Sunday, December 30, 2007

The world really is a snowglobe at times. Everything seems so perfect on the surface, and only when you really pry, and look for it, can you find that there is actually a tremendous amount of suffering in the world. Tremendous. When Isla died, our doctor told us Isla was the third neonatal death that WEEK. At the first visit to our baby loss support group, the moderator told us they get a call A WEEK from families who've lost babies. How is this all going on under our noses, and no one knows about it? How are the pregnancy books SO able to avoid this topic past the 12th week? Why are families not at least cautioned to the possibilities of unfavourable outcomes in pregnancy? I am continuously stunned at the number of babies who die every day, that get no mention in pregnancy books. Lose a baby, and in "the underworld", others who've lost come out of the woodwork. Babies die. Lots of them. One book I bought had a death plan in it. It detailed in case of death, what your wishes were regarding the body etc. I thought, at the time, how morbid. Oh, blessed hindsight. I bet the author had lost a child. No one in their right mind can decide whether they want their newborn baby's body cremated, or embalmed for burial, within hours of giving birth. It's just not fathomable. Yet it happens. Who makes a death plan? No one, because babies don't die. If you make it past your 12th week, you're hoem free, right? You never hear about it, in public. No fundraisers ever make the news for neonatal death. There's lots of other, less devastating, dare I say more PC illnesses to support. October is infant and pregnancy loss month, but you'd never know it. Another pink cause is much my more trendy, and palatable to support (no offense intended). Baby loss is something so tragic, and so unbelievably sad and uncomfortable that society avoids it at all costs. When a woman loses a baby, many are isolated from their friendship circles because the bereaved mom makes the others uncomfortable. Why? Because they must then face the fact that this could happen to them too; that they and their precious children are mortal, with no guarantees for a long and happy life. They'd rather not face that. Sure, wouldn't we all? But guess what? Everyone dies. I think it's laughable that we think we can cheat death, specifically infant death, by not dealing with it. Living in a death denying society makes it really fucking hard to deal with death when it ends up at your door. Though we all *know* that eventually, we'll lose a loved one, we sure don't expect it to be our baby. When a baby dies in hospital, the mother is often kept at the far end of the unit, for her own sanity, as much as the other moms, who have their babies with them, and want to enjoy this happy time (which they deserve, don't get me wrong). When babies die in hospital, they are quietly escorted to the morgue in an isolette, "no one will know she's passed" I have heard. Well why not? Babies die. It's no secret. It's not catching for Christ's sake. Why shouldn't it be known that my baby died? It's not a dirty secret, I'm not ashamed. I could sure use the support, rather than the alienation. I hate that we deal with our dead this way. A friend of mine was kicked out of her scrapbooking circle because she chose to scrapbook her daughter's short 3 day life, and her death. It made the other girls "uncomfortable". Well fuck you, I say. Too damn bad. Her baby DIED, and YOU feel uncomfortable? Oh I can't even put my anger into words. I would probably hurt someone who said that to me

I have to be fair though, and say that before any of this happened, I would have been happily treading along in my own death denying existence too. I routinely shielded Evan from the topic of death, choosing instead to tell white lies, and skirt the issue. Case in point: my friend's dog. He was hit by a car, and when he wasn't there last time we visited, and Evan asked where he was, I told him the dog had gone to live with someone else. Save him the trouble, you know? Well, suffice to say, he now knows what happened to that dog, and anyone else whose life has graced ours, and since passed. We have books, he knows what death is, and though it's god damned awful that his baby sister died, I'm glad he knows what death is. It will help him deal with it in the future, instead of being broadsided and immobilized by it like me, and the rest of the death denying world.

I love and miss you sweet baby girl. xoxoxo thinking of you all. the. time.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

