My body cries…

As part of my new part time job, I do outreach on pregnancy and infant loss.  The non profit I work for has three main areas of focus- support, offering peer led support groups for those who have lost a pregnancy or infant, burial/cremation financial assistance, for those who need financial help to lay their child to rest and outreach and education, for medical professionals and other interested parties learning about perinatal loss.  The outreach is my favorite part of my job. I love being a teacher.  I’ve done lots of teaching in the midwifery world, mostly clinically educating student midwives.  I even daydream that someday I’ll give all this up and go back to school to become a elementary or high school teacher.  The outreach I do for the non profit allows me to be a teacher.
Recently I was doing a three hour presentation to another organization, training them about perinatal bereavement.  I spent the time talking about grief and how to be a good caregiver, how to “be with” the bereaved.  We did some interactive activities, watched some video clips and had a parent panel. At the end of the presentation, after I had shared my story as part of the parent panel, I looked down at my shirt and noticed a dark stain.
I had leaked.
I had pumped a few minutes before we started and have not needed breast pads in a few months.  I was slightly embarrassed at first, but then figured I was among women (though I forgot at the time I was being videotaped!)
I have been mulling over this event again and again and can’t help but smile, knowing my baby and my  body are still so intertwined.  I can now speak of Mabel without tears, but my body still cries for her.

at the dog park

At the dog park, we watch our dogs run around and play together.  We refer to each other in relation to our pets.  “I’m Muppet’s mom.” and “Oliver’s mom brought dog toys.”  We swap names of groomers, complain about those who don’t clean up after their dogs and laugh our dogs romp around.  Occasionally, the conversation turns to life outside of our dogs.  Bringing Felix to the park often invites this kind of conversation.  Today, I had the same question, but different conversations.

_____

“He’s been cranky all day, which is not easy when I work from home!” I shared when someone asked about the little guyI was wearing in the baby bjorn.

“What do you do for work?”

I explained about my two jobs- I work part time as a midwife and part time for a non profit. Usually people, especially other women, pounce on the midwifery as an area of interest.  But this time it was different.

“What non profit?”

“Hope After Loss- we support the pregnancy and infant loss community. We run support groups, do outreach and give financial support for burial and cremation.”

“Oh….” the light hearted tone of the conversation had changed.  A beat later, the lightness returned as she changed the subject. “How was your labor with him?” she asked, nodding toward Felix.

“Hah! That’s a story!”

“Oh, was it long?”

“Oh no, it was super quick,” I said as I gave her the breakdown of how after a fifteen minute labor he was born into my hands over the toilet.

“Wow! And he’s you’re first!?” she said questioningly.

“My second, that’s why he came so fast.”

“How old’s your first?”

“She would have been 20 months…” I could see the confusion in her face as she tried to understand the past tense.  “But she died.”

Her face fell as she struggled to comprehend. “Oh I”m so sorry… She lived for 20 months?”

“No, she lived for six hours.”

“I’m so sorry,” she repeated, looking distressed.

“Thank you.  I like talking about her,” I reassured her.  Then followed a short conversation about my daughter.  It felt good to be open and honest.

As we wrapped up the details of Mabel’s birth and death, she looked at Felix in the baby carrier and said “at least you have him now.”  Looking for the silver lining in the death of a baby.

I kissed my son on his head and said “Yes, I am so grateful to have him.  But I miss his sister still.”

________

“Is he your first?”

“My second.”

“Oh, well then you know what you’re in for!” she said with a smile.

“Nope.  No I don’t.” Except I didn’t say that.  I thought it.  I thought about saying it, especially after the previous conversation I had. But I didn’t.  There’s just a split second I have to make the decision, whether I tell her.  I spent that split second thinking and not speaking and the moment was over.  Sometimes I wonder what the conversation would have been like had I spoke.  It’s just so much easier to answer direct questions rather than volunteering the information.

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.

Work update!

I have a new job!

I still have my old job too.

Since I returned to work I’ve been seeing patients in the office 4 days a week, the fifth day is a day of appointments- therapist, chiropractor, acupuncture and general mental well being. I took a significant pay cut to work this schedule, one that kept me out of the hospital, and I am thankful that my practice was able and willing to accommodate me. But the “(when) will I go back to births” question always hung over my head. When I first asked to be an office-only midwife, I left the door open to return to birth, but with no time line. I still like having that option, but my practice needed something a little more definite. I honestly thought I’d be back by the holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) so I could repay my co-midwives for unexpected holiday time they put in for me last year. But I soon realized that goal was unrealistic. It caused me a lot of stress to even hear my co-midwives even talk about holidays and schedule, knowing they had more to do because of my absence from the hospital. When the topic came up at our winter midwife meeting, I conveniently had to use the bathroom at that moment. In addition, my practice wanted to know whether they should hire another midwife to replace me or if I’d be back soon. Well I finally was able to give them an answer.

