Wishing you courage

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying 'I will try again tomorrow'."
- Mary Anne Radmacher

Friday, September 26, 2008

Not really a proud or shameful moment

Some of you seem interested in how the situation with my "mommy mobile" friend turned out. I would have also been curious to know what exactly one can say under those circumstances - what words do you use to say "oweee, that was my heart you stabbed". I don't necessarily recommend saying what I wrote to her though and I don't not recommend it either. I sent this as an e-mail a week and a half ago and have heard no reply, however I know that she has shared it with at least one of our mutual friends.

I don't need to hear praise over this, in fact, gentle critiques on how this could have been made not so mean would be appreciated (keeping in mind it's too late to change the letter). I do not think a follow up letter from me to her after receiving no acknowledgment of this note is appropriate; reviving the friendship is not a goal here. Right now my goals are to not feel like shit and later I'll want to know how to best handle myself when around her in the future (since that will happen). Not receiving any sort of reply has been harder than I imagined but it will be ok and I do feel relieved having communicated the things that were bothering me.

Hi R,

Congratulations on the new car, you all must be very excited and relieved to have an appropriate vehicle.

The delivery of your purchase news is prompting me to say some things that have been on my mind. I don't think you understand the severity of the sorrow I feel over the death of my son. It has been an incredibly difficult 10 months, with my entire body, mind and soul missing him every single minute, plus the waning of my marriage as A and I both grieve so intensely in our different ways. Living has strictly become about getting through another day so it is important that I am only around people who are sensitive to this disaster that has completely changed my life. When I am invited over to dinner only to be seated facing a brand new stroller parked in the dining room, or receive impersonal notes signed with your sons name, or hear about the "mommy mobile", frankly, I want to die. So I request that you kindly neglect to include me in such communications.

With all of my heart I wish you a safe delivery and a happy life.

Sincerely, A

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thank you Meghan! Words cannot describe the feeling of seeing an envelope in my PO Box; I opened it up right there, standing at a counter in post office. A beautiful card! A beautiful sentiment! Again, thank you so much for your thoughtfulness.


Leaving the hospital with a sad but entirely treasured memory box ... what are the words to describe that? Horrible. Unfair. A whole slew of swear words are also appropriate. The morning after delivery I wanted to see the baby again. "He will be cold", the nurse told me. My husband took the opportunity to haul the belongings we had accumulated the past 4 days in that hospital room out to the car; poor guy is not a fan of deadbabies. Toren arrived nestled in a tiny white basket; I sat in the rocking chair, the nurse handed him to me and left the room, and that was my time alone with him. Together we rocked and I told him all that I could, all that was applicable. No life lessons to be passed on other than sometimes things are entirely, impossibly unfair. Sometimes horrible things happen despite our best efforts and intentions. Pretty heavy stuff for a being aged 20 weeks gestation.

His body was so cold and his blood had pooled, turning areas of his skin so dark. I didn't unwrap him to see his body again; I didn't need to see the feet that were starting to club and the fingers growing in odd directions from his body being crushed by my organs. Since finding out he was not surrounded by amniotic fluid I had done my best not to slouch and crush him further.

Knowing what I know now, I would have sat there rocking him longer. I would not have felt rushed knowing that my husband was waiting or worrying that the hospital staff wanted to clean the room. That was my only time to see his tiny body. It's been almost 11 months and I crave seeing him again.

To leave the hospital room I needed another dose of Xanax. Then, finally, I left the room I had been in for the past 84 hours straight, walked down the hall praying not to see anyone smiling over having a new baby in their family, clutching the memory box.

This is it, the white box.
Now it sits in the bottom part of an end table in my living room. On top is a photo of Toren alive, taken via ultrasound; the photo that was joyously e-mailed to family members as a way of announcing the pregnancy. Also housed in that area are family photos and roses formed from palm fronds (or something) that my husband got for me from a guy on the street in Savannah (one of the most beautiful places on Earth). The box holds the soft blanket Toren was wrapped in, the tiny knit hat he wore, a stuffed dog, hand and foot prints, polaroid photos of him, cards received welcoming him to the world, and a few other various things from the hospital. Cards of condolence are kept behind the box.

Initially, I didn't know what to think of the box. It instantly turned into one of my greatest treasures (like if the house is burning down, grab the cats and the box) however the things inside were not items that he enjoyed during life. He never played with the stuffed dog, he never felt the softness of the blanket. His items, memories of him, but they are not his memories.

