Just Life, Parenting

One Quiet Mourning

Content warning ~ This post discusses pregnancy loss. Written earlier this week ~~.

Today, July 5, marks three years since the day I said goodbye. It’s the day I had a D&C to remove what the doctors called a Missed Miscarriage, and what I called my baby.

Miscarriage can be really hard. Definitely harder than I ever expected it would be.

Sometimes it’s super quick, a loss of something that was known about for a day. Sometimes it’s mid-way through the pregnancy, or a late term loss. Some people may not feel so devastated about an early loss, though some people absolutely do. Some people become pregnant again afterward with their Rainbow Baby, and that helps with healing. And some women are sad for years after the fact, whether they have another baby or not. Not all the time. But when the anniversaries come up, it’s just hard.

Three years ago, after book club had ended, as I was getting ready to go home, I used the restroom and saw some bright red blood, and came out and pretended like nothing had happened, like everything was ok. Told myself nothing was going on. Discussed cute, fun pregnancy talk as I made my way out the door, while a blaring siren went off in the back of my mind saying, “You might not get to have these conversations much longer, if you’re losing the baby..” I turned away from that feeling, headed home with my little (then- 2 yr old) boy, picked up my husband from work. At home there was more bleeding, more fear, lots of tears and panicked feelings, a call to the nurse help line who told me to rest and see a doctor as soon as possible. That was June 27. On June 28, I went to the doctor, and was told I’d lost the baby. (Well first I was told I needed to rush to the next hospital for an emergency ultrasound. There is where they told me I’d lost the baby.) And July 1st, maternity insurance began (i.e., I got bills for months regarding tests done on June 28, tests that ultimately wrecked our checking account and did nothing to save my baby…)

And July 5th was my surgery. Just one week shy of the second trimester…

So, July 4th? Wasn’t a happy holiday that year! Or since, unfortunately. I haven’t been able to enjoy it. I actually really like flags, parades, BBQs, celebrations, the whole wearing patriotic colors and making little crafts, or cute themed food to celebrate the holiday. I even like fireworks (though I understand the many reasons not to be a fan of them.) It can all be so much fun! It’s great!

But, I just can’t do it. I wasn’t ready for it again this year. I wanted to be. I thought I would be! But I’d gotten behind, overwhelmed with juggling new tasks, and forgot to ask friends about the ONE local celebration I knew of, and by the time I remembered I’d wanted to check in with someone for details, it was over. I felt like I’d dropped the ball, and felt sorry for myself, and down on myself for “always doing this” and “missing out.” But then I also just felt sad generally, too, dreading today. Thoughts of my dreams for that baby floated through my imagination, and I just… needed to grieve some more, I guess.

Part of what sucks so much about it is imagining others thinking you “should” be over it already. Others maybe thinking you’re “crazy.” Like who knows if anyone is actually thinking that, but it feels like they would be. I almost didn’t want to write this, because I kept telling myself, “People are going to think you’re nuts and just can’t get over it, like you should be able to…” But I’m writing it. Because it’s important.

You know what makes it really hard, I think? It’s the fact that when these feelings do arise, it’s such a lonely feeling. No one else thinks about the little lost one I loved and desperately wanted. I alone carry her in my heart. Sometimes I wish I could just let go more, but most of the time I am able to remind myself it’s NOT unheard of or silly or anything like that to remember the beginning of someone. To feel how I feel. I was sad and dreaded today, thinking it’d be so much worse than yesterday.

But it wasn’t. By the time I woke up this morning, the time I’d had my surgery three years ago was long since past. It was over. And then… it felt over. At least for now. Once I get past June 28, July 4th (with the memories of the holiday I couldn’t bring myself to celebrate), and July 5th (the day I had to truly say goodbye), then I am in the clear for a while… At least until Jan 11, the would-be due date. It’s kind of like the end of a season, and once I’m past it, I can just sigh and breathe again. I don’t have to brace myself against the memories, or wade through the melancholy, and associated mixed feelings about the melancholy. Getting to this day is getting through the other side again, feeling my own personal mourning, and then letting it go for another several months or maybe even a year, depending on what the emotional impact is of the next go around of these dismal anniversaries.

More and more, I try to just celebrate what I DO have. I have a sweet and loving husband, an amazing little boy, a cute cat, and silly little dog. They all drive me crazy sometimes, but that’s part of the human experience, I think! Being driven mad with love! I adore them all to pieces.

And I also remember to celebrate the little life that could have been, but wasn’t. The little life I wanted in my life, that caused me to dream and plan and made me feel so enamored and blissful and magical all over again. I’m grateful for the first trimester we did have together, and try to remember the sweetness of those first weeks.

Will I have more children? If I do, will that heal my heart? Or will it just be a happy blissful joy in my life to enjoy on top of the quiet mourning that (may always?) occur(s) alongside my joy? If I don’t, will I continue to just heal with time, slowly but surely? One can hope.

There’s always hope.

snow drop / free stock photo / pixabay.com

Parenting

The Kindness Sandwich

kindnesssandwich3

“Do you want peanut butter and jelly, or cream cheese and jelly?” I ask, heading toward the fridge.

“Cream cheese and jelly!” he shouts. My five year old’s smile is wide, his energy contagious. He gets to the refrigerator first and pulls the cream cheese out for me. Then he hands me the jelly. I reach next to him and get out the bread, and he pulls out a butter knife from the drawer. Our plates are arranged side by side. I’m having one too. A cream cheese and jelly sandwich. A kindness sandwich, I think to myself, and a bittersweet smile spreads across my face as white and red swirl together under the motion of the knife.

