My Granny’s Lap

My grandmother’s lap was always my safe haven.  Her arms were peaceful, loving, comforting.  She was my solace when my young eyes had seen more than they should.

I’d climb up on the arm of her chair with a book and she’d read to me for however long I wanted.  I’d trace my fingers over her freckles and ask almost daily about her mother’s ring with all the pretty stones.  She’d tell me about each one and whose stone was whose.

In hot summer months I’d sit at her knees while she french ‘platted’ my hair.  She’d tell me how her mother used to do the same for her.  When the summer thunderstorms started kicking up, she would turn off all the power reminding us that her house wasn’t grounded.  She’d make my sister and I sit in the middle of the living room away from the windows.  We’d sit on opposite ends of the room and push a car or roll a ball back and forth.  While we waited for the storm to pass, she’d tell us the same ghost stories her parents had told her.  My favorite was about her daddy walking home one rainy night.  He’d hear horse hooves and light a match to see and just before the wind and rain would snuff them out, he’d see ghostly horses that weren’t really there.  My grandma could tell a story like no one else, she always had me captivated.  She’d end each ghost story by saying, “Now that’s the truth,” and she was serious.  We’d beg for this stories time and time again and as the years passed and she was no longer able to tell them, my heart ached and longed for them once more.

When the summer heat got the best of us, she’s freeze cherry koolaid in pop bottles and we’d suck and slurp them all day long.  Whether it was while helping her string and snap beans, or just playing around her house, those frozen cherry koolaids are to this day the taste of summertime for me.  There will never be a better summer time treat.

My grandmother taught me the importance of housework and motherhood.  She taught me there was value in taking care of what you have and putting work before play.  She also taught me the importance of an afternoon treat after all that work.  I still remember her ever-present Diet Riet Cola and there was always an abundance of snack cakes.  I admittedly still go into their kitchen hoping there’s a raisin cream cake to bring back a taste of childhood.

My grandmother could be stern, but she was also gentle and loving.  She loved to call her church friends in the afternoons and talk the hours away.  She especially enjoyed it when company would stop by and she could have a nice long chat.

Caring for others was what she did for as long as I can remember, and becoming a stay at home mother taught me what hard work that truly is.  She never made us feel as though we wore her down, although I’m sure we often tried her patience.  Her house was always open, as were her arms.

I am deeply saddened that I will never again be able to climb up on her lap and have her tell me a story.  But I am ever grateful that the babies I, and other family members, have lost will now have Granny’s lap to climb onto.  I know she’ll love them in all the ways we physically cannot.  And one day, I will finally get to see her holding them as I wish she could’ve on this earth.

Strength in Grief

Strength in GriefI’ve gone through the grief process associated with miscarriage several times now.  Each time is a bit different and as my maturity and life changes, the process changes a bit too.  It’s never easy and for someone like myself who feels things deeply, it can be overwhelming and feel devastating.

The loss of a child who had just started to grow within your womb is a hard one to understand for those who have not been through it.  People often have no idea how to express their concerns or feelings of empathy.  Some of your family and friends just ignore it almost entirely because they don’t want to upset you.  Others will do little things to comfort you or just be there while you vent.  This can be a double-edged sword because you need to talk about the loss, but are sometimes relieved when no one forces you to.

When you reach that ever looming stage of anger, you can be surprised who you direct that anger towards.  There can be a maddening rage over anyone whose pregnant, recently had a baby, or those who just ignored your loss all together.  You can direct your anger towards yourself and the body you feel failed your baby.  You will at some point likely cast anger on your spouse, wondering why they don’t feel or express their anger, frustration, and pain the same way you do.  It’s all normal, and it’s okay to feel these things.  They way you direct your anger, hurt, and loss is the most important aspect.

For me, I can sometimes wallow in my pain for weeks.  I’ll let myself fall into a depression that I lose all strength to climb out of.  Laying on the couch, not really watching whatever happens to be on the television.  No desire to eat, feel, or talk.  Just numb to life and what is going on in it.  Or I will switch into overdrive staying constantly occupied with something, anything, to take my mind off the pain.

The trouble with overdrive mode is that you crash…hard.  All the physical exertion to avoid the mental pain leads to exhaustion both physically and mentally.  I stayed in overdrive this time, until I crashed.  Dead tired, just so exhausted mentally and physically.  It hit me late last week and I couldn’t distract myself anymore.  I’d been crying in the shower, over the washer, anywhere I was alone.  And suddenly, crying was all I could do.  My empty womb was all I could think about.  The idea that I may never carry another child successfully hit me hard.  As I sorted through my children’s closets and packed away outgrown clothes I realized that there might not be another child to wear them.  Still, I folded them neatly, labeled the bin with the size and contents, and added them to the ever-growing stash of outgrown baby things in my basement.

I grieved, and then I decided to push forward because those clothes were not going to go unworn.  That currently unused crib, rocker, swing, and all those bins of baby clothes would be worn again.  I had prayed on it, thought about it, talked about it, and it was going to happen somehow.

