Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Gift of Remembering

The other day my girls and I were enjoying a play date at a friend’s house. We had lunch, the children played happily and we two Moms relished in much needed adult conversation amid winter break. Conversations varied from the chaos of the holidays, the amazement of our rapidly growing children and upcoming book club. The conversation somehow turned towards our children’s names. The two oldest daughters had come to join in at this time and were each glad to share the meaning of their name and comment on the lack of name popularity they both shared. We then talked about middle names of our kids and without missing a beat my friend asked what the middle names of our twins are. She asked this not with a whispered tone, but just as though they were in the other room playing. I happily shared that James’s middle name is Anthony, which is also my father’s middle name, and Penelope’s middle name is Ann, which is in both sides of our family. I laughed a bit at my regret of not spelling Ann with an e, as Anne of Green Gables did. Then our conversation continued and flowed into a new topic.

She may not have realized in that moment what a gift she gave me. To speak my children’s names and tell stories about them, all of them. Not just the two playing in her home that day. This is something so wonderful and rare for a bereaved parent. I cried when I got home. Not because I was sad or missing my babies more than usual. In fact quite the opposite. I cried because for a few minutes I was the mother of four that I truly am and my heart swelled with joy and pride. These moments are few and far between for the bereaved parent. We love our children, all of our children. Please remember that whenever you speak their names or allow us to share a piece of them with you it is truly a gift.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Another Curve Ball

About a year and a half ago Micah and I decided that we were ready to add another child to our family. We have always gotten pregnant very quickly and we expected it to happen within a few months. 10 months later we found ourselves seeking assistance from a fertility clinic. I was approaching the age of  38 and wondered if our chance had already passed. Blood work revealed that I was right. My egg reserve was low, very low. We were told that without fertility treatments we would most likely not conceive. So we ventured down that path. Several months of medications and injections and ultrasounds. All fruitless. We gave up and with heavy hearts we accepted that our family was complete. Then one day, several months later I was late. It couldn’t be! But there were those two lines staring back at me. Pregnant. 
We were shocked and elated! It surely was meant to be! I had zero anxiety. Sure that this would just work out. We spent the next two weeks texting each other Baby names and sharing a secret excitement. I don’t know where my optimism came from, but I was sure that everything would be fine.
Then the day of our first ultrasound arrived. We couldn’t wait to get a glimpse at our little embryo. Just over 6 weeks pregnant and we should be able to hear a heartbeat via ultrasound! The appointment was full of disappointment. No baby was to be found. Just a small empty sac. No heartbeat, no baby, no baby names, no fifth Fuerst.  I cried, hard. The Doctor explained that it didn’t look promising, but there was still a chance. I knew there wasn’t. We scheduled an appointment to come back three days later. Another ultrasound and another round of lab work. All confirmation of what we already knew. No baby. An “abnormal pregnancy “. “Not viable”. 

Why? Why after finally coming to terms with our family being compete did my body decide to get pregnant? Why trick us into believing that we could actually welcome a third child into our home? It’s cruel and unfair. I am so angry with my body. It has once again failed me. Failed our family. Our fertility journey has now come to an end on this sour note. I am all out of optimism. No more medications and shots. We are done, we are complete. This is not how I pictured any of this. I miss the naive woman who believed that she at she had control over her fertility. She believed that she could decide how many children she would have. Now I am a passive receiver of information. Talking to a fertility specialist about my “poor pregnancy history” and “mature eggs”. It’s all too much. I am so grateful for my two living daughters. And as much as I would have loved to bring home a sibling for them it is just not a reality. 
So now we hone in on our family as it is. We are a fabulous family of four. Two parents and two living children. This is not what we pictured, but it is our reality. And as much as we want to add another child it is simply not our reality. Once again we find ourselves facing the reality that we are done. Two beautiful daughters and twins that we hold in our hearts. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

I Opened Their Boxes Today

I opened their boxes today.  Gingerly pulled them out of the closet of the guest bedroom and set them on the bed. It's been about a year since they have been out. Each time I bring them out it’s as if I am pulling my heart out of my chest and laying it out on the bed, vulnerable and raw.

