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.
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.
Thursday, April 17, 2014
I am working on a second book. A much longer, more detailed, very personal memoir. IF I ever finish it it will be for sale, but that book is an entirely different creature. I want Unexpected Goodbye to reach as many people as possible. I think the best way for that to happen is to offer it for free. Now, if you want to download a copy you'll have to purchase it from Amazon. That is the best and easiest way for me to manage things and protect myself.
Unexpected Goodbye is my heart on the page. It's the words I wish someone had told me after Charlotte died. Please share it. Please pass on the link. And please remember that it is my work. Please give credit where it is due. I put hours of work into Unexpected Goodbye. I spent two years writing and revising the book. It is one of the ways I honor and remember Charlotte. If one person benefits from Unexpected Goodbye it validates my sweet girl and her short life on this Earth.
You can find Unexpected Goodbye at the top of the blog or just click HERE.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
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.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Photo credit: Save the Children
A couple months ago I connected with the non-profit Save the Children. They put out a "State of the World's Mothers" report every year with a specific focus. The focus this year: newborn health.
You can find the full report HERE and a little bit about my experience with infant loss in the sidebar on page 58. (Charlotte's story is in USA Today as well as The Huffington Post. Find those articles HERE and HERE)
A few facts from the report:
"The US ranks as the 30th best place to be a mother."
"The US has 60% of all first-day deaths, but only 38 percent of live births."
"Newborn deaths now make up 43% of child deaths (under 5)."
"When first-day deaths in the United States are compared to those in the 27 countries making up the European Union, the findings show that European Union countries, taken together, have 1 million more births each year (4.3 million vs. 5.3 million, respectively), but only about half as many first-day deaths as the United States (11,300 in the U.S. vs. 5,800 in EU member countries)."
Charlotte's death was not preventable but many of the deaths occurring in the US and around the world are. The report details the problems, but it also outlines cost effective solutions.
It breaks my heart that so many of these deaths are preventable. In the US, many newborn deaths are linked to premature birth. Women need access to health care - including information about nutrition and the importance of breastfeeding - and quality prenatal as well as postpartum care for themselves and baby.
Charlotte's third birthday is in one week. By sharing our story I hope to prevent pain and loss for future mothers and fathers. I would appreciate it if you would help by visiting the Save the Children website to learn how you can take action, sharing the State of Our World's Mothers report, the article from USA Today and this post. I can't buy Charlotte a present, or bake her a cake, or ask her what kind of birthday party she would like, but I can raise awareness about neonatal loss so other families can have all the moments parents expect to with their children.
Will you help me?
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Last night at loss support group I realized something: I'm no longer a rookie.
It's almost been three years and when I talk about Charlotte I don't cry.
In fact, I haven't cried in a long, long time for my little lost girl.
My tiny 5 lb. 7 oz. first baby who barely drew breath.
The soft mew of a kitten can still send me spinning back to the sun drenched room where she was born.
Those heart stopping moments when she tried to cry.
It's knocking me sideways, people.
Upside down too.
I guess it's time to make the cookie dough.
Because eating a spoonful of cookie dough every time I felt sad last spring was really therapeutic.
Somehow I've become someone who has walked the road long enough to have a little grief wisdom.
I'll leave you with a picture of me and my girl.
You've seen it before.
Of course you have.
But this is all I have. I can't give you a new picture because our time to capture her narrowed from a lifetime to an hour in seconds.
Charlotte - forever missed.
Monday, October 15, 2012
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
I went to my second grief support meeting tonight. It's a small, but growing, group. It's good for me. I never want to go, but afterwards I feel better. Keyed up and unable to sleep for hours, but better.
The past few weeks have been difficult. It was good for me to sit with others who have lost and be focused on their needs and hurts for a while. It's painful to realize how lonely losing a baby is. I'm glad someone in my community is trying to make the loss of a baby less isolating.
As I was driving home I thought about driving around my small town on warm summer nights when I was a teenager. I used to drive to this point in a neighboring city where local kids hung out. I would often luck out and no one would be around. I would climb out of my old Honda, sit on the stone wall, look out on my small world and imagine moving on and growing up.
I thought I was lonely then. I thought I knew how much life could hurt. I thought life would be easier beyond the lights, in cities and dreams unknown. I thought life had to be better once I left there. Now I wish I could go back and tell that girl to soak in the easiness of life at sixteen.
These support group meetings are good for my soul, but they leave an ache. I hurt for everyone who has lost a baby. I add the stories I hear to the ones already piled in my heart and I wonder how any of us are still breathing.
Thursday, August 2, 2012
I shared an article from The Washington Post on this blog's facebook page. And then things got stirred up a bit and feelings were hurt. Let me clarify my thoughts a bit here.
The article is, "The Kind of Woman Who Needs a Late Term Abortion." The article is about the push to ban abortion after twenty weeks of pregnancy in the District of Columbia and the writer's experience with a late term abortion because of her son's medical condition.
I want to stress that I am pro-life. I was pro-life before I lost Charlotte and now I'm really pro-life. I don't agree with ending a life.
And I don't agree with all of the politics in this article, but I think the writer has a good point; there are circumstances where a mother or a baby's life is in danger and medical action has to be taken. I think the terminology needs to be changed. I think using the term abortion, or serial abortionist for women who miscarry multiple times, is hurtful and incorrect. I know it makes it easier for insurance companies and medical offices, but it also creates a large gray area for women and families.
This part of the article really spoke to me:
Meet, too, the many real women I know who belong to one of the saddest groups in the world: those carrying babies for whom there was no real hope and who made the heartbreaking decision to end their pregnancies for medical reasons. Meet the women among this group who had gotten, they thought, safely to the middle of pregnancy, who had been planning nurseries and filling baby registries, only to find they would need to plan a memorial service and to build, somehow, a life in aftermath.
We are not reckless, ruthless creatures. Our hearts hurt each day for our losses. We mourn. We speak the names and nicknames of each other’s babies to one another; we hold each other up on the anniversaries of our losses, and we celebrate new babies and new accomplishments, all bittersweet because they arrive in the wake of grief. We extend our arms to the women who must join our community, and we lament that our numbers rise every day.
I know people who have carried to term with a fatal diagnosis. I know people who have chosen to end their pregnancy because of a fatal diagnosis. I don't pretend to understand how either one feels. And I don't judge. The Bible exhorts us to love like Jesus and that's what I try my hardest to do. Love. Extend compassion. Understand that I have a grasp on losing a baby less than two hours after birth, but I don't know the ins and outs of a terminal diagnosis at the twenty week ultrasound.
I'm sorry if feelings were hurt. I'm sorry sharing the article caused questioning of my heart and beliefs. My intention was to acknowledge the families who decided to end a pregnancy for medical reasons because I feel they are too often left in the shadows, cloaked in shame and a lack of understanding.
My heart is with every mother and father who has lost a baby and my blog, as well as the facebook page, exist so we can come together and heal. I apologize for the misunderstanding and hurt feelings.