May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
-Irish Blessing

Thursday, June 30, 2011

How Long Do I Get?

It has been almost four months since the day of Eli's birth and death which has set my mind wondering how long I will get to excuse, if you will, myself using the guise of grief. Is anyone still willing to extend me the courtesies of grief by telling themselves its only been four months or did those courtesies expire at three, two or God forbid one month, perhaps even weeks? I still find myself excusing things I've said or done in my head as the result of my grieving.

Obviously I am still grieving. Intense grief after the loss of a child can last up to two years. Grief itself is always present. I guess what I'm looking for is a number, down to the very last day if need be. When is my time up? When will people no longer tolerate anything less than normal? After losing Wyatt I coped by getting pregnant very quickly because I felt that was the only way I could ever begin to feel normal again. It kind of worked. Getting pregnant was absolutely the right decision for us. It lifted me out of a deep hole of grief and gave me a purpose in our quiet life together. I gained something in the wake of such tremendous loss. However it was not without its downfalls. My pregnancy was on a very near timeline with Wyatt's and so too often dates were weighed down by memories. I gave birth one year and four days after Wyatt's birth, the one year anniversary of his funeral and burial. People also stopped seeing a grieving mother and replaced her with an expectant mother which changed the dichotomy of my expected behavior.

I do not have the luxury of getting pregnant again so quickly after five full term c-sections. Nor do I have the peace of mind considering we were told Wyatt's Potter's was a fluke and clearly Eli's was likely not a fluke.

Only time will tell me what I want to know about time. Until then I will try to control those thoughts, words and behaviors that I need to excuse with grief and allow myself to continue to grieve in my own time.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Things We Haven't Done

In the last almost four months there are some things yet that we haven't done and, to be honest, things I am not yet ready to do. The mylar balloons which we had brought to the hospital for Eli's birthday still float lazily in our living room. Actually, one out of three is floating above the carpet while the other two lounge beneath it. Since that day we have celebrated three other birthdays in our small family, one at the cemetery and two at home. Still, those balloons remain a daily decoration. I suppose someday soon I will have to find them a different home, one where the vacuum cleaner doesn't prey upon their existence, but not today. The other thing is actually a whole pile of things in our bedroom. The pile consists of everything Eli, things from the hospital, the clothes he wore, blankets, etc. all carefully protected in sealed bags alongside pictures, newspapers from the day he was born, cards we received, things from the funeral. It just sits there. I only look enough to know its there and just like most things these too have faded into the background and are hardly noticed. But I do know they're there and that they won't always be there. Just not today.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Few Things I've Learned about Grief

I've dealt with my lion's share of grief through carrying my sons to term with a fatal diagnosis and then enduring their births and deaths and on those journeys I have learned many things. I would like to share a few things.

We are all human. I repeat we are all human. At times we (bereaved parents) will deal with our grief in unpredictable and sometimes even nonsensical ways. At times they (non-bereaved parents) will react or respond to our grief in unpredictable, insensitive, even nonsensical ways if they acknowledge our grief at all. I think it is worth saying a third time - we are all human and we err. Not one of us on this earth has all the answers.

We may feel that our grief is exposed for the world to see. Sometimes it is and sometimes it is not. Grief makes us uncomfortable so how can we expect it not to affect others similarly? Grieving a child's death is not a universal experience. Prior to our loss(es) it was likely unfamiliar to us so how can we expect others to understand it, to know what to do? Yet, that is part of the grief. We expect others to know, especially those we love and those who love us.

In my experience, others do not know what I feel or need unless I tell it to them, even those most familiar with me. We enter the world the ability to communicate our needs. When we were hungry or dirty we used to cry. Amazingly, most of us probably had different cries for our different needs and if our parents listened to and watched us closely, they would know. Those cries probably turned into whines and then at some point we began tending to our own needs. But our emotional needs are different. They are not visible and for the most part not audible. Even when we are courageous enough to bare them in the open they often go unnoticed. Our needs must be communicated in no uncertain terms to those from whom something is required. It is not sufficient to assume they should know how we feel or what we need. Doing this creates unfulfilled expectations and hard feelings. When did it become so hard to talk, and most importantly, listen to each other?

