Friday, May 31, 2013

Some Days

Some days are just really hard.  Some days, I wake up covered in sadness and I stay wrapped in that blanket all day.  Some days, I don't even try to find sunlight because, some days, I don't really care.    Not every day.   Not really even most days - at least not any more.  But some days.  The last week or so has been filled with a lot of those some days.   Days where I am just sad and gray, where a dull and heavy rock just sits on my heart, squeezing out any energy I may have had to try to be happy.   Some days, happiness just isn't there.  

It's not a feeling of desperation.  I know light might seep in later, just not this day.  It's a feeling of unwilling acceptance.  Accepting that today is just "one of those days."  Today is a day I am going to be sad and there's nothing I can really do about it.   It hangs over me, thick and gray.  Rain clouds my vision and the world is blurry and wet.  I do the best I can to see through the rain and the dark.  I go about my usual activities, but everything is heavier and more difficult on these days.  

On these Some Days, I am slightly askew.   I'm like a telescope where not all parts are aligned.  The stars are still there, but I don't see them.  I am off.  Tilted.  Removed.   

On these Some Days, I don't really care about anything other than the fact that I am sad.   Nothing seems exciting or interesting.   I don't want to write, or bake, or paint.  I don't want to put on pants - although, Mike usually makes me.   

On these Some Days, I find my eyes glazing over as I stare at nothing in particular.  My mind is a little less sharp and I am a little less present.  If I go out of the house, I feel removed from most interactions - almost like I am watching someone else be me for the day.   

On these Some Days, I cry more easily and usually for most of the day.  I feel like I am being crushed underneath layers of sadness - like a brittle leaf pressed between the pages of the Oxford Dictionary.  I am tired and lethargic and just want to go back to bed.  But, I don't because then the Some Day wins and as long as I am strong enough to fight it, I will.

Some Days are better than others.  Some Days are worse.  Some Days come and go, and I deal with them as they do.  




Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tubby Time

Imagine two bathtubs side by side.   Go ahead and get fancy, and think of those huge, white porcelain tubs with the claw feet and the long, swooping faucet.  One of those tubs is full of water.  Filled to the brim and almost spilling over.   The other tub is completely empty.  Dry as a bone.  Ok, so I suppose it's a little weird that these tubs are right next to each other, so let's go ahead and move the empty tub to another room.   With such fancy clawed feet tubs, we must be in an enormous mansion, so how about we move the empty tub to a bathroom in the back of the west wing?   You know where the west wing is, right?   Down two flights of stairs, across the grand ballroom, past the library and then the third door on the right just after the kitchen.   Got it?   Alright, so now, I'm going to give you a job.  It's a very important job and it must be done as quickly as possible - otherwise everyone will get very impatient with you and probably make some inappropriate comments about your abilities to do it.   Your job is to transfer the water from the tub upstairs to the one in the west wing.   What should you use to move the water from tub to tub?   Hmmmm...here's a thimble. That is definitely big enough, no problem.    Oh, by the way, you want to make sure that once you're done that there is absolutely no water in the upstairs tub whatsoever.  We are out of towels, so you can use this sandpaper, as long as you don't scratch the porcelain.   Oh yeah, also, every once in a while, I'm going to turn on the faucet up there and let it run for a few minutes.  You know, just to keep you on your toes.   Then, obviously, I'll probably have to let a little water out of the west wing tub every few minutes too.   People will want to take a bath in there and they'll need it completely full of hot water when they do, so you'll really have to stay on top of that.  Now, remember, the world is timing you, so you'd better do this pretty soon.  Plus, we're all watching you, so don't spill anything either.  Did I forget to mention, you'll need to be wearing these roller skates?   Aaaannnnd....GO! 

That is what overcoming grief is like.   



Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Maternity Pictures

In the immediate days and weeks following Kenley's death, I couldn't look at pictures taken of me before we lost her.  I couldn't stand to see a picture of my swollen belly, of my smiling face, of happier times.  When scrolling through photos on my phone or tagged pictures on facebook, I knew exactly which picture marked the point of no return - the picture I could not swipe past unless I wanted to unleash the deluge of tears that was always perched so precariously behind my eyes.   That boundary was hard and fast and I didn't dare test it.   I knew what would happen.  I knew seeing a photo from my baby shower would send me into a downward spiral.   A snapshot of me eating spaghetti from a bowl on my stomach would rip my heart in half.  But, my maternity pictures were the worst.  Those were the ones that really unraveled me to the core.  

When you take maternity pictures, you plan for weeks what outfit you are going to wear.  You think about what will showcase your silhouette in the most flattering way.  If you pick an outfit out today - are you sure it will still fit that way when the photo shoot comes around?  You want to look adorable and pregnant, but not fat.   (My legs and ankles were so freakishly swollen, I made my photographer shoot from the knees up for most pictures)  Once you have your outfit(s) picked out, then you have to think of your husband's.  He should coordinate, but not match.  When you ask him what he wants to wear, he shrugs and says he doesn't know..he'll figure it out.   You think about all the maternity pictures you have ever seen in your life and make a list in your mind about the ones you loved and the ones that made you cringe.  You go to your photographer with your ideas.   You bring props.   It's a big deal.   At least it was for me.

To me, my maternity pictures remind me not only of the daughter I lost, but of the care and time and effort I put into making my first photos of her special.   Seeing them make me remember my excitement and anticipation over becoming a mother.   They make me remember the joy I felt in being so close  - yet so far away.   Looking at those pictures, I don't just think of losing Kenley, I think of losing the woman I was in those photos.   The happy, carefree mother -to -be whom I can never be again.  The innocence captured in those pictures is precious and fragile.   It would be shattered less than a month later - and it will never be recovered.   That's a hard thing to accept.  It's a little like a Titanic survivor looking at a photo of the mighty ship docked at port.  How grand!  How majestic!  How could we have known it was doomed?

