Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Right Where I am 2 years 2 months

I'm still here. Yup still here, I survived. That's what being right here, right now feels like-I'm shocked I'm still here. How have I survived for over 2 years without my baby? I don't know- that's why I'm shocked. When everything happened I was sure that I would never really live again, but here I am doing it.

It doesn't feel like its been over 2 years, except when I look around and realize that life has moved on. Caleb's little sister is almost a year and a half and really the time has kept on ticking. Unbelievable to me because in an instant I can be back there on April 14,2011 and feel everything I felt that day-in an instant. But right now I feel mostly shocked that I'm still here and that it still hurts this much. I thought if we finally brought home a live baby, then I would feel better. And I do-don't get me wrong, Abigail made everything better. But (there's always that but) it still sucks. I thought once we got a live baby we would feel like we finally belong. But we don't-I still feel out of place. Still feel weird when conversations about babies come up. I guess right now I'm just trying to accept that our family will never look like other families. We will always be broken and apart from each other and that's hard to swallow each and every day.

At 2 years and 2 months I no longer run from babies or cringe. But pregnancies, that's been harder lately. Every time I see a woman with a big belly I immediately feel like someone kicked me in my gut. The universal sign for life is a large pregnant belly, but to me instead of seeing life all I see is death. Then I think "what will that do to me?" To have my perception altered forever so that life no longer means life, but instead death. Right now I don't know what it will do,but I know it feels scary every time those pregnant bellies start showing up. I want to run up to the moms and ask them "is your baby still moving, are you doing kick counts? When was your last ultrasound, is the cord wrapped around the neck?" And the list of irrational(or rational?) thoughts streams in and I'm at its mercy until it passes. I just don't like pregnancy-end of story and right now I'm not sure if I ever will. (side note-if you're a pregnant friend-I'm happy for you, I just physically get scared when I see pregnancy. It has nothing to do with the person, but the state of pregnancy in general)

I don't cry that often, instead tears come to the surface and then I'm able to shove them back down. I'm so much more sensitive to things than I ever was before. I don't watch the news-too many sad stories. I have to be careful about how much of the world I'm absorbing. When the Boston bombing happened or the tornadoes-I simply have to shut them off. I say a prayer and move on. This might seem cold hearted, but if I hear a news story or read something about those tragedies, my mind instantly drags me down the rabbit hole of Post Traumatic Stress and it feels too close to me. I cannot handle other peoples' crisis. Its like my cup is full (even after 2 years) and adding any more to it will make it spill over. So I avoid the news, facebook updates about tragedies, or online pictures. Its all too much for my mind to handle and that's alright. I'm thankful that there are people who can help people in crisis but right now, I'm just not one of them.

Right now I tend to focus on little boys who are 2. I see them at parks or in the grocery store and I let my mind wonder before I can grab it back. Its so tangible now to see a 2 year old little boy and think/wonder what Caleb would be like. Its so hard and my heart breaks again each time that I realize I have no idea what he would be like at 26 months old.

Right my anxiety is manageable as long as I'm working out. I can tell the weeks I stop working out that my anxiety rises. Its like my body needs to be physically exhausted in order for my mind to slow down too. I still see a counselor about once a month. She helps me navigate through the rougher edges of life and gives me tools to handle awkward social encounters.

I want to help others, no I need to help others. I don't know how else to parent Caleb except by going back into the darkness of pregnancy loss and helping others along their journey. And at the same time-it has nothing to do with Caleb. Its like after we lost him I saw this huge need that wasn't being filled and my heart longed to bring Christ into the black hole of loss. I truly believe that by helping those experiencing a pregnancy loss I am helping some of the poorest and spiritually in need out there. So I'll keep trying to help..and not just help, but dream big. Right now my husband and I are doing a lot of talking, a lot of dreaming of things we would have wanted after our loss. We feel called by God to, in a sense "build a city," for those who have suffered this particular loss. And its exciting, the missionary in me gets excited. Big dreams for a Big God and I know in His time they will come to fulfillment if its His will.