Technology has made us all so available to each other at all times and through so many mediums but in so many ways it has shredded the delicate threads of intimate human interaction. The nuances of body language, the volumes and tones of our voices, the emotions hidden in our eyes, the importance of touch. It is my hope that we (bereaved parents) can find empathy for them (non-bereaved parents) and through that empathy help them to see us differently because our journeys are too long for us to travel alone.

Monday, June 20, 2011


A church near our house has a message which reads "Extreme times demand deep faith." For weeks I have driven by that board and bristled at the thought, not quite understanding why. Yesterday I was a passenger and had the opportunity to dwell for a moment. I have a problem with the word "demand". Extreme times invite deep faith would be better. Extreme times can shatter deep faith. I am living proof of this. I was a very faithful person nine years ago, I prayed, attended mass and talked to God often. When I learned that my baby would most likely not survive in my womb and, if he did, would then die soon after birth the first thing I did is pray. I had so much faith in His healing powers. I did not believe that He would allow me, my family and our baby to endure so much needless suffering. I carried Wyatt in that promise. The promise of new life given to me by a higher power. When that life was taken away I thanked Him for the brief time I was given, thankful to have hours instead of minutes or seconds. Soon after that gratitude turned to resentment, anger and jealousy. I constantly analyzed the situation to determine what I had done wrong, why this could have been allowed to happen to me. How, if God had a plan, my child's death could be part of it? In searching for that answer I lost my faith. I saw it slipping and just let it go. During those years not one extraordinarily bad thing happened to me as a result. No one died, no one got so sick they could not be healed and my life did not disintegrate into a vacuum of sins. I continued to live life according to my morals, I just did so without attending mass, praying or talking to God. I am sure there are those who would be quick to judge that decision as me not being truly faithful. Faith is easy when things are easy. But that would not be an accurate statement. Relationships are complicated. We are most vulnerable to those we love most. Our emotions are strongest within the closest relationships. Relationships can easily fracture. Why should my relationship with God be any different? Our relationship fractured and it was only able to be repaired through the passing of time which allowed me to redefine it. That redefined relationship carried me through Eli's pregnancy, death and to today, through the very same event which shattered my faith eight years ago.

I bristle at the word "demand" because to me it implies that anything less than faith is weakness when in reality sometimes the hardest thing to do is to walk away.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lost In Summer's Lazy Pace

I am enjoying waking up each morning and eating breakfast without having to look at the clock. There are kids but they don't need to be rushed into clothes, eating, teethbrushing and out the door. I can take my shower whenever I like and I've found it somewhat rewarding to be able to work out in the morning for a change of pace. It is an easier pace and yet I am finding myself lost.

I almost don't know what to do without the loud clicking of a clock over my shoulder. I find myself standing and staring wondering what to do next. For nine months out of the year our life is more regimented, there is the morning rush before school, then the mid morning spell in which we get any necessary errands and cleaning done. We have to be careful to accomplish these things so that there is still time to make lunch and get to nap at a reasonable, if not early time. Then after nap there are snacks and the school homecoming which with the addition of that extra child always seems to throw things out of whack for a while. Before I know it there is supper to be made, eaten, dishes and then homework before showers and bed so we can all rest up for the next day.

Summer is a different animal. No ticking, no rushing, rarely times where we have to be anywhere or do anything. I keep looking for purpose rather than enjoying the laziness I am allowed, if you can call keeping up with three young girls laziness! In my previous post I discussed where I am in my grief and I believe relapse is an appropriate description. I felt better for a while, felt almost even competent. Now I seem to feel worse but for the most part be even more competent. But there are still symptoms that have crept back in - forgetfulness, trouble sleeping, tiredness, unexplained sadness. I have faith that this too will pass and leave me again wondering if this is the last time and if not, when will I relapse again?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Where I Am: Eight Years and Three Months

I am answering the question posed at still life with circles as to where I am in my grief.

In my case I am actually answering three questions. 1) Where I am in my grief with Wyatt eight years after his birth. 2) Where I am in my grief with Eli three months after his birth. 3) Where I am in my grief with both boys after their deaths. Two and a half years ago I spoke at a candlelight memorial service held annually for those who have lost children. I was asked to tell our story of Wyatt and I addressed this question. I remember starting at the beginning and describing the experience of carrying Wyatt for five months knowing he could die any day and that day would be no later than the day of his birth. I compared it to a shattered piece of china. I shattered that day, broke apart into a million pieces. Over time I began putting those pieces back together but they never quite fit the same way, I was different.