Today, looking at pictures from my maternity shoot is a little less painful than it was at the beginning.   Not much, but still some.   Part of what I am trying to do to heal is to remember the joy simply for what it was - joy.  I can't dwell on the fact that it was shattered - that I was shattered.  My pregnancy is the only thing I have to remember her.  I have no other memories - and I am determined to salvage the joy within them.  If I let myself get caught up in the dark side of remembering, then I will never be able to find happiness when I think of my daughter.   I refuse to let myself get bogged down in that swamp - to let her memory, her light and wonderful memory, be soiled by sadness.   So, now, when I look at my maternity pictures, I push away the sorrow as hard as I can.   It's still there, but not as thick.  It doesn't cloud the entire picture.  I look at myself smiling and I remember her kicking inside.  I remember her alive.  My baby - alive.   That is how I want to think of her.  As a swirling ball of arms and legs inside my belly - a kicking and punching ninja who made me beam with joy simply because she was alive.  I will remember her.  I will remember being happy.   And I will smile because I had that time with her.   It's not easy.  It's a very conscious effort - but I am doing it.  

 Just because a story ends in tears, it doesn't mean we forget about the middle, where there was joy.
I will remember her with joy because that's who I am - and that's what she deserves.  






Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Brave

In the three months since my life split into two, I have met several completely amazing women.  All of them at different points in their journey.  All of them hurting with the same pain.  A wonderful thing about human nature is that we come together in times of trouble.   Heartbreak unites us.  Those who share a common thread are tied together.   When I know another woman has experienced this tragedy, I immediately want to reach out my hand to her.  I want to give her hugs and be her friend.   I am not the only one.  This seems like a very common attitude.   We hold each other very dear.    All of us.  All the time.  I've called it a Sisterhood before and it is.  We are sisters, walking this path hand in hand in hand, pulling each other forward, holding each other up, allowing each other to rest.

As you know, this journey is not an easy one.   It's an uphill battle every day, but we do it.  Sometimes because we want to - but mostly because we have to.   Move forward or die trying.  Every day, each one of us wakes up and faces her day without her child.   Every day, each one of us goes through hundreds of mundane tasks that should be easy, but are not because nothing is routine anymore.  Every day, each one of us pulls herself up by her bootstraps and goes out into a world that doesn't understand her.  Every day, each one of us has so much to say, but can't always say it because not everyone wants to hear it.

Let me tell you, it takes courage to live a life like this. When our children died, our lives lost all meaning.  We felt we had no purpose, no direction, no future.  We had to rebuild from the ground up.  Everything.  All of it.  We want to live our lives the same way everyone else does, but our perspective has completely shifted and we see the world in a totally different light.   And we know that the world sees us differently too.   We see the look in your eyes when we talk about our children.  We see you flinch when we bring up our pregnancy or a memory we have of our life just before loss.   We see you waiting in shifty uneasiness to see if we are going to make it through this conversation with you without tears.  We are well aware of our scarlet letter, and we are all doing the very best we can each and every day to wear it with dignity and pride, despite the various attitudes toward it.    We face the world with deep breaths, with our shoulders squared, and our heart on our sleeve.

To my sisters in loss, to the proud mothers of Hunter, Avery, Keelin, Josie, Brooke, Tyler, Matthew, Zoe, Ava, Gabriel, Joseph, Jack, Olivia, Janessa, and Declan,  I'd like to say you are my hope.   You help me see that life without my daughter is hard, but not impossible.   You inspire me to continue with my efforts to find meaning in the meaningless.   To those I have met and those I have yet to meet, you are so brave, whether you think you are or not.   Just the fact that you are here, reading this, living without your baby, proves it.

On a day when you don't want to get out of bed because it's too much, think about the rest of us who are fighting the same fight.   You are our sister and we love you, whether we've met you or not.  We fight with you.  When you feel you can't walk, we will hoist you on our shoulders.  When you feel lost and alone, we will hold your hand in the dark.   When you can't find your voice, we will speak for you, and we will say what you need us to say.   So, get up, put on your gloves, and show the world how brave you really are!








Brave
by, 
Sara Bareilles


You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
And they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you


Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave


With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave


I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave


I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave


Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down
By the enemy
Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is


Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave


With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave


Innocence, your history of silence
Won’t do you any good
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?


Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave


With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave


I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave



Monday, May 27, 2013

Transition

It happens slowly, like a plant bending and curling its leaves toward the sun.   You don't notice it happening, you just notice that is has. The slow crawl from dream-like denial to an unwelcome acceptance.  My life has transitioned.  Not really forward or backward - really more to the side.   But, it is different from the first days.  Not better or worse.  Not lighter or darker.   Different.

I have transitioned from the chaos of pain and disbelief into the recognition of reality.  This reality.  My reality.   The reality that exists without my daughter.
It still hurts.  It still feels as if I am missing an important part of myself - which I am - but I no longer wake up in the morning thinking she will be here. That little glimmer of misguided hope is now completely extinguished.  I didn't really notice it was fading, but it was.   And now, it's gone.   This is my life.  This is where I am.  This is who I am because of it.   There is no return. No magic potion.   No miraculous machine.   This is it.

As a result of this transition, my life is in limbo.  I hover in the grayness between death and life.  The death of my daughter and the life I still have to lead.   I know she is gone and she is not coming back.   I have accepted my fate as a mother without her child.  This loss will always, always, always be a part of who I am.   From now on, everything that happens will do so as a ripple from that heavy stone cast into the water.   But, I am not entirely sure how to live my life without her.   There are so many things I should be doing right now that I am not, so many things I will never do until there is another baby. I should be changing diapers and wiping up spit up.   I should be washing onesies and fastening car seats.   But, I am not - and I will not for at least another year.  So, I wait.   

I have transitioned into waiting.  I am still mourning.  I am still hurting.  I am still shaking my fist in anger.  But, now I am also waiting.   Waiting for my life as a mother to resume.  Waiting for a part of me to feel whole again.

Even when there are more children - even when my daily life is full of what it should be - there will always be a part missing.  That is what I have come to accept.   The hole in my heart will never heal.  It will become less jagged around the edges, but it will always be open and weak.  I will always ache for her.  The joy I find in life from now on will always be tinged with a little bit of sorrow - because she is not here to share it with me.   

That is the transition.   The movement from "Dear God, why?!" to "So, that's how it is."   This is it.   She is gone.  I am here.  And life goes on.  Day after day after day.  I will wake up without her.  I don't really know how to do that - but I do it anyway.  And I will for the rest of my life.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Saturday Spotlight #7

Let's see...what have I been doing this week?   

