Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas One Less

So, a year ago, I wrote this blog post.  Christmas was coming and I was not even the least bit excited.  I was facing a day that was going to be everything it shouldn't have been.   Really, I'm facing a lifetime of that, but it seems exceptionally glaring during the holiday season.  Christmas is a day of light, love, and family.   Last year, I didn't feel any of that.   I felt broken and sad.  I was scared that Piper would never make it out of me alive, and I was worried that Christmas 2014 would also arrive joyless and dark.   Well, Christmas is here again, and while it has much more light around the edges than last year, it's still no bed of roses.

You hear all about how the holidays are difficult for people.   How people often feel the most isolated and the most hopeless than at any other time of the year.  You hear it.   You read studies and articles.  Maybe you even know someone who has lost someone they love and you see them struggle during this time of the year.   But, unless you actually are one of those unfortunate people, you really don't know just how hard it is.     

The holidays are hard.  Really, really hard.  Sometimes, impossibly hard.  Even when more joy has found its way into your life, this time of the year has a way of peeling it away from you.   You see all that should have been instead of all that is.   It often feels like you are stuck in a life that shouldn't be yours.   At a time when everyone else is festive and excited, all you can think about is who is missing and what you aren't able to do the way you wanted. 

This is Piper's first Christmas, and I am trying very hard to make it memorable.   For the first time in my adult life, I have a regular Christmas tree.  With lights and ornaments.   I hung stockings.  (four of them).   I took her to see Santa Claus, which she couldn't have cared less about, but it was more for posterity's sake anyway.  I bought her a "Baby's First Christmas" ornament and onesie with a little penguin on the butt.   I even have a present wrapped and under the tree.  I want to continue my family's tradition of receiving a nightgown on Christmas Eve and opening stockings before breakfast on Christmas morning.  I want to start some new traditions even though I haven't thought of any yet.   I want to be a family.   I have waited so long to feel like a family.   Christmas is the time, right?

And still, we are one less.   We will always be one less.   No matter how wonderful I try to make Christmas - or any day - Kenley will never be here to see it.   It's really hard to not feel completely hopeless about that.  It's hard to muster up feelings of joy and happiness when I know she will not get to experience it.  Ever.  Everything I do for Piper, I should also be doing for Kenley.  But, I'm not.  She's not here.  She won't ever be here.  And I will always put up the Christmas tree without her.  Hang stockings without her.  Open presents and watch her sister play - without her.   Every day is without her, but it feels especially empty on Christmas.

How do you ignore such a gaping hole in your life?

You don't.  

You just string some tinsel around what you can and you hope for the best. 



Friday, October 24, 2014

"God's Plan"

I have been very vocal about Kenley and how I feel in the wake of her death.  I have tried very hard to convey in a very public forum how it feels to lose a child, how the grieving deal with the aftermath, and how to respond to another person's grief in a helpful and productive manner.

So, naturally, I get frustrated when I keep getting the same (unintentional?) hurtful responses from people. 

The one that hurts above all else are the comments surrounding the idea of "god's plan"

Telling a grieving mother that her baby's death is all part of "god's plan" is not helpful, even if you expand on it by adding, "we might not understand."  Here are a few questions I'd like to ask those of you who follow the "god has a plan" OR "everything happens for a reason" mentality:

1. What loving god would let a baby die before taking her first breath?  I mean, what's the point? 
2. What lesson could god possibly want a mother to learn that would necessitate her child's death? 
3. What loving god would sit and think out a map of someone's life and say "oh hey...here's where I want to rip her child from her arms and put her through horrible pain because...you know, reasons"?
4. What could be the reason behind a child dying?   Am I to learn compassion or empathy?   Am I to meet someone through my journey?   Could that not happen another way?  Why does death have to get involved?

You can tell me that I just don't understand those reasons right now and that would be a complete cop out on your part.  

 You don't know what the reasons are because there aren't any.   YOU want there to be a reason because you feel better if bad things have a purpose, and saying that god's plan is too complicated for us to understand is your way of trying to make sense of what's happened.

But what happened doesn't make sense.   My baby tangled herself up in her cord, lost oxygen, and died.   It is horrible and devastating, but it is not part of a plan.   A plan is purposefully constructed.  Telling me that Kenley's death is part of god's plan is telling me god had a willful hand in organizing her death.  How in the world is that supposed to make me feel better?  Would that make YOU feel better?  If it would, then clearly you and I have a very different take on things.  

The truth of the matter is sometimes bad things happen for no reason.  My child died.   There was / is no plan involved.  Please don't try to comfort me by saying that there was.  If it makes you feel better to believe in god's plan, then go right ahead.  I won't stop you.  But, please, don't share it with me.  I don't believe it and am upset by the thought of it.

This is my personal grief journey.  I know I have opened myself up for comment by sharing it with you, but please remember it is still my journey.   What comforts you might not be of any use to me.   What comforts me might not be the same for you. 

And just so you don't think this is just me....here are some links written by other people.   "God's plan" / "Everything happens for a reason" is on ALL of them, among many other hurtful phrases.

http://www.whatsyourgrief.com/what-not-to-say-after-a-death/

http://www.hopeforthebrokenhearted.com/what-not-to-say-to-someone-who-is-grieving/

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/what-not-to-say-to-someone-grieving.html 

http://www.caring.com/articles/10-things-not-to-say-grieving

http://www.mommyish.com/2013/11/13/10-things-to-never-say-to-a-grieving-parent/
 

I know this post might come across as irritated.   I am not going to excuse myself away.  I am irritated.  This post was written out of frustration, but it needed to be written.  I needed to say it.  Some people needed to hear it.  Again.  




