A Good Day

First off let me say thank you, from the bottom on my heart, to the people who sent me good wishes and all of the luck they had for my appointment yesterday. After a number of months waiting to get to see the Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) specialist, I finally had my appointment with her yesterday morning.

To say I was terrified about this appointment would be an understatement. She was what stood between me and making Everlee a big sister. It was possible she would tell me that I could never get pregnant again. Or, that I shouldn’t because the risk was too high. Everything about my future was in her hands.

8%.

That’s the chance that another pregnancy will result in an abruption like the one that took Everlee. Any chance is too high, but an 8% chance of it happening again means that there’s a 92% chance it won’t, right?

After a long appointment, with talk of lots of numbers, and ratios, chances and preventative measures, the MFM gave me the news I have been waiting to hear – I can get pregnant again. It won’t be easy getting there, and pregnancy won’t be easy if we do. But I can try.

So in the coming weeks I will start fertility treatments. I saw the doctor this morning who was the one who upset me back in May. With the first glimpse she got of me her first reaction was to say “WOW! how much have you lost”. I told her. She told me I looked great. And then she acted like nothing had ever happened and the appointment continued. She told me how we would proceed, and I went on my way.

I’ve decided, for the time being I want to keep that part of my life private. Fertility treatments are an emotional roller coaster. A game of hurry up and wait. They’re stressful under the most normal of circumstances. With the added stress of my previous pregnancy, I don’t feel it will be helpful for me to agonize over every minute of it. Above anything what doctors have told me is that I need to remain calm and keep my anxiety low to help with my fertility and keep any new pregnancy healthy. I need to try to be stress free. Doctors orders. And constantly being asked, or talking about what my body is going through is stressful to me. When there is something to update on, I will do so, but for the time being, this blog won’t be used to talk about fertility treatments and in all likelihood, until it’s painfully obvious, I probably won’t tell anyone when I am pregnant.

So that’s the update. Yesterday was a good day. I had a good night with good friends last night. It’s the first date I can touch on the calendar to say that I had a good day. So thank you, to everyone who made that possible. This is what hope feels like.

I didn’t lose my pregnancy

(Note: This entry started at one place and then I went off on a tangent. My bad)

I’m sitting here, about to type this entry knowing it’s probably going to come across as harsh and insensitive. I am going to type the rest of this very carefully. But, I want to preface by saying that I don’t intend it to be that way. And although parts of it may offend some of you, I merely mean this entry to show that none of us can have the same experiences. That doesn’t mean to give any less significance to the experiences of others, just that they’re different and painful and hurtful in different ways. We all hurt sometimes. 

I didn’t lose a pregnancy. What happened to me wasn’t a miscarriage. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have a miscarriage. And when people hear my story and tell me about losing their pregnancies at 7-8-9-10 weeks, I don’t see the connection the way they do. That by no means diminishes that pain and suffering that comes along with it. It’s a loss. A horrible, senseless, blameless loss. But it’s not the same. I didn’t lose my pregnancy. 

I can see how it would be easy for you to think so. I was pregnant on Everlee when she died. But I never refer to it in that way, and I don’t even come close to thinking of it in that way. My daughter died. I didn’t have a miscarriage. I didn’t lose a pregnancy. Like anyone who loses a child at any age, I have a room full of her things. I have a closet full of her clothes. I have an album full of her pictures. I held her in my arms. I stroked her hair. I kissed her face. I counted her fingers and toes. I know how she felt in my arms. I know how she smelled. I know that her fingers were long and definitely not like mine. I picture her beautiful face every single minute of the day and know it looked exactly like mine, red hair and all. 

Oprah said that all pain is the same, how we deal with it is what makes the difference. I truly believe that. Maybe a miscarriage is something you can learn to live with a little easier. At least that’s what my experience in talking to other mothers has taught me, and not a conclusion I have jumped to on my own.  I’ve been off work now for 7 months. I still cry in the middle of the night. I still wake thinking I can hear her crying for me. I still hate my body with every ounce of my being for doing this to her. Most people who have miscarriages get pregnant again on their own very quickly and have completely normal pregnancies afterward. That will NEVER be the case for me. Not only can I not get pregnant on my own ( a completely separate issue), I will never have a normal pregnancy again. Each subsequent (if I’m even lucky enough to get that far) will remind me of getting so close to bringing home a smiling baby girl only to have her stolen from me at the 11th hour. There will never be a moments peace with being pregnant. There is no sigh of relief at 12 weeks for me. Because I know now how easily pregnant women are lulled into a sense of security. Because I know that being 34 weeks pregnant isn’t a promise of having a baby in that meticulously arranged nursery. 

