Friday, November 15, 2013

Crazy Hormonal Lady

Let me just give a shout out to anyone that has ever attempted fertility cycling while going through any kind of tragedy or grief. I know of fellow infertiles who have cycled after the death of a parent or after their homes burned down or some other horrific event, and I can tell you that if you already felt crazy while grieving, the best thing you can possibly do while in that state is to start injecting yourself with hormones.

Google Lupron Moodswings. If you have to google it, bless your heart. If you've already personally been there, you won't need google!

If you're on my Facebook then you likely know that we are in the middle of fertility treatments.... again. In some ways I can't believe we are back here all over again. It's like a massive deja vu. We decided to quit all of this years ago. We moved on, to more sure ventures with outcomes that could be guaranteed. We all know how that worked. If you don't know our full history or stumble on this one blog post, we adopted in 2012, but she went back to her birth family after 2 weeks. She was then abused severely and taken by CPS. The mother eventually lost custody of all of her children from what we can understand. The hard part is that not only did we lose her, but she also left her mother's home, abusive as it might have been. It was still another change and loss for that little girl in less than 8 months. Then when it seemed like the foster family was going to be able to adopt her and her sisters, the system decided blood was a better option than the 2 loving homes that wanted to take care of her (us and the foster family), and instead returned her to the birth grandmother. Who lives less than 2 miles from the birth mother. This is NOT the first time the mother lost her children to CPS but was able to work through it last time and was able to parent again. I guess they figured that two broken arms and a broken back on an infant was inexcusable.

So of course then losing Ree topped off the last few years and we're back to the beginning. We started with infertility and doing treatments, quit that and moved to adoption, got pregnant naturally and thought we were done with it all and now here we are all over again. Am I in a time warp back in 2011?

So we've really had to intensely consider our options.

I'm 31. I have had DOR for a few years now. Fertility already decreases past 30, and mine started decreasing dramatically at 25. My chances even with IVF were incredibly low.

Yes, you're right, we got pregnant once with my eggs. The chances of that happening again are likely to take a very long time and potentially a ton of money to see if we can hit the bullseye. I personally don't have the emotional energy to wait around for that.

I also needed something that offered a money back guarantee. If this doesn't work, I needed a net to know that we can keep trying SOMETHING.

We're still open to adoption. But we've also been a bit burned. If a situation arises, we'll jump on it instantly. If anyone connects to us that knows someone who knows someone, we are very open and would be extremely grateful. But that path just didn't feel like it was going to happen for us right now.

So we could have done IVF with my eggs. Likely to take multiple attempts, IF it worked. Multiple attempts, at $10,000 a round, plus travel to Houston and monitoring, is going to head towards $30,000 for 3 tries, which is the statistical likelihood, and no money back if it doesn't work.

We could have done donor eggs. That's roughly $35,000 or more. For one cycle, nothing left if it doesn't work, or you can do a guarantee program. The cheapest I've ever seen is around $40,000 plus travel there, which is not anywhere near where I live.

We could have done donor plus a surrogate. Except we aren't made of money.

Surrogacy is incredibly expensive since your insurance doesn't cover it, and neither does theirs. People ask me if they can just tell their doctor they are pregnant and nobody has to know it's not their baby. Except at birth, we're gonna have a huge legal situation on our hands! And then we'd still have to adopt that child if we took that approach, and adoption isn't free. Surrogacy was highly expensive. We're still always open to that route if money was no issue.

So IVF with my eggs was out, IVF with donor eggs was too expensive, especially with a money back guarantee, and adoption has us a bit burned and I don't have the energy to really search for a potential birth mom/birth family.

So we decided on donor embryo's. It's a money back guarantee program after 3 cycles. We already emotionally accepted, and then fell in love, with a child that was not genetically related to us. I can tell you that the genetics are pretty much a zero factor once you adopt. I would say zero factor full out but I can't speak for everyone else on the planet. It's not just a theory for us though, we've actually experienced it, in real life, as we fell in love with her just as much as we did with our biological child.

If you really wanted to run a research study on your own life, to see if the emotions can compare, well I've done it. Unknowingly, we experienced and researched both. No difference. I would have given my life for both children. Losing August was big enough for us that we grieved her at Ree's funeral. Because there was no funeral for August, but we grieved her loss just as much as the daughter that died.

I can answer any question you have about the program we chose, how we picked it and anything else. We've always been an open book. There are sectors in the donor embryo and donor egg and donor sperm communities that decide not to tell anyone and not to tell their children. We don't operate that way. We tell our true experiences. This is where we are, and we know we need support, and we need to know ahead of time if anyone disagrees with our approach. It helps us know who to delete!

