dear Stevie,
Auntie Jersa (my best friend since middle school) brought her new puppy, Rocky, over tonight. He is so stinkin' cute. While we watched him flop around and play, I thought about you, Baby, and about how much fun you would have had with him. Nothing like a new puppy to make a super crappy day just a little bit better. :) Here are some pictures:



My little sweet pea


Wishing you were here with me tonight. I love you so much.

Missing you,
Mom

Dear grief, you suck

Dear Stevie,
This whole grief thing? Yeah, it really sucks. I'll think I'm getting "better" and then BAM! I'm a total mess again, out of nowhere. This has been a really bad week and I'm not even sure why. I feel like I've taken a big step backwards. Like I'm right where I was a month ago, when the pain of losing you was so fresh and so raw. This was supposed to be the best summer of my life and just look at it now. Summer 2010, please just hurry up and go away. I know I've been begging you to get here since December, but I don't want you anymore. You're nothing but a painful reminder of what should have been. I'm so over you.

I've been trying so hard to stay strong, to not let what happened to you turn me into a sad and bitter person, but today it feels like I'm failing. Some days I can honestly say I do feel oddly "at peace" with your death. Then there are days like today where I am so angry about it I feel like breaking things. I feel like laying on the ground like a little kid and throwing the biggest tantrum ever. I want to scream out, "this is so not fair!" over and over and over again. I see pregnant ladies or moms with newborns and I think, "why them and not me?" It's not that I am not happy for them, but I am so sad for me.

When we were watching Law and Order the other night, one of the main detective's pregnant wife got into a car accident and it turned into this dramatic episode where they had to get her out of the crushed car and save the baby. They ended up having to deliver the baby in the ambulance on the way to hospital and of course, the baby was fine. Everyone was happy, blah blah blah. I was like, first of all, Law and Order, you are supposed to be about rape and murder, how dare you do an episode about delivering a baby without some kind of warning. You know, "the following program contains adult content not suitable for children. Oh yeah, and a baby is born." As I watched this show, I kept thinking (and actually said outloud to Dad), "I had no problems, no crazy accidents during my pregnancy and this lady has to be cut out of her wretched car by the jaws of life and her baby is fine." Is it messed up that I think this way?

And don't even get me started on all the celebrity pregnancy announcements. I swear, every time we go to the grocery store, there's a new celebrity on the cover of "People" or "US Weekly" who is expecting. What gets me is that the headline is always something like, "So and so is having a baby!" I want to correct them. "No, so and so is pregnant. Having a live baby at the end of it is not a guarantee." But I'm sure they'll get their happy ending and be selling their kid's first pictures to the tabloids in no time. They always do. Celebrity's babies don't die. Their children don't get freak blood clots in their umbilical cords. Nope, that's just something that happens to unbelievably unlucky people like me, right?

I said I didn't want to be a sad, bitter person and look at me today, Baby. I guess when people talk about grief as being like a roller coaster, with up and downs, good days and bad days, they're right. This week I've definitely been racing down a steep drop, the kind that takes your breath away and makes your stomach flip. Here's to hoping an upwards climb is coming up soon.

I promise I'll keep trying to make it through this and emerge a better person at the end. I know that's what you'd want. It's surely what you deserve. I love you so much, sweet little girl.

Love,
Mom

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Your Father

Dear Stevie,
Dad was really sad yesterday. I mean, he's always sad, but usually he keeps those feelings pretty deeply tucked away in his heart, on the inside. But yesterday, he was sad on the outside. Neither of us has had a very good concept of time since you died (I usually don't even know what day of the week it is, much less the actual date), so we didn't even realize Father's Day was coming up this weekend. Grandma (Dad's mom) called to see if we were going to make it to lunch with his family on Sunday, and whether or not Dad wanted to be recognized at all for Father's Day. He didn't really know what to say. After he got off the phone, he just laid on the floor, silently crying (don't tell him I told you that part). I asked him what was wrong and he said, "Father's Day is going to be so hard. I wanted to be a father to Stevie so bad."

