Friday, May 30, 2014

I Remember...

4 years.  Gary and I have been married for 4 years.  1460 days.  That just does not seem like that much to me.  Until I think about all we have been through.

I remember downloading an ovulation chart from the Internet and mapping out the best days to conceive.  I remember being nervous and excited all at the same time.  

I remember the first month of trying and getting a negative test and being so sad.  

I remember the second month of trying and just knowing it worked.  I remember smiling and even feeling smug because I knew I was going to be a mom.

I remember the first doctor's appointment.  At 10 weeks, there was nothing to really do.  They could not hear or see anything. Blood work confirmed what we already knew.

I remember bleeding and rushing to the hospital only to find out that it was normal.  Well, not abnormal anyway.  They did an internal ultrasound and that was the first time we "saw" our baby.

I remember the 3D ultrasound where we found our our baby was a girl.  I remember the feeling of the soaring above the clouds.  A girl!!!

I remember the other ultrasounds where we would see the progress the baby was making and was told everything was right on track.

I remember telling our family and friends.

I remember each fruit and vegetable our baby was each week (thank you

I remember Gary painting the nursery.

I remember creating the baby registry and totally freaking out that I was in over my head.

I remember sleepless nights and heartburn.

I remember coming up with the name Allison Paige.

I remember my baby shower at work.

I remember my baby shower at home.

I remember Gary's baby shower at work.

I remember being ready for the baby to get here already.

I remember that when she finally did, it was the saddest and happiest day of our lives at the same time.  Sad because our daughter never got to live outside of my body and happy because we still got to hold her and kiss her and love her.

We mourned our loss.  We celebrated our child.  We were torn apart from the inside but held on to each other.  We did grief counseling and memorial walks and support groups.  We planted a tree and others planted trees in our daughter's honor.  We saw butterflies and sunshine as what she was to us and still think of her even more when either are present.

I remember that we tried to have another child.  We sought all sorts of medical intervention.  We spent more money than we had.  We went through more procedures than I knew existed.

I remember each month of no luck.

I remember the month when it worked.  

I remember 2 days later when the doctor called to say it did not "stick".

I remember feeling like I lost another child.

I remember thinking about adoption.

I remember meetings and classes and fear and anxiety.

I remember open adoption vs. closed adoption.

I remember domestic adoption vs. international adoption.

I remember fundraisers and hope and light at the end of the tunnel.

I remember the call that we got chosen.

I remember M every day for choosing us.

Miranda Hope is all that was missing from our lives. While not a replacement of her sister, she is light and joy and laughter and bliss.  She makes Gary and I want to be better people and parents.  She makes me love being alive.

I remember Gary being at my side each and every minute of each and every day.  So 4 years to some may not be a lot, but 4 years to us is a lifetime.  And I remember it all.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Rose By Any Other Name

Today was Miranda's Simchat Bat.  Translated from Hebrew, that means "Rejoicing in a Daughter" or "Celebration for a Daughter".  We call it a Hebrew Naming Ceremony.

This type of ceremony can be held virtually whenever, as far as I know.  For us, we had to wait for the adoption finalization and then Miranda's formal conversion to Judaism before we could "officially" name her.  When all that was said and done, we decided to name Miranda's cousins at the same time and make a big ol' celebration out of it.  Ella had not been named yet and once Summer was born, I think we already had the idea to wait until they were all ready.  

Today, they were all ready.

We got all dressed up and met up at the synagogue.  We were surrounded by family and friends and when we were called to the bimah (platform, stage), I was already beaming.  The rabbi and the cantor said hello to each of the girls and my brother, sister-in-law, Gary and I introduced our girls and let them receive their names.  Gary spoke to the congregation about where Miranda's name came from and I was so proud.  

Shoshana means Rose.  Rose was my dad's mother's name.  It was also the name that M had for Miranda when she was pregnant.  Liliana Rose, to be exact.  So by choosing the name Shoshana, we were honoring my grandmother's memory and also paying tribute to Miranda's birth mother and her wishes.  

