Friday, December 28, 2012

Two Years With Her, Without Him

I can go awhile not posting here.  I'm not like some people who blog daily, weekly, or regularly.  I wonder how anyone can even follow my story or my grief journey.  This blog is hardly an accurate reflection of that, and the slowdown on my part in writing I think is mostly due to the fact that I have just been so.freaking.burned by people.  I said in a recent post that I wasn't going to let that hold me back anymore, and it really doesn't; I focus on the positive people in my life.  So much that I'm actually amazed at how easily I have cut ties with people who have judged me or criticized my grief, because the type of person I was before this unspeakable loss would have never been able to just let go without horrible (albeit irrational) guilt or feeling obligated to confront the person or whatever.  The new me says Good Riddance, as I have learned the fine art of self preservation (don't we all after a loss of such magnitude?), and it's one way that the quality of my life has improved.

On the other hand, I'm not so much for sharing anymore.  Those walls are still way up.  I'm more of an introvert that way, and I don't wear my grief on my sleeve, because not everyone needs to see that.  Not everyone should be privvy to that in my life.  Not everyone in my life should get to see the darkest corners of my heart. 

So aren't I a hypocrite to then share my grief on a "public" blog?  Even periodically?  Still trying to figure that one out. 

I sometimes wonder why I even keep a blog when I want to keep my heart, my soul, my grief so shielded now from the outside world.  I mean, what's the point?  But then.  But then, I go a while not writing, and suddenly a heaviness starts to creep on my shoulders, and it feels like a horrible weight that can only be lifted by paying a visit here and typing away, even though I don't draft or edit and am horrible at keeping up at commenting on other blogs that I visit. 
Even so. 
After hitting "publish", a weight is lifted.  Each time someone comments, I feel a little validated.  Each time no one comments, that's okay too, because that weight is still lifted, and what a blessing that is.  What a blessing this space is.  Even in its horribly neglected form. 

Sadly, I don't know what to say about two years out from the loss of our son.  In some ways this anniversary was easier, but in many ways it was harder.  It was easier in that the grief felt familiar.  I knew what to expect.  I knew that my emotions would be all over the map.  The harder part was the feeling of expectation from others that, two years out, I shouldn't be having a hard time anymore.  Two years out, I should solely celebrate my daughter and forget about remembering or honoring my son.  I could tell when I was honest with people when they'd ask how I was doing (making polite conversation apparently and expecting the canned response "fine, and you?").  I would say (not to strangers obviously but friends, family, etc.) "I'm having a really difficult time with things right now and am really not up for talking" and they would seem taken aback.  "Oh."  Like they forgot.  Like they didn't know what I was talking about, and it took a while to register.

I guess they expected a full update on the party preparations for our daughter, and they forgot that I have two children, not one.  I can't help that her birthday and his remembrance date are one in the same.  I try, I really try, to separate the two, to have his remembrance be the day before so that they can each have their own day, but like any other twins they end up inevitably sharing a day.  Even when I try to make it not so, that's just how it is. 
So I spent his remembrance day feeling like no one cared, and then the day of our daughter's birthday party being flooded with messages, texts, well wishes for the loss of our son.  All well meaning, all appreciated, but it makes it difficult for me to give her my focus and attention even when I try my hardest.  Compartmentalizing would help so much, but it's just impossible to do.  There seemed to be a cruel irony to it all. 

Losing one multiple is just so complicated, and as the months, YEARS?! go on, I am realizing that it doesn't really get "easier" but seems to get even more complicated.  I'm left wondering if it will ever "level out" or eventually we will find our way.  I remember therapist #3 telling me that every year my needs would change (grief-wise) on their birthday and to never set things in stone to do annually because they may not always be necessary.  Yet I can't ever see a birthday where I won't want to at least give a nod to my son through lighting a candle for him, incorporate a butterfly figurine onto our daughter's cake for him, and photograph gifts people have bought in remembrance of him.  Those are rituals that keep me feeling connected, that give me an opportunity to parent him, that bring me some small piece of comfort.

Two years with my daughter have been simply amazing, and every day she grows more of a personality and I grow even more attached to her beautiful self and soul.  She is my precious girl, and I love her so much it hurts.  Yet she brings me so much joy.  More than I ever imagined.  She brings out things in me I never knew were there.  What a gift she truly is.

I dread admitting this, but here it goes.  Two years without my son felt more like an anticlimax, honestly.  I don't think that any remembrance day will ever live up to the first one.  I'm sorry, but his first remembrance day was so amazing, that anything else just simply won't do.  Yet I can't complain, because I will always have that one anniversary to reflect on no matter how unfulfilling the others may seem at times. 

It's just never enough.  You know?  Nothing you do as a parent will ever be enough, because you just want all of your children here, whole and happy, to not have to let balloons go into the air for them or incorporate symbolism into celebrations for them or worry that people will forget about them.  Just to have them here.  And maybe it's as simple as that - anything else just falls so short of what should be.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving and Isolation

This Thanksgiving was incredibly difficult for me. I lit a remembrance candle for my son, and it had burned down all the way by the time we started dinner. This really upset me, but we were hosting and had to rush to get everything on the table while the food was still warm.
I regret not taking the time to light another candle so that Elias could be remembered and represented during our family dinner. I feel like a horrible mother for that. I know that sounds really stupid, but it's how I feel.  The prayer stated before dinner commenced did not mention anything about loved ones passed on, so between that and the candle thing, I was left with none of the things that last year helped me to feel my son was being honored on Thanksgiving.  I had no comfort - just the stress of errands, food preparation, and being social when I wanted to cry more than anything else.

Today the grief has resurfaced full force, and the tears are flowing freely.  I am feeling much like Brooke in her recent post about not being ready for the anniversary of her baby's death.  So much of her post resonated with me.  Of course, our losses were only days apart from one another, so it's no surprise I find myself in a similar spot at times.

I thought I was just tired today because I was back at work from being on Thanksgiving break, but now I realize the exhaustion is from grief bottled up inside.  I have been so detached lately from my grief.  Not processing, not working through things, not thinking things, just staying distracted. 
And let me officially go on record stating that it has bitten me in the ass.

The excitement over fall festivities, Halloween, and Thanksgiving had me distracted.  Now that the next "holiday" is Elias's remembrance day, my heart just feels so heavy.  The hubs and I have decided to do things much like we did last year in that we honor Elias on the day before the twins' birthday, as we want to honor his life (not the day we found out he had died), and we also want our daughter to have her own happy birthday (although obviously there will be tears shed in private as thinking about our son will be inevitable). 

It's all so complicated, and I don't know that it will ever be less so, as it's impossible to completely compartmentalize your feelings one way or another.  Inevitably we will have joyful moments on our son's special day just as we will have sorrowful moments on our daughter's special day, the feelings will bleed into one another, influence one another, and create a messy work of art that is life after loss.  The perfectionist in me wants things to work out less messy, but I know things will never be perfect ever again.  And really, they never were. 

So today I tried to blame my bad mood on so many other things.  Being back at work.  Being tired.  Having a headache.  The list goes on.  But really, I just miss my son.  So very terribly.  And what's worse is feeling like I'm not ALLOWED to miss him.  Like I'm doing my daughter some injustice by being sad at times, or like I'm not being a good friend or wife because I just want to be alone and cry every now and then.  As much support as I get from some people, at the end of the day there are times where I just really feel alone in all of this. 

The pressure I feel to just chin up and focus on the positive is too much sometimes, and I wish I could run off to a little island and just grieve for the little boy who should be sitting side by side with his sister coloring in books, playing with building blocks, and tormenting our cats. 
No one to act irritated or impatient with me and my grief, no one to change the subject when I do acknowledge my son, and no one to make me feel like an inept parent to my surviving child while I grieve the child I lost. 

Is there irony in that feeling alone in this only makes me want to isolate myself more by running off to a secluded island?

A little island without judgment, with endless Kleenex, and with plenty of FroYo.

Friday, October 12, 2012


I have spent way too much time throwing my own inner pity party over the people in my life who have utterly betrayed me.  People who acted like they were being compassionate only to gossip about my grief behind my back, ignore me for months on end, and then make up lies about it all to my face and pretend to be a decent person.

It has made me much more cautious.  There are very few people in my life who have pissed me off to the point where I will always remember it.  I don't hold a grudge typically.  Why waste the energy?  I will always, however, remember one person in college whom I trusted.  We both connected over very deeply personal issues, like food and body image issues, and then she stabbed me in the back and made all our friends choose "sides".  I was devastated.  Yet that pales in comparison with someone feigning compassion, love, and interest after the death of my son only to secretly judge me, never jump to my defense around others, and then ultimately tell me the friendship isn't working.  Would have been nice to know that before pouring my grief soaked heart out, am I right?  Would have been nice if she'd given me some cues as to how uncomfortable I was making her (apparently) rather than play along like a good decent person offering a shoulder to cry on.

