Sunday, March 22, 2020

Don't Read the Last Page

I usually do not allow myself to daydream about what Mira would be like or let myself fantasize about how things would be if she were here still.  Honestly, I NEVER do.  It hurts too much. I certainly have ‘what ifs’ that fill my mind.  I think “Oh, if Mira were here, I would take her to this place” or “I would buy her that for Christmas.”  But these are just fleeting thoughts, I do not allow myself to really lose myself in an imagined world of her here. 

I am actually pretty good about losing myself in other worlds.  When you have insomnia and anxiety it is a pretty effective way to keep your mind from racing at night, so it was my main coping mechanism as a teen and young adult until I got the hang of some healthier ways to cope.  Any avid reader could tell you how real a false reality can seem if you immerse yourself in it. So, to be careful to not let too much pain in, I don’t let myself imagine what my life would be like if Mira had survived.

The last few days have been different though.  I am not quite sure why, I think it is the anxiety and tension all around us combined with all the people getting to be home with their kids right now.  The night before last, my mind went there, and my God, what an amazing life it would have been if it were real.  I could picture Mira, two years old, long brown wavy hair, dark brown eyes, cute button nose and round cheeks asking to sleep with Daddy and I because she could feel the worry we had.  I could feel her between us as Joe slept.  I could hear her sweet voice.  I could feel warmth of her hand on my arm.  I could think about what I would do with her the next day to keep us busy.  We could draw chalk on the sidewalk.  We could swing on the hammock.  We could read books.  We could watch some of the movies from my childhood on Disney+.  We would probably have to watch Frozen II a few times.  It would all have been so beautiful. 

But it was not real. 

She is in Heaven.  Happy. Loved. She doesn’t need to sleep with us because she has no fear.  She is protected from all pain and sickness. And I miss her, I miss her so much.  I miss the infant Mira that I knew.  But I also miss the toddler I never got to meet and learn too.  I miss that life I imagined as soon as the test was positive.  And that will always hurt.

You squeeze my hand three times in the back of the taxi
I can tell that it's going to be a long road
I'll be there if you're the toast of the town babe
Or if you strike out and you're crawling home
Don't read the last page
But I stay when it's hard or it's wrong or you're making mistakes
I want your midnights
But I'll be cleaning up bottles with you on New Year's Day
Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you
Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you
Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you
And I will hold on to you
(Taylor Swift)

I think it is healthy to acknowledge all that.  To acknowledge what Joe and I lost.  What our parents lost.  What her aunts, uncles, and cousins lost in knowing her.  I think it is healthy to recognize all that, even though it hurts, and it is scary to let the pain in.  Pushing it away it just another kind of fantasy, except in that one you pretend the pain is not real and the future was never planned.  Refusing to acknowledge that does not make it any more the truth than imagining my toddler in bed next to me makes that the truth.

After acknowledging the pain, there is another step though: recognizing all the good that is still part of this life.  Yes, I would prefer a life with Mira here and that would have been an amazing life.  There is still so much good here in my real life though.  Joe is just an amazing husband.  He does not get enough credit because he does not brag, and I am not the post all about your husband online type.  But he is an amazing father and husband.  He kisses my forehead, wipes tears from my eyes, and whispers “You are an amazing mother” in my ear everything he sees that look on my face.  He takes care of more around the house than any other husband I know, just so I can focus on my second job that I love and the volunteer work I am passionate about.  He quietly stands by me no matter what.  I can be fully myself around him, and he is totally okay with all my weirdness.  Embraces it even.  He is just the best.

We have three perfect pets.  I mean, Albus is probably the most needy and strange dog on the planet, but he quietly lays his head on my lap and sighs when I say that I miss Mira and I know he is thinking, “me too.”  Lexi has somehow managed to remain the head of the household for eight years despite adding a husband, dog, and another cat.  Through all her toughness, she still sat beside me and purred while I decorated Mira’s area for Easter today.  Iris brought light and life back into our home at the most impossibly dark time.  I’ve never met a cat more ditzy, but sometimes I wonder if she just does it to make us all smile.  She loves a good cuddle more than any other cat ever as well.

