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

Monday, December 17, 2012

My Christmas Family

So I've been feeling this sadness settling in like it does each year right around this time since our first Christmas without Wyatt in 2003.  My mood and temperament noticeably dip so I found myself trying to explain it to my husband last night.  It took alot of nonsensical descriptions before these words came out.

Christmas makes me sad because it's about family and that only reminds me of how incomplete my family is and will always be.  It is the one time of year when my family never seems so incomplete.    I can't say it any better than that.  The boys' birthdays come and go and those days are about them individually and how much I miss each of them.  But Christmas.  Christmas is the time when their presence in our family is so obviously missing to me.  Everyone else in our family (parents and siblings) have all of their children.  I am missing two and I just don't know how not to miss them.  The heart of Christmas, truly the meaning of Christmas is family.  Christmas is the celebration of Christ's birth and the creation of the Holy Family.  It is also the creation of God's own family as he welcomed his only son into this world.  So, you see, any which way you look at it, it's family.  The one thing I value above all else.  My blessed and blessedly incomplete family.

He tried but had no answers.  There are none that I have found over the last ten years since Wyatt's birth.  I don't know that Christmas will ever be the same for me.  It is a very conscious effort to recognize and appreciate the joy that is going on all around me each and every holiday season.  Today I find myself in need of a silent night to spend in quiet reflection and sorrow to make more room for joy from the world tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Up on the Rooftop

Since my post on remembrance I am just bursting at the seams wanting to shout from the rooftop "Remember, remember! My sons are gone".  While all of you (family) are making your holiday preparations all I can think about is the empty chair and high chair at my table.  The unwrapped presents under my tree.  The candles in my window.  Blinking away tears.  Gifts are unimportant, dinner is unnecessary.  What is important:  buying something small for their graves, making sure their Christmas tree lights are lit up at night, getting to and from the wintry cemetery, honoring their memory through a gift of charity, hearing their names.
So I'm up on the rooftop waiting for Santa to deliver me the one miracle that even Santa doesn't have in his bag.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Through a Child's Eyes

This weekend I came face to face, quite literally, with the demons of my adolescence.  My congenitally missing lateral incisors.  As a teenager I endured a five plus years of braces, tooth extractions, retainers, rubber bands and finally dental implants to fill in spaces left where no permanent teeth grew.  (Yet another fun genetic grab bag item in my family).  Friday one of those implants failed me in a big way and let's just put it this way, he is no longer with me.  I'm just a wee bit (translation: super duper enormously) sensitive about walking around missing a tooth right in the front part of my mouth so I was joking with my kids that they will have to put up with pirate mom until a temporary replacement is made.  To which they responded that I was not even a good pirate because they at least have gold teeth.  (Sigh).  Some days I just can't win.

Monday, December 3, 2012

I Heart my Heart

Wikipedia defines the heart as "a hollow muscle that pumps blood throughout the blood vessels by repeated, rhythmic contractions.  Gray's anatomy goes on to say "the rhythmical action of the heart is muscular in origin." But most of us probably don't think of the heart in this way.  If we even think of it at all.  That's because the heart goes on beating around 70 beats every minute of every day without any effort from us.  Yet for something so unnoticed, it's role in our lives could not be any more important.

Yet it's still a muscle, one that can be weakened by a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy habits and strengthened through exercise and healthy living.  A healthy heart is a happy heart.  Except that the heart is more than just a blood pumper.  It is a vital organ of emotional health too.  One that just like the beating drum in our chests needs exercise and healthy habits to function optimally.  After Wyatt and Eli's deaths my heart needed a break and so I tucked it away somewhere safe for a while.  I needed to protect it and keep it from any more hurt because I just didn't know how much it could take. 

I learned this last week that the human heart can take an awful lot.  It can be poked and prodded, shocked and even endure having tiny pieces of it literally killed off and still keep beating.  So too can the metaphorical heart.  I have endured hearing that two of my children, while each in utero, would most certainly die before, during or shortly after their births.  I have carried those little boys to term and watched each one die in my arms within hours of their birth.  I have stood at a tiny bare grave site to bury my first child and then eight years later at my oldest son's grave site by my very own headstone to bury my second son at his feet.  

I have also learned of the heart's incredible capacity for healing.  Both physically and emotionally.  At the age of 25, approximately one percent of the heart's muscle cells are replaced yearly, falling to one half of a percent by age 75 according to Dr. Jonas Frisen of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.  What I can take away from this is that the heart really heals, inside and out.  The heart that I had ten years ago is not the heart that I have today, neither one of them.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Reminder vs. Remembrance

Holidays are a time of celebration.  For those who have lost loved ones they can also serve as times of remembrance and sorrow.    When that loved one has sat at the dinner table holidays past, even just one time, there may smiles and stories to tell.  In my case, neither one of my sons has experienced a holiday.  I have never purchased a little suit or even a vest, never used a dab of gel to smooth an errant cowlick and never gazed across the table into the eyes of my sons.  My grandmother died just a little over a month after Wyatt died and every holiday celebrated at my grandfather's since her chair sits painfully empty, a reminder of her absence - and of her presence for so many years.

I don't have that reminder.  There is no physical evidence aside from the photographs hanging on my living room wall that my sons entered into this family.  We don't keep their things out in the open, they are too precious, too cherished and sometimes just too sad to see all that often.  

So I sit in silence during these holidays, smiling and enjoying the celebrations while silently aching for two little boys who will never come home.  I remember my sons instead of trying to find a way to remind others that they are gone.  I don't think any forced reminders of their absence would make me feel better anyway.  I am too scared to know why others don't acknowledge it and any words uttered in response just wouldn't seem genuine. I liken it to the kind of apology a child gives when her parent insists.  There is nothing that compares to someone's own remembrance of my children.  

I choose remembrance rather than reminders.  In my own way and on my own terms and I've learned not to seek validation in the words and actions of others.  I own this.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Walking in Someone Else's Shoes

It's taken me a long time (likely far too long) to have acquired the ability to silence my thoughts.  I was raised very vocally and to embrace negativity.  My priest referred to this as "awfulizing" yesterday in church.  So I know that some of you who have read my last post, "The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants" may have finished it with a bad taste in your mouth.  Nine years ago I would have too.  Nine years ago I had lost my firstborn and was expecting my first rainbow.  Health, not gender, is all that mattered.  But more than that, had I read my own words I would have felt anger at the author's lack of appreciation and gratitude for what she had been given.  Her complaints about gender would have incensed my grief over the son I had just buried months before when she had so much and I had so little.

Fast forward a few years and a few healthy rainbows and even after having two healthy girls I still would have not been able to swallow those words without tasting the bitterness.  I still would have thought that she just should appreciate what she has and not let what she doesn't eat away at her.  I probably still would have reacted with some anger.  So I understand if my feelings don't punch you in the gut like they do to me.

I get it.  It's hard for me to wrestle with these feelings knowing how very blessed I am to have these four daughters.  I just can't help wondering if these feelings are stringing behind Eli's death, if they've been buried and set aside since Wyatt's death, if they're a culmination of feelings after both boys' deaths or if it's something brought about by the end of my childbearing years?  Probably a little bit of everything.  But will they dim or go away and if so, when?  Will my heart ever put this to rest?  Add another unanswered question to the pile that has accumulated in my last ten years.

I don't know what has brought you to my blog.  Even if I have read every single detail of your loss(es) I could never possibly understand.  Likewise, no one can truly understand mine or these feelings that well beneath the surface.  Words of judgment and comparison come easy, what's hard is letting those words pass unspoken and without action.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants

I'd like to say that I'm completely comfortable being done having children.  But that would be a lie.  My heart betrays any words I could ever utter.  I want to raise a son.  My body just doesn't understand.  Six full terms pregnancies, six cesarean sections, two funerals and two periods of mourning and raising four little girls in ten years has taken a toll.  Okay, a pretty big toll.  I have done two back to back pregnancies twice, both on the heels of a c-section and smack dab in the middle of my period of mourning.  My body and my mind finally told me it was enough.  My head knew that ending my child bearing years was the right choice before my doctor told me that my uterus had thinned out to the point where another pregnancy would be inadvisable.  Tell that to my heart.  There is not a day that goes by when I am not aware of what is missing in this house, this family.  It's not always a conscious "whoa" type of thought.  It most often draws no tears.  But it's there nonetheless.  So I still haven't come to terms with what is and what it is that I deeply want.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Family - Going, Going, Gone?

