Saturday, August 24, 2013

Learning to deal

Last night I had a new friend over from my pregnancy loss support group.

We gorged ourselves on yummy snack food (ok, I gorged ... She politely ate) from Trader Joes.

And we talked about all the normal stuff when you have a new friend (how you met your spouse, why you chose the career you did, where you're from) ... And the not-so-normal stuff (did you name your baby, how you found out about your loss, and dealing with others' pregnancies after your miscarriage.)

We had a good solid couple of hours to eat, chat, and pamper ourselves with a footsoak and facial.

Afterwards I stayed up far too late watching my new guilty pleasure Drop Dead Diva (thanks Sarah for getting me hooked). At the end of one of the scenes, one of the main characters goes to the cemetery for the first time after a loved one died.

And all of the sudden, I've got tears streaming down my face.

Sure, we'd been talking baby loss all night. Honestly I "deal" with it all day long. I deal with it every time I see some one else post on fb about a pregnancy. I deal with it every time I see little miss. I deal with it every time my period comes. I deal with it every time I look at my flat non-pregnant belly.

It's not like I'm always consciously dealing with it. It's just something I'm aware of. Kinda like knowing what day in the week it is. I don't have to actively think about the fact that it's Saturday to be aware of the fact that we are indeed in the middle of a weekend.

It's just something I know to be true.

But every once in a while, there's a trigger that can't easily be ignored or waved away. And for whatever reason, seeing that cemetery brought so much to the surface.

I wondered what the personalities of those kids might have been like. I wondered if they would have been like Maddy at all, or completely (completely) different. I wondered how my story turned out the way that it did. And I wondered if I'm scarred forever.

Last night I dreamed that someone wanted to know what it was like dealing with other's pregnancies.

[And I say "deal" because it's really something you have to manage. Before our loss/infertility/whatever, I never had to deal with another's pregnancy. I was always happy for them. It came quite naturally, and besides the occasional shower or baby announcement, their good news didn't affect me too much.

Then came loss. And all of the sudden, you really have to learn to deal. Jealous and bitterness tip their hats to me, and say "Come. Stay with us a while. Be our friend." And I have to CHOOSE not to go there. Or at least not to stay there. I have to make myself say a congratulations, and mean it. I have to choose happiness for them, while at the same time, I acknowledge my sadness for me. I have to learn to deal.]

Back  to my dream.  I asked this person (in my dream) to imagine what it was like to have a family vacation planned. Everyone's going. You've planned it for months. It's coming up, and everyone's excited. Talking about excursions, and places to eat out, and clothes to pack.

And then all of the sudden, you find out there's this mistake, some random fluke from the airline, and you can't go anymore. You don't have a ticket. The plane will leave without you.

And you're still surrounded by everyone else making plans. They are sad you can't go, but there's so much to plan, so much to coordinate, that they still chat and talk about it in front of you.

It's like that -- except so much more complicated.

And so, today I really had to learn to deal. I opened my FB newsfeed, and the very first thing was a pregnancy announcement from a friend. And I don't mean, like Facebook friend. I mean friend friend. It stung that I heard about her new baby on the way from Facebook. But it was also a reminder that I don't tend to make it outside of my first trimester. But I was also really happy for her because I know she wanted this. Again -- complicated.

Shortly following that in my newsfeed was a gender reveal. And after that, a birth announcement.

Lots of dealing today. Lots of emotions I have to keep in check.

How do you deal?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Where do I fit?

So yesterday, I attended Kitsap HOPE Circle.

It's a support group for women who have recently had a child (whether biologically or through foster care/adoption.)

Basically, it's the last place on earth I would expect myself to be.

I mean, yes, I have recently expanded our family (through foster-to-adopt.) Yes, I have a new baby (to me). And yes, I occasionally need support.

But -- I still in a million years wouldn't have pictured me there, in a circle with BRAND-SPANKING-NEW moms with their tiny little *alive* babies, dealing with all the related issues.

And I have to tell you. I felt ANCIENT compared to them.

I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn't any older than most of those girls. And yet dealing with postpartum issues felt like decades ago. No. It felt like it happened to a different person -- not to me. I can hardly even remember who I was 5 years ago as I was pregnant and awaiting my first child to arrive.

Who was that person who felt so let down by her body, even when her child survived? Who got PTSD and postpartum depression? Was that really me?

Even as I struggled to pull deep in my past to be able to say anything relatable to the others in the room, I still knew that they needed support.