So I've been on lupron for a week now and our entire cycle was delayed because I ovulated even on birth control. We'll be in California fairly soon, as my mom and I travel out to the clinic for a lining check and then a transfer. We'll be doing some sightseeing while we're there and now you'll know when you see our pictures from the Golden Gate Bridge, we're in the transfer window.

Now all of that said, here is on my one request. Please ask how we're doing. Please check in and comment on updates. The only thing I ask is that you don't directly ask if it worked.

In this entire experience, we infertiles lose the mystery of it all. We sign up for clinical, sterile doctor environments, that, I assure you, are not so romantic. There isn't much surprise left for us once we enter this route. There are no fun announcements to my husband because the element of surprise is gone. I hope I can at least announce to my family in a fun way, even though they know what is happening.

So once we're cycling, assume that it will be a few weeks before we announce an update. Sorry for that, but I have to hold on to the very few things we have left. I don't want to keep people waiting for long. I'll honestly tell earlier than I did with Ree, long before 12 weeks, because I'll need help and support if it doesn't work.

So there you go. I'm hopped up on estrogen, lupron, and soon huge progesterone needle injections. Those are the best. I'm sitting here typing through a pounding headache, hot flashes and maybe some recent mood swings (sorry mom!).

Thanks for being there through all of this. It REALLY means a ton to all of us.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Man Ree, Halloween was gonna be awesome. We're now entering the Trifecta of Hellacious Holidays. Usually I'm thrilled. It all kicks off with out birthdays in early Oct (the 4th and 12th). Then comes Halloween followed by awesome food and Thanksgiving and topped off with Christmas. 

Except anybody grieving knows how awful these holidays are in succession. WHO planned this? Parents of living children have to hate this timeframe sometimes too. I mean, you get mere weeks between these holidays, and it's not like your planning and attention and care to one holiday can carryover into the other. Working on awesome costumes really doesn't matter when you need to work on meal plans for Thanksgiving. None of that matters getting ready for Christmas. Although I really don't think anything gets you ready for Christmas. Wine?

I was so ready for Halloween. Truthfully I was really ready for all holidays. I've been planning for holidays with my kids for years now. Last Christmas it started to look like I was probably going to stay pregnant since I was about six months along, so I let myself start planning for Easter which would've been the first holiday following your birth. Really it was St. Patrick's Day but I didn't know how long you were going to stay in there. Over Christmas last year I let myself start pinning tons of Easter ideas on Pinterest. 

I was ready to be the mom that thinks she isn't doing enough because Pinterest tells me so. I was ready to wrack myself with guilt because I don't do enough homemade projects and awesome things like Pinterest moms do. I couldn't wait. 

You, my dear, had a fantastic costume. Or maybe I should say we all had an awesome costume. 

Today, in alternate universe land, I would be Princess Leia. I'm already a huge Star Wars fan, but it doesn't hurt that the generous costume would be hiding my postpartum body.

 Do you see how much I can hide in there?

Your dad would likely have tried to be a Wookie. But he had no idea how expensive the costumes are. So maybe C3PO instead? 

Because this is what you would have had

Yeah it's that awesome. I can't lie Ree, I can't tell you that I'm still not gonna use it because it's just that awesome. But you would've been first. 

Instead we're in a hotel hiding from kids and families. We left a note on the door to not ring the doorbell and got out of town. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013


I see this statement posted all the time in relation to love, and to loss. 

It's lovely. 

I think it's beautiful. 

I wish I could relate. 

I wish I felt the same. 

I want to say the same thing. 

I want to say that even though she is gone, I carry her instead, not in my arms, but always in my heart and mind. 

But I can't. 

Because the last time I carried her heart, I don't feel like I took very good care of it. 

You can see why I feel too guilty to do it again. Why I feel too scared to proclaim that I have the right to carry her heart again. 

Maybe one day.

I wish I had the ability now to not cringe. 

All I think instead is "well last time they let me have her heart, I just went and messed that up". 

Maybe she took mine instead.


I can't title it Happy Birthday. It's a Birthday. That's a fact. I am loathe to apply emotional feelings of joy to that fact though. Obviously I wrote this yesterday as I was anticipating today but I don't feel any different 24 hours after penning this, so it still applies. 

Whatever you think about grieving a child is probably wrong. At least in how you think you would anticipate the hard days, the easier days, the ones that will bring you to your knees. Today is Oct 11. I am 31 years old tomorrow. My “freak out” year was 27. I was supposed to have kids, living ones, by the age of 27. Now I’m 31. Whatever you think about losing a child and what it feels like is probably wrong. It was for me. Of course my only child has died, so I really can’t compare it to the love of a parent who fears finding their 2 year old not breathing. I can’t relate. But I know I didn't expect today to be SO HARD.

