Family Tree

I found some statistics on the internet earlier this week that really hurt my heart. I’m talking chest tightness, throat closing, stomach turning kind of hurt. The whole time I was pregnant, I knew losing my boy was a very realistic possibility. I recall thinking it happened more often decades ago, when mommas had babies on farms. Looking back at family trees, you would always see the babies that lived a couple days, or weeks. Even the babies like mine were on those branches. The chilling obviousness that came with a single date, rather than two below their name used to haunt me. I remember thinking how terrible that must have been, and begging god to never put me through that. The truth is, it happens just as often now, as it did all those years ago. However, I feel as though we handle it differently. People care less, we don’t speak about it, and we don’t do family trees.

Statistically, 1 in every 4 women will become a mother of loss.

Yearly in the US, there are approximately 600,000 pregnancies lost through miscarriage.

26,000 mothers give birth to stillborn babies every year in the US.

This means that there are 71 mothers every day in our country alone, that give birth to babies that will never cry, and never open their eyes, babies like my Skylar.

The loss of a baby is the most heart wrenching, breathtaking pain there is. But odds are, everyone knows at least one person it has happened to. If not, I can guarantee you know a mother who has experienced a miscarriage. Most of the time we never have explanations. We’re simply told sometimes, these things just happen.

What hurts my heart the most is that these things aren’t talked about nearly as much as they should be. In the time since Ive lost my son, I’ve found that most often, people choose not to talk about it. Some will even behave as if it never happened, as if my Skylar was an almost baby, and doesn’t count because we never brought him home.

I personally know someone else this has happened to. In fact, I know a few. But there’s one family I am close to. Three years ago, my husbands cousins lost their baby girl. Their story, so similar to my own that it sometimes gives me cold chills. I recall feeling for them so deeply when I learned what happened to their little family. My heart broke even more every time I saw  or thought of them, but I never brought it up. I was afraid to upset them. I was terrified that I would somehow remind them, and cause them pain.

Now that I am no longer on the outside looking in, I know how absurd this was. I can honestly say that I think of my sweet boy every minute. Nothing anyone says could simply remind me of him, as I will never forget him. He was the most perfect little boy I’ve ever laid eyes on, and remembering him brings me so much joy.

It is so much more hurtful to me when I feel as though what I’ve been through is being ignored. Weather it be for someone else’s sake or my own. I understand that my situation may make others uncomfortable, but what happened to us is something that needs to be talked about. Making arrangements for your first child with a funeral home before you’ve ever seen his face is the hardest thing I had ever done. That is, until I had to say goodbye. Leaving the hospital empty handed was something that should have sent me into a crippling mental state, but it didn’t.

Mothers go through these things so very often, and as time goes by, people behave as if it never happened. I’ve seen the change in people’s faces when I mention my Skylar. I sometimes choose not to mention him, because I don’t want others to share the hurt I have in my heart every day.

Every twenty minutes, a baby is stillborn in the US alone. It’s hard to imagine that 70 other little families went through what I did on the very same day. That is, because people don’t talk about it. Some people even behave as though were lucky we lost him as soon as we did.

Finding these statistics hurt me so deeply, because these numbers are so alarmingly high. How can it be possible that this happens so very often? Everyone handles grief differently, but there are so many others that feel just as I do.

My entire pregnancy I knew this could happen to me. How much harder might it have been if I had no idea it was possible, if I had no way to prepare myself?

These things need to be talked about. These babies must be remembered.

My family tree has a branch with Skylar’s name on it, and a single date below his name. It happened to me, and so many others as well.

Hope

I said goodbye to my son 35 days ago.

Life is now back in full swing, Michael and I have both returned to work, and we now rarely get visitors. I no longer have to tell people what happened, as everyone knows. At this point, several people when offering condolences, ask how we are doing and of course, my response is, “we are good” and now, it isn’t a lie. I’m not saying we don’t have bad days. But, I have learned how to turn them around when they come.