Well, not too many tangible things, but I have still been working hard.  I've been trying to get the word out to as many people as possible about the movie Return to Zero.  I've been sharing my blog post, and as of this exact moment, it has 982 views!  Hopefully, all 982 of those people signed the pledge to see the movie.  If you haven't yet - what are you waiting for?   We have until June 20th to prove to Hollywood that there is an audience for this movie and people will see it!   If you haven't shared the post with your Facebook people, do that too!   I can't do this alone and I appreciate each and every person willing to help!

I have recently become an administrator on the Cherishing the Journey Facebook page.  I am working hard to promote their upcoming event on July 13th - Cupcakes to Cherish.   I am also in the process of organizing a fundraiser supported by the Brevard County Manatees.   Cherishing the Journey is sponsoring a baseball game on August 24th.   I'm working on organizing ticket sales and promoting that event as well.   You can check out that event here.  With each $7 ticket, Cherishing the Journey will get $4.   Feel free to hit up their Facebook page and share both events with your friends!   The box I received from them brought me such comfort when Kenley died.  Because of this charity, I have a plaster foot and hand print of my little girl.  I have a lock of her hair and pictures of her.   I have the outfit she wore in those pictures.  Without this organization, I would only have a fading memory of my daughter.   They are such a worthy cause trying to bring peace in times of pain.  Please help me support them!  

Also, Mike and I have been cleaning like mad!   His dad is coming tomorrow and has never seen our house because he lives so far away from us.  We also have some of his friends staying with us Monday night, so we are getting things in order.   We organized our closet (super scary!).  We did seventeen million loads of laundry.   We de-cluttered the office.  And we have been to Goodwill twice.   We have another load to take in a little bit.  I did a deep clean of the house last summer in preparation of getting pregnant, but it is amazing what you can collect in a year's time!  

In my cleaning endeavor, I found a bag of Barnie's Santa's White Christmas coffee.   What do you think my first thought of what to do with this treasure was?  Yep - bake cupcakes!   I tweaked a white chocolate cupcake recipe and added some coconut and caramel flavors.   For the icing, I made white chocolate icing but used brewed coffee to smooth it out as opposed to milk.   While I am not entirely happy with the slightly grainy texture of the cake, the frosting came out delightful.   I don't have pictures of them because they have not reached their final form.  I'm going to keep working on this recipe until I am happy with it.   

That pretty much sums up the week I've had.  Staying busy to stay alive.  It's what we all learn how to do.  

Friday, May 24, 2013

Packing Up

Unless you are a teacher - or married to one - you might not know that we have to pack up our rooms at the end of every school year.   We can't just leave all the desks in their locations, the pencils on the counters, and the books on the shelves.   We have to put things in bins or cabinets.  We have to stack the desks and chairs.  Everything is tucked away and secured.  This is so the custodians can use the summer to deep clean the classrooms.  This is what I have to go do today - and I probably couldn't want to do anything less.
Wednesday was the last day for students.  Thursday was the teachers' last day.   For that exact reason, I told my principal I would be in on Friday. Not that I don't want to see anyone - but I don't want to see anyone.

Going back to school stresses me out.  I have actually had several nightmares about going back.  In them, I am surrounded by sad eyes and condolences, and when I try to get up and teach, I can't because I am so overwhelmed.  My school family surrounded me with love when Kenley died.   They sent cards and food.   They sent money to help with our expenses.   Some people stopped by to see how we were.    They are all wonderful, wonderful people, but I'm not ready.   I'm not ready to be back there and see everyone all at once.  Hopefully, today, the halls will be mostly empty.  Only a few people might still be there finishing up their rooms.  

Besides my own home, school is where I spent a majority of my pregnancy.  I walked those halls from the very first day of school with Kenley in my belly.  As time went on, I waddled them.   From day one, I was pregnant.   From the beginning of August till the end of February, Kenley and I went to school every day together.   Today is my first day going without her.  And I am scared.   I am scared I will walk into my classroom - the room I left that fateful day thinking I'd be back the next - and just lose it.   I am scared everything I have to organize and sort and put away will bring back memories of my students, to whom I never got to say goodbye.  I am scared that it will all be too overwhelming and I will just fall apart in the middle of the room, surrounded by piles of things I haven't seen in three months.

I don't want to go.   I want it to just magically organize and pack itself.  I'm just not ready.  But, it has to be done.  And I am a grown up, and I do what I am supposed to do.   So, here goes nothing.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pink Part Two

Everyone knows about the concept of parallel universes.  If you were a teenage girl in the nineties, you probably watched Sliders, and if you were like me, the thought of being able to move from one reality to the next was fascinating.  The super-cuteness of Jerry O'Connell was just a bonus.  Some universes the cast traveled to were chaotic and vastly different from our own. Others just had one or two differences.  Maybe in that universe, someone's pet Golden Retriever made it to old age instead of getting hit by a car, or someone missed the bus they should have taken to work and it crashed without them.   Those were the universes I liked the best.   I don't need huge drama, just something subtle to shake things up a bit.   It has always interested me how one small event can alter the course of history.  I wrote something similar a few weeks ago in this post.  

This brings me to part two of Pink's songs that seem to speak to me now.  Her song "Beam Me Up" talks about wanting to be where someone is, wanting to see them again, and feeling so separate from them.   It's a haunting song and doesn't have the harshness of some of her others.  In it, she is almost pleading with the universe to transport her to where her love is.  I would give anything to see Kenley again.  To hold her again.  To touch her.  I wish someone would "Beam Me Up" to the universe where she survived, even for just one minute.  Just one minute more to look at her face in front of me, to kiss her, to brush her hair away from her eyes.  To look into her eyes and know with all certainty what color they really are.  

