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. 

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. 

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(April, Amanda, Me and Dwan.) 

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.

Still Born

I hate when people call me brave. That’s probably a silly thing to say. I don’t take offense to it, I just don’t get it. Being brave would seem like a choice to me. I didn’t choose this path, so I didn’t choose to be brave. It’s funny how things sound coming out of others mouths and how they bounce around in your head to become something completely different. My ears hear “You’re so brave”. My mind hears “Congratulations on making it another day without throwing yourself off of a cliff”, as if I had some other viable alternative through surviving another day without her. I wake up and breathe in and out and move forward without her because I -have- to, not because it’s a brave choice I’ve made. 

I’ve come to the realization in the last few days that I am now part of a scary statistic. From what I have read, still birth affects 1 in every 200 pregnancies in North America (incidences are higher in third world countries). That’s a lot. More than I ever thought. I remember being warned about miscarriage early on, that losing the baby was a possibility before that seemingly magic twelve week mark but after that it never seemed to enter into the realm of possibility.  As the pregnancy progressed there were conversations about preeclampsia, downs syndrome, common birth defects… why did nobody ever warn me of the risks of still birth?  Nobody ever talks about the sad side of pregnancy. I remember saying a thousand times to people when they asked if we knew if we were having a boy or a girl: “I don’t care, as long as he or she is healthy”. Why did it never occur to me to say “I don’t care, as long as he or she is alive”? 

Before (capital B), I dreamed that each month I would take a picture of my baby with this stuffed Winnie the Pooh that Mom and Dad (Nanny and Poppy) had bought for their first grandchild when they went away on vacation last October. The one that I clutched to my chest at her funeral. It’s just big enough that if I propped my precious baby up along side of it every month and posted the pictures to facebook everyone would be able to see just how much our little baby had grown. This is one of the many “never” thoughts I have in the run of each and every single day. This will never be her one month birthday. Not to anyone but me,  at least. 

I haven’t exactly decided if it was morbid, though it very well may be, that when the clock struck midnight last night I silently muttered to myself “Happy one month birthday, Everlee”, The same way I used to talk to her when she was still alive, still in my stomach. I decided to post it to facebook anyway. To me, even though she was stillborn, Everlee was still born. February 13th will always be her BIRTHday to me, it will never symbolize the day she died, even if we had to say goodbye before we ever really got to say hello.

She would have been a month old today, I should be propping her up against that soft and squishy Winnie the Pooh for her pictures. 

It’s hard to believe, after all that has happened, that I was so scared of the labour process throughout my entire pregnancy. I was petrified of the pain and what it would do to my body. I was scared my body would never be the same. Who knew that it would be the easiest and least painful thing I would go through that day? Who could have realized it wasn’t labour that would change me forever? Certainly not me. Certainly not the people who loved Everlee the most. My baby was born healthy and beautiful, like I had always hoped. My baby just wasn’t born alive. There’s no bravery in that. 

 

Time

If I’ve learned anything in the past month it’s that life goes on around you, whether you chose to be present for it or not. For me, time has all but stood still. I’ve lost all concept of time. Even days and nights are interchangeable. There is only one clear divide. Before (with a capital b) and After (with a capital A)

 

It’s been a month since I felt her wiggling in my belly. A month since I watched my belly dancing. A month since I wished her good morning. The minutes seem like hours and the days seem like months. But time is flying by. Each click-clack of the clock is an accomplishment. I have made it through another minute. 

 

I don’t know what’s going on in the world right now. I’ve isolated myself from a lot of it. I hide things on facebook. Anything that reminds me of what life is supposed to be like right now. It hurts. I’ve been wanting to go to question period since hearing that the House of Assembly has re-opened, to try and resume some semblance of normalcy but I’m so out of touch with the world and it’s so hard to speak to people. World War III could have broken out, and I wouldn’t know it at this point. I’m awful at talking to people, and I can’t seem to make small talk.And what can I talk about…? There’s always this huge elephant in the room that we’re dancing around. People don’t want to talk about Everlee, about a dead baby. It’s uncomfortable. It’s awkward. Nobody wants to think that this sort of thing happens to people like me. It’s easier to just avoid it. 

