Friday, December 31, 2010

Cope...Be Honest

I have not been coping well lately.

Whenever I feel like I have lost my way I often seek the advice of other moms who have lost babies. Recently I found a blog called Our Journey Home written by a wonderful woman named Shan. From her blog I learned that she lost her second daughter Marie the day after she gave birth to her third daughter Sarah. Unable to even comprehend her situation I immediately contacted her and asked "who did you cope...?"

I don't know what I expected her to say and I waited patiently for her advice. She posted her response on her blog. It is the most honest advice I have ever received...

She has no idea.

She didn't cope. She was carried, sheltered, and held. But cope? She doesn't think she did.

I know exactly what she means.

I don't know why it has been so hard for me to admit that I have not coped with my daughters' deaths either. I guess I have been afraid to admit that grief has changed me. I wanted to approach grief like I approach everything in my life: methodically. I wanted to feel proactive. I needed control over something.

Initially I found a lot of comfort in the long list of "Grief Recovery Do's" I made for myself. It gave me something to do, something to distract myself, blog, run more, drink some tea, blog, and run again. Until I was alone of course or the house was too quiet. Then I'd break down and wonder why nothing was working. The pain was swallowing me up.

Those days are such a fog. I felt guilt for hurting so much. I still feel guilty that it is taking so long to shake the grief. I have more good days now than I did a year ago, but what frustrates me is I have not discovered the feel better formula. It seems so random.

Some things don't have a formula.

And it makes sense. I held my babies in my arms as they took their last breaths. I watched them struggle to breathe and I felt them get cold. They were in my arms when the doctor could no longer hear a heart beat. What is the cure for that? There are not enough miles in the world to run that memory away.

I'll be honest. I don't even know what to do most of the time. I still wake up most mornings wondering if maybe this is all a bad dream and when I realize that it isn't I choke back the tears in frustration (because crying all the time gets annoying) and start the day. I ask God to get me through just one more day and wonder when it will get easier, I mean really get easier, because it has been two and a half years and it still feels pretty hard to me. I try to put the pain out of my mind, I try not to dwell on it, but how do you put your children out of your mind?

Tomorrow brings another new year. And with it I have a list of resolutions. Every year since Aubrey and Ellie's deaths I have prayed that this year will be my year of healing. But this year I have a new prayer.

I pray that this year is a year of freedom.

Freedom to cope or not cope, freedom to be the me that I have become, the me that changed forever when I lost my baby girls, and freedom to take an entire lifetime if I need it to heal as unmethodically as is necessary.

If I have another hard year I'm ok with it. If I don't cope I'm allowed. At least I can be honest with myself about it now. And easier on myself.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

2011 Babylost Calender

When my daughters died I used to sit for hours and read blogs written by other moms who lost babies. It was comforting to know that I was not alone. Over time I formed friendships with those women. We have never met in person but we share a special bond formed not only by our losses but our desire to honor the memory of the babies we lost.

Two of my babylost friends, Carly Dudley and Franchesca Cox, put together a Life After Loss 2011 Calender using quotes from moms who have experienced the loss of a child. They asked me to contribute and of course I said yes. My quote can be found with the month of December.

Check it out. Let me know what you think.

...The Year Of The Babylost Calendar is a collaboration of raw, honest, beautifully haunting and uplifting quotes from bereaved parents and family members. This calendar has been put together by Babylost sisters Carly Marie Dudley and Franchesca Cox in honour of those family and friends left behind to face another year without their little ones. This calendar has been created in loving memory of Christian Dudley, Jenna Belle Cox and all those children gone too soon. We would like to give all our gratitude and love to the 10 beautiful women who volunteered their words and hearts for us to create this gorgeous calendar for 2011...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Save Babies!

I saw this amazing organization on Good Morning America today. I was so touched by it because I am a mother of premature babies. My daughters did not survive as you know, but not because everything possible was not done for them. They simply came too soon. As much as my heart still hurts without them, at least I can live knowing we did all we could. How much more would I hurt to wonder or know that they could still be alive if...

Not all babies get the medical care they need to survive and premature babies and low birth weight babies are especially vulnerable. Developing nations specifically can't afford incubators for these babies. But Embrace is working to solve this problem and save babies all over the world. They manufacture an infant warmer that costs 1% of a traditional incubator, does not require electricity, can be cleaned with boiling water, and is reusable.

Please, visit their website and read how you (for very little time and money) can help them help these tiny babies. Save a life this Christmas.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Holidays

Finally! I have all the Christmas decorations up and the house feels warm and twinkly. We have two Christmas trees this year and I wrapped the banister in lights and gold garland. I keep intending to serve a normal weeknight dinner in the dining room just so we can enjoy the decor and take advantage of the loveliness of the season before its gone, but time seems to keep slipping away from me.

Having a little baby has limited my grand holiday plans somewhat. I often express to my husband that there are just not enough hours in the day. But the reality is I need to adjust the demands I put on myself. Colton can't help it if he is teething poor little guy. And I'd rather have my baby in my arms than anywhere else. If only I had a house keeper all my problems would be solved. At least most of them anyway...

I love the holiday season. I always have. But since Aubrey and Ellie died the holidays have not been the same. Each year improves a bit though. This year I am so excited to celebrate Colton's first Christmas. It is nice to have a first Christmas with a new baby.

I hung Aubrey and Ellie's stockings from the mantle next to Dustin's. I look at them bittersweetly as I do most of their things, wondering and remembering. Colt doesn't have a stocking yet. He will get his on Christmas Eve. That is the tradition in our family, my mother makes the most beautiful stockings and she gives them to her grandchildren on their first Christmas Eve. Aubrey and Ellie never got to have a first Christmas but my mom graciously made them stockings anyway. I hang them every year because I can't imagine not including them. Their stockings have a place on the mantle just as they have a place in my heart.

It is hard not to be sad though. I have two stockings but I don't have two little girls. It doesn't feel right at all but I suppose it never will.

My grief still ebbs and flows and lately I've been more down than usual. I have myself to blame in part because I have slacked big time on my daily exercise. Regular exercise, even just a walk with the stroller, is the best antidepressant I know of and it makes an unmistakable difference in my ability to cope. It reminds me that healing is a very tangible process and requires consistent effort. That is probably the best advice I can offer anyone reading this struggling with grief. Healing doesn't just happen, it is a conscious choice the requires hard work and consistency. I wish it was easier but it isn't.

Something else has been bothering me though...

Colton is four months old.

What does that have to do with anything you wonder? Well, nothing and everything.

Colton is my joy. He is sweet, smiley and chubby. He has his first tooth about to pop through and he is one inch away from learning to roll over. He is perfect.

When Aubrey and Ellie were in the hospital the doctors told us that if they lived we probably wouldn't be able to see just how badly their brains were damaged until they were about four months old. At that time we would begin to see Cerebral Palsy setting in and to what severity. I can't look at Colton at four months of age without wondering about my girls at four months of age.

Colt is so healthy. He reaches out for things and constantly puts his hands in his mouth. He grabs my hair and my shirt collar. He makes eye contact. He laughs and coos. He kicks his feet and bounces like a madman in his jumperoo. He does all the things a perfectly developing baby should do. But I know my girls wouldn't have. And that makes me sad.

It probably seems ridiculous to wonder about or feel pain over something that never was nor will be. I'm not sure why I even think about it to be honest. But I do and it bothers me.

Any advice out there for me? What should I do with these feelings? I get so sad knowing my girls got so sick. Sometimes it hurts me even more than the pain of their deaths. Am I normal? Do any of you struggle like me?
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