Sunday, October 5, 2014

Capture Your Grief Day 5: Journal

You have forgotten. You live your life unfettered by her memory. Maybe you are reminded every once in a while. A blog post in your newsfeed. An owl figurine in Marshall's. And then it's a fleeting thought of a fleeting life before you immediately think about how much things have changed. Your mind goes to Piper, a much anticipated rainbow, and your mind rests there. Because thinking of Piper is comfortng and joyful and safe. And you are not conflicted at all.
Let me set the record straight. Having children after loss is just as hard as not having them. It does not make the grief better or less painful. Rainbow babies are not signals to the end of the storm; they are simply reminders that the storm is not all there is, that the sun is still up there They are hope for the hopeless, and although a rainbow often exists because of a storm, it is an entirely different entity. One does not negate the other.
I still love and miss Kenley with every fiber of my being. Every day. Not a moment goes by where I do not think of her, of what she should be doing, of who she would look like, of the milestones she would be hitting. I still ache. I still hurt. I still cry. Probably even more so now that Piper is here. Piper is a daily reminder of where we are in life. Piper is our second chance. Because our first chance died. Every single laugh or smile, every roll over, every outgrown onesie is a reminder of what Kenley will never do. I can't even let myself get started on how Piper wouldn't even be here if Kenley had lived. That's an inner conflict I wouldn't wish on anyone. How are you happy for one when you know that happiness is a result of such sorrow? How do you chose the child to love? You can't. Yet, it seems the world wants you to. "Choose the living one," says the world. "You are alive. We are alive. Let's all focus on that. Forget about your other one. Death is sad. We don't like being sad. We don't know what to do with sadness."
You're going to say, "But Rebecca, I would never make you choose." No, not directly. Not purposefully. But, still every day, I have to choose. Is this the right time to talk about both my girls, or just the one who stayed alive? Would it be weird if after every new picture I post of Piper, I just cycle repeatedly through the four I have of Kenley? I so desperately want to show off both of my children equally, yet I know that's not possible. Piper will grow and change and interact. Kenley will forever be a black and white image of a sleeping baby. In the same dress. In the same position. Forever. She will never be more, but she is so much more. I have to choose because who she is doesn't fit in with how life changes. I have to choose because if I truly talked about her at the level I'd like, there would be an intervention. "Rebecca, we need to talk. We don't think this is healthy." You know what's not healthy? Outliving your children. Too often, the world tells the grieving to move on. Sometimes with words, but mostly through actions. Uncomfortable silences. Changes of topic. The not so subtle shift of focus to the living child.
I know I've said this before, but it can never be said enough. I have TWO children. I carried two babies. I had morning sickness and heartburn twice. I had glowing pregnancy skin twice. I felt two babies squirm and kick and flip. There is no difference between my girls, except for one. Only one of them is still here.










Monday, July 28, 2014

You See One

Today, Piper is three months old.  Everyone tells you that you're never really prepared for a newborn.  The loss of sleep, being constantly covered in goo of some kind, and the complete shift in family dynamics is a bit jarring, I admit.  But, that's not what I was unprepared for.   What caught me off guard was the flood of emotions from not having Kenley.   It was like being right back at the beginning.  With the arrival of Piper, I felt like I'd lost Kenley all over again.   There was (and is) this weird balance of being joyful in my second daughter's birth while still grieving my first daughter's death.

Every day, as I take care of Piper, I think about how I will never be able to take care of Kenley.  When I give Piper a bath and scrub her soft baby belly, I think about how I never got to even see Kenley's belly.   When I put socks on Piper's feet, I remember how I never got to touch Kenley's toes.   When I look into Piper's eyes, I wish I could have seen Kenely's open.   

Like any mom, I take pictures and videos of Piper all the time.  Within just a few weeks of her birth, my phone was full of all sorts of poses and activities.  I have videos of her farting, sneezing, cooing, and just laying there.  I have pictures of her trying to smile, of her sitting in her swing, of her propped up on pillows.  I have dozens of her just sleeping.   I have four pictures of Kenley. I will never have more.  I took more pictures of Piper in her first two days of life than I will ever have of Kenley.  Every single time I take another picture on my phone and see the grid on my screen full of my youngest child, I am reminded of this.   

When I go out and about, pushing Piper in her stroller through the mall or the park, people love to stop and look at her.  They smile at her.  They wave.  They tell me "congratulations", and I say "thank you".  And I want to say, "She isn't my only one, you know.  She has a sister.  A beautiful, wonderful sister."

It's a strange feeling.  People see me, Mike, and Piper and they see a happy family.  They don't see Kenley.   I know she existed.  Mike knows.  Piper will know.  But, strangers don't.  And sometimes, it feels like I'm presenting a lie. A lie I can't dispel.  

I post pictures of Piper on Facebook fairly often.  She's my daughter.  She is beautiful and wonderful and a super-genius.  And I want to share her amazingness with the world.   But, I also want the world to know I have another daughter.  A daughter that didn't get the chance to be amazing.  Sometimes, it feels like people are so happy that Piper is here because now they don't have to think about how sad it is that Kenley is gone.  Sometimes, it feels like Kenley is fading from their memories because holding on to her is just too sad.   I have a horrible, horrible fear that the world will forget her.

You see one.  I have two.  


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Piper Madeline

Well, she's here!  Not without some trials and tribulations, though. 

Piper was born at 2:11 pm on Monday, April 28th, weighing 5 pounds, 8 ounces - with her cord wrapped twice around her neck.  Yep.  You read that correctly.  She had to be cut out of it.   My doctor tells me that we are very lucky we had the C-section already scheduled for the date we did.  Had I gone into regular labor with the cord where it was, or had we had scheduled delivery for a few days later, we could have had terrible results.  Again.  A week before she was born, the cord was exactly where is should be, but somehow between then and delivery, she got herself tangled.  The odds of this happening to another one of my babies is insanely low - yet it did.  It makes me even more grateful that she's here and alive  - and I don't have to go through another tragedy of losing my baby.  I am fairly sure that would have ended me.

 I had a pretty bad reaction to the anesthesia during the C-section and then to the pain medication afterwards, and Piper, being slightly early, needed a little oxygen.  So, she was whisked off to the nursery, and I was basically out of commission for the rest of the day - either vomiting or too foggy headed to focus.  I didn't get to hold my little girl until late Monday night, probably close to 10 or 11.  

Now that I have her home, I can hardly believe it sometimes.  My baby is alive!  She cries and sleeps and squirms.  Mike and I aren't getting a great deal of sleep - not because she's up all the time because she's actually a pretty good sleeper herself  - but because we are constantly checking on her to make sure she's still breathing.  We have both talked about how we are always on edge that this will all be taken away.   We are working on that, but it's not easy.  

Obviously, I still miss Kenley very much.  I always will.  And her little sister will know how special both of my girls are to me.  Life will always be bittersweet, but I'm so grateful for the extra sugar Piper adds to it.

Piper and Kenley

My Beautiful Rainbow



Monday, April 28, 2014

Piper's Playlist: Birthday Song

Today is the day.

Piper Madeline will be born today.  My waiting is over.  My rainbow is here.

Today is going to be the Best Day of My Life.




Sunday, April 27, 2014

Piper's Playlist #7

I'm Feeling Good

There's something about this song that makes you want to dance all sultry-like.  Hips swaying slowly, shoulders wiggling.  An old school kind of shimmy.

