Thursday, October 30, 2014


A while back, one of my Facebook friends said, on a status about having to call the insurance company to tell them Psalm had died, that it's the everyday things that get you the most.  He was right, of course, in more than just dealing with the insurance company.

I didn't commemorate a week of her death, or a month.  Her due date was commemorated with her memorial service.  I don't foresee myself especially marking three months, or six, but perhaps I will.  Right now, grief is at the same high level every day, and there's no reason for me to stop and say "Oh, it's been this long", because it all feels like one long day.

Still, it's the everyday things that get you.  The van is parked, broken down, and to go anywhere we walk half a mile to the bus stop and as we go I feel Psalm's lack; she should be tied to my chest in the mei tai, carried along up next to my heart.

Halloween is a favorite holiday of ours (as so many other people), and when I first found out I was due in late October I started thinking of a teeny tiny Halloween costume and it fucking sucks to be walking through Wal-Mart and see all the tiny little Halloween-themed onesies and pajamas and have no baby to buy them for.

And there are babies everywhere; October is high time for them because January is so cold.  Some time ago, at Wal-Mart to buy some things we needed, I saw a tiny little brown-haired baby girl who couldn't have been more than a week or two old, as Psalm would have been, and I had to go outside and cry where her parents couldn't see me.  San Antonio is a bad town to have brown-haired baby girls make you cry, but I have since discovered that seeing any newborn hurts like hell.  Clearly, I should just stop going out, but of course that is not practical.

I can feel her with me.  Not a ghost, unless ghosts are a manifestation of the survivors' sadness, but she was my sixth child and after five children you know how a baby feels in your arms.  And my arms are empty, but I can feel where she should be; I can feel her small weight as though she were there, and perfect.  I think often of how much she looked like her daddy, and how dark and wavy her hair was and how like Marie she would be.  Strong, stubborn little girl.

Grief is a strange thing.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

So many things...

It occurs to me that I haven't posted very many photos of Psalm here, so I am to rectify that today...

I would take your pain away and hurt for you if I could, but I fear that doing so would mean taking away some of the love you feel as well, because those are the two sides of the same coin.  Still, I hate like hell that there is anyone else out there who knows exactly how I feel.

There's been another baby born to the support group, a wee tiny boy who lived a quarter of an hour.  And oh, my God, the pain.  The remembered pain.  I ache for his mother because now the pain isn't an abstract thing, it's an exact thing.  I know how it feels to wake up with empty arms and empty womb and oh, my friends, I cannot explain it to you and I hope like hell all you can do is imagine it yourselves.

God's cruelty is refining. (Stephen King, Desperation)

There are dark thoughts that will not leave my mind.  No thoughts of harm or wishing I wasn't here.  Nothing that serious.  Worries about my girl.  When she opened her mouth at me and grimaced at first I thought she was in pain, but I rationalized it as her trying to cry.  But what if I'm wrong?  What if those were frantic gasps for breath, with underdeveloped lungs too small to pull in air?

Just the same, she opened her eyes and looked at me and I saw there the wise look that all newborns have.  But someone else interpreted her look as fright.  What if she was right?  What if Psalm was frightened by the lights, by the noise, by her own failing body?

How much of what we tell ourselves about death is true, and how much of it is lies to make ourselves feel better?  We presume there is little to no pain, that it is somehow a serene slipping away, but there's no way to know that's true.  And that troubles me, because I made the best decision I could for her but there's always the chance that my choices were the wrong ones.

We mamas of lost babies have been called strong.  After a while, this becomes a burden.  We're not strong.  We're just doing what we have to, just putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward because while your heart is beating and you are breathing, there is no other choice.

I have no strength left in me.  None.  I have given all I have to other people, and I swear to God if I hear one more line about men being stoic and holding up things for their families I am going to scream.

