Monday, June 20, 2011

6 months and counting...

Yesterday marked the 6 month, anniversary if you will, of my daughter's death.  That is if the 19th was the actual day of her death.  Actually, we know for certain it was not the 19th, that was just the date in which they delivered her from my womb.  She actually passed sometime on December 18th.  But, regardless of semantics, it has been 6 months.

I spent a lot of time thinking yesterday about the length of time 6 months is.  I thought about how in some instances, people can meet, fall in love and plan a lifetime together.  In 6 months, a woman can conceive, learn she is pregnant and give birth to a baby, who, while born premature, can live and grow into a perfectly healthy person.  In 6 months, someone else may find out they are sick with a terminal illness and have to come to terms with their mortality. They will have to grieve the lose of their own life, make preparations for their own death, console those around them, and ultimately die; all in 6 months.  Six months, it isn't a long time in the grand scheme of things, but for some, 6 months is long enough to change their lives, their world forever.

In my case 6 months has been almost like time standing still.  Oh, the time has passed.  I look at the pictures of my son at Christmas time and look at him now, and boy has he grown.  How it happened I don't know.  Before my eyes I suppose, although I don't recall it.  My husband completed his degree in these past 6 months.  Close friends have had their prayers answered and have been blessed with joyful news they are expecting.  I have been to weddings, christenings, communions, graduations and all sorts of noteworthy milestone events in the past 6 months.  But, still it is hard for me to recognize that 6 months has past.  In many ways I am in the same place I was on December 18, 2010... in disbelief.

I guess, if I had to explain the most unexpected thing about this situation, for me, is the static.  You know the sound of white noise that can hum constantly but still not affect you doing whatever it is you're doing.  That is what losing my daughter has been like for me.  It is always there.  You may not hear it, or notice it, but I do, constantly. I am always aware, I am different.  I am always aware she is not here and my family is one short.  It never changes.  It is always there, buzzing in the back of my mind in every minute of everyday and with me no matter the activity I am involved in. 

I know people have told me time helps.  I don't believe that to be true.  How can time help? It is not going to bring my daughter back to me.  Whether it be 6 months, 6 years or 60 years, I will always be a bereaved parent.  I am not going to forget her, miss her less or be okay with what happened.  Those of you who know me, know I am not in a 'bad' place, on the contrary, I am actually in a good place with her passing.  I am! I don't think time is going to put me in a better place.  I am comfortable with my relationship with God and my religion. I am confident in my ability to be self aware.  So, I don't think this is an issue of which I need to evolve in any way.  I think it is the simple reality of it is never going to change.  Could you imagine? Think of the most difficult, challenging times of your life.  I have had them.  You are in crisis, you are confused, you are hurt, you are overwhelmed, whatever it is.  But think about the cycle you have gone through to get past that crisis, challenge, whatever.  You have intense moments and days maybe even weeks.  But eventually, you work through it.  You resolve it. You finish the project. You change the relationship. You find a new job.  You settle in to your home.  Whatever it is you get pass it, and in years from now it is a memory of something tough you got through.  People who lose children never get to that other side.  There is no resolution.  Because it is not natural to bury your child.  So we can't feel good or okay with it.  We can move on, we can cope, we can function, but that static is always there.

In closing this blog entry, I want to take a moment to thank everyone who has prayed for us, wrote to us, called us, lit a candle for us, and most of all loved us.  Thank you so much for being there, your kind words and gestures, even the ones done in silence are felt deep in our hearts.  Thank you for supporting me by reading this blog, and sharing it with your families and friends. And to my dear Gabriella, I love you, I miss you and I will never forget you.  To my beautiful son Dominic, thank you for being a constant reminder why life here on earth is wonderful.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Emotional Reading

I have been reading a lot lately... well a lot for me. And I don't know if it is helping or hurting.  On one hand I am happy to see that there are others I can relate with.  On the other, the pain of irritating the wound is great.  I have never cried while reading a book before, until last night. 

