Day 21: Relationships

Dear new baby loss friends: I do not know what I would have done never having met you. The ones who comment on my blog, the ones reading, the ones who show up in support group, the ones I email almost daily. How would I have survived if you weren’t here in the muddy trenches with me? I’m sorry you are here, but I’m grateful if we both had to be here, we could be here together.

Dear new non baby loss friends: Wow, you have surprised me in the most kind way. Some of you are new- reading and supporting me through this blog. Some of you are old acquaintances who have reached out and been an unexpected but totally welcome bit of support.

Dear friends and family who have stuck around: Thank you for not giving up on me. I know I am not easy to be with, not as fun or engaging. I know you sometimes are at a loss for what to do or say, and that’s ok. The fact that you are still here with me is all I need.

Dear friends and family who have dropped off. I’m mad at you. I feel abandoned despite my pleas to you to keep pushing me. I know I’m not easy, but I had higher hopes. I still hope you will find your way back to me. I’m sorry I can’t be the one to reach out. I need you, but my feelings are hurt.

Dear toxic people in my life: good riddance. Burying my child has given me the liberty and confidence to eliminate you and surround myself with only kind, compassionate support.

Dear Mabel: I love you. I miss you. I wish you were here.

#CaptureYourGrief

photo taken while with some acquaintances who delved into my troubles with me and came out as friends

photo taken while with some acquaintances who delved into my troubles with me and came out as friends

 

A lunatic’s anger

Today I am angry. And jealous. But mostly angry.

I am angry at hearing the news that friends of ours are pregnant. Angry that they get to announce their pregnancy without fear or secrets. Angry that they have other kids. Angry that, by all appearances , they got pregnant easily. Angry that as their family grows, mine seems to stay the same- me, my husband and our dead daughter. Angry that their announcement is joyful and not full of trepidation, knowing all the awful that could happen, having seen what happened to me.

I know the more appropriate word would be jealous- I am envious of all these things. But I don’t particularly feel jealous. I really just feel angry.

I’m angry that by announcing their pregnancy they have shut me out. In truth, it is me who will be shutting them out. This is what I do- I avoid my pregnant friends and those with babies, mostly because I can not bear having my feelings of jealousy and pain be witnessed. I am angry that they are choosing pregnancy over my friendship.

These are the crazy, irrational emotions of a lunatic. What kind of miserable, venomous person could think this way? This anger is unfounded and unfair. This anger is wrong.

It lives in me and I am ashamed. Ashamed and angry.

This is my grief talking. I wouldn’t be angry if my daughter had not died.

Day 20: Breathe

“Step outside today and find a spot to sit or lay down on the ground. Switch off for a few minutes. Stare into the clouds and sky and notice your surroundings,” the prompt says today.  I left the house at 6am- it was dark.  I returned at 6:30p- it was dark.  There was no laying outside and remembering to breathe.

I breathed as I did sumo squat jumps and burpee after burpee at bootcamp.  I breathed as I found myself angry at something I saw on facebook- something that did not deserve my anger but received it in my mind anyways… because I’m not always in control of my feelings, justified or not.  I breathed as a a patient joked to me about wanting her tubes tied because her uterus worked too well- she’d be happy to donate it to someone!  I breathed when a coworker commented on how cute my new baby is- my puppy baby, that is, not my dead baby.  I breathed as an old friend reconnected with me and told me about the loss of her first child, something I had not known.

I took many breaths today, none of which were outside lying on the ground, staring at the sky.  But I breathed… as best I could throughout the small trials of my day.  And when it came to an end, after dinner was made and eaten, after the puppy peed on the floor, after lunch was packed for the next day, I finally did what the prompt wanted. I sat on the floor and lived in the moment.  The puppy came and plopped herself down on my lap and the light, warm weight of her body soothed me for a moment.  She weighs 7.8 lbs, roughly the size of a newborn.  She jumped from 4lbs to almost 8lbs in between vet visits, so I missed that magic 5lb 5oz, the weight of my daughter.  Perhaps it’s for the best, because as comforting as the Muppet puppy is, she is not my baby girl.  I will take her, though, for now, as a simple reminder to sit on the floor and breathe.

I’m not the only one who found breath and gratitude in their furry friends.  Seems a theme among the babylost.

#CaptureYourGrief

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The High Chair

I’ve always been a fan of yard sales. Apparently what you call them hints at where you were raised- yard sale, tag sales, garage sale. I have memories of going with my dad to yard sales- once excitedly finding a Mr. Potato Head! We would hit up the annual town fundraiser, sometimes filling up a garbage bag and paying by the pound. Out of college, I hit up craigslist and estate sales to help furnish our first apartment. The habit continued into grad school and even when I was making a decent salary in my first job, I still was drawn to the yard sales. I often would pick up furniture left out for free on the side of the road, so I am no stranger to other people’s discardings.

After we had our big ultrasounds- the anatomy scan and the heart ultrasound- the ones that told us Mabel didn’t have any of the typical birth defects tht often come with Down Syndrome, I finally felt comfortable enough to start buying some baby supplies. Chris tacked down some secondhand cloth diapers on Craigslist and we nabbed a bunch of those. We drove an hour to buy the carseat we wanted from another ad on Craigslist. We made a trip to try out rockers at Babies-R-Us. We started a registry on Amazon. But when Chris came home one day with a high chair he picked up off the side of the road in our well-to-do town, I couldn’t find my usual warmth for this secondhand find.

