Friday, December 13, 2013

'Tis The Season

December is perhaps my favorite month of the year.  Despite the freezing cold weather and treacherous driving conditions I find it to be a magical time of year.  The month of December rings in with my daughter's birthday, this year she turned three.  Then later that week is my husband's birthday as well and St. Nicholas day.  Then the next three weeks are filled with anticipation for the big day, Christmas.  I love the birthday celebrations, the shopping (online mostly), the beautiful snowy weather, decorating the house, drinking hot chocolate, watching Christmas movies, marking the advent calendar, and enjoying time with my family.

The first Christmas following the birth of my first born was perhaps the most magical.  I was a new Mother in a constant state of awe and bliss.  With the help of my husband I had created and given birth to another person, a beautiful little baby girl.  I couldn't have been happier.  On Christmas Eve we dressed our daughter up in an adorable red velvet and white fur trim dress and took pictures of her under our Christmas tree.  I couldn't have imagined a better Christmas present than a new baby.

My daughter's second Christmas was a mixed bag of emotions.  I was so happy to be celebrating another holiday season with my husband and now one year old daughter.  But the pain was still fresh from my 10 week miscarriage over Thanksgiving weekend.  I was still mourning the loss of that tiny baby, wishing I was still carrying a life inside me.  We pushed forward and celebrated as usual, with the pain of our loss always present.

The following December was even more difficult.  We were four months out from the loss of Penelope and James.  December was their due date and we couldn't help but wonder what this time of year would be like if they were still with us.  We tried to find ways to include them in our Christmas celebrations.  We put their names on our Christmas cards, hung stocking from the fireplace for them, made a special Christmas ornament for each of them and lit candles in their honor at our Christmas dinner.  It didn't really matter how many things we did to remember them, the pain of missing them was in our faces all the time.

Now it is approaching our daughter's fourth Christmas season.  She is full of excitement and anticipation at the arrival of Santa and presents.  We have begun to decorate our house, the stockings are hung, the Christmas cards are sent, the lights are up, and our Christmas tree is in the works.  This year my heart is lighter.  The heavy ache that I felt last year has lightened, though it is still there.  We will continue to honor our babies by hanging their stockings, placing their ornaments on the tree, honoring them in our Christmas cards, and lighting candles for them. These are traditions that we will continue for as long as we feel the need to.

Even though over a year has passed since our loss, this time of year opens the wound a little bit.  It is a special time a year, a time for family and celebration.  I think anyone that has lost someone they love misses them a little more at these special times.  We are reminded of what this time should be like if they were still here.  As I continue to prepare for the big day it hurts as I buy gifts for only one child and donate money to The March of Dimes instead of buying toys to fill my twin's stockings.  It hurts as I take only one child to go visit Santa at the mall.  It hurts to know that my son and daughter will never know the joy of celebrating Christmas with their family.  I miss them everyday, but this time of year I am missing all that could have been.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Only Child

Since the day I lost my twins I mourned not only for my loss, but for my daughter's loss.  She lost a brother and sister that she would never even get to meet.  I had imagined so much for the three of them.  The twins and Gwenevere would have been almost exactly two years apart, and Gwenevere would get two siblings in one shot, not an opportunity that most of us get.  I figured that with two new siblings in the mix she would have been able to build a lifelong close relationship with at least one of them, hopefully both of them.

Growing up I was an only child to my parents for nine years.  To be perfectly honest, I loved it.  Although, by the time I was eight years old and my parents told me that I was going to be a big sister I was thrilled.  I couldn't wait to have a baby in the house, hopefully a sister.  To my delight, three months after my ninth birthday we welcomed a baby girl into our family.  Anna was adorable, but not much fun in the beginning.  There was lots of crying, much less attention for me and not much sisterly bonding.  There were fun times too, eventually.  Helping her eat, giving her baths, playing with her as she got older.  Now as an adult I can't imagine my life without my wonderful sister.  She has grown up into an amazing, strong, intelligent, witty woman and I love her.

While I want Gwenevere to have a sibling to share memories with and build a lifelong friendship with that is not enough of a reason for me to have another child.  In fact there is no guarantee that she will even like any other children we have.  Our next kid could be a real dick, you never know.  Most of my friends have at least one sibling.  Some have wonderful relationships, others dread having to see their siblings at family get togethers.  Just because you have the same parents doesn't mean you are going to be best friends.  Having spent half of my childhood as an only child and half as a sister I can say that it's pretty fun both ways.

I just wish our society didn't place such a stigma on the only child.  Yes, it is wonderful to have someone in your family that you have shared experiences with.  Someone that is tied to you for life.  But isn't it also wonderful to have a childhood filled with undivided parental love?  Never having to share a bedroom or babysit for free.  The role of the only child is drastically underrated in our society.  

I don't know how long Gwenevere will enjoy the role of only child.  But I am confident that for now she is thriving.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

1st Grandson

My husband's side of the family has been rocking a baby girl streak for over three years now.  First was my niece Maris, then Gwenevere, then three more girls, then my stillborn niece Meah.  Not long after Meah was born still, my husband and I found out that the twins I were carrying were a girl and a boy!!  The girl streak was officially over, the first grandson was on his way.  Two months later the first grandson came into this world and quickly left.

Now, over one year later we've welcomed another niece into the world and this week came our first nephew.  Although he is our first nephew, he is not the first grandson.  My son James will always hold that title, even if my husband and I are the only ones to recognize it.  I knew that eventually someone in the family would have another boy, it was bound to happen.  I just didn't realize how much it would hurt.  

Micah and I will hopefully have another baby someday, and that baby may be a boy.  However, he will not be our first son, he will be our second.  I realize that I view my children in a different light than the rest of the family.  To me they are just as real as my living daughter.  I felt them kicking in my belly, gave birth to them, watched them wiggle in my arms and watched them die in my husbands arms.  Not many people got to see them alive, including everyone in my husband's family.  His parents were able to come visit us that night and hold our babies, but they were already gone.  To my husband's siblings and step siblings, James and Penelope are nothing more than pictures and ashes in matching heart urns.  I understand that to most people my babies are nothing but gone.

With these feeling of sadness come equal pangs of guilt.  Why can't I just be happy?!  Someone has brought another beautiful, healthy baby into this world and I just feel bitter.  I hate that this is the person that I am.  I am so tired of being the grieving mother, I just wish I could move on.  I knew from day one that this process of grieving would be the biggest challenge of my life, and some days I am just not up for it.  Today is one of those days.

Monday, October 7, 2013

A Little Known Secret of a Berieved Parent

I love my child more than you love your child, there, I said it.  I am not saying this to be cruel or hurtful.  I am not doubting how much love you have for your child.  I am saying this because as any bereaved parent can tell you, it is true.  I am completely aware of how much love a parent has for their child.  From the moment I saw my daughter's puffy squishy face I fell hard for her.  It's not the kind of love you have for a friend, or sibling or even spouse.  It is it's own unique brand it is is unbreakable.

When I say that I fell hard for my daughter I mean it.  People tell you that until you become a parent you can never imagine what that love feels like.  That is true.  I can't even begin to explain how much love I felt for my daughter from the moment I held her in my arms My heart felt like it was going to explode.  I literally couldn't take my eyes off of her.  While there are many people in my life that I love, this love was so much more intense.  I am not saying that I love my daughter more than my husband, I don't.  There is no way to compare the two types of love, parental and romantic.  All I know is if I met my husband for the first time covered in blood and amniotic fluid and he was naked and crying I don't think it would have been the same.

From my experience of having a child and knowing that kind love I do not doubt any parent's love for their child.  Even in those moments when their patience is being tested to the max while their toddler is sprawled out on the grocery aisle floor flailing wildly and the parent is wondering if they can just walk away and pretend it is someone Else's child, there is love.  It is a deep, ever growing, unbreakable love.  It's the kind of love that enables a parent to get through the sleepless nights of caring for a newborn.  It's the kind of love that endures the years of teenage angst.  It is powerful stuff.

