Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Grief Bomb

For years after Allie died, I was worried about each and every pregnant person that I knew. Or read about. Or heard a story about. If I saw a pregnant woman walking down the street, I would walk the other way. If I had to talk to a pregnant woman, I would make eye contact only. I would never dare to look at her swollen belly.

When my sister-in-law was pregnant with my niece (and later my nephew), I changed my behavior slightly. I did this for her sake as well as mine. We both had to be comfortable around each other, and there are things you do for a family that you simply cannot do for others.

While I still do not attend baby showers or buy presents for babies until there are here, I have relaxed a little bit and not freaked out when I hear someone is pregnant. My cousin had the most adorable little boy last month so my mom, Miranda, and I took an almost 6-hour road trip (round trip) just to welcome him to the family, smell his delicious head, and feed him a bottle. It was more than worth it.

I let my guard down. I forgot to be scared. I felt almost normal.

And then a baby died.

There was a baby that was growing safe and sound in his mommy and was due in late June. I talked to his mom about his upcoming arrival. Not a lot, but more than I ever had before.

That mommy is having a funeral for her son this weekend. 

I do not know all the details. It's not my business to know. What I do know is that he was alive one day and then gone the next.

People were afraid to tell me. People were afraid for me to know.

It was like someone set off a grief bomb.

I took a minute to feel sorry for myself. "Why does this keep happening?" "Is there any way it's my fault?"

Then I realized it was not about me. It's not about the me that I used to be.

What I am now, since surviving the most horrendous tragedy ever, is a bit of a subject matter expert. Once I let the tears escape my eyes, I dried them off and got to business. I gathered information on grief counseling and support groups and a list of "do's and don'ts." I took the sadness from my past and used it to help make someone else's days less sad. 

I took on grief from the other side.

I do not believe that everything happens for a reason. I do not believe that baby is in a better place. I do believe in the power of love and compassion to get us through.

To Anthony - I am sorry we never got to meet. It's cruel. It's unfair. You were very much wanted and are very much loved. I remember you. I will make sure you are not forgotten, even by the people on the periphery of your life. That is my promise to you. 

Please say hi to my girl if you see her. I suspect you will. 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Leaving My Mark

For as long as I can remember, I have always had this fear of not being remembered. I do not know how or why it was so important to me, but I never wanted to be forgotten. Who does?

Yesterday, my mom and I took Miranda to the local high school to see their spring musical, Fiddler on the Roof. While that high school will not be the one that my daughter attends, it was the one that I went to many many years ago. 

Miranda was excited to see where her mommy and uncles used to go to school. It's much bigger than her school (after all, it has a pool and a planetarium), but she was not too overwhelmed. She liked walking the hallowed halls and looking at the lockers and was very worried about where the students ate their snacks. Then we walked her into the back of the auditorium where my name was displayed on a plaque stating that I was the "Best Actress" for my senior year. There it was. In wood and bronze. Proof that I was to be remembered.

I have a lot of happy high school memories. Many of them were on that stage. I can close my eyes and still smell the costumes, the paint from the sets, the blisters on my feet and the nervousness in my stomach. I can feel the stage lights on my face and the feeling that washed over me when the audience responded to my different characters.

Some nights, before the curtain would open, I would reach up as high as I could and put my fingerprint on something that I thought might not get wiped down right away and therefore serve as proof that I was there. That became something I did whenever I would go somewhere new. I used to try to leave my invisible mark as a sign that I was there. In my old dorm rooms. In the house I lived in during my college years. In my first apartment. Before selling my first car. I never used ink or anything permanent. I just had hopes that if someone wanted to know I was there, they could somehow see my fingerprint and know.

I did not do it in the hospital after I delivered Allie. I am not sure I ever did it after she was born. I have often said that her death changed me. Not all of the change was good. Her death took away my innocence and naivete, and it was not until I was in my old high school yesterday that my old tradition came back to me.

