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, July 29, 2016
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
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.
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.
Friday, June 24, 2016
On the train a week ago a man sat across from me and we began chatting. Ainsleigh was keyed up after our adventure into the city to see Elmo Live so she chattered at him as well. I explained that it was my first time going to see Elmo Live, even though I was not with my first child.
"Oh, really?" he said. "How many do you have?"
Without thinking I replied, "three."
He nodded. "I have four! Your other two must be boys then."
I shook my head. "No. I have a four-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl. 2, 4, 6. It's a bit much," I laughed.
"But you love it," he said.
"Of course," I responded. "Of course."
I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT CAME OVER ME!
I lied to a complete stranger about my kids and then the conversation took an awkward turn, because I couldn't keep up with my lie. It was the strangest thing. When B was little I would say I had two sometimes because I couldn't bear not to. But most of the time I have both kids with me so I can't do that anymore. I like to pretend I have a living six-year-old, but if B heard me do it he would call me out quicker than quick and I would look really crazy.
"So," he continued the conversation, "your oldest girl doesn't like Elmo?"
"Ahhh, um, nope. She never was into Elmo. No."
We stopped at two stations then he asked about schooling.
"We love the private school at our church, but we pull our kids out after kindergarten and teach first grade on at home. So we'll do that this year. I mean, we love the school, but we've only ever been through the preschool program. And, well, kinder. Hmmm."
I attended to Ainsleigh for a moment and hoped the loud rattle of the train would disguise my inability to keep track of my own story.
The man congratulated me on my educational efforts and our conversation wandered on from there.
I can't believe I pretended Charlotte was alive for twenty minutes on a train carrying me away from the city and back to my everyday life. Maybe I did it because I was so outside of my normal routine, and if that train could somehow transport me to the life I crave it would be one where all my children are living, and two were waiting at home for me with their father.
Yesterday I was crying about I don't even know what. It was a hard day, I read a really sad book, and tears came crashing out at the end of the day. And in the middle of the storm I asked myself, "why am I so sad?" and the answer that floated to the surface was, "Charlotte. She's gone."
Since she died her absence has been at the base of every tear and sad emotion, even when it seems as if she should have nothing to do with it. She is my catalyst; a constant thread of sorrow in a beautiful life. Sometimes I need to pretend she is with me because it hurts too much to remember she is gone.
I have three children. I birthed three children. One couldn't stay. Two did. Sometimes that's too much sorrow to share with a stranger.
Sunday, November 30, 2014
The grief, the grief. It's different now, but I can feel it pressing in at the base of my neck, trying to find a way to my spine where it will wind itself tightly so I can't stand, so that it literally reduces me.
It's all too much right now. Everything makes me sad.
The thoughtless words at Thanksgiving.
The place setting I didn't get to make. The name I didn't get to type.
Realizing that a baby dies three pages into the book I just picked up. Really? Must babies die in books? Isn't it enough that they die in real life?
Preparing our first Advent.
Writing, "pick a gift for a toy drive in memory of Charlotte" as an Advent activity.
Placing two tiny dairy free chocolates in every little box, tucked inside the daily verse.
During this time of year I turn to her again and again, but she's never where I expect her to be.
There is space next to the tree, there is space at the table, there is space in every Christmas card, and I waste so much time wondering why I feel so bereft, like I am missing a vital part of me when the answer is obvious: yes, yes, that's right, it's her. She is always missing.
I am so excited for Christmas this year. I'm excited about Advent. I'm excited about presents. I'm excited about B singing in front of the church for the first time (though at this very moment he is absolutely refusing to do anything but stand in stunned silence every time he is pulled from Sunday School to practice).
But just when I feel overwhelmed with excitement the grief swoops in to remind me that life is complicated. Or maybe it's that grief complicates things. The bitter tang of missing forever taints the sweet moments.
I'm writing this from the couch. Empty mug on the couch cushion to my right, Charlotte's spot - empty for the first time since she died - to my left. I moved her things for Ainsleigh's birthday. Don't ask me to examine how that felt; I don't think I can. Her things are on the bookcase now, which is fine. I think. Still in the living room, just not in the center of things. I'm going to put Christmas things in her spot, but right now it's empty, which is strange and foreign. I've looked to that spot to see her face for five years. Her never changing newborn face.
It all seems impossible. This will be our fifth Christmas without her. I can't believe my heart is still beating. Do you ever wake in the middle of the night and have to remind yourself that this - outliving your child - really happened to you? Do you ever pull the covers up to your chin and repeat over and over, I had a baby that died. I had a baby that died. I had a baby that died ... because it reminds you and reconnects you to what happened?
