Saturday, July 31, 2010

Alone

I think one of the hardest things about being a baby loss mama is the loneliness. The only people who understand how hard it is are fellow baby loss mamas. Men experience loss and grief so differently it is possible to spend many hours in the company of someone who was there every moment of your pregnancy and still feel alone when it ends. You carried the baby. You birthed the child and then she died. He stood by you, helpless, and desperate to save the baby, but his experiences are different. You both feel failure, but it’s so different for each of you it could almost be labeled something else. And this is where I admit that a baby dying is hell on a marriage. I don’t say much about my marriage here, because it is sacred and I feel protective of it. But I will confess that we have had more “I feel” discussions in the last eleven weeks than I thought we would in our entire life together. Sometimes it’s like a constant therapy session around here, but we are communicating and that is so important right now.

Still, though, I’m lonely. Yesterday I stopped at Burgerville on the way home from Dr. B’s office. I cannot drive by a Burgerville without purchasing food. It’s fast food, but it’s made with local ingredients. And it is so darn good. I was sitting at a table eating my lunch and I felt so lost I thought I was going to cry. I always have a book with me, but I forgot to put one in the car this morning so I felt a little naked. When I was pregnant with Charlotte I wouldn’t have minded sitting by myself, eating lunch, dreaming about my girl. Sitting there yesterday I felt my loss. I literally felt as if there was a giant hole in the middle of my chest where she should be. I carried her for 38 weeks and I fully expected to become a baby wearin’ mama and carry her for many weeks after she was born. So there I was, in the middle of a crowded restaurant, lip quivering, eating a cheeseburger, and trying to make it through lunch. This is what sucks about being a baby loss mama. Feeling so alone and so lost in the middle of a restaurant on a sunny day in July that I worry I may never be found again.

Sitting here, writing this, so many wonderful people come to mind. People who have found me, who are checking in and providing more love and care than I deserve, but which I certainly need.

There’s my fabulous new doctor. I see Dr. B and I feel proud, I feel like when she looks at me she really sees me. She sees the struggles, the effort to make good come out of this horrible situation, and the person I will be one year from now. She sees change ahead even though all I can see is grief and sadness and a long, long road.

There’s my midwives (any midwife who comes near me becomes mine). Before my appointment with Dr. B yesterday I was talking with one of my midwives online and she started the conversation off with “Hi mama,” and then proceeded to tell me she had a dream where I birthed a baby boy in my backyard and she was videotaping it. Hey, if that is what I need to do to have a healthy baby I will do it. A simple greeting and I felt so validated. Mama, that’s me, even though I am without my baby.

A couple days ago one of my other midwives asked if she could come see me next week. Then she asked if I was healing in my head and my heart. And I am so grateful that nearly 3 months after Charlotte died she still makes time to ask those questions and to visit me.

There’s the friend who can’t be here, but who communicates constantly with me via e-mail.

There’s the family members who don’t mind that I refuse to see them. They keep calling and sending e-mails even when I crawl into my grief bunker for weeks on end.

There is the sister who sends me text messages every day asking “How’s today?” I like that she doesn’t ask how I am, but how the day is. That is usually a question I can answer. And when I can’t she sends me a text message the next day, and the next, until I can.

There’s the husband who asks, “What do you need from me?” and who loves me even when I am not so kind or nice or beautiful.

There’s friends who sit with me, let me cry, let me laugh, let me hold their babies.

Then there’s the baby loss community. All of the sweet mamas who say, “I understand, I’m here, I’m listening.”

I’m alone, but not completely lost. There are people watching over me and, of course, when they get tired God is always there. I just wish there was more acknowledgement of the people who carry children in their hearts and minds, but not in their arms. We’re here, we want to talk about our babies, but we want to do so without scaring people. I want to be able to say “My baby died,” without feeling shame or worry. Sitting in that crowded restaurant yesterday afternoon I wanted to stand on my chair and yell, “My baby died. I miss her. I feel so alone.” And in a perfect world people would’ve dropped their lunches, walked over to me, pulled me off the chair, and hugged me.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Be Well

I'm at 40+ followers. Wow. Way back in 2008 when I started this blog I would write every so often and I don't think anyone read it. Now I write nearly every day and quite a few people are reading. Thank you. I'm here, grieving and living my life, and I am so glad you all are listening.

Today was appointment #2 with Dr. B. I like her a lot. She greeted me with a hug and "I am so excited to see you!" Dr. B and my midwives have spoiled me. This is the kind of medical care I expect now; personal and kind with lots of hugs and encouragement.

Dr. B was very proud of me for doing Aquafit. If you give me praise, or a cookie, I will do something I hate doing. I never thought I would be the type of person who exercises. Now I'm walking four days a week, doing Aquafit once a week, and lifting my 5 lb. weights twice a week. All Dr. B has to say is "I'm so proud of you. That's a great step!" and I continue on despite the little monster in my head who will not stop whining about how hard this all is.

I was very excited to show Dr. B that I am tremor free (first time in six years!) and she was so pleased she removed the PTU from the list completely. No more weaning, no dropping to 1/2 pill a day. As of today I am medication free. It's making me a little giddy.

I went from two little pills a day to this:



It is so worth it. I'm learning new skills too. See that little bag of herbs? I can make my own tea now!

Dr. B and I talked about my breathing issues a bit too. She said they are fixable. I nearly fell off my chair. I haven't been able to run for years. Can she possibly make everything better? I am beginning to suspect she may be some sort of genie.

When I explained my breathing problems to Dr. B she told me that according to Chinese medicine we carry our grief in our lungs. That makes sense to me. There have been so many moments since Charlotte died when I have felt unable to breathe, or take a deep breath. So first we are going to get the thyroid into shape and then the lungs.

It feels good to be proactive about my health. I have many emotional issues tied in with my thyroid problems. I hope with Dr. B's help I can unpack the issues, take a bit of weight off my lungs, and be well.

Extra love and hugs to those sad mamas who are finding it hard to breathe today. We all miss our babies so much and some days we feel the loss more acutely than others.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Sometimes learning can be just as painful as not knowing."

Isn't it strange when you scream at the universe and it responds? After my post on guilt and wanting to know why Charlotte died I came across the line that is the title of this post in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. (Amazing book, one of my top reads for this year). And I thought I may be able to live with the unanswered questions surrounding Charlotte's death. Perhaps knowing would satisfy my curiousity, but also lead to more hurt. If I can have a second baby and he or she lives, maybe not knowing is okay.

Then, yesterday, late afternoon, the autopsy report arrived with the mail. I ditched my Zen attitude regarding knowledge and hardship and tore into the envelope. No answers. I didn't think there would be. I think we would've been notified by phone had they found something significant, but I am human and we humans tend towards hope. The main finding is that "it looked as though she had lungs of those of a stillborn." We were told this over the phone a few weeks ago so that was not a surprise to me. However, when I think about those words I wonder if she would've died in my womb if I carried her past 38 weeks. I went into labor naturally, my water broke, but in that alternate universe that exists somewhere in my mind I wonder if I am a mama of a baby born still at 40 weeks gestation. But then I also have another alternate universe in some other corner of my mind where I am a mama to a living baby who will be 11 weeks tomorrow. (If someone could tell me how to get to that universe I would gladly follow them).

Here is the amazing bit about the autopsy report: receiving it didn't flatten me. I was happy all day, and I was still happy after reading it. I didn't cry. I didn't feel angry. Mostly I felt shock that I will never know C's first word, her favorite book, her favorite color, the person she would be at 2, 26, or 40, but I do know how much her brain weighed and that her heart was perfectly formed.

In a way, and this is going to sound rather strange, reading the autopsy report makes me feel like I know C a little bit better today than I did yesterday morning. I know she was 18 inches, not 19 as the hospital told us. I know exactly how long her feet were and that she did not have any birth marks. Her eyes were dark blue and she had "extremely fine, light brown hair, up to 1/2 inch in length." I remember sitting in the hospital bed, in the room off the ER, stroking her head and thinking about how much hair she had. That bit, that one line, leaves me longing for the little girl whose hair I will never brush, or braid.

