I have tried to keep diaries before. But they didn't work out because of the necessity to be honest. -John Steinbeck

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

148. Comfort

I am part of a private forum, moderated by the hospital where I gave birth to both Nelle and Iris.  The forum is for parents of pregnancy loss and infant loss and called SHARE.

A woman posted recently that she delivered her baby girl, stillborn, at 35 weeks gestation.  She was 6 lbs, 4 ounces.  She left the hospital with no baby, just a memory box.  The same memory box that I received on September 4th and February 13th, my discharge dates.  A box that is only a tiny shadow of what should have gone home in my arms.  The woman wrote that the past month has been very tough.  That she is walking around, pretending to be normal, when she is anything but that.  She is angry and sad.  She wanted advice or tips on healing.

I do not know if my words offered her any comfort, but it has become something of a personal mission of mine to help lessen the pain of others who go through what I have gone through.  There is no preparation, but maybe.That for all of the navigating that I did alone, that I can maybe offer some words that can make one day, one moment, a little easier.  One less wave to figure out how to navigate. 

This is what I wrote:

I cannot begin to tell you how sorry I am for your loss, because it is a loss that no one should ever have to endure.  My daughter, Nelle, was born on 09/03/2015 at 21 weeks, 1 day after a routine OB appointment found no heartbeat.  My second daughter, Iris, was delivered just 5 months later on 02/03/2016 at 16 weeks, 1 day after a similarly devastating routine checkup.  No clear answers as to what happened.  I've been in individual grief counseling for the past year.  I joined an online grief writing community.  I have not yet been able to attend a SHARE meeting because I think it would be too hard, for me, right now.

Do not let anyone tell you a timetable, how, or what to feel.  Grief comes in waves and I still find myself thrown by triggers, even a year after the first loss.  Some things in life cannot be fixed; they can only be carried.  But your tribe of people who have experienced baby loss is here with you.  The circumstances to be in that tribe are horrible, but the people are fiercely supportive.  Feel our arms around you in this time and as you move forward.

School Things

I just picked up a puppy bone with my toes.  Because I was carrying the puppy in one arm and a glass of wine in the other, and coming downstairs to my computer to write, and couldn't put either down, but needed to grab the bone.  Picking things up is a skill I acquired during my first pregnancy and has had unlimited uses since then.  Picked up bone with toes, transferred to hand with puppy.  I'm multi-talented like that.

Tonight is curriculum night for Quentin's school.  I've never gone in the past.  Theo's school has curriculum night also, always skipped by me.  800 kids go to that school, so the idea of the number of parents that would likely attend seemed exhausting and there is never enough parking.  I have to park three subdivisions over and walk.  I do not even understand curriculum night.  I trust the school and the teachers to teach them what they need to know.  So I texted someone I know with kids older than mine saying "What is this curriculum night?  Am I supposed to go?"  She explained how it works at their school.  But tonight it is at Quentin's school.  Preschool (or pre-kindergarten, whatever they call it).  And from 7:00 - 8:00 p.m.  By the time I get home, it will be past my bedtime.  For what I pay per year for him to go to that school, I assume that the curriculum is excellent.  I decided it was either a conspiracy to get parents more involved, OR a way for parents who feel guilty about dropping their kids off every day to feel better about the quality of education.  I was not interested in either.  Instead, I'm having a glass of wine, and going to swap out my spring/summer wardrobe for my fall/winter wardrobe in my closet.  Which is no easy task, let me assure you.

Theo's teacher (currently a long-term substitute since his teacher is on maternity leave) sent home a small chart of his behavior for first quarter.  All satisfactory, except for one: follows oral directions.  The teacher had even made a note that he was between satisfactory and needs improvement, which are the only two options.  Theo was upset that he did not have a perfect score.  I thought "Oh shoot, the kid is like me.  Overachiever."  How do I "undo" that mentality?  I told him that his marks were very, very good and we were happy, and what is life if you don't have something to work on?  I told him that mommy and daddy still work on things for our jobs, because there is always room to get better.  He sniffed.  Hopefully that message will sink in.

Have not been to yoga for 10 days.  Yikes.  I have specific days of the week set aside to go, worked into my schedule.  Last week, I was sick those days.  And the days following.  No way I could go to yoga while sick and tired from taking care of Penny.  My plans are to go tomorrow, maybe to the 6:00 a.m. class.  I'm rarely able to fall back asleep when Penny wakes up at 4:30 anyway; might as well make use of the time.  I think I am going to change my membership to paying for a bulk of classes at a time (like 20) versus an unlimited monthly membership.  This was a hard decision to reach.  When I started, I was going 4 times per week, in part to fight depressive feelings I was having after my second loss.  I needed that escape.  After I was promoted in July, I have only been able to go 2 times per week.  Still pretty consistent, but 2 times per week does not justify the cost of the unlimited membership.  Better to buy the bulk classes.  I felt a bit like I was failing, that I was not going as much anymore, but in truth I do not need that "escape" as much.  Two 90-minute classes per week is still really good exercise.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

1. Family Tradition

Last year, I started a new tradition, in a conscious/unconscious way with our Halloween pumpkins.

