Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ringing in the New Year

So, it's New Year's Eve.   The last day of the worst year in my life.  I cannot even begin to tell you how relieved I feel to have made it to this day - or how much I am looking forward to that midnight ball drop.  For some reason, the switching from 2013 to 2014 is symbolic to me.  Like stepping out from a dark tunnel into the bright light of morning.  Almost a cleansing of sorts.  The muck and grime of the last year will be washed away, flowing from me in dark, winding rivers.   Not to forget, but to break free.  I feel like I am breaking the chains that 2013 had shackled to my ankles.  Chains of guilt and hopelessness, of despair and fear, of regret and broken promises.  Chains that bound me and kept me down.  Chains that prevented me from finding my way back to the light.  

I'll never, ever break free of my love for my daughter...and of course, I wouldn't want to.  Moving on from 2013 does not mean I leave her behind.  I will carry her with me for as long as I live, nestled inside my heart like a bird inside a nest.  I will always ache for her.  There will always be a piece of me missing.  Always.   As I watch her sister grow, I will wish she were here too.  Every day and for the rest of my life.   What I want to leave behind is not my memory, but my pain.   Not my love, but my fear.   As much as I hate this year with the fire of a thousand suns, I have to admit that it has taught me many things.    Here are 13 things I learned in 2013.

1.  I became a mother in July 2012.  February 2013 did not take that away from me - it just changed my perception of what a mother is.

2.  My heart is bigger and wider than I ever knew it possible to be.  It is full of more emotions than have names.  

3.  It is possible to break over and over and over again without dying.

4. Strength is something everyone has, it is just not always recognized as such.  Those showing true strength just think of it as survival.  No one person is stronger than another.  We all have the ability to survive, but it is our choice to do so.

5.  My friends and family come from the best stock on planet Earth - and I wouldn't have come nearly as far as I have without them.  My husband and I are definitely not perfect, but we are perfect for each other.

6.  Loss colors everything in your life, and your view on everything changes.  Forever.  

7.  A mother's love is not only eternal, but is unbreakable beyond imagination.  It stretches across universes - a grasping hand always reaching for her children.  If you want to fight to the death, make a negative comment to a woman about her child.

8.  People don't always know what to do with someone else's pain.  Even though giving them the benefit of the doubt gets old and often exhausting, it's the right thing to do.  Continue to educate the clueless with how to handle grief with care in hopes that through inadvertently hurting you, they will be better prepared for the next person who needs support.   

9. In contrast, sometimes, some people aren't worth the fight.  Sometimes, it's time for them to leave your life to make room for the ones who deserve to stay.  And that's okay.   Holding onto the tail of a bird who desperately wants to fly away will only bring you bloody scratches.  Let them go.

10.  When it rains, it pours.  And pours.  And pours.  And pours.  When you are soaked to the bone and drying off seems impossible, learn how to live dripping wet.  It won't be easy, but the sun will peek through those clouds one day.  Hang on - and keep your head held high.

11.  I am a better person because I am her mother.  I am a better person because she died.  That's a really hard sentence to write because it hurts to admit it, but it is true.  Obviously, I would never have chosen this path.  Obviously, I would much rather have her in my arms today, a happy, bouncy ten month old.   But losing her has forced me to find parts of myself I didn't know existed.  I am a fighter.  I am a warrior.  I am a badass.  I am hardened and softened at the same time.   I wish she were here, but I am proud of the person I have become in the face of her death.

12.  Life isn't fair.  Life has a sinister way of kicking you when you're down by continually shoving other people's happiness in your face.  It's hard to be happy for someone who has what you so desperately want.   It's hard to hurry up and wait.  But, letting go of resentment towards people who are smiling when you can't is like letting go of a lead weight as you flounder in the ocean.  It frees you to float away from unnecessary struggle - and lets you focus on swimming back to shore.   

13.  Kenley Evelyn Wood is my first great accomplishment.  She is more than my daughter.  She is my heart and soul.   I am the mother of star dust, connected to the universe with a tether of light and love.   Her DNA still courses through my veins, and will continue to do so as long as I live.  Nothing can sever me from her.  Not time.  Not space.  Not death.  She will live through me and in the hearts of the people who love her.   2013 stole her life and her body, but it didn't take who she was.   It never will.
So, goodbye 2013.  I can't say I'll miss you.   I look to the new year with hopeful eyes and an open heart - and I wish all of you the same.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bah Humbug

I can't even begin to tell you how much I am dreading Christmas.  If I could skip over the day completely - the week even - I would do it in an instant.  I don't want it to come without her.   I don't want to wake up in the morning to a still silent house.  I don't want to have to face another childless holiday, especially this one.   

