August 27, 2014

Living in this world and that world

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Oh man, life has been so busy these days!  It's a good thing, because I've barely had time to think about my heart and it's wounds, I've been very distracted.  I know I have to bring myself back down to earth when I finally get home at night and fall into bed.  I still have to fight this monster called grief head on, because if I push it away or ignore it completely, it'll simmer and then destroy me all at once at a bad time.  I have to give it attention so it doesn't bite me.

Work has been great.  I feel that I am slowly pushing through all the normal things I do each year to get ready to be a good counselor for these students.  I walk around the school all day, poking my head into classes or checking up on students that may need me, and helping staff along the way.  It's busy and it's good.  I know it's only going to get busier.

At some times though, my mind pops into another world...

I would be 32 weeks pregnant today...

The last time I walked into this room, he was here with me...

My stomach would be SO BIG right now...

I would be 8 weeks away from meeting our baby boy...

My baby shower would have been this weekend...

No matter what I do, there is always this alternate universe in my mind.  A universe where my baby didn't die.  A universe where I would be getting ready to give birth to a happy, healthy baby boy.  I am happy and hugely pregnant in this universe.  People are excited about my baby.  My nursery is done and so unique and cute.  Dave and Ashley are giddy with anticipation...

But then I have to force myself back to reality.  Oh gracious, how painful that is!!  Not quite as bad as actually losing the baby, but pretty painful nonetheless.  I don't go into this universe on purpose, it just comes up into my mind at random.  Like today as I was walking down the hallway at school towards my 3rd grade, I had a crazy sensation that instead of the 3rd day of school, it was the 3rd day from the last day of school...the last day I was there before everything went wrong.  The walls are still fairly empty in school, it was muggy and hot, it had an end of the year feel to it for some reason...anyways, I was instantly taken back in time and thought for a teeny second that things were all ok and I was walking towards 5th grade to do my transition lessons.  Maybe it was all a bad dream?  Jackson was still there in my belly and we were going to have a great summer together!

Whoops, back to reality, Tina.

It didn't make me cry, I'm getting stronger about that.  I can talk about it all, and talk about him, and really be OK.  But these alternate universes where he is still alive with me, I want them to stop and I want them to continue all at the same time.

I'm guessing it will always be that way.  I have to wrap my mind around that and get used to it.  In October, that alternate life will turn into having an baby.  Next year, there will be a one year old there.  In 18 years, I'll be going to a high school graduation in that universe.  I think Jackson's would-be life and future will always be living along side of me, always forcing me to wonder what that life would actually be like if he were here?  I read an article tonight about a mom who gets so depressed as school starts because it reminds her of a student will never send to school, a child that is missing from a classroom.  She says, rightly so, that we as bereaved moms straddle time and space and how hard it is to live that way.  She is totally right, but it depressed me how that could be me, every year, at every milestone.  This wound may heal superficially, but it will be ripped open over and over?  How can I handle a life like that?  Won't it kill me?

Well, I know the answer to that already.  No, it won't kill me.  It may happen, I may feel it...but I'll deal with it and get through it just like I've gotten through everything, and I'll move on.   God may have to pick me up or drag me through again, but He will get me to the other side.  I'm so thankful for all He has gotten me through so far.  I really feel better than I thought I would.  I feel happier than I should!  A few friends have said that I look well, and at first I just think how that is crazy considering how broken I am...but then I, maybe I am not so broken anymore.  Or, maybe I am.  I don't know, I go back and forth, but that makes me think I am mending in many ways.

I guess that I am sort of ok with this alternate life I see beyond my painful reality.  It will always help remind me that he was here, he was alive and for a very short time, he had a bright future.  As time goes on and the memories of actual reality with him fade, that alternate reality may help me remember.  I never want to forget him, but I do want to move on.  I don't want to straddle both realities equally, I want to fully live this life and dedicate all the wonderful and good things in the world to him, while peeking into the what could have been every now and then if I really need to.

Will the holidays and anniversaries and milestones hurt me?  Maybe.  Will they break me though?  I don't think so.  I'm already way ahead of where I thought I'd be, healing wise.  I think I find a ton of comfort in the fact that he is in a better place.  It's not cliche, it's totally true.  He won't know the hurt and pain and disappointment of our world.  He will only know life and beauty and goodness in Heaven.  He is in a better place, and I can't feel sorry for him that he is 'missing' things here on Earth. And I can't feel sorry for me either.

If things are so beautiful here, how much more beautiful are they there?  Thank you, Jackson, for my sunrises & sunsets ;)

That's all for now, it's been a long's been a long week, and I am ready for bed!  Night!

August 23, 2014

Back into the world

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Last week, I officially returned to the world by way of work.  Over the summer, I slowly got myself ready and semi-comfortable being out in public.  I went to Target.  I went to the grocery store.  We joined a new, fancy gym and I started going there regularly.  The first few times were excruciating - they consisted of me trying to hide from all people, with my mind and heart screaming, "DON'T THEY KNOW I LOST MY BABY?!?!"  At first, it seemed like every single person that paraded by me was pregnant or had a teeny tiny baby.  I thought the world was mocking me!  I'd return to the car, sometimes without even buying anything, and cry my heart out.

But slowly, things got easier.  I got used to being around strangers.  I stopped expecting the world to know how broken I was.  I stopped noticing babies and when I did, it didn't shatter my heart as badly.  I started seeing friends, and hanging out with people.  It got easier.

I knew I had to do it, because I know that looming in the distance was "going back to work".  I was terrified of it.  I was scared that I would go in and cry the whole time.  I was scared of what people would say to me or think of me.  I was scared I wouldn't even be able to get out of bed to get there.  Thankfully, my practice, and prayers, and grief work over the summer really helped me out and this past week wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it could be.

