Purpose

I am, and always have been, fiercely independent. But I am also terrified of being alone. I have been so lucky to have the most amazing people surrounding me throughout this nightmare. Friends who try (as hard as they might)  to pick me up. And friends who, when they discovered I couldn’t be picked up, laid down beside me to listen for awhile. You have loved me at my darkest.  But despite that, I have felt so utterly alone in all of this. Not because they haven’t been incredibly supportive, but because there’s just no possible way they could understand.

Yesterday someone I know posted this blog post on my facebook wall:

http://facetsoflifeafterloss.blogspot.ca/2013/08/dear-non-bereaved-mama-with-love.html

It’s a letter to mothers with their children from a bereaved mother.  I have read literally hundreds of articles and blogs over the last 7 months, but none of them have resonated with me the way this one has.  It’s like she reached into my soul and pulled out the ords I couldn’t find.

I am so grateful that you don’t know how life is after the loss of your child.  I am so grateful that you don’t know the pain, the heartache or the desperation that takes occupancy within my heart.

Sometimes I wish you would just “understand” me, but then again I am so grateful that you don’t.

Sometimes all I want to do is sleep and sometimes I am afraid to.

Sometimes I am so sad.

Sometimes it is too hard to look in the mirror because there I see the pain in my eyes that I feel in my heart.

Sometimes I want to tell you how hard it is but I have resorted to just telling you I am “okay,” that’s what the world thinks I should be anyway.  Sometimes it is easier to just be “okay” in society until I get home to silence and then, then I wish I had a friend.

The loneliness struck again this week. I thought back to the day we came home from the hospital after leaving Everlee.  Led through the back halls of the hospital.  Empty handed.  Darcy didn’t have to walk into the hospital with an empty car seat, and carry her out to the car for the first time. I remember that feeling of extreme isolation.  That no one I knew – not a single person – understood what it felt like to deliver their full-term baby after they already knew she was gone. 

I don’t let people in often. I may seem like the kind of person who wears her heart on her sleeve, because I have been so brutally honest with my feelings and my grief here. But believe me when I say that there is so much, and so many thoughts and feelings that I don’t share here. Fear of being judged and  fear of losing control stop the words from escaping my finger tips. But this blog has allowed me to open up in ways I never have before. I don’t let people see me like this. If I tell you that you’re my friend that means a lot. If I tell you that I love you, know that it’s not a phrase or expression and know that I actually love you in the best and most honest ways that I can. And if I tell you that I trust you, know that you are among the elite in my life. But even then, opening up is so very hard for me.

But all of this pain has to have a purpose. If it doesn’t, I might as well wither away and die. I want to inspire people. I want someone to look at me and say “because of you, I didn’t give up”. That thought it what keeps me going. That thought it what keeps me writing. Everlee can’t have died in vain. If she has, then I have no reason to keep going. Her life, no matter how short, has a purpose. And it’s my job to fulfill that now

Because of you,  Everlee, I’ve had to grow thicker skin and be stronger than I ever knew I could possibly be, even though most days I barely have the strength to lift my head to look at the world. I’ve had to accept that terrible things happen. To good people, even.  And there’s nothing you can do to change it or fix it. I’ve had to learn how to accept things I never wanted to accept.  I’ve had to learn to make myself laugh again. To want to live life again. To find joy again.

 

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Day 2

I remember wondering in those first days and weeks after we lost Everlee if I would ever make it through a day without crying ever again. I don’t remember when it happened, I’m sure it wasn’t a particularly momentous day. But it happened none the less. I still cry more days than I don’t. I usually cry quietly to myself in the darkness of night now. But, usually, I can muster the strength to make it through the daylight hours without letting my heart leak onto my face. I have always hated showing any outward sign of weakness. That part of me soldiers on. Funny, when you consider how I’ve chosen to make some of my most personal and vulnerable thoughts so public here.

These last three days, I have had reminiscent feelings of those first few weeks. The anxiety has returned tenfold. If you’re having a bad day today, consider this: I threw up in the shower this morning. Note to self: don’t eat breakfast for the next few days, and hope that this wave of intensity passes. A little perspective. And as I picked up my coffee at Starbucks and headed onto the onramp to the highway toward my office for the second time this week it started. The tightness in my chest, that hot burning feeling at the back of my eye balls, the topsy-turvy feeling in my tummy, the dryness in my throat. And then came the tears.

