Motherhood

  • How My Husband’s Love Helped Me Survive Pregnancy Loss

    Trigger Warning: This post contains depictions of miscarriage and pregnancy loss.

    This post was originally published on August 17, 2018, on Lottie & Me as Why Husband is a Father.

    The day we lost Declan, I was five hours away from home with two kittens in my backseat and five hours yet to drive.

    Let me explain.

    The week before the 4th of July, a stray calico began frequenting my backyard.  I paid her no mind. See, I have a history of attracting strays, and I knew if I so much as made eye contact with the beast, that cat would be moving in. So I ignored her on principle.

    I pretended I didn’t hear my dog grumbling at the backyard, I averted my gaze whenever she’d perch on our back fence, and I didn’t so much as blink when she looted our trash. She was a stray. She would move on, and so would I.

    But over lunch one day, the cat threw herself at my feet, blocking me from entering my car and returning to work. She was skin and bones, over heated in the summer heat, and desperate for a belly rub. What was I supposed to do, let her starve in the name of principles?

    I returned home from work with a small water bowl and a can of Fancy Feast. I begged my husband, until finally he nodded his head. We could feed her until someone else could take her in.

    But that weekend was the 4th of July. I was terrified that the fireworks might scare her away or some hooligan might terrorize her. On the drive home from work, I saw a calico dead on the side of the road, and I raced home in tears to make certain my calico was okay.

    That night, Lacey moved into our basement. We could foster her there until someone else could take her in.

    A week went by, and we quickly realized that Lacey was growing faster than a few days of Fancy Feast should allow. It wasn’t long before we had to face facts. This cat was pregnant.

    Nick called me from the vet one afternoon to confirm our suspicions.

    “She’s pregnant,” he said.

    “She has five kittens in there. Maybe more,” he said.

    “The vet says we won’t be able to find homes. Everyone in town is full up on kittens. The vet wants to end it,” he said.

    “End it?” I said.

    “The vet can terminate the pregnancy.”

    I began to shake.

    “This cat chose me. She knows I’m a mother, and she knows I lost my baby, and she chose me.”

    “I’ll tell the vet,” he said.

    We piled old towels in a box and made a corner nice and cozy. Nick made sure the house was quiet, that Lacey wasn’t disturbed. “Cats can delay their labor,” he said, “sometimes even days if something startles them good enough.”

    When the kittens came, Nick counted them (three). He checked them in the morning, then again over lunch, and once more that night.

    Nick changed out the bedding when Lacey moved the babies, and he made sure they had plenty of food and water. In the evenings, Nick lay on the ground with kittens piled on his chest, watching them wriggle across his shirt and down his arms.

    I found homes for two of the kittens with friends who lived two states away. We would keep the third. “We’ll name him Bootstrap,” Nick said. “Bootstrap Bob. Or Wicket.”

    Fast-forward to October 16th, six weeks pregnant and four hours in to a five hour drive, when I began to bleed.

    We’d had a similar episode two weeks earlier. We thought we’d made it. We thought we were going to pull through. And if our first angel taught us anything, it was that bleeding could mean any number of things. I would not go back to an emergency room, so Nick kept me talking while he kept driving.

    We said goodbye to our baby in a gas station restroom.

    Outside, I hugged my friends and handed them the kittens. The kittens that bandaged my soul when our first baby left for heaven.

    I smiled and told them to drive safe. To send me lots of pictures. I crawled back into the car and we drove for five minutes. Then I began to scream.

    I sobbed and I yelled and I slammed my fists against the door. Nick tried to call his parents, and I wailed as he spoke on the phone. For two hours, Nick drove with one hand on the wheel and one on my leg, and every town we passed he tried to stop. I wouldn’t let him. I would not go back to the emergency room. Take me home, take me home, take me home.

    We pulled off the interstate in the dead of night to sleep at his family’s cabin. I was mad.

    “I’ll mess their sheets,” I said. “Take me home,” I said.

    Nick handed me his mother’s sweat pants. I told him I would ruin them. He dressed me in them anyway.

