Friday, February 24, 2012

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

I am home today, waiting for the plumber to come and repair a leaky toilet.  As I wait for our handyman, I can't help but think he is going to walk in and ask how the baby is.  The last time we used him was about a year ago when we did some renovations to our kitchen and wanted to get them done before we had a baby crawling around and before all our extra money went to day care expenses.  My how things change.

Last night my mom and I went into Center City to see a play.  We got tickets last minute and jumped at the chance to spend an unexpected week night together.  We drove down after work and there was a lot of traffic so we had plenty of time to talk.  We talked about all kinds of things - from my job to hers (she is retiring later this year and more than ready) to our recent shopping spree to the weather (it was unseasonably warm here in PA this week) and naturally, of course, Allie.  

Before I continue, I need to give you some background information.  I did not have the most ideal childhood.  While I was always fiercely loved, there was a lot of turmoil.  My father left a year after my mom's brother passed away unexpectedly in his early 40's.  She was never lower and left to raise 3 kids by herself.  My father was still around, but never hands-on and never the way any of us needed him to be.  A few years later, mom remarried.  My father did not like the idea of another man raising his kids and all kinds of ugliness ensued.  Custody battles, court dates...it was bad.  

Over a decade later, that second marriage ended as well.  My mother was shattered all over again.  She often blames herself for picking the wrong men, when in fact, both men were not the men she married by the time it came to the end of the relationships.  

My relationship with my father was a rocky one.  For years and years, we did not speak at all.  He would pick up my brothers for visitation and I would hide inside the house so he would not see me. For a time he tried to get me to visit as well, but eventually he gave up.  As a teenage girl trying to find her way, this was not an ideal situation, to say the least.  Years of therapy and plenty of growing up later, we managed to somewhat repair our relationship.  While he was never really my father and did not raise me, for a while there, he did become my friend.  The last few years he has gotten very ill and he is the shell of the man he once was.  Watching his decline has been very hard and so very sad.

Ok...enough history.  Back in the present, as we are waiting for the play to start, my mom remarked to me that it feels even more unfair to her sometimes that we lost Allie as I had already suffered enough.  I had already been through so much.  And while I understand what she meant and how it might be like that for her, for me, it's like nothing bad ever happened before.  Carrying my daughter to term and delivering her still was THE worst thing that has ever, could ever,  will ever happen to me.  It trumps having parents who divorced while I was still young.  It's more significant than me having to tell a judge at 14 years old that I wanted to live with my mom and not my dad.  It's far more important that having a father who did not know how to love his only daughter.  It just is.

So here I sit, waiting for our handyman who is now late, wondering what he will say if and when he shows.  And while I wait and type away, I realize that it does not matter what is worse as there are so many bad things that happen to so many good people.  It's how we deal with the bad things and how we cope and how we learn from them that makes us who we are.  Does everything happen for a reason?  I used to think so, but now I don't.  But I do know that you can't just give up.  You have to keep going.  At least I do.

Now excuse me...I have a plumber to call.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Marbles

I can't remember when exactly, but some time in the last 10 months or so, when I was crying my eyes out for one reason or another, I told Gary that I felt like I had lost my marbles.  I like to be able to still laugh when I am a hot mess and so I found that any time after I would be very upset, I would remark that I lost my marbles and it made us smile.  Gary always assured me that I did not lose my marbles, but there were times when I really questioned my sanity.

When we went to visit my college roommate this past Fall, we stopped by the Smithsonian to try to infuse some culture and history into our visit.  On the way out, we stopped by the gift shop to buy a magnet for our fridge to commemorate the trip.  Way in the back was a HUGE display of marbles.  Alongside were little velvet pouches with the Smithsonian logo on them and they were designed for the patrons to pick the marbles they liked and take a small  sampling of them home.  Gary saw them right away and said we should get them.  He was planning to get me some anyway.  He said I should always have my very own marbles.  

I have a little plate on my dresser with the word "HOPE" written all over it that my mom gave me several years ago. On it used to rest a candle...now it holds my marbles.  They are never far away.

So why write about this now?  Well, I lost my marbles yesterday.  It all started over the fact that I needed some new clothes for work.  My company is a casual one and we all dress down, but for the days when I am training, I really need to step it up a notch.  I worked really hard for this position and I am enjoying it so much and I want to make sure I do it right!

