Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Lonely Grown-ups Club

Tonight is the second night since Caitlyn has been born that she is spending the night away from me. My sister (who is babysitting for Caitlyn again) was going to visit my mom today, and since I'm planning to go visit for Halloween tomorrow, my mom was happy to keep Caitlyn for the night.

It's very strange being away from her for any length of time. Usually just the length of my shifts at work seem like an eternity away... by the time I see her tomorrow, I will have been away from her for more than 24 straight hours. I get so lonely without her... she's just sunshine and puppies and rainbows for me. She's absolutely what I live for. And it's so weird not seeing her for a whole day.

I was happy at first... the last few weeks at work have been exhausting and I could really use a night to myself. But now that she's gone and I have all these hours to myself, all I can think about are all the stupid little tasks that need to get done. Things I have been putting off because I never seem to have the time.

I cleaned out the cabinets in my kitchen just a little while ago. It's something that's been bugging me for months so I was happy to finally get it done. After throwing out the expired stuff and the crap I'll never use again, I gotta tell you, it's looking pretty sparse in there. I have some baking stuff (I bake more than I actually cook), a couple of boxes of pasta and jars of tomato sauce, a bag of lentils and some white rice. Oh, and an entire shelf of seasoning. You know, to season the lentils and rice.

I was able to create a cabinet that's just for Caitlyn's stuff. Nadine got me these awesome little containers from Ikea that are the perfect size for portions of cereal or fruit, so they are in there. Along with that are the parts for the food processor (for making baby food), her bottles and bowls, cereal and snacks. It's all conveniently located in the most accessible cabinet so my annoying husband isn't always searching for things that are right in front of his face.

I always feel better when stuff is organized. Generally speaking, I'm what you might call an utter slob, but it's mostly because I can't clean things without going completely overboard. I end up with everything half done because I'm trying too hard to make it perfect and I don't have time to finish. That's the great thing about long-expired food though, no need to organize it!

The plan for the rest of the night was to possibly go to a movie, but now I'm damn tired and I don't know if I have the enthusiasm for it anymore. That's just sad, isn't it? Too tired to go to a movie.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day

**As a disclaimer, I will say that there are pictures of my stillborn son at the end of this post. It may be uncomfortable for some to see. **

Today is October 15th. For those who don't know, it is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. This blog is fairly new, and I've talked mostly about my daughter and parenting, but what I haven't addressed are the struggles I faced on my road to becoming a mother. I won't go into detail (at least not today) about the actual fertility issues. I will simply say that getting pregnant was not easy for us. There were major issues and we were told IVF was our only option. We were excited, overwhelmed and cautious when we got pregnant through a frozen embryo transfer (FET) the cycle following our fresh cycle IVF.

When you need IVF to get pregnant, there is a certain level of anticipation that something might go wrong. The process itself is stressful enough, but what I'm talking about is after it's over and you have had success and you are pregnant. I did a ton of research before my IVF. I knew that I was forcing my body to do something that wasn't coming naturally. I knew that it could mean the pregnancy wouldn't stick.

I'm not a person who keeps things to myself. Even though I feared that I could lose the baby, I told my friends and family right away. Even my coworkers knew fairly early on- mostly because I couldn't stop puking.

You always hear about the first trimester being the time you should worry. I remember being 12 weeks pregnant and thinking "am I safe now that I hit 12 weeks, or do I have to wait till I'm officially PAST 12 weeks before I can stop worrying about a miscarriage?". I made it past 12 weeks and I felt a little relieved. My morning sickness was still pretty intense... I remember practically eating the entire contents of Nadine's pantry while baking Christmas cookies because I would puke if I didn't have a constant stream of food in my mouth. But I told myself it was all ok. I would throw up and think "this means my baby is growing". And he was.

