Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ten Months

Today, Aaron would have been ten months old.  As I sit here and cry, I find myself wishing that I had the time to devote to some writing today...as my soul is overloaded with things that need to be said.  Unfortunately, I can only steal a moment away to share just a few thoughts.

My four-year-old caught me sniffling at the computer this morning as I was looking at pictures of Aaron and deciding which one to share with Facebook on what should have been his 'ten-month' birthday.  And, of course, she asked why I was crying.  As we've done each time before, I just let her know that Mommy missed Baby Aaron but that I would be okay in a few minutes.  She placed her hand lovingly aside my face and said, "And God doesn't mind if you're sad about Baby Aaron?  Because He understands." 

I suppose He probably does, but I find myself struggling to understand.  I find myself hoping against hope that I could find the innocence and the acceptance that our children seem to share so readily just when we need it most.  The faith of a child really is something to be admired. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Changed

You hear a lot of parents in the babyloss community who talk about the friendships and family relationships that they've lost since the death of their child.  Sometimes it happens because there is a big confrontation where hateful words are exchanged and irreparable damage is done.  Sometimes it just happens slowly because phone calls and visits taper off and the relationship quietly fades away.

We often hear that we have "changed" or we are "different."  Of course we are.  It would be foolish to think that we wouldn't be.  What others don't seem to realize is the depth of the ways in which we have changed and become different people.

In some ways, we learn to appreciate things more.  We truly understand what a blessing it is to be given each day and strive to make those moments count.  We work to cherish the relationships and the love that we are fortunate enough to have.  We do all of this because we have come to realize that the life we are living today could be altered in the blink of eye.

With that knowledge also comes an intense fear.  It becomes a near-constant companion and one that we may not even be aware that we carry around sometimes.
  - I find it in the moments when I am watching my children sleep or in the breaths that catch the smell of their shampoo...without warning, I find myself terrified to walk out of their room or to let go of them because the fear of losing them too overwhelms me.
  - It attacks me when I come across a photo of a friend's baby on Facebook.  I have become so used to the idea that "babies die" that my first thought now when I see a sleeping infant is "Oh God. What happened??"  Images of smiling, happy newborns actually catch me a little off-guard because that is no longer the norm for my haunted mind.
  - I have to swallow the panic sometimes when my husband takes the girls for an outing while I nap because my mind starts racing with the thoughts of what my life would be without the three of them.

So, if you want to know why we are different or why we look so tired and haunted...it is because we are.  

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Walk Your Own Path

For what it's worth, I actually wrote this post about a month ago when I had been reflecting on a few recent events...when I came back today, I found that it was still something heavy on my heart and I felt like it needed shared. 

I know that I have examined the topic of bitterness a few times and have always been glad to find that it isn't something with which I have had a terribly difficult struggle. I am human, so therefore I certainly have those brief moments where I simply can not help but think "She got to have a perfectly healthy baby and I had to bury mine??" Thank God those are few and far between.

For the majority of the time, I am genuinely happy and excited for others when I find out that they are expecting a baby.  I am thrilled when they get to experience a pregnancy journey free from the agony of losing a child.  While I wish that Aaron's pregnancy and birth had been free from sorrow, I would never begrudge anyone else that experience.  In fact, I pray that no one should have to find that kind of pain in their lives.

Lately I have seen so much bitterness and anger seeping from others in my life who have lost a child or lost multiple children and it has been weighing heavily on my heart.  I understand that "hurting people hurt" but I do not accept that as an excuse.  I firmly believe that you have two choices when faced with such a deep and crippling grief, because no matter what you do, you can not escape a change of epic proportions.

You can choose to let that grief consume you and let it proceed to fill every corner of your life.  You can choose to shut down and allow yourself to cease functioning in a world outside of your own.  You can choose to believe that your life completely ended in the moment when your loss occurred.

Or

You can choose to take ahold of the grief and make a decision to say that it will not define you.  You can choose to stand up and find a way to fit the "new you" back into the world that will continue to exist whether you choose to accept it or not.  You can acknowledge the fact that the life you used to know may have ended, but find strength in knowing that there is a new life you can create for yourself.

I believe that you will find days when it isn't possible to be in control of the grief or when it simply isn't possible to reach inside and find that kind of strength...but I also believe that if you don't wake up and try again the next day, you are condemning yourself to misery.

None of us asked for the pains we've been given.  Sometimes, we simply are not in control of the things that life lays at our feet.  And we may not always be in control of our reactions to what we are given.  I do, however, think we absolutely have to strive every day to try to regain control.

Stop wasting precious energy resenting those around you who get to walk what appears to be a sunnier path and start figuring out how to navigate the path that has been set before you.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

One Year

It has been one whole year since we received the initial shock of Aaron's diagnosis.  It was October 9, 2012. It was supposed to be the day we found out whether we were having a girl or a boy (although as it turns out, we still got a surprise on that one at delivery). It was supposed to be the day that we got to see perfect little ultrasound pictures of our baby so we could share them with friends and family.  It wasn't supposed to devastate our whole world. But it did.

A year ago, the girls were staying at our house with my parents.  They knew that Mommy and Daddy were upset but we hadn't even had time yet to process the news for ourselves, so there was no way we could have possibly tried to explain anything to them.  We stayed about thirty minutes away in a hotel room just trying to make sense of everything that had happened in the last twelve hours...an entire year later and there are still days where I'm not sure that we've made sense of anything.

I know that I have been guilty lately of long absences from writing anything and that isn't because I think of Aaron any less often or because I don't have things rolling around in my head that I should really be putting down.  My absences are more because of this unbelievable fatigue that has settled over our house in the months since his death...although I know that it is therapeutic to sit down and put words to the thoughts, it's tough to make a choice between sneaking into bed a little earlier or stealing a few minutes at the computer - sometimes it isn't even a choice, we barely make it to bed before we both just give up for the day and collapse.

I know that as parents who work full-time jobs, it isn't such a strange thing to be so tired...and if it was just the physical exhaustion of too-little sleep, I think it would be a lot more manageable.  Actually, I think I would welcome that sort of physical exhaustion.  Where we stand right now is with that painful combination of mental fatigue coupled with the normal physical exhaustion. 

Shortly after Aaron's diagnosis, I would spend hours looking through other blogs and often found many of those parents suffered the same sudden absences in their writing several months after the deaths of their little ones...I naively thought that maybe this was because that was the point at which things really started to turn around and the therapy of writing wasn't quite so necessary.  Now, I'm beginning to wonder if it is more because they found themselves at the intersection of fatigue, grief, depression and life.

It's just another step of the journey and although it is proving to be pretty unpleasant, I find myself more and more convinced that it's a pretty normal one.  We are learning to live in a reality where few people speak of our son and when we dare to do so, their discomfort is nearly palpable. We are still struggling to manage our grief and our loss in a world that feels as though we should be healing and "moving on."  It probably looks a lot like our lives have "returned to normal" but the simple truth is that we still have no idea what that is supposed to mean. 

Little by little, I trust that life will continue to smooth itself out and we will continue to get better at balancing everything.  There are days here and there where I am hopeful and it seems like we're really succeeding at that task...I can only hope they find their way more frequently into our lives. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

100 Posts...6 months...Who Am I?

I wrote this one on 9/1/13, two weeks after Aaron would have been six months old.  I started sobbing about halfway through and as soon as I finished, I walked away and haven't been back in almost three weeks.  Those three weeks haven't gone nearly as well as I had hoped they would, but we're working on it.  

Once again, it's been longer than I would've liked since I last sat down to write.

Two weeks ago, Aaron would have been six months old. I had every intention of sitting down that day to write something...I didn't do it.  We celebrated his day, of course, but no words came to me when I tried to think about what to write.

On one hand, the pain of not having a six-month old to cuddle and kiss and snuggle was even more present than usual.  There were certainly moments that day where all I could think about was how I was supposed to be holding my son.  There were other moments where I realized just how much I wanted his sisters to be playing with their baby brother instead of devising new ways to torment one another.  Still, there were more moments where I caught myself just staring.