 

 

And life goes on around me. daily routines are slowly weaving their way back into others lives. People continue to live day in and day out, worrying about all the normal things people worry about. The news comes on TV every night, the mail shows up every day. All the while,  I just want to go outside and scream to the top of my lungs to the world “My baby is dead – how can you go on like nothing happened?!” But I don’t. And time moves forward. click-clack. 

Sleepless Nights

She was a red head. You couldn’t tell that at the funeral home because of her little knitted hat, but she was. She had red hair, just like me. Red hair and huge eyes.

I’m done wishing the heartache will stop, because I know it won’t. I’ve talked to enough people now who’ve lived through this to know that the heartache will never stop, or even ease up just a little. I’m trying to learn to live with it. Finding new ways to cope, and survive with a gaping hole in my chest. I can only cope for so long before I start to crack and breakdown again. But everyday I get up, I shower, get dressed… I go through the motions and hope, just a little bit, that today will hurt a little less and feel a little less raw than the day before.

Sleep still evades me. I got a new prescription yesterday that is supposed to last longer than my other one. I took that last night along with four melatonin tablets. I was still awake at 1:20am… And I’m still awake now.

Friday night I awoke in bed around 1am with a sudden jolt. I sat straight up and couldn’t catch my breath. Afraid to wake Darcy (because the only reason his sleep has been suffering is because mine is) I quickly curled into a little ball in bed and tried to catch my breath and ease my anxiety. I had dreamed I had to go to work in the morning and I couldn’t bare the thought of being surrounded by so many people I knew all day long. Ad that I would have to complete all of these complex tasks and have people depend on me to fix their problems when I couldn’t even fix my own. It took about seven minutes for me to figure out that I didn’t have to work and that I don’t have to return to work for some time. I can’t even fathom the thought right now.

Friday afternoon I went out to coffee with two of my closest girlfriends. I arrived early (which I never do) because I was feeling anxious about being around them. Even though I knew neither one of them was there when I arrived I had to sit in my car for five minutes and calm my anxieties again before I even walked into the starbucks.

I feel like I’m lost somewhere inside of myself right now and I can’t find me no matter how hard I try. I’m just a shell of who I used to be, and I don’t know if I’ll ever find the me I used to be ever again.

While sitting there in the corner of starbucks a group of girls arrived one by one. The first had an infant carrier with her. A few moments after all parties had arrived she reached down ever so gently and scooped up a handsome little boy, no more than three weeks old. The same age Everlee would be. They took turns passing him around the table, cooing and kissing him. They discussed how the mother was feeling, how she was deprived of sleep. I have no idea what was going on at my table. I was so focused on this small child and the conversation around him. I was wishing, so desperately that the same conversation had been happening at my table. That we were passing Everlee around and that I was complaining about my lack of sleep from being awake with her, instead of being awake without her.

I must have looked crazy. I know they noticed me staring, but I didn’t care. I wanted to tell that mother how insanely lucky she was, and how I envied her sleepless nights. But instead I just sat there and tried to refocus myself back into my own conversations.

Maybe I’ll find myself somewhere in my sleepless nights.

Glow

I remember making the statement long before I was pregnant that if I were ever to become pregnant I wanted a huge baby belly so people would know, unmistakably, that I was having a baby and not just fat. By the time I was 16-17 weeks pregnant I was unmistakably pregnant. People often asked if I was having twins, or thought I was much further along than I was. We joked a lot that I was having a toddler. Everlee was born at 34 weeks and weighed 5lbs1oz. She was a big baby, so I guess the size made sense.

