Envy

I’ve been struggling to write here since finding out I am pregnant. Not because I have a lack of thoughts or feelings, but because I always saw this as Everlee’s sacred space. I have been feeling that writing here about being pregnant was somehow me moving on and leaving her behind. However, after much consideration I have realized that Everlee becoming a big sister is every bit as much about her as it is about the baby growing in my tummy.  No matter how many other children I go on to have, I am, and always will be Everlee’s mom. 

I am going to try my hardest to spend some of my very long days writing here about my experience with pregnancy after stillbirth. 

I’ve been sentenced to bed rest since 18 weeks. I am now 23. There is nothing pressing wrong, it’s more of a preventative measure to protect me from slowly rising blood pressure, and my own anxiety. I have a nurse that calls me every day, and visits every 3 days. They do all of he normal pre-natal visit sort of things – urine dip, blood pressure check, fetal heart rate. Can I tell you how reassuring it is that I get to hear that steady clack-clack-clack of the heartbeat every few days? Still nerve wracking every time, but it gives me some peace. I’m also seeing my OBGYN once a week, and getting bi-weekly ultrasounds/biophysicals. As nervous as I am about everything, I honestly couldn’t be more grateful for the world class health care I am getting. (and in reading some of my american friends‘ blogs, may I also say how thankful I am for the Canadian health care system?) After 5 weeks of bed rest – and almost 3 months to go I’m at a oint now whwere I can’t tell you what the weather has been like, or how much gas costs right now, but I can tell you who was arrested in last night’s episode of cops, and how many hours it is until my next doctors appointment. 

 It has been a long 5 weeks, but I have been able to fill my days and occupy my time. I have some wonderful people who have helped me in doing that. To all of those who taken the time to visit me (sometimes with puppies!!), call, text, facebook, tweet.. thank you! You’ve helped the days pass more quickly, and gave me the strength I need some days to get through and mark another x on the calendar. You’re amazing. 

But what happens when the fear creeps in? What happens when you have so much joy, you become afraid you’re not supposed to grieve anymore? Quite frankly the journey is wearing me out. The ups and downs, twists and turns and then it all stops and spins again. This portion of the journey to becoming a mom of two seems to just spiral out of control sometimes – all while rarely leaving my couch. Everyone is having first birthdays that I just sit on the outskirts of – never forgetting the first birthday we never got to have. I am trying so hard to basque in the brightness and the joy of this pregnancy, but sometimes the fear just takes over, and 5 minutes without a kick in the belly makes me want to run screaming to the case room just to check. 

The bed rest is catching up to me. I can’t go to meetings, or out with friends. I have entirely too much time on my hands. You would think I would write more, but I have built walls around this pregnancy. I’m so focused on getting this baby here safely, I have had to block out some of my grieving. But then, the guilt of realizing I’m not grieving as much seems to make the pain that much more intense when I let my guard own. But then I have to box it up and put it away again because I know I have to focus on this pregnancy and this baby. 

It’s a vicious cycle that is leaving me breathless and a little stir crazy. This is part of a double sided journey. And it makes me envious of all of those other women I know that are blissfully pregnant, and unaware of all of the horrors that I know. How I long for those days of innocence when I didn’t feel like I was jinxing something to want to hang a picture on the nursery wall or post a picture of my growing belly for all to see on facebook.  I hope this pregnant lasts at least 13 more weeks, but at the same time I hope they go by as quickly as possible and that I can embrace both of my children; this baby in my arms and Everlee in my heart. 

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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.

 

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?

Being Everlee’s Mom

A thousand times in the last three weeks I have wanted so badly to sit down and type out my feelings. I have had house guests for the last three weeks, and although it was nice to have people around me (as I’ve been spending an increasing amount of time alone whenever I can) I’ve felt myself hiding behind a mask to make everyone more comfortable around me, pushing everything into a bitter little ball inside of me, and using all of my force to keep that little nuclear bomb of emotion safe and hidden. It has been incredibly emotionally exhausting. So for the last few days that I’ve been home alone, I have essentially hidden myself away. I’ve barely been on the computer and I have spent countless hours just sitting in my backyard staring at the rose bush I have planted for Everlee. 