But more than all of that, it was on that day that it finally seemed time to start bringing myself back from wherever I have been in these last six months.  I don't mean that I have stopped grieving - that will last a lifetime. I don't mean that I am "moving on" - I have the rest of my life where I will forever remember that there is a piece of me missing.  And I don't mean that my pain has somehow magically lifted - there have been moments in the last two weeks where I still have found myself in tears.

What I mean is that I realized I wasn't being fair.  I wasn't being fair to myself, my husband, or my son...but most of all, I haven't been fair to my daughters.  They lost their little brother six months ago...everyone knows that.  What I don't think I realized was that they also lost their mother...she disappeared on the day we received Aaron's diagnosis.

I have always been very honest about the fact that I knew I would walk through this journey and emerge a different person, but I don't know that I've been honest with myself or anyone else about exactly what that looked like.

The woman who has been living my life has not been the woman I ever wanted to be.  She has been angry and moody and unpredictable.  She has been sulking and exhausted and irritable.  She has yelled at a husband who did nothing to provoke and snipped at children who did not deserve it.  She has neglected her housework in a way that left only the bare necessities accomplished.  She walked through each day and completed the tasks that most needed done but struggled to remember why she did them at all.  This woman was a shell; she was simply holding my place while I tried to figure out who the hell I was supposed to be now.

On the day that my son would have been six months old, I woke up with more energy than I'd had in nearly a year.  I washed every single dirty dish in my sink all at one time.  I sorted the crumpled laundry that was spilling over the side of the hamper.  I scrubbed the stove and the toilets and countertops.  I gave the dog a bath and I planned activities for the girls.  That week, we finally went to story time again.  I planned menus and shopping lists for the month.  We all spent time in the kitchen baking surprises for Daddy to come home to.  We started focusing on preschool practice.  We started living again.

I still miss Aaron just as much as always - I don't think that will ever change.  But I did realize just how much I've been missing myself too.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Looking Back: A Reflection on Seeing the Specialist

This post was originally written on 8/3/13. 

Seven days after our first ultrasound, we left the girls with a friend (the one person in real life who knew what was going on with us) and headed to the MFM specialist.  I'd had plenty of time to consult Dr. Google and know more about what we were facing and came prepared to talk to the doctor.

Before we met with him, we had to talk with the nurse who, of course, needed to update my medical information from the last time.  She initially appeared very confused as to why the computer was showing that I was 60 weeks pregnant - clearly I wasn't here for happy reasons last time and it isn't physically possible for me to be that pregnant.  So, I would have honestly hoped that her powers of deduction might have solved that quandary.  Nope - I needed to explain that Aaron was born in February and had died.  Following that exchange, we then got to listen to her repeat to herself THREE times as she updated information, "Okay, four pregnancies, two living children." "Four pregnancies, two living children."  "Four pregnancies, two living children."  ...My husband is an exceedingly patient man, but by the time we had heard that three times - even he was shaking his head in frustration. (She was a very sweet lady, but obviously not at all thinking about the words coming out of her mouth in front of two people who recently buried a child.) Finally we finished that step and the doctor came in.

My first question was "Why do we even need to do this ultrasound - it's going to cost us a small fortune and won't it show the same thing as the last one?" His response, in a nutshell:  "We are certified for just exactly this reason and I don't trust other people's pictures...so in order to give you my input, I have to see it."  Okay, made sense to me.  (He also added a few comical details that just reinforces what I've said all along about his bedside manner - he is simply incredible.)

For the next hour, he stayed in the room to talk with us and made us honestly feel like we were the only thing  that mattered in that time frame (impressive, given that I know that they are a very busy practice).  Within the first few minutes of the ultrasound, and while he was still sitting across the room from the screen, he was able to tell us that our baby looked perfectly normal.  He asked the ultrasound tech what she was getting as official measurements and she wasn't even close to the upper range for acceptable limits.  He took the time to explain how the nuchal translucency can be easily measured incorrectly and said that roughly 30-50% of the cases like ours are simply a result of bad positioning or honest error.  He walked us through all of our available testing options and explained what he would recommend, if we chose to do any additional testing at all (at this point, our risk returns to approximately what it would be for the general population anyway).

We will see him again in September for the usual 20 week anatomy scan.  Typically this is done in the OB's office and I was initially a little grumpy about having another expensive ultrasound done, but after time to let it all settle - I'm actually glad that we'll be having it done at their office.  You see, I made the mistake of continuing my quest for knowledge and stumbled upon the ever-growing list of things that can become apparent on ultrasound between 12-20 weeks.  This is truly one of those cases where ignorance is bliss.  I was much better off when my information was "Your baby has a perfectly shaped little head and just the right amount of fluid behind his or her neck."  I should have stopped there.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Looking Back: A Reflection on the First Ultrasound

This post was written on 8/3/13.

I'm going to cheat a little for this entry and do some reflection on the week following that first ultrasound.  I simply could not bring myself to sit down and write during that time...no matter how much I knew I needed to, the words just would not come.  And although we are now past this part of our journey, I want to put all those feelings into words before they begin to fade.

I barely slept at all the night before our first ultrasound.  Even though I knew there was nothing I could do to change the outcome of whatever was going to happen, I was nervous.  We had already made the decision that the girls would be staying with my parents that night instead of coming with us to the ultrasound (to be fair, we had not yet told anyone other than a few close friends about the pregnancy).  I could not stomach the thought of them being in the room if we were to once again receive devastating news.

I did reasonably well on the way to the doctor's office, but as we stepped off of the elevator and prepared to walk in, I just lost it.  We were a few minutes late because I stopped at the restroom in an attempt to get it together but quickly realized that with each passing moment, I could literally feel the hysteria working it's way up my throat and it wasn't going to get better with a few minutes of crying in a restroom.  We went inside and I struggled through a brief check-in.  Our favorite nurse came out to speak with us the waiting room (somehow, the receptionist had gotten the idea that I wanted to reschedule?) and I let her know that today was the day - I would be a mess whether we did it now, an hour from now or three weeks from now.

It was the same room where we received Aaron's diagnosis and I can not even begin to describe the intense panic of walking back into that room, sitting on the table and waiting to see the images that would appear.  Even as I sit here typing, my body is nearly vibrating with the emotions that I can do nothing to quell.

She was able to point out almost immediately the baby's full, round head with two neatly defined lobes - no anencephaly.  What an amazing blessing as we got to hear that tiny heartbeat for the first time and see little arms and legs flailing around.  I struggled not to jerk around too much as I worked through the tears of joy.

Then, as she was finishing up the ultrasound, she asked if we had done any genetic testing after Aaron was born.  We had not.  She asked if we had done any yet this pregnancy.  No. Then asked if we were planning to do any. No...but what do you see that is making you ask so many questions?? She informed us that she was seeing an increased nuchal translucency, one that was nearly twice what would be considered "within normal limits." (Simple explanation is this: nuchal translucency is a measurement of the fluid present behind the neck of the baby; it is an indicator of risk for several genetic conditions including Trisomies 13,18, 21 and Turner Syndrome.  It warrants follow-up testing.)  She went to speak with the doctor and since we had an appointment with her that day anyway, she led us to the exam room and we waited to talk with her.

The information was basically what I already knew - what was seen on the ultrasound was not a definitive diagnosis but was a risk factor for a number of things.  They would be calling for a consultation within a week with the same Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist that we saw to confirm Aaron's diagnosis.  His office called a few hours later to set up an appointment in seven days for a Level 3 ultrasound and a consultation with the specialist.

For those seven days, we lived in a kind of limbo that would be hard to describe.  Our options ranged anywhere from "Your child has another, totally-unrelated fatal birth defect" to "Your baby might be perfectly healthy without a thing in the world wrong" and everything in-between.  With Aaron, the diagnosis was definitive from that first ultrasound...there was little room for doubt.  We began grieving for him almost immediately - those were pretty clear feelings of loss.  This time, we weren't really allowed to feel anything other than terrified at the prospect of burying another child.




Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Looking Back: Our Pregnancy and The Girls

This post was also written on 7/15/13 - before we were ready to announce this pregnancy. 

We have had the discussion regarding, "What will we do if this happens again?" Despite all that we have been through, we would make exactly the same decision that we made with Aaron. My biggest fear here is not what it would do to me or to Chris, but what that means for our children.  We have not yet told the girls that we are having another baby, but that doesn't mean that the topic hasn't come up.

Abby started it...about a day after this new life began to exist, she climbed up on top of me on the couch and asked about the babies in my tummy.  I told her that there weren't any babies in Mommy's tummy and reminded her that Baby Aaron was in Heaven...but the kid was insistent that there was "a boy and a girl in your tummy!"  Honestly, I told Chris about it that night and we sort of dismissed it from there.  About two weeks later, on a Saturday morning as I was changing after work, Abby came running in, slapped both hands on my belly and yelled, "A boy and a girl in your tummy!! Babies in 'nere!"  At that point, it really wouldn't have been time to take a test but I thought I'd humor myself and give it a shot.  Sure enough, it was almost instantly obviously positive.  We'll know more in a few days at our ultrasound...but apparently she knew something was up. 

Then about a week ago, we had a much less enjoyable discussion with Tori.  I'm not even quite sure how the discussion came up, but I think it started because she was upset that God doesn't talk back to her when she talks to him.  That must have led into talking about Baby Aaron being in Heaven which prompted Tori to tell us that she wanted "a new brother or sister that gets to come home and stay here with us."  I think that was one of those moments where I could actually feel a little piece of me die on the inside...to hear an expression of such complete heartbreak and clarity from a four-year old is not something that I will soon forget.  We told her that we would do everything we could to have a healthy brother or sister for her sometime soon.  She got very excited and said "I want one to keep and not one in Heaven like Baby Aaron, ok?!"

I simply don't know what challenges lie ahead when it comes to this pregnancy and the girls.  I have a feeling that we are going to somehow have to balance alleviating their fears without offering them too much promise that "things will be okay."  At this point, we know better.  We have lost a child and I have talked with countless other parents who have also lost a child.  We have entered that realm where a healthy baby is no longer something that we take for granted...it is something we hope and pray for, something we wait anxiously for, but something we no longer feel is a guarantee.  We don't want to offer them promises of a healthy newborn that we are not in control of providing...we can do everything in our power to try to make that happen, but even then there is no way we can ever control for every variable.

That is the whole issue we, and the girls, are facing right now.  We have seen firsthand that even when you do everything right, you aren't guaranteed a happy outcome.  I know that Wednesday's ultrasound will help ease our mind at least a little, but it won't guarantee that everything will be okay.  No one can do that.  Please please don't try to tell me in the coming months that you are "sure everything is going to be okay."  I know that your intentions will be good, but they are empty words because you have no idea what else to say.  It's okay...neither do we. 


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Looking Back: Three Days Before Our Ultrasound

This post was written on 7/15/13 - before we were ready to announce Aaron's little brother or sister. 

My intention for the last eight weeks had been to create posts and save them in draft form until I was ready to publish them.  We found out in May that we are expecting a new little one to join our family in January.  I had wanted to carefully document our experiences and feelings during these last two months so I could share them in a back-dated series once we were prepared to share that news.  Unfortunately, that hasn't happened.  Here I am, three days before our first ultrasound, and I am just now sitting down to put words to my feelings. I didn't want to wait until after the ultrasound because I'm not sure I would still be able to accurately capture all that has been going through my head after that point, so I want to do it now. (Though, by the time you are reading this we will have had the ultrasound and will have a better idea of what path we will be walking from here.)

I know there are plenty who are going to have opinions regarding our timing and say that it's been too soon since we had Aaron.  To that, I can only say that our lives apparently run on God's timing.  Given that I know my own heart and where my own fears were leading me, I have to trust that He had a hand in the timing for one reason or another. 

For the first six weeks, I didn't even want to call the doctor's office because I knew that would make it feel too real.  I know that isn't going to make any sense to anyone who hasn't been there, but in my mind...once I called the doctor, that started a countdown to the day when we would have to go in and have an ultrasound that would tell us whether this new life was one we got to keep or another where we had to say goodbye.  (Even the woman who set up my appointments was a little irritated that I had waited over a month to call in...but how do you adequately explain to someone that just making the phone call nearly sent me into a panic attack without sounding like a lunatic?)

Turns out, I was exactly right.  I was initially so positive and felt so certain that we would be blessed with a healthy baby this time.  As time goes on, I become more and more convinced that we are going to have to figure out how to make it through all the agony again because we aren't going to get to keep this baby. 

When I let my mind wander and I think about having to walk into the doctor's office and into that ultrasound room, I usually have to stop myself because my chest gets tight and it takes everything I have not to completely fall apart. That day was easily the worst day of our lives...worse than the day he died, worse than the day we said good bye, worse than the funeral.  There was nothing good that happened that day - our rug was yanked out from under us with no cushion whatsoever.  When he was born, we got the joy of seeing our son for the first time.  When we said goodbye, we had the memories of the time we spent with him.  When we buried him, we had the peace of knowing he was at rest.  I remember practically every detail of what happened leading up to the words our doctor said...and as I think about going in for this next ultrasound, those are the moment that keep playing over and over in my mind.  (As a matter of fact, after just typing this paragraph, I had to get up and walk away from this entry for a little while.)

As we approach the twelve week mark, there are only four people besides the two of us that know I am pregnant.  Two are close friends that have been unbelievable pillars of support for me, one is a woman who has also been incredibly supportive since we received Aaron's diagnosis, and the other had a whole different set of reasons behind my choice to share.  We plan to share our news at some point after Wednesday's ultrasound, but this gives us a chance to make sure that we are able to process whatever we see before we are pressured to share with other family and friends. 





Sunday, August 4, 2013

Announcing Our Rainbow

"The term Rainbow Baby is the understanding that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of the storm. When a rainbow appears, it doesn't mean the storm never happened or that the family is not still dealing with its aftermath. What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy and hope."

Here is our "Rainbow Baby" due to arrive January 31, 2014.  





It's taken fourteen weeks and two ultrasounds, but we are finally ready to share the next leg of our journey.

During the last few weeks, I have been creating a series of posts that have been hanging around in draft form detailing what these first few months have held for us.  I honestly have not yet decided whether I will choose to share those here, in Aaron's space, or whether I will create a new space for sharing this part of our journey.  Part of me believes that this next step is very much a part of Aaron's life, as he is still very much a part of ours.  The other part of me doesn't want to overwhelm the place that began for him with the story of his baby brother or sister.

I suspect that, in the end, I will choose to continue on in this space because it would be impossible to separate the story of this pregnancy from the story of our first son.  And I wouldn't want to, even if I could.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Midnight Orange - Christopher's Story

I have so many of my own words to share and hope to do so soon, but for now I want to share a beautiful story that I recently stumbled upon.

Many of you who know me personally have seen me share the sculpture works of The Midnight Orange on Facebook and although I don't yet own any of her pieces, I find them so simply breathtaking that I couldn't help but find myself reading the story of why she began such intimate sculpting...here it is:  (Yes, it is lengthy but I promise you that it is worth every single word.)

http://themidnightorange.blogspot.com/2010/04/why-i-sculpt-child-angels.html

FRIDAY, APRIL 23, 2010

Why I Sculpt Child Angels


Christopher Brown was really little. In a class of third graders he was teeniest among all of us. He was also the most spirited. I adored him, so we fought constantly. I was a masochist for those bickerings and used to stare at the small gap between his front teeth as his mouth moved around them proving me wrong in little bursts of animation.


This is not a story about childhood love. It is not a story about friendship. Despite the presence of these things, this is pure ache and a lesson that broke my heart to learn. I will not go into sharing the details of what made Christopher a spectacular being wrapped up in the package of an 8 year old boy. I trust you find me credible and will believe this. I also ask that despite the longevity, in Chris' honor you read this.


