Friday, August 27, 2010

I'm still here...

So I think this is the longest I have ever gone without a post. I have so much to write, so much to say. The babies are doing great. I am feeling good just tired - and while I would love to blame it all on pregnancy fatigue, I know the looming date of Peyton's birthday on the calendar has it's hand in my mental exhaustion as well.

I remember being so touched last year at this time by a post by Cara at Building Heavenly Bridges where she wrote:
"I can feel the hollowness reattaching itself to me.
I can sense sadness nearby readying its attack..
I can smell memory beginning its annual journey to possess me."

Her post talked about how Grief Season comes for us, even when we don't go searching for it, and how year after year, though we wish it would, it doesn't get any easier. It was an amazing post that has always stuck with me.

Grief season hit me last week, as Peyton's due date approached, and a rush of emotions came with such force out of the blue that I felt thrown back to those early days. It was an ugly scene. Me, wrestling desperately with a guilt that I thought I had put to bed, and the time of year taunting each memory that I wish I could forget, back into my mind.

I think there is no avoiding Grief Season. Even if I banished every calendar from my home- my mind, body, and heart would feel the days coming to be: her due date, her birth date, the day she started chemo, the day the infection was discovered, the day we said goodbye, the day of her funeral. Each of these hits me with the unrelenting reality: Peyton is gone. She was destined to it before she was born. She is never coming back. Even though we wish it weren't the case, there are no guarantees in this life, and sometimes it is just so cruel.

I am trying to find balance over these next weeks and months. Next Saturday we will attempt to honor what should have been Peyton's 2nd birthday, knowing all the while that anything we try will just somehow fall short.

I am hoping to find a way to breathe through this season. I have so much to feel grateful for this year, so much love and beauty in my life right now - two amazing, miraculous blessings.

But at the end of the day it is not I who chooses how that day will feel. It is my heart, and the memories of all that she was and should have been, and try as I might, wearing a smile through the reminders of such a huge loss is hard.

She is my daughter. Always will be my daughter. And I miss her.

"Blissfully" pregnant or not, there is just no way to sugarcoat that.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

And she says "baby, it's 3AM I must be lonely."

I am 10 weeks pregnant with twins and by all accounts should be sleeping as much as possible. As it is I spend my days exhausted between naps, and yet, like a dummy, here I am at quarter to four, staring at this screen because sleep has escaped me.


Antonio Tabbucchi once said, "I prefer insomnia to anesthesia," and though they are not my words, I completely understand the sentiment.

The inability to sleep my way through any of what I am feeling has been a constant companion since Peyton's death. Sometimes I wish I could go numb, even if just for one night, but then I realize that numb is no closer to healed, so like Tabbucchi, I would rather live what I am feeling than mask it.

In the beginning it was flashbacks that tore me from my sleep. I would remember things in vivid detail, relive events, and analyze every decision I had made in terms of Peyton's care. Sometimes the kindest things that we can do for our children, can be the cruelest on our hearts.

Back then, even when my body would allow me to fall asleep, the guilt and grief over her passing would startle me back to my new babylost reality in the unforgiving grey hours of pre-dawn.

For months I sat awake at three AM, panicked that while I was in a warm bed, my daughter was alone in the elements at the cemetery. My mind would race wondering if she was cold, or lonely, or scared up on that hill, and I wished many a night that we had cremated her and taken her to the safety of our home.

It is cruel what the racing mind can do to a grieving mother.

Nearly two years later, I have let go of some of the anger and guilt that wracked me so heavily in those early days. Regardless though, the insomnia has not let up.

I spent a better part of the last year wondering in those hours if we would ever find ourselves pregnant again, and now that we have, the worrying has moved onto other things.

Lately my mind has been swirling around Peyton's fast approaching birthday, and just a general uncertainty about what it is that I am doing with this life. It's a strange thing to lose one's footing out of the blue, and I find that things that used to define me now feel foreign and uncomfortable.

In my past life I was always a planner, having the next five and ten and fifteen steps of this life laid out in my mind. Lying awake now, I can't quite envision what it is I am supposed to be doing to make any sort of difference or leave any sort of imprint on this world.

Countless hours are spent staring at the ceiling fan, noting its rotations as I attempt to work my weary mind through the winds and turns of confusion. By five or six AM, I give into the exhaustion and fall back to sleep knowing that the insomnia will be there waiting for me the next night.

So here I sit, now quarter after four, and no closer to solving any of these worries.

Yet still, I hold out hope.

