Wednesday, January 25, 2017
I've mostly been posting book reviews here because I haven't wanted to share as much about what is going on in our lives. The kids are getting older and I have been feeling the need to be careful about what I share about them and their lives. And most of the time my life is fairly boring and routine: we're remodeling the house, B is in preschool, I read a lot ...
Of course I began writing here at a time when I needed to be heard and understood. I wanted others experiencing loss to know they were not alone so I shared about all of my grief and parenting after loss struggles even though some of it was hard to write about.
I wrote about my anxiety after B was born and how I needed outside help so I went to counseling. And that counseling helped quite a bit, but it didn't really solve anything. I felt better most of the time, but I was still anxious about a lot of things. Then B had a series of reactions (just hives, no Epi-pen required) in October and I quietly fell apart.
I appeared fine on the outside, but I was an anxious mess on the inside. I was sick to my stomach (literally) with worry and fear, but I continued putting 'find a new counselor because I didn't LOVE my last one,' at the end of my to do list.
Then I had an anxiety attack in the middle of a church service one Saturday night. I was sitting there worrying about B and the small spot he had on his face after dinner. I worry spiraled, as I do, letting my mind wander from worst case scenario to just shy of worst case scenario when I realized my vision was off. Well that was frightening. And then I got really, really, really hot. I leaned over and asked Jonathan to walk out with me. When we had walked down a side hallway I told him I didn't feel well and he checked my heart rate. It was over 200 bpm.
After calming down - and crying - I told Jonathan it was probably time to get help. Again. Finally.
I called a counselor the next morning - another random choice, which did not work perfectly last time, but I think this one is a better fit - certain I was ready to do just about anything to prevent another anxiety attack.
A few years ago I would've been like, it's time to get help! Let's all get help! Thank the Lord for helpers! This time I'm more ashamed. I mean, it's been nearly 7 years since Charlotte died and I'm still feeling aftershocks. SEVERE aftershocks. Just about pass out from fear and anxiety in the middle of church aftershocks. And it makes me feel really broken and messed up.
But when I told the new counselor about Charlotte dying her jaw was practically on the floor, and it reminded me that what happened to us was very sudden and incredibly traumatic so aftershocks are to be expected, even seven years after the initial traumatic event.
So I'm back to doing the work I need to do to heal. Because I can't live every day waiting for the children who are here to die. That's more waiting for disaster that may never come than living, and it is certainly not a healthy place to parent from.
And B is fine. He's on a new medicine, his doctors are optimistic about the plans we have in place for him, we've been given the go ahead to reintroduce a few foods and even try a baked egg challenge in a month (dear Lord give me the tools I need to cope with that before it occurs!) and he is overall just fine.
I, however, am not fine. I need to reorganize my stress responses so I can parent from a healthier place. I need to be honest with myself and others about how I am so that they can help me find my way. I need to be reminded that there is nothing wrong with how I am handling my grief. I have peace about much of Charlotte's life and death, but I still struggle with what happened - the actual event - because it was so traumatic and life altering.
And I need to tell you something: if you feel like you may need help, get it. Don't wait. God created kind compassionate helper healers for a reason. It's okay to ask them to walk alongside you while you figure out what you need to live a complete and healthy life. It's not easy asking for help, or admitting that everything is not fine, but it's better than having an anxiety attack that leaves you convinced you are dying - trust me.
Friday, September 26, 2014
B almost got hit by a car today.
And I'm not talking about almost as in it was a bit close for my liking. I'm talking about almost as in I didn't think I was going to get there in time.
The kids were playing outside when I heard a car start up a couple driveways down. B was on his trike riding, I yelled for him to come back when I heard the car start. He laughed and kept going. I screamed, "Bennett! Bennett!!!! STOP!! STOP NOW!"
He kept going.
I was walking to him as I was yelling, but I was walking slowly because I had left Ainsleigh sitting on the sidewalk. At this point I made the decision to leave Ainsleigh and run for Bennett. I felt like my heart was being torn in two.
What if she crawls for the road?
What will I do if I don't get to Bennett in time?
I saw other neighbors around so I sent up a prayer that someone would grab Ainsleigh if they saw her crawl for the road. I had to get to Bennett. The neighbor's car is an SUV. He was UNDER the bumper. There's no way he could be seen from the driver's seat.
I grabbed Bennett and his bike as the neighbor's car started backing out of the driveway. I pulled him out of the way and very calmly said, Walk straight home and go in the house.
