September 27, 2014
September 22, 2014
While I enjoy the break from work, I can honestly say I am not all that sad to see summer go. This was a bad summer. I never felt like I got a break, because while I wasn't working at school, I was constantly working on grief. 24/7. Without a break. Actually, going BACK to school gives me a vacation from the pain. I am able to jump in 100% and focus on my students and what I want to do this year. I still come back to the pain each day, and work on it some more, but it's nice to have the break.
I've learned a lot about myself. I've learned a lot about life. I've learned a lot about death. I've been able to connect to things in life that I would have never noticed otherwise. Dave and I have gotten closer and more committed to this life together, even though we deal with grief in such different ways.
While thinking of fall gives me a heart ache, Jackson's due date is in a month and it's hard not to think of that life gone wrong, I do love this time of year. Fall is my favorite. I'm hoping that the wonderful things I enjoy about this season will overshadow the pain.
Anyways, so long summer. You have taught me many things. Many of which I never wanted to learn, but I am grateful that I learned nonetheless. When you return, oh dearest summer, please be easy on me. Please.
September 16, 2014
I'm not exactly shy about my obsession with books. I love to read. It's my favorite hobby besides traveling, traveling gets way expensive while reading can be fairly cheap or even free (Hello, library!!) So, when I find a book that I really love, I have to share it.
Over the weekend I read Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love. Oh my goodness, this book was so amazing! This is the story of Anna, whom I found by way of Momastery last year. Anna lost her 12 year old son, Jack, in a crazy flash flood 3 years ago. Her story is so heart wrenching, but her book is so beautiful.
Now, I can't even compare my loss with hers. Everyone says that you can't "measure" loss, and in some ways that is true, but I struggle with it. Here is a woman who had her son on this earth for 12 whole years. She birthed him and fed him and watched him grow, he had a room and friends, and a personality and...well, my baby died before he was born. If you ask me, her loss is so much greater, 12 years greater actually - so I can measure it. How can I compare losing a child I never met alive to her, who knew and touched and loved her baby for 12 whole years?
But I understand that no matter when you loss your child, the grief part can be frighteningly similar. As I read her book I felt like she was reading my heart. She writes, so beautifully, what I struggle to put into words as a grieving mom.
How we are living in the second reality, I've tried writing about that. Always thinking "Oh right now I'd be a month away from meeting my baby..." or "We would be finished decorating the nursery by now, we would just be waiting for him to come!" When you loss a baby or a child, there is always that second world right over the line, a world that is going on just perfectly how you thought it would, a world without our loss. Sometimes I just let myself do it, I pretend that reality is real. Then I come back to real reality. Ugh.
How grief feels so much like shame. How I "lost" my baby. My body was literally unable to hold him. My body shut down, and he died. And then he was born silent and still. Aren't we, as parents, supposed to do all that we can to keep our children safe? How can I do that when my body won't even cooperate? It's shameful. Does that shame and sadness hang over me? Do people avoid me because of that? I can't say that I wouldn't.
How the early days of grief are the worse days ever. I felt like dying. No, I never ever wanted to harm myself, but I wanted to die. I wanted to be with my baby, however that meant. I wanted God to decide that it was my time to go too - it had to be, right? I can't live on Earth without my baby?! How even going outside is hell. Why is the sun shining? Why are people just driving around? Why do I need to GO get groceries? Groceries are stupid. Shopping is stupid. Those early days are awful. Living felt ridiculous.
How going to church is one of the best and worse things ever. Now, I am personally very weepy during worship - it's always been that way for me. Music does something to my soul and I feel with it, so deeply. Church is always where this is the worse, because the words and the notes are anointed, and I can feel it! But sometimes it happens with a song on the radio. It always happens while seeing a musical - even a happy one. I cry like a baby. Now, with a loss, I am a blubbering mess. Will people see me? What if someone wants to pray for me? I won't ever be able to tell them why I need it! I need to stop crying! But oh it feels so good to cry during worship...
