Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Emotional Triggers

I wish I had more time to spend here.  Life with a toddler is hectic and trying to balance work, family and a little personal time sometimes seems like an impossible feat.

I realized on my drive home today that it's March, and it was three years ago that we were waiting for our referral to Mount Sinai to investigate Olivia's mysterious condition (you can read her story here).  At the same time, Everybody Hurts came on my iPod and immediately I was brought to tears.  It's amazing how a simple song can bring you to your knees.

But it's not the only thing that's had me thinking about Olivia this week.  A woman I met on Twitter, Heather (aka @TJZMommy), is facing the 2nd anniversary of the loss of her three year old son Zackie this month.  This week she posted about returning to Sick Kids for a fundraising event, the place where she spent many hours watching him slowly slip away.  Heather tweeted about her anxiety about visiting the hospital, as she hadn't been there since he passed.  I know the pain of losing an infant I only knew from an ultrasound and her kicks inside my belly, I can't even imagine the grief of losing a child you grew to know and love.

It immediately brought me back to the feelings I had with Noah's first ultrasound, and the anxiety of waiting for the technician to tell me everything was ok.  I remember feeling nauseous the entire time, and at the end I asked her if the baby's head was ok.  She looked at me quizzically and said the doctor would review the results with me (the same statement I heard with Olivia's ultrasound when they made me wait 24 hours to hear the bad news).  I immediately broke down and explained what happened.  She immediately softened and explained that the baby was fine and showed me the screen.  But despite that, I was still terrified during every ultrasound until they showed me the screen.

To this day, every time I drive past Mount Sinai hospital, I get a lump in my throat.  Nothing good happened there.  They told us Olivia's skull hadn't formed properly and her brain was exposed, and she couldn't survive outside my body.  We signed the paperwork authorizing the induction.  And I spent two long days in a lonely room at the end of the maternity floor, waiting for my dead baby to be born, while couples down the hall were joyously welcoming their perfect bundles.

I will never forget the song that was playing in the car when we drove home from the hospital, empty handed.  It's called Awkward Goodbye by Athlete, and I remember losing it in the car when the chorus sang "No one knows how I love you, no one comes even close".  It's intended to be a love song but at that moment it broke my heart.

Everyone has triggers that bring memories flooding back, it could be a song, a place, a smell.  What are yours?

Monday, October 15, 2012


Today is International Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  While I'm so happy and proud to have a happy, healthy little boy, my heart is heavy today.  Sending warm thoughts to parents everywhere who have gone through the agonizing pain of losing a baby.

If you have a story to share, or you're looking for someone who's had a similar experience to yours, check out: http://facesofloss.com/  Despite our unique situation, I was able to find two families who had nearly identical events to ours.  While I wouldn't wish this pain on ANYONE, I have to admit, finding someone who "gets it" is incredibly comforting!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I am a survivor

When Olivia died, I sunk into a very dark place I never thought I'd escape. The last two years have been a roller coaster of emotions and events, and somehow I'm still standing strong. I'm still not sure how.

I reconnected with a work friend last week I hadn't seen in over a year, and learned that she lost he 14 year old son last year to cancer. I offered my condolences and a hug, and before my eyes I saw her very fresh wound tear open. Her pain is so raw that it made my heart ache for her. I know how much it hurts to lose a child you never met, I can't imagine the ache of losing someone who was part of your life for so long.

We shared our stories (she never knew exactly what happened to me), shed some tears, and parted knowing there's one more person out there who "gets it".

I feel like my community of moms who have lost children continues to expand. I wish the opposite would happen, no one deserves to go through this.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Remembering our little angel

For some time now, I've been thinking about getting a memorial tattoo for Olivia. B got Olivia's name in Japanese characters on his back a few months after she passed.  When Noah was born, B decided to get a tattoo of his footprints on his shoulder.  I decided to use this as an opportunity to do something.  I decided to cover up a small whale tattoo I got when I was 15 (not a well thought out decision!) with a forget-me-not flower and her footprint. I'm really happy with the final result:

Now I have a permanent and daily reminder of our little angel.  And someday we will tell Noah about his big sister watching over him from heaven.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Nurses Grieve Too

Thanks to Dana for posting this video, "Nurses Grieve Too" (http://vimeo.com/18714302).  I never thought about how Olivia's birth would affect our nurses and doctors, but I'm sure it was difficult.  It can't be easy to be a positive support to a couple when you know the outcome won't be positive.