I'm not saying I believe in parallel universes, but I am saying I'd like to.   I'd like to think that somewhere in another dimension, there is another me holding her baby.   A me who didn't lose her daughter.  A me who doesn't know the pain of being separated from her child.  I like to think somewhere, Kenley is laughing and smiling and kicking her legs at her mama while she gets a diaper change.   A Kenley who gets to grow up - who gets to go to kindergarten and college.  A Kenley who gets to fingerpaint and swing on swing sets.  A Kenley who gets to go on dates, and have pets, and take pre-calculus.   I imagine this beautiful family, happy and oblivious to the dark side of possibility.  Another me, another Mike, another Kenley.  Together as they should be.  And, although I wish that could happen in my universe, I hope it's happening somewhere.




Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Pink Part One

I have always been a fan of Pink - the musician, not the color.  Her songs usually fall into one of two categories:  Badass Attitude or Meaningful Melody.   Songs like So What, Stupid Girls and Don't Let Me Get Me are anthems to individuality with an upbeat bass.  They are songs to dance to - to jog to (if you're into that sort of thing) - to clean your house to.   Some of her songs are filled with anger and rage.  Others are simple determination.   Pink has always refused to pigeon hole herself into the female pop star role, and I admire that about her.  I always have.

Her new album has spoken to me more than any other though.  It's partially because of what I am going through - and partially because she's just basically amazingly talented.  Not all of her songs are rock beats that may or may not drop the F-bomb.  Many of them are stunningly beautiful, soul-bearing, and heart-breaking.  The raw vulnerability she shows in her songs has always spoken to me - as a writer, as a woman, and as someone who knows what it's like to feel so violently.   There are a lot of her songs that apply to my life these days and those will be coming up in some future posts.   This one though, is about her single "Just Give Me a Reason", which is a duet with Nate Ruess, the lead singer of Fun.  To sum up the song, it's about a couple who has experienced some hard times in their relationship and are trying to figure things out again.  The song begins with these words: 


Right from the start
You were a thief
You stole my heart
And I your willing victim
I let you see the parts of me
That weren't all that pretty
And with every touch 
you fixed them

If those aren't the perfect words to describe my relationship with Mike, I don't know what is.   In the first 30 years of my life, I kept guys at arm's reach.  I never let them get too close.   When I met Mike, everything changed.  Suddenly and completely.   He is my other half - there is no question.

The song continues with Pink being concerned that something has changed in their relationship and she is afraid he is pulling away.   At the same time, Nate begins to sing his part and tells her that she is making things up.  He loves her just as much as always.  She's not interpreting things the way they truly are.   He doesn't understand what she's feeling.  She doesn't understand what he's feeling.   

This is what it is like to lose your child.   Men and women grieve so differently, it is so easy to misinterpret your spouse's actions and intentions.  Men are able to compartmentalize their emotions and deal with them in a more matter of factly kind of way.   To their wives, this seems callous and cold.   A woman fears he isn't grieving or that he doesn't understand  the complexity of her grief.  She is falling apart, why isn't he?   The poor man doesn't understand why his wife is having so much trouble with her emotions. Why can't she sort through them rationally?  Why is everything spilling out of her all the time?  The thing is - both of them are grieving.  Both of them are doing things correctly and the way they need to - it's just lost in translation.  This is where communication is so important.

In the song, the two are trying to communicate with each other.  They are trying to tell the other one what they need and how they feel.  They sing the chorus together:

Just give me a reason

Just a little bits enough
Just a second we're not broken just bent
And we can learn to love again

It's in the starsIt's been written in the scars on our heartsThat we're not broken just bentAnd we can learn to love again
Just give me a reasonJust a little bit's enoughJust a second we're not broken just bentAnd we can learn to love again

Statistically, 16% of marriages do not survive the loss of a child. Objectively, I can see why. Loss changes you. When you build a relationship on who you are, when you change, the relationship also changes. If you're not willing to work on staying together - you won't. The loss will divide you. Personally, though, I am not worried.


When your heart is broken in the same places as the one you love, you have to relearn how to make it beat again. Even if you have no idea what the other person is talking about, you try your best to understand. You make yourself realize that this person is in just as much pain and needs just as much support as you do. You look at your life together as more than what it once was. Before, you loved each other with a carefree innocence - skipping through a meadow of lavender. But now, you are both hobbled by this loss and you aren't really sure how to pick yourselves up and walk on your splintered legs. So, you lean on each other. You bind your broken bones to theirs, you wrap your arms around them, and you limp forward. Slowly. Painfully. But together. And we are doing that.


That's what Pink's song says to me. Life is so much harder than it used to be. We are different. Who we are is different. How we react to things is different. But our love is the same. We don't love each other any less. We don't value each other any less. In fact, I think we value each other more.
The scars on our hearts are healing together. And even though this tragedy has covered us in dirt and muck and pain, "we'll come clean".




                                    



 


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Breaking the Silence

There is a cloud that surrounds infant loss, blocking it from the mainstream's view.  It is a cloud of uneasiness, fear, and uncertainty.  If you aren't a part of this sad community, you can't fully understand what it is like to be, and you realize you'd never want to.  We don't want you to either, but what we do want is to be heard.   Our children do not have a voice, so we speak for them, and we want you to listen.   

Until recently, I never thought about the fact that babies die.  I knew of women who had miscarriages, but I didn't really stop to think about what that meant, how much that must have hurt.   I never thought about the emotional roller coaster a family goes through when they lose their child.  About the strain it puts on all of their relationships.  About how much they want to scream out in anguish, reaching with outstretched fingers just for a speck of understanding.   Of recognition of their pain, of support in their journey.   

Think about this:  how many times do you see a Facebook post calling for prayers or support for someone with cancer or another disease?  How many times is it shared, liked, or commented on?   How many posts plead for help with abandoned animals?  How many posts share the pride and service of our nation's soldiers and call for your support?   You probably see two to three of these types of posts a day.  Maybe you share it.  Maybe you like it or comment on it.   Maybe you even visit the website in the link.  All of these are wonderful causes and should be supported and shared.  Please, keep doing it.  

