Thursday, February 25, 2016


Dear Kenley,

Happy Birthday, baby girl!   You are three years old today.   Three!  It's so hard to believe so much time has passed since I held you in my arms.  1,095 days.  1,095 times I have woken up with you missing from me.  1,095 times I have gone to bed without having you in my arms.   If I live sixty more years, that will be almost 22,000 more days.   All without you.

What more can I really say at this point that I haven't already said to you?   How many more times can I say I miss you?   How many more times can I tell you how much I wish you were here with us?  How, more than anything, I want to be able to watch my two girls grow up together as the sisters they should be?   

This last year has seemed so much more difficult than the previous two.  I think it's because I'm getting even farther away from you - because the baby I know isn't even remotely the child you should be.  Each day that passes makes you more of a mystery, and it breaks my heart.  What would you enjoy doing?   What would your favorite color be?  Your favorite book?   Would you be talkative like your little sister?  Would you share her love of school buses?   Would your hair have lightened or would you have stayed my raven-haired beauty?   I look for you in the eyes of your sister, but you aren't there.  I look for you in the children at the grocery store, but that's not you either.   You are nowhere and everywhere all at once and it takes all of my strength to keep myself balanced between a world where you never died and the world where I actually live.  

I miss you, my dear little ninja.   My heart skips the beats where you should be, and I am forever out of synch.   No matter how many years pass, my scars will always ache for you, scars that stretch over each other, winding around and across my soul in rivers of pain and hurt.  Every day, they tear and heal and tear and heal as I settle into a life where you are not.  A life where I work so hard to make your death mean something as I try to turn your memory into a legacy.

When I look at all I have done in your name - when I look at all that has been accomplished because of your tiny little life - I am both in awe and in tears.   The more of a difference you make, the more I feel the sting of your absence.  Every award, every accolade, every message of thanks, hurts as much as it heals.   Because they wouldn't exist if you were here, and they are hollow replacements for your beautiful face - for the life you didn't get to have.  

You are gone.  You are not here to celebrate your third birthday.   You will not eat cake.  You will not open presents.   You will not get ice cream all over your shirt and fall asleep in the car.   You will not do any of those things this year or any year.  You will not go to preschool, or kindergarten, or college.   Sometimes, I am selfish and I make your death all about me.   I am a Heartbroken Mother, and it's hard to live a life without your child.  But, honestly, none of this is about me.  The unfairness isn't that I have to live without you - the unfairness is that you never got the chance to live at all.  YOU were the one robbed.  YOU were the one who deserves more. 

This isn't my story - it's yours.   A story of a little girl who wasn't - who was loved so deeply and so fiercely that she still managed to change the world - even if it's just mine.

I will tell it until the day I die. 

I love you, my beautiful girl.  A mother's love is forever, spanning across time and space into eternity.   When I think I have reached the end of my rope, I remember that I love you with the light of all the stars in the universe. - and that my rope, made from stardust, is infinite.  

Starlight, Star bright, you're the star my heart holds tight.



Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Let Me Be Sad

By now, you've probably already seen Pixar's Inside Out  and you probably already know how wonderful it is not only as a touching and hilarious movie, but as a great insight into human emotions.   This movie is a thousand shades of deep, and every time I watch it, I find something else that is so very spot-on.    For me, the most poignant scene is the one where Bing-Bong, a long forgotten imaginary friend, is upset.  While Joy wants to distract Bing-Bong and make him forget why he's in pain, Sadness comes and sits with him.   Sadness listens to him.  She doesn't offer advice.  She doesn't try to get him to think of something else.  Sadness lets him be sad.   And, when he's finished being sad, he gets up and goes on with the mission at hand.  Take a minute and refresh your memory with this Youtube clip:

Why is this scene so important to me?  Why am I showing it to you?  Why am I writing a blog post about it?  Because I want you to just let me be sad.   Because I want you to know that it is okay to be sad - that sadness is a part of life and it's not the end of the world.   Sadness heals.  It really does.  

