Saturday, December 31, 2011

Our Year in Pictures

The saying is that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Today, I will let them speak for me.

3D pics of our little girl

Images from my baby shower

A handful of my amazing friends



So many presents

My shower cake.  I love turtles and hoped Allie might, too

Allison's Nursery

Allison's Nursery

Allison's feet.  This is the only image we have shown our loved ones.  They form a heart.

The Memorial Walk, one month to the day of our loss

Allie's Creek

The Aleph that Daddy designed for our baby

Her hand and foot prints that now hang in her room

A Hanukkah present from one of my dearest friends.  It's a heart shaped locket.

Thank you to everyone who got us through this year. We could not have made it through without your support.  So for all the cards, gifts, tissues, flowers, food, shoulders and love, thank you so much.

Here's hoping 2012 brings much more joy and happiness to us all.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Looks like we made it

Tomorrow I go back to work.  Most of the people I know are still off, but I am out of vacation time and thus it's back to work I go.   I need to start to tie up the loose ends of my old job so I can start the new one in a few weeks.  Still, I would not mind a few more days off!

For the most part, my mini-Christmas break was very nice. We went to the movies.  We spent time with our families.  We gave and got some great gifts.  We laughed.

The holidays were not the way I thought they would be when I envisioned them last year.  Hell, they were not even the way I thought they would be six months ago.  But we survived.  And I like to think we are the stronger for it.

There were a few highlights to the long weekend. Seeing our nieces and nephews ranks up there as number 1.  No doubt about it.  I sometimes feel such a longing for Allie when I am with them as it hurts so much that they will never get to know their cousin.  But this weekend, for whatever reason, I was able to just enjoy them and love them and not wish for what is not here, but instead, appreciate what is.

Last night, we said a toast to Allie before we ate dinner.  Man that was nice.  Then as we opened presents, we were given this plaque from Gary's aunt.  I told you about it a while back in this post, but we did not have all the details then. How amazing is this gesture and the love behind it?
  
Last night I was also given the most beautiful heart necklace, inscribed with these words:  "My precious Daughter, I love you today, tomorrow and always".  Gary's dad and his wife got it for me and I could have just melted.  For some reason, my worst fear is that our daughter will be forgotten.  Well, guys...I get it.  Allie is here in our hearts today and every day.  Perhaps that is the best gift of all?

So here we are on December 26th.  Christmas is past.  The last night of Hanukkah is tomorrow.  2012 is right around the corner.  I am very happy to say goodbye to this year as it brought more pain and anguish and sadness than I would have ever thought possible.  But, it also brought us more love and strength and support than I ever thought possible, too.

Happy holidays to you all and may all our dreams come true in the coming year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Birth Announcment

A friend/coworker made this for us.  She told me when I was pregnant that she liked to do birth announcements and would like to make one for us.  I was super excited.

When I came back from leave, she told me she still wanted to make it...if we still wanted it.  I said yes.

Although Allie was born on April 22, the date of May 11 was the one we held close to our hearts for all those months as that was the day she was due.

I cannot wait to go home and hang this up and I cannot wait for the day that I can tell my friend to make us another one.  Even though I am leaving her department, she does not seem to be holding a grudge.

Thank you, friend.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Feeling...good?

Grief is such an odd "thing".  I am not sure if it's an emotion or feeling or state of mind or stage or what so I am just gonna call it a thing.  It makes you sad and keeps you sad.  It can take away the ability to see the happy in situations. It can smother you like a blanket and take your breath away.  It will allow you to go through the motions of life, but in a way, stop you from actually living.

I have worked for my company for about 5 and a 1/2 years.  Last March, I went to HR and talked about making a change.  I was 7 months pregnant and it was going to be hard to put the baby in daycare and come back to a job that I was not 100% passionate about.  I loved the people I worked with and I knew I wanted to stay at the company, but I wanted something a little more me...and something that was going to really challenge me.

Then we lost Allie.  Our world stopped.  Time stopped.  Everything went black.

6 weeks after the worst day of our lives, I went back to work.  Going back was good for me as it made me feel needed and it obviously helped pay our mortgage and bills.  I went through the motions, buried in grief, but did what I had to to get by.  I did not care what I did, as long as I was doing something.

About a month ago, I was in the cafeteria getting ice from the ice machine and I saw a posting for a job that practically screamed, "Sam, look at me!".  The open position was for a Training Specialist and it involves training and leading and teaching and all the things I have really wanted to do for a while.  I will get to travel to our other facilities and I will be constantly challenged and pushed to my limits.  

I went to HR and expressed my interest.  I met with the hiring manager and expressed my interest again.  I met with a person in the department and well, you get it.  Last week, I was given an assignment to do as part of my interview.   I had to present a 15-30 minute class with Power Point slides and a logo and a brand and a theme and a flyer and I worked harder this past week than I have in longer than I care to admit.  I practiced every night and had Gary help me and then help me again and then help me some more until I got it right.  I was scared and nervous and I second-guessed myself a lot.

My presentation was 9:30 this past Friday.  I knew it was good.  I knew it was me.  I knew I did the best job possible.  I knew it more when HR called shortly after lunch to offer me the job. 

