Tag Archives: grief

My dealings with paranoia…

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I have worked for our local grocery chain, Publix, since I was 17 years old.  Last May would have been my 17 year anniversary, but I left for 22 months when Ayden was born.  I have been back for 4 years now.

One of the nice things is working for Publix is kinda like Cheers…”where everybody knows your name”.

Also…everyone knows your business.

Which can be good or bad depending on who you are and what your business is.

One of the hard things I dealt with after losing Aaron was that I didn’t want to go into any Publix stores.  I barely wanted to go into public for fear of being seen by someone I know.

Why?

I can’t really explain why.  I felt embarrassed.  Why embarrassed?  I don’t really know, I can’t explain it.  Like all of the hype of the pregnancy and everyone knowing me, my husband, my sister, and everyone in between….and then nothing.

At first I wondered if someone would think “What’s wrong with her?  Why didn’t her baby live?”  It might not make sense to you, but it does to me.

I didn’t want to run into someone that hadn’t heard the news yet and have them ask “Where’s the baby??” And then I would have to tell them, I would have to utter the words that my baby didn’t survive. “The baby didn’t make it…” And in addition to the reality-kick-in-the-gut, I would feel bad that they had to find out that way.  I knew that they would wish they had heard before they asked and they would feel like a jerk for not knowing.  But I know that they wouldn’t have asked if they had known…it’s just too much to explain.

And then the thought of going back to work or even into the Publix I work at…nope.  Not happening.  If I could just move away where no one knew me and I could start a new life…I totally would have done that.  Talk about having to face your fears!!!

In the few days following Aaron’s birth, whenever I would think about stepping foot in MY Publix, I felt like running away instead.  If I could just stay in my home and correspond with everyone via text (not even phone calls, nope…uncomfortable) that would have been the perfect situation.

When Berkley and I would talk about how I should go into my store soon (when I’m ready) to see the folks there (to ease back in instead of just waiting until I had to go back to work), I would shake my head and start crying.  I couldn’t face them.  They were all so excited for us and anxiously awaiting our little “girl” to arrive.  How embarrassing to then see these coworkers AND customers and have to tell them that not only was the baby not a girl, but they baby doesn’t exist….physically.

Anyone that has been pregnant before (especially working in the public) knows how many times you’re asked the age-old pregnancy questions…

When are you due?

What around having?

Is this your first?

Everyone asks, all the time.

Now having to answer “how’s the baby?”  I don’t know how to handle this with the millions of customers that I could see in a shift.  (Ok millions is an exaggeration but it’s what it will feel like my first time back to work I think)

It’s overwhelming to think about.  And in those first days post partum…uncontrollably overwhelming.

I was fortunate enough to still have my parents here, staying with us, for a few days after.  They were amazing and would go to the grocery store without me because I just coudln’t face going in.  I even sent my mother in for a head of cabbage into a store I didn’t work at and probably knew the least amount of workers in.  Because I just couldn’t take the chance that someone that I know would see me.

The week after Aaron’s birth, we were also prepping for a Cat 5 Hurricane (Irma) that was potentially heading our direction.  Berk had gotten the gas tanks filled, shuttered up most of the windows, and helped us make a list of food/items to have in the house before he went back to work.  My parents, thankfully, did that shop for us too.  Then Friday morning (Storm was due here Saturday night/Sunday sometime), my mom and I needed to make one last trip to Publix.  I didn’t want to make her do it all by herself so I went in too. This isn’t MY Publix and is typically the one I go to when I don’t want to be seen (no makeup, want to get in and out quick) on a normal basis.  But this day, I spent the whole time, paranoid, looking over my shoulder so I could avoid being seen by anyone I knew, lest I LOSE IT!!!  I did end up in the bathroom once, in a slight panic attack.  But if I could have just gone to the car and hid, I would have.  Yes I avoided people, yes, I ducked down aisles I didn’t need to go down, yes, I sent my mother to a specific section so I didn’t have to be seen by so-and-so.  Yes, I know those people would just want to hug me, or try and pretend like life was normal as to not upset me.  But just knowing they know…was embarrassing and upsetting.

How will I able to function in public again?  I can’t get out of everything outside my home for the rest of my life!!!  And it wasn’t even at Publix.  I needed to pick up something from Walgreens.  Walking into Walgreens, I was looking around making sure I wasn’t going to be seen by someone I know.  And then the day we went to go visit with my Aunt and Grandma.  I wanted a sweet tea and we were passing McDonalds.  The drive through line was long so I decided to go inside.  WALKING INTO MCDONALDS I WAS LOOKING AROUND TO MAKE SURE I DIDN’T SEE ANYONE I KNEW!!!  Do you know how annoying that is?  I wanted to run away!!!

