Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Tears don't flow as freely as they have in the past few weeks, but the pain is still there. The pieces do start to sweep themselves up and life does go on - there is hope. I have another milestone today and although it seems silly it is a hard one for me. Going back into work. It symbolizes so much for me - it was the last place I was before I found out we lost Daniel. It was the last place where I had tried so hard the day before the loss to feel him kicking in my stomach. Although I know everyone at work is great - going back to work is a huge weight on my shoulders and I just have to get it over with so that I can drop the 20 lbs on my shoulders and keep moving along this path.
My husband had his first "So did your wife have the baby?" - it was hard for him but he got through that milestone. I am sure there might be someone who says to me "So you had the baby!". I don't know how I will respond and I guess I am afraid of not knowing - its that fear that makes going back difficult. Off to work I go. I am sure traffic will be particularly worse today, I will have to park extra far from the building, the printers will be broken and my desk will be gross, but, as with everything else in life, overcoming milestones are never easy but once you do - there is an overwhelming sense of relief - less weight to carry as you go a long in the process of grieving and life in general.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
What people may not realize is that it can get harder to cope later on once the initial shock and physical symptoms of grief subside. All the pain of the loss gets internalized and manifests itself into other feelings that can somehow be misconstrued, misdirected, and misinterpreted by others. It is so important that those who are grieving step outside themselves and take a good look at their behavior each day and try to understand why.
I have a handout entitled "Experiences of Grief" which has helped me to understand why I am the way I am right now. There are over 20 different "experiences" that you will encounter while grieving and I am listing some of the ones we are dealing with right now.
- Guilt - I mentioned this previously. People in general feel guilt - some more so than others. I think this is weighing on me heavily because it was my body that carried this baby and it was my body that failed this baby. I know I did nothing intentional to hurt Daniel so I have to try to let that go and learn from the experience - not dwell on it.
- Anger - I have a certain degree of anger towards people who fail to acknowledge my son. I know that it is so difficult to deal with loss - especially that of a baby - but I have this tremendous desire to have people talk about him - to say his name, call him my son, and remember him - even though they never got to meet him. Some people just don't understand that the minute you find out you are pregnant and have a baby inside of you - that baby is your family, your hopes and dreams, your future so when that baby dies it is a loss for everyone. Sean, John, and I went to a Compassionate Friends meeting and as we were leaving and saying our goodbyes a woman said "Goodbye Daniel". At first I thought it was strange or that she had confused Sean with being Daniel - but then I realized she was acknowledging my son and his presence in our lives. I will never forget that.
- Lowered Self-Esteem - yep, I'm in the dumps right now. Its funny how when you have a baby to care for and an extra 20 lbs on you it isn't that noticeable. Making it through 8 months of pregnancy (35 lbs gained) and having nothing to show for it leaves a woman alone to look in the mirror and cringe. Aside from the physical aspects of self-esteem, I find that grief causes you to constantly put down what you have done, focus on the negative,and displace anything positive in life. You are constantly plagued with this "I can't do anything right" mentality.
- Preoccupation - even as I right this now. It is so difficult to concentrate and be productive or focus on work when you are dealing with grief. Productivity is at a low and it makes it hard to accomplish anything - thus further adding to the low self-esteem mentioned up above.
- Frustration - I am sad because my patience is short and I still have a stubborn, independent, know-it-all 3 year old to deal with. I used to be very creative in my approach with him - race to see who can get dressed first, talk to him so that he gets distracted and forgets what he was whining about - but now I just don't have the energy to do this and it hurts me that I can't be a better mom right now. I can go on and on about frustration - Lowe's (don't ever get windows replaced through their service), traffic, gas, etc.
- Envy - It is so hard to see mommy's with new baby boys. I am envious - not angry or resentful - I just wish I had my son. I am also envy mothers who have not had to deal with stillbirth which ties into lowered self-esteem. I see these mothers and say - why couldn't that be me? what's wrong with me?
