Sam

Sam’s first birthday is coming up

sam baby name wooden train block letters spelling toy wood

September will forever be such a difficult month. Exactly one year ago, Sam was still alive. He was moving well, his heart was beating nice and strong, and we were so ready for him to arrive. Everything was in place. The nursery was complete, the diapers had been unpacked and put on the shelf, ready to be grabbed and used. The car seat even had soft toys attached to it. How could a baby that was so wanted suddenly slip away from us?

This past year has been a very difficult one. There were lots of ups and downs, without much logic to anything. Some days I’d feel good, and then some days, all of a sudden, I would feel panicked, depressed, worried and anxious. It’s been so heavy. My body is still dealing with the emotional trauma, which has resulted in physical issues. My intestines are a mess. Nothing I swallow gets digested properly anymore. I deal with cramps, headaches, memory issues (although this has improved a lot), insomnia, shortness of breath. I’m a broken shell of a mother. The feeling of emptiness overwhelms me so often. We were so close. Just a few days away. How could this happen to us?

I know his first birthday will be hard. I try not to think too much about it, but it’s there at all times, in the back of my head. I can sense the date getting closer, and this heavy feeling of sadness steadily increasing. Exactly one year ago today, I was blissfully happy, completely unaware of the tragedy that was about to unfold. Exactly one year ago, I could have had my baby, and he would be with us today.

During this whole year, I’ve had to hear a lot of different things from a lot of different people. And most of them really suck. The most common reaction, which I still get, is: “Don’t worry, you’re young, you can still have as many babies as you want.” What the hell? The next person who dares to say this to my face will get the reaction they deserve. How will another baby ever replace Sam? It won’t! Sam wasn’t some kind of failed attempt at having a child. He was my first little boy and he died. Nothing in the world will ever make this okay. No matter how many children we have in the future (if we ever do), Sam will always be missing. Every Christmas, every family celebration … And every September 23rd, we’ll be adding a year to “how old Sam would be”. Everything we have already missed with him this past year; it chokes me up. All the milestones and fun memories we should have experienced by now. The photo album we would have today … His first year, all his first achievements. How he would look and how big he would be. I miss my little boy so much, and the physical void of not being able to hold him tears me from the inside in such a violent way.

As part of my therapy, I started working on a book telling my story and trying to include advice I would give to other women in my situation. Sadly, I had to stop when I got to the fourth chapter. It was so bad for me. I thought reliving it all through my writing would help me get it out, but it only amplified my pain and I ended up crying more than I was actually writing. My symptoms worsened throughout this process. My memory and ability to focus got so bad it even affected my writing. There were words missing, sometimes half sentences. It was like my brain couldn’t deal with it anymore. So I had to make the decision to drop this project entirely. At least for the time being. Who knows, maybe in a few years I’ll be strong enough to continue. But I realize now that it’s going to be a long road until I get there. If I ever do.

I think the most painful of all is that no one ever mentions him anymore. It’s like he never even existed. I suppose people are scared to hurt me. They probably think I’m “okay” now and “got over it”. But their silence hurts the most. Of course it’s sad, and of course I’m struggling with it. But he existed, and whenever someone finally says his name, it feels like such a breath of fresh air.

I’m not even sure how to prepare myself for September 23rd. Maybe I’ll just stay home and be a recluse for a couple of days. I don’t know. If the weather sucks, then I’ll probably stay in bed and watch some movie marathon or whatever. If the weather’s nice, then maybe I could keep myself busy outside. I really don’t know. One thing’s sure though: I’ll be spending it away from others. By myself, with my husband and my pets. Because I know no one else will acknowledge this first birthday, and the thought of it going unnoticed and unacknowledged hurts my heart. So I will peacefully deal with it myself. I’d like to go put a little something on his grave that day, but I’m not sure what yet. Maybe a little stuffed animal? I always seem to come up with the perfect idea afterward. Figures, right?

