Saturday, 31 March 2012

Just Something Else I'll Never Know

Sometimes I feel like things are back on track. In the year and 7 months since my son died and was born I've done a pretty good job coming to terms with his loss. It's not been easy, especially since I'm pregnant again, but I'm managing. But then, every now and then, something hits me out of the blue that knocks me back down again.

It can be anything really. There are lots of triggers out there. But for some reason it's the things I'll never know that get me the most. I could go through the whole list, but my heart can't take writing that kind of post right now. I'll save that for another day when I'm not feeling quite so vulnerable. Perhaps after Frostina is born happy and healthy and I'm not so worried that I also won't know those things about her. So for now I'm going to put that list aside and get back on topic.

I was chatting with a friend over lunch this week and she was asking about my pregnancy. As I was filling her in on some things the waitress came over and asked if we wanted dessert. After we both said no, I mentioned to my friend that it's probably better if I taper down on my sugars for a while as I'm pretty sure I'll be having my gestational diabetes test sometime soon. That got us on the subject of all the blood tests and injections you have to endure when you're pregnant and how you end up feeling like a human pincushion.

I mentioned in passing that I'm almost due for my anti-d injection. She had no idea what I was talking about and asked what that was. I went on to explain to her that I have an RH-negative blood type and if you have that then your body can create anti-bodies to your baby if he/she has an RH-positive one.

I went on to explain how before they knew about this, babies used to die sometimes as a result of the Mother's immune system thinking the baby was some kind of virus. So now, they give you the anti-d injections as a way to prevent your body from building up any kind of antibodies that can hurt your baby. If the baby is also RH-negative then you won't build up the antibodies, but since they have no way of knowing until after the birth, they give everyone the injections as a precaution. **I am not a doctor so please don't think that I'm any kind of expert on this kind of thing. This is just my understanding of things.

That made me think about my first pregnancy with my son. "You know," I said to her, "I don't know what blood type my son had."

It's not something I've ever wondered about before. Now that I'm pregnant again I suppose it's relevant though. Did the anti-d injections I had in my last pregnancy save me from building up antibodies against this one? Was my son RH-negative like I am? Or was he RH-positive like The Hubby? As I was at a lunch with friends I quickly let the question slip out of my mind and I went on with my day.

For some reason I woke up thinking about this question this morning. One of many questions I have about my son, who will never grow up and help me answer them. There was only one place I could think of to check for the answer. His post mortem report. Not an easy read by any account, but I felt compelled to give it a go. So I dug it out and read through it for probably only the second or third time ever.

It's a completely heartbreaking thing to read, even though I don't understand half of it with all the medical speak it contains. I scoured the entire document with it's charts and figures, but no mention of his blood type. It seems like a strange thing to leave off. I mean, they have the weights and measurements of all his organs, but no blood type?

So basically, I tortured myself with reading in detail about how my son died and didn't get the answer to my question. Nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon! I had a small breakdown after that. Not because it's so important for me to know what his blood type was, but because it's just one more thing I don't know about him.

One more item to add to the list that I'm not ready to write yet.

Just something else I'll never know.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Sleep Eludes Me

I am a groggy tired mess. I'm tired all day to the point where I'm tempted to nap. But I don't because sometime when I nap I'm unable to sleep at night. So I resist the urge to snooze on the couch in the middle of the day. Night time comes and I'm struggling to keep my eyes open. So I change into my PJ's (OK that's a lie, the PJ's have probably been on since before dinner time) and hop into bed. Sleep at last???

Not a chance sister!

The second I get into bed something strange happens. My tired body and mind start revving back up again. I am able to silence the mind by doing some yoga breathing, but the body will not be quieted. My sore tired body won't be still. I start getting twitchy and fidgety.

My legs want to be moving. My PJ's wrap around my bump and make me uncomfortable. My feet get cold and need socks on,,, only to then need to be kicked off a few hours later. I have to pee... I think. I try and relax again. Deep breaths, relaxing each muscle at a time.