People think time is the magic answer. I am 7 months and 1 week out from her death. Roughly 7 months on the from her funeral. And today I can barely get out of bed. Today is the first day it’s been like this in the entire time since she's been gone. I've never had a day where I couldn't get up. I thought time made this all better? If you imagined a world where you would feel horrible at first and then things would begin to improve, then think again.

Maybe it’s a combination of the birth control pills I’m on to prepare for fertility treatments, and the lack of sleep that plagues me. Maybe it’s the fact that we just attended the Walk to Remember. Maybe it’s watching the Glee episode last night where they said goodbye to Finn. All I know is that I can’t email people back today. I have no idea what is happening tomorrow on my birthday. No clue. I can’t text back, call back, email back. I lie in bed, but can’t sleep. My head just spins and spins, usually about nothing.

Today is excruciating. EXCRUCIATING. I’ll see other people talk about experiencing their low points. Or how things get “bad” again. I don’t always know what it means. Until I do again. Then I remember how deep it is. I really don’t have much fight today. These are the days you think you can imagine. The ones that are that deep, that painful, that horrific. But they are also a bit blurred around the edges, like my brain is kind enough to sense when I’ve had enough for a moment and politely gives me an emotional break. I don’t know what time it is. I do know that I’ve been trying to sleep since 11 am and it’s almost 4:15. I have clients tonight and more than anything, I want to avoid the entire world as much as possible. I’m pretty sure it’s been hours since I’ve eaten and I’m not hungry.

I want you to know that I’ve heard next to nothing about God, by God, from God in all of this mess that makes any sense or helps me at all. Not an ounce. I don’t care one ounce that this was his plan. Well thanks it sure sucks.

WHY WHY WHY would you do this to me. WHY in the world would you do this to me? WHY IN HEAVEN would you do this to me. Why would you force me to carry a child you were going to immediately take back? WHY would you put me through that? WHAT was the point of all of that? WHY keep giving me children if you want to keep ripping them from my arms? WHAT kind of God does that, repeatedly? What would you possibly have in a plan where that makes any single bit of sense? Either let me be a mother or don’t, but stop being a completely rude jerk about it all. It’s not even a bit funny at all. Maybe for my birthday you can be kind enough to answer at least one of these questions for me. I think you owe it to me.

Today just doesn’t have a ton of meaning. I want to celebrate other people’s birthdays but mine feels pretty flat. Usually I celebrate a week in advance but this year it snuck up on me as a day that is uncomfortable and painful and not all that magical. Compared to her birthday, mine just doesn’t have much to it.

You never know which anniversaries are going to suck and which will be meaningful. I wasn’t prepared for my birthday to be a monumental suck fest. I’d say it’s almost worse than Mother’s Day, at least this year.

I love celebrating events and holidays. Well I used to hate Christmas but that has shifted. I loved the magic of it all. Our first year together, Clint didn’t even acknowledge Valentine’s Day and I was horrified! Everyone likes to be celebrated, even those that deny it. Usually especially those that deny it. I was the same as everyone else. We all want to feel important to someone else out there.

I guess that’s why now I specifically don't like the holidays that center around me. I still carry guilt and probably will for the rest of my life. I don’t feel like the marking of another year passing in my life is all that significant, especially given “what I’ve done”. I know. I didn’t do it to her. You can repeat that in your head as often as you’d like, but you know good and well that if something happened to your children, you’d carry guilt for the rest of your life as well. I just happened to be unlucky enough to have my child die while I was literally carrying her. That kinda sucks. Makes it pretty hard to differentiate responsibility when it was your body, fully and completely that was responsible.

You see, I’m just not that important in the whole scheme of things. I don’t feel the need to be celebrated any more. I’d trade all the candles on my cake to let her have just 1. Just one year. I’ll trade one of mine.

So. Happy Birthday to me. I guess. It’s just hard to celebrate living when she died yet I lived. Today is just another reminder of the hole in my life that cannot be filled. And one that makes me feel guilty about that hole on top of it.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Grieve like a man, or something like that

Guest post by Clint tonight following yet one more speech we heard recently from a well meaning person that men and women are just different and we all grieve differently. We heard today that men do projects and fix things and women cry and talk. Talk about overarching generalizations! And maybe even a touch of genderism with a touch of misogyny and misandry sprinkled in as well (which is sexual discrimination about each gender if you had to google like I did. Or ask your friends. Thanks Jillian!). Anyways Clint wrote this in response to a concept we both consider fairly ridiculous when it comes to grief.

Men and women grieve differently, True or False?

Let's face the facts...all men love football, beer, fast cars and shooting deer. Just like all women like dancing, reality TV shows, shopping and hopeless romantic movies. These are the generalizations we hear on a daily basis so they must be true, right?