My friends and family and co-workers really helped me through it.  All week I received texts and emails of love and prayers and "you can do this!" and that was so awesome.  One of my sweet co-workers brought me in a beautiful sunflower so that I could have some sunshine on our first week back.  Our unofficial motto as a staff this year is "No misery at Hickory" which is so fun because we are all focusing on getting to know each other better, uplifting each other, and keeping the morale up in the midst of all the mess that is education in our county (i.e. much more work, no raises, tight funds on resources, etc)  This really helps keep my spirits happy because everyone is in a good mood!  

On Wednesday, my first day, I had a great day.  It went by smoothly, no tears.  I had quite a few friends stop into my office and say how great it was to see me, or that they had been thinking or praying for us all summer, or give me big, hard hugs that let me know they cared.  I had thought I would dread walking into the big meeting, but I ended up being excited for it.  I thought people may treat me weird or avoid me, but that couldn't be further from the truth.  It was good to be back, good to see my friends, good to have something to do that didn't involve grieving.  I was busy in my office all day, setting things up and moving stuff around and unpacking all my counseling stuff.  I decorated and cleaned and updated and it was great. Therapeutic, even!  I CAN do this, I thought!

When the day is over, I got into my car.  As I drove home, I burst into tears.  I am not really sure why?!  I had a great day!  I even had fun...laughed and smiled and all that fun stuff.  My guess is that I had used up all my strength, held myself together for so long that I needed a release.  The tears flowed the whole way home.  I was a little upset with myself, because I thought I was doing so well and this felt like a set back.

When I walked in the house I saw a package on our table labeled for me.  I was confused at first because I hadn't ordered anything in a while.  I looked at the return label and saw our friends', Chuck and Blythe, business logo: Flutterbye Chic.

I ripped it open, excited to see what our friends had sent us!  There were three items in the box: a scarf, a super soft blanket, and a tumbler...all anchor themed!

Back in June, I was reading the Bible trying to help myself through the whole thing, and I came across the scripture Hebrews 6:19 which says We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  As I read that scripture that day, I felt it settle into my heart.  When you lose a baby, you lose hope.  When you lose hope, you have to find it again.  For me, I find that hope in my faith.  I knew God would get me through this terrible time.  I found that when I thought about God carrying us through this, and how much we were going to learn and grow from it all, my hope came back.  When I think about how God may choose to bless us one day with a healthy baby, hope is there again.  So from that day on, I felt that the anchor was my symbol.  It stands for my hope that I will get through this, I will heal, I will continue to live on without my babies here with me and one day, I may have a healthy and happy baby to hold.  My hope!  Anyways, Blythe and Chuck totally know that I love anchors and put together this sweet care package for me!!

I pulled out the scarf and immediately loved it!  I love chevron patterns, and blue and white, and obviously the anchors.  I didn't even notice the baby initials until I read Blythe's card in which she said that the scarf was for me to wear and keep "them" close to me all day.  Then I looked and saw the small "J" for Jackson and "L" for Lily.  She also wrote that the infinity scarf symbolizes a mother's never-ending love.

Obviously, I burst into tears again.  I was already emotional, but this goodness!  It was over the top sweet.  I LOVE being able to wear this sweet gift and keep my babies close to me in spirit with it!!

Then I pulled out the blanket.  Also inscribed with an anchor, with my scripture around it.  The blanket is so sweetly soft!  Blythe wrote that this blank was for when my arms were feeling empty, I could wrap myself in it or hold it and think of them.  I have slept with this blanket every night since.  I love it so much!!

The tumbler is something small that I can take with me to work, with my symbol on it, and help me get through each day with hope.  I always drink loads of water throughout the day at work, since I'm always running all around the school helping the 700+ students and 100+ staff, and now I have this sweet reminder of where I've been and where I am hoping to go in this whole journey.

Honestly, this is one of the sweetest gifts I have ever received.  I can not thank Chuck & Blythe enough for thinking of me as I start back to work!  They do amazing work and have a really great online store, which you should go check out!

This whole week, well...this whole summer, has been a blessing to us in the way that we had no idea how many people love us and pray for us and care about our lives.  We've had so many friends bless us with hugs, or meals, or gifts of flowers and wine, or even better...the endless words of hope and love and encouragement.  You all have each, in your own ways, helped us get through this whole thing so far.  So thank you!

Another present I got in the mail was from Sufficient Grace Ministries.  You can go to their website and pick which gift you want to remember your baby.  I went on early on after we lost Jackson, and signed up for the Memory Book, the stillbirth resources, and the Comfort Bear.  All of those things came in the mail this week too!

The book is really sweet because it's built especially for bereaved parents.  We can fill it out with our thoughts on our babies, a timeline of our pregnancy, our dreams that we had for Jackson (not so much Lily since the day we found out about "her" was the day we found out she was gone).  I guess it seems a little morbid, but he was our baby and we had plenty of dreams for him, and this is a great way to keep them and remember them.  The bear is adorable, hand stitched and very soft.  We call him the "Jackson bear.  I envision giving this bear to our next child one day, a sweet reminder of his or her big brother in Heaven.  I love it all!

While this week was very hard, and very emotional, I got through it.  All of this helped me get through it.  I felt myself return to some sort of normal again.  No, I'll never be the same person as before our loss.  The world is a different place now, but I can feel my life returning to some kind of normal, a new normal.  I realized yesterday, as I burst into tears after school for the third time, that the tears didn't mean that I was going backward.  I realized that the tears meant I was actually going forward, moving on.  My heart is starting to understand that I have to keep on living, and persevere through this mess.  I can't drag my feet anymore, I have to start walking.  And it feels good!  But, it breaks my heart that it feels good, and that's why the tears have come every day after work so far.  Does that make sense?

