Thanks

Thanks for stopping in. There isn't really a rhyme or reason to this blog. It's just what comes to my head as I go through each day. If something I say resonates with you (positively or not), please leave a comment. It helps to know that people care. Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Realization on Experience

I was replying to someone on the Grief & Loss message board tonight and I realized something.  There isn't much with regards to having children that I have not done..  Now, granted, some of these things happened within the same labor and birth experience, but still...it's a lot!

I had a year of unsuccessful attempts to try to concieve.

I got pregnant twice while on birth control.  Once was regular birth control, and once was on the mini pill while nursing.

I've had a chemical pregnancy, a late miscarriage, a stillbirth, and a live birth.

I've been induced, gone into labor naturally, given birth vaginally, and had a C-section.

I've had two D&Cs: one under complete anesthesia, and one with just an epidural while I was completely lucid.

I had a botched D&C which didn't get everything, causing me to have spontaneous contractions and passing of a lot of stuff two full months later.

I've had a breech baby, a baby with a knotted cord, and a baby with a birth defect (the stillborn--gastroschisis).

The only thing I can think of that I HAVEN'T done is lose a baby in infant death...I'm not going to lie, it terrifies me a bit, because I've gone through every other complication I can think of.  Seriously, if anything ever happens to my daughter, I quit life.








Pictures of Charlotte

It occurs to me that there's no reason why I can't/shouldn't post pictures of Charlotte here.  My major fear in showing people her picture is that people won't respond to her in the way I need them to.  I get few, if any comments here, so I don't really think I need to worry about being upset by others' responses...as I am in my real life, and facebook, and pretty much any other sharing venue that I have.  When I told people about Charlotte, I told them I had my journal of my experiences that I would share and pictures of our time with her.  I told them if they wanted to see either, all they had to do was ask.  Few did.  So many fewer than I thought.

I know that it's hard.  People see a picture of a baby and they say, "Aww."  They see a picture of a premature baby and they say, "So tiny."  They see a picture of someone who has died and they say, "Such a shame."  They see a picture of a premature baby who has died and they say....nothing.  What do you say?  She's lovely?  I think so.  She's so tiny?  That's true.  It's a shame?  Hello, understatement.

People are so concerned with the "right" thing to say that they say nothing.  That, of course, extends to all aspects of this experience, but particularly with pictures.  Most people just say, "Wow."  There is no right thing to say.  There are, of course, wrong things to say.  I don't show Charlotte's pictures to anyone who is clearly uncomfortable with it.  If they can't see her as a beautiful little girl, as I do, I don't want them to look.

Still...I find myself desperate to show her pictures to people.  I had a baby.  I had a beautiful little girl.  In any other circumstances, I'd be drowning my family, friends, and facebook albums with images of her face, her hands, her everything.  Instead, they'll just have to go here...where few people will probably see them, but at least they're not hidden.  I'm not ashamed of my daughter.









Thursday, August 30, 2012

How was your summer?

"How was your summer?"  It's the first thing teachers ask one another when school starts back up every fall.  It's a simple, innocuous question, right? 

How do I answer that question this year?

Here are some ideas I've had and rejected:
  • Well, aside from my daughter dying, it wasn't too bad.
  • My little girl was stillborn in the middle of it, but I went to the beach for two weeks...that evens out, right?
  • It was OK...lots of good things, but also some personal issues.  (I thought this one would actually work...until I tried it, and the person I said this to said, "I had personal issues, too!  My daughter had lice."  Yeah.  Mine died.)
  • Great.
So what's left?  Shrug?  Mumble?  Ignore the question?

Maybe I'll just say it could have been better and then internally laugh at the ridiculousness of the understatement.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"Only"

I read this somewhere recently, and I think it's important, so I wanted to muse on it a bit.

When women like me experience the death of a child in this way, one of the first questions people ask is, "How far along were you?"  This is a relatively natural question, and the answer is almost irrelevant.  9 weeks.  13 weeks.  20 weeks.  Two months.  Seven months.  Unfortunately, unless women go to full term, they always put in a pesky little word that always causes miscommunication: "only"

I was only 13 weeks.
I was only five months.
I was only half way through.

Here's the problem: When we say "only", we're minimizing our experience.  The word choice implies that it's not that important, that we didn't see our pregnancies (not babies, the word choice connotes a reference to the pregnancy, not the child) as being real yet.  It's as though, by not going to full term, the death of a child is more acceptable.  Clearly it's not. 