The thing is, I have finally come to terms with the fact that I will be remembered. I have been fortunate enough to impact and be impacted by so many people. Most recently, I have chosen to go back to work in a field that directly lets me help others, thereby solidifying that I will not be forgotten.

So if you see me reaching up high and pressing my index finger upon a surface, simply smile and let me be me. 

Here's to leaving our mark!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

4 Days Till 7

My Dearest Allie,

Your birthday is this weekend, and yet we have no party planned, no presents purchased, no outfits picked out. Somehow, you would be seven years old on Sunday. I cannot wrap my brain around that. 

I just witnessed your cousin Ella turn the same age. She was born two weeks before you, you know. You two were supposed to be the best of friends. Well, your sister has made sure that the strong bond of friendship is there so don't you worry about that! They are adorably close, and Miranda idolizes her.

Speaking of Miranda, I like to think that you are someplace watching over her, but I will fill you in on her activities nonetheless. She just turned five, and we had a super fun party at Chuck E. Cheese. Miranda was glowing with all the attention that she got, and there was so much love in that room. Many of our family and friends were there to celebrate her, and she loved every second.

Your little sister is heading to kindergarten in the Fall! How can that be? I was not my best when I went to register her. I was feeling your absence pretty strongly, and kind of yelled and huffed and puffed when they told me I needed forms I didn't have. Oops. I guess even at my age, I am still learning appropriate versus inappropriate behavior. 
We are gearing up for the "adoption" talk. Miranda commented Grammy last weekend about growing in my belly, so we know it's time to really explain what adoption is and not just use the word here and there. I do not anticipate that it will be a hard conversation. The bottom line is that after you died, we knew we still wanted to be parents, and so we found the best way to do that. It's remarkable if you think about it.

Selfishly, I wish you were here to help us tell her. But then I wonder if she would be here at all if you were still here?

Daddy is doing well. He was traveling a lot for work, but that seems to have slowed down a bit. I am glad because we work well as a trifecta and I do not like it when he is not here. Your daddy thinks I am strong, but truth be told, he is what keeps me going some days. Lots of days.

Everyone else is also good. But I suspect you know that.

My new job is not so new anymore, but Allie, it's great! It's super fulfilling, and I feel like I am making a difference. It's nice to be in the non-profit sector again. For me, if feels more about the work than the bottom line. I fit in there, and I look forward to going in three days a week. I know, crazy, huh?

Well, the weather around here has been really off for April, so I am not sure how we are going to celebrate you on Sunday. If the rain and cold stay away, we will visit your tree. Miranda wanted to go to a playground and laugh and have fun on your birthday, and I have no issue with that! Maybe we will pack a picnic lunch. We will probably also release some balloons at the end of the day so be sure to look for them.

Alright, my sweet girl. It's time for me to go. I do not talk directly to you too much anymore because it hurts my heart, even after all this time. Today, though, you were exactly what I needed.

Allie, I love you more. I always will.


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Just Thinking About Tomorrow

Tonight, I am having trouble with my words. There is so much I want to say, so much I want to convey. The windows are open for the first time all year, and the sounds of Spring are permeating our home. And yet, I am sad.

Seven years ago on the night before Good Friday, we had our last Labor & Delivery Class. I mentioned to the nurse that I hadn't felt my daughter move as much as I liked. She told me to go home and relax and eat something sweet and start to count kicks. 

The kicks never came. The next day, on Good Friday, I delivered the most beautiful seven pound, 2-ounce angel. With my hair and Gary's long fingers and toes, she took our breath away. Although to be honest, I think we stopped breathing the day before.

Every year, I struggle with the fact that I have to mourn twice - once on Good Friday and once on Allison's actual birthday which is April 22nd. 363 days, I celebrate her. Two days, I grieve her.

Tomorrow night, I am hosting my first Passover Seder. Just my immediate family, but with all the kids, it will be a full house. The focus on cooking all day and the attention to all the details will surely keep me preoccupied. I think that's why I offered to host this year.

