Thursday, April 18, 2019

Silent All These Years

Years go by, will I still be waiting for somebody else to understand
Years go by, if I'm stripped of my beauty and the orange clouds raining in my head
Years go by, will I choke on my tears 'til, finally there is nothing left
One more casualty, you know we're too easy, easy, easy
Silent all these years. 
I've been here silent all these years
Silent all these, silent all these years
~Tori Amos

For some reason, this song has been in my head all day. I used to listen to it over and over in high school. I would blare the tape in my car while smoking clove cigarettes and thinking I knew all there was to know about life.

Why did this song resonate with me? I am not one to be silent. I wasn't then, and I am not now.

On this night, eight years ago, we went to our last Labor & Delivery Class. Gary did not want to wear the pregnancy belly. I did not want to watch the video of a real birth. All I wanted was to ask the nurse who was teaching the class why I did not feel my daughter kick anymore.

On this night, eight years ago, we stopped for milkshakes on the way home. The sugar was supposed to make my baby kick.

On this night, eight years ago, our company was closed for Good Friday the next day, so it was worth it to call the doctor and then go to the hospital for reassurance because we didn't have to work in the morning, so it did not matter if we were tired.

On this night, eight years ago, I lost my innocence and naivete.

On this night, eight years ago, my baby died.

She may have died earlier in the day. She may have died the day before. There was no way to know. She was alive on Tuesday at our 37-week appointment. She was not alive by the time they did an ultrasound on this night, eight years ago.

I miss my first daughter. I wonder what she would look like today and what she would like to do. I wonder what her favorite color would be and if she would look like me.

On this night, eight years ago, I vowed to not be silent. My daughter would be remembered. And she is.

Happy almost birthday, sweet Allie. We love you more.


Monday, April 1, 2019

Guess who's back, back again?

Ok, so not Shady. Me!

I have wanted to write, I really have. It's so cathartic for me, but I have run into a problem that I was just able to talk out yesterday. Without the ability to do that, I got stuck.

Here's my dilemma - I do not want my living child to grow up in the shadow of my dead one.

Heavy stuff, right? Especially for a Monday!

So here's the thing. Miranda would not exist if not for Allie. Had Allie not been conceived, loved, cared for and adored for 37 weeks and 1 day, and then died, she may have lived. And had she lived, would we have wanted another child? Would we have had fertility issues and then decided on adoption and then gotten all our classes and paperwork done in time for M to get pregnant, decided she wanted to place her baby for adoption and then choose Gary and me to be her parents? Probably not.

Miranda does not exist with Allie. But Allie existed for two years without Miranda.

How do I talk about one child without the other?

I don't. And there's nothing wrong with that. Parents tend to talk about all their kids. 

I feel like I am cheating Allie by talking about Miranda more. But Miranda is here and needs me. Allie is not.

My first born would be eight years old in a few weeks. That's a full-fledged reader. That's no booster seat in the car. That's a whole lot of things that are unfamiliar to me. If she were alive and I was parenting her, I would know eight better. But she's not, and I don't.

Back to Miranda being in Allie's shadow. Every butterfly, every sun flare, every extra twinkle of a star, we think of Allie. We say it aloud, and we get happy and then sad. Miranda has lived with that her whole life. Is that fair to her? Does she get jealous of a child only lives in our hearts?

Of the hundreds of photos that we took in Disney last month, this one is one of my favorites. I took it with my phone - it's not one of the professional ones. But it shows Gary with both our girls. And I adore it.

Is that fair?

Is life fair?

What is fair?

The thing is, I have a good life. I have a family that I love and that loves me in return. I have the best friends a girl could want or need. I have a job that I am passionate about and that gives me so much more than a paycheck. That should be enough.

And it is. 

I just worry that I am cheating Miranda out of a blissful childhood with a somewhat realistic one.

Maybe all of "this" will just prepare her to be a better youth and then teen and then young adult.

I sure hope so.

Maybe one day she will realize she is as lucky as me.

I definitely hope so.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Reconnecting and It Feels So Good!

I have never gone this long without blogging. Ever. At least when I stopped writing professionally, I was still writing personally. Lately, it seemed like every idea I had was already done, either by me or someone else. So I took a little break. It felt good.

