Thursday, June 30, 2011

8 Months...

I just realized yesterday was 8 months since Aven left us. I am happy that I remembered but at the same time okay with the fact that I remembered a day later. Usually I know the day is coming several days in advance. But yesterday I was running around planning for the future...

I saw a hummingbird in Aven's garden today first thing in the morning. I also saw a bunny... Even though the bunny probably chewed and ate flowers I will miss, it made me smile to know they were both there. All because of Aven...or maybe she put them there just for me. Love. Faith. Hope.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Unlikely Visitor

I saw a hummingbird today in the most unlikely spot. At a restaurant right off of a main highway. The scene was very loud, not at all plush and the least place I would expect to see a hummingbird. Maybe I am crazy for thinking they only fly around quiet flowery gardens where no one can see them. I always think it is a special thing when I get to see one, or when one flies so close to me that I can hear its wings. So the fact that I saw one in the most random place today really made the hairs on my neck stand up. It also gave me a sense of peace or calmness. Maybe it was God, maybe it was Aven. Either way, I appreciated it and I will always remember it on a day when I really needed to feel peace.



Just another visitor...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fallen.

Dear Aven,

I sure do miss you. I received a card from the nurses at the hospital where I had you letting me know that they are still thinking about us and that if we need them, to just pick up the phone and call. The little card they sent had a picture of a fallen leaf with a rain drop on it and a little poem. Sometimes I feel that you are missing out on so many things going on in our lives but at the same time, maybe we wouldn't be doing them if we had been lucky enough to still have you. Either way I think about it, I miss you and I will miss you every single day.  Love you,  Mom


Fallen.

Drifting aimlessly

on a sea of grief and pain,

the leaf cradles a teardrop.

Offers refuge.

Embodies hope.

Just as winter awakens to spring,

our deepest sorrow harbors the

seed of hope renewed.

Hope renewed.


by Susan Ring

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

One day...

Missing someone gets easier every day because even though it's one day further from the last time you saw each other, it's one day closer to the next time you will.

~Author Unknown

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fathers Day...

Dear Aven,

Today is my first Fathers Days, and it is a very bitter sweet occasion. On one hand, I am very proud to be your father, and on the other hand, I am very sad to have to spend it without you. Just know that you have made an impact on my life that will span for eternity. You have made me a better and a stronger person, and I am forever grateful to you for that. It has been almost exactly a year since you planted yourself inside your mommy's belly. I will never forgot the moment when we found out you were there, it was the greatest moment of my life. And now, not a moment goes by that you are not somehow in my thoughts. So I just want to say Thank You, for everything you have given me. And of course, I Love You.

Aven's Daddy

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Daddy's Hands

A butterfly came floating by and I thought I knew her face.
She landed on my shoulder and spread her wings of lace.
I looked and saw her smiling as she winked and flew away,
I'm sure I heard her whisper, "We will meet again one day."

 
~ Author Unknown


 

Daddy's Hands

The same day a baby shower invitation arrived in the mail, is the same day I received the little lilac bonnet that was knitted especially for Aven. Happy. Sad. It is amazing how time doesn't stop and how I wish it sometimes would. My heart is often conflicted because I am happy that people around me continue to move forward but at the same time it is a reminder to me and D that we too have to move forward, only with someone obviously missing from our lives.  We both know that people wonder when we are going to "get over it." I am sorry to tell them that this isn't something we will ever "get over." Every day we focus on moving forward, making sure we remember and honor our daughter but also trying to make room for whatever the future holds for us. I am not sure when we will find an equal balance and I am not sure when our picture of grief will shrink into a manageable pretty little size that it won't be so overwhelming at times. I am not even sure that is possible. What I am certain about is that I have hope. The hope that we can experience other people's joy again. The hope that our happiness will return. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lola's Allergy Doctor

Lola had an allergy visit this afternoon with her skin doctor. We don't usually see Lola's allergy doctor regularly. She takes allergy injections weekly that D gives her on his own. Whenever we need a refill of the serum and steroid medication for Lola, then we need to go in to visit the doctor herself which is maybe twice a year. The last time I went in to see her was in September when I was noticeably pregnant...so today 8 months later we roll on in. The moment she walked in the exam room she said didn't you two just have a baby?

D stood there not knowing what to say. Bless him. He hasn't had to answer this question on a regular basis since everyone at his job or that comes and goes in his regular day already knows that we lost Aven in October but me on the other hand, I face this question on a pretty regular basis. I said yes, we did have a baby but she didn't live. The doctor immediately apologized and said she shouldn't have asked and I immediately said it was okay almost as if I was comforting her. It is not an answer that you hear regularly so I can see how she was caught off guard. I felt bad for her. I feel bad for most people when they ask me that question because I know I am not going to lie to them. I know D hasn't been faced with the question much but I could tell from his pause that he wasn't going to lie to her either.