    He found me Tylenol and water and bundled me into bed. In lieu of a heat pack, Nick tied rice in a dish rag and warmed it in the microwave. When the rice started on fire, he tried again.

    I lay in bed with my heat pack pressed to my stomach, curled on my side, staring at the wall. Nick crawled in next to me, a worn book clutched in his hand.

    As I burrowed into his chest, he began to read. “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal…”

    He didn’t stop until I fell asleep.

    Love,

  • Rain After the Rainbow: My Experience with Chemical Pregnancy

    Trigger Warning: This post contains descriptions of chemical pregnancy and pregnancy loss.

    This post was originally published on Lottie & Me on April 16, 2019.

    Hi, friends. This is not my normal post. It isn’t reflective or connective or even remotely polished. In contrast, it is largely analytical, detached, and defensive. Closer to an accounting than anything else.

    I have been unable to post for almost two months because this has been weighing on my mind. So I’m writing and sharing this today, as deep as I can currently let myself go. Because I want to get back to all of you, but I’m not quite willing to forget.

    I used to think losing a baby early, like really early, must be easier than a “miscarriage”. The simply not knowing, having never taken a test or even suspected pregnancy. It was just a heavy period, no biggie.

    To anyone who has ever suffered a chemical pregnancy, I am so sorry for having ever allowed myself to believe this is true.

    Sunday, March 3, Nick and I experienced our third loss. We never knew we were pregnant.

    And friends, it was not easier. Not even a little.

    I have struggled for weeks feeling like I shouldn’t share this one. Like I’m not supposed to talk about it or don’t have a right to my pain. Because I wasn’t trying to get pregnant, never even knew I was pregnant, can’t even 100% say I was pregnant.

    If you aren’t familiar with chemical pregnancy (I hate that term almost as much as I hate the term “miscarriage”), it’s how the medical world refers to pregnancy loss that occurs within 5 weeks of gestation. For whatever reason, an egg will have been fertilized and completed implantation, but it will not progress beyond that point. The loss occurs around the time of your expected period.

    The trouble with chemical pregnancies is that unless you’ve taken a pregnancy test, they’re almost impossible to prove. In our case, we weren’t trying to conceive and, as such, I had not tested. My OB was out of town, and I had to wait two weeks to be seen by someone familiar with my history. Too late to test. And I knew it would be too late to test. I knew when I agreed to wait that I would never truly be able to know.

    So maybe most who experience chemical pregnancies will never know they have experienced loss. Who can say? But I know what a miscarriage feels like, through and through. So in the spirit of full disclosure, because I’ve been the girl desperately googling for answers, and because I’ve promised to always tell you my truth, let me reiterate my trigger warning before moving forward.

    My whole life I’ve been irregular, my cycle ranging anywhere from 6 weeks to three months as my normal. Ever since Lottie was born, my period has shown up at four weeks on the dot. It’s been glorious.

    So it was more than a little surprising when my last cycle was only three weeks in length. I’ve never once in my whole life been early, but I didn’t think much of it. Like I said, my period has never been normal.

    But later that afternoon, my low back began to ache. Like, really ache. A symptom I have never experienced in conjunction with my period. But I’d heard of back pain being a PMS symptom, so I shrugged it off. Just one more joy of womanhood to add to the list.

    Enter 2:00am when I woke in pain, feeling what I can only describe as back labor. Because that is 100% what it felt like, and cramps are nothing like back labor. Still, it wasn’t until I began passing clots that I allowed myself to believe I might have been pregnant.

    Look, I’m not going to go into more detail than that, but if you’ve ever lost a baby, you know the ache that follows. All the awesome symptoms that come with miscarriage. I experienced every one in the book. I was down and out for 24 hours. This was not a period.

    I am positive it was not a period.

    Still, there’s this whole element of doubt surrounding me, whether or not I should even be grieving. If I have a right to claim a loss that it is literally impossible to prove.

    Because if I did lose a baby and I don’t grieve, then I never gave love to my child. And if that slim possibility that I didn’t experience a loss is true but I do grieve, than I am just a woman who doesn’t know how to be happy.