Tomorrow is also the anniversary of my father's death. He died the day before Miranda turned one. I think about him often. Who would he be now? Who would I be if he were still here?

Saturday is Miranda's fifth birthday. We are excited to celebrate this milestone together and rejoice in all that is good. It's hard to believe this very weekend, two years after her sister's death, our rainbow baby was born and changed the course of our lives forever.

Sunday is Easter with Gary's family, and it's been a long time since we have all been together. I can hardly wait.

So much has changed in our lives in seven years. I miss my innocence and my naivete, but I am proud of my strength and perseverance.

In my new job, we often talk about "trauma-informed language." I was told in my interview that I speak it well and have been told that a few times since. I think it's from the grief counseling and support groups that I have learned how to speak and listen in a way that is soothing.

Miranda is starting to understand bigger concepts as she is getting older. Twice in the last month, she has told complete strangers that she had a sister who died before she had a chance to live. It GUTS me to hear her say that. But she says it with a smile. To her, she is keeping the memory of her sister alive. And I guess to me, she is, too.

During Passover, we ask "The Four Questions" as part of the Seder. One of them is, "Why is this night different from all other nights?" Well, for me, the answer will be simple. "On this night, I mourn those who I have lost, but I celebrate their memories, and I am embracing all the love that is around my table."

Now please pass the matzo ball soup!

Monday, March 12, 2018

How Did It Get So Late So Soon?

The title of this post comes from not me, but from Dr. Seuss. Seemed rather appropriate since his birthday was earlier this month. Miranda has been studying and learning all about him these past few weeks. She has always been a fan, but I think her admiration is growing.

I feel like time is literally racing these days. I am really enjoying my new job and am so glad I accepted this position at this stage in my life. Hats off to all the full-time working parents who manage to get it all done. Part-time work has got me FRAZZLED! However, I am getting into the groove of it all and already can tell that I am more productive in my off hours than I was before. I am also more present on my days with Miranda.

Speaking of which, our little rainbow is almost 5. WHAT THE HECK? Tomorrow morning, I will sign her up for kindergarten. She is bright and courageous and strong beyond her years. We have a visit with her birth mother this weekend. I wonder how the conversation will go. This precocious young girl is starting to ask "how people are made" and other such questions which we can answer and will, but M may need to fill in some blanks. 

Miranda is also asking more and more about death. On a recent car ride, we were talking about Allie's birthday next month. She asked if we were going to celebrate it. I said of course. Then she asked when she died. I was forced to say on the day she was born. Many questions then followed, and I was glad that I was driving and I did not have to look her in the face with my eyes full of tears. She deserves to know the truth, and I think she will know it sooner rather than later now.

I used to think that parenting after a loss was particularly hard. I now take that back. Parenting, in general, is hard. 

Miranda and I went away this weekend for the first time by ourselves. We shared a bed (which we had never done before), and we experienced some other "firsts" as well. My takeaway? I do not care how hard parenting is some days. I love it. I was made it to it. My other takeaway? Miranda needs her own bed. She kicked me all night long.

I am starting to fear my own mortality. I want to be around forever. I want to do and be everything that Miranda needs to be. And I want to be alive to keep Allie's memory alive.

In Harry Potter, there is the idea of a "Horcrux." Essentially, they are objects that hold pieces of your soul so you can never die. Now in the books, they are evil, and I won't say much more in case I was not the last person on Earth to read the series. I have to say I like the idea of a Horcrux for me. I like knowing that I could put a piece of my soul in various pieces of jewelry of picture frames or furniture pieces and live for as long as I was needed. 

Since that is not likely to happen, I just have to keep doing the best I can. And being the best I can. Some days I succeed. Some days I fail. I guess that's life, right?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Let The Wild Rumpus Start!

Last week, I submitted my clearances for my new job. This week I planned my outfit, went to the doctor, followed up with my plastic surgeon, did laundry, cleaned the house, and bought enough groceries to make sure I can pack my lunch the next few days. I even finished the Harry Potter series.

