Crushed Hope – Fallout From a Miscarriage

July 31, 2013 – 1:15 pm

It was like any other day. I was in the office, just returned from lunch. In just over two weeks my job was ending. I was job hunting online. Then I got a text.

kristextpregnant

ICE stands for in case of emergency.

Oh shit. HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN? If you know our story, you know this isn’t possible. My wife’s been pregnant three times – twice from artificial insemination and once from in vitro fertilization. I don’t have a job soon. Oh shit. HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?

We were done having kids. We sold off everything but a breast pump and pack-and-play.

I locked my work computer and hurried downstairs to call my wife. I don’t remember taking a breath. We asked each other how this could happen. We worried aloud. Our health insurance was ending. Another kid means dealing with Jax’s room far earlier than we wanted. This baby would grow up not knowing Jax.

She started to weep.

“It’s going to be okay,” I said, trying to comfort her. But mostly myself. “This is totally from God. Everything will work out.”

Chicago

When I got back to my desk I sat for a few minutes, staring into nothing. We definitely knew the conception date. It happened in Chicago on our tenth wedding anniversary trip. I searched online for baby names influenced by the Windy City. Wrigley (the Chicago Cubs play at Wrigley Field) was the only name I could come up with on my own.

My Instagram shot.

Photo credit: Me. F yeah.

But the Internet failed me. I played with Nymbler, a baby name assistant, for the next couple of hours. I worried about my wife. This wasn’t the plan. But I was anxious to get home and talk about this more.

To my relief, she was okay. And over the next several weeks, we were both very, very okay with this. Even excited. Really, really excited. My grief felt lighter. I laughed and smiled a little more. So did my wife. Things finally seemed to be turning around for us.

Hope

We’ve heard and read that the second year after losing a child is often harder than the first. That sounds impossible. But most of the support received in the months after the death has now moved on. They have lives to live. We are still stuck. The loneliness is harder. All of the firsts – first Halloween, Christmas, birthday, memorial – have passed. All that’s left is our broken hearts.

After Jax’s memorial service we felt the beginning of that rough second year.

But this pregnancy changed that. We felt hope for the first time. This baby was going to keep that second year from being worse. The baby embodied life after all we had known for a year was death.
It’s a gift from God. We thought it. The few people we told thought it. Everything’s going to be okay, because this is from God.

Neither of us could bury our fear completely. Fear of something bad happening. We lost our first child, Presley, at 16 weeks gestation without explanation. Then Jax tragically left us. There’s no way this will end badly. Right?

My wife’s first blood tests were positive. Her second blood test revealed increased hormone levels, indicating that everything was progressing appropriately. We decided we wouldn’t find out the sex of the baby. We threw more names around than the producers of the 50 Shades of Gray movie choosing its actors.

addisonst

My buddy SJ, who was living in Chicago, offered up the name Addison. Wrigley Field’s address is 1060 W. Addison St. I liked it. But I kept pushing for Wrigley in the name somewhere.

August 17 – Seven weeks gestation

At some point, my wife told me she was spotting. I remained calm, especially after she told me it was light pink. To be extra careful, she called off work that night and rested on the couch. Anxious, I Googled her symptoms and found that everything was normal. I rested easy that night.

When we woke up, things seemed off. After a bit, I asked her how she felt. She started to cry as she said it got worse. I grew angry. This can’t be happening. Right?

We went to church that morning. I don’t recall the message, but I remember it being a perfect message for us to hear. My wife cried through most of it. I was busy hoping for the best but expecting the worst. Filling up that angry tank.

We brought home some lunch, but my wife couldn’t eat. I barely did. She called a friend and decided to go to the hospital. Her mom met her there and I stayed with the twins.

August 18 – 6:01 pm

While at my uncle’s birthday celebration, my wife sent me updates of ultrasounds and blood tests.

And then the news, as I stood in my uncle’s living room, reading my phone.

“:(( no baby”

Fuck. FUCK. Fuck this shit. I had to stay calm. My stomach sank. I wore my mask through the rest of the party. Had to act normal as we ate dinner and opened presents. Then we left. I just wanted to hold my wife.

Half way home my sister, who rode with us, asked how my wife was doing with the pregnancy. I told her about the miscarriage. Tears streaming down my face as I’m trying to drive us all home safely. I was finally able to unleash my sadness. I knew it was going to break her heart. And what was left of mine broke into even smaller pieces telling her.

miscarriage

The hope evaporated.

The next day I started my new job. The job that, along with the baby, was a gift from God. A gift of financial stability and health insurance after my first 90 days. Coverage that’d pay for the delivery that would never happen.

