Lack of Immunity to Grief

I am not immune to heart break and grief.  On September 14 2013, this became clear to me. Bad things do happen to good people. Good people do get hurt. 

I spent one month coping in ways that were most comforting—indulging in fat laden comfort foods, trying to sneak in extra sleep when I could, reflecting/writing, reading about other woman’s stories in blogs and books. 

After this month passed and I was dusting myself off, I came upon some events that caused me to stumble a bit. My pregnancy “partners” (those due very closely to my expected due date) were starting to share their wonderful news to the world. The 12 week mark when it’s generally “safe” to announce…20 week mark and half way point…having the opportunity to find out the gender if so desired. That was supposed to be me too. I’m not half way to seeing my baby. Instead, I have a little Angel clip with a March birthstone on the wall in Violet’s room next to a photo of me, very pregnant with Violet. Perhaps I placed it there so I will never forget what could have been. 

Time does heal. It does not heal completely, but with each passing day, it helps the sharp pain fade into a dull more tolerable ache. Although it does cross my mind at least once a day, it’s not debilitating. 

I was in a horrible car accident the day before Thanksgiving in 2007. I never have driven the same since. For months, I would think about it daily and replay the scene in my mind…from the intense impact of the cars smashing into me, to the sound of the window glass being intentionally broken by a good Samaritan so I could crawl out…it replayed until my mind did not have to replay it anymore. 

In a similar way, I keep repeating the doctor’s words in my mind, “You’ve lost this pregnancy…that’s what’s going on” (referencing my bleeding)…the ultrasound tech’s silence..the torturous wait to see the physician once again…it continues to replay until one day when it does not have to replay anymore. All this replaying of this very sad tape in my mind is just that—in my mind. I tend not to talk about this anymore, and most people don’t ask. But not a day goes by that I don’t think about it. I reminisce about the morning I saw the two pink lines, July 25th, 2013. 

I did get a dose of perspective recently, when I heard woman I once knew delivered a stillborn baby (full-term). It rocked my world once again. How can I feel so sad for a loss of what could have been when this baby WAS?  I tried not to minimize my own feelings but it made me again think of all the “what ifs” in life that I’ve touched on before. It’s quite amazing and miraculous how any baby makes it from conception through delivery, unscathed, healthy, intact…well, perfect. Everything has to be just so…the stars have to be aligned or something. All the intricate inner creations of the baby in the womb utterly blows my mind. Life is miraculous…and fragile.

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Magnificence and Miracles in the Meantime

On a random day about a month ago, I was enveloped by a very real feeling of happiness. It is hard to articulate, but I felt thankful and comfortable. I found myself in a good place, and I was counting my blessings on my drive home from work. 

Shortly after this day, I discovered I lost the baby growing inside me. I was not necessarily shocked but deeply saddened by the words that quickly passed through that doctor’s lips. In sharp contrast to the warm enveloping feeling I experienced just a few days prior, I suddenly felt alone in a cold environment surrounded by medicine, science, and ill people waiting to be examined and treated. I was reminded how life can change so quickly. 

As days and weeks passed, I was overwhelmed by a warm response from my friends, family, and co-workers. The words of hope and encouragement helped me significantly. Something dawned on me though. Life was not going as according to plan. My timetable was screwed, and that frustrated me. This child who would have been 2 years and 2 months younger than my first would no longer arrive. What I originally thought of as the ideal “2 years apart between children” would not become a reality. I would have to accept that if my family did grow, it would not be as soon as I had planned. It was as if life handed me a red Sharpie marker and slashed an X in the calendar of my dreams. March 28th, 2014 would no longer be a day to expect an addition to my family. It will instead be an ordinary Friday in the late spring, or still winter in our unpredictable North Dakota tundra.

So my brain starts to think of new time tables ─a different dream, a different due date, a different plan on this proverbial calendar in my mind. But as muster up the strength to move on from this loss of plans, I realize there is some personal growth to be offered in this experience. I say “in the meantime” I will find joy in all the good things around me, most importantly the daughter I have been blessed with. But I am slowly learning that I do not want to live my life enjoying things “in the meantime.” I want to enjoy them simply for what they are…not as stepping stones to something greater, rather for how truly special they are…just as they are. I want to move past the thoughts of “while I wait for…” or “someday when I have…”  Instead I sincerely want to value all that is in front of me rather than what is planned ahead for me on life’s unknown calendar.  

