Thursday, March 31, 2011

This Life of Mine (Ours)

After Chase died, I wanted to get pregnant immediately.  And I didn't want to admit this right away, because I didn't want to replace Chase--or want anyone else (Patric or the kids) to think I wanted to either.  But eventually I admitted it and yearned so deeply for the physical contact of a new baby that I did not get with Chase.  I felt we needed one more link in our family, to make it 7.  The doctor wouldn't give us permission to try to get pregnant until we had waited 6 months, he wanted 8 months, after my pregnancy with Chase.  He said the longer we waited, the more I would be healed and would be ready for the next pregnancy.  In my mind, I wasn't getting any younger, and didn't want to be having babies into my 40s, though I'm sure I would have changed my opinion of that if I had to!  I told Patric that if we got pregnant again, I was "sure", though I was half joking, that I would need a shrink throughout the pregnancy.  I anticipated those 9 months of being very emotional and me being very scared about what all could possibly go wrong.  Though, even when everything went absolutely perfect at each checkup, we would both look at each other with thoughts going through our mind that everything was absolutely perfect with Chase, so until we brought the baby home, none of this meant anything in our minds.

I was surprised.  Somehow, throughout this last pregnancy, I felt amazingly calm.  It seemed like after our first ultrasound at 13 weeks telling us that everything looked perfect, I had a monkey off my back.  I got through the first trimester (when my 2 prior miscarriages happened) and I credited Chase with this peace that I felt, thanking him for getting me through the pregnancy every day.  Near the end of the 9 months, my emotions started going down a different path as I missed Chase so dearly.  I could see the light at the end of the tunnel so-to-speak and I felt like I should have done all this with Chase--that he was all I really wanted. Fear set in again and I began to get a little anxious, but for the most part, I felt sane.  I didn't feel crazy, as I read comments and blogs from other rainbow baby mamas that had felt the same things I was feeling.

Then Owen was born.

I never once thought of Owen as a replacement of Chase.  In fact, I felt like Owen would help me heal slightly.  He would help me remember Chase and imagine him at ages that I couldn't without this little physical being in my arms and under my care.  But all in all, I thought I would be happy.  I knew there would be sadness because I would miss Chase as I held Owen.  But overall, I pictured a road of fun and happiness ahead of me with the new baby.

What I am about to say is not to be interpreted as I do not want Owen.  That is not the case at all.  He gives me light in my life, he puts a smile on my face, he has made my heart grow bigger each day he is here with us.  What I did not know about this rainbow baby, is the state of fear that would come with him.  I did not know that I would be so scared to lose him; that every cough, grimmace, cry would possibly send me into a mini (hidden) panic attack.  My heart and head are at constant battle....still.  I know in my heart that Owen is doing just fine.  I know that his cries are because he is either hungry or has a dirty diaper and that his collicky moments are because his tummy hurts with gas pains.  But in my head, I am constantly on alert.  Is everything really okay?  And I'm not the only one.  Karly, who is not only Owen's big sister, but his second mommy, asks, "mom, why is he crying?"  Sometimes I say, "baby, he just has a tummy ache like you do sometimes."  But sometimes when my anxiety level is skyrocketed, I say, "I don't know."  Then when I get him calmed down after a crying bout, she asks me, "Mom, is he breathing?"  And the truth of the matter is, I'm always checking.   Now, to some extent, we all do this as mothers.  Even to our toddlers and big kids, we check...all the time.  It's part of our instincts, habits, etc.  But with Owen, our rainbow, it's to a much greater extent.  I look at her with a little smile and say, "Yes, honey, of course he is."  But when I know that my 9-year-old daughter really just asked me if her baby brother is dead or not, my stomach turns.  Because when you have held a tiny baby in your arms that is dead or dying, it doesn't matter if he is your son, your brother, your nephew or your never forget what that feels like.  And you fear it to ever happen again.

