Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hey You Guys

The movie The Goonies is one of my favorite movies of all time.  It's one of those movies I loved as a child and it still holds my love today. (Sadly, The Care Bears Movie, which caused me to try to "Care Bear Stare" my way out of troublesome situations as a young child, was unable to stand that test of time.)    For those of you unfamiliar with this cinematic masterpiece, it's the story of a group of kids who search for pirate treasure in hopes of saving their neighborhood from becoming a golf course.   In the face of danger and adversity, they form an unbreakable bond with each other.  In the end, they find more than just treasure, they find each other.  They find true friendship. 

This last month of my life has been full of adversity.  I have lived within a hurricane of pain and emotion.  I have been thrashed against the rocks.  I have been broken into millions of pieces.  But you, my readers, my friends, you have been there for it all.  You have been beside me while I have moaned and cried out in agony.   You stood by me amidst the rocks and extended your hand, knowing it was really all you could do.   I am not "fixed".  I am still finding my footing - and I will continue to fall again and again.    I will probably always be a little bit broken.  There will always be a piece of me that is missing - and the rest of me will never really fit back together properly.  I know that some days will be better than others.  I know that time will help me heal.   But, you have also helped me heal.  Through reading these words and sending me pictures of my daughter's name, you are a part of my recovery.  

Thank you for being a part of this journey, which is far from over.  You might not think you are able to make a difference, but you already have.   I appreciate all of you.  Every day.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Confessions of a (former) Shopaholic

Since it is Spring Break this week, all of my teacher friends have been trying to spend quality "daytime" time with me.   For a teacher, there is no greater adventure than being out in the real world on a weekday!  Oh wow...the post office is open?   AND the bank?  What other miraculous wonders will await us?    Normally, our go-to adventure is the mall or other related locations.  However,  this week, I have come to the conclusion that I just should not go shopping anymore.  It has lost all shreds of amusement for me.   Being a poor school teacher, my shopping experience mostly fell under the "window" category, but it was still a nice outing with friends.  We'd wander through Ross and Target, perusing the aisles and chatting about whether or not this shirt would match the skirt we have at home (too much purple), if that table runner would look good on a dresser instead (if you centered it just right), or if the special edition Keurig is really worth the extra twenty dollars (it is).  Most of the time, our excursion would be broken up by lunch somewhere and then a latte later.  Every once in a while, I'd actually find something to buy.   When I got pregnant, especially in the later months, I loved looking in the baby section.  (surprise!)   I'd ooh and ahh over the little pink Mary Jane socks or the footie pajamas covered in cupcakes.   Shopping was fun.  Not any more.  Not even in the least.  In fact, now all I really want to do is get myself home so that I don't have to cry in public.  While I really do love all of my friends and spending time with them, I am going to have to find another way to do it.  At least for right now.  

First of all, I can't shop for clothing for myself.   For the last six months or so, I have been limited strictly to the maternity section.  When I realize I no longer belong there, I am devastated.   I don't want to have to take off my stretch panel jeans and maneuver a regular button waistband over my tender and floppy stomach - in a size I am not willing to admit either.  I don't want to remember why my maternity pants keep falling down, but how I don't want to stop wearing them.  How I want to keep shopping for maternity clothes because I want more than anything to still be pregnant - or at least be able to hold the reason why I wore those clothes in the first place.  I'm flabby and gross and I don't even have a baby to show for it.   I put my body through the wringer for nothing!   Clothes shopping for me is nothing but misery.

Non-clothes shopping isn't much better. Obviously, anything baby related is out, which is difficult to do since every baby department in the world has suddenly increased its size by tenfold in the last month.  Looking through the purses, there is inevitably a satchel that could double as a cute diaper bag.  Shoes have to be purchased a half size bigger, and if I bend down to put them on, my shirt rides up and reveals the delightful spandex sewn into the top of my pants.   Housewares is full of tchotchkes - and what's a popular tchotchke nowadays?  Owls.  Today at Ross, I did not handle myself well.  My shopping buddy zipped off to the dressing room for a bit, and I wandered around in the kitchen items.   On the end of one of the aisles was a cute little owl.   

When I walked over to look at it and snap a picture,  (my sister and I have developed the habit of sharing Kenley's owls with each other when we come across one)  I happened to glance down the aisle behind it.  What I saw was the beginning of the end.   Every few feet, another owl figurine was perched upon the white, metal shelves.  I know they are all the rage now and they are going to be everywhere.  I know I've said before that I enjoy seeing them because they remind me of her.  That is still true.  But, today must have been an off day for my sanity because what happened next is not what I'd expected.  As I ventured down the aisle, my body vibrated with the hot tingles that attempt to keep back tears, but usually fail.  My pulse quickened.  My breathing shallowed.   Each owl I saw brought forth a muted moan from my lips.  I walked up and down that aisle two or three times, my hand on my mouth, looking wide eyed at all of them.  For some reason, I had the urge to move all of the owls from their original positions strewn about the aisle and bring them all together.  I didn't want them to be alone.  So, one at a time, I carefully brought all the owls to the same shelf.  I moved the strange golden buddha figurines and the black wooden candlesticks out of the way to make room for my parliament.  All the while, hands shaking, tears streaming down my cheeks. Fortunately for me, no one felt the need to shop in this area of the store at this time (or maybe it was because of me, who knows?), so I was left alone to wallow in my insanity.   After about 5 minutes, I had rearranged the shelves so that all the unrelated items still had a place visible to shoppers, but the owls were clustered together.  What started out as an innocent glance at an end display, ended up like this:

By the time my friend returned from trying on her dresses (three failures, two successes), I was a mess.  Being the great friend that she is, she helped me pick out one of the owls to take home with me. Although, I loved all of them,  I chose the teal one in the center.  I almost bought the two green ones too, but I thought I'd been crazy enough for one day and didn't need to start my hoarding tendencies just yet.  A little over a month ago, I would have enjoyed a day out in the shops.  Today, I just wanted it to be over.  I just wanted to get home where it was "safe" - or where I could at least be insane in privacy.

This is not what I signed up for.   The sign up sheet I wrote my name on involved strollers and diapers and wiggling legs.   It involved hair bows and peek-a-boo.   It did not involve empty arms, a broken heart, and a compulsion to rearrange discount store shelves.   Somebody must have switched the lists.   I don't belong here.  I don't want to be here.  I want to go home, where my baby is waiting - and the only thing that makes me cry is the fact "How I Met Your Mother" is still in reruns.      

