Monday, January 21, 2013

Being Shaped By Grief

It has been five months now since the birth and death of my son and daughter.  When I close my eyes at night it still feels like yesterday that I was holding them in my arms saying goodbye.  My life has been shaped and changed in so many ways since August 19th, 2012.  I can see some positive changes coming through, and some negative too.  I am holding out hope that the positive changes will stick around and I will slowly be able to let go of the negative.  In some ways I have come a long way, but I also have a long way to go.

Since the day my daughter Gwenevere was born I have been a laid back parent.  Even after she hadn't nursed for 24 hours in the hospital and the nurses were concerned about her blood sugar getting too low I knew she would be fine.  She would eat when she was hungry, and she did.  When she got sick for the first time at four months old, I didn't freak out or really even worry.  I knew that the virus would run it's course and she would be fine.  This in not to say that I never worried.  I had my concerns like any normal parent.  I worried mostly about my breast milk production and if it was enough for her.  I worried about what foods to feed her when it came time to start solid foods and I decided to make her food myself from organic fruits and vegetables.  I worried when she got a MRSA infection on her toe and I took her to the urgent care to get her on antibiotics right away.  I worried about her frequent ear infections and that she was on antibiotics for too much of her first year.  One thing I never worried about was her ability to live.  That seemed like a given.  She may get sick and hurt, but she would be fine and would grow up into a wonderful young lady.

Now that I have watched two of my children die with the knowledge that there was nothing anyone could do to help them I have developed a fear.  I fear for the life of my toddler.  She is an overall healthy toddler, with the exception of a nut allergy.  Logically I know that she will be fine.  But, emotionally I can't help but freak out whenever anything goes wrong.  Yesterday she woke up from her nap crying and inconsolable.  I didn't know what was wrong and I couldn't help her.  I immediately jumped to the conclusion that perhaps her appendix was about to rupture, or maybe she developed a severe form of autism during her nap and she wouldn't be able to communicate with us anymore.  Crazy, I know.  Eventually, she calmed down and within an hour she was back to her normal happy self.  Perhaps she woke up with a tummy ache, or she had a bad dream, or maybe she was scared because she woke up at my parents house instead of her own bed.  Whatever it was, she didn't die from it.

I think before James and Penelope came into my life I never really knew what loss was.  I have never had someone so precious to me die.  Now, I know what it feels like to lose someone that is part of you and it scares me to death.  They have made me realize just how precious Micah and Gwenevere and all of my friends and family are, and how quickly they could be gone.  I let my irrational fears of Gwenevere dying take over sometimes, I can't help it.  She is my child and the thought of losing her is just too much.  I have learned that hospitals can't always save your child.  Sometimes they gently put their hand on your shoulder and tell you "I'm sorry, there's nothing we can do".  That is terrifying.

I know I can't live in fear forever.  It will break me if I let it take over.  I am working hard to let go.  I remind myself that my child is healthy, and if she gets sick or hurt we can most like fix whatever is wrong.  There is always a chance that my daughter could die.  Everybody has that chance, everyday.  But I can't let the fear take over my life.

The one good thing that has come from this is my complete and utter appreciation of my little girl.  Gwenevere is a miracle.  Everyday that I am with her is a gift and I plan to live it that way.  I don't roll my eyes when she she has a tantrum over getting her coat on.  I don't lose my temper when she says no to everything that I suggest.  She is amazing, she is my gift and I love every moment that I get to spend with her.  I can't wait to watch her grow up into an amazing young lady.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


It has been almost five months since I said hello and goodbye to James and Penelope.  My journey through grief has been slow and painful to say the least.  I don't know what I expected, but I had hoped I would be in a better place by now. I thought that as the months went by I would ease into a place of less pain. Instead of feeling better, I have been feeling worse lately.  The flashbacks at night as I lay in bed, the daily anxiety, irritability, crying jags and overwhelming sadness.  

