Weekends are the time to run errands. And now that baseball season is in full swing (no pun intended), Rich is back to spending his weekends coaching all over the GTA. So I'm back to doing my own projects. Today I was tackling the planning stage of Ryan's garden. Since we've moved in to our house (almost 4 years ago!) I've wanted to do some planting in the backyard but haven't had the motivation I guess. Or I've found every excuse to put it off:
We have to fix the grass first.
Let's build the deck first.
I'm pregnant, I don't want to put all that energy into gardening...
Well, now I'm pregnant again, but Ryan needs a garden. We were gifted a beautiful garden stone last fall with Ryan's name on it, and I'm dying for a beautiful spot to call his. Especially since this space, his nursery, will soon belong in part to someone else. (Something I can't really wrap my head around quite yet...) So, I was off to get planning.
On the radio came this song by Meghan Trainor and John Legend, "Like I'm Gonna Lose You." I was singing along like I do, when the words started to sink in:
We're not promised tomorrow...
As I sang through the tears, it made me think of my new little one. And it made me think of so many of the things I've been reading lately about subsequent pregnancies. No matter what journey we're on, we each have to do what's best for us. In a lot of my readings (blogs mostly), many women choose to be much more guarded in their pregnancy after loss (PAL). They're reluctant to take bump photos, make purchases, decorate the nursery. For fear that they'll lose this baby too.
I'm afraid of those things, too. But I think I'm the opposite of being too guarded. I think I spend most of my time feeling like, if this is the only time I'm going to be given with this baby, I need to make every moment, every memory count. I did a lot of documenting of Ryan's pregnancy. Showers, bump photos, journals, social media posts, announcements. In some ways, I'm doing even MORE of that this time.
We're reading together already. I'm taking weekly bump photos instead of the sporadic ones I took of Ryan's bump. I've already embraced the tighter maternity shirts to show off my belly as much as I can. In fact, even though I don't always need to, I pretty much exclusively wear maternity clothes already, just because I can. I recently "caved" and bought the doppler my OB recommended so I can hear baby's heartbeat whenever I want. This baby is here now, and deserves to be celebrated as much as I feel ready to celebrate.
I read something else recently in a post about things you do during your rainbow pregnancy that other people might not understand. One of those things was "Have two birth plans: One if baby lives, and one if baby doesn't, Because maybe if you plan for it this time, it won't happen." (I encourage you to read it if you have the time, and would like to know what the day to day can be like for me sometimes). "Two birth plans" is such a dark thought. But it's one I've seriously thought about since finding out about my rainbow. What if I lose this baby too? I know what I would do differently this time. In some ways I suppose I have that "other" birth plan tucked away in the back of my mind, if I need it.
But in the meantime. I'm "making the most of the minutes" and loving with no regrets. While still trying so hard to keep the balance by honouring my first born and making sure others keep doing the same.
So, it's back to garden planning for us.
Ever since we shared the news of my pregnancy last week, my brain has been swirling with all of the things I've wanted to write about for the last 3 months but couldn't. I've been struggling to decide what I need to say first, and I think today, the choice seems obvious.
I'm suffering from what I've affectionately called: "The 2 Week Itch." This is when, after about 2 weeks have passed since my last prenatal appointment, I begin to feel the anxiety, worry, and fear creep in to almost uncontrollable levels. Around this time, I'll usually consider taking another pregnancy test, debate the pros and cons of buying my own fetal doppler, or lay on the couch and will our baby to make a movement so great I can finally feel it. Anything to KNOW without a doubt, that I'm still pregnant.
It is around this time that I'll also search for the facts. The facts about how likely I am to lose this baby. But like most of the crazy things I try, this doesn't work. In fact, it often works against me. Because here are the facts:
After you have seen the "gestational sac" and the baby itself alive in an ultrasound (which we have twice), after you see that flicker of a beating heart, and hear it fluttering deep inside the womb (which we also have), after you cross into that second trimester "safety zone," your odds of losing the baby drop dramatically (for most women -- depending on a variety of factors). And I have been reassured by my doctor and every article I can possibly read, that my odds of losing this baby are less than 1%. Probably more like half a percent. When I was pregnant with Ryan, this was my sigh of relief. We were pretty safe.
Except that we weren't. Which is pretty surprising considering the following:
The fact is, the odds of a stillbirth (from 20-42 weeks gestation) are about 1 in 160. That's about .006%. And that's of ALL stillbirths. I can't find the stats for stillbirth at 40 weeks. But we know it'll be even less than that.
And yet, it happened to me.
So .5%... That seems pretty high in my mind.
The fact is, there is no statistical way of making me feel any less anxiety. But I have a doctor who gets that. Who agrees to see me every two weeks (or less if I want). So we can take a listen to the baby's heartbeat. Because until this little one grows large enough for me to feel movement consistently, I'm going to worry. And even then, I don't think the worry will stop.
I'll go see my doctor again on Tuesday. And until then, I'm sure the days will drag on.
I am 14 weeks in to a 40 week journey.
182 more days to go.
