Thursday, February 25, 2010

Too Much

The loss that surrounds me feels a little much right now. An old friend just lost her 23-year-old nephew this week. Another friend of our family (mostly my sister) lost her 23-year-old brother-in-law this week. I have been helping out my husband's cousin with her 2 kids (I consider them my niece and nephew) this week while she visits her husband's grandmother in ICU at a hospital 60 miles away. Granted, she is 88 years old and she may pull through, but it's still a stressful and scary time. Although none of the stress/grief is directly on me, I feel it all around me.

I saw my therapist today, which splits me wide open. (I did a sand tray, which I need to Google. It was an interesting process.) And tonight Chris and I went to a Compassionate Friends meeting. While those meetings are incredibly helpful, it is always sad to FEEL the pain in the room. If it's not brushing up against your cheek, you're definitely breathing it in. The pain is so very real.

And so I'm feeling a bit BLAH.

I pulled the box out from under my bed containing my "work clothes." Being pregnant at the time I was downsized last April, I just packed up all my slacks and blouses and put them away. Sadly, I just haven't been motivated enough to lose those last few pounds after I had Addison. Not having the "breastfeeding diet" to rely on really sucks. And this time around, it feels like my body shifted A LOT. I have a few pair of pants I fit into, and that will get me through for now. Ugh. But in a strange way I don't feel that insecure about my body (even though I probably should) because I know what it's been through--what I've been through. And so I'm cutting myself a little slack. I'll get back to where I need to be eventually. Or I'll get pregnant again and it just won't matter for a little while. Whatever works, but I'm not going to stress about it.

I'm hoping to get some enjoyment out of my last 2 days with Calvin before I go back to work full-time. I'm trying to put the anxiety and sadness all around me away for a little bit. Easier said than done.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Happy 38th, Sweetie!

Since it's 1:14am local time, I guess your birthday was actually yesterday, but Happy Birthday anyway!

I wanted to give my sweet husband, Chris, a shout out on his birthday. He likes to stalk my blog (especially when I'm having a rough day) at times, which is okay with me. It's not like I'm writing anything in here that I don't tell him anyway. It's cute that he comes here in an attempt to "find a reason" for when I'm especially sad. I have to remind him that the reason is simple--we lost our daughter. So that means he will eventually read this.

Chris, this post is for you. I love you and I'm so proud of you and I love the life we created together. It would be perfect, save for losing our sweet Addison. But even that I am grateful to be doing with you. I don't know if I would survive this without you. And, of course, raising Calvin with you is a total joy. I love hanging out with you, laughing with you, eating good food with you, trying to find karaoke places (even when they won't let us in because, well, we're not Korean) with you, watching silly t.v. shows with you, reading the Sunday paper with you. Everything in life is better because of you. I just love you and I'm glad you're mine. And I'm yours. Forever.


Friday, February 19, 2010


As I flipped through the free local rag that is delivered on Thursday afternoons, I lingered over the Death Notices as I am wont to do these days. It was a tough week, apparently. The ages of the first 4 unlucky souls were 48, 63, 63 and 63. Gosh, that is just too young to die. My mom is 63. And then came the next one:

Infant Rachel M---- died January 29, 2010.

I know babies die. But obviously my awareness has been permanently altered. Now, instead of reading that and thinking to myself, "gosh, that's sad" before moving on to the next thing, I linger and try to imagine the mom and dad. Do they have other kids? Is this their first? Are they crying right now? Are they not sleeping tonight? I wonder how they're feeling right now--how they're coping. Gosh, they live in my city. I wonder if I will meet them at the perinatal loss support group next month. Or maybe I will pass one of them in the grocery store tomorrow. I wish I could do something for them. I wish I could do something for myself.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bits of Nothing

I got the job offer (re-offer) the day after my interview last week. They basically offered me the old job back at the same pay. I countered, but they didn't play ball. No biggie (kinda). But because quality daycare is so insanely expensive, and this job doesn't pay as much as it would back in California, it's kind of hardly worth doing it. Okay, that's not totally true, but I wish they did throw me a bone when I asked for a tad bit more.

