Showing posts with label baby loss. Show all posts
Showing posts with label baby loss. Show all posts

Friday, July 29, 2016

charlotte's song

There are a lot of songs I listened to after Charlotte died that I can't hear without feeling like throwing up because they so vividly remind me of those days after she died. I can't remember how those early days felt without physical pain. It was so shocking, and it hurt so much that she was gone, and I never want to feel that way again so I do my best to avoid triggers that will take me back there.

When I think of her birth, however, the song I always hear in my mind is The Frames version of "Falling Slowly." Even though I don't want to remember the days immediately after sometimes I want to remember her birth. And when I hear "Falling Slowly" I am in the room where Charlotte was born, sunshine streaming in the window, watching it all from above. As far as I understand this seeing from above is a response to the trauma of being there. I can see myself, I can see everyone who was there, but I can't go back there unless I am a silent witness hovering above. And every time I am there, watching events unfold, this is the song I hear.

I've missed Charlotte so much lately. This time of year is always hard for me. My birthday is in a week, and turning a year older when Charlotte didn't live longer than a few hours still bothers me. It's incomprehensible, really, that we have gone on, that we have aged, while she never did, and never will.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

on peace

When I talk about Charlotte's life and her sudden death people usually go back to one point: you don't know why?!

Every time I tell her story that is the follow up question, even though I always include within the telling that fact.

It shocks and upsets people to hear an infant on the verge of life can suddenly go backwards and re-enter the gates of heaven it has just exited.

There has to be a reason. There has to be a concrete fact behind the death so they can use that fact to prevent it happening to them or someone they know.

I too asked why. Over and over. Desperately. Quietly. In a state of remorse and guilt. In a manner that can only be described as begging.

And then I began to seek peace. Through the Bible. Through prayer. I asked the burden of why she died to be lifted from my shoulders, because I knew I wouldn't be able to answer the question, and continuing to seek an answer that does not exist would eventually drive me mad.

I can't point to the exact moment when peace entered my life. It might have been gradual. Often that's how God works the big changes in our hearts and souls. If he dropped all of the peace we need on us all at once we would crumple under the soul change, but he does it gradually so that we may adapt to our changed hearts.

I have to admit, having peace about why Charlotte died doesn't feel like I expected it to.

I don't know what exactly I did expect, but it wasn't this complete absence of struggle. I almost feel like it's not my battle anymore. I still approach the question in my mind, but when I pull it to the forefront I instantly shrug and think, "That's not my problem anymore." It's like I literally transferred the question to God. Or more like I asked him to take the burden of constantly asking why from me and He granted it.

I'm also in a place - temporary or not - where I don't think I'll care why she died once I get to heaven. I thought that would be my first question. Off the heaven elevator, into the arms of Jesus, my baby girl by my side, and then" Why did she die, Lord? Why? Tell me, now. Before we go. Before we join the feast. I have to know."

But after the Bible and book studying I've done in the last year I no longer think that's how the conversation will go. Instead I think I will be so happy to be in heaven, so in awe at finally being in the presence of the King, I won't care why Charlotte died. That huge earthly incidence will suddenly be put into heavenly perspective, and the why won't matter so much as how it changed me and made me behave.

I believe that if the bitterness of grief overwhelms then one has lost their way and needs to be gently guided back to life. I believe that if staggering loss becomes the focus of a life instead of a point of change then one has missed an opportunity for growth. I believe that out of great pain incredible growth can come if we allow it.

I don't think God purposed Charlotte to die, but I do think He allowed her death to shape me and make me more Kingdom minded. I know who I was in 2010, and I know who I am now, and I attribute much of the growth in my faith and belief in God to Charlotte's death.

I would not have turned my faith inside out and examined my relationship with God if she hadn't died. I would have continued as I was, knowing the church was there, knowing God was there, but never in a state of need. Need like water, or food, or sunshine. Need like, I'm not going to get through this day, or night, or minute, if you don't sit with me. And He did, and the church did, and I refined my ideas about who I am and what I want.


