9 months ago…

9 months ago we were changed forever.

Touched by the sweetest little boy who didn’t get to take a breath.

Instead he was greeted in heaven with open arms.

9 months later we are still grieving parents. Grieving but hopeful for what’s to come. We are confident he is around…all around us. We know he hears us and watches over us.

Our own little guardian angel…

Stillbirth, miscarriage, infant loss comforting words for broken hearts

 

We love you little Dougie!!

Our new journey…

After every storm there is a rainbow, illuminating the clouds and bringing the color back into what was previously a gray and stormy sky. The beauty of the rainbow does not negate the ravages of the storm, but instead offers the promise of brighter times ahead. It is for this reason that babies born after a loss are often referred to as “Rainbow Babies.” Doug and I are humbled to share that we are pregnant with what we hope will be our rainbow baby. There are many days when we still feel like we are in the midst of the storm but are hopeful for what’s to come. We are dreaming of our precious rainbow baby who will hopefully make his/her appearance in the middle of October. Until then, please keep us in your thoughts, prayers, whatever it is you think could help, while we walk this scary path of pregnancy after loss.


Well, our journey to find the new normal after little Dougie has led us down a completely different path than we ever expected a few months ago. As Doug and I sit here…6 months out from Dougie’s birth/death, we find ourselves 4 months pregnant with what we hope will be our rainbow baby. It was definitely a shock when we found ourselves pregnant just 3 short months after we had Dougie. It’s a been a scary 4 months thus far and I anticipate that the anxiety will get even worse the further along we get but we are trying to embrace this pregnancy as best as we can.

We are taking things one day at a time and trying not to get too far ahead of ourselves. This path is unknown…much like the grief path was unknown when we were thrown into it 6 months ago. Nervousness, worry, anxiety, sheer terror and fear are normal parts of our day now. But there are also moments of hopefulness, like the many times we’ve heard that little heart going pitter patter inside my belly and like the first time that we got to see this little blueberry inside of me. The blissfulness of Dougie’s pregnancy is gone with this new baby. Every ache, every twinge, and every cramp my heart drops. Every appointment, we prepare ourselves for the worst. We aren’t actually thinking of a live baby yet…just trying to make it through each day and keeping a positive outlook! Our new doctor summed it up perfectly…we are allowed to be cautiously optimistic.

So with that said…we really are excited but we are also terrified at the same time. So please be gentle with this. This is a scary path we are on and need all the support we can get.

6 month Angelversary

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What a perfect gift to receive on Dougie’s 6 month Angelversary. A friend gave this to me with his name engraved on one of the chimes. Dougie’s nursery was a travel theme and the very first thing I bought for him was a big hot air balloon to hang from the ceiling.

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This is how his nursery still sits today!

We miss you Dougie!!

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I still mother my son.

The harsh reality has really hit me this week. My son truly is dead. He’s not coming back. I will never know his smile, his personality, hear his sweet giggles, or listen to him tell me he loves me. I will not get to “mother” my son in the same sense that most of you will. But I will still mother my son.

I go to his grave, sit beside him and brush off the leaves. I am mothering my son.

I pray to him at night, tell him stories and talk to him. I am mothering my son.

I hang his picture proudly in our living room. I am mothering my son.

I walk in his memory, raise money for research in hopes that no other family has to endure the loss we have. I am mothering my son.

I will not let people forget about our sweet boy, I say his name often and talk about our experience. I am not afraid of what people might think or say behind my back. It might be weird to some people, some people might be thinking “Get over it already” and most people just don’t understand. I will never “get over it”. I will never forget him. He will always be our firstborn son. And I will continue to be his mother for the rest of my life.

 

Even though my son is not here on this earth…

I am still a mother.

Sentiments about this year’s Easter

We are 3 days away from Easter and to be honest, I have dreaded Easter for a couple weeks. Last Easter is when we told Doug’s family that we were expecting. I made Easter baskets for both my nieces and nephew and made them a special shirt to let them know that they would have a new cousin. It was pure joy that day. We were so excited for what was coming. We wanted a baby more than anyone. We thought at that time that this year’s Easter would be very different. But here we sit…3 days away from Easter and visiting our sweet boy’s grave to place a bunny on it. Certainly not something I would have ever anticipated.

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I always loved Easter growing up. There were Easter egg hunts galore and plenty of Easter baskets coming my way. I looked forward to the day that I could do that with my child/children. I undoubtedly still look forward to that (if one day Doug and I are blessed with an earthly baby) but a part of all holidays will always be different now. Dougie will always be missed particularly on these special days. Even if we have 5 more children, we vow to never forget our first born precious son. We will celebrate him just like we will any of our kids.

