Hello…?

Hello blogworld, it’s me, Meghan.

Oh how I’ve missed you.

I have many reasons for my quietude. At first fatigue and an actual real live take home baby kept me from writing. Just as I was settling into the rhythm of motherhood (to a living child), I returned to work at my non profit job- Hope After Loss. I had started the job in April, learning the ropes of the position- coordinating pregnancy and infant loss peer support groups, facilitating burial/cremation financial assistance to those who cannot afford to lay their baby to rest and outreach and education initiatives. By May, we began planning for our annual walk that happens in October. It is our biggest fundraiser, as well as a chance for the community to come together to remember our babies during Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. In June I went out on maternity leave (earlier than expected) and come August I hit the ground running, doing my regular duties as well as planning this walk. Soon it was all encompassing. I was trying to do in five months (minus six weeks), what the organization usually takes a year to do. Plus I was doing it for the first time on very little budget. I’m only hired for 10-20 hours per week, but ended up putting in 40 hours some weeks (in addition to my 20 hours or so a week as a midwife). I shed tears over the walk, worrying that it wouldn’t be a success- that I would fail in putting on an event that my baby loss community cares so very much about, that I would fail in raising the money the Hope After Loss needs to continue to do it’s work.

And last weekend, on a beautifully crisp Sunday afternoon, hundreds of people from across the state gathered as we put on our Footprints on Our Hearts walk, complete with activities beforehand (such as music, a kids art project and a remembrance table) and gathering for bubbles and food afterwards.

The totals aren’t in yet, but we raised a respectable amount of money and the day seemed to go smoothly, with well-received speakers and a remembrance program to boot. I have plenty of self-criticisms and ideas for improvement next year, but overall I think the walk was a success!

So the walk has kept me from you. I didn’t even have the time or energy to tell you about it beforehand. But now that it is done, I can catch my breath and return to blogging a bit. It may be sporadic, because there is still just so much to do, but I plan to give myself the time.

Hi there. It’s good to be back.

In other news…

*sensitive*

I have other news. Based on my sensitivity warning, I’m sure some of you may have guessed it.

I’m expecting.

In a way I feel I’ve been living a lie not going public on the blog until now. But I have been hesitant for two reasons:

  1. I want this blog to be about Mabel. I’m learning that this pregnancy is about Mabel too, so much about Mabel, so the two overlap and it’s hard to keep them separate.
  2. I know there are many other babyloss moms who read and follow, who may want another child, who may be trying and not pregnant yet, who may not be able to for medical or emotional reasons, who are looking for a pregnancy-free and baby-free place to connect about their own losses. While I was trying to conceive, I saw other babyloss blogs morph into pregnancy after loss blogs and I couldn’t follow anymore. It was too painful (I know for some it may be inspiring- but for me it was hard). I would hate to cause anyone else pain. So I’ve hidden.

But I need to come out- it’ll help me return to blogging (I hope! So much more limited time with the new job and all). I can be more honest in my writing and not protective of my words. And importantly, I’m still working on bonding with this baby, recognizing that this pregnancy is real and different, that I might actually get a take home baby. Announcing it in some way is a step in that process.

At this point I don’t intend on making this a pregnancy after loss blog. Right now all my remarkable moments involve Mabel and I want to continue to write about her, for her. I may mention this pregnancy but right now only in relation to how it keeps Mabel into my life. I realize this may change over time too- and I will give warning if I need to write more about this one. For the meantime, here are some stats some of you may want to know:

 

Due date: mid July

Currently: 30 weeks.

Testing: we chose non invasive genetic testing which was “normal”

Gender: another surprise

Baby nickname: the pea

How do I feel: grateful and fortunate. Physically, tired and some pelvic pain, like with Mabel, but nothing I can’t handle. In fact, I love all the symptoms because they make it real.

So please bear with me as I navigate this blogging world, trying to be sensitive but also real.

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Hi from the silence

Hi, I say meekly.

I’ve fallen off the map.  Everyday I want to write, I want to connect with the community that has held my hand through the past year and a half, I want to tell you all what’s in my head.