So often I say that Charlotte died, or that she waits for us in heaven, that it is routine somehow, easy to say, but the truth of it can get lost in the easiness, in the misleading lightness of words, so in the middle of the night I stretch my feet until I can feel the burning cold of the untouched sheets at the end of the bed and I whisper into the dark, I had a baby that died. I had a baby that died. I had a baby that died ...
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
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.
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.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
I have been lower than low. I have been irritated with the kids and life in general. All I've wanted is books, chocolate and alone time, but being a full time mama means alone time (truly alone) is rare.
When I was thinking about what I wanted for my birthday earlier this month my dream (which I didn't tell anyone because it seemed so selfish) was a nice meal and a good book. But I didn't want to go out to eat. I wanted to have the meal in my car, which would be parked next to water, so I wouldn't have to deal with anyone - not even a waiter.
I don't know why it takes me so long to connect the dots in these situations, but while out walking with the kids today the reason for this particular low period hit me: Bennett's birthday.
His party is this Saturday - a little early because my parents are scooting off to Europe soon and I wanted to include them - and I always feel sad around his birthday. I just want to celebrate his life, and what a character he is, but every year I cry. And every year the ache that is missing Charlotte becomes a little more insistent in late August/early September.
I've stepped waaaay back from a lot of the grief stuff. I haven't reached out to anyone in a long time. I haven't gone to grief support meetings. I didn't participate in the August 19th Day of Hope. I didn't. I haven't. I can't. And I'm not sure why.
In many ways I am tired of being a mother to a dead child. There are moments I want to set it aside so I can live for a moment without the shadow of grief hanging over me. Is that terrible? I want to see the slide show of babies born at the birth center where Charlotte was born without feeling burning jealousy on top of incredible anger that she didn't live. I want to parent my living children without the specter of the better mother I would have been hovering in the back of my mind. All the time I say, I feel like I'm at capacity" and I think if Charlotte hadn't died I wouldn't be so full all the time, and life would be more manageable in general, but as J says, you can't know that.
J and I were talking the other night about how we are still affected by Charlotte's death. We are haunted, we are bruised, we are still seeking healing, even though strides have been made and we are years away from "that awful time."
I'm not wishing her away. I would never do that. I am longing to be someone else. I am wondering why I was called to live this life. But we all wonder that at some point, right? Faith is hard to maintain sometimes. Belief too. I think a stranger could look at me and see the world in my hands, but beyond the image lies the truth, and the truth is that I am far from whole and there is so much missing.
Thursday, August 7, 2014
On July 24 a woman from a nearby town disappeared. The story received national attention. She was found dead Tuesday night. The cause of death? Suicide.
On Tuesday, before the official cause of death was released, I sent a text message to someone close to me:
Thank you for getting help so your kids didn't have to grow up without a mama.
A message I should have sent a long time ago, but didn't realize I needed to. I hadn't thought about the effort required to seek help, or what it must have been like to admit to being broken and sad.
I don't know why this woman, Jennifer, decided to end her life. I don't know what the last straw was, or what she was thinking, or feeling. What I do know is that she was a mother. And that she was so sad, or felt so hopeless, she made a choice to leave her boys.
Day after day as I tend to and snuggle my kids I wonder, how could anyone leave this behind?
I cannot fathom being that depressed, or stressed out, or overwhelmed, but a lot of moms are. We don't care for one another like we should. We don't push beyond the surface to the broken places that need the most attention. The rise of independent living, followed by the advent of social media, has led us to live in isolation, and rendered us incapable of remembering how to push aside the screens that dominate our time and ask, how are you? with an intense stare that does not waver until the truth spills out.
The truth may be good - and when it is so let's share in the joy with one another - but when the truth is hard ,or ugly, or painful let's hold one another up and face it together. No one is perfect. No one has it all together. You are not failing. You are the perfect mother to your children. They need you. They love you. They want you - only you - not your friend, or neighbor, or anyone else you view through a jealous lens.
Has anyone asked how you are recently? Have you asked someone how they are? Do you have someone in your life you can be completely honest with? Do you have a friend, or spouse, or mom, or sister who can see when you're hurting? Even when you insist you're fine do they know how to tell help is needed?
There have been moments when I have desperately needed my friends, my parents, my siblings, but it wasn't until Charlotte died that I learned how to raise the "help!" flag. There is no shame or condemnation in raising that flag and shouting until someone hears you.
