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, September 30, 2011

Grief is Not a Journey

Eight years after Wyatt's death I am not "over it" and there has been no closure. He died, then Eli died and they left me to survive without them. My grief is not a journey. There is no far off port of resolution and peace. There will never be a day when I do not grieve their losses somewhere in my heart.

So many grieving parents struggle with this. Family and friends perceive and often expect that someday the bereaved will just "snap out of it" but that doesn't happen. How I grieve eight years after Wyatt's death is different from how I grieve nearly seven months after Eli's death. The tears are now controlled and often only shed in complete privacy. The wounds which were so raw and painful in the immediate aftermath of their deaths are now more protected. It takes more to make them ache so painfully. I will never be "that person", the one that I was before and I've accepted that. I actually prefer "this person", the bereaved one. Yet, if you asked me to describe myself I would hesitate to use that word. The grief I carry for my sons is only part of who I am, it does not define me.

Grief is not a journey, it is not a ten step process, it is not a way of life. Grief is perhaps more like an uninvited companion. Grief makes itself known by the sight of an empty crib, the unnatural silence of a household, the empty space in a family photo. Grief will be at my side until the day that I join my sons but even then grief's journey will not end. Grief will then walk alongside those who have loved me and are left to survive.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Today while waiting with my three year old to check out our books at the library an elderly woman blatantly cut in the front of the line to check out her own books. This has happened to me before but today it irked me a bit. I mean, seriously, how impatient do you have to be to cut in front of a three year old at the library? Especially when that little three year old is hip hopping all over the place with her own impatience?

I attempted to let the woman politely know that there was a line behind her while at the same time intending to let her cut in front of me anyway but she either was hard of hearing or ignored me so I abandoned my effort. But I thought to myself, "Lady, I can tell you a thing or two about waiting." Try waiting over four months for a child in your womb to either take his last breath or enter the world. Try waiting over four months to find out whether that child will cry when he is born. Try waiting over four months to hear that cry and then begin to count the minutes, yes minutes, which will make up your child's entire life. Try waiting those precious minutes praying each and every heartbeat is not his last. Then, when you've done all those things. Do it again. I've done it, twice, and I now know a few things about waiting.

I know that it's not the end of the world to step into a line that has more than one person ahead of me. I know that it's not worth the mental effort of analyzing which line will be faster in an effort to save precious minutes. I know that whatever precious minutes I manage to save, they will not even hold a candle to some of the most precious moments life has to offer. I know the lightness my heart gains when I let someone with a smaller load or cart go in front of myself or when I slow my car to let someone cross the street. I know what feeling that burden of waiting being lifted feels like too.

I don't want anyone to understand waiting like I do. But I would like to see more patience than impatience and more empathy than judgment. After all, some of the best things in life are worth waiting for, I also know that about waiting.

Monday, September 26, 2011

I'm Falling with Fall

Fall has always been my favorite season. I live in a region where it is winter or winter-like for a majority of the year. Spring has always renewed my spirit after many long months of short, dark, colorless days. Especially this year. Eli died before the earth came back to life and when it did so a little bit of me came back to life. Fall, I'm afraid, is almost having the opposite effect. Each day shrinks in light and warmth. The earth is slowly beginning a slumber which will last for many long months. Color is leaving our world and so far there is little autumn splendor to ease the transition. With each chilly breeze it seems that a chill of sadness creeps into my bones. Some days I am so cold I can barely get warm and yet it is still only September and we are even experiencing above average temps for the season. I am glad that Eli was born on the cusp of spring so that each year when I celebrate his birthday I can await the awakening of nature and watch the earth come alive just in time for Wyatt's birthday which is appropriately just on the cusp of summer. Spring has always represented hope and rebirth and I often find it ripe with little miracles of nature. Fall is threatening to take my hope and allow its speedy friend Winter to hold it ransom.

Friday, September 23, 2011

I Was So Unprepared

In my tale of two children, my tale of two griefs, something happened to me a few weeks ago which I had not yet experienced and I was so completely unprepared to face. In fact, I not only was so unprepared, I did not even recognize what was happening in the situation right away.

