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

Friday, July 29, 2011


With this title you may expect to read a tale involving deep emotion and pain. I will give you pain ... and hopefully a laugh as well.

I recently entered a new chapter in my post baby weight loss journey. I purchased my first dvd workout - Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred. I do it every other day alternating with running rather than every day as intended. One word - intense. In one twenty minute workout I sweat more than a 30 minute 3 mile run, it is ridiculous! It probably doesn't help that I just recently discovered she recommends starting with a set of 3 lb weights and I've been using 5 lb weights.

So my husband and I joke about how "shredded" I am getting since beginning the workout program and my daughters have heard. Our almost 3 year old says she does not want me to be "swredded" because she has perceived it as being a bad thing instead of being a bada@%. She has the most precious pronunciation when she tells me this it is almost impossible not to laugh at her.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I Knew Exactly Where I'd Be

Last night while taking a walk with my middle daughter and watching her speeding along the path ahead of me on her scooter my mind wandered to a different time and place. One very similar to the path I was walking except for the inclusion of our stroller and a four and a half month old baby boy. It was a moment of clarity when I realized that I knew exactly where I would be but for one little thing - his death.

It is not often in life that we can clearly visualize the path not taken. What would have happened if we had made a different choice. Even though I had no choice in Eli's death I know where I would have been last night. I would have been walking with our daughter and little Eli either in his stroller or the baby sling as I did with all of our children as babies. I felt this with every bone in my body. Had I not married my husband there are a million different paths I could be on today - ones that involve a man in my life, children, no children, different careers even a different place to call home. None of those results could I predict or even begin to imagine. But this one I can. I've come so close to living it before. When we lost Wyatt I could only conjure these images with a sense of fantasy. But now I know the reality of babies. I know their feel, their smell, their development, the daily changes and struggles in caring for them and the little joys experienced all along the way. I can recall the feel of a sling over my shoulder and the curve of a little body within. I can feel the curl of a tiny finger around my hand as we walk together inhaling the early evening air. Those are some of the more wonderful moments in my memory. But this time they are not real. Last night we were alone.

Monday, July 25, 2011


I could not resist this post title as a woman who has had five kids yet has never pushed one out on her own...

In this case I am referring to limits or boundaries. One of my supreme flaws is a consistent ignorance of limitations. This, to an extent, makes my husband and I a perfect match. He is the one who will walk right up to the line and say, "This line? Watch me." as he walks across. Me, I'm the one who blows past the line without a second thought. I know exactly where it is. So there it is, we're both line crossers.

My recent fitness kick got me thinking about this. I have been running since our second daughter was born. My baby weight and then some just dripped off after I had her and started running. Only now do I realize how far I have come and how much farther there is. Ergo, the pushing. I started out pushing myself to run two miles outside in the morning which is something I had been doing pretty consistently on my treadmill in the afternoons. It was difficult for me to make the adjustment between the times of day and different conditions (i.e., air conditioning with minimal humidity and dripping wet heat) but I did it. Then I pushed some more. So I went 2.25 miles, then 2.5, then 2.75, last weekend I did a leisurely 5k and today just for fun I added in some pretty serious hills. Just to prove I could do it. My life reflects this behavior. So often I see that line, the one between the easy and hard and I just blow right past. Over the years I have learned that contemplation is often more of a necessity rather than a suggestion and I have been known at times to only toe the line. In my case it took time for that change to occur. It is an interesting if not frustrating trait. As a pusher I also have perfectionistic traits which often lead to more pushing. The up side of this is a pretty fit physique at the moment and over the last many years I have become a very adept cook, baker, gardener and crocheter.

Someday soon I hope to cross another line, one whose boundary I have been toeing for some time, but that is for another day. Today I remain behind.

Friday, July 22, 2011


I was explaining Romeo and Juliet (and, incidentally the difference between it and the cartoon Gnomeo and Juliet) to my girls the other day and used the word tragedy. This required a definition. It took everything I had to avoid using this word to describe us, Wyatt and Eli. Romeo and Juliet is a tragic love story yet so is ours.

