Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Five

After I discovered I was pregnant, five other women I know found out the same thing.   One was only three weeks behind me.  Another was five months behind me.  The rest were in between.   All of them with girls.  All five of them.  About a month ago, the first girl was born.  And I cried.   Pretty much all day long.   Today, the second one arrived.   I didn't find out until after 10 pm, so at least I now have the solace of sleep to look forward to.   I have to make it through three more, and I don't know if I can do it.   Three more little girls born healthy and loved.   Three more little girls in their mother's arms.  Pictures of happy families.  Exhausted mothers.  Beaming fathers.  Pictures I never got to take.  Pictures of a life I didn't get to have.   
Don't get me wrong, I am so very happy for all of these wonderful women and their daughters.   All five are friends of mine and I would never wish any of them ill will.  (I would actually never wish my situation on someone I despised.) I am happy for them, but that doesn't mean I hurt any less.
My heart is already broken.  Each time one of The Five is born, it breaks my heart a little more.   It's not fair.   No baby should die.   No mother should feel this pain.  Why me?   Why my daughter?  I know there is no answer to those questions.   I know there is no reason to this tragedy.  And I hate it.
I hate that not only do I not get to hold my daughter in my arms, but I have to watch everyone else hold theirs.   Women who's pregnancies followed mine - and went along with mine.   Women whom I care about and want the best for, and who got it.  I have to watch each little girl come into this world when mine never got that chance.  I have to watch these little girls do all the things my daughter will never get to do.   
Three more little girls to go.   Three more healthy babies.  Three more joyous mothers.   One broken heart.    



Monday, April 29, 2013

Supermom

This is a paper daisy chain created to countdown the days to a family's Disney vacation.  I found it on Pinterest.


A few months ago, if I saw something like this, I would immediately think, "Oh, Geez!  No normal mom has time for that!   I would never put forth that much effort on something so silly!"  And I wholeheartedly believed that.   I knew I'd be a fantastic mother who would love her children with every breath. But I'd be the mother who's sink was full of dirty dishes, who's floors were covered in children's toys, and who's bed always needed making.   I'd be the mother who would get out the fingerpaint and then forget to put it away until the cat knocked it onto the floor.  I'd be the mother who baked cupcakes with her kids and not for them, and then sat with them on the couch to eat, covered in sprinkles and frosting.   My house would never be immaculate.   My kids' clothes would rarely match because - really - who cares?  I wouldn't make coordinating magazine holders out of cereal boxes and contact paper.  I wouldn't stamp my own greeting cards. And I wouldn't create a daisy chain counting down to a vacation.   Nothing about my motherhood would even remotely resemble Martha Stewart.   It's not me.   I'm messy and disorganized.   I'm spontaneous and excitable.  I'm artsy, but not crafty.  The thought of making something like the picture above fills me with a twitchy irritation.  So much repetition.  So many pointless details.  It makes me squirmy.
But, I would trade everything I am for another chance.   I would be whatever mother you want me to be if I could have my Kenley back.   In a fraction of a heartbeat, I would transform myself into Donna Reid if it meant I could start over.   I'd make every bed with hospital corners with quarter-bouncing abilities.  I'd prepare a five course meal every night, and then scrub every dish till they shined - and then I'd scrub them some more.   I'd put curlers in my hair and stockings on my legs.  I'd scrub every inch of my house with a toothbrush every day.  I'd organize and label everything in my closet, alphabetize my pantry, and create a "craft room" so I could make daisy chains for any event my children could anticipate. I won't ever sleep again, I don't care.   I'd do anything.  I think it's a fair trade.  Everything I am for everything she could be.  I just want her back.   I wasn't ready to let her go - and I know I can do a good job.  I can!  Please...just give her back to me.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saturday Spotlight #2

The second installment in my Saturday Spotlight series is something I've been holding onto for a while, waiting for the right type of post.  These Saturday posts are just the right venue to showcase my projects without taking away from the rest of the blog.

I've finished another art project.   This one took me a few weeks, mainly due to acquiring materials and then drying time.   I have a great friend who is artsy-fartsy like me and we have been getting together every now and then to make things.   It's been wonderful not only to spend time with her, but also to  put my energy into making something meaningful.

The first session together, I texturized a square canvas.   I wasn't really sure how I wanted to do it because I really had no idea what I was creating at that time.  I just glopped on the Fredrix gel all over the canvas, making twirls and swirls and jagged lines with the white goop.   It was super fun!  Eventually, I settled into a pattern I liked.  After drying it with a hairdryer - and short circuiting the lighting to her studio a few times - it was ready for paint.   I used a watered down golden glaze and with some mahogany colored streaks of acrylic paint.   So, then, my canvas looked like the section of a tree.  Well, a gold tree.

I really had no idea where I was going from there.  I have found that artists do one of two things - either create their vision or envision their creation.  I'm the latter type.   Mostly because if I actually have a vision to begin with, it is almost always something else entirely when it is finished.  I take it as it comes.   So, for about two weeks, this "tree" canvas sat in my house while I figured out what I was going to do with it.

Then, I knew.  I scanned a picture of Kenley's feet and "antiqued" it in a photoshop type application.   I printed a 5 x 7 photo and cut the feet out carefully.   I also had a black and white photo of Mike and I walking on the Cocoa Village pier, so I carefully cut us out of that picture.   For years, I had ideas to use tissue paper to create a mosaic of sorts on my kitchen table with modge podge.   That never came to fruition, but as a result of that intention, I have collected copious amounts of tissue paper.  I layered the tissue paper along the bottom of the canvas to create a "ground" for Mike and I to walk on.  In the air, I created a pink tissue paper balloon.  I placed Kenley's feet inside the balloon and then connected it to us with a loop of twine.  At our wedding, we used antiqued keys as seat assignments, so I strung one of those keys through the twine as a symbol of our bond together as it connects to Kenley.   Although I didn't know where I was going with any of this project, I am still pretty pleased with how it turned out.   It's hanging in my living room.

  
Obviously, there is also an owl there!

Friday, April 26, 2013

For the Rest of my Life

The other day, Mike and I went with some friends to see Oblivion, the new Tom Cruise movie.   As far as futuristic movies go, it was pretty good.  What makes most movies like this good is that one moment - about midway to three quarters of the way through - when the plot takes a completely unexpected turn.   You are so sure you've figured out what's going on and then one scene turns everything on it's ear.  This movie has one of those moments.   Not necessarily the epic "Sixth Sense" kind of twist, but still a pretty good "Whoa, I did not see that one coming!"  I left the theater fairly entertained.   However, something else unexpected happened in this movie.  I cried.  (Although, considering my track record lately, maybe it's not really that unexpected.)   
Here's how tears hijacked my movie experience:
One scene in the movie is a reunion scene (I won't tell you between which characters).  It's a very typical type of reunion scene in that it takes place in an outdoor area near a lot of flowers and a babbling brook.  There's a soft but visible wind blowing through the tall grass and a rising symphony of strings in the background.   As I am enjoying this fairly action driven story line, my mind blissfully empty of active thoughts of my daughter (a very rare moment), what should pop up above the vegetation, but a head of dark hair.  A head of dark hair attached to a toddler.   A toddler with blue eyes.  The movie actually had the gall to go into slow motion at that moment.  The girl turned her head and smiled, her chubby little cheeks crinkling, her blue eyes sparkling like the ocean.  And...BAM!   Tears.   Rising hot from my gut and then streaming down my face.   This wasn't a sad moment of the movie, nor a particularly emotional one for the casual observer.  It was, in reality, a simple resolution of plot. But, for me, it was a broken promise.   A reminder of what isn't and will never be.
For the rest of my life, I will see little girls with dark hair and blue eyes and I will think of Kenley.   (Although, I never actually got to see my daughter's eyes.  They were closed when they brought her to me and to pry them open was unthinkable.  But, Mike has blue eyes.  So, I am going to go ahead and assume she would have too.)  For the rest of my life, I will catch a glimpse of two swinging dark pigtails, and I will wonder...would Kenley have had those pigtails too?   Would she have liked giraffes like the toddler across the restaurant with her stuffed animal? (possibly) Would she have been sassy like the third grader at the park with her hands on her hips?  (most definitely) For the rest of my life, I will watch my little girl grow up in the bodies of other people.  Always wondering, but never knowing, what she really would have been like.  For the rest of my life, I will miss her.  That will never change.  For the rest of my life, she will always be a part of me.  A part of me I reach for, but can't completely grasp.   For the rest of my life...




