Sunday, January 20, 2013

Walking with You - First Steps Back

This week's Walking With You topic is about those first moments/days/experiences back into the "everyday."  Kelly says, "Share about your first steps back into life. What helped you survive in the world outside as you took those first tender steps? Are there still tender areas for you today, living in a world that doesn’t embrace or understand the loss of a baby/child? How do you cope with those struggles? What advice would you offer those new to this walk to encourage and bring hope? How has this changed for you from the beginning? If you are in early grief, what do you fear/struggle with as you try to navigate a new normal….life without your baby?"

Well, if you head over to my archives, it won't take you long to find out what returning to every day life was like after losing Duncan....

And can I just insert something here?  I have been pregnant 7 times.  I've lost more babies than I've had the joy of bringing home.  My miscarriages are as much a part of my story as Duncan's life.  Well.....if I'm being totally honest, that isn't true.  They are a part of my story, but the impact of my pregnancy with and delivery of Duncan is profound.  Therefore, for the most part, my Walking With You entries will be reflective of my loss of him, not my other lost pregnancies.  That said, for those of you reading whose grief and heartache comes from earlier losses, please know that the pain is as real.  As huge.  The loss is as great.  S/he was your BABY.  I get that.  I hope I NEVER come across as insensitive to that, just because I speak of Duncan more often and more intensely than my other losses.  (I hope that all made sense...)

But back to the topic at hand...

My writing during the summer of 2009 is as raw as the experiences themselves.  Some I shared, and for those of you reading whose grief is more recent, I would encourage you to click back over to some of my posts from then.

Some of the first "tender steps back" were merely items to check off a cruel to-do list, like ordering an urn.   Or having to line up childcare for Seth because I remained on bedrest even after delivery, thanks to post-partum pre-eclampsia.  Or having to return a maternity swimsuit I never got to wear.  Or scheduling the MFM appointment to start the barrage of testing that would, hopefully, hold some answers.  They were things that irritated me, angered me.  Because I shouldn't have to be doing them at all.  On the flip side, though, those were the "easy" things.  The things that just had to get done.  Put the emotion aside (for the moment) and just place the order, climb in bed, hand over the receipt, make the appointment, etc.  Just get it done.  And there was comfort -- albeit minor -- in that.  At least, in those moments, I could execute, versus flounder, which is what I did the rest of the time....

There were so many sleepless nights.  SO. MANY.  I couldn't sleep, for various reasons, whether it was discomfort from my milk-heavy breast or a racing pulse from too many blood pressure medications.  Or, in many cases, I didn't want to sleep, because sleep meant dreams, and dreams were so rarely sweet in those first days and weeks.

 I remember reaching out to my blog readers when I felt lost, unsure of how to be present for Seth (who, remember, was only 17 months at the time) while navigating through grief.

I was super-sensitive, to even the most trivial of details, if it had ANYTHING to do with Duncan.  It was as if each encounter that touched upon his life was SO precious and SO fragile -- since there would be so few of them -- that I guarded them so fiercly.  Hence, why I was offended by the Homer Simpson stamp on his cremation certificate.

But probably the most notable "event" during the first days, etc., was the church trifecta....I touched on it in last week's post, but it is even more significant for this week's topic.  I was so hesitant to make that first trip back to church, and after what happened when I got there, my hesitation was justified.  But, in the way that so many moments of this journey became redeemed, so did the church experience.  That said, the ignorance and insensitivity of one woman scarred me.  Truly.  To this day, I struggle with feelings of insecurity when it comes to "how I'm doing this."  As I said then, 
"She had managed to underscore ALL my insecurities that have formed in the last 22 days, primarily that there is a "how to" book out there that is being withheld from me. I'm so fearful that I'm doing "this" wrong -- that I'm grieving wrong, that I'm responding to Jim wrong, that I'm not moving on fast enough, that I'm moving on too fast, that we should have had a funeral, that we should have had maternity pictures taken, that we should have done something we didn't or that we shouldn't have done something we did....."
There are areas that are still to this day so very tender.  Some triggers are obvious.  Others are much more subtle.  Like the first time you have to buy tampons instead of nursing pads.  (Okay, maybe that one isn't so subtle.)  The sneak-up-on-you moments have been happening from the very beginning, and I would imagine will continue to do so.  And while I'm in the vicinity to that link there, in the last sentence, let me touch on one of the questions that Kelly posed in her intro to this week's topic: "What advice would you offer those new to this walk to encourage and bring hope?"

