Sunday, July 28, 2013

stretch


I'm reading this book, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search For Identity, and oh my goodness it is making my brain hurt. It's a good hurt, I need to read things like this every now and again. I've been reading far too many "beach reads" since Charlotte died, which is all I could handle for a while, but beach reads don't make me think about ethics, politics, religion and my personal/emotional response. This book is so good, and so dense, I would actually like to take a class on it.

But it's got me thinking about love and sacrifice and parenting. About how a person thinks, "I could never handle that," but then your own that comes along and while it knocks you sideways and renders you broken and speechless you survive it. You come out the other side. And of course you're changed - irrevocably altered really - but even the most tumultuous change contains goodness.

In Far From the Tree Andrew Solomon writes, 

"The raw grit of anguish will never be in short supply. There is enough of it in the happiest life to serve these instructive purposes and there always will be. We are more sympathetic to Holocaust survivors than to malcontent children of privilege, but we all have our darkness, and the trick is making something exalted of it.

We say that our struggles have ennobled us, but we don't know who we would have been without them. We might have been equally wonderful; our best qualities might be inherent rather than circumstantial." 

I always say I'm a better person now, that I have a greater understanding of so many things since Charlotte died, and I do really feel that way, but how do I know? I can believe, and profess that belief, but I can't truly know if the me shaped by the constant shifting tides of grief is better. There was a split within me when Charlotte died and I can only imagine who I would be had she lived.

I struggle with who I am as a parent. I wonder how I would parent had Charlotte lived. I see how my grief shapes some aspects of my parenting and wish I could open a window to a parallel universe and watch, just for a moment, how I would have raised Charlotte.


So much of who I am is tied up in the fact that Charlotte is not, but all parents wrap themselves around their children. The circumstances of my life have created a beautifully complex frame to parent in, but as I read this book I understand all parents have challenges - and some have it really hard. As so many have said, as even I have said, we all have devastating life altering moments that reshape who and what we are. I don't think how we respond, or how long it takes us to adjust our expectations matters. I think finding our altered space comfortable enough to live within, and in my case, parent from, is the true test.

I don't want to be a loss parent. I don't want to be a mother who parents from a place of grief. But that's the unique gift Charlotte brought to my life. I can't know who I would be had she lived, but I can acknowledge that this me - the one typing these words - may not be as different from the parallel universe self as I imagine. Perhaps my capacity to work through enormous grief and suffering, to come out the other side with hope, strengthened faith and redefined purpose, was always within me, lying dormant until Charlotte died whereupon it sprang to life and saved me from absolute despair and complete wreckage.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

confessions


I ate dinner, then had ice cream, but if J calls me on the way home from his boy time (he took Bennett too!! THANK YOU!!) I will come up with something I want. (Tacos, cheeseburger and fries, cinnamon roll!)

If I clear all ice cream eating evidence before J gets home (unlikely, I'm really comfortable right now) I will have another bowl later. No witnesses means bowl #1 doesn't count.

On hard days I quit parenting at 4:15 (J is off at 4:00). I sit on the couch, put my feet up and scroll instagram while Bennett runs wild. Most of the time this is okay, but there are days when I hear giggling from the kitchen and by the time I get myself in there to investigate B boy has had a long thirty second slow dance with a knife.

I hate laundry. It is my arch nemesis (I'm such a housewife, but not a very good one). When friends give me hand me downs that include whites I want to smack them. Then ask how they manage it. Bennett's clothes almost always reach a point where they are too worn out or stained to be worn any longer. And the white shirts get absolutely thrashed. I tell myself it's because he wears his clothes so long. It has absolutely nothing to do with my lazy stain prevention methods.

I often go in the bathroom and think, "Sheesh! How does it get so messy? I cleaned it last week ..." (self cleaning bathrooms, kitchens etc., there's an idea that needs developed).

We cannot decide on a name for the growing one. I thought we had our top two, but something hasn't clicked yet. 

I just can't wrap my head around this pregnancy. It's an elusive one. I might be a mess. I might I okay. I really can't tell. I've buried my emotions so well I can't find them. And I'm the one who created the map! Then again, I've always been terrible with maps.



