Sunday, February 27, 2011

Explaining the Unexplainable

I know that I don't owe an explanation to anyone, and I think most people don't question why I would want to have another baby after we lost Rip.  But sometimes I question myself, how even after all that we have been through my biggest prayer is to have more children.

When I was probably around four years old, my mom found me just lying on the bed, doing nothing.  When she asked what I was up to, I replied " Oh, just layin' around, waitin' on a baby to pop out."

I guess that is what this time of my life feels like now.  I've always wanted to be a mom, for as long as I can remember.  When I got pregnant with Rip, had Rip, then lost Rip...well it just made that desire even stronger.  I know now what it actually feels like to be someones mama...but I have nowhere to put all of those feelings.

I've said it before and I am sure that I will say it again, it is so hard to be a mama to someone who is not physically on this earth.  I cannot write the words here that would describe the way I feel about Rip.  But no matter what I do, I can't hold him, or put him in a stroller, or feed him breakfast...those are the things that having him left my arms wanting to do that I just can't change.

I also honestly believe that Rip is safe.  I believe that Rip is being cared for in a way that I cannot even fathom.  I even believe that sometimes when the missing him gets to be too much that his little presence makes itself known, just letting me know he is okay.  That gives me peace in my heart...but not in my arms.

I know many people worry that after you lose a child you want another baby to replace that child...but nobody will ever replace Rip.  The only thing our next child will be getting is a few extra doses of love and probably a lot of spoiled.

I guess the thing that I have had a hard time putting into words, even understanding myself, is I want more children because of Rip, not instead of Rip.

I've been waiting to be a Mama since I was four years old, I became one when I was twenty-nine, I had a little boy who told me more about life and love in seven days than I ever could have hoped to know, now I hope that I am lucky enough to pass on what I've learned.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Attittude

Here's the thing...some days are just bad.  You can try to dress them up, slap a smile on them, read all of the thoughts of the day and uplifting messages that you want...but they still stink.
Some days I just want to have a bad attitude.  I want to sit here and think about every last little thing that has not gone my way.  I want to clench my fist at every person who seems to have the world by the tail (don't worry, I won't swing, I'm really not prone to violence...yet).
I want to stomp my feet, throw a ketchup bottle, scream at the top of my lungs, maybe even pop a few fools upside their heads.
I want to say inappropriate things, and I want to do it where people can hear me.
I don't want to look on the bright side, believe things are going to get better, or give it time.
I will do all of those things, probably tomorrow.
But this is a terrible, horrible, crummy thing that I am going through here and it makes every other semi-rotten thing in my life seem that much worse.  So I would like a few good days just to stew in my moodiness.
Promise not to try to cheer my out of my mood and I promise not to mind when you cross the road if you see me coming.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Waiting on this Storm to Pass

A friend contacted me earlier in the week about a friend of hers who recently lost a baby a baby at full-term. 

It made my heart hurt to think of someone having to go through those first days again.  I honestly cannot think of anything more painful, looking back it almost makes me physically sick to remember it.

My friend asked me if I had any advice or resources I could pass along that might help, and I shot off a long email that was probably way more information than she ever wanted or needed on the subject, but it got me thinking that maybe I should write some of that information down here.  These are the things that have helped me to put one foot in front of the other, from that first awful day until now, when even though it doesn't always seem like it, I am able to recognize that things are getting (do get) better.

It should come as no surprise that my faith has helped me.  I literally don't think I would have been able to get up off the floor that first day or any day after if I did not think that Rip was safe in heaven.  Going to church, reading the bible, praying, all of those things make me feel closer to him...I am so thankful to have grown up in a family who believed.

Exercise has helped a lot.  Looking back, I was even more out of my mind (or drugged) than I thought, but I started doing a beginner boot camp about three and a half weeks after Rip died.  It sounds insane, and it probably was, but having some physical strength helped me get some mental and emotional strength back.  Just going for a walk in the fresh air has seriously saved me from some of my lowest moments.

I've already talked about the books that I've read that have helped me with the grief, but for me reading in general has been an escape.  It's surprised me, when I was in the hospital I could not concentrate long enough to read anything, but I've probably read 30 books since Rip's death.  You have to deal with your loss, but I see nothing wrong with a little escapism.  Certain movies are good for that too, I went to see Burlesque (yes, the one with Cher) a few weeks before Christmas and sat for two hours not thinking about anything but moving to LA and becoming a dancer...

I see a counselor, and I know that is something that is supposed to be really "hush hush" but good lord, how in the world am I supposed to know how to do this?  I have no idea how to deal with losing my child, why wouldn't I turn to a professional for help?  It's just nice to be able to talk to someone who has no emotional stake in the situation (and quite frankly, is being paid to listen to me vent for an hour).

