What the world tells you about miscarriage is silence. Is this unfair to say? Yes it is. People can’t reach out to you and support you if they don’t know. For the people that we actually told, we mostly got support. Is it unfair to hold that information to yourself and expect that other people will pave the way for you in society by sharing their painful stories? Yes it is. I can’t expect other people to share their miscarriage stories, when I am too ashamed and sad to share my own. A double standard, clearly, but one that is hard to navigate inside your own head let alone sharing those things out loud.
What the world doesn’t tell you….
When the ultrasound tech starts the ultrasound and decides to switch gears and goes out of the room so you can get undressed and says be back in a minute, but it takes 10 minutes – expect the worst. She has gone to get the doctor to deliver the news that is coming that she doesn’t want to say. It isn’t her responsibility to shatter dreams and hopes and tell you that your prayers didn’t work. When she comes back and says doctors like to be in the room for the test (but you have already had ultrasounds in this facility and know they don’t – unless something is wrong). It is ok to let tears fall after she comes in and she says sorry for the delay but she was waiting on the doctor to come out of the room he was in to “let him know you are there.”
That the doctor comes in the room and is squinting at the empty sac turning his head like a German Shepherd puppy (minus those amazing cute floppy ears) trying to see something that isn’t there and trying to come up with the words to soften the blow. When you say from the exam table “the sac is empty” and he breathes almost a sigh of relief that I already know the inevitable, so the next words coming out of his mouth won’t be the complete shock he thought they might be.
That his hasty retreat from the room isn’t to be rude (at least in our case) it was to research my chart and try to provide answers once we are moved to an actual exam room.
That after this kind of news the ultrasound tech changes her tone and won’t make eye contact because she looks like she wants to cry with you. That her “I am so sorry” was the first of many at the office and had pain behind it because she knew that she was instrumental in bringing this reality to light and even though it isn’t her fault – changing our lives for the worst.
The walk of “shame” from the ultrasound room to the patient room to talk to the doctor is one of the most emotionally difficult walks there is. Wallowing in the floor sobbing was not acceptable when that is what I wanted to do. Punching the wall and leaving a dent was not acceptable when that would at least give me some outlet of frustration. That tripping the next person that walked by smiling was unacceptable (granted that would be mostly unacceptable any time) but when you are that sad and frankly pissed off you don’t want to see happy people. In the matter of one minute from US room to exam room all of these emotions slam into you like a semi barreling down the highway. People staring at you trying to decode the tears as you attempt to slow the sobs.
That even when you felt like you knew what the answer was going to be, that it would hurt just the same.
That behind the closed doors clutching your spouse those emotions just turn into tears and sobbing. Angry tears, sad tears, devastated tears, frustrated tears, dreams ending tears, jealous tears, distraught tears, failure tears, shame tears, what if tears. They streak down your face like the ocean leaving a salty streak that you won’t notice for hours.
That for a few minutes you would be grateful for the time alone with your spouse to cry and be alone so you can wrap your head around things and process before the doctor comes in to talk to you. But after a few minutes you would wish and hope the doctor would just hurry and come in so that you can leave and escape this place.
That when he comes in he talks to you, not at you, and he apologizes over and over. His compassion is there and as you are sobbing you cling to his compassion and that holds you together for the time being.
That when the smiling check out girl takes your encounter form and looks at you and asks how you are and you try to be polite and say “I’m ok,” then she looks at the form and sees the code for miscarriage and she stops smiling and says “I am so sorry” with such sympathy. Then she excuses you from the rest of the check out process so you don’t have to be in the “baby office” anymore since you don’t have your baby.
That when you call to cancel your next OB appointment and the f/u from the miscarriage appointment, the person on the other end offers to pray for you and that is nice, because you are having a hard time finding the right words to say to God.
That you want to sleep. When you sleep, you don’t feel the cramps and you can escape from the pain – physically and emotionally.
That with each passing “milestone” you think, if you lived you would… (be certain gestation, size, due, first holidays, age, etc).
The cramps are horrible and add to the emotional aspect. The bleeding is horrible and gross with clots and just weirdness. That your cervix opens to pass the “biologic material” or “biologic remains of tissue” – and you can feel it. That the only time you will ever “hold” that child is when you wipe them away.
That there is an emptiness, a new broken, and your heart hurts. Each time it beats there is a searing pain.
That there is a grief so deep and wide. And aiding that grief is that shame. That you don’t want to tell other people because it would make them sad. That our road has already been a difficult one and people supporting us don’t need to add one more chapter of sad disappointment to it. Telling people would lead to those looks of pity. Telling people would admit to the failure that happened. Not that you did anything (so to speak) wrong, but that things went horribly wrong and you had no control to stop it, to protect your child. That you don’t want to tell people because you don’t know if it would ever happen again, and the added stress of people asking you if you are pregnant again would just add to your anxiety and shame if it actually never did happen again. That asking would emphasize that you lost something already. That you would interpret people asking that question to mean that your baby that is no longer here doesn’t matter and possibly never did. That I wasn’t far enough along for me to really care or be upset or for “it to count”. That people wouldn’t understand that a loss is a loss, and it is hard. That your grief goes beyond the physical loss and extends into the loss of dreams and ideals. That the hopes that were tied up in our MKB were lost and with that comes a profound grief as well.
That they can tell you to “try” again and there is complete fear in that simple word. We didn’t try in the first place and what if it doesn’t work. How invested do we get in opening up these old wounds? How far are we willing to go to prove this was or wasn’t a fluke? How much money are we willing to sink into this and add to the money we have already sunk?
