Trauma…anger…understanding…acceptance

I am grateful. Grateful for the many gifts life has given me- health, family, work, financial stability, friends, freedom. It’s how I get through my days.  But every now and then I need to process some uglier feelings. I think it’s important to show that grief has many faces- that the instagram and pinterest-worthy grateful griever is an unrealistic ideal.  Yes- I am grateful, but I am also sad and angry and jealous and frustrated. I hate that I feel the need to preface this post- but I want people to know I”m not angry all the time…it’s just one of my feelings, perhaps the most difficult of them all.

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PTSD is common after perinatal loss. I haven’t been diagnosed with PTSD but my therapist and I talk a lot a bout how the trauma of my pregnancy with Mabel and losing her after birth still affects my daily life.  I’ve struggled with framing my daughter’s death as a trauma- I feel this immense pressure (self imposed) that since I had so much notice- months- to prepare for my baby’s likely death, I should have handled and still be handling it all better.

But the tentacles of trauma reach long and far, in ways that surprise and frustrate me. I still cannot react to pregnancy news in the way I once was able, in the way that I wish I could.  I recently learned that many of my close friends were pregnant- life events that are wonderful.  But instead of being able to share in their joy, I retreated because I found the only feelings I could express were jealousy and even anger- reactions my friends did not deserve at all.  Even though I’ve sat with these pregnancy announcements for months I still feel angry. It’s a misplaced emotion, I know.  Of course I’m not angry at my friends for being pregnant. I’m angry that my daughter died and all that came with her death. I’m still angry.

  • I’m angry that I had such a traumatic pregnancy- one emotional blow after another
  • I’m angry that I lost the blissful ignorance right away, never allowed to think “oh everything will be fine” with her pregnancy or my subsequent pregnancy- and watching others with their well deserved bliss brings up that anger.
  • I’m angry that my daughter didn’t get a baby shower. I’m angry that I cancelled the shower. I’m angry that I didn’t celebrate her more. I’m angry that I didn’t know how to, because there is no handbook on how to do what I did. Baby showers are still hard- a reminder of what I lost.  Sometimes I go, sometimes I don’t.
  • I’m angry that making mom friends is hard because bringing up my dead daughter always makes the get-to-know-you small talk awkward.
  • I’m angry that others don’t have to struggle with these issues, making me feel even more alone.

And as I grapple with this anger, I struggle with the need to rely on my friends to help me process it all and dealing with their misunderstanding.  No one has said to me straight up “waiting for and then watching your daughter die is not a traumatic event.” However people have said to me “Really? You still feel that way? Even three years later? Even after Felix?” When I hear those sentiments, I am reminded that those who have not lost a child will never understand- how could they? I’m slowly realizing I can’t expect others to understand my trauma, my reactions, my anger and my grief, as foreign and weird as they may seem. But I hope that they can accept it, as part of who I am.

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Are you angry? How do you cope?

 

 

 

Mattresses

I was listening to a podcast while I walked the dog this morning (yes, I know, I’m a nerd and I own it).  The podcast was about mattresses… why there are so many mattress stores and why they are always clustered together.  (#nerdentertainment) At one point it described a mattress ad explaining how buying the wrong mattress can be an 8 year mistake because it’s recommended you replace your mattress every 8 years (by whom? I don’t know).  Made me think about when we bought our mattress.

I remember the day in early december.  Chris and I were at the mattress store buying two for a trundle bed we purchased for the nursery.  The nursery seemed too big for just one baby so we figured a trundle for guests (and kids when older) would fill the space nicely.  I was 26 weeks pregnant, though it might have been hard to tell behind a big winter coat.  After picking out the mattresses we came for, Chris asked me if I wanted to test out some king-sized ones.  He knew I had been wanting one for a long time and now we had the space for it.  I jumped at the chance.  We literally lay on one that was too hard, then too soft and the middle one was just right. Our family was growing and I thought it was the perfect chance to expand our bed. When the salesman rung us up, we added a bed frame and mattress cover. He said the cover protects against all things- spills included.  “What about water-breaking” I half-joked.

A week later, I learned just how not-funny my line had been.  A week later, we learned my water would likely never break, or at least I wouldn’t know when it did because there was such little fluid around my baby.  A week later we were in the hospital, on a snowy weekend, learning the sad fate of our baby.  A week later we had to call on some friends to go snowblow our driveway and wait for the delivery guys to come deliver the mattress meant for a grwoing family.  A week later I arrived home to that mattress, the one bought for Mabel that she didn’t get to use.

