Thursday, October 31, 2013

Letting Go

So today was History Day at school, and Dancer decided to go as Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt. And I, glutton for punishment that I am, decided to "make" her costume. One men's t-shirt, some silver posterboard, and a lot of super glue later...I began to doubt myself.

I thought she looked great - but what about the other kids? What about all the other moms who are truly crafty or just had more money to buy some awesome costume? Oh my gosh what have I done? was my general thought. I am scarring my child for LIFE with my only so-so craftiness.

But then, when we got to school, one of Dancer's friends ran up and exclaimed, "Dancer, you look BEAUTIFUL."

I wanted to cry. She looked so proud, she simply glowed. And she told her friend that my momma made it. They discussed the beads, and the colors, and which ones were the best. Her crown, too, got a lot of attention.

It made me realize something very important...that I will probably forget within days. I am so much harder on myself than I realize. My inner voice doesn't give me much credit - for love, for effort, for anything. How did my inner self become so freakin' critical?!

But Dancer...she really likes her costume. She's proud of what her momma made her. Her friends liked it (which, let's face it...that's important). And she's not any better or worse off than any other child in that class in the costume department. Some of the crowns were more elaborate, some less. Some had ripped up sheets glued or sewn to shirts as mummies. Some were store bought, some weren't. What mattered was that the kids were having a great time. And nobody was, Dancer's mom really dropped the ball there.

So today I'm trying hard to let go of the perpetual mom beat down. God has blessed me with wonderful children. They are my heart. And they love me. They're proud of me. That's worth listening to, not the endless loop of criticism in my head.

Go forth and conquer, moms! And have a little fun doing it.

Friday, October 25, 2013

CaptureYourGrief. Day 25. #SAYITOUTLOUD

I've been thinking about it for days, and I can't decide on ONE thing. One thing that I want people to know? One thing that needs to be said out loud? It's impossible for me! Instead, there are a million things - so many experiences and thoughts and feelings that need to be shared. So many 'helpful hints' for those families watching this happen to their sons and daughters, sisters and brothers. So many things...

But for today - I will settle. One thing...and it's for those families and friends watching this happen - watching their loved ones lose a child.


Make a conscience decision about who you are going to be for this mother and father - this family. Are you going to be supportive? Are you going to give them what they need? Are you going to worry about how this impacts them or about how it impacts you?

And if you DECIDE to worry about yourself...don't be so shocked when they have to let you go.

If you DECIDE that your comfort is more important than supporting them...don't be surprised when they can't be with you.

When you DECIDE that grieving with them is too hard...don't be taken aback when they don't want to share their joy with you either.

Make your decision. And be willing to live with it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

CaptureYourGrief. Day 22. Words

I've discovered that my own words - the ones I pour out - are the ones that help me the most. Sometimes they are a celebration, sometimes a purge, often they are weary or angry or sad. But my words give my children a voice, and that has been the greatest comfort to me.

Usually I would record this for the rhythm, but I couldn't figure out how to upload it. it is:

Swirls & dashes on my page, dark and deep - 
                 letters incomplete.
Words too slowly take shape - my pen cannot keep up
With the flood of thoughts that need...escape.
Memories of Joyful days, days with promise
When my body held you,
                   Deep inside my hips cradled you
Skin stretched around your kicks and rolls
Pressing hands to the tight swell,
                    You pushed back as if you knew me.
Your heart beat beneath mine
                Fast, a hummingbird's wings - small, but mighty
A miracle growing inside me.

And when you came, broken...
         No tears or cries to announce your coming
I held you again.
Wrapping you in blankets that would not keep you warm
                    And hands that could not keep you.
God, how I longed for the beat of your heart again.
                The pitter patter, fast fast beat that roared in my 
                 ears and now haunts my dreams.

My body held yours until it failed.
My hands held you until they wheeled you away.
My heart holds you now, more memory than real.
Not that ground, not that hard Texas clay
It doesn't hold my baby.

A whisper of a footprint upon this world,
But your mark on me is mighty.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

CaptureYourGrief. Day 20. Hope

I hope that mothers facing this tragedy have supportive doctors, nurses, midwives, and doulas.  I hope that the tragedy they face is not compounded by the medical community - but that their anguish is soothed by the support of people who participate in the birth and loss of their child.

I hope that these parents reach out to others in this community. That they, from day one, do not feel alone - but know that they are surrounded and supported by people who grieve for and with them.

I hope they are able to look past the hurtful words and pathetic cliches that people will use, and be able to draw close to those who truly support their needs through this time.

I hope they are able to count on their families, so they do not experience those secondary losses we are all so familiar with.

I hope they have no regrets about the decisions they make for their child and for themselves. That they remember to be kind to themselves about decisions that have to be made quickly and in the midst of great hurt.

I hope that each and every one of these families find hope in the darkness. Their own tenacious something. Anything.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

CaptureYourGrief. Day 19. Support

One night, completely overwhelmed, I sunk to the floor. With the couch at my back, tears poured silently down my cheeks. I could feel this hard knot of pain and heat in my chest that wanted to erupt. And I have no doubt that it would have been ugly. Screaming, raw awfulness could have poured from me in that moment.

