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.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Walking with You – Clinging in the Pit

This week’s topic of Walking with You is about the early stages of grief.  Kelly asks, “What was it like, clinging for hope in the pits of despair? What did you cling to for hope? How did you survive the early days? What helped? What do you wish you could share with someone new to this walk, clinging in the pit?

It’s been a very long time since I’ve written about Duncan, and the impact he had, and continues to have on my life.  I suppose the most recent posts would have been in the days leading up to his third birthday, and the birth of our James.  And I suppose, that is because the place I’m in now – the place I didn’t have time to touch on when I was getting kicked out of the coffeehouse last week – has become unnoticeable, in the way that familiar things do.  You don’t notice the way your favorite shoes fit, you don’t notice the angle you turn the shower knob to bring forth the right temperature water…it just is – every day, the same.  And that is where I’m at, today, when it comes to my loving and missing my sweet Second.  He is present, in a hundred ways, all day, every day.  The “pit” of grief is still existent.  But not gaping.  Yawning.  Bottomless.

Not like it was in the beginning…

In the beginning – the REAL beginning – the pit was just a bad dream, in the sense that it wasn’t real.  Not yet.  It was just a horrible “what if,” a scary worst-case-scenario that wasn’t really reality.  Yet.  Lesson learned from that first encounter with the initial pit?  Denying it doesn’t mean you’re not standing on the edge of it.

Tripping over the edge wasn’t as painful as I’d have expected, looking back.  I think that is because my mother’s heart already knew.  But having my suspicions verified – if not yet verbalized, at least acknowledged by a doctor – was how I actually stumbled from the safety of one reality into the darkness of another.  Lesson learned, part two. Thinking “it’s not so bad,” is a coping mechanism.  It IS bad.  And chances are, it is going to get worse.

The darkest part of the pit of grief, for me, was actually hearing the words.  Because there was hope.  Always, the tiniest sliver of hope.  Until there wasn’t.  Until the doctor confirmed what my heart knew, and my eyes saw what the doctor said, and I had to accept that nothing would ever, ever be the same again.  And as I sat on an ER gurney and wailed an unrecognizable wail, cradled in my husband’s arms…I fell.  Lesson learned, number three.  When you’re falling off a cliff, you think, surely, the scary part ends when you finally hit the bottom….  It doesn’t.  The freefall is terrifying.  But the hurt starts when you stop falling.

I’ll try to pick up the pace here….

The days in between learning that Duncan had passed away and delivering him into this world were dark.  I’d stopped falling, but only to begin wandering aimlessly, though a million details needed to be addressed.  Everything was so unclear and foggy and foreign in those days.

But… (and I know Kelly is reading this going, “Girl!  Get to the HOPE part!!!”)

The morning after Duncan was born, a marvelous thing occurred.

The sun rose.  (I know, I know.  The sun always rises.  Technically.)  But the sun rose, and I watched it.  With my sweet, absent, boy cradled in my arms.  And as I stood there, on the third floor, room D, I realized that I was still in the pit.  BUT.  I hadn’t fallen so far that the sun still couldn’t warm my face.  I hadn’t fallen so far that I couldn’t still feel His loving arms wrap around me, even as I struggled to let go.  I hadn’t fallen past the point of no return; I was actually close enough to the edge to stand on my tip-toes, and stretch my fingertips, and reach over to find….

New life.

New appreciation.  New joy.  New purpose.

Not that there weren’t bad days.  Not that there weren’t constant reminders of what was missing.  Not that there weren’t things that made me madhurtconfusedsadangry all at once.  Not that there weren’t instances where I questioned the sanity of some of those around me as I navigated my way out of the pit.

But….

I chose to walk away from the hospital that day I said goodbye to my son, believing that I would be okay.  That Jim and I would be okay.  That our family would be okay – and wonderful – no matter how many chairs stood empty at our table.  I chose to believe my God loved me more than I could comprehend.  I chose to believe that there would be a time when it didn’t hurt to breathe.  I chose to trust that my heart would mend.  And I chose to be patient.  I chose to accept that my journey would be my own – and that no one could dictate my climb out.  Not when I emerged.  How messy and torn and bloody I was when I climbed over the edge.  Not how close I remained to the mouth of the pit, and for how long.

I know there are some that think I’m still too close to the edge.  That 3 years would be enough time to be miles away from such a scary, dark, sad place.  But I like my spot here, on the edge.

I’m out.  I’m in the sun.  But I’m close enough to reach down a hand, and help pull up those behind me who are on their own journey out….

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Walk with me, won’t you?

I vowed several weeks ago to take more time for me – to read, to write, to get out of mommy mode and find a piece of me.

Well, I did it.  It’s 9:06 PM, Tuesday night, and I made it to the corner Biggby’s with a list of topics and themes and posts to draft.  And just minutes after taking the first sip of my decaf mocha, I thought, “Who am I kidding?  I’m not gonna write. I am SO TIRED.”

James has a horrific cold, and I did the momma bock-and-rounce, ahem,rock-and-bounce (see, I told you I’m tired) for hours last night, and hours today.  The thought of getting any coherent words from brain to fingers to Writer was a wee bit daunting.

