Six months.

Brandon and I have talked a lot about how the 26th of every month is quite a bit harder than the 27th. This month, the 26th and 27th fall on a Wednesday and Thursday, today and tomorrow. And while tomorrow will be hard, thinking back on what happened six months ago from today is a lot harder.

It's weird to explain, but Carter's birthday is a beautiful day for me, despite the sadness that tinged everything. We finally got to meet our sweet boy, see his face, hold him, kiss his little chubby cheeks. We became a family of three that day.

Thinking about our appointment the afternoon before though, that's a different story. I don't know how much detail I went into when I posted his story; those first few weeks were all a blur. The day of our 39 week appointment, I left work and called Brandon to see how close he was, then told him to just go home and that I would pick him up on my way to the appointment. I can't stress enough how important this was on that day. We had never ridden together to an appointment. Ever. But for some reason, it worked out that day that we could, and I'm so grateful we did. We got there, the nurse took my vitals, and then the doctor came in. He asked if I had felt the baby move, and my gut told me to say no. It was mostly true, I thought I had maybe felt some movement, but I kept telling him no. He tried to find a heartbeat, but couldn't, then left for what felt like a million years to wait for the ultrasound to open.

I'll never forget the look on his face. He looked and looked and looked, and waited for there to be something, anything, but his face just dropped and I knew. 

I felt like I had cried everything out earlier, when he couldn't find the heartbeat, but somehow my body still had enough fluids to keep crying. I will never forget the feeling of Brandon dropping my hand and holding me, but I remember feeling like he needed me to be the one to hold him. I kept saying "this is not real life, this can't be happening." I kept waiting to wake up, but it was real, and it wasn't going away. We left the office in shock, and called our parents with the most disappointing news I have ever had to share. My mom's reaction is one I won't forget either. I can't think about it without crying. We went home, put away the pack n play, cleaned a few things out of our hospital bag, and headed to the hospital all too calmly. 

But from there, our experience turned into something special. Sure, we knew we were about to deliver our son that wouldn't be coming home with us, but we were so well taken care of. The first nurse was strong and sad at the same time, and made sure we were comfortable. We were visited by family, and got to laugh and smile and be hugged. All through the night, I got to experience labor pains. The second nurse and Brandon dealt with angry Caitlin, when the pain got so intense that I could barely take it, and I got to see just how much my husband loves me. Not every man would want to wipe away his wife's sweat with a cold cloth as she's yelling at him. And then, I got to sleep. I got to rest for a bit before doing the hardest thing I will ever have to do in my entire life. And then, I got to deliver him. Now, I'm sure that childbirth is not pretty (I don't know, I didn't watch), but it is the most beautiful thing I have done and will ever do. I pushed for seriously, all of about two minutes, and then they laid our beautiful sleeping boy on my chest. Few things rival the beauty of that moment. In fact, at least in my life, nothing will ever compare to that. And so we spent time with him, and we shared him with our parents. And we were taken care of and protected by a wonderful nurse who has become a dear friend. We had to say goodbye to him, but at least in order to say goodbye, we got to say hello. I wouldn't trade those hours or months with him to not feel this pain. I would take all the pain in the world to have as much of him as I can.

So today, six months after we got the worst news, I will be sad. Today I will cry and remember the things we felt as we sat in the doctor's office that afternoon. But tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow I will cry as I look through pictures of our beautiful boy, and I will remember what a special day October 27th is. And as the 27th of each month passes, I will remember our boy with light, happiness, and just a touch of sadness. 

Fear of forgetting.

Half of this was written on the bathroom floor, and I couldn't bring myself to read through and edit it, so sorry in advance if there are any typos/grammatical errors.

I was going to post another day of Amsterdam, but I wanted to talk about Carter today. It's going to get real, and if I say anything that makes you feel like you should apologize to me, please don't. That's not what I'm getting at, I just wanted to write about how I feel.