 

Somedays, I feel like I am making strides forward. It’s not as hard to get out of bed, I don’t have to remind myself every 28 seconds not to cry, and I can go out into the world with minimal anxiety. Then there are the majority of my days, where I lie awake most of the nights in my bed and still can’t manage to force myself out of bed without having several emotional breakdowns. I spend at least an hour hyping myself up to leave the house. I hate when I see people I know. I’m sick. But not the kind of sick that keeps you bed ridden and contagious, but the kind of sick that tangles up your mind and fogs your logic and self control. On the outside, sometimes I’m sure I look perfectly fine with my mechanical smile and makeup on. but on the inside I’m all cobwebs and dust. And no matter how hard I try to get myself out of the house, and how good I may  look to those around me, every motion I go through in the run of a day isn’t without pain and suffering. 

 

For the majority of my career I have worked in student affairs at the post secondary level, where mental illness and people in crisis are almost an every day conversation. I really thought I understood what mental illness was before. I honestly had no idea. I didn’t know to the extent that a person could be sick, while remaining perfectly healthy. 

 

I ran into one of my coworkers from the University where I worked before my current role. It was the first time I had seen her since shortly before I went on maternity leave. We had worked very closely together for two years and shared the same office space in that time, so we know each other quite well. In our discussion she pointed out to me that I shouldn’t feel guilty for being away from work, and taking time to heal myself right now. I have always been the kind of person who was willing (and quite often did) stay into the wee hours of the morning to make sure my students received the very best care. And now, I had to be willing to do the very same thing for myself. I don’t have a cough, or a cold, or even a bad back or high blood pressure. My sickness, and my problem isn’t something that can be seen on an X-ray, or in a blood test. And to a lot of people, they’re probably wondering what could possibly be wrong because I don’t LOOK sick. 

 

My awesome group of doctors and psychologists have diagnosed me with reactive depression, generalized anxiety, mild agoraphobia and post traumatic stress. I am a strong person. I always have been. Having Everlee hasn’t changed that. Being sick doesn’t mean I am not strong, it just means I am so very tired from having to be so strong for far too long. As I posted on Facebook a couple of nights ago “You never know how strong you can be, until being strong is the only choice you have”. I am so lucky I have an amazing group of people that I work with that understand what mental illness means, and how much I need this time to heal right now. I am no good to my students, if I am no good to myself. 

 

As an update, I have now gone through mostly all of the tests I need to have to start the fertility treatments we need to make Everlee a big sister. I now only have to wait to see the Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) specialist. Unfortunately, because I am not already pregnant, and therefore not seen as high priority, I have a longer wait list to face to see her. There are only two MFMs in the health board, so my appointment isn’t until January 20th. That being said, my fertility doctor has gotten me onto a waiting list and hopefully I’ll be able to see her much sooner. I have made it known I can be there in 5 minutes if they need me to be. 

 

It’s extraordinarily hard for me to feel like I am making any forward movement when I am teetering on this edge of uncertainty in terms on my fertility. I have said for a very long time, I won’t feel like I am moving forward until the fertility treatments start, and I still feel that way. I was born to be a mommy. And I am. I am Everlee’s mommy, which is more challenging than I had ever foreseen motherhood to be. I love her more and more every day, even if she isn’t here to feel that love herself. I have so much love to give my baby, so I look forward, and long for the day when I have a child in my arms, to be a little brother or sister to the baby I will always have in my heart.

Five Months.

It’s peculiar, people often ask me why I’ve chosen to write about Everlee, our family and my feelings on being a childless first time mother. It constantly amazes and humbles me when I see people and they make reference to reading my blog. Neighbours, friends, family and colleagues, but most surprising to me, dozens of other moms that have found themselves in this very lonely and sad club that we never wanted to be a part of. I have received emails from all over the world, and have found support online where there has been a void in my every day life. In the very early days it was simply to find my lost voice. To find a way to express those most deep raw emotions that could only bubble on the surface of my consciousness.

In the last 5 months this blog has been viewed by over 50000 people, and from what I can gather, has about 500 regular readers who read every entry. At the beginning, I didn’t care if anyone ever read what I wrote, but now I see that this space has become so much more to me than a place to let my words spill from my soul.