Thursday, April 25, 2013

Two Months

Today, Kenley should be two months old.  I should be wiggling her into her "I'm a Hoot" onesie and heading over to a friends' house, happily settled into my maternity leave.  There are so many things I should be doing today.  Writing these words is not one of them! No offense, but I don't want to be writing this post to you right now.   I don't want you to be on the other side of the internet reading it.  None of these posts should exist, and I am beyond angry that they do.   I should not be doing any of this.  I shouldn't belong to two online support groups.  I shouldn't attend grief counseling every second Wednesday.  There shouldn't be a room in my house I still can't enter.   This is not the life I was supposed to have - and it is definitely not the life I want.

I need a break from this, but there's no where to go.  Nowhere to run where this grief won't follow me.  No distraction big enough.  No project detailed enough.  It's frustrating because I'll have a few good moments - and sometimes a good day here and there where I'm still thinking about her, but in positive ways - but then I crash again and I'll feel like I'm back at square one.   I've been having more and more down days lately.  

I am tired.  Scratch that - I am exhausted.  Completely and utterly.  Mentally and physically.   I can't keep up with the pace I've set for myself.   When Kenley died, I hit the ground running.  Ok...so, this is what we are going to do to survive.   And I am realizing, I can't do it all.  At least not the way I thought I could.   It's catching up to me.   I've said before overcoming grief is like climbing a mountain.  And I have been holding on to the rope for dear life as I scale this impossible cliff.   I grip it so tightly my hands are bleeding and my arms tremble with effort.  I want to loosen my grip just a little.  I want to let go.  I want to relax.  But, I can't.   I can't pry even one finger from the rope.  I can't let go even a little bit.  I have to hold on with all my might because if I don't, I will fall.  

So, I hold on.   I hold on while my palms bleed and my knees shake.   I hold on while the sweat runs down my brow and into my eyes.  I hold on, too tired to keep climbing, but unwilling to give up.  I have come to realize that I will always climb this mountain.  For the rest of my life, I will have to propel myself onward and upward. I know there is no top to this cliff, but, it would sure be nice to find a nice, wide ledge.



  


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Identity Crisis

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck, right?  Well, what if it doesn't do any of those things?  Is it still a duck?
I don't know who I am supposed to be anymore.  I feel like a mother, but I don't have the luxury of actually having my baby with me.  So it is very confusing.   I don't get to do any of the things a mother gets to do.  I don't get to hold my daughter, or nurse her, or change her diaper.   I don't get to wrap her up in a sling while I run errands or push her in her stroller through the park.  I can't hear her cry, or laugh, or coo.   I'm not sleep deprived and covered in spit up.  I shower every day.  All of the things a mother does, I can't do.  All of the things that define her are out of my reach for now.  But, I still feel like a mother.   From the very core of my being, I am a mother.  I created a life.  A life who grew inside me for 36 weeks.  I sang to her.  I talked to her.  I loved her.   I rubbed my belly and smiled.  When she poked me, I poked her right back.  For 36 weeks, my body prepared this life for the world - and for 36 weeks, my mind prepared itself for the moment that life emerged.  (In all honesty, my mind had been preparing for years before that.  We've all been there, right, ladies?) 

 Before Kenley was born, I was nervous about the change that was about to occur, but I was also excited.  Elated.  I thought about all the things we would do together.  I thought about the milestones she'd achieve, the clothes she would wear, the games we would play.   I imagined reading to her every night, even before she was old enough to understand what reading was.   I imagined rocking her at two in the morning, bleary eyed from lack of sleep, but completely content with her nestled up against me.  In those 36 weeks, I created an entire life for her.  For all of us.  In those 36 weeks, I cultivated a love that until then had been unfathomable to me.  Every single time she kicked or turned, I smiled and thought to myself, "I can't believe I'm going to be a mom!"  

And I still am - just not the way I'd imagined it.  Actually, I never would have even remotely imagined it being this way.  How can you really be a mother to a baby who isn't here?   I have all of these instincts of motherhood, but no one to mother.  Kenley's death aside, something in me changed when I was pregnant and reached its pinnacle when she was born.  Something inside illuminated where before there was darkness.  The light a mother has for her child.  It bursts out of me like rays of sunshine.  I can't control it or reign it in.  No mother can.   But, she is not here to absorb this light, so sometimes the brightness is blinding.  I don't know what to do with myself.   I have all of this love and light for a child who isn't here.   I have all these desires to carry out the actions of a mother, but no baby.  For so long, I defined myself as "becoming a mother", and now that she's gone, I don't know how to redirect that identity.  I am still who I was before.  Sister.  Daughter. Wife.  Friend.  Teacher.  And now, I am a mother.   But I am also something else entirely.  Something hard to pinpoint or explain.  I don't know what I am, I don't know what to do, and I don't know where to go from here.  All I know is that, when all is said and done, the love I feel for my daughter fills me with a bittersweet joy I can't help but share.  She made me a mother.  That is a fact.  

Even though I can't quack and I don't have webbed feet, I am still a duck.  And, one day, I'll find my way to the water.


  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Can you Keep a Secret?

Chances are, a Mother of Loss can.  Chances are, she suffers silently and privately.  Chances are, she holds her loss in a quiet place and doesn't talk about it - not because she doesn't want to, but because it's so very hard to find an accepted place in our society for it.   
Now, as you can see, I have not taken that silent approach, but that doesn't make it any easier.  I know a handful of people visit my blog regularly - my close friends and family - and I know I have a few other followers whom I have met along this journey.  But, I am always thinking twice on whether or not I should post something on my Facebook page, whether or not people will really want to hear what I have to say.  I mean, how long can I really expect everyone to keep paying attention to my grief?  "Oh, there she goes again.  We get it.  She's sad."     I don't think it's a feeling of annoyance from people, but I know the more often I post things relating to this journey, the greater chance I take of making people's eyes glaze over with over-stimulation.  And there are times I want to talk about Kenley, but I don't because I realize that it is not really the right moment, or I am not around the right people.

