Monday, December 24, 2012

A December to remember


I know December to remember sounds so cliche, so trite -- but that's all I can think of that really sums up this month. December for me is about remembering.

Remembering Christ's birth. Remembering the brief -- but so important -- life of Olivia. Remembering the birth of my precious Madelyn. Remembering the pain of my loss last year. Remembering Christmases with my late grandma. Remembering the baby I should be pregnant with right now. Remembering life before 2012.

And so this month is full of memories and anniversaries.

A few things of significance this month:


We got a call for our very first foster care placement a few weeks ago.  You may have seen my FB posts asking for prayer. Well, this was the reason why.

I got a call from our social worker while I was Christmas shopping. There was a sweet, healthy little girl born the day before. She needed long-term foster parents who would interested in adopting. Would we be interested in being those parents? HECK YES!!!

It's hard to describe the excitement and sheer terror that goes along with trying to get ready for a newborn who could be placed in your home THAT DAY. Ryan and I rushed out to get our vaccines, then got formula and diapers. I tried to contact family. OH, and I was hosting a party at my house that night so I had to get everything clean and ready for that. My family was so excited, even as we knew we still might not be chosen as the family.

I was texting back and forth with our social worker all day, making sure she had all the info she needed, and we were doing what we were supposed to be doing to get ready. She was up front that we were the only family chosen by our agency, but that other agencies were now putting forth prospective families as well for this little girl. She said that we would know for sure the next day.

A friend stayed after the party to help me sort and launder newborn clothes. She left and I folded clothes, packed the diaper bag and got as much ready as I possibly could.

Newborn and preemie clothes, ready to go.

The "go home" outfit I had picked out. 

Grief hit me as I was picking out a go-away outfit. I so wished I had had the chance to do this for Olivia. I wondered if this was our last day as a family of 3. I wondered what she looked like. What I would feel like with her in my arms? With every thought of excitement and joy, I reminded my heart that this wasn't for sure.

My heart was constantly praying. Praying for this precious little girl. Praying for her mom, as they would be separated. Praying for her new family -- hoping all along it would be us.

I don't know that I can describe what it's like going to bed knowing that there is a very good chance you will have a newborn daughter tomorrow -- but that there is still a chance that tomorrow will go just like every other day. How do you even emotionally deal with that? Hope and fear coexisting in your heart. Giving entirely into hope doesn't feel right -- but neither does giving into fear.

So I don't think I did a very good job of balancing those emotions. I got 2 hours of sleep and was completely sick to my stomach the whole night up until we got the call.

My nerves were on edge, I was restless and every call or text made me jump or cuss under my breath. I hate to say it -- but it's true. My sister called while I was taking a shower, and I cussed out loud, hair full of shampoo, and ran out of the shower to answer the call. But -- seeing as it was just my sister -- I hopped back in the hot water and ignored the call, irritated really that it wasn't our social worker.

Finally, as I held the phone in my hand literally at that moment asking God to "PLEASE just let them call!" our social workers' name popped up on the screen.

She called to let us know another family was chosen for this baby.

And there it was. Nothing left to do. All excitement, hope, planning . . . it all seemed wasted and pointless. I felt gutted, even as I did the very best I could at preparing for this call. I cried, a lot. And sadly let everyone know the news. And I grieved. It wasn't a death -- but it felt like a loss. I wondered why. I still do.

I put everything away right away. Although I didn't unpack the diaper bag. I just stowed it away. I guess it's my little bit of rebellion and stubbornness that we WILL have a reason to bring a baby home someday.

I later called the social worker to find out why. And to find out if this situation was normal. After all, in all our training, I was never told we might get a call for a placement, but then be passed up in favor of another family.

She said she didn't know why. But that she was both shocked and very disappointed when she heard the news herself. She said sometimes the worker will chose one family over the other just because one family might live a little closer to where the visitation would be.  She had been talking with the person who made the decision quite a bit the day before, and believed that we were going to be chosen as the foster family. I think the news was hard on all of us.

She also said that in cases where a healthy infant is involved we should expect this kind of roller coaster. That there will be times we will prepare our home, but not get the placement. In a very weird kind of way, it's like buying a house and hoping you have the best bid. Except this is a human being, and you are just hoping you are the "best" family for this little one.

