Saturday, March 30, 2013

Life as a mom to a newborn after loss is a different ball of wax than before. Before I was grateful that they were here and just assumed that if I installed outlet covers and cabinet locks, made them wear helmets on bikes and use car seats all would be well. Now when I watch my son and daughter breath as they sleep I am simply happy that they are, in this moment, here now.

I don't assume.

Sometimes fear still strikes a month after my son Paiden's birth. He slept for four hours the night before and I woke up terrified. I had a moment where I thought I hadn't turned on his monitor and he had died. Across the room 'his blinker' flashed green and red and I felt an exquisite sense of relief.

In some ways he is worse than the children of others for fear inducing moments, because he is mine and I fear his loss with an intensity that you have to have been where I have to understand. That moment before his shirt shifts with his breathing is terrifying.

There are other reminders too at times that my life has not be normal these past couple of years. I took Emily and Paiden to the mall for pictures with the Easter bunny. I took a toy of Perry's as his place holder and was fairly happy with the set up, even though Paiden had decided he was quite happy sleeping and the Easter bunny would simply have to hold him patiently. The scene in reality made me feel a little contentment, as I felt that one day I will see them all together with God's grace and there would be a little boy or a man there in place of a rubber teething toy. The scene on paper however was a differet matter. The colors were washed out for some reason (perhaps they were seeking a 'soft' pastel look for Easter?). Paiden looks a lot like Perry at times and while intellectually I like the picture, at a gut level it unsettles me. Paiden looks too pale.

The other reminder was a simple guilt sell. My MIL had bought pictures from Walmart of Emily and Paiden. I didn't really want to buy additional photos from them because I had taken some really nice ones with Ms. Merri. Walmart included extra pictures for a reduced amount that they would 'throw away' if I didn't want them. I had a moment where I wanted to explain that this was a low down tactic, because after losing a child you simply can't throw away pictures, even if they aren't 'good' ones and you didn't really want to buy them... because in your mind you know you deleted or refused 'bad' pictures of your lost child and you are afraid that by refusing you are making this same mistake.

But in the end I didn't. The store was closing permanently, this woman had been notified a couple days ago while she was on vacation that the 'studio' was closing, and I didn't want to drop an emotional bomb on her- although really someone knows that they are jerking heart strings with this sales tactic even if not to the true extent.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Hello from Perry

Photo: A hello from Perry.
Sometimes I still pray for signs that Perry is ok. I did this a few days ago around my Daughter's birthday. When we came home from her party, we had about 18 balloons and a 5 year candle. She and Dad lit the candle in Perry's lantern because they wanted to share her birthday with him. When Emily came home she decided that she wanted to release all of her balloons for Perry. We watched them float into the sky. There was a storm that night and when I woke up, I peeked out the back door to survey the damage.

And there on the small peach tree outside our house was a single balloon, the color of the baloons we released the other day. I showed Emily and Chris the balloon and when Emily asked where it came from, I told her that Perry gave one balloon back and that it was a 'hello from Perry'.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

My Phoenix

Photo: Paiden Bradley Williams
From wikipedia:

In Greek mythology, a phoenix or phenix (Ancient Greek φοίνιξ phóinīx) is a long-lived bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn. Associated with the sun, a phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor. The phoenix was subsequently adopted as a symbol in Early Christianity. The phoenix is referenced in modern popular culture.

In his study of the phoenix, R. van der Broek summarizes, that, in the historical record, the phoenix "could symbolize renewal in general as well as the sun, Time, the Empire, metempsychosis, consecration, resurrection, life in the heavenly Paradise, Christ, Mary, virginity, the exceptional man, and certain aspects of Christian life".[1]

At 7:00 am Chris and I headed in to work. Chris thought something was up because at about 9pm the night before I was tidying up. Chris lit an extra large candle that night for Perry, still thinking of and taking care of him in our own way. By the time we got into Nashville at around 8pm, we detoured to Vanderbilt. This time the front staff at triage put me immediately into a room. I was at 7, placed on a monitor. The anesthiologist came in. By the end of his talk I could already feel pressure and I sent Chris out to get the nurse practioneer. They were already headed in to tell me the good news that I could finally go off the monitor. About 30 minutes later (after begging them to help me and various other assorted words I can vaguely remember) Paiden was born at 9:31 am. I have to admit that I am glad that I was planning on going 'natural' anyway, because I think if I had been planning otherwise, I might have panicked quite a bit more. The rapidness reminded me of Perry's birth, and I was very glad that we had started carpooling together that week. I think I would have been stuck on the interstate calling 911 otherwise.

