As a mother who lost a child, I want to take a moment to recommend a resource. Stillbirthday is a comprehensive, supportive network, where you can be put in touch with a “mentor” who has lost a child herself (among many other resources). My loss long predates the site’s existence, but I was lucky enough to have a “mentor” myself – a friend with a similar loss who emailed me the entire time I was in the hospital, talking about what she went through, how it felt, what was coming next, etc. I cannot ever express how much this mattered to me, and matters to me still.
This is the first guest post I’ve hosted! Please welcome Cait McKnelly.
A number of state legislatures are passing legislation outlawing abortion after the twentieth week on the basis of “fetal pain”. This is just one of many, unscientifically founded assertions regarding abortion that are being codified into our laws in different states; laws that are not only founded on mistruths and misunderstandings but, in the end, may actually run counter to their stated purpose. (I’ll get into their actual purpose later in this article.)
I have shared the story of my first son’s life and death inside me, and I have an entire journal about him. I was just catching up on facebook when a link caught my eye: Georgia Lawmaker Compares Women to Cows and Pigs. I knew it would be enraging, because I cannot imagine how it wouldn’t be. But I also assumed it would be an eye-roller. You know, oh, sure, now we’re just cattle, can’t wait to see this on The Daily Show. But it wasn’t. This one hit so personally that I actually lost my breath.
I was going through some files on my computer, chucking ones that were old or duplicates, when I found the excerpt from the book The Little Prince that your Grandma read at your memorial service. And all of a sudden, I was crying. I haven’t cried over you in so long…
Grief shows up in strange places, and I guess it never really heals all the way.
I, too, am going back home today…It is much farther… it is much more difficult…Tonight…my star can be found right above the place where I came to the Earth…At night you will look up at the stars. Where I live everything is so small that I cannot show you where my star is to be found.
It is better, like that. My star will just be one of the stars, for you. And so you will love to watch all the stars in the heavens… they will all be your friends…In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night… you– only you– will have stars that can laugh! And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me.
And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure… and your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing as you look up at the sky! Then you will say to them, ‘Yes, the stars always make me laugh!’ And they will think you are crazy. It will be a very shabby trick that I shall have played on you…It will be as if, in place of the stars, I had given you a great number of little bells that knew how to laugh…
You will suffer. I shall look as if I were dead; and that will not be true…You understand…it is too far. I cannot carry this body with me. It is too heavy. But it will be like an old abandoned shell. There is nothing sad about old shells…You know, it will be very nice.
I, too, shall look at the stars. All the stars will be wells with a rusty pulley. All the stars will pour out fresh water for me to drink…That will be so amusing! You will have five hundred million little bells, and I shall have five hundred million springs of fresh water…Here it is. Let me go on by myself.
Originally posted February 24, 2011
With all the anti-choice bills going on nationwide, I feel I need to tell my story. The anti-choice people are gaining too much ground, and we have to speak out or else we will lose all our rights. Women don’t have late-term abortions because they changed their mind about having a baby. They aren’t doing it because having a disabled child might be “inconvenient.” They do it out of love. WE do it out of love. My abortion was the most loving thing I did for my first son.
Your brother is here, safe and whole and alive. He’s so beautiful, I find I can spend hours just watching the tiny flickers of expression that cross his face while he sleeps. It’s overwhelming. He was born on October 29th, all 8 lbs 9 oz of him. It was a very difficult labor and birth, but I’ve been recovering very well–we even left the hospital a day early (which, after a cesarean, is pretty impressive I guess? People sure are shocked anyway).
Having him here is hard but joyous; the lack of sleep sometimes gets to one or the other of us (mostly around the time we’re trading off naps). The hardest part for me though is that I obsessively check his breathing while he sleeps. I think more than is normal for a fretful new parent; I find myself leaping up to check him every few minutes when he’s sleeping. The only time I can let down and sleep is when Daddy is awake with him. As long as someone is standing guard I can relax.
I am hoping I can learn to trust that he will really stay now that he’s here…he’s been perfectly healthy so there’s no reason to worry so very much. It’s me, I know; I know what it was like losing you, and I can’t imagine how I’d survive if something happened to him too. The panic level overall has gone down now that I can check his breathing, at least there’s that.
And, contrary to what people told me–although the sleep deprivation is very hard, it is actually NOT harder having him on the outside than on the inside. I feel healthier now (even though I suspect I might be catching a cold) than I did through the entire pregnancy. I think that’s why the recovery seems so easy; yes, there’s pain around the incision and I’m sore and exhausted, but I can take painkillers for that. I’m not nauseous, my entire body doesn’t ache, and I can stand and walk without awful pain in my hips and back. And I can buy moment after moment free of fear for him by watching that little chest rise and fall.
I found this Google ad, and it’s so cute and sweet it made me tear up the whole time. Happy tears. But then it gave me the creeps.
It’s the way the babies stop crying and there’s silence and then the dad types “How soon can we try again?”
I know it’s just supposed to be sweet and happy, and that having these babies makes him so happy he just wants more. I know, I get it.
But seriously, the first time I saw it I thought the babies died.
This shit kind of stays with you, doesn’t it.
I still miss you, blackbird.
We had to go to the hospital for fluids last night. It wasn’t as bad as I feared; I actually took the IV needle like a champ. Which is amazing, given that I cried and delayed for an hour when I had to get the IV when you were born. Granted, that was a pretty different situation, but it was a more normal reaction for me! I was in the hospital for four hours, dripping away on the IV with your Daddy sitting next to me, petting my hand and watching the World’s Strongest Man competition on ESPN.
They gave me Phenergan, which is the only medicine we hadn’t tried yet. It has stopped the vomiting so far, although it makes me very tired. I’m actually keeping fluids down and am planning on eating a banana when your Grandma L. gets back from the store.
I actually lost twelve pounds over the last week. That was when the doctor went from “well, if it gets worse you’ll need to go to the ER” to “Get thee to the IV fluids, stat.” And I got the official diagnosis of Hyperemesis, lucky me.
I’ve gotten so weak from all the vomiting and lack of food that the doctor wants me off work until Wednesday. Which sucks, both because of the income I’ll lose and because people get all resentful if you have to miss work. But at least I have a note from my doctor. And, I am profoundly grateful that I am no longer quite so sick. Crushing exhaustion I can deal with better than this. Just another form of perspective, I guess. I mean, when I carried you, the crushing exhaustion from the Reglan was almost more than I could bear. But now I think I can stand the exhaustion just fine, so long as I can eat and drink enough that I don’t feel like I’m dying.
I’ve been in good health the majority of my life, until we started trying to make babies. Somewhere under all the weakness and shakiness is sadness and anger that this whole babymaking thing gets infused with this almost mythic glow when really it’s a violent pitfall-ridden hazing period full of horror and shame and sorrow and frustration. I feel like I’ve been swept under the rug; the cultural mythos of pregnancy doesn’t actually include people like us.
I’m going to try and keep down a banana and take another nap.