At a little over two years out I'm still in disbelief when I hear about another baby dying. But then I'm also in disbelief when I hear of one being born healthy. Its like my mind cant decide which one really happens-and the reality is both. It's also starting to dawn on me that we are just at the beginning of the fertile years when it comes to our peers. So the pregnancy talk and more babies isn't stopping anytime soon. Sometimes it feels like a cruel joke- the thing that hurts the most for you is the thing that brings others the most joy. But that's not entirely true because at a little past two years I can somewhat get excited about new babies again. And even start thinking about the idea of a third pregnancy for us. I've come a long way from where I was.

Mostly right now, right here, I'm doing well. The pain comes and goes and can be hidden easier than before. I went to the grocery store this morning and ran into a couple with a brand new baby. I smiled and chatted and told them how cute the baby was. Then at the checkout the cashier asked if Abigail was my only child. I was able to say no, that she had a big brother in Heaven. I managed all of that trip to the store without it even phasing me. There was a time not too long ago that that same trip would have wiped me out for days.  So I guess in some ways I'm moving along this path.

At a little over 2 years I'm starting to get to a place where I can accept our family and what has happened. Not just accept, but start of thrive again, instead of just survive. Nathan and I are talking of going to Rome in October this year. For some reason this trip feels so important for me in my grief journey. Like this trip would be proof that our life is ours again. That we can actually live, not just get by. Of course  I'm worried about leaving, worried about traveling, worried about anxiety....but I'm at a place in grief where I just don't care anymore. Ive lived with it long enough now that I refuse to live in fear of it. I want to live...I want to really live....

Caleb, 2 years and 2 months is too long to be without you. I say to your daddy all the time, "do you think he knows, really knows, how much we love him, how much we miss him even now?" I hope you do sweet baby boy. Missing you...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What to do with the stuff?

This was a post I wrote over a year ago when we started getting ready for Abigail's arrival. I have been meaning to post this but kept forgetting to add the pictures. So here it is, late but hopefully helpful....

One of the first things I remember my mom saying in the hospital after saying goodbye to Caleb was " I can have the nursery all cleared out." It hit me like a ton of bricks. If learning you have to go through labor for a dead baby and then trying to make funeral plans wasn't enough, I now had to decide what to do with the nursery we apparently did not need anymore. Again, no reference point, none of this was ever in the baby books. Without hesitating I said "no,leave it all." I don't know why I said that or what reasoning I had, but somewhere deep inside of me I knew I needed it there.

When we returned from the hospital the nursery door was closed. I remember walking in and seeing everything piled up everywhere. The two bouncy seats we had out in our living room were thrown in there, along with the car seat which had been taken out of the car and a few other random things. It sort of looked like a tornado had hit it, not the clean and neat nursery I left. So I shut the door and retreated to my room. Throughout those first few weeks and months we cleared a path through the nursery and actually made it into a memorial/ prayer room. It became a great source of prayer for us, a quiet place we could go. I remember a priest friend of ours coming over and I took him in the nursery. He said "Wow, there is a presence here, very peaceful. Not creepy like the movies would make it out to be." It made me laugh because I knew it was true. While people would see having a nursery still in tact after the baby dies as morbid, it actually wasn't. There was peace there.

We decided to keep the nursery up as our living hope. We knew we wanted more children and in time we prayed we would be able to bring them home. Besides, seeing it empty would be harder, we already had so much emptiness. So we prayed, we hoped and we kept the door shut to make visitors feel less awkward. But to us, it was so important in the grieving process. I spent hours going through all of Caleb's clothes, his baby towels, onesies, burp rags, and blankets. I needed to grieve over everything. I needed proof it was all real, he was real.