There is so much to learn in the world of miscarriages. There is so much I have to tell myself, to remind myself it wasn’t my fault, even though when the world crashed down around me it certainly felt and some days feels like it is because I couldn’t hold it up. I have to remind myself that there is no shame in our infertility journey. That even though it is sad and heart breaking and that sometimes people don’t want to talk about Addy (and now probably MKB), because it is too sad, that it is our story no matter how broken and messed up it is and that is ok. That our children matter to us and we talk about them all the time. That even though our children aren’t breathing they live inside us. That broken can be beautiful.
As we approach my birthday for 2019, I remember those moments of joy and elation last year. I also remember the devastation that lead to my birthday boycott. In almost a years time, since our loss, Andy and I have been on a roller coaster with so many different things. Highs of Andy graduating and work done on the house to lows of Otis passing and the loss of family members and the uncertainty of was MKB just a fluke?
After the darkest and most horrible storms come a rainbow. We are excited (and yet cautious) to say we are expecting ours 10/6/19. Working with the doctors we tried again and just when I was about ready to toss in the towel we got news that we are pregnant. Our doctors are great and have done a lot of hand holding and double checking to make sure we are on the right track. I appreciate everything they are doing for us to keep us calm and reassure us. This excitement doesn’t erase our journey this far. This doesn’t make all of that “ok.” But it does help. It hasn’t completely healed our brokenness, but it has helped. This doesn’t take place of Addy or our MKB. This baby will know of their siblings in heaven, Addy that we saw and loved, and MKB that we felt and loved. While we are over joyed at this miracle we long gave up hope for, I am still feeling anger and bitterness towards God. Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond thankful for this chance at carrying a child and being a biological mother and Andy a biological father, but there is still this feeling of why. Why did it take this long? Were our prayers not good enough then? Why did Addy have to die? Why has this road been our road? Why did we have to experience so much heartache? Why did we have to empty our bank accounts before? Why did we have to go through the adoption processes? People saying that this was all in God’s plan or timing – they may feel that way, but to me that is not comforting. To me that minimizes Addy’s birth and death as well as our weeks carrying MKB and that tiny heart beat that stopped too soon. That takes away from their stories. That takes away from this long road we have been on. That makes it seem like we should just “get over” all that we have been through instead of allowing it to be part of our story, no matter how sad. This does not minimize the years we have dealt with infertility – this does not ease that hurt. It changes it – yes – but that sting lingers, as I have been told by other infertility friends it always will. My God is big enough to deal with my bitterness, anger, continued sadness, and lingering grief. He is so great that he can see those emotions and walk with me through them and at the same time see the joy and happiness and how thankful and blessed we are. He knows that my heart has been shattered to pieces and that while this fills my heart with so much joy there is that possibility it might never be entirely hole again. He is ok with that. He understands my fears that this will all come crashing down around me and that I won’t be able to breathe easy until I hold this baby in my arms. And that after that I will hold my breath as we reach each milestone until the day I take my last breath. He understands that this happiness comes from a road of pain and tears, and that we will embrace all of that road and will remember where we have been to get this far.
Infertility messes with your head. It creates self doubt and feelings of worthlessness. It has this taboo and shame that no one wants to talk about. I understand all of that. The statistics glare at you. 1 in 8 experience infertility. 1 in 4 experience child loss. I belong to both of those categories. This pregnancy doesn’t erase those facts.
We are grateful and blessed. Our journey is not over. Our road is not final. Our story starts with a new chapter. My heart still aches for the heartache of the past and wounds that have been open too long; but it beats for the hope and love of the future.
How do you capture a broken heart in a blog post? How do you convey the tears that are still unshed and building up behind your eyes? How do you write about a grief so raw?
On 11/2/18, Otis passed away. For those of you that don’t know Otis, he was our beagle. We got him when he was a few days shy of 6 weeks old. I don’t recall why we got him so early, other than I think they were just ready to have those puppies gone. We loved him from the second he was handed to me and nuzzled under my chin whimpering. We had him 15 years. 782 weeks and 4 days that he was on this Earth and that much time that he wormed his way into our hearts and lives.
After he passed, several people said they felt like they knew him from my posts on social media. He was always a source of a funny story or crazy antics. He was a source of amusement to a lot of people. To us he was family. He was the glue that held us together during times we couldn’t get out of bed. He was the laughter in our house when all we had were tears. He was 15 years of routines. He was the constant in our lives. He was our everything.
I have several blog post that I have been trying to get updated and posted. Then this happened and I stalled more than usual. I have started to write this post a million times and haven’t been able to come up with the words. I keep writing about his last week with us, and his last days, and his last minutes. I just can’t get through it. I keep writing about what he meant to us and fall short. So I decided until I can post those things, I will write about some of his antics.
Everyone told me after he died that they knew he crossed the rainbow bridge and was playing like he never played before. I sort of agree. I kind of feel like heaven to our beagle and his mischief soul would be eating things he shouldn’t and not getting in trouble. I was thinking about that the other day and made a list of the things Otis ate while here. So my post today is a tribute to my sweet puppy and the things he ate.
This is not a complete list but the things we could remember. This does not include things that he ate off the floor while we cooked, or dropped while we ate, or the things he ate while in my parents presence that they didn’t report. Reading through this list makes me feel like an irresponsible pet owner. In our defense we always tried to push things to the back of the counter. We always tried to puppy proof the motor home. He was just so patient he would wait on that one slip up to go for the goods. He knew better and we always had to tell him, not yours and don’t eat that. Sometimes he would tell on himself and would come up to us and put his head down and lean into us. Other times he would excitedly jump up and down pawing on us like come look what I did!
I know that I am forgetting things. Probably hilarious things. He was a sneaky little critter that wanted to explore the world with his nose. His nose normally led him to something he thought he could eat. He is missed, his antics are missed. I have had a cold and my little trash can of tissues makes me choke up thinking about all the times I had to pick up shredded tissues.
10/15/18 Otis turned 15! 15! I know right?!