When your baby dies life takes a strange turn. Autopsy reports become important. As you read through the coroner's reports on your baby you wonder if he thought she was a beautiful baby. Because she was. My beautiful, sweet, darling, little girl.

I am still okay. Not as happy as yesterday, but nowhere near that dark forest either. I am making it through this. Somehow I am living even though C is not here with me. I just wish I could've breathed for her until she had the strength to do so on her own.

I miss what she would've become.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Prepare yourself

I am having a good day. Can you believe it? I have been so down the past few days. So full up of anxiety, sadness, and grief I felt as if I might float away.

I woke up this morning and the last thing I wanted to do was go to Aquafit. But my friend was coming to pick me up at 8:30 and I couldn't very well hide while she sat in the driveway wondering where I was. I trudged out to her car, we drove to the Y, got changed and then jumped in the water for class. And I had a really good time. I worked hard today. When we were in the deep end, doing sets of crunches, then relaxing, I felt better then I have in days. I was on my back, one noodle under my arms, one under my feet, floating, focusing on my breathing and completely calm. Do you ever have moments where you let yourself go and just exist? It was like that. I was completely in the moment and I felt so weightless (okay, you can probably attribute that to the pool) and serene. Afterwards I felt like I had washed out my brain and left a lot of my anxiety at the bottom of the pool.

Then we went to Costco for milk and some other things. Soon after Charlotte died I bought a pair of black capri pants at Costco and I have been living in them. I really wanted a pair in gray, but when I checked all they had were size 2 and size 4. When we went today they had one pair in my size in gray. Very exciting. Now I can alternate between the black and the gray. (This is my life now. I get excited about pants). Lately I've felt as if the whole universe is against me (I have a healthy ego) and when I saw one pair of gray pants laying on top of the pile and they were my size it felt like a much needed victory.

When I got home I eased my sore self onto the couch to catch up on my blog reading. And guess what? I won a giveaway! I never win anything. I did an impromptu happy dance on the couch when I saw my name on Kristin's blog. I already have a beautiful necklace for Charlotte, but I can't wait to get one with her name on the front. I will wear it and be proud of my sweet girl.

Then, and this is the best part, an incredible thing happened today. I was sitting cross legged on the couch, all excited because I won Kristin's giveaway, and I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked to the left and saw a tiny white butterfly outside the living room window. Hmmm, I thought, this is the fourth day I've seen that little beauty in the yard. Then it hit me. It's Charlotte, saying hello. So I talked to her for a little while. I told her I loved her and missed her, and thanks to Stevie's mama I was going to get another piece of jewelry that reminded me of her. Seeing that little white butterfly felt like a blessing; a sweet reminder that Charlotte is hanging out in heaven with Jesus and doing just fine.

Does it feel like I am shouting at you? That's because I am. I am so full of joy right now and I don't know where to put all the good feelings. I would like to do some dancing, but I am too sore from all of the exercising I have been doing this week.

These past few days I've been dragging myself through a dense forest and today I came out on the other side and I am beside myself with relief. I feel as though I have barely been hanging on lately. The good Lord kept telling me I would make it, that He was right there with me and wouldn't let me fall off the cliff, but my goodness I came close. I know there will be more forests and dark times and cliffs, but right now my soul is dancing. I'm pretty sure my little girl is dancing up in heaven with Jesus right now too. I wish she was here, dancing with me, but she is okay and I am okay and that is enough. Today my heart is singing the refrain from that old hymn:

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul


And hopefully when the next hard time appears I will be able to remember these blessings and how sweet joy feels after a long period of sorrow.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Charlotte,

I miss you, sweet girl.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hello guilt

In the past few days I've found myself circling back to guilt. I thought I was done with guilt, but I guess it still wants to hang with me for a while. Like the tide, the feelings of guilt ebb and flow; sometimes I walk and do not notice them, but other days they inch closer and closer until eventually they lap at my knees and try to pull my feet out from under me.

What brought this on? Lots of small incidents, but mainly the neighbor who put her foot in her mouth but good. I know it's hard to come up with something to say when someone tells you their baby died. However, asking where the baby is in July, when you know she was due in May, is not the best place to start.

Last night Isabel shot out the door, tore across the driveway and headed straight for this neighbor. I trailed after her and Jonathan went to fetch the leash from the car so we could go for a walk. Isabel came back to me and the neighbor called, "How's the baby?" My initial response, the one I had to bite back, was "Hopefully fine. We left her sleeping in the house so we could take the dog for a walk." I passed the dog over to Jonathan and walked over to her driveway. I couldn't very well stand in my driveway and shout over that the baby was dead. So I walked over and told her and it was unpleasant.

I am thankful she asked since no one else on the block has. Plus she is a bit of a gossip hound so word will spread and we won't have to tell anyone else. She said she was sorry, which is where she should've stopped, followed by two comments that left me reeling.

Comment One: "Well, at least you are over the worst of it now."

If you have not birthed a child and then felt her go limp in your arms, please don't tell me what the worst is and that I am over it. I have learned that things can always get worse, so please recant that platitude.

Comment Two: At least Isabel won't have any competition.

This one left me speechless, which is pretty hard to do.

If you have not lost a child, here is a bit of advice: Say I'm sorry, then shut your mouth. We who have lost our babies are not rational people and if you say something to us that we find offensive we will mock you (it's either that or cry) and possibly punch you in the face.

So I've been feeling guilty lately and then the neighbor dropped those condolences on me and it was horrible and awful and led to more guilt. Jonathan and I walked around the block, both a little shocked, ranting and raving about the neighbor. And of course I feel guilty about that now (the Bible does admonish us to 'love thy neighbor' after all).

I need someone to sit me down, look me in the eye, and say, "You could've birthed your baby into an incubator in the best NICU in the best hospital in the United States and she still would've died."

I think if someone looked at her records, discovered that to be the truth, and spoke those words to me I could shed most of the guilt I am carrying around. I can go from "I had an empowering birth and having her out of the hospital didn't make any difference," to "I made selfish choices and I killed my daughter" in two seconds flat. The arguing in my head is quite loud and I'm not sure how to manage the two sides that are battling because I don't even know who is arguing in there. All I know is there are two distinct voices and they are about to send me round the bend.

Well, that makes me sound schizophrenic. I assure you I am not.

Then I stumbled across a report that most babies who die out of hospital die from respiratory complications. (I need to stay away from Google; it is not a safe place). Yes, please, stack a little more guilt on the pile. I don't have too much to carry already.

What it boils down to is that I have nothing. I have no birth certificate, no death certificate, no autopsy report. I have a few sheets of paper from Life Flight, the ambulance company, and the hospital. And I know her lungs did not inflate. But why not? Was she lacking surfactant? If she was, I'm pretty sure there is a machine in the NICU that helps babies breathe until they can do so on their own.

When I was driving to the bookstore today I wanted to pull over at the hospital where she died, tires screeching of course, and start shouting at the nearest person. I wanted to yell at someone which would force them to explain why my baby died, even though no one seems to know. But I'm almost positive the shouting and the demands to have it out would lead to my arrest so I kept driving.

All the ranting and raving above can be distilled to one sentence: I want someone to tell me why my baby died.

It's been ten weeks. Where is the autopsy report, the death certificate? How many times will I have to tell people, "We don't know why she died. Her lungs would not inflate, but there is no cause for it in her case." Is that all I will ever get? If so, I need to figure out how to live with it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Seeking Sanctuary

When life becomes too much, I read. Cracking open a book has always been a respite. Turning the pages and becoming lost in a story provides the room to breathe and regroup. The last few days have not been good ones. I’ve regressed to retreat and hide mode. Historically, churches have provided sanctuary to those who request it, and lately I have spent a lot of time knocking on the covers of books and seeking sanctuary. I’m inching through the days and I’m pretty sure I’m teetering on the brink of depression, rocking back and forth on the edge, and doing my best not to tumble over.

I’m reading books as if consuming words as fast as I can, until I become stuffed and sick with stories, will rescue me. My head is so full of sorrow I cannot abide there anymore so I am packing up and moving into books. Right after Charlotte died I had a really hard time reading and I couldn’t focus on anything. I really wanted to read, to escape, but the text overwhelmed me.

