Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mila's Mission

Today we will be donating the gifts we bought in Mila's name to Prism. As I gathered the items in a gift bag, my heart ached as I wish I could wrap them up to give to my baby. As I wrapped other Christmas gifts last night I so wanted to include Mila's name on the gift tag. 
From: Chris, Laura, Charlie, Sofie, and Mila  
Chris and I agreed that it would kind of look weird. Although I feel like I carry her just like I did when I was pregnant, to the rest of the world, she's gone. I already sound pretty sad much of the time. What would people think if I started pretending my baby was here?


 I've been reading a lot about what happens to our souls and our spirit when we die. I read that when a soul's purpose has been fulfilled, it leaves this earth. Is it possible that Mila fulfilled her purpose on earth in just nine short months? To be honest, I can think of dozens of good things that came out of Mila's death and my illness. I also read that a soul or spirit stays with her family to continue this purpose, or to guide her loved ones towards their own soul's purpose. Maybe this sounds a little out there, a little Twilight Zoneish, but I love the idea. So, back to the gifts from Mila. I've been wondering what to do with all of this grief, energy, and desire to have Mila be present in every part of our lives. We can give to a little girl Mila's age each Christmas, but why stop there? What if everyone who knows us, and knew about Mila did one good thing, one random act of kindness in honor of Mila. It could be as simple as holding the door open for the mom with the stroller or purchasing a gift for a child in need. I don't expect this to turn into a world-wide project or anything, but just a way that we can all honor sweet Mila, and extend our love for her into the world. 

If you do decided to fulfill 'Mila's Mission', please let me know. I'd love to share with my family what others have done in the name of our precious angel. Please email me at lauramdumont@gmail.com, or post in the comment section here. Mila can't be here in the physical sense, but her spirit lives in me, and hopefully in all of you.

Monday, December 12, 2011

angel

I haven't blogged in a while, not that I didn't want to, but I didn't have words. Or, I had so many words. I wasn't sure what to share or where to begin. The holiday season has me overwhelmed. I'm overwhelmed by grief, by to do lists, by events, by my children's joy and excitement, and by the expectation that I should be happy, grateful, and reflective. I miss Mila. Everything, and I mean everything, reminds me of her, reminds me that she's not here. The bottle brush I use to clean my Nalgene bottle, the lanolin I put on my chapped lips, the car, the closet, the sky, the snow, the kitchen chairs, everything. I haven't pulled out all of my Christmas decorations. I'm too tired, and I don't really care. Mostly, I'm afraid to dig through all the bags and boxes. What if I discover an ornament or keepsake bought last year for the baby? God, my heart is heavy. I didn't want to decorate the tree, but I did. It was a joyful experience with Charlie and Sofie. We looked at all of their ornaments and talked about where they came from. It brought back a lot of wonderful memories of life before Mila, before our baby died. We bought a picture frame ornament for Mila's picture with her name engraved. I then placed angel ornaments all around my sweet baby. Last week we made Mila Cookies, sugar cookies in the shape of an angel, with pink and silver sprinkles. This will be a yearly tradition at our house.


I didn't want it to happen, but I think this experience is turning me into a Christian. Yes, I already was one, but now I think I'm so desperate for comfort, for miracles, and for grace, that I am turning to God, and to Jesus. I really just wanted to hate those guys, to turn my back on religion and faith. Praying that my baby be born safe, alive, and healthy didn't work this time and I'm really pissed. But like I said, I ache with sorrow and I don't think there are enough hugs on earth to make me feel better. So, I am turning upward. I am starting to believe in angels, that Mila is an angel, and that if I am spiritually tuned in, maybe I'll see her. I just want to see her. I asked Chris the other day if he's ever had a dream about Mila. He said he hadn't, but that he wishes he would. I prayed that day that Mila would visit him in a dream. A few days later, she did.




Maybe it's because after a child dies, bereaved parents and family members are thrown into this world of support groups, prayer chains, and memorials, but I've been given many opportunities to worship, to sing, and to pray for God's comfort, healing, and grace. I've heard Bible verses that are undeniably helpful. I've wept hearing them, wondering if God really does know how devastated I feel. None of this is what I expected or wanted, but it's happening. I am now craving inspiration, divine wisdom and guidance. People told me that this experience would change me and it has. It is stripping me of everything I thought I had, of my protective layer of nice, easy going, and considerate. I feel shoved into a world I didn't want to live in, and here I am.




Friday, November 25, 2011

thanks and giving

It's the day after Thanksgiving. I wanted to write a new post last night, but my laptop crashed unexpectedly and I took it as a sign to call it a day. It had been a long one.