We all need to hear we're doing a great job. We all need to know we would be missed. We all need to know we're loved. We all need to learn that it is okay to ask for help. And we need to be there for each other so that when a mama feels like dying is her best option there are hands reaching out to catch her before she falls.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
I had to go to the dentist this morning for a small filling. It was by far the best dentist visit of my life. J recommended we switch to this dentist, and I am so glad he did. The filling was done with air abrasion, which doesn't require a shot, and because it was so small it only took five minutes. Five minutes! And I didn't feel a thing!
Since my mom had the kids I decided to take a few moments after the appointment and go to Target and Old Navy (conveniently located across the street). Between Target and Old Navy was a small Christian bookstore. I wandered in to see if they had a worship CD for kids I've been looking for and ended up buying two albums.
I really needed a little break. I always need a little break. I feel bad admitting it, but taking care of two kids has me at capacity most days. I know moms with six who seem to have an easier time than me, but I'm really trying to stop comparing. SO - two kids + me = emotional capacity most days. Owning that truth.
I wandered a little, I bought a few things, and on my way out of Target I bought a soft pretzel, one of my favorite treats. J thinks they're disgusting, but I don't understand what's not to love: dough + salt. And probably a fair amount of sugar too. They are perfection. And they remind me of my childhood. My best friend's mom would buy huge boxes of soft pretzels from Costco. We would walk out to the chilly garage in our stocking feet, crack open the ancient chest freezer, and haul out the huge box. We would eat warm pretzels and watch cable television shows; two things I didn't have access to at my house.
When I got in the car I decided to listen to the Plumb CD I bought on the way home. I was just passing the Jefferson exit when one of the songs nearly made me drive off the road. I sent the track back to the beginning and turned the volume up. I listened to the song once. Then again. And again.
When I got home I found this video on YouTube: (don't listen to the song here, it's terrible, just watch the intro to the song)
Listen to the full song here:
This is it. It's exactly how I felt when Charlotte died.
For you to come
Then you were here
And now you're gone
I was not prepared
For you to leave me
Oh this is misery
I want you here, Charlotte.
I love them
but I want you here.
Friday, June 13, 2014
I wish I could explain to you what it's like to miss Charlotte. How there is flex to grief, times of quiet between deep, engulfing lost in the wilderness nights. How unexpectedness is the king of emotions in this particular hierarchy. The tiniest, innocent moment can make the missing and wanting almost unbearable.
There is a ballet recital at church tonight. My friend uses her talent as a ballet dancer to minister to others and the year end finale when all of her classes perform is happening right now. There is a certain little four year old who should be dancing this evening. I thought about going because I want to support my friend, but I didn't want to put myself in a place where the unexpected could knock me sideways. A little girl running down a hallway in a tutu giggling and excited could make me cry for days.
Or at least it would have six months or a year ago. I seem to have lost my ability to cry. Well, that's not true. Seeing The Fault in Our Stars pulled a few tears out of me.
Last night I went to the monthly support group that meets at a local coffee shop. It's so good and necessary to have an in person support group for those who have lost babies. I've been grateful for it so many times. I felt a little out of place last night. I think that's more to do with me than anyone else, but it was discomfiting to feel uncomfortable. That's the place, and those are the people, I'm always supposed to fit with. So why do I feel like I don't fit?
I think part of it is just a tiredness. I'm tired of living without Charlotte. I'm tired of explaining to doctors my history every. single. visit. I'm tired of remembering what I was like before Charlotte and wondering who I would be had she lived. I'm tired of being a mother who has buried a child. But that's just life. Being tired of it doesn't make it go away. I don't get to decide I don't want to do this anymore. And I'm afraid saying I'm tired of it will come across as wishing Charlotte hadn't been, and that is definitely not true. I just want her here, alive, running around church in a tutu.
I think I've written this post a thousand times. Grief sends one spinning in circles that never end. Circle after circle after circle. From why to some acceptance to sadness to happiness to bitterness to why to resolve ... emotional cycle after emotional cycle. And at the center of it all is a little girl who I wanted to watch grow up. I still can't believe I'll never see her dance on this side of heaven.
Monday, May 19, 2014
I never really woke up yesterday. I walked around in a post-watching Return to Zero traumatic haze of patchy remembered moments. I was sad and tired. Oh so tired. I am, apparently, too old and sleep deprived to stay out until almost midnight eating cookies, chatting and watching a movie.
(Although the cookies were amazing. I bit into one and nearly fell over with joy because I forgot how amazing chocolate and peanut butter are together. Plus the cookie had eggs which made it fluffy and my life is sorely lacking fluffy food because of Bennett's egg allergy.)
One thing Return to Zero brought up for me is, well, I'm not sure I should write about it. I may have written about it before, but I can't remember. There are topics I will always be a little scared to write about because of people and blogs who may use my words against me. But you can't make everyone happy, right? And you certainly can't make everyone see things from your point of view.