..............................................................................

On May 26th I wrote this in my personal journal:

Where is the comfort, books? Why can’t I get lost in a good story, or even a stupid one? I start to read, my eyes lose focus and I go somewhere else for a while. Thirty seconds, two minutes, or five minutes later I snap back to reality and realize I’ve been reading the book, flipping pages, moving through chapters, but I haven’t processed anything. I find this spacing out completely disturbing. I don’t know where I go or what happens during the time I am there. Is my brain processing my horrific loss when I lose focus and stare into space? It happens when I am alone and when I am with people. No one has commented on it yet. I don’t know if they haven’t noticed or if they are too polite to say anything. I am never aware it is happening. Throughout the day I have moments where I will suddenly come to, as if I am awakening from a quick nap, and I’ll realize I have no recollection of the past few seconds or minutes.

Followed by this entry on June 26th

I can finally read again. I do lose track of the story, I do get confused about plot lines and characters, but if the books are simple I can usually muddle through. I keep trying to read literature, but before too long I find myself staring into space and realize I have no awareness of what I am reading.

..............................................................................

Now, in late July, words are holding me together. From text, mine and others, I am constructing a new life and building a path to an as yet unknown destination. I am limping along, and when the limping turns into crawling I give up and escape to a book. The past few days I haven’t even attempted to limp, or tried to pull myself to my feet. I am full out, no shame, crawling. In the weeks since Charlotte died I have learned that sometimes life is more manageable from the ground, and I will try anything to gain a little perspective. (Belly crawling may follow. I'll let you know).

The books I’m reading right now are not the type I usually gravitate to. The plots are easy, the ends concluded within the first few pages, but I can’t focus on complicated stories. I need the simple, the sitcom type of book where everything is stitched up nicely at the end even though life never pans out that way. In real life every hard time that comes along doesn’t conclude with a laugh track and everyone hugging happily. In my world babies die despite a normal pregnancy and labor. That doesn’t sit comfortably with me (or anyone, really) so I read stories where good things happen despite incredible odds. I read novels about grief and loss and mock the smooth transition from devastated wreck to pieced together individual in 250 pages.

Who are these fictional characters who can heal, even regenerate, in such a short time? Why can’t what has happened to me be fiction? Why did I get picked to narrate this particular story? It doesn’t seem fair, but then, right now, nothing seems fair, or sane. There is no sense to what has happened to me. And, yes, this happened to me. I did not anticipate it, or ask for it. There was no foreshadowing. There was ascent: anticipation, joy, labor; then climax: birth, the infant struggles, the world halts for a moment; then descent: an infant on a gurney, in a helicopter, in an incubator, then dead. The arc of story always ends with resolution, but from here, in these early days, resolution seems relegated to story alone.

I was worried my daughter would not like to read. I was worried about her love of books when I should’ve been worried about whether or not she would live. Stupid, na├»ve me. I won’t make that mistake again. I can’t even remember when I learned to read. Family legend places me at four years old. I know I learned around the same time as my older sister. I was mostly self taught because I was too eager to wait, so I still, to this day, cannot pronounce words correctly. My mother tried to go back and teach me how to sound out words, but it was too late. I’m hauling a BA in Writing/Literature around and I can’t pronounce philosophical; it trips me up every time so I have ceased to use it. Better to erase words from my vocabulary than stand perpetually blushing at a party while people stare and wait for me to finish a sentence, or try to puzzle out what exactly came out of my mouth, and how it fits with the context of what I was saying because it’s not a word they have heard before.

I can’t face the world right now. Looking ahead to August and September has left me feeling petrified. I’m staring down the anniversaries, the days when I went off birth control, conceived Charlotte, told my hairdresser (before I took the test or told anyone else) I thought I was pregnant, found my fabulous midwives, and announced to the world I was going to have a baby. In August I should have a three month old. In September I should have a four month old. None of this makes sense. I don’t understand what has happened to me. Everything was fine, and then it wasn’t, and it happened so quickly I just can’t catch up. Each time I relive her birth, her death, I start to grasp what happened and then something, some evil thing or person, picks me up and tosses me back to the beginning, and I have to start all over again.

I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted and I can’t cope and I need to get away for a little while. I’m retreating with books, because I’ve always considered reading a fundamental part of me, and it has helped me cope before. There were days, weeks, months even, when I didn’t think I would make it through high school. I read book after book, one, sometimes two a day, and I made it through. One day I woke up, high school was over, and I never had to go back. I know there is no waking from this. I know I will always be a bereft mama whose daughter died less than two hours after birth. Those words are forever etched into the massive stone I now carry on my shoulders. But books allow me hours without feeling the weight of that stone. Books give me the chance to step outside of my circumstances until I have the strength to stop crawling, pick myself up, and begin seeking resolution once more.

Where do you seek sanctuary?

Ten Weeks

Today was a blah day. I mean really pathetically blah. I didn't do anything all day. I sat on the couch, streamed Boston Med, and felt sorry for myself. All. Day. Long. I ate a bit of cereal and some chips and felt sorry for myself. I watched episode after episode of Boston Med and thought about how there are no guarantees in life; we may die at any moment and death does not care about our age, our sex, our religious background, our race - it just takes.

Around 3:30 I rolled off the couch and made myself take a shower. I watered the flowers, cut and plated the brownies I made the night before, and prepared myself for an evening with friends. Good friends, lovely friends, but friends whose second baby was born one month before ours died.

We both cried on the drive over, but the night out ended up being a good thing. Nights with these friends always end up being a good thing. I played with their 22 month old. I held their 3 month old. We ate hamburgers and brownies and we laughed a lot. We laughed and laughed and laughed. There has been so much crying lately, the laughter feels good. We stayed at their house until midnight and then we drove home exhausted.

Friends like these don't come along very often. When they do I think it's important to keep them close, hug them often, and be grateful for them. Two days after Charlotte died they were at our house with food, tears, hugs, and prayer. I have a tribe comprised of family and friends. When I met these people nearly a year ago I thought, I want to add them to my tribe, but I don't know if we will mesh well. Nearly a year later and I feel as if we have been through a lifetime together and they are certainly part of my tribe. (I have no idea if you guys read this blog, but should you happen to, I love you).

Today was hard. I had one of those days where I sat on the couch and felt desperately sad. The kind of sad where I have to tell myself over and over, I can get through this, I will get through this. I talked to Charlotte a lot today. I always know I'm having a bad day when I can't stop speaking to the urn that sits in the niche above the fireplace or looking at the ceiling while blathering on about how awful I feel. To go from that to laughter and fun is jarring, but necessary. I can't be crazy all the time. I can't be a mess every hour of every day or else I won't make it through this.

For most of the day I couldn't figure out why I was having such a hard time. While in the shower I remembered it was a Friday and therefore ten weeks since Charlotte died. Ten weeks. Such a short time, but it feels like a long stretch, a long period of tears, anger, heartache, and complete brokenness. However, I have made it ten weeks. I have survived ten weeks without my daughter. I'm making it. It's not easy and days like today I wonder if the depression is going to take over. Then I force myself off the couch and out the door and end up having a good evening with friends. There are moments when I can't see how to get through this life without Charlotte, but I am doing it. I have no choice but to go forward, so I am.

Hard days are coming. I can see them looming. Anniversaries and birthdays and bittersweet memories of positive pregnancy tests. But right now it's 1 am and I don't need to think about how much I am dreading August. I need to be thankful for the passing of another day and sleep.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Trying to love myself

This morning was my first attempt at Aquafit. I was a bit of a failure, but I enjoyed bouncing around in the pool for an hour. The instructor told us what to do, but didn't tell anyone they were doing the exercises wrong. Well, except for the one time she corrected me. It's a random grouping of people and there is no real order to the class. A lot of people do their own thing. There was a sweet older man, the only man in the class, who had his own exercise program going. I liked him a lot. We were kindred souls; both a little lost and confused as to what we were supposed to be doing.

