Saturday, January 31, 2015

Truth or Dare

If you were ever in 5th grade, and I'm sure most of you were, you are familiar with the game Truth or Dare. Choose Truth and answer a probing question with complete honesty. Choose Dare and be obligated to perform a task outside of your comfort zone. You had no idea whether or not you were going to be forced to admit your crush on Alan Radwanski (man, that spiky hair gave my 11 year old heart such flutters!) or if you were going to have to do cartwheels in your backyard wearing your underwear on the outside of your clothes. (I...ahem..never did that.  Mainly because I can't cartwheel to save my life)

I feel a little like I have been playing a game of Truth or Dare with myself these last few weeks. In watching my blog post explode in the loss community, in having nurses and doctors thank me for my insight, in being a part of the sharing of such an important message, I have had to admit several truths.

Truth #1: I am excited.
 I am excited that my writing has reached so many and continues to spread. I am excited people are sharing my words and that I have been able to open the eyes of many as well as validate the feelings of others. I am excited to be making a difference in my little loss community.
Truth #2: I am terrified. 
 I am afraid I won't know how to take this as far as I would like it to go. I am afraid the paper wings will burn up before I can get my craft off the ground. I am afraid I am not good enough to make this happen, and that this entire movement is a fluke with an approaching expiration date. If I can make this bigger, I am afraid I won't do my sisters in loss justice. I am afraid I won't be able to be the spokesperson my community needs. I am afraid I will let down those whose hopes I have been building up.
Truth #3: I feel lost.
 I don't know where to go from here. I would love for my letter and video to be a part of regular training for medical and nursing students or for continuing education credits for those already in the profession. I would love to speak at conventions and conferences. I would love to put together a presentation that would be both moving and informative for anyone participating. I would love for hospital staff all over to use their training to seamlessly help a Heartbroken Mother as she says hello and goodbye to her beautiful baby. I want to make a difference, but I don't know what I'm doing. Really, I have no idea.
Truth #4: I believe in my message. 
Whatever happens, I will work hard to go as far as I can. I am committed to this cause and I will see it through to the best of my ability.

In addition to these truths, I have also been daring myself to push farther and make the biggest impact I possibly can.

Dare #1: I dared myself to ask for pictures to make a video. Everyone responded to the letter so intensely, I had a vision to create something that would have even more impact. I thought making a video of the letter would get the message out even more. So, I asked for photographs of our precious children, and I received them. I have been working on this video for a week and am needing to untie some red tape before wrapping it up. (See Truth #1)
 Dare #2: I am daring myself to pursue the presentation aspect of the letter. I want to contact hospitals instead of waiting for them to contact me. I am not sure how to go about this or what the response would be, but I want to put myself out there as a willing presenter for their staff's training. (See Truth #2 and 3)
Dare #3: I am daring myself to share my blog post with the "Celebrities" of the loss community. Carly Marie, Sean Hanish, Still Standing, The STILL project. I haven't gotten to that point yet. I'm not very good at tooting my own horn. Whenever I do, I feel like a fraud and a shameless self-promoter. I need to get over myself and remember that this isn't about ME, it's about our children. It's about the children of future Heartbroken Mothers. It's about those mothers and the doctors and nurses caring for them. It's about making a difference with my words. It's been happening, and I am daring myself to make it happen on a much larger scale, but I am scared out of my mind. (See Truth #2)

For the past two weeks, my brain has been going a mile a minute trying to keep up with the expansion of my tiny little blog post. For the past two weeks, this crazy game of Truth or Dare has been swirling around in my head.

I have no idea where this is going to go.  I have no idea what the end result will be or how I will get there.   All I know is that I can't believe I have even gotten this far so fast.  I can't believe the impact my words are making.  I am both humbled and inspired. 

This is so much more complicated than 5th grade!



This is the image Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep created for me when they shared my post on their page.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I'm Down with STG. Yeah, You Know Me!

Bonus points for you if you caught the Naughty by Nature reference in the title.

Well, another Weight Loss Wednesday is upon us! Where does the week go?

This week has definitely been very eventful in my life, and it is directly related to my blog. New and exciting things are happening due to my "A Letter to My Doctor" Post. That news will be shared at another time, but let me just say it is BIG and I am amazed!

So, what are my STGs this week?
Setbacks: I did not excercise. Not once. I am super ashamed of this. I really need to get on it. Even though it's really hard to work it in with watching Piper and Mike not getting home until 10:30pm, I realize I am just using those things as excuses. I'm being lazy and I need to stop it. When I got myself healthy a few years ago, I bought myself new running shoes and I made a committment to my shoes. That may sound weird, but it worked. I told my shoes I would put them on and use them every day, and I did. I dropped 30 pounds in six months. So, I think that is what I need to do again. I guess it's time to go shoe shopping. Darn!!

Triumphs: I have been really good with my food choices. I have been working on eating healthy foods that also fill me up. Breakfasts and lunches have been great successes. I've been making sure I focus on getting enough protein. Breakfast might be a multi-grain waffle with peanut butter or greek yogurt with berries. Lunch is often a salad with berries, turkey, and cheese, and some crackers on the side. Sometimes, I pack a low calorie soup. Dinner is harder, and that brings me to my goals for this week.

Goals: Obviously, my goal is to excercise. I need to get myself in a routine that gets me out and moving. I will get my four days in before next Wednesday. Another goal I have is to actually get myself in gear to meal plan. I already organized my pantry so I know exactly what I have. I need to organize a list of healthy meals for the week, shop for what's needed, and actually make those meals. No more, "I'm tired, let's order Chinese." I have a cache of recipes to use, I just need to use them. I am always open to more meal ideas, though, so if you have any, feel free to share!

How did you do this week? Have you joined our Facebook group yet? We are up 8 members from last week! It's great for daily support.   My Ipad is not letting me link to the group, but you can search for One Pink Balloon: Blogging Away the Boody!



Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Amazed and Astounded

I am absolutely overwhelmed by the response to my post "A Letter to My Doctor". In less than two weeks, it has over 46, 000 views. It has been shared by several organizations on Facebook including the pages of the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth, Kaleb Kares, The Sweet Pea Project, Brona: A Memior, The Florida chapter of the TEARS Foundation, and Footprints on Our Hearts. I have been contacted by countless doctors and L/D nurses who would like to share the letter with their staff, and I have been asked to speak at a few places as well. The Florida chapter of TEARS would like me to help them start a blog. Last, but certainly not least, I have been contacted by Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. That development is still under wraps, but I am really excited about it!

