This Is Us

I know I still haven’t posted Part 2 of my thoughts on the nurses at Speare Memorial Hospital.  There are just so many feelings involved when I work on that story and I can only do so much at a time.  I also just want it to be as good as these ladies deserve – so, be patient.  I also have a post in the works about our trip back to New Hampshire (where we were when we lost Isaac) and the plaque with Isaac’s name that now hangs in Labor and Delivery at Speare.  There is a lot to catch up on, but I want to do it all justice and decided not to rush something out just for the sake of posting something on a blog with an extremely limited audience.

 

This Is Us - Season Pilot

Today, I wanted to talk about the new NBC show, This Is Us I am certainly late to the party on this one, as every loss mommy blog I follow has already offered up some valuable commentary on this show that takes our experiences into the limelight.  For those of you who have not yet seen the show and plan to, SPOILER ALERT. Go watch and then come back to this post (or not).  When we lost Isaac, I didn’t think I was connected to anyone else who had lost a child in the last trimester of pregnancy.  I was wrong, and people came out of the woodwork with painful stories.  I was wrong because people don’t tend to talk about this horrible possibility.  The subject matter seems to have become taboo at some point in the history of motherhood and pregnancy.

This Is Us directly addresses stillbirth, and it seems to be a major part of the show’s premise.  Mandy Moore’s character, who interestingly is also named Rebecca, loses one of her triplets during childbirth.  She and her husband ultimately end up adopting a third baby, who was abandoned in the hospital the same day that the baby was lost.  The doctor who delivers the babies is perfectly played by Gerald McRaney.  As Milo Ventimiglia (the husband) sits in the hallway, heartbroken and concerned about the stability of his wife, the doctor delivers a touching pep talk.  He shares that his wife lost a baby at the end of pregnancy and how it affected them and then drops a line that loss mommies everywhere now love:

I like to think that one day you’ll be an old man like me talkin’ a young man’s ear off explainin’ to him how you took the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade. If you can do that, then maybe you will still be taking three babies home from this hospital, just maybe not the way you planned.

It’s a great line that definitely speaks to women like me, who have lost a baby.  Losing a child is certainly the sourest lemon that life has to offer, and while we can’t just move on and go back to life as we planned (what I imagine would be perfectly blended lemonade in this analogy) we can do our best and turn that sour lemon into something resembling lemonade.  I think that “something resembling lemonade” means the best life we can given the circumstances – it’s our new normal.

Look – I think This Is Us is a great show, and I love the speech that the doctor gives, but I’m just not as convinced as some others that this is a fair portrayal of what it is like to lose a baby.  I realize that, in this case, two babies survive, and I honestly do not know if that somehow makes it easier to cope.  However, as good a story as it makes, I can’t see someone being able to take a different baby home and move on with life as effectively as these characters do.  Sure, there is a plot line where Mandy Moore struggles with the “replacement baby,” but that plot line is neatly wrapped up when she acknowledges that the baby is not the baby she lost and gives him his own name.  The show misses out on so much of what people experience when they lose a baby.  They don’t show the spontaneous tears that plague you for weeks after the loss (and beyond) and they don’t show waking up in a panic from nightmares about a child you will never know.  They don’t show agonizing over what to do with your child’s remains or how hard it is to find the right urn.  They don’t show the desire to memorialize your baby’s life in any way you can.  They don’t show the endless “what ifs” that inevitably plague you.  I know these parents are being distracted by three newborn babies, but I just think the show misses out on the chance to really dig into the emotional part of losing a baby.

I am so glad that this show has at least chosen to address stillbirth as a potential outcome of pregnancy, I only wish that it did a little more to show the world what that experience is actually like.  I hope that this ends up being a good first step.  Perhaps the world isn’t ready to see all the brutal details of baby loss on primetime television, and maybe this is just an initial introduction.  I also hope that this doesn’t end up trivializing something that, for those who experience it, is the most difficult thing that we will ever face.

When You Have to Avoid Your Favorite (Internet) Things

I talked a bit previously (here) about how I’d been needing to avoid my pregnant friends and family and the resulting babies.  I noticed the other day, though, that there are more pieces to this puzzle.  I am a huge online consumer.  I follow hundreds of blogs with topics ranging from lifestyle to food/cooking to fashion.  I love a good blog.  I am also a major Pinterest user.  Then there is online shopping.  I mostly window shop, but I even buy our trash bags online.

