11,387 – This is the number of kicks I logged on my kick counting app… And this is only from June 26 through July 27. I’m pretty sure I started logging kicks prior to June 26. (I deleted my history several times as I tried to graph kick patterns, which never really worked…)
763 – This is the number of kicks I logged from July 25 through July 27, even though I was in the hospital hooked up to the non-stress test (NST), the machine that’s supposed to monitor a baby’s well-being. (This speaks to my level of faith in medical professionals.)
108 – This is the number of kicks I logged on July 27, between 12:12AM and 11:34AM. ~11:34AM is when they pried my phone from my hands in preparation to take me back for my C-section. Joel would be born kicking and screaming just over one hour later, at 12:46PM. Yet at 11:34AM, I still wasn’t confident, so I counted nervously, attempting to mitigate as many risks as possible.
676 – This is the number of kicks I logged between the hours 12:00AM and 6:00AM, hours I was supposed to be sleeping. I don’t remember logging most of these – my subconscious did it for me. It worked overtime to help prevent another one of my babies from being stolen by the night.
My rational self knows I’m a victim who landed on the shittiest side of statistics, that I’m the best mother to Matthew, that I would have died so he could live, and that I am also the mother of all mothers. But, in my darkest moments, some part of me will always use Matthew’s death as a weapon of mass self-destruction to annihilate myself into a pile of nothing. For the rest of my life, I’ll encounter a minor setback, and, if I’m in the wrong frame of mind, I might whisper to myself, “Christine, you are a worthless piece of crap – not only did XYZ just happen, but your son Matthew also died on your watch.”
Some part of me will always blame myself. Some part of my subconscious will always be on high-alert so I might prevent other tragedies from striking down other loved ones, as if this is even within my control.
All this said, it’s difficult for me to get out the door some days. I spent months obsessing over Joel’s movements. I drove to the hospital every single time I thought something could be remotely awry. I checked myself into the Maternity Trauma Center nearly 15 times, and, on four occasions, I stayed for overnight monitoring.
But, now that Joel is here, I need to learn how to live with him not always in my sight. If I want our family to experience any kind of normal, enjoyable life, I need to be able to let go just a little bit. But it’s tough – this goes against the grain of how I operated for so many weeks.
This morning was a rough morning… Mark’s mom has been generous enough to fly here from Des Moines, Iowa for a couple days out of each week as we transition to entrusting Joel one hundred percent to our nanny (for the limited time that I am at work). Mark’s mom loves spending time with Joel, and Joel loves her, and having her here gives me so much peace of mind, but, this morning, she left to return home.
Additionally, we want to transition Joel away from napping in his swing, so he can nap mostly just in his crib or bassinet, which he doesn’t always like to do, so, I suggested to our nanny that after he falls asleep in his swing, maybe we should try moving him, and she agreed to try it around 8:45AM.
So I stuck around to see how the move went, and it didn’t go well, and Joel started screaming and crying. And then I felt so bad and so anxious that my Uber ride was about to show up at 9:00AM, and I had to leave Joel there crying and Mark’s mom was already gone and my suggestion stunk, so it was also one of those moments when I told myself, “Christine, you suck – you can’t get Joel to nap, and Matthew died under your watch.” And I just started bawling in front of our nanny, explaining to her, “I’m sorry – I’m just having an anxious day, and I’m struggling with anxiety, and, I guess, still grief… Can you please send me lots of pictures of Joel today? Like more than usual? Even if the pictures aren’t exciting?”
And she agreed, and I exited the front door and hopped into a stranger’s white car, crying (under my sunglasses) and flustered. A conversation with the driver ensued…
Driver – Are you Mark? (Mark ordered my ride from his app.)
Me – Yes. (My voice is shaking.) I mean… I’m his… He’s my… I’m his wife.
Driver – Okay. (He shakes his head and chuckles.)
I’m silent, continuing to cry behind my sunglasses, feeling guilty for not being the ideal Uber passenger – it seems, from my limited experience using Uber that like half of the drivers are retired and do this as a means to meet, and converse with, interesting people. I think about how Mark’s mom is the best Uber passenger, and how by the end of each trip she and the driver are best friends forever, and I begin to feel even more inferior.
Driver – Have you been riding Uber for long?
Me – No………..Have you been driving for long? (I’m trying my best to make conversation through tears.)
Driver – Just four months… I’m retired, and I do this about three or four hours out of each day.
Me – Oh……….Do you like it?
Driver – Yep! Are you going to work?
Me – Yep.
Driver – What time do they expect you to be there?! (He glances at his clock almost incredulously.)
Me – Whenever…
Driver – Okay?
Me – I mean, they’re just happy if I show up… (And it’s true. And I’m thankful for this. And honestly, this is how it should be, because it’s hard to do ANYTHING after your baby dies, even if it happened more than a year ago.)
Driver – Oh! (He seems shocked.)
I contemplate what I will say if he asks me more about my life or why I’m taking Uber to work. I wonder if I should explain that one year and three months ago my baby died, and I’ve been fighting to stay alive ever since, and I just had my rainbow baby who’s brought so much joy into my life, but I’m still grieving and suffer from huge amounts of anxiety over his well-being, so I finally broke down and took some Zoloft, and it caused me to have a seizure, and now I can’t drive for six months unless I can convince my doctor that it was for sure the Zoloft that caused it and I should thus fall under some exception, so until we get some things straightened out, I’m bumming rides and hitchhiking and taking Uber. I decide I’ll just tell him my car’s in the shop, but then I wonder what he will think if he picks me up again several times over the next few months.
But luckily, he doesn’t ask any more questions, and eventually he drops me off, and we exchange goodbyes.
And I continue to cry all the way up to my office. I don’t know if I made the right decision to return to work… I imagine I’d be having some of these feelings had Matthew lived, but because Matthew died, it seems I feel everything really intensely and strongly and passionately, and I second guess decisions like this, because I miss this face so much.
But even though I’m struggling now, I’m trying to follow through with this decision that I think will ultimately make me the best overall mother and person. It’s a decision I made years ago (to, as a mother to a living child, work a reduced schedule at a job I love), while in a better frame of mind, before things became so complicated.
When Matthew died, a big part of me died too… But to this day I’m trying to determine exactly which parts of me are dead versus temporarily dormant. So for now, I’m holding onto this job by a thread, in case the girl who once-upon-a-time enjoyed her career and thought some balance would be good for her is still in there somewhere.