PLEASE, please don't be afraid to speak up if you are hurting and need an ear.  A shoulder.  A safe place to vent/cry/rail against the unfairness of it all.  I did that -- the "speaking up" part in that post, and while it didn't garner a sudden outpouring of phone calls and offers to bring dinner, it was validating in the sense that I said, out loud, so to speak, "HEY!  This happened.  I'm still hurting.  It was a BIG DEAL.  I get that life needs to continue on, but I still can't hardly breathe.  I STILL NEED YOU."

I lamented in past posts that the things I would get to do for Duncan would be so few.  And that is still true, I guess.  But, three and a half years out, I'm been pleasantly surprised to learn that he still has a very real and obvious place in my "quiver" and in my day to day.  Just a few nights ago, I got to tell his story.  What started as a reference to why our first six months living in Nashville likened us to poor ol' Job turned into a wonderful testimony of God's grace and omnipresence in our lives and home in the wake of Duncan's death.  I'd known the lady I was talking to for all of 20 minutes before I was talking about VBACs and D&Cs and urns and 1-pound-1-ounce babies, but I shared my son's story unashamedly....and I'm having a playdate with this new mommy friend on Tuesday.

So, I'll close with that.  Maybe it's a stretch to link dead babies to playdates, but for me....it was a monument of sorts, to how far I've come, from those first days when you feel like the whole world is staring at you because you look fat and frumpy and probably haven't showered and have tear-streaks down your face.....to the next stage when you are more "aware" and stumble over your words when someone asks you how many children you have.....to the anniversary dates....to the days like I had Thursday, when you tell a stranger, "I have 3 boys and a girl, but our second son passed away."  And while it may sound insensitive to say that I don't care if that makes her uncomfortable or if it's something she'd rather not know, it's a victory for me.  To get to that place where the "tender" turns into "triumphant" and you realize that you are that much closer to the place where, yes, the missing is still there, but you're so much more aware that they aren't really gone -- not in the way that matters.  They are as close as our next breath....

If you're not there yet in your walk, be patient and gentle with yourself.  You will get there.  There will be bumps and bruises -- tripping over idiots (and they are legion!) will do that to you -- along the way.  But you will get there.  I promise.

13 comments:

Kelly @ Sufficient Grace Ministries said...

Oh, how I get every word of this post, my friend. And, especially, the sweetness of that victory. So many years later, I'm still finding my way at times...still stumbling over that question every once in awhile. But, I am embracing victory more often than not these days. Being the people pleaser that I am, at times, it's taking me awhile to let go of the concern over whether or not someone is made "uncomfortable" by the mention of my children. Crazy, huh?

In recent days, reflecting over some of those early hurts...much has changed in us...Tim and I...but not a lot has changed with some others in our life. I remember in the early days feeling the separation of the two of us (well 3, actually, because Timothy's life was profoundly changed by Faith, Grace, and Thomas as well) from the rest of the world. I am noticing, more recently, as we become so public with the ministry...as it becomes a very consuming, everyday life's work for me, I am again feeling that separation from some who are "close" to us. Almost as if you are someone who doesn't "get it", I just don't have the time or desire to spend a great deal of time in your presence.

It's unavoidable for those who tried for so many years to avoid mentions of our children...and I'm now unapologetic. Not that we are not filled with life and joy. We are certainly not walking around all doom and gloom in a constant state of joyless, hopeless mourning. But, I realize if you are someone who doesn't "want to know that babies die", you may not want to be around me. I'm pretty much a walking reminder of that difficult truth. It's in our local newspapers, we speak about them to churches and women's groups, I go to an office everyday full of comfort bears that will ease the ache of empty arms. People form a line behind us in the post office each week, as the tall stack of packages being shipped to grieving families all over the world gets processed. They ask what's in the package. I answer. They act surprised...even though I've told the story a million times. It's easy to pretend that babies don't die...to put that thought away somehow, because it's too hard to believe that it's so prevalent. They read the articles or Facebook posts and think..."That's so nice of her." But, when they see the tall stack of boxes, it's real. Families with empty arms will receive them.

At this point, it's unavoidable for those who wish to avoid the fact that our children were here...because it's too hard.