When I first got pregnant, I listened to several songs that kept me positive. This was one of them.  I needed to believe in a fresh start.  

When Piper is finally in my arms (tomorrow!), that fresh start will be mine.  

"It's a new dawn.  It's a new day.  It's a new life.  For me.  And I'm feeling good."  




Saturday, April 26, 2014

Not that Easy


Everyone's excitement over the birth of Piper is almost palpable.   An electric buzz in the air - and just below that, a soft sigh of relief.   Finally.   Finally, I'll have my baby.  Finally, I'll have the happiness I deserve.  I am surrounded by love and support, and I am so grateful to have friends and family who will rally around me.   

But, I get this feeling that many people think Monday is going to be some magical moment that will wipe away all of my sadness forever.   Like it's going to completely fix things.   I've been sad, but once Piper is here, I won't be anymore and everything will be smooth sailing.   This couldn't be further from the truth, and I need to make this very clear.  

Piper is coming.   I am full of so many emotions, I really am not equipped to put them into words, which is highly unusual for me.  When she is here, I will feel an enormous flood of relief, joy, and love.  But, as much as you might not want to hear it, I will also feel huge waves of sadness and guilt.   It's just what happens when you have two children, but can only keep one.   Why Piper and not Kenley?  Why can't I have both of my girls?

Bringing Piper safe and sound into this world will not soothe the pain of being unable to do the same for Kenley.   Like I said in this previous post, there will always be a split of feelings.  Joy and sorrow will always go hand and hand in my heart.  There is no changing that.  No level of excitement will overcome it. 

I want you to understand this, but I know not everyone can.  I know the jumbled mess of my emotions is not easily deciphered, especially by those who haven't traveled this road themselves, but I need you to try.   As excited as I am for Piper's birth, I am equally devastated over my forever missing daughter.  That is not going to go away.

On Monday, when Piper's cries fill the delivery room, mine will too.  They will be the cries of a thousand feelings.  I have seen enough ultrasounds to know she's going to look like her sister, which will be both wonderful and heart-wrenching.   

I suppose my point to this post is this:  there is no easy fix.  You can't tuck my story into a box, wrap it with the bow of Piper's birth, and call it a day.  Her birth is not the end of my grief because there is no end to this grief.  I am no longer hopeless, but I am still sad.  I still lost my first born.   No matter how many more children I have in life, I will never have Kenley.   

I love both of my girls.  I always, always will.  Thank you for your support, your excitement, and your well wishes, but please remember there is so much more to this.   Please remember, Piper is a little sister.   


Piper's Playlist #6

We are the Champions

I'm sorry, but you simply cannot have a motivational playlist without a Queen song.  You are welcome to disagree, but you would be wrong.   From "The Show Must Go On" to "We will Rock You" to "We are the Champions", there's something for everyone.   

I'm just going to leave the lyrics right here, and you'll see how fitting this song is for today.   Scroll down for the video.

I've paid my dues
Time after time.
I've done my sentence
But committed no crime.
And bad mistakes ‒
I've made a few.
I've had my share of sand kicked in my face
But I've come through.

(And I need just go on and on, and on, and on)

We are the champions, my friends,
And we'll keep on fighting 'til the end.
We are the champions.
We are the champions.
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions of the world.

I've taken my bows
And my curtain calls
You brought me fame and fortune and everything that goes with it
I thank you all

But it's been no bed of roses,
No pleasure cruise.
I consider it a challenge before the whole human race
And I ain't gonna lose.

(And I need just go on and on, and on, and on)

We are the champions, my friends,
And we'll keep on fighting 'til the end.
We are the champions.
We are the champions.
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions of the world.

We are the champions, my friends,
And we'll keep on fighting 'til the end.
We are the champions.
We are the champions.
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions.



Friday, April 25, 2014

Piper's Playlist #5

Roar

Ok...so it's really not like me to enjoy a Katy Perry song.  I fully admit this.   But then, I remember, I am also a closet Kelly Clarkson fan, so I guess I'm going to have to re-evaluate myself here.  

When 2013 ended and 2014 began, I felt a huge sense of relief.  A sense of freedom.  2014 was going to bring me joy - the joy 2013 so mercilessly stole from me.   I remember listening to "Roar" back in January and feeling empowered by it.   

"I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
'Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
'Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar"


I will not be defeated.  I will not give in to grief or hopelessness.  I will stand up against my demons and the lies they tell me and I will believe in life and love.  I will believe that Piper will arrive, safe and sound, on Monday.  

Because she will.




Thursday, April 24, 2014

Piper's Playlist #4

Carry On



This song starts off fairly slow, and at first, the lyrics are completely unrelated to my journey. But then, with the swell of the chorus, I am reminded of what I need to do to get through each day.


"If you're lost and alone
Or you're sinking like a stone
Carry on
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground
Carry on"



I need to focus on taking one step at a time. Going forward. Carrying on as best as I can.

Then, near the end, you hear this verse:


"Carry on, carry on
Cause we are
We are shining stars
We are invincible
We are who we are
On our darkest day
When we're miles away
So we'll come
We will find our way home"



We are who we are on our darkest day. Those are the moments that define us. It's the darkness, not the sunshine, where we discover our true selves. And it is the triumph over that darkness that reminds us of what we are truly capable of - which is finding our way home.

I will find my way home - with Piper in my arms.




Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Piper's Playlist #3

Inner Ninja


I admit, the title of this song drew me in first.  Kenley was my little ninja, active and crazy.  When I listened to the lyrics, I knew this was a good fight song for me.  

"Hey yo, I've been high and I've been real low
I've been beaten and broken but I healed though
So many ups and downs, roughed up and clowned
We all got problems, but we deal though
I'm tryin' to do better now, find my inner peace..."

And the chorus:
"Nobody's gonna see me comin'
Nobody's gonna hear a sound
No matter how hard they tryin'
Nobody's gonna bring me down

Nobody's gonna see me comin'
Nobody's gonna hear a sound
No matter how hard they tryin'
No stoppin' me since I've found
My inner ninja"

Through this last year, Kenley has been my inspiration.  She has shaped me into the mother I will be for Piper.   She is, and always will be, my own inner ninja.

 


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Piper's Playlist #2

Losing a child plunges your world into blackness.  Cold, terrible darkness from which you think you'll never emerge.  Some people don't.   In order to escape, you have to work damn hard.  You have to be willing to be happy again, which is no easy task because at first, you feel that by being happy, you are betraying your baby.  Every smile, every joyful thought, feels like a slap in the face to their memory.  