Just as it starts working I have the need to twitch, or roll over, or pee. The spell is broken and I'm awake again. I'm soooo tired though. So I start to get mad that I can't sleep. My mind starts racing about what I need to do tomorrow, what I forgot to do today, or drifts into that place of bad memories.

Stop it! I snap my mind back in place! But the body has picked up all this new anxiety and tension and refuses to relax. So I get up because I see that no sleep will come at this rate. And I'm keeping The Hubby from sleeping which I feel bad about.

Nothing good is on TV after midnight. So I play around on the internet or read a book, waiting to feel sleepy enough to try to sleep again.

Last night that time didn't arrive until 2:30am. I tried once at 12:30, but it was in vain and I had to admit failure and get up again. So to sleep around 3am and up again in the morning at 8am. Perhaps tonight I'll be tired enough to sleep?? Or perhaps I'll let myself nap if I can. Or perhaps tonight will be a repeat of the last.

I know some will say this is good practice for when Frostina comes. My answer to that......

When I actually have a living breathing baby in my house I will try my best not to complain about not getting a lot of sleep. But until that happens,,,, Mama is tired and needs her sleep!!!

Photo from here

Saturday, 24 March 2012

A Very Important Date

I saw my doctor (or consultant as they refer to them on this side of the pond) this week. It was just a check up. You know, the boring ones where you pee in a cup, have your blood pressure taken, and get weighed. Although with this doctor they are slightly less boring because he has a small portable ultrasound machine in his office. So I got to see Frostina which I always love.

She is laying transverse which explains why I can feel her on both sides of my belly at the same time. She is also super cute and moves around a lot! The moving around part is a great reassurance for me, even if she does make some big kicks that catch me of guard sometimes.

After getting the good news that everything is going well with all the stuff they just checked I asked about my C-Section date. You see, based on my history of faulty placentas and my previous C-Section birth I already know I'll be having another one. This doctor wants to do it at 37 weeks because at this point Frostina will be considered term, and we reduce the risk of a repeat of last time (or perhaps something new). He said once she is term and her lungs are mature there's no reason to just keep her in there for the sake of keeping her in there.

I though it would be too soon to get an exact date but figured I'd ask. My Mom is going to come from the US and would like to be able to book her flights before they cost a small fortune. To my surprise, my doctor said we could set it up then and there. Wow!

So mark your calendars for Friday, the 8th of June!! If everything goes to plan then that's the day our little Frostina will make her debut. I'm just praying that everything continues to go well and we will be able to bring her home with us. A living breathing baby this time! Wouldn't that be amazing?

*Image from here 

Monday, 19 March 2012

Which Tree Are You Today?

I saw these two trees today and was struck by their stark contrast.

The tree on the left is filled with beautiful baby-pink flower buds. Some have already bloomed and the rest are just about ready to open. This tree is full of life, and hope, and possibilities. It has welcomed the spring with open arms and an open heart.

The tree on the right has no flowers on it. Instead, it's blood red branches are holding sturdy pine cones on them. This tree has endured a tough winter and is still standing strong. It is showing the world that it is not going to be defeated, that it will be beautiful again someday. There is pain in this tree that it is trying not to show to the world, instead it projects strength.

Two completely different trees and yet there is a sense that they belong next to each other. The harshness and sharpness of the tree on the right balanced out by the softness and blooms of the one on the left.

There are some days when I feel like the tree on the left. This tree is a flashback to my life before loss, a life when bad things didn't happen to me. In my early grief I thought I would never feel that joy again, but as time has gone on, I've allowed my happiness to blossom a bit.

Most days though, I still feel like the tree on the right. Battered and scarred, but still holding my head high. Trying with all my might to retain my dignity and grace even on the worst days of the storm. Waiting for the day when I will be beautiful again.

How about you? Which tree are you today?

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Two For The Price Of One- The Mother's Day Special

When you move to a new country you probably don't think much about public holidays. I know I didn't when I first moved here to England. After all, they're part of the culture of your new found homeland. They are a celebration, and everyone loves a celebration,,, right? Well, not always as I have learned.

