Ember Laura-Ellen Waving

Ember Laura-Ellen Waving
Waving to mommy and daddy at 13 weeks

Sunday, January 30, 2011

No Name For Us, Though We Are Many

Orphan. Widow. Widower. Yet no word for us. Because there is no way to describe the devastation of a pain like no other. Whether a child dies during birth or at three or seventeen, the pain is unlike any other. Don't presume to understand unless you carry this devastation in your own heart. Don't compare someone's child dying to anything else, it's belittling the parent's grief and the child's life and memory.

There is no word in the English language for a parent who loses a child. There is no word in any language for us that I know of. This is known and felt by every one of us when we face the world changed forever, and so as a community, we have nicknames for ourselves. We are Angel Mommies and Daddies, and baby loss mamas and dads. Proud of such titles in a way that can't be fully understood by others. Yes, the reason for the nicknames is the hardest pain we will ever feel but we continue to love and honor our children. Still feel pride in their beauty, their very preciousness. Some try to push foreign words, and blended words into common use but none have caught on so far. They just do not resonate with enough of us. There may never be a word for us. If after thousands of years, a word has not been found to experience the ultimate loss who's to believe one will ever be found.

Maybe a word cannot be formed for something so against the natural order of life.
Every child who grows up will eventually lose their parents, and they become orphans, whether at three or thirty or sixty. A lasting marriage means either husband or wife will lose the other, and become a widow or widower after a year or fifty years of matrimony. The pain is crushing, but it must come as we all grow older. Some times it comes much too soon. Even when it comes after a long and blessed life, letting go is so hard. As life goes on, we prepare for it and know one day it will come.

But to bury your child.... who prepares for that? Who holds their newborn child and thinks maybe I'll soon have to pick out a tiny white casket and lay my child down forever? No one does, ever. Even when a small child battles a disease or serious defect, the parents cannot give up hope. Hope gives them strength to keep going through their life, caring for their child and holding everything together.

Hope is an amazing thing, it's very hard to crush but when it's taken away, the result is pain beyond measure. On Sunday July 4th afternoon, I started having contractions. They stayed very erratic and far apart, but did not abate. Monday they continued in the same way. Tuesday afternoon, at 2:30pm, I had my weekly check-up. I was exactly 37 weeks and full-term. But they couldn't find her heartbeat. We where sent for an ultrasound, praying it would reveal the precious flash of Ember's beating heart. It did not. It was still another day before she was born, at 2:33pm. Twenty-four hours of desperate hope, with everyone knowing she was gone. But I couldn't give up hope. When she was born, I prayed to hear her cry. When she was handed to me, slick and still, my hope stayed, weak but there. But when I looked down at her, though, my hope died as she stayed still and silent.

That's when my grief really began. And as any Angel mom or dad can tell you, the grief never ends.

There's no word for us, but we are still here. All around you are parents with broken hearts. There's no word for us, but please don't ignore us.

Child Abuse and Neglect Awareness

While bruises and broken bones may heal, the damage done to a child's heart and mind by both physical and emotional abuse will never go away. A little girl who's abused as a child by fathers, step-fathers etc is MUCH more likely to be in an abusive relationship as a teen and adult. A little boy who is abused is MUCH more likely to grow up to be an abuser himself. Abuse doesn't have to be aimed at a child for it to hurt them FOR LIFE. Watching their mother, or sibling be physically or emotionally abused damages the child as well. A boy who sees his mother abused is MUCH more likely to abuse his own wife or girlfriend and children. A girl who sees her mother abused is MUCH more likely to be abused by her husband or boyfriends.

Children are small, weaker, easy to maniplate by abusive or neglectful adults. They are eager to please, and protective of those they love. They don't want to be seen as "bad", they don't want to cause fights or "start trouble". They want to be loved, and when they are hurt, they believe they must have done something to deserve it. They are silent victims. Chances are a child you know, even a child you might love has been abused or neglected.

Neglecting a child IS ABUSE. Allowing a child to be scared or hurt by your husband, boyfriend or anyone is NEGLECT and ABUSE.

There are months and weeks that are declared "Child Abuse and Neglect Awareness" times, but we shouldn't limit spreading awareness to just then. Every day thousands of children, so many right in your town or city are being hit, terrorfied, watching their mother or siblings abused.
If you love children, yours or any, protect them.

Spread awareness, and SPEAK UP. By the time a child finally, if ever, speaks of it, it's too late, damage is done and they will never completely heal from it.

-Katherine Eagerton


I do not write to offend, for offense brings nothing of the change we need to see.

I write to make people think.

As a whole, I believe our society's largest and most wide-spread social problem is both ignorance and simply lacking the habit to think about our actions and others.