Sure. I'm not going to lie. I was insanely jealous. I kept eyeing the massive belly in the room like maybe a monster was going to pop out of it or something. To be honest, I was scared for her! I felt like saying, "Um, aren't you terrified yet? I mean, your daughter could die in there."

Yeah . . . um, not something I should ever, ever say even think.

I digress.

So, I didn't exactly fit in.

And the reminders of that were everywhere. Thankfully, I didn't run out crying. Or have a panic attack at being surrounded by fertile women. Heck, I didn't even steal a baby. (Thought about it though, lol!)

And, like I said, I could at least acknowledge that they needed support. Even though the memories of life with baby Maddy are fuzzy, I do remember being overwhelmed at the responsibility and newness of mommy-dom. Up until recently, it was the hardest thing I had really gone through: Going from an independent woman . . . to a mom of the most dependent little [screaming] creature ever.

So a support group makes sense for them.

Just maybe not for me.

And it got me thinking. I don't really know where I belong.

When I'm around other young moms (such as at the support group, or MOPS), I don't feel like I fit. I feel like an imposter mom. I have the struggles of being the mom to a preschooler and toddler -- but there's so much more to it. The struggle is so much more complex.

I don't fit in with infertiles. Because how could I fit in when I don't know what it's like to go through years and years of testing, two-week-waits, and BFNs with no baby as a reward? I don't know what that's like. And I can't exactly feel free to voice how I'm feeling to them when the truth is -- I know what it's like to have a baby shower. I know what it's like to push my child through the park on a Sunday afternoon with my hubby. I know what it's like to rock your baby to sleep, sing lullabyes, and wonder if your heart will just burst with love and pride over your precious bundle. And so how can I even share my disappointment with those who are just waiting for their FIRST??

We are adopting a child -- and yet I still don't fit in with rainbow mommies. All my in-utero rainbow babies didn't make it. I have recurrent losses. I don't know if my body will ever sustain a child again. And so that incompleted task of producing a baby still hangs over my head every day. I'm not a real rainbow mom.

I feel the closest to bereaved moms, or baby loss moms. But there are times when I still can't let myself relate. I have not buried a child (and I don't know that flushing the clots you knew were your baby down the toilet counts.). The more I write about my pregnancy losses, the more I feel like I'm just being a drama queen. That somehow, my feelings are nothing more than a desperate cry for attention. In spite of my best efforts -- the words of a criticizer still occasionally ring in my ears -- Especially when I see how quiet other women are about their early losses. ["Let's all get world attention for being a martyr," I think were his words.]

I know that I have lost children, and not just pregnancies. But that doesn't mean I don't feel sheepish and slightly embarrassed every single time I refer to my dead babies by name. Afterall, I didn't get a chance to see any of them on ultrasound. Just an emtpy uterus, over and over again. So how could I possibly relate to some of my best friends who had stillbirths? And why is it that so many of my friends that have had early losses treat them like a bump in the road, when my very identity is colored by my losses? It has colored everything for me.

And lastly -- I don't feel like I know how to relate to just foster moms or adoptive moms. But maybe that's because I don't know enough of them.

I know I'm not unique in this. Can't we all just NOT RELATE? Isn't there enough differences in our pasts, our losses, our hopes, our faith (or lack thereof) to make it so we can never really completely get each other. We can't always bring EVERYTHING to the table.

I think what I've decided is that I just sometimes I will have to put parts of my experience on the backburner. Maybe to get through pregnancy talk, I'll talk of the all-day, 9-month morning sickness with Maddy and the like (but ignore the part where we both could have died. Most pregnant moms don't want to know that.)

When we talk childhood struggles, I'll focus on my current challenges and listen in without being tempted to one-up them because I'm dealing with grief/fertility testing/chronic disappointment while doing all of the normal mommy stuff. (And the not-so-normal -- like having social worker visits and an open adoption.Oh, and running a crazy-awesome business from home.)

When I'm with rainbow moms, I could address how hard it is to parent when you need to grieve. Or the crazy crazy fear that comes after loss. But I will have to steer away from pregnancy stuff -- because of this crazy failure (I feel) that I haven't produced a baby yet.

When I'm with bereaved moms, I'll do my best to relate to the deep grief, jealousy, anger, questioning, ad everything that goes with it. But I will not have pictures to share. I won't have a gravestone to visit. I won't be able to tell stories of how I delivered, or how many fingers or toes they had. I'm not saying either of our losses is harder. Just saying that, yet again, sometimes I feel like a imposter.

