I know this sounds like such a cliche, but I think part of my being still wonders when I’m going to wake up and this will all be over. My mind simply cannot fully grasp the fact that I will be living with the pain of being a bereaved parent–forever. Of course I’ve lost other family members-great grand parents, a grandmother, grandfather, uncle, etc., but more often than not my thoughts of them are happy thoughts and memories. But when I think of Lauren, my first thoughts are usually about the day she was born and died, or the fact that I’ll never see her again. I was just telling my husband the other day that this is one thing that just wont go away. Of course I don’t want my daughters life and memory to go away and I don’t regret having her, as short as her life was. But the pain associated with her life just wont go away. As you may know, we just returned from a wonderful vacation in Vegas. We had so much fun on that trip. Every moment was filled with something new, exciting, adventurous, and fun. (Yes, we do still know how to have fun.) I didn’t forget about Lauren, I actually thought of her often on our trip. But with so many fun things going on around us, and so much to do to fill our days, the grief took a back seat and I felt myself having real fun for the first time since before 8/4/12. But the night we got home, after we unpacked, did laundry, ate dinner, etc., the pain hit my like a pile of bricks. I was overcome with grief. I just lied there on the bed sobbing. The grief was back, and it was as real as it was the day Lauren died. The days following vacation have been filled with many of these moments. I certainly didn’t think while I was having fun on vacation that I was ‘over’ her death, or past the grief. But the way it has taken hold of my heart in past few days feels as fresh and raw as it did when she left us. Perhaps it is because I realize now that no matter how much fun we have, or how ‘normal’ life seems, the grief is always there, waiting in the shadows, looking for an opportunity to grab hold of you. And because I can’t really grasp the idea of feeling like this for the rest of my life.
I haven’t posted anything in a while, the husband and I have been in Las Vegas on vacation. What a much needed trip it was. We had a great time. Vegas is a great place to escape. While there were still reminders, there were far less babies there than the amount we would normally encounter. So thankful for the change to get away and spend some quality time with the best husband in the world.
So frustrated today! There are pregnant people all around me, which I am not going to lie, 7 and a half months later it is still hard to read/hear/see pregnancy stuff. But I’ve learned to handle it a little better than I was handling it right after Lauren died. But one thing that I don’t think I will ever be able to handle any better than I do now is hearing people complain about their pregnancy. I know when someone has never lost a baby, they just don’t get it and don’t think about how blessed they really are to be pregnant. Yes people acknowledge that their bun in the oven is their little blessing, but they really don’t get it. It makes me so angry to hear comments about how they can’t wait to be finished with their pregnancy, how miserable they are, and how they just can’t do it for 10 more weeks. One of my personal least favorites is “this baby needs to get out of me”. There are so many women, like myself, that didn’t have a choice in the matter. We weren’t miserable pregnant and ready to be ‘finished with the pregnancy’, but our babies came anyway. And our babies died. I just want to give a lecture every time I hear these complaints. Because while yes pregnancy can be uncomfortable, get over it! Getting pregnant is a miraculous blessing, but staying pregnant is a blessing, too!!
I just ordered some 8 x 10 prints of Lauren. While I’m ready to get them and will proudly display her beautiful photos in our home, I’m saddened. I’ll never get to order any new photos of her. Never get to see how much she’s grown since the last time we had her photographed. I have a handful of memories and pictures, and I’ll never get more. I didn’t get to dress her up for Halloween, buy her any Christmas gifts, dress her in cute Valentine’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day outfits, and I wont get the chance to do any of those things for any holiday, ever. Grief has been showing up at the most unexpected times lately, and the tears just come. They come with no warning and they wont stop until they are good and ready. So I guess I’ll just hold on to the memories I do have, because it’s all I’ll ever have of her.
Today, March 18, I’m just reflecting on how much can change in a year. On this date one year ago we were five weeks pregnant with Lauren and announced our pregnancy on that day. And of course we thought that because we were pregnant, we were going to have a baby and live happily ever after. Well as you know, we had a baby but certainly didn’t get our happily ever after with her. So much has changed since that day. We went through our pregnancy oblivious to anything possible going wrong, because to us, bad things were just something you read about, nothing could ever happen to our baby. And we counted down the days to certain milestones; the next trimester, finding out the sex of our baby, creating a baby registry, and so on. And then so suddenly on August 4, at 24 weeks pregnant, all of that was ripped out from under us. All of the joy and happiness quickly turned into every negative emotion you could imagine. What a crazy year it’s been.
As I scroll through the news feed on my face book page, as I walk through a store, or as I hear conversations around me anywhere I go, I am screaming on the inside. Screaming at people! In all these places I hear people complaining about their kids. People are complaining that they can’t get a full night of sleep because they are up feeding their baby, complaining about their kids getting into everything, complaining that their kid’s room is a mess, complaining about not being able to find a sitter so they can go out with their friends for the weekend. I hear this and it makes me so angry. Do you know how much I would love to have even one of those issues to deal with? I don’t sleep through the night either, and it isn’t because I’m changing diapers or feeding my baby, it’s because I’m missing her. My daughter doesn’t get into anything. I have no need for a sitter. And my daughter’s room is never messy but always empty! I wish people would realize that they things they complain about most are the biggest blessings in their life. So yes, every time I hear people complain about these things, I’d really just like to scream at them! Wake up and see what all you have, what many mommies and daddies spend their days and nights wishing they could have back.