Although this red Sharpie marker that slashed an X through my plans felt harsh (like a big F on a paper I’ve worked so hard on in school), it serves to remind me that: 

 Magnificence happens in the meantime. 

 Miracles happen in the meantime. 

The “meantime” is my life—new adventures, sudden sorrows, unplanned joys—not just in big events, but in the everyday occurrences. The old adage of “smelling the roses” (or smelling the violets in my case) holds true. Each day is a true gift, even with the twinges of pain and sorrow once in a while. It’s all part of the package and this grand calendar. Perhaps instead I can take multicolored Sharpies and mark it with miraculous and magnificent events that happened this very day instead of what was planned for the future—a funny word that our toddler said for the first time or the little things my husband does for me to make my life easier (allowing me to sleep in, making a Sunday breakfast, just to name a few). 

I do know I will need to be reminded at times of what John Lennon realistically said, “Life happens while you’re busy making other plans.” So today my plan is to not have a plan. Instead, I will capture all the magnificence as it naturally comes. Here’s to this beautiful crisp autumn day and a little cuddle time with the babe and pup (after all, who dislikes time with a babe and pup?)

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Tasting the Bittersweet: Where Do We Go From Here?

A new task has been added to my Mondays—going to the lab so my physician can monitor the HcG levels to ensure my body is recognizing the pregnancy is no longer viable and the “products of conception” have passed.  As suspected after some pretty shocking and painful physical symptoms, the level is going down significantly. It’s bittersweet, really. Yes—it’s good that my body recognizes that there is no baby growing inside me anymore…but on the other hand, there is no baby growing inside me anymore. It’s sometimes hard to articulate how I feel, as some of my grieving is set aside by the job of raising a 1.5 year old. In fact, she is my saving grace. 

However, there are moments when I’m reminded of this loss. I am now acutely aware of pregnant women of all shapes and sizes. I sometimes catch myself watching a woman from the backside betting to myself that when she turns around (to pay the cashier for example), that I will spot a baby bump. Sure enough, I do 95% of the time (Ok, so that percentage is a slight exaggeration, but my point is that every woman, her aunts, sisters, cousins, friends, and even grandmas seem to be pregnant right about now). That is another bittersweet thought—to celebrate the joy of conception, healthy pregnancies, and their upcoming arrivals…but on the other hand, it’s those women celebrating this and not me. It was supposed to be me too. 

You often hear “life is not fair.” This is a cliché I know to be true, especially now. It’s easy to ask, “Why me?”  but then I have an internal retort prepared already for myself—“Why not me?”  Why would I be immune from the 10-20 percent of women whose pregnancies end in miscarriage? My physician told me that this is probably a low number and only accounts for documented pregnancies and in fact, 1 in 4 ends this way. So—to better grasp what this looks like statistically, I decide to create a visual. I cut 10 pieces of paper. On 8 of the pieces, I write, “healthy.” On the other 2 pieces, I write “miscarriage.” I put them in a container. If trying for three children , I pick out 3 pieces of paper. First: “healthy.” Second: “healthy.” Third: “miscarriage.” Fourth: “healthy.” Well, there you have it—1 in 4 were labeled “miscarriage.”  I do understand that odds, percentages, and statistics all vary due to the woman’s age, health, lifestyle, etc, but with all factors being simple- it was kind of interesting seeing it this way. Although I don’t want to be just a “statistic,” it helped me understand the odds…in maybe an odd way. 

So my husband and I ask ourselves “where do we go from here?” We have decided to focus our time and energy on our new home and to our daughter, who is learning so fast, I can hardly keep up. In fact, she now says, “Mom, I got you!” Yes, my dear daughter, you do. You have my heart for sure. 

Despite the bittersweet pangs that I often feel now, I try to be mindful. I think it’s important to allow myself to feel whatever it is that I am feeling, acknowledge the feeling, then move through it. Most currently this involves some sadness, loss of future plans and hopes, some anxiety, and a little fear of the unknown. 

