Radio Silence

Well, the day came and went. It’s now 369. In a way no different from day 365 and yet in a way very different. The day was symbolic, of course, and to borrow a term from my pilot brother, I have been radio silent since as I recovered from and sorted through my emotions.

I spent the day doing not too much- sat on the couch, took Muppet to the dog park and did some light cleaning. I took out Mabel’s box- or boxes, the bereavement box we got sent home from the hospital with, the box of pregnancy related things I had kept, the box of cards and what nots I had saved. I got a little teary eyed looking at her outfit- the pair of pants she didn’t even wear because she was too small. They had pockets.  FullSizeRender_2

Her hat still had strands of blond hair in it- which made me smile because the lock they cut for keepsake looks brown. I opened up the tiny blood pressure cuff and held it to my face- I swear I could just catch the scent of her.

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I packed it all back up and organized it the way I want, keeping her bereavement box in our bedroom and putting some of the other stuff away in a closet.

We visited her grave and brought a balloon- Chris unknowingly bought a Hello Kitty one, but we figured she’d like it.  By the time we got to the cemetery, one of the letters fell off and so it read “Happy Birthday abel.”

The evening we had a few friends over- which turned into a few more- and had dinner and cake.

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Singing Happy Birthday to my dead daughter actually didn’t feel so good, but it seemed like the logical thing to do. We watched her video and my friends got teary eyed, while mine remained dry. I realized I don’t like to cry real tears in front of people. I was reminded of how in the immediate days after her death, with family filling the house, I would sneak up to my room to cry unwitnessed.

My tears came the night before, triggered into a meltdown when one of my midwives messaged me about how on the eve of her kids’ birthdays she often thinks about what she had been doing way back when, and how hard it must be for me to do that. The message was sweet and needed, opening up the flood gates. I didn’t have a good cry again until I crawled into bed on Sunday, crying about some of the disappointments from the day- the people I didn’t hear from. Crying about how my life and relationships had changed so much in ways that I felt I so sad about. Crying about how my daughter was dead-how I have a dead child.

I’ve spent the next few days sorting through it all- trying to focus on all the kindnesses, the so many kindnesses that came with the day and not be consumed by the sadness of disappointments (some of which I’ve since decided were justified, some of which were not).

So in that vein, I want to share with you all some of the many Random Acts of Kindness. There are too many to even list, many I don’t even know about and not enough words to thank those who have done them.

  • Donations to children’s museums- in CT, in RI
  • Cupcakes to my care team- the practice I work for, the midwives who cared for me, the MFM docs who cared for me, Labor and Birth, the NICU
  • "we wanted to thank those who so beautifully cared for her and for her family while she was here (the amazing midwives of [the group that cared for her], everyone on Labor & Birth, the NICU staff, the MFMs who were involved and the group Meg works with.) They will be eating birthday Karate Carrot cupcakes."

    “we wanted to thank those who so beautifully cared for her and for her family while she was here (the amazing midwives of [the group that cared for her], everyone on Labor & Birth, the NICU staff, the MFMs who were involved and the group Meg works with.) They will be eating birthday Karate Carrot cupcakes.”

  • Flowers at Mabel’s grave
  • play dough too!

    play dough too!

  • Carrot soup
  • Books that showed up as gifts (including the one on the right that came from unknown sender)
  • did any of you send the Help Thanks Wow book?  it came without a sender...

    did any of you send the Help Thanks Wow book? it came without a sender…

  • Gifts for children’s hospital in Boston and Indianapolis
  • Shoveling neighbors snow in Massachusetts and Connecticut
  • cards! so many cards!
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  • Donation to help migrant workers and their families in Florida
  • Diapers and kids treats donated to a homeless family in North Carolina
  • Donation to a Down Syndrome organization in Virginia
  • A children’s book donated to my town’s library
  • Letting people go ahead in the airport line
  • Buying ice cream for the kids at the next table
  • Dinner buying for a cancer survivor
  • Baking carrot cake for a friend
  • Coffee bought for people in line behind the buyers
  • A big tip left for waitress, a big tip left for a bartender who is fostering a baby with Down Syndrome born addicted to heroin
  • A donation given to a homeless man in a wheelchair
  • A donation to the Perinatal Mental Health task force in LA
  • Water bottles given out to strangers in LA on a very hot day (hard to conceive in chilly new England)
  • A carrot hat given to me
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  • Presents donated to a local shelter including a carrot stuffy
  • Donation to a high school lunar rover team in CT
  • Handmade carrot wreath for my door
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  • Letters from Thai high school students
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The pregnancy-baby plots

In the weeks after Mabel died, when Chris went back to work, it was still the dark cold winter and I was deep in my grief and shock. I spent a lot of time on the couch, watching tv. We don’t have cable- we rely on internet tv to get our fix- netflicks, hulu, hbo go, etc. I needed a show that would enrapture me. I got a few recommendations for Friday Night Lights- which did the job. I liked it a lot…except for the five separate pregnancy/baby plots! I was able to muddle through that but became careful of any future shows I committed to. Sometimes it was easy, sometimes less so. A friend recommended Sons of Anarchy- a show about a motorcycle gang. Seemed safe. Opening episode featured a preterm birth of a drug-addicted baby with severe heart defects- given a 10% survival rate. Guess what? Baby lived. I did not continue to watch that show. For my book group we watched the Noah movie in the theaters (yes, I know it’s a book group, but we alternate books and movies). I had to leave the movie early when a character goes into labor, crying because she doesn’t want her baby to be born, worried about it’s imminent death after birth. Watching Scandal, the political drama, I thought I was safe until the presidents wife decided to have a baby as a savvy political move (and got pregnant just like that, no less!)

