I don’t want to write this article. I don’t want to keep waking up and remembering. I don’t want to turn off Netflix and think. I don’t like the moments of silence because I soon fill them with tears. I don’t want to be sad. I don’t want to wallow in misery or self pity. I don’t want to think about all of the what-if’s. I want to stop feeling like I am being punished when I know in my heart I was more likely given a gift. I don’t want to keep looking at my husband’s beautiful eyes and see them tinged with grief. I don’t want to feel the emptiness in my womb. I don’’t want to see the blood in the toilet. I don’t want to remember the moment I knew he was gone.
But the happy memories bring me tears.
From the moment I realized I had missed my period to the two pink stripes peering back at me from the pregnancy test I was in love and I was in fear. I knew my risks. The factor of my age. I knew how deeply I wanted this child conceived in the greatest love. I was determined to do everything within my power to give this child every opportunity for a healthy fetal development. But from the first moment I knew it was really out of my hands. Who this child would be, how this pregnancy would go, boy or girl…all determined before I even knew I was pregnant.
That first ultrasound at 8 weeks. My husband by my side. We cried when we saw the heartbeat. We laughed, we cried, we laughed some more. We couldn’t believe the timing: baby was due the day before my daughter’s scheduled Bat Mitzvah. It all just added to the humor of a family sending one child off to Marine Boot Camp as we prepared to welcome another to our world.
Telling the children was the most fun of all. Our daughter had been begging us to give her a baby, sister preferably, from the moment we got married. We planned and colluded to find just the right moment to bring the kids together, over ice cream of course, to break the news. They were shocked and amazed. They thought we were pulling a prank but when the reality set in the full range of emotions swept through the kids. We showed them the picture of the first ultrasound and began referring to the baby as Peanut.
The kids rubbed my still flat (ish) tummy and wished Peanut good morning and good night. My daughter got her red cross first aid and CPR training and felt ready to care for the child day and night. My son worried about how to be a good role model when he struggles so himself. The Marine Recruit worried that his sibling would not know him and we planned skype calls and the like. Every conversation had a little bit of extra Peanut joy.
I could not stop talking about it. Every person I met learned that I was pregnant. I am sure it may have been annoying to some but I could not have been more excited and I had to share. I was also exhausted and VERY nauseous at the beginning and I just felt people needed to know why I was not 100%.
I finally started showing and my husband took me shopping for maternity clothes.
“Fat, or pregnant?” was my go to question. Amazing how he never once answered fat. He’d answer “pregnant” with a glow on his face and rub my tummy.
Each morning I’d flip through my ten pregnancy apps and read the daily report. Weekly I’d read it aloud in bed to Michael. It was the weekly Peanut report. We followed his growth from sesame seed, to kidney bean, to lime, to apple…
I’d had spotting in the beginning so when I started spotting at 14 weeks I hoped it was nothing but in my heart I knew. On the 3rd day of spotting I called my doc and scheduled an appointment. By the time of the appointment the spotting had progressed from brown to red. As I drove in to the doctor’s office I imagined myself saying goodbye to Peanut.
I picked up Michael and together we went in to the ultrasound room. She prepped me and there on the screen was our little Peanut. “Ok Peanut, let’s see that heartbeat.” I remember saying. “Oh honey,” the tech said, “There’s the heart and it is not beating anymore. I’m so sorry.”
My mind went blank. I kept looking at the image on the screen, willing that heart to beat, but I had known that Peanut was gone and I just didn’t want to admit it to myself.
The team at my doctors office was great. They hugged me. They brought me water. They comforted me. Michael held me in his arms and we cried and sobbed. Mere minutes before we were sitting in the waiting room figuring out where to go for lunch and in a moment it seemed our world had come crashing down around us.
Continuing my thoughts from yesterday…
I wake up in the morning and there is this twilight moment where I can’t figure out what is missing and then I remember. It happens each morning this depth of emptiness I have never known. I’ve know loss. I’ve known deep loss. When my grandmother passed 2.5 years ago I thought I would never recover from the void. She was so important to my world. Her love filled me in so many ways. I knew her, I felt her physically, she held me from my tiniest days through adulthood. I never got to hold Peanut in my arms and they ache for that. I ache for the feeling of him in my womb. I ache for my belly just a few days ago hard with baby now mushy from overindulgences in ice cream and pasta. It is all I wanted to eat while pregnant. I bought a stuffie for Peanut on my recent trip to Oregon. My friend Linda stopped by a wonderful little floral and gift shop on the way from the airport to my hotel. There in the back was the cutest little red stuffed rhino/dino. He was so soft and so sweet looking. It would be Peanut’s first friend. We named him Stewart. I sleep with Stewart each night and wake with him near my belly as though he is looking for Peanut. His little red face looks so sad to me now.
As my days go on and the baby bump that was forming continues to disappear I can’t believe that just a week ago I was pregnant and now nothing to show but some weight gain. And I had worked so hard to lose the weight I had packed on after last year’s hip surgery and I have no energy for dieting again.
I apologize for the randomness of my thoughts I can’t yet keep a consistent stream. I really try not to because when I do I end up here, in tears and hurt and pain. I don’t like to be in this place.