I gladly accepted.  I ran down to tell Gary.  I did it!  We did it!  (There are so many perks to us working for the same company!).  I was so proud of myself and it felt so...good??  Yeah, it felt good!  I worked hard and went after something and I got it.  Here's the best part - I felt good and I let myself feel good!  

It's now 2 days later and I still feel good.  Is my daughter still gone?  Yes.  Am I still sad?  Hell, yes.  But am I making the most of my life?  For the first time since April, the answer is yes.

I found this on my way home from work on Friday and bought it as a treat for getting the job. I think I deserved it!  This blog has been so very helpful to me, as have each and every comment that you, the readers, has ever left.  So now I can be reminded of them all whether I am in front of my computer or not.

I know I am not "over" the grief.  I am not sure I ever will be.  But this week, I was able to compartmentalize that grief and the results were astounding.  I hope I can keep it up because it feels good to be able feel good again.  Nothing has changed, but everything has shifted.  And when it shifts back, I will now have this post to rely on.  I will read it and be reminded that sometimes, it's ok to feel good, too.  It really is...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Need for...what?

I feel like I need to write today and yet, I am not sure what I want to say.  Usually I have a topic in mind before I start, but I figured this time, I would just start typing and see what comes out.

A few people have asked me if the holiday season is hard for me this year and my answer is yes and no.  It's hard because it's just one more thing that my baby will not be here for, but it's not any harder than any other day.  Because we celebrate Hanukkah with my side of the family and Christmas with Gary's side of the family, it's not like the season culminates in one day for us like it does it so many other households.  No, for us, it's 8 nights of lighting the menorah that she will never see and then 1 full day of Christmas cheer that she will never hear.


Next week is 8 months that she is gone.  I carried her for just a little longer than that.  Soon it will be 9 months and then 10 months and before I know it, she will have been gone even longer than she was even here.  That makes me sad.

I need something...but I am not sure what it is.  I need to be a mom to a living child.  Someone told me recently that they do not like that expression and guess what?  Nor do I.  But it is what it is.  I need to get pregnant again, but apparently my body is not ready for that just yet.  I need to feel that there is more to life than sorrow and pain, and some days I do.  Other days, it's just too hard.

Last year this time, we had just found out we were having a girl.  I never imagined a scenario in which should would not be here with us this year.  Damn.

I am angry and sad and fearful and mad.  I do not feel like shopping and I do not feel like celebrating.  But I am here, my family is stronger than ever, I have nieces and nephews that want to play and I will NOT miss out on all of that.

So up I get each and every day...just waiting for that something that I hope one day will come. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Other Side of Loss

Last night, my dear friend lost her father.  He had been sick off and on for the last few years, but we were all very  hopeful that they would find the right treatment for him and that he would get well.  He had so much to live for - a loving wife, two wonderful kids, 2 adorable grandchildren, 7 siblings, 1 dog...the list goes on and on.  Mr. R was an active member of his church and loved to golf.  He had a great sense of humor and if anyone he knew loved you, well then, he loved you, too.  67 years was FAR too few years for him to be on this earth.

My bestie called me last night from the hospital and asked us to go walk the dogs.  Her dog and her parents dog were together at one house and the doctor had just told them to not go home last night.  So Gary and I put on baseball caps and dark clothes and got in the car to drive over.  It was pouring last night and we wanted to be prepared...but I am sure it looked like we were casing the joint.  We fed and walked the dogs and then dried them off and played for a bit.  Anyone that knows me, knows I am not a dog person.  I was mortified that one was gonna poo and that I was not going to know how to handle it.  (Insert Gary's help here!).  I am a cat person all the way.  But for my friend, I would walk a thousand dogs.

Early this morning, before the sun was even up, I had an eerie feeling.  I checked my phone and sure enough, there was a voice mail from my friend.  Her dad was gone.

I sent her a text to see if she was up and then I called her.  We cried together for a long time.  We cried at all the things her dad was going to miss, now that he is not here. We cried at all the things she was going to miss about him.  And we cried because we both came to the realization that her dad and my daughter would be together.  He will surely look out for her and teach her whatever she needs and love her the way we can't here on earth.

I am now faced with the kind of grief that our friends and family faced back in April.  I want to send flowers and food and cards.  I want to be there for their family and hold them and hug them and let them know they are not alone. I feel so helpless and so sad and OH MY GOD...this is what it feels to be on the other side of loss.  I think it might suck just as much.

It's with a heavy heart that I write today as he was not my dad and his is not my story to tell...and yet, I was touched by this man.  This strong man who raised my friend to be one of the best people I have ever had the honor of knowing.  So I guess it is fair for me to write about him.  He was loved so very much and he is already missed so very much. 

Mr. R - here's to you.  I will surely toast my next martini in your honor.  I know how much you loved them.  I hope you are in a happy place.   A place with no pain.  You left your family in good hands.  We will take care of them.  Please tell my baby that we miss her so.  I suspect you might have done that already...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mass and Muppets

Yesterday, I went to church.  Yup, you read that right!  Not many Jews go to Mass, I know.  Trust me.  We do not know what to do there.  We love staring at the stained glass and feeling the wood of the pews, but as a whole, we usually feel out of place in church. We go, of course, for weddings, christenings, funerals...and for Mass Services that are held to honor our baby girl.