Last year while pregnant with Eli I taught kindergarten classes at church. It was my second year teaching and I had made the commitment before finding out about Eli's Potter's diagnosis. After the diagnosis I was determined to live life as much as normal for myself and our children so I continued to teach. This was made especially challenging by a very difficult class in terms of getting and holding their attention each week. I soldiered on until signs of labor appeared a few weeks before my c-section date. Then I freaked out and notified the head of our program that I would not be able to teach effective that day forward. I had already sent a letter to the parents of my kindergartners indicating that I would not be finishing up the year as their teacher and explained briefly about Wyatt and Eli and that I would need some time after Eli's birth. I never got to explain it to my class or to say goodbye and wish them a good year. It was all so abrupt and panicky on my part.

After Eli's birth I took an absence from church for many many weeks. I needed to not see those faces, the ones who knew about my loss and the ones who may not have known about my loss and could have asked about my baby. When I felt comfortable I began going again and aside from a few babies here and there (thankfully we go to early Mass which is not attended by many children) things went pretty well. Which would explain why I gave attending the faith class yearly kickoff celebration not a thought in the world. But as we were walking around I began getting a feeling. Almost out of place. Some people smiled and acknowledged me while so many more it seemed just looked away. Yet it took me the better part of an hour to even put this together, to place what I was feeling. It was new and it was hauntingly awful. A memory I won't soon forget.

I have always assumed that some past experiences have been negatively influenced by my anticipation of the situation and all that could wrong. But on that day I had anticipated only fun with my girls. I was so unprepared.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I am writing this post especially for Franchesca's Small Miracles blog hop at Small Bird Studios. I recently posted about chasing hope but that post didn't seem to fit with the theme of choosing hope. So, back to the drawing board I go and I will start with the basics this time.

The noun "Hope" is defined in Webster's as "desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment". For eight years my definition of hope has been something a little different. Anyone who has read any of my many postings on this topic probably has an inkling how I define hope though I've never spelled it out. Hope for me is found in new life, specifically life that I have created. When Wyatt died my hopes died too. This may sound conceited, but stick with me. Until the moment he died I had achieved everything I had intended to in life. I had a husband perfectly suited to myself and in him I found my best friend. I had worked hard to earn the money I needed to attend college and graduate school with the most minimal of loans. I owned my car and had just begun a career which I chose as a teenager and had persisted to achieve with little support from my family. I had intended to start a family and though I was no stranger to failure I usually found a way to make things work but with Wyatt there was no wiggle room. Probably for the first time ever I accepted the bitter taste of defeat for what it was, loss in the purest sense. I was told there was no reason to believe it would happen again and that we could try for another child but hearing and feeling are two different things. It is so very hard to rid yourself of that bitter taste. I could have named our first daughter hope, because that's precisely what she was. She became my definition of hope. My chance to find good again in what had become a horribly sad world.

She is now seven years old and I realize my definition must change. I have found hope and she has changed me. Hope has reignited my desire for life, for my life, and my need for fulfillment. These things cannot be defined by others - not my husband, not my children. Desire and fulfillment are things that I must strive for myself. I desire to live a good life (one spent balancing service to others and self while being mindful that a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle). My expectation is that a good life will lead to fulfillment. Today, I have changed hope.

New Design

I have been tinkering with my blog design and am going to test this out for a while. Polka dots speak so much better to my personality! Please feel free to comment with any suggestions for improvement or to point out any flaws that I may be overlooking. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Armed With a Hairband

