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Thursday, December 15, 2011

And the winner is....

Sorry that I'm so very late with this, ladies, but it's been a day.

The winner of the bead sprout ornament is the author of comment #8... Kate

The runner-up, and winner of the Pampered Chef 29-day raffle ticket, is the author of comment #14... Cooper and Lily's mama, Jen.



Kate, please send me an email at sand0113 [at] gmail [dot] com with your address so I know where to send your ornament.

Jen, I will scan your ticket and email it to you.


Thanks to all who visited and commented.  Wishing you a very merry, safe and peaceful Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Amendment to Day #14 Giveaway

If any of you that follow Gracie's blog have already visited today for the giveaway, please be aware that the end of my original post somehow got cut off or omitted.  I have added to the end of what was posted earlier, so you might want to go back and read for one second about the second item that I am offering...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

25 Days of Giveaways - Day #14

Welcome to all who are here as part of Tina's 25 days of giveaways.  I have finally had the foresight to get this posted in early enough for those living half a day ahead of me to participate on the right day, and I will be leaving it open until 7:00 a.m. (EST on 12/15/11) for the benefit of those living several hours behind me.

Although I haven't been able to participate in each day of this year's giveaways, I want to thank Tina for coordinating this awesome event again this year.  It is a little bright light to look forward to during a time that can be so bittersweet. I have participated for the last two years, and each year I have struggled to find the right item to give away.  Two years ago, I gave a hand-made angel stocking that Betty so graciously waited very patiently for.  Last year I thought I had found the perfect gift in the form of an angelversary garden flag, but when the flags arrived, I was so disappointed with the quality.  So, what to give this year???

Two years ago, my husband and I decided that we would find a few new Gracie ornaments for our Christmas tree each year.  This will be our third year for this tradition, and I suspect that it will get a bit more difficult each year, as I have had a difficult time limiting myself to just one or two per year.  Last year, one of the ornaments that I purchased was a hand-made bead sprout angel ornament that has wings and Gracie's name and date of birth on the back.  I love this ornament so much that I have decided to give one for this year's giveaway.  The winner will receive a baby in pink blanket if their angel is a little girl, and a blue blanket if their angel is a little boy.  If your angels were multiples, I will do my very, very best to send one of the appropriate color for each angel (if a mama of multiples wins, it might be closer to next Christmas until I am able to send both, simply because of the 'production' schedule of the wonderful woman who makes these.).   I know that there are few of you who already have one of these ornaments; if the winner happens to already have one, I will find a replacement ornament for you. 






To enter, please leave a comment below and tell me your angel's name and date of birth.  Please also tell me what holiday traditions you and your family have established or fallen into to remember your angel(s).


*****  I did this post ahead of time and scheduled it to be automatically posted by blogger.  I just discovered that the last 1/4 of it is missing and never posted.  So here is the rest of it for those who have not visited yet...I suppose it will just be a surprise to those who have already been here!!

One additional winner will receive a Pampered Chef calendar raffle ticket for February 2012.  This is a fund raiser that we are doing for our March for Babies team.  For more information on the raffle (and information about how to purchase a ticket if you don't win one), please visit our Team Graciebelle blog

Thursday, December 1, 2011

25 Days of Giveaways!

If you are no familiar with the 25 Days of Giveaways organized by Tina (this is the THIRD year already!), please visit her blog and check it out!  Today is day #1 of the giveaways.  Come back here and visit me on December 14th for the giveaway that I am hosting. 

 
 
 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What Remains

Twenty-seven months.  791 days.  Just over 18,984 hours.  Just over 1,139,040 minutes.  Yet, it seems like just yesterday that I gave birth to my oldest child's lifeless body, with the only cries to disturb the quiet of that night belonging to myself and my husband.

Twenty-seven months.    Enough time for my little girl to have grown into an active, inquisitive and loving toddler who would have understood this year's trick-or-treating, this year's visit to Santa, and the presents under this year's Christmas tree.

But instead, what remains is simply a notion of my daughter...a notion of what she would have looked like...and a notion of who she would be now. 

What remains is a mama who appears, on the outside, to have 'gotten over it' and 'moved on'.  Truth be known, I am okay.  I have far more good days than bad days.  But the bad days...the bad days are very.bad.days. that knock this mama down and leave her heart hurting in the worst way possible.  The bad days leave this mama wanting to stand on the roof and shout loud enough for everyone within 100 miles to know just how much this sucks. 

What remains is a mama who has never struggled with anxiety, but is now regularly blindsided by the feeling that her heart is going to pound right out of her chest...followed by inexplicable angst that lasts for the remainder of the day and evening and interferes with everything else on her agenda.  

What remains is a mama that desperately wishes that she could understand this phase of her husband's grieving process (and that he could understand hers a little better, too.).  For now, she will settle for finally accepting that there are sometimes no words to begin to describe the difference between a woman's grief and a man's grief. 

What remains is this blog space.  Originally intended to honor my daughter, hold my thoughts and my grief, and let others know that they aren't alone, this space is now relatively quiet.  Over the last twenty-seven months it has certainly served its purposes, but now it is seldom visited and seldom updated.  I like to hope and believe that it still serves it purpose in the natural progression of my grief...

What remains are acquaintanceships and friendships that I have forged through this blog and other avenues within the loss community.  Lots of acquaintances.  More than I can easily count.  A small handful of life-long friends that I feel like I have known since elementary school.  Friends who understand.  Friends who expect nothing from me except the same understanding.  Friends who will always be there.

What remains is a mama who feels compelled to reach out to those who suddenly find themselves the newest member of this dreadful 'club,' despite the fact that doing so sometimes seems to add insult to injury.   Salt constantly poured into the wounds, yet it feels worse to not reach out...  I guess it balances out in knowing that I am able to pay forward the love and support offered to us when we needed it most...

What remains is a mama who lives amongst people who see the things that she does to maintain and honor daughter's memory and say things like "Maybe if you did less to keep her 'alive' and constantly remember her, you would have an easier time letting her die.  Maybe you would feel better if you just let her die."  (I sometimes secretly wonder if these people might have a small, yet valid, point...)

What remains is a rainbow who embodies everything that I pictured her older sister to be...and more.  I love her more than words...with everything I have, but sometimes I feel like it's just not enough. 

Ultimately, what remains is a mama who misses the 'before,' yet would not trade any of this for anything...except for one very small, tiny, little Peanut...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Someday

Someday I will look at children born within a few months of 8.1.09 and not involuntarily try to picture what my daughter would look like and be doing.  Someday I will not look at Gracie's second cousin, born two months before she was, and think that there should be two of them running around and climbing all over things and people at family reunions.  Someday I will look at my friend's little girl, born 3.5 months before Gracie and not think that they should be playing together.  Some day I will see pictures of Lyla, born about 6 weeks before Gracie, and not feel that envy...not even a little bit.  Someday.  Some.day.  But today is. not. that. day.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Two Years

‘How’d you do with the birthday?’  So many times I wish people would be more direct with their curiosity or questions about Gracie, and baby loss in general, but I’m not sure that today was one of those days.  And then there is the question of whether or not this person really wanted to know how I did with Gracie’s birthday, or if she simply wanted to say something to acknowledge the day and she just didn’t know what else to say.  Regardless, I gave my standard answer of ‘Eh – okay.’ 