Gary's aunt has taught at the same Catholic school for 40+ years.  I think.  I may be off by a year or two, but I think I am close.  Her sister, Gary's mother, works in the same school in their main office, and has also worked there for years.  Catholicism is important to them and the sense of community that they get from the school and the Parrish is unmatched.  So when they both told us many months ago that they wanted to have a Mass to honor Allie, we were immediately on board.

Technically, Allie was Jewish.  In the Jewish faith, a child born to a Jewish woman is automatically Jewish.  Also true are that Allie's Daddy is Catholic, and so are her cousins, grandparents and aunt and uncles.  So although she would  have been raised with Hanukkah and the Hora, she would have certainly been aware of Christmas and Easter eggs.  This Mass was a way to honor that side of her, and to honor her whole family.

It was a lovely service.  The students practiced their readings for weeks and weeks.  There was a sense of warmth and love and it was so very nice.  My brother and sister-in-law came with us, along with all 3 kids.  The parents pulled the boys out of school so they could be there with us.  That's what family does, they said.  

When it was time to bring the gifts the alter, my mother-in-law and her sister proudly got to do the honors.  So did Sean, my adorable 7 year old nephew with Gary's eyes and the biggest heart.  He represented all the little people.

I looked over at Gary during the service and there were tears on his face.  I was a little shocked since I know that religion is not that important to him.  We held hands and got through the service and I asked him later what had made him so sad.  He replied that it felt like a funeral to him in some ways and that had a great effect on him.  The last time he was in that very church was when his grandfather passed away.

In the middle of the ceremony, they read her name.  Allison Paige Koellhoffer.  I could listen to it being read a thousand times.  My heart burst.  We are remembering you, baby.  We love you, baby.  We are all trying to honor you the best we can.



When the Mass concluded, we went to tour then school and then we went to brunch.  Whether it was the emotions of the morning or the Pomegranate martini's from the night before (we stayed over with our brother and sister-in-law since the Mass was so early), we ate like we had never seen food before!

Next, we went back to their house and Gary and I decided we were not ready to go home just get.  So my sister-in-law and I took the boys to see The Muppets.  When else would I get this chance? Gary stayed back with his brother to get quality time with our niece.  What an afternoon!  The movie was so fun and the boys were laughing and giggling almost as much as their mom and me.  The characters brought back so many memories from my youth and I hope that when the boys are older and they think about Kermit and Miss Piggy, I will be a teeny part of that memory, too. 

So home we went, as the sun set on the day.  We were both exhausted.  In a good way.  We honored or baby girl and we laughed and lived in the present and made the very most of the experience.  It was a wonderful day and we are thankful to all who made it happen.  You, too, Kermit!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving has never been my favorite holiday. My parents were divorced when I was young and so we were never all together as a family.  I always had a place to go where I was welcome and where I was loved, but I hear so many people talk about the day with so much excitement and anticipation and that's just not how it is for me.  Maybe it would have been this year, had my daughter lived to experience her first Thanksgiving, but we all know that she did not and that is why I am here.


Still, I enjoyed the time off from work and the break from the everyday things.  Gary and I finally hung Allie's star in our house and below it, hung a framed picture of her feet that we got printed up a few months ago.  We shared the picture with immediate family, but we had kept it framed and upstairs for just us to see.  I felt like it was time to bring the photo downstairs.  The star and the picture are on the wall next to the sliding glass door that leads to our deck.  Past the deck is Allie's Creek.  It seemed like the perfect place for both.  (Please excuse the amateur photography and the fact you can see me in the background!). 

We also got to spend time with Ella this weekend.  She is starting to find her voice and making all kinds of sounds.  She can hold herself up now and we think she might be crawling very soon.  She is a joy to be around and I am so very proud to be her aunt.  Gary loves her as much as I do...that much is clear! 

We spent the rest of the weekend with friends and family.  We spent time with ourselves outside as it was unseasonably warm. We did some work around the house and watched some TV and just relaxed.  We ate leftovers and vegged out.  It was not the Thanksgiving we had hoped for, but all things considered, it was not half bad!  And there is the hope that next year, it will be even better. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

7 Months

I can't believe it's been 7 months since I saw my precious baby.  When I was pregnant, 7 months was a good thing.  I picture last March and I immediately smile.  I was getting excited for my baby shower and checking my registry every day.  The nursery was painted and starting to resemble the little safe haven we had designed it to be.  We were taking Labor & Delivery Classes and getting more and more excited (as well as scared).  My feet were swelling and it was getting harder and harder to wear real shoes.  We were interviewing pediatricians and day care centers.  We were trying to prepare ourselves for sleepless nights and unlimited joy.  Spring was THIS close and with it, the arrival of our little girl and we were happy.

7 months ago today, we said hello and goodbye.  It's impossible to fathom or wrap your head around...even for me now.  All those hopes...all those dreams.  Her nursery is now a guest room. I emailed the day care that we would no longer need the enrollment forms. I assume the pediatrician thinks we just chose someone else.