In general, people don't know what to do with someone who is grieving. They know it is happening, but they don't feel equipped to handle it appropriately, so they move along.  Not out of callousness, but out of feelings of incompetence.  These feelings are compounded when it is a baby that dies.  The death of a baby is unlike any other grief.  It is not just the loss of life - it is the loss of possibility.  Nobody knows what to do when a baby dies.   They just want to make things better.  They want to soothe the wound, but they don't want to acknowledge that it is there.  And then, they want to pretend that this is a one time event that will never happen again.   Well, maybe not in your general life it won't - but it will happen to others.  Countless others.  And there needs to be a place for our grief.   


It saddens me when I hear stories of women who haven't talked about their baby for years.  Because it was too painful to think about.  Because everyone else moved on and told her to do the same.  Because the complex emotions that entangle you when you lose a part of yourself can often be suffocating.   
Because she felt guilty smiling when she thought of the happiness she felt towards her own child.   It's not fair that she has to suffer this loss and can't even find a comfortable way to deal with it.   It is wrong.

Women who lose their baby not only want to mourn them, but they want to celebrate them.   We need to be sad and angry.  We need to work through the countless negative emotions that come with our situation, but we also need to be able to be joyous in the life we created.   The beautiful and wonderful life that grew inside of us for however many months.  We are proud of that life, no matter how long it was on this earth.   Fiercely proud.  We want to share these feelings of pride and joy and wonder with you, but we also don't want that happiness to be misconstrued for lack of grief.  We will always grieve.  Until the day we die, we will grieve for our baby, but that doesn't mean we don't want to talk about them.  There needs to be a place where we are allowed to be sad without someone uneasily patting us on the back.  A place where we can cry without hushed whispers and sideways glances.  But also a place where we can glow and sparkle when we talk about the way our baby's hair fell across her forehead, or the way she loved to spin inside us without people assuming we have moved on and are fine. Because we are not fine. There is a duality to our situation that doesn't fit into this world.  Square peg, round hole.  For the rest of our lives, we will be full of both sorrow and joy.  The showing of one does not mean the other is no longer there.  


There are many organizations that are trying to break the silence about stillbirth and infant loss, and I applaud them.  Still Standing MagazineThe STILL Project, and the movie Return to Zero, are all trying to bring a voice to the voiceless.  They are talking - publicly - about what no one wants to.  They are giving women who would normally stay quiet the ability to make noise.  I make noise here on One Pink Balloon.  I make noise on Facebook and among my own circles.  I will make noise as long as I live - and I hope one day every woman who has to endure this pain will make just as much, if not more. 

The STILL project has a tagline "Say It Out Loud", which means talk about your loss.  Say your baby's name.  Tell people about your child and what they meant to you.  I have been doing this from the very beginning, and I am now convinced it has been an enormous part of my healing.   If you are a mother of loss, Say It Out Loud in the comments.  Let the world (Or at least the people in my tiny corner of the world) know how proud you are of your baby.   If you have not experienced this loss, share this post with someone who has.

Let the secret out!


Monday, April 22, 2013

Hungry Eyes

I have become a visual stalker.  A watcher.   The mothers, the babies, the pregnant bellies.   My eyes dart to them automatically no matter where they are - and I follow them with my gaze until I can no longer do so without looking like a psychopath.    I'm like a beggar pressing her nose against the window of a fancy restaurant.   I know it's a little creepy, but I can't help it.   Sometimes, it makes me cry.   Other times, it makes me smile.   I never know which it's going to be until it happens though.   On the times it upsets me, Mike always asks me why I do that to myself. Why look when I know it will most likely cause me pain?  I have no answer other than I have to.  Maybe it's because I am grasping at straws, trying to find some way to bring that part of my life back to me.  To claim what should be mine.  Or, maybe I'm a glutton for punishment.   I don't know.  I wish I did, but then I don't really know anything anymore.

The other day, I was waiting for my friend in the parking lot of Barnes and Noble.   A woman with a stroller walked up to a car down the row from me.   I watched her from across the parking lot as she took her baby out of her stroller, changed his diaper in the trunk of her SUV, and then put him back in his seat before resuming her shopping trip.  From the way she cradled his head, I could tell he was maybe two months old.  As I am watching her do the most mundane tasks of having a baby - probably one of the tasks she barely even thinks about while she's doing it - I am imagining what it would have been like to change Kenley's diaper.  To pick her up ever so carefully from her stroller and lay her down on the backseat.  To still her squirming legs so I can maneuver the diaper around her.   To make faces at her.  To boop her nose.  To do all those things I can't do - and will never do - for her.  And then, of course, I start to cry.  Misty eyed and lips trembling.  At that moment, I see my friend walking towards the car, a hazelnut macchiato in each hand.  (one of the many reasons we are friends)  I wipe my eyes and reorganize myself.  When she gets in the car, I tell her about my moment, and like a good friend, she doesn't judge me.  I am so grateful I have such supportive and non-judgmental friends.  Grief certainly makes you do things you never thought you'd do.  

I can't hold my baby in my arms, so I watch other mothers do it.   I watch them tie them in slings and fasten them in strollers.  I watch them stir the baby food jar and rearrange the blankets in the car seat.  I watch with a sharp sadness for what I do not have now and with an ever so soft jitter of excitement for what I will have again.  I can't help but feel slightly guilty over that excitement though.   As if wanting (and then having) more children is somehow an affront to Kenley's memory.  I know that is not true in the slightest, but I can't stop myself from feeling it.  One day, that will change.  One day, Kenley's brother or sister will be the one I hold in my arms, the one I nuzzle and push in the stroller.   And the love I feel for Kenley will not go away and will not be divided - but instead will be multiplied.   And then, sometime, I will be out and about and I will recognize a sister watcher.  I will know her by the sadness in her eyes, by the way she leans forward and cranes her neck.  To someone else, she appears to be a run of the mill woman who happens to admire the adorableness of a passing baby.  But, I will know - and I hope she finds what she's searching for.   I hope we all do.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Saturday Spotlight

In an effort to introduce more positivity into my life, I am going to try to dedicate one post a week to happy thoughts.   Maybe something that brought me peace this week.  Maybe something I enjoyed doing.  Just something that is focused on the good in my life.  I'll post these on Saturdays for no real reason other than Saturdays are fun!

This week, I was able to volunteer with Cherishing the Journey, the charity that provided the Memory Box to me at the hospital.   I have been following them on Facebook for the last several weeks.   Jennifer, the founder, helped to set me up with a Mentor Mom who I can just meet and chat with.   Through Jennifer and the facebook page, I knew they were putting together boxes this week and I wanted to help.   It was just something I had to do.   It meant so much to me to receive mine, I wanted to be a part of bringing some sort of comfort to another woman in her darkest hour.  I wanted to be a part of her knowing that she is not alone and that people care about her and her journey.

In the span of three hours, we assembled 24 boxes, 12 "girl" boxes and 12 "boy" boxes.  The main difference between the two is the design on the outside of the boxes and the colors of the ribbons used inside.  I tied colored ribbon onto clay disks that would later hold the footprint of someone's angel.  I worked on organizing the poems and balloons that suggest a healing balloon release to the grieving family.  I also made tiny beaded bracelets to wrap around the wrist of the teddy bear inside the box, which can then be placed on the baby's wrist for pictures if desired.   The most healing moment for me though was this one: 


At the time of Kenley's death, many friends and family members donated to Cherishing the Journey.   Each box costs about 50 dollars to assemble.  My people were able to raise enough to donate 10 boxes.   I wrote out ten of these cards and placed one in ten boxes.   The first three cards were tough to get through.  I had to pause often while writing to collect myself.  But then, it got easier.  I was remembering my baby girl and doing good in her name.  My heart felt a little lighter - even for just a few moments.  