On the first day of summer in 1990, Christopher was playing baseball with his brother, sister, and babysitter in his back yard and the ball went over the fence into a neighboring construction site. He climbed his swing set onto his father's shed, then jumped from the shed roof over the fence to get the ball. I cannot picture this in my head (either because the logistics are not clear or because my mind is protecting itself from this visual) but when Christopher jumped the fence his hand hit a latch on a crane which released two cement highway dividers. He fell and they fell on top of him. A very cherished 8 year old lost his life that day.


There was no closure. My mother felt that attending the services would be too traumatic and kept me from saying goodbye in person. I understand, but still. I agonized for years about this, even into young adulthood. So many blanks I could not fill in. I did not know where he was interned, when his birthday was. The specific day he died. Every milestone I had, I wished for him. On first days of school I would find his seat in class and then mentally spite the child who sat there. On last days of school I would be sick at the excitement around me. I'd imagine Chris's thoughts as the final bell rang and he dreamt of ponds and trails and popcorn at the drive-in, not knowing he would die by next nightfall. For years I just carried him with me. The night before my high school graduation I dreamed of him approaching through the crowd, as grown as I, and hugging me. In tears I type this.


In my second year of college I became desperate, not for closure, but for closeness to Chris and wanted so badly to connect with his family. With such a common last name they felt impossible to find. All I could do was speak of him often and hope someone connected. One day this exact thing happened, and by fate a woman scrawled an address on scrap paper and sent me away with it. I finally had a portal to his family and despite years of longing for contact, I had no idea how I could begin to express my heart to them. 


Honestly I do not recall the specific details of the sentiment that I poured into 7 handwritten pages, but my message was strong and clear. I missed Christopher, I loved him still, and I REMEMBERED. Always I remembered him. The letter I received back I held with trembling hands, but never could I have been prepared for what Christopher's mother would share with me.


She spoke of the myriad of emotions that my letter brought forth, and I expected that would be the case. She broke me down entirely when she went on to write that receiving my letter was a true miracle that had breathed new life into their son.  She shared that tragically, the loss of Christopher was so painful for others that he became rarely spoken of.


To hear that Christopher not only lost his life but also his legacy was the greatest shame imaginable. My small but bursting childhood friend had become lost to the world. Was truly buried. I cried for days. She later wrote that the greatest gift I had given them was sharing his memory with other people and allowing him to live on in this way.. Mary and I stay in touch and I am smiling this moment over the profound friendship I found in Christopher's mother.


I visit his grave when I am happy and seek to share that with him. I go there when I am hurt so I can have solitude but not be alone. My husband and I picnic with our young daughters there and they like the bells that softly chime in the fir overhanging his grave site. He is truly my forever friend, and my gift to him is ensuring that despite his life being stifled, his legacy never will be. Now you know Christopher. He was small, mighty, and magnificent. I would be beyond humbled should anyone repost his story as daily I fear that in his 8 short-lived and bittersweet years of childhood, not enough people had the chance to know his name.


This was a gift I could not stop giving to Chris and his family, and with it I achieved the opposite of closure. It burst open a door for me and truly inspired fire in my heart, because it was then that I saw a very clear window into the lives of bereaved parents. One of the things that stood out profoundly to me was need. The need for their children to be acknowledged, celebrated, spoken about. The need to know others remember. The need for a LEGACY.

Sculpting the ever-present bond between parents and children who touch the stars too soon is truly my heart's work and daily I startle at the extreme honor of being so blessed to be able to do this. My goal was to create something for parents to display for others which would then evoke conversation. I really wanted to be able to create some tangible way for parents to show others that it is okay to talk about their children and for my sculptures to be a “starting place”.  In my heart of hearts I pray that people see these pieces and realize that despite the overwhelming pain in losing a child, there is healing for parents to simply know people remember.



http://www.etsy.com/shop/TheMidnightOrange
https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Midnight-Orange/105314011660

Just one of my personal favorites...
Family of 6 with 2 Angels - made to order in any colors

Monday, July 22, 2013

Quicksand

I know I've written a few times in the past about the ways in which our experiences since October have changed us - there are certainly many. The one that has been most on my mind lately is a change with which I cannot seem to make any kind of peace. Fear.

There are a million ways in which this new companion manifests itself. Most prevalent is the overwhelming fear that something is going to happen to the rest of my family - I am positively terrified that something horrible is going to happen to my girls, my husband, my parents, my siblings, my nieces, my nephews and the list goes on and on.  In fact, there have been weekends when Chris was supposed to take the girls out somewhere and I have literally been in tears begging him to just stay home that day because in my mind, I was certain they would never make it home if they left. God love him, he always hugs me and agrees to change plans for that day so they are relatively safe at home while I sleep. I know that it isn't a terribly rational request and I usually feel guilty for it, but at the same time I can literally feel the panic welling up in my chest in those moments and unwillingly begin to envision my life without the three of them.

Just as prominent is the unsettling feeling that we can never again expect to have a healthy "normal" pregnancy.  After the shock of receiving Aaron's diagnosis and the time that I have spent talking with other parents who have survived devastating losses, the odds of anyone ever having a healthy pregnancy seem dire, at best.  Even if we are blessed with another "healthy" pregnancy/baby, there is no doubt that I would spend nearly every moment of that pregnancy waiting for something to go horribly wrong.  At this point, I know too much - the innocence that I used to have about pregnancy is long gone and I am all too aware of the fragility and blessing in creating and sustaining life.

When I'm not in a panic about something happening to a loved one or potential loved one, I am just waiting for some expensive catastrophe with the house or the van or with one of our jobs.  In my mind, the van is a ticking time bomb just waiting for a costly repair bill, every major appliance in the house is just biding time before it quits working and needs replaced, or one of us will unexpectedly be unemployed and our finances will simply crumble.  The fact of the matter is that things do go wrong and we should probably expect them, but it's like I exist in constant waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under us again.

I am well aware that this level of anxiety, fear and apprehension is far from healthy.  It comes as no shock to me that I have trouble sleeping or that I am in an unending state of turmoil.  It is no surprise that this constant conflict is exhausting.  Unfortunately, simply knowing that many of my fears are irrational does nothing to make them any less real.  This is one of the wounds that leaves a deep scar on those whose lives have been changed in less than the blink of eye.  While some may feel it less intensely than others, there is a part of the soul that will never heal completely from that kind of life-shock.  It is actually something that I have heard others in the babyloss community mention frequently and I would suspect that it probably holds true for other sudden, life-altering events as well. 

I think that's one of the reasons that I have had such a hard time facing this particular demon.  It isn't just something that I need to "work through" or "wait out."  I'm afraid this one is going to be a lifelong change - I may get better at coping with it and I will probably learn not to let it dictate so much of our lives, but I will never again feel the blissful ignorance that comes from lack of experience. 


So I have to confess that my original intention was to end this entry above the picture, but as I was searching for a fitting image, I came across this one.  It led me to do a little reflection (which, after all, is one of the points of keeping this space) and here is where I ended up: I can still be depressed about losing our son; I can still be anxious about what may lie ahead...but I need to be more mindful of this: every moment that I spend lost in either of those is a moment where I miss the beauty in front of me.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Reach

When I came here the other day to create a post, I was shocked to see that the total pageviews had exceeded 30,000 and that the views for Aaron's birth story alone were over 1,000.  I never dreamed that so many would read the words that I have written about our sweet son.  This blog was something I started with the primary purpose of helping me begin to heal and my hope was that somewhere along the way it would help someone else too.

There are times when I am simply speechless when I realize just how many have been reached by Aaron's story and his brief life with us.  I know what an impact he has made on us, but to hear others share the ways in which he has touched them is amazing.  I have been contacted by people from all around the world who have read these words or who have seen Aaron's story posted somewhere.  Many have reached out to express condolences, others have sent prayers on our behalf and still others have been in contact to let me know that they, too, are going through a similar experience and have found strength in the words I've written.  That last group, of course, is always the most emotionally charged for me.

