Sunday, September 10, 2017

Can't sleep

Can't sleep... It's 0141.  Swirls of thoughts in my head... pictures, recap of conversations, feelings, misunderstandings, and the sad attempt of trying to make sense of what seems like a giant entangled hair ball called grief.  I'm comforted by the research I ran into while putting together a powerpoint on perinatal loss.  It stated that the intensity of grief can last 4 years or longer in parents of a stillbirth (Heazell et al., 2016).  I need these confirmations that I'm not crazy but normal.  Here's my random thoughts I just need to share:

It doesn't matter what hardships life has brought you, pain is pain so don't say that my response to the loss of Vivian is harder because you presume I haven't experienced loss before.  Bullshit.

OB providers, don't make yourselves feel good by saying "I'm here if you need me; just call if you need to see me".  Say that you want to see her and offer her an appointment in a week and if she wakes up and doesn't want to see you that day, then she can cancel.  Two very different approaches.

"Time doesn't stop, Tiffani" said in a cold hearted tone.  It's actually ok to wish it did.  AND No one knows the reality of that statement more than those suffering through grief.  A punch to the gut.

Tough love has no place in 'supporting' someone in grief.  Listen, acknowledge and encourage.

Some areas across the country are doing perinatal loss beautifully in their hospital settings.  It's a bit of a curse to hear the stories and meet those on the front lines serving & caring for families in a mighty way.  Where is the buy in here where I live?  It needs to be FAR more than something we get through as nurses and providers.

People are great first responders, fantastic really (as we're witnessing with the hurricane disasters) but we suck with follow through.

Our hospital sent out an email with an article they wanted us all to read "It's Sarah, not Stephen" educating us on the transgender population and their discomfort in not being addressed correctly.  Less than 1% of the population is transgender.  I think it's great this article was sent out.  It also makes me quite upset that we see far more families with a baby loss and yet so many health care providers are not educated on how to best care and support them.

You know how the crowd in the Hunger Games, touches their 3 fingers to their lips then holds them in the air as a tribute to Katniss?  A silent salute of sorts. It's powerful.  It may sound cheesey but I think it would be so thoughtful if we did something like it when a Mom makes her way down the hall without a baby in her arms before heading home.  It was absolute torture to be wheeled out of labor & delivery with empty arms and to see that a few looked at me with tear filled eyes while others went about tasking as usual as if it was just another day.  It was brutal and disturbing and I'll never get the images out of my head.  We need to do more.

Empathy.  It connects us.  We need it.




Heazell, A. P., Siassakos, D., Blencowe, H., Burden, C., Bhutta, Z. A., Cacciatore, J., & Downe, S. (2016). Stillbirths: Economic and psychosocial consequences. Lancet (London, England), 387(10018), 604-616.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

His 1st Drive through

Setting the stage... 15 year old son, 2001 Jeep Cherokee, driver's permit, and Chick-fil-A drive through.

It was a smooth ride arriving to the mall out lot. "Stop, STOP, STOPPPP!!!... as Mom's right foot presses into what should be a passenger side brake. Mean glare from Minivan Mom turning in front of us. Son is a little rattled now. As we approach Chick fil A drive through, son sees 2 young girls taking orders on the side and recognizes one. Face turns red. Coming to a stop, he attempts to roll down his window... there are 4 buttons and he's all thumbs... after pressing 3 (with all of the wrong windows going down), laughing, he finally presses the right one. Cute girl (a year older) says "Is this your first drive through?" Loud, red face laughing ensues!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Vivian




This is therapy, ya know.  Writing.  Telling our story and sharing what life is like after baby loss.  Here's the part that changed our lives forever... I'd just sent my application off to grad school and I was 3 days late on my period.  Off to Walgreens at 6:30 p.m. at night to buy a pregnancy test.  Seconds later 2 pink lines appear.  Tears.  I was 42 with 2 amazing boys and ready to tackle that next phase of life.  My husband embraced me and was immediately excited!  "It'll be GREAT, this will be our last and we'll go all out. Your boobs will get bigger, we'll have so much fun!" That helped.  We choose to tell our boys at the park with pictures and a personalized poem.  There were tears of joy!  The boys were over the moon with the news... ok, Nolan needed to warm up to the idea.  When we found out we were having a girl, it seemed too good to be true.  I wanted a daughter for myself but even more for my husband... ya know, the whole father/daughter relationship is sure hard to beat.  The mother/son relationship is pretty amazing and I wanted him to have that like relationship.