As soon as I found out I was pregnant, my search history, blogs, and Pinterest feed started to reflect that.  On Pinterest, I had a board where I stored general baby ideas (called “Maybe Baby”).  I had a board called “Baby Instruction Manual” filled with tips and tricks for managing every detail of a newborn baby’s life.  I also had a board full of nursery ideas.  I was following every major baby brand’s pins.  Pinterest and other similar platforms recognized this baby trend and filled my feeds with ideas and advertisements geared towards a mommy-to-be.  Every time I scrolled through there were ads for diapers, tips for getting your infant to sleep through the night, and guides for how much milk your baby needed at each stage of infancy.

In my blog reader, I had a full section of baby/pregnancy blogs.  These blogs varied in subject matter but generally featured some picture-perfect pregnant woman or new mom writing about their perfect lives.  Then, there was the shopping.  I had signed up for some ridiculous number of shopping newsletters trying to get the best deals on the million items it seemed we needed in preparation for Isaac’s arrival.  I received daily offers from companies like Giggle, Munchkin, Pottery Barn Kids, Baby Gap and the list goes on (and on and on).

I certainly had moments during my pregnancy where I couldn’t believe that I would actually have a baby boy to take home and care for.  Especially in a first pregnancy, I think it is difficult to picture a real living human inside of your belly that will one day kick and scream.  I worried something would go wrong as many expectant mothers likely do.  However, at the end of the day, I didn’t really think that at 32 weeks we would suddenly lose Isaac.  Somewhere around 27 weeks, it sank in that this baby boy was healthy and with some assistance could live outside of my body.  Maybe he’d be born early or have an unforeseen problem and need to spend time in the NICU, but we were having our baby.

Then we heard the words no pregnant couple ever wants to hear.  “I don’t see any cardiac activity.”  Then I woke up cozily propped up in a hospital bed at dawn on July 16th to realize it wasn’t a dream and our baby was gone.  Here’s the thing about all of the Pinterest boards, blogs, and email promotions.  They don’t magically disappear when you lose a baby.  My husband did a fantastic job of sneakily deleting all of the pregnancy tracking apps, kick counting apps, contraction counting apps and calendar reminders from my phone.  He even smartly kept my phone away for the first week or so.  I didn’t miss it.  I did, however, have my iPad once I left the hospital.

Browsing through Pinterest and blogs was a favorite activity long before I was pregnant.  I opened up those apps, desperate to distract my mind from the traumatic loss, labor and delivery of Isaac.  I did realize that there would be some reminders, but I seriously underestimated the level at which the “baby stuff” had taken over my digital world.  I had to wait another week before going into Pinterest and Feedly (the RSS reader I use) and painstakingly eliminating all things baby.  With Pinterest it took an entire afternoon of unfollowing users, marking posts as “not interesting”, and eliminating ads.  With the blogs, I had to get on a computer to eliminate each baby blog one by one.  There are still a number of blogs in my feed where the blogger just happens to be pregnant or have adorable little kids.  I still have to swipe through those posts without reading them.

I have a feeling I will either be pregnant again (hopefully) or we will be expanding our family in a less traditional fashion, and I will still periodically be receiving email promotions from baby brands that I have overlooked in my unsubscribing marathons.  I cannot count the number of email lists I have unsubscribed to over the past four and a half weeks.  However, at least once a day, I see another email from some adorable baby brand.  Each time it breaks my heart a little bit more.

No one wants to be surrounded with reminders of what they have lost.  To clarify, I want reminders that my baby boy was real, but not regular reminders of what could have and should have been.  Then there are the moments when I have to open those baby emails to unsubscribe.  I still see adorable onesies in those emails and have an inexplicable urge to buy them for a baby who will never wear them.  That is not fun.

Maybe I should invent a service that helps couples purge the baby reminders from their digital lives after this type of loss.  I might create a page that provides instructions for each platform that directs you how to actually eliminate the baby pins, blogs, and emails.  It was not as easy as I had hoped.