You see, while Father's Day is the same in the UK and in the US, Mother's Day is not. So I have not one, but two Mother's Days to get through. A bit like those special buy one get one free offers you see in the shops. Normally I love those things, but not so much this time.

Why am I even talking about this? Well because today it's Mother's Day in the UK.

It's such a bittersweet day for me.
  • Two years ago I was happily pregnant with my Son. My head was filled with the dreams of all the Mother's Days we would spend together. 
  • Last year I spent the day without him in my arms. It was not at all the day I had imagined a year before. 
  • This year I am pregnant again, and yet still grieving my son. My head is filled both with the dreams of all the Mother's Days I will (hopefully) spend with Frostina, and all the sadness of the ones I won't be spending with my Son.
The Hubby has an interesting strategy for dealing with the whole two for the price of one Mother's Day dilemma. He insists that today isn't the real day because we're from America. Since US Mother's Day is in May, that's when we should be celebrating (or not celebrating) it. I don't know if this will really work for him, but I know it doesn't fly with me. After six years of living over here, I'm pretty immersed in the British culture, public holidays and all.

Today I will lay low and probably not leave the house. Thus reducing the chances that I will run into all the happy Mothers spending the day with their living children. I'm not sure I'm ready for all that just yet. Part of me thinks that being pregnant again should make this day easier. The other part of me realizes that it probably won't. So I won't be taking any chances.

I'll just hunker down and wait for this day to be over. And then, lucky me, I get to do it all over again in May. Ahhh, the fabulous life of an expat! 

To all the British Baby Loss Mums out there, I wish you a gentle Mother's Day. I'd like to think that our babies are smiling down on us from above.

Photo courtesy of CarlyMarie

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Oh Great, She Brought Her Baby

Disclaimer- This post will probably come across as very self centered. I don't usually live in that all about me place, but today I am. As a Baby Loss Mom I reserve the right to act and feel things in a very selfish way sometimes. I don't actually admit my true feelings to anyone but The Hubby and all of you, so hopefully no one in my real life knows just what a self centered bitch I can be. End of disclaimer.

As I've mentioned before, I'm an American Expat living in England. When I first moved here I joined a club for other expat women (from all over the world, not just the US). The women I have met through this club have been my lifeline and I know for sure that I wouldn't have gotten through the loss of my son without them.

Because I can never do anything half-assed, I am of course on the board of this club. Our board meets monthly to talk about what's going on and to make decisions that affect the membership. These meetings are very casual affairs held in the mornings and young children are welcome. So there are usually a few toddlers there running around while we all chat.

One of the members of the board just gave birth to her son a few weeks ago. I've written about her a few times before, most recently when I was invited to her baby shower. You can read a bit about her if you like by following this link but it's not really vital to today's story. But if you're a new reader and want a bit of background then there you go.

Having just given birth a few weeks ago I figured she would take a pass on the next few meetings. I mean, who wants to bring their newborn into a room with so many women and possibly toddlers?? Talk about a germ-a-palooza. So I figured it would be a few months before I had to endure her waltzing into the room with her brand new baby boy.


I found out the night before the meeting that she was coming so at least I wasn't totally surprised. But that wasn't really much time to prepare myself. I have done a good job of avoiding all newborn babies since my son died, especially baby boys. I just can't be around them because they are the physical manifestation of what I lost. My newborn son who will never grow into a toddler, or a boy, or a man. Just writing that brings tears to my eyes.

So I was hoping that she wouldn't come for a few more months, until hopefully I will have my own newborn baby. I keep thinking that once I have a real life living newborn then seeing other newborns won't hurt so much. Once I have my own newborn then seeing other newborns won't feel like a stab in the heart. Because right now, even the thought of being around a newborn baby makes me anxious, and nervous, and stressed.

