So you're walking around, can't see your feet, your back hurts, & you're getting ready to go through endless pain to bring a human being in this world any day now after waiting 40 weeks. People tell you to think about cute baby toes & fingers, that'll get you through the pain. Besides, hours of pain is nothing compared to a lifetime with your baby!
But folks, someone has to draw a short straw. And in May 2009, I did just that.
What then you ask?
Simple! You get to do the exact same thing as the person across the hall who gets to take the living baby home.
That's right folks, you get to go through it all. Only you have now added this whole emotional "why me, I want to die" aspect.
With Jules I was in labor for 24 hours. Loads of fun. I figured an induction would be just as long this time around. I was wrong.
It was 26 hours, so longer.
I walked my pregnant, but not really pregnant anymore, ass to labor & delivery. Oh yeah, you read that right. I'm pregnant with a dead baby & I get to go through all of this in labor & delivery. I get the hospital issued gown. I get to answer questions about my pregnancy. But at least I don't have to answer questions about taking my baby home, right? They make a list of my belongings, just in case anything gets stolen. Yep, I'm there to deliver a dead baby & I may get robbed. Fabulous.
People ask you about autopsies. And funeral homes. People go over how your baby may or may not look. Let's just be graphic here...your baby may look perfect, like they are sleeping. Or they could end up looking deformed, they can have tears in their skin, they can also be peeling. Sorry for the graphic mental images, but when I found out Joel was dead I googled "what do stillborn babies look like" for answers. I was scared. I couldn't really find anything. So now, if someone googles it, maybe they can find this. Sorry if you're googling this.
Anyway, you get IV's. You get bloodwork. You get some people who ask if you'll try for another. Yes, seriously. You'll hopefully get drugs. Lots of drugs. You will get to push. You will feel everything, you will hear nothing. I went through 26 hours of hell, & really the fun is just starting. Though I do have to say my hospital was pretty hands off. Previously, I'd have to ask permission to go to the bathroom or deal with nurses wanting to check me all the time. This time though they pretty much let me be. And that was a good thing, because I didn't want to deal with any of that.
Know what happens next? You get sewed up. Oh yeah, you still get tears since you pushed out a baby. You can also get hemorrhoids. And your milk will come in. Because even though you baby dies inside of you, there is no switch flipped off in your head. Your body is ready to take care of a baby. As another dead baby mom without any living children once told me, for her, it was like she spent 9 months preparing to be a mother & then nothing. All these things you're ready to do, deal with, things you prepare for...it's gone.
After that, the grief parade will start. I'd tell you how that went, but I paid no attention. Why? Because I had chicken strips. Never, in any hospital stay, have I eaten the food. But on that day? Those chicken strips were awesome. And fries, can't forget the fries. They'd also sent me several packages of any type of sauce ever needed for chicken strips. It was really nice actually. I remember wondering if they called for a tray & told them I was a dead baby mom, it felt like they put extra effort into condiments & if I worked in a kitchen I'd feel the need to do that for someone. So, as people came in & held our dead baby, I nom'ed. I ate like I didn't have a care in the world. And really, compared to 48 hours before, I really didn't. The part of the physical pain & the worry was gone & over with. So I ate my chicken. It was one of the top 5 meals I've ever had in my life.
Eventually, they will want you to get out of bed. So I did. And I showered. And I sat on the floor of the shower crying for most of that. I can kinda see my feet at this point, being not pregnant allows that. Instead, the once pregnant stomach is left with stretch marks that itchy & is complete with a nice jello feeling if you touch it. Other times I didn't mind this, but there was a reward for that jiggle previously. This time, not so much.
Night fell. I did more of asking "why me?" We'd picked a funeral home, on the entire basis of it listing "infant services" in their ad in the yellow pages. We are in our 20's, you think we have a "favorite" funeral home or something?
Now here is where it gets weird for me. Because I know he's dead. Duh. I know our interaction is nothing for him. But it's all I've got. And the worse thing is knowing what will happen once he leaves our room. A morgue. An autopsy. I know that telling someone "go ahead & take him" is basically saying (excuse the bluntness here) "take him to the fridge until the doctor gets his scalpel ready." And I knew that meant never seeing him again. And one of the most painful things, even more painful than we were told he was dead, is the memory of him being wheeled out of that room the next morning.
After that, I sat in the bed. Hooked to IV's. Numb & wanting to leave. My mother in law & sister in law came in. Talked about old times, work, joked around...& there I sat. I stared & read the posted across the room by the sink, the poster I read no less than 1000 times before I went home. A hand washing poster. It was a hand, of course, & said something about "the five most common ways to spread infection." This was my special room, all baby stuff had been removed before I was there. So, instead, just several signs telling me how to wash my hands were up.If I didn't know how to wash my hands before, I totally do now.
Before I'm allowed to make my escape, I have to sign off on paperwork. One form talked about what I wanted to do with "the remains." That's some scary shit right there. You check the wrong box & nothing good can happen. So I made sure to clearly label & sign the right box, telling them to release him to the funeral home. The next batch of paperwork I get to sign, while Adam goes & runs us into some debt at the cashiers office (yes, they wanted paid THEN for things, walked in the hospital with no debt, left with a few thousand in debt), is the form that tells me how to take care of myself. I have to check off that I know & have been told this & that. I could skip the parts about infant care, thankfully. Though I did still have to sign something that said I knew not to hold anything heavier than my infant. Thaaanks.
I get dressed to leave. Oh, that's fun as well. Because, even though you have no baby, you just had a baby. So you still need maternity clothes. That's just salt in the wound, let me tell you. After that, I sat in a rocking chair while the husband carried things out to our car. We finally get to leave. And make the long drive home with an empty car. Minus sympathy flowers of course. No talking, there is nothing to say. Come home & take care of things, because nothing at home has stopped. Flowers to water, pets to feed, pools that needs chemicals dumped in. And I waddle around, trying to do my normal routine, because I need something normal in my life.