When I am feeling sad, and I let people know I am having a hard time, there are so many wonderful people who just want to make me feel better.   They tell me how strong I am, how amazing I am, how much of a wonderful mother to my girls I am.   They are Joy.   And Joy is wonderful, but it's not always what I need.   See, I know I'm strong.  I don't always want to admit it, but I still know it.  Any woman whose heart continues to beat after her child's ceases is the epitome of strength.   Three years after Kenley's death, I am still alive - and I am busting my ass to give her death a purpose.   I immerse myself in the loss community on a daily basis to make sure she didn't die in vain.  I parent a rainbow in the face of loss and I balance myself on a trembling tightrope stretching between the daughter in my arms and the one in the stars.   I am a fu#@ing warrior.   

And I am exhausted.   Do you know how hard it is to paint a stiff upper lip every day?   Do you know what it's like to carry your child's memory on your back like Atlas?   Sometimes, I just need to be sad.   I need to lay down the Heartbroken Mother mantle, stop being "strong", and allow myself to be weak.   I need to shake with sobs and drown in tears.  I need to coat the world in blues and grays and sink into the sand.   And I need people to sit beside me and say, "Hey, go ahead and be sad.  You don't have to be strong right now.  It's okay."

Because a break in my strength for a little while isn't going to cause my entire armor to crack.  Moments of sadness won't spiral me into a lifetime of hopeless despair.  I cannot be strong all the time.  I cannot fight sadness forever.   There will be times when it overtakes me - and I need to let it.  I need the people around me to let it.    

It is okay to be sad.

I am not depressed.  I am not hopeless.  I am not spiraling into a pit of despair.   I am sad.  I am sad because my child is dead and I miss her.  And I am allowed to be sad.  I am allowed to sit and rest and hold Sadness' hand for a while.  You don't have to try to fix it.   Honestly, by now, do you really think you can?   There is nothing you can do.   Just let me be sad.  Let me rest.  Let me be weak for a little while.  Give me a moment.   Or two.  Or three.

It won't be too long before I dry my eyes and sling her back over my shoulder.   It won't be too long before I'm back to being strong and brave and all those things you tell me I am.   But, for now, especially for now, just let me be sad.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Dead Baby Guru

Guru: a) a teacher or intellectual guide in matters of fundamental concern.  b) a person with knowledge or expertise.  c) one who is an acknowledged leader or chief proponent.

Dead Baby Guru.  

As blunt and as jarring as it is, every mom who has lost a baby understands that phrase. 

It's what we become to those outside the loss community.   We, simply because we find ourselves in a terrible situation beyond our control, are thrust into this position without our permission or desire.   Clearly, no one wants to lose their child.   No one wants to become an "expert" on child loss either.    And even those of us who are not "experts" are still seen as one and are thrown into that role like a fish thrown at Pike's Place Market.  Here ya go....catch!    

Let me make this perfectly clear.   We do not want to be your Dead Baby Guru.   We do not want to be the first person you think of when you hear of another mother who has or is going through the loss of their baby.   We do not want to be sent every single article about baby loss that comes across your newsfeed.  By the time you send it to us, we've seen it in three support groups already anyway.  We do not want to be tagged in posts of sorrow and grief and infant death.  We hate being associated with this.   We hate opening our email or message folder and seeing someone asking us what to do for their friend who just lost a baby.   It's awful being Grief's Go-to-Gal.

"But, Rebecca," you ask, "I thought you were all about spreading awareness."   

Oh, I am.   I believe in talking about loss openly and without shame.   I believe in fully supporting families who have to face a future without their children.  I believe that a good support system is the foundation of healing from loss, and that my support system is definitely above par.    But, I still hate being your Dead Baby Guru.   With a passion.

Just because I am open about loss doesn't mean I like talking about it.   Just because I welcome new members to this horrible club with open arms doesn't mean I enjoy doing  it.  I had a pretty good weekend in Minneapolis with my sister, but damn if I didn't wish I could have been doing almost anything else in the world.   

You want to know why I do these things then?  Why any of us do? It's because they have to be done.   Because if mothers who lost children didn't talk about it, then no one would.    Every single outspoken friend I have in the loss community is their social circle's Dead Baby Guru, and it is exhausting.   Putting your pain out there for display is difficult.  Talking about loss and the death of your child in a public forum on a regular basis is no bed of roses.   We do it because silence needs to be broken.  We do it because people need to be educated and babies need to be remembered.   However, the price we pay for being vocal is being seen as an "expert", and we become magnets for loss and all things associated.  