I went from ordering Cd's for baby lullabies online to ordering books on grief.  Instead of looking at the baby registry, I look at blogs from other parents who have said goodbye to their babies way too soon.  I feel like I am in a fog some days...when all I hear in my head is, "My baby died.  My baby died.  My baby died."  I mean, what else is there to say after that? I throw out the "Parents" magazine that I so happily ordered and pitch the Babies R Us coupons right into the trash.

When the fog clears and I am able to breathe,  I see that the there is still good out there.  I see family and friends who would do anything to erase my pain.  I see my husband, who carries the same pain and agony in his eyes as I do in mine, reaching out to hold my hand or kiss me on the cheek.  I see new babies being born and I rejoice...as no one should ever feel this pain. 

I am not sure where we will be 7 months from now, but I sure hope in less pain.  I will always miss my daughter, so beautifully named and so very loved, but I dream of a day when I can really remember the pregnancy and the excitement and the anticipation and not the agony, sorrow and the tears.   

Thanksgiving.  It's nearly upon is.  So different than I thought it would be.  But what isn't?  So I will pick myself up, wipe away the tears and be thankful to be here, to be loved, and to have hope.  For hope is what we cling on to every single day.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A star, a tree and some mud

Last month, as Gary and I were in Las Vegas, renewing our wedding vows and vacationing, we hit the 6 month anniversary of when Allie came into this world.  I was very aware of the date, and yet there really was not much to "do".  We talked about her the same as any other day and we tried our best to make the day count, as much as we do any other day.

When we got back to our hotel that night, there was an email from my best friends' dad.  I have been friends with her family since I was 16 years old and in many ways, consider her family to be my family, too.  My friend was the matron of honor at my wedding and her dad danced with me to the Father/Daughter dance.  Her mom has been someone I have been able to confide in for years and years. They have embraced Gary and loved him since the first time I brought him over.

So back to the email. Turns out they were also aware of the 6 month anniversary of our baby girl.  Mind you, this was less than 2 weeks before their granddaughter was due into this world.  But their thoughts were with us and our baby.  They wanted to honor her and make sure that she would never be forgotten.  So they named a star after her.  A real live star!  So now when I go to sleep at night, I know that my baby's star is out there, shinning bright.  It's the sweetest gift in the world.  The certificates arrived over the weekend and I can't wait to hang them up for everyone to see.


Before we got home to see that our "star" had arrived, we had spent the day with Gary's family for our niece's 1st birthday party.  There was yummy food and cake and presents galore.  Although I fully expected to feel so lost that day as my daughter was never going to have a first birthday, I instead felt comforted to be around so much love and laughter.  Gary's aunt told us she got a tree planted in Israel in Allie's name and that is when the tears came.  His Aunt is Catholic and has taught for 40+ years at a Catholic school and she went out of her way to find something meaningful to do to honor our daughter.  Planting a tree-a concrete, practical act-has represented hope since ancient times.  It is an honor to have a tree planted in your name and once we have the official paperwork, I will gladly share it with you.

Up next...Mud.  Wet dirt.  That is how we spent our Sunday.  The "Tough Mudder" is a 12 mile coure with 30 some obstacles that is all done in the mud.  Men and women train for months and months to be able to compete.  On Sunday, Gary, my brother Dan, and a close family friend all competed.  They were filthy by the end, but accomplished so much.  They worked as a team and came out winners.  They swam in tubs of ice water and ran the "mud mile".  They climbed walls and dodged electric shock.  They jumped through fire.  This competition is no joke!  Here is a pic of Gary and my brother about half way through.  It's followed by the boys about to cross the finish line.  You will see Gary's hands are in the air making an "A" for Allison for she is is driving force through all his challenges. I am so very proud of them all.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Out of Sorts

I am pleased to report that the manic craziness of my last post has subsided.  It pretty much had by the time I blogged that day.  I was able to go to that hospital that evening and hold my friend's little infant girl and instead of crying or feeling sad for myself, I felt happy and joy and elation over this new healthy baby.  What a relief!  We took turns holding her and taking pictures and any tears were that of joy.  We even stopped on our way to the hospital and bought a present. Two presents, actually!  My new mantra is no presents until the babies are here.  And then once they born, I figured I would make Gary shop.  I mean, how can I look for little girl presents?  Turns out, I can.  Who knew?  (Note the proud Daddy in the background here!). 

The next day, we met my sister-in-law and niece for ice cream.  My brother was away for the weekend and Gary and I had not seen Ella in a few weeks since we have been traveling so much so we decided to meet up.  We had a great time and I love this pic that Gary took of us.  I think there is a definite family resemblance! 

On Sunday, Gary ran his first 10k.  I was so very proud of him.  My mom and I went and walked some of the course which was more fun than you would think!  It was on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge which connects Philadelphia to New Jersey and there were over 4,000 participants. I love that each step Gary runs is for our little girl.  He trains for her, he runs for her, he thrives for her.  It makes me melt.

He runs...I write.  It works for us.