Even with the knowledge that I have of how deep a parent's love is for their child I can say with confidence that I love my child more.  It is hard to explain how much deeper my love is now for my daughter than it was fourteen months ago, but it is.

After seeing two of my children die in front of my eyes, in the comfort of their father's arms, I am changed.  I know that Penelope and James have given us many gifts, but the one that I am most thankful for is how they deepened my love for Gwenevere.  There is not a moment that goes by that I am not overwhelmed with gratitude for my oldest daughter.  There are many times that I just look at her and my eyes well up with tears.  I revel in the miracle of her mere presence.  She is here, she is amazing, and she is my child.  

I have had many people tell me how my story has impacted their life.  They hold their babies a little closer, give their children a few more hugs, and appreciate them a little more.  I have know this feeling as well.  Before my twins were born a close family member's daughter was born still.  My heart ached for her family.  I cried many tears over their loss.  I touched my own pregnant belly and I felt guilty that my babies were still here and her baby was gone.  I felt lucky.  But to say that I was equally affected by her loss would be untrue.  It wasn't until the death of my own children that I really knew what loss and despair felt like.

While I am appreciative of how my love for my daughter has changed since the death of my twins, I still wish it had never happened.  I with that no other families ever have to go through this type of loss. Yes, I love my child more than parents who have never been through a loss do.  But I would trade places with them in a heartbeat.   Because I can't, I will relish this new love that I have for Gwenevere.  I know a special kind of love that most mother's will never truly understand. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Proud Mom

Recently while chatting with one of my neighbors she brought up how much she respected the fact that we chose to celebrate our twin's birthday this year.  She began to tear up as she told me the story of her brother that was born when she was twelve years old.  Her brother only lived for several days and he was never held by anyone in the family, not even the mother.  When he died the family never spoke of him again.  My heart aches for her, for her family.  I can't even imagine trying to go on with life pretending that my child never existed. 
I have had many people comment to me how strong I am.  They tell me that I am so brave to speak openly about the loss of my children.  Most days I feel neither strong nor brave.  I speak openly about my son and daughter because I love them.  I carry pictures of them in my purse that I am just as willing to show people as pictures of my toddler.  I am so proud to be their Mom and it is impossible to hide that from the world.  I don't think it's brave of me to speak about them, I think it's essential.  My family is everything to me and they are part of my family.
Although I have chosen not to be quiet about the death of my twins I respect and understand why some parents chose to remain silent.  It is not fun to watch the face of a stranger contort from a smile to a twisted, shocked frown when you answer their question of "How many children do you have?" with the honest answer of "One living daughter and two in heaven".  It is uncomfortable at best.  I'm sure there are several people that I have met that are simply too taken aback and may choose not to interact with me again.  I'm okay with that.  Those are not the kind of people I need in my life.
Last month while shopping with Gwenevere she spotted a sparkly shirt with two kittens and a balloon on it.  In large words across the front it read "I'm The Big Sister".  I purchased the shirt without much thought as well as several other sparkly shirts.  She has worn it several times, for three days in a row at one stretch.  I know she is not a typical big sister.  There is not a baby in her home that she gets to help out with.  However, she is a big sister.  She has two siblings, both of which she talks about fondly.  They are often woven into her pretend play and bedtime stories.  I am aware that it will be awkward when a stranger asks her who she is a big sister to.  I am okay with that.  I am tired of the world being afraid to talk about pregnancy loss and infant death.  If it means a few moments of discomfort with a stranger, I'm willing to do it.
It has been over a year since my son and daughter died.  They feel just as much a part of our family now as they ever have.  My love for them continues to grow as I find little ways to fit them into our daily lives.  While they are no longer here, we have several treasured pictures and keepsakes that serve as beautiful reminders of them.  I don't think I'm doing anything extraordinary by talking about them.  I'm just being their Mom.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Years ago, long before I had children of my own I would sometimes ponder the question, "What does a Stay at Home Mom do all day"?  I mean really, how much work could actually be involved in caring for a child or children at home all day.  I know there are things like keeping the house clean, grocery shopping, cooking, but those are all things that I do and I have a full time job.  I never expected to find myself in the SAHM role, answering my own question.  I had somehow completely neglected the fact that most of a Mom's day is consumed by, wait for it.... taking care of your child!

It's not that I was unfamiliar with the difficulty of caring for children.  For years I worked in a child care center.  Most of my time there was spent in the infant room.  A job that was challenging on a good day and pull your hair out, leave work with a migraine on a bad day.  Don't get me wrong, I loved my job.  Babies are adorable and even on a bad day it's hard not to appreciate their cute chubby sweetness.  However, at the end of an eight hour shift of wiping poopy bottoms, getting doused in breast milk spit up, having your hair pulled and being screamed at by multiple kiddos, I was glad to go home to a childless house. I always thought teenagers should be required to spend a month working full time in the infant room, it makes for excellent birth control.

By the time I decided to start a family of my own I was working in the toddler room.  A job equally challenging, but with more perks.  One and two year old children can give hugs, say "I love you", play games and just be hilarious.  They also don't spit up and some of them can even use the toilet.  As my due date drew near, I knew that I would go back to work after a 12 week maternity leave.  I had no desire to quit my job and stay home with my daughter.  It wasn't that I didn't appreciate what Stay at Home Moms did, it just wasn't appealing to me.  I loved my job, watching the children grow and change, the social interaction with my co-workers, and the sense of pride when I knew I was doing a good job.

My 12 weeks of maternity leave were blissful.  I snuggled my daughter, nursed her, played with her, enjoyed her every waking moment.  The one problem was, her waking moments were few and far between.  She slept a lot, and by a lot I mean pretty much all the time.  If she wasn't nursing, she was sleeping.  Sometimes she would even sleep while nursing.  I kept asking our pediatrician if it was normal for a baby to sleep so much, she laughed and told me not to complain about it.  Although my maternity leave was a bit on the boring side I did enjoy it.  I watched seasons 1-3 of Dexter, got my house cleaner than it had ever been and pumped enough breastmilk to carry us through the next few months.

Going back to work went smoothly.  My daughter continued to sleep her days away in the infant room while I played with the big kids.  I would take a break every day to go visit her and nurse or pump.  While I did miss her, my work day seemed to go by quickly and we got to spend the afternoons and evenings together.  When I had my miscarriage in November, things changed.  I started to realize how fragile life is.  How lucky I was to have my daughter.  As we started to try to get pregnant again I began to reconsider my life as a Working Mom.

By March the decision was made, I was going to quit my job.  We weren't yet pregnant, but I hoped to be soon.  I knew that I would have much more time with Gwenevere as my only child and I wanted to make the most of it.  I also didn't want to go through another pregnancy lifting 30 pound children, setting up and cleaning up twelve toddler lunches while struggling with morning sickness and sweating through the summer in a building without air conditioning.  My last day of work was the second week of April.  That week we found out that I was pregnant again, this time with twins.

It's been a year and a half since I have worked, in the traditional sense.  I am now a Stay at Home Mom and I must say that I love my new job title.  Is it as difficult as being a working Mom? Yes and no.  My schedule is more open and flexible.  I have more time during the day to run errands, work out, even take the occasional nap.  I also have to do all of this while caring for a toddler, a very busy toddler.  Keeping the house clean now means picking up toys, sweeping crumbs, wiping pee of the floor, making meals and snacks all throughout the day.  For every mess that is picked up, there is another mess being made.  I can grocery shop whenever I want to, but it takes about twice as long.  When Gwenevere goes down for her nap I can choose between working out, planning curriculum for her, cleaning or nothing.  It is not always easy, but it's a good fit for me. Becoming a SAHM is a decision that I don't regret.  I have one living child and I am glad that I am able to spend every possible moment I have enjoying her.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Am I Crazy?

