Losing Lincoln has opened up doors that I never could have imagined existed. Suddenly, I am a member of the worst secret club you can imagine. I am learning a whole new vocabulary: bereaved mother, still father, born silent. In the weeks following Lincoln’s birth, as I shared our loss I had many open up and tell me that they had a similar experience. Cousins, family friends, co-workers, even sisters. How did I not know of these losses before? Why don’t we talk about these events? In this day and age when mental health is a major topic, it seems backwards. But unless you are in the club, you really can’t even begin to understand how that other person is feeling. In one instance, I want to shout from the roof tops that I am a mother and my child is in heaven. I feel as though it is almost something invisible that I wear and I hope that people will ask about my children. But I don’t want to bring someone down or have them pity me. I met someone new last week and when she asked if I had kids, initially I said no. That immediately felt wrong and I grappled over finding the right words to explain that my son died before he was born. It is also an unspoken element as I travel for my job. People ask how I am, tell me I look good, give me hugs but never really ask about Lincoln. When I returned to work, I requested that people let me lead. I would talk about Lincoln when I felt moved to do so. Now I feel like I shouldn’t bring it up. They aren’t in the club. I don’t want them to worry about me or judge me thinking that I should have moved on by now. A story shared by one friend does make me thankful for the progress that has been made. Her mother lost her brother late in her pregnancy. As a mom, she was not allowed to hold the baby or go to the small funeral held for him. My friend shared that her mother never really dealt with the loss until recently when a neighbor suffered a similar tragedy. I cannot imagine suffering in silence for almost 50 years. But even now, I seek out another loss mom when I want to talk. After all, we are members of an unsought, terribly elite club.
I know this is supposed to be about my journey. But I have a partner in this loss. And on this day that was supposed to be his first big day of recognition by Lincoln, I want to draw a little bit of attention to him (even though he won’t like it). I purchased his first Father’s day present back in February. It was a big gift but I wanted to show how excited I was for him to be a dad and I am that sure that he will be an amazing dad. The Cubs bleacher seats are still sitting in my mom’s garage. When I was pregnant, Kyle joked that we had to have kids of our own because our younger nieces and nephews are not terribly sure of him. That beard is pretty scary. One of my worst moments came after watching him play with our nephew. I felt physical pain that his arms were empty, too. I spent quite a bit of time crying out my anger in our camper. He would have been such an amazing dad! After going through labor, he told me how amazed he was that I was able to push so quickly. I made it seem easy, he said. In the days after, he was very attentive, making sure I was eating, helping me accomplish small tasks, sometimes just holding me in the kitchen while I cried. All of his focus was me. Now that a couple of months have gone by, when he talks to people, they ask about me but rarely do they ask about him. He is my rock. I can’t say enough how much I love him and how thankful I am that this has brought us together, rather than tearing us apart. So on this day, I want to say Happy Father’s Day to the best husband ever and to all dad’s out there, whether they can hold their babies or not!
I survived Target the other day. It is only the second time I have stepped in the store since Lincoln was born. That is saying something considering it used to be one of my favorite places. The sticking point is the same can be said for all moms out there. There were 4 babies and a pregnant woman. I didn’t cry this time. Being in public or attending functions is a whole new experience for me. I wonder if people might recognize me or if they haven’t seen me in a while, do they know what has happened. When they ask me how I am, are they making conversation or do they really want to know? Do I even want to talk about what I have been living and see that sadness creep into their eyes or do I just give the standard answer of fine and move on? I also get eaten up with envy of the sweet babies the other mothers are carrying or pushing and the ripe pregnant bellies carrying new life. My body aches for those moments I dreamed of with Lincoln. I never got to cuddle or soothe him during a wedding when he was fussy or try to keep him entertained as we waited in a long checkout line. I think back to the days that I felt him move, how he would kick me or push into my ribs until I could hardly breathe. What I would give to feel those moments again. I know the next time I walk into someplace I may see a baby and have to hide in the bathroom while the grief and pain passes. But I will consider this a step forward for now.
Here is how my life was changed forever. On April 3, 2017, I woke up early because I had to go pee. This was the norm for me, because I was 9 months pregnant. I noticed a little bit of blood and was a little concerned. I called the on call doctor for my OB’s office. She asked me when I last felt the baby move and I couldn’t remember. My worry suddenly increased tenfold. She suggested I come in to the hospital to be checked. So I woke up Kyle. We both showered and headed to Dublin. As we made the final turn, I took his hand and asked him to reassure me that everything was fine. He squeezed my hand and agreed that we would most likely be heading home within a few hours. How much I wish this would have been true. As soon as I was taken to triage, a nurse attempted to find Lincoln’s heartbeat and but only mine could be heard. After a midwife came in to do an ultrasound and doctor verified that my baby was gone, I began sobbing. What had just happened? Only 24 hours before I was putting the finishing touches on my son’s nursery and now I was grappling with the idea that I was going to have to go through the pain of labor with none of the reward. The next several hours went by in a blur with constant checks from my nurse. Christa was a bright spot in the storm I was living. She kept Kyle and me afloat. At 9:16 pm, my Lincoln came into the world silently. He weighed seven pounds and 4 ounces and was twenty inches long. We marveled at his big feet. I held him twice and kissed him goodbye, on the same day he came into the world. We left the next day without him. My goal now is to put one foot in front of the other and figure out how to survive without my first born. I hope over the next months that this blog will help me on that journey and it will help others to see they are not alone.
This has been the hardest entry for me to write. I have been thinking about it for a couple of days. I can’t believe I come home in 2 days; I have been here for 49. These have been some of the scariest, most exciting days of my life. I had an hour yesterday to sit and reflect. I read back through my journal and realized how much I have seen, learned, and done. I have learned so much about the places I have visited and myself. My beliefs, my abilities, my faith. I can never say how much this trip has changed me. I spent the last few days on the Isle of Skye. This is an island that sits to the north west of Scotland. We crossed over by the land bridge and I saw some of the most beautiful places on earth, in my opinion. We hiked along the ridge of the Cuith Raing or Quirang, in Gaelic. As I hiked, I felt no fear of the heights but just looked around in awe at the beauty. We got lucky and had some of the best weather Scotland has seen all summer. The hills were so green and the sky was so blue. We stayed in the small town of Portree. On the whole island there are only 10,000 people. After the failed Jacobite rebellion of 1745, the English came in and started what basically amounts to genocide. They replaced clan chiefs with English lords and forced thousands of people from their homes burning all of their possessions as they went. The clans were no longer allowed to speak Gaelic, wear kilts, play bagpipes, or do anything we find iconic about the Scottish people. Thousands of people were killed or forced to leave the land their families had been on for generations. And while a lot of these regulations have obviously changed, the people of Scotland are still part of the United Kingdom. But possibly not for much longer. In 2014, they will hold a referendum to vote for independence. It is easy being here, to hope it goes through. The next time you will hear from me will be after I get home. I hope you have learned some things from me and have enjoyed my blog. See you soon!
Today the landscape changed for me. I left from George square in Glasgow at 8. My guide’s name was George. He was funny and entertaining all day. He had a song to go with every battle and every situation he talked about. He even played some Proclaimers, a Scottish group, known for the song “I’m gonna be (500 miles)” popular in the U.S. in the 90s. We climbed through the Monroe mountains first, stopping at Loch Lomon, named for the nearest peak, Ben Lomond (ben means mountain). This is really beautiful lake just north of Glasgow. Then we headed up to Glencoe, where the English, led by a Scottish Campbell, killed 300 villagers when there clan chief was two days late to sign a treaty. The English killed the men, women, and children while they were sleeping in their beds; most came from the clan MacDonald. The mountains in this area are also known for a less gruesome thing; they were used as the backdrop for many of the Harry Potter movies, including the location of Hagrid’s house in The Prisoner of Azkaban. After Glencoe we stopped in Ft. Williams which has a commandos memorial from after WWI. It has since been dedicated to all Scottish soldiers who have lost their lives in conflict, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Then we went monster hunting on Loch Ness. The loch is 22 miles long, 1/2 mile wide and at its deepest, 800 feet. We took a one hour cruise. And while I didn’t see Nessie, I did even the gorgeous views. All along the way we learned about clan struggles, the Scottish skirmishes against the English for independence, and even the faeries. I think I am going to have to watch Rob Roy some time. I will be out of internet range for the next few days, while I make an excursion to the Isle of Skye in the north. Then that will be my last post when I get back, because then I will be headed home.
canoeing on Loch Ness
When I arrived in Scotland (especially since the flight was so short), it was as if we had turned around and landed back in Dublin. The landscape is very similar, lots of green fields dotted with sheep and cows. The Scottish are a little bit more difficult to understand but I love hearing the thick brogue. I wandered around Glasgow yesterday while I waited for my room to be ready. It is a pretty city. The Scottish have an affinity for statues; you can see one every few blocks. They are soldiers, authors, rulers. This morning I caught the train to Edinburgh. I went to a whiskey museum. The process to make single malt is very similar to making beer. You germinate barley, grind it into a grist, add pure water, let ferment, distill, age 10 to 5o years. It is aged in barrels previously used to age bourbon or sherry. This adds to the flavors and gives it its golden color. After the museum, I went to Edinburgh castle. This castle was an area used to defend Scotland from invaders from the ocean. Also Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to her successor James IV here. It currently houses the Scottish crown jewels: a crown, a scepter, a sword, and the stone of destiny. There is also a memorial to Scottish soldiers who gave their lives fighting in WWI and WWII. Tomorrow I am going hunting for Nessie!
statue of Prince Albert/ “In Latin agua vitae means water of life. In Gaelic this translates as uisge beatha – later shortened to uisge or whiskey in English”
palace of Mary, Queen of Scots – Edinburgh Castle