You have to somehow overcome that and start believing in life again.  And when you do, it's like winter slowly melting into spring.

I have been working very hard to be happy again - to figure out how to carry Kenley's memory warmly and safely in my heart while carrying her sister warmly and safely in my belly.   To say it's been a difficult journey is a massive understatement.  

Piper's arrival is just a few days away.   The darkness is lifting.  Here comes the sun.  



Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it's all right

Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it's all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it's all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it's all right
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
It's all right, it's all right

Monday, April 21, 2014

Piper's Playlist #1

Here we are.  One week until she's here - in my arms.  Alive!   Who would have thought that one word would hold so much power.   Alive.   I just need to make it one more week.  She needs to stay away from that cord for 6 more days.  And then, she'll be here.  Screaming.  Crying.  Squirming.  Alive.  

This week is going to be one of the hardest weeks of my life.   As much as other people are trying to keep me encouraged, it's really something I have to do on my own.  I am terrified of repeating the past.  Kenley died just before my 36 week check up.  I had that check-up for Piper today.   Bless her beating heart, she was wiggling around in the car on the way there - as if she knew I needed her to reassure me she was still in there.   Still with me.

I've decided that I need to actively do something to keep myself focused and on track.  So, I have begun making a Piper Playlist.  A song a day until she is born that inspires me or keeps me positive.  

The first song is one from my teenage days, "You Gotta Be".   The chorus is:

You gotta be
You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser
You gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together
All I know, all I know, love will save the day


I have been all of those things.   I can continue to be all of those things.  And love WILL save the day.  



For some reason, blogger won't let me embed, but here's the Youtube link

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Naming Bean

I've been playing a game on Facebook and posting clues to Bean's name.   For the last month, I have been posting a clue for either her first or middle name.  My plan was to reveal her name in our maternity pictures, like we did with Kenley.   It's been fun watching people squirm with anticipation.  Some came up with some pretty weird guesses too!

So, Bean's name is....


Here's how her name connects to the clues:

1. Her middle name is found in children's literature.   
While, technically, the book Madeline is pronounced Made-LINE, Bean's middle name will be pronounced Made-lynn.  

2. Her first name can be associated with the numbers 40, 115, 126, and 11.
-The New Zealand Piper is a fish that can grow to be 40 cm long.  
-Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper is a NASA astronaut who was a mission specialist on STS 115 and 126
-And, obviously...11 pipers piping!

3. Her first name has connections to Pink Floyd and ABBA
Piper at the Gates of Dawn was Pink Floyd's debut album and "The Piper" is a song from ABBA's Super Trouper album.

4. In a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon like thread, her first name connects first to a character in The Hunger Games and then to a company with ties in Florida.
Seneca Crane is the first gamemaker in The Hunger Games.  The Piper Seneca is a lightweight aircraft designed and built by Piper Aircraft, which has a facility in Vero Beach Florida.

5. Although not named after anyone, her middle name is related to a character in the bible.  Madeline actually means, "Woman of Magdala", which connects to Mary Magdalene.

6.  If you took both of her names and laid them across a scrabble board horizontally, going across the center star, you would earn 60 points.  
This one needs a picture to explain:

If only I'd used the French spelling, I could have gotten triple word score!
7. Bean's names have the same amount of syllables as her sister's.  This one is easy.  Piper Madeline and Kenley Evelyn.  Boom!  Phonics!

Naming Bean was no easy task.  When we named Kenley, we went through so many names that just weren't unique enough - or too unique.  I threw out so many, and I didn't want to resort to my "trash" pile to name Bean.  If they weren't good enough for Kenley, they weren't good enough for Bean.  Every name I came across just didn't fit her quite right.  One day, Mike tossed around the name "Piper".  While I liked it, I thought at first it would be better as a middle name.  However, whenever I found another name I kind of liked, Piper sounded better as the first.  With a quirky name as a first name, I wanted a classic name as a middle...like with Kenley.  Long story short, we decided our Bean would be Piper Madeline.   

Here are a few other beautiful images from our photo shoot, courtesy of our wonderful photographer friend Jeanee James:







The magic of photoshop shows my ninja and my rainbow together.  I love my girls.

Bean's birthday is scheduled for April 28th.  I am terrified, excited, and overwhelmed.   I just want her to get here already.  I can do this...
 
















Monday, March 31, 2014

Just In Case

I have a confession to make.  At the beginning of this pregnancy, I made a conscious decision to treat it like any other pregnancy.  I decided to do everything I normally would while being pregnant - the things I did for Kenley.  I went public at 12 weeks.  I trace my belly.  I make pregnancy Facebook posts.  I do all the things a "normal" pregnant woman would do during this time.   My confession is this:  the reason I do them is not necessarily for the purpose of normalcy.   I do them in case Bean dies.

I know, that's a horrible reason to do anything, but it's true.  If Bean dies, I want to know I did everything I should have to remember her.   The belly tracing painting I have from Kenley's pregnancy is so special to me.  It lets me see how I grew as she grew.  So, I started a tracing canvas with Bean.  In case she dies, I will have this reminder of her as well.   I am not the best at taking pictures of myself, but I made sure to schedule a maternity photo shoot.  In case she dies, I want to have photos to remind myself of the life she had inside me.  

The biggest part of my confession deals with the public aspect of my pregnancy.  I know many mothers pregnant after loss prefer to keep their pregnancy private.  They don't want to deal with questions from other people.  They want to protect their heart.  I'm protecting my heart too - just in the opposite way.  In addition to these blog posts, I post Facebook statuses about Bean.  I post ultrasound pictures and doctor updates.  I've been playing a name game with my Facebook friends for the past month to see if they can guess what we have named her. (That reveal is coming soon, by the way)  Why?   In case she dies.   If she dies, I want everyone to love her as much as I do.   I want everyone to miss her as much as I will.  I want them to be as heartbroken as I would be.  I want her to be remembered, even if it's only as my own swollen belly. 

However, there is only one thing I cannot bring myself to do this time that I did with Kenley.   That is having a baby shower.  I just can't do it.  I can't bear to open presents she may never get.  Clothes she may never wear.  Toys she may never play with.  I can't sit in a room full of my friends and pretend that I am not scared out of my mind.   I cannot hold up an outfit with a smile on my face and make it seem like I am not wondering whether or not I'll have to seal it in a bin in a few weeks.  I know for certain I would never, ever be able to enjoy myself at a baby shower for Bean.  So, for the sake of my own sanity, I am not having one.  Plus, what would I do with all of that extra stuff - you know, in case she dies?

