Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Microblog Monday -- My deep, dark secret

A microblog is something that I would NORMALLY write on FB, but instead am posting here on my own, personal web space.

But honestly, what I'm about to confess I wouldn't normally post on social media.

Here's my secret:

For most of my life, I've had a crappy self-esteem.

For me, I think it is my thorn-in-the-flesh. The thing that I struggle against, make gains on, then fall back on, over and over again.

These days, the good ol' confidence is just about gone. Even though this summer, it was totally not an issue at all.

I think there are a few reasons for this:

1) I'm so super sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation does nothing good for you. Like, nada. nil. zero.

I posted on FB recently a great article on how being sleep deprived leads to an early death. No, really, it was great. Depressing, and yet enlightening. Since I'm too tired to go back through my FB feed and find that, I'll just post this here for your easy reading:


Check out #5. Oh, and at the very end, when it talks about 6 hours of sleep instead of 8? Well, I'd kill to have 6 hours of straight sleep a night. That to me is heaven. NOT deprivation.

2) Baby, crazy toddler girl, and brand-new kindergartner take up so much time.

I don't feel like I have the right to complain about this, as most of my posts are about WANTING a child, facing infertility, etc. But ... Please indulge me for just a moment. 

I have appointments up the wahoo. Between all of us, I feel like I live at the doctor's office. Or our social workers have moved in here or something. There is always something to do, somewhere to go, a diaper to change and a mouth to feed. In other words, I take last place. 

A starved soul feeds on itself. And my soul is pretty darn ravenous right now.

3) Sometimes, I can't keep up. And then I don't let up.

Recently, I made a big mistake in my business. Instead of forgiving myself, and moving on . . . I mentally berated myself for my lack of integrity in not following through. Ok. I'm calling it here and now for what it is. It is not my integrity in question. Or my character. Or how much I care about my business. Plain and simple, I blame my brain. It's already forgetful. But then tack on reason #1 -- and forget it. Just forget it. I'm a goner.

My house? My house looks like crap most days. Today I got my office a bit tidied, cleaned the bathroom, vacuumed the floors, and de-cluttered the entry way. But guess what? Dinner dishes are now still on the table, dishes are overflowing. And my laundry room is inaccessible. By a mountain. A mountain of clothes in a stinky room because I keep forgetting to put the wash in the dryer. Such a simple concept, yet beyond me at the moment.

So instead of just saying, wow, my house looks like crap. I turn it into, "Wow. My house looks like crap. What kind of person am I to expect my kids to be raised in a mess like this?"

Ummm... I'm pretty sure I'm just a normal person. But my mental state insists its really another character flaw.

4) It's getting darker. Which, historically, is not good for my mojo.

5) I haven't been exercising. (I MISS MY TONED ABS AND CALVES!!!)

6) I'm adjusting to a new baby. Please tell me that counts for something right?

7) I've really fallen off the bandwagon. As in, the bandwagon has gone and left without me.

My goal this summer was 30 min of personal development, 30 min of exercise, and 30 min of spiritual discipline each day. Guess what? I was doing it, and I was feeling great. I got outside with my kids, had alone time nearly every day, and personal development was a top priority.

But -- not so much now.

My new goals? Squeeze in a nap while the toddler and kindergartener are watching WAY too much TV and hope they don't kill each other while I doze.

This totally happened the other day as they were playing quietly. I thought all was well. Not so much.

So that's me. That's my secret that maybe you knew, maybe you didn't know.

What's yours? What's your thorn that you would do anything to get rid of and do without?

PS. I just remembered this is a micro-blog. As in, micro . . . small. Shoot. I guess I don't really know how to write small posts. Better luck next week.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

When your only loss doesn't seem to add up

It all started when I broke the news that our baby, Olivia, was gone. She was ectopic ... my tube ruptured ... and she died.

"I'm so sorry you went through this," my friends would console me. "I've never had a loss. But my friend, so-and-so, had three miscarriages."

It was intended for good. The whole, I'm trying to relate by proximity since I can't relate personally.

And still, intended or not, there it was.

The comparison-by-numbers.

I couldn't imagine having endured what I had just gone through once ... Let alone three times.