We got Otis when he was 6 weeks old and he is now 15!
We celebrated his golden birthday (because he is 15 and the day of his birthday is the 15th) by going to work and letting him sleep at home.
That night he went for a ride and got a pup cup from Dairy Queen. He got to wear a party hat (a real one and not a muzzle – vet calls them party hats). He snuggled with me and we just loved on him even more. He slept in the middle of the bed on a fuzzy blanket. He also got a new food and water dish. He seemed super excited about it. We also built a fence around our backyard and I am calling that part of his gift too (even though it has been more of a gift to me and Andy).
He is showing his age. His eye sight is going and his hearing is selective, but going too. His little face is gray and he is a tad skinnier now than he was. He has moments of being a puppy when he tries to chase a ball in his new fence, but sometimes he just can’t see or hear the ball.
Happy birthday to my sweet little puppy. Ok my old man dog. He drives me crazy sometimes, but he has been such a support through the difficult parts of life and comfort when I have been home alone. I don’t know how many more years we get with him, but we will cherish each and every one.
With Andy’s immediate family we draw names for Christmas. Each couple gets another couple to buy gifts for. The older I get the harder it is to buy Christmas gifts and to put a “wish list” out there for people to buy us stuff. I am to the point if I need something, we get it. If I want something, eventually, we get it. So telling people what I want or need has become more difficult (and the times that I gave the brand of shampoo, toothpaste, conditioner etc it was laughed at as a joke). Last year we had Andy’s parents as the couple we were buying for. I think they feel similar because they couldn’t think of anything they wanted or needed for their Christmas wish list.
Part of the problem was that they were in the process of packing boxes and moving and with most things they packed his mom would say something along the lines of why did she had so much “stuff.” I didn’t want to add to the stuff she needed to pack so we thought extremely hard on what to get them. We decided to get her a gift card so that she could have family photos done by a professional. Not just my camera and tri-pod. They seemed happy with their gift card. Fast forward to 10 months later and they lined up using the gift.
I don’t like pictures anyways. We will start there. But we went into town (I had a dentist appointment too) and got dressed up. I straightened my hair (which is always an ordeal) and put on mascara and lipstick and we did this picture thing. The photographer did great and worked fast. The nieces and nephew seemed to smile for all the pictures. It worked out nicely as a good gift.
See the kids looked great.
I smiled and hoped it would reach my eyes. The entire time I was watching our nieces run around with our nephew I couldn’t help but think that Addy should be here with her cousins. Each time one of Andy’s siblings asked if they should be holding the kids, I couldn’t help but think I want to hold Addy in our pictures. I couldn’t help but think that she would have fit right in with them. I couldn’t help but think of how unfair it was that she wasn’t with us. I couldn’t think too hard because then I would shed the tears that were hiding behind my hopefully real looking, fake, smile. The photographer would say “family with girls” or “family with the boy” and then “you two.” To her credit she didn’t say “childless couple” because had she, I would have lost it right there in the park with my mascara running down my face. She didn’t know where we have been. It isn’t her fault at all. But standing there with my in-laws in front of the picture. To the right of the picture was their oldest child, his wife, and 2 daughters in a tight little clump. To the left but still middle of the picture was their youngest child, her husband, and their son in a tight little clump. To the far left was their middle child, and me. And a heart so full of holes and sorrow. But that was our clump. I love Andy with everything I have but there is still that emptiness. Addy should have been there. I miss the dreams and answers to prayers that she represented. I miss the what could have beens. But mostly I just miss her.
Infertility sucks. In my story, nothing emphasizes that more than “family” stuff. Be it holidays, vacations, going out to eat together, or family photos…family stuff is hard – yes still (and sometimes worse than before). We have been travelling this road far too long. We are no stranger to sadness and disappointment and loss. One would think we could “get over it already and be happy.” But family is hard. Family reminds me of that family I don’t have.
Holidays are fast approaching and I feel like there will be some moments I sneak out of rooms, or step out onto the porch for fresh air. There will be times I lock myself in the bathroom for a few minutes just to breathe and give myself permission to be sad and happy. To give myself the grace and space I need to grieve the could have beens. To quietly brush a tear off my check. Yes, I live infertility each and every day, but holidays are a different battle. All of that to say – forgive me if you turn to ask for a refill on your wine, or to pass the salt and pepper and you are telling my back as I am walking away.
There are nights I lay awake. I listen to Andy and Otis breathing beside me and I just can’t sleep. I close my eyes and try different types of relaxation tactics to lure myself to sleep only to find I am still awake. I change my breathing patterns to adjust my heart rate and 20 minutes later readjust my pillow thinking that will help.
Sometimes I just have a hard time getting my brain to just stop thinking. Sometimes I carry the weight of the world as I am trying to ease into a deep sleep, but sometimes the things that keep me awake are so absolutely ridiculous that it infuriates me. If I have to think of those things, why can’t I do it at lunch? Or while I am driving to and from work? Why does it have to be at 3 am?
So last night was one of those nights. I was just about to sleep when in my head I heard Andy say “I didn’t lock the door.” It was a comment he stated hours earlier when he let Otis into the back yard, well when he tried to let Otis out but Otis refused to go outside. When Andy closed the door he said, “I didn’t lock the door.” Knowing we would let Otis back out before bed it didn’t matter because we would lock it then. But as I lay there I started to wonder. Did we take Otis back out before bed? Did we lock the door? What happens if tonight is the night someone decides to break in? Two weeks ago I got up with Otis around 2:30 and was waiting with his leash at the front door when I looked across the room out the back door and saw a flash light. I thought I was seeing things, so I closed my eyes and looked again and sure enough the unmistakable glow of a flashlight was in our newly fenced in back yard. I got Andy up and he investigated and the person was gone. We have our theories on what/who it was. But while I was laying in bed last night I couldn’t help but think, maybe we were wrong? What if they really were casing our house at 2:30 AM and now they are going to come back and break in because our back door is unlocked. So I got up and checked the door. By that point in time my mind was going crazy with “What if” situations. The back door was locked.