And so, like that, Christmas has come and gone. I am on one hand relieved it's over. I think it's true, as some have said, that the anticipation of anniversaries and significant days is worse than the actual event. While I dreaded the day coming, I was able to find some moments of levity, laughter and comfort in it all. Tim's dad sent a beautiful, serene painting he did, dedicated to the memory of Isla, it choked everyone around the tree up when we opened it. It was a beautiful gesture, and really thoughtful of him. He did an identical one, with the same inscription, that is hanging in the dialysis unit where he has his treatments. Amazing. I'm touched more than I thought I would have been by this. We have been so lucky to have supportive friends and family through all of this. I hear/read stories about families who tell the bereaved parents to "suck it up" "get over it" or put their "chin up", and it just astounds me. Do they think a pet died? Or that someone has moved away? Their CHILD died. A person. No less significant than yourself. A human being! How can they possibly just 'get over it'? I am shocked that the topic of a baby that has died can be taboo around a family gathering. I have always felt comfortable talking about Isla, to anyone, especially her family. Even though I am often the one to bring it up, no one has ever tried to change the subject (I would be so very insulted by this), or told me not to talk about it because it upsets someone. I feel so sad for the parents who are not encouraged, and even forbidden to talk about their baby's death. How absolutely tragic. I feel like that should be the one place you can turn for comfort, memories, sharing grief, and these parents cannot. They have nowhere to turn, and my heart breaks for them. I could not imagine Isla being a 'taboo' subject. She's a person. No less worthy of discussion in her honour, in laughter or tears. She is a family member. Not a disease or a mistake.
Christmas itself was as good as I could have expected it to be. There were moments of mild chaos (what Christmas would be complete without that though, really?) where I felt I needed to excuse myself periodically. There were moments of fun; we played games, reminisced about Christmases past. We thought sadly about what 'would have been', had Isla lived. That she'd have been dressed in a beautiful holiday dress, buckle shoes and tights. A little red bow in her hair. She'd have sat at the table with us, and entertained us all with her 3 month old antics. It was quieter than it should have been, even with Evan's electric guitar blaring away... How can a home that's never been graced with the presence of a missing family member feel quieter than before they were even born? Yet it did. Though Isla never came home, her absence was palpable. We missed her like crazy, and knew exactly all the wonderful things she'd have been doing. It would have been perfect with her there, and I don't think I'm romanticizing or idealizing one bit.

I've been visiting a website/message board for bereaved parents. Mostly moms, but some dads, which is nice. One mom went into her older child's bedroom when she was sleeping, and placed her palm on the child's chest, and felt the was a beautiful feeling to her, one that she'd never stopped to appreciate before, yet such a precious thing. I can relate to this new gratitude for something so seemingly insignificant. Last week, I went into Evan's room when he was sleeping, and bent down near his bed, and just watched him breathe. I listened to the gentle, even inhaling, and exhaling of breath from his sweet little mouth, and watched his chest softly rise and fall. His skin and lips were pink and rosy, with life flowing through him.
Something so trivial, that most would not think twice about has become a sacred thing for me. The simple fact that my son's chest rises and falls with life is a gift beyond which I can be grateful for. I held my daughter while she died, never to take a single, sweet breath on her own. I see the gift in Evan that is life, and I treasure it like nothing else. If it is true that grief is a cleansing of the non-essential of one's life, then that has never been more apparent than here. I have never stopped to appreciate the sacredness of the fact that I have created life, from my own self. That a separate entity thrives, and craves life solely because of me. Watching this part of me live and grow and 'become' is nearly more than I can bear sometimes. What a gift my little son is. I love him more deeply, more fiercely than I ever thought possible. I am glad to know that the maternal ties between us are as strong as they are, but saddened for the reason I must discover this. Perhaps this is one of the 'gifts' Isla brings. A tangible appreciation for that which I cannot put a price on. A 'thing' that is not really a 'thing' at all, but rather a whom. There is no replacing a loved one, once they've gone. And I am learning every day, every hour, to hold dear that which I cherish the most. My family, the people I love, are more important than any 'thing' will ever be. I must continue to try not to get caught up in competitions of affluence and greed. I want my son to know that the best things in life are not things at all, but rather, the people we share our lives with. The loved ones, family and friends who enrich our lives, and give us joy and laughter, share our tears and tragedies. This is the rich meaningful stuff fulfilled lives are made of. That is what must fill that hollow nagging 'need' that exists in so many people's lives. It is meaningful relationships that make meaningful existences. The most special joys in life are much more special when shared, and the tragedies, more bearable when the weight is distributed among many. When George Carlin lost his wife, he wrote the following commentary, and I've revisited it often, and find it resonating with me more and more.
by: George Carlin
The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but
shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more,
but have less; we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and
smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees
but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more
problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little,
drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too
little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our
possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and
hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to
life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but
have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer
space but not inner space.

We've done larger things, but not better things. We've cleaned up the air,
but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice.

We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less.

We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold
more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less
and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small
character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of
two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes.

These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one
night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer,
to quiet, to kill.

It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the
stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time
when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.

Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going
to be around forever. Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to
you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your

Remember to give a warm hug to the one next to you because that is the only
treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent. Remember,
to say, "I love you" to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all
mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep
inside of you. Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday
that person will not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak
and give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.