And I wondered aloud (as I often do have very meaningful discussion with myself out loud when driving alone) “will I ever be able to drive to work without bursting into tears? Will I ever make it through a day at work without having to go lock myself in the bathroom to cry?”. As a wise man once taught me (thank you for *everything* but especially this Mr. Duffenais) Tomorrow is a better day. Hopefully some day in the not so distant future, on some not particularly momentous day, I’ll make into work dry-eyed. And hopefully some day soon people won’t pass my open office door and wonder if they should pop their head in to say hello. And hopefully some day soon I won’t have to work myself up for 45 minutes to be able to walk to the cafeteria to get a yogurt for my break. And hopefully someday soon I won’t have to think about all of these things so intently.

This grief thing is never ending. Time diminishes the intensity of it, or maybe, time diminishes the frequency of intense periods. Because when the waves crest, the intensity of the anger, resentment, guilt, and sadness is raw and painful like that of the first weeks after it happened. Acute, deep, and fierce.

There are times when, out of the blue, the tears well up and my face turns hot. Maybe there was a trigger – a new baby born, seeing a Facebook post about how someone else is pregnant and not me, or catching the faint smell of new furniture still wafting from her closed bedroom door. Maybe it was nothing at all, Just sudden, inundating sadness. But it’s always there. Picking at my soul. Always on the periphery of my mind. Always something missing. That is how the rest of my life will be. I believe someday the grief won’t be as intense. But it will be always present in my life. It’s my new normal.

The Walk To Remember

I know there are a lot of people who read my blog silently. They never comment. They never give me any indication that they have read it. But the numbers speak for themselves. Over 600 readers per entry, on average. And sometimes they’re not silent. I am so lucky to have received beautiful emails from people in my own backyard, and people from across the world who know and understand what it’s like to be a mommy to a baby like Everlee. Whether I hear from you or not, if you are part of this baby lost world, thank you for reading, and thank you for being on this journey with me. And so, in that spirit I want to use my blog to tell those mothers like me about an event that was brought to my attention recently (Thank you CB for passing this information along. Below is the information sent to me from Jacintha Penney of pastoral care at the Health Sciences here in St. John’s.

The Walk to Remember is for women and families who have experienced peri-natal loss like miscarriage, stillbirth, ectopic pregnancy, newborn death, etc. On Sunday October 6th We meet at the Bungalow at 2pm on in Bowring Park. There is a brief program where we read the names of babies who have died and have a musical selection. You will be given some Baby’s Breath and invited to wear a pink or blue ribbon. People not sure of the sex of their baby can wear a white, yellow, or green ribbon. Then, we have a short walk “around the loop” to an area known as Angels’ Grove. This will be the 16th year that a commemorative tree planting ceremony has taken place to honour our children. Afterwards, we have a social time and there are cookies and coffee/tea/juice.
Some women come alone or with their partner. Others bring their families. It all depends on what people find personally meaningful. Please give me a call at 777-6959 if you have any questions or if I haven’t explained this well enough. We try and start at 2pm so it’s always good if people show up a bit before then.

I will be attending. And invite those moms who may be out there who read my blog to come along as well. I have met so many people who have told me that they’ve only recently found strength to talk about their lost babies because I have written about Everlee. I will be there to remember my daughter, and the children of others who are loved and lost. And I would love to remember others with her and meet other parents like me. if anyone would like to reach out to me about this please do so. My email is rhonda dot mcmeekin at gmail dot com. I answer every email I get.

Tick Tock.

I was going to wait until tomorrow to write an entry, but the urge overwhelmed me. I’m sitting here in my basement, quietly packing up my personal things to bring back to my office tomorrow. My degrees, my Mr Potato Head, my photos. Tomorrow, I ease back into the land of the living.

They are things that it seems like only yesterday I hastily packed away into a bag as I was leaving work when my doctors ordered me home on bed rest. I was excited then. I was only a few short weeks from becoming a mom. 

I made comments to people like “I’ll see you in a year” or “next time you see me I’ll have my baby with me!”