This week I met with the Perinatologist (high risk pregnancy Doctor) for a preconception consultation.  I sat down in his office with my short list of questions.  There was really only one pressing question that I knew he wouldn't be able to answer.  Should I really try this again?  He went over my charts and began to discuss with me the possible causes for the loss of my twins.  Cervical deficiency, preterm labor, infection, all possibilities.  Not really knowing what the cause was, it is difficult to choose a path for a future pregnancy.
He drew pictures, made charts and answered all of my questions.  As I left the office he said "I'm sure we'll see you soon"!  I am not so sure.

Since the moment I gave birth to my first child I have known that I wanted another.  Even while in labor I kept saying "Next time we should...".  I have always pictured my family with two or three children.  I understand the one child family, I grew up as an only child for 9 years and I have no complaints.  But it is hard for me to temper my desire to have another baby to love and watch grow up.  I also know that giving birth is not my only choice.  There is adoption, a choice that I have considered.  Unfortunately the financial and emotional toll to go through the adoption process in not a possibility for my family right now.  There is also the option of finding a surrogate, once again very costly.  There are many reasons for me wanting to try again.  But mostly, I'm not ready to give up my dream.  My dream of carrying a baby through 9 months of pregnancy, giving birth and bringing a healthy baby home from the hospital.  I also know that there are no guarantees with any pregnancy.  It is always a gamble.

As the Perinatalogist explained, I may have no problems with another pregnancy.  I may be able to carry a baby to term without a hitch.  However, something could go wrong again.  I keep weighing my options, trying to decide what the best decision is for me and my family.  I know that my husband is on board with whatever I want to do.  I am so lucky to have his support.  I also know that he is scared.  Not only did he suffer the loss of his son and daughter, but he had to watch his wife unravel with no way to help.  I think he is not only afraid of losing another child, he is afraid of losing me.  I have come back from my son and daughter's death, but I don't know if I could come back from the loss of another child. 

Throughout this decision making process I keep wondering if I am crazy to even think about trying again.  Maybe my body is done, maybe this isn't going to work.  But I don't want to give into the fear.  I might be crazy, but if there is a chance that I can bring home a healthy baby I have to try.  I am filled with fear, which is not a great way to start.  I want so badly to be the blissfully ignorant person I was when I got pregnant with Gwenevere.  I read the books, I knew things could go wrong, but I never thought it would happen to me.  Now I know I will never feel the same way looking at a positive pregnancy test.  It used to mean "I'm going to have a baby"!!!!!, now it just means "I'm pregnant".

When we will start this next leg in our journey we don't yet know.  I know one thing though, I will not wait to announce my pregnancy.  I will need all the good thoughts and prayers that I can get!  If I have to be paranoid and anxious for 9 months, everyone else around me should share the burden as well.  I have learned from my 1st trimester miscarriage that keeping a pregnancy and loss a secret does not make the healing process any easier, it makes it harder.  I can't imagine where I would be without the endless love and support I have received.  The kindness from family, friends and acquaintances means more to me than I can say.  Knowing that support system is there helps give me the strength to think about trying again, even if it's a little bit crazy.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Moving Forward

When you lose someone you love there is no going back.  No matter how many times I wished and prayed it was all a terrible dream, my babies were still gone.  Since there is no going back, one might assume that you move forward, through the grief.  This is not always true.  Many days I have been at a standstill.  Stuck in the deep pit of despair.  The thought of moving forward is sometimes terrifying.  There is a deep sense of guilt that if I move forward I am letting go.  The last thing I want to do is forget about my son and daughter, they will always be a part of me.  However, I know that I can't live my whole life in such intense pain.  

Moving forward through grief is a very delicate process, one that I have just begun to experience.  It has been one year since my babies came and went.  Most of this past year has been spent in survival mode.  I have relied heavily on routine and keeping busy, afraid if I stop to think I will break down.  I have no shame in crying, but it can be physically and emotionally draining.  While I slowly takes steps forward, moving away from the pit of despair, I have to proceed with caution.  I have many fears.  I worry that my memories will fade, that my love will fade, that I will move too quickly and fall backwards.  As I leave survival mode I begin to come to terms with my new identity.  I am not a freshly grief stricken parent anymore.  I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a stay at home mom, a friend.

My husband and I have recently discussed the idea of trying to have another child.  Just the discussion alone brought up so many negative feeling for me.  Mostly I felt angry.  I should not be having this discussion, we should be done having children.  I have given birth to three children and that is enough.  I don't want to go through the stress and anxiety that another pregnancy will bring.  I want all of my children here with me.  I know I will never be able to replace my son and daughter and I worry that having another child will feel that way.  But I also want to have another living child.  I want to have a healthy baby that I can nurse, snuggle, change diapers, bathe, and love.  I want Gwenevere to have a living sibling, one that she can play and fight with.  I want to see my husband as a new father again.  I want to see my parents with a new grandchild.  I want to go through the whole nine months of pregnancy.  I want to feel baby kicks, heartburn, exaustion, and excitement.

I am so thankful every day that James and Penelope are part of our family.  They have changed me in ways I could have never imagined.  I see the impact that they have had on our family and friends and it warms my heart.  I move forward knowing that they will never be forgotten.  They are forever a part of me and a part of you.  


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Yes, I'm Still Grieving

Next week will mark the one year anniversary of the birth and death of my son and daughter.  I have come so far from where I was last year.  If someone were to offer me a billion dollars to go back to the first day after they were gone I would never accept.  That was the most intense sadness and emptiness I have ever experienced and don't think I could survive it again.  Now if I were able to go back to the day that they were born and be able to hold them in my arms again, even for one minute, I would do it all over again.  I realize that may sound crazy, but I would give anything to be able to see their beautiful faces and hold their precious bodies in my arms.  I would take pictures, tons of pictures.  I would hold them, dress them, kiss them and snuggle them.  Those short moments that I had with my babies were priceless.

Whenever I think of what it was like in the days and weeks after their death my heart hurts.  I remember who I was at that time; a grieving mother.  I remember the emotions I felt, the anger, the despair, the guilt, the desperate desire to go back in time and change it all.  I remember bursting out weeping throughout the day.  I cried and cried and cried.  My eyes nearly swelled shut and my face was blotchy and red.  I remember my empty soft stomach.  I remember my breasts engorged with milk.  I wanted to pump, but I knew that I couldn't handle seeing the milk that was supposed to be for my babies.  I remember people coming and going with meals and messages of sympathy.  I remember wanting to pray to God for comfort but feeling too angry.  I remember feeling broken.  I remember feeling like I wasn't even real.

Nearly one year later I am the same grieving mother.  It may look different, it may feel different, but it is the same.  I still cry sometimes when I remember that my twins aren't here with me.  I wonder what they would be like.  I got so little time with them, I feel like there was so much more to them that I will never know.  My body has recovered and gone back to normal.  I don't feel broken anymore, I feel changed.  I realize that the world may no longer view me as a grieving parent.  My story is no longer fresh.  But it is fresh to me.  The wound still stings and I still feel the pain.  I know as time goes on I will continue to heal.  But I also know that I will always grieve the loss of Penelope and James.  I am forever changed by them and I will always grieve their death.

The days leading up to James and Penelope's 1st birthday have been challenging.  I have been hit with emotions that I haven't had to face in months.  Sadness, bitterness, jealousy, anger and guilt.  I know the day will come and go like any other day.  But I also know that the world is a better place because of them.  I am different because of them and if their story touches or inspires just one person, their lives had meaning. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Party Planning and Death Certificates

I find it absolutely shocking when I realize how quickly Penelope and James' first birthday is approaching.  It honestly feels like just yesterday.  I miss them so much every day.  How is it possible that it has been eleven months since I last held them in my arms?  Their beautiful faces are still fresh in my mind, burned into my memory.

Micah and I decided that we didn't want their birthday to pass without some sort of acknowledgment.  We wanted to find a way to celebrate and honor their short lives.  We wanted to be able to do what most parents do for their children on their first birthday, throw a party.  This may seem odd or morbid to some people, but for us it just seems natural.  If nothing else we are celebrating that we are still here.  We have survived perhaps the most devastating event of our lives and we are okay.  With the strength and support of our friends and family we have pulled ourselves out of the pit of grief and we have survived.  Not only have we survived the death of our beloved twins, but we are stronger.  Our hearts have changed for the better.

