Friday, July 25, 2014

Another Goodbye

I am so tired of saying goodbye.

Gary's aunt (and godmother) passed away earlier this week.  Elaine McAndrew was just 66 years old.

To understand our grief, you must know what kind of person his aunt was.  She was a teacher first and foremost.  She taught at the same school for 43 years.  That is longer than I am even alive.  Her students became her friends and many of her students became parents and then their children became her students.  She was passionate and kind and genuine. She loved to learn and share stories and she loved to be with her family.

Elaine never married or had children of her own.  So her sister's children were everything to her.  Gary and Paul could do no wrong.  (I will let this go for now).  And their kids? Forget it.  Every year Gary and Paul begged her to bring one present per kid for each birthday and for Christmas. She blatantly ignored them.  Clothes, toys, piggy banks, dolls, name it.  I think she bought the presents year round and saved them for the special occasions.  When her health started to decline, she took to ordering online.  She loved to shower the kids with tangible reminders of how much they were loved.

Her body failed her but her mind was still lucid.  She was admitted to hospice on Tuesday and Gary and I drove to New Jersey to say our goodbyes.  She immediately told me to stop crying.  She was ready to go.  She was ready to go be with Gramps (her dad) and Allie.  

When Allie died, Auntie E arranged for a circle of 3 trees to be planted in Israel in Allie's name.  A devout Catholic and very much a believer in her own faith, she took the time to research my faith to know what might comfort me.  That's who she was.

E had in been and out of hospital and rehab since late April.  We thought she was going to make it through.  We thought we had more time.  Luckily we brought Miranda to see her a few times and on our last visit, Miranda strutted off her new walking skills.  That seemed to bring Auntie E much joy.

In a few hours, Gary and I are leaving for the wake.  There will be 2 sessions today and then the funeral tomorrow morning.  My mom is staying with Miranda so that we can sleep at Gary's brother's so that we do not have to do the hour and a half drive late tonight and then again tomorrow morning.  

I longed for a night when Gary and I could have a night away and just us.  This is not the way I wanted it.  

Heaven (or wherever people go once they leave here) is surely a better place today.  I am just wondering when it will get too full and stop admitting people?  Too many are going there before their time, if you ask me.

I do not want to say another goodbye.  Especially to an Aunt who treated me like she knew me my whole life and like I was related to her by blood.  Especially not to someone who would have taught Miranda so much.  She was not done here.  But maybe she still has some teaching to do.  And maybe Allie will benefit from that.

We will miss you, Auntie E.  More than words can say.  Be at peace.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Rainbow "Bright"

Rainbow baby is the term for a baby after the loss of a previous child. It is the understanding that a rainbow's beauty does not negate the ravages of the storm. When a rainbow appears, it doesn't mean that the storm never happened or that the family is not still dealing with its aftermath. What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds. 
On Saturday, I spent the day with a bunch of rainbows.  It was noisy and hot and chaotic and bright and BEAUTIFUL.

You see, Allie has a friend named Leo.  He joined her in Heaven about 6 weeks after she got there.  Allie and Leo (and a college friend of mine) made sure their mom's connected.  We have been friends ever since.

Leo's mom and dad and baby sister and brother live locally and they hosted a picnic for parents of rainbow babies at their house on Saturday.  I think there about 13 adults and 11 kids.  The ages ranged from 3 years to 2 and a half months.  People came from as far as Canada for the chance to hang out with other parents like us and kids like ours.  Hotel rooms were booked long in advance and cars were checked out to make sure they could handle the drive.

Then the day was finally here.  I was nervous and excited all at the same time.   These are other kids who will be taught (or are already taught) about siblings that they can't see.  They have moms and dads who went on the same grief journey as us.  As these kids get older, they might very well want to be friends on their own since they have this common thread that connects them.  What luck that as they start to have questions, we will have other parents and other kids to ask and talk to and help out!