It is amazing how quickly your life can change in such a short amount of time. Clearly, my life has been drastically altered since that Monday afternoon in February of 2013, and since that terrible day, I've known I needed to keep Kenley's memory alive. It is my job as a mother to make sure my children make their mark on this world. Since Kenley isn't here to do that, it is my job to do it for her.

When I first lost her and began looking around for support, I found several moms who had started non-profit organizations on behalf of their child. Cherishing the Journey, The Brianna Marie Foundation, and Avery's Light are all charities started by the women I have met on this road. I often thought about how I would start a non-profit. What could I do? What would my organization take care of? I knew I was passionate about being vocal about stillbirth and getting information into the hands of the people who can make a difference during delivery, but I didn't know where to even start.

When Allison asked me to give my input to the presentation for the VCOM medical students, I jumped on it. This was my chance to educate a few people about a cause close to my heart. When I shared it to my loss group, the response was immediate and intense. It struck a chord with everyone. They shared it with their friends. I posted it on my page and it was shared over a dozen times in an hour, and then it just spiraled outward. In my little corner of the world, I went "viral", and I still cannot believe it.

Maybe I don't have the organizational skills to start a charity, but I do have the skills to write. With the help of social media, my message has been seen by over 46,000 people. 46,000 people have been touched by my words. 46,000 people will bring that message into their own circle. I am in awe of what has been happening since that first upload.

To keep the momentum going, and to add to the impact, I am in the process of creating a video of the original post. I have recorded myself reading the letter and have asked for, and been recieving pictures of, our sweet babies. As of right now, I have over 60 women who have emailed me their pictures. Some are ones I know and some are complete strangers who read the letter and heard about the project. 60 families (and counting) who have been touched by infant loss who just want their story told and their baby remembered. So, I will tell it. I will remember them. I will make sure this message finds its way into the hands of the people who need to hold it, and into the hearts of the people who need to feel it.

This is what I can do. This is what I will do. I will do it for them...I will do it for her.
Kenley Evelyn Wood, my dear, darling Little Ninja, this is your mark.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Kenley's Universe

I am often sandwiched between two realities. It's as if the moment Kenley's heart stopped beating, my universe split into two - into Kenley's Universe and Piper's Universe, two worlds that will forever be seperated.
You live with me in Piper's Universe. In this Universe, you have watched me cope with the daily struggles of losing a child. You have seen me work through my grief through writing and volunteering. You have witnessed the birth of a Rainbow and the rebirth of hope in my life. Piper's Universe is the one we all know well. What you don't know well is Kenley's. So, let me give you a quick glimpse.

Kenley's Universe: Kenley Evelyn Wood was born happy and healthy on Feburary 25, 2013, just one day after I finished her nursery. She weighed 5 pounds and 1/2 ounce and had a headfull of black hair, just like I did when I was born. My room was overrun with excited friends and family, and we took her home just a few days later. She was a wiggly baby who always squirmed out of her clothes when I changed her. I was able to breastfeed uninterrupted by work for a full 6 months, so by the time school started up again, we had a good rhythm going. The first year of her life passed full of excitement and happy milestones. Due to enthusiastic shopper friends and family, she never ran out of owl clothes to wear. We had her first birthday party at our home. The theme was "Owl Always Love You!", and my Little Ninja smashed her face into a pink and green owl cake. Everyone else enjoyed a delicious homemade cupcake with green icing. Because she loved to rip apart paper, opening presents was a hoot! As far as first words go, hers was really strange. It was "pipe" We aren't really sure why because we don't know anyone who smokes, and she's not exposed to a lot of plumming terms. Whatever...it was super adorable!
Her second summer was so much fun. She loved the beach and we visited often. As a one and a half year old, she ran around happily in little swimmers and her purple bathing suit, smooshing wet gray sand between her fists and running after the receeding waves. Her screeches and squeals pierced the air as she chased the seagulls down the shore. We also went to Disney for the first time. Just for the morning...I'm not insane! We rode Peter Pan's Flight and had a Dole Whip. She loved it. Going back to work again in the fall was just as hard as the year before. Good thing Nana loves to watch her! Today is one month from her 2nd birthday. I am working on planning a good one. She's been really into penguins lately. Maybe it was that trip to Sea World the other day. Who knows why, but she's obsessed. For her party, I found a really fun outfit with a penguin on it for her to wear. It came with hair bows, so I can put her thick, black locks into two little pigtails. Her hair never lightened like mine did. She's my raven-haired beauty. People have been asking me when we are going to have more kids. Since she's almost two, Mike and I have been thinking about it, but having kids is so expensive. We aren't sure if we can afford it. Plus, I'm almost 37. Do I really want to be pregnant again? I hated being pregnant. We are both leaning towards being "one and done". Kenley is so precocious...it's like we have two anyway!

Looking over into Kenley's Universe, I see happiness and innocence. I see a mother who never lost her child and a child who gets to grow up. I see joy and light and a life untouched by tragedy. But, I also see many things that are missing. My second child, for one. Piper isn't there. It might be possible for her to be, but not likely. Also missing are the dozens of people I have met through my loss journey, people I would have never gotten to know, babies I would have never known existed.

My two lives are so different. In one, I mourn the loss of my first born. In the other, I am oblivious to the existence of my second. Clearly, I can't chose one life over the other. Kenley's Universe simply doesn't exist. It's only a whisper of what could have been, a shadow life that floats across my brain. It would be crazy to actually live in this world, but that doesn't mean I don't always wonder, that I don't often think about what would have been. And that creates the conundrum that accompanies the loss of a child - the desire for a life that negates the one I have.

I have finally gotten to the place where I can find happiness in my life as it is. I have a beautiful second daughter, a loving husband, wonderful friends and family, and an awareness and appreciation for things I didn't have before. It's hard to drift back and forth between the places where only one of my daughters is alive. I love Kenley with all of my heart. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of her. I still shed tears. I still feel empty in places. I still wish she hadn't died. But she did. She did die. I have taken the broken pieces of the life I could have had and have shaped them into the one I have now. And it's a good life, despite the reason for its creation.

