Sunday, December 11, 2016

This time of year

In a perfect world, where nothing breaks and nothing hurts (thanks Pink), tomorrow would be Lydie's second birthday.

But things break and things hurt, and it's not her birthday afterall.

I had a c-section scheduled for 6 am on Friday, December 12, 2014.  I chose the date back in August that year.  I realize most moms don't know the date their children will be born.  But I did, or I thought I did anyway.  Less than a year and a half before, 17ish hours of labor resulted in being pushed to the OR on my hospital bed by a team of sprinting doctors and nurses, where they got my first baby out via c-section just in time.  Dr. B had told me I had a "bit of PTSD" from Benjamin's delivery and thought it would help me to have our second baby's delivery scheduled nice and early. (How ironic this all is now.  We thought that was PTSD?  Hahahaha).

To avoid going into labor on my own, which can cause a uterus rupture after a c-section, we'd deliver at 39 weeks and because Lydie's due date was December 18th, she offered me December 11th or December 12th.  Benjamin was born at 41 weeks and I was glad to move this baby's birthday further from Christmas.  Because these are the kinds of things I worried about.

I chose the 12th.

Because Ben was born on 4/4 and I thought it would pretty cool to have a baby born on 4/4 and a baby born on 12/12.  (Seriously, that was my rationale).  

She warned me she would have to schedule the earliest surgery time - 6 am - because she had appointments after that.  I decided that was okay, that I would be nervous anyway and I wouldn't mind waking up at 4 am to go deliver my baby.  I was contemplating really important things like whether I would wash my hair that morning because it would probably look better for photos and I wouldn't be able to shower for a couple days post-surgery but then again, did I really want to blow dry my hair at 4 in the morning?

Tomorrow, there's nothing marked on my calendar.  Just a regular day.
One where my daughter was supposed to be born, but we held her memorial instead.

And yet, when a group of new mom friends invited me out on the 12th, I said I was busy.  I almost said, "I don't want to sit around and talk about Christmas plans and Stride Rite's going-out-of-business sale when I should be eating birthday cake with my two-year-old but I'm not because not only is it not her birthday but also because she's dead."  So instead I just said I wasn't able to make it.

I haven't been blogging much lately.  I'm torn about it.

I seem to have no new material.  This can be proven by the fact that I wrote a very similar entry about December 12th of last year.  There are only so many words to describe the aching and the longing and the hole in my heart and our family.

But also, it bothers me that I don't know who reads this blog.  I am completely comfortable with close friends and even total strangers reading it.  But in the early days, a coworker took it upon herself to email the link to this blog to our entire division.  It felt like a major violation of my privacy.  When Josephine arrived safely last October, another coworker actually emailed the text from my blog as an announcement.  Needless to say, my coworkers were not the intended audience for that post.  Or really, any of these posts.

So there's that.

I've told myself if they care enough to keep reading after two years, then I shouldn't worry about it.  But it's awkward to talk to people in real life and have no idea what they know about me, my daughter, and my grief.  To have a conversation without knowing whether they've followed our story.

There's been quite a few times where I talk to someone and she stands there nodding, not reacting much.  Then I wonder if I am repeating something I have written about on my blog. Then sometimes I awkwardly ask, "Do you read my blog?"

I've thought about making this blog private but I value that many other baby loss families read it.  I want them to be able to find this blog when they are in their rabbit hole, when they are wondering what the hell just happened, when they are seeking out people like them.  When they are diving into the archives, doing the math like I constantly was: how will I feel in three months?  How will I feel in two years?  If I manage to have another baby, how will it feel then?

Besides, this blog has hundreds of readers and a private blog can only have a few.

So I just find myself keeping my relationship with my middle daughter closer to my chest.  Closer to my heart.  Less out there for the world to see.  I find myself not wanting to put my innermost thoughts on the internet.

Although, I can tell a fun snippet:
A month or two ago, I was holding a fussy Josie in one arm and raking leaves with the other arm, with Ben and his plastic rake next to me, when a new neighbor with similar aged kids stopped to chat.  "I think we've met before," she said, and I quickly apologized, told her I have met lots of new neighbors.