But how did I really do with Gracie’s second birthday / angelversary?  Okay.  Fine.  Not fine.  I don’t  really know, I guess.  I did better with her actual birthday than I did with the day before her birthday.  August 1st is technically the day that she was born, but in my mind it is really just a continuation of July 31st, which is the day Gracie died, the day that her death was confirmed and the day that I labored for 9 hours (out of 11.5 total hours).  If my labor had been induced 2.5 hours earlier than it was, it’s probable that she would have been born on the 31st instead of things dragging over into a completely new day and month. So, for me it’s more about the 31st than it is the 1st.       

Regardless of which day we’re talking about, I can say that there was no meltdown, no flood of tears and no drinking to drown my sorrows…so it wasn’t that bad.  There was no birthday cake, no large family dinner, no large balloon release, no gifts or flowers left at her grave site by friends or family…so it wasn’t really that great, either.  Most notably, there was no two-year-old Gracie.  All of that was replaced with a morning at the flea market, a family nap and processing homemade baby food on Sunday and a half-day of work, an afternoon thunderstorms with torrential downpours and hail, dropping off a few more things for the memory boxes that Debbie and I donated, and an abbreviated and lonely visit to the cemetery on Monday.  We took a small bouquet of flowers and released four balloons, but didn’t stay long at the cemetery since there wasn’t much break in the thunderstorms.  The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful.  I wanted to do more than this to honor her day(s).  Over the last month we actually put quite a bit of thought into what we wanted to do on Sunday and Monday.  We tossed around several ideas, but ultimately we never decided on anything that felt right.  In some way, I feel like we let Gracie down with our lack of planning and our lack of ‘festivities’.  Ironically, a year ago I had a feeling that this would happen.  (To read about Gracie’s first birthday, read here).  Hopefully next year we can get it together.   

Amongst our travels, I spent much of the 31st looking at the clock and thinking about what was happening at that moment two years earlier.  Thinking about every part of that awful day over and over and wondering how in the world two years can simultaneously pass so quickly and stand so completely still.  It’s one of those things that you try to turn off, but just can’t.  I have also spent much of the last few days thinking how different everything is.  How different it is compared to one year ago.  How different it is compared to two and three years ago.  How different so many things in our lives are now compared to what should have been…compared to what was supposed to be.   Death, new life, marriage, divorce, illness, heartache, upheaval…none of it playing out the ‘right’ way.  Oh, how I wish I knew what any of it meant. 

I will close with a few photos.  The top photo is the remainder of the donations for the memory boxes.  The others are from Monday’s visit to the cemetery.   Wishing you all a peaceful week (or month, since it seems that I can’t get here and write any more frequently than once a month these days!)  Loving you and missing more than anyone will ever know, baby girl!!






Thursday, June 30, 2011

What Fun It Was

My pregnancy with Gracie overlapped with the pregnancies of a large handful of family and friends.  Most of those babies were born within 2-3 months (before and after) of Gracie.  Being pregnant with everyone else was a hoot...all the conversation about these kids growing up and playing together.  It really was incredibly fun.  Right up until the day my daughter's heart stopped beating.  Now it sucks.  Most days it doesn't bother me too much.  Other days it sucks big, fat hairy goat balls.  Pictures of these kids posted on FB.  Watching these kids run around and play at family events.  Hearing my friends talking about taking their kids to an area amusement park that we all went to as kids.  Watching and hearing about the plans for last year's first birthday parties and this year's second birthday parties.  I should be doing all of the same things this year.  I keep looking at all of these kids and seeing how big they have gotten over the last two years, and looking at Jenna as she grows so quickly...and wondering what my little Gracie would look like now and what she would be doing.  I don't want to ever forget, but some times I wish my brain would quit with the 'what if' and 'I wonder...' thoughts. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

I'm okay.  I really am.  I'm not sitting here in tears.  I'm not sitting here trembling.  But I am sitting here in awe...to the point that I needed to write a short blip here. 

Today has been a good day.  It's one of those days that, while Gracie (and baby loss) plays at low volume in the back of my mind, she is not a forerunning or all-consuming thought.  I just came home for lunch, sat down and turned the t.v. on and found a rerun of Grey's Ana.tomy.  I haven't watched Grey's in a couple months, so how is it that, of all episodes, I turned the t.v. on just in time to see them finding no heartbeat on an ultrasound screen???  How completely random is this???   I've seem this episode, and I'll be fine, but shit.  It's all suddenly in the front of my brain, and I know from experience that it will stay there until I go to bed tonight.  Sometimes I wonder about  the timing and randomness of these happenings... 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Right Where I Am: 1 year, 10 months

Many thanks to Angie from Still Life with Circles for coordinating the Right Where I Am project for all of us to talk about where we are in our grief. 

I'm lost.  I have gone to look for myself.  
If I get back before I return, please ask me to wait.  

I should find this on a shirt and wear it every day.  Or maybe put it on a button.  Either way, this is it.  Most days, I am okay, as far as okay goes after the loss of a child.  But, quite honestly, I am still looking for myself.  I am twenty two months without my first born.  Twenty two months trying to figure out who I was then and who I am now.  Twenty two months trying to figure out where I was, where I am and where I'm headed.   

Twenty two months ago I was wife to a playful and passionate husband.  Twenty two months ago I was a self-employed physical therapist and owner of a private physical therapy practice.  Twenty two months ago I was Deputy Chief of an award-winning and trail blazing volunteer fire department.  Twenty two months ago I was a daughter, sister, niece and friend.  Twenty two months ago I was me.

Today I am still all of those things.  I am still a wife, still a self-employed physical therapist, still Deputy Chief. i am still a daughter, sister, niece and friend.  In fact, at first glance, the pictures are quite similar until you hold them up to the light...that's when the differences can be seen with clarity.   

I am still still married to the body that I took for better or for worse, richer or poorer, sickness or health.  Sadly, he is not the man that I married.  Playful and passionate is gone.  Don't get me wrong...I don't expect him to be the same man that I married, because I am certainly not the same woman that he married.  But most days I cannot even catch a glimpse or the smallest remnant of the man that once existed.  In the days immediately following Gracie's death, I experienced a very unexpected urge and need to be physically close to my husband.  My recovery prevented intimacy, but even if that had not been an issue, my husband and I were certainly not on the same page.  In the months after Gracie's death, as we started talking about TTC again, any mention of intimacy immediately turned to talk of beer, Wi.ld Tur.key or scotch; there was no baby making without my husband first indulging in one of the three.  Twenty two months and one rainbow baby later, my husband is still dealing with the same mental block, and it's beginning to take its toll on me mentally and emotionally.  No matter what, I love him more than words can describe, but God help me, I miss my husband.  I know that he will never be the same, but I am having such a hard time dealing with the drastic change in our physical relationship.  Never in a million years did I think there would come a day that I would miss the man that had to be beaten off with a stick.  But I miss him...some days, almost as much as I miss Gracie.  I.just.plain.miss.my.husband. 

