Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Happy Birthday Elisa

Happy Birthday Elisa. I cannot believe it has been one year since we said hello and goodbye to you. That day simultaneously feels like yesterday and decades ago all at once.

I remember holding you, your perfect 10 toes and 10 fingers, your daddy’s nose, just like it was yesterday. My heart overflow with love and joy thinking of that very short time with you. Although it was agonizing and hard, knowing you weren’t alive, I had and still have all the feelings of a proud momma holding you that day.

Thinking of what we have been through, what has happened since we lost you is what makes it feel like an eternity has gone by. Although my grief is not “Over”, it will never be Over I can look back at the last year and see the progress I have made to take on the grief, make it part of who I am, and integrate it in to my life and I owe so much of that to you. You, my dear, fought and held on much longer than any of the doctors thought you would. You held on for 10 more weeks after they told us you might leave us any day. You were a strong fighter, and I continue to fight in this life because of your fighting spirit.

But those first few months without you were agonizing. I couldn’t get out of bed for days, weeks. From the physical pain of your birth, and from the emotional pain of losing you. That time was a blur, a dark haze of the shock of grief. Other than your birth and your funeral I don’t remember much of January. A coping mechanism I guess.

As time went by I was forced to return to “normal life” Going back to work, social outings. But nothing was normal anymore. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I was walking around and living in a world where you should be alive and with me, but you weren’t. Small talk and social outings seemed useless. How could I talk about the weather when I felt like my heart had been ripped from my chest and lie broken on the floor.

Months went by, and there were many, many nights that I cried myself to sleep. Deep guttural sobs, begging that this was a nightmare, that I would wake up and you would still be there, but no

More months went by and we started more and more adventures with baby beluga photos. Our way of continuing your legacy. A way of journey and documenting our grief, and I way of making the world know you and your sister were real, are real, and will forever be our beloved children.

Now the evenings of deep despair are farther and farther apart. I still miss and think about you every. Single. Day. The thoughts now lean more toward the beautiful life you had for the 7 months you were here, and less toward the deep pit of grief. But I am still sad, and I think I will be every day. Every day I think of you and I am happy, I am sad. I am proud and I am humbled that I was chosen to be your mommy.

You help me to know I can do anything, because through you I have loved more than I ever thought possible and I have endured more pain than I ever thought possible. And I would do it all again to have one more moment with you.

On our trip to Sequim we lit a lantern in your honor

Sunday, 17 January 2016

The Body Always Remembers

I remember when I was younger and learning to play the piano, I would practice small measures over and over again, to get the notes in my muscle memory.  So each hand could play independently. but together without thought.  To this day I can still sit down at the piano and play Fur Elise without even thinking.  The body always remembers. The mind can try to re-work, or even try to forget, but the body remembers.

Body memory is something that I have heard a lot about in the loss community. It happens very often after a loss. And I had it too. The weeks and months after Elisa was born still, the phantom kicks I would feel reminding me of what was, what should have been

What I wasn’t prepared for was the body memory that would come around at important dates and anniversaries. I have been preparing for a while that this week would be hard. Elisa’s “first birthday” is on Wednesday. I knew January would be hard, I knew this week would be hard and I knew the actual day would be hard. I took her birthday off of work, and Mark and I even got away this weekend for a little trip to Sequim, where “adventures with baby beluga” began

I knew this time would be hard, but I figured it would be for the typical grief ways. What I wasn’t prepared for was how it would swing me back to the ways I felt shortly after her death.

After Elisa was born I had very strong PTSD. It is common after the loss of a child. I was jumpy, skittish. I couldn’t be in places with loud noises. The noises would leave me in a panic, overwhelmed emotionally and I would break down. I stopped going to sounders games because the sound and the claustrophobia of the crowd was too much. I declined events where I knew there would be loud noises. At work when someone would come to talk to me at my desk, I would jump, my heart would start racing and it took everything to hold myself together.

Over time, and with the help of my counselor, I have come very far in my recovery from PTSD. There are still times when a loud noise scares me, but I am able to rationalize it, and it doesn’t make me come unhinged…

That was until just the last few days. I can only attribute it to the fact that we are coming up on Elisa’s birthday and like I said, the body knows, it remembers and returns to old pathways.

We were watching the Dark Night, and I had to ask Mark to turn it off. One small loud noise in the movie and I was crying in fear.

Later I was in the older room and I heard a fire alarm on the TV. I panicked. Because if I live in a world where my unborn daughter could die, then I also lived in a world where a siren must mean our house is going to burn down, and I would lose Mark too.

Mark accidentally dropped his phone on his way to bed, when I was already asleep and I shot up immediately as if I heard a gunshot.

I am using my coping mechanisms that I have learned through counseling and I know I will work through this, just as I did before, it was just an unexpected reminder from the body that I live in a different world than I did one year ago.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Last January

Yesterday I went in to get a flu shot.  It was on my list of things to do while I was off work for the holidays, and I procrastinated until the last day.

I went back to the pharmacy and put in the order, and they gave me a form to fill out.  Typical: name, date, birthday etc.  Then the question I always hate, "are you pregnant?"....why no, thank you for rubbing it in.... But then they added a follow up question "are you planning on getting pregnant in the next month?"  I circled it, because yes, we are trying, but gee if only you could plan to get pregnant and actually get pregnant, wouldn't that be nice....sigh.

I waited and they called me back in to the little room where they give the shots and the pharmacist came in.  He looked like he was about my age and started some small talk as he looked over the form.

Then he got to the question: "so you are trying, but you aren't pregnant?" "yes", "Ok well it is good to get the shot before you are pregnant, so that is good" ...pause...  "Will this be your first?".... and my mind starts rushing, do I lie to save him, or do I tell him the truth....I took a deep breath and said "It's a long story, but our daughter was stillborn in January".

He actually didn't seem panicked about my response which so many people do, but he did seem to feel bad for asking.  Then he responded "my wife is pregnant and due in March and we worry every day about something going wrong"

As much as it was hard for me to hear about his pregnant wife (It just hurts to hear about anyone who is pregnant or has a baby because it is what we want so much) but it was nice that he actually admitted his fears to me.  Most strangers I tell about our loss panic and change the subject, as if not thinking about it means it didn't happen, or won't happen to them, but he fully admitted that it can happen to anyone and it is scary. Although I don't know this man, and may never see him again, I appreciate his honestly.  That kind of genuine response, genuine feeling, is one of the things that I have found is the most helpful to me. Just having others acknowledge that it is scary, and sad, and incredibly hard is helpful beyond measure.

Another totally different realization came to me through this experience as well.  As I left after getting my shot I realized it is January 2016.  I can't just say "my daughter was stillborn in January" anymore, I have to say she was stillborn last January.  I know we are coming up on her "birthday" and I am fully aware that it will be one year since we've lost her.  But I have finally become comfortable with my response "my daughter was stillborn in January" I can say it without much hesitation, or panic.  But now I have to change what I say because we are no longer in the same year in which she died. It is now "my daughter died a year ago".

I know I will have to keep changing my response, because life changes.  As much as it will be hard to hear the question, I do hope to hear "is this your first" if I am ever lucky enough to be pregnant again, because it will mean I am lucky enough to be pregnant again.  And I will again have to re-asses my response if we are lucky enough to eventually have a kindergartner to decide how many brothers or sisters they tell the class they have.  But keep finding on this journey through loss, that just when I think I am getting comfortable, or have things somewhat figured out, that I actually don't. There isn't a handbook for "getting through" loss.  There are coping mechanisms, and healthy ways to grieve, but they are different for each person, and different on different days. And really, we just have to take it a day at a time.