One of us was going to have to tell her about Aven and since I have had so much practice at it, it was me. I really did push a fully formed tiny baby girl out of my body, whose lungs were just not ready to breathe and function on their own. This really did happen to us. To me. To D. To Aven.

On our car ride home D mentioned to me that I handled that situation well. I guess he is right. I could have lost my crap when the doctor asked us about our baby or I could have told it like it was. I told it like it was.

Just another day in the lives of parents missing a piece of their heart.

Daring.

Last night, I finally had a chance to watch ABC Family's show The Secret Life of the American Teenager. This isn't a show I normally watch and honestly the episode I saw last night was the very first one I had seen. The only reason I watched it is because a fellow baby loss mother told me about how the episode dared to show a pregnant teenager suffer the birth of a stillborn baby girl. I wanted to see what the writers perception of the whole issue was and let's face it, when the topic is so taboo and hardly talked about and a show dares to put it out there on a family show, my interests were peaked. I cried through pretty much the entire episode even though most of the show wasn't about the birth. I cried because it reminded me of what I had been through. I cried because I was proud that ABC put something like that on national television. I cried because I just needed a good cry. I cried because I missed Aven.

There was a scene where the grandfather had to explain to the mother's friends that arrived at the hospital to congratulate her that things didn't end so happily. He told the friends that the couple would never be the same again. They would be changed forever. Nail on the head. The episode that follows I haven't watched yet but from what I have read it shows a glimpse at how the mother deals with things once she has left the hospital. I find it interesting that one little episode about stillbirth made the ratings of the show go up. I have seen it posted on several baby loss threads and miscarriage forums and am sure the hits on that one particular episode will continue to rise, at least as far as the baby loss community goes.

So, kudos to ABC Family for daring to put that out there. After all, the mother that gave birth to a stillborn is the lady that sits next to you in the cube at work, the kindergarten school teacher at your child's school, your best friend, your great aunt, your cousin, the woman behind you at the grocery store, the pregnant teenager in your English class. The woman that gave birth to a stillborn baby is everywhere.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

On my mind...

If I had a single flower for every time I think about you, I could walk forever in my garden. 

~Claudia Ghandi

Night Vision

In one of the stars, I shall be living. In one of them, I shall be laughing.
And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing when you look at the sky at night.

~ The Little Prince ~
Antoine de Saint-Exupery



Purple Skies


Just as pretty at night!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

An Article

There was an article posted on the Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope site that caught my attention. It was beautifully written and every single word in the article spoke a truth to me, at least the parts that have played out in my life and grief journey thus far. It is a glimpse of one woman's journey through her own grief and loss, 20 years later. Talking to people and reading other women's stories about their own loss, gives me hope that one day this road won't be so difficult. One day...

   
With a stillborn baby, there is no past to be mourned  Written by Catherine Dunne© 2011.

IT IS TEN to six on the morning of the February 28th, 1991. My labour ends and my small son slips quietly – too quietly – into the world. I learn that the Gulf War is now over. It feels that another battle has ended, too.

The midwife, CaitrĂ­ona, wraps Eoin in hospital-issue green blankets and hands him to me. “He’s beautiful,” she says. I reach for him, hold him close, surprised at how warm he is. But of course, he’s only minutes old. The cold will come later.
I stroke his face. “Poor little scrap,” I say.

* * * * * *
All that night, we’d held a vigil. My doctor, Patricia; CaitrĂ­ona; other midwives whose names I no longer remember, and my husband. By turns, each of us wept, laughed, told jokes and stories, moving in and out of sorrow. It was one of those times when significance seems to lurk in everyday objects, common as a teacup.

An abruption, Patricia told me. I’d never even heard of it. The placenta falls away from the wall of the uterus. Abrupt: just like the word. The baby, a tiny spaceman, falls out of his self-contained world, spinning away into a different sort of gravity.

He didn’t suffer, she promised. It was just like going to sleep.

Why me, why us? I wonder, silently.
Why not, comes the answer.

* * * * * *
Two days later, we are shopping. Eamonn has just bought a gift for his baby brother. He has replicated for Eoin what is most precious in his own small life: his blue blanket. We buy it, wrap it up, head for home. I wonder at this eight-year-old’s courage.

“I want to hold his hand,” he’d said, once we’d told him what had happened. He looked sturdy, determined. The nurses watched as he unwrapped the green waffle-blanket, took the cold fingers in his.

They turned away quietly, coming back later with lemonade, biscuits, a plate of battered fairy-cakes, covered with blue icing and Smarties.

