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.

***

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.

****

Are you angry? How do you cope?

 

 

 

Mabel’s 3rd Birthday

Mabel’s third birthday came and went last month.  I sent out a little reminder a few days before and the day of- sharing the #3goodthings invitation in honor of her birthday.

Dear Friends and Family,

As Mabel’s third birthday approaches, we invite you to join us in #3GoodThings. It is a practice in both gratitude and doing good.

#3GoodThings
1. Reflect on your day or life and find 3 good things that happened or you have done.
2. Write them down (and share them if you feel brave!)
3. Reflect on your part in each of them

February 15th

“you took the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade.” -This is Us

 

If nothing else it’s a practice of gratitude.  Last year I received a painful response from a family member and so this year, I kept my invite list small, trying to temper my expectations.

I received many heartfelt messages and even some gifts.  I Mabel’s birthday was the day after valentines day and in addition to a card and donation my parents sent, they also send two valentines cards- one addressed to Felix and one addressed to Mabel.  To see her name on an envelope means so much.  I received some beautiful carrot paraphanelia from people near and far (even from people I barely know!).  And so I guess I was especially hurt when two close family members didn’t recognize the day.  Birthdays are always a big deal in my family- we sent presents or cards, we make sure to call.  I gave it a few days just in case their lives were crazy and they would respond later, but no dice.  I just want Mabel to be valued as much as the other children in the family.  I think she’s just as important and I thought others did too.  I also was a little surprised by the lack of recognition from many other close people in my life.  I have heard over and over from other loss friends that the responses from others diminish over time- so I was expecting that.  I guess I just didn’t realize how quickly and by how much the responses would decline.

Things I’ve learned from Mabel’s 3rd Birthday:

Keep my expectations low. Perhaps I’ll have none whatsoever next year.  I know I have to guide people in how I want them to respond, but I thought I did that by my emails. Next year I might keep things more private.

Appreciate the good.  I’m also learning to try to appreciate the responses I did get and not focus on what I felt was missing.  This is a harder lesson to learn, but I will try!

Practice Gratitude. And in reflecting on her birthday, I am wondering if it’s time again to take a moment each day and reflect on #3goodthings- something I did in the early days of my grieving Mabel.  I might need another lesson in the practice of gratitude.

_______

My #3GoodThings from Mabel’s 3rd birthday:

Email written February 15, 2017:
Today we bravely share our #3GoodThings in memory of Mabel. We have many things to be grateful for and we chose to use use our good fortune to give to others.
1. On one of Felix’s last day of his last day care, I overheard one of his favorite teachers talking about making small gift bags of toiletries for the homeless.  This began our first good thing.  We brought her a bunch of supplies to use for her project.
2. We donated to Hope After Loss, an organization that has helped us through the hardest times and continues to help us keep Mabel’s memory alive
3. We have supported Planned Parenthood in memory of Mabel.  Though our family’s decision was to continue a difficult pregnancy, we appreciate that we had a choice to do so.  Planned parenthood supports men and women in many ways; providing choice is just one of them.

Another thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving morning.

We are off to our traditional Thanksgiving celebration later today and I have mixed feelings. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday- food, drink, family.  But now, like every holiday, I face the day with a little cloud over my head. The holiday has gotten easier after I lost Mabel- every year I still feel her absence but I can carry it with me and still enjoy the time with family.  This year I anticipate things to be a bit harder.  There are some new babies in the family who will be joining us. I know I have come a long way- I have Felix to fill my arms; I have returned to work caring rather effortlessly for pregnant women and new moms; I am able to really see those babies born at the same time as Mabel as real adorable little people and not simply triggers.

But….

The babies.  I know today I will see lots of cooing and holding warm wriggly little humans, outpourings of love from family. All so very deserved. I think I can safely say I truly understand how precious little babies are. I have taken that into my heart in an even greater way after having Felix.  Understanding what a gift it is to have a living breathing child to hold and watch grow up.  Watching Felix grow from a baby to a toddler occasionally reminds me all that I missed with Mabel.  For the most part, I am so very grateful.  Grateful to have the opportunity to parent a living child.  But I am also still sad- sad to have missed that opportunity with Mabel.