I met some very wonderful women as well.  All of them Mothers of Loss.  All of them hurt but carrying on.  We shared our stories and showed each other pictures of our babies.   Again, it's a sisterhood I never wanted to be a part of, yet am still so grateful it exists.  We walk hand in hand and lean on each other's shoulders. 

I will continue to volunteer with this charity whenever I can.   I know being a part of this will help me heal, and I believe in the great purpose of their endeavors.  

Happy Saturday!

Friday, April 19, 2013

External Parameters

As a teacher, I create a weekly newsletter outlining the things we are going to learn and do each week, including due dates of assignments.  Partially to keep the parents informed, but mostly to keep myself accountable.   If I told everyone we were doing this - then we have to do it.   I do the same thing when I invite people over to my house as much as possible.   Not just so I can see them, but because it forces me to keep things clean.  (Or at least to have a panicked cleaning session every once in a while)  I tell someone I am going to do something before I have full intention of doing it because the accountability of keeping my word keeps me focused.   I need external parameters.  I need restrictions from the outside world to help me set my own boundaries.  I always have.   

This blog is an external parameter.  So is the Kenley's Krew facebook page.   And my outings with friends.  And the foundation idea.   They are all walls I have set up for myself to maintain focus.  Like blinders on a horse.   Here...zone in on this.   The fact that other people are reading my blog keeps me focused in writing it.  I can't just slack off and not post for a while.  I need to keep the ball rolling.  Please understand, that ball isn't really for you.   It's for me.  I know myself.  I know that at the beginning, my words would come pouring out of me so fast and furious I wouldn't be able to contain them.  But, then I would get tired.  Not less full of emotion.  Not less in need of purging.  But tired.  And I would slack off, letting the feelings build up.  So, a public blog with just a few loyal readers keeps me focused.  The Kenley's Krew facebook page is basically the same thing.  I can't just say to myself "Self, you are going to find one positive thing about today".  I need to make myself accountable.  I need to at least pretend that other people are paying attention.   I can't fall apart right now because I am focusing on my positive facebook post.   I'll fall apart later.  But, then later doesn't come because I've made some plans with friends.  I'll hold it together for my friends.   All these things - these distractions - are to keep me together.   I have created all of them for the sole purpose of keeping me in one piece.   Like rubber bands around a broken vase.

I have constructed a maze of distraction for myself.  As long as I keep moving through the twists and turns, I can pretend I have purpose.   I can pretend that I am actually going somewhere.  Strangely, I can even sometimes pretend that none of this really happened.   Well, I can at least distract myself enough so I don't fully realize it in its entirety.   When you make enough noise, you can drown out the whispers inside you.  I am working so hard to keep her memory alive - to continually do things that make me think about her - so I don't have to feel the full impact of her absence.   If I just write another blog post, a piece of her is still here.  If I just think happy thoughts and post them on her Facebook page, I can feel connected to her.  If my friend comes over, we can talk about her some more.  Hold on a second, I'm feeling a little empty...oh I know...let's start a foundation!  We'll dedicate it to her memory!  Yeah...that will take a lot of energy!   I can focus on all of these external events I have created and I don't have to think about what is really going on, which is that my heart is breaking over and over and over again.  

If I just keep doing all these things all the time, then she's not really gone.  I'm not really broken.   Everything is okay.  It's really just an elaborate scheme to keep myself from completely breaking down. And it is exhausting.  I am so very tired.   I want to walk away from everything right now.  Mid-sentence.   Just go back to bed and stay there for god knows how long.  Pull the covers up over my head and let the world go by.   But then, I'll have to think about what has happened.  Full force, no distractions, pummeling me down.  Usually, you will see two types of reactions to grief.   Someone will either suddenly get very busy, or they will barely even be able to get dressed.    You do the first so the second doesn't happen to you. You focus on everything and anything but your sorrow.   Because grief without distraction is crippling.   Not, ouch, I stubbed my toe crippling, but oh no, I've been bitten in half by a Great White crippling.   I'm going to just pretend my legs are still there, even though they are not.  I am going to pretend I am not bleeding to death on the sand.   I'm just going to keep going, and going, and going, and going.  No matter how tired I am.  No matter how much I want to stop.   Because if I do stop, I'll never get started again.  



Thursday, April 18, 2013

Reality Bites

I am now past the point where it makes sense to still be pregnant.  I can't keep pretending she's still on her way, even for one blissful second.  She's not.   By now, I should have a baby.   A baby who should be anywhere from 6 to 3 weeks old.  A baby who should be keeping me up at night, who should be sleeping in her crib and squirming in my arms.   I should just now be putting her in her stroller to go for a walk around the block.  Yesterday, Mike and I went out to lunch because I had a Panera's gift card and we needed to get out of the house.   We sat outside on the patio.   Again, it was a nice spring day. The sun was shining and a soft breeze blew through the bushes.   All I could focus on was the empty space next to the table.  The space where the stroller should be, but is not.  I spaced out and lost myself in my thoughts for a few moments.   Mike noticed and tried to call me back, but it was too late.  I had already spiraled down into sadness.  My lunch was ruined.  I was no longer hungry, and I didn't really care.

After lunch, I needed a haircut.  It's been a while and my wavy mane had gotten seriously out of control.   The last time I went to my hairdresser, I was pregnant.  So, that's out.  I'm not explaining myself to one more person.   A walk-in salon was nearby, so we stopped in.   The girl who cut my hair was very sweet, and a little younger than me.   She was a typical young hairdresser with jaggedly cut streaked hair and some forearm tattoos.  As hairdressers do, she began friendly chit chat.  We talked about our husbands and our weddings.  I described my quirky shin-dig in St. Augustine and she told me all about her intimate getaway to Cancun.  Then, she asked me if my husband and I were "thinking of having kids".   In a way, I knew this was coming, but I was still taken by surprise. I said we are going to start trying late this summer, which we are.   I am so very glad she worded it the way she did because that enabled me to skirt around the issue.  If she had asked me if I had any kids, what would I have said?  What can I say?  "Yes, I have a daughter."   But, I can't leave it at that because then the questions come.   How old is she?  What's her name?  Who's watching her?  So, then, what do I do?   Do I say what actually happened?  Is that really something you do to a stranger who is just trying to make conversation?   Does saying nothing mean I am betraying her memory?   I sat in the chair while she cut my hair and proceeded to tell me about her daughter, Sophia, who is 2.  She showed me a picture.   My heart split right down the middle, but my mask didn't crack.   I smiled and told her that her daughter was adorable.   And then, the coup de gras, she said "Having children is great.   It's a total bonding experience with you and your husband."   If my head wasn't tilted down while she cut my hair, she would have seen all of the light leave my eyes as I switched over to autopilot.   No longer was I trying to hold it together and make conversation.   I checked out completely.  She finished the haircut (she did a great job, by the way), and I paid her and left.   I am sure I was polite and friendly.  I'm sure I smiled and said thank you.  My mask was secure and she never knew that inside, I had died.   I die every day at one time or another.   And every time, I bring myself back to life as best as I can.  A kind of defibrillator for my soul.  Don't ask me how I do it, because I don't know.  I just do.