We completely understand why people do it.   It's their way of supporting us or trying to understand us.  It's their way of showing us they are thinking about us and our child.   We get it.  If people are thinking of us when they come across articles of loss, we know we have made a difference in their thought pattern.   If we are the first person they think of to give support to another grieving mother, we know our child has made an impact on someone else.  We know our experience makes us a valuable support for moms new to loss and we want to be there for them.  But, we still hate it.  

We hate being your Dead Baby Guru.  We hate being an expert at losing our baby.  We are tired of sharing articles about baby movements or bereavement.   We are tired of going out of our way to educate people about loss and remind them about our children.   Yet, here we are.  Every day - catching those smelly, slippery fish that keep getting chucked at us, sometimes while we still have four other fish in our arms.    

Just remember, even Gurus need a break sometimes.  

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Star Legacy Awards

In the beginning of December, I received an email from Lindsey Wimmer, founder of the Star Legacy Foundation.    She informed me I had been nominated for three Star Legacy Shining Star Awards, one for Stillbirth Awareness, one for Stillbirth Education, and one for Stillbirth Advocacy. I was nominated in three categories where all the other nominees were MDs, PhD's, RN's or CEOs.   I immediately searched the email for words like "LOL" or "just kidding"...maybe even a "Not!"   But, there weren't any.     I wondered if there had been a mistake, and I figured my lack of qualifications would come into play when voting began, where I would simply be weeded out from the more deserving, well-qualified candidates.   However, mid January, I received another email.  I was the winner of the Stillbirth Education Award.  Um, excuse me, what?   Not only was I the winner, but she was excited to meet me.   Really?   Me?     I didn't go to med school or nursing school.   I don't have any fancy credentials to tack onto my name. I'm just a mom with a blog.   Really, when it comes down to it, it's just ONE blog post.   I didn't head up a research project.   I didn't start a clinic.  I didn't create a program at a hospital.   I just wrote a letter and followed its ripples. 

From the very beginning of all of this, I have always felt uneasy.  I don't take compliments well.   I always look for external reasons for my success, and it's always been difficult for me to feel worthy of praise.   My sister says this is called "Imposter Syndrome", where, despite your own hard work and actual deeds, you still feel like a fraud - like you're going to be "found out" and exposed for not being as great as everyone has been saying you are.   I have this pretty bad.   I have all of my life.  And I was being forced to face it head on because I had been asked to fly to Minneapolis to accept my award.   I thought seriously about not going.   Just, letting it pass by and hiding under my sheets.  My family refused to let that happen.  I decided if I was going to go, I would need someone to go with me.  So, I asked my sister, Allison.  In case you don't already know this, my sister is pretty hardcore.  She's a decisive, take charge kind of gal, and she was the perfect person to take with me on this trip.  She has been my and Kenley's most outspoken advocate since Day One, and it was really only fitting she come with me.   After all, it was at her request I even wrote the letter in the first place.   

So, last Friday, I flew three and a half hours from my home in central Florida to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Going from a subtropical location to The Great White North in the middle of February was quite a shock for me.   (Leaving the airport in Minnesota, I noticed the cars in the parking garage were all coated in a white dust.   It took me longer than I care to admit to figure out why.  Hello....Florida Native!)  Fortunately, Allison had given me a knee-length parka rated for the coldest winter temperatures, so I was all set.  I pulled the faux-fur-lined hood over my head, shoved my hands in the pockets, and I was good to go.   She had arranged for a town car to take us to our hotel, which was nice.   My name was spelled out on a sign for me to see as I walked to baggage claim because she thinks of things like that.

The hotel was less than 15 minutes from the airport.  Getting out of a Suburban as a first-time parka wearer was probably a hilarious sight to see, but I did it.   All around the hotel, pushed up in piles from the pavement, were what looked like the tops of giant snocones - minus the colored syrup.   What was this strange substance?   Allison infomed me it was snow, and boy was it cold.  I propped up the wooden K I brought with me to get a picture and then uploaded it to Instagram and Facebook with a #mysterytrip hashtag.   