Reflection, does a body good.  Or wait, is that vitamins?  Regardless, I find myself reflecting lately.  Specifically, my mind travels back to March 2011 and the months leading up to Eli's birth.  The agonizingly long yet fleetingly quick months during which I carried a precious baby not destined for this earth.  I have found myself walking on a similar path lately to the one which my family walked while I waited to give birth.  Shadowed by sadness and anxiety brought on by health problems beyond my control.  This time I am perfectly healthy, albeit extremely exhausted, but it is members (yes, members) of my extended family that worry me.  No less than three of my family members have received troubling medical diagnoses in the last month.  During that time I have found myself searching for and doing anything I can think of to help out in any fashion, often at the expense of my own physical, mental and emotional well being.  I've done these things without saying much and not seeking anything in return (honestly, I hate to even put those sentences in writing because it's just not about me).  I am being hit by such strong emotions that I just have to.  I have to.  

Yet this brings me back to Eli's pregnancy.  Not one person offered to cook me a meal while I was pregnant or brought anything by for our family.  No one came to visit and just sit with us.  No one babysit our three children so we could have a little time to ourselves.  In fact, during family gatherings (which were few during this time), pretty much nothing was even said about the tragedy playing out in my life.  There were a few extra phone calls from long distance family to check in every once and a while both before and after Eli was born.  But hey, no one in my family even asked what we would name our little one until the day before he was born!  There is one thing in particular that just stabs me every single time.  A family member had offered to take us on vacation before they knew about the pregnancy.  After finding out, talk of the vacation continued but we were not willing to commit to a destination at that time.  Then when we got the news about Potter's I think my husband may have politely declined.  We were a mess so I really can't remember.  So, this family member goes ahead and books a couple only vacation for the week after Eli's birth (I'm sure they didn't know it would play out so close to his birth but they did know my due date well ahead of time).  Then, this particular family member later broke the news that their family could only come for Eli's birth or the funeral - one or the other, due to time off concerns.  You know, that big week plus long vacation they were going to take after Eli was born.  

I don't expect people to go out of their way for me.  Honestly, that's usually just not the way our family plays things.  But seriously, you only come to visit a few days for our son's birth, skip the funeral and then go on a nice long no-kid vacation a week or so later?  I would have loved to get away from my life and the reality of my second dead child for just one day.  How wonderful would it have been for them to have planned a vacation for us in the wake of our grief (since they had offered it anyway)?  How wonderful would it have been for them to have just forgone the vacation and used that time to help care for our children while we grieved and I recovered from a c-section?  This is why the "what ifs" just don't belong in reality.  It is what it is.  But I just can't help wondering why I read about other families who have gone through situations similar to ours and they have had friends and family go out of their way to support them before and after their babies' births and ours just didn't really do that.  I have never felt so alone as I did during those quiet quiet months and the even quieter ones that followed. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I Wore "That Shirt"

Fate took care of me the day Eli was born.  For a reason I cannot explain, I packed a really pretty and drapey non-maternity shirt in my hospital bag and unknowing to the nurses, they suggested later in the day (when my husband and I were enjoying our alone time with Eli and the NILMDTS photographer came in) that I put on that shirt for pictures with Eli.  I did and that shirt gave my pictures a look of normalcy that my pictures with Wyatt do not have.  They are beautiful and cherished.

The shirt however became "that shirt" and I couldn't wear it for a very long time after Eli was born.  I have worn it but recently me and the shirt made a big statement together.  My husband and I were married just before Christmas almost eleven years ago and since I am a stay at home and he is not, each year I pack up the girls and head to the photographer's to have a photograph made for a special frame in his office so he can show off his girls.  It's a semi-cheesy but completely sentimental annual anniversary gift.  This year I will be wearing "that shirt".

It almost feels like I've forcibly shed a layer of skin to be able to don that shirt again.  It didn't feel heavy or scratchy or any way uncomfortable.  Another words, it wasn't laden with the heavy memories of that day and what an important role it played.  The other day it was just a beautifully draped shirt that matched my daughters' outfits and subconsciously reminded me of one of the happiest days of my life.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

To Infinity and Beyond

Infinity is defined as "endless time, space or quantity".  To me, it's forever.  It also happens to be the number of years between my boys, on it's side.  You see, my boys - Wyatt & Eli - were born eight years apart.  8.
Turn 8 on its side and voila! you have .

Infinity.  What it feels like without my boys.  Infinity.  The space between me and them.  Infinity.  The time we will be together one day.  Infinity.  The number that's not really a number that I've found to give me some comfort while I wait for infinity.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

No Bull About It

"Bull"ying that is.  October is National Bullying Prevention Month and October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  

You may be asking yourself what these two things have to do with each other.  On their faces, nothing.  But on the inside, everything.  The loss of a child, or any loved one for that matter, comes along with a bunch of emotions.  A bunch.  Some of which won't even be experienced for weeks, months and even years.  Death may occur in one moment during one day of our lives but the repercussions are felt for the rest of that lifetime.  A lifetime which continues without our loved one.  

This is where the bullying comes in.  Emotional bullying.  It is not the ugly kind of bullying which has recently captured national attention.  It is quiet and even often well-intended.  It can be perpetrated by strangers, family and friends alike.  The bullying us into getting over our loss, moving on.  Sometimes it's bullying to swallow our emotions like a burned casserole with a smile on our faces.  It is cruel, painful and so often not even realized by the perpetrators.  

So this month in particular I want everyone to think about the connection between these two profound awarenesses that occur in the month of October.  To remember that we are more than others think about us and that at the end of the day we are the ones who live with our own regrets.  With that said, I'm going to put a cautionary statement out there.  Spring of 2011 I was still in the darkness left after Eli's death and struggled against it each and every day.  Sadness was a constant companion despite the smiles and laughter wafting frequently through my own home.  My husband called me out, he acknowledged my grief but also told me in no uncertain terms the effects he was seeing my grief having on our three wonderful children and himself.  It was a bitter pill to swallow.  On one hand I thought, "My baby just died, cut me some slack, of COURSE I'm sad."  On the other I thought, "My goodness, I didn't know."  I was alive for them and being dead for him was doing none of us any good.  What I did is chronicled here.  My husband bullied me back to life and helped me to see what the darkness had hidden from me.  

I think sometimes it's important to listen to the words and try to see the reality within and around them. It is important to grieve and to own that grieve.  It is also important not to lose our hearts to our grief.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bouncing Back

I found myself pondering this phrase while looking in the mirror one morning admiring the very non-bouncy non-taut skin that I call my midsection and covers what I can only assume was once abs (which I've now been informed by my OB are almost nonexistent and she first informed me this 3 pregnancies ago!).  Physically, heck yeah, I've bounced back.  I ran a 5k this past weekend just a few days prior to baby turning five months old and I ran a full minute better than this same time last year when I set a new personal best after running the 5k while eight weeks pregnant with baby.  My body is strong, I've worked it hard and I can honestly say I have new respect for my body.  The body which has given me six children, endured six c-sections and is probably now more physically fit than ever before.

Emotions are not so easy.  I've managed to resurrect some abdominal muscles from the ashes by working them pretty hard.  Even then, my husband and I joke how I've maybe got a half-pack hidden in there somewhere.  For emotions it's different, I can't isolate a particular emotion or flex it repetitiously.  Grief is not always so easy to access.  Nor is happiness for that matter.  It is a conscious effort to feel or not to feel at times.  Some days one or the other just doesn't work.  It's the emotions that bounce back really.  Nine years after Wyatt's death I can tell you they still haven't stopped.

I wonder how those close to me perceive the Mandy of now.  To them have I "bounced back" from Eli's death?  Am I different than I was before to them?  What do they call it?

More importantly, do I even want to know the answers to these questions?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Never Again

I am drawn to loss, specifically Potter's Syndrome because that loss I understand all too well.  I follow communities of Potter's Syndrome parents and hope that my words provide some help to those pregnant with and preparing to deliver their precious babies as well as those grieving their little ones.  I am also drawn to multiple losses.  You see, once you've lost a baby it seems that you feel a kinship with those who have also lost a baby.  But even more of a kinship with those who have lost a baby in the same way that you have lost yours.  The death of a baby is isolating when surrounded by a sea of healthy round bellies and beautiful breathing infants.  It's something to find a place of understanding and belonging.  Well, when I lost my second child that group, though comforting, wasn't enough anymore.  I needed to find others like myself.  Others who had lost more than one baby.  Sad though it was, I found a few other families who had not just lost more than one baby, but like myself had lost more than one to Potter's Syndrome.  I needed to find those people and needed to hear their stories of the future.  Because I knew I wasn't done.  I knew there would be more children in my future and it was so very important to hear of ones that had survived.

