30 August 2014

Finding the Good ... During the Bad.

I have had a pretty good week. It's always nice when I can say that because there haven't been very many "pretty good weeks" this summer. A few... but not many. I hadn't cried in a few days but then yesterday I was scrolling my Facebook news feed and I came across a photo of a beautiful newborn baby girl (I follow a lot of different photographers so this isn't unusual). What was unusual was that the title of the post said rainbow baby and she was wearing an adorable little rainbow headband. This is something that would not catch the eye of most people but it caught mine because, unfortunately, I now know what a rainbow baby is. I know this because I am part of a unique club now... a club I never planned to be in and still wish I wasn't ... the baby loss club.

A rainbow baby is a baby that is born into a family following the loss of the previous baby. They are called rainbow babies because they are considered to be the rainbow after the storm. A new friend I made this summer, Jenni, (who also lost her baby girl) told me about rainbow babies. It's a beautiful thought isn't it? The rainbow after the storm. It makes me smile ... and cry... and smile again. And I am okay with that. I have learned to feel the sadness when it comes... to let it roll over me and to embrace it. And simultaneously, I have also learned to feel the happiness when it comes. Because as my counselor told me "happiness will find you again. You can hide from it all you want but it will find you." And it's true... I do have moments of happiness. It's amazing to me that I do given all I have been through the past few months but alas, I absolutely do have moments of happiness. It was hard for me to have any happy moments in the first month or so after Lexie was gone ... I felt so guilty doing anything fun or having moments of normalcy. Having fun or enjoying something felt disloyal to her like I was forgetting her. I know now that I can do both and that it is okay to both live my life and miss her.  I can love her and miss her and be happy. They can and do exist together. I have realized (and this has been a process just like everything else)... that the body and the mind just aren't meant to feel miserable all of the time. I believe that by default, we want to be happy and we want to experience happiness so I don't believe we can ever stay in a total state of despair forever. It feels like it will never pass when the waves of grief are strong but just like real waves, they eventually calm. And it is in those moments, when the fog lifts that we gain clarity and strength which will carry us through the next wave. Grief is  something you have to walk right through. You can't go around it or under it or above it. You can't hide from it.... it will find you. But guess what? My counselor was right. Happiness will find you too.

When I have pretty good days and pretty good weeks, I am able to reflect in a more positive way on this experience. I am able to look at the "positives" of it (for lack of a better word). When I am having a tough day or a tough week, it is really hard to find the little lessons, the little life "take-aways." It is hard not to feel profoundly sad and just, well, sorry for myself. Sorry that Lexie didn't get to join our family, sorry that she was so sick, sorry that Kennedy and Mara won't ever know their little sister. Sorry that I won't get to put up five Christmas stockings this year. Sometimes I think "Did that happen? Did I really carry a baby more than halfway to term and then lose her? Did I really carry a baby all those months and have no idea how sick she was? Did I really find myself in the middle of a terrible crossroads faced with truly terrible choices to make? Did that happen?" Yes. Yes it did happen. But in the calm moments, the moments when I am doing okay, I am able to feel grateful for the time I had with Lexie. I am able to feel blessed that Sean and I created not one, not two, but three baby girls. It's special and unique and even though Lexie doesn't get to be with us, she is still ours and she will always hold a very special place in our hearts. She was created...she was here. And even though her time was far too short and it ended in such a sad way, I am still so grateful for the experience of carrying her. She will always have a very real place in our family. I found this quote this summer and the words of it just really resonated with me.


I think I loved it so much because this grief has felt so lonely at times and this reinforces that it is okay to not feel exactly yourself. And that I may never again feel exactly like myself. It often seems that the rest of the world is carrying on, going about their lives and our story, this story has passed in a way. I'm not mad about that, it's the natural order of things. But for me, it really hasn't passed. It is on my mind so often and reading the words of this quote has given me comfort because it helped me realize that to a certain degree it will always be that way for me. I will always carry this with me now. I won't ever be quite the same and that is okay. I don't want to be. You can't go through something like this and feel the same and it's so true, you really wouldn't want to. And yet, I do feel that I am starting to heal and I do feel that I am building my life around this loss and I think that is good... and necessary.

After three months, I finally ordered Lexie's urn for her ashes. I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do with her ashes. They are so sad to look at. They bring to life how truly real the experience was and how truly real she was. And yet, despite the pain I feel when I look at them ... I don't want to let them go. I think most people find comfort in spreading ashes but for some reason, for me, I just can't find comfort in that. I have absolutely no desire to spread them. I already had to let her go once. I just don't want to do it again. It brings me comfort to know she is here with us... that the five of us are here, under the same roof. That's what feels right so that's what will happen. She will stay here with us. I wanted to find a special urn, something unique. I was waiting for something to speak to me and sure enough, it did. I love Etsy. I love the idea of handmade things from unique artists. On Etsy, I found a woman on the East Coast who makes urns in her pottery studio. I found one I like... it is heartbreaking small. I asked her if she could turn it into a pale yellow color because that is the color I had planned to paint Lexie's nursery. She said absolutely and sent me the kindest message. And so I bought it and I wait for it to come so we can put Lexie in her final resting spot. So very sad to think about but so beautiful too.