Friday, March 29, 2013

Misty Watercolor Memories

Not enough time has passed for me to have experienced all aspects of my regular life not pregnant.   Almost daily, I have to stop and realize "the last time I did this, I was pregnant."  And it's hard to process those memories.   The other day, Mike and I were at the mall and grabbed some delicious chicken from Chick Fil A.   As I am sitting there, dunking my nuggets in the Polynesian sauce, I remembered the last time I ate at the food court.   I got Polynesian sauce on my shirt because my belly was in the way.  (Almost all of my maternity clothes have a permanent stain about five inches below the collar because I could not seem to get food to my mouth without at least some of it taking a nosedive onto my stomach)  As I make more efforts to get out of the house, this will happen more and more - and then it will happen less and less.   And I am not sure which is more disturbing.  
I have a very serious love/hate relationship with my memories.   Although it breaks my heart on a daily basis to remember my pregnancy, it also brings me joy to think of her alive and happy and to remember what it felt like for me to be happy.  I hate to touch my stomach and think about what I've lost.   It feels like a thousand knives dipped in boiling oil slicing through my heart.   But I love to think about the excitement I felt the first time I felt her kick.  Everyone told me it would feel like the gentle fluttering of butterfly wings.  Ha!  My little ninja didn't have that nickname for nothing.   Her first kicks felt like popcorn popping, and then eventually graduated to uppercuts to the belly button.  By the end, I thought for sure she'd be born with biceps to rival The Rock.  She was strong!   Now, rereading those words about her kicks brings forth tears of joy and tears of pain.  I guess you can't have one without the other.
Remembering hurts.   That is a solid truth.  Memories are unchangeable and bring with them a host of emotions that ache for that change.   They can not fill the hole that is left when someone you love dies.  When all you have to hold on to are memories, the emptiness of your heart can almost be too much to bear.  Your heart tries to wrap around it, to hold it close, but a memory is transparent and slippery.  It's fuzzy edged and doesn't stay in one place.  No matter how hard you try to hold on to it, it always slips away, leaving an echo of what Once Was reverberating through the darkness.  
But, remembering also heals.  For every ounce of darkness it brings me, remembering also brings me light.  I remember how I felt when I found out I was pregnant.  I remember the joy in my mother's voice when I called her on the phone.  I remember Mike's eyes lighting up with excitement.  I remember buying my very first onesie for her.  I remember what it feels like to create that moves and spins and kicks.   And, of course I am sad to not have her here with me.   I will always be sad she is not here because she deserved life and I deserved to be her mother - but that sadness can not take away how happy I was.  Remembering that joy is what will help me create it again.  I never want to forget any piece of being pregnant.  I never want to forget one second I had with my daughter.  
Even though I had to stop for a few minutes just now to cry, typing through blurry vision is worth it - because I remember.  She will always be a part of me because I will remember her.  With time, the pain will fade.   The knives will dull.   But Kenley will never be forgotten. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Just Keep Swimming

You know when you have a cold, and your nose is stuffed up and you can't smell or taste anything?   All the food you put in your mouth is bland and unappetizing.  You try to smell the savory stew simmering in your crock pot or the warm, buttery popcorn cascading out of the machine at the movie theater, but you can't.  The world is flavorless.  Muted.  You lose all excitement for eating because you know you won't be able to appreciate it.   And you miss it.  You never realized how much you enjoyed it until it was taken away.  No worries, though, because soon your sinuses will clear and your senses will return, and your world will be back to normal in no time.  Right?

The world has lost all flavor for me.  I am here but not here.   I try to be present and alert, but a part of me is always fuzzy headed, distracted, somewhere else.   Recently, I took a trip to the mall with two good friends from work.  We grabbed lunch (of which I ate about a third) and got our nails done.  A typical ladies- day -out good time.  As we are sitting in the booth eating our lunch and then later sitting in the massage chairs getting our toenails painted, we are chatting and laughing, but not all of me is.  Things I once enjoyed immensely are no longer as engaging to me.  It's like eating with a cold.  If I can't taste it, why bother?

Hold on a second while I switch metaphors...
While my public self participates in all the goings on, the rest of me can't focus on anything at all.   It's almost like my conscious brain and my subconscious brain have switched places.  My subconscious has taken over my daily interactions, making socialization automatic and purposeful thought unnecessary, while the other part of me is looking at the world from under water - wanting to be a part of it, but unable to.  Voices are distorted and incomprehensible.  Figures are shimmery and liquid.   
Some days are better than others.   Some days, I am closer to the surface of the water and I can poke my face above the waves.   I take a huge gulp of air, filling my lungs before I am pulled under again.   Other days, I am so far below the surface, my world is dark and silent.  I can look up above me and see the ripples of the water filtering sunlight down to where I sit, but it fades long before it reaches me.  Most of the time, I am right in the middle.   Treading under water.  Knowing the world is going on without me just a few feet away.  

Grief plunges you into this sea without a second thought.  It leaves you no life boat.   It throws you no rope.   You just have to figure out whether or not you are going to sink or swim.   It's easier to sink.  It's easier to succumb to the thrashing waves and the angry currents and just let the water take you down, down, down.  It's easier to buckle under the weight of the sea and give up.   The coldness of the ocean numbs you into not caring whether or not you ever feel warm again.  Your pupils adjust to the dark.     The farther down you sink, the calmer the water around you becomes.  It's ok.  Just relax.  The world up there is hard.  The seas are rough.  Up there, you are tossed around like a rag doll between the waves.   Down here, it's quiet.  It's dark.  It's soothing.  It's easy.
But, nothing worth doing is going to be easy, and you can't live your life from the bottom of grief.   Life is hard.  Survival is hard. It's so much harder to fight the sea and try to swim.  At the surface, the waves crash and churn.  They pummel you from every side, smashing down on you with the force of a thousand elephants.  You are broken and exhausted, but you've chosen to swim.  So, you do.  One arm, then the other, you slowly pull yourself through the water.  Every piece of you aches with effort.  Sometimes, you slip beneath the surface.  Just for a little bit.  Just to get away from the tumultuous waves for a moment.  Not too long, though.   If you stay under too long, you start to sink.  You have to keep yourself moving.  Pushing.  Fighting.  You have no idea how big this ocean is, or how far you have to swim to reach land.  You never know when the seas will be calm, allowing you to swim with more ease, or when a violent storm will rise up against you, making forward motion next to impossible.   You just keep swimming, and just hope that it will be enough.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Why a blog?