Kenley has almost been gone for two years. (Two years!) Since she died, I have worked so hard to find happiness again, to merge Kenley's Universe into this one, but she will always exist as a "could have been". I will always watch her grow up in my mind and in other people's children. Life will always be hard because she is gone, but what I have realized is that the life I have made isn't a slap in her face. It isn't a betrayal of her life. It is a testiment to how life carries on and how reaching for joy doesn't mean I have forgotten my past. I can be happy because of her life and not in spite of her death.

I can't trade one for the other, and I wouldn't want to. I can't choose between my children, so I have decided not to. I was talking about this to my Grief Group the other day and someone said something that stuck with me. She said she tells her Rainbow sons that the twins she lost brought her boys to her. I like that. I like that the path I spiraled into is the one that brought me to Piper. I like that I have created joy out of sorrow. 

So, I am not going to choose. I am not going to let myself feel guilty for wanting both of my girls. I actually do have both of them...maybe not in the way I would like, but death doesn't mean she's not mine.
I have a baby in the stars and I have one in my arms, and just because I can't hold them both at the same time doesn't mean that they don't fully belong to me and that I can only have one without the other. 

I choose both. I choose to love them both and to have them both in my life. While Kenley's Universe will always be a misty impossibility, I choose to weave what I can of her into the fabric of this reality - the reality of where I am today. I am who I am because of both of my girls, and I am proud of who we are together. I am proud to be their mother and proud that they are my daughters. That will never change....no matter the Universe. 


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

STG

It's Weight Loss Wednesday!
One of the reasons I am incorporating my weight loss journey into my blog is because I need to begin holding myself accountable. If I force myself to write about what I have been doing each week, then maybe it will motivate me to make sure I have something good to write about.
I am not proud of this fact, but I occasionally watched the Jersey Shore. Ok, I binge watched Season One when it was on Netflix two summers ago, and the only reason I didn't continue with Season Two is that Mike couldn't handle anymore tangarine colored people swapping one-night stands and fighting over beer. What can I say? I enjoy trainwrecks. Anyway, the boys on the show had a routine before going out on the town. GTL...Gym, Tan, Laundry. A bro has got to look his best, right? So, why mention this at all? To explain the topic of this post in a very weird, roundabout way. I am going to structure my posts by giving you my Setbacks, my Triumphs, and my Goals. My STG. (That's kind of like GTL, right? Welcome to my brain!)

Setbacks. We all have them, especially in something as difficult as getting healthier. We have bad habits that are tough to break and new habits that are tough to keep up with. I have been struggling finding time to work out since Mike is at work until 10:30 most nights, leaving me to get dinner and Piper organized on my own. I do sometimes try to get her into the jogging stroller, but she isn't always cooperative, and I can't get the full 40 minutes in. l suppose some time is better than no time, but I would like to try to figure out a better way. I am also struggling with drinking enough water. I have been having trouble getting through the jug. I'm so busy teaching all day, I forget to take sips. It's something I need to work on. Plus, I ate two donuts on Sunday. I dropped Mike's lunch off at the station and on the way home, my car just stopped at Dunkin Donuts. I think there's something wrong with it or something....I don't know. It just kind of drifted into the parking lot over there. And then through the drive through. And then it forced me to order donuts. Stupid car. I should get a new one.


Triumphs. It's important to remember the things we are doing right! I have been ordering water instead of soda and haven't had soda at home or school in two weeks. I've been making and eating healthy lunches and breakfasts and have increased my intake of fruits and vegetables. I did have to stop at Wendy's the other day after Grief Group due to time, but I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich, which was hard to do because the bacon burger on a pretzel bun was screaming my name like those goats in that Youtube video. As a result of these good choices, I have lost two pounds in the last two weeks, so that's something.


Goals. I am going to continue to meet the goals I am already meeting and work in more exercising time somehow. I would also like to try to do some yoga at least once this week and find a class if I can. I don't exactly live in a bustling metropolis, so finding a yoga class that doesn't meet on Tuesday mornings at 9:30 is a serious task.
So, that's my week. If you're trying to get healthy too, what were some of your triumphs and setbacks? What are some of your goals to improve?
Our Facebook Group is getting off the ground. If you haven't already joined and would like to, feel free. We have 17 members so far and are welcoming more. We post meal ideas, motivational quotes, exercise encouragement, etc. If you know me, you know that I will also randomly post a meme or two. Come on over. We're pretty great!

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Letter to My Doctor

The following letter  was written to be read at a medical school lecture regarding how to handle the delivery of a baby who has died in the womb.  I wrote this post specifically to be shared.   If you know of someone who would benefit by reading this, please share it with them.    In writing, I thought to myself how scared a doctor dealing with this for the first time must be.   I also thought about all the doctors who do it all wrong as well as the ones who get it so right.  My personal doctor was amazing, and I am grateful for her every day that she made such a horrible and heart wrenching experience a little softer for me.   However, during my almost two years inside the loss community, I have heard horror stories of doctors that make everything a million times worse, whether through rough treatment or terrible comments.   When asked to write this, I wanted to make sure that I was the voice of my community.  I wanted upcoming doctors to know the right way to treat the Heartbroken Mother.  I hope I was able to do justice to the experience and to shed a little light onto an undeservedly taboo subject.  

Update:  The Video of this letter is completed.  You can read the blog post and watch it here.


Dear Doctor,

I know this isn't what you were expecting today. You didn't wake up and head into work thinking, "Today is the day I am going to have to tell a mother her baby has died." Your day was supposed to be full of heartbeats and moving ultrasounds, of spreading goo over a laughing belly, of getting your doppler kicked by unseen baby feet. Your day was supposed to be taking care of excited mothers. You should be congratulating not consoling.

Yet, here you are, trying with all of your might to find my baby's heartbeat. You move your doppler all around my swollen belly, but all you hear is the faint thumping of my heart, which is starting to beat faster because I'm beginning to figure out what's about to happen. The lump in your throat is almost too big to let you form the words, but you don't know what to say anyway. Who does? You're nervous and shocked, and you don't know how you're going to get both of us through this. Let me help you.

