~* Possible triggers through this post *~
I have been walking around for the last two to three weeks with a rather lengthy post in my head, and I have simply lacked the time to sit down and get it out. Of course, because I haven't been able to get it out, it has changed from day to day, based on what my brain remembers from day to day.
Before I go any further, I would like to congratulate my friend, Dawn, on the birth of her rainbow, Maddox, on December 7th! Mom, Maddox, Dad and big brother are all doing well so far!! Congrats also go to Jessica, who recently welcomed rainbow baby, Joshua!! Please keep the following ladies in your thoughts, as they are all rapidly approaching the arrival of their rainbows within the three weeks... Katy, Heather, Malory, and Lori.
So another year has passed since our first Christmas without Gracie, and what a difference a year can make...or not. A year ago, my only child was dead and I put up Christmas decorations in a cemetery for the first time. This year I have two daughters...one is still dead and we decorated in the cemetery again. It didn't take long to decorate this year, since we knew what we were doing this time around. Different, but the same.
A year ago, I was simply dreading the arrival of Christmas. Dreading it. Christmas day came and went relatively peacefully, and I realized that the days leading up to the 25th were far worse than the actual holiday itself. This year I am actually looking forward to Christmas with Jen.na, but it will just not be as it should be. Instead of having a 15 month old running around tearing things up, I will spend Christmas with my 3 month old, who I expect will be absolutely fascinated by the lights on the tree and the dancing Santa figurine. Just like last year, we will host Christmas Eve dinner and then release balloons for all of the angel babies. We will still be missing Gracie, and it will be the first Christmas without my BIL's wife. Everything will be the same and different at the same time.
Last year we decided that our new 'tradition' would be to purchase at least one ornament each year for Gracie. Last year she got several ornaments. This year I have purchased two for her. I will post pictures of them over the weekend. This tradition already has me wondering...how long will this tradition go on? It's likely that each living child will have a new ornament or two on the tree each year while they live at home with us. But how long will we continue to look for Gracie ornaments? At what point does that stop? When she 'turns 22, graduates from college and moves out?' When we stop buying or making new ornaments for the rest of our kids? When we just cannot find anything new and/or suitable to be Gracie's ornament? When? And why? And how will I feel about it?
Last year we encouraged our friends and family who wanted to honor Gracie to purchase a 'gift' to donate to Doing Good In Her Name. This year we decided to do the same type of donation, but we wanted to keep it more local instead of sending it out of state. So we will be donating to the patients in the NICU and PICU of the children's hospital about 20 minutes away. Again...the same, but different. And again I wonder how long this will go on. How long will friends and family feel compelled to make a donation in Gracie's memory to help another child/family? How long will Je.ff and I feel compelled to do this? Is is something that our living children will want to continue when their parents have no steam left? Or will it simply die off gradually from one year to the next until it simply fades to black?
On Sunday the 12th, we attended a candle lighting service at our hospital. It was our first year for this service, which is coordinated by the bereavement team and done in conjunction with Compassionate Friends, as last year's was canceled because of bad weather. It was a nice, small gathering. But it still sucks. It's likely that this will also become an annual tradition for us, simply as another means of keeping Gracie alive within us.
We continue to go to our monthly support group, and it continues to be quite beneficial for us. A couple that attended a few times had their rainbow baby, Eleanor, on October 14th. I had posted a prayer request for her a few days later, as she was in the NICU and having some substantial respiratory issues - she is home now and doing well! Another couple in our group is expecting their rainbow in a few months; I am so excited for them, but at the same time I am as afraid for them as I was when I was pregnant with Jenna. I don't think that particular fear will ever go away. I have been putting a lot of thought lately into the perinatal bereavement support available from the three birthing hospitals in our region...specifically, in terms of what I/we can contribute to these programs that might make the initial 'black hole' of loss just the tiniest bit smaller for parents just entering the realm of baby loss. A few months ago we donated baby loss ribbon pins for the memory boxes given out by our hospital. Over the last couple of months I put together a pamphlet that can be included in the bereavement literature that our hospital hands out; it contains various online resources that might be helpful to new loss parents. But these things seem to trivial in the grand scheme of things. I received confirmation a few weeks ago that one of the three hospitals in our region does not do much for their loss families. They give a copy of 'When Hello Means Goodbye' and they also give them a (donated) knitted outfit that is size-appropriate for their little one. That's it. This makes me feel so empty, and my heart breaks for all of the families that have left this hospital more or less empty handed. I am hoping, with the help of a few other BLM friends, to change this. I am ultimately hoping that in the coming months we will be able to provide memory boxes for these families. We'll see how it goes.
I have found myself having quite a few angry thoughts over the last few weeks. It's relatively displaced anger, but I suppose it all has to go somewhere. I am not sure if it has been sparked by continued changes on my hormone levels, by the impending holiday, by the anticipation of my sister's return from Namibia for a 3 week visit or by something completely unrelated, but has been pretty prevalent. I keep thinking about our 35 week appointment with Gracie, which was the last time she was alive in the OB's office. I keep thinking about the fact that I questioned Gracie's apparent slowing rate of growth, as well as my own weight loss at that appointment. We had not had many dealings with the midwife that we saw that day; her response to my concerns was that we don't all grow 10# babies and that the ultrasound weights were +/- 1.5#. She then said we would see how things looked the next week and form a game plan from that point forward if necessary. That's what makes me angry. She gave us the impression that Gracie's size/weight would be estimated during the next week's ultrasound. We have since learned that the ultrasound tech in our OB's office does not do size measurements more frequently than every 3 weeks unless there is an obvious problem ...so there was no reason for the midwife to believe that Gracie's size would be measured the following week. That fact alone kind of makes me feel like she was really blowing off our concerns and just saying what she needed to say to pacify us and get us out of the office. The only things pointing to a problem at that point were my weight loss and Gracie's slowing growth rate...so there would have been no reason for them to have done growth measurements the following week, and she had to have known that. Such a simple thing, but it's really been under my skin for the last few weeks for some reason. This, too, shall pass, I suppose. Sigh.
I will close tonight with some music. I have been waiting for months and months for this song to pop up on play.list.com, but no luck. So I will include it here. I think it's perfect for most of us. Make sure you stop the player on the right side of the screen before you play this one.
I would like to wish you all a merry and peaceful holiday season filled with friends, family and love. Come back some time in the next few weeks to check out Gracie's 2010 ornaments, and perhaps see some pics of this year's Christmas Eve balloon release. Stop back on the 21st to participate in the 25 Days of Giveaways!! Much love to you all!