Monday, December 31, 2012

Another Year

I have not been blogging as much of late but it's not that I have not been writing.  Over this little vacation from work (best use of vacation days EVER!), Gary and I have written more about ourselves and each other than ever before!  We both have completed our autobiographies for the adoption agency as well as all of the other forms.  In total, I think we have written between 15-20 pages each and our fingers are numb. 

But we are not complaining.  Each question we answer, each form we fill out...they all bring us closer to our baby.   OUR BABY!  It's becoming more and more of a reality.  Our hope is back.  Our excitement and anticipation is back.  We are back.

There is no way to fill out his paperwork and not reflect on our lives.  The agency wants to know everything there is to know about us so they can match us with the baby that is meant to be ours.  We have had to detail the many facets of our relationship.  And then our relationship with our parents.  Our parents relationship with each other.  Our relationships with our siblings.  Our relationships with our friends.  Our work history.  Our feelings on adoption.  Our religious views.  Our ways to cope with stress.  Our ways to cope with grief and loss.  See?  Lots of writing!


Amid all the papers and clearances, a few things have become very clear.  
  1. Allie is very much present in our lives and has helped shape the people that we are and the people we have become.  
  2. We have the most amazing support system in the world.  From our families to our friends and to the friends of friends and friends of family. 
  3. We will become parents again.
It's been a full year without Allie.  I did not carry her or hold her in 2012.  And yet she is just as much a part of us as she was last year.  And as she will be next year. 

Today I am not angry that she is gone.  I am just happy I got to know her at all.  Not sure I will feel like that tomorrow, but I know the value of feeling what I feel in the moment.

Our fundraising event is well under way.  It's less than a month away now.  We have sold more than half the tickets we have and so many people have offered their help in so many ways.  Without even counting the ticket sales, we have already raised about $3,000!! Many donations are not reflected here, but trust me, we have been receiving them.  From friends and family far and wide and from complete strangers, too.  People who heard our story and want to help.   There are no words.  Well, there are.  Thank you.

"I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed."


...except it hasn't.  This lyric from Les Misérables has resonated with me so much since that dark day in April 2011 is not longer true for me.  My life is not over.  My dreams have not died.

And so I look upon this new year with hope and love and joy.  For I think this coming year is going to bring all of those things to my family of 3.  Gary, Allie and me.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Random Acts

It's been 2 weeks since my last post. Have I ever gone that long in between posts?  So much has happened in the last 2 weeks.  The world is not the same place as I left it when I last signed on to this space.

We are deeply immersed in the adoption home study process.  Last weekend we got fingerprinted and I am proud to report that both our FBI checks came back clear!  The Child Abuse history also came back "NO RECORD EXISTS" and as far as the PA State Police, we are also clear! We have gone through 2 home study classes which were a half day each and met other parents who are in the same stages as us.  We have told our stories and shared our fears and it has been very powerful.

We have finalized the details of our "beef and beer" which is really a "pasta and beer" and we are getting a lot of interest from our local friends and family.  It should be a great event and we are looking forward to celebrating our almost baby with those that have supported us from the start.

My online campaign, though, is what has blown me away.  Our site has been posted on my blog and on Facebook and it's spread like wildfire.  We have raised almost $2,000!  And get this - a fair amount of our donations are from people that do not know us.  People that know of us from a friend or a relative or people that want to just do a random act and hope that by doing so, their generosity will make the world a better place.  A safer place.

When the tragedy in Connecticut happened last week, my heart, along with the hearts of so many of us across the world, just broke.  How can something like that happen? WHY?  I was angry and sad and I wanted to write a letter to each of those poor children's parents and let them know that they are not alone.  There are so many of us mom's and dad's out there who also had to bury our children.  Is it the same thing?  A stillborn vs a baby who died of SIDS vs a 6 year old?   The answer is no.  It's not the same.  And yet the anger and the loss and the grief and the fear and the pain?  Well I imagine that is pretty much universal.  

I feel a peace with Allie these days that I have not really felt before.  I feel her with me, eagerly awaiting her little brother or sister to come home to her house.  I worry that when her brother or sister arrives, it will make it all that much harder for me to realize that there should be 2 children here and not just 1.  But I feel she will help me through that.  I grieve for her and I miss her and that is a part of my every day.  I also love her and feed on her memory and her love and that is also a part of my every day.


There is so much in life that we can't control.  There is so much that we can't understand.  We can, though, practice random acts of kindness to those we know and those we don't even know.  We can pay it forward and do our part to make this world a place where we want to raise our kids. We can make it better.  We can at least try.

I think of those parents just a few states away from here and I think of their agony and their loss.  It's so very raw in the beginning.  It's so fresh.  I hope that as the news trucks pull away and the services are all over, that they are surrounded by loved ones to just sit there with them.  Hug them.  Love them.  Keep the memories of their children alive. Please know that we care.  We will remember.  We are so very sorry that you have to experience this pain and we will be kind to each other. We will practice random acts.  We will never forget.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Then vs. Now

Then:  Candles, romantic dinner, ovulation calendar, pregnancy test, doctor's appointments, baby showers, no baby.

Now:
Meetings, paper work, background checks, fundraisers, being chosen, baby.


There is more than one way to form a family and Gary and I are in the middle of learning that.  


And we could not be more excited.

 
Things are moving full speed ahead in our house and there is a buzz and an excitement that has not been here since I was pregnant.  We went to our first Home Study Class on Tuesday and learned about all the documents and items that we need to gather before we can be "shown" to birth mothers.  We have spent every day gathering pay stubs and tax returns and bank statements and verification of employment and making appointments for physicals and working on our "profile book" which will be a tell all of us and why we should be parents.