There was an Art fair in September that I couldn't wait to go to in order to buy these beautiful hand crafted flowers from fused colored glass... just a couple of years prior I saw them and told the artist they were perfect for a girl's room and I didn't have one.  She tried to convince me that I didn't need a girl in order to enjoy them in my home.  I just didn't have the right place at the time to justify buying a piece.  Three different colored flowers in a purple frame is what I picked out for our sweet Vivian.  My Mom & I (with my best friend at the time), picked out fabric to make her bedding and blanket to girl-ify a future nursery.  I bought clothes with pink flowers; the boys picked out lil sister onesies.  My Mom and I spent a day shopping in St. Louis for all things Vivian.  So much fun preparing for her arrival!

I remember laying down for an afternoon nap and she was kicking away.  I relished in it thinking she was so close to being on the 'outside'.  I couldn't wait to take naps with her on the outside!  It was surreal to think about Mom/daughter time.  Nolan was looking forward to living out the title of 'Big brother' and teaching her all about basketball.  Ethan just wanted to hang with her, hold her hand and play.  Josh wanted to teach her all about cars .  Of course she would have been artistic like her Momma. We made mental plans for her.  We were expecting her.

Monday I worked on call on labor & delivery.  We scheduled my induction due to cholestasis of pregnancy (such a beast!) in 2 weeks for 36 weeks.  I wasn't happy about it but with rising levels of bile acids it was the right decision.  I woke up that night at 1 a.m. in a blur noticing Vivian hadn't woken me up sooner with her kicks.  I pushed on my belly for an hour.  She moved once and I felt relieved enough to fall back asleep.  I had the thought to wake Josh up to head in to monitor her heart rate, but defaulted to thinking she had recently moved head down and it was just her change of position.  I woke up early to head to work and ate breakfast on the way.  She hadn't moved as she normally did.  I defaulted to believing she was ok.  This pregnancy, this baby girl was a gift.  I arrived at work and casually said to my best friend, who happened to be an OBGYN resident, that I hadn't felt her move since 2am.  We went into a room and couldn't hear heart tones.  We were both worried.  She stepped out to get a sono machine and came back with my nurse midwife.  The silence was eerie and looks of worry were heavy.  They step out and and return with an OBGYN MD and again look with the ultrasound machine for a heart beat.  "I don't see anything".  Words that I couldn't comprehend without translation...  I ask "What do you mean?"  She says "I don't see a heart beat".  This isn't real.  The whole 'this is too good to be true' came to be... endless tears fall.  To go from accepting that we'll never have a daughter to being pregnant to having a daughter to having her stolen is too much to bear.  My best friend had to call my husband and tell him to come to the hospital.  Thankfully my boys were just dropped off at school.

We drove home with leaves falling from the trees.  It was October; symbolic of her sweet life that slipped away.  We gathered our things through tears to head back to the hospital to begin the induction process.  The thought of her dead body inside of me was disturbing...it wasn't something I wanted to prolong.  The nurse I had chosen for our scheduled induction delayed her trip to Iowa to be with us (such a gift).  The boys came after school so we could tell them the horrific news.  Just how does a Mother share that her baby died inside of her?!  I'm not sure how I spoke at all.  I'll never forget their sad faces and immediate tears.  They had bragged on their lil sister to so many.  They were connected to her.  We gave them the option to stay home from school the next day, but they both stated they wanted to go to school.  It was later that I learned Nolan would be found in the bathroom crying saying to a friend that his baby sister's heart stopped beating.  Heart wrenching!  It is one thing to deal with your own grief, but yet another to muddle your way through supporting your spouse and kids while they grieve.