How grief is exhausting. All I wanted to do is sleep. Even still, some days, it would be nice to stay in bed all day. I'm so, so tired. Like I've been climbing this mountain for a very, very long time.
How we can try as hard as we want to keep our children safe, but honestly - its a freaking crock. Why do we feel we need to be in such control? Don't I know I have NO control over whether my child dies or not?!? NONE!!! Why did I stress myself out that whole 5 months - when nothing I could have done or not done would not have changed the outcome? That seems ridiculous. I've seen women smoke and drink and hurt themselves in crazy ways go on to have healthy babies, yet me - the girl who tried to do EVERYTHING right, my baby died. But nonetheless, our love is so great, and we want to protect...but no amount of protecting will save any child of mine if God says it's time. It is HARD to be ok with that. Very hard. I'm not sure I'll ever get used to it.
How it's easy, through our blogs, to share with our friends and our family what we need and how we need it. People are scared and confused when they hear about pregnancy loss, or stillbirth, or child loss. We sometimes don't read about these topics on purpose, because we feel that in some way avoiding it will keep it from happening to them. That seems a little silly and controlling too, like we have a choice in the matter! Oh and I love, love, love how Anna encourages us to handle grievers. Not just our own grief, but the grief of others around us who are dealing with death. Just show up. Drop off dinners. Sit and cry. Send a note. Clean their kitchen. Show up. It's help me understand how to deal with others who are grieving. I used to think I could say something to make it better. I used to think that "time" fixes everything and that talking about that was a good idea. Wrong. Time doesn't fix everything when it comes to loss. Sure, it may get better, but it never gets easy. This is hard, hard work. It's uncomfortable work. For me, but also for you. Grief makes people uncomfortable. Blogging helps that get better, all across the board, we need to talk about it more!
How "dealing with it" when it comes to grief, or "getting over it" when it comes to grief, is a load of sh. Those phrases mean that I am to get over my baby, I am not interested in that. I am interested in working on my grief, unpacking it and understanding it and being curious about it. Grief is work. Grief is defining. Grief is eternal. In ourselves, and in others. Get comfortable.
How people sharing their experiences is one of the best things about this work. Of course, its awful that others go through this, but it helps to sit with people who understand you and are ok with talking about your loss forever, without any expectation that the conversation needs to "move on" to a better topic. Also how others share their experiences with my grief, how we (bereaved parents) have helped others or changed others, or how others have seen things that reminded them of me or Jackson...or seen special signs that may mean Jackson is "talking" to them. It sounds nutty and crazy, but when I am here, and my son is over there, I'll take any signs I can get that all is ok.
How sometimes, sadly, I am less tolerant of others peoples crap. I get annoyed easily sometimes, that their "problems" are easy peasy compared to my problems. It's hard to listen to sometimes because of what I've been through. But is that the worlds fault? No way! Thats on me, and only me, and I need to get over that. I know that a little problem to me, may be the whole world for someone else. I understand that. Sometimes my grief makes me nasty.
How grief helps me define God. God is not this all powerful being that only shows up when I want something superficial. He is an all powerful being that is constantly here with me. Grief is teaching me that in amazing ways! God is here! He helps me through every part of my day. He sees the big picture - and my grief is part of that big picture. Yes, He allowed this to happen to me. But, how selfish am I to think that He doesn't know what He is doing? Anna writes...He wants our worship, but he doesn't need our approval.
How eventually, we get used to the idea that life moves on. Here is where my loss differs so greatly. I do think that grieving time has something to do with loving time. The time you loved someone is calculated into the grief of that person. It's not good math, but I think it could be true. Anna, she was a mother who loved her son for 9 whole months and then 12 whole years after that. Grieving him took her, understandably, a good amount of time. She is still grieving. For me, I am 3 months out from loving that little soul for 5 months, and I am starting to really feel ok. Yes, this sucks, but I am doing well. I have hard days and hard moments, but I am understanding that I have to move forward. It can be excruciating at times, and other times I am totally fine. Am I over Jackson? No. I won't ever be over him! He is my son. But I think I'm on my way to feeling better. I think I can handle this grief that will live in my heart. It lives where Jackson lives.