And we could not be more excited.

I know that in the traditional way of having a baby, you need none of those things.  You do not need to write an autobiography that can be 10-15 pages long to bring a baby home from the hospital.  You do not need a social worker to come to you house and "approve" it.  But we do not care.  We are far from traditional anymore.  We understand the need for all our i's to be dotted and our t's to be crossed...this is not a loan we are looking for - it's a baby.  Our baby.


And we could not be more excited.

Allie made us parents. There is no denying that.  We are so ready, though, to bring a baby home and parent.  And as that baby grows, we will tell him or her about her older sister and all the joy that she brought us.  And how she ultimately brought him or her home to us because loving her made us realize all the more that we wanted to be parents again.


Last night we did some holiday shopping after work.  We were looking for clothes and toys for our nieces and it felt good.  It felt right.  I enjoyed it.  In the past, I could not even walk into the sections where the little girls items would be.  It was like tearing my heart out.  Now I know that although I will never be buying those things for Allie, I might be buying them for her sister one day.  Or I will go over to the boys section and buy things for her brother. That gives me hope.  I am slowly but surely getting my hope back. 


And we could not be more excited.

In a few hours, we will gather at my mom's house for the first night of Hanukkah.  There will be lots of laughter and kids and fried food to commemorate the oil that lasted 8 nights instead of 1.  Last year, I found it hard to celebrate.  It's easier this year.  My hope is that it will be even better next year.


Allie, baby, another holiday without you here with us and it still hurts.  It will always hurt.  But you have taught your mommy and daddy how to love in spite of the pain and the obstacles and the loss and we are better people and parents for it.  We love you, sweet girl.  Always and forever.


Tis the season to be thankful and to let your loved ones know how much they matter to you.  I try to do that every day now as life is too precious to not enjoy every moment.


Then: Sadness, agony, grief, pain
Now: Hope, happiness, optimism and excitement


Times they are a changing.  Now if you will excuse me, I have some paperwork to fill out. 
And we could not be more excited!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fundraising 101

It is with joy in our hearts that Gary and I have decided to grow our family through adoption. We are working with an agency and are in the application phase now. 
Many of you have asked how you could help and here is one way you can. Please take a minute to read our story -- any help you can give would be greatly appreciated. For those friends and family who are local, we are planning to have a fundraising event late January 2013. Details to come soon. Thanks to everyone for all the love & support!
http://www.youcaring.com/adoption-fundraiser/A-Sibling-for-Allie/35303#.ULa2x3mH9zU.gmail

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Family

I come from a "modern family" of my own.  My parents got married in 1969.  5 years later, along came me.  2 years after that, my brother.  5 years after that, my youngest brother.  By then, my parent's marriage was already in jeopardy, but we were meant to be a three child family.  I think my youngest brother was still in diapers when my dad moved out.  Separation and divorce in the mid 80's was not like it is now.  It was not something people saw all the time.  It was not the norm.  We were different from the minute my father closed the door behind him.

My mother remarried a few years later and with that marriage, came an older step brother and a younger step sister and step brother.  For years we lived as this "Brady Bunch" family on the weekends with my mom and step dad and the six kids.  Not all weekends as some were spent with my father and his new partner.  Well after college, my mom and step father split but I have recently reconnected with one of my step brothers over Facebook and with my step sister over email as she found my blog as has been following my "story".  I still feel a connection to them both.  They were my family.

As we grew up and grew older, we began to make families of our own.  My brother closest to me in age got married first. His wife became like a sister to me.  Her family like a second family to me.  It's there we all go for Thanksgiving and we all very much feel like the family we are.

Then my youngest brother got married.  I was fortunate to get another sister.  They have spent much of their married life traveling and seeing the world.  When they are not here, we invite her brother to spend the holidays with us.  And he does.  Because he is family.

Then I met Gary.  His brother is so close to one of my own that I sometimes forget he is Gary's brother.  His brother's wife is someone that I feel like I have known my whole life.  We spend Christmas with them and the joy and love I feel sitting around their tree with spiked egg nog in one hand and a niece or nephew in the other gives my years of only celebrating Hanukkah a run for their money.  They have welcomed me in and accepted me as their family.

When Allie was conceived, Gary and I were so looking forward to creating a family of our own.  New traditions and new customs and new reasons to celebrate.  When she died, it was not just losing her that cut us to the core, but it was the loss of all those dreams we had for her.  And for us.

Trying to get another sibling for Allie has been nothing but headaches and heartbreaks and we have felt very much hopeless and helpless.  We have done everything we could think to do.  We took out our savings and spent it on procedure after procedure (none of which is covered by our insurance in Pennsylvania).  We could handle the negatives, but after our last try, when our positive became a negative, we knew we needed a new plan.

Adoption.

Gary and I went to a meeting the week before last to see if it was something we could truly get behind.  We were scared and nervous and 10 minutes into the meeting, I leaned into Gary and said, "Do you hate it?".  We had gone to a meeting last February at a different agency and we were both not ready and thus we decided it was not right for us then.  But now?  He leaned back and said, "No.  Not at all".  We stayed after and talked to the social worker and asked what our next steps would be.  Gary even asked what the protocol was for babies that were born still.  The social worker looked mortified which to us meant it was not something they dealt with on a regular basis!  After the obligatory head tilt, he explained the process to us.  

We came home from that meeting feeling invigorated!!!  We could still have a family.  We went to his brother's the next night and talked it out from every angle.  We went to my brother's the next night and rehashed it again.  We talked to my mom.  Gary talked to his parents.  We asked our friends if they would be our references.  We filled out the application.  We got more and more excited.