We arrived in the afternoon and the party was in full swing.  Introductions were made and hugs were given out.  Many of us had only met on Facebook so it was great to see these people come to life.  Watching Miranda play with the other children made my heart swell. Gary and I watched her find her way and we spent much of the day just in awe of her.  I love to observe her as she tries to navigate her little world.  She probably does the same to me.
The kids had us all running around so much that there was no time to really "talk"...more like chase them and try to keep up! I did not know a lot of the women and therefore I did not know their stories.  But it did not matter.  Our children brought us together - yet another gift they have given us.  

There were toys and games and food and drink and the air was electric.  There were bubbles and walks to the playground and a taco bar and a bottomless pitcher of sangria.  To a neighbor or passerby, it probably looked like any other summer party.  But to us, they day was so much more than that.  So much more.

It was an amazing day. I hope we all get to cross paths again.  For our sakes and for the sakes of our children.  All along, I have drawn on the strength and love of others to get me through and to share in an afternoon with some familiar faces, as well as many new faces, it just validated how important it is for us to stick together.  For us.  For our babies.  For our rainbows.

“Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true”  

Friday, July 18, 2014

Right Where I Am: 3 Years, 2 Months, 3 Weeks & 5 Days

On June 16, 2011, I wrote this blog.  The directions were simple:  You talk about right where you are in your grief and what it is like now, so new people can get an idea of the experience of grief further down the road, and so people further down the road can reflect on how far they have come in their grief."

I thought it was a great idea and could not wait to participate.  For a long time after losing Allie, I thought about that blog in particular.  How it helped me so much to write it and how I read others and they helped me tremendously.  I remember reading about some women who had suffered the same agony and yet they were ok.  Years later, they had found a way to move on.  I longed to be one of those parents.

Three years later, I am.

I no longer yearn for Allie the way I did in the beginning.  I no longer have the time to devote to mourning her.  In the past I wrote about wanting to get better but I lied.  To you.  To me.  I did not want to get better.  I did not want to heal.  For if I did, I was afraid I would lose my daughter. And in some ways, I have.

Allie's feet forming a heart
I can no longer remember what Allie felt like in my arms.  I can no longer remember what it felt like to deliver her.  I remember the hospital and the pain and the sorrow, but I cannot remember her actual being.  Just yesterday, I let myself look at her pictures.  I looked at her tiny nose and her little fingers and toes and her full head of hair.  Damn was she beautiful.  And damn was she real.  Sometimes I almost think she was a dream.  A beautiful dream.

Allie gave the permission to live my life the way I wanted to.  If I wanted to grieve, then grieve. If I wanted to cry, then cry.  If I wanted to write, then write.  Now writing is what I do for a living.  

Allie gave me permission to open my heart.  If I wanted to love another child, then do it.  If I wanted to be a mom again, then be one.  Allie gave me permission to adopt her sister.  Now motherhood is also what I do for a living.

I no longer believe that things happen for a reason.  What reason could there be for me to only get 37 weeks with such an amazing being?  What reason could there be for my heart to be ripped out of my chest like it was?  So that I would be a better mom when the time was right?  That's total crap.  So that I could appreciate parenting when it was finally my turn?  Uh, no. 

3 years later and I believe in survival and strength and perseverance.  I believe in all of those things before I believe in fairy tales or happy endings.  Although I am just now starting to see how my world can have them all. 

Love and compassion have been ever present these past few years and I would be remiss to not mention them.  In many ways, love and compassion are the very foundation of fairy tales.  So maybe there is room for fantasy and reality in this life that I am living.

I recently met someone through Miranda and she and her daughter and Miranda and I had a play date.  When the kids were on the swings, she asked me about my loss.  She read my blog via Facebook.  She was one of the first people I met who did not know my story first.  I was able to talk to her about Allie and it felt good.  Healthy.  Not as sad as in the past.

So where am I? I am right here - laughing, learning, writing, thinking...doing all the things that I never thought possible when my first child died inside of me.   

Tomorrow we are going to a picnic with a bunch of other parents and their rainbow babies.  I cannot wait to meet the people that before just existed on Facebook or via their blogs.  I cannot wait to celebrate the children that are in our arms as well as the ones that only exist in our hearts. For it does not matter if I can't physically feel Allie anymore - she is a part of my soul, my heart, my being - and that will never change.  Ever.