The podcast made me realize I will easily know when my 8 years are up for my mattress.  The mattress is as old as Mabel would have been.

A memorial day BBQ

I went to a BBQ this weekend at a friend’s. It was great- I needed some friend time, since Chris was away visiting his brother for the weekend and had lots of unused burgers and sausages that needed to be eaten. I debated bringing Muppet with me- I had asked my friend if I could, because it was an outdoor affair and I felt like I hadn’t spent enough time with her that day. But she can be a handful and I wasn’t sure I wanted the responsibility of watching her every move or causing trouble at someone else’s house (she is still a puppy and gets into all sorts of puppy mischief). In the end, I’m glad I did.

The BBQ was small- a couple generations- friends and some of their parents. I liked the mix of it. Muppet was a hit among the parents, which made me feel good. I needed the down time sitting in a chair with friends. Food was delish- extra so, because someone else cooked it! And a couple hours into the party, some friends came with their five week old newborn. I knew they were coming- the host had given me a heads up (which I so very appreciated) and so I tried to mentally prepare. I’ve been trying to face some situations more head on, less avoidance, though my feelings are still the same in these scenarios as they were a year ago- I can just control my emotions more. And I recognize I can’t avoid forever. I still think my feelings are valid, but now that it’s been over a year, I know that others might not understand why it hurts to see newbors or kids Mabel’s age.

It’s harder with friends and family, actually. Stranger babies are easier to see and forget, but I care about my friends and family- I care about their babies. So seeing them is actually harder, balancing my care and my sorrow.

IT was how I expected- there was no dangling the baby in front of my face, pretending that I had never buried my own baby. They were subtle, but they were also new parents, proud of the baby they had made. The older generation was smitten, practically arguing over whose turn it was to hold the baby. They asked questions to the new mom about sleeping and when she was returning to work.

I sat politely through it, my heart aching because I couldn’t help but think about how I didn’t get that with Mabel. How badly I wanted that simple interaction, those simple questions. How maddeningly unfair it was that I had a baby but didn’t get todo any of the normal baby/new mommy stuff. It felt like it never happened, which hurts even more! I wasn’t angry at the new family, I was simply jealous and reminded of the hurt. It really hurt. I felt so so cheated.

I think one friend might have recognized this a little- she pulled me into conversation when everyone else’s talk started to focus on the baby. I was so grateful for that, whether she did so knowingly or not. So we talked about non-baby things, while I reached down and petted my puppy, happy she was there with me.

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I stayed for more than enough time after, but was the first to leave, tired from a busy day and too much emotion.

Have you felt cheated lately?

Sunday Synopsis

Things to know when your friend loses a baby–  oh how much I like this article.  I”m impressed I”m seeing more babyloss stuff on Huffington Post, well done HP! I have totally lost some people in my life because being with me in grief is hard, and many didn’t know how to handle me.  What would you add?

10 things People Hate about Funerals- Having hosted a funeral of the most sensitive kind, you would think I’d have mastered the art of attending others.  But no, I still feel awkward and want to make sure I do/say the right thing.  I do know how important it is to go, though, and how priceless are the words “I’m so sorry for your loss.” Have you been to a funeral since your own loss?  Do you still have discomforts about going? Knowing what to say? How to dress?

 

And because it’s SuperBowl Sunday here in the states, and my team is favorited, despite some recent controversy, here’s this just for fun!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/30/matt-damon-ben-affleck-deflategate-jimmy-kimmel_n_6579156.html

I’m not a total Grinch

I’m just not into Christmas this year. Thanksgiving is the big holiday in our family and there was a lot of emotional build up for me beforehand and very emotional during the holiday. I was relieved when it was over. Christmas, I feel less stress, less pressure. We told our families that this year we would be having a nice quiet Christmas at home- just me, Chris and the puppy. We’d still do gifts and everything for everyone, but I knew I wouldn’t really be in the mood for festivities. I can’t even seem to bring my self to get a tree. We had a super nice offer to cut down our own from a friend’s property. She warned us, it would likely be a Charlie Brown type tree, which seemed very fitting. Plus, she herself is a babyloss mom, so it seemed like the perfect solution. Yet I still could not seem to get my act together to do it. I would have not even thought about a tree had it not been for some beautiful ornaments that friends and family had given us in memory of Mabel. Instead, we decided to give our year round houseplant, Igor some Mabel festiveness.