Now I've walked that path and begun a different one.  One that no longer involves monthly charting, pregnancy tests, heartbeat checks or ultrasounds.  I will never again be laying on an operating table waiting to see if my newborn cries.  For the most part I have moved beyond the bittersweet of that moment, propelled in part by the blissfully angry cries of our newest daughter as she took her first breaths - yes, breaths - just four and a half months ago.  My body changed that day but so did my mind and my heart.  I am no longer a vehicle for life.  I will never again give that gift.  Now my job is simply (hah, simply) to nurture life.  For that I am thankful.  It breaks my heart to read new stories of Potter's pregnancies and to know the gamut of emotions that those families are experiencing.  That will not be me anymore, not my pregnancy and not my children.  Selfishly I am relieved.  Watching one of my babies die was enough, two was almost too much.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Molding the Clay

Exhaustion, two successive pregnancies, four living children and the grief for two children living only in my memories has colored my recent days.  Some days  I wonder if my poorly managed days are because I didn't allow space in my life.  More space for anger, sadness, tears, joy to intervene before becoming pregnant again.  Some days I wonder if it is just my precious baby girl who is less demanding than our first but much more so than the other two.  Is it wrong to tell her that since she's our number four daughter she is just not allowed to be demanding?  Clearly, the natural order of things is allowing her to be queen bee at her ripe old age of four months which is displeasing most members of the household much of the time.  I don't know children without grief so I really don't have these answers.  I raised my first living child fraught with fear that she would die before the day she was born and while that fear has loosened its grip over time and through experience, it has not let me go.  Nor my children, apparently.  It was just a year ago March when they welcomed and said goodbye to the only baby brother they have known, Eli.  They were ages 6 (almost 7), 5 and 3 at the time yet that day and all that followed have stayed with them.  Our hairstylist recently had a baby boy and while eating one night we were discussing the girls' upcoming haircut with her (while she was still pregnant).  Our oldest was asking a question about her and the baby and phrased it in terms of "if her baby doesn't die".  Just.  Like.  That.  It was matter of fact to her that her baby could and very well may die.  Not the most uplifting dinner conversation.  It required an explanation again that most babies don't die.  Except in our little family where there is a great risk of babies dying.  We also informed the girls that it's best not to say things like that to other people.  Then there was yesterday when the girls inadvertently explained to me why they may be clamoring so eagerly, to the point of arguments and fights often, for the chance to hold their baby sister.  While chatting about babies they were lamenting how they barely had a chance to hold Eli after he was born and how they are glad to have our newest little girl.  The ability of children to absorb and incorporate experiences and emotions into their being should never be underestimated.  They can be so amazing.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Rainbow Connection

This post is about what happens after my rainbow baby is born (rainbow baby for those unfamiliar is a  child born after a storm, in this case the storm which was Wyatt and Eli's birth and death) and what I have imagined would happen after my rainbow baby is born.   Mostly it will relate to our first rainbow, our first daughter, born just one year and four days after her big brother Wyatt's birth and death.

I spent nine long months pregnant with her imagining what it would be like to again hold a child of mine in my arms.  I imagined all of the late night snuggles that I had missed out on and the sweet coos that never graced my ears.  In my mind it was smiles, hugs and kisses.  It almost made the waiting unbearable.  And for the first few days it was smiles, hugs and kisses.  Then I took my baby girl home and reality set in, a reality which had not even cracked the outer edges of my imagination.  My little girl was fussy, only slept when laying on me or my husband (which may sound really awesome but it awful when you need to eat, drink, go to the bathroom or goodness forbid - shower, and then you must listen to your baby's awful screams for every second of your absence), she projectile vomited and was not a natural by any stretch of the imagination at breastfeeding.  There was a lot of physical and mental pain in those early days.

Pain which was only compounded by all those months of imagining what it would be like and then having it actually be nothing like that.  Now, in all fairness our oldest daughter was a pretty high needs baby and from what I later discovered by having other children she was not a typical baby.  Nonetheless, I know I am not alone with my imagination.  How could it be helped?  Many of our memories of our babies gone too soon are faces that are stilled, voices that are silenced.  My little boys never screamed, nursed or even wet a diaper.  My memories of them are gentle, much like falling asleep.

However, I've found that the reality of a rainbow baby is like being struck by a semi truck.  Life changes, it actually becomes about life, not death, and how to sustain and nurture that life while trying to maintain one's own delicate balance.  It's a celebration and a grieving simultaneously.  Gratitude for what has been given and a greater appreciation for what has been taken away.  No one said it would be easy but for some reason it's so easy to imagine...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Filling the Closet & the Clothes

This post will embody the bitter and the sweet.  Baby girl is growing like a forgotten weed in the garden.  She's getting big, tall and strong.  Which of course means I am spinning my wheels trying to keep her clothed.  She was 9lb 5oz at birth and at her two month checkup already over 13lbs!  She's in the 90+ percentile in both height and weight as of her two month measurements.  That was when she was in 3-6 month clothes.  Now she's three months and already filling out most 6-9 month clothes.  This is both exciting and disappointing.  Babies collect so many cute clothes and often just don't get the wear out of most of them so it's always a little sad to pack them away again when they're outgrown.

It wasn't the packing that got me this time though.  It was the unpacking.  Because I discovered hopes and dreams in that bin of 6-9 month clothes.  Three adorable little safari sleepers, boy sleepers, along with safari onesies and the cutest little blue striped sleeper adorned with hippos.  Those were bought at least two girls ago in the hopes that one day a little boy would wear them.  Now it seems that little boy will not be ours.  My second oldest was picking out baby's jammies a few nights ago and saw the striped sleeper.  She immediately selected it and said, "Mommy, these were Eli's".  You see, after we bathed Eli during my husband and my time alone with him we dressed him in a little preemie blue and white striped sleeper very similar to the one that she had selected for baby's jammies.  Over a year later and the little girl who was barely five when Eli died remembers the outfit he wore.  

So there you have it, the bitter with the sweet.  A beautiful healthy robust little girl in my home and two little boys who will never wear 6-9 month sleepers in my heart.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Living With Death

When I look in the mirror sometimes all I can see is death.  Death and sadness reflected in my eyes.  Living with death - it's more of an oxymoron but it's also something I am quite adept at.  I've carried two precious boys in my body for about eight months of my life between the two pregnancies knowing that at any second there was a very real chance of my babies dying.  Wondering if that day would be the day, or the day after, or the one after that.  It has now been one year and four months since the last day I have had to wonder and I will never have to wonder again because my childbearing years have finally come to a close.  Now I'm left wondering about many other things.  What the long term impact of those months is for myself, my husband, my marriage and my children.  I don't believe our children will have a long term impact resulting from our decision to carry Eli to term, his death and absence have made a far bigger impact.  My husband is a rock and like most rocks, he doesn't talk much.  So I honestly don't know what emotional effect watching his wife carry two babies that we knew would not survive has had on him.  I don't know what seeing the sadness on my face or the tears in my eyes did to him.  I imagine the impact is probably more than I could guess.  Our marriage has been strengthened in a way that most couples will never experience.  A great amount of stress on such a bond can do that, either it'll break under the pressure or find a way to stay together.  We have done the latter.  Yet I still wonder if the experiences will produce side effects in the future when we least expect it.  Myself, who knows?  Most of the time I am fine.  As fine as any one woman who has given birth to six children yet watched two die in her arms hours or minutes after their birth can be.  I doubt that anyone who doesn't know this little gem about me would ever be able to guess.  There are no visible scars.  So I go on living with death.  I am blessed to have given birth to both of my sons alive and to not know what it is like to truly carry death.  I just carry the fear and realization of death and those did not leave my body nine years ago nor one year ago.  I just go on living.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Son By Any Other Name

I attended a baby shower last night, the first one that I have actually ever attended since having children of my own (weird, huh?).  Anyhoo, the mom-to-be doesn't know the gender of her child which for some reason affected me more than I could have anticipated.  It's that whole boy thing again.  I realized how blessed I have been emotionally within my own family circle.  Five months after Wyatt was born my sister gave birth to a little boy.  I held him and never wanted to let go.  Then about seventeen months later she gave birth to another little boy.  Those little boys are now eight and seven years old and they don't bother me (emotionally) like they did as babies.  Because really, that's all I know of my boys, just babies.

My brother and sister-in-law have had two little girls.  My brother and his wife just had a little girl.  I can handle girls.  In fact, I have exhaled sighs of relief upon their births when their genders were given a finality and there could no longer be any little boy surprises.  But now my cousins are also embarking upon starting their own families and inevitably some of them are having little boys.  That realization grips my heart with an unexpected panic and sadness.  I have my girls, four to be exact, and with baby girl's birth I also have the knowledge and satisfaction that my family is complete on earth.  There is no question about it.  But with that knowledge I find a dull ache in my heart because before there was always a possibility.  Always a possibility that we would have another child and that child could be a boy.