In the days and months following Aaron's diagnosis, I spent countless hours searching out and soaking up everything I could read that others had written about their journeys.  Something about hearing the words of others who had traveled a similar path was comforting.  I found many that were inspiring, most were heart-breaking, a number of them offered helpful tips and advice, some were full of bitterness and anger, and others conveyed a message of faith and hope. 

I have never really chosen a specific direction that I wanted for this space, but I knew that I wanted the overall feel to be one of hope and of gratefulness for the time that we were given with our son.  There have absolutely been times when I've written a piece that was angry or painful or sorrow-filled, but my goal, both in life and in my writing, has been to avoid dwelling in the pits for too long.  Most of the time, it's a goal that I achieve...sometimes it's a little tougher than others.

As we approach a time this month when our son would have been five months old, I find that the grief we feel is often just as strong as it was in the very beginning while other times it takes on a more dulled edge. I am so grateful for this space and for those who allow me to continue sharing the story of our little boy on the good days and the bad.

 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Running

It has been obvious that I've been more than a little absent from this space in the last few weeks.  Life has been busy, but I can not honestly say that this has been the only reason.  I think it has mostly been because I knew that coming to this space and putting my thoughts in black and white in front of me was going to be painful and I haven't felt strong enough to handle that recently.  I have thought about it a few times and felt a little guilty for not writing when I knew that I needed to, but lately the bad days seem to be winning.

When that happens, my first instinct is to run.  I avoid this blog and I avoid the majority of the babyloss community where I am usually able to take comfort and, in turn, offer it to others.  I have noticed that I have a tendency to withdraw from that facet of my life and focus my energy again on just making it through each day.  It is simply too painful to invite myself to open up wounds that are still healing, so I tend to try to ignore them.

There are a few problems with this approach.  First, if you choose to ignore an injury rather than tending it and allowing the opportunity for it to heal, it is just going to get worse.  Second, this approach runs right alongside the fast track to depression.  And lastly, it leaves you feeling alone and isolated.  And even though I don't mind the solitude sometimes, I'm afraid of staying in the spot where that is my preference.

It is a normal, human reaction to want to avoid that which is too painful to want to face head-on.  Unfortunately, it is really only a temporary solution.  Eventually, we are going to have to come back to coping with whatever it is that we have been hiding from.  At that point, odds are that you are going to find yourself with some messes to fix, some wrongs to correct and things to set upright again.

With all of that said, I think this is another one of those perfectly normal steps along the path of walking through one's grief.  There are times when you get to feel empowered and strong and in charge.  There are other times when you get to focus on the hard work of grieving and coping. And there are those times when it is all just too much and you have to hide.  As long as you continue to cycle through without getting stuck in one place too long, particularly that last one, you're probably doing it right.  We can't hide forever and we certainly can not be expected to shoulder all of this grief all day, every day. 

I can't and I won't apologize for taking the time that I need for myself.  Neither should you.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Don't Rush Us

Right now, I am angry - frustrated, appalled, upset and angry.

A close friend of mine, whose son was born with a fatal birth defect the same month as Aaron, was told today that she needed to "move on with her life," "grow up," and "get over it." What's worse, is that it was someone close to her who should have been offering kindness, support and love instead of harsh words and judgement. 

So let me be very clear when I say these next few things
  - When you have lost a child, you will never completely "move on." You may keep moving, but "moving on" is not in the vocabulary. 
  - When you have been through the experience of carrying, meeting and loving  your child who is going to die, you have "grown up" more in those 9-10 months than some people will do in 9-10 years.  You lose a part of yourself; you lose the sense of innocence that you used to have about pregnancy and babies and life; you lose the confidence that everything will turn out for the best. 
 - When your child dies, you will NEVER EVER "get over it."  You learn to live with the pain.  You figure out what it takes to make it to the end of each day.  You realize that there are things in life that are still worth living for.  But you will never "get over" the fact that you had to bury your child. Ever.

So please, if you have ever asked "What can I do to help?"...this is what you can do: Don't say these things to a person who is grieving, particularly if they are grieving the loss of a child.  These statements are not helpful.  They rip out that grieving parent's heart and serve only to make them feel more isolated and alone, because you have shown them that you aren't even trying.

It's been almost four months since she and I lost our sons.  Four months. We have a lifetime to carry the fact that one of our babies died...don't rush us. 


Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Moment. A Lifetime. Three Months.

Three months.  It's been three months since I held my son.  Three months since he was born.  Three months since he died.

In a lot of ways, it has been a very long three months.  I have grown a lot and I have learned a lot.  Chris and I have faced a lot together in those three months and our relationship is decades older because of the experience we have shared.  I stop to look back and I have no idea how we have managed to survive these last ninety days - and some days, that was all we have managed to do...to simply survive.  We have reached that point where it is rare for anyone else to ask how we're doing and we are fully recognizing the incredible support we are blessed with in one another.  Gradually, there have been more days where the pain and the grief serve as more of a backdrop rather than taking center stage.  In that respect, it has been a long three months.

At the very same time, those three months often feel like the blink of an eye.  I recall every moment of his delivery so vividly that it feels like it happened yesterday.  I still have moments where I can almost feel him kicking me.  There are flashes every once in a while of what it would be like if our nighttime hugs included all three of my children.  There are times when the pain is so fresh and the need to feel him in my arms is so real that it is almost crushing me.  That is when those three months feel like a single breath.

I need you to understand that I am not the same person I used to be...I will never be her again.  I need you to realize that you are not always going to find the logic in what I say or what I do.  I need you to meet me where I am and allow me to be who I have to be right now to make it to the end of each day.

To you, it may only be three months (or six months or ten years) but for me - it is both a moment and a lifetime.  There will be times when I will feel the devastation throbbing like a brand new wound and there will be times when I can run my fingers over the scar in my soul without wincing.  There is no rhyme or reason to how I feel at any given moment and I am slowly learning to embrace whatever comes because that is really the only option I've been given.

All I ask is that you remember that no matter where you think I should be or how you think I should behave, it isn't up to you.  It just isn't.



Thursday, April 25, 2013

"I Will Be."

I know that I've been quiet on here for a few weeks now and I wish I had a really good reason for that.  The honest explanation is that I just haven't really felt moved to write anything.  This past week has been one of the really bad ones and although I know those are the times when I really need to sit down and get some thoughts out...lately, those are the times when I am least likely to do it.

There hasn't been one specific thing that has me in a rut, but rather a combination of things I think.  Life had actually been going really well until a week or two ago, but then all of a sudden - it sort of seemed like we fell apart again.  I had my eight week check-up at the doctor (my actual six-week visit got postponed) - their office was wonderful as usual and they made the visit as easy as they could, but something about showing up to your postpartum visit with no baby is bound to unhinge the most stable mom at least a little bit.  That same week, Aaron would have been two months old (hence, the eight weeks) and it's hard not to think about what life with a two-month old would look like right now.

We also received the paperwork to get Aaron's memorial ordered.  The woman who designed it did a positively beautiful job and she worked so hard to make sure it is exactly what we wanted it to be (odd phrasing really, considering we don't want to have to be selecting one at all).  She walked us through the entire process, then spent time to custom-create an image because the one we selected wouldn't have worked very well on the stone we had chosen.  I simply can not say enough good things about working with her, but still...seeing his name in a sketch for his headstone is really really difficult.

Mother's Day is also looming in the not-so-distant future.  I have two beautiful, healthy, amazing little girls and I thank God for them every single day...but hear me clearly when I say this: That does not take away the pain of knowing that I don't get to celebrate Mother's Day with my only son.  I'm pretty sure that is a pain I will feel in every Mother's Day for the rest of my life. 

As for the girls, they have also been asking lately about when there is going to be another baby in Mommy's tummy so they can knock on it and feel baby "knock" back.  It is so cute and so sweet...and so gut-wrenchingly painful all at the same time.  I want them to have a baby sibling; I truly and sincerely do.  I want them to have Aaron.  We are reasonably sure that we will eventually have more children (on the good days, I'm certain...on days like today, it's just too scary to contemplate), but it wouldn't be for at least several more months to allow my body time to heal and the folic acid time to build up in my system. 

