Thursday, December 24, 2009
In Christmas 2007, Cynthia was just going into her third trimester with Cara, and carrying her so beautifully. It was a really nice Christmas together. And while we enjoyed that Christmas together, we spent most of our time dreaming about next year's Christmas and what it would be like to share all our traditions with Cara. I can still here all the "next year with Cara's" when I think back to that Christmas. One special memory for me was the Christmas Eve service. As some of you might know, our church has its Christmas Eve service outside. This year, we were out in the middle of a field, next to a few farm animals and a tiny manger. I was up in front of the congregation playing guitar for the service while Cynthia with Cara in her belly was out in the crowd. I know it wouldn't seem like a special memory for everyone, but for me, playing guitar at such a beautiful service with Cynthia and Cara there meant a lot. It was one of those memories of sharing music and the miracle of Christmas with Cara that I'll never forget.
Last Christmas, we were pretty much in a completely opposite place. Instead of experiencing joy, hope and peace through the holidays we were finding deep despair. Just a few months ago we had lost hope from the miscarriage, and at the time we were hoping that we'd get pregnant very soon. The one bright spot of the season came through our trip to the mountains. We knew we had to do something different to take care of ourselves over the holidays and getting away for a couple days to the mountains was the perfect fit.
This Christmas again seems almost like a complete reversal. With Molly here, there is more hope and joy in our lives than there's been since our pregnancy with Cara. As we've written before, Molly is a gift to our family, and in a way a gift from Cara, and with her here there is a physical, tangible sign of life and hope in our family again. But this Christmas season isn't all roses. Very often as we've put up the tree or gone to Grandma's house for cookie day we've grieved Cara's physical absence from those traditions. It's heartbreaking to think that Cara should be here, and if she was she'd be a beautiful little one and a half year old getting into all kinds of trouble.
Tonight, we'll gather with our church again outside in a barn. It will be quiet, dark and cold. I'll be up there again playing guitar, thinking about Cara and looking out into the congregation for my beautiful wife and daughter.
We miss you so much, Cara. We wish you could physically be here. You would be a beautiful, dark-haired little toddler by now and it would be so fun if you were here. Help us feel you close to us this Christmas season. You are our angel. We love you always.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
True, but does every parent convince themselves that their child is dead? Does every parent look across the room at someone else holding their baby and believe the child isn't breathing? Or look in the bassinet and only see an ashen-colored baby when really there are rosy cheeks?
I recently told Tim about these experiences. It was a few short days later that he saw one play out. I was holding Molly in public when I felt I couldn't hear her soft breathing in my ear. I tried moving her and she felt limp. (Of course she was, she was completely asleep.) But nearly paralyzing fear played out for me as I tried to rouse her, to see some movement of life.
Tim looked at me and said, "It just happened, didn't it?" In the car on the way home, I asked what he saw. He said it was evident I was scared and fearful.
I guess it's post traumatic stress. I suppose it comes with the territory. I just wish it didn't have to be my reality.
Monday, December 7, 2009
As we have taken Molly to various holiday parties and introduced her to friends and family for the first time, Cara is drawn to my mind more and more. As people ooh and aah over Molly I find myself wanting to talk about Cara. Do they wonder what she looked like? Yes, Molly looks exactly like me, but I long to share how Cara was clearly her father's with Tim's dark, silky hair and distinctive nose.
When they tell me how perfect Molly is, I wonder to myself if they think Cara was any less. It was not her fault she died, I long to tell them. It was me, my body failed her.
I even struggle with my own inner battle as I deliver lines to Molly like, "You are the most beautiful baby in the world." She is, but her sister was too. I end up feeling guilty as though I have forgotten Cara's beauty, because I am not face to face with it every day.
The reality is we still continue to learn how to navigate this unexpected life of losing a child. We lived through many firsts in the last year and a half but there are still many more to come.
How do you sign your Christmas card? At first it was just our last name, but then we opted for our three names with Cara's absent. We hope the nature of the card we chose draws to mind the one who is missing.
Does Santa only come for the living children? Yes, but we have chosen to donate to First Candle in Cara's memory the same amount of money we spend on Molly.
As these new life scenarios play out, we pray we are being faithful to both our daughters and our little family of four.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Music is a crucial part of our lives, so we were intentional about what albums we listened to as the holiday swirled around us. Yo-Yo Ma offered a sweet gift to our battered souls with his Songs of Joy & Peace album.
There was one song, Here Comes the Sun, that resonated deep within my soul. I longed to fast forward to this year, to have a Little Darling to sing this song to. I wanted out of the proverbial winter we were living in. I drove around town, I sat in my kitchen working, I listened and I cried.
The moment I dreamed of is finally here. I have my Little Darling. I can rock her and sing to her about the sun coming on these cold winter days, but the tears don't come like they used to. There is far too much joy in her life. The tears that were once of indescribable pain and longing are now full of thanks and praise to the Giver of Life.
Here Comes the Sun
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it's all right
Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it's all right
Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it's all right
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it's all right
It's all right
To those longing for a Little Darling, I pray this time next year you too can join our song.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I have heard other parents do it. "I wouldn't have had this child." And true I wouldn't. But it doesn't lead me towards acceptance of Cara's death. It doesn't erase that painful year and a half while we waited for this glimmer of hope to be born into our lives. Those were dark, dark days as we struggled with grieving our daughter, infertility as we tried to conceive our second and fear as the days of an anxious pregnancy unfolded. Still I want to justify my daughter's death as I have heard others do in the past, and I can't.
