Light in the Dark.

This afternoon I was dining at my favorite lunch spot when I happened to look up.  I had never really looked up before, usually just ahead as people walk into the grocery store, or down at the latest book I’ve chosen to read.

It caught me off guard and I caught myself taking pictures of the ceiling from the same seat in which I usually sit.

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It was the first time today I told myself, “sometimes I just need to look up.”

I’ve been reading The Book of Joy, lasting happiness in a changing world where Douglas Abrams depicts spending a week with the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.  Two men who have known great joy and great suffering.  During lunch I happened across what the Dalai Lama calls “mental immunity”.  He says, “The best solution to our suffering is mental immunity.  We human beings have the ability to make a distinction between the rational level and the emotional level.  At the rational level, we accept that this is a serious problem that we have to deal with, but at the deeper, emotional level, we are able to keep calm.  Like the ocean has many waves on the surface but deep down it is quite calm.”

Abrams continues, “each position was valid and simply reflected a different stage in the emotional cycle.  Through self-inquiry and meditation, we can discover the nature of our mind and learn to soothe our emotional reactivity.  This will leave us less vulnerable to the destructive emotions and thought patterns that cause so much suffering.”

Late this evening, I found myself in the same thought patterns that seem to be unhelpful to my heart.  Five babies were born this month; the month of Lion.  Each birth making waves inside my fragile heart.  Once again, we’re greeted with a lasting reminder of what is not in our lives.

I’m working diligently to calm my heart-mind as the seas of grief continue to crash against my heart and into my soul.  Admittedly it’s hard work.  I am continually learning how to fix my eyes on what’s above me as the less we focus on ourselves, the more we’re connected with each other and healing reveals itself to us.

Psalm 84 says, “What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord.  When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs.”  Abrams concludes, “Indeed, we can use our tears, our stress and frustration, as a well from which we can draw the life-giving waters of our emotional and spiritual growth.”

I know that even in darkness there is light.  Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, faith looks up.”  It is better then to look up.

The Things We Hold.

Tonight is Ted’s monthly board member meeting at our local golf course.  We met at home after work, fixed a quick dinner and I was left with an empty house before the sun fell.

I pulled out yoga mat and decided tonight was as good of night as any to practice in the middle of my kitchen floor.  Especially since Ted wasn’t home and curious why I was doing another strange thing.

At the beginning of my practice the instructor had us looking into our hands, palms facing up.  She said, “look into our hands and all that we may have held along this journey.”  My thoughts immediately drifted to Sam.

Earlier this month our work phone rang and I answered to a tearful woman filled with questions about her boyfriend who was incarcerated at the time.  Through her questions she told me that the night before her baby died at 38 weeks.  Immediately, I wanted to tell her I loved her; that I loved her baby.  I wanted to tell her that I know how her heart aches and tell her that it will for a long time; maybe forever.  Most of all, I wanted to know her baby’s name.  I wanted to say it to her so she’d know that he or she would forever be on my heart.

But I couldn’t.

I was at work and I didn’t want to impose myself on a new Mama Sister who had so many decisions to be making in her first few days of her loss journey.  Instead as the conversation ended, all I could choke out was, “I’m so sorry about your baby.” as she cried and thanked me and hung up the phone.

Yesterday I was reporting in the courtroom when a Defendant appeared in Court.  In tears, he shared with the Judge that his baby had just died and that he felt lost.  I felt the same need to tell him I loved him, but couldn’t.  I looked him up on Facebook and found his girlfriend, the one I’d talked to a few weeks ago on the phone, and stared.

Her Facebook profile photo contained stamped handprints of their baby and the same memory box we’d been given.  Next to it was a tiny bag of clothes, donated in memory of Sam.

I didn’t have to tell them that I loved them, or their baby boy. 

They already knew.

They found out I loved them on the day their baby was born, when he was wrapped in soft clothes and blankets so lovingly donated by Sam’s family and friends on his first birthday.  They might never know who I am, but it doesn’t matter; they know Sam.

I’ve spent almost two years delving into grief after one stillbirth and one miscarriage.  I’d like to think that they lived for moments just like these.

As I stared into my hands this evening and thought about all that I have held along my journey, Sam is by far the greatest.

For Colby.

 

Waiting for You.

I haven’t written in awhile.  It’s been such a busy beginning of the year.  Next week we’re heading on vacation with 8 of our best friends.  I’ve been looking forward to it since the idea was first mentioned sometime late last year.  April.  Vacation.

At the end of the year last year it took pressure off of feeling like I wanted or needed to be pregnant.  It gave me what I’ve now considered, a healthy break from getting my hopes up and having them torn down.  I’ve told myself since we booked our trip that all I needed to do was wait until April and then we could try for a baby.  I wanted to go on this trip.  I wanted to spend a week away with my very best friends while they leave their babies behind at home.

Then a few weeks ago I got a call from our OB’s office who reminded me of the risk we were taking by traveling.  Zika.  There’s a very slim, but very real possibility, that Ted or I will contract zika on our travels.  They followed by recommending we abstain from getting pregnant for six months.  Another half-year.

Slim possibilities will always scare me.  Especially now.  I’m no longer the type of woman who can blissfully ignore the small percentage of something happening to us.  Not after losing Sam and then losing Lion.

But we’re still going.  Ted and I discussed all of the pros and cons of going and not going on the trip we’ve been so excited for all of this time.  Mostly though, I think of our friends John and Jessica.  I wrote about John sometime ago who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.  They’re heading out on vacation with us.  Recently I was chatting with Jessica about life and death and all the beautiful things in between.  She shared with me that they’re choosing to really live life; and not live as though John might die.

How do we be so bold as John and Jessica?  Maybe by continuing to live, whatever that looks like, on an individual basis.  I’m choosing life with my friends.  They’re what’s here now.  And I want to enjoy our time together.

Heartrendingly, a baby is not.  My island continues to get smaller and smaller.  Loss mama without her rainbow.  I remember when we were trying to get pregnant and I came across an article with the caption Not Everyone Gets a Rainbow and feeling very sad by it all.  I still do.  Whether it’s because we’ve chosen to wait until April to now be told we must wait another half year without serious consequences, is hard.  I don’t like being told what I have to do.  I also have to mother any future child as responsibly as I can.  And my heart still aches for my Mama Sisters who were told no rainbow will ever come; or that their chances of being with child are slim.

Almost two years later and I’m still mothering myself.  Loving myself, supporting myself, taking care of myself in the simplest and most complex ways as I should be mothering Sam or now, Lion.

Maybe my heart is feeling heavy by it all, especially now, because this is the week our Lion should be born.  Yet our hearts remain empty and our home silent, still.

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Wild Hearts. 

I’ve been feeling much removed from my grief lately. I’m not sure if it’s because being sad all the time is tiresome and I’m tired of being tired, if I’ve somehow grasped some small amount of control of living in grief or if deciding to take antidepressants has blocked the pain in my heart to reaching my brain. I’m just unsure.

As I sit with Sam at his grave I can’t help but wonder if pregnant women who have been touched by a baby like Sam ever reach thirty six weeks and think, this could be it. Or even more, this is the moment Sam died, and think to themselves what they’d do if their baby died, too.

I’d venture to say my friends with kids have thought a time or two what they’d do if they lost their living children, having watched me navigate through grief over the last two years.

Two years. I sit with Sam and I’m unsure how two years have passed. Holding him, while only for four hours, was the most intense four hours of my life. It simultaneously feels like moments ago and like a lifetime has passed.

I’ve been watching so many of my mama sisters become pregnant and deliver beautiful, thriving rainbow babies and I feel removed and somewhat left alone. What now?

Was I ever met to mother a living child? Will I ever? Can my heart handle another pregnancy? Would that baby die, too? Is my heart numb? It feels numb sometime.

Then I wonder if maybe, the numbness is my spirit protecting itself from my reality because maybe, it’s really hard. 

It’s hard to sit at your child’s grave. It’s hard to decorate it for the holidays. It’s hard to wonder how big he’d be or what type of personality he’d have. It’s hard to watch the seasons pass and find anything at a cemetery that will live. Even the flowers, they die.

I’ve been reading John Krakauer’s Into The Wild about Chris McCandless, a college graduate who sold all of his things, left his life behind and forged alone into nature. He ends up dying but I know what he’s chasing. He’s chasing life. Real life. Authentic life. Something for himself. 

When I sit outside with Sam, I feel like Chris, connected to what’s real. I see beauty surrounding me and I just want to experience it; if even for a moment. 

We will all die. It’s something true for each of us. But it’s in the moments where we let our hearts go into the wild, that we really live. 

Creating Space.

For Christmas, my sister in law and her family bought me a new yoga mat.  I had been lusting after Jade Yoga’s Harmony Mat in red wine.  How can you not fall in love with a red wine colored yoga mat?

I’ve only used my new mat when I go to the studio.  I don’t want to inadvertently stretch it out on my carpet or somehow ruin it unintentionally.  This afternoon after work I was craving yoga. Yoga on my red wine mat.

I decided I was going to practice in my dining room, a space where I hadn’t before.  It’s laid in a beautiful Brazilian cherry floor looking out into our front yard through white bay windows.  All I needed to do was to move my kitchen table out of the way.  I easily did just that.

Shortly after, Ted walked in to see what I was doing and he said, “Dang!  You’re good at creating space.”  I smiled as he walked away in hopes that I’d find a practice to do just that.  It’s odd how life falls into place some days more than others.  I logged into Gaia and staring back at me was a 45-minute practice with Clara Robert-Oss, Exploring the Elements: Creating Space.

It hasn’t been on my heart to blog a lot these last few weeks.  A week ago, Ted’s father passed away.  I found myself longing to be alone with my husband and his family.  Gentle souls who know so much grief; and happiness.

I cut my savasana short tonight.  I rolled onto my side, sat up and bowed, thanking myself to take some much needed time on my mat.  I picked up my laptop and wondered how it is that we cultivate space for ourselves, and our needs in a world that can be so demanding.  I keep learning how important this time is.  Maybe, the more we love ourselves, the more love we have to offer to others.

Each night this week before I’ve fallen asleep, I’ve found myself thanking God for being alive.  I think it stems from all of the death that has surrounded our family over the last few years.  It makes me want to live an intentional life, and intentional living isn’t always easy.

May I continue to create space, in my heart and in my life, to shred my habits that are so easy to hold on to and live a fuller, more intentional life.

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” -Brene Brown


Hard times, come again no more.

Recently Ted and I were watching a tv show where a daughter was being particularly hard on her mother. Her mother’s friend said to the girl, “Be kind. Don’t you think she’s suffered enough for one lifetime?”

Effortlessly tears began to fall as suffering has become a close friend of mine. But in reality, suffering is a friend to us all. We all suffer something.

I’ve been thinking on the concept of suffering lately and my heart keeps replaying something a pastor said to me once. I don’t remember if it was related to suffering specifically but the notion was that we’re all in need of a savior. In the context of our conversation, he was referring to Jesus.

My yoga practice encourages a lot of self reflection. I first met my mat as a very broken person two months after losing Sam. It’s taught me that healing can also begin within me. I’ve always known I needed savior but slowly I’m learning I am equipped to save myself as I am enough.

At Landon’s Legacy Retreat last year I sat on a dock with other Mamas overlooking a lake in the Whiteshell Provincial Park of Manitoba, Canada.  Together we each wrote one statement about ourselves at the top of our individual papers and shared our statements with each other, writing them down if we felt so moved.

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When I think about my friends, some of my now very best friends, who also live without their babies, I think of love coupled with suffering.  A relentless suffering that grows in the absence of our children.  But I know now that we’re not broken.  Are we ever really whole?  Or do we just learn to breathe in the present and breathe out the things we cannot change.

I was driving to yoga tonight and listening to an old CD. A cover of Bob Dylan’s Hard Times by Eastmountainsouth sang from my radio.

“While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay, there are frail ones fainting at the door.  Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say oh, hard times come again no more.”

Oh hard times, come again no more. 

Compassion & Courage. 

I’m off work this morning. I woke up at my own pace and climbed into some leggings and a sports bra. I tossed between yoga in my dining room because the sun was shining in and yoga in Sam’s room because it’s in the process of becoming my new creative space. I chose Sam’s room.

I decided on a vinyasa practice that turns out, wasn’t so easy for me, a practice called Compass-ion Flow. The peak point of the practice lead me into compass pose; which was a pose I had not done before nor could I fully express. During the practice I found myself in that place more than one time, unable to move my body into the full expression of the poses.
As I was getting ready this morning I was thinking about how hard it can be to really be you; whatever that looks like. For me, it’s staying true to myself by authentically grieving so openly. I know some people are much more reserved than me but it’s important to me that my friends, family and followers know that I hurt because my children have died.

My thoughts floated to two women who have recently come into my office at work. For them, it’s legally changing their names and for one of them, changing the legal description of their gender because both women are transgender.
It takes courage to be who you really are.
At one point during the practice tears began to collect on my mat. How is it that we can offer more compassion to ourselves and others? I believe it’s simply loving ourselves for where and who we are, accepting the moment for exactly what it is and having the courage to pick yourself up off the mat and flow.

Disassembling Sam’s Crib.

Today I was reminded there are no right and wrong choices when you’re grieving; it just is.  Christmas was a foggy day yesterday, theoretically and literally.  I awoke to a fog that never left our tiny southern Indiana town.  The weather was as confused as I was about the day, leaving a cloud over my home and my heart.

I woke up this morning and it had all disappeared.  It was a new day.  Yet again, we made it through the hell that Christmas has become for us as loss parents.  Today the sun is shining, my windows are open and fresh air is circulating through my home.

Goodbye, Christmas.  Hello, new year.

With new years bring new things.  I remember last year having so much hope for 2016.  I once again placed a confidence in the future; a new start – a new baby – a new beginning.

As this year ends, I find myself less hopeful for what might or might not happen and more realistic about what is.  I am married.  My baby died.  My second baby died.  I’ve been a bit lost and I feel no qualms about it whatsoever.  I’m surrounded by the most beautiful friends and family anyone could ask for.  My children are loved.  I adore my yoga practice.  I have six more years at my job.  I am alive.

I decided today was the day to take down Sam’s crib.  After discussing it with Ted, he agreed.  My wishful thinking at the end of 2015 did not come to fruition.  There is no baby to fill our home as this year closes.  There is no need for a crib.

I sat in Sam’s room and cried, and cried.  I held so much hope for his crib.  We chose it just for him.  I washed and rewashed his elephant sheets so that his perfect body had a perfectly clean place to sleep.  I so carefully tied and retied each knot in his bumper knowing I’d have to take it down upon his arrival but insisting it be perfect for him.

I fell to my knees and stared just as you see here.  Today is the last time I’ll see it put together unless and until we have more children.

I shared with Ted as time passes and there’s no child to fill its space, no Sam, it become a place to collect his things.  His most important things.  But not a baby.  And it hurts.

 

Together in tears, we cleared off his crib and untied the knots to his bumper.  We placed his bed in a bag to be stored with the rest of our baby things and screw by screw, disassembled a bed where Sam never slept and dreams have never been met.

I’ve said all along if this day were to come, we’d rebuild Sam’s bed in the room next door to his so it would never really be gone from our home; because crib or not, Sam is never really gone.

It’s odd to see emptiness in his room now but emptiness is not unknown to me.  Before we removed the crib I called Georgia’s Mama, Rachel and cried to her while she shared her experience of taking down Georgia’s crib.  “She never really slept there,” she told me, “She is everywhere.”

There is no plan for Sam’s room.  There just is.  It’s my place to be present with him and in life.  Sam isn’t confined to these four walls; Sam is everywhere.

Seeing the Unseen.

As we grow older we learn that the things we really want for Christmas are not things at all. If I had it my way, Santa would bring me Sam.

I took the day off work today to prepare for our annual friends White Elephant Christmas Party.  My morning started by greeting our plumber who came to fix the toilet in Sam’s bathroom.  Before he arrived, I anxiously wondered if he’d ask me about my baby as he had to go through Sam’s room to get to the bathroom.  I decided I would simply respond, “He would be a year and a half.”

Sam never came up but before he left, I had him look at the knob on our bathtub in the master bath.  I explained to him that a long time ago, Ted and I had our house cleaned and I thought maybe the cleaning ladies had accidentally done something to the handle and been afraid to tell us.  He laughed and replied, “No! That wasn’t your cleaning lady!  It was probably just your kids playing!”  My heart stopped for a moment and I said, “My kids..yes, you must be right.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about Sam’s room as I’ve been decorating our house for Christmas this year.  Not just that our plumber would see it but that our friends will come over tomorrow and see that nothing has changed since last Christmas.  I’ve wondered if a year and a half is too long to have not changed anything and if my friends will come over and silently judge me that his room sits still.

I know we no longer have a need for a crib but it’s a tangible object that yells he was alive.  It’s a space that was intentionally made for Sam.  Unless you’re our plumber, when you know our story and you visit us in our home it’s physical proof that something’s missing when grief can so easily go unseen.

I intended to run into Hobby Lobby for picture frames, which I ended up foregoing, when I laid eyes on this elephant.  I stared at him and knew he belonged to Sam.  My heart began to sink because it was just another ‘thing’ that would get weathered if I chose to leave it for him but then remembered I was in Hobby Lobby and that maybe this elephant could be left with him.  I decided my heart will never like decorating Sam’s grave for Christmas but that I have no choice in doing so.  I bought my items and left.

I sat in the cold with Sam and decorated his tree.  I carefully tied each red bow to match our family tree at home and hung each ornament.  I told Sam that if he were alive, I’d be spending a lot more this Christmas season.  In my head the words to Silent Night drifted in and out and I wondered how long we’ll experience silent nights.

When I finished I backed away from his headstone.  I curled into child’s pose on the grass with my head to the dirt and I cried.  I cried for a long time.

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This Christmas may we see the unseen in the lives of others and offer love.

Tears Like Rain.

I had my hair highlighted yesterday by my girlfriend, Jessica.  I love getting my hair done.  We agreed it’s like a fresh start once you look in the mirror and think to yourself man, my hair looks bad.

This morning I woke up determined to make it a good day.  I rose early, showered, fixed my hair {most days I leave it to its own devices after my shower} and dressed myself something pretty.  I was on time and feeling good.  I peeked out my bedroom window to what appeared to be a grey morning but no rain.  I grabbed my coffee and headed out the door.

The moment I left my subdivision the rain began to fall and soon thereafter I realized I didn’t have my umbrella.  No big deal, I thought to myself, I’ll parallel park next to the building and run in.  When the building was in view I quickly took note there were no parking spots remotely close to the building and I became really pissed off.  I parked a few lots away and ran in the rain cussing the entire time.  Before I entered the building I caught a glimpse of my drenched reflection in the door.  A few more cuss words flew out under my breath as I caught the elevator.  I immediately went into our Jury Room to really get a look at myself.  My nose was running, my hair amok and my clothes were wet.  What happened next was a true girl moment.

I flew into our office feeling defeated and looked at Lauren, my always cool, calm and collected co-worker and said, “I’m about to have a mental breakdown,” and started crying.  She asked if I wanted to talk about it to which I replied, “NO” and talked about it anyways.

“I’m tired of getting rained on,” I said.  “I always try so hard and for what? I just get rained on.”  My loving Lauren hugged me while I cried and just listened.  My tears that fell as easily as the rain were much more than just feeling angry that I took the time to get ready this morning to have it all wiped away.  It was something more.

If I’m honest I must share that I’ve just been tired lately, of people and just shit.  People are still complaining about the election.  Tired.  My primary care physician terminated our patient-doctor relationship at the end of last week after I spent the week being sick.  Tired.  Some days it feels like my grief has been mirrored by others when it’s all I have left of Sam.  Tired.  I’ve yet to visit Sam this month.  I have his Christmas tree from last year just waiting for me to get the courage to place it at his grave.  Tired.

I’ve tried so hard since the week before Thanksgiving to appear put together when my heart feels otherwise.  I’ve given it my best attempt to carry myself with grace as though this isn’t our second holiday season without Sam.

It feels as though last year people were watching and waiting for moments like I have now and they didn’t come because I was cocooned in everyone’s understanding that I was broken.  This year it feels as though everyone’s lives have slowly adapted back to a pre-Sam state while I try hard to catch up.

Two.  I have to remind myself that this is only my second time experiencing Christmas without my baby and even more, that I lost another child this year.

It’s okay to have mental breakdowns.

I’m allowed to grieve, even still.

Lauren grinned and said, “At least we have donuts this morning!”  There’s an attorney, Craig, who buys us the largest, sweetest, most delicious donuts known to man and brings them when he comes to Court.  I went to our kitchen and found the biggest for my breakfast.  Craig appeared in our office and I said, “Hi!  You saved my morning.  Thank you for our donuts.”  He smiled, looked out our windows and replied, “You’re welcome.  I know it’s rough out there.”