Now, think, before this happened to me and I began sharing my blog and links with you, how many times did you see a post on infant loss?   A website to support grieving families?   A link to a Wall of Remembrance for children lost to still birth or miscarriage?   How many 5Ks did you attend that raised awareness of SIDS?   It's probably safe to guess that the answer to all of those questions is slim to none.   That's because no one talks about it.  No one outside of the baby loss community, at least.   If you go to your search bar on Facebook right now and type in any sort of related keyword, you will find hundreds of pages set up for these types of things - most of them administered by a brokenhearted parent who is just trying to be heard.   When you tell someone your child has cancer, banners fly into the air, fists are raised, shared statuses fly through the internet at lightning speed.  It's a fanfare for salvation.   When you tell someone your child was stillborn, people shy away in silence.  A few people will quietly tell you it happened to a friend of a friend too.   But, that's about it.  A few people have shared my links when I post about a charity I am trying to help or a website I have found that offers support, but not many.  

 Babies dying makes people uncomfortable.  While I admit, it is not the most cheerful of topics, that doesn't make it any less worthy.  Women affected by infant loss deserve to be heard in the same fashion as women affected by breast cancer.  According to the National Cancer Institute, 12.5% of women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.  According to Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness and Information, 32% of pregnant women will experience loss.  That does not include the children lost to SIDS or other issues after birth.  That's a staggering amount of women.   Women whose pain isn't talked about or acknowledged in the same way as others.  We are still fighting for our lives, just not in the same way, and we need just as much support by our society.  

I have unwillingly joined this community at a very pivotal time.  Two films are being made as you read this to help bring this issue to the forefront.  The first is The STILL project, which is a documentary about infant loss.   The second is a major motion picture called Return to Zero.  This movie, starring Minnie Driver and Alfred Molina, is based on the true story of its writer and producer, Sean Hanish.  It tells of the journey of one couple as they face the storm of losing their child and how they cope with that loss.  It is the first movie ever to be made with still birth as the main focus.  Because it is an independently funded movie, its advertising budget is nil, which means very few people will know about it and even less will actually see it.  There is even a chance Hollywood won't release it (even on DVD) if it doesn't feel that there is a willing audience.   But, not if I can help it.

This is where you come in.  Stand with me to help break the silence surrounding this issue.  Help me give my community a voice.  Help us be heard by everyone - not just the people who know and love us.  The first step is easy.  Click on this link and sign the pledge to see Return to Zero when it comes out in theaters.   When it asks for your Local Leader, type in my name. As a Local Leader, I will continue to promote this film in my community until its release.  (It will ask for your email address.  Don't get squirmy.  You have a "junk" account, I know you do.  It's just to keep track of actual pledges.)   The second step is a little more difficult.  Share my blog post or the link to the pledge form with your friends.  A few days later, share it again.   And again.  And again.  Share it until the movie comes out next Spring.  Don't let people forget.   If you find yourself thinking, "Oh, what if people don't want to see this kind of thing in their newsfeed?" then you have hit the nail on the head as to why we have to share it.

Click here to see a few clips from the movie and interviews with the actors and writer.

I know this movie will be difficult for you to see.  But, think about how much more difficult it will be for that 32% of women to see it.   I am one of those women.   I have made friends with some of those women.  We are everywhere.   There are far too many of us for silence to be even remotely acceptable.  Be a part of something big.   Be a part of breaking the silence.  
You might as well do it now...I'm not going to shut up any time soon.  I promise.  








Monday, May 20, 2013

More than a Scar

Every morning, I place a silicon patch on my C-section scar to help it fade.   Every evening, I peel it off before my shower.  It doesn't hurt anymore.  It isn't tender.  But, it's still there.  A mocking smile about 4 inches below my belly button.   It reminds me every day about what happened to me, of what I don't have, and of what is left behind.  I hate it.

It is the line in the sand to divide the before from the after, the inside from the outside, her life from her death.   This small, pink line is so much more than it seems.

To the average mother, a C-section scar is a badge of honor.  It shows what her body went through to give her children life.   To me, it is a reminder of death.  It is a reminder of the absolute worst day of my life - the day my child was ripped from me both literally and metaphorically.   

I am fully aware that I had an option to not have my scar.   I could have delivered Kenley through regular labor.  I could have been induced and waited in the hospital for contractions to begin.  I could have been in pain for several hours, utilizing all the breathing techniques I learned in my birthing class, to deliver my daughter.   My dead daughter.   Instead, I took the chicken way out.  I couldn't bear to go through labor knowing the end result was a lifeless baby.  I needed to get it over with.  I needed to not feel.  I needed to forget. I've read so many stories of women in my situation who chose to labor.  They explain the reason for their decision being they needed to have those last few moments with their baby.  They wanted the pain because it made them feel closer to their child.   And I feel instantly guilty that I chose to go to sleep.  I couldn't handle what has come naturally to women since the beginning of human existence.  I ran away.   One minute I am awake and sobbing, pregnant with my dead child, the next I am emerging from a drug induced sleep, numb and emptied of the life I had failed to keep safe.  In my panic, I chose to leave behind those last few moments with my baby.   I didn't savor the time I had left.  I was afraid, and I deserted her at the end.  And so, now I have a scar.

Looking back on it,  I probably still wouldn't do anything differently.  In a way, that makes it worse because I am still a coward.  After all I have been through and worked through, I am still not strong or brave enough to go through the birth of my daughter.  I couldn't even do that for her.  My logical brain reminds me that she was very tightly wrapped up in her cord - and I wouldn't have been able to deliver her naturally anyway.   I would have labored for hours only to have to resort to a C-section in the end, but that doesn't really matter.  Without that knowledge, I still chose to escape, and I feel guilty that I couldn't  - or wouldn't - face those last few moments I had with her.  Just because I was scared.