    I am choosing to share today because I have to share. Because I’m finding it impossible to stay quite. Because I feel this horrible guilt for never having given my baby any love, for never once praying for her or thinking to her as I have with all my other children.

    For not reciting the same mantra I clung to as each of my angels slipped from soul: Mommy loves you, mommy loves you, mommy loves you.

    This post is entirely for me, to show the world that I believe I lost a child even if no one else believes me. So that when the day comes that I am finally joined with my angels, I can say, “I told them about you,” and she can know that she was loved.

    That’s reason enough for me.

    Love,

  • By the Numbers: A Hopeful Mother’s Road to Her Rainbow

    Trigger Warning: This post contains themes of pregnancy loss and infertility.

    This post was originally published August 17, 2018, on Lottie & Me.

    Four months happily married.

    One misguided attempt at cycle charting.

    One massive meltdown resulting in $115 for one must-have puppy.

    Three positive pregnancy tests thrust into two callused hands. Two shocked faces.

    Five weeks impatiently waiting for one ultrasound.

    Two canvas cubbies and one canvas hamper, painted with peacocks and lions and giraffes.

    One economy size order of preggy pops. Two pale pink sea bands. Two belly bands (one black, one white). Three sets of expandable leggings. Four or five or six sundresses. One promised crib.

    One emergency room visit with one healthy ultrasound. One day off work.

    A second emergency room visit with one healthy ultrasound. One week off work.

    One last emergency room visit. One clot the size of my fist that wasn’t a clot. One unknowing flush.

    One night in a hospital. Three times promised medication I never got.

    Ten days lying on my left side to save a baby I’d already lost.

    One empty ultrasound.

    Three months of hemorrhaging. Six weeks without sleeping. 4 months of therapy.

    One pregnant cat. Three healthy kittens.

    Two months trying. One positive test.

    Four weeks. 1000 baby names. Three Star Wars Little Golden Books. One promised crib.

    One emergency room visit. One healthy ultrasound.

    265 miles to deliver two kittens. One roadside rest-stop. One flush.

    $1300 to find 23 “normal” chromosomes making up one baby boy.

    Three blood tests, possibly not quite normal.

    $1100 for eleven tubes of blood, all completely normal.

    $400 with one fertility specialist. Everything normal.

    One year of negative pregnancy tests, at $23.99 a box, at two to three boxes a month.

    One consult allowing one more month. Five days freaking out about chlomid because QUADRUPALETS. WHAT DO YOU DO WITH QUADRUPALETS?

    One massive meltdown over one mistaken pizza.

    One ovulatory cycle from hell. And then…

    Five pregnant women in my waiting room. Five VERY pregnant women.

    One deep breath.

    Two weeks not so patiently waiting.

    Three too-early tests.

    Two pink lines.

    One rainbow.

    Love,

  • Daddy’s Girl: Reflections on Father’s Day

    This post was originally published on Lottie & Me on June 17, 2018.

    When it comes to fathers, mine’s tops.

    Growing up, my father constantly reminded me that I was smart, talented, and full of potential. The sky was my limit. I could be anything I wanted to be, and don’t let anybody tell me different.

    Now that I’ve grown and started a family of my own, that reminder hasn’t gone away. He’s always there, checking in, encouraging me to push just a little bit farther. Telling me how proud I make him, and making sure that I know, when it comes to parenting, I’m doing something right.

    Suffice it to say my husband had some big shoes to fill when he stepped into the role of “daddy.”

    The day of Lottie’s birth, as I lay on my back, knees in the air, pushing as hard as a woman on an epidural with no concept of muscle control can push, the doctor announced I was crowning. My hubby looked down and declared, “Oh, hey. She looks like a potato. Neat.”

    And as my husband wheeled my hormonal, exhausted, overwhelmed self to recovery, I became less and less pleased with the nurses referring to my daughter as “Tater Tot.” Because what else do you call a baby potato?

    We all process big changes in different ways, and this was clearly Hubby’s way of handling that first moment, that first glimpse of his child unfortunately protruding from his wife. But let’s be honest. We all have one labor room dad rant that we’ll hold onto for the rest of eternity, and I’d decided this was going to be mine. The story I would bring up, time and time again, when friends and family ask about our delivery. Or Lottie asks about the day she was born. Or a boyfriend comes home for the first time and you need a story that’s just bad enough to be embarrassing parent material, but not so bad that your child never speaks to you again.