I've come to learn that some things are just inexcusable and unforgiveable.  And yet, it doesn't have to hold a power over you.  You don't have to be held hostage to the negativity.  You can walk away.  No strings, anymore, ever.

I've come to learn that some people will literally stop talking to you once you've lost a child.  I can't analyze it.  I've tried.  And it makes no sense.  Never, ever, ever would I do that to anyone.  I've never stopped talking to a friend who has lost a parent to cancer, so I can't relate to just cutting someone out of your life simply because tragedy struck them.  There's no rhyme or reason other than to realize that true colors come out of people eventually, and now that I'm 30, I realize more than ever who matters in my life.  I'm absolutely done trying to phone and keep in touch with people who could ignore me for an entire year without so much as a flinch.  You know what those people are?  Baggage.  Negative emotional baggage.

I'm feeling a lot lighter these days without carrying that extra weight around.  Without wondering when so and so might call, or thinking maybe I should call to try and keep the friendship alive.

I have found some incredible people.  And before you assume they are loss people, that's not what I'm talking about.  Of course the loss mamas (and papas) I've met on my grief journey are some of the most incredible people I've ever encountered, and they continue to inspire me and fill my cup with love and appreciation for community.  But I'm talking about in real life friends that I've made, and only one of them is a loss mama.

The four friends I've made over these past almost two years since our loss have given me this amazing epiphany.  They've helped me to realize that I was doing it all wrong before, that my "friends" weren't really friends before, that it doesn't have to be that way.  That there are people who will actually call you to spend time together and nurture the friendship on a fairly regular basis.  People who work full time, have kids (well, half of them do), have a marriage, have a home, and still make the time in their lives for geniune social interaction.  People you don't have to go a year not hearing from but still call them your "friend".  Mutual respect with both parties wanting something similar out of the friendship, both parties feeling enriched by the friendship, both parties being able to be open and real about the crap cards life deals you at times, both parties being able to let loose and just have a good time.

I am ever so grateful for my four most recent friendships.  They are an investment, and not one I feel I will be blogging about later regretfully.  You see, I have clarity now that I didn't before, and I won't allow myself to be easily snowed or let my guard down so readily.  I realize that some people took advantage of my vulnerable state.  They knew I would spill my heart because my grief was raw and overflowing and needed an outlet.

No more.

The grief is there.  The pain is there.  I will carry it like a rock in my pocket forever, if you like a random movie reference thrown in.  But my friends in real life?  They don't get to see it, not unless that trust is solid, the friendship is balanced, healthy, and not one-sided. 

I am so grateful for new friendships.

My one friend recently met me for coffee and asked me how I've been doing.  Do you know how rare it is to hear that?  This friend doesn't even have children of her own much less understand my scope of loss, and yet she has been one of the most compassionate people I've encountered.  She asks me how I'm doing, and she really listens to my response.  She tells me the death of my son is not something I will ever "get over", not something she would ever expect me to get over.  Her eyes look down at her coffee as she processes her thoughts, and then she looks at me and says, "And in a way, you probably wouldn't want to get over it even if you could, you know?"  Yes.  Yes, I know.  And yet that is so profound of a statement.  Bold on her part, yet so perfectly true.  How does she know?  How does she know that conflicted feeling?  That the love and pain coexist, that the pain in itself is a connection to your child so you could never entirely wish it away, that "getting over it" couldn't happen when your love is and always will be so incredibly profound? 
Because she's a geniune human being, someone capable of real empathy, of putting herself in my terribly uncomfortable shoes in order to try and imagine some flicker of what it might feel like to have lived this unfathomable loss.  She goes on to tell me about her concern for me, that she recognizes that the loss of a child is something that changes a marriage forever, that she has such complete faith in me and my husband that if anyone can get through it, it's us.  She doesn't say it in a way that glosses over my struggles, our struggles.  Most of the time she is quiet, and nods, and seems deep in thought.  At times she acknowledges, "I just can't even imagine how must difficult this all must be."  Otherwise, mostly quiet, never jumping to quickly fill the silence with noise as so many others do in conversations they'd rather run screaming from.  Just sitting, listening, thinking, and abiding.  It amazed me, it humbled me, and it taught me a lesson about the false assumptions I've been making about the capabilities of others and about friendships in my life post-loss.

Compassion.  Empathy.  Openness.  Connection.  Honesty.  Encouragement without being fake, without judgment, without expecting anything in return.

Now that I've found people like this, I realize what a waste of time it was for me to try and hold on to people who were walking away from me all along.  I realize what a gift real friendship is.  I don't feel pigeonholed into this one identity, I don't feel that loss defines me, that the only people I could possibly relate to are other loss moms.  Knowing that I don't have to segregate from the land of non-loss women in order to be loved and respected is a huge epiphany for me, because for a while I was really starting to wonder if I could ever "fit in" with people who haven't "been there".

You have to make the decision that you are worth more than investing in people who don't invest back in you.  You have to be open to letting a little light in.  You have to be willing to accept that some people just won't like you, for no good reason, and that's okay.  They don't deserve to live in your head rent free.  And letting go of those people makes room in your life and in your heart for people who genuinely do.

I dedicate this post to my real friends, near and far, babylost and nonbabylost.  My cup runneth over, so much that there's no room in it for anger or bitterness toward those who have walked away or remained silent in my time of need.  Things are as they are, and I have learned so much about how ugly this world can be, but I've also seen so much beauty thanks to each and every one of you.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Concept of "Time"

Today is one month since my childhood friend lost her beautiful baby girl unexpectedly to stillbirth.  We've reconnected a bit since her loss, and I asked her today if time seems to be flying by or standing still.  It got me thinking about the early days of my own loss.  How one month out was like nothing at all when it came to some semblance of discovering a "new normal".  How one month out, I didn't realize it at the time, but I was still very much in shock.  How I thought I had been through the anger phase.  I was sad, wasn't I?  So the anger phase must be over with!  I had screamed, wailed, thrown things, sure.  But it wasn't until three months out, for me, that the real anger hit.  The anger so fierce and so all-encompassing that it scared me.  I scared myself.  I wasn't really sure what I was even capable of doing in response to the anger.  But it wasn't directed at anyone in particular, which made it better, which made it worse, because I knew that going after someone wouldn't fix anything, so I wasn't really about to go do something stupid, but I also knew that throwing my rage in one particular direction wouldn't help me feel better, so I was just stuck.  And it became clear that those grief stages truly don't go in order or end up being "finished" one stage at a time in a neat succinct fashion.
Do any of you remember what one month out felt like?
Do you remember how time seemed like such a mysterious and inconceivable conceopt?
Was time flying by, or standing still?  For me, it did both, and I remember that being such an odd sensation – marking the days, then weeks, then months as they passed.  It felt like time was flying by – like it was just yesterday that I held my son, while at the same time it felt like everything was slow motion, and I wanted time to zip by because, as they say, “time heals” (ha!).  I wanted time to speed up so that I could get to that place that other loss moms told me about, that place where your baby isn’t the first thing you think about when you wake up.  That place where you can go until dinner time, and then stand at the stove making macaroni and cheese and suddenly think to yourself, "Oh yeah…My baby died" and feel the sad hit you like a ton of bricks all over again.  Which is true progress after going months and months with that ton of bricks hitting you on your first breath upon awakening to your living nightmare.  (I remember a post about this at Glow but can’t remember who wrote it or what it was titled, sadly.)  At the same time, I wanted time to slow down, because the further away I got from the date of my loss, the further I felt from my son. 
But then I knew. 
I knew that holding him, he had already gone away. 
I knew that was his shell. 
That time was just a concept, that it wasn't something that could truly separate me from my precious son.  That the love would stay forever.  That he would always be with me.  That he transcended time and space and was infinite, on his own journey.  That I could remember him through symbolism that spoke to me.  Through butterflies, sparrows in flight, the moon, and the stars.  My forever baby.  My son.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Superficiality = Trigger!

Anyone else feel their grief, particularly the ANGER stage, triggered by the superficiality of others?  This continues to be a problem for me.  Bit by bit I am trying to cut people out of my life who say stupid sh*t, but it's just everywhere, is it not?

Over the past year, I've heard several women complain (or post on their FB) about the most superficial aspects of their deliveries of LIVE BABIES.  I just want to scream, "You have NO F*CKING IDEA!  Try having your baby DIE!  THEN you won't give a sh*t that your makeup didn't look good during your delivery photos!"