I told him then, and I'm telling you now, he was and is the best Father in the world. Not only was he an amazing father while you were alive and growing in my tummy, he's been an amazing father since you died. I read a quote once that said something like, "the most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother."

If that's true (and I think in a lot of ways, it is), then your Dad deserves some kind of medal. He has shown me more love during the last five weeks than I ever even knew was possible.

He never left my side while we were at the hospital, even slept in the bed with me (which for a guy who is 6'10 and 295 pounds is no easy task). In the days immediately following your death and delivery, he held me while I sobbed, and sat in the bathroom while I showered when I couldn't stand to be alone for even ten minutes. He told me I was beautiful, even when I had a bra full of smelly cabbage leaves (which supposedly help stop milk production), a pad the size of a diaper, and eyes pretty much swollen completely shut. He has cooked for me. He's done the dishes every night. He's watched nine and half seasons (and counting!) of Law and Order SVU with me (with minimal complaining.) He's put up with my freakish mood swings. He calls me everyday from work to make sure I'm "okay." He has put his own grieving and sadness on hold to tend to mine.

Everyone seems focuses on the mother when a baby dies. But in a way, Dad has had it worse. His daughter died, and with her, part of me died too. He lost his baby and in a way, he lost his wife. I know the happy, carefree girl he met at summer camp when he was 13, dated in college, and married three years ago is gone. Hopefully she'll be back someday, but right now she's been replaced with a sad and empty girl who has no "spark," who doesn't want to do anything other than sit around all day and night and watch crappy TV. Dad has pretty much had to assume the role of "caretaker" for me, when he could really use some "taking care of" himself. He's been so wonderful and strong throughout this horrible, horrible time.

All of this is to let you know how lucky you are to have a father like your Dad. Most of the world may not recognize him as a father now that you're gone, but we both know he is, Baby. He's one of the best fathers there is.

Wish you were here to celebrate Dad's first Father's Day with us. We miss you more than you'll ever know.

Love,
Mom

Ps. Blogger/readers: my good friend Annette just started a blog about her daughter, Valentina, who was stillborn at fullterm right around the time we lost Stevie. The two of us have been walking a very similar (eerily similar even!) journey. She's an amazing writer--stop by and show her some love when you have a chance! :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

How can you not smile...

...When you see this little face?

Dad and I are missing you extra, extra bad today Stevie girl, but your "sisters" are doing what they can to cheer us up a bit. Thought I'd pass this picture along to anyone else who might need a little cheering up tonight. :)

Love always,
Mom

New look!

Dear Stevie,
How do you like your blog's new look, baby girl?

I think of this blog as your little corner of the internet and I want it to be perfect. I should be working on the finishing touches to your nursery, but here I am, making sure your website looks nice and pretty. How sad is that?

Anyway, although I consider myself fairly creative, even a bit artsy, HMTL is one thing I know absolutely nothing about. Thankfully Franchesca, mommy to Jenna Belle and creator/owner of Small Bird Studio was there to help me out! She designed the new layout and beautiful header (which includes some totally awesome pictures taken by one totally awesome photographer, if I don't say so myself!) for me and I love, love love the new look! It's exactly what I had in mind. Fellow bloggers: you have to check out Franchesca's website (if you haven't already); she has amazingly affordable prices for blog makeovers and she really does do a beautiful job.

Thanks again, Franchesca, for making Stevie's space so special.

Love you, sweet baby girl. Hope your Monday up in Heaven is going better than my Monday down here. Missing you lots and lots.

Xoxo,

Mom

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Back to normal

Dear Stevie,
Dad and I had a nice, rainy Saturday yesterday.