I have amazing parents.  My Mom and Dad are always there for Joe and I.  They drop things in a second if they are needed.  They exhibit so much love and strength, and I learn from them all the time still.  My in-laws are so, so good as well.  I know so many people who cannot get along with their spouses parents and I know how lucky I am that being close with mine is just so natural, their love for Joe and I is just so clear.  Because of my parents and his we never have to wonder about how we would survive if we lost our footing in the world, we know all four of them would pick us up.  And it is not just Joe’s parents, his whole family has welcomed me as a part of their life since I met them.  His aunt, uncle, cousins, and siblings are always there when we ask, and even if we don’t.

I have people who I get to meet with at least every other week just to learn about God and pray for each other.  These people have stuck by Joe and I through it all and never stopped showing support and never put a timeline on our grief.  I have friends who continue to find ways to express support and love even when we don’t see each other often.  I have met new people I never would have without Mira.  Amazing people, people that make me understand what it is to ‘find your tribe.’  I have reconnected with others that I had lost touch with.  I have some amazing people in my life.

Joe has a job he loves. After spending several years in positions he had just to have a job, he now goes to a job he really enjoys with supervisors and coworkers who love and appreciate him and his work.  I started a new job six months ago and have found a level of acceptance and appreciation at my organization that I did not know existed.  I am doing something I love surrounded by people just as, and even more, passionate than I am about helping others, and doing it with significantly less stress than in previous jobs. 

And there is so much more.  I have a good life.  I have heartbreak.  So much heartbreak.  It will always be there, the pain of losing Mira.  I know this goodness will always be there too, and it will carry Joe and I through until we are with Mira again someday.

PS- Happy Easter Mira!  I haven't been able to decorate for Easter since you left us, I've only put a few thing in your area, but today I put decorations for Easter through the whole house.  They are a little musty after all this time, but after some work they are doing better, just like your Mommy.  I love you sweet girl, I hope you like your bunny!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Bereaved Motherhood During a Pandemic

It has been quite a while since I posted anything here.  Partly out of simply being busy.  Busy loving my job, busy being a wife, busy teaching, busy with appointments, busy, busy, like everyone! But more so because it’s been a tough time waiting and hoping for another baby to love while continuing to face the lifelong grief of losing Mira.  I have not been in a place to want to share the pain of waiting, even though I still (and always will) love sharing about Mira and believe sharing about grief is so important

But today, I have so many thoughts that I want to write about.

Let me just start by saying COVID-19 sucks.  It sucks for everyone.  And there are so, so, many specific groups it sucks extra for.  And, yes, my mother taught me not to say ‘sucks.’  But this warrants it, right Mom?  It is terrible for the elderly and those with preexisting conditions for obvious reasons.  It is terrible for those with depression whose symptoms worsen with isolation.  It is terrible for those on the Autism Spectrum who find a disruption in routine more than just inconvenient.  It is terrible for those working in healthcare.  It is terrible for small business owners, hourly service workers, and all of us who live paycheck to paycheck. 

It is terrible for beavered parents though too. You may not have thought of that one, and that is okay. ( I am sure there are many groups of people that I do not realize how this could affect them.) But because you may not realize how this impacts us, I wanted to take some time to talk about how COVID-19 feels as a bereaved mother.  I honestly thought it was just me at first, but then I saw the comments and posts pouring out on the online support groups I am a part of, and though each person’s story and specifics are different, I think I can overwhelmingly say, this is extremely tough for beavered mothers. (Though I want to make it clear I am not trying to say we have it worse than other people, but each group that is struggling has a unique point of view and I want to offer ours, or at least mine.)