I have so much on my mind tonight. I’m going to attempt to make sense of it the only way I know how, by writing it all down. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had three people ask me questions about what they can do for people who have lost a baby. And more importantly, what they shouldn’t do. I’ve answered these questions based on my experiences and the experiences of my new friends in the same situations. This might be a long one. When we lost Lauren our worlds were shattered in an instant. We were appalled by some of the comments that people made, even in the raw hours following her death. Here are some of those comments: “You will have another baby”, “Are y’all going to try again?”. OK, please don’t say these things to a grieving parent. You don’t know if they can have more children or what they went through to get pregnant with the one they just lost. Some others; “Maybe there was something wrong with her anyway”, So if your teenage or adult child dies because of disease, does that make it ok, that there was something else wrong with him/her? NO, it doesn’t! “She’s so happy in heaven”, “This is all part of God’s plan”. These aren’t ok with us either. As a Christian, I know that! She is in in heaven, it was God’s plan, and she is the most beautiful baby up there, but guess what? It hurts that she’s gone and the comment that she’s happy in heaven doesn’t make my heart mend at all. I know these things, but you saying them to me aren’t comforting!
Here are some other things people need to know. (FYI-when I say ”us” and ”we”, I mean anyone who is going through this, not just my husband and me)
If you don’t know what to say to us, it is 100% OK for you to tell us you don’t know what to say. You listening to us and just being there to give us a hug is perfectly acceptable. It takes courage to admit you are at a loss for words, and that is fine! You silence hurts more than you think. Please don’t tell us to call you if we need anything.You can be pretty certain that we won’t call. There is not manual for this and we don’t know what we need, so we won’t call. Be proactive. Whether that is sending flowers, cooking a meal, cleaning the house, running errands, or just a note to say that you’re thinking about us.
While we appreciate that you are saddened over the loss of our baby, be careful that you don’t end up sobbing in our presence, so upset that we feel the need to console you. We need you to be strong for us, at the same time tender enough to remember that our child just died.
DO say our baby’s name. It sounds nice to us. Our baby is very much a part of our lives. People have said to me that they were afraid to contact me or say my baby’s name because they didn’t want to open up any wounds or offend me. Here’s the deal, my baby is always on my mind, my baby’s death hurts, and you aren’t bringing up anything that I’m not already thinking about.
If we don’t accept your invitation to a party or dinner on repeated occasions, please don’t give up on us. One day, we might say yes. Just maybe not yet. If we start to act like our old selves, or ‘normal’, just know that we are starting to heal, we aren’t instantly ‘over it’. And don’t tell us you want us to be like we used to be. That might not ever happen. Often times bereaved parents report that their values, morals, interests, hobbies, etc. change when they lose their baby. So get to know us. This loss is a part of the new us. We are different and the loss of our baby isn’t getting easier really, we’re just learning to incorporate our baby’s short life and their death into our lives now.
We don’t want to feel like ”those people” or like we have a contagious disease that you might catch. Please talk to us. Please include us. We don’t want you to ‘fix it’. We want you to be a part of it! Please have the courage to talk to us. We might cry sometimes, but guess what, other times you just might catch us laughing or smiling.
Well it’s the second Monday of the month. This means two things. One, its what my husband and I call “group night”. Two, its raining. We started attending a support group for pregnancy and infant loss last September. That night at group we cried and shared our story and the feelings we’d been having like we’d never shared before. We were surrounded by people who understood and we could say whatever we wanted, without the fear of negative reaction. In a sense, the flood gates opened that night. We released so much and shared so much, and have connected with some wonderful people. When we went back to group the following month in October, it was pouring down rain. And every month since then, it’s always raining on group day/night, and today is no exception. So it’s kind of fitting that it is always a rainy, dreary day. To me it symbolizes the opening of the flood gates, the chance to share with the people who understand us the most. The dreariness of the day is so appropriately aligned with the topic of discussion on group night.