I wanted to give him so much.

I don't know if anyone else felt this way, but when I found out there was no way in hell that my baby would live outside the womb, finding things to give him did not cross my mind. I wish I would have selected a blanket or toy for his body to at least lay next to, but I gave him nothing tangible. In response to a post on Glow in the Woods recently I expressed my regret with how I chose to deal with his body, I'm not going to repeat it here. In hindsight, I wish I had selected an item just for him and had his body cremated with it. I wish I knew where his body was right now.

Which leads to the point of all of this ... months later the box is still not enough. All this time and all this effort spent on grief work and it turns out that container of memories just isn't enough. I now have a new card, a new memory, to add to the story of my baby's life. Sure it's the part of my baby's life where there is no adorable cooing, drooling, young human - we are limited to a heartbroken couple who barely speak anymore (and who are frequently drunk), a woman who refuses to move on and a man who (I imagine) wants nothing other than to forget the sight of his dead son.

Ready for the shameful part? The part that is our secret? I'm going to buy the things I had intended to buy for him. A halloween, jack-o-lantern hat and dinosaur pajamas. The things I never dared get since the pregnancy was classified as a "threatened abortion" for so long.

I hate that I was never able to tell him face-to-face, while he was alive, how much he was loved.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Um, yeah...

I haven't mailed out cards yet.

I want to tell you that I've been busy and such but the real issue is I've had too much wine every night this week to write a sober sounding sentiment.

Since being kind is not going so well, at least I will spare you all the details of my adventures in speaking my mind about situations I think lack sensitivity.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

AHC post

I copied it here too because it turned out to be longer than I planned and this place is a record of my wadings through the grief bog. This was an important moment and I want to remember how I feel about it right now.

I just told my tale of woe to a new co-worker who is pregnant. She got the whole story too! Diagnosis, hospital stay, falling apart marriage ...

She was so understanding and sympathetic and I'm glad I told her because I think she is a really great person. But you know how the story starts out rather simple (pregnant once but baby died) then you start to add in the details and it just gets worse and worse? By how she looked at me at times I could see her wondering "how do you even get up everyday?"

My silent answer is "I don't know." I don't know how it is possible that I work, run errands, see my friends, LOOK NORMAL. But I do it all. I get out of bed everyday now, even on weekends, and I am somewhat productive.

It's weird to say that "yes, in all of my life experience, I think this is the worst thing that can happen to someone" but still be sitting at my desk among the papers and things I'm working on. To calmly say that I am completely devastated, to realize I don't care to much if I live or die most days, and yet I go to work everyday. Every single moment I miss my baby, I miss my husband, and I mourn for what almost was, but I still continue to get things done.

It's like leading a double life in a way.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Just photos of good times = no stress post to read!

This is a little dark but you can get an idea of how beautiful the vineyard is. That's me snuggling a puppy.
Here's the puppy. He is my friends 11 week old Shih Tzu and he is even cuter in person. I'm his auntie.


Back to speachless

Thanks for the ideas on how to handle this situation with my friend. After thinking about it for a few days and journaling about the things I could say I haven't thought of anything that is appropriate. My side of the story sounds whiney, the bottom line of every draft is - I think you were mean to me so I don't want to be friends anymore - which is actually true but it just sounds so ridiculous to say it. I will talk/rant to my therapist about it this week though and see if she has suggestions other than explaining it to my friend in the "When you said _____, I felt ____, and in the future please ______." For now I'm not thinking about it anymore.

Happier notes

I picked up the keys for my new PO Box! Number 2142, which is delightful as far as numbers go! The full address is up for a limited time (probably) under my profile and I've e-mailed it to those of you I have e-mail addresses for.

Also yesterday I had a wonderful time at my favorite winery in North Georgia and I will post some pictures soon.

I hope you all are doing well.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Speachless (except for all the stuff I'm about to bombard you with)

Setting the stage...

So, you know I have an EX-FRIEND ... and even though I talk a tough game, friendship breakups weigh heavily on me. It's so hard to let a friendship die. I have had definite bitchy moments with her back in early spring when she was newly pregnant and I was slogging through grief (aided by a lot of alcohol) but I really tried to make it up to her. I sent text messages at least once a week for months asking how she was feeling - rarely a reply and never was the question reciprocated spontaneously. When suddenly asked to dinner several months ago I accepted because I wanted an end to the tension. So I dined and made pleasant conversation while seated facing a brand spanking new stroller that was parked in the dining room. I praised the name they had picked out since they had just recently found out they were having a boy. Then when her husband asked me to help her shop for some evening clothes I actually went to maternity stores with her and helped her find something to wear. Then back to no replies, no asking how I am. So I stop sending text messages; I stop communicating so there is no communication whatsoever between us. Then she gave me a gift a couple of weeks ago... but by this time I am too upset by only seeing her on her terms that I am cold ... I thank her for the gift and hide it in a closet when I get home because I just can't look at it.