As you know, I use my writing as a way to heal.  I have written as a way of self-healing and preservation for as long as I can remember.  When my life turned upside down a few weeks ago, I knew I needed to write.  The first few days of this storm were so chaotic, I was just holding on for dear life.   Almost the entire first week is a blur of anguish and impossible decisions.  Once the initial whirlwind calmed, I knew I needed to put pen to paper in order to sort some things out.   At first, I thought I'd get myself a really nice journal and a brand new pen.  But then I remembered that when I wrote my goodbye to Kenley in the journal I kept for her, my hand could not keep up with my words.  I have far too much to organize inside this muddled brain to shackle it to a pen.   Typing is faster and easier and I can get more sorted.   At first, I thought starting a blog was based on a need for efficiency.  Then, when I started to analyze my intentions a little more, I realized my blog does not stem entirely from a need to be fast with my thoughts.  After all, I could just type on my computer and save my entries in files.  Why make them public?  Why share my innermost thoughts with the world?   I didn't know then.  I just did it.   I felt a need to do it and so I did.  Now, I know why.

When you become a parent, all the best parts of you are now merged into one beautiful being, and you want nothing more than to share this fantastic creation with the world.  You want to shout it from the rooftops.  "Look!  Look at what I have done!   Look at this wonderful human being I have created!"  Kind of like this internet meme: 

You want everyone to know the wonders of your child.  You do this when you create a Facebook post telling your friends about your 2nd grader's report card.  Or, when you hang your child's fingerpainting on your refrigerator.  Or, when you send out graduation announcements.  You have a lifetime of achievements to celebrate with the world - and you do.
This blog is a chronicle of my journey through this storm.   It is me allowing myself to be vulnerable to you in order for me to not only process what is happening - but to make known how proud of Kenley I am, how much I love her, how wonderful she was.  It is my way of making sure that other people know about her, of making sure that she is remembered by someone other than me.   She may no longer be here, but she is still important.   She will never make me a picture for my refrigerator.  She will never earn honor roll.   I will never be able to post pictures of her when she loses her first tooth.  But I can do this.   I can write about her.   I can remember her.   I can tell the world about her.   That's why it had to be a blog and not just ramblings on my hard drive.   I needed you to know what I know.  I needed you to see me as a mother and Kenley as my daughter.   

I have added a new feature to the blog.  I got this idea from a fellow mother of loss and her amazing blog.  At the top of the page, you'll see a tab for "Kenley Around the World".    Please check it out when you get a chance! 

This is my rooftop.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

When Life Gives You Lemons

I thought I could get back into the kitchen and start baking again.   I was wrong.  What once was so familiar and natural for me seemed foriegn and frightening.   Just going through my cupboard to assess what I had in stock was overwhelming.   I've attempted to bake a few times over these last few weeks and have not even made it as far as getting ingredients onto the counter.  It's frustrating to me because it was something I really enjoyed.  I loved to create something delicious and share it with friends and family.   I loved to tweak my recipes and play with new tastes.   I was by no means a professional baker, but it was something I liked to do.   Now I want to, but I can't.  
The last few weeks of my pregnancy, we bought some lemons with the intention I would make lemon bars.  Then, I began having blood pressure issues and I had to lay with my feet up when I got home from work every day.   I wasn't able to get into the kitchen.   I told myself I'd bake as soon as I could get the swelling in my ankles to go down and my blood pressure was under control.   It had been steadily declining due to my diligent efforts to drink lots of water and stay off my feet as much as possible -not an easy task when you are in charge of the daily education of 22 ten year olds.  That dreaded Monday, I had gotten to the point where my blood pressure was lower than it had been in weeks.  Plus, I was feeling less tired.   I had already decided that once we got back from my doctor's appointment, I'd finally make those lemon bars.  Good thing, because the lemons really needed to be used.
We all know I didn't make those lemon bars.  We all know I didn't come home from my doctor's appointment that afternoon, and that my baby was already gone.  We finally threw those lemons away the other day.   

There are a great deal of memories in my kitchen.   Obviously not just memories of being pregnant.   After all, I've lived in my house for almost 4 years.  I was only pregnant for 8 months.  But pregnancy memories take up the most space in my mind.   And I can't pull out the butter from the refrigerator or the flour from the pantry without thinking of her.  I am overwhelmed with something that used to be second nature to me.   I am lost where I should be at home.   It is confusing and frustrating.   

A few months ago, I pinned this picture from Pinterest.   I had plans to take a similar picture with Kenley once she was born.   I am reminded of this every time I try to pull out my mixer.  

I hate that this has happened.   I hate that it has spun me so out of control.   I hate feeling so out of sorts.   I just want everything to be normal again.  I'm sick and tired of hearing (and knowing) that it will take time.  I need normalcy now.  Yesterday, even.   The fact that I won't get that for a while -despite all the hard work I am putting into healing - is absolutely maddening!   I just want to bake some stupid lemon bars and give my baby a kiss.   Why is that too much to ask?  

Monday, March 25, 2013

D-Day: Remembering Joy

Getting out of bed today was more difficult that I thought it would be.  I wanted today to be a celebration of her life, but I didn't feel too much like celebrating.  It's hard to find happiness when a piece of your heart is missing.  Once I pulled myself together, I got dressed and ready to go to the park.  While I dressed, I sang Baby Beluga.   I used to sing it to Kenley all the time.  Whenever I did, she'd flip around and kick me like crazy.  She loved it.  Today, I alternated between singing and crying, but I got through it, and I felt better.

Mike and I took a picnic lunch to the tree.  We brought a pink balloon and some other items to take pictures.  Then, we released the balloon.   I took video of the balloon release, but the computer is being finicky and not allowing us to view it.  After working out the technical difficulties, I'll post it later.  Since we only released one, there was no pack for her to break away from, but she soared high and true as usual.  The day was bright and clear, but the wind was fairly strong and whisked her away from us.  Here are the photos of our trip today.  