I wrote about this two weeks ago, but it has still been looming over me. Honestly, I don't know that it will ever go away, but I wish my anxiety about it would just simmer down. I'm afraid of a lot of things in life, spiders, snakes, death, heights, the dark, but I've never been so afraid of anything as much as I fear people forgetting about Carter. It's a very strange feeling, to have carried a baby for nine months, have the ultrasounds hanging on your fridge, all the clothes washed and in his dresser, have the crib and bassinet set up, ready for a little body, and then never get to bring him home. I've said it before, but I'm the kind of person that over-prepares for everything. It feels like that's what I've done. Like, in preparation to maybe have a baby someday, I bought all this stuff, and even went so far as to have other people buy it for me, and I washed everything and I hung pictures on the wall and I straightened the sheet in his crib, just in case I one day was lucky enough to get pregnant and bring a baby home. And then I think about being in the hospital, and sitting at the cemetery, and I look at pictures of him, and sometimes I just wonder, whose life is this? Whose life am I witnessing because it surely isn't mine. It's not solid or tangible enough to be mine. I can't grasp onto any fleeting memory strong enough or long enough to recognize it as my own. It all went too fast.

But I, as his mother, am the only person that knows how it felt to carry him, to feel his little kicks, to feel the contractions and to go through the process of delivering him and know the pain of recovering emotionally as well as physically. I am the only person that knows what it's like to watch my husband hold his son and gently kiss him on the forehead as he cries. 

Other people know our pain. They read our stories and they see Carter's pictures and I know they know him and love him. For now. But what happens in one or five or ten years when everyone's lives get busier and our pain lessens, and not every single thing I post is tinged with a hint (or a heap) of sadness? How is everyone else supposed to remember when some days I feel like none of it was real? 

It means so much to have people write or say his name. It means the world to me when other people validate that he was real because sometimes it feels like he wasn't. There are days that I can't validate it myself, and other people, unknowingly, do it for me. But what about when no one does that anymore? What about when other people have babies born on October 27, and no one remembers the little boy born that didn't get to live with his parents?

I don't feel like a real mom, because my son is not here. What if, down the road, people will forget about the son I had in 2016? What if they look at our family, me and Brandon and whatever kids we have at home, and they forge about the one that isn't there? What if we move away and no one goes to see him? What if our future kids get made fun of because they talk about a brother that lives in heaven? 

What if what if what if.

What if Brandon and I are the only two people that ever remember him? Realistically, that's all that really matters. But what about when people forget that I have a giant, permanent hole in my heart? What about when someone wants me to do something on October 27 and I don't want to? Will they remember why I spend the whole day crying, or will they just tell me I'm too sensitive and need to get over it? How long is it okay to not be okay? Because right now, it feels like it will be forever.

On anger: a note to angel moms.

Caveat: This post is intended for angel moms or others who have experienced a loss and can understand how it feels to be unbelievably and unrealistically mad at anyone. If you are reading this and do not fall into one of these two groups, please do not be offended. That is not my intention, I just am hoping to help others by being honest.

I like to think of myself and a genuinely kind and sympathetic person. I care about people, and I care about people's feelings, and I like to help people find their strengths through hard times. This is actually what I want to do with the rest of my life, and a master's degree in counseling is in my future, but that's not the point. My point is that, even though this is the kind of person I am and always have been, losing Carter triggered a piece of me that isn't those things.

Like I've said before, I have tried really hard not to have bad feelings about the whole situation. I've tried to not be angry at myself, Brandon, the doctor, my body, or God, and I feel like I've done a pretty good job. But there are times that I get mad at other people, and even though I want to feel bad about the things I'm angry at, sometimes I can't. I get angry at people who complain about (what I feel to be) petty things. Things that I'm not even going to elaborate on, because the things I get mad about are by no means easy situations, but things that I don't feel even compare to what I'm going through. Unfortunately, this is a part of the grieving process that is basically out of my control.

I get angry when people feel like their situation is the worst situation, and  they take every opportunity to feel bad about themselves, when what they are going through is not the same as what I'm going through. I get angry because I feel like they have absolutely no right to complain about anything, especially to me, because I'm still grieving our loss so hard. And sometimes I feel like people don't understand that, while I care about them as a person, I really couldn't care less about their "trials."

But I've also come to recognize that losing Carter might be the hardest thing I've ever dealt with in my life, but mine is not the biggest tragedy to have ever occurred in the world. 

There are some things that Brandon and I told ourselves right after we lost Carter. We kept saying, it could be better, but it could have been worse. We could have gone into labor naturally, then found out at the hospital that we had lost him. We could have lost him during the delivery. Or we could have lost him days or weeks or months later to SIDS or some other unforeseen thing. It could have been worse. 

I've talked to parents who have lost their babies during delivery or some time after taking the baby home, and I always think, oh that is so much worse. And I have been told multiple times "not worse, just different." How....I don't even know. How brave, strong, fearless, empathetic, compassionate, and so many other things is that of those parents to say? I wholeheartedly disagree with them, because I feel like their situation is worse than mine, but the fact that they have so much strength in their heart to tell me that our losses are of the same weight, just different...I admire them so much for that. And I think I'll get to that point someday. Maybe. Right now, it has been twenty weeks and I still find myself angry at people who complain about things that I don't feel need to be complained about so much.

Losing an unborn child is confusing. So freaking confusing. You have hardly any memories, but no fulfilled milestones. No coming home, no first steps, no first words, no baby snuggles. But I also recognize that my loss is nothing compared to a parent who had one, ten, or twenty years with their child. I can't relate to them at all. But I just think to have that presence and memories for so long, then to have them taken away...I can't imagine. Or to see your sibling, friend, spouse or parent struggling to live far before their time should be over. I haven't had to deal with that in my life, and I consider myself lucky. I know parents who have lost teenage children. I know friends who have almost lost their spouse. And I know people who have lost a parent way too soon. I haven't had to deal with that, and I consider myself lucky in that regard.

It is really easy to let myself be angry at people who complain about their lives when they haven't lost a baby. I think to myself, oh it was just this or it's just that. It's way too easy to be mad. This is a weakness that I'm not afraid to share, but it's definitely not one that I'm proud of. However, I think that it is important to keep it in perspective. No, these people have not dealt with exactly what I have dealt with, and while they should consider themselves lucky, so should I. I wouldn't wish this on anyone. If what they are going through is the worst thing to happen in their lives, then good for them. And I mean that in all sincerity. I am thankful that I haven't been handed worse, and I should be thankful that these people haven't been handed what I've been given. This stupid club I'm a part of now is way too big for my liking; we don't need anymore moms added to it.

We are as strong as our biggest trials make us, and you never really know how strong you are until you've been handed your worst. I pray to God that this is the worst thing I will have to deal with in my life, and I know others ask for the same. But we learn who we are in the midst of tragedy. We find strength in the darkest of places that reach to areas you never knew you would need strength for. Being angry at others who complain about their lives is one area I am still working to find strength for.

I don't know if I've done a good job at making my point (or any point, really) in this post. Part of my point though is this: Angel moms, it is totally normal and kind of okay to be angry at other people and their seemingly petty situations in the midst of grief and tragedy. And actually, that statement doesn't just go for angel moms, it goes for anyone else who had experienced a loss or is going through something hard. It's okay to be angry and sad and confused. But just remember that it's not the fault of the person or group of people who ticks you off - it's not their fault your baby isn't here with you. Remember how it once felt to be naive? Remember how what you once thought was the hardest thing of your life now seems so trivial? My depression seems like a freaking day at the park compared to this garbage. You don't have to say it out loud, but I know there is a tiny, tiny part of you that desperately wishes you could be that girl again. And the bigger part of you wishes you could be that girl and have your baby with you too. 

It's okay to be angry. But keep in mind that, luckily, not everyone knows your pain. Remember to keep things in perspective.

Final autopsy results.

Our hearts have been a little more tender this past week, and even though I know you will be, I'm asking that you be soft with us in response to this post. 

After we lost Carter, we made the decision to have an autopsy performed. At that point, we were clinging to anything and everything we could to figure out why we had lost him. About a week later, our doctor called us with the preliminary findings. Carter has some skeletal abnormalities-bell shaped ribs and a cervical rib-and multiple spleens. Realistically, babies survive with all those abnormalities. Some may live with a disability, others may be totally fine. They also noted that my placenta was small, but the doctor showed no concern about that. It would explain why he was small, but wouldn't have explained why we lost him. The doctor was also confident that these abnormalities weren't indicative of any syndrome. The anomalies do present themselves in a syndrome, but these three together did not mean he had any syndrome.

About a month or so later, Brandon and I got some blood drawn to do a karyotype. A karyotype just tests the number and visual appearance of chromosomes, so nothing in depth, but that came back normal. 