Thank you to the doctors and nurses at Mount Sinai, particularly Michelene, who stood by us for most of the two days we were there.  We couldn't have done it without your support!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Remembering Olivia

A year ago today, I was waking up and trying to decipher if it was all just a bad dream.  Then I put my hand on my belly and realized that it was not.

After 36 hours in the hospital on the mild induction meds, the doctors finally decided to give me oxy, a much more powerful drug.  They also gave me an IV painkiller pump, so I could self-administer drugs when I needed them, with a limit of once every two minutes.  The contractions came fast and hard and, at first, the drugs worked.  After a few hours, I was in agony and they weren't doing anything.  I was insistent that I didn't want an epidural, particularly after the doctor explained all the risks.  After 6 hours, I could barely focus I was in so much pain.  The doctor said that they were ready to break my water but wouldn't do anything until they got my pain under control.  So I relented and went with the epidural.  I was surprised at how little it hurt.  The most uncomfortable part was being hunched over the side of the bed with my face pressed against the nurse's chest (which made it hard to breathe) during contractions (which made it almost impossible to stay still).  I felt a small poke from the anaesthesia and then it was in.  Within minutes, I was numb from the waist down and feeling good.

I remember lying in bed, enjoying the sudden calm, and all of a sudden I felt a sensation like a water balloon breaking between my legs.  It was...you guessed it...my water breaking.  And it was just like the movies, a huge gush across the bed.  I said out loud "I think my water just broke" and no one took me seriously at first, until I said "my feet are wet" and the nurse lifted the blanket and discovered I was telling the truth.

They got me cleaned up and ready for pushing.  I will never forget that moment.

The room was in almost darkness, and I don't know if it was because of the time (just after 6am) or the situation, and they thought it would be easier if the mood was quiet and calm.  The doctor told me to start pushing, and after less than 10 minutes she told me to stop.  I could feel her guiding Olivia out of my pelvis, and despite the epidural, I could still feel the pressure of her shoulders.  And then there was silence.

The doctors warned us that there were two possible scenarios: Olivia could be born alive and live for a very short time, or she could be stillborn.  Deep down I was hoping she would be born alive so I'd have a chance to hear her and interact with her, even if it was for a short time.  Perhaps god thought it would be easier on us if she were born still and peacefully.

We asked the doctor to clean her up before we saw her, because they also warned us that her head and face would have severe deformities and it could be very disturbing.  They brought her over wrapped in a blanked with a tiny pink hat (which looked massive) over her tiny head and face.  I could see the severe cleft peeking out the bottom and couldn't bring myself to look at hear head.  Instead I focused on her little body, her perfect hands and feet.  I held her for quite some time, it was all very surreal.  The doctors expressed their condolences and left us alone for a bit.  Hubby didn't hold her, I think it was all too much for him.  I don't blame him, I felt like I was in the middle of a dream the entire time.

The nurses returned and I passed her back, so they could place her in the nearby examining area for a closer look.  All I remember is falling asleep, because we'd been up for most of the night.  A few hours later, the geneticist and his team knocked on the door and wanted to know if they could see Olivia.  They had been following our case and were very interested to see her.  They were very kind and respectful, and didn't stick around for too long.  They gave us their cards and asked that we book a follow-up appointment with them in a few months, once the genetic testing was done, to better understand what had happened.

The final visitor was the hospital spiritual consultant.  We had asked that there be a blessing ceremony after her birth.  While we sat on the bed, she collected Olivia's body from the bassinet.  When she placed her in my arms, I realized her hat had come off and for the first time I saw her face and head.  It was so hard to see something so horrible.  She looked like something out of a sci fi movie.  She noticed my reaction and immediately helped me to get the hat back on.  After a few prayers, and a short candle lighting ceremony, she left us with some literature and left us.