So that is where I start today. I am different, sometimes in a constant state of motion. We just celebrated Wyatt's eighth birthday. I am at a place of acceptance. I can think of Wyatt and remember his beauty, his cry, his touch without my own tears. I honestly don't cry for him often anymore. Blessedly the old feelings of anger and injustice over his death are distant memories which are no longer provocative. Wyatt's special days are still painful because more often than not they seem to pass unnoticed by others and that opens a pandora's box of "why nots" which is better left untouched.

Three months after losing Eli I have relapsed. I have learned so much about grief over these last eight years so I am not consumed with the anger I felt the first time around. I am not consumed with sadness over Eli either. I am however visited by thoughts of what he would be like and what my life would be like with him here. Yesterday while riding bike with our girls it hit me that had Eli lived I likely would not be biking to the park with them. The older two ride by themselves while the youngest hitches a ride in a bike trailer attached to my bike. Eli would be too little to transport this way so we would not have been able to take that bike ride. As enjoyable as that ride was, I would trade it and a whole summer's worth for my little boy. Everywhere I go I find pregnant women. Instead the old thoughts of anger and jealousy I now wonder if they've lost babies too. I think about myself, pregnant with Eli and how I had already lost two babies and no one looking at me would have known he would be my third loss. I have my worst thoughts when I see families with children so close together it would be almost impossible for them to have experienced losses too. I try not to dwell on those families, those babies, those bellies. I have fully immersed myself in public again. My stomach no longer twists into knots at the thought of going to the park or the library. I go grocery shopping, rent movies, check out books and go to church just like before. I am different but less shattered than last time. I've learned how to repair much better. I can only hope that I never have to use these coping skills again. I use the word relapse because of the difficulties I have encountered with the medical and scientific communities after Eli's death in trying to participate in a research study and participate with a geneticist. It has been a destructive process for me mentally and emotionally.

Eight years and three months. My girls talk about Eli and Wyatt. The oldest talks about how she was our first living child. They ask if we will have another baby. They say that they hope so and they hope that baby does not die too. These are heartbreaking comments delivered in a most casual manner. Especially heartbreaking to me because it seems likely that my genetics are to blame. I find myself thinking of genetics often. Like the other day when fixing my daughter's thick wavy hair I thought to myself that at least I passed along something good. In the years since Wyatt's birth I have often wondered but rarely asked my husband whether he's missed having a son. He has always said he loves our girls and it doesn't matter to him. I however wanted a son very badly. We knew Eli would be a boy even though we were never able to find out during the pregnancy. Early on I could tell that he was very excited at that prospect. We never imagined the nightmare that would follow. Now I wonder but know it's not time to ask that question again of him. My answer has changed. I have thought about why, how, especially after losing two sons could I NOT want one? I think it is because right now I am too scared, my mind has made the association, not an irrational one, that boys equal death. So that is where I am right now. Three daughters, two sons, three alive, two not. So many questions, no answers. I am accepting of this reality though hopeful for our future. I am a piece of china that no longer looks like it was glued together by a two year old, maybe now a ten year old.

Monday, June 13, 2011

In the Gardens

This weekend we moved two tons of rock, literally! We put in a rock border around the boys' gardens, completing the design we began weeks ago. The pee gee now has a real home and hopefully soon the beauty of flowers around it. The girls also contributed, carrying rock from our driveway around front to the gardens in the back and carefully lining them up along the border. They placed the smallest rocks around Eli's garden because he is the smallest baby.

We spent hours Saturday weeding through the rocks to find the prettiest ones and then carefully fitting them together into a border. The border is made of sparkled rocks in colors ranging from slate blue, cream, pink and peach. We splurged on new solar lights to ring the front border of the garden and added special decorations. The rest is up to nature. All good things are worth working for and the satisfaction we felt at the end of the weekend is priceless.

