What Trauma Sometimes Looks Like

And then there was this moment
tonight
one year and a half later
when you realize

you never told your husband you were having his son

it was just a fleeting thought
a response to something on tv
and you looked over at him, puzzled, and
asked, “When did you know we were having a son?”
he replied, confused, starting his response with “we”
and you stop him and ask him, “Did you know before you got to the doctor’s office? The hospital? Did I tell you over the phone? Did I say “son”?”

And you realize he didn’t. You didn’t. He says, “We found out when he was born, when we held him.”

I am confused now. Trying to put the scattered, blurry pieces together – didn’t I know after the ultrasound, the one where there was no heartbeat? Didn’t the doctor say, “Do you want to know? [Insert my head nodding….?] You were having a son.” (Did she say “You were having” or “You have” or something else that gave more or less meaning to his short life?)

And I tell my husband, “I knew. I knew we were having a son. I knew four days before he was born.” I knew four days before you. I never told you.

Did I say “sorry”? I don’t know. He’s asleep now and I can’t sleep because I am thinking about how we were going to go to dinner to celebrate after finding out the sex together and then decorate with sailboats or flamingos…but I found out four days before him. I found out before calling him to come to the doctor’s office because, it turns out, I wasn’t having a routine appointment. I found out before trying to hide my tears when I walked through the waiting room, putting on a brave face for the still-expectant mothers and fathers.

I knew before the nurse lectured me on the time of day I take my thyroid medicine (since that must have been the reason I was checking into the hospital with a dead fetus) and the “yes, yes please” to drugs over and over again because I wanted to sleep and escape my newfound hell. I knew before I couldn’t talk because I was so weak from not being allowed to eat for days. I knew before starting the ten or so painful hours of labor to deliver my sweet, sleeping son.

I didn’t tell him he was having a son. I couldn’t. And I didn’t know until tonight.

And this is what trauma sometimes looks like. Something is triggered. Something is confusing or sad or scary and your fight or flight response is initiated and your blood pumps faster. And it doesn’t matter how long it’s been because it feels raw, and real. It’s always unexpected and there is fire running through your veins because you are so disappointed with, and unaccepting of, reality.

You never told your husband you were having a son. Not “you never told your husband in a cute way.” Not “you decided together you were going to be surprised.” You just never told him because your world collapsed and you were fighting to get through the thing you couldn’t get through in a hospital bed.

I didn’t tell him I was having his son. I couldn’t. My world collapsed. I was fighting to get through the thing I couldn’t get through.

I suppose that’s a good reason. But it doesn’t feel like one.

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Not the Worst Day of the Year

Monday was not the worst day of the year. Monday crept in softly with a blanket of snow, a warm cup of coffee, and an expected five, quiet, stolen hours with my husband driving back to our home from a weekend of nourishment with friends and activities. Monday started off as a lie.

9:00AM: Fear clenched and twisted the contents of our frames with a frantic decision to let our vet perform vital and expensive surgery on our dear Hollywood. Like the moment when I learned Adam Gabriel’s heart had stopped beating just 7 months ago, I swiftly made the necessary decision without emotion. But the inevitable tears and gulps for air found their place in the silence of the car, filling space in the now gaping hole in our hearts. Our little lovebug, our pup with the boundless energy and goofy smiles for all, might not make it through this seemingly ordinary day.

10:00AM: Hollywood was in surgery and my boss called to tell me he could only afford to pay me for 20 hours of work a week. After a frank conversation about longevity of the relationship, among other things, I was left to consider my life in a country town with no extended family, possibly no job (and no immediate prospects in this American district still prospering on what is left of coal)…and no jovial best friend to walk with me at noon or lay beside me as I spend endless hours staring into a computer screen.

11:30AM: Hollywood survived surgery, but his spleen and a small part of his stomach did not. His heart was not beating evenly, but we were to expect that for now. His doctor said tears were okay. She reminded us to prepare ourselves for the worst as the next 24 hours were critical.

2:00PM: Finally home, we were granted visiting rights solely because of the shock of this happening while we were out of town. I didn’t want to think it was because this might be our last visit, but I knew that was a possibility. I curled up on the floor next to him where tissues magically appeared – one box and then two – to make sure we had what little creature comforts could be afforded us in this ghastly situation. Covered by a blanket, with rogue blood spots seen with stolen glances underneath his body, was our little guy taking shallow breaths and drugged into oblivion.

5:15PM: After a flurried house cleaning, we greeted our 6 house guests, planning to stay the week with us. Then my husband and I collected Hollywood to physically transport him to an all-night emergency vet hospital. With sea legs and serious confusion, we led him to the car and lifted him in the backseat, where I sat beside him and let him lay his head on my lap. Again, the shallow breaths were heart-shattering but when I asked him to look at me, his glassy eyes found mine after a two or three moment delay. He was in there still.

6:30PM: Ill-prepared for our guests, we went running through the grocery store with our hearts bleeding and our eyes burning from tears. My husband and I declared this, “A very bad day, but not the worst day of the year.”

