Monday, June 17, 2013

What everyone else thinks

I just read some of the criticism I had received a year ago on my blog about Facebook.

When I first read it, I was so overcome with sadness and hurt. Actually, we drove to my parents, and I was so upset, my parents thought someone had died.

Seriously. Not joking.

[In case you ever wondered if your comments leave an impact, and you should choose words carefully when commenting on someone's grief journey-- the answer is a resounding YES!]

But now that a year has gone by, I gave myself permission to reread the hurtful words. In spite of the fact that the hole in my heart is a little less raw, their words still hurt. But at least I can be a little more cerebral about it now.

It's really strange to me that some people are so opinionated on the right way to grieve. As though grief could possibly be the same for every person, in every situation. As though there is a manual for grief, and a very specific timeline.

Apparently (implied by this person) there is a very *short* time period in which its OK to grieve. 4 months? WAY overstepping the bounds of good, Christian grief.

 It's strange that someone could tell me that 4 months outside of my loss of Olivia, that I was essentially (and quite willingly) stuck in my grief. Not just unable to move on to hope and healing. But intentionally not willing.

Like a stubborn donkey standing in his own crap, unwilling to budge but complaining about the smell.

It is bizarre to think that grief could not be "Christian" enough.

It is strange for people to think that by writing a blog about MY feelings -- about asking for what I needed from my friends -- I somehow have the power to hold people hostage in my pain.

Gosh, what a horrible word picture to attribute to someone.

Yep. According that commenter, I'm the guy with the gun. And the woman would be every joyfully, happy pregnant person out there.

Because that's me -- the angry, bitter person that intends to scare the crap out of every pregnant person, waving my pain around like a deadly weapon -- while at the same time keeping everyone else at bay. Who knew!?!?

It is strange that someone feels they have the right to call my grief "filth."  This person may as well have called Olivia "filth." To this person, my honest words are nothing more than trash. And my simple question about blogging is suddenly a twisted plot to make money off of my daughter's death.

Please hear me out on this one thing: I'm seriously not recalling all of this to you because I'm in need of attention, or assurance, or some sort of empathy. Because I'm not.

I'm just thinking it through because THIS IS WHY PEOPLE REMAIN SILENT.

Ignorance paired with a big mouth. Intentional bullying. Bad theology, innocently handed out. An opinion given as fact. Unintentional invalidation.


Not just these words given to me.

But the words give out to every woman who has lost a child. The invalidation of their loss. "It was just tissue." "God needed another angel." "God won't give you more than you can handle." "It's been 1 week -- so are you over it yet?" "I know just how you feel -- my pet hamster died last week."

This is why women feel alone when they grieve. This is why we don't talk about miscarriage! Or stillbirth! Or any death!

Because we are already so stinking vulnerable. Death in some form has stripped all our defenses and made us realize how utterly out of control we truly are. It has proven that love is not enough. That sometimes, we can't fight hard enough to keep our kids alive. That what should be the safest place on earth can actually a harbinger for death.

Not cool.

So you're already down, already scared, and angry and hurt, and here come along these WORDS. The words you try to erase from your mind. The comparisons. The equations that always ends up with you on the lesser end.

I wish those words would stop. I wish somehow, we all just knew exactly the right thing to say to someone in their time of grief. I wish we could all feel safe to share just how much we hurt, without the time lines, the judgments, the assumptions about our character.

I wish that I knew all the right things to say. I wish I was always that safe person. I wish I never hurt people in their pain.

But I'm so not perfect, (soooooooooooooooo not perfect) and I still struggle, too.

The other day, I was at the doctor's, and the nurse practitioner apologized for my miscarriage. "Oh, it's OK," I said much more nonchalantly than I felt. "It's my third in a row, so it should be old-hat to me, right? I should be over it."

"No," she says quietly but heavily. "I've had a miscarriage. You don't ever get over it."

Silly, not-thinking me. To assume that my hurt was the only one in the room that day. That my feelings were the only ones that counted. Perhaps she told me she was sorry, because she desperately meant it. Perhaps she needed me to let her know I was sorry for her too. Perhaps, she needed to hear from someone else her baby mattered. That her baby was not "old-hat."

Perhaps by invalidating my experience -- I had just invalidated hers.

It is so hard to be honest. So easy for all of us to hide.

Those of us who are grieving hide so we don't have to open ourselves up to more hurt. We lie about how we are because somehow, we seem more "ok" that way to everyone else. We nurse our heart silently, because we're so afraid of what everyone else thinks.

And those of us who are watching from the outside hide because we are terrified to further hurt those who already flat-down on their faces. We're afraid of saying the wrong thing -- so we say nothing. We're afraid of the timing, or the delivery, or all the what-ifs.

I get it.

But I also have seen how so much healing has come forth from being honest about where you're at.

And not even just related to grief. But being honest that sometimes being a mom is hard. Sometimes your house is so dirty it's embarrassing. Sometimes your marriage isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Sometimes your relationship with God is riddled by doubt and disbelief.