,p>A post of levity today. I've previously mentioned the religion rift in our family which leaves me and our three daughters traipsing off to church early every Sunday morning. Upon getting out of our van on Sunday our littlest began hiking up her dress. I bent down to assist her when I noticed a bit of Zoe (Sesame Street) underpants poking out above her tights. The waistband of her precious little pink knit tights dotted with big hearts was hopelessly stretched out and literally falling off her body while threatening to take her underpants with - and we were in the church parking lot. I quickly hustled her inside and found a place where we could work on this. My solution was to tuck the tights into the waistband of her underpants and hope that the elastic would hold both just long enough to get us through Mass. It got her into church okay and then I noticed the hiking had recommenced. I could tell we were not going to win the battle. At this point my mind started racing through all available options and the best I could come up with was: either take the tights off as discretely as possible and put them in my purse or try to find a better way to tighten them. It was at that moment that true brilliance struck. A hairband! My stylishly short haircut long ago made it a needless nuisance to carry my own hairbands but as a mother of three little girls at least one extra hairband is a must have. I quickly dug through my purse and located a perfectly pink elastic. Then, quickly digging my hands under her skirt I tied it around the extra knit fabric to create a snug waistband on her tights and amply resolved the peepage problem.

I may not always have the utmost faith in God but I absolutely believe he was at my side Sunday morning.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Yesterday it occurred to me for perhaps the first time that something doesn't necessarily have to be fair or unfair. Sometimes things are just not fair or not unfair. Let me explain. I would hope that I'd be hard pressed to find someone who would characterize my loss of two sons at birth as fair. Probably quite the contrary. But are those losses really unfair? Especially in light of my last post about others' children. Perhaps. But I think that maybe my losses are best categorized as not unfair. I would definitely not consider them fair. But, what makes them so unfair? Because my neighbor or my sister didn't suffer the loss of two babies? If they had, would that make it fair - tit for a tat kind of thing? Hardly, it would just double the sorrow in the world and mean that another family had to bear the heavy burden of losing two children. Is it unfair that they haven't lost two children like I have? No. Who am I to make such judgments?

I have been raised in terms of fairness. One of three children, the oldest at that, I learned the word "fair" at an early age. This concept of fairness was fostered and soon enough life was gauged in terms of fairness. Sure the phrase "life isn't fair" was tossed around here and there. But lessons to really drive that point home were so very missing. I find myself dealing with fairness issues and arguments on a daily basis dealing with three young girls. Three children of the same gender tends to make things more complicated than it was for me growing up with a sister and a brother. It seems that our parents were quite concerned with fairness when my husband and I were children and have yet to let those pesky concerns go. Not me, as a parent I seize opportunities of unfairness. I think it is an important lesson to learn and the earlier the better. Because that's just it, life isn't fair. People are not treated fair and despite any and all efforts to the contrary, true fairness and equality is a mythical concept. Plain and simple.

So I'll just stick with not unfair. Instead of asking "why me" maybe the better question is "why not me"? I would be a fool to hold myself out as so divine that such things should not happen to me. I'm far from perfect. Imperfection has taught me that things don't have to be constantly measured in terms of fairness but that doesn't mean they can't be not fair or not unfair.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rainbows Fade

The topic of rainbow babies has been in my head and heart lately. Prior to Eli, I had three, he was to be my fourth. I didn't realize for a long time that Eli too was a rainbow baby, brought to life in the wake of a terrible storm many years prior. Eli's rainbow was not meant to be, it was the kind that appears faintly in the sky and then you blink and it's gone. I realize that I have much to be thankful for in my life, our three girls, and so much more than many have or may ever have. This in no way diminished the pain I have felt or will continue to feel the rest of my life for the loss of our boys.