I think the temptation when someone loses someone is to clear things out as fast as possible. To this I would say- wrong. It just tries to make the person move on from their loss, when in reality they are not ready. I knew I would be ready to change the nursery when the time came. 1 day after delivering Caleb was not the time. Friends recommended I donate the items to charity, but that didn't make sense to me either. They were my son's things, all I had left of him. I also hoped for another boy down the road and knew I wanted to save some things for that boy.

If someone has a loss, let them take time dealing with their loved ones things. Everyone responds differently, but to just get rid of everything overnight like that person never existed is not natural, because they did exist. The grief books I have read recommend letting the person who experienced the loss go through their loved ones things. You can offer to help, but please do not do it for them. It might seem easier, but I have found so much healing in sorting through Caleb's things myself and facing that pain. I have had to grieve all his "baby's first (insert holiday) onesies" that he got. I needed to grieve his Christmas sweater and his pair of swim trunks I had bought him for the summer. Again, grieving it made it more real and confirmed that he actually had existed. If someone had done it for me it would have been taking away precious memories from me.

Last weekend Nathan and I decided it was about time to clean the nursery up. Since finding out we were having a girl, I have been thinking in my head of a way to keep the old nursery and incorporate the new one. I think we did a good job. I was able to sew new curtains and pillows. We changed the sheets to pink and basically added a lot of bows to things. I still am not ready to change over the clothes. I need Abigail in my arms alive in order to do that. Also, we don't have any clothes for her right now, so the closets would just look empty which would hurt more. Here are some pictures of the switched nursery-boy to girl. I won't lie and say I was happy to do it- I cried and was sad, but it felt cleansing at the same time. I think it helped that we didn't make any huge changes, just added some pink here and there.

If someone you know lost a loved one, give them time to sort through all the "stuff." Don't be pushy, trust that they will know when the time is right.  Ask them if they need help with any of it. One idea that I got was to make a memorial quilt out of Caleb's clothes. I am excited to start this project. I know we will use his clothes again if we have a boy, but there are somethings that are just so Caleb and I don't want them on anyone else. I am going to take those and sew together a small memorial quilt that can be hung up on display. This is a great idea for any person who has lost a loved on. A way to memorialize the person and allow the living loved one to remember them in a special way. It might only be clothes, but for a lot of people its all we have left. Don't be concerned if someone doesn't change over the room or redecorate right away after they lose someone. It all takes time and in time it will come.

Pictures of the nursery set up for Caleb:

 Blue walls with polka dot theme....lots of gifts we still hadn't put away!

 Changing table all ready to go with tons of diapers

Pictures of nursery for Abigail:
 Added the Carr family Tree of for Abigail, one for Caleb and a mommy and daddy owl..
 Kept the lime green crib skirt from Caleb's room and his comforter, added pink owl blanket and pink polka dot theme...
 You can't see it, but the wall writing says, "For this Child I Prayed." We had it made for Caleb and kept it up for Abigail. It also has two little birds flying around it.
 The mobile in the corner was made for Caleb but I added the pink strips for Abigail. I also glued a pink ruffle on Caleb's lamp
 The curtains that I made
 Added a pink dress to hang from the shelf, and a beautiful drawing a friend did in honor of Caleb...I also glued a small pink bow to the blue piggy bank!
 Home made Diaper sewing lessons came in use...and 
my friend Courtney who helped me!
Added a pink rug, and made the toy chest a little prayer memorial with Caleb's scrapbook his Bible, dried flowers from funeral and Easter Candle. And of course JC:)

What did you do with your loved ones things? Did you keep the nursery of clean it out? How did it make you feel?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Fathers Day

What a weird day. Lots of happy out there today but for those who have lost a child, there is lots of sad.  We don't make a big fuss around here for mothers day or fathers day, because they were hell that first year. I remember the feeling of just trying to survive.  We were out of town trying to "have fun," and get away and forget about grief (didn't work-it comes with you). I had asked Nathan what he wanted to do on Fathers Day, but he didn't know. Thats the hard part in grief-you dont know yourself, what you will want, or how you'll feel.

