A Heart to Hold

Our Hannah Heart

 

Along this journey of grief, I’ve come in contact with many wonderful parents who’ve had similar, devastating experiences.  We’ve all lost sons and daughters and can offer each other a special kind of understanding and support.  For us, there is no silence about stillbirth.  We are often compelled to seek out others who have walked in our footsteps because even when we have supportive friends and family, we still feel so alone in our loss.

We all find ways to reach out to other grieving parents and to honor our missing children.  I started this blog and became active with a small group of women who lost babies around the same time as me.  I talk openly about Hannah and about her death so that I can, in some small way, help break the silence surrounding stillbirth.

Other parents go beyond that.  They do much more to help support grieving parents.  Many start charities in memory of their children.  A Heart to Hold is one of those charities.  From their website:  ”Our mission; To offer comfort to families who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss by creating and sharing the gift of a weighted handmade heart.”

Our heart arrived today.  It weighs 6 pounds, 8 ounces – exactly what our precious baby girl weighed when she was born.  I’ve thought about requesting one for some time now, but I honestly never had the courage.  Even today, when I opened the box, part of me hesitated before lifting the heart out.  Once I did, I cradled it closely, trying to remember exactly what it was like to hold Hannah.  It’s strange…the weight seems heavier in my arms now.  Time has changed some of my memories already.

Now I wish I’d requested it sooner.  In those first painful weeks and months my arms were empty and I ached with longing to hold my daughter again.  This weighted heart – though no substitute for our lost little ones – helps fill that void.  It’s a tangible way for us to stay connected to those memories.  Even now, a year and half after losing Hannah, I will cherish this heart.  I’ll have it to hold for as long as I live.

Thank you to A Heart to Hold for such an amazing gift.  Please, if you have a moment, visit their website, www.ahearttohold.com.  And if you are able, please make a donation so that other parents can have this beautiful gift.

Viability

It’s a big milestone – 24 weeks pregnant today.  We’ve reached viability.  If something were to happen and Gavin was born today, or tomorrow, or next week, we’d be in for the fight of our lives, but his chances of surviving have gone up.  I hope he stays put for many more weeks, but if there was an emergency, at least we know we still have a chance of bringing him home.

And that’s the other thing I’ve noticed.  I’ve been saying “when” instead of “if.”  Don’t get me wrong – I know there are no guarantees.  I know that anything can go wrong at any moment.  However…I’ve been allowing myself to be more positive about this pregnancy.  After a trip to labor and delivery a couple of weeks ago and about five days on the IV again, the hyperemesis finally seems to be easing up.  It’s unpredictable and could hit full force when I least expect it, but we’re hopeful that we’re at the end of that struggle.  With that in mind, I’m able to put more energy toward planning and preparing for this baby.  It’s exciting, and even though I have moments of complete and paralyzing fear of the unknown, overall I’ve been able to let myself be happy with anticipation.  That’s a huge step and something I have to remind myself of constantly, but I’m getting there.  One day at a time.

 

 

We’re Having A…

Boy!  We had our official anatomy scan at last week at 20 weeks.  I was incredibly nervous about the results, but at our follow-up appointment the doctor said everything is developing right on schedule.  What a relief!  For now, anyway.  We’ll be doing monthly ultrasounds until about 30 weeks, then we’ll have twice weekly NSTs and BPPs to make sure baby boy keeps growing on schedule.  I’ll be nervous until the end, but I’m trying to really enjoy this phase.

So, in the spirit of celebration and enjoyment, I did something we didn’t do with either of my other pregnancies:  I made a special gender/name announcement!  The pumpkins were my idea, but Danny was the one who suggested we include our new baby’s older brother AND sister.  The result was beyond perfect -

Our Family

 

We’re very excited to be welcoming a new baby boy to our family.  I can’t wait for Derek to have a little brother to play with and for Danny to have another mini-me running around.  It took Danny and me a couple of weeks to decide on a name, but now, Gavin already seems like a part of the family.