As we stood over Dougie’s grave last night, we couldn’t help but to cry. All we could bring ourselves to say was “Happy Easter little buddy”. We placed a bunny and 2 Easter eggs at his head, I patted the ground and we left. Our hearts heavy, tears flowing, we were silent. Doug eventually took my hand, squeezed it tight and told me he loved me. And in that moment, that was all I needed to hear.

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Dougie’s grave is right underneath a beautiful magnolia tree. When we visited it was blooming the prettiest purple flowers. Purple is my favorite color. I know this was no accident.

A portrait of our son

A couple months back, I commissioned a lady that I was connected to on Facebook to draw a pencil drawing of Dougie. I wanted to surprise Doug. We have plenty of pictures that we took at the time of Dougie’s birth but there is something about these pictures that still induces profound sadness. The pictures tend to take me right back to that day and they often put me back deep into the throes of my grief. I look at them often even though they evoke sadness, because I need to. I need to see him, remember what he looks like, what his tiny little hands were like and be reminded that he is still my son.

I thought a drawing would be nice and possibly something we could display without holding such heaviness in one little frame. I received the drawing today and boy was I right. It is the sweetest and most precious thing I have ever seen. Dana, at Portraits by Dana, did an amazing job at capturing Dougie. It looks just like him! So much so, when I pulled it out of the envelope and had not said one word to Doug, he immediately said, “Hey, That’s Dougie!” We were amazed. We stared at the drawing and saw our sweet boy shining through. It was absolutely perfect.

If anyone were contemplating doing this, I would highly recommend Dana, from Portraits by Dana. She not only captured our sweet son but the essence of what Dougie looked like to us.

I cannot thank her enough for what she has given Doug and I. Our first portrait of our son…and that is priceless.

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Our HELLP journey

Before I was diagnosed with HELLP I had never heard of it before. HELLP is a variant of preeclampsia. It is life threatening to mother and baby if not treated and the only treatment for HELLP is immediate delivery. HELLP consists of 3 things; high blood pressure, elevated liver enzymes and low platelets. After doing (way too much) research on it, I have one conclusion…the cause of it is really unknown. There are some speculations but nothing has been proven. Most often, HELLP comes after a woman has developed preeclampsia which is high blood pressure, swelling and protein in your urine during pregnancy. Women who develop HELLP often have to deliver right away no matter what the gestation and in turn a lot of babies are pre-term. Mine, however, was a little bit different.

I developed HELLP at 38 weeks 2 days, before anyone even realized it. I had no symptoms of preeclampsia AT ALL. I had no protein in my urine, no rapid weight gain, no swelling. Actually everything was normal up until my 37 week apt. At my 37 week apt, I had planned to get an ultrasound to check Dougie’s size, and to our surprise my fluids were really low. But Dougie’s size was great and his heartbeat was right on target. The doc put me on bed rest until my next appointment, ordered me to drink lots and lots of water and wanted to see if my levels would come back up. I wasn’t too alarmed, because we had learned that your fluid levels decrease the closer you get to delivering and we also knew that fluid levels could fluctuate by the hour. The same night I was put on bed rest, I woke up in the middle of the night with some stomach pain. I wasn’t sure what it was but it was intense. Labor pains?? Who knows, I had never been in labor before. I toughed out the pains for a couple days but the pain increased. The pain was so intense but was relieved by Tylenol. The pain was in my upper stomach, under my ribs. It wasn’t on a particular side and radiated through my back. By Friday, the pain was causing me not to be able to sleep so I called the doctor. I was met with the same thing that everyone was telling me. The pain was most likely heartburn or the baby’s foot in my ribs, take some Tylenol and wait it out. Over the weekend, the pain became overbearing. When the Tylenol wore off, the pain was so intense I couldn’t take deep breaths. I was taking as much Tylenol as I could and it would provide relief but not for long. By this point, I know some of you are thinking why in the world didn’t you go to the hospital. And to be honest, I can’t answer that question. Other than to say, I had called my doctor and was told that the pain was “normal”. I thought I was just being a big baby and figured I would be having a baby soon. By Monday the pain was more intense and started radiating up to my neck. I could barely turn my head. I assumed this was because I was sleeping funny. I called the doctor again, told them what was happening and was told to just hang tight because I had an apt the following day.