As it was, I could barely make it through each day. My fabulous, exciting life had instantly turned drab, dark and depressing. A brand-new daughter was replaced by the finality of death. Hope was taken over by despair. And my always-full social life instantly turned very, very lonely.

And somehow hearing that others had endured so much more than me (and were still functioning) made me feel even worse. Not better. 

(Was hearing about someone's horrible tragedy supposed to make me feel better anyway?)

And what I was left with was a funny feeling that there was something wrong with me. With my grief. Why did just one loss leave me so completely, utterly devastated?

As I heard horror story after horror story of multiple losses -- occasionally shared, it seems, with the intent to trump my bad fortune, but more often then not with good intentions -- my heart just cried, "Enough already!" 

I'm already excellent at comparing myself to others. But now I have so much more to compare ... How many losses? How many weeks of gestation? Which trimester? How am I coping compared to her? 

I found myself offering excuses as to why I was emotionally such a mess. As though the grief of a loss of a child is something that requires an excuse. 

"Yes, I was JUST 7 weeks. Yes, our baby was unplanned. Yes, this is my first loss. But you don't understand. I was so happy to be pregnant. I would have done anything for this child. I already loved her with all my heart from the moment I saw the positive pregnancy test. We almost lost Maddy at this gestation, so I KNOW what I am missing out on."

The excuses poured from my lips and heart. The comparisons were equally prolific.

And now, I find myself on the other side of the equation. I am the girl that has had four losses in two and a half years.

And yet the comparison-game hasn't changed.

I confessed recently to a small group of gals that I have had four pregnancy losses. Quickly, one of them chimes in . . . "My sister had 22 losses, three of which were stillbirths."

Bam. Instant invalidation. Who am I to grieve four first-trimester losses when others have had 22? And several in late pregnancy?

Women now come to me, saying things like, "I've only had one loss. I can't imagine losing four like you."

And do you know what I tell them?

One is enough.

You don't have to go through 2, 5 or 10 losses to feel the devastation of the death of your baby.

You don't have to be in the second or third trimester for your loss to count.

You don't have to almost die yourself to have gone through trauma.

You didn't have to give birth in order to name your baby.

You didn't have to be bonded to your baby to earn the right to mourn.

You didn't have to see your baby on an ultrasound to know that you did indeed lose a child and not just a pregnancy.

You don't have to let others play the one-up game with you to invalidate your experience.

You don't have to go through infertility before or after your loss in order to fully feel the grief of who you will forever be missing.

You don't have to have to have an empty home to feel the pain of a little life gone too soon.

Yes, there are many types of loss. Yes, we each have our own experiences that shape the way we grieve and mourn our children who have died. Yes, no two experiences are exactly alike.

But that doesn't mean that your chemical pregnancy is any less important than her 22 losses and three stillbirths. 

Every single baby counts.

You have experienced the death of a child. You have paid the too-steep price to be apart of club none of us want to join.

You are now one of us. A bereaved mother. And I want you to know, you are welcome here, even as we all wish you didn't have to join the club.

As you navigate your grief, we promise not to judge you, to make you feel like your grief is less than ours, or that your baby somehow less important. 

We promise to uphold you in your grief, hold your hand when you cry, and help you move forward little by little. 

We promise to create a safe place where you can vent, grieve and grow. 

We promise that we will never make you feel less-than. 

We promise to love you and support you. We promise to remember your baby with you. And while we are never perfect, we promise to always care.

More than anything, we want you to know:  Not only is one enough . . .

It is too much.

We are so sorry you've had to endure the death of your sweet baby. 

We recognize the hole in your heart that is unique to the precious, one-of-a-kind child that you didn't get to keep. 

And while we support you, we promise you: 

There will be no comparisons here.

P.S. I have heard from many of you that this post really touched your heart. I don't often ask for you to share my blogs, but I really feel that there are more women out there who need to hear that their loss counts. If this post spoke to you, would you consider sharing with others? Thanks so much!

Monday, September 22, 2014

The lady you shouldn't have gotten in line behind

For some of you, the following is familiar. Nevertheless, it's still worth putting on the old blog, I think, and not just on Facebook. Feel free to share. . .