Then no communication.

Then tonight a text is received:
"It's official! We got a mommy mobile [her name] style! Crv 2008! Woot!"

And from my mouth comes a maniacal laugh then I send text messages to other friends, just saying hello, just so that the message from her moves down the list so that it is not seen on the screen.

You all really can tell me if I am being too sensitive about this. But the way I see it is that she is clueless at best; competitive and mean at worst.

What would you guys do? Would you say something? I don't think I will do anything, but this is fuel for my golly-gee-we-cannot-be-considered-friends-any-longer fire (and I mean it this time). My completely honest to my inner feelings side (which doesn't exist in real life) would reply "Congrats on the new car you inconsiderate, hateful bitch"

If you said anything, would you want to say something different from what you would actually say?

Edit: How about a lovely note of congratulations like this?

Dear R,
Congratulations on your new car - what exciting news! I remember a time when I was planning to replace my classic car with a vehicle that was more "baby friendly". Of course, finding the perfect "mommy mobile" turned out to be not necessary for me since my son was found to be incompatible with life and thus would not ever be tucked securely in a car seat in any car. Now that my marriage is suffering so much as my husband and I mourn our son in our unique ways, it looks like I'll be driving my classic car for a long time. The CR-V 2008 appears to be a very family friendly vehicle and I imagine you will enjoy driving your son around in it once he is born. Again, congratulations on the new "mommy mobile"!

And I really mean that "sincerely" bit.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Our PO Boxes overfloweth

You all are awesome!

Enough of you mentioned a PO Box that I considered it. I asked my husband what he thought about me giving out our address and he thought it would be fine for a few people. What if it turns out to be more than a few people? He asked how many cards I thought I would receive ... I grinned ... he rolled his eyes. My husband and I shared a cute moment! Ok, it had a bit of that I-can't-acknowledge-the-deadbaby-and-I-can't-believe-you-are-so-open-about-it vibe on his end but at least we communicated in a sort of playful way. I don't expect too many people to be into this but I decided that since I have never had a PO Box before I would like to try it out, so for 6 months I have a PO Box to call my own! I'll pick up the keys and get the number on Monday.

Whoever is interested in having their mailing address shared with others so we can all send each other cards let me know. Otherwise just you and I will mail to each other. E-mail your information to gardening_anna at yahoo dot com (this is especially important if your contact information is not available on your profile page). Non-commenters too - if you want some support and acknowledgment of your fresh or continued hurt please feel free to send me an e-mail.

Something strange is happening ... at this very moment I am too excited thinking about exchanging cards to consider how much I hate my life. Gotta go to Hallmark...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Something crazy this way comes...

Ok...the following is inspired by my therapists...

Remember how my massage therapist, V, suggested that I express emotions everyday? So I've been paying more attention to what I feel ... trying to define it ... trying to indulge feelings. Then today my psychotherapist, K, said she can't tell me how to get to a place where I feel better because I have to figure that out for myself. Although I'm still pissed that she won't just give me the keys to happyland I think what she is saying is that I have to find the belief system that works for me. I have to pull some kind of meaning that I can understand and find some comfort in out of my ass (the usual beliefs/religions/spiritual stuff do not bring me comfort).

Then mzfitzita said "But, sadly, it's one foot in front of the other - and often two steps back - and in the middle of it all, a LOT of just figuring it out on your own - figuring out what works for you - and trying to ignore the people who don't understand and, in their ignorance, make the journey so much harder for you."

Figuring out what works for me... and on that note I propose an experiment of sorts.

A couple of days ago while looking for a greeting card I found some cards specifically for miscarriage and pregnancy loss. I want one. I want one of every kind they have. I received a few cards of condolence right after everyone heard the bad news but 10 months later I still feel like shit and I still need support so I'm going to get my own freaking cards. If times get dark enough I'll even mail them to myself.

