Lost

I’m not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.

―  Winnie the Pooh 

The one thing that they never tell you that happens in all of those “What to expect” books, the blogs I read, the magazines I browsed has happened to me, as it happens to an incomprehensible number of families every year. My baby died before she was even born.  Everything I dreamed, everything I had hoped for shattered like a pane of glass in hurricane winds. There are no instructions to be found to guide me and my family through this unrelenting grief. There are no contour maps anywhere to be found to tell me the heights of the mountains I have yet to climb, or how low the valleys are that I will have to traverse. There is no timeline to let me know if in six months, eight months, two years… can I expect the pain to have diminished? Even a little?

Despite what anyone says about the stages of grief, sorrow is not linear; it ebbs and flows each day, sometimes each hour, for as long as it needs. There are no road signs, no maps to warn me of slippery slopes, or dangerous curves. I have no idea how many miles I’ll have to travel before I reach my destination: the day when I can smile or laugh again. When the pain no longer cripples me in all of my waking moments.

It’s a sad and secretive club I’ve joined. It’s vastly different from the one I envisioned months ago when that little digital screen popped up with it’s positive symbol and three joyous letters, y-e-s. I was unaware of the sorrow and the grief that lay ahead of me. In that happy, easy time in my life that I now refer to as Before, I never imagined how deeply anguish could penetrate my life.

People surreptitiously glance my way from time to time. They try to gauge how I’m managing in life After and judging my pain by appearance alone. Never daring to ask. Some of them choose to tell me ridiculous things like they lost their pet a few months ago and know exactly how I feel. Or commenting on how I look since I lost “all of that weight”… that weight was my daughter. Others whisper behind my back and hope I won’t notice. I long for them to speak to me and ask me how I am, and say Everlee’s name – she had a name, and a face and she was beautiful and so amazingly perfect. And she was so close to coming home. She isn’t just a faint memory. She is a person.

Even worse, the well meaning people, woefully misinformed people.  They tell me it’s for the best, that I have an angel now, that this was Gods plan and comfort me by telling me that I can always have another. Another child will never replace the one I lost. Everlee is my first born.  Sometimes I wonder how people can be so stupid. And I’m quickly reminded that they aren’t being malicious, they’re just not a member of this horrible nightmarish club. I realize how little I knew Before. No book, no article, no well-intentioned word of warning told me that my baby could die days before her due date, after the crib was assembled and the hospital bags were packed. Nothing could have prepared me for this – so why do I expect anyone else to be any different?

The sound of silence.

Tonight was hard.  I’m more-than-ever acutely aware of how difficult I am to be around. And it hurts. Before Rhonda was always the centre of attention. After Rhonda stands on the periphery of a room and doesn’t get invited into the mix, let alone to the centre. 

I wish there was a guidebook for friends and family for how to deal with someone in  grief over the loss of a child. I make almost everyone uncomfortable, and awkward. More often than not, I evoke a deer-in-headlights reaction from people.  There are so few people I feel comfortable with anymore, and I know there are even fewer people comfortable around me. No one knows what to say, or do. They’re so afraid of hurting me they say nothing, unaware that it hurts me even worse than anything they can possibly say wrong. I’ve already lost my baby, anything you say won’t hurt worse than that. I just wish that there was a prescient for this – for all of our sakes. 

Afterthought: (Incidentally, I have discovered that someone HAS thought of this – this website has some suggestions.. http://www.glowinthewoods.com/how-to-help-a-friend/)

There’s an elephant in the room. But I’ve come to realize that the elephant is me. 

Everyone has gone back to their lives. I’m still here, frozen in time. It amazes me how I have not only become a stranger to myself, but to others too. Family and friends that I always considered so close to me have become strangers, they avoid me at all costs, physically and emotionally. Even when I’m in the same room. I’m not sure if they just don’t have the ability to interact with me without the fear of hurting me, or if  they fear I’m contagious – not unlike a leper. Whatever their reason I tend to feel more like the leper. I know their intentions aren’t malicious, but not having them here to support me hurts more than anything they could possibly say. Sometimes all I want is for someone to look me in the eye and ask me, genuinely, how I’m feeling (and not believe me when I answer with my usual, mournful “okay”). 