Yet another cliché I will throw out there is “this too shall pass.” Yes—it will. In the meantime, I will write about it. 

The Loss of What Could Have Been

It all started with two pink lines. I was ecstatic. We were hoping for a second little miracle to join our sweet girl. The anticipation and excitement were hard to hold back—like a cork on a champagne bottle, we were ready to pop it and celebrate. We almost immediately told our family and friends the good news. We started planning for the future—adjusting our budget for additional daycare costs, arranging where the new baby’s room would be in our new home, and enjoying the suspense of not finding out the gender. After all, it’s one of life’s last few surprises. 

It all went so fast. After moving into our new home, I awakened one night to use the bathroom. Then I see what a pregnant woman never wants to see…blood. I lie there at 1 am next to my husband anxious and scared. I was trying to prepare my mind and heart for the worst case scenario, but unfortunately I would have to wait many hours to call the clinic and hopefully be seen for an exam. Later that day, we were fit into the provider’s schedule. Even before the ultrasound, the nurse practitioner did not seem concerned about the spotting. She felt this sounded normal, and it was likely an old clot passing around the gestational sac. We then released a huge sigh of relief when she then performed the ultrasound and pointed out the tiny heart flapping back and forth quickly. We were able to hear the reassuring “woosh, woosh,” and felt everything would be ok.  I leaned over to my husband,  smiled, and said “I forgot how amazing that is to hear.” She then told us we were not completely out of the woods yet, but everything looked good. 

The weeks passed with a little more spotting every few days. I tried to reassure myself it was normal for this pregnancy. Each pregnancy is different. After all, the provider assured me things looked good. We saw the heart beating. 

It was a cold, gray, rainy Saturday, and the spotting became heavier. I thought it would be best to go in to be seen. Although it could be “normal”spotting, I needed reassurance once again that the baby was still there…and the tiny heart was still beating. I drove alone through the downpour to the clinic, as my husband had to stay back with our 1 1/2 year old.

I explained my history and symptoms to the physician. He ordered an ultrasound. As I sat waiting for tech to come and get me, I do what most people do this day and age—I grab my phone and search the internet for message boards and forums of women in a similar situation. What were their outcomes? What were the chances that this baby was still OK?  Was I searching for false hope from stories of people I’ve never met? 

I eventually was escorted to the cold, dark basement. The tech instructed me what to do. I lied there anxiously waiting to once again hear that “woosh, woosh,” or see that tiny flapping on the screen. She informed me she was not able to interpret or reveal anything to me, and that I would have to wait for the radiologist to interpret the results, who would then inform the walk-in physician. I felt so alone lying on that table. The minutes felt like hours, and in my heart I knew the answer to my suspicions. Although the tech could not tell me anything, she didn’t have to…I did not hear the “woosh woosh,” nor get to see the tiny heart flapping. She finally finished and instructed me to get dressed and wait for the aide to bring me back up to wait once again. I was painfully waiting for the confirmation. Although I don’t have a trained eye for sonograms, I looked at the image on the screen. It was my uterus, and inside was a very small clump of tissue. It was much too small for the gestational age. Again, I knew. 

The final waiting period ended when a nurse brought me back into the room. I sat there again in silence—painful silence. The lack of the “woosh woosh” and the view of my almost empty uterus nagged at me and pulled tightly at my heart. The straight-faced doctor finally walks in, quickly sits down, and states in a matter-of-fact tone the words I will never forget—“You have lost this pregnancy.” As my mind tries to wrap around this confirmation, I say, “Ok…”and the rest is a blur. I recall bits and pieces such as “it was 7 weeks 6 days,” and “no heart beat.”  I start crying, and he robotically hands me a box of tissues. He instructs me to keep my appointment with my obstetrician four days later. It was supposed to be my 12 week appointment to check on the status of my growing fetus. Instead, it would be something much different. 

That evening after I shared the sad news with my husband and family, I decided it would be best for me if I updated everyone right away. I had already shared my pregnancy news with so many people, and although the task of informing them of this sad update was daunting and exhausting, I wanted to get it done with.  I spent the evening texting, calling, emailing…until I was utterly exhausted and crashed. 