By now there was no stopping the barrage of thoughts running through my brain.
For example: most of us can agree that the sky is blue (on a normal non cloudy day). This is excluding people that have any visual impairments (color blind or other). So people with normal vision can say the sky is blue. But how do we know that we are seeing the same thing, the same shade of blue? I know blue is blue because I have been taught that blue is blue, but what if the blue I am seeing is completely different than what other people see blue to be? What if other people see blue as what I see as green?! We all see a red apple, but what if we aren’t really seeing the same color? We are all seeing what we have been taught is a red apple, but who is to say what I know is red is the same that someone else knows as red. Does this matter? No it doesn’t. Especially not at 3 AM.
Or. Do people hear me as I hear me? My recorded voice on an answering machine isn’t the same voice I hear when I am talking. Which voice is what other people hear? And if it is my answering machine voice – I am sorry because that is annoying. Which voice does Otis hear?
Or. When we smell a rose, are we processing that smell the same? Some people smell coffee and hate it while others love it. Is that because we are processing it the same and that is preference, or because we aren’t smelling it in the same way?
Or. Why are my toes, short, fat, baby gherkin toes? They have always been this way. My toes have always been stumpy.
Or. What is Otis thinking? He was dreaming at 4 AM. He was running and whimpering. It wasn’t his whine like he was on a trail, but whimpering. Then his tail wagged. What is going on in his head?
Nights like last night annoy me so much. It wasn’t the night that I thought about the past and the future, just random things that make it to where I can’t shut my brain off. All the while Andy and Otis had no trouble sleeping.
I see a nap in my near future!
So I had a list of all the things I was going to catch up on and write about when I took a break waiting to gain more storage. But I re-read that list and there wasn’t much on there that actually seemed important now. So I crushed it in my hands and tossed it in the trash. So with no prompts or lists of topics I am just going to write.
For a long time writing has been therapeutic for me. I have so many documents in word and drafts in my e mails where I just free write to get things out of my head. It is so funny to go back and read some of the things I have written and seeing where I was at that time in my life. Then sometimes reading the things that I have written just takes me back to places I don’t really want to be again.
Over the past several years infertility has been my demon. It is something that consumes a lot of my time and thoughts. The what if’s roll though my head. The why plays over and over in my mind and heart. The insecurities are crystal clear in the writing. The blame I placed/place on myself and God are there. The frustration creeps back in.
Let me be very clear that while I am living and breathing infertility and it consumes so much of my life – it does not consume everything. I have moments, days, weeks, and months even that I exist with this label and don’t bat an eye. That I push it to the back of my mind the best I can and enjoy life without worrying what happens next, without feeling like I have to be an advocate, without feeling like I have to explain why we have no children or defend why we haven’t been chosen with the adoption, without feeling like everyone that glances at me has a look of pity for me. Where the past and the future don’t taunt me. So while infertility is my demon – I still have some freedom to hide from it. But that is all I can really do is hide. Eventually it finds me. Eventually it allows those thoughts to flood back in and I become that infertile girl again, and she warps into this monster.
As I read back through and think about where I have been and where I am, I realize I am caught between despising who infertility has made me and being proud. With Mother’s Day approaching I swing closer to the despising side. I think about the years I have missed out on that holiday and how each year is breaks my heart a little more. Yes I celebrate my mother and other women that have “mothered me” but with each year that passes my time feels further and further out of reach for me to actually get to be on the receiving end of Mother’s Day. It hurts. It makes me mad. It frustrates me. I hide on that day because I worry that the monster that infertility has created will do something or say something stupid or offensive to someone. That my bitterness will be more evident and that I will hurt feelings and people will make me feel guilty because I don’t have a child, that make me feel selfish because I can’t just “get over it and be happy.” In years past I avoid church and will this year as well. Sad but oh so true. I can’t do it. I avoid facebook and other social media. I do my best to avoid going out to eat. I attempt not to communicate with people in public because strangers tell women “Happy Mother’s Day” even if you don’t have a child with you. And sometimes people that know you don’t have a child will speak that phrase to you and makes you wonder why? Why in the world would you say that to me knowing the road that I have traveled. And those three words when spoken or texted to me cuts straight through my soul. I don’t deserve them. I am not worthy and those words are wasted on me. I despise that part of me. The part that hides from the world – that allows the bitterness to creep in and fears that I will forever be 1 in 8 and never get to experience what motherhood is.
So this year as we get closer to Mother’s Day I find myself surrounded by emotionally bad days, the monster that comes with those days breathes bitterness and disdain and hopelessness. Not with everything in my life, but with everything infertility related. That monster has crawled into my head and heart and set up a tent, built a little camp fire, sitting all smug in a chair roasting marshmallows.