And I still hadn’t been in to MY Publix…

Berkley told me he’ll go with me as many times as I need him to, but I need to go.  For them…for me.  He had already been back to work and was able to share his experiences with me.  Help me know what to expect.  To reassure me that it’s going to be ok.  To help answer my questions or feelings of paranoia when I discussed my fears.

One day, we made a plan, and went in after dropping Ayden off at school.  I felt like I was having one of those dreams where you’re trying to run but cant.  Trying to scream but can’t.  I was trying to turn around, but couldn’t.  I know I needed to do this…but I DID NOT WANT TO!

I saw my manager, but she was helping someone else “whew…”. We had to pick up a couple of items, so I rushed Berk and told him just to go down an aisle, any aisle…just get me away.  I felt myself losing control of my emotions and I just wanted to walk down an empty aisle to gather myself.  I don’t cry in front of people.  But I knew it would most likely happen, which did NOT help.  Of course the aisle we walked down had one of the other ladies that works in the Grocery department.  UGH…wrong aisle.  But it was too late to turn around.  How do I act?  What do I say?  Do I act like nothing happened? (I know she knew and was heartbroken for us) I DON’T KNOW HOW TO BE!!!  So I jokingly messed with her bacause that’s what we do and because I know she’d be more upset if I just walked by without saying hi. (Especially since it had been over 2 weeks since Aaron’s birth).  She turned around and hugged me….and I cried.  I kept my sunglasses on while we talked.  She didn’t act any different.  We talked about the hurricane and such, and then we went on our way.

I saw a couple more people as we picked up our few items and I rushed as fast as I could to get us paid and out of the store.  I knew I needed to talk to my manager about work related things, so I went to check out with her.  It wasn’t bad.  And then we left.  WHEW!!!  That was over and I never have to do that again! WRONG!!!  I work there!  But it was over a week that I went back in.  And I only went back in because Berk was going with and encouraging me.  (When I needed to grocery shop, I would go to the other store and hope for the best…I was seen, plenty of times, but it wasn’t horrible…just something about going into my own store.  I can’t really explain the feeling).  The 2nd time into my store wasn’t as bad.  Except for my first experience with someone that hadn’t heard the news…”I guess I can say congratulations now” HOW do I respond to this?  “Sorta” is what I said.  :/ “Where’s the baby?” I don’t want her to feel bad when I tell her what happened.  But I can’t “just go along with it” like in other uncomfortable situations in life.  So I had to tell her and I felt terrible for making her feel terrible.  Ugh…  We finished the shop, but I still didn’t feel like I couldn’t go in by myself and still did my shopping at the other store.

Finally, ONE whole month after Aaron’s birth, I felt ok enough to meet up with some of the girls from my work.  One, in particular, had been asking often to see me and I just wasn’t ready to be seen.  I asked her if she wanted to meet for coffee and see if anyone else wanted to come too.  Then on that day (32 days after Aaron’s birth), I felt ok enough to go grocery shopping by myself in my own store.  No security blanket of Berkley or Ayden.  And I didn’t back down.  I sort of wanted to as I was walking up the parking lot.  But I forced myself in.  For the very first time, I actually felt like myself and not like it was written all over my face that my baby had died.  I felt like a different person…tainted, embarrassed, sad, depressed, disappointed, and more.  The overwhelming paranoid feelings of not wanting to be seen were minimal and I could function.  I could say hi to people.  It wasn’t completely “back to normal”. But there is no going “back” to normal.  A sort of normal… a new normal.

I still really don’t know how to be in front of people.  Am I allowed to be happy and laugh?  Am I expected to be a certain way?  I don’t know.  But I am taking it day by day to find my new normal without losing “me”…..

Yesterday, I went to visit the hospital nurses…

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Yesterday was a HUGE day for me.

I went to visit the hospital nurses that took care of us during our 24 hour stay at the hospital when we had Aaron.

I knew from the moment we left the hospital that I would be back to visit these ladies. The amazing-beyond-words nurses that went through this with us. The strong-beyond-belief nurses that held us during this crazy time.

I was able to arrange a visit with the night nurse that was there for the start of our stay and the two day nurses that were there during the hard labor, delivery, and pain of the loss of our son.

I know I will not be able to put into words the amazingness of this staff. But I will try my best.

