Friday, December 31, 2010

Fixed!

The New Year is looking better already, I finally figured out how to change the blog address to http://wontibesurprised.blogspot.com/

Here is to 2011 bringing LOTS of happy surprises!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

I Think I Can...

In one of those foggy days right after Rip died, I remember telling someone, "I'm not doing anything I don't want to do for the rest of my life."

My New Year's Resolution this year is a variation of just that, except I think I will phrase it, " I am going to do everything I want to do with the rest of my life."

Before we lost Rip, I would say my self-esteem was pretty bad. I never thought I was smart enough, skinny enough, or just plain ol' good enough. Instead of trying new things, I convinced myself that playing it safe was the better option. Basically, I settled.

I can think of nothing worse than living this way after everything that has happened. I don't ever want to settle... I want to make sure that everything I do with the rest of my life is something that I can be proud of, maybe more importantly something I think my son would be proud of.

When I was younger, my family was a big fan of the Little Engine That Could...I can't tell you how many swim meets and horse shows I did with " I think I can, I think I can" going through my head.

So I know that living my life to the fullest is a pretty broad and lofty resolution...but I think I can, I think I can.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Life with an asterisk

I feel like I am living my life with one big asterisk beside everything I say. If I were to write out any conversation I have right now, for instance if I said "We had a good Christmas", I would then have to add "*but it was sad and we missed Rip", somewhere below.

This is completely my doing, I know nobody else thinks for a minute that whatever good time I have is not coupled with some sadness. I think it is mainly guilt that makes me feel like I have to add a disclaimer, like somehow I am not being a loving mother if I don't remind everyone how much I miss my child. Like having fun is somehow disrespectful.

What I am slowly coming to realize is that the asterisk is there whether I choose to voice it or not. Missing and loving Rip is a part of me now, just like my smile or my shoe size. I am a different person than I was before he was born. Are some of those differences for the better? Absolutely. Do some of those differences completely suck? Yes again.

The point I am trying to reach, and I think I am doing better about getting there, is that despite the sadness there can still be fun, good times.*

*and it is still okay for me to enjoy them

Monday, December 27, 2010

Who I Am

I woke up this morning in a funk. Partially just the normal "day after (after) Christmas" funk, compounded by the overall crumminess of my situation.

Right now, I mainly wish that I could have Rip back, which I also realize is not going to be possible on this earth. On top of that, my reason for getting pregnant in the first place has never changed, I wanted and want a baby...but my body (and probably my mind) is not ready to get pregnant again. So I here I sit in limbo, unable to do anything about what I want most in the world. Hence the funk.

In an attempt to be productive, I decided to clean out my wallet (mainly because this type of productivity did not involve getting out of bed). After going through many years worth of insurance and Bilo bonus cards, I moved on to the side pocket where I stick notes, pictures, etc.

The first item I pulled out was I notice from the Social Security Office, acknowledging that I had completed the final step to becoming Anne Hassold Harris.

The second was a sheet of photo booth pictures Parke and I took at a wedding several years ago. We are dying laughing in most of them, in the last one I am leaning into his neck while he hugs me close.

The third was a note from my mom, written on a birthday a few years back. It reads, "We all love you so so much, You've always had that special touch, No one else could take your place, with your smart little self and beautiful face."

Fourth was a note I must have written after we lost Rip, although I don't remember doing it. It reads "Dear Lord, please let me be a mom again to a healthy baby".

Finally I pulled out a very old piece of paper. It reads, "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don't forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this you will experience God's peace, which is more wonderful than the human mind can understand, Philippians 4: 6-7"

With five pieces of paper, my wallet managed to remind me of who I am, who loves me, and where to go from here. Not bad for a Monday morning, right?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Great Miracles

Where there is great love there are always miracles. - Willa Cather

I recently came across this quote and it gave me an overwhelming sense of peace. One of the many gifts I have received from Rip is the ability to see how much love surrounds me. Love for Rip, and love for and from my husband, family, and friends.