Then there’s those that I would never expect to even speak to me, or be understanding at all – relative strangers to the Before Rhonda –  that have come out of the woodwork to be some of my greatest supporters.

I guess watching people in grief does odd things to people. 

Darcy and I leave for a vacation in a little over a week. Miranda (my psychologist) says I grimace when I say the word “vacation”. She’s not wrong. I hate thinking of a vacation. I feel horribly guilty with the imagery of vacationing. This isn’t a vacation to me. I hate the thought of anyone, including myself, thinking of me care free on a beach sipping pina-colodas. This isn’t about sunning myself and getting my picture taken with Mickey Mouse. This is about anonymity, not having to constantly struggle to keep up with the social graces of being “that girl who lost her baby”. This is about taking some time to learn who I am now, away from the pressures of what “normal” has become, where I don’t have to look at that closed bedroom door all of the time. This isn’t about forgetting, because I’m not going to forget. I don’t WANT to forget. It’s about making happier memories and teaching myself that smiling isn’t a betrayal to Everlee’s memory, but it’s honouring her with my own living. It’s about learning how to smile again without having to concentrate on the mechanics of making it happen. 

It’s easy for me to type that. I just need to learn to live it now. This isn’t a vacation. It’s the beginning of a prescription for healing. I hope. 

And I hope being away from people I know will teach me how to be around them again, and maybe help me become easier to be around. And maybe I’ll get invited back into the mix, or maybe I’ll just find a new centre. 

 

My future life of living

There are so many moments when I am flooded with missing her. The shock hits me like a freight train that she’s really gone. I know that it sounds crazy, but it scares me to think of a time when I don’t get hit with how much I miss her, then she will seem farther so much farther away.

Mornings are hard, I miss her… but then again afternoons are rough, evenings difficult and night-time is downright painful. So my logical self (she doesn’t pop out too often) knows that life will start to grow around the pain and the missing, that it will be permanent piece in my new normal- my future life of living.

Do I ever hope life gets easier? Do I ever want to feel less pain? I know the answers to those questions, for me, are not the answers people would assume. I don’t really hope life gets easier. I don’t really want less pain. In a way, those are the ways I KNOW that I remember, the ways my heart knows she was so important and real. When I don’t feel pain or I start to move a little easier will that mean I have moved on? I don’t know, all these things my brain will get to, when it is ready.

Right now I’ll let the weight of the day rest on my shoulders and wait for the darkness of night to consume me and my thoughts for another sleepless night. This is a journey of me finding my new normal. I miss my old normal all of the time, my normal that included Everlee. I don’t know how this new normal will ever not be broken and in a way empty, but I choose to know that there is some path out of this darkness. I didn’t just lose my baby, I lost my whole world.

Due date

It just clicked over to midnight. Since July 15th I have been anticipating this day. 

For 8 months it was with joy and love and hope and a happiness I had never experienced before in my life.

For the five and a half weeks it has been with dread and bitterness and a hatred I never thought I was even capable of experiencing. 

March 24th is/was my due date. Now, it’s just another sour reminder that she isn’t here. She won’t be coming home. It’s another day that I’ll know there’s an empty crib behind that closed door in our house and that there’s a room full of things bought for, and given to her with love, things that she’ll never see or use. Outfits that I excitedly bought in Niagara Falls in October. A stroller that I have pushed miles around the basement and practiced opening and closing when no one was looking. Boxes of diapers I bought on sale so I wouldn’t have to worry about running to the store in those hectic first few months. And empty picture frames for those milestones she’ll never conquer. Constant reminders of my sweet Everlee and the future she’ll never have. I feel my entire being brimming with adoration and longing and wonder. Then my whole body aches by my broken heart. But I miss you, Everlee, with every breath I take.

