Sunday, August 3, 2008

Deeper still

almost one month later...I'm making progress

It is strange to walk in the back door of your own home and not recognize it anymore. She had never been there, outside of my womb that is, but she was clearly missing. There were plans for her in our house. I pictured a swing in the living room. I envisioned a car seat sitting in the floor with her sleeping inside. We furnished the bonus room, anticipating the three of us would spend a lot of time there. It was divided into thirds: an area for the computer, a place to sit and watch TV and a spot to house lots and lots of toys. The perfect multipurpose room for a family. And then, of course, there is the room we had planned to be her nursery. The walls has not been painted and the furniture was never ordered. Though each room was just as we left them on Tuesday night, everything had changed. The house felt empty.

My parents were waiting when we arrived. They had a meal for us, which was greatly appreciated. I usually enjoy cooking but had zero desire to return to the kitchen at that point in time. That would be way to normal and life had become anything but. We hung out in the living room, watching TV and talking. I would occasionally go upstairs to use the bathroom, which was now a chore that involved massive pads and water bottles. Just one of the many constant, physical reminders. In those moments alone, it would hit me. The reality of what happened would creep in and panic would start to fill my mind before Blake would rescue me from myself. He wouldn't let me out of his sight for more than 5 minutes, attempting to protect me any way he could.The next day, I took my mom to a local pharmacy. Blake wanted to try a half day of work to ease himself back in. He called at lunch saying he needed a haircut. I didn't give it much thought because mom and I were still downtown. He was home when we returned but I payed no attention to his hair. I was concerned with showing my parents Finley's "mementos" from the hospital before they headed home. We had been given a quilted, yellow bag that contained her footprints, her dress, her blanket, her pictures, a gold, baby ring that had been placed in her hand, paperwork and grief booklets. I explained the significance of each as I went through the bag with them. My heart started to pound and I could not breath as I frantically searched. The ring...where was it? It was not in the bag. Blake saw the distress in my face and quickly stepped up with a gray, velvet box. I opened it to find beautiful diamond earrings and a silver chain holding her tiny, gold ring. Emotions I had been holding in for the past 24 hours came flooding out. I started shaking, sobbing. We all cried. A friend told me that you are "supposed" to get diamonds when you have a baby. I had mentioned that to Blake as a joke a few weeks before, knowing that would not be in the budget when the baby came. Then I noticed his hair. I looked no different than it did when he left for work that morning. He remembered the story. He hadn't gotten his hair cut. He was out, thinking of me.

Another physical reminder showed up the next day. My chest was engorged. I had been told it would happened, but hoped I would be spared. No such luck. I can remember trying to find a dress to wear on Easter. Nothing fit. The top and the waist were too tight in every dress I owned. I managed to squeeze into one, praying the seems wouldn't bust when I sat in the pew. Just what I needed to be concerned with on Easter, 5 short days after I lost my first child.Despite the discomfort, it felt good to be in church that Sunday. The service was great, with testimonies from people who had been through various trials. It seemed as if they were there to give me hope. They had reached the light at the end of the tunnel into which we had just stepped, with light yet to be found. The songs we sang were powerful. It was almost as if they were chosen specifically for me. In Christ Alone and Blessed Be Your Name are two that stand out in my mind. I was reminded that God knew what it was like to lose a child. He had willingly done so. For my sake, nonetheless. Relatively new to the church, few people knew us at the time. As I looked around, I realized that no one had a clue what we had just been through. You could not tell by looking at me that I had just given birth to a baby that died. For those sitting near us, it was apparent by the end of the service that something was wrong. The emotions came flooding, again. Tears poured down my face as Blake and I walked to the front of the church to pray with one of the elders. The members of our small group made their way down to surrounded us as he prayed. It was a special moment. Mentally and spiritually, I felt better after the service. Physically, the pain only doubled when we received hugs of love and encouragement left and right. You can't exactly say, "Be gentle, my chest could explode."