Not only do James and Penelope deserve to be celebrated, so do all of our support system.  Everyone that cared enough to place a well timed phone call, sympathy card, bouquet of flowers, caring e-mail, a warm hug, or just sending warm thoughts and prayers our way.  To say we felt your love and support is a true understatement.  It carried us through the darkness.  So we are throwing this party as a thank you as well.

I have recently been party planning in an attempt to get ready for the weirdest 1st birthday party ever.  I have done this before, my daughter Gwenevere had a 1st birthday party and it was wonderful. However, I have never thrown a birthday party for someone that is no longer living.  I don't really know how to do it and the Internet is not exactly full of suggestions.  I have been going through their memory boxes recently, trying to find special items that we can display.  As I was gingerly going through the hand knit blankets, and doll sized clothes I stumbled upon two official envelopes I had never seen.  I opened them up to discover that they contained the death certificates of Penelope and James.  I hadn't seen them before, when they came in the mail I handed them to Micah and he looked over them.  It just seemed so wrong.  I know they died, but to see it typed up on an official paper just hurt.  They even had a box checked off to let us know that they didn't die of a "tobacco related illness".  

When I was pregnant with my twins I never imagined that I would be looking over their death certificates while planning their first birthday party.  This is my new reality.  I don't want their party to be sad or depressing, I just want to remember them and honor them.  They are my children, numbers two and three.  I love them and I will always love them.

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Journey With No Destination

I told my husband today that I am tired.  I am tired of feeling sad, I am tired of missing my twins, I am tired of trying to hold myself together.  He reminded me that this journey really sucks because there is no end to it.  As time goes on yes, I will continue to feel better.  My heart will be lighter and the pain with be less intense.  I won't have to try so hard and I will cry less tears.  But the truth is that I will never stop missing Penelope and James.

Relatively speaking, I am not that far from my loss.  It has been 10 months since their death and on some days it feels like a lifetime away.  But it has not even been one year yet.  I look forward to years from now when I can look back and remember the good.  I can remember how amazing it was to carry twins for 22 weeks and feel them kicking inside me.  I can remember how much James and Penelope changed me for the better.  How they taught me to truly love and appreciate life.  They were a gift.  But right now, today, it is hard to see that gift.  It is a gift wrapped in layer after layer after layer of pain, tears, sorrow, and guilt.  It is a gift I have just begun to unwrap.

This week marked the arrival of a new baby into our family.  My sister in law gave birth to a baby girl.  I am incredibly happy for them and so excited to meet my new niece.  But this baby's arrival comes with mixed emotions for me.  It is a reminder that my last birth experience ended in death.  I want to go to the hospital and visit.  I want to hold this brand new life in my arms and breath in the sweet smell of newborn baby.  I know that I am not yet strong enough.  I will meet my niece in a few weeks when things have settled down.  I feel terrible that I can't pull it together enough to be there, I want to be okay.

I don't know when I will feel more joy than sorrow.  I don't know if it will change if and when I have another baby.  I don't know if I am forever jaded by my experience.   I hope not.  I have always loved babies, so much that I chose caring for them as my career until I became a stay at home mom.  Until then I will be as strong as I can be.  Babies are everywhere and they are so adorable that it's impossible to dislike them.  I will continue on my journey through grief, my journey with no destination.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Girl Who Made Me a Mom; Gwenevere

As I begin to write the story of Gwenevere's birth I realize that it has been two and a half years since she miraculously arrived into this world.  Some of the details are fuzzy, and as I was hardly watching the clock I'm sure the times are off.  But the story of how I became a mother is one worth telling.

One month before our first wedding anniversary Micah and I decided that we were ready to start trying to conceive.  After two failed months I was due for my annual OB appointment.  They first ran a pregnancy test to make sure I was in fact not pregnant.  I joked with the nurse not to believe the results because it was April Fools Day.  She came back and told me the test was negative, a fact I already knew as I had taken a test that morning.  The appointment went as expected and I left with the anticipation that the next time I was back in that office I may be expecting a baby.  A week went by and I started to feel kind of crappy.  I was bloated, cramping and having light spotting.  Because my cramps were very severe on one side I started to freak out that I could be experiencing an ectopic pregnancy.  I went back to the Doctor who began our appointment with another pregnancy test which I again knew would be negative because I had again taken one that morning.  She popped back in the room several minutes later with a smile on her face saying that is was positive.  Holy Shit.  We did an ultrasound to rule out ectopic pregnancy and I got some blood drawn for who knows what.  I left the office that day a pregnant woman.

I found out the news at 3pm and I knew Micah would be home from work by 5.  So I ran over to Petsmart to have collars made for all three of our pets announcing the pregnancy.  This is a family tradition as Micah proposed to me using Winston, my cat with a collar asking "Will you marry me".  So cute right?  Anyway, I got the collars made and brought them home.  I put each collar on the appropriate animal and waited for Micah's arrival home.  He came home and of course I had to suggest a pet tag treasure hunt of sorts, buy the time he got to Olive and her collar said "A Fuerst Baby Is On The Way",  he got the picture.  We were elated!

By the time our next OB appointment rolled around we realized that we weren't happy with that practice.  It was suggested to us by my Mom that we check out a Midwife that actually delivers at a hospital.  It sounded perfect.  We started asking around and we heard nothing but rave reviews about Sameerah.  We called her office and crossed our fingers that she would be taking new patients.  What luck, we were in!  Our first appointment with her was amazing.  She was so incredibly calm and easygoing that we couldn't help but relax.  We asked her a million questions which she answered knowledgeably and with short but adequate answers.  We felt comfortable with her.  I particularly loved that I would see her for every appointment and it didn't matter who was on call when I went into labor, she would be there.  We were sold and we became a Midwife family.

My pregnancy with Gwenevere was fairly uneventful.  My belly slowly grew bigger each month as my heartburn grew in intensity.  I loved resting my hands on my belly and feeling this growing baby moving around inside of me.  I had the typical 1st trimester nausea as well as extreme fatigue all throughout the nine months.  Every appointment we went to we got to hear her little heart beat and at 20 weeks we got find out we were having a girl.  Which was information we received by cutting open a bright pink gender reveal cake.  As I grew bigger so did my discomfort, but mostly I felt joy.  I felt like a walking miracle.  

Micah and I took birth classes as many couple do.  Because we had the goal of an intervention free birthing experience we took a natural childbirth class from an amazing teacher.  Throughout those six weeks I learned more about labor and delivery than I thought was possible.  Birthing positions, breathing techniques, how to cope with pain, how many medical interventions are routinely offered at a hospital and how to say no.  Plus so many other things that are just too graphic to go into.  Not only did we feel prepared after completing the classes, we also had made several friends that we are still friends with today.  We had also decided that we wanted to hire a Doula to help us through the unknown terrain of childbirth.  We met with only one woman, but she seemed perfect.  She agreed to be on call for our big day. I didn't know what my labor and delivery would play out to be, but I knew I was armed with information and ready for anything they could through at us, well, anything except for what they did throw at us.