Much of this process of dealing with the loss of an infant is not fun (imagine that), and I was forced to put on my BIG BIG panties on and do things like deciding on a name for our deceased son before leaving the hospital, leaving the hospital with no baby, going to the funeral home to sign papers for the cremation process, phone calls and decisions about autopsy/DNA testing, and the list could go on.  All of them I didn’t want to do, but forced myself to.  I couldn’t NOT do any of these things.  I couldn’t “get out” of doing these things because I couldn’t “get out” of the fact that my newborn son passed away.

But this particular decision was an easy one and one I so much looked forward to…visiting the nurses that I can never thank enough for their work.  This was a part of my healing process that I counted down the days to and it did NOT disappoint.

I did feel a little nervous walking into the hospital again.

Would they remember me?

Would they recognize me?

Would they want to see me?

Would they have time to say hi?

I walked through the front doors of the hospital, turned and looked at the door I was wheeled out of that night we left.  A wave of emotions came over me of everything I felt that day.  I composed myself and asked the lady at the front desk how to get to Labor and Delivery, my lips were quivering with nerves and fighting back the break down I knew could bust out at any moment.  Also mixed with my fear of getting lost in a hospital and/or walking into an area that I’m not supposed to go…

The elevator opened and I pressed 2.  Deep breaths.

The elevator door opened and my brain couldn’t read the signs to tell me where to go.  Thank goodness for a custiodian looking man who opened the slider door for me and showed me the nurses desk.

When I was there before, it felt like a blur and I couldn’t remember what things had looked like to know if I was in the right place or not.  As I approached the desk, I saw the night nurse (I’m keeping their names out just because I didn’t get their approval to include their names, so don’t think I’m rude by how I refer to them).  She was in street clothes because it was 9am and usually her shifts end around 7am I think.  Her supervisor had told her someone was coming to see her but hadn’t told her who.  I was shaking when I said “she’s one of the ones I’m here to see” (actually I said it completely wrong because I was not really able to speak).  She came around the desk and we hugged.  A hug that I so very badly needed.  This lady was a stranger to me just over a month ago and now I didn’t know how to let go of the hug.  I cried in relief.

When I turned around one of the 2 daytime nurses that helped with delivery and everything after until her shift ended sometime around 7pm that night (roughly about 8 hours after Aaron was born).  More relief.

And the second daytime nurse was walking up.  All there too see me.  But really I was there to see them.

Part of Aaron’s quick arrival and not that I struggle with is if it was even real.  Was I ever really pregnant or was it a dream?  Did I really go through labor and deliver him or was it a dream?  Did he really die or was that a nightmare?  Were those nurses real or was I dreaming?

As I was there with them, outside of the fog of labor, delivery, and grieving, yes…they are real.  And just as amazing as I remembered them being.  The supervisor was even kind enough let us go in an unused room and let us visit for a little while.  We were able to reminisce and catch up.  It was EVERYTHING I was imagining and so much more.

I could have stayed all day.  I didn’t want to leave them.  They truly are amazing people that CHOOSE to take care of other people for a living. When they could have avoided me both that day and yesterday, they didn’t.  They will never really know the impact they’ve had on me.  I will spend the rest of my life trying to show them.

But before I left, I was also lucky enough to be able to see the photographer that took pictures for us of our sweet boy.  I was able to visit with her also and it was just so nice to see everyone that I met though such a terrible time in my life.  I really can’t explain it, but I never wanted it to end.

A million times thank you to all the staff that helped us during our stay, I know it was more than just these 4 ladies.

One of my best days since all this happened.

Thank you….

It’s been one month…

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(Written on 10.02.2017)

It’s been one month….
…Since I held you in my arms for the first time.
…Since I felt that feeling of joy that is delivering a baby.
…Since I felt like a superhero again.
…Since our confusion that you were a boy and not the girl we had been told we were expecting.
…Since my heart stopped beating a little.
…Since I held you for the last time.
Since I kissed you for the last time.

I really don’t know where to start this. I have had all these ideas floating around in my head the past few weeks since I decided that I would write our story for anyone to see. I have read a few other blogs about infant loss. I have read many blogs over the last few years. I have always been jealous about how organized they were, consistent they were, and how wittily they were written. I am none of those things and for the first time I am NOT trying.

As you can tell, (even by looking at the date of my last post) it’s been well over 2 years since I have posted anything on my blog. Life has just gotten crazy! March of 2015, I embarked on a journey that has added much busyness to my life, I became a Tupperware consultant. More about that later. Then at the end of May 2015, we sort of suddenly had to put our precious dog, Gabi, down. #CancerSucks. She was 7 years old and we had her since she was 6 weeks, that was VERY hard. Then life just continued to be and stay busy…between working part time at Publix, running my Tupperware business from home, and taking care of the home and my son…life. Busy. No blogging. I kept thinking I could go back to it and add the Tupperware stuff and that would be cool.