                   A friend of mine gave me this figurine.  It's very fitting.

                              Obviously, we must place an owl in the tree!
                                 Look at her, already trying to get away!
                                    My baby next to the playground.  :)
                               It was so windy, I had to hold the balloon in my hand.
        The balloon reads: " Always and Forever.  We love you little ninja!"
                Mike enjoyed playing with the panoramic feature of the camera.
Someone must have placed these flowers here.  Whoever you are, thank you!

It's been a month since she left us, and although my heart is still quite broken, finding purpose and meaning in every day helps me slowly and carefully patch it back together.  Today's purpose was to find joy in her life and to remember the joy she brought us.  Mission accomplished.   


Today is Kenley's due date.   Now, I could go on and on about how sad and angry I feel.  (Which I do).  And I could curse the universe and tell you it owes me a baby.  (Which it does).    But I am not going to do that today.   Today was supposed to be a day of happiness and joy.  A day of laughter and smiles and new beginnings.  So, instead of lamenting my loss, I am going to celebrate a life.   Kenley's life.   Today, Mike and I are going to the tree, and we will see that tree growing tall and healthy, and we will wish Kenley well.   We will thank her for making us parents.   We will tell her we love her and we will remember the joy she brought us for the tiny amount of time she was in our lives.   Today is a day of promise and hope.

So, to rekindle that spark of light, today I share with you the hope we had not so long ago.   To announce our new addition, Mike and I made a video and posted it to Facebook.   I had just gotten my iPad and was excited to play with its features.   We made this movie in an afternoon on the weekend of our first wedding anniversary and had a blast.   We were so excited to share our news with the world.   We were going to have a baby!   Our future was bright and sunny.   You can see our kooky personalities shine in this video - and you can imagine what a firecracker our little Kenley would have been!        

 Today is a day to be hopeful.   Tomorrow may dawn gray and murky.   The sun may be blocked by dark clouds, and my heart may be broken once again.   But the darkness won't claim today.  No, not today.  Today is hers - and she belongs to the light.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Belly Overload

Last Sunday, Mike and I took a day trip with our friend to Leu Gardens in Orlando.   If you have never been there (like me) and you're in the area, you should stop by.   It's beautiful.   Winding trails through gorgeous trees and cultivated gardens.   Last week's adventure included the annual plant sale, where local vendors set up booths for people to purchase flowers, herbs, and other plants for their yards and homes.  The weather was perfect.   Fairly clear skies, mild temperature, gentle breeze.  It was destined to be a great day.   Except for one thing.  The enormous amount of pregnant women walking around the gardens - along with an even greater amount of couples pushing strollers.
Knowing my due date was late March, the one activity that always stuck out in my mind throughout my pregnancy was pushing a stroller with Mike along the sidewalks of art festivals, parks, or the zoo.   I imagined the fresh, spring breeze blowing through my hair as I gazed down at my darling little girl, securely buckled in her stroller, her chubby legs peeking out from her pink floral onesie.   I imagined being laden with all of her baby items, her diaper bag slung over the handle of the stroller.   I pictured the knowing glances and smiles from strangers as they saw the young couple enamored - and a little overwhelmed -  with their first baby.   Of all things I imagined of my life with Kenley, this is the event that always was in the forefront of my mind.   To be at the gardens without her in my belly or my arms was too much for me.   Everywhere I looked, there was another woman waddling around with her husband - or another stroller being pushed by a happy couple.  This was not just a trick of my mind, where I was just more conscious of it because I am sensitive to it.   They were seriously everywhere.  Each pregnant woman I saw reminded me of what I no longer have. Not just a baby - but hope.   I no longer have hope.  Hope for the future.  Hope for a new life.   All of these women have a lifetime of memories with their baby still ahead of them.   All of my memories have already happened - and I won't get any more.  Not with Kenley. 
 I had to take a moment.  I stepped away from my group as they paused to look at a booth full of sunflowers and I let myself go.   I cried underneath a tree, the cool spring breeze drying the tears as they fell down my cheeks.  My sunglasses were fortunately big enough to hide my eyes from unsuspecting strangers, but not from Mike.   Before long, he noticed I was gone - and he knew why.   He saw them all too.   He's trying so hard to keep me focused and to keep me from falling apart.  I told him I just needed a moment.  I needed to be upset.  I needed to let myself cry.  He held me for a minute and then said what he always says "We will get through this."
And we will.   It won't be easy and it won't be quick - but we will get through it.  One day, I won't pay as much attention to the bellies and the strollers.  One day, I'll have my own belly again - and the stroller WILL follow.   One day, I'll be ok.    Just not today.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Only In My Dreams

I used to dream about her all the time.  Before she began to stir inside me, I dreamed I could feel her move.   I dreamed I could put my hand against my stomach and she could clutch my finger through my skin.  I dreamed we were strolling in the park and I looked down at her in her carriage and she had my eyes.   In every dream, she always had my eyes.  And she always had my heart.  Her presence peppered my dreams every week.  Dreams of my baby, our future, our lives.   I would wake from them smiling, excited to be connected to her even while asleep.

But, since she's left this earth, she's also left my dreams.  Kicking me while I'm down.   One more way I no longer have her.   One more way to feel empty.  I don't know why I haven't dreamt of her.  Perhaps its my subconscious trying to protect me from more pain.  After all, how would I feel to dream of her and feel her a part of me again, only to have that snatched away by the cruel hand of morning?  I admit, it would devastate me.   But, I am already devastated.  Why can't I have just a few moments of fantasy?   Just a few more minutes with her - even if it's not real, even if it's just a dream?   I miss her.  If I can't hold her in real life, why can't I hold her in my dreams?  Why is she gone?  I feel betrayed by my own brain.

Maybe tonight, I'll go to sleep and she'll be there.   Maybe tonight, I'll hold her again.  I'll feel her weight in my arms.  Maybe tonight, she'll do what she couldn't do before. Laugh, cry,   If not tonight, maybe tomorrow. If not tomorrow, maybe the next night.  She has to return to me sometime.  When she does, I'll be waiting. 

