Choosing Happiness

I’ve spent a lot of time punishing myself.  When your baby dies it’s hard to see beyond the fact that you feel like a failure as a parent, and a human being.  As a mother, my only job was to keep my baby safe and alive. And I failed. Was it my fault? No. I know that. But the overwhelming sense of guilt sometimes causes me to punish myself for feeling anything but incredible sadness.

It’s hard for anyone who hasn’t walked in my shoes to imagine. The only  way I can possibly draw some parallel for those with living children is to imagine a time something has happened to your child – a bumped head or a scarped knee- because you maybe turned your back for a second. Imagine that guilt. Imagine how you questioned in that instant “if only I hadn’t turned my back for a second?”. Imagine that times about eight hundred million. I will always question what I could have done differently to save her, and I will always feel guilty that I am the one that lived while she was the one that died. It’s a mother’s guilt.

I’ve been trying very hard for the last little while to wake up and choose to be happy that day. Happiness has to be a choice for me.  I don’t just wake up feeling that way. I wake up every day with a feeling of emptiness, and that looming sense that something is missing. I honestly believe that every day for the rest of my life will have that hole in it. I will always wake up feeling sad and confused and empty Therefore, I have to make the conscious choice that despite everything that is missing, it’s still OK to feel happiness.  I deserve to be happy.  Worrying and punishing myself will never change the outcome of what has happened.  I have to start treating the world better than it has treated me, or I will never have a good day again.

These last two months I feel like I have turned a corner on my grief.

I still have awful days. I didn’t anticipate how hard Halloween would be. It makes me fear Christmas. I sat on my couch, home alone on Halloween night, begging to the universe not to send any more trick-or-treaters to my door. I cried my heart out over a “my first Halloween” sleeper that I had bought last year. I hugged it to my chest and cried. I cried because I should have been out with Everlee in her octopus costume. I cried for all of my lost dreams.

But those days are becoming farther between. I’m choosing every day to find some happiness, and to feel the love that I am so lucky to have found in my life.  I can’t believe that when things change I will be happy, instead now I am trying to believe that when I am happy things will change. I have found a place where I accept that I can be happy, and be still be sad and be grieving at the same time.  I don’t need to feel guilty when I laugh, or when I love. It’s not betraying my daughter to find happiness in my life.

Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day. 

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Ten Years Later – Class of 2003

I’ve been slacking on writing here lately. It was never my intention to let this slip. it hasn’t been for a lack of thoughts or feelings. My mind races every second of the day and night. But a lot of those thoughts have become redundant. reliving every day as if I’m in the movie groundhog day. Reliving the same painful day over and over. Doing whatever I can to change it, only to wake up and face the same reality once again. Nothing I can ever do will bring Everlee back. Ever. 

For the last few weeks I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the past, and the passage of time in general. Tomorrow night is my 10 year high school reunion. I’ve been converting our prom video to DVD to be played during the evening, and in watching the video I have gained a new appreciation for a lot of things. Looking at the 17 year old version of myself with the whole world and whole future in front of me is kind of spooky when viewed through the lens that is my life right now. 

It’s hard not to be hopelessly optimistic around prom time. The most significant chapter of your life thus far is coming to a close. What has been a routine for 13 years is no more, and there is a degree of uncertainty and excitement about the future. With a head full of dreams and a heart full of bravery you’re set to march out into the big wide world and become what everyone has always described merely as your potential. 

When I left St. Kevin’s ten years ago I had so many dreams. Like most girls, I thought I was going to marry my high school boyfriend. We has been together 2 years at that point – a lifetime in teenaged years. I was going to go to University. I was going to be a geologist (HA!). I was going to make a mark on the university the way I had made a mark on high school – by being involved and by being a big fish in the sea of students. And most important to me, as it always was, I was going to have a family. I wanted 7 kids. 

But, as no one prepares you for in valedictory speeches, life throws you curveballs. Plans change. Friends change. Love changes. And ten years later you’re only a shadow of what you thought you would be. 

Shortly after my first year of University I left my high school boyfriend. I realized that you had to be good at Math to be a geologist. And I realized that being a big fish in a big sea took A LOT of time. (It would eventually become the only thing I even came close to accomplishing on my list of goals for my undergraduate life.)

After first year I took a semester off, almost moved to BC and stayed because I fell in love (for what I now realize was the first time). He broke my heart. I went back to school.  I met my husband-to-be. I got a BA. I got a job. I got married. I got a masters degree. I got pregnant. And then came Everlee. The best and worst thing to ever happen to be rolled up into a sweet 5lbs 1oz package of sleeping perfection.

 My life in summary in the last 10 years. 

It’s true what John Lennon wrote. Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. The days drag on, but the months and the years fly by. And before you know it you’re sitting here looking at yourself, full of hope, piss and vinegar wondering where that passion for life went. I don’t have less dreams but life has seemingly stood still and zoomed past all at the same time. And I’m sitting here, missing my baby girl more with every passing second waiting for life to show me what I’m supposed to do next. 

Everyone endures tragedy. I may be the only one of our 90-odd classmates that has lost her child (and subsequently her heart and soul). But others have endured their own battles. Won and lost their own wars. Life has thrown them curveballs. Their Plans have changed. But, at the core, are we all still fundamentally the same? Do we still look toward the future with dreams in our heads and bravery in our hearts. 

 I do. I have to. What other choice do I have?

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

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.