Friday, April 29, 2011

So close and yet so far.

This isn't the post that I sat down to write. I was going to tell you about my frustrations over Peyton's grave. I was going to tell you how guilty I feel that her spot has gone neglected these last few months. How I lie up at night sometimes, thinking about it.

I tried to go up there to fix it up yesterday, but I had two fussy babies on my hands and by the time I got there it was too buggy to get out of the car.

I was going to talk about how it makes me feel to think of Peyton looking down from Heaven and watching me leave the cemetery without even exiting the car because circumstances didn't allow for it. How I was so close to her grave, yet a world away from her (hence the title of this post) that it hurt my heart and I worry she might feel as though she has somehow been replaced.

I wish that I could get the message to her that replacing her - our first child - our brave little warrior - is impossible.

That is what I was going to write about, but as I started writing this is what came out instead.

Yesterday I ran into G, an elderly man that I have come to know during my visits to Peyton's hill. I drove into the cemetery and when our eyes connected, I could see a familiar sadness in his. We exchanged hellos and G proceeded to tell me how down in the dumps he has been feeling lately which came as no surprise since every conversation we have ever had has involved G telling me that he is feeling down in the dumps. I've almost come to expect it. 

G doesn't seem to want or to permit even the smallest bits of joy to creep into his life and to see him on one of his visits feels more like bearing witness to an act of penance as he leans for three hours a day, day in and day out regardless of the elements, against the cold stillness of his wife's stone. There is nothing cathartic or healing for him in his routine. 

The sad truth is that G has given up. He had already given up by the time I first met him, and it is something that has always struck me about him. Even during my darkest days on the hill I found it difficult to understand the level to which G had let go of allowing himself to find any measure of joy in what life he has left. Don't get me wrong. There were days, months, that first year really where I found little joy or humor in anything, but if a smile crept through, or a laugh, I welcomed the change. G does not and this has always struck me as especially ironic as I would peer into the young face in Peyton's picture at her grave, and note that while my daughter was allotted so few days on this earth, G has wasted so many.

He is in good health. He is living independently despite his age. He has family and friends (us included) who frequently invite him to dinner, or over for holidays, but he declines all invitations because to accept one might mean accepting happiness, and G sees this somehow as a betrayal to his lost love. 

I see G's story as a cautionary tale for all of us. It demonstrates what can happen when we, as the grieving, fall into a pattern of belief that to love those we have lost is dependent upon punishing ourselves.

Finding it difficult to find joy or to even want to find joy is a normal reaction to loss. There were days in my grief, many days, when I would let the phone go unanswered. Days when I thought the sky was black like pavement, because I didn't look up to see the sun. Days where I believed my smile might be lost forever... but not every day. Not every minute of every day.

I think it is important to remember that regardless of what stage you are at in your grief, if there are times when the sun pokes through the clouds and you feel joy, even if that joy lasts only the briefest of moments before another reminder of all that you have lost,  it is okay to embrace it. Punishing ourselves to the point of never experiencing joy benefits no one.

Not our families.
Not our friends.
Not the loved ones we have lost. 

G's wife died more than two years before Peyton - which means that this pattern, this slow march towards death, this refusal to enjoy one single moment of life, has gone on for nearly five years.

Five years where new connections could have been made, lessons could have been learned, experiences could have been had.
Five years where even if the overwhelming majority of his time had been spent grieving, G may have felt his suffering ease for a few brief moments here or there.
Five years of moments that would never and could never have replaced his wife or cheapened his love and commitment to her.
Five years of a death sentence that G could have spent living.

When I look at G leaning against his wife's stone, I see so much tragedy in the fact that with her death, so died his willingness to ever again allow himself to live.

Loving those we have lost should not carry with it this kind of a death sentence.
Love is not a punishment.


This Sunday is International Babylost Mother's Day. I am wishing for you all a day of beauty, peace, and if possible - joy.