I am still a self-employed physical therapist; I still own a private physical therapy practice, but it's not what it was 3 or 4 years ago.  I used to be the persona of incredible motivation and over achievement.  If I thought it, I made it happen.  Now, some days, I consider myself to be very lucky that my doors are still open.  I still work hard, more or less because I don't have a choice, but I just can't keep up any more.  I have spent the last 15-18 months trying to find my drive...trying to find my passion...trying to find simple focus.  Focus.  HA!  Right now I should be doing end-of-the-school year paperwork, and I'm blogging instead.  Blogging has become a very common diversion for my paperwork....which just puts me further and further behind the 8-ball.  (And the further behind I get with paperwork, the more imposing the financial implications.)  It's absolute agony for me to complete a simple 8-10 sentence report for a patient's visit to the doctor, but I can sit and bang out a 4000 word blog post without effort. 

I am still Deputy Fire Chief.  Blah.  I have been a firefighter/EMT/rescue technician for 17 years.  Somewhere along the way, I picked up a gaggle of faithful 'subjects' in the form of junior firefighters that used to follow me around day and night.  My commitments and responsibilities at the fire house used to rank very high on my priority list; I used to shoot out of bed every time the pager went off.  Now...I just don't feel it anymore.  Initially, I thought that it would get better as I moved away from Gracie's death...that my spark would come back and I would get back in the saddle.  Not so much.  That same drive that I talked about above...it's gone...and it carries over into the one aspect of my life that I thought would go unscathed.  It makes me sad.  Actually, it makes me really sad.  I worked my ass off for 15 years to gain the respect of the men around me, and for the last 22 months I just haven't cared. 

I am still me.  The new me, and as I said at the top of this post, most days I am okay.  True statement.

There are still days that I think it would be less painful to stick a fork in my eye than deal with my thoughts and feelings.  Those are the days that I walk around with blog posts running and running in my head and no opportunity to sit down and get any of it out.  At this point, though, the good days pretty much outnumber those days.  But, I wish I could make people understand that a 'good day' is not synonymous with the return of the 'old me.'  It means that I am functional; I get up, take care of my family, go to work and do the other things that I need to do to effectively remain part of part of society.  I sleep well and cry very little; outside of the first month after Gracie's death, this has been the norm for me, but I cannot begin to explain it.  Occasionally, there are days that I feel like I'm encompassed by fog and I run on autopilot; these are the days that it is in everyone's best interest to take a step back and carefully choose their words.  Thankfully, these days are becoming fewer and further between.

Gracie's pictures and memento shelf have a place in our living room.  I frequently carry Jenna over near the photos so she can see Gracie, and I tell her a little bit about Gracie while we look at her picture.  With the exception of a couple specific articles of clothing, Jenna uses the things that were purchased for Gracie.  I'm okay with this, as we had originally planned to use as many of Gracie's things as possible for subsequent babies.   


Old friends have exited, but new friends have entered.  Some 'old' friends want desperately to understand, and perhaps even feel, our pain and grief; most have no desire to understand it or accept it for what it is.  I appreciate those who make the effort, and I generally don't have the time of day for those who don't give a shit.  There is a special place in my heart for a very small number of people around us who have been profoundly affected by our experience, and have a very hard time dealing with it. All in all, though, it's still an incredibly lonely place, and I have learned that there are very select few people that I can turn to for the right kind of support at the right moment. 

I still struggle with my faith and trying to figure out why God would ever do something like this.  I still occasionally feel some degree of contempt toward those who have no idea how lucky they are to never experience difficulty getting pregnant, pregnancy loss or baby loss; likewise, I occasionally feel contempt toward those who constantly feel inconvenienced by their kids.

Sometimes I'm still amazed by how profoundly our loss can affect pre-existing 'baggage' and and vice versa.  I've actually spent quite a bit of time thinking about this lately.  I have one sister, and although we have our differences, we have always been pretty close.  She left two weeks after Gracie's funeral for a 2+ year assignment in Africa with the Peace Corps; she is expected to complete her service and return to the states some time in December or January.  Prior to her departure, we talked on the phone daily, and usually supplemented that with daily online communication.  While she's been in Africa, we've been lucky to hook up online once or twice a week for a few minutes and/or via Sky.pe once every month or two.  Obviously, lots has changed in her world since she's been gone; she has, after all, been living in Africa for almost 2 years.  Lots has changed in my world since she's been gone.  Even with the 'regular' communication we have had since she left, she has essentially missed my entire grieving process.  That's not to say that my grief or my grieving process are her burden to bear, but rather to say that there are many things about my grief and grieving that I have not said or shared with her that I would have undoubtedly shared with her if she had been stateside for the last 2 years.  There is so much about me and my hubby that she will just not understand or get once she gets back and resumes regular interaction with us; likewise, there is also so much that I will never understand about her...and perhaps a thing or two that I will never want to understand.  Truth be known, I feel like we will welcome a stranger back into the country in a few months, due in large part to all that has unfolded since the death of our daughter, and I am quite unsettled by it. 

It is still sometimes difficult for me to watch as two little ones around us grow up.  My husband's cousin had a little boy just two months before Gracie died, and my very best friend in the world had a little girl 3.5 months before Gracie died.  We see one relatively frequently, and I see pictures of the other even more frequently.  As much as I love her, the pictures of my friend's little girl sometimes really tug at my heart; they help me to visualize exactly what I am missing out on with my beautiful little girl.  Aside from these two little ones, I do pretty well around babies and toddlers that are the age that Gracie should be. 

So, where am I headed?  It's impossible to know.  If I take only one 'lesson' away from this entire experience, it is this...  I must, must, must accept that, no matter how much I want to believe otherwise, life works on its own terms...not mine.  I can do things to influence the path of my life, but for the most part, it's completely out of my control.  To that end, I know that I don't want to be solely defined by the loss of my daughter.  It will always be part of who I am, and shape some of the things that I do, but I don't want it to be what I am.  I am still working on this.  It is safe to say that I will never regain the innocence or naivety that I had before Gracie died, but I do think that, in time, I will be able to recover some of the spark and pizazz that Gracie's death smacked right out of me.  So I am going to keep looking for that spark and pizazz.  At the same time I am going to keep trying to find some way to ease some of my husband's pain - for his benefit, for our rainbow's benefit, and for my own selfish benefit.  How long will it take?  Forever.  It will all be part of our life long journey.  Where will I be in six months or a year?  I'd like to tell you that I will have found a few remnants of my husband, found my focus and gotten back on track at work, found my spark and drive and gotten back on track at the fire house and picked up where I left off with my sister.  The truth is that I have no clue, but if you made it this far, I invite you to stop back at some point to see where I am. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Snafu

I don't know if this is entirely appropriate for me to post here, and I honestly don't know how long I will leave it.  It's written more as a vent than anything, since it's something that I can't really go 'real life' public with in terms of venting....

