As all parents know your journey of parenthood is inner twined together, thus Madison’s story grows out of the vine of Teddy’s birth and loss. In the days and weeks following Teddy’s death, grief was fire sharp. Our grief flowed from anger to sorrow, sadness to joy or remembrance. We saw our OB while I was on my maternity leave. She gave us wonderful counsel to let spend time healing both physically and emotionally before deciding about how we wanted to proceed with parenthood. She did tell us that she now had hope that we would be able to get pregnant again, although she recommended about a year before trying again. She suggested a pregnancy loss support group as well, to give us focused time to talk. She also told us that there is an old wives tale that claims that when there is something wrong with the baby it can sometimes create havoc with the pregnancy. So it may be possible that if I chose to have another baby, the next pregnancy may not have any of the physical problems that I experienced during my pregnancy with Teddy. But she did say that emotionally another pregnancy can be very hard to navigate as you travel through the weeks, you may struggle with fears because of the knowledge you now have. You will never again enter a pregnancy full of innocence and pure joy. It will forever be replaced with some feelings of foreboding and fear. That was one of the reasons she encouraged us to put time between this pregnancy and the next.
We did try a few support groups and found that helped us talk through our feelings and process this time after our loss. So many people make it seem like grief just takes time, when the reality is that time won’t heal anything if you don’t do the work to process, grieve and heal. One enormous blessing was not being alone in our grief, we always had each other and although we did grieve very differently we continued to honor each other’s needs and really leaned on each other for support. The first 6 weeks while I was home, it was hard to be alone, no baby to make the day’s pass. Nothing to do to keep my mind and body active. When I returned to work, I was welcomed with mixed responses again. One fellow instructor told me that she had returned to work the day after she buried her brother. Another person, asked why I took the 6 weeks, since I didn’t have a baby at home to care for. I was amazed at the number of people who believed the misguided idea that keeping busy is the best way to move through your grief.
Mixed in with the hard comments were some wonderful and insightful comments. One of the best came from a co-worker who was in her early 30’s. She told me that her parents had lost a baby girl at 6 months to SIDS before she was even born. There were 4 children total, including this little girl and her parents would always display her picture on the wall up the stairs alongside her and her other siblings school pictures. Each year they would change out all of the other children’s pictures, but each year they would keep up hers. Then the year she began 7th grade they repainted the stairwell and when they put the pictures back up, they left off her baby sister’s picture. It struck her deeply that if she were to die, her parents would only continue to remember her for 13 years. She looked at me deep in the eyes and said..don’t ever forget that how you parent Teddy will speak volumes to your other children, whether you intend it to or not. Never forget him, and never apologize when you always include him when you list your children. He will always be part of your children until the day you die. That message always stuck with me, even when it was uncomfortable for others to hear that one of our children died. Or when friends asked why we continue to talk about Teddy. They would always wonder why we couldn’t let him go. I realized that it is so different when you lose a child..if you lose a grandparent or a parent, people understand that you once had them and that you enjoy sharing memories of them and they will always remain part of you. But when a baby dies people don’t just assume that you have 3 living children and one in heaven, unless you tell them, so you can always acknowledge their life.
After many months of working through our grief, we approached our OB to talk with her about trying to get pregnant again. Since we had suffered from infertility for so many years we knew that the process would probably take time and may need some intervention. She encouraged us to try and see… Less than 6 weeks later I missed a period. But less than 2 weeks later I began to spot and the fear came in waves. I went in to have my HCG level’s drawn 2 days in a row..The levels needed to double if my body was maintaining the pregnancy. I remember the day that Todd and I held hands and called in to get the lab results. Not only did my levels double they went up by more than 3 times! There was a baby on the way and we were speechless with pure joy! It was over 9 months after Teddy had passed away and we were ready to walk this road again with hope. It had taken my intestinal track and pancreatitis over 8 weeks to resolve so I was nervous when I started to experience some abdominal pain so soon after conception of this little one, but I stayed positive. We had a wonderful team of 8 physicians from my last pregnancy to support us. I was nauseated, tired and thrilled!
By the time I was 10 weeks pregnant we were approaching Teddy’s first birthday and we decided that we would embrace the tradition of a headstone revealing ceremony to honor his special day. We hadn’t had enough money to place a headstone when he passed away and had saved up through the year to do this. So we sent out invites to immediate family members with the beautiful image of Christopher Robin and Pooh at pooh stick bridge with the saying: Promise you won’t forget me ever.. We enclosed die cut images of pooh for each person to write a special blessing in their life, as we believed that Teddy was a special blessing in our life. On Teddy’s first birthday we decked out his grave area with pooh bear balloons and stuffed animals. We had a blanket covering the headstone until our family arrived. My brother who served as his pallbearer read a poem. We played Teddy’s song and released balloons. They we uncovered the headstone, with a beautiful carving of Pooh bear and my mother’s name and birthdate for the time, hopefully many years away when she would join Teddy. It was a touching moment and a wonderful way to move from the year of grief to the time of anticipation for our new little one who was already entertaining us on ultrasounds with their kicks.
Our second journey into parenthood had begun…