Tuesday, February 26, 2013

This isn't the life...

This isn't the life I thought I would have.
Sometimes I lie in bed and look out the window to the expanse of snow covered fields.
The whiteness envolopes me.
I wonder how this could be my life.
It's sure not what I expected it to be.
So many good things.

I have a husband.
I have a house.
I live in the country.
I have horses.
I have loud sons running in the halls (I always envisioned a daughter).
I have a daughter. In Heaven.
I am going to have a daughter here on earth when and if the adoption ever goes through.
I am pregnant for the fifth time (never, ever in a million years thought I'd be pregnant 5 times!).

I grew up in the city.
I played in alleys.
I was an out-of-control little rebel.
It's a miracle I never drank or did alot of drugs.
I treeplanted in mud and sleet and snow and what felt like hell.
I taught snowboarding in Whistler (another miracle that I never really got into the drug scene).

And over all this I look at my Eva.
Stare at her blue eyes gazing back at me.
I never thought my life would turn out like this.
This grieving.
These tears that come unbidden.
This rage that surfaces when I least expect it.
This ever-longing.

This emotional roller coaster of anger and sadness, and some joy. This constant longing for someone I've missed longer than I've known. This looking at other little girls the same age as Eva would be and wondering what she would look like...knowing that this child I am looking at is not my daughter. Does not look like my daughter would look like, but the ache is there.

I find 10 month old babies especially hard to handle. Knowing that I happily approached the 10 month mark, but never passed it. See those little 10 month old babies grow and surpass my daughter. Never to be younger than her ever again.

All these things I never thought I'd think. This life I never thought I would live. This constant ache despite the joy. And yet, my Eva was a joy. A true joy. And her smile reflected her inner joy. Had she lived I think she would have been a joyful child here. Always looking at the bright side.

What does she look like in heaven? And I know that when the time comes for me to cross to the other side I will know her. There will be no question, I will know her. My daughter.

What I wouldn't do just for a glimpse . A glimpse today. A glimpse of my precious girl.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Carnival

There is a bible college in our small town. I love this bible college. I have no idea what a difference this bible college is to our town. How they pray and serve the community in big and small ways is a true blessing.

One way they have blessed our community for the past 3 years is through a free winter carnival. It is in the gymnasium and they have free carnival games the kids can go to and win candy or small prizes. It's a blast!

We have gone every year. The first year Eva was a small baby in a car seat. Mike and I got mixed up and I got mad at him as I waited in the van and he waited inside. Last year Eva was dead. I walked through that entire carnival with a scowl and felt so.incredibly.sad the entire time. All those firsts without your child are enough to send you to an institution. I.just.could.not smile. I couldn't believe how people could smile and laugh when, didn't they know, our daughter was dead. On top of it A was there pushing her newborn baby around in his carseat and it was so painful to see him there. Snoozing away. 

This year I am, physically, feeling great.  I know I looked pretty good yesterday. Not in a supermodel kind of way but in a happy mom kind of way, cheering my kids on as they threw beanbags at buckets. A was there again and the avoidance wasn't so palpable to me. Maybe because I'm just done with it. I didn't care that she didn't say hello. And for the first time in a year I didn't put myself out there and say hello to her, hoping for who knows what...I just carried on and had a good-enough time.

I thought of people who might look at me and see this 'happy' mom with her kids and how the picture that we are is so deceiving. We look complete. We look like a nice happy family and mom is obviously pregnant. And I wonder how many other people are walking around broken but looking whole. How many other families are hiding the hurt behind their smile? Because I know they're there.

And yet, this year was unfathomably better than last year. I could hold an idle conversation with another mom and I could focus on the kids I have with me more than on just the one that is missing...although I did get a pink balloon for my little princess. Just to have. For no reason other than she would have had one if she was there...and she was...in my heart.

Regarding why I feel good physically I want to do a shout out to Trim Healthy Mama by Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett for helping me to be this healthy. I have only gained about 5 pounds this entire pregnancy (and I am 34 weeks). I definitely had the weight to lose and I know I am having fewer mood swings than before. Even though this pregnancy has been a roller coaster of emotions it feels like my physical health has been holding up my emotional health.

And I am thankful.

Friday, February 15, 2013

"I hope your baby is born alive"

One year ago we were 6 months out from losing our precious Eva. 6 months of unfathomable blackness. 6 months. No time and forever. We were literally still reeling in pain and grief. One year ago today I was just, just, just holding it together when the phone rang...