Monday morning, November 29th I was 38 weeks and 5 days pregnant.  I went to work as usual.  I went to the bathroom and noticed I was bleeding.  I mildly freaked out and decided it was best if I went to the hospital.  Micah met me there and we checked in.  They checked baby's heart rate and it looked good.  They checked me and I was slightly dialated, 1-2 centimeters.  Then they sent me home and told me to come back if labor started.   The next day I started to have contractions.  Not very intense or frequent, but painful.  By 3pm I called Micah and told him to come home, I was going to need some help.  By early evening the pain was getting intense and I wasn't sure how much longer we should wait before going to the hospital so we decided to just go and get everything checked out.  They hooked me up to an IV, a heart monitor for baby and a contraction monitor for me.  Within an hour I was unable to lay in bed.  I was pacing the floor in almost constant pain.  It didn't really seem to feel like the contractions that I had heard about, I though you got breaks.  I was crying when the nurse finally came back in to check on us.  She looked over my contraction monitor and over the past hour and said I hadn't had a single contraction.  She instructed me to give a urine sample, maybe it was just a bladder infection.  I did as I was told.  We waited another 2 hours before the lab results came back inconclusive.  The nurse was confident that because I wasn't registering any contractions and I was barely dilated that I was clearly not in labor.  After over three hours in the hospital and never even being seen by a Doctor or Midwife I was sent home and told to take a Tylenol PM for pain.

We got home and I did as I was told.  I actually fell asleep on the couch at 11pm with Micah.  About fifteen minutes later I suggested we try to go to bed.  I laid in bed for about 2 minutes before I realized the pain was too much.  I quietly got into the shower and let Micah sleep.  I stayed in the shower for over an hour and the pain was so much better.  As soon as I got out the intensity cranked right back up to a 10.  I woke Micah up and he paced around the house with me for a while.  When I collapsed to the kitchen floor on my hand and knees howling like a "wild animal" in Micah's words, he made the executive decision that we were going back to the hospital and not leaving until we had a baby in our arms.

By the time we left is was almost 2 a.m. so the the roads were pretty empty.  Still in the panic of getting his howling wife to the hospital on time Micah missed the turn and had to pull a u-turn.  Once there we quickly got checked in again.  This time I could barely walk or sit or lay down.  As I changed into my hospital gown I felt a gush as my amniotic sac broke all over the floor.  I honestly didn't care at all.  The nurse practically had to threaten me to lay down on the table to get the monitors back on me.  There on the screen was my baby's heartbeat and one contraction after another after another after another.  They were right on top of each other.  She went to check how far dialated I was and she quickly popped up and called for the Midwife.  Gwenevere was already crowning.  They moved me to a delivery room where I asked for pain meds over and over.  I didn't want an epidural, just a little something to take the edge off.  When Sameerah, our Midwife arrived the nurse told her I had been asking for pain relief.  She just looked at me and said "It's time, you can do this".

Right around this time which was about 3:30 in the morning my Mom showed up as well as our Doula.  At this point it was just me getting through the contractions.  Micah fed me ice chips and my Mom held a cool towel on my forehead.  I suddenly began to feel a strong urge to push.  I had heard about this urge to push but it was much more than I had anticipated.  I remember it being like vomiting.  When you have a strong urge to vomit, you can't really stop it, it already happening.  That's what pushing was like.  My Doula set up a mirror so that I could actually see Gwenevere being born.  We each push I saw her dark head of hair coming closer into this world.  After about 40 minutes of pushing she was out.

Our midwife handed me our messy, slippery little miracle and I immediately began to cry tears of joy.  I had never felt such a joyful moment in my life. I was holding in my hands a child that my husband and I had created.  I tried to reach down and kiss her, but she was still attached to the umbilical cord.  Sameerah offered for Micah to cut it and he proudly did.  I laid her on my chest and I just wanted to stay in that moment forever.  I looked into Micah's tearful eyes and said "Thank you".  To which he responded, "You did all of the hard work, thank you".

In the end my birth plan didn't quite pan out as I had hoped it would.  I never got to practice my breathing techniques, or relaxation methods, or different positions.  I never even really knew I was in labor until it was almost over.  But what really matters is that I had a healthy baby.  She is my first child and I am thankful for her every minute of every day. If Gwenevere learns nothing else from me, I hope she knows that she is loved, every fiber of her being is loved, every moment of every day.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Story of "Poppy"; A Quiet Grief

When James and Penelope died, I wanted to shout it to the world.  All of our friends and family knew that we were pregnant with twins and when they were gone it seemed appropriate that everyone knew.  The day that we got home from the hospital I put a post on facebook and I hoped that the word would spread.  I had no interest in making phone calls to everyone we knew to announce their death.  I also desperately wanted to avoid an awkward conversation with someone that hadn't yet heard that our children had died.  My family was very helpful in telling friends and family the news.  My pregnancy had been out there, and so was my loss.
My first pregnancy loss was very different.  I was pregnant and then not pregnant, and most people never even knew.  I have heard of women sensing that they are pregnant long before a pregnancy test could confirm, I always took this to be hogwash.  How could someone sense a pregnancy the size of a poppy seed?  Well, on my 31st birthday I experienced this for myself.  Without going into details about the conception, I will just say that I lay in bed the night that it happened knowing I was pregnant.  It seemed crazy to me, but the next morning I went to the pharmacy and got my prenatal vitamin prescription refilled and bought a pregnancy test to be taken in a few weeks.  I stopped drinking alcohol and continued my life as a pregnant woman.  I had already calculated the baby's due date in my head and I would joke with Micah about our little June bug on the way.

The first day that I could I took the pregnancy test and sure enough it was positive.  Micah was at work so I sent him a picture of the plus sign and told him we would talk when he got home.  At this time our daughter Gwenevere was 10 months old.  We had never planned having children that close together, but we were excited at the prospect of another baby.  When Micah got home that evening we looked in my "What to Expect..." book to read about the progress of our baby.  By our calculations I was 4 weeks along and our baby had a heart the size of a poppy seed.  From that moment on we lovingly referred to our baby as Poppy.

As the weeks went on I was surprised that I wasn't experiencing the same symptoms I had with my first pregnancy.  I didn't have pregnancy sickness or fatigue, I actually felt pretty good.  The lack of symptoms started to worry me, then the worry turned into panic.  At seven weeks we had our first Midwife appointment.  I told her about my worry and she said we could do a quick ultrasound to make sure everything looked on track.  We got to see Poppy right there on the screen, wiggling around like a little tadpole.  The ultrasound tech did some measurements and found the heartbeat which we got to hear.  They told us our baby was measuring at 5 weeks and that our calculations must have been a bit off.  I tried to explain that we were not wrong, I knew the day it happened.  The Midwife said it is common to be off by a week of two.  We left our appointment with Micah feeling assured that we were on track to have a healthy baby.  I still felt unsure.  The baby was measuring small, and from what I did research on, the heartbeat was slow for what it should have been.  I went right back to feeling like I was carrying a failing pregnancy.

As I got closer the the end of the 1st trimester I began to gain some confidence that maybe Poppy would be okay.  I started to plan ahead and actually get excited about welcoming a new baby into our family.  When I was 10 weeks along we had Gwenevere's 1st birthday party.  It was a great day with our families and friends celebrating with us.  We had the party at my parents house and when it was time to go Micah packed up the car with gifts and I went to the bathroom one last time before heading home.  I noticed some spotting and my heart sank.  I didn't say anything, I just got in the car and drove home wondering to myself if this was the end.

We got home and I continued to spot throughout the evening.  I called our Midwife and she assured me that as long as it was light spotting it was normal in the 1st trimester, if it got worse I could go to the E.R.  By the next day it seemed worse so we decided to go to the hospital to get checked out.  We dropped Gwenevere off with friends and drove to the emergency room.  At this point I was pretty sure that Poppy was gone, I just needed confirmation.  I was assured by both a nurse and a doctor that bleeding is very common in the 1st trimester and it wasn't necessarily a sign of miscarriage.  After quite a long wait, we were wheeled down to the ultrasound room.  Before the tech started she informed us that she wouldn't be able to tell us anything, we would have to wait to speak to the doctor.  After several minutes of her looking around she turned on the sound to listen for a heartbeat.  I will never forget the loudest silence I had ever heard.  She finished up and started to wheel us back.  She put her hand on my shoulder and said "I'm so sorry, I wasn't able to find a heartbeat.  I just didn't want you to have to wait for the bad news".  I nodded my head and began to cry.

