Sunday, July 31, 2011

I Walk A Little Slower

I didn't realize that losing Gabriella has effected my overall prospective on life and what I place importance on, as much as it did.  Going to spend the night in New York City really brought this change to my attention. I'm in no rush. I don't care to walk fast, think fast or even talk fast. While I respect that people hustle through most of their day, I have no desire to do that.  My attitude is, I get there when I get there.

While walking through Penn Station, the subway and the streets of New York, I could feel an almost outer body experience.  There was all these people around me, hurrying, and I felt like I was floating along a street level cloud.  No one seemed to see me, but I saw everyone.  I took the time to see them.  The busy New Yorkers, the commuters, the tourists, even the babies.  I found myself wanting to engage people in idle chit chat.  I wanted to yield to the rushed person in Zabar's and make their day a little lighter.  Maybe even make them smile.

I can't say I was always like this.  I can't say I was never a rushed person.  In fact, now that I think about it, I probably spent most of my life rushed and hustling.  It was the rare occasion that I would walk at my leisure, taking my time to soak in my surroundings.  We miss so much when we aren't looking.  Now, that has changed for me and not consciously, it just happened, I just didn't notice it until now.  I actually have to say I like this new change.  Those of you who know me, know I try to find the "good" in this bad situation. And believe me it is hard.  This recent, unexpected discovery is in deed, in my view, a positive change.  My conscience level of appreciation for the little things is so heightened, I almost feel like my entire day has hidden little treasures in store for me.  Everything is precious. 

I breathe and love deeper now too. Each breath is a gift. Each breath has meaning.  Each breath counts.  My love for my family and friends is just as important to me as breathing.  I love my husband.  I mean I truly love him.  He has gone from being my partner in life to being my soul's mate.  My connection with him is so amazing that when I talk about it, it sounds unreal.  My son, Dominic, has awakened a part of my heart I didn't know I had.  On a daily basis he makes my heart bigger and better.  Every little moment with him is enough joy for a lifetime.  It is addictive, I want more and more of his joy.  If I could bottle up that joy and sell it I'd be rich.

When I think  about how Gabriella has changed my life forever, I have to say it is not all bad.  I miss my baby, I miss and am sad for all the hopes and dreams that died with her.  But, I know her life meant something.  I know she didn't die in vain.  She has given me so many gifts.  And it is through embracing her gifts I can survive this loss.  Her gifts have changed me forever and for that reason I know she will always be with me.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Miscarrying: The First Time

I think one of the most difficult parts of any of my losses, the two miscarriages and losing Gabriella, was the shock.  I wasn't prepared for the fact that any of the pregnancies would lead to the end result being live child.  Growing up, I remember my desire to get married and have kids.  I don't remember anyone ever preparing me for the fact that things don't always turn out that way.  I am certain I don't remember it, because no one ever does.  No one ever looks into a child's hopeful eyes and says, 'one day you'll grow up, get married, and have a miscarriage or lose a baby.'  No one ever asks a glowing newlywed, 'how many times do you think you'll be pregnant and how many living children do you think you'll have?'  We simply don't talk about these things.  Not even the medical professionals.  No doctor ever told me that I had a 1 in 200 chance of having a stillborn.  I was not prepared.

When I had my first miscarriage, my husband and I were wildly in love and not even engaged yet.  The pregnancy was, for a lack of a better term, an 'oops.'  After 3 at home pregnancy tests and the shock of the fact that I was indeed pregnant wore off, I came to terms with this new little one growing in side of me.  And like every new, expecting mother, I began to plan and imagine life as a mother.  Little did I know that 11 weeks later, my pregnancy was going to be called a "missed abortion".  A term to this day I think is completely inappropriate and heartless. 

I clearly remember the night prior to going to the doctor's office to find out the news.  I was having cramps.  Up until that point, I still hadn't had an ultrasound.  I remember the cramps being uncomfortable and feeling that something was not 'right'.  I was in so much discomfort, I sent Thad, now my fiance, out for some Tylenol.  Not wanting to alert him to my condition, I down played my pain and tried to sleep.  The next morning I called the doctor's office.  To be honest, I don't even remember if I was bleeding at that point.  I got into the office as an emergency appointment and directly to the ultrasound room.  Boy I was naive.  I thought I was going be seeing my baby for the first time, and instead all I saw were the troubled faces of the two ultrasound techs in the room.  I was in the room alone, with no one to comfort me, and the techs would not tell me anything.  I was escorted to a regular examination room, where Thad and my mother joined me.  The doctor walked in and I was informed I was miscarrying.  The words ripped through me like a knife, a dull, serrated knife.  Thad was devastated.  His raw emotions were overwhelming.  He was just as torn as I was, just as hurt and just as heartbroken.  We were broken.  I remember my tears being so heavy, that I couldn't see out of my eyes.  Everything was blurry.  Just as blurry was my comprehension of the whole situation.