Tuesday, July 23, 2013

remembering with you


I received an email asking what can be done to mark the anniversary of a little one gone too soon. I have a few ideas, things that have been done in memory of Charlotte that we appreciated, but I thought I would seek more answers and ideas. Most of what people do is simple, but any gesture matters because we are so worried people will forget.


What have friends and family done in memory of your little one?

Monday, July 22, 2013

it's been a while


Time for a little now and then:

July 2012




*little bit ashamed to admit he still wears those rocket pajama shorts #smallbutmighty*

July 2013



Can you believe he's almost 2?! Remember when he was born? That was a rough pregnancy wasn't it? Some of you have "known" B his entire life. Have I really been blogging that long?! Hard to believe his sister (still nameless!) will be here a few weeks after his second birthday. But before all of that can happen I have to have my birthday. I'll be 30 in two weeks!! Why do I still feel 24? 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

I'm back! {and a little bit tired}


What a weekend! Bennett is so overdone he is falling to pieces. We spent four days at a family reunion and the overtired darling is having a spectacular meltdown as I type this. I guess going to bed at 11 pm and waking at 7:30 am will eventually catch up with a little person.


I can now say I've successfully planned a family reunion for 30 odd people. My mom and I were reluctant planners, but we had a lot of help and the end result was a lot of fun. We were way out in the hills on a ranch, totally unplugged for 4 days - except the day trip into town where everyone whipped out their smart phones as soon as they could pick up a signal - which was actually really nice.


We played games, (including a really fun version of the Amazing Race which involved far too many children and pregnant women to even come close to the real event) splashed in the creek, made cards, let the kids run wild (we didn't shower Bennett until our last night there because he was always too tired at night and by the time we tossed him in he was pretty stinky and dirty) and visited up a storm.

I got into the Amazing Race - though not nearly as much as my mother who was so into the game J labeled her "savagely competitive" - I thought doing a bit of running to help my team would be a good idea. No. It wasn't. We came in last and I had to sit down for a good long while afterwards.




I am so wiped out. We had a lot of fun, but I think I'm going to need a week of sleep to recover.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

let's get out of here {oregon garden visit}



Every now and then (once a week) I hit a day that just feels impossible. It becomes imperative for me to get us out of the house so we don't go crazy. B is super active. Kid needs to move and he needs ample room to do it in. We're having a bit of a rocky week as J is back at work and I am gearing up for our big weekend.

This morning I tossed the mile long to do list aside and tried to figure out somewhere we could go. Park? Lame. Besides we have a play set in our yard now!! Superbounce? B is too short. Library? We go once - if not twice - a week. I think they're tired of seeing our faces. Then I had an idea: Oregon Garden.

I hesitated when I saw the entrance fee, $11.00!?, but B was free to get in so I decided to go. I was going to go by myself (I am feeling very, very solitary this pregnancy. A lot of days I prefer just hanging with B) but decided to see if my mom was up for it since she had one of my nephews for the day. She was! I'm so glad she came since there were a couple times she had to chase B down for me. (At one point B bolted and almost squeezed through a gap in the fence that neither of us had a chance of getting through). You can find our group in just about any public place. We're the ones incessantly chorusing "Where's B? Who has B? Where's B?".

The train garden in the children's garden


Hobbit House






We walked for miles. B included. I brought the umbrella stroller just in case, but ended up using it to carry the diaper bag and our lunch sack. I am tired and achy this pregnancy, but I started out healthier than I've been in a long time which has helped a lot. I walked and chased and sprinted today without too much difficulty. I was worn out by the end, but nothing hurts. I haven't had nearly as much back or hip pain this pregnancy and I think it's because I've kept moving. I'm proud of myself for getting in shape and trying to hold things together as best I can during pregnancy. I've finally come around to the idea that I'll never be super thin, that's just not my body type, but being fit and feeling good is more important. And I've finally achieved it!! Hopefully I can get it back after this pregnancy.

I have no idea where that tangent came from ...

Cousins


We'll definitely visit again. The children's garden has lots of things for Bennett to do and there's a few areas I didn't get to explore. And it's only 25 minutes from our house!