My scar reminds me every day not only of what I lost - but of who I am.     The ugliness of both is overwhelming.  Physically, it will heal into a thin, white line.   One day, it may be only barely visible.  But, I will always know.  Every day.  For the rest of my life, I will remember what I did and didn't do when it mattered the most.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Saturday Spotlight #5

Oh yay!   I have been wanting to tell you about this project for a very long time, but I had to wait until it was finished since part of it was a gift for a few family members.  You may be familiar with Molly Bears or a Heart to Hold.  Both of these organizations help grieving families by providing a tangible object to hold in your arms, weighted to weigh the same amount as your child.  This is an invaluable service.   At the beginning especially, my arms physically ached for her.   I didn't know what to do with them.  They felt empty and useless.   A friend of mine told me about Molly Bears and I looked into it.  At the time, it seemed like a very complicated process to obtain one and I didn't have the energy for it, so I just kept going.   About a month ago, I stumbled upon a fellow blogger's site who had received a heart from a Heart to Hold, and it got me thinking again about this concept.   I really needed something in my arms.   Not as a replacement baby, but as a way to find my inner calm - and a way to bring some resemblance of closure to my aching arms.   I have never been one for stuffed animals past the age of eleven.  I didn't really get excited about bears or stuffed hearts, but I wanted something.   I thought to myself, "What means something to me?"   Of course, the obvious answer was...owls.   I thought - what if I made myself a weighted owl?   Yeah, that would be awesome!   I congratulated myself on my genius, only to quickly realize my plan had a major flaw in it.   I don't know a sewing machine from a hole in the ground.  Fortunately for me, I have a few dear friends who do!  One quick text message was all it took for my friend Chrissy to hop on board.

After I drew out a basic design, we took a trip to Hobby Lobby to select fabrics.  I found a sweet swirling pattern for the back and wings.   We used blue for the face and a sage green for the belly and the sides.   We scoured the racks for just the right buttons to use for eyes.   Once we had the materials we needed, we headed back to her house to get to work.  We weighed out 5 pounds of rice - which conveniently, comes in 5 pound bags - and shimmied it around in a ziplock to check its thickness so we could be sure to make the owl body big enough.   I cut the design I drew into pieces and then traced those onto the fabric.  This involved a great deal of tedious and repetitive actions - lining things up, pinning them, cutting carefully - none of which I am very good at.   I tell people all the time, I'm artsy but not crafty.  Even though it wasn't my forte, it was soothing to me and very healing to work on this project.  

In one afternoon, we had cut out all of the pieces for three owls.   One for me, one for my mom, and one for my sister.   My sister, living in Virginia, did not get down to see me until Kenley had already been taken to the funeral home.  So, she never got to hold her.   I wanted to make her an owl specifically so that she'd be able to have that experience in some way.   
Over the next few days, Chrissy sewed the pieces together.  I sewed on the button eyes and a tree charm on the bottom of each owl. 
  

Then it was time to stuff.  I didn't want a floppy bean bag owl, so we had to figure out a way to keep the rice from sliding around inside.   Chrissy decided to sew several long bags of rice to stuff inside and give it structure.  We divided the rice between the bags.  The bags along the back were stuffed full of rice and the ones in the front were a little looser to add softness

 We padded the sides and ears with batting and then slid the bags in. We sewed up the bottom of the owls and then we were done.  So, after about three weeks of working on and off, we had three owls that weighed 5 pounds 1 1/2 ounces.  I mailed one off to my sister and will give my mom hers the next time we get together.   Mine sits on top of Kenley's Memory Box, next to a picture of her feet.   



I love my owl.   It is something of substance I can hold in my arms when I am missing my little girl.  So, that's what I have been up to these last few weeks.    

Friday, May 17, 2013

Emptiness

There is a feeling of emptiness that accompanies loss that is almost unexplainable. It's as if a deep canyon has opened up in your soul, splitting you down the middle.   You hear the bedrock of your heart crack and break as the hollowness tears you in half.   You are wide open, a hole of echoing darkness taking over what once was solid ground.   You feel not only impossibly empty, but also impossibly vulnerable.  You are like a hollowed out egg.  The shell that surrounds you is so fragile that you know even the slightest tap will cause you to crumble into yourself.  

You realize that in order to survive, you must fill the giant gash left behind.  You must find a way to become whole again.  You must find a way to fill the void.   So, you reach your arms out as far as they can go and you pull in anything of substance within your grasp.   Sometimes these things are healthy, sometimes they are not, but you don't care.  You shove them in, packing them into the emptiness, hoping that soon, you will feel complete again.   But, you don't.   It's not enough.  It's never enough.   No matter what you do or how you try to satisfy the emptiness, it will not go away.  Like a junkie, you always need more.  

Everything I am doing with my life right now is a direct attempt to fill the empty chasm inside.  The blog, the baking, the charities, the art.   If I buy another owl, maybe I won't feel so hollow.   If I write one more post, maybe the crack will close a little.   I need to paint another picture.  I need to help another mother.   I need to perfect another recipe.  I need to organize a fundraiser.  I need to plant a garden.   I need, I need, I need.  Thankfully, I have not been pulled towards less savory ways to fill this emptiness, but I can completely see why some women are.  You just want the constant pull of nothingness to let go of your heart.   You just want to feel whole again - and you will try anything to make that happen.

I don't know how to fill this emptiness.  I don't know what else I can do.  There is a giant hole inside me - a dark hollowness where there used to be light.  I try to find positive and meaningful activities to fill the void, but it's not enough.  She's gone.  This is what she left behind.



Thursday, May 16, 2013

Finding Meaning

Did you know that, if not recycled into the soil by earthworms and dung beetles, cow dung can "dry out and remain on the pasture, creating an area of grazing land which is unpalatable to livestock?"  (Wikipedia for the win!)   Basically, if you do nothing to it, cow dung becomes so hard and crusty that it can cause the life around it to cease to exist.  Plants can't grow through it, so then cows can't graze in that area.   However, if the worms and the bugs are allowed to break it down, it becomes something useful.   Full of nutrients, the cow dung helps to fertilize the soil and continues the cycle of healthy grass growing to be consumed by the cows.   Even better, cow dung made into manure is fantastic for gardeners to help their plants grow full and beautiful.   From a disgusting waste product, beauty can emerge.  But, not on it's own.  It needs help.

To me, this analogy helps make sense of the horrible and hurtful "Everything happens for a reason" sentiment.   People want to look at the flowers sprouting out of the soil and say "See!   Here is your reason!  Good has come from bad!  Yay!"   If there was no cow dung, there wouldn't be flowers, right?   Wrong.   If there weren't earthworms or beetles, there wouldn't be flowers.   It's not the event that has a reason - it's what you do with it that creates reason, or rather meaning.  I could just leave the dung where it is.  I could not deal with it and let it dry and crust over.  I could let my grass underneath it die and, as a result, my entire herd of cattle would perish as well.  But, what would be the point of that?  What good would that do me?  Not only would my field be covered in cow poop, but then all my cows would be dead.  So,then I am left with a desolate and uninhabitable area.  