The lady in front of you at the grocery store has several kids. Maybe they are closer in age than you think is good family planning. Her cart is full of things like juice, regular milk, formula, and Cheerios. And just barely any fruits or vegetables. It's not really your idea of a cart filled with nutritious food.
She seems a little overwhelmed as she unloads her groceries, pulling out these little blue checks. She uses several dividers on the conveyor belt, and her baby starts to scream.
 "Great," you think. "I got in the wrong line."
The checks seem to be some sort of state assistance, which is weird because she actually looks like she might have some money. She half-smiles at you in an apologetic sort of way, and you notice her bag is brand-name and she is toting an iPhone.
"Great," you think. "My tax dollars are paying for this lady's food, who apparently also should learn family planning. She can't feed her kids, but she's got a Coach bag and smartphone." As much as you think of yourself as a nonjudgmental person, you can't help but feel annoyed by the whole thing.
As the transaction progresses, and one item refuses to go through, the baby is screaming, and she's fumbling for a blue pamphlet of some sort, you sense her annoyance is growing. As it should. Because she's a brand-new foster mom and the whole situation feels a little overwhelming at the moment.
Her foster baby can't handle lots of stimulus but everything is taking so long he's having a meltdown. She just had her first WIC appointment where she felt horribly out of place.
She has no idea why the "natural peanut butter" that seemed to be in the pamphlet won't go through. She spent a good ten minutes looking up peanut butter alone. (Turns out it won't work because it's labeled peanut butter "spread," not just "peanut butter.")
Rather than spend $8 in juice, she would much rather have that amount in fresh fruit. In fact, she would much rather her whole shopping cart be full of fresh foods .... Rather than the measly $8 in fruits and veggies she receives a month from the state.
She can't tell anyone details on the baby, or why he's melting down at the moment, and it's not from bad parenting. (At least, not HER bad parenting.) Yet she can feel your questions and accusations as you stare at her hand bag and business clothes.
She is embarrassed and feels ashamed, although she doesn't know why. She just signed up to love on a baby as though he were her own, running interference on any of the issues that might arise from his abuse or neglect. She had no idea that she would feel the weight of a thousand eyes on her as she pulled out his state assistance, or fed him a bottle in public (because, you know, breast is best), or used his Provider One card at the doctor's office.
She signed up to love and sacrifice. She just didn't know that a trip to a grocery store (or anywhere in public) would be met with such judgment and feelings of embarrassment.
Finally, in a huff, she just tells you "I'm sorry. I'm a foster mom, and this is all new to me. Thanks for your patience."
And suddenly, you realize appearances aren't everything.
In fact, they rarely mean anything at all.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Vacation, Baby Z, and an MRI

I'm sorry it's been so long since I posted. I have a million drafts that need finishing and reworking, and yet I'm struggling to get those done.

A few of you have emailed me your stories recently ... I'm sorry I have also not gotten back with you, but I have read them, and I appreciate you taking the time to write. 

Life has been a little crazy lately. 

Baby Z moved in about a month ago, and life has gotten jam-packed with appointments, home visits and phone calls. He is a darling baby, but not the best sleeper yet.

As for me ... I've been having some medical issues going on. Numbness, tingling, pins and needles, fatigue, muscle weakness and pain have been spreading through my body slowly over the last 7 weeks. 

It started with my finger, and has progressed. At almost all times, my hands, lips, tongue, and throat feel numb or tingly. Usually at least one arm or one leg is also affected. My limbs fall asleep so easily ... Standing, sitting, walking... It doesn't seem to matter. 

Right now, they are thinking it's Vitamin B12 deficiency. (My numbers are in normal range, but still on the lower side.) I'm getting shots in the bum every 2 weeks for who knows how long. 

Yesterday, I had an MRI done. They are looking for either brain lesions, which would signify MS. Or a brain tumor. 

I get the results back late this afternoon, and I feel nervous about that. So far, the shots haven't eased up my symptoms any ... But if it is just a deficiency, it may still take a few weeks to start showing results. 