I will need to find a way to soothe this ache.  Because I also know that if I don't it will eventually eat me up.

Friday, July 6, 2012

She'll Never Know

As I look at my newest baby girl I realize that she will probably never realize what a special baby she is.  She is my fourth rainbow baby but a rainbow has not shined brighter in this house.  After weathering two storms this rainbow is especially brilliant.  Nothing against my two other rainbows but the two rainbow babies born right after a loss seem different somehow.  Both of my "right after rainbows" (RARs) were born just a little over a year after their brothers and as many of us know, carrying a baby after a loss, especially soon after a loss, is so very difficult physically, emotionally and mentally.  I hope she never understands that when I see her sleeping and her eyelids look purplish I immediately check to make sure she is breathing because at that moment I can only see her almost lifeless brothers.  I hope that her childhood is not tinged with the protective and fearful emotions left behind after her brothers' deaths.  Yet I do hope that someday in the future she can appreciate how special it is that she was born at all.

This poem, "A Different Child" written by Pandora Diane Waldron seems appropriate.

A different child,
People notice
There's a special glow around you.
You grow
Surrounded by love,
Never doubting you are wanted;
Only look at the pride and joy
In your mother and father's eyes.

And if sometimes

Between the smiles
There's a trace of tears,
One day
You'll understand.

You'll understand
There was once another child
A different child
Who was in their hopes and dreams.

That child will never outgrow the baby clothes
That child will never keep them up at night
In fact, that child will never be any trouble at all.

Except sometimes, in a silent moment,
When mother and father miss so much
That different child.

May hope and love wrap you warmly
And may you learn the lesson forever
How infinitely precious
How infinitely fragile
Is this life on earth.

One day, as a young man or woman
You may see another mother's tears
Another father's silent grief
Then you, and you alone
Will understand
And offer the greatest comfort.

When all hope seems lost,
You will tell them
With great compassion,
"I know how you feel.
I'm only here
Because my mother tried again.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Everyone But Me

It's time, time for a "woe is me" moment that my oldest daughter has down to perfection.  The other night we were invited to a family gathering when something unexpected occurred.  One of my cousins was there, a very pregnant cousin, along with my aunt and uncle whose daughter was not in attendance but also happens to be very pregnant.  One of my other cousins is expecting a baby early this fall and myself and my brother just had babies in April and May.  So it boils down to a lot of babies being born in our family within about a six month period. Which got me thinking, unintentionally of course (because isn't that how it always works, these things just sneak up on us), that all of these other babies are firstborns, healthy little babies expected by very excited parents and grandparents.  That brings me to the Everyone But Me part.  My firstborn was not healthy and though we were excited it was nowhere near the excitement one experiences when expecting to bring their firstborn home from the hospital rather than knowing their firstborn will never leave the hospital alive.  There was talk of baby showers which I never had.  Preparations which I never made.  Just those words buzzing around me were enough to shroud me with that woolly black coat which makes me the black sheep of the family.  My little nuclear family is stricken by some apparently genetic anomaly which is medically unexplained and for us was undiscovered until our second son was diagnosed and died.  Just me.  Meanwhile life goes on around me and healthy babies are born to everyone else.  Including me.  Sometimes. As my moment of self pity fades away I am left with gratitude that those healthy babies will be born to families who don't intimately understand that pain that I am all too familiar with.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Still Running

Last year around this time I wrote this about running.  I had started running again post-Eli for many reasons.  To boost my mood with endorphins and to lose my pregnancy weight as quickly as possible, it also gave me a breather (so to speak) from my life for just a brief while.  Just a few weeks ago I began running again.  For anyone who is a Fringe fan (tv show) you will get this reference, but it seems like I'm on a parallel timeline.  Things are the same yet different.  The people are the same but the circumstances and outcomes are shifted.  This time I really run for one reason which is absurd in a way.  I am running to get back there, to where I was a year ago.  Not emotionally, mind you, physically.  Running last year made me strong, inside and out.  My body toned up as much as it could after having five children via five c-sections.  Add one more and again I find myself in need of strength and stamina.  My physical efforts via the Shred and running last summer brought me into this pregnancy mentally and physically strong.  So much so that I ran a 5k and finished a personal best while eight weeks pregnant!  I continued easy running and jogging into my fifth month when I switched to walking and pilates for the remainder of the pregnancy.  I missed running.  Especially the three days a week when I watched my husband close the door and head out for his morning run.  It really smarted for the six weeks after having this precious baby to not be able to do any physical exercise but walking.  I could not have been more ready for the six week mark.  For me the outer physique and inner physique go hand in hand.  When my body is strong my mind feels stronger.  So I still run.  It's not as fun or as easy as I remember but the sense of accomplishment after each mile completed is definitely as profound and rewarding.  This is just one of Eli's gifts to me.  He taught me that I am stronger than I ever imagined, even after finding life again after losing Wyatt.  Perhaps I'm trying to get closer to him, who knows,  so I'm still running. . .

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Buds & Blooms

"Six roses we now have.  Two will always be beautiful rosebuds.  The other four will bloom & fill our home with the sweet fragrance of children's love."

These are the same words that graced our first rainbow baby's birth announcement, only the numbers have changed.  Eight years ago when I first settled on this phrase after researching "subsequent birth announcements" I never imagined having any more than one rosebud even though I knew of other families with two or more.  I feared it but never truly accepted that it could become reality.  Now that it has become reality it is what it is.  I can't imagine things any differently.  

I like how these words gracefully announce the birth of a healthy living child while at the same time gently reminding others that there is and will always be two more children in our family and memories.  For us it is impossible to welcome one without missing the others even more than ever.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Nine Years Come and Gone

Wyatt's birthday was nearly perfect.  The only hiccup was the wind which forced our picnic to happen in the car rather than alongside Wyatt's grave.  He got his birthday present, cupcake and even some bubbles blown courtesy of Mother Nature's gusts.   My husband is made the day even more special in the small things he said and did which meant so much.  Every year he takes the day off work for Wyatt's birthday just as he does for each of our girls.  Birthdays in our family are almost sacred.  A day to remember the miracle of life and celebrate it no matter how short.  My parents also added to the day by sending a very touching e-card which was the only family remembrance but also more than we received last year.

A picture colored for Wyatt by his second oldest sister which is surrounded
by birthday gifts from years passed.

I realized that this is it now.  We've always celebrated Wyatt's birthday with our girls in the same fashion each year but it all changed after Eli was born.  The girls began to know Wyatt through experiencing Eli's birth and death.  He became real to them in a way he wasn't before.  Sadly, baby will never know her brothers like they do.  She will only know them through pictures and video.  She will have been spared the pain of their deaths but will never really understand the joy in their brief lives.  As I was putting them to bed the other night our second oldest (six years old) told me that she still remembered when Eli died and how she and her older sister cried when they were told that he was dying.  She was only five years old at the time (just turned five) yet it made such a huge impression on her.  Her words were precious.  I responded that I hope she always remembers that day and how she felt.  I never knew such sadness as a child and have no idea the long term effects such an experience will have in her life.  I can only hope she will carry her brothers in her heart as
I do.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Right Around the Corner

Wyatt's birthday is now just days away and I find myself overwhelmed with sadness.  A sadness that is anchorless almost.  It's not tied to anything, just floating adrift within me.  A sadness that I can't escape, can't swallow and definitely can't embrace.

I'm tired.  I'm madly in love with our newest daughter but she is demanding.  She is a big girl and eats a lot.  Most evenings she cries - a lot.  Thankfully at night when she's not eating she sleeps but I could use more sleep - you guessed it, a lot more sleep.  Combine sleeplessness and the constant demands of three other young girls, two of whom just began their summer break and aren't used to be home all of the time with a needy infant who only seems to want to sleep in someone's (my) arms or when out and about (which is not always easy considering that one or more of the girls usually "doesn't want to") and I'm overwhelmed to an extent.  It's not awful.  But it is definitely magnifying the helplessness which is accompanying Wyatt's upcoming birthday.

I spoke in my last post about choosing a birthday present for Wyatt and how this simple thing cripples me each year.  It is something I simply cannot face alone.  So yesterday we all traipsed off to a big box store to make that special purchase.  This year it is a batman figurine, the original batman since we are old-school purists.  I hope that he smiles down on our choice tomorrow and can appreciate the thoughtfulness put into such a small and inexpensive yet so very important gift.