My wish for this Christmas and the new year is to surround myself with great love and watch the miracles unfold.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Lesson I Did Not Necessarily Want to Learn

I have a very vivid memory of leaving the hospital the day we found out that Rip was not going to make it and watching a woman walking down the street in a Santa hat. I remember turning to Parke and saying "How is she walking around like that when the whole world has just ended?"

And that was how I felt, and to some degree how I still feel. What is hard, just like that day, is that the world has not ended for anybody else. Even though Rip is all that I (and Parke, and probably the rest of our families) can think about, everyone else is getting ready for the holidays with the usual excitement and cheer.

I think the loss of a child, and maybe especially a baby, is first and foremost nothing anybody wants to dwell on. I know I used to feel awkward talking to someone after they experienced any kind of loss, probably even avoided the subject all together if possible. I also think it is hard for people to understand another person's pain. With Rip, Parke and I are really the only ones to know what it was like to see that positive pregnant test, to feel those first kicks at 17 weeks, to know that he got the hiccups every day at 7:00 am and 4:00 pm, and to know that the first moment of Rip's life was the best of ours. Even our feelings and experiences during those times are different.

I know that time (I've developed a real dislike for time by the way) will help, that this will not always be such a constant on my mind. I guess the only real lesson to remember is that everybody has something going on in their lives, and even though you may not really understand it, you can be there to help them through it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Remember When

At Rip's service, our minister said something that I've thought about many times in these last few weeks. He said (and a friend had to remind me he said it, so much of that day was lost on me), that one day when Parke and I are old and gray, we will be sitting there in a house filled with our children and our grandchildren, and we will be able to look at each other and say "Life is good".

Today is Rip's original due date, a day I have been dreading all week. Even though I knew for a good bit of my pregnancy that he would not be born in December, it is hard on days like this not to think of the "what-ifs".

This morning I got up, grabbed my ipod, and headed to the beach. My plan was to walk and mope around. What I did not realize was that it is FREEZING outside, even worse by the water. To warm up, I started to run. It was amazing, I'd forgotten how much I love the freedom of running. I felt healthier and stronger than I have in such a long time. And I felt Rip with me every step of the way. I thought about how much I miss him, but also how much of him I carry with me.

When I turned around, wind-whipped and exhausted but happy, the Alan Jackson song "Remember When" came on the ipod. What has always seemed like a pretty cheesy country song suddenly made a lot of sense. The last part of that song reminded me of what our minister said...

Remember when thirty seemed so old
Now looking back it's just a stepping stone
To where we are,
Where we've been
Said we'd do it all again
Remember when
Remember when we said when we turned gray
When the children grow up and move away
We won't be sad, we'll be glad
For all the life we've had
And we'll remember when

Rip will always be my little boy, and I will always love and miss him. I will always wish with all of my heart that he was still here. But I also expect to get old and gray (well, maybe just old), to have a full life with children and grandchildren, to have many "remember whens", and to be able to say at the end of it all that life is good.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Whatever Works

My mom and I were talking this morning about how different people are when you lose someone you love. I have now read many, many books about the process of losing a child (some of them really good, some of them not so much) and I get that there are certain stages that we all go through but I think whatever gets you through those stages is very different for everyone.

I call the stage I am in now my bubble wrap stage. Most of the time, I feel like there is almost a shield between me and the rest of the world. I kind of bumble along in my little cocoon, not exactly feeling numb but just insulated from anything going on around me. I am actually pretty content in my bubble wrap phase but every once in a while something will pierce through and pop the bubbles (the other day it was some red and white mints that I ate in the hospital) and I am a mess.

It's those messy times where I've really learned what really works to help get me through all of this.

One of the things that has surprised me is how much looking at pictures of Rip has helped me. As the weeks went by, I found myself forgetting things about him and that scared me. Without really thinking about what I was doing, I ordered pictures we had taken on Rip's first days. When they arrived in the mail a couple of days later the first thing I noticed were his ears. He had the funniest looking ears I have ever seen, they had a weird little divot in the middle that made them look like the world's tiniest elephant ears. It was the first thing I noticed when I held him after he was born and I could not believe I'd forgotten about them. Even though of course I cried looking at the pictures, it also made me smile that I never have to forget again. I have the best elephant ear shot beside my bed, and it makes me so happy.