I had a hard time sleeping the night before the meeting. I could feel the anxiety running rampant in my body. How was I going to handle seeing a newborn baby boy? Would I burst into tears? Would I be able to look at him? What should I say? How should I act? Would everyone in the room be able to see my discomfort and sadness? How on earth would I be able to cope?

I seriously considered not going. It's something I thought about all night and while I was getting ready the next morning. I could just not go, that way I wouldn't have to deal with the situation. Such a tempting idea,,, and yet it felt wrong. I won't be able to hide from newborn babies forever so maybe this was the time to test myself. In the end I decided to suck it up and just go.

So I get to the meeting and a few minutes later she strolls in, pushing her tiny newborn son in his buggy. My stomach dropped but I kept a smile on my face. I welcomed her and made some comment about being impressed she was out of the house and back in action so soon. I'm sure she didn't get the subtext that I was actually horrified that she was at the meeting. I don't think anyone else did either.

Of course everyone swooned over her new baby. So I figured I was off the hook because she would be so distracted with all the attention that she wouldn't notice that I was pretty much ignoring her and her baby. I figured that once the meeting got started I could focus on what we were talking about and pretty much forget that there was a newborn boy in the room.

Wrong again!

She ended up sitting right next to me. A situation I managed to wiggle out of by offering my seat to someone who had to leave early and needed to be closer to the door. I was feeling quite smug about now having a buffer sitting in between us. But alas, my smugness was short lived.

Wouldn't you know? This woman sitting between us wanted to hold the baby! Not just hold him for a few minutes, but hold him for most of the meeting. When he got hungry she also wanted to feed him. I figured he would be taken out of the room to be breastfed but his ever-so-prepared Mom had pumped a bottle for just this occasion. So now I'm sitting next to the woman who is feeding this baby, and burping him, and settling him back to sleep.

I wanted to die. Or leave the room. Or burst into tears. Or just sit somewhere else. I wanted to be anywhere besides where I was.

But the meeting was underway and I was stuck. So I did my best to focus my attention to the topics at hand. I actively participated in the discussion,,, anything to keep my focus off the newborn baby sitting inches away from me. I am amazed at how I held it together. I didn't cry or even tear up. I don't think anyone even noticed my discomfort. I was a total fake and I think people bought it.

On the outside I was the perfect face of happiness, on the inside I was crumbling into a million little pieces. Why did she have to bring her baby? Why couldn't she just have stayed away for a few more months. Doesn't she realize that the presence of her perfect, living baby boy is like torture to me? 
 *See I told you I was going to a very selfish, all about me place!

Somehow I managed to get through it. I'd like to think that my son was sending me strength from above. Or maybe I'm just getting better at faking it these days. Either way, I made it to the end of the meeting without the humiliation of bursting into tears. After it was over, I treated myself with a nice lunch at a very posh and grown up restaurant and did a bit of shopping. A reward for holding it together.

So there you go. A totally selfish, all about me post. I know there are other perspectives to see this situation from, but at the moment I can only see mine. And for now, I'm OK with that.

Pouring my heart out with Shell.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Every Pregnant Woman Worries

A week or so back, I wrote about my experience of entering the world of normal pregnant women. It's been a deliberate choice for me, this attempt to act like a normal pregnant woman. A part of my efforts to fully embrace this pregnancy and this baby. My way of trying not to dwell on the fear and sadness that has carried over from my loss.

As my belly grows and I'm obviously pregnant I have realized that I'm here in this world, like it or not. Even though I felt like I had chosen it and therefore had some sort of control over it, I am learning that this is in fact not the case. People see me as a normal pregnant woman because like all other Baby Loss Moms, I don't walk around wearing a sign that says, "My last baby died." **Side note, maybe this would be a good idea. Kind of like people who have those, "My other car is a Porshe,"stickers. We could have, "My other baby died,"stickers. 

It's a tricky path to navigate, this pregnancy after loss thing. I've tried to be honest when people ask how I'm doing. Mostly I tell people that I'm super excited and super scared as well. As I tell this to more and more people (most of who know my history) I'm noticing a trend in response. I keep getting told that what I'm feeling is normal because every pregnant woman worries.