I mean seriously.  These are people who know me, know my son died, and haven't ignored that fact.  And yet this simple realization is lost on them: That all that really matters is that your baby is alive and healthy.

Today, another such trigger.  A woman pinning newborn photography and commenting about how this time, all that she hopes for is a "normal hour" birth for her next baby, as her last baby was born in the wee hours of the morning.

Because she wants the pictures to come out with everyone looking bright eyed and bushy tailed, apparently.

Try having pictures of your baby dead, I want to say.  I'd give anything for one picture of my son alive, regardless of what time it was or what I looked like at the time, I want to say. 

But I don't.  Because then I'll just be "that crazy lady who can't deal".  And this is someone who really should know better.  She really should.  So saying something won't make any difference.  She obviously feels she is too good to have tragedy strike.  She is way too above simply hoping her baby is born healthy and alive.  She takes those things for granted, and simply ALL she hopes for is a good birth hour so the pictures turn out well.

It makes me want to scream and tear my hair out.

And this really isn't about her, or about anyone else in particular.  Because she, and the aforementioned woman, they simply represent the vast majority of society.  A society of seemingly blissfully naiive pregnant women who post photographs of jars of Prego spaghetti sauce to announce their pregnancies as soon as they pee on a stick.  A society that obsesses over nursery themes and picking the perfect shade of paint, a society that pays name consultants to select the perfect name for the baby, a society that spends countless hours researching and registering for products (most which are completely unnecessary) and throwing lavish parties weeks, even months, before the baby even arrives, not knowing what that outcome will be.

So why wouldn't they say superficial things?  They're a product of their society, right?  And society largely ignores the very real fact that babies die - that miscarriages AND stillbirths are more common than most people realize.  That all of this hoopla is simply setting women up to feel like freaks of nature and failures if the worst case scenario happens to them. 

I guess it's silly for me to think that maybe what happened to my son was something memorable to them, something unforgettable, something that would shake them to their very core and make them treat their own pregnancies with more caution and humility.

Maybe I am just in a place where I need to stay away from Facebook and Pinterest altogether.

Monday, August 13, 2012

My Forever Paradox

I wonder how I looked in those early weeks to outsiders.  How did strangers at the grocery store see me?  As a bereaved mother pushing a single stroller where a double stroller should be?  A woman with her heart completely torn out, fighting every moment to not go completely crazy and scream obsceneties at innocent bystanders?  A woman who would go out of her way to avoid even the mere sight of twins, any age, any gender combination?  A woman who had to make her husband go in to Babies R Us for returns and purchases, because she  A woman who, while her husband wandered the aisles amongst blissfully naiive pregnant woman, would sit in in her minivan (specifically purchased for twins) and scream, rage, and wail, not even giving any thought to the fact that people might hear her? 

Did they see this complete shell of a person I was, just going through the motions, not really sure I even wanted to go on?  Did they see a woman who felt every morning upon awakening that she was punched in the stomach, heart torn out all over again, nightmare playing and replaying on some horrible permanent loop with the stop button nowhere in sight?

In the very beginning, I thought they knew.  I thought everyone knew. 

Everyone knew I lost my son, that I had been played a fool, that I had done seven weeks of bedrest only to lose him at the very end to something I had never seen nor heard of in the hundreds and hundreds of pages of pregnancy books and countless websites I'd read, that I'd had a prior loss and was just angry as hell at the world, that I was hanging on by a thread so thin you could barely discern it was even there.

It felt like a big neon sign was hanging over my head, flashing "Dead baby!", and it was all anyone saw, it was me, it was my life, it was my identity, it was everything I ever was and everything I had ever lost advertised in two words for the entire world to see, judge, and pity.

As the weeks wore on, suddenly it occurred to me that people really didn't know.  They really didn't know.  This very simple rational logical fact was so elusive to me for a while, until it suddenly wasn't.  And I didn't know what to do with this epiphany.  Should I be sad that they don't know?  Did I want them to know? 

I quickly decided that everyone should know.  EVERYONE should know.  Because why they hell not?  Why should I hide this simple fact?  Why should I allow strangers to ooooh and ahhhh over my little girl without any acknowlegment of my sweet boy?  It wouldn't be fair to him.  He was just as loved and just as deserving of recognition and attention.  I HAD to tell people.  It was my job as his mother.  It happened, and I wasn't hiding it.  Not from any random person who dared ask me about my daughter, even the random Home Depot worker just trying to make conversation while they rang out a few lightbulbs and waited for our charge card to go through.

When I was in that mode, it angered me whenever people who knew us would visit and NOT say something about our loss or ask us how we were doing or just ANYTHING.  You know?  Address the fact that we had TWO.  Dont' say "When she was born..." say "When THEY were born".  I mean it's no secret I had TWINS.  (To be honest, it still irks me when people use the singular in talking about the delivery.  It seems to deny his existence.  He was stillborn but still born!)

Then, something very unexpected happened.   I went to visit a family member at work, and everyone there oooohed and ahhhhed over our daughter.  They didn't say a word about our son, our loss, or ask how I'm doing.  And I waited for the anger, and waited, and waited, and....where did it go?  What was that I was feeling?  Exhilleration?  Joy?  Bliss?  Could that even be possible?  Of course, it only lasted a little while before I felt horrible again.  Worse than horrible, because how could I allow myself that joy when my son was dead?!  So now I had guilt upon guilt and the missing him and all that I usually felt. 

That one experience though, it made me realize that eventually, I would be able to find moments, pockets of time, where joy would be present.  I would enjoy my daughter at times without necessarily having to think about how much I missed my son.  That as the weeks, months, and years would trudge on, those segments of time just might be more than a few minutes at a time.  The thought was a comfort, even though I felt very conflicted by it, as I felt I was betraying my son by feeling joy.  But I was betraying my daughter by NOT allowing the joy to be felt when it was there.  So I've had to learn to just let be what is, to take the sorrow and the joy both, to hope that they both balance one another out somehow (not that having her could EVER take away the pain of losing him!), to just feel what I'm feeling and not be guilty about the joy.  So envious, always, of people who simply know the joy of their living children without the pain of having to say goodbye to a child muting that joy so often.

I realized then too that many outsiders would simply see us out with our daughter and think we were a new family of three, not knowing that we were a family of four minus one, which is very, very different.  And sometimes, instead of that angering me, I felt okay with that.  Even pleased with that, I must admit.  It felt like a rebellion in a way.  Like let me keep something, let me take what I can from this, let it be okay for strangers to just see us and not know, let us wear this identity as a family of three for a bit to just relieve some of the heavy heartbreaking burden of being four minus one.  Even for a few minutes, even if it's a lie.

At twenty months out, I'm starting to think the world really doesn't always need to know.  This doesn't define us.  Our daughter is her own precious individual human being and is no less for her brother having passed away, and she deserves to be loved, cherished, adored, and celebrated on her own behalf.  No asterisk needed, no footnote, no sidebar, no epilogue, just on her own.  I know that now, to the core of my very being, and it's not a defense mechanism, it is simply The.Truth.

And it does make me feel better, to some degree.

But still, I find it's such a hard line to walk.  Wanting my son to be "counted" and recognized as being part of our family yet not wanting that loss to define him, to define us, or to determine how we choose to be in this world as a family.  I feel like it's my forever paradox.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Therapist #3

Third time's a charm.  I really have very little to say about my last therapist.  She was much more into psychoanalysis, had specific things she wanted to work with me on, and was overall sensitive and generally helpful.  I shouldn't be using past tense, because technically I am still her client, but I am taking a break for now.  The sad thing is that the billing department keeps messing things up, charging co-pays that I already paid (with credit cards so I have proof of payment), and with some changes to my insurance as of April that I didn't realize would impact things I've had to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket.  It isn't a lot of money compared to the overall, I realize, but it wasn't something we had planned for and saved for because it had always been covered previously.  Yes, I still feel the need to talk to her from time to time, but it's sadly become more stress than it's worth with the insurance changes and billing mess ups.  Kind of another kick in the face really after everything else.  I finally find someone who's decent, but it's just a pain in the butt.  : /

So there you have it.  The story of my three therapists.  I'm sure some of you have been through many more than I have without any success, as I know from personal experience there are some bad therapists out there!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Therapist #2

So, after deciding therapist #1 was clearly not for me, I sought out a new one.  This woman supposedly specializes in women's issues and pregnancy loss but is also an actual psychologist and social worker, if I remember correctly.  Let's say I had high hopes for her.  My old OB had told me she'd heard some "iffy" things about this therapist, so at first I was skeptical, but after therapist #1 fell through I was ready to give it a go anyway.  I spoke with a couple of local people who had great things to say, so I felt good about my prospects.