Webster's dictionary defines tragedy as "a dramatic composition, often in verse, dealing with a serious or somber theme, typically that of a great person destined through a flaw of character or conflict with some overpowering force, as fate or society, to downfall or destruction." Application of this definition to my life results in: Wyatt is the wonderful baby who is destined by his conflict with Potter's Syndrome, the overpowering force of his fate, to a sure demise. Now, in Romeo and Juliet this is where Shakespeare ended it, leaving the Capulets and Montegues to mourn their great losses and try to mend their torn families. My story however has another act. It is basically the same act just with a different baby years later. Tragedy upon tragedy. No hero or heroine, no last minute cure or magical potion, just tragedy.

Potter's Syndrome is a cruel form of fate from beginning to end. It is an almost universally fatal birth defect yet not often not fatal enough to cause miscarriage. It doesn't even become visible via ultrasound until sometime between the 4th and 5th month of pregnancy. At that point there is little to no fluid for baby and he/she will become compressed within the womb but the pregnancy can continue to term. The pregnancy continues with the disclaimer that the baby can die anytime in utero and so a constant vigil begins for the mother (and father). When baby is born he or she can die anytime during labor or shortly after. Expected lifespan is measured in terms of minutes to hours at most. There is no medical treatment for this condition in almost all cases. No hope and the only sure answer is the death of a precious child. If that isn't tragedy I don't know what is.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I'm Still Broken

At the back of our cupboard sits a coffee mug. To the untrained eye it will appear as is, a nice large Italian looking coffee mug. My husband and I are the only ones who know about the cracked handle which is the reason for its placement. Not cracked enough to repair or throw away but cracked enough to be benched and used in emergencies only.

I too am broken like that. To the untrained eye I have a beautiful family, a very handsome husband along with three beautiful little long haired girls who trail me pretty much everywhere. I appear just as I am. Most will never know there should be two little boys. Boys which I carried nine months and was not even granted nine hours on earth. That is my crack. Hidden from most if not all. Yesterday I realized that I am that mug and that just like that mug, no one has tried to fix me.

That's not entirely true I guess. I have made amazing strides at repairing the damage I can see. Since Eli's birth I can now run faster and farther than ever before. I have toned muscles and am stronger than I have ever been. My fair skin is now golden. Fixing these things has given me purpose. During Eli's pregnancy I had a clear purpose, to protect him and bring him to term and prepare for that inevitable day. When he was born and died so did that purpose. I then purposely chose to heal my body.

It's what I can't see that's broken. I don't even know how badly right now. Which as any fixer can tell you is a pretty big problem. We're fixers you see. I am great at fixing broken toys with glue, sewing patches to clothing and mending holes. My husband has amazing technical and creative abilities and can fix almost anything that I can't. Almost. I am not fixed yet.

I am that coffee mug, hiding in plain sight, able to hold two good cups of coffee but capable of shattering at any moment.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Breathing a Sigh of Relief Today

Today I can breathe a sigh of relief. Today I dropped off a huge stack of paperwork along with precious vial of blood from each of us along with sweet little Eli's autopsy report for submission into the Potter's Syndrome study. Getting all five of us through a blood draw at the same time was no small feat. As luck would have it my oldest was the most nervous and was whimpering when the numbing cream was applied but it was my husband, who passed out in the operating room while holding her after her birth, who almost passed out today. I am very relieved to put the culmination of so many frustrating months almost entirely behind me. I will make sure that the autopsy samples are safely delivered before committing this experience to the farthest reaches of my memory. I pray that the only time we will hear from this study will be with the answers that we so desperately seek.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


