About solongsouthernscenes

Sergio and I started this blog years ago as a way to chronicle our first move across the country as a couple. We're now well beyond that--three moves altogether and a couple of kids along the way. We've talked about hiking, beer, babies and loss--the full gamete!

After the rainbow appears

It’s that time again, when I begin to have a love/hate relationship with Facebook “memories” and the Timehop app. The latter notified me today that I had not yet checked in to see what May 15 memories were in store for me to see. There was a cute little baby ultrasound.

export2003642209

At first, I wasn’t sure which baby this was since Lucy and Sage are within two weeks of having the same due date. But I did know. Tears welled up as I saw the “2 years” noted at the top of the photos. This was Lucy. It’s been two years since I texted that cute ultrasound snapshot around to family and close friends. 13w5d, it says. This means that in a few days the photo of our Facebook announcement will come back to haunt me.

885731_10205642345212273_1173981812727779717_o

And then, just four weeks after that, our announcement that the pregnancy is all over will smack me.

We call June 20 Lucy Day. For her birthday, we have started doing a random act of kindness like going up to the bakery section of the grocery store, asking for the bill of a child’s cake (preferably around the same age as she would be) and purchasing the cake for the family. Last year this act gave me a way to talk to Ruthie about her sister, despite the fact that I was noticeably pregnant with her other sister, Sage.

And that’s the difference this year–Sage.

sage1

Remembering loss after a rainbow has been an interesting journey. Still, there is not one single day, or maybe hour, I don’t somehow think of Lucy. There’s always something that reminds me of her, her death and our loss.

I look at Sage and know in my head that she would not be here if Lucy had lived to be born mid-November instead of born still in June. Loss parents, I think, don’t think in those terms. We want both. We want the baby no longer here and the rainbow baby.

And Mother’s Day is a great (insert sarcasm) reminder of one of our kids missing, not acknowledged and not part of the day. I have begun to see Mother’s Day as, hear me out, a little crueler than I ever had before we lost Lucy. It singles out those who have birthed, fostered and adopted children as the heroes among us, leaving those with infertility, illnesses and/or loss out in the cold.

Sergio and I have talked a lot on changing the script, for us, on Mother’s and Father’s days. Lucy died two days before Father’s Day that year. I gave birth to her one day before. Father’s Day, that year, became a year we did not want to rejoin the living. I’d rather do something for others that day or get out into nature, enjoying each moment with our little family more.

This year has been incredible although the pain of two years ago never goes away. Sage did and continues to do all she can to ease my wounded heart. She’s my amazing little one who gave me life again and allowed me to regain some of my confidence once shattered.

If I hold her a little tighter for a little longer, please know how special Sage is to me.

sage2

And Ruthie–ahh has that little one been made of everything that’s good in this world. I see empathy, compassion and so much love in her. I’ve never witnessed a big sister love like this girl gives Sage on a daily basis. Each time she sees her, it’s as though they’ve been separated by an ocean for a year. Ruthie lays some big kisses on her and says, “Come here, Sagie; give me a hug!”

sage3.jpg

I don’t know how Lucy would have fit into their love and their personalities. I’d like to think all three of our girls, each a year apart, would form the most amazing feminist organization ever and bring hope to girls everywhere.

I just want them all–all three. But as Lucy Day approaches, I’ll get out my box of Lucy, the box they gave me at the hospital to put the few “mementos” of her I have, and touch the little hat she wore with the little dress, all on a tiny blanket where she was placed. I’ll look through my photos of her, trying to envision what she would have looked like as a two year old.

IMG_20151012_152214

Advertisements

Along came Sage

Sage

noun
1. a profoundly wise person; a person famed for wisdom.
2. someone venerated for the possession of wisdom, judgment, and experience.

We had a list of names when we were expecting Ruthie. That list stayed with us as we were pregnant with Lucy and then again with our last arrival–a little one with the task of helping us heal our wounded hearts.

img_20161105_185405873

Right after Ruthie was born, we frantically wrote about the labor and delivery so we’d remember. We’d come back to it and relive it again and again. It was an incredible birth and scary few days later that it took time to truly sink in. I took to the keyboard again after Lucy’s coming and going. It was healing for me, and it still is. I also want to help normalize loss, or at least the discussions and affirmations of that experience. Wanting so badly for others to help us remember Lucy, I told the Internet.

This time, it’s been nearly three months after Sage joined our family that I write (we’re a little busy moving to Minneapolis from Atlanta). I was due October 30. October was special as it was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and I was carrying our rainbow baby (I wrote about the pregnancy and never really sent it out). The whole nine months was terrifying, but we took it a day at a time. I truly did not feel comfortable going over my due date but knew Ruthie took her sweet time joining us Earth side (eight additional days to be exact). I kept going to my midwives and doing more “things” to get things going than I normally would.

When baby and my body were ready, I went into labor on November 2 for a few hours and through the night. I stalled out after hearing Ruthie’s grandparents were about 11 hours away (your mind is amazing). The next night, game 7 of the World Series, I went back into labor around 5 p.m. The baby would do what felt like flips during each contraction. As each hour progressed, as did the pain. I was already three centimeters dilated going into this, and by 10 p.m. I would have sworn I was in transition (no where close!). Sergio and I did every tactic we could think of while our toddler slept and the in-laws watched the game. Then house was quiet and I just couldn’t take laboring there any longer. At 2 a.m. and contractions at 2-3 minutes apart, off we went to the hospital. We got checked in and sat, and sat, and sat. The nurse assured me a midwife was there and (like you hear a million times) I was doing great.

