Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Blessing for All Fathers

I wanted to share a prayer that was printed inside our church bulletin on Father's day. It was beautifully arranged by our Pastor. I pray this for all fathers today, particularly those fathers who have lost a child.

Eternal God and Almighty Father,
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

I'm learning.

Three times in the past week the discussion of "is this my first" has come up in conversation. I have been honest each of the times, but not as honest I would like to be.

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.

Stillbirth and SUID Prevention, Education and Awareness Act of 2009

For those of you in the US...

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-

Here is another link too with the specific instructions:

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

Organ Donation

The topic of organ donation recently came up in our grief group. A mother 10 years later was still dealing with her decision to donate her daughter's organs. Her daughter's heart had actually gone to a little boy who was staying in the room next to another grieving mother's son who is also in our group. These two women have a unique bond that formed through this experience. As they were both grieving their children, this other little boy's parents were celebrating his second chance at life.

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

Born on the 5th of July

For over 30 years, my family has journeyed to beach for the week of July 4th. It is a time to reconnect with aunts, uncles, cousins and at one time our grandparents, who have now gone before us. I still find ways to connect with my grandparents through this trip. I have taken over making the family batch of chocolate chip cookies every year, a tradition my grandmother used to maintain. The first trip for ice cream downtown I enjoyed a scoop of cherry vanilla, my grandfather's favorite.

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

What should have been

Day 3 of our beach vacation and we both already feel relaxed and refreshed. And as we expected, our time here is met with grief. Just two years ago our dreams for Cara began. A year later, just months after Cara’s death, we came back to the beach but in many ways it didn’t feel like much of a vacation. We were still in a state of shock over Cara’s death and just beginning to start trying to figure out how in the world the rest of our lives would look without her.

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

Early morning visits

A good friend recently asked me if I was still going to visit Cara's grave in the morning.

Lately, I've been going about every other week on Thursday or Friday mornings before work. I find that it's a helpful way for me to stay connected to Cara and recenter myself. When I'm standing there, I'm reminded of the simple gift that Cara is to us, and of what's really important in life.

Cynthia and I also make it a practice to visit Cara's grave after church each Sunday. It's another way for us to connect with Cara and tell her how much she's missed. I was imagining today that this routine will never go away. I picture our children getting to know Cara's grave site very well through Sunday afternoon picnics and other visits. And I really want our children to be familiar and comfortable with Cara's grave. I want them to know their big sister and the gift she is to our family. I want them to understand the grave site and death, because only in doing so will they be able to embrace life full on. I want them to realize what a gift they have.

One of my favorites things to do this summer has been to bring fresh cut flowers from Cara's garden to her grave. This morning I cut flowers from our verbena plants, the perfect flower for my little girl.