I got my hair cut (a whole two inches taken off! Drastic!):


We did some "retail therapy" at Nordstrom Rack:


Went to a sushi bar with cool lighting:


Went out for some super yummy Thai food (you would have loved it--super spicy just how you like it!):


Checked out the new "zombie bar" in town (yes, it really was a zombie-themed bar and yes, it was awesome):



Walked around and took a few silly self-pics:


Sang along to old-school Randy Travis in the car ("I'm gonna love you forever, forever and ever, amen..."):


And ended the evening with a stop at the grocery store, where we stocked up on our reduced fat Cheez-itsz (they were buy one get one free!):

All and all it was a pretty fun night. It felt like things were back to the way they were before you died, before I was ever pregnant. It felt like our lives were back to normal.

And that sucks.

We were ready for big changes. We had been anticipating how our lives were going to be completely transformed when you arrived for so long. So to feel like nothing has changed, that we're back to exactly the way we were 8 months ago, feels like a kick in the gut. I should be happy that we're at a point where we can go out and enjoy ourselves a bit, but the whole time I'm thinking, "Stevie should be with us right now," or "I shouldn't be able to order a drink right now, I should still be pregnant." Having the freedom to do whatever we feel like and come home whenever we want is nice, but I was ready to stay at home with you on Saturday nights. I was ready to go to family-friendly places with "Kids Eat Free" deals rather than zombie-themed bars. I was ready to be your mom.

I don't want all this freedom I have. I want you.

I love you so much, Baby. Even when life is good, there will always be something missing--you.

Love,
Mom

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Are you planning on having kids soon?

Dear Stevie,
I knew it was coming, that question. I knew it as soon as I booked my haircut appointment this morning. I thought all about how I would answer it the entire drive to the salon. Five minutes into my haircut, the stylist, a sweet and bubbly girl around the same age as me with a super trendy bob cut and chunky highlights, asked me if I was married. "Yes." How long? "Three years in August." I knew what was coming next.

"So are you guys planning on having kids anytime soon?"

I froze for a moment before saying, very matter-of-factly "this is really sad, but our first was actually stillborn about 5 weeks ago."

She stopped cutting, put her hand on her heart, and looked at me in the mirror with shock and pity in her eyes. "I am so sorry, that's horrible," she said.

"Yeah, I was 26 weeks along. It looks like it was cord issue. Sorry to spring this on you, I just don't really know how else to answer that question..."

"No, I'm sorry I had to bring it up, that's just horrible."

"It's okay, you had no idea. Plus I suppose I better get used to the 'do you have kids' question sooner or later."

"Well I am really sorry. I've had a miscarriage and I know I wasn't near as far along as you were, but once you find out you're pregnant, you totally become a mom to that little baby. I'm glad you answered honestly. That was your baby, you shouldn't have to deny that."

Then she asked me your name, and whether or not we had a memorial service for you. She asked me how Dad was handling everything. I was pleasantly surprised at how wonderfully she handled it. I so appreciated that she talked about you with me. Here's this girl who I have known for a whole seven minutes and she made me feel less awkward and uncomfortable talking about what happened to you than a lot of my good friends. I am so thankful my first time dealing with the "so do you have kids" question was with someone like her. So thankful that I actually bought the $17 "Morrocan hair oil" she was peddling. I hope they get commission when they sell that crap.

Anyway, I held it together pretty well while I was at the salon, but the second I got in the car to drive home, I broke down and cried. I wish so badly my answer to the "kid" question could have been, "actually, I am 7 and a half months pregnant with our first," or "actually I just have a newborn baby girl. Her name is Stevie and she's at home with her Dad right now. She's the cutest little thing you've ever seen, hang on, I have a picture of her right here on my phone." I hate that I have to tell people you died. I hate that you died so much.

You will always be my first baby, sweet girl. Mommy promises I will never forget that, ever. I will never deny your existence, even someday when we (hopefully) have other children. The world will always know how much I love you. Always.

Missing you so much,
Mom

Friday, June 11, 2010

Making it

Dear Stevie,
"How are you?"

