Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Do Unto Others...

One of the good and bad things about being in a situation like mine, is that you tend to hear about a lot of other babies and parents who are going through terrible situations...the downside is a lot of these stories have already ended badly, and leave me thinking about how unfair life can be.

On the other hand, a lot of these stories, no matter the ending, are inspirational...grief can be very self-centered and sometimes it takes hearing about someone else's pain to make me realize I am not the only person with needs in this world.

Someone sent me a story that touched me in such a way last week.  This family, the Hardy's, is keeping a blog of their journey after the birth of their daughter, Clara.  You can read about Clara's condition on the blog, I am sure I would not be able to describe it with the eloquence her parents already have.

Clara is scheduled to have surgery tomorrow...as someone who has received so many prayers (from people I love and strangers alike)...and I am sure will be asking for many more...I feel it is the least I can do to pass along their story.

The last thing I want to hear is that "everything happens for a reason" (whether it is true or not)...but when something has happened that seems beyond reason, it helps to be there for someone else's everything.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Way I See It Part II

For some reason, ever since I posted this earlier this morning, I've had a nagging feeling.  I don't know why, everything I wrote is true...I guess it still just felt a little too, "So (clap my hands) that's that!".
I think I just need to be very clear and honest here...that is certainly not that.  No matter how many times I am able to see God in our loss, it does not take away from the pain of losing. 
In all of the books I have read, the one I appreciated least was one where a mother said that immediately after losing her child, she dropped to her knees and thanked God for taking him...I think she was either lying to herself then or she is lying to me now.
All of this is a process, coming in fits and starts, and obviously my faith has been a big part of my healing.  I just don't want to give the impression that a magic wand was waved and all was well. 
At this point I am able to be thankful for many things, and still very much a work in progress on all of the rest. But we've come a long way, and I'm okay with that.

The Way I See It

*Starting to star the ones that might be sad for family, read at your own risk

I think every person who experiences a loss asks the question "why?"...I think every person questions their own existence, God's existence...every person eventually has to make some sort of peace within his or herself in order to go on.
When Rip was in the hospital, I was so helpless.  I could do nothing to help my child.  It sounds like such a cliche, but it was quite literally like waking up in a nightmare...I was in physical pain from the surgery, my mind was all over the place from pain killers and hormones and emotions, I hadn't slept in days, and all I could do was sit there and watch as my baby got worse.
At some point, the doctors allowed Parke and me to sit in on their "rounds"...which in theory is a great idea, where you as the parents can listen to the doctors discuss "the patient" and then ask questions...in practice it was horrifying to hear your child discussed as "the patient" followed by longer and longer lists of medical terms, none of which sound good.  As Rip's mother I felt desperate to understand, trying to grasp on to some handle of the situation.
It was during one of these meetings when I felt like I just could not take anymore, I could not sit there and listen to them discuss this "infant male" for one more minute without losing my mind, when I heard a voice in my head say very clearly, "Anne, you need to relax, I will protect him."
Of course I thought it was God.  And I relaxed immediately.  Rip was going to be okay, God was protecting him! I told everybody in my family what I felt and heard, I didn't listen to anything else the doctors said.
And then Rip died. I have never felt so betrayed.
I was confused for such a long time...I know what I heard (despite the painkillers).  I know what I heard and I know that I felt peace after I heard it.
It's taken me four and a half months but this is how I see it...I still believe that was God, and I believe he did protect Rip.
I believe that Rip is God's child who was in pain, and he protected him in a way that he will never have to feel pain again.  He protected Rip in a way that I could not.
Now, it's not like I am fine with Rip's death because this happened.  Far from it, I am in turns furious, shocked, despairing...but like everyone else, I have to make my peace in order to go on.
There are still a million more questions out there, all of which have been asked with no answer...why Rip, why us, why, why, why? But I don't have the answer to those questions, and I don't think that I ever will.  What I do have is a belief that when I heard "I will protect him"...that was a promise that was not broken.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's Complicated