So what now?  We are now THIS close to the holiday season.  The temperature has dropped and there is holiday music on in the stores.  There is no turning back now.  I am sad a lot lately.  Sad that Allie will not be here for Thanksgiving.  Sad that she won't be here when I light the Hanukkah candles.  Sad that we do not need to run out and get her a snow suit or start baby proofing the house. 

Gary has become a "glass is half full" guy.  He focuses on what we do have and what we will have. My glass is pretty empty these days.  I have no baby, I am not pregnant...ugh.  I want to live in the moment, but I am finding it so damn hard.  I smile on some days.  I laugh when I can.  I go to work.  I take pleasure in what I can.  But this void that I feel is so, well, empty.  And it sucks.  I guess it's all part of the grief process.  

This is so not what I thought this season was going to be like this year.  Not at all.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Rock Bottom

This morning, I hit rock bottom.  I thought I had been here before, but it turns out I was wrong.  If I had a problem with drugs or alcohol, I could call a sponsor or go to a meeting.  Instead, I have to dump this all on my husband and hope that he is strong enough to support me, while still managing to keep his head above water, too. 

I have a cold so my defenses are down.  With each sniffle, I remind myself that I am not 100% and I need to remember that.

Today I got my monthly visitor.  I was naive enough to think that we would get pregnant as easily this time as we did the last.  I thought this time was it for us.  I had gone through several pregnancy tests this week.  I was so very hopeful. 

Two days ago, my best friend had a healthy baby girl.  One that will never get to play with my baby girl.  We are going to meet her tonight and even though I am so very raw today, I can't wait to hold her.

Tomorrow is a baby shower for a dear friend and I can't go.  While she understands, I am not sure I do. 

I came to work this morning because I was crying so hard at home and I was worried that if I stayed home, the tears would never stop.

I miss my daughter.  More and more every day.  I am so worried that she will be forgotten. 

I heard of a study at Drexel University that is conducting research on how women have healed and moved on from the grief of thier loss of a miscarriage or stillborn.  I immediately contacted the organzier as I was hoping that my journey might help someone else.  Now I am worried that they will turn me away as I am obviously not healed.

Earlier today, towel turban on my head and tears streaming down my face, I felt the worst I have felt since we were in the hospital 6 months ago.  I felt lost, empty and without hope.  I do not wish this pain on anyone.

My friends and family all ask what they can do and I smile and say, "Nothing, but thanks." Cause that is the truth.  There is nothing anyone can do.  I love them for asking anyway.

I am trying to look to the future, to see the bright side, but sometimes it's just too hard.  So instead, I literally put one foot in front of the other, got in the car, got to work, got to my desk and started my day.  What else was there to do? 

I feel a little bit better now.  Bye bye rock bottom.  I do not want to see you again, you hear me?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween

And so, it's over.  Halloween, that is.  Sigh.  One of the first things I thought of when I found out I was pregnant with Allie was what she would be for Halloween.  Would she be a princess or Wonder Woman (as in, would I get to choose her costume or would her dad?).  Would we go trick or treat with my brother and sister-in-law or with his brother and sister-in-law?  Maybe we would do both!  Would there be a parade at her daycare?  Would we get together with any of our friends so all the little ones could dress up as we stood around thinking how adorable they all were?

But that was just not the way Halloween was for me this year.  There were no costumes, no trick or treating, no candy, no parades.  It seems to sum up how I feel this week - I was expecting the most and I got the least.  I refuse to change my expectations, though.  It's just not who I am.

Gary pointed out to me the other day that since Allie has died, we have new anniversaries...1 month since she died...6 months since she died...the first summer without her...now the first Fall without her.  I long for the time when we only celebrated happy things. I long for the time when I did not know this pain.  But I accept this pain as it reminds me of the 37 weeks I had with our daughter growing inside of my, just under my heart.  In so many ways, she is still there.  Maybe in more ways that I even know.

Happy Halloween, sweetheart.  We love you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Viva Las Vegas

Last night, we got home from Vegas.  Gary and I have traveled a lot this year, but this is the trip we planned when we were in the hospital back in April.  In the delivery room, my hair pulled back, booties on my feet, gown draped over my bulging baby bump, we decided that we need to have something to look forward to once we got home and Vegas would be that something.  And I am so glad we went.

This past Monday was the 3 year anniversary of our first date.  My coworker and I were going out for drinks after work to celebrate his promotion.  The rest is history.  So it seemed like planning our trip around that anniversary was a good idea.   We found a wedding chapel where we could renew our vows and we anxiously looked forward to our vacation.

The trip did not disappoint.  We ate till we were stuffed (those buffets are no joke!) and we laughed at all the spectacles.  We walked down the strip in awe and in fear (but in an amusing way!).  We saw some amazing shows and shopped for souvenirs and had a trip that we will always remember.

Then came time to renew our vows.  The folks there seemed surprised that we were doing this after only a year and 5 months of  marriage, but said that meant something...to want to remarry the person we were married to, after such a short period of time.  Elvis seranaded us with "Can't Help Falling in Love" as we walked down the isle.  We repeated after him - that we would love and cherish each other every day of our lives, that we would never wear our blue suede shoes in the rain...all the normal stuff that wedding vows are made of, right?

