Mutha Magazine published an essay of mine today. I’m honored to have them share my story:
I find myself typing my thoughts, and immediately going back to delete them.
That’s how I wish sometimes life were. I know many of us have felt that way at one point in time.
I want to call a do-over.
Let me use what I know now to go back and change the last month we had together, him safe inside my womb.
I remember the last time I felt him make a really strong movement.
I was at work. I was wearing a black scoop neck, 3/4 length maternity top with the rushing on the side, maternity jeans, and Gina’s slip on shoes, because I couldn’t bend over to tie my shoelaces anymore. I was standing next to my swivel chair, near my desk, talking to a coworker. Luca made such a huge movement, that if felt like an entire body roll. It was such an intense movement that I grabbed my belly and I grabbed the chair. His movement was so big; it pushed the air right out of my lungs. I knew I had big eyes when I looked at my coworker, and she asked if I was okay.
I often wonder if that was his attempt to tell me things weren’t okay. Maybe he was trying so hard to give me a sign that things didn’t feel good for him. Was he? And what if he was? I didn’t listen. I didn’t have that maternal intuition people talk about. I didn’t ask questions, I kept on going that day, getting my work done. It was just a few days before I sent out an email to my coworkers telling them I wouldn’t be in, because I was going to be having my baby soon.
And then I had to send out an email 5 days later telling that same group of people that he had died.
There are so many traumas associated with losing a child. Completely unexpected loss is traumatic. Losing a baby, a full term one which you expected to bring home and love for the rest of your life, is painful. Having to face people who have no idea you have lost your child, and ask you how the delivery went and where your baby is. Coming home from the hospital to be faced with another set of hopes and dreams that have manifested into toys and clothes and books for this child that will never get to use them- that will knock the wind right out of you. It’s incredible pain and loss and trauma. I can’t explain the pain most days. I sit here, tears in my eyes, once again, wondering how to explain it still, 28 months later.
And silently, while I type away, she sleeps next to me.
This paradox of wanting to be ever present with this sweet child in front of me, while wishing there was some way to delete some of my own story and make it so that they could both be here.
I am exhausted from having one foot here and one foot there.
In the sleep deprivation that comes in raising a living, breathing, 10 month old, I still find myself thinking sometimes that it’s so crazy that I haven’t woken up from this dream yet. Is this life right now real? Or was my pregnancy with Luca made up? These are some of the thoughts I weave in and out of. I look through his pictures less frequently, and when I do see them, I no longer have that feeling of really being able to identify him. When I see him, I see her. Who was he? Who would he have been?
I had many of these same thoughts even when I wasn’t sleep deprived, and especially when I didn’t have this baby in my arms. I feel like a hamster in a wheel, running past the same scenery every day.
If I had a chance to hold him and take are of him and know him outside of my womb, if only for a week, or a month, or anything, would I have a better idea of who he was? Or who he was going to be?
I am struggling with these thoughts so much lately.
I struggle too because I knew that smack dab in the midst of our grief, we added this healer of our daughter to the mix. And oh man, how she heals us.
Still, she will always be her own person, and never a replacement for Luca.
She is an addition. She is my bonus.
And I picture myself as this silhouette of a mother, with much of her body empty, her arms full.
I miss him.
Time passes, and he’s remembered less and less, and not just by the world, but also by me. I think about him everyday, so it’s not that I don’t remember him. But as time passes, the physical memory, of his pregnancy, of how he felt on me in the few hours we had together, fade farther and farther away. There’s so much guilt attached to that statement. But 28 months later, you start to forget. It’s what happens. The thought of him is always there, but the emotions that go along with what you associated with your lost child, aren’t as frequent. They come up on anniversaries, or when you are near a child his age or with the same name, or when you see an outfit or toy that you had picked out for them.
I remember very little from his pregnancy now. What I do remember are the parts that make me the saddest. Pieces that I have to now go back and work through- that are so connected with the trauma. I had experienced two full term pregnancies. His was so full of love and expectation. Bliss. Naïveté. Arrogance. I thought it was going to be so easy to just birth a baby into the world, healthy, alive. Why wouldn’t I? Babies are born everyday so easily right?
28 months later, I am a mother of two: one who I carry with all of me, and one I will only ever get to carry in my heart.