And I've seen how healing it can be to open your mouth and speak words of life. Words of empathy, and understanding, and love. I know the balm a heartfelt card on a hard day is. I know how a little gift, or a meal, or some time away can be EXACTLY what brings light and hope to our day.

I wish we had a perfect world where words intended to heal never hurt. And where words intended to hurt always healed.

But that's not life.

So in this mess of honesty, and transparency, and grief . . . my real wish is that we can muster up the courage to meaningfully share without building undue walls around our hearts. That we do so with grace -- letting go of expectations that everyone else has to be perfectly supportive. And with mercy -- offering a heart full of forgiveness when that hurtful word (intended or not) is spoken.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sibling rivalry

I used to wonder if there were sibling rivalry in heaven.

If our babies can see us (and I don't know if they can or not)... But if they could... Would they be up there comparing notes?

Would Baby Lewis turn to Olivia Joy and say, "You know... Mom had a lot harder time when she lost you. I think she loves you more." or "Hey... So why did mom publicly give you such a great name, and I'm stuck at Baby? As though I'm just a generic little thing?"

I'm clinging to the fact that they are perfect now... So I have to believe they are perfectly understanding, and know that I love them all the same. Even if it doesn't look or feel all the same to me.

I think about what Baby Lewis and Olivia talk about up there. Do they joke about the fact that mom got their genders all confused (???). Do they look at me with longing, or sadness, or just love and happiness?

Do they know their aunts and uncles up there? The siblings I have but haven't had a chance to meet. Is it like one big, amazing reunion that never ends?

What was the reception like, I wonder, when we lost our littlest one recently? Were my other two babies there to greet him?

Back to Baby Lewis....

When I decided to refer to him by that name, it was more because I had decided on a name, but Ryan wasn't 100% on board. And maybe I had hoped that Baby Lewis would have been our only other loss. But now that we have two more... What am I to name this newest baby?

Baby Lewis 2.0, the newest model?

Ummm... No.

So, here are my babies' names. (sorry ryan, I hope you like them.)

Olivia Joy -- 7 weeks
Caleb Michael -- 8 weeks (otherwise known as Baby Lewis)
Elliott James--- 5 weeks

Part of why I name my babies is because their personhood is so important to me. Their little personalities and physical traits may not have had the opportunity to develop... But they were already designed. They existed ... Even if none of us got to see it.

The other reason is because I now have been pregnant 4 times. I have had 1 live baby. It is much easier, I think, to categorize my experience by name ... Not by pregnancy number.

"I wasn't sick at all with Baby Lewis and Olivia. I was desperately sick with Maddy and somewhere in the middle with Elliott " is much easier for me, than to say:

"pregnancy # 2-3, I wasn't sick for. Pregnancy with maddy was awful. Pregnancy #4 was somewhere in the middle."

Besides the name issue... Recurrent loss is just a confusing place to be.

I have felt each loss differently. I have responded accordingly.

Each loss gets easier to deal with. And harder at the same time.

With Olivia, I was rocked to the core. Grief was new to me. Living with death was new to me. I didn't know if I could survive intact. I didn't know if my family could survive. I had to become a new person. My world had forever changed.

With Caleb (Baby Lewis), my grief was compounded. My grandma died at the same time. I had to function in spite of my loss... Take a trip to KY, attend a funeral, mourn two deaths simultaneously, and work Arbonne. In fact, the day my miscarriage started was the day I had a big Arbonne event my upline (and friend) flew in for.

She did the hard work to organize it, and thankfully, did most of the presenting. But I stillI pulled myself out of bed, put on my dress and heels, and got out there.

With Caleb, grief was not new... But it was changed. I realized that maybe I was dealing with a recurrent issue. Maybe my body really was screwed up.

Caleb is the only one we planned for. It took way too long (in my opinion) to get pregnant with him. We knew we would probably lose him from the get-go. But I don't think I actually let myself grieve him until December -- 3 months after we lost him.

Elliott was a surprise. Things were looking up (at least my doctor seemed to think so). I felt more pregnant. My hcg was higher. The people around seemed to be optimistic, and it's hard not to get your hopes up when you're around optimistic people.

A few hours after court (exactly one week after we found out), I went to the bathroom and noticed blood on my panties. And I knew it was the end.

When we saw my empty uterus (again) on the ultrasound, it felt as though I was disappearing inside myself. I tried to convince myself that miscarriage should be old-hat by now. And who was I anyway to even let myself think that a positive pregnancy test might actually produce a baby? That's for other people, I tried to reason.

Not for you, Rachel. Not for you.

My sister asked how I was doing after our loss. I texted back:

"I'm not feeling very strong or brave or ok. My heart feels shrivelled and old."

I feel old and weary. Some days I feel like I am drowning. Every time I start to get better, something hits. And as much as a blessing little miss is, it's my first tine grieving while having a baby to care for at the same time. I can't lose it. I can't. So sometimes I'm stuffing the pain, and pretending like nothing has happened. Other times, I'm a shriveled, crumpled mess. And some days, I'm actually doing pretty well in spite of it all.