We ate pizza rolls, fruit, & veggies for dinner. The pizza rolls from our trip home. The fruit & veggies were from our grief food in the fridge. People caring for our cats & dog, some of the husbands co-workers, were nice enough to put stuff in our fridge while they cared for the pets. Of course, the irony here is that the same day we found out Joel was dead we'd been talking about grief food. Seriously. We were talking about sending something to our friend Dawn whose son had an accident. Adam mentioned he thought people sent food of sorts, I told him grief food was awful & I was not about to send our friend veggies.
I don't believe in karma, but I guess I should believe in jinxing myself.
Jules finally came home. He cried when I tried to get him to be around me. He'd always been a daddy's boy & being away had totally thrown him for a loop so he was whinny &, well, miserable in his own way. Then I cried, because it felt like the living son wanted nothing to do with me anymore. Sure, that was an irrational thought but so many other things that made no sense had already happened so why not just throw in rejection from the toddler, too? The rest of the night I watched Headline News. Over & over. Taking percocet after percocet. Curling up on my left side against the old purple quilt we have & some pillows, just staring through the TV in the darkened living room until just after 5am when Adam came up & asked me if I wanted to come to bed. I said sure, but only so he wouldn't worry I was going to keep taking percocet all night.
The next adventure would be planning a funeral a couple days later. Thankfully I managed to get out of bed for it. And find clothes, that weren't maternity, that fit. Adam, being an english teacher, made the poor guy at the funeral home re-write the obituary over & over for comas & semi-colons. We paid for a death certificate, which I was happy about because I had previously told Adam we may get nothing. I knew we didn't get a birth certificate. Some places didn't even do death certificates I found. So I figured we'd get at least that. Afterward we went driving. I'm not sure how or why we ended up driving around, but we did. And we got to sit behind a school bus since it was time for school to be out. We watched a little boy run out of his house, his mom follow behind him, as he raced down their sidewalk to the bus where his brother, who wasn't much older, came down. They walked arm in arm up to the house. There might as well have been a neon sign pointing at them & someone with a megaphone yelling, "since your baby died, your other son will never have this!" We then picked flowers out at the florist. And a $50 stuffed animal, just because. Fate worked out that to look at the funeral arrangement books, we had to sit in the new baby section of the shop. Yes, seriously. We were surrounded by "congrats!" balloons & baby items. I wanted to take one of those plastic floral card holders & jam it through my eye. Or both of them to at least blind me if it didn't kill me. Sitting there picking out flowers sucked more than picking out an urn. Seriously.
Later on in the grief, I got to pick up Joel's death certificate. That day made me regret I actually didn't stab myself in the eye at the florist.
First off, we didn't get a death certificate like I'd get if I fell over dead right now. It's a "fetal death certificate." Lovely. I looked at it in the car & then again at home. I couldn't stop staring at it in disappointment. Because you see, I'd hoped that at least in death, somewhere, he'd be recognized. But nah, that can't happen. There is a place the doctor signed his name, the doctor who claimed to have delivered the baby & got paid to deliver him, but he actually didn't. The exact thing he signs under states "I certify that on the date above at the location above, the fetus was born dead."
Something about "fetus born dead" bothers me. When I say "something" I actually mean everything.
Next up I noticed that I'm listed, Adam is listed, the hospital is listed, "unknown" is the cause of death, what funeral home he went to & that he was cremated is listed, the date is listed, the fact that he died during pregnancy & not during delivery or labor is listed, hell even the place he was cremated is listed.
See anything missing?
No name. He's just a nameless, dead fetus that was born on May 28th.
And that's all I got. I get no birth certificate. I know that's a hot button topic. I've seen that people fear giving a birth certificate when someone isn't actually alive crosses the lines of defining where life begins, & therefore turns into an abortion debate. I'm prochoice, I think anyone should have a choice.
My choice was to be pregnant & have a baby. My baby died, but I still had him. My feelings come down to the fact that I'm selfish & feel like I deserve a piece of paper that says I went through pregnancy & childbirth. Give me something & call it a fucking stillborn certificate, or even a delivery certificate. I don't really care. But as I talked about earlier, I still went through everything as if he was alive & I think I deserve something. I've seen the argument made that people don't get why it matters, it doesn't make the child come back to life or anything. No it doesn't bring him back & no it doesn't make anything better, but it's something. And when you've got little, you'll hold onto anything you can.
We spent the rest of the summer in denial. Doing what we could to keep busy. Doing things to our house. Going into even more debt for the husbands vasectomy reversal. And drinking. Because at a certain point, all you can do is keep going. And that's what we did. I've been asked how we did it, & it's really that simple. We had to.
We are now one year & 4, almost 5, months post dead baby. And really...it's gotten better. Still sucks. Still cry. But it's better. It continues to change my life & how we do everything. We had some family pictures today. After I found my clothes, helped Adam with his, & picked Jules & Blair's outfits out, I got to sit down & clean the tarnish off of Joel's contribution to the family pictures.
Those are Thumbies. Expensive, real life set in silver imprints of Joel's hand & foot prints. I mean, I guess they could just be any random hand or foot print, we really wouldn't know, but I'd like to think a company isn't ripped us sad people off.
Of course, like I said, we'll hold onto anything we can.
And, for the rest of my life, I'll hold onto the thing I can't have. That's just how it works.
And that, my friends, is what happens when your baby dies. A part of you dies, too. But you'll be OK. Because you've got to be eventually.
Happy October 15th, peeps.