To a lot of people, Everlee was only ever a bump on my belly. A fun little (slash not so little) roundness that I carried around and made me waddle. She was something that made my tummy go thump and made me love chicken wings and flakies. But in writing this blog, I have been able to give people a glimpse into the person she was, and could have been. She was spirited, and active and she was loved more deeply than I ever thought I was capable of loving. She made me happier than I had ever been in my entire life in her short time with us. And losing her will always be the most painful thing I have ever had to endure. But having her, even for the shortest amount of time that she was with us, was the happiest I have ever been.

And that’s why I continue to write. So we never forget a beautiful little girl who brought an unimaginable amount of joy for a much too short time.

Happy 5 month birthday, baby girl.

A Little Help From My Friends

Darcy and I often joke about my twice weekly visits to the psychologist. We’ve dealt with just about every situation in our lives using humour. It’s how we cope, and this isn’t very different in that respect. Often, after our appointments together we’ll look at each other and say “still crazy? yep.” and chuckle and move on to face whatever that day has to hold. On the outside, we put on our bravest faces. On the inside, usually we’re both barely held together by the seams. 

“How the hell do you think I am?”

How many times have I wanted to scream that at anyone who cares to ask how I’m doing?  People wouldn’t ever expect me to react that way. They’d know I was crazy. Alternatively, how many times have I wanted to meet their eyes, all calm, cool, and collected, and say that? Just say it– no forced smile, no nothing. How many times? I’ve lost count. And how many times have I actually said it? None. But none of us are any good at this. Sometimes people don’t know HOW to ask how I’m doing. And sometimes, I really don’t know how to answer. 

Why is that, you think? 

I think part of my need to appear sane isn’t about me at all. It’s not about my pride being hurt if I’m pitied; looked at like a sad puppy in the pound at the SPCA. It’s not about being patronized with idiotic advice on how to make things all better. I think some part of this is about the need to have Everlee seen as profoundly cherished, and not just some event that has driven me to the brink of insanity. I hold it together so that when I choose to talk about her, I am not dismissed. I think one of the things I want most is for others to understand my grief, just a little bit. It’s not an overreaction. It’s a deep love for my child who has died, and that warrants the most hurtful and deep sort of grief there is. It’s messy. and hard. But it’s far from an overreaction. And that’s hard for others to see sometimes when they haven’t been here. I know that I am slowly finding my footing in this new world I’ve found myself in but it is, by far, that hardest thing I have ever done (and will ever have to do, one would hope) in my life. 

I have so many wonderful people in my life who regularly check in on me. I still don’t spend much time with people. I find it so difficult. It gives me anxiety to the point where I break into sweats and have to actively think about how to breathe. It’s getting easier than before, no doubt, but it’s still a challenge. That’s why I am so thankful for things like Facebook that allow me to still maintain those relationships that are so important to me (and, it seems, meet people who have families like mine).

“Hi Rhonda, I just wanted you to know that I am thinking of you, Darcy and Everlee today. Love you xo”

So simple. So easy. That very tiny bit of love, sent regularly by keyboard, lets me know that my friends care,even if they don’t completely understand. It soothes my beastly bitterness at how the world slights this type of loss. Facebook, of all things, has saved some real friendships, by helping me let people off the hook for not being better at this.

No part of this has been easy, and more than occasionally I have been teetering on the brink of losing it. However, there is not a doubt in my mind that it is that love from the amazing people in my life that has hauled me back from the depths of grief stricken hell. Am I insane? No. Do I often feel like I might be? Absolutely. But one thing is for certain, and that is that without my friends, and my family and my Darcy I wouldn’t be able to put on that brave face and keep my seams from bursting apart with all of the pain inside. 

 

It only hurts when I breathe

I think that I am starting to accept that I will be sad forever.  It is my destiny to grieve.  I mean shouldn’t I?  I have a child who has died.  Should I not be sad until the day that I die?  And it is just starting to dawn on me,  I should be sad.  I should be sad every moment of every day.  How peculiar would it be if I wasn’t sad for my Everlee?  How cold and heartless would I be?  Instead of worrying that I’m still sad, I should worry that some day I might not be sad…as much as I desperately want the sadness to go away, the sadness means that she was real, and that she mattered. 

I know that at some point I have to allow myself to be happy, or at least that’s what my psychologist tells me. But I’m not there yet, and I’m not sure I ever will be. I have cried every day and I don’t know if the tears will ever stop. 