I am in a good place, more or less.  I am happy most of the time.  I am a survivor.  I have to be.  I want to be.  For both of my girls.  That's Right Where I Am.

July 4th Family Selfie

Our Rainbow

My new sparkly reminder

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Life's A Beach

I have always loved the beach.  The feel of the sand beneath my toes, the sun kissing my skin, the ocean purring away.  When I was a little girl, my family used to take beach vacations.  My dad would ride the waves with us until we were dizzy and our fingers and toes were pruned.  

As I got older, my love of the beach grew.  I always felt at peace on the beach.  The rest of the world would slip away as I sat on the sand with the shells beneath my feet.  Books are better on the beach.  Ice cream cones are better on the beach.  I am happy on the beach.

When I was pregnant with Allie, I used to think about what it would be like to take her to the beach.  I pictured me sharing my passion with her.  Sadly, the beach is just one more thing I will never be able to share with her.  Shortly after she died, my dear friend and I went to the beach for the day just to escape.  Here is an except from a blog post in June 2011:

I have been going to the Jersey Shore for as long as I can remember.   Atlantic City, Ocean City, Sea Isle, Avalon, Cape May - I have been on all your beaches.  Gary is not really a beach person, but I love it and nothing can keep me away.  Luckily, my BFF feels the same way and with her parents agreeing to watch her soon-to-be six year old for the day, off to Ocean City we went.  Our one day beach trip had to incorporate a whole vacation in just a few hours so we walked on the boardwalk, ate at Mack & Manco's for lunch, had Kohr Brothers custard for a snack, Chickie's & Pete's Crab Fries as a chaser and some freshly squeezed lemonade.  We walked till our feet were sore and bought gimmicky bracelets with our initials on them and jewelry that we did not need but sparkled so nicely in the cloudless sky.  We walked down to the icy water and felt the sand in our toes.  We ate fresh crab legs and scallops and flounder and drove home as the sun was setting - our bellies full and our hearts light.  We talked about the past and the future, about our dreams for ourselves and for each other.  And we talked about Allie.  She will always be with me wherever I go and it was an absolutely wonderful day.

In many ways, that was Allie's first and last trip to the beach with me.  It was a great time for me to go - when I was still raw but starting to heal - when she was still so close to me that I did not even have to close my eyes to see her.

This past Monday, I finally got to take Allie's sister to the beach.  And it was the kind of trip I had been dreaming about for years longer than I even realized.  My sister-in-law and some of her cousins were sharing a house in Point Pleasant, a beach I had never even been to before.  She said it was tight quarters, but that we were welcome.  That was all I needed to hear.

My mom, Miranda and I got into a very packed car and made our way to the beach.  Before we knew it, we were there.  First we said hello to everyone and thanked them for letting us crash their vacation for a few hours.  Then the 3 of us walked the boardwalk and soaked in the sights.  Shortly thereafter, we hit the beach.

It was amazing.  Miranda LOVED it.  She tried to find her footing on the sand and was successful some of the time.  She loved to play with her cousins and feel the ocean breeze on her face and she did not even mind when I slathered her in suntan lotion.  She was giggly and smiley and I was in heaven.  It was my dream.  And I was living it.

We stayed through lunch (my sister-in-law's turkey sandwiches are also fantastic on the beach!) and we left around Miranda's nap time.  She was asleep before we pulled out of the lot and my mom and I chatted the rest of the way home.  I had invited her with me to share the experience with me and also to help me out!  She happily did both.  It was such a lovely day.  

Tomorrow, my mom and I head back to the beach.  This time, just us.  Gary took Monday off so he could stay home with Miranda.  This trip is my treat to my mom for all the help she does for us.  For all the love she gives us.  It's also a much needed grown-up getaway for us.  To the beach.  To my happy place.  It will only be my 2nd time away from Miranda but I think it will be good for both of us!  (And it's just 1 night!).

I will never get to see Allie build a sandcastle.  I will never get to walk on the boardwalk with her.  That makes my heart heavy and sad.