Finally, the midwife came in, checked me and gave me devastating news–I was only four centimeters! How could this be?! That was the last I saw of her for a while. A few hours passed and I decided the epidural was going to be my jam this time around at five centimeters. I had labored for a few days now (it’s November 3 at this point); I mothered a two year old; and hell, it was apparent no one here was going to help me labor. After having to get the epi twice because it was done wrong, I got a hot spot. This hurt twice as bad as the contractions and didn’t come and go. They rolled me like sushi to get the medicine to cover my back more. It was awful.

Sergio and I finally settled in for a little rest. My sister, Gina, was anxiously awaiting any news of progress. She was my closest relative–and friend–while we were in Atlanta and decided to hop on up to poke at my numb toes, I’m guessing. She and I were getting into a really good story when the nurse came to check me again (given no one had for hours). It was going on noon and hot damn, I was fully dilated!

I was determined to get this baby out faster than I had Ruthie (2 1/2 hours of pushing). Sergio and my sister coached me through each rise in the contractions, giving it all I had without bursting a blood vessel in my head. After an hour, I began to feel a fever setting in. The fetal monitor was indicating that the baby was also feeling it. Ruthie and I had danced this dance, too. Speaking of dancing, pushing this one out was two steps forward and one step back each time. After the threat of having to get the forceps by the midwife, I pushed with everything I had. FINALLY! They laid this squishy, gorgeous baby on my chest where we could see we had another little girl!

15003358_1141221499299483_4158231458400886590_o

A loss parent can see in my eyes I’m saying with relief, “you’re here, little baby, you’re really here.”

It was evident, after she was out, that she came out by the side of her head–a head that was huge to begin with. I’ll never be the same! She was 8 lbs. and 3 oz. and was 22 1/2 inches long.

14940020_1141221389299494_1065209198389374433_o

We named her Sage Rae. Sage was a lovely gender neutral name that spoke to us. Sergio read that European countries don’t tell their children to be good, instead they say, “be sage.” Rae is my sister’s middle name. She’s been our person over the last few years. We owe a lot to her for her constant support, love and presence.

Sage was quickly rushed over to the NICU nurses to get her breathing and fever stabilized. That was the last I’d feel Sage for more than five hours.

Northside Hospital in Atlanta has what’s called a transition room where I swear every baby born goes to despite being told they’d honor the golden hour and do all baby stuff in-room. After an hour passed and I’m alone in the delivery room (a loss mom who had no baby in her arms), the anxiety set in. Ruthie and my in-laws came to meet the newest arrival, but Sage wasn’t there.

When they went to see her in the nursery, there she was–alone, with a pacifier and no one monitoring her but somehow she wasn’t well enough for me to nurse her and give her skin-to-skin. After two hours ticked slowly by, Sergio called wanting to know what was going on. They said she had jaundice and needed more hours with them. This was bullshit. Yes, she had elevated bilirubin numbers but sitting alone in a room under no lights and no skin-to-skin wasn’t helping anything. She should be with me.

After four hours, I called that room and cried my heart out, begging to see my baby. “No,” they said. But they had fed her formula. I was crushed. Her first feeding and it wasn’t by us.

Five hours slowly passed and finally Sergio fought to have the bililights set up in our room. Still though, we could only touch her for 30 minutes every three hours. That precious time was reserved for nursing. Her eyes were covered with a mask as she lay alone in a cold crib under lights. Devastated.

img_20161105_093447204

She’s still under lights in the swaddle here.

Over the next 24 hours, we were told we may have the leave the hospital without her. If her bilirubin numbers didn’t stabilize, she’d be admitted into the NICU. But as she aged, even by the hour, she began to stabilize.

img_20161104_110825045

We never got that photo of our brand new family of four at the hospital. We didn’t take newborn photos of her there because time outside the lights was so limited. We rarely got to do intentional skin-to-skin, especially Sergio. I never saw one test or procedure done on her in the room. Each prick of the heel, each test, the bath, the medicines were all done out of the room. We were definitely lied to there.

We were told “we played by the rule book” to get her home on time. We didn’t take her out of the lights. We supplemented with formula to push poop/jaundice out faster. But we had to beg to make it all happen. Yes, I have a happy and healthy baby girl at home, but that doesn’t mean I don’t mourn the loss of a delivery that I had hoped for–mostly because I don’t believe most of if was medically sound reasons to keep her from us. I fought for nine months to have her vaginally, never thinking I’d have to fight to hard to just hold her.

Our Sage is now three months old and it’s as though she was here all along. I felt broken after Lucy. Seeing Sage each morning, smiling like crazy, makes me know that Lucy is still all around us, part of our family and happy Sage is here. Ruthie is in love with her baby sister, giving her more hugs and kisses than Sergio and I get now.

img_20170127_103448201-animation

Yep, we’re pretty lucky and so in love with our littles (Ruthie, Lucy and Sage).

Rainbow baby: The beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of any storm. When a rainbow appears, it does not mean the storm never happened, or that we are still not dealing with its aftermath. It means that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover, but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy and hope.

img_20170127_124600773

Sage is our rainbow, giving us sunlight and love.

This time around with Baby P3

Last month, our family celebrated Lucy’s first birthday with chocolate cake and sprinkles. We also did a random act of kindness in her honor by purchasing a birthday cake for a stranger–our new tradition to do on “Lucy Day.” She was born at 1:33 p.m., Saturday, June 20 after almost 36 hours of heavily induced labor. Not a day, even an hour, goes by that Sergio and I don’t think about her and what might have been if she were here today.