**I wrote this in the days following Addy’s funeral, but until now didn’t feel like posting**
addy’s life was short.
there is no way around this subject. her life was short. 8 days to be exact.
while you may not agree with the next several thoughts, you have to allow me to believe them because i do. we don’t have to agree, but we can respect each other.
when addy was born the odds were not in her favor. she was 12 weeks early, she had the PDA, she developed the infection, and she had the massive brain bleed. if she only had any one of those things (instead of them all), this story may have played out differently – but we will never know and playing the what if game is pointless. with all of those complications we believe there is mercy in her passing. we obviously didn’t want that to happen and we wanted the outcome to be different, but we were constantly reminded that we are not in control. death is some times the most compassionate thing that can happen to a person, and we believe that to be the case in this situation.
even though the birth mother changed her mind hours before addy’s death she wanted us to be at the funeral. we got an e mail from our caseworker with the arrangements. we knew we wanted to go to support the mother and her family, we wanted the agency to know that we really did care, and while addy was alive i spent a lot of time with her and wanted to say goodbye. so for us we knew that we would go. we wouldn’t attend the grave side service, but we would go to the funeral home. since the birth mother hadn’t told a lot of people that she was giving the baby up for adoption we didn’t want to go to the grave side service where people talk to the people around them afterwards. we didn’t want to just say we were “friends” because we didn’t want the follow up questions. the safest thing to protect the mother and the best thing for us was to just go to the funeral service at the funeral home. when we got there we signed in and found a seat. shortly after we sat down the pregnancy counselor came over to us and we stood up and hugged her. she slipped something in my hand and told me that the mother wanted us to have it. it was a tiny knit hat that belonged to addy, they also gave us a card signed by the people that worked at the agency. i gave her a card and a flash drive of the photos that i had taken of addy to give to the mother. we spoke with our caseworker and gave her a hug. a few minutes before the service started the birth mother came over and gave me a huge hug and the dad came over and shook our hands.
i don’t love funerals – besides the obvious that someone is dead, but because i don’t feel like funerals capture a persons life. i have been to a few funerals that have made me feel closer to the deceased, but most of the time i feel like funerals paint a picture that isn’t an accurate image of that person or their life, or that they are so far off on who that person was to the people they have left behind. i will say that this funeral was no different. it was painful. i mean no disrespect for addy, her family, or the preacher that performed the funeral, but it was the worst funeral i have ever been to.
to begin with, it was a funeral for an 8 day old baby. it doesn’t matter that we were connected through the adoption process and that she was so close to being ours, it would have been horrible even if that wasn’t the case. it honestly felt like a pre-memorial service for pat summit (she was eulogized more than addy was). i liked coach pat as much as the next person, but the tiny little body up there wasn’t pat summitt, it was addy. the other thing that stuck out to me so much as being terrible was that in talking about pat summitt the preacher continued to say that millions will remember pat, but no one will remember addy. that her life meant nothing. she was insignificant.
maybe we misunderstood the point of what the preacher was saying, but we both would have misunderstood the same way, because we were both very upset when we left the funeral. during the funeral andy’s hand would grip mine a little tighter and i returned the gesture each time something didn’t sit right (at one point in time it was just a continuous squeeze). we couldn’t believe some of the things we heard, and granted at a time like this it is hard to know what to say, but I feel like other things could have been said. i silently prayed that the preacher would step aside and ask if anyone wanted to come to the front and say a few words – because i would have gone. i thought about the fact that most people didn’t know of the adoption plan and thought “i don’t care, addy deserves better than this.” he never left the podium, and never gave me a chance to speak. so allow me to say what i feel like should have been said in the first place.
one thing that the preacher did say was this: “how do you eulogize 8 days?” that is how he started his sermon and that grabbed me, so i will keep that.
how do you eulogize 8 days of life?
you shouldn’t have to. it isn’t fair and it is hard for us to understand why things happened the way that they did. we can sit here everyday and say it was all part of God’s timing, but that implies that God was ok that her life was cut short. or the implication can be made that he planned on her life to be short for a “greater good” or to “teach” someone a lesson. i have a hard time believing that some people are born to die to show other people something because that would imply that their life is expendable – that God doesn’t value their life as much as other lives. i don’t believe that we are God’s pawns that he just kicks us off the chessboard whenever he feels like it. i just don’t believe that. i understand from a physical stand point why addy died. i know that she was early and that she was very sick. i understand that her chance of survival was slim with all of the complications – so her death wasn’t a complete shock to us. what i don’t understand is the spiritual side. i don’t know why we were chosen to be part of her 8 days. my heart tells me that there is a reason, but i can’t figure it out – and possibly i will never know the reason – and i have come to believe that this is ok.
addy came into this world with a dramatic flair – butt first; however, that first breath of life was her own. she was a 13.75 inch long, 2 pound 10 ounce miracle. for weeks before her birth she was our miracle. her short life was full of tubes, medicines, tests, needle sticks, glow lights, beeps, and monitors. her cry was never louder than a kitten’s meow. she never found her voice and we will never know the depth of it. she never got to sleep in a real bed, only knowing the warmth of the incubator. she will never know the silence on a starry night gazing at the moon, she only knew the beeps, constant noise, and bright lights of the nicu. despite never holding her, and never being able to be that close to her, i was able to pick up on her scent. the “new baby smell” that everyone talks about. when i left the hospital after she was born to go to the hotel, i fell asleep with my hands next to my face drinking the smell in. the smell that i associated with dreams coming true, hope, and our miracle. the smell that a few days later, triggered the tears to fall as i leaned my head against the incubator praying that the doctors were wrong.
it is hard to imagine what kind of person she would have been. in her short life you could catch glimpses of characteristics of who she might have been. when she was uncomfortable or in pain she put her hands to her face covering her eyes. when she was completely relaxed she would hold her ear or put her hands above her head. her heart rate reacted to music showing that she enjoyed music. she would have liked to have been snuggled because she always responded to touch. she was quick to grab your finger and to latch on and squeeze. but beyond these things we will never know addy as being beyond 8 days old. we can imagine who she would have been, but because her beginning was brief and the ending came too soon we will have few thoughts of her growing and living beyond the incubator and the nicu.
she was surrounded by love before she took her first breath. her birth mother loved her enough to do the adoption plan, andy and i loved her more than any words i can express, our families loved her, and friends loved her. she was a little girl that was never at a loss for love or prayers. they poured in for her. the nurses and the doctors loved her too. i walked in several times to see the nurses talking with her and telling her that she was beautiful. she might have just been their patient, but the love in the nicu was palpable. addy received more love in her short life than some people get in a life time and for that i am thankful.