* * * * * *
People told me it would take time. And it did, but not in the way they meant. Days lost their definition, blurring sleepily into nights. Weeks tumbled one into the other, baggy and shapeless. I washed, dressed, cooked, cleaned, drove, ironed, supervised homework, cried.

The one thing I didn’t do was look at the open suitcase on my bedroom floor. At all those hopeful packets that I hadn’t had the chance to take to the hospital with me, so that I might have been able to leave them behind.

Vests, Babygros, nappies.

* * * * * *
During these early days, I want to know why formerly kind people cross the street when they see me; why conversation is bright and brittle as glass; why people step around this death as though its shards might make them bleed. I want to know how to answer those who tell me I have “an angel in heaven” or that I will “have another one” – as though babies, people, are replaceable.

And as I make my way through those first weeks, I long for an outward sign: something to show the world that I am a bereaved mother. I remember the diamonds of dark material, sewn onto my father’s sleeve when my grandmother died. I remember how people nodded to him, shook hands, touched his elbow. Strangers and neighbours alike offered comfort in that small acknowledgement of his loss.
I miss that – or something like it.

* * * * * *
There is a phrase in Urdu which I love: ghum-khaur. It means “grief-eaters” and describes the community that gathers together to absorb the mourner’s sorrow. There are no words in that language for a solitary grieving; no concept of the privacy of loss.

My first grief-eater was a man called John O’Donoghue. He is a thanatologist, which means he studies death and dying. He spoke at a conference seven weeks after Eoin’s birth and he was challenging, blunt, forceful. He railed against the displacement of grief.

Listening to him, I felt the first inkling that recovery was possible. Not just acceptance, not just the ability to “get on” with things, but the possibility of a full-blooded, whole-hearted reinvestment in life and living.

* * * * * *
Later, I learn what it means to be family, what it means to have friends. I learn about what to ask from each during my long, slow return. I learn, too, there is no tidy timetable to grieving, no milestones that can be marked off neatly with a tick: been there, done that. It is a process, one that ebbs and flows, that cuts the ground from underneath your feet one day, supports and soothes you the next.

* * * * * *
There are some accepted standards to grief and grieving. Kind people wanted me to know that the first six months are the worst, that it gets easier. After the first year, you will turn the corner. You will begin to feel better.

Well, yes and no. If some automatic, linear progression towards recovery existed, then what would explain the presence of all the elderly men and women in the front row of the conference?


They had no tools, they said, no knowledge, no understanding, no support. And so they had been consumed by their own private sadness for decades. There were no grief-eaters for them. There was no acknowledgement that theirs was a sorrow that demanded to be recognised, shared, softened by talk and tenderness. Recovery remained beyond them, always out of their reach.

It struck me then how central ritual is to recovery. Without it, we have no starting point, no point of departure, of separation, between the past and the future. We hover in the shadows, unable to move back, unwilling to move forward.

* * * * * *
We seem to be programmed to grieve. It is our response to the strength of the ties that bind us. It’s a messy, complicated, emotional process, that of absorbing loss and facing life again. With a stillborn baby, there is no past to be mourned – which is another loss in itself – but there are the endless, unfulfilled possibilities of the future that we need, somehow, to make our peace with.

And there is a harder truth to be faced here. Although fathers and mothers grieve the loss of a baby together, in reality they often grieve separately.

Some say that there is a fundamental difference in relationships that needs to be untangled. That for mothers, the baby’s reality has been an immense presence, even if unfelt by others, all through the advancing pregnancy. For fathers, the reality often begins at the moment of birth. There is a disconnect, a skewing of perceptions, a different focus to loss.
For both, it is devastating, but for each, it is different.

* * * * * *
The comfort of ritual; the company of grief-eaters; learning to live from one moment to the next; valuing the power of spoken and written words – all of this got me through. It’s hard to chart recovery, in the same way that it is impossible to grieve in stages.

But a guesstimate of four years is as good as any. At that point, grief ceased to ambush me. It moved to a different register and acquired a new tone. A strong sense of having been “spared” eventually began to grow. It was accompanied at the same time by a dark surge of guilt: how come I was the one to survive, and not my son? But little by little, over the next few years, this sense of having been given another chance became stronger and stronger.

Life began to feel, truly, like a gift.

* * * * * *
I began to write like a demon. Blankness receded. I could focus again, sleep again, celebrate the birth of other people’s babies again. The world no longer showed itself to me in black and white. It was now peopled with more subtle colours, more shade than shadow. The shoots of recovery that I had once sensed were becoming hardy plants; still susceptible to frost, but nonetheless, strongly rooted in the future.

And writing made me.

* * * * * *
Eoin is still part of my daily life. No longer the blinding light in the middle of my forehead that obscures everything else, he nevertheless abides with me. A gentle presence, an exacting taskmaster. He has taught me that grief is, above all, a sense of separation so acute that even now, 20 years later, I can access it with no difficulty at all, and not a little emotion.