At first, she was awesome.  She didn't just say, "You're so normal!  Everything is so normal!!!"  She was actually pissed off right along with me.  I was deep in the anger phase.  So deep in anger that it sometimes scared me.  And this woman would be all like, Yeah!  What happened to you is bullsh*t! (basically).  And that's what I needed at the time.  Someone to just sit and not tell me it's all okay, but that it wasn't okay, that it was a horrible injustice, that I had a right to vent and rage and just hate the world if that's how I felt. 

But how far do you get toward any semblance of "healing" when your therapist is all Yeah the world just sucks!  I mean it was refreshing in a way, but after awhile, I don't think either of us knew where we were going with our sessions or our dialogue.

She never actually had a "plan" for our sessions or topics she wanted to get at.  It was always So how are you doing?  And she'd let me bitch for a solid hour.  Great, but you know, I could talk to a wall for an hour and it'd be a lot cheaper.  I kind of thought that as an actual psychologist she would have some tools up her sleeve or some kind of methods to her madness, but it really didn't seem that way.  I should add here that I am a licensed school counselor, so I am familiar with a lot of methods used in counseling, and I just didn't see this woman doing a whole lot of "work".

At one point, when I opened up to her about my lack of faith and feeling God betrayed me, she actually did something that made my jaw about hit the floor.  She started going on and on about Judaism and how I should really check it out, how it doesn't contain x, y, z hypocrisies that the Christian faith does.

Can we say UNPROFESSIONAL?!  You do NOT try to convert your clients' religious orientation!  Basic ethics, lady!

She also pushed drugs on me, two different perscriptions.  One was an antidepressant, and the other was some sort of heavy painkiller.  When I asked her how I would know when I needed to take the painkiller, she said Oh just you know, when you feel like you want to just relax.  I said, "Well, I don't really like taking anything unless I really need it."  She said, Lindsay, you poor thing, you have been through SO MUCH.  You just deserve a break, you really do.  Taking this pill will be like taking a really good strong drink.  Just like, "ahhhhh" and relaxation.  Which is what you deserve.

Is it just me, or does she seem like a pill head to you?

Is it just me, or does it seem horribly reckless for her to have been prescribing me more than one medication that would have numbing effects?  Doesn't it seem counter-productive, in a way?

I almost stopped seeing her after that session.  But then I went back for one more.  At which point, she told me (with regard to losing my son), You know what?  It really could be worse.  You could have been pregnant with triplets and then had one of them born disabled.  And then have to watch the two healthy children interact while their disabled triplet misses out on so much in life.

Second of all....No.

Just no, no no.

That isn't worse, not at all.

There are a lot of reasons why that is not worse.

That woman she speaks of did not have to bury her child.

I almost laughed in my therapist #2's face that day, truly, and I wish I would have.  I wish I would have laughed hysterically and told her that therapists are trusted professionals that are paid to say the right things in a world where most people say everything wrong or avoid us entirely.

Three strikes, three red flags, and she was out.

Shame on her.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Therapist #1

The first one we saw wasn’t entirely horrible. She was able to bring me down from thinking a few irrational things concerning our loss. But that really wasn’t her focus. She was a grief counselor, and she specialized in pregnancy issues and loss. I know many women who love her, and I mean no disrespect, but she mostly just told me, “Everything you’re thinking and feeling is just SO normal.” She thought I maybe needed to come back once or twice tops. It made me feel worse, because I just kept thinking, THIS is normal? Feeling THIS HORRIBLE is normal?! Forever?!

I was only a few weeks out, so I was very much still in shock. I couldn't believe she so readily assessed my condition to be such that I didn't need more than a handful of sessions. Hell, over a year and a half out, I still feel I am trying to process everything. All of it. The miscarriage, the twin pregnancy, the scares, the bedrest, and then the stillbirth and live birth right at the finish line. How the hell, three weeks after the "conclusion" of such life-altering events, could anyone tell how I was really doing?! Even today, half the time, I don't know how I'm doing.

I will admit that it was a relief to visit someone who wanted me to talk about things, as so many people either avoided me entirely or just tried to distract me or tell me "you have to move forward somehow" when, again, I still was waiting to wake up from the nightmare that had become my life.

What I didn't like about this grief counselor was that she did not try to refute or dispute much of what I said but simply reassured me of my normalcy. I wanted to say, Look, lady, this may all be normal, but I'm damn tired of it! At one point I told her I felt like for the rest of my life, at every social gathering or party I would ever attend, everyone would just look at me with pity. That the party would suddenly become less fun because I was there, that everyone would feel sorry for me, that people would like me less because I'm a constant reminder of how horrible things can happen to good people.

Her response? That very well might be true, and people might think that. But you can't let that bother you.

Not really sure what her angle was there, but really, she should have refuted some of that. She should have reassured me that this was not my entire identity, that I would need to find people who saw me for more than my losses, that this really isn't a life sentence of misery. I'll admit that there are days where it feels that way. But just because it feels that way doesn't make it true. I've got a long life ahead of me. I'm only thirty years old. Any counselor who allows me to believe I will forever be the fun police, forever be a reminder of dead babies to anyone I ever meet, forever be only worth pitying? Really needs to re-evaluate her methods, at best.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Unfortunately, It Wasn't a Rhetorical Question

For those of you wondering about my last post (where I asked "Is it EVER appropriate to tell someone who has lost a child to GET OVER IT"?), YES, this was said to me.  If you want to get technical, it wasn't said to my face but to others who let me know about it.  I just don't even know what to say anymore.  Honestly.  I feel myself pulling back, pulling away, avoding people, because I can not BELIEVE how judged I am.  Do people think I wanted this life?  Do people think I enjoy missing my son every day for the rest of my life?  God knows I never wanted this, that I prayed for my children every single day several times a day of my pregnancy.  This life is my worst nightmare, but it's the only one I have, so I have to figure it out, don't I?  I can't believe losing him wasn't enough, that I have to lose friends too, friends who won't take the time to talk to ME but judge me with no understanding of what I've been through.  Neither of these people have children of their own.  So they don't know what it's like to parent much less lose a child.  I look at how I live my life compared with how I expected things to turn out after losing my son, and I have to say I think I'm doing one hell of a job keeping my sh*t together.  I work a full time job, keep a very active social calendar, spend time with my parents and sister weekly, try new recipes about twice a week, blog every once in a while, and check in every now and then on a loss forum I help run on FB as co-administrator.  All while raising my daughter and missing my son simultaneously.  On FB I also make and post remembrance images for my close friends who have lost a child or children.  Yes, I go to counseling, but that is something I have needed to do long before my loss.  Of the two who have completely been judgy toward me, ONE is someone I trusted and shared a lot of my grief process with.  Which hurts, because I would never have opened my mouth had I known the judgment that was forming in her mind.  The other friend, I literally have NEVER ONCE talked to about my grief.  When he's around, I never mention my son, and he's never asked me ONCE how I am doing, so it never came up.  So how the hell does he get off telling multiple people I need to GET OVER IT already (apparently he started saying this when I was only six months out).  You'd think that I lit a candle anytime someone came to the house and demanded they say a prayer for my son or something.  That I live on the couch, dressed in all black, blasting Portishead and carving my son's name into my wrist with a butcher knife.  I mean seriously, what am I doing that screams "not dealing well"?!  If people are going to make this sort of judgment simply by my posting a few remembrance images on FB or because I have a shelf in my home displaying some gifts people have given us in honor of our son, then THEY are the ones who need to get their heads examined.  I did not just have a bad day.  I lost my child.  I will never get over him.  He will always be a part of our family.  Anyone who wants to judge me for simply loving and missing my child has absolutely no place in my life.  Anyone who thinks I am morbid for trying to help others through the difficult days by making and sharing a picture of a flower with a name and date on it to honor their baby is just cold and selfish.  It takes a few minutes of my time, and many of the women I've done this for have said it made their day, that they wanted to print it for their memory books, or even frame them in their homes.  Do people not understand that you have to be in a certain place yourself in your own healing to even be in a spot to try and help others?  I'm sorry to say that the losses of these friendships feel like betrayals far beyond any others I've ever experienced (as far as friendships go).  They just hurt so deep to my core.  I have been trying to stay strong and say "Good riddance", because that is the truth of it from a rational standpoint, but I have to be honest and just say that my heart hurts.  And I'm really starting to slip and struggle here, whereas before I WAS doing okay.  I look at other failed friendships and the drama leading up to their demise is so trivial and pales in comparison with this, so much that I'd be willing to mend any prior failed friendships, truly.  But this?  This I can't see any reconciliation for.  I see no context in which it could even be remotely appropriate for people to say such hurtful, insensitive, and disrespectful comments about me.  The anger, the anger comes from a place deeper than my own scars, too.  It feels like I'm taking on anger for the entire loss community, because I KNOW I'm not the only one who has been judged and lost friends after losing a child.  I'd always heard this happens, that it's inevitable, that you lose friends.  But until it happened to me, that shared anger for the community hadn't really set in.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Get Over It?