There’s no magic in baby making or pregnancy for me. Doctors appointment, after test, after ultrasound after appointment. Waiting on baited breath. Heart beating. Blood pressure rising. palms sweaty. pins and needles. And I haven’t even made it to the high risk specialist yet. This new normal I am searching for isn’t anything close to normal. But it’s my life. 

I’ve started the process for returning to work. It will be a few weeks before I begin my ease back, but the plans are in place to begin with a few half days a week and slowly working myself back up to being a full time functioning member of society. The newly-acquired social anxiety is still there, a monster rearing it’s ugly head when I least expect it. In preparation for my reintegration into the world of the living I’ve been making an honest attempt at getting out of the house more. I have resolved to not say no to anyone who asks me to do something unless the panic about it is so bad I feel like I might perish (If I have been blow you off lately, and believe me there are a lot of you, now is the time to try and drag me from the house).  

I have also had the most amazing and good-for-the-soul little house guest for the last number of weeks. My sister is in the process of moving into a new house, and has just gotten a rescue puppy. Being that at the moment she still lives with my parents and our childhood dog (who is a ripe 17 years old… cantankerous and stuck in his ways like any old man), the pupper – Opie – is currently staying with me. He has been, by far, the best medicine I have had. his puppy kisses and boundless energy and quirky antics make me genuinely smile and laugh again. He is better than any pills my doctors could give me. I’m so thankful to have him for this short period of time. 

Image

 Someone once told me that in order to start getting back to normal I need to “fake it until you make it”. Sometimes I heed that advice. I try my best to paint on a smile and I bite my tongue from screaming at people “Don’t you know my baby is dead” when they expect me to behave as if nothing life altering has happened to me. But most of the time I don’t want to fake it. I don’t want to deny the profound turn my life has taken.This is who I am now. Of course parts of me are the same. Some things will never change. They’re who I am. But my core, the very centre of my being has shifted. I am a mother now. A childless mother. And absolutely, I will go through the motions of life, and fight back the tears with a smile on my face, because that is what you do in baby loss land, and I will hope, that even if just for a moment, my smile will feel good, and genuine, and real. 

I hate posts like this. Ones where I have no wisdom to offer, or comfort or inspiration to give others on this journey. I’m just sending thoughts out to the universe, because honestly, no matter how many people I have surrounding me with love and support, sometimes I feel so desperately alone. But I’ll keep moving, and keep hoping. There’s still got to be some hope out there.

Thank You. Thank you. Thank you.

What a whirlwind.

I had no idea last night when I wrote that letter and posted it on this blog that so many people would share my plight. In the 15 hours since I posted that blog it has been viewed almost 4000 times. It has been shared on Facebook 226 times, and retweeted on twitter 45 times as well.

Thank you. When I wrote that letter I wasn’t sure anyone else would care. I know there are a lot of people that care about Everlee and care about me and my family, but I had no idea that so many people would care that my little girl didn’t have the piece of paper to recognize her little life that she deserves. Thank you for sharing my blog, but most of all, thank you for caring about her.

I sent that letter to the Minister at 7pm last night, and by 9:18am this morning I had a response from him personally. It read:

Rhonda

First of All please accept my deepest condolences. As a father I cannot even imagine the pain you have to live with forever. I cannot make a promise of a change however I will Work to make a change.

Nick

And honestly, I couldn’t ask for anymore from him. I know how bureaucracy works, and I know that change doesn’t happen over night. So knowing that this was on his radar was more than enough for me right now.  It is so reassuring to know that we have a government that is so committed to listening to the things that matter to its people.

Shortly after I received that email I got a message from CBC On The Go (a drive time talk radio program). My blog had reached their desk and they wanted to talk to me about what I had written and the response I had gotten. As much as it hurts, and as emotional and raw as this is for me, I could not turn down an opportunity to talk about my little girl to anyone willing to listen. I did the interview and it is supposed to be airing on CBC NL at around 5pm this evening. (more on this in a second)

Not 5 minutes after I hung up the phone with Maggie Gillis, I got a call from the head of vital statistics, the department responsible for birth and death certificates and the ones who would have to write the letter I need for Everlee. They had received my email from the Minister’s office this morning and were contacting me with some  good news.