For the last weeks I've been thinking so much about Mila, the holidays, and how we can honor her and include her in our family's celebrations. Rather than feeling sorry for myself and our little family because we lost our baby, I am finding ways to feel proud, connected, and grateful. Like a lot of parents who lost a baby, I am trying to spend this weekend in a place of gratitude, rather than grief. So, a short gratitude list:

I am grateful today to be alive. I read through the surgeon's notes the other day in my medical records and realized there was a point in my first surgery where my blood loss was so rapid that my blood pressure dropped and I was in major distress. They were trying to save my uterus, but I was slipping away and the only solution was to remove my uterus and clamp the blood vessels that were causing blood to pour into the area and out of my body. As sad as I am that I cannot carry another child, 
it is the hysterectomy that saved me.

I am grateful for Charlie and Sofie. They are providing me with the physical closeness and intimacy I wish I could share with Mila. We share our love and affection openly and I am trying to embrace every opportunity to kiss, hug, and snuggle them.

I'm grateful for Chris. He tells me every day, through words and actions, that he is even more grateful for my life than I am. He went through so much pain, so much grief. He is a man, so he doesn't always share his feelings openly like I do, but I know that he misses Mila dearly. His heart is broken just like mine. Despite his pain, he provides for us, makes us laugh, and holds me when my heart is aching. He checks on me often and asks if I'm okay. My love for him is beyond words. It grows by the minute.

I'm grateful for my family. I can tell they don't always know how to support me or respond to my grief. I imagine it's not easy. I tend to isolate and hide behind a facade of people pleasing and busyness. Still, they love me unconditionally and I appreciate their sensitivity and understanding.

I'm grateful for recovery. There was a time when I would have drowned my sorrows in food, alcohol, and shopping. Today I am taking an honest, humble look at my life and living one day at a time. I believe in the love and strength that God provides and that His will is ultimately good.

I am grateful for our home. Since Mila's death I have been making small but meaningful changes around the house to help me find comfort, safety, and solace. I have brought Mila home with me in a way by displaying pictures, mementos, and other visual reminders of her short but beautiful life and spirit. 
She is all around us and we speak of her often.



And now onto giving. How do we celebrate Christmas this year when we are hurting? How do we incorporate Mila's life into the many traditions and celebrations we had hoped to share with her? How do we keep her spirit alive during the holidays and all the days in between? We will be doing many things for Mila in the coming weeks. We've had an ornament engraved with her name and Charlie and Sofie picked out a baby rattle ornament to paint (our tradition each year is to have the kids paint an ornament of their choice from the craft store). We bought a Christmas stocking with Mila's name on it, similar to Charlie and Sofie's stockings from Pottery Barn. It is the same stocking I would have purchased for Mila if she were here, but now we plan to fill it with baby toys and gifts to donate to a baby girl in need. We are going to attend the Angel of Hope ceremony in December to celebrate Mila's life and the lives of many other children and babies who left too soon.


I'm sure there will be other ways Mila shows up in our lives this holiday season. This is what I find so amazing - that even though she isn't here, Mila's spirit is present all the time. I feel her, I hear her, and I carry her in ways I never imagined I would. I have no doubt this holiday season will be hard. I plan on being very gentle with myself. I plan on spending as much time alone, with my thoughts and with Mila, as I can. I also plan on playing, laughing, worshiping, and singing. I'm realizing that losing Mila is not all about sadness and grief. It is about life, gratitude, and a new direction.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

the smallest jar

This is from the comment I posted after reading this post on Glow In The Woods.

This post was heart wrenching because it feels so familiar. Our baby's ashes are in a bag, in a white plastic container, in a safe, in the basement. I wish I could carry them in my pocket. I would like to get an urn. It's time to do this.

As I was reading this I was thinking of my own answers to those difficult questions. I've said too much, and then I've wished I said more. I want to lie, and pretend she's here, but I want to honor her, too. Then, I started reading the comments for this post and noticed the date. July 1, 2011. The day Mila was born and died. Maybe I was supposed to read this tonight, four months after she came and left too soon.

Time is easing my pain, but I am still weary, especially today. I miss my baby and I am overwhelmed at the thought of moving on.


I appreciate those of you who ask how I'm doing, who are allowing me to be in this painful place, knowing it is not forever. I am honored when you say Mila's name. I say her name often. I breathe it in and then out, like I'm breathing in her life, her spirit, her love and breathing it back out into the world. I like when people ask me what she looked like, or what my pregnancy was like. This is how I remember her and her life. This is how she lives within me now.