On Monday last week, the doctor finally called with the final pathology report. Even he had began to wonder why it was taking so long to hear back on it, but when he called, he said it is one of the more detailed pathology reports he had seen, meaning the pathologists did a really good job and checked everything they could.

He said the abnormalities they had found were simply third trimester findings. Not indicative of anything, it was just the same as observing that he has ten fingers and ten toes. My placenta was small, which did explain why he was so small, but it wasn't the cause. The cause was a blockage in the umbilical cord. Now whether the blockage just happened, or if he was pressed against it for too long or what, we don't know. And we never will. There were no knots, just blockage. 

Everything else, besides the ribs, were normally developed. I reread the autopsy report and still just felt so proud to read that everything was normal and looked good. Especially about his brain. I'm confident that he's a smart little guy, and his knowledge is worlds beyond what we'll ever know. We have felt some comfort in the fact that the future with his skeletal abnormalities may have been difficult. He might have lived a completely normal life, or he may not have. The school I worked at before we lost him was a school devoted completely to students with disabilities, and I was there long enough to know that that is a hard life to live, and I wouldn't have wanted that for him. 

It was also nice to know that it wasn't a genetic issue, and that my thyroid wasn't the cause of it. I was the most concerned about these two things, because having to try to adopt or do IVF is just a whole different ball game. We're pleased to know that we are lucky enough to produce healthy babies. 

It has honestly just been such a confusing week. We feel so sad that one stupid block in the cord is what caused us to lose him, but we know we can't go back and change anything, so we're trying to just be at peace with what it is. It won't always be this hard, but we know it won't ever be easy. Thank you guys for all the love and support you've shown us over the past year, through the pregnancy and now through our loss. We really appreciate everything you've done and I know will continue to do for us.

The kindness of strangers.

A few weeks before Christmas I got a message on Instagram from a lady I didn't know. She had attached a drawing she had done of someone else's baby that had passed away, and asked if she could draw Carter for us. She said she had stumbled across one of my pictures on her search page. I don't know what prompted her to click on it, but I'm so glad she did. The drawing came in the mail the other day, and I am just so grateful for this kind stranger and the wonderful thing she does for parents like Brandon and me.


I like the view from up here.

After we lost Carter, so many kind people gave us special gifts with so much meaning behind them. All the material things we've been given make me so happy, because it's just one more thing to hold or to look at that reminds me of Carter. 

We have a few airplane ornaments for him that we put on our tree at home: one we bought at Hobby Lobby, one handmade by a good friend of mine (it's a clear glass ball with whispy white feathers at the bottom, and a little blue airplane hanging from the top; it's my favorite), and red biplane ornament given to us by a friend of the Robbins family. When we were taking the ornaments off the tree, I wanted to put the red plane back in the box it came from. On the flap of the box, as I was closing it, I saw that it says "I like the view from up here."

The creators of the ornament, or at least the phrase on the box, probably didn't intend for the airplane to represent a child that was lost too soon, but the words were a tender reminder to me that Carter isn't suffering. He's watching over us, and he is with us in everything we do. Even though he wasn't there with us physically while we took the ornaments off the tree, he was watching us, and apparently liking the view.


Two months.

At 8:51 am every Thursday, and on the 27th of each month, times seems to stop. I'm awake for it every time. Whether it's hours before or just minutes, I'm awake for it every single time.

For nine months, I counted down the number of weeks and now, I'm counting up. And it's not counting up the age of our baby; I'm counting up from the worst day of my life, holding myself in its misery and beauty because I never want to forget a single second of it.

This has become my new normal. Lack of sleep not from late night feedings and changings, but from late night thoughts and tears. Lack of social interaction not because we have a newborn taking all our time and energy, but because social anxiety peaks in grief. New traditions started not at home with a baby, but at the cemetery with our baby below us. 

The new normal has positives too. A newfound strength in Brandon and myself individually, but also in our marriage. A love so deep and so strong that I didn't know was humanly possible. A new confidence in myself to rely on others and let them take care of me. A deeper appreciation for things that really matter.

But it has been two months since we lost Carter, and I would gladly give up my new normal for a different kind of normal. One that includes him here at home, and us being tired, overjoyed, parents of a newborn. I would never trade this experience to never have had him at all, but I would give anything for him to be here right now.


Warning: sad post.