After the class my friend and I could not get the combination lock on our locker open. My friend had to go find someone to cut the lock off with bolt cutters. I was waiting for her by the locker when a group of 4 and 5 year old girls came through. They surrounded me and started taking off their bathing suits. One little girl came up to me and asked for help with something. I leaned down to ask her what she needed, but the adult that was watching them called her over and apologized for bothering me. And of course my heart seized as I thought about how Charlotte will never be 4 or 5.

After the lock was cut off we still could not get the locker open so a maintenance guy came down and smashed it open. It was very dramatic. The entire time my friend and I were hanging out in our bathing suits, shivering, and desperate to get back in our clothes. We picked her boys up from the on site child care and headed for the parking lot. I carried her 17 month old to the car and strapped him in his car seat. I wonder if I will always be the friend who carries others babies. The friend who helps wrangle everyone else's kids instead of having my own to wrangle.

After my friend dropped me off I made a good lunch for myself (whole wheat wrap with cream cheese, turkey, greens, and spinach & a banana) and started thinking about this new routine I've started. I was careful about my diet and I exercised when I was pregnant with Charlotte, but I don't know if I've ever been this kind to myself. Since Charlotte died I've realized I don't treat myself very well.

From this day forward I am going to focus on doing the best I can. The scale is going in the closet. The fretting about the bathing suit is not allowed any more. I'm going to take my supplements, brew and drink my anti-depressive tea, walk three times a week, go to Aquafit once a week, and eat well. I'm going to be nice to myself. I'm going to stop frowning at my stomach and thinking - fat. I'm going to acknowledge that I carried a child, I birthed a child, and I will never look the same on the outside. My insides are all sorts of different too.

I've been listening to A Fine Frenzy a lot lately. From Near to You:

"Such pain as this
Shouldn't have to be experienced
I'm still reeling from the loss,
Still a little bit delirious"

That's me these days. Still reeling, a bit delirious, but ready to try my hand at healing. Floating around the pool in the basement of the Y this morning I realized I can do this. I can treat myself with gentleness and kindness. Once a week I will descend the stairs, put on a bathing suit, and let myself be. I will take the deep breaths, do the work, and love myself for doing so.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Some words

I wrote out a post, went to publish it, and deleted the entire thing. Somehow it didn't save as I was typing it. Frustrated. And taking it as a sign to go in a different direction.

Are you tired of me yet? I certainly am.

Every night I feel the urge to sit down and write out how I'm feeling. It won't remove the pain, but it lessens the sting a bit. I may be repeating myself, in fact I'm sure I am, but I need these words on this page. I need to say over and over, I'm sad, I'm lost, it hurts, I miss her.

So. I'm sad. I'm lost. It hurts. I miss her.

I'm exhausted, worn out, wrung out.

I am angry. Upset by the unfairness.

And I'm tired of listening to my words and living in my head.

This is what I really want to say tonight:

Charlotte,

"Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color."

W. S. Merwin - Separation

I have some things to do tomorrow and then I am staying in bed for the rest of the week. It's all too much right now.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Look what I found



Charlotte,

I can't believe I tucked this scrap of paper in a drawer. I think I will add it to the pictures I am putting in your photo album. Your daddy really wanted to name you Quinn. I liked Harper. And initially I thought you would be Madeline. When the ultrasound tech said you were definitely a girl I sat up on the table, hugged my belly, and thought, hello Madeline. I love the name Lorelai, but it means seductive temptress and that did not sit well with me. Your daddy and I would pick a name from the list and try it out for a few days. One day I started calling you Charlotte and we never moved to the next name on the list. I loved the name Ava Grace, but daddy didn't like it. However, he let me use Ava as your middle name since I was so attached to it. And that is how you, my dear, went from Blueberry to Charlotte Ava to Little Bird.

I've been missing you a lot lately. I will be doing fine, going about my day, and then suddenly I will start crying. I was fine all day today. Then 5:00 rolled around and I ended up lying on the couch, on my stomach, feet in the air, and sobbing. I just miss you constantly, Charlotte, and I haven't figured out how to make the ache go away. I'm actually not sure I want to make the ache go away. It's just so hard to always feel like something is missing. My arms long to hold you. I carried you your entire life, baby girl, but I wish I had one moment, just one, when you were alive and in my arms and looking into my eyes.

I'm sad tonight. Very, very sad. Missing you so much it hurts. You were loved. (You are loved). You were wanted. That's all I really want you to know tonight.

Love forever - Mama

Sunday, July 18, 2010

New things and some fretting

What do you think of my new look? The husband did it for me. Much love to him. He is still working on it, but I like it so far.

We finally got our stove today!



It took us a long time to find one for a good price. It needs a bit of cleaning, but it will be worth it. And of course it will be in the fireplace instead of sitting on the hearth. This stove was supposed to keep me and Charlotte warm through the long, rainy Oregon winter. I am excited to have it, but so sad because I imagined toasty days at home with my baby girl. This Christmas we were going to have a roaring fire, hot chocolate, a baby, and much love. Now that Charlotte is gone Christmas has been cancelled. I don't know where I will be for Christmas, but there is no way I am sticking around.

On Wednesday I am starting an Aquafit class with a friend. She is kind and doesn't mind the odd brand of crazy I bring with me these days. I contacted her to ask if we could work out together one day a week. Maybe we could go swimming at the Y since we both have family memberships. She e-mailed me with the details for the Aquafit class and said she could pick me up. I love this friend. I toss out an idea and she comes back with a plan. The only thing I had to decide is whether we would go Wednesday or Friday morning.

We agreed to go Wednesday, we set everything up, and then I panicked a bit. I didn't like trying new things before Charlotte died. Now it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that if you want me to try something new it's not going to happen. I sent her an e-mail asking if I had to get my head wet, because I really don't like getting my head wet, and maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all, hmmm? She calmly replied that since it was a fitness class in a pool my head would probably get wet. Then she promised if I didn't like it we could try something else. I apologized for being whiny and we agreed she would pick me up at 8:30.

I'm scared and nervous so I am fretting about my bathing suit now. I can get it over my hips, but it's a tight squeeze. It doesn't fit nearly as well as it did before my pregnancy. I pondered buying a new suit, but that would require way more energy and fortitude than I have right now. I'm going to stuff myself into the suit, wear a pair of board shorts over that, and hope for the best. It's Aquafit at 9:00 on a Wednesday morning at the Y. Surely no one will be looking their best.

Dr. B said I have to exercise 6 days a week so I am going to do this. I am going to pull myself together, gather my courage, and go. The friend I'm attending the class with also happens to be my movie buddy. If we don't like the class we can pop over to the movie theater for a good show, popcorn and soda. Although I do believe the popcorn and soda would defeat the purpose of Aquafit. Ugh. I can't believe I'm actually going to take a class called Aquafit. I best find a swim cap so I can fit in with the senior citizens who will make up the majority of the class.

I'm going to fret about this a lot. If you grow tired of my whining please skim until you get to a part where I'm not moaning about Aquafit.

This morning Jonathan and I were chatting about the new exercise, diet, health plan. We were in the kitchen, dishing out oatmeal for breakfast, and I said, You know, maybe the good thing that comes out of Charlotte's death is me being in shape and healthy for the first time in years (like 8, or maybe even 10. Yes, I am young, but I am not healthy).
"Yes," he said, "but we would give it all up to have her back."
"Oh, of course," I responded while waving my bowl of oatmeal in the air. "I would give up anything but you to have her back."

And I would. Him + me made her. It's amazing. I miss that little girl. I was planning on getting over my fear and dislike of water (I wear life jackets in pools) so we could do baby and mama swim classes. Instead you can find me at Aquafit on Wednesday mornings sans life jacket even though I could really use a flotation device, or ten, these days. As so many have said before me, is this really my life?

In completely unrelated but very joyous news: my brother is back on US soil. Thank the Lord. Please no more tours in Iraq, brother of mine. I like you in one piece.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Love, support, kindness

Let me start with a request: Please go give Jennifer some love. Her sweet Kai was born still on June 16th.

And sorry for two posts in one day.

