Friday, June 17, 2011

Missing (Again)

My parents are hosting a summer party, a crabfeast (we live in the mid-atlantic, specifically in a state known for blue crabs!).  It's to be the last at their house, as they are hoping to sell it this summer and move away.  Their house is an awesome place to entertain and they love to have this crabfeast at least once a year.

Anyhow, just a few days ago, my mom sent out the invite for this year's crabfeast via email.  Here's what it said (names disguised on purpose).

God is great!
Life is good!

J & B were engaged June 2
K will finish her final course by the end of June to earn her Master's Degree

K will celebrate her 40th birthday. (July 6)
Little K will celebrate her 6th birthday. (July 11)
T will celebrate his 67th birthday. (July 23)
J will celebrate her 21st birthday. (August 8)

T & R celebrated their 45th anniversary. (June 11)
Mandy and Tim will celebrate their 11th anniversary. (August 18)

What are you celebrating this summer?

Set aside Saturday, July 16 to celebrate your milestones along with ours as we gather for a crab feast. 
4:00-ish to . . .. .

When you RSVP, please let us know the blessings YOU are celebrating this summer.

All in all, a pretty nice invite.  The theme of this year's party is (obviously) summer celebrations.  But, I can't help but notice the one celebration missing.  Brianna.  As always, she is missing.  Her birthday is August 9.  She would have been 1 year old, had she lived.  Intellectually, I know why my mom didn't include her on the invitation.  Because Brianna's dead.  And in the "normal" world, you don't mention dead babies, especially in the context of "celebrations".  But, it still hurts my heart that yet again, Brianna is excluded.  She's not on the list of our family's celebrations.  She's still that silent, shadow baby that no one mentions.  And, as always, it just plain sucks.

Tim and I will attend the party.  I'm getting much better at being able to survive social outings.  I even find that I can enjoy them, most of the time.  But, it's different now.  I'm only about 90% present anymore.  There's always a tiny part of me that isn't there.  The tiny part that is missing Brianna, wishing life had taken a different path.  It's hard to put into words.  I guess that I will forever live my life looking through the lenses of grief.  Always seeing the shadow girl who should be there but isn't.  It's just one of those fundamental changes that occurred when my baby died.  It's a shift in my world, like the Earth tilted ever-so-slightly on it's axis on August 9, 2010 and I'm the only one who can perceive it.

We'll go to the party, we'll socialize, we'll eat crabs and shrimp and corn-on-the-cob.  I'll have a good time, but at the same time know, it could have been sooo much better had there been a little, dark-and-curly-haired baby there with us.  Secretly, I'll probably be wishing that someone, anyone, will ask me about her, will use her name, will want to talk about her.  But, I won't actually bring her into the conversation.  Mostly, because I don't want to make anyone uncomfortable but also because I don't want to get the looks of pity, the change in tone in the voices of others, the awkward silences because they just do not know how to react.  But, if someone does ask, I will talk about my baby girl.  I will let them know that I miss her, but I am not ashamed of her.  That I am proud I was her mom, if only for a short time.  And I will thank them for remembering her.  I will celebrate her in my own way at this "summer celebrations" party.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Children's Garden Spring Clean

I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, but Brianna is buried in an area of the cemetery that is reserved for the internment of babies.  Years ago, a fund-raiser was done by a lovely couple to raise enough money to buy up 50 adjacent plots in the cemetery to be turned into what is now known as the Children's Garden II.  Over $300,000 was raised and the plots were purchased on the edge of the cemetery, near to the woods.  Each one of these "normal" sized plots was subdivided into 4 "baby" sized plots, so eventually, there will be around 200 babies buried here (there actually will probably be a few more because some of the plots already have twins buried together).  Brianna was buried in the 67th plot.  The plots are donated, free-of-charge to families like us, families whose babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth.  Most of the babies buried in the Children's Garden II were delivered at the same hospital where Brianna was stillborn and some of their parents also go to the monthly support group at the hospital that Tim and I have attended since Brianna's death.

(Random thought - I like to imagine that the other babies from the Children's Garden are Brianna's friends in Heaven.  I like to think that some of the "older" babies were there to greet Brianna, give her the tour, explain that her Mommy and Daddy love her very much but couldn't be with her yet.  I also like to imagine that Brianna has also helped to greet the "newer" babies and helped them too.)

