Friday, July 27, 2012

Story Time, Part 2 (and another guest blogger!)

Today's writer is a friend that I know through one of my family members.  We are not particularly close and we have never spent any time together one-on-one.  We have never had lunch or gone shopping or met for cocktails.  However, she knows me and she knows our story and that seems to be enough.  She has sent me lots of support over the past 15 months.  

Earlier this week, I received this message from her on Facebook.  While the goosebumps were still on my arms and the tears on my cheeks, I asked her if I could use it here.  She graciously edited it for a larger audience (and made sure to protect the rights of the person in the story) and sent it back to me this morning.  Please enjoy her story. 

I read your latest post a few days ago... As always, so touching and well-written. Truly. You tell your story so eloquently. The reason I wanted to send you this message is because there's a tiny part of your story you don't know about, a connection way off on a tangent of a tangent. 

As you may or may not know, I just started my clinical rotations in nursing school.  I'm currently on an ob/gyn rotation and I happened to be seeing a woman for a routine prenatal appointment who was about 8 months pregnant with her first baby. She had had an ultrasound a few weeks ago and all was well. But at this appointment, the little handheld doppler wasn't picking up a heartbeat. I took her myself up to L&D triage for an ultrasound. She lay on the stretcher as the nurse put the probe on her belly. I tend to suck at reading ultrasounds, but I could tell I wasn't seeing the one thing we were looking for. 

My stomach was in my throat and during the silent eternity of the ultrasound I could feel my heart beating so loudly that I thought someone would tell me to shut up. I put my hand on the woman's shoulder and squeezed. The nurse said she needed to get someone and left to get an ob/gyn attending, who repeated the ultrasound and confirmed the loss. She explained a few things then left. A nurse came in and out of the room and was supportive, but much of the time it was just me and the woman. I sat on the edge of her bed and we talked. We talked about what was going to happen next. We talked about her hobbies and her job. We talked about support groups. We talked about her dog. She asked me if she would be able to hold her son. 

The whole time, I was trying desperately to say and do things that would be helpful and to avoid saying and doing things that would make the situation worse, all while trying my hardest to hold back the tears that were coming. And the fact is, nursing school doesn't have any lectures on how to sit in a room with a woman going through this tragedy, how to be the only person there to support her for the hour before her family arrives. 

I have learned so much from reading your posts. I thought of you and I let the journey you have shared with such openness and candor be my guide. And I know I was better equipped to be there for this woman because of it. So thank you. I visited her in her room the next two mornings, despite being nervous to do so. I still worried I would do something wrong and make things worse or that she would think I was being intrusive. But the glimpse you've given me into what it means to go through something so terrible gave me the courage to overcome my nervousness and be there for her. After my second visit I hugged her goodbye and later that day she was discharged home. 

In the end I could tell my presence was appreciated, and I truly believe that I was a help to this woman because of you and your willingness to share your story. And I believe that it is one more way that Allie has made a difference in this world. I hope you don't mind reading the long story... I just wanted to share it with you and once again thank you.

Amazing, huh?   Thank you for letting Allie's story be your guide.   What a gift.  And what a nice reminder to me that although she is not here physically, my little angel is indeed making an impact on the lives of others.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Story Time

"Have you ever heard of anything so cruel in your whole life?" she said to him through her sobs.  Her face was wet, her eyes were swollen and what was once a tissue was a mangled mess clenched up in her shaking hands.

"Yes", he whispered.  "Burying our daughter was the cruelest thing in the world."

"No, she said.  "Burying our daughter and then not being able to make her a big sister seems even more cruel, if you ask me."  And then the tears started to fall again.

There is the grief of losing a child and there is the agony of infertility.  Never in my life did I think I would experience both. 

My glass is half empty lately.  Month after month with no baby on the way...how can this be? 

I never really did the "why me" thing when Allie died.  I know others around us asked and wondered, but we really didn't.  She was here and then she wasn't and there is no way to predict the future nor prevent certain things from happening in it.  But lately I find myself wondering why.  What did I do to deserve this anguish?

Why am I not pregnant again?  Gary and I are good people and we have so much love and passion and fun to share with a child. 

Why are there no midnight feedings?  Why do I throw out the Babies R Us Coupons before even looking at the brochures anymore?  Why is the 10,000 Baby Names book collecting dust in the basement next to an unused crib and changing table?