I was texting friends asking them if this was normal and everyone said they didn’t know. I remember one of my friends asked if it was contractions and I laughed and said “well I don’t know, I’ve never been in labor before!” I knew that it most likely wasn’t contractions though. This pain was not letting up and we had learned that contractions come in waves. And when they stop you know it. Well this was constant and the pain would go away with a Tylenol so I figured it wasn’t contractions.

The night before my doctor’s apt I was googling “stomach pain during pregnancy” and was even brought to a page about preeclampsia. Doug and I both read it and it says very clearly on some sites that the pain is usually localized to the right side. Well, this wasn’t on the right side and not to mention I had NO other symptoms so we concluded this was not what it was. To our surprise, that is exactly what it was.

By the time our next apt rolled around that next morning it was already too late. We were told that Dougie’s heart was no longer beating. At the time, the doctor didn’t know why. He said it was most likely caused by a cord accident or something like that. He did warn us that we may never know what caused it. He had no idea that I had HELLP and asked that we wait until Friday to be induced. I remember thinking “FRIDAY!?” I immediately told him no and told him that I could not live another day knowing my baby was dead inside of me. So I was admitted to the hospital that day.

Once everything was said and done, Doug and I realized that if I had waited until Friday to go to the hospital, I most likely would have died. Even the nurses told us this. My liver was on the verge of rupturing and my blood pressure was rising so high that the possibility of a stroke was very high.

After consulting with a high risk doctor, we now know that HELLP caused Dougie’s death. He was 100% certain of that. He stated that the stomach pain I was having was a symptom, although not a typical symptom. After brainstorming with him, I remembered that a few weeks before I had the stomach pain I did have some right arm pain but had assumed that I had a Charlie horse in it. He said that that was most likely a symptom too but we may never know for sure. He did tell us that my case was extremely rare as I didn’t have any other symptoms, not even protein in my urine, which 99.9% of cases have at least that.

The fear of HELLP again weighs heavily on our minds for the future. We have been told that the risk of getting it again is about 15%-20% but that percentage decreases with the same partner and if you do get it again, you will most likely get it later in your next pregnancy than your last. (This is good for us, considering I didn’t get it until 38 weeks.) We have sought out an excellent Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor and are very confident with our care for the future. Our future pregnancies will look completely different than our first but as long as the outcome is different we will be entirely ok with that.

The days after…

For 3 days we remained in the hospital. Magnesium sulfate running through my veins, my blood pressure still elevated and still a fear that I would develop eclampsia. Our hospital room was our sanctuary. We stayed in the same room we delivered little DJ in and for some reason that was comforting to me. This was the last place I held my son, felt his skin, kissed his forehead and I didn’t want to leave. I knew as soon as we left our cocoon, it would somehow make it even more real and I wasn’t ready to face that yet.

The day came when we were discharged. We were blessed with the sweetest lady as our nurse that morning. She was so nurturing, caring and compassionate and turns out went through the same thing we just went through 30 years ago. She shared her story with us and wanted to truly listen. She was a blessing and I know now that DJ sent her to us.

I asked to go home and she pretty quickly had our doctor in our room and we were ready for discharge. Doug went to get the car while I waited in the room. Doug was so strong through all of this. He walked to the car knowing that an empty car seat would be greeting him in the backseat. He quickly removed the car seat out of my sight, pulled the car around and came to get me. I stared out the window while Doug was gone. It was silent in the room and I could feel Dj’s presence. A ray of sunlight shot down from the sky and I knew he was there. Tears streaming down my face, unable to comprehend that THIS was now our story, I turned to Doug and told him I was ready. I wanted to walk out but the nurse said I had to be in a wheelchair because that was hospital policy. I sat in the wheelchair with a blue memory box in one hand and tissues in the other. I was sobbing. I remember being rolled down the hallway and people were visiting with all the new babies. People stared intently not knowing that the only thing I had left of my son was in a blue box on my lap. I wept and did not make eye contact with anyone. It was the longest ride of my life.

Driving home, we cried, the world zoomed past us…life going on. I was confused…didn’t the world know that we had just lost our son?! I sat there wondering how I was going to go on. Devastated, heartbroken and defeated…I held onto Doug’s hand tightly. I knew what was waiting for us at home, a house full of baby things. My sister-in-law had hurried around that morning, cleaning up our house and placing all baby things in the nursery (so thankful for our amazing family through all of this). Doug and I pulled in our driveway and took a deep breath. Doug said to me “All we need to do is make it into the house.” And with that said…we rushed in.