Last month I saw my Doctor to talk about trying some medication to help.  She immediately said that I was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.  I had never even thought of that as a possibility.  I thought PTSD was something that happened to veterans of war or rape victims.  The more I thought about it, the more it made sense.  In a matter of hours I went from being a happy, healthy pregnant lady to watching my newborn son and daughter die right in front of my eyes.  Of course I am traumatized.  

Now that I have a name for what I am experiencing I feel a sense of calm.  I know that these feelings are real and that they are there for a reason.  I also know that I can be helped through therapy and medication.  Next week I start a new method of therapy called EMDR, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.  It should help my brain process the trauma and develop better coping skills.  I will also be starting yoga classes next week in hopes that I can learn some relaxation and breathing techniques.  Later this month, I am attending a private working shop titled "Healing Birth Memories".  It is designed to help mothers cope with the memories of a traumatic birth.

Through these past five months I have learned something about myself.  I am a fighter.  I do not sit back and idly let bad things happen.  I jump in with both feet and take action.  Instead of accepting my fear and anxiety I am attacking it with every tool that I have access to.  I will not let this break me down, I will get through it and I will be a better person for it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year's Resolution

I am not a big fan of making New Year's resolutions, although I have done it every year since I can remember.  I have never been a person with good will power and making a promise to myself in January and keeping it through December seems nearly impossible.  Despite my skepticism I find myself making a resolution every January 1st in hopes that I will be able to make positive changes in my life.  This New Year's Eve Micah asked me what my resolution for this year was.  I thought for a moment and answered that I wanted to spend more quality time with my family and friends.  At the time, it seemed like a good goal for the year.  Over the last day I have pondered a little more about what I really need to do this year and I have come up with a new resolution, to let go.
While I do wish to spend more quality time with both my family and friends, I can't really give my full self until I have done some letting go.  I have several things to let go of.  First, I want to let go of the terrible sense of guilt I have for the death of my son and daughter.  Logically I know that I did nothing wrong, but I still hold onto this motherly guilt that I was responsible for keeping them safe and I failed.  Secondly, I have to let go of my anger.  I am angry at myself, my Doctors, the hospital staff and even my husband & daughter.  I find the anger bubbling up from time to time during my search for answers as to why my babies died.  This anger has to go.  Lastly, I have to let go of jealousy.  It is an ugly emotion and it serves no purpose.  However, every time I hear about the "royal baby", or see newborn photos on facebook, or hear another friend's pregnancy announcement I am filled with jealousy.  I want to cry and shout that it should be me.  I hate that I cannot find happiness in other people's joy.
I know that letting go of these heavy emotional burdens will not be accomplished quickly.  It may not even happen this year.  I know that letting go won't happen on it's own either, it will take work.  Some days I am up to doing the work and getting past these negative feelings.  Other days it is just too much and I let them wash over me.  As the days and months go on I will press forward, keeping my goals in mind.  Until I work on letting go my previous resolution of spending more quality time with family and friends cannot be attained.  I cannot spend quality time with anyone until I am once again at peace.
One thing that I will not be letting go as part of my resolution is my sadness.  It is not that I don't want to be happy.  I do want happiness, but not if it comes a the price of forgetting my children.  I have gotten much better with time.  I spend more time smiling and laughing and less time mourning and crying.  I do hope that the sadness never completely disappears.  It is my reminder of Penelope & James.  Every time a tear rolls down my cheek it is because of them and I cherish that.  I have learned and I continue to learn to be a happy, functioning person again while still enmeshing that sadness of my son & daughter's death into my life.  I will always feel an ache for them and I never want that ache to go away.
It is only the second day of this New Year.  I feel both overwhelmed and excited by the possibilities that this year holds.  By the end of this year my beautiful daughter will have her third birthday.  Next month my husband and I will celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary.  August will be the one year anniversary of Penelope and James' birth and death.  I have a lot of things to look forward to this year and I hope that by the time I am making my resolutions for 2014 I will have made some great strides.