Tova means Hope.  That one was easier.  That name is to remind us of the hope she has given us and continues to give us each day.

My brother went to the microphone next and explained where Ella and Summer's Hebrew names came from.  From loved ones who had passed on both his side and my sister-in-law's side.  I have to say, I think it is such an honor to name a child after someone who walked before us and helped shape us into the people we are today.

There was a Blessing for the Parents that all 4 of us read together.  Then there was a Blessing for the Grandparents that my mom and Gary's mom and Gary's dad all read together.  With our whole family standing now on the bimah beside us, it was almost magical.  Not everyone there was Jewish.  Not everyone standing by our side share my beliefs or celebrate my holiday's.  But everyone there loves my daughter and me so much that they are willing to follow my lead and do what matters to me for her sake.  Same goes for my nieces.

We all took our seats and the little ones went to the playground to burn off some of their energy.  My aunt and uncle and cousin were there and they all participated in the service.   My younger brother and his wife led a peace prayer.  The whole morning was just so lovely.

Unfortunately, Allie's absence was very rough for me today.  Most days it's just below the surface - like a scab that I know better than to pick.  But today, standing there with my family and looking out upon my friends, I was thrown back to 2011.  Back to a time when Ella and Allie were to be named together.  Back before there was a Miranda or a Summer.  Back before my heart broke into a million little pieces.

But then I looked at my husband, holding our daughter, and I came back to the present.  Back to the present that he was literally holding in his arms.  Miranda is a precious gift.  She brings joy and happiness...and everyone around her.  One day she will understand all that power she holds, but for now, she is just our little rainbow who we love so very much.  I have to hope her sister was looking down upon us today, possibly with my dad and maybe even my grandmother, Rose, and I hope they were all smiling.  Something tells me they were.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Spinning in the Dust

"I lost a part of myself that day and I'll never get it back."

"There is life after this. I promise you that."

"It's not just a loss of the baby. It's the loss of a possibility of what might have been." 

"How many children do you have?  Two. I have two." 

I could quote Return to Zero all night long.  It would be easy to do.  The movie has haunted me all day.

I do not shy away from talking about my pregnancy.  I do not shy away from talking about my first born.  For 3 years, I have opened myself up and made my self raw with the memories that sometimes haunt and sometimes delight me.  And yet, sitting in my living room last night and watching someone else act out a story based on a true story, I fell to pieces.

I had the wine.  I had the brownie.  I dimmed the lights.  I lit a scentsy candle.  I was as prepared as I could be.

5 minutes in and I got a text from a friend who asked me if there was anything she could say to make me not watch it.  A mother herself, she was already in tears and wanted to spare me.  So sweet.  But I said I had to watch it.  If I want to spread awareness, I needed to know how the public was going to view stillbirth after viewing this movie.

It was absolutely gut wrenching.  While I do not shy away from talking or sharing about my daughter, Allie, I do tend to put the worst pain in a compartment and store it away for most of my days.   On screen, I watched them look for their baby's heartbeat.  I held my breath while they searched.  My ears rung as they pronounced the baby dead.  I shuddered when they gave the mother medicine to induce her.  I wept loudly and openly when they held their baby.  I was that mom.  I am that mom.

The story on the screen was not my story - we all have different stories.  But the loss was my loss and the utter despair and loneliness and sorrow could have been mine.  It was April 2011 again and I swear, for a brief moment, I felt like Allie was in the room watching the movie with me.

Return to Zero broke the silence about stillbirth.  Was it hard to watch?  Incredibly.  Was I glad I did?  Yes.  No question.  In a few weeks, I will receive a DVD of the movie since I donated some money to get the movie made.  Then I will remove the film from my DVR and watch my own personal copy again when and if I am ready.  For now, I saw what I needed to and I am good with that.