A few weeks ago during an online conversation, my sister (who, with the exception of 3 weeks around Christmas 2010, has been in Southern Africa with the Peace Corps since August of 2009) casually mentioned that she had had a 'condom snafu' and that she was planning to do a pregnancy test when she went into the capital city several days later for dental work.  I told her that there were worse things than getting pregnant, to which she responded that if she was pregnant (which was worst case scenario), she would get a two week 'vacation' stateside.  I was confused about this so I asked why they would send her stateside for two weeks.  Her reply was "because abortion is illegal here."

Her reply almost knocked me off the couch.  I could not believe what I was seeing on my computer screen.  Thankfully, it was time to keep moving so I could get out the door on time for work, but I spent the rest of the day trying to process this chain of events.  The more I processed it, the more disturbed I became.  Growing up, my sister and I didn't always see eye to eye, but we have always been quite close.  Sadly, there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that this brewing situation was one of very few things capable of having a profoundly negative impact on our relationship. 

Our conversation caused an immediate flurry of thoughts and questions in my brain.  Does the Peace Corps really use tax money to pay for her med-evac trip across the Atlantic for this?  Who actually pays for her abortion?  How in the world does she think she can remain in 'stealth mode' if she spends two weeks stateside; does she really think that this is something that she can hide from close friends and family?  Has she even thought about the implications of having an abortion?  Has she given any consideration at all to carrying a baby to term and arranging an adoption?  We want more kids...could we adopt and raise this baby or would that eventually create too much tension and animosity amongst the family?  And lastly...why in the hell would she share her intentions with me?????  Has she forgotten that we buried her first born niece less than two years before????  Did she think AT ALL about the reaction I might have to her having an abortion? 

Ten years ago, this wouldn't have had much impact on me, as I have never been steadfast pro-life or pro-choice.  But things are substantially different for me now than they were 5 or 10 years ago. In this particular instance, I had a severely negative reaction to her inclination to use abortion as a means of back up birth control.  Thinking about it actually caused a physical reaction within me.  I kept coming back to thoughts about the people I know who are struggling to cope with infertility and/or long and arduous adoption processes...and I wondered if any of them would have interest in a private adoption.  I kept coming back to thoughts about what the next few years hold for us in terms of our childbearing hopes.  I kept coming back to thoughts that told me over and over again that my sister is just way to selfish to even consider carrying a baby to term in order for it to be adopted.

I agonized over all of this for 3 days until I got word from my sister that her pregnancy test was negative.  Surprisingly, knowing that she is not pregnant didn't really make me feel much better.  A few weeks have passed, and it's still nagging at me...pretty substantially.  Those who read here with any regularity might remember that my sister's visit state side over Christmas was very bumpy.  It was probably the single worst 3 week period that I have ever been through with my sister.  Based on that, I simply cannot imagine what would have ensued if she had announced that she was pregnant.  I do know, without a doubt, that it would have been ugly and I'm certain that it would not have passed quickly...if at all.  There are questions that I didn't get answers to (including who would have paid for her trip and procedure) that I will probably never will get answers to.  As much as I would 'love' to breach the conversation with her at some point now that I know there is no baby involved, I know that nothing productive can come from it, so I just don't know if it's worth it.

I so badly want for my sister to un-ring this bell.  I want to erase these thoughts and I want to not see my sister in this whole new light .  I want, in the worst way, to not have this kind of reaction over something that I have absolutely no control over.  I certainly want to never have this kind of reaction to something that someone else considers to be just a snafu...just an inconvenient bump in the road.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Memory Boxes

My real life BLM friend, Debbie, and I found out several months ago that one of the hospitals local to our area does very little for loss families.  Essentially, all they do is provide a copy of the book "When Hello Means Goodbye" and they get a lock of hair and footprints from the baby "if they can."    We were shocked by how little they do to comfort these families, and we decided to do a little something, not for the hospital's sake, but for the sake of these families as they begin one of the most difficult journeys of their lives.  We put together 5 memory boxes and dropped them off a couple weeks ago.  The nurse manager of the OB department was floored "that anyone would be this generous."  While it felt good to fill a need of this kind, I was floored that, as a department, they don't see or feel a need to make sure that every (appropriate) family goes home with something similar...without depending on the generosity of others.

Here are a few pics of what we delivered. Debbie is responsible for making the outside of these boxes look so great!!  (The beautiful hats that Debbie also ordered are missing from the pictures...I will add those later.)

 






Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Embodiment of Spirit

I have some interesting conversations amongst my travels between schools during the week.  Most of them are harmless banter; some of them are seemingly innocent, but totally inappropriate.  During one of those seemingly innocent conversations a few weeks ago, someone suggested to me that perhaps Gracie's spirit returned to us in Jenna's body and that ultimately we might not be missing a child, just a body. Of course, the conversation sparked lots of activity within my mind...

I have struggled with my faith for a long time.  Weird, since there are (well, were) nuns on both sides of my family and my dad's entire family (14 kids) went to Catholic school.  Perhaps it's not so weird when you consider that over the last 25 years, the many of the God fearing Catholics on both sides of my family have not only moved away from the Catholic church, but away from organized religion all together.  Anyway, it's always been a struggle for me.  I believe that a divine being (known commonly as God) does exist, but I don't really know what else I believe about that being.  Consequently, I have mixed feelings, beliefs and fears about what waits for us after death.  I don't know how one can have such mixed feelings and beliefs about something like this, but I do. 

There is, sadly, a part of me that believes that when we die, we die.  That's it.  Nothing else.  No Heaven, no Hell, no spiritual afterlife, no reincarnation.  Just cold, eternal nothingness.

There is a part of me that believes in spiritual reincarnation.  It is not uncommon to hear me say that I want to come back as a well cared for dog or cat in my next life, or that I must have been this or that in my previous life.  Part of me does believe that the spirit of each person, young or old, is the rekindled spirit of something else...but I don't necessarily know if I believe that we are inhabited by the spirit of someone else.  There is absolutely a part of me that wants desperately to believe that perhaps Jenna's body is simply a new vessel for Gracie's spirit since the first vessel failed...but my brain says that there is no connection and that trying to make a connection is completely unfair to Jenna. 

There is a part of me believes that we all either go to Heaven, Hell and/or Purgatory when we die.  I believe this more than I believe anything else.  I really want to believe that Gracie is in Heaven hanging out with my grandmother, Jeff's grandfather, a few other relatives, a few family friends, and all of her angel baby friends.  I want to believe that she really is an angel, because on so many levels this belief brings me more comfort than any other belief or thought.

Perhaps, one day I will figure it all out. Until then, I guess my brain will run...and envy those who have already figured it out.

Why Do I Write?

The support group that we attend is wonderful.  While we certainly have very serious periods of discussion, there is always some lighthearted conversation to counter the really serious stuff.  At our last meeting, there was loose discussion about why some of us still attend and how long we will choose to attend the monthly meetings.  Those of us who are support group junkies pretty much had the same answer; we still attend because it helps us in one way or another.  More or less, we will attend "as long as we feel that it continues to help us...as long as we need to."