I get that (seemingly) simple question a lot these days. I've struggled with how to answer it. I can't say "good." That would be a lie. "Alright" doesn't quite cut it either. Can't say, "horrible, actually. It feels like my heart has been ripped out of my chest and trampled on a thousand times," because that would probably really freak some people out. So my standard response has become, "I'm making it."

I'm making it.

I'm going through the motions everyday. I wake up, I cry, I take a shower (most days anyway), I get dressed (sometimes even in something other than sweatpants!), I make myself eat something, I go to work (or whatever other "activity" I have planned for the day), I drive home, I cry, I make myself eat some more, I go online, I watch TV, I cry, I take the dogs for a walk, I watch some more TV, I get ready for bed, I have another good cry, I fall asleep.

Sometimes in there I smile, sometimes even laugh. Most of the time though, I am numb.

Yes, I am making it through each day. But when do I get to go from just "making it through" to actually living again? Because I assure you, what I am doing right now is not really living. There is a stark, stark difference between the two.

I keep thinking when I'm pregnant again, then I can start really living. Once I have another child (you know, one that I actually get to keep!), then I can start living again. But what I am supposed to do in the meantime? Who knows how long it will be until we get pregnant again. 6 months? A year? Three years? Never? I feel like I'm in limbo. Part of me wishes I could somehow sleep through this period of time between losing you and having another baby. Someone please wake me up when it's time to be happy again!

I'm really trying to do more than just make it through for you, Baby, but I'm not doing a very good job. I know you'd want me to appreciate each day of my life for the gift that I know it is, but it's so, so hard to truly live without you in my life. I say it all the time, but I just miss you. I miss you, I miss you, I miss you.

Love,
Mom

Ps. I tried wearing mascara for the first time since you died today. Bad idea.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

At least...

Dear Stevie,
I think it's human nature to want to try to make things better, to somehow "fix" what is broken, whenever things go wrong. This being said, sometimes I wish people didn't have this instinct. I wish more people could just say, "what happened to Stevie just sucks," and leave it at that. I can't tell you how many statements I've heard that start with "at least."
  • At least you're young. Because it's harder and harder to deal with your child dying the older you get? I'm pretty sure it sucks whether you're 19 or 24 or 39 or 45.
  • At least you know you can get pregnant. Well this was one hell of a way to figure that one out.
  • At least you can have more kids. This is not a given, actually. If I've learned anything during the last month, it's that there are no guarantees in life, especially given my awesome luck.
  • At least you still have Andy. True. But is it really so much to ask to have my husband and our first child?
  • At least [insert other really horrible tragedy here] didn't happen to you. Yes, I guess I should be happy that I didn't lose my baby and have the rest of my family die in an earthquake the same day, or lose my baby on top of having cancer, or lose more than one baby. But knowing that other people have gone through worse things than I have doesn't make me feel any better about my own tragedy.
  • At least you didn't gain that much weight and already have your old body back. I would do anything to have some stretch marks and extra flab if it meant I could have my baby here with me.
  • At least none of your close friends are pregnant or have babies. This is true, and I am actually really thankful that I'm not surrounded by what I don't have, but since none of my best friends have ever been pregnant before, I'm not sure they can really understand the enormity of my loss; until you've been pregnant and bonded with your unborn child, you can't possibly understand how it feels to have that child die inside of you.
  • At least she died before she was born. I would have literally died to see her open her eyes, or smile, or hold onto my finger, even just once.
  • At least you got to take a whole month of off work. My four-week leave has been no "vacation," I can promise you that. I should have had a whole 12 weeks off with my new daughter, not a month off to physically recover from delivering a dead baby. What I would give to have been at work, pregnant, the last four weeks.
While all these "at leasts" might be true, they are of little comfort to me right now. Nothing but incredibly lame consolation prizes.