We do not want to see the pain and the problems, out of laziness, indifference, guilt or a fear that we can do nothing to help or change. So we put them out of mind and ignore them, pretending they are not there.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

When Things Couldn't Get Worse

 Yesterday it was six months since Ember was cremated and finally came home. Yes, it took a nearly week thanks to UAB not using her name OR my married name so they "lost" her for a day or two. I'll never get over all the "mistakes" they made and that's part of why I want, no NEED so badly to change the way people think and treat babies born still and their families. If Ember had a birth certificate, and thus truly had a name in their eyes, there wouldn't have been the agony of the funeral home director telling us they'd tried to pick up our baby but UAB couldn't find her. If I'd had a certificate of stillbirth in my hands, maybe I wouldn't have been yelled at for not bringing Ember in for her two and six week check-ups.
Even after Ember’s birth, things just kept getting worse at a time when I would have sworn under oath they just couldn’t. I’m brought up to the post-partum floor in a wheel chair surrounded on all sides by Hubby and several LDR nurses. Dropped off there, a nurse briefly pops her head in and it nearly spins around 360 degrees when she sees blood all over the bed and floor. She bursts in the bathroom after me, nearly yanking my IV from inside my hand when the door knocks the IV pole across the room. After she leaves, I continue pacing the room dragging the pole behind me. Despite it’s fluid is nearly completely drained by the time I’m brought upstairs, it’s neither removed nor exchanged for a couple hours. With shift change, a new nurse pops in and unhooks me from it then leaves without checking on anything else. Hubby and I are left to our own devices, dazed and captive in a room alone with our broken hearts. I wonder where the morgue is and if I could find my way to it. The only person I see without my mom or David hunting them down is every three or four hours an aid who checks my vitals.
 In the late hours of the day Ember is born, my mom makes it to the hospital. She goes through the pictures of Ember, her first grandchild, over and over. One of the first questions she asks is what they’ve given me and how much, because I’m so calm with a very flat manner. I have no idea about either, after a certain point you stop caring about needles and pills and just accept it. When sleep finally comes, it’s dream filled despite the sleeping pills. We’re woken up at shift change in the morning. After an hour or so of being ignored by the staff, a nurse is finally hunted down and told repeatedly we want to see our daughter again. With no response given for over an hour, finally one stalks in to tell me I can’t see her again because the autopsy that wasn’t to be performed till after my discharge is currently being done. It breaks through the haze of shock to make me sob again. She snaps "calm down" and tells us we can see her when the autopsy is done, then turns on a heel and is gone again. While we wait, another aid comes for my vitals and comforts me. On the whole post-partum floor and staff, she is the only one who is anything but cold and ignoring. Finally Ember is brought up, swaddled with a cap on her head and inside a whicker basket with a hood that makes seeing her face, the only part of her showing, hard to see. We’re told not to touch anything but her face, not to pick her up or move any of the blanket and especially not the cap. As soon as the nurse is gone, my mom hands her to me and I lay down beside her. As I lay next to her, memorizing her features, rubbing her tiny, soft and cold ears that are folded up and pressed to her head, I move the blanket and shirt aside to see her chest and the “knots” closing it. My vitals are taken again, with me still on my side next to her and I’m told she’s beautiful. I already know it, but it’s soothing to hear that someone else can see past her red face and torn skin and soft skull. The same nurse from before returns trying to take her, disapproving that I still have her but I turn her away several times. My mom takes a turn holding her and washes her face gently with a baby wipe.
When the IV hook-up is removed from my hand and the nurse mentions I’ll soon be discharged, I finally reliquinsh her unwilling to shower. The nurse takes her and in the far corner pulls off the booties Ember’s wearing to hand them to me. Discharge papers are brought around 2pm, and the ICU nurse in my mother flares up angrily. No one has checked my bleeding since the night before despite the fact that I hemorrhaged after delivery, and the fundal height hasn’t been checked at all either, despite the placenta going to pieces and being hard to remove. I’ve been given Prozac and an iron pill, and otherwise left alone. She raises hell, and it only gets worse when it’s revealed there is no doctor on the floor or coming anytime soon. After a few hours and several arguments between the nurse and my mother over standards of care (that nurse REALLY didn’t know what she’d gotten herself into), a doctor or intern I knew only by her first name Lindsey who can’t be 30 yet and looks closer to my age, which we’re gotten used to as UAB is a research and teaching hospital, is yanked off Labor and Delivery to be sacrificed by the post-partum nurses to my mother. I’d seen her the night I came into the hospital, and she was sweet though a little clueless. Lindsey is apologetic and admits things have been done incorrectly when told of everything that’s gone undone. She checks my stomach gently and tells me a survey sheet will be mailed to me and to please fill it out and send it back. It never is though. I doubt they want our opinions, or our story.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Don't Tell Me Not To Worry