Think back to the advice sometimes received as a kid or maybe the advice you recently gave a kid struggling to determine why they are different in someway from someone else in their class. Think of the kids that are struggling and how they often feel incredibly different from those around them. We often feel that way in grieving. Just different from everyone else around us. The response often given, one meant to heal their broken hearts and calm their fears is to tell them that it's ok. We affirm them and tell them that humans are like snowflakes. Yes all snow flakes are made up of the same elements and therefore we are able to say they are all snowflakes, but no two snowflakes are the same.

If humans are like snowflakes, then why do we compartmentalize each other in groups like race or gender. Why do I have to grieve like a man while my wife grieves like a woman? Can we not grieve like a human?

Yes, our grief may contain the same elements, and in some cases those elements may manifest the same as men, or women. But they may also be drastically different. I am a man who loves football and a great beer, but I could care less about the car I drive if it gets me from point A to point B, and I have no future plans to be decked in camouflage sitting in a tree waiting for the perfect shot to take down an 8 point buck.

Truth is that genetically I am a man but what drives me is different than even my father or brother who are as genetically as close to the same man as me, as least as humanly possible. I am as similar, and yet dissimilar as I can possibly be to these men. My brother and my father hunt. They don't really talk. They are your classic "grieving men", who take on projects and fix the things. All the things. But I am not them.

Don't worry, I have not said all this to leave with no answer the above question.

True, men and women do grieve differently. But men and other men grieve differently. And women and other women grieve differently. All humans grieve differently, no matter how many elements of their grief are the same. I actually talk more than you could imagine. I mean, I did write this post and I spent half the day discussing it with my wife. Oh my, a man that talks. I even hit pause on my football game to type out this post.

Can we stop trying to give easy answers? Can we stop acting as if it's easy to compartmentalize people and give out simple answers to such complex issues as the grief of losing a baby?

So don't grieve like a man or grieve like a woman. Grieve like a human. Grieve like you.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Are ballet shoes bad luck?

I want to buy things for you all the time. I see things I would never have hesitated to buy you when I was pregnant and this was all a "sure thing".
Parents dont just buy baby clothes. At least I didn't. I bought things for YOU. For my daughter. Things that fit our style, our humor, our interests. So they may not have been things you chose, but they were selected for you, with what we thought we knew about you in mind. Like that you needed tutu's and ballet slippers. Moms' just know these things about their kids.
So these things we collected for you. They were your things. Not interchangeable doll clothes that are packed away for future children for dress up. You don't get remarried after being widowed and ask your new spouse to wear all the clothes still hanging in the closet.

Belonging matters. Even if they shouldn't, our items, our clothing, our homes and surroundings define us. I don't buy these swimsuits for "a baby". I would have bought them for Rhiannon. I don't because I don't even know what I woild do with them. Put them in a box I guess?

How do you pass up ruffled Longhorn outfits? 
Tutu Swimsuits? Love it!

This was more Hungry Caterpillar stuff. Yet despair tells me to not waste my time or money. Even if thats not true, even if we know we'll have kids, there is something foreboding to keep buying stuff for kids that never end up staying with us. I'm joining with my Jewish friends on this. Starts to feel like bad luck. 

On top of it, I walked away from a clearance sale of all of this stuff, and that was half the battle!

When you already struggle with guilt wrestling with yourself daily to see if you contributed to your child's death, bad luck isn't something you want to incur.

 But I sure did want these ballet shoes anyways. I danced. Surely you would have danced too. Every girl needs ballet shoes. Now I fear they are bad luck and I can't even think about bringing them in my home.

Does buying ballet shoes in the future guarantee that I won't ever have a girl? Some kind of cosmic opposite day that stretches on forever and ever. I buy girl things. I lose my girls. Guess I should have been buying more dump trucks and light sabers.

No my girls need light sabers too. I'm a cool mom like that.

There isn't some manual out there about how to do this. There are articles all over the place about what to do when your child dies. But nobody really knows what to do. Which is fine with me. I really don't want someone handing me instructions on how to manage all of this. I'll tell the world what I need instead, because I think I can figure out what is healthier for me than a written list compiled by "Experts".

Some people donate it all. I can't bear to give up any of it. Even though they were for her, I don't want them going anywhere but in my family. I want my children to use them. I know that sounds hypocritical given what I wrote earlier, but it's still the truth. They are part of our family and they are to be passed down to my children. I hope.

This has never happened to me but I know other loss moms who were approached by pregnant couples asking them if they could have all their stuff. Or by churches or well meaning, or not so well meaning family members. Since you know, they didn't need it anymore. Thanks for discounting their existence, that feels really supportive I'm sure.