But as I sat there, three year old Dancer came to me. Wrapping her chubby arms around me she said, It will be ok Mommy. Shhhhh, it will all be ok. I love you. 

There I was, trying so desperately to let nothing but the tears escape. To not crack the lid on the vastness of the pain within me. And that simple, simplistic, gentle reminder from my baby pulled me back. Back to the place we were in, and the moments we were in, and the life we were making.

She was my support. Not like my mother. Or my best friend. Not like the adults who were there and did their best to understand. Or my husband, who grieved with me. Or even My Angel.

Dancer became my reason to smile. The need to take care of her is what pulled me out of bed each morning. She didn't pass along cliches as thin comfort. She simply took me, her mommy, where I was and reminded me....It will all be ok. I love you. 

And, God forgive me, because I know I was suddenly a different mommy than she'd had before. I was fundamentally changed, down deep in the center of who I am. But she still needed me, and that made all the difference.  Her joy helped me find mine. And her love, absolute and unwavering, helped me heal.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

CaptureYourGrief. Day 17. Time

There are few rituals in my life. Very few. With young children, with a baby...having a routine is work. Having rituals. That is even harder.

But I have one. One that has been inviolate for four years. The Wave of Light. Lighting a candle for the babies lost. Not just mine, but every woman's. Little lights across the world that light houses, mark them as houses of loss. And this year - I didn't get to.

My candle sat, unlit. And, oh, how it bothered me. How it still does. Two days later, and I see it and feel lost. Sad. A little guilty. Because it wouldn't light.

I castigate myself. How could you not have backups. Backup lighters, backup candles, backup ANYTHING!!!



1 1/2 years since Isaac, a little over two since Kayla, 3 years since Nathanael, almost 4 since Kasey. Close to five since Jessie.

And every year, I've lit that same candle. Given to me by another mom, one who lost her son too soon. But this year I couldn't.

How long doesn't seem to matter much, does it? A candle is what trips me up this week. What sets me back. With a knot in my stomach and the need to swallow a little to often.

I've met moms who shed tears for babies and children lost a lifetime ago. Women who see that flame dance and pray, just as I do, for grace or comfort or just...peace.

A flame that is the outward symbol of an inward life - the memories we hold of each child gone too soon.

The numbers are just that. Numbers. The cold facts. They've been gone for years.  And that's so hard to fathom.

Kasey's grave has settled. It grows no grass, but is barren Texas clay. Their ashes rest on a shelf until we can afford something better. The children I have with me have grown so much, their chubby toddler cheeks giving way to the look of youth

Time just keeps marching. Over me sometimes. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

CaptureYourGrief. Day 14. Family

My middle child says, "We are a five family now!" She tells everyone she meets. Saying it with wonder. Excitement. And relief.

We are a five family now. A typical family. A dad, a mom, three kids.

We go to school, to church, to parks. My children don't always behave, so there's the occasional meltdown or argument. We look normal.

In public. In our pictures. We look average.

But behind those things are the real story. Our real family. It has eight children. Eight pregnancy and birth stories. Eight joyful announcements to my husband. And eight perfect names. Eight children, five of whom live in heaven and a memory box. Every picture, ultrasound video, hat, and that box. And every name recorded in our bible.

The whole experience has redefined my definition of family. Because beyond the children we have with us, and the children we lost, there are others...people who now exemplify family for me.

The friend who ignored us and came to Kasey's funeral - even though we said family only. He simply couldn't let us go through that alone.

The friend who answered every late night call - and never told me my tears were too much.

The women who have surrounded me with their own pregnancy and birth stories - and are willing to listen to mine. 

My own mother. She held me when I thought I was broken.

People who hurt with us through our losses and rejoiced with us when Little Bit was born safely.

Family is not just people. Family are the ones there when you need them most. Family is LOVE.

Friday, October 11, 2013

CaptureYourGrief. Day 11. Triggers

Doctors. I cannot stand doctor's offices. When they show me to that empty, impersonal exam room - there is a cold pit in my stomach. The crinkle of the paper on the bed makes me wince and swallow. While the nurse asks her questions, my eyes dart nervously around the room. And when she leaves...when that door clicks closed behind her...I shut my eyes.

I have to concentrate on breathing. Trying to keep it regular, evenly paced. I pinch my nose trying to prevent tears. But it hardly ever works. And as my heart pounds and my breathing turns ragged, I start to sweat.

If they leave me alone for more than a few minutes, I can have a full blown panic attack.

That's right. A panic attack. In a doctor's office. Because every time I walk into one, memories wash over me. Every OB visit where we watched our babies grow and move. Every measurement we took and test we ran. And every time they checked, only to tell us that their hearts had stopped and we were headed down that same path we'd taken before.

So, yeah...doctors are a HUGE TRIGGER.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

CaptureYourGrief. Day 10. Beliefs

I believe there is a God.

I believe Heaven is real.

I believe that each of my children has a soul - and that their souls reside with God.

I do not believe that their deaths were punishment.

I do not believe that "God took them" for some higher purpose.

I do not believe they are roses or angels in some heavenly realm.