By now, my angry tank was overflowing. It all felt like a giant tease. A cruel trick. I kept asking myself why God would have us get pregnant naturally after years of not being able to only to go through yet another loss. F Him.

Today

My anger’s calmed down. I’m still mad, but I’m not trying to beat God up anymore. I still think the whole thing is f’d up. But my life’s been f’d up for a while now, so it’s just becoming normal.

Remember cheesy ’80s wrestling when the heel (bad guy) would get hit repeatedly, only to keep absorbing the blows before evilly grinning at his opponent and then asking for more? That’s how I feel. What in the hell else is life going to hit me with?

My wife came up with the idea to name the baby. And we used SJ’s idea of Addison. It fit for a boy or a girl. It signified Chicago. It was perfect.

I choose to believe that a fetus has a soul, and the soul of Addison is in heaven, hanging out with big sister Presley and big brother Jax.

Hopefully we can take our minivan to heaven with us. We’ll need the space.

Go On

While deciding on songs to use during the video for Jax’s remembrance I came across Jack Johnson’s “Go On.” While my wife purchased the album Sleep Through the Static, I never recall hearing this tune. Taylor Swift’s “Ronan” deservedly drew the majority of everyone’s attention who viewed the video. However, I wanted to bring attention to this song, as well.

Jax LOVED Jack Johnson. My wife listened to his music constantly while Jax was in utero and the little dude came out constantly comforted by Johnson’s soothing voice and laid back guitar. When he was 4, while in the back of our minivan, my wife told me Jax once shouted his disagreement with the radio choices “I only want Jack Johnson or rock and roll!” He was pissed at what I can only assume was KIIS-FM playing.

Anyway, here are the lyrics and the song on YouTube below.

In my rearview
I watch you watching the twilight
Behind the telephone lines
Nothing to prove, or to assume
Just thinking that your thoughts are different than mine
In my rearview
I watch you
I give you your life, would you give me mine?

I see you slowly swim away
Cause the light is leaving town
To a place that I can’t be
There’s no apologies

Just go on
Just go on
There’re still so many things
I wanna to say to you
But go on
Just go on
We’re bound by blood that’s moving
The moment that we start
The moment that we start

I see perfect little eyes
Watch the shadows of the clouds
And the surface of the ocean out the window of a plane
I get nervous when I fly
I’m used to walking with my feet
Turbulence is like a sigh that I can’t help but over think

What is the purpose of my life
If it doesn’t ever do
With learning to let it go
Live vicariously through you
You can do the same
It’s the least you can do
Cause it’s a lonely little chain
If you don’t add to it

So go on
Just go on
There’s still so many things
I wanna say to you
Go on
Just go on
We’re bound by blood and love
The moment that we start
Just go on
Just go on
There’re still so many things
I wanna say to you
Just go on
Just go on
We’re bound by blood that’s moving
The moment that we start
The moment that we start

Video From the Remembrance

Several people have asked me for a link to the video we showed at the remembrance on Monday, so I uploaded it. It also gives those that could not attend a chance to watch it.

As I mentioned before, my wife’s brother created the video, so all credit goes to him. Here you go. For those of you reading from your email subscription, you’ll need to click on the link to the site to view it.

The Remembrance

I remember the drive home when the blind hope

Turned to crying and screaming, “Why?”
Flowers pile up in the worst way
No one knows what to say about a beautiful boy who died

By Taylor Swift and Maya Thompson

 

Courtesy of Crossroad Photography, Heather Kusunoki

Courtesy of Crossroad Photography, Heather Kusunoki.

Around October of last year, as we approached Halloween, a very difficult time for me as it was right there with Christmas as Jax’s favorite time of year, my mom emailed my wife and I a link to a song Taylor Swift performed about a boy with cancer. Swift wrote the song “Ronan” based on a blog Maya Thompson, the mother of Ronan, created when her 3-year-old son was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in August of 2010. Ronan died in May of 2011 three days before his fourth birthday.

My wife’s brother created a beautiful tribute video that we showed last night at Jax’s Remembrance. I’m guestimating about 100 people came to Mountain Gate Park in Corona to be together as a community to share stories, hug, laugh and cry.

Projected on to a make-shift movie screen (as you can see in the background of the photo above), the video wrapped up with “Ronan” playing as we watched videos of Jax performing for the infant twins and photos as we all last remember seeing him. The song crushes me every time I hear it. I managed to mostly avoid tears throughout the night until that song played. Even though I watched the video earlier in the day and wept alongside my wife, I still lost it at the park, standing in the background and swigging Macallan scotch from a flask while I wiped away tears. (thank you my very kind friend for sharing).