According to Still to be Born, I have up to 14 more months to "come to terms with" the death of my son (whatever that really means) so if by November of 2009 I'm still hating life or if I've been committed to a mental hospital or end up in jail (I don't know what for but it would be for something stupid) we will all know that purchasing greeting cards for yourself is not an effective way to deal with grief.

This is such a long process ... the idea of a card specific to pregnancy loss is both smart (to acknowledge the loss) and ridiculous since the sorrow lasts for such a long time. Really friends and family should be able to sign up for a condolence card of the month to be sent for two years.

If any of you need cards of condolence or cards of encouragement send me an e-mail with your address and I'll send you a card in the mail regularly until you say "no more!".

So clearly I've hit another low spot. Back in the spring, I started freaking out about 2 weeks before my EDD so this might be anxiety about the upcoming terrorversaries, which would be very bad since they don't start until October 31. There is something else that may be causing or at least weighing in on these sad feelings and soon I'll give you all the full story, complete with shameful jealousy bits, just like some sort of lame, depressing soap opera.


Lunatic ravings

This sucks.

Really, I hear what the books, support groups, hotlines, and therapists say about grief work... it takes a long freaking time, you have ups and downs, anger is a normal part of grieving, it is perfectly normal to feel how I do.

How can anger be so "normal" when it is such an unproductive part of grief? I am unreasonably, inconsolably angry that the people I have spent so much time supporting and encouraging do not bother to check in every so often to see how I'm doing with the whole deadbaby, crappy marriage, hating life thing. I have heard others say that this is an opportunity to figure out who your real friends are, which sounds ok except that the people who have stopped supporting me include my mother, husband, friend who just months ago said I was like a sister to her ... who exactly is left? This NORMAL ANGER has resulted in me having fewer confidants, fewer resources. Everyone says this is so NORMAL but it feels so wrong and is not resulting in anything good. The problem is the professionals and people experienced with grief all agree that anger is normal, the people who actually interact with the bereaved see them as crazy, mean bitches. People can't handle my grief, anger, and anguish so they have left.

Forgive me for hurting so in such a public way. I am losing patience with this process. I hate that soon an entire year will have been wasted in grief. I hate that there is no end in sight. I hate being told I'm reacting and feeling normally but I still feel miserable. I hate that my family and friends are impatient for me to get over it. I hate that I spent this mornings therapy session crying and crying and nothing my therapist said made me feel any better. Apparently she can't tell me how to feel better - my healing is up to me. I'm afraid I am the least qualified person to get me the point of coming to terms with my son being dead. At the end of the session my therapist said she purposefully did not try to comfort me because she wanted to give me space to express what I was feeling. Throughout the session I was worried that she had joined the ranks of people who can't handle my emotions. I might look for a new therapist soon.

I still hate my life.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My obsession with reading every book on deadbaby grief I come across continues.

Today's excerpt comes from "Still to be Born: A guide for bereaved parents who are making decisions about their future" by P. Schwiebert and P. Kirk. I was given this book at last weeks SHARE meeting.

"Those who have never had to suffer the intense pains of loss tend to underestimate the time required for "grief work" to be completed. That is because they are projecting an assumption based on their own limited experience, for indeed it does not take long for them to "get over" someone else's loss.

The same is true, but to a lesser extent, where friends and relations - other than a spouse or child - are involved. Most people find that it takes no more than from forty-eight hours to two weeks to get their lives back to a normal routine after suffering the death of a close friend or relative not in the immediate nuclear family.

For bereaved parent, however, the readjustment of one's life following a loss of a child takes approximately eighteen to twenty-four months. This does not mean that after twenty-four months the death is forgotten; it simply means that this much time is needed to come to terms with the loss."

This passage compares other deaths with infant death and I'm afraid it may minimize the impact of other deaths but I have not lost a close friend or relative before so I can't know how accurate the claim of 48 hours to 2 weeks until a "normal" routine can be re-gained is. I can attest to the freaking long time it takes to come to terms with the loss of a baby - even though I never even saw him alive outside of my uterus.

So at 10 months post that hellish day of delivery it is both comforting and depressing to think that I can expect 8 to 14 more months of this. And I'm not holding myself to any sort of timeframe like this is how much longer my grief work must take to prove how much I loved my son, really, after spending 10 months in bereavement I am much more stable than early on but honestly I don't see the end of the tunnel yet. Coming to terms with my son being dead is not going to happen in the next couple of months.

The thought "I hate my life" runs through my head at least once an hour, but the passage above at least makes me curious to know if this loathing will still be present after 14 more months.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Stumbling towards purity of mind, body, and soul...