Last night, I felt the darkness start sneaking in. I found myself feeling sad, as I watered the tree my grandmother gave me on the one month anniversary of my son’s birth. This beautiful Crepe Myrtle I haven’t planted yet brought me such joy when she gave it to me. I could tell I was about to hit rock bottom again, I could literally feel the sadness coming. I remember feeling scared; I didn’t want to have another bad day. They have been few and far between, but when they hit, it’s as if I have a constant reminder in the back of my mind that my sweet boy is gone. All the darkest parts of our story roll about in my head like a broken record, reminding me of how sad I should be.

I am no stranger to depression. It’s something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember, it’s as if something dark gets a hold of you and will not let go. You want to be happy, but you can’t. Just before I got pregnant with my sweet boy, I was in such a terrible place. Infertility made me such a terrible person; I almost hate to admit it. For the two years we were trying, I was jealous of everyone. It seemed everyone had what I wanted but could not have, and they didn’t appreciate it as much as I thought they should. If anyone ever complained around me about motherhood, or pregnancy, I wanted to scream. I hated myself, and I’m doing everything I can not to slip back into that person. Because, we are back to square one, I am still a childless woman, and it hurts. But, it only hurts if I think about it.

When I feel the darkness sinking in, I do everything I can to snap myself out of it. Distraction is key. It’s important to have things to look forward to. When I first found out my boy was gone, I remember thinking, now what? Now, when I feel it coming, I dive head first into the first distraction I can find. I try to plan the trip were taking for Christmas, or find home improvement ideas. I have a creative mind, and projects are the best distraction for me.

Last night would have been a night for nightmares. When I go to sleep upset, it’s almost like my mind plays tricks on me. The day of my ultrasound, the day of his birth, they play over and over in my dreams until I wake. I was sure to take one of my sleeping pills before bed to keep that from happening. This morning, as I got ready for work, I put on jewelry for the first time since everything happened; even though I still don’t wear makeup. This morning, I put extra effort into making sure I felt pretty. And today, I am fine. If someone asks, I can tell them I’m okay without fibbing about it.

I’ve had people ask me how I’m doing it, how I’ve been as good as I am, considering everything that’s happened. I suppose some don’t believe me when I tell them I’m alright. I definitely believe that the struggle I had with infertility prepared me for this. I was so excited, yet it all seemed too good to be true. I knew the possibility of losing my sweet boy was very real. Things like this happen so very often, but no one seems to talk about it. I knew this was a possibility, and I feel as though I was more prepared than anyone could have been. It’s almost as if I knew it was coming.

Earlier this week, I saw my doctor. When everything happened, I agreed to every test they had to offer. I wanted an answer, and I didn’t care how much it would cost. There are still tests were doing that are anticipated to be expensive, but the cost is still not important to me. I want to know what happened to our boy, what I did wrong. I don’t care how much it costs; I’ll make more money later. When I saw my doctor, she finally had some results for me. It turns out my placenta was ill formed; the umbilical cord was shorter, and smaller than normal. My boy didn’t get the blood flow he needed. There is so much relief in knowing there was nothing I did wrong, and there is now something to look for in the future, to be sure it doesn’t happen again. Knowing what happened has given me so much peace; I still couldn’t shake the feeling that it was something I had done.

When people ask how I’m doing it, how I have managed not to go crazy, I tell them I dive into distractions. I never allow myself to have any free time, and I don’t watch TV. Basically, I don’t allow myself to think. Because, honestly, there’s nothing I could do to change it. When I do think, I try to remember the good things, I try to be grateful for the time I had with him. No one has ever wanted anything more than I wanted my little boy, and I loved my Skylar more than anything. The story of my life will now always be divided into a before and after because of him. But, I try to look to the future. I try to imagine that the sadness I feel will somehow be worth happiness I’ll feel later in life. Not only have I hit rock bottom, I have started my uphill climb. Deeper valleys are caused by higher mountains, and hope is a powerful thing.

Looking back, I don’t know how I’ve made it through everything I have. People tell me how very strong I am, and I have started to believe them. I am a very different person today than I have ever been, especially in the last few months. If you would have told me this is who I would be today, I wouldn’t have believed you. I get through every day, looking forward. One day, we will have the joy we had when we heard his heart beat for the first time. Our children change us, weather they live or not.

 

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