Mark just texted me from work in Orem, Utah. Apparently, it is snowing there right now. Of course it is. Of course, the one year he didn't take off Isabel's birthday, it is going to snow and he is 75 miles away from home. It's his punishment for being too valuable to take off time during this extremely busy time at work.
The snow falling isn't just a commute annoyance for my husband. It is a reminder that five years ago, we met and said goodbye to our first born. We knew she wasn't going to stay with us. We knew she was very sick and that she would probably pass soon after her birth, if she was even able to survive that. Which she didn't. After 37 hours of intense labor and an hour of pushing, she passed, unable to take the brutality of being born. Three hours later, my doctor physically pulled her out and onto my waiting chest, unable to admit that she had passed. The medical team NEVER admitted she passed. It was something we figured out ourselves. The realization punctuated when the largest snowfall of the year started outside.
And now, five years have passed since that night when that sweet baby was placed on my chest, lifeless and beat up. I still remember that exact moment when Mark saw her and left my side, sobbing. I just looked at her. This was the moment I had waited for, the moment I became a mom. And here I was, looking at my first born, in utter dismay that I had failed to get her out in time. I had failed her again. She was gone, and it was all my fault.
Isabel was diagnosed with Anencephaly at my big ultrasound at 18 weeks. The ultrasound tech was too afraid to tell us what she was seeing, so after the appointment, we were sent to my doctor, who was pulled from surgery to tell us what they had found. A week later we made the trip to a specialist who confirmed the diagnosis. With upturned nose he informed me that I needed to "get rid of it" and that "I was a bad mom for continuing on with the pregnancy" because I "certainly could die from complications." When I asked what caused this he claimed "It is probably your fault for being overweight and not taking prenatal vitamins and eating poorly." Despite the fact that I had actually lost a little weight before getting pregnant, was eating healthy, and was taking a prenatal with 1 gram of folic acid, more than most prenatals contain. I left depressed and hating myself. I had caused this.
Five years later, and a lot of research under my belt, it turns out that he actually knew very little about Anencephaly. Yes, a lack of folic acid can cause Anencephaly, but there are a lot of other factors that can also. In my case, the likelihood it was a folic acid deficiency is low because I was taking almost 3 times the amount a normal woman would take. I could have the MTHFR gene mutation, which causes Anencephaly, as well as many other birth defects. I have never been tested because of the cost and our insurance wouldn't cover any of it. This could also be caused by environmental factors like pestisides and mold in our food system. I grew up on a farm, constantly exposed to all sorts of bad things. And before Isabel, Mark and I didn't take eating organic seriously. Trust me, we certainly do now!
All of these "it could be this" and "you might have this" still comes back to me. I still, five years later, bitterly blame myself for her death. Despite having a healthy child since, I still think of my healthy daughter as a fluke and Isabel as the norm. The loss of Addison's twin only instilled in me how my body is hurting my children. And as I sit here, five years later, I still feel the terrible pain of knowing that Isabel never stood a chance. And I hate myself for that.
Everyone tells me that grief gets easier. People are liars. It gets easier to be distracted from the pain, but the pain is still there. I like to think of my thoughts and emotions as an ocean. Isabel's loss is like an oil spill. The memories and pain permeate the water. Every aspect of my life has been touched by her. At first, all I could see was the oil floating on the top, covering everything, changing what and who was allowed to stay in the water. I have learned to let go of several things and people in my life that couldn't deal with my grief. And that is fine. Time has helped the water push the grief to the bottom, but sometimes, my pain rises to the top and I can no longer ignore that there will always be pain, grief, longing, and sadness in my ocean.
I have been forever changed. Becoming a mother does that to you. So does grief. So does life. I wish with every fiber of my being she was here today, opening her presents and eating cake. Instead I look to the falling rain outside and think about how this is her way of being her today, just like the falling snow was her way of saying goodbye five years ago. It isn't the same thing, but it is all we have and I will take it.