Our application was received last week and we were assigned a social worker on Wednesday.  She will be in touch this week to get our file started.  Next up is home studies and background checks and some kind of fundraiser as we are going to need all the help we can get.  For the first time in ages, we feel so good!!  We have hope back.  And we could be matched with a baby in as soon as 6-9 months.

I carried a child.  I loved that child.  If I close my eyes, I can still feel her kick.  I remember the cravings I had when she was growing in my body.  I remember the euphoria I felt knowing that I was responsible for that little being inside of me.

There are other ways to create a family.  There are others paths to make Allie an older sibling.   There is a baby out there who needs the love and warmth and joy that Gary and I can provide.  There is a baby out there who was meant to be a part of our family and we are going to do our best to bring him or her home.  Looks like we might get our rainbow after all!

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Head Tilt

I have referenced Friends before in my blog and I am going to do it again.  Who remembers this scene?



Twice this week, I have told Allie's story.  Once briefly and once in more detail.  Both times, my very sympathetic listeners tilted their heads so far that I was sure their heads were going to roll right off their necks.  But that's ok.  I don't mind the head tilt or the look of "holy crap!" that crosses their faces as it reminds me that it is perfectly normal to still be sad and still be mourning and to still be all over the place because our daughter was born still. 

Last weekend, we went to visit my college roommate who lives outside of DC.  We spent Saturday at the United States Holocaust Museum.  Gary and I visit every Fall for a touristy weekend - one where we spend at least a few hours doing something "smart".  I had suggested visiting this museum in the past and it always seemed kinda heavy for the time we all had together.  Last weekend, though, our mood was already somber and we decided it was the right place to go. And it was.

Standing there in virtual silence, we made our way through the museum.  We went at our own pace and stopped to read all that we could and take in as much as we were able.  The faces of the lost staring back at me gave me chills and reminded me why I am so proud to be Jewish and so proud of my heritage.  Why I wanted our daughter to be raised Jewish.  Why I want any other children of mine to be raised the same way.

That visit was not my first one.  I went with my mom and step-dad when it first opened 20 years ago.  I often write about the "me then" and the "me now" and I was trying to picture a college-age me walking through the exhibits and how I felt.  I know I was moved and I know I was touched, but it seemed different as I walked through now.  20 years later and so much joy in that time, but so much pain, too.  And then I realized it.  My head was tilted.  Almost the whole time.

It's natural to feel sympathy for the pain of others.  It's natural to want to look away and to also want to help and to yell any cry and wonder why.  It's natural to wish that no one ever experiences pain like you have felt.

When I am in certain situations (like I was standing in that museum), I get a flash of what it is and was like for our friends and family when Allie died.  The wanting to help.  The hatred of the pain.  The unfairness of it all.

Was losing our daughter anything like the death of 6 million Jews and thousands and millions of others that were different for whatever reason?  Probably not.  That would be pretty selfish of me to say so.  Was losing our daughter as hard for me to understand as something like the Holocaust?  Yes, it was.  It is.  My head is bobbing as I sit here and type.  And I am not ashamed of that.  Feel what you feel.  React like you want to.  Do what you must do.  Just always remember.  I urge you to never forget anyone that we have lost.
Read more: BRANDI CARLILE - THE STORY LYRICS V
All of these lines across my face Tell you the story of who I am So many stories of where I've been And how I got to where I am

Read more: BRANDI CARLILE - THE STORY LYRICS
All of these lines across my face Tell you the story of who I am So many stories of where I've been And how I got to where I am

Read more: BRANDI CARLILE - THE STORY LYRICS

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

48 Hours of Bliss

"It's positive" the nurse said on the phone.  "Your HCG levels are low and we have to bring you back in two days for repeat blood work, but for now, we have a positive."  There was more, but the important thing was that we had a positive.  All the months of oral medications that made my stomach upset and injections in the morning and then more at night and internal ultrasounds and blood work and more money than we have spent on anything EVER and daily appointments before dawn...it was all worth it!  We had a positive.

Gary and I knew that my levels were low and that it could go either way.  But instead of home testing all weekend to see if the line got darker and darker, we decided to just enjoy being positive.  Gary stopped on his way home from work on Friday and got a little stuffed animal turtle for us.  We sat on the couch and just looked at each other and allowed ourselves to feel happy and hopeful and optimistic.  We feel asleep around 8...we were that exhausted from the day.

The next morning, Gary went out and got fresh bagels for breakfast.  We laughed a lot and enjoyed each other and we were happy.  We knew it was too soon to be happy but we were "cautiously optimistic".  I remember saying that this baby felt like he or she was gonna give me morning sickness.  I did not have that with Allie.  I had a dream one night last week that we were having a boy so we started talking about boy names.  We knew it was too early but after all our pain and sorrow and grief, we were going to take whatever optimism we could find!

That afternoon we went to a birthday party for the daughter of a close friend.  She has just turned one.  I was happy to skip the yummy hot dogs and the various kinds of wine....I was positive, after all!  No nitrates for me!  No alcohol in this system!  I had a being to protect!

Sunday came before we knew it.  As we drove the doctor's office, we talked about what would happen if we were no longer positive.  We could understand it - after all, we were so newly positive.  14 days.  2 weeks.  Not 37 weeks.  This was not like being pregnant with Allie.  This experience was a whole new one for us. If my levels dropped, that would mean this baby was not meant to be.  But surely that would not happen, right?

We got home and waited for the phone to ring.  My palms were sweaty.  My heart was racing.  My head was pounding from the stress and the lack of caffeine over the past few days.  Then the phone rang.