With all the courage we could muster, we decided to again welcome a baby into our lives. Pregnancy after loss (PAL) is sometimes called a white-knuckled pregnancy, when each day you wonder if the baby is still alive, thriving and viable–holding onto the hope of a different outcome. So far, so good. We are taking this one day by day, moment by moment and just thankful to be able to try again–yearning to bring a baby home in our arms instead of a box of things our baby briefly wore and touched before cremation.

Baby P3

Baby P3 at 18 weeks

We knew from the start, we’d do things differently this time around, our third time (that sounds so strange to say). I think most PAL parents make up their own way of getting through the agonizing wait of nine months until a breathing baby comes home. Here’s a few things we’re doing:

  1. No social media grand announcement
    We just couldn’t, not after doing one with Lucy and then having to go back and say it’s all over. I have mixed feelings about it–we wanted to protect our hearts this time, but we also want to be advocates for talking about child loss. But, the bottom line is, we would just prefer to get through these long months and not do anything to jinx our outcome. Self-preservation, I guess. Even this blog post isn’t some way to tell the world I’m pregnant. It’ll only be delivered to the very few people who’ve signed up to get it through email and the slim chance someone stumbles upon it. It’s a way to talk through my own emotions while I’m on this roller-coaster ride of pregnancy after loss. I have no plans of shying away from photos or people asking, it’s just that we couldn’t do some elaborate announcement. I have a good community of support on Instagram and share some of my PAL journey there. I’ve also joined other parents breaking the silence of loss with campaigns to raise awareness.
  2. Delaying any preparation until baby comes home
    Thankfully, because we are lucky enough to have a living child already, we have most of what we need to get through the first weeks and months of bringing home another  little one. Like above, anything that could hurt our hearts if something comes wrong just isn’t worth the trauma. I remember finding things I had gotten for Lucy’s arrival and having to put everything away or donating just to get out it out of my sight so I could heal.
  3. No baby showers or sprinkles, please
    We prefer to have something more like friends and family coming by after the baby is born to welcome. These types of things just trigger pain and sadness. We know there’s never going to be a magic week where we feel with any certainty this time will be different. Instead, please send us your love, positive affirmations and gentle words of encouragement. Right now, this is what we need to push forward.
  4. Avoiding comments that are triggers–even with the best of intentions
    We know that none of our friends or family members want this time to end in sadness, but we need your help in protecting our hearts. Here are a few things that hurt to hear:
    “Ruthie will be a big sister!” She has been a big sister since the day we became pregnant with Lucy. We want Lucy to always be part of our family and recognized as, now, the middle sibling for our oldest child.
    “You have to remain positive.” Please, I’m doing my best to hold it together each day. I’m doing all I can.
    – (This one comes from strangers…) “Is this your first?” Within the PAL community, the question comes up a lot on how we should navigate this comment. I’ve learned to never ask a pregnant person this question because you never know the trigger it could stir. Just don’t.
    “Do you hope it’s a boy or a girl?” I hope it’s a breathing baby–that’s all. Sergio and I are team green with all our babies. We love waiting to find out after hours of labor and pushing. I even remember it being a precious moment in finding out with Lucy.
  5. Forgetting Lucy
    This pregnancy doesn’t wash away Lucy’s existence and the pain I still deal with each day. A rainbow baby is the baby who comes after loss: stillbirth, miscarriage or infant/child death.

    Rainbow baby: The beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of any storm. When a rainbow appears, it does not mean the storm never happened, or that we are still not dealing with its aftermath. It means that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover, but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy and hope.

    It’s my wish that this baby is in the correct birth order: our third child and not our second. It is my wish that in welcoming our new little one, our Lucy is also remembered just by saying her name.

At this point, I am 6 1/2 months pregnant. I am a complicated patient for my OB/GYN and midwives. Each pregnancy I’ve had offers its own obstacle to this one: five days after Ruthie was born, I had two unexplained brain hemorrhages; I had a large blood clot in the placenta with Lucy; and now I have placenta previa, where my placenta is near the edge of my cervix, putting me at a low risk of bleeding. But, test results are all good this time around and, despite a few restrictions due to the previa, my birth team is positive in the outcome.

And even though I’m firmly in the second trimester, there is no “safe zone,” where we don’t fear loss quite as much. Lucy was born at 18 weeks, so we know there isn’t one until we deliver and hold a screaming baby in our arms. At some point, we will be brave enough to talk about a name, to discuss details about our birth plan or to purchase items we do need to have another baby at home.

Those who have walked this path before us and are going through it now are who keep us steadily moving forward. I am part of several online communities of PALs parents and those still grieving. Our friends and families are sensitive to our journey, providing space, love and support. We couldn’t do this alone. I am thankful to everyone, especially Sergio and Ruthie, who help me find some inner strength to carry a special little one for a few more months.

IMG_20160612_182401583

Something positive I think I’ve learned during this last year is how passionate I am about being a voice of these issues. I hope to encourage women to talk about their experiences, losses or successes. I also hope to encourage women to not hide away their pregnancies during the first 12 weeks. I don’t mean to say that women should blast it on social media, but I hope you don’t feel as though you have to go through the joy of expectancy or the sadness of early miscarriage alone. For either situation, we all need a community of love and support to help us. With my first two pregnancies, I went through the sickness, fatigue and hormonal imbalance with only the support of my husband (who is the best cheerleader, by the way!). This time, I was open and honest with anyone around. I told, right away, those who have been by my side during my loss journey. These people wanted to walk this path with me. Their joy, excitement and understanding has held me up when I went through days where I didn’t want to get out of bed from anxiety.

