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.

Monday, October 17, 2011


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.


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.