My daughters all began swim lessons for the first time this week. They are seven, five and almost three years old so it is different for each one of them. They each have their own fears, physical capabilities and limitations as well as their own comfort zones which seem to be unique to their personalities. The littlest refuses to put her face in the water, the oldest nearly refuses to jump into the water and the middle one does pretty much whatever she's told to do. I struggled for a long long time with fear of water and swimming after a near drowning experience as a child so I can relate to those fears and how paralyzing they can be. For a long time I only did the minimum necessary to enjoy being in the water by using arm floaties and holding on to the edge of the pool. Through repetition of beginner swim classes over the course of many summers I learned the basic skills of floating, stroking and kicking. It wasn't until college that I really attempted to do much more. Determination got the better of me and I went into the deep end without holding onto the edge and without a flotation device. I still don't feel totally comfortable in deep water but I make it work.

Watching my daughters and recollecting my own troubled history with swimming drew a parallel with the grief I carry over my sons' deaths. Initially I struggled just to keep my head above water. I learned to dope with the feeling of drowning by doing some sort of free float through life, just skimming the water and not feeling too much. After some time I began to want more, to go in my own direction not just where the water took me so I began to move against the water. Eventually I became comfortable enough to make it work which is likely as good as it will get. Just as my daughters have successes and more often, failures, in their lessons so have I in my grief. At some future date they will reach a point and want to go no further, it will be enough for a while. That is where I am now.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Blame It On The Hormones

I feel like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sometimes. I have no magic elixir which produces the ugly deformed Mr. Hyde. For me it's emotion and thought. Then I get angry, real angry. Four letter words and phrases bounce around in my head with the speed of an Olympic ping pong match. I hold them into until it hurts. If released they will not stop.

The things that should be and are not. The things that are and should not be. So often they go unnoticed and other times they stick out like blinking neon signs at midnight. I don't know why the same thing can happen on a different day and elicit a completely different emotional response but it can.

Me, I blame most things on my hormones. Which I believe is actually quite reasonable since in the last nine years I have been pregnant six times and delivered five children between 37 and 39 weeks and then subsequently breastfed my three living girls for the first year of their lives. Normal hormonal fluctuations are brutal enough. Pregnancy for the most part is hormonally kind to me but the hormonal and emotional aftermath of losing a child is especially cruel. Breastfeeding for so many months after most of those pregnancies threw my hormones into a tailspin which in the last case I needed to supplement my hormones to recover from and that was seven months after I stopped nursing!

I think I have finally convinced my very intelligent but fairly clueless when it comes to female oriented things husband to accept my hormone crazed reasoning which at times I one hundred percent believe in and other time feel almost as if I'm duping him. But, if he ever has doubts I have proof - charts and charts of crazy dots and lines and times and temperatures which correspond with crazy behavior and physical discomfort which in all likelihood causes more crazy behavior. Through the years I have connected so many seemingly unrelated things to hormonal imbalances that I really feel justified in my blame.

So there, I'm on to you nasty hormones.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Deja Vu Keeps Rolling

Warning: possible tmi here...but it's just too much to bottle up I suppose. Here I sit, thinking about this time one year ago. It was then that I got pregnant with Eli. It is far too easy to remember because this cycle started on the exact same day as last year's cycle. Something which I find inexplicable considering that in that year's time I had a baby. What are the odds that my cycle would begin the exact same day one year later? And, the day after my birthday both years. Unbelievable.

Not too long after I got pregnant my husband asked me if I was going to sell my fertility monitor because Eli was to be our last child. I vividly remember telling him not yet, that you never know. I also saved two pregnancy tests. It makes me wonder that perhaps I did know. That maybe if there is a next time I should purge it all, leave no questions, no doubts to linger. These are the kinds of things I remember.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Is It Just Me? Another One of Those Moments

When I wonder, "am I the only one who does this?" and "how weird is it?" Counting kids. Yes, when I am out and about I count kids. Families with five children sting. Especially families with children so close together there is likely no possibility that they could have birthed and lost any full term babies in between as I have. Even with children close together though, I know loss can occur. My two oldest girls are twenty-one months apart and I suffered a miscarriage in between their pregnancies. Appearances can be deceiving.