I think that when you go through a loss like this, your feelings and emotions are so dull for a long time, and then all of a sudden they come back and are in FULL force.  My old type of happy is extreme happy.  My old type of teary eyed is full blown tears.  My old sadness is broken.  My old excitement is so exaggerated.  I appreciate life and love and death so much more now.  I think that's what being broken does to you.  I realize how much life is worth living, and everything is just so much more extreme after that!

But I have to say, that I honestly think I am ok.  No, I'm not better.  I don't think I'll ever be "better" because that means I've gone back to how I was before.  There is none of that.  But I am ok.  I love my life, I know that I am blessed, I know that I am loved, and I know that in so many other ways, I am lucky.

August 16, 2014

What to expect when you are not expecting

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There are so many things to expect when you are not expecting.

I don't mean those who just aren't pregnant or don't have or want kids, I mean those of us who WERE expecting and now, unexpectedly, we aren't.

There isn't a manual that comes with a life like this.  While most life situations happen to most people, so there are tons of ideas or support out there for most of those things, this particular life event isn't quite so "popular".  Those who do go through it rarely talk about it.  I have found wonderful support online, but for the number of parents that go through this, not nearly enough of us talk about it or share our stories.  I can't even describe what it's like to feel so lost in those early days, but I wish I could for all of those mommas out there that find themselves in this situation.  This post is for them.

I can try to describe it, but I'm sure I won't do it justice.  I wasn't prepared going into this, no one can be really.  But if I can help someone, anyone, be prepared a little more then part of my purpose in this whole mess has been filled.

As I said in my last post, I wasn't prepared to say goodbye to my baby.  I didn't expect to have to make decisions on cremation or burial or funeral homes or whether or not to hold my stillborn Jackson, or whether to dress him or bathe him or ask for a death certificate.  All of these things are completely up to the mom and dad, but everything happened so fast that our decisions were quick and rash and more emotional than they should be.  I think that as part of prenatal care there needs to be a discussion about this so that moms know...moms can expect what may happen if the unexpected happens.  After all, pregnancy loss affects 1 in 4 women.  Our hospital here in town says out of the 1000 babies that are born there per year, 20 of those sweet babies are born still, like Jackson or even further along in weeks.  It happens.  It's a tough discussion to have when moms-to-be are so happy and excited and hopeful, but when loss sucks to be unprepared.  I know.  I wish someone had told me what to expect way ahead of time.

I wasn't expecting that while becoming an unwilling member of the "stillbirth" club (or loss club or miscarriage club, whatever you want to name it) now I have to deal with being completely kicked out of the pregnancy club.  And the recognized mom club.  And the baby club.  My membership to all of these has been revoked.  And while this is usually just me feeling this way because I am self-conscious about my loss, and of how the world works, sometimes I feel this way because of others too.  I wish I could just disappear sometimes when people unknowingly mention something pregnancy or baby related that reminds me I no longer belong.  I feel pings of pain, I feel pings of jealousy, and I feel pings of pity.

Ugh the pity.  I wasn't expecting the pity.  Sometimes I can feel it coming off people around me in waves.  It's not something that can be avoided when you lose a baby because it's one of the saddest things on Earth that can happen.  But it's something we all have to get used to.  We have to let others pity us.  Sometimes its more like empathy - but empathy is hard when you lose a baby.  No one wants to think about being in our shoes, it's way too painful.  Hence, the pity.  People in the world just feel incredibly sorry for moms like me.

I didn't expect the other extreme either, others completely ignoring the fact that I have gone through the worse thing in my entire life.  Like Jackson was never even here.  It's hard to expect balance...between the pity and the ignorance.  It's hard to figure out which extreme I like more.  I like neither.

I wasn't expecting the physical "I had a baby but don't have a baby" problems.  Mother nature is kind of a you-know-what with this.  Just because I didn't bring a baby home doesn't mean my milk magically went away.  Yeah.  That happened.  And the postpartum depression?  It joined with the my-baby-died depression and it stinks.  I didn't expect that Jackson's "phantom" kicks would continue on for weeks, a cruel reminder of what I had, and so sadly lost.  I hadn't expected the physical separation from him to be so tough.  When I was in the hospital, all I wanted to do was go home.  Even now, that I've been home all summer, I'd given anything to be back in the hospital with him in my belly, no matter what state he was in.  It's like losing a limb.  No, it's worse than that.  It's like losing your heart, and soul, and yourself all at once.  I hadn't expected to feel that life had ended, that I will forever be a completely different person altogether.

I had no way of expecting the uncomfortable feeling that my presence may make others feel uncomfortable.  Unfortunately, I am a living, walking reminder that crappy things can happen to people.  I'm not sure that people like to be around me because of that.  Who wants to be around someone who is proof that babies die?  I am afraid that people have been or may be so scared by the intensity of my pain and grief that it makes them unable stand being around me.  They may feel they have to say something to make it better or to do something to make it better.  I have to learn how to let people know that unfortunately, there is no making it better.  It just is what it is, the baby is gone, and I have to live with it.  Physically and mentally and emotionally and socially live with it, and then get through it and learn to live around it.

I didn't expect that by talking about it all, by refusing to stay silent and by sharing his story - I was putting myself in all of these positions.  This is really my own doing, and I know that.  But I also couldn't expect how blaring his story would be in my life almost immediately, like I need to scream it out of me.  I had no choice, I had to write about him.  I had to share him.  So all this talk about pity and making others feel uncomfortable...I'm well aware it's all of my own doing.  I understand why women who have lost babies choose to stay silent sometimes...I just couldn't do it.

What else...

I didn't expect to feel that the world would keep moving even though I wanted it all to stop.