After we settled into the hotel, we decided to head over to the Mall of America, which was about 10 minutes away in Bloomington.  Allison whipped out her Uber app and Frances arrived about 8 minutes later to whisk us away in his Chevy Volt.  I'm not sure what I was expecting at the Mall of America.   I knew there was a rollercoaster inside and that it was really, really big.   The mall itself was four stories of stores that followed a circular loop.   Most of the stores were just regular mall stores, several on repeat.  There were about three Claire's, two Victoria Secrets, and three hundred and sixteen shops that sold baseball hats.  As far as shopping was concerned, the mall was pretty standard, just in a larger scale.   The unusual part was what was in the middle of the loop.   Starting at the first floor and going all the way up in the center of the mall was Nickelodeon Universe - an indoor theme park complete with at least two roller coasters (one with spinning cars), a merry go round, a ferris wheel, and other miscellaneous rides and games.  Giant Lego transformers and dragons wrapped around the entrance.   There was even a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ride that whipped people around on a giant nunchuck.

 After the sun went down, music blared through the center of the mall and all the rides lit up to the beat.   If I hadn't grown up a stone's throw from Disney World, that would have probably impressed the heck out of me.    That's not to say the mall wasn't a great time.   It was.   It's one of those things that you just have to do if you're in the area.   We finished up at the mall and got back to the hotel around 9:30. I had good intentions of staying up Slumber Party Style with my sister, but those good intentions went right out the window when I fell asleep watching TV  after ten minutes.   I'm an animal.

Saturday morning dawned sunny and below freezing....because,  you know....Minnesota.   Allison and I ran some errands to get ready for the gala that evening.  As we did, I started to realize what was actually happening.   I was 10 states away from home, in 8 degree weather and wearing a parka I clearly didn't know how to operate, for the sole purpose of accepting an award I was convinced I had won by mistake.   I could just picture myself giving my name to the people at the entrance and being turned away because my name wasn't on the list.   Who did I think I was anyway?   I spent most of the day convincing myself that I wasn't a fake and that I hadn't traveled all this way for nothing.    

Back at the hotel, Allison and I got dressed for the Gala, slipping rhinestone stars into our hair for Kenley.  I fastened a new silver K around my neck and put the wooden K in my purse.   With Kenley properly represented, I was ready to go.   Another call to Uber and we were on our way.   

The Star Legacy Award Gala was held at the Green Acres Event Center, which turned out to be a cross between a ballroom and a barn.   It was very cool.    It was getting dark when we arrived, and the front of the barn was lit up with blue lights and the parking lot was covered in slick, white ice, which gave the scene a Winter Wonderland kind of vibe.   I carefully hobbled on my heels across the ice to the door, where the warmth of the inside greeted us like old friends.  A long, thick wooden table sat in the middle of the entry with two ladies holding lists.   Here it was...the moment of truth.   "Rebecca Wood".   Lo and behold - I was on the list.   Allison and I were handed two drink tickets and had our picture taken with the wooden K in front of the Star Legacy backdrop.   This was legit.   


We made our way upstairs, where people had already started to gather.  Ladies in coctail dresses sipping wine and men in suits shaking hands.    We found our table and I took a minute to look around.  The room was actually very beautiful.   Wood beams formed an arc in the high ceiling where three massive chandeliers hung from the center rafter.   Along the walls were ecclectic decorations.  On one side of the room, sat an old fashioned upright piano, on the other, a giant white stone fireplace.  Along the back wall hung three brightly colored paintings of cows.  Yes, cows.   They were awesome.   The whole place was very funky country.   


The front of the room housed a band and a presentation screen, which scrolled through facts about stillbirth - reminding me and everyone else why we were here. 


Take a sip of wine.  "Stillbirth claims more infant lives than prematurity and SIDS combined."   Admire the paintings on the wall.  "The amount of children born still each year is equal to a 747 jet full of people crashing every five days"   Glance around at the crowd.  "Federal Funds dedicated to SIDS research: $17 million, Prematurity research: $298 million, Stillbirth research: less than $3 million."   Realize just how very needed your mesage is.    Hope you are doing it justice.