I promise, Igor is not as sad as he looks.

I promise, Igor is not as sad as he looks.

I’m not a total Grinch. I don’t even care that others are having baby’s first Christmas or celebrating with their complete families. I could be bitter if I let myself, but I think I’m ok. I think I’m just simply sad that my family is one less this year. I bought presents happily for others and celebrated an early virtual Christmas with some far away family.

I also decided to donate in memory of Mabel this holiday. As I mentioned before, I can’t seem to do the more traditional “buy a gift for my own baby and donate it” that a lot of other babyloss parents do. Still too painful to shop for a 10 month old baby. So instead, I was inspired by another babyloss friend who felt similarly and adopted a senior citizen. I was a bit late in the game and there wasn’t really a similar program around me, so I cold called a local nursing home and asked if I could donate some small presents and what their residents might like or need. After talking I learned that a lot of the men in their home get neglected when it comes to donations and so I agreed to make some gift bags for them, with needed supplies. I assembled ten gift bags with male body wash, cologne, lotion, tissues and socks. I put them in festive bags and attached a little note:

“Merry Christmas! A gift for you in memory of Mabel, a beloved baby who lived for six precious hours on February 15, 2014”

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So I’m not a total Grinch. I’m just doing Christmas my way.

How are you doing Christmas this year?

Friends remembering

My friend is a high school teacher and he recently posted on my facebook wall “Today in class, I reordered students seats by placing them in alphabetical order by middle name. One girl’s middle name was Mabel. I told her that my friend had a beautiful daughter named Mabel; she should wear it with pride.”

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At the Buddy Walk, a fundraiser for out local Down Syndrome congress, we walked with Jenna’s Journey- the team in support of a lucky little girl who I had the pleasure of helping into this world six years ago.  This year they walked in in honor of Mabel and Jenna’s mom had some great bracelets made.  There were many left over after the walk and I gave some of them to some of the donors to my next walk- Footprints on our Hearts, supporting my local babyloss bereavement group. The other day my friend was telling me how her daughter had taken a liking to the bracelet I had sent her.  Her daughter knew Mabel’s story- she remembered the day when her mom was really sad because of a baby that died- and so she understands the significance of that bracelet. Recently her daughter was changing and my friend noticed that she was wearing the bracelet around her ankle.

 

Nine months later and Mabel lives on.

 

Have your friends done anything in honor of your lost ones?

My trail for tears

Our town has a paved walking path, an old railroad track converted into public space. It traverses two other towns right into the nearest city. Walkers, joggers, recreational bikers, dog walkers are common visitors to this path. The trail has become a place of meaning for me. In those first days and weeks after Mabel died, I needed to get out of the house. I needed a little break from the constant and usually comforting presence of family and I needed to see some space outside my bedroom. It was February, the heart of a snowy winter when my baby died, so getting out of the house was not always a simple task. In my suburb, one known for it’s sprawling spaces, it’s orchards and it’s country feel, there are not many sidewalks. The town does plow part of the trail, though. So everyday Chris and I would bundle up and head to the path to go for a walk. At first my pace was slow. I had difficulty with my pelvis during pregnancy- some symphasis pubis dysfunction that interfered with my running- and after childbirth, my pubic bone was very angry. Even the simple act of walking sent pain through my bone. But it was important for me to walk, to exercise, to get outdoors.

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After Chris went back to work, I often met friends at that path. My pace picked up as the physical healing began, but it was often still painful during those walks. My friends listened to me as I spilled out all my sad and angry thoughts- about the past, the present and the future. They held my hand as women passed by with strollers and baby carriages. I even saw a woman walking with her son who had Down Syndrome. Reminders of what I had lost.

But I continued walking. I eventually was able to jog a little even- something I have since given up, the pelvic recovery too frustrating.

I took Muppet for a walk on the trail for the first time. We have often kept her from dog friendly places for the past two months as we got her updated on her vaccines. But getting the most recent round, I felt more confident about taking her to the path.