I ran back to Ainsleigh, who had thankfully stayed put for once, collected the walker she was using and Bennett's bike, put them by the back gate, then walked into the house.
I explained to Bennett what had happened and why I was VERY upset. I managed, somehow, not to yell. I wanted to yell, but Bennett shuts down when I yell so I remained calm as I told him how close he was to being very, very hurt, or dying.
I had him spend thirty minutes in his bed, then I asked him to tell me what happened and why I was scared. Then I had him repeat the entire story to J when he came home from work.
To be honest, I wasn't sure how to handle the situation. How do I make him understand the severity of what happened this afternoon?
I was so scared I was shaking, so I think Bennett grasped the emotion behind the event, and I hope he understands and won't do something like that again. He likes to sit on the front step and wait for J to get home in the afternoon. I told him that wouldn't be happening for a good long while. And I told him we wouldn't be playing in front of the house for a while either.
Life happens. Life is going to happen. How do I love my kids well and keep them safe? How do I ensure I don't have to bury another child?
I can't. I'll never be able to.
Every day I ask the Lord to help me feel less anxious about my babies and their lives. Every. single. day. Some days are harder than others.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Every parent has worries and anxieties. Every mother and father who leaves the hospital with a living baby gets a nice weighty package of worry and fear as well: here's your 7.5 lb bundle of sweetness, now don't forget your 55 lb bundle of worry and fear. We'll attach it to your ankle so it will be with you at all times.
As a loss parent I have the bonus package: 55 lb of worry and fear, plus trauma and a little PTSD!
I am doing much better than I was 8 months after Bennett was born. After Bennett's birth I was anxious about everything. And not just anxious, terrified. I thought he was going to die. I thought someone was going to take him from me, or he would suddenly stop breathing, or he would simply disappear. Here one moment, gone the next. That was the summary of my parenting experience with Charlotte. It literally felt like I knew her a second: She's alive! She's dead! What now?
I was constantly waiting for Bennett's life to end, and it didn't take me - or J - very long to realize that is not a healthy way to live, or parent. So I went to counseling, which I've written about, and it helped a lot. (I'm not in counseling right now. There is a potential that I should be, but I'm not, and right now that feels like a mostly okay decision.)
The anxiety I feel with Ansleigh is different from the brand I wore after Bennett was born. Some of that is because she is the second baby I've had after Charlotte died. Bennett's sassy pants daredevil way of approaching life has made it possible for me to worry less about Ainsleigh. Bennett has come through - and put himself through - some frightening situations and been absolutely whole and healthy afterwards. Just this last weekend Bennett wandered away from my mom on the beach while I was back at the campsite putting Ainsleigh down for a nap. (J ran as fast as he could to the highest dune and immediately found him playing nearby.)
If I let every scary moment rule how I parent I will not be providing well for my children emotionally.
I have two distinct fears when it comes to Ainsleigh, which feels like an improvement! From scared about everything to focused anxiety, that's progress, right?!
Fear #1: I'm scared someone is going to take her from me.
Fear #2: I'm scared Ainsleigh is going to die and it's somehow going to be my fault.
Now, you don't need a psychology degree to understand my second fear. I still carry a lot of guilt, it's woven into my bones and muscle, and no matter how much "progress" I make I'll still circle back and pick up the guilt over and over and over.
Fear #1 is a little more complex. People are into Ainsleigh. They really like her face, she must have excellent symmetrical features. Nearly every time we are in public someone comments on how beautiful she is. That in and of itself doesn't bother me. What bothers me is when people get in my space, or hers, and make comments. Or touch her. Or me. While wearing Ainsleigh in the Ergo I've had people grab my shoulder and turn me so they can get a better look at her face. That crosses about three thousand lines, and it makes me really uncomfortable.
Last week I took the kids on a long walk. Bennett wanted water, but I forgot to bring his bottle, so I told him we could walk a little further and get water from the convenience store. He was really excited about that. There was a very inebriated man wandering around outside the store, but he was still with it enough to hold the door open for us. I bought Bennett his water then went outside to give him a drink. While I was helping him a friend of the drunk guy came up to us. I saw him coming, I saw his outstretched hand out of the corner of my eye, but I couldn't move the stroller fast enough. He stroked Ainsleigh's cheek and said, "Oh my, pretty baby, oh look at that pretty baby."