No, she tells me, we met at a professional conference a few years ago.  A mutual friend introduced us.  We work at neighboring institutions.

Oh, I say.  She doesn't look familiar and quite frankly, I'm surprised she remembers me.

I emailed her that weekend with a question about child care, continuing the conversation from my front yard.  After a few exchanges, she eventually wrote that to be transparent, she had to tell me: she did meet me at a conference several years ago, but that's not why she remembers me.  She remembers me because she has read my blog.  She continued: she's not a stalker, she seriously did not know that I was moving into the neighborhood.  She thinks about Lydie often and especially on her second birthday.

I laughed out loud.  It was delightful.  To not have to tell a new friend that you have another child, who can't be seen, but is very much a part of your family, because she has already read your deepest, most intimate thoughts.  And wants to be friends with you anyway!

We seem to have struck up a close friendship quickly, and it helps that I don't have to explain everything to her.  When she invited me out with this group of women and I replied that I'd like to go but have some social anxiety, she asked what she could do to make me more comfortable.  Last night, her family hosted mine, and at the end of the night, she gave us this incredible gift:

And again, it's like I have written here before, I am realizing: it's not that I can only be friends with women who have also lost children.  It's that I can only be friends with women who give me the space to mother all of my children, who aren't uncomfortable with what that looks like for me.  And the ones that mention Lydia on their own?  They are such a balm to my hurting soul.  Thank goodness for these women.

Last week was the end of open enrollment.  I had to turn in my paperwork for my benefits.  I had to write each of our names and social security numbers down, check the right boxes.  I had to write only four names on that fucking form.   It brought me back how two years ago, I was so confident in my daughter and so in love with her name, that I filled out this form extra early.   Even wrote - in ink - 12/12/2014.  

Eight weeks later, when she had been dead for eight weeks, one of the first things I saw when I walked into my office was the fucking form with her name written.  With not one shard of doubt.


A friend recently asked me what is next for me with Star Legacy and I so appreciated that question.  Because she knows I'm not done, that I'm not taking too much of a rest after the culmination of Lydie's Loop.  So to answer that question, I just turned in my application for an Ohio Chapter of the Star Legacy Foundation.

The idea is to have a local presence here in Ohio, to keep the money that we fundraised with Lydie's Loop here, to give back to this community.  Our next event will be a retreat in the spring for L&D staff.  


It's somehow the holiday season again.  This time of year takes me right back to my fresh grief.  I think about how hard it was to breathe, to get up in the morning, to eat, to be a good mom to Ben.  I remember cup after cup of tea while staring out the kitchen window.  I remember being more still than I've ever been. I remember my sensitivity to noise.  I remember feeling unable to leave my Fortress of Solitude, and I remember, when I did, feeling what I now realize were the beginnings of panic attacks.  Lights swirling, voices through tunnels, feeling faint.  I remember being amazed that people were doing daily things like grocery shopping, going to work, eating dinner.   I remember wanting the world to stop spinning for them, the way it had for me.

We all seem to want to tell people that it doesn't get easier.  But it does.  

It's gotten easier.

But I don't miss Lydie any less.  I don't love her any less.  And it certainly doesn't suck any less to live without one of my children.

We don't want to tell people it's easier because we don't want them to think we've "moved on."  Oh how I hate that expression.  If they think I'm doing better, they might think that I don't love and miss Lydie.

It's gotten easier but it hasn't gotten any better.

The reality is: I am used to this aching in my chest, I've learned the times it's okay to correct someone who refers to Josephine as my second child and the times when it's most appropriate to bite my tongue, I can fake a smile at a pregnant woman.  I can breathe again, even surrounded by the Christmas hype.

I no longer wake up every morning wishing I was dead.

So there's that.

But man, is the holiday season tough when you have a dead baby.