I also now know how much I care that women are fully supported to have the births they want. Because of my previous complications and now with placenta previa, I may have a one-way ticket to c-section. I support a women’s choice to have either a vaginal or c-section birth, but for me, I have a deep desire to labor and push. It’s just inside me to try and naturally welcome a new baby. When I express this, I often hear, “a healthy baby is what you want.” I know this. I know this more than anyone. Wanting a vaginal birth doesn’t mean I want to harm the baby or myself. If there is risk, I get it and I’ll conform happily enough. But, I want to make sure this is a medically and scientifically-based decision and not one made because I’m just a little more complicated than some. I have become my own advocate, realizing how difficult it is for women to get the right information to make good decisions.

I am emotionally all over the place now days. I rest easily immediately after a doctor’s appointment, but it doesn’t last long. I have worked to bond with this baby, and I have. I love this little one, I think, even more because I feel Lucy helping us. I’ve read that the DNA of previous births remain inside a women even after birth. I hope that’s true. I’d like to think a little of her and a little of Ruthie are what is keeping this little one safe and sound.

I meditate on the song sung at Lucy’s memorial service, a service at the hospital where she was born and one shared with all babies lost in that six-month time period. Being non-religious, this meant everything for us to hear and still resonates:

Someday I’ll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top
That’s where you’ll find me

Oh, somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly
And the dream that you dare to,
Oh why, oh why can’t I?

Well I see trees of green and red roses too,
I’ll watch them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

Well I see skies of blue
And I see clouds of white
And the brightness of day
I like the dark
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

Our Grief Journey

Quote

Our blog started the day we set out on our incredible adventure out west in 2012. We packed up and began a 12-day road trip from Mobile, Ala. to Spokane, Wash.–and seeing all the sites in-between.

The journey we’re on today seems a far-cry from the almost-newlywed bliss we enjoyed just a few years ago. Oh, how we’ve grown. Aged you might say. We welcomed our oldest daughter, Ruthie, into our lives and no amount of worldly travel compared to our joy and love for her. That holds true today. We’re more settled now, happy to sit in our yard (while drinking a beer, of course) and watch her run around, swing, dance and slide.

IMG_20151021_124827

Joining us now in our Atlanta yard is our memorial for our youngest daughter, Lucy. Although we never met her while she was alive, we talked to her in the weeks and months that she lived in my belly, in our home and certainly in our hearts.IMG_20151012_152214

Butterflies aren’t always the image for stillborn babies, but it’s ours. We share this symbol (as we now know) with our dear friends who we bought our house from a year ago. The butterfly begins its life in peril, avoiding predators, looking for fitting habitat and eating all it can in a short amount of time. Within days and weeks, it transforms itself in a remarkable way by enveloping itself inside a cocoon or chrysalis. The butterfly, having beaten all odds, flies away, radiating color, strength and grace.

It’s Mexican folklore, during El Dia de los Muertos, that migrating monarch butterflies symbolize deceased loved ones returning to visit the living. We love this.

IMG_20151019_123148

Each time a butterfly floats by us, we see Lucy. Sergio has busily created a pollinator garden, one we’ve now dedicated to her–The Lucy Nature Trail. As the seasons change, we’ll see new plants and flower emerge. We’re creating new life, new beginnings and even endings.

Who is a grieving mother?

She’s one held hostage by dates on the calendar and unexpected triggers.
And one who will always pause for sunsets, butterflies, and sweet signs from above.
She’s one who lets go of friends unable to support her.
And one who treasures those who didn’t walk away.

IMG_20151010_222947

This journey has been different for us, as you can imagine. As the house quiets down at night, the waves of emotion hit me, Meagan, like a monsoon. I mourn her loss each and every day–some days feel as though it just happened. Sergio certainly thinks of her each day, too. As he paces the garden, he looks at Ruthie and he wants it to be perfect for her and for Lucy. It feels like we’re back at the beginning–planning to welcome a new life into our family and awaiting the right time.

Figuring out, or  trying to, what went wrong has helped immensely in our grief process. We don’t know for sure, but it doesn’t seem like a cord accident created the full unraveling of the pregnancy. A large blood clot was found in my placenta, cutting off oxygen to Lucy. Why this happened and could it happen again are answers we’re looking for but answers we may never get.

What’s been even more remarkable to me has been the shear awareness we now have of bereaved parents lurking among us. Has that always been out there and I only notice now because I’m part of the club? I’m not sure. I wish I had known more before I became one. When you’re pregnant–the cute first-timer–everyone will say, “don’t read that stuff!” Don’t read the horror stories of what could go wrong. When it’s 1 in 4 women who will have a miscarriage, stillborn or infant loss, we should all be more aware, educated and prepared. I wish I knew what would happen at 18 weeks when I lost my pregnancy. I wish I knew that I’d have to be induced. I wish I knew that I should spend a little alone time telling her goodbye while she was still inside me. I wish I knew to take a family photo with her. I wish I knew…

Just four months into this new journey, and we’re such newcomers still. We have a ways to go–forever. I should be just 14 short days away from meeting my bright-eyed, squishy baby, but I’m not. I held her when she was less than 1 pound and that would be it.

Please, let me say this isn’t fair. Let me scream it at the top of my lungs. It’s not fair. We planned for her; we wanted her; we asked her to join our family. It’s just not fair. Please, don’t tell me not to say it. You can say it, too.

October has been the awareness month for Pregnancy & Infant Loss. It’s helped me read stories of grief to know I’m not alone. It’s helped me have courage to read stories of rainbow babies telling me it may not all be sorrow. It’s helped me dig down deep and unlock feelings, anxieties and regrets–hopes, dreams and happiness.

We aren’t timed during this grief journey. We may walk down this path for the rest of our lives. Thanks to all who are walking closely with us.

IMG_8093

Lucy Existed

That first listen to the heartbeat is nothing short of intense and mind-blowing. We were all three there–a wiggling toddler held tightly in her Papa’s arms as he managed to focus a little attention to the screen showing us our second Baby P.

All the questions leading up to this point were about, “how can we have two little ones so close in age?” Sergio would say, “We just can. It’ll be fine.” I, however, was terrified of the thought. Having a split-level house is just a constant effort to keep one from tumbling down the stairs. But, I felt it was time to begin trying, too. It was while I was visiting a good friend in Florida (picking out her wedding dress) that I realized I was probably pregnant. Ruthie and I returned home, went shopping for a test and there it was–two lines.

We began making immediate accommodations for having two under two. A second car had to be bought that could hold two car seats and all their baggage; baby gates that could help keep Ruthie from hurting herself too badly; and ramping up the cloth diaper supply. It was happening.

I thought I was sick with all-day-morning-sickness with Ruthie, but this felt way worse. I imagine it was because I tried not to be for the sake of Ruthie. I mean, how terrifying would it be to hear your mama endure an exorcism each day? I quickly popped and really splurged on maternity clothing this time, too. I signed up for StitchFix because they just added maternity to their line up for their addictive program. Of course, because this was going to be our last pregnancy. Two is enough and all we needed to be a complete family.

Doctors visits happened with adorable ultrasounds of Baby P that I sent to everyone. We made the news Facebook official at 14 weeks. That’s enough time to wait, right? You’re over the first trimester scariness, feeling a little better and wanting to share your happy news. Plus, there’s just no hiding that baby bump much longer than that.

At my 15-week appointment, my new Atlanta OB/GYN gave me the MSAFP test that screens for defects like spina bifida. So confident after having a perfect little Ruthie, this test (like the others) never worried me. I took the test on a Friday and by Tuesday saw that my OB was calling me. That’s too soon for good news. I was on my way to pick up Ruthie from daycare and knew I shouldn’t answer that call. I did. Whoever it was talking said that I had a positive screen of elevated AFP hormones, or something like that. “All this means,” he said, “is that you need more testing. Would you like to see a genetic counselor and possibly undergo amniocentesis?” “Uhh, I guess,” I managed to say as tears streamed down my face.

Now, I have to tell Sergio that there may be something wrong with Baby P. What does this even mean? I had no idea. Something could be wrong with the baby’s spinal cord, the placenta or brain. I had taken 800 mg of Folic Acid in my prenatal vitamins leading up to us trying to become pregnant. I had done what I was supposed to do. Why is this happening?

The next week was filled with fear, tears and the feeling like we can’t move until we get more information. I ran into a dear friend who had gone through something similar. “Let’s go to coffee,” she said when I bumped into her and immediately began crying. She talked me through her experience, which led to a heartbreaking discovery that their baby would not be able to make it to term. But, she helped me understand what those next steps in this whole process would be. She held my hand, “I’m sure it’s ok.”

And it was. Sergio and I met with a genetic counselor who said my levels were only slightly elevated–why didn’t they say that on the phone? There wasn’t anything in our family history to make us worry. Then onto the high risk OB/GYN and another ultrasound. There’s the baby and he/she looks great! All curled up, we didn’t get a great view of the entire back. The doctor said he didn’t see anything we should be worried about, “the baby is beautiful,” he said. He was more interested in the brain hemorrhages I experienced after Ruthie was born. He gave us hope that he would look into it more and figure out how we could still have this baby vaginally. Good news!

Baby planning was back into high gear for that next week. By now, I’m 18 weeks and just 9 days after my last ultrasound with the high risk doctor, I now am going to see Baby P again for my routine checkup and anatomy scan. No gender reveals please!

Sergio didn’t come because he got some 1:1 time with Ruthie with me gone, and we just had this same u/s pretty much with the last doctor’s visit. I hopped up on the table and got as comfy as you can on those tables. The tech placed the wand on my belly and her face went blank. I’ll never forget what she said next, “It’s not good, Meagan.” What? What do you mean? “There’s no heartbeat.” She put down the wand and went and got someone else. I don’t know who, but this person held my hand and said, “these things just happen.” Not at 18 weeks! No! No! This cannot be what has happened. Please check again! My baby is alive, please check!

I was taken to another room so I could cry away from the happily expecting mothers. I called Sergio and told him to come right away. I had to tell him in person. I’m the one carrying this being, a being that is partly him and partly me, and it’s all over. How can I tell him this news?

I realized I had to call my sister right away. Living three hours away, she needed to get on the road because that day was our baby’s delivery day. This was the first time I said the words, “I’ve lost the baby,” outloud. I melted and went into a deeper kind of sadness. “Oh my god,” she said, “I’m so sorry–I’m on my way.” She put down everything, packed up her almost 3 year old and got here in three hours.

“You’ll be induced,” that nurse or midwife or someone said, “and we can make it as painless as possible.” Those words, painless. It reminded me of watching my dad die just a few years ago. They made it as painless as possible, the doctor told me and my siblings as Dad slipped away.

Sergio and I went back home in shock. We have to tell our parents. We have to get Ruthie ready to be without us for–for how long? A few hours? A day or two? Stillbirth, like pregnancy, is different for every woman and every baby.

Stillbirth.

That’s what this was. That dear friend who also lost her baby made this point to me. Technically, stillborn babies are born after 20 weeks. This was not a miscarriage though. The next 36 hours would include us in a birthing room, going through contractions and delivering a baby we would not bring home.

Ruthie would spend her first night without me–a nursing mother to her still who would not come home. My sister and her little boy took such good care of her on father’s day weekend with her being away from her own family.

By 2 p.m. on the same day we learned that Baby P was dead, I took the first of many pills that would begin the expelling process. Do I get an epidural? I’m 18 weeks. We haven’t had time to think about this. What will this feel like? Will it be as bad as with Ruthie or could I get through it? All the staff reminded me that this wasn’t the pregnancy to try and go natural for. This was not the labor/delivery to remember.

After eight hours of contractions, I asked for the epidural. I want this nightmare to be over. More pills to get contractions going hard were given. During the night, Sergio read through the packet we were given when we arrived. Grieving. It was on how to grieve and get through this process. Name the baby, it said. By 1:30 on Saturday, June 20, Lucy arrived after only two pushes. Lucy comes from my mother’s name, Lucinda, and was a top choice all along.

The nurses cleaned her up and gave her to us to hold. So little. Fingers, toes were all there. Her nose was forming, and she looked like a real baby and not the alien she was in the initial ultrasounds. She looked peaceful. She was beautiful.

Her arrival also helped us know what went wrong. It wasn’t, as it appears, due to the MSAFP test. The cord was wrapped around her a few times. Not that this would be the reason she died, but the cord was now pulled too tightly from her belly button. It was separating. Fluke. Rare.

We weren’t the only grieving parents there then. Two other families were enduring the same pain and agony. Our babies were cremated together and their energy passed onto us to continue living.

It’s unnerving to go through this, to have a baby and not come home with one. Thanks to the Reagan Marie Teddy Bear Fund at our hospital, I was wheeled through the Labor/Delivery waiting room that was filled with excited families with a teddy bear placed in my arms. This teddy bear means a great deal to me. I look at it as a reminder that I had this baby and someone cared enough to help me remember that. We were also sent home with a box for Lucy. This included the tiny little knit hat she wore after her delivery, the blanket she laid on and the little dress she wore. She existed.

My pregnancy bump quickly went away, but she existed. I packed away all my maternity clothes, but she still existed. I put away Ruthie’s “Big Sister” shirt, but still I know Lucy existed. Each day, we see something that reminds us of our pain. The H.E.A.R.T.strings Foundation at the hospital took nursery pictures of her and sent them. A handwritten letter came from them with a necklace charm of little feet. It all means the world to us.

Ruthie also reminds us of happiness. We have been successful. We do know what a good birth feels and looks like. The unthinkable happened to us and millions of others, and we don’t know why. Ruthie makes us smile.

My partner, spouse, husband and best friend has been a rock for me. The one who wasn’t pregnant can be overlooked in this grief. He went back and forth while I was in the hospital to be there for Ruthie as much as he could. He was torn to not let me go through labor alone, but he loves his little girl and wanted her to feel comfort.

I know it’s difficult to know what to do or say to someone who has gone through this. But, if I can offer any advice it’s that they don’t know either. They didn’t plan for this, read about it or get themselves prepared in any way. Just fumble through it with them. Tell them you’ll always remember their Lucy and the many other names of babies told me to in the wake of this. Ask them about their experience. There’s healing in discussing it. Understand their pain.

These babies existed.

November 15 will come and go and maybe I won’t be expecting Lucy’s arrival any longer, waking up and quickly remembering I’m no longer pregnant. Putting Ruthie to sleep each night became a little more difficult after Lucy’s death. How can I put her down and walk away for 11 hours? Will she be ok? Will I reach her in time if it’s not? Irrational but it’s the life I’m now in. Regaining my confidence as a mother, woman and wife will be something to work on.

In writing this, I hope to join others who are beginning to talk about miscarriage. stillbirth and infant loss. We cry periodically throughout the day. We might even say we have one more child than you see in our family photo. We remember birthdays that would have been, death dates of our littles and the life we thought we’d have with one more family member. Know us. Help us get through it one day at a time.

Sergio and I can’t thank the staff at Northside Hospital, Reagan Marie Teddy Bear Fund and H.E.A.R.T.strings Perinatal Bereavement Caring & Coping Group enough. And truly, our most heartfelt love goes out to our family members who cried with us, and our friends who called, texted and brought brownies over. Your love will never be forgotten.

A birth to remember and frightening week after…

We were all set and prepared for a natural and amazing birth–exactly what they tell you not to be (somewhat). A week overdue, we implemented natural techniques to induce labor. It worked. Friday, around 9 p.m., excitingly the contractions started although irregular.

Saturday, Meagan labored through the day still a bit irregularly until having lunch with friends, Kajsa and David. Contractions increased all day, which we dutifully recorded with our contraction app. 50 minutes, 30 minutes, 15 minutes, 8, 5, 3, 6, 8, 4, 5, 3, 5, 4, 3, 4, 4, 4. Time to go! We learned in our birthing class that when you try to take a picture of a laboring woman and she gets angry, that’s when you know it’s time to go. A tried and true conclusion (Meagan deleted the photo).

We arrived at the hospital at 11 p.m.on Saturday under the supervision of the one midwife we hadn’t met yet from the midwifery practice. She was great though. She sat with Meagan in the Jacuzzi, moved her around trying out different positions to labor. And Meagan remained calm and controlled for the next eight hours. At some point, the baby turned posterior (sunny-side up). This created a whole other laboring experience. The contractions were coupling and coming 2-3 minutes apart. No time to recover. A new pain also emerged–in Meagan’s side/back area. It was incredibly intense and that combined with the already painful contractions tipped the scale of what we could handle. Meagan, not regrettably but still sadly, asked for an epidural. We were five centimeters at this point. Another five would probably (in our minds) take another eight hours of pain that seemed unbearable. It was also at this point that Sergio became convinced that labor is worse than kidney stones.

Meagan immediately got relief and could nap to prepare for the next phase of labor/delivery. Sergio also got peace of mind, knowing his wife wasn’t in incredible pain. At 12 p.m. on Sunday (how many hours/day is this now??) the midwife broke  Meagan’s bag of waters to try speeding things up. We kept progressing, just slowly. Coming up on 10 p.m. a different and amazing midwife was now in charge, and Meagan finally got to 10 centimeters. It was time to p-u-s-h!

We had a mirror so we could both see the progress we were making and see Ruth’s head begin to crown. After about an hour of pushing, Meagan got a fever of about 104 degrees. This caused Ruth to get a fever and sent her heart rate way up. The midwife gave us 20 minutes to get her out of else they’d have to use the vacuum. NICU nurses arrived to stabilize her when she came out. Things became a little more serious.

Meagan somehow found new strength to get Ruth out–a few big pushes later she arrived. Sergio was so overwhelmed that he forgot to let Meagan know if we had a girl of a boy–and when he told Meagan it was in the the most awe-struck whisper.DSC_0046 (Small)

The cord was loosely wrapped around her neck, and she was pretty pale because of her fever and heart rate. The nurses placed Ruth on Meagan’s chest while Sergio proudly cut the umbilical cord. Ruth was whisked away to get her breathing under control and ease her fever. A few minutes later a calm set in and all was well with our new family of three.DSC_0055 (Small)

DSC_0062 (Small)

We went to the our recovery suite with our child and began working on a name. We had a list but never determined anything until we met her. Ruth Cole Pierluissi–there, she’s named. Ruth came from Sergio’s grandmother’s name and his mother’s middle name. Cole is Meagan’s brother’s name and one we thought went well together.

Our new family went home mid-day Tuesday, wishing we had a call button so our nursing staff came running in. No such luck. The next few days were perfect. Breastfeeding, cuddling and bonding with our beautiful baby girl. Sergio fell so in love on a whole new level. We’re both madly in love with her and think she’s the most amazing baby we could have hoped for.DSC_0063 (Small)

DSC_0041 (Small)

DSC_0049 (Small)

Yeah, we know. We’re not in cloth just yet–trying to recover.

By early Friday morning, during a 3 a.m. nursing session, Meagan’s head hurt more than it ever had. As someone who’s had migraines for almost 15 years, this pain was incomparable. By 3:45, Meagan felt she couldn’t hold it together any longer. Sergio called the midwife on call who said we should get to the ER right away. We dressed our 5-day-old baby and rushed to the hospital–again.

In the ER, the doctor tried to ease the pain by pushing a few medications through an IV–one of which made things a lot worse and broke Meagan out in hives and unable to speak because she was also given Morphine. It was horrifying. Her pulse was 34 (not normal) and her blood pressure spiked. After CT Scans and an EKG, we were sent back to labor and delivery so a team of specialists could figure out what happened.

Another CT Scan and an MRI showed that Meagan had a brain hemorrhage which led to the headache that was probably set off by the high blood pressure. Everyone was perplexed. How did all this happen? Hours later, we were transferred to a tiny and sad room in the neurology unit. Not a place for a baby. Meagan’s main concern was to be able to continue nursing Ruth–so far so good despite a heart monitor (many wires) and an IV running all over her.

All of our beds in one cramped space.

All of our beds in one cramped space.

A neurologist explained that most people would have had a stroke–probably. He also found two brain hemorrhages. Terrifying. Meagan had trouble processing it all and cried 90% of the time.

The scariest part of the ordeal for Sergio was seeing his wife get wheeled off for an MRI, knowing there’s blood in her brain, and having to take care of Ruth alone, if only for a couple hours.IMG_20140315_184524

We were in the hospital for the next 3 days, a time when we should be baby-mooning and enjoying our time off work. On the day we were supposed to leave, Meagan’s heart rate dropped into the 40s. Apparently, the triggers in her brain weren’t properly talking to her heart. She’s now being monitored from home with a heart monitor, and we’re all working to recover and get back to normalcy.

Our friends have been lifesavers, and there’s no way we can thank them properly. While in the hospital, someone had to stay with Meagan and Ruthie while Sergio ran back and forth from the house for supplies. Sarah, Franklin, Jim and Lynette sat with us, brought us continuous food supplies and vowed to bug us until we asked for help. Without family nearby, we don’t know what we would have done without them. More friends, Jillian and Todd, Megan and Sean, also brought delicious food once we returned home–wonderful friends who came to our rescue. The phrase ‘it takes a village’ came to mind many times.