Darcy and I decided we’d try to celebrate this day. Odd? Perhaps. We just both had been looking forward to it for a lifetime – her lifetime. We didn’t want to let it pass. Not without some recognition. Everlee deserves that. We deserve that. We’re going to go out to dinner. We’re going to talk about her. We’re going to remember her and celebrate all of that joy she brought to us for as long as we had her, and we’re going to be thankful for everything she gave us in her much much much too short life. 

And I’ll grieve. Like I have every day since she left us. And I’ll cry. Like I have every day since she left us. And my heart will ache for my lost baby. That painful sour lump in my throat will get bigger.  And I’ll survive the day. 

I’ve felt like the loneliest most broken woman on earth. Life is in a holding pattern. I try to remind myself of all the things I have to be thankful for. My husband, my best friend. My family. My friends. My good health.  The generosity of those who have donated to Ronald McDonald House in her name. My writing.  And yet, even among these many things that I list, there is a huge, empty, void. She is gone. She is still gone. This void is here in me. Every moment. Every day. I miss her. I miss my baby girl. 

Happily Ever After

 

When it comes to the stages of grief, research and leading psychologists suggest that I am supposed to be angry by now. I should hate the world for what happened to my beautiful little Everlee. I should be mad at God, Mad at the health care system, mad at fate for giving me such a beautiful little girl and stealing her away before she ever got a chance. But I’m not. I’ve never been an angry person. I can count on one hand how many times in my adult life I’ve been truly angry. Anger doesn’t seem to get anyone, anywhere. 

The only thing I can bare to be angry at, still, is myself. I’m mad that I was so naive. That I expected everything would be ok. That I took the fragility of life for granted. I’m mad that my body failed her.  And I find it hard to understand why those that grieve my little girl aren’t equally as mad at me. My body was supposed to protect her. It was supposed to be the safest place for her. But it failed. I failed. Rationally,  there was nothing I could have done. But I’m still haunted by the the thought that ultimately, all I could be was her coffin. 

I’ve never felt old, despite having been through a lot in my 27 years. I’ve always felt youthful, things have never wearied me as they seem to with others. I’ve never dreaded birthdays, and I’ve welcomed them and celebrated them with open arms. I was married at 24 and expecting my first child at 26, but always felt that I was just a baby myself, pretending to be a grownup in a great big world.  But as I look in the mirror now I’ve aged more in the past 5 weeks than I have in the past 15 years. The world weighs heavily on my shoulders. My eyes sag with sadness and exhaustion. Smiling is a chore – The corners of my mouth weigh a ton a piece. I’ve seen the thin veil, that delicate tiny line, that separates life and death.

I’ve often wondered what it takes for a person to survive something like this. What fabric makes up the kind of soul who can stare down the deepest and darkest tunnel of despair and turn up alive at the other end? Hardly unscathed, but alive nonetheless. People say I’m strong, but the truth is, there is a distinct difference between strength and the struggle for survival. And what I am doing is not strenght. It’s survival. It only hurts when I breathe. I think about how anything could change at any moment. We go through life planning and believing that certain things will be constant in our lives, until everything that we believed in comes crumbling down and the ground beneath us shatters. I have been thinking about this so much lately, in the endless sleepless hours of the night. The impermanence of life, of our bodies. and yet we live life planning for the future, believing we will all be here tomorrow. We find support from the earth and comfort in our homes, families and friends, but they could be gone at any moment, our homes could be lost and the earth could literally break beneath us. 

And it’s aged me. I feel myself holding back from others who seem to go on blissfully unaware of all of these life lessons I’ve had hurled at my head like bricks from a runaway train in the 5 weeks since Everlee has died. Don’t they know what could go wrong? Don’t they know that tomorrow isn’t promised to everyone? Don’t they know not everybody gets a happy ending? Not every story is a fairy tale. Not everyone lives happily ever after. 

But I’m not angry and I’m not strong. I just survive. 

In my dreams

“I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Losing a child puts you in a place where the irrational can be completely and plausibly rational. It puts you in a place where you’re surrounded by all these crazy thoughts, and you know they’re crazy, but you can’t help listening to them and wondering if maybe they have a point, if maybe they are right after all. It puts you in a place where confusion is a normal, day-to-day thing. And then sometimes you come out of this crazy place and think, what just happened to me? Did I really think those things, feel those things? Was that me? How could I even think that?