Someone told Parke and me right after Rip died that the important thing for us to remember was to be kind to each other....and I think that has helped a lot.  I can honestly say that I love Parke more today than I ever have, but when two people are grieving it is always going to be at different rates and sometimes your first reaction is to be angry at the other person for not feeling the way that you do, but if you can remember to be kind no matter what... it helps get you through the tough parts.  Having family and friends who love you enough to let you be unkind is pretty important too...you're going to want to yell and scream, and you've got to get it out somewhere.

I guess the last thing that has helped me is being really honest.  Honest with myself and with other people.  I've tried to be honest about what I was feeling, what I did and did not want to do, and what I did and did not want others to do.  Sometimes it feels like I have been sad for a long time, and sometimes I feel like other people must be thinking "she's really got to get over this". But I'm not over it, not yet.  And that's okay.  I will get better with time, and until then I am just going to have to take each day as it comes and trust that this storm will pass.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Have a Little Faith

I've always had this pie in the sky idea of what a Sunday should be...go to church with your family, eat a big Sunday dinner, take a walk in the sunshine, rock on the porch before supper...growing up in a family of six, I know that the reality is someone will usually be crying because they can't find their shoes in time for Sunday School and someone else will "accidently" whack their brother in the face and have to be sent away from the table during Sunday dinner...but I even looked forward to the realities of having a family of my own one Sunday down the road.  Sundays are just made for family.

Since Rip's death, Sundays have been...I hesitate to say hard...hard is a word used for running a race or finishing a test, I've always associated the word hard with acccomplishing something...Sundays have been lonely.

I am lonely for what I thought I was starting and was not to be. 

 After a loss like mine, people will tell you that they know you will have children one day.  As much as you want to believe them, you first instinct is to think, how do you know?  And the truth is, they don't...they can't...I can't.  Nobody can know what is going to happen tomorrow...that's where faith has to come in to play.

At some point, I am going to have to start to have faith.  I am going to have to let go of the lonely and the sad and the afraid and have faith. I am going to have to have faith that one Sunday down the road someone will be crying because they lost their shoes, and someone will be in their room because they whacked their brother in the face at the dinner table. 

Maybe not this Sunday, but some Sunday, I will let go and have faith.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Where Does the Good Go

I guess it is safe to say that I have reached the dreaded "depression" phase of this grief thing.  I knew it was coming, everyone warned me it was coming...I've been waiting for it, dreading it like the plague for the past 14 weeks, so I don't know why it has taken me by surprise. 


According to "the experts", grief looks like this...





That is basically what it feels like too..I'm okay! No, I'm not! I'm okay! No, I'm not!


Symptoms of the depression phase include crying, sleeping a lot and then not sleeping at all, lack of appetite, lack of concentration, irritability, and bad hygiene (okay, I do draw the line there, my mom taught me that nobody ever feels better by looking bad, and I believe her).


Basically, none of this is anything I haven't experienced at least once in the past few months, but I think maybe the depression phase is just where is all catches up to you, your body finally just says give me a break!


There is a song called "Where Does the Good Go?", and part of it has been running through my head during this past week...
Where do you go with your broken heart in tow
What do you do with the left over you
and how do you know when to let go
where does the good go


That is kind of what this part of grief feels like to me...where did all of that good go?  What do I do with all of the stuff that comes with this loss...how do I accept a broken heart and what parts of it am I supposed to hold on to forever?


The good news is, according to all of those so-called experts, things get better after this...and I don't doubt they will.  I think that's another part of what makes the depression phase so hard...you know you are on your way to letting a part of your grief go and that can be whole lot scarier than just crying and sleeping too much.


So I am going to try to just take this phase as it comes (easier said than done, I'll admit) and give my body the break (breaks) it needs to heal.  Find out where the good goes.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Serenity Prayer

"Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Joy

I want to remember that first there was joy.
Always, when I remember him, before any bad memory can come back to me, there is a smile on my face.
Even now, three months later, when everything is still raw and painful, it is that way because I loved so much and I had so much joy...
I want to remember that first, and most importantly, there was joy...and that joy will come again.

Monday, February 14, 2011

All You Need is Love

Holidays are hard for me. I imagined that my love of holidays would only increase when I had children. Now even little holidays like Valentine's Day are sometimes just a reminder that I am a long way from where I thought I would be, buying little outfits with hearts on them etc etc. 

I read somewhere recently that a child who has died is sometimes with you like no living child can ever be.  And in a way that's true. I talk to Rip all of the time.  I tell him I love him hundreds of times every day. As time goes on and Parke and I have another child (or ten), they will grow up and go to school, learn to drive, go away to college...just as they should.  They will move away from me physically in a way Rip never will, because he is always with me. 

Now, I am not going to lie, most of the time this is small consolation.  One hundred days out of one hundred, I would rather have my child here on earth.  But I have to miss out on a lot, and I would like to think this time, on this holiday that is all about love, my child still gets to hear that his mama loves him...