I’m ok.  I just wanted you to know that.

I”m just swamped!  I’ve taken on a second job, which I”ll write more about as soon as I can rightfully.  I feel like I have so little time- most of it I try to stay on top of reading other’s blogs so I feel more connected.  But the longer I stay away from writing, the harder it seems to restart.

So for now, I’ll write just a snippet.

Today I was at the dog park and there was a woman there with a teenage girl with Down Syndrome.  She had dark hair and glasses, very high functioning with good conversation skills from what i could overhear.  I so so badly wanted to tell both her and her mother about Mabel.  I wanted to talk to the girl- get to know her.  We exchanged a few words- about our dogs and about a lady who was holding her tiny dog in the pouch pocket of her sweatshirt.  I hung out close to them, trying to figure out how to start more conversation, but then it was time for them to go.  That sweet little interaction made my day.

Reblog: What subtle suggestions feel like

Check out this post by Gretchen over at Lost Boys and Bearings.   It’s raw.  It might be hard to read if you are not of the babylost. But there is something that resonates here.

“I know that you’d like to take it all away for me, so that you could see me happy again.  But, I am so incredibly fragile because of what I’ve been through.  Like a burnt match ready to disintegrate at the slightest touch, your words and your opinions about my grief, no matter how subtle, gentle or well intentioned, can crumble me.  It makes me feel so helpless when you seem disappointed about how I’m doing or frustrated that I can’t just focus on joy and gratitude again.  Right now, I am existing and doing what I can to cope.  I am caring for my family and executing the day to day stuff pretty well.  I think that’s actually pretty stellar considering the circumstances.”

http://lostboysandbearings.blogspot.com/2014/12/what-subtle-suggestions-feel-like.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LostBoysAndBearings+%28Lost%3A+boys+and+bearings%29

Sunday Synopsis

Five ways to help those remembering Babyloss this holiday season– I really like this article- it’s short, it’s sweet and it’s to the point.  Having survive one holiday and bracing myself for the next, I can already appreciate somethings my family has done (especially #2- something I was worried about, but worked out just fine).  I would also add that holidays may be a time you’re seeing people for the first time since loss (especially if it’s year one)- I’d want them to know saying something is better than saying nothing at all (it’s in the vein of #5).  Even in a large group, it could be easy to avoid the bereaved parents, so simply saying hello and letting them know you’ve been thinking of them is an easy way to do so.  I had a cousin do just that at thanksgiving- and it was a pleasant surprise.

Darkness and Light– this really got me thinking about the contrast and and honestly the seasons- how now that winter is approaching its peak darkness, how that may affect our grief (not the total intention of the article).  Winter is my grieving season and early darkness doesn’t help.

Twelve Days of Christmas- Have you been following?  All the posts are great reads during this prelude to the holidays and some have spoken to me veery intensely.

This compassionate dog… Ok, i know this isn’t related to grief, but it’s about compassion.  Wouldn’t you want a friend to wake you up from a nightmare?

 

Alumnae Magazine

Back in July I received an email from my class rep from my alumni magazine. At the end of each magazine, there are class notes, where people write in and tell a tidbit about themselves. It’s organized by year and every month it’s the first section I turn to, to see if I recognize any names. I’ve never written in myself. I weird felt- like I had one chance to do so, because otherwise who wants to be reading the same names over and over. The paragraphs are filled with my overachieving classmates and their marriages, their children, their lawyer or doctor jobs, their start ups, their amazing trips around the world. In the midsts of all the humble brags I love finding morsels about people doing less typical things. I am mostly annoyed by what I read, yet still am drawn to it.

This summer an email appeared in my inbox aimed at those of us who lived in our freshman dorm. It was a smart tactic- I certainly gave it more thought since I was asked rather than just volunteering info.

What are you up to these days?  Whatever you want to share is welcome. Although family and work news is always great, I (and your fellow ’02ers) would also enjoy hearing about hobbies, travel, get-togethers with other ’02ers, and commentary on 30-something life. It doesn’t have to be written in third-person or otherwise edited/print-ready either; that will be done by me and a series of copy editors following me, so feel free to hit reply and send me a quick note!