I got an email on Thursday from our grief counselor. I do not think we have seen her since Miranda was a few months old. I remember bringing Miranda in to meet her and having one last session of how to deal with our grief now that we were actively parenting. It was lovely to show off our new baby to her, and we have kept in touch over the years. I used to send her updates a few times a year. Then once a year. Now it's been a few years.

She had an opportunity for therapeutic learning for current and past clients. A way to keep the therapy and lessons learned still pertinent after your sessions are done. In replying to her email, I realized my content would make a great blog post. It nicely summarized where we are at this point in time. Here is an excerpt.

Things with us are good! In a few weeks, we will be packing up and heading to Disney World! Miranda will be SIX at the end of March, so we are celebrating a few weeks early. We have wanted to take her for years, and the stars (and our finances!) finally aligned.

Yes, you read that right. Six years old. Allie would have been eight in April. That's the funny thing about time. It just keeps marching on. 

All in all, we are a pretty happy family. Miranda is everything that is right in this world and being her parents has been the most exciting journey ever. She is smart and funny and stubborn and sassy and every single day is an adventure with her. She knows about her sister in heaven and every time she sees a butterfly, she remarks that her Allie just flew by. She also knows that she is adopted and we still talk to her birth mother and visit her twice a year. 

Gary and I are well, too. He is a Global Product Manager now at a local company and has traveled around the world with his work. He is challenged daily and likes it for the most part. He is six minutes from home, which is a big perk. If he writes the next update, he can elaborate on this part!

As for me, I started freelance writing a few years ago and actually got paid to write! It was super rewarding. Most of my blogs were on Kveller.com which is a parenting website for Jewish moms. I also wrote for stillstanding.com, a website about infant loss and surviving the aftermath. Each and every article was healing for me and gave me the opportunity to write about both of my girls.

A year ago, I went back to work for real. It's part-time, and I love it. I am the Volunteer Coordinator at Laurel House. We are a DV agency and shelter, and the work has been so rewarding for me. I am still home with Miranda two afternoons week, and when she goes to first grade next year and is in school for full days, I will see if I can add more hours, or keep enjoying my 25 hours a week!

During our free time, we spend a lot of time at the beach and the pool in the summers and doing whatever Miranda wants in the winters. She had tried gymnastics, basketball, karate, and soccer and loves each sport like she invented it. She keeps our schedule busy!

Our families are good, too. Miranda adores her cousins! She still has three on Gary's side and now four on my side. My mom is a big presence in our lives. We see her at least once a week. She has been a great help, and I am glad we have worked hard to make our relationship flourish.

I have somehow become a local source for all things related to baby loss. People hear of me through a friend or find my old blog and ask me for help or guidance. I just referred someone to your practice around New Year's. It's such a joy for me to be able to show people how you can come out of the other side of grief. And to remind them that some days, if you can't get out of because the pain hurts too much, then for crying out loud, just stay in bed. Self-care is the best care.

We hope you are well and thank you for the thousandth time for helping us put our lives back together after Allie died. Never would I have thought that her death could someday be something we could learn from or that the little time we had with her would be so inspirational.

Much love,

Gary & Sam (your former favorite clients)

Yesterday outside of a kids magic show. Allie's light shines bright. 

Monday, December 24, 2018

My Year in Review

Some say that when it comes to raising a family, the days are long but the years are short. I am not sure I agree with that sentiment. Everything seems short to me. The days and the years. And they all go by so very fast.

2018 was a whirlwind of activity. Gary and I celebrated our tenth year together. Miranda started kindergarten. I began a new job. I learned to live yet another year without my first daughter

One year ago on this very day, I was working as a freelance writer and having a lot of anxiety about my upcoming surgery. I was five days away from a reduction mammoplasty (which I told virtually no one about) and was freaking out.

Fast forward to today, and I am so proud of my decision. I am no longer suffering from back pain and shoulder grooves and the endless frustration of nothing fitting me right!

One year ago on this very day, I was upset about the weight that I had gained back and was having a lot of negative feelings about my relationship with food.

Fast forward to today, and I am excited to say that I joined Weight Watchers over the summer and am down almost 40 pounds and I am re-learning how to make smart choices and not be on a diet, but rather a lifestyle change. That may mean Chinese buffet for dinner tonight, but then it may also mean lots of water and salads in the days that follow! 

I am exercising again - a few days a week. When I want to run, I run. When I want to just walk, that's what I do. No pressure to do more than feels right for me.