Is there ANY circumstance or context in which it is appropriate for someone to say, "I think she just needs to get over it already" when speaking of a mother who has lost her child?  Is there ANY way that could possibly be construed as someone who is caring but had their words come out "the wrong way"?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Right Where I Am: 1 year, 5 months, 24 days.

My friend and fellow BLM blogger Angie started an amazing project last year called “Right Where I Am”.   I participated and thought it was a really moving experience to be a part of something others might find beneficial in their grief: reading posts about where others were in their grieving processes.  A window into the future or into the past of what grief might have looked / will look at another point in time, as grief is constant yet ever-changing with ebbs and flows and different manifestations.  Sometimes as powerful as waves that knock you down and out of breath to the point where you think you might succumb forever.  Sometimes as gentle as a butterfly that flits by, reminding you of the baby that now holds a forever place in your heart instead of your arms. 
This year Angie has decided to run the project again, and I read her post on being three years out and felt so inspired (per usual!) by her words.  

Then, I went back and read my submission to her project from last year.

It was incredibly painful for me to go back and read, to be honest with you.  Partly because I can’t believe I ever felt so low.  Partly because some days, I still do feel that low, even a year later. 
Does that mean I’ve stagnated?  I don’t think so. 
You see, the Ugly Raw Grief only comes out to play every now and then.
So here is today’s post:  Right Where I am: 1 year, 5 months, 24 days.
The weather is getting warmer, sunnier, nicer all around.  Most of the time, this is a good thing – getting out of the house, taking my daughter to the playground, going for walks and staying active.  As I said, the Ugly Raw Grief stays at bay most of the time, because Life has simply gotten in the way.  Last summer, my daughter was just an infant.  This summer, she is a toddler, and there’s a lot more to do together.  Grass needs trampled on by bare toddler feet, sandboxes need played in by grubby little hands, and sprinklers need jumped over by exuberant children. 
The warm weather sometimes has its downsides.  Pushing my daughter, the empty swing next to her at the park seems to mock me, haunt me, remind me of my biggest loss ever, the loss of my daughter’s twin brother six days before they were scheduled for delivery.  I feel myself going back to that dark place, being pulled away.  Back to the grief, the self-pity which I’ve come to loathe, to the “Why me?” train of thought, “Why him?” “Why us? Why our family?”  I feel sorry for my daughter having to go through life without him here, and the tears fall so easily, for all of us. 
But then. 
Then, I say in my mind, “Hey buddy.  I love you and miss you so much and wish you were here to enjoy this day with your sister.”  And instead of being reduced to tears, mostly, usually, I consider those moments to be times that the universe is winking at me and simply reminding me to enjoy the present.  To enjoy the life we do have.  To live every breath to the fullest for my dear little boy who can’t be here to live his.  Slowly and steadily I have felt less sorry for myself and more capable of grieving his loss. 
I look at my daughter and see her smiling, playing, unaware.  She isn’t half of a person.  She isn’t half of something lost.  She isn’t broken.  She isn’t anything less with his not being here.  She is her own unique person, and I celebrate her more and more with each day, knowing that not only does she deserve it, but so do I, and my son wouldn’t want it any other way.

This is one of the greatest ways my son has changed my life for the better.  I make an effort to live in the moment and enjoy each one as it comes, to live fully, to embrace each experience.  I’ve grown as a person considerably over this past year, and in some ways even though I’m broken inside I also feel more whole than I’ve ever been, which is yet another paradox I can’t quite wrap my mind around. 

The biggest heartbreak of my life was losing my son just days before he was “scheduled” to come into this world.  I would do anything to have my son back, and that still includes giving my own life for his, but I obviously can’t.  So here I am.  I do what I can for others, and some of my pre-loss friends have judged me harshly for it, saying I need to “Get over it”.  They are no longer my friends anymore.  More accurately, they weren’t ever my friends.  They don’t understand that to ignore the gifts that have come from my son’s existence would be to dishonor him, and I’m not about to do that.  So instead of being ashamed of those gifts, I embrace them.  The increased sensitivity I have for others.  The compassion.  Being “let in” to others lives, stories, and losses.  People say, “I could never read stories about babies who died.  That’s too sad.  I would be so depressed talking to those kinds of people over and over.”  To me, what’s depressing is that society has labeled us as “those kinds of people” who simply deserve pity and nothing more.  What’s depressing is that people see us as defined by our losses and nothing more.  What’s depressing is that people want us to “get over it”, not realizing that it would be much more disturbing and alarming if somehow we were able to do that.  That if we pretended our children never existed, it’s the same thing as saying they never mattered, that we don’t love them, that they don’t deserve recognition, that their lives had no impact on the world.  To be present with others and to be let into their worlds, their stories, and their losses, is not something I take lightly.  It is truly a gift.  I try to help others in small ways, whenever I’m given the chance, and anytime I’m contacted by someone needing support, I feel my son is bettering the world around him.  His life may have been cut short, but I hope to see to it that he lives on through the changes he’s made in me to help others.

Where I am now is in a place of remembering my son without always breaking down.  Where I am is in a place of healing and renewal but also anger, I must admit.  Trying to figure out what to do with the anger I have toward our society for making the topic of baby loss so incredibly taboo that women feel they must deny their children ever lived, that they must keep everything mum, that they should feel like a freak for something happening to their child in this incredible age of medicine and technology, that they should feel they failed their child somehow, that their motherly instincts should have saved their child somehow, that they must have had negligent medical care, that they must have not been eating right or paying attention or their child would have lived.  I have felt the crippling effects of how our society deals with baby loss.  Society is backwards in a way I never realized before.  The stigma attached to child loss is something that needs to change.  The real heroes in this world are all the amazing people, many whom I’ve been privileged to be in contact with, who have been real advocates for women in the loss community, who have helped to give them a voice, who have given them places to share their stories and connect with one another, who have helped them to realize they don’t need to hide in the dark or feel alone.  At this point in my journey, these heroes and the avenues they’ve created for positive changes are what sustains me through my moments of anger toward society. 

I thank you, Angie, for being one of Our heroes.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sugar, Analytical Musings, and Bling.

Strawberry Margarita Cupcakes. And yes, they are as good as they look / sound. Better, actually.
We got out of the house and went to a Cinco De Mayo shindig over the weekend. These cupcakes were my contribution. It was a nice gathering. I appreciate being included and getting out to do something somewhat festive.

I have to say, I've had an epiphany recently about something I've really been struggling with. Lately I've had this intense desire to reconnect with my non-loss friends, to sort of redefine my friendships, figure out who is legit, etc. I feel like I've been looking at everyone and everything with eyes anew.
I will never have both feet in the loss community, nor will I ever have both feet in the non-loss community. I need friends in BOTH. That is vital to me. There are friends who truly HAVE stood by my side, not having any clue what it feels like to go through a fraction of what I've been through, and I could never cut them out of my life nor would I ever want to.

But so many of the friendships, now that my "raw grief" had died down (as far as they know, anyhow) seem so SAFE. I can't put my finger on it, but it's almost like we talk about the weather and Pinterest and our latest pedicures, and that's it. After my loss, such conversations (after a few months passed and I could even stomach "normal" conversation) were welcome distractions. Even today, I certainly don't want to sit around and talk about loss 24/7. Who would? But I'm sorry, to me small talk is not going to sustain a meaningful relationship over time.
Do you know what I mean? Or am I just going crazy overanalyzing everything? (Wouldn't be the first time nor the last.)

My non-loss friends may not know what it's like to lose a child, but they certainly have things going on in their lives that I would like to hear about. Maybe they hold back thinking I have enough on my plate or whatever, but I want to feel connected, and this life is NOT a competition for who has suffered the most. I think that this recent need I comes from the realization that I have truly built some incredibly intimate bonds with women globally who share a similar experience.

When you have shared such private and life-changing experiences with others, when you've been inspired and supported and uplifted by women who themselves are fighting such battles, fighting for their very lives, how do you go about feeling that degree of closeness to someone who shares very little personal information with you?! I can see how some of the people I've known for years may feel intimidated by these new friends (not that any have ever told me that), but oh how vital they've been and continue to be. Some of them are lifelong friends now for sure. Some of us hang out in real life, some of us plan to visit one another someday, and some of us will simply always connect through the interwebs.

Oh, how I need them.