Really? My fear of losing another baby is normal because every woman worries about this?

I'm not trying to say that pregnant women don't worry about complications. I didn't worry at all after my 20 week scan but in hindsight that was just plain stupid. I am not trying to negate the fact that no pregnant woman wants her baby to die and the thought of anything going wrong would fill them with fear. But is my fear and worry really exactly like theirs?

Their fear is all in the abstract. What would happen if something went wrong? How would I cope? What would I do? Most people when they hear of a stillbirth would say that they don't know how they could get through it. They are scared, yes... but what they are scared of is unknown in practice.

For me, losing a child and living through stillbirth and it's aftermath is not the unknown. It is the harsh reality of my experience. I do know what would happen if something went wrong. I do know how I would cope. I do know what I would do. I know exactly how it all feels, and looks, and smells.

My fear is not that it will happen to me, but that it will happen to me again.

So in my opinion, my fear while similar to that of other normal pregnant women, is not the same at all. It isn't normal to be afraid of having another loss, it's sad and tragic. Because most people don't have any loss. Yes they are afraid of loss, but it never touches them in a real way. 

My fear (and that of all BLM's) is raw. I have a gaping wound that has barely begun to heal, and I'm scared of ripping it back open again. To fall back into the fog of grief and despair. A fog that I'm still working to find my way out of. It's a fear that I try desperately to suppress, so that it doesn't take me over.

I am sure that these women are just trying to be helpful, to make me feel a bit less neurotic. But it's really not the same thing, and I'm getting tired of smiling and agreeing with them when they say it.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Fat Belly

You may think I'm referring to myself in this title, but I'm not. It's true that my belly is growing each day and there's no mistaking that I'm pregnant. But the fat belly I'm referring to belongs to my precious little Frostina.

I am getting lots of extra monitoring this time around and this week I got a special kind of ultrasound that I've not had before. In addition to checking the baby and the fluid and all that stuff, this ultrasound was also to look at the placenta. My doctor checked the structure and blood flow. He not only looked at the blood flow, but he also listened to it. To me it just sounded like a bunch of swooshing, but he said it was good so that's all that matters.

If only they had done a scan like this with my son. Then perhaps they would have detected that something was wrong. That his placenta was under attack by some kind of virus or infection. Would early detection have saved him? There's no way to know for sure. But it makes me sad to think that the technology is available but isn't considered "standard" during all pregnancies. I get to have this because of my history, and for that I'm grateful, but I do wish it was done for everyone.

Before he checked my placenta, my doctor did all the normal measurements on Frostina. Unlike my son who always measured a bit small (in hindsight that fact makes me sooooo sad), she is right on target in all areas. All areas except for one that is. I was informed that she has a large round belly. Still within normal limits so nothing to worry about I was told. But big compared to the rest of her. My doctor says it's a good sign that she's getting plenty of nutrients.

She has a cute fat belly! A notion that makes me smile each time I think about it. When you think about it, babies are pretty much the only people who can have a fat belly and people think it's cute.

I just can't wait to meet her. I'm praying that things continue to go well with this pregnancy because I'm already totally in love with her.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Such A Simple Question

Is this your first?

It's such a simple question isn't it? An innocent question. A polite question. The kind of question that is asked all the time. It's part of the "getting to know you" routine. You meet a pregnant woman and you ask her if this is her first baby. No harm in that,,,, right?

This simple question is causing me much anxiety right now. Even though I knew it would happen as my belly grows, I'm still never prepared to answer it. So I get nervous and uncomfortable and never know what to say.

What is the right way to answer this question when your first baby died at 36 weeks?

Do you say no and spill your terrible life story to a complete stranger? Do you become that woman who brings up the sad subject of dead babies at fun social events? Do you become the woman who makes a perfectly nice person who was just trying to be polite feel completely and totally uncomfortable? Or do you lie and smile and say yes, sparing everyone else your discomfort?