*Disclaimer about today's post: I really try not to be negative or to use this blog simply as a vent but to really document my feelings, growth in my grief, and to own my pain. I have often thought about changing the privacy settings on this blog but I know how valuable it was to me to find a blog by a bereaved mom that was still active over a year later. I keep this blog open as a beacon of light and hope to other grieving parents. Even when it's hard. Even when it seems like I talk about my feelings for Eva all the time. I know I feel more hope now than I did when I was in the black vortex of my early grief. The sucking black bottomless pit of grief and pain. I am still alive. 18 months after the death of my beloved daughter, I am still breathing. Something I didn't think would be possible in the weeks following her death.

However, today's post is something I've been waiting to write for a year. Hoping that I wouldn't need to write it but I need the closure and this is the only way it's going to happen for me. Waiting for a year to have a conversation with A about this day, one year ago when my then-friend's living son was born. And it hasn't happened. So if you're someone who reads my blog and doesn't want to hear about this kind of crap then feel free to skip today's post. Tomorrow we'll be back to 'normal'. Whatever that means...

One year ago I was just, just holding it together on the 6 month anniversary of my daughter's death. And the phone rang. I picked it up without thinking. Without thinking that I couldn't hold a conversation. Without thinking at all. And A was on the other end of the line. Without any thought to what day it was she tells me... 'I'm having period-like cramps and I think I'm in early labour. I'm calling a few people to pray for me and I'm so happy it's not being born on Valentine's Day-we were praying it wouldn't be born on Valentine's Day so now it doesn't have to share a birthday with a holiday'.  No pause, no stop to say that she remembered Eva or that it might be hard for me to hear this kind of news on such an already hard day.

"I hope your baby's born alive" I said, and there was a long pause. I could tell A was upset that I had said that. Because it put into her head that sometimes babies are born dead. And sometimes they are. At our small hospital there are 2-3 stillbirths a month. It was not the right thing to say. I should have said 'I hope all goes well', which would have effectively been the same thing, albeit more politically correct. And when I say those words to pregnant mamas now...I'm always thinking I hope your baby is born alive, alive, alive...and I say aloud "I hope all goes well".

In the months leading up to this conversation A had regaled me with tales about how she didn't think an early ultrasound was necessary with her baby. She didn't want this doctor or that doctor. That she would bring us a meal after Eva's death. A meal that never materialized. That she would babysit for me and invite us over at Christmastime. Both things which she was too busy to do, I guess. Let me be clear here. I don't care if you didn't make us a meal after Eva's death, although I know the people who did were showing us their love in the best way they knew how: through food. I don't care if you don't babysit or don't invite us over for Christmas. Just don't say you will.

The biggest unreality of my whole 'friendship' with A was that at less than 3 months from Eva's death and barely 2 weeks after what should have been her first birthday A called me up and agonized for about half an hour about what she wanted to do for her living daughter's birthday. How she couldn't agree with her husband over it. Really? Really? Just be thankful you have a daughter who can blow out her own candles. Be thankful that you're not sending balloons to heaven for your daughter's birthday. Seriously? You're talking to me about this. And I listened in stunned silence. We never went to that party.

And what you could call a friendship ended on February 15th 2012. With the birth of A's son, on the 6 months anniversary of Eva's death.

And since that time I have written A two letters trying to have a conversation. I have seen A at various events in our small town. I have said hello nearly every single time. She has coldly said hello back, and not one word more. I don't know what's going on in her head, but I've waited a year to talk with her.

Today is her son's birthday. I'm sure there is cake eating happening. I'm sure there are balloons. I'm sure they're glad it's not Valentine's day. Cause they prayed for that right? Prayed for a date? But didn't pray for a living child. Who knows, maybe they did...but sure didn't care about the 15th. Nope. Not a big deal there at all.

And a couple of weeks ago, I saw A again, at literacy day. I walked up and told her that I was going to blog about this because I needed closure. Because, after a year, it was obvious there would be no conversation with her. And I need closure. Just to be done. No more thinking if maybe we would talk. Done. Finished. Over. And it is. Finally.

I know I said the wrong thing on the phone with her that morning but, now, as the birth of our little hope baby approaches all I can think is...I hope s/he's born alive (and stays that way).

*I can't believe how good it feels to finally get this off of my chest. I realize that some of you readers who follow me and especially those who are not bereaved parents will think this is kind of harsh. That I shouldn't have said that to her. As you know now, I don't anymore, I keep those thoughts confined to my mind. 

A little grace would have been nice. A little grace in the darkness.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Queen of Hearts.

The old anger returned today. Wrenching me and pulling at all the wrong places. And I tried to understand it. It's not the 15th (yet) although that is coming tomorrow but I've been getting better at managing the 15th these days...