We had Psalm's memorial service this past Tuesday, on my due date.  Dry-eyed, I arranged to have a photo blown up to display at the service, and I packed her green blanket and the little baby book from Sufficient Grace ministries to act as a guest book and I took them and I laid them out on the table.  I thought the service would be the time to cry; I told the girls this was the time we are given to be sad.  But I'm the one who had to stand up and be strong for those who were crying.  I'm the one who has shed her tears hiding in the bathroom more often than not so I don't bring others down.  I'm the one who went outside after seeing her death certificate and her ashes so I would bother no one with my grief.  I'm the one who kept quiet about how fucking much it hurt to have a friend's child born on my due date because I didn't want to upset my husband with the knowledge it was happening or the friend with the knowledge of how painful it was.  I hurt physically and emotionally and I am sucking up both sources of pain because that's just what the fuck I do.

Just fucking once, I wish someone would speak of my daughter as though she was a normal baby.  As though her presence was the presence of a real person, not the embodiment of...something.

I posted to Facebook the video the midwife gave us of her moving around and making faces and kicking me in the face.  When it happened, it was a happy moment because here I am cut open on a table and my newborn is kicking me in the face.  Yep, she's my kid for sure.  Grouchy as fuck and kicking.  There was nothing beautiful or precious or anything about that.  It was the closest thing to a moment of normalcy we got that day.  But I guess it's not realistic to ask other people to look past the circumstances and see the moment for the moment.  I realize Psalm isn't really real to most people, and that most folks have a problem with seeing any newborn as a 100% human human, but I just want some tiny little slice of normal to cling to because otherwise this is just an ongoing nightmare.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

All that girl wants to be is loved....

What we have done is not because of being strong.

It is not because of pro-life beliefs.

It is not because of faith.

All of those things are there, perhaps.  But the reason we continued this pregnancy without a second thought, even though we knew the heartbreak that awaited us at the end of the road, is simple:


That is the reason.  I loved this child from the moment I suspected I was carrying her.  I will love her until the day I die, and (God willing) in the life beyond this one.

This has long been my favorite Bible verse, 1 Corinthians 13:1:

If I speak with the tongues of men or of angels, but have not love, I am but a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

The ending verse of the chapter (the one that contains the "Love is patient, love is kind..." bit that is read at so many weddings) is more famous, and equally applicable here:

Three things remain: faith, hope, and love.  And the greatest of these is love.

It is all about love.  Jesus said "This is my commandment.  Love one another as I have loved you."  (John 15:12, remarkably nearly the same in every translation.)  I'm nowhere near Jesus levels of love, but I love as much as I can.

My uncle, who was like a father to me, was Wiccan; they believe in a Spiral of Rebirth, rather similar to the Hindu belief in reincarnation, where you are reborn as many times as you need to learn the lessons you need.  And I was thinking about this, and the question arose "What could a person need to learn that a 90-minute life is long enough?"  And the answer is obvious.  She needed to be loved.  And so she was.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Sometimes it comes out of nowhere

I was listening to Pandora last night.  Otis Redding radio.  Motown, in other words.

A song came on.  "Little Bitty Pretty One."  And suddenly I was almost in tears.

I sang that song to all my kids but one.  I didn't sing it to Psalm.  There was too much else going on for me to think of singing to her at all, to be honest.  Singing to my babies is an intimate thing.  I've always sung their first song to them when it was just the two of us.  And it was never just the two of us.

But I did play her her song, "She Will Be Free".  So there's that, at least.

Not that it's enough.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

She will be free...

I'm always about a week behind in updating things, and this is no different.

Woke up early last Wednesday.  We'd made the decision to go ahead and schedule a c-section, being that it would give us the best chance of meeting our baby girl alive.  This was on Monday.  We wanted to schedule things when everyone could be there--Erik's mom, our priest, the photographer from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.

Around 8 o'clock, about 20 minutes after I got up, I felt the first mild contraction.  We decided to take the girls to McDonald's for breakfast and see what happened.  Got in touch with my mother and all went to eat.  By the time the phone calls were made--and along with them, the tentative decision to schedule surgery for the coming Monday--the contractions were coming every three to five minutes.  I'd told Erik about them but no one else.  As we were getting ready to make an HEB run, my mother said she'd stay behind and I frantically mouthed to her that I was having contractions.  We still didn't want to tell the girls anything.