So here it is:
I was a little jealous of Maggie and Aaron in Return to Zero because they had a stillbirth. There is a tiny corner of my heart that boils with anger at the fact that Charlotte died shortly after an out of hospital birth. Probably because I feel like it lands the blame squarely on my shoulders. Probably because I know people attribute her death to that. If Charlotte had to die why couldn't it have been in a way that left me inculpable?
Now I know that experiencing a stillbirth does not mean one does not feel guilt. I'm not trying to say that. And I'm not saying stillbirth is worse, or better, or anything else like that. It's just different than my loss, and I've always thought that it might have made Charlotte's death easier for me to explain.
I don't mention the out of hospital part now unless someone continues asking questions and leaves me little room to skirt around it. As far as we know Charlotte didn't die because we chose to birth out of hospital, but I know there will always be questions and judgement around that decision.
In previous posts I've written about coming to peace with the why (brave questions). I've wrestled with my guilt, I've beat my head against the blame wall, and I've sat in the valley of why for many, many months. Most of the time I'm past that part of my grief. I've been able to set down a lot of the guilt. But I still wish Charlotte's death didn't have that mark of shame.
So that's the space watching Return to Zero put me in. One of memory, but also one of regrets and wishes.
Friday, May 16, 2014
I didn't cry this year.
I didn't cry, and I didn't make cookie dough.
Are we really making and breaking traditions so rapidly?
Although, crying on your dead daughter's birthday is more of a right, or expectation, than a tradition.
The cookie dough is less upsetting. I didn't need it. I ate plenty of other things chocolate and full of useless calories. When I went to make the cookie dough I realized we don't stock most of the ingredients in our house anymore. I had thought about that briefly when I bought chocolate chips, but the thought only made it as far as, I should get brown sugar too, before getting lost in the chaos that is grocery shopping with kids.
Tuesday night Ainsleigh was sick. I think she ate too much at dinner, her belly not quite used to solid foods. She threw up over and over and over. It was really awful. I was in a state about it, of course. Mad at myself, worried, generally emotional. My irrational fear that J, Bennett or Ains will die expands and takes over my rational brain in May.
I stood in the shower with her, because it was easier than cleaning both of us up over and over. About the third time we put a onesie on only to have to remove it two seconds later J said, are we going to give up on clothes now?
The night before Charlotte's birthday I stood in the shower with my sad, throwing up Ainsleigh, who would drift off in the warm water in between bouts of sickness. I thought I would cry. Bennett was asleep. J was occupied with video games. The shower was running so it wouldn't be obvious I had been crying. I was holding in my arms the very thing I had longed for four years ago when I sat in that same spot and watched the last of the birth blood weep from my legs and swirl into warm bath water. I wasn't holding the person I wanted, but the thing, the idea of what is supposed to happen at the end of a pregnancy, yes, that was present.
I have no idea how one marks the fourth anniversary of the worst day of their life without crying, but there it is: I didn't cry.
This evening I went to a movie with friends: Moms' Night Out. It was exactly what I needed. I laughed until I cried, and I cried a bit too. I highly recommend it. Tomorrow night I'm getting together with friends to watch Return to Zero. Are you going to watch it? Are we ready for this one? I'm not sure I am, but I want to support the movie so I'm going to watch it. With a box of Kleenex in my hands.
RETURN TO ZERO - Official Trailer from Sean Hanish on Vimeo.
I have a grief hangover and I am so, so tired, but life keeps clicking on.
Ains is kicking me and saying, "mama, mama, mama," so I should probably try to settle her before she wakes Bennett.
I can't believe it's been four years. That I'm here, still writing, still trying to figure this grief thing out, still wondering what happened and why. That I have two living children. That through strength and faith and trust I've lived four years without one of my babies.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
I felt held today.
I felt your prayers.
I opened cards and read e-mails with thankfulness and gratitude.
Thank you for remembering that tomorrow we should have a little girl bouncing around the house excited to be four and reveling in a day all about her.
It's still all about her, just not in the way we imagined.
I was patient with the kids today. I was kind. Way, way more than yesterday. I know that was you and the prayers you rained over our house and family.
I couldn't have spoken or acted with such kindness today without Jesus on my side.
I don't feel well. I can't stomach much food. I am nauseated, shaky - that might be the fault of the diet pepsi I've been drinking all day - and focused on the nervous feeling deep inside that something horrible is coming and I am helpless to stop it.