And then I knew. It's Valentine's Day. Heart Day. My friend's house has a banner up that says 'Happy Heart Day'. We have a pink heart on our chalkboard. We gave out heart shaped valentines to our friends (but none of those hearts were broken). I have little heart shaped boxes with cinnamon hearts inside on the table for the kids later. Hearts, hearts, hearts. Hearts everywhere. And Eva's heart broke. And mine will never be the same again. And the anger raged.

And my little heart baby is gone. Gone, gone, gone. And I am here. Without her, stuck with my broken, yet functional, heart. And it sucks. You know, it really sucks. I can't describe how much it hurts and enrages me to be here without her STILL. Yes, still, yes I am STILL broken and grieving.

Yes, Jesus, lover of my soul, is my comforter, but it still sucks. Big time. And I am angry and tired and today I heard the perfect heartbeat of our little hope baby at a pre-natal visit and we discussed what will happen in the hospital after birth of our hopefully living baby and how his/her heart will be checked, double checked and re-checked. And my heart travels backwards in time, wishing that this checking had happened for Eva. Wishing again. All that damn wishing that accomplishes nothing.

But wishing nonetheless. As my heart continues to beat a steady rhythm in my chest.

Happy Heart Day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Parallel universe.

Last night I went to a meeting for a new pregnancy care center in our small city. There were alot of people there that I knew and some that I didn't. I wondered at the story of the people there listening and learning and processing.

Eva was so close to me last night. And the parallel universe that I don't inhabit. The parallel universe where I have a 2 year old daughter and am starting to take clients as a doula. The parallel universe where I don't know this excruciating pain. The parallel universe where I am, at once more intact and less than I am now. The parallel universe where I am still friends with the people who have hurt me and abandoned me in the universe I live in now. The parallel universe where I don't know myself or others as well as I do now. The parallel universe where I am  not embarking upon newbornhood once again and where this little hope in my belly does not even exist at all.

We are given what we are given and while my mind often goes to that parallel universe. Rarely moreso than last night surrounded by people who I once knew well and some I know well now. People I can relate to both less and more. Now that I have suffered true suffering. Now that the chasm is there. The chasm that seperates and the chasm that brings together.

I wondered at my eyes last night. Do people see the sadness behind the smile...or am I complete the way a chocolate easter bunny is complete? Perfect candy eyes glued onto the perfect chocolate shell of me. But a black hole within? Do I want them to see the grief I always hold or do I want them to see the shell? Both, maybe. I am okay. But I also am not okay.

After the meeting last night I went to the store and bought some sz 1 diapers for our little Hope or Nathan. Sz 1 diapers and nipple cream I know I will need if this baby comes alive. Sz 1 diapers and cream I can give away if I don't get to use them.

It felt good, though, to buy something for this little one. Something for the baby that lives in the universe that I am in. Something I would never be buying in the parallel one. The one my heart and mind travel to so often.

I think, as this pregnancy progresses, and we are getting closer to the possibility of a reality with a child that never would have existed without the death of our beloved daughter I find myself turning inwards and savoring the moments of pure desire for the parallel universe. Because I know when I see this baby and hold them in my arms, it will be so hard to imagine a parallel universe without him or her.

Each universe will be lacking a child.

Monday, February 11, 2013

To plan or not to plan (possible trigger).

I am so thankful that our little baby within is a mover and a shaker. Right when I start to worry a little s/he wriggles or jiggles and lets me know that s/he's okay and alive in there.

I have nothing ready for this baby except a bin of unwashed baby girl stuff and a bin of unwashed baby boy stuff. The crib that all our children (except little J, who came with her own) have used has not ever been taken apart and put away since our oldest son, Samuel, was in it.

When Eva died we could not bear to take her bed apart and put her stuff away. Gradually the crib moved from her room that she shared with little J to our bedroom where we displayed photos and kept some of her stuff. When that woman came over from our church to tell me about how her brother kept her nephew's ashes on the mantle and the family talked about him too much and how I was prickly and unpleasant and how my grieving heart gave me no call to be that way...she was sitting right next to Eva's ashes that are on our bookshelf. But I did have a little thought to myself that it sure was a good thing she never came into our bedroom, and saw Eva's crib with all her stuff in it. Probably would have thought we had a shrine to our daughter...I digress.

Anyway, the crib has never been taken apart and just moved from baby to baby. We could not bear to take it apart when Eva died and then when we were hoping for another baby it became a symbol of hope to us. That another baby would one day use that crib again...and then when we were feeling so hopeless and just about ready to take it down we got a positive test that showed we did have hope.  And so we left it up. But it's still full of Eva's things.