Exhale Magazine is hosting its first ever visual arts contest with the theme SEEING WITHIN. There are great prizes available. The deadline to enter is this Sunday. Check out the details here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Is this what healing looks like?

I didn't cry in the car the other day.
I didn't freeze up.
Or stare straight ahead.
Or feel the crushing weight of the world on me.

I admit that I did pause.
I was introspective - I always am now.
Loss has done that to me.

But I didn't lose it and that is saying something...
more on that later.

The other night hubs and I were laying in bed, the two kiddos swaddled between us, and we had a conversation that went something like this.

Me: Do you feel like their arrival has brought you any healing?
Hubs: Yeah... a little. You?
Me: Yeah, me too.

It got me to thinking about this word - healing.
What exactly is healing?
What does it mean in the day to day?

I knew that there were pieces of me that could only heal with the healthy arrival and safe homecoming of the snowflakes. Being pregnant with them hadn't healed me. I had been pregnant before. Birthing them didn't heal me. I had done that before too. But getting to bring these little ones home. Watching them grow and live and thrive and change each day of these last seven weeks. To certain wounds that came with losing Peyton, with never bringing her home, with never seeing her grow, with doubting my abilities to create healthy life - to these wounds in particular my little snowflakes have brought healing.

And then there are parts of my heart and soul that still need healing.

I was told my child would die.
Nothing can take that back. 

I had to make end of life decisions.
Nothing can help me live with them. 

I held my daughter as she struggled to draw her last breath.

Even as I type these words, there is a weight that sits on my chest with a familiar heaviness. I don't know what it is to NOT feel it when I think of my sweet Peyton's moments on this earth. It's possible I never will.

That doesn't mean, however, that I won't, in time, learn to live with decisions I have made. It doesn't mean that I won't find a way to forgive myself my humanness. I can't turn back the hands of time and unlearn the painful lessons of loss, and I will always bear the scars of what Peyton's life was, but that doesn't mean the pain can never be dulled or the wound healed. There are so many things in my life now that felt impossible just a short while ago.

Last year at a meeting of my bereaved mothers group, the women went around the circle talking about their losses and what had gotten them through, and every woman in the room said that had it not been for her other living children, she would never have been able to go on. I remember looking up at them when my turn to speak came, with tears streaming down my face, and saying, "and what about me? I have lost my only child. How do I go on?"

They had no answers for me and I realized in that moment that I had to find my own.

I had to find a way to go on knowing that it might never involve other children. Knowing that a doctor, with a wall full of degrees, had told me that having other children would be an impossibility.

I had to find a way to go on just in case there were happier days ahead for me.

I wanted to give up after that meeting, but I refused. Instead I woke up the next morning, and the one after that, and on and on even on the days that I didn't want to wake up. Even on the really hard days. I drew a breath. And then another. I existed because it was my only choice, and as I did, little by little, my life was improving. I didn't know it then. I couldn't feel it then. Even through my diagnosis of infertility, and my failed first round of IVF, I was working towards my future.

That, too, was a part of my healing.

Which brings me back to what happened in the car. An ad played on the radio. It was a Mother's Day ad on a local rock station. It went something like this:

"She endured morning sickness and carried you for nine hard months. She spent countless sleepless nights taking care of you. She put up with you during those tough teen years. She loved you through all your bad decisions. This Mother's Day, do something for her in return..." 

After that it went on to hock some contest prize pack or product.

In the past that seemingly benign ad would have left me frozen. I would have said to myself: I carried her for nine long months but never got to see her teen years. I would get stuck on how unfair that was. I would think about the way I had been cheated by her birth.
By her short life.
By her death.

I would start questioning myself:
Will I ever be a mother?
Am I still a mother?
How can I be a mother if my only child is dead?

On and on would go the cycle of dismay over having to live childless in a world full of children.
On and on would go the fury at not knowing how to define myself.
How to define her.
How to define US.