I went to my last OB appointment today, from now on I am officially in the GYN category.  I initially cringed when I saw that this appointment had been scheduled today, the day before my first baby boy's birthday.  I wonder if they remember that day nine years ago.  I know that I have seen and experienced things in my life and witnessed things in others' lives that have left indelible imprints within so I can't help but ponder whether that moment in my life left an imprint on someone else's.

Cupcakes - check, birthday present - check, balloons - check.  Now all that is left is another birthday celebration without the birthday boy.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Right Where I Am 2012: 8 years and 260 days (Wyatt) - 1 year 2 months and 19 days (Eli)

I find myself sitting in probably the same place most likely doing the same thing as last year when I wrote this post for Still Life With Circles.  On a quiet spring afternoon in front of my laptop taking a "break" from work.  It is Wednesdays when I find myself most alone with my thoughts.  Our daughters spend Wednesdays at Grandma's house while I spend Wednesdays with my laptop and a time clock.  This year there is one important difference -- there is six week old little girl sleeping peacefully in the bassinet which just one year ago her two and a half month old big brother would have been.  Today my eyes are slightly puffed from sleep deprivation rather than from shedding tears while all alone with my memories and my wants.

I have lost two sons to Potter's Syndrome, Wyatt in June 2003 and Eli in March 2011.  Even though Eli's loss is much more recent I find my thoughts centered on Wyatt more and more as the days pass.  I know why.  His birthday is next week, his ninth birthday in heaven.  Despite his absence there are still preparations for that sacred day.  I planned our weekly menu and a special meal which we will take graveside to enjoy along with homemade chocolate cupcakes lovingly decorated by myself and his sisters.  We still need to buy a small birthday toy which vexes me every year.  I have no idea what a nine year old boy would like.  Each year he grows older I miss knowing him even more.  Babies are easy.  They don't have much gender specific toy preference.  But as the years go by I realize that his likes and dislikes would be more refined and pronounced.  He would have his own style, catchphrases and mannerisms.  I will never know what those would have been.  I will never know what gift he would have really coveted for his ninth birthday, or for that matter, his third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth.  So today, this week, my heart is especially heavy and if it's possible, I miss him even more.

It is hard to grieve two children.  Especially when what I know of my children consists of hours and minutes rather than days, weeks, months or years.  Our living room wall is literally covered with framed pictures of our children - our sons and daughters.  We have framed pictures of Eli sitting out on tabletops which have not been moved for more than a year.  My grief for him today is somehow lesser.  Less not in the sense that I miss or love him any less than Wyatt, but that there is just more distraction.  We now have four living daughters, the most recent born just six weeks ago today.  Life is busy, it's messy, frustrating, overwhelming, exhausting, hilarious, exhilarating, joyful and crazy.  There is so much need that my need to grieve is often compartmentalized into a small dusty corner that doesn't get visited often enough.  I almost have to remind myself to go there. Those framed photos are like a string tied around my finger.  Having his sister here is a bittersweet reminder that he is not.  We would not have her if Eli had lived.  I don't like to dwell on this too much.  Eli would have been our last child and I would not trade him for her or her for him but the reality is that we were never meant to have both.

Today I find myself at peace with our losses, with the huge absences that our sons' brief lives left in our hearts.  That has not changed in the last year.  Somehow between the loss of our first and last sons I found how live without and yet still live.  That small but important lesson got me through to today and will take me past tomorrow.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lessons from My Garden

When I was growing up my parents gardened - alot.  Flowers, veggies, you name it and they probably planted it.  I was often dragged along on long shopping trips to nursery after nursery looking for the perfect plants.  So, naturally, it was then and there that I decided I would never have a grassy yard, much less a garden.  Yes, I pledged to have a concrete yard which I would have painted green in order to please my neighbors with simulated grass.  Brilliant.

Fast forward many years to the purchase of our first (and expected only) house.  We house shopped while I was pregnant with Wyatt and against my will.  My husband pushed me to do it even though shopping for a house was the last thing I wanted to do while waiting for my baby to die - but I am forever grateful that we did.  We moved in just one month after Wyatt was born and haven't looked back since.  Shortly after moving in we decided to plant a tree for Wyatt.  Thus, the weeping willow.  Just a tree wasn't good enough, I wanted to create a baby garden in his memory which would be filled with baby-named or friendly plants like lamb's ear, baby's breath, snapdragons, tiger lilies and bleeding hearts.  True to my nature, I dove right in with little knowledge or skill.  Plants grew and flowers bloomed.

The next spring, much to my dismay, plants and flowers grew, but not all came back.  In a way it was fitting, neither did my son.  It was just a reminder of another season passed without him and how life goes on, but it is changed. A stinging reminder of death's presence. So I planted again and seeded my hopes of new life, that something beautiful could grow in the absence of something beautiful that had been before.

In those moments I have learned so much.  I have learned that the best laid plans don't always work out.  I can plant the most beautiful flowers, water them, feed them, protect and nurture them, and sometimes they won't come back the next spring.  Sometimes, I find that they have moved to an unexpected place, which can be a lovely surprise or a frustrating exercise in relocation.  I can do everything right, the right zone, right amount of sunshine, right amount of water and sometimes it just doesn't work out.  Other times I can dig a hole and then do absolutely nothing else while nature takes care of itself and I am rewarded with beauty and fragrance.  My time in the garden has been invaluable, especially considering that I am definitely a type A, control freak, personality.  It has taught me to let go.  It has taught me that I don't always know what's best. It has taught me to appreciate the little surprises and find joy in the smallest living things.  I am more carefree, or reckless, (depending on your perspective) than ever in my garden.  I now have a good feel for plants and I know perennials well enough to divide and attempt to conquer - which basically means that I freely dig up plants and stick them in the ground in semi-random locations to see what will happen.

Over the last almost nine years since I planted Wyatt's garden it has changed much.  Thankfully many of the original plants are still thriving.  He enjoys the fragrance of baby's breath each summer, the poignant reminder of pink bleeding hearts, the fun and enormously tall tiger lilies, ever-so-soft lamb's ear which his sisters & I love to touch, little snapdragons that talk to us and new additions of purple dianthus, blue columbine, blue/purple Jacob's ladder, yellow coreopsis, many baby roses and special purple irises which have been in our family since I was a child.  There are also little volunteer Johnny jump ups and beautiful California poppies that fill in most of the empty space with color and whimsy.  Last year we added on Eli's garden which has many of the same plants but now also beautiful yellow daffodils and a sweet little hydrangea tree.

Every single one of those nine years the garden has changed, whether I have touched it or not.  It is a work in progress, like myself.  It is also one of my greatest teachers.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Number Four? No, This Is Number Six

What's in a number?  Years, pounds, feet, inches...children.  We are now a visible family of six.  Two parents and four girls.  Which of course draws many good-natured inquiries when we are out and about.  People tend to ask if baby is a girl which is then followed by comments, many of which are surprisingly pleasant from other parents of three or more girls about how much they enjoy their daughters.  Some are teasing, especially when my poor husband is around.  Depending on how the comments are made, some lead me to mention our two invisible sons.  You see, there are really eight of us, there are also two boys.  We will never know what it's like to show them off or simply just observe them as we do our daughters while out walking in the evening.  I will never have the privilege of hearing them say "I love you, Mommy", not even once or seeing just how brightly a smile could light up their faces.  I honestly don't mind the questions or comments, I am immensely proud of my daughters and wouldn't trade any one of them for anything.  I no longer cringe or pause before answering, my responses are finely tuned to the question, the person asking and my own feelings that particular moment.  I no longer feel guilt in the times that I acknowledge only my daughters and I no longer feel guilt at the reactions I get when I acknowledge my sons.  It is what it is and nothing I can say or do changes my reality.  I own my feelings, my family and my love completely.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Drinking in the Bittersweet

Let me start of by saying baby and I are doing wonderfully.  She has already gained one pound since leaving the hospital (where she lost 12oz after birth)!  For having had my 6th c-section I am recovering fabulously and feeling better than ever before- I guess all of those mornings I was up at 5:30am exercising have paid off in spades!  :)

Love and happiness (as well as a healthy dose of sleeplessness) are abundant in our household these days.  This is what I envisioned a year and half ago while pregnant with Eli before finding out about his Potter's.  I dreamed about his sisters cuddling, snuggling, hugging and kissing him.  I saw the smiles and wonder on their faces as they watched their baby sibling interact with a brand new world each and every day.  My visions were so clear that the Potter's diagnosis hit that much harder.  This is what should have been.