* * * * * *
Would I wish it different? Of course I would. He would be approaching his twentieth birthday now, and I often imagine him at my table. He has his own decoration on my Christmas tree, his own place wherever I am.

But it is a place that is appropriate to the rest of my life.

* * * * * *
John O’Donoghue likened the early days of grief to a huge photograph in the house, a picture of the dead baby that dominates the mantelpiece, the room, the lives of all who live there. Gradually, the image needs to become smaller; still there, but no longer overwhelming.

It has taken time – time that was no longer stolen, but used in order to gain a foothold in the underworld of grieving.

Now, Eoin is of passport size, so that I can take him with me wherever I go. My travelling companion, my son, my teacher.

I can’t help wondering what he would look like. When I do, I just look at his brother. And I smile.

Written by Catherine Dunne© 2011.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Strength

Dear God,

I pray for strength. Strength to get through anything that I am faced with in the coming days and weeks ahead. When I feel that I can't take anymore of the complications of this silly thing we call life, please be at my side to remind me that what I am faced with is only temporary.

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.

 -Gandhi

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A moment of happiness...

When I was pregnant, D took a picture of my belly every single week. I have pictures from the moment I knew I was pregnant at four weeks and yes, when you get pregnant by route of IVF then you definitely know from the absolute very beginning. After I lost Aven, I put all of the pictures where my belly was visible away. It was too difficult a reminder of everything I had been through and what the outcome had been. I am always well aware that I lost my baby, a mother never forgets that but seeing the pictures where I am absolutely happy just makes me realize how different I am now. It makes me realize how much everything has changed. It makes me realize that I probably won't ever be that happy again. It makes me miss my daughter.

I know that life moves on and I know that I am able to smile and laugh again but my level of joy won't ever be what it was. Once your security is pulled out from under you and your spirit is crushed, I am not sure it is possible to trust that happiness like that will exist again and if it does, it is easy to believe it will just be yanked away all over again.

The first time I saw the picture below was today. It was one of my goals to at least look at the pictures of my friend's wedding, knowing it was the last time D and I were happy. You can see it on our faces. Our only problem at that moment in time was finding a pediatrician. It is crazy how life can change in an instant. It made me happy to see the picture. It made me miss Aven so much that I had trouble catching my breath. I love that there is a picture out there where D and I are smiling and I am pregnant with Aven. A last moment of happiness as a family of three...



Picture taken September 2010

Aven in Arizona ♥

Faith isn't faith until it's all you're holding on to...

 

 ♥ Aven and Jesse James at the Grand Canyon ♥

Picture taken with love by Cyndi Longoria


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Hummingbirds!

About an hour ago, I was in Aven's Garden waiting on Lola as she wandered about the back yard. I sat on the little bench that we have in the middle of her garden when two hummingbirds flew by me. They were fighting or chasing each other around the garden. One of them even stopped and perched on the Oak tree for a second before fluttering off. They flew so close to my head that I could hear the hum of their wings. I let out a laugh because I was amazed that such beautiful little creatures allowed me to watch them flutter about. They weren't afraid of me. They just went about their business as usual as if they didn't realize I was there or as if they wanted me to know their presence. They must have stayed around for about 5 minutes. The hummingbirds even flew close enough to Lola that she had to move out of the way, like they were darting at her. After they fluttered off, Lola let out a few barks as if she was getting after them for darting at her the way they did. I am still in awe. Two little hummingbirds have made my entire day...



“I held you every second of your life.”  ♥

Stephanie Paige Cole

Bereaved Mother


“Do not judge the bereaved mother.
She comes in many forms.
She is breathing, but she is dying.
She may look young, but inside she has become ancient.
She smiles, but her heart sobs.
She walks, she talks, she cooks, she cleans, she works, she IS,
but she IS NOT, all at once.
She is here, but part of her is elsewhere for eternity.”

Author unknown




Wednesday, June 1, 2011

4 O'clock

Dear Aven,

I thought of you today at exactly 4 O'clock. I was walking around at work when I looked up at the clock and saw the time. I wondered for a second what things would have been like had you lived. I didn't let myself dwell on it because if I needed a moment to myself to get it together, well ...I knew I wasn't going to have that luxury given my work schedule. I miss you terribly when I realize another month has passed, or when I look at the scars on my arms from my hospital stay... and sometimes times just because it is 4 O'clock.

Love,

Mom

A vision of sorrow...

There is, I am convinced, no picture that conveys in all its dreadfulness, a vision of sorrow, despairing, remediless, supreme. If I could paint such a picture, the canvas would show only a woman looking down at her empty arms.

Charlotte Bronte