First of all, don't hesitate or stall in any way. I already have a million fears racing through my head. If you leave to go get another doctor without saying anything, I will panic. As hard as it is to get the truth out, please do it quickly. Tell me as much as you can as soon as you can, and don't leave me alone. I'm suddenly very, very scared and I need support. "I'm sorry. I can't find the heartbeat." Say it softly but clearly. Hold my hand. Look me in the eye. You'll see the fear rise, but you'll also see hope. At this point though, I still think there's hope, that you might be wrong. I think there might be more tests, more things we can check. It won't be until you take me to the ultrasound room and I see my beautiful baby oh-so-still, that it will hit me.
It will hit me hard. I will curl up and clutch my stomach. I will writhe on the table. I will scream a scream you have never heard and will never want to hear again. A scream full of more pain than you think a human soul can take. "Oh, my baby!" I'll moan. "Not my baby!" You might even see me shatter, breaking into a thousand shards of sorrow. You might not be able to keep it together either. It's okay if you cry too. Honestly, please cry with me. Please let me see you are human. Let me see that you care about my baby as much as I did...that you care about me. If you don't already know my baby's name, ask, and from then on, refer to my baby by her name. She is not a Stillbirth. She is not a Spontaneous Abortion. She is not a Fetal Demise. She is my child. Those may be terms you have been taught to use, and that's fine, but don't use them with me. Use her name. Please, use her name. 

I have been dreaming of my child's birth since seeing those two lines on the stick, maybe even before then. I have been planning it in detail for the past several months. And now, none of it is going to happen the way it should. Make sure I have time to process what is about to happen. Let me make as many choices as I can, but realize that there might be some choices I am unable to make. So much is being thrown at me at once. I am in shock and I don't know what I am supposed to do. Guide, but don't force. I will probably do anything you tell me to do.

Talk to me about making memories with my baby. As gently as you can, let me know that these next few hours or days will be all I have, and I will want to make every second count. At first, I might be uneasy because the thought of holding my lifeless child is too disturbing for me to think about. Reassure me that I will want to see her and hold her. Encourage me to have a photographer come to take pictures. Again, I will be hesitant, but tell me that those images will be my most treasured possessions later. Tell me I won't have to look at them until I'm ready, but I should get them taken for the day that I am. Give me the opportunity to bathe and dress her. Months later, after the shock wears off, I will regret not knowing what her belly button looked like or whether or not she had any birthmarks. I will regret not counting her toes or brushing her hair. If your hospital doesn't provide memory kits, let my husband know where he can run out to get some plaster to make hand and foot molds and some ink for prints.


During labor and delivery, spend as much time with me as you can. I know you have other deliveries today. Happier deliveries. But, I need you just as much as those women. I might even need you more because once I am finished delivering my baby, my time with her is almost over. Don't forget about me. I already feel so alone. Don't tell me I can "try again" or to be grateful for the children I already have. It's not comforting, it's insulting to the child I am about to deliver. Encourage me to push like you would anyone else. Remember that my husband has lost a child too. He's going to try to be strong, but on the inside, he is falling apart. Let him do the things a father would normally do. Ask him if he wants to cut the cord. Even though our outcome is very different from the other families in the maternity wing, please don't treat us differently. While there might be extenuating circumstances that won't allow for complete normalcy, let us have the most normal delivery you can.

Before she comes, prepare me for the silence. Prepare me for what she might look like. Let me know she might be discolored. Some of her skin might be torn. She's not going to look like the baby I expect, but she is still my baby. When all is said and done, I will still think she is beautiful. When she is finally born, I will cry with sorrow and emptiness, but those cries will also be filled with love. I will cry for her loss, but I will also weep for her beauty. 

When my baby is born, treat her with respect. Hold her like you would a live baby. Pass her to me like you would a live baby, gently and with tender care. Tell me how beautiful you think she is.
If your hospital has a Cuddle Cot, show me how it works and let me keep her with me for as long as I'm able. If not, assure me that I can see her whenever I'd like. Bring her to me. Let me hold her. Encourage family members to hold her and to take pictures, even the children, but allow my husband and I some alone time with her without the insanity of everyone else.
My room will be The Quiet Room. It will be a room of hushed voices and sideways glances. A room with a giant elephant taking up all the space. I want to talk about her, but no one will. Ask me about her. Ask me how I came up with her name. Ask me about my favorite part of my pregnancy. Let me talk about her. Nothing you can say will make this better. There are no words more meaningful than "I am so sorry". Tell me you're sorry for the loss of my child. Tell me it was not my fault. I won't believe you, but tell me anyway. Give me information for grief counselors and loss groups, maybe help me arrange mental health care if you can. Give me a hug. Say her name one more time. 

I will leave the hospital empty and broken. My arms will feel impossibly heavy without a baby in them. I won't know what to do with myself once I get home. Send me a card a few days later, letting me know you are thinking about me and my baby. Write her name. I will appreciate your kindness and feel like my child mattered.

At my postpartum checkups, be gentle with my body. I already feel betrayed by it. Ask me how I am. I'll tell you I'm doing fine. I'm not. Again, give me more information about counseling or loss groups. I feel isolated and alone. I need to find others like me, even if I don't know it yet. Help me do that. Again, tell me it was not my fault. Please, don't bring up religion regarding my loss unless I do first. I might not be religious, and talks of heaven or angels might hurt rather than comfort. Don't try to rationalize what happened. Just acknowledge how much I must hurt. Use her name one more time. Every time someone else says her name, it seals another crack in my heart. 

It is possible there is a clear-cut reason for my baby's death, but it's also very possible there is not.  I will have many questions, and some that you might not be able to answer.  Please, give me all the information you can.  Don't dumb it down for me, but don't use "doctor's speak" either.    I want to believe this was a one-time tragedy and that my body is not broken.  I need to know what this means for future pregnancies if I choose to have them.   Trying again might be the first thing on my mind, or it might be the last, but either way, knowing where to go from here is important to me.

Know that I am grateful for you, even if I don't say it. Know that your kind words and gentle bedside manner mean more to me than you might realize. Know that your acknowledgement of my baby as a real person who mattered is the first step in my healing process, and that how you treat me as a mother and her as my daughter will stay with me forever. 

I didn't want your day to end up like this. I didn't want my child to come home with me in an urn. No one thinks this will happen to them until it does. When I go home, you will go back to your normal routine of delivering babies with heartbeats, but you will be forever changed. You might, every once in a while, notice her face or name drifting across the white space of your brain, and I hope you do. I hope you think of her, even just one more time, because I think of her every day. I always will.

