Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Why couldn't I bring home my twins? Am I not worthy of them? Am I a horrible person? Did I do something terrible in a prior life? Am I being punished? Is this a sign that my husband and I are wrong for one another? Am I not a good enough mother to have two babies at once? Do we not make enough money? Is our house not big enough? Is our neighborhood not nice enough? Are my parents not deserving of twin grand babies? Was I too fearful and insecure about my abilities at parenthood? Did God think I took my babies for granted even though I prayed every single night, sometimes two or three times a night, for my babies to be born safely? Did this happen because I was depressed during my pregnancy? Did this happen because I had a miscarriage beforehand? Was I lulled into a false sense of security after hearing countless times, “Your babies are going to be fine! Stop worrying!”? Did I not eat enough of the right foods? Did I not gain enough weight? Did I puke so much that it hurt my baby? Did I not drink enough water? Did I not read some ingredient on a label of a food or drink I was consuming that was dangerous? Did I use a face lotion or shower gel or makeup that absorbed into my skin and killed my son? Was my shower water too hot? Did I inhale some fumes unknowingly that weakened his placenta somehow? Did I bump my tummy on a wall or counter and kill my son without realizing it? Did I drink a couple of beers before realizing I was pregnant and cause this to happen? Did I sleep funny and cause something horrible to happen? If I had taken prescription prenatal vitamins instead of over-the-counter, could I have saved him? If I saw a nutritionist and a high risk doctor to begin with, would my son be here? Did my premature labor at 30 weeks cause my loss 7 weeks later? Did my bedrest kill my son? If I had ignored all the doctor’s instructions like some women so blatantly do, would he be here? If I had taken up residence in a hospital and had 24/7 monitoring, would my son be here? Should I have insisted on an emergency c-section at 36 weeks, even though I didn’t realize my son would be in danger? Would they have taken my babies then without having a medical reason to do so? When would they have scheduled the csection if I insisted on an earlier one, and would it have been before or after the bleed? Would it have made a difference? Would he have been born alive? Would he even have any quality of life after having suffered a massive bleed? Why didn’t I know that my son would need saving?!?! Why didn’t the doctors know?!?! Why didn’t fourteen ultrasounds detect or predict a problem?!?! Did I need to be “knocked down a peg” as being pregnant with twins made me feel special, and clearly I am not? Did I not look forward to having my children with excitement and eager anticipation? Did I not tell God countless times that this was my ultimate dream come true, to parent boy girl twins? Did I not love both of my babies with every fiber of my being and do every possible thing I could to keep them safe?!?!?! How will I ever have faith in anything ever again? How will I ever make sense of this world again? How will I survive this feeling of ultimate failure? How will I survive this guilt? How will I survive this shame? How will I survive this heartache? How will I survive this self-loathing? How will I survive? Will I survive? Will I?
Monday, May 23, 2011
I don’t know if people outside of the loss community can quite understand how much is lost BEYOND the obvious. I was just talking to some fellow BLMs about this very topic and how friendships change so much. Some friendships survive our losses. Some grow on account of our losses. And others die along with our children. But that is a post for another day. Today I am full of another variety of sadness. I have always been the type of person to know myself, truly. Intrapersonal skills. Any personality inventory I took throughout school told me that was my strong point – knowing thyself. (I took a lot of these tests, actually, as I loaded up on psych courses in college.) I of course had other strong points but always scored so high in this area. Now? Who the hell am I? Who the hell knows? I know that my son wasn’t all of me. I know that my daughter isn’t all of me. I know that being a mother isn’t all of me; my pregnancy wasn’t all of me; this desire for parenthood isn’t all of me. I know that I have an identity outside of this. But what I don’t know is what has been changed about me on account of this loss. I feel so different, and I can’t sort any of this out. Sometimes I identify things that are different about myself, but I have no idea where they came from. I want to live life fully, but why? Because I am a mother to a baby I lost? Or because I am a mother to a baby I got to keep? These two things happened SIMULTANEOUSLY for me, so how am I supposed to untangle everything? I can’t figure out what changes have been made on account of my new parenthood any more than I can figure out what changes have been made on account of my loss. It all just sort of blurs together and leaves me feeling like such a stranger to myself. I have this intense need to understand myself and how I got to where I am. It just feels like such a betrayal now to sit and think wow, I have this greater appreciation for life, for example, but why? Does it come from losing my son? Does it come from mothering my daughter? I don’t know why it matters to me. It shouldn’t, should it? What is, just is. But for some reason this really bothers me. I want to be able to tell my story and say due to a, b, and c…x, y, and z occurred. I suddenly don’t fit into any semblance of such an equation. Cause and effect suddenly don’t have