When I first read it, I thought “Hah! Family and work is what 30-something life is often about!” It is for me, at least. The request came at just the right time. I spoke to Chris and he was supportive so I replied:

I am currently living in Connecticut and working in the New Haven area as a nurse-midwife.  This year my husband and I welcomed our first child, Mabel. We knew she would be born sick, but we remained hopeful.  She lived for six precious hours after birth.  Lately I spend my free time blogging about my grief in hopes of advocating for others who have also experienced baby loss and hoping to increase awareness for bereaved parents.  

My class rep responded so appropriately with the right kind of “I’m so sorry” and asking if my blog was public so she could read it.   She said they don’t usually publish websites, but she’ll see if the editors would in this case.

So this month I opened up my magazine and found my name in bold among the wedding and baby announcements of my doctor and lawyer classmates. I was four months younger in my grief when I wrote it, just starting to feel the desire to speak up- really speak up- about my grief. I was nervous, thinking I’d be perceived as a Debbie downer or attention seeker. At the same time, I was angry at the injustice of the social pressure I felt to not share about the birth of my daughter which was followed quickly by her death. I had the same right to share baby with my classmates too! So now, with many months of speaking up under my belt, I’m so glad I to took the risk.

Have you taken any risks that paid off? Any that didn’t?

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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

 

Another baby’s funeral

When I entered the church I was hit with the scent of my childhood Sunday mornings. The familiar incense, only found in catholic churches, surrounded me. It was a small building, about twelve rows of wooden benches lined each side of a center aisle leading to a marble altar placed centrally on the pulpit. I slipped into a pew a few rows from the back, nearest the exit so that I could escape easily if I needed to. The last time I had been in a church was for a friend’s wedding; this time I was surrounded by strangers, dressed in dark and demure clothing, appropriate for a memorial mass for a baby.

photo 1 (18)

I was worried about how I would feel going to the service. Would I cry? I thought as I drove to the church. Would I seem emotionless and heartless? I found those original thoughts laughable as tears stung my eyes, the moment the first note of the organ music began. Now I worried I would seem overly dramatic as the tears continued to flow, before any words were even said. I’m not a quiet crier, with a snotty nose that needs constant blowing. I paced my breathing trying to keep my emotion discreet, telling myself I could always step out to the foyer if I needed to.

I pictured myself grabbing my purse and finding refuge in the entryway. The woman who had greeted me on the way in would look up and ask what was wrong. I would apologize for my theatrics, saying how I too had lost a baby and this was simply bringing up too much emotion.

I did not escape to the foyer. Instead I looked up and saw a few rows ahead of me a woman, about fifteen years my senior, holding a tissue to her face. She was crying almost as hard as I was. Seeing this woman unabashedly letting her tears flow reminded me that I was at a funeral! It’s okay to be sad! A baby died! Having a partner in overt sadness gave me the strength I needed to be present through the rest of the mass. I’m unsure who this woman was- I imagined her as an aunt, maybe one without kids of her own, who treated the bereaved mom like she was her own child. Or perhaps she was simply someone who felt deeply, had a particularly strong sense of empathy. She did me a favor that day: her tears gave me permission to shed my own openly.

I listened to the familiar chants and prayers of a Catholic mass, cautiously looking around, eying those surrounding me. Up ahead was a set of three young women- college friends of the mom, I imagined. They were dressed nicely in black dresses with colorful sweaters, a combination that seemed appropriate for a dark service on a bright sunny day. Their hair was carefully arranged and makeup done nicely- their attention to their appearance made me think how much they respected and cared for the parents. The woman in the pew ahead of me had placed her purse next to her on the bench. It sat with the top open, exposing its contents. My eyes were drawn to the keys, which had a small key chain with the faded school photo of a nine year-old girl. I became fixated on that key chain photo, thinking how the bereaved mom would not have one of those for her baby, how I would not have one of those for Mabel.

