Mother’s Day, take two

A long overdue post, but one still on my mind.

This Mother’s Day was different- gentler perhaps. I won’t deny that the growing life inside me has helped ease it, but truthfully, this Mother’s Day was still all about Mabel in my mind. She is the only child I have born, the one that has concretely, if not silently, made me a mother. Time too has eased the pain. Last year, Mother’s Day was still so fresh, less than three months after Mabel’s death, I wanted the freedom to sit and sulk all day. I was so afraid it would hurt. And last year it did hurt, but there was also a lot of beauty in it. I received a lot of love from so many people that the build up to the day was worse than the actual day itself.

This year, perhaps because of such a surprisingly good day last year, there was less build up. I panicked a bit thinking that no one would quite remember, but also knew it wouldn’t be as bad as if they hadn’t remembered the first year. My standing as a mother was no longer debatable in my mind. I think I was worried that Chris would forget.

Hah! I woke to him calling my name. At first I was a little annoyed- why was he waking me up on a day to sleep in? “What?” I croaked groggily, not hiding my grumpiness. I rolled over to see that he placed a tray next to me- breakfast in bed!

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And later he surprised me with an even better gift- he hired our wedding photographer to come take photos during our shower the next week, with a quick sneak away maternity photo shoot.

The gift might seem all about the baby I’m currently carrying, but it was all about Mabel, really. When we learned she had Down Syndrome, I was stricken by the fear that I would lose her through miscarriage or stillbirth, a 12-20% chance. I was terrified that photos of me pregnant would cause me pain later on. The fear deepened when we learned of her likely life limiting birth defects. I rarely let myself in front of a camera. It wasn’t until I had her and then lost her, that I realized how much I valued the few photos that showed my belly pregnant with Mabel. Those photos were part of the proof that she existed. That she was here. So a maternity photo shoot- something I might have thought was too cheesy for my liking otherwise- was actually the most thoughtful gift and tribute to Mabel. That man, my husband. ❤

I spent the day a bit like any other- happy to have a free day to clean, run errands and get my life together. An important part of the day was visiting Mabel- that little sweet thing that gave the day meaning. When we arrived at her tombstone, I was surprised to see that someone had planted some flowers for her.

Mabel's flowers

Mabel’s flowers

Oddly, I think it was a random act of kindness. There were some freshly planted flowers of the same variety and color along a grave one row up.

The grave with the same flowers

The grave with the same flowers

Unless someone I know takes claim for such a lovely deed, I envision the caregiver of that other adorned grave, looking over at Mabel’s stone, reading her name, her solitary date and seeing the engraving of her tiny footprints and deciding that she too needed a little special gift on that day. Maybe they even thought of the mother of that baby and how hard Mother’s Day must be for any woman who has had to bury her child.

How was this Mother’s Day for you?

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Sunday Synopsis

*potential tirgger* The nationwide superbowl commercial. I watched the superbowl over the internet where the commericals were different, so I didnt see this ad until I started reading about it on my facebook and blog feed.  I wonder how I would have felt if it suddenly came on, instead of having much preparation and nowing what I was about to watch.  There has been lots of talk about it- how it was a buzzkill, how it was a trigger and how it was validating, depending on the audience watching.  I’ve read a few good posts about it and here are some that resonate with me. This one and this one i thought were both good reads.

The saddest story Roald Dahl ever wrote.  I had no idea Roald Dahl was one of us, having experienced child loss.  This story came up in the midst of a rampant measles outbreak – and though I am strongly pro-vaccination, I am not intending to post this to start a conversation about vaccination.  Instead I post as one of those eye openign reads, where I realized our club is bigger than we know.  I have been reading (in warmer weather) The BFG by Roald Dahl (one of my favorite childhood books) to Mabel when I visit her grave, so learning of his loss seemed especially poignant.

Family begs for camera stolen with first and final moments of baby’s life-   Oh gosh, could you imagine? Some of us weren’t fortunate enough to get photos at all, and those of us who did (whether our own, hospital ones or professional ones) I’m sure could imagine what it would be like losing them.  I’ve actually thought about- what if our house goes up in flames- what would I save? Literally the first thing would be either my camera (with her photos still on it- I cant seem to erase them despite having downloaded them all) or her book and box.

Why your doctor is always late– I find this a fascinatingly accurate depiction of what my day is like.  For example, on friday I saw 26 patients. Whew!  I don’t have control over my schedule- dictating how long I get with each patient. I am a firm believer of giving each patient the time they need (within reason).  I also have a 15 minute rule- allowing pts some wiggle room to be late, but having them reschedule if they are beyond 15 min out of respect to my other pts.  Some pts need to be seen regardless (certain prenatals) and if they’re super late, I ask them to wait and I’ll work them in.  The take home message for this (for me, at least) is: I’m sooo sorry I’m running late- the reason I am is usually either because I’m trying to give good care, there was an emergency or because I had a pt late. I know from a pt perspective  it’s super frustrating to wait and I respect that.  It’s also super frustrating to us to be running late for your sake.  We are all frustrated with the system.