If you get a chance to watch the film, I recommend it.  They did a beautiful job.  They gave our babies a voice.  Each and every one that was born still but still born.  

Minnie Driver and Paul Adelstein performed a song that was played in the movie.  I downloaded it on iTunes and have been playing it all day.  The line that repeats in my head over and over is, "I know what I know is not enough.  Here below, as we're spinning in the dust.  Spinning in the dust."

A few hours before the movie, we went to the Annual Tree Planting Ceremony that our hospital puts on every year.  There were some familiar faces and there were some new faces.  Our babies keep dying.  We stand together and read some prayers and try to remember that we are not alone.  This year I was asked to read a poem which was an extreme honor.  I do not think I could have done it in the past. 

Why do some babies live while others die?  Why are we blessed with 2 babies, but one is an angel looking over us while the other is asleep in her crib?  Why?  I do not have the answer. I am just "spinning in the dust".

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Return to Zero

Return to Zero is based on the true story of a successful couple, Maggie (MINNIE DRIVER) and Aaron (PAUL ADELSTEIN) who are preparing for the arrival of their first child. Just weeks before their due date they are devastated to discover that their baby son has died in the womb and will be stillborn.

This movie will debut on Lifetime on Saturday, May 17th at 8pm.  I am terrified.

I have been following the making of this movie for well over a year.  There have been Facebook groups and email campaigns and we even donated money in Allie's name to help with the production costs.  I want to bring awareness to stillbirth.  I want to make the topic of infant death one that is not taboo. 

And yet, here I am, 3 days before the movie is set to premiere and I am petrified.  Gary does not particularly want to watch it - he says we already lived it. I respect that.  My mom said she thinks it will be too hard to watch.  I was going to invite some friends over but I think it is something I need to watch alone.  But I am so scared.

We came through the other side.  We worked our way through the grief of losing our first born like I have never worked on anything before.  Grief counseling and support groups and hours and hours of talking and crying and remembering and loving.  Can I now watch someone else go through it? They are just actors on the screen but it is written on and produced by a dad who lived it.  

The answer is that I can.  I feel like I have to.  Will I take several breaks?  Will I have lots of tissues?  Will I drink a whole bottle of wine while viewing?  Yes, yes and probably.  But if I want others to learn and understand and spread awareness, then I need to hold myself to the same standard.  I want to see what the public will see.  And maybe I can learn a thing or two that will help me counsel the next mom or dad that comes to me for support.

I am so lucky to be a mom to 2 precious girls.  The fact of the matter is, though, is that most people just see 1.  Not our friends and family, but the rest of the world.  Maybe this movie will help change that.

Saturday is the Annual Tree Planting Ceremony that our hospital hosts for babies that were born still.  Gary, Miranda and I will go and pay tribute to Allie.  It's supposed to be a lovely day.  Then once Miranda is safely in bed and dreaming of rainbows and unicorns, I will turn the on the TV.  It will be an emotional day from start to finish but I am hoping it is a peaceful one. 

"Return to Zero" is returning to a place where you need to start completely over.  I have been there...and if you can bear it, perhaps you should take the journey by watching this movie, too.

Friday, May 9, 2014

My Many Hats

In the average day, I wear many hats.  Mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend to name a few.

Today I got to wear a new hat.  Counselor. 

Through a friend in my support group, I learned of a new mom who lost her daughter this past February.  She was 33 1/2 weeks and went in for a routine appointment and just like that, found out her daughter was dead.  She and her husband were devastated.

The last few months have been a blur for her.  She has reached out to many people and many people have reached out to her.  My friend asked if I would be willing to listen to this new mom and share my story with her and I was honored.  What better way to keep Allie's memory alive than to share with others what she taught me?

We spoke for over and hour.  Miranda napped through most of it (thank goodness!).  I listened a lot and I shared a lot.  This complete stranger became an instant friend.  We shared stories.  I shared survival tips & tricks as I like to call them.  I gave her permission to be angry.  Her daughter died.  That totally blows.  It's not fair. It's not ok.  It's the worst thing imaginable.  And then some.