For the past 33 weeks, I have been hopeful for Bean's life while bracing for her death.  It's just what you do when you have lost a child.  You want to be happy and joyous.  You want to celebrate the life you are about to have.   Yet, you know that life is not guaranteed, and so you ready yourself for disappointment.  You prepare your heart to be broken, hoping with all you have that it won't have to be, but knowing just how real that possibility is. 

Everything I have done throughout this pregnancy, even as lighthearted as I have tried to make it seem, has a darker purpose.  I try to memorize how she feels as she moves inside me in case those movements stop before they should.  I soak in every ultrasound image, every screen shot, in case those are the last ones I get to see of her alive.   I post some of those images because I want other people to see her alive too.   "Look!  She is a person!  She is my daughter!  Isn't she wonderful?"   I am so proud of her, so in love with her, and I want everyone to know it.  I take every second of my pregnancy and create a memory of Bean, for myself and for others.  In case she dies.





 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Duality

If I am having a tough day missing Kenley, someone will inevitably say something to the effect of "Bean will be here soon!  Smile!"  It's really not that simple.  I can't push my sorrow aside to be happy instead.  I can be both - and I am learning how to do that - but I can't just shut out missing my oldest child because my youngest is on her way.  I think so many people just don't understand what it's like to live without your baby.  While I wouldn't wish that pain on anyone, it can sometimes be very frustrating living in a world where so few people really "get" how I feel.

There's a massive split that occurs in your life when your child dies.  A bifurcation of your heart and soul.   At the beginning, this gaping hole oozes and bleeds.  It hemorrhages and screams in agony.  The pain is so great and immense that you think there is no way you can ever learn to live with it.  Surely, it will kill you.   But, it doesn't.  You live.  You heal.  Except, you heal in a way that is unexpected.

Instead of your heart and soul fusing back together into one whole entity, each heals into two pieces, like a pronged fork.  And now, they also function differently than before.  Emotions are now, in a weird way, more streamlined.  One half of your heart processes joy.  The other, sorrow.  Simultaneously and forever.   Everything in your life that should bring you happiness and light also brings you sorrow and darkness.  And you learn how to deal with these conflicting emotions as they flow through you.  

Sometimes, you wish you could ignore the part of your heart that makes you sad, but you can't.  It's just part of you now.  You will forever straddle the line of joy and sorrow as both will flow through you in a constant stream.  Sometimes, one will outweigh the other and sometimes they will level out.  But, the fact remains they are always together.

Despite my fear surrounding this pregnancy, I am so very happy about Bean.  I am grateful for my ability to get pregnant.  I am full of hope and joy for this new life growing inside me.  But, to tell you I am not also so very sad that Kenley is not here would be a lie.  For every piece of joy Bean brings me, my heart will also feel a twinge of sadness for the little girl I will not get to raise.   It's not an affront to Bean or an obsession with Kenley, it's just the way it is.  My heart is no longer whole.  It will never be again.  I will process everything in this world with this duality for as long as I live.

As Bean grows, I will watch her with joy and happiness.  I will celebrate all of her milestones and rejoice in having her here with me.  And, at the same time, I will be missing Kenley.   When Bean says her first word, I will smile and gush, and I will also wonder with a twinge of sadness what Kenley's would have been.   When Bean goes to kindergarten in her new clothes, I will swell with pride.   And I will also think about what Kenley would have chosen to wear for her first day.  Every day for the rest of my life, I will celebrate one child while missing the other.  There will always be a little bit of sorrow in my life - a slight haze around my sun. 

You might want to say to me now, "Well, I'm sure time will ease that."  And I'll respond to you like this:  If one of your children died, how long would it take for you to stop thinking about them?  How long would you go before you stopped missing them?  I'm sure if you immersed yourself in your other children, you'd feel so much better, right?  There is no end to this.  There is adaptation, but there is no resolution. 

Joy and sorrow are no longer two separate emotions for me.  They are twisted together in a knot that cannot be untied.  One will always accompany the other.   And you know what?  That's okay.  In our society, we have this strange need to clean up messy emotions - to sweep away sadness and conceal pain.  If someone is hurting, we will do everything we can to make that hurt stop - and if we can't make it stop, we throw platitudes at it to make ourselves feel better.    But, let me tell you that there is nothing wrong with being sad.  There is no shame in feeling down.

We will all be sad sometimes, and in allowing ourselves and each other feel that sadness, we are giving ourselves permission to be vulnerable - to be human.   So, yes, I feel sadness daily.  But, I also feel joy.  And hope.  And love.   

So, on days when I am feeling especially low and sorrow has laid an extra thick blanket over me, just remember that it's okay for me to be sad.  You don't have to try to fix it.  In fact, you really can't.   It's just the way things are.  Thinking of Bean won't cheer me up.  Joy for her isn't a subsitute...it's an addition.   And while I'm still learning how to gracefully feel both at the same time, I'll get there.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Words


I know my last two posts have been kind of frantic, but it's really how I've been feeling lately - especially since entering the third trimester.   This is supposed to be the "safety zone".  Even women who are generally cautious at the beginning of their pregnancies finally begin to relax at this point.  Viability is achieved, and premature babies still have a good chance at survival if born in the third trimester.  Really, this part is supposed to be just a waiting game.  As the days tick by, they tick down to the birth of a baby, right?   No one would ever guess that might not happen.   No one would ever think that the baby might not come home.  Not unless it happened to you.

This is the part of my pregnancy with Kenley where I really began to think "Wow...I'm going to have a baby.  This is really happening."   Having had friends and family members who had experienced both first and second trimester losses, I knew there was no such thing as a sure thing, but certainly, once you hit that third trimester, you were golden, right?  The third trimester is when the finishing touches to the nursery are made, when maternity pictures are taken, when baby showers are held.   It's when all the final preparations are made because - a baby is coming home.   Except, sometimes, one doesn't.  And when it doesn't, everything you ever knew to be true in the world is turned upside down.  Nothing makes sense.  And nothing will ever be the same. 

For me, there is no "safety zone".   There is no magic bubble to protect my baby.  There is only a shadowed past, a frightening present, and an uncertain future.   I say this to you not so you will send me words of comfort and assurance, but just so you will know how this feels. 

As harsh as this might sound to you, your words don't help.  I know they aren't empty - I know they are heartfelt and completely genuine.  I know you truly want to wrap your arms around me and keep me safe within them, and I don't want this post to make you feel like you are unappreciated because you are not.   But, honestly, your words don't help.   Not even a little bit. 

