Saturday, October 22, 2011
I am overwhelmed with inspiration. This is the stuff that keeps me afloat, keeps me from staying in bed all day sobbing, as I am surrounded by reminders of being on bed rest last year and all the yucko feelings that come along with those flashbacks. This is about the time last year that I had to stop working and go on full bedrest, so I'm having a horrible time remembering how scared I was and how much hope I had a year ago and how both of my babies were alive at that point and at least had a chance to live...If only. I just shared with you the babyloss calendars made by two lovely women from the BLM community. And now, a blog post read by one of the most incredible writers I've been blessed to "meet" along my grief journey. Take a listen.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Yesterday, I spent a great part of the day getting the perfect photo taken, edited, uploaded, and tagged for all my BLM friends for International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I reached tagging limit easily and had to upload the same photo three times. I also listed all the names of the babies under each photo (of the women and men I tagged). This was very healing, very therapeutic for me, but also very time-consuming. In other words, I have more BLM friends than I realized. This is a blessing, to be surrounded by people who "get it", but oh so sad. So sad that so many people have lost babies. And I only friend a fraction of them, because if I friended every BLM I "met" on FB, it would absolutely overwhelm me and I'm positive I would exceed the limit for friends very quickly. When I was done, I was pretty much emotionally drained. I couldn't believe that it took so much out of me to just sit on the computer for a while and do this little "project" of mine to pay it forward. I expected to feel good and pumped to go to a remembrance ceremony at a local bereavement center afterward (as funny as that may sound), but I was just feeling "blah". I knew I would be given a wonderful opportunity to honor my son's life and to meet up with some local BLMs who have become friends of mine, but I was just in a funk from the very moment I left the house. On the road, I realized my heart was so very heavy. I met up with some BLM for dinner, which was great, but I just kept thinking how I never in my life EVER expected for THIS to be what planning a family led me to. A life sentence of memorial services, of feeling desperate to get others outside of the community to acknowledge my perfect, gorgeous, fully-formed son while they so readily ooooh and ahhhh over my daughter. Some days I feel like the worst mother, because I get resentful of the compliments I get...I just want to say, "I have a son, and he was gorgeous too! I don't know what color his eyes were, but I bet they were every bit as spectacular as hers!" I wonder if he's jealous of the attention she gets. Other days, on rough days when I am mourning him or spending a lot of time with blogs or other things in the loss community, I wonder if my living daughter is jealous of the attention her brother gets. Nothing I do is ever right, STILL, after all this time. Either that is parenthood for everybody, or I am just ridiculously hard on myself, but I don't know any other way to be. I am constantly being pulled away, pulled at the seams. I want to be here, 100% here, for both of my living children. But I have one living child and one deceased child instead of two living children. And so I always feel 50% here for one of my children and 50% able to grieve the child I lost. I'm not 100% at anything ever, and the perfectionist in me can't stand it. God am I far from perfect. I am so freaking imperfect I can't stand it. I feel myself giving up on trying to be perfect, because I can never be perfect and have a dead son at the same time. I adore the people I have met in this community, and I am not quiet about it - some of these people are the most inspirational and loving souls I've ever met, and I feel priveleged to know them and their stories. The outpouring of support on my FB page from people in AND out of the loss community was very heart-warming yesterday. The ceremony itself though was not what I expected. I don't know what I expected, but I know this wasn't it. Maybe ten months out is just too early for that kind of thing. I felt very exposed under harsh lighting and a smaller room than I expected to be in. I think it is still VERY difficult for me to publicly acknowledge my pain. And shame has crept up in fierce ways, probably because I keep reliving what I was doing last year at this time. Bedrest in hopes of keeping my babies safe. You have all heard me talk about that like a broken record, so I won't recount it again. I was such a fool, and I am ashamed. I feel like an idiot for not being able to keep my son alive, for not KNOWING something was wrong when it was wrong, for having BACKWARDS intuition that told me over the course of the entire pregnancy that something was off but then the week he died feeling peace and thinking everything would work out in the end. I expected to connect with others during the ceremony and feel uplifted and in tune. Instead, I felt awkward, hot, self-conscious, loathsome, and freakish. I expected to leave the ceremony feeling empowered, inspired, enlightened. Instead, I lit a candle for my son and just felt like I failed him so deeply. Failed him in the worst way. And lighting a candle seems so miniscule compared to a loss so massive. Nothing will ever fill the void. I felt stupid for presuming that something