Since Mabel will be my forever baby- my memories of her as a five pound chunker curled on my chest-newer babies can be a reminder of her.  Reminder that she did not come to Thanksgiving, that most of my family never even met her, that she might not seem as real to them as Felix or any new baby entering the family.

I tried to go through some of Felix’s old clothes to bring down to one of these babies- as Felix was gifted many hand me downs.  It was a struggle to part with any of them. I pulled out some- ones that I know had been hand me downs- but most I couldn’t bear to let go of.  Going through the clothes I grew super emotional, realizing how lucky I was to have had a baby to fit in them- holding up newborn, then 0-3 month, then 3-6 month outfits. The ache was so strong for my other baby that only wore two outfits ever.  So I pulled out a few onesies- most of the clothes were the wrong season/size anyways- and that’s what I’ll bring.  I hope they understand why I can’t be more generous.  I need to hold on to the rest- they are a reminder of Mabel, a symbol of how grateful I am to have Felix and a beacon of hope that someday, if I would ever be so lucky again, I might have another baby to wear them.

In the meantime, I pack up the cheesecake, mac n cheese, some eggnog and a few onesie hand me downs in anticipation of our family gathering.  My ears have tiny carrot earrings and my feet have my carrot socks.  I’m wearing a sweater- one that my husband dislikes for its gaudiness- one with Olaf the snowman from Frozen decked in sequins. But his carrot nose is a tribute, literally close to my heart.  I am adorned with my Mabel armor, so that my forever baby can join us this Thanksgiving.

My three P’s of grief survival

This week I had the honor of being the guest speaker at a local hospital’s night of remembrance- an event they put on for those who lost babies. It was a beautiful ceremony, with music, poetry and a touching sand ceremony. Here is my speech:

____

Meghanol is Program Director for Hope After Loss, the Connecticut based non profit that supports the pregnancy and infant loss community. She is also a practicing nurse midwife in the greater New Haven area. But today she is here as Mabel’s mom.

____

I was 27 weeks pregnant with my first child when the doctors told me my baby was going to die. I was thrown into a state of shock and disbelief. I had already had my share of grieving this pregnancy- I survived a threatened miscarriage early on and at 13 weeks an unexpected Down Syndrome diagnosis caused me to grieve the loss of the child I thought I would have and work on accepting the child I was given.

And then at 27 weeks, my baby had no fluid, meaning her kidneys were damaged and lungs would be severely underdeveloped. I was told my baby would be unlikely to survive after birth, let alone pregnancy. Two months later, I gave birth to my daughter, Mabel, a 5 pound 5 ounce feisty little girl, who gifted us six sweet hours with her.
Though I can speak her story now, with a smile of pride, I struggled hard with sorrow and grief from the moment we learned she would be very sick. I was constantly looking for answers on how to do this- how to simply go on. I eventually found my way, and now two and half years later, I want to share three things I have learned help me with my grief. These are my three “P”s of grief survival.

Patience.

Practicing gratitude.

Perspective.

 

Patience

“Do you have kids?” was a question I dreaded from the time I learned my daughter would not survive. I tried out many different responses and I had to be PATIENT with myself as I learned which ones worked.

None living.

I had a daughter.

I had a daughter who died after birth.

Some answers produced a look of horror on the askers face, others were too subtle, resulting in awkward follow up questions and others still shut the conversation down completely.

Finally I settled on:

“I had a daughter but she died.” And following the requisite “I’m so sorry” I learned to say. “Thank you. And thank you for asking. I really like talking about her.”

This response took years of trial and error. Be PATIENT, Meghan. I had to figure out what felt best for me- what made me feel like I was being honest, but also protecting my daughter’s memory and keeping the conversation alive. It was arduous work at times. And just like with my grief, I had to be PATIENT with myself. Sometimes my responses were clumsy and ugly, leaving everyone feeling awkward. But with time I got better. You too will learn how and when and if you share your children with the outside world. The answer might change over time or with your audience. Just be PATIENT.

