Horsing around

Two years ago, we were here at the farm celebrating this May long weekend. The horses had arrived back in our pasture after spending the winter at their owner’s farm. I wrote about my envy of the horses and their babies, feeling sad that I had been trying to conceive and had recently miscarried. 

Two years later, I’m here again with my two boys. The horses have returned and, this time, it’s them who don’t have their babies. Of the three mares that arrived at our farm the other night, one recently suffered a still birth and another had two miscarriages this year.  One is currently pregnant and on some medication to help sustain her pregnancy. 

I was so surprised when I heard that. And sad. I wonder what an animal feels when they lose a baby. I know horses have a really long gestational period (something like 11 months!) and I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t be aware of the loss after all that time. 

I’m not an animal person. In fact, I’m actually quite terrified of most animals (including these horses) and usually stay as far away as I can. But I do find them interesting and I’ve been amazed by what I’ve seen as I observed these creatures (from a safe distance!) I watched as the babies were separated from the moms one summer when it was time for them to be weaned and I heard their cries.  I saw the grandmother put the babies in their place when they wouldn’t obey their owners. I watched them mourn when one of their sisters died. 

Two years ago, I knew that I was being irrational when I felt a bit of anger towards the horses for having something I wanted.  Nonetheless, I still felt what I felt. 

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this except that perhaps I can learn a little lesson from these horses. If nothing else, I think this is a good reminder for me that I don’t always know the full story behind someone else’s journey. When I’m jealous that someone has something that I want, I need to take a moment to realize there may be something there that I don’t want…something they won’t or can’t tell me about.  Of course, this is something I’m going to need to work on. Just this morning, I received an email pregnancy announcement from a friend and, as happy as I am for her, I also felt a little twinge of jealousy. I guess I’m a work in progress.  

 

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There were some tears

After his morning nap, I took Bo back to daycare for day two. This was his first day without me staying with him. “Come back in two hours, unless we call you sooner,” one teacher said as she walked off with my baby.

I felt the lump in my throat. Determined not to break down in the daycare centre, I headed for the door. One of the administrators caught me on the way out. She gave me a sympathetic smile. I told her how hard it was for me to leave him. She said that, in her experience, it’s often the parents who have struggled with infertility or loss that have a harder time leaving their baby at daycare.

This, of course, is a major generalization. But it also feels a bit true for me. I seem to feel the need to hold on to Bo just a little bit tighter. Maybe because he’s our rainbow baby, conceived after a loss. Or perhaps it’s just that he’s our last child and I know I won’t have any more time at home with a baby in the future. Either way, it helped to know I wasn’t alone in my sadness.

With tears in my eyes, I walked back home. I did some little tasks to distract myself – laundry, cleaning out some cupboards, signing Littleman up for t-ball – while I waited for the two hours to be up. Then the phone rang. I jumped. It’s the daycare! Bo had enough for one day.

I practically ran down the street and burst through the daycare door. There he was, crying in a teacher’s arms. He reached for me and stopped crying immediately. Together again.

We’ll try again tomorrow, because I know we have to, but it’s going to be hard. I’m sure there will be more tears (possibly from both of us!) but hopefully each day will get a little easier.

The things they know

When we spend weekends at the farm with my parents, often they’ll take Littleman to church with them on Sunday mornings.  I grew up in a Catholic household, attending Catholic school and going to church every Sunday with my parents.  As an adult, I no longer practice any religion, however we did have our children baptised and Littleman enjoys going to mass with his grandparents.

On this particular Sunday, my mom and Littleman attended the children’s portion of the service, which includes a story and short lesson.  The teacher was asking the children what they could do to be more like Jesus (or something along those lines).  Apparently kids were giving ideas like praying or being nice to their siblings.  The teacher talked about how important it is to be kind to your brothers and sisters.  Makes sense, right?

This, though, is when my mom got confused.  Littleman turned to her and said, “I had a sister, but she died.”  What?  My mom was genuinely confused.  She told him, no he didn’t.  So he clarifies.  “Yes, she was in mommy’s tummy before Bo, but she died.”

Understandably, my mom doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about my miscarriage that happened almost two years ago so it wouldn’t have been the first thing she thought of.  She came home from mass and told me about the conversation.  It blew my mind.  First of all, Littleman was only two years old when I had the miscarriage.  He knew about the pregnancy, but since I was only 14 weeks along, we didn’t know whether it was a boy or a girl.  He always called it his sister, but we certainly hadn’t told him that.  Also, we definitely never told him that he had a sister who died.  Yes, he knew that the baby was gone, but he was very young and we didn’t think he understood very much about what was happening.  Only a few months later, I was pregnant with Bo and, now, he’s had a brother for almost a full year.  What would make him remember that?