I had my monthly doctor's appointments and everything was going well. I still had morning sickness pretty bad, even into my 5th month, and I was absolutely exhausted all the time. But, hey, that's pregnancy for you. I was so eager for my 20 week ultrasound. I was convinced from day 1 that I was having a baby girl and I managed to convince everyone else of the same. My mom came to our appointment that day and we all reacted with a bit of shock when the ultrasound tech showed us a picture and said "there's the penis!"... apparently "it's a boy" wasn't explicit enough for her. I had never pictured myself with a boy, but I quickly adjusted my view. We made our way to Babies R Us right from the doctor's office and bought my sweet boy, Nicholas, his very first outfit.

It's pretty ironic that this visit was the turning point for me as far as fearing that I wouldn't take a baby home. I finally felt confident that everything was going to be fine. I could see my life with my son clearly and it was wonderful. I never imagined that he would never wear that first outfit, or any of the others I bought for him from that day till the day of my 24 week check-up, a month later. I could never imagine that as I shopped for baby clothes and started a registry, my tiny, perfect son was dying inside of me.

It was March 19, 2009. I was in a good mood, because my morning sickness was FINALLY subsiding. I stepped on the scale at the doctor's office and was surprised to see I had lost 2lbs. "It's that fat baby boy eating all my food", I thought. As we waited for the doctor, I remember hoping my son had turned into an odd position...somewhere the doppler couldn't pick up his heartbeat so I could get an ultrasound again. Ultrasounds were always the most fun. When the doctor came in and actually couldn't find his heartbeat, I smiled a little to myself... he was listening to his Mommy already! It never occurred to me that he didn't have a heartbeat anymore. Not even for a second. I was just anxious to get my ultrasound and see my boy again.

I expected immediate recognition of the sound of Nicky's heartbeat. I expected "there it is!" from the ultrasound tech. What I got was silence. Several uncomfortable minutes of silence. Is everything ok?. Had they missed something? I just had an ultrasound last month! I feared that they found some sort of birth defect that they missed last time. The only thing she said to me was "I need to get the doctor" and she walked out of the room.

That's when I started to cry. Rodolfo told me not to worry, that everything would be fine. It wasn't. My doctor came in, briefly looked at the ultrasound and said to me "I'm sorry, Jaclyn, he just stopped growing". It took me a second to realize that she didn't just mean that he was too small. He had stopped growing because he died. I fucking lost it. I sobbed hysterically for the next 20 minutes or so. The doctor left the room to give me and my husband a few minutes alone. I called my mom and blubbered into the phone "HE DIED MOM, HE DIED". I was so hysterical that I had to say it half a dozen times before she could understand me.

At that point I was told I needed to make a decision about how I wanted to proceed. I could have labor induced. No, definitely not. I wasn't ready, I was terrified. I couldn't spend the next day in the maternity ward, laboring with my dead child. I couldn't. My only other option was a D&E. I said yes without really knowing what it was. I was then given medicine to dilate my cervix and told to be at the hospital the next morning for my surgery. My doctor offered her condolences. I asked if she had an idea as to why this happened. She said she could run some tests but that with a D&E there is only "tissue" and it can be hard to know for sure. That's when I realized that what they meant was that they would rip my baby apart and pull him out of me in pieces. It was absolutely horrific to think about.

I went home and was in shock for the rest of the day. I sat on my couch and didn't even cry. I just stared into space and didn't know what to do. It occurred to me that maybe I made the wrong choice, but for some reason I didn't feel like I could change it now. I thought maybe I could bring on labor and my son would be born before the D&E. So I walked. I took my dog and my husband and walked to the ice cream shop a mile from my house. As it turned out, that did put me into labor.

I was given painkillers and took some as my labor got progressively harder to handle. By midnight I was waking up every 5 minutes or so with contractions. By 2am I didn't know how much more I could take. I called my doctor and she told me I only had a few more hours till I had to be at the hospital and asked if I thought I could make it. So I stayed home till 6am, then made my way over. By that point I was having contractions every 2 minutes or so. I remember waiting in the lobby of the hospital for my husband to park the car and thinking that I didn't yet look pregnant enough for anyone to realize I was in labor. People probably just thought I was whiny and fat. By the time we made it up to the surgery floor, I was begging for painkillers and told them I needed a wheelchair because I simply couldn't walk anymore.