What was a miscarriage? Why do they happen? Why did it happen to me?  I was left with so many questions, and such a deep sadness. It hit me like a ton of bricks.  I never stopped to think, 'what if I have a miscarriage.' And aside from the doctor telling me on my first visit, 20-25% of all pregnancies end in first trimester miscarriage, I was completely oblivious to the idea that I could miscarry.  I simply was not prepared.  Losing the baby was hard, but not being prepared for this cold fact of life hit me hard. 

I was quickly whisked from one office to another.  And there through my blurry eyes and heavy head, a woman began to try to talk to me about scheduling a D&C.  I had barely absorbed the doctor's words and the heartbreaking news, and now this woman wanted to know if I can come in tomorrow for a D&C and how I was going to pay for it.  I was in between insurance and made too much money for state aid, so I was a cash patient, and this woman behind the desk wanted to know how I was going to pay for the procedure.  I was a wreck and couldn't even begin to think about these things.  Thad was just as bad as I was.  Luckily my mother was there and stepped in. I was scheduled for a D&C the next morning.

The experience left me feeling betrayed by my body, violated through medical intervention, and very sad.  Yet, life was to go on.  My world was rocked and yet it seemed as though it was no big deal to the world around me.  However, one of the most surprising parts of having a miscarriage were all the women who 'crawled out of the woodwork' to offer their support and share their experience.  Woman I had known for a significant amount of time to those I knew less than a year, came to me to let me know how sorry they were and let me know they have been there.  I couldn't help but think this is a silent epidemic.  It is happening everywhere and everyday and no one is talking about it, not openly at least.  I felt betrayed again.  Why didn't anyone warn me, I thought.  I think that was a pivotal point in how I unknowingly started to be prepared for losing my beautiful Baby G.  Not so much, preparing to cushion the blow, but I opened my mind to the idea of talking openly about my experiences.  I decided back then I was going to talk openly about my miscarriage, whether it made other people uncomfortable or not.  I was going to talk about it as I saw fit, in a hope that talking about it would bring some light to this sorrow so many women endure silently, sometimes never even sharing with their best friend... that they have had a miscarriage.  I have always worn my heart on my sleeve, those who know me know that to be true.  I decided to continue to do so, never knowing that one day almost 5 years later my candor would lead me to write about the most tramatic events of my life and how they have brought me to where I am today... this is my story.

Monday, July 18, 2011

"My best Customer"

I spent this weekend in Jersey with my son.  I visited my aunt, her son and another aunt came from Connecticut too.  Well, I enjoyed my time so much. I enjoyed Dominic so much.  My favorite part of the trip were the few hours we spent at Pt. Pleasant. 

My son is a happy kid.  He loves "rides".  He sees them and start, "rides... rides." I didn't know going around in a circle could be so much fun.  I loved it.  He enjoyed his ice cream too.  I can resist to get him a soft serve in a cone.  I think I like watching him eat it more than he actually likes to eat it.  He warms my heart, and I am so aware of my appreciation for him. 

Another great thing was my aunt calling Dominic her, "favorite customer."  He loves to eat and eat he does, especially this particular weekend.  Every time she offered him food, he was a taker.  She affectionately called him 'my best customer'... I loved it... too funny!!!! What a kid.

Plan "B"

So very often I am asked the question, "How are you doing?"  My answer usually surprises the person asking.  My reply lately has been, "I am good. I am in a good place."  In the beginning of my journey, I wouldn't have answered that way.  I would often respond, 'I'm okay; hanging in there; we are functional' and things like that.  And I was just that, okay and functional.  But, not now.  Now I can answer that I am good and in a good place.  Thank God.

Recently I was asked a more provoking question.  'How is it that you are in a 'good place'?'  Wow, I thought what a great question.  What a deep thing to ask.  I am so happy to have been asked that question.  How is it that I can be 'good'? I think this is the interesting part of my 'story'.  I am sure many people are interested in hearing about my daughter, her life and the circumstances around her death.  But, truly, the bigger mystery is how to become okay or even good with burying your child?

This journey did not begin for me December 19, 2010.  It began well over a year before that, maybe even longer.  But how, or what would move someone to ask me this question.  It was in talking to my cousin and my aunt that the conversation about how I was, took a turn in down this avenue.  And I truly believe the simple answer to that question is that I started in a different place than most people.

I honestly have to say, I got to this place because I started in a good place to begin with.  At the time we lost Gabriella, we had already been attending Sunday mass regularly.  I was teaching religion to 4th graders in my parish.  An activity I got involved in because I wanted to teach my son, that giving of your time is as important as giving of your money.  Children learn through example and mimic what you do, so I figured if my son grew up seeing me participating in such activities, he would grow up wanting to do the same.