I didn't expect to have to put all the baby clothes and things that were given to me away, to have to "clean out" the nursery in a very different way than I wanted to.  We had to clean out the baby things.  We had to put the crib and all the baby stuff in the attic, it was way too painful to look at after saying goodbye to him.  It all had to go.

I didn't expect to get the daily emails and snail mail from buy buy baby and babies are us and and on the the day that Jackson died.  I had to email them and say, please for the love of God, stop sending me all that stuff.

But you know what?  As bad as all of that is, it's not ALL bad.  Yes, this is an impossible situation and I don't want to be here but there are things that pleasantly surprised me when it comes to dealing with baby loss.

I didn't expect all the support.  So many of our friends and family and even people we haven't talked to in year and people we don't even know have come forward to say they are thinking about us and praying for us or asking us what they can do to help.  Each week I get a text or a card in the mail or a message on Facebook from someone saying that we are on their mind or they are praying for us.  That is amazing!

I didn't expect all the stories...stories of other moms who have dropped in to say that they have dealt with loss too, miscarriages and stillbirths, and neonatal loss and infant loss...and they have survived it.  When you lose a baby, you drink in every drop of anyone's story of loss, because a lot of those stories contain guidance and hope.

I didn't expect how strong I would feel.  Yes, those first few days and maybe even weeks were awful. But coming through a bit of time, I feel strong.  Oh, I am still so weak in so many ways, but the strength is there too.  I have said many times before how surprised I am that this emotional pain doesn't have the power to kill me,  it doesn't.  I am living through it and I feel strong just getting up each day!

I didn't expect how much I would learn about God during this time.  Most of that strength, and the willingness to live, comes from Him.  He has carried us through this and allowed us to grow from it and maybe even touch others with it.  We went from being on Planet My Baby Died, to living on Planet My God Can Get Me Through Anything.  I didn't expect how hard He would work to get us through it.  He is carrying me through, I can feel it.  I can look back like that Footprints poem and see that He has carried me this far.  He won't let me go, He won't let me drown.  Sometimes I can feel Him dragging me through life, forcing me to process and deal and heal.  He refuses to let me fail.

I didn't expect to find HOPE through all of this either.  But I have.  We all have.  Hope pulls me through the day!  I have found the hope helps me battle certain feelings and times when my heart feels that it will explode.  Hope coaches me to find outlets to release my grief.   Hope is helping me face the fact that work starts again next week, and that I can get through it.  Hope helps me get excited that I'll have a lot of things to focus on, other than grief, soon.  Hope tells me I'll be fine working again, even though I am a little nervous about working with a seriously shattered and broken heart.  Hope tells me I'll be better for it.  A better wife, a better friend, a better counselor...

No...I didn't expect to have to say goodbye to my baby, or all the terrible things that goes with dealing with it...but I also didn't expect that even though he isn't here with me, Jackson is making me a better person each day.

So while there are tons of things you can't prepare for in this situation, you can inevitably find your way through it, and you find yourself as you go.  A new you, and hopefully a better you.  I can't allow loss to kill me or my hope or my spirit - my baby (babies) wouldn't want that for me.  Neither does God.  This goes for any situation too - not just baby loss.  This year has been hard for a lot of people I know.  Losing loved ones.  Illnesses.  Financial stresses.  Relationship problems.  Infertility.  Accidents.  Life has to be about finding those silver linings in the hard times.  I've mentioned this before but it helps me thinking that God has faith in me, He knows I can handle this, that I will get through this and live, and that flatters me.  He won't let me go...

August 12, 2014

Your Story: Part 3

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PSA - There is only one picture of my baby that I feel comfortable sharing and it is in this post.  It's a picture of his little hand, on my mothers finger.  I just wanted to warn you, because the image is heart breaking and if you don't want to see, then please stop reading.  I won't be offended, I promise.

Dear Jackson,

I've been having a really hard time this week.  It started on Saturday and I can't really pinpoint why?  I just feel so sad, so lost without you.  I had been finding my way, finding a new ground to walk on, and then it felt like the whole world was pulled out from under me again.

Maybe it's because I knew today was coming.  Today marks 2 months since your birth.  It's your two month birthday and you aren't here, snuggling with me like most babies are at two months.  So, since I am sad already and it's the 12th, what better day to finish your story here on Earth.

After we got admitted, we settled into the hospital on Wednesday June 11th.  The doc "gave" me something called Cytotec, to start the whole birthing process.  He explained what normally happens in cases like mine.  He told us that the medicine takes 10-14 hours to work, that moms usually don't need to dilate more than 2-3 centimeters since babies at 21 weeks are so small, he and the nurses all said that the pain would feel more like menstrual cramps then active labor pains, and he told us that normally the babies and all that is "in" there all comes out together (without getting too graphic).  When I asked if an epidural would be needed, he told me usually no, it doesn't get that bad.

Jackson, nothing about your mother and her body is ever normal or usual.  It gets a bit tiring, but it's the truth...

The doctor gave me the meds.  He met with your father and I, and our family.  He really took the time to sit down with us, answering the whys and the hows the best he could.

Your father wrote, "Safe and healthy delivery for mom" on the "Goals" board in our room.  At this point there really wasn't much risk for me, since we decided to be induced, but we were praying that it wouldn't be more complicated from here on out.

All the nurses that came in to take care of us, after that first not-so-great one, were absolutely amazing.  Even the techs and the charge nurses that came in were sweet and so sorry for us.  For the most part, everyone treated us exactly how we should have been treated in such a sad situation.

They put up a card on our door with a tear drop on a leaf...

This told the nurses and everyone who came into our room that our family was dealing with a loss, not a birth.  Gone, but not forgotten.

