Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I am blessed. I am burdened.

Every once in a while I get a note, an email, or a comment from someone expressing concern that in missing my daughter, I am not focusing enough on the blessings that are these little snowflakes, or that if I focused more on the blessings that they are, it would make missing Peyton somehow become easier. I don't begrudge the comments, they are always well meaning and said with love. It's just that to me, the thought of focusing on your blessings not your grief sort of oversimplifies what it is to be in a high risk pregnancy after a traumatic infant loss.

Amongst the rays of joy and sunshine, my grief thrives, and deep down I know it always will to some degree. How can I not grieve when a part of me, the first life born of the love between my husband and myself, will never be here with us? Her loss has cut through me at an organic level. It has altered the very core of my being.

A wound like that is chronic. It may lay dormant at times, hidden beneath the surface of our smiles, but the pain at losing Peyton, in the manner in which we lost her, will always be there, and reminders of what we don't have, will always be evident.

I was coming home from the cardiologists office the other day (I have been having some cardiac issues this pregnancy too, but will go into that on another post) and passed a woman on the street pushing a twin stroller with two 18 month-ish children in it. Beside her, a girl who appeared a few years older, pushed a stroller of her own with a doll inside. The mother waved, and smiled, and I waved, and smiled, but it hurt like a dagger through my heart.

THAT was what should have been.

My daughter should be here, trying to make whatever sense she can in her own toddler way of my ever growing belly. She should be that little girl in a year and half's time, walking alongside her momma and siblings, pushing a doll down the street. There are so many things that should be with Peyton, but they won't and never will be, and that hurts.

I can accept that she is never coming back. I can accept that for all of my life I will struggle answering "how many children do you have" or wonder what she would have looked like at a particular stage in her life. What I can't accept is what I can't understand - that for reasons that have still never offered any answers, two perfectly healthy people made a cancer ridden child, and a month of suffering was the only life she ever knew. I do my best to hold onto the beauty - the memories of holding her, how she smelled, the touch of her cheek against my chest, but I will never understand why she is no longer with us. Why part of me is no longer with us. Why my husband and I will never again be "whole."

That's not to say, of course, that we can't live a life of joy. It's just to say that a life of pure joy is not possible.

We have seen too much.
Lost too much.
Cried too much.

I experience joy daily from the love of my husband, my family, my friends. The reassuring nuzzle of my dog Charlotte against my side. Each bout of morning sickness, though it taxes me physically, that offers a sign that things are moving along as they should be.

Each day I offer gratitude for these babies. After hearing the words, "you will never again have children" I know full well that each kick is a grand accomplishment, and every punch or jab is a reassuring gesture of love that all will be okay. I rarely allow myself to dwell on all the reasons that have me on bed rest, or the scary complications they can bring, and instead tell myself that in four months time, God willing, these little snowflakes will be born into this world healthy and whole, and another level of healing in my heart can begin. 

A level of healing. Not a cure. There is no cure that can undo what has happened to our sweet Peyton.

I look for joy and blessings in the every day - but I am only human.

I have found it impossible to experience so much loss - to carry a child I believed was healthy and discover at birth that she would most likely not survive; to try to live with making end of life care decisions that come to haunt me daily about that child who I so wanted, planned for, and loved; to have to bury that child, and then just get over it, or sugar coat it beneath life's other blessings.

I know that there are many who have had it worse than me, and remind myself of this every day, but somehow that just doesn't make this journey any easier to take.

Most days I wake up and I feel content - not whole, I will never feel whole, but content. On other days I am paralyzed by the fear of possibly re-living the nightmare that has been the last few years. Scared mostly by the knowledge that I got through by the skin of my teeth the first time.

Right after Peyton died, a friend told me that people would be looking to me as an example of strength. This friend has since all but vanished, and I have felt in my heart that it is because I didn't live up that expectation. I wasn't strong through Peyton's death, I didn't and still don't know how to be. The best I have been able to offer is honesty - my weakness and vulnerability exposed every step of the way.

In my current journey, the one of walking the tightrope between bereaved mother and expectant mother, I follow much the same path. Most days I feel confident that all will work out, but on others words like pre-term labor, infant loss, high risk, and leukemia come banging down my door, and when they do, all I can do is hold on tight waiting for that storm to pass.

There are certain African cultures where young boys are sent out into the woods to hunt at night as a right of passage. Some of these boys, too, struggle to be brave. Some of them find that they, like me, are not "examples of strength" but walking into that dark jungle is what they have been called to do, so they go out and try none the less.

