Honoring

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.

Labor- ing.

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.

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Two Sides.

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.

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3:10

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:

3-103:10. On the dot. Thank you Luca.

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.

 

 

Remembering

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.

Luca's First Prayer Flag

Luca’s First Prayer Flag

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.

A Showering

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.

Love,

Luca and Baby Girl’s Mamas

A Flower Crown and Blessed Necklace

A Flower Crown and Blessed Necklace

 

 

 

 

 

Her

My belly is getting bigger, and we continue to prepare for her arrival.

It is becoming more and more real, and evident in the changes that are happening in our home, that we are expecting a child. Another beautiful and amazing child.

A room for her. A dresser for her. A crib for her. Yet almost all the things that fill the room are things that were her brother’s. I can’t help but feel like it’s cheating. Or that we’ve forgotten about him. And at the same time I want to give her all the light and love and celebration for who she is and what she brings us. Bipolar living, a crazy duality of the happiness and grief, continues to be the main theme of her pregnancy. Sometimes I wonder how all these thoughts affect her, but I remember to tell her how much we love her and look forward to meeting her. Everyday we talk to her.

Everyday I picture her inside my belly, her heart beating and my heart beating, once in a while synchronizing. I picture what she looks like. I wonder how much she will look like her brother.

She moves so much. Very unlike her brother. Ever since I could first feel her movements. We’ve joked about how she has world cup fever.

And then today happened.

She wasn’t moving like she normally does. I noticed this afternoon that she had slowed down a bit. I waited some time, then told Gina. We tried ice water, some fruit, laying on my side. Still nothing. Gina and I looked at each other and I attempted to not be on full alarm, but I was.

After an hour of trying to get her to move and only feeling a light tap here and there, we decided to go to the hospital. I know we both panicked, you can’t help but have those moments of PTSD when you’ve lost a child.

So, we headed to the hospital, alerted our doctor, who immediately said “I’m sure she is fine, but yes, go get monitored and be reassured and please keep me posted”.

Have I mentioned how much we love this doctor? How amazing it feels to have a perinatologist that supports us, acknowledges Luca, and wants nothing more than to have us get to the other side of this pregnancy with our little girl alive in our arms? He doesn’t judge our freak outs and he shows nothing but nonjudgemental support.

We checked into triage, and the wait time seemed forever to get into a room. A nurse finally called our name, and brought us to the bed and left. It was likely a short time, but seemed like another eternity.  Another nurse came by and introduced herself as the one who would be running the monitoring. At this point, both Gina and I were whale-eyed, just wanting to be hooked up already.

As she was placing the straps on my belly, I started to hear the whooshing of baby’s heartbeat, and I think both Gina and I began to breathe again. A bit shaken up, I told the nurse that we came in to be monitored, and that we were hyper-sensitive because we had lost our first born.

She paused. Her name was Jen. She proceeded to ask us questions about the pregnancy and about Luca. She teared up listening to us recount his birth. She had a 10 month old baby girl.  She was compassionate, and empathetic. All the while hooking me up, looking at the baby’s movements, and reassuring us that everything looked good.

She immediately turned a stressful situation into a time to connect, and make two bereaved parents, feel secure and understood.

And baby girl looked good. Her heartbeat and movement looked great. She must have gotten herself in a funky position which made her movements not as easy to feel, which is what caused us to panic.

I am hoping she returns to her normal routine of world cup fever, immediately.

We came back home, and I walked into her room. Reminded again of what we have, what we had, and what we so hopefully and graciously, wait for. And tonight, we actually worked on our baby registry; something we had shy-ed away from for quite some time, is now existing. Granted it’s online, and we didn’t have to walk into a store to do it, but still, it’s a huge step for us, because we are looking forward. We are preparing for her now.

Her brother's books, now passed down to her.

Her brother’s books, now passed down to her.

 

My Sweet Luca

My Sweet Lord- George Harrison

The first time I really heard this song, like really heard it and paid attention to it, was in the lobby of a yoga studio, heading into class.

I heard it and I felt a sense of relief, of my heart expanding out of my chest. I wanted to sing along, or at least hum it. I cried tears of understanding.

I’ve never been a big believer in the ideas behind organized religion. Growing up Catholic, the kind that makes the mandatory biannual Christmas and Easter visits to church, I never felt any sort of connection to the stories, or the guy that my mother or her sisters would refer to in the “ay dios mio” sense when talking about something shocking. I’m still not a believer of organized religion. I’ve seen members of my own family become brainwashed into extreme religion that started with seemingly harmless joining of multi-level marketing businesses, and others sucked in to the idea of a better life and end up becoming the exact opposite of what I would imagine Jesus Christ would really teach.

Even when I heard that Luca wasn’t going to make it, I didn’t automatically think to pray. Maybe it’s because I had already seen the bad things that the prayers could never seem to fix, and good things that just seemed to happen without any prayer at all being involved. I don’t really remember what went through my mind at all the very first time I heard. I think I felt as if I was dreaming a horrible nightmare, and that everything would be fine when I woke up.

I always had an inclination that whatever was meant to happen, would. If I thought prayers would have helped, I would have fell to the ground on my hands and knees, and begged for him to stay. I would have traded anything for the chance to have him live his life, here on earth. I would do anything to have him here and hold him while he cried all night if he needed to, through the sleep deprivation, through the growing pains and teething. Any of it, I would have prayed for, if it would have actually helped.

I don’t know why, at that moment in the lobby of that yoga studio, when I heard George Harrison’s voice sing ‘My Sweet Lord‘, I felt that instant connection. A connection not to what the song said as ‘my lord’ as it relates to Jesus, but instead, to the universe. It was a fleeting one, but there I stood, grounded, like I had an idea as to why I was here.

That moment happened just before I got pregnant with Luca.

The song became a part of Luca’s birth playlist.

That same song I play for her. I cry. You couldn’t possibly be surprised. This is my story. My story is one filled with tears, and that’s part of how I deal with and process the death of my son. It is likely that my eyes will always start to well up when I think of how much I miss him. That’s part of my movement through it.  I shed tears for the moments I will never have with Luca, and those that I only hope to have with her. I change the words around and I sing it, to him.

“I really want to see you 
Really want to be with you
Really want to see you 
But it takes so long, my son