while her life didn’t reach millions of people (maybe not even hundreds of people) she touched lives. deeply. the people that she leaves behind have felt her presence deep within our souls and we mourn the loss of sweet addy.
and while i still don’t understand the “purpose” in her life cut short and i don’t believe that God “caused” this to happen to teach us something i do believe that we can use terrible things – this death – to find beauty. we can find beauty in the fact that she wasn’t alone and that she died being loved by many. personally, i am holding onto the beauty that this experience has opened my eyes and proved that i can love a baby that isn’t biologically mine. there is beauty that relationships were strengthened surrounding the birth and death of addy. the beauty that God never left us throughout this entire process.
i will never believe that she was put here as a dispensable life. for some unknown reason her life was an essential part of our story and of our lives. there is a part of addy that will remain in my heart, and i hope in the hearts of others, forever.
how do you eulogize 8 days of life?
her life was short and and her death won’t affect millions of people. her footprint might have been tiny, but in the 8 days she was alive she left a mark – her mark – an impact and love that was immense, beyond measure.
goodbye sweet addy, goodbye.
I have started and deleted this post so many times I have lost count. Nothing seemed right. Nothing seemed to do it justice. One time it would be too detailed and too much information for the reader and other times it was so vague that it didn’t feel right either. So I will start this post again and see if I can find some middle ground.
When we were chosen by the birth mother at the end of May 2016. We were told she was due in September, but that she always went early so to be ready by August 1. We made our lists of things to do before we were to bring the baby home. We bought furniture and had it delivered to the house while we were at Montreat. We started to talk about paint colors for the nursery, and we started to discuss what we would need immediately vs what would be on our wish list for later. We had a plan pretty much for each week until August 1st.
We were chosen (officially) on June 1, 2016. We went to Montreat as planned and while we were there we got a call on June 14th that our birth mother was in the hospital and they were trying to decide if they were going to do strict bed rest of go on and induce and take the baby because both mom and baby were in danger. We were told to be on stand by. June 15th we got a call stating they were going to induce as mom was now 28 weeks and they couldn’t wait any longer. They were planning on starting the process at 5:00 pm. We decided Andy would stay at camp with the kids since he wasn’t going to be in the delivery room anyways. I made my way to the hospital and we waited. 5:00 came and went and nothing was started. It was around 9:00 that night that they actually got things started with the induction.
This is where I end up being way too detailed or not detailed enough. I remember every second (mostly) and detail about the time I spent in room 10 of the labor and delivery floor. It was an experience like no other and that words don’t completely capture the essence or the magnitude of the moments we spent together. Exactly 2 weeks after we were chosen, two weeks and a day after we met this amazing woman we were tossed into a whirlwind experience. We hadn’t had our next scheduled meeting because we thought there was time. We hadn’t had time to completely process the extent of our relationship and how connected we were because we knew the other existed for only 2 weeks. We thought there was time to get the furniture assembled in the nursery. We thought there was time to meet the birth father. We thought there was time, but what we didn’t have was time. It was here and now and all of my plans and lists were null and void.
I write about the timeline of events that happened in June 2016 and am thrust right back into the calm before the storm and then the absolute chaos. And while all of those elements are so important to Andy and I, they may not be as important to anyone else, and that is ok. Maybe in the moment those details would have been important to other people beyond Andy and myself, but this far out from that date, I just don’t know. It is hard sorting out what others might feel is important and what I think it is important for other people to hear. I can describe in detail the induction process and when things stalled or progressed. I can describe to you how truly amazing it was to listen to the heart beat on the monitor. How in the quiet of the night it would slam into me with so much emotion I would escape to the bathroom to gather myself. How the chairs were arranged in that room and each person had their spot, but when they rotated, where we all went and how often we moved around. How we took shifts to make phone calls, get drinks, ice chips, and eventually something to eat. How birth mom would wake up during the night and ask if her “baby mama” was still there. Those details are there and etched in my brain.
What is important regardless of how much time passes is the beauty that encompassed room 10 and OR room 1. Two families connected through adoption. The birth family and the adopted family supporting each other, barely knowing each other. We laughed together, we got choked up together, we sat in silence together.
The awkwardness I thought would be palpable wasn’t there. The conversation flowed between procedures and contractions. The smiles and tears were genuine. The concern was real. She apologized to me so many times for having to be induced and the magnitude of the situation didn’t elude me. She was saying sorry to me and yet she was about to give me my hopes and dreams for so many years. It didn’t seem quite right. I thanked her over and over. We held hands like old friends.
Around 2:15 in the morning of June 16th I found myself sitting alone in the cafeteria eating the first food I had in hours and reflecting on life. A terrible piece of pizza and a luke warm cranberry juice was all that was available at that time of morning. I sat in the booth staring off into space, tired from being awake and exhausted from trying to be supportive and remaining hopeful and calm. We were not delusional to think this delivery at 28 weeks would be without complications. I knew what we were up against. Andy did too. But we held onto the hope that things would be ok. The heart rate was perfect and I held onto that thought. For the first time in years I imagined our life as a family with a child. I grabbed onto that hope that it was really happening to us. I reached into the back of my mind where I stashed all of those thoughts and feelings and allowed them to resurface again.
Birth mom and most everyone else in the room fell asleep around 3. Myself and another lady stayed awake until about 4:20. We were awaken at 4:40 by total chaos. Birth mom was rushed to the OR to deliver there (as a precaution). I was told to wait by a door to see the baby as it went by the door on the way to the NICU. The friend that was in the OR with the birth mom was texting the pregnancy counselor and the pregnancy counselor was sending me the information and I was sending the information to Andy. It was a long line of cell phone communication. My favorite was when I got the text that she was here. Our little girl. She was 2 pounds 10 ounces. I got to see a video of them taking her to the incubator. They stopped by the door and I could see her. The NICU doctor was with her. I hadn’t been able to speak with her earlier so she stepped through the door and answered some of my questions. She said the good news was that they didn’t have to intubate right away that she was breathing on her own (she warned me that could change at any moment). She wanted to go to the NICU with her and told me I would be able to come see her and find out more information after their first assessment. I went back to room 10 and watched the sun rise.