I firmly believe that we would be a much happier, healthier society if we just reached out more, and allowed ourselves to be reached out to, instead of isolating ourselves in bubbles, unwilling to take chances, extend a hand to a stranger, put an arm around a hurting friend. We are a society full of fear of nearly everything: weirdos on buses, old people who may want to talk too long in the grocery aisle, bratty kids and their negligent parents....lots of people we'd rather not bother with. So we often end up alone, isolating ourselves from everyone. It can be a really lonely world sometimes, and the worst part is, it doesn't have to be. We bring it entirely upon ourselves. Life could be so much more fulfilling, if we just let down our guards, and allowed ourselves to love, and be loved.
So many people (myself absolutely included) spend a lot of time and money searching to fill a niche that cannot be filled with junk from Wal-Mart, or food from McDonalds. There is a hunger that is for human companionship, relationships, and community, that is insatiable by other means. As a society, we keep trying to 'better' everything... have more, make more, use more.. more, more, more. I think actually, that the answer is less. Less stuff, less crap, less distractions in life preventing us from achieving true happiness, which I believe, is to be found in loving, fulfilling, meaningful relationships with others. It's not a big house with fancy furniture. It's a young child, climbing into your lap, telling you you're his "best mom"... you cannot buy that kind of pride and happiness. It's not a shiny car, or fine china... it's holding hands on a walk with a little boy who thinks the world of you, and vice versa. It's shedding a tear for a part of your life that's gone forever, that you miss, and ache for, because it meant so much. It has nothing at all to do with money or wealth. And though I am glad to know this, and know it well, I am sad for the reason I must know it.

I miss you so much sweet baby Isla. You would have changed the world, even more than you already have. I love you more every day. Thank you for being my baby girl, you are so very special to me.
xoxo Mom.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

5 days to go. I don't know how to feel this season. I want to hide in my room and be alone with Isla but I also want to enjoy it with Evan, as it's his first really memorable holiday. He's overcome with Christmas, and all the glitzy things that go along with it. I find comfort and heartache in it, all at the same time. Today was his Christmas playschool party, and it was ... difficult? I expected a lot more baby siblings, thankfully, there was only one. A girl, and a beautiful one at that, in a velvety red Christmas dress. When the teachers offered siblings to go up and sit on Santa's knee after the students had had a turn, my heart wrenched. I had no sibling to sit on Santa's knee. The fact that Evan is now an only child is a big source of sadness for me. Having grown up with a sister to whom I'm pretty close, I know the wonder of sharing life's most special moments with someone you love and know so well. Evan, even with a sibling, at this point will have had most of his exciting moments in childhood alone. That makes me feel like a failure as a parent, like I've let my little boy down. He doesn't seem to suffer for it, or even ask for a sibling, but I know how awesome it would have been for him. The Dodge Caravan commercial made me cry, the first time I saw it. Lovely how emotions take control over themselves. The kids in the back swung their chairs to face eachother, and set up some kind of table in the middle, to play a game on the road. Evan won't have that kind of sibling relationship. No hiking in the woods together, competing for the best finds, wiener roasts, camping, summer vacation, Disneyland etc etc etc.... it's a constant reminder that he won't have the things about my childhood that I cherish the most: exciting times shared with my sister. He will only have us to enjoy them with, and that makes me sad. We're fun, but we're not a brother or sister. It's just different.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