Fears surround them - of the dark, of what lurks in the shadows, of the stories of other young hunters encountering wild beasts that over power them. They are sent into these woods with a spear and a message - a token of advice from the elders to get them through. "Yes these terrible things can happen in the jungle, but that doesn't have to be your story."

I think of these boys on the really tough days. The days full of guilt and grief and fear and I remind myself that yes I lost my first child with no warning and no answers and yes I am scared it could happen again, but even though Peyton's birth story and life were tragic, and will always stay with me, that DOESN'T HAVE TO BE the snowflake's story.

I repeat this message to myself until it starts to feel true, and when it finally does, I pick up my spear, and my gratitude, and push forward through the jungle once again.


  1. No words that I can say will make you miss Peyton any less.
    I will be praying for you that God gives you strength during this difficult time.

  2. i am not yet pregnant with my "rainbow," but i think i can relate. as grateful as you might be for these snowflakes and all your other blessings, how could your outlook on life and your experience in this pregnancy NOT be colored by your experience with peyton? for myself, having only ever experienced pregnancy's worst possible outcome (stillbirth at 25 weeks of my perfect, healthy son, who only died b/c my body failed him - incompetent cervix) - how in the world can i expect to get through a subsequent pregnancy without being anxious and scared for 9 months (assuming i make it that far).

    i think you make an important distinction between being able to live w/ joy, but not with pure joy.

  3. I love this post, as it is honest and true! I believe that's why you have so many followers! I have a friend who is 11w5d and has SCH, and I'm worried about her, worried that her doctor isn't taking it seriously enough. She owns 3 businesses and works hard--a lot! I'm going to look more, but if you have any info to share I'd be grateful!! You can email me at deni.troxclair@gmail.com

    I'm praying for you as you continue this journey. I read again your post about choosing the IVF and being Catholic. My husband is Catholic and our decision was hard for him too, but we did pray about it and come to peace with our choice. It certainly isn't easy though and I appreciated that honestly in your post also!

  4. Missing my son doesn't make me any less thankful for having my daughter here and healthy. I fully appreciate what I have AND what I've lost. I know this is a scary, though hopeful time for you. I hope you end up with two healthy babies. I know you will continue to honor all of your children despite those who would have you only be grateful.

  5. So very well said.
    I have always believed that to truly "know" joy you also have to know pain for how can you possibley understand what to be joyful is unless you know the flip side of it too?

  6. I've stopped by your blog a number of times but have never commented but today I have to change that.
    I know it may seem that you are not strong, but I can assure you that you are. I lost my father a few years ago, and while it shook my world and broke my heart, I know it's not the same as losing a child BUT I kept hearing how "strong" I was just because I didn't appear to be broken to most people. A week after his passing I had to come back to work - I had no choice. Years later I'm still struggling with his passing and I don't know how I made it through the week after his death, let alone how I'm still getting through each day now. I kept moving because if I didn't my Mom would have just stayed on the couch forever. I wasn't strong - I was living and I didn't really want to for awhile. Strength isn't something you see when you're going through it but it is something that others see in you. Even when you think you are faltering, that you are losing yourself and falling into the depths you are still moving forward (not on... NEVER on! I hate when people say that!!!), you are still being strong. I've often heard the saying "You never know how strong you can be until you have no choice", but I disagree. I think you never know how strong you can be. It'll never seem like you're strong enough, but you are strong simply by being. You're strong by opening up your heart and world to us and by being honest. It takes strength to post all that you've posted.
    I'm sending you lots of hugs and positive thoughts.

  7. You were kind. I won't be so much.

    Anonymous is a cowardly ass who we can all hope will never know just how little he/she knows.

  8. http://www.facesofloss.com/
    here is a site that might help you fell not so alone.

  9. Missing and mourning someone instead of "putting on a brave face" should never be seen as a sign of weakness. You love Peyton, and you love your Snowflakes. Your grief over Peyton does not take from the love you are feeling for your snowflake babies. You are strong and I admire you just for keeping on. Hugs and prayers.

  10. I have to say that one part of your post stuck out for me - and I strongly disagree with it. It is where you said that you are not, and have not been strong! You ARE strong. I too have lost a friend because she didn't like how I was handling my grief (so many others handled it so differently when it happened to them (although it wasn't the same story by any means) - that was her thought). If that is the reason this friend left, then she is wrong. Or she was looking for a kind of "strength" that doesn't, and shouldn't exist. She may have thought that because you talk about Peyton, cry about her, can't get out of bed but have somehow found a way to breathe each day, that you weren't strong. But all those things to me, scream how strong you are! You remember her, you talk about her, you dream of her, you miss her. And you tell the world that you do. You don't hide it. You don't forget that she ever existed or don't speak her name because it may make some dumb "friend" uncomfortable. You are her mother, and you show your mothering each and every day. And you had the immense strength to try again!!! After huge amounts of set backs, among losing your daughter. All of those things could have led a lot of people to never try for a baby again - but not you. Because you are strong.