That evening after everyone had come and left, and then come and left again...your father and I talked about your name.  Before you died we were debating on the name Jackson David, your father really loved it and I really loved the name Jack.  Since the name I loved could be your nickname, we had almost officially decided on it.  Then, we got this terrible news and knew we needed to name you and the name seemed so perfect at that point.  Our first baby.  Born in Heaven.  Jackson David.

Oh the dreams we had for you!!!  You were going to be something so wonderful.  Like the president.  It's such a strong name!  We had visions of you growing up and changing the world with that name.

The doctor and nurses started to come by and ask us all these questions about you that we weren't sure how to answer.

Do you want to see him after he is born?

Do you want to hold him?

Do you want us to take pictures?

What would like you like us to do after he is born?  Keep him and take care of it all for you?  Call a funeral home?

There was a little bit of a debate at first as to whether you were "old" enough for us to have the right to makes some of these decisions.  The official line between miscarriage and stillbirth was 20 weeks, and that was also the official line on whether or not we had "rights" to you.  If you were less than 20 weeks, we wouldn't have a choice in much of the process after you were born.  Honestly, it was all a jumbled line of paperwork and junk that I just was not ready to think about.  I wasn't prepared.

I understand that no one wants to be prepared for something like this.  But the downside of that is we make rash decisions that we may regret later...

Your dad and I talked about a lot of this.  Yes, I wanted to see you and to hold you.  I just had to.  I carried you for 5 months of my life, dreamed about you and your future and our future together, and felt you moving in my belly...I had to see this wonderful miracle that you were even though you were already gone.  Your father, he wasn't so sure.  It was hard for him.  To him, and even to me, you really weren't here anymore.  He wasn't sure he wanted to remember you in whatever way we would see you.

To be in this position, even having to make these decisions at all, was just about the most heart breaking thing that anyone ever has to do.  I kept thinking, how the hell did we get here?  Is this really happening?

The night passed without much happening.  The doc gave me the meds every 4 hours, each dose upping the chances of labor starting.  I didn't feel much until about 4 or 5 in the morning on Thursday.  Your father and I even slept a little bit, between doses.  I had my last night with you being a part of my body.  It was so bittersweet.  By the morning though, I was ready.  I wanted to go home.

The pain started as cramps.  Easy peasy.  They had told us that they would give me ibuprofen, and then oxycodone or something like that if the pain got worse.  So, around 4 am I took some ibuprofen. That was right after they had put a dose of the Cytotec in me.  Things started moving fast after that.  The pain grew to the level of my usual cramp pain, which is pretty painful.  I've been prescribed serious painkillers for those before, so eventually your dad called for the Oxy-stuff to help me through.

About an hour later, that painkiller hadn't scratched the surface of the pain I was feeling.  This was worse than cramps.  The docs and nurses started talking about some more serious stuff.  The word "epidural" started making it's way into the conversation, which scared me to death.  I thought I wouldn't need that?  Did that mean I was weak?  I can't take this "normal" pain??  They gave me something called Nubain which was nice for a while.  It took away all the pain and actually made me sort of fun and loopy.  But that wore off fast.  

By the time they came around again at 8 am to give me more Cytotec, I literally crossed my legs and tucked the blanket around me and told them no.  I couldn't handle it.  It hurt so bad, and the pain was coming in these crazy sickeningly painful waves that I can only assume are contractions, no one was going anywhere near my body with any medicine unless it was through my IV.  I refused to let them put more of that crap in me.

The waves of pain got so bad, that I was starting to pound on the bed, and say not-nice words.  Your poor father, and your poor Uncle Jonathan who had stopped in to see how we were doing, were worried.  This wasn't a good sign.  Why was I in so much pain?  I knew you were coming, Jackson.  They didn't need to give me more of that stuff, it was almost time.  The midwives were now helping me since our doctor had to go into surgery, and they were trying to talk me into an epidural.  I started crying.

I kept thinking that my heart was literally going to break.  It felt like it was slowly ripping apart, and my body was ripping along with it.


The pain was just making me that much more emotional.  And the talk of epidurals was scaring me...

It's not that I am against epidurals at all.  If this was a normal birth, dear boy, and I would be able to take you home afterwards, I would have signed up for it hours before.  But epidurals scare me, and they had told me I wouldn't need it.  I wasn't prepared for it.  Now they were telling me I did.  You were making me contract painfully, and that wasn't normal, and they wanted to fix it for me.  At first I kept refusing, and crying, and they gave me Dilaudid, which is pretty much a king of all pain meds.   Your grandparents came back to help us through these next few hours.  I was pretty drugged by that time.  Then the docs came in and tried to give me that stupid medicine again and I woke right up and said no.  No way.

They finally talked me into the epidural.  They told me the pain was worse than what they had thought it would be, and that you and I still had a long ways to go.  So I let them.  They hooked me up.  I didn't feel a thing after that, even all the way through your birth.  It was painless.  It wasn't long after that...

Around 11:30 am, I started feeling some pressure.  I thought I just had to go to the bathroom, but the new doc for the day came in and she told me that you were ready.  It was time.  It happened so, so fast.  They told me to push, which I thought was very comical because I couldn't feel anything to push.  She and our nurse, along with your father, they coached me through it.  It was so surreal.  All this time thinking and worrying about giving birth, and here we were doing it.  There was really no more fear at this point, because we already knew you were safe where you were.

Then, around 11:50, you were born into the world, sleeping.  You were so tiny.  I remember my first glimpse of you, just a bundle of long arms and legs and a little sweet mouth open in an "O" shape.  Then they took you away and wrapped you up.  I was so confused.  So dazed.  So...I can't even explain it.  It was so silent.

Our nurse brought you over to me and asked me again, "Are you sure you want to hold him?"