Allison and I took pictures of the K around the room.   She had the centerpiece at our table dedicated to Kenley, which made me tear up the first of many, many times that night.  As we were milling around waiting for the evening to start, a woman came rushing over to our table.   She put a camera in a bag next to my seat and said excitedly, "Are you Rebecca?  I am so glad to meet you!"   Her name was Shannon.  She is on the Star Legacy Foundation board of directors and she was the one who nominated me.  In all three categories.  She said she couldn't decide where I fit best, so she put me in all three.   During dinner, we chatted about our children.   Her daughter, Savannah, died due to a prolapsed cord, which caused her to get involved with the foundation.  Like many Heartbroken Mothers, Shannon wanted to make a difference in her child's name.   I also talked to the couple on the other side of Allison, Michelle and George, who lost their son Nicholas in 2001, prompting them to start the Angel Names Foundation, which helps families cover burial expenses and also raises money for stillbirth research.   Here's where the world gets really small.   When I was preparing my presentation for the students at DeBusk, I thought I should probably get together a resource sheet, full of organizations and helpful websites.   I searched the internet for those things, and came across Angel Names.  I thought it was a perfect organization to include, so I put it on my resource sheet.  And, here the founders were, sitting across from me at the gala.  



As the dinner dishes were being cleared away, the MC called ffor everyone's attention to begin the awards ceremony.   My heart immediately leapt into my chest.   "The first award of the evening will be the Stillbirth Education Award," he said.   Of course.  Of course, I get to be first.  Of course, I don't get the benefit of watching other people go before me to see how they handle things.   As he read the nominees, I took some deep breaths and made sure my shoes were securely on my feet.   "And the winner of the Star Legacy Foundation Stillbirth Education Award is...Rebecca Wood"   I stood up.   The world stopped.   I walked to the front of the room as the MC read my bio where no less than six people were waiting for me.  The beating of my heart pulsated with Kenley's name.   I shook a hand.  I shook another.  And another.  I was handed a beautiful glass award.  I paused for a picture.   And then, "If you'd like to say a few words, we'd love to hear them."   

Man.  I should have prepared.   I honestly have no idea what I said.   I know I said Kenley's name.  I know I said I wrote what I wrote so families like mine would be able to have the memories they deserve.  I know I said how much I hated February.   And, I walked away.   And people clapped.  For me.  For Kenley.   For the message that is her legacy.   As I made my way back to my table, a woman hugged me and told me she hated February too.  And we cried.  And then we smiled because we knew someone else knew what this feels like.   When I got back to my seat, a piece of caramel and chocolate cheesecake was waiting, and I wasn't a fraud. 


The other awards were given out.  The advocay award went to an RN at the table behind me who works with families in the area.  I gave her a hug and told her thank you.  I told her she's so important in the lives of the families she helps.  She said, "I hope so" and I told her, "The fact you are here proves it".   And that's when I realized I belonged there too, that I was like almost everyone else in the room.     Someone who just wanted to bring a voice to the voiceless.   I was a mother doing everything she could to make a difference on behalf of her child.   I didn't have a fancy title...unless you count the title of Mom...but I belonged there nonetheless.   

I introduced myself to Lindsey and she told me she loved my letter and video and congratulated me for winning.   We talked about the foundation and how I could help with its cause.   Allison and I are working on partnering with some of her contacts, in addition with some others, to make the letter into a Continuing Medical Education credit, which is really exciting.   We also talked about becoming a Champion, which is basically holding our own Star Legacy fundraiser in our area.   That will be happening in the not-so distant, but -still- kind -of -distant- because -it's- a -big -task, future.   

It was awe-inspiring to be in a room full of so many people making such a difference in stillbirth research and awareness.   A room full of people who cared as much about breaking the silence as I did.  The Star Legacy Foundation is doing great things.  The money they raise goes right to the research facilities and organizations doing groundbreaking work in relation to stillbirth.   A current project is a National Stillbirth Database, which will help organize stillbirths by cause, genetic factors, mother's pregnancy, and other variables.   This can be a vital tool in finding correlations and taking steps to reducing stillbirth in families.  I am so honored to have been recognized by this organization as someone who is making a difference in the stillbirth community.   