This also opens the door for the person to say things like, "Thank goodness it didn't happen later."  Yes, you're right, I'm so thankful that I didn't get to spend more time with my child.  "At least you didn't go to full term."  Absolutely; I'm so glad that I my child didn't live longer. 

There are added pieces about having an early stillbirth that are actually harder than going full term.  Some people don't see my experience as being as valid...like I wasn't that pregnant yet. As such, I don't get as much support and understanding. People don't get why it's so hard, weeks later. Some don't see Charlotte as a baby...to them she was a lost pregnancy, a fetus, not a child. The pictures I have of my time with Charlotte are more controversial since she was so little; she wasn't fully developed and some people can't handle it.  I can't share my beautiful little girl with everyone because I worry they will have a bad reaction which will hurt or offend me.


Are there added complications when a full term baby dies that didn't happen to me?  Absolutely.  I have no empty cradle, because I didn't buy a cradle yet.  I thought I had time.  I hadn't told the world yet, so I don't have to share my grief with people I don't want to include.  I hadn't reached that point yet where the new life is so imminent that my life had already tangibly changed.

Still, I carried, nurtured, and loved my daughter for five months.  Then she died.  My heartache and grief are valid.  If I say I was "only" five months, I'm implying that my and love sadness are not deep.  I imply that I lost a pregnancy, not a daughter.  Charlotte was and is my daughter, and I mourn her loss to me, to my family, and to the world.  I miss her every day.

The person to whom I'm speaking, if I use the word "only", has no chance of understanding Charlotte's impact on my life. If I say I "only" carried her for five months, I'd be lying.  It's not true.  I was ABLE to love her for five months.  I TREASURED my daughter for five months.  I spent five months with a little girl I LOVED and LOVE beyond measure.

The word "only" has no place in this conversation....save to say that she was taken from me "only" a month ago.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Analyzing the numbers

So, I was doing more research on gastroschesis...I worry that it could happen again.  Most of the current research seems to think it is not genetic, so it's just random.

Oh good.  So glad I won the lottery on that one.

Gastroschesis occurs in one of every 5,000 births.  Seriously?  That means there is a 99.98% chance it won't happen to you...of that one in every 5,000 births, only about 10% result in stillbirth.  It's actually a disorder that's fairly treatable.  So that means, while there was a 99.98% chance it won't happen to you, there's an additional 99.9998% chance that even if it DOES happen to you, your baby will eventually be ok. What happened to Charlotte was not quite one in a million...just one in 50,000. 

Numbers sucks.

A Butterfly

I don't know if I believe in signs...but I know I believe in symbols.  I'm an English teacher.  The whole world is symbolic. I look at butterflies as a symbol of Charlotte.

I've always thought of butterflies as good luck.  When they fly in front of you, it's supposed to bring you luck for the rest of that day.

When Charlotte died, I chose to believe that part of the meaning behind her death was that she would be watching over my family as an angel, particularly Mia and my (God willing) next child.  I plan to tell Mia about Charlotte a lot, so that it's just a part of who she is.  My hope is that, when something lucky or happy happens in her life, she'll remember her baby sister and think that maybe she had something to do with it.  Maybe she'll even say thank you.

So, putting those two ideas together, when I see butterflies, I think of Charlotte.  She's bringing luck and love to my family.

The other night, Mike and I were sitting on the couch after Mia went to bed.  It was raining.  We were thinking about Charlotte and being a little sad.  I went to let the dog out for the last time that night...and right outside the sliding glass door, sheltering under the second floor overhang on our deck, was a large, beautiful monarch butterfly.  I put my hand down next to it, thinking that I could move it to my covered front porch where there's more shelter from the rain...and it flew into my hand.  Then, when I urgently called Mike over to see, it flew from my hand and landed on my shirt, over my heart.  It sounds cliche, but it really happened.  I walked through the whole house with the butterfly resting over my heart.  When I got to the front porch, I gently scooted it into the flower pot next to the front door.

When I went back inside, Mike asked me what I thought it meant.  So now I have to ask myself...do I believe in signs?  Was Charlotte letting us know that she was near, and that she still loves us?  That she'll always be in my heart?  Was she giving us permission to move on?  Was she simply letting us know that she appreciates us loving her?  Or was this apt symbol just a coincidence?

Regardless, I felt close to my daughter that night.

“She liked being reminded of butterflies. She remembered being six or seven and crying over the fates of the butterflies in her yard after learning that they lived for only a few days. Her mother had comforted her and told her not to be sad for the butterflies, that just because their lives were short didn't mean they were tragic. Watching them flying in the warm sun among the daisies in their garden, her mother had said to her, see, they have a beautiful life."
-Lisa Genova

Monday, August 27, 2012

The picture I wanted vs. the picture I got.

My friend had her little girl today.  I would have hit the third trimester tomorrow.  I felt a bit like I'd been punched in the stomach when I saw the status update on facebook with pictures of baby Caroline.  I don't begrudge my friend her little girl.  I miss my own little girl, is all.  I'm feeling selfish and jealous, and I don't like myself right this second.

I sent her a set of clothes from Gymboree over the weekend.  They have a line of newborn clothes out with monkeys...pink, blue, or yellow.  I had decided that, once we found out if Charlotte was a boy or a girl, I would buy her those clothes to celebrate.  I didn't ever get to do that.  I put a note with the pink monkey outfits saying that it's what I would have bought my little girl, had things been different.  I said that I hoped, when Caroline wears them, maybe Charlotte will be watching over her and protecting her.  It hurts my heart.

The piece that tears at me the most is the picture of my friend's older daughter meeting her baby sister.  Ever since I found out I was pregnant, that was the moment I was looking forward to the most.  I even had a dream that I somehow missed that moment (I was asleep or something...) and was heartbroken when I found out.  I couldn't wait for my babies to meet one another.  Instead, the closest my daughters came to meeting one another is when I held a picture of Mia close to Charlotte's face so I could remember how much they resembled one another.

This was the picture I wanted:













This was the picture I got:














My heart hurts.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Other people's words

I lack words, so I decided to look for some from other people.  Here are some of my favorites:

  •  ”A person’s a person, no matter how small.”  Dr Seuss
  •  “Hope is the feeling that the feeling you have isn’t permanent.” Jean Kerr
  •  "If you know someone who has lost a child or lost anybody who's important to them, and you're afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died, they didn't forget they died. You're not reminding them. What you're reminding them of is that you remember that they lived, and that's a great, great gift.'" ― Elizabeth Edwards
  •  “If I had lost a leg instead of a boy, no one would ever ask me if I was ‘over’ it. They would ask me how I was doing learning to walk without my leg. I was learning to walk and to breath and to live without Wade. And what I was learning is that it was never going to be the life I had before.” Elizabeth Edwards 
  • “Some people say it is a shame. Others even imply that it would have been better if the baby had never been created. But the short time I had with my child is precious to me. It is painful to me, but I still wouldn't wish it away. I prayed that God would bless us with a baby. Each child is a gift, and I am proud that we cooperated with God in the creation of a new soul for all eternity. Although not with me, my baby lives.” ― Christine O'Keeffe Lafser, An Empty Cradle, a Full Heart
  • “Monday, June 9: People think they know you. They think they know how you're handling a situation. But the truth is no one knows. No one knows what happens after you leave them, when you're lying in bed or sitting over your breakfast alone and all you want to do is cry or scream. They don't know what's going on inside your head--the mind-numbing cocktail of anger and sadness and guilt. This isn't their fault. They just don't know. And so they pretend and they say you're doing great when you're really not. And this makes everyone feel better. Everybody but you.” ― William H. Woodwell Jr.
  •  “Words are like nets - we hope they'll cover what we mean, but we know they can't possibly hold that much joy, or grief, or wonder.” ― Jodi Picoult, Change of Heart 
  •  “Deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope” ― Elizabeth Gilbert , Eat, Pray, Love (I dislike quoting this book, but this one quote isn't bad.)
  •  “And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure . . . And your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing as you look up at the sky! Then you will say to them, 'Yes, the stars always make me laugh!' And they will think you are crazy. It will be a very shabby trick that I shall have played on you...” ― Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry, The Little Prince
  • Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief. C. S. Lewis 
  • It's so curious:  one can resist tears and 'behave' very well in the hardest hours of grief.  But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer... and everything collapses.   Colette 
  • The world may never notice
    If a Snowdrop doesn't bloom,
    Or even pause to wonder
    If the petals fall too soon.
    But every life that ever forms,
    Of ever comes to be
    Touches the world in some way
    For all eternity

No words

I have this unbearable desire to talk to someone, and no words to say. 