I do know that having them, and losing them, has changed me - in some ways for the better.

So sometimes I believe that losing them, while not God's fault, can perhaps be in His plan for making me who I need to be.

But I don't believe that every day.

Some days I believe that losing our children was an awful thing that simply happened, and there is no reason. Those are the days I cry the hardest...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

CaptureYourGrief. Day 9. Music

When we left the doctor's office, we did so in silence. The nurses didn't speak and neither did we. Tears rolled down my cheeks and we carried children who were stunned into silence at the devastation they had just witnessed. They clutched our necks so tightly.

When we cranked the car, this song played.

Shadow of the Day

We sat, and we listened. Then we turned off the music. And we drove away.

Monday, October 7, 2013

CaptureYourGrief. Day 7. Here & Now

Sometimes on Sunday morning a little boy sits with us at church. With his tousled blond hair and little boy exuberance he delights my girls. And sometimes, watching, my heart hurts. Not a lot...just a little. Because he fits perfectly in the GAP. The gap between Diva and the baby. A five year gap born of loss. All those years that everyone else sees as simply empty.

So right now, right this minute...I fight grief. Even though I know better.

I want to push and shove and beat it back, to say that it cannot have any more of my heart or my life. That it cannot sneak into my heart and hurt me that way.

I've become caught up in the world's view that feeling grief is somehow bad. There must be something wrong for me to feel grief so keenly still. Maybe you are broken, that little voice whispers. If you were a stronger person, Christian, mother....then you would not still hurt.

But then I remember that I have been here before. And survived. That I will again. And that grief is not all about despair, but equally about LOVE. For you cannot truly grieve the loss of what you do not love.

And I loved my children. With every bit of me. Wholeheartedly. Completely. There are, quite literally, not enough words for how wholly they held my heart. Grieving that empty space in my arms and my lap is not wrong. It doesn't end or go away. It...comes and goes.

Rushing in sometimes, taking over a moment or memory. Or stealing in like a shadow, hanging on the edges of something joyous. It is better to let it come. Then let it slip away.

Friday, October 4, 2013

CaptureYourGrief. Day 4. Legacy

My children left me with the knowledge that what I see is not all there is.

That just as people see our family and do not know of our missing children...

I will look at them and not know their stories either.

So I try, as much as I am able, to practice compassion. That is their legacy. They left me a more compassionate person.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

CaptureYourGrief. Day 3. Myths

The greatest myth is that they are not worth grieving.

Kayla Lucille

It's the myth that, for me, did the most damage. I fought against the idea that they weren't people, didn't matter, or at least I didn't know them. Because they mattered. And each child was worth grieving.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

CaptureYourGrief. Day 2. Identity

When I was three or four months pregnant with Dancer, I wandered into the back of a Barnes & Noble and stumbled onto the baby books. Thirty minutes later I stood crying, hugging the small mound of my tummy - scared of all the awful scary things that could happen if I ate the wrong thing. When my husband found me he snatched the books away from me, forbade me to read any more (during the entire pregnancy), and then bought me a baby name book. 10,000 Baby Names...

I cannot tell you how many nights I sat in bed with a highlighter, looking for the perfect name for our baby girl. I read the whole girl section aloud to him - much to his chagrin. We bickered and laughed and eventually picked the perfect name.

We did that for every single one of our babies. Did you know that? With that same book, with my husband, and later with my daughters...we picked our babies' names.


Kasey Klaire

Nathanael James

Kayla Lucille

Isaac Damon

I made lists of first and middle names. I asked my best friend which ones she liked. I looked at the meanings of the names. They had to be perfect. When Dancer, at five, wandered through the living room and told me that this baby's name HAD to be Isaac, I said ok. And then I let her sit down with the baby book and pick his middle name as well.

We found out we were pregnant with Kayla when my husband's grandmother died - and gave her Lucille's name in love and memory.

Nathanael means gift from God.

Kasey means active, which we thought was funny because she moved so much. We thought she would have to be a firecracker to keep up with Dancer and Diva.

Jessie means wealthy, the way we felt from the minute we found out that number 3 was on the way.

Those names are everything. They are a big part of what I have left of my babies. The memories surrounding them are caught up in where I sat, what I wore, and what was said as we picked the perfect names.

We did what every expectant parent does. But no one ever asks their names....

It's like they don't want to know.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

CaptureYourGrief. Day 1. Sunrise

 Sunrise is hard to capture in the valley. The light arrives hours before the sun, and the tops of mountains are fuzzy and distant looking as the day begins. The surrounding mountain peaks are softened by the dim light. And then, in a sudden burst - the sun is there. Its light blinding. Warmth, too, is immediate. Sky clearing of any haze, the rocks are thrown into sharp relief against a clear blue.
They have their own kind of beauty. Not the kind I grew up around - not what I'm used to. But an incredible...harsh majesty. They remind me how small I am, but also how tenacious the human spirit is. For we carved out paths and ways through and over the grim mountain planes.
There is no softness here to disguise the creation. And I have discovered a kind of comfort in that.

Each day the sun rises, and I rise with it. God has given me another day - to live with joy and love with abandon. I have learned to thank Him for every one.

Colorado, US