I fill my day with distractions. All 13 episodes of Orange is the New Black in 2 days. (Great show BTW.) Trying to get in to Arrested Development but the story line is to shallow to keep my mind preoccupied. I weeded the whole lawn. A task I had not been able to complete while pregnant. It was hard. The weeds were taking over. I worked up a serious sweat. I weeded until I felt like I would pass out and then I picked up where I left off a few hours later. And yet it hurt me to weed. I can’t explain the thought process but while I wanted to annihilate the weeds I didn’t want to take away any more life in this world. I know rationally that I did not take away Peanut’s life but he died in my womb. In my womb. Inside my body where I so desperately believed I could keep him safe. It is outside the womb that my children face risks everyday but inside my womb where I was so careful about everything that entered my body they are supposed to be safe from harm in there.
Today Michael had to go in to the office for his board meeting. He did not want to go. He did not want to leave me. I did not want him to go but I understood that he had no choice. I also believe that we have to get back to living life. I am alone for the first time since that moment we learned that Peanut’s little heartbeat was no more. I am scared. I don’t like being alone with my thoughts. When Michael is here I feel a responsibility to move forward, to smile, to distract him. We spent hours looking online at cruises we simply have no money to take. But it felt good to dream of ocean air, of dressing up for dinner, of dancing, of making love. Now alone in the house I am haunted. I have little pictures of our ultrasounds of Peanut everywhere. Not in frames but just laying on the counter where the family could enjoy them. A window into our new family member.
I know I must move forward. My little guy is struggling and will be home soon. His anxiety will be peaked when he learns that Peanut is no more. My daughter will be home a few weeks later and she too will be devastated at the loss of her sibling she ached for, begged for and dreamed of. Our Marine Recruit is in the midst of boot camp he won’t know until October. We don’t want to distract him from the grueling work both physical and mental that he must do each day in his daily march towards his own dreams and the making of his own adult life. We won’t be able to mourn as a family for some time.
I have moments of normalcy. I cancelled my engagements this week. I am not ready to face the world. In truth I am afraid to speak to people. I can’t handle speaking aloud the words that run from my mind to this page. I had to go over the details for a session I was to lead in Rifle, Colorado tomorrow. I was so looking forward to working with this group. This is a group of individuals working to revive Main Street in many small towns around our state. When I traveled to all 50 states some of the most amazing community builders I met were working around the revivals of their own Main Street. There is much promise in this type of development and I was so thrilled to even be asked. As I sat on the phone with my friend Darcy, going point by point over the agenda: Define community, create a social media mission statement, Build consensus, Understand the unique language of platforms, Learn to engage… I was alive. I love my work. I live to present. 3 opportunities to connect, engage and empower community builders and small business leaders lost. I was so looking forward to this week. I loved standing in front of rooms of people who came to hear me speak dressed in my pretty maternity dresses my baby bump proudly on display. Laughing with the group when I stumbled and blaming pregnancy brain…now I have to go back to blaming my age, they say the memory is the second thing to go… Next week I will be back on the road. I have to prepare to face my new “normal.”
How do we do it? To my mother’s discomfort I am very open on Facebook. I write about parenting in that I hope others will relate, pick up a helpful tool, laugh and so I share. I shared about this pregnancy early on. I heard immediately from a slew of incredible, smart, powerful women who all had babies in their 40’s. I know a number of their exceptional progeny. I enjoyed sharing about dealing with 40 and dealing with pregnancy. You were all there for us when we got the first hint of trouble. You all celebrated with us when we received the first step of promising news. Those who knew were holding your breath with us while we waited for the heart scan which was scheduled for next week. You share your stories with us. You made us laugh. You made us cry. You made us pray. When I posted our painful news you were there for us again. Though I have not responded I have read every single message. I have ached for how many of you have losses of your own. I hold promise as I see that you who have lost have moved from pain to being able to see and share joy. I am comforted by your words of friendship.
My joy will be around the moments of absolute wonder Peanut brought us. There were so many over the short 4 months of his existence. It was that last ultrasound where he waved at the screen. We now know that only a few days later his heart stopped. He was waving goodbye.
Daddy and I love you so much Peanut and you will always be a part of our family even though we never got to hold you, we never got to kiss you, your sister and her friends never got to make you their dress up toy. I miss you so deeply that the breath leaves my lungs when I think about you. I will fill that emptiness with your tiny soul and it will bring me joy. What fun you were coming so unexpectedly, trying to share your grand entrance with your sister’s bat mitzvah celebration. And you left at the time you were supposed to leaving us to wonder but know in our hearts that your purpose was served here. I know that these words are hollow right now but they are the basis for my healing. I love you Peanut. I will always love you Peanut. Thank you for being a part of me for even a brief blip on the screen. You are my child and I hold you in my heart next to your brothers and sister. This morning Daddy’s friend wrote to say that her little girl was out there waiting to play with you. She surmises that the two of you are probably already the best of friends. So many of my friends have children out there wherever you are. I hope you are having the best of time playing with them. Remember to play nicely, share and always be loving and kind. You are loved deeply by so many. I love you Peanut.