I can mostly avoid the triggers but that doesn't mean that they don't ever catch me off guard.  Like the other evening when I found myself sobbing while reading to Josie.  It was a hard enough book to get through anyway, all about the things that your baby will someday do: "Then, you were my baby, and now you are my child... Someday you will run so far and so fast that your heart will feel like it's on fire... Someday you will swing high - so high, higher than you ever dared to swing."  I was already crying, before I turned the page to this:

So yeah, the triggers aren't always predictable.  And there always seem to be more of them in the holiday season.

I so appreciated the coworker, who on our return from Thanksgiving, said to me, "Get through Thanksgiving okay?"  It was directly after a different coworker just asked if I "had a good holiday" and I just nodded yes.  I didn't tell her how I got in a screaming match with my sister which was partially my fault and partially her fault but mostly stemmed from how damn fragile I felt and how hard it is to be missing your child so fiercely when at a whole family gathering where everyone is supposed to be present.   I didn't mention how my sister was so thoughtful to set a place for everyone at the table, including Lydia, but how absolutely shitty it is for your daughter's place to be a candle instead of a chair.  

So I really appreciated the coworker who asked if I got through it okay.  I don't know if my breakdown qualifies me for "okay," but I did get through it.

And Thanksgiving is just the beginning of the freaking holidays.  Don't even get me started about Christmas cards.


The other day, stopped at a red light, I scrolled through Facebook.  An image popped up from an artist who uses photos to sketch portraits of babies who have died.  This particular beautiful baby was stillborn due to a placental abruption.  As I pulled through the green light, tears filled my eyes.  Which honestly surprised me.  I am so used to this life.  Most of my Facebook feed shows proud bereaved mothers and as perverse as this sounds,  I am more comfortable seeing these pictures of dead babies than living ones.  So as I drove on, I wondered why this one got to me.  And it hit me: it's so fucked up that this is so commonplace for me.  It sucks that I'm more comfortable admiring a portrait of a stillborn baby than I am viewing a pregnancy or birth announcement.

Fucked up.


Speaking of that artist, I have contemplated getting a sketch of Lydie done.  It's a large cost, which is holding me back, but it's more than that.  Here's what I'm figuring out: it's not only a financial-risk, but an emotional one.  An emotional risk.  We have very few photos of Lydie's face.  Most were taken from a distance and look like Justin and I are holding a yellow blanket, not a little girl wrapped in a yellow blanket. And she was bruised, with ruby red lips from the pools of blood, and peeling skin.  What if I put down the money, share the few photos I have of my daughter,  and then when the sketch arrives,  I don't recognize her?  What if I don't recognize her?  What if she is not the girl I picture?  

Emotional risk.

This morning, at a birthday party, another mom said to me, "Your kids look so much alike!" and I responded, "They do?"  I don't see it.  I don't see it when I look at Ben and Josie and I've spent hours staring at photos of Lydie, trying to find similarities with her big brother and little sister.  

Ben is insistent on getting a ponytail whenever Josie gets one.
I wonder if a portrait would help me see those similarities more clearly?    

One more snippet.

Ben's been "spirited" again lately.  After a record hour and a half of straight screaming on the morning Santa was visiting school, Ben finally came downstairs dressed.  The beautiful combination of a "work shirt" and blue striped sweatpants.  And underneath?  His Lydie's Loop shirt.  "So Lydie can sit on Santa's lap with me and Josie," he tells me.  At school, when Josephine screamed on Santa's lap, he grabbed her hand and she calmed down.

Such a little shit sometimes, and such a good big brother to both his sisters.

And last night, after celebrating "Dutch Christmas" with our new neighbor friends, Ben climbed the stairs with me to Lydie's memory chest and grabbed shoes I had bought for her, to put one out for her on the fireplace.  Five shoes in a row, waiting for St. Nick.

This morning, he was thrilled to hold up Lydie's shoe with a star ornament inside.

When I'm listening to my three-year-old scream for hours on end, I often wonder what I'm doing wrong.  These are the moments I think I must be doing something right.


To so many of you who have also lost children, I wish you peace this holiday season.  I hope you feel your children close to you and feel surrounded by love.  I hope the holidays are gentle on your hurting heart.

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