I guess you might remember all of my nightmares? Well everyone was very careful with us, as if they sensed the tension. The one exception was the nursing student. As Paiden arrived, I heard her exclaim "look at the knot in the cord!". I heard the nurse midwife tell her that we didn't need any additional stress and she quickly explained to my husband that it was still lose and inserted a finger to show him. I wondered at that moment if that knot was the bull in my dreams, and imagined some divine finger keeping it from tightening. In any case, I am glad that we didn't know earlier as everything turned out well and I can only imagine the level of stress I'd have felt. But that little knot reminded me how fragile life is, it seemed to whisper that I'd been gifted with another child and not to take him for granted.

I guess it was natural for us to compare Paiden to Emily and Perry at birth. He was a large 10 lbs 1 oz, the biggest of all. His eyes were slits, the same as his siblings. His cheeks seemed puffier, but the hair was that same dark brown almost black. His hair was thick like Emily's. At times Emily and Perry seemed to swirl in Paiden's features, but his feet, small and compact instead of long and narrow, reminded me that he was his own being.

About an hour after his birth, I laid down to rest a bit and I felt a cold drop on my back. I looked up and there was nobody around me and the air vents were across the room. It reminded me of a tear. I felt the moisture with my hand and convinced myself I wasn't imaging it, but I still haven't decided what it was or what it meant. Far from being sad, I was at peace on Paiden's birthday.

When Paiden was taken from me, Chris followed. He was brought back in a sleepsack. The next week they were expecting the sleepsacks to come in to begin using them in the nursery. Paiden's group will be some of the last babies to only use receiving blankets. The nurses were kind enough to bring us one of demonstration sacks, and I can only imagine what Chris said or did that prompted this. But I was grateful for the thoughtfullness as this was the one thing I hadn't brought with us in the duffle bag.

After bathing him, we refused to let him be wrapped in a blanket instead of his sleepsack. I realized then that we were clinging to it so tightly because we firmly want to believe that if we do this simple thing, Paiden will be safe. Later, I found myself watching him and the clock as he slept, feeling relief everytime he cooed or grunted, and walking across the floor quietly to feel for warm breath from his nose if he hadn't made a noise in five minutes.

The next day, as I rocked him and watched the snow drift down outside the window, I heard the helicopters take off and land. It reminded me how similar and yet different he and his birth were from his brother. I thought about the irony of sitting in a maternity wing and hearing the life and death sounds of lifeflight. Perhaps the other patients did not think about it, but I did. I hoped that what was a good day for us was not the beginning of the rest of their lives 'without' for another set of parents. But I forced the thought away and just enjoyed him curled against me. This was not our bad day, and we needed our good day. It was ok, I told myself, to just enjoy it.

I am trying to take all the conflicting emotions surrounding a new baby in our house as they come. I try not to judge myself for how I feel, I just accept that they are normal for us. Sometimes I am scared when Paiden is asleep and then I try to cut myself slack. If other sleeping babies are hard, why shouldn't Paiden also be sometimes? But I love the fact that Paiden is the first baby I have held since Perry, there was no guilt, sadness, or anger there. Instead of being the first baby since Perry, it is the first time I held Paiden, if that makes sense. We have cried a lot the past few weeks, but we have also smiled. Emily gets to hold a new brother. I start to think in terms of the future again instead of just the past. While I can't decide which is better- past or present, I know my ideal would hold some of both. And that is truly a relief to me as I wondered at times if all of the best in life was already behind me. Perry's death is no longer the period that serves as a insumountable wall around my life. Is it still defining? Yes, but the frozen in time feeling has eased a bit. Some of the sharp bitterness remains, I don't think losing a child is something you ever get over. But there is life in the ashes.

Paiden is my phoenix.

Monday, March 18, 2013


I have been putting off writing this blog entry for a while now, but I feel it is time. Paiden Bradley Williams joined us in early March at a whooping 10 lbs 1 oz. He seems incredibly healthy and alert.

I guess I put off writing this update for several reasons. The first is that I have been sorting through a lot of complicated emotions. I can't understand how Paiden is here although it should be nearly impossible and yet Perry isn't. I heard someone say something about a higher power, and yet while I am incredibly greatful, I am just going to say that I am not sure how it works. Because I know that there are many women and their family that have prayed for a child and never received one the traditional way. Some of my friends have never had a positive pregnancy test, some have simply never met the 'right' spouse and do not believe in having children outside marriage, others lost children as I have and yet circumstances and/or nature have not been as kind to them. I know that like me, there are many more who prayed for safety or healing and yet do not have their children anymore. I can only say that I am grateful for every one of the children I have been blessed to hold, that I am giving up on human understanding. I will try to hold every moment with my Daughter and Son in the coming years as a gift, but will continue to view Heaven with a longing for reunion.

I know that some that have not lived it will not understand that healing does not happen completely here. They will not understand why my emotions are complicated when I hold a new baby. But really that's the answer- Paiden is a new baby. His own gift, but not his brother.