It's hard losing your first. There are so many hopes and dreams wrapped up in the second. I'm finding Molly is just a regular baby with demanding baby needs. Regardless, I believe Tim and I love Molly differently than we would have Cara. Our lives are certainly different. We have made more space and time to enjoy Molly. We love her with a thankfulness that would not have been had we not lost Cara.
In the recent days, I struggle to connect with Cara. I'm giving so much to Molly that I can't cling to the past like I have. I'm learning I do need to make space in the present though. I just sat nursing Molly and reading these words from a dear friend. Tears poured down my face as I recalled those early days after losing Cara. I used a burp cloth, the only thing around, to dry my tears.
Yes, it's important for me to connect with my girls, I just have to make the space for both of them in my life.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
How First Candle is Fighting SIDS
As First Candle continues to do its great work, I hope that less and less parents will have to go through losing their baby to SIDS or stillbirth. If you haven't heard about First Candle, please take a moment to check out their website (http://www.sidsalliance.org/) or post a link to their site from your blog.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Tim and I started this blog, Cries for the Silent, shortly after we lost Cara. Initially we intended to use this blog to advocate for stillbirth legislation and awareness. At times it has been that place for us. However, we also use it to remember, to cry and to validate the presence of our first daughter. Her picture is right there. How could she not be a part of our lives?
Now we have our second daughter Molly in our lives. We love her completely, wholly but in a way that is very different from Cara. Does that mean we love Cara less? Absolutely not. We love her differently, with longing, brokenness and pain, but with hope for restored life at the end of our journey.
Two painful experiences reverberate throughout the past 11 days. First, since I delivered Molly people think that NOW we are parents. I suspect if Cara had lived for even a minute her life would be validated by society, but since she was stillborn it was as if she was never here. However, we are and have been parents. We were parents when Cara was conceived. We were parents when I pushed her lifeless yet perfect body into this world. We were parents when that same precious little body was lowered into the ground. And each time we cried.
The second painful experience is the comments that now our happiness has been made complete because Molly is in our lives. Molly NEVER replaces Cara. Never, ever. Molly is wonderful and loved so, so deeply, but she does not take away the grief. We will ALWAYS miss Cara and years from now there will be tears to shed, because we will not send her to school or watch her walk down the aisle at her wedding or deliver our first grandchild. Parents do not 'get over' losing their child. The burden of the grief walk will lessen, but the grief will forever remain present.
With Molly we learn what we missed with Cara. I spend a lot of time smiling at my precious baby girl, kissing her cheeks, and nibbling her fingers. Once a day though I hold her close and weep for Cara. So we cry for our little one who came silently into this world. We cry for the other little ones who never had a voice in this world, for Aidan, for Hope, for Christian, for the many blogs we read of other parents battling through this journey. Their voices are forever heard in our lives.
But comments like "How's it feel to be a Father" or "Molly was your firstborn" are hard to take. I know people mean well and are just saying the standard stuff I guess you say to what they see as a "new" Dad. But it's equally hard, frustrating and disappointing because I know these people know that Cara was born, and that she was here.
I can't let these comments go, I have to correct them. Which I do so by bringing Cara back in the conversation...
"No, this is not our first, our first daughter was stillborn at 38 and a half weeks."
"We're excited for our second daughter."
"Well, Cynthia's labor did seem quicker with Molly than it did with Cara."
I constantly remind people that Cara was our firstborn, and Molly is our second.
I know people mean well and unfortunately I think a lot of people just try to ignore the pain and grief in life. It's much easier to focus on the newborn than the stillborn which is just a shame. Cara lived and she still is alive. I'm still her Father and I'm still caring for her. Of course not physically, but in a spiritual sense I talk to her and care for her like any Father would.
I wish these comments would stop but based on the past couple of weeks, Cynthia and I are both realizing we will have to work through comments like "how's it feel to be a Dad/Mom or is this your first?" for the rest of our lives.
Which makes me grateful for the friends and family around us that act like Cara lived and is still with us in some sense. I'm grateful for those that see us not as a family of 3, but a a family of 4 - and that bring Cara into our conversations when they can.
I'm grateful for Cynthia and my two baby girls today.
Monday, October 12, 2009
And yet the second child in our family, beautiful little Molly, is here with us. A little earlier than we would have planned if Cara were still alive, but she is here nonetheless - along with all her beautiful cries, wimpers, wiggles, and of course those chubby little cheeks.
Molly is here which is a miracle. A true gift from God. A gift that I know Cara along with all the saints on heaven and on earth interceded for. A gift that Cara and all the saints will continue to watch over. She is an awesome gift to our family. When I let that sink in, I'm short on words.
I wish so badly that Cara was here. Right now, most of us think that Molly resembles more of her mother. And who knows, we could be totally wrong, but right now it seems like she definitely has more of her mom in her, while Cara was very, very similar to me with her hair, nose, cheekbones and eyes. It will be neat to see Molly grow into her own beautiful person, but I do grieve that we won't be able to see Cara grow into who she would have become as well. Even just as simple in that we will never be able to walk down the street and have people say that "oh, Cara looks just like you, Tim and Molly is a spitting image of her mother." We do have this through pictures and in the sense that Cara is still alive in spirit - but right now I'm grieving that we won't have this here on earth.