Once the nurses were confident I was recovering properly, they transferred us to a recovery room to rest and clean up.  We were only there for about two hours, which gave me a chance to sleep some more, clean up and get dressed.  At that point all I wanted to do was get out of there and go home.  By that point we'd been at the hospital for over 48 hours, and it was feeling more and more like a prison every moment.

Finally we were released.  I remember walking down the street to our car, and thinking how unfair it was that, after everything we'd been through, we were leaving the hospital empty handed. I made it to the car before I broke down, all the emotions that had been bottled up for the past two days came rushing out at once.  I never knew heartache could hurt so bad.

I eventually fell asleep for the rest of the hour-long drive home, and once we made it home, I immediately went to bed and slept for about six hours.  When I woke up, we looked through the pretty white fabric pouch they gave us when we left, which contained a certificate of her birth, her hand a foot prints, and several pictures of Olivia on the blanked I bought her in Chicago.  It was a very emotional moment, but I also remember feeling a sense of peace looking at her pictures, and knowing that she was in a better place.

The days ahead were a complete emotional roller coaster, filled with tears, frustration, anger and moments of calm.  Thanks to our family and friends, we had an amazing support network of people who were ready to help us at a moment's notice.  And without them, and without my amazing husband, I wouldn't have survived this real-life nightmare.

And now it's a year later, and the whole thing feels so surreal.  I'm a week away from delivering a healthy baby, but I haven't forgotten Olivia for one moment.  We didn't do anything special to mark the day yesterday, but she was in my thoughts and heart all day long.  It didn't feel right to only remember her yesterday, when she's become a big part of my soul each and every day.

With that, I dedicate this song:

Olivia Morgan
Born still on March 19, 2010
30 cm long, 1 pound 6oz

Rest in peace little angel

Monday, February 21, 2011

A year ago - part 1

Exactly a year ago we went to the hospital for our 21 week ultrasound, after returning from a babymoon in Mexico.  We were so excited to see our baby, the little one that was growing in my belly and kicking up a storm.

I could barely sleep I was so excited, and so was B.  We went to the hospital and the technician took him to a private waiting room while I went into the exam room.  The technician was very nice, and explained that she didn't talk a lot during ultrasounds so she could focus on her work.  After about 45 minutes, she explained she needed to consult with the doctor on call to make sure she had everything she needed.  She was gone for about 20 minutes, which felt like an eternity.  I was dying to see the baby and for B to join me in the exam room.

After 20 minutes she returned, and turned off the machine.  She said "you need to go see your doctor tomorrow".  I asked "we don't get to see the baby?" and she repeated herself.  I asked "is something wrong" and she said "you need to go see your doctor".

Immediately, my heart sank and it took all the strength I had to climb off the exam table, sort out my clothes and walk down to find B in the waiting room.  As soon as he saw my face, he knew something was wrong.  I immediately lost it, and explained what happened.

We came home and I fell apart.  We couldn't see the doctor until the next day, but we knew it couldn't be good.  We called our families and explained that there was something wrong, we didn't know what.  Everyone was trying to be optimistic for us, but we knew this wasn't going to end well.

We went to the doctor the next morning and as soon as we saw his face, we knew it was terrible news.  He explained that Olivia had some anomalies in her face and head, and we needed to go to Mount Sinai to see a specialist.  He wouldn't speculate about the condition, and he assured us he would put through the referral right away.

All we could do was wait, and pray that he was wrong, or that it wasn't as bad as we feared.

It was the beginning of the worst two weeks of my life.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Buried under a pile of tissues

I am sick.  And not just sniffles sick, full-blown ill.  On Monday I was suffering from major back pain so I went to have a massage to work out the kinks.  To my dismay, the massage therapist was coughing throughout the session and I could feel her breathing her germs on me as I laid on my back.

On Tuesday (when I was officially 24 weeks along) I started to feel unwell, I was tired, my throat was scratchy and I knew something was coming.  That's when it hit me.  I woke up several times in the night gasping for air, my chest was totally congested and I couldn't breathe.  It was pretty scary and I barely slept.  At 3am I got up and made a chamomile tea and watched the holiday Glee episode because I felt so rotten when I was lying down.