The popular saying is "Sh** Happens", and right now, I am neck deep in it.  But, I am not going to let it just meaninglessly lay there.  Instead, I choose to release the earthworms and the beetles - and make use out of it.   I will break it down bit by bit.   I will work through it and give it purpose.   I will use it to fertilize my field.  I will use it to plant a garden.  I will make it mean something because, otherwise, it will drive me crazy.

This is why so many mothers of loss form foundations in their child's honor.  This is why we all have blogs and causes.  Why we plunge into helping with charities.  This is why I am painting pictures and working on my cookbook.   It's the reason behind my Saturday Spotlights and my Kenley's Krew facebook page.  All of these things are my earthworms and my beetles, chewing through the muck, breaking it down to give it value.  When light comes out of darkness, we don't praise the dark.  We don't find meaning or good in the dark.  We don't say to ourselves "Hey...if it weren't for this darkness, I wouldn't have a reason to light this nice scented candle"  We say, "Hey...I'm going to light this nice scented candle because it's so dark in here."  The difference is subtle, but still there.   Kenley did not die so I could become a greater person or create a different future.  Her death had no purpose or reason, but I'll be damned if I let her death be meaningless.   





Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mangoes

The weekend I found out I was pregnant, Mike and I had plans to visit a local plant nursery for Mango Madness.   The nursery had arranged for a mango expert to speak a little bit about the care of mango trees.   They also had about two dozen different types of mangoes to sample.  Did you know there are over 100 different types of mangoes?   Well, there are.   And they all have a slightly different taste.   Some are slightly grainy and bitter.  Others are smooth and buttery.  While Mike sat at the front of the room, listening intently on how best to cultivate a tree, I circled the sample table, grabbing toothpick after toothpick to see which type I liked best so we could buy that specific tree.   I had known I was pregnant for less than 24 hours, and already I was thinking about how old our baby would be when we could harvest our fruit.   A mango tree takes about two to three years to produce fruit.   I pictured our little baby in her highchair, smiling and laughing and covered in golden goo from our first harvest.

After the presentation, I told Mike I had figured out what type of tree to get.  We chose a Kent mango tree.  It's fruit is slick and sweet - and it was my favorite.  As we walked through the nursery with our cart toward the trees, my hand never left my stomach.   This was my baby's mango tree.  We would eat the fruit together.   We placed the tree in the back of my Honda coupe, laying it on it's side with the back seat folded down, and drove home.   Mike planted the tree in our backyard while I called my mother to tell her the news of her future grandbaby.

You might be thinking to yourself, "Well, it's ok.  Your future children can eat those mangoes."   That would be true if the tree's story ended here.   February in Florida is usually the coldest month.  It can get below 50 for several days in a row.  Sometimes getting into the 30's, but not often.   This year, February was unseasonably warm.   I remember sitting out at recess with my teacher friends the Friday before we lost her remarking about how nice the weather was.   It was as if winter had forgotten us.

When Kenley died a few days later, winter remembered.   March was ridiculously cold.  And not a day or two here and there as we are used to.  It was repeatedly below 60 degrees for the entire month.   I like to think it was because the world was mourning with me.  I like to think March was so bitter because my heart was so full of sadness.  

March killed the mango tree.  It is a dry and shriveled shell.  It's brown and brittle leaves hang lifeless around it's tiny trunk.   Like Kenley, it's not coming back.  All through April, Mike tried to work his gardening magic on it, but it's gone.  We really should pull it up, but I can't bear that right now.  

I suppose symbolism is really what you make it to be, but I always considered this tree to parallel my daughter.  We planted it when we found out about her.  It was her tree.  We were going to eat the mangoes together.   It would grow and so would she.   When she died, all the warmth left my world for a solid month.  Literally and figuratively.   And the mango tree couldn't take it either.   So, no Kenley and no mangoes.   Just an empty crib and a hole in the ground that holds yet another broken promise.






Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I'm Guilty

While pregnant, I:

1. Consumed small amounts of caffeine on a weekly basis
2. Ate bites of raw cookie dough a few times
3. Slept on my right side and sometimes even my back
4. Had one glass of wine at a dinner party once
5. Forgot to take my pre-natal vitamin at least twice a week
6. Was on my feet all day Monday through Friday
7. Rested my cell phone and Ipad on my stomach when I wasn't using them
8. Poked her a lot
9. Lifted my hands above my head to reach things from high places
10. Picked up a few heavy objects
11. Rearranged my students desks a few times
12. Sat next to a smoking person at an outdoor festival
13.  Ate deli sandwiches
14. Had a few bites of brie cheese
15. Ran into the counter's edge several times with my belly
16. Took allergy medication
17. Probably didn't drink enough water
18. Ate a lot of fast food
19. Forgot to floss
20. Complained about being pregnant

Although I feel slightly guilty about this entire list, it's the last one that gets me.   If I had known that being pregnant was the only time I was going to have with her, maybe I'd have been better about it.  I hated how I looked.  I thought I looked enormous and gross.  I would look and my bulging belly and grimace.  I grimaced!   I would tell Mike I felt fat and disgusting, and like a good husband, he would tell me I looked beautiful. But, I didn't feel it.  Truth be told, I didn't particularly enjoy being pregnant.   If I wasn't nauseous, I had other digestive issues.   I was plagued with heartburn and swollen ankles.  I was exhausted and constantly having to pee.  I couldn't sleep and my back ached.  At the time, I just wanted it to be over.  I wanted to be finished with pregnancy so I could move on with motherhood.  Now, I would give anything to have that time back.   To have just a few more moments with my baby alive.   My pregnancy was pretty standard - right up to the point when it completely wasn't.   I would gladly suffer through the worst pregnancy imaginable if it meant I could have a healthy, living baby at the end.  I would go through hell to get to heaven.  I wouldn't even think twice.   