We knew we had to go to mass. We tried to prep ourselves for it. I asked him, "Will you stand up or not when they ask the Fathers to stand?" He said, "I dont want to stand." So I said, "do whatever you want." We sat there at mass for what seemed like forever. I watched as my husband held a little wallet size picture of Caleb in the palm of his hand all throughout mass. I fought off tears of rage, sadness, and anger. I just could not believe that this was our life-that all he had for Fathers Day was a wallet size picture of his baby. The Fathers all stood up but he didn't. I just wanted the stupid day to be over with. My family was mad at us because we weren't coming to the Family barbecue at my mom's house. But we couldn't, we were a wreck.

So thats what I think of when I think of Fathers Day. It breaks my heart every time. Thats probably why we still dont make a big fuss about it and just try to get through the day. This morning at mass I whispered to Nathan "sure is better than two years ago, huh?" And he agreed and even stood up this year holding this sweet rainbow in his arms.

Praying for all the Fathers out there without their children today and the mothers who have to accompany them through this...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Coming up for Air

That's what June and July feel like-coming up for air after being underwater for a long time. These two months, these two sweet, sweet months hold no natural triggers for me and my grief. No due dates, conception dates, anniversaries of any sort. Caleb's story goes from August until May and then I feel as if I get a break. Don't get me wrong, Im still thinking about him, still grieving him, but the weight just isn't there, the heaviness is gone. And it feels nice. Refreshing. Freeing. Like I have a chance to inhale before I go under again. Because even though I want to believe its gone, its not. There will be an "under again," moment or day or month. But for now Im enjoying these two months. Looking forward to continuing to live life to the fullest. Thank you Lord for this chance to come up for air.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

We have a God who can make something from Nothing

Father Barron gave a great sermon this week on the mass readings....a good reminder for everyone who feels like they have nothing right now...

God can make something from nothing

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Those first few weeks

I've come across three new families in the last 2 weeks that have had a full term stillbirth. My heart breaks for them and what they are going through. And my thoughts keep wondering back to those first few weeks and how I survived them. Maybe I've written about it before, but I feel moved to write again about some of the things that got me through the day during those first few weeks. I know it wont be the same for everyone, but maybe it will help someone...

The first week was a blur, funeral and burial. Then the second week we went to Florida to get away. Then the third week Nathan went back to work. Here is how I stayed busy:

-Called/emailed/facebooked every single friend I could think of and asked them to come check in on me. I knew that for me, being alone was too hard on me and that at least once every 2 days I needed someone to check on me. Also I knew that my husband could only handle so many crying phone calls at work in one day-I had to find other outlets. I asked my friends to call me, email me, to check in on me because I knew I wasnt capable of keeping that kind of communication right away. (*I called the single friends because it hurt too much to have friends with kids come over)

-Tell Caleb's story over and over again. For me it was healing every time I would tell his birth story. We ask so many women with live babies over and over again their birth story. I knew that just because he died, his story was still one that needed to be told. I just remember having to talk about him all.the.time. Thank you to those of you who listened to me!

-Listen to faith talks. I had a list of websites with good talks from pastors and priests. I treated listening to them like taking medicine. Every four hours I needed to revisit either a scripture passage or listen to a talk. The waves of darkness were so intense that if I didnt check back into the source every 3-4 hours I was sure to get lost. For those looking for things, here is what I have found and loved:
podcast- Bethel Church, North Coast Church, Bayside Church (California), Bethany Baptist Church (Peoria), Reason for our Hope with Father Larry.

All of these have multiple sermons to pick from that can really get you from one minute to the next.

-Have something to look forward to-for me this was food. I hated life and so I found comfort in food. Making a cake-sure! Getting a third diet coke for the day-perfect. I had to have something little to look forward to each day or else I would not get out of bed.

-Spend time in adoration...or a chapel. When I was able to get the motivation I would often go to adoration. I found though that inside our church was better because I could cry freely there. Adoration often had too many people crammed into a small space. Find somewhere that you can be alone with the Lord and just pour your heart out over and over again.

- Get rid of facebook. Just do it! You dont need to see the babies. You dont need to see other people and their happy lives. Facebook became a huge downward spiral for me and eventually I deleted my account. I re-emerged 16 months later and I now can handle it, but back then-no way!

-Read every book I could get my hands on that had to do with pregnancy loss. I needed to hear that this had happened to others, that I wasnt alone. Under the resources tab on the top of my blog there is a page with recommended books-get them, read them, feel less alone.

-Make a scrapbook. I had a dear friend come stay with me for a week and together we made a scrapbook of pictures of Caleb. It was healing to be able to do something tangible to remember him. We also made one for both grandmas so they could remember him as well.

- Attend a support group. I found griefshare and it was perfect. I looked forward to it all week. I felt right at home and gained so much wisdom and healing from this group. Some of the secular support groups were a little too secular for me right away. I felt more encouraged by going to griefshare and hearing others who still believed in a God than hearing people at the secular support groups curse God. My point is- make sure the support group is right for you-that being said its good to go to two meetings before you decide to stop going.

-Dont think about the future. Whenever I would start to get anxious on what to do with my life I would try to pray a Hail Mary. God had made a promise in scripture that He would provide, so worrying would not help.

-Carry my Bible around with me everywhere. I needed to literally lean on the Word of God. I felt safe with it and it gave me the confidence to go to the store or get my hair cut. Just knowing it was in my purse and I could pull it out if I needed encouragement helped so much.

That is all I can remember for now. Hoping this helps give someone an idea of ways to stay busy and get through one day at a time, or one moment at a time. Praying for all those who are going through a loss.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Bringing it to the Light

A few weeks after Caleb died we had a dear priest friend come over. Well, actually I called him out of desperation. I was in a bad place and everything was so dark. I needed to see a person "in persona Christi" come and minister to me.  I still remember his words as I sat on the couch crying.

He said, "so you want a big Catholic family? I'll take you to other big Catholic families I know and show you their live children. Then we'll go to the cemetery and see the graves of their dead children. Having a large family means accepting death in some form, that's just the way it is."

I was a little taken back. All Nathan and I had ever wanted was a big Catholic family-ya know lots of kids running around. I thought when we were engaged our biggest marital problem would be how to provide for all the children we wanted. Funny now 4 years in our marriage if you saw us on the street we would look exactly like the typical American family with our one child, nice house, money for vacation, and plenty of free time-not exactly the big Catholic family we envisioned. But that's a whole other post for a different day. What I want to talk about today is bringing things to the light.

I took my priest friend's words to heart. I started to see what he was talking about. Slowly friends and family members came from all over telling us about the child or children they had lost during pregnancy or as an infant. I was shocked. How had this never been brought up? I think it never gets brought up because people don't want to bring it up. And I get that-its an incredibly sad/scary topic and I dont think we should start bringing it up at wedding showers just to make sure the bride knows how terrible things could go once she starts her own family. But I do think we can bring it to the light in different ways. By remembering our deceased children and speaking their names. By including them in our family count. Im at a place now where I say "I have two children, one here and one in Heaven," when asked how many I have. And sometimes (alright most of the time) it makes people feel a little awkward, but thats alright. I don't go into the details, but I give them enough to acknowledge my son.

I feel that if more people started sharing their children who have passed away then maybe it wouldn't be such a taboo subject. I want Abigail to grow up and know that yes, she lost a brother, but so did this family and that family and on and on. Because the reality is just what my priest friend said- having big families comes with death. There are more of us out there then there appear. I know not everyone feels comfortable sharing and I don't want to push everyone, but I do want to encourage those who do want to share not to hide your story. Tell your story, speak your child's name, give witness to your pain. In doing so we can bring into the light the taboo subject of loss.