I knew as soon as she said my name. Gary leaned back before he even heard the words.  "I am so sorry.  Your levels dropped too much.  This is not a viable pregnancy.  It was a chemical pregnancy."  There was more but the important thing was that we no longer had a positive. 

When the tears started, they were so intense that I did not think they were ever going to stop.  I thought I was going to throw up.  Gary was so upset that he wanted to physically do something.  He later told me he wished there was a down tree somewhere near by that he could hack into.  Something.  Anything.  

A chemical pregnancy means the embryo never had a chance to implant.  There was never a heartbeat.  

Allie was "Baby K" before we told the world her name and at some point last weekend, I said to Gary that this was "Baby K2".  Damn.  We knew from the onset that this outcome was possible, unlike when we lost Allie.  We had 48 hours and not 37 weeks.  So many differences and yet the pain all feels the same.

The good news came on Friday. The bad news came on Sunday.  Monday we went back to work.  Today I can finally breathe enough to write about it.  No baby.  No sibling for Allie.  No rainbow.  No hope.  No positive.

We met with the doctor today.  We have some time to decide what to do next.  Gary and I have a lot to discuss and a lot to think about.  We are in this together and he has my back no matter what.  We have each other and I can't for ONE second forget the power of that.

We are not sure what our next steps are, but we do know this...we had 48 hours of bliss and nothing can take that away from us.  For 48 hours, we were parents again.  For 48 hours, we had hope.  It was the most spectacular feeling in the world.

This turtle now sits on a shelf in the office next to a little Piglet that we got for Allie before she was born.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sandy

Monday, October 29th:  We are in the midst of a massive storm here on the East Coast and yet Gary and I do not seem that panicked.  We just this morning ran out for water and crackers.  I refuse to be the people that buy the ingredients for french toast, so we have water and crackers.  And pop tarts.  And cookies.  Very healthy hurricane eats in our house!  But we are not really that worried. 

Why aren't we worried? Well, we already survived our disaster.  We are still surviving it.  And I guess it feels like not much else can touch us after all we have been through.  I feel like I do not have room for much else.

Friday, November 2nd:  The strangest thing happened.  I got distracted and never finished my last post.  I tried to come back to it several times, but I was not sure what I wanted to write.  


I am off from work today.  It was a planned day off, unlike the days off that everyone around us seems to have due to the devastation of the aforementioned hurricane.  I am at the dining room table and my father-in-law is upstairs in the office trying to get some work done as he has been without power since Monday night and it seems like they might be out for the foreseeable future.  He is driving 1.5 hours each way just to use our Internet and electric.  I am making a list of hardware stores for him to stop by on his way home so he can get gas and supplies for his house as well as for Gary's brother and his family who are also out of power and doing their best to get by. 

This storm was a true disaster.  Whole houses and towns and communities were washed away.  There were power outages and fires and danger all around.  It's one of the scariest things I have seen in my lifetime.  Yet I have heard very little complaining.  Very little "why me?" or "why us?"  Mostly just thanks to everyone who is helping out.

We are constantly reminded of the good in people - the people that are sharing what they have and doing what they can to help their friends and even strangers in this time of need.  I feel a warmth when I see people helping out and realize that I have not lost my sense of hope or compassion.  I still have room! And that makes me sigh with relief.

I think having my daughter and loving my daughter has only strengthened my core and it was good to be reminded of that this week.  In the midst of all the chaos, to be reminded that I can still feel for others, I do still care for others and that my heart is big enough to love Allie and still have love left for the others that need it.  Not a bad lesson.  Not an ideal way to learn it,  but still. 

Hope everyone out there is safe and healthy and has what they need...you are all in my thoughts and in my heart.  Yes, there is room for all of you. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

18 Months

It's been 18 months since we said hello and goodbye to our baby girl in the same breath.  It's been 18 months of learning to live without her.  It's been 18 months of heartache and tears and agony.  18 months since we put her things into storage in her basement and 18 months since our foundation was rocked to the very core.

Time matters to me - always has.  I am a scheduler and a planner and I have several watched in a variety of colors and styles so that I can always know exactly what time it is.  I am that person who goes overseas and says..."It's only 7 at home!" or whatever the time may be.  I find time fascinating.

I do not think Gary is as much of a time person.  I know when it comes to our daughter, he measures the time we had with her more than the time without her.  I do not think either one of us is right, it's just the way it is.

18 months.  It seems so long to me.  It's twice the amount of time we had her and I guess that resonates with me.

My youngest brother and his wife have spent the last year traveling all over the world.  Thailand, Ireland, England, Italy, Spain...to name just a few places!  They are in Bulgaria now and heading out to Greece in a little over a week.  And from there, India.  And in the midst of all their travels and life experiences, they took a few minutes in Barcelona to remember their niece.  This is the gift they sent...along with Zoe adoring it.  A beautiful hand painted tile of a butterfly.  A nod to Allie and how she is everywhere.  We love it.  It's on my nightstand for the moment so I can see it first thing in the morning and last thing at night.  Eventually we will find just the right place to hang it. 

I was talking to a close friend of mine earlier today and I said how time does not make the loss any better.  That's not entirely true.  Time had closed the wound so that it only opens up every once a while now.  Time has made it so I can get up every day and be an active member of society.  I can go to work and I can go out to eat and I can go to a movie and I can laugh.  I never thought I would laugh again.  So time has helped to some extent.  But in other ways, no amount of time will change that my first born is not here and never will be.

We were at a wedding over the weekend and someone leaned it to me as we were leaving and whispered, "Congratulations!  I heard the great news!"  It took me a second to find my footing as we did not have any good news to share.  We have been trying to get pregnant and that is not a secret but somehow this person must have heard that we had success...when in fact, we have not. So I just smiled and said, "Not yet, but hopefully soon!" as I walked away with a silly smile on my face so as to not make that person feel badly.  It took me a few moments to catch my breath.  Maybe soon.