I am delicate and fragile lately.  I am feeling lonely, sad and isolated.  I am feeling the burn of the pain each and every day the past weeks.  And yet still, the vail of disbelief has not entirely lifted.  I still can not believe this happened, and happened to me.  Despite the physical scar, the many trips to the cemetery, and the hours spent there, it seems unreal and dream like.  To look at her picture, is to look at a dream that once was.  And as much as she feels like a part of me, I feel a distance and an absence.  Is she mine? Did she exist? I know in my mind that she was and she did.  But, the reality is my life is not rule entirely by logic.  The emotional and abstract part of my being, the same side that make me care deeply for those I love, simply can not believe, or perhaps except, this has happened.  My daughter is gone before I even had her.  Had I known, I would have consciencely cherished those 33 weeks that we did have. 

Now, a new challenge, moving on.  Not with 'life', but our family.  Where do we go from here? The decision to have or not have more children is a tough one.  I feel like I am on a teeter-totter, going back and forth on how to proceed. And that is just how I feel.  There is another component to the equation, Thad.  I image in the come months, this will be the new challenge we will face. And I will have to figure out, do I try again?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Prayer for the Unborn

There are a couple of women in my life who have been trying to have a baby and have had a hard road.  Both are in a waiting for their little ones patiently.  And currently are close to having their dreams of a family come true.  Please help me pray for them!

"Lord, please be with these women as they work to nourish their bodies and their unborn children.  Allow the spirit reside in their womb to grow into a healthy baby.  Allow these children to get to know their parents on this earth, and give their parents the strength and patience they need while they wait for their prayers to be answered.  I pray for this in the name of your son Jesus Christ. Amen"

Please feel free to post your individual prayers for these women who will remain anonymous for now, so that they can see the love you have for them, their unborn children and the power of prayer.  Thank you!

Friday, June 3, 2011

An Empty Womb

Going to the Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor, for a preconception consultation, was not something I was looking forward to in general. And I have heard people say that anticipation of things sometimes is worse than the actual event.  I wish I could say that was true for me. 

As if going to the doctor to review autopsy results, blood work, cultures and to map out a plan for a future pregnancy wasn't emotionally trying enough, I had the pleasure of sitting in a waiting room of blossoming pregnant women for over 2 hours.  Typically seeing a pregnant woman is not an emotionally overwhelming thing for me.  But, in this case, it was much different.  I was back in the place where I last saw my daughter alive.  Needless to say, the experience was emotional. 

I did my best sitting in the waiting room to keep to myself and not engage anyone in conversation.  Frankly, I didn't want to hear about their babies and I didn't want to share with them why I was there.  It is obvious I am not pregnant, so I am sure the subject would come up.  I sat there with my husband, and for the first time ever I was so happy he had solitaire downloaded to his cell phone.  I kept my head down and played the game, and as redundant as it was, I was happy to have the distraction. 

Finally, after over an hour of waiting, I was called in the back.  The person who called me back I knew too well, although she didn't remember me. She was the ultrasound tech who preformed my previous ultrasounds, and opened the window into my womb so that we could see our little girl.  As we walked to the back and in to the room, I wanted to know where the doctor was and why I was to have an ultrasound.  I had not anticipated having one, and I wasn't sure why it was necessary.  She explained it is their protocol. They want to make sure everything inside was in shape and ready to carry another baby.

I didn't put much thought into it, and proceeded with the procedure.  My pants were lowered far below my belly around my hips and she applied the ultrasound gel.  It was a familiar process, although I had never done this without being pregnant.  It wasn't until she put the wand on my abdomen that I realized this was going to be very different.  As the window into my womb opened, the sight was not one I was familiar with.  It was empty. There was no baby and for me, there was no reason to smile.  Instead the tears started to fall quietly down the sides of my face as the reality that my dear, sweet baby wasn't there and I wasn't to see her.  It was a different sight, one I didn't recognize; an empty womb. I tried to remain strong but,  I hated being there. I hated feeling this way. But most of all, I hated that my baby was gone.