How stupid I was. I couldn’t have known then. But how ignorant and foolish I feel now looking back on myself. 

On the long and winding journey through grief there are many markers along the road. Anniversaries, firsts, a certain number of good days in a row. Some of them creep up on you and give you no time to prepare. Other times you can watch yourself come upon them, and every ounce of your being says NO NO NO. And you dig in your heels and try to stop them from rushing up at you. 

Because who wants to move one single inch, one single second, further from the last moment they held their baby in their body, in their arms?

Tick. Tock. and the moments without her zoom past.  

Instead of having a baby to show off when they see me, now they can see the shiny new headstone that was put in place this week for Everlee. I hate that this wretched thing has to exist. But, for what it is, it’s beautiful. 

ImageImage

I’ve had a massive headache all day. My back has been tangled in knots. My stomach has rolled all day long. I love my job. I love my workplace. I love my coworkers. My doubt, anxiety and fear has nothing to do with any of those things. It’s a monster that lives in me.  I’m prepared that people will say the wrong thing sometimes., I’m prepared that some people may not know. I’m prepared for the breakdowns that i will inevitably have. But, what I fear more than anything is that the thought of taking this massive leap forward will somehow make people think that I’m better. That it will make them think I’ve moved on. 

I went out last night in attempt to bring some closure to my time off. A friend and I went to Erin’s Pub to listen to some irish music and have a few pints. And as I sat there and the listened I found my mind wandering from the music back to the case room.  For the last seven months I’ve suffered from flashbacks. Not passing memories. Flashbacks. I was there. I was back in the room. I was flooded with emotions. And every ounce of me felt the same sting of hot, raw, emotions. 

How could anyone think I have moved on, when I relive those moments, and live with the real pain every single moment of the day.  

If I waited to feel better, or to have moved on I would never be going back to work.  

I wish I could put her picture on my desk. I want to be able to look at her with the adoration she deserves. Everyone else has pictures of their children on their desk. But that’s just one more aspect of motherhood that I don’t get to have. 

So tomorrow, I make my first foray back into the land of the living, but on the inside, I’m still feeling like I’m in the world of the dead. 

Wish me luck. 

 

Reality Calling

Our daughter’s heart had stopped beating. The screen was motionless. So was I. Even the excruciating pain of the placental abruption I was experiencing was numbed by shock.  

The simple fact is, there is nothing like a stillbirth. There is nothing like going to the hospital thinking you are about to bring your baby home, only to have the incredible joy of pregnancy ripped away, leaving deep searing emptiness. There is nothing like knowing that you are still going to have to endure labour, and birth, and swollen breasts and weeks of bleeding. 

Only your baby will be dead.

Your labour will produce nothing but a beautiful shell of the precious person you have lived your life to protect. Your arms will be empty and there will be no way to soothe your aching soul. Ever. 

And that doesn’t even factor int he guilt. or the wondering. Or the pain. Soul shattering pain. It wasn’t only emotional, it was physical. My head hurt from sobbing. My eyes burned and felt raw as the scabs beneath them appeared beneath them from wiping all of the tears. My arms throbbed because she wasn’t physically there to fill them. They still do. Stillbirth didn’t just happen to me. Or to Everlee. It’s not passive. It doesn’t just happen. Your baby dies, and then you give birth. 

 And you’ve had a baby. But you don’t have a baby. 

When I was pregnant I was like every other excited mother. I signed up for lists, and coupons and Facebook groups. Now, every forgotten tick of a check box on an online purchase comes back to me when I least expect it, and I relive it all over again. 

Yesterday, while standing at the end of the counter waiting for my latte at Starbucks my phone rang. I picked up and a cheerful gentleman said “Mrs. McMeekin, My name is _______ and I contacted you back in May, we got your information from Thyme Maternity and I was wondering if you had given any more thought to the RESP that we had discussed for your baby. I see they should be about 6 months old now is that right?”

What this gentleman didn’t seem to recall was me falling to pieces on the phone with him back in May. He didn’t remember me telling him about Everlee passing away. He didn’t recall me begging him to take me off of his calling list.  

However, my hurt this time was rage. 

