Wednesday, October 22, 2014

It's complicated.

Grief is complicated. Parenting is complicated. Parenting through grief is super complicated. Yesterday was a day that I am not particularly proud of. I yelled at my kids, shamed my son for accidentally smacking me in the face, and asked the tired and hungry babies to please shut up while they were screaming at me from their high chairs. I joined Sofie's class on a field trip to the fire department, but really wished I could have just gone for a massage. I threw toys on purpose because they were in my way and I was tired of stepping on them. I finally got out of the house in the evening to attend my baby loss support group (which I hadn't been to in months), but the heaviness of my day made talking about Mila even harder. I cried all the way home, wishing things weren't so hard some days.

Life is hard.

My mom and sister and I went to see the movie This is Where I Leave You a few weeks ago. It's about four adult siblings whose father has just died. The movie is all about relationships and I sobbed through the whole thing thinking, "Life is so hard some times! Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Balancing work and home is hard. Friendships are hard. Losing a child is hard. Going back to school is hard. Having an aging spouse or parent is hard. Ugh. It's a really good movie, but ugh.

The thing I feel so awful about right now is that my grief has paralyzed me in times when I feel I should be more present, more responsible, more attentive, more creative, more thoughtful. Grief makes it almost impossible to process or cope with anything out of the ordinary. I want to rejoice in my children and the beautiful blessings they are, but I am stuck. I am tired, and I always feel like something or someone is missing. I want to create happy memories with my family; taking trips, playing, crafting, singing, dancing, but I am exhausted and overwhelmed by the idea of simply keeping four children safe and healthy. Earlier this fall, Sofie wanted to join Girl Scouts with all of her friends, but I convinced her that it would make our week too busy. The truth was that I was too tired and overwhelmed to commit to anything else. Now she feels left out and so do I. Grief makes me want to isolate and hide, but this time I kept something really fun from my daughter and I can't make it right. Would I be a better parent if I wasn't full of regret, grief, anger, and sorrow? I'm pretty sure.

I feel like Charlie and Sofie got the best of me. I was thrilled and grateful beyond words to be their mama. I felt like after years of infertility and an excruciating miscarriage, I had been given the world. I was alive. Their first three years were filled with laughter, silliness, creativity, and attention. Then, I wanted more and things went horribly wrong. Ellis and Julian are such blessings and I want to give them the same experiences that their older brother and sister had, but I am a different mama now. As a licensed teacher, I have all of the education and tools to create a positive, loving, early childhood for them, but grief and self pity rear their ugly heads at least once a day and I am toast. I have lost some of my tolerance, patience, and compassion for others, including my own husband and children. Now, when I see the mom ignoring or yelling at her kids in public, even though I still judge her a little, I can relate. I think, "That poor woman must really be hurting." I get it. It's not easy being responsible for other humans, and then to have to be cheerful and positive all the time while your heart is broken?

I've become a mama bear (even more than I was before). When your child (or children) die, you will do anything to prevent it from happening again. I can't stand to see my children hurt, left out, or bullied. I have started to speak up for my babies in ways I never knew I would have to. I've yelled at the neighbor kid for pushing Sofie around. I walked to the bus stop to scare the 5th grader that thinks he can force Charlie to the back of the line or push him into oncoming traffic. I stopped a car in the alley that was driving too fast and told the driver that my children are playing outside and if I ever see him driving like that again I will call the police. Booyah!

I just don't want my children to hurt like I do. I want my kids to feel normal, included, and loved. I want to be enthusiastic and fearless. I want to fight for them and for their dreams. I know, life is full of disappointment and hurt and it can make us stronger, but I'm not there quite yet. A dear friend of mine shared the idea that if we want to enjoy our time on earth, we must delight in every moment. Every moment. Pain or joy, it is all part of the soul's experience . . . the human experience. I wish I could remember that.

I guess what I want to tell every friend of mine, every parent, every teacher, every family member, is that I'm trying. I'm trying to show up. I'm trying to remember the best ways to teach and discipline my children. I'm trying to remember your birthday or anniversary. I'm trying to remember that I'm not the only one in pain. I'm trying to smile and live in the moment. I'm trying to take care of myself. I'm trying to be understanding and patient.

I'm trying.
And tomorrow I'll try again.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Three years

Tonight Chris commented about how even the weather can trigger such strong memories and feelings. Three years ago we had just celebrated my sister's 29th birthday. I was 40 weeks pregnant and ready to pop. I was hoping that Mila would arrive at any minute. I was really ready to be done. Four days later, I went into labor. My water broke at home after a trip to the grocery store with Charlie and Sofie. It was a gorgeous, sunny, summer afternoon.

I have a confession to make. Well, some people already know this, but to the general public it might be a confession. Up until a few months ago, I took doctor-prescribed anti-anxiety drugs. I started taking Sertraline in 2009 after struggling for almost a year with irritable bowel disease. I realized that anytime I was anxious or stressed my gut churned and burned. I was extremely sick for many months and was at the end of my rope, treatment wise. My doctor and I agreed that an SSRI (anti-depressant or anti-anxiety med) might help my mind from sending my body the message to go nuts every time I felt a little nervous or afraid. Thankfully, the medication, along with going gluten and dairy free, helped. I have been in remission from Ulcerative Colitis since August, 2010.

This winter I decided to go off of the anti-anxiety drugs because, thanks to more dietary changes (Paleo!) and making time for some self-care, I felt I didn't need medication to feel peaceful and at ease. Besides, the medication made me feel totally numbed out and exhausted. At times it even made me feel suicidal. Believe me, the last thing this busy, grieving mama needs to feel is suicidal. It was so scary!