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It was a cold day- winter has crept in early here in New England- and I donned a warm jacket, a hat and mittens for the excursion. The path was relatively deserted, save for a few runners and an occasional dog walked like myself. I had walked this path last winter, when it was barren and surrounded by snow, and watched as it transformed into greenery and wildlife reemerged over the spring and summer. On this day, the leaves were brown and mostly fallen from the tree branches, a cold nip in the air. As I walked Muppet the first leg of the path, I couldn’t help but be reminded of those early days and what this trail has meant for me. So many tears I shed here.

Are there certain places that remind you of your grief?

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Alive

I recently reconnected with an old friend/colleague who had moved away. She had learned of Mabel and her story from some mutual friends and called me. Her message seemed urgent and when we finally were able to link up by phone, I understood her urgency. She too had lost a baby. I had known her for many years and knew of her two living adult children, but I didn’t know that there was a child that came before. She told her story; I told mine. Thirty years and very different circumstances separated our children, but some of the emotions were the same.

She relayed a story about one of her living children, a daughter in her 20s who is trying to find herself, her career. Her daughter asked her, “Mom, growing up, what did you want for me? What did you want me to be?”

In her head the answer was clear: “Alive! All I wanted was for you to be alive!” It was not the answer she gave- she spoke of happiness and fulfillment, but her thoughts are so true of those who have lost a child.

What do I want for any future children? I used to think about how I wanted them to go to good colleges, for them to have good friends, for them to be kind, compassionate children. Then I was told Mabel would have Down Syndrome and realized a good college was unimportant. I focused more on hoping she would meet other kind and compassionate kids who would befriend her. I had no doubt that she herself would be kind. I secretly hoped she would still excel in her own way- she was the daughter of two well accomplished adults who would teach and love her in all sorts of ways. Then I was told Mabel would be sick- very sick- and she might not live. She might not live through pregnancy even. I didn’t know what to hope for- hope that she was born alive and we would be faced with all sorts of difficult decisions, worrying about our child suffering or hope that she died in side of me, where she only knew the comfort of my womb, but I”d never hear her cry. I think I ultimately hoped she would be born alive and we would take the decisions as they came. I hoped she would defy the odds, hoped that the doctors were wrong, hoped that she would live. Not just be born alive, but actually live.

I was lucky. Mabel was born alive. She lived- six short hours, but she lived. In my grief, I try to remember to be grateful. I recognize I am among the fortunate in the babyloss community, if there is such a thing. My baby lived. Barely, shortly and sometimes even suffering- but she lived. I hope that she did not suffer long and I am grateful that she died in my arms.  Not every parent can say that- many are separated from their child when they die.  Many children suffer longer than Mabel.

What a weird world I live in to be grateful my baby lived a whole six hours.

Regardless of whether our babies lived only inside of us, lived for a few hours, a few days, a few months, regardless of where and how long they lived, we all had the same hope for our children and my friend put it well. We hope that they are alive.

How did your hopes for your child/children (living or gone) change with your loss?

Day 22: Self Care

I work four days a week.  When I was working “full time” as a midwife, I would work on average about 60 hours a week.  The plan was when I had kids to drop one day in the office, making me “part time” at 50+ hours a week. Some of that time I was on call for births, meaning I might spend the shift in the hospital awake for 24 hours, or I might spend a good portion at home in my bed.  After Mabel died, I eased myself back into work.  My goal was to work myself up to that same “part time” schedule so I could have that extra day off for myself, to work on my grief.  After a few months into work, I realized that the goal of returning to call so soon was unrealistic and so now I work four office days.  My practice was kind enough to allow me this adjustment and Chris and I decided our finances could handle the decreased salary that accompanied.

Wednesday is my day off each week and I use the day to take care of myself.  Today I photo-documented the things that fill my day.

I spend some quality time with my pup, who gives me something to care for and love, who reminds me that I am needed.

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I had lunch with a friend, who shared her precious cache of chocolate with me.

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I exercised, indulging in an episode of Scandal while I hit up the elliptical.

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I sat on this couch for a hour, pouring out my soul and working through my anger with my therapist.

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I mulled over some thoughts and took a quick nap as I received an acupuncture treatment.

 

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A friend came over and we dressed the pup up.  She seemed to enjoy it!

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Another friend came over for dinner and we had a glass of wine!

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I ended my night with another babyloss mom, enjoying teat and hot chocolate, laughing about things in ways only the babyloss know.

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#CaptureYourGrief

 

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