Praying for a baby after our loss is so complicated...
The first thought that always pops into my mind is to pray for Rip to come back...I haven't completely lost my mind yet, so I know this is impossible and illogical, but if I am honest that is what comes to mind first.
Then I feel like I need to pray for God to tell Rip how much we love him, how my praying for another baby has nothing to do with how much I miss him, or how much I think about him...the guilt thing again, seemingly ever present.
When I move on to praying for a pregnancy, I pray for an easy one...I know that it won't be, at least mentally, but the thought of going through another physically dangerous pregnancy is enough to leave me in a ball on the floor.
So I pray for a healthy baby, but then I remember that technically Rip was a healthy baby, so I pray for a healthy baby who lives...which makes me feel guilty again.
And when I finally finish with all of that, I wonder if I should have been praying on my knees.
It's not that I don't think that God doesn't know what I want, or that if I get one word wrong I am going to ruin everything...but for some reason, praying for this very important thing the "right" way seems crucial me.  I get frustrated when I can't put something so clear in my heart into words.
Anyway, I think by the time I finish my prayer, God is probably as exhausted as I am.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Choice

Today I sat down to write a story from when Rip was in the hospital...it's a great story...one that I will write soon because I want to remember it...but thinking about it made me sad, and it would have made the people I love who read this blog sad and I decided not to write about sad things today.
And that felt good.
The decision not to write about something sad on a beautiful sunny Friday shows me that I am starting to heal a little bit...that I am starting to have some small amount of control on my grief where I used have none.
It feels good not to be completely at the mercy of my emotions...giving in to each and every one.  I am so far from being over this grieving process, but Rip is my son and to be able to grieve for him and tell his story the way I want to...not just because I am following some pattern...it feels better this way.
So hopefully I will be able to keep making a choice day to day about what feels right, I think Rip will tell me how his story should be told, I just have to keep listening.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Revelation of Sorts

I am still having a hard time with trust.  I think it is to be expected after having the rug pulled out from under you like we have, but I can become pretty easily overwhelmed these days. 

I was driving home from work yesterday, thinking about whether I actually have the strength to do this all over again...if and when I do get pregnant again, am I actually going to be able to make it through those 40 weeks, with all of the possible things that can and do go wrong?

I've always been prone to panic attacks, and my palms were already starting to sweat, my throat was already starting to close when a thought popped into my head...

Growing up, in church, in Sunday School..I was always told that I was a child of God.  Well, if God truly sees me as his child...and he loves me even one-tenth as much as I love Rip...then that's a whole different story...because a parent's love is something that I CAN trust.

I can trust in a parent wanting the best for his child, I can trust that a parent would want to protect his child, I can trust that a parent listens when his child is crying, I can trust that a parent would do anything for his child...a parent's love is something I know, it's a trust that I can believe in.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Nowhere to go but up

Friday marked four months since Rip died.  It was a beautiful almost spring day in Charleston, and for maybe five minutes on my drive home from work, I forgot about what happened.  I was thinking about what Parke and I were doing this weekend, enjoying having the windows rolled down and whatever song was on the radio, and for the first time in months and months I just kind of got lost in my happiness.  It was awful.  Not the happy part, but the remembering part.  It was the first time in approximately 120 days that Rip has not been at least in the back of my mind somewhere. 

It's times like this that I am so glad I've started going to a wonderful counselor, who told me that I would have moments of "forgetting" (even though of course I will never really forget), who told me that is a normal, healthy part of the healing process but warned me that I would feel guilty afterwards.

Guilty and shocked and sad.  I even felt disappointed in myself, how could I forget, even for a few minutes?  I think this is what is hard to explain to other people too...I think about Rip all of the time.  That was literally the first time I have forgotten in four months...and it felt like the worst thing I have ever done.  Just another of those horribly mixed emotions that comes with grief.  And this process of learning to move forward with my life, there is a certain level of comfort in being at rock bottom, being asked to let go of that comfort is almost more terrifying.

Life is moving forward, and for lack of other options I am moving with it, but it isn't always easy.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Telling the Story

I've always liked my scars...they help to tell my story.
There is one on my knee, courtesy of my family dog (the aptly named "Milo the Biting Beagle").
There is the huge scrape on my upper thigh, from the sixth grade when my protractor escaped my book bag and left its mark...and thus began my lifelong hatred of mathematics.
And before now my biggest scar was on the back of my right leg, where my "beauty mark" suddenly turned into a big ugly mole and had to be removed immediately.
But now I have an four inch, off-center slash on my lower abdomen where Rip Harris came into the world.
A few people have made comments like, " I hate that you had to have a c-section", or "That scar must be a constant reminder".
And yes it is, one that I am thankful for...every time I touch that scar, I am reminded of my son.
That scar tells the biggest part of my story yet, the story of how I became a mother.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Laugh to keep from crying