I've had some awkward moments lately where I have to share all over again about losing Mila, or I have to answer the question I don't yet have an answer for. How many kids do you have? I try to think of what Mila would want me to say. My answer changes depending on the situation, it always will, I think. Sometimes I can say I have four year old twins and a daughter who died during childbirth. Other times I can say that I have three children. All I can do in each moment is pray for strength and courage to do what feels right and what is in my heart at the time.

I wear a necklace that my sister in law gave me in the hospital that says 'courage'. It was given to her at a difficult time in her life and she passed it on to me. I've worn it every day since I've been home and I like to think it gets me through the tough spots in each day. I thought recently about taking it off, as I hope to get a necklace honoring Mila and her life. Today I put it on again, knowing I would need it. I had to prepare the dentists' office for our visit tomorrow by telling them what happened. I didn't want to explain everything in front of Charlie and Sofie in the middle of their dental appointment. I needed courage today to share what happened. After my phone call I walked outside and felt a cool breeze. Was that Mila? I think it was. Once again, she told me that she knows, and that it's going to be alright.

Monday, October 24, 2011

theme song


Today on the way home from the park, we listened to Elizabeth Mitchell's sweet version of this song. It's like my theme song for Mila, Charlie and Sofie. Mila came to me in a dream when I was first home from the hospital. I held her and she looked up at me as I nursed her. I awoke with a feeling of contentment and peace, followed by the inevitable sadness that it was only a dream. Each morning, however, I am greeted by Charlie and Sofie with hugs and smiles. They are the light on an otherwise dark and heavy day. They are saving me.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey.
You'll never know, dear, how much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away.

The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping
I dreamed I held you in my arms.
When I awoke, dear, I was mistaken
So I hung my head and cried.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.
You make me happy when skies are grey.
You'll never know, dear, how much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away.

video

Monday, October 17, 2011

time

I am grateful, from the bottom of my heart, that I have shared the life of my loved one. And I trust that someday my happiness, as I remember our life together, will far outweigh the grief I feel now.

This is today's meditation in the book I am reading Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief by Martha Whitmore Hickman. I've read that we measure time differently when we are grieving. How long has it been since I felt Mila's life inside me? Three months, 18 days, and maybe a few hours. I am unfortunately reminded a lot lately that I was just recently pregnant. My hair is falling out. During pregnancy, hormones, plus all of those prenatal vitamins, cause my head to hold onto all my hair. It's incredibly thick and curly. Now that I'm not pregnant and my hormones have adjusted, my body is letting go of all this hair. I pull out a handful every time I brush my hair or pull my fingers through it. In the ICU the nurses struggled to keep my huge head of hair out of the way. Now, it is probably half as thick as it was then. When this happened after Charlie and Sofie were born, I cut it all off so people didn't notice the bald spots near my forehead. This time I've promised myself I'll keep it long. I was going to do that, since a pony tail would be the easiest with four year old twins and a baby.

I tend to think a lot lately about what was happening a year ago. One year ago, Chris and I had a wonderful secret. We had tried for another baby, this time without rigorous, expensive fertility treatments, and it happened. I was giddy as I felt disgustingly nauseous every day. I was starting to wonder how long I would fit into my clothes before people started to wonder. We anxiously awaited Thanksgiving so we could share our news with everyone. Once again, I felt like a walking miracle.

Tonight I was thinking about how there will never again be that feeling. My body is done carrying babies and it is not something I would have chosen at the age of 34. As long as I keep doing what I do with diet and exercise, there will be no need for my 'fat jeans', bigger bras, or larger winter coats. This is it for my body, so I might as well get comfortable. I know that I need to clean my closet and get rid of the maternity clothes, nursing bras, and the shirts I had reserved for spit up and leaking breasts. There's just no need and no room for those things right now. I'd love to think that we might someday have another baby to feed and burp, but not today, and I'm trying to live in today.

The fact that Mila isn't here is the hardest thing to accept these days. I miss her so much. I didn't hold her, really, so I don't know how she would have felt in my arms. I ache like I'm waiting for someone to hand her to me and no one ever does. In 12 Step programs they talk about "acting as if". It is suggested that the addict act as if God, or a Higher Power will remove the compulsive or addictive behavior. I decided recently that I would like to "act as if" with Mila. I would like to act as if she is here with me all the time. I have started talking to her, breathing in her spirit when I feel weak and heavy with grief. This past Saturday we had family photos taken, took Charlie and Sofie out to lunch, and spent a fun day together as a family of four. It was a great day and I decided that I would take Mila with me all day. Her spirit was with us; laughing when we laughed, filling my soul whenever there was a gust of fall air. When the day was over, I wished I was tucking her in with Charlie and Sofie. I wished I was bouncing her on my leg while we read stories. I cried like I do every night, hugged my husband, and tried to remember that it was finally a good day. My prayer is that there are more good days like Saturday, that I can treat myself gently, and that I will feel Mila's spirit every day. Mommy loves you, sweet baby girl.