His kingdom.

On heaven and earth.

In our home.

In my life.

When that becomes your sole focus it changes everything. How you speak, how you think, how you act.

And how you feel about the big whys.

How do you feel about the unanswered questions in your life? Are you holding onto any big whys? How would your life change if you let go of finding out the answer to your whys?

"Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4: 7 (NLT)

If you are seeking peace know that I believe it can come for you too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

on birthday grief

Celebrating birthdays with my living children is one of my biggest triggers.  It's the one time I hide my sadness from them because I don't want them to feel the weight of my sorrow on their special day. I want them to feel the sheer joy and heartfelt relief we experienced when they were born and we heard them cry for the first time.

After a nearly silent birth - or a completely silent birth - hearing a cry as you labor to bring a baby into the world is like birthing with a symphony in the background. That one cry lights up every nerve ending in your body and makes you so glad you held on through the trauma and fear that accompany pregnancy after loss.

It feels a little unfair that I am so overwhelmed and emotional about birthdays. Unfair to the kids that is. I asked a friend to make a tutu for Ainsleigh to wear on her first birthday. I asked for a pink tutu even though I remember the one that hugged Charlotte's cold feet for a photograph. I have to find a way to hold the image of Charlotte's feet next to the image of Ainsleigh in a tutu without falling apart. It's a hard balance. Just looking at the tutu makes tears come to my eyes, but I want to see Ainsleigh walking around looking gorgeous on her birthday, so I'll put aside the sadness for a day. I'll sit on it if I have to, if that's the only way. I'll pretend it doesn't exist just for a day. It's not a betrayal. It's not. It's coping.

When you wait so long for something getting it feels a little unreal. Looking at Bennett and Ainsleigh playing on the living room floor makes me pause sometimes because they are a dream come to life.

The other thing about waiting a long time for something, or someone, is that when you get to the place you've been dreaming about - a first birthday, a live birth, a year of growth and discovery - the achieving is weighty. And in this case it's tinged with sadness too.

There's a lot of, yay, a girl, we had a girl, and we've had her for a year, praise the Lord! and there's a lot of, but I want both my girls, but why couldn't Charlotte live, who would she be, how would we be ...

I don't want my kids to spend their birthdays competing with someone who isn't here, so I smile and sing 'Happy Birthday' with tears in my eyes and the understanding that in a few years they'll see the tears so I'll have to sing the song without the tears. And every time I wrap birthday presents I cry because it makes me realize how gone Charlotte is. How she never had time to be. How I'll never know what she would have loved to receive as a gift.

Ainsleigh is nine days shy of her first birthday. And I am glad - so incredibly glad - that she is here. That she climbs on furniture and falls off chairs and stands up in the shopping cart after escaping her buckle and generally leaves me feeling exhausted and like I can't keep up.

But I wish there were two pink tutus sitting on the back of the striped chair in the living room waiting for party day. I wish there was a four year old here. I wish I had my C, the missing piece to my B and A. I wish I had them all because then life would be purely sweet, and there wouldn't be that bitter tinge of grief that rings every celebration with shadows and guilt and that mean spirited thought: you should be happier.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

a permanent halt

I let B have goat cheese for lunch. And that's it. He's been so difficult about food since he got sick a couple weeks ago. He was picky before, plus he has so many allergies and intolerances, but it's even worse now.
He is living on muffins I've concocted. They're very green and not very sweet, but he likes them. Even though every batch is different because I don't measure anything.

I'm so wrung out I said yes to just cheese when I would normally push something else. I'm having a really hard time. Does that even need to be said? My energy levels plummet in the spring.

Ainsleigh projectile vomited all over our bed and me last night. Vaccine reaction. Don't get me started. I have to do the wash so we have bedding tonight, but all I've managed is starting one load.

I did make bacon as well as muffins this afternoon. I was so tired of B whining and refusing food I made things I know he likes and will eat. He is eating six or so muffins a day. They're not terrible, I made sure of that, but I would like him to start eating more meat.