At 10:30 a.m. my water broke (much sooner than I was mentally prepared for).  With nubain, I pushed through each nagging contraction wondering what she was going to look like.  I was dreading her arrival. I read one loss Mom describe giving birth to death and that is what I feared.  Her birth encompassed so many feelings.. a tangible love and the cruelty of death in the flesh... a tension of opposites.  She arrived at 1:38 p.m.  My best friend just made it minutes prior.  Vivian was placed on my chest... warm and lifeless.  Silence.  Tears.  I couldn't think.  I could barely feel.  She was a combination of our boys.  She had dark hair.  She was perfect and beautiful.  There was hustle and bustle around me.  I declined giving her a bath (I regret that).  Josh held her and never before had I heard a cry so deep... wailing and gnashing of teeth just like in the bible for 15 minutes.  He held her to his chest and it was uncontrollable.  He described it later as a lifetime of love condensed into 15 minutes.  How?!  Why?!!  How do we move forward?!  God was so silent.  I never felt His presence.  Our deepest, darkest hours and we didn't sense Him.

I was grateful that my friend had arranged a photographer to come and take photos of Vivian.  It was hard to have her in our space, to be touching our precious baby girl.  Nothing about it felt right.  After a while we had enough and we asked her to leave.  The photos are priceless and my most prized possession.  To be in the space of grieving parents, though, is as intimate as it gets.

"What funeral home would you like?"  Oh Lord.  None.  We left without choosing one.  We left our baby girl in the hands of 'strangers'.  I was a mother.  The desire to mother doesn't end.  I walked away from my baby.  Her heart wasn't beating but she was still my baby.  I wasn't prepared for this.  We had no outfit small enough to put on her.  The angel gown made from wedding dresses wasn't what I wanted my baby girl to be wearing.  With my heart shattered I went shopping for a preemie baby girl outfit with my friend the next day.  I found one at a specialty gift shop that was pink and baby soft.  The gal at the check out had no idea and asked if she had already arrived.  I said nothing.  Tears in the car.  I had to pick out and buy an outfit for my dead daughter.

It's been almost 2 yrs.  I'm writing this while holding my 4lbs 4oz Molly Bear (Vivian's weight at birth).  The pain still swoops in and bowls me over.  This was a good night with my boys and my man.  I delighted in sitting around a backyard fire chatting with my youngest son and husband while watching my oldest son and his best friend put together a half pipe.  There was joy and at the same time deep sadness for Vivian not being a part of it all.  She is always missing.  I just still can't get used to swinging from the joy and sadness. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

This is how you walk on...

Our 2nd Annual Paint the Street Design 2017... Ethan struggled for weeks on a design.  I'd prompt him with ideas, themes, or a message to convey.  He can draw graffiti like nobody's business.  "Think of a word that has power, that's BIG," I said.  He came up with "Hope".  It was a true collaboration (as was last year)...he drew the word and I added the crack with the sprout.  It truly encompasses the season we're in. 
There's a popular choice award won by voters choosing their favorite square.  Last year voting was free and we promoted it for fun and came in somewhere around 6th place.  This year it cost a dollar a vote, so we didn't promote voting on Social Media, then I happened to see that we were tied for the win on the Art Association facebook page.  People were voting for us!  AND...WE WON!!!  Such joy in the day taking time out to do something creative together as a family, to break out of the daily grind.  To win was icing on the cake.  We all NEED hope.  There is BIG power in the word... It is absolutely how we keep walking. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Grace

This is such an excellent read...
Learning to be a Gracious Griever - Still Standing Magazine
 

Relationships are messy, I was so very messy in my deep grief and I could either shut out well meaning people and leave a sea of broken relationships or I could learn to be gracious, inviting messy relationships, laying my expectations for others down, and experience healing in unexpected ways.

A month after my first daughter died, my husband and I walked into our church, and a young not even twenty something girl approached me. As she began to speak I knew the conversation would not go well.
“Lindsey!” she said with excitement in her voice as if she had just discovered something profound she just had to share with me.

I stood there and braced my weary, sad self as she proceeded to say “I was thinking the other day why God only allowed Sophie to live for 10 hours.” Oh no, I thought in my heart. I should have stopped her then, but I let her go on.

So many people can’t comprehend grief or loss and must figure out why something has happened to comfort their own questioning heart, where the answer surely doesn’t comfort the grieving heart. 