Another year of being a mom to Miranda has been mostly joy (but a little bit of pain). Her fifth year of life brought questions about Judaism and adoption and jaguars and weather patterns. You can guess which ones we were able to answer. She is so inquisitive and so sassy and so much a part of both Gary and me that she takes my breath away. 

At the nail salon the other day, the technician asked if she looked like her daddy since she does not really look like me. She replied that she thinks she looks like both of us, but people get confused since she has straight hair and I have curly hair. Bless her heart.

Allie had curly hair. A whole mess of it. I have no way of knowing if it would still be curly now; mine went through phases when I was growing up. I sure wish I got to see even one of her phases or stages.

We added two kittens to our household this year, and it's hard to remember a time without them! They are silly and playful and make everything extra exciting. We are super happy they came into our lives.

From snows days to dance recitals to gymnastics class, we tried to experience it all this year. And we did!

My job at Laurel House has changed us all, for the better. I have started to teach Miranda about the joys of volunteering, and I have come to appreciate what it's like to work outside the home again. I have made solid relationships and learned so much. I know now more than ever that your home is supposed to be a safe place - a sanctuary, almost - and I will do everything I can to make sure anyone who wants that safe haven gets it. No matter what.

My job also put me in the direct path of someone who lost a child this year. Her agony is so familiar to me. It's like a dress I used to wear. Some days I feel like I have nothing to offer her, but other days, I feel like I am at that job just to help her navigate the choppy waters of grief. I am not sure which one of us helps which more. 

All in all, it's been a good year. There were more smiles than tears. Lots of happy memories at the beach and on dry land as well.

A few short weeks after the new year rolls in, I will turn 45 years old. Which is middle age. I could not wait for 18...21...30...heck, even 40! But 45 is stumping me a bit. I am curious as to how I will deal with that.

So that's it. 2018 in review. Some of it I would do again. Some of it I would take a pass.

In that respect, I guess it's not so different from any other year, huh?

Merry everything and happy new year!!









Monday, November 19, 2018

Giving Thanks

I can't turn on my computer, phone, or tv without seeing a list of things that people are thankful for this time of year. 

I have many many things to be thankful for, and not just because Thanksgiving is later this week. But hey, if people want the list now, then now they shall get it.

I am thankful for my family and friends. Duh. Of course I am thankful for them. But if I want people to read my words, I need to find a way to make my list different from the rest. So here goes.

I am thankful for my sense of humor that allows me to get through the darkest of days. I am also thankful that Miranda recently said I was the funniest person she knows. Even funnier than her uncles. That is a major win.

I am thankful for the Weight Watchers app which has taught me (AGAIN) how to eat properly and take care of myself with correct nutrition and has assisted me with becoming the person I want to be.

I am thankful for the people that listen to my stories and want to hear about both of my daughters.

I am thankful that Miranda is enjoying kindergarten and has such a passion for learning. I am also so glad that her teacher just invited me to come in during Hanukkah to teach her class about the holiday and hand out dreidels.

I am thankful that we joined a synagogue this year and that Miranda sees it as a safe place where she can learn and sing and be free. 

I am thankful for the way my husband looks at me.

I am thankful that I found a job this year that is way more than a "job". WAY more.

I am thankful for each and every butterfly that I see that reminds me of Allie.

I am thankful for our two new kitty cats which have brought such joy and light into our home. (I am not as thankful for vet bills and kitty litter).

I am thankful for people sharing their stories and lives with me. What an honor.

I am thankful that I am so loved.

Take a few moments this week to think about what matters most to you. Then give thanks. 

Happy Thanksgiving!





First snow!

Visiting Allie's Creek



Monday, October 29, 2018

Am Yisrael Chai

Translated into English, "Am Yisrael Chai" means "The people of Israel live." The expression has been on a loop in my head since Saturday's massacre in Pittsburgh.

I have been to Israel the same amount of times that I have been to Pittsburgh. Once. And both were in college. That was over twenty years ago.

It was roughly that time in my life when I stopped being a member of a synagogue. I remember finding a local synagogue in West Chester for the High Holidays and every once and a while, I remember coming home and attending services with my mom. The synagogue always represented a safe place for me. A familiar place. A place of comfort.

As I got older and was busy finding my way in this world, my religion felt secondary to me. I still believed and had faith, and I still followed the traditions and rituals that I grew up with. It pretty much ended there, though.