The rest of the visit, and the consultation with the doctor only got worse.  In order to get through it, I put myself in a different place, and had to turn off my heart and emotions.  I had to do something I hadn't done in months, I told the story of what happened, start to finish.  I was not prepared to do that.  I expected to have her talk to me. I expected her to review and interpret the results of the blood work and the medical records from my days in the hospital.  Once again, the reality settled in a little deep into my soul, this is happening and it did happen to me.  I couldn't help but be apologetic for my lack of emotion.  I tried to stick to the facts.  Doctors like facts.  Emotions were not going to get me to the answers I have been seeking.  So I had to turn them off in order to get through it.  Sometime half way into 'the story', I realized my husband was beside me.  I had blocked everything out and had some type of tunnel vision, that the fact he was physically less than a foot to my left completely escaped me.  I thought with a quick realization, he may be in pain too.  He was too reliving this nightmare.  And I felt bad for him.  I felt bad he had to hear it again.  But, I didn't have a choice, the doctor needed the details, and we were hoping for answers.  So I quickly regained my focus and  entered my tunnel and continued delivering the facts. 

When I was done, she asked if I was okay.  What was I left to say but, yes.  I told her I would break down later.  And that is when I realized I am not okay.  Nothing about this is okay.  I am not okay with living this life.  But, I am left with no choice, this is what I have been given.  Rather than getting easier as so many people have promised, it is getting harder.  It is not fading, and the truth is becoming more, and more real.  Going to discuss how it happened and how my future pregnancy will be different and what I will need to do prior to getting pregnant and during the pregnancy, only make the wound in my heart bleed.  Having a baby is suppose to be a joyful and wonderful experience.  For me, I never saw it a a calculated and artificial process.  It should be natural and beautiful; a true expression of love and faith.  Now I feel I am being put under a microscope and much like the slide being viewed, I am being compressed, and the weigh baring down.  Weight of the the decisions to come is heavy burden.

I want to just say screw it. I am not going for more tests. I am not going to more doctors. I am not going to wait to get pregnant and move forward naturally as the brave women centuries ago did.  But, I instead feel a responsibility to do everything in my power to avoid a repeat, even though my heart tells me that it won't happen.  The see-saw between heart and mind, is something I struggle with.  I am not sure how I will proceed although I believe the sensible side of me will prevail.  In the meantime, I will just try to do the one thing I have been striving to do from the beginning... just be.

The Furniture

I grew up with a set of furniture.  This furniture I vividly remember as a little girl and into my adolescent and adulthood. Over the years, I grew attached to this set of furniture.  It is a white wash, with a polish finished, with etching around the doors and simple daisy like flowers accenting the edges.  At one point pink paint was applied to the etching and making the furniture even more feminine.  A few years back my mother had made mention of selling the set or getting rid of it.  I asked her not to; I wanted to keep it in the event one day I had a little girl.  I wanted her to have this furniture.Well, as we well know, I had my little girl.  Unfortunately the furniture remains in the basement as storage for random sheets, and winter apparel. 

I haven't really thought about the furniture until today.  Lately, Dominic and Thad like to play downstairs in that room and watch movies.  Thad set up a DVD player down there, so even though there is no cable down there, he can relax in the notoriously comfortable, fluffy bed.  This morning, I brought Dominic down there for a change of pace.  He loved it.  He played, helped me with laundry and eventually I popped in the movie Monsters Inc., his favorite. We both crawled into the comfy bed and laid back and watched.  He ate his freeze dried apples and giggled at his favorite parts of the movie.  It amazes me how a 19 month old, can know how to giggle, and determine when a movie is funny, unprovoked.  After making a mess with the apple chips, he settled in even more and cozied up next to me.  He molded himself into me and the pillows I set up to support us.  Oh what a feeling! Amazing! I have waited for this moment for so long, my whole life really.  To snuggle with a small child, but, not any small child, MY child!  It was the best feeling in the whole world.  It was a notable moment. At times like this in my life, I take moment to take a mental and emotional snapshot, breathe in the moment and the feelings. I burn it into my brain and soul. With an exhale, my body and mind relaxed in the moment, sinking deeper into the pillows.  While I was making my mental note in my mind to never forget this moment, I noticed the furniture.

I was not bothered by the furniture after losing Gabriella.  I was not sad to see it, or that I had held on to it all these years.  I was only sad that my little girl would not be able to enjoy it.  That her childhood memories would not bring her back to her room, where that furniture would be the anchor.  Remembering the stuffed animals and collectibles she would place on it, and how over the years the stuffed animals would give way to teenage mementos and pictures.  I realized my daughter would not have such memories.  But, even more significant, I realized I wouldn't have those memories either.  If the furniture were to have feelings, I would imagine it would feel sad and lonely not to be able to fulfill its destiny.  For a brief moment, I thought, maybe I will have another daughter and she will enjoy the furniture.  But, to be honest, I don't think that will be the case.  I don't think I will ever have another daughter.  I have a daughter, one who will never leave my side. 