I was grinning from ear to ear as Gary placed a new ring on my other hand.  (Nice perk!).  We walked back down the aisle as the ceremony concluded and then participated in a little photo shoot.  For a few minutes on Monday, I had no other cares in the world.  It was such a nice escape!

Ever since Gary and I got together, we do this little thing..."What was the favorite part of your day?" or "What was your favorite part of this trip?"  On Monday, without even asking (which is part of the game), Gary turned to me and said, "This is the highlight (favorite part) of the trip for me."  I swooned, I will not lie!

While October marked an anniversary for us, it also marked an anniversary for Allie.  She would have been 6 months old this past weekend.  Instead of worrying about her teething or sitting up on her own, we were on a vacation.  Most new parents don't get to go on vacation, not to mention 3 vacations!  Here we are having seen Chicago, Memphis, and now Las Vegas.  We are having fun, making memories, living our lives.  We are staying strong for each other and for our daughter.  We are still a family and we are still here.  Living, loving, laughing...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day

This past Saturday was National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. I wanted to organize a walk or do something special to celebrate Allie. I spent hours trying to figure out the best thing to do. And then life took over and what was meant to happen, did.

Gary’s brother and his wife had a wedding to attend and they needed someone to watch the kids for the night. Babysitting our niece and nephews is some of the best therapy for me. It gives me time with the kids to get outside of my head and down on the floor playing with them. It forces me to live in the moment. It shows me Gary’s silly side and reinforces how much I can’t wait for him to be a dad to a living child. And it reminds me how much I am loved by the kids and their parents.

So off to NJ we went. In my overnight bag was a small candle we were going to light at 7pm that night as a part of a nationwide (maybe worldwide?) event I learned on Facebook to honor the babies that are no longer with us. On my wrist is a pink bracelet…and it matches the one that Gary wears. I have since put away the adorable Pandora charm with the baby carriage that my mom gave me for my birthday last year. I am not meant to wear that bracelet right now. So I wear this one.

We got there and the kids were so excited to see us! There is no feeling in the world better than the hugs you get from the little arms wrapped around you. My 7 year old nephew almost immediately noticed our bracelets and asked what they meant. Uncle Gary tried to explain that we were wearing them to remember Allie. Our nephew had a very serious look on his face and asked that we just not talk about it anymore. It made him sad. That took my breath away. It makes us sad, too, buddy. It’s ok.

When 7:00 rolled around, the baby was already asleep and we decided not to invite the boys into the kitchen where we lit the candle as it was not necessary for them at that time. So off to the kitchen we went and we light the candle. We were quiet, letting our faces be illuminated by the small flame. I think we both said “We love you, baby girl” and stood silent for a few moments. Then we went back into the living room and watched Nickelodeon with the boys.

Sunday morning came and I packed up the candle with the rest of my things and a few hours later we drove home. I am so glad we lit the candle and had an official time and space in that day to honor our baby. But the true highlight of the day was when my oldest nephew read to me before he went to bed. And when my niece showed me she knows how to clap now. And when my other nephew jumped onto my lap on Sunday morning and snuggled with me. So I guess Saturday was just like any other day in a way. Just like the day before and the day after. Any other day, that is, since I had a baby who died.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Beautiful Post

I stumbled across this blog today and the author captures so many of my thoughts that I wanted to share it on my blog.  Enjoy.

http://bythebrooke.blogspot.com/2011/10/go-ahead-make-me-cry.html

Tomorrow is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  Or to me, tomorrow is just like any other day...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dreams

Last night I had a dream that I was pregnant. I was meeting with a doctor in my practice that I have never seen before, but I knew his name. His office was full of boxes and papers and he assured me that he was gonna take care of this baby and that I was not leaving till I heard the heartbeat and he promised me that everything was gonna be ok. When I woke up, my heart was racing.

I got to work and turned on my computer and my sister-in-law who lives in Bulgaria sent me an instant message. She is 7 hours ahead of me now so she was already well into her day. She told me that last night, she had a dream that I was pregnant. Apparently, she and my mom and I were all squeezed into a bathroom looking at the test results which were positive and she had to convince my mom and I that I was pregnant because neither of us wanted to believe it.

 I am consumed with being pregnant. And now somehow, I have spread that half way across the world! I know I am not pregnant now, but maybe, somehow, there is a way this dream will come true. I want these dreams to make me happy, but all they do right now is leave me with a longing for Allie that is so intense.  If she were here, I would not even dream of getting pregnant right now. And yet, dream I do...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Forever Young

Last Friday night, my brother,  sister-in-law and I went to see Ray Lamontagne and Brandi Carlile in concert. It was a gorgeous night and we sat outside and tailgated before the show began. For a brief time in my life, many years back, I used to work at this venue and I have a friend who still has contacts there so we had terrific seats. And free parking! We have all seen Ray several times and they had seen Brandi a few times so we knew we were in for a good night. And we were right. It was a blast.

Brandi’s last song was a cover of Alphaville’s “Forever Young”. The song first came out when I was 10 years old. I have always loved it. I think I had it on cassette tape at one point. It’s been ages since I heard it.  Her cover did it justice.