The operating rooms were running behind and my contractions came fast and hard. I begged for meds that never came. My nurse was warm and comforting and promised that she would get me something as soon as she spoke to my doctor. When they were finally ready to bring me in for my surgery, it was after 9 am. They told me to use the bathroom before they got started and I did. I was actually wheeled into the bathroom on a gurney because I was unable to walk and having nearly constant contractions.

After that they had me get into a wheelchair and told me they were bringing me to the operating room. As I stood up I could feel the sensation that something was coming out of me. The medication I was given to dilate my cervix was in the form of medicated sponges, so I assumed that was what I felt. Nonetheless I was concerned and started shouting "something is coming out!". My nurse rushed me to the operating room, where I stood to get onto the operating table, begging them to knock me out immediately. But then I saw the sponges on the floor. I turned to look at them and my water broke. It was brown. Meconium. Fetal distress. It made me wonder if he suffered at all. It made me so sad.

A moment later, I was looking at my son. He had fallen out of me and onto the operating room floor. The nurses and my doctor all yelled at me that I shouldn't look, but I wanted to see him. I told them to please bring me my child. I saw him for a moment. He had my husband's lips but he looked like me in every other way. Then my doctor told me they would still be doing a D&C, because it was very common for the placenta to stay attached at such an early stage of pregnancy. As they brought the gas mask to my face, I just remember saying "I want my husband to see him". She told me she would try...that wasn't good enough. I looked at the nurse right in front of me and told her firmly "I want my husband to see him". She said ok and then I was out.

I don't remember the surgery at all. I didn't even have the recognition of time passing. I woke up in another room with no idea how I got there. I woke up in a clean, dry gown (as I went under, I was wet with amniotic fluid and shivering cold) with no idea who saw me naked. It was a very strange sensation. Rodolfo was there waiting for me to wake up. A few minutes later, they brought us our son.

He was on a fluffy white surface- maybe a blanket, I'm not really sure. I remember how tiny he was- only 9 ounces I would later find out. He looked like a doll. He was mostly wrapped up, so I spent a few minutes looking at his perfect face, then I took his hand and compared it to mine. His entire hand was the size of the tip of my thumb. I was vaguely aware of someone taking a picture in the background. I held him for a few minutes, then kissed him goodbye 3 times on his forehead. That was the last time I ever saw my son.

When I look at his picture now, as I sometimes do, I'm shocked at how he looked... he was purple and covered in blood. That's not how I remember him at all. He was angelic, perfect. It was unfathomable to me at the time that he wasn't just sleeping or something. He looked exactly like I pictured he would. My nose and cheeks, my husband's lips. I always pictured him with hair, but he was too young to have any yet, so that's all I can say I was surprised by, that he was bald. I wish I had taken more time to look over his whole body... to see his tiny legs and feet and butt. To take more detailed pictures of him. The ones I have are blurry and at an odd angle. I wish I would have given him a bath and maybe put a little hat on him so I could have something concrete to hold onto and say "this belonged to my son". All I have now are 2 blurry pictures and the few outfits that were the first I chose for him. And pictures of the things I registered for that I imagined he would love and use for his entire babyhood. I have so little... I have to truly cherish those few reminders.

I've felt like a mother ever since that day, March 20, 2009. It's odd because outsiders don't see you that way. If my child had lived even one day outside of my body, if he had grabbed my finger or smiled at me even once.. if I had one picture of him when he was alive, it would be so different in the eyes of everyone else.

I guess I can say that, up to that day, I had been lucky in not ever losing someone who was very close to me. So I can't really compare the loss of my son to anything else, but I can say that with the overwhelming grief came a crushing sense of guilt and responsibility. I tried to remind myself that I wasn't to blame, and now I can see it with a little more perspective. But the truth is that it's hard to see it any other way. I was the one and only person charged with caring for him and ensuring he was safe. I was the one who noticed he was moving less and didn't want to seem like one of those paranoid pregnant ladies so I never called my doctor. I was the one who left him on the floor of the operating room instead of picking him up like I wish I would have. There are just so many regrets, so much lost.

