Thursday, November 29, 2012

Due Date & Reminders

Yesterday was my due date for Penelope and James.  It came and went like any other day.  I actually didn't even remember it was their due date until late last night.  Due dates are a funny thing.  Almost from the moment you discover you are pregnant you look eight months into the future at this looming date when your baby will be born.  Very rarely do babies actually arrive on this date.  My daughter Gwenevere was born exactly one week early. I went into labor at work on Tuesday morning and I passed it off as normal pregnancy pains.  It didn't even register to me that I could be in labor because I hadn't reached that magical date yet.  Eighteen hours later Gwenevere arrived.
I had several different due dates with the twins.  When I first discovered I was pregnant I calculated the date myself and discovered that I was due on December 18th.  At my first OB appointment I was told that I was due on December 20th.  Then, several weeks later when we found out that I was carrying twins we were given a twin due date of November 30th.  Finally, when I switched to a new OB they told me the first Doctor had miscalculated and that my actual twin due date was November 28th.  I never would have thought that they would have arrived on August 19th.
In the months following the birth and death of James and Penelope I dreaded facing November 28th.  I imagined it would be a day that I would lock myself in my room and cry.  Now that it has actually happened I realize that it's just another day of grief.  There have been better days and worse days, it's not determined by the calendar.
Many things serve as painful reminders of my son and daughter.  Lately it has been twins.  It seems that everywhere I go is flooded with twins.  I'm actually starting to wonder if there is something in the water around me, there is an unnatural occurance of twins.  I recently took Gwenevere to the library and found myself surrounded.  There was a set of twin to my left, and a set of twins to my right.  I looked down to take a moment to breath and there on the floor was a board book titiled "Bath Time For Twins".  I had to laugh, the only other choice was to cry and I wasn't in the mood for sobbing in public.
I know that as time goes on certain things will remind me of my loss.  I hope that eventually I will be able to see twins and not feel a burning sense of jealousy.  I hope that I will be better equipped to handle the floods of emotion that come and go.  Most days I cry, some days a little and some days a lot.  I miss my children.  I miss who they could have become and who they were.  I would still give anything to be able to kiss their tiny faces again or hold them in my arms.  I simply miss them, not just on their due date, but everyday.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The New Me

My life is a little different these days.  Grief counseling with my Therapist every three weeks, Miscarriage & Infant Loss Support Group the 2nd Thursday of every month, making time everyday to meditate and be alone with my thoughts.  Of all the things I thought I would be when I grew up, being the mother to one living child and two deceased children is not something that I ever imagined.  I never imagined that while I was Christmas shopping I would have to buy votive candles to light in my dead children's honor, or buy angel wing ornaments, or stuff two of my children's stocking with donations to March of Dimes instead of toys.  This is not what I thought my family would look like.
I love my family.  Micah is the best husband, partner and co-parent I could have ever asked for.  Gwenevere is a ball of joy, energy, fun, love, excitement, intelligence, giggles, and sweetness.  I have always wanted to have a daughter, not that I have anything against boys.  But I love my mother and I wanted a relationship like that with my own daughter.  I got my wish and so much more when Gwenevere was born.  No matter how wonderful and perfect the three of us are together, I can't ignore the gaping hole.  James and Penelope are not with us.
I can't help but let my mind wander into the dangerous zone of what ifs.  What would my family look like if the twins were here.  Would they even have been born yet?  My official twin due date is just eight days away.  If they were here I'm sure we would be crazy busy.  Three children in diapers, two infants breastfeeding, twice the middle of the night feedings, twice the crying, twice the stress, twice the joy.  I'll never really know what that life would have looked like, I can only dream.
My life now is different than it was three months ago.  While most of the changes have come with pain, there are some good things that have started to glimmer through the hurt.  I am not the same mother to Gwenevere that I was for the first twenty months of her life.  I give her more hugs, kisses and cuddles.  I sit and read with her more often.  I stare at her beautiful face and find myself tearing up at her mere existence.  She is a miracle and I can't believe I am lucky enough to be her mother.  Losing Penelope and James was awful and I wish they were still here.  But they are gone.  I have to believe that their short life had purpose.  I don't yet know what that complete purpose is.  I do know that some of their purpose was to make me a different kind of mother.  I am a mother that loves with all of my heart and then some.  I take nothing for granted.  I am more patient, more attentive. I never would have thought it was possible, but I love my daughter more.  A new part of my heart was awakened with the death of my son and daughter.  Without their brief time in my life I wouldn't be the person I am today.