such a clear relationship. Then again, I should know this after everything I went through to bring my babies home safely. These are the things you don’t expect to grieve after the loss of a child. Why does identity matter in the face of a loss so enormous as your baby? So then those thoughts spiral and I wonder why I care about anything other than the fact that my son is gone. And I wonder how I can even begin to take an interest in my identity. So now this post has just brought more guilt. Which is ironic, because in my last post I said something about being kind to myself and flipping the universe the bird. I wish I could be kind. Mostly I am my own worst enemy. That much I do know about myself. The rest I guess will take a good long time to figure out. I am not comfortable walking around in this stranger’s body. It feels so foreign, like I’m intruding in somebody else’s space. Like I woke up out of a gentle dream into a living nightmare playing a character I never envisioned portraying. I remember feeling this way daily in the early weeks and even months after our loss. Those first few weeks…when you first open your eyes and for a split second forget your baby died. Those precious seconds. You may even reach down to touch your belly, forgetting it’s flat and empty and aching for life inside. And then the sheer agony of your reality washes over you, and you think, “Why even get out of bed? Why even bother? Why even LIVE?!” But you fumble around and put one foot in front of the other like a toddler learning to walk for the first time. Clumsy and inexperienced in this new body, this new life, this new perspective. Is it odd that I still feel like I’m walking around in a stranger’s body almost six months out from my loss? Does this mean I am still in shock or denial? I’m still thinking, “What?! Is this seriously my life now?!” I thought I was done with those feelings, and here there are sneaking up and smacking me upside the head so very unexpectedly. I suppose grief in its many guises will do that, won’t it? This has always been my favorite song by the lovely Tori Amos, "Your Cloud", but now it has taken on new meaning. I am reminded of this song by the post I just wrote, and I haven't listened to it in quite some time. It has to do with identity and not being able to go back to who you were before but retaining some of who you were. Just gorgeous. I love her. (Sorry but I can not figure out how to post a video. Here are the lyrics, and I encourage you to look up the song on youtube; it is just incredible.) Where the river cross, crosses the lake... Where the words jump off my pen, and into your pages... Do you think, just like that, You can divide This? You as yours, Me as mine, to before we were Us? If the rain has to separate from itself does it say, "Pick out your cloud"? Pick out your cloud. If there is a Horizontal Line that runs from the map off your body straight through the Land shooting up right through my heart, will this Horizontal Line, when asked, know how to find Where you end? Where I begin? "Pick out your cloud." Who we were isn't lost before we were Us. Indigo is his own; Blue always knew this.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
So that sucked. I just went to a neighborhood party, and as I walked in the house was really packed...and I couldn't go in. I just froze. I don't know if this is related to my loss at all or what, as I have struggled with anxiety for the past 13 years of my life, but I haven't had a panic attack in YEARS. And I felt myself start to panic as I approached the house with my daughter in her carrier. I felt so claustrophobic. I don't know if it was just the thought of so many people all "Aww look at the baby" followed by 1,000,001 questions about her or if it was not knowing who at the party would know about Elias or if it was just the simple fact that my grieving means I have a hard time remembering simple things like who that lady with the dark hair is and what house she lives in. I really don't know. I just couldn't deal. Some days I feel like I can handle anything - hell, haven't I handled the worst thing imaginable? Not sure how WELL I'm handling it, but I'm handling it, nonetheless. However, some days I can't handle very simple things - like mindless chatter. It is just simply exhausting. I sat on the porch, and my husband was a little frustrated, maybe even embarrassed, as he said "Okay, go IN!" but OH WELL. I don't know if I will ever feel "normal" again, but I'm certainly not there at this point. (I know, I know, what IS normal?) And this party was maybe just too much normal at once for me to handle, who knows. What I do know is that part of what I hope to accomplish with this blog is to document situations like these so that moms with new losses know what it may be like for them when they hit the five or six month mark. I remember in my early days reading blogs from women who were "ahead" of me in their grief and finding it very helpful while obviously keeping in mind that everybody truly does grieve differently. But I have found in my grief journey that so much resonates from one babylostmama to another that it's truly remarkable. I have to say five months out from my grief...I still have to be very picky about which social engagements I am willing to commit to. And sitting on the porch alone while half the neighborhood socializes and mingles with one another inside as they say goodbye to a couple moving to Chicago in a couple of months? I honestly could care less if half the neighborhood thinks I'm being rude. I'm not about to deal with any more discomfort in my life than I have to. The universe has not been kind to me, so the least I can do is flip the universe the finger and be kind to myself.