I'm not sure how yet to walk the line between considering her room a living monument to her and also knowing that other children will live in there one day. How do you honor one kid without overshadowing the others? How do you respect a life and not mean to show that you are replacing it. How do you continue to honor that it IS her room and those ARE her things, but half the time I avoid that room all together. Other days I want to be in there and look around. Rarely do I sit and stay for long. I have yet to figure out why, but I'm not overly concerned with analyzing it. I just don't. Period.

Sometimes the answer is simple. It sucks. It hurts. I don't wanna. I'm not avoiding or too invested or too involved or too little involved or moving too slow or fast. I am moving. It hurts. It sucks. Sometimes I don't wanna. Sometimes I do.

I seem to be one of the only people ok with the pace of most of this. It's my timeline, I'll do it on my time and not yours. I know that I decide how this all goes and where it goes, and then some days I have no control and don't have a say in any of it. It's just the way it goes. It sometimes slams into me that this forever and there is no going back. I have to do this for the rest of my entire life. That is a very long time. I've got a lifetime to do this, so I'll be exactly where I want to be today.

When searching for a rainbow dress for her birthday, I came across this and it just about ripped my heart out to NOT buy it. To know that I can't and have no reason to buy this and hang it somewhere out of sight. I still want to. I'm still her mother. I still want to collect things for her that meant things about her life. The one thing I do know about timelines is that she will always be my daughter no matter what the rest of it looks like and 10 years from now or 30 years from now I'll want to buy her rainbow dresses.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Happy Half Birthday Ree. We made you funfetti cookies

Believe me when I say that if you had lived we would still be celebrating your Half Birthday. I have always loved birthdays. Everybody around me knows that I love celebrating birthdays, I love celebrating birth weeks (most specifically mine). I think every human should be celebrated. Although celebrating birthdays are little weird because you didn't do much work on that day and your mom really did all the work but I digress.

We would've been celebrating your half birthday today even if you lived. I didn't make special cookies today just because I'm looking for ways to honor your life. I happen to like sugar in any form on any day. We would have been making some kind of dessert for you today no matter what. So we just decided to do it even though you aren't here. 

So I haven't talked much online about the alternate life that sometimes lives in my head. I know it's just one more thing on the list of things that people don't understand until they've lost a child. So I just don't talk about it much online. Many of us have two different story lines that run our head. The one where you also lived. 
Funfetti cookies

I don't know if anyone remembers those books we all read when we were younger in elementary school, the ones that have lots of different endings and you could choose the final outcome based on what page number you decided to flip to. It's kind of like that. I have two different stories, two different lives, two different outcomes. Two different kids. 

In my head this is how the alternate version goes down. Today you're six-months-old. Since you were just six months I would be at the beginning stages of starting to feel like I sort of had everything figured out but I know that you would be quickly throwing me a curveball very soon, reminding me that I'll never really get this down. But I might at least know what your cries mean and maybe, just maybe I'll have figured out the right diapers. Or what diapers are best when you have a blowout. That's probably the curveball that would be thrown my way soon. 
Sprinkles. Always sprinkles. 
I would have switched back-and-forth probably between cloth diapers and disposable diapers because we would've hit a phase where you leak through all your cloth diapers at night and I was too tired to try to wash them so we switched to disposables for a while. I would be going through your clothes today, sobbing as I had to finally let go of some of your clothes that haven't fit for 5 1/2 months, and also getting rid of the sleepers and onesies you've been in for the last four months. I would be moving to the new box of clothes, the one labeled 6 to 9 months and I will be panicking that you're now closer to 9 months which means you're growing up. I separated all your clothes in your nursery into 3 month increments and moving to that third box, the one 6-9 months, would feel really hard. 

Vanilla Ice Cream with M&M's... because of course
I really have no idea how we would've sorted out breast-feeding or formula feeding and I really don't care about that one to be honest. At this point, after you have died, I really could give two flips about how children are fed in the long term. So I can't tell you if I would've stuck it out with breast-feeding or if we would've switched to formula a few weeks later. But I do at least know by now, at six months, we would've had a routine down sometimes.
Squishing the ice cream onto the cookies

And maybe I would have discovered things right now that would have stopped you from crying. I would know the songs, the toys, the things to do to distract you when you got really fussy and upset. I would no longer feel the need to take you back from any of our family members when you started crying and I would let them try to sort it out for a while because I probably trust them a little bit more by now but I'm also just tired of doing it myself and decided to let people help me. And surprise surprise, they do pretty good at calming you down too.