Monday, October 10, 2011

changing the perspective



So after last week's therapy session (naturally, I'm getting help with all of this grief stuff), I made a plan to change the environment around me, my home where I live and work, so as to make it softer on my eyes. I added some new candles to the living room and the kitchen table. The idea of bringing more light into my life, even as the days get shorter and darker, feels so comforting. We took a family trip to IKEA this weekend and bought a new bookcase for Charlie and Sofie's room (I swear we now have every color, shape and size of the Expedit series of shelving). I also bought a new duvet cover for our bed and put up some curtains in our bedroom. For all of my pregnancies I sat in that bed staring at the same red plaid duvet cover. Since I've been home from the hospital I've spent many nights curled up under the covers, crying and aching with physical and emotional pain. The new cover is white with a grey, floral design. It is lighter and prettier, although probably not a purchase I would have made if I was busy breastfeeding, pumping , and burping all over the covers of our bed. I wish Mila and I were snuggling up together on that dingy, old duvet cover, but I'm looking for ways to make what is new and different feel ok.

Today I feel grateful for my life. My therapist also told me that it's okay to let grief and joy sit side by side together. I look around my house and am grateful that I am healthy and able to clean, organize, and decorate my home. Today I delighted in playing follow the leader with Charlie as we hopped on and off of cushions and then ran up the stairs with ease, rather than being achy and unable to walk like when I first came home from the hospital.

I think about Charlie and Sofie's experience this summer, and now, as we talk about their baby sister and where she fits in our family. This week we are supposed to bring pictures of family members to school to make a family tree. I absolutely want Charlie and Sofie to share about their sister with others, but it's a strange situation to be in. After years of planning and teaching these same kinds of activities, I know that no preschool teacher would expect a few photos to cause stress and anxiety. Do I ignore the short but beautiful life Mila lived in order to save face in front of other people in the class? Do I bring in a picture of my stillborn daughter because she is thought of and spoken about so much that she might as well be here? (and risk being one of those people.) We've decided for now to keep the pictures of Mila out of the classroom, and glue them onto the family tree as soon as we get home. I told the kids that I didn't want their friends or the other parents to be sad if they saw a picture of their sister who died. These are the situations that just suck. Every day I find a little more grace . . . and then a reminder of what has happened. I'm told the day will come when the grief isn't so sharp and powerful. I am changing my perspective and trying to look down the road to that day.

Friday, October 7, 2011

My privilege

After I attended a workshop for women who had experienced a traumatic birth experience, one of the facilitators shared an e-book with me called Picking Up the Pieces by Alana Burton Sheeren. It's an amazing collection of stories and exercises on grief. On her blog, Alana shares about what she does and why. Her writing has been a recent inspiration as I begin to walk forward.

Laura

My privilege

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

the dryness



While I was in the hospital I had a lot of strange dreams, visions, and hallucinations. Some were silly and psychedelic, obviously caused by the sedatives and paralytic drugs I was on. Others were loosely based on the sounds and events going on around me while I was sedated or coming out of sedation. There were also dreams or thoughts that told of past or future events, as if I was more open to the energy and experiences of those in the room, even though I had no other way of knowing these things. I was confused and disoriented when I woke from sedation and hadn't remembered right away that Mila was no longer with us. I thought that the twins we lost in 2006 were also here, that we had 3 newborn babies waiting at home for their mama. I realized quickly that this wasn't my reality, even though it seemed very real for a short time.

Sleeping was difficult while I stayed in the hospital. I was uncomfortable, lonely, and heartbroken. I missed my husband and my children. The beds in the hospital were so awful that I had to have several physical therapy sessions to get my body aligned properly again once I got home. Nighttime felt creepy with so many lights, sounds, and interruptions from nurses to check vitals or administer meds. The first few nights out of ICU I had some very vivid, disturbing dreams. I don't remember what exactly took place, but there was a common theme. The best way I can describe it is dry.

In one of the dreams we lived in a rural area. We were in an old farmhouse surrounded by trees, and various animals such as dogs, goats, and chickens. It was fall, but the air was dry and stale. The ground was hard and dusty. Rather than soft, tender leaves that have just left their branches, it was covered with dry, crunchy leaves that broke into pieces when you walked on them. Everything was brown and dead, waiting for the first snowfall to make everything look fresh and clean again.

