"Life isn't about surviving the storm...it is about learning to dance in the rain." Anonymous

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Faces of Loss in Atlanta!

I have just found out that there is a Face 2 Face group here in metro Atlanta (thanks, Tiffany!!).  Here is the link to their site... http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Face2Face-Metro-Atlanta/191662034190425

They meet on a regular basis and are meeting this weekend for breakfast.  Just wanted to let you all know.  If you are not familiar with faces of loss, go to www.facesofloss.com to read more.  I have to say that I am so happy that this group is there....what a great way to get together and share stories and just be with other parents who are going through loss.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The contradictions of my grief

Saturday will make three years.  Three years.  Wow, just wow.  How does that happen?  How does the earth just continue to rotate on its axis every single minute of every single day, but my life seems at times like it has stood still??  Such a contradiction.

I said this time last year that I was going to make it a tradition each year on December 1st to reread all of the cards that people sent when my daughter died.  I don't really want to do that this year after all.  The past 3 weeks have been just sad and I feel like the sadness is slowly getting better.  So, I am not going to open the box this year and read the cards and look at the clothes and try to remember December 1, 2009.  This, too, is a contradiction.  I don't want to remember it and then I am terrified that I will forget it.  I think this may make sense to some of you.

So many contradictions...

  • time seems to have stood still, but it has gone so fast
  • i am happy but sad (how in the world do you explain that to anyone??)
  • my life has moved on, but I don't know if I have
  • my body shows the evidence of my pregnancy, but one of my children is missing
  • the earth didn't shatter 3 years ago, but it sure did feel like it.  In fact, I can almost swear I was cut by all of the shards of glass in the process.
I read a great article today about various famous people who have experienced grief and some of the things that made them feel better.  It was really good....basically, it said that no two people grieve the same way.  People have very different ways of coping and that is ok.  One mom had slept in her daughter's bed for a while after she died.  Not so strange to me, except that the daughter's husband was still in the bed, too ;))  Other people wore their loved ones clothing.  The article ended by saying that even though we all express grief differently, there is one commonality and that is that at times, grief makes you feel like you are losing your mind.  How very true!

If you are familiar with the "Dummies" series of books, you might find it funny to hear that there is actually a "Grief for Dummies" book!  For some reason, this struck me as really hilarious.  I am wondering who exactly should read it....should it be the person grieving, so that they can learn how to grieve "normally" or should it be those around them to help them learn how to accept the grief of the bereaved?  Not sure...I may have to order it and read it to satisfy my curiosity. 

So, anyway, please forgive the rambling post.  I know that Saturday will come and go like every other day.  The earth will not stop, people will continue to go about their lives, and those around me still may not get the fact that I am sad sometimes.  It is not just a day, though, to me.  It is special.  It is lovely.  It is sad.  It is the day my daughter entered and left this world.  It was, and continues to remain, a gift.  A treasured day for just me....no party, no cake, no celebration with other people, but special.  Devastating, but special....such a contradiction.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why walk?

The Atlanta Walk to Remember is coming up this Sunday.  This is always such a beautiful day.  It never ceases to amaze me how large this community of perinatal loss is.  Last year, there were over 500 people there!  While it is so sad to know that there are so many of us who are going through this, it is also comforting to know that I am not alone. 
This is the community that has held me up and made it possible for me to keep moving every day.  Whether it is someone who has written a blog that I have read or posted in one of the online groups I look at, or whether it is someone I have met through the office who has inspired me with their story and given me the privilege of hearing about their baby, each one is part of my journey and I am so grateful for this community. 
This Sunday, I will walk for myself and my family, for all of those families I have met and those I haven't, and I will walk for Elizabeth Claire, who is always in my heart and whose name I will be so proud to read.  This is our walk....mine, yours, and all of those who are part of this journey.

If you would like to register for the Atlanta Walk to Remember, please go to http://www.planetReg.com/E7221302552608 . 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A letter to my girl...