Angel of Hope at Oregon Garden


The Gordon House, Frank Lloyd Wright (extra $10 for a tour, did not go in)




Overall it was a successful day. I wanted to spend time with Bennett, give him a day out of the house before we're stuck inside for an entire day cooking and packing. He fell asleep as we were driving out of the gates. Mission accomplished.

Successfully transferred to his bed for a two hour nap!

Monday, July 15, 2013

anomaly


I miss Charlotte. As baby clothes pile up in the crib, as I think about painting the nursery a brighter more gender neutral color, as we struggle with deciding on a name (thought we had it, but now we're not sure) and as time flies by - 15 weeks or less left! - I sense the missing. The baby I "lost." The one who, let's be blunt, died. I always say, "I lost my first," but I didn't lose her. I know just where her divided ashes are, but it seems cruel to link the words baby and died.

I know I've been writing a lot about pregnancy. I think it's possible, maybe even easy, to look at my life: what I write, what I share on instagram and facebook, how we live, and see a current that has kept moving. And it has, but not entirely. There is still a part of me treading water back in 2010. I'm never going to be able to let go of that place in my life where the river split and instead of floating calmly to the conclusion I expected I thrashed and fought to an entirely new and unexpected place.

I miss the happiness of Charlotte's pregnancy. I miss the practical side of my personality that asked for gender neutral things in case we had a boy after Charlotte. Or perhaps it wasn't practicality. Perhaps it was intuition. Now I want girly sheets and seeing the closet and crib fill with pink second hand clothes fills me with delight.

And yet, I still feel disconnected from this pregnancy. It's all so different this time. Different provider. Different type of care. Less handling. Less concern. From all sides, not just the medical front.

There's a part of my mind that wonders if I can only safely deliver boys. Girls are still iffy, questionable and my track record is not good. I have this idea of how the birth may go, but I keep pushing it away because I don't want to get my hopes up or go into it thinking it will be one way only to be disappointed. I'm trying to have the mindset that it's going to be hard, and it will hurt (always thought I might do an epidural with this one - and of course I might - but the thought of that makes me more nervous than the pain of labor) and then it will be over. And then, finally, I'll connect. I'll be able to link the abstract with the actual and understand that what happened with Charlotte was an unusual anomaly.

15 weeks. I'm waiting for the seasons to change. For the hot weather to ebb and the rains to start. Then I'm going to dredge it all up - the anxiety, the panic and the fear - and I am going to dispatch it. Or I am going to succumb to it. Either way this pregnancy will become real to me at some point and I'm going to have to find my way through to the other side.

Friday, July 12, 2013

stay(work)cation


^^ How's that for a new word?

J is off work this week, but he's still working. It's become a family tradition for him to take time off during the summer to hang at home / work on whatever epic summer project he has going.

This week he's been working on the swing set we received from friends: putting it back together, cleaning and staining it, but we've crammed in lots of family time as well.

I have to say, I got myself a good one. J's not perfect - if I have to pick up one more pair of socks from a totally random place in the house because he "got hot" ... - but he is a really, really good husband and father.

I have loved watching him with B this week. J and B are buddies who like to work on projects together. They have a really special bond, but I think this girl is going to melt his heart in a completely different way.

From the beginning J has been involved and present in B's life. When he was born J was right there, catching him and lifting him to me. He did the same with Charlotte and he is planning on catching this one too. (I just realized this is not the typical scenario, but I love looking back on my labors and remembering J hanging out in the nurse/doctor/midwife zone with ease). J catches them and then he helps raise them without complaint or nudging. Honestly, I think we need more fathers like him (I'm super hormonal right now, but still! He's a good one.). 



I wish he was home all the time - B is going to lose his mind when J goes back to work - but my schedule has gone all to pieces and the house wouldn't function if he was here all the time. Although who knows what he could build if he had that much time on his hands ... 



Wednesday, July 10, 2013

our story/part 3


I wasn't going to share another piece so soon, but tonight is a break the rules that don't really exist kind of night. If you want to read the other bits I've shared you can find them here:



******
I sat in the passenger seat of our car holding Charlotte's urn. The back was stuffed with mementos of her, including a large piece of art from a friend which I had wanted to leave at home, but Jonathan insisted on bringing it and I wasn't going to say no to his only request.