Friday, May 13, 2011
I have a photo of him alive, and I'd give anything to go back to that day and try to rewrite the rest of his story.
I know I haven’t been writing a lot lately. I hope to change that. But seriously, I am not dealing well with this. At all. And what’s worse is that everyone THINKS that I AM. So I get to hear, “You are so strong,” and other such nonsense. I am broken. Broken beyond repair. My heart is shattered in a million pieces. I have so many regrets. My pain is too raw for me to even convey with words in a blog. Days like this, I don’t even know what I was thinking starting one. Thankfully not many friends call. I do not have the energy for chit chat, as most of my energy goes into just making it through the day, or the hour, or the minute. Having a newborn makes it convenient so that when friends do call and say, “What’s wrong? You sound so tired!” I say, “Yeah, Evy kept me up all night. I am really wiped out.” They have no idea how exhausting grief is, that dealing with a newborn who wakes up a few times a night (every night, because she’s teething) and having to work full-time with unruly teenagers is NOTHING compared to how tired I am just from the sheer physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion of grieving this immeasurable loss. We have two memory boxes underneath Evelyn’s crib in the nursery. One is an Elias box, and one is a box for anything twin-related. All the books on raising multiples, the “Got Twins?” and “Doubly blessed” maternity shirts, etc. Twin-themed items from my shower, “two peas in a pod” napkins and favors and decorations carefully and lovingly chosen by my mother and my sister in celebratory anticipation of the twins’ arrival. It’s all in there. I stumbled across my pregnancy journal, and I crumbled as I opened it up and saw a grainy 3-D ultrasound photo from the specialist. The specialist who deemed Elias healthy but sent me to the hospital for observation, where they agreed that Elias was healthy and sent me home only to find out three days later he had died. The only indication of anything being off was decreased movement, which was why the specialist sent me to L&D for monitoring. But he HAD been moving and scored points on his biophysical profile for trunk movements, his heart rate was healthy and strong, his fluid levels were great, he was practice breathing, he had grown beautifully, and he showed no distress through my contractions. He had completely normal test results. So I went home, 36 ½ weeks, waiting to go into labor, and my son died inside of me, and I didn’t know it. I never got to have the special 3D ultrasound photos that some women get. I was on bedrest and not permitted to do anything non-medical. I will regret not having those images for the rest of my life. At the time, I quelled my disappointment by telling myself that I wouldn’t miss the 3D images, that I would have millions of pictures of my precious twins as they grew up together. The one grainy 3D ultrasound photo I do have from the specialist was from when I was 22 weeks and 6 days along. At the time we had not given the photo much thought, as the quality left much to be desired and we figured I would be going soon to get the nice 3D photos done. We had also been disappointed that the OB only was able to get a shot of one of our twins. So I had thrown it into my pregnancy journal, mostly because attached to it are the photos that read "it's a boy" and "it's a girl", which I thought would be a nice keepsake for their baby albums. Today, I looked at the bottom of the 3D photo and saw "A" typed there. Elias was, and always will be, baby "A" of my twin pregnancy. It was beautiful and heartbreaking to view a photo of my son's face while he had been alive. * * * * * * * * After visiting the memory boxes, I found my journal in a drawer. The old-fashioned, just write down your thoughts in a twenty-five cent spiral notebook journal. I used to journal constantly when I was a teenager and in my early twenties, but not so much after. I found a few entries that killed me and think I may periodically share them here. I may also share some entries from my pregnancy journal as well, who knows. I don’t know if that will be healing or not or helpful to others who may someday stumble across this or not. But I just can’t quite put into words this journey of ours. I just typed “mine” – but it isn’t my journey. It’s the journey of how our family came to be. I feel like it’s been so complicated that I can’t even wrap my mind around it. And the religion thing is just going to keep coming up here; it’s inevitable. You see, I clung to faith after my miscarriage. It made me feel closer to God. So now where do I go from here? I feel like I need to reflect more on the past and where I’ve been before I can truly write about the present or potential future.