And yet I need my non-loss friends, too. I have some really amazing people in my life. So the question is this: How do I feel closer to people who haven't suffered a loss? Do I simply have to accept that many of my friendships will simply feel like surface friendships compared with the intimacy and support of women in the loss community?

You want to know what I really think?
  I call BULLSH*T!

You don't have to have suffered the loss of a child to be close to someone who has.  But yes, you have to accept them for who they are, for their family in its entirety, be present and abide with their grief when it comes, and allow yourself to be vulnerable and share what's going on in your life.
Not shy away and make the person feel shunned and contagious with dead baby plague. Is that too much to ask?

I also feel like people simply accept that after you get married and have kids your social life is over. Again, I call BS, plain and simple. I'm married, and that never got in the way of my social life. Starting a family has only added to my social events, not detracted from them. People who use those things as an excuse are doing just that - using them as an excuse because they don't really want to hang out with you. Plenty of women I know do maintain friendships alongside being wonderful mothers, wives, career people, students, etc. And I have several childless friends, and believe it or not - shock of all shockers - we actually find things to discuss OTHER than diapers, baby food, and strollers. Really.

All this to say, I have been learning a lot about who my real friends are over the past 17 months. The ones who were never really friends to begin with will use my grief, my children, my marriage, my eye color, my favorite pizza topping, or whatever they can as an excuse for their inability to relate to me.

Enough already.

We either grow together, or we grow apart, and if I can find a way to live somehow without my son, well, I think I'll manage. Let's stop kidding ourselves and each other. 

Just stop stringing me along. Let go.

Thanks to the lovely Brooke for sharing the above necklace on her blog, which I promptly told my husband about and he thoughtfully and dutifully purchased for me for International Bereaved Mothers Day 2012. "I am always with you. Be brave, have courage, and love life." It's so comforting to feel that Elias would want me to know that.

And, last but not least, I do so much on FB I often neglect this space, so as a final note, I wish all of you a peaceful (albeit belated) IBMD.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Is the first year after loss really the worst?

I tend to think so. But what do I know, sixteen months out?

In the first few months after my loss, people would sometimes say, “The first year is the absolute worst.” This would come primarily from those who have suffered baby loss, so I trusted their opinions. However, in the back of my mind, I was always thinking, “I’m not so sure.” Everybody grieves differently. Our minds, our hearts, our bodies, everything “recovers” in different ways and paces. I place that word in quotes, recognizing that grief is a lifelong process, and from what I know there is never complete recovery from the loss of a child. But there has to be some degree of healing for any of us to continue living. Not merely surviving, but truly living, which is what I’m starting to finally do. Back to the questions at hand: So how could anyone know that my first year of grief would be the worst?

I’ll tell you. I’m sixteen months out. So maybe I don’t know a whole hell of a lot. But so far, it does seem that the first year IS the absolute worst. I know I will have days where the grief knocks the wind out of me probably for the rest of my life if not at least for many years. I know I’ll be in a retirement home talking about my precious son. I hope to be. He deserves that. However, the pain, the pain lessens. It has to. And while I hope that I will always honor and acknowledge my son as part of our family, I also hope that the pain continues to lessen. I don’t feel I need to hold onto the pain to hold on to him. I know that his legacy is about so much more than that.

My epiphany about the first year being the worst came to me at the most unforeseen time. A visit to the dentist. For some reason, the dentist always brings flashbacks. I always think about the last time I was at the dentist and how I was feeling. This dental visit was going really well. I got a clean bill of dental health, and everything was perfect. I flashed back to before my loss when TTC. I kept asking if this or that was okay during pregnancy (just in case I was pregnant), and the woman kept reassuring me. Then, she told me about a woman who had a stillbirth that was attributed to gingivitis. I thought that was just absolutely horrific and thought I would never forgive myself if something like that happened to me. (And of course, I did NOT lose Elias to gingivitis. But oh my, if hearing that story was not incentive to keep my teeth clean, I don’t know what would have been!)

Flash forward to my next appointment. This was only a few months out from my loss, maybe four or five. I just wanted to get in, get out, go home, and crawl under a blanket. You know, typical day. So I go in, and to my surprise, the hygienist says she’s sorry for my loss. I had no idea how she even knew. But I didn’t want to talk about it at all, and I felt so exposed and panicky and self-conscious and just OMG get me out of here! So they proceed to do the cleaning and had plenty to say. In nice tones, of course, but still. Teeth not in great shape (thanks, grief). Hadn’t been flossing enough (thanks, depression). Enamel worn away (thanks, months and months of barfing due to multiple gestation). I felt like sitting up in the middle of that dental visit and screaming, “My son died! I’m sorry I didn’t brush my teeth twice a day and always remember to floss! I was kind of busy trying to not off myself or end up in the freaking loony bin! Can you cut me some slack here?!?!?!”

I’m sure I had a visit in between that one and this one, but I was likely in my numb phase of grief (rather than the anger phase), so that visit doesn’t quite stand out so much in my mind.

But this one? It went so freaking well that the lady didn’t even give me the special “sensitive” toothpaste. She sprayed cold-ass water during those rinses, and it didn’t bother my teeth one bit. We talked about a bachelorette party I’m going out of town for and what salon treatments I might get beforehand (it’s at a water park). She told me all about her experience getting waxed for the first time (I know, right?!) and a little about her family back in Romania. We made jokes and talked about the weather, all that NORMAL stuff, and I walked out of there feeling like a million bucks. And almost like a normal person myself. I felt so awesome, I walked next door to FroYo and treated myself to some delicious calorie-laden teeth damaging frozen yogurt (I’d never been there before. Let me say that it is fan.tas.tic).

Driving home, scarfing my ice cream (unsafe, I know), I realized something that should have been so painfully obvious all along. I guess I’d just never really thought about it. But here it is. The first year after your loss, amidst the raw grief and anger and all that, there’s always that nagging agonizing feeling of, “This time last year I was __________”. Whether happily TTC, happily pregnant (or, admittedly at times miserably pregnant). “If only I knew then what I know now!” And that feeling where you trick yourself into thinking you could have changed the outcome now that you know what you know, which makes you feel panicky and guilty and so.freaking.upset.

After the first year, you start saying, “This time last year I was __________”. Suicidal? Hating everybody? Not sure my broken heart would continue to function? Not sure I would ever care to brush my teeth or shower on a regular basis?

And you kind of stop wanting to go back. You start being okay right where you are now. And you realize that a year from now, you’ll look back without panic attacks, and just think, “This time last year I had FroYo for the first time, and it was fan.freaking.tastic.”

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Every Night

Every night I ask Elias to visit me in a dream and let me know that he's okay, that he loves me, that he isn't angry, that he's at peace. Every night I fail to dream of him, and when I wake up my heart is broken all over again.

Monday, March 19, 2012


People who have suffered the worst loss imaginable have to fight for their lives every day. I know that sounds melodramatic, and even loss parents reading this might think "exaggeration much?" but stop and think about having your heart torn out and being expected to survive that? And yet, we do. Survive. But when do we get to do more than simply survive? Every day is a struggle to get out of bed, shower, get dressed, hell even breathing just hurts some days. Now that the first year has passed, I am making a conscious effort to emerge from my hermit-like self-loathing pity party state and be an active participant in life. My son wouldn't want it any other way. He would want me to fully LIVE. So as I said before, I am striving for that balance of work, home, friends, hobbies, myself, and all the other things that grief "stole" my attention from. This is kind of a HUGE deal. Not everyone gets here. Some people stay STUCK forever in the black mire. Well, apparently not all of my friends truly realize the significance of my efforts or how much more difficult it is for someone who is grieiving to try and throw something like a dinner party. I spent allll day Saturday cooking, cleaning, decorating, and getting amped up to have people over. Two couples that we were expecting to come over didn't show up. One of them had promised to come and were a huge part of why we were throwing the party, because they said they never do anything. Less than three days before the party, one of them mentioned to my sister that they wouldn't be able to make it due to a prior commitment (mind you, we had spoken about the party for weeks beforehand where nothing was ever mentioned about prior plans). I find that excuse very difficult to buy, and I need to emphasize that this person never even bothered to tell me directly or apologize or anything along those lines. They didn't even ask if my sister could pass the message along. (?!) Another couple said they were coming and just never showed up. We heard nothing. A week or so ago, another friend of mine ignored several of my attempts to hang out after saying she wanted to. This was a friendship that had drifted, and I was trying to do some mending, which takes a great deal of emotional energy on top of grief. I tried suggesting different things to do and at different times, and she never confirmed anything, so I finally said "What is going on????" and still no response. So, I'm about done. With everyone. I keep putting myself out there, and it angers me that people must think I'm better, that I don't need friends, and it angers me that they don't know that in many many ways I am still fighting for my very life. Fighting to have some kind of life outside of the loss world, to do more than simply survive but to live. It angers me that my husband doesn't understand that concept, either. How will anybody else get it when he doesn't? I remember when he used to "get" me. I miss those days more than ever. Overall, I feel so disrespected, devalued, alone, misunderstood, unloved, and unimportant. If I didn't have my daughter here, I think I'd just be done with it all. The weather is getting nicer, and I have the day off, I should be out enjoying it, but I just want to crawl in a hole and disappear.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Feeling off-balance.