How weird is it that a Debbie Gibson song is applicable to the loss of my daughter?   Also, did you know that this song was written by Jon Bon Jovi?   Well, now you do.  Life is full of surprises.
Only In My Dreams 
Every time I'm telling secrets 
I remember how it used to be 
And I realized how much I miss you 
And I realize how it feels to be free 

Now I see I'm up to no good (no, no, no) 
And I wanna start again 
Can't remember when I felt good (baby) 
No I can't remember when 

No, only in my dreams 
As real as it may seem 
It was only in my dreams 

 Couldn't see how much I missed you (now I do) 
Couldn't see how much it meant 
Now I see my world come tumbling down 
(tumbling down my world) 
Now I see the road is bent 

If I only once could hold you (no, no, no) 
And remember how it used to be 
If only I could scold you 
And forget how it feels to be free 
No, no, no, no, only in my dreams 
As real as it may seem 
It was only in my dreams 

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Family Man

Several of my friends have small children.  It's only natural, being our ages and positions in life.  The transition from single to married to parent seems to happen in the blink of an eye.  It seems that not that long ago, my friend Stephanie and I spent our weekends out on the town.   And now, she is married with two kids.  It seems like yesterday that my only worries were which restaurant we should eat at tonight so I have delicious leftovers tomorrow - and do you think those leftovers will keep in the car while we go to this movie?  Every life that crosses with mine is vastly different than it was five years ago.  Not better or worse - just not the same.  In life, change is inevitable.
Before I was pregnant, I loved to watch Mike interact with my friends' kids.   Every girl loves a man with a baby!   It stirs something up inside us - a very biological reaction, I'm sure.  He has always been wonderful with kids.   Making faces, doing voices, playing games.   It melted my heart - and fired up my ovaries!  (He doesn't want to believe this, but he's the one who gave me the Baby Rabies.  I was perfectly fine until I met him.  Scout's honor.)   
During my pregnancy, seeing him with our circle's children was even more wonderful.   Look!  Look at how great this man will be with our child.  Our child!   We created life together.  I automatically transferred those actions from our friends' kids to our own.   In just a few months, I thought, Mike will be making faces and doing voices for Kenley.  She will be the one grabbing his hand and laughing at him.   She will be the one he swings around by her arms, heads thrown back, eyes sparkling.  I had a sense of security and comfort.  A sense of accomplishment.   I had created a family.   
Now, things have changed.  The family I was so sure of does not exist anymore - at least not in the sense that I thought it would.  Seeing Mike with our friends' children is very bittersweet now.  It still warms my heart to see him laughing and playing with kids.  How could it not?  But, icy waves of sadness wash over me at the same time.   That should be our child.  He should be holding Kenley.   He should be laughing with Kenley, buckling Kenley into her carseat, handing Kenley her cheerios.  He would have made such a fantastic dad!   I feel like I've robbed him of that chance.  I feel guilty that our daughter is not here, and that he can not do those things with her.   Again, I understand that is not true - but I can't help but feel it.  He tells me it's ok.   He tells me we will have that chance again.  And we will.  
Many of my friends have asked me if they shouldn't bring their kids around me, but I tell them of course they should.  I don't want to be sheltered.  I don't want people to walk on eggshells.   I want to be reminded that there is life out there.  It gives me something to look forward to.  I lost my baby.  My husband and I are not able to be the parents we want to be right now.   It's the most terrible feeling in the world, but I can't let it stop me from being who I am.  And I can't let it stop me from holding on to my dreams.  I want to be a mother.  I want Mike to be a father.  I want us to be parents together - to have a family.  We will have that one day.  We will.   And when we do, we will also have a few things that not many other people have.   We will have an intense appreciation for each other - and for our children.   We will have wisdom that only comes from knowing how easily things can slip through your fingers.   And we will have Kenley, always in our hearts, reminding us of just how fiercely we can love and be loved.   As long as we're living...our baby she'll be.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


It's important for you to know that my blog posts are not my entire day.   I write what I need to write when I need to write it. I save each post when it's finished and decide each morning when I wake up which one to publish.  I usually have anywhere from 4 - 5 to choose from. Sometimes, I have an idea of which one I want for that day and sometimes I don't.   I post so people who choose to do so may follow my strange journey.  There are posts I have written that you will probably never read.   
As I've said before, I write to sort my emotions and to try to make sense of what is going on inside of me.   When my posts come across as raw and emotional, it is because that moment in my life was raw and emotional.  I needed to organize what I was feeling.  I needed to classify, to clarify, to communicate.  I feel every ounce of emotion in every word you read.   I'm not fabricating.  I'm not embellishing.  Everything you read is 100% real to me at the moment I felt it and the moment I wrote it. However, I want you to know that my life is not always so terrible.  This is the most awful thing I can imagine ever happening to me, and I am absolutely devastated.  My heart is broken and my soul is crushed.   My future is uncertain and I walk on shaky ground.  But I am still walking.   I am still here and I am fighting to stay upright.  No matter what you read, no matter how broken I seem, I want you to know that I am down but not out.  I am bleeding but not dying. Not every second of my day is spent underneath a black cloud.   Every once in a while, the sun does peek through.   I am living my life the very best I know how and I will not let this beat me.  
I know that no one really knows what to say to me.   You send love.  You send prayers and well wishes.  You tell me I'll heal with time.   But, really, there is really nothing you CAN say.  And I don't need you to say anything.  I'm just grateful you're taking this journey with me - and that my words mean something to you too.

Heart Attack

The heart and the brain always seem to disconnect from each other when we need them to communicate the most - and not just in times of trouble.   When we fall in love, our heart is so full of light, it flutters around like a disoriented butterfly.  It completely ignores our brain's warnings or cautionary tales.   "Don't fall too fast!   Keep yourself safe, silly heart!  Remember what happened last time!"  For those of us who are lucky enough to have found our great love, it's a good thing our heart didn't listen!  In love, our heart really knows us best.  Our brain wants what's best, but it can't process the illogical nonsense that love stirs up inside us.   The crazy churning of emotion that fills us with excitement and reservation and fear and courage all at the same time.  There is a very true statement that goes "When you know, you know."  If you have to question whether you are feeling love, you aren't.   At least not yet.  Love is unmistakable and all-consuming.   So, we listen to our heart when it comes to love.  We tell our brain to shut it.  We won't let its analytical detours steer our car away from our desired destination because usually, our brain isn't really sure of where we are supposed to be going.