So many mothers take pregnancy for granted.  Especially when you pass that 20 week mark, you think you're home free.   You swing your bat and hit that ball high and fast.   As it soars through the air, you run with an air of confidence.  Rounding first, second, third.  You're sliding into home and...thunk...you hear the sound of a ball hitting a glove.  You're out.  Game over.   The other team wins.   You never thought this would happen to you.   You're a good batter with a strong arm and a sharp aim.  You should have hit a homer.   But, you didn't.   And, so you sit in the dugout, covered in red clay and disappointment, wishing you'd paid more attention to the game.







Monday, May 13, 2013

Belly Dancer

Early on in my pregnancy, I posted a Facebook status stating some things I'd never do.  One of them was that I would never take a picture of my bare belly.  I hated those pictures.   To me, even the professionally done ones looked creepy to me.  Especially the ones when people put their hands over the belly button to look like a heart.   Ugh.   They bugged me.   They actually still do, but now for different reasons.   

However, I have to admit to the world, that I did, in fact, take a picture of my bare belly while I was pregnant.  Let me tell you why, though.   We didn't call Kenley "Ninja Baby" for nothing.  She was a kicking, flipping powerhouse in there.   She was especially active when I had music going - and was partial to Broadway show tunes.   I watched Les Miserables on stage and in the theater while I was pregnant and she couldn't keep still.   What can I say?  The girl had a thing for Jean Val Jean.  I loved to feel her move.  Loved it.   It made me feel like she was happy in there and giving me a heads up on her good mood.  Sometimes, I would try to make her move around.  Les Mis always did the trick.   When I snapped this picture, I knew I was going back on my word to never do such a thing.  But, I didn't care.  I was so amused with myself and my little ninja, I wanted to document the occasion.  I didn't have the rounded headphones, just the earbuds.  So, I put one in my ear for volume control, and one in my belly button.  Besides looking adorable, it was also very practical while moving around.



There she is, jamming away in there.   I'm sad you can't see it because it was a fun time.   This is one of my favorite pictures of her.   She was about 32 weeks here and had only about four more left to dance.  But, dance she did!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dear Kenley

To my precious Little Ninja, 

Oh, how I miss you.  Today, I woke up crying.  When the first gray streaks of morning filtered into my bedroom and my eyes fluttered open, they were already full of tears.   My tears try to fill up the hole in my heart, but there is never enough.  Even though I cry rivers, the emptiness you left behind is too big.   Nothing will ever fill it.  

I can't believe you are gone.  I can't believe I had a beautiful, healthy baby one day, and then an empty body and heart the next.  Sometimes, I still expect to feel you move.  You had one mean left hook, you know.   Sometimes, I still expect to hear you cry from the next room.   Every once in a while, I think I might wake up from this world from which you are missing, and run to you in your crib, where you are smiling up at me.   I don't want this to be real, baby girl.  I don't want to be a mother without her child.  But I am.    You are not here, and I am left to carry on without you.  Some days, I am able to pull myself together.  Some days, I am able to take your memory and wrap it around me like a blanket, soft and warm and comforting.   I snuggle into you and my heart swells.   You'd be so proud of your mama on those days.  But, on other days, the blanket is full of holes and the world is so cold.  On those days, my darling daughter, nothing is enough to keep me warm, and my life without you is dark and broken.  I don't want you to see me like that.  On those days, Little Ninja, look away.  A mother should be strong for her child, and I am trying so hard.  So very hard all the time.  Please know that.

Today is Mother's Day, and it is already a hundred times harder that I feared it would be.  I am wracked with sobs as I write this to you.  I am so very sad you are not here with me  - that I don't get to hold you in my arms, or kiss your cheek, or inhale your sweet scent.  I am so very sad I never got to know your life outside of my belly and that I'll never get to watch you grow.  I loved you more than anything I could ever have imagined.  I loved you with a love so great and powerful that it holds me together and tears me apart at the same time.   I still love you.  I will always love you.  Until the last breath of air leaves my body, until my aching heart beats for the last time, until I grow cold and still with death, I will love you. 

I'm sorry you don't get to have the life we planned for you.   I'm sorry you'll never feel my arms around you.  I'm sorry your Daddy will never get to teach you about science and I'll never get to show you how to frost cupcakes.  I'm sorry I'll never know the color of your eyes, or what your favorite food is, or what games you like to play.  I'm sorry for so many, many things.   But, I am not sorry you existed.  Not for one second.  I am not sorry I carried you for 36 weeks just to end up brokenhearted.  Even though I lost you, I am not even a little bit sorry for the life you did have.  For a tiny sliver of my life, you were in it.  Your heart beat because mine did.  I would rather have had you and then lost you than never have had you at all.  For that, I will never be sorry.

You made me who I am.  Because of you, I am forever changed.   You made me a mother, Kenley Evelyn.  You transformed my ordinary heart into something more - something spectacular.   And even though right now, that heart is jagged and torn, it still beats with a rhythm just for you.  It always will.   One day, you will have little brothers or sisters, and they will help sew it back together, but you will always be inside it.  A nugget of light inside my patchwork heart.  Your light will shine through me wherever I go.  You will be the candle in my lantern, and I will use your flame to bring light to the darkness.  With one foot in front of the other, I walk through this life with your lantern in my hand and your father by my side.  You will always be a part of us.  No matter where we go, what we do, or who we meet, you will be there.


I love you now, always, and forever.

Love, 
Your Momma




Saturday, May 11, 2013

Saturday Spotlight #4

Ok...so I am still currently working on my Saturday Spotlight project.  I thought I'd be finished by now, but I ran into some slight scheduling and logistical problems.   And, I can't really tell you much about it because it's a present for some family members - and I know they are reading this.  But, let's just say it involves some beautifully coordinated fabric, six really cool looking buttons, and a whole lot of love!   I am hoping that next Saturday, everything will be finished and in the mail - and I can spill the beans.

In the meantime, I am still baking and inputting recipes into my cookbook.   This week's baking endeavor was Cream Soda Cupcakes with Browned Butter Frosting.  Sometime this weekend, I plan on baking lemon cupcakes and probably some blueberry muffins. (I might even try out this recipe I found on Pinterest.)  The plan is to go through all the recipes that involve buttermilk since I still have half a gallon in my refrigerator.  It's all about using your resources wisely, people!



Cupcakes are music to my stomach!