2.20.2015

you would cry too if it happened to you

This is the thing about tragedy: it can happen to anyone. You say that, acknowledging the truth, and people hush you and shush you and tell you to stop being scary. It's easier, after all, to hide under some blanket of naivety and fully believe that you're untouchable. Bad things happen to other people, not you. The thing is, I had the same chance as you to have a baby with a congenital heart defect. You and I, we're all in the same 1% that the general population shares. I'm no different. I don't possess some risk factors that made me more susceptible. There was no reason why my daughter had not one but three severe heart defects that rendered her incompatible with life. Maybe that's the scariest part, the fact there was no reason for it. Something went wrong in utero and I became a statistic. Wylie became a statistic. I went from being that person everyone talks pregnancy with to the one who assists people when someone they know is experiencing an unfathomable loss.

You see so many misconceptions in pregnancy. Each time someone waits twelve weeks to announce a pregnancy, sighing in relief that they've reached this fictitious "safe zone," I have to resist the urge to burst a bubble with the pointy sword I like to call reality. After 12 weeks, it's time to line up under the umbrella of everything is fine and try not to make eye contact with those who can dispel that myth in one snap. Whenever I see someone assure a mother-to-be that her baby's decrease in movement is due to the child running out of space in utero, I have to be that person. The person who urges them to call the doctor and is then told I'm scaring the pregnant women. It's the new "don't feed the animals." "Don't scare the pregnant women."

If I sound elitist, it isn't so. I experienced two pregnancies where I was untouchable. After all, the first thing I said to the doctor when she put her hand on my shoulder and delivered the blow that my daughter was very sick was "this can't be happening to me." No, not me. I had a son waiting for his sister's arrival. I had a nursery planned out. I drink organic milk and use a belly shield for radiation and gave up coffee the moment that pee stick turned positive so you can't mean that this is happening to me. As I shed my skin and grew new layers to a new self, I realized the issue that predetermined invincibility truly is.

There's such a need for education and awareness when it comes to things during pregnancy that are often overlooked. Take the awareness you do have and use it. Read blogs and articles and scientific journals, don't rely on the there-there comfort from internet moms groups. Your doctor's job is to care for you and your unborn child and, believe it or not, they're aware of this. They're not going to scoff at you for having questions or concerns about the wellbeing of the child you're carrying in utero. Your desire to not be "that mom" shouldn't trump your baby and their needs. There are things that you need to be made aware of because that's life, and it doesn't mean that you're succumbing to worry or anxiety. It doesn't mean you're refusing to live because fear is keeping you pegged down. It doesn't mean if you overturn a stone and see something you don't like, it's going to happen to you or haunt you or ruin you. Ignorance isn't bliss. It's anything but.

In a culture that wages internet wars over routine infant circumcision and carseat safety and vaccinations and infant feeding preference, there sure is a white flag hanging over the taboo of loss. That's when everyone walks away and retreats into a storm cellar to hide from reality. Someone's advice, life experience, best wishes and care morphs into a horror story when it's something you don't want to hear. When it means that you're not totally invincible. Why should you care that the ultrasound technician didn't get any good shots of the baby's heart to even confirm there are four chambers? It's not like anything could be wrong, and shame on the person who suggests another ultrasound -- putting worry into someone like that, somewhere where it doesn't belong.

--

Since losing Wylie, my life has felt a lot like a constant verse of I know something you don't know. I can't suggest someone call a doctor (and I don't mean the Dr. Google mom at your playgroup) or take a stroll into L&D for a check-up without being told I'm worrying someone. "Everything is fine, shhh, there-there." Everything probably is fine, but sometimes it isn't. And I couldn't live with myself if I patted someone on the back and told them the wrong thing when I knew -- really, really knew -- the right thing. Yet, society is quick to call me a sadist instead of a saint.

On some days, I feel like I've stepped out of The Craft and people are convinced I bring bad luck and negativity and sadness into a part of life that shouldn't have to be any of those things. Perhaps this is the most frustrating part. Pregnancy should be a wonderful experience, a beautiful one. You should be able to lay in bed and marvel at those kicks and flutters dancing across your belly. But if you sense something is wrong or amiss, I'm not going to sit idly by and let you not take yourself to the doctor if you notice a change in baby's movement because someone had this same thing happen and their kid is totally fine. I'm not going to settle for a general consensus in an online moms group when it comes to your health and your child's health. And I'm not going to settle for justification of the head in the sand thing that is far, far too common when it comes to things we don't want to speak about. I'm not going to drape you in some invincibility cloak and assure you that these things only happen to me and you're fine, totally, so carpe diem, take that risk and make that gamble. Sure, you have to think positive, but you also have to think proactively.

I have a little girl who sits in an urn atop my mantle. She cannot speak but I can be her voice, and I'm going to be her voice. I'm going to be the only voice she has. Until there are no more parents bringing home their children in urns or burying their babies, I'm going to be speaking for her. The Lorax of loss, or something. The mom desperate to turn I know something you don't know into I know something you don't know, but I want you to know it so that you can take care of yourself and your child.

2 comments:

  1. Ashley Ponder RichardsFebruary 21, 2015 at 10:18 PM

    This is a wonderful post. My baby did get to come home but he almost didn't. Although I knew something was wrong, people kept hushing me like saying that was going to make something bad happen. I even went to my doctor begging for my c-section to get moved up but he refused. I stupidly listened to other people because when you are scared you don't want to let your mind go there. I let my people pleasing nature almost cost me my baby's life. When Jack was born he had to be flown in a helicopter 2 hours away from me and put in the NICU. I now tell others to follow your instincts and be your baby's advocate.

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