I felt sick to my stomach. I peered over my belly, a five month bump growing bigger every day, to the floor to make sure the notebook with the words I wished to say was tucked inside my purse. I shifted back and forth on my seat.

“Do you think anyone will come? I mean, I know people have said they will come, but do you think they actually will?” I asked Jonathan. “It is a fairly depressing event. A first birthday party for someone who can't be there. A quasi memorial service a year after the fact.”

Jonathan patted my knee. “They'll come. People will come because you are important to them.”

That's what I was worried about. I didn't like asking or expecting people to do things for me. I didn't want to force anyone to sit through an awkward remembrance service. But I needed my loved ones there. On Charlotte's first birthday I needed to have her remembered, even if I had to force a few hands. It was so important to me it made my heart burn with wanting and hope. I needed the flowers, the ceremony, the cards, the sandwiches, the cupcakes, the opportunity for people to speak about her. I needed to leave some of her ashes where we were happiest. Where we heard her heart beat for the first time, where I labored with her, where she briefly entered this world. Oh her time here was brief - from my womb to her daddy's hands to heaven – but she still mattered and I needed to know the tiny seconds of her life were seared on hearts other than mine and her father's.

When we arrived at the birth center I walked down the short path between the parking lot and birth center. I stood beneath a giant clump of lilacs that must have been planted a hundred years ago.

“I think we'll plant the rose and bury her ashes here,” I said to Jonathan. I was glad we were allowed to leave a small memory of Charlotte in the place where she was born.

Jonathan nodded then tilted his head toward the road. “Is that Patricia?”

I looked at the white car speeding up the hill. “Yes, that's her.”

“She's flying,” Jonathan observed as he walked back to our car to unload.

Patricia hugged me tightly then showed me the place close to the front where the rose would go.

“I thought you would want it more to the side ...” I let my voice trail off.

“This is fine,” Patricia said.

Patricia clipped lilacs and other flowers while Jonathan and I prepared the room where Charlotte was born. We set up candles, to be lit immediately after the short service, and displayed photos and mementos of Charlotte around the room. We would each say a few words, then allow others to speak if they wished. While a close friend sang “One More Day” by Rocket Club we would bury Charlotte's ashes and plant a yellow Charlotte rose. Then we would give people time to pay their respects and leave a few pale yellow rose petals beneath the rose we planted. At the end food would be offered as well as a chance to walk through the room where Charlotte was born.

We had the morning planned out, minute by minute, thanks to a friend who designed most of the service. I thought I was prepared, but as I rested a moment on the bed in the room where Charlotte was born I began to dread the event. People were arriving, many of them early, and as they drifted from their cars onto the lawn I began to realize they would want to see and talk to me. I was not ready to be social. I had isolated myself for too long. I wanted people there, but I also wanted to stay inside and remain in the background. I had become comfortable with observing life. I had forgotten how to live without the twin weights of sorrow and wishing holding me within a bubble of solitude.

I stepped into the kitchen where Patricia was arranging the last few flowers into a vase. “I'm not sure about this.”

Patricia paused to rub my back. “This is good. A lot of these people haven't seen you since, right?”

“Some,” I agreed.

“This will be good for everyone. They need to see you and know you're okay.”

I placed my hands on my belly.


Was I okay? I was five months pregnant, alternating between traversing valleys of anxiety and stress with mountains of hope and wanting. Was I okay? That was debatable, but I had invited everyone to come and I needed to get myself together.

“I'm not ready yet,” I whispered to Patricia as I retreated to the bedroom.

People came to me. They sat next to me on the bed, wandered the room quietly looking at Charlotte's picture and footprints. When it was time to begin I gathered myself and walked outside. Somewhere around 40-50 people were there. We had friends and family who drove nearly 4 hours to attend. Grandparents, aunts and uncles were there, as well as friends.

The service was beautiful. As Jonathan and I bent to pour half of Charlotte's ashes into the ground I felt a release deep within me.