However, I choose to focus on what I do have.  A little rainbow, napping right now so I can write this post, who lights up when she sees me, who seems to like some of the things that I like and who brings me more joy than I ever imagined.

Now let's hope she is this good when my mom and I drive towards the beach tomorrow!

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Yes Day

“Sometimes things become possible if we want them bad enough.”
― T.S. Eliot

In early 2011, Gary and I meticulously toured all the daycare centers in the area. We scheduled visits on our lunch breaks and would walk through the various schools asking about their programs.  We narrowed down our choices to just one and decided that was to be Allie's school.  We were so excited.  Then Allie died and I had to call the school to say that we were sorry, but we would not be needing them. 

In mid Spring 2013, my mom and I meticulously toured all the daycare centers in the area.  Gary was confident that he had seen all he needed to see but I wanted to make sure.  By then, Miranda was with us as we toured and I had a better idea of what to ask.  We narrowed down our choices and came back to the same school we had chosen for Allie.  We were so excited.  Then I got laid off and I had to call the school to say that we were sorry, but we would not be needing them.

In February 2014, I started to do some freelance writing.  In June, I was offered a full time position with the company.  20 hours a week.  2 days in the office.  The rest from home.  It was perfect.  I went to the daycare to fill out the paperwork and finally have a child of ours attend that daycare center.  We were so excited.

On Tuesday of this week, my employer called me to say that they were not ready for me to come into the office.  They were so sorry, but the timing was just not right. 

AHHHH!!!!!  After some creative wrangling, we worked out an arrangement that I can still work for them 15-20 hours a week, but it will all be remote.  It works better for me, to be honest.  No commute. No business attire.  I was looking forward to spending my days with grown ups, but that can wait a bit longer.  

So we decided to keep Miranda enrolled in school and on the days that she goes (Tuesdays and Thursdays), I will work from home.

Yesterday was her first day.  She was amazing.

Gary and I dropped Miranda off together and he was better about leaving her than I was.  He knew she was in good hands whereas I wanted to stay and feed her breakfast.  But we left.  Gary pulled away before me and I sat in the parking lot for a few minutes.  I didn't cry.  I didn't feel sad.  I didn't feel worried.  It felt so right to finally have our baby attend that school.  I was anxious and nervous, but I knew she was going to be ok.  And she was.  More than ok.

She ate breakfast and lunch there.  She painted.  She participated in story time.  She played outside.  She made friends.  She napped.  She laughed.  She fit right in.  She was a delight to have in the classroom.

What a rush of joy to get that report!  I called around 10 just to see how she was and heard she was doing so well that I decided not to call again.  Around 2, I got these pictures and I knew she was in good hands.  I knew the school that we picked for Allie was the right school for Miranda.  I was so proud.  I am so proud. 

As for me, I vacuumed.  I did laundry.  I worked for several hours.  I sat in the silence of my home and hated that she was not here.  I missed her so much.  I whispered when the phone rang because I thought she was upstairs napping...I forgot she was not here.  I hate our home without her just as I used to hate it without Allie.  Now I know that twice a week, she will be coming home to us.  She is still very much here.  She is alive and healthy and happy and not going anywhere.  

It's funny how I used to take that for granted.  Pregnancies used to mean babies.  Now babies mean babies.  

Tonight, we went out to dinner at a local steakhouse.  I noticed we sat in the same booth that we sat in on May 11, 2011.  I can't believe I remembered.  Yes, I can, actually.  That was Allie's due date.  We had just come from my OB from a post op check up and she had given me a prescription for strep throat.  My whole body was shutting down and my heart was in pieces.  But Gary and I went out to dinner to try to have some normalcy.  

Had I known then what I know now - that one day we would be there, in that same booth, but this time with a diaper bag and a high chair and a toddler in tow, would it have made me better back then?  No.  I still had to mourn the child I lost.  But would the knowledge of Miranda given me hope?  I feel like it might have.  No way to know for sure.

I wanted a child to raise very badly.  And now, I have one.  Can it be as simple as that? Some days yes....and some days no...

Today is one of the yes days.

Happy 4th to you all!

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...