I became sensitive to pregnancy/baby plots. Now almost 11 months later, I’ve lightened up a bit. I can watch some of these scenarios without a huge emotional reaction. But I can still be surprised. I guess, when it’s the shows that I don’t expect a baby plot that irk me now. I’m not overcome by sadness, just a bothered, annoyed. Most recently it has been Homeland. I’m catching up on past seasons and couldn’t imagine a baby in this fast paced, anti-terrorism show. So when a surprise pregnancy hit the scene, I was a little ticked off.

I guess that’s what shows are trying to do- hit you with the unexpected. I’m learning to accept- and I’m still watching Homeland, but I get to be annoyed, right?

How do you feel about baby plots in shows/movies/books?

Day 6: Books

Read this in the last few days of pregnancy with Mabel.  Who reads a book about stillbirth when they are 35 weeks pregnant?  The midwife who is told her unborn baby would likely die, that’s who.

I had my sister read from it at Mabel’s burial and I went back to the many quotes I copied down the following days.  Still so many of the quotes speak to me.

“There was nothing in my life that was not bittersweet. Every piece of hope was tinged with sadness; every moment of relief was lit on the edges with worry.”

“After most deaths, I imagine, the awfulness lies in how everything’s changed….there’s a hole. It’s person-shaped and it follows you everywhere…. For us what was killing was how nothing had changed. We’d been waiting to be transformed, and now here we were, back in our old life.”

“I’ve never gotten over my discomfort at other people’s discomfort. … The sadder the news the less likely people are to mention it.”

“Closure is bullshit.”

THe book even mentioned the name Mabel, the name we had chosen for our girl, but did not share with anyone.  Reading it before she arrived felt like a sign.

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other books that have helped me in my grief

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10 (non-grief) Things About Me

An online magazine, Still Standing, which is popular in my babyloss community recently posted an article encouraging us to share about ourselves beyond what we usually share related to grief.  I’ve had several bad days this week and so the timing was good.  I need to remind myself that there is more to me than just grief, because some days it’s hard for me to believe that. I enjoyed reading Baby Boy Blue’s post and was inspired to write my own.

 

1. Where were you born and where do you live?

I was born in Providence RI, lived my first months in Warwick RI, then off the Belgium for two years, returning to Warwick before I was potty trained.  I spent the rest of my childhood in a small town in Massachusetts.  I went as far away as I could for college- California- and found my way to Connecticut by way of a short stint in DC.

 

2. What is your favourite food?

Chocolate, Hands down.  Bread is a close second.

 

3. Where have you traveled to?

Living in Belgium my during the first two years of my life I’ve traveled all over Europe, but I couldn’t list where.  In my memorable life, I’ve been to the east and west coast plenty and had my first real introduction to the Midwest after meeting my husband’s family who lives there.  I’ve been to Hawaii and Puerto Rico.  Internationally I’ve been to France, Belgium, Netherlands, Ireland, England, Switzerland, Italy, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Panama.

 

4. What are you reading right now?

The second in the Divergent Trilogy.  I read the first one a while back, felt it was just another version of The Hunger Games only less good.  But then I saw the movie Divergent and now I want to know what happens next.  As I read I’m reminded why I stopped after the first one.  Just finished The SIlver Star by Jeannette Walls.  I bought it at a library book sale in a quiet town in CT while biking during a camping trip.  I usually read on my kindle so it a total throwback to have a paper book.  Also recently finished The Empathy Exams: Essays by Leslie Jamison for my book group (which I didn’t attend- though it would have been a good book to talk about).  I recently gave up reading Pap Smears and Pet Goats by Pamela Wible, MD because she was too cheery on trying to solve the health care system- just quit and start your own practice! just like that! Bleh.

 

5. What is your favourite colour?

Purple. I wrote about it here.

 

6. Your favourite book?

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant-  You know the bible story of Joseph and all his brothers?  Well, he had a sister and mothers.  This is the story of the women left out of the bible.  It spoke to me as a woman, as a former catholic and as a midwife.  I also hold a favorite place in my heart A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and The BFG.

 

7. Most amazing day of your life?

Aside from the birth of my baby (also the saddest day), my wedding day! I had lots of fun planning- we kicked a kickball down the aisle (we met playing kickball), had a cake eating contest and did a choreographed thriller dance.  I would plan another one in a heartbeat if anyone would like to fund it.

 

8. What have you been procrastinating on?

There’s pair of pants Chris needs hemming, a poster needing framing, rooms needing cleaning.  Plus there’s a bunch of hobbies Ive been meaning to start.  Chris got me a sander as a gift one year.  I wanted one because I had this great idea that I’d start refinishing furniture.  I’m the kind of girl who loves picking up perfectly good furniture on the side of the road.  I could sand them and repaint them.  I even have an old little side table ready to practice on. Someday….

 

9. What is a strange fact about you?

I am polydactyl! I was born with six fingers on my right hand.  As an infant the doctors did a highly technical procedure to remove it- they tied string around it until it fell off.  I lived my childhood with a little nubbin that people often thought was a wart.  So in high school a dermatologist removed it and it grew back!  In grad school I had another dermatologist try again and now all that is left is a faint scar.

 

10.  What is your perfect idea of a night in?

Homemade BBQ chicken pizza eaten on our patio on a warm summer night, chocolate chocolate chip ice cream and a movie with my boo.

 

The view from my patio.

The view from my patio.

I am Still Standing in memory of Mabel.