3 months ago today (well, it's just after midnight, but close enough) you were born, my sweet baby girl. It has been a very lonely 3 months without you. Dad and I spend much time talking about you, what you'd be doing now, like holding your head up. Your brother did that just around 3 months too. You'd probably be sleeping in your own room now, in the same cuddly sleepsack Evan did. I ache when I see other baby girls in malls or stores, especially the ones around your age. I feel angry and want to scream why did this happen to us?!!? for everyone to hear. We miss you terribly, and though you never even came home, this house feels tomblike without you here. I remember joining the support group after you died, and meeting the others who'd lost their babies around 3-4 months prior. I thought that seemed like such a long time ago, but here I am, 3 months without you, and it feels like nothing. I can still remember almost everything about your birth, and how it all felt. I thought the other girls must have been so far along their grief journey by 3 or 4 months, and how I couldn't wait to get there myself. Yet, now that I'm there, I feel like barely any time has passed at all. It is such a slow, lonely journey Isla. I don't know if you can even imagine how much you've impacted our lives in the short time we were blessed with you. My god, you've made such an impact. I struggle to muster up the words to even describe it, but is has been profound. I try, constantly, to find ways to have your life affect me in a positive way, in the choices I make every day, the decisions I must make in my life. I want to live in honour of you, live a life you did not have a chance to, but it is oh so hard, my baby girl. I strive to do the right thing, be kind and nonjudgmental of others who don't recognize the gifts they've been given. I try to sympathize with others who life lives full of loss and hardship. I try to be compassionate and forgiving. But often, I fail. I can only maintain that perspective for so long, before I am overcome with the loss of you. It is not fair that I had to lose you. You were a brand new life, so full of potential, so ready for the world. We were so ready to watch you grow, breathe in new life and face the new world head on. We were so proud of you, before you were even born. We knew you'd go on to do grand things. How is it fair that you were robbed of all of that because of a fucking stupid accident with your own body parts? How can this even happen? I cannot believe this happened. It is still so hard to accept. When I see women with baby girls, I think to myself 'they get to go on and live with their little girls, but I don't. I don't now, and I won't ever get to hold my baby girl again.' My god, how unfathomable it is that you are gone forever. We knew you so briefly. If there is one positive thing that I can glean from your death, it is that I no longer fear my own. If by some miracle, there is an afterlife, and I get to see you, and hold you again, then I fear nothing in my own death. What I fear is the misery I will endure until that time. Though I am absolutely blessed with a family whom I love, and who loves me, such a huge part of it is missing, I feel your absence all. the. time. I miss you so much sweet girl. Please know how much daddy and I love you, how much we miss you, and how we'd give anything to have just a few more moments with you. How my heart aches for you Isla. xoxoxo mommy.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Life has been fairly acceptable this week. I hesitate to say 'good' because that might give the illusion that they are. It's not 'good', but this past week, I have been able to function like a pretty normal person. This comes with a mixed reaction from me. On one hand, I am grateful for the reprieve from the crushing grief that paralyzed me weeks ago. I am glad I can enjoy some of the Christmas season through the eyes of my son, and appreciate his wonder and enthusiasm for life. I am cautious in this acknowledgment, however, because it kind of scares me. I don't know if I should be feeling this okay... this "good"... I am told by other grieving parents, and by my wise husband, to take what comes, unquestioningly. Accept that the hard days will not be forever, and embrace the good ones for what they are: good days. They are something to be grateful for, to be sure.

I am just one of those people who are constantly second guessing themselves. I don't trust myself enough, I don't believe in the legitimacy of my emotions. Somehow, when it's bad, I panic and seek respite from the pain, and when it's good, I worry that I'm not grieving properly, in that I'm able to feel good, and all of this will come back to haunt me, because I'm not doing it right. Yes, it's lots of fun inside my head.

As my grief journey is progressing, and some of the black, deep, despair is (thankfully) softening, I am finding I do have some control over the acceptance, and expression of my mourning. This is good and bad. When Isla first died, I was shattered, unable to function at all, unable to do anything but immerse myself in her death, and try not to drown. Now that I've found some footing in this experience, and am incorporating this loss into my life, I am more able to choose when I wade into the sadness. The problem is, a lot of the time, I am just choosing not to at all. I know it's the wrong thing to do, I am fully aware of when I choose to deny an impending grief outburst, or stifle tears in an inappropriate (and sometimes, appropriate) situation. It's not good that I am doing this. This is not honouring my daughter, this is not working through the grief, it's working around it. This is the bad way. Many books will say there is no 'wrong' way to grieve, but I believe there is. Yet, I feel such a sense of relief in my ability to exercise some control over my emotions. It's empowering, and gives me some strength, some hope, and it's hard to deny it. I relish this newfound control. Perhaps it is okay... I don't really know. I assume that because I am human, and doubtlessly loved my daughter, that the grief hasn't disappeared at all, rather, it is ebbing, as grief is apparently wont to do. My emotions swing broadly to and from the extreme ends of the spectrum, and I can't assume that because I am currently in a place of tranquility and hope, that I won't swing back to despair eventually. Not that I am inviting such a self-fulfilling prophecy, but just that maybe I can take today for what it is, and try not to ask too much of myself, or question my own experience too much. It is, after all, my own unique experience, and sometimes I forget that that doesn't make it right or wrong, it is just mine. It is sacred and unique, to me.

A wise friend of mine, who also tragically lost her infant daughter, told me that it's not forgetting, it's not stopping grieving, it's 'moving along in my grace'. I don't know exactly what she meant, but it sounds good to me. I think it means something along the lines of me being human, suffering an insufferable loss, finding a glimmer of hope in the dread. Embracing it, and letting it embrace me, for I need this, and I deserve it.
And so come the tears.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