Grief is repetitive, as I am sure you have learned from reading my posts. I circle around to certain topics over and over. Bear with me on that. I am learning a lot about myself in this grief. While I'd give it all back to have Jackson, it's life changing to go through this process, it's made me become so self-aware and I think I am headed towards learning a lot about gratitude and happiness and choosing joy on purpose. To quote Jack's favorite verse: Luke 1:37 Nothing is impossible with God. Amen to that!
Please read this book. Even if you are not going through a grieving process, someone you know is, or will be, and you will be glad that you read it. It's an easy read, and Anna's beautiful writing will keep you going.
Thanks for listening!
September 9, 2014
I knew the day would come. I thought I had answers ready. I guess I got used to everyone knowing my story, but that is a bit self-centered of me in this big, wide world.
Today on two separate occasions I was asked, "Do you have kids?"
How do I answer that question?
To say "Yes I have three" would be true. It would also be weird. It would also make the asker very uncomfortable if they wanted details. I have a 15 year old stepdaughter, and I have two children in Heaven.
Can we say, awkward? That poor person would be sorry they even asked me. No one really wants to hear about dead babies, I know. I've even felt that way before too, before our babies died. Why make someone sad or uncomfortable unnecessarily?
To say, "None of my own" would be a lie. A lie that sears my heart into a million pieces. Yes, I have my step daughter Ashley, but no, I have no other children...
That's not true! Jackson and Lily. They were REAL. They LIVED. But they are dead.
Today, to both questioners, I became flustered. I wasn't sure WHAT to say. I am stupid for not really being ready for this! After a beat, I went with the "none of my own" answer. It broke my heart, both times. But, in the realm of reality, I really don't want to make others uncomfortable. I would rather break my own heart. It's no ones fault to ask, everyone asks everyone about kids. It's a natural question. But you better believe that from now on, I'm sure I'll think twice before I ask, because what if? What if that person has gone through what I've gone through and they are tongue tied about the answer?
No, I don't have my own kids. But yes, I really do. So complicated. But it my heart I can say that, YES I do have two children, in Heaven. No one that doesn't really know me, doesn't really have to know that, and I think I am ok with that. It just hurts to ignore that they existed, to pretend that I didn't have a baby or give birth or hold my son...it hurts.
I want to scream WHY!? WHY me? WHY us?
At church this week, Pastor Ben talked about Torn Hearts. That was a service just for us. I had a bad weekend, full of tears and bitterness and the why questions. Then we went to church. We were reminded that the world is not easy, it is NOT SUPPOSED to be easy.
The world is not a wish granting factory, to quote The Fault in Our Stars, and that is the honest truth.
When our first twin died, we got through that fast. We didn't even know about her. She was 8 weeks along, and plenty of us women lose or miscarry at 8 weeks or earlier. 25% at least. It doesn't make it very easy when you are going through it, but oh well. Its truth. We had Jackson to hang on to and he made it easier to get passed the "miscarriage". When Jackson died at 21 weeks, well...that sucked. That only happens to 3% of us. At least the way it happened for me. That's not how I thought my "story" would be.
I thought I had this whole beautiful story written for me, a story with a new baby and the life of a mother, but then, as Pastor said on Sunday, those pages were ripped out of the book of our lives. Ripped, torn and trampled on and thrown away. At least that's what it felt like. The end. Story over.
Then we talked about how we need to not ask WHY but WHO. Who will get me through this? Well, that would be God, of course. He shows up when my heart and brain and body just can't do the work. I can't do the work, and if I try I just become sad and bitter and depressed and I want to give up. So I have to look to HIM. HE will get me, us, through this mess. Stop asking why, Tina, and just ask who. It's NOT about the why. It can't be... Life happens, and death happens, and it's not all that strange when you look at it that way. People die all the time. If you live, then you die. We talked about PERSPECTIVE. God is bigger than this.
I need to say that again, loudly. GOD IS BIGGER THAN THIS. And that is the total truth.