So now I'm spending lots of time trying to find suitable daycare for Calvin--preferrably at a "school" that has Georgia Pre-K funding and spots available for the fall. I can't believe Calvin will be 4 in July. Boggles my mind how quickly he is growing up. We're going to tour 3 more locations tomorrow. I know when I find the right place I will know it. Just gotta find that place.

I'm having some anxiety about going back to work. I was only there 7 weeks before I was laid off. That was almost a full year ago. Obviously, some anxiety is normal, especially considering what has been going on with us lately. But I know going back to work will be good for all of us--for me, for Calvin (he's dying to have more consistent interaction with kids his age), and for our family's budget. So it's off to work I go. Well, in a couple of weeks that is (March 1).

I want to get another tattoo. I want to honor Addison. The ones I have are generic and really have no meaning (butterfly, heart, dragonfly with trail of stars). I just think they're pretty, really. Like any other accessory. But there is a lot of pressure to do this one right because it really means something. I'm still thinking about it.

My therapist wants me to do a sand tray to honor Addison. She mentioned it at my session today and I broke down in tears. I don't even know why. We really hardly talk about Addison. We talk about communication issues, growing up in dysfunctional families, building self esteem. These things are important, and I'm really learning a lot from her. I took psychology and even minored in sociology in college. None of this is really new for me. But it all takes on new meaning when you actually embrace the information given. So, the sand tray. We're going to do it next week. I don't totally get it, but apparently you just "play" in a sand tray (choose wet sand or dry sand tray) and use figurines she has all over the room to symbolize the experience with Addison. I feel a lot of pressure to do it "right," and I expressed that to her. But of course there is no right or wrong. We both know how fucked up I am already--who cares what I do in the sand. :-)

So, it must be something about people who cut hair for a living. I suppose there aren't many things a stranger can discuss with a 3-year-old besides siblings and Yo Gabba Gabba. Chris and Calvin both went to get haircuts this past Saturday. I went back with Calvin, but ended up backing off because he did a better job of not squirming this time when I wasn't hovering (he is very ticklish, so sometimes I need to help hold his head while they use the clippers around his ears or on his neck). Another employee there hung out for a few minutes with Calvin while he got his hair cut, and then she hurried up to the front of the store. She looked concerned and asked, "Did your daughter die?" I said, "Yes," as I quickly tried to recall who this person was and how she knew that information. She went on to say, "Oh, your son told us." Yep, that's my boy. He knows he has a sister; he knows that she died. And I'm glad he knows he's a big brother. He has actually taken to using one of her soft blankets at bedtime. At first I was hesitant to let him use it due to the Freak Factor, but after he asked a few times to use one of "Addi's" blankets, I finally gave in. Seriously, his sister freakin' died. Is using her blanket really going to damage him? It's funny because we never referred to her as Addi, but somehow Calvin has started referring to her as such. Coming from him, it's especially sweet.

I've avoided blogging lately because, frankly, it requires too much concentration. Even staying somewhat on topic is difficult for me right now. I really hope I don't crap out at this job. Ugh!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I love to torture myself

I just caught the end of a documentary on TLC about a young couple taking methadone in order to get off heroin during their pregnancy. Like a train wreck, I could not look away. Baby immediately went to NICU (obviously) and was given morphine to help her with withdrawal symptoms.

The mom was appropriately upset about her baby having to stay in NICU and said:

"If I start to think about how long 4 weeks is, it's a long time."

The baby went home after 5 weeks.

If she thinks 5 weeks is a long time to be separated from her baby, she should try forever. Yeah, it's great the mom got off heroin and started on methadone and stuff, but seriously. SERIOUSLY. I'm just having an It's Not Fair Pity Party for a moment. Indulge me.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Jobs, Money, and other stuff

I had a lot to discuss with my therapist yesterday. First was my appointment with the perinatologist, which I already went into detail about.