So, I had a root canal done yesterday. I've been dreading it for weeks, though it really needed to be done. Once I got there, I realized instantly how long I've been out of the 'real' world. People rushing around, appointments, phones ringing, hustle and bustle. I think this was part of what I was dreading, the demands placed upon me to be in a certain place, at a certain time... Yet, once I got used to so much frenzy (and yes, it was actually quite frenzied, even at the dentist's!) , I actually kind of enjoyed it a bit. There was a sense of order and purpose to it all. Something I haven't felt in quite a while. A refreshing change from my typical anomic existence, as of late. It was strangely comforting, and reassuring. I am still technically on 'mat leave', so I have lots of spare time, and not much to fill it with. I don't think I want to reenter the world of professionally employed, just yet, because there is still the issue of Evan and child care, but I think once we move, I may look into some kind of part-time volunteer work. Who knows what, but probably not something with kids, which is a bit scary, because it's all I've ever done, in one capacity or another.
Last week was really tough. I don't know what, if anything, sparked it, but it was a few days there where I felt very low. It's the kind of day that I know is going to suck as soon as I wake up. Before I even get out of bed. There's a real "who cares" feeling to everything, and an inability to give a shit about anything, let alone pretend for the sake of others. I know that makes it hard on Tim, that some days I can't be a good wife, and hold up my end of the household, marriage and all that, but at those times, I just don't care. Those are the days I can't really get motivated to do anything; eat, shower, play with Evan, go out... I'm reduced to my bed or the couch, with a book for quite a few hours. I find it quite debilitating, and realize that I'm being completely unfair to Tim and Evan, but at the time, I just don't feel well enough to care.

The last couple of days have been better. Had a birthday celebration with friends last night, at a big sports bar. About 2 hours in, I started to fizzle. I was mentally burnt out from all the happiness around me. There were several staff Christmas parties going on, so lots of laughing, hugging, wishing each other Merry Christmas. It was fine at first, but after a couple of hours, I'd just had enough. I wanted to shout out to them that they had no right to be this happy. That they didn't realize how much pain I was in, or how their happiness made me feel so alienated. We left, and in the car, Tim kind of deflated right away. I think the night was about an hour too long for both of us, in spite of having fun with our friends. It's still hard to see others having so much carefree fun. I know that I don't know what's going on in their lives, or what the future may hold for them, but I know this: I am not happy and they are, and it's not fair. It's a constant reminder that they have something I don't; the blissful naivete that everything is great, life is wonderful, and tragedy is something that happens to other people. I was one of them, who didn't realize that all around me might be people hurting and trying their hardest to get through a night full of happy people while they quietly suffered alone. I'd go back to it again in a selfish heartbeat, and give up every ounce of 'being a better person' and all that bullshit. It is an incredibly lonely place to be when you're aching for something so badly, and everyone around you is laughing, enjoying themselves fully, not a thought in the world about all the things that could go wrong. I even managed to worry about Evan, though he was in quite capable hands. I often worry that he's going to suffer a major allergic reaction, and no one will know how to use the epipen, or he will get some incurable childhood cancer, and I won't be able to do a damn thing about it. While out with the women from my infant loss group today, every one of them called home on their cell phones to see how their other kids were, though we were only gone a few hours. They confessed that they too often worry about their surviving children, and think something equally tragic will befall them. What a damn rip-off that is. Jesus, we've already lost one child, and now we uncontrollably worry about the ones we have left. It's not fair, and I hate that I think about this all the time, while other moms are thinking about decorating their homes for the holidays, shopping etc etc... I am a prisoner to my thoughts , and right now, there's not much I can do about it.
I found out a good friend of mine is expecting her 3rd child. I knew this was coming, and wasn't sure how I'd react. It was much harder than I expected it would be. When I found out, my whole head went fuzzy. Like that feeling of being on Tylenol 3s... kind of foggy headed, "this isn't really happening" sort of thing. I felt immobilized and numb for a few seconds, before I could muster up some words. I told her that if I cried, it was okay. And I did cry, briefly. I'm happy for her family, absolutely, but it's such a tangible reminder of another person who gets to have her baby, while I don't. We should be sharing in the excitement of her new pregnancy together, while enjoying my newborn...instead, I am grieving my baby's death, and imagining how wonderful it will be for her when her new baby comes. It all just makes me feel empty, useless and ripped off. As glad as I am for their family, I am just so sad it's not me, with my new baby. I am sad for our friendship too, because I think it will suffer as she goes on in her pregnancy, and nears her due date. Though we won't live here anymore, I still hope to be close, and I am afraid I won't be able to be a present, helpful friend at the times she'll need me the most. In fact, she may not even want me around...maybe it makes her uncomfortable to be pregnant around me. It probably would make me feel that way. Maybe she's secretly relieved I'm moving, so she won't have to worry about the awkwardness of our friendship growing as she does. I don't know, it's still so new, and I have no firm grip on any certainties. Except that I feel like I'm rambling here, and not sounding very coherent, which is always a sign that it's time to stop writing.