It’s hard to believe that October will be over this week.  I honestly thought I’d be feeling 100% better by now, but unfortunately I’m still on the Zofran pump and there are many days that I’m disheartened about being so sick.  Hyperemesis really puts a damper on the pregnancy, and it makes milestones like anatomy scans, name choices, and gender announcements even more important.  I hope to be better soon, but until then, I’ll be thankful for the good days, and struggle with determination through the bad days.

Here are a few more picture we took this weekend:

 

The Second Announcement Option

 

Derek Was Involved in Everything

Baby Gavin at 21 Weeks

21 Week Belly Shot

 

Our Little Pumpkin

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness

The Wave of Light, in memory of Hannah Everly

October is a special month.  The whole month is set aside as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and October 15 is recognized as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  There are many ways that parents, families, and friends choose to celebrate the day, and all of them are wonderful ways of remembering our babies and children.  We chose to participate in the Wave of Light – a candle lighting that occurs at 7PM in each time zone, creating a wave of candle light that reaches around world.  Last year we attended the candle lighting and memorial ceremony at the hospital where Hannah was delivered.  I wanted to go this year, too, but I remembered being incredibly sad and uncomfortable around the pregnant women and new babies that were there last year.  I didn’t want to be the reason that someone felt sad and uncomfortable this year, so we lit our candle at home.

I had originally wanted to do more.  I wanted to get flowers.  I wanted to light our candle at the cemetery.  I wanted to go through the box of the mementos from Hannah’s birth.  But I opened the box, I stared at an ultrasound picture of Hannah sucking her thumb, ran my hand over the sleeper we put her in when she was taken to the funeral home, and it was just too much pain.  It all came rushing back and I could barely breathe.  I talk about Hannah a lot, we remember her in different ways every day of our lives, and yet when I saw those items – HER things – I was overwhelmed by grief.

And really, that’s what the day, what this month, acknowledges:  that even when we move forward, as life continues, we’re still grieving.  And sometimes, when you least expect it, that grief chokes the life out of you.

A Year Ago Today

I started this blog one year ago.  In that time it has helped me be honest about our loss, open about my grief, and hopeful about our journey through the storm.  I just wanted to take a moment today to thank everyone who has read about Hannah, especially those who have taken the time to reach out to me one way or another.  The kind words and encouragement have really touched my heart and I’ll be forever grateful to those who have helped us through this year.

16 Weeks!

I just started feeling movement in the past week!  No matter how many times I do this, that feeling it still the strangest and most exhilarating experience.  It’s still random and not something I notice if I’m busy (ha!  Like I’m able to leave the couch that often), but when I do notice it’s pretty amazing.

I have a doctor appointment on Friday and I’m nervous about what he’s going to say about the IV lines.  My veins are collapsing and the nurses are having a lot of difficulty running new lines.  I want off the IV, but I’m not sure if I’m stable enough yet.  It’s so frustrating and overwhelming.  I’m really, really hoping my doctor will do a quick ultrasound at our appointment.  I could really use some encouragement and seeing the baby would help me stay focused.

Side note – the weather is finally changing!  I LOVE fall and I’m so excited to be pregnant during this time of year.  It’s the small things that help me stay excited.

Anxiety and My New Best Friend

Sonoline B Home Doppler

I’m 15 weeks along today and finally feeling like hyperemesis has released me from its death grip.  That’s not to say I feel 100% better, because I don’t.  I’m still hooked up to my life lines – the IV and Zofran pump.  But I’m actually keeping some food and drinks down and I’ve had some really good days.