Those pictures are helping me get through this bubble wrap stage, and like I said, whatever works.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Won't I be SURprised When...

Recently, it was pointed out to me that I misspelled "surprised" all over this darn blog...which is just soooooo typical. And even though I've fixed the misspellings on the actual page, I can't figure out how to change the name of blog to include that all important "r"...which is also soooooo typical.

Either way, whether I am "suprised" or "surprised", I think I will be thankful to look back at all of these posts this time next year and see how far we have come.

I also now understand why nobody seemed all that "surprised" when I never won a Spelling Bee.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Good Grief

I like to do things fast. In school, I was almost always the first person done with my test. I like lists of tasks that I can check off. I always wake up in the morning with my head swimming of things I need to do, thinking I will never get them done, and knock them out by noon. My speed reading is legendary (well, not really, but several people know about it.)

The thing is, with all of these things I can do so quickly, it is mostly just so I can get to the end. For example, with the books, I almost always read the end of the book first. That way, I know the outcome, knowing full well through whether the hero will be saved or ruined. Then I get them there as quickly as I can...it's not knowing how the ending is going to go that stresses me out, so I get there as fast I can.

If there is one thing I have learned in these past three weeks, it is that you cannot get to the end of grief quickly no matter what you do. I was a psychology minor in college, and listened to all of those "stages" the experts listed when it came to loss. I probably even finished the test in record time. What I did not realize was that you could go through your anger, sadness, denial, and acceptance all within an hour (if not a few minutes) and then do it all over again. Thousands of times. I did not realize you could literally be on your knees crying so hard you can barely breathe, only to be laughing an hour later.

I am not "good" at grief. I want it to be over. I want to read the end of the book and find out whether or not I turn out okay. But no matter how hard I try I can't outrun, check off, or get to the end of grief before it is done with me. Doesn't mean I have to like it though.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Two Things...

When I was pregnant, I wrote a lot on here about what not to say/do around pregnant women. I completely understand that there is just no appropriate thing to say/do when someone has lost a child. Nobody is going to be able to tell us what we want to hear (that this whole thing never happened), but most people are so sincere in saying that they are so sorry for our loss that it does actually help. That being said, in the past two weeks I have experienced two circumstances that I just thought I should write down as what, under no circumstance, should you do when someone has experienced the loss of their baby.

My first encounter with "what not to do" occurred when I got back to work. I received plenty of hugs and warm welcomes, all of which made re-entering the work place much easier. Even those that did not know about Rip were so sympathetic when they heard the news... that is until I ran into a woman I did not know very well from another office.

She knew I was pregnant so she asked how the baby was doing. While this is always hard, I can hardly blame people for asking a totally understandable question. It was only after I explained what happened that she came up with a real gem. "Oh" says she, " at least it was just a baby and not really like you lost a child." I'm really not prone to violence but let's just say she is lucky not to have a black eye right now.

As bad as that was, I think this second situation was worse, if only because it occurred with a "professional". Parke and I went to see a grief counselor, with my hope that she could provide us with guidance and better ways to cope. What she did was talk for the full hour about how life was really about loss... how she in fact had lost two husbands, a father, and a girl she went to college with...how her daughter has also lost a child but that she (the trained grief counselor) had been too sad to go to her daughter...and then just when I thought I could not be any more depressed she ended the session by sticking her iphone in our faces so that we could watch a two minute video of her happy healthy baby granddaughter squealing and laughing...just in case we did not realize what we had lost, I guess. Then she charged us one hundred dollars and asked when we would be back. Needless to say, we won't.

I realize I am a little on edge right now, and probably a lot more sensitive than I will ever be again. And I know these people probably meant well. But honestly folks...