That is what I find myself thinking now and then.  It stabs my heart to hear our 3 1/2 year old playing baby dolls and talking about how one of them died.  Or when they tell me that they hope their baby sister doesn't die like Eli.  Again, what can I say?  A crystal ball is not part of my toolbox so I can only respond that she is healthy and we are taking good care of her and that I hope she doesn't die too.  These are conversations I would just love to erase, or at the very least forget.

Perhaps this is life at its fullest, abundant joy tinged with the deepest sorrow, hand in hand.  One there to make the other shine brighter, impossibly intertwined.  I don't know that I could experience this purest of joy having not lived through our sons' lives and deaths.  My husband  has asked me many times since baby's birth if I'm happy.  Which is funny, because when I say "yes" he responds with "I know, you seem happier than ever", and that is the truth.

Monday, April 23, 2012

She's Here!

As some of you probably expected based on my last post, our littlest (and biggest, but more on that in a moment) girl has arrived safe enough and sound enough.  She was born on Wednesday via c-section at 39 weeks and weighed a very hearty 9lb 5oz (at 39 weeks!)  In my case, thank goodness for c-sections  :)  It's a little nerve wracking when your OB is using the word "enormous" when delivering your baby!!
I crocheted this hat after the girls picked out the yarn and only later realized it is a true rainbow hat for a rainbow baby.

She has developed jaundice serious enough to require bili lights so that is a bit worrisome but we trust our ped and will faithfully keep her under the lights in the hopes that tomorrow's level is much much lower.  Thankfully she is able to be under the lights at home so she can remain under our watchful eyes.

We are all extremely relieved and excited to welcome her into our fold. Life is super busy around here right now and I wouldn't have it any other way (though I could do without the jaundice).

Life is truly beautiful.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Down to the Wire

I now have less than a week until my c-section date.  So far so good.  The heavy umbrella of last spring's delivery memories has lifted slightly and allowed excitement to creep in.  Like any good athlete, I find myself visualizing the best outcome, a healthy baby girl in my arms at the end of the day.  My youngest daughter accompanied me to my last OB appointment this week and while we were listening to the heartbeat I was talking to her about it and she asked if that meant that this girl would not die.  What an awful thing for a 3 1/2 year old to think about.  But for us it's real.  That's really the one thing our girls are worried about, that this baby will really get to come home with us - that she won't die.  The more awful thing is that it doesn't feel right to give them a 100% guarantee that she won't die.  Instead I find myself telling them that she appears perfectly healthy and everything should be okay.  It's the same thing that I tell myself all the time.  It is what I have to believe to get through the upcoming days and in my heart of hearts it is really what I believe.

Monday, April 9, 2012

I Found My Voice

Only within the last few weeks have I noticed myself singing again.  Singing to the radio, carefree just like I did well over a year ago when I was living a different life.  After Eli was diagnosed that voice was silenced.  I just didn't realize for how long until now.  Even now it's not what it was, I hear myself singing on rare occasions, but it's better than the silence I've lived in for so long, it's progress.  It was just another thing missing from my life which I hadn't even realized was gone.  So small in light of what I know is gone, forever, but a significant find nonetheless.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

My Sunday School class and I have been discussing the Easter season and how Jesus died on the cross on Good Friday and then we celebrate his resurrection on Easter Sunday.  The children were very interested in talking about these days and what happened and through the course of our discussions they asked me a very good question to which I did not have the answer, "Why do we call it Good Friday when it's the day Jesus died?"  I believe in honesty and honestly I did not know that answer at the time so my  response was that I didn't know but I believed it was a very sad day because Jesus died and died so painfully.

I happened to get an answer to this question which makes sense:  Jesus' suffering and dying for all of mankind imparted the greatest gift of love and the opportunity for repentance and salvation.  It is a reminder that to find happiness we must first go through sorrow.  That goodness can emerge from suffering and even death.  I can see that and I believe to an extent, I have lived it.  I have suffered through the death of two sons, neither by choice, but both loved greatly.  I have watched them die and seen what happens in the after.  There is great opportunity to for good to emerge from such dark times.  Unlike God, I do not get to resurrect my beloved children and have them live at my side for eternity, my three days last an earthly lifetime but I live it knowing that one day when this life ends another will begin for me and my precious boys.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


I'm sure many people thought or said this very thing when they heard or saw that I was once again pregnant.  Six pregnancies is a lot for any family I think, especially when two of those babies died on the days of their birth.   I've been pondering this, why did we take this enormous leap of faith again?  I know why I did it the first time (after Wyatt was born) - because I was told his Potter's Syndrome was a fluke and because we were given a low chance of recurrence.  Aside from statistics, I still had some faith and believed that I had paid off whatever debt I had incurred that caused such a horrible thing to happen to me and that it simply would not and could not happen again.

Obviously I didn't have any of those assurances or confidences after Eli's Potter's diagnosis.  So why did we do this again?  Especially knowing this time there was a very good chance that our genetics (mostly mine I think) could result in yet another Potter's Syndrome baby doomed to die on or before the day of his or her birth.  I can only speak for myself, though I suspect some of my husband's desire is simply to bring a smile to my face and heart again, but I also know his reasons run deeper as well.  For me though it goes back to a letter I wrote to my Sunday School parents before Eli's birth last year in which I revealed that the baby I was carrying was not expected to survive and that I had carried a similar baby eight years prior.  I went on to say that my presence in church and the classroom each Sunday was a testament to God's great love, even during our darkest times.  It is that love and goodness that gave me the courage and faith to try again.  I can see the goodness in our daughters, in my husband and in the world around me when I look.  Even as Eli lived his short life and I was left to sort through his death's aftermath last spring, so many good things happened, so much love shared. I knew that no matter what the outcome of this pregnancy that there would still be love and goodness, from above and right here and that ultimately I would see it again.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Comparisons and Guilt

I am now in my 36th week of pregnancy with a healthy little girl who will be our fourth daughter.  And it's getting pretty hard to be pregnant.  Even though I have stayed in pretty good shape through running, then jogging, then walking combined with aerobics and pilates - and I actually feel better than I ever have during a pregnancy, I'm tired.  Emotionally, physically, and every other way imaginable this pregnancy is taking a toll on me.  By the end of the day I am one giant fluid filled ball with an aching feet and back.  My stomach, which has not fit into my short midsection for some time now, is completely filled to the brim with this little girl.  I expect a large one but would be happily surprised with a peanut as well.  Our first daughter was 8 1/2 lb at 39 weeks, the second 7lb on the dot and the third was a whopping 8lb 14oz at 39 weeks and with that little girl I weighed 25lb less than I had with either of her sisters, so who knows what'll pop out this time.

With every desperate thought of birthing this baby now rather than later the comparisons and guilt creep in.  I know there are others out there who think "suck it up, at least your baby is healthy" and I know this because I've been there, I've had those thoughts.  I also compare myself to people I know who have had much more difficult and painful pregnancies than I have and whose babies were also healthy.  I sit in a much much better place than so many other women but those realities do not squelch the comparisons or guilt.  I feel like my body can take no more, yet I know it can and probably has before.  More importantly, I know all too well how worth it this will be in the end.  I will appreciate this little girl's birth more than I would have were it not for our son Eli's birth and death last year.  The birth of three beautifully healthy little girls had lulled me into a false sense of security and dulled the overwhelming fears that surround a subsequent pregnancy.

Yet even though I "get it", the sheer exhaustion is getting to me.  Jokingly I have told this little one that I'm sure I will fall head over heels in love with her once she's born but right now I don't like her very much.  I had hoped to pass this last trial of pregnancy with a little more grace than that.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Bigger I Get, Lest I Forget

Readers, forgive my musings.  Most everything takes me back exactly one year in time.  To a most significant and significantly painful time - Eli's pregnancy, birth and aftermath.  One year ago Eli's already been born and  I'm left to sift through the emotions and weight that his short life left me with.  Now I am watching my stomach grow larger and  larger by the day it seems and this only serves to remind me of my struggles last spring.  The same struggles, with slightly different emotions, that I have dealt with after giving birth ever since our first son, Wyatt, graced our lives so briefly.  Wyatt was our first child, my first pregnancy and my first experience with childbirth.  Because we knew that he would not survive halfway into our pregnancy we never had the opportunity to prepare to bring a baby home.  So my preparations for Wyatt's c-section included attempts to erase the memories of that pregnancy from my physical world.  This meant packing away my maternity clothes before giving birth.  It is a tradition I have continued with each and every child since, those living and those not. This baby will be no exception.  I not only packed away the clothes but I took on the burden of losing my pregnancy weight, specifically my pregnancy belly, as quickly as possible.  It was too painful to still look pregnant, to even chance inviting questions from well meaning acquaintances and strangers.  Last year was no different except that I think, like during Wyatt's pregnancy, I indulged my emotions (grief, sadness, self-pity, fear) with food and I found that weight so hard to lose  for many months.  I lost the last pound of pregnancy weight when I got pregnant with this little one and since that was about six months after Eli's birth it  has been a little hard to watch that same stomach which I had worked so hard to deflate puff right back up again.  My internal mantra is to remind myself this one is different.  That  we fully expect to bring this baby home.