Anyhow, last night, Tim and I joined some of the other babylost families at the Children's Garden for a spring clean up.  After a week of unbearable heat and humidity here in the mid-Atlantic, yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day, with temperatures in the upper 70s and no humidity at all (part of me wonders if the beautiful weather was a gift from our babies).  We planted flowers, trimmed the hedges, cut the grass, and cleaned the headstones.  As I see it, this is our way of taking care of Brianna.  It's a poor substitute for the care we'd rather be giving her.  But, it's all we have.  It's one of the only ways we have to show the world just how much we love her, how much she means to us.

We also had a chance to socialize with the other parents and generally had a good time.  As a lot of you in deadbaby blogland know, it's nice to be with others who get it.  They make me feel like I belong, especially since lately, I don't feel like I belong with all the "normal" people.  Even though I never wanted to be in this "club", I am glad that there is a group of others that have accepted me as I am right now in my grief.  I don't have to worry about what I say making them uncomfortable, because they have the same feelings.  I can mention Brianna, say her name out loud and not get the "looks", the pity, the awkward silences that I get in "normal" company.  I can relax and just be the "new" me.

At the end of the evening, it was nice to look around and see the transformation of the Children's Garden.  It looks well cared for and pretty.  I hope that Brianna and all the other babies can see it and realize it was accomplished out of the love that all of their parents have for them.  I hope it made them smile.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

10 Months

Dear Brianna,

Ten months.  Today you would be ten months old.  I don't know what to say about it.  I feel like I'm just repeating myself every month.  I wish you were here.  I wish you hadn't died.  I'm sorry I couldn't keep you safe.  I love you more than ever.

Now that it's getting hot outside, more and more memories of last year are flooding in.  Driving to work, pregnant with you, stopping at McDonald's for a sausage McMuffin for breakfast and orange juice.  Keeping you a secret from my coworkers until I thought it was "safe".  Making sure to have tons of snacks at my desk to keep the nausea at bay.  All these memories make me smile, and at the same time, make me want to cry because I miss you so much.

Bree, I will always treasure the memories of you.  I will always miss you and love you.

Happy Birthday, baby girl.

Love always,

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Right Where I Am: 9 Months, 3 Weeks

Angie of still life with circles has created a project, asking those of us in the babylost community to write a post about where we right now are in our grief journey.  It's a great idea and I'm proud to participate.

9 months, 3 weeks

I started this post a few days ago when I was doing "ok".  I had it halfway composed, giving a brief history of how the first days, weeks, months felt as a way of comparing that to where I am right now.  Then, I slid down the slippery slope of grief, back to a place of "not ok".

That's where I am right now, in the land of "not ok".  Tears, sadness, hurt.  I was doing better a few days ago, damn it.  I was able to look back and see how far I've come.  I was thinking "it's nice to go days, even a week or two without crying".  Then, BAM, here come the tears, the tightness in the throat, the weight in the chest.  The unbelievable longing for Brianna.  For her to be here with me, in my aching arms, to snuggle, to kiss.  God, how I miss her.

I know what triggered the slide down this time.  But knowing that doesn't make it hurt any less.  That's how the grief goes these days.  I'm more aware of the triggers.  I can step outside of it and analyze it and figure it out.  But, at it's core, it still hurts.  It always will.  But at almost 10 months, I also know that the "down" days won't last forever.  I know there will be "up" days.  I also know the "up" days can't be forced.  Happiness, laughter, smiles will return, but in their own time.  And there will still be tears and pain and heartache.  Here, in this new "after" life, I've learned that  happiness and sorrow, laughter and tears, smiles and heartache can co-exist.  You can have all at the same time.  Life is now a constant contradiction because Brianna will always be both present and absent from my life.

The other day, while I was in the shower, I was giving this post a lot of thought.  I had just read Angie's post and was contemplating just where I was in my grief and my life so that I could contribute to this project.  It just felt so important to put it out there, for others who will come behind me and maybe find some similarities in their journey when they get to 9 months, 3 weeks.  To know they are not alone.  As I typically do on a Saturday, while I was showering, I had music on in the background.  Right as I was contemplating this post, "Ordinary World" by Duran Duran came on and I caught the lyrics.  Even though the song is about a lost love between adults, all I heard was the lost love.  As someone put it on a blog I frequent (sorry, I can't remember just which one), every love song is now about my baby.  The chorus to "Ordinary World" summarizes how I feel lately.