But I didn’t because life…was too busy.

Then it got even busier as we decided at the end of October 2016 (actually on our 9th wedding anniversary) that we were going to try to have another baby. Joys upon joys! I was extatic. We ended up finding out (via pee stick) that we were pregnant on Christmas Day 2016. (Yup…that was quick). It was so perfect. Found out on Christmas Day, Berkley and I had this secret all to ourselves as we were surrounded by family on one of my favorite holidays. We were able to tell my parents in PERSON (as opposed to last time over FaceTime) before they left to go back to their home in Maryland a couple days later. It was also perfect because the baby was due 08/31/2017, 3 days before my 35th birthday. I dodged all those “old lady” pregnant tests!!! So many jokes and speculation that the baby would be born on my sister and my birthday of 09/03. I joked that I didn’t want to go “late” since it’s as summer and no pregnant mother wants to go past her due date no matter what time of the year it is.

In April, we found out we were having a little girl. EVEN MORE PERFECT, we already had a boy, now we’re adding a girl. What are the chances? I felt the baby was a girl from very early on, and the night we found out my husband said he kinda thought it was a girl too. So we planned…for a girl…

August 31 comes and goes and no baby born yet. I was then getting a little excited that my baby girl would share a birthday with my sister and me. How awesome! So then I wanted “her” to wait 3 more days. Sept 1, my mother (my parents had come in on 08/27 to be here for the birth and help afterwards) decided that we should celebrate my sister and my birthdays that night just in case I was in the hospital on our birthdays (which we ALL were hoping I would be). It’s a good thing we did it that way. Late that evening (around 10:50pm) started the 24 hours that would change our lives forever…

It was then that I started leaking amniotic fluid. I did not experience any of that with my first child (they broke my water when I got to the hospital after 2 days of contractions at home) so I phoned a friend and she confirmed. I woke my husband (who had been in bed for about an hour and was scheduled to work early the next morning) and told him what was happening. A few minutes later we were heading for the hospital. Here we go!!! It’s almost midnight for 09/02 and there’s still a chance (however getting smaller) that our baby would be born on my birthday…bets are still on!

After getting to the hospital and getting checked in, to my room, and tested to see if it was in fact amniotic fluid, I was hooked up to IV and getting ready to start pitocin shortly because they want babies born within 24 hours of water leaking/breaking…it was only about 12:30am at this time and I remember my husband saying “I guess she won’t be born on your birthday”. I was holding out hope a little but I figured the same.

I labored through the night, got my empirical sometime in the wee hours, but still felt a bit of pain in my left hip flexor area. I’m not sure what time it was but I coudln’t take the pain anymore and was feeling like I needed to start pushing. They called my midwife and got everything prepped for me to deliver the baby. I was excited and scared too. Ya know, the normal feelings of delivering a baby.

After about an hour of pushing (maybe slightly less), at 10:54am our beautiful baby was born. I remember they set the baby on my chest/belly and I said “she’s real!!!”
Then they took my baby, and I just figured it’s was to suck out the gunk, measure, weigh, and clean “her” up before handing her back to me. I was very sure I wanted only a diapered baby on my bare skin just as soon as they could give “her” back to me. I made the mistake of having my son clothed and I wanted skin to skin. I knew what i wanted and how to speak up for myself since my first experience with labor.

One of the student nurses was watching from the other side of the curtain and says “it’s not a girl”. What do you mean it’s not a girl??? Berkley and I both thought she was joking with us cuz that would be a funny trick to play for a second and then a “JK!”and we would all laugh. But no…she says “it’s not a girl”. I looked back at Berk (who was by my head) in confusion, and he looked back with the same expression. “Well good thing I got gender neutral stroller/car seat and pack and play.” Because that was the biggest “issue” I thought there was. What are we going to do with all the girl clothes we received???

How could this have happened?