But then I started reading some of the linked posts to Kelly’s Walking With You re-debut, and I found myself commenting, and realized that some of these mommy’s would more than likely pop over to see who this Writer Chic gal was, and, well, why not give them something of a relevant post when they get here?  (Hi, by the way.)

(For those of you who are wondering where in the world this is going, here is a brief explanation: My friend Kelly, who runs Sufficient Grace Ministries, is hosting a post series for the next 6 weeks for mothers who have lost a child/children. Kelly says, “Whether you are a seasoned mom who has walked this path of grief for years, or a mother newly thrust into this unknown valley, I hope you will join in and add your thoughts. One of the goals for WWY is for women to find hope in the knowledge that they are not walking this path alone. It helps to read about the experiences of others. We hope many of you will post on these subjects on your blogs each week with us…and come back to add your post to the linky on the weekly posts here. You can also share your thoughts in the comments of the weekly posts. And, hopefully, many of you will take time to leave an encouraging comment to the blogs linked each week.”)

Okay, here goes topic #1: Intro, and Where I am Now.

I’m Monica.  32. Married to Jim for 7+ years.  SAHM to Seth (5), Erin (2), and James (7 months).

Perfect little family, right?

Some days, yes.

But my family isn’t without its empty chairs…..

Our first pregnancy was over before it started.  Or almost that quickly.  Literally, the miscarriage started before the nurse could call back with my (pathetic) beta count.

Our second pregnancy was complicated from the get-go, but gave us our incredible Seth James.

Our third pregnancy ended with a traumatic one-two punch behind the billowy curtains of an ER and the sterile confines of an ultrasound room.  From hemorrhaging in my bathroom, to delivering one baby in the ER, to being shocked with the news of a second baby during an ultrasound, to the subsequent D&C…. October 19, 2008 was not the best day, to say the least.

Our fourth pregnancy…oh, our sweet, unexpected, and yes, I’ll admit, unwanted, surprise.  Duncan Thomas…Your story is by far, my favorite chapter of this blog.  You’ve been gone three years now.  How is that possible?

Our fifth pregnancy gave us our rainbow, and our daughter.  Erin Elizabeth.  The piece of the puzzle that started the healing.

Our sixth pregnancy was another “blip.”  And I don’t mean that to be insensitive.  But like our first, it was over before it began.  A positive hpt, but goodbyes before I could even call my ob.

And seventh.  Perfect seven.  Final.  And also a surprise.  Born on the scared anniversary of his big brother’s birth, James Ethan redeemed May 19, and became my beloved third son.

So, there is the intro.  My back story.

As for where I am now?  Well, specifically NOW, I’m getting kicked out of the coffee shop.  So….where I am today….that will have to wait.

But thank you for stopping by (if you’re new), or for hanging around (if you’re not)…..

Monday, January 7, 2013

Off and running…

2013 has kind of been a bully so far.  I hope she straightens up.

We ushered in the new year with vomit.  Lots and lots and lots of vomit.  From every member of my sweet little family (except me, thank you, Jesus).  I have become a master carpet cleaner this week.  That is not a title I ever aspired to, by the way.

Amid the puking episodes, we have also been dealing with some issues with our littlest guy.  A week or so ago, I noticed that he had a cyst-like boil thing-y pop up out of nowhere.  It seemed to be causing him some discomfort, so back to the ped we went.  Long story short, the doctor was concerned, so they did a biopsy (on what was determined to be a perianal fissure), and we started daily visits to monitor what they thought was going to turn out to be MRSA.  In ended up not being MRSA, just another strange infection, but they also gave us some concerning news about what may have caused the fissure in the first place….  And let me tell you, you do not want to be talking to a pediatrician about Crohn’s disease when it is your baby who is the subject.  But…. we will deal with things as it unfolds and just take it a step at a time.

blue eyes favorite pjs 

What else?  Erin’s T&A recovery continues to move forward.  We are also working diligently with potty training, and she has recently moved up into the next toddler level class at her preschool.

erin winter 2012 

Seth is Seth.  Perfection personified one minute, and a holy terror the next.  Most days right now, I miss my sweet 4-year-old; this dramatic, often belligerent handful that has shown up in his stead is like a little foreigner under my roof.  But, I’m sure it’s just a phase, and we are doing our best to meet his individual needs and to love him through these rough days.  Also, an unexpected text from our friend and neighbor Melissa just last night brought me up short: kindergarten registration is in 3 weeks.  Eek.  I mean, school is on my radar and all, but man, there is something about registration that just makes it SO MUCH MORE REAL.

seth preschool christmas program

I’m…eh.  I’m okay.  I got SO spoiled with having Jim home for 11 days, and I miss him.  The main tree is down in the great room, making the house feel even more empty.  I have 100 things bouncing around in my head – recipes, projects, blog posts, chores – and I’m feeling more and more that there just isn’t enough of me to go around.

I know so many people use the turning of the calendar year to mark a fresh start and all that…and I normally do the same.  But I just feel behind the curve this year.  I’m not yet to the “fresh” part; I’m still in the “letdown” phase of January.

So, I hope you’ll stick around til I get my groove back.  I’m hoping that tomorrow will be the first of many of my Tuesday night writing getaways.  We will see….

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