My visit with Dr. B, the naturopath, went really well. I am going off the thyroid medication! It is going to take time, it means pushing our trying to conceive plan back a month or two, but for the first time in five years I am going to be medication free. I am switching from medication to natural supplements and that makes me feel much better about a second pregnancy (fingers crossed, toes too).

I love Dr. B. A lot. My appointment was a full hour, I talked about many things, and I didn't cry even though it was strangely akin to therapy. My favorite moment was when she looked at me and said, "I want to rescue you and put you back together." Oh, well, please do. I would appreciate that ever so much.

One simple sentence and yet with those words I shed a great deal of anxiety. I offloaded a bit of this journey into her capable hands and I realized that this is what we do with our grief. We parcel it out, bit by bit, until we have a small enough amount we can carry it around without buckling under the weight.

Many friends and family members have a piece of my grief. The wonderful BLM I have "met" have a piece, but they have theirs to carry too, so it is more of a juggling act. Every time I read about a new mama who has joined this sad group (we really are trying to figure out how to close down membership) I take their little one's name and place it ever so gently in the corner of my heart reserved for those special souls. How many names can one little heart corner hold? More than I thought possible. Way too many.

(Insert random wandering thought: Whenever I think of you baby loss mamas this quote from one of Anne Lamott's essays comes to mind: " ... This is life's nature: that lives and hearts get broken - those of people we love, those of people we'll never meet. ... the world sometimes feels like the waiting room of the emergency ward and we who are more or less OK for now need to take the tenderest possible care of the more wounded people in the waiting room ..."

I would love to meet all of you. Some rich billionaire needs to work on making a baby free zone for us. An island somewhere warm would be nice. Then said billionaire needs to fly us BLM there. We can rest on the beach, drink cocktails, talk about our babies, cry, laugh, be bitter, just be).

Grief will give you whiplash. From knocked down sobbing wreck to one more corner of the ripped to shreds soul mended in less than twenty-four hours. This is exhausting. But I have a plan now. I have a piece of paper that tells me what to do. I have something to focus on. I feel a little less lost.

Dr. B said we can grow a healthy baby and I believe her. It's going to take time, I need to be patient, but I know we are working towards a future. I know I am going to be terrified throughout the next go round. I lost my baby at the full term mark, at the end of a normal labor, and there was never any indication that anything was wrong. I am going to need a lot of help to make it through my next pregnancy. My midwives and Dr. B are holding one leg, my fellow baby loss mamas have the other, my friends and family have my torso, and my dear husband is cradling my head. In this manner, carried aloft, supported through it all, I will get pregnant again and I will hope for the best while acknowledging that the worst may happen.

Yesterday I wanted to crawl into a cave and never come out. Today I feel a little stronger and I can look at the future and see glimmers of possibility instead of pure blackness. I can do this, I can. One foot in front of the other. One day at a time.

Love to all who take the time to read these words.

Wherever you go, there you are

As you all know I’ve been trying my hardest to outrun the grief. Feet to the ground, running my heart out, focusing on getting away. Guess what? It didn’t work out for me. Surprise, surprise. Grief caught up to me last night and made its presence known with a full on tackle from behind that slammed my body into the ground. Face meet dirt, meet tears, meet screaming.

Last night was not as bad as the first few nights after Charlotte died, but it was reminiscent, there were faint echoes of that time. Once again I was a collapsed heap on the bed, sobbing, wondering where my daughter was, what I did wrong. Nine weeks ago I screamed at the top of my lungs for Charlotte. I screamed “Where’s my baby? I want my baby!” over and over while the equally upset, but less able to express it, husband sat near me and rubbed my back. Last night was same story, different day, but with whispering instead of shouting.

I went to the dark place, friends. I hate the dark place. For days I’ve been circling the dark place like an anxious dog protecting its pack from a potential attack. There is a path worn around my dark place, but I have managed to avoid going through the gate. I have walked to the gate, warm hand on cool iron, pulled it towards me, inhaled a great big yoga breath, prepared to step in, and then walked away. The gate slams with a great clang, metal ringing against metal, and I scamper away, unscathed. Last night there was no flirting with the gate. Last night was a sudden tackle to the ground and then grief picked me up, flung open the gate, tossed me inside the dark place, locked the gate, and walked away whistling with his hands in his pockets. I hate you, grief.

I do believe I am putting too much pressure on myself. I feel a great need to not be here anymore, in the early stages of grief, so I am trying to force my way forward. Obviously that’s not working. I have been so focused on doing well and making progress I forgot to make room for falling apart. I have now learned that if you don’t make room for falling apart, it will make room for itself, and the forced sorrow is much worse than letting it happen as it happens. I feel pathetic, a bit like I’m wallowing, so I make myself do things. No one is putting pressure on me, this is all internal. Last night while I cried my husband reassured me that I am on no timeline and that he is fine with me sitting at home all the time. Yes, I know. But I am not fine with the sitting at home. I am not fine with feeling purposeless, useless, like a failure. I knew this would happen. Immediately after Charlotte died I told my husband I did not have a purpose and freaking out would commence in the near future. I don’t do well when I feel as if I am not contributing to the family. He insists I am because I take care of the house, but I am barely taking care of the house. And the man is lucky if he comes home to find food on the table.

Still a mess. Nothing has changed since yesterday. If anything, I’m even more of a mess today. I want to stay in bed. I would like to eat chocolate, drink good, local beer, pout, cry, generally feel sorry for myself. Instead I am headed to Portland for an appointment with Dr. B, the naturopath. This is a good step, a necessary one, but I really would like beer, bed, chocolate, and a good book.

I just realized it’s not even noon. So maybe no drinking. Although yesterday a friend noted that the sun is always over the yardarm somewhere in the world.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

First day

First day back at the bookstore. I got up, dropped Jonathan off at work, because his car is in the shop AGAIN, came home, got ready and went on in. Scary. I stayed in the back, hidden in the office I used to share with a co-worker. I worked on data entry. It was nice, simple. I didn’t have to think, which is a nice break right now. I don’t really feel like I’m working, because I am not getting paid. I work, I get books. The perfect combination for me. Low key, no pressure. It’s hard to be back at the store, to remember the years I was there before Charlotte, and the months I worked there with Charlotte growing in my belly. There are a lot of questions I cannot answer right now, but I can sit in the back of the bookstore, take one catalog into my hands at a time, and input information. I can flip through the glossy pages and know I ordered a title in hardcover and it sold well so I should order it in paperback. There is comfort in the familiar, in the knowledge that I can still do the book buying thing even if I failed at the mothering thing. Next week I go back. One day a week, one catalog at a time until I figure out where to go from here. Love to the owner who lets me float in and out, on my own time, in my own grief space; a space that requires no real commitment just in case I wake up to a bad day and am unable to get past the ‘put on yoga pants, sit on the couch’ stage of my day.

I’m a bit of a mess. Okay, I’m a lot of a mess. I feel like I’m doing okay, but when I sit quietly by myself I realize I am skimming over Charlotte constantly. My mind races, I am always thinking, and whenever my thoughts land on Charlotte, which is about every other second, I shoot off in a different direction as soon as I can. If I think about her I cry. If I think about her I get angry. If I think about her I fear I will start screaming and never stop. If I think about her I start asking questions and wondering why I am driving down the road on a beautiful summer day with no baby car seat in the back. If I think about her I fill up with sorrow so quickly I fear I may drown. There is no air left in this world when I think about her, so I force the thoughts away. And yet it is impossible for me not to think of her. I carried her for 38 weeks. It is impossible to carry someone for that long and not miss them when they cease to be. As those who have nurtured someone through a long illness know: to go from I need you to carry me through this to please let me go, I need to not be here anymore is gut wrenching even if you see it coming. And I had no warning.

My new necklaces click and slide together every time I move. The charms comfort, they soothe, my hands constantly go to them, and yet they are a reminder as well. Every time my fingers brush the cool metal I am jolted back to that moment when I leaned down and wrapped my fingers around her foot. She opened her dark eyes, time stopped, then started rushing, hurtling toward the inevitable conclusion, and my baby said good-bye. Her sweet hands, her beautiful feet, this is what is left of a life.