So often I go around feeling like I am alone in my misery, with Darcy. I don’t know many people (and I know nobody my own age) who has gone through this kind of tragedy. I don’t often get to see people on the other side of this Everest of pain. It seems sometimes that no one remembers that I was pregnant, and that there was a living being here on this earth that looked just like me and Darcy.

People forget that every day, every minute, I pine for that tiny soul, my sweet Everlee.

People forget that shoving their big bellies in my face, or their newborns reminds me of how broken and lost I really am and what I’ve lost, and what I may never have again.

Its human nature to forget, maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t know.

Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.

I can’t begrudge them (even if secretly, occasionally, I want to poke them in their perfect world).  

And just when I thought that every last soul on this earth (except Darcy) had forgotten that I had a precious baby once too, someone comes along with a nudge to tell me they remember.

Thank you Cathy, for giving me what many others could not.

Happy Father’s Day. Happy Birthday.

Daddy and Everlee

Daddy holding his daughter for the first time.

Most of the time, I intentionally don’t write much about Darcy here. The reason for that being that I don’t want to assume to put words in his mouth, or feelings in his head. If anything in this journey,  I’ve learned that grief and how you cope with it is a very personal thing. No two people grieve the same way. And although Darcy and I are on the same wavelength most of the time, I’m not going to assume to know how he feels well enough to write about it here. That is a mutual respect we have for one another. That is one of the reasons why our partnership works so well, we rarely make assumptions.

Today is a big day in Darcy’s life. Today is his 35th birthday. A milestone of sorts. But today is also his first Father’s Day. Which makes the day taste bitter. Darcy has been apprehensive (to put it mildly) leading up to today. He’s requested multiple times if he could just sleep through it. And as hard as it may be, I think it’s necessary to celebrate the father he was to Everlee and continues to be.

One of those things that haunts me, and I’ve mentioned it before, is that Darcy once said the only thing he ever got to do for our daughter was to carry her little coffin to her grave. And it pains me to think that’s all he thinks he has done.

Darcy, every little thing you did for me while I was pregnant – whether it be going to the store at 7am on a saturday morning because I just *HAD* to have milk,  The emergency chicken wing runs, accompanying me to all of those doctors appointments, or taking charge of the house and making sure things were done while I was on bed rest – they were for her. They were all for Everlee. Our daughter is the luckiest little girl to have a daddy who was willing to sacrifice so much to make her safe and happy. You may have only held her in your arms for a few moments, but you held her in your heart from the very moment we knew she existed.

So I want to take this entry to wish my husband, my partner and my best friend the happiest of birthdays, and the best Father’s Day we can possibly have. You have been my rock through all of this, and since I’ve known you. And you are the best father there is. Because you had such a great role model in your own father, and in your father-in-law. I look forward to celebrating 100 more birthdays with you, and 100 more Father’s Days. I love you. And so does Everlee.

Still Loved.

It seems every time I open my facebook lately I’m faced with pictures of pregnancy and newborns. I’ve gotten beyond trying to block them from my newsfeed. There’s too many. They hurt. If someone had asked me last summer how I would cope if my baby died I would have said “I wouldn’t”.

I’m not unhappy for anyone else. 

I’m just jealous that it’s not me. 

I love my pictures of Everlee. I love looking at her little lips, and her cabbage patch nose. I love looking at her little fingers. Her big eyes. And it hurts me that I can’t put those on facebook. It hurts that I don’t have them hung on my wall. I won’t be able to put them on my desk at work. It hurts that I have to have her footprints as my profile picture, and not her sweet little face. I’m not ashamed of her. I would show her to the whole world if I could.

But some people can’t handle it. Sometimes just telling people about her leaves me feeling like I’ve sucker punched them. Dead babies make people sad and uncomfortable. Stillbirth is still such a taboo. I accept that, and I’m ok with it. It’s just one more of those “mommy” experiences I don’t get to have with her. 

I’ve not just lost a baby: I’ve lost a toddler, a school girl, a teenager and an adult daughter. A whole potential life has gone. The only tangible reminders I have left are pictures, as well as her footprints and hospital bracelet. I don’t even have a birth certificate.  These are – and always will be – my most treasured possessions.

If someone had asked me last summer how I would cope if my baby died I would have been wrong. Even now I can’t believe I’m still standing after giving birth to death.