This one is the big one.  It's the first big event almost every mom immediately imagines when she is pregnant.  We picture the outfit we will shop for our baby to wear - both on the actual day of Christmas and for any pictures we might take beforehand.   We picture putting up the tree with the various "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments we have either been given or purchased ourselves.  We picture relatives coming from afar to ooh and ahh over our beautiful baby.  Maybe we are even hosting the day at our house for the first time because the baby is here and it's easier than lugging everything all over town.  We imagine how our baby's eyes will light up as we hold her close to the tree, carefully brushing her fingertips over the branches.  We imagine sitting her on our lap on Christmas morning and helping her rip open the brightly wrapped presents that have been lovingly bought for her.  We picture the laughter and the smiles, the eyes shimmering with joy, the music, the light, the family.  We construct this day in its perfection while our baby is still forming her fingers and toes inside us.  

When you are pregnant, everything your baby has yet to do is still bright and shiny inside your mind.  When your baby dies, everything goes dark.   Like Ebeneezer Scrooge's Christmas that is yet to come, fog rolls in, the lights go out, and nothing is what it was supposed to be.  Only, I don't get to wake up on Christmas morning with a second chance.  Kenley will not suddenly be alive in her crib. My Ghost of Christmas Future has come and gone without leaving me a reprieve.  My baby is gone.  There will be no Baby's First Christmas.  Not for her.  I hope Bean will get one, but there are no guarantees in life.  And there's still another year to go before that happens.

This Christmas will be hard.  I will wake up like I have every day for the last ten months to a house without my child. I will hear her absence echoing in the silence.  I won't get her dressed in an adorable dress and tights.  There will be no shiny black shoes to snap onto her wiggling feet.  No presents to open.  No new toys to play with.   There will be only an empty crib and a living room without a Christmas tree.   There will be a broken promise and a weary soul.  

As I write this, a tiny sliver of hope squirms slightly below my belly button.  A little ray of light the size of a sweet potato quietly reminds me that not all is lost - that maybe, just maybe, next Christmas will be different.  While Kenley will always be missing, I hope Bean will be here.  But, now, instead of thinking of a future with bright, shining lights, I hope with a softness that cannot be helped.  A quiet pleading.  Please.  Please.  Please don't take this one away from me too.  Please let me have this one.  Please.  Please.  Please.  

But, she's not here yet.  I still have a long way to go, and all I really have is right now.  Right now, Kenley is gone and Bean is still growing.  Right now, I do not have a baby in my arms.  Right now, life is hard and uncertain and Christmas is still coming.  The first of many I will face without her, but hopefully the last I will face with empty arms.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Fun Facts

So, I'm sure you've seen (or will begin noticing now) the "Pregnancy Fun Facts" statuses that have been popping up on Facebook.  Women are randomly posting a few facts about their pregnancies as their status.  The amount of facts shared is related to a number assigned to them by a friend.   I saw one for the first time the other day and read it with curiosity, excitement, and, obviously, jealousy.  How wonderful it must be to have a pregnancy that results in happy, living children!  I don't mean that sarcastically at all.  There's a sense of innocence to these posts that I envy.   

For the last several days, I have wondered if I should create one of these statuses myself, but I held myself back.  Not because of my usual "hatred of the norm" attitude, but because I wasn't sure if people would want to read about my pregnancies since the first one ended in tragedy and the second is still only halfway through.   But when it comes to "normal" baby related activities, I want to participate so badly in all of them.  I want to be normal.  I want to be the happy-go-lucky mom who can talk about her babies without taking a sharp emotional left turn.  So, I am going to share that here.  

1. I got pregnant with Kenley the first time we tried in June of 2012.  Mike and I had been married almost a year, but knew we wanted to start a family quickly.  It took me three cycles of trying to get pregnant with Bean, which happened in August of 2013.  

2. With both pregnancies, the first trimester was very hard.  With Kenley, I threw up about 5 times.  Bean's number is closer to 10.   Regardless of actual vomiting, I had food aversions and nausea constantly from about week 7 to week 14.   Nausea with Kenley lightened up faster than with Bean.  Even at week 17, I am still very sensitive.

3. I lost about 6 pounds my first trimester when pregnant with Kenley.  Overall, I gained 18 pounds.   I lost almost all of it within a week of her birth.  With Bean, I have lost a little less than 10 pounds, but am starting to level out and hopefully, will start to gain.  I expect the weight gain to be similar.

4. Kenley moved like crazy.  I felt her for the first time around 13 weeks.  I know that's early, but I remember very clearly sitting on the couch, leaning forward, and feeling three little pops.  I wasn't sure then if that is what I really felt, but as time went on and I felt her more, I knew that was it.   

5. Bean is much more mellow than her sister.  I haven't felt her very often, but I am just now starting to feel her more.  When I do feel her move, it's not pops, but more of a wiggle.  Sometimes, I think maybe my stomach is still numb in places from the C-section.