In times of grief, things are slightly different.  In grief, our logical brain is our best friend.  It understands the situation and how to move through it efficiently and with the least amount of pain.   The problem is our brain is very quiet in its direction - and our heart screams in agony, drowning out everything else.   Our brain is like the less than assertive parent unable to do anything while their child throws an all out tantrum on the floor of Target.  The child screams and cries.   She writhes and kicks.  Tears stream from her cheeks.  Fists pound on the floor.   People are staring and judging, but what can you do?  With many tantrums, sometimes you just have to ride it out.  So, that's what our brain does.  It simply rides it out.  Our heart is broken and moaning on the floor.   It won't listen to reason.   It refuses to believe anything logical.  It just wants to feel.  It can't do anything but feel.  It feels flaming anger and resentment.  It feels unbearable sorrow and despair.  It feels guilt, painful and sharp.  It feels everything all at once, its cries piercing through us like shards of glass.  Our heart doesn't listen to our brain because it can't.   

My brain understands that what happened was not my fault.   My brain knows that there was nothing that could have been done in the days leading up to Kenley's death.  My brain tells my heart that my crushing guilt is false and I should ignore it.  I know these things, but I don't feel them.  My heart is still broken and bleeding.   It is still screaming on the floor and it won't listen to reason.   It hurts.  Dear God, it hurts!  I can't separate the logic from the pain.  I can't stop my heart from crying out "You should have known!   You should have done something!  Why...Why did you let this happen?"  My brain stands by silently.  Whispering, quietly and calmly, "You didn't do this.  This wasn't because of you."   But it's like the sound of a gentle breeze lost in the roar of a raging river.   Eventually, like the toddler in Target, my heart will cry itself out.  It will stop making so much noise and I'll be able to hear the soft advice from my brain.  I'll be able to actually listen to what it is saying to me.  Just not right now.      

Like our brain can't process love, our heart can't process grief.   It's too much for them.  They can't handle it.   I suppose it's a good thing, then, that we have both, so that at least one of them can guide us through whatever we may face, but it sure would be nice if they could help each other out a little more.   Maybe then, we all wouldn't be such a mess all the time.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Breaking Apart

So, I just got out of the shower - or as I have come to call it, the Crying Cubicle.   It could be the warm, comfort of the water or the fact that it's a small, confined space that feels safe - but most likely it's because in the shower, I am forced to actually see my body and what it has become.  My stomach is deflated and empty.  It is no longer the rounded basketball it was just a few weeks ago.  I no longer look like I am full of promise and hope and new beginnings.  My stomach - like my heart - sags with a hollow sadness.  
Every time I see my belly as it is, my hand automatically flutters to where she used to be, as if I could by some miracle actually feel her again.  As if she might suddenly reappear inside.  But she doesn't.  She won't.  And the paper thin ribbon that has been holding me together that day rips apart and I shatter all over again.    
Imagine a metal claw, similar to one in those toy machines, reaching into your chest, its cold fingers piercing your heart, tearing through the slippery softness as easily as butter. You bend forward in pain, your body breaking, your soul screaming.  Then, once it has ripped your insides to shreds, it snaps its fingers open like an explosion, sending bits of you flying everywhere.  Bloody.  Unrecognizable.  Leaving you to, somehow, piece yourself back together.  And you do, because you have to.  And you retie that tattered ribbon around your broken parts so that you can go out into the world.  Even though you know it will just happen again.  And again.  And again.   Yeah, it's like that.  Every day.  Every time.
In the shower, I can't hide under my clothes.  I can't distract myself with washing dishes or checking email.  In the shower, I am alone.  Exposed.  Vulnerable.  I touch my belly.  I clean my scar.  And I remember.   I remember washing a very different stomach not that long ago.   I remember singing "Baby Beluga" to her while I washed my hair.   I remember her kicking and moving.   I remember what it felt like to love someone I had never met - and I remember what it felt like to lose her.  And then, I lose her all over again.
People like to tell me that things will get easier - with time.   Already, there are some things that are easier - like getting out of bed or doing regular daily activities.   But this part of my life has not gotten easier.  Not one tiny bit.  Like a tormented ghost re-experiencing her own murder night after night in a terrible time loop, I feel the pain of losing her every time I take a shower.  It's just as horrific as the first time.  It is not easier at all.  I hope with every shredded fiber of my being that it does get easier.   How many times can a person fall apart before they can no longer be put back together?  How much can one weary heart take?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

My Soundtrack

Sometimes, when you are going through an especially tough time, you tend to notice art or music that applies to your feelings.   I think this is because it is very possible the artist who wrote the song or created the painting was probably experiencing similar emotions.   Over these last three weeks, my need to create things has increased exponentially - whether a creation of words through my blog, or a creation of art through my painting.  I've even considered getting back into the kitchen and experimenting with some of my baking recipes - something I haven't done since my last few weeks of pregnancy.   If you think about it, most great artists created their most profound works during times of struggle.  Picasso's blue period, which began as a result of his best friend's suicide, produced his most popular paintings.  Van Gogh was in a constant state of depression and mental strife, yet is now one of the most well known of the French Impressionists.  The Beatles' White Album was recorded during a time when the band was frustrated and considered breaking up, but it is often considered the epitome of their talent and contains the much loved "Hey Jude".   When a heart breaks in half, what comes spilling out is the raw essence of creativity.   That's not to say all artists are tormented and in pain all of the time, but there's something about loss and suffering that makes you want to produce something new.   It fills a void.  It gives you a way to start to rebuild what has fallen apart.  It gives you a sense of stability on unsteady ground.  It's also a little like sucking out the poison from a rattlesnake bite - it just gets it out!

Anyway, as I've been out and about in the world lately, a few songs have bent my ear and touched my soul.  I'm going to share a few of those here with you.     They aren't really all that heart wrenching or life shattering, but they spoke to me in one way or another.  Most of them make me think of Mike and I finding strength and comfort in each other.  

Allie Moss' "Corner"  and Lenka's "Don't Let Me Fall"  remind me of how fragile I feel sometimes, but how I know we can get through this, and that sometimes, I just want to know that  "Everything's Ok"   (By the way, if you haven't ever heard of Lenka, go look her up right now.   She's fun and quirky.  I used to try to jog to her song "My Heart Skips a Beat"  I say try because I learned fairly quickly I am not a jogger.)  
Although A Fine Frenzy's "Hope for the Hopeless" starts out really slow, it picks up nicely and has a message I need to hear right now.  