This first week with Molly has been full of new memories. For the first time since our pregnancy with Cara, I feel like there is a tangible sign of hope and joy right in the middle of our lives. This is why Molly is such a gift. Because through each of her cries and wimpers and short little breaths she is a sign of life...a reminder that sometimes life does win on this earth. A reminder of something good - a simple, pure little baby girl...just like her big sister.
As soon as Molly was in our arms we started telling her all about her older sister, which in a sense is sorta funny, because I feel like Molly already knew she had an angel surrounding her. But we held Molly in our arms and told her how much Cara loves her, how much we miss Cara, and how much we wish Cara could be there physically as her bigger sister now. And this is just the beginning, we will continually tell Molly all about her older sister because Cara will be a part of our everyday lives forever.
But it's not all joy and it's not all easy. I've been struggling this week with fears that Molly might unexpectedly die. I'm very scared about SIDS, but after talking with our pediatrician about it I feel that if we follow all the recommendation from First Candle, the chances of SIDS striking Molly are very low.
But Cynthia and I still find ourselves checking Molly's crib to make sure she's ok. And we'll certainly continue to be over-protective parents for the rest of Molly's life. We just want to do everything we can to make sure she lives a healthy, long life.
So I'm trying to let go. I tell myself, and Cynthia says to me that "babies are meant to live." Molly is meant to live and breathe and be a normal little baby. Thinking about this seems to help a little bit.
I'm also trying to use music to work through these anxious feelings and embrace this new chapter. I decided the other day that I wanted to share my "Daddy Mix" with Molly. This is the mix that Cynthia made me shortly after we found out that Cara was a girl. So on Tuesday afternoon, I propped the laptop up next to Molly with Cynthia in the room and we listened to my favorite Daddy song, Paul Simon's "Father and Daughter." I heard this song around when Cynthia and I first got married and I remember way back then thinking how fun it would be to have a daughter one day and share this song with her. And it seemed just like a dream back then, but boy did my dream eventually come true. I hadn't listened to this song since we lost Cara. But on Tuesday, it felt like a good time to share this song with my second daughter. I feel like it sums up everything about how I love my girls.
I love you Cara and Molly. There will never be a father that loves his daughters as much as I love you.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Feast of the Guardian Angel
Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives. Each saint the Church honors responded to God's invitation to use his or her unique gifts. God calls each one of us to be a saint.
Perhaps no aspect of Catholic piety is as comforting to parents as the belief that an angel protects their little ones from dangers real and imagined. Yet guardian angels are not just for children. Their role is to represent individuals before God, to watch over them always, to aid their prayer and to present their souls to God at death.
The concept of an angel assigned to guide and nurture each human being is a development of Catholic doctrine and piety based on Scripture but not directly drawn from it. Jesus' words in Matthew 18:10 best support the belief: "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father."
Friday, October 2, 2009
to be vulnerable
to be of good courage
to go on
day after day after day;
to be heavy with hope
to carry the weight of the future
to anticipate with joy
to withdraw with fear
until the pain overcomes,
the waters break,
and the light of the world
Then the travail is over,
joy have overcome.
Lord of heaven and earth,
crowned with blood
at your birth,
bring new hope to birth
in your waiting world.
Bring fresh joy to those who weep.
in all our dyings and birthings.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
I finally had to say that there are a lot of emotions around bringing home our second child. I hope that is enough to silence these comments, because I fear I don't have the energy to confront the issue head on.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
I know that to most people this is just an innocent question used to strike up a conversation. But to those who have lost a baby or miscarried or lost their child later in life, this question is a very difficult one to respond to.
And it also has made me wonder why people ask us this question all the time? Do we look young? Is it because we aren't physically carrying another baby around with us? Do we need to look older? Or more tired from sleepless nights caring for a baby?
We were sitting in the waiting room this past Tuesday and this question was posed to me by a father as they sat down next to us.
"Is this your first?"
"No, this is our second."
He went on to share with me a story about how when his first child was born they sang Happy Birthday to the baby in the hospital. And I just left it at that.
It felt good to tell him matter-of-factly that the baby inside Cynthia's belly is not our first, and in not so many words that our first daughter is still very much a part of us. And frankly, I was a little frustrated at the smug way he purposed this question to me and went on to share his story, so a short reply seemed appropriate.
I know most people mean well. I know they just don't know. Like I said, I know this question just seems innocent.
But either way, we've removed it from our vocabulary. We've found other ways to strike up conversations with pregnant women and fathers. We realize that it's better to avoid this probing question and ask something else.
I've also found that I'm not afraid anymore to tell people about Cara. Earlier in my grief journey, I was often hesitant to share my story, I didn't have as much strength to "go there" with complete strangers. But now, I don't shy way - Cara, even Cara's tragic death, is a part of me that I just have to share. And even though our society isn't comfortable talking about death, I'm trying to change that norm. Death is unavoidable, and for many of us, much more than people think, it's unfortunately a part of our story. And a part of us that needs to be shared and heard.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
There is so much focus on keeping our little girl alive that my thoughts are consumed more by her than by Cara. It's hard. The paradigm shift of needing to care for my daughter almost living in the outside world causes me to think less about the one who has already come and gone, and that is extremely difficult to admit. It's this little baby that I have to constantly monitor. She who has to be my first thought in the morning. She who I need to make sure moves 4 times an hour and 10 times twice a day.