As of April first I took on a part time position as Program Director for Hope After Loss, my local non profit helping those who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss. The organization runs peer-led pregnancy and infant loss support groups in four towns, does outreach and education to hospitals, medical providers and anyone who asks, and provides burial or cremation financial assistance to those who cannot afford it for their babies.

Taking on this new position means I plan to remain in the same capacity at my other midwife job- no call. I gave them the go-ahead. Hire another midwife! Takes a huge burden of guilt off my shoulders. I know my colleagues are sad to hear I’m not doing birth in the near future and I’m sad too- there are some things I miss about it, certainly the hospital staff I almost never see anymore! But I know I’m not ready. Some may call it avoidance, but I call it self-preservation. I need to still work on enjoying midwifery in the office and finding fulfillment there before I can return to joyful birth in a place that holds so many memories for me.

This wonderful new part time position has kept me a busy bee these past few weeks, hence my absence from the blogosphere.  But my dear friends, I have missed you!  And I”m trying to be back.  I have much to tell.

My 35th Birthday

My birthday was last week. I turned 35.

I used to be all about birthdays.  As someone who chose a career that plays such an integral part in birth-days, and who even started a non profit centered around birthday celebrations, I can say I really did find people’s birthdays very meaningful. It was the one day of the year, where we exclusively celebrate someone’s life- we show our delight and appreciation that this person is in our life and has lived another year. Sure, we should be doing this throughout the year (kind of like Valentine’s Day- we should be celebrating our loved ones every day, not just on the commercial day), but there is some fun in make a big hoopla about someone on their birthday.

Last year I celebrated my birthday in the hospital. It was still a joyous time. I still had some hope- the reality of a dead baby hadn’t hit yet. After Mabel died, I pretty much stopped with the birthday hoopla. My birthday non profit went on hiatus (for other reasons as well). I stopped doing call- being such an intimate part of a baby’s birth-day. I stopped posting cute facebook messages on people’s birthdays. In fact, I barely recognized anyone’s birthday. And for those reading, who did not get the usual birthday love from me this year, I am sorry. I thought of you but could not write the words. The celebration has been sucked out of me.

So this year, my first birthday since Mabel died, I wasn’t particularly excited for my birthday. I wasn’t dreading it- it just simply seemed another day. Chris is away on business, which also took the kabash out of it. I filled the day with work and appointments and had a very nice dinner out with friends. But the reality is, my birthday came and went, seemingly uneventfully, and now I am one day closer to my daughter’s birthday (or death day?). Our birthdays being so close feels like my birthday will always be a reminder of what day is to come next. I’m not sure if I’ll ever feel like truly celebrating knowing what happened a little over week after my 34th birthday.

But it’s ok. Because it’s really just another day.

How have your birthdays been since your loss?

A Very Merry Birthday

Three years ago I organized a group of my friends to “adopt a family” for Christmas.  We bought toys and gifts for a single mom and her son who were in need. One of my friends asked me afterwards, “if they can’t afford Christmas presents, what happens at their birthdays?”  I knew of many programs in the community that help struggling families, but I had no answer to her question.  We spent the next year creating our own non-profit to address such a need.  A Very Merry Birthday was born.  We matched a child at the local Boys & Girls club with a volunteer, or “Birthday Hero” who would buy that child gifts and a cake.  The goal was for the child to take the gifts and cake home to celebrate with her family, promoting togetherness.

I love birthdays; I think they’re kind of a big deal.  I always throw myself a big party to celebrate mine.  My family still exchanges gifts on each other’s birthdays even though we are now all adults.  I love getting other people gifts, especially if they are well thought out.  I may be a little late in getting gifts to their recipients (sorry mom, it’s coming), but I come through.  I always gave a good birthday wish to anyone on facebook who had a birthday.  For our wedding we did a charity fundraiser and names A Very Merry Birthday as one of the charities and raised thousands of dollars.  Because every child deserves a birthday.

Mabel had a birthday but it was also her death day.  I am still having trouble digging deep and finding those celebratory feelings for others.  No more facebook posts wishing others happy birthday.  I still get gifts for my family, but I’m a whole lot slower.

The nonprofit I started with my friend is on hiatus.  She valiantly took over the whole thing in December when Mabel was diagnosed with a poor prognosis.  I’m so grateful she was able to see the school year to completion- it was a lot of work for the two of us, I can only imagine how she managed on her own.  We are taking a break as we figure out the future of our organization.  The idea of helping other kids celebrate their birthdays while Mabel never will is a little painful.  I’m working hard on myself and trying to learn how midwife again in the face of my loss, I don’t have much left to give at the end of the day.  So for now, A Very Merry Birthday sleeps.  Our motto, Every Child Deserves a Birthday, has never rung truer.  My child deserves a birthday, too.