Editted to add: Tonight at supper Reese said the prayer.  He always prays, among other things, that Chase is safe up in heaven and tells God he misses him so much.  Tonight, though, he prayed that God will "let Owen stay alive."

I didn't know I would be living like this.  In some state of fear, constant fear, that something is wrong with Owen.  I find myself particularly scared of the things that happened to Chase, or the things we saw go wrong with him.  Chase's legs were severely blotchy his last two days.  I don't remember what they call it but it's due to poor circulation and it happens to us all, especially to our fingers and hands when we get cold.  So when Owen's hands or feet get this way, I go back to the hospital when Chase's whole body looked that way and I get so scared.  My heart knows that Owen is fine...but my head remembers.  All the jerks, facial expressions, breathing changes....all of that which is completely normal with newborns, now sends me into a frenzy.  Nothing that shows on the outside, but on the inside, the wheels are turnin'.   My thoughts get worrisome until I see whatever it is I need to see to make me feel better.  
Owen has been a little collicky this past week and it's very hard to comfort him, and then explain to everyone else that he's fine and give them their warm and fuzzy.  Patric is very good about not stressing me out, but I know that he's feeling/thinking exactly the same as me.  The kids are not so good about not stressing me but I can lie to them and tell them everything is fine, whether I know it is or not.  
There are days when I think about all this and just marvel at this life I now live.  I think about what life would have been with Chase compared to how it is now with Owen.  I wonder how this will affect us all long term.  Even Owen.  I never look at him and not think about Chase.  I feel the need to talk to Chase when I'm alone and talking to Owen, too.  I don't know why.   Owen is absolutely awesome.  I wouldn't trade him or everything I've been through (recovery, nursing pain) for anything.  He's worth every ounce of pain I've felt.  I just didn't know that I'd be living in constant fear for his life.  I was so laid back last time (with Reese).  Everything went so smoothly compared to this.  And I was even in the hospital with Reese for 4 days with RSV when he was 7 months.  I don't know, maybe I'll get there.  I tell myself that as Owen gets older, it'll get easier.  Ha!  Maybe if he could just tell me what is wrong when he cries, then I don't have to guess and tell everyone else for him.  But I don't want to wish away time.  I want to enjoy every moment.  I want to love on him and squeeze him and kiss him each day because I know he will grow up so fast.  
I love Owen.  I love having a new baby at home.  I just never knew a rainbow could be so scary.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Where we are