Today I have Caitlyn and she is amazing. The fear that something will happen to her never leaves me, and was especially terrifying during my pregnancy. But at least now I can look at her and know she's ok. I think of Nicholas every day. Each night I ask him to watch over his baby sister. I don't feel overwhelmingly sad every day anymore, but it's the little things that hurt the most. As I watch Caitlyn grow, I'll sometimes picture a boy version of her and know that I'm missing my Nicky. I think of how she won't ever know her big brother. As Halloween approaches, I imagine them in coordinating costumes. The reality is that if Nicholas had been born when he was supposed to, I wouldn't have ever been pregnant with Caitlyn. But I can't think of it like that. When I imagine how our life would be different if our son had lived, I don't imagine a boy instead of a girl. I imagine them both, very close in age as would have been the case if I had gotten pregnant again right away, growing up together.

So on this day, I wanted to talk about the child I lost. The child who has just as big a piece of my heart as Caitlyn does. The child I only ever got to kiss goodbye. He's mine and I'm his. And I miss him every day. I wanted to recognize that lost piece of my life. As with any mother, I think he was perfect and beautiful and special. He liked Skittles and sleeping late. He was here, if only for a moment and I want people to know him.

Below I'm going to include his photo. I don't have any pictures of him alive, unfortunately, so please be prepared for what you will see if you choose to look at these pictures. I don't think it's weird but it may make some people uncomfortable to look at them.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Maternal Instinct! ...Paternal Instinct?

We all know that mom's just KNOW. Whether you needed a shoulder to cry on or you were standing in the kitchen with the refrigerator door open for the millionth time even though she always yelled at you for it, somehow, our moms had that instinct. That we needed her, that we were in trouble, that we were lying. It never made sense to me as a kid. Now that I'm a mom myself, I can see everything involving Caitlyn with laser focus.

At first, it's the hormones. Your body knows what your baby needs from minute one. If you tried to actually think about everything your baby needs from you from the moment they are born, your head would probably explode because it seems so overwhelming at first. The first few weeks of Caitlyn's life, I was surprised by the way my body just took over. My boobs went to work, gradually making more milk as Caitlyn needed it. They would leak if she cried, if I held her or smelled her. My boobs knew what their job was.

Even my sleeping patterns changed. Caitlyn was never what I would call a fussy baby, and even her first night home from the hospital she slept 4 or 5 hours at a time. But my body wouldn't let me go into a deep sleep. I was exhausted. I should have been out cold. Normally, I'm a heavy sleeper, nothing wakes me. But from the minute Caitlyn came home, just the sound of her moving around even a little bit is enough to wake me up. That actually surprised me. I feared that she would scream for hours before it woke me up.

Like I said, the physical changes were automatic and immediate. But now I notice a different kind of instinct. Maybe not even instinct necessarily. I think part of it is a hyper-awareness of every little thing Caitlyn does and wants and needs. Or maybe that's exactly what instinct is. My point is that I know her and I can anticipate her needs and moods with surprising accuracy. If she's fussy I can look at her or listen to her cry and know exactly what she wants. I notice the nuances of her personality and the subtlest things seem ridiculously obvious to me. I can even do it over the phone. If my husband or sister calls me while I'm working and tells me that Caitlyn is fussy, I can have them tell me what she did in the last couple of hours and pick up on what's bothering her in a second.

This is not a special talent or anything. I'm pretty sure every mom has it. The thing that I find odd is that my husband has no sort of paternal instincts, it would seem. I mean, the instinct to keep her safe and to love her are there, of course. But nothing else seems easy to him. When she cries, he doesn't know why or what to do. He doesn't even have an idea. If a bottle or a diaper change doesn't fix the problem, he's at a loss. And even when those things do work, he's pretty much just blindly trying to find a fix. He can't look at her and hear her cry and say "oh, she's hungry", he doesn't notice that she shields her eyes from the light when she's tired. He doesn't recognize her annoyed cry when nobody is paying attention to her and all she wants is someone to play with. And when he can't figure it out, he gets frustrated and gives up. His logic is "she is fed and changed and she is still crying. I've done all I can and eventually she will stop if I just leave her alone for a while". He actually does the same thing to me when we are fighting. He thinks if he ignores the problem it will go away. After 5 years, you would think he would realize that chicks just don't operate that way. Ignoring us only pisses us off even more.