Courtesy of Crossroad Photography, Heather Kusunoki

Courtesy of Crossroad Photography, Heather Kusunoki

The best way to describe last night was beautiful. We gathered beyond the outfield fence since the Corona American Little League all-stars practiced on the large field. Blankets and camping chairs filled the grass area and children played wiffle ball as we listened to some good music and mingled with each other. The way the sun’s glow shined upon us as it set in the crystal blue sky filled me with warmth and peace.

My wife made some keepsakes for people to leave with. Maria, a mother of one of Jax’s t-ball teammates, created this beautiful graphic shortly after the event, displaying and engraved washer and a jack, our symbol for Jax.

Courtesy of Maria McRoberts.

Courtesy of Maria McRoberts.

Several courageous people stood in front of us all and spoke of fond memories, how Jax’s life and death has affected them and the love they have for our family.

Following the multimedia presentation we lit the night up by candle light. Following a moment of remembrance we released balloons. We invited people to write messages on some of the balloons while others came installed with a LED light and glowed red (Jax’s favorite color) deep into the dark sky.

Courtesy of Crossroad Photography, Heather Kusunoki.

Courtesy of Crossroad Photography, Heather Kusunoki.

The day wasn’t without any hiccups and stresses, but the evening came off as well as my wife and I could have hoped. Thank you so much to everyone that attended. We hoped this night would be for you as much as it was for us. We all continue to grieve in our own ways and doing it all together, I think, made it less awful.

Several of you asked about the “Ronan” song, so I’ll end with the lyrics and a link. While it’s written for Ronan, maybe you’ll think of Jax every time you hear it.

Jax – you were my best four years.

I remember your barefeet down the hallway
I remember your little laugh
Race cars on the kitchen floor
Plastic dinosaurs, I love you to the moon and back

I remember your blue eyes looking into mine like we had our own secret club
I remember you dancing before bedtime then jumping on me waking me up
I can still feel you hold my hand
Little man, and even the moment I knew
You fought it hard like an army guy
Remember I leaned in and whispered to you

Come on baby with me
We’re gonna fly away from here
You were my best four years

I remember the drive home when the blind hope
Turned to crying and screaming, “Why?”
Flowers pile up in the worst way
No one knows what to say about a beautiful boy who died

And it’s about to be Halloween
You could be anything you wanted if you were still here
I remember the last day when I kissed your face
And whispered in your ear

Come on baby with me
We’re gonna fly away from here
Out of this curtained room and this hospital gray
We’ll just disappear
Come on baby with me
We’re gonna fly away from here
You were my best four years

What if I’m standing in your closet trying to talk to you?
And what if I kept the hand-me-downs you won’t grow into?
And what if I really thought some miracle would see us through?
But what if the miracle was even getting one moment with you

Come on baby with me
We’re gonna fly away from here
Come on baby with me
We’re gonna fly away from here
You were my best four years

I remember your barefeet down the hallway
I love you to the moon and back

Songwriter(s):Taylor Swift, Maya Maria Thompson
Copyright:Taylor Swift Music, Sony/ATV Tree Publishing

Thank you Heather Kusunoki for the beautiful photos. You can find her work at Crossroad Photography.

One Year Later

For a few days I’ve racked my brain on what to post today. I wanted something special. Something symbolic and fitting of a year that’s passed since Jax died.

But there is no magic idea to make us all feel better today. It’s a day I have to let happen. I can’t just get through it. I have to be present as it takes place. I have to shed the tears, feel my heart squish in my chest and my stomach ache. Numbing the pain with distractions is temporary.

Tonight we’ll come together not just to remember Jax, because we remember him constantly. But to experience today together. To hug, laugh, cry and be present.

One year. It’s been both the shortest and longest year of my life, at the same time. I can’t believe it’s already been a year since it happened. But I feel like it’s been a life time since I heard his voice, gazed into his gorgeous eyes, held him in my arms, kissed his head and jumped in to his infectious passion.

I miss you, Jax.

I LOVE you,

Dad

Below is a slideshow. No idea how this will work for you mobile users.

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How It Feels After the Death of a Child

Soon after Jax died I dove into the Internet for comfort. A few people told me about The Compassionate Friends, a national organization aimed at helping parents and grandparents grieve the death of a child naturally and without isolation to heal and find hope again. One evening my wife came to check on me in the office and found my red, puffy face soaked with tears. I joined a chat room at the website of The Compassionate Friends and explained to strangers for the first time Jax’s death.