I was at that service to remember the little girl who entered this world silently a few days before, but I couldn’t be there without thinking of Mabel too. Had I remained loyal to the Catholic faith, this is the kind of service we would have had for my baby. I could see the mom in the front pew and watched her emotions through the mass. I was transported back to the first days after Mabel died- the anticipation of her wake and burial, the family surrounding me at all hours, the engorged breasts announcing to the world that there had been a baby. It was hard.

The priest gave a nice sermon about death and mercy- explaining that we were not asking for mercy in the forgiveness of sins sense for the deceased, but instead we were asking for mercy for ourselves, asking for compassion as we mourned what we lost.

After the mass was over the crowd, which was sizeable for a weekday morning, slowly filed out behind the grieving family, ending in a receiving line. As I waited my turn, I watched a few women who were dressed in scrubs. The bereaved mom was a clinician in a local medical clinic and I could tell these were women who worked with her. It warmed my heart to see them present and wiping away tears. I wanted to approach them and tell them a tiny bit of my story- that I’m a provider who lost a baby too and that returning to work was hard. I wanted to tell them that I thought it was so wonderful they were here and to please, please continue to watch out for the mom. Don’t let her return to work to soon. And when she’s ready, protect her. She’ll look better than she feels. Even months out, her baby will be on her mind and she’ll face constant reminders with her patients. Don’t forget. I played these words in my mind, but never got the nerve to say something. I didn’t want to bring my story into her day. But I know that her coworkers were there for her that day and by that alone, I know they’ll be there for her later on too.

While waiting in line, a woman asked if I were a friend of the mom’s or the dad’s. I said I knew the mom. She introduced herself as the mom’s aunt and asked how I knew the mom. This was a bit awkward for me as I met the mom through this blog and to explain it felt a little clumsy.

“We’re sort of internet friends,” I said inelegantly. “I lost a baby too and I write a blog about it. We found each other that way. I’m a nurse midwife, so we’re both in the field.” My voice was shaky, betraying the nervousness I felt bringing my baby’s story into another baby’s special day.

“I’m a nurse too,” she said and noted how she knew the baby’s whole story from the beginning.   We nodded at each other, sharing the understanding that fellow nurses have.

When I finally made it to the receiving line, I met the dad, who had his daughter’s little hat tucked into his pocket, creating a very special striped accent to his dark suit. The mom and I exchanged hugs and all I could think about was her poor chest- all that hugging when milk is trying to come in. At the end of the line I spoke with her mom. My standard introduction was “Hi, I’m Meghan. I’m a new friend of the mom’s. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

Her mom grabbed me by the arms and said, “Meghan? The blog Meghan?”

I smiled and nodded.

“Oh I am so glad to meet you. And I’m so sorry about your loss too. I saw the page you wrote about Clara, it was lovely.” I suggested she look at the comments because there was a whole lot of love coming to her family from all over. “I am just so happy you guys have found each other- wait, no. I mean, I’m so sorry you both lost your babies, but…”

And I interrupted her, reassuring “Yes, me too.” There should be a word for the weird sense of camaraderie the babylost have- we are so happy to have each other, but wish we never knew one another, that none of us ever gained membership to this awful and special club, that our babies had lived.

I left the church feeling strangely good. It was a weird day- it seemed too sunny and warm for a funeral mass. Perhaps I was colored by my own story, having buried Mabel in the cold snow, but it just seemed so surreal that I spent the past hour sobbing in the dim church only to leave with the bright sun warming my bare arms through the bright green leaves on the trees.

Have you been to a funeral since your lost? What was it like for you?

My Alter Ego

I was shoving my water bottle and purse in one of the cubbyholes at bootcamp when a tall woman approached me.

“Are you Mallory?” she asked.

I had been asked many questions I didn’t know how to answer right away, but this one was a new one. Before I blogged here, I would on rare occasion guest blog at SemiProper. I have had the pleasure of attending Roo during the birth of all three of her children and I have been fortunate to benefit from a friendship that grew beyond the exam room. She has seen my debut as the Naked Cowboy and I have joined her in listening to her husband rock out at our local coffee shop. She blogs about all sorts of random stuff, but some of my (totally unbiased) favorites are her public service messages like, promoting pap smears and breast exams. I’ll chime every now and then from the midwife perspective.  She’s even linked me up here (*warning for the babyloss- that last link has birth/newborn stuff, but you’ll also see me at work*) and I know some of you found me through her (hi and thanks for coming).