Some time ago J said something about how one person has to have it together now that we have kids. And that person is usually him.

I'm trying to be more put together this year, but I'm finding that wanting it won't make it so. I know spring is hard. I know I struggle to cope. But I haven't found a way or method to tell myself, "yes, this is hard. Bootstraps!"

I'm just a puddle of patheticness.

In everything I do there lies a core of inevitability. In every load of laundry and dishes I see the inescapable truth that life goes on. I'm changing diapers, refereeing the battles that crop up between children, and reading stories all day long, which is exactly what I want to be doing, but sometimes I want to scream into the busy days and hectic moments, "STOP! Can't we all just stop for a moment?? Four years ago I was pregnant and that baby - that loved and wanted baby - died!

But if the world stopped, even momentarily, for every grieving mother and father we would be permanently halted. A spinning orb teetering precariously as it waits for permission to continue what it was created for.

So we, the brokenhearted, stop spinning. We can't stop the world so we throw ourselves into the physically exhausting work of stopping our lives.

(As Auden wrote, "stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone ...")

And then we come to, four, five, two years later, and realize the world hasn't stopped with us. We are out of step and awkward. We will spend the rest of our lives trying to relearn the rhythm of the world, but we'll never quite get there. Our dance will always be slightly off, altered by the drumbeat of our grieving hearts that wail quietly for the lost in the background of our lives.

After days of sun the spring rains are falling again. Charlotte was born into sun, but the rain is where I find her now. Despite my heavy sorrow and weary heart I have not cried. Though the rain is far from tears there is a familiar release in my soul when it falls, so in the puddles and drops I find some small respite.

While driving today B said, "I like the rain. It's pretty on the window."

He pulls me forward and pushes me onward. So does his sister. My healer and my hope. But even as I walk with them I stumble, always a few steps off, always looking back to make sure I didn't leave their sister behind when I rejoined the spinning world.

My ephemeral Charlotte. My sweet, lost girl. It's almost your birthday.

I miss you. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Last night I posted the following on the facebook page I maintain for this blog:

We went to J's holiday party for his work this evening. When asked how many children I have I said three without hesitation. And when we were talking about babies I included Charlotte. I talked about my births and trauma during labor and delivery. I was honest about my experience. In the middle of the conversation I wondered if I was saying too much, but most of his co-workers know our story. I want to make space in these conversations for all my children. So I do. I'm open about what we lost. I'm honest and unapologetic when I talk about her. And I think that's okay. This is who I am. If you ask me about my children I will tell you about all of them. And I will show you a picture on my phone that includes all three of my children because it's important to me to include her. I refuse to pretend Charlotte didn't exist because the fact of her death is uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable to talk around and over the subject of her. I refuse to ignore what happened, and the more resolute I become the less the world expects me to. I hope my determination gives others the freedom to speak. It's okay to talk about our children and how much we miss them.

I wanted to share it here as well because I can't stop thinking about grief, the holidays, and how hard this time of year is. Earlier this week I wrote about how to cope with the holidays and grief for the 12 Days of Christmas series on the blog All That Love Can Do. There's some great remembrance ideas and giveaways going on over there, go check it out!

You might not be able to, or you might not want to, share your grief at a holiday party, but I want you to know I'm willing to listen. This space is always available if you want to share your story.

In fact, I would like you to share your story. When we go around the circle at the in person support group I attend the impact of hearing everyone's stories one after the other is huge. The strength and tears in our voices shakes the room and reminds me I am not alone.

Every baby matters. I want to hear about yours.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

it never goes away

This morning a friend and I who have been trying to cobble together a ministry for pregnancy and infant loss at our church had our first outing as a ministry. Our church had a fall kick-off event for women and we were asked to set up a table that people could visit at the beginning and end of the event. It was just the kick we needed to push our ideas from almost completed to ready to present.

At first we wondered if anyone would be interested in our table as the demographic was mostly older women, but it quickly became apparent that there were people who wanted, and needed, to speak with us.