The first thing that hit me when the threat of COVID-19 became serious in the US, was that this feels so much like when Mira died.  Not the intense pain and grief, obviously, but the ‘emotional’ atmosphere.  The feeling is so similar in so many ways, but I am not just seeing Joe and I react to it and I am seeing EVERYONE.  The feeling is a PTSD trigger for sure (not in a Millennials overuse the word ‘trigger’ way, in a real way).  When Mira died, my world stopped.  Right there. Everything stopped moving.  There was no going to the store.  People stocked my house up with food. Joe and I didn’t go to work for a time.  Our daily routine stopped.  Everything just stopped.  We stood in amazement that the rest of the world kept moving. It was surreal.  Everything for us had stopped.  When your child dies the dishes don’t matter anymore.  You might not get out of your pj’s the whole day, I mean, who cares?  Your child died. 

All the sudden everything is stopping again, but this time for everyone.  Joe’s work has shut down and he is home.  I am working for home, though with much less work than I would have at the office.  We aren’t going out to eat, no one is.  We made sure we have enough food in the house for a week or two to limit grocery runs.  It feels so similar.  But this time we aren’t dazed at how the rest of the world keeps going, because it stopped too.  Though this ‘stopping’ is not as all-encompassing as when Mira died, it is so similar that it wakens those responses in us loss parents, especially those of us with PTSD.

As loss parents, we know people die all too well.  We don’t find statistics comforting.  A 1-3% death rate for this virus means little to us.  We know what it is to be in the minority statistic.  We know each of those people in the 1-3% had loved ones whose world now stopped in a way that is beyond ‘social distancing.’  We know that pain.  We don’t want anyone to feel it.  We don’t want to feel it again.  Statistics hold little to no weight when your infant died, which has a less than one percent chance of happening (America’s infant mortality rate is 5.8 per 1000 live births).

For me, personally, I am not fearful of getting the virus, I am young and healthy.  I take every precaution anyway (as we all should!) to protect our vulnerable, I know the pain of loss, I will not put it on others.  Joe, I know, fears me getting sick.  It is so common for a loss Dad to become over-protective of their spouse, and Joe is for sure.  I tell him I am in no danger even if I get COVID-19 as I have none of the preexisting conditions, the rate of death is less than 1 percent!  But of course, that does not give comfort to someone who lost a child, someone who is already in the less than 1 percent camp.

Us loss parents, we learned that things are not in our control a long time ago.  So, we control what we can.  Our child’s loss was completely out of our control.  We did everything we could to save them.  In the end, it did not matter, we lost them to Heaven.  Things outside of our control are especially tough after that.  It is not in our control if we get the virus, or worse, if our vulnerable loved ones get it.  That is scary.  It is also not currently in our control if we go to work, if we go to the movies, if we go out to eat, or really much of anything else right now.  It is needed.  And I fully support the measures my state has taken to enforce social distancing.  But I think we can all agree it still is not pleasant.  And since last time everything in our world spiraled out our control our baby died, well you might find that us loss parents start holding tight to what we can control as these memories come flooding back.

Last, but certainly not least, to discuss is the jokes about children right now from everyone else in our lives.  The jokes circulating FaceBook about having a ‘baby boom’ in nine months are not funny for us.  As someone who has lost a baby, then waited my due time to be cleared to try to have another, and then got a negative test month, after month, after month, those jokes are little stabs to the heart.  They aren’t meant to be hurtful; I know.  But they are.  Four years ago, Joey and I decided to bring a baby into our home.  There is still no baby here in our house. That sucks.  And 1 out of 8 (infertility stats) of the other couples you know felt a similar stab in their heart when they see those jokes too.  We would LOVE for a couple weeks of forced quality time with our spouse to lead to a baby. 

Beyond the baby boom jokes is all the joking, also sometimes serious, complaints about being home with your children right now.  Parents needing so much wine to get through the time with their children.  They are distracting from work.  They are misbehaving.  The posts are everywhere.  Avoid Facebook?  Doesn’t matter, the jokes are in person too.  At the store.  From friends and family. My coworkers jokingly complain during video meetings that the children are causing chaos.  God, do you know what I would give to have my 2-year-old causing chaos right now?  To have a toddler that I had to balance care for while I worked?  To have the responsibility of caring for my precious little human?  It is okay to complain sometimes, I am sure being a Mom/Dad to living children is especially hard right now.  But don’t forget how lucky and blessed you are to have that child there to annoy you and love you.  Some of us can only dream of that and we are being reminded of that an awful lot right now.