    The funny thing is, even the best dads say stupid things in delivery. When my mother was in labor with my oldest brother and crying from the pain, my father, the best possible father, asked her why. “It hurts,” she said. And my father, in all his doctor-wisdom, replied in the most reassuring way he knew how. “It’s supposed to.”

    I mean, it’s true, I suppose. Labor is supposed to hurt. Incredible dad, stupid answer.

    The first day of my child’s life, I couldn’t get out of bed. Turns out, my epidural took well. Like, really well. And it was a good twelve hours before I could feel my feet, let alone move them. By the time I was mobile again, I was so overwhelmed and overwrought and just over that I could hardly function, let alone care for a child.

    Day shift, night shift, for the three days that we were in the hospital, Hubby took them all.

    I remember waking up somewhere around 4:00am that first night to see Hubby bent over the bassinet, cursing under his breath, attempting to perfect the baby burrito. By morning, he was the swaddle master, patiently guiding me through the steps, and then discreetly redoing my sub-par attempts when Lottie would bust free not ten minutes later.

    On day two, when Lottie refused to feed and I couldn’t bring myself to use the bottle the nurses brought me, Hubby patiently took baby and bottle and coaxed our daughter into eating.

    When we returned to everyday life, Hubby quickly became Lottie’s “evening guy,” taking over completely the minute he arrived home from work. He recognized that, while I love being Lottie’s full-time mom, by the end of the day, I just really need an hour or two where no one is touching me or crying at me. My husband sees that, and he never asks me to give more than I’ve got.

    In my husband, I have found such a supportive, loving partner, but what matters most to me is the love he has for our daughter. He is never too tired, too spent, too over to love her just a little bit more. And Lottie knows. With every fiber of her being, she knows. You can see it in her eyes when Hubby walks through the door, grin splitting her cheeks, giggling and shrieking. Daddy’s girl, lifting her arms, ready to love him home.

    Love,

  • Great Expectations: Expecting the Unexpected Postpartum

    This post was originally published on February 8, 2018, on Lottie & Me.

    Motherhood would be easier if the “expecting” period were only nine months long. Because let’s be honest, those nine months are no walk in the park. Maybe some days we glowed, maybe some days we were comfortable, maybe some days we weren’t eating our weight in pirouettes. But if your pregnancy was anything like mine, most days we were nauseated, exhausted, and weeping at cat-food commercials. More days than not we were worried and neurotic. A few days we were down right miserable. And the whole time we were busy feeling guilty for not loving every moment because, seriously, how lucky were we to be pregnant?

    If pregnancy were only those nine months of wonderful misery, I think my expectation of motherhood would have been clearer. I would have known that anything this beautiful and perfect would come with some seriously ugly and imperfect days. That some days I would be crying through my laughter. That in motherhood, sometimes the shit literally hits the fan.

    The problem is that, for many of us, the “expecting” begins months, even years before we ever turn a test. All this time we spend dreaming while failing at conceiving. And the longer it takes, and the more we want it, the more bargains we make with ourselves. That we’ll never complain in motherhood. That we’ll cherish every moment. That every time the going gets rough, we’ll remember how much rougher the fists full of negative tests could be and everything will be okay. Every pregnancy hurdle that feels impossible, we tell ourselves it will all be worth it. And let me be clear. It is worth it. It is so, so worth it. But none of this makes mothering easy.

    Until now, I never realized just how loaded that one little question could be — are you expecting? And the truth is, I was.

    I expected that I would hate my pregnant self and appreciate my post-pregnancy body. I never expected to fall in love with my elephant ankles and my big, protruding belly. But the truth is, that belly was beautiful. Every night I would elevate my aching calves, prop up on a pillow, and watch my baby dance. My belly was firm and my skin was tight and it was a hell of a lot nicer than this belly button crater I carry around now. I was so eager to see my little girl out in the big wide world that I never expected I would miss the time when my baby was a part of me and not just an extension.