The Compassionate Friends

The Compassionate Friends

“Why would you even want to do that to yourself?” she asked with a compassionate smirk. I laughed back. “I don’t know,” I answered.

That same night I found a section of the site for “To the Newly Bereaved.” I read it and realized I wasn’t alone. My wife dealt with everything differently than I did. She didn’t want to deal with any of it. So the ability to identify with countless others that already experienced and came through this hell was a big deal for me.

The “To the Newly Bereaved” lists emotions and feelings that parents, grandparents and siblings might feel shortly after the loss of a child. It’s divided into psychological, emotional, physical and family/social categories. If you know of anyone suffering through grief, this may be of help to them. They’re not alone. Below I’ve listed what I remember feeling and struggling with, and often still do.

Psychological

  • You wonder how someone can feel this much pain and survive.
  • Thoughts of suicide briefly enter your mind. You tell yourself you want to die—and yet you want to live to take care of your family and honor your child’s memory.
  • You are no longer afraid of death as each day that passes puts you one day closer to being with your child.
  • Thoughts of “what ifs” enter your mind as you play out scenarios that you believe would have saved your child.
  • Your memory has suddenly become clouded. You’re shrouded in forgetfulness. You’ll be driving down the road and not know where you are or remember where you’re going. As you walk, you may find yourself involved in “little accidents” because you’re in a haze.
  • You find there’s a videotape that constantly plays in an endless loop in your mind, running through what happened.

Emotional

  • You rail against the injustice of not being allowed the choice to die instead of your child.
  • You yearn to have five minutes, an hour, a day back with your child so you can tell your child of your love or thoughts left unsaid.
  • Guilt becomes a powerful companion as you blame yourself for the death of your child. Rationally you know that you were not to blame—you most certainly would have saved your child if you’d been given the chance.

Physical

  • You no longer care about your health and taking care of yourself—it just doesn’t seem that important anymore.
  • The tears come when you least expect them.
  • Your appetite is either gone or you find yourself overeating.

Family & Social

  • Things you liked to do which seemed so important before now seem meaningless.
  • If you have surviving children, you find yourself suddenly overprotective, not wanting to allow them out of your sight. Yet you feel like a bad parent because it’s so difficult to focus on their needs when you’re hurting so bad yourself.
  • Others say you’ll someday find “closure,” not understanding that closure never applies when it is the death of your child.

One of my goals of this blog is for it to be a resource for the newly bereaved. My vision is to create a section that parents can click on and find anything and everything to help them realize that they’re not alone, that they have the strength to get through this and to keep breathing as the sun will rise tomorrow. A link to “To the Newly Bereaved” will be the first thing someone will read in that section, when I can get that up.

Dreaming of the Sea

Written by Gordon Livingston

Written by Gordon Livingston

My therapist loaned me a book from author Gordon Livingston entitled Only Spring, based on the journal he kept after the news of his 6-year-old son’s diagnosis with leukemia and ultimately the agonizing cycle of faith lost and hope gained.

I’m in the faith lost part of it all in my life and I’ve forgotten the definition of hope. I mentioned my blog to my therapist so she told me about Livingston’s book. It seemed like a good fit on multiple levels. It only took the foreword to inspire me to share.

Written by author Mark Helprin – educated at Harvard, Princeton and Oxford and served in the Israeli Army, Israeli Air Force and British Merchant Navy – the foreword hit a nerve. It struck my longing to clutch Jax tightly once again.

Whether Lucas (Livingston’s son) rose into a world of light or was taken with a roar into waves of speeding darkness as if into the deep ocean, he went alone. The way I see it, he is either clasped tightly to the breast of God, or there is no God. One way or another, he has given his father, and in some respects all of us, a great gift. He has made death a prospect of fulfillment, an excitement, for what greater need is there but to find the lost child, or at least to chance that one may find him? If you were on a ship battered by immense waves (and, believe me, you are) that swept your child from your arms would you not (given that you had no others for whom to remain) throw yourself into the deep, hoping for the chance that in the vast black ocean you might grab onto him? Comforted just to know that you would suffer the same fate?

And if you had to remain, to protect others, would you not dream all your life of the day when, your responsibilities over, you would finally get to the sea?

I’ve mentioned before in this space that my wife and I no longer fear death, and Helprin’s words explain exactly how I feel. For now, we’re here to protect our twins. But I will dream every day of hitting that sea and feeling his little hands in mine again.