"But I won't cry for yesterday
There's an ordinary world
Somewhere I have to find
And as I try to make my way
To the ordinary world
I will learn to survive"

I know that somewhere out there is my new ordinary world and I will keep searching for it.  And on my way, I will find a way to survive.  And I hope that one day, I'll find that I'm doing more than surviving.  I hope to one day look around and realize that I'm thriving.  But, today, right where I am is still a mixture of emotions, good and bad.  It's messy.  It's a lot better than it was months ago.  But, it still hurts.  I still miss her.  I still want her here with me.

Summer Vacation Planning

Ever since I was a little girl, I have always taken a vacation in the summer.  Both of my parents used to be teachers, so summer was the only time we could vacation.  Every year, a new adventure would await...trips to Florida, trips to the ocean, trips up and down the east coast.  Looking back, I realize just how blessed I was to have all these vacations with my family.

Last year, we took our "summer" vacation a little bit early.  We did a road trip across the U.S.A. at the end of April with good friends of ours.  About a month or so before we left, we found out I was pregnant, so we thought "ok, must make this trip the best ever since we won't have the freedom next year to do this since there will be a baby".  So, we did.  We had a blast.  It was long days in the car, but it was fun.  We saw so much of this wonderful country, from the tree covered Appalachian mountains, to the grass and farmlands of the midwest, to the beautiful vastness of the desert.  It truly was a trip to remember.

After that trip, we settled into a normal routine of work and home, saving up vacation days for the fall "when we'd need them for the baby".  Then all hell broke loose in mid-June and I was put on home bedrest followed by hospital bedrest in July.  Then Brianna (and I) got sick, Brianna was delivered early and then died.  Not at all a way to spend a summer "vacation".

So, now it's almost summer again.  And we're starting to plan our summer vacation.  I desperately want to get away, to have a week or so somewhere other than here, to take a break from my job as well as try to take a break from this grief.  Because, this grieving thing is hard work and damn it, I deserve a break.  I want to be able to enjoy a new place.  I want to get lost in a new experience and maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to relax a bit.  Of course Brianna will be with me, she always is.  But maybe it won't be so damn hard for that one week if there's a new physical perspective.  Maybe I'll enjoy myself and have fun, maybe I'll smile more, maybe I'll laugh more.  Maybe I'll find a bit of the "before" me, buried somewhere deep down.  I just want to be able to take a deep breath and just be.  Maybe the lump in my throat will shrink some and I won't be on the verge of tears every day.

Tim and I have an awesome opportunity to go to Aruba with some friends.  But, we're finding it hard to "pull the trigger" and book the flight.  Beyond the exorbitant cost of the airfare, we just don't seem to be able to definitively say "yes, this is what we should do".  Tim says that he just can't envision us on this trip.  So, last night, we started talking about other ideas.  Maybe San Francisco?  How about New England?  A cruise?  They all cost a lot.  But, I think there's something more holding me back.  Because as much as I crave a summer vacation, I can't help but think "we shouldn't be able to do this".  We shouldn't be able to spend this kind of money, because we should have an almost 10 month old baby girl here with us.  We should be paying for daycare and diapers and baby food.

Other friends of ours are going to the Outer Banks this summer.  We went with them 3 summers ago, before we were even trying to get pregnant.  It was a great time.  Those same friends are going back to the Outer Banks this summer.  That is the trip we should be planning.  We should be trying to scrape together the money for the rental house.  We should be buying baby girl swim suits and summer outfits.  We should be looking forward to seeing Brianna at the beach with our friend's baby boy and the older pre-schoolers.  But, those plans aren't ours to make.  Brianna's dead and won't be enjoying her first trip to the beach this summer.  And because it would be too painful for me, Tim and I aren't going either.  I can't bring myself to go and see all the kids playing and be constantly noticing the missing baby girl.  It would hurt too much.  And if others didn't notice her missing, it would hurt that much more.  And why would they notice?  She's not their baby, they aren't constantly missing her like I am.

What I really want is my baby back.  I want her with a longing bone deep.  Since that's impossible in this life, I'm going to settle for a good summer vacation.  I need a break from the stress of my job and the hard work of grieving.  I want a vacation from this life and for one week to just be free of it all.  I just need to make the decision on where to go and just do it without over-analyzing it.  So, any suggestions?  Where should we go to have a relaxing time?