I just want to say that I miss this place, and I miss reading blogs regularly and commenting and all of the above. I am really struggling right now to achieve some sort of balance. I have stepped away for awhile, mostly because I feel I was here perhaps too often, and that's not good either. Life is not meant to be spent tied to a computer screen. The positives have been that I'm taking a workout class and am also learning to cook and enjoy other things. However, something is missing, and I know that I still need to come here; I need to write and to read and to connect. I just don't know how to get things balanced. Slowly I am "unsubscribing" from people on Facebook and will be doing a cleanup. I feel I have overdosed on social media to some extent, and I want to emerge from the shadows and focus more on "real life" and all that is tangible. Then, I realize, I don't even know what that means or what that is. Between my career, my marriage, my home, my family, my friends, it's just so difficult to balance it all. New hobbies and interests have taken shape in my life, but where do they fit in, and how do I incorporate all of this new stuff and still come here? It blows my mind when people say they are bored. How the hell are people ever bored? Life is so painfully short, and there's so much I want to do, become, achieve, and explore. So many people to connect with. So many people who can change and enhance my life. I can't disconnect from the loss community, either - not that I would ever want to. No way, no how. I am judged by people (and it is very obvious) for still reading the loss blogs when I do (which isn't often enough), for connecting with other loss moms on FB, and for wanting to acknowledge and honor my son. Maybe to some extent at certain points in my life, things were lopsided in that direction, sure. But now, I am realizing that, and the problem is that I don't know how to fix it so that it all has its proper place. I've found myself becoming much more social lately, which also has its pitfalls. Anyone in the loss community will tell you that figuring your social life out post-loss is a very confusing and difficult task. Just when I open my heart to be vulnerable again to friends, I end up getting screwed over again. I am at a point in my life where I am done with games and passive aggressive relationships. You're either my friend or you're not. I realize friendships are on a spectrum, and they shift and morph, but there's also a limit. And when I feel completely disrespected and devalued? Time to move on. I don't know how to achieve balance in my life yet, and I realize that's the goal so many of us have. I don't know how to reach "integration" as some call it. I don't know how to just be at work and focus on work, or be at home and focus on home. Everything gets blurred, the colors bleed, the lines shift. Just as I don't know who to trust anymore or how I will ever be okay again, really okay again, without my son here. Everything is lacking clarity, and I feel aimless, confused, hurt, abandoned, and scared. My grief has new layers to it that I never knew before, and I have horrible flashbacks and nightmares that can be triggered by many different things. I don't want to say I have PTSD, because I don't really know, but it really wouldn't surprise me. Work used to be my safe haven, my place to go and get away from my grief, and it was easy to compartmentalize to some extent. Why fifteen months out (today!) is it becoming more difficult to do that? Why do I find myself crying at work during my lunch hour? Why can't I focus and be efficient? Why do I still not know what choices are best for me, and why do I feel like depression is lurking around the corner threatening to snatch away any joy and motivation I feel?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ignorance = Bliss?

There's nothing that irritates me more than a pregnant woman who seems to think she is immune to loss.

Guess what, honey? You're not. Nobody is immune.

In fact, most of the loss mamas I know are extremely educated, received great care (and would not switch their OBs post-loss for anything other than simply not wanting to invite flashbacks), ate well, rested, read every pregnancy book they could get their hands on, and loved their babies with everything in them. Society projects this idea that healthy people with solid medical care (especially with all that technology)don't lose babies.

I realize this is why there are so many smug women out there who truly believe they will never lose a baby (or babies). Ok, fine. So do we blame society? Then again, that mentality isn't even what pisses me off so much as that many of these blissfully naive and ignorant women also flaunt their seeming invincibility against harm (if you think I'm exaggerating, stop it. I'm not. I could give you countless specific examples of said flaunting that has been done in front of myself as well as in front of other loss mamas who have shared their frustrations with me, but I won't. At least not today).

And, well, there's just no excuse for that smugness. None at all. Nobody is immune to tragedy. Who in their right mind truly believes they are?

I hear some speak of "God's plan" and knowing it. Well, all those weeks when everything was PERFECT with my babies, I thought God had a hand in that too. I felt blessed too. Doubly blessed. What happens if/when your blessing(s) gets taken away? How do you reconcile that in your mind with a God you believed to be all-loving, all-powerful, and knew your heart and your innermost prayers? Did God fall asleep at the wheel? And please stop with the "Satan stole your baby" crap. I swear, there is nothing that makes you sound much crazier. (Yes, I had someone tell me that.) I've had extremely religious people during my pregnancy literally say that God spoke to them and told them both of my babies would be born healthy and safe. Why would they say that? Post-loss, they expect me to not grieve because it's "part of God's plan". Really? Wait, I thought God told you his plan, and this wasn't going to be part of it. So...Did your signals somehow get crossed? *sigh* These women who apparently feel they have a direct line to God, know his plan, know his plan could never entail heartache or tragedy from them because they are "protected" or invincible somehow, they SERIOUSLY get on my last nerve.

Show some humility. Show some respect.

Realize that the unfortunate reality is that loss happens more frequently than you'd think (thanks, society, for covering that one up with all the shiny happy baby shower bull!), and that loss does not discriminate. It doesn't care about your color, race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, education level, morality, finances, state of health, or anything else.

In fact, the day after my loss, one of the L&D nurses came to visit me and shared that she has suffered a full-term stillbirth. She gave me her phone number, and she shared some very personal things about her loss, and I will forever be grateful to her for not only those things but for the lesson she gave me. Which is that even doctors, L&D nurses, doulas, and midwives experience stillbirth. EXPERTS in the field of pregnancy and delivery.

This shouldn't come as a surprise, but for me it initially did. I have had to take a hard look at myself and my perceptions about loss and confront the fact that I must have also thought that with enough knowledge, care, and caution, people wouldn't lose their babies. So why, you ask, do I have a "right" to get frustrated with others when I may have had a similarly naive view? Here's why. Even before I had EVER experienced a loss, I was always cautious about the topic of pregnancy. I was never one to shout it from the rooftops the first sign of a "plus". I was always aware of the pain and suffering in the world enough to call my best friend and tell her the news but then follow it with, "Should I tell anyone else yet? I mean, what if, God forbid, I lose this baby?" (Then, I did miscarry.) Never once did I feel "above" experiencing a loss, even with all those things that I admittedly felt would put the odds very much in my favor of a successful outcome.

So no, there's no excuse for the arrogance. That's the part that drives me bonkers.

Is there some correlation between being a cautious, mindful, caring, humble person and experiencing loss? Because it seems that I have met the most amazing people inside this very community, the loss community, and it really makes me wonder.

I used to believe in karma. Well, karma is crap.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The One Sentence Post

Fourteen months out from our loss my husband and I are doing some afternoon shopping when I am stopped by an acquaintance / grade school friend / FB friend who says, "Hi, Lindsay! Where are the babies?" and when I remind her that my son died she says, "Oh, I forgot. I'm sorry."

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Their Birthday. Chills, times two.

Part Two: Their Birthday

This will give you chills. Twice, if you read all of it.

So, I apologize that this is a bit convoluted. I shared with you the Elias remembrance event on FB that led up to their birthday and Evelyn’s party at the community center two days after their birthday. What I need to do now is try and document their actual birthday, which is really hard for me to even put into words.

Because really, it was just perfect. Absolutely positively perfect.

In order for you to get the full effect of it (which is basically impossible), I need to share something ELSE amazing that happened in July when Evelyn was about seven months old. I’ve never written here about it, but it’s time I do.

Last July we were at a balloon release for a local woman who had lost her daughter a little over halfway through her pregnancy four years ago. I did not know her well (although I know her better now), but I had talked to her a couple of times online and wanted to help her honor her sweet girl (BLMs stick together like that, you know). I think I had met her through the S.O.B.B.S. forum on FB, and she lived about a half hour away, so we were glad to go.

So there we were at her house for the first time, not really knowing anybody else there other than the host, and we weren’t even there for five minutes when we noticed a woman looking at us, transfixed. She slowly approached us, looked at Evelyn, and burst out, “Is she a twin?” with this look of complete shock on her face.