Let us die young or let us live forever
We don't have the power
But we never say never
Sitting in a sandpit,
Life is a short trip
The music's for the sad men

Forever young, I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever
Forever -- and ever

I sat in the audience and let the music wash over me. I immediately thought of Allie and how she would be forever young. I will only ever picture her as an infant…never a toddler or a little girl or a teenager or a woman. It made me sad and my eyes stared to well up and then I realized that I would rather have her forever young that not have had her at all.

The next morning, Gary and I left for Memphis. We arrived at 8am on Saturday and I was back in the air by Monday afternoon. Gary flew back Tuesday night. We did not have a lot of time, but we made the most of the time we had. We went to the Civil Rights Museum and learned so much about Martin Luther King, Jr. and where and when he was assassinated. I was ashamed about how much of his story I did not remember from when I learned it in school. We ate Memphis BBQ and southern style fried chicken. We walked Beale Street and shopped for souvenirs. We went to Sun Studios and saw where Elvis and Johnny Cash recorded some of their most famous songs. We toured Graceland and learned all we could ever hope to know about the King. We had a fantastic time.

The concept of “Forever Young” repeated itself again during our trip. At the Civil Rights Museum, there was a quote from a friend of Martin Luther King Jr.’s that said that history will always remember him looking like he did when he was famous. He will never have grey hair or wrinkles or walk with a cane. He will always look like he did when he died.

I find this fascinating. How do you want to be remembered? As you looked in your youth? As you look now? As you will look 20 years from now?

I think I just plain want to be remembered.  For as long as I am remembered, so too, will Allie be.

Just outside the Civil Rights Museum





Elvis's plane - the Lisa Marie

Court Square


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy New Year

Sundown last night marked the beginning of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.  It’s a happy holiday, one spent with loved ones and family.   We eat apples and honey to symbolize a sweet new year.  We have large meals and celebrate the start of a new year.  We rejoice.

This would have been Allie’s first Rosh Hashanah.  She would be too young for the apples, but maybe I would have let her taste the honey from my fingers.  I will never know.  I was so excited to tell my aunt and uncle and cousins last year that I was newly pregnant.  Now I face them, some for the first time since my baby shower, with no baby.  It’s so sad.  And I suppose it always will be.

We saw our grief counselor on Monday and it was a good session.  She is visibly pregnant now, but that did not bother me at all.  If anything, I was relieved to know she was still pregnant.  I will be more relieved when I hear that she had a healthy baby as unfortunately, pregnancies to me now do not mean healthy babies at the end.  We talked about my feelings of failure and how that has, in a way, consumed me these past few months.  I feel like my body failed me, even though I know that is not true. I feel like my body failed Gary, too, and I keep expecting him to be upset with me. But he is not angry at me as he knows I did not do anything wrong.  I think it’s time to stop beating myself up, and yet I am unsure how.  I so desperately want to get pregnant again, but I worry that if I keep mentally berating myself, it will be no good for the baby or me.  So it’s really time to try to be nicer to myself.  

Per the counselor, I now have notes up all over the house.  “I am pretty” is in the master bedroom, along with “I am a mother”.  “I am a good friend” is in the kitchen, next to “I am a loving wife”.  It’s kinda nice.   Gary has taken to leaving me little notes in my lunch box or my purse or my wallet reminding me how much he loves me.  Sooner or later, it has to get through, right?  I did not nothing wrong.  Allie’s death is not my fault. I can still love and be loved. I am a mom.
A reminder note from Gary
On Tuesday, I got home from work to the nicest card. We got so many cards after Allie died and each one meant so much to us. In fact, we saved them all in the Memory Box with Allie’s things. This card was no different.  It was from a friend in college who was in my sorority with me. We were not super close, but we certainly knew each other enough and were friendly.  She stumbled across my blog on Facebook and wanted to reach out to me.  It was so thoughtful and so beautiful and here we are, 5 months later, and people are still thinking of us and remembering our daughter. It warms me from the inside out.

On Saturday, Gary and I are leaving for Memphis.  He had to be there for work on Monday and Tuesday so we decided to fly down a few days early and make a weekend getaway out of it.  We already have tickets to Graceland and plan on visiting the Civil Rights Museum, too.  We want to go to one of the legendary recording studios as well. We want to eat ribs and BBQ and fried chicken.  We are going to cram as much into 48 hours as we can!  I am so looking forward to it! 
 
I love travelling with Gary and exploring different cities with him.  I love that we are taking advantage of the “free” time we have now and making as many plans as possible.   I love that I can hope that next year this time, we are not able to travel as we will have a baby either on the way or already here.     