Inevitably, the tears come.  Pity parties are exhausting.

Yesterday, during a routine exam, the nurse asked me for a list of all prior surgeries.  Wisdom teeth, a broken leg...and oh yeah, my c-section.

"When was that?" she asked in a kind voice.
"April 22, 2011", I replied.
"My how time flies, huh?" she said. 

My guess is she did not look at my chart to know that no - time does not fly for us as we are not home raising our baby.  We are here, testing and trying and praying and hoping that somehow I can get pregnant again.

"I want to grow old with you" he says to me, not for the first time.  I want to be the woman he loves, the woman he fell in love with.  "You are" he says. 

It's time to lift my head above the waves that are trying to drown me and brush off the sand that is trying to bury me and put myself first.  My health, my heart, my soul.  Haven't I made myself suffer enough?

"My story is not over yet" she types.  She already feels better as writing does that for her. 
"We know it's not" you say in your heads and you read this blog.  "Not by a long shot."

Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Spartan

Please welcome my very first guest blogger tonight, my husband and Allie's dad, Gary.  If you are friends with us on Facebook, you know he had a big race this weekend.  It was an emotional day for both of us, but I think it's better explained in his words.  So here goes:

By the end of the Spartan Race, I was bruised, bloody, and battered. A day later, I am more sore than I have even been, can't fully move my right arm, my left leg looks like a prop from a horror film, and I'm popping ibuprofen like they're candy. Yet, I had a wonderful day yesterday . . . during the four grueling hours of the race, alone with my thoughts -- I found my daughter again, and got to spend the day with her.
 
Nothing is ever the same when you lose your child, and it was no different for me and my wife, Sam. April 22, 2011 -- our world stopped when our daughter, Allison Paige, was delivered stillborn. We knew she was gone already . . . a day before, we received the news there was no cardiac activity, but we had to go through the birthing process which took nearly 24 hours. When Allison arrived, the lack of a baby's cry . . . the complete and utter silence . . . was so LOUD, it was incredibly painful.
 
Our lives changed that day. We survived . . . a combination of our own personal strength and a wonderful support system of family and friends who constantly monitored us and helped nurse us back to . . . normal?
 
Normal. That word. Six letters, but what does it mean? Who defines normal? There are countless other people who have gone through basically the same nightmare Sam and I have . . . some of these people shut out the rest of the world and pull away from everyone -- doesn't that sound like a normal reaction to you? Some people embrace life at this point, and pull friends and family together like a security blanket. Doesn't that sound like a normal reaction too? How can two completely different reactions (practically extreme opposites) both be normal?
 
That answer will always elude me. Sam and I have leaned toward the "embrace life" part of the spectrum, but we've spent some time on the other end as well. The decisions we've made, and the successes and failures we've had as a result since then, aren't suitable for everyone. Quite frankly, I don't know how we've done it, but it almost boils down to a simplified philosophy of "You can't change what has happened, you can't predict what will happen, you can only take care of what is happening now." So, that's what we do. We try to take care of what is happening now.
 
In the past, I had gone through some bouts of depression and taken prescriptions to help. With Allie gone, I knew it was likely I'd fall into a deep depression, and I didn't want the pharmaceutical help. I wanted to get things straight in a more healthy way. So, just over a year ago, I took up running. I was tired of being overweight, tired of having no energy, and tired of feeling out of control -- and running seemed to be a low-cost, easy-to-implement healthy approach to recovery.
 
It started slow. More walking than running until my body was ready for more. And as I started to increase my runs, started to build up my body, I discovered something else . . . I was connecting with Allie when I was running. I had time out on the road with only my thoughts for company, and I would think about her. At various times, I would feel like I was running after her . . . running with her . . . running for her . . .
 
The wind on my face became her light kisses . . . the sound of my feet on the ground became her clap . . . the noise of each passing car became her laugh. To the fullest extent that I could, I had my Allison with me on each and every run.
 
So, I ran more. I completed my first 5k . . . then my second . . . my sixth . . . a 10k . . . a Tough Mudder . . . another 10k . . . my second Tough Mudder . . . and more. I kept running. And then . . .
 
Then, I lost her. I don't know how. I don't know why. She was gone, and losing her again reopened the pain I felt at losing her the first time. I was crushed . . . my outlet for bonding with my daughter was suddenly useless. I was left with the wind, the ground, and the noise . . . but no kisses, no clapping, no laughing. No Allison.
 