Several years ago, I began to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project.  A pumpkin outside of our house is painted teal, to make kids with food allergies aware that our house has non-food treats.  I put a sign on our door about the Teal Pumpkin Project, to bring awareness to it, and have handed out Halloween pencils for years instead of candy.  The first year, I actually had teal paint and painted a pumpkin.  Last year, I was given some blue-ish pumpkins by my aunt so they served the purpose.

As I gathered my pumpkins together, the collection made me think of our family.  Four vibrant, orange pumpkins representing the four of us.  Two more withered blue pumpkins: my daughter Nelle that I had lost as Fall began to descend upon us, and the other pumpkin representing an unknown future (at the time) of trying again.  I remember looking at those pumpkins with tears and hope, thinking that our family would one day be six: parents, three children, and my lost baby girl.  Now I look, and I see two lost baby girls.

Today, I was talking to Quentin about pumpkins for this year.  I told him that we would pick out four: one for each member of our family.  He said "We need six, because we need one for Penny and Libby.  Actually, we need seven, because we need one for Hurley."  Hurley is our cat that ran away years ago.  Quentin wanted a pumpkin for the cat that was no longer with us.

I hesitated only for a minute before I said "If we are getting a pumpkin for Hurley, should we get a pumpkin for our babies too."  Quentin did not hesitate: "Yes.  So we need seven plus two…. NINE!  We need nine pumpkins!"  It made my heart smile a little bit.  My boys can only honor their baby sisters if I keep reminding them that we had babies.  I have not been doing a very good job of that.  Nelle's birthday came and went and while I wrapped into myself that weekend, and embraced my husband, I did nothing to remind my boys that it was their sister's birthday.  That is on me.  Here is my first attempt to correct that.

As I thought about the pumpkins, what colors we could get, where we were going to put nine pumpkins, how to keep middle-schoolers from smashing them, Quentin said "When are we going to get another baby?"  Stop.  It had been so long since he asked that question.  Maybe that was why I had not talked much about Nelle or Iris, because it prompted other questions that I did not want to answer.  "I don't know Quentin…. I'm not sure if we will have another baby or not."  "A month?" he persisted "A year?"

"I just don't know."

We kept walking.  He continued to talk about babies and I pretended to listen.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Final Baa

I am fairly certain that we left Theo's Baa at Great Wolf Lodge two weeks ago.  Likely stuffed between the the sheets.  I became immediately alarmed when we arrived home and I did not see him when we unpacked.  I made a gentle mention of it to Theo, but he refused to believe it.  Now we are two weeks later and still no sign of him... I had to break it to Theo this morning that Baa was gone.  There was wailing.  

Thankfully, we have a backup.  When Theo was a toddler, we lost Baa at the doctor's office.  I drove back to the doctor, looked in the parking lot, nothing.  I called my sister and frantically asked that she get us a new one from wherever she had purchased it the first time.  The new Baa was white and fluffy (versus the previous well-loved version) but I told Theo that the doctor had "fixed" Baa and he bought it.  

Then I asked my sister to get a backup about a year later.  I had Theo leave his current Baa in his Easter Basket and then replaced the well-loved Baa with the once-again fluffy one, telling him that the Easter Bunny had used his magic on Baa.  As soon as the Easter-Bunny Baa was looking well-loved, I started swapping them out so that they could be equally loved.  

All was well until the day that Quentin discovered that I also had two Mr. Giraffes.  Happened when one was in the wash.  Since the jig was up, I told Theo that there were two Baas also.  They decided that they would each take one Baa, and one Mr. Giraffe.

However, now with one Baa's disappearance, I told Quentin that he needed to give the backup to Theo: that's the rule.  Theo was skeptical, but now he has embraced the backup Baa.  I told him this is it.  No more Baas if we lose this one.

Took my puppy to the vet today for another round of vaccines.  She was so good; the vet was impressed with how well she sat and interacted with her and the nurse, and she didn't make a peep during her shots.  Very well-behaved puppy.

I have been fighting an illness for days and finally decided that not getting a good night's sleep is not helping my recovery.  So Ger is on puppy duty tonight.  She is very easy at night - I have a good routine with her.  Ger said she seemed restless, so he took her into the basement and she immediately went into her crate and plopped down.  They say that dogs take on the personalities of their owners, and that's how we operate in this house: when we are tired, we sleep!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

54. One Syllable

(This was an odd prompt.  It was to take a piece of my own writing and re-write it using only one syllable words.  I used this post from almost exactly one year ago as a starting point.  The photo is from the same time last year and this year.)

My bid to hide from the piece of my mind,
The one that looks like a call to life,
A wail of a child,
A slap in the face,
A lack of small hands.
I place the bet, hope to close the door
But it is hard.
The path leads to cries, coos, sleep,
point in time.
All of these make me ache.
Vast and no end to loss of a child.
I took a walk through dew and grass
as two, with my son.
A walk of light and still air.
Tread at my side, my love.
I can see through your brown eyes
to the next stage.
No rush, no fear.
I had to choke back a sob
and rub the thin ring on my thumb.
A heart, my heart.