Someday we will have news.  I just know it.  And then we will be in for months and months of a whole new journey of what to say and how to act and how to feel and all the while knowing that I will want to just live in the maternity ward to make sure nothing bad happens to Allie's sibling.  I am so ready for that day.

Hopefully it will be sometime within the next 18 months.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Circle Game




I grew up in a house where music was all around.  Folk music in particular.  Lots of Peter, Paul and Mary.  For some reason, this song popped into my head today.  It's a classic by Joni Mitchell called "The Circle Game".  Below is the chorus.


And the seasons they go 'round and 'round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

The sense of calm I get from this song is unmatched.  I just hit play over and over again and letting the words wash over me.  We just go round and round...just like the seasons...we can't return (go back) but we can look behind to see where we have been and move forward from there.  I just could not stop listening to it today.

On Friday, I went to visit my dad.  He's pretty ill I do not write about him much as I am just not sure where he fits into my life or how I fit into his.  He went from Assisted Living to a Nursing Home and is wheelchair bound now.  I was worried he would not know me any more and I was not sure if I could handle that.  We have a long and crazy history, but the fact of the matter is, he is still my dad.  And the minute he looked up and saw me, his face lit up.  We did not stay long.  There was not much to say.  His memory has faded and he does not have a lot of energy.  I assure him that his children were all doing well and that we loved him and I kissed him as we walked out the door.  I felt an eerie calm as we left. I'll go back soon to see him again.

Yesterday, Gary and I took Ella for a few hours and we went to an event sponsored by our company at a local farm.  We were so proud to show off our niece!  She picked out her own pumpkin and carried it around all day.  She loved to look at the cows and the pigs and tried to make the noises that they made.  Someone from my company remarked that my daughter and her granddaughter were the same age. I corrected her and said that Ella was my niece. She seemed confused so I quickly explained that yes, Ella was born in April 2011.  Her granddaughter was born in March of 2011.  That woman saw me pregnant last year and then saw me with a sweet little girl and it made sense that she would think she was mine.  I bet she was not the only one.


I love being an aunt and I think I am good at it. I know Gary loves being an Uncle, too.  I love that those are roles that we would excel at no matter what.   

"And the seasons, they go 'round and 'round"...the leaves are changing around here and my flip flops are back to spending more time in my closet than on my feet.  Life is moving on and I have no choice but to move along with it.  "We're captive on the carousel of time"...moving forward each and every day.  Make peace with my life.  Mending my heart.  Making sure my baby is always remembered, never forgotten, and hopefully making me a better person for having created her.

It's been about and hour and a half now now since we lit our candle tonight. Since you all lit your candles and sent me pictures or uploaded them to Facebook.  The wave of light that you all have helped us create and shown that although Allie is gone, she is never ever forgotten. What a gift.

The "painted ponies go up and down"...I hope there is a carousel where you are baby girl and that you are enjoying the ride.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

There were things that happened during my pregnancy with Allie that I never had a chance to share...after all, I was not blogging at the time and figured I would have her whole life to tell her everything I wanted share.  Only now, almost 18 months later, am I starting to really remember some of it.  Here's what I have come up with so far.

Allison Paige was originally Allison Parker.  We poured over our book of baby names and made list after list and finally came up with the perfect name. The A for my grandfather Allen and the P for Gary's grandfather Paul. It was such a perfect name that I went home that night and Googled it so see what it would look like in print and to see what would pop up...and something did pop up.  The original cast photo from Melrose Place.  Courtney Thorne-Smith's character was names Allison Parker.  So I guess Aaron Spelling came up with her name first.  We changed her middle name to Paige that night and immediately loved it even more. 

I could not wait to buckle my little girl in her stroller and go for long walks with her.  I would point out the plants and flowers along the way and we would oh and ah over the pretty colors and the rich tones.  I went for long walks before her and I go for long walks after her, but sometimes now my hands feel empty as if they should be pushing her stroller.

When we were alone, I would have long talks with Allie.  Mostly in the car.  I would tell her where we were or where we were going and explain how this mattered to her.  (I am not sure it did, but I loved talking to her).  I imagined that when she was born and she would hear my voice, she would be like, "Hey!  I know you!"

Gary used to love to feel her kick.  He would stare at my belly in awe and often times talk to her, too.  I had never before seen such a peacefulness wash over his features.  I have not seen it since.  It was so amazing that sometimes I had to look away and give them their privacy.

People used to tell me that the worries I had when I was pregnant would turn into bigger worries when she was born and that essentially, I had signed up for 18 years of worry.  I so wish that they had been right.

My daughter loved fruit.  Gary cut up honeydew and cantaloupe for us to take to work every day and as soon as I took one bite, she would start kicking like crazy.  She loved the sweetness.  That was my first sign that something was wrong.  The afternoon before we went to the hospital, I had my fruit as usual and she was pretty still.  I believe there was some movement, but I know it was much less than usual and I started to worry.  So much of that day is lost in my memory, but I remember sitting at my desk and starting to feel the first signs of fear.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  The actual day to "celebrate" is October 15th.  Last year we had a moment of silence and lit a candle.  This year, there is a balloon release locally that I want to attend but am not sure yet if I have the courage to go.  I still have a week to decide.  Regardless, we will be lighting a candle at 7pm to celebrate her and I urge you to light one, too.  For all the babies out there who have parents with empty arms.   

A fellow Baby Loss Mom (BLM) made this picture for us and I love it.  A complete stranger turned friend as she understands the pain and agony of losing her baby, too.