He said that in this life there will be trouble. Why was I walking through life thinking that being close to Jesus meant I wouldn't have troubles? That was really stupid of me! No matter who we are or who we love or if we follow Christ or not, life will be trouble. But the GOOD thing about trouble in life is that it brings us closer to God. It makes us less afraid of death. It makes me stronger.
I thought that the torn pages of my heart and life were the end of my story. But that isn't true. They are a part of my story, and those missing pages will shape me and mold me and help me become whoever it is that I will become. It's not the end.
When I think of things that way, with that big perspective and with God at the center, I can step back from this grief and look at it differently. I can let it in and let it mold me and manipulate me until I am used to it and stronger. This week marks three months since we lost Jackson. The 11th is the anniversary of his death. The 12th is the anniversary of his birth. Tomorrow will be 13 weeks since we got the terrible news. Tonight, 13 weeks ago, my water broke. I'm still living life in time and increments since those days...
I promised myself I would allow myself to grieve if needed and as much as needed this week, cry and kick and scream and just let the intense emotions come in again. I have to let them, because each time I do, they hurt a little less. I understand a little more. I end up being happier and less bitter. I can begin to see life as a beautiful thing again.
I am reminded that in death there is life. My children live. My children are safe. My children are loved. It's actually selfish of me to even want them HERE on Earth where they could meet hurt and disappointment and war and all that other stuff. They will never know sadness. They will never know pain. What more could a mother want, honestly? I try to be selfless about it as much as I can. Its very hard to do, because I do want them here, in my arms. I see children and babies everyday and think - those parents got theirs, why not me? But then I remind myself to not be selfish. They are happy where they are. Its very tough!
Yes, sometimes I put on a brave face, because I have to. Other times, I am actually OK. I go back and forth. This life after baby loss is very hard. It's not easy to navigate all the emotions that go through me all the time. I want to talk about my baby. I don't want to talk about my baby. People are so loving and understanding, or everyone has forgotten. People want to talk about it with me, or people want to completely ignore that this happened to me. I want people to say something to me, or I don't want a word spoken to me about it. I am navigating, and I don't know what's right or wrong, so forgive me as I work through it because sometimes I think I understand it all, and then other times I really have no idea what I am doing.
I can find comfort, though, in the fact that my story isn't over. The loss of Lily, and then Jackson, wasn't the end. There is MORE to me than this, and there is MORE to me than them...just like if I did have a live baby there would be MORE to me than that being. It's not so different, besides the not having my baby with me. I can't lose myself in this, I have to let God get me through when I can't do it (which is ALL of the time) and let Him write the rest of my story. Lily and Jackson's story isn't over either, because they are alive in death, and they will help shape me for the rest of my life.
Thanks for listening to my nonsense:)
September 1, 2014
Since we lost Jackson, everybody has mentioned how important my "wellness" is. I don't mean physical well-being, although being physically well is important, I'm talking about over all well-being. I have to take care of myself. I have to get through this. I have to figure out how to keep going and be "well" again. I've heard it from all of my doctors, my family, my friends, the blogs I read, etc. I decided to focus on what "well" and being well even means anymore.
Does it mean pick myself up off the floor every day? Metaphorically speaking, of course. I haven't once physically fallen to the floor with grief yet - although it feels like I have.
Does it mean stop crying? Does it mean get healthier? Does it mean get pregnant again? Does it mean cry whenever I want? What does being well after the death of my baby look like?
I'm not one to be sad all the time, nor I am one to use my grief has an excuse for everything. Sometimes it's very hard for me to understand whether or not this thing we have gone through is even a big deal or not? No, wait, of course its a big deal! It's a huge deal! It's one of the most saddest things that can ever happen, right? Wait...is it? Am I just being over dramatic? Should I just be over it by now? I need to be get well, and be well.
