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.