I need to figure out the food thing. I have no appetite, haven’t had much of one since Charlotte died. When I do eat, it’s usually foods that are not good for me. Yesterday I had raisins and M&M’s for breakfast. Today I’ve had a few crackers and M&M’s. I need to eat more, but I can’t find the motivation. I wake up, shuffle into the kitchen to make a smoothie, and find myself walking out of the kitchen with empty hands. Nothing looks good and I never feel like eating. If you put food in front of me I will eat it. If you ask me what I want to eat I will probably cry. I need to get back to my healthy eating regimen so I have the energy to exercise and lose the extra seven pounds I seem to be carrying entirely in my stomach region. If there is no baby why must I have this excess weight? I’m afraid I won’t shed it and I will go into the next pregnancy (let me toss out the usual caveat here: if there is to be a next pregnancy) seven pounds heavier and then before you know it I will be 200 pounds. This is how that happens, right? And no, I’m not not eating because I think that will help me lose weight. I’m aware enough to know that is an eating disorder and if that were the case I would need help. Lots of it and in great quantities. I just don’t have the energy to eat and we aren’t the kind of people who have lots of excess cash floating around so we can hire someone to feed me. If we were rich I would have a personal chef and a personal trainer and all would be solved on the food and exercise front. Since that is never going to happen I need to get myself together, start eating, start exercising, and make sure I am in shape for the next pregnancy (insert usual caveat here).

Whew. As I said, I am a bit of a mess right now. I am a little crazed and very sad, but I am still getting up each morning, putting on clothes instead of yoga pants and a tank top (most days), and I am slowly, ever so slowly, with a shuffling, hesitant gait, figuring out what to do with my life.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Two Months

Can you believe it, Charlotte? Two months without you. I feel like I've lived ten years of sorrow, but it's only been eight weeks. You are forever loved and forever missed. Every moment of every day I think of your beautiful face and your short, lovely life.

I finally received my memorial necklace! I picked out what I wanted, but it's from all of your grandparents. We are still waiting on your daddy's ring. I love having a reminder of you I can carry with me.

The front is your hand and foot print along with an emerald for your birth stone. Both of the charms have your name and date of birth on the back.









Someday I would like to find a chest I can put everything in. For now you have these three memorial boxes. One from the hospital, one from the church we attended in McMinnville, and one from your Aunt Christina.



Your sweet hand and foot prints.





You had so much hair baby girl. It was long enough that it curled up just a bit at the sides. And you had eyebrows! I've seen a lot of babies that look eyebrow-less, but I could definitely see yours.



Here is your birth announcement/memorial card. We sent this to everyone. Close family, the chiropractor, work friends, and anyone who sent us a card in the mail. We are so proud of you and wanted to share your sweet face with the world.



Your grandmother, Sasa, and I picked out these flowers today. They are going to go next to our Charlotte rose. Once we receive your memorial stone I will get your corner of the garden all set up.



The Charlotte rose Sasa and Granddad picked out. They have one in their garden and your other grandparents have one in theirs too.



I love this outfit. People warned me you may not fit in newborn clothes because you could be too small or too big. I packed this in your bag just in case you were big. It was a 3 month outfit. I think it would've been a while before you grew into it.



This bracelet was made for us by Jessi's mom. Jessi is a good friend and you share a birthday with her.



From Aunt Emily and Uncle Ryan. We have lots of toys and stuffed animals I don't associate with you, but for some reason I always imagined this little guy as your favorite.



From Aunt Christina, Uncle Scott, and your cousin Ryan. Family members filled this box your Uncle Scott made with letters to you.



From Patricia. Before I had any pictures of you I had this. I carried it from room to room right after you died. My picture of it doesn't do it justice. This lavender was blooming outside the birth center on the morning you were born.

.

From Tina. This picture was in her house for a long time, but soon after you died she brought it to me.



I had so many books to read to you. That was one of the first things I wanted to do with you when we got home. You, me, the rocker and a pile of books. I knew you would probably sleep through those first few months of reading, but I still couldn't wait to start. Remember how I used to read passages of books out loud to you simply because I loved them so much and no one else was home for me to share them with? I have read these two books over and over since you died.



I am working on a photo album of my pregnancy pictures. Every last picture, even the not so attractive ones of Mama. I want to remember all of the happy times we had when you were alive.



Three days after you died this little darling showed up in the front yard.



You will always be my little bird.

Love,
Mama

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Stuck

Tomorrow is the official two month mark and I feel absolutely, completely stuck. I can't go back, but I'm not sure if I can go forward either. I think I need to break out of my routine. The dead baby routine of no work, no Charlotte, lots of sitting at home immobile. But I'm not sure if I am ready to go back to work. I am going in on Thursday to do a few things, but it's all going to be behind the scenes. I'm not sure I can commit to work again. I have plenty of days where I sit on the couch unable to move for the sadness.

I think I am confused that this is my life now. All that is required of me is to get through each day. My husband works, he works hard, and his job pays him well enough that I can sit on this couch day after day. He doesn't require anything from me. A clean house is nice, coming home to dinner is nice, but he doesn't expect me to do anything. He understands that I need some time to absorb what has happened to us. But I feel terrible because he had two weeks and then he was thrown back into the fray. Each day patients ask him if he has a family, if he has kids, and he has to slog through that question again and again and I'm not sure how he does it.

I've been doing my best not to cry lately. There comes a point when a person just cannot cry anymore. It's wearying, tiresome, annoying even. I've put away most of Charlotte's things. Looking at them is hard and usually makes me cry so I am spending some time without them in my face. Of course there are things that will never be put away. The spot above the fireplace will always be hers, I think.


It's not like I want to erase Charlotte, but it's been two months and I have to step back from the intense grieving for a while. I am feeling the need to go forward, to wrench my feet out of this heavy grief that is reminiscent of drying cement. I fear if I stay here too long I will be forever immobile. I will sit on this couch the rest of my life, stare at that little spot above the fireplace, and become so scared of living I simply stop doing so.

I think it's time to make decisions about life and work. I go back and forth on going back to the bookstore. I'm not even sure if there is a place for me there anymore. I was supposed to waltz off into the next stage of my life, but the music has been turned off and I can't expect everything to be in place, waiting for me to crawl back, wounded, upset, barely functioning some days. I haven't felt uncertainty about my future in years. I mentioned feeling like I was back in junior high in a previous post and today I feel like I'm in high school and trying to decide what step to take next. I feel as if I am standing on a cliff above a canyon screaming, "What do I do with my life?!" and in return receiving only a faint echo; my voice returned to me devoid of answers or ideas.

I was supposed to be a mama who stayed at home with her daughter. I wrapped my identity in that notion and now that it has been ripped away from me I feel quite lost. I wanted to give myself some time before we tried again. Mainly so I could heal physically, but also because I am scared of being due in May again. Now I'm wondering if we shouldn't wait. Perhaps the joy of having a new life to hope for will eclipse the worry and pain. Somehow I doubt it. Apparently for me losing my daughter is tantamount to losing myself. I am not enjoying it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

My poor baby

Received medical records from Life Flight and the hospital today. Ugh. It's important to have these things as we go forward, meet with the perinatologist, try to decide what to do next. But why do I sit down and read them? My favorite part from the hospital report is when the phrase "impending doom for the patient" is tossed out. Impending doom. Really? What a way to put it. Still waiting for the autopsy report. I'm afraid I may have to request it again. My poor baby. Less than two hours of life outside of me and those two hours were chaotic. I think I will tuck these papers in the folder labeled 'C - Medical Information' and not look at them for a while.

Reading the night away

My sleep patterns are wonky. I need to buckle down, take the Valerian root, drink the sleepy tea, get back in a routine. I'm running on three to five hours of sleep a night and doing okay with it. For now. I read constantly. Book after book after book. Out of these books come words and impressions and images I want to save. So many things remind me of Charlotte now. I am rereading a lot of books. Going back to the ones that have brought me comfort before. I write down quote after quote and I have finally decided to put them all in one place.