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Peace That Surpasses All Understanding

Today, in a few quiet moments before I got out of bed, I leaned my head back, closed my eyes, and started thinking about Rip.  I pictured myself in the delivery room, and someone was laying him in a blanket on my chest.  I could almost feel the soft blanket and the light weight of him in that nook by my chin.

 I stopped myself because none of that ever happened, Rip was taken out of the delivery room before I got to do more than glance at him.  But then I closed my eyes again and let that image come back to me. I can picture him like this, holding him with no wires or monitors between us, this is what he looks like now. 

As time goes on, and I remember more and more about the time Rip was alive, not all of the memories I have are pleasant ones.  Sometimes I lie awake at night and remember a particularly difficult time...I start to panic...before I know it I am back in that moment and my only feeling is one of absolute terror.  But always, always before I reach a point of no return, a voice calls me back that says, "he's okay now, he's okay now, he's okay now."

This picture I have in my mind is perfectly peaceful.  He's okay now.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Just A Couple Days in Paradise...

Our wonderful, fabulous family and friends provided Parke and me with the opportunity to spend last week in Tortola, a little piece of paradise located in the British Virgin Islands.  We spent the week swimming, eating, and sleeping...basically just treated ourselves to some much needed TLC.  Somehow it is much easier to talk about things that need talking about when you are surrounded by warm beach breezes and swaying palm trees.  I think we came back with our souls restored.  Here are a few shots from our trip...
Right outside of our hotel...hard not to believe that there is good in the world when you see beauty like this

We saw SO MANY rainbows on this trip it was crazy...I was thrilled! I am taking them all as signs of good things to come.

I just think this picture is great, very handsome boy. 

Little sun on our faces, ready to face the world again


I think we both felt Rip with us so much of the time, and that made the trip all the better.  My great-grandmother used to say at the end of every blessing "Thank you Lord for everything and everybody"...those were the words that came to mind when I stood on the beach last week.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Recommended

I love to read, always have.  So over the past three months I've read book after book trying to find comfort, these are the books that have given me the most...

Pregnancy After a Loss: A Guide to Pregnancy After a Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death by Carol Cirulli Lanham
Believe it or not, this was the first book I read after we lost Rip.  Even though I was clearly nowhere near ready to have another child, this book gave me hope.  My initial reaction to Rip's death was " I can never go through this again." Almost immediately after was, "I want to have more children".  A friend of a friend sent this book to me and it was so encouraging.  The author lost her baby boy at full term and went on to have two healthy children.  Without being unrealistic, the book reminds you that most women go on to have healthy babies after a loss.  And truly, that is all I wanted to hear then and all that I want to hear now. 

Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations For Working Through Grief by Martha W. Hickman
A friend of my mom's who lost a child recommended this book to her and we have both loved it.  Each day has a short message on dealing with grief, which was especially great in those first days of grieving when my attention span was non-existent.  One of the recommendations out of this book was to start writing everything down, and I have been so glad that I did.

Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo
I can't remember how I heard about this book, I think it is relatively new.  After Rip died I became obsessed with learning about Heaven, finding out more about where my child was living.  This book answered a lot of my questions.  This little boy got a glimpse of heaven, and I think I just felt safer hearing it from a child's perspective...it helped me picture Rip there.

I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy by Angie Smith
Angie Smith lost her daughter in a different way than I lost Rip, but so many of her feelings were the same that it was comforting to read this book and feel like I could relate. I think it always helps to be able to see someone else in a similar situation and say okay, this worked for her or she felt like this too...it makes a situation that should never be normal feel a little bit more so.

Anne's House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery
Now I will admit, this probably would not do it for everyone, but I have already talked about my love of the Anne of Green Gables series.  When we were in Tortola, I re-read this one and realized that Anne (the character) also lost her first baby.  It was amazing to me that something written 100 years ago could capture the exact emotions that I am feeling today. 

I think in the end, you just want to find some words that make you feel like you aren't the only person in the world that has ever felt this (sad, angry, hopeless, confused, etc. etc.) on any given day, and these books have given me those words.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Where You Least Expect It...

Today I got excited about some cheese and peanut butter crackers.  You know the kind I am talking about, the bright orange kind, that should never be found in the natural world. 

Over these past three months I've paid a lot of lip service to the things that I am thankful for...friends, family, etc, etc...and that it all very true, but I am not kidding when I say that these peanut butter crackers are the first thing that I have felt unexpected, unmanufactured, out of the blue, just plain excitement over in twelve weeks.

Now, clearly, I am not still sitting here doing cartwheels over a packet of Toastchees or whatever they are called, but it was such a relief to know that spontaneous excitement is still there, that eventually there will be more and more to be excited about...hopefully something better than fake cheese and processed peanut butter, but I'll take what I can get.