But, I don't want to do this anymore.   I'm tired of being "strong".  I'm tired of picking myself up again and again and again.  I'm tired of pulling myself together enough to pass for human and then have one tiny moment be my undoing.  I'm just plain tired.    I look to the future with hope in my eyes, but it's still so very blurry.  Through various grief boards I read or am a member of, I am able to catch a glimpse of what I might be like in the future, and it saddens me.   While most of these women have moved on with as much grace as they can muster, they are still a little broken.  They will always be a little broken.   And so will I.   It's hard to accept the fact that I will always hurt.   Maybe not with such intensity, but it will never go away.  I can continue on with my life.  I can have more children.  I can do all the things I want to do - but she will always be missing.  Always.  I will always have a hole that aches for her.  The thought of this stretching out for the course of my lifetime is too much for my heart to bear.  But, I will bear it because life goes on.  As weary as I am, life goes on.  




Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Thinking of Boston

The recent horrific events in Boston have brought to mind a few comments I have heard from people throughout the last several years.  Comments that run along the lines of "I don't know if I want to bring children into this world".  While I can understand that people may not want to have to explain to their children why parts of our world are the way they are, allow me to present a counter argument.   In the words of Whitney Houston.  (yeah...sorry)



But, seriously, what would be the point of not bringing children into the world?   So that they don't have to grow up in a world of hate and violence?  The world has always been full of that.  Always. From the beginning of time, humans fought with each other over belongings, boundaries, and beliefs from local spats to global wars. You may think that it has gotten worse over the last few years, and you may or may not be right, but the only way to counteract the bad in our world is to introduce more good.   Children are good.   They are the seed in the soil - everything we want to be before we can be it.   They are the hopes and the dreams of all that is possible.   But, they can't do it alone.  They need our help to teach them and support them.  Children, most of the time, do what they are taught to do.  If we teach them to hate and hurt, then that is exactly what they do.   However, if we teach them how to love, then they'll do that too. 

I know I am being overly optimistic.  I recognize the stars in my eyes.  I know the problems of the world can't be solved by giving all of our children hugs.  But then, I think of all of our times of tragedy as a nation that I can remember.  Oklahoma City, Columbine, 9/11, Virginia Tech, Newtown, Boston. All of these were senseless acts of violence committed by disturbed people.   None were warranted, all were tragic.  What happened in the face of these tragedies, however, was anything but tragic.  Every single time, people stepped forward to help, both immediately and after the fact.  They banded together to pick up the pieces and help everyone carry on.  Countless resources and hours of volunteer time were given freely and without question. Words of encouragement and support flew from every corner of our country - and even the world.  I admit, it is sad that it takes a disaster to make this happen, but the point is it does happen.  Human beings are inherently good.  When it comes down to brass tacks, we step up for our fellow man.   And that is worth celebrating.  

To return to the main point of what I am trying to say, if we continue to teach our children to love, then they will teach theirs the same.  And, yes, there will always be those rotten apples thrown into the mix that force us to reassess what we are doing, but we can't let that stop us from trying to make our corner of the world a better place.  We do that through our words, our actions, our teachings.  We not only teach our children how to be a good citizen, we show them how.   We show them how to love despite differences and triumph despite obstacles.  Proof of this happening is in our reaction to the foulness around us.  I would bet you money if you looked at every single person who rushed to help at any sort of emergency situation, anyone who assisted with the aftermath, or anyone to simply sent their support, you'd discover someone in their life who taught them the importance of doing so.  

I hope one day to be able to have this responsibility - this honor - of teaching my children how to be decent human beings.   I hope one day, they take that decency within them and shine it up into something spectacular.   We are who we are taught to be.  Don't be afraid to bring up children in our world.  Be afraid not to.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Four Letter Words

Yes, those words.  The words that can alter the Motion Picture Association of America's ratings on films.   The words that get bleeped out on the Maury Povitch Show.  The words that assail your ears when the NY Giants are winning in Philadelphia.   Words of exasperation, of frustration, of anger.  Words that you know you shouldn't say, but sometimes you can't help it.  Those words.   They have been slip-sliding out of my mouth more often than I care to admit lately.  Sometimes, they are the only way to express how absolutely angry I am.  Sometimes, I am so mad that multi-syllabic words just won't do. Eloquence is not what I need.   I need grit.  I need dirt.  I need vulgarity.  I need to spit out my words in hateful beats.  Through clenched teeth and red-rimmed eyes.  Sometimes, I am tired of communicating my grief through neat and tidy packages - and I need to just let some obscenities fly.   I mutter them to myself.  I shout them to the heavens.   I don't care.   I am angry!

There's only so much anger you can feel without it exploding.  There's only so long you can keep a pot of water on the stove before it boils over.  Some days, I reach my limit faster than others.  There is no good reason for me to be without my baby.  There is no good reason for her to be gone.  She is dead because she twisted too far in her umbilical cord.  One too many cartwheels.   I cannot hold my baby ever again because she was too full of life before her life even had a chance to start.   The injustice of what has happened is a volcano inside me.  Always churning.  Liquid hot magma coursing through my veins.  It's an anger I can't explain, although I am obviously trying.

This is not something that can be satisfied with an "Oh dear!"  or a "Fiddlesticks".   Nope.   These words are called "Bad Words" or "Foul Language" for a reason.  That's what they express.  Foulness.  Disgust.  Frustration. Rage.   And sometimes, that is exactly what I am feeling.  Sometimes, I admit, I have to drop the F bomb. I just do.  Because it is fitting - because there is no other word that works.  No other word poisonous enough to propel the black tar of emotions that are clogging up my heart.   If your child were ripped from your arms forever, do you think you'd be able to hold your tongue?   I'll bet you that you couldn't.  I'll bet even if you've never uttered a bad word in your life, you'd let loose a stream of sentences that would make a sailor blush.   No matter how Scarlett O'Hara you think you are, when grief takes a hold of you, sometimes you just don't give a damn!



Monday, April 15, 2013

Finding the Others

Frenemy:  Someone who is both a friend and and enemy, a relationship which is both beneficial and dependent while being competitive, fraught with risk and mistrust.

The internet and I are frenemies.  I use it for information, which it gladly provides.   I seek out stories similar to mine for comfort - to know I am not alone.  And when I find those stories, plus a hundred more, I instantly wish I was.  The other day, I went Blog-hopping.   This is a phrase I have just now coined (copyright pending) to explain jumping from one blog to another via the links on each writer's page.   I Blog-hopped for a good two hours, reading story after story of women who know the same pain I do.   Two hours.   And I could have continued for days, linking from one person's anguish to the next, never crossing back.   

A whole new world has opened up to me.  A world I never new existed and will forever wished it didn't.  I stumbled upon this particular website as part of the Small Bird Studios blog.   Anyone who writes a blog on baby loss can enter their URL and add their blog to the list.  Women who come across this site searching for support have several stories to choose from.   When I added my site, I was #509.   Five hundred and nine!   That means, there are five hundred and eight other heartbroken women who have found this site and entered their blog.  Five hundred and eight other mothers who know what it is like to feel broken and incomplete.   If that number seems staggering to you, think about this:  that list is only the women who write a blog AND happened to find this website AND then decided to add their name.   (Since adding my blog, I have revisited the site and it is now up to 521.  For those of you not doing the math, that is eleven more women.)  This is when my friend the internet becomes my enemy.  When it links me to story after story of heart ache.  When it reminds me that not only am I not alone, but the amount of people here with me is far too many.