Ladies and gentlemen, the time has arrived. I am heading back to work.

It's a tough week to start since Gary is traveling (again). However, this trip should be his last one for a while, and I just did not want to wait any longer.

I cannot wait to walk in tomorrow, head held up high and start his next chapter of my life. I am a blank slate and can fill my narrative the way I want it to read. I am not a bereaved mom or an adoptive mom or a super cool mom. 

In reality, I am all of those things. My new coworkers will find that out in due time. Tomorrow, I am just me.

I am not someone who has struggled with weight gain and loss all her life. I am not someone who is still healing from a recent surgery. I am not someone who still watched repeats of Gilmore Girls whenever she can or someone who gets so nervous when she meets any kind of celebrity that she almost vomits.

In reality, I am all of those things, too. But tomorrow, I am just me,

I have a fresh start. I get be a part of an organization that is helping others. I get to be more than me.

I cannot wait.

Yesterday, while playing hide-and-seek with Miranda, I discovered she can hide in the dryer and close herself in. After I had a mild heart attack and explained to my her why that was NOT a good idea, I realized going back to work, even part-time work will hopefully make me more present when I am home. Or maybe not.  Time will tell.

There are things I will miss by being in an office 15-20 hours a week. Tuesday matinees. Naps. Time to take leisurely walks. I will have to find a different and more effective way to use my time now.

I do not want my writing to suffer. It's too important to me. My goal is to blog once a week and once I am in a routine, start to submit pieces to various publications. I can do more than one thing. I can be more than one thing. Now is the time to try.

So here goes nothing. Or here goes everything. My glass is half full, and I am ready to take a big, giant sip!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

All You Need Is Love

For most of my life, I hated February 14th. It seemed the whole world was celebrating love and I had nothing to celebrate. My dad had left. I didn't date much in high school. My prom date was gay. I was destined to be alone and loveless forever.

Thank goodness we are not teenagers forever. As I got older, I became less melodramatic. I would protest Valentine's Day by buying up all the leftover chocolate the day after the holiday and devour my feelings with the buttercream.  It worked...until it didn't.

Eventually, my dad and I reconciled. He would send me a big bouquet of flowers every year, and if he was in town, we would go to dinner. He tried to make up for the lost years and sometimes it even worked. 

Then I met Gary.  Just like that, Valentine's Day took on new meaning. I saw it for the true Hallmark holiday that it was, but I did not care because I had love in my life! (And sometimes diamonds).

Then we got pregnant. And just like that, I knew the love I had for my unborn baby far surpassed any other kind of love I had ever known.

And then she died. Before I had a chance to say hello. Before I had a chance to tell her how much I loved her. Luckily, she could feel it for those 37 weeks. I have to believe she could feel it as she grew so close to my heart when she was alive.

Once our hearts were mended and we were open to the possibility of parenting again, we were rewarded with the best gift ever. My daughter who was born from our love, if not from our bodies, has taught us both about unconditional love. A love that I never knew existed until she was placed in my longing arms.

This morning, before the sun came up, I raced downstairs to get the balloon I purchased for Miranda. I wanted it to be the first thing she saw when she woke up. I gave her a card from mommy and daddy that appropriately had a big rainbow on the front and lots of little hearts on the inside. In a few hours, I will march proudly into her school and help her hand out her cards and cookies and lollipops and celebrate this day with her and remind her, as I do every day, that I love her to the moon and back and to all the places along the way.

I am blessed to have so much love in my life. I am honored to be able to return much of that love. I wish I had not spent so many years thinking that love was out of my grasp. Maybe, though, love is that much sweeter since I waited for it extra long? 

Happy Valentine's Day. Here's to appreciating all kinds of love and never taking any of it for granted. Here's to no longer dreading February 14th!


The Grief Bomb

For years after Allie died, I was worried about each and every pregnant person that I knew. Or read about. Or heard a story about. If I sa...