    I expected that the aches and pains would go away with my pregnancy. In fact, I remember specifically thinking, just three more months, just two more weeks, just five more days and my body will be normal again. And while I knew that, of course, there was a certain amount of recovery involved in the whole labor and delivery process, it never occurred to me that three months down the line my pelvic bones would still pop every time I stood, that rolling over would feel next to impossible, that a good fifteen minute walk would leave me incapacitated for the evening.

    I expected Lottie would breastfeed. I knew that sometimes it just doesn’t work, and I’d heard a million times “fed is best” and believed it to be true, but I really wanted to breastfeed. In some small way, I think I thought I’d earned it. Because conception was hard and pregnancy was hard and I didn’t get to have any say in really any part of my journey. So I thought I should get to choose this. Which is silly. And childish. But of all the things in motherhood I had set my heart on, breastfeeding was the one.

    So when the nurse handed me Lottie and she immediately latched, I was beyond elated. I didn’t expect that at our next attempt Lottie would fall asleep immediately after latching. That she would continue to fall asleep every single time. That I would be forced to supplement with formula in the first 24 hours of her existence. That she would never truly nurse again.

    I expected to be anxious. Because I’ve always been anxious. And really, what kind of mother would I be if I wasn’t a little anxious? I did not expect to feel eternally vulnerable–like I’d just given birth to the greatest piece of my heart and left it out in the world, free for the taking. Never has it been so easy to hurt me. My whole life is in that girl, every little bit of me, and that’s more than just a little anxiety inducing.

    I expected to feel completed, like Lottie was the missing piece to my happiness. I had spent so much time unhappy, trying to become a mother, that in some part of my mind ‘motherhood’ became the ultimate goal, the one thing in life I needed. And in some ways motherhood has completed me — I am so much happier, so much happier than I ever thought I could be. I have come into my element in ways unimaginable since Lottie’s birth. But I have also learned that I can’t spend my life living for my child; I have to live for myself, too.  To continue building my identity beyond ‘mother.’

    In the end, my greatest expectation was this:  I expected to love my daughter, I just never expected how much.

    Love,

  • For My Child With Wings: A Letter to the Child I Lost

    Trigger Warning:  This post contains themes of miscarriage and pregnancy loss.

    The post was originally published on April 30, 2016, on Leah Elizabeth Writes.

    Three days before the strip turned pink, we bought a puppy.

    I confess, your daddy didn’t want one. Not then. I begged him for a puppy. Begged him like I’ve never begged before. And when that failed, I stamped my feet.  I cried. I was wholly spoiled and wholly irrational in ways I couldn’t even begin to understand, but I didn’t care. I refused to return home without a dog.

    We adopted that day a beautiful springer spaniel, and she was love incarnate. All it took to make that puppy happy was to hold her in your arms, let her rest her chin on your knee, or possibly, if she could just be sneaky enough, share your pillow. She was meant for a family, and three days later, a family we would be.

    Without realizing, I created rules to guarantee a healthy baby. I guzzled fish oil, took natural, wholefood vitamins, and stocked our fridge with freshly cut carrots and eggs, just like the baby book said. I banned zebra cakes from the house and stopped wearing makeup. We wouldn’t tell anyone until 12 weeks. Wouldn’t buy anything until 12 weeks. We would follow all the rules, and at 12 weeks we would breathe easy.

    But at 10 weeks we went in for our first ultrasound, and you were too beautiful for words. We had to share you. We couldn’t not share you. So that night, we introduced you to the world.

    That Saturday, I wandered into a baby boutique. Just to peruse. Just for inspiration. But I spied a laundry hamper with a bright yellow lion smiling on its side, and I just knew that my baby would be surrounded by animals. So I bought it, and two cubbies painted with the jungle. I opened them and and set them up that night in the office that would be a nursery. Just to make me smile.

    On Monday, I bled. I had never seen your daddy move so fast, from our house to the hospital in less than five minutes. In the ER, we heard your heart beat, and we knew all was well.