...whatever that really means.

Mind, body, and soul are so intertwined that it is impossible to completely untangle their tendrils. In fact even just months ago I would have argued against even trying to treat these three as separate. But in this phase of grief my physical body and emotions, at least, need different things.

Looking back over the last 10 months, considering how the sadness moved through my being, I think the grief actually started in my body. The sudden uterine emptying, days spent medicated in the hospital, bleeding bleeding bleeding, then the horror of lactation - all happening when my body was busy and focused on growing a baby. Next was the strike to my soul - holding my tiny son, becoming focused on THAT being, wanting THAT baby. A much planned for, wanted, and loved human; a baby made from love ... with that much preparation and care how could this baby die? An intense, unreasonable love for him began as soon as I saw him; with this innate and immediate emotional and visceral response how is a dead baby even possible?

Weeks later as the shock wore off depression set in. Every single moment and every single action since then has been hampered by this mind which is so obscured by depression.

Anyway, now my mind gets psychotherapy and my body gets massage therapy, and I'm trying to listen to what my body wants at any given time. This morning my body wanted to listen to the new I:Scintilla album loudly during my drive to the shuttle. Physical senses indulged - loud music, cool breeze through the window, vibration from the engine (ok, also the smells of exhaust which is not nice but goes with the territory).

Care for the soul is harder for me to figure out than care for mind and body. I haven't been disciplined enough to meditate regularly. And on that note here is something to think about from Pema Chodron's mini book "Awakening Loving-Kindness":

"When people start to meditate or to work with any kind of spiritual discipline they often think that somehow they're going to improve, which is a sort of subtle aggression against who they really are. It's a bit like saying "If I jog, I'll be a much better person." "If I could only get a nicer house, I'd be a better person." "If I could meditate and calm down, I'd be a better person."

... But loving-kindness - maitri - toward ourselves doesn't mean getting rid of anything. Maitri means that we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is not to try to change ourselves. Meditation practice isn't about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It's about befriending who we are already."

Pema Chodren presents an interesting way to look at meditation practice. I have felt that I should improve through meditation practice but improvement seems such a daunting task right now that I don't even bother with practice because I simply cannot live up to the expectations of improvement I had.

Enough rambling for tonight.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

My purse and work tote bag contain scraps of paper with writings that were scrawled down to be turned into a blog later. There are just too many and too much time has passed to compile anything cohesive from those bits of ideas. But for the most part the ideas centered around my lonely marriage, crying here and there, and un-friending friends because I'm too sensitive and too tired to put up with anything that even remotely resembles thoughtless comments or actions. Same old shit.

Instead I'll pass along the advice my massage therapist gave me last Saturday.
1. Express/release emotions every day. This can be through any means including writing, speaking, or exercise. She said kickboxing is very effective.
2. Do something nice for someone else everyday, but not just like holding a door open for someone else nice, something life changing nice.
3. I need to become pure in body, mind, and soul before trying for another baby. This sounds trite but it is actually what I need to do. I'm not rushing anything but there is no room for a baby with all this alcohol, depression, and unrest.
4. She gave me some intimacy advice to assist with conception too. Not like I'm having sex but if I ever do again I've got some new moves.

Releasing emotions is actually going fairly well. When I feel emotionally out of balance I ask myself what am I feeling and how can I express that feeling. To make this story short, I've been confusing anger with other emotions - what I'm feeling lately is anguish but I express the anguish with anger, which is inappropriate because it isn't effective - I don't feel better after acting with anger. How do you release or express anguish?

In Starbucks a little girl was crying, expressing hiccuping sobs as she is led to a quiet corner of the store for a talk with her mom. And suddenly I realized that is exactly how I would be acting if there were no societal restraints against adults expressing raw emotions. Under the circumstances of being out for coffee alone because the strain of being at home has become too much I should be standing in line with tears streaming over my cheeks, I should be choking over the words "medium coffee - half decaf", sob, "yes, please, room for cream" because it is so sad to be so alone. At any given time, how many people are conducting daily life tasks, outwardly appearing collected but feeling extreme emotional pain?

I went home and cried and cried. I guess I feel a bit better ... maybe...

Anyway, doing something nice for someone everyday has turned out to be more challenging than I anticipated. In the last 4 days I have not done anything nice enough to change someone's life. But at least in trying I see that when I'm dealing with so many pent up emotions I simply don't have the energy or creativity to make a positive impact for others.

I've got to go to bed.