Monday, August 21, 2017

My Golden Girl

David and I welcomed another sweet little girl to our family on Saturday, August 12 at 10:36 pm. Cecilia Claire was born at home after a 4.5 hour labor. She was our longest, leanest baby at 7 lbs 9 oz and 20.5 inches. She looks almost exactly like her big sister did as a newborn.

Big sister and brother came to meet her the next morning and just adore her. Both Cecilia and I are doing wonderfully and we are all adjusting really well to life as a family of five. Thank you to everyone who has been praying for us.

I plan to write her birth story out in the next few days, but for now I wanted to share a bit about her name. She was named for St. Cecilia and my grandmother, Cecilia, who came from a devout Catholic family and was herself named after the Saint. Both my grandmother and grandfather were very surprised and pleased by her name. They wouldn't stop talking about it, which is actually quite touching because they both have severe dementia and have trouble remembering things from minute to minute. It was so lovely that they remembered her name and were able to talk about it at length.

My grandmother, Cecilia Refugia, with her great granddaughter, Cecilia Claire.
Claire was the middle name we had decided to use had Davey been a girl, but we didn't consider it must this pregnancy until the last week or so. I wasn't particularly sold on any one name, but David like the idea of her initials being CC with Cici being a nickname and her full initials being CCR (like Creedence Clearwater Revival, which I will agree is an awesome band). And, of course, the only reason we considered it at all was because of St. Clare of Assisi (whose feast day was the day BEFORE she was born; I was really hoping she would be born that day as a clear sign she should be Cecilia Claire).

today, 9 days old

Monday, March 13, 2017

May Comes Anyway

May is coming. It always does. There are few things I dread quite like May. May 8th is due date of Francis, the first baby we lost, and in many ways has become the one day that represents all our lost children. Last year, it also happened to fall on Mother's Day which was particularly rough.

I had hoped that this day would get easier over time but it hasn't. In many ways, it's harder now. When we lived in North Carolina, we would go to the cemetery and the beach to mark this day. There is no grave or beach here in Colorado so the day is empty of even the rituals we had created that made it that much more bearable.

Over the years, I've also tried to express to various friends and family members that May 8th is an important day to me that I would like remembered but for some reason, that message never got through. I think perhaps I wasn't as clear as I thought I was about conveying the message. I imagine most simply, unintentionally forgot and for a few others, it's a bit too awkward or painful and so they intentionally forgot. It's ok, that's just how it turned out and I know that no one was intentionally being hurtful. But it does break my heart a little bit when I hear other people say or see bloggers write about how people in their lives remember their little ones on those special days. I want that. I need that. But my day of remembrance is a very solitary day, one I generally reflect on completely alone, without even my husband.

This year I am in lucky in that we will be taking a trip to North Carolina at the end of May and I'll be able to visit Francis's grave then. That will give me something to look forward to when May 8th comes.

I'm currently pregnant for the seventh time so why does the baby we lost in my second pregnancy still bring me so much pain? I've had three losses since then, none that were quite so painful and none that I think about even nearly so often. I've had a living child since then, a beautiful baby boy who is the source of immense joy, and have every reason to anticipate that my current pregnancy will end in another living child. I had a child already when Francis was lost and that little girl continues to be just this beautiful ray of sunshine and hope. So why do I still so deeply mourn my second child, the first baby I lost, my tiny little Francis? The truth is, I don't know. Grief in inexplicable, really.

I wish it wasn't this way. I wish I hadn't spend hours over the last few days crying. I wish Francis was just a memory, a painful memory sure, but something solidly in the past. But he/she is not. I am so grateful for my two living children. I love them so very much. In many ways, our family feels good and whole. But them, suddenly, sometimes it doesn't and I'm keenly aware that someone is missing. The age gap between my two suddenly seems gaping and it's hard not to notice that someone should be filling that gap. Not a hypothetical someone, but a real someone. A child who did exist, if only for a very short time, and whose eternal soul still exists far away from his/her earthly family.

Usually I try to have a point to my posts. I mostly write to be helpful to other people. But sometimes, I write just for me. I don't have anyone in my life who I feel comfortable talking to about things like this and sometimes I feel like I just have to share how I'm feeling with someone, anyone, even strangers on the internet. Grief feels really lonely and the loneliness seems to make it even worse.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Surprised by Peace

I haven't found myself with lots of time to sit and contemplate this pregnancy, but when I have, the word that just seems to encompass it all is peace. That's not to say that this pregnancy has been easy. It's been delightfully without complications, but the first trimester was marked by the worst morning sickness and exhaustion I've experienced and the second trimester has so far been riddled with illness including a horrible bout of the flu. Overall, nothing to truly complain about though in those moments it all seemed dramatically unbearable. Through it all though, there was the underlying peacefulness.

