Thursday, January 30, 2014

Week 28 - To Share the Name or Not Share the Name.... Knocked Up Blogger Post

"That is the question. Whether it is nobler in the heart to suffer the harsh words and unwanted critiques of family members and friends, or to take the risk and share the joy you have for naming the little bundle of a person growing inside you."
Let's not forget that it is terrifying to have something to call this little one because that makes her more REAL and we all know what real means for good or bad...

To read more about how we revealed baby No. 2's name to the family click here. It was a fun little game we played and it fit in with learning how to love the little things this year. This was one of those little things that was fun to do but took some courage (as it does to write this post and share baby No. 2's name with you).

That is the question.  Whether it is nobler in the heart to suffer the harsh words and unwanted critiques of family members and friends, or to take the risk and share the joy you have for naming the little bundle of a person growing inside you.  Which would you choose?

We have done both. With baby No. 1 we decided to keep her name a secret and there is something fun, albeit difficult, about keeping the baby’s name secret for nine months. But when the time came to share Nora’s name with the world, a name Nick and I had been calling her for almost six months between the two of us, that moment was incredibly sad and heartbreaking for me because we, as parents, never got to use it with a living, breathing baby.

This time around, we decided to share baby No. 2’s name with our family and friends.  This decision was actually made before baby No. 2 was conceived.  In the weeks after Nora’s death, Nick and I talked about how and if we would have done anything differently with our time with her.  The one regret we had was that not everyone else got to know her by name before she died, like we did.  They didn’t know Nora as a live person. So in that moment we decided that if we were to get pregnant again we would share the baby’s name with our loved ones.

Well, this was easier said than done.  Once we were actually pregnant again I felt superstitious about naming a baby before it was born.  I have learned that in some cultures they don’t even consider naming the baby until it is born for the very fact of superstitious beliefs that drawing attention to the baby also draws bad luck to the baby.  A part of me thought this to be true.  That by giving her a name I would be jinxing her and that she, too, might not come home.  I also worried that if I named baby No. 2 I might become too attached.  My feelings for her would grow if I had a name to give her, she would become REAL and so would my attachment to her.  This was all scary stuff.
And in addition to all of my baby-loss-mom-burdensome-thoughts, there were the everyday pregnant woman worries about sharing the name too. I mean I have heard other pregnant friends and family members share stories about how one woman told her mother-in-law a possible name for the baby she was currently pregnant with and the mother-in-law replied, “You’re not going to name the baby THAT are you?” Or another woman told me how she shared the name she and her partner had picked out joyfully with a friend and all she got in response was an ugly grimace, eye-roll, and a fake, “How nice.” Then there are stories of people flat out saying, “I don’t like that name,” or “I know a (insert name here) with that name.  That name is SO overdone right now.”

To say the least, sharing such a personal and proud decision you have made about your child with others can be scary for many reasons.  You don’t want to have to worry about rude comments and unpleasant looks from the mother-in-law because you didn’t name little peanut after aunt so-and-so three times removed.  If you experienced a loss like I have, you worry that naming the baby might be wishful thinking.  You also want others to like the name as much as you do and you want to be unique and have your child be the only one with such a beautiful identity.
Even with all of those things to consider, Nick and I decided to defy superstition and rude comments that might come, and once again make steps to bond with baby No. 2 by sharing her name with our family this past weekend.  It is scary to take a leap of faith in actually having a name to call her, but we couldn’t imagine doing it any other way.

We revealed the baby’s name with a picture word game in effort to have a little fun with it.  (It’s a cute idea if you want to try it.) What I did was take pictures of individual letters on a scrabble board with cute sayings in the middle of the board.  Then I sent all the pictures to family through e-mail so they could put the letters together to spell out and guess her name.  Once they sent us their guess we sent the final picture back to them with her name. So fun! Pictures of the game are below. Oh, and if you look closely, you can see clues as to the baby’s name in the scrabble letters in the back of the frame (it actually tells you the answer).

Friday, January 24, 2014

Week 27 - What Not To Say To A Pregnant Lady After Loss - Knocked Up Blogger Post

During this pregnancy people have said some inconsiderate and some innocent comments to me that just really rub me the wrong way and throw me into a tailspin.  Sometimes the comments made to me are just meant to engage in a conversation, but they really hurt.

For instance, "Is this your first child?" Ugh!  Trying to answer this question along with others is like trying to constantly answer a complicated math question without a calculator.  Read more about what not to say to a pregnant lady after loss or not here.  Just don't say it!