As I sit here with tears streaming down my face, I have to confess that I had a different last paragraph typed up for this post...I always argue with myself when it comes to posting anything about the bad days (I've said before that the reason I do it is because it isn't fair to only share the good times).  Chris came in and asked me "Are you alright?"  Without thinking, my first response was "I will be." As soon as the words left my mouth I actually felt a little better and took a few minutes to process that.

I will be sad.
I will be heartbroken.
I will be depressed.
I will be angry.
I will be hopeful.
I will be healing.
I will be joyful.
I will be grateful.

I will be okay.




Thursday, April 11, 2013

Frogs

I don't necessarily have anything inspirational or amazing to share tonight, but I had to share an experience I had this afternoon with Aaron's big sisters. 

We went to Hobby Lobby to pick up a few things I needed for bracelets and ended up browsing the store, like we usually do...because, really, who doesn't love Hobby Lobby?? We wandered over to the outdoor decorations area and I asked if the girls wanted to pick out something special to take to the cemetery for Baby Aaron next time we go.  They were thrilled!! Tori immediately spotted one of the big center islands decked out in frog decor and snatched up one of the little guys.  She ended up passing that one off to Abby and choosing another one of her own. 

I suggested we keep walking to see if there was anything else they thought Baby Aaron might like or if they thought he'd like to keep the frogs.  So Tori holds her frog as high as she can toward the ceiling and yells, "BABY AARON!!!  DO YOU LIKE THESE FROGS?!?!" ... ... "Yes, Momma he says he likes these."  :)  So then Abby yells, "Baby Aawon!! Like deese??"  (Sadly, Abby's first frog had a bit of a frog-tastrophe and met with an untimely demise when she dropped him.  She was a tad devastated, but the worker was very kind and we found that frog's identical twin instead.  She clutched him tightly to her chest through the rest of the store telling me "Breakaful. Breakaful."  He was safe until we reached the cashier where she got distracted and dropped him too...thankfully, this one survived with only a missing toe from that unwise leap.)

The girls also discovered a shiny blue pinwheel that they thought Aaron might like...so we left the store with two little frogs and a shiny pinwheel.  :)

I can only imagine what our conversation must have sounded like to anyone else who overheard...a year ago, I'm not sure what I would've thought about a young mother and her two little ones talking so calmly about buying things to take to a baby brother in the cemetery.  On one hand, I hate knowing that my girls are already so familiar with death.  On the other hand, it has given us so many opportunities to help them learn and grow.  They are young enough to ask whatever is on their minds without being embarrassed or inhibited, so we are able to truly address where they are at any given moment.  And although they say occasionally that they are "sad about Baby Aaron" or that they miss him, they seem so happy for him to be with God and Grandma in Heaven. They don't see it as something to be afraid of; it's just the way it is for them. 

I know that the girls have helped us cope with Aaron's death in so many ways; this is just one of them.  Their unfailing confidence in his happiness in Heaven is astounding.  We should all be so lucky. 


Monday, April 8, 2013

Still Standing

I know my updates are a little infrequent these days.  I don't really have a good explanation for it other than the fact that I just haven't had any ideas come to me that seemed like they were worth sharing.

Yesterday, however, I had one of those experiences where an entry just kind of writes itself in my head while I'm supposed to be doing something else.  I usually try to make sure those get published, because I assume there is a reason that they have written themselves.

I recently had a bit of a confrontation with someone in my life who was contemplating making some pretty destructive decisions in the face of intense stress.  We had talked at length regarding all of the things leading up to these decisions and the consequences of making specific choices.  It became apparent throughout the course of a number of conversations that this individual considered suicide as the only solution to the problems at hand.

Finally, I simply said, "You remember that baby I was pregnant with?  He died.  We have known since October that he was going to die and he was stillborn almost six weeks ago.  And I'm still standing here.  It has been the hardest thing I have ever gone through.  It has sucked and I would never wish that pain on anyone.  I know that things are awful for you right now too and I know you are struggling with all that you are facing.  I understand what it is like for things to suck and to not know what you are supposed to do.  I realize that you feel like this is your only choice, but I am standing here going through the crappiest thing I have ever experienced but I'm still standing here.  I'm not asking you not to kill yourself; I'm asking you to give yourself some time.  I'm asking you to wait until things don't suck so much and you aren't overwhelmed by everything you are facing.  If you still want to die at that point, then we can talk again but at least then I'll know that you aren't making a decision out of desperation."

It's not the most orthodox approach to someone in crisis, and I typically wouldn't share something so personal in that context...but sometimes there are situations where someone is able to benefit from hearing something spoken from the heart regardless of whether or not it is what you are "supposed to" say.

And I think that is the main reason that I am so compelled to share this story.  I still think about the mommy friend of mine who committed suicide at the beginning of the year and I think about the countless other moms, myself included, who sometimes struggle to make it to the end of the day.  It's normal and it's painful and it's hard to do, but I'm proud to still be standing at the end of the day (because, let's face it...even on the days when we have to sit down for a bit...we're still standing).

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Normal

Please don't tell me that you "hope things are getting back to normal."  I know that you mean well and I'm sure that you say this simply because you aren't sure what else to say.  Believe me, I wish things could be normal.  I wish that I was rocking my five week old son to sleep right now instead of typing about coping with life after his death. But the reality is this:  Our lives will never be "normal" again.

We are functioning and we are working on finding a new routine for our family.  We are finding ways to cope with our grief and ways to brace ourselves for the days when the pain becomes overwhelming.  We work to find ways for the girls to remember their little brother while trying to make sure that his death doesn't scare them. 

These things are part of what has become "normal" for us now...but when you tell us that you "hope things are getting back to normal," you have no idea what that means.  There will always be a part of us that is missing and there will always be a scar in our hearts for the son we didn't get to keep.

For what it's worth, I wouldn't want things to "go back to normal."  That would be like acting that Aaron never existed.  He did.  It would be like saying that he isn't loved as much as our other children.  He is.  It would be like pretending that he hasn't changed our lives in a profound way.  He has.

We don't need the pain to go away or the tears to stop.  There is no shame in either of those things, but it would be nice for the pain to ease and the tears to lessen.  It's okay to be hurt and it's okay to need to cry; the ache and the tears will be with us for the rest of our lives.  But that doesn't mean that we can't be joyful or that we can't celebrate the blessings we are given.  We don't need to "return to normal" to feel happy; our "new normal" simply means making room for the grief alongside the joy. 


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

One Month

I had every intention of writing something special for Aaron's "one-month birthday" today, but words are failing me tonight and tears have taken their place.

So I will simply say "My sweet baby boy, I miss you more than mere words will ever be able to say.  We may never know why you weren't ours to keep, but please know that you've kept a piece of our hearts with you.  You will always live within us and one day, we will hold you again in our arms."


Monday, March 18, 2013

Grief's Background Music

I know I feel like writing tonight, but I'm not sure I'm going to have much success in figuring out what exactly I want to say.  I am such a mess of emotions tonight that I'm not sure anything is going to come out right.  But, that's never stopped me before. :)

Today, we have been celebrating Abby's second birthday.  Tomorrow will mark one month since we first held Aaron in our arms.  This weekend, we are having Abby's party with family and friends.  Tonight, all I can do is cry.

I know that each of the little milestones that you would normally associate with having a baby will be difficult - each new month, each birthday.  So I have been expecting a struggle as his one month "angelversary" came up.  I guess I wasn't expecting how quickly it would sneak up and surprise me.

Honestly, if you had asked me a week ago about how we were doing I really could have said that we were doing pretty well and actually meant it.  I know that part of that is because we do truly believe that Aaron is at rest and we have been so very comforted by the love, prayers and overwhelming support we have received.  Part of it is because we have been staying busy and don't have a lot of time to lay under the covers and mope.  And part of it is a tiny bit of avoidance I think...I don't mean that we avoid thinking or talking about Aaron because his name is heard multiple times every single day in our house.  But I do think that we make a pretty conscious effort to keep the grief at bay most of the time because if we let it all in at once, we would simply be drowning in it.  It's almost like our minds know that it is too much to handle all at once, so we work at balancing a "normal" life while still processing little bits of our grief at a time.