But Cara slips in. She found her way into my thoughts several times in the hospital leaving me in tears. As I sat looking at pictures of her. As I replayed the labor experience I already had. The other night as I sat on the patio watching the sunset, a butterfly danced through the red rays. She was there.
I'm excited to have our new little one, yet somehow it feels foreign this excitement. Loving her will be different from loving Cara. I wish I could be a parent with equal love, whose heart explodes once, twice, three times as their children emerge in the world. However, my two daughters bring with them very different emotions and a different experience of parental love. I try to prepare myself, but I wholly realize it's not possible.
What will the first day with her be like? Happy? Overwhelming with emotion for Cara and our new little one? I hope as I have many times in the past year and a half that the calm in the storm finds me and consumes me.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I was riding next to J in the car when he turned to me from his carseat. "Will the baby kick when we visit Cara?"
"Yes," I said. "She loves when we go to visit Cara."
T asked, "Mommy, how did Cara die?" I heard R from the backseat, "Remember what Mommy told you? Cara was in Aunt Cynthia's belly and she had to go to the hospital so the doctors could help get her out."
J and T were trying to process the situation around Cara's death as best they could. When we got to Cara's grave, we all sat on the ground around her little space. J looked at me and said, "Is the baby kicking?" I said, "Yes, she gets excited when we are here."
His replied, "Well she shouldn't, because Cara is dead."
It was obvious that R and A wanted J to be sensitive to us. His comments didn't bother us at all, because we knew he was just trying to understand the situation. A pulled J into his lap, and J asked why there were two crosses on Cara's grave.
A went on to give a mini-children's sermon to the boys about death. He asked them why it was important that there would be a cross on Cara's grave. They said because Jesus died on the cross. And then he asked what happened. They said that Jesus went to heaven.
A told them that's why it was so special that Tim and I visit Cara on Sundays, because Sunday is the day we celebrate the resurrection. He shared how Jesus said that one day we will all be raised and that our bodies will be healed at which point, J asked, "And we'll get to hold her?"
I kept myself together until then, but the thought of getting to hold Cara again sent me into a downpour of tears. I watched as R responded the same way. Tim came and sat next to me putting a hand on my leg. The three of us sat that way as we watched this lesson unfold for the boys.
The boys asked how old Cara was and we told them she was just a baby. "Not 1?" the boys asked. We explained that she was alive in my belly for 9 months.
It was the first time Tim and I were really confronted with the grief of our daughter through the eyes of a child. We are so thankful that our friends were sensitive and open to discussing it with their children. It helps us to see these tender moments, because we don't know how we are going to answer these questions. The boys had been asking me some questions when R and A weren't around. I struggled to find answers for them and also wanted to be sensitive to the responses their parents would give. R said to me later that she often doesn't have an answer, because frankly we have all have a lot of questions about Cara's death.
We ended our time around Cara's grave with some belly rubs to feel the baby's kicks. J was scared to feel the baby move, but T got a little baby bump. They are sweet, sweet boys and we were thankful for this moment with them around our daughter's grave.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
The sermon was based on Exodus 16, when the Israelites are in the desert hungry. They grumbled and complained. We should have died in Egypt, at least then we had food and weren't hungry. God told them he would provide in the midst their hunger by sending meat at night and bread in the morning. Quail arrived in time for dinner and when the morning dew lifted, it revealed thin flakes of manna. The Israelites looked at each other and said, "What is it?" Even after God told them it was coming, they still could not comprehend. Sure it may not have been "pots of meat" they had feasted on in Egypt, but it was sustenance for that leg of their journey.
L went on to share about some manna moments. One most poignant was after she delivered her son. She was staying on a mixed floor at her hospital where mothers who have just delivered babies are in rooms right next to people who have just had surgery. The last night they were there, baby W screamed through the entire night. L couldn't help but feel concern for the poor person in the room next to her who likely was desperately in need of rest.
In the morning as they were leaving, a woman came out of the room next door. She asked L if she was the one with the baby to which L sheepishly replied yes. The woman said, "My friend is dying of ovarian cancer in this room. She listened to your baby all night and said it was the sound of new life." Manna.
This past week I learned a friend is in the midst of a devastating situation. It's the kind of news that kept me up at night hurting for my friend, trying to make sense of it, unable to to wrap my head around the situation and what the future will look like for him and his family. The one thing that I have sensed through all of this is that his relationship with his son is stronger than it has ever been. In the midst of what would cause some to crumble, he has clung to his child and found hope in the love he has for his little boy. Manna, food to sustain him for the journey.
Tuesday we had the pleasure of seeing our baby girl once again on an ultrasound. It was a brief reprieve as we enter an even more emotional time of the third trimester. We were amazed by her beauty and how we can already see some semblance between her and her sister. Manna, food to sustain us for the journey.
It reminds me of a sermon our pastor, G, preached about this time last year. The text was Genesis 22 when Abraham is sent to the mountain to sacrifice Isaac, the son that he had waited his whole life for. Isaac even asks on the way what they will sacrifice. Abraham responds that God will provide. Just as Abraham raises the knife above his beloved son, God provides a ram for the sacrifice. G went on to say, "the God Abraham knows is not one of plans, but of promise."