The first item that I pulled out was a soft knitted pink blanket.  Made by a volunteer that I will never know.  Below the blanket is the endless stack of sympathy cards, full of “I’m so sorry”s and  “Deepest sympathy”. Nobody knows what to say when a baby dies.

My face starts to flush and I can feel my heartbeat pounding in my throat.  Hot tears stream down my cheeks meeting under my chin and creating a grief waterfall onto my chest.  I peer over at the dresser and see the two matching urns sitting on the shelf and I feel a strong need to move them and make sure that they aren’t collecting dust.  Just a mother, caring for her babies.

My fingers find their way back to the boxes.  A blue knitted blanket, a set of Social Security cards that instruct not to sign until the card holders 18th birthday, a day that will never come.

Tiny matching gowns, both white in color.  One with tiny blue flowers and the other with pink.  The pink gown has a stain on the inside, perhaps blood.  The only outfits that they wore.  I regret not have them cremated in the outfits.  Were they naked?  Were they cold?  A good mother would have ensured that they were properly dressed.

Ultrasound pictures from a lifetime ago.  A life when I was pregnant with two healthy babies and caring for a one year old at home.  A time when I was preparing our home for two new additions.

Death certificate, birth certificates, newspaper obituaries, funeral handouts, charity donations made in their honor.

Every item that was ever touched by them carefully folded up and contained in a small photo box.  That is all that I have of my children.  These two boxes.  Where I keep my mourning heart that I carefully and quietly pull out every so often and then carefully and quietly put away as to not make others too uncomfortable.

A grieving mother is living on borrowed time. “This is a tragedy” they say.  “Take all the time you need” they say.  “No mother should experience the loss of her child” they say.

But in time they grow inpatient.  “Don’t let this tragedy ruin your life”, “Don’t take too long grieving, it’s not healthy”, “You have other children to care for”.

It’s uncomfortable, someone else’s grief.  It’s painful, and raw and ugly.  And it quickly grows to a point of discomfort.  Of disgust.  Just move on.

Play with your living children and enjoy.  Keep your grieving heart in the box where it belongs.

Don’t carry on so, it’s unbecoming.

You’re depressed.

You’re not grieving properly.

You should be okay by now.

You should have gotten past this.

You can’t dwell on this forever.

You must focus on your living children.

You need to move on.

You need to forget.

You need to be strong.

You need to be brave.

It’s been years.

It’s unhealthy to go on like this.

But don’t you see that I can’t?  Don’t you see the love that I have with every fiber of being in my body that I can’t?

I hurt.

I want to turn back time.  Even if only for one more moment holding them in my arms.  And with each passing year the memories grow fainter.  Each passing year it has been one more year since I have held my children in my arms.  Since I have gazed at their faces.  Since I have breathed in their scent.  Since I have stroked their cheeks.  Since I have touched their toes.  Since I have rested my hands on my belly and felt their gentle kicks and swishes.  Since I have lived in a time that they too had a future.

The pain is still here.  It is visceral and it is searing.  It comes in waves. Sometimes gentle waves lapping at my feet.  Other times a tidal wave comes and knocks the breath right out of me.

I go on.  Another day.  Another day with two of my children gone.  Another day of kissing two foreheads before I go to bed instead of four. 

I go on because there is no alternative other than to move forward.  And it is that in itself that is baffling and uncomfortable for onlookers.

How can this mother live her life and still be so grief stricken?

I have done the impossible.  I have woven my grief, my pain, my anguish, my tears, my anger, my raw devastation into my joyful life. 

I laugh every damn day.  I smile every time one of my daughters walks into the room.  I beam with pride when I see they have accomplished something new.  I am so incredibly happy.

I have the most amazing family.  My children are my everything and I am so joyful just having them in my life.  Sometimes I feel as if I may burst with love and joy.

How can joy and pain exist together?

How can a mother love the living and the dead simultaneously?

Yet it is this state of duplicity that all grieving mothers live in.  We are skilled beyond belief.  We thrive at having our toes in two bodies of water.  And in this way, we are wonders to behold.

