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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 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 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'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 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


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.)