I hear so frequently in the midst of horrible situations, "God has a plan." I just want to say, did God plan the death of my child? Did God plan the sickness that has ravaged your body and left you at times virtually lifeless? Did God plan your divorce? God planned that? That is no god that I want part of. God didn't plan the pain, the brokenness, he offered the promise, the dream of life restored.
God did not plan Cara's death so that he might offer us our new child's life. I want to be clear that this little baby kicking fervently inside me is not the answer to losing Cara. She does not absolve that pain for us. There is no way that she could erase the last year and a half of living in a house that is far too quiet, void of our firstborn child. God did not plan our miscarriage in September to pour salt in our open wounds.
However in February, he offered us manna, a promise. For even now, though known only to us in the womb, our wished for child has already been our manna, food to sustain us for the journey. With this new little babe in our lives, perhaps we will be able to survive a life that some days still feels unlivable. She is our promise and our hope of some life restored.
Sunday L concluded her sermon by challenging us not to ask "What is it?" but to look at the manna and say, "There it is."
Friday, August 7, 2009
The Viva la Vida album has a special place in my heart. When this album came out last summer, just a few months after Cara's death, I was excited yet hesitant to listen to it. At the time, I was at a point where I wasn't able to "enjoy" music. It was a heavy point in my grief journey where music to me was simply therapeutic - a way to grieve and to connect with Cara. But when Viva la Vida came out last summer the melody and rhythms in that album brought me some healing. As I listened to the album, I felt glimmers of hope, peace and maybe even joy.
The opening track on the album particularly spoke to me...Life in Technicolor...
Several months later, I shared this song with a friend in a "feel-good" mix I made for her to brighten up her days as she was going through a difficult battle with cancer. This dear friend leaned over to me during the concert last night and told me how much this song helped her push through the days when she was really struggling. This song gave her some hope and strength.
Her comment reminded me about how much of a gift music is to our lives. When we grieve, when we fight against sickness, and even in our best of times, music is often there, touching us unlike anything else can. That is the gift of music.
Music also transcends our being. As another friend told me as we walked back to our car after the concert, she felt unbridled joy as the concert went on last night. Somehow, almost magically, when we hear that perfect song, music invades our entire being and we're changed and uplifted.
It was such a gift to stand together with an incredible group of friends on a beautiful summer night under a full moon and simply get lost in the music. To let every beat, every word, every melody take hold of you and stir something up deep inside of you. In a way that only music can.
Monday, August 3, 2009
I could manage pain before the grief. I was learning to manage the grief before the pregnancy hormones. Then the horrible combination of all three started to intermingle, and it leaves me a soppy mess.
I remember saying to our pastor the day we found out we lost Cara that I couldn't imagine anything hurting worse than that. How I didn't want to have another hurt because it surely would take me back to that moment.
As I suspected, it does. The slightest hurt sends me into a downward spiral of "why me?" WHY ME, damnit. I did nothing to deserve this, yet I will live the rest of my life without my daughter. I want her here with us so desperately.
As we begin preparing for our next little one, I face so much fear. It was easier for me to deal with the pregnancy in its early stages than now as it nears the end. What if we have come all this way to lose another baby? I came home from shopping Friday night, bags filled with clothes for her all around me on the floor and completely fell apart. "Tim, what if she doesn't make it? What if I have bought all these things for her and she doesn't live?" I cried. Tim encouraged me to make some new memories for her, but it is still very hard for me.
I suppose in some ways I'm confronting what I dealt with in losing Cara. We had everything ready for her. The nursery was set, the clothes were folded and tucked in their appropriate spots. Then in a flurry the week after we lost her, I pulled everything out that could be returned and sent it back.
I don't want that feeling again. The feeling of sitting here, ready for a baby, and what if she doesn't come home with us? So many emotions, so much pain, grief, and if we are honest, hormones...
Friday afternoon I was listening to a nursery mix we put together for Cara and will now use for our next baby. One of the songs is an instrumental version of Yesterday by the Beatles. As the words floated through my head, I realized how true it was for us and how much I longed for our "Yesterday". The lyrics that spoke to me...
Yesterday, All my troubles seemed so far away,
Now it looks as though they're here to stay,
Oh, I believe in yesterday.
Why she had to go I don't know...
Yesterday, Love was such an easy game to play,
Now I need a place to hide away,
Oh, I believe in yesterday.
I was getting my haircut during lunch with a really nice stylist. We talked about the economy, healthcare, and then of course family came up...
"Do you have any kids?"
I had a feeling this question was coming. It occasionally has during my 15 minute haircuts and I just have a hard time getting into the conversation in this situation. I clammed up (darnit!) and kinda avoided the question directly...
"Well, we have one on the way."
Darnit, why didn't I mention Cara?
"Are you going to have a baby shower?"
Here's my chance.
"No, we already had a baby shower for our first daughter that was stillborn a little over a year ago."
The pretty awkward conversation continued on from there. The stylist went on asking me about Cynthia's due date and a couple other typical questions.
I was a little taken back at how quickly our conversation "moved on" after I mentioned Cara's death. I don't fault the stylist because I'm sure she was shocked by my news, and in a way I fault myself because I know I didn't dwell on it too much either because my lack of repsonse to her first question was hard and frustrating for me.