    On Wednesday, I bled again. Back to the hospital. But on the ultrasound you waved your arms at me, and I knew all was well.

    But on Thursday, I bled again. Worse. So much worse. And while all signs pointed to you being healthy, I was not. Mommy slept in the hospital that night. No more ultrasounds until the bleeding stopped.

    For 11 days I stayed in bed. I lay on my left side, to give you the best chance. To give you the most oxygen. To breathe life into you.

    By the twelfth day, the bleeding had slowed and the doctor ordered an ultrasound. Your daddy and I stayed up all night, so excited to see our baby the next day. But when the lights dimmed and the nurse pulled out her wand, I could tell the picture wasn’t right. It didn’t match the other pictures we had seen. No kicking legs, no eager waves.

    “Am I empty?” My voice felt small in the silent room.

    The doctor only nodded.

    And you know, I think it comes down to this. You had so many people praying what I was meant to pray–that you would pull through, be healthy, be happy with me. But I couldn’t make myself pray that way. Instead, I prayed you would be safe, that if I had to carry this pain that it would never reach you. I prayed God would keep you where ever He thought best, and that you would know how much I loved you.

    Forgive me. I’d had so little time to practice, and it was the only way I knew to be a mother.

    Love,

  • PPD & Me: Loving and Forgiving My Depressed Self

    Trigger Warning: Depictions of Anxiety and Depression

    This post was originally published on Lottie & Me on August 21, 2018.

    Hey, mamas! Let’s face it. Sometimes motherhood isn’t exactly what we thought it would be. Our expectations fail us in big ways. We really, really want to be happy and cherish every minute, but sometimes we just can’t. Our bodies won’t let us. Sometimes we get diagnosed with PPD.

    According to the American Psychological Association, 1 in 7 mothers will experience Postpartum Depression (PPD). I am one of those mothers.

    How it Started

    Depression and anxiety have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. They are a part of me. Anxious is my normal. So when I went in for my first post delivery checkup, I waved away the doctor’s concern at my score on the PPD screening. “That’s just me,” I said. “That’s normal.”

    My doctor didn’t believe me. She said this shouldn’t be my normal. But I’d gone my whole life without medication. I didn’t need it. I could handle my anxiety. After a great deal of convincing, she finally let it go with one caveat–that if my anxiety ever interfered with my day, if I stopped feeling “normal,” I would call her.

    For six months of baby wellness appointments, I shrugged off the pediatrician’s questions. “Don’t worry. My OB knows. This is normal.” And when I would cry without warning or suffer panic attacks at a rate I hadn’t experienced in years, I pushed my doubts away. I’ve always had anxiety. I’m stressed. Every new mom is stressed. This is normal.

    The Tipping Point

    In June, I broke down. Lottie needed to eat, but she wouldn’t take her bottle. Anger and frustration drowned me like a tidal wave. I began yelling at my beautiful, precious baby. I tried to force her to take the bottle. The minute she started to cry, I snapped out of it. I set her down and began sobbing. I called my husband in horror and made him come home. Over and over, I said I was sorry. That I had failed. That I would never be a good mother. When my husband tried to return to work, I begged him to stay.

    I didn’t know who I was anymore. I didn’t understand what had happened to me. But in the back of my head, I heard my doctor’s voice, and I knew that this, this was not normal.

    The Long Road to “Normal”

    Two months of medication, and I am light years away from where I was that day. Because PPD is an illness, just like any other illness. Because PPD is not me. Who I was that day, was not me.

    Despite knowing all of this, I still struggle with the notion that having a baby made me more depressed. I waited for years, pining for a baby, and when God granted me this precious miracle, how did I respond? By being depressed. I hated that. I still hate that.

    For six months, I lied. Every time someone asked me how I was doing, I said good. Isn’t motherhood wonderful? It’s really the best. Don’t you just want to cuddle her all day? I would just want to cuddle her all day.

    You know what? Even the medicated version of me does not want to hold my baby all day. Because that’s exhausting. Being a mom is exhausting. And the expectation that having a child, being a mother, will complete us, will make us happy, is a fat load of bull.