With Sincere Thanks, 
The Heartbroken Mother

This is one of many beautiful pieces of art by Louie Ejanda.   To purchase a print of this artwork or others, click here 




Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Getting My Goals On

Often, when people decide to lose weight, they set all kinds of goals for themselves. That's fine and dandy, but the problem often lies with the fact that these goals aren't realistic with their every day lives. I mean, I could set a goal to go to the gym for an hour every day and completely eliminate sugar and carbs. But, honestly, that will NEVER happen. Gyms are expensive, I don't have an hour every single day, and I'm pretty sure my blood is 90% mocha.

Lofty goals don't work for me. If I don't feel successful, I quit. I have tried to take online ESOL certification courses no less than six times. Each time, I start out doing all the assignments on time and I feel good. But then, life happens, I slip behind, and then I just give up and drop the course. It's not the noblest of attitudes, but it's the way I am. I need to have goals that I can easily achieve. Several small, easily achievable goals will work far better for me than huge, sweeping aspirtations. For example, if I say to myself, "Self, you will lose 20 pounds by April", and I don't start seeing results fairly quickly, I will assume it can't be done and I will just settle into bad habits. So, I have created a list of small changes I can make in my daily life that won't overwhelm me and will make me feel successful as I carry them out.

Here they are:

1. I will work out (In any form...most likely Couch 2 5K) for 40 minutes a day, 4 days a week.
2. I will fill my Parrish Medical Center giant water jug every morning and drink its contents throughout the day. I will gradually increase my water intake to two jugs.
3. I will stop buying soda for my home. I will allow myself a soda only when I am out to eat and only every other time. If I finish that soda, I will drink water for the remainder of the meal. (Eliminating things entirely just makes me want it more. I'm stubborn like that)
4. When ordering coffee at my favorite coffee house, I will request 2% instead of whole and will not order larger than a "tall".
5. I will not eat Fast Food. If time or lack of planning requires me to visit one of these establishments, I will choose the healthiest option available, such as a grilled chicken sandwich.
6. To avoid the "Fast Food Trap", I will work each week to plan meals ahead of time. I will choose meal recipes that are healthy and easy to make. I will actually make these meals instead of being lazy and I will remember to defrost the meat in time!
7. I will eat a healthy breakfast. (This is actually the hardest one for me. I usually run out the door and end up shoving in a pop tart about two hours later if I eat anything at all. I'm going to need help with this one because I need quick, easy, and healthy alternatives)
8. I will make sure I have healthy snack choices in my house and I will not buy any Oatmeal Creme Pies. (Sorry Mike!)
9. When I bake, I will bake for others. I can eat one serving, but then must give away the rest. (You're welcome, Fairglen!)
10. I will understand that life is crazy, and that as long as I continue to try my best and get back on the wagon if I slip off, I will see changes eventually. I've done this before, I can do it again.

So, those are my small changes I am going to make to help myself on this journey to better health.
Also, instead of rewarding a job well done with food, as I tend to do, I will reward myself with a new wardrobe. When old clothes are too small, I will donate those clothes and then purchase a new item. I do not plan to replace item for item either. Another aspect of change in my life is going to deal with paring down and living with less. I do not need a mountain of clothes.

If you are joining me on this adventure, I have created a Facebook Group for it. It is a closed group, so if you join, you don't have to worry about posts showing up in other people's newsfeeds. "One Pink Balloon: Blogging Away the Boody" Come on over! We can do this together!



Monday, January 12, 2015

Dear Piper


You are almost 9 months old. It's so hard to believe that you have been here for that long, that you have been living and breathing outside of me for longer than you were inside. I admit, I have fleeting moments where I still expect it all to be taken away. In some ways, I think that makes me appreciate you more. You are my rainbow. My second chance. You are the light in my darkness, and I am forever grateful to be your mother.


The day you were born was the greatest day of my life. Even though I was terrified you wouldn't make it to your first breath, your cries pierced the delivery room like rays of sunlight to the dark forest floor. As soon as I heard your tiny voice, the floodgates that had been holding back my tears burst, and we were crying together. You, out of shock and newness...and me, out of relief and joy and a tiny bit of sadness. Relief that you made it out of me alive. Joy that my love was finally tangible. Sadness that you will never know the beautiful baby that came before you. When they brought you to me, and I saw your face for the first time, my heart leapt out of my chest and settled inside yours. You, darling girl, hold my heart and soul.


Now, as I carry you around the house, I stop every once in a while at your sister's pictures. I tell you who she is. One day, you will be old enough to understand. You will know you are a little sister and that your big sister is held in the stars, but of all things I want you to understand, I want it to be this: You are my second daughter, but you aren't second best. You aren't a consolation prize. You aren't a Do-over. You are my rainbow. You gave me back my hope when I thought it was lost forever. Although your sister made me a mother first, you are the one that I get to hold in my arms. The one I get to watch grow up. You are the child who will have scraped knees and tangled hair, who will go to kindergarten and middle school dances, who will laugh and cry and sing and jump. You are the daughter who gets to live.

Every night, when you are sleeping, I peek around at your face. As I watch your little body rise and fall with each breath, your mouth open in a soft O, your tiny hands curled into dimpled fists, I am in complete and utter awe. You are one of my greatest creations. And while I can't wait to help you grow into the wonderful young woman I know you will be, I also want to slow down time to savor each and every second of this beautiful life I have with you.

A mother's heart is deep and wide, with room for all of her children. While there is a broken piece where your sister should be, there is also a soft warm bed for you to nestle in. A place where only you fit. A place where you will always be welcome and wanted.

I love you beyond words, Piper Bean. Never forget that. I will love you when you first tell me "No." I will love you when you bring home your first bad grade. Even when you're sixteen and you think you hate my guts, I will still love you. I will love you until the last breath I breathe leaves my body, and even then, the love on that breath will be in the wind for all eternity.

Love,
Mom

Saturday, January 10, 2015

More than My Loss

Mothers who have lost a child often get lost in a vicious cycle as well. We want our child to be remembered, so we talk about them often. We post statuses of how we are feeling. We share links relating to grief or losing a child. Maybe we share informative articles about stillbirth or miscarriage or whatever information we might want to get out to the masses. However, as a result of this, our lives seem to be focused on grief and sadness and death. By being vocal, we also unwillingly create a label for ourselves. We become "The Woman with the Dead Child".