Exactly one year ago, I found out I was pregnant

It’s an emotional day here at home. Exactly one year ago, I had my positive pregnancy test and couldn’t wait for Gert to come home so I could tell him the good news. So many memories flashing through my mind today. I had already decided that I would spend this day tidying up the nursery, and putting away the rest of Sam’s stuff so we would have a clean room, free of anything related to Sam and ready to welcome another baby in the future (hopefully).

nursery mourning grieving stillbirth loss baby stillborn cards
nursery mourning grieving stillbirth loss baby stillborn cards clothes

I went through the box filled with mourning cards and support messages from friends, family, neighbors, people we hardly even know. It doesn’t look like that much in the picture above, but there are many; three big piles that fill an entire box. I didn’t get to thank everyone individually. I think people felt like they couldn’t really help us feel better, and like a small mourning card wouldn’t make any difference to us, but they were wrong. All those messages helped us so much. Even just a few kind words helped us feel surrounded and supported by absolutely everybody we know. And I really want to stress this in case any of my readers are ever confronted with friends or family who are suffering a loss: send them a card. Even if you don’t know what to write, and even if you feel like your card will be a meaningless drop in the ocean; don’t feel that way and just send one. You have no idea how much it is appreciated during difficult times. We never expected anyone to come up with wise words or anything psychologically deep. But just to know that they were thinking about us and shared a bit of our sadness, was more than enough and so greatly appreciated.

sam cross stitched kangaroo stuffed animal blankie baby name keepsake
registered star registry name baby loss grieving in memory stillbirth stillborn gift RA 17H27M50.45
registered star name baby loss grieving in memory stillbirth stillborn gift RA17H27M50.45

We also received several gifts. Some had been purchased or even handcrafted while I was still happily pregnant. Others were purchased after the tragedy. I don’t know if maybe some people held back on some gifts and decided not to mention it to us after it all went wrong. But for those who did offer them to us, I gladly accepted them and put them all together with Sam’s stuff. I think many people didn’t quite know how to bring it up to us. I realize it’s a delicate situation and people don’t like to be confronted with tears. That’s alright. I understand and it’s no big deal. For those who did find the courage to bring us toys and little keepsakes, whether purchased before or after his passing, I want to say a big thank you. They will be cherished forever and kept neatly in a dedicated box.

There are a few things I still want to frame and hang on the wall. Like a cross stitched birth announcement, and the star registered under Sam’s name, both received from family and friends. I hadn’t had the courage to do it until now. I definitely want to get those done within the next few weeks. I will hang them in the nursery for a while. And then maybe on the long run I will move them upstairs in my office. We’ll see.

♥︎ Lisa

“Oh, so it never lived?”

I know I haven’t updated in a while. I’ve been meaning to, though. But I figured there was no point keeping up with weekly updates at the moment.

Overall, we’re doing okay. I finally ordered some prints of the pictures we took right after he was born. They are so beautiful. I was worried they’d look a bit morbid, but they don’t at all. Just a gorgeous sleeping baby. I’m not going to share them, because it wouldn’t feel right. But I’ll just say that since he was so beautiful, it’s a shame that they won’t be out for the world to see.

We go to the cemetery several times a week and it’s weird how people keep staring at us. Sam is obviously buried in the children’s section. I suppose people wonder what happened. One lady came up to us the other day and asked us flat out, so we told her our story. She proceeded with “oh, so it never lived?”. Ugh. She’s the third person to say this to us. It hurts me every time.

First of all, he was our little boy, not “it”. And second, of course he lived! He lived for 9 whole months. *sigh*


I know people don’t mean any harm or disrespect. I think they’re just taken by surprise when we tell them what happened, and they spontaneously ask whatever (dumb) questions shoot through their mind at that moment. I’m trying not to hold a grudge. I just keep hoping I’ll never have to hear this again, because it does feel like a stab in my heart each time.