But this time it was different. This time the ad played and I actually HEARD it. Not the isolating meanings that it would have held for me in the past, but just a silly ad on the radio about the crap kids sometimes put their mothers through. For the first time since becoming a mother three years ago, I realized, I almost felt a part of the club. Something that was only possible because I hadn't given up on trying.

I don't mean on trying to conceive.
I mean on trying to live.

I now have living children to show for my hard work.
Children who keep me up all night.
Children who will one day be teenagers, then adults, and eventually find themselves listening to just such an ad wondering what last minute gift to get me for Mother's Day.

For the first time I heard about Mother's Day and didn't immediately want to crawl under my covers and hide from the cruelness of a world that made me go on without her.

I am a mother.
I will always be different.
I have three children who exist in two very different worlds but I am a mother who loves them all,
and I am healing.

I can't be like other parents. For one thing there are certain neuroses that I exhibit that most other mothers wouldn't understand. I am hyper vigilant about protecting my children from carcinogens and I can't say that that will ever end. That, and doing whatever I can, whenever I can, to keep them healthy, even when it seems overboard to those who have never suffered loss, are two things I won't ever make excuses or apologies for.

That being said, I am parenting twins after loss and can honestly say that while one might expect me to assume the worst, I don't.

I don't double check to make sure that they are breathing.
I know they are.
I don't hold back on making plans for their futures.
I know those days will come.

Somehow, despite what I have been through, I still manage to always assume the best for their future, and at times even my own now, and that, too, is a sign to me that I am healing.

I think that in the loss/infertility world, what has been taken from us is so organic, so deeply a part of our being, that to expect us to compensate for what is missing overnight is unfair and unrealistic, but somehow, as hard as it may be at times, we find a path towards moving forward with the memories of our children, and we survive.

Each of us will write a different story.
Some will go on to have more children.
Others will not.
But all of us, with each day that we draw breath and work toward our future, regardless of how bleak we think that future may be or how far away our "happy ending" may feel, is doing the hard work of healing.

In our own ways.
On our own timelines.
Even though in the moment we can't see it,
by living we are all healing,

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Some Ups. Some Downs. Some Really Cute Pics.

The snowflakes will be six weeks old tomorrow. It is so crazy how quickly they are growing. K is now a whopping ten pound bruiser, and H is holding her own coming in around seven pounds.

Our days are spent cuddling, getting to know each other, looking for some sort of "routine", and eating - eating - eating!

K's latest milestones are putting weight on his legs, looking into our eyes, grasping my necklaces and hair, and smiling. H is starting to look into our eyes. She is a bit behind him only because of her small size. The pediatrician says she is actually working harder than he is, putting all of her energy into gaining weight, so she does more of an eat sleep eat sleep cycle, whereas K spends more time in the day being awake and taking in his surroundings. They have recently started crying in stereo -  as in one cries, the other joins in - and it can get a little loud at times, but for the most part it means they are hungry, so we all get together with a bunch of pillows, and they get latched, and things quiet down quickly.

They both do tummy time, but H is not quite as big a fan of it as K is. K over the last week also started to be colicky, so we are hoping that this phase of discomfort between 7pm and midnight each day passes quickly for him. It is sad to see him so uncomfortable, though the rest of the day he is quite a happy boy.

Both babies are losing their hair in the funniest male pattern baldness style, no hair left on top, just on the sides. I always thought babies lost their hair on the back and sides first, but not my little ones. Our theory on this is that all the close cuddles under daddy's bearded chin has rubbed the hair away.

This last month and a half has also proved a little challenging.

I am ashamed to admit how much difficulty physically AND emotionally has come with the demands of exclusively breastfeeding twins. Of all the challenges of parenthood, I never could have anticipated that breastfeeding would be the greatest. I LOVED breastfeeding Peyton. It offered beautiful bonding moments between us, calm among the chaos of the hospital. With Peyton there was a lot of time spent just watching her hold my finger, or doing skin to skin time and listening to her breathe.