Like any mother in my situation, this is all for my baby.   Every word I write.  Every presentation I make. Every award I recieve.  They are not mine.  They are Kenley's.   All of this - every last bit - is because my beautiful raven haired daughter entered this world silent and still.   And, while that breaks my heart over and over and over again, it also brings me some peace.   Good is happening in this world because our children inspire us.  To move forward.  To speak out.  To make a difference.  Every mother and father in this community, whether they are on the forefront of change or not, is a warrior.  And, while I hate that we have to know each other, I am beyond honored to call them my brothers and sisters in loss.   

At the end of the evening, we said our goodbyes.  I exchanged information with Michelle and George.  I'm hoping to collaborate with them in the future on some things.   I friended Shannon on Facebook, because that's how you do, and we headed back out into the cold, Minnesota night.  

But, it didn't seem as cold as it should have.   I think it's because I had a Star to keep me warm.  


Wednesday, February 10, 2016


We've all seen those photos....the ones snapped just seconds before disaster strikes.    The ones where the person in the photo has absolutely NO IDEA what's about to happen to them.   I'm sure you've scrolled through a Buzzfeed article or two containing photos like that.   Here are a few I'd like to share with you.  

Look at this cat about to be attacked by the cute little baby kitten.   We can see it happening already.   We know in less than half a second, the kitten will be on top of the cat and pandemonium will ensue.


And, this girl.   Looking into the camera, arms up.  She's thinking, "Hey, I am rocking this concert on my dude's shoulders right now."   She has no idea she's about to be clocked in the head with a cup of water, probably made up of about 80% backwash to boot. 

 "Oh yay!  What a fun day!   I think I'll  jump into the pool for a refreshing swim.   Might as well ham it up for the camera."   Hopefully, that wet concrete was kind to him and he didn't need any stitches or bones set later.

What's this fish thinking?   Probably not much because he's a fish...but you get the point.  The fish is just jumping out of the water without any idea he's hurdling himself straight for the jaws of death.  Poor little guy.    The Alligator looks pretty happy with himself though.  

I'll bet either his mother or his girlfriend is taking this picture, while the snowball was being chucked from a dad, a brother, or a best friend.   Thhhhunnnnnk.

Boy, is this going to hurt.   Maybe she somersaults just in time to land on her feet.   I hope so.  

Oh, this one is the worst.   This poor sap thinks she's having a baby soon.   She's at her baby shower and has gotten really great gifts.   This moment was captured just as she's shouting across the room at her friend who has the same toy for her kid.   Isn't it hilarious their kids will have the same stuff?

It's too bad she didn't know her baby was going to die.   Man, what a punch in the gut.     

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Beauty in the Beast

The Beast of Grief is a fierce one.  It's teeth are as sharp as razors and can cut through flesh like a hot knife through butter.   It's claws, thick and black, extend from it's massive paws, dripping with blood.  The legs of the Beast ripple with muscle and are as strong as they are fast.   No matter how fast you can run, it can run faster.   It will overtake you in a matter of seconds.    It will throw itself on top of you, crushing you with it's enormous weight, and sink its teeth into your neck.   It's claws pierce through your skin and pin you to the ground as it rips you open with a savage growl.   You cannot escape the Beast.   You cannot brace yourself for its attack.   You can only succumb.  And, once the Beast has attacked, you can only lie there and wait for the bleeding to stop, for the gashes to heal enough for you to sit up.   Slowly, slowly, slowly, you get back on your feet.   You shakily start to walk again, knowing the beast is still out there.  Knowing it's only a matter of time before it is upon you again.  Most likely, it will be before your current wounds fully heal.  In fact, you are never really, truly, fully healed.   Your old scars become new wounds in a constant cycle of tearing and healing and tearing and healing.    You are at its mercy, and will be for the rest of your life.   

Sometimes, the Beast attacks in rapid succession.  It pounces on you again and again, never giving you a chance to catch your breath in between.   Sometimes, the Beast waits for days, sometimes weeks, between attacks, and the added surprise is enough to stop your heart.  The Beast is ruthless and vicious.  It tears you down so easily, like ripping the corner off a piece of paper.   You are weak and vulnerable, and you wonder how you keep surviving.   Somehow, though, you do.  Day after day.  You bleed and you heal.  Your life becomes two moments.  The attack and the aftermath.