"Yes" I took you.  You...well, to me you were so beautiful, but it just wasn't you, little boy.  You were gone.  You had sustained some injury in the birth process.  The doc explained to me later that since you had been "gone" for over 24 hours, the natural process of death had started in the womb and since you were so I me you were beautiful but to the world, it would be too much, to graphic to share.  I moved the blanket around and looked at your tiny little body with your 10 fingers and 10 toes and your little face and belly, and then...I just couldn't do it anymore.  My heart was in pieces and I couldn't hold myself together anymore.  I couldn't believe it but here was the awful evidence of the truth, my baby died.

Your father had seen you at birth, but during this time that I was holding you, it was too much for him and he had stepped away so we could have this moment.

It was just so silent.  You were in Heaven, and I knew at that point I would never really see the real you with my own eyes until I get there.  I gave you the tiniest of squeezes, and I said goodbye to you, and they took you away.  We knew from the moment we heard you were gone that no amount of ceremony or ashes or grave sites or anything would make it better.  I could feel your life engraved into my heart and soul, and honestly that was enough for me.  It was enough for all of us.

Your grandparents came in and said goodbye to you too.  And with that comes the one picture of you that I feel comfortable sharing.  The picture of your teeny tiny hand on the finger of your grandmother, the woman who had been wanting you and waiting for you almost as much as I was...

Your fingers were so little.  Just like mine.  I could see a bit of me in you, and a bit of your father too - even though you were so small.  You were so real, this little package of reality that had been living in me.

I just couldn't believe that you were gone.

In hindsight, I wish I would have held you longer.  I wish I would have memorized every part of your little body.  I wish I would have gotten a picture of me holding you, all wrapped up.  These are things I wish I could change, but because everything happened so fast, I didn't have time to figure it all out.  I just wasn't prepared enough to make any rational decisions about it all.  But then, I think, that wasn't really the you that I know and would remember.

The rest of this time was a blur.  The placenta that should have come out with you did not, not a normal situation in cases like ours, but oh well.  The silver lining in this tragedy is that it did come out eventually, about an hour later.  If it hadn't, then I would have had to go into surgery to remove it, and at that point we just wanted to get the heck out of there.  So a small blessing came to us in the form of everything happening as it should in the end, which it comes to a 21 week stillbirth.   Your father and I, our anniversary was the very next day.  We wanted to be home, together, in our own house to celebrate our life and love, and you.

I can't explain how it felt to walk out of that hospital without you, sweet Jackson.  The nurses gave us a box, full of your "stuff"...your blanket, the hat they put on you, your bracelet, a card, some was numbingly painful.  I kept thinking, "I should be leaving with a baby!!"  As we got in the car, tears started pouring down my face.  The physical separation from you was harder than I thought it would be.  There was this ache in my very core, and that ache has never gone away since that day - June 12th, 2014.  Your birthday.  Your "angelversary".

Dearest Jackson, I am just not sure why this had to happen to us.  Why did we have to say goodbye so soon?  What was the point of your short and sweet life, if you weren't even able to live it?  I just don't know.  I know that God has a plan, and He will use me as a vessel for that plan.  I'm not exactly happy about that, but I will do the best that I can with His strength and guidance.

I am so happy and honored to have been your home for those 5 short months.  While it was a scary and stressful time, it was also the most amazing 5 months of my whole entire life.  You are still with me, that perfect image of you as a healthy little blonde haired, blue eyed baby boy...and every day that goes by I love you more and more.  I can't wait to officially meet you and hold you one day in Heaven.  I know that Gods plans for me are to be here, without you, for now.  But I can't wait for the day that you and I get to be together.

Jackson David Bland.  Footprints.  11:50am.  06/12/14.

One day soon, your family & I, we will say goodbye in a official and ceremonial way.  I want that part of the healing process to be special, and to mean something.  I want it to be worthy of the amazing little soul that you are.  I'm thinking about dedicating a day of kindness in your honor, and spend the day doing good things for people.  I may invite our friends and family to join us in that, if they are interested.  I want to honor and share how your life and the love we have for you has altered the world for the better.  You have made a difference in me.  You have changed me.  And I have to find a way to thank you for that.

Thank you for being my son.  Thank you for changing my life.  Thank you for watching over us.  Thank you, little Jackson, for being you.

Love you & Miss you.


August 3, 2014

Your Story: Part 2

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Dear Jackson,

I really miss you.  So much.  If you were still with me, you would be 28 weeks, almost 29 weeks in my tummy.  I know a lot of friends who are pregnant and every time I see their beautiful pregnant bellies, I think about you; I think about how big my belly would be right now!  Oh dear friends, please don't feel bad or weird about me, I love seeing your pictures and how far along you are and I pray for you and your sweet babies!  Jackson, I like seeing those pictures because it reminds me of you, and I love being reminded of you! I think some people think it may hurt me or make me mad, but it doesn't.  Sure, I feel a little jealous that I didn't get that time with you.  But I try to focus on the love part, not the part that makes my heart ache.

The day we found out you were gone was the saddest day of my life.  The day you were born is a close, close second.  But there is something about knowing that your baby's heart has stopped, but physically still with you, that shakes a soul.  It happened with your sister, Lily, as well.  But when we found out she didn't have a heartbeat, I knew I still had you, and I had to be strong.  With her, I didn't realize how heart wrenching losing a baby really was, because you were there to help me through it.  When I heard those words about you, part of me died.  Instantly.  I will never, ever get that part of me back.