“Is this your first child?”
I know it’s a harmless question. I have even asked it of other pretty pregnant moms in the past. But now, as a mom expecting again after a loss when asked this question I get stumped. A nice elderly lady or a curious young mom in the grocery store might ask, “Is this your first pregnancy?” I usually have a brain fart and end up looking like a deer in headlights. Sometimes I will answer, “No.” but that door opens to other questions such as, “Oh, how old are your other children?” or “How come you never talk about your older child?”  When that happens I don’t know what to say, so sometimes my answer to the same question is different. I simply reply, “Yes.  This is my first.” or “No, I don’t have other children.”  But these responses, those words hurt my soul when I hear them sneak out of my mouth. My body twinges and tenses in repulse that I can betray my first daughter’s short life by not acknowledging her out of my own personal discomfort or worse, out of sparing the discomfort of perfect strangers.  I often walk away from these conversations feeling like I want to throw up.
There is so much emotional energy that goes into these fraction of a moment conversations. It’s exhausting and at times, hurtful to me as the pregnant lady. So today I want to remind others that even though I’m pregnant and my middle sticks out, this does not mean that my belly ought to be the center of discussion. I know it’s an easy conversation starter; a way to connect with me.  But honestly, there are some things you just don’t ask or say to a pregnant woman, loss or no loss.
Here is my list of top 10 worst things to say to an expecting mama, and I added five things not to say if you know the pregnant mama is also a loss mom.
  1. “Is this your first?” You don’t know what their past pregnancy history is. There could have been miscarriages, stillbirths, abortions, terminations for medical reasons, and yes, even children that have died.  Just don’t ask this question.
  2. “How many kids do you already have?” Again, don’t ask this. From a pregnancy loss mom, this question is mindboggling and painful to answer to someone who doesn’t know you well or even if you’ve never experienced a loss, depending on how the question is asked, it could really mean to the expecting mom, “Are you sure you want another one?” Oh, and don’t say that either.
  3. “You’re how old?” As women we know the older we are during pregnancy, the higher the risks are for pregnancy related complications. We don’t need you to remind us.
  4. “Are you having twins?” So you’re implying that I’m huge! I got asked this at thirty six weeks with baby No. 1 by a very large man who was selling us a treadmill.  I thought there was some real irony in this.  Oh, and I didn’t like it one bit.
  5. “Do you want a girl or a boy?” A healthy, living breathing child is all I really want. Besides, if I say boy and get a girl, I might feel bad later when I have to answer this question to my child someday.
  6. “Will you have more children?” I’m not done having this one yet.  Pleas just let me enjoy this pregnancy.
  7. “You’re going to do _(Fill in the blank)_ right?” If “fill in the blank” is breastfeed, homebirth, C-section, or whatever, saying this to a mom implies that if her decision isn’t the same as you, then it’s not the right decision.  Every mom’s choices about pregnancy and parenting is her own, you only make me feel guilty about my choice when you ask this question in this way.
  8. “Are you excited?” Yes.  I’m excited, and scared, and terrified, and fearful, and confused.  My whole life is about to change (hopefully for the better) but it’s okay if I’m not always excited.  It’s a lot to process.
  9. “Stay positive, it will all work out.” Again, I know I should stay positive, but pregnancy is hard and I can feel how I want.  Also, if you’ve experienced a previous loss it is really hard to believe that “it will all work out.”
  10. “You’re out of the danger zone.” Meaning you have made it through the first trimester.  For me this statement means nothing. My daughter died at 40 weeks pregnant.  Also, all of pregnancy is scary.  There are so many milestones, steps, and places to get to.  It all seems scary and like a “danger zone.”
And if you know the pregnant woman you are talking to has had a previous loss please don’t say the following. (These are real examples of things said to moms expecting again after a loss, I’m not making this up.)
  1. “Maybe you’ll have better luck this time.” This is just rude.  Please don’t say it.
  2. “You’re getting a perfect replacement.” Ouch!  No child can replace the one that died.
  3. “Well, you know there was probably something wrong with your last baby.  This one will be different.”  You don’t know if there was something wrong or not.  Unfortunately, the truth is that healthy babies die too. Oh, and even if something was wrong with my child, it doesn’t make losing them easier.
  4. “Are you doing anything differently this time?” Which implies that my baby’s death was somehow my fault?  Again, don’t say this.
  5. “Are you excited to become a mom?” I’m already a mom!  Did you forget?  Also, another version of this question not to say, “Now you’ll be a real mom.”  (Cringe) These words hurt.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Little Things & The 52 Project

As part of my Loving the Little Things Project and at the advice of my sister I decided to jump on board this very cool idea called The 52 Project developed by Jodi at Practising Simplicity (no that's not a typo, she is from Australia and that's how they spell practicing).