Six months today since you died quietly and slipped away. The beautiful body you left behind wasn’t you, it was broken from missing you just as we are. Why did you go baby girl? We still don’t know everything, and unfortunately, we never will. We know a few facts- you’re cord was judged slightly shorter than average by a doctor not much older than me and it’s not in the records. It was wrapped around your neck, one arm and one leg. But it left no marks, or indentations of any kind on any part of your body, this is in the records. There was a membrane infection missed and untreated. The placenta’s reaction would have been to release chemical meditators which are known to decrease blood flow and cardiac activity in a baby.  But that doesn’t tell us the real whys, or how long it took, how you felt. It leaves us with so many questions, and a hard time accepting the conclusions we are left to come to alone. There is one fact that can’t be questioned or picked apart- we love you as much today as we did then, and always will.

Six months.
Yea, it doesn’t seem that long to me. Every day is long and hard to get through, but once gone, it just adds to the blur of time elapsed since I kissed my daughter for the last time. Did I come home from the hospital a couple nights ago, or a couple years ago?
My birthday, fifteen days from Ember’s. I wanted everyone to ignore it, but that didn’t happen. Especially not once my SD realized my birthday was coming. There’s no explaining to an eight year old why presents wouldn’t cheer someone up when they’re sad.  Two months after her birth I went back home for the first time without her. This trip had been planned with her in mind months before, but now the party for everyone to meet my girl didn’t exist. David’s birthday, two months after mine just wondering how time kept on moving. Even worse because last year, his daughters moved away with their mother only a few days before his birthday and we’d made a big deal that this year he’d be holding one of his daughters at least as a sweetest present. The glaring absence was overwhelming. Halloween, would she have been a bunny, or a little fairy? Being too little to go trick or treating wouldn’t have kept us from celebrating her first holiday and taking adorable pictures of her by the dozens. Thanksgiving, watching all the “babies” run around, my sister and cousins, not much more than babies but not the baby who should have stolen the show as the first in a few years. Christmas, sick with dread of it for weeks and then it came. The pure white snow crushed me even deeper, there was no escaping Christmas. New Year’s, how can it be 2011 when Ember lived and died in 2010?  These dates, and the seventh of every month marking another month gone, another month older, have kept my heart aware of the passing time, breaking it as it dragged me further and further through time. But all the days in between? They just pile on top of each other, going no further into the calendar, one just replacing the next.
These last few weeks have been harder than I really expected. As Christmas suddenly loomed in my face, the calmness I’d found in the weeks before became a deeper struggle to maintain. New Year’s took me out again, and now I’ve realized half a year has passed since saying good-bye to Ember. The triple effect of these days so close together has me licking my wounds. A friend’s told me the six month mark is often around the time the reality really hits, and you can’t hide from it anymore. Something about the HALF OF A YEAR part is kicking me when I’m already down and surrendered.
Ember was born at 37 weeks, 1day. That’s one week into the ninth month. Thirteen months exactly since finding out she was coming. Six months of missing her since she left. In just a few months, she’ll have been dead longer than she lived. My mind just screams at this, it’s not possible, or right. Only seven months together. That’s not a lifetime, and it’s not enough time to love someone. It’s crushing to know someone IS the other half of your heart and they’re gone before they come into your arms. It’s meeting your soul mate just in time for them to die in your arms. It’s being forever denied.
She’ll never be two with dark curls squealing no at everything. No first tooth, or steps. She’ll never be four, breaking my heart by starting preschool and growing up too fast. Never shiver with excitement petting a bunny or riding a horse. She’ll never be eight, the same age her big sister is now. I’ll never take her shopping for her first dance dress, or embarrass her by chaperoning. Never be sixteen to terrify us with driving. Or eighteen and leaving for college with us left behind, proud and worried every day. She’ll never be eighteen, my age when I carried her. Or nineteen, the birthday without her. She’ll never be thirty with her own house and husband and kids.
When I was eight months pregnant, I waddled around Babies R Us with my mom and sister to update my registry. While digging through all the different models of room to room moniters trying to decide which I liked best, I noticed one single box that was different, pushed behind all the others, not out of place just unnoticed or wanted. I wanted it though, very much. It was an at home fetal heartbeat monitor. I’d never heard of any baby saved by using one, or any baby who could have been. Everything I’d read and been told said that eight months into a pregnancy with a healthy baby an at-home monitor was a silly indulgence that wouldn’t even get much use before she was born, and unreliable at that, they caused undue stress for the parents and unnecessary trips to the OB and hospital. So after mooning over it for a while, I moved on. And forgot about it soon enough. Professional quality ones are much more expensive, but you can rent them by the week or month. Could it have saved my daughter’s life? Maybe. But we’ll never know now. Pregnant mothers’ are a world wide joke. Every comedian has a couple lines about the irrational worrying and behavior of them. First time mothers’ bear the brunt of this, even from the medical community who will chuckle over a woman’s desperate, heartfelt worries. And teen mothers’ are no ones ideal of motherhood. Of age, married, well-spoken and well-read, I escaped a good part of this by simply not being your average idea of a teen mom, and by having an older husband who couldn’t be cowed as I could.  I impressed most of my care-givers with my knowledge of the in’s and out’s that often thought they’d have to explain, but the bar is set so very low. I went out of my way to be clear and direct with concerns to avoid as much as of the patronizing as I could.  At best, they pet you and patronize you when they don’t care about what you’re saying.
How many times was I told it was normal for a baby to stop large movements as you went farther into the 3rd trimester? At my last ultrasound, they couldn’t make her move her shoulder, neck or head at all, or admittedly see them well. It’d been a week or so before that that I really noticed her movements slow down. She was just too big too, I was repeatedly told. My daughter was five pounds, eleven ounces at birth. Too big?
Pregnancy means loving, protecting and caring for a delicate, needing child while blind and deaf with hands tied. You can’t look them over, or put your finger under their nose to check breathing, or run a thermometer across their temple. You can’t hear their whimpers or stand over their bed at night just to check in.
So why are the jokes about pregnancy worries so amusing to so many people, often moms and dads themselves? It’s part of The Myth. The Myth that preterm labor can’t steal your child’s chance at life, that late fetal death doesn’t happen to those that are good, and kind and smart. That stillbirth happens in third world countries and women who use drugs. That your labor can’t go from painful, scary and thrilling to hell on earth. That your child can’t die from water on their brain, or mal-formed lungs within minutes of their birth.

