Friday, October 25, 2013

One Year...

One year ago today I lost my baby girl at 39 weeks and 5 days. I found out I lost her at my last sonogram before my appointment to be induced two days later. During that sonogram her heartbeat wasn’t there, my life at that moment would change forever. During the last 365, I have gone through every emotion you can't imagine, unless you have been there. Its been the hardest year of my life but the take-away from this all is that I am now very aware of how humans react to sad or bad news.  I'll explain.

While pregnant I worked and lived in New York City. In NYC you cannot escape people, which meant that the people I saw on the subway morning after morning knew I was pregnant. The doorman down the street who would remind me to "walk slow" knew I was pregnant. The man who sat on the steps who lived in the halfway house and who would smile daily and say, "you can do this!" knew I was pregnant. Everyone from my grocery lady to the guy who I got my coffee from knew and would ask me about when the big day was. So, it’s not a surprise that after I delivered my beautiful stillborn I had major anxiety about how I was going to handle these questions when they saw me next.

I returned back to work three short weeks after I delivered and asked my supervisor to please, please let my coworkers know what happened so I could avoid some of the heartache with answering questions. The second I walked onto the floor I was greeted with a "CARRIE!!! YOU'RE BACK SO EARLY! I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE PICS OF YOUR BEAUTIFUL BABY GIRL!" My world went blank and I just crumbled. I told her the truth, she gave me "the face," said she was so sorry and walked away from me in a hurry because she felt so badly for me. I spent most of that day in the bathroom crying. First thing I learned was that people want to avoid bad news, no matter what, even if it meant literally running away from it. I was devastated that my managers ignored my requests to tell my co-workers. I heard they thought it was too personal which is of course a convenient justification to turn and run away from it. I do not blame my work, thankfully this sort of thing does not happen often, I just don’t think many knew how to deal with it. So, I spent the next three weeks dealing with people asking me the usual questions daily. Talk about hard. However, I got dressed every morning, put on a brave face and handled it during work hours and would cry every night, letting my emotions catch up with me. It sucked. For the record, when I told my coffee cart guy, he gave me a hug and a free coffee and told me, "she must have been beautiful" with a smile. THAT is how you handle bad/sad news. 

When I say "the face", I'll try to explain what I mean. Its when you tell someone such unbelievable and unexpected news that they jet their heads back, open their eyes wide, eyebrows up and make a horrified face.  Almost like you smell really badly and as if they want to run the other direction. I understand the involuntary reflex of a facial expression, I do. But what you do next is what really matters, meaning some actually have turned and walked away from me only writing me an email later expressing how sorry they were.  Many do that because they just don’t know what to say. Some people would go into loooooong stories about bad things that have happened to loved ones or themselves. I had one woman tell me about her abortion. I learned to look at them but not listen. I didn't necessarily understand this approach they were using to my bad news.

The other bit of human behavior I would get was the clichés. Oh do I HATE clichés. "I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, Carrie". Oh REALLY!? What was the reason? Have one? Me neither... wrong thing to say. "She's in a better place" or "be strong". In fact, a better place for my daughter would be with me, and no, I don’t want to be strong. Frankly, what does ‘being strong’ really even mean? Does it mean ‘get over it so I can avoid the awkwardness’? I just want to cry and dissolve, I’ve gone through something traumatic, let me.

I in no way hold any hurt or bad feelings towards co-workers. We’re all ill-equipped and a little emotionally stunted with really terrible and shocking news. Some didn’t even know me that well, so I totally understood the behavior. I think the most disappointing and upsetting was not hearing from my friends that were pregnant at the same time or ones that have kids. Some people stopped talking to me all together. I was left out of baby showers, announcements, birthdays, etc. I understand the thought process of it... don't upset the girl who had a stillborn. But, I'm still your friend. I still love babies. I have a heart that can still be happy for friends, so let ME decide if I want to attend your baby shower, send a gift or respond to your announcement. Don't cut me out or make me feel any less of a person than I already do. I can't exactly explain how horrible it made me feel when I would find out or hear of a friend’s happy news that I was intentionally not told. All because my baby didn't survive, I was being punished by being left out of my friend’s happiness. During this year is when I NEEDED my friends to be nice to me, talk to me or include me. THANKFULLY I had a few that stuck by me thick and thin and for that, I owe them the world.