And there are other little things I notice too. She's about to be 5 months old. Every aspect of our existence for the last 5 months has revolved around filling the needs of this tiny human being. Her needs are pretty straightforward. The bottom line is to keep her comfortable. That means fed, clean, amused and not in any pain.

The other night I came home from work and he tells me she's been crying for the last hour. I pick her up and she is sweating. It was one of those nights before the temperature dropped back down, when the humidity was super high and we were waiting on a storm front. It was roughly 80 degrees in my house. Caitlyn was in a long sleeved sleeper with a onesie underneath. Isn't that just common sense? He has this idea in his head that she's running like 10 degrees cooler than an adult for some reason. Even when I stripped her down to her onesie, flipped on the air-conditioner and had her calm and comfy within 5 minutes, he argued with me that she was "too cold".

And he doesn't know what kind of wipes to get her. I sent him to the store the other day because we were running out. I'm not particularly picky about most things, but I've consistently used the same wipes for the last 4 and a half months because most wipes give her a rash. So he comes back and he's got the wrong ones. "She will be fine, just use these". And now she has a rash, of course. I guess I don't understand how he doesn't know. It's been 5 MONTHS!

I don't know where I was going with this exactly. I guess I just find it sort of strange, because mothering my child isn't something I had to think about ever. It just happens. Is it just him, or is this a guy thing? Tell me my husband isn't just an emotional retard.

Friday, October 1, 2010



Caitlyn and I have a pretty well established routine on days that I'm off or closing. We've basically been doing it since she was a month old, when Rodolfo's parents went back home. It goes like this: she will wake up around 8am or so, I'll feed her and we will play for an hour or two. After that she's ready for a nap. On those late days, we nap together. It's one of my favorite things. We cuddle up in my bed and sleep for an hour or so. It reminds me a little bit of when I was pregnant with her... we are all smooshed together and warm and cozy. I sleep SO good during my naps with Caitlyn. I hope she doesn't grow out of nap time with Mommy any time soon.

Today I didn't have to be in till 1:30pm, so Caitlyn and I took our regular nap together. I remember thinking as I was dozing off how her eating habits have changed. Since we started solids a few weeks ago, she is becoming less and less interested in drinking milk. She was drinking 5 or 6 ounces at a feeding, and now I'm lucky if I can get her to drink 3 or 4. I mean, it makes sense. Solid food is more filling, obviously. What always makes me worry is her first feeding though. When she gets up in the morning, I give her a bottle. She doesn't get solid food till after our nap. You would think after sleeping for 7 or 8 hours she would want to eat her entire bottle, but she just can't be bothered with it. My point isn't necessarily that I'm concerned. I'm all about letting her figure out what she needs (to the extent that a baby can do that, of course) and not trying to push her to do everything the way I imagine it should go. My point, really, is just that all this was going through my head as I was dozing off.

Caitlyn's food preferences must have leaked into my subconcious because I had a dream that we had gotten up from our nap and I was preparing her cereal. I was talking to her like I always do, and I asked her if she was ready for her breakfast. Then she said "breakfast"... actually, to be accurate, she said "breafest". At this point in the dream my mom was standing next to me and I turned to her and said "did she just say breakfast?". Then I kept telling Caitlyn to say it again, and she did a couple more times. Then it occurred to me that "breakfast" really shouldn't be her first word and I kept trying to get her to say Mama.

In real life, she's obviously not ready to start talking yet, but actually this isn't the first time I had a dream like this. And she never says Mama. I'm going to be super disappointed if her first word is anything other then her asking for me. My own mother is convinced that her first attempt at mimicking a sound is going to be her barking back at the dog. She's probably right too.