Maybe compartmentalizing isn't the right way to go about it. To be honest I don't know what is.

What do you do when you can't relate? What's it like when you CAN relate, and you feel like you just belong? Ok. And be honest now. Who else would've thought about stealing a baby?

Flowers we received from Ryan after our loss of Olivia and my surgery.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Welcome new bloggy friends!

Hi fellow ICLW'ers!

Thanks so much for stopping by. If you could, please leave a link to your blog--maybe one of your favorite posts -- so I can read your story too!

Thanks again for visiting....


PS. If you commented, and you don't see it posted... I'm sorry! My hubby sometimes moderates comments. He thought ICLW comments were spam and deleted some. Blah! So... Please comment again, because I'd love to visit your blog!!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Microwave Jesus

Our generation is the generation of instant gratification.

We want everything our parents had. But we want it right now -- while we're in our 20s and 30s -- without the decades of work it took to get there. We want to be able to afford the nice car. We want to call the gorgeous 4-bedroom house on the block our home. And we want to have a perfectly exotic, perfecting exciting family vacation every year.

And we want to Instagram every momentous occasion (and even the not-so-momentous ones) and post them on Facebook and get that instant validation that, YES, we really did just encounter something special!

Instead of going to school for journalism, spending years writing without a profit, putting our life on the line for the once-in-a-lifetime story, all in hopes of a big break -- we simply write a blog about any innocuous thing, post it on Facebook, and pray it goes viral.

We are a microwave generation.

We want everything. And we want to just press a few buttons, wait a few minutes, and our miraculously amazing life pops out.

Now before you think I'm beating up on my generation -- do remember I'm still right smack dab in the middle of it.

I still own my own business, with the goal helping our family and others achieve financial security. I love exotic vacations -- and I don't want to wait till I'm 50 to go on another one! I post Maddy's cute stories all the time, and post pictures of everything from my fabulous dinner to my cute little munchkins. OH -- and I blog. And yes, I secretly hope one day one of my posts will go viral.

I think there are some really good things about the "go-getter-ness" of my generation.

But one area I see it as a downfall is in the area of spirituality.

When it all boils down, I think our generation doesn't want a faith wrought through fire.

We want a microwave Jesus.

We want all the spirituality, the deep faith, the solid relationship. But without all the work. All the effort. All the time. And all the setbacks.

So you know I write a blog about pregnancy loss/infertility/grief/adoption. So what's been rolling around in my brain is . . .

What does our generation's spirituality look like when life hits the fan?

One place our microwave theology shows up is often how we respond to others' tragedies.

In the beginning, we can be laser-like in helping them heal. We offer meals (which is awesome, btw -- I'm not complaining there!), we send cards with Bible verses, we pray like crazy. We are intense in our efforts to show love and support.

We're intense. We're intentional. And we expect that short burst of support to complete the job.

We offer Bible verses because, well, because it's God's truth and there's nothing like the Word of God.

For example, we might say something like:

"I'm absolutely so sorry to hear your child died. It's devastating, and we will miss them with you. Here's a verse that came to mind. I hope it brings you some comfort:

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:27-29

[Ok -- I need to interrupt my thoughts here for a second so you can track with me. I'm not saying that the above example is wrong (far from it!), or that this is not the correct way to comfort. I have received so many wonderful cards and Bible verses, and I keep EVERYTHING that was given to me after the loss of my babies in a basket by my bed. Cards, verses, gifts -- gosh, they are all so meaningful. So trust me here when I say I'm NOT criticizing here!]

But -- Here's where I feel like we get off track.

Our expectations.

We comforters (I'm also talking of myself here) . . . We expect God's word to take immediate hold. We expect that to be an answer to their pain, a lifeline they can hold on to. We treat it like a Band-Aid, a quick fix.

But there are no Band-Aids or quick fixes to gaping wounds.

We don't account for the fact that, to the grieving, God's Word and our experience has collided in an awful crash course. We feel topsy-turvy. Everything we've believed can all of the sudden come into question. There is this wrestling that happens -- that HAS to happen -- if we are to find healing from God's Word.

For me, the verse in Romans about our good did NOT bring comfort. At least not for a long time.

"What good? Whose good? Certainly not Olivia's good! Certainly not my good!"

I was indignant. No, more than indignant. Here was this God I had served my whole life, loved my whole life. And He lets my baby die. And I'm supposed to believe it's for good? And not only did He allow one baby to die. But He has let it happen over. And over again.