So, that is my vent for the day.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Don't you know I like my life that way...

You will probably think I am crazy after reading this post, but as Pat Green says, if this is crazy then I like my life that way.
My mother-in-law was kind enough to get us fuel for our gas fire as an anniversary gift. The "gas guy" came by yesterday to fill the tank while I was not there...by the time I did get there the house smelled strongly of gas. I figured blowing up the house at this point would be the last straw for a lot of people, so I called the company.
They were little to no help, had me running around turning on and off gas and finally asking me to re-light the pilot light to the darn fire. I am not mechanically inclined under the best of circumstances and I can barely get myself dressed right now so you can imagine how thrilled I was to be playing with fire.
So there I sat, my big head directly in the fireplace, mashing every button in sight trying to get this alleged pilot light to do its thing while the whole place still smelled terrible, no clue whether I was making things better or worse.
I lost it. I screamed and yelled and shook my fist at God, let Him know I could not handle ONE MORE THING.
And the fire came on.
And then I heard very clearly, "you will have another baby."
And then I cried some more.

So...I realize that makes me sound crazy and I don't care. If it takes me melting down (no pun intended) over a fireplace in North Charleston, SC to feel God again then so be it. I know that I will have so many more days of breaking down and crying my eyes out, but I also now know that we are going to be okay. That's my kind of crazy.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Good Mama

Growing up, I was one of the best dressed little girls around. My mother made sure of that.
When I was in elementary school, each outfit was picked out the night before (complete with matching hair bow) and every afternoon when Mama picked me up the question was the same, "Did anybody tell you how cute you looked?" I would roll my eyes and say no (although 9 times out of 10 they had), to which she would reply, "Well, they were thinking it."

As I grew older and came to appreciate the power of looking good, my mother went right on making sure that "they were thinking it." Each milestone in my life was marked with the perfect outfit. My friends were in amazement when I was the only person that they knew that still got a "trousseau" when I got married (which was really just a bunch of cute clothes).
When I was pregnant and on bed rest in the hospital, Mama rushed down each week with Old Navy Maternity bags bulging because as she put it, "nobody ever feels better from looking bad." And it was true, I was the cutest girl on the Labor and Delivery ward.

One of the hardest parts for me after Rip was born was how little I got to do for him. Even before he got sick, the nursery changed his diapers and fed him and even when I got to hold him there were so many wires that he never really felt like mine.
When things got bad and we knew we were going to lose him, I'd done very little that made me feel like his Mama. That last day in the NICU, our wonderful nurse gave me the best opportunity. She let me pick out his outfit. I went through bags and bags of clothes at the hospital, making sure to find something comfortable, cute, and just a little trendy. When I held him that day, he finally felt like mine. I knew that I'd done something for him that showed how much I loved him, something only the best mothers did.

After we lost Rip, I still looked like I just had a baby. My swollen chest and pouchy stomach were just a constant painful reminder. Getting dressed and finding something that fit left me sobbing.
The day before the funeral, my mom and sister took a very sedated me, put me in a dressing room and went to work finding the most figure flattering dress TJ Maxx had to offer, complete with sky high heels.
To say I was dreading the day of the funeral would be an understatement. Somehow I got up and in to my new dress. I made it through the service and to the receiving line. The weather was perfect and as I stood there with the sun on my face, I felt peaceful. I felt like myself, even a little pretty.
I know that clothes and outfits are just materials and all of this may sound a little petty. But behind each outfit is the security of my mother's love. That is what she taught me, and what I tried to give to Rip on that last day. Because I know that is what a good mama does.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Why I Wish Life Was Like A Cooking Show

