Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Listen to Your Mother

LTYM was an amazing experience. Words cannot describe how validating and thrilling it was to stand before a sold out audience of 700 people and share my story of mothering both Zoe and Nora! If you are interested, I have shared what I read below. 

Thank you to Listen to Your Mother and the producers for believing that the bereaved mother's story needs to be included and heard in the quilt of motherhood story telling. 

Invisible Motherhood

“He had forgotten,” I thought as I opened the Mother’s Day present at brunch.  Inside was a beautiful blue sapphire necklace on a slender silver chain. Gently running my fingertips over the smooth stone, I turned to my husband, said thank you and asked, “Why a blue sapphire?”

Proud of his purchase he replied, “It’s Zoe’s birthstone.”

Looking at our eight week-old baby girl sleeping soundly snuggled in her car seat next to me, a sad obliged smirk quickly came and went upon my face. Tears formed in my eyes but I held them back as I thought, “Where is Nora’s birthstone on this necklace? Why is her name missing from this card? Have you forgotten about our daughter that died just 15 months ago?”

Instead of yelling these words of discontent across the table at my loving husband, who was so pleased with his procurement of what he assumed was a thoughtful gift, I instead simply smiled and said, “I love it! Can you help me put it on?”

And I did love it. I mean I do. The keepsake is a reminder that I birthed yet another beautiful baby girl into this world and I should have a necklace of just hers to cherish as I do her older sister.

But at the same time I hated it.

I hated that Nora was not somehow represented on that chain. I hated that there was only a newborn sitting to my right at this table and a toddler missing from my left.  I hated being an invisible mother to one daughter with the world only noticing and acknowledging my motherhood to the other.  I hated the inflexible and confusing truth that without Nora being stillborn there would be no baby Zoe here in my arms. I hated having to live daily on this bridge between being a bereaved mom and a mother to a living child.  I hated the fact that I even say phrases like “living child.”  I mean who says that?  Most moms just get to say, “Hi.  My name is so-and-so and I’m a mom to three beautiful children.” But there is another thing I hate, that seemingly simple question so many ask innocently when you first meet, “How many children do you have?” has now become a challenging conundrum to answer. “Ugh, one, I mean two.  Do dead children count?”
I hated all of it, but what I hated most was the fact that he forgot to put her name in the card just like my parents also forgot to put Nora’s name in the card that they sent the day before, “Happy Mother’s Day honey! We are so proud of you for being Zoe’s mom,” it read. 

I wanted to scream, “But I’m not just Zoe’s mom; I’m Nora’s mom too!”

It seemed as though another fear of mine was coming true.  She had been forgotten, replaced. Overshadowed by the living, breathing child that came after her.  Not even those closest to me, that had lost her too, seemed as if they wanted to remember her. My heart was shattered.  I thought that somehow this thing called grief would get easier.  I guess some days are, but those days ill prepare you for and make you foolishly think that all days will be better. Boy was I wrong. Moments like this one just seem to add salt to a wound that will never heal, no matter how many F-ing times you try to bandage it.

But if I’m being honest, my greatest fear was that I would forget her too. That somehow among raising Zoe, memories of Nora would fade away along with my love for her.  You see it’s getting harder for me to remember her now.  The demands of raising a living child take away from the time there is to mourn the dead one. Dinners need to be made, chores need to be done, diapers need to be changed, and so the act of living must go on. With so much to do, it’s easy to forget her, not intentionally, but slowly, over time, as she slips silently into the background of life.

So how am I supposed to parent a child I cannot hold?

My answer?  I write her name on the glass shower door every morning.  As the steam rises and the water droplets form into fog on the glass entrance, I ritually carve the letters of her name out of the dew upon the door. Four letters, short and sweet, like her life was, appear every morning on the window pane because I place them there. While the water from the shower head beads off my back I decorate her name on the glass with hearts and sometimes retrace the lettering over and over again. Taking a moment to remember her, if only for a minute so that I can be with her once again.

The other morning as I stepped out of the shower and was dressing for the day’s events my husband, holding Zoe, turned to me and asked, “Can you wear Nora’s necklace today too?”

“Sure honey, but why?” 

He shrugged his shoulders and replied, “I just like it when you wear both.”

I smiled. He hadn’t forgotten her, and neither will I.

Just remember to always…..

Monday, May 4, 2015

Why I Don't Want to be Pregnant After a Loss Again Right Now

Photo by Kerry Kresl Photography

When I was six months postpartum with Zoe my mom during one of our once a week phone conversations would say, “Maybe you’re pregnant again” when I would describe some kind of physical alignment that I as a hypochondriac often feel on an hourly basis.

I would huff, “ugh” into the receiver and say, “I am so not ready for that!”  

Then mom would let me know that her friends and others had started to ask when “we” meaning Nick and I were going to start trying again.

Being pregnant again was the farthest thing from my mind.  I had just gotten MY body back!!!!  I was done breastfeeding because I went back to work and the milk dried up the longer I went without pumping, due to this my weight was finally falling off and I was getting back to my pre-babies size. However, due to Zoe getting colds every other week so was I, as Zoe and I were introduced to the germ factory known as daycare. Also it was the first time in 15 months that I wasn't suffering from extreme perinatal and postpartum anxiety due to starting on meds after I stopped breastfeeding. Most importantly though, it was the first time in 2 years, yes 24 months that I hadn't been pregnant or worried about becoming pregnant.

I was free!

So when I started hearing that the low rumbles and soft whispers of the rumor mill were asking questions about our timing and plans for another child I got annoyed.  I was another one of those things about grief, life after loss, and pregnancy after loss of a child that I don’t think people get.  You don’t have to want to rush creating your family just because one of your children died.

Now I did feel that way after Nora died.  I think that’s normal.  And I do feel this way now at times as Nick and I often begin asking each other, “Do you think we are ready to try again?” as each month comes and goes since this past December.

Maybe we come back to our question each month because of our loss and that our plans for starting a family were derailed and pushed back 18 months when Nora died or maybe we ask this question because I am in my early 30’s with my fertile time running out and Nick is in his mid-thirties and is starting to believe that his window for being an active dad is shortening?  Probably, and most likely it’s both.

The thing is, now that Zoe is here I want to spend as much time with her as I can. I hear the first two years of a child’s life are important for their development and yes, because of the loss I am afraid that if I were to get pregnant again while Zoe is under two, that my anxiety and fear would take me away from being present for her.  

I already have mommy guilt that I’m not present enough. I already feel guilty that I wanted for this child so much, that I worked my ass off for her to get here and then there are days when I drop her off at daycare a feel a relief that I can go to the coffee shop without having to carry a diaper bag and juggle a toddler. I already feel mommy guilt that in some way Zoe was a replacement and that if we rush into having another baby that child would be a replacement too.

Mostly, I feel guilty because I know that Nora's death pushed back our plans to be parents and that we feel the tugging of time at our side urging us to try again, because we know pregnancy and parenting aren't guaranteed and even knowing all of this, I still feel guilty because ALL I want is to have my body back.  

To NOT be pregnant.

Because I want to linger just a few days and weeks longer in this place of contentment with the small family I have and with a being - body, mind, and heart that finally feels it has shed it’s weighted layers of grief, sadness, pain, suffering, pregnancy after loss, anxiety, hope, fear, pounds, and breast milk.
Life is a little lighter these days without the layers.  

Photo by Kerry Kresl Photography

I want to linger here just a little longer.

And that is why I don’t want to be pregnant after a loss again right now.

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