One of these early mornings, when the sun and the moon are at equilibrium and my mind is racing through all of life's questions, a clarity will hit. One of these mornings I will have my very own "Ah-Ha moment," the worries will dissipate, and I will find my footing on this path once again.

Here's to hoping that day comes sooner than later.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I hate stupid people...

I hate stupid people.

I will re-phrase that.
I hate stupid pregnant people.

I was browsing BabyCenter yesterday and came upon a post titled "Air Your Pregnancy Sins." The woman heading up the post had a profile picture of her healthy, living, firstborn child in her arms.

Must be nice.

I opened the post, and what followed left me simultaneously shocked and disgusted. Some of the over 100 posts were mundane (I eat pizza, I like junk food, I don't work out, etc. etc.) but several of them were by women patting themselves on the backs for doing things in their pregnancies like eating raw sushi, drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, smoking pot, taking prescription painkillers against OB advice, drinking bourbon, sitting in hot tubs, and disregarding any an all warnings about soft cheeses, cold cuts and the like.

These "mothers" were actually BRAGGING to one another about their behaviors, saying things like, "I smoked cigarettes, or pot, or drank through my last pregnancy and all was fine" and it just made my blood boil that while I spent my pregnancy with Peyton eating all organic and working out, it was not these women who were forced to put their child in the ground, it was me.

Where, I ask you, is the justice in that?

I literally wanted to reach through the computer and shake these women and tell them that they are awful, selfish mothers. I wanted to tell them how unfair it is that they got to be so goddamned nonchalant and cavalier about the lives of THEIR CHILDREN, and that putting their babies at risk is nothing to be proud of. I wanted to smack some sense into their heads and say "Hey you, idiot, you are RESPONSIBLE for the health of your baby. Your condition is not an inconvenience. It is not an accessory. It is a privilege! Do you know how many women would kill to be in your position? Do you know how many women struggle for years to achieve pregnancy? Do you have any idea what you are risking? That is your baby!"

I wanted to scream.
And scream.
And scream.

But I realized there was no point.

My cries and pleas would just fall on deaf ears because for reasons far beyond my realm of human understanding, reasons that I won't have answers for in this life and will most likely never make peace with,  the hard lessons of loss are reserved for mothers like me, mothers who planned for and wanted and loved their children. Mothers who did everything in their power to keep their children healthy, and would have done anything to keep them alive.

It is mothers like me for whom the great heartache and loss are reserved, while women like THAT seem to get a free pass in this life.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sighs and Signs

"Peyton's birthday is in a few weeks."

My husband says nothing, only letting out a heavy sigh and looking off into the distance. I wonder if he sees her there, in those moments when the grief takes him away.

It is an awful reality to face. Another year without her here. Another year that she should have grown and hit milestones. Another year of wondering what, if anything, we can do to appropriately honor her. Another year of knowing that as soon as the anniversary of her birth passes, we face down another long hard month before that of her death.

Another year...

My town has decided that now, during my first trimester, is when they should chip seal and perform work on all of our roads. The smells, and my fears of exposure, have had me on various days heading for the hills. The "hills" on one particular day last month, was the air conditioned respite of Barnes and Noble. I took some time to work on my novel, crafting and re-crafting bits of chapter 7. It is a funny beach read, a little romance, a lot of adventure, and a book that has been a welcome place for me to escape to over the last year.

As I write this now, I am missing that book. Morning sickness has made reading, typing, and editing it nauseating.

So there I was in Barnes and Noble. I had just found out I was pregnant, and though I knew in my heart it was twins, had not yet had an ultrasound to confirm it. When the battery on my laptop died, I started thumbing through the sections of books.

I love books. I love the smell of them. The feel of them. The fresh crack of their spine when you open a book for the first time. I could never own a Kindle, or other reader. I would miss the way the pages draw oil from my fingers, the awkwardness of holding them open. I need the physicality of books.

I find inspiration in running my fingers along their titles. I like to think of all the other authors who have come before me. I like to think that they, like me, started by writing and re-writing with no connections in the industry beyond the deep desire to one day be published. I like to think that if they made it, I can too.

I walked aimlessly through Barnes and Noble that day. I found myself going past self help books, sex books, and finance books. I meandered over to the YA section where I learned that Lauren Conrad, from "The Hills," is now a best selling author. I found my way to the memoirs, reading the back pages, and moved through the cookbooks. Before I knew where I was, I looked up to find myself in the Pregnancy section, and that easy feeling I had all around me disappeared.

My heart caught in my throat when I realized where I was. I looked around, half expecting someone to come along and tell me I didn't belong there. That I was trespassing on private property. I wondered if I could safely take a peek at those books without feeling pain, or ever again truly be a member of that club.