The story of the dad who accepts their baby with Down Syndrome, while the mom supposedly rejects him.  First read this article.  Then read the counter one.  I’m not sure what the whole story is, but what seems to be true is that this couple had a baby who was given the diagnosis of Down Syndrome at birth and it caused a bit of a rift between the couple.  Armenia doesn’t have good support (socially or structurally) for children with Down Syndrome.  I want to villify the mom and make the dad the hero, but I can’t totally commit to it because it’s very hard to get that diagnosis at birth, especially in a country that is not accepting.  If the story hadnt gone viral, would the couple have worked things out?  Who knows.  But I do appreciate how it is in a way giving positive attention to children with Down Syndrome.

Day 25: Mother Earth

The prompt said to plant something, as an act of remembrance, allowing our children’s memory to grow over time.  But it’s October where I live, which translates into a cool New England autumn- not exactly planting season.  I have planted a garden in my backyard, a little plot that bears her name, filled will colorful flowers by our white fence.  I dug up, tilled and planted a veggie garden in my grief, another piece of land that will forever remind me of my daughter.

Since it’s saturday- our usual Mabel’s visiting day- when I picked up some flowers on the way home from work, I grabbed two bouquets.  When we arrived at the cemetery, we placed the colorful bunch of mini roses by Mabel’s grave and then wandered around the cemetery with the other bouquet- this one an orange one, the color of carrots.  We sought out headstones with specific dates- short intervals, or sometimes just one date.  Often it was one name carved in a stone meant for three that caught our eyes.  We were looking for children.  When we found such tombstones, we placed a stem of roses- a gift from Mabel to them.  Though it may not be planting anything, we remembered them today- acknowledging their short lives, giving them a gift from mother earth, letting them know that they are remembered.

#CaptureYourGrief

Mabel's roses

Mabel’s roses

One name on a headstone meant for three.  Her parents outlived her.

One name on a headstone meant for three. Her parents outlived her.

So many kids, so young

So many kids, so young

I know this child... sort of.  I say her name every day when I counsel patients about cord blood banking.  Her parents started a nonprofit in her name to benefit those who need stem cells

I know this child… sort of. I say her name every day when I counsel patients about cord blood banking. Her parents started a nonprofit in her name to benefit those who need stem cells

Mabel's neighbor, a three day old baby.  Sad that she's here too, but grateful Mabel has company.

Mabel’s neighbor, a three day old baby. Sad that she’s here too, but grateful Mabel has company.

The kids graves often stand apart for all their beautiful decorations

The kids graves often stand apart for all their beautiful decorations

A child clearly very remembered by friends and family.  Thought she could use one more person thinking of her

A child clearly very remembered by friends and family. Thought she could use one more person thinking of her

This one stood out- Mabel too had congenital heart defects, though it was her kidney/lung combo that limited her life.

This one stood out- Mabel too had congenital heart defects, though it was her kidney/lung combo that limited her life.

Only one date on this stone, like Mabel's.

Only one date on this stone, like Mabel’s.

Day 14: Dark/Light

FInding photos of the “light” side of grief was hard at first.  I looked back on pictures I had taken since February- weddings, roadtrips, puppies- and saw no “light ” side of grief.  All I saw were moments of levity despite my grief. I had fun, but it was a different kind of fun- a fake fun, almost.  I eventually stumbled upon some photos that warmed me.

The flower that shares the name of my friend's daughter.

The flower that shares the name of my friend’s daughter.

Photo of lunch I had with a friend.

Photo of lunch I had with a friend.

 

The name of a friend's son.

The name of a friend’s son.

The mass card for a friend's baby.

The mass card for a friend’s baby.

These are all reminders of people I have gotten to know.  The best I can come to the light in my grief is having people to share it with, to not walk this path alone.

The dark…also hard to find photos of the dark side of grief.  I’m not in the business of making visual memories of my saddest self.  At one of my midwife meetings, we wrote up our own name tags when we arrived.  When my pen found the paper I ended up writing this:

My nametag.

My nametag.

I then tucked it into my bag and wrote one with my name on it. But this is the dark side of grief- walking around all day with the invisible nametag.

#CaptureYourGrief

 

 

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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Day 3- Before

Before….. I’d hold babies without a second thought.  I’d yearn to hold them. I was a natural!  Before my my arms were forever tattooed with the mark of my dead daughter.

Holding my baby as I felt the life slip from her has changed me.  Holding my baby, feeling her weight change, get heavier as her skin fell from warm to cold and feeling her weight shift, the muscle tone no longer able support her limp body, has colored my experience of holding babies now.

Before… I held babies.

 

Day 3- Before

Day 3- Before

 

#captureyourgrief