And so that very-well-meant "encouragement" felt, I don't know... It felt not enough.

It felt like a fairy-princess Band-Aid on the gaping wound of my heart.

And so there I am looking at my grief. And you are too. We are staring at this awful ripping hole in my heart. And the "correct" biblical answer is right in front of us. And I feel your expectation ... "OK, I gave you some truth. And it's been a few minutes. So are you better yet? Did microwave Jesus work?"

We don't just do this with God's Word. There are so many examples of how we expect a quick fix.

Sometimes we send someone an inspirational Christian song about a "perfect peace." And then we wait to watch that perfect peace overcome their countenance in a zombie-like fashion.

We invite someone to come to a church service, believing that if they could only hear that "perfect" sermon, their years of sorrow, victimization and tragedy would somehow melt away.

But when it comes to grief -- and to be honest, so many other issues in life -- there is no quick fix. Spiritual or not.

Now, I'm not saying it's not a FIX.

It's just not a quick one.

It's not a Band-Aid. It's not a microwave.

It's more like a slow-release medicine you have to take consistently. You have to ingest it. You have to dissolve it, process it, absorb it.

Or maybe it's more like a slow-cooker. You have to fully immerse your grief into the truth of God. You've got to just let it sit, and simmer, and infuse into your situation. You have to let it seep through the hard exterior you put up to protect your heart.

 It has to become a part of YOU before any healing can begin. And the healing will be slow.

And it starts healing before you feel anything different, or you see anything different on the outside looking in.

Which can be frustrating as all get out.

As loving friends, we don't want to watch our friends struggle. Especially when it seems like the answer is RIGHT THERE -- if they would JUST BELIEVE enough. We so desperately want them to be OK again.

And as the bereaved -- we want a quick fix too! We want our pain to just stop, to go away. We want to go back to the way life was before. We want something to satisfy our constant question "WHY!???" We want life to make sense again.

I personally don't want to walk through the pain. I don't want to delve into what it means to lose someone you love. I don't want to face the dreams that are lost forever.

I don't want to do the work to memorize God's Word so that it becomes ingrained in my soul, ingrained in my thinking. I don't always want to do the wrestling with God. I don't want to be a Jacob. I don't want to do the hard work of immersing myself in truth, letting it pull apart my preconceived ideas of who God is -- and how He acts toward us -- in hopes of having a deeper faith.

I sometimes just want the old Rachel back. My old faith back.

But -- I have to believe that God has designed us this way for a reason. I have to believe that His truth doesn't work like a microwave because HE doesn't want it to. Perhaps if it did, we might miss out on the relationship building that happens as we deal with God and our grief.

Perhaps there is a bigger end to all of it. A bigger reward. A deeper trust. A more solid faith. A changed person. A new foundation.

And so -- as comforters, do we stop offering words of encouragement, send Bible verses God puts on our heart, and share songs that could offer comfort?

No. I don't think that's the right solution.

I do think we just have to offer it with a side of patience. Maybe offer to sit with them in that crock-pot of grief for a while. Have open conversations about what that person's faith is going through, without the fear they'll never believe again -- or the judgement at their apparent lack of faith. Perhaps it means we just keep with them through the seasons, and we keep checking in. And we keep letting them know we are praying for them.

Because we are.

What about you? Have you experienced a microwave Jesus? How has your faith weathered the storms of grief? How have you wrestled with God?

Friday, August 9, 2013

FGO (for girls only)
I don't know who to give credit to for the photo. But this would be me. On my period. (Ok, not really me. I have blonde hair.).

Alright. I'm going to vent a little bit today about something I'm not supposed to talk about.

Or at least blog about.

Or at least post about on social media.


It's my (stupid, stupid) period.

(Please don't judge me for blogging about this!)

So -- my male readers -- it's time to say goodbye to this post. You really don't want to know what's in this post. I promise. So -- let's just leave it to the girls. Sound OK?

Alright girls -- now that the guys have left (right, guys?? Wait -- you still haven't left yet. OK, for real this time. Adios!)

Ok girls. Can I just say, my period sucks. I mean really, really sucks.

It all changed with Olivia.

Ever since she entered my world (or rather, exited it), my monthly has gotten worse, and worse, and worse. I hate it.

