Monday, March 28, 2011

Another Layer

One of the questions Susan asked me in our private childbirth class the other night was what fears I had about labor and delivery before Hudson was born. I could barely remember having any. I remembered being afraid I would throw up during transition, but other than that, most of my fears revolved around not being able to have the “ideal” birthing experience I wanted. My worst case scenario was probably that I would have to have a c-section. I honestly don’t think it ever occurred to me, not even once, that we might not bring home a live baby at the end of it all, only that the process itself might not go the way I wanted it to. I was blissfully unaware of the entire world of unexplained stillbirths, cord accidents, placental abruptions—I feel lucky now that I had no idea how wrong things could go, that I have at least one birth experience that is almost entirely positive and totally untainted by fear.

Susan then asked me how I thought I might feel about this birth if there were any way to put aside all those fears that I have now about what might happen to Jackson during labor and delivery. I like to believe that I would feel the same about it as I did before Hudson died—very confident that I could do it again and deliver a live, healthy baby without interventions or medication. I would feel strong and vital and very mother-earthy, much like I did in the days immediately after Hudson was born. For the longest time, whenever I would take Hudson to the pediatrician, which is in the same complex as the hospital where she was born, I would get the most intense feelings of nostalgia—about LABOR. Really. In hindsight, it became one of the most amazing experiences of my life, one I was actually looking forward to repeating. Susan reminded me so kindly that Hudson gave me that gift—yet another of so many innumerable gifts that incredible child gave me in the 17 months and 12 days she spent with me here and the nine more months she spent inside my body. 

Now, of course, driving into that complex, where we took Hudson to the pediatrician on the morning of May 10, and where I took her to the emergency room at Children’s in the same complex later that day, has a whole different feeling. Now when I go there, I have the most intense feelings of both dread and longing (since that is where I last saw her). What an awful twist of fate that the place where we held her as she died is a parking lot away from the place where we held her when she was born.

Now, of course, it is impossible for me to separate my feelings of fear about what might happen to Jackson from my feelings of empowerment about what a great job I did delivering Hudson. The horror of having lost one child already is too overpowering and is still so terribly fresh in my mind.  I honestly do not know what I would do if Jackson died. 

The layers of loss just continue to peel away, revealing ever more raw skin underneath. My fears about labor and delivery are just another layer. How I wish, with every fiber of my being, that it wasn’t so, that we could rewind and redo and head into the final stretch of this pregnancy with nothing but na├»ve confidence in the power of my body and the goodness of the world, and plans for the first big sister/little brother meeting and photo. How I wish.


  1. Wishing along with you, and hoping for a joyous, natural birth!

  2. Oh Mandy.. I hate that by finding comfort on this community of bereaved mothers, you have also been made acutely aware of how many things can go wrong in a pregnancy. I am so sorry that that innocence has been lost amidst the pain and torment of Hudson's death. I wish so much that you could have that photograph that you long for. That it just should be easy.. full of only love and joy instead of tinged with your reality.

  3. Second post.. too long tonight!

    I know the day of Jackson's birth draws closer for you.. and I hope that in these days you might be able to find some way to capture that first moment with a special photo for yourself. Perhaps taking a picture of him having a picture of Hudson tucked under his arm.. of wearing something symbolic in those first pictures before you leave the hospital. I don't know if you are thinking about this yet, so I hope I am not overstepping by making the suggestion. Sending you love as always.. and i owe you an email.. I promise it is coming.

  4. Mandy, you are in my thoughts this spring as you work through this complicated and confusing mix of powerful emotions. Praying all goes well with your upcoming delivery and that you find that a new peace -- and a new nostalgia -- in Jackson's birth.

    Ashley D.

  5. Mandy, I can't imagine. I hope that Jackson heals a part of your heart. I hope that some day this all becomes less tangled for you.

    With love, andrea

  6. Mandy,

    I've been listening to Mumford & Sons a lot lately and this song made me think of you:


    And after the storm,
    I run and run as the rains come
    And I look up, I look up,
    on my knees and out of luck,
    I look up.

    Night has always pushed up day
    You must know life to see decay
    But I won't rot, I won't rot
    Not this mind and not this heart,
    I won't rot.

    And I took you by the hand
    And we stood tall,
    And remembered our own land,
    What we lived for.

    But there will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears.
    And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
    Get over your hill and see what you find there,
    With Grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

    And now I cling to what I knew
    I saw exactly what was true
    But oh no more.
    That's why I hold,
    That's why I hold with all I have.
    That's why I hold.

    I won't die alone and be left there.
    Well I guess I'll just go home,
    Oh God knows where.
    Because death is just so full and man so small.
    Well I'm scared of what's behind and what's before.

    But there will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears.
    And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
    Get over your hill and see what you find there,
    With Grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

    But there will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears.
    And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
    Get over your hill and see what you find there,
    With Grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

    Much love to you,

  7. As Leslie has already commented, I'm sorry that you should have to know how many things can go wrong in a pregnancy. I liked reading about your feelings prior to Hudson's birth and I wish you could have that innocence back. It sounds like her birth was beautiful, a gift indeed.

    I wish you could have that photograph of your 'big' girl and your little boy. I wish that I could restore some of your confidence in your body's own power and the goodness of this world. I hope you can find them again although I know it will not ever be quite the same.

  8. I don't know how to convey the impact that Hudson's death has had on our pregnancy experience as well. Quite obviously no where nearly as deep or profound as what you've experienced, but the fear lives in every corner of my mind and the confidence and innocence that should come with impending delivery is just not there. I keep reminding myself of what you've written, that most kids live... but can't help but know that there's just no way to guarantee that. Such helplessness.
    I feel a pang each and every time I see a "Big Sister" shirt and every time I think about that first picture of Emma and Claire. I will forever think of Hudson and Jackson and will continue to ache from the unfairness of it.
    We'll celebrate our daughter's arrival tomorrow but not without moments of breath-holding and tears of both joy and anxiety.