This whole exchange later reminded me of how death, grief, and suffering is often avoided and ignored in our society. On the whole, we just don't like talking about "bad things." We'd prefer to just "move on." In too many cases, the suffering and sick are ignored.
I remember feeling this strongly after I returned to work two weeks after Cara's death. The office environment seemed so sterile and dry. Less than a handful of people actually stopped by to see me or took the time to really ask how I was doing. Suddenly, I realized how taboo death and open, honest grieving was in the workplace.
All of this just makes me equally sad and frustrated. Why do we avoid death? Why do we act like it doesn't happen or that it can't ever happen to us?
My only guess is that with all the technological advances in healthcare over the years and the way in which death has been moved away from us (from our homes, places of work, etc.) and into hospitals and funeral homes, it all just seems so foreign and unknown to us. We tend to think in the back of our minds that no matter how bad things get, we'll find a way to get through the sickness or pain. But what happens when all the technology and drugs in the world just don't work? Or what happens when a baby dies for no clear reason?
My prayer in all of this is that we all would all become more open and familiar to the pain, suffering and even death that is all around us. This isn't a morbid request, but rather a prayer. A friend reminded me on her blog that our Pastor says that prayer is "being aware." And it seems like in being aware, when we care for the sick we find new life and glimmers of hope in the process. When we don't ignore the pain, we are somehow deeply blessed in the process.
I don't want to avoid the subject of death, and I don't want our family too either. I want us to know that there are people everyday that are suffering and hurting that need prayer, that need someone to go and care for them to offer them a healing hand and an open heart.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
God of Abraham and Isaac,
God of David and Solomon,
God of Joseph and Jesus,
We pray this day, for all fathers:
for those who continue to lead us in sharing in your life and teach us your ways with grace and wisdom,
for those who have lost a child through death or estrangement,
for those who long for a child or are waiting to become a father,
for those who have been unable to be a source of strength for their children or their families,
for those who—though without children of their own — nurture and care for us and your creation.
Pour out your blessings, this day, on all those who have fathered us:
those who have given us life and love,
those who have led us in the faith and brought us to you,
those who have cared for us with strength and compassion.
Bless these men, that they may be strengthened as Christian fathers.
Let the example of their faith and love shine forth.
Grant that we, their sons and daughters, may honor them always with a spirit of profound respect.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
The first meeting was at the pool last weekend with a woman who has been a member since I was a child. It was the first time Tim and I have spoken to her. My preggo brain does not allow my recall the specifics of the conversation, but I do remember saying, "we lost our first last March."
This morning we were at a church meeting when again someone asked if this was our first. I found myself again saying the same words, "we lost our first last March."
As we drove to Cara's grave after church, the tears started pouring down my face. "We lost our first last March" doesn't tell the story. We lost our first what? Pregnancy? Child? It sounds so detached. It doesn't make the receiver confront what I have really lost. My daughter, my firstborn, the baby that I carried until almost her due date, who came into the world silently, who I never got to know alive outside of the womb. The little one who should be sleeping in her crib right now. And clamoring to get in my lap when she is awake. It doesn't tell of how beautiful she was, of what she has come to mean to us, of who we have come to know her as. Cara is very much alive and a part of our lives.
This afternoon I had another chance to share her story. We were sitting in the pool once again and another woman made her way to us. She asked when the baby is due, and I said the end of October. We talked about her children, who are my same age. Although we grew up going to the same pool, I was not familiar with them. She told us about where they live and her longing to have grandchildren.
Then the questions around my pregnancy started coming again- how was I feeling? Did we know what we were having? Are we excited? And finally, do you have the nursery ready? It was at that point, well into the conversation, that I couldn't avoid it anymore. I shared with how it had already been ready once before. She said, "Oh, I'm sorry, lots of women have miscarriages." I couldn't let that go. I told her the whole story of Cara. How I delivered her 10 days before her due date. How I had a blood clotting disorder that had been undiagnosed.
This woman was incredibly sympathetic. What we came to learn as a result is that her middle daughter is now a nurse on the high risk pregnancy floor at the hospital we will deliver at. It's a place I hope to never find myself, but if we do I will definitely be asking for her. She recently saved a mother and child who were going in distress, and the doctors had not picked up on it.
It just felt good to really share the story. I want Cara to be a part of those conversations. She is not just the first we lost. She is our beautiful daughter who lives in our hearts and minds daily. It's her that our memory is drawn to anytime we see something beautiful or any time we feel pain.
As we got in the car after church this morning, a dragonfly danced outside of my window. Tim backed the car up and pulled it forward, the dragonfly flew in front of us and guided us until we had to turn. I just kept thinking how my baby girl showed up in that moment, perhaps when I needed her most. She is here with us, even when I don't always realize it.
This past week the Stillbirth and SUID Prevention, Education and Awareness Act of 2009 was introduced to Congress in the both the House and the Senate.
For stillbirth the bill seeks to:
1. Expand current data collection activities to additional states to identify the causes of stillbirth and ways to prevent it in the future.
2. Create a public awareness and education campaign to educate women about the risk factors for still birth and the importance of prenatal care.
3. Expand support services, such as grief counseling, for families who have experienced a stillbirth loss.
Currently a repository to collect information about stillbirth does not exist. Therefore, there is no place to indicate the causes of stillbirth and educate medical professionals about the need for proper treatment.