It all seems very strange.

People have said very well-meaning things, but I have to say, it doesn't really help. I have no way of knowing if God was "sparing" me from some worse pain of losing her 2 years later. This year has taught me enough to know that God doesn't always share His plan, and it doesn't always make sense to us. Nor is His best interest always sparing us from things.

I can't say I take much comfort in God's plan -- because frankly -- I don't like it. But I do take comfort in His character as that's the best I can do.

I still pray for that baby. And maybe that's just my purpose in finding out about her. To  pray for her as though she were my own -- while knowing some other family will love her like their own.

A crib I hoped would be full this Christmas.
Instead, it's been empty in Maddy's room for over a year and a half.

We had a candlelight memorial service for our babies (and the babies lost to the women in our pregnancy loss support group.)

It was beautiful service and I so appreciated the donations and volunteer time it took to get it going. Many of you don't know, but I'm an assistant in our group now, and so this was my first big event helping out.

It was nice to have our family there -- to publicly acknowledge my children's lives and grieve together. We haven't had a chance to do that, and it was very meaningful to me.

December 20 was the 1-year anniversary of our loss of Olivia.

The night before was harder for me emotionally than the day of. I grieve the day our child died. I also remember the pain, the blood, the surgery, the recovery -- all of it. It was a very stressful, very painful day in my life . . . so my memories were flooded the night before of all that day entailed.

The anniversary day wasn't as bad. My sister is in town, and my other sister came too, so I got to spend the day with them. I also got a hair cut, and some clothes. I spent a lot of time with my family. I remembered her all day -- but the hard grief (thankfully) wasn't there.

Maddy turns 4 this week, and it's so hard to believe.

This is the first year I'm throwing her a party and inviting 2 friends. We should have a lot of people in our home. Normally I'm just the throw something together kind of person for parties -- but I want to make this year special for her. I guess because this year I've realized that you can never take a birthday for granted.

Trust me. I will be CELEBRATING the life of my little girl this week.

Many people have asked recently how I'm doing, and I'm going to be very honest. I'm not doing the greatest.

For those of you who follow my blog know about my hesitation to start anti-depressants because I don't like how I feel on them, and I don't think grief is a mental disorder. However, at this point I can logically admit that my grief has become overwhelming -- and is impairing me from functioning normally. So anti-depressants it is.

This is uncharacteristic of me, but I'm going to ask a favor. For most of my posts, I crave comments. I crave knowing that people care, and hearing people's words of affirmation. But I have to admit that sometimes sprinkled in those words from wonderful people are hurtful comments -- or at least comments that I stumble to get over.

I truly feel I need to base all my affirmation in God right now and seek Him and His comfort. So if you read this post and in some way it encouraged you, feel free to "like" it if you want. However, for this post, I'm going to ask that you chose to not comment on this blog or my FB post.

Instead, I will assume that with every page view in my stats -- with every "like" on FB -- a prayer is going up for me and my family. That each number or name represents someone who cares very much and wants the best for me and for our family.

And that -- combined with God's Word -- will give me the comfort I need at this time.

Love to you all. And hoping you have a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A year and counting

A year ago today, I peed on a stick.

It doesn't exactly seem like a day you would commemorate. Or post about on Facebook. Or write a blog about.

It was just supposed to be a fun day to look back on.

I knew I'd remember how happy and at peace I was. How my sister cried when I told her. How happy (and shocked) my mom was. How everything just felt so right.

But on that day, I certainly didn't think I would commemorate December 3 as an anniversary.

You see, it was just supposed to be the start. A very good day that should have been trumped by LOTS of good days and significant anniversaries to come.

First, there should have been the weekly ritual of counting week to week, month to month. Of comparing my baby to a vast assortment of fruits and vegetables, and taking belly shots to share with friends and family. Then the celebration of passing through each trimester.

There was supposed to be the first day of feeling the baby move. The first kick Ryan would feel. THe first ultrasound. Finding out the sex. Having a gender-reveal party with blue or pink filled cupcakes.

Then there should have been D-day. A day that I would remember for the rest of my life. The day I would always recount with friends and family.  The first time seeing our baby. The first snuggle. The first kiss.