May 13th is hard in a different way. May 13, 2010 was my last innocent day. My last happy, joyfully expectant, thrilled to be in labor day.
The nursery was ready.
This doesn't get easier. The day to day does, but the birthday that isn't really a birthday that we call Charlotte's day because it's a confusing mix of birth and death is always difficult.
I wish Charlotte's birthday was more than a day to get through.
Every time I look at the clock I think
x more hours
at this time I was ...
Then I think about my theme for this year. Or maybe goal is a better word.
Find the joy.
Four years ago at 7:40 pm Charlotte was alive.
Find the joy!
Not very long, but she lived.
Thursday, May 8, 2014
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.
Monday, April 28, 2014
Saturday, April 26, 2014
It's been a long day. The last few have been epic. The kids are really sick. J has been gone a lot.
J is the voice of reason. My anchor. I freak out when B coughs so hard he struggles to breathe. J calmly turns on the shower and takes care of things.
Today was hard. I'm tired. J worked a rare hospital shift. I was reminded of his on call days, although those were over before we had babies. He worked call at two hospitals when we were early married. I hated the pagers and their 3 am wake up calls, but the money was good.
I was singing to the kids tonight. Made up lyrics. All three of us falling asleep on the couch.
I love you Ainsleigh
I love you Bennett
I'm so lucky to have you
I was so sad before you came
You are light
I love you so
Goodnight babies ...
Then I cried because I am exhausted and because the grief is just below the surface of the everyday right now.
And then J came home and I forgot Ainsleigh's name while telling him about the day. The only name that came to mind was Charlotte.
I can hear the drip, drip, drip of the humidifier. It mixes with the sound of the rain outside. No one is coughing right now. Or crying. Or burning with fever. All is temporarily well.
Sunday, April 20, 2014
Easter is complex. It leaves me feeling broken and makes me long for heaven.
Easter is important. For me it's not about bunnies, or baskets, or candy. My kids have no idea Easter baskets or bunnies exist. There will be time to introduce those things. For now we are focusing on teaching about Jesus and the hope of the resurrection.
Easter reminds me that God knows the pain and grief of watching a child suffer and die. He sent his Son to die for us so that we may live forever in heaven. I believe that. I absolutely 100% believe that. I believe that there is nothing we can do to turn God away from us. He loves us unconditionally. Even when there is fury in our hearts because He chose not to breathe life back into our lost ones.
We went to Easter service last night. It was strange to celebrate on Saturday instead of Sunday, but joy and hope were still present. The time of celebration doesn't take away from the meaning of Easter.
I want to share one thing with you that was stated last night. I'm not going to say it as well because our pastor has a wonderful way with words, but I'll do my best to distill it: God loves you. You don't have to earn his love, or work hard to be in his favor. There is nothing you can do that will turn Him away from you. He is always going to love you.
It's hard to feel that love after you've been through a time of darkness, or walked in a valley that seemed endless. Maybe you are in that valley now. I feel like I've been spending all of my time since Charlotte died in the valley or on a mountaintop. Right now I'm in a valley.
Easter is the beginning of my grief season. Easter comes, then Mother's Day, then Charlotte's birthday and by May 15th I am so relieved to be on the other side of May 14th I just want to lie still and breathe a while; revel in the fact that I survived.
Easter is hard because it's meant to be. Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter are about death and accusations. It is not meant to be taken lightly, though modern tradition has made it so. Easter reminds me of what we have to look forward to. It forces me to pause and be thankful for the cross and the ultimate sacrifice that was enacted upon it.
I have faith because I choose to. I have not stepped into this life of belief blindly. If you have read here for any length of time you know my struggle with faith. It is hard to believe in a loving God when your arms and heart are empty and aching. It was hard to reach a place of acceptance and understanding about God's choice to number Charlotte's days as one. For a long time my choice to believe was based in selfishness. When it was difficult to believe I continued to believe simply because I couldn't let go of the idea of heaven and seeing Charlotte again.
I clung to Isaiah 65:17-20 when my faith was at its weakest.
While I still cling to those verses I have other reasons now for believing and living a life of faith. It's hard to let go and put my trust in God. It is hard to wholly believe that He has a plan for my life and is placing me where I am meant to go. Easter reminds me that He has this chaotic world in His hands, just as He did when He watched His Son die on a cross.
I really want you to know that God loves you. I want you to know that I understand how hard Easter can be when your heart is heavy. I want you to know that if you don't believe I don't think less of you. I just want you to have the hope of heaven and of seeing your baby again as I do. I want you to know that if you are struggling, or if you have lost your faith God is waiting for you. When you are ready, all you have to do is accept His outstretched hand. He loves you.