  1. They have filled out all of the forms I need and are couriering the letter that I need to my door this afternoon. They were extraordinarily apologetic for everything I have had to go though, and the subsequent hoops that has caused me to have to jump through.
  2. They are directly dealing with the Department of Finance to ensure that my application for the parental child benefit goes through without having to cause me further grief. I won’t have to complete any more paper work, or go into their offices to go through the whole pain staking story all over again.
  3. Most importantly, as of this morning they have started reaching out to other jurisdictions to see what is done across Canada in recognizing stillborn babies in an official way and they are moving toward implementing a stillbirth certificate in Newfoundland and Labrador in the coming months.

All because of Everlee.

CBC called back shortly after to clarify some things in the interview, so I happily updated them with the information from Vital Statistics and the good news that they are moving towards a resolution for families like mine. Although the interviewer was happy to hear that, because of the change in the story they were unsure if they would run the interview now. Which is a shame. It was a horrible thing, that has had a positive outcome. I think hearing a story like that would give hope to families like mine, so I hope to hear them run the story this evening. If they do run it I will be updating and posting the audio here on the blog.

In the meantime, Thank you to Minister Nick McGrath for moving so quickly to do the right thing. But most of all, Thank you to all of you for following my daughter’s story and sharing in our journey. My life for the last four months has been agony. I struggle to get out of bed every single day, and my heart aches every single moment of every single day. There hasn’t been a day pass where I haven’t cried. And there hasn’t been a day where I haven’t wished I could take her place. But knowing that so many people out there care about my little girl, and care about me, is what keeps me going.

And with my little girl in my  heart, we’re going to change this. She will be recognized.

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” – Winnie the Pooh

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. 

 

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.

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.

The Sinkhole

Tomorrow is going to be a bad day. I’m bracing for that. Tomorrow is the day we were supposed to induce and I was going to get to meet my sweet little Everlee for the first time. Tomorrow was supposed to be the best day of my life. Now I know it will just be another bad day.

But today, I feel like today could have good moments. It’s a small step. We started our morning with Miranda, our psychologist. We gave her the URL for this blog, so if you’re reading this, hi Miranda. This is me, in my most raw form. The me you don’t often get to see in our sessions. I hope you still think I’m strong after you read this. Our session today was helpful and for the first time I left feeling a little more hopeful than when I arrived. After such a bad day on Friday I was beginning to lose hope that I was going to get to try to have another baby as soon as I wanted. Miranda listened and understood my point of view on why I want to try again sooner than 6 months from mow. Not monumentally sooner, just sooner than 6 months. She said she’s willing to support us in going to our doctor with that. That is honestly the best thing i have heard from anyone since this whole nightmare began. That’s the first thing that anyone has said that has started to ease my mind and my pain. That someone is willing to help me become a mommy, for the second time, without questioning my mental state – or my weight for that matter. Today has had good moments. I’m going to build on that and try to get out and have lunch with a friend today. Baby steps. One foot in front of the other.

After this weekend, I needed this morning. I buried myself away from the world this weekend. I can’t make a habit of that. It’s not good for me. My mind plays awfully funny tricks on me when Im given too much time alone. It’s not good for who I am. I am far from antisocial. I thrive on people and energy from a room. Being alone, being hidden, like I did this weekend weakens my soul. But I was broken and my mind was haunted with horrible thoughts. I’ve started to wonder if my baby girl felt any pain, did I hurt her in any way. I also started questioning my friendships, would my friends who are all blissfully happy right now even want me around bringing them down at the happiest points in their lives? But I have amazing friends, and I know if it was anyone of them going through what I’m going through, and the roles were reversed I would do whatever it takes to try and make them feel whole again. And I know now my friends want no different from me. I’m going to try and stop distancing myself from them. My world is a shattered place to be right now, but I need to my friends to be there when I’m able to pull myself from the rubble.

Saturday morning I woke up around 5am and read on twitter abut a man who had been swallowed by a sinkhole in his own home, from his own bed, in Florida that night. Strange as this may seem, I don’t think I’ve felt more connected to anybody than I did to him in that moment. His whole world had literally fallen out from underneath him and swallowed him whole, and figuratively, so had mine. Tragically, he hadn’t been able to claw his way out and dig his way up and find his shattered life, but I can. I have that hope. And although my life will never been the same, and that gaping hole will always be there right in the middle of my life, I have the hope that I can continue on and find a way to live with it. Everlee is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I can’t keep living like the only thing she ever did was die. Her death will always haunt me, but her life, and the life and love and hope that she brought to me and her daddy will always be her legacy.

Her death was a sudden sinkhole that swallowed me up, but it’s her memory and the light that was her life that will help me claw my way back to the surface.