Tonight, I finally got to meet our new neighbours. They've lived over our backyard fence since December, and now that it's Spring and I'm out of hibernation I met them over the fence after work today. It was really lovely. Full of the regular neighbourly pleasantries.
We introduced their little boy (maybe 2?) to Chase. He loved it. Apparently there's a striking resemblance to the Chase from PawPatrol. We even got to meet their 2 day old daughter. It was very sweet.
Naturally, "the question" followed:
Him: "So, do you guys have any kids?"
Me: "Yes. We have a son. He passed away in September."
Him: "Oh no. I'm so sorry to hear that."
Me: "Thank you. His name is Ryan."
Him: "That's a great name. Thank you for sharing him with me."
It was great. Except it wasn't. Because that's not at all how it went. Instead it was more like this:
Him: "So, do you guys have any kids?"
Me: "Ummm..... No?"
Him: "Oh. Okay..."
Her: "Oh, just wait. Being pregnant can be so tough!"
(Then all voices just started to sound like ocean waves, and I may have blacked out standing there).
Saved by Rich who entered the yard at that exact moment and another pleasant conversation about the secrets of green grass ensued. Leaving me to just stand there looking like a socially awkward mess of a human being.
Flash forward to 2 hours later, still beating myself up, wondering why on earth I can't just answer that question the way it is in my head. Why I'm always left stuttering and making things more awkward than if I were to just blurt out that our son died.
Rich always says it's okay. That sometimes, when you just meet someone for the first time, it's acceptable to not lead with our tragedy. And I guess to some point, I agree. But there's always this nagging voice inside me that shouts: "No! Tell people about him! You DO have a kid! It's okay!"
I have this other voice too that reminds me that Ryan's death, in the grand scheme of life, is still new enough. And in time I'll get to the place where I can just say the words in my head and my heart without fear. Without being so damn awkward.
I'm "at that age" where there are a lot of babies in my life. Friends, family, colleagues, are all having babies. Not to mention all of the babies and young children who were in my life before we lost Ryan. (That seems to be how I measure time now, remember -- before Ryan and after Ryan).
I have never had a "problem" being around the babies and children who were here "before." Little people who preceded Ryan have never given me anxious or wistful feelings.
It's those "after" babies that, for a long time, broke my heart into a thousand pieces just by thinking about them. I avoided them for a long while. A LONG while. It was like I'd see those babies and think: "Ryan would be like him right now." Or "Ryan would be older than her. I should be able to swap parenting stories with that mom, but I can't. Because I don't know what it's like to parent a living-child."
That thought still slays me.
That I'm a mom. A parent. And a great one to my Ryan. But it's such a special circumstance. I can't trade parenting stories with most of my mom-friends. The best I can do is contribute to discussions about being pregnant, and giving birth. But after that... I'm not a parent in the same way they are. And that's really tough for me.
As tough as the concept of "same-age" babies. I was really lucky to be pregnant alongside other friends. And to have due dates within weeks of each other.
I remember being at the gym about 2 or 3 weeks after Ryan was born, (by the way, WAY too soon to be getting that kind of exercise -- no matter HOW stir crazy you're going at home without your baby in your arms) and I was crying on the treadmill reading the birth announcement of my friend's baby. They got to have "that moment." When your baby is placed on your chest after all that work. And your partner squeezes his face by yours. And everyone is smiling at this pink little squishy-faced newborn.
And I was so sad for myself. Sad that we were robbed of that moment. Of all of the moments that this little baby would go through along the same timeline that Ryan should have been moving along.
There are a few of these "same-age" babies in my life and on my social media. And when I see their photos I think: "Would Ryan look like that?" "Would Ryan be doing those things now?" But the worst one is... "I can't even imagine what he would look like now."
That's the one that makes it hurt. He's always going to be a newborn. I look at his 6-9 month clothes and think, "How would he be big enough for these?!" Because he's always going to be 5lbs 14oz and 20 inches long to me. And I cannot imagine him any other way. I've tried. My imagination just won't take me there.
And so, with this pain in my heart, I continued to avoid, as best I could, interactions with new(er) babies.
But like all things, there comes a time when you've got to take a new step forward. So we recently got to meet one of Ryan's "same-age" friends. And it wasn't as scary as I worried it would be. Granted, 7 months have passed. But I never know how I'm going to react in different situations. Regardless, I was glad to meet her finally and glad that it was a sweet little visit, and not an overly emotional one. The only thing that "got me" was hearing her giggle. It was daggers to my heart. Because of course, "Ryan would be giggling now. I wonder what his giggle would sound like?"
I think I might always be knocked out by these unexpected little things children do to tug at your heart. Driving to the store tonight, I stopped at a stop sign and let a young family cross. They were heading to the park, tiny bike in tow, and the little girl looked up at me in the truck as she passed and gave me the biggest smile and wave. I smiled and waved back. And then cried myself all the way to the store. Why? I don't know. Little children now make my heart explode, apparently.
But I'm glad for all the little children in the world and in my life. They're little rays of sunshine, even when it hurts sometimes.
And I know Ryan is one too.
You have done such a great job this week, letting us know you're here. Being so present and helpful as I mentally geared up for today. Another month gone without you here.