My friend Carly just published some amazingly helpful posts for babyloss parents and anyone who knows anyone going through this, from friends and family to healthcare professionals.  I find these helpful even nearly 2 years from losing sweet Chase.  This journey is not one I would chose for anyone, but we don't have the choice.  When we are on it, some days the only way to make it through the day is with the help of others on the same ride.  Through blogs, emails, cards, etc.,  I have found comfort from "friends" that have reached out to me and honestly know what I am feeling and going through.  Understanding that grief doesn't just happen and then it's over, but that it comes in waves is crucial to comforting someone experiencing this.  
I knew that bringing home Owen would be emotional, but I didn't know that I would grieve Chase as deeply as I have in Owen's presence.  There is not a moment that goes by that I don't think of Chase and miss him painfully.  Catching a glimpse of Owen from afar, sleeping peacefully and remembering Chase in his isolette; wishing I had a better picture of Chase that I could see his whole face; blotchy skin on Owen and remembering Chase's when he was declining; the clothes that Chase should have worn and handed down to Owen with spit-up stains but instead, they are brand new.  I worry every time Owen makes a funny face or twitches in his sleep that something is wrong, remembering how scared I was that Chase was going to have a seizure...and then he finally did.  And newborns twitch a lot, let's face it, so just imagine my anxiety levels these days.
I have listened to Chase's song, Godspeed, a lot since Owen came home--it's on all the playlists I made for him.  I could not listen to it before as it was just too painful.  And now when I listen to it, it really isn't any less painful, but I want to hear it.  It's strange to me because it acutely reminds me of the funeral service yet I want to hear it and listen to the whole thing, with Owen in my arms.  I feel a little safer, I guess.  I can still cry every time I hear it, but I almost want it to bring me happiness, too.  I can't take away the sorrow I feel, but I can make it a little happier by sharing these moments with Owen....being thankful for Chase and everything that he taught me and brought me.  It isn't any easier to hear this song, but now I want to hear it.....whereas before Owen came home, I couldn't bear to hear that melody.
I still feel a lot of pain, a LOT of pain.  I have thought about some pretty painful moments that I never let enter my head since losing Chase and I cry.  But again, I am thankful now, too.  This journey has continued, but the path I am on has changed.  Some moments I am so sad that I still don't think I can move on.  But I do, because I want to.  I have beauty in my life.  I am deeply blessed.  Yet no matter how much joy I feel, I will always feel sorrow.  But I know that I will get to see Chase again some day.  And that he is waiting for us in a place that is incredibly beautiful.   I know this in my heart.  Yet miss him with my entire soul.  Carly said it this way and I thank her for putting it in these words.  She is an amazing woman.
"I thank God every day for all 4 of my children. I am not angry now, but thankful that my son has given me this beautiful life that I live today. I know that the place that Christian is in is so incredibly amazing. I will miss him every day for the rest of my life. I thank my angels for helping me to rise above my sadness. I thank God for sending Christian into my life even if it was only for the shortest stay.
I found my way out of the dark forest and I am now living in the amber glow. Life is rich. Life is precious. Life is beautiful."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I can't believe Owen is over 3 weeks old already.  Time has flown by.  So have all the struggles.  Re-learning all the little baby signs and signals and Owen's own signals has gone pretty smooth.  Getting used to seeing Chase in this little boy and missing him every time I look into Owen's beautiful little eyes, thinking about him.  I've been letting myself think of those heart-wrenching moments of Chase's life lately.  I'm not sure why.  There were some extremely sad moments during that week back in April of 2009 that I have not let my mind visit for quite a while.  And when I did, only for fleeting moments and then shifted to something else.  The pain is fresh.  Raw.  And it's peculiar how my mind can conjure up such emotion without notice sometimes.  The  memories are there and resurface at some of the weirdest times sometimes.  But as many painful moments as there are, I try to think of the beautiful memories, too.  Even the fact that I have an angel son in Heaven.  
I just read Heaven is For Real, by Todd Burpo.  My sister found the book and left it behind in Albuquerque when Owen was born and I'm so glad she did.  It's a story about a little boy who had emergency appendectomy and visited Heaven while he was sedated.  I think this story touches a lot of people, but is special particularly to those of us who have suffered miscarriage and baby loss.  We struggle a lot with imagining our babies faces and what the look like, who they might look like and to hear this little boy's story of what heaven is like, how Jesus really, really loves the little children, what he did while he as in heaven and who he saw and all the little children he is comforting.  The question of whether or not to believe the story, whether it is true or not, is almost abandoned.  It is such a beautiful story, I want to believe it and do.......wondering how can I not believe it???  Through the eyes of a child and told this way, it is everything I want Heaven to be...questions answered maybe.  This little boy is not scared of dying, because he knows what is next for him.  And though I have felt this way before, knowing i will get to see Chase again, I am comforted a little more hearing this story and what Heaven is really like.....or so this story describes.  
I am still getting used to this life.  I remember for a long time being in my car and every time I looked in the back seat, I missed seeing the car seat and Chase in it.  It was a very painful reminder and constant.  I looked at my 3 kids and saw them, but more so saw who wasn't there.  Taking that car seat out of the car when we left the hospital is one of those painful memories that I wouldn't let myself remember....until we took Owen out of the hospital and put him in that very car seat.  It was cathartic in ways, sad.....yet happy.  I sobbed as I buckled Owen into Chase's seat....the one he never got to use.     Now, I am still getting used to seeing that car seat in the back seat of the car.  Some days I can't believe I have my little boy with me.  He's here with us.  All the time.  I don't know when it will ever get any easier.  I will get used to it.  But I won't ever stop thinking about the baby who didn't get to use it.  The baby who is missing in our car.  In our lives.  But I will always be thinking about seeing him again.  Seeing him in a place much better than this.  One day....