I grabbed the stroller and Bennett's hand and quickly walked a few feet away to where a man and his teenage son were loading furniture from a store into a truck. I never know what to do in those situations, but I decided to pay attention to my instincts and get the kids out of there. Bennett was demanding a drink of water while all of this was happening so I stood close to the guy loading his truck, let him have a drink, then quickly walked the kids back into a neighborhood and off the main street.
When I told J about what happened I asked him what he would do. He said, "I don't know. Tell them to get their hands off my baby." I don't know if I could do that. And in that particular situation I don't know if being confrontational would have been wise. I feel so uncomfortable when it happens, and I'm sure Ainsleigh doesn't like it either. It happens a lot so I need to figure out what to say and how to handle it. And people need to step out of Ainsleigh's space and stop touching her! Just because she can't talk doesn't make it okay to touch her without asking. I know, a lot of people really struggle with that concept, but it seems like it should be easy to grasp.
My anxiety feels a lot more manageable now than it did when Bennett was a baby. The tools my counselor gave me help a lot. And so does my faith. Realizing that I have to give my kids over to God over and over is really difficult. I want to hold them close, I want to keep them safe, but I need to teach them - starting now - that the Lord is their protector. That I will do everything in my power, but they must learn to rely on and trust Him.
I've been studying and reading a lot about anxiety as I prepare a few things for our ministry's fall events. I really like what Ann Voskamp writes about anxiety in her devotional:
"The answer to anxiety is the adoration of Christ."
"The answer to anxiety is always to exalt Christ."
"Worry is the facade of taking action when prayer really is."
That's a great blueprint to follow, but finding a way to take the steps when anxiety rises is really hard. I'm doing better, but I still have a long ways to go. And the anxiety will change as they get older. As they go to school, and camp, and begin to drive, and leave my home to make their way in the world. At every turn my responsibility is to trust Jesus and believe I have done my absolute best to equip my children with love and the strength to face the world and all it throws at them. But it's really, really hard.
Friday, May 30, 2014
Nothing like a trip to the dentist to let ya know you're falling apart.
It's not too bad (the guy in the chair next door, whew, that was bad. I heard root canal, nerve problems, take the tooth out, leave the tooth in, major work, don't chew or bite or use that tooth ...) but it's enough to remind me I am not being careful with myself.
Our bodies tell us how we're doing, right? All the little things add up eventually in our bones, teeth and hair.
I usually sail in and out of the dentist chair, but this time I have two problems
a) a tiny cavity: not a big deal, BUT I rarely get cavities. I have been eating way too much sugar and this is the obvious result.
b) apparantly I have been "stress grinding teeth while asleep which has led to some enamel loss on a few teeth." Now that's a problem.
My dentist said, "what's been going on the past year and a half?!
I said, "a lot."
I meant, "let's take it back four years, to the dead baby. After the dead baby came a second pregnancy (stressful) followed by birth (stressful) and the anxiety of keeping that child alive (stressful) combined with little sleep (stressful). After that I had a third pregnancy (very stressful, it was a girl) followed by birth (stressful) and the anxiety of keeping two children healthy, alive and thriving every day (stressful). One child has major food issues/allergies/intolerances (stressful) while the other child is deaf in one ear (stressful). AND I HAVEN'T SLEPT IN FOUR YEARS!"
So, I need to cut the stress a little bit. I need to stop worrying, relax, pray for peace, do some yoga or something, and center myself. I need to stop eating so much sugar, quit drinking diet soda (I am failing quite well in that area!) and take care of myself a little better over all.
I always come out of May feeling a little bit like I've put my body through fifteen years of neglect in three weeks, but this year it's hitting particularly hard because
a) I know I'm not eating well
b) So. much. weight. still hanging on after Ainsleigh's pregnancy
c) stress grinding
Seriously. Stress grinding.
I'm not going to make any major changes because
a) that never works
b) that's too daunting
but I am going to make one change and then work forwards from there.
Change #1: eat a better breakfast.
We'll see how that goes.
Saturday, March 16, 2013
For weeks now I've been saying, "I don't feel anxious about this pregnancy. I feel flat, but not anxious. Does feeling flat even make sense? Maybe it's because it's the third?" (Which is just a strange concept I can't begin to wrap my mind around. It's like my mind can't stretch to comprehend THREE when there is clearly only one running around).