The myth's a lie of course. Every day, it happens.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Even Laundry Can Make Me Cry

Yes, even laundry can make me cry six months later.
Tonight, I noticed a sock had gotten pushed under the washer. When I dragged it out, I felt something else under there. I had to get a clothes hanger to snag whatever else was under there (expecting another sock) and pulled out instead this-

I guess it was dropped on the floor during the week of insane nesting between us moving in and Ember’s birth, and has been waiting under there for six months to ambush me with memories.
It’s actually not the first time the laundry room’s ambushed me. Maybe a week after Ember’s birth, I was half-heartedly washing clothes (only because of my S-daughter who I refused to have running around naked even in the total fog I was very much in, though she might have if I let her). When I picked up one shirt, I uncovered another, and it was dark pink striped and kinda fuzzy. It looked so much like the sleeper I’d laid out for Ember to wear when we came home from the hospital I almost lost it. It wasn’t (at the time the sleeper was probably still waiting on the dresser) instead it was actually another of SD’s shirts, and after looking at it closer, the stripes weren’t the same but it was still a punch to my heart.
It’s all around. Things that sometimes gently stir up memories of carrying her, and sometimes slap me in the face. Usually it’s mostly good, I try and make sure to hold all the memories close but sometimes the pure shock of something is just insane. I mean, Ember never came home. She only ever wore two outfits, one of which came home with us. By the time she was born I’d washed and put all her clothes into her dresser, besides the ones ready for her to come home and now it’s been six months Really, who would be expecting to find her clothes around the house?
In the next couple months we’ll be moving. Since we moved in, we planned to only be here six months or so, till something else opened up where we wanted to live. I’m having trouble accepting leaving this house now. We picked it for one reason only- it was the only place we could find we could move into by July 1st. Nine months pregnant and very much sure that we wouldn’t be making 40 weeks, we decided not to wait. It was the right decision, because three days later early labor began. When we left home on July 6th, we thought we’d be coming home with Ember in a couple days.
We didn’t though, and this house has been both the center of my grief and my refuge from the world. It makes me detest it for the very fact that only days after moving in our world crashed but at the same time…. Ember’s room is here. How on earth can we leave it? It was here we arranged the quilt rack and rocking chair and planned where to put all her baby accessories. This was supposed to be her home, and though she didn’t come back here with us, it still feels that way to me. We can’t live here forever, and don’t want to but still leaving feels so very wrong.
I can’t imagine there are any more surprises hiding around the house. I’ve turned it upside down too many times looking for other things, but the next house will be post Ember. No chance of onesies under the washer. No memories of Ember tucked into it at all.