At first, we wrap this label around ourselves like a blanket. Yes! Yes, my baby died. Yes, I want you to remember her. Yes, I want to educate you on loss. This is who I am now. Deal with it! We pull in the corners and tuck them around ourselves so that all the outside world sees is us bundled beneath it. It is warm and protective. It gives us a way to identify. We seek out others who have also swaddled themselves because they are the only ones who understand what it is like to live wrapped up in loss. But, as time passes, and as we use that time to work through the onslaught of emotions, we realize that the blanket we love so much is actually kind of itchy. And stifling. So, we try to take it off. We try to unwrap ourselves, to loosen the tight corners and let ourselves breathe a little, to become more than the blanket lets us be. Sometimes, we even let it fall to the floor, but as soon as we do, someone comes along and puts it back on our shoulders. "You with the dead baby. I know someone else with a dead baby. You should talk to her." or, "You with the dead baby. Here's an article of someone else with a dead baby. You should read it." We have become associated with death and loss.


When someone says "bagel", you think "cream cheese". When they say "peanut butter", you think "Jelly". And when you hear the word "Stillbirth", you think of me. It's okay. I have done an excellent job creating that association in your brain. But, I am more than my loss. Peanut butter can be in cookies, eaten on celery, or used in a chicken stirfry sauce. Cream cheese can make mashed potatoes creamier and soups smoother. You can put jelly on bagels with honey. The point is, one can exist without the other. They do not define each other and they don't have to be so closely tied. The same is with me and loss. I am not my loss. Kenley is not "a loss". There is so much more to both of us.


I am more than a "Baby Loss Mom". Yes, losing Kenley was a pivotal point in my life. It changed everything about who I am, including my perception of the world. Loss colors my life, but it is not my life. I am more than the "Mother of a dead baby". Kenley is more than something that happened to me. She is also my daughter. She had a head full of dark hair, her mother's nose, and her daddy's mouth. She weighed 5 pounds and 1/2 ounce and was 18 inches long. She loved to kick and twist and move around, especially in the mornings. She is a person, not a loss.


This is a really difficult thing to explain because loss is all encompassing, yet I strive to not be encompassed by it. Missing Kenley and loving Kenley and wanting Kenley to be rememebered is etched into every fiber of my being. I want HER to be known, but I don't want to be just known for losing her, and I certainly don't want her to only be known for being dead. I want to be vocal and clear about how loss affects life, but I don't want to be simply associated with loss. It's such a hard balance to achieve. I think most of us are unsuccessful because if we don't bring up our children all the time, we think people will forget them. Yet, when we do bring them up, they are remembered as being lost. We remind the world they are no longer here, and then the world is also reminded of our sadness, and we are the "Baby Loss Mom" again.


For example, sometimes, as mothers do, I want to share something wonderful about my children. I can do that with Piper easily. I can post a picture of her getting her first tooth, or a video of her making silly noises. I can't do that with Kenley in the same way, and when I do post something related to Kenley, my responses from others are very different. Piper's responses vary from "She's so cute" to "adorable!" to "What a doll!". They compliment her. They show adoration for her. They make others think of "normal" mom and baby life. Kenley's responses are often simple emoticons. " :( " " <3 " "xoxo". Sometimes an "I'm praying for you" or something of the like gets thrown in too. People have been reminded that they are supposed to be sad, and so they respond accordingly. To be clear, I am NOT bashing those responses. I am so grateful that anyone even responds to Kenley posts. It means they care. I totally understand that. What I want YOU to understand, is that you don't have to be sad. Although I miss her and my heart hurts for her, while I am still sad she is gone, I am not posting those things to make you sad. I am not trying to bring you into my grief. I am not reminding you of her death...I am reminding you of her life. I am reminding you that I have another daughter who is only in my heart, but who is still special and still loved.


I have yet to find the solution to this problem. I don't know how to remind people of her without reminding them of my grief. I don't know how to talk about her without being that mom again.



If you take anything away from this very confusing blog post, let it be this:


I am a mother who has lost her child, but that's not all I am. I am also a mother who loves both of her children very much. I am a wife, a sister, a daughter, a teacher. I love to bake and share silly internet memes. While I will always miss Kenley, there is more going on in my life than mourning her. There is more to my life than loss. I have worked VERY hard to get to this point...the point where I can say that I live more in the light than the dark.


Remember Kenley, but remember she is more than her death. We both are.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Usually, when I talk about my body and how I am unhappy with the size it is, someone will inevitably say, "Well, you just had a baby." Wrong. I just had TWO babies. Back to back.
I was pregnant for half of 2012, half of 2013, and 1/4 of 2014, for a total of 18 out of 24 months. I had two babies, two C-sections, one memorial service, and one happy homecoming. I'm also an emotional eater. So, when Kenley died, I ate. I didn't care....I had just had a baby and that baby had died. I know I hung onto some of that weight because part of me felt like it was all I physically had left of her. 

Then, I got pregnant again, and I ate some more. I mean, come on...I'm pregnant, plus I'm scared and excited at the same time. After I had Piper, Mike got a new job, I went back to work, and we didn't have time to plan healthy meals. A new baby and a new schedule made me stressed, so I continued to eat poorly, which leads me to where I am today. 50 pounds heavier than I should be. 20 pounds heavier than my previous record high of an undisclosed number. Not cool. Something must be done.

So, what am I going to do, you ask? Great Question. Here's your answer: The 3 R's. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
I am going to REDUCE the amount of bad foods going into my body.

I am going to REUSE my old workout clothes and Couch 2 5K app.

I am going to RECYCLE the defeatist attitude I have towards losing weight and turn it into a bright, shiny new outlook that expects results.

So...why put this on the blog? Well, for a couple of reasons. For starters, I am refocusing the blog to talk more about motherhood after loss, and losing baby weight is definitely part of motherhood. Secondly, and probably most importantly, I am not very good with intrinsic motivation. I need external parameters. I need to know that I have not just committed to myself, but to something else as well. So, I will blog about this too. I know this isn't as emotional as other blog posts of mine. It's not as juicy or insightful...but this blog is ultimately for me, so that's what's happening.