so simple could be healing. I mean what's the point? I took my seat after lighting the candle and felt like a failed mother. They asked us to meditate or say a prayer and then extinguish the candle, and I thought "What's the point in praying?" and felt that in blowing out the candle I was killing his memory somehow. It was not exactly a comforting point in the ceremony for me. I tried talking to a few other people, but they all were so composed compared to me, and I felt increasingly self-conscious and claustrophobic and like a freak even amongst "my own kind". Perhaps I need to do more grieving in private before I can do something like this again. But I will go again next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, because even if it's in the smallest of ways, I do get to mother my son by honoring his memory. And I will take any chance I get to mother him, because those opportunities are few and far between. The center that put this candlelighting ceremony on is non for profit, and I think what they do is amazing. Although I wasn't in the right space mentally and emotionally for it, I can see others benefit from it. I absolutely adore the candles they made for each baby remembered. I edited the photo of Elias's candle so I could post it here, but the actual candle has his full name on it and will make a perfect "presence" during holidays and special occasions. It's Sunday, and I'm so tired. I don't know why I thought this weekend wouldn't be emotionally overwhelming and exhausting. I am ready for a few days off of work to recover, seriously. I'm just so down right now. I hate when I feel this way. I want to hold my head up high and show my son I'm a survivor, but right now I just feel like I failed at the most important thing I was ever called to do, and I can't stand the sight of myself. I love you, Elias. Always and forever. Even though I do not feel worthy of you, and maybe, just maybe that's why you were taken from me, I will never ever blow the candle out that burns in my heart for you every single day. You are my son, today and all the days I have left on this earth and beyond. To the moon and back, baby boy. I love you.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
This is a candle I lit last night in honor of my son Elias and in memory of all the babies lost to my friends. If you are reading this, and you've lost a baby to miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss, then this candle was lit for you. I was saving this candle for a special occasion, and October 15th is the perfect date to share this. The Willow Tree angel holding a baby was given to me by my mom and usually sits on Elias's remembrance shelf. Let us take a moment to think about how many families are missing their babies today and every day. Also, here's a very powerful article that has been making its way around Facebook, one BLM at a time, about the heartache of infant loss. And, finally, facts versus myths regarding pregnancy loss. Keeping you and your babies in my thoughts and in my heart, today especially.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
How much did I lose on my journey to start a family? Is that even something quantifiable? Sometimes, when I think about it all, I get so overwhelmed, so I'm going to spill some of it here to let it loose and begin to work on letting it go. Because self-pity is not my style, truly. It just doesn't suit me, nor does it honor my son. What I lost... -My first pregnancy ended in a completely unexpected early loss (I had no idea you could have a miscarriage without any symptoms of bleeding, cramping, etc…) -Months of my life out of grieving and trying to recover from the blow of my miscarriage. -Months of my life trying to conceive again (wherein I felt a profound sense of loss every single time my period showed when I just wanted a positive pregnancy test). -The happiness of just being *pregnant* because I was terrified of bleeding and miscarrying again. -The joy of having an ultrasound because at the first one and every single one thereafter I was terrified there would be no heartbeat. -The joy of a “normal” pregnancy, because with twins I was high risk and had to worry times two, even though I was already worried more than your average pregnant mom before ever hearing the words, “There’s two in there!” -The excitement of finding out their genders, because I was convinced something would be very wrong with one or both of them or that they would see my cervix shortening prematurely which would indicate I could very well lose them both. -Feeling “normal” and “functional” at work because I couldn’t move around like I needed to or focus on any task in front of me. -Not being judged by others, as suddenly people were criticizing me (sometimes openly, sometimes behind my back) for being so cautious and being a “worry wort” (clearly not understanding the psychology of pregnancy after a loss!), “oversensitive”, “living in the past”, and/or “a pregnant diva”, all because I wanted what was best for my babies and was willing to sacrifice whatever might make them safer and healthier. (Apparently I was expected to climb two flights of stairs up to fifteen times a day while in the third trimester with twins without going into a panic about preterm labor.) -The joy of a “normal’ pregnancy and feeling like being pregnant with twins was very literally a subculture in and of itself that none of my friends (other than other twin moms online) understood. -The ability to talk lightly about my due date with people who would ask, because “Well my due date is 12/31/10…But