Sometimes I ask myself the same question about writing here in this space...why do I still come here to write and how long will I continue to do so?  What can there possibly be to say that I haven't said already?  At some point, many of us who write here in the baby loss blogosphere have asked ourselves these questions.  I have asked them before, and I've blogged about them before.  I have questioned specifically whether I come here and write because I am down or if I am down because I come here and write.  Tonight I looked back through several months of old posts, and that was all I needed to answer that question. I come here when everything inside has built up to an undesirable level, and the end result, I think, brings me up more than it brings me down. 

I write because it's still an outlet.  The further we move from Gracie's death, the more the world around me expects that I am, or soon will be, the old me.  With that expectation comes the people who just just don't want to hear about it anymore...the people who cannot or will not accept that the old me just doesn't exist.  With that expectation comes building frustration...and the need to write and purge.  I come here to purge because the people 'here' get it, and even if they don't get it, I still don't need to worry about being judged or criticized.  Sometimes I come here, not because I am looking for feedback or comments, but because it's better to write here than it is to talk out loud to an empty room.   

I write because my words are sometimes helpful to others.  It pains me to know that there are new women joining this community every day, but there is a small measure of comfort in knowing that some of them make their way into the blogosphere and find comfort in various blogs, including this one.  If I have to be in this position, and let's face it...I don't have a choice in the matter, I am glad that something 'good' can come of it.

Most importantly, I write for the love of my daughter.  A deep-rooted, unending, unconditional love that only a parent can understand. Enough said.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Butterflies Aplenty

Yesterday was one of my normal days to be out of the office to see school kids, after which I stopped at home for lunch.  On the walk from home to the office, I was greeted by lots and lots of butterflies.  Each spring the local elementary school displays artwork in the windows of Main Street businesses, and most of that artwork was distributed yesterday morning.  There is quite a variety of artwork on display right now, but two businesses received only butterfly artwork...mine happened to be one of the two.  I took a few pictures...


 Windows of the pharmacy up the street




My office windows...with some glare added for effect...




Sunday, May 15, 2011

Who?

This is a duplicate post...sort of.  I know that I posted it once because several ladies commented on it.  It seems, however, that it fell victim to Blo.gger's issues, and somehow reverted back to a saved draft with some content missing.  So here is my second attempt...

We each have our own way of processing our losses, but as a BLM, we each eventually accept that our hearts automatically causes our brains to form thought attachments.  We simply accept that our brains will, for a very long time, attach thoughts of our dead babies to so many of our daily routines, activities and conversations.  For me, it's just one of the bullet points listed under 'new normal.'

Eventually we begin to care less and less about the fact that expressing those thought attachments might make someone else uncomfortable, and we start to throw them into daily conversation here and there.  We watch people squirm a little bit and sometimes we can actually see them mentally searching for the 'right' words with which to respond.  And then, one day, just when we think there are none left, another bomb drops.  It stops you mid-sentence and mid-step, and might actually cause you to be momentarily lost for words.

That bomb dropped for me today.  Again, it's not necessarily the bomb itself that stings, but having to remind myself that people forget.  Quickly.  I was talking with one of my per-diem employees today, and I said something that included the phrase "...since Gracie died..."  -  "Who?"  - "Gracie."  - "Gracie who?"  "Our Gracie, our baby."  -  "Oh."   Now, this woman was our back-up labor coach for Gracie's birth, and she walks with us on our M.o.D. team, so she's not exactly unfamiliar with Gracie...so I was stupified by this entire conversation (which lasted only 5-10 seconds).  It's just reinforcing proof that it's absolutely not burned into the minds of everyone around us...and certainly not in the front of the minds of those who are still supportive of our journey even years after our losses.

The entire encounter made me think about my grandmother today.  She is 91 and in a skilled nursing facility with substantial Alzheimer's Disease.  She has 3 living children and 1 dead baby.  All I know about my Uncle David is that he died when he was a baby.  I don't know where he fell in the birth order, I don't know if he was stillborn or died after birth, and I don't know why he died.  I do know that I have heard people talk about him only twice in my 34 years and that he was not listed in my grandfather's obituary (as having predeceased his father).  It all makes me wonder about how my Grandmother has really felt all these years.  Was she able to push it from her mind and move on with her life (because that's what was forced upon her) or did she think of my Uncle David often and just keep it to herself?   I wonder if, amongst her Alzheimer's, she thinks of him now.  Oh, how I would love to talk with my grandmother about this, but the Alzheimer's makes this an off limits conversation.  Sadly, I don't know what she would be able to remember, or how accurate it would be, and she also does not know about my little Gracie. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

I just got notification about a new comment on this week's Wordless Wednesday post, and another email to tell me that I never said what it was that I see in the picture.  Crap.  I see is an upside down angel in the upper left hand corner of the picture.  If you haven't seen the picture, you can do so here.  

Into the Woods

Thank you to those who have offered prayers and thoughts for my dad's health.  We knew after his surgery last Monday that he was not officially out of the woods until the pathology report came back, and now we know for sure that we are headed back into the woods.  We learned yesterday that of the 13 lymph nodes that they removed for testing, cancer was found in 6.  The surgeon said that all things considered, his cancer is a stage 3 deal.  Not the best news of the week, but not the worst.  It could have been all 13 instead of just 6; his cancer could be stage 4 or metastasized into other organs.  He has an oncology appointment on May 25th, but we already know that chemo is really the only option at this point.  Please keep the prayers and the uplifting thoughts coming in the next few days and weeks.  I could REALLY use them right now.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Okay, so it's not completely wordless.  I'm not one to generally see things in the clouds, but the moment I looked at this picture, something struck me.  I'm just curious...does anyone else see what I see?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Family

These days I am thankful that most of the loose lips, stupidity, mindlessness of others doesn’t hurt or sting like it used to.  Now it just makes me sigh, roll my eyes or twitch a little bit.  Occasionally it makes me giggle, simply because whatever has happened is so unbelievable.  I’m not sure if it’s more amusing or more frustrating when it’s family that does the stupid stuff. 

If you’ve read here for any length of time and actually committed to memory the things that I have written here, you may recall that I don’t talk much about my mother…and when I have talked about her, it’s usually to say that the relationship is strained at best, and has been for about 20 years.  When it’s warranted, I do try to make an effort, though.  After much debate, we included her in Gracie’s funeral arrangements, and she made a spectacle of herself during the service.  I saw her only once or twice between Gracie’s funeral and when Jenna was born.  I have seen her just a handful of times since Jenna came home from the hospital, primarily because she sits around and waits for a gold plated invitation to come visit her granddaughter.  We don’t do gold plated invitations.  For anyone.  The rule is that if you want to see Jenna, you call us to see if we’re home and then you come visit.  When she doesn’t get a gold plated invitation, she sits around and sulks and then she starts fishing for an invitation by inundating me with emails.  Rarely will she ever just ask if she can come visit. 

This morning she sent me an email that, at first glance, seems innocent enough.  But in all honesty, it kind of put me off and now I just need to vent a little bit.  First, she asked me to go shopping with her on Friday or Saturday so she can buy me a mother’s ring.  Yes, it’s a nice gesture, but it’s not appropriate yet.  She and I have had this discussion already and she’s been told that I have no interest in a mother’s ring until we are done having kids, and she’s also been told that my husband is actually looking forward to buying that for me.  She followed up the jewelry offer with an invitation to come to dinner at her house on Sunday so ‘we can have fun celebrating (my) first Mother’s Day.’  Yep.  My first Mother’s Day.  Is it appropriate to say ‘Thanks, Ma, but I celebrated my first Mother’s Day last year by having brunch with my husband and then going to the cemetery.’?  If she hadn’t gone down that ‘first’ road, I probably would have agreed to dinner, but I’m just not feeling it now.  I’m just not feeling sitting there through the celebration of my ‘first’ Mother’s Day without saying something, yet I’m just not feeling that conversation with my mother, either.  A detail so small and so HUGE at the same time... 

In other family matters, if those of you who pray have any extra prayer space, I could use a little prayer directed this way.  My dad had surgery today for colon cancer.  The surgery went well, and it appears that everything was contained to the colon and removed without issue, but we won’t know for certain until the pathology reports on the lymph nodes are back.  So, if you can keep us in your thoughts, I’d appreciate it.  Thanks!!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sending Love

I am way behind the 8-ball today, but I did want wish everyone a peaceful Baby Loss Mother's Day.  Wishing a peaceful May 8th to all, as well. 

March for Babies

A few weeks ago someone asked me why we walked.  I always thought that the answer was obvious, but I guess I was mistaken.  Her theory was that the March for Babies was done primarily by those who were celebrating the successful growth and health of NICU babies...not by those whose babies never even made it to the NICU.  An interesting perspective, I suppose.  I told her that I walk primarily to honor the memory of my daughter, and to raise money for the M.O.D. with the hope that it will spare other families from experiencing the pain of losing a child.  She seemed to understand a little better after that, but I'm not sure that she understood as much as I wanted her to.  So why do I walk...and why will I continue to walk?  I walk to celebrate the life of my healthy Bean, to honor the many NICU babies who beat the odds and have gone on to lead healthy lives, and to remember my Gracie and all of the other babies who could not stay.  I raise money with the hope that the dollars we donate each year might one day make a difference in the lives of other families...
I guess once you finish the 'year of firsts' you are no longer a rookie and it all just become part of life.  Today (4/30) was our local March for Babies.  It was second year walking, and this year we served as Ambassador Family for our area.  Ultimately, many things fell through this year, and many of the 'public' events that we were told would be arranged for us never came to fruition.  We had hoped to use the promised newspaper interview and radio interview to bring the spotlight over to the stillbirth side of things, at least for a moment, but I guess it was just not meant to be.  After it was all said and done today, we got suckered into being on the local committee for next year's walk, so perhaps we will be able to help with coordination of some of these things.

Initially, my husband wanted to set our team fundraising goal at $10,000.  I knew that there was no way we could raise that amount of money, and we agreed on $5000.  A week ago, it really looked like we wouldn't get much further than $3500 or $4000.  Last night, it looked like we would hang right around $4000.  By the time we started our walk this morning at 10:00, we were at $5015.  By the time we finished the walk about an hour later, more online donations had come in and we were at $5200.  The credit for about half of the last $1000 goes to my BIL, who really turned it up while he was working his midnight patrol shift last night.  I was impressed by his efforts for us.  I think that he sees things through much different eyes since his wife's death in September; suddenly he gets how important the support of family is.  One of our walkers was missing today, as her husband has been quite ill; aside from this, we had a great morning once the sun came out. 

I would like to thank the following fellow BLMs for their contributions to Team Graci.ebelle...  Debbie, Dawn, Maggie, Jess, Lareina, Lori, Marjorie, Holly, Tina, Malory, Andrea, Katy, Jen, Michelle, Mary, and Katie.

Here are some pics from today.


Our Ambassador Family poster

 The back of our shirts

Gracie.belle wings on the back of Jenna's onesie

The front of Jenna's onesie - it says "My big sister lives in Heaven.  Team Grac.iebelle 2011"


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Small Miracles Blog Hop #3




In her Small Miracles post this month, Franchesca said "the world is a better place because they were here."  She is right.  Most people will never understand or realize it, but the world is certainly better because of our babies. 

A year ago, our March for Babies family team raised just over $1500.  So far this year, we have raised $2500.  We still have just a week to raise funds for this year's walk, but even if we don't raise another penny this year, we have raised $4000 for the March of Dimes.  We do this in memory of our daughter.  If she had not been here, we would never have raised any money...and we would have never seen some of the most amazing generosity from the most unexpected of people.

My friend, Debbie, and I will be donating memory boxes to a local hospital.  We do it not for the hospital, but for the families that are going home, more or less, completely empty-handed.  Jeff and I have also donated to the memory boxes that our hospital distributes to families. 

When we started attending a perinatal and infant support group 18 months ago, I don't think we ever anticipated that we would still be attending at this point in our grieving process.  But we are still there.  (The running joke within our group is that we are support group junkies.)  Not only does going to the group meetings continue to help us, but we are now able to help those who are just beginning their journey.  We are able to show them some of the hope that waits for them further down the road. 

All small things in the scope of the world, but small things that matter and make a difference...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Fellow BLM's Story

If you haven't 'met' fellow BLM, Mandy, I urge you to visit her blog and read her family's story at From Under the Weeping Willow.  Just over a month ago she lost her full-term son to Potter's Syndrome; what makes her situation so tragically unique is that this is the second child that she has lost to Potter's Syndrome.  I have been following her blog for about two months now, and I find her spirit to be amazingly inspiring.  If you have a moment, head over and send her some love.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

March for Babies

For those who are new to my blog, or those who just haven't been doing much reading lately, I wanted to provide a quick snippet of information.  My husband and I were asked to be the ambassador family for our local March for Babies.  Our goal is to raise $5000 by April 30.  If you have/are not supporting another March for Babies team this year, please consider making a donation toward our team's goal.  No donation is too small; even $5 can make a difference.  Every penny donated is one step toward preventing another family from experiencing what we have all lived through.  If you have never walked in the March for Babies, I encourage you to find a walk close to you and participate! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Overwhelming and Numbing

This grief overwhelms me; it burns in my stomach, and I can't stop bumping into things.... This loss is numbing me; it pierces my chest, and I can't stop dropping everything.  
~Alanis Morissette

As I look back at my posts from the last few months, I can almost see and feel my pain jumping off of the computer screen and smacking me in the face.   Some days I feel like I'm walking backwards through my grief.  I desperately want it to stop.  I want that constant feeling in the bottom of my heart and the pit of my stomach be gone.  I want to be able to stop mourning the loss of what I thought my life was going to be...to stop mourning what should have been with my first born...to stop mourning what will never be.  I want the griefless days to outnumber the days filled with grief.  I want to talk about people to stop telling me how strong I am and/or that they could never live through such a thing.  I want people to understand that we had two choices...to live through our loss or roll over and die because of our loss...and I want them to understand that strength has nothing to do with the decision.  I never asked to be, or planned to be, a BLM.  I don't want a dead baby and I certainly don't want to belong to this club anymore.  I just don't.  Too bad it isn't that simple. 