Practicing Gratitude

Not long after learning about Mabel’s prognosis, I was struck by a quote I saw floating around on facebook.

“The things you take for granted, someone else is praying for.”

I had been wallowing in a state of “life is unfair” and couldn’t figure out how to move forward. This phrase gave me some guidance. Instead of focusing on the things others took for granted- healthy pregnancies, being among pregnant women without jealousy, assumption that they would be taking a baby home and I tried to remind myself of the things I was GRATEFUL for- the opportunity to simply be pregnant, my own good health, an amazing OB team, an active baby. It was my first shot at the PRACTICE OF GRATITUDE during an extremely hard time. It didn’t take away the hurt of carrying a dying child, but it helped me find something to cling to while I felt like I was drowning in grief.

Later, after my daughter died, when the sadness started getting overwhelming, I participated in a challenge, forcing myself to find 3 good things every day and sharing my GRATITUDE about them on facebook.

I was even able to take other people’s comments and reframe them under that GRATITUDE lens. Shortly after Mabel died, a very good friend told me of his grandmother’s stillbirth experience- how the baby was rushed away before she could even see him. “At least you got to hold her,” he said to me meant as words of comfort. This was the first of many “at leasts” I heard. It took time, but I was eventually able to reframe such comments. “I’m GRATEFUL you got to hold her,” was what he meant. And I am GRATEFUL.

Perspective

After my daughter died, I felt like there were pregnant women and babies everywhere. I was in Ikea, trying my hardest to be a normal person, when I saw a woman I knew. She had a baby in a carrier on her chest and held a toddler by the hand. It hurt to see someone with everything I ever wanted right in front of me and I felt mad and jealous that other people have it so easy. I could only see her from the PERSPECTIVE of a baby loss mom.

A few months later, I attended my first walk to remember with Hope After Loss. As I worked my way through the crowd, I saw that same woman with her two young children. We were in the same club. I was there to remember my Mabel, and she was there to remember her firstborn, a daughter she lost to stillbirth. I gained greater PERSPECTIVE in that moment. Just like me, many others carry invisible burdens.

So my dear friends, I present to you what I have learned. Be PATIENT with yourself as you learn how to navigate your new normal. The path is not easy, nor one would have chosen, but it belongs to you and your baby. PRACTICE GRATITUDE- of the little things and of the great things. Find what’s good, and it will be a lifeline in your sorrow. Gain PERSPECTIVE. Remember, you are the one in four. Though you are now a member of a club your never wanted to be in, you’ll find the fellow baby loss, once they reveal themselves, among the most compassionate and supportive people you have ever met.

There is nothing that will take away the pain of losing a baby, nothing that will fix your grief… and there shouldn’t be. But there are ways to make the path we walk a little gentler. It is not moving on, leaving grief behind. It is moving forward, learning how to walk side by side with grief. Because we can never forget our babies. They are etched on our hearts, burned in our memory, our constant companions- silent but speaking volumes.

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

Thanksgiving

My Nana died when I was 14. She gave me a suede brown shirt the year before she died. She taught me how to play poker. And she made the best eggs-on-a-raft (a toad in a hole, to others). She also hosted Thanksgiving for years and years. One holiday, the event was big enough that we divided up into two tables. Someone had the bright idea to have a lottery system; rather than dividing up into the sensible kids and adult tables, we all drew numbers, with most landing at the dining room table and a few unlucky souls ending up at the less desirable kitchen table. I scored a seat at the main table, but a great aunt was stuck in the kitchen. As we prepped and got ready for our seats, my dad pleaded and bribed me to swap seats with my elder relative. Little stinker that I was, I stubbornly refused. I must have seemed like an incorrigible kid, but really I just wanted to sit at the same table as my Nana. I would have sat in the kitchen easily if she was seated there too.

When my Nana got sick with cancer, she moved in with her daughter, my aunt, who took over Thanksgiving that year and has since hosted.