If you would like to request your Representative or Senators support the bill, please visit the First Candle site for instructions- http://firstcandle.org/
Here is another link too with the specific instructions: http://firstcandle.org/illuminations/lautenberg-bill.html
Since FC joined the fight against SIDS, the incidence of SIDS has decreased 50%. My hope is that we would see an even greater decrease in the stillbirth rate - currently 25,000 per year in the US.
We forwarded the link to many of our friends and family who have written letters. Feel free to do the same!
Thursday, July 16, 2009
The girl's mother talked about her daughter's decision to donate her organs. The girl had just turned 16. When she came home with her license, she proudly displayed the license with the Organ Donation marked boldly. Silently the mother thought to herself that she never wanted to donate her child's organs.
Just days later, the girl suffered a trauma. As her daughter sat on life support, the mother was faced with the decision, one that haunts her to this day.
I was not prepared for what she shared next. The decision to donate a loved one's organs is made while the individual still appears to be very much living. All of the machines are going. The person's chest is moving with inhales and exhales of breath. Other than the fact that there is no brain activity, the person appears to be alive.
There isn't that moment that one might picture based on media induced images where the loved one is there as the heart stops collapsing in tears on the deceased. Instead the child, husband, wife, mother, father, is wheeled into surgery where the organs are harvested and transported to new recipients.
This was not a decision we were faced with for Cara obviously. However, I tried to think through this scenario if it was Tim lying in that bed and that would be terribly hard for me. We both have the Organ Donation on our license, but we never really talked about what that proclamation means.
Another mother in our group shared how she faced a similar scenario with her son. She too struggled with letting him go only to find out later that his organs could not be used because of his condition at death. She was devastated that she didn't get to spend his final moments with him and later learned she could have.
I write all this partially so I can remember this experience, not that it's one I will forget. But also because although Tim and I were at the grief group together, we still didn't talk really about the impact and I imagine many others have not. Death is not a topic we like to approach in conversation, but perhaps an experience we could all stand to be more prepared for. It is after all inevitable.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
This trip has come to mean even more to me in recent stays. Two years ago a firecracker ignited in my ovary during this trip and my little Cara Grace found her way into our lives. She truly was a miracle.
Cara was conceived on our second cycle of trying for a baby. Unbeknownst to me who had never tracked a cycle in my life, I had really long cycles. The cycle before Cara we thought we were pregnant. I went 32 days without starting another cycle. I thought for sure I was pregnant and was disappointed to continuously receive negative test results.
With the second cycle, I made it a mission to understand what was going on with my body. And so on July 5th, 26 days into my cycle we found that perfect day and our little Cara came into our lives.
Being back in the same place in the same room she was conceived is such a painful reminder at times. The first night here I sat on the bed with tears pouring down my face. Would I wish her away? Absolutely not. However, I would trade the rest of my days to have her here with us. As I sat there writing in my journal, my second daughter bounced around in my stomach. What a mixing of emotions. As I grieve my one child, the life of my other makes herself known.
Monday, July 6, 2009
I was remembering today that last year much of time here was spent quietly together. Cynthia and I took quite a few walks alone, talking about how we were doing. We’d also spend time with our family over dinner then as the night wore on quickly retreat back to our rooms to read and eventually fall asleep. In a way, we were pretty much in a cocoon at times during the week.
This year it’s definitely easier to be here, which gives me mixed emotions to say. I don’t want it to be inferred that because it’s easier that I’m somehow used to life without my daughter. I suppose we’re just in a slightly better place this year, and I’ll take that reprieve since at other times this road has been an awfully hard one to travel.
There have still been several moments that have been hard. Walking into the beach house again this year without Cara. Walking into our bedroom thinking that we should be setting up Cara’s crib in the room too. And then today. A family with little baby girl toddler pulled up and sat right next to us at the beach. The baby was the age that Cara would have been this summer. There the baby sat, in her baby pool, under a beach umbrella. Cynthia and I didn’t have to say a thing. The look we gave each other said it all.
Cynthia and I walked down to the edge of the water and tears started streaming down Cynthia’s face. What could have been. What should have been. That’s all we could think about.
I can’t think of another way to say it, but these painful reminders of what should have been, especially today’s at the beach, just suck. And there was just something extra hard about seeing that baby girl at the beach today. It was a tangible reminder of what should have been right there before us.
My heart hurts for Cynthia, because I know in the midst of the heavy grief of not having Cara here, she also has another little baby growing in her womb to tend to. I know it’s a lot to carry. I can clearly see the love in her eyes for Cara as the tears come pouring out. I can see a Mother’s heart breaking, and longing for her child that is gone.
I wish I had a solution to heal the pain that these moments bring to us and to all of those who have lost someone they loved in their lives. I would be naïve to think there is one. In fact, moments no different than what we experienced today will only continue to occur throughout the rest of our lives. I think the only thing we can do is be patient and gracious through the hard times, treasure the moments of peace and joy that also come in this life, and look ahead out on the horizon to the days of reunion with all those who have gone to a place of eternal peace.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
These moments come through many different ways. Maybe from hearing a beautiful song on the radio for the first time. Maybe through marveling at the beauty of a plant while tending to your garden. Or maybe from sharing a good meal and hearty laughter at the dinner table with family and friends.