As I’ve said in various ways, at 31, this is not where I imagined my life. But grace has found me anyway. I am thankful for my husband’s stable job so we do not have to worry if we can cover feeding six extra mouths this week in the midst of my paycut and our newest set of undesired, unexpected hospital bills. I am ecstatic that I am typing this next to a shaved, happy/tired puppy with an eight-inch scar across his belly held together with medical staples. I guess, instead of the obligatory bad luck in threes, ours comes in about double that, but I have to think the end of this streak is near.

I feel a place inside of me has grown, in the midst of the worst and not worst days this year, and I feel a stirring of something holy…something I need to listen to closely and earnestly. Maybe it’s just will, or purpose, or just knowing what the heck matters to me. Whatever it is, I feel it’s going to lead me out of here.

But, in the meantime, there is love here. There is plenty of light. And, there is the sweetest little guy named Hollywood.

Swimsuit Palooza

photo credit: http://24.media.tumblr.com

photo credit: http://24.media.tumblr.com

So, I have just bought between $800-$900 worth of swimsuits. Really.

No, I am not wealthy. No, I am not manic or a hoarder. I will return all but one, really! I just happened to be gaining weight after a misfortunate event and am a tad out of control these days, in more ways than one, and have never had a reason to own a one piece suit until now, until I got a little more sensitive about my body. Let me back up…

Yesterday I would have found out if my husband’s and my first child was a boy or a girl. We were going to go to dinner to celebrate and then start selecting nursery items (flamingos or sailboats, perhaps). We had names picked out. We had cleared the back bedroom for the baby’s arrival. At three months, my parents announced the arrival of their 10th grandchild at their 40th anniversary party with more than 150 guests. I had waited 4 months, but then gave in and made the pregnancy “Facebook official” with a cute announcement with a tiny, stylish baby carriage. Against all odds, we found out we were having a boy 3 weeks earlier than we expected to receive the news.

I went for my 16.5 week check-up. My husband and I decided he didn’t need to come since it was just a routine check-up. Afterall, we’d seen the baby and its heartbeat at 8 weeks, and then again heard the heartbeat at 12 weeks. This is when I realized sometimes you fall into the 1%. Sometimes your baby’s heart just stops. You’ll never know if you were sleeping, running, working or laughing, but the little soul inside of you just slipped away quietly.

The details could take hours to divulge, but here is the short version. The ultrasound tech looked at me with tears in her eyes. The doctor sat beside me and explained it wasn’t my fault – I couldn’t have protected the little one against fate. I called my husband. I called my mother. Somewhere in there the reality started to sink in and I allowed myself to cry. I packed a bag for the hospital without diapers, a tiny onsie, or the baby blanket my sister gave me less than a month ago.

I received the staff’s stares when I checked into the labor and delivery floor because they were all expecting me and were curious about this girl, this couple, having to deliver a dead baby. I was poked up and down my arms until, on the fifth try and third health professional, a vein was found that would accept the IV. I spent 4 days in the hospital with drugs being delivered, by people I had just met, through my arm and between my legs, largely consisting on ice chips, popsicles and pain killers.

I cried, I slept, I accepted love and prayers from visiting friends. On the third day I asked if I could please shower, and my husband had to come in with me since I couldn’t bend one arm, compliments of the IV entry. On the fourth day, I delivered a healthy-looking baby boy at 5-6cm dilation, moments before the doctors would have to make the difficult choice to put me through complicated surgery to remove the contents of my uterus.  My husband and I held him. We prayed with him. We gave him away forever.

We named him Adam Gabriel. Afterall, he is our first son and is quite literally an angel now. We put all his things in the back bedroom that my husband can’t enter anymore without getting choked up. I kept bleeding and crying as we accepted visitors, meals, flowers and notes. I went back to work. I started running again. I stopped bleeding and, mostly, stopped crying. Then, I bought swimsuits.

I bought swimsuits that might help me forget that my body has been through war but I don’t have Adam to cuddle and kiss. I bought swimsuits that would leave me less rigid at the upcoming bachelorette party as I try to hide the layer of fat left on my stomach – and the pain threatening to roll down my cheeks – that reminds me something happened.

Dearest Adam Gabriel, our angel baby:

I have faith in our Creator that you lived the life of your soul’s purpose. I have faith you were warm and know you were loved by so many, so many whom cried with us in between patients at work, cried with us at the movies, or cried with us at the grocery store when they heard the news. I fervently worry that you struggled to breathe – to let someone know – but know that won’t do either of us any good at this point.

I feel great pain at your absence, but I need you to know that you gave me immeasurable happiness in the time we had together. It has been a hard year – and of course now I have this new struggle with your departure – but you provided me with 4 months of joy, excitement, hope and love. You provided me with 4 months of stealing sweet, unbridled nectar. You will always be the one child who could do that for me in pregnancy. You will always be the first born, the first light. Please be well, visit often, and wait for me and your daddy. We’ll meet you under better circumstances once again.