When I started the blog, I had Saturday Spotlights to highlight positive projects I was working on. I am going to continue to do something like that with my weightloss journey. I'm thinking "Weight Loss Wednesdays". (Oh, hey...isn't today Wednesday?) I will write a weekly post about what I have been doing and how I have been progressing. Maybe photos will accompany said blog post, we will see. 

If you are looking to get healthier as well, feel free to comment on the blog posts and we can swap support sentiments with each other. Trade recipes? Encourage workouts? Whatever. I'm thinking of creating a Facebook Group for anyone who wants to join in for some support. If I do, I'll also post that link.
Let me also make this clear, this is NOT related to the New Year or a Resolution of any kind. New Year Resolutions are not for me. I never do something because it is expected or tradition. We all know that by now. I do things because I feel they need to be done. My Rainbow is 8 months old and none of my pants fit me. This needs to be done.

Tomorrow, I plan on walking/ jogging (mostly walking) around the block. My goal is to excercise for no less than 40 minutes 4 times a week. I think this is a realistic goal for my life, and if I exceed it, then yay for me. I also have a list of goals and changes to make, but I will save that for another post.


Six years ago at a healthy weight for me.   This is my goal. 




Monday, January 5, 2015

A New Direction

You probably have already noticed a new color scheme to the blog, along with a new header. When I get time, I want to move a few things around as well. I feel the need to take the blog in another direction, and so I am slowly working on this shift.
Six months after this blog started, six months after writing every single day about my grief, I needed to stop. I couldn't handle my grief being a conscious focus in my life on a daily basis. It was too hard. So, I took a hiatus, and I wrote only sporadically. I wrote a little bit about trying to conceive a rainbow and then a few posts once the Rainbow arrived, and here we are at today.
I want to start writing more. I need to start writing more. When I don't write, my feelings become muddled. My brain twists around inside itself and doesn't know how to process anything. Writing is important to my survival. And I have neglected it for so long. It's time to get back into my writing routine. However, I am not going to write daily about grief. I can't do that. I can't pull myself back into that cycle. Sometimes, I feel like I have to hurt in order to still love her, but that's just not true. Pain is not love. Pain is the result of love, yes, but I don't have to be in constant pain in order to continue to feel love. I can feel joy and happiness. I can feel peace. It is possible. It is necessary.
I am going to continue to blog, but I am not going to hyper focus on my grief journey. Sure, there will be posts about my struggles because I need to write them out. I do want to focus on raising a Rainbow. I wasn't prepared for how hard that was going to be. I knew I wasn't going to miraculously heal my heart and come skipping out of the delivery room, but I really thought that having Piper would help make things improve. In many ways, it has. It is absolutely amazing to create a life and then see that life grow and learn. But, in many ways, it has been so very difficult.
Basically, the shift of focus will be from actively grieving Kenley to being a mom after loss. I want to blog about how mothering after loss brings up unexpected challenges and new-found appreciation. I want to continue to give insight into what it is like to lose a child - but in a different way. For the rest of my life, everything will be colored with Kenley, but I also want to spotlight the various shades of color Piper brings to it too.
In being open with my grief through the first six months of this blog, I made many new friends and was told over and over how my words helped them through their journey as well. I want to continue that, but instead of being a soul for commiseration, I want to be a beacon of light. I want to be that speck at the end of the tunnel. See...see...you can do this. There is hope. There is more to life than pain, more to your heart than broken shards, and more to your soul than emptiness. There is life after loss.
My focus of this blog will begin to shift to dealing with being the mother of a Rainbow, and of how life is different with Piper in it. I really feel that often times, my perspective is not the same as mothers who haven't gone through what I have. I want to share that perspective, but in a way that isn't tied up in a big bow of grief.
I am going to try to write more regularly...as regularly as one can with an 8 month old! I may or may not post to Facebook, but some of you already follow my blog anyway.
So...that's it. I am continuing to move forward in my life...with both of my girls. One in my arms and one in the stars! Thanks for traveling with me.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Don't Discourage the Doctor

I am a member of a few Mom Groups on Facebook. They are non-loss related. They are just groups where moms talk about mom things, like what to do about diaper rash and who has Ergo baby carriers on sale. While sometimes I can find out some good information, I don't often activtely particiapte in them because sometimes it's tough to relate to a mom whose world is crashing down because her kid won't eat green beans. However, my difficulty relating is not what this post is about. It's about something I have noticed in each and every group. Something my fellow loss moms have noticed in their "regular mom" groups as well.