My rainbows don't blind me to the pain of watching others have their babies. Yes, even though I have three healthy daughters I still feel pain when others have babies of their own. Especially baby boys. Something which my family, myself excluded, seems to excel at. I don't believe that I have ever shared this particular heartbreak. I was twenty-five years old when I got pregnant with Wyatt, my younger sister was just nineteen and unmarried. I was equally surprised and devastated to hear, sometime after Wyatt's Potter's diagnosis, she was pregnant. It was unplanned and she was more than unprepared. She appeared to be lacking in every aspect - financially, emotionally, in maturity and stability. She appeared at my bedside the June morning that Wyatt was born five months pregnant with a healthy boy. The day that baby was born was one of the worst days I could imagine. I was not there. I did not call. I did not even see him until he was a month old when they came to visit for Christmas. My family was less than understanding of my feelings. They in no uncertain terms told me to get over it and see my sister. He was the first and only baby I held after Wyatt was born and before our daughter was born. I could not understand how she was given this wonderful little boy to care for and I was given a grave to tend instead. Less than a year after he was born she was pregnant again. This time was worse, she never revealed her pregnancy but it was nonetheless discovered when she was seven months along. We believe he was carried with no prenatal care prior to that. Yes, I said he. She had another little boy. Still unmarried, unstable and even more unprepared. I harbored a lot of anger for a long time. Witnessing the hand that they had been dealt which is a bum one in the very least is difficult. Loving them is much easier thankfully. They didn't ask to be born and they couldn't choose their parents. I however can choose my emotions and I have to choose what is best for them.

Since then I am aware of at least two extended family members getting pregnant as unmarried, unstable teenagers and giving birth to perfectly healthy little boys. I will never understand why them and why not me. So I've stopped asking the question. I've for the most part stopped comparing. The inequities never make sense and they certainly don't ease the aching in my heart. I don't know why some people have so much more suffering it seems than others. I'm not convinced it isn't random. Rainbows fade, they are not permanent and are not meant to be. In a Biblical sense they are the sign of a promise. So today I reflect on my own faded rainbow and promise.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chasing Hope

I've spoken before of hope. I've chased her for years. At times I believe I've caught her and then she slips from my hands again. She is beautiful, magical and extremely elusive. I imagine her as a tiny translucent being. But I don't underestimate her. She is deceivingly strong and persistent. She has found me in complete darkness yet walks at my side unseen on the sunniest of days. Again I find myself chasing her. Months and months ago she filled the emptiness in my heart which was created by Eli's Potter's diagnosis. She gave me purpose more than anything. Wyatt's short life taught me that even during my darkest days there is hope. Our hope was delivered to us in the form of his baby sister. Yet hope again slipped away as we settled into life with a new baby born just one year after the loss of our first. So much grieving had been lightened by hope, so much grieving could not have occurred until that birth happened. By the time I found hope once again within my grasp I learned that miscarriage had already stolen it away. But hope did not give up on me and we soon learned that we could again hope for more when another baby sister was born. When hope crept back into my life again she slipped in and out through months of doubt, fear and worry about whether my body could carry another child. The little girl that resulted was so healthy and happy that I wonder if she didn't just plant her plump little bottom on hope to hold her in place for awhile. I thought hope was still with me last summer when our precious Eli was growing within. I had so much hope for our family and our final addition to it. Hope, like she had done with Wyatt, transformed herself. My hopes became defined by minutes and hours. She did not leave me until Eli did. I have chased her ever since. Hope and I have changed much in the last eight years. I probably don't need her now like I did then. I have tinier hopes that float through my house with laughter, tears and everything between every day. For that I am thankful. In their eyes I see hope and I feel her presence but I know that I haven't caught her yet.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

From The Ashes

Today marks an important milestone for our nation as we honor the tenth anniversary of a very difficult day. Today marks an important milestone for me as I honor my son's absence for six months to the day. I reflected on the heaviness of today while driving home from church. I envisioned the twisted and scorched rubble that remained just hours after two magnificent towers stood in the morning sunshine. I was in those towers just six months before they fell and I felt just as much awe standing at their feet looking up as I did standing on their top looking down. The loss of their beauty pales in comparison to the loss of life, hope and security all Americans felt that day. Fear crept in and has lingered ever since. The rubble of that devastation was long cleared away but the memories remain.

I too fell, six months ago I crumbled for the second time. I hadn't even finished rebuilding from our first devastation before the second and most unthinkable struck again. For the past ten years there has been talk and action about how and what to do to remember what happened on that fateful day. How to memorialize those who fell and the spectacular that rose to service of man and country. I don't believe that answer lies in a building, memorial or any tangible piece of anything. It is contained in the hearts of all those who remember and who share their memories. Wyatt and Eli didn't die the day that their bodies did. They live on in my husband's and my heart and thanks to our memories and words Wyatt, who was born before any of his sisters, lives on in their hearts. Eli's memory lives in all of our hearts and so long as we don't let go they always will. Twisted and scorched rubble can yield beautiful things in spite of unbearable, indescribable loss. Rebuilding in the shadow of grief is accomplished one person at a time and the memorial we each create is irreplaceable.