Also, I just returned home from a "vacation" with my best friend Robin. I can't keep my eyes open much longer, so I'm just going to post some pics of my time there:

Both of Robin's boys can after Olivia and our journey of infertility. I really had a hard time "celebrating" with her during her pregnancies. And she was more than sensitive to me about it by almost never posting pregnancy photos or complaining. I was nervous at first when she asked me to come help out with baby. But everything turned out great. 

Ok, I'll update here once I know results from my MRI today.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Why my child is not lucky to have me

A little boy has come into our life. We call him Baby Z for short.

He is sweet.
He is cute.
He is a horrible sleeper.
He is loved.
He is small for his age.
He is the cutest little laugher.
He is happy (now).
He is a champion eater.
He is soft, squishy and lovable.
But there is one thing he is not. 
It's the thing I hear often from friends. It usually goes along with "I could never do what you do." It's always said with the best of intentions and the most supportive of hearts. It's not new . . .  I heard it with Leyla all of the time. It sounds nice at first, and reaches out to stroke my ego. In fact, it seems so nice to say that I struggle to call it for what it is. 
And yet every time I hear it, I cringe. 
There are many things my foster child is. But there is one thing he is not. 
My foster child is not lucky to have us. 
My child (and I use that term loosely, because he is in fact, not mine) is not lucky to have me.
The reason I am in his life at all is because he has endured abuse or neglect. He has lost his mom, dad, brothers or sisters before we ever came into the picture. This precious, helpless baby, in his first few months of life, has endured some things that I cannot even imagine going through as a capable adult.
His story breaks my heart. It is not a lucky story.
He is not lucky because when he wakes up at night, I wonder if it is from hunger or from trauma. It could be either. It could be both. And he wakes up . . . a lot.
As I snuggle his precious little squishy body, I wonder if he remembers his time before. The way he cries sometimes makes me think that he does remember. He is not lucky to have a "before."
He has a certain cry that comes out sometimes that is absolutely desperate sounding. He is not lucky to have had a reason to cry this way.
As I fill in doctors, and state workers, and early intervention specialists on his progress, I am reminded of why he needs state workers and specialists. Why he needs to make progress. 
This baby has been inserted into our family, perfect strangers who now call themselves mom and dad. While we may be loving, that does not change the fact that we are indeed strangers. Imagine going to the grocery store, picking out a random family, handing your young baby to them and then walking off as you hear the mom say to your baby: "Hi! I'm your mommy now!"  This random family may be the best parents in the world -- but would that child be feeling lucky in that moment?
While foster care is not so random from our perspective, who is to say that this is not how a child experiences it? 
Let me tell you who is lucky . . .

The child was born into a home and family that is safe and nurturing. 
The child who was never pulled out of the only home she knew, getting separated from her brothers, sisters, pets and playthings.
The child who will not be moved from family to family at the whim of the government.
The child who did not start out life addicted to drugs or alcohol.
The child whose parents intimately know him, and make wise, informed choices on his behalf . . .  Rather than be at the whim of a judge who only knows the child's face from a 5x7 snapshot in his file.
More than likely, you know this child.
If you are a safe, responsible, nurturing mom or dad -- Your child is the lucky child.
Your child's life may not be perfect. Maybe they struggle with health issues, or had an absentee parent, or have endured some tragedy in their own right. 
I'm not saying that their life, or your life, is perfect and free from pain. 
But I am saying, they are lucky to have you, a loving mom and dad, in their corner from birth. You nurtured them, loved them, kept them as safe as you could, and gave them the best possible start to their life.
So I know what you mean when you say my kid is lucky. I really do.
I know you mean that you are thankful they are finally in a loving home, where they are finally receiving the care they deserve. I know you want to support us foster parents by letting us know we matter. I'm not trying to split p's and q's and make you feel like you are saying the wrong thing.
It's just that knowing his history . . . knowing that he didn't get to choose his life or his family . . . knowing how completely out of control he is of his own life . . . I can't help but feel that he is in fact one of the few unlucky ones.
My hope and prayer is that no matter how unlucky he is to have needed us . . . God will more than make up for his humble beginnings.
And if I could be so honest -- I feel pretty lucky to be the one to love on him.