I remember now the strange moment a few days before I learned of the miscarriage.  I was putting Littleman to bed when he looked up towards the ceiling and muttered some gibberish.  Then he said “Puppet gone.” (Puppet was our nickname for the baby we lost).  At the time, I assumed this was just toddler nonsense, but later would learn that he was absolutely right.

All this has made me realize that there is a whole lot that goes on in his little mind.  It also made me realize that things that happen when our kids are very young can still have quite an impact on them – much more than we would expect.  Yes, that time in our lives was very hard and I was struggling a lot, but I had no idea that Littleman was aware of what was going on to this extent.

I wonder what sparked him to remember that loss and whether it’s something he’ll forget about with time.  I, of course, still think about it a lot and talk about it with those who I know care to hear it.  But it isn’t something we talk about with our young kids right now.  He didn’t mention it again after they got home from church and I never brought it up with him.  I guess I should think about how to explain it to him if he brings it up again.  Any suggestions for talking about miscarriage with a preschooler?

Triggering memories

I can’t remember the last time I had a chance to sit down at the computer and write.   I know I always complain that time is flying by, but it seems to be a moving at warp speed right now.  I just can’t keep up.

Both boys have been sick, which hasn’t helped.  Littleman developed a cold last weekend and had to stay home last Monday.  He’s gotten pretty good at wiping his own nose (and not even on his shirt – mostly!) but he doesn’t realize that he can use the tissue for more than one quick swipe.  I’d leave for a quick moment to feed his brother and return to find him buried in a pile of barely used tissues.

Then, a few days later, Bo woke up from an afternoon nap with super raspy breathing.  Poor little guy.  We cranked up the humidifier and (thankfully) he slept like a champ for a couple of days and it definitely on the mend now.  There’s nothing I hate more than seeing my babies sick!

D was busy with work and other commitments through most of the week so I was on my own a lot with the kids.  Not feeling well, partnered with shitty weather (and just being three, probably) made Littleman into a bit of a monster.  I thought we were getting past the worst of the threenage angst, but good lord, this week has been a challenge.

I’ve been reading a lot of novels on my phone these days during nursing.  It’s one of the few quiet times I have during the day and, after catching up on blog reading, I really enjoy getting lost in a good book.  The last couple of books I’ve read, though – all unrelated to each other – have included characters who suffered from miscarriage, infertility or stillbirth.  None of those things were the central theme of the books and so I didn’t see it coming when I started reading.  And still, after all the time that’s gone by, it hits me hard to read about it.  I felt the lump in my throat this morning when a woman had to call her husband to tell him about her miscarriage at 16 weeks.  I could so clearly remember the moment I called D to tell him.  And when I read about her waking from her D&C, all I could picture was the room I was in…the nurse sitting at a desk nearby, me asking what time it was, wanting a glass of water, wanting it all to be not real.

So now that Christmas season is upon us, I think I need to find myself some jollier reading material.  Any suggestions?

What could have been

I was out for a run yesterday morning when I ran past “the one that got away.”  That is, the first house that D and I ever made an offer on.  The house we lost in a bidding war.

Six years ago we were renting a condo together.  We had been married for a little over a year and were ready to start a family.  We knew we didn’t want to have kids in a condo so we began our search for a house.

At first it was kind of fun.  We’d pop into open houses on the weekends and take different routes through our preferred neighbourhoods to check out what our options may be.  After a couple of months of casual looking,we started working with a real estate agent who helped us get in to see houses quickly when something desirable would come on the market.  We saw a lot – I mean A LOT – of houses.

In January 2009, we found it.  It was a great house.  It met D’s criteria of being a bit of a fixer-upper (he wanted to do some renovations himself) and it was in the neighbourhood we wanted.  It was a corner lot with a nice sized backyard and a private driveway (which is pretty uncommon for the houses we could afford in this neighbourhood.  Most have a mutual drive).

We brought my mom to see it (always feels good to have parental approval!) and even brought in a contractor buddy of D’s to get advice on what we could/couldn’t do before making a formal offer.

I don’t think either of us slept a wink after we submitted that offer.  I know I spent the night imagining what our life would be like in that house (and I’m pretty sure D was remodelling the whole thing in his head).  I could see us living there and loving it.  I could picture our future kids playing in the yard while we BBQ’d. I could see us walking to the nearby park.  This was our house!