You still wouldn't be sleeping at a grandparent's house for an entire weekend, but maybe I'd let up for one night. Maybe. I would at least let someone watch you for a few hours so we could go to a movie. I think.
Rolling in the deep. I mean sprinkles. Rolling in the sprinkles.
I would be elbows deep in Pinterest obsessing over your first birthday party. Did you know I started planning it before you were born? I didn't get very far, just a few pins, but it was a rainbow Hungry Caterpillar themed birthday and it was going to be awesome. And funfetti was going to be involved.

I had a box of Funfetti in the pantry ready to be baked when I went into labor so we could have a real proper first birthday, your actual first birthday, the day you were born. Clearly it didn't get baked. I refuse to touch that box. When I bought cake mix to make your cookies today, I had to buy a new box. I can't bear yet to touch the old one.

I was supposed to spend the next 6 months searching for THE PERFECT Rainbow Tutu for your 1st birthday. It was going to be awesome. See, you were my rainbow baby. The one that came after all the losses we've already had. So you already had rainbows as your symbol long before it became the symbol of "you" in death, the sign that you were looking over us.

I think at this point, we would be getting up at 3am and browsing the internet for birthday party ideas, random symptoms that I would freak out about and you would be a nightowl just like I am.

Your dad would have a song he made up that drives me NUTS but you love it.

I still remember in the early days after we came home, it was very vivid. This separate alternate life was very clear. I could almost feel it. Back then I envisioned you lying on my chest, all curled up and tiny. I could feel you in my arms. Sometimes I would sit cross legged on the couch and my arms would curl as if holding a newborn and I swear to all that is holy I wouldn't even notice it was happening.

I could see you almost. I could feel you lying there. But you weren't there.


I still struggle when I walk in the store not to buy little girl outfits. I tell myself I could still buy them, but then I tell myself I have to get out of "we're having a girl" mode. I have no idea what my next child will be. I know it won't be you. I do know that. I have so many outfits I want to buy you and hang in your closet.

All I could do for you today was bake cookies. That's it. It REALLY sucks. I can plan your first birthday but googling "planning birthday party for dead child" doesn't get you far. Imagine baking a cake and sitting by a grave instead of having a 1 year old who cries during the party because she needed a nap and barely eats the smashcake you spent months planning. I promise you, if your child cries during a birthday party, remind yourself of my situation and where you could be sitting. It will be quiet and silent in my house on her birthday. That will suck worse.

Ideas about birthdays for babies who were stillborn all include pretty sad things like memorials or dedicating money to a cause. I just wanted a crying baby and a house full of people and a mess to clean up when it was all done. The only candles I want to light on your birthday are the ones on your cake. Not the one we lit at your funeral. The balloons I wanted weren't meant to be released into the sky.

Today I should have had no time to make cookies. But I did. I had tons of time. So this is the best I could do for you today.

There were many variations of this picture, including when we propped the camera higher on the stand before we took the timed picture. There were plenty where we weren't leaning and Clint doesn't look like he's trying to display a cookie on the food network. But why would I post those?!

Monday, August 26, 2013

We're not that different

To new moms out there and moms who have older children and remember the early days well. We are more alike than you may think.

I look as worn and weathered as you do. My face has aged over the last five months from worry. We both worry. I worry but it's not  bent over a breathing, sleeping baby holding a mirror to their mouth to make sure that there is air coming out. I just worry in general. I worry about all the things, all the time. 

I will power through work today on four or five hours of sleep. In fact I started writing this at 4am. I am awake all the time. Just like you. Mine comes from the broken sleep of PTSD survivor, someone battling insomnia. And who also wakes up thinking she hears the baby crying. Just like you do.

Sleep is probably one of the hardest for me just like it is for you. Sleep and night time are things that I avoid. I often avoid sleeping in "that room" because that's where it all happened. That's also the time when it happened. In the late hours from 9 o'clock at night until 5 or so that morning. We'll probably never know. She was "gone" less than 24 hours at birth given her condition.  

That night was the second night of labor, which was quickly becoming my own hell asI lay in the bedroom alone as Clint was trying to get sleep in the living room, attempting to prepare himself to parent a newborn over the next couple of days and grab a couple of hours of sleep.

There in that bedroom, alone and in the dark, thinking of having all the lights off what help me relax, I stayed in a weird flocs between intense contractions, the likes of which I still have not felt as intensely as I did in those moments, and then moments of what I can only imagine or something between sleep and passing out. This combination would go on for 10 hours or so. When I think about her dying, I think  about sitting in the bedroom alone in the dark. I guess it was kind of feeling. It's really what a Hollywood producer would set the scene look like they needed to stage such a scene. I felt pretty alone even at that time but I had no idea that she was dying or that she was already dead. The contractions that picked up throughout the night were the worst I've felt throughout everything. Even after I got on Pitocin. The contractions were the worst in the bedroom and they would go on for minutes at a time.