Monday, November 12, 2012


One week from today will be the three month mark from the day that Penelope and James were born and died.  I really can't believe that much time has gone by.  I know that when you have a baby people always tell you "It goes by so fast".  I guess that's just as true when your baby doesn't come home with you.  It really seems like yesterday that Micah and I were driving home from the hospital, silent, tearful and trying to make sense of it all.
These days are a mixed bag.  I am still full of grief and I miss my son and daughter every day.  I also have an amazing toddler to care for.  To help me cope with my loss I have thrown all of my energy into taking care of my beautiful daughter.  I spend my time away from her planning educational activities and enriching life experiences. When I am with her we go on play dates, reading time at the library, exploring at the science museum, art projects at home, sorting & counting, singing and playing.  I pour the energy I have into raising this child.  Putting all of my energy into Gwenevere doesn't leave me with much time for crying and moping.
Even with my busy days I still find myself overcome at times with grief.  Sometimes it's just a passing thought, other times I break down crying.  Gwenevere has become very good at recognizing my sadness and offering hugs, "Mommy crying, sad".
Although I try to hold it all together I never know what will be a trigger for me.  This weekend it was seeing a set of boy girl twins at the museum.  They were about three years old and adorable.  I wanted to cry,  I wanted to take the Mom aside and tell her how lucky she was, I wanted to hug the kids, I wanted them to leave so I didn't have to see this painful reminder.  I never used to notice twins.  I'm sure they have always been around, but I never noticed them.  Now, wherever I go there seem to be twins.  I can't look past them anymore.
Last night I was flipping through shows on Netflix.  I stumbled upon Teen Mom 2 and decided to watch.  By the end of the first episode I found myself crying.  I couldn't help but wonder why these Moms deserved to have their children with them and I didn't.  These people can barely take care of themselves, let alone a child.  I know the world doesn't work that way.  Bad things happen to good people and life isn't fair.  That doesn't mean I can't be angry about it once in a while.
While Gwenevere is sometimes the glue that is holding me together, she can also be a trigger.  I see how far she has come, all that she can do, all that she has learned and it makes me sad.  James and Penelope will never get to experience all that Gwenevere does.  They will never get to snuggle in bed with us and read goodnight stories.  They will never say their first words or take their first steps.  They will never have a tantrum in Meijer and embarrass me.  They will never give me a hug when I am sad.
I try very hard to stay positive.  I have one living child.  She is amazing and more than I ever could have hoped for.  I am lucky.  Some people never know the joy of giving birth to a healthy baby and watching them grow up.  I have this privilege that is parenthood.  I am a Mom and for that I am grateful.  I just wish that I could be a Mom to all three of my children.  But, because I can't I will continue to be the best Mom I can be Gwenevere and remind myself how blessed I am to have her in my life.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Holidays

Now that Halloween has come and gone, we are rapidly approaching the holiday season.  Christmas music is on the radio and decorations are up at stores.  Usually, I love the Holidays.  I love Thanksgiving.  I enjoy the planning and preparation of the feast as well as eating it.  I enjoy spending special time with my family and taking a moment to remember what we are thankful for.  I enjoy the four day weekend and knowing that the day after Thanksgiving I can wear my pajamas all day while Micah works a half day but gets paid for a full day.  I love the leftovers, I love the online shopping.

Last year's Thanksgiving was special to us.  We were expecting our second child at 9 weeks pregnant.  Our families knew our good news and although they were a little surprised, they were happy for us.  I enjoyed Thankgiving sober, as I did the previous year when I was 38 weeks pregnant with Gwenevere.  Just 3 short days later I found out in the emergency room that our baby no longer had a hearbeat.  The next day I was scheduling my D & C.

Christmas came one month later, as it always does.  It felt empty.  Not many people knew that I had just lost a pregnancy.  I felt ashamed and self indulgent to talk about it.  Not many people even knew that I was pregnant, and it seemed awkward to explain.  Micah and I went on planning a fun Christmas for our daughter.  We hung the stockings, bought presents and participated in all of the usual celebrations.  On Christmas day we celebrated with Micah's family.  One of his family members was pregnant and due the same time that we were.  I couldn't even bring myself to make eye contact with them.  It just hurt to know that they were going to meet their little June bug, and ours was gone.  I remember thinking at the time that hopefully we would have a new baby by Christmas of next year.

Fast forward to now.  Christmas is coming and there will be no new baby in our home.  Thanksgiving is less than a month away and I am having a hard time of thinking what I am thankful for this year.  Of course I am thankful for my wonderful network of family and friends, but without James & Penelope it seems incomplete.  I am thankful for my daughter, but sometimes her milestones serve as a painful reminder of what her brother and sister will never do.   Once again I face the holidays knowing that something is missing.  This time, so much more.  With my first loss I was 10 weeks pregnant.  I know that some people consider any stage of pregnancy to be a baby, but to me it was the idea of a baby.  I never met that baby, never held that baby.  However, I mourned the loss of the potential child that it could have been.  With my more recent loss it is so much more real.  I carried Penelope and James for almost 23 weeks.  I felt them moving inside of me, I saw their kicks.  When they were born they were just as real as any baby.  They each had 10 fingers and 10 toes, eyes, ears a mouth and James even had a full head of hair.  I labored through contractions and delivered them the same way I brought Gwenevere into this world.  They are my children, but they aren't here with me.