To my sweet Lauren,
I’ve been working on this letter in my head for so long now. I’ve been trying to make it perfect, like you. I just want to tell you some things. First of all I love you. I never knew I could love so deeply. You have truly changed my life. It’s been over seven months since you left us. I look at your pictures every day. You are beautiful. I miss you with all of my being. I think about you with every breath I take. My arms ache at the empty feeling, all I want is to hold you again. I cry a lot. I cry because I don’t understand why you had to leave. You never even had a chance to be with us. Your arrival came at a much unexpected time, and your death just as unexpected. See, daddy and I were married for almost eight years before we decided to become parents. So we thought we’d done everything right by waiting until ‘the time was right’. But apparently the time wasn’t perfect. Or perhaps God used us to carry his best new angel, his most beautiful angel. As sweet as that thought is, it still hurts that you aren’t here. I know that up in heaven you have learned the reasons for your short life, and you know the purpose behind it. Sometimes I think I’m starting to see ways to use your sweet life for God’s glory. But it’s so hard. All I can see and feel some days is the grief. I feel you with us though. I feel you in the depths of my soul. I also see the signs you send me; the random rays of sunshine breaking through a cloud, rainbows, and most of all butterflies in the winter. I feel you in another way. They are called phantom kicks, and it feels just like you are still in my tummy kicking me. The first time it happened I cried and I thought I was crazy. But the grief counselors say it’s normal. Who knows how much longer I will feel it. It’s kind of a bitter sweet feeling. I also wanted to let you know that I love hearing your name. Sometimes when I hear your name it makes me cry, and other times it makes me smile. It is music to my ears when someone else says your name; it lets me know they haven’t forgotten about you. Daddy and I spend a lot of time thinking about what you would be like now, or the kind of little girl you would grow up to be. I picture you with long hair that is blond and wavy. I can’t see your face, but I know you’d be a perfect mix of daddy and me, just like you were the first and last time we saw you. We miss you like crazy and always will. I’ve always heard that time on earth is a lot slower than time in Heaven. So I hope you’re having so much fun on God’s playground that it only seems like a fun afternoon has passed until Daddy and I come to play with you. Give granny, papa, Steve, and the rest of the family our love and enjoy them, just as we did.
Just an update for those of you who’ve been asking. Yesterday I had an appointment with my OB, the doctor who delivered Lauren. I mentioned in my last post how anxious I was to be back in the office after so many months. When I arrived I was greeted by the receptionist who remembered my name. I checked in and had a seat, surrounded by pregnant women. It’s routine there to be called back to check your BP and weight, then return to the waiting room. However, the nurse allowed me to go to an empty, unused exam room and wait there until my exam room was ready. So thankful for that. This was supposed to just be an annual exam, but the doctor and I spent more time talking about the future than anything else. He is an amazing doctor. Before I had the chance to tell him that we were unhappy with the perinatologists we used with Lauren, he told me he’d like for me to see a different group if we get pregnant again. He feels more comfortable with them, and so do I. We talked about the care I’d receive and what I could expect. Things will be much different than last time. I will see both the perinatologist and the OB much more frequently and have blood work done more often. We talked about the fact that I am at a higher risk for pre-eclampsia again. And he was sure to tell me again that nothing that happened last time was my fault. He’s confident that pre-existing diabetes, weight, or anything like that played a role in the development of my pre-eclampsia. It was nice to hear how proactive he and the perinatologist are going to be if we get pregnant again. Am I any less terrified? Of course not. We’ll just keep praying for a different outcome if God blesses us with another pregnancy.
Let me just start by saying that it doesn’t take any of these things for me to think of Lauren. But as any parent of an angel baby knows, seeing these things are not easy. Today is the 4th. Lauren died on the 4th. 7 months ago today. It seems that in the past couple days everywhere I look I see a pregnant belly or an infant. Yay for those people. But I don’t like seeing it. It stirs up those emotions that I have to tuck away in order to be in public. I miss being pregnant, and I am hurting that no one walking through the mall will ever slow down to take a look at my baby. (At least not Lauren). It’s a painful experience. And tonight I am preparing myself for tomorrows visit to see my OB. Just a check up and a chance for me to ask a few questions about our future. But I know that sitting in the waiting room with me will be a handful of happy pregnant women. And during my exam I’ll be faced with hearing other patients in the rooms around me-hearing their baby’s heartbeat. I also have to mentally prepare for the conversation I plan to have with my doctor. So anxious tonight.
People ask me on a daily basis how I’m going. My standard answer is “I’m alright”. Because that’s all I can give. The real answer is that I’m terrified. I go through every day reliving August 4. I’m terrified I might forget even one little detail about the day that changed me forever. Terrified I might forget one tiny detail of my daughter. So I wake up and relive it from the beginning every single day. I’m terrified that someday no one will ask me how I’m doing, because everyone will have forgotten. I cannot let Lauren be forgotten, and I’m terrified everyday that it happens a little more. I just told a friend today that one of the best things you can do is say my baby’s name. Don’t be afraid to talk about her in fear you might make me upset, I’m already thinking about her. Ask me questions about her and the day she was born and died. Show me that you are interested, still care, and want to remember her. Because I’m terrified she will be forgotten. Something else that terrifies me is the future. I know, I know…God controls the future and I should trust in him. And I do. In fact I recite the verse from Jeremiah 29:11 to myself several times a day. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” But I’m still scared. I’m scared that I’ll never have the courage to try for another baby. I’m scared that if I do try for another baby I won’t be able to get pregnant. I’m scared that if I do get pregnant I will lose that baby, too. These thoughts are always on my mind and when you ask me how I’m doing this is what I’m really thinking when I say “I’m alright”