Today is a day when we are supposed to be outwardly thankful, announcing our gratitude frequently and publicly. I have spent the past nine months working hard on finding gratitude on a daily basis- today I’m taking a break. It’s not that I’m not grateful-I have so much to be thankful for- health, family, friends, work- but I’m feeling rather melancholy. I woke up thinking of my Nana. I made myself an egg on a raft in her memory.

IMG_5800

Mabel is of course on my mind. This time last year I was pictured attending the next year’s Thanksgiving with a baby. She’d be wearing little leg braces for her clubbed feet and would be still working on eating solid foods. I was optimistic, but realistic. Today, after some debate, I will attend my family’s Thanksgiving. It will be hard, as I go through the motions of living out the next holiday without my baby.

Every action today is a reminder that my baby is not here. I will go be with relatives whose lives have moved on while mine has stood still. I’ve debated skipping to simply avoid the pain, the memories and the reminders- but there are some things I have to face and it’s time. If it’s too much, I’ll simply leave. For now I’ll focus on the good food in my near future. I look forward to the carrots my mom makes every year.

My therapist said it best as we said our goodbyes last week- I hope you have the best Thanksgiving you can.

What is Thanksgiving like for you today?

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

photo (33)

3GoodThings

In the grief books I’ve been reading, in the babyloss online magazines I subscribe to and on many of the babyloss blogs I follow, I often see the theme of gratitude come through. Being grateful can help a person move through grief, to take it by the hand and walk side by side with it, rather than be smothered, motionless in the corner. Gratitude doesn’t make grief go away; it helps make life go on. I am in no way grateful for my baby dying, but her death has made me look at the world a little differently. I felt this way even in pregnancy when my baby was given a likely fatal diagnosis and wrote about it here. Sometimes now my grief can feel all encompassing and I forget all about gratitude.

In August, I was inspired by Leigh’s post on her blog, I nominated myself for the #3GoodThings challenge and followed through on facebook. For five days, I posted about 3 things that I was grateful for. After 5 days, I decided I needed to do more, so I extended to 2 weeks. The result:  (p.s. Day 4 is my favorite, I think)

 

in an attempt, to foster happiness I’m going to try this. I’m not really one for this kind of thing, but this one makes sense.

Every day I will find and post three good things about my day. I am tagging three people in hopes they will do it with me (please). Three friends, three different networks. And they can tag three people, spreading the happiness.

Gratitude helps create happiness.

 

#3GoodThings Day 1

1. It’s friday and I don’t have to work for the next three days
2. my husband cleaned up the kitchen
3. the comments my professor on my online writing course gave me regarding my homework made me feel good.

 

#3GoodThings Day 2
1. I caught up on a bunch of email and found someone sent me some pretty awesome photos (looking at you, caitlin)

Mabel 1
2. Found out my town is totally cool. Hung out at a local cafe listening to the sweet sounds of John Ciambriello with Michelle and Roo
3. my blog got mentioned here!http://en.blog.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/grief-roundup/ It may be a sad subject but it is a good thing for the community to be recognized

 

#3GoodThings Day 3
1. Swimming followed by milkshakes. Today was summer

photo 3 (5)
2. Beautifying my house with flower filled window boxes and planters on the front steps

photo 1 (13)
3. Chocolate cake and left over peanut butter pie with good friends ( Scott &Sabina) and winning a few games of the Sneaky Snacky Squirrel with their kiddos.

 

#3GoodThings Day 4:
1. After a morning of starting of wrong (waking up too early, forgotten shoes for bootcamp, running over a curb), I had a really nice lunch catching up with a friend at Bar taco which was amazing! Baja fish, duck and pork belly tacos!
2. Got chocolate chocolate chip ice cream with chocolate sprinkles with Abby.
3. while walking out of the ice cream shop, a chubby little girl with brown pigtails was standing on the old fashioned scale by the door. “I weigh 15 inches!” she announced proudly. I held the door for her as I left and looked down, seeing for the first time that she had Down Syndrome. My heart smiled.