The morning after my water broke, I woke up crying.  I had gone to bed crying, so this wasn't too shocking.  I felt mildly crampy, which worried me.  I had felt this way a lot while carrying you, so I tried not to think about it.  It didn't work.  Your father kept trying to console me, he had no worry at all.  His faith in us was so strong!  I forced myself to shower, I forced myself to eat.  When I got dressed, I remember thinking, "What should I wear to hear that my baby is gone?  I'll never want to wear it again, the outfit will be doomed..."  Such a silly thing to think.  But true.  Once again, we headed to the hospital to figure out what was going on with you.  Each drive to an appointment was awful.  Will this be the time?  What will be wrong?  What will they say?  What will we hear when they put that Doppler on me?  I kept trying to tell myself that it would be like every other time.  That we would get there and we would hear you and be relieved.

But I knew that something wasn't right.  The amount of fluid that came out of me the night before signaled something very wrong.  I remember thinking that they shouldn't have sent us home that night.  They should have kept us.  Now I realize that there was nothing they could have done to prevent it all from happening to you.  To us.  They gave us the gift and peace of being home and hopeful one more time.

I prayed for the entire 5 minute drive to the hospital, I told God that whatever happened, I was ready.  I didn't want to say goodbye to you, but I was ready.  You know what?  He gave me PEACE.  Isn't that crazy?  I felt PEACE, just a few minutes before part of my life ended.  Your father parked the car, I wiped my tears, and we walked up to the sonogram office.  We passed a few people, and I couldn't help thinking that I wish I could trade lives with any of them...the sick ones, the older ones, any of them.

When we got into the office, they weren't quite ready for us.  We saw the doc that helped us with your anatomy scan just the week before, she looked busy.  You father and I read one of the magazines in the office, something about how much it cost to fly to different cities in the US.  He was trying to keep my mind at ease.  I felt sick, and I felt weird.  That was you, starting to tell me that you were ready, I think.  They called us back to the room.

I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to go back into that particular office, or that particular room.

The tech there wasn't all that friendly to begin with.  She had been gossiping with a co-worker the entire time we sat in the office.  I secretly hoped we wouldn't get her.  I don't know why?  Maybe I knew she would be the one to find out?  She curtly asked us why we were there, and then told me to lay on the chair.  Up went my shirt.  On went the gel.  There was the Doppler.

You came up on the screen.  She moved the Doppler around a bit.  I saw a little bit of the colors that showed blood flow, I almost felt hope.  But, then I looked at you.  Your little body was laying completely flat.  I distinctly remember how straight your little spine looked.   I had never seen you lay that way before, you were always moving, always turning.  Then, she got up.  We had only been in there maybe a minute.  I knew that wasn't good.  I'm not sure your father what your father thought, but I knew.

The doctor came in, same one from last week.  She pulled up the monitor.  She didn't even have to do the Doppler herself.  She didn't even have to look at the monitor for long.  She asked me what happened the night before, I told her.  I think our doc, Gottzman, from last night prepped her a little already.  Then, she said the words that will forever be etched into my heart and my brain and the very core of my soul.

"I don't see any fluid around the baby..."

"Ok.  What does that mean?"

"...and I can't find the heartbeat either..."


I remember seeing your dad's head drop into his hands.  He was sitting to my left, she was standing over me to the right.  I remember her putting her hand on me, maybe on my hand or leg.  I remember how sad she looked.

"Yes, I'm so sorry.  He is gone."

I can't even explain what it is like, Jackson.  I think on that day, I was gone too.  I think I died.  Honestly.  I felt nothing, but everything all at once.  It was like getting hit by a truck, but not being mercifully dead right away.  You feel it everywhere, in every bone and nerve and muscle.  I wanted to die, I really did.  I wanted to be anywhere that I could still be with you.  Even though I was ready and expected this all along, I wasn't ready to say goodbye.

I started crying just as Dr. Gottzman came into the office.  She had already heard from the tech.  She told us how sorry she was.  I told her that I expected it, but that I wasn't ready for it.  She asked if I was feeling anything and I told her about the cramping.  Her and the other doctor were close to me, trying to comfort me.  I asked her "what happens now?"

She told us that we could either go home and wait for labor to start, or we could go downstairs to Labor and Delivery and they would start it for us.

Your father was shocked.  "She...has to give birth, to him?"

I followed up with, "Can't you...take him out for me?  Is labor the only option?"

She explained to us that surgery wasn't the best option for us.  Since my water broke, both the option of waiting to go into labor, and the option of surgery, weren't great options.  She didn't have to go into more, I understood.  She chatted on about how infection could hurt me.  I only half listened.  I thought about all those stories I knew already about women going through this, about friends who have gone through this.

I already knew what I was going to do, Jackson.  I wanted to give birth to you.  I had carried you for 21 weeks and 1 day.  I wanted to end this pregnancy, this special time with you, the way it was supposed to end.  I wanted the chance to be awake and coherent, and say goodbye.  I told the doc that I was ready, I wanted to start as soon as possible.  She told us to take a moment, and then head down to L&D, she would call and let them know we were on our way.  The doctors left.

Your father hugged me and said, "I am so so sorry.  So sorry."  He was stunned.  I was worried about him.  I can't really remember what else he said.  I had a goal in my mind now, and I was determined to meet that goal.  We walked out of the office.  As I left, I turned my head and saw that tech through the window, she had been telling her friend about us, I am sure.  I saw her frown at me.  She was sad. I didn't really care.

There is something like the "walk of shame" in walking to delivery in this state.  We walked by the ob office, full of happy and pregnant women, and waited for the elevator.  There were people around us.  We didn't talk.  How could they not know our hearts had just been ripped open?  Couldn't they see that?  We rode the elevator down, and walked out, headed towards the L&D building.

I turned to your dad and said, "Well, at least I know now...."

"What do you mean?"

"All these months of being worried, of dreading this, terrified of this outcome.  Here it is.  I don't have to be afraid of it anymore."