My heart was pounding. You can imagine. (Well, maybe you can). I was immediately thrust into the early days of our loss and that feeling of “Everyone knows!” Do you know what I mean? Those early days when you feel like you have a flashy neon sign announcing your dead baby to every cashier lady and every random stranger on the street? I hadn’t felt that self-conscious panicked neon sign-y feeling in months, thankfully, and there it was again! I thought, “How the hell does this lady know Evelyn is a twin??!?!?! Are we branded?! Do I have a freaking tattoo on my forehead that gives it away?!” I admit, I was very self-conscious, and I don’t know where that came from other than I was JUST SO CONFUSED! Who was this woman?! How did she know?! Do we look miserable?! Even so, how do our expressions and appearances translate to ‘lost one twin’ to outsiders?!?!! Are we the walking plague; are we so obvious?!?!! I had a few moments of crazy, but they were much quicker than I’m making them out to be here. Then, I realized, this woman was familiar. But why? Who was she, and where did I know her from?

She looked directly at me, put her hand up to her cheek in shock, and said, “I took your son’s photos.”

It was the kind, quiet, talented woman, D, from NILMDTS (Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, which is a volunteer organization of photographers who photograph stillborn babies and those with fatal diagnoses). She had been there on that day, the best day and worst day of our lives. A stranger with a camera in our most painful and private moments, to capture what we didn’t realize we would later be so grateful to her for having captured.

I was shocked. A different kind of shock. I didn’t know what to say or what to do or how to feel about this. Immediately, we hugged, and we were both crying. It was just so absolutely amazing to me that we were both brought together a half a year after our loss. And, well, she thought so, too. She said, “I never get to follow up with the families after I photograph their babies, ever. So this is just incredible for me to see you and talk to you.” She was very kind and respectful, and it was very moving to have a chance to talk to her and reflect on our experiences.

Once that initial shock wore off, I tried to piece together why she was here at this other BLM’s house, and so I assumed she had taken photos for her as well. But no. In fact, she knew the women through church. So it was a total “random” thing (or was it?) that we were both there that day and brought together in such a mysterious way.

Now, I am typically no longer the “everything happens for a reason” type of person, but I will say that running into her that way made me stop and think. It really didn’t seem or feel like a coincidence. And it gave me chills that stayed with me for some time..

She offered (more like insisted) to do a free photo shoot for Evelyn as a gift to our family, and I couldn’t resist the offer. I hadn’t had professional photos done for Evelyn since her newborn shoot (which was expensive, I’ll add), and to have this woman offer to do them for free was so generous, not to mention meaningful. There was something beautiful, something so poetic, about her having done Elias’s photos in the hospital and then having an opportunity seven months later to do an infant photo shoot for Evelyn. And, I must add, they turned out gorgeous, and I often get asked “Who did Evelyn’s summer photos?!”, and I love telling them the story of D and how we were reunited so unexpectedly.

Fast forward to December and the week of their birthday. I received packages in the mail that week, as I mentioned in my last post. One of those packages was from D. Inside was an adorable owl gift box, and inside that gift box were two adorable metal owl ornaments. They were hand-painted white owls with little scarves on them, and each had a name painted on it. One for each of my precious twins.

Next, inside the box, we found a chain. On the end of the chain was a black and white photograph of Elias’s precious adorable little feet. His name had been added to the photo, and it hung as a pendant on this chain. D had that made just for me (with a photo she had taken in the hospital). She enclosed a heartfelt message to me about how she knows I’d rather have him snuggling on my chest, but since I can’t, at least I can wear this necklace and keep Elias close to me.

I cried my eyes out, and my husband was equally touched, although he rarely cries. He said, “Only D could have given this to us. Only D could have given us such an incredible gift.” And he was right.

We both took a day off of work on the twins’ birthday. We had no set plan, and we weren’t sure what to do. In the morning while Evy was napping, we went through Elias’s memory box. I looked at every single card given to us when he had passed away and from his memorial service. I laid them out and took a photo of them, although I’m not sure why. My heart just felt so full of gratitude to all the people who had mourned the loss of our son with us.

I reflected on all the thoughts of those early days and how things seem a lot different now in my mind and in my heart. So many irrational thoughts had been put to rest that week of their birthday. Memories and flashbacks had come to me, and upset me, and then I talked about them to my husband and my therapist who both helped me to realize I had been harboring many feelings even one year later that either made no sense, were completely illogical, were irrational, and were simply unhealthy. When those things were realized it was a weight off of my chest, and that happened on the anniversary of the last time I had heard his heartbeat. That in itself was an amazing gift that I feel my son most definitely had a hand in.

I thought about how my life was enriched by having known him. I thought about how he was so much a part of me, is a part of me still, and will always be a part of me, and I smiled at that thought. I thought about the amazing support system I have found through other loss parents and how my son has brought me out of my little sheltered bubble and into a global community of people who daily amaze and inspire me with their writing, meditations, and art. I thought about how I am a better person for being my son’s mom, how my life has changed in more ways than I can ever articulate, how I live more fiercely, how I push life against the wall and get what I can from it instead of being a silent witness of others’ lives, how I don’t let my fears hold me back anymore, how I refuse to let my son’s legacy be sadness and darkness and misery. I want him to look down and see that we are survivors, that he has brought us so much more than pain and loss, that he has brought us immeasurable gifts that are endless. I thought about how he has taught me the true meaning of unconditional love, and how amazing that feels, even though it also hurts so much sometimes. My heart was just overflowing with thanks to my sweet boy, all the while missing him intensely and wishing he could be here with us.

My sister visited and gave Evelyn her first birthday presents, and we got an adorable shot of her with a big pink bow on her head (which we later used for her thank you cards), wearing a dress with butterflies on it of course. Evelyn loved her presents, and I was so grateful that her auntie was able to shower her with some lovin’ and pampering, as our focus that day was admittedly our son. She gave us a solar butterfly for our yard, and my aunt baked two smash cakes, which we ended up eating Elias’s while Evy smashed hers. (It’s what he would have wanted, right?)

We spent most of the day at home as a family, and that felt perfect. However, my parents stopped over, and deliberately at a time when Evelyn was down for a nap. It meant a lot to me that they did that, that they wanted to spend time with us apart from her, to take time to be with us and remember our son, their grandson. My mother gave me a card with a beautiful message in it, and she had written his name on the front (and it was a beach card, so his name was in the sand, so cute). She had bought a butterfly-shaped mirror from Pottery Barn Kids, which seemed the perfect tribute for the day, as I could hang it in Evelyn’s nursery but it would be in memory of Elias. And one day she will look in that mirror and see her reflection and perhaps feel his connection there.

The topic of his photos had never come up before really, and I didn’t know how to bring it up, but I managed to do so, telling my parents about D and how generous she had been sending gifts for our twins, and how talented a photographer she is, and then I changed the subject (I didn’t want my parents to feel pressured to view his photos with us). Well, my mom brought it back up, and so the four of us sat and viewed the disc from D of his photos as a slideshow on the TV. Everyone was silent, other than at one point, my mother said, “I’m so glad you have these, Lindsay.” And the best part was that she meant it. And that meant so much to me. After, we had a really nice discussion about how the culture of loss has changed (compared to the old days where they wouldn’t let you see the baby), and I talked to my parents about how inspiring this community is to me. It was a much-needed conversation and felt like we were really clearing the air of a lot of our unspoken thoughts on all sides; it was extremely refreshing. I felt like pieces of my shattered heart were glued back into place, some of them, and I could breathe with more ease.

We went to the park where there is a butterfly engraved in stone in our son’s honor (with his name by it), and we released a single baby blue balloon for him and said a prayer.

We went out to eat, the five of us, and we weren’t there five minutes but I felt arms around me, someone hugging me from behind. “Oh my God!” my husband exclaimed. I turned to see D standing there, arms extended, tears streaming down her face. I couldn’t believe my eyes. She had never been in this restaurant before; it was a last minute thing, and she had NO clue we were going to be there. But, of course, she knew what day it was. For her to be on the other side of town and at the exact same place at the exact same time as us one year to the day that she photographed our twins after one was born alive and one not?!?! It was all just too much to even process, and I’m still tossing that one around in my heart and mind, but I mean it when I say that it made our day. I introduced her to my parents, who had just seen her precious photos, and that warmed my heart, too.

It was like the missing piece to our having a perfect day had miraculously fallen into place, and it was a piece we hadn’t known was missing until we saw her.

D and I stood in the middle of Olive Garden, hugging and crying, while strangers ate soup and pasta and were ignorant of all that was transpiring in our hearts in that moment.

And yes, it made me stop, and think. It still makes me stop, and think, and wonder, and thank my son yet again for his endless gifts and lessons. I do not know how this world works, and that’s going to have to be okay.