So we made a quick stop at HEB.  Contractions kept coming.  Noticeable but not painful.  We went home and I took a shower and had Erik call in and they said to go ahead and come in.  So we made sure we had everything--prayer shawl, clothes for her, camera (I'd had Erik buy a 4-pack of batteries while we were at HEB, so we had brand new ones), things for the kids to keep themselves occupied.  Erik called his mom and she started in this direction, and called everyone else to let them know we were headed to the hospital to see what was going on.  I called my best friend, Mark, and he said he'd find a way to the hospital.  I made a Facebook post.

We got to the hospital, got parked, went in (with a stop at the restroom for one last belly picture), and went in to Labor & Delivery.  I managed to make it through checking in and registering OK, but in the bathroom where you change--the same one where I'd changed while in labor with Doug--with some other baby's healthy heartbeat filling the air, I broke down for the first time.  And then I got myself together just in time to have to explain to the triage nurse that she might not be able to find a heartbeat, because the baby had a fatal diagnosis and I hadn't felt her move the night before.

And of course, she couldn't.

But then the midwife came in, with the sono machine, and they found her and her little beating heart back on the left side of my body where she'd spent most of her time rather than the right side where she'd been on Monday.

They'd called Erik back at some point, and he was there for the discussion with Katie, the midwife I'd only seen once during my pregnancy, about having a c-section.  She said she'd scrub in and act as nurse and the nurse in L&D triage, Heather, would scrub in as well and stick with us and help out however she could.  A third woman, whose name I don't recall, offered to take our camera and take pictures.

There was one more c-section ahead of me, then they'd get us back there.  Katie went to talk with Dr. Beceiro, one of the OBs in the practice the midwives are attached to, and in the meantime my husband was brought OR clothes and got to watch as I was shaved and otherwise prepped.  This whole time, I'm having regular, acutely painful, contractions, but the monitor was on Psalm-Angel's heartbeat and it was fast and regular and the most beautiful sound I had ever heard.

After a while, Dr. Beceiro came in.  There was a snag in the plan.  Because of the short cord and the baby's organs being fused to the placenta, she was afraid she would have to do a c-section with a classical incision.  This drastically increased my risk of uterine rupture in future pregnancies and meant deliveries would  have to be made between 35 and 37 weeks to avoid any problems.  I knew she wasn't exaggerating--two of the women in the support group on Facebook had had classical incision c-sections and subsequent uterine ruptures.  I could be one more and done, but the risk would still be there.

So we changed plans again.  I'd labor a while longer and we'd see if a vaginal birth was possible.  I'd been checked by Katie and determined to be 1cm dilated.  We'd let things go another few hours, and check again to see if there was any progress.  If not, we'd move ahead with the c-section plan.

After an indeterminate waiting period, we got back to a labor and delivery room.  There was a big couch, and a chair, and the usual warmer setup.  It was incredibly similar to what I'd seen with Doug.  I went to the restroom and then toted my IV pole--I was on fluids to ensure I stayed hydrated enough there'd be no problems with anesthesia--to the bed and climbed in, lying on my left side. My glasses were put on the bedside table.  I cuddled Erik close and tried my damnedest to relax during contractions.

At one point, the on-duty chaplain came in.  Wonder of wonders, she was Episcopalian.  She anointed me and prayed with us.  Psalm-Angel could not, she said, be baptized once she passed, but she could be blessed.  She brought the kids in a few at a time for hugs and kisses and promised to return in a couple of hours with a book and some literature.

Heather, who'd come over from L&D, came back and hooked me up to the heartbeat monitor again.  Psalm-Angel's little heartbeat filled the air.  Katie came in and checked me--still 1cm.  No change.  By then I'd been in labor 8 hours, so it was fairly obvious nothing would change.  I had tried, but a c-section it would be. I was terrified of the specter of a classical incision and the decision of how many children to have being taken away from us.

Things moved fairly quickly after that.  The priest stopped by one more time and gave us the promised books and pamphlets, commiserated with us about the surgery, and said another prayer for all of us, including something in there about guidance for the surgeons.  By 5:32 I was in the OR facing my other big fear--anesthesia.  I'd last had a c-section ten years earlier, and placing the spinal had taken longer than the surgery.  As I told everyone involved, I'd quit counting after the fifth attempt to stick me.

The anesthesiologist this time was much better.  It only took two very quick pokes and he had the epidural placed.  I was unsure about this rather than a spinal, as I'd been bullied into an epidural with Marie that hadn't given me much relief at all.  But this time it took quickly and well, and I was numb in almost no time at all.  Erik was brought in from his nervous hallway wait, the room filled with personnel, and things got started.

The thing with epidurals is that they can evidently have a "window" where the anesthesia suddenly works poorly or not at all, and I was lucky enough to develop one of those toward the left side.  The pain was abrupt and unexpected, but honestly no worse than natural childbirth.  I told the anesthesiologist right away that it had started to hurt like hell, and he sent more medicine down as the doctor was, it felt like, trying to yank my innards out forcibly.  It was explained to me that this was them breaking up scar tissue--they hadn't gotten to the baby yet.  I closed my eyes, gripped Erik's hand tightly, and tried to breathe through the pain.

Suddenly, there was a commotion, something was said to me, and a baby was laid on my bare chest.  She was wrapped in a couple of blue-and-green OR blankets or something similar, her arms and head free.  She opened her little mouth in what first looked like a grimace of pain but I realized was an attempt to cry.  I wrapped an arm around her and kissed her wet little head and when she opened her eyes and gave me that wise newborn look, I lost my composure yet again and started to cry.  I kissed her over and over and told her how much I loved her and how glad I was to meet her and how sorry I was to not be able to fix her.  She opened her eyes a second time to see her daddy, tried again to cry, and kicked me in the face with the little foot that had been up by her face for however long.  She closed her eyes and I thought she had died, but the midwife came and checked and said she was still alive.  Erik held her.  Many pictures were taken.

They took her off to the warmer and I think Erik went with them and they got her detached from the placenta and wrapped in the more familiar white with pink and blue stripes hospital blankets, and the little pink and blue cap covering a huge amount of hair.  They discovered she was improbably hanging on and brought her back to my chest.  I was told I could take the other arm too and hold her, so I wrapped both arms around her and went back to crying and kissing her.  I told her she could go home whenever she needed to, but I was sure glad to have her.

Then, good news.  Because of the time I'd spent laboring--time I'd felt wasted because of the outcome--it turned out the doctor was able to do a c-section with just the low transverse incision.  No classical.  No on-purpose preterm babies.

We were moved back to a recovery room.  I had her in my arms the whole time.  The kids and  my mother and Erik's mother and Mark all came back to see her.  She had her eyes closed, lying on my chest.  Everyone saw her and fussed over her and kissed her.  I held her.  I saw her lips were turning dark.  At some point I felt her fly away.  I don't know how I knew she was gone, but I did.  Family out, Mark still there, the midwife checked her again and said she had no heartbeat.  A neonatologist was called in to pronounce her dead.  Mark was there.  Ashley, the older of Erik's two sisters, came back at one point with her daughter Hadley, and stayed momentarily.  Then they both left.

Still, we stayed.  My daughter, now lifeless, lay on my chest.  I stroked her dark hair and her smooth cheeks, tried not to notice how little of her there was.  I'd declined the chance to see her unwrapped as Erik had.  Going into it, I had thought I would want to see everything, but at the time I just could not.

Psalm-Angel Guadalupe was born 24th September 2014, at 6:10PM.  She was pronounced dead at 7:48PM, a technical lifetime of an hour and thirty-eight minutes, though as I said I know she passed before that.  As far as babies with LBWC go, it was a long life.  I've been told of one baby who lived two hours, but most lived for much, much shorter times.  As I said some time ago, the miracle I prayed for was to have her born alive, and that is the miracle I was given.  Ask, and it shall be given unto you.

There are other things to talk about.  Her bath.  How lovely she looked in her dress and blanket.  Her Baptism by the on-call chaplain, a Baptist minister who arrived shortly after she was pronounced.  Her professional photographs.  But these things run together in my mind.

What stands out is this.  She was born.  She looked at me with the same utter love that my other newborns have.  She spent very nearly all her life in my arms or her father's.  She knew nothing, nothing but love her whole life.

I woke up in the hospital the next morning, in pain from the surgery, aching to hold my daughter, and this song was in my head...not the one I expected, but a good one, and fitting

She will be free
like the leaves floating in the wind and the stream.
She will not be bound
by anything that tries to drag her down.
All that girl wants to be is loved.
Her heart is a river in my blood.