Allie, baby, I have spent so much energy trying to make a sibling for you that sometimes I have buried my grief and sorrow just to survive.  Please know that I have never stopped loving you and that you are my heart and my light and that this month and every month, your daddy and I remember and love you so.  We don't need a special month to celebrate you, but we don't mind it, either.  It's just another excuse for us to talk about and love you.  And love you we do.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Rock, Hard Place, Me

I know I need to keep writing like I know I need to keep breathing.  I usually feel it in my bones...the oh, it's time to sit down and write again.  Sometimes I have to stop what I am doing to get the words out.  I knew when I woke up today that I needed to write, but the topic was fuzzy to me all day.  I went for a nice long walk this morning and sometimes I get my ideas there.  Nope.  Not today.  We had a nice relaxing afternoon and Gary cooked dinner and through it all, I kept waiting for a topic to come to me.   Eventually I sat down to pay some bills and thought maybe being in front of the computer would do the trick.  It was then that I realized that I had an idea all along.

My world is so in limbo these days.  I guess anyone could say that and even mean it, but I truly feel that I am stuck in time.  The time after we lost Allie and the time before we were able to have another child.  Do I spend the time mourning the Angel we lost or pining away for the baby we are yet to conceive?  I do not want to look back at this time in my life, in my marriage, and realize I "wasted" it wanting and wishing and not living and learning.  Am I doing that?

Babies are all around me.  And for the most part, I love it.  I love babies.  I had a baby,  I want a baby.  I do not have a baby.

I am happy for all the mom's out there who have babies and who are having babies.  Jealous?  Yeah.  Embarrassed by that?  Um, yeah!  It's kind of like I am between a rock and a hard place.  

Friends is one of my all time favorite TV shows.  It was from the very first episode.  I wanted Rachel's hairdo, I wanted to date Chandler, I wanted to cook like Monica and I wanted to be a free spirit like Phoebe.  I am not sure what characteristics of Ross and Joey I wanted, but I am sure there were some. I never drank coffee but wanted to go to Central Perk and learn how.  I remember watching that show while studying for exams or getting ready to go out to keg parties and just laughing my head off.

Season 1:  Chandler accidentally walks in on Rachel after a shower and sees her breasts, leading to a series of shower peepings.

Chandler: You know, I don't know why you're so embarrassed. They were very nice boobies.
Rachel: Nice? They were nice? I mean, that's it? I mean, mittens are nice.
Chandler: Okay... rock... hard place... me. 

I can picture Chandler saying that line like it was yesterday.  Not 17 years ago. Yes, it's been that long.  I looked it up.  It was such a funny line.  I would hold my fists up in the air like Chandler did and put my head in the middle and I usually got some laughs, too.  I must have said it dozens of times over the years.  Only now, it's taken on a new meaning.

Here's the thing.  I will always be happy when someone is fortunate enough to get pregnant because it's the most magical thing in the universe that can happen.  I will always be sad that my baby, my first born, the baby I felt kick and move and live and breathe inside of me never got the chance to live the life I feel she was meant to live.  Rock...hard place...me.

I feel that people do not know what to say to me.  Do they tell me a mutual friend is pregnant?  Do they mention milestones their children are having?  Will she crack? At work the other day, someone was talking about his wife and how she was due any day.  I started to squirm at my desk.  I did not want to hear any of it!  It brought back so many memories of me, right before I was due.  But then I realized that I did not want them to whisper so that I would not hear or worse, not talk at all for the fear that I might hear.  Rock...hard place...me.

Here's another thing...there is nothing anyone can say or do to me that is worse than the pain of losing our daughter.  Nothing. 

I am not sure where I fall in this limbo space that I am in, but rest assured that as soon as I know, I will let you know.  In the meantime, I will struggle with where I belong and how I feel and if I am closer to the rock, the hard place, or a whole new place entirely.  I am fortunate to have my very own group of "Friends" to help me figure it out...or at least be by my side while I try my best to do just that.  


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ownership

This past weekend, I had the joy of heading to Virginia, as I do every September, to celebrate the birthday of one of my college roommates and very close friends.  I go visit every year - sometimes a little early in the month if her birthday falls on one of the Jewish holidays and sometimes a little later in the month if my nephew is having a birthday party as they share the same date.  This year I was able to be there on her actual birthday and her sister drove in from Pittsburgh and it was a real treat.  We figured it had probably been about 10 years since our visits collided like they did and all 3 of us had a lot of catching up to do!

The main event of our weekend was the 2012 Book Festival hosted by the Library of Congress.  It was a gorgeous day and we were excited to head over to check it out.  Right in the shadow of the Washington Monument, there were tents and speakers and the grounds were simply buzzing.

One of the keynote speakers was an author by the name of Lisa Scottoline.  She is from the Philadelphia area and I recognized her name right away and wanted to be sure we heard her speak.  I have read a few of her mystery thrillers and always enjoyed them.  I knew she also had a column in a major Philadelphia newspaper that my mom sometimes clipped out for me to read.  What I did not know is that she has an adult daughter who is also a writer and whom she also collaborates with - quite often in fact.

Ms. Scottoline spoke for close to a half hour on a variety of topics such as where she gets her inspiration, what inspires her to work, why she left a career as a lawyer to become a writer and much more.  She is a single mother and she and her daughter have always been very close.  She addressed that relationship.

I did not take notes so I can't do her speech justice, but her words have echoed in my mind since I heard them yesterday.  She came to terms with her daughter growing up and having a life of her own by acknowledging that she was not "letting her daughter go" but acknowledging that she never "had her" in the first place.  Her daughter was a privilege and a blessing, sure...but not something she ever "owned" and had to thus "let go".  