I want to make sure to make this a happy new year, indeed.  So I am off from work today, at home, reflecting on this past year.  I will have extra apples and honey tonight as I did last night.  I want far less bitter and much more sweet.  I really do not think that is asking for too much!  In fact, I know it's not!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Safe Travels

Yesterday I said farewell to my youngest brother and his wife. There is a 7 year gap between us and at times, it seems like an entire generation. Other times, they act way more mature than me. They have been married for just over 3 years now and have lived in Missouri (where they met) and Texas (where they went to live in a Zen Center for a year and then decided to stick around Austin as they liked it so much). We all knew that they had a lust for travel and for seeing the world and that it was just a matter of time before they took off. My sister in law is originally from Bulgaria and her parents still live there. Their plan is to live with her parents through the end of the year and then travel to see the world. Thailand is on their list for early next year, but that is just one of the many stops they plan to make. They may be gone a year or they may be gone three years. They may or may not be back in the US in 2012.

They left Texas in late July and drove North, stopping to see friends along the way. Then they were here in PA with us for the last month or so and it was so nice to have them here. We saw them and enjoyed them as much as possible.

Saying goodbye was harder than I thought. While they have always lived in other places, they were still always accessible. They hopped a plane back in April with open ended tickets to be here for us when Allie died. My brother drove us to the funeral home to talk about arrangements. He drove us back a few days later to pick up our daughter’s ashes. He researched grief counselors for us. He researched natural remedies to help us with grief. He held my hand as I cried.

 It is my supreme hope that Allie’s little sister or brother will be on his or her way in the near future. And it breaks my heart that my brother and sister-in-law will not be here for his or her birth. We will have to Skype them when we find out we are pregnant and introduce them to their niece or nephew in the same way. I know they are not gone forever and that they will be back in time to see the baby or babies grow into toddlers or children or kids or young adults. But I hate that they were here for the sadness and might not be here for the joy. But that is the way life is, right? While I miss them and in a way, mourn their absence, they are off, exploring the world, backpacks and all. I am so very proud of them for following their dreams. I am excited to see the kind of people they become with so many countries to see and experiences to have. And I am excited at the prospect of the good to come that they can share with us when they finally come back home.

Safe travels, Jeff and Neda. We love you so!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Road Trip

This past weekend, I went to Northern Virginia to visit my college roommate for her birthday. We have this tradition that we never miss a birthday. And so far, we have not.  Probably since we were about 19 or so.

It’s about a 3 hour drive and I was really looking forward to the mini –getaway. I have been very stressed out lately and I needed some time away from my thoughts and my anxiety and my fears. I could feel the stress lifting and I drove further and further South.

Upon my arrival, we decided to go out for lunch. We went to a local place and had sandwiches and just started catching up. We stay in touch via email the most, but there are phone calls here and there as well. But we had not seen each other since I was home on leave after delivering Allie. And that was a tough visit.

This time around, a few months later, we were both in a better place. The pain was not as raw, the grief not as palpable. So we were able to talk and talk and talk – about my pregnancy and the 37 weeks and 1 day of such happiness that I had. About the love and support of our family and friends that is hard to compare to anything I have ever experienced. About how much Gary and I want to be parents to a living child and how odd it is that I now have to say “living” child.

It was on my trip last year that I proudly told her we were expecting. We were both aware of that fact.
 
We decided to do some retail therapy after lunch, so we went to a local mall. But first we needed wine. So we had a few glasses at a restaurant in the mall and talked some more. We mostly window shopped and except for the Captain America and Spiderman spatulas at Williams Sonoma that were a must by for my superhero husband. We had a blast walking around and looking at all the merchandise.

Tuckered out, we went back to her place. On the ride back, I started to feel cramps. I had felt some on the way down but had tried to ignore them. Turns out my monthly visitor hiked a ride with me. Every time she comes, it’s a brutal reminder that I am not pregnant anymore and not pregnant again. We are THIS close to the time when the doctor said we can try again. I sure hope my body is ready by then. And my heart.

We had a brief happy hour at her place (can you sense a theme here?) and then decided to try the new Skinny Girl Margaritas and Mexican take out for dinner. Both were delish!! There was no shortage of food this weekend!!

Confession time – we LOVE Teen Mom. I am not sure why. She turned me on to this show last year and I can’t get enough. As hard as it is for me to see others being parents when I so much want to be, that feeling does not include these girls. So we got all settled in and fired up the TV and watched the most recent episode. We dissected each teen and her behavior and thoroughly enjoyed the episode. Sorry to hear the finale is this week.

 The other thing we did? We laughed. So hard at times that we both had tears in our eyes. We laughed at things that were funny and we laughed at things that were not really that funny, but made us smile anyway. We have always been able to laugh together and the last time we saw each other, there was not much laughter. Well, this weekend there was. The sound of us laughing still rings in my ears.

If life had worked out the way we planned, this visit probably would have been my first overnight away from Allie. I would have been calling home every 5 minutes to make sure the baby and Gary were doing ok. I would have been anxious to leave. I would have been anxious to get back. But life does not always work out the way you think it will. What I have learned is that good friends, strong bonds, laughter, margaritas, shopping and teen moms will not take the pain away, but they sure are a good way to spend some time while on the mend. I highly recommend them all! I am not the kind of person that can heal all by myself…I need a village. And luckily I have one.

So who knows where I will be in my life for her birthday next year. One thing is for sure, though. I will be with her, helping her to celebrate.

A Year In the Life

One year ago today, I became a bona fide published writer. I was ecstatic to get my first piece published and to share my words and story wi...