If I'm asked by a stranger, like at a shop or in a taxi, I always say yes. I figure the person who is asking is just being polite and really doesn't care about the answer. Plus, they're not entitled to know anything personal about me. I liken it to saying "fine" when a stranger asks how I'm doing. I never feel guilty about this answer,,, this one is easy.

If I'm asked by someone who wants to know for professional reasons, like a doctor or dentist or yoga instructor, I usually say, "Well this isn't my first pregnancy." That lets them know there is history that they can either ask further about if they need to, or let it go if they don't feel they need any further info. This answer has worked out very well for me. It's the answer I figured I'd use in social settings as well,, the truth without too much detail.

A few nights ago I went to a social gathering. There were quite a few women who I had never met before, but who I will most likely see again. I'm visibly pregnant these days so of course my pregnancy was a big topic of conversation. I was asked several times if this was my first and each time I said yes. I cringed inside after answering this way. What happened to my plan to tell people this wasn't my first pregnancy? What happened to my perfect answer? Why couldn't I use it?

I left the event feeling guilty. As if I had somehow forsaken my son by not mentioning him. Maybe guilt isn't the right word. Maybe conflicted is a better way to describe how I felt. I don't know,,, I just didn't feel right about the way I handled the situation.

I've never been the kind of person to spill my guts and family secrets when I first meet someone. I have never been the kind of person who goes to a fun social event and then goes on and on about my problems. I attend social events to chat and gossip and have fun. In my early grief, these events were a way to forget about my horrible life if only for a few hours. So it's not at all out of character that I wouldn't mention something sad at an event that is supposed to be fun.

But for some reason, this is really getting to me. I feel like I lied to these women just to protect them from feeling uncomfortable. So that they could get to know the fun, happy me before I spring my tragedy on them. So I won't be seen as the woman who's baby died before I'm seen as anything else. So that they wouldn't all scurry away and be afraid to ask me any more questions just in case I had more terrible stories to tell.

Is that what it is?? Am I being selfish? Or am I just trying not to spoil a fun event with my sad story?

I don't understand why this question still catches my by surprise and takes my breath away. I should expect it by now. I should be more prepared.

After all, it's such a simple question.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Shutting Down My Facebook Page

I am suffering from social media overload. I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed and I think it's time that something has to give. As an anonymous blogger I live in two worlds. One world where I use my real life name and connect with my real life friends. And another world where I use the pseudonym My New Normal and I connect with my virtual friends. There is almost no overlap between these two worlds.

Both worlds are equally as real to me and equally as important. I often think that without this blog and the connections I've made here, I would never have been able to get through the loss of my son. Grief isn't really something we talk about in polite society and having this space to get it all out and make connections has been a vital lifeline.

I opened up a twitter account and a facebook page for this blog as a way to make even more connections. In the beginning it was all very exciting. But as time goes on it's feeling more and more like a burden. I've got my real life social media networks to manage, like facebook and email. Then I've got this blog and it's social media networks to manage as well. It's all getting to be too much.

So after much deliberation I've decided to shut down Finding My New Normal's facebook page. To be honest, I just don't see the value in having a facebook page for this blog. With twitter, I find I connect with lots of other women in similar situations as I am and have found some great blogs to read. I've made connections that are very valuable. I also have found that having a twitter page brings me more readers to this blog.

With the facebook page I've not had the same experience. I set things up so that posts I write here will automatically post over there. However, I noticed that this doesn't always happen. Sometimes a long time goes by with no posts, and then they all dump on the same day. Something that I know would be annoying to anyone following on facebook. I've also not noticed nearly as much interaction as I get here or on twitter. And I get almost no traffic coming from facebook to this page.

Perhaps I've been doing it wrong, but it just seems like a whole lot of extra time for not very much return. I'll wait about a week before pulling the plug to give people time to find me here and on twitter, but then that's it.

How about you? Do you have a facebook page or twitter page for your blog? If so, do you find value in them? Have you shut down any social network pages associated with your blog before? If so, why did you do it?