 

#3GoodThings Day 5
struggling today. some days it’s easier to find the good things
1. chocolate bundt cake. I made this, inspired by a recent bundt baker friend Eleni, and ate two pieces today. two.
2. i remembered my sneakers for bootcamp.
3. i sat on my patio, eating homemade meatballs by Chris and enjoyed my backyard. i love my backyard.

 

#3GoodThings Day 6
1. saw a dog riding a motorcycle. he was wearing goggles.

photo (21)
2. i bonded with a two year old in the office today. after blowing up a rubber glove balloon, playing with giant q-tips and a round of peek-a-boo behind the curtain, he didn’t want to leave. I put him down next to his mom and said good bye and he just raised his arms up at me with those sad little kid eyes that said “don’t leave me>” he also had a mohawk
3. green pizza truck + gelato + ocean views= a nice hello/goodbye party for the a big staff change over at work

 

#3GoodThings Day 7
1. Had a too quick lunch with a friend Amanda, a lunch that was a brief respite from the craziness of my work day. In the middle of the lunch I told her, “This is one of my GoodThings today
2. Got a great big hug from a great big Doodle, who smiled up at me while her doodle daughter watched.

photo 2 (12) photo 1 (14)
3. DuckTales, woo-oo! Watched Huey Dewey and Louie team up with Uncle Scrooge to beat the Beagle Boys. And was reminded that Gummi Bears was the best cartoon of my childhood.

 

#3GoodThings Day 8
1. Sleeping in with the help of my air conditioner (I’d be a hot mess with out it)
2. local brewery tasting with some new friends
3. Bacon s’mores.

 

#3GoodThings Day 9
1. Beached it out today. Ribby Roll and ice cream to boot!

photo (22)
2. Felt some love today, during a challenging milestone.
3. Made stir fry complete with sweet peppers, hot peppers and carrots fresh from our garden.

 

#3GoodThings Day 10
1. I’m grateful for my health
2. I’m grateful I have a supportive partner
3. I’m grateful I had the chance to experience pregnancy
When things are bad, sometimes it’s important to remember the important things.

 

#3GoodThings Day11
1. Spent the day with our new doc observing me to learn the ways of our practice. SHe was enjoyable and so I think she’ll fit right in. But at the end of the day I realized I had someone with more training than me watch everything I do and I didn’t feel self-conscious. I do believe I’ve found myself in my career.
2. dinner made with veggies from the garden. I feel like a farmer.
3. I have good friends.

 

#3GoodThings Day 12
1. I like the rain. Nature’s way of watering my garden. And i just like the rain
2. long lunch with a friend Eliza who listened to me rant and rave a whole bunch
3. i did not work today, and any day not working is a good day. and I end it by sitting on the couch, watching Orange is the New Black, sharing a seasalt caramel chocolate tart with the handsomest man around, Chris

 

#3GoodThings Day 13
1. As I fell down through an emotional spiral today, I had several hands reach out to catch me. you know who you are and you are all good things today.
2. Even when I was in the midst of my own spiral (see #1), I was able to still do some good things as a midwife. I”m proud for these small victories.
3. I am fortunate to not have to worry about how I’m going to eat today; i have clothes to keep me warm and air conditioning to keep me cool. I garden “for fun.” I am surrounded by abundance, for which I am grateful.

 

#3GoodThings Day 14
1. I got out of work early today. I heart no-shows
2. headed to VT for some old fashioned fun with good friends.
3. got to visit mabel twice today. stopped by on my way to work but then thanks to #1 I swung back again before #2. she’s my favorite.

and that’s the end of my two week. thank you for humoring me.

 

Overall, it was a GoodThing for me to do. I might do it again sometime.

What are you grateful for? Are some days harder than others to come up with things you are grateful for?