This week, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the phrase "with great love comes great loss." It is so very true. You can't experience great loss if you haven't experienced great love. They absolutely go hand in hand. And though I am profoundly sad that I had to experience this loss, the truth is... that along with the good in life also comes the bad. This is the bad. But it wouldn't have come without the good and as bad as it's been, I wouldn't trade it because that would mean trading all the good. Sean and I were so excited to have a third baby. We were so excited to learn I was pregnant again... we were thrilled to be adding another babe to our family. She was created in love and she was just so wanted. And that is beautiful and good and that is love. And I wouldn't trade any of that for the world. This loss has been a reminder of how much and how many I love. And in a way, it's a nice reminder. If I am loving and losing then that means I am living. And really... what more can we ask for? I have been given a unique experience... albeit a painful and heartbreaking experience... but nonetheless an experience that makes me supremely grateful for this beautiful journey I am on.

When I think back on this journey, it is filled with the people I love and the moments when these people stepped forward and rose up for me. In no particular order, these moments include: seeing and feeling Sean sob during that second ultrasound... he isn't a crier and so to see him so broken up was truly heartbreaking. I won't ever forget the many, MANY nights this summer that he has rubbed my back and held me while I cry. Such a good, good man. I will never forget how my mom sat either on my couch with me or on the phone with me day after day, morning after morning, night after night talking me through each and every step... listening to me cry, sob, and talk myself through it. I think there were so many times she didn't know what to say but she seemed to always say the right thing. I will never forget how my friend Robin came to our doorstep on that Tuesday evening and brought us a chicken pot pie. Then she sat on our front porch and prayed with us. It was beautiful and so heartfelt and Sean and I were both so touched. We still talk about it often. I will never ever forget how Heidi took a day off of work to spend with me... to distract me... and how a few days later, on the worst day of my life, she came to my house and took my daughters home with her for the entire day. And while I sobbed on my couch that same morning, she rubbed my back and cried with me. I won't ever forget that. Nor will I forget how my Aunt Jeanie came to visit me twice... and how on her first visit, I opened my front door, looked at her, laid my head on her shoulder and just cried. I won't ever forget the conversation I had with my dear cousin Rachael in those first few days. I won't forget how she lovingly and gently yet realistically explained to me... from her perspective and experience... just how severe the situation was and medically speaking, what we were dealing with. I won't ever forget that my friend Katie lost her mom during the exact same time period as we lost Lexie. We were both so immersed in our own sadness and yet we still managed to send each other encouraging and loving emails and texts. I won't forget Dr. Case... the ultrasound radiologist who diagnosed Lexie's condition. I won't forget how gently and compassionately he delivered that devastating news. I won't forget his many phone calls to check in on us. He went above and beyond and it won't ever be forgotten. I also won't forget Dawn... the ultrasound tech who guided my amnio a few days after that same ultrasound. Before the amnio, she grabbed my hands and looked me right in the eye and told me in no uncertain terms that none of this was my fault. That it was a fluke deal. She told me that woman to woman, I needed to hear that because women and especially mothers like to carry around a lot of guilt and put a lot of pressure on ourselves (and we do). She told me that life isn't fair. I really needed to hear it in that moment and she delivered it well. I won't ever forget her. I most definitely won't ever forget the absolute plethora of phone calls, texts, emails, cards, flowers and meals we received from friends and both sides of our family. I won't forget the calls, emails and texts we have continued to get in the weeks and months since we lost Lexie.

Simply put... Our village rose up. And above all, I won't forget that. We lost big but we love big and I wouldn't trade the love for anything.

These are the thoughts I have had this week, the things I have reflected on. It's such a process.... I am working my way through it, day by day, week by week... and sometimes still, moment by moment. But I'm smiling more. And laughing more. And that is progress and progress is always good.

26 August 2014

Kindergarten!

Look at this kid.
Off to Kindergarten.... what's next? College?!?! :)
She had a great first day in Kindergarten and surprisingly, there were no tears
(from her or I!). I have spent the past few weeks mentally preparing for her to make this transition and for me to accept that I am in a different position than I expected on her first day of Kindergarten.
 
Though it is bittersweet to think she will now spend more time with other people than with me, I am also really excited for her to begin her school life.
I had such a great school experience... I hope she does too.  
 
I love you baby girl.
 