So, Here's what you do, it's real simple.  You take one picture a week of your child (well that is what the project started as, but you can take a picture of whatever you want, make it your own) and post it for people to see.

I told you, simple, right?  Also if you are using Instagram you can include the hashtag #the52project or link to Jodi's account @practisingsimplicity.

This idea is so exciting for me.  I will try to post my weekly pictures of my pregnancy with baby No. 2 and then hopefully (we are still crossing our fingers) pictures of baby No. 2 as she grows.  This project is exciting but scary for me because it means that I'm putting faith in this pregnancy and believing that this time I will actually bring a baby home.  I'm not entirely sure I believe that idea, but I do agree with my sister that The 52 Project it is a good way for Nick and I to continue to bond with baby No. 2 and hopefully watch her grow and celebrate her life with a weekly picture of her after she is born.

Here are my pictures for the past 4 weeks to get you caught up.  I hope you enjoy them!





Monday, January 20, 2014

Lindsey's Loving the Little Things

I made a vision board about seven years ago that said, among other things, "Live a BIG, small life." As the start of the new year came and now has passed, I reflected back on this statement on the old vision board and thought, "That is how I want to live my life."  I want it to be BIG and meaningful, but at the same time I have learned over the past year that what has really helped me during my journey through the darkness of grief has been the latter part of this personal intention, the small things.

You see all the healing techniques I did last year as part of my Grief Project, the affirmations, the daily gratitude's, the self-care, the spending time with friends and family, to the creative art projects, photography, painting, writing, to the practice of yoga along with the times spent in meditation, all these little things added up to learning how to live a BIG life again and when I mean BIG I mean that I was able to re-enter the land of the living.  That was a BIG step. I was also able to be more present in my life, to take in the small things and moments and really appreciate how BIG of a difference these little things helped me create the healing and life I wanted to live.  

So, I plan on continuing to post about parts of my Grief Project that I didn't quite get to writing about, but practiced and used to help my grief last year along with starting this new year with including more savoring and writing about the little everyday, ordinary things that make my life full of BIG beautiful moments that lead to love and healing (which I think are really the BIGGEST gifts we can give ourselves).  

When I ran across this beautiful affirmation subway sign at a local boutique I knew I had to have it.  It now hangs in the center of my house to remind me that this year, everyday, I'm going to try to focus on the little things.  Some little thing to help me savor the good BIG moments of life.  I might enjoy a new recipe, the cuddles of my little puppy George, a gorgeous sunrise, or a calming bubble bath, because since Nora, my daughter, died last year I now know how important it really is to...

"Enjoy the little things in life for someday you will realize they were the BIG things."    

I hope you enjoy this journey with me and if you like, let me know what "little things" you might recommend doing to help make my life and your life feel a little BIGGER and better. I would love to try them.   

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Day of Play During Pregnancy After Loss with Pictures

Nick and I have been very hesitant about really diving into joy with baby No. 2 as most of you know if you keep up with the weekly Knocked Up Blogger Posts I write over at Pregnancy and Newborn Magazine.  But today we took a few more steps into momentary happiness this week by having fun with our camera and continuing to bond with baby. 

We are keeping up with Nick's idea to take a monthly seasonal picture of the belly bump and today I can honestly say we had some winter fun doing so, but I do have to admit that even sharing pictures like this makes me nervous. But, like I said in last weeks Knocked Up Blogger Post, "I would be even more disappointed in myself if I didn’t at least try to enjoy every moment I have with her because really all we get are moments." 

Here's to the moments of today.  Check out our pictures below.

(P.S. You can't see it, but we are under the tree that Nora's bird house is in.  She is always there. Aren't you little girl!)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Week 26: Bonding with baby - Knocked Up Blogger Post

It's been challenging bonding with baby No. 2 out of fear that she might not come home too.  So Nick and I have been intentional about doing activities to connect with this baby. You can read about it here.

“Around other pregnant people I felt, ‘Well I’m not really pregnant the way you are.  I’m sort of pregnant. I might be having a baby.’ ” Is a quote I read by a fellow loss mom reflecting on her past journey of pregnancy after loss.  I laughed out loud at how absurd the comment sounded, a full belly laugh, while my brain screamed, “THAT’S IT!” That’s what if feels like this pregnancy, like I might be having a baby or that I’m only a little pregnant. This whole time while pregnant with baby No. 2, I have felt distant from the child growing inside me, almost in denial that I am actually pregnant.  This denial stemming from fear that this baby, too, might not come home. The quote I found put my denial into words perfectly.  I felt so validated reading those words.