SO, whatever it means, I know that in a situation like this, I have to take extra good care of myself. If not, it could come back to bite me, and hard. I'm a counselor, so I know all about mental breakdowns and PTSD and how tragedies in our lives can really cause debilitating emotions. I cannot express how scared I am that one day soon, I am just going to breakdown or lose it. PTSD usually hits about 3 months out from a tragedy. Well, 3 months is just around the corner for me, on September 12th. October could also be scary, since it's not ONLY my due date (the 21st) but also National Pregnancy Loss month AND the baby loss ceremony at our hospital (the 15th). So while I usually love October and fall and all that wonderful-ness, I am terrified that this year it will be different.
I'm working very hard to combat the grief, and deal with my emotions head on, so that none of it will ever take me by surprise or "come back" and hurt me more. I am doing OK, yes, but am I better? Well, better is a bit of a stretch. I am OK:)
As for my wellness, I am doing a lot of things to help me with that. Physically, I want to be healthy and I want my body to be ready for another baby ASAP, so I am taking care of myself in that way. I never want my body to fail me again, I never want it to kick another baby out, which is basically what happened. I know, what happened is not my fault, and I didn't DO anything to hurt Jackson, I get that and I understand it, but I'm doing everything in my power to prevent it from happening again. We joined the BAAC and I've been going and working out there a few times a week. I use my Fitbit to track my activity and MyFitnessPal to track my calories religiously. I'm not on a crazy journey to lose a million pounds or anything, and I love eating way too much to give up all food or be a crazy nut about what I eat, but I want to be healthier and I think those things are helping.
I've been keeping up on all doctor appointments, both with the OB and my endocrinologist, just keeping in touch and letting them know how things are going and they are helping me prepare for pregnancy again, whenever God believes we are ready.
Almost everyday I've been taking a walk. Sometimes Dave goes with me. Other times I go alone and listen to Oceans over and over and have some quiet time. Almost every walk I am blessed with an amazing sunset - I love how the sky is set on fire by the setting sun - and sometimes I think Jackson 'gives' me these beautiful sunsets. I know it sounds silly, but during this whole grief process so many people have asked if he has sent me signs. At first, I felt sad because I didn't think he was sending me signs, and then I felt silly because...well, he is gone...he can't send me signs really, can he? But, as I take these walks and see the sky, I feel him there. So now I associate him with the sunset or the sunrise and the beautiful colors I see there. Maybe it's God sending me these skies, and letting me know that Jackson is OK? Maybe I'm just crazy? It's totally possible, but the views are great nonetheless:)
Lily sends me signs too - my little lost baby twin. I see her in butterflies. I don't see her as often, but a month or two ago I was swimming at my brothers pool and saw the most beautiful butterfly and...well, again, I just felt her there. I've seen a few dozen more since then, either on my walks or driving or out in our little garden. We didn't know her well or have her long, but since I had that feeling I associate her with those precious little butterflies...
Anyways, these walks give me time to reflect and feel and all that good stuff. I really have come to love them. I walk in our neighborhood, which I used to think was dull and boring, but the skies I've seen make it exciting and sweet, because I think of my baby telling me he is ok and happy where he is. It's been therapeutic.
I also try to get near a body of water as much as possible! Whether that means going to the beach for the day, or driving down to Havre de Grace, I feel that I heal by the water. I think the majesty of the ocean or the river or the bay helps my mind settle around life and how short it is, and where I fit into the whole scheme of the Universe. It helps me realize that even though I have been through a tough time, life is actually full of tough times and we have to move on and better ourselves from those times - we can't go through life thinking we are immune to sadness or death because that is naive, and so I have to take whatever comes my way, deal with it, and move on. It also helps me see that life is beautiful, no matter what happens. There is beauty in sadness, there is even beauty in death.
I have also started seeing an acupuncturist and a chiropractor. In my reading about grief and baby loss, quite a few women have suggested both of these specialists to help aid in grief AND in fertility. I've been to acupuncturist twice already and I have to say I LOVE her. She is sweet and understanding, she knows my whole story and treats me very specifically for my needs. It doesn't hurt a bit, and I can honestly say I have been feeling very peaceful and so less anxious than usual because of her. The treatments usually take about an hour each time, and the pins go in different places each time I am there, so she leaves me be and I use the time to relax and pray and I can feel my grief and pain being released and my energy growing. It's kind of amazing! I start seeing the chiropractor this week. My acupuncturist suggested I do both together, because both treatments sort of support the other - aligning the body and releasing pain and creating energy.