But they weren’t giving me my baby. My baby wasn’t crying. My baby wasn’t making any noise. I watched through the hold in the bed rail as they were trying to get my baby to start breathing. Rubbing, moving, pushing air into…then I heard a nurse yell “RT STAT!!!” I knew that was for the respirtory team to come in. There was a blur or people, I wouldn’t take my eyes off of my poor little baby and begging, pleading, crying for them to fix him. I needed to hear him cry.
“He has a heartbeat of 122, but he’s not breathing. They can help him breathe but they can’t make his heart beat.” My OB told me. She wasn’t there for MY delivery. She happened to be at the hospital the same time and had come into my room right after I delivered.
“But he’s still not breathing!!! It’s been too long, why isn’t he breathing!!!” I worried myself with thoughts of brain damage since time was going by and he wasn’t breathing. Now thinking that brain damage was the worst case scenario…
“We need to get him to the NICU.” I heard the neonatologist say. My heart broke even more. NO!!!! I need my baby, I need him on my skin, he needs ME!!! NICU babies don’t get that skin to skin like they need in the first few minutes. Don’t take my baby away from my room!!! But they did, they needed to, to continue to try to save his life.
The numbness started. My OB came back in and said that he still has a heart beat but they still coudn’t get him breathing.

WHY???

She came in again…heart beat is going down, we need a heart beat and air to live. It’s not looking good.

I have no words to describe how I felt in that moment. Knife to the heart doesn’t even come close.

I need to see him, I kept telling them I needed to see him. I’ve read those stories where the baby is not breathing/heart not beating and they put the baby on it’s momma and a miracle happened. I believe in miracles! I need to get to him! He needs me, and I can save him!

One of my friends that I have known since childhood, who is also a nurse in the Labor & Delivery unit at the hospital came in. I looked over to her, standing next to the wheel chair she brought in with her. I felt horrible because the though of “this is getting serious” entered my mind. All business, she said “we’re taking you to see him” and got me off the bed (just over an hour after I delivered him) and into the wheel chair and rolled me down to the NICU. I’m not sure I was breathing. I was scared and didn’t want to go, but knew I needed to and still held a hope that if you just put my freaking baby on me, I can fix this!!! I am his mother!!!

She rolled me through the NICU and passed all the closed curtains to the end where there was a door into a room. Inside that room was hospital personnel that had been trying very hard to save my son’s life.
“I need to have him, naked on my chest”. The nurses were unhooking him from the tubes and whatnot that they had been using to try and get oxygen into him. I unsnapped my hospital gown so I was ready. They tried putting a diaper on him and wrapping him in a blanket before handing him to me. “Why does he need a diaper?” “Just give him to me.” (I feel a little bad about being so short with them, it wasn’t their fault, they were helping my family)

He was still warm from the lights over the little NICU bed. He was perfect. He looked perfect. He felt perfect. It just seemed like he was sleeping. It’s still hard for me to think that he wasn’t “just sleeping”. I still felt like a miracle could happen and that he would wake up and start crying. And that we would be known as the couple with the miracle baby instead of the couple that loss their newborn baby less than 3 hours after he was born.

A nurse told me there was a photographer there that could take pictures for us and asked me if I wanted that. Even though I felt it a little morbid, I very much wanted them. I din’t have to do anything with them, but better to have them and not need/want them later than to not have them at all and wish I had. And boy and I glad I did!!! Also glad that I had asked one of my nurses to go back to our room and get my phone for pictures. She took pictures on my phone and they are so comforting to me.

I held him for over an hour. He moved a couple last times. I’m not sure exactly when his heart stopped beating, but I’m positive it was while I was holding him. They told me that we could stay as long as we wanted/needed. I never wanted to leave. But I knew at some point, I was going to have to hand him back over and never hold him again.
It came time for me to need to give him back because if I didn’t do it soon, I would never do it. I soaked up as much as I could to muster up the willpower to give him up. I kissed his little forehead, his perfect little forehead. Stroked his cheek and put my finger inside his little hand. And then I just let go of him and put my hands down and turned my head. I couldn’t pick him off of me, it was just too painful. The nurse had to take him off of me. She wrapped him up and covered him with a blue blanket with a little rainbow in the corner. I got out of my wheelchair for one last kiss.

HOW IS THIS HAPPENING?

HOW IS REAL LIFE?

WHAT AM I GOING TO TELL MY 5 YEAR-OLD SON?????

We are good people. I don’t do drugs. I didn’t drink. I don’t smoke cigarettes. Why is this happening??? These were just some of the thoughts that spewed out of my mouth. Not that I would wish this on anyone, even mothers who don’t take the best are of themselves or their babies while pregnant, just don’t know if it had to happen, why to someone who didn’t do these things.

We said our last good-byes and then wheeled the long silent journey back to our hospital room.

Numb. Confused. Angry.

One month ago, we said hello and good-bye to you in what feels like the same breath…
If love could have saved you, sweet boy, you would have lived forever!
Aaron Lucas Sturtevant born 09.02.2017

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