Standing at the end to the counter I tore into the man on the other end of the phone. I had told him in May to remove me from his list and he hadn’t done that. So now, I was standing in the one place where I still find some peace, and I am attacked from behind when I least expect it.  

Reality calling, just checking in to make sure that you know your daughter is still dead. Got it? ok. good.

As if I could forget. But life keeps seeming to want to remind me. Blow after blow to the face. As if I don’t think of it every second of the day. It’s been 205 endless days and nights that blur together in a sleepless haze. I don’t ask for the memories to come. They’re just there. I lie in bed every night and I birth her again and again and again. I hold her again and again for the first and last time. I feel that lingering ache that prevents me forgetting even for a second the nauseating reality of what has happened. 

It changed me. 

I try so hard to out on a smile and go out into the world and be the Rhonda everyone wants me to be. But it’s hard. and I hurt. And I’m exhausted. Sometimes pretending I’m ok is even harder than admitting I’m not.  

It still bothers me when people say I’m brave. Bravery is a choice. Living this, surviving it isn’t a choice. Its my responsibility to my daughter to keep going, because she cannot. If anything, it’s as Juliette Lewis said “The bravest thing I ever did was continuing my life when I wanted to die”. 

My daughter’s heart stopped beating. But mine beats for her now.

Share if you have a daughter that makes your life worth living

In my previous life, as a side business, I created strategic social media plans for various organizations. As a side effect to that, I have become a stickler for social media etiquette. The dos and don’ts of the digital world. Don’t auto post to twitter from Facebook. Don’t share anything you haven’t read. Don’t fall for social media “chain mail”. Those sorts of things irk me.

Everyone has those people on their Facebook that are guilty of posting things for “brother week” and “cousin day”. Silly little JPEGs that go viral for weeks on end (how long is brother week anyway?). In The last number of days I have seen an increasing number of silly little pictures that state “share this image if you have a daughter that makes your life worth living”. Now, under normal circumstances, just the thought of hitting share on something like that, no matter what the occasion, turns my stomach. But at least a dozen times in the last few days my finger has hovered over the share button.

What would others think? Would they judge me because my daughter isn’t here? Would they feel sorry for me? Would they question if the thought of my daughter would make me want to die, and not make it worth living?

Get a grip Rhonda, they’re just Facebook trash.

The truth is, Everlee has brought me an insurmountable amount of joy. That beautiful little baby is everything I have ever wanted out of life. And for the nine months that she lived with me I knew what true and honest happiness was. That feeling is what I hold on to. Knowing that feeling, and that joy is what makes my life worth living every day, no matter how often I question if this crushing, soul sucking, all consuming grief is worth getting out of bed for every day.

Today, while out for my morning run to Starbucks my car steered itself to the graveyard. It’s only the second time since we buried her that I have been there. My only time having been there alone. I had no intention, when I woke up this morning, to go there. But something compelled me to go in. It’s a dreary day here. You can feel fall in your bones. The sky was grey, and although it wasn’t raining at the time, the sky was wet and damp. I hate days like this. Because, as morbid as it sounds, I think of her alone there, cold and wet. I think about how I wish I could cuddle her in a soft warm blanket and smother her sweet little face with kisses so that she doesn’t have to be alone in the cold and in the dark. I hate when it rains. So I sat there, by myself and I spoke to her, as I sometimes do. I felt closer though, knowing she was physically there. I told her I was sorry. I always do. I told her how much I loved her and I missed her. I cried my heart out. I cried until my chest was tight, my muscles were sore and people on the other side of the yard could hear me wail. I haven’t cried hard like that in a long time, and I think part of me really needed that. I have been working so hard to keep it all together that sometimes I forget that I really need to fall to pieces sometimes.

After about 15 minutes I picked myself up off of the ground and I moved on with my day.

I guess my point is this, I spend a lot of time wondering what other people think about the decisions I make and how I react when it comes to my daughter. The only thing I have to protect is her memory, and I do so fiercely. When it comes to religion and spirituality I don’t know what I believe in anymore, but I do believe that my daughter, my Everlee, knows that I love her more than life itself. So I won’t share that silly jpeg on Facebook. Instead, I will write here for all to see that Everlee Rose makes every day worth living, because I have to live my life for her now.