In another dream we were inside a different home, it was an autumn night and outside the air was dry. Lights from our home illuminated the trees with gold and brown leaves, but beyond our yard it was dark and dangerous. We couldn't let our children outside for fear that the wild animals would attack them.

The colors and feelings of both these dreams were the same; ugly yellows and browns, dark, dry, stale, hard, sharp. They are the same as my feelings of grief: dark, dry, hard.

It's October and this has been an unusually dry fall so far in Minnesota. I am almost haunted by the resemblance to my hospital dreams when I'm doing the dishes after dinner and gaze out of the kitchen window. I used to love fall. It was my favorite season. Now, fall is painful. My grief is at its heaviest right now and I wonder if I will always associate these dry, autumn days with the deep loss and sadness I've experienced. I feel the same way in early spring, when the air is cold and the trees have not yet sprung to life. We miscarried at 18 weeks in March of 2006 and those cold dreary days always remind me of the loss we experienced then.

I usually surround myself with colors and textures that comfort, soothe, and inspire me. Most of the time, these have been the rich, warm colors of fall. Now, I want a cooler palate. I crave gray, white, and aquamarine colors. I want to feel things that are refreshing and restorative. I find peace today in things that are soft, smooth, and light. I indulge in clean water washing over me or a crisp, clean sheet. The meditation book I've been reading on grief says that I can ask God to supply and surround me with the things I need to feel better. Today I pray that God guide me towards all the things that bring me peace, comfort, and relief.




Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mila Louise


I've been meaning to update the blog. I've turned it into my blog, my place to write and share all that is in my head and in my heart at any given moment. I'll continue to document our lives with our funny, smart, adorable, four year old twins, but for now. I need this space to be for me.

It's time to start, so here's what happened.

On Friday, July 1, 2011, our beautiful baby girl arrived silently. She was stillborn. After 18 hours of fairly normal labor, Mila entered and then left our world. She was not breathing and they could  not resuscitate her. She and I had been attacked by a deadly bacteria. Our daughter's lungs were so full of infection when I delivered her that there was no room for a first breath. After 45 minutes they told us there was nothing they could do. In the meantime, I was bleeding, and they could not stop it. I had an emergency hysterectomy and was in a drug induced coma for 12 days. I almost died. I asked my dad a few weeks ago if I also had respiratory failure in addition to renal failure. He said I had all kinds of failure. My body was shutting down. I awoke on July 12, 2011 and left North Memorial Hospital on July 19, 2011. Since then I have been trying to find comfort, meaning, purpose, and peace while we grieve the loss of our baby and try to rejoice that I am alive today.

I have so many thoughts, so many emotions. They change not only daily, but every hour and every minute. I think this is why I need to start writing. My brain hurts from so much thinking, and my eyes burn from crying. Mila would be three months old today. What I hate today is that as much as I dreamed and imagined how great our family would be when she arrived, I can't picture her being here now. I don't know what she would look like, what she would be doing, or how Charlie and Sofie would be relating to her. All the things we were so excited to experience have faded. Today I am not the mother of twins and a newborn baby. I am a mother whose baby has died.

I held Mila for just a few moments, kissed her and said goodbye while doctors and nurses scurried gracefully around me. I don't remember what she looked like then, I only have the pictures Chris took with his phone and the professional photos taken by the nonprofit organization, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. I have studied these pictures, trying to burn into my brain the image of my baby so that I never forget how she looked. She was a perfect mix of Charlie and Sofie, of Chris and I. Unlike my little, preemie twins, Mila weight 8 pounds, 8 ounces. She was round and cute, with her daddy's cheeks and my nose. I didn't get to look at her body, touch her skin, or hold her until she felt heavy in my arms. Chris held her the most, especially while I was in surgery. He cried all over her and then handed her over to her big sister, brother, and her devastated grandparents and aunt. Other people held her too, my aunts, my brother and sister in law, my grandmother. I'm glad she was held by them when I couldn't be there. I will always cherish the life I held while she grew inside me. I've always loved being pregnant, and I hope I never forget how as my belly grew, so did my love for Mila.

This blog is for me. It's a place I want to record and organize my thoughts, my memories, and the things that make me feel normal. I will post pictures of Mila. I never understood how parents could share photos of their dead babies so openly, but now I do. Mila was perfect. To me, she looks like she's sleeping. I look at her face and say her name many times each day. It's the only way I can keep her close, and hold her, even though she left so soon.

Laura