So, I thought, what is to become of this furniture? Maybe Dominic could use it.  Then quickly I realized the pink and flowers.  I pressed the thought and considered painting it blue.  But, no, it isn't right.  That is not what this furniture was meant for.  Maybe my sister will have a daughter and she can use it. I don't know.  I just know in one of my greatest moments of joy, the sharpness of my loss is there. It seems to loom at every turn.  I now realize I will never forget that moment.  I will always remember my little boy snuggling, pressed against me and the peace I felt.  I will also remember my daughter in that moment.  While furniture was a physical reminder of what I lost, on the other side of the coin my daughter was there.  She presents herself in the most subtle of ways.  But, she is there.  While in the moment I recognized the sadness, I now realize as I sit here and write, that she was there, with us in the moment, enjoying it.  The furniture, which has been down in that room all this time, never spoke to me before.  Why today, why now? Because this was the time I needed to see it and remember Gabriella.  This was my moment to enjoy my children.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Heaven is for Real

If you are so inclined, I would recommend you pick up the book and read it this summer. 
Heaven Is for Real is the true story of the four-year old son of a small town Nebraska pastor who during emergency surgery slips from consciousness and enters heaven. He survives and begins talking about being able to look down and see the doctor operating and his dad praying in the waiting room. The family didn't know what to believe but soon the evidence was clear.
Colton said he met his miscarried sister, whom no one had told him about, and his great grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born, then shared impossible-to-know details about each. He describes the horse that only Jesus could ride, about how "reaaally big" God and his chair are, and how the Holy Spirit "shoots down power" from heaven to help us.

Told by the father, but often in Colton's own words, the disarmingly simple message is heaven is a real place, Jesus really loves children, and be ready, there is a coming last battle.

Reading is really not my thing.  I wish I could say, I love to read, but, I don't.  I am not one to cozy up with a 'good book'.  However, the books I have read and enjoyed in the past, have been non-fiction.  I rather read about something real and something I can learn from.  If I am looking to be entertained with fiction, I'll watch a movie.  Not to put down literature, I believe the ability to write a book is amazing... Even more amazing to me, are the people who 'love' to read them.  I honestly wish I had that gift and desire.

Nonetheless, from time to time, I am presented with a book that does peek my interest.  This time it was a book named, Heaven is for Real, by Todd Burpo.  Thad's cousin, Elizabeth, gave it to me during our visit to West Virginia.  First, I have to say Elizabeth is so special to me.  From our first phone call 5 years ago, I liked her, we bonded.  In the years that have passed, I have come to love her, respect her, and care for her deeply.  So when she suggested this book, I listened.  Bare in mind, many books have been pushed in my direction since I lost my daughter.  I have not read any of them.  This time it was different.  Elizabeth suggested it. Elizabeth and I, have not only a friendship and sisterhood, we share a common faith in Jesus. One we share with each other openly.  She is one of the few people I sit with and have a heart to heart about religion.  The topic of religion has become such a taboo topic.  It is refreshing to be open with someone with my thoughts and feelings on the topic.  It is provoking and it is fulfilling.  So right off the bat, Heaven is for Real, sounded like something I would be interested in.  Elizabeth liked the book why wouldn't I? Beside it is a true story!  Two step in the right direction in my opinion. 

I read this book in 3 sittings.  3! Unheard of in my world.  I have to say, I liked the book.  I could relate to it.  I could see myself in this book, especially the epilogue.  I thought, "I am not alone."  Other people can see the good in the bad.  Thank God! I needed this message.  God put this book in my hands.  I needed to know my daughter is alright.  I needed to feel a kinship to someone who is not downtrodden from tragic circumstances, even if it is someone I don't know.  I am grateful and happy to have had to opportunity to read this book.  And while I read most of it during the 4 hours I spent at the cardiologists office the other day, I am also thankful for that absurdly long waiting time between procedures. Mostly I am thankful for Elizabeth's openness and honestly and for her recommendation! Thank you!

If you are so inclined, I would recommend you pick up the book and read it this summer.