There should have been the diaper change, first bath, first smile, the first time eating solid foods, the first tooth, the first time sitting, the first time sleeping through the night. The first word, the first stand, the first step. The first Christmas, Easter and Birthday.

When I peed on that stick, I expected a lifetime of firsts.

Instead, I have one first to celebrate. The first day I knew Olivia Joy Lewis had entered our lives for a time -- and our hearts forever.

So today, I think of her. And I celebrate the only first we have to celebrate.

I also mourn today. Of course, I'm mourning that her life was so short.

But today, I mostly mourn me.

I am mourning who I have become in this last year, and who I still am becoming. I mourn the loss of my innocence and naivity. I mourn for the brokenness that is always in my spirit.

I have read the words of a grieving father where he explains that everything he experiences is filtered through with the loss of his daughter. He feels he cannot separate anything from his loss. I resonate with that.

"Arbonne is going great." (Olivia is dead.)
"Maddy is wonderful." (I hate that I can't give her a sibling.)
"What a beautiful day." (I feel barren and broken.)
"I just love the holidays." (My womb is empty. My arms are empty. And my heart feels bitter.)
"I'm so excited for this next year and what it could bring." (I am dreading this next year. Will I have another loss to grieve?

Everything I say is true. It's just that each sentiment that accompanies it is equally true.

I wish I could just take this whole year back.

Some people have told me that they find me deeper, stronger, more caring since our loss. A few have told me I'm weaker, less committed, less spiritual. A part of me still cares very deeply about how others view me. But I mostly care about who I see on the inside.

I feel like I've become someone you have to walk on eggshells around. Super sensitive to anything pregnancy/baby related. Any wrong word could make me weather an emotional storm for days or weeks, or months. Some words I'm still trying to get over.

The world feels unsafe and full of grief-triggers. Everywhere I go, I feel vulnerable to reminders. They pop up at unexpected places, and I often find myself pretending to be fine when inside there is a war raging in my heart. "Oh," I hear myself say. "Your baby is just so cute!" All the while, I just want to blurt out "I was supposed to have a baby, too. She would have been this age. You have no idea how lucky you are that your daughter is alive, and healthy and breathing. Do you know what a miracle your child is? Do you fully appreciate what you hold in your arms?"

I feel bitter inside. I hear of pregnancies, and my first thought is "Why not me, God?" When pregnancy-loss friends complain about pregnancies, it's still hard to wonder why they are complaining about being pregnant. Of course, I get that they shouldn't HAVE to do it again. But what about me? I so WANT to do it again, but God's not letting me. Why did I also have a loss . . . then have to wait. Then have another loss. And now I'm back to waiting?

Bitter. Could there be a worse adjective to describe yourself as?  Sad -- not really a fun adjective, but at least acceptable. Jealous -- none of us admit it, but we all go there. Depressed -- even that isn't taboo anymore.

But bitter? About innocent babies and pregnant women? Could you GET less Christian?

Today, Maddy was whining about everything, and I was just about to the end of my rope. (OH, and did I mention I'm much less patient with her nowadays?)

I was so tired of hearing the whining, and I tried every ploy in the book to get it to stop. It was just annoying. I just wanted to yell at her, "Would you JUST get over it already???"

Sometimes I want to yell at myself the same thing. "Would you JUST get over Olivia already? Just get OVER your miscarriage? Just get OVER your difficulty getting pregnant. Would you JUST get over yourself? Everyone's tired of hearing of it. You've cried the same tears, written the same blogs, and spent the same sleepless nights tossing and turning in bed. Would you just freaking get over it???"

But I can't.

Trust me. I hate it. I HATE how I feel inside.

But no matter how many times I see the counselor, no matter how many books I read, no matter how many prayers I pray, I have to learn to live with this new me.

The one who cries a lot, the one that feels angry, jealous and bitter. The one who never feels safe anymore. The one who has a hard time believing in good things. The one who struggles to laugh. The one who needs less time with people, and more time by herself. The one who sometimes hurts others by what she says. The one who is so easily hurt by others. The one who struggles to fully trust God. The one that shys away from others, even from those who are well-meaning. The one who often feels like a crappy friend, wife and mom.

I wish I felt more like celebrating today.