I also had previously gone to therapy to deal with issues of loss and grieving after our second miscarriage.  Shortly after our second miscarriage, I went to a dark place.  I was not happy and had no joy.  This was prior to having my son, so I didn't have a lot of distractions from my sadness and pain.  I luckily had enough sense to seek out help before I was in too deep and couldn't voluntarily get the help I needed.  I started working with a therapist and shortly after went on Prozac.  My therapy proved to be helpful and vital to my personal growth.  I learned that my overwhelming sadness and grief was not for the loss of my pregnancy.  The loss of the pregnancy triggered a deep sadness in me.  The lose of my grandfather almost 30 years ago.  I worked with that therapist for little over 6 months.  After the first, 4 months I was no longer on the Prozac. I came out of the experience a much more grounded and happier person.  Would I be the same person you see today without having had that experience, I don't think so.

I hate to say that this was my destiny.  I wouldn't want to think I was destined to have carried a baby for 33 weeks only to loss her to unknown causes.  But, looking back there were many things that happened and were said, things I felt deep in my soul, that may have been preparing be for the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life.  Before losing my daughter, I could not say I had a worse day of my life.  I didn't feel like there was anything so tragic that happened to me.  But, I can say now, that day and the days, weeks and months to follow were the worst and toughest times in my life.

I think I need to start to explore these things.  I think I need to recall them and start to share my story from a  new point of view and prospective.  The raw emotions have come and gone.  The moments of these raw and heart wrenching emotions are not completely gone, but they are farther and fewer between.

Within minutes of walking in to my aunt's home, I saw a decorative tile she had simply laying on the windowsill of her kitchen.  The tile was very unpresuming, and wasn't even displayed.  But what it said and what it means to me is tremendous, and might as well be brightly lit in neon in her window.  It read, "Life is all about how you handle Plan B."  I couldn't help but think to myself, "isn't it true? You will see what you are really made of, when you have to live plan B."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Little Moments

I have come to really appreciate the little moments in life.  I would like to say that I have always done this, but, to be honest, I am not sure if that is true.  Now, I am acutely aware of the little moments as they are happening and appreciate them as much as some of big times of my life, like my wedding day.  I suppose the big things in life the milestone and mile markers, are the anchors in ones life and the little moments are the string of events that get you from one milestone to the next.  In life, there are many more little moments than mile stones.  What a pity it would be to waste any of them.

With that being said, recently, I have been blessed enough to have some thing big happening to me and my family.  You may remember some time ago, I wrote about my family portrait never being complete.  At that same time an old classmate was just starting to read my blog.  Call it fate, serendipity, or what have you, it connected me and this classmate.  As it turns out, she is a photographer, and a talented one at that.  She so generously offered to help make my wish of a complete family portrait come true.  Her name is Laurie Arends.  Laurie is not an ordinary photographer, she is an artist.  She specializes in conceptual fine art photography.  This type of photographer is one that tell a story, and is not merely a reflection of faces and objects.  She and I are working together to create, what is becoming a series of family portraits and that will include my dear Gabriella in the most subtle of an meaningful ways, capturing us in the little moments of life.

I will be posting these photographs as they become available. Starting with the one below, titled sharing with sister.  Thank you Laurie!

"Sharing with sister"

More of Laurie's work can be found at her website:  

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Turning Point??

Summer 2011
Life has been looking up.  I have been feeling good.  I am no doubt, in no way, "over" the death of my daughter; nor do I think I ever will be.  You don't get "over" something like that. But, in the past month I have been feeling better and more like myself. 

Summer has been a breathe of fresh air for me and my family.  Thad is done with school, and life is starting to take on a new meaning and routine.  The three of us are a family and we are enjoying our time together.  Keeping busy with lots summer fun, like the beach, splash park, swimming, playing in the yard, gardening, BBQ's and such have made this summer one to remember.  We have plans for more to come too.  A trip to Sesame Place and maybe Florida; a weekend in New Jersey, day trips and more.  I am so happy. 

My son is growing and developing so much, so quickly! He is starting to talk and put words together.  He is getting smarter by the day and I just adore him! My love, my husband and I are reconnecting after 2+ long years of full time school and work, which left little time together, not to mention the business of having babies, in the middle of it all. I am starting to 'take care' of myself too.  Something I have, in my opinion, neglected.  I am even managing to get motivated to get back to work!

I am feeling good.  I am feeling happy and I am feeling hopeful-  All good times, all good signs! I can't say for certain what the turning point was, or what to motivating factor was.  Maybe it was just time, or maybe something struck me subconsciously, but, in any event, I am grateful. 

I would like to leave a quote I found striking with you on a closing note.  I don't think this was a pivotal point for me, but I can say I left a lasting impression on me.  Marie Osmond, was interviewed on Oprah this past year.  She was speaking about the untimely death of her son by his own hand.  One think she said, among many that struck me was, "if you live in what if's, you stop living."  Wow, what a powerful statement, and so true- food for thought.  I chose to live!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Finally!!! Birth Certificates for our babies!

NY Legislature Approves Bill Allowing Birth Certificates For Stillborn Children

This is a victory for bereaved parents in New York State!!
I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am. I am overwhelmed with emotion. My daughter did exist, she does count, and she did touch lives.  My husband, son and I will pursue a birth certificate for our dear Gabriella!