Sitting there under the big tent with one of my closest friends by my side, my eyes started to fill up.  Wow.  How true are those words??  People are not possessions.  That is not news.  But to hear it in the context of an adult mother and daughter that need to know boundaries in order to be the friends that they are and to share the same profession, it seemed different to me.  Same message, I guess, just different packaging. 

I never "owned" my daughter so it seems bizarre to think I am "holding onto her" or "letting her go".  I want to just learn to "be" with her in my heart and in my soul and I do and she is.

The rest of the weekend was spent in a haze of laughter and wine and cupcakes and fun and it was a weekend I will not soon forget.  I laughed so hard that I had tears.  I like the happy tears so much more than the sad tears. I like being reminded that there are still things to laugh about and people to laugh with.  And if you add in just a little bit of culture like attending a Book Fair, look how much you can expand your mind.  Not a bad way to spend the first day of Fall.  Not a bad way to spend any time at all!


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fear

Growing up with two younger brothers, bodily functions seems to be a focal point of many of our conversations.  It was never planned, but it almost always just happened.  I can't say it made my mom very proud, but it made us laugh so hard that we really did not care.

As grown ups, you would think we would have outgrown such talk.  We have not.  Often at a family gathering, the talk will turn to something "colorful" and the people around us will cringe.  Or our mom will say something to us.  Or Gary will roll his eyes.  This behavior just encourages my brothers and me.  Somewhere in the back of mind mind, I do realize that this topic is not a very lady like thing to discuss.  Sigh.

The first holiday season that Gary and I were together was a happy one.  I think Hanukkah and Christmas were close to each other that year so there was lots of celebrating with both sides of our families.  It was my first holiday season with someone really special in as long as I could remember and I wanted it to be just right.  And it was.  We were that goofy hand-holding couple making lists of what we wanted from each other and being giddy that we had someone amazing in our lives.

One night during Hanukkah, my mom made her famous meatloaf for us to enjoy.  And enjoy it we did!  She has been making her famous meatloaf since we were kids and we all love it and request it whenever we get together.  Sometimes after the meal, we went back to Gary's apartment and probably watched a movie or something.  That part I do not recall.  What I do recall is having an upset belly after eating too much meatloaf and excusing myself to go to the bathroom.  And then it happened.  The toilet would not flush.  I reached down for a plunger only to discover there was not one there. I started to sweat...OH MY GOD!  What do I do?  This is my biggest fear realized!!!

I wiped the tears away, took a few deep breaths and walked out into the living room.  I was scared and shaking and in a timid voice, I asked Gary if he knew what my #1 fear was.  He did not.  I then explained my fear of having a toilet not flush and needing a plunger in a home that was not my own.  His reply?  "I do not own a plunger."

I now had a new #1 fear. 

It's bad enough to have this "situation" happen at home, but there I was at my boyfriend's place in the midst of the most romantic season I had ever encountered and I had no way to make the problem go away.  So at 10 pm on a cold Sunday night, we had to run to the local Walmart (it was the only store open) and buy a plunger.  I think we bought several.  I wanted to crawl into a hole and never leave.  Gary was great the whole time and was nothing but supportive.  We got home and fixed the problem and eventually laughed about it.  A lot.

I think about that night often and how scared and afraid I was of something so silly!  Something essentially out of my control.   I was scared that my boyfriend was not going to think I was feminine enough  I was scared that I would somehow push him away.  I was afraid of the incident being a major turn off.  I was so afraid of what he would think of me.  I knew my brothers would laugh and that anyone that knew me well would think it was hysterical, but would my new found love?

So why in the word am I rehashing that embarrassing story?  Well, my mind started to wander the other day about how afraid I am that this journey to conceive and how having another child may have more bumps along the way.  I am so scared of going through all the appointments and medicine and hope and not having a baby in the end.  I am so fearful that our dream to parent a child or children may not come true.  I worry that we may choose adoption and then have to "compete" against other couples who want nothing more than to parent a child.  I am aware that some of my fears are not even rational, but that's what fear is sometimes.

I wrote last week about losing hope and I think so much of that is just plain fear.  Fear can cripple you, if you let it. Many people don't fly because they are afraid.  Or don't like bridges because they are afraid of heights.  Fear is very real and all around us.

For me, the best way to cure my fear is to face it head on.  Look it in the face and and make it stand down.  So to my fear of infertility, I say back off!  I am not afraid of you.  To my fear of never parenting a living child, stand down!  I will watch Gary play catch with our boy or dance with our little girl...I know I will.  I will know a whole new realm of fear when there is a baby that needs us to make his or her world whole.

So I stand by, tall and mighty.  I stand up to fear.  Many fight battles with a shield or a sword, but I think I will do it my way - with a plunger in my hand. That will show my fear!  All kidding aside, it does not matter how I do it, just that I do.  I know that I will conquer it.  I just have to remind myself every once and a while that I can.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Hope (or lack thereof)

It came out of my mouth before I realized that I felt that way.  I am losing hope. 

I looked at him and asked if he felt the same way.  He nodded sadly.

There is nothing like the grief of losing a child.  Nothing.  We are not supposed to bury our children.  Period.  But there is a different kind of grief when the journey to have another child proves to be a more bumpy road that you had anticipated.  It's frustrating and sad and consuming.

We try to focus on the good and there is so much good!  But at the end of the day, we are still coming home to a quiet house with no baby.

I bought these stones a few months back and sometimes just hold them in my hand trying to be mindful of their message.  I use them as a talisman to calm and center me.  It often works.