I need to go through her stuff and put it in mouse-proof bins (I wish I had a beautiful cedar chest). But the weeks drag on and so do I. I sometimes wonder if this baby will come and there will be nothing ready. No crib, no diapers, no clean outfits, no shelf in our closet emptied off for tiny baby clothes, no birth plan (although, barring an emergency, I know what I want and, more importantly, what I don't want). The time is trucking along and I do nothing to prepare for baby. I don't know if it's a blockage or if I'm just lazy but I just can't seem to get myself together to get ready.

I hope more than anything this baby is just born alive and, really, who cares if we're ready or not but I have always liked to have things ready for a new baby and this is just not like the me I used to be. Always having everything planned...but there are so many parts of me that are not like the me I used to be...should I really be surprised?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Hope within the suffering.

Yesterday we had an appointment for another fetal echocardiogram. Everything is structurally fine. The pediatric cardiologist said that a rhythm problem could show up at anytime but that VT (ventricular tachycardia) is very, very rare and it is very unlikely that our little hope baby will ever develop this problem. However...however... probability and statistics mean nothing to me now.

I wish so often that things were different in our family. I know that these are wishes and that wishes are just that, wishes. But I just can't stop wishing for my daughter in my arms.  We brought some blankets from our neighbour to the NICU at the Stollery yesterday too. The NICU is right across the hall from the PICU. I walked through the hospital with my Samuel. We walked the same halls and staircases that I had walked so many, many times when Eva was admitted. Samuel reminded me to sanitize my hands when we walked in...he remembers how much I tried to protect Eva from anything and how careful I was (still am) about hospital germs.  We walked down to the NICU and dropped off the blankets. I looked through the window at all those little babies and their worried mamas. I thought about how hard it is to be there and just watch your baby lying there. Hoping and hoping that she will improve. I didn't want to do that. But as a mama, you do what you have to do.

Then I stopped in at the PICU social worker's office. She gave me a hug and I was happy to see that there was still a photo of Eva on her wall. I gave her the phonecards that we always bring to the Stollery PICU when we're in town. Long distance phone cards that you can buy right across the street at the Mac's but that Mac's could have been in another country, as far as I was concerned, when we were in PICU.  I put labels on the cards that they are donated in memory of our Eva, and her dates, and Lord, haste the day. Because I.just.can't.wair for the day when all will be made clear. The day that Jesus comes.

And then last night we were at the hotel and around 8:30 pm I started having contractions. They were about 10-15 minutes apart but got closer together and at about 10:15 pm they started coming every 3 minutes and were intense. So intense that I couldn't walk or talk through them. I'll admit  I was scared.

Eva's birth was 4 hours from the first twinge to holding my girl. And right now I'm only 32 weeks. I know the survival rate is good for a pre-term delivery at 32 weeks but I also know so so many people who have lost babies and children.  Those mamas and babies were in my mind when I decided to call a taxi and head to ER at the Royal Alex (we had just been there in the morning for the echo).

I got there and the contractions subsided. I felt much better and almost silly for being there but I also knew that I would not have slept with wondering if those contractions had caused some dilation. And had there been something wrong I was much safer in Edmonton at the Royal Alex than at home with our mediocre medical facility.

I was laying there alone in that hospital bed, hooked up to monitors, and listening to the comforting thumpety thump of our little one's heart beat. The contractions subsided and I was comfortable, even sleepy. But I also thought, wow, 8 weeks isn't that long to go when there is stuff to do, kids to school, supper to make, dishes to wash, laundry to fold, foreheads to kiss, bums to wipe, floors to clean, boys to separate, TV's to turn off, dogs to feed, wood to bring in, a husband to love and so many other daily blessings...but lying here would be long, long, long. And then I didn't need to but it all went through my mind anyway...

We're fine now, and home.

And I have all my stuff to do and I feel so blessed to have that stuff to do.  I miss my girl so much but am blessed to have this little hope in my belly. This New Life. This Gift from God and from my girl. This Life that wouldn't have been without my little Eva. My little Breath of Life. This hope within me, this hope within my suffering.

I've just finished reading an amazing book, Holding onto Hope, by Nancy Guthrie. I would recommend this book to anyone who is suffering. Nancy lost 2 children to a rare genetic condition but her book resonates with all suffering. It's a small pocketbook, maybe only 120 pages or so but I found it to be so amazing that I was only able to process about 2 chapters a week, at most.

Please read it if you are suffering. Whether from an illness or a broken relationship or the illness of a loved one or as a bereaved mom or dad or as a victim of a crime or as a guilty perpetrator of a crime...it is about all suffering and gives hope. To all. It is one of the best reads I have found as a bereaved mom, and I read alot. I want to buy 10 copies of it just to have it on hand to give to someone who is suffering like me or differently. Because in this life we will have trouble but, take heart, he has overcome the world.

And my grief over Eva knows no bounds but there is hope amidst the suffering. Hope within the suffering.