I'm sorry I'm so negative today, Stevie. I guess I'm just in one of those moods. I must be in the midst of my "anger" stage of grief (stage 3 out of 7 I think? I best go consult my stack of pregnancy loss books to find out!) As a little kid, I was always great at expressing my anger, but hated admitting when I was sad. I remember this one time when a couple of my neighborhood friends really hurt my feelings by not inviting me to a sleepover they were planning or something. I was crying to my mom and I just kept repeating, "I'm just so mad!" My mom said something like, "You're not mad, you're sad."

Mommy's sad, Baby. Really, really sad.

I love you so much little girl.

Mom

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Just a few pictures

Dear Stevie,
Dad and I went for a nice walk, and to carve some names/take some tree pictures for other mommies this afternoon. I took a few pictures for you while we were out. Here they are.

I have no idea what this thing is, but it was HUGE (and a bit scary!)

"Come on, Mom!"

Your cute little footprint on Daddy's foot

Us

There are TONS of these beautiful butterflies around our house

And my Project 365 photo of the day:

June 9th, 2010
"Wilted"

Missing you extra bad tonight, Baby.

Love,
Mom

No angel

Dear Stevie,
I know the term "angel" is a very common one here in the baby loss community. Honestly though, I don't really think of you as an angel. At least not in the sense that you're flying around with wings and a glowing halo, maybe peacefully strumming a harp or something. No way. I know you're up there in heaven causing all sorts of trouble. I imagine you up in Heaven bossing all the other little kids around, being sneaky with your new friends, and making a big old mess. I'm sure God has his hand's full with you (maybe even regretting his decision to take you up to Heaven with him?!) I feel I know you well enough to know you're no angel, Stevie. :)

You've always had to do things you're own way, from the very beginning, just like your mama.

You decided you were coming into our lives, whether we were ready or not. Dad and I thought we were doing a pretty good job at preventing a baby, but it wasn't enough to keep you from settling into my uterus and making yourself right at home.

You had me thinking you were a boy the first five months of your life. You little trickster. I was convinced you were a boy, to the point where I would only look at boy clothes when I was out shopping, and told everyone with confidence, "I'm totally having a boy, I just know it." I thought I had these awesome "motherly instincts." Guess not! When the ultrasound tech said, "it's definitely a girl!" I swear you started dancing around as if to say, "Haha--fooled you Mom!"

You were so stubborn. You kicked me whenever you felt like it, always refusing to do it on command. You'd be kicking up a storm, I'd put Dad's hand on my tummy for him to feel, and you'd stop kicking. Then as soon as he moved his hand away, you'd start kicking me again, even harder. It was a funny game to you, wasn't it silly girl?

I hope you're getting the chance to play silly games up in Heaven. I hope you're having so much fun being the goofy, head-strong little girl I know you are. I hope your Great Grandpa Chuck is showing you how he can light firecrackers off the top of his head, and tucking you into bed at night for me.

Have fun up there, Baby. I wish you were down here, driving me crazy with your silly antics, but I know you're having a blast up in Heaven. I miss you so much. I'll love you forever.

Mom

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

From Lisa

*This just deserves it's own post. From one of my best friends Lisa. I love you, Mrym, you are amazing.

To my lil stevie,

It’s been hard for me to think of what to say to you…I really loved you so much. I’ll never forget the day I had to pinch to stop the pee so I could run out and hear the yelps of the news that WE were having a baby! Yes, that’s right, from the very first day I have claimed you ; ) Your mom was our first bride, she got our first puppies, and then she gave us something even more—you, she became our first mom.

I’ve learned so much in our time together, whether driving with marissa and your mom and listening as they rattle on about all the stuff in preparing for you and I would try to play it off as if I knew anything at all of what they talked about ALL the way to chicago, or watching you grow, or all the knowledge your mom gained preparing for you, everything changed the moment you came. You are our baby. And all our babies will always hear the tales of you and how much we loved you.

When asked what your impact was, the answer is simple. You, you are the result. With your tiny little kicking legs you’ve kicked some major ass in this broken world (and I do mean that in a good way ). I don’t believe that it was ever meant to be this way, but that doesn’t mean that good and wonderful things haven’t come from it. I already know that you are an amazing girl and I am so excited to meet you.