We entered our front door, dropped our stuff and I began to sob. Doug held me for what seemed like forever. It was hitting me that this is OUR story…there was no changing it, redoing it or fixing it. This was our reality.

Our Birth story (part 2)-6 amazing hours filled with love

Dougie was born at 5:54am and weighed 6lbs 9oz. He was perfect. I’m not sure what I expected, but once I found out that he was dead I was expecting something morbid, you know…a dead baby (whatever that may look like). But he didn’t look dead…he was perfection. Perfect nose, round little face and was long, like he would have been tall! They put Dougie on my chest and announced he was a boy. I remember not being very excited and thinking, “I knew he was a boy”. I immediately became upset. Angry at the world for Doug…all he wanted was his first-born to be a boy and here he was…so sweet and precious but dead. It was an eerie feeling. There was no sound…pure silence. No baby screams…NOTHING. I won’t forget that silence, it haunts me. Doug took Dougie off my chest and gave him his first bath. Something I am so grateful that he did. How brave is that?? Giving your dead son his first, last and only bath. The thought of it makes me fall even deeper in love with that man. He is the brave one!

In the midst of all of this, I had some placenta complications. (Enter second time I thought I was going to die.) I’ll spare you all the gory details. I am thankful for my doctor who was super patient and waited almost an hour to see if I would deliver the placenta on my own. I kept asking the doctor if he was worried and although he was telling me no, Doug told me after the fact that he saw the nervousness in his eyes. There were 2 options the doctor informed me, surgery or manual delivery, both of which were not really an option. The first, surgery, wasn’t really an option because they were afraid I would bleed out and the second, manual delivery wasn’t an option because of the pain it would cause me. I hadn’t had any pain meds at this point and the doctor said I wouldn’t be able to tolerate that pain, so he said we shall wait and see if I can do it on my own. But alas I didn’t. The doctor asked me several times to click my little pain button thingy but I refused. I was terrified to fall asleep and all the meds did was make me tired so that wasn’t going to happen. I told him to just go get it. He worked on me for about what seemed like forever but I’m sure it was only 10/15 minutes or so and finally, the placenta was delivered. AHHH relief, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and for the first time wasn’t afraid for my life. Now I could enjoy my baby boy.

We kept Dougie for 6 amazing hours. We held him, loved on him and family came to meet him. Doug and I had a couple of hours alone with him and to be honest, I am not even sure what happened in those couple of hours. For a short period of time, we got a taste of what being a family of 3 would be like. And it was WONDERFUL! The nurses were amazing and helped us make a memory box, took pictures for us and even cut a lock of Dougie’s hair. I remember being so excited he actually had hair. I was convinced he would be bald because that’s how I was when I was born, but to my surprise, he had a head full of hair! I find myself daydreaming often about those 6 hours we got to spend with him and wishing I could do those 6 hours all over again. If I could have the time back I most certainly would have given him more kisses, held him a little longer,smelled him, savored every second, minute and hour with him. I constantly wonder if we gave him enough love while he was here.

So many questions running through my mind on a daily basis, sometimes I crave the blissful feeling of not knowing what it is like to lose a child. It’s truly all consuming…

2…long…months

2 months.

It’s been 2 months since we had to say hello and goodbye to the sweetest boy we have ever met. It seems so long ago but yet feels like yesterday.  The pain is still so raw and fresh. Some days I am completely hopeless, constantly seeing reminders of what we don’t have, pictures of newborns on Facebook, walking past the baby section in Target or hearing about someone else’s pregnancy. Then other days, I grow hopeful and those small things don’t sting so bad. When I wake up in the morning, I never can tell you what kind of day I will have. So I accept that one small comment, picture or thought could bring me to my knees.

I still struggle on a daily basis with this grief journey and how to navigate it. It’s a confusing thing. It’s dark, lonely, overwhelming and numbing. One thing I’m coming to grasp is that grief is so individual; this is the first time I have realized that. I have experienced grief several times in my life but never like this. I lost my mom unexpectedly when I was 24 around this time exactly 5 years ago. That journey was painful and also overwhelming but not in the same sense. This grief is soul shaking, so undeniably different. I have lost a part of me, a piece of my heart I know I will never get back, that feeling is indescribable. When DJ died, a piece of my soul, heart and mind died right along with him. I knew we had a long road ahead of us but I didn’t realize how profoundly we would feel DJ’s absence on a daily basis. It’s everywhere. The absent cries and giggles of a 2 month old child make our home silent. We are trying to come to terms with this but aren’t quite sure how. We are learning it’s a journey, a process that’s not as linear as everyone thinks.