The next day was Monday and we went to our Midwife's practice.  We met with an O.B. to discuss our options.  We could either wait and let my body continue to miscarry, or we could schedule a D & C and they could run some tests to see if anything detectable went wrong.  I couldn't imagine dragging out this physical and emotionally painful process any longer so we scheduled surgery for the next day.  I had already called into work that day and I called back to take the next day off as well.  We called our family members that we had originally shared our pregnancy news with to tell them the bad news.

I went back to work the day following my surgery, it was December 1st, Gwenevere's 1st birthday.  I told my co-workers that I had had a "women's issue" and that I had to have a small procedure so I wasn't able to lift any of the children for the next few days.  I wanted to come in crying, to let everyone know how badly I was hurting.  But I didn't, I kept it to myself.  I'm sure some people speculated, but I never talked about it.

Looking back I know I did what I felt was best at the time.  I just wish I could have been braver.  I wish I could have talked about it openly.  Although Poppy had only existed for a short time, it was a real loss to me.  I had made plans for that baby, I wanted that baby.  I still wonder from time to time what Poppy would have been like.  He or she would be just over a year old now.  If Poppy would have survived we never would have had Penelope and James.  Life would be different.  I still grieve that loss, and I think there will always be a place in my heart for Poppy.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Summer of Gwenevere

Summer is my favorite time of year.  I love the sunshine, the heat, the sound of children laughing and playing, summer rain.  I love fireflies at dusk, iced tea, flowers, crickets chirping at night, the smell of sunscreen on my skin.  I love everything about this time of year.

I remember last summer very clearly.  I was just coming out of severe pregnancy sickness and beginning to have that 2nd trimester energy burst.  I had big plans last summer for Gwenevere and I.  After all, it was my first summer being a stay at home Mom and my last summer with only one child.  I often referred to it as "The Summer of Gwenevere".  I felt a little sad that it would be the last time that Gwenevere would have me all to herself.  I knew that by the time the next summer rolled around I would be crazy busy caring for my twins and I would have less time for her.  I was also excited to see her in the role of big sister.

Despite the massive heat wave that seemed to last for months, we spent most of our time outdoors.  We went through bottles of sunscreen and spent most of our time barefoot in the grass, playing in the sprinkler, or decorating our driveway with sidewalk chalk.  We would visit our neighborhood playground and make occasional trips to the local splash pad and zoo.  Then exhausted from play we would both take long afternoon naps in the cool air conditioned house.  As soon as nap time was over we would head back outside until Micah got home from work.  It was a perfect summer, everything I hoped it would be.

Our perfect summer came to a screeching halt one Sunday afternoon.  I went into labor at 22 weeks and 5 days.  Our son and daughter were born that evening and died shortly after.  The next day we came home with empty arms and heavy hearts.  Although it was only mid-August, summer was over.  No more park or sprinkler, no more playing in the yard for hours.  Our family temporarily became reclusive.  We didn't leave the house unless we had to.  Our television was permanently turned on.  We locked summer out to begin our long grieving process.  I know during this time I was not a great mother to my living child.  I was just there.  Summer blurred into Fall, then Winter and Spring. 

Now Summer is here again and I find myself once again in a "Summer of Gwenevere".  She is my only living child and I am so full of love for her.  We have already gone through one bottle of sunscreen and our driveway looks more decorated everyday.  We are frequent visitors of the park and zoo.  I look forward to everyday that I get to spend with her and I love planning our activities.  While I would give anything to have James and Penelope here with us, I know I can't.  So I am choosing to be thankful for another wonderful season with my amazing toddler.  I am so lucky to be her Mom and I am grateful everyday for the time that I get to spend with her.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Thank you

To anyone that is still reading my blog I just want to say thank you.  It means so much to me that you have continued to be part of my healing process.  Yesterday marked nine months since I said goodbye to my son and daughter.  I really don't think I could have gotten through the past nine months without the love and support I have received. 
Before suffering my losses I never really had an appreciation for the pain of losing a pregnancy.  I wish that nobody had to go through what I have experienced, but unfortunately I know that many families have and will go through a similar loss.  For those of you that have never lost a pregnancy or child I hope you never do.  For those of you that have I grieve with you. 
I had the misfortune of an ignorant question today.  I was getting my blood pressure taken at the Doctor's office this afternoon and a woman asked me if I had any children.  This is always a difficult question for me to answer but today I chose to tell her that I had a daughter that was two and half years old.  I didn't have the strength to give a complete answer.  She quickly responded by asking if I was planning on having any more and I told her that I had twins last year that died at birth so I wasn't sure when I would be ready to try again.  She didn't skip a beat and she proceeded to tell me about her friend that had a miscarriage and then had triplets.  She made it very clear that she would never want triplets, it would just be too much to handle.  I smiled and replied that yes, three babies would keep you quite busy.  I wanted to cry, I wanted to yell at her and tell her how insensitive she was being.  Instead I kept quiet.
I don't know what I should expect from people.  I know that everyone asks "What do you do for a living?" and "Do you have any children?", it's just normal conversation.  I will have to always carefully select what my response is.  Am I in the mood to ruin someone's day or not?  My husband always jokes that our story is a real room killer.  He has meetings at work and sometimes they ask everyone to share something unique about themselves.  Micah sure could bring the meeting to an awkward silence by saying "I have two dead children" at his turn.  Probably not socially acceptable.
I guess my point is that I hope by sharing my ongoing story I have shared a sense of sensitivity.  Everyone has a story and some are too painful to share.  I will continue to be honest and share as much as I can.  I hope that I can do my part to help break the silence of miscarriage and infant loss.  It is something that one out of four women experience and it deserves to be talked about.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mother's Day

With Mother's Day looming closer and closer I am reminded of past Mother's Days.  Last year Gwenevere was 17 months old and still toddling around.  I was about 10 weeks pregnant and feeling as nauseated as the day is long.  We had found out about two weeks before that not only was I pregnant, but I was carrying twins.  I was just starting to really process the information and I was getting truly excited.  But more than anything I felt pregnancy sickness.
Micah and I went to the Kellogg Center for brunch with my parents and Gwenevere in tow.  I remember looking at all the food and wondering if I could keep any of it down.  I was well into the Zofran phase of my pregnancy, but it still wasn't enough to stop the nausea.  I nibbled on a couple pieces of fruit and crackers while everyone else enjoyed a delicious meal.  Gwenevere ate pretty well and finished off her meal by scarfing down two cupcakes.  I remember wanting to enjoy the day, but just feeling so sick.
Technically speaking, this will be my 4th Mother's Day, if you are allowing me to count the Mother's Day that I spent pregnant with Gwenevere.  I remember feeling awful that day as well.  The Mother's Day after that Gwenevere was five months old.  She was an amazing baby and I was so happy to have been blessed to be her Mom.  We went out to brunch that day at Troppo's and I brought along a pumped breast milk bottle for her lunch.  I remember we all took turns holding her throughout our meal, passing her around like the bread basket as we took turns eating.  This year will be my first Mother's Day that I am neither pregnant or breastfeeding.  I am baby free.
With this day to celebrate Motherhood approaching I have struggled.  It should be a happy day, but for many of us it comes with sadness.  Not only do I think about my losses, I think of all the other women that have lost a child, or that have struggled with infertility.  I think of all the people who have lost their own mother. What a difficult day this can be. 
Instead of dwelling on the fact that two of my children are gone this year I am going to celebrate.  I am going to celebrate being a Mom, and a pretty good one at that.  I am going to celebrate my Mom, who happens to be one of the best Mom's I know.  I am going to celebrate how lucky I am to have been raised by such a loving, caring, understanding, smart, kind, and all around awesome Mom. I am going to spend some time thinking about how I hope to be half the Mom she is.  She raised two daughters, and while neither of us it perfect, we turned out pretty well.  I am so thankful that she is able to be not only my Mom, but a Nana to my daughter.  So this year we will go out to brunch and have fun.  No nausea, no breast milk, just two great Moms.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Balancing Act

Last night I climbed into bed with Gwenevere and Micah to read books.  It's our nighttime routine and we always read at least six books.  I gathered up several books and set them down on the bed next to my daughter.  The book on top was titled "We Were Going To Have a Baby, But We Had An Angel Instead".  Gwenevere saw the book and she started to whine.  "Mommy no!  I don't like that book, it's too sad".  I swallowed the lump in my throat and I set the book on the floor and picked up "Green Eggs and Ham" instead.