Sometimes, reading about someone else's pain makes me feel connected.  I feel less crazy.  I feel validated in my emotions and my actions.   I think, "Oh, I am so glad I am not the only one who feels that way.   Oh, wow, she does that too!"  I read their stories and I cry along with them, and I feel cleansed.  But then, I keep reading.   Blog after blog.  Post after post.   The circumstances vary, but the pain is the same.  And then, I begin to hurt.  Not just for my baby, but for all of the babies.  For every mother who had to say goodbye.  Another ant bite on an already swollen ankle.  Wait, that's not the best analogy...an ant bite is too inconsequential to describe the heaviness of this magnitude.  It is both comforting to know that other people understand.  But it is also heartbreaking.    When you have felt the pain of your own creation being ripped away from you, you wouldn't wish it on anyone else.  Ever.  We are united in agony, bound together by tears and shattered souls.

Sadly, stillbirths and infant losses happen more than you'd like to think - and they will continue to happen more than you will personally know of.   I never in a million years dreamed I'd be on this end of the keyboard, pouring my heart out into a blog like this.   But I am.   And so are hundreds of other women.  And we all want the same thing (besides a time machine to undo the unthinkable).  We want our babies to be remembered.

Maybe you know someone else who has been in my shoes.  Maybe you have seen them struggling with their laces.  Maybe mine is the only face of loss you know.  Maybe yours stares back at you in the mirror.  I know there are at least four women whom I have met through our shared tragedies who are reading these words right now.  And I want to say to each of them that I am so very sorry you have to feel this pain too.  I am so very sorry your baby is not in your arms.  This is not how it is supposed to be.  But, we are strong.  We are fighters.   We will remember our children with a love we never knew was possible.  We want everyone to know they were beautiful and wonderful and pure.  We want everyone to know their name.  Hunter.  Avery.  Brooke.  Ava.  Kenley.   Much love, Mamas.  Much love.



   

Sunday, April 14, 2013

And on the 7th day

She rested.   Weekend posts at One Pink Balloon are going to be sporadic from now on.   Sometimes, there will be a post.  Sometimes, there won't.   Feel free to check, but don't panic if the date is still yesterday's, or the day before's.  I am fine.  I have not fallen off the face of the earth.  I have not given up.  I'm probably just at the movies.   Or maybe taking a nap.

I am trying to regain some sort of normalcy to my life.   Which is slightly pointless, since I know for a fact that it will never be the way it was before.  But, still, I am determined to try.  

Also, if you haven't already liked my new Facebook page Kenley's Krew, go ahead and do that now. (I'll wait)  I created it as a forerunner to a possible charity page, but also as a page to share the joy in our lives with each other.   I will post happy thoughts and links when I can.   I encourage you to do the same once you've liked it.  Tell the Kenley's Krew Community about the delicious desert you just ate, the dollar you found on the sidewalk, or the inspirational quote you heard.  Tell us a joke.  Share a picture.   We all need some joy in our lives - some of us more than others.   Let's create this joy together!   

Tune in on Monday for your regularly scheduled blog post!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I'm Not Okay

People ask me on a daily basis how I am doing.  I want to tell them that I am okay.  I want to tell them everything is fine.  I know that is what they want to hear, and so that is what I say.  It's just easier to say "I'm okay".   Okay implies not great, but not terrible either.   Okay is mediocre.   Sure, I am mediocre.  That's an acceptable answer, isn't it?  Not too bad, not too good.  Just okay.   People are satisfied with that and I am able to avoid a lengthy conversation I don't really have the strength - or the words - for.  Yes, words.  Sometimes, I am at a loss for words.  Sometimes, words are not nearly enough to accurately describe what this feels like.  Weirdly, I am much more able to find the right words with my fingers rather than my mouth.  I can write you pages and pages on how I feel, but speech doesn't always come as easily.  Especially when the flow of speech is halted by the flow of tears.   But, even with a pen (or a keyboard) in my hands, I still struggle for the right words that can truly make someone understand what my life is like.

I am currently working on an art project that involves a few photos of Kenley. I was cutting out her feet, sliding the scissors around the curves of her little toes, and I felt my heart skip and catch in my throat.  I touched my fingertips to the picture.  My baby's toes.  The only image of her feet in existence, frozen forever in time.  Do you know what it is like to love someone who never knew your face?   To feel your heart melting and pouring out like lava over a part of you whom you never really got to meet?  I saw her for less than two hours.   I held her in my arms for less time than you spend in a movie theater on a rainy day.  In those two hours, she never moved.  She never breathed.  She never opened her eyes.  And yet, I love her more than anything in the universe.  I love her with a love I can barely even imagine, let alone feel as it spirals me out of control.  I don't know what to do with this love except feel it.  So, I do.   But the problem is, the love is not alone.   It is attached to death.   I love her, but she is gone.   My love will never go away - and I definitely don't want it to - but it also has no where to go.  Every ounce of love I feel contains the sharp pains of knowing she isn't here.   And it hurts.   The overwhelming finality of it rips me to shreds.   

I think I am dealing with my grief the best way I know how, and I think I am being effective in this endeavor.  I am able to discern the many emotions that come with grief, and I am able to work through them as well as I know they can be.  I am not suicidal.   I am eating.  I am sleeping.   I am able to find tiny pinpoints of light in this darkness.  I am not defeated and I will not be defeated, but I am also not okay.  This is not okay.  What happened is not okay.  But, really, what else can I say to people?  What else can be said that hasn't already been said?  What do you really expect me to say?   I spent 8 months preparing to welcome my daughter to the world and, just when I thought we were home free, I had to say goodbye.   And now, I try to fill my time with blog posts and art projects, household chores and other distractions.  Time that should be spent changing diapers and rocking her to sleep.   I am angry.  I am sad.  I am tired.  I am trying.  I am not okay, but I will be.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Wearing My Star

I wasn't expecting to write this post as I ran out the door, but something happened I wanted to share.  Today is"Wear a Star Day".  Anyone participating wore a star to honor and remember their lost children - their stars in the heavens.   I didn't really have anything to wear and I haven't been in a shopping mood for quite a while, so I made a quick star to honor Kenley with a clothespin.  I painted it teal and then wrote her name on it, drawing a star at the top of the clothespin.  I wasn't prepared for how seeing her name written on that clothespin would affect me.  It's hard to see.   I took a picture of it and then started to cry.  My baby's name, written on a clothespin so I can honor her memory.   Her memory.   That's all she is now.  That is hard to deal with, and I don't expect it to really get any easier.  But, you better believe I am going to remember the heck out of her.  Not just today, but every day.  Every day, I will carry her star with me, safely nestled inside my heart. 





The Second Death

There is more to grief than mourning the person you lost.   You also mourn losing yourself.  The person you were before is gone too.  Irrevocably.  You mourn who you were and who you will never be again.  
  
Yes, everyone changes over time.   If you could look at your past self through a magic mirror, you'd probably be shocked at how different you have become.  You would think to yourself, "I'm not even the same person!"  And, you'd be right.   You're not.  And you won't be the same person in ten years that you are today.  But there is a huge difference in changing with growth and time - and having who you are just cut off at the knees swiftly and without warning. 