People who love me ask if I am going to my counselor, but I say, "Not yet, there's no anxiety, just the flat." But then there are moments when things are not flat, moments when anxiety is obviously present, but I'm still insisting all is fine. There's some part of me that always thinks I don't need help because I'm fine and crying on the couch at two in the morning because I can't stop dry heaving and I'm already starting to have nightmares about birth is totally normal. Goodness, the things I would give up to be rid of the birth trauma that settled in my soul when Charlotte died.
And then last night something happened that made me realize I need to call my counselor soon. (Please don't ask me if I've done it yet, dear ones. I'm working on it. It takes courage, okay?) We went to dinner last night and B ate a small bit of food with mayonnaise on it. As J said, "What's that white stuff!?" I was turning to the diaper bag to pull out the Benadryl. We're getting good at this living with food allergies business. B was fine throughout dinner, pointing out cars and the train that zoomed by, (we went to this local rib place right next to the railroad tracks. B loves it. This town is a toddler dream with a restaurant at the airport as well as one next to the railroad tracks.) but when we wiped his face after dinner we noticed he was breaking out.
We were only a few minutes from our house, but on that short drive I asked B if he was okay no less than twelve times. I also implored him to keep breathing, and when he wouldn't stop rubbing his eyes I told J to pull over so we could make sure he was okay. J pulled into the parking lot of a Safeway and after looking B over declared him fine. I thought B's face was swelling, but it was just the angle of the mirror we use to check on him and the fact that he is gaining weight so his face is fatter than we are used to. When we pulled over I had a brief flash of wondering if this was it. If we would have to call 911. If they would come get B and that would be the last time I would see him alive.
And this is where my counselor would drop words like "irrational" and "illogical." But there is a part of me that can't fathom having two living children. I can't believe I may actually have that so I am waiting to see who is going to disappear on me, and who is going to be the one I get to keep, so to speak, and that circles back around to the flat feeling. There is nothing that tells me this baby is fine. There is a chance this baby will die before I'm willing to let him or her go and I don't want to engage with any of those feelings, or with the possibility of being hurt, so I'm sticking with flat because it seems like the safest place to rest right now.
Monday, July 16, 2012
A comment from RyAnne on my last post got me to thinking. She asked: "do you feel like it is harder to travel after losing Charlotte?"
Right after Charlotte died going anywhere, even just the grocery store, was difficult. For five months - maybe longer - I thought we would die if we got into a car, so anytime J went somewhere I wanted to go with him. If he was going to die I wanted to die too. When Charlotte died any semblance of control over life was wrested from my hands. Life felt so unbalanced and unpredictable. It seemed like death was around every corner.
I've never been good at traveling. I've never enjoyed leaving what I consider my comfortable space. That's just who I am. I've always wanted to be someone who likes traveling, but I don't. I love the idea of going abroad, but the thought of getting on a plane and doing it makes me feel sick. I spent three weeks traveling through England, Ireland and Wales when I was a junior in college. It was a university sponsored trip, everything was out of my hands, all decisions were made and that is the only way I was able to do it.
I don't feel overwhelmed with anxiety when I get in a car now. Counseling and learning how to handle my anxiety has helped with that. I drive often, which is something I was reluctant to do after Charlotte died. I no longer hesitate before taking the freeway or opt for a quieter, slower route.
But I would still prefer staying home. Life is ordered here. I know what to expect. My ability to handle the unexpected has changed immensely since Charlotte died. I've never handled change well, but now I can't cope with it at all. If you want to see me in complete meltdown mode tell me we're doing something and then change the plans at the last minute. And that makes traveling difficult because plans change all the time when on the go. Heck, some even see spontaneity as an imperative part of travel.
I'm sure everyone who has experienced grief can name something about themselves that has changed irrevocably. Loss alters and reshapes a person. It can't be avoided.
Having Bennett is forcing me to do more. I don't want him to miss out on things because I would rather stay home where I feel comfortable. Early next year it looks like we will be going to Hawaii.
image from here
I'm equal parts excited and terrified. J has never flown with me before, but we have traveled and he knows how crazy I get when we go by car. I want this experience for us so I'll start a list months before we leave, obsess over what to take and how to pack and breathe deeply through every airport and flight. I don't want fear and anxiety to render me completely immobile.
So yes, traveling is difficult for me. Honestly, life is difficult for me since Charlotte died, but as time passes what once seemed impossible becomes manageable once more. I'll never be who I once was, but I'm slowly accepting my new self, and even learning to love her - quirks and all.
Monday, June 18, 2012
We tried Bennett in the nursery again on Sunday. It did not go well. Within five minutes of leaving him our pager went off. When I arrived at the nursery Bennett was in a state, wailing at the top of his lungs.