Chris was confused. “We’ll bleach it,” he said, knowing my affinity for the cleaning product might sway me. I had already narrowed down the high chair I wanted, looking at reviews and prices. I think in my head I wanted to pick out the high chair special, not get whatever we could find. I agreed to hang on to it, figuring I’d eventually sway him into getting a new one. Until we deep cleaned it, it sat in the basement.

A few weeks later we were given the news that we might not need that high chair. The low fluid diagnosis at 27 weeks did not bode well for our baby and so we absorbed the words of the doctors when they said she might die.  Her kidneys weren’t working and the resulting low fluid would make her lungs small- perhaps too small to support her.  We stopped buying baby supplies. I cancelled my baby shower. We hid our registry. The high chair got moved to the basement.

A few months later, Chris packed up all the baby stuff and hid they in the attic, so I wouldn’t see the painful reminders of my dead baby. The high chair, though, stayed in the basement, tucked deep into the utility room so I wouldn’t cross its path when I did laundry.

Chris and I had a day off this week and ended up using it to simply do housework we had been avoiding. One task we crossed off the list was bringing the big pile of clothes and housewares to Goodwill. I threw the highchair into the car. I wasn’t fond of it before, but now I resented it, a symbol of what I did not get to have. Chris relented and we schlepped everything off to Goodwill. After unloading the bags and boxes, the highchair was the last item he brought to the storefront. He returned to the car with it in hand.

“They don’t take baby stuff.”

So we still have the highchair. I know of a few places that will likely take it, but they will take some extra coordination and trips.   We might just find a dumpster and ditch it, which we both hate the idea of because it’s in fine shape and there are people who would gladly take it.

I now hate that high chair. It’s haunting me.

What haunts you?

Day 19: Give

“We are donating in memory of our daughter Mabel who had Down Syndrome.  She died when she was just a baby but had she had the chance to grow up, we are sure she would have loved these science projects.”

photo 1 (27) photo 3 (12) photo 2 (25)

I told Chris that today, we had to give- donate or do something nice for someone- in honor of Mabel. He suggested that we finally get around to donating to NPR, which is having a fundraising drive. It’s something we should do anyways, being the avid listeners we are, but I wanted to do something extra, something we want to do rather than something we should do. I went to one of Chris’s preferred charity websites- Donor’s Choose- where teachers post projects they want to fund and people contribute however much they want. I searched for any Down Syndrome related projects and found many. We found one we like and could complete the funding for. With a few clicks, Mrs. Hanson’s class now will have a science cart. Within moments we received a personal response:

“Chris, thank you so much for your amazing donation in memory of Mabel. What a special gift to our classroom you have provided, thank you! Your gift will be used daily by an amazing group of students”

#CaptureYourGrief
#mabelwashere

Sunday synopsis

Some articles I came across that spoke to me:

How Heaven Can Hurt Grief Work.- believing in an afterlife can help us cope with death, but sometimes spiritual words can belittle our tragedy.

As some of you know my daughter was stillborn- a tattoo that is just so so beautiful.

Babyloss Awreness Week -The Huntington Post got it right again.

Healing after a miscarriage -like a good midwife I follow some important professional boards on facebook and this article from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology popped up on my newsfeed.  good job ACOG.

Day 17: Explore/ Day 18: Gratitude

“That’s really hard,” my colleague sympathized after I told him some of the things I was struggling with, aside from the obvious babyloss.

“Yeah,” I said with tears stinging my eyes. “My life sucks.” Before he could respond, I continued, “No. that’s not true. My life doesn’t suck. I’m just unhappy right now. I have many things I’m grateful for.”

We are told constantly in the grief community that gratitude is an important part of healing. It is an exercise I try to practice often. I tried to find things to appreciate when I was still pregnant with Mabel and learned that she would likely die. I’ve done two weeks of publically finding 3 Good Things about my day. When I sit down and really explore my grief, where I am in the “process,” I am doing okay. I am sad- some days very very sad. I am angry and I am jealous. But I also am realistic.

I listen to audiobooks in the car and lately I have been drawn to memoirs about people who have survived tragedy- struggles far worse than mine, in my mind. A House in the Sky, a book about a journalist who was kidnapped in Somalia and held hostage for over a year and Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings, the story of Michelle Knight’s eleven years in captivity, surviving rape, beatings and starvation by the hands of her friend’s father. Some would call these books depressing and hard to read; I find them uplifting and grounding. They remind me to be grateful for the simple things: freedom, food, a life free of assault.

I have much to be grateful for. I have a supportive family (even if I don’t always respond to their support). My friends and coworkers are understanding and caring. I have a job, and though it may be very painful at times, I can find moments of fulfillment and in the very least it pays the bills. I have met some of the most compassionate and interesting babyloss moms, online and in person, through my journey and new friendships with some especially kindhearted individuals, who aren’t even in the club, have grown. I don’t want for any of my basics- food, freedom, safety- and I have many luxuries. I have a puppy who sits on my lap and licks my hands in affection. But most of all, I have someone who rubs my back when cry in hysterics, who laughs with me in the good times, who said yes to a baby with special needs, who shed tears when the doctors said she would die, who held my hand as we left the hospital empty-armed, who allows me to take all the time I need as I grieve, who visits her grave with me, who pushes me to be social but doesn’t force me into situations I’m not ready for, who wakes up in the middle of the night to take the puppy out when I’m sick, who is just so handsome. I am grateful for him.

#CaptureYourGrief

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