Nursing the twins is altogether different. I primarily tandem breastfeed them (both at once), so there are no free hands for finger holding, and most of my attention is focused on keeping them latched and balanced. It can be quite draining at times (read 5-6-7-8 hour cluster feeds) and feel like a marathon.

The reason I say I feel ashamed to admit how difficult it has been for me is because it feels like I am admitting failure. This privilege of parenthood is one that I have waited and wanted and prayed for. Just to have the opportunity at the sleepless nights, and the diaper changes, and the marathon breast feeds is a gift, and after losing a child, finding myself complaining at all feels contrite. I no longer feel entitled to it.

But then there is the human part of me. The part that feels the exhaustion set in after spending hours on end hunched over two feeding babies, or nursing sore nipples because K likes to clamp down and turn his head really fast, and those are the days where breastfeeding wears on me.

At three weeks or so in, I was sure that I was going to throw the towel in on breastfeeding altogether. I was so exhausted and just done to the point that it was depressing me, but things have (thankfully!) gotten so much better in that department and I now have no intentions of giving up. At six weeks it is still a challenge, but one that I am getting a firmer grasp on. I feel the skies lifting and I am grateful for it. I keep telling myself, "maybe I actually CAN do this."

To be honest, I had contemplated not mentioning any of this in this post, because of how vulnerable it makes me feel to complain. For some reason as a BLM I feel judged differently. I feel like I have to qualify each new parent issue or challenge that I run into with "but I am just so happy they are here and healthy," (which OBVIOUSLY I am) whereas non BLM's don't. They can say, "this is tough," and it is taken at face value. I feel like saying that breastfeeding is very challenging for me makes me sound like an ingrate.

Do any of you other rainbow mommas or rainbow mommas to be out there feel that your parenting chops are judged by a different standard, either by yourself or others, because of the fact that you had suffered a loss?

Anyway, that's what's been going on here. To those who actually read through this post, I am proud of you for your willpower when I know what you really came here to do was to see some cute babies... so... without further ado...

 K After Bath Time

 K and Mommy Snuggle Time

 H and K Celebrating Their First St. Patty's Day

K Donning His Yoda Hat

H Showing Off Her Princess Leia Hat



 Twin Snuggle Time!

 Big Blue Eyes

Nap Time!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

All My Children...

What can I really say? 
No one ever imagines their family pictures will be this way.
This is my reality.

Friday, April 1, 2011

When the older sibling grows younger...

Yesterday it happened.
My little snowflakes outlived their big sister.

It's funny, in the blink of an eye that has been their first month with us, they have already done more living than Peyton was afforded, and yet her life felt, somehow, so much longer. She felt so much more present. It's as if she knew that every day for her was numbered, and spent them loading our hearts with love to carry with us beyond her grave.

Maybe it is because my relationship with Peyton has become so different these last few years. Maybe it is because she has, in many ways, become my confidant. I talk to her about everything. On that hill I had what felt to be a thousand conversations about her short life, our life before her, life after her, our hopes/dreams/fears. She was with us only 28 days, but we have talked in our own special way every single day since.

It is a strange feeling, to go from mothering the living, to the dead, to the living and dead. For years I have had one way conversations, pointing out the beauty of the nature around me or just talking on life in general to an emptiness in the back seat. An emptiness that now, though still non responsive verbally, is no longer empty, but filled with two growing, thriving, learning little beings. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe that any of this is real.

It is quite an adjustment to make to go from feeling as if life has passed one by, to once again feeling like a member of the living. These twins bring with them so much excitement about the future, it is an excitement that I thought for a long time would never again be possible for me.

And so I say thank you Peyton. For helping Mommy get through a darkness in these last few years that at times felt endless and unforgiving. Thank you for helping us to keep the faith. Thank you for showing us how beautiful the love between parent and child was, so that we never had any choice but to try again. Thank you for bringing your brother and sister to us safely.

Most of all, thank you for embedding yourself so deeply in my heart that though I have to live without you physically, I am never forced to greet a day without feeling your spirit close to me.

My baby.
My big girl.
I love you.