 I am not comforted when someone tells me they are confident in my ability to bring Bean into this world safely.   Clearly, my track record speaks for itself.  I'm 0 for 1.  My ability to bring children into this world has no affect whatsoever on that actually happening.  

I am not comforted when someone tells me I will be holding Bean soon.  That was said to me last year.   I did get to hold my baby girl then, but not the way I wanted to, and I can't ever hold her again.  

I am not comforted when someone tells me they "have faith" Bean will be born healthy and alive.   Was that faith not there with Kenley?  Did you think Kenley would die?  No, of course not.  Because we want to believe that babies don't die.  We want to put our "faith" in a greater power that wouldn't allow that to happen - and yet it did.  So, what's to stop it from happening again?   And, if that greater power does indeed have the ability to keep Bean alive, why did Kenley die?  Was she not important?  You can't answer those questions for me, and it's probably a safe bet you don't even really want to think about it because it just makes things more muddled and confusing.  So, let's just not go down that road at all.

I am not comforted when people throw statistics and odds into my face.  A cord accident occurs in 1 in 1,600 births.  Yes, the odds are that Bean's cord will not follow in her sister's footsteps.  Most likely, her cord will never be an issue.  But, that doesn't make me feel better.  I've met a great deal of women in the last year who have "beaten" their odds - or better yet, who have been beaten by them.   We are a sad bunch of statistics.  A lonely island of women who have experienced the small percentage of tragedy no one thought we would.  Telling me this won't happen again is like telling me lightning doesn't strike twice.  It's a nice thing to believe, but it's not actually true and the evidence speaks otherwise.  It can happen again, as well as so many other things.  We all want to think that tragedy won't visit me again, but no one has a crystal ball.

I know all of this really just boils down to positive thinking.  You want to be positive to help me be positive.  You want to believe that good things will happen, and so you send me those happy thoughts.   And I thank you for your efforts.  But, nothing you can say or do will bring me peace.  This is not a negative attitude - this is just my reality.  And as much as you want to bring light to the darkness, only one thing can do that.   Bean, living and breathing, placed in my arms. 

Again, I'm not trying to look a gift horse in the mouth.  I don't mean to come across as ungrateful for the amazing level of support I have in you all.  Honestly, the fact that I have so many people who love and care about me, Mike, and Bean is often so wonderfully overwhelming.  I just need you to know how I'm feeling.  That's the spirit of the blog, right?



Monday, March 10, 2014

Out of the Woods

 I feel like that first victim in the first scene of a horror movie.   You know the one.  You see her racing through the woods, gasping for breath.  A close up on her face reveals blood trickling down her cheeks and eyes wide with fear.  The camera pans to her feet as she runs.  You see her stumbling over tree roots and slipping in mud.  She falls, which allows the killer to gain on her.  She scrambles to her feet, but it takes her an agonizingly long time to get herself organized again.  She starts to run again, frantic with fear, glancing behind her at the shadowed figure in pursuit.  She can see the edge of the woods just ahead.  She's almost there.  In the clearing is a large group of people around  a campfire, laughing and having a wonderful time.  If she can make it to them in time, she'll be safe.  You can see a shiny glimmer of hope flicker across her eyes.  Maybe she can do this after all.  She gives it her all and really pushes herself forward.   Just as she reaches the last line of trees, just when she's inches from freedom, a close up of her upper body shows her arching her back and twisting her face in pain and horror.  It's too late.  He's got her. His knife plunges into her back over and over and over again until she goes limp.   Grabbing her fallen body by her arm, he drags her away from the clearing in a trail of blood, the people by the campfire none the wiser. 

Kenley died at the edge of that clearing.  I thought I was home-free.  At that time, I didn't even know I was being chased.   I didn't know my baby was running out of time, that she would be snatched from me at the last second, that the killer would strike me down and leave me broken. 

Now, I feel like I am racing against the clock.  Like I am running, running, running towards a clearing I may or may not reach.   I am trying to keep my eyes on the prize - to keep myself focused on what lies ahead of me instead of what I feel is hot on my heels, but it is so hard.  It's so hard to imagine actually reaching that point, of being free of the woods and the killer behind me.  I can feel his breath on my neck, the tip of his knife scratching against the fabric of my shirt.   I am out of breath and exhausted, but I have to make it.  I have to!  Run!  Run!  Run!   




Friday, March 7, 2014

In the Still of the Night

My eyes flutter open in the darkness.  It's three a.m.  Maybe it's four.  Every night is slightly different, but still always the same.  Mike is sleeping next to me, often snoring.  The dog is inevitably sprawled out on the floor doing the same.  My belly, heavy and round, rests on the body pillow at the edge of the bed - and it feels frighteningly empty.   Every night.  Every night, I wake up to an empty stillness.  I can't feel her.  I know she's in there, but the fear creeps in that I've lost her.  That sometime between feeling her flutter as I fell asleep and waking up to silence, she has left me.  As I lay there in the dark, my mind twists and turns down frightening corridors, trying to find its way back to rational thought.   She's okay.  She's fine.  She's just sleeping and comfortable -like I was just a few moments ago.  She's still alive.  But, my mind won't let me believe that.  I need proof.   I need to feel her move.   Sometimes, it only takes her a few minutes of me being awake before she gives me a little pop. (Probably my escalated heart rate wakes her up)  One pop is often not enough for me, though.  What if I just made it up?  What if, in my panic, my body just twitched and that wasn't really her?  I need at least one more, maybe two.  A good punch to really assure me she's still alive.  Most of the time, she gives me what I need within a few minutes, and I can go back to sleep with a little more reassurance.  Sometimes, though, she's not cooperative, and I have to shift myself around.  I turn to the other side.  I try to sit up.  I poke her a little bit.  Anything to get her stirring.  Anything to put my mind at ease.  Sometimes, it takes half an hour or more to get those kicks.  Half an hour, laying in the darkness, worrying about my world crashing down around me a second time - often convinced that it is.  Twice, I have panicked to the point where I actually get out of bed and pull out my Doppler.   I sneak out into the living room so as not to wake up Mike and I search for her heartbeat.  When I finally find it, I cry heaving sighs of relief.  She's still here.  I have kept her alive for another night.