I had to say goodbye to Charlotte in a public manner. I had to acknowledge her life before I could greet the baby growing within me. Even though it was a year after she died, and even though it should have been a very different gathering, celebrating and remembering her with a special service felt right. It completed the circle of our first year of grief. It did not cap our mourning, or bind our wounds so tightly scars could not be seen, or seal our hearts from the unique pain of losing a child, but it provided a comfortable ending to the first long year of grieving.

As people silently wandered the room where she was born they met Charlotte and came to know her. So much of parenting a child who is gone is in the small details and slight memories. I only have a handful of things I can tell you about Charlotte, but if you are willing to listen I will tell you every single one. On Charlotte's first birthday I felt loved and blessed to have so many pause their lives to listen to hers.

I had worried over the day for weeks. Months even. As it drew near I thought about canceling because I felt like I was requesting too much of people, myself included. When the service was over, as we tidied up and packed away left over sandwiches and cupcakes, I understood that I had done my best for Charlotte on what should have been her first birthday. I opened my heart and our lives so people could meet a child who would never walk or talk or say I love you, but who would always be my first born; the baby who made me a mother.

We packed the car, said our good-byes and headed home. Down the hill, around the curves, into town and over the bridge. I was relieved to have the day behind us. I was pleased with how it turned out. I held Charlotte's urn on the way home just as I had on the way out. Half of her ashes were waiting at home to be reunited with the custom urn and I was worried it would break on the short drive home.

The night before Jonathan and I had opened the lid of Charlotte's urn and carefully pulled out the red velvet bag tucked inside. I had looked in it before, sometime shortly after she died. It was one of those odd moments of absolute horror and insatiable curiosity that came about quite often after Charlotte died. I wanted to look because it was all that was left of her, but knowing she was reduced to chunky ashes with a metal identification tag mixed in made me feel sick. Then I shoved the plastic baggie back into the red velvet bag, pulled it closed and pushed it into the urn with trembling fingers, but the night before her service I had to divide the ashes in half.

“Should we just put them in another baggie?” I asked J as we peered into the urn.

“No, that won't work. Let's take out half, put it directly in the urn, bury that and then leave this here to put back in the urn when we're all done.”

It made sense, but it felt strange to divide Charlotte's ashes in half. There was so little of her left. Was it wise to cleave her life any more than circumstances already had? I made Jonathan do the pouring. I replaced the lid on Charlotte's urn, then set half of her ashes on the mantle in the red velvet bag.

When we arrived home after the service I tucked the red velvet bag back into the urn and set it above the fireplace with a sense of relief. The remainder of her ashes will stay with the urn until it is time for them to be mixed with ours. It is unsettling that she has gone before us. That her ashes wait to be mixed with ours, that we were not allowed more time with her. Our hearts are closing around the pain, drawing it deeper every day. We are beginning to understand the impossibility and unfairness of continuation as we have lived within deep grief for a year and have met a hard truth: life does not follow rules or obey common order. Charlotte went before us and on her first birthday we honored the brief time in our story where she lived.


Monday, July 8, 2013

on embracing a little chaos


This pregnancy is hard. It is by far my most difficult physically. I hurt all. the. time. I can't keep up with everything because I'm tired and just want to put my feet up. Something is always left undone, which doesn't seem to bother anyone but me.

This pregnancy is different than my last two in that I have a toddler to chase around. Yesterday we went to three grocery stores (side note: how will I manage that with TWO?) and it went fairly quickly but by the time we arrived home I was tired and cramping a little. I unloaded the groceries onto the porch, let Bennett out of the car and reached in to grab his diaper bag. By the time I stood up he was gone, tearing down the street for our neighbor's house yelling the name of his little friend who was standing outside. Thankfully he headed straight there so I didn't have to chase him too quickly, but nearly every day there is a moment when he gets away from me and I have to sprint after him. I love when J is around because I can send him after Bennett and he's a lot quicker and less awkward than me.

It's hard to balance being a good mom and wife with taking care of myself. Yesterday I did the grocery shopping, unpacked, tidied and cleaned the house, made dinner and then I was grumpy, grumpy, grumpy because my back hurt and my pelvis ached.