I remember waking Clint  up and telling him something was wrong demanding a C-section. It was already too late.

So I guess sleep evades me now because my body is on constant alert that going to sleep means bad things will happen. Especially in that room. Sometimes I really wish we could move.

I read a quote on another loss blog of a mom who said she would relive the day of Birth "over and over and over again" rather than have to go through the mental darkness that she feels now on some of the worst days. I can't say that I fully agree but I also can't say that I fully disagree here. The desire to make it all stop is powerful. At least on the day of birth you had a purpose. 

Maybe this is another area where we agree, new moms. My identity now is all messed up, turned up on its side. I'm still working out what it means to be a mom, and not lose myself in just being a mother. 

My relationships are changed. 

My body doesn't look the same. 

I have no motivation to workout. 

I feel cooped up in the house but have no energy to leave. 

Sound familiar?

I am still forgetful just like you are. Pregnancy and mommy brain is tripled, if not more, when you add in grief.

You know how sometimes you don't get out of the house and sometimes you don't leave the couch. Somedays you don't even put on pants. Yep. Me too.

It's an ambitious feat to get to the store for one chore and you don't know when you last bought groceries.

You think you know what motherhood will be like. You think you've got it figured out. You think that it's hard but you have no idea until the baby arrives just how hard it really is. It's hard hard. Yep, grief is the same. I thought I knew what it would be like if I lost a child. I had no idea how hard it would really be and mine doesn't have a story where I can say that her first smile made me feel like it was all worth it. It was worth it, but it takes longer for us to see that in the pain.

People tell me all the time how they think they would be or act if this happened to them. They are assured they would be falling apart, more than I am. You must not see me on a regular basis then. I fall apart and then get it back together and fall apart again the next day. Kinda like you did as a first time mom on a daily basis.

I am irrationally fearful or irritable or gutted if my significant other is going to be late coming home from work. You needed someone to help you with the baby. I just need someone to help me cook dinner. Don't ask me the last time I did dishes.

At the four month mark, you and I go through a change. Apparently research says, for you, it all starts to make sense and you find a groove. Well apparently so do we. You've heard me mention that it all falls apart at 4 months for us, as it starts to get worse than it was before and you feel even more disoriented. I guess at 4 months the hormones start to abate and things are less foggy. You come out of the fog victorious. I come out of the fog to the reality of this messed up situation.

We're not all that different, you and I. And we are also more different than you can ever imagine.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Prayer Flags

In Tibet and other remote mountaintop communities, you'll often see long strings of brightly colored flags moving around in the breeze. The idea is that the prayers are sewn into the fabric and design and as the wind moves, the wind takes the prayers and carries them to wherever it is that they go.

Yesterday was the International Day of Hope, hosted by Carly Marie of course, and the project for the day was to make prayer flags. You could make 1 or a million. We made 6.

One for each letter of her nickname.

One brightly colored feather angel butterfly something or other. I just know it looks pretty cool in person and kinda looks like something out of The Hungry Caterpillar.

One with simple shamrocks for my March Baby.

And one for a future child, children. A separate string of hearts, watched over by the rainbow.

The prayers don't have to be for your dead loved one. They can be for anything... just as prayers usually are. Today we prayed for what we miss and for what we hope for still to come.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I feel pretty. Oh so pretty.

There is a viral video going around right now by bunch of current female comedians all joking about the fact that it is not acceptable to like yourself in Western female culture. It's definitely not acceptable to feel pretty and it is a massive sin to not put yourself down when someone gives you a compliment.

"I love your hair"

"It's so frizzy I can't do anything with it" (Even though you secretly know that you really are having a good hair day). 

"I love your jacket"

"Me too but it sure looked better on me when I was 20 pounds lighter"

"You look great today"

"Ughh I'm exhausted, can't you see the bags under my eyes". 

And so on. This is the inside story of female conversations. 

Well I'm about to break that taboo. I feel pretty. 

I've shed some weight over the last couple of months. Not on the scale but still some weight nonetheless. I clearly gained some emotional weight but let go of weight in terms of relationships. About 12 years from now I'll probably stop using the excuse that I "just had a baby" to justify why I still weigh what I do but that's a matter for another blog post!

So no that's confidence doesn't come from dropping the baby weight.

I used to have a really fantastic hair. I still generally do and I'm pretty proud of it because it took a long time for me to embrace my curls. I think most curlies agree. We are not a very Curl Friendly culture. We like sticks when it comes to our hair and our bodies. Curls and waves just aren't as acceptable. But I had pretty rocking hair. Post birth, it falls out in massive quantities and it's frizzier than it's ever been. I even think it has changed texture. Straw like isn't a texture is it? I still feel pretty. 