I thought that after my miscarriages, pregnancy would never be joyful again. And so I've been completely blindsided by the joy that has come this time around. I no longer have the same naivety I did during my first pregnancy. I'm much more aware of all the things that can and might go wrong. I don't take for granted that a positive pregnancy test means a living baby nine months down the road. But unlike my last pregnancy, I don't expect something bad to happen. I'm aware it could happen, but I have hope. I cannot begin to describe just how surprising these feelings are: peace, joy, hope.

There is something incredibly redemptive and healing about this pregnancy. The way it has blessed me is truly humbling. I am so undeserving. I know all too well that many women never get to have an experience like this after infertility or loss. Many never get their living child, yet here I am with my daughter, my beautiful toddler son born after loss, and now this new little one to love and cherish. Nothing I've ever done or could ever do would make me deserving of these blessings.

I came up with the term "golden baby" to describe the baby AFTER a rainbow baby in kind of an offhand way. The rainbow comes after the storm. Well, what comes after the rainbow? Oh, a pot of gold. Golden baby. Ok, that sounds nice. I just wanted a term for it because this pregnancy felt special - not like a pregnancy before loss, but also not like a pregnancy right after loss. But the more I think about it, the term just seems right. This baby is someone special, someone set apart. A child who has healed my heart and soul in amazing ways. A child who was never expected and who has crept into our family as a little someone extra, a little added blessing who will bring with him/her beauty and joy I can't even begin to imagine. My little golden baby. My baby.

How could I not already feel ABUNDANTLY blessed with these two?

18 weeks. And suddenly, I can't hide this little blessing from the world anymore.
(But I'm still wearing my regular pants - can't quite figure out quite how that's possible though!)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Golden Baby

The past few months have been a bit of a whirlwind for our family. About 6 weeks ago, the company David worked for went out of business (again - the second time in 6 months with no other companies to buy them out and save them this time). About a week after that, we became certified as foster parents and 8 days after certification, we got the call to take in two sisters, age 2 and 5.

The day after we brought the girls home, David was offered a job with extensive travel (10-15 days per month is what it's looking like). He had two weeks before starting that job in which he was home full time and helping me adjust to caring for four kids and welcoming the girls into our family. During that time, thee four kids and me all got the flu. Thankfully David didn't get it and was able to care for us all, but it was a tough time. I haven't had the flu in probably 15 years so it just seemed like such terrible timing and really made incorporating the girls into our family that much more difficult.

Last week was David's first week on the job and he was gone Monday-Friday. On Wednesday, we learned that the girls would be leaving us on Friday to live with family. It truly seems like they are going to a great situation with loving, stable family, but after only 3 weeks we did get attached and it was hard to say goodbye, and especially for me to get them packed up and to have to deal with the emotional aspect of saying goodbye to them on my own with David still away. The littlest one called me mama as was already so attached to me so saying goodbye to her was particularly rough.

The first chapter of our experience as foster parents is over and we are grateful we were able to help these girls in their time of need. It was all a bit of an unusual case and we thought we would have the girls here with us for at least six months...and then they weren't. Which in the end is best for them (better for them to gain permanency now) and in many ways for us too. Having a short first placement gave us experience to be able to discern a little more carefully future placements in our home so that we can be the best foster parents possible by making sure the children are the best fit for our family and our family is adequately able to care for the needs of the kids. I definitely feel like fostering is one of those things you can read about and talk about and take trainings for but never really understand until you are doing it. And truly each child and situation is different, but we feel like we understand it a bit better and are a bit more prepared for next time.

This all leads me to perhaps our biggest and most important recent news: I'm expecting! It's seems a bit crazy that two years ago, we were just finding out we were pregnant with Davey shortly after my endometriosis surgery and we had only the teeny tiniest hope that that baby might actually live. That baby did live (and is currently making a mess of my kitchen - the boy loves colanders) and now I am 17 weeks pregnant with his little brother or sister. In many ways, this pregnancy is completely overwhelming. It's been completely normal and healthy, something that really just doesn't seem normal to me. Davey came after four miscarriages, dozens of blood draws, hundreds of injections, and a surgery.  In many ways it felt like we had to work hard for our baby, we had to earn him. (I know that baby's are not truly earned - they are always undeserved blessings. But after my experiences, it just felt like suffering was a necessary part of eventually having a living child.)

This pregnancy has been effortless (not to say I haven't felt unwell, I had a terribly sick first trimester but there hasn't been any bleeding or other fears about the health of the baby) and I just feel so undeserving. To have to healthy pregnancies and babies in a row seems almost impossible after what I had gone through and just the unworthiness I feel about it all is often so overwhelming. There are so many couples out there still waiting for a baby after infertility or loss. So many of them are so much more deserving than I of a baby. Why has God blessed me with another (living) child while they still wait and suffer? I know there aren't answers to these questions. I know that our baby is completely undeserved by me (what could I ever do to deserve him/her?) and I know that this baby is nothing but a blessing and a gift. And I'm so very, very grateful.