We are going to keep in touch and hopefully meet up soon.  She is local to the area and although she has a lot of friends and a close support system, there is something special about meeting other parents who have experienced the same horror.  You can say and do anything and know you will not be judged.  You can verbalize thoughts that scare you to say out loud.  You can lean on each other and cry and know that you are not alone.

I hung up the phone and I felt both heavy and light.  Heavy for the pain that this new mom is experiencing and light for the fact that my words were able to be of some comfort.  She confided in me and I think I was able to help her.  Another gift from Allie.

Sunday is Mother's Day.  I want to stand up and shout, "I AM A MOM!".  No one would think anything of it.  But it's taken me a long time to be able to call myself a mom, to really believe that I am a mom.  To 2 beautiful girls.  It will be a celebratory day.

I am so grateful for the gifts my daughters have given me.  Allie gave me the compassion to be there for others and Miranda gives me the joy of knowing what true happiness is day in and day out.  My heart is full.  Sometime heavy, sometimes light, but always very full.

Can't wait to see what hat I wear next...

Babies R Us Selfie

Playground Fun

Sunday, May 4, 2014

International Bereaved Mother's Day

"International Bereaved Mother’s Day is a temporary movement. We take part in this day to use our voices to speak up and about what the true meaning of Mother’s Day. It is our greatest hope that sometime in the near future all mothers will be remembered and recognized and there will be no need for this day at all."

Today is International Bereaved Mother's Day.  A day created for mothers who have children that they carry only in their hearts.  Mother's who have experienced the agony of having a child that is not here on earth with them.  I believe this day is  deliberately the Sunday before the traditional Mother's Day.

I was so aware of it in years past.  Today, it was just another day. 

Mother's Day is SO loaded for me.  For over 35 years, it was a celebration of my mother.  Then it was my time to celebrate and right before I got to the finish line, to be able to call the day my own, my child was taken away from me.  I was told I was still a mom, but I had such a hard time feeling like I deserved to be able to celebrate.  All the ads and commercials were a slap in my face.  I was so sad and angry and in some ways, even though surrounded by so many, alone.
My Mom and Me

This year, Mother's Day falls on my due date with Allie.  It's ironic that it was not until I had Miranda that I was really able to embrace being a mom and yet Allie makes sure to find ways to remind me that she made me a mom first! 

As for International Bereaved Mother's Day, I think it's important to spread awareness.  I think it's important to bring attention to the Mother's that do not have children to help celebrate them.  I can't help but feel, though, that that acceptance and recognition needs to come from within.

I can hear my grief counselor saying to me over and over that I am a mother.  Sitting in her office, still so empty and raw, she reminded me over and over that I was a mom.  That I was a mother from the moment Allie was conceived.  That remembering her and honoring her and being the best person I could be were all important parts of being a mom.  And yet it was so hard for me to grasp.  Now that I am parenting, I do not need anyone to remind me that I am a mom.  It's so different to be a mom versus being a parent.

I understand that M might have a hard time one week from today, when Mother's Day creeps up and she does not have her child to celebrate with.  We do.  She made her adoption plan and I know she is happy with us and happy with the way Miranda is growing and thriving but it must be so hard for her to have delivered a child that she is not raising.  I get that.  In some ways it is different, but in some ways, so very much the same.

So to all the mom's on all the day's - this Sunday, next Sunday, last Sunday...Happy Day.  Celebrate every day that you are a caregiver or a nurturer or a support system or a shoulder to lean on...

Do not let the calendar dictate your happiness or your sorrow.  Does that sound preachy?  Well I think I earned that right! Just be sure to be the best mom you can be.   At least that is what I am doing.  And so far, so good.  So very good.

Miranda and Me

Adoption In My Heart

Today was the Adoptions From The Heart Annual Picnic . We love this event. It is close to our house, it is early enough in the summer that i...