None of my clothes fit. My skin breaks out worse than when I was 15. WHY wasn't I prepared for that part! The hormonal impact on my face is really a laugh. I still feel pretty. 

I don't dress up more now. It's a good day if I put on pants. But lets be honest. That was a truth long before my daughter died! 

Why did I pick those pictures? It had little to do with the outfits or makeup (most of the time it's the lack there of). It had nothing to do with my hair.

These are all days I've smiled since Ree died. Really smiled, even on camera. I smiled. Genuinely. Not because I was worried it would be posted to Facebook. I didn't worry about makeup. Or hair. I cared about the people in the pictures with me. Or the recipients of the pictures. Relationships. Those were beautiful. I felt pretty, I feel pretty because I still had people to share the smile with, who didn't care about weight or makeup or the status of my closet. I feel pretty even when I'm alone at least somedays, because I have survived.

Despite my tiger stripes and cellulite and lack of much in my closet that is presentable, I feel pretty. Because I can smile. Especially when I can smile on bad days.

I don't fault people who feel this way, but it does make me unable to connect to people who say they are obsessed with shoes or a new purse makes them happy. I was never really that person in the first place but it definitely doesn't make any sense to me now. I don't care what color your shoes are. My daughter died. I don't fault you for finding joy in pretty things. That's normal. Those things are just not as pretty to me. Pretty changed. 

When I hear people talk about bouncing back after a baby, it doesn't quite ring the same for me. Mine wasn't about my abs or the return of my figure. Bouncing back for me, the "return to pretty" after childbirth was always about the ability to live. 

While I still sometimes feel like the biggest failure for not keeping her alive, I also have more confidence in some things than I ever did before Rhiannon. It really doesn't rattle me to worry about what I'm gonna put on today or how my hair looks or how my face might seem chubby on Facebook. So what. I feel pretty. I feel pretty because I lived. I feel pretty because I can still genuinely smile. I feel pretty even if you don't think I am because that really doesn't matter to me anymore. I don't really care if you consider me a post pregnancy success story when I can fit in my size 6 jeans again. 

When I google "pretty after childbirth", the majority of the links that came up were all body focused. Postbaby work out plans. Diet plans. Flattering swimsuits. How to wrap this and lift that. Even the ones that celebrated a mothers body after birth, they were still all externally driven. There were articles about how to look good during birth, how to look good minutes after birth, about deflating tummies and boobs and thighs. Preventing stretch marks, erasing stretch marks, coming to terms with stretch marks! But even for moms who have children that live, isn't the emotional turmoil after birth far more extensive than the amount of stretch marks? Isn't that upheaval a bigger deal?

I'm not saying that liking your body is something to avoid or not focus on, but why is it the only focus? You can't tell me that there aren't plenty of women after birth that have to learn to smile again after becoming a mother because of the massive amount of change required. The transition and loss of self to become this new person. 

I know that is at least one part of this journey on which I am not alone in the tribe of motherhood. I have lived and I have marks to prove it. Internally and externally

Beauty is the space where tragedy and living meet. 
Beauty is finding joy even on the same days when you find tears. 
Continuing to live beyond just existing.
Beauty is honoring pain and sorrow while not ignoring the smiles. 

I will always smile and weep for her at the exact same time. They will coexist. 

I feel pretty because I can do both.

It turns out that the media has been getting it wrong for a very long time. Beauty is an emotion. Pretty is an emotion. It's not an external state like large or small or thin or tall. It is an internal feeling. For you moms out there that have living children, ask yourself if when you look at your children, if you see beauty on the outside because of how they look or beauty when you make them smile, when they laugh. There isn't much on the planet prettier than a laughing baby. 

Beauty is in the "I", not the eye. 

I'll always hope I still have a daughter one day. I can't say that desire will ever shut down after losing two girls in a row. I hope that if I do have a girl that I somehow find the ability to pass on whatever this lesson is that I have learned. I know that it won't be effectively taught when she's 15 no matter how much I hope that it will. It probably won't sink in when she's 21 and getting serious about dating and trying to pick a partner for the rest of her life. It probably won't hit until she's 30, like me and life has roughed her up pretty good. Some experiences won't have words or emotions or descriptions. Or they'll have all new meaning. Some things won't even have names or words or description but she'll still know what they mean anyway. Beauty. Pretty. Those will change. 

Of course the fact that I let myself imagine a child living to 30 is a bigger victory than you can probably even imagine. Kidowers struggle to believe our children will age as they should. 

I'm sure this lesson can be taught to a son as well but I'm just not in that frame of mind quite yet and daughters are my only frame of reference. If I have a son, I'll cross that bridge when I get there. I'll tell him he's pretty too.