I didn't know what to do, and I retreated into myself. I stopped running. I blamed it on my schedule or the weather or anything but the real reason. I just stopped taking care of myself.
 
By this time, I had already signed up for the Spartan race, and I didn't feel it would be right to back out of it. I hadn't been training or running, so I had no leg strength to get me through the first mile, no lung capacity to get me through the rest . . . but even in my darkest moments leading up to the race, I could still tell myself I had the willpower to get through this. Even though I didn't have her with me, I was going to do this for Allison.
 
The race started, and I went up the mountain. Within minutes, my legs and lungs were shot, and I was slowed to a walk. I climbed over obstacles, trudged through trails . . . the wind barely hitting me through the trees, the ground hard beneath my feet, and the sound of the ski lifts overhead grumbling in my ears.
 
I kept going.
 
At times, the pain was overwhelming, and I wanted to quit. But, without warning, I felt a light kiss on my cheek. A clap as I stepped. A laugh as I listened. Despite everything, she had found me again. My Allison was with me once more . . .
 
We kept going.
 
She never left my side the whole way. Throughout the course, I talked to her. Sometimes silently, sometimes out loud. We laughed, we cried. We just held each other . . . and sometimes, she carried me over the next obstacle or up the next hill.
 
Before I started the race, I had told Sam I might finish the race in two hours or so. At some point in the mountains, I realized it was long past that, and I knew Sam would be worried. I asked Allison to send her Mom a sign to let her know I was okay, and I was going to be there soon enough.
 
Allie and I kept going for about another hour, and then the end was finally in sight. As I expected, Sam was eagerly waiting for me as I made it through the last obstacle and across the finish line. We hugged and kissed, and before she even asked me about the race, she said, "There was a rainbow earlier! I took a picture and I have to show you later . . . I thought of Allie and I started to cry."
 
Tears started to run down my eyes, and I could feel the catch in my voice. I stopped her and said, "That was Allison. I asked her to send you a sign that I was okay . . . and she sent you a rainbow!"
 
(For those in the baby-loss community, a rainbow is a symbol of any baby you have after the loss. Sam and I also use rainbows and butterflies for remembrances of Allison.)
 
So, yes, I am battered, bruised, and sore. But it was worth every drop of blood, sweat, and tears for the time with Allie. I am not a spiritual person. But I have no issues in believing my daughter is looking out for us. Thanks for the rainbow, Allie-cat. I'm ready to lace up my sneakers, and see you on the road soon. Race you! First one to the mailbox wins . . .
 
 
 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Carpe Diem

I was 15 years old when Dead Poets Society came out.  I was forever changed by it.  

 

To live life to it's fullest, to seize the day, well, I just thought that was everything.  I was excited and inspired all at the same time. I bought all the Teen Beat magazines that were sold and wallpapered my pink bedroom wall with pictures of the students from the movie.  I bought copies of Walden and begged my mom to take me there.  I wanted to live like Thoreau and live deliberately and with a purpose.  I wanted to read poetry and suck the marrow out of life.  

Instead, I wound up with a crush on my English teacher, a Carpe Diem tattoo on my ankle that from a distance looks like an ink blot and a feeling of emptiness that I never did in fact seize the day.

So why write about this now?  Well, I am more than twice the age I was when I first saw the film and a part of me still wants to seize the day.  To reclaim that innocence of my youth when I could see a film and it would change my outlook on life. I want my glass to be half full and not half empty.  But it's so difficult.  I still think "why me?" when instead, I could be thinking "why not me?".  I get upset and frustrated by the minutiae and forget to look at the big picture.  I feel more and more like a fraud every day.

I am hoping that by writing about this fear, I will pay more attention to it and begin to feel better about the day to day things. Begin to "seize the day" in the areas that I can and learn to put my best foot forward in the areas that I cannot.  

The fact of the matter is, Allie is not here.  I am not pregnant.  I want so much for our family to grow, but I need to slow down and smell the roses and let myself off the hook and seize the day.  

I had my second acupuncture appointment yesterday and it was just as relaxing as the first one.  I was able to focus on my breathing and live in the moment and for the most part, tune everything else while allowing my body to get aligned and back in order.

Earlier this week, Gary and I saw this in a store and bought it immediately.  I have always loved turtles and I like to think this is me and our future little turtle.  I am trying to look for signs that it may happen for us after all.  Just this morning we saw at least a half dozen butterflies down by Allie's creek.  Damn if I do not think that is a sign, too!