28 months. And my work is just beginning.
Today, Luca would be two years old.
I have been thinking about what I want to write today, and in all honesty, agonizing about it.
And for me, as Luca’s mother, I want to always honor him and his life, no matter how short it was. It’s almost as if because he didn’t get the chance to experience this world in that little body of his for very long, that I have to make everyday count even that much more.
When you lose a child, you lose all remaining innocence you have in life. You are forced to realize the urgency of your time in this world and are reminded to not take it for granted.
So today, we will celebrate his life on the second anniversary of his birth. We will head down to the beach with our tribe of friends and family, let lanterns fly into the heavens, and skip rocks with his name into the Pacific Ocean.
I will love myself and those around me in his honor, and be open to his lessons today. Especially today.
I will be easy on myself, and come to terms with not being able to think of more to say. No more agonizing, just honoring.
And because his life gave me my mother voice way before Elia came to save us, I will share one of the versions of his birth story, our birth story.
Gina and I decided several years ago that we wanted to be mothers. We had testing done, consulted doctors and reproductive specialists, and after several rounds of IUI, conceived our son.
The pregnancy with Luca went smoothly. In fact, it was such a beautiful pregnancy. I was healthy, growing life inside of me, and thriving at my first months as a mother.
We had decided about half way through the pregnancy, to have a home birth. We sought co-care through our hospital midwives and our own private midwives. The pregnancy flew by, or at least it seems so now. Every week my measurements looked good, baby looked great, and on a Thursday in March, I started the labor journey when my mucous plug came out.
It was happening, he was getting ready to come out, or so I thought! I was one of the lucky mamas who had to work through prodromal labor. By Saturday contractions started picking up, and I asked my midwife to come. Labor still wasn’t regular, but it was hard. We worked on spinning baby moves, breathing, stretching, laboring.
It was work, but every bit made me think we were getting closer to meeting him.
I do remember looking at my midwife and saying- “I don’t think I can do this”.
She responded “you already are”.
Sunday morning we continued laboring, I wasn’t yet 5 cm. We walked, we moved, we danced, I took contractions on the trees in the neighborhood, I worked. It was beautiful, my wife and I swaying to the music in our head, to his birth playlist, moving with the faint wind. There were songs about home, about love, about acceptance. I thought long and hard about the songs on his playlist, and I wanted him to be welcomed into the world mindfully, even in music.
We headed back inside the house, and as we had been doing for the last several hours, listened for his heart rate. This time it was different, and the words I had identified as fearing the most from all of our birth prep classes were uttered, and we had to get to the hospital.
All that followed after was completely beyond any of my wildest imagination.
We arrived to the hospital in the ambulance, and when the OB and residents gathered around me to ultrasound and look for my son’s heartbeat, the emotion was immediately a somber one, and all I heard was “there is a flutter”. And with that, I was signing papers to consent to surgery and was being wheeled into the operating room. I had barely gotten my pants off and the catheter was being put in while the mask was placed on my face, and I was screaming with the faintest voice I had left “My baby!” Over and over again, until I fell asleep.
We had arrived at 11:05, and Luca was born at 11:16. He was silent when I gave birth to him via emergency cesarean and I was under general anesthesia. He was lifeless when he was taken from my womb. The doctors restarted his heart and hooked him up to machines. While he struggled to survive, so did I.
During my cesarean, the doctors had done an amazing job getting him out so quickly, but had unfortunately nicked a blood vessel, and I began to develop a hematoma and ultimately bleed internally. Barely out of the operating room and in recovery, I thought we were in the clear, when I could see an unusual amount of doctors around me. I asked what was going on and was told after some poking and prodding and a decrease in my blood pressure, along with what my wife later said was me turning ghost white, that they either needed to open me back up and give me a hysterectomy to remove the bleeding uterus and source of the internal bleed, or I’d have to wait until the next day to get an embolization.
I wanted to see my son. I had already asked if I could start pumping, and no one would answer my questions. My wife went down to the NICU to see Luca, and then came back to me making arrangements with the doctor to remove my uterus. We had only planned on having one baby, and since he was here I figured I didn’t need it anymore if it meant I could take care of him sooner.
But the look on my wife’s face was enough. I knew something was wrong. And when she began to explain to me what methods they were trying to use to help our son, it became evident what was coming.
We decided to keep my uterus. I felt calm in my responses, but every time my wife or the doctors would talk to me about what they were doing with him next, my blood pressure went through the roof. I started leaking protein in my urine, and was in the surgical icu for he next 16 hours. All the while my little man was in the NICU, holding on.
The embolization was done the next morning, and there was finally talk about me getting to see him, but it was also accompanied with the ultimate truth that when I saw my son, he would be removed from life support, and come to die in my arms.
And I turned to my wife and told her I couldn’t bare to meet him.
It would hurt to much, and I couldn’t do it.
But she told me I had to, and I knew I needed to, I was just so scared of more hurt, and how I knew I was going to fall in love with him the minute I held him, and ultimately would have to give him back.
So I was finally moved to labor and delivery. Barely 50 feet from where he lay hooked up to his machines. They dressed him up in the clothes we had packed in the hospital bag for him to come home in. The doctors and nurses lay him in my arms and immediately I recognized him, my son. He was perfect. So beautiful.
I could hear him trying to breathe, just a little. It was labored, but I heard it, and I kept thinking, once he’s on me, it’s going to make it all better. I tried to have him on my skin, but it wasn’t working. I could tell he was slipping away.
And he did.
He died in my arms just before the sunset, on March 11th.
I think I died then too.
Birth was nothing like I had imagined, so very far from the beautiful and gentle home birth we had planned. My first child, my son, was gone.
They determined he was an IUGR baby, and that his placenta had given out. There were no indications at any point in my pregnancy.
The remainder of the stay at the hospital was mostly horrible. I was shipped to the antenatal unit, where nurses wouldn’t mention my son. We watched tv aimlessly in the cocoon of the hospital, with the doctors checking in on us to share their condolences. The residents took to us and would come visit us daily, but otherwise we were numb, in our 9th floor room overlooking the city we had so much planned for.
After 5 days, I was discharged. I was wheeled out of the hospital with a bouquet of flowers, and a weighted teddy bear that I wanted to throw at someone. I got into our car, the brand new car seat was still in the back, waiting for our son.
And that was it, no one told us what to do next. So we drove ourselves home. Just my wife and I and the car seat, and that fucking weighted teddy bear.
No one prepared us to lose a child. So the next part of our journey started.
It’s not as often that I get to tell the story of Luca’s birth anymore. Especially since we had a love filled planned cesarean for his healthy little sister this past fall. But it’s important that as women, we share our stories. Loss has been part of birth since the beginning of time, and it’s sad, yes, but it certainly doesn’t make it okay to ignore just because it makes people uncomfortable. My son existed, and I, and other loss parents, should be able to share our stories and our children.
My birth story is relevant. And I’m so thankful to have been given this opportunity to share.
As women, as mothers, we are doing the very best we can. And we should try, really try, to hold space for each other no matter what our experience, and especially birth experience. No judgement, just love.
Luca love. Today and always.
I’ve been gone too long.
There hasn’t been a day that has passed where I haven’t missed writing and the therapeutic value of sharing my feelings in this never-ending journey that is being a loss parent. Mothering Luca has still been ever-present, but in a much different way. And tonight, sitting in the dark with my wife next to me asleep with babe in her arms while feeling like I want to lay my face into the covers and scream, I’ve decided it’s time.
Our sweet rainbow girl joined us at 8:46 am on Tuesday, September 2nd. Though still extremely traumatic, with a NICU stay and 48 hours until I could hold her skin to my skin, her birth was wonderful and full of love and joyful anticipation.
She came into the world with a cry, and I turned to Gina and asked “is that our baby?”. It was such a surreal moment in time. For a second right then, and many times over since Elia was born, I couldn’t help but think of the difference in their births, mostly the silence that was in the air when Luca made his entry into the world. Elia went immediately to meet the nurses that would clean her up and Gina never left her side. Luca went immediately from my womb to machines and cold gloved hands.
I was able to hold and sit beside Elia within a few hours of labor. I didn’t get to hold Luca until the doctors and nurses brought him to me to die.
I am overjoyed with the love I feel for this little rainbow babe. At in that same moment, I am utterly devastated experiencing everything with Elia, that I will never have with Luca.
It eats away at me some days. The postpartum hormones don’t help. Once again, it’s an isolating feeling, but now in a bit of a different way. I finally have something to connect with other mother’s about; I have a living baby. But it certainly doesn’t make it any easier to share with other mothers when I have this secret. I hesitate to witness their response. Will it be empathy, or complete apathy?
There are some amazing women around me. And yet I can hardly get the energy up to surround myself with them. I am so lucky to have this miracle in my arms, and yet the sleep deprivation and hormones, and the ever-changing needs of my babe have rendered me physically and emotionally exhausted.
All I want to do is make her smile, soothe her, nurture her, and be the best mother I can possibly be to her. I want to give her everything. I know I am giving her everything. Every little piece of me.
I just wish I could give all of myself to both of my children.
But I count my blessings and realize how lucky I am indeed, to be the mother of these two unique souls in whatever way that looks from the outside, or the inside.
I have been falling in and out of sleep in the middle of the night, for several weeks.
This morning was no exception. When I rolled over and grabbed my phone, it read:
I think I’ve done fairly well over these last several months, considering. The anxiety has a way of creeping back in, but I have been able in most instances, to talk myself through it. Or a loved one talks me through it, rationalizes the fear and reminds me I’m exactly where one would expect a mother who has lost their child, would be. And then of course, like a perfectly cued nudge, I will get a kick or a set of hiccups that reminds me I carry life. I hold hope inside of me in the physical form of this beautiful baby girl.
She thrives inside of me, and soon she will be in our arms.
In the meantime, her big brother sends us signs. Luca reminds us that he is indeed around, and that everything is okay.
He does this with the butterflies he’s been sending me everyday. Through the love and support and good intentions of friends around the country and world who send us perfectly timed messages. He makes sure I snap out of whatever spiral I’m in and plays a song on the radio that reminds me of him and gives me an enormous release, just when I need it.
It helps me. Because as I anticipate what may be the most wonderful day of my life, I still feel so sad.
I will get to hold this gift. And look at her. And marvel at her perfection.
And at the same time that I’m falling in love with her, I will feel the longing for wanting to carry both my children in my arms. The physical memory of his weight on my chest will return, and I will be reminded of all that I couldn’t experience with Luca.
I’m not ungrateful. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I’m so very grateful for what I have. I thank her and I thank Luca everyday.
But being grateful doesn’t erase the pain and the loss that has forever changed me. That hole inside of me will never be completely filled, because he is not here. There is absolutely nothing in this world, that will ever fix the loss of my son.
That’s just the way it will always be. And that’s okay. That’s my reality. I’ve accepted it. I still struggle with the fact that others around me still haven’t accepted it themselves, that they are waiting for some sort of closure to magically happen, or for me to return to the old me.
That’s not going to happen. And that’s got to be okay as well.
The old me died with my son. The old Carla vanished when Luca took his last breath.
With messages through lyrics, on the wings of butterflies, and in the frozen motion of a hummingbird suspended right in front of me, the new me is kept afloat.
The 10th came and went. Gina and I made our way to Luca’s beach and sat underneath the very last super moon that would occur before she arrived. I stared at mother moon and asked her to deliver our baby girl safely to us. I tried to study all the shadows on the moon, to store it in my memory, to soak her in with hope and excitement.
It was the last 10th we would celebrate without her, and it meant so many different things to us. A new beginning. The next chapter. Another reminder of the finality of Luca’s passing.
Some friends and family reached out to us, lifting us up, as always, on a day that always bring a spectrum of intense feelings. But overall, I couldn’t shake the same feelings that creep up now and again. Less often for sure, but still there.
Solitude. Guilt. A deep deep sad that I still can’t correctly describe other than saying it’s as if I have a huge hole that has been dug out of my insides and left me exposed.
On Monday, the 17th 11th since Luca passed, I sat in her room, determined to make some progress.
Next on the to-do list was folding and hanging her clothes. Which meant going through all of Luca’s clothes, and deciding which ones to keep for his sister to use and which to give away.
I’m not sure what I expected to feel. I’m never quite sure where my emotions are going to take me, and have been so excited and hopeful thinking about her arrival, that I didn’t really think this would be that hard.
But then I came across the very first piece of clothing I had purchased for him. He was due in March, and I figured by summer, we’d be taking him to the beach, so it was the sweetest tiny terry cloth onesie.
I cried. As I was separating clothes and deciding which ones of his to give away, I cried. He will never wear any of these things.
But she will, right?
Yes. I believe with all my heart, that she will. And she will be so ridiculously cute in it, radiating light from every inch of her being, safe in our arms.
These past few days have gone by even slower than I could have ever imagined.
Gina and I went to dinner Sunday night, and I asked her, just like I used to ask her several times a day after Luca died, to tell me every detail of what happened. Being medicated made the entire experience so blurry, and then add in the time that has passed, and there are so many pieces of it all that I can’t mentally remember.
And she recounted his delivery and birth story, and how she first met him and knew it didn’t look good from the very start. How I got sick and the doctors told us I might need to have a hysterectomy, and I said “we already have our son, I don’t need it anymore if it has to come out”, not having any idea yet, of how grave his situation was.
I remembered that part, and I took a deep breath.
All these details, thinking back to who I was at that moment, the fog I was in, I find myself back there again. I could feel the tears coming down my face while she told me everything. I don’t ever want to forget him or his story, our story.
I want to be able to share with her, about her big brother. When she is older she will know his entire story, but when she is younger she will know how much we wanted him and how much he was loved, and how he is around us everyday. How amazing he was that he wanted his mamas to have a living child, and so he helped us have her. She will always know who Luca is. He will always be a part of her and each of our lives as a family.
All the people in her life will always know and remember Luca. If you are to be in our life, that’s just how it’s going to be. I will not allow my son to be forgotten. That’s part of my job as the mother to both of my children.
I go to my NST’s, I eat, I sleep, I take care of myself for this little miracle in my belly, and then I write for myself and for my son, I talk about him, I reach out to other mamas who have lost their children, I hope, I love, I speak my truth.
Yesterday I finished Luca’s prayer flag for the August 19th International Day of Hope. Today I hung it up outside in our backyard where his sister will play one day.
And in the meantime, we continue to prepare for her arrival. Full of love and anticipation. Waiting for sleepless nights of cluster feedings and feeling her on our skin.
Ready, so very ready.
Over the last few months, several of our friends and family have asked us when we were going to have a baby shower for Luca’s little sister. Hearing this question would stop us in our tracks, every time. I don’t blame you for asking, the question is a logical one.
But how do you navigate the expectation and hopeful anticipation of a new baby, when you are still in grief and deep mourning over the one that was supposed to be here and alive?
We’ve answered with uncertainty, because, well, we’ve had several complications along the road that left us wanting to wait until the next week to make a decision on when to proceed with our planning.
Losing Luca after we had a completely healthy pregnancy and excitedly awaited his arrival, robbed us of not only our son, but any blissful naivety that we would experience in subsequent pregnancies. We move forward everyday and prepare for this sweet baby girl, full of light and life to arrive, and sometimes still, the fear lingers. It’s just a real part of life now. We do what we can to suppress it, but everyone who has been through the loss of a child has those moments of darkness and being scared to the bone that are just a part of your story now because of the PTSD.
Many things we purchased for Luca, we kept: clothing, bibs, burping cloths, the cloth diapers that remained after a wonderful group of women within our community sold them on our behalf. Other things we returned, like bottles, baby bath tub, toys, and items that we no longer could bare to look at anymore. Staring at a brand new stroller in its box will only remind you more of those walks you’ll never go on. So yeah, many things we had to get rid of, to once again, maintain some of our sanity. I remember back to those first days and weeks after Luca passed, and it was all about self preservation at that point.
Yesterday we got to experience a love-filled Blessing Way. Some amazing women from our community got together to support and set intention for baby and us, her mamas, for a healthy birth and continuing journey through this labyrinth of motherhood. We felt the showering of love, and were filled to the brim with celebration of our baby girl.
This week, we have finally decided to answer the questions, to let our friends and family be part of the preparation. We will not be having a baby shower for baby girl, but once she has arrived into this world, safe and sound, and we are ready, we will have a meet and greet for her to meet the members of her village. There will surely be a showering of love then, I just know it.
For our friends and family, we have put together a registry on Amazon of some things we would like for her arrival, which you can find when you click here: Baby Girl’s Registry .
Thank you. For the love and continued support.
Luca and Baby Girl’s Mamas