Despite feeling like I've been walking backwards over the last few months, the last few days have been pretty good.  Two of the last 5 days I have felt like Super Woman; I've been productive at work and home...almost feeling like 'myself'.  Fingers crossed that it sticks around for at least a few weeks!  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Small Miracles Blog Hop #2

If you haven't checked out Franchesca's new small miracles blog hop, head over to Small Bird Studios and check it out.


On March 12th I attended a memorial service for one of my students...a young man, almost 21 years old, with multiple disabilities, who passed away due to complications of pneumonia.  The certified lay minister that conducted the service also did our Gracie's service 19 months ago.  As I sat in the very back pew of the very tiny country church, I kept thinking about something that Becky said to us when we met with her before Gracie's service; something along the lines of... 'There's a funeral section in my book.  There are some stunning and thought provoking passages on those pages, some that I have used multiple times already, and some that I will probably never use.  But I always assumed, until you called, that I would never have a need for the children's service.'  She never expected to do a child's service, yet here she was doing it for a second time in less than two years. 

As she conducted the service last weekend, I heard those words over and over again in my head.  Thankfully, I was jerked back to reality as she read a prepared statement of appreciation from the young man's mother.  Appreciation to all who had been part of her son's almost 21 years.  But it was the number of times that she thanked the teachers, classroom aides and itinerant staff (PT, OT, speech, vision support, etc) that really caught my attention.   

My mind continued to travel for the remainder of the service.  I thought intensely about what it is I do every day.  I thought about the fact that time and time again I have worked myself to the point of sheer exhaustion over the last 15 months, most of the time finishing my days disgruntled, frustrated and resentful.  Disgruntled and frustrated by (and usually resentful of) the people the parents that are completely unappreciative of what we do for their kids...the parents that have no appreciation for the fact that two physical therapists juggle 90-100 kiddos over the course of the academic year.  Frustrated by the parents who are not home week after week when I show up for scheduled visits, even after I call to confirm.  Frustrated by the parents who use their special needs child(ren) to gain social status or keep the spotlight on themselves...parents who seem to find every reason to limit the introduction of things that will help their children improve.   Frustrated by the parents who find every possible reason to not stretch their kids for 5-10 minutes a few days a week, yet expect me to spend 30-60 minutes stretching them once a week.  Frustrated by how ridiculously difficult the PA Medical Assistance program make it to get approval for equipment necessary to maximize the untapped potential in these kids.  Frustrated by the classroom and personal care aides that are there simply for a paycheck and do the bare minimum with these kids every day.  Frustrated by the parents to instill no discipline at all in their kids simply because they are not 'typically' developing (but able to recognize the difference between right and wrong).  Frustrated by the adults that come into my office and expect me to make them better without any effort on their part...they just want to lay there while I wave my magic wand.  Frustrated by the adults who come into my office completely dependent on pain medication and oozing with gloom and doom; they come in with the mentality that they will never get any better or that in order to get better I have to cause them excruciating pain.  (Guess what?!?  Most of those people don't get better, regardless of the tactics that I employ.)  Hateful toward the parents of a teenage girl that I evaluated this week in my office; when I lifted her shirt to visually examine her back, I was greeted by multiple large, well healed scars across her back that were quite obviously the result of being severely beaten with some sort of strap. 

Then I think about my small miracles...the things that make my job worthwhile.  The parents who do express appreciation for what we do for their kids, despite the fact that the system is not perfect.  The victories over Medical Assistance that allow us to eventually get some awesome equipment for our kids.  The little girl with Down Syndrome who rubbed my pregnant belly and said "baby" with a huge smile....and the one that hugs me goodbye and says "I lub you Dudan".  The 5 year old who works on jumping for a year or two and then suddenly gets it...everything just clicks and she becomes a jumping fool.  The 18 year old girl with terribly misshapen feet and multiple other physical disabilities who 'walked' across the room for the first time year when we finally found the right gait trainer for her (and the right motivator - it turned out to be a man!).  The 18 year old young man with Cerebral Palsy (and very little cognitive deficit) that discovered (with help from myself and his aide) that he could independently use the city bus to get to the local college campus and navigate the campus with the help of a college-provided aide...and convinced his parents to let apply for enrollment.  The 4 year old with terribly limited motor skills that is finally able to roll over by himself, and the enormous smile that comes with it.  The 50 year old lady with a new knee replacement who has become terribly frustrated with what she interprets to be a plateau in her progress, then suddenly breaks through that plateau and takes off again and can't stop smiling because she's so happy with the new progress.  The 78 year old lady who came for therapy because she was weak and falling several times a week; she has been done with therapy for 2 years now, but still comes for exercise 2x a week so she 'won't get old again.'  She hasn't fallen in over 2 years, says that she is stronger now than she has been in 30 years and feels safe to live alone.  And, of course, the miracle of my own little rainbow, Jenna, who melts my heart each morning when she smiles up at me from her crib.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Please Pray

I cannot begin to imagine what this family is feeling after losing 7 of their 8 children in a fire overnight...please include them in your prayers.

Monday, March 7, 2011

In Retrospect...

I am starting to wonder if we made the right decision in agreeing to be the local Ambassador Family for this year's March for Babies.  In the early days following Gracie's death, my husband and I agreed, that while we certainly needed to grieve, we ultimately needed to find a way (or multiple ways) for Gracie to live on.  We needed to be able to find the positives that could come from our loss. 

Being an Ambassador Family is certainly one of those positive spins.  It is allowing us to bring the spotlight to stillbirth; the fact that we are doing so in a forum that primarily focuses public attention on ill, but living, babies is just an added 'bonus'.  But it also intensifies the normal, every day thoughts and feelings. The March of Dimes created posters to be distributed locally...

While I don't necessarily care for the design/layout of the poster, we are working on distributing them all over.  We are going for high visibility.  Of course, I have one hanging in my office where all of my patients can see it.  I also see it...all day.  I see it every time I bring a patient back from the waiting room.  I see Gracie's picture every day at home, but this is different.  So very different.  It's almost like pulling the scab off a cut every day. 

I know that my husband shares in the philosophy that we need to find/do good in our loss, but I think this Ambassador Family experience has been even more challenging for him.  He just really seems to be stuck in a dark, rotten place these days.  He loves Jenna with every fiber of his being, but with those same fibers, he misses Gracie so much that I think sometimes it physically hurts him.  Of course, he also sees the poster every day; hopefully it will be a little better for him once the March for Babies is over this year.  Until then, I wonder, just a little bit, if we perhaps bit off more than we can emotionally chew for now. 

If you would like to make a donation toward our March of Dimes fund raising initiative, you can do so by clicking on the banner at the top of the page.  If you are not part of a team walking in the March for Babies and would like to help us with our fund raising, feel free to grab my button (top left) for your blog. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Feeling Helpless

The hubby has landed in a random baby loss 'funk'.  I think he's been there most of the week, and it's making him miserable.  Eventually these days pass, but it's impossible to know what to do to help him in the meantime, and it makes me feel so helpless.  I hate to see him so sad and out of sorts.  Sigh.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hope

Franchesca @ Small Bird Studio has started a blog hop...if you haven't checked it out, go over and do so!! 