Then last week, I went to my scheduled therapy appointment with my oh-so, wonderful therapist who  has kept me sane during this last year as I walked the dark road of grief and now anxiety with expecting again.  I told her about the quote I found and how I felt it was so true and went on and on, thinking she was also going to validate my emotions. But, then she did something I wasn’t expecting, but in hindsight I realized I much needed, she became very quiet and in a soft voice she simply said, “Lindsey, you only get to be pregnant once, with this baby.”
I paused, staring at her in surprise by her response.  Moving my gaze from her to my lap, looking down almost in shame, I said, “I know,” under my breath.  In that moment I had an epiphany, (one I saw coming but still it was a turning point either way) in which I decided that I needed to really try to make a connection with this baby.  If I’m honest, at times I still feel like I’m preparing to give birth to baby No. 1 and this kind of thinking, along with all the other events of the last week, and probably the last year have helped me realize that Nick and I need to start being intentional about bonding with this baby, baby No. 2.
So, in efforts to connect, Nick and I have been taking a leap of faith and are facing the fear of losing by being intentional about loving and preparing for baby No. 2.  Some things we have been doing more of include:
  • Talking to Baby happens most nights for about 10 minutes before Nick and I go to bed.  Nick will rub cocoa butter on my belly and talk to baby with his face pressed up against my naval.  It’s really quite sweet.  I talk to baby too.  Usually, in the mornings in the shower or when she kicks me really hard.  Nick was out of town this past week and when he came home first thing he did was kiss me and then kiss baby in the belly.  It was heartwarming.
  • Kick Counting I have read that it’s recommend to expecting moms to start kick counting around 28 weeks so mom can get in touch with baby’s daily routine and patterns.  I have started a little early, but already baby No. 2 seems to have a schedule of her own that is nice to tune into.
  • Guided Meditations to get in tune with baby. I found a great free 20 minute guided meditation online that I have started doing this week.  I really love it.  I get to spend that time saying affirmations and sending intentions to my baby while focusing on her kicks and squirms which has really helped me connect with her as an individual.
  • Purchasing Items that are just for her.  Baby No. 2 will be getting a lot of hand me downs from her big sister and having an item or two that was bought with the intention of being for her helps me realize that this is a different baby this time around.
  • Using Her Name. Yes we know her name and are using it between the three of us (Nick, me, and baby No. 2) we just aren’t sharing it.  Using her name really helps connect with her because it helps us distinguish this pregnancy between her and her older sister.  It makes her seem more real.
I have to admit, it is really scary to bond with this baby.  There is still a part of me that wants to disconnect out of fear we won’t be able to keep her.  But then I think about my therapist’s words and also think about how I would feel if we lost this baby too.  I would be devastated, but I would be even more disappointed in myself if I didn’t at least try to enjoy every moment I have with her because really all we get are moments.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Knocked Up Blogger Post Week 25: Trust

I have a hard time trusting my body during this pregnancy because of how the last pregnancy ended.  I wrote about how I'm learning to trust my body again after pregnancy loss in this week's Pregnancy and Newborn Magazine Knocked Up Blogger post.  Read about it here.

It took me 30 years to come to terms with my body.  To accept all of her beautiful flaws and revel in her extraordinary womanly wonders, such as being able to create, support, and maintain life, not just my own but that of another.  It was during my first pregnancy when I really saw the exquisiteness that is the feminine being in which my essence resides. However ever since my body betrayed me on the day it decided to no longer keep my growing daughter safe, I have been thrown back into the place I was for the past 30 years, trying to learn how to re-accept, re-love, and re-trust this vessel I walk my days in.