If I were the heroine of a movie, the musical montage of my healing process could be set to any of these songs.   While the music plays, I am shown opening my eyes, getting out of bed, writing, painting, laughing with friends, crying in the shower, leaning on Mike, talking to my grief group, and standing in the backyard - eyes closed and head tilted toward the sun.  And at the finale of the movie, you see Mike and I leaving the hospital, this time with a baby in our arms.  The pink balloon tied to the wheelchair comes untied and floats away.  The camera pans up to the sky, where the balloon crosses into the sunlight.   As the credits roll, this song begins to play.  And you know -you just know - everything is going to be ok.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Anger Management

I don't have cable, and I haven't seen his new show, so I can not make a Charlie Sheen joke here, but what I can do is tell you that I am angry.    If you're a person of at least normal intelligence, you are familiar with the 5 stages of grief, and you also know that anger is one of them.   However, what I am learning about those 5 stages, is that they are not neat little packages of emotion that you open in a specific order before moving on to the next one.  In fact, in my experience, they aren't stages at all.  The word "stages" implies that they are levels or steps you move through with some sort of hierarchy or organization. There is no organization to grief.   It's not a tidy, well-swept staircase you can ascend to the next period of your life.  It's a rocky, slippery mountain.  A steep cliff face that towers before you.   Sometimes you have to climb sideways.  Sometimes you have to work your way down to a better foothold before you can climb up again.  Sometimes, you lose your grip and you slide back to the bottom, skinning yourself in the process.  Grief is a mess.  A bloody, scattered, incomprehensible mess.  And the only way to get through it - is to just get through it.  You have to square your shoulders, steady your hands, secure your foothold, and just climb.  If you fall, you try again.  Again and again and again - until you reach the top.  Even then, the scars you got along the way will still be with you forever.
But, I digress.   Back to being angry.   I am fist clenching, teeth grinding angry.   White hot, supernova angry.  I am angry my baby is gone.  I am angry I have to deal with this pain.   I am angry my daughter was robbed of her life and of her future.   I am angry that nothing is the same - and that it will never be the same again.   I could go on and on.  What angers me above all of this - the one thing that really puts me over the top is the phrase "This is part of God's plan".   Are you kidding me?  A plan?  A plan for my child to die?   A plan to take away my joy and excitement and replace it with the purest form of anguish you could ever imagine?   I understand people don't know what to say to someone who is grieving.   I understand they just want me to feel better.   They don't know how to help, so they do the best they can to try to take away the pain.   They bring food.   They offer a shoulder to cry on.  They say things like "She's in a better place." or "She's an angel watching over you."   Those, I can handle.   But, "God has a plan for you", sends me over the edge.   I do not want to hear that.  I do not want to believe that - and I won't.   What lesson did I possibly need to learn that I could not have done so with Kenley in my arms?  What path was I not following that my child needed to die for me to see?  No.   This is NOT part of any sort of plan.  To say it is a part of a plan is to say that this was done on purpose.   Let the magnitude of that sink in for a little bit.  On purpose.   I looked up the word "purpose" in the dictionary and got these two definitions " the reason for which something exists or is done" and "an intended or desired result, end, aim, goal"   The reason for my child's existence was her death - and the life I would then lead because of it?   She was intended to die?   No.  No, no, no, no, no, no, no.  
According to the US Census Bureau, there is one birth every 7 seconds.  That means on the day my daughter was born, 86,400 other children were also born  - just in our country.   Of those children, some will grow up to do great and wonderful things.   Some will grow up to lead average, normal lives.  And, sadly, some will grow up troubled and will use their gift of life to inflict pain upon others.   But, it's MY child that has a purpose to die?   Not the one who will grow up to beat his wife and his children?   Not the one who will grow up to go on a shooting spree?   MY baby was selected for this "purpose"?   HER death is a part of a "plan"?  Nope.   I will not swallow that.   What happened was terrible.   It should not have happened.  But there is no rhyme or reason to WHY it happened.   Trying to mold a tragedy into a grand plan is like trying to put toothpaste back inside the tube.  Messy, impossible, and pointless.  Life is not fair.   Horrible things happen to wonderful people and wonderful things happen to horrible people.  I refuse to believe that this was inflicted upon me with a sense of purpose and intent - even for the reason to make me "stronger" or to set into motion a series of events that would not have otherwise occurred.  Tragedy is not a gateway to bigger and better things, and I take offense to the argument that says otherwise.
 I know people who say this to me have all the best intentions.   People who believe this phrase do so because it helps them make sense of the senseless.   If something terrible is a part of a plan, if there is some "greater good" or end result, maybe it makes this bitter pill easier for some to swallow. (You can't have the rainbow without the storm, right?)   Not for me.   It does not make me feel better at all to hear this.  When someone tells me that this is all "part of God's plan", I just get angrier than I already am.  I want to scream and yell and stomp my feet.  I want to throw things across the room just to watch them shatter like I have shattered.  I do not believe that my pain was planned.  I can't.  I won't.
Instead of focusing on WHY this happened, I just have to focus on HOW I am going to get through it.   I have to focus on securing my anchor point and pulling myself up this mountain, rather than getting caught up in the reason why I am climbing it.  At this point, the reason is irrelevant.   I'm here.  I'm full of firey fury and icy sorrow - but I'm here and I have to do something about it.   Every day is full of a myriad of emotions.  Every day is an uphill battle, but it is a battle I will win.   I will do it BECAUSE of my emotions and not in spite of them.   Anger - above all emotions - is an excellent motivator. Just look at any war that has ever, or will ever, be fought.  I need my anger.  I need it to propel me forward, to keep me moving.  So, yes, I am angry.  I have every right to be.   But, never forget - this blog is not a cry for help.   It is a call to arms!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Act II