Often there are no answers. But she proceeded to tell me her answer for my loss, waiting in anticipation of how I would internalize her “comforting” words.  I was not comforted and I responded with less than gracious words. It was not one of my finer moments and it wasn’t the first or last time I was less than gracious.

I wish I had been more gracious and I’ll tell you why.
I have lost 2 children, and part of my journey to healing has been learning to be a gracious griever. My lack of graciousness has often left me in isolation, anger and deeper hurt. But learning to be gracious has opened my heart to healing relationships and released me from anger and resentment.
 But what does it mean to be a gracious griever?

Grace simply put is an undeserved gift. Its when we give something another does not deserve or receive something that we do not deserve. 

And graciousness is how we demonstrate grace to others. But why would we learn to become gracious in our grief?

1. Graciousness leads to forgiveness

I could not let every ill timed reply, or ill spoken words create bitterness inside of me and cause me to hold a grudge or shut that person out who I felt had no idea what they were talking about. Holding onto anger or bitterness has more often left me stuck and not moving forward in my grief. When I have chosen to be gracious I have been able to forgive even the harshest words, and it is I who have experienced greater freedom to move forward in my healing.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and realize that prisoner was you” –Lewis B. Smedes

2. Graciousness reminds us of our own need for grace

When grief crashed into my world it was easy to forget that just a year earlier I hardly understood how to step into the grieving heart. I know I have said my fair share of ill timed and ill spoken words, even now. It was so easy when grief arrived to set expectations on others that they “should” all of a sudden know what to say or not say.
I needed to remember that as people extended grace to me as I tried to enter into their losses (when I didn’t understand what loss was like) so I could extend grace to others. Goodness, I would sit across from my husband, grieving the loss of our daughters and neither one of us would know what to say or what the other needed.

In the depth of my own grief where unfiltered words and thoughts and pain could come out of me, I began to recognize my need for others to extend grace to me, to not grow bitter at my words, to not shut me out but to be present with me in my pain.
It wasn’t an excuse to unleash but when we have close friends who can extend grace to us in those moments it becomes a safe place for healing. I needed grace in my grief as much as I needed to extend grace. It wasn’t one sided.

3. Graciousness can speak truth in love

When I have had a posture of graciousness, choosing to believe the best in others even when their words may sting I have been able to more kindly correct and share how their words have affected me. Most of the time people aren’t intending to be hurtful, they really do want to enter in, but just don’t know how. We can help them when we are gracious.
If I could do it all over with the girl who approached me at church, I would have wanted to share with her how I’m thankful she moved towards me but often a grieving person just needs to hear I’m sorry and sometimes there are no answers to the “why”, I wonder if a sweet relationship could have developed if I had been more gracious.

As time has gone on, I have been able to more gently tell others how their words affect me and that in turn more times than not has invited authentic relationship as each of us learn how to enter into each other’s stories.

4. Graciousness invites relationship

My best friend had a baby girl just a little over a month after my second daughter passed away. And in the midst of my deep grief, I had a difficult time entering into her journey of adjusting to life with a second baby in the way I would have wanted. And as she adjusted to having a new baby she didn’t have the energy to enter into my grief in the way she wanted.
We had honest and hard conversations and were able to grieve together how we wished we could have been there for each other in ways that we just weren’t able at the time. Choosing to enter into the messiness that surfaced in our season of loss and gain allowed a relationship that could have easily been broken to become stronger and sweeter. And while not every relationship may unfold this way, we may be surprised at the ones that do when we choose to be gracious.

Relationships are messy, I was so very messy and I could either shut out well meaning people and leave a sea of broken relationships or I could learn to be gracious, inviting messy relationships, laying my expectations for others down, and experience healing in unexpected ways.