Dear Bootcamp Instructor

Dear Bootcamp instructor,

I was never a fan of group exercise.  I was happy running when I wanted, for how long I wanted.  But as pregnancy shaped my body and complications with my baby arose, I found I couldn’t run for both physical and emotional reasons.  With a broken elliptical at home and no gym membership, I was uncentered and anxious without my exercise routine.  I finally caved in to a friend’s entreaties to join her at “bootcamp.”  My first class, I arrived early and sat in a near panic attack as all the women in the 6pm class performed different exercises in near seamless coordination.  Everyone looked so good!  I was overwhelmed.  Then the warm up nearly did me in.  I left feeling on the fence about whether this bootcamp was for me.  I tried again at an early morning Wednesday class and left still feeling undecided.  I had an ultrasound later that day with my doctor (a fellow bootcamp-er) and I remember telling her I was like 50/50 on whether I liked it or not.  I gave it one last shot on a Friday morning class that you were teaching.  When I left, I began thinking, I could like this.  In the car on the way to dinner later that night I was telling my husband about my day and told him about the good class I went to with the friendly instructor.  And then there you were at the restaurant- smiling and remembering my name!  Like I told you the other day, that’s what sold me.

Over the next three weeks, the exercise saved my sanity.  I learned to love jam ball slams for the anger I could release about my baby’s health.  When I was admitted to the hospital, the doctors (my colleagues) all had a good laugh at rounds about how their admission for the day (me) would be late because she wanted to go to bootcamp.

I tried to continue the pace in the hospital, taking time each day to do a mini-bootcamp while tethered to the fetal monitor.  You’d be surprised what one can do in a small hospital room attached to a six-foot wire.  My husband even got me a medicine ball for my birthday, which I celebrated in the hospital.  I yearned to do some jam ball slams, but my midwife and doctor (also fellow bootcamp-ers) didn’t think it would be a good experience for the patient in the room below me.  My doctor thought I was a great research project in itself, showing that a baby with no fluid did just fine through vigorous exercise.  How cool it was to watch her heart rate never falter while I did ball taps and squats.  Your class was even on my mind in labor as I told my midwife between contractions, “this is harder than bootcamp!”

My midwife let me return to bootcamp at 2 ½ weeks postpartum, under her supervision.  My daughter was buried, my family had all left and my husband was back at work- I was alone and terrified of my grief.  In the initial days, I wouldn’t get out of bed, barely eating.  Going to bootcamp gave me a reason to get out of bed, brush my hair and eat breakfast.

Upon returning to my first class, I sat in the car crying until the last possible moment.  I was scared of the memories- being somewhere that I only knew in pregnancy, seeing people who might ask about my baby, unaware that she had died in my arms.  I made it in that day, as you know, and many days that followed.  That first day wasn’t the only day that saw tears.  The nice thing about bootcamp is I can’t make it through a class without a red face dripping with sweat- a nice camoflauge for the emotion that would spill out without warning. 

Bootcamp allowed me to step out of myself for a bit.  I took a momentary vacation from my sadness everytime I thought “only ten more seconds of climbers,” and sometimes I dove deeper into my grief, using my anger to push me further.

As you may have noticed, I come pretty much exclusively to your classes.  I found myself going almost exclusively to your classes, looking forward to the bubbliness and kindness you showed.  You didn’t treat me weird- you didn’t ignore the fact that I was back, no longer pregnant but childless, nor did you treat me like I had some sort of leprosy.  I was comfortable.  I was coming to your mid-morning classes (one that I dubbed the “mommy class” because of all the kid chatter that happens before warm up) and I could come alone- without the crutch of my friends from the earlier classes- because I knew you.  You knew my name from day one.

I often think that the person you see at bootcamp is not the “real” me, though I’m not so sure anymore.  There I know I am quiet and keep to myself. Other bootcamp-ers might even find me unfriendly, as I learn how to smile and make small talk again.  I might not show how much I enjoy being there and how much my body and mind need to be there.  This new timidity and shyness is a function of the “after.”  In my other life, the one “before” I carried a baby I knew might die, “before” I had to take my daughter off life support, “before” my world came to a halt, I was outgoing and friendly and would have told you all this in person.  I suppose that is why I am writing this.  All the times I have referred to “bootcamp” in writing this, I‘ve really been thinking of YOUR bootcamp.  I feel like I’m in AA, going back, making amends, thanking all those who have helped me on my journey.  I was procrastinating writing this because my journey is far from over, but a friend encouraged me to do it.