In the early days after my womb failed to protect my daughter from death, I resented my body.  I was angry at her, feeling betrayed by her in every way a woman can be.  It was like being betrayed by a lover, one you gave yourself to, your trust to completely only to have it snatched away in a blink of an eye. But this infidelity is harder to live with, 10 times worse than a lover leaving, because when I wake up each morning I see the woman who betrayed me in the mirror, I see the body that failed me and my baby.
In between pregnancies I somehow came to a place of forgiveness with my body.  My spirit and physical being seemed to make amends with one another.  It’s almost like they had to, like two divorced parents, learning how to coexist and live together in order to be able to raise their child, but in my situation, it was in efforts to conceive another one. This reconciliation seemed to work for conceiving, but that thin treaty of trust forged between body and soul was breached the day the pregnancy test came back positive.
Now that I am pregnant again, trusting my body to be faithful to the feeble promise of growing new life and producing a healthy, ALIVE baby has been challenging to say the least. I struggle with comments I hear from other mothers with living babies and health care providers who say, “Your body knows best.” You see my previous story line is different.  My body last time didn’t do certain things it was supposed to do to help protect me and baby.  I have a deep fear that the lady caring for my baby—my body—no longer has my baby or my best interest at heart.
With all this anger, second-guessing, and betrayal living inside of me, I still ache to trust my body again, to believe she wants the same outcome as my soul—to give birth and life to a healthy, living child.  I’m struggling with trying, every day, to trust her again, as I really have no other choice, but like a watchful mom leaving her kids with a babysitter for the first time, I’m always checking up on her.  I have one eye on my daily tasks and one eye on my body, double-checking every ache, baby movement, and bodily fluid that she produces.  It’s a daunting task, hovering over her in this way. So sometimes, when I can no longer take the daily questioning of my body’s loyalties, I give in and accept a strange notion that crosses my mind from time to time, that her failure in the past might not be a betrayal at all, but a war on her that she just could not win, no matter how talented of a solider my body might be and no matter how hard she fought, maybe my body was let down too.
Knowing this and learning to accept it has helped me in starting to practice trusting her again.  I write my body letters about how I feel as a way of communicating my conflicting emotions to her in a journal.  I started repeating a mantra daily that goes like this, “I trust the infinite wisdom of my body to protect this baby and produce life.” Even though it’s hard for me to really believe at times.  I’ve also spent more time in silence, with my body and baby, getting to know my growing belly, feeling the normal belly aches and baby kicks and monitoring my weekly bodily changes.  All the while holding a conversation in my mind, pleading with my body each day to please try again, one more time, to keep this baby safe and produce life. Maybe then I can love her again.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

8 Questions to Reflect on After a Year of Grief

Today I'm over at Still Standing Magazine today reflecting on a year of grieving my daughter.  Check it out by clicking here and let me know what questions you still reflect on after a year has passed. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Knocked Up Blogger Post Week 24: Holding Space for Grief & Joy

"Sometimes I fear that others will overlook my grief now that I am pregnant again. That the birth of a new child will somehow make people forget about my first daughter.  I worry that sometimes, I do this too."
This week in my pregnancy after loss post I talk about the difficulty of holding space for a deceased child and an unborn child at the same time, holding space for grief and joy simultaneously. To view this week's Knocked Up Blogger post click here.

Sometimes I fear that others will overlook my grief now that I am pregnant again. That the birth of a new child will somehow make people forget about my first daughter.  I worry that sometimes, I do this too.  I admit it’s hard not to get lost in the excitement of expecting again, and at times I do not want to go back and visit the darker moments of my painful past. But my sorrow over the death of my first daughter is always with me, and I want others to know that it’s OKAY to acknowledge my grief over the loss of one of my children while holding onto hope and excitement in planning for another.
I bring this up, because as I write this, I am one day shy of the one-year anniversary of my daughter’s stillbirth.  A year ago from tomorrow my daughter was brought into this world, perfect at full-term, but lifeless due to a fluke infection.  As I reflect back on the events of last year and also look ahead to the plans for the future, I sit in this uncomfortable spot where I struggle to find a space for both my grief and joy. It’s as if I’m parenting two children, one in memory, and one in dreams to be, but not a single one in the physical realm of reality. It’s a tough job, parenting this way, and finding room for my conflicting emotions about both is almost tougher. But somehow, some way, I have been able to find space in my soul for both of these children, and both the feelings of grief and happiness I am experiencing all at once because of them.
A wise woman once told me that this phenomenon, this ability to hold space for a dreadful emotion and a joyful one at the same time, is part of the beauty of being human. We CAN and are ABLE to hold space for both grief and joy, pain and pleasure; after all these emotions I’m experiencing were all born out of the same place, they were all born out of the love I hold for my children. So, why wouldn’t I be able to find a place to carry both in my heart simultaneously?
My only hope, as I approach the year anniversary of my first daughter’s death, is that others will be able to do the same and will be able to hold a space for acknowledging my grief over the loss of baby No. 1 along with my happiness for baby No. 2. Which means that people will be able to see that a new baby, a new child, a living child does not replace the one that came before, the one that breathes only in my heart, the one that is deceased. It’s just the same as if my first child had lived, the love I hold for my first child is not replaced by my second living one. If anything, love just grows, only in my story love grows alongside of grief, intertwined like the thorns and leaves of a rose, budding with beauty, as the love I embrace for both.
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