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.