Anyone who has experienced tragedy can relate to you the exact moment their life divided into two distinct pieces.   Before and After.  The second they knew their lives would never be the same again.   My moment was looking at that ultrasound machine - and seeing absolute stillness.   All the times before, there was shifting and moving.   There was a pulsating heartbeat.   My moment was at 3:45pm, February 25, 2013, when I realized the life I was nurturing inside me was gone.  That moment is the complete and absolute severing of my life into two very jagged and separate parts.   Everything up to that moment was my Before.   Everything since then is my After.  
It is as if a heavy, black curtain has descended upon the stage between acts. The grieving period is - for lack of a better word - an intermission of sorts.   Act I is over.  While the audience is getting snacks and chatting with each other, the stage hands are feverishly rearranging the set.   Moving this over here - that over there.  It's hard work, and not everything fits together the way it should, but the next act is coming and they need to be ready.   The audience is expecting the show to go on.  And it will.  But, in Act II, everything is different.   The set has been changed.   The actors wear different costumes.  While Act I has the light and airy feel of innocence, optimism, and new beginnings, Act II is darker, harsher, and more reserved.   
I can never return to my Act I.   I am not the same person I was before that moment.  I will never be that person again.  I am forever changed.  Not necessarily for better or worse, but different all the same.   Mike used to tell me I lived in my own bubble, where I knew of the "dangers" of the world, but I didn't pay any attention to them.   He's right.   I knew of horrible things happening to people, but I never thought for an instant they would happen to me.   But something did.  And my bubble burst.   I can never get that bubble back.   
I can never go back to who I was Before - to the life I led Before.   I mourn the loss of that life almost as much as  I mourn the loss of Kenley.
I lost an innocence I can never get back.   There's a certain excitement that accompanies preparing for a new baby, especially a first baby.   Everything is fresh.   You have a sense of tingling anticipation, of butterflies.  You blissfully  imagine the life you will have with your baby - and you find true happiness in preparing for it.  You never imagine anything to go wrong.  You never dream you will be wheeled out of the hospital empty handed and brokenhearted.   That innocence died with Kenley, as did the life I would have led with her.
So, now I scurry behind the black curtain.  Reorganizing, rearranging, reconstructing.   Trying to make some sense of this mess.  I know the curtain will soon rise, and my Act II will begin, whether I am ready or not.   The show will go on, and it will go on without my daughter.   Mike and I will say our lines, sing our songs, and perform our dances with a new perspective.   The perspective that can only be seen through the eyes of loss.
Now, here's the thing about Act II.   Even though Act II is a little sadder, a little wiser, and a little less "pie in the sky", Act II has something Act I doesn't have.  A grand finale.   The show-stopping musical number that encompasses all the elements of the play.   Every emotion, every event, every character comes full circle.  The dancing is frenzied and complicated.  The singing is loud and interwoven with melody.   Loose ends are tied.  Resolution is reached.  When the curtain drops on Act II, the audience leaps to their feet, applauding and whistling.  "What a show!" they say.   "What a show!"
Once my Act II begins, I will be a little more timid with life.   I will not be as wide eyed and unaware.  But, I promise you, once I gain my footing, I will give one heck of a show.   And the grand finale to this part of my life will be nothing like you've ever seen.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Kenley's Krew Update

This morning was "Florida cold", which means it was below 60 - but it warmed up nicely!   When Mike and I arrived at the 5K, my parents and friend Katie were already there.   Over the course of the next half hour, many great friends from work showed up with their shirts on, braving the "cold" and the early morning darkness, and ready to run!   It was so wonderful seeing everyone again - especially those whom I hadn't seen since I left work so unexpectedly that terrible Monday.   Every person brought a hug - every hug brought a smile.   My heart was light and happy knowing that so many people were there because they care about me and Mike - and Kenley.
The course was two laps around the park.   Mike and I set up chairs at the finish line and cheered for everyone who passed - especially those in the teal shirts!   It was a good morning to be out in the world.   Because this 5K was to raise money for fetal care, there were so many children and babies there, but that didn't bother me.  Not today.
After the main race, all of the children were given a pink balloon.   The kids ran from one section of the park to the finish line, where they each released their balloon.   I know they were to honor Brianna Marie, but in my heart, they were also for Kenley.  They were for all babies lost too soon.  Today, the sky was filled with pink balloons.   As I watched the balloons begin to rise, someone handed me a string.   A pink balloon specifically for my baby.   Guess what happened when I let that string go?  Kenley's balloon rose higher and faster than the others - even the ones that had a several second head start.   Her balloon whisked to the side, away from the group, and went on its own path in the sky.   Again.  She did it again.   I am a proud momma today - and for all days.   What a great birthday - spent with good friends who all came together to honor a baby they never met.   My beautiful, wonderful, and obviously independent, Kenley Evelyn.   As long as I'm living, my baby she'll be.  

                                  Kalah and Renee - smiling and walking
                                Kelly and Casey - the T-shirt designers!
                               Susie and Tonia - pumped up and doing great!
               My mom and Katie's son Jay - both placed in their age divison!
                                            The Entire Krew

                                       The Pink Balloons!
                          Getting ready to release Kenley's balloon

                                                 A sky full of pink balloons

                 There she goes - the other way - my independent daughter!

Kenley's Krew

Today is my birthday.   I have completed one more year of life - but let's not talk about how many that makes.   A few months ago, I thought this would be the best birthday of my life.   I'd either be immensely pregnant and ready to pop at any minute - or I'd be holding my baby already and we'd be celebrating together.   I never even considered there'd be a third option.  No one does.
It doesn't seem fair that I get another birthday and Kenley didn't really even get one.  On the same day I celebrate my life, I mourn the loss of hers.  But, really, I do that every day.  Every day, I am alive and she is not.

Today, in honor of my baby girl, several friends of mine, along with my amazing mom, are running a 5K in Melbourne.   This 5K benefits the Brianna Marie Foundation, which was founded by a local mother who's daughter died 15 hours after birth due to fetal hydrops.   This 5K was promoted on the Cherishing the Journey Facebook page, which is how I found out about it.   I shared the link with my friends and they all jumped on it.   They had turquoise T-shirts made - an owl in a tree with the phrase "Kenley's Krew:  February 25, 2013"   Mike and I got shirts too, and so now we are heading down there to cheer them on at the finish line.   It really means a great deal to me that I have such a supportive group of friends - and that together we are helping fund research that may one day prevent other mothers from feeling such a devastating loss.   

In her heartbreakingly short life, Kenley has managed to touch so many people.   I am grateful for the time I spent with her.  I am grateful for the joy she gave me and for what I am able to do because of her.  Under the circumstances, I can't think of a better way to celebrate my birthday.

This one's for you, Little Ninja!