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I always dreamed about being pregnant and having a baby one day. I thought I would be like one of those mothers-to-be on the cover of magazines. You know, the ones that glow. Truth is, I hated being pregnant. Every minute of it. And I despised people who told me they loved it. I was uncomfortable from day one. I slept through my entire first trimester (although thankfully I wasn’t sick) like a hibernating bear. I bled and ended up in the emergency room twice in my second trimester and had insufferable back pain. And in my third trimester I had hypertension and ended up on bed rest and admitted to hospital. I couldn’t find any clothes I felt comfortable in. I hated that my belly got in the way. I struggled to put on my own shoes on my best days. I got stretch marks. A lot of them. And now, there is nothing I wouldn’t give to be pregnant again. I’d live every single moment of that pregnancy again for the rest of my life.

I spent the night awake last night. From about 2am. My mind seemed to be in overdrive, replaying every scenario in my head and how I somehow might have been able to change the outcome of what happened to Everlee. Maybe if I hadn’t complained so much about being pregnant? Maybe the universe thought I didn’t deserve her?

Even writing that now seems irrational to me.

But that’s how the mind works, I guess, when you haven’t really slept in weeks. Every irrational thought seems so real and plausible in my head.

I’ve talked myself into, and out of, a lot of things in the last 3 weeks. What if I had gone to the hospital that day for the pain instead of just my doctors office?

Some thoughts seem more rational than others.

I promise that if I ever get pregnant again that I won’t complain. I will take every moment as a gift and enjoy everything that comes along with being pregnant. But for now, I’ll just stand in the mirror and look at my stretch marks and try to remember what it felt like, and wish for that big baby belly again.

Hope

Hope: the feeling that this horrible, gut wrenching feeling won’t last forever.

Yesterday, Darcy and I toured Ronald McDonald House. When we announced Everlee’s funeral in the Telegram we had said that flowers would be gratefully accepted, or donations could be made in her memory to Ronald McDonald House. It was our thought that we would love for her to be honoured through helping other families, and other babies who may be fighting for the life that Everlee never got to have.

At her funeral we were blessed to have so many flowers sent from all over the world, dozens of beautiful arrangements for our precious little girl. To be completely honest, I took every single one of them home. I know most people usually end up donating the flowers through the funeral home to hospitals or retirement homes, but I just couldn’t bare to leave them all behind. They were gifts to Everlee and I wanted them to come home with me. Even now that most of the flowers have wilted and died, I have made a display in our kitchen of all of the beautiful glassware that the flowers came in. I look at them every day and think of her.

I grasp at everything I can to make a physical memory of her.

But yesterday at Ronald McDonald House we learned that in addition to all of those beautiful flowers, over $1100 had been donated in her memory already, and that there was still a large portion of money still not tabulated in their safe. $1100 in her name to help other families the way ours couldn’t be helped. And I was proud. I am proud. So proud of my little girl. All of the love people have for her is doing something good, and helping others. She has a legacy. She has brought people together like I never thought possible.

Anyone still wishing to make a donation to Ronald McDonald House in her name can still do so, you can find more information here: http://www.ourhousenl.ca/donate.asp

And the cards.

We’ve received well over 200 cards from people we didn’t even know were thinking of us, childhood friends, former colleagues, neighbours… I even received a beautiful handwritten card from the Premier of the province yesterday telling us that she had been thinking about Everlee every day since she heard the news. But what has shocked us most is the frequency at which people say that this kind of tragedy has struck them too, or someone they know. Angel babies, just like Everlee. Does this happen more than we know? Do people just not talk about it?

I will never let anyone forget Everlee. I will speak her name every day. I keep thinking about going on our upcoming vacation and meeting strangers, who will inevitably ask Darcy and I “do you have any children?”. I know it will happen. It’s a natural conversation to have. And I will say with pride that I have one daughter who is no longer with us.

This week has been a roller-coaster of emotion for me. I still haven’t been sleeping, and I have to force myself to eat everyday. I hardly had the energy to pull myself out of bed today. Truth be told, I spent more time in bed sobbing today than I did upright. But I got up, I went out and I faced the world. But it’s important to remind myself every day to get out of bed, and breathe in and out until I don’t have to remind myself anymore (thanks for that lesson Sleepless in Seattle). I have to have hope. Even if right now all that hope is, is the feeling that this horrible, gut wrenching feeling won’t last forever.