This was my song for you the day I heard the news that you were lil Stevie: Colbie Colliet “Oh Capri” (but I like to change it to “oh stevie!) –right as I read the message from your mom this song began playing, no joke that same exact moment. Your mom did such an amazing job as you grew inside. And you, just as the song sings, you came out so beautifully.

"Oh Capri" lyrics:

She’s got a baby inside
And holds her belly tight
All through the night
Just so she knows
She’s sleeping so
Safely to keep
Her growing
And oh when she'll open her eyes
There'll be no surprise
That she'll grow to be
So beautifully
Just like her mother
That’s carrying
Oh Capri
She’s beauty
Baby inside she’s loving
Oh Capri
She’s beauty
There is and angel growin’ peacefully
Oh Capri
Sweet baby
And things will be hard at times
But I've learned to try
Just listening
Patiently, oh Capri
Sweet baby
Oh Capri
She’s beauty
Baby inside she’s loving
Oh Capri
Your beauty
Just like your mother
That’s carrying...Oh Capri

It's off to work I go...

Dear Stevie,
I went back to work today. It was both harder and easier than I thought it was going to be. The moments leading up to walking in the front door of the building were more emotional than I expected (quite a few tears were shed), but the moments after riding the elevator up to the third floor and walking into my office were less difficult than anticipated, if that makes any sense. I'm feeling kind of drained, so I'll just make a list of the positives and negatives of my first day back.

The positives:
  1. I don't work in retail, or any other customer service-type job where I have to actually interact with strangers. I work in Development for a nonprofit organization. I basically sit at my desk all day, and as long as I bring a lunch that doesn't need to be microwaved, which would require a visit to the lunch room, and peek around the corner and make sure the hallway is clear before heading to the bathroom, I can pretty easily avoid having to talk to anyone other than a handful of people in my department (who I happen to like very much). I have my fair share of retail experience (including 3 years of selling kid's shoes at Nordstrom) and I can tell you right now that I would not survive more than five minutes having to fake smile and small-talk with a bunch of people I don't know in this fragile state. So I'm thankful I have a job where I can hide out in my office and continue to basically shut myself off from the world right now.
  2. Hanson's new album came out today. I realized this as I was feeling super nervous and scared about getting up and getting ready for work. I quickly downloaded the CD onto my iPhone and listened to it on full-blast while I got ready and in the car on my way to work. Who would have though the band that got me through breaking up with my middle school boyfriend when I was 12 years old would also help me get through going back to work for the first time after losing my daughter, over 12 years later? Oh Hanson, you've been good to me. :)
  3. My boss is amazing. Not only has she been incredibly, I mean incredibly flexible with my schedule and everything, she actually cares about what I'm going through; she cares about me. I've read so many stories of women in my shoes having to deal with mean, insensitive supervisors on top of everything else and I feel so lucky that I have a boss that I would consider my friend.
  4. It was pouring rain today. I love it when the weather matches my mood.
  5. I got free lunch. My boss and another one of my co-workers (the one who gave me all her maternity clothes) took me out to a long lunch. It made the first day back go by really fast, which was awesome.
  6. When I got home, the dogs were extra excited to see me. That made me feel good.
The negatives:
  1. I had to go back to work no longer pregnant with you.
  2. I had to go back to work and start working on all the projects that I was supposed to be gone on maternity leave for.
  3. I had to go back to work without a new baby to talk about.
  4. I had to go back to work knowing my first day back at work was not your first day at daycare.
  5. I had to go back to work knowing you were dead.
Going back to work makes this all seem so final. Makes it seem like life is officially back to the way it was before you died. Life moves on and I know, in a way, I have to "move on" too, but it's just so, so hard to move on without you, Baby.

I love you so much. I really, really hope you know that.

Mom

June 8, 2010

"Just get out of the car and walk in those doors. You can do it, you have to do it."
 
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