Grief is ugly.  It is raw and gaping and painful.   One might argue there is nothing beautiful about it.   How could there be?   How can a bloodbath be beautiful?

The beauty in grief lies not in the attack of the beast, but in the time that comes after.   It lies in the determination you develop to keep your heart beating despite the fact it's in shreds.  Your heart, broken and battered, becomes the heart of a Warrior.   You become a fighter, a fierce and worthy adversary for the Beast.   You know you can't stop it from attacking you, but you still fight for your own survival.   Where before, you may have taken some things in life for granted, now you fight for every shred of happiness and joy you can find.   You recognize that nothing is guaranteed, and so you hold on to each moment with trembling fingers, pulling it in close and savoring its flavor.   You live your life minute by minute, which to some, might seem stressful and reckless, but you know it's the only way you can be.  You learn the Beast attacks you because, despite your sorrow, you are still completely and utterly in love with your baby.   The emptiness your child left behind is still there, yes, but, the other places of your heart, the places that can still be filled, are filled with unconditional love.  You hurt because you love.  You love starlight, a whisp, a dream, a memory.  You love a baby you cannot hold or watch grow.    And, while that may be enough to make some people just give up completely, you, my Warrior, would never do that.   You don't let the Beast take away the love you hold so tightly. No matter how much you bleed, no matter how much you are torn to pieces, you never let the Beast harden your heart.  You love, deeply and immensely, with full knowledge that the more you love, the harder the beast will bite down.  You look the Beast dead in the eye and you sneer into its frothing mouth,  "I will not be beaten.  I will not give in.  You will not take my love for her away from me."   The pain of grief is unspeakable, most definitely.  Yet, in that pain, lies unspeakable love, like a glistening diamond buried inside sharp shards of broken glass.  

And, despite the pain, that love, that pure, undying love, like shimmering moonlight on a dark and angry beautiful.  


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Three Weeks from Three

Three weeks from today, I'm not going to work.   Three weeks from today, Mike and I will meet our friend Jeanee at a park and take photos next to an oak tree.   Three weeks from today, February will be four days from over, and my baby will be three.

Three.  It has been three years since she died - and was born.   Three years since I held her.   Three years since I touched her face.    

Those first few weeks, when I had ventured into some online support groups, I often read posts from mothers further along in their journey.   It was comforting to know that the intensity of the pain became more bearable, and that I would become stronger even though I certainly didn't feel that way at the moment.  What confused me were sentences like, "Last year was really hard, but this year is so much harder."    If we were supposed to get stronger and more able to deal with the heartache, why were the years getting harder?   At that time, I could barely fathom feeling anything past the next day, let alone the next year, but I wanted to believe it wouldn't hurt so much as time went on.

Now, with three years under my bereaved belt, I get it.   It does get harder.   It gets harder to keep a memory bright and shining when time tries so hard to dim and tarnish it.   It gets harder to move in only one direction when that direction simply creates more distance between you and your child.  It gets harder to grieve as openly as you did at the beginning because doing so will only bring judgement or concern.   It gets harder to justify your feelings to a world who clings to a timeframe.   

There is a saying that goes "Grief is the last act of love we can give to those we loved.  Where there is deep grief, there was great love".   Grief never ends because love never ends.  It's really as simple as that.  Grief does not have an expiration date.  It's not a gallon of milk.   Yet, the pressure to toss it to the side and move on after some time has passed is felt by every person who has ever lost a loved one.   Grieving people don't really stop grieving, though.   They just stop doing it in the public eye and instead do it behind closed doors.

My blog posts are few and far between now, and it's not because my grief is less.   It's really because there's nothing much more to say that hasn't already been said - and I also realize my level of grief will often be met with confusion or concern.   Three years later - and I'm still dealing with grief?   You betcha!   Isn't that something that should be better by now?    Nope.   Grief is a lifelong process.   Let that sink in.    Life.  Long.  