The day our daughter was born I saw the beauty in the creation of not just her life, but in the world around me. In my tired state I marveled over the colors dancing in the sky. It didn’t matter that it was coming up over construction and dirty machinery. It was the most beautiful sunrise I ever saw.
I waited for what seemed like hours and was finally able to go to the NICU and be with our girl. I was educated on how to scrub in and went through the dragonfly covered door to her little incubator. I will admit in full honesty that I was glad Andy wasn’t there for my first meeting with her. Biological mothers get to have that bonding time for 9 months (or so) while the baby is growing in them. I hadn’t had that and was so happy that we could have a few minutes to bond alone. I know that is selfish, but hey at least I willingly admit that. The nurse was amazing. She walked me through everything about the NICU. I knew what to expect in the coming hours and what to hope for with the first 72 hours (what we were told would be the biggest challenge). We were guarded but so far everything was ok. She had a PDA (hole in the heart) and they were starting to treat that. She would have cranial US to check on bleeding on the brain. I was able to open the little door on the incubator and she grasped my finger and in that instant, my heart. I talked to her and sat in silence staring at her. Taking in her tiny little fingers and toes. Watching her chest rise and fall. Listening to the beeps and looking at the machines she was hooked up to.
With stories from the NICU. I have a hard time knowing what to share. Things happened quickly some days and other days not so quickly. The omission of the massive amounts of details of what went on in the dragonfly wing of the NICU isn’t due to be uncaring or flippant about all that happened. But rather I still can’t grasp what to say about it. I almost feel callous in not writing more. Most days were similar to the days before. I would get to the hospital and go see the birth mom (she remained hospitalized after birth due to complications), then I would go to the NICU and scrub in. I found a chair and would roll over to the incubator. I would normally be met by the nurse and updated on progress or set backs. I would then climb in my chair and talk to our sweet girl. I would hold her hand. Stroke the side of her face. Tickle her tiny little toes. It was just amazing and the images still come so vividly to me.
After the first doses of medications she still had a PDA and they were going to try another dose of medicine before they considered surgery. Her oxygen was still good. She had some help from ventilator, but wasn’t intubated. She passed her cranial US with no bleeding. She was a rock star. She did have some episodes of Brady’s (forget to breathe), but I was assured that was normal with NICU patients.
One day I was at the incubator and the birth mom came in and we stood on each side of her and semi held her up for a family photo. It was a moment I will never forget. We marveled over how tiny she was and how dark her hair was. There was a silence among us and looks of understanding, appreciation, and love between us. A relationship that was so new and yet very deep.
Andy coming to meet her before he went on his next trip made me almost weep. He couldn’t believe how tiny she was. I told him, but he said seeing it for himself was surreal.
She passed the 72 hour mark with very little complications (except the PDA). All of her cranial US came back normal and her blood work was great. She was doing wonderful on the ventilator, but still wasn’t intubated and was breathing on her own too.
Day four is where things changed. I got to the hospital and the nurse said she seemed a bit off the night before and now. They were waiting on lab reports to come back, but thought she had an infection. She was fussy and not comfortable. The nurse showed me how to tuck her arms and legs into my palm and hold her securely in the incubator. That seemed to help calm her. Otherwise she would flail her arms and legs and cry (he tiny cry sounded like a kitten). I sat with her for hours holding her arms and legs in the palm of my hand so she would be comfortable. You could see the distress on her face and in her actions. You could see it in her vitals and on the monitors. It broke my heart. There was nothing I could do to really help. Touch seemed to help and I just wish that I could have held her. I was informed that if she continued to have problems they would intubate to help relieve some of the stress on her body. I asked them to call and let me know if they did that.
Results came back and she did have an infection and they started antibiotics. They did intubate.
Wednesday morning I got a call asking me to come to the hospital because the doctors wanted to meet with us. They informed us that she had a massive brain bleed likely caused by the severe infection. We were all devastated. Andy drove over from camp to talk with me and the doctor and to visit with our sick little girl. Things changed so quickly it was hard to breathe.
Friday morning 8 days after her birth I got a call that the birth mom changed her mind and wanted to back out of the adoption plan. I feel like there were so many factors in that decision and we will never know the extent of why she changed her mind, but she did. That was her choice to make and we respect that decision. Her decision kept us from having to make the decision to continue with the adoption verses backing out with such a poor prognosis. A decision that neither of us wanted to make. After the call I climbed in bed and grabbed onto Otis and cried. For 8 days I had a little girl that I loved so much. For 8 days I was a mother, not legally or biologically, but I loved that sweet baby with everything I had. She was mine and I was hers. It was an experience that showed me without a shadow of a doubt that shared DNA didn’t mean love.
It is important, I think, to note that we had a name picked out for our child. Ever since we did infertility treatments we had a name. The birth mother had chosen a different name and we planned on changing that at finalization to the name we fell in love with. While I was alone I called the baby the name we intended to change it to. But while others were around I respected the birth mother and called her Addy. Since the birth mother changed her mind we have taken to remembering our time with her as Addy. That is who she will always be to us. Addy our little twitter-bird.
We were notified on Monday by our adoption agency that hours after the birth mother changed her mind. Just 8 days into her life, Addy passed away.