Here’s the thing about good days, though:  They scare the ever-loving crap out of me.  For me, pregnancy = extreme sickness.  So if I’m not feeling that extreme sickness, my first thought is, “Oh my God, I’ve lost the baby.”  It’s awful, but I’m not the only one who does it.  From what I’ve read, it’s a very common reaction from other HG sufferers.  Now that I know what that kind of loss feels like, the fear is even worse.  On a normal day, I feel mild anxiety about losing this baby.  On a bad day, it’s all I can think about.  And on a good HG day, I basically convince myself that this pregnancy is over and I’ll never have a baby to bring home.

Up to this point I’ve been having weekly doctor appointments and that’s helped keep that anxiety somewhat controlled.  Now, it’s been almost two weeks since my last appointment and I’m constantly on the verge of having a major freak out.  I thought I would be ok waiting that long, but there’s something comforting about being in the office, being checked on by nurses and my doctor, and listening to the baby on the doppler.  It’s the only time I have someone else confirm – Yes, everything is still OK.  I think I’ve felt the baby move – just an occasional, tiny thump – but it’s nothing I can confirm and it’s definitely not consistent enough to offer any kind of reassurance.

So what should I do as a pregnant woman with near constant anxiety about the losing the baby?  I get a home doppler.  I bought it when I was around ten weeks.  I wasn’t able to find the baby’s heart beat until I was over 12 weeks.  I’m not sure how I didn’t go crazy in those two silent weeks, but I managed.  Now when I’m having that extreme anxiety about whether or not there is still a baby in there, I can pull out the doppler and track down the heart beat.  It’s a magical sound.  Fortunately, I’ve been able to limit my use to a couple of times a week, but just knowing I have the option is a great relief.

Another perk of the doppler?  Derek.  Whenever I get it out, he says, “Hear baby’s heart beat!”  It’s hard not to start sobbing every time he says it.  He was so much younger when I was pregnant with Hannah and he was never really aware of what was happening.  We talked about “the baby” but he didn’t seem to grasp the idea completely.  This time it’s totally different.  Even when we were still trying to get pregnant, he was noticing babies everywhere.  He’d fascinated with them.  So now when we talk about “our baby” he seems to understand a bit better.  When he sees a picture of the ultrasound, he gets excited and says, “Baby!”  He’ll lift my tummy and say, “Baby in mommy’s tummy.”  When we ask him if he wants a baby brother or a baby sister, he says, “Sister!”  Again, it breaks my heart.  He already has a baby sister, he just never got to know her.

I’ll admit, part of me is hesitant to talk to him about it so openly.  I can’t help but worry about what we would do if we lost this baby, too. How can we explain it to him?  How will he react?  It’s hard to find a balance between wanting him to be excited and included, and worrying about the “What ifs.”  I guess, in the end, we’ve decided to approach it in a positive way.  We have to assume this baby will come home with us and that Derek will have a living brother or sister.

The alternative is just too painful to comprehend.

12 Weeks!

I’m in the last week of the first trimester and feeling…terrible.  I’m still hooked up to the IVs and the Zofran pump 24 hours a day, visiting the doctor once a week, and on bed rest at home.  I lost 18 pounds, which is a scary thought actually, considering I started at 125.  I intentionally kept on some extra weight in anticipation of this, but the overall weight loss is still shocking.  Hopefully I’ll stop losing and start gaining soon.

I knew that this battle was coming.  I knew that I would be dealing with hyperemesis again.  I know that I have to go through this to have a baby.  But it doesn’t make it any easier.  I lie on the sofa every day, watch the IV drip slowly, and pray that today maybe I’ll get some relief.  It hasn’t happened yet and that is so discouraging.  Pregnant women are already hormonal, add in a debilitating illness that takes away your freedom and ability to do anything you did before?  It’s awful.  Most days I’m irritated and depressed, nauseated and weak.  When I take a bath, I end up vomiting, dizzy and exhausted.

My mom moved in with us and she’s been a great help keeping up with household chores and making sure Derek is happy and occupied.  But I get so annoyed and frustrated because things aren’t done the way I want them, and obviously I can’t expect her to do things my way.  I just get frustrated because I wish I could get up and do it all myself, and I can’t.  Monday I decided to go with her to the grocery store for the first time since the middle of July.  After ten minutes, my knees were weak, I was dizzy and seeing spots.  I felt so defeated.