I've been thinking a lot about a pregnancy after a pregnancy after loss. It's not the same as that first pregnancy after loss. But it's not the same as never experiencing a loss at all, either. A baby born after a loss is often called a "rainbow baby" (though I prefer the term penumbra baby), so what is a baby born after a rainbow baby? I couldn't find a term or any discussion of this subsequent baby and pregnancy anywhere, but I've been thinking about our little one as our "golden baby". (You know, for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? Ok, probably not as clever as I thought.) I know it's not everyone's experience, but my "pregnancy after loss" with Davey was overshadowed by depression and fear. This pregnancy feels redemptive in many ways. I'm rediscovering the joy of carrying life that filled my first pregnancy with Lucia (and my second pregnancy in which we lost Francis) but that has been completely absent in subsequent pregnancies. I am so grateful for this pregnancy and baby and so looking forward to seeing baby's sweet little face.

Lucia's portrait of the baby in my tummy (whom she calls "Magic Bean") complete with umbilical cord and placenta.
She is thrilled. Davey is oblivious.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

All I Want Is A Happy Ending

When I think of our fertility struggles and our future "family plans", all I want is a happy ending. And I have that right now. After four miscarriages, we've had a beautiful healthy baby boy. There is a completeness there. A sigh of relief. We made it. It's over. We've won. Except this isn't the end. I still have around fifteen years of fertility left. Who knows what will happen in that time?

I am ok with having more miscarriages as long as you tell me that my last pregnancy, whenever that is, is one that ends with a living child in my arms. The birth of a baby provides closure and resolution, a sense of victory and hope. But to end my childbearing years with a loss, to have my last pregnancy be a miscarriage, would leave an open wound. All miscarriages leave scars, of course, but in time and with the birth of a living child, those wounds heal. The scar always remains, the memory persists and there is still pain. But looking into my son's eyes, I'm able to say "everything was worth it" because now I have him. If I hadn't had those miscarriages, if I hadn't persisted through another pregnancy, and another one, and another one, I would have never gotten to the one which gave me my son.

Pregnancies that end in miscarriage have their own value, of course. An eternal soul brought into creation. Suffering that can be united with Christ for a greater purpose. Lessons learned. An opportunity to rely more fully on God in our grief. I pray that someday these things may be enough for me, but in my human selfishness, I struggle to see this as worth the great pain loss brings me.

Of course, no one can guarantee my happy ending. If we continue to be open to life (and we will be) we continue to be open to death. And I have to face the reality that there may not be a happy ending in store for me. Perhaps my last years of fertility will be riddled with miscarriages or perhaps we'll spend years longing for one more child only to suffer a secondary infertility that is never resolved.

How do I move forward? How do I acknowledge the risk of another loss and decide another pregnancy is worth it anyway? I don't know. I just have to have faith that no matter what happens, I'll get through it. God will see me through it.

Friday, January 6, 2017

All I Wanted Was a Card: Mixed Messages in Support and Grieving

 After my second miscarriage, I told my mom that I really wanted her to send a card. My mom sends cards to everyone for every occasion, it is kind of her thing. Every insignificant holiday. Birthday cards. Anniversary cards. Get well cards. And if someone had a loved one die, even if it was someone she wasn't close to, you better believe she sent a card. If your beloved pet died, you'd be getting a card from my mom. But two of my babies had died and she hadn't sent me - her own daughter! - a card. And that hurt. It felt like she didn't acknowledge my losses as real losses.

I'm sure that was not what she was thinking at all and that I was being more irrational than anything else, but the pain caused by it was very real. So I told her. And still a card never came. I waited for weeks, months. I mentioned several times on the phone with her over the months after that loss that I still wanted her to send me a card. She never did. I don't know why. I guess she just thought it was too late and that I was telling her I wanted a card so that she knew what to do if (when) I had another miscarriage, but I thought that I was very clearly stating to her that I needed her to send me a card now.

At some point several months down the road, I blew up with her on the phone and told her how extremely hurt I was. She told me that instead of sending a card, she had done other things, like visiting with my dad at Easter and taking David, Lucia, and I on a vacation to the beach. And about a week later, a card came.

And after my fourth miscarriage (we didn't tell people about our third because it was so early), I received a card from my parents too. That time, it was very prompt.

I feel like this story is a perfect example of how messages somehow get mixed during periods of grief and how the support someone offers often doesn't reach their loved one, at least not in the form of support they actually want or need.

I never felt like I had the support I needed after my losses. Yet, I have several very kind, loving friends and family members and I know that they were attempting to offer me support. I imagine the mixed signals often happen because our society is so closed when it comes to issues of death and grieving. How can we help our loved ones during such a difficult time if we are expected to spend our entire lives acting as if such topics don't even exist?