And then you bury those thoughts and try to ignore them and go about your business, but they keep coming back to you at odd hours, and they hound you until you feel you really might be going crazy. And you’re not sure who you can talk to about it because what will they think? And then you just sit down one day and write about it and stop caring what people think, because it’s part of you and part of this life – this new normal you have to come to accept.

And it makes you feel so alone. Surrounded by people buy so horribly, awfully, utterly alone. My personality has always been to help other people and I feel like I’ve been spending so much time navigating other people through how to talk to me, and trying to make them feel comfortable around me that I so seldom spend time trying to navigate this dark and lonely place for myself. Perhaps that’s why I’m awake at night, because its really this only time I have to myself.

Or maybe it’s the dreams. I only have one. Reliving that night. The worst night in my life. And if my body knows when it sleeps that’s where it’s going, then why on earth would it ever let me sleep again? And worst of all, I usually wake up thinking I’m hearing her crying for me. As if she was here. But she never is. And I never get to hold her again in my dreams. Her cries always wake me up. If only I could sleep long enough that I’d get to hold her again.

Once you cross that threshold of grief, it changes you forever. You can’t have any of it back. You can’t unlearn the harsh lessons of grief. You struggle to find a “bright side.” It’s not like losing your first love or not getting that job you always dreamed of. You can’t just tell yourself, “If I try hard enough, I can do it. I can get what I want. I can succeed.” That doesn’t work after losing a baby. Because it wasn’t a matter of trying hard enough or believing in yourself. It was never in your power. You can’t control life and death. You can’t even try. She’s never ever ever ever ever coming home.

It’s still so incredibly hard for me to believe that she’s gone, but everyday I have the physical reminders on my own body that she was here. And no matter how brief and limited her life was, what’s unmistakable is the profound effect she has had on me. Everlee has changed everything I ever was and everything I will be. Now I just need to get to know myself and who I’m going to be all over again. Without Everlee.

When you lose a baby, you lose everything. You lose all the hopes and dreams you held over those ten months, you lose confidence, hope, courage, strength. Your sense of control. It’s all gone. All you have left to you is grief. It’s the only thing that’s real; everything else is just an illusion.

I Had a Baby.

One day at a time. one foot in front of the other. I wake up every morning and go through the motions of life while everything stands still. Every morning I gaze in the bathroom mirror and try to remember what I looked like pregnant. I hated how my body looked pregnant at the time, and now I’m so acutely aware of how beautiful it was and how beautiful I was when she was with me. I was huge, but I had a happiness and a smile that transcended my circumference. Now I stand and see a saggy tummy, full of bright purple stretch marks that only serve as a painful reminder of what I had and lost, in so many ways.

It’s very easy for the world to forget that I’ve had a baby when I don’t have a baby. It’s easy for others not to acknowledge what my body has been through. I’ve been focusing a lot of the emotional side of this struggle, which is undoubtedly the part of this that consumes me the most. But there is a part of this that a lot of people forget about, that’s easy to forget about when you don’t have a baby in your arms. The physical side; the pain, the recovery, the engorgement.

These are things I might feel differently about if my arms weren’t empty. I’d like to imagine that when you do come home with a baby you’re so consumed with this new precious little life that taking care of your own physical needs becomes secondary and not nearly as consuming as it has been for me. Unfortunately, I can’t speak from experience, I can only speculate. I didn’t bring a baby home. People are afraid to ask, but for those who were curious, I didn’t have a c-section. I’m undergoing the same recovery process that any mother who delivered a baby goes through. And I’m not spared from the postpartum hormones either, I’m a tangled mess of hormones and grief. My body and my mind conspire against me.

Grief is such an odd “thing”. If am not sure if it’s an emotion or feeling or state of mind or stage or what so I am just gonna call it a thing. Its a thing that has consumed my mind and my body. I don’t know when or if I’ll get either, or both, back. It makes you sad and keeps you sad. It can take away the ability to see the happy in situations. It can smother you like a blanket and take your breath away. It makes you a stranger to yourself. It will allow you to go through the motions of life, but in a way, stop you from actually living.

