Approaching May

I had anticipated that May 2018 would be rough but April surprised me. The end of the month brought me back to one year prior–36 weeks pregnant, 37 weeks pregnant, 38 weeks pregnant. Tomorrow marks the Monday that last year I was 39 weeks pregnant.  Spring is my absolute most favorite season. I wanted both of my children to have spring birthdays–it’s the season of new life, of hope, of growth.

Last summer I had to “unfollow” another loss mom. She’s had a long and heartbreaking journey through fertility treatments, 2nd trimester loss of twins, and eventual adoption. She and her husband adopted an embryo last summer and her due date was May 5th. Yes I was happy for her, no I couldn’t bring myself to continue going to my support group and watch her growing belly, knowing that her timeline would follow mine from one year ago. Too painful. I found out that she delivered her healthy baby girl via C-Section last Thursday. So happy for her. So sad for me.

Yesterday I found myself at a “Baby Fair” (no, they weren’t selling babies, it’s one of those indoor yard sales where people set up tables and try to sell off their used kids’ clothes, books, and toys–they’re very popular around here). I was there to scope out toys and books for my oldest. I hate picking through used clothes at those type of sales. No luck finding any Shopkins but I did manage to pick up a slew of Magic Tree House books for a bargain.  It’s getting easier to see babies although there’s always a bit of an ache in my heart for what I should have but don’t. I ran into another loss mom from my abandoned support group. This is a mom I actually like very much, who I feel actually gets my pain. She lost her son, Malcolm 3 ½ years ago at 39 weeks. Since then, she’s gone on to have twin boys who are now a bit over 2 years. I remarked that my one year is approaching and that I don’t know what to do. We don’t have a grave. I’m not planning to go to work that day but my husband has to give a final exam and I’m hoping to send my oldest daughter to school. It will be a Tuesday this year. I don’t want to have a party for my dead baby. I know some people do that, and that’s fine if it works for them. I can’t imagine saying Happy Birthday. A happy birthday would be one here on earth with her family. I’ve thought about making the 50 minute drive to the hospital where I delivered. Then what? I’ve thought about having flowers delivered to the nurses on the labor and delivery ward. I’ve thought about curling up in bed for the day.

This coming week will be difficult. One year ago I was at the very end of my pregnancy, ready to meet my baby. It was this week a year ago when my husband became very sick, one year ago this Saturday when he was admitted for observation at the local hospital. And that is likely when Corva died. As I lay down with Astoria, I fell asleep only to awake at midnight and throw up violently (I’d been sick the entire pregnancy). I often wonder if that is the moment life left her little body. On Sunday Astoria and I picked my husband up from the hospital and on Monday May 8, 2017 I awoke in labor, having no idea my baby had already died.

It’s spring again, one year later. The snow has melted. The birds are singing. My friend’s goat delivered two healthy babies last night. But all I can think about is what I don’t have. My hope is gone.

Advertisements

Not Ready to Make Nice

The other morning, as my daughter and I were heading down the garage steps to get into the Jeep, she stopped abruptly and plopped herself on the top step, crying. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “You stepped on me!” she wailed. I did? I didn’t think I was anywhere near her but perhaps I did step on the heel of her shoe. I didn’t argue with her because her perception was that I had hurt her, even if in my mind I wasn’t near her at all. Instead, I sat down next to her and gathered her in my arms. “I am so sorry, I did not mean to hurt you. Will you forgive me?” And then it occurred to me: “Do you know what forgive means?”

These are my most candid moments as a parent–the ones where I really have to stop and think about something in order to carefully explain it in 4-year-old terms. What does it mean to forgive?

I explained that when we forgive someone, we still love them even if they hurt us.

Okay, it’s not the most complete definition, but it was the best I could devise on the spot with minimal coffee.

But really, forgiveness is much more complex. For me, related to the death of my baby, forgiveness is muddled with anger, betrayal, sadness, and guilt. I’m angry with my midwife, I’m angry with myself, I’m angry with the universe.

FORGIVENESS:

“A conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.”

Wow. How does a person even start? To forgive my midwife. To forgive myself. To forgive the situation that nobody can change. 

Why does it matter? Why can’t I live the rest of my life harboring this guilt, anger, and bitterness? Advice about forgiveness abounds. We hear it from psychologists, poets, religious leaders and our mothers.


But all of these feel-good sunshiny quotes I found online–I say “Eff you.”

My baby died.

My heart hurts.

I just cannot make myself forgive that easily.

I’m still mad as hell.


Is there anyone you haven’t been able to forgive? Have any of you been able to forgive someone without receiving an apology? Has anyone received an apology but still wasn’t able to forgive that person?

Remember Your Strength 

Capture Your Grief Day 3: Meaningful Mantra

#CaptureYourGrief2017 #WhatHealsYou

My friend, Amanda, gifted me with this gorgeous bracelet, made at Saucy Jewelry. Engraved inside: “Remember Your Strength”. That’s been my mantra since I got it. I wear it everyday. And when things feel too difficult, I touch my bracelet, close my eyes, and tell myself “Remember Your Strength. Corva Florence.”

What’s your mantra? Do you have an ‘anchor’ to ground you? 

Parenting After Loss

I was a mother before I became a bereaved mother. I recall in my early post-loss days, one mother, who had lost her firstborn and then went on to have a second child, commenting that it must be much more heartbreaking for me, having a living child first then losing my second-born.  I’m not sure about that. I  only have personal experience on losing my second, but my (unprofessional, inexperienced) opinion is that losing a baby sucks, period.

These are just a few observations that may be a bit unique to someone who had a living child/children prior to their loss.

On Being a Big Sister:

A seems to think that being a “big sister” is a milestone, something that all girls get to be someday (despite pointing out examples of people she knows who aren’t big sisters). This has produced comments through the years like: “that’s the big sister box,” (referring to a box of too-big clothes stored in the top of my closet) and “when I’m a big sister, I will put the pacifier in the baby’s mouth.” This obviously raises the question of whether or not she is now a big sister. We certainly count Baby C as a member of our family. I refer to her as my youngest daughter. But it’s not as simple as that. After all, A isn’t putting pacifiers in mouths, singing songs to Baby C, or keeping her entertained in the backseat of the car. Even now, she begins sentences with “When I’m a big sister…”

And then there’s the fact that A never ‘met’ her sister. Although we spent nine long months preparing her to be a big sister, she never saw that tiny baby she was looking forward to meeting. I feel like this has made the entire experience very abstract for her.

On Explaining Death:

After Baby C died, my husband and I were faced with the task of explaining there wouldn’t be a baby living with us after all. A’s only previous experience with death involved Nemo, her classroom Betta Fish. Everything I read about explaining death to children detailed being very blunt and honest. So I was. But for days after, A would ask when the doctors would fix Baby C so she could come home.

And 10 weeks later: “If a people dies you don’t grow and grow anymore, you just die and you don’t have your birthday anymore.” (Birthdays are a HUGE deal).

On Mama Guilt:

In the earliest days, I felt TONS of guilt that I wasn’t able to pull myself out of bed for my living daughter. Mother’s Day was 6 days after I delivered, and I spent the ENTIRE day curled up in bed crying. I’m hoping this isn’t a memory that sticks in my child’s head

I often worry that A will become damaged from my grief. It cannot be healthy for a child to continually witness her mother crying.

On Triggers:

Having a living child meant that, once I was able to remove myself from my dark bedroom, I was expelled into the world, no longer able to hide myself away from tiny babies and pregnant bellies. There were many tears held back in the middle of Target, parks, birthday parties, beaches, daycare, and Story Land. One day at my daughter’s gymnastics lesson, a mom was hiding in the corner breastfeeding and I started to cry. For that one specific example, I must have twenty more.

Audio books.  Junie B. Jones. This one that my daughter LOVES but makes me cry every.single.time. I asked her why she loves it so much. Her response? “Because I love babies so SO much!”

On Empathy:

One night I was crying, not just the streaming tears crying–it was the all-out loud sobbing crying. A gave me one of her dolls to cuddle and when my husband asked me what was wrong, she said “she wants Baby C,” something I had not explicitly said to her. She wiped my tears and patted my face. It was the most amazing thing to witness a 4 year old express such empathy for another human. I’m not sure that can be taught.

On Being “Thankful More Than Thankful Has Ever Been Thanked”:

I often gaze at A in absolute awe. She’s alive. I lay my hand on her chest to feel the rise and fall. I listen close to hear her breathe. I kiss her temple. How? How could I deliver one amazing child, alive, and yet my sweet baby was cruelly jerked away from my loving arms? But in the midst of “why me” “it’s not fair” and “F-you, Universe,” I  truly am “thankful to the nth degree” (credit: Angela Miller–and if you haven’t read her writings, DO IT NOW!)

 

What insights have you found in parenting after loss? Is there anything you find to be unique about parenting your living child? Or, if your loss was your first-born, what do you think is unique about your story?