I had joined the blissfully pregnant club once. I had put my whole heart into it, and I had been burned.

The titles called out to me like a series of flashbacks to a different time. A simpler time. A time where everything in life felt possible.  The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy, What to Expect When You're Expecting, Your Pregnancy Week by Week.

Like bullies reminding me of all I had lost, they taunted me and I stepped back, wimping out, too afraid to peruse the possibilities contained within their pages.

I didn't want to read them and get my hopes up. I didn't want to see drawings of developing babies. Those expectations were meant for someone else. Someone naive. They were not for those who have learned with heartbreaking detail that there are just no guarantees in this life.

My anxiety pushed me further and further down the line of books, ready to move to another place, a safer place, when a title stopped me. It seemed harmless enough. Fun even. I reached up and touched its spine: 10,001 Baby Names. 

Okay, I thought. We'll start here. That's not too scary. I'll just flip it open and point, and wherever I land, that is the PERFECT baby name. 

The book creaked with newness as I flipped it opened and pointed. I peeked to see where I had landed. There, beneath my finger, midway down page 198 was a name and it's definition that took my breath away: Peyton: Village of the Warrior.

My warrior. My perfect, little warrior.

10,001 names in a book, and it was that of my lost child that I had been called to. A sense of calm washed over me, as I felt her spirit surround me. She had, in her own little way, reached out to me, and I felt in that moment that all would be okay.

"You're right little girl," I nodded, "you are right. Your name was perfect. And so were you."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Facing the Facts

At 23 months old, the experts say that a child should be able to name pictures in a book, use three to four word sentences, get dressed alone, interact socially, and figure out age appropriate puzzles. This is what the experts tell me, but my child can't do any of these things.

She can't show off the new words she has learned, or ask "why". She can't copy the behaviors of others, or interact with her friends. Though I wish with all my heart that she could, my child can't do any of these things, and I have to face the facts - that even as these many months without her tick by, and even as her 2nd birthday looms just around the corner, Peyton is no closer to making any of these milestones than she was the day she died, and wish for her as I might, she never will be.

At 8 weeks pregnant, the experts say that my twins are developing eyelids. Their ears, upper lips, and the tips of their noses are forming. By this week, my twins' hearts have each split into four distinct chambers, and beat at more than twice the resting heart rate of their parents. These babies are sprouting webbed fingers and toes. They are making milestones just as they should be, and doing all that is expected of them, and I have to face the facts - that even though we have only known parenting to involve panic and pain, that does not define what will be with these babies. 

Even though I am scared out of my mind. Even though I have been living in this universe of loss for two years and know first hand that nothing in life is a guarantee, that does not erase the possibility that these twins CAN be born healthy.  

I am facing the facts - my past does not define their future.

Every day I find myself struggling for balance as I straddle these two worlds.
I am a grieving mother. I am an expectant mother.
I am paralyzed by fear. I am encouraged by hope.
I carry the heavy weight of loss. I gladly carry the weight of my twins.

I wish I could have more grace in this. I don't know if it is my own weaknesses, or the situation, but I find pregnancy after losing Peyton to cancer, something that no doctor has ever been able to give us any reasons for how or why this happened to our baby, to be like walking through a dark tunnel filled with broken glass, and praying with every step not to be hurt again. We live in a world where we are told that EVERYTHING can cause cancer, and the weight that comes with being vigilant about avoiding, well, everything, is exhausting. 

There are days when my fears push me to the edge, and I wonder how I am going to get through this pregnancy with my sanity in-tact, and then I remember another fact that I have come to face - that though Peyton is not here with me, though she is not walking down the stairs on her own, or banging on pots in the kitchen, she is always with me watching over her parents and her little siblings, and I find peace in that.

I find peace in knowing that when my worrying makes me stumble, she is there, whispering words of encouragement in the wind. Whether it be a butterfly at the perfect moment, chancing upon her name in a book, or just "feeling" her around me, she is always at my side.

I miss the physical connection that I had with her. I miss hugging her, holding her, and stroking her hair, but not once since she left this world, have I felt absent of her spirit, and for that I am so very grateful.

On the days when I question myself the most, I think of Peyton.

I think of all that she faced and the strength that she exhibited in her tiny little self right to the very end, and I feel inspired to pull myself up by the bootstraps and face the facts - that while there are no guarantees in this life, and while the risk of enduring more pain and heartache is ever present - even the possibility that these twins can come into this world healthy makes fighting on through the fear necessary.