Think of two trees growing side by side.   Saplings, bending in the breeze, reaching for the sun.  Over the years, the saplings grow.  Their branches thicken, their leaves become full, their trunk grows strong and hearty.   Then, one day, a woodsman comes by and chops down one of these trees with his shiny axe.   Just takes that heavy steel blade and chops through the soft, fleshy trunk.   Then, he drags the tree behind him to chop up for his winter firewood.  Now, both trees are vastly different from the original sapling they once were.  One tree will continue to grow and change as normal.   It will get taller and thicker.  Its branches will spread even more.  It will be different, but still the same.   The other tree, the victim of the axe, has a long way to go before it even begins to resemble a tree again.  Right now, it is just a stump.  The majestic tree it once was is now keeping the feet of the woodsman warm.  The only part of that tree that still exists is its roots, which, fortunately, are strong and unyielding.  Over the course of many years, if the conditions are right, the tree will begin to grow again.  But, it won't ever grow like it did before, in one, thick trunk.  Tiny leafy shoots will sprout up from the stump.  The new tree will grow in several different directions.  Each offshoot will be less stable than the original tree, and they won't grow nearly as tall, but they will grow.  

The person I was less than two months ago is just as dead as Kenley is, and neither one is coming back.  I can forge ahead.  I can pick up the pieces of my shattered self and try to put them back together again, but Humptey Dumptey was never the same again, and I won't be either.  And that is just as hard to deal with as everything else.  I will never be who I was.  I will never fully return to who I used to be.   And that is frustrating.  I worked very hard to become that person, and I was finally the person I always knew I was meant to be, after so many years struggling.  I already lost my child, to lose myself as well is too much.   I have to start all over.   From square one, I have to rebuild who I am.  It is exhausting.   I don't want to do it.   I really just want to throw in the towel and be a stump.  Some days, I just want to roll over and let the river of grief wash me away.  I'm tired of fighting.  Of always fighting.   I have fought for everything I am my entire life.  No part of who I am came easy.   I had to put up my fists and defend myself against my demons day in and day out for as long as I can remember.   Only in the last few years has it gotten any easier.   Only very recently, have I been able to finally sit on the porch with a glass of lemonade and mop my brow.    And now, this.    How will I win this battle when I am already so weary? How does a stump manage to regrow it's leaves?   This is grief.  With a few quick chops of its axe, grief cuts you down where you stand, and part of you dies.  Just dies.  And what regrows in its place isn't the same at all.




Thursday, April 11, 2013

Kenley's Krew: A Charity Case

First of all, this blog post is inspired by and dedicated to my dear friend Tracey, who has been extremely diligent in helping to raise funds for us to cover our medical expenses through Youcaring.com.   She couldn't stand the fact that we would still have bills to pay after not being able to bring Kenley home, and so she started a fundraising page to help us out.  So far, over 44 people have donated various amounts to us, bringing the grand total to date to $2,709.   While our bills are still more than that, it is a huge burden off our shoulders, and we are eternally grateful to her efforts - and to all of the people who selflessly donated on our behalf.  In one of her recent updates, she mentioned that a foundation should be started to help families who have experienced loss to pay their bills.   I completely agree.  It is not fair to lose your child and then actually pay a hospital for the time you spent there.  After all, these families don't get to bring their baby home.  They don't get to hear their child's laughter.  They don't get to breathe in their wonderful baby scent.  They just get wheeled out of the doors, empty handed and broken hearted.  And then, they get to spend the next few weeks on pins and needles, anticipating the first dreaded bill.  The bill that twists the knife even deeper.  I actually received one of those bills today.  I opened the envelope, full well knowing what it was, but still feeling like I'd been punched in the face.  My daughter is dead, and yet the bills keep coming.  Fortunately for me, I have a wonderfully generous support system.  However, not everyone does.   Not everyone is as lucky as I am.   And some women and their babies have far more complications in the hospital, leading to a more prolonged ordeal and an even higher bill.   I don't know what I can really do to help these families, but I know I want to at least try.  So, here's how I want to start:

If you have any ideas of how to create a charity of this sort, how to manage it, how to get it off the ground, who to contact, where to start researching, etc., please leave me a comment at the end of this post.  Emails can be sent to KenleyNinja@gmail.com.  (Please do not comment on Facebook.  I only liked there today because I wanted to get this idea to as many people as possible)   All advice and assistance is welcome.  

Please share this post with anyone whom you think may be able to give me a hand in brainstorming or organizing ideas. (via facebook or any other means you think might help)  I don't know what this entails, or even if I have what it takes to make it happen, but it doesn't hurt to ask.   Thanks for your support! Maybe we will help just one local family.  Maybe more.  Who knows?  





Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Smile

Not to toot my own horn, but I have been told numerous times in my life that I have a great smile, even though I've always been a little self conscious about my giant teeth and wide grin.  When I am truly happy, my eyes crinkle up and my entire face smiles.  Sometimes, I smile wide-eyed and excited with a mouth so big it looks like it could swallow an entire cupcake in one bite.  (and it has tried)  In pictures, those who know me can tell when I am smiling from actual happiness and when I am smiling simply because someone is taking a picture.  Here are a few examples of real smiles.



    


In each of these pictures, I am truly happy.   It was a good day.  I can see the joy in my eyes.  In pictures I have taken recently, that joy is gone.  I can tell.  Maybe you can't.   Maybe you've seen a picture posted on Facebook and you think to yourself, "Hey, Rebecca looks happy.  It's good to see her smiling again."   But, if you were to look - to really look - at those pictures and then compare them to the ones above, you'd see it too.  There's a dullness in my eyes now that isn't in the pictures here.   My mouth is smiling, but that's it.  My heart isn't in it.  How could it be?  
I miss the joy I felt in these pictures.  I miss being carefree and happy.  I am trying so hard to find that joy again.  I am usually a very cheerful person, and so I am not really sure what to do with a heart full of sorrow.  It's heavy and confusing.  I've kind of developed this "Fake it till you make it" attitude.  I put on a good front when I have to.  I take a deep breath, open my eyes, and smile wide, hoping no one will notice that it's not real.  That I'm lying.
But, what else can I do?   Cry all day long?  No one wants to deal with a constant sobbing mess.  I don't want to be a constant sobbing mess.  So, I smile.   Even though I don't feel like it.  Even though I don't know if I'll feel like it ever again.  I smile.   I smile because I figure if I do it enough, if I try hard enough, the happiness that lies buried deep inside me will finally burst through the mountain of sadness that has sits so heavy on top of it.  And, yes, there is happiness somewhere down there.  Leftover happiness from my life before loss.   It wasn't decimated by Kenley's death, but it was shoved WAY down deep.   Maybe, if I just keep smiling, I'll find it again.   It reminds me of this song, which was never more true than it is right now.




Tuesday, April 9, 2013

It's a Matter of Time

I am terrified of time.  Time that passes too quickly.  Time that creeps by dangerously slow.  Time that no longer seems to be on my side.  
If this tragedy had struck me ten years ago, it would have been no less horrible and traumatic, but an extra silver lining would have shone around the black clouds above me.  Time.  More time to heal.  More time to try again.
When you're young, everything seems possible.  Even when faced with jagged cliff faces and raging storms.   When you're young, it seems that you have all the time you need to climb that cliff, to wait out the storm, to get where you want to go.  Now, I feel rushed.  I feel hurried.  I feel like my time is running out.