The past ten days have kicked my butt.

There’s not really a way to describe my grief, I can only tell you that it comes and goes. Usually it comes and goes over the course of days, but the past week or so it has come and go over the course of hours. Sometimes I’m okay, playing with the cats or laughing with Brandon, but the times I’m not are hard. There are the tiny, quiet tears that get cried when I’m thinking about the awful, beautiful 24 hours we spent at the hospital, and then there are the loud, painful cries that come when I fully think about what we lost. I just feel really really empty.

Everything we do right now just feels wrong. We're missing a person for all these families thing we're going to. We went to two movies this week, but we shouldn't be doing anything but staying at home because of the baby. I'm getting roughly nine straight hours of sleep every night when I should only be getting maybe two at a time. I read a whole book in one day when I shouldn't be having any time to do anything for myself. I don't want to do anything for myself. And I don't really care for Christmas right now either. I usually love Christmas, but this year I just want it to be over. All the things we had planned to do for the holiday we had planned to do with a baby. I'm ready for it all to be over.

I just have all this love that built up inside of me over the nine months, and now I have nowhere to direct it, no baby to give it to, so it's exploding out of me in anger, confusion, and sadness. I don't know what I did to deserve all this. Bad things happen to good people, I know that, but I can't help feel like I'm walking around with this target on my back waiting for more bad things to be hurled at me.

One of the worst things about all of this is that I just feel like I'm back to where I was eleven months ago. Eleven months ago we moved back to Utah, I started a new job, and we had been trying to get pregnant for six months. And now here I am, looking for a job, and hoping it doesn't take us six months to get pregnant again. It's like the last eleven months never even happened. The only evidence I have that I was ever pregnant is the line on my stomach that is quickly fading, and one lone stretch mark that I hope never goes away.

Today is not one of those days where I write out my feelings, then suck it up and try to have a good day. Today I don't want to.

I'm not writing this for sympathy, I'm writing it for others that have experienced a loss. It's okay to have good days, and it's okay to have super crappy days. Every emotion is important, every emotion is valid. Grief is just love with nowhere to go, so let yourself grieve, and let yourself love.

Collateral beauty.

Last night we went to see Collateral Beauty. I wanted to go last night, rather than on a cheap Tuesday, because I knew it was going to make me cry, and I would rather cry in front of fifteen strangers instead of ninety. I did cry, but not entirely out of sadness. In the movie, Will Smith's character loses his six year old daughter. We lost Carter, but losing an unborn child is different than losing one you have spent years with; I couldn't fully relate to his loss, I only know my own.

But I cried because the message of the movie is something I've been striving for since the afternoon of October 26th. In the movie, a character says "just make sure you notice the collateral beauty," which is far easier said than done. But I've been trying. 

There have been a few situations in the past weeks that could have been perceived as super, super crappy, or actually kind of neat, and I've realized that it is up to me how I perceive them. When I was buying a Christmas tree at Hobby Lobby for the rest of Carter's ornaments and the cashier announced overhead "we need Christmas tree BB as in baby boy to the registers," the collateral beauty was not being angry that they use baby boy as the identifier, but noticing that the universe somehow knew what I was using the tree for. Collateral beauty is hearing the lady in the Sizzler bathroom tell someone she is going to name her baby Carter, and me not getting mad, but telling her that we named our son that, that we lost him at 39 weeks, and having her tell me that she lost her first. Collateral beauty is wanting to be upset about the dry skin between and under my eyebrows, but suddenly appreciating it when I remember that Carter had the same dry skin in the same spots. Collateral beauty is having a package of ours delivered to the wrong house, getting a random text from the lady that received it, and having her tell me that she has been in our shoes twice, and getting the biggest hug from a stranger that I've ever been given.

Sometimes I think about certain things that have happened, and wonder if I'm just making up the beauty and the special meaning of it all. I wonder how on earth I can try and tell people how situations like these make my heart feel lighter and heavier at the same time without them thinking I'm a crazy person. But then I remember that it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if I think I'm crazy or if other people think I'm crazy-unless I'm having conversations out loud with no one, then someone get me some help. What matters is how I perceive things, and how I choose to grieve. And most of the time, not every second of every day, but most of the time, I choose to perceive things in light and in beauty. Life is too short to not appreciate every minute, even the bad ones.