I calmed him down, then went into the nursery with him. After twenty-five minutes I was hiding in the corner and he was happily playing so I tiptoed out a side door. I was given a new pager when I left. To my surprise it didn't go off during service. Yay, we did it! I thought.
Until I went to the nursery after church. I could hear Bennett crying from the hallway. He was inconsolable, sobbing, just miserable. The nursery volunteers said they tried to page, but it hadn't worked. He cried like that for at least 20 minutes.
I'm furious. J is all, nothing we could have done, we didn't know, he's fine, maybe he's just not ready for the nursery whereas I feel guilty for assuming he was fine. As we walked to the car I admonished myself for not going back to check on him. J said, "Oh, come on. That's like Bennett having a bad day at school and you getting mad at yourself because you didn't go check on him. You couldn't have known."
I had such a hard time putting Bennett in the nursery in the first place. We're struggling with attending church right now because the service we prefer falls during nap time. We could go to first service, but we like a lazy Sunday morning, and if we went to first we wouldn't see our friends.
So the poor dear was tired and he wanted his mama. Nothing wrong with that, he's only nine months old. I really wish someone had come to the sanctuary to get me. I know we're a large church, but it would only take a minute to stand to the side up front and find me.
When I spoke with my counselor about the first nursery incident she said, "He's telling you he's not ready." I nodded along with her, but I thought, it's me who's not ready and he's picking up on my stress and anxiety. If I just calmed down a bit he would be fine.
Sometimes I get so caught up in not being the crazy loss mom I push myself, or Bennett, to do things we're not ready for or comfortable with. I try so hard to be a "normal mom" I don't see, or understand, that many of my emotions are "normal mom" emotions.
And I worry so much about over protecting Bennett I do things because I think I should, which is never the right reason to pursue a course of action. I tend to forget this just might be who I am as a parent. My worry level may be the same had Charlotte lived. After all, I don't know what it is to lose a child after parenting them for nine months. I only know the loss of a child who barely breathed outside the womb.
I have to remind myself that mothers worry. It is instinctual and normal and sane, whether your baby has died or not.
Monday, May 28, 2012
How about a slightly embarrassing story to brighten your day?
Before I share I want to thank my brother for his service. I know he has friends he is missing and remembering this Memorial Day. Love you brother, thank you for protecting our country and its freedoms.
I spent my day cleaning the heck out of our house. I washed windows
cleaned blinds, swept, mopped, organized and alphabetized the spice cabinet.
I AM SO STRESSED AND ANXIOUS I just had to do something besides fret. J handled B most of the day so I could work out my issues via cleaning and scrubbing.
On top of cleaning and organizing most of the house (the upstairs is still a disaster) I baked bread.
A few days ago I discovered that the bread I've been eating has high fructose corn syrup. When J came home from work I told him about it.
"It's cheap bread, what do you expect?"
"I don't know, no high fructose corn syrup?"
He shrugged. "Why do you think I haven't been eating it?"
"I thought you didn't like 8 grain bread!"
"I don't like high fructose corn syrup."
"I had no idea, why didn't you tell me?"
"I assumed you read the label."
"Of course I didn't."
"J, I've been poisoning myself!!"
He laughed. "No you haven't. It's not good for you, but you haven't been poisoning yourself."
"I am going to die!"
"No you're not."
"I can't feed this to B! That's it, I'm making bread from scratch."
J's eyes lit up. He's been hoping for this.
"Great! I'll mill flour for you."
"What? Why do we need to mill flour? Can't we buy it at the store?"
"It will be SO good if we mill our own flour, trust me. And if the world ends we'll have flour."
"But, so, um, how? Won't we need wheat? Like, stalks of wheat? How does this work?"
"We'll order it online, and then store it in the basement."
And then he disappeared for a while. He was probably looking up flour mills and bulk wheat prices online. I didn't ask; I didn't want to know.
I finished off the evil bread a few days ago. I can't believe I didn't know it had high fructose corn syrup. Yes, I'm reading labels
This afternoon I whipped up my first two loaves of homemade bread.
And tonight I'll make french toast for dinner from this bread, because when life gets hard, when I feel overwhelmed I take control of what I can and find joy in the small things, like cooking, cleaning, baking, organizing and eating food that brings me comfort and warmth.
*Bread recipe from four minus one makes five*
*Cut salt to 3t, 3T way too much*