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Two days ago, May 1st, was International Babylost Mothers Day. At first I will admit that I didn’t understand this holiday, not one bit, when I first read about it online. I fully understand that many women who have lost a baby and have no living children often go unrecognized on Mothers Day. I also realize that many women who have a surviving child or children will be celebrated on Mothers Day but without having their lost child acknowledged, which I imagine to be painful as well. But why not just honor ALL mothers on Mothers Day, whether they’ve lost a child or not? I have not experienced my first Mothers Day after the birth of my twins, not yet. I don’t know what to expect from it, but as every breath of my life has been thus far since my csection, I’m assuming it will be bittersweet. And right now, the bitter seems to always outweigh the sweet. Approaching five months out from my loss is HARD. (Oh, but let’s all be honest, I said the same thing about previous months: “It must just be the whole three month thing; I’ve heard that three months out is just the WORST”, and “Oh yeah, the four month mark is JUST BRUTAL.”) Apparently every month is brutal. Apparently life is brutal. When will I stop counting the months and pondering what makes that particular month so agonizing without my son? After it turns into a year? Two years? Two decades? I have my daughter as a living breathing marker of how old he'd be. Will the counting of days, weeks, months, years, decades be nonstop? I don’t know if I want any of you to answer that. Let’s call that a “rhetorical question” and leave it alone. My gut reaction to International Babylost Mothers Day was to think, “Wow, that’s sad. Sad that we have to have a SEPARATE day, because we’re DIFFERENT than other mothers. We’re the FREAKS that can’t simply be acknowledged on the EXISTING holiday with all the other mothers of solely LIVING children.” I was offended. Plain and simple. I think it was Angie from Still Life with Circles who called this type of parenting “delicate”. And that adjective is the most accurate one to describe the experience of parenting a child who has died, and that adjective solidified in my mind the need for a separate day acknowledging the babylost. Reflecting on the parenting of a child who no longer lives brought me back to the days during my maternity leave in which I was stuck in such a state of utter SHOCK. I had two new roles that in my mind I would never fill. I would never be a bereaved parent, right? Who ever dreams of that?! But the funny thing is, that even the things I DID dream, I thought I’d never be. After my miscarriage I just kind of resigned myself to the fact that I would likely never have anything turn out well for me. (Is that bad?) Defense mechanism, which I mentioned before, I believe. So when I found out I was pregnant with twins, I distanced myself from the pregnancy a great deal (I hate this fact but must be honest), because I was too afraid to get really attached. (Turns out, I got attached anyway.) It wasn’t that I necessarily expected my babies to DIE; I would have been FREAKING out if I truly expected such an outcome. Rather, I was kind of in denial mentally about everything. I took my prenatals, I prayed for the health and safety of my twins, I ate as well as I could, I did the bedrest, but I always tried to distract myself and didn’t think of the reality of being MOM. I never really thought about after the babies would be BORN and brought home. I can’t relate to the women who say they had all these dreams of their twins dressing up like Thing One and Thing Two for Halloween, and how it’s all ruined. I just never went there, mentally. I wanted them with every fiber of my being, don’t get me wrong - I just didn’t want to Go There. All I knew was that I loved them so incredibly much, and that was as much as I could handle for the time being. I couldn’t dream past the point of bringing two living healthy babies home from the hospital. That in and of itself was just an incredible dream that I think it filled my head and heart sufficiently at that time. I haven’t yet decided if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it just is My Truth. And no, I’m not saying this was prophetic in any way shape or form. So. I can say I was almost as shocked to mother a living child as I was to mother a child who had died before birth. Both of those things were just so foreign to me, so unfathomable, so hugely life-altering. Becoming a mother was something I had dreamed of since my early childhood, and it was finally coming true, in the most wonderful and most horrible way, all at the same time. Even today, my daughter is almost five months old, and while I have many days where I think, “I should be feeding TWINS right now”, or “I should be bathing TWO babies right now”, or “I should be trying to decide WHICH screaming baby to comfort right now”, there are just as many days where I think, “What? I have a DAUGHTER? I’m a MOM?! When did THAT happen?!” It feels