I’ve thought of this particular kind of sandwich as a Kindness Sandwich for probably twenty or so years. The way I first heard the story was that my mom’s teacher shared her cream cheese and jelly sandwich with her when she was young.

Little by little, more of the truth was revealed. This is the way things go when there’s a checkered past in the family tree. You don’t hear it all at once. Much of it is too tragic to be shared, too difficult to explain to a very young child. So first I heard that Mom’s teacher shared the sandwich with her. And that sounded nice.

Over time, I heard more about Grandma’s drinking. And Grandpa’s drinking. And the fighting. The shouting. My mom and her brothers, who were just little kids, commonly laid awake listening to the sounds of thrown dishes shattering against the walls. My mother told me she often laid in bed, wishing her parents would just stop so she could finally sleep.

One morning, my mother, who was then only a tad bit older than my son is now, walked outside with her kindergarten class for a picnic, and she had no lunch. Her mother never made her any lunch, and of course, in those days, making lunches for children didn’t fit into a father’s job description. So, since she had no food at all that day, her teacher invited her to sit next to her and share her lunch, handing her half of her cream cheese and grape jelly sandwich.

My mom has told me that story many times. Sometimes I still ask her about these things, so I can remember, too, and carry on some of her tales of the past, the way stories are passed down by generation. By now, I can hear her voice tell it in my head. I can see her in my mind’s eye spreading cream cheese and jelly on bread for me, many times over the years, back when I was little. What I didn’t realize then, that I know now, especially now that I’m a parent, is that, in those moments, she held in her hands not just two pieces of bread stuck together with filling, but the the embodiment of kindness manifested in physical form. She passed it to me: a torch she never received from her own mother. A legacy she created from absence.

In the absence of happy memories, she vowed to make a safe, loving space for her own children to form their own…
In the absence of nurturing care, she vowed to be there for her children…
In the absence of food, she vowed to always feed her children…

“I’ll never do this to my children,” was the mantra of her formative years, and with that promise, she invented a new life, one she’d never experienced firsthand, for all of her children, one in which we knew we were loved, above all else, through good times and bad. And though she may never have thought that far ahead, it is a gift she created for her grandchildren, too.

My son bites into his sandwich and jelly spreads out, a smudge of red in the corner of his lips. I smile and lick my thumb, and wipe it away. We finish our sandwiches together.

Parenting, Writing

My Week in Haiku

haiku

i.
Summer has arrived.
The sun doesn’t set ’til ten.
It is pretty weird.

ii.
My kid was screaming
Because I didn’t let him
Touch the hot burner.

iii.
My dog barks a lot.
Why are you yelling at that
Other dog, Ashton?

iv.
We had plans to craft:
DIY deodorant.
Instead we drank beer.

v.
Dog likes the dog park.
My kid, however, doesn’t.
Fetch was fun, it seemed.

vi.
Frequently I ask
Am I doing these things right?
As if there’s one way.

vii.
If I keep asking
‘Should I be in therapy?’
The answer is yes.

viii.
Sometimes I hide from
My own kid and everyone.
I need alone time.

ix.
Sometimes it’s hard to
Believe we even live here
I love Mt. Rainier.

Parenting

Baby Steps

I decided to share this blog I wrote here, because it was such a simple thing, yet such a landmark moment for me. I frequently think about it, because this one moment symbolizes so much of parenthood for me. Maybe it’ll resonate with you, too? …

Originally written August 22, 2012 (Homer was 18 months old).
= = =

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As we got to the top of the stairs, I held his hand, as I always do. He began to cry, something he’s started doing lately. He pulled his hand as forcefully as he could, trying to get away from my grip. I resisted, creating a tug-o-war of tension that scared the hell out of me. I didn’t want him tumbling down the stairs! I relaxed my arm, and he relaxed his pull, and I let go to see what he wanted to do. He sat down immediately. Then, realizing he was free, he stood up. I reached out for his hand again and he shook his head, pulled his shoulder up to his ear, scrunching himself smaller, angling away from me. “No,” he said.

I realized what he wanted. He wanted to do it himself.

I stood in front of him, and my tiny boy moved over to the other side of the stairs. He put his arm on the wall to balance, his hand not quite reaching the bannister. And he smiled. A look of concentration replaced his smile and he began his descent. One little shoe came down, then the other one joined it. Step-step… Step-step… I walked backward down the stairs directly in front of him, spotting him but not touching him. My heart was in my throat, but my inner voice said, “Trust him. He’s ready.”

In an instant, he was a teenager, standing before me, hand outstretched for the keys to the car. In an instant, he was 18, ready to leave home into the grand world. This isn’t the last time you’ll need to trust him, I thought, and tears pricked my eyes. This is where it begins, I thought, as my little boy stepped steadily, confidently, more quickly than I’d expected, down the staircase, balancing so well, doing great. I felt my anxiety simmering wildly, but I kept it under the lid, as he did what he needed to do, as a simple staircase became a symbol for burgeoning independence.

When he reached the very last step, he stopped suddenly. He raised his face and his eyes met mine. He reached out his hand to me, and I wanted so much just to take it.

Instead I said, “You’ve got this.”

He looked at the ground, that one last step, then at me again.

I made my voice more sure, because I *was* sure. “You did all the others just great, and you can do this one too. You’ve *got* this. Go ahead,” I said, with a nod and a great big smile.

He looked down, thought for a second, then sat down, scooted forward, planted his feet on the ground and stood up. Before I’d even started to cheer, “Yay!” for him, his hands were in the air, as he shouted, “Yeah!!” with the most confident smile I’ve ever seen him wear.

We walked to the garage, side by side, both of us smiling, as a few more tears slid down my cheeks.