The first few weeks were a blur. Yet, each Thursday I was reminded, "I would have been 21 weeks, 22 weeks, 23 weeks... "And on Wednesdays, I would think, "I can't believe she has been gone 1 week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks..." As time moved on, adjusting to this new life seemed to get harder and harder. It felt as if I was regressing. I was slowly losing myself in the days and weeks that followed her passing. At first, I could talk to people until I was blue in the face. For most who know me, that should come as no surprise. I was doing good, feeling okay. It was not until I sat, staring at the phone as it rang, making no attempt to answer, that I knew I was slipping. The social butterfly's wings had been broken. I could no longer talk on the phone. I would cry before most social functions, not wanting to go and just not going to many. I hated small talk. I hated that everyone spoke to me as if nothing ever happened. They had no idea what to say and I knew that. I understood that they did not bringing her up in an attempt to protect me. But to never acknowledge her hurt even more. I was nothing but an awkward situation waiting to happen. Some people just avoided me. I probably would have avoided me, too. What do you say? How do I respond? It was too much work. How could I put on a happy face, when inside, I had been ripped apart?

Pregnant women were drawn to me. They were everywhere I went, from Target to Victoria's Secret. I sat next to a girl in the salon that was due in 10 days. She spoke of all the things she still needed to do to get ready for the big day. The room needed finishing touches. Her toes were "horrible" so she had a pedicure scheduled the next day. She complained about swelling, being hot and uncomfortable. She did not know if she was ready for a newborn AND a toddler. I sat in my chair contemplating whether I should just get up and run out crying with foil on my head or if I should ask her if she would like to trade seats with me. I would have gladly switched places with her in that moment. I did neither. I just sat there trying to distract my ears as best I could. She had no idea. I am sure I would have been saying the same things had I been given the opportunity. But there was a huge part of me that wanted to shake her and tell her to enjoy every second of that baby. Did she not know the future she was planning could change in a split second? Did she not realize how fortunate she was to be carrying that baby to term? Similar scenarios followed me everywhere I went. At parties, at dinner, at church and at weddings. My ears were in tune to baby talk. I could be in a room of 1,000 people and sit next to women talking about babies and breastfeeding and deliveries. Please, Lord, give me a break. Make this go away. It was much easier to just stay home.

Grief tests the strength of a marriage. Initially, it drew Blake and I closer than we have ever been. We were heartbroken, together. Yet, within weeks, Blake and I were on two different pages in dealing with her loss. I would still cry at the drop of a hat, constantly thinking of her and the events of April 3rd and 4th. Blake no longer shed tears. Worked forced him to focus his thoughts on the task at hand. I went to work and was reminded of her. She had been there with me. She was the topic of conversation on a daily basis for me and my coworkers. Blake had not carried her for 20+ weeks. He did not feel her moving inside throughout the day. Their bonding was very different than ours. I wanted to talk about her a lot. He was ready to move forward with our life and I could only stand still. We walked a fine line in an attempt to be sensitive to each others needs while dealing with our own. My thoughts were on her. His concerns were for me. Would we ever be the same? Would I ever feel true happiness again? All normal phases in the process but not easy to live endure. It did not help that my body image was at an all time low. I was left with a soft, mushy layer where a "Body for Life" once existed. I hated my figure. More than shape, I hated my body for failing me...failing Blake...failing her.

I was introduced to the world of blogging after losing Finley. A friend told me of a girl who had recently lost her baby. And then there was a link to another family, and another family and another family. Our stories were different, but our grief was the same. While I would never wish this experience on my worst enemy, it was nice to know I was not alone. My feelings were validated. Although I don't know any of the bloggers I follow, they are precious to me. They helped me through a difficult time. The posts below are 2 that describe my feelings better than I could myself. So why reinvent the wheel?
Blogs have been a huge part of the healing process for me.

My spiritual life was up and down. Some days, I could feel the presence of God ever near. On other's, I was convinced He was no where to be found. Why had He allowed this to happen to us? What had we done to deserve losing our baby? I don't pray enough. I don't spend time in the Word, daily. I don't do enough. My head knew the answers to the questions. God did not DO this to us. I was not being punished for my measly attempts at service for Him. It is part of the fallen work in which we live. Bad things happen to "good" people. I have watched bad things happen to my "good" friends. They didn't deserve it either. I could not allow myself to believe that God did it to them, much less to me. But, daily, I did ask why He had chosen not to intervene when He had the power to do so. Why didn't he stop it from happening? The only way I could rationalize the situation in my head was to believe He was using this trial to strengthen me for His purpose. I did not like this idea, but it gave me some sense of peace.