Broken

 

I am so incredibly thankful for amazing friends. Friends that care enough about me to force me out of the house when all I want to do for the rest of my life is to curl into a ball in bed and cry. Twice yesterday I had extraordinary friends force me out of the house and push me out of my comfort zone to try and got me to be social. I know I need that, but I think sometimes I’m expecting too much of myself too soon. 

I’m hesitant to say that I had a good time last night. I did. But at the same time it was mentally exhausting. I felt like the majority of the time I was there I was hiding behind a mask. Acting every part to try and make myself seem normal, seem like I’m not completely broken. I tried to smile, and laugh and joke (and I did) but on the inside I was screaming at myself. 

It’s too soon to be out.

It’s too soon to act like everything is ok.

They know you’re acting, Rhonda.

Don’t you dare cry. 

How can you genuinely laugh like that when your baby is dead?

I stayed for a little over an hour and the guilt got to be too much. I came home. And I sat awake in bed until 6am. Agonizing over every minute, every smile, every laugh. How could I do that to her?

And it’s crazy, because I know most of the time I’m being irrational. I’m in a constant fight in my own head. But it always wins over, and I feel like I’m betraying my little girl. If she was alive right now I wouldn’t have been out last night. I would have been at home, snuggling her and thinking I was the luckiest person on earth. Instead I was standing in the middle of a kitchen surrounded by the people I love most thinking what a horrible person I was for being there. I should have been at home mourning her. The way I wanted to be, curled into a ball in my bed crying. 

I wouldn’t trade my friends for anything in the world, I love and adore them and everyday I am thankful that they care about me so much.I’m so happy that friends I haven’t been with in 3 years have come together to support me. I’m so happy we stood together and took a picture for the first time in 3 years last night.  

I think this time I just pushed myself too far too soon. If this is what being strong is, I don’t like it. It’s hard. So very utterly hard. I’m tired and I want a break. I’m afraid that soon the mask will crack and everyone will see how broken I really am. 

Image

 

(April, Amanda, Me and Dwan.) 

I’m Not Pregnant

She has been gone 31 agonizing days. 744 endless hours. And in almost every way I’m a painfully reminded of her absence with every breath I take. But I have been having a very difficult time letting go of the idea that I’m no longer pregnant.

 I still sleep on my left side curled into my pregnancy pillow. I still mindlessly touch my belly. I still order decaf coffee at starbucks. I still haven’t eaten sushi. I still haven’t taken a drink. 

During my pregnancy I had two very distinct cravings.

The first, was chicken wings. It was strange, as I HATE chicken wings. In fact before I was pregnant I had only ever eaten one. But I wanted them constantly from the time I was about 7 weeks pregnant. 

The second, was beer. I longed for just a taste. I never gave into the craving once. I did however have some of my dads non-alcoholic beer at christmas, but it just didn’t do it for me. I wanted the real stuff. The good stuff. The kind where the froth coated the inside of your mouth; strong, and dark with bubbles that tickled your throat on the way down. I made jokes constantly about how when the baby finally came I didn’t want a bouquet of flowers at the hospital, I wanted a half case of Jockey Club. 

It’s 9pm on March 16th and I’m sitting on my couch wearing my green skirt and  I have my hair done and a full face of makeup for the first time in months. Tonight, I plan on taking a big step forward for myself. I am going to go out tonight to a friends house and try to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. I’m terrified. It’s low key, just a few people. But I haven’t been around a group of people since the funeral. I’m anxious. I’m nervous. And so incredibly scared that the big elephant in the room is going to sit on my chest and crush me. But I need to do it. If only for half an hour so I can prove to myself that I can survive it. That I can be around people again and function as a member of society. 

 And I’m going to have a drink.

245 days. That’s how long it has been since I last had a drink. It was a Molson Canadian. It was Saturday July 14th at a roller derby bout. I found out the next morning that I was pregnant with Everlee.