The next day is when it sunk in. I felt and still feel a sense of emptiness….a loss of something that could have been our second sweet baby. I would no longer hold him or her in my arms in the end of March as I had envisioned.

Although this loss is still fresh and raw, I’ve been overwhelmed with not only sadness, but of gratitude. I may have shared with numerous people (and then had to explain the sad news as well), but these people were there for me in ways I could not have even imagined. From messages of hope and healing…to flowers…to a care package…I have been surrounded in love. I also met with my physician who was surprisingly comforting. In contrast to the cold and matter-of-fact physician who delivered those painful words, this obstetrician comforted me with words of knowledge and education and made me feel less alone; in fact, he made me feel “normal.” I was grateful he fit me in his full schedule, yet seemed unrushed, calm, and warm. He shared a situational personal story with me which offered some perspective, and I so needed to hear that at this confusing time. Above it all, I came home and found solace in the hugs and kisses of my healthy, beautiful, little girl. I’ve been reminded that although this second child was not in God’s plan for us at this time, we will someday know why. And in the meantime, my intuitive little girl asks me to sing just a few more tunes, cuddle a little more closely, and hold her a little longer. Tonight I will fall asleep in God’s embrace, trusting in the strength of the human spirit and power of hope, love, and faith. 

Loving this Growing Toddler

Dearest Violet,
When you are 14 years old, sleeping in til 11am, listening even less to your mother, learning to drive, and crushing on boys, remember this…

You were once 1 1/2 years old and finally growing some hair, a baby mullet to be exact. As mom says, “business in the front, party in the back.” Mom will likely not cut it until she absolutely needs to because she is a sentimental sap. Always has been, and always will be. And yes…there will very likely be your first lock of cut hair in your baby book (I am that kind of mom).

Your ever expanding vocabulary includes a fave word ‘no!’ (Probably a fave at age 14 too)…sky…puppy…baby…auntie…mommy…daddy…mama, papa, “mease!!” (A cross between please and me, which is your mom’s personal fave)…bye-bye…night…hi… and most recently, “love you.” It melts my heart. Then of course are some names… Ry Ry, Scottie, Judy (pronounced Dudy), Reesey (pronounced Eesey), Mary (pronounced Maui), Brody (prounounced Body), and Kim (pronounced Mim).

You love (cows) milk, and in fact the doctor says to cut back some. What!? And there’s those special super cheesey cheetos (Earl’s) from around the cities that you and your Dad share.

Your smile is bigger and with much more teeth now. You have automatically learned to exclaim “cheese” when you see anyone whipping our their cell phones. You’re smart (of course I’m biased).

You are no longer fond of the high chair and insist of sitting on your mom’s lap during dinner time. Although dad does not agree, mom lets you do this. You eat more food this way, and you won’t always want to sit with your mom (guaranteed).

I do realize that in the years to come, “Mommy” will change to “Mom.” Then eventually “Mom,” with evolve to “Mother!” and maybe even you’ll try to call me “Jenna.” I will gently correct you and remind you “It’s Mom to you.”

Up until now, bedtime and nap time were peaceful and fairly easy. Now that you’re able to express your needs more clearly, you exclaim “book!” again and again. I can recite “Where’s Spot” in my sleep. You will not only beg for more story time but for more “milk,” and “Twinkle Twinkle” to be sung to you… “more mease.” 

You can fight your naps and eventually will not allow as many kisses, but I want you to know one thing for sure…You can never fight my love for you. It will continue to grow each and every day. My heart has an endless capacity of love for you. 

So keep changing, growing, and developing into your little self. I will be there watching…in frustration, in awe, in confusion, in wonder, but most of all, in love.

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It’s Totally a Monday

The dog is barking. The baby is the crying. The oven timer is going off. The phone is ringing. It’s totally a Monday. 

The lovely Monday started with the dog waking me up with her loud bark. I pry my heavy lids open, beg for a snooze option on my beloved pet, and grudgingly roll out of bed to let her out only to find out it’s already too late—she pooped on the carpet upstairs…and surprise, downstairs too. So much for letting her out for a quick potty then crawling back into the warm cozy bed for another 15 minutes. Instead it’s poop pick-up, and the baby awakening to her barks. It’s totally a Monday. 