Dear sweet girl,

Tonight I cried for you like I haven't in a very long time. Crocodile tears....the kind that take your breath and make your knees weak. I'm not sure what brought this on. Grief just decided to rear its ugly head and bite me in the rear end. I used to cry at night alot after you died. I would wake up in tears and try to cry silently, so as not to wake up your daddy. I was thinking about you today and it hit me that you would be 2 1/2 this month (happy b-day, by the way). Two and a half! A little girl with your own personality. I wish I could paint your toenails. If I could have a day with you, I would even let you paint mine :). I wonder about you sometimes. I think you would have had red hair like your great grandmothers. When I think of you, it is the red hair that I see first. I wish we could have a pajama day and watch Beauty and the Beast.

Sometimes I worry that I am forgetting the essence of you....what your movement felt like, how you would somersault at night when I would get ready for bed. I wish I had cherished that more. You are so precious to me, sweet girl. I love you to the moon and back.

Mommy

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What's in a name?

One of the decisions we make as parents is the name our baby will be given.  It is a rite of passage....the choosing of the perfect name.  As parents of babies who have died, we have the choice of whether or not to name our babies.  Some of us choose to and some of us don't.   There is no right or wrong way.

After Elizabeth died, I was asked by a friend if I would "reuse" her name for another baby.  The answer is a resounding NO.  Maybe this is ok for some, but not for me.  You see, I knew her name before I even knew she was a girl.  I just had a feeling she was a girl and I had called her Elizabeth in my mind from the start.  For me, there is, and always will be, only one Elizabeth Claire Petersen. 

Webster defines a name as "a word or phrase that constitutes the distinctive designation of a person or
thing".  So, her name is what designates her in our family.  It gives her the identity she deserves and it gives us a name to call her by when we remember her as a family. 

I have two friends who didn't name their babies right away.  The thought was just too painful.  One of them decided to name her son a year after his death, when the time felt right for her.  I know another lady who decided 7 years later to name her baby.  The timing is different for all of us.

I had an ectopic pregnancy a little over a year ago and never named that little baby.  It may sound crazy, but I refer to him or her as "Little Bit", because that is what I called it before the loss.  So, I guess you can say that Little Bit is the perfect name for that tiny baby. 

Recently, my sister-in-law told me that when my niece has a daughter, she wants to name her Elizabeth Claire.  I don't really like that idea.  I feel that name has already been taken in our family.  I was a little hurt and saddened by the idea of another little girl with that name.  Is that selfish?  I don't know....maybe.

The power of a name is really amazing.  The few times that I have seen Elizabeth's name in print have taken my breath.  I know that I won't ever have the chance to see her name in a kindergarten graduation program or on her wedding invitation, but I will take whatever I can get.  Every chance to read her name or speak her name is a wonderful moment to me.

It is a reminder that she was here and still lives on in the inner core of me.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fathers

For all of you fathers who are not holding your babies today....you are amazing. You are the rock beneath your family....you are the support your partner needed to help her face the day today....you love your child and always will.

Today is yours. You are, without a doubt, an incredible dad.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mother's Day...

For all of us mothers who are not holding our babies in our arms this Mother's Day,

For all of us who have only the memories of a few short minutes or hours or just a few days to get us through a lifetime.

For all of us who cry during the night because our arms are so empty.

For all of us who have felt a love so deep and a grief even deeper.

For those of us who have had to make heart-wrenching decisions, knowing our babies would not be coming home with us.

Mother's Day can be very emotional.  While you may not hold your baby in your arms, you always hold him or her in your heart.  Be easy on yourself this weekend.  You are a mom;  an amazing mom;  a mom who knows all too well what it feels like to miss your child today.  In my opinion, that makes you even more special.

The first Mother's Day after we lost Elizabeth was very hard.  At church, our priest has a tradition of having all the mothers stand up for a blessing.  Then he has all the moms with one child stand up, then those with 2, then those with 3, and so on until he can reward the one with the most.  For those of us who sat in the pews, not knowing when or if to stand, it was excruciating.  I felt sad for myself and sad for a friend of mine who had been suffering from infertility for years.  After that, I decided that I would be in charge of my own Mother's Day. 

I surround myself with those who are sensitive.  I do something in honor of the daughter that I lost.  I take it easy on myself, if that makes sense. 