Overall I would consider myself to be a very confident parent.  I have a degree in Child Development and I have worked with infants and toddlers for over a decade.  I am trained in infant and child CPR and I when it comes to cranky kids I know all the tricks.  Since the day we brought Gwenevere home from the hospital I have been confident that Micah and I are doing a good job.  This is not to say that I don't have my doubts and concerns like every other parent, I do.  I also know that we are good parents and we are doing the best we can.  When Penelope and James died I found myself for the first time really doubting my parenting skills.

I don't know what is appropriate to share with toddlers when it comes to death.  I know that I wouldn't want to lie about it, but I also don't want to instill a sense of fear.  Everyone dies, that's the truth.  Somehow that seems like a pretty intense concept to teach a two year old.  I want my daughter to know that she has a brother and sister.  I want her to know how much they are loved and missed.  I don't want her to think that it's bad to talk about them because it makes her Mommy cry.  I just don't know what to do.

 Micah and I decided that even though James and Penelope are dead they are still part of our family.  We have pictures of them in our house, we even have them in our house (in urns).  Gwenevere has named two of her stuffed animals after them.  We talk about them and sometimes cry.  I feel like I don't really know how to grieve in front of my own child, but I'm doing the best I can.  I want her to understand that it's okay to cry when we are sad.  I know she will never feel the sadness that I feel for them.  She won't miss them the same way that I do.  She may never even understand.

I feel like it's a constant balancing act.  I want to keep the memory alive of my son and daughter, but I also want to be a good Mom that is present for my living child.  Most days I get through without crying now.  But some days I cry.  When I do cry I can see a look of concern in Gwenevere's eyes.  That makes me sad.  I am the parent, she shouldn't have to worry about me.  I don't know if what we're doing is really what's best, but it's all we know.  Gwenevere has a brother and sister that died and I am not going to pretend like they were never here.  Like every other parent, I am trying my best.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Stork

Even as a young child I thought the idea of the Stork was a ridiculous concept.  Who ever came up with the idea that a bird would drop off a baby on your doorstep?  Now, as an adult I can see the appeal.  You just live your life and one day you open your door and BAM, you have a baby.  I wish it was that easy.

Lately I have had baby fever.  But not baby fever in the sense that I want to get pregnant.  The thought of pregnancy is still terrifying to me.  I want to open my door tomorrow morning and find a beautiful cherub baby wrapped in a blanket.  It seems like everywhere I go I see pregnant bellies and women with their new babies in tow.  Just today I counted five pregnant women, five babies and one baby shower invitation in my mailbox.  I can't look at a pregnant woman and feel joy anymore.  I feel envy and fear.  I am not envious of her baby, I am envious of her joy.  I am sad that I will never again be a blissfully ignorant pregnant woman.  I am fearful that something will go wrong with her pregnancy.  I worry that her baby will die and I worry that she will be swallowed by grief.

Recently my daughter has been showing interest in where babies come from.  She knew that I had babies in my tummy and she knows several other women that are currently pregnant.  Not to mention she got to see a live birth of several baby lambs.  She talks about babies being a Mommy's uterus and coming out "all messy".  I talk to her about where she came from and try to explain how her brother and sister came out too little to live.  The other day at my parents house she caught a few minutes of the show "Midwives".  A women was delivering twins and having quite a difficult time.  That night on our way home she talked about the birth, in toddler words, "Mommies have to work hard to push the baby out, it's hard work, they cry a lot".  I wanted to explain that's it was okay, that even though it's hard work it's all worth it.  But I couldn't.  Sometimes you have to go through the hard work and your baby doesn't make it.  I just told her yes, it is hard work to have a baby.  Once again, I wished for the idea of the Stork.

I don't know if Gwenevere will ever decide to have children of her own.  I hope if she does she gets to know the joy of a healthy, uneventful, blissfully ignorant pregnancy.  I think every Mom deserves that.  I also hope that she knows not to take a pregnancy for granted, to appreciate it for what it is, a miracle.  I know she can't have it both ways.  For now, I will continue to dream of the Stork.  I know it's just as likely as Santa Claus landing on my roof this Christmas, but I can dream.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

There's An Elephant In The Room

Over the past several months I've noticed that some of my pregnant and new Mom friends have been awkward around me.  It's like they feel guilty for their joy, or maybe they are just afraid to make me cry.  I can't believe that I am a person that someone would feel uncomfortable around.  Yes, I am the mother of two dead babies.  It's awful, sad, depressing, I get it.  It's not a fun subject to talk about, but it is my life.  I love to talk about my son and daughter just as much as you like to talk about your pregnancy or how your newborn is the cutest little thing in the whole world. Some days the ultrasound pictures and pregnancy announcements and pregnant women complaining about being uncomfortable on facebook is almost too much for me to bear.  But that is life.  After a death the world doesn't stop turning for you to grieve.  Some days I wish that it did but that's not the way it works.
It's a funny thing being around other Moms.  I do feel jealous sometimes.  Sometimes I want to cry, but that's okay.  Let me cry if I need to.  Don't hold back your joy in fear of upsetting me, let me be upset, I need to feel those feelings.  I can't spend the rest of my life avoiding every pregnant woman and new baby.  I would have very few friends left.  But also understand if I don't feel up to attending your baby shower or holding your baby.  Send me the invitation and let me choose what I am comfortable with and respect my decision. 
I'm tired of having an elephant in the room wherever I go.  I do appreciate others being sensitive of my feelings, but at a certain point it just feels like avoidance.  If you don't know what to say to me or how to treat me that's okay.  Just ask me how I'm doing.  I want to be someone that isn't afraid to talk about the death of my children.  I want to be able to cry when I need to and laugh when I want to. I want to be able to feel joy for others. I want people to know that I am still me, even though I've changed. I want to eventually have another pregnancy.  When that times comes I know I will need all the support in the world.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Picture Project; Please Help!!

For a while now I have been trying to think of something special I can do in honor of my son and daughter, James and Penelope.  I have considered releasing butterflies or doves, planting trees or making a scrapbook.  I really want to have something that I can look at and remember them, but unfortunately I don't have many picture of them.  I have come up with an idea of putting together a photo album hopefully with your help.

If you are willing to help, here is what I would like you to do.  Please take a picture of something that reminds you of Penelope and James.  It can be anything, even two seperate photos, one for each child.  Maybe a butterfly, a flower, a building, a rock, a blanket, a drawing, an animal, an cloud, etc.  Be creative, let them inspire you.  You can either e-mail the picture or mail it to me (contact me for my address).  I hope to have this album put together by their first birthday, August 19th 2013.

Thank you in advance for your help!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bye Bye Betta, Betta Goodbye

Yesterday morning we had to say our final goodbyes to the newest member of the Fuerst family, Betta.  I came downstairs and as I had been doing all week I immediately walked over to the fish bowl.  I peered into the bowl and numbly declared.  "He's dead, Betta's dead".  Micah scoffed at me and assured me that he was sleeping.  Last time I checked, fish don't sleep on their backs.  I wasn't feeling quite ready to explain what had happened to Gwenevere, so we continued our morning routine as usual.

I had errands to run, but I thought it would be best to tell Gwenevere about her fish before I left the house.  Micah and I sat down with her and I explained we had some sad news, her fish had died and gone to heaven.  "Yeah!! Betta's in heaven!", she said.  Hmmmm, not the reaction I was anticipating.  I got ready to leave the house and told Micah he and Gwenevere could hold funeral services while I was gone.