This Christmas will come and go like all holidays do.  I will wrap presents, decorate our tree, drink hot chocolate, and revel in the joy of my daughter. I will do this all while knowing that two of my children can't be with me.  I will cry, I will take a Xanax, I will miss the crap out of those two sweet babies.  I know I will get through it, but I also know that it won't be a joyous occasion. The Holidays will be over before I know it and I will be starting a new year.  May this next year be a little less painful and a little more peaceful.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Faith Shaken

Let me begin by explaining my religious background.  I am a Unitarian Universalist and I have been my whole life.  I grew up in a UU family and attended church almost every week.  I have been a part of this religion for over 30 years, yet I still struggle to explain the creed of our church.  The best way to describe the set of beliefs set forth is the Golden Rule; Treat others as you would like to be treated.  All people are accepted in our church as they are, spiritualists, Agnostics, Atheists, Intellectuals, Straight, Gay and Transgendered.  It is a religion that does not impose beliefs, instead it expects acceptance.

While growing up in the UU church it was expected of me to create my own set of beliefs.  Was there a god, and what did that figure mean to me?  I still don't know the answer to that question, but it has been a stimulating one to ponder over the years.  I have always leaned towards the belief that there is a greater power.  Some people may call that God.  I liked to believe that in times of great stress I could turn to this power and pray.  I never really expected miracles, just a feeling of support and comfort from knowing that I wasn't alone.

Now that I have been through the greatest tragedy of my life I find that I have a new viewpoint.  I have come to one realization;  God does not meddle in our lives. 

Before this year I have never known anyone who has lost a baby or child (not including 1st trimester pregnancy loss).  Since the death of my son and daughter I have encountered a countless number of parents that have been through a loss.  Some similar to my experience, others completely different but equally painful.  I started to do some Internet research on the statistics of infant mortality rates.  In the U.S. approximately 20% of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage before 20 weeks.  Loss of a baby after 20 weeks is approximately .5%.  It may not sound like much, until you are one of the parents of a miscarriage or death of an infant.

It is hard for me to imagine that there is any God that would allow or even cause these terrible things to happen, not to mention all of the other catastrophic things that happen in this world.  Some people say that everything happens for a reason, it's part of God's plan.  I have a hard time accepting this.  God can't possibly want people to suffer.  If this is God's test of me, I have failed.  I don't like to give labels, but I guess I am agnostic.  There may be a greater power, there may not.  If there is, I know It is not concerned with how often one attends church or what their specific creed is.  This greater power is there for reasons unknown to me.

In one aspect my faith has been strengthened, my faith in humanity.  I have been truly astounded at the outreach of my friends, family & even strangers.  Every card that was send to our house, every vase full of flowers, every prayer said in our honor, every meal that was brought to our door, every phone call and every e-mail that I received showed me how incredible the people are that surround me.  I am amazed how many people have reached out to say a simple "I'm sorry" or "I'm thinking about you".

Some people may pity me for not having a strong faith in God.  They may wonder how I can possible get through this awful loss without that relationship.  My answer is simple, I have faith in you.  I believe that you have the power to make someone feel loved and supported.  You may not always have the right words, but the warmth and kindness is there.  I hope that I can someday return the favor and be a shoulder to cry on or a pillar of strength when needed.  God knows, we need each other.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Dreaded Question

I am anxiously waiting for the first time I have to answer the dreaded question; "Is she your first?".  I guess the answer is yes, Gwenevere is my first child.  However, she is not my only child.  The question is always asked with the best intentions.  Usually just another Mom striking up a conversation.  It is a question that I don't think I'll ever ask a stranger again.

For any parent that has been through the loss of a pregnancy or child it is a loaded question.  If you answer politely and say yes you feel like you are not respecting your dead children.  If you answer honestly and explain your complicated family it makes for a pretty awkward moment.  It was recommended to me that I have a standard answer prepared for when it comes up.  That way I'm not caught off guard.  I plan on saying, "She is my only living child".  If someone wants to ask follow up questions they can, and if not that's okay too. I can't imagine pretending like Penelope and James never existed, even to a stranger at the grocery store.  They are just as much a part of our family as any of us.  The only difference is that they are not with us.

I am proud to be the mother of James & Penelope, even though I only got to fill that role for a very short time.  I was present from the moment they were born to the moment they died.  I didn't miss a breath or heartbeat or movement.  Their entire life was spent in the loving arms of their Mom & Dad. Not many parents can say that.