Dave & I are also being very specific and particular about making sure we spend quality time together. A few times over the summer it felt like he and I were on different planets - I dealt with my grief by hiding in our room and reading, while he dealt with his by watching TV or sports in another room. We'd be home together, but completely separate. This is normal for us sometimes, and usually ok because we have different interests, but we were doing this way too much and not being purposeful about spending QT together. We course corrected and now we make sure we are not only going on our out to eat dates, but also doing things together at home like watching a movie or playing a game or something like that. I was afraid he didn't want me to talk about the baby and how broken I feel sometimes, but after a complete breakdown in the middle of the night a few weeks ago, we talked about it and he told me I had to talk to him about it all so he would know and understand me better.
Another part of being well is taking time to actually deal with the grief. I do this by writing, and by reading other blogs written by bereaved moms. I do this by participating in bereavement related things, like a support group, and online celebrations. Just a few weeks ago I joined the Day of Hope on 8/19, which was really awesome and powerful and healing. I've been picked to participate in a study of how yoga helps with grieving and baby loss, and that has been very helpful. I've been contacted by a few other moms that are interested in writing movies and books around baby loss, and agreed to participate in a few of those projects, should they need me. I also do this by working on a baby book - yes even though I do not have a physical baby here with me, I want to remember every little detail from my pregnancy with Jackson and Lily. There were good times, exciting times, and really good memories with them and I want to have them and treasure them forever, so I am working on a book. It's sad, but it helps me work through my sadness and understand it. This is a feeling that will stay with me for the rest of my life, I can't ignore it. So I embrace it.
I also stay well by trying to get back to normal life. I am enjoying the distraction of work, and getting back into the swing of school and counseling. It was so awesome seeing all of my work friends this past week, and the faces of those little kiddos. I remembered why I love my job. I get to help others, and possibly make a positive impact on someone, and I really enjoy thinking about those possibilities. I have a new sense of direction for my work this year, and some great motivation thanks to some of my counseling co-workers AND my fellow Squirrels. I really think it's going to be a great year at Hickory!
Being well for me means cutting down on time on social media. I love Facebook and Instagram and all of that, but I found myself getting really upset over things on these sites over the summer. Honestly, social media can be whatever each individual wants it to be, what we put there is a personal and FREE choice, but in my sad state I just couldn't emotionally or mentally handle some of the information that went up there. I found myself (bitterly) saying to the computer, "Well at least you didn't lose a baby!" and after the 100th time of saying that I thought, "Hmmm, maybe I need to take a break from all of this...I'm being too emotional or too judgmental or too harsh." So I've taken Facebook off my phone and iPad, and only allow myself to get on maybe once a day or so on our computer. It's been really nice to unplug actually, so I can tell that it was the right step in my journey to wellness.
I'm also staying well by getting our house in order again. And being creative. And organizing. And all of those things that I've always loved doing. I even made a fall wreath tonight! My first real creative contribution to the house in a loooooooooong time. It's pretty cute, I think:)
So what is well-being after baby loss? Maybe it's picking myself up each day. Maybe it's learning how to smile again. Maybe it's this new cliche-but-true feeling that I appreciate life so much more now, and see the beauty in things that I never gave a moments pause before? Whatever it is, I'm working towards it, and I am doing so in honor of Jackson and Lily who are watching over me, safe and happy in Heaven. I am going to be well!
Oh and here are two very sweet pictures I had made in honor of the babies - I can't wait to get them printed and hung in our home!
Jackson's picture is a beautiful, soft sunset with a heart and this sweet quote that couldn't be more true. I carried him for 5 short and sweet months. I carry his heart in mine forever.
And of course Lily, she got a butterfly along with some pretty and fiery sunset colors. My little baby gone at 8 weeks, a twin that surprised us and for those short 5 minutes we thought we would have her, our lives were changed forever. My first loss, sweet little Lily.