Ten years later I see a nation that was brought to its knees. A nation that would not stay bent down. A nation that stumbled along the way. A nation that is still trying to find its way. Yet a nation that remembers the immense sacrifices and pain which stitch it together and make it whole.

Friday, September 9, 2011

It's Okay to Say Crap

When someone asks how you're doing. For so so long "okay" or "good" was just a reflexive response. No thought to the question and no thought to the answer. Any response that deviates from this norm gets attention. I actually go out of my way to avoid the standard responses now. If I'm having a good day, I say more than "good" or "great". If I'm having a not so good day, I use brief but clear words to describe it. It may just be saying that I'm struggling or I'm tired or busy or whatever is weighing me down. It feels good be honest and let go of that fraud that I spoke about yesterday. Whoever has asked me the question won't know how I'm actually doing if I don't give them an honest answer which won't allow us to interact very personally. And if whoever asked the question didn't really want to know the answer perhaps they will rethink asking that question in the future which again will affect on a deeper level the interaction that they have with me.

So. Here is my challenge to everyone. Answer this question as honestly as you can. I don't believe it's necessary to unload all of your troubles in one answer or to deliver that answer in a dramatic "woe is me" fashion. I think a simple but short description of how you are doing is suffice, even if that answer is just saying "I feel like crap". The reaction you get may be surprising and it may be rewarding. You may find someone to listen and maybe even an offer of help to carry you through. With that said, you may end up feeling worse, BUT I no longer expect myself to have great days all of the time and I don't see those not-so-great days as failures anymore either. They are what they are and I can always believe that tomorrow will be better.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Yesterday my credit card company called and informed me that my account had been flagged for fraud. What they believed was fraud was actually a billing error which snowballed into an hour's worth of phone calls between myself, the credit card company and the retailer. I spend my part mostly on hold screaming unmentionable things regarding my credit card company whom I hold completely at fault.

This is not the first time that this credit card company has cried fraud and this is one time too many. Credit card company, the time has come, I'm breaking up with you. You tend to take more than you give, talk more than you listen and you are way too paranoid.

Fraud has a place in my life. Smiles are faked, glances at babies and bellies are quickly averted. These things I'm willing to deal with, they are coping mechanisms and really more like fibs. The babies and bellies move on and the sharp pains in my heart quickly subside as they do. You, oh mighty credit card company, take much more cajoling and effort to get rid of. It is you who is fraudulent, not me.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Great Divide

One of my biggest marriage secrets is to agree to disagree. Both my husband and I are armed with great vocabularies, solid logic, love of arguing and the strong belief in our own correctness. I am Catholic, my husband is anything but. In fact, he is not only "not Catholic" he is not tied to any religious affiliation and does not openly proclaim a belief in God. We married in the Catholic church, our children have all been baptized Catholic but that area is mine. Mine alone. This has its ups and downs. Before Wyatt's birth my husband would accompany me to church. Afterwards when I left the church, it was my decision and I owned it with no input or pressure. I returned of my own volition and have stumbled through the rocky path since on my own with two or three small girls clinging to my shirttails.

When I married it was my sincere hope that someday my husband would convert just as my grandfather and father did before him when they married Catholic women. That hope was crushed when we were told our first child Wyatt would die and was completely extinguished when he did die. When we got Eli's diagnosis I knew it was over. God certainly didn't score any brownie points there. I don't think we will ever bridge the great divide of faith in this household.

So last night I figure that God must really have a sense of humor. He can make it rain on a sunny day, right? I only hope that he finds our marriage and its sometimes lighthearted approach to faith amusing because we aren't going anywhere.


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