It’s taken a bit to fully understand, or try, what happened and why us. It’s terrifying to think about not being able to care for your newborn child, leaving a husband to carry the full burden. Sergio did so with positivity and ultimate love. All this also came during a difficult time for our family. Meagan’s uncle passed away just a few hours after Ruthie was born. Passing one another in the night.

At the same time, we also can’t believe how incredibly blessed we are that the three of us are healthy and that we finally get to experience all of the fear and excitement that comes with adding a member to the family.

We are happy to report that this incident was probably an isolate event, created by a series of other triggers that we may not ever fully know. We thank all of our family and friends who helped us find a way through all this.DSC_0067 (Small)

A Merry Southern Christmas and Hotlanta New Year

We were cleared for take off by our midwives, and onto Montgomery, Ala. we went. This journey takes about an entire day to complete, but it was worth it to see our (now) 8-year-old niece, Elisabeth, run toward us at the airport and wrap her arms around us.

WP_20131224_001 (Large)

The Newsom/Aaij family (with the exception of Meagan’s brother who was enjoying his daughter’s first Christmas in sunny California) gathered at Meagan’s sister’s house–a mansion packed with kids, games, food, beer and craziness. We had tons of fun with the whole family – goofing around with the kids all day, and playing board games every night with the proud parents and grandmother, who we call Oma. They were incredible hosts the whole time, cooking us a good three meals a day (and doing all the dishes!).

DSC_0320 (Large)

Rosie, now 5 years old, has a personality as big of as this gift from her Oma Cinda.

DSC_0286 (Large)

Liam, about 18 months, shows off his sister’s scooter with his Oma Cinda.

DSC_0325 (Large)

A few days after Christmas, we borrowed the brother-in-law’s pretty new and sweet ride, a Prius, and headed down to Mobile. With less than 24 hours to spend in the Gulf Coast city, we first hit up probably the finest Alabama brewery, Fairhope Brewing Company. Our Mobile buddy Dan Murphy is the brewmaster there, and we hadn’t seen him since he was schooling Sergio with his homebrews in our backyards. We were ecstatic to see him following his passion and making waves in the Lower Alabama beer scene. It looked like everyone else was just as excited; the place was full right when they opened. His beers were phenomenal, too. It’s not too common to find a really fresh IPA outside of the Northwest, but Dan had it. And we got a sample of his top secret peach saison. YUM.

DSC_0398 (Large)DSC_0392 (Large)DSC_0390 (Large)

After a flight of tasty brews (can you really call 10 ounce pours a flight?), we headed to Mobile for an evening of seeing old friends. We first stopped in at our favorite independent movie theater, The Crescent, where we reminisced with the the owner, Max, who stocked us up with t-shirts and posters. We walked around the downtown corner to Sergio’s #1 place to buy gifts for Meagan, Inside Up. We’ve missed seeing the friendly faces of the ladies who own the store.

Our host for the evening was the famously hospitable, Kenneth Jones–a long-time friend who we’ve known throughout our entire relationship. He organized a meet up with friends at a new Nepalese restaurant that was delicious! He did this despite having, what he later found out was, the flu! We spent some good times chatting with Kenneth, Courtney, Jenn, Jeff and Dylan.

The next morning, we drank coffee with Adam and Kenneth (who by now was really sickly) and headed back to the madness awaiting us in Montgomery.

DSC_0406 (Large) (2)

Once there, Sergio found his calling in life: Rainbow Loom. He and Elisabeth spent hours making bracelets for the whole family–even Baby P brought a few back home.

DSC_0402 (Large)

Sergio says this is the hibiscus bracelet.

Rosie recited irreverent movie quotes that her teacher taught her and had us in tears of laughter. Liam, well, Liam  charmed the hell out of all of us. He’s the quiet one of the bunch, but gets his squeals in when there’s a break in his sisters’ “conversations.” Rosie and Elisabeth very much wanted Baby P to make his/her appearance while we were visiting. As New Year’s Day approached, we had to make our way to Atlanta to meet up with our friends, the Wilsons, which we were very much looking forward to while incredibly sad to leave the kids, Gina and Mies.

DSC_0351 (Large) DSC_0354 (Large)

WP_20131230_001 (Large)

We parted over excellent food and beers at 5 Seasons Brewing. Troy and So Yung made sure to help us dry our tears with two days of good company, more food than we could imagine and interludes of beers and Troy’s famous cocktails.

DSC_0419 (Large)

We visited a brewery while there, took a walk in an urban forest, brunched and enjoyed a New Year’s menu of an incredible array of tasty goodness: fried sauerkraut balls, lobster mac & cheese, fried brussel sprouts, beef carpaccio, prosciutto-wrapped shrimp and World Peace cookies.

WP_20131230_009 (Large)

WP_20131231_003 (Large)

DSC_0422 (Large)

Everyone, minus the very pregnant one, rung in the new year by the ceremonial jumping off the couch (So Yung’s not really Korean tradition) and the banging of pots (Sergio’s tradition, apparently).

We returned home to attend a birthing class that evening with half-open eyes. So we’re within the time frame of saying, in less than two months we’ll have a baby! Last minute purchases are happening and prep is seriously underway.

Oh, and before we left Spokane for Christmas, we traveled to Idaho to get a look at the bald eagles. Each year, these eagles spend November, December and January in Lake Coeur d’Alene too feed on spawned out kokanee (for the non-northwesterners, that means they eat a species of salmon after it breeds and dies). On any given day, you can see dozens of them–even over 100 at its peak.

DSC_0211 (Large) DSC_0215 (Large) DSC_0237 (Large) DSC_0245 (Large)