There and Back Again

Time has flown.  I've been away again...and again making another baby!  16 weeks along with Rainbow Baby #2 aka Cao Baby #3.  Our first rainbow, my Emma Lucille, is 9 months old.  She fills my life with love and sunlight like only she can.  I get lost in her big brown eyes and could listen to her little snore-filled sleep breathing forever.  She's a wild one, not afraid to make it known what she wants and not taking crap from anyone.  Already a little firecracker and she can't even walk or talk yet.  I could go on and on about how this little person has changed my life forever, has made me feel things I never thought I'd feel again.  Feelings I thought were lost the day we lost Owen.  Such happiness I thought was never to be mine, I really thought I'd never be this happy, this content again.  Yet here I am.  Up to my elbows in dirty diapers and baby laundry, but drowning in love and laughter and her hugs at the same time.

It's hard to say if I'd have it any other way.  I've thought about this many times.  If I could go back in time and save Owen (was he meant to be saved?) would I?  Before Emma was Emma, before I was pregnant, my immediate answer would have been YES!  Are you mental?  Of course I'd go back and alter this heartache, this grief-stricken journey I've been on.  Now, it's hard to say, honestly.  If I did, would Emma be here?  Would Emma be the Emma we know and love?  Would Owen have lived?  Would I have saved him only for him to pass away from something that couldn't have been prevented?  Yet more questions with no answers.  Just thoughts, sometimes crazy, sometimes dark, but they're mine.

It's a bittersweet thing, this rainbow baby business.  Emma has no idea what an impact she has had on me in her short life, and how she'll continue to teach me things forever.  Owen made me a mom, of that I'm certain.  Emma, though, Emma is giving me a crash course in parenthood.  As I've watched her grow, I cannot help but think about my son and wonder what his personality would be like.  Who would he become?  From the few pictures we have of him, my husband and I are certain Owen would have looked like him.  Emma, on the otherhand, looks like me.  She's strong-willed, stubborn, high maintenance - just your average girl.  What would he have been like?  The complete opposite?  The same?  Who knows.  I daydream about him being here, being her big brother in real life-right now, instead of, to her, being just pictures and urn on the shelf we show her and say, "Brother.  This is your brother, Owen."

I'm back to worrying again.  I go to every appointment for this baby in my belly expecting to hear that it too has passed away.  It's a sad, dark thing - to think about your baby dying.  Now, I can't help it.  I never imagined (who does?) that the way I would bring my son home would be in an urn.  But now?  I mentally go through the events in my head.  What I would do when and if they tell me this baby didn't make it.  Who would I call?  What would we do?  I imagine calling my husband, and then my parents, and then my siblings...I can hear their tears, their sighs.  I quickly push these horrible thoughts away and try to think positively.  I imagine this baby and Emma playing together, boy or girl (we don't know yet).  It'll get easier/harder as we get closer to the fall arrival of our newest addition, but I'm ready.  More prepared (though it's never enough, is it?) thanks to both Emma and Owen, for whatever comes our way.  

Until next time, keep looking up.


The Rainbow

I've been away.  Off living life, working...oh yeah, and making a baby!  Here I am - 15 weeks pregnant with our rainbow baby.  No nickname for this one yet, we’ve just been calling him/her “baby” and “little one”.  My husband will sometimes just point and say “this one” when we’re talking about the baby.  I wonder why we don’t have a nickname yet.  With Owen it was so easy.  He was Peanut.  From the start, boy or girl, that baby was Peanut.  Perhaps it’s a safety mechanism.  Protecting ourselves from getting too comfortable.  How horrible does that sound?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m already in love with this little baby.  I just find it hard to daydream about the future like I did with Owen.  It was as if he was already a part of our lives even before he was here.  For some reason, though, I cannot see this little one for more than what it is…a little baby the size of an apple, or navel orange depending on which pregnancy site you follow.

Had these made by Tootoolicious on Etsy to surprise Mike.
I find myself saying “if”.  IF this baby comes home, IF everything goes well.  Before losing Owen I would have never said such things.  What normal person would?  When I was pregnant with Owen, it was always “when” he gets here, but that “when” never came.  Now, with this little one, I find myself more cautious because I am fully aware of just what can happen.  Instead of talking to this baby as I did with Owen, I say things like, “stay with me, little one.”  It has become my mantra.  Any twinge of pain, even ones that are completely normal like my muscles loosening or my uterus growing…”Stay with me, little one.”
I finally gathered the courage to start filling out the pregnancy journal I bought for this little rainbow.  I had been putting it off, telling myself that IF everything is ok at my next appointment I will start to write in it.  IF I make it to 3 months, I’ll start taking belly photos.  Being that we lost Owen so late in the pregnancy, I don’t know that I have a reason to worry so early on, but it’s that same reason that makes me worry.  Pregnancy seems to have lost the sparkle it once held for me, but I am determined to get it back.  Yes, there is much I can worry and be anxious about, but who would that help?  Not me and certainly not this little rainbow.  This baby deserves all the good I can bring to the table and that's just what he/she is going to get.  We still have decisions to make:  when will we decorate the nursery?  What will we use and what will we buy new?  Some things I know, like I don't want to have a baby shower.  I'd rather have a party after this baby is safely in my arms.

It helps to have such supportive friends and family.  People checking in to see how this little one is doing keeps me positive.  People saying they thought about Owen or that something reminded them of him also makes me smile.  They know that I have two children.  Though neither are completely present, they’re on their minds and that’s what counts.  They help keep me positive, and I need all of that I can get.  So far, so good.

Update again soon...maybe with a name????


The Tangible Things

I laid in the hospital bed wondering how I was going to deliver my son, silent, into this world.  I mean, I know the mechanics of it.  The medicine they were pumping into my veins would start the labor process and then my body would do what it was meant to.  My mind, however, was not at all prepared for going through all that pain only to leave empty-handed.  One of my nurses, Pam, handed me a teddy bear.  In my medically-induced buzz, I named him "Squishy" in "i shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine and he shall by my Squishy" from Finding Nemo.  My husband says I repeated this several times.  Growing up, I never had a stuffed animal that I always had to have with me.  I had my toys, yes, but none that meant the world to me.  Since she handed him to me, I have not spent one night without Squishy.

I have realized that he means so much to me because he reminds me of my son, my little lost one.  That bear is something I can hug, kiss, and hold in my aching arms when I miss Owen (which is often).  Owen.  His name means so much to me now.  I write it everywhere and I write it often.  While others have pictures of their children as they grow, I am left with one set of photos...his first and his last.  What I have is his name - Owen Henry Cao, my Peanut, my <3 ohc <3 - those photos, and my memories of those beautiful 39 weeks we had with him.

Owen Henry Cao. The one that wasn’t to be.  Why not sooner?  Would I feel better if we lost him sooner?  No, I know I wouldn't.  No matter when my loss would have happened, my heart would still be just as broken.  From the moment we found out about him, he was our son and we loved him.  That is many of the “what ifs” that wander my mind aimlessly – never having an answer.  But a week before his due date?  At the point where we were just waiting for the onset of labor.  That seems so cruel.  The moment that I thought, “this is it” I was told it wasn't to be.  My son’s heart stopped beating.  An unsolved mystery that only few still care about.  The hospital, the medical examiner, they've all moved on.  They did their part and went on to the next case…and left me behind with a million questions that have no answers.  This is what it must feel like to be obsessed with something.  I constantly think about my son, whenever the water calms at the end of the day thoughts of him rise to the surface. The happy memories of my pregnancy, the devastating news of his death, and the beautiful aftermath he left behind.  


The Next One

13 squares
My husband and I have begun talking more about the next baby we will have, the way we did when I was pregnant with Peanut. We talk about how we will raise them and the things we'll do as a family. We talk about names, nursery decor, and the things we'll still need to buy before their arrival. It's sad that Peanut is not included, and I find myself feeling almost guilty.

I want to be blissfully happy with my subsequent pregnancy the way I was with Peanut. I want to think about only the good, focus only on the positive. It was so easy with Peanut. Now, I fear, feeling happy and positive will be more of a chore. It'll be easy to focus on what can go wrong, for I've lived that, I don't know how to feel good about it anymore. I'll have to remind myself to be happy and not focus on what has happened, but try to envision what will happen...or at least what I pray will happen.

I know things will be different once I am pregnant again. I know there are things I will do differently and things I will do the same as I did with Peanut. I will love this baby the same, I will talk to him or her everyday. I will sing to them, read to them, and my husband will kiss them goodbye every morning - all the same as with Peanut. I feel, however, I will leave some things undone.

I will not have a baby shower, I'd rather have a party when we bring the next baby home to visit our families. As a good friend put it, "you'd rather celebrate the arrival than the promise of a baby." Which, when I think about it, is exactly what I did at Peanut's baby shower. We celebrated his anticipated arrival, even though it was never promised, never certain. I will also make more pregnancy memories. With Peanut, I was so focused on capturing memories of his arrival and afterward that I missed out on precious moments during my pregnancy - which, is all the memories I have now.

I'm unsure as to whether I will set up the nursery before the baby arrives. We don't really have to register for anything, we have everything we need. Hand-me-downs that were never used, but handed down with love nonetheless. I know what I will do is choose different nursery decor. I still have Peanut's, but feel that the monkey theme was his and his brother or sister should get something different. This is probably more for me than for them. They won't remember what their nursery decor was, but to me, monkeys were Peanut's thing. It wouldn't feel right to reuse that.

All these things I'm thinking about and I'm not even pregnant yet.  It's comforting, though, to think about the future.  It gives me hope, a hope I so desperately need to cling to.

The Conversation

A few months ago, my niece Mia ran up to me and put her hands on my tummy.  "Where is he?  Where is he?", she asked with twinkles in her eyes.  I was struck dumb.  What do I say?  My brother told her what happened, she knows he's dead...doesn't she?  I finally muttered, "I don't know...go blow your nose."  She smiled and ran off.
Recently, we were in my car where I have a photo of Owen hanging from my rearview mirror and I also have one of his sonogram pictures attached to the passenger sun visor.  When we lost Owen, I told my brother’s children (ages 14, 11, and 6) that they could ask me anything about him and what happened – I would always be straightforward and honest with them. 
Mia: what are those? *pointing to sonogram*
Me: those are from when he was still in my tummy.
Mia: oh, and then he came out?
Me: yes, and then he came out.
Mia: and he looked like that. *pointing to ohc picture*
Me: yes, and he looked like that.
Mia: and then he died...
I was stunned by her blunt statement.   Usually people avoid talking about Owen; I can see them become physically uncomfortable when I mention his name or my pregnancy.  She was just saying what was on her mind.  I respect her for that.  To be honest, it was a breath of fresh air to have this sort of conversation, even if it was with a six-year-old. 
Me: *stunned silence* yes, Mia, he died.
Mia: why didn't I get to see him when he came out?
Me: I thought it would be too sad for you. Did you want to see him?
Mia: yes, I wanted to see him, but they didn't let me.
Me: I'm sorry.
Mia: then he went up there, right? *pointing her tiny index finger skyward*
Me: yes, he went to heaven.
Mia: did you see him go?
Me: no, but we know that's where he went.
Mia: do you know why he passed away?
Me: no, we don't. I think it was just an accident.
Mia: what if you have another baby?
Me: what do you mean?
Mia: what's going to happen if you have another baby?
Me: then we'll have another baby and Owen will be a big brother.
Mia: I want you to have another baby.
Me: so do I, Mia.
Mia: I'm sorry he died.
Me: so am I.

It was as if we were talking about something completely different; shooting the breeze, chatting about school, not talking about my dead son.  I was amazed at how okay she was talking about this. She wasn't uncomfortable, she was fine.  She had questions and she wanted answers.  I wish more people were like her.


The Rant

I sometimes wish I could look as ragged and aged on the outside as I feel on the inside.  I feel ancient inside, I’ve lived a lifetime in just 7 months.   I wish people could see how weathered and broken I feel sometimes.  Maybe then they would understand just how hard it is.  “You’re still young, you can have more children,” does make me or any grieving parents feel better.  I could have a hundred more children, but they could never replace my Peanut.  My first.  I never thought I could love someone so much.  A pure love, a mother’s love.
Quite frankly, I don’t care if talking about my pregnancy or my dead son makes you uncomfortable.  He is and always will be a huge part of my life.  Not just some unfortunate event from which we will try to heal.  I spent 10 months waiting for him – preparing his room, talking to him, eating the right things so he could grow.  How dare you expect me to just *poof* move on.  You weren’t the one who had to put all those baby things away. You weren’t the one who had to tell your family that the new addition they were so anxious will not be coming home.  You weren’t the one who had to lay there and endure 9 hours of labor and delivery only to leave the hospital empty handed.  You are not the one who has to live with this anchor called grief every day.  Carry it around and still manage to smile and force yourself to have good days.  You think it’s easy?  Some days I would rather the Earth split open and swallow me whole than have to walk around like I’m not completely broken inside.  And yet, here I stand.  After all that I have been through, I am still here.  Broken, yes, but here.  My soul weathered from the storm that was Owen, but more resilient having known him.  You should all be so proud that we grieving parents have chosen to share this part of our lives with you.  You should feel cherished that we who hold our children in our hearts think to share them with you.  You can’t see them running around or sleeping soundly in their beds.  Many, I should say most, people we meet in our day to day lives will never know how strong we truly are. They will never know that we go home and cry ourselves to sleep.  They will never know they hell we endure every day without our children.
Put aside the fact that only a fraction on the “swimmers” actually make it to the egg. How’s this for some knowledge:  there’s only a 24-hour window each month within which one can become pregnant.  BOOM!  It almost frightens me that some mothers I know were not aware of this.  While pregnant, I read and read about pregnancy, becoming pregnant, the birth.  I don't like not knowing what is happening or what is going to happen.  would it be considered ironic how I planned and planned for Peanut to be here, but then the most unplanned, unexpected thing happened?  I don't know if that's the right word. 
How is it that I know the facts, did the research, plan it out and yet I am still without child?  How is it so difficult for me to get pregnant?  I temp, keep track of my cycles, and more all to one day have a new born in my arms again.  And yet I come up with a “-“each month. Am I trying too hard?  Do I not want it bad enough?  What do I have to do to show the universe, God, or whoever that I want to be a mother.  Speaking of "mother", I am dreading mother's day.  I planned how I would spend it with Peanut and was already planning on what to do for Mike for Father's Day.  I pictured us making Mike a little clay imprint of Peanut's hands and feet that said something like "Happy Father's Day - 2012".  And now what?  Little things will always creep up that remind me just how much I'm missing out on.  I see parents walking with children in strollers, carrying little ones in baby carriers, "baby on board" signs.  Each time a little piece of me breaks.
Maybe, so that’s why I decided the best distraction would be work.  I’m not broken, I can still work.  I’m hoping my new job will distract me enough and make this whole baby making a lot easier.  My husband and I are agreed that I will work through my next pregnancy.  I feel that it is the best thing for me because I cannot go through those 40 weeks, knowing how wrong things can go, without a distraction.  I hate that I will have to try to enjoy this pregnancy rather than just letting it be.  I hate that I already know I’m going to focus on the bad, and I’m already trying to think of ways to calm myself down. I’m not even pregnant yet.
I’ve never been so disappointed to see “not pregnant” on those stupid digital tests. Pregnancy test, how can you be so blunt?  Don’t you realize you’re stabbing me in the heart?  Have you no compassion?  Of course not, you’re a machine.  And I’m obviously crazy; arguing with a home pregnancy test.
Losing my son is the worst thing that will ever happen to me.  I can say that with certainty. While I have lost other loved ones in my life and will eventually lose more to age, sickness, and what not, nothing will compare to the loss of my son.  I have memories of my grandfather that I will cherish forever; my family and I often tell stories of him and as we laugh, we remember and mourn him.  He was loved by our entire family.  I don’t get to share stories of Peanut the way we do of my grandfather.  Because no one was there.  It was all me, and some of my husband.  No one can remember how he’d kick when I would watch ‘I Love Lucy’ and laugh so hard, only me.  No one can reminisce about how Mike would have his hands on my belly waiting for Peanut to kick, talking to him while we were in the car…none of that.  That’s what makes it that much harder.  I want to talk about him and remember all the wonderful things that happened while he was alive, but no one can remember those with me. 


The Good Days

"Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return." - Mary Jean Iron

Normal days used to bore me. Now I long for them. I hope for days when I am so wrapped up in meaningless chores or errands that my mind isn't allowed to wander. But, tricky, little thing my mind is, it always finds a way...the little bugger. It can be something as direct as seeing a little Asian baby at a restaurant. My husband is Chinese and we live in a primarily Asian part of imagine how often that happens. It'll get me thinking about what Peanut would look like, how big he would be, what his temperament would be like; things like that. Or it could be as out there as this: my husband took me on a fabulous date the other night to a hoity-toity restaurant, you know the kind with a dress code and where they put the napkins in your lap. We were enjoying this fabulous dinner (it haunts my dreams, it was so amazing) and right in the middle of it, i started thinking how we should have needed a babysitter (my mom or his mom) to watch Peanut, go through the bedtime routine i would have had him on: dinner, bath, book, prayer, bed...or something like that. I can't say for certain what it would be because I never got to create it. So here I was, all fancied up, with the man I love, in this amazing place and I was sad. Go figure, but that's what grief does to you.

I'm not as religious as others, but I do believe in God. I couldn't have gotten through losing Peanut without prayer and putting my pain and hurt on God. But I must admit there are times when I just look up and say, "why?" We wanted him so much, loved him so much, why did he have to leave us? Some will say it's God Will and we won't always understand. I'm sorry, but I can't live thinking it was God's Will to take my son away from me. God knows how much I love my son, how much I couldn't wait for his arrival, and I can't believe in a God that would take something like that away. Though I'll never know why Peanut passed away when he did or if it will affect his brothers or sisters when I'm pregnant with them, I pray that this was "just one of those things". Like, this was a terrible thing that has happened, but it's something that won't happen again. I wish I could be so sure. I wish this was the one terrible thing that happened to me in my life and that I could be spared pain for the rest of it, but I know that's not the case. That's not how life works. If only, if only.

There are good days, though. It's not as if I walk around in a bathrobe all day with tissues coming out of the pockets. I have days where I can think about Peanut, not about what happened, but just about him - his face, his hands, his feet, his ears, his lips - and actually smile. My biggest accomplishment in life was growing this little person. I sometimes still can't believe that I did it; he was so beautiful. Then again, I'll never beat the Duggars, but I would like 2 or 3 more children. Coming from a big family myself (2 brothers, and about 28 cousins on each side) I love a house where there's always something happening - someone's always there to talk to, someone's always in the kitchen, there's always noise. I never realized how much I loved noise until I spent time alone in this house. It feels so huge, empty, and silent since Peanut. So, the good days. They're not perfect and I wouldn't want them to be. I get frustrated in traffic, forget things at the grocery store, and burn dinner. But I'll take that any day over the days I spend crying in the shower.

Oh, but the bad days. Sometimes, I'll relive the whole thing all over again. I don't want to, but my mind. I'll hear the midwife's voice ringing in my head, "i'm sorry, but there's no heartbeat." I'll remember delivering him and bawling to my husband, "my baby, my poor little boy." So, though I function: I laugh and make others laugh (I love doing that), I work, I do all these things, there is still a grief inside me that I feel most would wonder how I even get out of bed. But we do, us grieving parents, we get out of bed and live our lives with this dark cloud always looming over us. "Tut, tut, it looks like rain." - Christoper Robin from Winnie the Pooh and the honey bees. Please know, that though we do these things, though we may have other children (either before or after our loss) that the pain will never leave us. We will never forget those that should have been. For me, it's a dull pain, one you don't always notice, but is always there. And when you notice it, when you dwell on it, it gets worse...much, much worse. But you stand it, never getting it checked out, just taking it on as your "new normal."

This is just a little something I came up's not good, but it's my crack at being creative.

Appreciate the normal days,
When they are few and far between.
Be thankful for the good days,
Try to understand what they mean.
Pray on those sad days,
When all you can do is grieve.
Be strong through the hard days,
Know they will not always be.

again, sorry if this one seems like rambling...