While I may be quite experienced in dealing with the grief of a lost child, it has created a strength and determination in me that did not exist before.  If I want something, I figure out a way to make it happen.  While the number of children I have lost is higher than the number of children I have living, I really don’t give up.  To me, that means I have yet another angel looking over my family.  Another little miracle worker to make the impossible happen and to bring forth more happiness and light in our lives.

The healing that takes place after miscarriage is often a long process.  Your body often heals long before your heart.  You’ll go through days where you’re okay and you’ll go through days where you need to let yourself grieve and process all the emotions that have been thrust upon you.  It isn’t a road with a clear path and the outcome can often be surprising.

What I’ve learned is that you have to let yourself feel it all to heal.  It’s messy and it’s often scary, but in the end, you’ll come out okay.  You’ll likely be changed, but you can work to use it to your advantage instead of letting it consume you.

Tears In My Coffee Cup

There are tears in my coffee this morning.  I’m trying so damn hard to be strong, to be okay…  I’m mostly succeeding, but these early hours where sleep leaves me and refuses to return, they’re hard.  I’m the only one awake and I’m left with all the feelings I try to ignore the rest of the day.  It’s just me, a keyboard, some Avenged Sevenfold, and a coffee.

Funny thing is, ordinarily, all these those things would leave me blissfully happy with some time to write.  But when you go through a loss – a miscarriage in my case – you crave and detest alone time.  You don’t want to talk about it, but then you do.  You don’t want to feel it, but you have to verbalize it all to move past it.  I know all too well this process, yet it doesn’t get easier with experience.  Time doesn’t heal, but it does numb the pain a bit.

I can still remember the awful feelings I went through when we lost our baby way back in April of 2006.  I remember losing it one night when I was left alone for several hours and literally ripping the head off a teddy bear we had bought for the baby for whom my body became a tomb.  That loss – above all others I’ve experienced – was the hardest.  You see, that little baby’s heart was beating away just one day before my body failed him.  I was at the door of thirteen weeks – we were supposed to be safe.  I was so filled with rage and anger.  For months, and sometimes even now, there was nothing that soothed the raw pain that loss left me with.  It changed me permanently.

While my other losses have been no less significant, they have at least not been so physically traumatizing.  I’m older this time, eight years of distance has brought me more losses, two healthy children, and a bit of a better handle on my emotions.  I still feel sad, hurt, shocked, angry, and bitter.  Those are all normal reactions to the loss of a child at any stage.  I still get tired of people asking how I am, yet appreciating it at the same time.  I still hold most of my emotions in, with little outbursts when I feel as though I can’t hold it in anymore.  I cry in corners, behind closet doors as I prepare my children’s outfits for the day.  I won’t dare take down the list of baby names we were working on.  I’ll leave the positive pregnancy test on my sewing desk where they’ve sat the last couple of weeks.  Though most would feel it’s a reminder I shouldn’t be taunted by, it’s comforting to me.  Those things will be put away when I am ready, but not until.

Tears In My CoffeeMiscarriage and stillbirth are so often swept under a rug and I don’t agree with that.  I’m not going to apologize if my grief or open talk of my lost children makes you uncomfortable.  I am not sorry for acknowledging their existence and the pain that their loss has brought.  I want you to celebrate their little souls just as I do.  When I plant flowers this fall and spring, I’ll nourish the flowers and delight in growth because that life brings me hope.  The breeze, the raindrops, sand between my toes…  All these little pieces of nature are little tiny fingertips upon the earth that I see my lost babies in.

I often watch the light dancing in my two little boys’ eyes.  Oh that light!!  I cannot tell you how much it calms and replenishes the broken pieces of my heart.  I see so much in that light.  I know what a big, huge role their lost siblings played in bringing them into my arms safely.  They have been blessed with such health and happy spirits.  They bring so much laughter and love to all those who know them.  It is no coincidence that these two little beings are embodiments of pure happiness.  While they carry their own energetic spirits, they carry their siblings too.  So much life in such little bodies – it is a blessing to witness.

I have no idea what the future holds for myself or my family.  We may remain as four, I might not find the courage to face pregnancy again.  Even if I do, I know I am not guaranteed another child.  We may have another child brought into our lives by other means, the future isn’t entirely our’s to write.  What I do know is that I am allowing myself to feel all that life has given me.  I am not forgetting my lost babies anymore than I’ll ever forget my living babies.  I will celebrate the souls brought into my life, even if it was ever so briefly.

Even if you never experience a loss yourself (and I pray you don’t), don’t judge those who do.  Don’t tell us it happens for a reason – it isn’t comforting.  Don’t tell us it’s time we move on and let it all be.  Just listen to what we do and don’t say.  Don’t comment on our bloodshot eyes and sallow faces.   We already know how much our makeup isn’t hiding.  Just love us, even when we’re bitter and mean. Hug us even when our shoulders are stiff and our bodies cold and unmoved. Make us laugh.  We don’t want pity, we have enough of that on our own.  Treat us like a normal person, don’t try to shield us from all things baby or pregnancy.  Sometimes, we need a little hope and we’ll find it in the oddest of places.

Just accept that our babies brought us joy and that their loss brought us pain…  We’ll pull ourselves out of our pity and pain in our own time.  Until then, we just need support to grieve in our own way.

The One Who Got Away

TheOneWhoI’ve been on edge since Friday…it’s something in the air, or by now perhaps it’s in my blood.  This time of year leaves me in a deeply melancholy mood and zaps all energy and life from me.

April 28, 2006…that date is permanently burned into my being.  A long night of cramps, bleeding, and eventually an emergency D&C to stop my hemorrhaging.  We said goodbye to a baby we never truly got to meet that early morning.  I was young and scared to death, but we had gotten over the shock of our pregnancy and were excited.  Just thirteen weeks in and we were forced to say goodbye to the tiny being that forever changed us both.

Miscarriage…it’s a word I know all too well.  One full of pain, bitterness, and a certain loss of hope.  I’ve had several and am lucky to have the two beautiful boys I spend my days raising.  They are light and a renewal of hope that I never thought I would know.  Yet the darkness often remains.

Most days, I’ve put all my losses behind me.  I am content to dream of my lost babies as angels who watch over us.  When this time of year (or any other in which I’ve lost a child) rolls around the hopelessness seeps in and I find it hard to ignore.  Forgive my moodiness, my snappiness, my distant eyes.  There’s a part of me that is missing right now.

It’s funny because I don’t even have to look at a calendar to tell you.  Sometimes I’ll notice my sudden lack of energy, lack of interest, and when I finally look at a calendar, there it is.

When we experience any loss, we’re given a certain amount of time to grieve and then we’re expected to move along with life.  And so that’s what we do.  But loss and grief forever change people.  You can change for the good or for the worse.  Sometimes I think parts of us change in both ways.  Through loss I’ve found perseverance I didn’t know I had.  Determination, courage, strength.  I’ve also found bitterness that I doubt I’ll ever fully brush aside.  I’ve developed a numbness that gives the appearance of a cold, lonely soul at times.  I’ve melded with the change – good and bad.

What would that enigmatic little being be like today if s/he had lived here on earth?  Working on their eighth year of life…Perhaps with two little brothers or would their presence have changed the entire course of our history?  That is something I will never know.  I would never change the life I have or the children that I have been blessed to have in it.  But it won’t stop my wondering mind when the sadness of that day creeps back in year after year.

What have I learned from miscarriage?  What has it taught me about life and moving forward when a part of me wants to cling so badly to what can never be?  I’ve learned that you will hurt more than you ever knew you could and long for someone whose heartbeat you only heard once.  You will dream dreams where that lost soul is so real that it chills you to your bones.  You will know that spirit baby came down to hold YOU while you slept, because you lost the chance to ever hold them.

You will learn of light, laughter, and happiness when you find a place that finally allows you to move on, but not forget.  Your innocence to the beauty and perfection of pregnancy will be forever lost, but my God you will learn the incredible power that life truly is.  You will see how valuable, how fleeting, and how precious LIFE really is.

Sweet child, you will forever be the one who got away from me…The connection I hold to you both takes and gives me my sanity.  You make me a better mother…and I pray your light lives on in your brothers’ eyes.  I’ve seen it there and I intend to keep that happy glimmer alive until the day that I meet you again.  I pray they meet you one day far, far away and that we all finally get to be together as the family that was never meant to be on this earth.

Remembering Our Babies…Everyday

Take a moment to watch this. And then take a moment to help us remember:  Remembering Our Babies…Everyday

I wanted to share this because I am so often faced with people’s uncomfortable silence or apologies if I make an attempt to talk about the babies I have lost.  My most tragic loss occurred right at the 13 week mark. I had severe contractions and it was a horrifying experience that landed me in the ER and in emergency ‘outpatient’ surgery a few hours later….It affected me profoundly.  I have planted flowers for ‘that’ baby (named Evan, yes our precious Nevan’s name is a bit of a tribute and remembrance), I have released butterflies, balloons, said many prayers, and wrote many many journal entries. I remember. I remember each of them.  As we wrap up Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness month, remember that you don’t have to be sad for those that have experienced this loss all the time. We appreciate when you celebrate these tiny, beautiful little lives as much as we appreciate your shoulder when we need to cry about it. Help us remember.

Answers…

I have no words that I can speak out loud tonight. I’m not alone…but distant.

My family received some news last week that was hard to take.  This week that news got worse and harder to handle.  I’m not good with emotions. I bottle it all up, pretend to be strong, then I crumble when I’m alone. I feel quite deeply, but I have never been good at showing it.  I’ve been taught to ‘be strong’.  But tonight…I am broken.

I am no good at comprehending and processing that this life is finite.  In my mind, we all go on forever.  There is no death.  In my mind. But here, in the real world, there is death.  No matter what you pray, or do, it will find you and those you love.  Sometimes it’s slow and sometimes it comes out of nowhere and leaves you to remember that this life is not permanent.  We are promised nothing.

My anger, my frustration, my unwillingness to accept what I cannot change…My inability to stop the pain my loved ones feel..It’s all too much.  And yet, it is what we all face in the end.  I don’t have the answers tonight. I have friends who listen and I have family who shares the pain of loss. I have a God who I question, but trust.  But answers, those I’m not ready for…

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zLfCnGVeL4