Sometimes I feel like I am losing my connection with my daughter.  The longer she is not here, the less I feel her.  The time I should be spending on her, I spend on hoping for a sibling for her.  

I feel robbed of all the times we did not get to share together.  The longer she is gone, the more that comes into focus.  In the beginning, I was so intent on having another baby so that I could see Allie in that baby.  I could hold her brother or sister and feel her spirit from within.  But there is no baby.  So instead, I close my eyes and picture what might have been...what should have been. And I find myself grieving for the child we lost as well as the child we have not been able to have since.

The nursery was converted back into a guest room.  Most of the time, that's all it is to me.  Sometimes, though, late at night, I wander in there and look at my daughter's hand prints and foot prints that hang on the wall and I have tears on my face before I even process why.  How in the world did I get here?

And that is when I realize that uttering it out loud was speaking the truth.  I have been losing hope.   I am on a mission now to get it back.  To look at the glass as half full.  To hope that we might just get our rainbow after all. 

I said to Gary on our way home last night, "Wouldn't it be nice if there was a baby just dropped off our on doorstep?"  His reply?  "No, we are not even home right now!"  It made us laugh.  And we need to still be able to laugh.

So what is my hope?  To parent a child with my husband.  We can have that dream.  But not without hope.  I guess I just need to be reminded of that every once a while.  I think I got it now...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Power of Love

Back to the Future has been on cable a lot these past few weeks.  I feel like every time I turn on the TV, a very young Michael J. Fox is staring back at me.  Next thing I know, "The Power of Love" by Huey Lewis and the News is stuck in my head all day.

So what about the "Power of Love"?  What do those words mean?  Is it more than just a catchy tune from the 80's?

I remember when Gary and I were still a new couple and everything we did was so adorable (to me!).  I remember wanting something and saying to him, "Be your best friend!" as a way to entice him to give it to me. He replied with "You already are". I melted...and then I felt like an ass!  This man LOVES me!  He really loves me!  Talk about the power of love!

After work this evening, I got my hair done.  I love the few hour ritual of the color being applied, the scalp massage/shampoo, the cut and then the style.  But the best part is my stylist.  She has become a true friend over the years and were were laughing so hard today that at one point she had to put the scissors down and just let it out.

Somehow we got on the topic of that feeling you get when you are in a new relationship.  The butterflies in your belly, the desire to be around one another ALL THE TIME, the lust and the excitement of something new. The physical connection that makes you  feel like your very own Fifty Shades...long before that book was published!  And while all of that is fantastic, what's even better is what comes next, if you are lucky.  The hug at the end of an exhausting day.  A wink from across a crowded room.  The way you hold hands when you walk into an uncomfortable situation.  The strength you give each other when tragedy turns your world upside down.  That's the power of love.
We took this picture last week when we went away for few days.  Some might see a simple sun glare. I see parents and a child.  I see the child looking over her parents.  

I see the "Power of Love".


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

If you know me well...

You know I have this uncanny ability to remember what I was wearing at various times in my life.  I do not always remember the who or the what or the where, but I know on September 11, 2001, I was wearing a black skirt with a magenta top that I adored.  Open toed shoes, too, as it was unseasonably warm that day.  But ok - that was a big event.  Let me try something more obscure...I remember the outfit I wore when Gary and I went out on our first date.  I did not know it was a date at the time so it was what I wore to work on that casual Friday.  Still, embroidered jeans that I had just fit back into (may or may not have been in style but I was losing weight and going to wear all the things that had eluded me during my heavier days!) and a white off the shoulder sweater with a camisole underneath.  The first time he brought me home to meet his family?  Why that would be brown pants and an off- white turtleneck sweater.  First day at this job over 6 years ago?  Black and white skirt, black top...closed toe shoes as I was not sure exactly what the dress code at my new company was yet.

I have always had this knack...it goes back to the shorts I was wearing when I broke my leg, which was the summer before 6th grade.  Grey shorts with a pink stripe down the side that they cut off of me in the Emergency Room.  So sad to lose them.  They were a favorite indeed. 

And to add to that list, I remember what I was wearing when the doctor told me that they had trouble finding our baby's heartbeat.  By the time we got the official news, I was in a gown, but on the way to the hospital and when I was first hooked up to all the machines, I remember what I wore. And I remember what I wore when I came home without her.

My fun little game is now a little bit of torture when I look through the closet and remember what I was wearing when.  I wore this top to my baby shower.  I wore that top to the funeral home.  This was what I wore the first time we saw the fertility specialist.  That is what I wore the first time they called and said they wish they had better news...we're sorry - you are not pregnant.

Yesterday we went to see the doctor once again to talk options, ideas, touch base...and I did something different for me.  I grabbed what was clean that I had no attachment to whatsoever and off we went.  We had a good meeting, talked for close to a half hour and decided to go at it again.  There is no reason that the doctor can see that we should not keep trying and he wants us to get pregnant almost as much as we do.  We left his office feeling positive and hopeful - with me still feeling a little sad that we had to have that meeting at all. Sometimes I feel stabs of pity but I try my best to see them head on and shove them away.  We do not have time or space or energy for pity these days.  (Or any day, I suppose!).

So today is a new day.  The sun is out.  The sky is blue.  We are still here.  We are honoring our daughter every day while trying to be compassionate to each other.  Soon I will log off and finish packing as we took this week off from work and are going on a mini-vacation. We are gonna sleep in and do touristy things and eat lazy big meals and laugh and talk and remember our past and plan for our future.  I better pack carefully as I might look back on this last vacation before we are pregnant and think about what I wore then...


Vacation or Relocation?

I love a good vacation. Always have. I love the planning and the anticipation and the experience of discovering someplace new.  Once ...