No matter how bad things get (and I think I can definitively say our current situation is pretty darn bad), I have tried to keep at least a little bit of my sense of humor intact.  That is not to say that I sit around laughing all the time, or every day, or even every week...but when there is humor to be found I do still try to find it...
Which takes me to this afternoon...
I was minding my business waiting in line at the local grocery store, picking up sub sandwiches for dinner (Susie Homemaker I am not), when an older man busted in the front door and, after scanning the twelve or so people in line, zeroed in on me and started pointing furiously-
"YOU! I know YOU know...where do I find the frozen pizzas??!!"
And yeah, of course I knew where to find the frozen pizzas, but to pointed out as someone who automatically looks like they have intimate knowledge of junk food locale is pretty humiliating.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

This Moment

It hit me the other day just how much will be determined by my actions right now.  Rip's death will almost certainly be the defining moment of my life...I guess the question still remains what it will define.

I've heard plenty of times that as long as I live, Rip's memory also lives.  But I think there is more to it than that.  If I were to give up here, curl into a ball and say forget it, this is all too hard...and there are plenty of times where that seems like the best option...then I think that would be failing as Rip's mother.  If Parke and I were to give up, say it's been a good run, but this is all too much...and I'm sure we've both thought it...then we would be failing as parents.

I don't want Rip's legacy to be his death.  I don't want the memory of my son to be when everything fell apart.  I feel like somehow, if something good can come of this, if Rip's life can continue because I kept telling his story, because his parents still love each other, because his story still touches people, helps people long after that one moment that changed everything...well, then Rip's legacy is much more about life than death.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Thinking Makes it So...

Recently I've been reading The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale.  It's a pretty powerful book (no pun intended).  The idea that the way you look at a situation can affect the outcome of that situation is one that is appealing to me more and more these days.

For instance, this morning I came across a quote.  It read, "The only thing that makes life possible is a permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next." (Ursela K. LeGuin).  Many times since we lost Rip I've said surely, if things can go so wrong so fast, surely they can go right just as fast.  I think the "not knowing" is the scariest thing in the world, but maybe if I can get my mind in the right place, it doesn't have to be.  I have almost literally been to hell, and I am very slowly making my way back...I have no way of knowing what comes next, but I have nothing left to lose in believing that something good could be around the corner.

I'm not naive, I'm just not ready to give up.

I guess I'm starting to realize I've got nothing to gain by sitting here thinking something terrible is going to happen all of the time.

I read a book by another woman who lost a child recently, and when she was pregnant with her second child she denied herself any pleasures of the pregnancy.  She didn't take pictures, didn't find out the gender,didn't name the child, didn't buy baby clothes, etc. etc.

And I get that, when you've seen the worst you don't want to set yourself up for disappointment again.

But I really hope I'm not like that.  I know I'm going to be afraid, maybe even terrified at times...but I would like to think I will be able to find some hope in the not knowing.

One of the main principles in The Power of Positive Thinking is believe and succeed.  It can't hurt.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What If Syndrome

Sometimes I feel enormously guilty.  I can't help it, I think it just comes with the territory.  I look at Parke when he is having a really bad day, or my mom, or my seventeen year-old sister, and I can't help but think that I caused all of this.  If I had just done something differently none of these people would be so sad right now. 

Don't even get me started on Rip...what if I had gone to a different hospital, asked more questions...the list goes on and on...

When I am thinking rationally, I know that life can't be re-lived and how in the world could I ever have known the most joyful thing in the world...wanting a baby...could have led to so much sadness.  But to be honest, rational thinking is not one of my strong points these days.

And then there is the "what if" of doing it all over again.  As a mom who lost her first baby, I just don't know that I can, as in "do I have the ability", have a live child.  There is a part of me that knows down to my very core that some part of this sadness will not go away (and some part of this sadness will never go away) until there is a living, breathing baby here with us.

But then the "what if" creeps in and I start to wonder if that is even possible...what if I try to fix us and I only end up making it worse again.  I don't know that there is going to be answer to that question until there is one.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I Believe, I Believe, I Believe...

I think some of my friends and family have been surprised by how much I have talked about God and faith lately.  Even I've been a little surprised by the new spiritual zest in my life.

As I've said before, I was raised a Christian...but I've always been a fairly silent believer.  I was never one to break down the church doors anytime they opened, or spout off bible verses from memory.  If asked about my faith, I may have been a little uncomfortable...it was important to me, it just wasn't something I discussed.

The difference is that now, when I least expect it, I remember that my son died.  It starts with a sinking feeling in my stomach that something is terribly wrong, and then I remember that Rip is gone.  I think, Rip is gone and there is nothing I can do to change that for the rest of my life...why am I still standing...why am I still able to go on with my day...why was I smiling an hour ago?