If you have ever seen a Cirque de Soleil show or something similar, you might often catch yourself thinking, "Wow.  They make it seem so easy."   But you know that it's not.  You know these people practice for hours every day and have probably been doing so for years.   You know when they first started, they probably fell all the time, maybe even broke bones.   But, they healed, and they kept practicing.   What they do doesn't become an easier task, they just get better at doing it.  They get better at making it look easy.  Grief is similar.   As the years pass, we have so much practice grieving, the outside world might perceive it as effortless - when it is really anything but.   It's that perception that actually contributes to its difficulty.  The safety net is taken away.   The spotters leave.   We are left alone to somersault and catch that trapeeze on our own.  And when we do fall, after all this time, we feel like a failure.  Because, really, shouldn't we have gotten the hang of this by now?

I'm three years down the road of this journey, and it's easy to feel alone.   It's easy to feel like the world has moved on and that no one will really feel the emptiness she left behind like I do.   At the beginning, we felt her loss together.  We stumbled together.  We hurt together.   You understood why I was so broken.  Three years later, you don't.   You might want to.  You might even try to.   But, unless you have lived for three years with your firstborn in a little pink urn, you simply can't.    And that's why it's so hard.   The hole where she fits is still painfully empty.  My heart feels her absence with every bit of severity of that first day.  And, while you may try to empathize, you don't really know how much it still it doesn't hurt even one iota less.

Here I am, three weeks away from her third birthday, and I have come to know that this is what grief looks like when it moves in and settles down.   Three years of grief is tiring.   The reality of child loss is really not something you ever get used to.   It's not something you ever learn to accept.   You watch your child grow up in the families of strangers.   The baby in the supermarket.  The toddler in the mall.   The 4th grader at Disney World.  With eager eyes,  I will look for her everywhere I go for the rest of my life.  I will see other people's children and I will wonder who she would have been.   Three weeks from three.   Five days from Fifty.  As long as my heart is still beating, it will ache for her.  


Monday, February 1, 2016

Effing February

It's February again.   I can't function in February.   I think about Kenley often throughout the year, but in February, my mind is nowhere else.   I think about the days leading up to the 25th three years ago. The excited comments on my maternity pictures album.   My baby showers - the one my friends and family threw me and the one given to me by my co-workers.  I think about how from February 1 through the afternoon of the 25th, I was simply a mother excited about preparing for her daughter.   How I fully expected to bring her home.  

February is nothing but a countdown to doom for me.   Tick, tick, tick.   As the 25th inches closer, I remember what it was like to be innocent, to be blissfully unaware of the dark underworld of motherhood.   I feel like I am watching myself wander blindfolded toward a pit of knives.   I can't stop thinking about who I was and who I didn't get to be - about the little girl who never got a chance to be anything at all.  

 I can't stop thinking about that day.   Doomsday.  The day my heart and soul shattered into oblivion.
I remember it in pieces.   Driving to the doctor unaware.   The silent, still ultrasound.   Rushing to put on my pants, trying not to panic, thinking somehow, there was something that could still be done.  A second silent, still ultrasound.  The frightened phone call to my father.   And then the waiting.  The waiting to get admitted.  The waiting to get my information into the computer.  The waiting for my parents to arrive.  The waiting for whatever would take my dead child from my body.  The waiting for the needle in my back.  The waiting to hold her once I woke up empty.  The waiting to be jolted from whatever nightmare I had stumbled into.   

Doomsday is a day I try very hard to push away from my consious thought.   It hurts too much.  But, in February, it consumes me.   February is a cloud of poison and pain.   In February, I can't escape.  
This is the third February to rip me apart, and I know there are so many more to come.   

February 25th isn't a day of celebration for me.   It isn't a day where I make a cake and try to be happy.  Truth be told, it's the most hated day of the year for me.  It shouldn't be her birthday, but it is.  She shouldn't be dead, but she is.   I hate February 25th and every day in this cursed, wretched month.  

I love Kenley with everything I have.   I love that I am her mother.  I love that she is my daughter.   I love that I am able to give her life and death a purpose - and that I am able to find joy in the life I have created without her.  But I hate that I've had to do any of that.  And I HATE February.