I realized just how complicated everything was on the second day of Paiden's life. As I nursed him in the early morning, bleary eyed and worn from a sleepless vigil, my mind hit a scratch in my memory. For a second my tired mind did believe that I held Perry. It did not hurt because of that, I did not feel any horrible sense of betrayl to Paiden. It hurt because for a couple minutes the burden was lifted off my shoulders, the world seemed normal and right again, and I was truly happy. When I realized Perry was still gone, the weight crashed back down. I have become so used to the heavy gravity pulling at me that I had forgotten what normal felt like. What living with all your born children was like... And it left me sobbing for what was lost.

At the same time Paiden has filled some of my longing. He has nudged me along a bit- even as I have been struck by memories of his brother wearing some of the same clothing, it has felt good that they are not doomed to be relegated to boxes of memories anymore. In some ways Perry's memory has become more alive, more of him living as his brother is now, and less of the terrible OTHER.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Crib Notes

February 16, 2013

Finally set up a crib today. It's the one we used at Mom's house. Couldn't get Chris to agree on anything so I made him get it down (he has a huge mental block). So it takes up too much space in our bedroom, but at least there is a place for baby when it gets here. I cried as I cleaned up a couple spots of old spit-up (Perry took a nap in there at Mom's house before she brought him home). And this is stupid, but I took the sheet off the old mattress and can't bring myself to wash it yet. Strange to be happy and so miserable all at the same time.

I am just trudging through mounds of stired up memories that make me remember all the good and bad with Perry. I was looking at the results of the baby's last ultrasound and found myself disappointed. I realized it was because it was obvious from the measurements that this is a new child- huge noggin and average body versus Perry's small head and super long body. Consciously I know this is a new baby with its own unique fate, but subconsciously I think I am still looking for Perry so I can bring him home and wake up from this nightmare. My house is also regaining some of that baby smell (from diapers) and thoughts just flood me. Simple things like making sure I have enough disposables for trips in each size (no 2's- because of how hard I tried to use them up before Perry outgrew them). Finding a swim bag with diapers for Perry. Getting rid of the bed where I last nursed Perry because Chris always felt bad that Perry didn't have his own room and is making space for a nursery.

I also get a lot questions regarding family size. I guess I am just so spectacularly huge it is an instant topic of conversation. I tell people that I have two children and I hear so many comments about how brave I am to have a third. I don't say much, because it is true. They just don't understand the extent and the why.

Infant loss and trying again

What I wrote while I was quiet: Advice to a Mom who had lost an infant to SIDS.

There are so many ways to lose a child beyond SIDS. The reality is that while it may happen again, so can any number of things. At some point you have to decide if you are willing to let the fear of loss keep you from trying and loving again. My answer is no- I did not let Perry's death or my 5 m/cs keep me from this LO (although I will admit I was bone tired of TTC and may call it quits with an exclaimation point after this one). I'm also 36 and the RE basically told me it would take a miracle so it was a now or never proposition with us.  Does fear strike deeply? Absolutely! But all I can do is take reasonable precautions and appreciate every day I have with my children. I act in faith that this infant will join us and that we will get to keep and enjoy him/her on Earth. I am tired of living in fear.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Joy and Sadness

I find it very interesting how joy can coincide with sadness. Most people seem to think that there is only room in the human heart for one emotion at a time and that is not true. Granted the joy seems muted, very cautious and careful- afraid to be naive in the moment and to believe that it can last.

Pregnancy after loss is very much the embodiment of this. It's why I don't post openly about a pregnancy until the outcome is determined. I don't forget my son because another child grows in my womb. I wish in some ways it would be as easy as many think, but I realize for that to be true it would have to be Perry in there- the cells of his being reforming.

I went and bought a few clothes for the baby yesterday. I realized while holding a cute little shirt and agnozing over what size to get (in Gymboree a 3.99 cute shirt is a rarity- get it why you can), I had two choices- one was a size 3-6 month and the other a 18-24 month size. One is the size the baby will probably be once it gets here in the late winter/ early fall and the other the size this baby should be in a year /or the size that Perry should be now. All of a sudden it turned a simple choice difficult, as if by choosing the size I was choosing between children. I held up the shirt with a pair of little pants and realized I was trying to figure out in my mind how big Perry should be. In the end I bought both- I could afford it, I didn't want to choose, and the baby could probably wear them both anyway.

It is an accomplishment in many ways- that I trust that this baby will be born. That it was an ok decision because I trust this child will live to see a year, that the tags will eventually come off. I was even able to look in the closet and look at all the unworn little boy things, plus a few that had been worn but hung up.

The strange thing about the timing of this child is that because I always try to buy on discount about a year or so in advance, whenever I buy clothing I will be thinking of Perry.

Perhaps Emily is right and it is a little girl and I have spent foolishly instead of wisely. But honestly I am tired of NOT buying from fear and would rather waste a few dollars at this point. That's life after loss, knowing fear with a familiarity that few will ever know and yet choosing to believe it is a bluff this time.