When Gary and I got married, it was important to me that a rabbi perform the ceremony. We were fortunate enough to find a wonderful one. When Miranda was converted to Judaism, we were able to reach out to the synagogue I attended growing up, and they took care of all the details for us. Same for her baby naming. We were not members, but we were a part of the community, and they welcomed us in whatever capacity we desired. 

Two months ago, I joined the synagogue for the first time as an adult. My whole family joined, and we enrolled Miranda in Hebrew School. She has been attending classes every Sunday, and she loves it. She comes home chanting Hebrew songs and telling me all about the Torah. She loves to learn, and to her, Hebrew school is no different than her elementary school. Aside from the fact that it's on the weekend.

Last Saturday, when a gunman entered that shul in Pittsburg and angrily took eleven lives and wounded at least six others, he destroyed the solitude of what a synagogue means to so many people. He took our calm and our innocence. But he did not take our faith.

So many people that I have spoken to in the last 48 hours or so feel stronger than ever that we must come together and stop the madness. We must band together and show up and believe that something like this will never be allowed to happen again. The people of Israel live.

Yesterday, we went to Hebrew school. We hugged each other a little bit more. There were tears in many of our eyes. We were aware of the increased police presence in the parking lot and in the building itself. But we showed up. And we will continue to show up. 

I am proud to be Jewish. I am proud to be raising my daughter in the only religion and faith that I have ever known. I am glad to be a member of a synagogue again, and I feel privileged that I have a safe place to go. To believe. To pray.

The Jews that I know are not quitters. That's not about to start now.

The people of Israel live. The people of this land live. And as long as we live, we will remember. 



Friday, October 19, 2018

Party of Four

To the untrained eye, we look like a family of three. A mom, a dad, and beautiful little girl. To see us out and about, one would never know that we are always missing one.

This past weekend, we had formal family pictures taken. This was the third time ever since Gary and I have been together. The first was when we first brought Miranda home from the hospital. She was a few weeks old, and I remember that she peed all over the photographer. We had our "Allie" bear with us, and the pictures came out beautifully.

The next session was shortly after the courts officially declared Miranda "ours." We did not include Allie in that session as it was really just about her younger sister.

The last session was on Saturday. We all gathered at a local park, and my mom and brothers and their families were there as well. The rain had stopped a few hours prior, and the sun was peeking out just enough from behind the clouds. We have a family friend who is a photographer, and he and his terrific wife gifted my mom this session for her birthday a few years ago. It took us a while, but we all finally made it to picture day.

I was adamant that I wanted Allie in the picture somehow. This was a snapshot of my side of the family, and I wanted both of my girls in it.

We knew the Allie bear would not look right. I wore a bracelet with a butterfly charm. I thought maybe that was enough.

Gary, on the other hand, went right to our front yard and pulled out the large blue butterfly that we have hanging out there year round. 

We carried that butterfly though the park, and we proudly placed it where it needed to be in the pictures as a symbol of our first born. It calmed me to have her there. 

I will never know if Allie would have been all smiles at the photo shoot or if she would have have been nervous or anxious or not all smiles. I will never get to dress her in an outfit that matches ours, and I will never get to look at the proofs and think about how much she looks like Gary or me. All I have is a butterfly from the Ocean City boardwalk that resides in our front yard. I am not sure that's enough. And yet it has to be.

Miranda came home from school a few weeks ago with an assignment to fill in the members of her family for a family tree. I agonized over what to do. Do I add Allie and have Miranda explain why there is a sister on the form, but not one in the second grade? Do I add Allie with a note that she has wings? Do I add Allie and then ask for a parent-teacher conference?

In the end, I decided not to add Allie. That does not mean she is not a part of our family. It simply means that when Miranda is old enough to understand and explain her sister, she will. I did not feel it was fair to put that burden on her now, at five years old.

There is so much about parenting after loss that we are still learning. There is so much about living after loss that is still new to us, and we are seven years removed from it.  Does time make it better? No. Does time make it easier? No. Does time give me perspective and distance enough to step back and see what is best for my family and me? Sometimes.

We are and will always be a Party of Four. Even if we are the only ones who know it. 

And so, here we are. We are thrilled with how the pictures came out. I am so pleased that we are all represented. 

In the end, it all worked out.








Silent All These Years

Years go by, will I still be waiting for somebody else to understand Years go by, if I'm stripped of my beauty and the orange cloud...