On Monday, at work, I was covering for one of your dad's classes. I sat at his desk and saw, tucked under the calendar, a child-like colouring of a butterfly, folded in half. I smiled and thought how cute it was that your dad would have such a thing on his desk. I unfolded it, and spread it across the calendar. Leaving it there once the class had ended. He found me at lunch and asked why I left my butterfly picture on his desk. I was confused. "It's not my butterfly -- I thought it was yours!" But no. Your dad was just as confused as I was. If it wasn't mine. And it wasn't his. How did it get there? I like to believe that in some way or another, you left it there for us. Our first nudge of strength to get us through this week.
Then this morning before work, in a panic, your dad was looking to replace his laptop charger. He knew I had a universal one and asked if he could take it. Of course I let him, but knew it would take a while for him to sort through all the little charging nubs to find the one to fit. But you helped him out with that! He said as soon as he pulled the contents out the box, the right plug popped right off the packaging and landed on the table in front of him. Something else I don't chalk up to coincidence, but to you, doing what you can, to make a tough day a little easier.
You're our special little man. You were when you were growing inside me. And you are still. Even now. 7 months here without you.
I miss you every day, sweet boy.
Love you forever.
Yesterday was the first birthday of a special baby boy who left the world too soon, like Ryan. His mom's blog and Instagram were among the first that I stumbled upon in the early days of Ryan's death. I reached out into the great expanse of the internet, grasping for something to give me hope. To make me feel less alone and isolated. In her words I saw pain and loss. But also hope and light. Her words are real. She speaks truth about loss and the love that still exists despite it. A truth I have always hoped to capture here.
So when she posted that in celebration of her Reid's first birthday, she wanted people to share one word that her boy has taught us about life and loss (#reidsreads), I knew I wanted to participate. I wanted it to be my way of showing her that her journey, and her baby boy, helped me find my way on my own journey with my own sweet baby boy. How to exist in this world without him here with me.
My word is inclusion.
When Ryan died, I thought "That's it." That's the end of this family I've spent 9 months treasuring and preparing for. I didn't realize that beyond his death we could still be a family. We'd be much different than I ever expected, or hoped, or dreamed. But we'd still be a family. Because there's still so much love there. Maybe more than there had ever been before.
Her family showed me that even though Ryan is not physically here anymore, he can still be included in every single part of our lives. He's a photo and a candle by the tree on Christmas morning. A bouquet of flowers perfectly arranged in the living room. He's a note in a card on a holiday. A stuffed bunny or dog under a tree in the cemetery. A necklace, a bracelet, adorning me in all moments, giving me courage when I "got back to life," and still now everywhere I go.
He's a teddy bear who once snuggled Ryan in the hospital but now cuddles me on the couch. Who gets dressed up for a special occasion Ryan couldn't be here for.
He is included in all things. Because even in death, he still is so much to us. He's everything.
Inclusion stretches further than to just us including him in our lives. It means surrounding myself with people who include and acknowledge him too. He's real. He's a part of me. And on my journey, it's been so important for me to be around people who include him too. Who send a note saying he crossed their mind. Who share photos of butterflies and the letter R and say they were visited by him. Who visit with him. Who light a candle, make a donation, say a prayer in the name of our baby boy.
All I ask, is that you let me know. Knowing he is as included in your life, as he is in ours, is the greatest gift.
On Reid's first birthday, I am reminded that we're not alone in this journey. Not alone in the lows. Not alone in the highs. Ryan is there. Our friends and family are there. And this community we've found, beginning with Reid's mom, is there.
Thank you, Emma and Reid for this gift. For reminding us Ryan can be included in everything. And for including us in some small way your journey. Happy birthday, to you.
The very domestic chore of grocery shopping is one I reserve for the weekends. Usually I make time on a Saturday morning or early afternoon to go pick up the necessities for the week. Unlike other tasks like getting a haircut, or my eyebrows waxed, which I have avoided for some months now (yikes), I can't avoid grocery shopping. And it seems weird to admit, but I've had my share of grief moments in the aisles of the grocery store.
I've mentioned before the early challenges of all the darn babies that are proudly carted around the store. I'd be transfixed at the beautiful new moms with carts full of food and a carseat trotting through the aisles. Tears on my cheeks. Wishing I was them.
Those pains have mostly gone. I don't feel the need to stare at the new babies. Wistful. Now, I give them a little smile. And carry on with my business.
Lately though, I seem to have developed new grocery store pains. The ones that come when I'm filling my cart with the things Rich and I like, wondering what might be different if Ryan was here. I realize it's useless to spend time aching over "what ifs," but there will always be a giant "What If" cloud drifting over my head. And though most things I can consider what if and move on, sometimes, for some reason, I get hung up on some of them. Like this one.
He'd be nearly 7 months now. What foods would be his favourites? What would I be buying that I don't have to buy now? I can barely walk by the baby food aisle because I constantly feel robbed of the fact that I don't need anything down there.
This is what baby loss looks like. It's psyching yourself up for the little things like grocery shopping. Because sometimes it's those little things that we looked forward to the most with our little ones in tow.