I spent the morning lying on the couch while Parke watched the Food Network, and I realized I would really prefer life to be like a cooking show.
The beauty of these shows is that they are generally only allotted about thirty minutes to create something from nothing.
The first part is when everything is raw and not so good. In my case, this would translate to bawling my eyes out 24 hours a day, sitting around in my pajamas, with little or no motivation to do anything (aka this morning).
But then in the blink of an eye, you are at the fifteen minute mark. Here, something raw and not so good has started to simmer, now you are starting to get somewhere. Maybe this means I am up and dressed, tearing up a time or two, but basically holding it together.
And then with or without the BAM! (depending on whether or not you are an Emeril fan), you have the finished product. You have hours of mixing, stirring, and baking, all of which have produced something so much better than you started with...but nobody really seemed to have to do any of the work. It just kind of happened, all in thirty minutes or less.
And that is what I wish would happen, I could just say the magic words and I would be "there" wherever there ends up being...the place where we are healed and better than we were to begin with.
I know that is not an option, I know that even Emeril himself actually has to do all of those hours of hard work to come up with the perfect meal. But it would be really nice if he (and I) didn't.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Today Sucked

Today was just a really sucky day. I've pretty much been crying since the minute I woke up. Parke and I got in a stupid fight. We are both just too sad and worn out to be much help to each other. I feel lonely and scared and like this whole situation is pretty much unbearable.
Everyone keeps telling me that this is just going to take time, that one day it will get better and I hate that. I am not a patient person, I don't want to have to go through days and days of miserable. I want to fast forward through this whole awful process, fix it for me and for Parke and for our families.
My basic feeling is that this just was not supposed to happen and for today at least, I don't want anybody to comfort me about how or why it did.
So, bottom line, today sucked.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Heaven Help Us

As a Christian, I have always been pretty vague. A "yeah, sure I believe we all go to heaven and God, yep he sounds like a good enough guy" kind of Christian. I have had times in my life where I have been closer to God, and I have had times where I felt like I pretty much had it all under control.
Since Rip has been gone, one of the things I have been so surprised by is my desire to read the Bible. At first I just could not figure it out, I was so angry at God for taking my baby, why in the world would I want to read all about Him?
But then it started to make sense. If I truly believed in God, then I truly believe my child is now in Heaven. Not that I have not questioned my faith these past few weeks (I have), but at the end of the day that is what I believe. I believe Rip is in Heaven with God and I, as his mother, need to know as much as possible about where he is and who is taking care of him.
I would never have sent him to daycare without doing plenty of research, or left him with a babysitter without a background check...so why would I not learn everything I can about his new home?
Learning about God and Rip's Heaven is the best way I can continue to be his mama. And thankfully, everything I've read leads me to honestly believe that my baby is well loved and still perfect in every way. And that makes me so happy.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Good Stuff

Today is my third wedding anniversary. Before we had and lost Rip, I was terrified of being happy, or I guess I should say I was terrified of sounding too happy. I was so afraid that God would hear me and realize nothing bad had happened to me yet, and BOOM! happiness gone.

When I was pregnant, I never talked about how excited I was. I did not take fun pictures of myself, I treated the ultrasound pictures like they were expendable. I tried to stay on the down low, hiding out so that nothing bad would happen. But then the worst thing imaginable happened anyway.

Don't get me wrong, I know that what happened to Rip (although I may never understand it), did not happen because I was too happy or not happy enough. It just makes me sad that I was not swinging from the chandeliers, shouting about how excited I was for this baby, because that was how I really felt and I should have shared that feeling with the world.

That same goes for this anniversary. It has been my policy never to act too in love, to be wary of public declarations just in case it were to all go south. These past few weeks (months really), my husband has shown more strength of character than I could ever have imagined. He took care of me in the hospital, he took care of Rip when I could not after my surgery, and he has held me every night since Rip passed away. How could I not love this person? I should want everybody to know how good this man is.

I don't mean to sound like a cheesy "love/live life to the fullest" campaign, but I don't know how else to put it. Life is too short to be afraid. Terrible things happen, but I will try my hardest not to miss out on all of the good and exciting just so those terrible things won't know where I live. That just really isn't how life works.

Pretty Much Sums It All Up

Here is an email my mother wrote to her friends and colleagues after Rip died, it makes me sad right now but I know one day I will be glad I kept it...