*****this post was written in 2016, but i never posted it because circumstances changed so quickly. i debated not posting this but decided to post it now because this is still part of our story (part of that transparency). our experience in june 2016 has had a profound impact on our lives. while things did not turn our how we hoped or expected it has shaped who we are today and we still talk about it and want to post those experiences for others to have a glimpse*****
when you google the word that i never thought would be us this is what you find.
chosen: having been selected as the best or most appropriate.
i still can’t believe it. we have been chosen by a birth mother. now that we have had some time to process, i am able to give a little more information. i would also like to take a moment to add that we are given very vague information and the birth mother is given very vague information about us (to protect both sides). at our training meetings we were taught that the entire adoption process will be a part of our child’s story and we should always think about that whenever we are placed and give out information about the specific scenario. with that bit of information – we encourage questions, but please know and understand that we will tell information as we think it is appropriate. we may have more information than we are leading on – but we also may not have that information at all. so don’t be surprised or offended if you ask a question and we either tell you we don’t know or that we aren’t going to disclose that information yet. i promise it isn’t to be mean or rude.
i mentioned a phone call stating that the birth mother wanted to meet us. when we called our case worker together after work she gave us some information about the mom and about the situation. she also told us about the birth mother coming to the adoption agency.
i will break to rant (as usual and again). we have been officially waiting for over a year. we went to some of the first meetings and heard people talk about how they were placed quickly. one story was of a couple that was placed 2 weeks after they were approved. several stories were that they were placed within 3 months of approval. so few people that we talked with stated that they waited over a year. so once we hit that year mark and went beyond it, i was completely convinced that we would never be chosen. that something was wrong with us and that this was not even meant to be. it hasn’t always been pretty and when i am feeling especially low and like we would never be chosen i would email our case worker and ask if we had any feed back. she would tell me that nothing was wrong with us. that our profile book was being shown and that when it happened it would happen. we had to just trust the system. i would roll my eyes. when we had our home study update we asked again in person about the feedback. (with the profile books the birth mothers are asked to put them in order of who they like better – i am sure there is a more politically correct way to say that). she told us that we were number 2 for a birth mother (their number one worked out so they didn’t need to go to number 2) but we were at least in a short stack! that gave us a little hope. but we heard once again that when it happened it happened. and again i rolled my eyes and held my tongue.
it isn’t that i don’t believe in God’s timing because there is a part of that concept i can get behind, but if anyone else told me it would happen when it was right – or any of the other ways to remind me that God was in control i was going to just cry – and maybe throw something. we felt like it was a cop out answer. we wanted answers and we were getting generic, religious, pat on the hand responses.
::slams head against desk::
so back to the phone call. i was holding my cell phone (on speaker) in the passenger seat and andy was in the driver’s seat and we were listening to this information and she told us this: the birth mother went to a friend who told her that they were going to our agency in the morning to talk about adoption and so she went on the website and started to look at profiles. the next day she walked into the adoption agency and said that she knew who her family was. she told them she wanted andy and alison. they asked her if she wanted to see other profiles and she told them no. they asked her if she wanted to actually see our profile book and she said yes. she looked at it and said again that we were her family. they asked if she was sure that she didn’t want to see other profile books and she turned them down. she said she just knew. both of us got chills. (i will admit she loved the family farm and that andy looked goofy and fun). but she wanted us. she chose us.
when we met your mother…
we are still using the agency to do our communicating. the plan was to meet at the agency at 4:00 to meet the birth mother. we pulled into the parking lot at 3:28 and andy said we couldn’t go in yet. (i agreed). we sat in the car and talked a little bit and waited forever before we went inside. i think i was contemplating throwing up in the bushes and asking what this meeting was going to be like. andy was looking up a restaurant to see if they opened their new location. i finally said we needed to go in because i needed to pee and it was time (3:37). we went in told them we were there and waited in the waiting room. we waited forever and imagined what this meeting would be like. finally (3:44) our case worker came to get us. we asked a few follow up questions before we met the mother and she said you ready? we walked down the long hall. my heart was beating out of my chest, my mouth was drying out, and my legs felt like jelly following her down the hall. we got to the door and walked into a room full of people. the birth mother was there (and her friend). our case worker and her pregnancy counselor were there (as well as an intern that has been working with the birth mother). the agency workers were at the heads of the table and the birth mother and her friend were sitting on one side and andy and i went to the other side. he sat across from the birth mother and i took the place across from her friend. we all were introduced (first names only). we looked at each other with that curiosity and mortification of a really weird blind date. i was very thankful for the agency workers because they helped us get the conversation going.
the birth mother asked (through her friend) why we wanted to be parents. we answered and they nodded. then we sat in silence for hours (maybe a minute). they asked about the farm and we talked about the animals – and a spark lit up her eyes and the corners of her mouth tilted up and the shyness was drifting away and her full personality started to emerge. i asked her favorite color – pink is the answer (any shade). we talked about hobbies (she likes to be outside and loves horses) and playing instruments (she plays the piano – self taught). she told us that she picked us online before she even walked into the agency out of thousands of other profiles. i can’t remember the exact course of our conversation, but we talked. we laughed together. she got choked up. i got choked up. the magnitude of the situation didn’t escape us.
once it seemed like our first date was coming to a close we prayed and were told to take 24 hours and get back with our case worker (and her with her pregnancy counselor). she basically said before we walked out of the room that she had made her decision.
andy and i went to dinner to celebrate getting to the next step. i called our case worker and left a message for her to call me. she called a little bit later and answered a few questions. my biggest one being – how did she think it went. she told me great! i looked at andy across the table and shrugged – he nodded and i nodded and i told her we wanted to move forward.
after dinner we went to babies r us and walked around. a place that made me cry hundreds of time over the past 6 years had me crying again – bittersweet tears. the end of one journey and beginning of another journey. it wasn’t that big of a shock that the theme we picked out years ago had been discontinued, but we did buy a bear to remember the day we meet our child’s mother.