For those of you who may be struggling with the question of "Am I a mother?", I challenge you.  Think about this question:  If you were to lose your parent, are you no longer someone's child?  Of course you are, just as you are every bit a mother because you carried and loved your beautiful child. 

Take care this weekend...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Butterflies & Rainbows

I know it has been a little while since the last post.  When you finish reading this posting, you will understand why.  Things have been a bit busy lately.  (Please note, there is a pregnancy/ baby trigger mentioned at the end of this post)

Spring is here!  With spring comes white butterflies.  I have been waiting and waiting and waiting for them to come this year.  If you haven't heard, there are some who believe that a white butterfly is a visitation from a soul who has passed.  There is a story called The Brave Little Soul that you can read on many websites.  I have linked it to the one on Hiring for Hope's website.  It is a beautiful story and makes me love white butterflies.  Anyway, as I said, I have been patiently waiting for their arrival and they have finally come.  I saw one the other day on the back porch.  Sandi, one of my office partners, saw one on a bicycle ride the other day, and another friend of mine who lost her son 3 years ago swears one followed her around her yard last week.  I don't know...they just make me happy.  I like to think that my Elizabeth sends me special messages sometimes.  Maybe she knows that I have been on the lookout for my butterfly.  The one I saw on the porch a few days ago landed right on the flowers that my son just planted.  Just sat there, long enough for me to get my camera and take its picture.  It never flew away.  I tried to post the picture, but I am having a computer moment and am afraid that I will get really frustrated if I keep trying to get it to post.  I will post it soon, though. 

I have debated over and over again in my mind whether or not to post the rest of what has been going on and I have decided to post about it.  Because this blog is a perinatal loss blog, it is really important that it is sensitive to families who have begun their grief journey.  It is, as you know, a journey.  A long journey, full of ups and downs.  If you have been on your journey for a while, you know that there are many components to grief and the path it takes you down is a long one, full of sad times, angry times, lonely times, and (yes, hard to believe) happy times. 

I have met many of you through support group or through follow up or maybe we have met in the office.  So, this will not come as a surprise to those who know me and know that I have been gone for a little while.  My intention in sharing this is not to cause sadness, but to share a part of my journey.  After a lot of thought, I believe my story would be missing some parts if I didn't share.  Our Rainbow Baby was born in late March.  The term "rainbow baby" refers to a baby born after the storm of a loss.  I know there are people reading this blog who might be considering another pregnancy or may be pregnant already, and it is for you that I wanted to include this.  Pregnancy after Loss is a challenge that many babyloss families experience.  To not address it would be to ignore a very important facet of the grief journey. 

I want to share with you some things that I learned over the last months.  It is my hope that if you find yourself considering another pregnancy, that you find this helpful.  Or, at least know that you are not alone in your fear and anxiety.  So, here goes my list:

  • You will more than likely be terrified.  For me, a day did not pass that I was not scared out of my mind of going through another loss.  I thought this fear would get better after the point of my previous loss, but it did not.  In fact, it got worse.  My advice for you is to make sure you have a doctor or midwife who supports you in your anxiety.  I am forever grateful to my OB for never making me feel crazy and for allowing me my fear.
  • You will never, ever, ever stop thinking of the baby who died.  There is a misconception by people who have never lost a baby that a new pregnancy will "cure" you.  That is ludicrous.  I thought and still think of Elizabeth every day.  In fact, I thought about her so much during the pregnancy that I was afraid that the consuming grief would start all over.  Every sensation of pregnancy reminded me of my pregnancy with her.  Once I passed 22 weeks, I had moments where I thought "she never lived this long" and I would be so, so sad.  These feelings are ok, they are normal.  I like to think that maybe she met my new baby before he came to me.  That gives me a smile.
  • Join a support group or an online forum of other moms who are pregnant after loss.  We have a monthly group that meets that gave me a lot of comfort.  If you go to www.northsidepnl.com, you can see the schedule.  I also joined an online forum and got to occasionally vent my fears and read other people's worries, as well.  It made me feel normal.
  • Treat yourself like the special, beautiful mom that you are!  This is important.  I made sure every day to meditate and get really calm for at least 15 minutes.  I also had pictures made of my growing belly.  This is not something I have ever thought to do before, but I cherish these pictures and had a special time having them made.  My photographer asked me what I was looking for and when I told her that I was afraid my baby would be stillborn like my last one and that I just needed to have a picture of my pregnancy, she cried with me and said that she was glad that I shared that with her. 
  • Don't be alarmed if you don't want to prepare.  I did not buy anything or acknowledge that I might have a new baby until right before he came.  This is normal and does not mean that you don't care or that you won't bond.  You have experienced the worst grief and it is normal to not open yourself up easily again.
  • Surround yourself with supportive people.  If those around you don't understand your anxiety or your hesitation, limit your time with them.  You must take care of yourself first and foremost.
  • Try not to panic.  I had bleeding in the first trimester and was devastated.  It was a placenta previa hemorrhage that took Elizabeth's life and blood makes me crazy.  Of course I panicked when I had bleeding, but I did try to remember that this was a different situation.
  • Lastly, know that you are not alone.  There are many, many moms just like you who are scared and anxious.  I will tell you that when that sweet baby finally gets here, the very minute he/she is born, all of that anxiety will slip right out of you and you will smile and you will be filled with joy.  I never thought I could be joyful ever again.  I thought it was gone forever.  But, I was wrong.  The joy came and that does not mean that my grief over my daughter is gone.  Somehow, the emotions are all there, living in me.  Who knew there was so much room in me for so many conflicting feelings? 
I hope this helps.  Feel free to send us pictures of any butterflies that come your way!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

An Ugly Pair of Shoes

I found this poem on a babyloss website and thought I would share....

An Ugly Pair of Shoes
I am wearing a pair of shoes.
They are ugly shoes.
Uncomfortable Shoes.
I hate my shoes.
Each day I wear them, and each day I wish I had another pair.
Some days my shoes hurt so bad that I do not think I can take another step.
Yet, I continue to wear them.
I get funny looks wearing these shoes.
They are looks of sympathy.
I can tell in others’ eyes that they are glad they are my shoes and not theirs.
They never talk about my shoes.
To learn how awful my shoes are might make them uncomfortable.
To truly understand these shoes you must walk in them.
But, once you put them on, you can never take them off.
I now realise that I am not the only one who wears these shoes.
There are many pairs in the world.
Some women are like me and ache daily as they try and walk in them.
Some have learned how to walk in them so they don’t hurt quite as much.
Some have walked in these shoes so long that days will go by before they think of how much they hurt.
No woman deserves to wear these shoes.
Yet because of the shoes I am a stronger woman.
These shoes have given me the strength to face anything
-Author Unknown

I thought it made sense.  It has taken me a while to realize that my loss has strengthened me in unimaginable ways, but I do realize that now.  It also has broken me in ways that are unimaginable.   How has your loss changed you? 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sorority Life

I have read in several places and have even used the phrase myself once or twice that by going through the loss of a baby, you join a sorority that you never wanted to join.  How true!  For some reason, today this makes me think of my college sorority...keep reading, I promise this will be relevant to the babyloss community.  First of all, let me say that I LOVED my sorority.  I was a Phi Mu and loved every minute of it.  I loved the friends, the social aspect, the songs, Rush Week, etc, etc.

I remember vividly the day I got my bid.  At my college, we had a "sorority hill" and on Bid Day, everyone ran up the hill to their respective new sorority houses.  It was there that your big sister for the day put your jersey on you and you became part of the whole excitement that is sorority life. 

My sorority was good for me...I fought to keep up my grades so I could go to all the social things like formals and date nights.  I made so many friends, most of whom are still close to me 22 years later.  Most of bridesmaids were sorority sisters. 

So, today I have been thinking about this sorority of sorts which I am now a part of....one that I didn't get a jersey for, one that doesn't offer any excitement, one for which I didn't get a cute pink invitation inviting me to join.  In fact, I didn't get any notice at all that I was about to become a member.  The only prerequisite to my becoming a sister in this group is the loss of my precious, precious baby. 

Oh my goodness...how I would gladly give up my membership and have my baby back.  But that is not possible, is it?  My loss is a part of my life, just as the loss of each member's baby is a part of their lives.  And, wow, how fast you become "initiated" into the group.  There is no warning, no butterflies in your stomach as you wonder if you will be accepted.  Your initiation comes in the form of a profound loss, a loss that will never leave you.

I want to say that as much as I resisted being a part of this group....I couldn't believe for the longest time that being the mother of a stillborn daughter was my fate.... I am so grateful for this group, this sorority of women (and men) who are alot like me.  You know, if you are reading this blog and are a member of this group yourself, that there is comfort and solace in knowing that you are not alone.  That there are others out there that know your pain on some level.  Our stories may each be different and unique and the way we grieve may not be exactly the same, but our pain is the same and it is real. 

What I have learned since the day I was initiated into this sorority is that I cherish the people I know who are members....they ground me and provide me with a support and understanding that I can't get anywhere else.  So, I guess I can say that while I do not feel "lucky" to be a member, I am grateful.  Grateful for the chance to hear the stories of loss that my friends share with me, grateful to be a part of someone's journey through the loss of their baby, grateful that when I am down, I have someone or some people to talk to. 

So, I guess here is to sorority life....not exactly the Greek experience I was hoping for, but one that is a part of me forever.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My memories are all in a box...

For those of you who follow this blog, you know that my loss happened 2 years ago last month.  Shortly after losing Elizabeth, I put all of her ultrasound pictures in a small album that I keep in my bedroom.  I don't look at them much, but I love knowing they are there if I need to look.  I have not looked in her memory box since December, 2009.

Fast forward to this past weekend...my daughter has decided to move to the downstairs bedroom so that she will have a bigger closet (that's my girl!  ; )  )  Anyway, I knew cleaning the downstairs closet out meant coming face to face with Elizabeth's box.  This may sound crazy, but I was really anxious about it.  For some people, the desire to see their baby's keepsakes is an immediate desire.  For others, not so much.  We have some families that call 7 or 8 years later for their keepsakes and I understand that.  For me, the wound is still so fresh and the tiniest thing will make it bleed for days.  I have said before that losing a baby is like forming a scab of sorts.  It will start to heal and new skin might start to form, but the wound is always there underneath and the scar is there as the reminder.  Any irritation or trigger to this scab will cause it to open and hurt and bleed.  Make sense?  Well, I was so afraid of this box and of my wound opening into a gaping hole again, that I feared that closet.

When it came time to take the box down, I decided to take it to a quiet place and open it...to be honest, I couldn't remember exactly what was in there.  There were so many cards from so many people.  It felt so good to read them all again from the perspective of 2 years later.  I might decide to do that every December.  So many people cared about us...about my family and about my sweet, beautiful daughter.  There was a program from a memorial Mass I attended that had her name listed.  Wow...to this day, it hurts me to see her name in print; but at the same time, her name makes me know she was real, is real to me.  Sometimes it seems like it has been so long since she lived underneath my heart and the whole experience was so surreal, that to see her name is a grounding, profound experience.

There were pictures for her from her brother and sister, along with a very old crucifix that I touched alot during my time on bedrest with her.  It is really unique, because it has a skull and crossbones underneath the cross, which may sound strange, but I learned that they symbolize the death of Adam and that it is believed that Jesus was crucified at the same spot the Adam is buried.  You don't see the skull and crossbones on many crucifixes now.  Seeing that broke my heart...but at the same time it reminded me that my faith is strong.  We all have beliefs, even though our faiths may be different, that get us through difficult times.

And then there were her clothes...I couldn't take those out of the box to hold them.  I just could not.  But they are folded perfectly in the bottom of her box with such care.

I remember when my in-laws passed away and we had the task of packing up their house.  It is amazing to see the memories that people make over the years and the things that accumulate over time.  I feel like that box is just all I have of my baby...that is her lifetime of memories and her life was just so short.  But, that's not really true.  I have so much more.  I had the experience of feeling her move and choosing her name and loving every minute of expecting her.  So, the box is the concrete memory.  The other is something else...the specialness that was her and the knowledge that she is one of the very few people that knew what my heart sounded like, because she grew underneath it.

Please feel free to share your memories, if you like.