- Loneliness - People seem to just leave you alone when a baby dies. More so though, I think loneliness may be in reference to feeling alone in your experience. There is a strange comfort in knowing someone else who has experienced a similar loss. They understand the pain, the trials and tribulations, and the heartache. Fortunately, there aren't many people who have experienced this kind of loss, but for those who have I am sorry and I understand.
- Pride - this is a big one for us. We dealt with this in the very beginning when we were showered with sympathy and I think to some degree we are both dealing with this now - we just don't know it. "For many of us we are too proud to ask for or accept help. When asked how we are feeling - we say "fine" where as in reality we are falling apart inside. We are apt to think "I can do it by myself" not realizing how unprepared we are for the death of a loved one. Sharing such deep grief does help us to cope and understand. The verb "be proud" means to hold one's self high, to turn one's head. Bereaved so often do this to overcompensate for how really low they feel. We are stubborn about letting anyone know how we feel. This makes it difficult for others to give us the help we so desperately need."
These are just some of the experiences of grief. There are others that are more hopeful and some that are more related to the newness of the loss, but these are the experiences for the moment - for the now. A good qoute - "Grief is like a raw open, deep wound. With great care it eventually will heal, but there will always be a scar. Life will never be the same. You never get over the loss, but you will get better in time.... It is important what you do with the time." Right now our wound is all red and swollen - sort of like when you don't take care of a cut and it gets infected. It is in the process of healing but still needs some attention.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Saturday, May 10, 2008
John was heading out to run an errand with Sean and asked if I wanted to go. I had all intentions of going because I just didn't want to be alone, but decided that I would stay home and start the laundry and vacuum. Please note that I haven't done much laundry since Daniel died - actually I haven't done any laundry in quite some time. I was still very upset, but thought that keeping busy would help. As the tears ran down my face, I sorted the laundry and I heard a cling on the cement basement floor. Underneath some shirts there was a dime - face up. Now granted, people often find change when doing the laundry BUT I only found a dime - just one dime - and it was while I was at my lowest - shortly after I had been in bed crying.
Coincidence maybe, but I want to believe, whether it is true or not, that someone - my son Daniel, my brother Daniel, or some other relative way up there in the heavens - is trying to tell me that everything will be alright - that Daniel is okay and that I don't have to worry. Why at the very lowest of days did this dime just appear?
For Mother's Day I wanted to get a necklace to remember Daniel. I really couldn't decide on any particular one, but now I think I know what I want. I think I'll have that dime made into a necklace - not only to remember Daniel, but to remind myself that he's okay and that it will be alright.
Friday, May 9, 2008
I really did not want to be at the hospital anymore. I just wanted to go home. I couldn’t get back to sleep so I got myself up, took a shower and got dressed. I can remember with Sean that it took 3 nurses to get me into the bathroom on the second day, but now I was able to do this all on my own – something that I had hoped for with this deliver - just not this way.
My primary OB came by to talk with me. She wanted me to know that she had also had a still born child who would have been 18 years old this year. For her my loss was closer to her heart than I think I realized. I understood why she said the things she said to me during the delivery; why she was so hard on me to make sure I made the right decisions - not based on how I was feeling at that moment but how she knew I might feel later on. I am so appreciative of her sharing her loss with me because it started to open my eyes to the fact that I am not the only person in this world that has been through such a devastating loss. It brought me one step closer to getting through the “process” and understanding that life goes on, women have more children, families continue to grow, and that people deal with loss in their own way and on their own timeline.
As my husband and I were preparing to leave the hospital I began to realize that this was another step in the “process”. As excited as I was to just get out of there I knew that this was going to be it – my baby was dead and I wasn’t leaving with him. The discharge nurse walked out with us and I remember wondering why she was tagging along. I know now that the nurse walked the halls with us because she also understood what leaving the hospital meant. It is a permanent step in actualizing the loss of your baby.