The problem is, I refuse to wear my maternity clothes and I am still too big for my pre-pregnancy clothes.  So I have been wearing the same few outfits. A lot.  Now I think I have a fairly good sense of style and I manage to mix and match so that no one really noticed and if they did, I am not sure anyone would care.  But I am a girl who likes my things ( remember this post?) and it just stinks that I do not even have the desire to shop for myself anymore.

My mom called and offered to meet me and help me.   I tried to explain that I did not want help - that shopping for me was not fun anymore.  That my body is all stretched out and the exercising I have been doing has not caught up yet.  But she persisted. 

I hung up the phone and I started to cry.  Then I started to cry harder.  Soon I got to the "ugly cry".  I was still in my nightie, mind you, pony tail piled high on my head, and old cardigan worn on top to keep me warm.  What started out as tears over the body that I am embarrassed by, turned into tears that would not stop coming.  Tears over what we lost and how much it hurts.  Tears over the agony and the emptiness.  Tears for the life I once had. The innocence of a newly married couple who got pregnant so easily and thought they had any control over what happened in life.

Gary stood there with me and held me and assured me and loved me, as he always does.  He listened and he offered advice.  I looked at him in his Tough Mudder t-shirt, covered with my tears and just sighed.  And probably hiccuped. I think that's a given with a cry like that.

Slowly, I calmed down.  I ate lunch.  I took a shower.  I prepared to meet up with my mom. 

And that I did.  And we shopped.   And shopped.  And shopped some more.  I got some great stuff.  Clothes I will be proud to wear.  Pieces I will be happy to put on.  This is my body and I am doing my best to take care of it.  I might as well make it try to look nice in the process!

Then I went home.  Put my new clothes away.  Watched some TV with my husband.  Life goes on.  If we are lucky, life goes on.

As I slowly drifted to sleep last night, I looked over at my dresser and saw my marbles sitting right where I had left them.  I guess I did not lose them after all. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It's been a while...

It's not like me to go over a week without writing.  But things have been so busy of late that I just did not have the time.  So tonight, after I watched "Glee", I turned off the TV and started to write.

Another month has passed us by with no little pink lines to tell us that a baby is on the way.  I really thought that this was our month.  We are doing such a good job of taking care of ourselves...me with the new job and the new support group, us both with a personal trainer that comes to work at the end of the day to whip us into shape.  We are healing.  We are living our lives.  I figured it was time.  Long past time, to be honest.

Each symptom of PMS can present like pregnancy. It's a cruel joke.  I get my hopes up when I start to feel bloated...this could be it!!  I turn into a naive woman and calculate out when my due date might be.  This month, I allowed myself the luxury of looking at a calendar and trying to decide when we would know the gender. I was THAT sure.  And then I woke up with other plans on Sunday morning.

And yet, I still have hope.  I still want to continue.  I still want to carry a child that Gary and I create.

It scares me to death that I could get pregnant again, have a perfectly normal pregnancy like I did with Allie and then lose the next baby, too.  It haunts me.  I like to think that lightning does not strike twice and that it could never happen again, but who thought it could happen the first time?

I only read a handful of blogs anymore as most of the women I have met on this journey are pregnant again.  Some lost their children long before me so it's not fair to compare, and yet I do. I crave the day that I can go back to reading their blogs and feeling a connection again.  Lately, I read their blogs to see how they are and how they are progressing and to hopefully reference back to when I am pregnant again.

When.  Not if.

Oh Allie.  How I wish you were here, baby.  I seldom allow myself to think of what you would look like and what you would be doing if you were here.  That does not do me any good.  Sometimes, when I am in bed, drifting off to sleep, Daddy tucked in soundly next to me, I rub my belly where you once lived and I swear I can still feel you there.  I remember your kicks and your movements when I hold my palm against my skin.  Sometimes I smile.  Sometimes, like now, tears come.  I wish we had more time, baby.  I wish we had more time.

I have a friend who is getting married in the June.  A week after Gary and I celebrate our second wedding anniversary, in fact.  Last week, she reluctantly told me that her bridal shower is going to be April 22nd.  She looked so sad and told me that she was sorry and does not expect me to attend.  I immediately broke into tears.  She knew that Allie's "birth"day was that day and that I would be doing something to honor her on that day.  One of my biggest fears was that our daughter would be forgotten and I am being reminded time and time again how that is not the case at all.