twins come early, so it could really be any day now” (followed by looks of shock and horror that I would say something so NEGATIVE when I was just stating what I had been told hundreds of times by various medical sources…Again, with the twin thing being its own subculture that many people do NOT understand…) -The ability to freely purchase all the baby things I wanted / needed, because I would somehow “jinx” things the way I must have jinxed them before when I bought a few things and ended up miscarrying. -The ability to work until my water broke, as I had fully intended when we planned to have a baby. -The freedom to not do seven weeks of bedrest wherein I turned into a complete and total hermit and felt completely disconnected from my friends who mostly did not visit nor make a point to support me during one of the most trying times of my life. (Bedresters are their own subculture as well…)I had the joy of hearing "Oh just ENJOY this time! It's like a vacation! You just wait until those two little babies are here...You will be sorry you didn't just relax and enjoy all the peace and quiet of not working and having bedrest!!!" -The freedom to drive places, eat out at restaurants, go shopping, get a breath of fresh air while taking a brisk walk, amongst many other things so that I could do bedrest in hopes of ensuring the health of my children. -The luxury of asking my husband to go out and get me peach frozen yogurt and rub my back, because he was too freaking busy taking over the care of the entire household, chores, and meals, while I was on full bedrest. -Feeling closer to my husband through the pregnancy instead of feeling like I was a burden because of my lack of mobility. -My privacy, as I pretty much lived on the couch in our family room for a month and a half. I lost all of that and then some. I did it all and then some, to bring my twins into the world whole and healthy, and then one died anyway. Meanwhile, surrounding me were women who were very careless with their pregnancies, women who even blatantly ignored doctors’ orders and seemed to flaunt it in front of me, who all (thankfully) delivered live, healthy, breathing babies despite their complete ignorance and carelessness. Ten months post-loss, I get to read an article about a woman who ran a marathon without any regard to how dangerous it could be if she tripped and fell on her stomach while pregnant. She and the baby were (thankfully) just fine. She even got fame for it. I also get to read articles about women who seek no prenatal care at all and birth living, breathing, healthy babies only to kill them out of complete negligence or intentional murder. What do I get? I get eight months of “I’m so proud of you!”s followed by a lifetime of “I’m so sorry!”s and people pitying me, hoping that babyloss isn’t “catching”, trying to avoid eye contact as they pass me, and secretly judging me STILL. Judging me for how I acted during my pregnancy, judging me for how I handled everything, judging me for going back to work “SO quickly!!!”, judging me for leaving my daughter with loving family members while I go back to work, judging me for wanting to acknowledge that I am a twin mother, judging me for recognizing that I will always have a son, judging me for connecting with other babylossmamas, and secretly blaming me for the death of my son. Because healthy women under thirty years old who do bedrest and follow all the doctor’s orders just don’t end up with dead babies. So clearly, OBVIOUSLY, I must have done something wrong. They tell themselves this, because it helps them sleep better at night; it protects their Faith, and it eases their fears that a horrible tragedy like mine could happen to them. For the record, I am not bitter about my bedrest. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I believed in it, and I was happy to do it, but I won't deny that it was very trying. What I do resent is thinking that all of that would equal a happy outcome, because I really did, and this loss just completely blindsided me. ALL of this, when you look at the entire picture, was / is incredibly traumatizing to me, and I don’t think I fully understand the psychological or emotional impacts of it all on my heart, my mind, my identity, my life. I don’t even feel I have recovered from the miscarriage, let alone all that followed, and the feeling like I could NEVER do enough for my babies…and then one died anyway. I am just trying to process all of this and what it means in terms of who I am and how the pregnancy, not just the outcome, but how all I endured during the pregnancy in and of itself has profoundly changed me. I sometimes think those are the things I struggle with in terms of PTSD even moreso than the loss, just the everyday mental torment of never feeling I was ever doing enough for my twins. All the books I read that said how much sleep I should get, how much water I should drink, how many calories I should consume, only for me to vomit daily and feel I was failing my babies daily, even though they grew right on track and were healthy at every single checkup. I tried so hard to do everything right. It consumed almost all my thoughts and was my identity for the eight and a half months I carried them. Bringing them home safe meant more to me than anything in this world. It was my greatest challenge, and my greatest blessing, even with how difficult it was on me mentally, physically, and emotionally. How can I not feel I failed? How can I not feel everyone is disappointed in me? How do I ever reconcile that in my mind and in my heart? I would sacrifice