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.

The Dreaded Question

People warn you right after you lose a baby that other people will say things that hurt despite the best of intentions.  There are TONS of things that are upsetting that make sense.  For example, “I know one day you will have lots of beautiful children.”  It’s someone sincerely hoping we one day have the baby to take home that we have always hoped for.  However, it makes me want to scream, “I ALREADY HAD A BEAUTIFUL CHILD, HIS NAME IS ISAAC.” The littlest thing can trigger me.  The thing that has triggered me the most lately, though, has been entirely unexpected. From the moment we were told that Isaac had died, people started asking us what kind of service we would have, where were we going to lay him to rest, and later where we planned to scatter his ashes.

 

We were absolutely not ready to answer that question moments after being told our baby was never going to come home with us like we had planned.  The morning after Isaac was born, my husband and I knew one thing – we wanted to have Isaac cremated.  It was an oddly easy call considering the circumstances.  We honestly did not even have to discuss it for more than the briefest moment.  I am not 100% certain how the Catholic religion handles cremation (and am not looking to do any research on the matter), but I do know that Judaism prohibits cremation.  I am not especially religious and have actually been disappointed in how my religion deals with infant loss.  Judaism doesn’t really do much for babies who do not survive at least 30 days. I know it’s a rule from a much different time and world where many more babies were lost, but it is obviously a rule developed by someone who never lost a baby.  The bottom line is that we never had any doubts on the matter.

 

After Isaac’s autopsy, he was returned to the area and cremated.  It was too hard for us to go pick him up ourselves, so my parents lovingly did so. He’s still in the tiny red velvet bag that he came home in.  We have him inside the remembrance box the hospital gave us temporarily.  People suggested that we put some of his ashes with the trees we plant, but we haven’t been able to part with him.  He was such a tiny little baby, the bag we have is painfully small.  So far the only plan is to wear a special necklace with the tiniest bit of him enclosed so I can carry him with me always.  We need to do something with him besides leave him in a bag.  He deserves so much better than that.  It turns out finding an urn for a baby is really difficult.

 

On the whole service/funeral matter – I feel like everyone asks me.  They don’t mean anything at all by it.  Well perhaps they have expectations, but they don’t mean to upset us.  At first, it was easy to say that we were simply going to honor him in a lot of varied ways.  Now I am starting to worry that  eventually I will regret not having had any traditional ceremony.  Perhaps we are depriving others of a chance to say goodbye to our baby boy.  We may feel the loss the most acutely, but it wasn’t only my husband and I that lost Isaac.  I don’t want to deprive anyone, but then I panic because I don’t want to ever say goodbye to him.  Plus, what if we pick some sort of ceremony or service and it feels wrong?

 

The truth is that I don’t know what to do.  I know there isn’t a right answer.  I also know that this isn’t supposed to be easy.  The bottom line?  People keep asking me this question and I find it so upsetting, but it is just because I realize I have no idea what the answer is.

Day 8

July 24, 2016

Dearest Isaac,

Tomorrow, we get a piece of you back . . . a physical piece that is.  On the one hand, this is not at all what I want.  I want to hold you in my arms.  I want to cuddle you.  I want to sing to you, to feed you and change your diapers.  I want to know what color your eyes would have been.  I want to watch you flourish and become the amazing son and man that I know you would have been.  On the other hand, I know that is not possible, and a small physical piece of you is better than nothing at all.

Mommy had a hard day of missing you, Isaac.  I keep waiting for someone to wake me up from this twisted nightmare.  This was never how it was supposed to be.  If Mommy and Daddy’s love alone had been all you needed, you would have lived forever.

I’m sorry to be such a downer – I did, after all, promise lighter and happier things.  We made “progress” today.  Daddy convinced Mommy to get in Big Brown again.  You see, we went out on a lunch and ice cream adventure to Squam Marketplace in Big Brown the day before we lost you.  The idea of going without you terrified me.  I decided I just had to push through the sadness and go for it, or risk never getting in that beautiful boat again.  Daddy and I sat in the way back.  Sure – I bawled the first few minutes (I miss my baby), but slowly I let Daddy, the beautiful day and the gorgeous lake remind me that life (as terrible as it may seem at times) is still something to cherish.  You aren’t here to enjoy things like boat rides; so I have to appreciate them for the both of us.  I am choosing to live and enjoy my life, and be a better person while doing so, because you deserve it.

Also, your Daddy was amazing.  He comforted me and sheltered me from the cold spraying water.  We even had a date (of sorts) tonight.  We watched a cheesy movie (Terminator), ate Meatloaf and had some wine.  I didn’t know it was possible to love someone as much as I love him.

The rest of the family went out.  We considered going, but Daddy decided I am not ready and he is almost always right.  If I am overwhelmed by the family dinner table, how will I feel in public?  Right now? Raw, exposed and vulnerable.  Plus the idea of pants or other clothing makes me way too uncomfortable.  Besides, the alone time with Daddy was much needed.  Did I mention I’ll love him?  I’ll have to start telling you stories about our nearly 6 years together.  If someone had told us 6 years ago where we would be today, we would not have believed it, but despite the pain I would do it all over again for the time we had with you.

Love you always,

Mommy