like my life is flying by now that she is here, yet my pregnancy felt like the gestational period of an African elephant (about two years). A coworker came to visit me during my maternity leave, and I was still trying to sort out all these sudden changes that had occurred in my life. And I said something like, “People don’t get it. I can’t just delight in Evelyn. I also have to parent Elias. He still needs me.” It was a moment of total vulnerability and honesty and a classic instance of just plain simple oversharing. I was desperate for someone to WANT to listen to me when so many others clearly wanted to avoid the topic of my loss altogether. My coworker seemed concerned, so I spilled. And immediately she became MORE concerned, as if she thought my statement indicated I was PRETENDING my son was still ALIVE. As if I had a baby doll that I called Elias that I changed, fed, bathed, and put to bed. I could tell by the look on her face that she had no idea what I meant. The look on her face said without saying a word, “Wait, did she just say PARENTING? A child who has DIED? How do you do THAT? She’s not only lost her baby; she's lost her marbles!!! I’m going to have to drive her to the loony bin, stat!” She just had no idea. Thank God she had no idea. The cost for understanding this type of pain and delicate parenting is the highest price in the world, the price of losing your child. I said, “I still parent him, but it’s a different kind of parenting, obviously…” She sighed and looked a smidge relieved, yet still thoroughly confused. I went on, “I parent him in the way I make sure that his memory lives on. I parent him in the way I try to help other women through their losses. And I parent him in the way I try to live my life to make him proud, to honor him. I parent him by loving him unconditionally.” Her body seemed to relax a little, so I continued, “A parent’s love truly is unconditional, and it isn’t dependent upon the child being alive. That love you feel is in your heart forever and yearns for expression.” I felt such a need to justify my love for my son, to explain this psychologically and emotionally as clearly as I could, as this woman like so many other well-intentioned friends and family members made me feel like I needed to just move on and focus on my surviving twin. Which, if you've lost a child, you realize is impossible. I still don’t know if she “got it”. But at least I tried to explain instead of hiding like I so often do from “outsiders”. When I read that term, “delicate parenting”, I said YES. That is exactly what this is. It isn’t as deliberate as selecting the perfect bed time story to lull your baby to sleep for the night, or having to rush over to your coughing baby to make sure they aren’t choking, or massaging the lotion onto their chubby cheeks so they won’t get flaky skin on their blushing face. It’s a quieter type of parenting. A softer, more subtle variety. Yet so true, so genuine, so necessary. A type of parenting that is needed just as fiercely as that needed by a living child, yet most people won’t understand that need unless they have lost a child. That love doesn’t just go away. We must honor it by “parenting” our babies, whether they are here with us physically or not. Upon much reflection, I deemed this separate holiday appropriate, even necessary. The type of parenting women do after losing a child goes unrecognized and when acknowledged is often misunderstood as “dwelling on things”, “being negative”, “fixating on their dead baby”, “taking the good in their life for granted”, and “throwing a pity party”. How painful these misunderstandings are for women who want their babies and their motherhood recognized. This delicate parenting simply deserves its own day. This day to me was also a chance for me to reflect on the wonderful women I have met so far along my grief journey. I’m only about five months out; I can’t imagine in a few years what amazing people I will get to know. I can't say it's "nice" to meet others who have suffered baby or child loss, because I wish no one ever had to feel such heartache. But I do think it's important to share our stories with one another and just be there for each other. It is difficult to be exposed to countless loss stories, because you kind of carry the grief of everyone you’ve met in your journey. But when you help each other carry something so heavy, the burden somehow does seem to lighten. And now, a poem written by the lovely Angie M. Yingst in honor of International Babylost Mothers Day, a holiday I'm so grateful to Carly Marie for creating: Though I lose my petals I am still a flower. We grow together, in a garden bed of ash and tears, heartbreak and love. Whispered support blows towards our delicate beauty, crying nourishes our shared roots, and the warmth of our compassion heals the winter of our grief. Though we have lost a petal, we are still flowers, lush and full together in a garden of hope.