Since mid November of 2010 I’ve been dreading this holiday season. That’s a whole lotta time to anticipate and fear the worst! Since we learned about Stella’s declining health just before Thanksgiving in 2010 the holiday season started off on a very sad and depressing note and as we progressed closer to Christmas we were faced with nothing but bad news. There was no holiday spirit in our house, no joy, no looking forward to future holidays with our little girl. I was surrounded by a cold, bleak sadness deep to my core. I tried to focus on the positive, that Stella was still with me, and have hope for my daughter’s future. I tired to pretend to be in to Christmas by putting up our tree, but the darkness was too much for me to overcome and the fake holiday spirit weighed down on me even more. My husband finally took over and placed lights on the tree while I sat on the couch watching and choking back tears.
Then, out of no where, I got sick a week before Christmas. Stella’s life was no longer in theoretical danger, it was about to come crashing to an end! I was hospitalized the Monday before Christmas with HELLP syndrome and told Stella was too young and too small to survive and my health was in imminent danger with out her delivery. If you’ve never found yourself in this situation it’s hard to imagine the willingness to die for your child’s survival, but I was assured her chances of her surviving with my rapidly declining health were slim to none and we would likely both be lost. From that moment on there was no Christmas! I spent the week in the hospital desperately praying for a miracle and both proud and tortured by Stella’s will to hold on to my womb with her tiny little being. She held on for nearly 50 hours while the Doctors did everything they could think of to induce her birth. She didn’t want to come out in to the World. She knew it was too early to be born and wanted to stay safely inside my womb, but my body failed her.
I was released from the hospital on Christmas Day in the middle of a huge snow storm. The roads were in horrible conditions making the half hour drive a very tense and tedious hour and a half. Once finally safe back home all I wanted to do was camp out on the couch in front of the fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate and cry, but the half decorated Christmas tree was staring back at me as a reminder of the day and we had all been robbed on any sense of normalcy, happiness or joy. After my break down Trey stepped in again and threw a few decorations on the tree, hung our empty stockings from the mantle and moved the boxes of Christmas decorations that had been stacked in the living room laying in waiting. He made a Christmas dinner with the groceries he ran out to get on Christmas Eve when we learned of the impending snow and we tried to take back a little piece of the Christmas we had lost along with Stella.
We spent the rest of the week dealing with the funeral home, writing an obituary for our baby, cancelling OB appointments and planned a small memorial service for Stella on New Years Day. All the while I was left wondering how I would ever survive the year, 2011, that lay before me? More importantly, did I even want to?
Now that we have finally kissed 2011 good-bye and welcomed 2012 I guess it’s safe to say I survived! It was tough in so many ways. Some I hadn’t even anticipated being so difficult. For the most part I think I survived mostly by allowing the currents to take me where ever they chose. I didn’t fight the drowning sensations of having no control, but I also tried not to imagine where the flow was going to take me. Maybe I just didn’t care where I ended up, so I had no vested interest one way or the other? Of course it really wasn’t that simple. We had become involved in twice monthly Perinatal Loss Support Groups as well as deeply involved in our volunteer work with the March of Dimes, so those both gave me a little direction to help steer my course.
My blasé attitude was forced to take the back burner in August once we learned I was carrying Stella’s tiny sibling. No longer caring where I may end up or what may happen in my future was no longer an option. After all now I had to consider the future of this growing being inside of me and could no longer just throw in the towel if I didn’t feel like being part of society on any given day. But, you may be surprised to learn just how difficult it is to carry a baby after having to say a final good-bye to a previous baby. Some people seem to think getting pregnant after a loss is such a wonderful blessing that the Mother should be floating around on cloud 9 with a perm grin tattooed to her face. Oh, how I wish it was that simple!
In many ways experiencing a subsequent pregnancy after a loss is like placing yourself in front of a firing squad every day and giving them the power to determine your faith with a coin toss. Will today be the end of this baby’s future? You begin to live every day faced with fear. You can no longer hold that blind optimism that YOUR baby will grow to be perfectly healthy and get to enjoy the future you had planned. Once you’ve had it ripped out from under you once you can never gain it back! Had I fully understood this I may have planned the timing of this pregnancy out a little differently, but then maybe it’s one of those situations where you think you have a firm grasp on how difficult the situation will be only to discovers it’s far more traumatizing than you could have ever imagined?
Regardless, being pregnant with Sprout along almost the exact time schedule as with her big sister Stella really made our first holiday season a unique challenge! We grieved for what we had lost. I ached to have Stella with me for her 1st Christmas. I wanted to erase the painful memories of the Christmas and New Years Day from the year before. But at the same time I was torn by knowing Sprout was with me and if we got incredibly lucky she would be with us for the next holiday season as we celebrate Stella’s 2nd Angelversary. It was a big if and it felt like a shot in the dark, but it was the only joy I could find to hold on to. We’ve been blessed to be able to hold on to Sprout thus far and she’s helped guide me through so that I can say, “I survived the holiday season!”