It is not a skill that we have learned, but one that we have been forced into.  We have dug our way out of the trenches and come out  new women.  Emboldened by our pain.

Strong, yet weak.  Brave, yet terrified. Tired, but fighting. We are everything.

Our love transcends the explainable.  You will not understand unless you are.  And if you are, you are still not sure how you do it.

But we do it.  Every, damn, day.  Every hour, every minute.  We are.

We can, because we have to.

Nobody would choose this.  I did not choose this.  But this is where I am, and always will be.

Grief does not go away, we learn to carry it.  Some days we carry it with ease, like forgotten penny in a pocket.  Other days it is a boulder on your chest.  But it is always there.

I understand why the grieving mother is uncomfortable for our society.  It is not what we are used to.  There is no black and white with a grieving mother, it is all grey.  Happiness and sadness all blurred together into a messy blob.

But we are here. We have been here since the beginning of time and we will always be here.  Living amongst you in our messy joy and pain.
We didn't choose this.  But we are living this.  And for that we are extraordinary. We are the epitomy of love.  A love that trensends death and time. 
I put their boxes away today.  Neatly tucked into the closet of the guest bedroom. Eyes swollen and tired.  Heart tucked away neatly.

Friday, August 18, 2017

5 Years

In the 5 years since the birth and death of my twins it feels like a lifetime has gone by.  The day that they were born and died a part of me died with them.  I've spent these 5 years becoming a new me and let me tell you, change is hard. I am still getting comfortable being a Mom of children that died.  I have made choices that have shaped who I am now and still growing into.  I have continued to speak my son and daughter's name despite the sometimes uncomfortable silence or loud disapproval.  I have braved a terrifying pregnancy in the hopes of bringing one more living child into our family.  I have fought tirelessly through depression, anxiety and PTSD.  I have loved fiercely and unapologetically.  James and Penelope will always be my children.  

Tomorrow is their 5th birthday.  Five years gone.  Words can't explain how much a mother's heart aches for her children after death.  There is an emptiness.  A tight, aching emptiness.  But life goes on.  Most days now are filled with laughter and joy.  The sun rises and sets everyday.  My living children fill my heart with so much joy that sometimes it feels like I might burst.  That is the fickle opposition of grief.  Joy and sadness, all wrapped up in one neat package.

Tomorrow we will do what we do every year.  Celebrate and remember the children that never got to come home.  Cake, birthday cards, balloons.  I wish I could do more.  My love for them is so much bigger than that.  But I know that all that matters is that I know they were here, and they were loved.  As long as I am living they will not be forgotten.  To everyone that remembers them with me.  Thank you.  Thank you for your love and support over these past 5 years.  It truly means the world to me.

Penelope and James- Happy 5th Birthday.  You are so incredibly loved, today and always.

Monday, August 29, 2016


This morning I dropped off my oldest child at Kindergarten.  Wow. I seriously can't believe it.  I remember cradling her as a newborn baby as all the seasoned parents would tell me "Enjoy!  It's goes so fast".  Boy, were they right.  In the blink of an eye my baby is five and half years old and off to school. How did that happen?

I didn't cry at drop off.  I didn't even cry on the ride home.  But as my youngest and I got in house and I said "It's just you and me today kiddo" the tears started to roll.  Tears of sadness, longing, pride, and just feeling overwhelmed.  Sending her off to Kindergarten is definitely bittersweet.  Yes, I struggle with the idea of her being at school all day.  And yes, I will miss her terribly.  But, I am happy to watch her grow up and go through all of these firsts.  Every time we encounter one of these big firsts my heart strings are pulled as I think of my two babies that will never have them.

I saw a meme recently that said "No one ever tells you that the hardest part of parenting is when your children grow up".  I get it, a little.  But not really. It is bittersweet to watch our children grow up and move on and not need us anymore.  But isn't that why we have children?  To watch them grow into amazing people?  I can't disagree more with this statement.  The hardest part of parenting is when your children don't grown up.  When you don't get to send them off to their first day of Kindergarten.  Or help them pull their first loose tooth.  Or drop them off at their first school dance.  Or drop them off at college.  