everything all over again if it meant he could be here with me. I would lay on a freaking couch every second of every day for an entire year, for an entire decade, if it meant Elias could come back to me. I would give up my job, my social life, my favorite restaurants, every holiday there ever was, every shopping trip, walk in the park, and family outing. I would endure just about anything. I would give my own life. But I can’t. Instead, I have to live without him. Live without him, and live with knowing (in the logical part of my mind) that I did everything I could and then some, while others are careless and for whatever reason get rewarded for their carelessness. The loss of my son. The loss of the unique parenting experience that is raising twins. The loss of my daughter’s same aged brother. The loss of my faith in prayer, in a God that intervenes, and in a God that is looking out for me and my family. The loss of my understanding of the world. The loss of believing there is any sense of logic, reason, or order to this world. The loss of my world as I knew it. What else must I lose? Friends who don’t want to be reminded that horrible things sometimes happen to good people? People being proud of me, because how can you be proud of a woman who couldn’t keep her baby alive? My marriage? My self esteem? My self worth? My identity? My morality? Who knows where the loss will end, if ever, for me. It’s a pity party, and I’m invited. I’ve gone from being a member in the subculture of being pregnant with twins and feeling misunderstood, to the subculture of being a bedrester and feeling judged, to the subculture of being a babylossmama and feeling ostracized by society. I’ll never, ever, ever be “normal”. And during my next pregnancy, whenever that may be, I will still be cheated. Cheated out of the joy of a blissful, ignorant, naïve pregnancy that most women get to experience. Cheated out of thinking a positive pregnancy test means I will have a live, breathing, healthy baby at the end. Cheated out of thinking that a full anatomy scan that shows everything is fine means I will have a live, breathing, healthy baby at the end. Cheated out of thinking that once we are “viable” we will have a live, breathing, healthy baby at the end. Cheated out of thinking that once we are past the danger zone for prematurity we will have a live, breathing, healthy baby at the end. Cheated out of thinking that once we are at term we will have a live, breathing, healthy baby at the end. Cheated out of thinking that multiple ultrasounds and non-stress tests and biophysical profiles that all turn out with normal results equal a live, breathing, healthy baby at the end. Cheated out of the excitement that ensues when a “blissful, ignorant, naïve” woman’s water breaks. Cheated out of the excitement of packing a hospital bag with cute fuzzy socks and granola bars and coming home outfits and assuming that all will be peachy keen. Cheated out of assuming that babies don’t die and that God is on my side so nothing will happen to me or my child. Cheated out of hanging around the hospital chomping on ice chips and asking for my sister to get my chapstick and a tabloid for me to flip through to pass the time. Cheated out of having my husband hold one of my legs while my mother holds the other and I deliver a live, breathing, healthy baby at the end. Cheated out of even thinking that a planned c-section will ensure a live, breathing, healthy baby at the end. Cheated, robbed, and ripped off. From the joy of pregnancy, birth, a hosptial stay, and the “afterglow”. There will always be one missing. Two missing, to be exact.And I don't know if my mind and heart will heal from being battered so. And yet, the baby to come, the baby we are yet to conceive, the baby we aren’t even thinking about trying to conceive yet…Would not even have the potential to come into our lives had Elias lived. So will I love that child that much more because of it? Will I learn to resent that child because of it? I think I will just miss my son, no matter what, and I will love my future child(ren), no matter what. But what I’m hoping is that all this loss is over with, someday, somehow. What I hope for is the ability to overcome these feelings of loss, to some degree. To learn to enjoy pregnancy by embracing my utter lack of control over the outcome, which I was never able to do last time, or the last two times, to be exact. To recognize that the end result is that I have a family, and even if my road to that end result is a rocky and terrifying one, I am lucky to have a family at all in a world where some women only experience infertility, loss, and no living children. To recognize that I have delivered a living child, and I mother a living child, and her name is Evelyn, and she is the most beautiful baby girl I have ever seen, and no one can take that mothering away from me. Not today, not ever, no matter what. To recognize that even though Elias died, our hearts in that hospital were so full of love for him…That the pain of his loss sprung from how much love we had, and still have, and nobody can take that love away. To recognize that I am still a mother to twins, and I still have a son, and no one can take that away from me, and it’s part of who I am, forever. To recognize that Elias is always with me. Always. He may just be my spirit guide, a butterfly flying free, a star in the sky leading me to live better. To recognize that there were joyful moments with our daughter in that hospital, and during my c-section, when the doctors held her up for me to see, I knew I would live.