Well—no snooze option or 15 extended minutes of my warm comfy bed, but perhaps the baby will chill out with a bottle of milk on the couch while I take a warm shower. Wrong. Babes wants to be with me at all times, which also means, opening the shower curtain while I’m in there and yelling, “I see ya!” (Ok that part was incredibly cute). But no glorious, private, warm shower either, I’m afraid. It’s totally a Monday. 

Time to kennel up the pup, load up the babe, and drive to work. That part goes smoothly, but that was just a short reprieve from the rest of Monday’s antics… 

Being interrupted from one task (i.e. a conversation with someone) by text messages, emails, phone calls, etc, is par for the course in my line of work, but Mondays seem to carry the most interruptions. Oh, and as soon as I feel I have tended to one issue, I’m quickly alerted that there is yet another task or reminder buzzing on my phone. It’s totally a Monday. 

Then I think I have made the best decisions I could given my resources until I’m reminded that I could have done it this way. Being critiqued is a normal part of any job, but on this particular Monday, it was hard to avoid feeling “not good enough.” It’s totally a Monday. 

Forgotten supplies, last minute details for a meeting, errands around town, managing in a half unpacked home (while trying to find the time and energy to unpack the rest), cooking dinner, doing dishes, bath time, bed time, whining dog, frantic lady next door afraid of my dog…the list goes on for this particular day. Yes, it’s totally a Monday. 

But as I sit here thinking of the last 15+ hours I have been awake on this Monday, I cannot help but realize a few things. All of the above sounds fairly negative (what can I say, a girl needs to vent sometimes?). Although it feels good to vent about the crap (no pun intended), I very much need to remember one important fact—I was given this Monday to live. Although it was not filled with flowers, butterflies, rainbows, and all things warm and fuzzy, it was filled with life—the good, the bad, the ugly. Sometimes I do need a dose of perspective to keep my case of the Mondays in check.  I truly must look around, reflect on all I have been given, and be thankful. Did this Monday make me crave another Monday just like it? Heck. No. But am I grateful I was given the chance to deal with all the (perhaps mundane and annoying) problems Monday pose? I suppose I am. After all, tomorrow is Tuesday, and I will be thankful regardless.

Leap of Faith: Living Past the What Ifs

Have you ever found yourself in a “what if” frame of mind? Perhaps it’s the anxiety from the unknown that keeps you from living fully in the moment. I was having a good (and much needed) conversation with a friend about the many possibilities that could go wrong in this world we live in—whether it’s an illness, death, loss of job, unexpected bill, the list goes on. She gracefully reminded me there is so much we have little control over and the worrying about these “what ifs” in life serves no purpose and causes undue stress. And who needs that? 

It’s the moments and conversations like these that remind me one key element I am inadvertently neglecting at that time—faith. Every single day I wake up, plop my feet on the floor, and make the conscious decision to load up my daughter in her car seat, drive to daycare, then to work, I am taking risks. Would I call myself a risk taker? No. But everyday in the smallest acts, something could go wrong. Do some things go wrong? Of course they do. It is the times when I’ve forgotten Him, this power greater than anyone or anything, that I subconsciously allow the uneasy thoughts and feelings slowly creep in. I need to remember to trust, to hope, to pray, and to love without fear. All I can do is live in the present by doing the best I can. 

Some risks obviously have greater consequences than others. Although you would not find me swimming with the sharks, bungee jumping, or sky diving, you will find me entering marriage, having children, and working. Those all have risks too, right? Although there are not many “sharks” in my workplace, you sometimes do get bit. And when you “fall” in love, you’re diving into the unknown sky—you’ll never know fully what you’re getting into with this partner. What kind of challenges will you encounter on the way down? Will you land safely and soundly?  And children—you always hope you have the right equipment for protection and that the rush is exhilarating and worthwhile, but once again, you never know. In my humble opinion, each decision requires a leap of faith—a belief that something bigger and grander than myself has these matters in His hands, carefully watching and caring for them more than I ever will know. 

Here’s to another day of leaping.