I was also able to make a very special addition to Eli's garden. Many years ago I had ordered a hardy blue hydrangea and planted it in a corner of the house which apparently just wasn't right. It lived but never thrived and I'm pretty sure that I have plucked its measly little stem before because I believed it was a weed. This weekend it finally dawned on me that it is highly improbable that the same weed would grow in the exact same spot year after year in the exact same spot I planted that hydrangea. So I dug it up and moved it to where it is supposed to be - in Eli's garden. It is as if that little thing has been waiting all these years to find out where it belongs.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Maybe It's Just Them

Not many things bother me like they used to, it's been an internal shift. Normally I am a very vocal person with a strong tendency towards criticism. Not lately though. I'm not sure why. If it's just a lack of energy, lack of interest, lack of concern or just a realignment of priorities. I've gone through and being going through one of the worst experiences in a human lifetime and compared to that so many things seem so little, so unimportant. Some things still creep in though. Sunday was a very important day and also a very silent one. No one said anything about Wyatt to us. I've talked about silence before, how very painful that absence is when felt in the absence of my children. Sunday was not unusual. Rarely is that special day acknowledged and I wonder sometimes if our siblings even remember the significance of that day. I wonder if they think about the small life that entered the world that many years prior. Or whether they give any thought to how profoundly that small life, those few hours, changed our lives. That's the thing about silence, it is rife with questions and devoid of answers. I do not know if it exists out of fear of causing me pain or if it's because no one even realized it was that day. I like to think the former but neither is very comforting.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Happy Birthday Wyatt

Yesterday was a lovely day for a birthday.
The sun shone high above, the breeze was ever present and we enjoyed a picnic lunch at Wyatt's grave. I joked to my husband that Wyatt now grows his own flowers so we no longer have to buy them on his birthday. Blooming now in his garden are tons of purple irises (visible at the left edge of the picture here) and jacob's ladder which we are able to cut and take to his grave each year.
I also was able to dig up some johnny jump ups to transplant at the grave as well. While I got my hands dirty the girls squealed and chased bubbles. We sent three balloons to Wyatt and likely started a helicopter pilot that happened by at the exact same time! We came home and I set to work in Wyatt's garden, trimming mini roses a little more and pulling the many self seeded california poppies, johnny jump ups and forget-me-nots that freely roam about his garden. No tears were shed until exhausted, I crawled into bed last night. It was a good day.

Friday, June 3, 2011

One Day Each Year

One day each year for me is all about my first son, Wyatt. That day happens to be Sunday. It is a day with time spent remembering, reflecting and celebrating. We decorate cupcakes, one for each of us and one for Wyatt and we eat a meal at his grave site. Afterwards, we blow bubbles and release balloons to heaven. We always leave a small gift behind, my best guess at what a boy his age would like. We spend the entire day together. The days leading up to that day are always difficult, as any grieving parent knows. We never stop grieving.

For that one day though I allow myself to go back to that place I left long ago. I let myself feel the overwhelming loss that I normally tuck away inside. It is comforting to revisit that grief. To know that even though I don't feel it every day that it's still there. And sometimes I wonder about that because life becomes so normal. I saw his face for only a few hours one day of my life. I never got used to the sounds of his cries, never heard the sound of his laughter. There are no belongings of his for me to catch sight of or miss. He was here yet he wasn't. As his day approaches I find myself saddened to realize that I will probably miss him most. Each year for the rest of my life that day will be his, those things he wore and touched during his brief life will be mine. When I am gone, what then? I pray that my daughters will remember him, that they will treasure those things as I have done. But I know that I can hope for no more than that. Someday the memories will be forgotten and those treasures long packed away.

Eight years ago I gave birth to my first child, a son. He lived, was loved, and died. Happy Birthday sweet boy, take care of your little brother for us.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Keeping Busy

I find myself in a unique situation, presented with opportunities to assist others in need and at the same time work myself into physical and mental exhaustion. I am diving in head first without testing the waters. Since Sunday my husband and I have put about two hours in a day of solid physical labor above and beyond what is necessary to keep our own household (and children) afloat. I spent a good portion of Tuesday crying after finding out that testing had not even begun on our precious Eli yet only to strap on my sneakers that evening and go to work. My muscles have pretty much stopped their protests and given in. This however will be short lived and I will return to the life I seem to be trying to leave behind. I am not sure what to do about it and at least for now it seems I have hardly a minute to give it a thought.


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