After a stressful day of negotiations we ended up losing the house to someone else. We were shocked.  I was definitely devastated.  I knew, logically, that there would be other houses but I had to spend a bit of time grieving the life I had imagined in that house.

A couple of months later, we found our current house.  And to be honest, I don’t regret what happened at all.  Surely we would have been very happy there. But the house we ended up in is our home.  We have amazing neighbours, with tons of kids on our block.  We are a short walk to the daycare and to public transit.  It’s hard to picture how life would be if we lived somewhere else.

Thinking about what might have been if we had bought that house makes me realize how often our lives take twists and turns that we don’t expect (or that we don’t necessarily want).  And how these twists and turns can impact everything that happens afterwards.  For example, we decided that we wouldn’t start trying to get pregnant until after we had purchased a house.  If we had succeeded in buying that first house, we would have started trying to conceive sooner.  Would it still have taken us 14 months to get pregnant?  Or would it have happened right away?  It’s crazy to think we could have a five-year-old instead of a not-quite-4-year-old right now.

My friend’s twins turned one recently. I sometimes think about the day that she told me they were expecting the twins. We had just told them we were pregnant with our second child, Puppet.  We were so excited to be due around the same time.  Our older sons are the same age and we had really enjoyed spending our first maternity leave together.  Then, a couple of weeks after we’d shared the news, we lost Puppet.

Seeing those one-year-old twins (who are so sweet and funny!) makes me think about that crazy, awful twist my family’s life took when we had the miscarriage. We would have had a one-year-old child now too.  But instead, we have this amazing, sweet, happy, strong and handsome little seven-month-old boy.

It’s kind of like the house that could have been: Something we loved and thought we wanted more than anything else.  Something we lost that was beyond our control.  The house was just a thing, not a person, but both those losses led us along the path to where we are right now, today.  I don’t know what might have been, but I do know what is.  And at this very moment, there is nowhere I’d rather be than in this little house with this family.

The lost one

It was a beautiful morning.  I put the baby down for his nap and his big brother was busy playing outside with my husband.  I set out for another run, feeling behind on my 5k training after a few days out-of-town.

I started down the street and I felt good.  The sun was out and it was warm, but not too hot.  After some pretty cold September days, it felt amazing.  As I ran, I thought to myself, how is it already late September?

All of a sudden, it felt like someone had punched me in the gut.  Late September.

My baby – the lost one – would have turned one this month.  If he, or she, had lived, my baby would be a year old.

I felt a bit shaky as I gasped to catch my breath.  I had forgotten.  That dreaded date had come and gone… and I had forgotten.

I wondered, what does this mean?  I still think about the miscarriage often.  But I don’t think about it everyday.  I see my friend’s twins who were born at the same time that I was due and I don’t feel horrible anymore.  I look at my six-month-old baby and I know he was the one who was meant to be part of our family.

But it’s September.

Last year, September was a month I looked forward to with all my heart and then dreaded to my very core.  Even when I found out I was expecting again, I knew September would be a tough month.  Earlier this summer, I realized that I could have had an almost-one-year-old.  So then how did this September manage to creep up on me?

As I ran on, I decided this means that I’m healing.  I’m not a horrible mom for having forgotten that awful due date.  Yes, I still have moments of sadness for the baby I never got to meet.  But I have many more moments of gladness for the family I do have.  I’m not as sad or as scared as I was this time last year.  I’ve learned that bad things can happen and that good things can come out of it.  I am able to think about the baby we lost and the baby we got to meet, knowing that I love them both.

I didn’t see any of this coming when I laced up my running shoes and stepped out my front door this morning, but I see it much more clearly now.  I am healing.

On this day

When I saw the news this morning, I was reminded that Prince George is one year old today. I remember so clearly where I was when I learned of his birth.

I was almost nine weeks pregnant. I was living in constant fear and nervousness after losing baby #2 to miscarriage at 14 weeks. But this pregnancy was going well and the light spotting I’d had a few days before appeared to be nothing. I’d had an ultrasound and seen my baby’s heart beating.

So where was I when the world heard the news that Will and Kate’s baby had been born? In the ER.

I wrote about that scary day here, but the gist of it is that I had some gushing blood that morning and was terrified that I was miscarrying again. After a long, long day at the hospital, I was diagnosed with a subchorionic bleed.

As I write this, I’m looking at my beautiful 4.5 month old baby boy, who has no idea how scared I was that day that I might not get to meet him. But here we are, a whole year later.

On this day last year, I was watching the news in a hospital waiting room, fearing the worst. Today, as I see stories about Prince George’s birthday on the news, I feel so lucky to be holding my own sweet, cuddly prince.