20 August 2014

The Should Haves

So often (more often than I wish) I close my eyes and take myself back to May 13th. I replay the events of that day - the girls and I making signs saying "It's a boy!" And "It's a girl!" to hold up for the photo we took after our ultrasound. We went through the entire ultrasound having no idea there was something wrong. We took our photo with the girl sign and went back to the room to wait for our doctor. For twenty minutes, the four of us sat in that room taking pictures with the sign and Sean and I talked about how lucky we were to be having another healthy girl. We literally said that... "another healthy girl." We were so happy and we felt so blessed and we did not take our good fortune for granted.



What happened next was our doctor, Dr. Zomer, coming in, sitting down and saying "We see something with the heart. We're not sure. We can only see two of the four chambers." And with those three little phrases, my world crumbled. People live their whole lives and never have to hear news like that. And some people live their whole lives and hear a lot of news like that. Life isn't fair in how it chooses to disperse crap.

I replay that same scene except the ending is different. Dr. Zomer comes into the room... sits down and says "Everything looks wonderful!" And then she gives Kennedy and Mara each a sucker and says "I'll see you in four weeks!" I replay that scene over and over again in my head. That scene comes to me in my dreams. I think about it so hard and wish on it so hard that sometimes, for a second, I can almost convince myself that that is what happened.

But that is absolutely not what happened. And life is so absolutely absolute.

I am going back to teaching part-time for a few months this fall. I am happy and extremely sad about it. I hate it and I love it. It's so confusing. I am covering a maternity leave. I am covering a maternity leave during the time when I was supposed to be home with my own newborn baby. The irony kills me. And yet, maybe this maternity leave will give me some renewed focus. I feel lost. I feel absolutely lost. Kennedy is off to kindergarten next week. I was supposed to be home with my three year old and my newborn baby. I was supposed to get up in the mornings - sleep deprived from getting up with the baby and get Kennedy ready for school each morning. I was supposed to load my three girls into the car, take Kennedy to school and then come home with the two little ones. We would have worked through our days... me and Mara and Lexie. Then at 3 pm we would have gone back to school to pick Kennedy up. It would have been chaotic for those few hours before Sean came home in the evenings... and probably chaotic after he came home while we managed dinner and dishes and baths and bedtime, all with a newborn. It's what should have happened and it just didn't. But God I wish it had. I am not supposed to be back teaching this year. Not yet. But I am. I am, I am, I am, I am...

I have had to face so many "should haves." I should have moved Mara into her big girl bed leaving the crib available for Lexie. Instead I moved Mara into her big girl bed and now the crib sits empty in a very empty feeling room. I should be buying an infant car seat because mine expired. I should be washing little sleepers and onesies and putting them neatly away in drawers. I should be picking up some newborn diapers and formula because I should only have six weeks of my pregnancy left. I should be excited to see all of the fall d├ęcor everywhere because that means we are getting close. I should be excited to see the Halloween costumes at Costco because I should be buying a silly little costume for the teeny tiny newborn I should have by then. I should be sending a gift to my cousin Heidi for her wedding on September 12th because I can't make the wedding in Utah because I am 36 weeks pregnant and you shouldn't fly at 36 weeks. But I won't be 36 weeks pregnant then. I will be zero weeks. I will be at the wedding so I will just take her the gift. Every little thing makes me think of what should have been.

I spent almost five months thinking this was what was going to happen for us ... that a new baby would be joining our family.  I am having a hard time turning my mental train around to the direction I am actually headed instead of the direction I thought I would be headed. I am having such a hard time letting go of the "should haves."

Some days the thought of another baby brings me a huge amount of comfort. And some days the thought of another pregnancy, of loving another baby seems like a mountain I don't even have the energy to think about climbing. Today is that day. There is still so much to get through and today I am overwhelmed by my thoughts. Having another baby and loving another baby makes me feel like losing Lexie was supposed to happen and that it had to happen to get to our next baby. But it wasn't supposed to happen, it didn't have to happen. And yet I guess it did. It did happen and it was supposed to happen. It is all so confusing. If we are fortunate enough to have another baby, will I always look at that baby and think of Lexie? Will I always feel bad knowing that that baby is probably only here because we lost Lexie? Because we were probably going to be done at three kids, their lives will be tied together forever, dependent on each other... my third baby and my fourth baby... the storm followed by the rainbow... both beautiful in their own way.

So many thoughts to wrestle with. But as quickly as those thoughts wander in like a mean little army, I know they will wander back out for awhile, defeated. It's the ebb and flow of grief. Waves that rise and waves that diminish. The waters are heavy today though so I wait. I wait for the calm again.

In the meantime, I remind myself of these words. And I do. I do walk by faith because if I were to walk by sight right now, I probably wouldn't be walking.

19 August 2014

Cannon Beach 2014

"Friends are the family you choose for yourself."
So true, so true...whoever said it.
It was a beautiful weekend with amazing friends.
In the midst of this summer of sadness, came this lovely weekend.
We beach walked, kid-chased, wine-drank, and belly laughed our way through three days.
Can't wait 'til next year.