Those struggles have made me so much stronger than I ever imagined.  To some they may seem petty but to me my struggles with maternity clothes and pregnancy weight are so closely intertwined with the complicated emotions of grief and child loss that they are major battles within the war.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I Cut the Tie

From now on every March will be "that time".  The time when I find myself reliving the days leading up to, the day of and the days after Eli's birth.  I've celebrated his birthday, ignored his funeral anniversary and am now caught up with one of the finalities of his brief life - his/my hospital band.  I wore that hospital band long after he was born and took great care to protect it from water to preserve those precious words and date.  "Baby boy, March 11, 2011".  Concrete proof that I had another little boy, that he was real and that he was mine.  It got to the point where water had gotten into it and the ink was starting to blur.  This simple thing brought me to tears and forced me to a heartwrenching decision to cut off the band.  Cutting that band ravaged my insides almost as badly as putting my lifeless little boy's body in the nurses arms that snowy March evening.  For me cutting the band was as final as when they cut Eli's umbilical cord and severed my lifeline to him, literally beginning his death.  I don't know what day I actually took that band off and it doesn't matter, the thought still brings tears to my eyes and burns a hole right through my heart.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Just a Glimpse

Pain is all around us, all the time.  Often it goes unseen in the form of physical ailments unmentioned by the suffering individual.  Sometimes it goes even deeper, into the farthest reaches of a heart which aches for someone who is no longer there.  My pain has not given me an insight into others' but it has opened my eyes to the possibilities, the likelihoods and the realities.

We celebrated Eli's first birthday this weekend, one full year without him in our lives and it is upon that one brief day he was here, for less than 2 hours, that I now reflect.  I am thankful for every minute I was given with my sons while their hearts were beating, every second that life resided in their small bodies.  I saw Eli's eyes slightly open once and that one time has to be enough.  That tiny glimpse into my son.  The son that I had just given birth to and the son who I had hoped to hold in my arms, not just my heart, for a lifetime.  In that tiny glimpse I was able to see the baby I  would have taken home, the toddler I would have encouraged to crawl and then walk, the preschooler I would have taught, the gradeschooler I would have nurtured, the young man I would cherish knowing how quickly he would become my adult son whom I would release into the world.  In the blink of an eye my glimpse was gone and I would release my son into a world where I could not yet follow.

My heart is full of sadness and gratitude.  In those moments I was given more than many families will ever get and much was taken from me that many many families will never realize or appreciate.  Everything began with one, the first minute, hour, day, month and now year without him.  It is easy to get overwhelmed by what I don't have and to forget what I did have.  Eli may have died one year ago but my loving memories live on.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Happy Birthday, Eli

It has been one year since I held your perfect little body, heard your unassuming but persistent little cries and stroked your fuzzy brown hair.  I swear I can still remember every single detail like it happened yesterday.  So many wonderful memories were made that day.  Many smiles, hugs, kisses, snuggles and tears.  All of the fear, worry, anger and sorrow that I had saved up for four months of our pregnancy poured into that operating and recovery room and was transformed.  I cherish every single minute spent with you that day and every moment that led up to it.  Without the heartache and pain that led me to you I might not have experienced each moment as it was and I might not remember it like I do.  I miss you with my whole heart and soul endlessly.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Digging Out

32 weeks down and I've finally done it, I've cracked open the plastic bins containing this baby's clothes, blankets, sheets, towels and preciously tiny socks.  There is even a drawer full of little diapers.  I've been reluctant to get these things out because, well, because I still have a hard time believing we will need them.  The shadow of last year is still there.  The memory of growing rounder and rounder and then going to the hospital, delivering a beautiful little boy and coming home to a house that, with the exception of many beautiful and fragrant flowers, was the exact same house I left.  There was no carseat, no co-sleeper, no changing table, diapers, clothes, bouncer, swing or blankets in sight.  Preparing for my fourth daughter is surreal.  We have had most of these things for about eight years now and there are so many precious memories attached to them.

My husband gave me the final nudge I needed to dig in and he even provided a helping hand folding those tiny little onesies and sleepers, all the while pointing out which were his favorites.  He added another memory right there in the laundry room.  I feel a sense of renewal bringing these items out but they have not completely lifted the doubts hanging overhead.  I hope these next six or so weeks will pass quickly and that as we are able to get everything for this little one arranged around the house that seeing the constant reminder of our hopes to have a baby home again soon will carry me through to the end.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Magnitude of a Molehill

Winter must have taken one of those middle of the summer, how many miles of the interstate are under construction and how far out of the way is this detour? detours to get to us the last few months.  Nonetheless she has finally hit her mark.  We awoke to snow, more than a dusting, on Sunday and I found myself driving through tiny drifts for the first time this year on the way to church.  Winter is no stranger to me and I have lived through many fierce and many mild ones throughout the years.  I have awesome respect and a healthy fear of the power winter wields over our environment.  Yet, while driving through those tiny drifts I experienced little waves of pleasure as my tires broke through the puffs of snow.  I found myself thinking "This is all you've got, bring it.  I can break these and bigger ones."

This was soon followed by contemplation of my winter bravado.  How I could attack a snow drift with my car like it was nothing.  Like I had somehow forgotten that sometimes when you drive into a snowdrift on the road it's magnitude can take control of your car away.  Like I forgot that sometimes underneath those drifts of snow are menacingly slick patches of ice.  Why didn't I blink an eye?  Yet some days the grief I carry for my sons has brought my life to a standstill over going to the grocery store or taking my daughters to gymnastics.  Where was the bravado then?  Why couldn't I say "bring it, I can do this and more" those times?

I didn't have an answer to any of my questions.  Just observations on how sometimes a molehill can seem like the tallest mountain and sometimes the tallest mountain can be looming within reach and seem like the smallest of anthills.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Resilient Like the Hair Band

"Resilience" is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as 
"an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change."

I am resilient like a hair band.  Not the kind that sang "UnSkinny Bop" or "Welcome to the Jungle".  No, the kind of elastic band for holding hair.  In our household there are three of us girls with hair long enough for ponytails (not me) which results in, oh, about a couple hundred elastic hairbands floating around the house and cars at any given time.  They are all shapes and sizes, every color under the rainbow.  Some have ribbons, others spirals, some have glossy balls at the ends but those aren't me.  

I am the hairband that is stretched a little thin in the middle.  The one that is no longer symmetrical.  The one that shows signs of weakness to the point where it's questionable whether it will just snap in two one day while twisting around the hair.  Yet it's still in one piece.  I have resilience, the ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change.  But that ability does not come easy.  The easy way is not to recover, to avoid making any adjustment for change.    Some changes are much easier than others - when it snows you wear a parka and gloves or mittens, when the sun is too bright you wear a hat and or sunglasses.  When your child or children dies the answers are not so obvious and the solutions are not so obtainable.

But the ability - the resilience - is there.  Just like that hairband, which is a little stretched out and a little thin in the middle, I too am a little different but we're both still capable of not just holding on but being functional and pretty.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Full of Life

I mentioned in my Valentine's Day post how the love has returned to my cooking, but really it has returned to my life in very undramatic but amazing way.  As my youngest would say, it "sneaked on me".  I remember last winter.  It was long, so long, so white, so very cold.   The day I gave birth to Eli, in March, it blizzarded.  This year we have had no blizzards, not a one.  Not only no blizzards, almost no snow.  So it looks like spring, it feels like spring and I feel like spring.