Fran has put this question out there for each of us to answer...What small {or big!} miracles have brought you hope lately? I hope you'll share a piece of your journey by joining the blog hop :)  My post contains possible emotional triggers...read with caution toward the end. 

I have written several posts over the last 17 months about signs and things that have brought me hope during this journey.  There are times that these little bits of hope seem to creep up on a daily basis, or sometimes several times a day; there are times that is seems weeks will pass without a glimmer of hope to be found.  Sometimes all the hope I need can be found in the little things...a random butterfly or dragonfly, seeing the name Grace or Gracie somewhere unexpectedly, the stars.

Sometimes my hope is found in many larger forms...the unconditional love and support from my husband, a text from my receptionist that says 'Happy Mother's Day', bright sunlight shining through the tiniest opening in the densest of cloud cover. 

I find hope in reading the stories of and/or talking to other women who have survived this incredible journey.  Knowing that it survivable, no matter how painful it is sometimes, makes all the difference.  I often wonder where I would be, or what my frame of mind would be, if I wasn't part of the BLM blogosphere.  Sometimes being able to say to myself "...if I can survive losing a child, I can absolutely survive (fill in the blank)...", and it just would not be this way if I wasn't here.  I don't know if I can call it hope, but there is certainly comfort in being able to come here and purge whatever thoughts and feelings need to be purged in order to get on with my day.  On the other side of the coin, there is hope in knowing that there are others who read my blog and find comfort, hope, support...whatever it is that they need to take away from reading others' blogs. 

For me, there is also much hope in being able to find the positives in our loss.  We attend a support group where we have made friends.  I am trying to get a Face2Face group up and running where we live.  I am working with another BLM on a memory box project for a hospital that does not currently do memory boxes.  (It actually pisses me off that they don't do boxes, but I keep reminding myself that we aren't doing it for the hospital...we are doing it for the families who will, in coming months, find themselves standing in that terrible place that we stood in on August 1, 2009.)  I have been able to contribute something small to the memory boxes that our hospital gives to loss families.  My husband and I started a March for Babies team last year; we were able to raise just over $1500 for last year's walk.  We were asked to be the local Ambassador family for this year's walk; our team goal this year is two-fold: to raise at least $5000 for the March of Dimes and to raise stillbirth awareness.  (Click here if you would like to donate!!)

After listing all of these pieces of hope, I would be remiss if I didn't mention my biggest source of hope...our rainbow baby Jenna, who was born in September.  We are fortunate to not have experienced fertility issues thus far in our journey to start our family; this, in and of itself, brings so much hope for us.  Then, after 39 weeks of waiting for the other shoe to fall, we were blessed with a healthy, beautiful baby girl.  While she doesn't erase the pain of Gracie's absence, she certainly provides us with so much hope for the future.  She is the light of our lives, and most days that light is a fantastic counterbalance to the dark that persisted for many months...







Stars

Stars, in your multitudes
Scarce to be counted
Filling the darkness
With order and light
You are the sentinels
Silent and sure
Keeping watch in the night
Keeping watch in the night

You know your place in the sky
You hold your course and your aim
And each in your season
Returns and returns
And is always the same

Although originally written to fit a much different context, these lyrics from a popular Broadway musical run through my head every night as I think of my beautiful little Gracie.  I am lucky enough to live in an area with relatively little light pollution, so as long as the sky isn't clouded over, it's stars aplenty.  But even on cloudy nights, and the nights that my DH takes the dogs outside, there are still plenty of thought provoking stars to see. 

The ceiling in Jenna's room is covered with hundreds of glow in the dark star stickers.  Long story, but it has been this way for about 15 years.  When I turn the light off and sit down to do our bed time snuggle each night, these stars 'shine' so brightly, having been charged by the light.  By the time Jenna is asleep in her crib, most of the bedroom stars have dimmed considerably or 'burned out' all together...almost as if Gracie is showing me that she is also asleep for the night. 

There are so many different things that remind us of our angels...stars have always been at the top of my list, and moved more further toward the top of the list after a wonderful friend had a star named for Gracie.  Even though the bedroom stars aren't 'real', it's nice to think that she is here with us each night at bedtime, and that she is, perhaps, really watching over her baby sister...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

25 Days of Giveaways Prize

I was lucky enough to win two giveaways during this year's 25 Days of Giveaways.  After that, I quit entering!  I received the second prize this week, and I absolutely LOVE it!  When Tina contacted me to see what I wanted, I told her that I don't wear a lot of jewelry, and that she should just use her best judgment.  I think that frightened her a little bit!  :-)

But she did a fabulous job of selecting a beautiful prize for me.  Thank you so, so much, Tina!!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Still Life 365

I almost forgot...it's a good thing it popped up on my Google Reader!  For those who do not regularly follow, or have never been over to Still Life 365, go check it out today.  Today's 'art' is mine!!  It's kind of ironic that Angie posted my photo today...since Gracie was born 18 months ago today...

I Carry Your Heart With Me

 
 
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
 
i fear no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
 
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
 
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
 
- e. e. cummings ~


Perhaps I'm in a bit of a slump.  I don't know.  I think about Gracie all the time, but the last few days I've been thinking about Gracie ALL the time.  And then I think about my thoughts.  

I think about where I really am in the 5 step grieving process that we all know so well... 
Denial and Isolation
Anger 
Bargaining
Depression
Acceptance

Or perhaps the more comprehensive and thorough seven stages of grief.....the five stages outlined above plus Pain/Guilt and Testing/Reconstruction...

Pain and Guilt

At this stage, the grieving person realizes that the loss that has happened is true. This is the most chaotic and scary stage of grief. Many people succumb to alcohol and drugs at this stage of grief. Intense feelings of guilt and compunction are experienced due to the wrong things done which led to this irreversible loss. Sometimes, in grief, people blame themselves and consider themselves responsible for the loss.

Testing and Reconstruction

This is the testing stage in which the depressed person starts to indulge in other activities so as to escape the disturbing sorrow. In fact this is the beginning of the next and last stage, i.e. acceptance of and coming to terms with the reality. It is also a stage of reconstruction as in this stage, he starts the process reconstruction of his life by searching for solutions and ways to come out of his grief.


I read the definition of all of these, and can't find where my thoughts fit.  I guess if I had to assign myself to a stage, it would be acceptance.  I have accepted Gracie's death for what it is.  Death.  Permanence.  So the wondering that goes on constantly in my mind...the wondering about all of the things we missed with Gracie...wondering about what she would look like, what she would sound like, what kind of personality she would have...is part of my grief/acceptance or is that part of my healing?  Certainly, every parent who has lost a child, at any age and under any circumstances, has wondered these things.  Certainly it is normal, but what is it?  Grief or healing? 

These thoughts have been playing at full volume in my mind over the last few days.  I don't like full volume.  I don't necessarily want them to go away; one of my greatest fears is forgetting, and the first step in forgetting is the clearing of thoughts, but a much lower volume would be much better.  Regardless of the volume, I will always carry Gracie's heart with me.  It will forever beat within mine.