While I was out I decided to stop by the Mom 2 Mom sale that was going on at the Ingham County fair grounds.  Big mistake.  I thought I could shop around a little and hopefully find some nice used books and maybe a few new toys for my daughter.  I didn't realize that I was walking into a minefield of pregnant women and new moms.  Since losing my twins at 23 weeks I have had a very difficult time with pregnant bellies and newborn babies.  It's not that I don't think that other people should have healthy babies, I just feel jealous that they can have healthy babies and take it for granted.  I wasn't at the giant garage sale for long before I ran into a friend that is pregnant with her second child.  She could tell from the look on my face that I was struggling and asked if I was okay.  I almost started to cry as I explained that I was a little overwhelmed and that our fish had also died that morning.  I felt so silly, but my feelings were real.  She listened and we chatted a bit, I walked away feeling a little better and I decided to find something fun for my daughter.

I left the sale with several Golden Books in my purse and a Little People airplane.  As I was driving home I got a call from Micah explaining that the funeral had not gone well.  When it was time for Betta's body to be flushed away and say the final goodbyes Gwenevere began to cry.  She was inconsolable and she wanted her fishy to stay.  By the time I got home she was fine and she was very excited about her new books.   I didn't really know what to say to her about Betta.  She brought him up occasionally as the day went on and we talked about how sometimes fish get sick and die.  "He's in the potty now", she would say.  That was tricky to explain.  I told her that yes, his body went down the potty, but his little fish spirit was swimming up in heaven.

We haven't shed any tears today about Betta.  His bowl still sits empty on the kitchen counter.  Micah and I have contemplated a new fish, but I don't know if that sets a good example.  When someone in our life dies we don't go out and get a replacement.  James and Penelope are gone and they can never be replaced.  We may have another child.  But that child will be just that, another child.  Number four in the Fuerst family, not replacing one of my children that is gone.  So if we do decide to get another fish we will get a new separate fish.  It will not be Betta, Betta can not be replaced.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Bringing Home Baby

Yesterday was a big day in the Fuerst house.  We brought home the newest member of our family, Betta.  Betta is a male Betta fish, named by Gwenevere.  We kept trying to call him something else, but Gwenevere seemed to think that the name Betta suited him just fine.  Micah held him gingerly on the ride home as I kept inquiring to how he was doing.  Once we got home we placed our newest family member on the counter and watched as Gwenevere squealed with glee.  "He's swimming, he's swimming!!!" she said with a sparkle of joy in her eyes.  Micah and I hugged each other and we knew that for that moment our family was happy.

My reaction to this fish as the evening progressed was surprising to me.  I kept finding myself in the kitchen hovering over the fish bowl, watching for signs of life.  I would stand there until Betta swished a fin or made a flick with his tail then I would reside back to the couch.  I felt my level on anxiety creeping up.  I started to fear coming downstairs in the morning to a floating fish and needing to once again explain the concept of death and heaven to my two year old daughter.  At first I tried to dismiss my feelings and push them aside, but they kept coming back.  Why was I so afraid of losing this fish?

This morning Micah woke me up as usual and the first thing I said was "Is Betta okay?".  Micah said he had checked on the fish and yes, he was in fact okay.  We then got Gwenevere out of bed and she chanted "Betta, Betta, Betta!".  We took her downstairs and for the first time since she has been a toddler she didn't immediately sit in her chair and ask for breakfast.  She went straight over the the fish bowl and giggled as she watched her new pet swim in circles.  Micah left for work and we started our day.  All morning I could hardly pull her away from Betta.  At one point I had to go in the other room for no more than two minutes.  I reminded Gwenevere to be gentle.  I walked back in the room to find the lid off the fish bowl and both of Gwenevere's hands submerged as she said "Mommy, I poked him".  My heart dropped and I pulled her away from the fish.  I nervously peered in the bowl and relief set in when I saw Betta gently swishing his tail around.

During lunch time Gwenevere ate as she kept glancing over at her new fish.  "I love Betta, but Betta died and went to heaven".  I looked over and saw the fish laying on the gravel.  I took a closer look, no movement.  I tapped the bowl and he swam away.  I sat down to talk to Gwenevere and explain that Betta did not die (not yet anyway) and that he was not in heaven.  My heart got heavy.  I couldn't believe my little two year old daughter had such an understanding of death already.  Death is not a subject we avoid talking about in our house, it is a part of our lives.  But I hate that it's something we have to talk about whenever we bring up Penelope and James. 

For now, Betta is not in heaven.  He is in a bowl on our kitchen counter. I don't know how we will handle the death of our newest addition, but i know it will happen.  I am painfully aware that every living thing will die, some sooner than others.  Betta is just a fish, a fish that cost less than four dollars and I know that.  But, that doesn't change the fact that when he does die I will have to explain it to my daughter.  We will have to once again talk about the fragility of life. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Six Months Later

Tomorrow marks the six month anniversary of the birth and death of my twins.  I am searching for the words to explain how I feel, but I am at a loss.  I think the biggest things I am feeling at this point are sadness and disbelief.  It has been just long enough now that when I first wake up in the morning the memory of them almost seems like a dream.  While I am so glad that I have started to pick up the pieces and move forward with my life, part of me is sad that as the time passes the memory becomes less real.  I can no longer picture with vivid detail the tiny fingers, wet hair, and beautiful faces.  It's more like a blur.  I have pictures to remind me, but they don't do James and Penelope justice.  They were truly beautiful babies.

Although my mind has pushed some of the details to the side, there are things I will never forget.  I will never forget the look on the Doctor's face as she told me that "Things don't look good".  I will never forget those five minutes of lying in the hospital bed alone waiting for Micah and Gwenevere to return from their walk around the hospital.  I didn't cry.  I just stared at the TV playing an old episode of "The Andy Griffith Show" as I tried to find the words to tell my husband that we might be losing our son and daughter.  When he opened the door to my room I just looked and him and began to weep.  He nodded and said that he would go call my parents to pick up Gwenevere to take her home.  At that moment I didn't know that my babies were going to die, but I felt it.

I will never forget the feelings of intense love I had the moment I met my babies.  I was shocked that it was just as intense as the moment I first met Gwenevere.  I knew they were going to die, but at that moment all that mattered was that I was their Mom and I loved them more than anything else in the world.  I cherished every minute I had with them repeatedly telling both of them how much I loved them and how sorry I was.  After snuggling each of them I reluctantly handed them over to Micah so they could meet their Dad.  He cried over their tiny bodies and whispered how much he loved them.  With each of them, the moment they passed he looked me in the eye and said they were gone.

It is true what everyone says, it gets better with time.  Sometimes though, time is painfully slow.  I remember those early days after their death.  I was in a fog.  I cried often and violently.  My body shook and I made noises that I didn't know I could make.  I just felt such despair, I didn't know what to do.  My eyes practically swelled shut a few times and I would lay with ice packs on my face to reduce the swelling.  I wasn't really a mother to Gwenevere or a wife to Micah during those first few weeks, I was just trying to survive. I didn't like leaving the house.  The only people I saw were people that came to our house to visit or bring us meals.  I really don't remember that time, only that I was lost.

I am now slowly starting to get my life back.  I am engaged and playful with Gwenevere, laughing with Micah, exercising daily, going to a weekly yoga class, hanging out with friends, shopping and cooking.  There is still pain, quite a bit in fact.  Sometimes it hits me like a wave and almost takes my breath away.  Penelope and James are my children and I miss them both so much.  But, I am starting to come to terms with the fact that they are gone.  With their short life and death they have given me a gift.  I have a new sense of appreciation for life.  Gwenevere is my daughter and she is here.  She is strong.  She survived a whole nine months of pregnancy and was born into this world and crying, healthy baby.  She is my miracle.  Two of my children may be gone, but I am so lucky to have one amazing child here with me.  I think that James and Penelope have other gifts that they have given to me and others, I just haven't discovered what they are yet.  Their lives may have been short, but they were not meaningless.  I know as time continues to pass I will continue to heal.  But I will never forget my precious angels.