Next was the fact that my former employer called me to re-interview for my old position. That interview will take place on Monday. I'm just not sure what I think about that whole situation. I started the job the first week of March 2009. I have a lot of insurance background, but this was a different type of insurance, so another woman and I were in a 7-week training class. I really enjoyed learning this aspect of insurance (short term disability claims) and thought it would be a good match for me. However, since I apparently conceived Addison February 14th or 15th, I found out a couple weeks into the new job that I was pregnant. I was VERY worried about having to drop that bomb on my new boss. Well, turns out I didn't have to. I finished the 7 weeks of training and started my first day "on the job" on April 20th in my cubicles with a brand spankin' new name plaque, only to be called to a conference room with a couple of Suits at 10:30am. I was downsized, along with a bunch of other employees, after just 7 weeks on the job. However, the benefit package was killer (15 weeks severence was just one of the things they gave us). I pulled Calvin out of daycare and actually saved money during those first 3 months. Then, for the first time in my life, I applied for Unemployment Benefits, which I've been receiving ever since. Frankly, it seemed like such great timing that I would be let go while I was pregnant. I was able to take care of myself and spend time with Calvin before the baby came.

At first I thought it was perfect timing that they would call me back now. Then, almost immediately, I felt like I didn't want to have to go back to work at this moment. But I've been feeling that, for many reasons (including the fact that Unemployment isn't going to last forever), I really need to jump at this opportunity. I don't know how many of the former employees they are interviewing (I did talk to my former trainee buddy and she is also interviewing), but they have only one--or possibly two--spots to fill. So there is a chance I won't even get an offer. Anyway, I guess I'm just telling the story for self-talk purposes (like pretty much everything else in this blog).

The third thing I wanted to discuss was a crazy life insurance policy issue. Addison was born on a Wednesday. By Thursday evening we had a diagnosis, prognosis, and our world crashed down around us. Chris immediately let his boss know what was going on. I was discharged from the hospital on Saturday. We took Addison to hospice on Sunday. She died Wednesday night.

Well, the craziest thing happened on the Monday she was alive. We were at home when Chris got a call from the HR person at his office (he works for a huge international company). She told him how sorry she was about Addison, and then, knowing full well that Addison was going to die any day now, told him that the company had a dependent life insurance program. Chris was hesitant at first, but agreed to make a 3-way call to the benefits division to get a life insurance policy set up on Addison that would become retroactive to her birth date. After Addison died and Chris returned to work, the HR person told Chris that she would help him file the claim for the life insurance policy when he was ready to do so. (Seriously, have you EVER heard of an HR person going out of their way like that to help an employee and actively seek to spend the company's money?) Long story short, we got a check for $10,135.47 in the mail this week.

This brings up all sorts of emotions for me. Of course my husband and I both have independent life insurance policies on ourselves. We have a child that will need to be financially cared for, should one of us die. However, I have always believed it to be wrong to get a "pay off" after the death of a child. I was so fanatical in this philosophy that I called my insurance carrier to cancel the $5,000 "freebie" rider for my son that was automatically attached to my policy when I set it up 3+ years ago. I always figured if he died, forking out cash to cremate him would be the least of our worries. Oh how my thinking has changed.

We are very budget-oriented people. My husband doesn't make a whole lot of money as a legal assistant, and he is in school for his Paralegal Certificate. Overall, we are quite frugal. I love to get a deal. Okay, perhaps I'm obsessed with getting good deals. I clip coupons, pore over the weekly grocery store ads, transfer prescriptions between drug store pharmacies to get the gift cards, buy second-hand toys and clothes for Calvin and clothes for myself (I'm not ashamed to shop at Goodwill), and refuse to eat out without a coupon. I frequent,,,,, get the point. There was a time when my husband and I owned a home, 2 cars (read mortgage, car payments, and $30k in credit card debt). Owing so much money made us feel trapped. We moved to Georgia and have been determined to live within our means. We are amazed at how well we can live here compared to Southern California, even within our budget. We now rent a little house and have no debt other than a car loan balance of about $6k. The other car (minivan) is paid for.

