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.