6. Kenley was born on February 25, 2013 at 36 weeks and weighed 5 pounds, 1 1/2 ounces.  She was 19 inches long and had a boatload of dark hair, just like her mama.  Bean will be a scheduled C-section at 36 weeks as well, which puts her birth near April 20th, 2014.

7. I really didn't like being pregnant very much.   The only things that made it worthwhile were those quiet mornings where Kenley would move and wiggle and I would poke her back, giggling as she tickled me.   I loved to feel her move and to picture what each of her parts were doing in there.   I am looking forward to those moments with Bean.

8. My pregnancy with Kenley was very typical and normal right up till the end.  So far, Bean is healthy and normal as well.

9. I had a really hard time finding names.  I didn't want my daughter to have a name like every one else, but I didn't want a crazy "flower child" name either.  When I first stumbled across Kenley, it was under the boy section.   I'm still working on Bean's name.  It's hard because I already went through - and rejected - so many names when naming Kenley.  And I don't want to give Bean a "Kenley cast-off".

10.  I admit, I did love not having to ever suck in my stomach.  Now that I'm starting to show, I'm letting it all hang out again.   Nice!

11.  Maternity clothes are the most comfortable clothes in the world.  When I was pregnant with Kenley, I joked around that I would continue to wear them for the rest of my life.  I really see no reason to revise that statement.

12. Kenley was supposed to be the first of two.  She might now be the first of three, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.  I'm no spring chicken.  Plus, I really just want to focus on getting Bean here safely and dealing with her when she does.

13. I took two pregnancy tests with Kenley.  Obviously, I took the first one to confirm I was pregnant.  A few weeks later, I took the second one simply because it was just sitting in the box and I felt like it.   Still pregnant.

14.  I have more ultra sound pictures of Bean's first 17 weeks than I do of any pictures of Kenley, including the 5 taken in the hospital.  I don't really feel guilty about that, though.  It's just the way it is.   

15. When I found out Kenley was a girl, I made pink frosted cupcakes for my class.  This year's class still doesn't know about Bean.  I think they think I'm just getting fat.   I have no plans to make an official announcement to them any time soon.  Probably after Winter Break sometime when it becomes more obvious.   

16.  I am doing all the regular pregnancy things with Bean that I did with Kenley.  I am writing to her in a journal.  I am tracing my belly on canvas.  I talk to her.  Sometimes, I sing (badly) to her.  I don't care about "getting too attached."   She's my baby.  I'm already attached.  

I could probably continue forever.  I love to talk about my children.  But, that's enough for a Fun Fact Post.   Maybe you learned something about me.  Maybe you already knew all these things.  But, I feel better being able to participate in something "normal" with my babies.  

Monday, December 9, 2013


Some days are extremely overwhelming.  Some days, I feel like those migraine commercials where the woman is holding her head and the camera zooms shakily in and out to represent the pain she feels.    I am overflowing with too many different emotions - emotions that completely contradict each other.  Some days, I don't know how I am going to handle this for even the next few months, let alone the rest of my life.    I feel like I am going to explode and implode at the same time.  Explode because I am so full of so many things that need to be sorted, but just can't.  Implode because the world just seems so heavy and crushing - and not always understanding of or accommodating to what I need to sort.  It pushes down on me to feel things a certain way, to process things a certain way, to have some sort of linear motion to this journey.  But, that isn't the way it is.  It has never been that way and it will never be that way.  I am stumbling through my life, like someone who drank too much, but is still trying so hard to walk upright.  I'm hazy and unfocused, and I'm afraid I'll never get a handle on myself again.

I miss Kenley every day and with no less intensity than the first day she was gone.  I think of her every day.  I love her every day.   My heart is still broken for her.   There are moments of those first few days that I do not let myself think about for too long because they just hurt too much.  Moments of writhing in anguish on the ultrasound table after seeing her unbeating heart - of what it felt like to walk, swollen with death, to the operating room for my C-section - of how cold and soft she was in my arms - and of how absolutely beautiful she was despite her lack of life.  I can't even write those sentences without taking ten minutes to compose myself.  Even as hard as I have worked to wade through this mess, I have still pushed a lot of it away.  I just can't do it.   I am still actively mourning for her.  

And yet, I am now pregnant with her sister.  How do I push all of that sorrow aside and be joyous for this new life?   How do I decide which child is more important to me?  Which emotion?  I can't.  And, you might be saying, "Well, you don't have to."   While that's true - while I don't have to choose between my children - there is only so much a human heart can take.   There is only so much room for such conflict.  Sorrow and joy can go together in a bittersweet swirl, but not always to this extent.  I try so hard to find that balance.  To find that path where my devastation over losing my firstborn can live harmoniously with my excitement over carrying my second.   But, I am not even sure there is a balance.  I don't know how to achieve it.  I am constantly faltering back and forth, back and forth.  Feeling intensely guilty towards one daughter if I spend too much time on the other one's side.  

