A year ago today the world stopped turning for Jim and me. Most of you know the story, but I’ll give a brief background just in case you don’t. A more comprehensive story of my labor and delivery can be found on the Labor & Delivery page of this blog. Just e-mail me for the password (but if you’re a stranger, I may not grant the request).
I started this blog when Jim and I were living in Japan, where he was stationed with the Air Force. I started it when we got pregnant for the first time, and I wanted our families and friends in the States to be able to keep up with the progress. We found out about our little geekling on March 23, 2009, seven years to the day after we got engaged. My due date was calculated to be December 4th – my husband’s birthday and my all-time favorite day of the year. I was really healthy during my pregnancy: I ran through my first trimester, and swam laps and/or walked several miles almost daily through the second and third. I didn’t gain too much weight. My pregnancy was rough, with lots of nausea all the way through, heartburn, aches, pains and major headaches. But I knew it would all be worth it and I was so excited. We found out our baby was a girl at 15 weeks, and then confirmed it at 21 weeks before announcing it to our family and friends. Our apartment soon exploded in pinks and purples and we were so very excited about our baby. We picked out two beautiful names and decided to wait until we met our daughter to name her. She would have been either Annalisa Margaret or Natalia Margaret. I quit my job in August so that I could focus on finishing up my graduate degree before our daughter’s arrival. I finished my coursework in October and then settled into a relaxed routine of waiting for baby. Jim had another year and a half in the military, and I was planning to be a stay-at-home-mom to our daughter.
The night of Thanksgiving 2009 I went into labor. We had enjoyed a small feast at home with a friend and Jim and his friend had pulled out our Christmas decorations so Jim and I could decorate our apartment the next day. Around 9pm my contractions were regular and by 12pm I was at the hospital. The rest of the story is, well, heartbreaking. In short, our daughter didn’t tolerate my contractions, I was, eventually, taken into an emergency c-section and after her delivery we thought everything was going to be okay until the pediatrician came to tell us they had been working on our girl for 30 minutes and hadn’t been able to start her breathing. After the delivery and pediatric teams went over everything and the pathologist finished his autopsy, it turns out everything that pretty much everything that can go wrong during labor and delivery did go wrong. Our sweet baby probably would not have made it no matter what was done, and no matter what medical technology had been available at our base hospital. After a full-term, healthy, successful pregnancy, I gave birth to a daughter who did not live.
The world stopped turning on November 27, 2009, when we lost our daughter. I carried her for 39 weeks. We became parents that day but have never been able to be parents to our child. We named her Angel, her role of watching over us from above reflected in her name.
There has been a lot of healing in the last year. We requested and were granted an assignment back to the States, in Oklahoma to be near my family, since Jim’s is spread out across the country and mine is pretty much in one place with a few exceptions. Jim requested and was granted an early out from the military and our civilian life, while difficult in a lot of ways, has been wonderful so far. We bought a house, we got 2 dogs to add to the cat we brought with us back from Japan. And just five months after Angel’s birth we became pregnant again. I’m now almost 34 weeks along with another daughter, and I have a careful and kind and very knowledgable doctor who is taking every necessary step and precaution to ensure this child will have the greatest chance possible. In 25 days I plan to deliver her at just past the full-term mark via a scheduled caesarean.
But with the healing we’ve encountered a lot of really low lows. Jim and I have both suffered from depressive episodes. I, who have suffered from chronic depression for a number of years, sought chemical help and upped my dosage of antidepressants after we moved to the States. There have been days for both of us when we don’t know what to do and getting out of bed is difficult, let alone trying to get through the day. There have been days when I am so scared about Eddy’s birth and life that I worry all day, even though I know it’s not good for her. I have struggled with working on the house to get it ready to bring home our second daughter because I have this horrible, terrible fear in the back of my mind that we won’t get to bring her home, either.
But despite all of the above (and so much more), we’re hopeful, and we continue to heal. We’ve both sought help from professionals who can talk us through what we’re feeling and help us come out on the other side. We’ve sought ultimate refuge in each other – a step that I’m so thankful we thought to make – and have come together in our love and our love for our daughters more closely than we ever thought possible. We’ve made decisions together for our future and figured out together what is best for our little family. We hardly ever have outright fights anymore because we generally know how to coherently and respectfully disagree with one another. I, who have always been a pessimistic person, have learned that it’s not worth it to get wound up over things you cannot control. I’m more laid back, more positive, and, I’ve been told, more easy and enjoyable to be around now. I strive to both inwardly and outwardly manage the stressors in my life so that I don’t bring undue stress to my current pregnancy. I don’t hide my true feelings, or put on a mask, but I’ve learned to manage any stress in a way that doesn’t dwell within me.
This week, as we celebrated Thanksgiving with my family members and each other, I couldn’t help but remember every second of my Thanksgiving last year. Last night I was up until after 2 a.m. because I didn’t know if I’d be able to sleep or if I’d have nightmares all night about that horrible night last year. I was able to sleep, almost through the night, and I had no nightmares. Though I woke up this morning with a heavy heart, I know that as difficult as the 27th of November will be every year, as hard as it will be to celebrate Thanksgiving and not equate a day of giving thanks with the devastation of losing our first daughter, that we can get through. We’ve already made it a year. Though each year this time may bring something new and will, undoubtedly, be difficult in and of itself, we still have so very much for which to be thankful. And we can’t let Angel’s death keep us from living our lives.
One year ago today the world stopped turning for me and Jim. But somehow we’ve made it through.