A Different Photoo

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I have been sending out Christmas cards since the first year Ger and I were married (so that was 11 Christmases ago…)  I have a large, black wire card tree that lovingly holds all of the cards we receive in return.  By the end of the season, my tree is full and I feel that my heart is also full to have so many wonderful people in our lives. Continue reading

Describe Family

I have words to describe my family members. Ger is steady, logical, my constant. Theo is inquisitive, my inventor, and always wants to please. Quentin is spunky, creative and determined. How do I describe the babies I never met? Generically, like precious or sweet? I can only say that they were mine. My babies. Continue reading

Facing Fears

 

“Being brave isn’t the absence of fear. Being brave is having that fear but finding a way through it.” —Bear Grylls

A day of happiness for others is often intermingled with grief for me. So it was for my sister’s wedding.

I had a lot of anxiety about the ceremony, knowing the timing of the day versus the point in pregnancy. Even before pregnant I had anxiety around the date, knowing where I could be by the time April rolled around.  There was the pragmatic decision around what bridesmaid dress to wear, and I had two planned: one for being pregnant, and one if I was no longer pregnant. About two weeks before, I bought a third dress: maternity, that would display the tattoo on my back.

In the days after we arrived in my hometown, where the ceremony was to be held, I was frequently using my at-home heart rate monitor to listen for the baby. As we grew closer and were counting down the remaining hours, with thoughts of “nothing can go wrong at this point” I still thought “Me. I could go wrong. I could not find a heartbeat and immediately need to go to the emergency room.” Of course this has all been further compounded by the anterior placenta and lack of movement. I can only really feel when I lie quietly in my back in bed, and lying down all day was not exactly an option.

I had anticipatory stress the night before. Nothing to do with standing in front of people or my matron of honor speech or the day’s activities. I was stressed about what people might say to me, and what I might say in response. Stressed about triggers that might make me upset. I barely slept as the scenarios played out over and over in my mind. Muscles aching from a lack of my comfortable pillows to position my shape while I tried to sleep.

I feared the photos. Hundreds of images captured by the photographer and guests that I would never be able to erase if something happened. A friend who lost her son after being pregnant with him while a wedding told me that it was a way for him to be there: those are the only family photos in which he would ever be included. A different perspective.

During the short ceremony I had a moment where I had to work hard to fight back tears. My aunt was reading a poem with the words:

Today when someone you love has died
     or someone you never met has died
Today when someone you love has been born
     or someone you will not meet has been born….
Today when someone sits long inside his last sorrow
Today when someone steps into the heat of her first embrace
Today, let this light bless you
-Jane Hirschman, from ‘A Blessing for Wedding’
The reception seemed to be a never-ending parade of “When are you due?” and “How are you feeling?” Due in mid-August, sometimes appended with “if I make it that far.” Ger faced similar questions, questions he later said he wished he didn’t have to answer. “Physically feeling fine” was all I could muster, specific only to the concrete attributes. I gave that response once before: at a gathering when I was pregnant with Iris and wrought with anxiety. Physically fine, leaving unanswered “emotionally a mess.” Iris was gone about a week later. Further along now, excitement from others poured over and over me, and it made me upset.

A day marked by watching other pregnant women at the reception, laughing, dancing, even enjoying a few sips of wine while I hung back, feeling forlorn, and then feeling guilty over my inability to enjoy myself. Envious and bitter at their ease. My only goal was to hold it together, focus on myself, so as not to draw the focus of others.

After spending the last few days marked by my obvious pregnancy, the day after I felt decidedly not pregnant. No kicks or jabs to remind me. Just a tired face and tangled hair from the day’s celebration.

And now, after the wedding, a turned corner: reaching 24 weeks of pregnancy, a medical milestone in itself. The brink of viability. I found myself reading articles about babies born at 24 weeks who survive. Every week, the odds get better. That’s assuming that there is some sort of outward sign that delivery is needed, and not the random stopping of a beating heart.

Family Tradition

Last year, I started a new tradition, in a conscious/unconscious way with our Halloween pumpkins.

Several years ago, I began to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project.  A pumpkin outside of our house is painted teal, to make kids with food allergies aware that our house has non-food treats.  I put a sign on our door about the Teal Pumpkin Project, to bring awareness to it, and have handed out Halloween pencils for years instead of candy.  The first year, I actually had teal paint and painted a pumpkin.  Last year, I was given some blue-ish pumpkins by my aunt so they served the purpose. Continue reading

The Ocean

“Grief is like the ocean, it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing.  Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming.  All we can do is learn to swim.”  -Vicki Harrison

One year ago today, I was looking at the ocean.

We were in Hawaii, celebrating the marriage of my uncles.  I was 10 weeks pregnant with Nelle.  I announced upon our arrival to our family present that we were having a baby girl.  In the morning, discombobulated by the time zone change, we walked along the beach and watched the sun rise over the ocean.  Later that day, I swam in the ocean for the first time, maternity suit flowing around my swelling abdomen.

A year ago, I never could have imagined that I would be here right now.  I would have thought that I would be holding a five-month-old baby.  I never thought that the vacation of our dreams would now be a reminder of where I was then, and where I am now.  I can’t escape it.  Every photo bears the signs of my pregnancy, hidden under the clothes I carefully chose.

I read an article recently about the misconceptions of grieving in western culture.  One expectation was: the grieving need about a year to heal.  Nelle was born on September 4, so here I am, not even 10 months past that first staggering loss.  The article also said: People say year two is harder than year one. There is the shock, end of life arrangements and other business matters that often consume the first year and the grieving do not have the time actually to sit back and take the time to grieve.  While pregnancy loss is very different in the “business matters” sense, I am hitting those “memories” entering of “where I was a year ago” that are not constantly invading my space.

A year ago,  I was looking at the ocean.  Now I am learning to stay afloat in the ocean of grief.

Grief is like the rain.  Soft.  Hard.  Warm.  Cold.  Sometimes torrential and unrelenting.  Sometimes so furious that we cannot see through the downpour.  Sometimes it brings hail.  Pelting, it causes permanent indentations in metal.  We stay inside and watch the damaging shards of ice.

Sometimes it turns to snow, icy and unforgiving.

Sometimes it is light and warm, a gentle reminder that it is necessary to grow.

A little fall of rain
Can hardly hurt me now
…And rain will make the flowers grow.
-From Les Miserables