I wish I could see into the future and know that Gary and I will be parents.  I am tired of dreaming it - I want to live it! In the meantime, I guess I will just keep living my life the best way I know how.  Sooner or later, we will get our happy ending.  In the meantime, I will try my best to enjoy as much of the ride as I can.  Pink lines or not.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Best Group of People You Wish You Never Met

A while back, my mom suggested the idea of a support group to me.  I was not interested at the time as Gary and I have a grief counselor and we felt like that was enough.  But the seed was planted and earlier this week, I decided I wanted to check it out.  Gary did not feel the urge to go and I was ok with that - ok with the fact that we are both suffering and grieving, but that we need to do it in separate ways.  I think that shows tremendous growth for both of us to know we can grieve side by side, but also alone.

I found a place to go and asked my mom to go with me.  I felt it would be useful for her to finally have an outlet for her grief as well - not to mention be able to be by my side.  For as close as we are, I find it hard to talk about Allie with her sometimes as I know how much she also lost and I can't bear it.  

After making some calls, we found the right group to attend.  It just so happened that it was this past Tuesday when I decided I wanted to go and the chapter that is closest to us meets the first Wednesday of every month.  So I barely had time to be nervous or anxious or scared.  I just had time to print out directions and go.

We arrived at the church where the meeting was being held and all my anxiety came out.  There was no one else there yet and I was convinced that no one else was coming.  I thought that I had been brave enough to come and it was for nothing.  I was pacing and nervous.  My mom just stood there with me and told me to be patient and slowly, some cars started pulling into the driveway.

We went in, turned on the light and descended the steps to the basement.  The room where the meeting was being held was used for a daycare, I think, as there were kids toys all over the place.  We straightened up and made a circle of chairs and the leaders put some books and pamphlets in the middle of the circle.  We started to talk.

One of the leaders lost her son 12 years ago and she shared her story.  After she spoke, the other moderator, who lost her daughter almost 6 years ago, told her story.  There was a new woman to the group this month who had a recent miscarriage.  Then there was a couple who lost their baby at 6 and a half months gestation this past October.  Then there was us.

It would be unfair to share their stories as they are not mine to tell.  But what I can share is this - seeing (and later hugging) people who suffered like we have was...well, there are no words.  Being able to share our story, to talk about Allie with pride and joy was amazing.  Being able to look at the other mothers who on the outside, look just like any other mother, was a tremendous help to me.  Hearing the one dad share his pain helped me understand Gary's perspective. 

Each session will be different because there are always different people and different stories and topics, but one woman said that it's one night a month where you can come and remember your child with other parents who have "been there".  I was able to share about the hours and hours of labor that I was in and then the eventual c-section that had to be performed as I was not dilating enough.  I told them how for months and months, every time I closed by eyes, I was back in that room, pregnant, waiting to deliver a baby who was no longer alive.  We talked about what it was like to hold our babies and how beautiful and handsome they all were.  We talked about the pain of living without them. We all agreed how we are slaves to the calendar - dreading our due dates and the date of the month where we lost our children.  And through their tears, they understood.

I was able to tell complete strangers how the love and support that we have from our friends and family has been nothing short of miraculous.  At one point, one mom told me how jealous she was of all the support we had and it reminded me how lucky Gary and I really are.

At some point, I looked at the walls in the room. There were kids drawings and other such artwork.  Directly in front of me was a little sign with some kids names on it - maybe the kids that are in the preschool? Jumping back from the piece of paper was the name Allie.  And the name Kayla.  Kayla is a baby that died shortly after Allie and her mom blogs and we have become friendly via the Internet.  And even though we live in different states and different time zones, we share this bond.  And in the basement of that church, it felt like some kind of sign that our girls are together.  I like that. I hope Kayla's mom finds some comfort in it as well.

I went home that night and filled Gary in on the whole meeting.  He wanted to know each story and how my mom and I both handled it and what we shared.  He supports and loves me, whether physically next to me or not.  I was up till close to midnight trying to process it all.

The next morning, I made a recurring appointment on my calendar for the first Wednesday of every month.  I am so grateful for UNITE and for the best group of people that I sure wish I never had to meet.

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 ...