Hey Best Girl in the World,
I haven't sent this to you before because I don't want in any way to make this awful time harder for you. I wrote this originally to send out to my work people, but since that time others have sent it on to church, etc. It has helped me not to have to go over details or ask a lot of questions. You can use parts or none of it, and remember it was sent from my so much less important than yours perspective. I love you so much more than you can imagine and want you to do whatever possible to get through this as easily as you can so if it would help, send something and if not, don't.
I'll talk to you later,
LoveMama

Dear friends,
As most of you know by now, my family lost our much beloved and anticipated baby last week when he contracted a bacterial infection one week after his birth on November 11. While we are heartbroken at the loss, so many of you have been a part of this journey with me and I wanted to share our story with you here in the way that real friends do.
Anne is my oldest daughter, and her pregnancy was a hard one, including hospital bed rest for 5 weeks before the planned date for delivery. She passed that time with a happy determination to do whatever it took to get her son here. Many of you sent gifts to help entertain her and I spent many hours there describing you all to her and telling her so many stories of our working together that she felt like she knew you. It was a happy time for us even in the middle of a stressful situation. When the big day was finally here, we went down to Charleston on Wednesday, Nov 10 to be there when the baby was born on Nov 11 at 7:30 am.
We literally jumped up and down outside of the operating room when we heard his first cries. He was perfect- a combination of both his mother and father, although of course I will tell you here that I did think he looked more like "our" side.
We celebrated his arrival in the same way most families do, with lots of tears and joy and photos to record it all. I left on Saturday to come back to Greenville, planning to return later in the next week when they both came home from the hospital to stay.
On Sunday afternoon I got a call from Anne that the baby had begun to run a fever and would be transferred from the current hospital to MUSC which has state of the art facililities for premature babies. I immediately headed back to join them and will never regret making the decision to be there.
Leaving Greenville, we could have never guessed how the week would unfold, or that by Saturday we would be attending a service honoring the short life of John Robert Harris. ( As the minister said at the church that day, those who knew him well called him "Rip".)
Like all of you, I have devoted the majority of my life protecting my children from harm, and I am nothing if not a woman who likes to be in control of every situation. So when we were told the diagnosis and that we would soon be given our baby so that Anne and Parke could hold him while he took his last breath, it was unbearable to think of seeing my child suffer in this way. Part of my writing this down for you is to tell you this: When I faced the darkest hour and had no sufficient strength of my own, God was there. He held us when nothing else could. I know it as sure as I am writing this. His Grace was sufficient, just like we've always heard. Never doubt that it is true.
As for me and my family, we are heartbroken but determined to heal and life will go on-- just as it should.
People have assured me that crying is a necessary thing in these situations, but I have to say I think it is highly overrated. I have cried so many tears sometimes I think I will get dehydrated, and I am pretty sure some people have begun to avoid walking my way for fear of setting off another round of tears.This grieving stuff is hard work, but every day gets a little better and there is so much hope in the future.
So many people keep asking how they can help and I have really tried to pay attention to the things that do, mainly so that I can help someone else one day.This week has been a horrible nightmare in many ways, but I wouldn't have missed a minute of being there. When I think of the sweetest moments, it is the doctor who cried when he gave us the diagnosis, the man in the hospital waiting room who gave me his blanket in the middle of the night, the friends and family who came to be with us at a time when it would have been so much more comfortable for them to stay away.
So what can you do for me?You can be the one who sheds a tear for someone else's pain. You can be the one who gives up your own comfort to comfort a stranger. People need other people-- you can be the one to go along side them even when you don't know what to say.
When I think of our baby, it will always be with love at the perfect gift he was, and awe at how one tiny 5lb 4oz little boy changed my life forever in only one week. I know God has a purpose for each life, and some people live for a long time without ever making a difference to others. It is my hope that maybe in your journey with me as friends Rip Harris can make a difference in yours.
Thank you so very much for your friendship, kindness, prayers and support. They all mean more than you can ever imagine.
Sincerely,
Kim