I often find myself saying "I just want my baby."  I want both, but I can only have one.    In a perfect world, I would have both.  But, in a perfect world, Kenley would still be alive and I would not have had a reason to get pregnant again right now.  So, what does that say about Bean?  If I give Kenley priority in my heart, then it seems like Bean is a consolation prize.   If I focus on Bean, then what about my Little Ninja?   You might say I am over-thinking all of this, but really, I'm not thinking anything.  I'm only feeling.  And I don't know how to make it manageable.  I don't know how to organize these emotions anymore.  I'm just a swirling ocean of one crashing wave after the next.  Slam, slam, slam. 

Love, anger, excitement, fear, joy, sorrow, guilt.  All at once.  All the time.  

I still can't believe this is actually my life, and not some horrible nightmare.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

It's Not Easy Being Green

It's hard to pinpoint what my thought process has been in getting pregnant again, but I can easily tell you I wasn't expecting it to be this hard.  I knew it would be tough.   I knew it would bring forth stress and conflicting emotions, but I really wasn't prepared for this.   I don't think any mother is.  I remember thinking, "If I can just get pregnant again, then I will feel better.  I will feel less empty.   I will feel like I am moving forward."  And while some of that is happening, it's not happening to the extent I thought it would.  And so many other things are going on that make this roller coaster ride even more stomach dropping.  I can't put all of them in one post, so I'll just write about things one at a time.

The first thing that caught me off guard was my emotional reaction to my physical changes. I'm not one of those lucky women who float through their pregnancies with a happy sigh and a joyous glow.   My first pregnancy was physically difficult.  My second is not different.  Nausea, heartburn,swelling, bloating, fatigue, soreness - you name it.   I had all of these things with Kenley - and I have them again with Bean.  I knew they were coming.   But, there's a part of me that feels that it is just so unfair that I have to go through it all again.   I am angry that I have to put my body through the pains of pregnancy a second time without being able to reap the benefits of the first.   While every pitch over the toilet bowl reminds me that Bean is alive and growing, it also irritates me that I have to be there.  And it makes me think of the last time, when it was Kenley who was causing my stomach to flip flop its contents.  Every time I wake up in the middle of the night with my esophagus on fire, I reach for the Tums with a sigh of frustration, not just because I'm uncomfortable, but because I'm uncomfortable again.   And when I'm too tired to do anything after work but sit and breathe, I wish it was because my baby kept me up all night crying and not because she's dead and I'm pregnant with her sister.  Every ache, every pain, every discomfort of my body is a reminder of what I have and what I lost.  

And then, there is the comment that always comes after I express these feelings.  "It will be worth it."   Oh really?   I'd love to take a look in the crystal ball you have.  Please, show me the guaranteed future where all of this is worth it.  Where my baby is in my arms, healthy and alive. Then there's the "At least you were able to get pregnant again."  These comments frustrate me for many reasons.   The main reason being comments like this make me feel like I have no right to complain about being pregnant - and that's just not fair.   Every woman has the right to complain about being pregnant.  Being pregnant is hard!   Our bodies go through so much.  I should still be able to talk about how crummy I feel without someone reminding me to remember how lucky I am to have a second chance.  I know how lucky I am.  I know so many women don't get pregnant as easily as I have.   My many support groups are full of these women, whose hearts break every month over and over and over again.   I get it.  No one needs to tell me of the hardships of pregnancy or infertility.  I have cried for them and with them.  We cry for each other.  I have been in this community for several months.  I know I could have it so much worse.   But, that doesn't mean I still shouldn't be able to complain.  In fact, I need to complain.   I need to have someone tell me they understand - or at least that they understand my right to be upset.  Let me hang on to this one bit of normalcy in a life that is anything but.

There's this mindset among those who aren't in the baby loss community that a Rainbow pregnancy is - well - full of rainbows.  This attitude that once that egg has been fertilized again, it's just smooth sailing until a screaming baby pops out.  And that any slight bump along the way should be taken with a smile because - hey, you're pregnant again!  Yay!    Yes, there are moments when I am truly happy and excited - when I'm not nauseous, when I have some energy, when my stomach isn't a boiling pit of acid.  And then there are moments when I feel like crap and I wish I had a baby already.   By the time Bean gets here, I will have been a human oven for almost two years, with a sixth month break in between babies.  And I will still only have ONE baby.  (The uncertainty screaming around in my head regarding that statement is definitely for another post)   I have earned my stripes.  I have earned the right to vocalize whether or not I have a stomach ache, or how tired I am, or how I just want my body to be done with this already.   

I have five more months - twenty more weeks - to go.  Twenty more weeks until my body is mine again.   Twenty more weeks before Bean is in my arms.   It seems like an eternity.