It's creeping up on 1 am so I am going to put down the books, shut down the laptop, creep into the bedroom where my husband and the dog sleep peacefully, and try to sleep.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lost

You stand up. Stretch. Look around. Something is missing. Or maybe you are forgetting something. You pat your pockets. Look around once more. You check the ground, the chair next to you, the kitchen table. You wander the house looking in each room. You see nothing, shrug, and turn to leave. As you start to walk away you pause. Perhaps this is past you, not present you. You place a hand on your belly. Flat. Well, almost flat. Not as flat as it used to be, but certainly not as round as it used to be either. That answers that. Definitely present you. As one final test you touch a hand to your arm, to your bare skin. Ouch. The simplest touch stings. Yes. It is the present. You are open wound you. A new you that still requires adjusting to. You wake up each morning, look in the mirror, and startle. Day in, day out. Present you looks old, worn out, gray, awful and it is disquieting and unsettling each time you see it. You continue to walk away, still confused, still looking around for what is missing. Then you remember. When you came to this place next you were supposed to have a person with you. You are not missing something, but someone. The next family gathering, the next trip to the bookstore, the grocery store, every trip from this moment on there was supposed to be another person with you. Every time you left the house you carried that person with you and now suddenly she is disappeared. How can you lose a person so quickly? From there to gone in an hour and a half. It is incredible. Life altering. It makes you respect life and what comes after. You pause, one hand on the door, certain that someone is coming. You fool yourself into believing time has sped up. They are in the other room. They are walking, talking, things you thought you would never see, and they are in the other room and soon they will walk out, reach for your hand, and you will proceed together. You snap out of that dream, turn, and walk out the door. You know. It is hard to admit, but you do know. You are the one who has been left behind. You are the lost article. And yet. Every time you leave, every time you move from one aspect of life to the next, you pause, look around, and wonder what is missing.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Less words, more pictures

I had a good day yesterday. I went to McMinnville with my mom and bought a fabulous dress that was on sale.



I snagged some books at my favorite bookstore (the to read pile is out of control. I also have two 'need to read someday' shelves ....).



I talked with a midwife I haven't seen since Charlotte died, received some good serious hugs, ate lunch at The Sage, ate dinner at Adam's Rib Smokehouse, ate more food than I have in a long time, and had my first good Friday since Charlotte died.

Today we went to the river with the dog. She loves to swim and we have not taken her out as often as we should.











It was nice to have a few good moments. I've been struggling with who I am now that Charlotte is dead. I've spent a lot of time reflecting on who I am, who I was and who I want to be now that my life is going in a completely different direction. Isn't grief fun? This crisis of self makes me feel like I'm back in junior high. Although if I had this hair and these clothes in junior high life may have been a little easier.

After a lot of soul searching this is what I have discovered:

I will never be this girl again: (age 18)



Or this one: (age 26. 25 weeks pregnant)



I will always be a mama without her first born ...


But I can still smile, even if it looks a little forced: (age 26. Five weeks after Charlotte died)



I think yesterday when I put on Brand New Day by Joshua Radin I actually believed the lyrics. And I can honestly say "for the first time in such a long, long time I know I'll be okay ..."

To the baby loss mamas who are having a hard time right now know this: 8 weeks was my magic spot. I was dreading Friday, but I ended up having a good day. It gets easier, I promise. If you feel like there may not be any good days in your future, know that you will smile again and one day you will laugh and you won't feel guilty for laughing. I wanted to hug the world because I felt so good yesterday. 8 weeks ago I would've punched anyone who told me that was a possibility. Good days are coming, better times are coming. I miss my baby every moment of every day, but this grief is getting easier to carry around.

One last thing: Please don't laugh at me, or bring this post to my attention a week from now when I am once again knocked off my feet by grief. I'm on an up wave and I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts because I know just how hard the down waves are.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Birth

I’ve been feeling discontented lately. The anger has been all-consuming and I don’t like that. In trying to shake it off I sat, went deep into my head, and thought about Charlotte’s birth. I’ve talked about it, I’ve written it out, but I haven’t sat with it. In doing so I realized I needed to process the incredible emotions that come with birth before I could move forward.

Birth is a contentious topic. People have strong, fierce, insane emotions and thoughts about birth. My personal belief is that most babies don’t need to be born in hospitals. I believe most hospital maternal care is cold, distant and unkind to women. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but the majority of hospitals wrest control from the birthing mother’s hands and apply medical processes to a normal, natural procedure. Have I ever given birth in a hospital? No. But I have talked to lots of women, read many birth stories, and watched a few documentaries. Even though my baby died I believe low risk babies should be born out of the hospital.

I am incredibly grateful to whomever nudged me in the direction of an out of hospital birth. When the birthing center first showed up on the winding country road I drove to and from work I thought, my babies will be born there. After a few conversations with people in the medical field I dropped that idea like a hot potato. Birth was DANGEROUS and should not be attempted out of a hospital setting.

Then I got pregnant and the midwife group associated with the local hospital failed me. The receptionist I talked to was horrendous to me. I nervously called my husband’s co-worker’s wife who had just announced her pregnancy. She had tried the midwives linked to the local hospital, found them lacking, and was having her second at the birthing center. After talking to her, praying a lot, and an introductory visit to the birth center, I decided to proceed with the birth I wanted.

I was a little smug about my choice to have Charlotte out of hospital. We live in a twisted culture where women who have their babies naturally are considered brave, or stupid, and those who have epidurals or c-sections are considered normal. And the women who make those decisions are often reviled by the natural birth community. We’re all human. We’re all women here. We’re all trying to bring healthy babies into the world. Why aren’t we nicer to each other? These are very personal decisions after all. Women have been taught to fear birth and the birthing process and to treat it like a disease. Therefore, birth and the giving of it is mired in dark, scary emotions. Throughout my pregnancy and birth I was calm, without fear and packaged in with that came a touch of smugness.

Since Charlotte died the smugness has disappeared. I am keeping my eyes on my own path, my own truth. I am not pointing any fingers or shaking my head disapprovingly at women who choose different birthing methods. (Well, I still struggle with women who choose to have a c-section or be induced at 38 or 39 weeks. I believe if the baby is not in stress he or she should be allowed to enter the world on his or her own timing).

Charlotte’s birth has been a humbling experience. Someone knocked me off my plateau of self-righteousness but good. At first I thought it was God who delivered the round house kick to my chest that sent me spinning off into the darkness and horror that is life after your child has died. For a couple of days I shook my head, glared at God and thought Wouldn’t knocking me down a couple pegs have been sufficient? Did you have to kick me in the back of the knees, punch me in the stomach, sweep the rug out from under me - knock me off my feet so thoroughly I may never get up? Now I realize God is the one who is pulling me together. His strength will help me get through this storm. He didn’t knock me down, but now that I am down He will help me climb out of the pit. But don’t be mistaken. I am humbled, friends. As I said, I am keeping my eyes on my path and I have nothing to say to those who choose to have their babies in hospitals. You do your thing, I will do mine, and I will keep my mouth shut regarding your choices.

After Charlotte was born I clung to the fact that I birthed her naturally. In fact, I still do. I told anyone and everyone who would listen, My baby was born, then she died. But I had her naturally. Nearly 26 hours of labor with no pain medication. I am proud of that. My primary reason for wanting an out of hospital birth was to prove to myself I could do it. I’m only human. I tend to take the easy way out. But with Charlotte I wanted the best for my baby. I wanted her to come into this world untainted by drugs, stress, and the busy hands of nurses and doctors. I wanted to bring my baby into this world with my own power and intuitiveness.

Birthing Charlotte was an incredible experience. I don’t know if there are words to describe the experience. The pain was excruciating. With each contraction I didn’t think I would make it through. But I did. When I was worn out and fearful the baby was going to stay in the birth canal forever I reached down, felt her head, and found the strength to continue pushing. I focused inward and discovered a warrior soul I didn't know I possessed. When I was worried about how to proceed, what to do, my body took over and I surrendered to the birth process. No one told me I was at 10 cm, no one told me it was time to push, no one told me what position to be in. I did it all on my own.