I haven't figured out why I count kids. Is it to find others who have suffered as I have? Is it to reassure myself that healthy children are possible? Is it out of jealousy that they haven't had to experience the agony that I have? While we're at it I've got another confession. I read obituaries. My eyes usually veer straight toward the bottom. The part where it says who preceded the deceased in death. I read this section for one reason. To find others that lost children. So often I find the names of infant children. I also find families with many many living children and I wonder why me and not them?

Comparing myself and my family to other parents and their families is no good. Even if I had genetic answers for my losses I would never be able to find out exactly when that mutation occurred in my genetic background and why it happened. I know enough about genetics and science and faith for that matter to know that no one has it all figured out. Scientists and doctors are always in a state of discovery and revisiting earlier discoveries. Religious scholars are still studying texts that are centuries old. And sometimes all of these well studied individuals can only tell us that sometimes things happen and no one knows why. I have read in the past that cancer can lay dormant in our bodies for some time and then one day go active and begin mutating without explanation. Miracles are things which have no logical explanations. So, in the end, I think the answer to some of my questions may echo what I tell my own children "just because".

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Different Kinds of Pain

The other day I found myself pondering pain and its many forms. For instance, there is the throbbing pain of a stubbed toe, the aching muscles which follow intense exercise, the short-lived smarting of a bump, the sharp bursts of a pinched nerve and then there are the less obvious pains. The emotional ones. The pain of regret, guilt or anger when fighting with a loved one, the aching of watching your children grow more independent, the black hole of grief after losing someone. I have experienced so many different kinds of pain resulting from grief. Some are too fleeting to remember and others become seared into my memory. There is the sting of seeing a child of the age and gender which my boys would be. Sometimes just seeing a happy family will do it. A different pain is felt at the cemetery, though that pain has changed through the years. I went almost daily after Wyatt's burial and each time I would be completely overcome for my child, weeping uncontrollably. That pain has dulled into an aching which occasionally fills my eyes. There is an unconscious pain often when looking at one or more of my girls. A reminder of the little boys that should be in our house with them. Sadness at not being able to see them as anything but babies. Every holiday these absences are felt stronger than other days. Sometimes that pain only fills a moment, others it overwhelms an entire day. Just like the physical pains of my life my emotional pains differ. It is sometimes possible to just throw it to the side with a simple four letter word, other times it lingers and throbs for hours and occasionally days. Unlike most physical pain, emotional hurts are often impossible to avoid and that's probably what hurts most.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Just When I Thought Things Are Better

I went shopping. It could have just been an off day, or me not sleeping well lately or perhaps the two pregnant women wandering the toy aisles. Even I could ace this multiple choice question despite my tendency to excel at essays instead. My daughters wanted fairy wings. They were not picky but I was. It is important that they be plain and cheap so that I have an inexpensive project for them to decorate with our multitude of craft supplies which ideally will give me at least one full hour of peace and busyness. What I found instead were two pregnant women wandering the aisles with their children. Inside I panicked. I moved faster and looked closer at the shelving. Anything to just find those wings and leave. Of course, there were no wings and we only discovered that after thoroughly inspecting each and every aisle, including the ones in which these particular women happened to be. That was over four hours ago and it has yet to leave my mind. This reaction is further complicated because I have my three little girls alongside and I know so many families have so much less.

How is it that I can feel so affronted by a pregnant woman? I cannot think of anything else. I'd like to think there is some useful lesson to take away from today's shopping trip which has completely derailed my day. Maybe I should plan ahead to see pregnant women so that I can be more steely and less surprised. Perhaps I should just do all my shopping online so I don't have to know that they're out there. Lucky me, I don't believe in the "everything happens for a reason" thinking so I am just going to try harder to chuck this experience out the window and wipe the slate clean for today.


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