The other night when Gary and I were ready to turn in for the night, we could not find Zoe to give her a treat.  (She lives for these late night snacks!).  I finally found her upstairs in the guest bedroom (which used to be Allie's nursery).  We left the glider in there when we put everything else in the basement, and the first stuffed animal that was given to use for her.  It seemed right at the time and apparently, Zoe thought so, too.

And so here I sit, writing away, reminding myself that it's not too late to live in the moment, to make the most of the life that I have and to be happy to have it.  If I have to pretend to be 15 again, I can do that!  If I have to remind myself over and over, I can do that, too!  I have more love and support that seems fair.  I can't change what has happened but I can change how I deal with it.  For the most part, I think I have been pretty great!  But there are many moments that I have not seized and for that, I say, "Carpe Diem!!"  Who's with me?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Whatever It Takes

More than once over the past few months, acupuncture was suggested to me.  I politely listened as people told me to try it, but knew with all the doctor's appointments that I have that my calendar is already pretty full and promptly dismissed the idea.

My fertility specialist recommended a few tests to rule out any medical issues that could prevent me from getting pregnant.  So in the last 2 weeks, I have had my lady parts examined in all sorts of ways.  I am talking xrays, cameras on catheters, blood and urine tests...the works (if I was a car wash!)  So far, all the results look good.  I seem fine.  But my stress level is off the charts.

So I decided that if I was going to submit to all these tests and do whatever it takes to make Allie a big sister, maybe it was time to try the holistic approach, too.  I reached out to someone in my support group and asked her for the name of the acupuncturist that she used and I promptly made an appointment.

When I arrived at the office yesterday, I was a little bit nervous, but mainly excited!  I had heard of the healing benefits of acupuncture over the years and was looking forward to trying it.  I filled out the extensive intake forms and checked every box that applied to me.  If I do something, I like to go at it 100%!  Anxiety?  Sometimes.  Depression?  Uh, yeah.  Fertility issues?  Yup.  The list went on.

When my acupuncturist called me back to the room (there must be a name for it, but I have no clue!) we sat in opposing chairs and went over my reason for being there.  We talked and talked and I got to tell some of Allie's story.  As sad as it is, I sure love the chance to talk about her.  How my pregnancy was perfect and for the most part, easy.  How she was our first born.  How we could not wait to meet her.  How she died before we got the chance.

We discussed the body's reaction to extreme stress and how it can be compared to when you are in the bathroom and someone knocks on the door and you just freeze.  Your body stops what it was doing out of fear.  She was not suggesting that delivering a baby still was anything like that, but simply saying if that is what happens to your body when you are going to the bathroom, imagine what happens to your body when you are told you have to deliver a baby that will never cry?

We talked some more and then she told me that I would first lie on my back and she would apply needles to certain pressure points. Then she would come back and I would lie on my belly and she would apply some needles to my back.  There was music playing softly in the background and when she left, she dimmed the lights.

First she swabbed the pressure points with alcohol wipes.  Then she inserted the needles.  One to my forehead, one on each side of my face near me ears, one on each wrist and hand and I think a few on my knees and feet.  It was hard to look!  The needles pricked a little bit when they were applied, but it was really hardly noticeable.

Then she left and I was alone.  Alone with my thoughts.  Slowly my thoughts went from, "OMG, I have needles in me!!" to "Huh.  This is kinda cool.  And super relaxing!".  I started to pay attention to my breathing and my breath in general.  My mind went blank and I drifted off to a place halfway between awake and asleep.

I think it was about 30 minutes before she came back removed those needles so that I could flip over and she could work on my back.  That time she told me it would be 15 minutes until she came back.  I found myself drifting sooner this time and really concentrating on just the moment and not much else.  It was exhilarating!

So I am going back next week. Acupuncture does not "cure" but it helps align the mind and the body.  It helps straighten everything out and hopefully put your roller coaster back on the rails.  At least that is how I see it.  And if I am going to let everyone in the medical community poke and prod me, then I think it's only fair to try this route, too.  If it helps, hallelujah!  If it doesn't, I am not worse off, but much more relaxed!  Whatever it takes, right?

A Letter to My First Daughter

My Dearest Allie, It’s been a while since I have written to you. I find it easier to write about you than it is to write to you. ...