I don't know how to share what I feel, how I miss my daughter, the fear and guilt I have of moving forward, the way loneliness seeps in.  I want to talk to someone, anyone, everyone, and I have no words.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Wandering among the stages of grief

So, I thought I had gone through the stages of grief already, yet I find myself recently wandering back among the middle few.  Now, granted, there are several different models of the grief stages, but I prefer the seven stage model.

According to this model, the stages of grief are:

1) Shock and Denial--did that on July 22 before Charlotte was born.  I couldn't deny it once I held her.

2) Pain and Guilt--did that on the 23rd, after we left the hospital.

3) Anger--did that sporadically the week after.

4) Depression and Loneliness--did that before I sent out the reading from the horribly titled Empty Cradle, Broken Heart book.
 
5) The Upward Turn--did that as I started to write my journal.

6) Reconstruction and Working Through--did that totally as I wrote my journal and started to share it.

7)  Acceptance and Hope--did that as I reflected at the end of my journal.


OK, so don't people usually go from 1 to 7 with relative order?  Why did I go from 1 to 7 only to loop back and hover between 3 and 4?

I am so ANGRY at the majority of people in my life.  I'm usually NOT one to talk about my feelings, particularly my problems, so I can understand why people wouldn't come running to ask me how I feel...at first...but then I went out on a limb...several limbs, in fact, basically begging people to ask me questions.  I told people that I wouldn't bring it up on my own, but that I really wanted to talk about it, so please ask.  This is incredibly out of character for me, which, to me, makes it that more important!  Most people aren't doing it.  At all.  Even a little bit.  I'm so ANGRY that people aren't willing to make themselves a little uncomfortable in order to be there for me.  I know it's weird to ask, and it's uncomfortable to not know what to say, but BELIEVE me, it's worse for me!!

This leads me to #4...I feel SO lonely.  When everyone in my life refuses to ask, basically pretending like nothing's wrong, I feel ridiculously isolated.  It's not fair.  It's not right.  Is it just that I've surrounded myself with people who don't REALLY care so much about me?  I feel like maybe I don't have any real friends at all.  Even my family...not so much.  I mean, my family. Really?  The people who care the most about me (or should) can't go outside of their comfort zones to be there for me when I really, truly need them?  Really?

I individually emailed or spoke to everyone in my family, to clarify again that I wanted to talk about what happened, that I wanted to share my daughter with them, but that I needed for them to initiate the conversation...and I actually got one response back that basically said to join a support group.  Awesome.  You don't want to be there for me, so you're going to send me to talk to strangers instead.  Yup.  That's exactly what I need.

So, does this mean I'll get a second upward turn?  I went through the first seven stages in a week and a half, then I've spent the last two weeks careening between 3 and 4.  I need a turn.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Renaming a store

I want to share an anecdote about buying the box to hold my daughter's cremains.  This is not, generally speaking, the story subject which begs for humor, but some of the absurdity was hard to ignore.

The funeral home that cremated my daughter said that we could purchase an urn from them, but that they were basically limited in selection, expensive, and not particularly attractive.  He suggested that we go to a Hallmark-esque store and find a box or container that we actually liked, and they would place the cremains within.  I really liked the funeral home guy.  I expected to see a stodgy old man with a melancholy voice and perhaps a flower in his lapel...a la Dan Ackroid in My Girl.  The guy we met with looked like a linebacker, had a sweet smile, and was wearing gym shorts.  He also didn't charge us for their services. 

With his advice in mind, I went on an internet quest to find the perfect box.  I don't know how people were able to find memorial gifts before the internet.  There are no "Sorry Someone Died" stores.  That's an employee discount I think most of us could do without.  There are, however, internet shops which are geared toward people like me, and really in all kids of loss.  I was able to get a wind chime and Christmas ornament this way, which was really satisfying.  No box, though.

So then I went on the Things Remembered website.  Boxes galore.  I settled on a box that, two weeks ago, I would have absolutely hated.  Had I seen it in a store I probably would have pointed it out to someone, rolled my eyes, and even stuck out my tongue.  As one of my friends said, which really touched me, it's right that my daughter should change my point of view on the world a bit.  It is in a heart shape, filigree, with an angel on the lid.  Everything I used to hate.  It was perfect.  It also wouldn't ship for two weeks. Not good enough.

So I went to the Things Remembered store in my local mall.  I've decided they should rename this store "Shiny Shit We Engrave".  They had the box I wanted, and I had already decided on an inscription.  Then, as a matter of routine and policy for the store, she asked the occasion for which I was purchasing said box.  I guess people don't normally buy themselves shiny shit with inscriptions, and they're normally gifts.  When I told the clerk it was a memorial box, they realized that's not an option on their list.  Really?  A store called Things Remembered doesn't occasionally sell stuff for memorials?  I don't buy that!

So, while we waited for the box to be engraved, I took Mia to the playground in the mall.  What else does one do while waiting for the box to hold a child's ashes? 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Frustrated

Dear friends and family...especially family:

Please give a shit.  Not even a whole shit.  How about half of one? 

Sincerely, me


OK, so I'm having a bad day.  We sent out an email to our family members about what we need from them in terms of support.  We asked that they let us know they care.  We asked that they ask us about Charlotte.  We let them know that we have pictures and my journal that we really want to share, but we need them to ask to see them...we need them to take that initiative so we know they really actually care and want to understand.

We sent this email out to ten family members...our siblings and our parents. 

...no one responded.

I feel like I'm begging my family to care.  I feel like I keep asking for support, and none is coming.  My family is supposed to care about one another...why, when I'm specifically asking for help, is none being offered?  If we were being vague or hinting that we needed something, I could understand being ignored...but this just seems like deliberate hurtfulness.

I know my family members are good people.  I'm trying to remind myself that this is awkward for them, that they might not know what to say...but that excuse only carries me so far.  My daughter died almost two weeks ago.  How long will I have to wait for them to support me?

Grief Guidance

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sharing Grief

My different reactions to my miscarriage versus my stillbirth astound me.

When we miscarried three years ago, I completely shut myself off.  I didn't want to talk about it.  I didn't want to be asked about it.  I didn't want people to acknowledge it.  I knew that people didn't see that baby as a baby.  In a way, I didn't really, either.  I loved the child that died, but I didn't feel the intense connection and bond.  When I grieved, I was mourning the connection that didn't have a chance to grow.

With Charlotte, it's an entirely different concept.  I don't just want to talk about it, I feel like I need to talk about it.  I feel like I need people to ask me about Charlotte and my experiences, because I need them to see my daughter as I did, or at least to acknowledge that she was a person, a little girl.  I need them to validate my grief, in a way.  I need them to recognize the void that her death created for me.  If I don't talk about it, it's as though it wasn't real, wasn't important.

When I wrote out my experience, I didn't plan to show it to anyone, save maybe my husband.  I'm grateful that my change of heart came later.  If I had written it to be read by family and friends, I don't think I could have or would have been as honest and detailed as I was.  Now that it's done, I feel like I want to pass out copies to my loved ones en mass.  This goes especially for the ones who just don't seem to get it.

People fall into three, distinct categories.  I don't think any of the people in any of these categories are bad, just misguided.  They have a skewed view of our emotions and/or are uncomfortable dealing with our grief.  In select instances, the person may be too selfish to try to be what we need, and instead are what they find easiest. The three categories are:

1) People who pretend it didn't happen.  They don't ask questions.  They avoid the topic of babies and children all together.  They fill silences with chatter about irrelevant things, just to avoid the silence.  They don't want to acknowledge that anything happened, that grief is necessary, that we need to express our sadness.

2) People who want to fix it.  They provide solutions.  They offer platitudes intended to placate us.  They're anxious for us to get over it.  They also don't understand what we need, and they have no interest in letting us grieve.  Our emotions are to be rectified, and our loss is thus belittled.

3) People who want to support us in grief.  They ask questions.  They listen.  They let us cry.  They might even cry with us.  They help us by seeing the value in what we lost, which lends authority and weight to our feelings of grief.  These people don't always say the right thing, and they are not always comfortable, but they genuinely want to be what we need them to be.

Now that I have my story on paper, I'm hopeful that, if people are willing to open themselves to it, they can maybe move to the third category of support.  Maybe if they can look through the filter of my eyes, they can understand a little more easily why we ask for the support that we do.

We need our loved ones to share our grief, not ignore it or fix it.