When I was young, I used to have terrible cramps the day AF arrived. I remember being at school in 7th grade, laying on the cot in the nurses' station, and in such incredible pain. It was my very first period. The nurse gave me pain meds to take at the water fountain. Being the klutz I am, I dropped them in the fountain. (Ewww.) Desperate for relief, and convinced they wouldn't give me another pain pill, I took it anyway. Almost 20 years later, I can still remember the awful taste of half-dissolved aspirin clinging to my taste-buds for the rest of the day. (Double ewww.)

And that's how AF started -- and it didn't get too much better.

I went to a high school that MUST have been run by the most Type A person to ever walk the planet. According to their rules, in order for a student to receive ANY medicine, the nurse not only had to have a parental note of approval. They must also be able to get a verbal OK from the parent prior to dispensing the medicine.

(My principal must have been male. No respectable woman who knows what it's like to feel like your insides were getting squeezed to death and subsequently being shoved out your vagina, would ever, ever have such a ridiculous policy on pain meds.)

And so, in the cave-man days of life before cell phones,  I would go to the nurses' station, doubled-over in pain. They would pull out the ibuprofen, pull out the notice from my mom, and then proceed to call the home phone. 9 times out of 10, my mom was not home. And we had no answering machine. The ibuprofen would get put away unopened. So, back to class I went, hunched over the hallway rails, trying to appear somewhat normal.

I remember one time I told them I couldn't go back to class. And I begged for the medicine. Instead, they laid me up in the vice-president's office on a cot (who thankfully, vacated the office to give me privacy. Gosh, how embarrassing.). Unfortunately, that day we had a bomb threat (go figure), and we all had to wait outside while the police and firefighters came and searched the high school. And so, I sat their on the curb, in tremendous pain. I wanted to die. But I would've settled for going home.

Looking back, the logical thing to have done was just to sneak in the pain meds and take it when I needed without telling anyone. But I was too goody-goody. And so were my parents. (Although I think after the bomb threat incident, we may have come to this.)

And so -- I started birth control at a youngish age, hoping to get control of these periods that were clearly out of control.

And things got better. I stopped the pills after Maddy, and haven't gone back on them. And thankfully, after Maddy, AF naturally got easier, and the crazy cramps officially became a thing of the past.

Until Olivia.

Since my ectopic, my period has become intense. I clot like crazy. I can feel it oozing out of my body, and it feels like I'm bleeding out (even as I know I'm not.)

I spot for 5-7 days before my period. Then it hits. BAM. And everything (everything) tries to come out all at once. I will pass large clots, and a ton of smaller ones. I have given up entirely on tampons as they just leak, and I end up with a mess. I have to wear a pad anyway when I use a tampon. I hate pads, but it's the only way I can prevent accidents.

I have had horribly embarrassing moments of bleeding through clothes in public.

I have this horrid day of intense bleeding. Then it slows. And then I spot for another 3-5 days.

In all, I have had months where I was spotting/bleeding for literally half of the month. HALF! It's so ridiculous.

And this week, it was just so much worse. I almost woke up Ryan last night to tell him to take me to the ER. I was soaking through pads in less than an hour. I was constantly passing clots on the toilet.

I hoped it would get better this morning, but it started out with a bang just like yesterday. And the whole time, I just feel like crap. I feel weak, and crampy. Chilled to the bone. Exhausted. And all I want to do is just lay down with a heating pad, pumped up on pain meds, for a whole day. With no responsibility.

But that never is the case. 

If the physical part weren't bad enough -- seeing blood from my body is very emotional for me.

Blood triggers memories of every single freaking time I bled in pregnancy and lost the baby. And every time I push a clot out, I remember pushing out the grayish pink tissue with Olivia. I remember staring at it in the bag I used to save it, on the floor, convinced it was my baby, and overcome with horrible wailing and grief. I remember pushing out 6 big clots in a row with Elliott, at a gas station. And then flushing him down the toilet. Then getting up, and seeing blood all over the floor. How the heck did I get blood all over the floor??

 I remember hemorhaging with Maddy at 8 weeks. How it felt like someone had poured a glass of water down my pants. But it wasn't water it was blood.

I remember bleeding like crazy on the plane to go to my Grandma's funeral.

Gosh, I hate blood.

OH-- and in spite of every rational thought to convince me otherwise --- I SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO want to be pregnant. So very badly.

And every single period is a stupid reminder that I'm not. That I have to wait again. Another month. Another two weeks. Another test. Another heartache. Another disappointment.


Have I told you recently I hate my period?