It is easy to be a bitter, grudge holding, angry griever. It is challenging to be a gracious griever. But could it be that while learning to be a gracious griever may open us up to the risk of being wounded, it could also open us up to sweeter relationships, to deeper love, greater hope and healing?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Giving in to a new normal...

 https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/8e/94/c6/8e94c648b777c74772c1cf19b7fcfac8.jpg

My favorite go to blog during this grief journey has been StillStandingMag.com and this was a letter contributed by another loss Mom and it spoke to me enough to share.  The collateral damage of grief is pain on top of pain...the loss of a best friend and the reminders of the good times are almost daily.  To be a friend to a Mom of a loss takes courage, patience, grace, love and empathy... you never know what the day will bring.  To walk WITH another during the joys and pains is true friendship.  It's hard to accept when a person you were once so close to isn't capable anymore and in the same breath you can't blame them.  Had our joy & sorrows been reversed, I wouldn't have walked away. 

Dear Friend,
It’s been awhile since I’ve contacted you. I was busy. Busy surviving. Busy grieving.

I have been more focused on my journey and me than anyone else’s. I had to. For my own and my family’s sake. Otherwise I might no longer be around.
My child has died and even if/though this is months or even years ago, my memory is as fresh as if it was yesterday. For the outside world it has become a story, the story people tell each other at the shop about the woman who lost her baby. But even those conversations have started to die as the news is no longer headline worthy. In the best of cases, it has become a memory. A fading memory.
I might seem better from the outside and in comparison to the first weeks and months I am… Or so it seems. And then grief rolls over me like the unexpected wave that catches me from behind. These were the moments I didn’t recognise myself. The moments I was the crazy ‘new normal’ woman loudly cursing every detail about her life, wishing death upon her to end this pain. This however usually happened (not so) quietly behind closed doors. They have become less frequent… By not contacting you, you were spared those moments. You wouldn’t have liked them. I didn’t and still don’t. You might have been so shocked by your ‘new normal’ friend that you never contacted her again.

It has been a hard road to get used to the ‘new normal’ me, which honestly is nothing like the normal me you and I knew. Ask the husband, the rock – who knows how he managed to not walk out the door. I’ve kept the ‘new normal’ inside a lot because you see, she has no (or little) social grace. I prefer to spend time with her by my own, not that she is pleasurable company but she just doesn’t fit in my life pre-loss. It was my way to save whatever face was left.
I haven’t just been a crappy ‘new normal’ friend I’ve also been crappy ‘new normal’ mother, wife, sister, daughter, human being. Once I’ve realised that I actually had to merge with the ‘new normal’ myself, I struggled with this truth. She or rather I had to relearn what it means to live, to treat people, to care for myself, to be in relationship, to be a responsible human being, to treat things and people respectfully… Most of all myself.
The ‘new normal’ doesn’t have energy nor desire to be pleasing as I was before. I’ve given up on returning to or getting back the self that used to be me – I’ve given in on being ‘new normal’. Resistance is exhausting and fruitless. The more honest and straight-forward I’ve noticed the ‘new normal’ was and is, the less socially digestible I’ve found myself to be. A simple ‘starting-a-conversation’ question like “and how many children do you have?” make the ‘new normal’ a party killer. And for those who know the story, I can imagine them rolling their eyes and thinking: “Here we go again…”
The sad truth is I’ve become quite used to the fact that my friends prefer to stay away from ‘new normal’ and I can sort of understand their potential motivation. As much as the ‘new normal’ has needed to talk about it she/I might have also strained your ears and overused your capacity to listen. I myself would prefer the ‘new normal’ would be able to tell a different life story.

Now I want to be a good new normal friend.
The new normal good friend is honest, real and authentic.
When I integrate the new normal…
I will call or contact you when I truly feel like it.

I will tell it like it is.
I will always mention all my children, dead or alive.
I will learn to love myself, life and what I’ve come here for.
I will appreciate your patience, love and care.
I will be human, fallible and imperfect.
And I’ll hope to meet you in your humanness too.

-Nathalie Himmelrich



Wednesday, June 7, 2017

With

This morning we exhume Vivian's body to be cremated.  My family will be with us.  My mother and father in law, my parents and my brother.  'With' has never held more meaning than this season of our lives.  When others have disappointed me with their 'with'ness, it is the passage in Isaiah (43:2-3,5) I cling to... "When you pass through the waters I will be with you and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.  Do not be afraid for I am WITH you."  Blessed and grateful for my family today.