Right now, that means the balance has tipped a bit in grief's favor and we're struggling a little.  We are so excited to celebrate Abby's birthday and it is such an incredible blessing to be able to watch her with icing all over her face because she dove headfirst into her cupcake.  But it is impossible not to feel the sadness of knowing that our son will never get those moments with us.  It is impossible not to think about the fact that I gave birth to her brother a month ago and there will be no baby for friends and family to pass around at her party this weekend.  It is impossible not to get overwhelmed a little bit when the reality of his absence presents itself so firmly in front of me.

For me, letting the grief in bit by bit is the only way that I will make it through each day.  I am always aware of the fact that I miss him, but most of the time it is more like a constant background music.  Then there are days where it becomes this blaring cacophony that I can't step away from until it has decided to quiet down on its own; there is no volume button.  I do believe that those deafening moments will probably lessen in frequency, and hopefully in volume, as time goes on, but right now it's so loud that it's all I can hear.



Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Aaron's Angel Arms

The bracelet that started it all - Chris's bracelet with the Saint Michael medallion.

 The day before Aaron's funeral, we still didn't have something special for Chris to wear in Aaron's memory.  I had a beautiful pearl bracelet from Eden's Wings and we had made tiny pearl bracelets with little heart charms for each of the girls to wear "for Baby Aaron."  We had been looking online for a few days (since we had been staying up pretty much all night anyway, we had time for that) trying to find something manly that we could personalize...as it turns out, there just isn't a lot out there that is geared toward the Dads who have suffered the loss of a little one. 

I don't honestly remember how the idea of paracord bracelets came up, but we bought a package of royal blue paracord  and sent Chris to a Catholic bookstore about thirty minutes away for a Saint Michael medallion (or ten, as it turned out).  That night, with a little help from Professor Google, I sat on the couch and made Chris a bracelet specifically in memory of the son we would be laying to rest the next day. 

As a few days passed, it became obvious to me that making bracelets for other families was something tangible I could do...not just to honor Aaron's memory, but to provide something to other fathers who wanted something in memory of their own little ones.  Even though I knew how much Chris liked his bracelet, I wasn't sure it was even something that other Dads would want so I threw the idea out to one of the baby loss groups I'm a part of...and the response was loud and clear:  "Do it!"

So...nine days after I first made Chris's bracelet, "Aaron's Angel Arms" became 'Facebook official.'  Since then, I have been absolutely amazed at all that has happened. I would have never dreamed that I would be given the opportunity to connect with so many amazing people in such a short time.

We created a blog page to complement the Facebook page and give us a little different forum for sharing.  (And thanks to a very talented sister-in-law, we even have an online order form that makes my life a whole lot easier!)  :)  You can view it at AaronsAngelArms.blogspot.com. 

In these first two weeks, I have sent out 17 bracelets and received orders for over 20 more.  I have talked with other parents from all over the country who are willing to share their own stories of loss and allow me to share Aaron with them by providing a small reminder of our angels.  (As I asked how much shipping would cost to the UK, the woman at the post office even remarked today "Well, you've got 'em just going everywhere don't you?")

I have received offers from several who wanted to help purchase supplies, surprise their husbands, sponsor bracelets for others who couldn't afford them, or purchase a bracelet for a friend and from one who is even creating something special for us in memory of Aaron. 

The bracelet I made tonight for all three of my babies - Tori, Abby and Aaron.
Even though it has been only two weeks, I have already found so much healing in this project.  And although I truly wish that there was absolutely no need for any of us who make things in memory of Angel Babies,  I am truly humbled and honored to get to share in the stories of so many remarkable little babies, siblings, mothers and fathers. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Trigger

It's been a few days since I have had the urge to write about anything...things have really been pretty much what you'd expect and I just haven't taken the time to say anything about it.  We've also been keeping ourselves fairly busy with the girls, repainting the kitchen, trying to undo the disaster that our house became in the last three weeks, contemplating some life changes, and working on the memorial project that I decided to start (more on that coming soon).  Today, though, I need this.

I have known since we first received Aaron's diagnosis back in October that our lives would never be quite the same again.  I knew that, for the rest of our lives, there would always be someone missing from our family and that, no matter how we heal, we will always be aware of the son that isn't with us.  I knew there would be good days, neutral days, bad days and really bad days. 

What I wasn't really prepared for (although I had been warned by plenty of other moms) is how unexpectedly something would trigger a breakdown.  It was kind of a given that it would probably be difficult to see other babies for a while and I have seen plenty of them in the three weeks since Aaron's birth.  They do catch my attention and I find myself looking at them a little longer than I used to.  I am acutely aware of the sadness in my heart, but most of the time I just say a little prayer for their health and go on with my day.

Last weekend, we went to the library with the girls and saw a mom about our age with two little girls who looked to be about 6 and 4 and a little boy who was probably 2...exactly the age spread that ours would have been.  It caught my eye and I paused for a few minutes while I just watched them all head out to the parking holding hands.  Mercifully, I was busy putting on Tori's coat and she distracted me almost immediately.  Today, however, was a completely different story.  While I was checking out our books, a mom came in with a baby carrier on her arm and  two little girls who were probably the same age as Abby and Tori.  Then I hear her say to the younger one, "Come on Abby, let's go over here."

I just lost it.  Standing in the middle of the public library with tears just streaming down my face as I'm trying to hurry up and finish scanning our books so we can get out of there as quickly as possible before I start actively sobbing.  Despite frantically trying to wipe away the tears before the girls noticed, I hear Tori ask loudly from the boat where she has been busily steering away from imaginary marine obstacles "Mommy, why are you crying??" Crap.

Trying to placate her with "It's okay sweetie, Mommy's fine." is pretty much a lost cause, so I had to take her aside and explain to her what was going on.  I let her know that Mommy saw another baby and it made me sad because I still miss Baby Aaron and wish he was here with us.  We went through the usual routine of explaining how it's okay to be sad and to cry when we need to.  She was fine with that answer and dropped it after that. 

I, on the other hand, find myself crying again as I write about it.  I assume today's encounter was so much more difficult than last weekend because it is much easier to imagine myself with the baby that is supposed to be in my arms rather than the toddler that I won't be chasing in two years.  I know this won't be the last time something floods in and reminds me so painfully of the little man that we are missing, but that means it also won't be the last time that I thank God for the opportunity that I had to hold him in my arms, even if only for a little while.  It also won't be the last time that I am reminded of the opportunities that I have every day to hold the girls, help them remember their baby brother, and let them know how much they are all loved.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Absurd

One of the things that Chris and I have said quite a few times in these last few weeks is how surreal pretty much everything seems right now.  We are trying to fit our own feelings of grief and loss in with a world that hasn't even paused since our son died.  It's been kind of hard to explain exactly what that feels like, but it kind of hit me while I was sitting at the computer tonight...

I was listening to Ke$ha on YouTube, talking with a coworker on Facebook, thinking about how I need to finally start to file our taxes, trying to determine a schedule for when I return to work next week, finishing up a bracelet for a family who lost their baby to a placental abruption after 38 weeks of a perfectly healthy pregnancy, contemplating changes to make to our new online order form, and pondering the sketches of our son's headstone that the monument company emailed to me tonight.

With all of that happening at once, it's no wonder anxiety has been an issue lately...but even more than that, when I paused to realize just how many things I had in the air all at the same time, it dawned on me that it was a pretty good example of what our lives have been like recently. 

We are trying to make sure that we aren't running from all of the emotions that are totally normal right now, but at the same time, staying busy and distracted is another way of coping...when I know that letting all of those emotions come to the surface would be totally overwhelming, it's easier for me to refocus on something else and let the grief come in little bits and pieces tucked in with all of the other things that help occupy my mind.