I never really believed the life insurance money would come through. It always seemed sketchy that we could have this baby in hospice, just waiting for her to die, and THEN buy a policy on her for $ .48 a week or whatever it cost us. We both really thought there would be a denial on the claim. And we were okay with that because, frankly, who has a baby, finds out she's going to die, and then has MONEY even remotely enter their conscious thought. Obviously, the thought of a life insurance policy never entered our minds before HR made the call to Chris. So when it really happened, it was just weird. And I'm not going to lie. I deposited that check into the bank and immediately made an electronic payment to pay off our car loan. So now we're debt-free and it feels good. And we have money in the bank. Within our budget, $10k means A LOT for us.

But in some small, crazy way it feels like we traded our baby for $10k. I know how twisted that sounds. And of course I know that we would have given damn near anything to have a healthy Addison with us now. We would have paid millions--if it meant financing or begging or stealing or all of the above--whatever it took, we would find a way to get it, if any amount of money would have saved her. To have her here and healthy is all that we cared about. But it still makes me feel guilty.

We are considering options for donations to make in Addison's memory. We definitely want to give to NILMDTS, for starters. But even so, it feels like blood money in a way. So I discussed these thoughts with my therapist. I need to say things out loud. I need to share my emotions. I need to hash and re-hash in order to rid myself of the crazy feelings.

But in going through this life experience with death, I've changed my view of how money plays into it. I think a $5k rider is absolutely appropriate to carry on any child. I've learned that when shit like this happens, the LAST thing you want to think about is balancing your budget. In the hospital when we found out Addison's fate, Chris and I walked downstairs to the Starbucks and got lattes. I didn't eat much in the hospital, but I drank a latte every day. We didn't care what budget category that was coming out of. Hell, I just wanted the caffeine as a way to say SCREW YOU to the universe because I wasn't going to be breastfeeding and having to think about my caffeine intake. And I was pissed about that.

As the early weeks passed and we lived in the haze of picking up cremains and looking at urns and receiving "Sorry for your loss" cards by the handful and making sure our living child was fed and bathed...the last thing on my mind was paying bills. Honestly, I couldn't tell you what was on my mind during those weeks. Not much of anything, I guess. And the budget fell to bits with the arrival of Christmas. I didn't care about getting deals. I was in survival mode and I had a list of people to buy presents for, dammit.

Wow, this has turned into a strange rambling. It sucks because all my thoughts of jobs and money and school (I've thought about going back) just fades down to nothing in the face of losing my child. My baby girl.

Addison, I just miss you. I want you. I wish you didn't die. I love you so much and will love you forever.

The Results Are In

I got a call from the perinatologist's office today. All the lab results came back negative. So it appears that Addison probably did just have a cord accident. I'm not surprised, so I have no outstanding emotion one way or the other about this conclusion.

Struck By Lightning

I always knew bad things happen, but now it feels different.
Bad things can happen.
Bad things might happen.
A really really bad thing happened and it could happen again.

I saw the perinatologist last week. I had to check in at L&D to see him. As I was walking up to the doors, as if on cue, a new mom was being wheeled out with her newborn wrapped up, dad pulling the car up to meet her. The wave of emotion caught me off guard. Thankfully I had tissues in my purse. I met with the insurance woman, then she sent me upstairs. I was spared the sight of more pregnant women, as I was the only patient in the waiting room.