Just before you leave the maternity floor, just before the last set of doors to exit, there is a room where the hospital initially admits pregnant mothers to monitor their babies. As I walked by this room, I could hear loudly the heart beat of a baby – the same sound that I so longed to hear when I went to my doctor’s two days prior. I raced out of the doors through another set of doors, and into the sun – it was a beautiful day. I just cried into my husband’s shoulder – we both felt the loss even more so now. I feel for any mother who has to leave the hospital without their baby. I hope that mother in that room never takes for granted the sound of her baby’s heartbeat because it is the difference between leaving the hospital with a baby and leaving with a keepsake box, pamphlets, an empty heart and sorrow.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Daniel has taught me so much in such a short period of time. I know now that I should not take life, family, or children for granted. They are a blessing. I need to be appreciative of what I have for as long as I have it. In the deepest darkest moments of our grief we should remind ourselves that even when we feel we are going through the worst thing imaginable there is always someone, somewhere who has suffered far worse. We should not take comfort in this but know that “it could be worse” and this should give us the strength to move on.
The single most important thing I have learned from this is that strength isn’t getting over something and carrying on – it is facing it head on and dealing with it – even if that means allowing yourself to cry, feel pain, and express anger for much longer than you think you should. It is only now at my weakest most vulnerable point in life that I have found courage and ultimately true strength.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Failure - Having a child is such a miracle. Being pregnant with a child is such a blessing. Some people will never know or feel the significance of bearing a child – they may never have a child. There are some who do have children and never appreciate them. It seems so simple – get pregnant, carry your baby, give birth and raise that child. If I have learned anything from being a mother it is that nothing is simple. Every action you take or don’t take can effect how that child turns out. It is a huge responsibility to ensure the safety and health of a child - as parents we take on that role and make it our life. I know that there is nothing that I did to cause Daniel’s death. Nothing I have read leads me to believe that and nothing I have done would make me feel that way. It happens – it happens more often than we even know. I can’t help feeling inside, however, that I am a failure. I failed to bring this baby into my family’s life and I failed to bring the happiness and joy that comes along with a new baby. Rationally I know this is not right, but its how I feel.
Emptiness - I just can’t explain how empty a person’s life is once they lose a child. I never understood it. I am like that with everything – I have a hard time truly feeling pain for someone unless I have experienced it myself. I know now. I was so ignorant to all of this. I saw a section about stillbirth in my books but only glimpsed through it. Never really reading about it or trying to understand it. As far as I was concerned it didn’t apply to me. Now I know and I can feel the emptiness inside that it causes not only me but all the mother’s that have experienced a loss. I have a huge hole in my heart and I want to fill it so badly but there is nothing that can replace my son. I suppose this is why so many couples get pregnant again so quickly because they are trying to fill that hole. I know that I will never be able to fill the hole in my heart – maybe make that empty feeling less empty but it will always be there – for all of us.
Weakness – “You are so strong”. I used to take pride in that, but being strong – at least the way I used to handle it – was really being weak. Shoving feelings in closets, under beds and in the back of cabinets is not strength - its weakness. Conversely, when you allow yourself to be weak, vulnerable, to cry in front of and with others – only then are you strong. How can the same word mean two very different things? I think weakness is a trait to be admired. It means compassion, love, understanding, and feeling. I don’t understand it but I don’t understand a lot of things. I just know for the first time in my life I have felt this weakness – the kind that represents strength – and as much as it hurts – as much as I wince from the stabbing pain in my heart – I know that it is right.
Helpless – So many times through out all of this I have felt helpless. When I couldn’t feel my baby move – I felt helpless. When they said my baby was dead I felt helpless. When I was told I had to deliver him I felt helpless. When I held him in my arms – lifeless – I felt helpless. When we buried Daniel I felt so helpless. My husband and I aren’t helpless people – we have always been able to manage on our own in our lives apart and together. Sometimes no matter how hard you try there will be a point where you will be helpless – completely and utterly helpless – and you will have to just give in because there is nothing you can do to change things.