Being pregnant again is no cake walk, as many of you already know.  While I am not completely terrified 24 hours a day, I do think about her safety most of the time.  I have begun keeping a kick-count chart per my doctor's orders.  Three times a day, I have to sit with my feet up for an hour while I record the amount of times she moves.  That's a tall order for a teacher.   If she moves at least 10 times, I can stop counting.  Usually, I can get all of her kicks in within the first 30 minutes.  My students have been fairly cooperative with this new development, which is very helpful.   However, if she kicks less than five times in an hour, I have to start over.  If she still doesn't make ten kicks, I have to go to the hospital.   That's a scary thing to specifically focus on three times a day.  So far, so good though.  

During the day, I'm fairly active and distracted with work and other things.  She's always on my mind, but I can usually remember the last time I felt her move, so I can keep myself calm with those thoughts.  Night is different.  When I wake up in the middle of the night (and I do - every night), I don't know when she last moved because I was sleeping.  I don't know how long it has been.  I know I've been asleep for at least three or four hours, which already surpasses the two hour maximum for my kick counts.  A study I read once, which was a terrible thing to do now that I think about it, said that the majority of cord deaths that occur before birth occur between the hours of 2am and 4am while the mother is asleep.   Looking back on this, that was probably what happened with Kenley.   She left me in the very early hours of Sunday morning.   I can't let the same thing happen to Bean.   It's probably why my body won't let me sleep at that time.  I wake up every night without fail.   I can't lose her too.  I just can't.

So, the darkness and I have become old friends.   It greets me with a soft silence when I wake.  In the darkness, I lay my hand upon my belly and will my daughter into moving, trying my hardest to stay calm, but often failing.  Once she reassures me that she's not going anywhere, I can settle back in with a little calmness - into the still of the night. 




Sunday, March 2, 2014

Is this your first?

You're sitting in the mall's food court, waiting for your shopping buddy to arrive.  You check your Facebook page, maybe update your status, and play a game of candy crush.  While you're waiting, a very pregnant stranger sits nearby.  She smiles at you and heaves herself into a slightly more comfortable position.  You smile back, noticing her bulging belly and light glow.  Like you, she pulls out her phone, but before she can settle in behind her wall of technology, you politely ask her, "How far along are you?"   "28 weeks," she says with a soft smile.  The next question rolls off your tongue as naturally as the one before it, "Is this your first?"    "No," she replies, "I have a daughter."   "Oh, how nice!"  you say.  And then, "How far apart are they?"  You and she continue this polite and natural conversation for a few minutes until your friend arrives, talking about her older child, how wonderful it will be for her two children to be so close in age, how wonderful it is to be pregnant and bringing life into this world.   As you get up to leave, you say to her with a genuine grin, "Good luck with the baby!" and you walk away.  It's always nice to have a pleasant conversation with a stranger.

Unless that stranger is One in Four, because then that conversation was not pleasant for her at all.   That conversation was absolute torture.  Each moment, she was wishing and hoping you wouldn't ask that next question.  Each moment, she was trying to make split second decisions about how she was going to answer them, trying to quickly judge your character to see if you could handle the truth, trying to gauge her own emotions to see if she was willing to tell it to you.  Should she tell you the baby in her belly is her first and then wade through a conversation of all the joys she will experience once her baby is here?  Should she deny her first born to you for your own comfort and then spend the rest of the day racked with guilt?  Or, should she let you know she had another child, and hope you leave it there?  She knows you won't.  She knows you'll ask about the other child.  Her age.  Her name.  How she feels about being a big sister.  Then what?  Does she tell you her baby died - and watch as you go from a friendly, well-meaning stranger, to a sad and uncomfortable one?  (Of course you're sorry.  Of course, you didn't know)  Or, does she let you assume her first child is still alive and then participate in a very painful conversation where she has to pretend she has a life she doesn't, but wants more than anything?   She never knows which way she's going to go until it happens.  Each conversation is different, yet always the same.   She begins to hate making eye contact with strangers, afraid that, in combination with her welcoming belly, people will be drawn to her.   She knows everyone is just being friendly.  She knows no one means any harm, and that makes it even harder.  She begins to feel even more out of place.  Before getting pregnant again, very few people felt entitled to know about her children.  She could pass through the world unnoticed.  But as soon as her belly began to pop out, it became an open invitation for conversation.  Her business was their business.  It's not that she doesn't want to talk about the child she lost - because she does - but she knows it's not a conversation to have with someone who's just making polite small talk, and she's rarely in the mood to introduce a stranger to the world of baby loss.

When I was pregnant with Kenley, these conversations didn't really bother me to the extent they do now, but I will admit, they did get annoying at times.  I think almost every pregnant woman, regardless of whether they have lost a baby, gets irritated at times with the forwardness of strangers.  Is it truly your business whether or not we have more children or how old they are?   Would you ask a woman who wasn't pregnant these questions?  Do you really need to know if I am planning a natural birth or if I am going to breastfeed?  With Kenley, I didn't mind that much.  I was often taken aback by the personal information people either requested of me or shared with me, but I'm a friendly person and I just carried on the conversation anyway.   

Things are different now.  I can see it before it happens.  The sideways glance from the stranger nearby.  The slight smile.  It's coming.  I brace myself.   It always starts the same..."How far along are you?"  And then it goes from there.  Spiraling down, down, down the rabbit hole, with them looking down and me looking up, answering their questions behind the mask I put on for just these occasions.   And when the conversation is over, I climb back out of the hole, take off my mask, and continue to live the life that is mine but shouldn't be.

I suppose my point to this post is that I wish more people knew about the different circumstances surrounding pregnancy, and that being pregnant is not an open invitation for conversation.   You never know if the woman you are talking to is carrying her second (or third, or forth) chance.  You never know if she's not the epitome of joy and light you think she is, but is instead full of terror for the life of her child, just holding on to every shred of hope she can that this pregnancy won't end up like the last.  You never know if the child she is carrying is "incompatible with life", and she is listening to you ramble on about the joy of having children while she knows hers will most likely only live for hours, days at the most.  One in four women have experienced the loss of a baby.  One in four.   If someone offered you a lottery ticket that guaranteed you a one in four chance at winning, you'd take it, right?  Because those are pretty good odds.   So, there's a pretty good chance that woman you are talking to about her baby is really wishing you'd stop.