Owen with his Chase bear in his brother's outfit.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Uphill from here...

Chase Allen

Owen Chase

I thought it would get easier bringing Owen home.  I thought my anxieties would lessen once we loaded our baby into our car, buckled him in the car seat and welcomed him into our home.  I did not know instead, it would get harder.  I hoped Owen would remind us of Chase, make our memories more vivid and help our imaginations picture Chase in phases that we have missed out on.  I never worried about Owen erasing any memories of Chase or fading them.  And he hasn't.   He has made our memories of Chase stronger.  We are constantly comparing Owen to him and the rest of the kids as newborns.  His birth obviously brought back many memories, making constant comparisons during the procedure.  Our anxieties heightened, or so we thought, at the moment we heard his first cries....waiting to hear that all was okay.  Holding him in the Recovery Room, in complete awe of the miracle we had in our arms.  I accompanied Owen to the nursery one evening for his nightly assessment.  Only a couple other babies were in the nursery at the time but one of them was a very large baby.  Large enough that the nurses were commenting that this one could crawl out of here practically, as he was so big.  I attentively watched the weight come up....he was 8 pounds 12 oz.,  I think.  I was curious because this baby reminded me of Chase, in just his size.  I remember Chase seeming so big but I had no frame of reference as to how big he actually was.  Even Owen seemed little, just 6 ounces less than his brother, but the difference was noticeable.   During his assessment, Owen started crying as he did not like having his clothes removed for the scale, nor did he like the scale either.  As soon as the nurse got his weight, I was able to comfort him, though, and that made me feel sooooo good.  Just whispering into Owen's ear calmed him down.  And I was taken back to Chase's hospital room where I whispered into his ear, knowing in my heart that he would hear my voice and get better.  That if he felt my breath on his temple, he would miraculously heal and open his eyes.  I was just sure of this.  But it never happened.  I couldn't fix my baby boy.  I couldn't make it all better for him, like a mom is supposed to do.  Being able to do this for Owen, helped me.  It gave me that feeling that every mother needs to have....that gives their kids complete unconditional love and confidence that mom knows best.
I can't say it has been that easy coasting since we got home, though.   I have been pretty uptight I must say.  I am not the same person who brought my other kids home.  I am scared.  I know the fragility of life.  I know the reality of pain.  I know the depth of loss.  And, unfortunately, it scars much more than I ever knew that it could.  I used to love the infant stage--each day was a pleasure with a new baby.  It was fun and it was probably one of my favorite ages.  I still love babies, but it is not as fun anymore.  I worry too much to enjoy it the way I used to.  I hate that part.  
So many times I look at Owen and I think Chase.  Some times I even call him Chase by accident.  I call him Reese, too, for that matter, but more often it's Chase that I confuse him with, since I am always comparing the two.  Looking at these pictures, I can't look at one without thinking of the other.  I wonder what Chase's eyes would have looked like if I could have seen them open like Owen's.  I see Owen sleeping and I remember Chase lying there, lifeless almost, and I fear for Owen.  Not obsessively, but I just worry.  I don't know that I ever won't.  I think this is how it will always be.  Loving him with my soul, yet always fearing what might happen.  I have so many people tell me how happy they are for us and have complete joy on their faces for us.  I wonder if they know that I live in constant fear, though, of not having Owen some day.  Of what could happen.  I don't think they would have only joy on their faces but maybe sadness, too.  For there is never anything that change the fact that we must live each day without one of our family members.   And how we are to do this, only we can know.