It's the attitude of an untouchable pregnancy. The attitude that all pregnancies progress perfectly - and if a mother is worried in any capacity, she shouldn't be.
I have seen it happen dozens of times. A mother posts a concern regarding her pregnancy. Maybe she's started spotting. Maybe she's crampy. Maybe she has noticed a change in her baby's movements. Whatever the issue, she always asks if she should go to her doctor. 95% of the responses tell her not to worry. They tell her something similar happened to them, or to their friend, or to their cousin's neighbor, and everything was fine. Sometimes, she states she's asking in the group because she doesn't want to "bother the doctor" or be a nuisance to labor and delivery. She doesn't want to appear anxious to the professionals whose job it is to keep her baby safe. So, when the other women tell her not to worry, she doesn't. And everyone goes about their day.
I hate these posts. I hate them because when I do comment (without giving my specifics) that if she is concerned, there is no harm in calling her doctor to make sure, no one pays attention to it. Everyone says to her it's no big deal. I usually end up turning off the notifications because I just can't sit and watch this woman be assured everything is perfectly fine when it might not be. I realize I am jaded. I realize my experiences make me a little more cynical, but when did it become unacceptable to be concerned about your child?
I listened to the reassuring "everything is fine" comments. In my heart, I was very worried. I didn't want to call my doctor because I didn't want to bother her. I didn't want to look like a crazy person who needs to check on her baby all the time for no reason. Except, I had a reason, I just didn't know it. When I voiced my concerns, everyone said they were sure everything was fine, and I believed them because why wouldn't it be?
12.4% of women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. To help decrease those odds, women are taught how to give themselves breast exams and to get regular mammagrams if needed. If a woman found a lump in her breast, she wouldn't think twice about calling her doctor. If she posted a question to her mom group about whether or not she should see her doctor, no one would comment, "It's probably benign. Don't worry about it." She would go get checked out because...well...what if it's cancer? 87.6% of the time, it is not.
25% of women will lose a child during pregnancy. That is twice the amount of women who will get breast cancer. Yet, women are still uneasy asking questions about their pregnancy. They don't want to "bother" their doctor. They reassure each other that everything is fine. 75% of the time it is.
Those odds just don't line up with the precautionary behaviors that go with them.
Part of it is because women are just not educated about what can go wrong during pregnancy. I know no one wants to scare the pregnant woman, but educating people will not cause things to go wrong. Learning about stillbirth will not cause my child to be still born. Learning about Trisonomy 13 will not cause my child to develop it in utero. Understanding the reasons for spotting during pregnancy will not cause me to miscarry. Education is not causation.
Part of it is because women are reluctant to go to their doctor when they notice something disturbing because they "don't want to bother them". Often, women will try to wait it out. Or, they will ask their Facebook friends what they should do, which leads to another issue - well-meaning, yet uneducated, reassurances.
People, we have to stop this. Pregnant women need to be educated about issues associated with loss. Not as a scare tactic, but to arm themselves with information. They need to feel comfortable asking their doctor questions. They need to be okay with "bothering" their doctor or going into labor and delivery when they feel concerned. Whether or not there really is an issue, their concerns are still valid. After all, they are creating a human. A human whose life depends upon them. They shouldn't be nicely bullied into thinking they have nothing to worry about. Their fears shouldn't be dismissed.
If a woman is concerned about her pregnancy in any way, she should not be discouraged in going to her doctor. She should be told to seek medical attention. What's the worse that could happen? She spends a few hours in a doctor's office for nothing. Maybe owes a few hundred dollars for a test or two. However, if she doesn't go to the doctor, the worse that could happen is the worse that could ever happen. She could lose her child.
This isn't rocket science, guys.
Something needs to change. It starts with you. Stop telling your pregnant friends not to worry. You don't have to scare them to death, but if they are concerned, or if they mention something about their pregnancy that seems off, encourage them to go get checked out. If you are pregnant, and you feel concerned, go to your doctor. Don't wait until things get better. They might. They might not.
This isn't about fear or paranoia. It isn't about negativity or bitterness. It's about women being educated and not invalidated. It's about saving babies instead of saving face.
Stop discouraging the doctor and start encouraging women to take an active role in their pregnancy.
Who knows the difference you can make?

Friday, January 2, 2015

Her Sister's Shadow

There is a fine line I have to walk - that all loss moms with living children have to walk - that carefully balances my living child with the one who is gone. It's a very blurry line that weaves around constant obstacles. Of those obstacles, the biggest one actually is misunderstanding.

I think...no, I know...a lot of people look at my behavior and think that I am wallowing in grief. That I am unable to "let her go." That I am allowing Kenley to overshadow Piper. All of these are misconceptions.

I will always talk about Kenley. I will mention her when people ask me about my children. I will symbolically include her in family pictures and events. I will hang a stocking for her every Christmas. I will visit her tree and take pictures on her birthday. I will participate in Walks of Remembrance and charity events in her honor, and I will encourage others to join me. I will post links about kick-counting and stillbirth on my Facebook wall. I will miss her every day, and some days, that missing will be so great, I will need to tell someone about it, and it's important that person understand why.

You may be thinking, "Well, it's been almost two years. Aren't you done with that by now?" Nope. I will do all of these things for the rest of my life. No amount of time passing will change that. But, just because I am sad sometimes, doesn't mean I am sad all the time. Just because I post a status about feeling guilty about her death doesn't mean I allow that guilt to consume me. Just because I talk about how much I love and miss my first born doesn't mean I love my second born any less. And it certainly doesn't mean remembering Kenley is more important to me than experiencing Piper. They are actually equally important. And that doesn't make me crazy, or depressed, or consumed by grief. It just makes me a mom.

I know that I have to be careful not to get consumed by my desire to have people remember her. All loss moms do. We want so badly for the world to know the child we love, we can often be very aggressive in doing so. It doesn't mean we have gone off the deep end. We just want our child to be able to make a mark on this world, and since they aren't here to do it, we feel responsible to do it for them. Interpret my posts about Kenley as such. Not as calls for help from the bottom of an abyss of depression, but as a spotlight of pride upon my child who can't speak for herself. I'm not going to just forget about her. I'm not going to stop talking about her. She is my daughter. My firstborn. If one of your children died, how long would it take you to stop talking about them? To stop thinking about them? To stop loving them? Everyone is different in how they deal with loss. If my way isn't your way, that doesn't make it wrong.

I am not missing out on Piper's life because I still miss Kenley. I have been in awe of my Rainbow since the day she was born. I have been in love with her since 36 weeks and 5 days before that. Missing her sister doesn't change that. I can do both. Granted, some days are harder than others...and some days even seem impossible...but I still do it. I still fully understand that Kenley is gone and Piper is here. I know Piper is more than just a "little sister". When I put her in a "Little Sister" onesie, it's not to pigeon-hole her into that role. She IS a little sister. If I died, my little sister wouldn't suddenly be an only child, she'd just be the only living one. It's not different. The "little sister" onesies are simply to honor Kenley. I am not definining Piper's identity through them. Piper is her own person. She has her own personality. She will have dreams and wishes and goals, and I will help her find all of them because I am her mother and that's what I do. I have experienced all 8 months of her life with joy...yes JOY. Sometimes I feel guilty for feeling joy and sometimes I don't, but that's just comes with the territory. It doesn't mean I am not fully appreciating my living daughter.

I have so much more I need to say, but I'm not really sure how to say it without sounding bitter and defensive.

Here's the bottom line:

I love both of my girls.

Remembering Kenley and being vocal about missing her does not mean I am unable to "move on".

I do feel joy and happiness in my life. I am not trapped in grief, but I will deal with this grief for the rest of my life. Thinking two years is enough time is ludicrous. Grief is not a timeline with a beginning and end. It is a knotted jumble that takes a lifetime to untangle. Day by day, I work on that knot. Sometimes, I loosen the yarn and other times, it curles tighter, but I am still working. I haven't given up, nor will I ever do so.

Piper is no more and no less important than her sister, and I am doing my very best to make sure she knows that. I'm not going to let her grow up feeling like she's living in her sister's shadow - because she's not.

 

 

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