I'm not saying it's the best way and it certainly isn't the only way, but it seems to be what's working for us right now.  Those overwhelming moments still happen and I'll still sit in the middle of the floor to cry with no apparent trigger...but at least that isn't the only thing I'm managing to accomplish.

 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Trying to Find Some Light

I mentioned last night that things have been rough lately and that is still true.  Today (since it is already after 1:00am) marks two weeks since Aaron was born and one week since we laid him to rest.  It seems like it's taken this long for the initial shock to wear off and for things to settle down enough for the enormity of all that has been happening to really sink in for me.  Chris and I have had a lot of heart-to-hearts and are doing our best to stay on top of all of these emotions and struggles, but these are some of the worst days we've had since getting our diagnosis in October. 

Although it would be hard to explain to anyone exactly why things suddenly took such a difficult turn, in talking with other mommas who have been through this I have found that the two-week mark seems to be a universally difficult one for lots of us.  Like I said above, this seems to be the point where there is no longer quite so much that needs our attention and everything really has the opportunity to sink in. 

Although things are dark and difficult and painful right now, I find myself more thankful than ever for the love and support of my husband.  We are blessed with a marriage in which there is no topic too scary or too intense; I know that he is available to hear whatever I am saying and he knows that the same is true when he needs to talk.  I can not even imagine how much more difficult this journey would be if we didn't have that "safe place" where we could be honest about how we truly feel.

I am also so thankful for the online forums in which I have found support from other mothers who have dealt with anencephaly, stillbirth and carrying to term.  Not only do those groups offer the anonymity of the internet, but you are also instantly connected with thousands of others who are in all stages of their own journeys.  It gives me the opportunity to share our experiences with those who have just received a poor diagnosis or are maybe just preparing to deliver, but also allows me to talk with mothers who delivered several months ago to see that life really does start to get a little easier again and to let me know that everything I've been feeling really is totally normal. 

I am, of course, still grateful for the continued love, prayers and support from our families and friends too.  Although there hasn't been much that we have been able to ask of them, we know they all stand at the ready if only we could find something they could do.  They have all done all that they can right now to help us and just knowing that they are there for us to call on is a comfort.

I didn't really know what I hoped to convey when I sat down to write tonight, because things do feel pretty awful right now and I'm just not ready to share what all of that looks like from the inside at the moment.  It was, however, nice to take the moment to reflect on all of the support we have had in the last few months and be mindful of the light that still exists at the edge of all this darkness.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Aaron's Funeral Mass

I did actually write most of this post the day after Aaron's funeral but just hadn't posted it yet.  Honestly, tonight has been one of the hardest I've had since we received the diagnosis in October so rather than try to make sense of the mess in my head right now, I decided it would be a good night to finish up this post and reflect on the peace I felt when I first wrote it. 

As I have mentioned before, Aaron's Mass was absolutely beautiful and Father John did a wonderful job of speaking directly to our hearts.  It did truly help us find a peace in laying our son to rest.  We were blessed to have so many family members and friends who were able to join us and we were touched by each person who came to help us celebrate our little guy.

I don't think it will ever be possible to forget that day, but I wanted to write it all down tonight while it was still so fresh in my mind so that I will always be able to come back and read over this.  I also wanted to share with anyone who wasn't able to be with us for his service.

Since we had chosen not to do a visitation, we were fortunate enough to have the church opened an hour and a half before Mass so that Chris and I could have some time to spend in prayer quietly with our son before we welcomed family and friends to gather with us.  Although it isn't something that is normally done, especially not in a lot of Catholic churches, it meant so very much to have that time before Mass to spend a few minutes with each person who came to celebrate Aaron's life and show their support for our family.  Father John has said several times since we first met with him that there isn't really isn't a good manual for this sort of thing and it was evident that he was truly letting God guide him in finding what would be best for us and our family.

Thankfully, we had chosen many of the readings and music selections before Aaron was born so we had plenty of time to reflect on exactly what we wanted.  As I heard the songs sung by those who love us and the words we had chosen read aloud, we knew we had chosen correctly.  Although we are heartbroken that Aaron didn't get to stay here with us, we wanted his funeral Mass to make it clear that we know he is safe where he is and we believe that one day we will see him again. 

 Funeral Liturgy Selections
 * Gathering Hymn - "We Walk By Faith"  "We Walk By Faith" YouTube
 * First Reading - Wisdom 4:7-15
 * Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 23
 * Second Reading - 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
 * Gospel Reading - John 14:1-6
 * Communion Hymn - "Be Not Afraid"  "Be Not Afraid" YouTube
 * Song of Farewell - "On Eagle's Wings"  "On Eagle's Wings" YouTube

We went out to the cemetery immediately after Mass.  Chris, the girls and I all got to ride with Aaron in the limo, which was nice except that I panicked about halfway to the cemetery and thought that I had forgotten how to get there (and realized later that I definitely did not pick the shortest route).  Thankfully my dad came to the rescue and helped lead us the rest of the way (as it turns out, I knew where we were going...just had a momentary freak out).

Father John said a few final words graveside, then the girls wanted to send some balloons up to Aaron in Heaven.  Tori had chosen a blue balloon for him and Abby insisted that he wanted pink. (Abby let hers go later than the rest because she was standing on the string, but somehow it caught up to the others almost right away.)  Chris and I had white balloons for him (thank you to my younger sister for picking them up for us).  We stood with the girls until the balloons were out of sight and listened as Tori told us about what she thought Aaron would do with his balloons - she was pretty sure he was going to pop them, just for fun.

Friends and family headed back into town to meet us for the luncheon that some very kind women from church had prepared for us.  Chris and I had decided ahead of time that we wanted to stay behind until they placed Aaron's casket in the ground.  The two men were so gentle as they laid down to lower him and then stepped aside so we had a few minutes to talk with our son one more time.  Although it was muddy, Chris and I each got to place a handful of earth with him (although the mud wasn't nearly as poetic as dry dirt...the messy clunkiness seemed more appropriate for the way we felt anyway). 

Honestly, I wasn't sure how I would feel about staying to watch my son be placed in the ground.  As it turned out, my husband once again knew what he was talking about when he suggested it.  It produced a feeling of closure and finality to it all that I'm not sure I would've felt otherwise.  I know it may not be the right choice for everyone, but for us, it was certainly the right thing to do. 

As I said in my first post about Aaron's funeral mass, it was a chilly rainy day but it was a beautiful service.  We are so very grateful for the friends and family who were able to join us and sincerely appreciate the prayers of those who weren't able to be there. 



Saturday, March 2, 2013

Bitterness

Out of all the emotions that I have been working my way through since October, bitterness has always played just a minor role.  There have certainly been times when it has wormed itself into my thoughts along with a touch of resentment, but overall I just don't find it to be a particularly useful emotion. 

There are several people close to me who have had children recently or are expecting a new baby soon.  During the first month or so after we received our diagnosis, seeing babies or other pregnant women nearly broke my heart.  That was when the bitterness was worst...I was almost angry at them for their healthy babies or their "normal" pregnancies.  In my mind, I would ask a hundred times why our child was going to be taken from us so soon and longed to know what we had done to deserve such unthinkable heartache.  It wasn't that I ever wished to trade places with anyone else, because I wouldn't wish this sort of pain on anyone...I just couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that everyone else was getting these healthy, perfect babies and we would soon be planning a funeral.

Thankfully, that phase was short-lived and I can honestly say I've moved beyond it.  It is still painful, but there is no longer a bitterness or resentment to accompany the ache when I see someone else's newborn or learn of a new pregnancy. 

Although we miss Aaron and will continue to miss him every day of our lives, we are so very thankful for him.  He taught us more about life, love and faith than some people are able to share with others in a lifetime that lasts a hundred years.  He helped us find a strength within ourselves that we had no idea existed.  He showed us how important it is to cherish every day and every moment because nothing is a guarantee.  He gave us the opportunity to truly learn what "unconditional love" really means, even though we thought we already knew.   

Although he weighed just over four pounds and had the tiniest little feet I have ever seen, Aaron Michael left footprints on our hearts and in our lives that have forever changed us.