So in case I haven’t been vary clear… Thank you.  Thank you for your cheer, your motivation, for knowing my name, learning my story and welcoming me.  Thank you for giving me a temporary reprieve from and insight into my sorrow at the same time.  Thank you for making your class a warm place, full of exertion and encouragement.  You’ve helped me enormously.  You are an excellent trainer and wonderful person.

Thank you.

 

Who needs a baby shower?

This past weekend was supposed to be my baby shower.  It was going to be a really cool baby shower- a bit non-traditional.  It would be an evening shower at a local vintage clothing shop, with dress up games.  Unique.  Fun.  Totally me.

 

When we were first diagnosed with ologohydramnios, I had Chris put away all the baby stuff (what a sweet man).  I told my sister and my cousin not to send out invites for the shower.  Then two weeks later, after one ultrasound where the doctor said the lungs “didn’t look hypoplastic,” I started feeling a little more optimistic.  There was a moment or two that I thought maybe I could still have a shower?  Maybe?

 

After all our research and plan-making, it became clear to me that I didn’t think a baby shower was a good idea.  I can’t even look at baby stuff right now without a pit in my stomach.  I am so sad I’m not having a baby shower.  A shower makes my pregnancy real and a time for celebration.  Not having one makes me feel like my pregnancy is not valid or nonexistent even. It hurts.  Its my choice not to have one, but I hope people also recognize that I’m still pregnant and this baby is real.

 

My sister, who lives in California, was flying in anyways for a combo work-week in NYC and what was to be my baby shower this weekend.  Though no baby shower was on the agenda, she came up for the weekend anyways.  And she and my cousin reclaimed the day and took me to the spa instead.  If I couldn’t have a baby shower, the spa was truly the next best thing.

 

I felt truly spoiled- four treatments (pedicure, massage, facial, makeup) and lunch.  We spent the day sitting around in our bathrobes.  I seemed like I was busting out of my bathrobe, while my sister sat comfortably in hers.  I figured I am just more pregnant than she is (she’s due two months after me).  After my massage therapist tracked down a larger robe for me and we reassembled, we discovered that I had been in a regular bathrobe and my sister was in a 4XL.  Hah!

 

This is a very gracious thank you to the both of them.  My sister, pregnant herself, has been super supportive.  She calls when she knows I have ultrasounds.  She’s heard me cry over my fears- including ones from the beginning that seem small now.  She was very sensitive when telling me she was pregnant.  She told me in a way that allowed me to be happy for her and recognize that our experiences would be different. And that it might be hard for me at times because she is growing a healthy baby (thank goodness) and I am not.  I can not express how appreciative I was of simply how she told me.

 

My cousin, too, has been a big source of support.  From the beginning she has been unafraid to talk about whatever is happening with my pregnancy.  Some people hear Down Syndrome and don’t quite know what to say.  With the new diagnoses of oligohydramnios, kidney problems and potential lung problems, people are at a loss of how to respond.  Many try to give words of encouragement, which are so very well intentioned but often fall flat.  My cousin asks questions- which is helpful.  I usually just want to talk about things, to explain how hard this all is.  And she can take a step back when I’m sick of talking.  She has also been my backup ultrasound buddy.  My husband works an hour away from our ultrasounds, so coming to them all often entails taking a half day off of work.  We try to work around his schedule but with weekly ultrasounds in addition to meetings with specialists, sometimes it’s just not doable.  And I refuse to go to ultrasounds alone- just in case I get more bad news.  That’s where my cousin comes in.  She came for a follow-up ultrasound for the clubbed feet.  She was there at the ultrasound when the oligohydramnios was first discovered and came with me to the hospital while my husband drove to meet us.  She came with me last week and listened to me cry on the sidewalk afterwards.   She also lets me shower at her house after bootcamp in the morning (its my latest exercise/anxiety release. And I wouldn’t be able to do it if she didn’t live so close and let me mooch her hot water). Plus she brings me ice cream (the good kind) whenever there is a new complication (did I mention how much I like ice cream?)

 

So ladies, thank you.