Before we left the hospital, Dr. B voiced concern that I may have underlying medical conditions. At my 6 week checkup, 15 vials of blood were drawn to test me for various autoimmune disorders and thrombophilias. I had mixed emotions about the results. If I tested positive for one of them, there would be a reason this happened to us. We would be better equipped to prevent this from happening in the future. If nothing turned up, losing Finley would have been a case of "bad luck." We would be left with unanswered questions and I didn't like that option. I needed a reason. I wanted to know why. We would have to wait 3 weeks for the results to come in. The waiting game was miserable. My mind raced with "what ifs"constantly. Like clockwork, the phone rang 3 weeks from the day my blood was drawn. It was Dr. B himself calling to share what he had learned. Genetic testing revealed I had a clotting disorder-homozygous PAI-1(plasminogen activator inhibitor-1) deficiency. I was/am a clotter. Who knew? Such information could explain why I had the abruption that ultimately took Finley's life. There was a medical reason for her loss. The "why" I had been asking for weeks had an answer.

What about the future? I would need to take an 81 mg aspirin daily for the rest of my life to help prevent a stroke or heart attack. Easy enough. I could still get pregnant but would need to accompany the daily aspirin with a stronger blood thinner, Lovenox. I would, of course, be a higher risk pregnancy but was confidently told we should be able to have as many children as we wanted. What a relief. Initially, I felt good about the new information and was eager to move on to the next phase of our life. We were told to wait 3 months from delivery before trying to conceive again. It took 13 weeks for my body to regulate so we had no choice. Another waiting game.In the meantime, I start to think more about the new diagnosis. At first, I was able to focus on Finley as my saving grace. It was her loss that taught me about the PAI-1 deficiency. She may have prevented me from having a serious heart attack or stroke in the future. She was my angel in more ways than one. Yet, Satan uses various tactics to kick you when you are down. I became overwhelmed with guilt. I was the reason Finley was gone. It was my genes, my DNA, my womb that failed our child. It was my fault our parents would never meet their granddaughter, our siblings would never hold their niece, our nephews would never play with their cousin, so on and so forth. How could I even think about trying again when I had done this to our first, perfectly healthy daughter? What if it happened again? Could I live with myself? Hard questions to wrestled with in the middle of the night when no one is up to convince you otherwise.

Fortunately, my desire to have children was stronger than the demons inside my head. We were given the green light to try and I was consumed. I knew my cycle backward and forward. I could feel every sensation my uterus produced and more than likely, what it meant. I had an agenda. I just wanted to be pregnant again. I needed new hope, a good ending to a terrible story. When nothing happened the first month, I was devastated. The next month appeared to be the same with the exact same "symptoms" during the infamous 2 week wait. But, much to my surprise, a test told me otherwise on October 7th, 2007. The day after Blake's sister was married, I learned I was, again, pregnant. The roller coaster takes off...


The Pevahouses said...

Again, thanks for sharing your family's story. Baby Finley is thought of and missed often. I am grateful that I was able to know little Finley through watching her wiggle and squirm in your belly. Your daily stories on how she was treating you both mentally and physically are so vivid in my mind as we would talk over our desks. She was and is still very precious! I will never forget the day you shared with us her sweet gown and her rememberance box. We pray for continued wisdom for your doctors that they may provide
utmost care for you and your future children. You are loved!!

Anonymous said...

Sitting through Beth Moore with you this weekend was about more than I could take.....not because of awkwardness or not knowing what to say....but because my heart was squeezed so tight in pain for you. If I wouldn't have had the convenient topics of talking about New Orleans or Brooke...I think I would have become a puddle, and I just didn't want to do that to you. Those songs....urgh...does it ever get easier? I was such a basketcase and trying to hold it all in! I was thinking about you and Blake, Caroline and Finley, The Malones, your family.....then John and Jaime popped in my head....then poor Mrs. Craig sitting across the aisle...such devastation in an 8-ft radius. But, then I would turn and look at you. While you did nothing to hide your sorrow (which I appreciate) you were such an example of living faith and Godly determination. You are real, and I love that! And I loved hearing the analogy that God wants us to dig in the dirt that's our pain and water it with our tears crying out to Him the whole time. It is totally justified and biblical to be HEARTBROKEN! Please know that your girls are thought of and missed deeply, not only by me, but so many! xoxoxo~Jill

Laura said...

You have an amazingly natural way of sharing your grief that is such a comfort to those around you. I know that doesn't make your losses easier, but you are God's vessel to help others heal, too. You are in my prayers daily.