Sometimes I really resent the fact that this is what my pregnancy experience is like.  And now, since we lost Hannah at just under full-term with no explanation, the second half of my pregnancy will be just as stressful and depressing.  I’m trying to hang onto the joy of expecting a baby, but some days it’s just almost impossible.

On a more positive note – we had our NT scan on Monday and so far the baby is looking healthy and developing normally.  Now, my goal is to be off the IVs in three weeks at the latest.  The problem is every time I go a couple of days without one, I lose weight.  I’m hoping to stop that trend sometime around 14 weeks.  Fingers crossed.  Also, in an attempt to keep a positive outlook, I ordered a few new maternity items and I had my mom help me dig out my clothes from my pregnancy with Hannah.  So now, all I have to do is start gaining!  Oddly enough, I’m already showing a bit.  I’ve lost so much weight, all that’s left is a tiny bump just below my belly button. Hello, uterus and tiny, lemon-sized baby!

Speaking of baby, here’s a picture from his or her most recent photo shoot:

 

 

Finally

I’ve been waiting to write this post for a few reasons.  I wanted July to be all about Hannah.  We were busy finalizing the sale of our house and buying a new one, packing, and then moving.  Then I got really, really sick and I just haven’t felt like updating.  Until now.

Round three of Clomid + Metformin was a success!  I’m currently 9 weeks and 4 days pregnant.  The hyperemesis gravidarum kicked in at exactly six weeks, but I was nauseated before I even got a positive test.  Right now I’m down 15 pounds and I’m on home health care.  I’m hooked up to an IV and the Zofran pump.  We’ve got a long road ahead of us, but we’re very happy that I’m pregnant.

When I found out I was incredibly nervous.  I totally freaked out.  I thought I would feel instant relief after waiting so long and trying so hard to get pregnant, but I had a mixed reaction.  I felt guilty because we found out two weeks before Hannah’s birthday.  I felt anxiety because of our loss.  I felt stressed out because I knew I’d get incredibly ill.  I felt disappointed because this baby won’t bring Hannah back.

That last one is the hardest one to admit.  I never thought that another baby would replace Hannah or make our loss hurt any less.  But I guess I thought it might do something to give me closure.  A way to move on.  And it’s just not that way.  Hannah is still gone.  She’s never coming back.  We’ll have a new baby – a little brother or sister for Derek and Hannah – but she will always be missing.  My heart is still broken.  The only thing I can do is try to focus on the joy we have now and cling to the happy memories from my pregnancy with Hannah.

It’s still early in the pregnancy, but we’ve already told everyone.  Since we lost Hannah at just under 37 weeks, I just don’t believe in a “safe” zone anymore.  I’ve already had two ultrasounds and we just heard the heartbeat on the doppler last week.  Part of focusing on the joy we have now is celebrating every day we have with this little baby.  Hopefully, he or she will be with for a very, very long time, but for today, I’m still pregnant, and that’s enough.

So Distracted!

After Hannah’s birthday we all got very busy trying to finalize the closing on our house and the new house.  In a way I’m really glad.  It’s helped me to stay distracted so that I don’t slip into a depression.  It’s still difficult for me to remember everything that was happening this time last year.  We had just buried her and most of our family had left.  It was a very lonely, very sad time.

So I’m thankful that we’ve stayed busy.  We’ve already closed on our house, and just closed on the new house today.  Now we’re getting the new house ready for us to move in.  New carpet, new paint, new appliances, new pool fence – a fresh start.  We’ll also be rebuilding a wall that the previous owners took down.  Our goal is to make that the new nursery that we’ll need eventually.  For now it will just be an empty room, but hopefully soon we’ll get to fill it with new baby things.