I didn't meet Mike until I was almost 31.  Although we both knew fairly instantly that we had found the right person, we didn't get married until I was almost 34.  I was never really one of those girls that just had to have kids.   When people would ask me if I wanted kids, I always replied with "Yes, as long as I meet the right guy."  I was really okay with not having children if I didn't meet someone I wanted to marry and start a family with.  I would have forged a different, and just as happy, life.  However, I did meet Mike.  I fell in love with him and I knew he was the guy for me.  The one who would be a wonderful husband to me and a wonderful father to our children. Our children.  And that is when the timer kicked in, ticking off the seconds and minutes, showing me just how much time I had left to get this show on the road.  When I found out I was pregnant, it was the summer before my 35th birthday.  Whew!  I was going to get in just under the wire!   I was going to have my baby before my file would get the dreaded label - Advanced Maternal Age.  (Ouch!  Right in the gut.)  

Now, you are going to tell me, "Hey, plenty of women have babies later in life nowadays!  It's perfectly fine!  Besides, you're not that old! "  And you are right - they do and I'm not.  And there is no reason why I can't have a perfectly healthy pregnancy in the future that will result in a wonderful sibling for Kenley.  But, as we have discussed before, my ability to think logically and listen to reason has decided it no longer wants to communicate with the rest of me.   I am scared.  I am scared that, as I get older, my risk for birth defects and other complications increases.  I am scared that Kenley was my only chance.   I am scared that her room will be empty forever, and that I won't be able to handle it.  

Kenley taught me what it feels like to be a mother.   She opened my eyes and my heart to a love I never knew before - and I honestly could not bear it if I wasn't able to share that love with a child who got to stay with me.  So, yeah,  I am terrified of time.  Of the clock that remembers the moments I had and reminds me of the moments that are left.  Tick, tick, tick.  



Monday, April 8, 2013

The Sound of Silence

When I open my eyes each morning, the soft grayness of my room suggests that another day has arrived.  As I roll over in my sheets, I am still groggy with sleep, but I am also still painfully aware of what woke me up.  Absolutely nothing.  I have the "luxury" of waking up as I so desire.  There is no alarm clock, but, more importantly, there is no baby crying.   My night was dark and quiet.  My morning is equally as silent.   There is no shuffling and whimpering from a baby monitor.   There are no giggles, no coos, no burps.  Sounds that should be filling the air do not - and the stillness hangs heavy like a lead curtain.

When I first came home from the hospital, I, not surprisingly, couldn't sleep.  I woke up often throughout the night.   Maybe it was my grief.  Maybe it was my body anticipating the needs of a baby that wasn't there.  Readying for cries that would never come.  Every time I awoke in the darkness, I noticed how quiet it was.  How absolutely silent my house was.  How still.  Now, as more time passes, I sleep in longer stretches.   I can now make it for about 4 hours at a time.  But when I do wake up, it is still to silence.  And that is not going to change - at least not for a very long time.

Everything I do is punctuated by what's missing.  I pick up a laundry basket to bring to the washing machine and I think of the tiny, pink clothes that should be inside it instead of the towels I'm carrying.   I wash last night's dinner dishes and think of the little plastic tub that should have fit right where my hands are - the little plastic tub that would have held my baby as I bathed her, carefully shielding her bright, blue eyes from the soap.  I get in my car without a car seat.  I go to the park without a stroller.  I sit on my couch without a baby in my arms.  The very fact I know you are going to read these words I am writing is yet one more reminder of what I do not have.  But really, when your entire life was centered and focused on bringing a baby into this world, there is nothing that is not a reminder.   Nothing.

Every action, every thought, every decision has a shadow of death around it.  Everything I do is done with the memory of what once was, and a sadness for what is not to be.  Everyday events that haven't changed become burdened with the knowledge that they should have.  Every discussion is peppered with words that are uttered because she is gone.   

My baby is gone.  Everything that could have been is gone with her.   The hole left in my daily life is bigger than any patch I could make to mend it.  The silence created in her absence is louder than any noise I could make to fill it.  And the silence is deafening.  



Sunday, April 7, 2013

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

I can actually feel my eyes glazing over when I read people lamenting over various issues in their Facebook statuses.  
"Why does Wal-Mart only have three registers open?  Grrr!"  
" The dog chewed up my last good pair of sneakers!"   
" Is it too much to ask that people use a turn signal??"
I suppose I used to be one of these people as well.   I would moan about having too many papers to grade, or not wanting the weekend to end, or how I looked all over town for a new pair of shoes to wear, but couldn't find just the right ones.  It's because I didn't know any better.  I had not yet been taught this very cruel lesson, which is this:
Life is as fragile as a spider's silk web on a windy day.  It is a gift not everyone receives, yet it is so easily squandered and taken for granted by so many who have it.  
Maybe you are not one of these people.   Maybe you realize just how precious your gift is.   Maybe you treat each moment, and the people in it, with the care and respect it deserves.  Maybe you say "I love you" instead of "in a minute".   Maybe you live your life with purpose, and you place importance on every ticking second, because you know those seconds won't last forever.  Maybe you didn't have to learn this lesson the hard way.

I have learned many lessons in the last six weeks.  About friendship.  About love.  About justice.  About life.  From these lessons, I have learned that all those little things we stress about so much - all those daily irritations and inconveniences - do not matter in the slightest.  Not one bit.  We think they do.  We think they are the reason for our unhappiness.  We think they are the reason our life isn't going the way we want it to at the moment.   If only this person in front of me would quit stepping on the brake so much.  If only my doctor wouldn't keep me waiting for my appointment today.  If only I didn't have so much paperwork to do.  None of it matters.  It's all a part of life.  We think life is so intricate and messy.   We think that all these little things add up and come together to shape our days, our months, our years in such defining ways.  We think we have to organize and categorize every piece of our existence.  Making file folders of our life.  File Folders that we will return to one day when we are old and gray - to remember what we have done with ourselves.   In reality, we only have one folder.  It is labeled NOW.   

Life isn't complicated, we just want it to be.  We want to justify how we feel with the thoughts that this is actually important.  Why would this affect us so much if it wasn't a big deal?   It is because we let it affect us.   We allow the little things to permeate our existence to the point where nothing is little anymore.  Everything is an issue.  Everything is a problem.  Nothing satisfies us.

Stop it.  Be satisfied in each moment. When the line at the supermarket isn't moving, take comfort in the fact you have money to buy your groceries.   When your favorite coffee mug shatters on the floor, be happy in the fact that you didn't slice your foot - and that there's still more coffee in the pot.  Be happy with what you have - this amazing gift of life.  You are alive!  You breathe.  Your heart beats.  Your eyes see, your ears hear, your legs walk.  Your mind spins.  As all of us have learned lately, not everyone is bestowed this gift.  Not everyone gets this chance.   But you do.  And I do.   And I can tell you with absolute certainty that I do not intend to take the slender thread of life for granted anymore.  We are guaranteed nothing, so it is up to us to secure each and every moment for ourselves and for the people we love.  

Kenely is not here to enjoy her life.  She cannot smell the fresh, spring breeze.   She cannot see the bright, warm sunshine.   Her life was stolen from her and she cannot get it back.  But, I can live for the both of us.  I did it for eight months - and I will continue doing it.  That is the reason I got out of bed today and the reason I will get out of bed tomorrow.  I will live for her, and so she will live in me.  Who do you live for?