It blessed my heart, and made my soul ache, to see women who lost 15 years ago tear up when we offered them a small gift in memory of their baby. They were shy about taking it, reluctant even, but they always accepted. I saw at least one woman steal away during the luncheon hour to pick up a gift from the table and my heart just broke for her. It is so easy to internalize grief and allow the isolation that comes with the death of a baby to obscure the pain and longing.

This generation, our generation, is speaking out about loss and what it is like to lose a baby. We are standing as tall as we can without them and we refuse to move on or forget. I think social media helps because it strips away the feelings of isolation and lonesomeness. Even in the middle of the night, in darkened houses when everyone else is asleep and the tears come, we can reach out and find someone who is awake and understands.

Perhaps this refusal to be silenced can be used to reach out to those who were forced, or expected to, move on after losing a baby. Perhaps our strength can embolden our mothers and grandmothers to share their stories. Because one can tuck that lost baby, or babies, deep inside but the memories, the counting of lost years, and the longing and wondering never dissipate. That just has to wear on a person and offering to listen and hold a small piece of the grief may allow healing and release. 15, 20, even 40 years, is an awful long time to be silent and grieve alone.

Today I was reminded of the woman who shared her loss with me shortly after Charlotte died. It had been 43 years since her son was stillborn, but she still wondered if he was the child who would not have disappointed her. She still missed him and she still grieved over the fact that she never saw or held him. I know many loss parents who mourn over a lack of pictures, or a short time with their baby, but can you imagine never having the opportunity, or choice, to meet that sweet soul?

Today I was also reminded that there is opportunity in brokenness and there is healing in sharing, even if the story is "just about a miscarriage." (You know how I feel about that phrase). I feel blessed to have this opportunity to listen. Every baby is a miracle and every story matters. I don't know where our little ministry will go from here, that's in the Lord's capable hands, but I feel blessed to have this opportunity to reach out a hand and offer to listen.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

too soon

I was composing a post in my head about enjoying this insane toddler time with Bennett. It was all about slowing down, finding his pace and being okay with it. It was about his need to carry handfuls of toys with him everywhere he goes and how I'm learning to leave five minutes early so we have enough time for him to get everything in the car by himself. It was about appreciating these last weeks with just the two of us. It was about loving and raising a very busy toddler who keeps me exhausted and entertained.

This afternoon as I rocked Bennett down for the nap he refused to take I thought of the post I've been composing over the past few days. As I sat on the couch eating lunch and taking a few moments to myself while he knocked on the door of his room and called, "Mama! All done!!" I thought about how important it is to slow down. How popular it is to have "analog weekends" and just be with the people we love. I try to leave my phone at home at least once a week. And if I'm out with Bennett I zip my phone in the diaper bag and don't look at it because these days that feel endless now will soon be gone.

And then all of the thoughts about taking time to be patient and let Bennett be a toddler collided with the messy reality of this world. My heart hurts for friends and strangers today. The Stones, a beautiful family I will never meet, said goodbye to their precious baby boy Kaden yesterday. Just last year, in May, they said goodbye to their twins, Julian and Preston. And that, well, it doesn't make sense at all.

I feel tasked to love Bennett well. I feel a need to be the best mother I can because some children we don't get to raise, and far too often the time we have with people is not enough. I was texting with a friend today about how this third baby is my hope, a sustaining force. I can't deny that stories like the Stones make me afraid. I don't know how I would survive the loss of another, but if you had asked me what I would do if Charlotte died when I was pregnant with her I wouldn't have had an answer then either.

We go on because we must. For those who are hurting today, I pray you find the courage to continue. And please send the Stones love and strength as they face life without their boys.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


It's been long enough now I don't know exactly how old you would be. The intense counting and marking of days that pushed me through the first year has dissipated. I no longer notice every 14th that rolls around simply because you were born on a 14th. Although sometimes I find myself crying for no reason in the grocery store parking lot and when I look at my phone I realize it's a 14th. Missing you is so much a part of me it is always present, though most days it is background.