I know that the majority of hurt and disappointment I felt at the lack of support was due to miscommunication, not due to actual lack of support. It wasn't the support I needed, but it was there. I truly believe even those who remained completely silent did it with the best intentions, thinking that bringing it up might be painful to me.

I've come to really appreciate the efforts of those I love even if they missed the mark. But that perspective has taken time. Years. Right after my miscarriages, when I needed that support and wasn't getting what I needed, it just hurt. It felt like they didn't care. Or that I was abandoned completely. I know that was an unfair assessment, but I've come to realize that grief is a very selfish time. It's a time when what I want and what I need and what I feel trumps all. And that's not to say that it's a bad thing, or that those experiencing grief are selfish. But to expect someone in the midst of grief to step outside of themselves and see the broader picture is just not realistic. And to beat yourself up (as I sometimes do) for thinking selfishly during that time is nothing less than expecting yourself to be superhuman.

If you do have someone in your life grieving a loss, I encourage you to ask her what she needs you to do to help. She may not know, but she just might. And keep asking! Unlike the common belief that grief is short and thee grieving will return to normal after a set time of a week or a month, it's a LONG process. Often when the shock of the loss wears off and they grieving need the most support, those around them wrongly assume they've already "moved on". Over two years after my last loss there are still times that are tough and when I'd love the support of a friend!

photo by Freddy Castro via Unsplash

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Remembrance is a little different for us this year (+ a giveaway)

Today is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day. I spent the day with my husband at the last day of foster parent training. And you know what? That feels like the absolute best way we can love and honor the children we've lost.

Becoming a foster parent feels like an essential piece in my healing process. For three years now, I've forced myself to keep a space open in my life, a void that reminded me of of our loss. I didn't let anything fill that space because I felt like I needed to have this painful opening in order to feel the raw wound of the absence of our children. I thought that the only way to appropriately honor them was to be in constant pain, to stay in that place, and to always have a hole that reminded me what could have been and everything that was lost. Doing something that we wouldn't have done had our child(ren) lived seemed to be a form of treason, like leaving them behind or pretending they never existed.

It's only now, three years after my first loss, almost two years after my last, and just weeks away from the first birthday of my healthy (living!) baby boy, that I'm realizing the best way I can honor the children I've lost is to fill that void with something good.

No, we can't fill that open space in our lives with another child, that's not what foster parenting is about for us. Other women who have lost a child may fill that space with something else completely non-child related - volunteer work, prayer, art, etc. This is not about replacing our children, but forging ahead and creating a full, meaningful life with what we have been given.

David and I have talked about being foster parents since before we married. We've moved around frequently and struggled financially so that it was never a viable option until now. After buying our home earlier this year, we finally have the space and stability to be able to care for foster children. It was time.

And yet in the back of my mind, there was that thought, that reminder that if one of the children we lost had lived, we probably would not feel capable of being foster parents right now. We'd most likely have three children then, closer together in age, and I imagine we'd feel like there wasn't the extra time or energy or space right now for foster children.

The truth, however, is that our children did die. Francis died. Julian died. Adrienne died. Christian died. And I have a choice. Either I can continue to dwell on their deaths and make my life some kind of morbid mausoleum to them, or I can choose to turn their deaths into something positive. Because they died, my family has the resources to care for foster children. I think maybe I've not wanted to admit that there are good things we can do because they died for fear that in some way that could be twisted to mean that it was good that they died.

It was not good that they died. But their death can still bring about something good. I'm finally at the place where I'm ready for that. Where I no longer have to torture myself with thoughts of "what would have been". Where I no longer feel the need to punish myself with continual reminders of their deaths for fear that if we move on we are somehow betraying them, that we are in some way saying "it is better this way". No, it is not better. My four babies, four unique beautiful souls are missing from this world, but in their absence we can still go on living. It is not better, but it can still be good. It is good.

I don't know how I missed it in the past, but it seems fitting that Infant and Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day is also St. Teresa of Avila's feast day. My favorite quote of hers seems so fitting today:
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
-- St. Teresa of Avila

In honor of Infant and Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day, I would like to give away a beautiful printable of this quote from the etsy shop brickhouseinthecity. (Giveaway sponsored and purchased by me.) Also, Usborne Books consultant Kayla Fellows has very sweetly offered a giveaway item as well:
I am a stay at home wife and mother. I have felt the heartache of infertility, miscarriage and the anxiety of pregnancy after miscarriage. I am very blessed to have given birth to my rainbow baby almost a year ago. In honor of the baby I lost, Bernard Marie, I'd like to donate $15 worth of product from my Usborne Book Store.

I'll also throw in a Lilla Rose hair accessory, as always, since that's my little side biz. I'd like to keep the entries to parents who have lost a child to miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. To enter, simply comment telling me something you do to remember your baby/babies.