Some days I am able to let things go, but eventually having toys and books scattered around the house, five loads of laundry to do and a cluttered kitchen table makes me crazy. And there's a sneaky voice in my head that does not hesitate to tell me every other mama is doing a better job than me.

Sometimes I have to let things pile up so Bennett gets everything he needs. Most days it's best for me, Bennett and J if I rest while Bennett naps. J doesn't care if the house is a little messy. Bennett doesn't care if his room isn't vacuumed this week. Somehow I have to shake the notion that people are looking in through the windows and judging me because the truth is: no one else cares either.

I don't know where the notion that women have to do it all, and do it all well, originated, but it's annoying and impossible to accomplish. And I am totally guilty of buying into it. I compare myself to mama friends far too often, but it's not really a fair comparison because I have no idea what goes on in their lives most of the time. I just see them at church or the park where they look like they have it all together and aren't nearly as exhausted as I am.

I have to remind myself it's okay to be tired and there's nothing wrong with sitting a while. Living in a little bit of chaos doesn't make me less of a wife or mother. It makes me human. There's a whole lot of love in this house and I think that's what Bennett will remember when he's grown. And J has a terrible memory so twenty years from now I can probably convince him the house was always pristine when the kids were young.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

b's thoughts on fireworks


If you ask B about fireworks this is what he'll tell you:

"Bup, the boom!! Wah, wah, wah. Mama mama mama."

Translation: J thought it would be fun to show B tame fireworks to celebrate the birth of our nation, but he missed the bit that said "WITH BANG." So, J lit the firework, there was a big boom, B cried, then I comforted him.

Overall B had a great time visiting J's parents for the 4th, but he's a little wary of booms now (though he still likes the really far away loud fireworks that make Isabel cower in the laundry room).




Eating food at a restaurant!! There's a Burgerville on the way to J's parents house so we stopped for lunch and B got his own hamburger (grass fed!) and a few fries. We would be in so much trouble if we had a Burgerville in town.





Hope your 4th was a good one US dwellers! 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

the second time


This is my second pregnancy after loss. This is the subsequent, subsequent pregnancy I suppose.

Is it easier?

I'm not sure.

I don't know if I am less anxious or if I simply don't have time to be anxious. I didn't do much of anything during Bennett's pregnancy which led to a lot of sitting and fretting. This time I'm not counting the days or weeks. I lose track of just how far along I am. While going over the calendar with J this evening I said, "Shoot, we're going to have a baby in four months." 

Or less.

 If this little is born at 38 weeks, like Charlotte, it will be around October 16th. I've been preparing myself for a November baby just in case I go past my due date, but this baby could very well be born mid-October.

I don't know if I'm ready.

What I do know, that I didn't last time, is what it's like when the baby lives. What it means to parent and raise a beautiful, sweet and sometimes infuriating child. What it's like to watch a child grow and develop in a very short time.

Bennett has brought so much joy into my life. The other day I needed to rest a spell while we were out walking so I sat down on a park bench and played a game with him where I would try to snap his picture with my phone and he would duck out of the shot at the last minute. I had to do something with him, otherwise he would take off running down the path and my rest time would be over. All of the shots are blurs except one:


I'm going to carry that image with me as I finish this pregnancy and prepare for birth. When I was pregnant with Bennett I didn't know I could feel joy and bliss again. I thought those parts of me had died with Charlotte. I'm going to hold tight to the joy and hope the fear isn't as strong this time. It's not easy. Last night I was talking to friends who have been there, who are there, who understand, and one said, "pregnancy just isn't fun anymore." It's true. Once the world of loss has been split open and explored pregnancy becomes a mysterious event and babies born alive and healthy true miracles.

 I want to believe everything is going to be okay. I'm not tempering my words as much this time (when she is born, not if/when she comes home, not if). I feel like it's all going to be fine. I feel like the birth will be a little easier this time. (I have a lovely idea in my head of how it will be this time, but I'm trying to keep that image to the side because there is so much uncertainty in birth).

I think I'm going to get to raise this girl, and though that certainty brings some sorrow there is hope too. Hope for what comes after, which I have been blessed to learn and know these last 22 months. I can't wait to watch this little one grow and discover her personality.

23 weeks tomorrow - it's flying by.

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