I am so glad I did not have an epidural with Charlotte. The last hours of my little girl’s life we were bound together, intertwined, laboring together to bring her into the world. I am grateful I had her at the birth center because I spent three, maybe four, hours during that long night of labor sitting in the birthing tub and talking to her. Jonathan slept in a chair, his feet propped on the tub. The midwife and her apprentice were elsewhere, napping maybe. I sat in the warm water, with my hands on my belly and I talked to my baby.

Hello, Charlotte. Hello my darling girl. Are we getting close to meeting each other? Let me put some warm water on my belly. Can you feel that? Are you ready to meet us yet? I trust you will come when you are ready. We are so close to that moment. I hope it is soon. I trust birth and I trust you, but we need to remember to work together. Remember what Mama has been telling you? Less than seven and a half pounds please baby. And go easy on me. This doesn’t hurt so far, but it will and I need you to focus during that part. We are doing this, together, and I can’t wait to meet you. I trust birth. I trust you. I love you.

And on and on and on. I turned inward, I found my little girl’s soul and I knew I could make it through her birth.

Can I ever describe what it feels like to give birth? Probably not. My most vivid memory is near the end. I was squatting, pushing, and I could feel how low her head was. I could feel my body stretching out and I was amazed with the process. I visualized myself opening up, the baby moving downward, and then there she was. I felt between my legs and there was her head. Somehow, someway, she was coming into this world. Until that moment I didn’t think it was possible. I thought the process may never end. I climbed out of the birthing tub and positioned myself on the birthing stool. I pushed her out, my husband caught her, and then I held her for a moment. Skin to skin. One hand on her head, one hand on her bottom. I closed my eyes, pressed her to my chest, and felt relief.

We were so bonded, so close, that little girl and I. She was on the floor in front of me, I was on the birthing stool. She was surrounded by midwives who were trying to resuscitate her. I reached down, took her foot into my hand, and said Hello, Charlotte. Hello, baby. You can do it. Stay with us. Hi, baby. Charlotte, stay with us. You can do this. Breathe baby. She heard my voice, she opened her dark eyes, looked at me and the string holding us together, that connected my heart to her heart, my soul to her soul, broke. She looked at me and I could see clearly that she was going to die. I squeezed her foot and spoke to her silently. Okay, baby. You can go. I see you are not going to make it. Goodbye sweet girl, love you.

I think those few moments with my daughter led to my confusion later. Everyone was bustling around, insisting I needed to get to the hospital, but all I could think was She is gone. If she has not breathed her last yet, she will soon. With my letter to Charlotte, regarding the feelings of shame, I forgot about those moments. I forgot about the moment I knew she was not meant to stay on this earth with us. Only in delving into my memories do I remember those seconds when I said goodbye to her. Retrieving these scraps of memories has released a great amount of pressure in my soul. I may not have kissed her, but she knew I loved her. She did. She looked me in the eyes, acknowledged me as her mama, as the voice she had heard for 38 weeks. She wanted me to know it was not my fault.

With Charlotte’s death I felt like I lost everything. Sitting, remembering her birth, I realized I didn’t lose everything. I still trust birth. I still believe women can and should give birth outside of hospitals. I am already dreaming about having my next baby at home. When I visualize my next birth it happens in my dining room, in one of those pop-up birthing tubs. If I am told my next should be born in a hospital I will submit to that. But if the next is as low risk as Charlotte was I will have him or her at home. What happened with Charlotte seems like a fluke. Her lungs would not inflate. I just don’t see how having her at a hospital would’ve changed that simple fact.

I did the best I could for my baby. So many people have told me that, but now I believe it. I ate organic meat, drank hormone free milk, gave up chocolate, exercised, talked to my baby, loved my baby, and birthed her on my terms. Then she died. That’s just the way it goes with some babies. Birth is a crossing over, a passing from one world to the next, and my baby wasn’t able to make the crossing. I did nothing wrong. I did right by her, I did right by myself, and because of my birthing choices I am able to look myself in the eye and be proud. I think if I had had Charlotte in the hospital I would blame myself for her death. I fear hospitals and I think I would blame myself for not listening to my gut. I would blame myself for agreeing to the medical process that is encouraged and trusted instead of trusting myself and having her in a place where I was comfortable, respected, and cared for.

Even though I was so proud of my birthing experience, I think I discredited it and how it can help me heal. I know I will not be as calm with the second, but I hope I won’t be too scared to go forward, to birth naturally. There are moments when I forget I brought Charlotte into this world. It seems to me as if the pregnancy or the birth never happened. Then I remember her moving down the birth canal, I remember the moment when I knew she was coming out, I remember the power birth gave me. And from Charlotte’s birth I come away knowing this: birth is powerful, all consuming, beautiful, and I trust the process.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Out of sorts

That is the best phrase for how I am feeling. Trying to work through some things. Calm down some. I need to eat better and more often. I need to get more sleep. I need to work through the incredible rage that has cropped up recently. I don't feel very sad - a little lost, but not sad. I think I'm going to be quiet for a day or two. Sit with myself, work through some things. I'm putting myself in time out, if you will.

My sister and I were talking the other day and she said I'm on an island, the island of Angela. Yes, I am. And this island is small. Few can fit on my island and even fewer are allowed. Every now and then I will send a boat to someone on shore, but usually I am here alone. And for a couple of days there will be no boats. There will be no invitations to keep me company. There will be no communication with the outside world. I am no longer comfortable with myself, with sitting in silence and doing nothing. This inability to sit with my own thoughts feels like a betrayal, or even a secondary loss.

There are so many questions bouncing around in my mind. I've always been comfortable rambling about in my head and if I have lost that ability have I lost the person I knew as Angela? Do I need to start over from scratch here or can I proceed with a few changes - some minor and possibly, if the need arises, major shifts?

I suppose I am suffering from a strange mixture of confusion and the inability to follow my own story line. In such a short amount of time I went from anticipating being a parent to being a mama to mourning my baby. It feels like my life was a puzzle and I was doing a darn good job of putting it together, everything was fitting and the picture was shaping up nicely. Now the pieces are jagged, nothing makes sense, and the end result is so hazy I can no longer imagine what it may look like.

I need to work through some things and see if I can find any fragments of the person I was before my beautiful daughter crashed into and out of this world so fast I was left stranded on an island grasping at air. Before Charlotte I had a clear idea of where I was and where I was going. Right now I don't really like myself and that makes me sad and I want to try and rectify it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Meadow

Charlotte,

When I think of you, of where you are, a meadow comes to mind. That meadow is in heaven for I believe that is where you are and where I will be someday too. You are a toddler, two, maybe three. You have red blonde curly hair, just like I knew you would. You are wearing pink rain boots, even though the sun is shining. Maybe because we live in Oregon and I was looking forward to buying you pink rain boots? You are wearing a skirt and a little sweater and you, my dear, are beautiful.

You are surrounded by friends. Your laugh rings across the meadow and you run and run and run with your friends. I imagine you surrounded by the babies that belong to the mamas I have met. It helps me to think of you playing with babies I know. I know their stories, I know why they left this earth and I imagine all of you running through that meadow and having a wonderful time. Each baby has a name that floats above their head and every time I encounter another parent who has lost a child one more baby in the meadow is named.

The meadow is filled with butterflies, dragonflies, birds, flowers and other small tokens that remind the left behind parents of their children. Every now and again a child will stop and pick up a butterfly, or lean into a bird sitting on a low tree branch and whisper, "Go. Go see my mama and my daddy. They are sad today. They need to remember me and know I am okay."

There is a path that runs along one side of the meadow. Each day a select few will stop what they are doing. They will drop everything, stand, and say, "Oh, is it that time already?" The other children will keep playing, keep running, but those few precious children will break from the circle and run for the path. And there, in the shadow of giant trees, they will be swept up into their mama or daddy's arms and be held and rocked and kissed and loved.

Someday Charlotte we will meet on that path. It is not my time yet, baby girl. Enjoy spending time with your friends. Run, play, be forever young, but know I am here thinking of you, loving you, missing you, and anticipating the day when we will stand beneath the giant trees - reunited.

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