It's been 3 years and some months since you were born. You would be old enough to be your own person with a strongly developing personality. I was going to start you in ballet this fall. I wanted to see if you possessed skills I most definitely lack: rhythm, the ability to find a beat, and the coordination to dance to it.

So much time has passed and so many seasons and changes have come and gone I feel a growing gap between us. I watch your brother change and grow. I look at pictures from a year ago and marvel at how much he's changed. But you are frozen as my forever newborn. I hate not knowing who you would've been. Who you were meant to be.

I'm trying to figure out how the puzzle pieces that are my children fit together. You are my first, the one who made me a mama. Your brother is my light and joy. And your sister is my hope. How do I present all three of you to the world? How do I present myself - or at least the mother side of my life - to the world? How do I bind you together when your brother and sister will never know you? 

I talk about you. I write about you. I don't hide the fact that you died. I try to keep your memory close enough that you are always part of our family. But it doesn't feel like enough. Probably because it isn't. I want to know what you look like. I want to enroll you in ballet. I want to know your dreams and what you want to achieve. I want to know all of the beautiful and exasperating parts of you. I wanted you to live. And if sometimes in the everyday busyness of life you feel forgotten, or moved to the side, I want you to know you are loved and missed and forever my first baby.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

that was a fun one

*Thanks for the comments / thoughts on my last post. Now and then I get hit by the 'what am I doing and why??' monster. And then I'm reminded that writing is something I need. When I feel like I'm not connecting it's because I am lost and disappointed. A lot of my discouragement with writing has to do with my hope to be published, but even if that never happens I need this space to process. Thanks for letting me be real.*

A few nights ago I had a really bad nightmare. It was so vivid and real it scared me. I could not bring myself out of it even though I could feel myself trying to pull away and wake up. In the dream my baby died, but I don't think it was this baby because I was only 12 weeks along and I kept saying, "At least I have this one," and then pointing to my belly.

It was really strange because I knew I was losing a small, early baby (at one point I was sitting in a large pool of water somewhere watching myself bleed, knowing I was losing the baby and there was nothing I could do) but I was giving birth at the same time. It was so strange. And some of the images were direct flashbacks to Charlotte's birth.

When it finally happened she was born into my hands (yes a she, of course). I don't know why I insisted the baby was 12 weeks when it looked more like a 30 week baby, but I was convinced she died at 12 weeks. The baby was born in a round cage made of yarn. She was perfectly formed. Someone else was there briefly, a friend I think, and I mentioned over and over how perfect she was (also reminiscent of Charlotte's birth).

I walked around with the baby. I held her in my hands and went to find a midwife or doctor (but not one I know, I don't know who I was searching for). As I was walking I heard some people ahead of me. I quickly stuffed the baby under my shirt because I didn't want them to see me carrying a dead baby. I climbed a spiral staircase, opened a door at the top and stepped into a room. I reached under my shirt, pulled the baby out and said, "Here she is."

That's where the dream ended.

I was so disturbed by the dream I've tried to forget it, but it won't leave me. If I had any artistic skills at all I could draw a vivid picture of the baby and what she - and the ball made of yarn - looked like.

Dreams are a way for the mind to process and cope with difficult things, right? What are you trying to process / understand brain of mine?

28 weeks - third trimester - tomorrow. The last few weeks of this one are going to be fun (read: sarcasm).

Sunday, June 23, 2013

hester comes for a visit

Hester is a sweet little doll made by a dear friend. She is traveling the world to raise awareness about stillbirth, infant loss and the group SANDS. When I heard about the project I thought it was a great idea and hoped Hester could stop by to see us.

Hester is traveling with a journal each family records their week in - pictures included! When I sat down to read the journal the day we received her I cried. There are so many beautiful families all over the world missing babies.

Bennett wasn't sure about Hester at first, but he eventually warmed up to her. He really liked the ladybug on her hat. Hester's next stop on her journey is Japan. You can donate to SANDS and read more about Hester's adventures HERE.


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