Last but not least, I AM a mother. I carried that 8-pound little girl full term, I had a normal birth, I had grueling contractions, stretch marks on my stomach and a normal 9 month pregnancy. I did everything exactly the same as all the rest of the mothers out there with living babies, so why do I feel like I have to hide her? When someone off the street or people I just met asks me, "do you have children?" What should I say?  In that second I have to decide if I'm going to be truthful or lie. Let's break it down... if I tell the truth, I run the risk of "the face", upsetting the person, a reaction that I'm not ready for or brushing me off entirely, as if, “why did you put this on me?” If I lie, I feel that horrible guilt of denying that little baby I love so much. Do you see my dilemma? I wish I could scream it to the world that THINGS HAPPEN and if I want to share that yes, I did have a child, but, she didn't survive, I should be entitled to stating the facts.

So, after all this, what is the best way to handle someone who has had a stillborn or lost a child?

Love them.

Check in on them.

Listen to them.

Ask them how they are doing.

Ask them how they are feeling.

Ask them what the hardest part is.

Encourage them to share. 

Let them know that they can be angry and that this isn't fair.

Tell them they can take ALL the time they need.

Hug them.

Then after all that, call, email, gchat or show up tomorrow and do it all over again or as often as you can.

Now... back to the way you know me... happy, fun and full of life. I'm still that girl, I promise. I'm just a whole lot more aware that bad things DO happen, and when and if they do to someone I know (which I truly hope they do not) I'm going to do whatever I can to not repeat what I went through and continue to endure.  
xoxo, C

**we were told by our doctors at NY Presbyterian that there is 1 stillbirth to every 1,000 live births. To me, that number seems high. So, it does happen more than you would ever care to think about. 


Natalie said...

I have been thinking of you so much this week, and I was all set to send you a note to let you know I am thinking about you guys, but after reading your blog, I feel like I should leave a comment. :)

First of all, I think it's incredibly awesome that you poured out your feelings about what happened to you. You have so many valid feelings and points, and I am hopeful that getting it all out into the universe is somewhat cathartic.

You are absolutely right that you are a mom - and a friggin awesome mom at that. Don't let anyone take that away from you because your baby didn't survive - you earned that title just like everyone else.

I'm so sorry that handling other peoples reactions is difficult. But I'm so glad your coffee guy did the right thing! I'm with him - I'm sure Dylan was gorgeous.

I just want you to know more than anything that Dylan is remembered. I've been thinking about her, you, and Scott these past few days, and I know she continues to be so incredibly loved by a lot of people.

You're right that what happened isn't fair. Not fair at all. But, you are handling it with such grace and class, and you're doing your very best. You're allowed to be angry and sad and every emotion under the sun - allow yourself to feel those feelings forever if you need to.

So many hugs, Carrie. SO MANY!!!


Anonymous said...

I love you my sweet, beautiful friend. You are my heart. I carry you and Dylan Mae in my heart. So very proud of you for writing this and am amazed at your strength each and every day. She will always be remembered and celebrated.

Charlie's Mommy said...

You made me cry Carrie. I actually felt my heart squeeze reading this. I can't even imagine what you went through but you are a mom and will be amazing at it (like everything else you do). Much love to you - now and always. Alexa

wordsfromhenry said...

Wow, you're an amazing person and don't let that ever escape you!

Thinking of you, Kristen Henry xoxoxox

Schwartzy said...

Word, yo!

Kerri Stephenson said...

I still remember the raw emotions I had when I read that blog post last year. I, myself, went to the bathroom at work and just cried and cried. Devastating news does indeed affect people SO differently. I do know first hand that some people just can't handle it and say the most careless, thoughtless things. Or some don't say anything at all, which is even more hurtful in my opinion. Thinking of you, friend (((HUGS))) Kerri