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,


  1. This is the most beautiful post. That's all I can say.

  2. I love love love this post! It's honesty, sincerity, & beauty! Thank you for sharing!!!

  3. My daughter was stillborn, and I delivered her surviving triplet sisters a day after we learned of her loss. She had a rare brain defect, and at week 15 we knew we had a 50% chance of losing her. Throughout the pregnancy, we acted like she would make it, and planned to raise triplets.

    When we lost her, I (I won't speak for my husband anymore), acted like her sisters, despite being born 10 weeks early, would be fine.

    Her surviving identical twin has cerebral palsy. I act like she's going to be able to do everything a "normal" child can do. It just may take her a little longer.

    I do it because, how else do you go on? I don't worry extra over my daughters. I don't check to see if they're breathing. I don't freak out when they're sick, or fall. I assume things will be fine, because the odds are generally on our side, even though we hit a lot of tiny odds in our pregnancy.

    But I also wonder if it's in the nature of how I lost my daughter. To a rare brain defect. Not nearly as rare as Peyton's cancer, but nothing I'd ever heard of until we got the diagnosis. There is nothing I could have done to stop what happened to my daughter. It was a fluke. There are things I can control, but I know there are a ton of others that I cannot. And stressing about things that I can't control, or trying in vain to try and control them, is going to stop me from moving forward.

  4. It's so wonderful to read these words from you, truly wonderful.
    I can't say I feel exactly as you describe, I wish I did. I can say though, that you are right, it's all a road to healing, I do know that. (I think)x

  5. Thank you for writing such a powerful, hopeful, wonderful view of what a future can hold if you are strong enough to keep going. Thank you. Xxx

  6. PERFECTLY said! WOW! I REALLY reach into my heart and express EXACTLY how I feel! You are a strong Mother and an inspiration.

  7. I am in awe of your strength. You are an amazing woman. I am so so happy that you are healing and so happy for your healthy beautiful snowflakes. My daughter lost her only child too. Life can be so cruel but she is now pregnant and we are praying for a very happy ending.
    Keep the Faith and have a wonderful Easter with your beautiful family. love and Hugs Leah's Nana

  8. This is an absolutely amazing post. I have no words to really say much more than that. It brought tears to my eyes and touched my heart and soul more than you could ever know. Thank you for writing this...and speaking from your heart. I am blessed to know I am healing...and moving forward in life and all that it has to offer me on Earth as I await the day to be with my daughter again. ((hugs))

  9. I am sure that your beautiful little Angel Peyton is watching down over her little brother and sister . Up in Heaven there is no pain , no sickness , no cancer. That is what would get me through knowing that she is safe in the arms of Jesus , and that someday we would be reunited again, that hope, is the only healing for me , but no matter what it's still hard. Praying that God will give you encouragement with each new day, which I'm sure He already does through the smiles of your two little ones.God bless you and your family.

  10. You are an inspiration to me.. Thank you.. God bless you and your family.

  11. I can relate to so much of what you say. Especially the bit about not checking to see if they are breathing... I envisaged myself being very anxious but once Jasper was here I really was quite confident (if thats the right word?). I just trusted in his being okay so much... because he was so much healthier than Jordan. Although I still used the sids monitor, half the time I would forget to put it on anyway...

    We will always be different... and the healing will always continue... This was a beautiful post Kristen. Thankyou. xx

  12. I can so so relate to this post. I am grateful for the snowflakes and for my second child too. Our heart patches.

  13. I nominated you for a blog award.

  14. It took me a long time to recognise that talking about healing (especially in relation to rainbow babies) is different from talking about replacing/moving on. But bit by bit, I've experienced healing too - it's not always linear. Sometimes, the scar tissue gets ripped off and the wound oozes again but yes, doing the hard graft of living after tragedy like ours does bring healing I think.

  15. What a stunning piece of writing. All of this rang true to me. I didn't find myself a childless mother for long thankfully, but I still found it hard when other mothers would say, "my living children were my only saviour". I too would wonder, "when is it my turn". I really did never think it would happen, despite my youth and fertility. I was robbed of all my confidence and trust in things when she died.
    I'm so glad I got to where I did. And I'm so glad you've finally joined me here on the other side.
    Missing our girls.

  16. What a beautiful, sad and hopeful post. xx

  17. And you did it again..where is my tissue...

  18. How true this is for so many. son brought so much healing to my heart, to my life. I can now feel the goodness not just the bitter pain of losing my Noa, although it is there at every step, I can now smile and want to live, I lost everything when she died, when Lucas was born I gained a different life, and I want to live it. Words do no justice to the happiness that I feel when I realize you have reasons to live not just reasons to go to heaven and join Peyton, you will one day do that, in its due time, for now you will continue to miss her, love her, as you love your sweets that are physically here with you. Hugs to you all.

  19. Wow, just wow! You always amaze me my friend.

  20. This was so beautifully and honestly written. I think healing is different for us all and that each way that is chosen is best for us individually. Thank you for writing this.