Yes, it's incredibly hard letting go of our children at these various stages.  I've cried twice already this morning.  But I'm so lucky.  I'm so lucky that my daughter is healthy and alive and going off to Kindergarten.  I'm so lucky that her little sister has turned into a wild toddler seemingly overnight.  These children just keep growing and changing.  And I'm so lucky to be a part of it.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

On the Eve of Your 4th Birthday

My Dearest Penelope & James,

Tomorrow is your fourth birthday.  What I wouldn't give to have you here to celebrate with us.  To watch you open gifts and blow out candles and run around with your friends and family.  I don't really know what our lives would look like had you lived.  But I've pictured it a million times and no matter how crazy it would be, I wish you were here.

Four years ago was my last blissful pregnant day with you.  I grieve the loss of you both.  But I also grieve the loss of who I was then.  The me before the flood of grief, anxiety, depression, insomnia and PTSD.  I was lighter, happier, more innocent. I am not the same person that I was four years ago.  It's hard getting comfortable in new skin.

But now here we are, almost four years later.  I've forged through the deepest depths and come out okay.  Most days are good.  I still think of you and miss you every day.  But life has leveled out.  Your two sisters keep me busy, very busy.  I often wonder how insanely busy our lives would have been with you here.  When I was pregnant with you I never really stopped to worry about how hard it would be to bring home newborn twins with an almost two year old at home.  I just figured we would make it work.  I'm sure we would have.

While losing you both was the worst thing I have experienced, please know that I don't regret you.  Not even for a second.  While it's been hard, extremely hard at times, I am so glad that you are my children.  You have taught me how to love in a whole new way.  A love that is so great that is crosses life and death.  You have taught me my own strength.  That even when I am faced with absolute devastation, I will survive.  You have given me voice for the baby loss community.  There may not be many people listening, but I will always speak of you.  I will not be silent just to make others comfortable.  You are my children and I will always speak of my love for you.  

So Happy 4th Birthday my loves.  I love you from here to eternity.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

19 Days

As I turned the calendar to August upon returning home from vacation, there it was in bold colorful letters- James and Penelope's 4th Birthday, on August 19th.  My heart sank a little.  Gwenevere was asking me a question as I felt my face getting hot and my eyes filled up with tears.  I couldn't really hear what she was saying and I didn't answer her right away as I thought to myself, "19 more days".

I've celebrated 5 birthdays with Gwenevere and 1 birthday with Victoria so far.  Not to mention 35 of my own.  I love birthdays.  I especially love celebrating a birthday through the eyes of a child.  Gwenevere absolutely adores birthdays. I think it's usually around February when she starts asking when her next birthday is, which isn't of course until December.  The cake, friends, gifts, candy, excitement, birthday wishes, all on this one special day.  Each birthday that we've celebrated is also a time to look back an marvel at how much our child has grown and changed.  It truly is a magical day.

Celebrating a birthday of a deceased child is complicated.  Honestly, it's depressing, but important.  Penelope and James' birthday is not only the day that they were born, but also the day that they died.  So yeah, it's sad.  But it's important to me.  Because while it marks the saddest day in my life it is also the only day that I ever got to spend time with two of my children.  It's the only day that I was able to see their faces, hold their tiny hands and stroke their tiny cheeks.  It's the only day that I was able to say "I love you".  It's the only day that I was able to hold them in my arms. To snuggle them and take in every little feature. It may have been the day that we said goodbye, but it's also the day that we met. That's a day worth celebrating.

This month is hard.  I'm pulled back to that place in time when they were born and died and it hurts.  There still isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss my son and daughter.  I don't think there ever will be.  Like grief tends to do, it ebbs and flows.  I will allow myself a few rough weeks this month.  We'll plan a special day on the 19th with cake and balloons like we do.  I will look at their pictures and cry.  Then I will pull myself together as best as I can and continue to move forward.  I miss them so much, but I can't change the past.  It's only 19 days.