I don't have a perfect explanation or meaning for what these moments mean to us or why they even occur. But I wonder if they are glimpses of heaven. Pure, holy moments that give us a taste of what's to come.
Friends of ours call these moments "divine moments." And ever since they shared that Cara's funeral was one of those moments for them, I can't seem to get the notion of divine moments out of my head. Primarily because it's in these moments that I feel a connection to Cara.
I've had some of these experiences over the past year. Cara's funeral was also one of those moments for me. Other moments have occurred while working in Cara's memorial garden, receiving communion at church, listening to songs that remind me of Cara, or standing beside Cara's grave early in the morning alone or together with Cynthia after church each week.
There is also another place that struck me again this morning. Some mornings, I'll drive to work by taking "the long way" which takes me on a road that weaves right along the edge of a beautiful state park. For some reason, whenever I'm driving on this road in the morning the swirling world around me and the list of to-dos waiting for me at my desk fades away. For a moment, the dense tree cover at the edge of the park just makes me stand still and take notice of the beauty around me. My thoughts quickly turn to God and my baby daughter. This was the second time while driving along this road I felt like Cara was right there in the car with me. Right there, just like any baby would, in the backseat of her Daddy's car smiling and giggling at me. And maybe, just maybe she really was. Of course not physically there like I dream she would be. But there somehow through a spiritual realm, a divine realm, that I can't even begin to understand.
There is a peace and calm that comes after these moments. Lately, I've felt like Cara has been there to assure me that she is watching over all of us, Cynthia, me, and of course her little baby sister in the womb. I feel like she's there as our angel. And when I picture her, I see an angel. In spirit, I see a perfectly healthy, whole, happy, little baby girl with dark hair and chubby legs right there in the car with me. Her presence brings me peace. Because I know she is watching out for us and interceding for us along with all the saints and angels in heaven.
I love you, Cara...I know you're always with us...much more than we realize...
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Father's Day was coupled with another event that has been deeply upsetting for me. Today was the last Sunday our dear friend and pastor, L, will be at our church. She will be moving to another Methodist church not far down the road. In L's departure also comes the releasing of one of my earliest dreams at All Saints', to have her and G baptize our child. I picture baptizing our next daughter one day, and it always brings tears to my eyes, sometimes downright sobs. Now knowing that another person will be missing from that event deeply saddens me. I know though that both L and Cara's presence will always be there with us at the font. It's the water that unites us.
L once shared with me how she often thought of Cara during the Great Thanksgiving. It has prompted my own thoughts to be drawn to my baby girl many times as well. I'll forever remember her exuberance in starting those words, "It is right, and a good and joyful thing always and everywhere to give you thanks..."
Today was a sad day, but there were holy moments I will never forget. I'm not sure whose idea it was between the music director and L, but it was a precious gift for the choir to sing "Tis the Gift to be Simple" on Father's Day. Tim and I have not been to church on a holiday other than Easter (let's remember how that ended.) We both feel so connected to this song and our daughter drew close to us in that moment.
L went on to preach about "A Scandalous Church" and her vision for our future. That we would be the church reaching out the poor, the unloved, the needy in ways that would leave our neighbors talking. She shared the story of a professor who was entertaining someone new to the area. A man came to the door high on either drugs or alcohol and asked for money for the bus. This new neighbor offered to drive him to his destination. The professor wanting to explain the neighborhoods said it might not be the best idea, and this neighbor looked at her and said, "We are already dead." This is so incredibly true. We died in the waters of baptism and have been raised into a new life. This life is not our own, how much more radical will we live if we approach it with an 'already dead' mentality.
As I came forward for communion, L was there. "The body of Christ broken for you," she said as she firmly placed the bread into my hand tears streaming down her face. I would have hugged her right there had it been appropriate. We gathered around L at the baptismal font to offer our blessing for her future. And as she hugged me one last time at the threshold of All Saints', L said, "She was here today, wasn't she?"
That is what I am going to miss.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
Yesterday afternoon, a co-worker who has never been at my desk walks by...
"Is that a picture of your wife, she's so cute!" she says.
"Thanks, yes she is."
"And what is that?"
"That's a picture of my daughter, who died last year."
"Oh. What happened?"
"She was stillborn when my wife was 38 weeks pregnant."
"Oh. I don't mean to be gross but my sister had that happen and her baby's fingernails looked the same way."
After saying this, she turned and walked away.
This very brief conversation left me speechless. Why point that out? Why not just say "I'm sorry." I'm trying to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she was surprised by my picture. Maybe she got nervous.
Either way, it's just another confirmation that the office environment is a terrible place to grieve. Sorry, I just had to vent.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
I just plastered a fake smile on my face and made a noise in my throat, all while concealing my protruding belly under the table. I suppose I do look like I'm behind the times when compared to C's two 16 months apart.
C said that was the first time she had seen one of these assumptions made and asked how I usually handle them. Thankfully the situation has not arose too much. I have only been asked once if this was my first. I mostly respond by trying not to answer directly.
I did have a situation where I felt the need to address it. A client wished me a "Happy Mother-to-be Day". I have worked closely with this client for the last several months, so I explained the situation. Thankfully she was incredibly compassionate and said she would be praying for our pregnancy.
I'm trying to learn myself to not make assumptions. I think our society is far to prone to them. I want to be open to the hurting in the world and embrace them from the start, not have them explain themselves to me.