Dr. Joanne Cacciatore
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
The day I realized I didn’t feel him moving any longer I knew. I knew it wasn’t right, but I don’t think I wanted to believe it. I remember rushing to the OB to be put on the fetal monitor and thinking “well at least I will get to hear the baby’s heart beat”. The nurses tried to find the heart beat and kept saying “babies like to hide” as if this would reassure me of my fears. My shoulders were so tense and the nurse kept saying relax, but I couldn’t. The only heartbeat they found was my own. The doctor came in and tried – she found nothing but said nothing. We went into another room to do an ultrasound. As soon as it started I knew – they baby was not moving at all. I remember when we had an ultrasound at 6 months, the technician had to race to take pictures because Danny moved so much. He was sucking his thumb and had his fingers in his mouth the whole time – it was just before lunch and I was sure he was hungry. This time there was nothing – no reassuring flashing lights that would prove to me that he was okay. The monitor was ominously dark with white outlines of a baby. When the doctor told the nurse to close the door and she looked over at me I knew. I just cried – I cried so hard and loud they closed other doors into offices where other expectant mothers lay.
It seemed like forever before my husband got to the office, but in that time I went from wanting to erase everything from my memory and skip right to not being pregnant any longer to realizing for the first time in my life that this was something I couldn’t just pretend didn’t happen – that it didn’t effect me. The nurse that sat with me while I waited for my husband said something to me that gave me the courage to deal with all of this. She said “No matter what you can not forget this baby. This is your baby and you carried it for as long as you did”. “He will always be your child and that will never change.”
Going to church after we lost Daniel was hard. The last time we went I was pregnant. Doing anything for the first time after the loss seems hard – grocery shopping, picking Sean up from school, going to work. It serves as a reminder of what I had and what I don’t have now. The church prayed for Daniel that Sunday after his funeral. John brought Sean to the bathroom - a spot Sean frequently visits during mass - and I was sitting alone in the pew. I couldn’t help but cry and cry loudly -much more so than I would have liked.
I guess I'm not angry at God - I try not to be. I am trying my hardest to tie a perfectly concrete scientific reason to it all. However, I take comfort in the words John’s brother offered to us about God’s reasoning – “God gave you this great pain now so as to protect you from having to suffer an even greater pain and loss in the future. Maybe Daniel would have been sick or lived a short life and died young. God gave you this now because he knew you could handle it now as oppossed to later.”
Monday, May 5, 2008
I thank God for Sean – my first born child and my first born son. Motherhood is such a hard thing – it consumes your life taking away so much from your self yet leaving you feeling so full. He is what helps with this all. I know that some mothers may not be so lucky to already have a child to help focus on, but having him made me realize how lucky I was and appreciative of the life God had allowed me to care for. I did feel like I had disappointed him. I promised him a brother. I spent months talking about Danny and about how Sean would need to help mommy with taking care of the baby. Sean would lift my shirt up and wave to Danny and give him a hug and a kiss. Now I had nothing to give to him and how was I going to explain that to him.
Everything I read told me to be honest and direct yet simple. Just say “the baby is dead”. How do you explain dead to a three year old? I tried but I don’t think the magnitude of death sits well with a three year old. Sometimes he forgets – it has only been a week but my belly is still big and Sean comments about Daniel. I remind him that his brother is with God. We planted a tree together – Sean helped dig the hole and get the rocks out. This tree is our Danny tree – a Weeping Cherry – the same tree next to Daniel’s grave at the cemetery. With this I hope he will remember his brother and at the very least we will be able to watch this tree grow as we would have been able to watch Daniel grow had he not died.
I worry. I worry that I am so consumed with the loss of Daniel that I might not be a good mother to Sean. I worry that Sean is hurting but can’t express it. For anyone who says that he is little and that he doesn’t understand you are wrong. My son is very smart and very sensitive to people’s feelings. I know he knows we are hurting and he is hurting in his own way too. Sean will be okay. We will all be okay but it takes time.