I guess my point is, COVD-19 sucks for everyone.  And there are many specific groups it is pretty terrible for, and one of those groups happens to be beavered parents.  I certainly am not comparing our current struggle to those who are most vulnerable to severe reactions to COVID-19.  I am just hoping we will all remember to think of everyone who this is extra hard for and remember the bereaved Mamas and Daddies when you are praying.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Let Me Be Lighter, I'm Tired of Being a Fighter

Angie Smith says in her book, I Will Carry You (2010), "The truth is that to some degree, every day I have here is another day without her.  I don't know when I will be able to see life any differently."

I have been thinking about this quote a lot over the past 48 hours or so. After getting through Mira's 2nd Birthday, my soul sore and tired, but still okay, Christmas took my breath away.  I guess maybe the typical holiday stress combined with being surrounded by groups of people that Mira was so glaringly missing from, and the pain of trying to be okay in front of others, and then failing miserably lead to my downfall.

I haven't caught my breath since about noon on Christmas and I am not quite sure what to do about it except ride it out and keep trying to go about my days until I get my head above water again. I have been hating feeling this way after getting to an 'okay' place recently. It is completely overwhelming and painful in a way I am at a loss to describe.

Could you beam me up,
Give me a minute, I don't know what I'd say in it
Probably just stare, happy just to be there holding your face
Beam me up,
Let me be lighter, I'm tired of being a fighter, I think,
A minute's enough,
Just beam me up.
(Beam Me Up, P!nk)

So, I went back to this quote just to read Angie's words and feel a little less alone and a little less crazy to be in so much pain 2 years after my loss (as Angie said this further down the loss road). 

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Almost Two Years

Mira’s 2nd Birthday is just two short days away.  It is so surreal to be here.  I have used the word surreal before in relation to this infant loss journey and I just don’t think there is a better word for it. 
I can still feel on my fingertips how amazingly soft Mira’s cheeks were.  I mean, I didn’t know skin could BE that soft.  I can still feel her weight in my arms, and it feels so real if I let myself really think about it.  I can feel that pain and tightness in my chest that I felt when the doctor said she was gone and I broke down, wailing and proclaiming that I needed more time with her, if allow myself to go there.  It feels like it all just happened.  

But also, it feels like another lifetime.  It feels like an alternate reality that I got to feel a life grow inside me and then hold my own child in my arms.  It feels like the happiness of finding out I was pregnant could have been an overly realistic dream.  It feels like so very long ago that I was wheeled out of a maternity ward clutching only a stuffed animal, feeling so numb I’m not sure I knew what was happening. 

So, it is surreal for it two be close to two years ago.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Writing Out the Beginning

I started keeping this blog during the 17th week of my pregnancy with Mira when things got too overwhelming to update family and friends after visits.  Since then, I have fallen in love with writing out my thoughts and feelings as a healthy way to cope and way to spread awareness about carrying to term, infant loss, and grief.  I also find it helpful to share my posts with friends and family that have remained supportive, so I can share how I am doing with a little more comfort than face to face sometimes brings.

Mira’s 2nd birthday is quickly approaching, and I found myself thinking a lot about the beginning of my pregnancy, the part before I started writing and I was disappointed I did not have a record of that time like I do the rest.  I also know the pain, confusion, and trauma that occurs through a pregnancy with a fatal diagnosis is very isolating.  For these two reasons I decided to write out a summary of what Mira’s life was before I started this blog, from finding out I was pregnant through 17 weeks when I started this blog. I had actually intended it to be a short synopsis, but as I started writing I found that impossible so, if only for me to have it documented (but hopeful for others to read too), here is the beginning of Mira’s story: