Tag Archives: grief and loss

Just another day, right? Nine Months

Yesterday, a girl who I went to college with posted a picture on Facebook of her 9 month old twin boys, with the caption, “Happy 9 months old!” She had her babies the day I started labor with Hudson, and I didn’t even realize how close they were to each other until I saw that post. I saw her chubby sweet-faced twins and I got a little choked up because…

I can’t even imagine what Hudson would be like at nine months.

I feel worlds apart from Hudson, worlds apart from the person I was when I went into labor on July 10, worlds apart from where I want to be, and kind of in limbo about the whole thing.

Do I want a baby, or do I want Hudson?

Both.

Do I want to be pregnant, or do I want Hudson?

Both.

I want desperately for my life to be different, for events nine months ago to have taken place so differently, for our spunky and sweet little lady to be here in the kitchen with me as I write this. I don’t get to have that life.

Writing is great for helping me to put all of this in perspective, but so is reading from time to time. I finally decided to read Harold S. Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen to Good PeopleI was hesitant to read such a “cliche” grieving book, but after reading about 60% of it, I realize there is a reason this book is so highly recommended to people after a loss. The honesty and logic with which Kushner tackles the business of reconciling belief in God to a world where good people experience so much pain is JUST WHAT I NEED at this point in my journey. I need logic right now, because my emotions are a mess. I need logic right now because I never dreamed we’d be this far from our girl without another baby on the way. I need logic right now because I realize that this world is not fair, and the world is not in the business of handing out miracles, and I need to be okay with that. I need to not take it personally.

But I am so tired. So tired of being saddled with this sadness. I want to carry a torch high for my beautiful daughter, to remember her in ways big and small, to memorialize and celebrate and honor this brilliant, but brief, life. But does doing this mean that all my future happinesses will be bittersweet?

I LOST it in a restaurant last week having lunch with my dear friend, whose daughter was stillborn three years ago. I was talking about this business of being saddled with sadness, carrying a torch for Hudson. She told me that during her pregnancy with her son (who is now a little bit over 1), she noticed little body positions that he would do that were just like the ones they’d see in ultrasounds of their daughter. She told me that her husband, her son and her daughter all had the same eyebrows. She said, “When you have another baby, you’ll see all these similarities, and those can be your torches.”

I burst into tears, this unstoppable force and release of pressure imagining how wonderful our future children will be, how wonderful our daughter was, how inextricably connected I am to my husband because of our children… ugh. Just WHOOSH… tears and a weird, elated laughter at how good that release felt, and how much I needed to hear those words:

“Those can be your torches.”

The further we get from Hudson’s life and death, the harder it is to imagine what life should be like right now. And that’s probably a good thing. I need to be experiencing this life as it is, not as I wish it was.

Something bad happened to us. We are good people. Until time machines (or miracle machines) are invented, there is nothing we can do to change the fact that our daughter – headstrong, funny, gorgeous Hudson Ruth – didn’t live. We can only control how we choose to live this life that we have. And maybe nine months from now we’ll be worlds apart from where we are today… until then, we can only take this life one day at a time, carrying our silent torches for our beautiful baby and missing the world that would have been so beautiful with her in it.

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Firsts

After the Hubs and I got married, I remember getting all gooey and sentimental about our “firsts.”

“It’s our first married plane ride!”
“This is our first married Christmas!”
“Oh my gosh, this is our first married grocery shopping trip!”

I may or may not have saved the receipt from that one.

Since Hudson died, I’ve had a new set of “firsts” – not ones I necessarily get gooey or sentimental over, but emotional firsts all the same.

The first time I held a baby after Hudson.

Don't I look like I'm going to eat this little guy?

Don’t I look like I’m going to eat this little guy?

The first trip into a Carters to buy baby clothes as a gift, the recipient of which was the little man pictured above. That will get its whole own blog post, probably.

The first baby shower for a friend (another one that will get its own dedicated blog post, likely).

The first Thanksgiving.

And soon, the first Christmas.

I have been wracking my brains for ways to remember Hudson this holiday season, to make a new tradition of celebrating Hudson’s life during this time when we celebrate the life of another pretty remarkable baby (“Dear Eight Pound, Six Ounce, Newborn Baby Jesus, don’t even know a word yet, just a little infant, so cuddly, but still omnipotent…” Talladega Nights, anyone?).

If only I were shopping for frivolous baby outfits and 6-month old toys this week, instead of trying to figure out a holiday memorial for her.

The Forget-Me-Not Foundation sent the Hubs and I a card and a little angel ornament, something to put on the tree to remind us of our “angel baby.” We talked about making a big family donation to the Forget-Me-Not Foundation in Hudson’s name for Christmas. I even read on some grief and loss forum about a woman who was planning to still shop for her daughter (who was stillborn), but was going to donate the gifts to Toys for Tots. I didn’t even shop much for Hudson when I was pregnant. I sort of wish I had indulged that little temptation more now, but I was so sure I’d have a lifetime to dress her up, entertain her, teach her.

While I’m still a little at a loss for ways to make Hudson a part of our Christmas celebration this year, I do find myself looking forward to a lot of firsts.

How about:
First positive pregnancy test
First sound of Hudson’s baby sibling’s cries
First diaper blow out
First sleepless night
First word
First grade
First boyfriend/girlfriend
First job
First grandbaby (hey, why not? I’m looking WAY forward here!)

Everything now is a “first” without Hudson – and that is the sentence for a lifetime of making bittersweet memories. But I’m determined to face these firsts with a heart full of hope, not dread. No matter how profoundly or meaningfully we chose to celebrate Hudson this Christmas, I know it will still be a shitty Christmas without her. But maybe our second Christmas without Hudson will also be our first Christmas with Baby Dub Dos.

And Baby Dub Dos will be the first of his/her kind.

I won’t live my entire life in the shadow of Firsts Without…

 

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How’s your baby?

The other day I bumped into a neighbor while checking the mail. This observant fellow must have picked up on the fact that once, I was pregnant, and now, I am clearly not, so he asked me:

“How’s your baby?”

It has been almost 5 months since Hudson died, so the question surprised me. I mean, we are sort of past that point where people ask – they either know what happened or they’ve forgotten I ever was pregnant. I haven’t had somebody ask me about the baby since September.

So I stammered a little bit and finally was able to come up with:

“She passed away.”

“What?”

“She died at the hospital. We didn’t get to bring her home.”

Now, I’ve been in this situation a time or two before, and usually at this point I get a “I’m so sorry” and an awkward goodbye. But neighborman felt the need to continue asking questions:

“Was she born sick?”

Such a funny way to put it, I couldn’t help but repeat it in my answer:

“Yes, she was born sick. She was born without a heartbeat. But they got it going again and she lived for three days.”

“When did this happen?”
“How are you doing?”
“How is your husband?”

Neighborman was clearly concerned.

And the whole time we are having this strange conversation, at the back of my mind I am thinking to myself, “Wow I really spit that whole thing out well. I didn’t choke up or anything.”

Finally, I’ve satisfied Neighborman’s curiosity and I head back to my house, the conversation replaying in my head. Apart from this guy’s insistent questions, the one thing that really stood out for me was the tone of voice I used when answering him:

Apologetic.

Like, “This is going to hurt you more than it hurts me” apologetic.

You get into these conversations, and really, you’re the one who is supposed to be hurt. But I find myself wanting to cushion the other party, to couch the blow, because I know how awkward the conversation is about to get, how bad they are going to feel for “bringing it up”, the head-shaking they’ll do when the conversation is over, the “Honey did you hear…?” that will happen when they get back home (if the matter is still on their mind).

Something I’ve learned about grief and loss is that you just live with it. The sadness doesn’t go away, but you learn to manage it. The impact of your loss is present with you constantly, but you exist through it. At a certain point, I think society expects you to move on, and so you do – outwardly. So when your neighbor that you don’t know that well is asking you incessant questions about the death of your baby, you almost feel inappropriate having any feelings about it, and for whatever reason you feel like you should be apologizing to him instead of the other way around.

When I told the Hubs about this conversation later that day, he was flabbergasted.

“What did he think we just leave her inside?!”

But then I have to remind myself: Neighborman’s world did not revolve around Hudson – OUR world did. Her absence seems so obvious to us, it seems almost impossible for it to have gone unnoticed by others. I wish I had a series of developments to report when somebody asks: “How’s your baby?” Teething. Smiling. Crawling. Walking. Going on dates (just kidding about that last one, Hudson was not going to be allowed to date).

But I don’t get to answer that question “normally” for a while.

I would never want to pretend that Hudson was never born, that we didn’t have this amazing daughter. But for those awkward times when someone you really don’t know that well is asking questions, sometimes, I wish the conversation would end just a little bit sooner.

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National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day – er, Life

October 15 is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

 

And I kind of missed it.

I remember in the darkest days after Hudson’s death, I spent a lot of time Googling infant loss online, and it was then that I first became aware of the significance of October 15.

I remember thinking, “I don’t even know what October 15 of this year will be like. But I’ll do something.”

And then I just kind of forgot. All my lofty aspirations – I’ll write a poem, I’ll hold a ceremony, I’ll tell my friends…

I forgot them all.

And then the day rolled around, and I got a text about it and saw a few things about it on Facebook, and I realized I hadn’t done the grand show I’d planned. But I could still light a candle for the International Wave of Light.

It was 6:55 pm when I thought that.

“In five minutes, I’ll light a candle for Hudson.”

And then it was 7:52 and I hadn’t lit the candle, I’d watched Monday Night Football instead.

I was late, but I lit the candle anyway.

When I first learned about this day of remembrance, I was sure that my world would revolve around our loss come October 15. There’d be no way I could forget to make it the big deal Hudson deserved.

But I did forget to make it a big deal. And I am okay with it.

Every day gets to be about Hudson a little bit. A lot, and a little bit. There are some days when my absolute existence revolves around her, while other days I can just think of her constantly and it doesn’t take over my life.

I had a really great conversation with my dear soul sister about this just a few short days ago: we’ve realized that it is okay to feel grief without BEING grief. It’s okay to let yourself feel loss whole-heartedly, without the loss controlling you.

I have permission to be sad and permission to not be sad. I’ve earned that. My husband has earned that. Our friends and family, people who have been touched by Hudson, people who have been touched by loss of any kind, they’ve earned the right to feel the way they feel.

I remember Hudson every day, in ways big and small. Our family will always include her preciousness. Our family is better and more full because of her, even though her life was so tragically brief. She consumed me in the weeks following her death, she is with me constantly now, and not one experience in my life will be unaffected by her absence.

I don’t need one big day to remember Hudson. I have a lifetime.

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Dream List

Don’t judge me, but I can get down with a little Zig Ziglar. Goal setting? I’m for it!

Before I knew I was pregnant last year, I had selected four goals to work towards – and had a little journal to write down the daily steps that I had taken toward each of my  goals. Then I got pregnant, and my goals totally changed. I abandoned the goal journal and spent my personal reflection time reading What to Expect and Bump it Up and generally shifted my entire focus to the bun in my oven.

I found my goals journal and read it the other day.

The first thing I did was create my “Dream List.” I had taken 10 or 15 minutes and written down all the things I wanted in my life – things I wanted to do, to be, places I wanted to see, money and things I wanted to have, ways I wanted to make a difference, uncensored and all on a couple of pages of paper.

I highly recommend this activity.

Not just because the people who write down their goals are among the most successful. Not just because having something positive to work towards every day (especially in the aftermath of such a terrible loss) is a wonderful thing.

Because looking back at the dream list I had a year ago, I am amazed.

Amazed at how much is the same even though we’ve had this paradigm-shifting experience.

Amazed at how much can change in a year, too.

Amazed at how so many of the things we want in life are interconnected if we take a minute to really reflect – how they work together, how people are blessed with just the toolset and just the connections and just the mental framework they need to accomplish their dream list if they only take the time to look and see.

Guess what was on my dream list a year ago?

Be a mom.

And guess what is on my dream list today?

Have a baby.

This is a recurring theme in my connections with other women who have lost a child, a thread I see on the grief and loss forums:

You’re a mom, even though you lost your baby. But you don’t necessarily feel like it when the object of your motherly affection is no longer physically with you. I am a mother without a baby to “mother”.

I’m already a mom, but I need to have a baby.

I’m Hudson’s mommy, always and forever, but I don’t get to care for her, to teach her life lessons, French braid her ridiculous hair, watch her reach all those incredible milestones that would be so easy to take for granted if we had brought her home.

It’s a totally different dream today than it was a year ago.

I’m a very goals-oriented person. I worked for Starbucks Coffee Company for 5 years (all through college and a few years after) and that was one of the core competencies you were reviewed on: “Goals-Oriented.”

I’m motivated. I like to cross accomplishments and milestones off the list. I like to work towards something, to better myself, to achieve. Tackling this whole “Having a Baby” dream now is a little different than any of the other goals or dreams on my Dream List. It’s not really a “core competency” that you can be reviewed on:

Needs Improvement
Meets Expectations
√ Exceeds Expectations

I have a nice, clear, step-by-step plan to “Being Debt Free” and “Training for a Half Marathon.” Cross each milestone off the list. Stick to the budget, stick to the training plan.

But darn it, baby-having is a whole lot more complicated than that.

We made a beautiful baby! I stuck to my exercise regimen, took my prenatals, didn’t touch alcohol, kept all my appointments. I crossed each week off, one week closer to labor and delivery, to bringing baby home. I became a mom. I had a baby.

The infant mortality rate in the United States is 5.98.

That means for every 1000 live births, six babies die.

Hudson was one of the six.

What a shitty statistic.

I just Googled marathon statistics in the United States – for every 1000 people in the US of A, 5 complete a marathon.

I am one of the five.

So I was actually slightly more likely to lose our baby than I was to finish a marathon.

A marathoner has to train for months. Eat right. Dedicate their weekends, hours on end, to training runs. Punish their joints, go through 2-3 pairs of running shoes. Cross each milestone, each run off the list. Work your way up to the 26.2. High five people when you finish. But when you’re finished, you can stop. You can cross it off your list and never put on your running shoes again if you don’t want to. Don’t worry about improving your time, qualifying for Boston, setting a Personal Record. One and done. Some people only have one marathon in them, and that’s okay. Some people become Marathon Maniacs and run several marathons a year, and that’s okay.

A pregnant woman has a similar journey. You’re pregnant for 10 months. You eat right (or at least you had better). You dedicate your weekends to the baby room, spend hours on end reading “Fit Pregnancy” magazine, choosing baby names. You punish your joints and go up a few shoe sizes. Cross each doctor’s appointment off the list. Work your way up to 40 weeks (or 41!). High five your husband when they say it’s time to push. And when you’re finished, you can stop. You can say one and done.

Everybody gives you a pass if you decide you never want to put on those maternity jeans again.

There’s a big difference between Being a Mom and Having a Baby. I want to do both.

I have been blessed with just the right toolset, the perfect connections, and the mental framework I need in order to go through this loss and still want to go through that pregnancy journey again. And again. And again. And maybe again.

Some people might have only one baby in them, and that’s okay.

But I haven’t crossed “Being a Mom” off my dream list. I haven’t crossed “Have a Baby” off the dream list, either.

And I can’t wait to put on those maternity jeans again.

 

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