    Please don't make someone who is uncomfortable with true grief (my assumption is she has never lost anything truly meaningful in her life) make you think you aren't strong. She is wrong. You are amazing and an inspiration.

    Love, Katie

  11. I think you are very brave and I pray for you and your little snowflakes often.

  12. This post really touched ny heart. I feel so many of the same feelings. Being pregnant with this rainbow, I just feel so cheated. People think and assume that I will be "fixed" somehow w/this new little one. I will never be "fixed" nor do I want to be.
    It's sad that unless you have been through such a loss no one will ever understand the guilt and pain we have to live with everyday.
    I know there are days ahead of us with many smiles because of our new little one's but that doesn't mean that behind each smile there will always be a frown behind it.
    Not a single days goes by that I do not think and pray for you. ((HUGS))

  13. You ever heard the song "Painting pictures of Egypt" by Sara Groves? Look it up...it reminds me of this.

    I knew people were going to say this. But, alas, those are always the people who haven't had a loss this profound. The people who think that "looking forward to the twins will replace the grief you feel over Peyton!"

    You explained it so well.

  14. I believe you are such a strong woman, and I can't imagine the pain you have gone through, and will go through. I am sure the birth of your babies will be a joyous event, but I can imagine that it will also be sad knowing that they would of had a big sister. I have lost 1 baby...and I know that it doesn't get easier everyday, there is not one day when I haven't thought why me, and how come, but I know at the bottom of my heart that it was for the best, so she would not be in pain or suffer.

    I love reading your blog, and I wish I could be as honest as you are in how I dealt with the death of Lily, it makes it oh so hard when TTC too!

  15. Your writing always rings true for me, but this post was so close to my heart.
    This line:
    "Her loss has cut through me at an organic level. It has altered the very core of my being."
    I could pick out more, but this really hit me with a thud. Yes, yes and more yes.
    I miss Peyton so much.

  16. I think the depth of our grief only exemplifies the height of our joy. How can you know how wonderful true joy is without knowing what it is like to live the exact opposite, heart wrenching deep sorrow. They give each other color and depth. I think you are an example of strenth, because you have lived both extremes, you know both so well. Most others merely live grey, middle tone, lives...

  17. The ones that stay here with you never, ever replace the ones you lose but they do make it just a little bit more bearable. {{{Hugs}}}

  18. This is such a wonderfully touching post.

    I completely understand the paradox of being both joyful and deeply pained. Your daughter was your baby, and her absence has left a hole in your heart that is precisely the shape of her special spirit. Nothing else will ever fill that unique hole that forever resides in your heart.

    Dare I say, though, that in the shadow of loss there is a small gift. You will hold your babies a little closer, and you will draw them in more deeply, cherish them a little more than the mother who never knew the pain of loss. You will appreciate them a little more, because another little angel taught you the paradox of love and pain living side by side.

    I'm so sorry for your loss. Peyton is a beautiful baby. I know you carry her always.

    Sending you love and support.

  19. People just dont understand...and like you say they mean well but just dont get it...you are doing what anyone in your shoes would do and its ok to think of your little girl often:)

    On a side note...I have been told lately to enjoy bedrest because you will never have a time like this again...Really who the hell likes to be laying around this much not me...I hope I dont have to do this ever again..I will of course if needed but being confined and losing you Independance and not being to live and do day to day task is not fun...maybe for a day or two...But like I said people dont get it:(

  20. I don't think it's because you didn't live up to her expectation. She couldn't deal with it and she had the luxury of being able to walk away. The luxury of course that none of us babylost have. We have no choice but to live this day in day out.

    I'm so sorry that you have to work through this. I remember feeling the same and it was so hard.


  21. What a wonderful, heartfelt posting. You are so honest, which is very endearing, I love it.
    Your loss is something that only you can understand. Everyone is so different. No two people grieve exactly the same.
    Will continue to pray for your precious snowflakes. Praying that you can feel complete joy again. Keep the Faith. Love Leah's Nana

  22. You know part of being strong is feeling everything you feel and sharing it with others. Some people go through so much and never allow it to show. But just like Linda's comment above everyone is different and grief is something everyone expresses differently. And I think there is nothing wrong with focusing on your daughter even if she is not with you anymore. But she was and she very much is apart of you still. And as a mother our children never leave our minds or our hearts.

  23. I always try to maintain that same outlook--that people 'mean well' and that it is usually 'from a place of love and concern' that such things are said.

