Saturday, October 19, 2019

So many things

A friend delivered a stillborn baby the other day—8 lbs. 6 oz, 22 inches long. She'd made it through ten long months of pregnancy. She was at the finish line. She had gone into labour naturally, her water broke, she called her midwife, the midwife came over to check for a heartbeat, and...there was none. After being rushed to the hospital, they found that her baby had suffered from a prolapsed cord—the umbilical cord dropped into the birth canal before the baby's head engaged and the pressure from the baby then engaging in the birth canal cut off the flow of blood between the baby and the placenta, essentially suffocating the baby (if I'm explaining things correctly).

And I just...

I'm so sad.

I mean, a lot of things make me sad. But I'm just so sad for them.

To be at that moment where you think, "This is it!" and then instead of "it" being wonderful, "it" is anguish. I just...

I've had several friends lose babies at full term and it's awful every time. But this time—I don't know what it is (this year; it's this year (this year sucks, guys))—I just feel like I've been choking down all sorts of emotion since finding out.

My pregnancies haven't been easy, necessarily—a few have even been rather complicated—but they have been lucky. I've been there, kind of, although I knew right away that something was wrong, wrong, wrong (on account of he was coming far too early) so we rushed to the hospital.

Usually when you count contractions you're worried mostly about how long they last, how far apart they are, and if they're increasing in frequency. At least, that's usually what I've worried about. It's not that I'm not concerned about my babies as they've been born. It's just that I'm usually thinking more along the lines of, "Get it out! Get it out!" than "Gee, I hope this very rare complication doesn't occur for me..."

But with Benjamin I got to enjoy the ride to the hospital worrying all about him and not about me at all and it was a different way to monitor contractions. Of course, I didn't believe I was in labour at all and it's hard to keep track of contractions that you don't think are contractions even if they feel a whole lot like contractions because they are contractions. But I didn't think they were contractions so I was timing them...a bit...but mostly I remember (while clawing at the seat and squeezing the life out of the handlebars) counting fetal movements.

Did the baby move between those contractions?

No. Why didn't he kick? Why won't he just...

Here comes another one. Yowie. These are strangely intense pains for someone who's definitely not going to have a baby today (spoiler: we definitely had a baby that day). Kick, baby, kick. Please keep kicking. Kick. Please. Baby. Please, please, please kick. 


And I'd exhale, slumping into my seat, letting my head lull back...

*thump, thump* I got ready to ride the next wave of this obviously false labour (spoiler: this labour would turn out to be 100% genuine).

It's that panic that has been filling me the past few days. The panic of being told the baby is coming (for realsies). The panic I felt when the doctor was explaining all the complications that could arise as he suggested I get an epidural for just in case we entered the very-likely emergency delivery scenario (cord prolapse is something more common with preterm deliveries than with full-term babies and is one of the complications my doctor was worried about with Benjamin's delivery). The panic of...just...all the panicky stuff.

It feels very fresh the past few days. And although I don't know when the last time is that I asked Benjamin to keep kicking (because these days it's more often, "Benjamin, stop!") I am so grateful to have been so lucky through his delivery and through all my deliveries. And I am sick with grief for this poor family.

How does it feel to have started labour with a live baby inside of you and to finish with a stillborn baby? I am crying thinking about it.

It's not my story, but it is part of me now.

Another friend of mine lost her brother to a drug overdose last year and it has been interesting to watch her grieving process unfold just a step ahead of my own. When she lost her brother she was so open, so honest about her pain and it made it much easier to mourn with her. I felt distraught for her.

I even told Karen about her brother, you know?

I didn't know that Karen would pass away less than a month later, and here I was telling her that my friend had lost her brother to a drug overdose and how dreadful it was. And we'd talked about how terribly sad the whole situation was.

And then—poof—Karen was gone, too (not to a drug overdose, mind you).

That's not really my story, either, but it's part of me.

Something that has been bothering me about my relationship with S. is that she doesn't seem to want our stories to be interconnected. She doesn't seem to think that her life or her choices should affect me (or anyone) at all. She even asked me what right I had to be hurt when she "didn't do anything to [me.]"

I'm not sure that's an accurate statement anymore but at the time I suppose it was true. She hadn't done anything directly to me. But yet, she had.

My friend said this about her brother: "We were mourning him before we were mourning him. The addictions that took his life had already taken so much. From him. From those who loved him. And this is part of what we're grappling with." She mentions that she felt like she didn't have a good relationship with him when he passed—that she couldn't because he was incapable of telling the truth and she felt he was a danger to her young family. His behaviour was so off while he was battling his addictions. He was lonely, she said. And then she said, "We are all lonely."

And that's part of my story, too.

I don't think that we get to decide whether or not someone gets to be hurt by our actions, whether they feel pain, whether they have to grapple with something or not. We don't get to dictate which parts of our story are relevant to someone else or not because stories have a life of their own. Whether we like it or not we are all threads woven into the same story.

It has been interesting watching my friend grieve because, well, because I'm mourning Karen but also because I'm mourning S. and my friend's grief is an interesting intersection of the two—the idea of missing a loved one who's passed away and the idea of lamenting the dissolution of a relationship with a loved one who is embracing self-destructive behaviour (and more than self-destructive, honestly, if they're promoting the downward spiral of their peers and charges alike).

It's all heartbreaking. And it's all part of my story. And I don't feel like S. can ask for it to not be part of my story...because it is. Fibers from her story are woven into my own.

But then, maybe that's the thing.

I think we're supposed to feel connected to the world around us, to the people around us. It's when we don't feel connected that there's a problem. But how do you remain connected to someone who has meticulously (purposely?) severed connections to anyone of real importance in their life? It's nearly impossible, I think.

And it makes them feel lonely. It makes us all feel lonely.

So then perhaps that is the connection.

Perhaps loneliness is the common thread that can't be undone.


  1. Ahh. I am sorry for your sorrow. It has been one whopper of a hard year, going on years. Or even a hard couple of years going on plus more. Love you. You are an amazing woman.

    1. I guess Grandpa was right: "Life is hard...and then you die!" :)

    2. Well. He was definitely not wrong.

  2. This was such a thought-provoking (and emotion-provoking) post. I'm sorry for your sorrow; I can relate to many of your feelings here. It's so difficult when you try to have relationships with people who are following self-destructive behaviors. I just pray for God to reach those people and for those relationships to be restored/redeemed/made beautiful in His time (pick your favorite phrase.) I have to remind myself that God can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, and I can think pretty GREAT stuff so I pray and hope that one day those prayers will come true.

    I'm sorry your friend lost her baby full-term like that. I had a friend who did the same over 15 years ago, and I remember sitting at Cracker Barrel later, and she showed me pictures of her little son. I was struck looking at pictures of the parents and grandparents holding little Nathan Luke. Instead of the joy that you usually see on their faces, you saw sadness...and I was tearing up at the table as I grieved Rebekah's loss. Life is hard. Thank God for the beautiful moments.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Susanne, you are such a beautiful soul. Thank you for these words.