    I love Lottie. I love her to pieces. She is the single greatest thing that has ever happened to me, and I am so blessed to spend my days with her. But I am also a person, a whole other person completely separate from my child that doesn’t get to exist separate from my child ever again.

    That’s a hard transition. That’s hard when you’re healthy, and well rested, and not doubting your every move. Multiply it by 10 with PPD.

    Finding Forgiveness

    Last week I stumbled across the website She Reads Truth, a women’s devotional group. I know faith isn’t everybody’s thing, but right now, some days, it’s my only thing, and I’ve been grasping to find the right words to make me better. To take away this guilt and self-loathing my PPD has left me with. So I downloaded their app, and I started one of their study plans, Holding Tight to Permanent. The very first passage was this:

    Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs.

    1 Corinthians 13:4-5

    You know the rest. It’s probably one of the best known passages out of the entire Bible. In fact, it’s been my favorite passage for years (thanks, Nicholas Sparks). But that night, those words hit me. Blew my eyes wide open.

    Because my daughter, she loves me like that. She loves in the purest way. She doesn’t remember my breakdown; she’d forgiven me seconds after it passed.

    What Lottie does recognize is that Mama plays more now. She laughs when Lottie laughs. When Daddy comes home for the day, Mama doesn’t immediately go to bed. Now, Mama takes Lottie swinging and to the library and never tires of peek-a-boo no matter how many times she’s already played.

    Lottie is patient and kind, but mostly she is forgiving. If Lottie can still love me, then maybe I should love me, too.

    Love,

  • If You Call Me Mama: Thoughts On Raising a Rainbow Baby

    Trigger Warning: This post contains themes of miscarriage and pregnancy loss.

    This post was originally published on Lottie & Me on January 19, 2019.

    You were five months old the first time you said “mama.” You locked eyes on me as I entered the room, and you named me loud and clear. “Mama.”

    When I tell this story, people smile and remind me that babies don’t really know what words mean. That you didn’t know I was “mama.” Those beautiful syllables were simply sounds. A stretching of the vocal cords. Experimentation.

    It’s funny, the hoops people will make us jump through to earn a simple title. In my mind, I had been Mama for years. Ever since the first strip turned pink. To you, I was Mama at just five months old. But for so many others it would be months before you could possibly see that “Mama” was me.

    Do you know the power of a name? Shakespeare once tried to make us believe that a rose would be no different should we call it a weed. But if a rose believed itself to be a weed, would it really be so sweet? Baby, haven’t you seen the dandelion that for every child is magic mowed over by fathers hell-bent on grass and green?

    I was twenty-five the first time I turned a pregnancy test, and ten weeks the first time I started to bleed. I spent Mother’s Day weekend on bed rest, trying to save a baby I had already lost.

    That Sunday, I wanted somebody, anybody to call me Mama. To recognize my maternity. But nobody, not anybody believed my baby could possibly still be alive. So I lay in bed, read reports of how Princess Kate had just stolen my favorite baby girl name, and consoled myself with thoughts of next year and the Mother’s Day feast that would be.

    The day I lost my baby, no one called me Mama.

    Twice I loved and twice I lost, but to the world, this wasn’t motherhood. On every Mother’s Day for three years I cried, not because I was childless but because the world refused to count my children.

    And now you were here, saying the words I’d ached to be mine, and no one would let me have them.

    Baby, they didn’t know what you know.

    If you call me Mama, I’ll chase the stars for you. Every wishing star you see streak bright across the sky. I’ll catch it, and save it, and bring that star home for you. Put it in a jar for you, for someday when you’re ready to make that dream come true.

    If you call me Mama, I’ll lace my armor tight for you. Keep my scabbard at my side for you. Hold that sword high for you. But only if you want me to.

    Baby, if you call me Mama, I’ll cry every tear for you. Hold all that fear for you. Have strong shoulders to bear weight for you. Always be there with you.

    And maybe, just maybe, you’ll grow to understand someday why Mama has to fight to let go. Why I get angry instead of scared and sad instead of mad and numb when my heart is too full.

    Because Baby, as long as you call me Mama, you’ll always be my rainbow.

    Love,