    But seriously, I get tired of biting my tongue and telling them that while their intentions are lovely, their words are thinly veiled attempts to try and 'fix' something that just can't be fixed. Our children are gone. That's not fixable. It's something we live with and deal with and have to muddle through the best we can and NO one, even in their love and concern for us, has the ultimate answer--as in, "Focus on your blessings, so your loss doesn't seem so great."

    The truth is, whether we have no more blessings in life or a MILLION more....the loss is GREAT. As you said--altering every single layer of us organically. Nothing changes that.

    And if those same people who express their concern that you aren't focused enough on the Snowflakes paid attention to how joyous every single (even the ones wrought with fear!) word you write about them is...well, they'd know what we all know--you are beyond in love with those babies and would do, as you would have for Peyton, any and everything you could do to love them and protect them. You recognize their value as amazing miracles and in light of all you've gone through, I'd say that was quite an accomplishment and presentation of courage and bravery that most (thank God) have no true experience with.

  24. I have been composing a similar post in my head for so, so long... the delicate and excruciating balance of grief and joy. Of heartache and happiness. Of dread and of hope. You are amazing. Peyton and her legacy is amazing and these tiny little snowflakes are true blessings. I wish you so much and love and strength...it's all so very, very hard, but you will face it with grace, integrity and most of all love and devotion to all of your children.

  25. Hello my name is Felicia Davis.
    I have been following your blog for a little while now. Your first daughter is so precious and you have every right to grieve in "your" way. I too lost an infant. My first daughter as well. She didn't go because of leukemia but of prematurity complications and liver failure. She lived for 7 months and 3 days.(you can read more @ tanaleedavis.blogspot.com- www.facesofloss.com It is hard to deal with something like death. Its NOT natural. Everyone grieves in their own way. Don't let anyone tell you how to grieve. Do what feels right for you. What your feeling is normal and valid. Every life is precious and should be cherished. You are strong even when you feel weak. You have come out after facing a lion, mans enemy death. Take comfort that your little girl is in no pain and she knew that you loved her. I hope this post will bring you comfort. Your blogs always comfort me when I feel alone in my grief. Thank you. I hope the best for your little ones brew'n. Hugs- Felicia

  26. Oh you don't realize it but you have amazing strength!! You are such an inspiration and your words touch my heart. Praying for your strength and continued grace as you get ready to welcome your snowflakes.

  27. This post was so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your heart with us.

  28. I know what you mean about that friend, I feel like some people need me to be strong because they can't handle my vulnerability. It takes courage and honesty to be vulnerable. When people see it in others, it makes them face the vulnerability inside themselves. With the challenges I've experienced, it's been fascinating to watch what kicks off in other people's lives as a result. The reactions are always unexpected!

  29. This is your space, I'm sure you don't walk around pouring your soul out to whoever you encounter. This is the space you have created to let lose, to free your thoughts of all the windy emotions that come along as you grieve Peyton. There is simply no judging this space. Every time I stop by I enter into your space, into that intimate struggle you face on a daily basis. I am often touched by your vulnerability, I take this ride with you, I follow your ups and your downs and I know that understanding it all would be an impossible task even though I have also lost a daughter, I choose to walk it with you, I don't come here to draw conclusions, I just come here to walk with you. I hope you continue to feel free to express your thoughts, I hope you know that judgement is something you simply cannot afford to waste your energy on. This is yours, and this is your life. No one else had Peyton, loved Peyton, buried Peyton...you did. Did someone tell you how to love her, how to say goodbye to her, was someone there feeling your pain? Then not one person can actually tell you to grieve any way, you are the only one that can find the road to your own grief.

    I must say that I lost my daughter in a tragic way, during labor, at the end. But, in all my pain, I know that what you lived that month, I did not. I did not see my daughter suffer, I did not have to make any decisions in regards to her health or her sickness. I often think that in that way I was spared, so when I think of your pain, I try to relate and I do, often. I know that the differences are there and for that reason I know that even though we share a loss in common, our roads are our own and I will never pass judgement on how you walk yours. I hope you can let this overwhelming show of support calm your spirit, I hope it washed away all trace of doubt, I hope that it can shield you from those that simply "don't get it".

  30. Only one that is pregnant after a loss can truly understand that how you feel is completely natural. Your blog brings back so many of the feelings I had losing my second daughter. I pray that your snowflakes lives fill yours with more hope and joy then you can ever imagine, knowing that all along you will remember and forever grieve Peyton but knowing that she is there with all of you.

  31. Great post. There really are great joys in our lives every day but there are also reminders of what was lost. Losing a child is hard to understand.