He said something like how he wished he would have believed me all this time.  He just thought I was extra anxious, extra paranoid, but now he was thinking maybe I just knew it all along.  I assured him that I was glad he didn't believe me, so glad he had all that faith, because he kept me going and kept me sane.  God knew I would need that.  Since L&D is about 20 steps from the office, we were there already.

Jackson, I wished I was there for a different reason, any reason other than to begin the process of saying goodbye to you.  We had to check in, just like any other woman in labor.  We had to say why we were there.  We had to get bracelets.  They showed us to the room, 14, at the end of the unit where no other rooms were.  There was one of those newborn hospital bassinets in there, you would never go into that.  This bed and this cold room, would be the last place we spent together.  It was all so surreal, and so so sad.  How many woman have been here?  How many more would be?  Did this room ever see live babies?

Everything happened so fast, I didn't have time to really process all of this.  The nurse came in and starting the admitting process.  She wasn't all that great, to be honest, although every nurse after her was amazing.  She said how sorry she was, but I could tell she didn't want to be anywhere near me.  She didn't care that you were gone, Jackson.  It was the end of her shift and she got stuck with me.

The mom that lost her baby.

That was the first time I felt embarrassed.  You see, what no one tells you about losing a baby is that it is embarrassing.  My body failed.  I couldn't keep you in there.  I couldn't protect you.  I am a weak human, and I have no control.  Millions of women have healthy babies every day, but I am not one of them.  Not only was my heart broken, my life completely shattered, but my pride was too.  It was the first time I felt that terrible feeling.  Utter and complete failure.  Having to be around people that know my utter and complete failure.  Knowing that from now on, people may be afraid of me, afraid to talk to me, afraid to share baby stories or pregnancies with me, not know what to do about me. That nurse showed me that, I saw it in her eyes.

She couldn't stick the IV in me, she must of poked me 10 different times before she figured out she should get someone else to do it.  Your father had left the room to call my parents and break the news to them.  I was all alone with this woman.  I went into shock and just sat there, letting her poke me.

Dad came back in and held my hand.  His face was heart breaking, I have never seen him look like that.  His heartbreak and sheer sorrow for what I would have to go through, what we would have to go was all written on his face.

The admitting process took so long.  I asked him, in front of her, why it was taking so long.  I knew it was mean, but I didn't care.  I was tired.  Tired of answering questions, tired of getting poked, tired of not being alone with your father so we could process this.  Talk about it.  Our baby, you, had died.  Couldn't we have some quiet time?

Your grandparents came in.  My mom was crying.  She sat down next to me and took my hand and put her head down on it and just sobbed.  Your grandmother wanted you, so much.  Your grandfather just looked tired and broken.  This is the man that cried last week when he found out he was having a grandson, he was over the moon happy about you.  Their dreams were shattered almost as much as ours.  A future with you, gone.  We all lost a lifetime with you.

That nurse just sat there, she didn't leave to give us a private moment, she kept me asking questions.  Your grandmother kept crying.  I kept crying.  But we weren't alone, I couldn't break down the way I wanted to.  I couldn't say what I wanted to.  For some reason I felt I had to be strong.  Otherwise I wouldn't have been able to answer all those stupid questions. At that point, I just looked at your grandparents and told them to wait until this whole admitting process was done.  I should have asked that nurse to leave us for a while.  We needed that time together to grieve.

Finally she finished, and the doc, Dr. Bellantoni, came in.  He was much nicer, so sweet.  He said he was sorry that they "rushed" me down here and he wasn't going to force us to do anything we didn't want to do.  We told him we were ready for this.  He explained again why that was best, and what would happen for them to induce labor.  He told me over and over it wasn't my fault.  He told me he couldn't wait for the day we would be back for happier reasons.  We just had to get through this first.  We would run the show, we just had to let him know what we wanted.  He was wonderful.  He would help us through this, help us understand this thing that has happened to us.

They gave us some quiet time.  Your uncle Jonathan came to be with you, with us.  Together, with your grandparents and all the family that couldn't be with us, we processed that we would need to say goodbye to you.

At that point, sweet baby, I just settled down for what I knew would be a long and hard process.  Yes, of course I cried a lot when we first got there and settled, I was trying to wrap my mind around you not being with me anymore.  I remember thinking I just wanted to be home, I wanted this to be over with.  I wanted to be over it.  Over you.

What I didn't realize at that point was that I shouldn't have rushed the process.  Once we got home the next day and you were really gone, all I wanted was to go back and have you in my tummy again.  The physical separation almost killed me.  It should have killed me, honestly.

That was the worse day of my life.  But the next day wouldn't be much better.  However, you and I, we were surrounded by our family that loved us, and there were tons of people that couldn't be with us that were praying for us at that point.  Not that this terrible thing could be fixed, but they were praying for us, your parents and family who love you so so much, to get through it safely and as best as we could.  I learned so much from having you with me those 5 months, from carrying you and worrying about you, and I learned so much from losing you too.  You have taught me more about life and love than anyone on this Earth.

As terrible and unlucky as I feel about it sometimes, I also feel so incredibly lucky.  The love I have for you is so different, so special and surreal, and so out of this world, from what most moms feel for their children.  Because they get to live with their children.  I know and understand the beautiful and special bond of love between a parent and a child, I know it so well.  I ache with it.  You and me, our love knows no limits, literally.  It stretches across time and space and Heaven and Earth.  That is a special kind of love!  While I don't get to hold you and be with you and watch you grow, I have the privilege of knowing that you are safe, and will be for eternity.  You are waiting for me and I can't wait to be with you! This love that knows no boundaries, it has changed me.  I hope it changes the world, sweet Jackson.

I love you.  And I miss you.