Overcoming a hurdle. A first step to accepting that life has really moved on from my pregnancy and my body is my own again. I have many firsts ahead of me as I accept this new reality. Each one will be exhausting, like today has been. I’ve been agonizing over this all day. And I feel incredibly guilty already. I feel like I’m betraying her somehow by accepting that she’s no longer physically a part of my body. 

I don’t know that I’ll ever get over that feeling – The guilt. The overwhelming all consuming guilt I feel every time I smile, or laugh, or even start to feel good about something. I feel like I’m betraying her memory, betraying my baby. I know, she would want me to be happy, but maybe I don’t want to be? Maybe I don’t want to accept the inevitable truth. I’m not pregnant. 

Where is God?

I’ve had this entry written for a few days. I haven’t done that with any other blog. Usually I post them immediately because I want them to be the raw and emotional account of this period in my life that they have been thus far. This is different. I considered not posting this, because I know it will upset some people. But this blog is about honesty emotion and hurt. This is how I am feeling at this juncture in my life. Many people have praised me for writing this blog, citing that it may help those who have gone through this who can’t find their voice. If that’s true, then I can only deduce that others have these same questioning, angry feelings about God that I do right now. So I’m posting this. If you want to debate the existence or love of God I ask that you first search deep inside yourself and ask if you were in my shoes would you really react any differently? 

This entry may upset some people. I’m prepared to deal with that. I am not, however, prepared to debate it.

I feel like I have been standing on the precipice of writing this entry for awhile now. Maybe it’s all of the fanfare surrounding the appointing of a new pope, or maybe it’s just my complete exasperation with people continually telling me that this hell I’ve been subjected to is part of Gods plan, but I really feel like it’s time I got this out.

I have always had a relationship with God. I was born and raised a catholic and the church has played various roles – sometime a supporting role, and sometimes a starring one – in my life. In my teen years, my search for God led me to many wonderful people who have helped shape who I have become. My faith has always played a part in who I am and has guided me in making many of life’s major decisions. I have never been showy about my spirituality, so this may come as a surprise to some. And although I have not been an active member of a church for many years, I have lived by the mantra that hands that  help are better than hands that pray. Not that I stopped praying, I just decided to devote myself to God in service in a more literal sense through volunteerism, than the figurative sense being spent in church for an hour each week.

But through all of this, I can’t help but wonder, when people tell me this was all a part of God’s plan,  what kind of monstrous, spiteful, vengeful God could ever rob my baby of a life she deserved? She will never wake me up to be fed at 3am. She will never squish buttercream icing between her chubby fingers on her first birthday. Her eyes will never light up at the sight of presents under the tree on christmas morning. She’ll never walk into a school for her first day of kindergarten. She will never have her nightmares kissed away by her mommy who loves her more than anything or anyone. If that was God’s plan – if he PLANNED this – I want no part in him. I want no part in a God conspired to take my baby away from me; a baby that I prayed and hoped and wished for every moment of my adult life. My Everlee.

There are a lot of things that are really hard for me to swallow when people say them, one is when people suggest “You could always adopt”. I think adoption is a wonderful, beautiful thing. But at this moment, it’s not a consideration for us. That is a last effort for us. And to me (again, what people say and what I hear are two very different things right now) I hear them telling me to give up and that I have no hope of ever having a biological child. The second  is that “God has a reason for this” or this is “Part of God’s plan”. I don’t often side with my husband when it comes to matters of the church, but in this case I agree with him – either I need another God, or God needs another plan.

I don’t foresee that I will search for God, or for a divine answer in all of this. As with all of my questions in this utter tragedy,  I don’t think that there are any answers. If there is a God out there, something I am doubting for the first time in my life, he’s going to have to prove himself to me.

What I do believe in, what I have more faith in now than ever before is the goodness of people. People have reached out from everywhere to support us. There have been people who have been there my entire life who have gotten closer, people who had left my life who have come back and shown me that love is never lost, and people who were always on the periphery in my life, who have stepped up when I have needed support the most. My faith is now, at least for the time being, in love, and in humanity.