So, some have chosen to stay away, again. And, I'm working through some interesting reactions to that. There are days when the flesh wins and I'm low on grace...and I want to say...if you don't want to look, then stay away. We are busy serving the best we can, and truthfully don't have time for "uncomfortable" or "too hard". But, the Holy Spirit tugs and I realize that we all need grace. I'm working on it. Giving it to Him over and over. Because, I won't lie...those sixteen year old wounds run deep. Even now.

I'm rambling now...but YOU get Me. And for that, dear sister, I'm grateful. If you ever get time, I would love to see your beautiful face. Maybe I can show you the SGM office sometime. Would love that. Or maybe we can meet up at Panera. It's been all kinds of busy up in here... We'll talk soon.

Kelly @ Sufficient Grace Ministries said...

Just realized I wrote a whole other blog post in your comment section. ;)

Tina said...

thanks for sharing! my couple of first's (especially the first church service) were overwhelming too. and i also struggled with it not being "news" to those around my after only a few days, but it was still very real and painful and consuming to me. having someone there to just listen is a huge thing when you experience this kind of loss.

My name is Heather. said...

i love what you have to say, and can bear witness to so much of it, unfortunately. i have more children in heaven than I will ever have on this earth, and that saddens me. i still trip over my words when asked how many i have, and i've always wondered how insensitive i was to think about and refer to my triplets, way more than the 3 that miscarried early on.
thanks for your post.

Jennifer Ross said...

Trying to find a new comfortable, among the people who are uncomfortable with loss... It's really hard to do in the beginning. But we do find our way eventually...

I can 't get over the Homer Simpson stamp... OMGosh!

Jeanette said...

Thank you for sharing more of your heartrending story! YOu write it so beautifully and with vulnerability that it feels a great privilege to be able to read it.
My sweet sister-in-law gave birth to a stillborn back in November. I know I have not been great about reaching out to her. I cry for her and wish desperately that things had turned out differently, but being a help and an encouragement in the face of so much loss seems so difficult and maybe even impossible. I fear I'll say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing.
YOur post reminds me that I have to get over myself and my insecurities and fears and continue to reach out to her. Our lives are going on merrily while hers is still stuck in November. I'm going to call her this afternoon.
Thank you.

Tesha said...

You are such an amazing writer so beautifully hurt and healing flow in your posts. In the words of one of my dear friends, "you turn agony into poetry"! I am privileged to read the story of you and your family and be so blessed and encouraged, THANK YOU!

Kyla said...

You have such a beautiful gift of writing! It is such a blessing to read your posts!!!

Thank you so much for sharing.

Holly said...

Thank you for sharing so much of stepping back into the world so to speak. I don't think it's a stretch at all to link play dates and dead babies. Aren't our children (both living and Heavenly) such a intertwined with so much of our lives? :)

Catherine said...

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful and heartfelt post. I really appreciated your recognition of how far you've come... all the way from a Homer Simpson stamp to openly sharing your story with a stranger. I still struggle to talk about Gabriel IRL because his loss was so recent, but I hope that in the years to come, it will feel more natural to talk about him freely.

Betty said...

I love this post. Thank you for sharing from your heart! It's sort of funny the odd, random things that set off our grief. At least they are random to those on the "outside". Random little things that mean so much to US. I have a hard time with Easter Dresses. Those frilly little things taunt me from their racks.

I think that something that hurts more than words sometimes are the people who ignore us. I struggle daily with that. I would never post it on my blog because I'm afraid of offending her, but the "friends" I talk about wanting to talk to about our loss is actually just one person...my best friend since elementary school. She has never even given the courtesy of "I'm so sorry for your loss." The only time she acknowledged we had lost was when she found out a few months ago (before I did) that she was pregnant. She didnt tell me. I found out on facebook. I called her in tears and she just said she knew I was having a hard time "with everything" and didnt want to upset me with her pregnancy. That hurt worse.

Thank you for giving me a place to vent! HaHa! I really enjoyed this post!

Jenn said...

Thank you for sharing this, so much of it rings true for me as well! Oh how comforting it is to realize we aren't alone! And I too experienced the scarring of those who judged my grief. From people whose live have just been peachy-keen too, ugh.

Kayla Yow said...

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful post straight from the heart! I am still going through the firsts, and I am still struggling some days. But, everyday it gets a little easier, with the help of wonderful family, friends, support groups, and blogging BLMs, like you!