I'm not saying to not be friendly.   "How far along are you?" is a pretty benign question and is probably fine.  And really, 75% of women will probably take no issue with the rest of the conversation.   But, pay attention.  Remember, not all of us have known only sunshine.  One in four of us have just walked through a terrible storm.  Many of us are still bracing against the weather, and trying our best to get to the other side with our rainbow intact.   There's a saying I've seen that says "Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about".   Hopefully, this post has given you a little more insight into mine - and the many other women who fight it too.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Happy Birthday, Kenley

Dear Kenley, 

Today is your birthday.  Happy Birthday, Little Ninja!  Today, you would be one year old.  Today, you should be strapped in a high-chair smashing cake and frosting all over yourself.   Today, you should be tearing open presents bought just for you.  Today, I should be marveling at how big you have gotten, how smart you are becoming, and how much of a difference one year can make.   I am still doing that last one, just not in the same way as I wish I was.

I can't believe it has been a year.   Three hundred and sixty five days of waking up without you, of going to bed without you, of living my life without you in it.  There is something about this mile-marker that makes it seem even more real - even more final.  It's not like I have lived all this time in denial, thinking it might all be a dream (although I wished it was).  Every single day has been a harsh reality, even the foggy days at the beginning.   But, there's something about today that solidifies everything.  You are gone, saying goodbye before saying hello.  Even a year later, there are still some things I can't bring myself to think about.  Even a year later, hot tingles of sorrow rise in my chest and tears well in my eyes when thoughts of your beautiful face dance across my mind.  And I realize, that will never change. My eyes will never fully dry when it comes to shedding tears for you, my baby girl.  As the years go by, as more and more of your birthdays pass, I will never stop missing you.  I will never stop aching, and I will never, ever stop loving you.   .  

Today, we are going to go visit your tree.  Allison came down from Virginia, and your grandparents are in town too.  We are going to go take a family photo next to the tree.  My plan is to do this every year on your birthday - as a way to document how our family grows with you still very much a part of it.  I hate that today's pictures will have an oak tree in them instead of a chubby little one year old.  As I think about it, waves of sadness sweep over me, hot and thick, and I have to catch my sobs in my chest before they spill out and get everywhere.  I do that a lot, you know.  I work hard every day to keep my sorrow under control.  I can't say it's really gotten easier.  Easier is not the right word.  I've just gotten better at doing it, I suppose, which is a good thing considering otherwise, I'd be a blubbering mess 24 hours a day.

I think people see me and think I'm handling things fairly well, and I have to say, that's probably very true.  At first, I didn't realize how strong I was.  I didn't see that quality in myself at all.  All I could do was to feel the overwhelming pain of losing you.  But, after arrow after arrow pierced my heart - and I didn't die - I realized just how strong I really was.  What makes me strong is my love for you.  A mother's love is truly the strongest force on the planet, and its power is what has held me together through all of this.  

You are my firstborn.  You are the one who first made me a mother, and I am so grateful for every single second I had with you.  Now, as your sister kicks inside me, I remember that it was you who kicked first.  It was you who nestled into my heart and prepared me for motherhood.  I wish you could be here to watch our family grow.  I wish your sister could play with you as she grows up.  I wish so many things, to list them all would take the rest of my life.   I can't even say all of the things that are in my heart because they are too big, too many, too much.  Sometimes, even I am at a loss for words, little one!

I will end this letter to you with the words that will always make me think of you, "I'll love you forever.  I'll like you for always.  As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be."   Sweet dreams, my darling Kenley.  Happy Birthday.

Love, 
Mom

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

One More Week

I am having a really hard time lately.  As Kenley's birthday approaches, my anxiety increases.  I am having flashbacks of that last week of her life.  I think about going to the doctor for that last happy check up, hearing her heartbeat, and talking about keeping my blood pressure down so we wouldn't have to induce early.  I remember the baby shower my co-workers threw for me in the school library, with the sign "Welcome Baby Kenley" hung up over the bookshelves.  I remember the owl cups and napkins and the wonderful gifts I opened.  An adorable green owl table lamp, several stuffed owls, and countless onesies.  I remember my friend placing her hand on my belly at the end of the shower and Kenley giving her a swift kick in the palm.  That afternoon, when I had my feet up as ordered, I had a little bit of crampiness, which I wrote off as Braxton Hicks.  (which it probably was)   I remember talking to my sister on the phone about how swollen I was and her saying to me that I wouldn't make it full term.  Kenley was going to come early.  Horrified at having to shift my sub plans, I said, "She'd better not!  I'm not ready!"  That weekend, Mike and I sorted through all the things we had gotten so far and organized the nursery.  We took a trip to Target for some last minute items.  A friend and I purchased some colorful ribbon and spent Sunday afternoon weaving that ribbon around the bottom of Kenley's crib - something I'd seen on Pinterest as an alternative to a bedskirt.  That day, I'd noticed Kenley was very quiet.  I couldn't remember if she'd moved lately, but I was sure she had.  Obviously, I'd just missed it.   Sunday night, I was starting to get nervous, so I found an old stethescope and tried to find her heartbeat.  I thought I did at the time, but it turns out it was only mine.  I didn't know it yet, but my little girl was already gone.   I'd find out the next day at my doctor's appointment.  An appointment that should have been routine and quick, where I should have heard a steady "whompa-whompa-whompa" and gone on my merry way, instead became the catalyst that threw me into a nightmare.

I feel like I am reliving that week now.  Like I am watching myself in my memories - an audience member in a horror movie who knows the monster lurks behind the kitchen door while the main character happily skips around in the rest of the house.  Watching as she makes her way to the kitchen, unable to stop her.  And I'm also afraid that monster is just waiting to come back for me - and for Bean.  As I count down these last few days of Kenley's life, part of me fears that Bean's life is on the line as well.  That somehow, none of my babies can ever make it past February 25th.  I know this is irrational, but I can't help it.  Nothing about any of this has ever made any sense anyway.

I don't know what her birthday will bring.  Many of the ladies in my online groups say that the anticipation of the date is often worse than the actual day.  While that was true for Halloween and Thanksgiving, it wasn't for Christmas, and this date is so much more important than any of the others.  In any child's life, the first birthday is celebrated and considered special.  Next week should be a day of joy and excitement.  A day where I marvel over how much my baby girl has grown and matured.  Instead, it will be yet one more day of silence.  One more day she is gone.   One more day in a chain of forever.  This week should be the week I am running around trying to get her birthday party organized.  I should be shopping for snacks, deciding on a recipe for her cake, and getting decorations together.  This weekend should be filled with happiness and parties.   Instead, I'll spend this week feeling just as broken as those first foggy days.   

Yesterday, I had a really tough time keeping myself together.  I cried, ragged and hard, several times.  Today, has been just as difficult.  I'm trying to stay calm and focused, but my mind is not my own.  It wanders off, floating away from me.  Like a pink balloon.