We also received a card from a friend that caused more pain than relief. She and I were pregnant at the same time and she was also expecting a little boy. He was born a couple of months before Sam. We bought a few gifts back then, and I guess they figured now would be a good time to send us a picture of their baby to thank us, with “by the way, we’re so sorry you lost yours” written on the back. Okay, I’m paraphrasing, but that’s what it boiled down to. I wanted to toss it in the trash, but ended up shoving it at the bottom of our pile of cards instead. It had me crying for two days. Some people have no sense of tact. Gert tried to be diplomatic about it and said they probably weren’t sure what to do. But to me, it seemed like a no-brainer. They could have just sent us a mourning card in September when we lost our baby, just like everybody else did. And then sent us their son’s “thank you” card separately now. That would have been fine. Of course it will always sting to see their little boy, but at least it wouldn’t have felt like such a slap in the face. Trying to combine their son’s thank you card with our son’s mourning message was of poor taste. I still can’t wrap my head around how anyone could think it was a good idea to send this to grieving parents.

Anyway, moving on.

We went shopping last week and as we were walking through the store, I suddenly saw they still had the outfit I had Sam buried in. It was the very last one in stock. I felt so overwhelmed, I quickly walked in its direction. There was one lady shopping for baby clothes and I saw her grabbing it before I got to it. I swear I almost had a panic attack right there. I wanted to say something and take it out of her hands, but I just stood there frozen. I had no idea what to do and Gert didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I swear she was taking forever, grabbing a few, putting some back, taking some more. Oh My God. She finally put that one outfit back and I snatched it right there before she had second thoughts. I said to Gert “we’re buying it” and he was like “okay”. I didn’t even care that it wasn’t the same size. When we came home, I went straight to the nursery, unpacked the clothes and laid them out flat in the crib. Boy did I feel relieved and accomplished. I was seriously proud of myself. Then I was standing there and I was like “okay uhm … now what?”. The clothes have been there for a week and a half now, and I still have no idea what my point was of buying them. At first I figured, whatever, we can always use them for one of our future babies. But now I’m thinking that would be beyond creepy. So, I suppose I’ll just pack them in Sam’s box that contains all his other things.

Today it randomly crossed my mind that exactly one year ago, Sam didn’t even exist yet. That thought really weirded me out …

♥︎ Lisa

Answers

staring out the window curtains view from back behind pensive mourning grieving

As expected, this week wasn’t easy. We had an appointment at the hospital this past Wednesday, which was scheduled after my little trip to the ER last week. But the appointment ended up being mainly about Sam’s death and all the test results that came quicker than expected …

So now we know.

It was indeed a hemorrhage in the placenta that caused him to lose half his blood and made his heart stop. I still feel sick to my stomach when I think about it. The doctor assured me he didn’t suffer, which is a small consolation. What happened was basically plain fluke, apparently. No one could have predicted it, nor prevented it. It wasn’t because of anything I may or may not have done, it wasn’t genetic, there was nothing physically wrong with me or the baby. It was sheer bad luck. One in a million, probably. I still don’t understand why this had to happen to us. The pregnancy had gone so well. Of course I whined about little aches here and there, but overall, everything had been going great for the past 9 months. We were so close … just a few days away.

I’ve always been an optimist. In every situation, no matter how bad, I always try to look at the bright side or find at least some positive twist to it. But in this case, I fail to find anything good. If he’d been sick, we’d find comfort in the fact that he’s no longer suffering. But he wasn’t sick. He was absolutely perfect. There was nothing wrong with him. Had he been born a week earlier like many babies do, he’d be here with us today.

It’s so sad and unfair. And I don’t know what to make of it, except to say that it is what it is and that nothing will bring our baby back.

So instead of changing diapers, here’s what I’ve done this week:

stillbirth baby loss grieving mourning keepsake glass containg bunny blankie shoes candle and mementos items

It contains a few small items that we could never reuse for another baby because of the emotional value they have. There’s the little Christmas ornament we bought in Bruges in August, the bunny slippers Gert’s mom bought for him, the bunny blankie I bought for him in June, the hat he wore right after he was born and which we discovered still has some of his hair inside, and then the candle we received when he was blessed and which was also lit at his funeral. The ribbon around it was originally purchased for his baptism, and the wooden letters are those that had been put up on the bookshelf this past Summer to decorate the nursery.

I’m confident time will make things better. And we are looking forward to having more children (fingers crossed). The doctor said that the odds of this happening twice in a row are next to void. But should I get pregnant again, they will monitor things closely and probably induce labor at the 38th week. So, we are hopeful for a happy ending. Even though it hurts to know that there will always be a child missing :-(

♥︎ Lisa

Sam’s Funeral

I feel so exhausted and empty right now. The funeral was two days ago, on Thursday October 2nd. I figured it would be the hardest day of all and that things would slowly start to get better from that point on. However, I had underestimated the backlash on the day after. There was nothing left to do or take care of. Everything had been handled, everything was done … and over. Gert and I were both sitting there in the dining room, not really knowing what to do with ourselves. The house feels so empty. The nursery is painfully quiet.

The last thing I was able to do for him was choose the little outfit and stuffed animal he’d be buried with:

We decided to keep the nursery. After all, we put so much work into it, it would be a shame to break it down less than two months after it got finished. And we’re still looking forward to having children. So keeping the room is like keeping a bit of optimism for the future. It’s a good thing we made it completely gender neutral though.

I thought the nursery would be the most painful thing to see when I got back home from the hospital. But strangely, it’s been a place of comfort. I guess it helps that Sam never actually used the room. A ton of it is second hand, but we have personally never used any of it, so it’s like a clean slate. At least from an emotional point of view. I sit there quite often now, just looking around in silence, enjoying the space and trying to sort my thoughts.

We sent out this card on Tuesday to everyone we know:

card announcement baby died passed away stillbirth birth sad crying teddy bear

We tried to use as much as we could of the original birth announcement we had designed. But we obviously had to change the entire text, as well as the pictures which were supposed to be of him :-(

Lots of people have already called us and sent us a card. The support we’ve gotten from all sides has been overwhelming and we are so thankful. Some people even brought flowers to his grave, so that was a nice surprise when we went back there later.

Right now I do need to focus on getting better. I had to go through the entire labor and give birth to a full term baby. I left the hospital 48 hours later and headed straight to the funeral home in order to organize everything. Add to that how physically draining it is to cry and mourn; I definitely need some rest now. I’m awfully pale and have lost a big chunk of the pregnancy weight in an unhealthy record time.

We also had to go back to the hospital’s ER last Tuesday. I had been healing quite well during the first week following his birth, but all of a sudden, I started feeling this horrible pain in my lower abdomen. It spread all the way around my back and up to my stomach. The pain was even worse than contractions, I swear. I tried to walk to the bedroom so I could lay down on the bed, but almost passed out because of how unbearable the pain was. Gert panicked. I could see he was very worried. But I couldn’t even say a word. He called the hospital and explained what was going on. They told us to come in right away. Now to make a long story short: everything looked fine, but they suspect that at least one of my ovaries got twisted while everything inside my body is still getting back into place, and it must have gotten itself untwisted and back into the right position soon after. So it looked fine on the ultrasound, but these things can apparently get insanely painful. It did feel heavily bruised after that, and the pain took three days to vanish. That was rough! They also took some blood to see if there’s any kind of infection in my body (which is apparently common after giving birth), and of course there is. They weren’t sure what kind of infection yet. They suspect a bladder infection, but we’ll know next week. They just went ahead and prescribed me antibiotics that work for most infections anyway, so I should be covered. On the bright side, I feel absolutely nothing. My bladder is still a bit numb. So if it is a bladder infection, at least it’s pain free!

Sooo … I was supposed to only go back there 6 weeks after giving birth, for the usual postpartum checkup. Now they scheduled an extra appointment next week as they want to keep a close eye on things. -Fine to me- At least I don’t have to worry for a whole month before I get to see a doctor.

Anyway, that’s about it for now. I’m not really looking forward to this coming week, as I think it will still be quite difficult. I’m not physically healed yet, so I can’t do as much as I would like to keep myself busy. And they’re announcing grey, rainy weather. It won’t help :-(

On a side note: I do plan to keep this blog up. There are no taboos and it’s certainly not a secret. Sam existed and I want his story to stay published. I also don’t know what will happen next as far as our baby plans are concerned. So this will be a good place to keep track of our following chapters and vent when I need to.

♥︎ Lisa