Anyhoo, when she first started, she had pseudonyms for all the main characters in her life- nicknames for her kids and husband. When she wrote about me, she asked if I wanted my real name used or a nickname. I didn’t want to miss out on a cool alter ego, so I begged for a cool new moniker. After a brief joke about calling me Bertha (get in?), she dubbed me Mallory, a name I had once told her I really liked. Though she dropped the pseudonyms for her family, I am still Mallory to her readers.

So when this woman questioned me before bootcamp, I was at a loss for words. I figured she was an SemiProper reader

“Well, er… sort of,” I stumbled. “Actually I’m Meghan. But I, uh, sometimes go by Mallory… online.” I sounded like someone who lived a second life as an avatar.

I explained how I went by Mallory on Roo’s blog and told her about the pseudonyms.

She told me about how she read my blog and it was helpful to her because she had recently had a baby who had some health concerns.

I left the interaction feeling both amazed (look at me, I was recognized! I’m a celebrity!) and frustrated with myself for being awkward and not asking about her baby.

Then this morning I had my chance. In bootcamp we often have to pair up or make small groups to rotate through the intervals together. Today we had to make groups of three. I found myself next to the tall woman with the sick baby. It took half of the work out for me to get the words out.

“How’s your baby?” I asked.

She told me and asked how I was. I gave a little shrug “you know…” I didn’t say I just hit the six month mark and it’s harder than I thought it would be. I didn’t thank her for asking. I didn’t say anything I should have.

Again my reaction was mixed. I was pleased I was able to ask about someone else’s baby. This was kind of a huge deal for me, a real milestone. There are so many feelings I run from – baby showers, kids with friends, holding newborns. I was proud I faced one little one head on… Baby steps…. But I was frustrated I wasn’t able open up and be a real person either.  Still not the old me.  Someday I’ll be the Meghan or even the Mallory I want to be.

 

Mabel goes to the beach

Being new to blogging, I’m still learning the etiquette of the inter-blog world. I’ve been following Baby Boy Blue’s blog for the past few months. I had been drawn to reading it because she was about my age, had similar views and a month ahead of me in the grieving process. She had a neonatal loss like me, though under very different circumstances. I knew from reading that she lived in Chicago and one day posted something about having family in Connecticut. So I took a chance and wrote my first blogger to blogger email.

 

I hope it’s not creepy that I’m contacting you like this.  I just have really been comforted by reading your blog.  So many times I’ve read some of your words and just thought YES!  you’re reading my mind.  

 and then last night you and your partner were totally in my dream- I know it’s weird, I have no idea what you guys look like, but apparently my mind just makes it up.  I’m a very vivid dreamer.  and in the dream you were doing a walk.  like how you wrote about today- the march of dimes.  weird weird coincidence. 

 and then I realized to day while reading, you live in the chicago area and have family in the new haven area.  I live in the new haven area and have family in the chicago area.  if ever we be in the same place at the same time, maybe we can meet in person and I wont have dreams making up what you look like. 

 I promise I’m not usually such a weird weirdo.  I dont know how to make blog friends and so maybe I’m just breaking all the etiquette rules.  just wanted to say hi and keep writing!

 

I was so nervous writing it, looking like a creeper. But the risk paid off. We have blossomed into great pen pals! And then she was making a trip back to her home town- the same town I used to live in just a year ago. Sadly, she arrived the day after I left for my family trip, so we just missed each other. She emailed me saying she was eating at my favorite local ice cream place there and I told her I eaten there too, but twenty-four hours before!

When I got home from the trip she sent me an email checking in and sent theses photos.

Mabel 3 Mabel 1 Ander and Mabel

Her son Ander and my Mabel were cavorting on the local beach there together.

Some people are just so cool.