I went to a walk-in clinic on Wednesday morning and the doctor diagnosed me with bronchitis, and possibly strep throat.  Thankfully they were able to prescribe me antibiotics and a steroid puffer to help with my breathing.  Now it's one day later and, while my chest is a little clearer (despite waking up every hour last night due to coughing and chest congestion), my nose is running like a faucet!  I'm also suffering from wicked headaches (thank goodness for Tylenol Extra Strength Rapid Release gelcaps!).

And to top it all off, because of baby's position, I pee everytime I cough or sneeze!  So I either have to clench my legs in preparation, or keep changing my pajama bottoms.

Being pregnant and sick TRULY SUCKS!  But you'd never know it by the way baby keeps kicking away (and probably wondering why I'm making so much noise!).

Here's hoping I'll feel better tomorrow.  Until then, I'm off to devour yet another Riccola cough drop and sleep off this sickness!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Comforting words for parents experiencing a loss

I saw this in a post on In Memory of Jacob and wanted to share it.  When we lost Olivia, the hospital gave us a lovely package: a white fabric "envelope" with resources inside, a certificate with her name/DOB/weight/length, and pictures of her.  While I've tucked it away somewhere safe, I pull it out ever so often.

This letter was included in a hospital packet for parents experiencing a loss.  I wish we had received something like this (in addition to the traditional "grief" literature):

Dear Mommy and Daddy,

I know this is a rough time for you so I will be as gentle as I can be. First of all, thank you for so many tears, particularly those shared with another that you love. They are a gift to me, a precious tribute to your investment in us. As you do your mourning, do it at your pace only. Don't let anybody suggest that you do your grief work at someone else's timetable.

Do whatever it takes to face directly the reality of what has happened, even though you may need to pause frequently and yearn for my return. Do this with courage and my blessings. Know that sometimes inertia is the only movement possible. Give your best to keeping a balance between remembering me and renewing your commitments to life.

It's okay with me if you go through minutes, hours and even days not thinking of me. I know that you'll never forget. Losing me and grabbing hold of a new meaning in your life is a delicate art. I'm not sure if one comes before the other or not, maybe it's a combination.

Be with people who accept you as you are. Mention my name out loud and if they don't make hasty retreat, they're probably excellent candidates for friendship.

If, by a remote possiblilty, you think that there is anything you could have done for me and didn't, I forgive you. Resentment does not abide here, only love.

You know how people sometimes ask you how many children you have? Well, I am still yours and you are still my mother. Always acknowledge that with tenderness, unless to do so would fall on insensitive ears or would be painful to you.

I know how you feel inside. Read, even though your tears anoint the pages. In Henri Nowens' book "Out of Solitude" he writes, "the friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair and confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not healing, and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares."

I want you to know that I am okay and that I have sent you messages to ease your pain. They come in the form of flowers that bloom out of season, birds singing, voices and visions and sometimes through your friends and even strangers who volunteer as angels.

Stay open but don't expect the overly dramatic. You will get what you need and it may be simple as an internal feeling of peace. You are not crazy, you have been comforted.

Please seek out people bereaved longer than you. They are tellers of truth, and if they have done their grief work, they are an inspiration and a beacon of hope for you.

There are still funny things happening in our world. It delights me to no end to hear your spontaneous laughter.

Mommy and Daddy, I will always be in your heart. Today I will light a candle for you. When you light your candle for me their light will shine above the darkness.

Your Baby
Author unknown

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Raw emotions

I just read about a woman who's going through her third loss in one of the blogs I'm following, and it makes my heart ache.  How can it be that some people have it so easy and don't appreciate that fact, while others have to fight for that privilege?

I feel so badly for her and her husband and I know that only time will dull the pain they're going through.  The only thing that will get them through this is the hope that one day they will be successful and holding their baby in their arms.

After we lost Olivia, it was all I could think about.  Every time I was alone, thoughts of her flooded my mind and the pain hit me so hard I couldn't breathe.  One day B pointed out this song, which he explained gave him hope that things would turn around for us.  I dedicate this song to everyone who is mourning the loss of a child: