Russell and I have often talked about what kind of grief hits hardest. Not that you can really compare one situation to another and accurately measure their impact… but does losing a baby without any warning hit harder than knowing the whole way along? Or how about losing a child a few years in?
There’s no value in comparison. Every situation hurts and every situation has its pros and cons, if we must evaluate them.
But at the same time, I do feel some grace in knowing and having time to prepare, and I guess, begin to process my grief now. I’m not being slapped in the face on delivery day with tragic news. In fact quite the opposite, if our baby does live for a moment or more, we’d feel incredibly fortunate because it would be so contrary to the medical reality.
So, in having this prior warning of the dread ahead, it means we can prepare a lot in advance. Which is rather handy in some ways, but also extremely weird in others!
Here’s how life’s stacked up in the last few weeks…
Labour Day at the Cemetery – A slightly ironic day to do it, but we went on a family trip to the cemetery to look at the children’s plot and where we might bury her when it comes to that. We read the plaques, looked out for friends’ babies' graves and my sister’s grave.
Picking a gravesite – I rang to enquire about purchasing a grave... only to find out there’s no direct line so you’re put on hold on the council phone number. I gave up after 15 minutes and instead wrote them an email with a bit of feedback – ‘I wasn’t expecting gravesites to be in such high demand that you’d have to be put on hold for so long. When a person’s in the midst of grief, listening to half an hour of Crowded House is hardly compassionate – perhaps a direct line would be more appropriate?’
Predicting the future – We spent the day at the hospital meeting anyone and everyone involved in the weeks ahead. As I talked about in my last post, it was amazing to be given so much say in how our baby will be born and the time we might get with her – a massive change to what we had known before and it really made me feel a lot more at peace with the situation. Honestly the care you’re given at the hospital is amazing. Everything is thought of, and people go above and beyond in the things they do for you.
Paid parental leave? Probably not – I remembered I’m entitled to paid parental leave, so thought I should probably sort that one out. Did a bit of Googling and discovered that you’re actually only entitled to it if your baby lives. If baby is stillborn, no payout. Rather harsh, particularly if you’re in a situation where you have no idea your baby will be stillborn. That’d be a time, I thought, where a family could well and truly do with a bit of financial and mental backup. The counselor has since informed me that they decide on a case-by-case basis, so I will chase that one… when I can be bothered!
Picking a photographer – So, we’ve been rather cheap parents… family photos haven’t been top of our priority list. I’m picky about what I like and don’t like, and Russell always says, ‘Can’t we just take them ourselves?’. Ahhhh, yeah, but do we?!
Well in this case, the pics straight after baby is born may be the only ones we have of her… so let’s make an effort. I’ve found a photographer I like and she’ll be there on the day. The medical team has even said they may allow the photographer into the theatre to capture first moments because of our circumstances.
Shopping for a funeral dress – It could hardly be described as retail therapy, shopping for a dress for your baby to wear to her funeral. Perhaps more a case of me needing therapy. While it seems a bit pre-emptive, I know that when life hits the fan, the last thing I want to be doing it traipsing around Westfield searching for the right dress in the right size for a tiny sub-5lb baby, while shop assistants bubble and fizz with festive chatter. So I’ll shop early rather than be a grieving Grinch. My sister offered to do the shopping, but if this is the only dress I get to buy baby, then I think it’s something I should do.
Writing a birthplan for baby – The medical team need a bit of a plan for how we want things to play out in certain situations on delivery day. Now anyone who’s had a baby will know that birthplans often get thrown away with the first contraction. And that was always my thinking with a birthplan… why be so prescriptive?
But in this case, it’s actually the time after the birth that’s the most important thing. If we have any time at all with her alive, it will only be minutes – how do we have her in our arms for as much time as possible while still allowing the docs to do their job? How much intervention do we want to keep her alive? Where do you find that balance between time, comfort and quality of life? What if things are looking much better than we expected? Who do we need to cue to be waiting in the wings to meet her if they have the chance?
Booking a Caesar – Met with the obstetrician and was given a date for a Caesar. It’s a little later than we hoped (I’ll be 36 weeks) but we know that time is important for her lung development as she’s rather tiny, so it means if we have time with her, there will hopefully be less medical intervention. Nice to know we can plan, have things in place and people ready. 2.5 weeks… hold on baby!
Christmas shopping sorted in 2 hours – Knowing the Caesar date kicked me into gear for Christmas. I’ll likely be in hospital or not feeling up to it in December, so, time to nail Christmas. I’ve never been so organized. 90% sorted in 2 hours with the help of Mum, my sister, and K-Mart.
Planning with palliative care – So what happens if baby lives? Well if we’re going off the science, she’ll be rather limited with major brain, heart and lung issues for however long her little life may last. If our baby goes beyond expectations and continues to live, that's when the palliative care team kick in and help her get the most out of life and live comfortably, whether that’s in hospital or at home. It’s all rather unknown and seems so far off when you know there’s such a tiny percentage chance of that happening, but worth discussing I guess.
Baby’s birthday – Hopefully…. When you’re given a date, suddenly the pressure’s on and it’s like a target you’re trying so hard to hit. 2.5 weeks at this stage seems like a very long time, particularly when you’re watching constantly for signs of something going wrong.
There are still a lot of the other bits and bobs to pull together in those weeks ahead. All this preparation seems so ‘un-natural’ and prescriptive – I’m more a go with the flow kind of girl… well, planned but flexible is probably more honest ;). It’s the final countdown and we don’t know what will happen on the day, but hopefully the preparation, both physically and mentally, will make whatever the outcome is, slightly simpler.