The doctor met me in an empty office and I sat across the desk from him. I wondered why we didn't sit in his own office, just one door over. He had my medical chart, but he didn't have any of Addison's medical information. "Did they do a brain scan?" he asked. I whipped out a copy of her chart and he read the reports. I also took out a photo of her--the one taken by the staff in NICU that was given to me an hour or so after she was born--before I had any idea what a nightmare my world was going to soon become. As I passed the photo across the desk to him, the wave of emotion hit me again and tears flowed. I apologized and mumbled something about him probably having a lot of experience with emotional women, being a perinatologist and all. He told me, "You have every right to be emotional." Then he paused and said, "You know, if you plan to add more children to your family, you need to wait until you can go to L&D and see other moms with their babies before you get pregnant. You need to be able to talk about this and not get emotional." I told him that would probably not be for a long time, and besides, I'm going to be 36 years old in a few months. After lecturing me briefly on The Risk For Genetic Fuck-Ups Don't Really Increase Considerably Until After Age 40, he said, "I have a patient who lost her full-term baby and got pregnant sometime within the first year. She is 18 weeks along and has 18 to go, and she's hardly functioning. If you are going to have another baby, in the next 3-4 years is when you'll want to do it."

I just nodded. Silently.

But my brain screamed: Seriously? Fuck you, dude. THREE TO FOUR YEARS? You don't know ME or what's best for ME. You just don't want to have to deal with another weepy patient. Did you know I go home and care for my 3-year-old and manage to act like a normal person? I'm functioning just fine, considering the shitty circumstances of having a dead freakin' baby. Yes, I'm sure I'll be WAY anxious when I do get pregnant, but I will get pregnant when my husband and I decide we are ready to try--not in 3 or 4 years from now. But thank you for your professional opinion on the matter.

In all honesty, I get what he's saying. I do. But he really doesn't know me or how well I'm doing outside of a 30-minute conversation with me regarding why my baby died. I just met this guy. He's not my therapist. You know?

So, back to the peri, he studied Addison's face, and noted that she didn't appear to have any observable genetic weirdness going on (duh!). Apparently the placenta HAD gone to pathology, and he shared the report with me. It was totally normal. No sign of infection. No meconium staining. Cord gasses normal. NOTHING was wrong. Somehow, someway, her blood pressure dropped during that last week. And it was severe enough to cause major changes in her brain. And we'll never know why. He said he would run all the tests to see if there were clotting issues or anything else that could have been contributing factors, but he didn't think we would find anything. I asked what his gut feeling was, and he said: "My gut is, you were struck by lightning."

We discussed The Next Pregnancy (you know--the one that should happen in 3-4 years) and how I would be closely monitored, have semi-weekly visits at the end, and how they would go ahead and do a c-section between 36-37 weeks. Then the nurse took about 20 vials of blood to be sent to the lab and they sent me on my way.

The thing is that I know everything is going to come back as NORMAL. We will never know why Addison's blood pressure dropped 10 days before she was to be born. And that sucks. But I can deal with it. As long as we rule out whatever can be ruled out, I can live with a lightning strike. But I also know losing Addison does not make me immune from future losses. Perhaps next time it will be a miscarriage at 10 weeks, like the one I had before I conceived Addison. Or perhaps it will be a miscarriage later in the game, or even a stillbirth. Or perhaps, since I'm getting older, it will be some genetic fuck-up that will force me to have to make decisions way more important than which hospice to take my brain-dead baby to. Or perhaps it will be an uneventful pregnancy with an early delivery, necessitating a NICU stay due to immature lungs. Or maybe--just maybe--an uneventful pregnancy ending in a completely healthy baby. Although the odds are with me on that one, I don't DO odds anymore.

I'm trying to come to peace with the fact that bad things do happen, can happen and just might happen. Not just to any future babies, but to me, my son, my husband, my sister, my mom, to whoever. I guess I'm finally growing up.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

From the Mouths of Babes

Calvin's Mother's Morning Out class has been doing assignments wherein each child must bring 3 items to class that start with a certain letter of the alphabet. This week is the letter "D." We started discussing possible things he could bring and the conversation went like this:

Calvin (3 1/2): How 'bout a dog?

Me: That sounds good.

Calvin: Or a dead bug.

Me: Hmm...I don't know about that.

Calvin: A dead person?

Me: (Chuckling) I don't think a dead person would fit in your bag!

Calvin: A dead baby would.

....Man, I hope my poor kid isn't going to be psychologically damaged because of losing his little sister or because of how I'm handling things.