So, the reason I'm sharing all of this is because for the first time in over four years, I'm feeling my feelings. For real. Since 2009, I've been numbed out on anti-anxiety meds. I haven't had a deep sense of compassion, empathy, sadness, or joy since before we conceived Mila. When I woke up from my coma, after Mila died, my doctors made absolute sure that I took my Sertraline every day. Not only was I in a state of complete physical and emotional shock, but I was taking meds to make sure my body didn't freak out after so much trauma. Today, off of my anti-anxiety meds and feeling my feelings, I wonder if I haven't finished grieving because, for the two and a half years after we lost our baby, my true emotions were somewhat inhibited. 

My mom cries at everything. My sister cries at everything. Now that I am off my meds, I cry at everything. I cried at Sofie's dance recital this spring, and she wasn't even on stage yet. I cry at commercials, while listening to Disney's Frozen songs in the car, and when I think a child might be the victim of bullying or discrimination. I've never cried in front of my kids, ever! Now, I can't control the water works!

Sometimes it's funny how sensitive I've become, how real I feel now. It's actually refreshing. But the reason I'm writing, the reason I'm going to hit 'publish' and then say, "Crap! What was I thinking?" is because I need people to understand that I'm not amazing, brave, or inspiring. 

I don't know how I'm going to handle Mila's birthday this Tuesday with all of these emotions. I'm feeling overwhelmed. I don't want to celebrate and smile and take the kids to the zoo. I want to crawl under my covers, scream and cry for as long as it takes, and then sit quietly with my baby girl in my heart, listening to her tell me that she's with me, that she's always with me. I want to listen to the songs by Ingrid Michaelson and Mat Kearney that remind me of the permanent emptiness and survivor's guilt I feel. I want to punch my pillow and pull out my hair in anger and disbelief that this happened to me, that it could happen to anyone. Then, maybe later in the day, I can get a hug from my caring husband, smile at my sweet kids, and thank God for the life I have, that I have life.

To the world that sees me now, I'm the mom with two sets of twins. No one who has just met me knows about Mila, about our pain and struggles, but every time someone asks me how I ended up with two sets of twins, or marvels at the uniqueness of our family, I think of Mila. It's all because of her. I just wish everyone knew about her, about how she is the connection between the first and second sets of twins.

She is the reason we are who we are. It is her name that is always on the tip of my tongue.

Happy birthday, my sweet girl.

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)

e.e. cummings

Monday, May 5, 2014

We made it.

Today is a good day. The sun is shining, the babies are sleeping, the house is somewhat clean. Sure, it's not even 10:00 a.m., but so far so good. Right now, I feel at peace.

Yesterday was a different kind of day. It was Ellis and Julian's first birthday. We had a party with grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. My friend and gestational carrier brought her family and we celebrated these wonderful miracles that she helped bring into the world.

At the end of the day I watched some TV and then went to bed. I cried myself to sleep for the third night in a row. Chris asked me last night what was wrong and, honestly, I'm not sure. It's a lot of things. It's always a lot of things. I miss Mila. I wish we had been able to give her a first birthday party like Ellis and Julian's. I feel guilty for wishing she were here when we have been blessed with these amazing baby boys. I feel sad that I didn't carry Ellis and Julian and courageously deliver them like I did Charlie, Sofie, and Mila. I feel relived that the first year with my second set of twins is finally over. I feel sad that we are never going to have a baby in the house. I feel  bad that I didn't feel as happy this last year as I was when Charlie and Sofie were babies. Losing a baby and the ability to conceive does this to you. I feel all of these things, and then I feel ok for a while, and then it happens all over again.

I'm not going to lie, it's been a very difficult year. My rainbow babies (the living babies that follow a loss much like a rainbow that follows a storm) remind me all the time of Mila, of her life and her death. When I feel challenged as a mother, I blame our struggles with infertility and loss and I feel so sorry for myself. Instead of focusing on the new life we have been given, I focus on the storm. Losing Mila and almost dying myself felt like a hurricane that leveled everything for me. Everything. Our new life is wonderful, but I am still rebuilding.

As I adjust to the life I've been given (as opposed to the life I sometimes think I should have), certain things have to go so I can make room for what really matters. Put simply, I'm trying to take care of myself and my spirit rather than spending so much time living up to other people's expectations, standards, and rules. My mantra lately has been "No judgement and no rules!" Sure, balance and boundaries are important, but so is flexibility and understanding. For a while there I wasn't making room for love and understanding. I dismissed all that I've been through. I ignored my intuition and gut-instincts. I tried to compare myself and my experiences to others and let other people guide my thoughts and decisions. The more I did this, the worse I felt. I like to blend in and follow the pack, but now I realize that I must pave my own road.

Obviously, I can't write an entire blog entry in one morning. It's afternoon now and it's still a good day. A new and lovely friend came for a visit. I shared some of these thoughts with her and I feel good that I am starting to express myself without fear. Julian took his typical 30 minute nap and will keep me company for the rest of the day, crawling around the house and then banging his head on my leg until I pick him up. Ellis will nap for a while longer and then wake up happy, ready to play. We will go for a walk and meet Charlie and Sofie at the bus stop. I am grateful for this life.

I love the idea of living in today. Today I am free and I am loved. I am nourished physically and spiritually, not because I am following rules or doing what others say I should do, but because I choose to take care of my body and my soul.

Thanks for reading.