I am full of life and it is just waiting to burst out of me at any moment, or perhaps in eight weeks or less as far as the little life that grows within is concerned.  In the meantime I am baking up love left and right and it is a true joy to eat at our house again.  I find myself excited about holidays and birthdays and that is even with Eli's birthday just three or so weeks away.  Last year I was heavily pregnant as we celebrated my husband and 2nd daughter's birthdays just a week apart and the latter less than a week before Eli's birth.  The cakes were baked with love but did not taste like love, there was just too much sadness folded inside.  Eli was originally due at the very end of March so he would have been born weeks after my daughter's birthday but due to the Potter's Syndrome and my history of c-sections he was delivered just before 37 weeks and just 5 days after our middle daughter's birthday.  It was not an ideal situation last year and oddly enough is similar to Wyatt's birthday which is just 4 days before our oldest daughter's.  So we've lost two sons yet their birthdays are both within a week of one of our daughters.  It is a bittersweet combination.  On one hand I have the sad anticipation and realization that I have passed another year without my little boy and all the contemplation about who and what he would be that goes along with that, and on the other hand that sadness is almost tempered by the close birthday celebration of that little boy's living sister and how much we have watched her change and grow within the year.

If someone had told me how different I would feel on this day in 2012 compared to this day in 2011 I wouldn't and couldn't have believed them.  I am not looking for spring to save me this year.  I don't need it to bring me back to life.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Overdoing Valentine's Day

I love love.  Cupid's holiday is close to my heart but Valentine's Day 2011 cupid's arrow could not have been farther from his mark.  My heart was cracked and on the verge of  breaking as my remaining time with Eli inside ticked down to a precious four weeks.  November 2010 to March 2011 was subdued.  It was days and hours that stretched for miles and miles of the flattest most subdued highways possible.  They passed  with little fanfare despite holidays, birthdays and milestones.  We made our way down that road intact and for that we celebrated in the end.

Valentine's Day 2012 was quite the opposite.  There were valentines, crocheted hearts embroidered with our daughters' initials, chocolate hearts, raspberry chocolate filled pastry hearts, homemade heart shaped whole wheat english muffins which made for delicious ham, cheese and egg sandwiches, homemade chocolate covered cherries, heart shaped greek chicken and cheese pizzas all capped off with heart shaped molten lava cakes.  I really outdid myself this year, at 7 1/2 months pregnant nonetheless.  I poured my heart almost literally into everything I baked, kneaded and dipped.  Sometimes happiness is homemade.  I commented last year that it didn't matter what I cooked or baked, I just couldn't find any happiness in the food.  Some time in the last eleven months happiness has returned and it has never tasted so good.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Righting the Wrongs

This morning I finished reading "When Bad Things Happen to Good People".  There was  no "aha" moment for me today but had I read that book two or  more years ago there would have been.  Pretty much everything that I read was consistent with my own redefinition of my Catholic upbringing and beliefs.  Something which I have struggled to redefine since Wyatt's Potter's diagnosis in January of 2003.

I have righted the wrongs that were installed by my church and family over the course of my childhood and young adulthood.  The wrongs:  be good and bad things will not happen to you, if they do then you must have done something to deserve them, God has a plan and everything has a purpose, if you pray God will answer your prayers.  The righting:   good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people because God does not control  every aspect of the universe, sometimes because we as humans were given free will  by God and because as humans we often pray for impossible things.  I am not a great person,  but I lead a mostly good life.  There is not one thing which I have done which merits the suffering  I have endured over the last nine years of my life.  I accept that Potter's Syndrome is just one thing completely out of God's control but not out of his concerns.  I felt Him with me every step of the way through Eli's pregnancy and after.  I know it pained God to watch our suffering and probably even more so to welcome our sweet little boy to join his brother.  I also know that he manifests his love for us by empowering geneticists, scientists and doctors to study Potter's Syndrome and I have confidence that one day there will be answers.

I wish that I had understood these things when I was pregnant with Wyatt.  That my religious background could have comforted and supported me rather than giving me more unrealistic expectations than I could count.  I believed prayer, and lots of it, would heal my son.  That my unwavering faith would deliver me from having to watch my baby die.  His death not only shattered my heart, it shattered my religious foundation.  Faith is so easy to have when it needn't be explained.  I needed a reason for Wyatt's death, I needed a way to justify the pain that was tearing me apart, to make it all seem worthwhile.  So I turned to God and then I turned away.  What else could I do after believing all those wrongs for so many years?  How could I believe that it was somehow my fault, that I deserved to carry a child with a fatal birth defect and that I deserved to watch him die and that I would be left to live without him for the rest of my life?  How could I believe that my prayers were not good enough when I had prayed so hard and they were completely heartfelt?  How could I justify this outcome when all around me I saw others who had done worse yet were given completely healthy children, even ones that were unwanted?  How could I still believe in a loving and compassionate God when I was told that my son's death was part of this God's plan?  How could my completely innocent child be chosen by this God to suffer so much?  I sought answers for a long long time to these questions but none fit.  I was only left angry, bitter and feeling abandoned by the one who was supposed to love me the mostl.

Finally I stopped asking those questions, I stopped seeking (and listening to) explanations.  I went back to the simplest of explanations, one worthy of my kindergarten faith class:  bad things will happen and when they do God is with you, when you hurt he hurts and he will love you through it all.  Expectations only bring disappointment, love breeds love and there is one love greater than all.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Living Through Death

I don't know exactly when my sons died.  I know the day but not the times.  Sure, there is a time recorded on their death certificates but that is not it.  Their deaths were not measured in terms of one final breath, but ever slowing heartbeats.  I do know my very first glimpse of death was just hours after my first child's birth.  I also know that I would have it no other way.  If any of my children die, I want to be there, holding them if possible, until that moment passes.  Although I can't pinpoint that moment in June 2003 or March 2011 on the days of my sons' births, I can feel it.  If I close my eyes I can return to the hospital vision adjusts to the dim lighting, I can smell their newness, listen to the near silence surrounding us and remember the awe that I felt every minute of their lives.  There was a distinct before and after.  Before left me in awe of every moment that passed and every minute detail which I could absorb.  There was nothing but Wyatt, nothing but Eli.  Between before and after was just a moment.  Just one moment separates life from death.  Somehow we knew when that moment passed and in that moment everything changed.  I was like a video recorder that switched from record to playback.  I knew the show was over but just had to watch it again.  So many more memories were recorded in the after but they were different than the before.  No less precious, just different.

I lived through my sons' deaths.  I went from the moment before, to the one between and then the one after that.  I live, I remember and I love.

Monday, February 6, 2012


I teach kindergarten faith classes Sunday mornings at my church.  This is my third year doing so and for the second time I am blessed to be teaching one of my own daughters.  Yesterday we talked about forgiveness.  The lesson was accompanied by two worksheets.  One, a small banner which read "I'm sorry" for the children to trace and to take home to use to help heal a friendship or relationship hurt by a wrongdoing.  Two, a hidden picture coloring sheet which contained the words "I forgive".  Each class presents new challenges and this week's was noise.  The classroom next to us was impossibly loud and we had a guest child along with one of the children who was far too chatty with her friend.  This challenge necessitated a choice for me to make, we only had time for one project:  trace and color the "I'm sorry" banner sheet or color the "I forgive" worksheet.

I chose forgiveness.  Want to know why?  Because just like love, forgiveness is something entirely within my control.  It is not dependent on an apology or even an acknowledgement of wrongdoing.  Because let's face it, some people will likely never apologize, some because of pride or vanity, others because they refuse to admit to doing anything wrong and some frankly probably never even realize that what they have done was hurtful.  But forgiveness, forgiveness is mine.  I can forgive in any and all of those situations.  I can forgive anyone for anything.  I alone can lift the burden of hurt that rests in my heart and in doing so release the bonds that tie me to that pain.    While hearing "I'm sorry" is a wonderful thing and I highly encourage any hurt to be accompanied by an apology, I choose forgiveness.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Love is defined as "a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection" at  While this is listed as definition number two, it is the meaning I want.  Love is a feeling.  A feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection.  A simple yet eloquent description.  There is no additional specificity, no rules, no strings attached.

Love is not defined by any person, in fact it doesn't mention anyone at all.  It is a feeling experienced by one person.  It is not measured  in telephone calls or visits, there is no amount of minutes or hours which can solidly constitute "deep affection" or "warm personal attachment".  The absence of counting or tallying up those minutes or hours probably signifies a deeper personal attachment or affection. There is no list of people whom we must love or should love or even cannot love.  Only we can make those choices.  Because we feel them.

The warm personal attachment or deep affection lives within me, it is mine.  Because of this, it is so easy and so hard to love.  I love Wyatt and Eli every time my heart beats, even when I thought it was irreparably broken.  I've loved Wyatt every single day of the 3,161 days I have lived without him and will continue to do so until I don't have to live without him and Eli any longer.  This is perhaps the purest sense of love because they are not here.  Their deaths have wounded me so deeply and their absence stings so strongly.  There is no earthly word or action that can affect the love I have for my sons.  That is the bitter and the sweet.
A heart in the big blue sky above, sent from heaven by two little boys I love.


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