And then the answer is there.  The only reason I am able to do those things is because Rip is in heaven.  The only reason my son is safe is because there is a God.  The only reason I am able to smile is because I will see Rip again one day.  The only reason I have comfort is because I have faith.

So yes, I realize that sometimes these days I sound like a bit of a religious fanatic.  But I thank God every day for that too.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Understanding the Past

My father's grandmother, Gram, was my first best friend.  She was also our next door neighbor from the time I was two until my family moved when I was in the second grade.  She made me feel like I was the most important person in the world... she called me her "Biggy Biggy Sweetheart", taught me how to tie my shoes, read to me until I am sure her eyes crossed, fed me massive amounts of her "special chocolate sauce" (and never once scolded me when the sugar high set in)...basically spoiled me rotten.

When my family outgrew our house and needed to move, my parents begged Gram to move with us...but she was stubborn and independent, and insisted on leaving the south and moving back to her hometown of Philadelphia where she would "not be a bother".  Gram died when I was nineteen, and I only saw her a handful of times after she moved, but I received many letters in her beautiful (if almost unreadable) script, checking on her Biggy Biggy Sweetheart...still making me feel like the most important person in the world.

It wasn't until I was older and she was gone that I learned more about her life.  I learned that she gave birth to triplets (one of them being my grandfather) before there was any such thing as fertility drugs.  I learned she lost her husband early and tragically.  I learned she had a stroke and had to re-learn almost everything before I was even born.  And I learned that she lost her first child, a son, when he was very young.

I've thought of my Gram often since Rip died. I think about the life she led, how much strength and determination she had and how much I admired her...when I was little and loved her only for the love she gave me...when I got older and learned who she was...and now, when I am learning who I am.  I understand now just how incredible she was to have made it through all of those obstacles and still be the amazing, graceful woman that she was, someone who lived every day she was given to the fullest even when she had every reason not to.

I do not doubt that she was at peace when her time came, I imagine that she felt, as I imagine that I will feel, that her work on earth was done...it was time for her to go see her little boy again. 

I have little doubt that she is with him and she is with Rip now, taking care of him just like she did me, making him her Biggy Biggy Sweetheart and spoiling him rotten.  All of them encouraging me to live this life as gracefully as a I can until the day I come to join them.

Pride

I am proud of us.
Most days are hard, and I have to take the time to cry and vent about how hard they are, but I feel like I need to also take the time to say that I am proud of us.
If you asked me a year ago if I thought I could ever survive losing a child, I would have said no.
But four months after the most horrible thing I could have imagined happening in my worst nightmares, I am still standing.  Parke is still standing.  Our whole family is still standing.  And we are still standing together.
Every day we get up...even if some days it takes us a little longer.
Every day we get dressed...some of us even try to look our best on days we feel our worst.
Every day we pray...we pray to God for guidance even when we ask him why.
Every day we try to do the things we know we need to do to heal our hearts, our bodies, and our minds.
Every day we are trying our very best.
And for that reason I am so proud of us.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The answer is no

Parke put it best the other night when he said, "the universe is not a fair place."
And yeah, I know, nobody ever said life was fair.
I started reading a book the other day that listed all of the things that they suggested parents who have lost a child should do before trying again.
Most of them I can get behind...go to the dentist, exercise, find a support system...
But then they hit me with this one, "make sure you and your husband would be okay if it happens to you again."
No.
No, I would not be okay if I lost another baby.
I am not okay with losing my first child.
What about every person at my gym, church, and office who all seem to have a baby with them...is anyone asking them if they are okay with losing that child? Of course not.  So why should I have to?
If I ever get pregnant again, I don't care if it is tomorrow or ten years from now, it is because I have taken a leap of faith.
I know the world is not a fair place.  I know that bad things happen to good people. But honestly, I think the universe has asked enough of me for now.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

That's the Girl Who...

Life after loss is full of contradictions.
One minute I am full of hope, the next I am terrified.
I'm afraid of being "the girl who"...as in "that's the girl whose baby died", and yet one of my biggest fears is the day someone forgets my sweet baby died.
I spend half my day dreaming of the family I want to have and the other half thinking of the family I will never have.
I want control of everything but am reminded daily that I have control of nothing.
Pick yourself up and get knocked back down.
One step forward, two steps back.
Crying, laughing, screaming...somehow I get up and put one foot in front of the other.
It's enough to make a crazy person insane.